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Title: My Escape from Germany
Author: Keith, Eric A.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MY ESCAPE FROM GERMANY



[Illustration: MAP ILLUSTRATING THE ROUTE OF AUTHOR’S ESCAPE.

The Dotted Line shows the Route taken.]



                               MY ESCAPE
                             FROM GERMANY

                                  BY
                             ERIC A. KEITH

                            [Illustration]

                               NEW YORK
                            THE CENTURY CO.
                                 1919

                          Copyright, 1920, by
                            THE CENTURY CO.

                      _Published, January, 1920_



INTRODUCTION


There is an element of chance and risk about an attempt to escape from
an enemy’s country which is bound to appeal to any one with a trace of
sporting instinct. Viewed as a sport, though its devotees are naturally
few and hope to become fewer, it has a technique of its own, and it may
be better, rather than interrupt the course of my narrative, to say
here something about this.

As always, appropriate equipment makes for ease. But its lack, since
a prisoner of war cannot place an order for an ideal outfit, may be
largely compensated for by personal qualities.

In considering the chances of success or failure, it must always be
assumed that the route leads through a country entirely unknown to the
fugitive. Yet this is not so great a disadvantage as one might suppose.
Once free from towns and railways, a man with a certain knowledge
of nature and the heavens, and with some powers of observation and
deduction, can hardly fail to hit an objective so considerable as a
frontier line, even if a hundred miles or so have to be traversed,
provided he knows the position of his starting-point and is favored
with tolerable weather.

With the sky obscured, he must at least have a pocket compass by which
to keep his direction; though when the stars are visible it is easier
and safer to walk by their aid.

Next in importance come maps. With fairly good maps, as well as a
compass, the chances of evading discovery before approaching the
frontier, with its zone of sentries and patrols, are, in my opinion,
about even.

Another indispensable requisite is a water-bottle--a good big one.
My own belief is that a man in tolerable condition--let us say good
internment-camp condition--can keep going for from two to three weeks
on no more food than he can pick up in the fields. But thirty hours
without water will, in most cases, be too much for him. Under the
tortures of thirst his determination will be sapped. I was, therefore,
always willing to exchange the most direct route for a longer one which
offered good supplies of water. In my final and successful attempt,
when I was leader of a party of three and had to traverse a part of
Germany where brooks and streams are rare, I always preferred taking
the risk of looking for fresh water rather than that of being without
it for more than twenty hours between sources, relying in the meantime
on what we had in our bottles.

The more clothing one can take along the better--within reason, of
course. One is prepared to do without a good deal, but food must, if
necessary, be sacrificed for a sweater and an oilsilk. Two sets of
underclothing to wear simultaneously when the weather turns cold are a
comfort. Beyond this, any one will naturally take such food as can be
carried conveniently. Chocolate, hardtack and dripping, with a little
salt, is, in my opinion, as much as one wants. Being a deliberate
person, I usually managed to have enough of these in readiness before I
even thought of other arrangements for the start.

People are very differently gifted with what might be called the
out-of-door sense, though it is strong in some who have never really
led an out-of-door life. Those who have this gift will know almost
instinctively where to turn in an emergency, and will gather from the
lie of the land information denied to those without it. This raises the
question of companionship. As I am, fortunately, possessed of a fair
share of this open-air sense, it was little handicap to me to be alone
on my first attempt. In fact, as long as I was using the railways, it
was a distinct advantage. At critical moments a man can decide more
quickly what to do, if he has only himself to think of, than when he
has to consider and possibly to communicate with a companion, who may
be contemplating a better but quite different solution. To know that it
is only one’s own skin that is at stake gives one that promptness of
decision which is itself the seed of success; the thought of involving
another man in an error easily clogs the swiftness of one’s action.

On the march these conditions are reversed. One can walk only at
night, and the approach of actual danger is best met by falling flat
and keeping motionless, or else taking to one’s heels. It is under
trying conditions just short of the actual peril of discovery that
the soothing influence of a companion is of inestimable advantage.
Cross-country walking tries one’s nervous forces to the utmost. Hour
after hour passes, and no recognizable landmark appears. At last one
gets the feeling of being condemned eternally to tramp over fields,
skirt woods, and extricate oneself from an endless succession of
morasses. In time the sky seems to reel and the compass-needle to point
in all directions but the right one. It is then that the voice of a
friend, the touch of his hand, or merely the sound of his footsteps
behind one, restores the sense of normality which, if one is alone, can
be recovered only by a deliberate effort of will that is often very
exhausting.

Before starting I always knew roughly what lay before me, and what
I had to expect, until I met either with success or with complete
failure by being captured. Even when the chances seemed to suggest it,
I would never trust blindly to mere good luck, which I kept in reserve
as an absolutely last resource. Once in hiding for the day, I usually
worked out a detailed plan for the following night’s walk, and spent
hours looking at the maps in order to impress on my mind a picture, as
complete as possible, of the country directly in front of me and to
each side of my route.

When this book was first published I pointed out, that “It is one of
the penalties of an escape that, so long as others remain behind, it is
impossible for obvious reasons to give too precise details, and often
the moments one would most wish to describe have of necessity to be
camouflaged from the observation of the enemy.” Now that the war is
over and there is nothing to hinder it, I have been able to augment
my original story with certain details originally omitted for reasons
mentioned above. In its present form the book has been considerably
enlarged and no detail of my escape has been omitted.

                                                               E.A.K.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                          PAGE

       INTRODUCTION                                   v

                          PART I

     I THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE                           3

    II RUHLEBEN: THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS             13

   III THE SANATORIUM                                25

    IV PLANNING THE DETAILS                          31

     V A GLIMPSE OF FREEDOM                          39

    VI IN HIDING                                     52

   VII FAILURE                                       69

  VIII A NEW HOPE                                    76

    IX BREAKING PRISON                               91

     X CAUGHT AGAIN!                                109

    XI UNDER ESCORT                                 120

   XII THE STADTVOGTEI AND “SOLITARY”               126

  XIII CLASSES AND MASSES IN THE STADTVOGTEI        146

   XIV PRISON LIFE AND OFFICIALS                    154

                          PART II

     XV A FRESH ATTEMPT                             179

    XVI FROM BERLIN TO HALTERN                      190

   XVII WESTWARD HO!                                202

  XVIII THE GAME IS UP                              218

                          PART III

    XIX FOOTING THE BILL                            233

     XX RUHLEBEN AGAIN                              251

    XXI THE DAY                                     265

   XXII ORDER OF MARCH                              292

  XXIII THE ROAD THROUGH THE NIGHT                  304

   XXIV CROSSING THE EMS                            319

    XXV THE LAST LAP                                333

   XXVI FREE AT LAST                                348



PART I



CHAPTER I

THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE


The date was April 7, 1916. The fat German warder backed out of my
cell, a satisfied smile on his face; the door swung to, the great key
clicked in the lock, and I was alone.

Prison once more! And only a bare three miles away was the frontier
for which I had striven so hard--the ditch and the barbed wire that
separated Germany, and all that that word means, from Holland, the
Hook, the London boat, and freedom.

The game was lost. That was the kernel of the situation as it presented
itself to me, sitting on my bed in the narrow, dark cell.

Vreden, where I thus found myself in prison, is a little town hardly
three miles from the Dutch frontier, in the Prussian province of
Westphalia. So near--and indeed a good deal nearer--had I got to
liberty!

Twenty-four hours before, my first attempt to escape from
Germany--which might be described with some justification as my
third--had failed, and instead of being a free man in a neutral
country, I was still a British civilian prisoner of war.

Apart from the overwhelming sense of failure which oppressed me, I
was not exactly physically comfortable. To start with, I wanted a
change of clothing and a real bath. I had not had my boots off--except
during several hours when I was walking in bare feet for the sake of
silence--for over eight days, and for almost the same length of time
I had not even washed my hands. The change of clothing was out of the
question. The bath--One does not feel as if one has had a bath after an
ablution in a tin basin holding a pint of water, with a cake of chalky
soap the size of a penny-piece, and a towel which, but for texture,
would have made a tolerable handkerchief. And no water to be spilled on
the floor of the cell, mind you!

My prison bed was an old, wooden “civilian” one with a pile of
paillasses on it, and the usual two blankets. It was fairly comfortable
to lie on, as long as the numerous indigenous population left you
alone, which they rarely did.

The warder--the only one, I believe, in the prison--had asked me
immediately after my arrival whether or not I had any money on me.
When he heard I had not, his face fell. Since he could not make me
profitable he made me useful, and put me to peeling potatoes in the
morning, a job I liked very much under the circumstances.

The food in Vreden prison was scanty, barely sufficient. I was always
moderately hungry, and ravenous when meal-time was still two or three
hours off. Twice in four days I had an opportunity of walking for
twenty minutes round the tiny prison yard, sunless and damp, where
green moss spread itself in three untrodden corners, while the fourth
was occupied by a large cesspool. The rest of my time I spent alone in
my cell, now and again reading a few pages of Jules Verne’s “Five Weeks
in a Balloon,” execrably translated into German and lent me by the
warder. But mostly I was busy speculating about my immediate future, or
thinking of the eighteen months of my captivity in Germany.

Technically, I was not being punished as yet for my escape. I was
merely being kept under lock and key pending my removal back to
Ruhleben camp or to a prison in Berlin, I did not know which. But if it
was not punishment I was undergoing in the little frontier town, it was
an excellent imitation of it.

Some experiences, exciting when compared with the dull routine of camp
life, were still ahead of me; the journey to Berlin was something to
look forward to, at any rate. But what would happen afterward? I did
not know, for I flatly refused to believe in solitary confinement to
the end of the war--the punishment which had been suggested as in store
for unsuccessful escapers.

I had not escaped from Ruhleben, as my predecessors had. I had walked
out of a virtually unguarded sanatorium in Charlottenburg, a suburb
of Berlin, where British civilian prisoners of war, suffering from
diseases and ailments which could not be properly combated in camp,
were treated. Might not this give an earnest to a plea which was
shaping in my mind? Could the Germans be persuaded to believe that
I had acted under the influence of an attack of temporary insanity,
caused by overwhelming homesickness? True, I had “gone away” well
prepared; I had shown a certain amount of determination and tenacity of
purpose. On the other hand, I had not destroyed any military property.
Of course, I had damaged a good deal of property, but it wasn’t
military property! A fine point, but an important one, especially in
Germany.

These were the sort of reflections which mostly occupied my four days
in Vreden prison, unreasoning optimism struggling desperately against
rather gloomy common sense.

What I looked forward to most in the solitude of my cell was a meeting
with my old friends in Ruhleben camp in the near future. The other
escapers had all been returned to camp for a short time before they
were taken to prison, to demonstrate to us ocularly the hopelessness
of further attempts. Surely the Germans would do the same with me; and
then I should get speech with one or two of my particular chums. For
this I longed with a great longing, although I did not look forward to
telling them that I had failed.

Only one of them knew the first links in the chain of events which
connected my sensations of the first day of the war with the present,
when I was restlessly measuring the length of my cell, or sitting
motionless on the edge of the bed, staring with dull eyes upon the
dirty floor. Under the pressure of my disappointment, and without the
natural safety-valve of talk to a friendly soul, I naturally began to
examine my experiences during the war, opening the pigeon-holes of my
memory one by one, reliving an incident here, revisualizing a picture
there, and retracing the whole length of the--to me--most important
developments leading up to my attempted escape.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the storm clouds of the European war were gathering I was living
in Neuss, a town on the left bank of the Rhine, between Düsseldorf, a
few miles to the north, and Cologne, twenty miles to the south. I had
been there a little over a year. Immersed though I was in business, I
was by no means happy. I was distinctly tired of Germany, and was on
the point of cutting short my engagements and leaving the “Fatherland.”

I had turned thirty some time before, and hitherto my life, although
it had led me into many places, had been that of an ordinary business
man. In spite of unmistakable roaming proclivities, it was likely to
continue placidly enough. Then suddenly everything was changed.

One afternoon, about the 20th of July, I was standing in the enclosure
of the Neuss Tennis Club, waiting for a game. The courts were close to
a point where a number of important railway lines branched off toward
Belgium and France. I was watching and wondering about the incessant
traffic of freight-trains which for days past had been rolling in that
direction at about fifteen-minute intervals. They consisted almost
exclusively of closed trucks.

Another member of the club pointed his racket toward one. “War
material. Soldiers!” he said succinctly. With a sinking heart I gazed
after the train as it disappeared from view. The political horizon was
clouded, but surely it wouldn’t come to this! It couldn’t come to this.
It was impossible that it should happen.

The police, always troublesome and inquisitive in Germany, seemed to be
taking some unaccountable interest in me. Nothing was further from my
mind than to connect this lively interest in an obscure individual like
myself with anything so stupendous as a war.

And then it happened. War was declared.

I was warned not to leave the town without permission. I was eating my
head off in idleness and anxiety. I hoped to be sent out of the country
at short notice, but the order to pack up and be gone did not come.
Instead, I was invited to call upon the inspector of police at 9 A.M.
on the 27th of August. I obeyed. An hour later I was locked up in a
cell of an old, evil-smelling, small prison. I did not know for what
reason, beyond the somewhat incomprehensible one of being a British
subject. Nor did I know for how long. The inspector of police had
answered my questions with an Oriental phrase: It was an order!

It appeared that the order referred to Britishers of military age only,
which, according to it, began with the seventeenth and ended with the
thirty-ninth year. Thus it came about that I made the acquaintance
of three out of the six Englishmen then temporarily living in Neuss,
but hitherto beyond my ken. They were all fitters of a big Manchester
firm, Messrs. Mather & Platt Ltd., employed in putting up a sprinkler
installation in the works of the International Harvester Co., an
American concern in Neuss.

We were treated comparatively well in prison. Nevertheless, the days
we had to pass in that old, evil-smelling house of sorrows were
interminable. Most of our time we spent together, in a locked-up part
of the corridor on the second floor. Outside it was glorious summer
weather. All our windows were open to the breeze, which never succeeded
in dispersing the stench pervading the whole building. Sitting on
the uncomfortable wooden stools, or walking idly about, we smoked
incessantly, read desultorily in magazines and books, and talked
spasmodically. And always the air vibrated with the faint, far-away,
half-heard, half-sensed muttering of distant guns. The news in the
German newspapers was never cheering to us.

As suddenly as we had been arrested we were released from prison after
eleven days, and confined to the town.

There followed nine weeks of inactivity and endless waiting. For the
first time I gave a fleeting thought to an attempt of making my way out
of Germany by stealth. It hardly seemed worth while, as we were “sure
of being exchanged sooner or later”! Twice I left the town for a few
hours. On my return I always found the police fully conversant with
every one of my moves, which showed how carefully they were watching
me. Having always provided excellent explanations for my actions, I
escaped trouble over these escapades.

As announced beforehand in the German press, we were arrested again
on November 6, 1914. We passed four cheery days in the old familiar
prison, and then came the excitement of our departure for Ruhleben
camp, via Cologne, where we and a hundred and fifty other civilian
prisoners, collected from the Rhine provinces, spent a night in a large
penal prison.

Under a strong escort we were marched to the station at seven the
following morning. Before starting we had been told that there was
only one punishment for misbehavior on transport--death! Misbehavior
included leaving the ranks in the streets or leaning out of the windows
when in the railway carriages.

Entraining at eight o’clock, we did not reach our final destination
until twenty-three hours later. The first hour or so of our journey
was tolerable. We were in third-class carriages. Having had hardly any
breakfast, and no tea or supper the previous day, we soon became hungry
and thirsty. But we were not even allowed to get a drink of water.
Whenever the train drew into a station, the Red Cross women rushed
toward our carriages with pots of coffee and trays of food, under the
impression that we were Germans on the way to join our regiments. But
they were always warned off by uniformed officials: “Nothing for those
English swine.” We were evidently beyond the pale of humanity.

At 2 A.M. we disembarked at Hanover station, to wait two hours for
another train. Here a bowl of very good soup was served out to us.

At 7 A.M. on the 12th of November our train drew up at a siding. We
were ordered roughly to get out and form fours. It was dark and cold.
A thin drizzling rain was falling. Hardly as cheerful as when we left
Neuss, we entered Ruhleben camp.



CHAPTER II

RUHLEBEN: THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS


Ruhleben! A ride in a trolley car of fifty minutes to the east, and
one would have been in the center of Berlin. Toward the west the town
of Spandau was plainly visible. Shall we ever forget its sky-line--the
forest of chimneys, the tall, ugly outlines of the tower of the town
hall, the squat “Julius” tower, the supposed “war treasury” of the
Germans where untold millions of marks of gold were alleged to be lying!

Before the war the camp had been a trotting race-course, a model of
its kind in the way of appointments. Altogether, six grand stands, a
restaurant for the public, a club-house for the members of the Turf
Club, administrative buildings, and eleven large stables, all solidly
built of brick and concrete, illustrated German thoroughness.

These buildings, except the three smaller grand stands, clustered along
the west and south sides of an oval track, which was not at first
included in the camp area.

Since the beginning of the war the restaurant, the “Tea House” as it
was called, at the extreme western end, and the large halls underneath
the three grand stands next to it had been used to house refugees
from eastern Prussia. Then, an assorted lot of prisoners of war and
civilians interned, preponderantly Russian but with a sprinkling of
British and French subjects, had taken their place. A few Russians
were still there when we arrived but evacuated very soon after. Their
departure made the camp exclusively British.

We were given breakfast. It consisted of a bowl of so-called coffee
and a loaf of black bread. The bread was to last us two days. Then we
were marched to our palatial residence, Stable No. 5. We set to work to
remove the plentiful reminders of the former four-legged inhabitants
and installed ourselves as best we might.

The stables contained twenty-four box-stalls and two tiny rooms for
stable personnel on the ground floor, and two large hay-lofts above.
Six men to a box-stall was the rule, and as many as could be packed
into the lofts. I had experience in both quarters, for I slept in the
loft for more than a week, and then moved into “Box No. 6,” where a
space on the floor had become empty. My new quarters were, at first,
much less attractive than the loft. They offered, however greater
possibilities for improvement.

For six weeks we slept on a stone floor covered by an inch or so of
wet straw. We had just room enough to lie side by side. We could turn
over, if we did so together. The “loftites” slept on boards with
straw on top of them. Later we all got ticks into which we could pack
the wet and fouling straw. To start with, there was no heating. Then
steam-radiators were installed, and during this winter and the three
following, the stone barracks were heated in a fitful kind of way. The
locomobile boilers which furnished the steam, one for each three or
four barracks, delivered it into the radiators from 10 A.M. to 12 noon
and from 3 to 5 P.M.

At last the “boxites” received bedsteads. They consisted of a simple
iron framework with three-quarter-inch boards as mattresses. On
these we placed our ticks. The bed uprights had male and female ends
which permitted the building of as many superimposed bunks as seemed
practicable. Two sleeping-structures of three bunks each was the rule
in the boxes.

The food we received from the Germans was insufficient at any time. The
allowance per man for rations was sixty-five pfennigs per day--sixteen
cents at the pre-war rate of exchange. It was contracted for at this
price by a caterer.

While food in Germany was plentiful we could buy additions to our
rations at the canteen. This became gradually impossible. We didn’t
mind that much, as parcels containing food and other necessities, but
mainly food, began to arrive from England in ever-increasing number.
Relatives of prisoners, the firms they had been working for, and
trade-unions or other organizations to which they belonged started the
ball rolling. But when the real need of the prisoners became known in
Blighty, special organizations for the purpose of assisting them sprang
up everywhere. As they were independent of one another their work to
a great extent overlapped. The majority of the civilians interned
received too much; here and there a man received nothing at all.
Through the action of the British Government the work of the individual
societies was coördinated in November, 1916. From that date, the Order
of the Red Cross and St. John was in charge of all of the relief work
for prisoners of war, and each prisoner received six parcels of food
per lunar month, not counting two loaves of white bread per week.

As far as my experience goes, the German authorities made an effort to
have these parcels reach their destination. During the latter part of
my imprisonment deliveries became somewhat irregular. Food was scarce
at that time in some parts of Germany and commanded very high prices,
and the theft of parcels naturally increased.

Ruhleben camp was administered, at first, by the German officers in
charge, with the help of the interned. In the spring of 1916, all
of the internal affairs of the camp were placed in the hands of the
interned themselves, the Germans confining themselves to guard duties
and general supervision.

       *       *       *       *       *

Much has been published about prisoners’ camps in Germany. Horrible
stories have been told about them, and these are in the main quite
true. But camps differed from one another; nor were the conditions in
a given camp always the same. I’m not suggesting gradual or steady
improvement. But, just as camp commanders and regional military
commanders differed, so did the treatment of their charges differ. As
prisoners of war the men in Ruhleben camp were a pretty lucky lot. The
choice flowers of _Kultur_ bloomed elsewhere.

In the beginning of our internment hopes of a speedy exchange to
England ran high, and so did rumors concerning it. They helped us
to endure the hardships of the first few months, hardships which
might have proved even less tolerable than they did without some such
sheet-anchor of faith.

In spite of the misery of the first winter, however, the majority of
the pro-English portion of the camp would at any time have refused a
chance of living “free” in Germany under the conditions we experienced
previous to our internment. This certainly was the prevailing opinion
among my friends, as it was mine. In camp, at any rate, we could
wag our tongues, and speak as we listed, if we took only ordinary
precautions. We had congenial companions, and shared our joys and
discomforts. As long as our health remained tolerable, who would not
have preferred this to liberty among German surroundings? But when
illness came upon us--and few escaped it altogether--it was rather a
tough proposition.

The colonial Britishers were not at first considered to come under
the heading “_Englander_.” Probably the Germans were waiting for the
disruption of the British Empire and intended to further it by partial
treatment of men from our colonies, for they let them remain at liberty
until the end of January, 1915. It was then that the colonials arrived
in Ruhleben.

Later came the separation of the sheep from the goats! There was
trouble in camp. It had started in a ridiculous manner. A young lad
had been overheard saying something about “bloody Germans,” and this
had been reported to the authorities by one of their spies. German
self-esteem was horribly hurt, the more so as they misunderstood the
epithet and interpreted it as “bloodthirsty.” Whispers of impending
trouble had reached us, and we were not astonished when, one morning--I
believe in February or March, 1915--the alarm bell sounded the “line
up.” Each barracks separately formed up in a hollow square in front of
its dwelling-place. And each barracks was addressed separately by the
camp commander, Baron von Taube. He was in a perfect frenzy of rage
when our turn came. Our barracks was one of the last spoken to, and how
he managed to keep up the performance after so many repetitions is a
thing I cannot easily understand.

“We shall be the victors in this war thrust upon us by your country!”
he shouted at us. “And here and now I fling your own expression back
into your faces. Bloody Englishmen I call you! Bloody Englishmen!”
He thumped his chest like a gorilla about to charge. He came near to
foaming at the mouth. So far it was merely amusing. Then came the
order: “All those who entertain friendly feelings toward Germany fall
out and hand in your names.”

Our barracks was rather a mixed one, many of its inhabitants being
pro-German in sentiment. In addition, good and loyal men all over
the camp, whose financial interests were entirely in Germany, became
panicky and went over to the other side in the futile hope of saving
their property. When they had gone to the office, we others were
dismissed. Excitedly we discussed what had happened. Many of us were
deeply disturbed. They were those who thought they had flung their all
into a well, as it were, by standing still when the pro-Germans fell
out. But we all hoped that the others would be quartered apart from us.

Unfortunately that was not the case. They came back and lived among us
for some time, their presence giving rise to many a quarrel.

Some months afterward another separation of the sheep from the goats
took place, much less dramatically, and this time the pro-Germans were
quartered all by their sweet selves at one end of the camp.

In April, 1915, two men escaped from the hospital barracks, situated
outside the barbed-wire enclosure, and but carelessly guarded. One of
them became a great friend of mine later on.

When these two men escaped, I was playing with the idea myself. It was
a very fine spring. In the afternoons I used to sit on the uppermost
tier of the big grand stand. High up as I was, the factory buildings
and chimneys toward the west, where Spandau lay, appeared dwarfed; and
gazing across with my book on my knees, I had a sense of freedom. I
used to dream extravagant dreams of flights in aëroplanes with Germany
gliding backward beneath my feet, with the fat pastures of Holland
unrolling from the horizon, with the gray glint of the sea appearing,
and the shores of England lying rosy under a westering sun. And then,
coming down to realities, I began seriously to speculate upon the
chances of “getting through.”

I soon came to the conclusion that a companion was desirable, a good
man who spoke German well, as I did; a man with plenty of common sense
about him. I found one in April, T----, a native of the state of
Kansas. Lack of money made an early attempt impossible. I had enough
for myself, but my friend was dependent upon the five shillings per
week relief money paid by the British Government to those who had no
resources of their own. I could not get hold of sufficient money for
the two of us at once, so I set myself to accumulate gradually the
necessary amount.

But the summer passed, the leaves began to turn yellow, and my
pocket-book still contained less than I thought necessary.

In June of that year a successful escape from camp and from Germany by
Messrs. Pyke and Falk set us all talking and wondering. Then, in quick
succession, two serious attempts by a couple of men each failed. News
was allowed to reach us that they would be kept in solitary confinement
until the end of the war. This inhuman punishment was not actually put
into effect, but the unfortunates got five months’ and four and a half
months’ solitary confinement respectively, and after that indefinite
detention in prison.

My companion and I heard only about the first sentence. It somewhat
staggered us; but we decided that, as we did not intend to be caught,
the punishment ought not to deter us, and that if we were caught we
could stick it out as well as the next man.

The days were growing shorter, the nights colder, the boughs of
the trees barer, and conditions generally more unfavorable, and
still we hung on. Then the military authorities began doubling the
number of wire fences around the camp and erecting plenty of extra
light-standards in the space between them. Also, the number of sentries
was increased. All this decided us to have “a shot at it” there and
then, before the additional fences were completed.

We had hoped for an overcast sky. Instead, the full moon was bathing
the camp in light. Feeling anything but comfortable, we walked up to
that part of the wire fence where we intended to scramble over. We
were just getting ready, when a sentry came around the corner of the
barracks outside the wire. We had never observed the man on that beat
before. He stopped short, and his rifle came to the ready. “We’re camp
policemen, if he asks,” I whispered to my companion. Lingering a moment
as if in conversation, we then walked slowly away. We decided not to
try again that night.

The next morning I was disgusted with myself and all the world. I
talked it over with my companion, and he agreed with me that it was “no
go” that year. Another week of light nights would see the wire fences
completed and the season so far advanced that the odds would be too
heavy against us.

For some days I chewed the bitter cud of disappointment. Then I told my
friend that I should be glad to go with him, if he had an opportunity,
but that in the meantime I should take any chance, if one came to me,
alone. He expressed approval.



CHAPTER III

THE SANATORIUM


Toward the end of November an old Scotsman, a member of my barracks
(No. 5), was returned to camp from the sanatorium in Charlottenburg.
I questioned him about the place. It appeared that no desperate
illness was necessary to get there, as long as one was willing to pay
for oneself instead of coming down upon the British Government funds
ordinarily provided for that purpose.

This institution was a private medical establishment known as Weiler’s
Sanatorium. The camp administration, by now in our own hands, had made
arrangements with the proprietors to receive and treat such cases of
illness or ill-health as could not be treated adequately in camp, where
the accommodation in the infirmary, measured on civilized standards,
was of the roughest.

Having a big scar on my left thigh, the only reminder of a perfectly
healed compound fracture many years old, I believed sciatica a likely
complaint to acquire. Except in extreme cases no observable changes
take place in the affected limb, and the statement of the patient
is the only means of diagnosis. Forthwith I developed a gradually
increasing limp. With it I got grumpy and ill-tempered, the limp
preventing me from taking my usual exercise, and this soon had its
effect.

At regular and short intervals I went to see the doctor. To start with,
I got sympathy from him, and aspirin. But nothing did me any good,
though I admitted to an occasional improvement when the weather was
fine and dry. At last I was taken into the _Schonungsbaracke_ and put
under a severe course of sweating. I stuck it out, but came dangerously
near throwing up the sponge before I was released at the end of a week
of it. By that time I had made up my mind that my sciatica ought to be
cured, at least temporarily.

I kept away from the doctor for some time, but after a fortnight,
during which my limp had gradually increased again, I was back in the
surgery. He admitted that under camp conditions a lasting cure, even
of a mild case like mine, was hardly to be thought of; but since the
Schonungsbaracke was full, there was nothing for me “but to stay in
bed as much as possible” and to swallow aspirin. This treatment suited
me excellently well.

I kept hanging about the surgery complaining mildly until the first
days of February, when the weather was rotten. I had a serious attack
then. I knew the Schonungsbaracke to be still full, and this gave
me the opportunity of asking to be transferred for treatment to the
sanatorium.

My case being considered urgent, I left the camp the same afternoon,
accompanied by a soldier and a box-mate of mine who had volunteered to
carry my luggage--for I was unable, of course, even to lift it. With
somewhat mingled feelings I looked my last upon Ruhleben for many a
long day.

My new home had originally been intended for nervous cases only--a
private lunatic asylum, to put it bluntly. The arrangement with the
camp authorities for the treatment of all kinds of ailments among
a population of over four thousand was taxing its capacity to the
utmost. So many of our men were there at this time that they not only
filled the original institution but were housed and treated in several
dwellings leased by the proprietors in addition to the asylum.

This was a large building with an extensive garden at 38 Nussbaum
Allee, Charlottenburg. The appellation “Nussbaum Allee” distinguished
it from the other houses, of which there were four, if I am not
mistaken. I forget their names, however, with the exception of “Linden
Allee.”

There were two classes of patients, whose food and accommodation
differed according to the amount they paid, or which was paid for them
by the British Government through the American Embassy. First-class
treatment cost at that time twelve marks per day exclusive of medicines
and special treatment. Without exception the expense had to be defrayed
by the patient himself. In the second-class eight marks per day was
charged. Neither class could expect private bedrooms for this, except
where infectious ailments or other medical reasons made separate rooms
imperative.

I had offered to pay my own expenses, to avoid delay by having my case
referred to the American Embassy. It was a matter of indifference to
me what class I was put into. The points of comfort I was looking for
were easily opened windows, etc. I liked fresh air at any time, but now
was particularly impressed by a theory of mine, that fresh air could be
admitted in sufficient quantities only by windows not too high from
the ground and large enough to admit, or rather to give exit to, a
fairly bulky man.

The windows looked all right, but, from my point of view, they were
_not_. They had diamond panes set in cast-iron frames; and even if they
opened, a dog could not have got out of the aperture. All the corridor
doors were kept constantly locked. There was no passing from one part
of the building to another without the help of a warder or a nurse. The
idea of having to sleep in the same room with six or eight people, one
or two of them seriously ill, did not appeal to me. One of them was
always sure to be awake at night. Straightway I applied for first-class
treatment, for this would get me sent to the “Linden Allee Villa,”
where these lunatic-asylum precautions would probably be absent.

I was taken there in the course of the following morning. My assumption
proved correct, for things were different. Twelve patients nearly
occupied the available accommodation. The staff consisted of only a
nurse and three servant girls, and no military guard was about the
place. The biggest bedrooms contained three beds. A garden surrounded
the house, accessible through at least three doors and a number of
windows of the ordinary French pattern. A low iron railing separated
the garden from the streets, which in this part of the town were very
wide, and which frequently had two causeways, lined with trees, and
divided by stretches of lawn and thick shrubbery.

Not far from “Linden Allee” a big artery ran right into Berlin.



CHAPTER IV

PLANNING THE DETAILS


The outlines of my plan of escape had been conceived almost a year
before in Ruhleben, and had remained unaltered.

Generally speaking, the chances of success were so small that I was
convinced it could be achieved only by the elimination of every
unnecessary risk, and with a considerable amount of good fortune thrown
in to make up for the unavoidable balance on the wrong side.

It must be remembered that we civilians were interned right in the
center of Germany. There were three neutral countries to make for:
Denmark, Holland, and Switzerland, distant from Ruhleben in that order.
My choice fell upon Holland, which, from information I had obtained,
seemed to offer the best opportunities.

Denmark, being only about a hundred and fifty miles away, had at first
appeared very tempting. But the difficulty of crossing the Kiel Canal,
the extraordinarily close watch kept all over Schleswig-Holstein and
the frontier, lack of information about the state of affairs along
the Baltic coast, and the obvious difficulty of making a passage in a
stolen boat to the nearest point on the Danish coast, twenty-five miles
away, decided me against this plan. Switzerland was about six hundred
miles distant, and the railway journey, with its attendant dangers,
correspondingly long. Also, we had heard that part of the Swiss
frontier, at least, was impregnably guarded. There remained Holland,
about four hundred miles away.

In view of my thorough knowledge of German, I did not believe the
railway journey an impossible undertaking. It appeared more feasible,
at any rate, than the four-weeks’ tramp to the frontier with what scant
food one could carry. Up to the last moment I tried to get information
as to whether special passports were necessary for traveling on a
train, and whether they would be inspected on taking the ticket, or
during the journey. I had contradictory accounts about this.

Having arrived at the sanatorium, I very soon made up my mind to the
following mode of procedure: A stay at the “Linden Allee” until the
30th of March would give me about four weeks in which to recruit my
health, which was none of the best after a grueling winter in camp.
Then, with a new moon on the 1st of April, a succession of dark nights
would be favorable for my purpose. On account of the weather, it might
become advisable to delay the start a day or two; but if exceptionally
wintry conditions should be prevailing then, a postponement until the
moon had again changed through all her phases would become necessary.
Trying to imagine conditions near the frontier, I had come to the
conclusion that with snow on the ground, giving a considerable range of
vision even during the darkest hours of the night, a successful passage
through the sentry lines would be out of the question. On the other
hand, the nights would be much shorter at the end of April, and this
made me nervous lest such a postponement should be forced upon me. The
task of getting out of the sanatorium and making my way into Berlin did
not trouble me at all. It was as easy as falling off a log. Such of my
things as I should deem necessary or very desirable for the exploit, I
was going to take with me in a small leather Gladstone bag.

From newspapers I had learned that a train left Berlin for Leipzig at
7 A.M. My absence would probably not be discovered before the first
breakfast, served in bed at 7:45 A.M. Thus I could be a good many miles
away when the alarm reached headquarters.

Leipzig was not on my direct route toward the Dutch frontier, but it
appeared very attractive as my first objective, partly for that reason.
It is a big place, and a man could easily pass in the crowd there for
a day, while the shops would allow me to complete my equipment with a
compass and maps.

In Berlin the sale of the latter was prohibited except with a permit
from the army corps commander. This ordinance was savagely enforced
and probably strictly observed. Leipzig--the center of the German
printing-trade, and, in the Kingdom of Saxony, not in Prussia--was the
place where one could hope to obtain them, if anywhere.

In another way the fact of Leipzig being in a different state was in
my favor. Any efforts of the Berlin police to recapture me would very
likely be retarded if the case had to be handed over to a distinct and
independent police organization.

I hoped that when I arrived in Dortmund, some time during the morning
following my escape from the sanatorium, I could make my way by slow
trains to the small town of Haltern.

This is situated in the northwestern corner of the province of
Westphalia on the northern bank of the river Lippe. The nearest part
of Holland from there is only twenty-five miles distant as the crow
flies, and no river of any size intervenes, an important consideration
for the time of year I had fixed upon. Moreover, it is nowhere near the
Rhine. As I had lived in the northern part of the Rhine province, the
danger of being accidentally seen by a former acquaintance bade me keep
away from that district.

There remained the smaller details of my plan to work out, file, and
put together. Some of them were planned and executed before I left
camp. For example, I had grown a beard during the winter 1915-16. This
altered my appearance and lent itself to another alteration, back to
the original. I bethought myself in the “Linden Allee” that the Germans
would probably expect me to shave it off. A good reason for not doing
so.

The universal practice of the Boches in both civil and military camps
was to mark all the clothing of prisoners of war so distinctively
that the status of the wearer could be recognized at a glance, if
ever he got away. These marks consisted at first of stripes of vivid
color painted down the seams of their trousers and around their arms,
and fancy figures, circles, triangles, etc., on their backs. Later,
stripes of brown material were sewn into the trousers and sleeves, the
original material having first been cut away.

This practice never obtained in Ruhleben, where we were allowed to wear
what we liked. During two winters in camp I had made use of a very
strong and warm suit of Manchester cord. It was now considerably the
worse for wear, bleached by sun and rain and darkened again by mud and
grease, rather conspicuous in its state of dilapidation, and, in camp,
very distinctly connected with me. For months I had kept hidden in my
trunk an inconspicuous gray jacket suit. When I went to the sanatorium
it was packed away under other things at the bottom of my hand-bag. All
the time at the villa I wore my cord suit, explaining that I had no
other clothes, but was waiting for some on the way from England. I must
have cut a very queer figure among my companions, but any one among
them could conscientiously swear, after my departure, that I must have
left in a brown cord suit, for, obviously, I had no other. The good
ulster overcoat I intended to make use of could hardly give me away.
Probably half a million similar ones were being worn in Germany at that
time.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the first week in March, winter set in again and held the land
for a fortnight. Then, abruptly, spring burst upon us--that glorious
early spring of 1916 with its long succession of sunny, warm days and
crisp, starlit nights.

A change in the number and distribution of the inmates had left me with
only one companion in our bedroom. He was confined to bed with heart
disease. I became rather nervous lest my unexpected disappearance and
the following inevitable investigation should upset him. To minimize
this possible shock I took him into my confidence.

As “the day” approached I got my things ready as unobtrusively as I
could, gradually packing my small grip and finally destroying letters
and private papers. It was then that my room-mate showed the first
signs of unfeigned interest.

“Why,” he exclaimed, suddenly, “so you meant it, after all! Pardon my
having been incredulous so far, but I’ve heard so many fellows talk
about what they intended to do, without ever seeing anybody doing it
that I didn’t quite realize you were the exception that proves the
rule. Don’t worry about me, and the best of luck to you.”

The limp with which I had arrived at the sanatorium I had gradually
relinquished as I announced improvements in my condition. It was
to be resumed on the journey as a sort of disguise, an unasked-for
explanation for my not being in the army.

I had put aside some food, namely, a big German smoked sausage, still
obtainable though very expensive, and containing a considerable amount
of nourishment, a tin of baked beans, some biscuits, some chocolate,
and a special anti-fatigue preparation. A green woolen shirt, a thick
sweater, two pairs of socks, an extra set of underclothing, a stout
belt, and a naval oilskin, filled the bag almost to the bursting-point.
Watch, electric torch, knife, and money were to be carried on my person.

About this time my first monthly account was due from the sanatorium. I
dared not ask for it, neither could I leave without paying. Apart from
the moral aspect of vanishing and leaving an unsettled bill behind,
such an act would certainly have resulted in criminal proceedings
against me for theft or larceny, in the event of my being captured,
and, according to the German application of the law where Englishmen
were concerned, as certainly in conviction with a maximum sentence. So
I decided to leave enough money in a drawer of my dressing-table to
cover my bill.



CHAPTER V

A GLIMPSE OF FREEDOM


Contrary to my expectations, I hardly felt any excitement during
my last day at the “Linden Allee.” My mental attitude was rather a
disinterested one, as if I were watching somebody else’s escape.

When I got into bed at the usual time, I immediately fell asleep,
having first made up my mind to wake at 3:30 A.M. I awoke an hour
sooner, and went to sleep again. It was close on four o’clock when
I opened my eyes for the second time. Getting up noiselessly, I
carried the Gladstone and a big hand-bag containing my clothes, boots,
etc., into the bath-room on the first floor. There I lathered my
shaving brush and shaved a few hairs off my left forearm, leaving the
safety-razor on the washstand, uncleaned, to create the impression that
I had shaved off my beard. I dressed as rapidly as I could, throwing my
pajamas on the floor and leaving generally a fair amount of disorder
behind me. A breathless trip to the loft of the house to conceal my
cord suit behind some beams was executed with as much speed and
caution as I could manage. With my bag in one hand and my boots round
my neck, I descended again by the light of the electric torch, slipped
into my overcoat in the hall, and, snatching my hat from the rack,
entered the dining-room. From there a French window gave upon a porch
to which a few steps led up from the garden. The window offered no
resistance and, fortunately, the protecting roller-blind was not down.
A few women, probably ammunition workers, passed the house, and when
they were out of hearing I stepped out.

It was still dark, though the dawn was heralded in the east. In a spot
previously selected for the reason that it was screened by bushes, and
from which I could survey the street without being seen, I got over the
fence. I had barely done so when a cough sounded some distance behind
me. With a chill racing up and down my spine, I walked on. Turning the
near corner, I threw a hasty glance over my shoulder, but could see no
one. Nevertheless, I thought it wise to walk back on my tracks around
several blocks, before I made for the big thoroughfare which led toward
Berlin.

A number of people were about, men and women, going to work. Keeping
on, I came after a lapse of about fifteen minutes to a station of the
Elevated. It was now five o’clock.

When I went up the steps to the booking-hall, night was slowly
withdrawing before the vanguard of the approaching day. The electric
lights in the streets flashed once and were dead. In the station they
were beginning to show pale and ineffective.

To my relief, people were entering the station with me. Obviously,
there was a service of trains this early, though I had been in doubt
about it till then. The taking of a ticket to Friedrich Strasse
Station, one of the chief stations in Berlin, cost me some agitation.
It meant the first test of my ability to “carry on.”

“Friedrich Strasse! Ten minutes to six! I must find the restaurant and
have breakfast.” There is no sense in neglecting the inner man; no
experienced campaigner will voluntarily risk it.

Friedrich Strasse was a most uncomfortable place to be in. It swarmed
with soldiers, and its intricate passages and stairs were plastered
with placards: “Station Provost Marshal,” “Military Passport Office,”
“Passports to be shown here,” “For Military only.”

At last I found a snug little waiting-room and restaurant, where I got
a fairly decent meal, including eggs, which at the time were still
obtainable without ration-cards, and rolls, for which I ought to have
delivered up some bread-tickets, but didn’t. As soon as I had a chance,
I bought a newspaper and some cigarettes. Either might help one over an
awkward moment.

The train for Leipzig left from a station I knew nothing about except
the name. The easiest way for me to get there was by cab. A number of
these were standing in front of Bahnhof Friedrich Strasse.

“Anhalter Bahnhof,” I said curtly to the driver of the first
four-wheeler on the rank. Cabby mumbled something about _Marke_ through
a beard of truly amazing wildness. Then only did I recollect that it is
necessary before taking a cab from a station rank in Berlin to obtain
a brass shield, with its number, from a policeman stationed inside the
booking-hall. Back I went, overcoming as best I might the terrifying
aspect of the blue uniform close to me. Fortunately, the man was
extraordinarily polite for a Prussian officer of the law, and inquired
solicitously what particular kind of cab I should like, and whether it
was to be closed or open. It was to be closed.

I had twenty minutes to spare after I alighted from the cab in front
of my destination. This station appeared less crowded than the former
one, although a considerable number of soldiers were in, or passing
through, the big hall. The moment had come when one of the main points
of my plan was to be put to the test. Could I obtain a long-distance
ticket without a passport? I waited until several people approached
the booking-office, then lined up behind them. One of them asked for
a second-class ticket to Leipzig, and got it without any formality. I
considered myself quite safe when I repeated his demand.

The train, a corridor-express, was crowded. The hour was early for
ordinary people, and nobody seemed in the least talkative. To guard
against being addressed, I had bought enough German literature of the
bloodthirsty type to convince anybody of my patriotic feelings, but I
hardly looked at it. I was too much interested in watching the country
flashing past the window and in speculating upon what it would be like
near the Dutch frontier.

At Leipzig, where we arrived at 9:30 A.M., I had my little Gladstone
taken to the cloak-room by a porter, to give more verisimilitude to my
limp. For the same reason I made it my first business to buy a stout
walking-stick at the nearest shop. After that I got a good luminous
compass, whose purchase was another test case. When it was treated as
an everyday transaction by the man behind the counter my spirits rose,
and the acquisition of maps appeared a less formidable undertaking.
Nevertheless, I resolved to leave their purchase to the afternoon.
Should I find that suspicion was aroused by my request for “a good map
of the province of Westphalia,” I intended to nip away on the earliest
train, if I could reach the station unarrested.

The rest of the morning I spent limping through the town, keeping very
much on the alert all the time. The tortuous, narrow streets of the
inner town, with their old high-gabled houses in curious contrast with
the modern buildings and clanging tram-cars, were a delight to me as
well as a difficulty; the latter in so far as I had to keep account of
my whereabouts, the better to be able to act swiftly in an emergency.
Gradually I got into more modern streets, wide and straight. In passing
I had made a mental note of a likely-looking restaurant to have lunch
in later on.

At last I found myself in a public park, where I rested on a seat for
some time. A shrewd wind, which whistled through the bare branches of
the trees, made me wrap myself tighter in my greatcoat.

I started to walk back to the restaurant at midday, following
for the greater part of the way in the wake of three fat and
comfortable-looking burghers, who were deciding the war and the fate
of nations in voices loud enough for me to follow their conversation,
although thirty paces behind. In the restaurant I had a meal, somewhat
reduced in quality and quantity, for a little more than I should have
paid in peace times. Over a cigarette I then started to look up my
evening train in the time-table I had bought at the station. Unable to
find what I wanted, I grew hot and cold all over. I had by no means
speculated upon having to stay in any town overnight, and should not
have known how to act had I been forced to do so. This question had to
be settled there and then, so I went to the station and the inquiry
office. I was told that I could get a train at 7:50 or 8 P.M.--I forget
which--to Magdeburg, and from there catch the express for the west to
Dortmund.

The first part of the afternoon I spent in several cafés, unhappy
to be within four walls, yet wanting to rest as much as possible.
Toward five o’clock I nervously set forth to buy the maps and some
other less important things. I passed several booksellers’ shops
with huge war-maps displayed in the windows, but my feet, seemingly
of their own volition, carried me past them. When I finally plucked
up enough courage to enter a shop, my apprehension proved quite
unnecessary. I came away with a fine motor-map and another one,
less useful generally but giving some additional information. After
that the rest of my equipment was rapidly acquired: a pair of night
binoculars, wire-clippers, a knapsack, a very light oilskin, and a
cheap portmanteau to carry these things in. By a fortunate chance I saw
some military water-bottles in a shop window, which reminded me that I
had nearly overlooked this very important part of a fugitive’s rig-out.
I got a fine aluminum one.

By this time it was getting dark. The best way of spending what
remained of my time in Leipzig was to have a leisurely meal in the
station restaurant.

While I was waiting to be served, a well-dressed man at a table
opposite attracted my attention. He came into the room soon after me,
and seemed to take a suspicious interest in my person. He stared at me,
openly and otherwise. When he did the former, I tried to outstare him.
After he had twice been worsted in this contest he kept a careful but
unobtrusive watch over the rest of the people in the restaurant, but
took no further notice of me, not even when I crossed the room later
on to buy at the counter as many sweet biscuits and as much chocolate
as I dared. After that I sat reading a book with a lurid cover whereon
a German submarine was torpedoing a British man-of-war among hectic
waves. Taking advantage of the short-sightedness implied by my glasses,
I held it close to my eyes, so that onlookers might have the benefit of
the soul-inspiring cover, and look at that instead of my face.

A porter, whom I had tipped sufficiently to make it worth his while,
came to fetch my luggage and see me into the train, where I had a
compartment to myself. As soon as we were moving, I executed a wild but
noiseless war-dance to relieve my overcharged feelings, and then had my
first good look at the maps.

At Magdeburg I had only a few minutes to wait for the express to
Belgium, which was to arrive at midnight. It turned out to be split
into three sections, following each other at ten-minute intervals. I
took the first of the trains. The second-class compartment I entered
was occupied by an officer of the A. M. C. and two non-commissioned
officers. The latter soon left us, having bribed the guard, so it
seemed, to let them go into the first-class. In this way the medical
officer and I had the whole compartment to ourselves. We lay down at
full length, and I slept with hardly an interruption until 4:30, half
an hour before the train was due at Dortmund.

At Dortmund the waiting-room I went to was almost empty. I left my
luggage in the care of a waiter, and went out to have a wash and
brush-up. This expedition gave me an opportunity to learn something
about the station before I got a fresh ticket. I saw that to do
this I should have to pass ticket-gates which were in charge of an
extraordinarily strong guard with fixed bayonets. The importance of
Dortmund as a manufacturing town, coupled with its situation in the
industrial district of the West, the vulnerable point of Germany,
explained these precautions.

Back in the waiting-room, a liquid called coffee and a most
unsatisfactory kind of war bread had to take the place of a Christian
breakfast. From the time-table I learned that there was a local train
to Wanne at about 6:30. It just missed connection with another one
from Wanne to Haltern, if I recollect rightly. The prospect of having
to wait over two hours in a small town on the edge of the industrial
district, before I could get a train, was not particularly inviting,
but there was no alternative. My ticket was taken only at the last
minute; then Dortmund was left behind.

For most of the way to Wanne I traveled in the company of two young
civilians, massively built and pictures of health. When they had left
I hastily packed my impedimenta in the new portmanteau, leaving the
Gladstone empty, with the intention of depositing it in a cloak-room as
the best means of getting rid of it without leaving a clue.

Having arrived at Wanne at eight o’clock, I handed my two pieces of
luggage in at the cloak-room window, asking for a separate ticket for
each.

The man behind the counter, to whom I took a great dislike from that
moment, stared at me in silence for some seconds, until I could no
longer stand it, and started a lame explanation: I wanted to leave
the small bag for a friend of mine to fetch later on from whom I had
borrowed it in the town about a week ago, name of Hugo Schmidt. The
other I would take away with me as soon as my business in Wanne was
finished. The fib sounded unconvincing enough to my own ears. The
wooden face of my antagonist on the other side of the window gave no
indication of thoughts or emotions. All that mattered really was that
he gave me two tickets, and that I found myself in the street still
unarrested but feeling unaccountably hot.

Walking as briskly as my limp would permit, I wandered about the
streets, diving into a factory yard here and the hall of an office
building there, as if I were a commercial traveler, taking good care
not to linger long enough for other people to become interested in me.

All the time I felt uncomfortable and dissatisfied with my performance
at the station and the pretense I was putting up, and thus it came
about that the photograph of a friend of mine in Ruhleben disintegrated
under my fingers in my pocket, to be dropped bit by bit into the road,
lest, if I were arrested, the original should get into trouble.

It was a relief when ten o’clock was past and train-time approached.
I got my portmanteau from my friend in the cloak-room, who was
fortunately busy with other people, and got into an empty compartment.
Between stations, during the twenty-minute run, I looked at my maps, to
form an idea of how best to get out of Haltern in the right direction.

This small town is about half a mile from the station, which is an
important railway junction. I was quite unacquainted with this part
of the province of Westphalia. The maps showed it as not too thickly
populated, with plenty of woods dotted all over it, and plenty of water.

The train thundered over the big railway bridge crossing the river
Lippe and drew into the station, and I, feeling pretty good, landed on
the platform with something like a skip and a jump, until I recollected
my leg. Then slowly I limped after the other people the train had
disgorged. In front of me I could see the church steeple rising above
the roofs of the compact little town in the middle distance. Half-way
toward it I passed a detachment of English Tommies sitting on top of a
fence, smoking pipes and cigarettes. About an equal number of Poilus
were standing close to them, laughing and criticizing the appearance of
the passing women. The only guard I could discover was leaning sleepily
against a tree on the opposite side of the road. I suppressed an almost
overwhelming desire to exchange greetings, and passed them instead with
a stony stare.



CHAPTER VI

IN HIDING


It was a sunny, warm day, and there was no difficulty about finding
one’s bearings. In the market-place a sign “To Wesel” directed me up a
narrow street of humble dwellings on my left. Just outside the town a
number of roads met. Without looking at the directions on a mile-stone,
I surveyed the country before me for suggestions as to my next move.
The most important thing was to get to cover as quickly as possible,
and to withdraw from the sight of man. Never mind about striking the
right route now. That could wait until a thorough study of the maps
gave me a better grasp of the situation. The most favorable-looking
road led past a number of cottages and then ran in a northwesterly
direction between a low range of hills. A footpath branching off toward
a copse on my left seemed to offer the double attraction of a solitary
walk and a short cut to a hiding-place. It took me about a hundred
yards along the rear of the cottages, and then rejoined the parent
road at a point where the woods came down to it.

As soon as a corner of the copse sheltered me, I gave a last look up
and down the deserted road, and a moment later the branches of the
half-grown firs closed crackling behind me.

Loaded as I was with a thick overcoat and a heavy bag, I was fairly
bathed in perspiration before I had penetrated sufficiently far into
the thicket to feel safe. The branches were so interlaced that only the
most realistic wormlike wriggle was effective as a means of propulsion,
and even then progress was accompanied by a crackling noise which I was
anxious to avoid.

Satisfied at last, I stood up and looked about me. From the pin-pricks
of light toward the east, I concluded that the spot I stood on was
not far from the margin of the copse where it bordered upon a plowed
field. On all other sides was a dead wall of brown and green. Underfoot
the ground was sopping wet, for the spring sun had no power as yet to
penetrate down to where the brown needles and a tangle of black and
moldering grass of last year’s growth would soon be covered by the
shoots of the new spring. Wet and black, the lower branches of the
young trees were things of the past, but higher up they stretched their
arms heavenward clothed in their dark green needles. The tops of the
firs were glistening like green amber where they swayed slightly in the
clear sunlight, forming delicate interlacing patterns beneath the pale
spring sky.

Resting and preparing for my night’s walk, or poring over my maps, I
spent the day there. A mouthful of food now and again was all I could
swallow, for I was parched with thirst. The fast walk in the warm sun
had started it, and the knowledge that there was no chance of assuaging
it before the small hours of the next morning made it worse. I had not
dared to fill my water-bottle at any of the stations for fear of being
seen and arousing suspicion.

Most of the day my ears were continually on the alert, not so much from
fear of discovery as for sounds which might convey useful information.
The road leading past my hiding-place seemed little used; the rumble
of a cart reached me only very occasionally. From the shrill cries of
playing children, and the cackling of hens, I surmised the existence of
several farmhouses farther along.

Before lying down I had put on my second set of underwear and discarded
my white shirt, collar, and tie, for a green woolen shirt and a dark
muffler, which did away with any but neutral colors on my person.
Oilskins, oilsilks, overcoat, food, etc., were to be packed in the
knapsack on breaking camp. Whatever would be wanted during the march,
such as compass, maps, electric torch, and a small quantity of biscuits
and chocolate, I stowed away in convenient pockets. The maps I cut into
easily handled squares, discarding all the superfluous parts. When the
sun had disappeared and gloom was gathering under the trees, I slung
the water-bottle from my belt, the binoculars from my neck, and then
crept to the edge of the copse, there to wait for the night.

Concealed behind some bushes, I watched the road, which gradually grew
more indistinct. The roofs of the town, huddled in the hollow, lost
their definite outlines. One after another lights sprang up behind the
windows. The children’s voices became fewer, then ceased. Sound began
to carry a great distance; the rumble of a railway train, the far-away
barking of a dog. Twinkling stars came out in the heavens. It was time
to start.

At 8:30 I scrambled out of my hiding-place and gained the road, where
I set my face toward the west after a last glance at Haltern with its
points of light. Two farmhouses, perfectly dark even at this early hour
of the night, soon lay behind me. Here the forest came down to the
road on my left while fields bordered it on the right, and, perhaps
eighty yards distant, the wooded hills arose. Whether it was a sort of
sixth sense which gave me warning, I do not know, but a strong feeling
that I was not safe on the road made me walk over the fields into the
shadow of the trees, from where I could watch without being seen. My
figure had hardly merged into this dark background, when silently a
shadowy bicycle rider flitted along the road, going in my direction. He
carried no lamp, and might have been a patrol.

The going on the plowed fields being rather difficult, I soon grew
impatient of my slow progress and returned to the road, proceeding
along it in perfect serenity henceforth. It rose gradually. Checking
its direction by a glance at the stars now and again, I soon noticed a
decided turn to the northwest. This proved beyond doubt that it could
not be the turnpike to Wesel, which throughout its length ran due west.

After perhaps an hour of hard going, a sign-post loomed ghostly white
through the darkness, to spring into sharp relief in the light from the
torch. “Klein Recken 2½ hours,” it read. A consultation of the map then
showed that I was on a far more favorable road than I had anticipated,
and that a brook flowing close to the hither side of the village of
Klein Recken might be reached at about midnight, if I kept my speed. I
needed no further inducement.

I was now ascending the last spur of the hills which had fronted
me on coming out of Haltern. My way lay mostly through woods, with
occasional clearings where the dark outlines of houses and barns showed
against the sky. Only occasionally was a window feebly lit as if by
a night-light. Often dogs gave warning of my approach and spread the
alarm far and wide.

It was a most glorious night, the sky a velvet black, the stars of a
brilliancy seldom seen in western Europe. Their luster seemed increased
when I found myself hedged in by a tall forest through which the road
wound as through a cañon. A bright planet hung fairly low just in front
of me, and in the exuberance of my feelings I regarded it as my guiding
star.

On the ascent the night air was deliciously cool, not cold, with
occasional warmer puffs laden with the scent of pines, the unseen
branches and sere leaves of which whispered softly. Seldom have I felt
so great a sense of well-being as I had during the first hours of that
night. Never again while I was in Germany--whether in camp, in prison,
or on other ventures--did I feel quite so happy, so free from all
stress, so safe.

Just before coming to the top of the ridge I found another sign-post
pointing one arm into the forest as the shortest route to Klein Recken.
The light of the torch revealed a narrow footpath disappearing into
impenetrable blackness. I eased myself of my knapsack and rested for
ten minutes, eating some biscuits and chocolate, which made me more
thirsty than ever. It must have been colder than I thought, for on
resuming my burden I found it covered with a thin sheet of ice.

Striking into the footpath, I found a rather liberal use of the torch
necessary. The path descended steeply at first, then more gradually.
The tall timber changed to smaller trees and thickets. An occasional
railway train rumbled in the distance; yet for over an hour the country
was empty of human dwellings. Then several houses, widely apart,
announced the neighborhood of a village. A tinkling sound made me
lengthen my already swinging stride until I stood on a stone bridge.
The low murmur of water below was very pleasant in my ears. But that
was not the only sound. Something was stirring somewhere, but my dry
tongue and throat would not be denied any longer. Clambering over a
barbed-wire fence into a meadow, I looked for a place from which I
could reach the stream, which had steep banks. Engaged in tying my
water-bottle to my walking-stick to lower it into the water, I heard
footsteps approaching. The darkness was sufficient concealment, and
I merely kept motionless as two men crossed the bridge, one of whom,
from the scraps of talk I could distinguish, appeared to be the village
doctor, who was being fetched to a patient.

When they had gone, I lowered my water-bottle. It seemed a very long
time filling, the bubbles breaking the surface with a wonderfully
melodious sound. And then I drank and drank, filled it again, and
almost emptied it a second time. When I turned away, it was hanging
unwontedly heavy against my hip.

In front of me was Klein Recken. The road I had been following up to
now terminated here. It was miles to the north of where I expected
to be at this time, when I started out, but that much nearer to the
frontier. My plans for the night had been upset by my getting on this
favorable road, nor could I look at my maps. The use of the torch so
near to habitations was out of the question. I had a pretty good idea,
however, of what I should have seen, had I dared.

A railway line ran through the village. After crossing this, I
should have to trust to my guiding star and to my ability to work
across-country.

Instead of the level crossing I was looking for, I came unexpectedly
upon a tunnel in a very high embankment. With bated breath I tiptoed
through, more than half expecting to meet a sentry on the other side.
The footpath which emerged from it proved an unreliable guide. It soon
petered out and left me stranded in front of a barbed-wire fence and a
ditch. The cross-country stretch was on.

The going over plowed fields was easy in comparison, but they formed
only a part of the country I was traveling over. Frequent patches
of forest forced me to skirt them, with time lost on the other side
to make the necessary corrections. Repeatedly I sank half-way to my
knees into slough and water. Several casts were often necessary to get
round these places, for, overgrown with weeds, and in the darkness,
the swampy pieces looked like firm meadows. For a time, a sort of wall
formed of rough stones accompanied me, with marshy ground on one side
and forest on the other. It seemed to run in all directions. As soon
as I lost it, I came upon it again. I kept going as fast as possible
all the time; yet hour after hour passed, and still the bewildering
procession of woods and fields, swamps and meadows continued.

A phenomenon of which I was ignorant at the time, but which is well
known to sailors, kept me busy conjecturing. It is an impression one
gets at night, on level ground, or at sea, that one is going decidedly
up-hill. In my case this introduced a disturbing factor into my
calculations as to my position.

After tacking through a forest over checker-board clearings the meaning
of which was hidden from me, for they were hardly paths or roads, I
came out upon a path, and heard water bubbling out of the bank on my
right. “More haste less speed. Take it easy,” I murmured to myself,
dropping the haversack. Then I bent down to the spring and, having
drunk as much as I needed, and eaten a mouthful of food, I did some of
the hardest thinking of my life.

So far as I recollect, my watch showed just 3:20 A.M. I went minutely
over all my movements since leaving Klein Recken. Although the road,
which I expected would lie across my course, had not yet materialized,
I was confident that I had kept my direction fairly well. It was the
impossibility of calculating one’s speed across-country which caused
the uncertainty as to my whereabouts.

Fortunately, there was no doubt that a turnpike was not many miles to
the north of me. To reach it, and thus ascertain my position, meant
leaving the present route to the frontier. With less than two hours of
darkness before the dawn, which would force me into hiding, the former
factor was of far greater importance than the latter.

My nerves had been getting a little shaky under the stress. I had to
press my hands to my head in order to think logically, and to exert all
my will-power to keep my heart steady. Oh, for a companion! The effort
cleared my brain and soothed me. I was almost cheerful when I went on.

Opposite a farmhouse, the path divided and my way became a miry and
deeply rutted cart track. Past another farm, it entered a swampy meadow
through a gate and disappeared. Savage at being tricked again, I
wheeled round to look for the other fork of the track, but was arrested
by seeing a light in the window of the farmhouse where a big dog had
given the alarm when I passed. This was the last straw. Clenching my
teeth, I crouched behind the hedge, an insensate fury making my ears
sing. For the moment, having lost all control of myself, I was more
than ready to meet man or dog, or both, and fight it out on the spot.
But that feeling passed quickly.

The noise of a door being opened came to my ears. A lantern was borne
from the house and obscured again. Another door opened, and the
footsteps of a horse sounded on cobbles, followed by the jingling of
harness. Then a cart started out into the dark. Where a cart could go
there must be a road; so I followed after, stumbling over ruts and
splashing through puddles, and running when the horse broke into a trot.

The cart drew up in front of a building, of which I could see only
patches of the front wall where the lantern light struck. Followed
the noise of heavy things dumped into the vehicle. Then it started
again--back toward where I was standing. Thoroughly exasperated, I
turned on my heel and walked back over the road I had come, careless
whether I was seen or not. I soon drew away, tried to work round in a
circle, and presently came upon a road once more.

What a relief it was to feel even ground under my feet! A little way
farther on, and a sign-post pointing in opposite directions along the
road, read: “Klein Recken 8 Km., Heiden 2 Km.” Out with the map. There
was the road, which I had overlooked entirely so far, as it was very
faintly marked. With satisfaction I saw that I had kept my direction
admirably; but it was annoying to perceive that my course had lain
parallel to it all the time, probably never more than a mile away.
Making for the village, only about twenty minutes ahead, I could in
good time reach a desolate, high plateau, where cover very likely could
be found.

In Heiden, a compact little village, my footfalls rang loudly in the
cobbled streets. There was no sign of life about the place, and special
precautions seemed entirely superfluous. I walked past the church and
struck right into the high road I was looking for, which was easily
recognizable by its direction and the fact that it began immediately to
ascend the plateau.

The worst of my troubles over for the night, the fact that I was tired,
not so much muscularly as mentally, became only too apparent as I
trudged along. I started talking to myself, imitating tricks of speech
of my late companions at the sanatorium, and making up whole dialogues.
This continued as long as I followed the turnpike mechanically,
although I was perfectly aware of the absurdity of my behavior and
tried to stop it.

The sky was now paling in the east, and about two miles out of Heiden I
started to look for cover. For three quarters of an hour I kept leaving
the road for likely-looking woods, always to find farmhouses concealed
behind them.

Several times, while I was standing among the trees, and peering
anxiously about me, white-robed figures appeared to execute weird
dances between the trunks, only to dissolve into nothing on my approach
to investigate them. Friends of mine had similar experiences to relate,
when later on we met in prison and swapped yarns about our adventures.

The light was increasing apace, when a tall pine wood loomed up on my
left. Bursting through the bushes fringing it, I proceeded a little way
in, until I came to a deep, dry ditch marking its margin, and fairly
effectively concealed by bushes. I had the fir woods on my left; on my
right was a patch of land bounded by a wire fence and grown over by
small firs and thornless furze. A little farther up, some of the furze
had been cut and was lying on the ground. An examination of the stumps
showed them black and weathered; there was no sign of recent work.
Beyond the wire fence, and across a plowed field, a farm lay more than
half concealed in its orchard.

Gathering as much as I could of the furze in my arms, I carried it to
a place where the ditch was particularly deep and well concealed. Two
trips sufficed to provide me with the necessary amount. Arranging the
furze in the approved fashion, lengthways and across, I soon had an
excellent spring-mattress in the bottom of the ditch. Undressing, I
donned the dry sweater next my skin, and put all the garments I had by
me over it, for the air was bitingly cold.

A last deep draft from the water-bottle, a careful wriggle to get on my
couch, and I fell asleep instantly.

       *       *       *       *       *

I awoke without a start, and with every sense alert, after barely
two hours, wonderfully refreshed and not in the least stiff. The sun
was low in the sky and shone like a big red disk through the morning
mist. Pale-golden shafts of light penetrated into the pillared hall
underneath the dark green dome of the majestic firs. It was very cold,
but to me it appeared only like the refreshing sting of a cold bath.
Without going to sleep again, I lay motionless, every muscle relaxed,
while the sun climbed higher. As it did so, the air grew warmer, the
scent of the pines became stronger, while the earthy smell of the
ground suggested the new life of spring and the stirring of sap in the
growths around me.

Toward eleven, an early bumble-bee paid me a visit of inspection, and
took himself off again after the bungling fashion of his tribe. The
cooing of wood-pigeons close to me assured me of my perfect solitude.
Once a kestrel flashed across the ditch and disappeared with a startled
twist of wings and tail on catching sight of me. The roar of guns miles
away seemed louder and louder, but the sound was not near enough to
merit any attention on my part.

When the ditch was in the full light of the sun, I rolled out of my
coverings to spend a most glorious day in perfect contentment, eating a
little, husbanding my water as well as I could, smoking, and looking at
my maps. The next night I hoped would see me across the border. I meant
to pass through a village about four miles down the road, and--but
that does not matter. What mattered was that I forgot that the day was
Saturday, and that people would be likely to remain about much longer
than on ordinary week-days.

The shadows were meeting in the shelter of the woods when I worked
my way back to the road. Tiny night-prowlers were already following
their business and either scampered noisily away, or froze into the
immobility of fear, as my clumsy feet crashed through their domain.
From behind some bushes close to it I watched the white ribbon of the
road until it was almost blotted out by the darkness, and then set
forth.



CHAPTER VII

FAILURE


My water-bottle wanted filling. A spring bubbling up by the roadside
gave me the opportunity. That was a mile or so down the road. I had
got again into the swinging stride of the night before, and the few
miles to the village of Vehlen were soon covered. A sudden turn of the
road near it brought me opposite a building looking like a flour-mill.
An electric light was blazing at its corner. On the other side of the
road its rays were reflected by the oily ripples on a large pond, the
farther side of which was hidden in the darkness.

Perhaps the strain and loneliness of the last few days were telling
upon me without my being aware of it. At any rate, I did not realize
that the light was a danger-signal flaunted by Providence into my very
face. It never occurred to me that on seeing it I ought to get off
the road at once and work around the village across-country. Instead,
with the experience of last night at the back of my mind, I held on
stubbornly and never realized my folly until I was fairly in the main
street.

Most of the houses were lighted and a number of street lamps going.
Several people were passing between houses. It was too late to turn
back when I saw what I had done. Two old men in front of me, whom I
had caught up with, caused me to adapt my pace to theirs so as not to
pass them. They turned a corner, I after them, when from the opposite
direction a bicycle appeared. The rays of its lamp blinded me. I dared
not look back when it had passed, but hurried on as fast as I could
short of running. After an eternity of a few minutes somebody jumped
off a bicycle at my shoulder, having come up noiselessly from behind.
He touched me.

“Who are you?” An armed soldier stood before me.

I gave a name.

“Where do you come from?”

“I belong to Düsseldorf.”

“So. Where do you come from now?”

“From Borken.”

“But you are not on the road from Borken!”

I knew that, but no other name had occurred to me. What I ought to have
said was “Bocholt,” I think.

“I am not bound to follow what you call the direct road, and, anyway,
what do you mean by stopping me and questioning me in this fashion?”

“Where are you bound for?”

For want of anything better, I created the imaginary country house of
an imaginary noble.

“Don’t know it,” said the soldier, eyeing me doubtfully and scratching
his head.

By this time a crowd had collected around us. Additions to it, mostly
children, were shooting full speed round the nearest corners, as I saw
out of the corner of my eye, helm hard a-port and leaning sideways
to negotiate the turn. But I was already hemmed in by four or five
stalwarts. Outside the crowd a small man was dancing excitedly up and
down demanding that I be taken before the Amtmann, the head of the
village. This man turned out to be the village doctor, the cyclist who
had passed me. “What a disagreeable, foxy face the chap has,” flashed
through my mind. The soldier was obviously still in doubt about me, but
was overruled in spite of all the arguments I could think of.

With the soldier by my side, two stalwarts in front and three behind,
and surrounded by the throng, I was marched through the streets. We
drew up before a farmlike building, and politely but firmly I was
urged to enter. We went into a big room on the ground floor. Two desks,
several chairs and tables, and file cabinets made up the furniture. A
telephone was attached to the wall next the door.

A young man jumped up from his chair in front of one of the desks, and
he, and those who had entered with me, regarded me suspiciously for a
moment without speaking. Then the young man--he seemed a clerk--caught
sight of the binoculars half concealed under my coat lapels. With the
shout, “He is a spy!” he rushed upon me, and with a quick movement of
his hand tore open my coat and waistcoat.

“Here, keep your dirty paws off me!” I grunted angrily.

He stepped back. At this moment the Amtmann came in, a young and
gentlemanly looking chap. My assailant at once collapsed in a chair,
and tried to assume a judicial attitude with pen in hand and paper in
front of him. Then they searched me, and the fat was in the fire. There
was, of course, no sense in continuing the bluffing game, when maps,
compasses, and some letters addressed to me in Ruhleben were on the
table. I had carried the latter as additional evidence of my identity
for the British consul, should I get through. What they did not find
was my British passport. That was cunningly, I think, and successfully
concealed.

The business part of the performance being over, they became more
genial. The Amtmann asked me whether or not I was hungry. “No.” Should
I like a cup of coffee? “I should, and a smoke, please.” With the aid
of two cups of coffee and three of my cigarettes, I pulled myself
together as best I might.

The soldier who had stopped me was in the highest of spirits about
the big catch he thought he had made, and obviously wanted all the
credit to himself. Perhaps he expected the usual leave granted for
the apprehension of fugitive prisoners of war, and the ten or fifteen
marks of monetary recognition. In his anxiety to establish his claim,
he forgot all about the indecision and hesitancy he had shown to start
with.

“I knew you immediately for an Englander! That nose of yours!”

I have the most ordinary face and nose, and I am of no particular type,
but I nodded with deep understanding.

“Where did you intend crossing the frontier?” he rattled on.

I pointed it out to him on the map lying on the table.

“You’d never have got across there,” he vouchsafed triumphantly. “In
addition to the ordinary sentries and patrols, there are dogs and
cavalry patrols at that point, and to the north of it.”

If only I could have got that information under different circumstances!

“What beautiful maps you’ve got, and what a fine compass! Would
it--would it--would you think me cheeky if I asked you for it as a
memento?”

Considering that it would be lost to me anyway, I expressed my pleasure
at being able to gratify his desire. And then the Amtmann gave me to
understand that it was time to be locked up.

The interview at the office had lasted some time, and the noses which
had flattened themselves against the outside of the windows had
decreased in number. Still, there was a fairly strong guard of adults
and children to accompany us to the village lockup.

This was a small building consisting only of one floor. Here I observed
for the first time another small man with sharp features who unlocked
the door. It was, of course, dark about us, and at this distance it is
difficult to determine what I saw then and what I learned in the course
of the following day.

We entered through a big door into a place where a fire-engine--a
hand-pump--was standing. A door on the left having been unlocked, the
Amtmann and the small man preceded me through it. The light of their
electric torches revealed a cell, with a sort of bed along one side,
consisting of a straw paillasse on some raised boards and two blankets
rolled up at the foot of it.

They had left me in possession of my overcoat, oilskins, oilsilk, and
sweater, so I should be all right, though the night was very cold.
Alone in the cell in pitch darkness, I heard the key turn in the lock,
the footfalls recede, the outer door close; then all was silent.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, I could make out a
small window at my right, shoulder-high, and traversed by the black
streaks of three vertical iron bars. The cell was so dark that I had
the impression of being in a vast black hall. I took three steps
forward and rapped my nose against the wall. Very miserable and much
disappointed, almost in despair, I groped to the window and shook the
bars with all my strength. They were firm and unyielding. Feeling my
way to the bed, I put on all my things, disdaining the blankets, which
felt filthy, then lay down and was soon asleep.



CHAPTER VIII

A NEW HOPE


I awoke, much refreshed, just before the clock from the church steeple
chimed six. For some time I lay quiet, groping my way back into
reality. When the recollection of my last-night’s disaster drifted back
into my brain, I felt almost physically sick with disappointment and
rage, until awakening determination came to my help. “No use repining.
Is there no way to repair the damage? Hullo! it’s Sunday to-day.
Sunday! A village jail can’t be so awfully strong! I’ll be moved
to-day, though. Will they take me away in a car? Those gendarmes aren’t
easily fooled! But, after all, it’s Sunday. Perhaps that’s a reason why
they won’t move me!” The idea took such a hold on me that I was up in a
jiffy.

The cell, as I could see now, was square and very small, four paces
across. The only article of furniture was the bed, which took up about
one third of the floor space. There was nothing else in the room.
The window was in the wall opposite the bed, the door on the right.
The former was strongly barred, as I knew already. Moreover, several
ladders hung in front of it along the outside of the wall. The door
seemed fairly strong and was made of rough boards. So was the ceiling.
A beam extended from above the window to the opposite wall. The ceiling
boards at right angles did not run through from wall to wall but
terminated on top of the beam, as could be seen from their different
widths on each side of it. Standing on the bed, I could place my hands
flat against them without stretching my arms to the full. In one place
above it, and near the left wall looking toward the window, a splinter
had come away from the edge of a board. Although the wood at that point
showed signs of dry-rot, I did not investigate it thoroughly just then.

It was a great find, I thought at the time, when I discovered under the
bed a big piece of timber, the sawn-off end of a beam, about three feet
long. To pounce upon it and hide it under the paillasse was the work of
seconds. It would furnish an excellent battering-ram.

Up to now I had depended upon my ears to warn me of anybody’s coming.
After the discovery of the battering-ram, I made sure, by trying to get
a glimpse of the next room through cracks in the door, that nobody was
watching me. A part of the fire-engine could be seen, and on it a clean
cup and saucer. “Somebody must have been in that room to-day! Nobody
would have placed it there last night. Besides, I didn’t see anybody
carrying anything. Couldn’t have been done while I was awake. Better go
slow!”

Outside the window was a kitchen-garden with some fruit-trees. To the
right, the corner of a house and a pigsty with a solitary undersized
occupant terminated the view. My horizon was bounded by the roofs of a
few houses which stood behind trees.

It was past seven o’clock when I heard the key turn in the outer
door. Soon the door of my cell flew open, and in marched the short,
sharp-featured man of the night before, with a pot of coffee, a cup
and saucer, and something done up in paper, which turned out to be
excellent bread and butter. Butter, mind you! With him entered a
very young soldier, who nonchalantly sat down on my bed to survey me
gravely. Around the opening of the door clustered the elder boys of the
village, pushing and straining. Behind them were the girls, giggling
and whispering nervously. All devoured me with their eyes. In the
rear were the small fry. They overflowed into the street, where the
urchins, feeling perfectly safe from the bad man inside, indulged in
catcalls and disparaging shouts at my expense, while I had breakfast. I
chatted the while with the man whom I shall call the warder, although
he probably had many functions in the village. My efforts to obtain
information from him as to whether or not I was likely to be taken away
that day proved unsuccessful.

When my visitors had left me, I remembered that, experienced jailbird
as I had become since the beginning of the war, I had a duty to
perform--a scrutiny of the walls of the cell for any records former
occupants might have left there. This leaving of inscriptions seems to
be “the correct thing” among German prisoners--criminals, I mean. They
are not always nice but invariably interesting, particularly under the
circumstances in which they are read. The walls of my abode had been
recently whitewashed, and there was only one inscription: “André--[I
forget the surname] evadé Avril 2me 1916, repris Avril 3me 1916.” Thus
a fellow-fugitive had been here only the previous day.

I very badly wanted my morning smoke, and unexpectedly I had found two
cigarettes in my pockets, but there were no matches; and I had been
warned that smoking was not permitted. A woman was walking about in the
garden at this time. I took her to belong to the house whose corner
I could see; she was probably the wife of the owner. I intended to
appeal to her compassionate spirit. After a time she was joined by an
elderly woman, perhaps her mother. Although they did not show obvious
interest in me, yet they kept passing in front of my window. At last I
addressed them, whereupon they stopped with alacrity. The elder woman
was certainly talkative. She pitched into me at once, going over the
whole register of my sins as an Englishman as conceived by the German
mind, and telling me what a disgusting lot of robbers, thieves, and
murderers we were. As soon as she had got it off her chest, she became
rather friendly. “You’d be in Holland now, if you hadn’t been taken
last night.”

“Surely not,” with a puzzled frown. “I thought I’d have another
two-days’ walk from here.”

“Oh, no. It’s only a four-hours’ walk by the road into Holland from
here.”

“In this direction?” I pointed east, into Germany.

“No, over there. You go through ---- and ----, then take the ---- road
on the right. It’s not more than four hours, is it?” turning to her
daughter, who nodded.

“What’s the use of your telling me now when I am behind the bars
again?” I groaned. Ingratiatingly: “Could you oblige me with a match? I
am dying for a smoke.”

“You aren’t allowed to smoke!” severely. Then they left me.

For a time small boys kept looking in at the window. Their advent was
always heralded by the sound of a scramble, from which I gathered that
there must be a fence or a gate between the building I was in and the
house on my right. Sometimes they were chased away incontinently by
somebody I could not see. That any attempt at breaking out would have
to lead through the garden was a foregone conclusion. The other side of
the building was on the public street.

At about ten o’clock the warder appeared, and I managed to be let out,
mainly to have a look around. When we returned, the Amtmann was waiting
for me. The first thing he did was to search me for the two cigarettes.
The women had split on me! Then I tried to find out whether I was to be
moved that day, but could not get a satisfactory answer. This made me
rather hopeful that the cell would have to harbor me for another night.
Of course, I professed myself most anxious to be sent off, which was
natural. The sooner the military authorities should take me in charge,
the sooner I should know my punishment and get it over. I was careful
to explain all this. Finally, the Amtmann asked me whether or not I
wanted any of the food he had taken from me. The answer was in the
affirmative. But although he repeated this question later in the day,
and promised to send me the sausage, I never got it. My request for
something to read he granted by sending me some German weeklies called
_Die Woche_ (“The Week”).

Then he left me, only to reappear at 11:30. This time he was very
solemn, and asked me to give him my word of honor that I was not an
English officer. Obviously one was at large in Germany; I could not
suppose that it was a shot at random. With feeling I assured him that I
was not an officer and never had been one. My questions regarding this
interesting subject fell on deaf ears.

The Amtmann’s parting words excited me greatly. He regretted that
I should have to spend another night in his village, because they
could not arrange for an escort on Sunday. It was difficult to hide
my exultation over this bit of news, but I believe I managed to look
dejected and resigned.

Soon after the Amtmann had gone, the warder brought me my dinner in a
dinner-pail. He left it with me and disappeared. The food was certainly
the best I had ever received from German authorities at any time. The
pot was full of excellent potatoes in brown, greasy onion gravy. A
decent-sized piece of hot, home-made sausage lay on top. I was very
hungry, but so excited that I was half-way through the mess before I
realized that I was merely swallowing it down without tasting a bit of
it. That was sheer ingratitude, and thereafter I went ahead slowly,
thoroughly enjoying it. The pot was empty far too soon; a second
edition would have been very acceptable. I complimented the warder on
the excellent fare in his prison.

“I told my wife about you,” he acknowledged, “and she said we ought to
give you a decent dinner anyway.”

When I had finished I thought the time favorable to begin operations.
After a substantial Sunday dinner--there was evidently no shortage of
food in that part of Germany as yet--the village was bound to be more
or less somnolent. Indeed, no sound was to be heard from the street.

The first thing was to make a thorough inspection of the ceiling. If
one could get into the loft the roof would offer little resistance, it
being, as I had seen, tiled in the ordinary way.

Where the splinter had broken off, two boards appeared affected by
dry-rot, a narrow one and a wider one next to it. Tentatively I pushed
against the narrow one near the end which was nailed to the beam.
There was some spring there, not the firm resistance of a sound board
well nailed home. Under the slowly increased pressure it suddenly gave
with a creak, and a shower of splinters and dust came down upon me and
the bed. I could now look into the loft and see the under side of the
tiles. Directly in line with my eyes was a hole where a tile had lost
its upper half. This would be the place to attack, once through the
ceiling.

In the meantime the sun shone through another hole which I could not
see, and, through the crack upon my bed. To pull the board back into
its original position had no effect. Where there had been a narrow
crack in the morning another splinter had become detached, and there
was the scintillating beam of light cleaving a path through the dust
motes, a traitorous tell-tale. After a moment’s thought, I rolled my
oilsilks into a long sausage and shoved it past the raised board into
the loft in such a fashion that it would roll over the crack when the
board was lowered. It worked, and after a critical inspection I decided
that none but an exceptionally observant individual would ever notice
that the ceiling had been tampered with.

All this had not taken very long. Absolute silence brooded over the
place. Fearing that the narrow board might be insufficient to let me
into the loft, I tried to get the wider one next to it loose. When
it resisted the pressure of my hands, the battering-ram was brought
into play, with the overcoat wrapped round the end of it to deaden the
noise. Using it with discretion, I could make no impression. So I left
it at that.

Having removed all traces of my work from the bed and the floor, I
stood near the door and kicked my heels against it. This I did to have
some explanation, should anybody have heard the battering-ram at work.
Then I quieted down, resolving not to do any more until soon after the
next visit.

I was now quite convinced that I should get out of the prison during
the night. My one anxiety was for the weather to keep fine. I had
a fair idea of how to proceed as long as I could keep my direction.
Without a compass I was dependent upon the stars. There was no sign of
a change in the sky; nevertheless, I kept an unceasing and apprehensive
watch upon what I could see of it.

At three o’clock the Amtmann came back: “The people next door complain
that you disturbed them in the night. There were thumping and bumping
noises coming from this cell.” I had slept almost like a log through
the night. The involuntary expression of astonishment on my face at
this complaint was a more convincing answer than I could have made
verbally to the Amtmann, who was watching me narrowly all the time. I
protested, of course, and then volunteered the information that I had
been kicking my heels against the door a short time ago, apologizing
with a contrite mien.

“Oh, these people always seem to imagine things!” was his reply,
wherewith he left me. I thought I had got well out of it. Obviously
there was a misunderstanding, and the noise which had attracted the
attention of “the people next door” was that of my efforts an hour or
so ago.

At four o’clock the warder brought me coffee and bread and butter. He
had a small retinue with him. When I had finished, I asked him to fill
the coffee-pot with water and leave it with me. Not only was I very
thirsty; I wanted to absorb as much moisture as I could while I had the
chance.

As soon as he had gone I got on the bed again. The sun had now traveled
far enough to the west to make the roll of oilsilks superfluous.

If, as I believed, the cell wall was an outer one, the board could
now be fast only at the end above it. Applying my strength at the
other end near the beam ought to give me a tremendous leverage, which
should force it loose with little effort. It resisted, however, until
I fancied I could hear my joints crack with the exertion. The strain
lasted a few seconds; then the board came away above the wall with a
rending crash. Simultaneously something heavy fell to the ground on the
other side. The sound of it striking the floor, and the slant of the
board, revealed the existence of a third room in the building, across
which it had extended to the real outer wall of the prison, and at the
same time explained its strong resistance to my efforts.

With thumping heart and bated breath I listened for any suspicious
sounds from beyond the wall or from the street, but nothing happened.
Still the board, which now ought to have moved easily, resisted.
Getting my head into the loft, I found it littered with heavy lumps
of metal and plenty of broken glass, the remnants of old street-lamp
standards. Some of the metal things projected over the opening; as soon
as I had pushed them away the board moved up and down freely.

This was all I dared do at the moment in preparation for the escape.
The rest could easily be accomplished by the sense of touch in the
night. For the present, the board had to be fitted back into place. I
accomplished that, or nearly so, and trusted to the blindness of the
average mortal for my safety.

When I had removed the dust and splinters from my bed, and everything
looked in order, I saw the woman from next door walking in the garden.
I was quite taken aback, and watched her for some time, but she seemed
unconcerned enough. She could hardly have seen me except by putting
her face close to the window, for the eaves projected a considerable
distance beyond the walls, and were not more than eight feet from the
ground. Consequently it was never light in the cell, and less so now
when the sun was nearing the sky-line.

About half an hour afterward she came to my window, bringing two girls
with her, who obviously had come on purpose to see the wild Englishman.
The taller was a strapping, Junoesque maiden with apple-red cheeks
and considerable assurance. Her friend, a foil to her, was more of a
Cinderella, gray, middle-sized, reticent, but pleasant to look upon,
and with intelligent eyes and a humorous mouth. She said never a word
during her friend’s lively chat with me, only gurgling her amusement
now and then.

When they had gone I continued my intermittent watch of “the little
patch of blue that prisoners call the sky.” Gradually it changed to a
rosy hue, then the color faded, and a few stars began to twinkle feebly.

With the approach of evening the temperature had gone down, and the
overcoat had become a comfort. To my surprise, an inner pocket,
crackling ever so little, gave up a piece of map not larger than my
hand. It was from the more useless map I had bought, but the most
important part of it, the only piece I had kept when setting out from
Haltern. Being printed on thin, unbacked paper, it had escaped the
attention of my captors the more easily as they had found the other
complete map in my coat pocket. It did not tell me much more than I
knew already, but, kept before me until darkness fell, it undoubtedly
helped me visualize the country I was walking through later on.



CHAPTER IX

BREAKING PRISON


Before I made a move I was going to wait until the probability of a
surprise visit should have passed. Such a visit I expected at about
eleven o’clock, for at that time the Amtmann would probably go home
from wherever he was drinking beer, and on his way would have a look at
me. To give my jailers an extra hour to surprise me in, was again only
ordinary precaution.

Once in the loft, I was going to take off as many tiles as I must to
get through the roof into the garden, from there into the street, and
out of the village in any direction. In the country it would most
likely prove necessary to work round the village at a safe distance
in order to strike a certain turnpike. Several miles along it a brook
crossing the road was an indication that I should have to look out for
a third-class cart track. Some distance along this a railway, and,
shortly after, a first-class road, could be taken as evidence that the
frontier was within four miles, and that I had entered the danger zone.

When it was too dark to continue the study of the scrap of map, I
lay down, but was too excited to go to sleep. Slowly the hours and
quarter-hours, chimed by the church, dragged past. As I expected, just
after eleven o’clock the Amtmann entered with the warder. “Why! aren’t
you asleep yet?” he asked. I protested that the rattle of the key had
awakened me. They left. Half an hour after the warder came in again,
said something, and disappeared. At 12:15 I burst into action.

Feeling for the sweater and oilsilks, which lay ready to hand, I rolled
them into a bundle. I did the same with my jacket, waistcoat, and
underclothes, after having stripped to the waist, the better to get
through the narrow opening in the ceiling. Next, I folded the paillasse
and propped it against the wall at the foot of the bed. Standing on it,
I lifted the loose board and with a jerk of my wrists flung it free. I
shoved the two bundles of clothes up, first feeling for an unencumbered
space of floor, then levered myself after them.

Arms extended, and with a careful shuffle of my feet, lest I should
step on some glass or metal object, I gained the spot where one or two
stars glimmered through the hole in the roof.

Grasping the remaining half of the broken tile, I twisted it out as
carefully as I could, not without causing a grating noise, which
sounded loud in the absolute silence. After some difficulty I drew it
through the enlarged hole and, again making sure that the floor was
clear, deposited it carefully. The next tile gave greater trouble. It
being entire, the ends of the superimposed ones had to be lifted to
allow of its withdrawal. When I straightened up, in order to attack
the third in the row, I was startled by the sound of a low-voiced
conversation close to me and apparently on the same level.

The natural impulse was to keep quiet, which I did. I waited. The even
voices went on. Carefully I pushed my head outside and looked about.
In the gable of the house on the right, and only about ten yards away,
was a small window. The sound of murmured speech floated through the
open panes directly toward me from the dark room behind. I took it
to be the bedroom of the farmer and his wife, and remembering their
complaint about my having been noisy the night before, I cursed the
ill chance which had made this one German farmer--one, surely, in ten
thousand--fond of fresh air in his sleeping-chamber.

The bitterly cold night air was streaming over my naked shoulders while
I stood waiting for the people to go to sleep. Soon the talk ceased,
but I gave them a liberal amount of time before I continued my labors.

When I had taken out three tiles in the first row, those in the
next and the next again were quickly removed. The opening was now
sufficiently large, but the two exposed laths running through it did
not leave too much space between them for a man of my size to clamber
through.

Stepping back to get my clothes, I misjudged the distance, which was
small--a step or two only--and almost fell through the hole in the
floor. I saved myself only by quickly shifting my weight from one
foot to the other, which touched something soft. With a thud one of
my bundles fell back into the cell. Fortunately it was the oilsilks
and sweater; unfortunately the piece of map was in the pocket of the
former. I did not go after them, but left them where they had fallen,
and slipped into my clothes as quickly as the want of light and space
would permit. This done, it was only a matter of great care and unusual
contortions to get my somewhat bulky person through the laths.

At last I stood on the lower of the two I had exposed, with the night
wind soughing over me. Doubtfully, I surveyed the expanse of roof
at my feet. How to get across it was the question. Sliding over the
tiles meant making a tremendous noise, quite apart from the danger of
possible injury. If they were removed one by one, what was to be done
with them? Should I chuck them into the garden as they came off the
laths? I had it! Why not repair the roof above me as I demolished it in
my descent?

My sense of humor was rather tickled at the idea. To imagine the faces
of the Amtmann and the warder when they were trying to reconstruct “the
crime” was exceedingly funny. It made me use some extra and unnecessary
care as I replaced the tiles on the laths above me, taking them, always
two and two, from those below.

In a very short time I was standing on the last lath. I was in the
denser shadow of the roof now, and the eight feet from the ground
might have been eight thousand for all I could see of it. This made
me hesitate, since a miscalculation of the distance might easily have
meant a jar or a sprain. Without a sound, however, I landed on a soft
garden bed.

A few moments after I was at the gate, and over, and in the street.
A solitary street lamp was burning here and there; not a soul was in
sight. In the shadow of the wall I stooped to take off my boots and
socks. As far as I recollect, I got out of the village like a streak of
greased lightning. In reality I probably walked with due caution. I did
not stop until I found myself in a dark lane outside, where I put on my
boots. It was now 1:15.

The news of my escape would spread, I was sure, like wildfire through
the country, and a hue and cry would soon be raised. Every man Jack
who could spare the time would make one of a searching party. For
such a thing to happen in a small community was bound to create a far
greater stir than among the more sophisticated inhabitants of even a
middle-sized town. I had received a hint that police dogs were kept in
Vehlen. This might have been bluff, but it was not safe to bet on it.
To put as much distance between me and the pursuers was my only chance.

To do that I had to find the turnpike I have spoken of. As far as I
knew, it entered Vehlen from the west. South of and parallel to it was
a secondary railway track.

As soon as a sufficient expanse of sky was visible for me to take
bearings, which was impossible in the lane on account of big trees on
each side, I found that I should have to pass around the southern side
of Vehlen to get to the desired point. This would prove difficult and
wasteful of my most precious commodity, time, as an extensive copse
and generally unfavorable country intervened. The seemingly bolder
course of walking back through the village had decided advantages and
was at this hour hardly dangerous. Off came my boots again, and at a
dog-trot, which increased to a fast sprint in front of a public house
with a drunken voice issuing through the window, I crossed the southern
part of the village. I did not happen to come upon the turnpike as I
had hoped. On taking bearings after this second traverse of the village
I found it lying northeast of me and therefore concluded that both
railway and road were to be looked for in a northerly direction.

“Northwest now, and damn the wire fences.” It was difficult going at
first, the country, criss-crossed by fences and ditches, enclosing
swampy meadows. Due north was easier walking and would do nearly as
well. A path gave me a rest. It was so heavenly easy to follow. Bang! I
stumbled over a rail. “Hurrah, the railway! Now for the road!”

Again across-country, I pushed on as fast as I could in my favored
direction. It was not very fast, for the difficulties were enough
to drive one crazy. Swampy meadows, ditches, barbed-wire fences,
woods, copses, but never a bit of easy ground. Soon I was wet to the
hips. Branches plucked at my garments or slashed me across the face;
barbed-wire fences grasped and retained pieces of cloth as I got over
them; the sides of ditches caved in under my feet and, having jumped
short in consequence, I landed half in the water; and ever and anon the
village church tolled another quarter of an hour.

It was an absolute nightmare. Panting and breathless, I got up
after one of my many tumbles. It was in an open kind of wood. My
soaked clothes were dripping, yet I felt warm with the speed of my
flight. Then the sensation of being utterly lost came over me, the
danger-signal that the nerves are giving way. Luckily I had sense
enough to recognize it as such, and promptly sat down in half an inch
of water, pretending that I was in no hurry whatever.

I tried to reason out the situation. If the road were where I sought
it, I should have come to it long before. My maps were unreliable in
small details. Suppose the road crossed to the south of the railway,
some distance outside Vehlen, instead of in the village as marked. In
that case I had started from a point north of the road and south of the
railway. Better go back to the railway and follow it west until I came
to the point of intersection.

I turned due south, feeling better for the rest, and ten minutes later
jumped the ditch along the turnpike. The night was very fine, the road
hard and smooth. My footsteps rang so loudly that it was difficult to
tell whether anybody was coming up behind me or not. For the third time
I took off my boots and socks, and walked the rest of the night with
bare feet. It was simply glorious to be able to step out. The exercise
soon sent the blood tingling and warming through my body, which had
become chilled during my rest in the woods. My clothes were drying
apace; I hardly knew now that they were wet. My toes seemed to grip the
ground and lever me forward. It was good to be alive.

After I had traversed the considerable belt of isolated farms
surrounding a village, the country became quite uninhabited for a time,
until a solitary inn appeared on my right. Here another road joined
from the north, and at the point of meeting stood a big iron sign-post.
“Dangerous corner ahead! Motors to slow down,” I managed to decipher,
clinging to the pointing arm. Soon after, the brook was crossed on
a stone bridge. Not being thirsty, I did not stop, but went forward
until I came to a track on my right. Posts were planted across it at
measured intervals, as if it had been closed to wheeled traffic some
time before, yet there were fresh cart ruts running parallel to it.
The country was flat, with plenty of cover, and empty. I kept checking
the direction of the path, which meandered about a little, and found
it one or two points more westerly than I had expected. This worried
me a little. Its angle with the road shown on the map was so small,
however, that I could not attach undue importance to it. At the worst,
it meant striking the frontier ultimately a mile or two farther south,
increasing the distance by that much from the point the soldier had so
triumphantly warned me against the night before.

In due course I came across another railroad and a turnpike. A quarter
of a mile to the north a church steeple was faintly outlined against
the sky, indicating a village. This tallied fairly well with my
expectations. When crossing over the line of rails I had entered the
danger zone, where sentries and patrols might be expected anywhere.
Probably the frontier was no more than three miles ahead, and might be
nearer.

Instead of proceeding along the road, I walked at about two hundred
yards to one side over plowed fields. It hurt my feet until I thrust
them hastily into my boots without troubling about the socks.

The sky was paling faintly in the east. It was high time to disappear
into some thicket, like the hunted animal I was.

Behind a windmill and a house on my right the outline of dark woods
promised cover. There was no possibility now of picking and choosing;
I had to take what I could find. What there was of it was the reverse
of satisfactory. Most of the ground was swampy. The trees and bushes,
which seemed to offer excellent places for concealment while it was
dark, moved apart with the growing light, while I grew more anxious.

At last I found a wood composed of small birches and pines, and some
really magnificent trees. Several paths ran through it. Fairly in the
center they left a sort of island, a little more densely studded with
trees than the rest, and with plenty of long heather between them. This
must have been about five o’clock.

The heather was sopping wet with dew, and I did not care to lie down in
it just then. Instead, although it was already fairly light, I scouted
around, trusting for safety to the early hour and my woodcraft.

At the northern end of the woods I found signs of recent clearing
work, warning me to keep away from there. Farther on, a dense patch of
saplings would have made an excellent lair, had it not been for the
ground, which was almost a quagmire. On its farther side a cart road
would give me a start on the following night. I did not lie down in the
wet heather when I had returned to my lair, but pressed myself into a
small fir-tree. I was tired, and soon very cold. Yet I had rather a
good time. I was a little proud of myself, and picturing the faces of
my late captors in Vehlen when they found the bird flown, which would
happen about this time, was the best of fun. I chuckled to myself about
the joke whenever my head, falling forward, awoke me from a semi-stupor.

The sun took some time to clear the morning mist from the face of the
country. After that, it grew warmer quickly. It must have been a rare
morning, but I was past appreciating it. Ere yet the heather was near
being dry, I let myself fall forward into a nice, springy tuft which my
dim vision had been gloating over for some time. I believe I was asleep
before I reached the ground.

My sleep was so profound that I had no sense of the lapse of time
when I awoke. As far as the temperature went, it might have been a
day in the latter part of May, instead of the 5th of April. From the
altitude of the sun it appeared to be between ten and eleven o’clock.
Children and chickens kept up their usual concert not far away. The
sound of axes came from the clearing close by. I felt quite warm and
comfortable, particularly after I had taken off my boots and placed
them and my socks in the sun to dry. Neither hunger nor thirst assailed
me during the day, although the afternoon coffee and bread and butter
of the previous day had been the last food to pass my lips. Sleep stole
over me softly now and again, so softly, indeed, that wakefulness
merged into slumber and slumber into wakefulness without sensation.
Awake, I was as alert as ever; asleep, utterly unconscious. I am quite
unable to say when or how often this happened, so swiftly did the one
change into the other.

Nevertheless, the day appeared intolerably long. When the sun was still
some distance above the horizon, I became so restless that I had to
move about in the confined space I permitted myself. The breaking and
trimming--with fingers, nails, and teeth--of a stout sapling into a
heavy staff, jumping-pole and, perhaps, weapon, occupied part of the
time. Then the fidgeting started again. I was eager to do something.
The decision was so near. It had to come that night. The weather, still
fine, was breaking. I felt it in my bones. Without the stars nothing
could be done; without food, and particularly without water, and with
only the clothes I stood up in, I should not last through a period of
wet weather.

I did not feel apprehensive. On the contrary, I had a splendid
confidence that all would go well. The Dutch border could not well
be more than three miles away. I had to proceed across-country, of
course, away from roads, certainly never on them, to pass successfully
the sentries and patrols, who very likely would concentrate the
greater part of their attention upon them. However, it would not do to
depend on being safe anywhere. As a good deal of my time would have
to be devoted to avoiding them, I might find it difficult to keep an
accurate course, even if other circumstances did not force me to alter
it considerably. All this had to be considered and certain safeguards
planned. For those of my readers who are interested in the technique of
my endeavors I would add that I expected to find a railroad track which
ran parallel to my proposed course on my left, presumably a mile or
two off, and a road entering Holland about three miles to the north of
me, which in an extreme case would prevent my going hopelessly astray.

At last the sun touched the sky-line. Before it was quite dark, but
after the voices of children and fowls and the sounds of work in the
woods had ceased, my restlessness forced me to do something. I sneaked
along the paths and into the thicket of saplings I had discovered
in the morning, there to ensconce myself close to the road. Once a
girl and a soldier in animated conversation passed me, while ever so
gradually twilight deepened into darkness.

When the night was as black as could be hoped for, I walked a hundred
yards or so along the road, bent double and with every sense alert.
Then a path on my right led me through tall woods. Coming into the
open, I corrected my course, and not long after I was stopped by a
deep ditch, almost a canal. Its banks showed white and sandy in the
starlight; on the side nearest me was a line of narrow rails. Some
tip-over trucks were standing on them, and a few lay upturned on the
ground. I remember bending down, in order to feel whether or not the
rails were smooth on top, a sign of recent use, but straightened
immediately. Since I should be either in Holland, or a prisoner, or
dead before the morning, these precautions seemed superfluous.

The ditch threw me out of my course. Walking along it, I noticed a
triangular sheen of light in the sky bearing northwest. It looked as if
it were the reflex of a well-illuminated place miles ahead. I took it
to be the first station in Holland on the railway from Bocholt. Later I
was able to verify this.

When I got to the end of the ditch, I struck out across the flat
country toward the light. It took me some time to extricate myself
from a swamp. In trying to work around it, with an idea of edging in
toward a railway line which I knew to be entering Holland somewhere
on my left, I suddenly came upon a road running northwest. I left it
quicker than I had got on it, walking parallel to it over plowed land
and keeping it in sight. Shortly after, I passed between two houses, to
see another road in front of me running at right angles to the former.

I crouched in the angle between the two roads, trying to penetrate the
darkness, and listening with all my might. I could see no living thing,
and all was silent. Just across from me a structure, the nature of
which I could not make out, held my gaze. I waited, then jumped across
the road into its shadow. It now resolved itself into an open shed,
with a wagon underneath. Again I listened and looked, with my back
toward Holland, watching the two houses I had passed, and nervously
scanning the road.

Far down it a small dog began to bark. Not taking any notice of it at
first, I was in the act of starting across a field covered knee-high
with some stiff growth, when it occurred to me that the barking sounded
like an alarm, of which I could not be the cause.

Gaining the shelter of the shed again, and straining my ears, I became
aware of distant and approaching footsteps, regular and ominous. I
ducked into the ditch, crawling half under the floor of the shed, and
waited. When the sound was only about a yard from me, the helmet, the
head, the up-slanting rifle muzzle, and the shoulders of a patrol
became outlined against the sky. He walked on and was swallowed up by
the darkness. His footsteps grew fainter, died away.

“Splendid!” I thought. “This road must be close to the border. It runs
parallel to it. Maybe I am through the sentry lines.” I pushed on, very
much excited, yet going as carefully as I could. A barbed wire and
ditch were negotiated. A patch of woodland engulfed me. Going was bad
on account of holes in the ground; my instinct was for rushing it, and
difficult to curb.

Three shallow ditches side by side! I felt them with my hand to make
sure they were not merely deeply trodden paths. “This must be the
frontier!”

I was shaking with excitement and exultation when I started forward
again. My leg went into a hole, and I fell forward across a dry piece
of wood, which exploded underneath me with a noise like a pistol shot.
I scrambled to my feet, listened, and walked on.



CHAPTER X

CAUGHT AGAIN!


“Halt!” The command came like a thunderclap and shook me from head to
foot. Yet I did not believe that it could mean anything but a Dutch
sentry. I stopped and tried to locate the man, who, from the sound of
his voice, must be very close. I could not see him.

“Come here, and hold up your hands!”

I did so and stepped forward.

“Here, here!” The voice was almost at my elbow. Then I saw the white
patch of a face above a bush. He came up to me, putting his pistol
muzzle in my stomach.

“Who are you?”

I was a bit dizzy and shaken, but not quite done yet.

“Who are _you_?” I asked.

“I’m a frontier guard.”

“Dutch or German?” I could not see his uniform.

“German!”

I groaned aloud; then: “What the ---- are you stopping me for? What are
you doing here, anyway? Leave me alone; I’m on Dutch soil.”

For answer he stepped back, saw the cudgel in my upraised hand,
and said sharply, “Drop that stick.” I obeyed. He whistled, and
got an answer from close by, followed by the breaking of branches
and footsteps, as somebody else moved toward us. My captor put his
automatic into his pocket, keeping his hand on it.

“Who are you?” he demanded again.

“That has nothing whatever to do with you. I crossed the frontier about
fifty yards down there. Good night!”

“Stop! You’re over an hour from the frontier yet.”

For a moment I wondered whether I could get my weight into a blow on
his jaw and make a break for it; but, as I swung slightly forward,
lowering my left a little at the same time, I reflected that I could
not possibly tell whether he was in reach; it was too dark. Now I
believed that I was still far from the frontier. Even if I could down
him, there was the second man close by. And if a bullet did not bring
me down, they could easily catch me in a race, knowing the country as
I did not, or bring any number of soldiers about my ears. If I were
caught after having struck him, it would merely mean a blank wall and a
firing party. Not good enough!

All this passed quickly through my mind, the ideas being only half
formed. In the long days of solitary confinement, by which I expiated
my offense, I sat in judgment upon myself again and again, every time
condemning myself for a slacker. But I knew much more about the actual
position later than at the moment of capture, and when one is brooding
in cells, ready to barter half one’s remaining life for a glimpse of
the open, it is difficult to come to a just judgment. To-day I cannot
see that I could have done anything but give in. Had I had money on me
I should have tried offering a bribe, but I had not even a farthing
piece in my pocket. The “noes” had it.

My two captors took me between them and marched me off for some time
along wood-paths. The reaction had set in now, and my senses were
dulled. I kept stumbling and falling until they took my arms, when we
made better progress.

“Did I come straight toward you or what?” I asked dully, after a time.

“No. We were close to the place we got you at. I heard something, and
walked toward the sound. Then I saw you,” was the reply of the first
man.

After an indefinite time, we struck the railway and turned down it
toward Germany. We walked and walked. I was beginning to collect my
thoughts, and with them my suspicions of foul play were returning, when
we were challenged.

A sentry flashed his torch over us. In its light I perceived for the
first time that my captors were in civilian clothes, without badge or
any sign of officialdom. This, and the fact that we had picked up the
sentry only after walking some time in the direction toward Germany,
increased my perplexity.

I had been dully aware of a strong light in front of us. It was from
the headlights of a train standing in a small station. In front of it
we passed over a level crossing, and approached an inn opposite.

They took me into a bar-room. At a table on one side of the
bar sat a soldier in the uniform of what the Germans call “a
sergeant-major-lieutenant,” a Catholic priest, and a civilian, who
turned out to be mine host. The sentry reported to the soldier while
the old priest made me sit down at their table. The officer did not
seem to like this arrangement at first, but the padre took no notice
of him. He asked me in English whether I was hungry and thirsty. I
pleaded guilty to both counts, and the nice old man forthwith ordered
beer and sandwiches for me, telling me the while in bad English that
he had been to the Jesuit College in Rome, where he had picked up his
knowledge of the language from Irishmen.

In the meantime my captors were regaling themselves at the bar. Turning
to them, the padre suddenly asked, “Where did you get him?” “Near
----,” was the answer from the first man. “But--but--but that’s _very_
near the frontier,” stammered the priest, with a look of astonishment
on his face. “No, no,” chorused the assembled company, as if acting on
instructions, “that’s still an hour from the frontier,” using exactly
the words my captors had used in the woods. I stopped eating for a
time. I felt physically sick. Only to imagine that I had won through,
actually got over the frontier, as I began firmly to believe now, to be
tricked back!

The food and the beer had given me fresh strength. When I was told that
it was time to go, I felt more or less indifferent. We passed along
a road, the two civilians in front, the soldier behind, and I in the
middle, occupied with my own thoughts and only answering with a grim
cheerfulness such questions as were addressed to me.

Here I made my second grave mistake, counting the attempt at passing
through Vehlen as the first. Had I kept alert for “something to turn
up,” I could not have failed to see that we were marching along the
road which I had crossed some time before, and passing the same shed.
Had I noticed it then, instead of the next morning, I should have
known where the guard-room was in which I spent the night. Instead of
that--but that is anticipating events.

Presently we arrived at the guard-house, an ordinary farmhouse the
ground floor of which had been cleared for the sterner duties of war.

Above the table of the N.C.O.[1] in charge a large scale map hung
against the wall. I was not permitted to go near it, but its scale,
being perhaps three or four inches to the mile, allowed me to see
pretty much all there was to be seen from the other side of the room,
where I had to spend the night on a chair. I recognized the road I
had crossed (the ditch was marked on it); and, where the three narrow
ditches ought to have been, there began the blank space with the name
“Holland” written across it.

[1] N.C.O.: non-commissioned officer.

I could not see the guard-house marked, probably because I did not
know where to look for it. Consequently I had not the faintest idea of
what to do provided I could get away. This uncertainty made me miss a
chance. Of course I was never alone in the room, but once during the
night the N.C.O. took me out. He had no rifle with him; I doubt whether
he had a pistol. Naturally he kept close to me; yet, had I only known
where to turn, a break might have been possible, without entailing
unreasonable risks.

At last the morning came, and with it the usual stir and bustle. One
of the soldiers cursed me up and down for an Englishman. I concluded
he had never been to the front. We prisoners had the same experience
over and over again: the fellows with the home billets were the brutes
and bullies. I was right, for my antagonist was stopped short in his
peroration by a small man with a high treble voice, the result of a
brain wound.

“Shut up, you! You make me tired. You’ve never seen the enemy. If any
cursing of Englanders is to be done, I’ll do it. I had three English
bullets in my body. T’other side’s doing their duty same as we.”

“Yes,” broke in another, “I’ve fought against the English. As long as
we say nothing, keep your mouth shut. I’ll tell you as soon as your
views are wanted, Mr. Stay-at-home.”

These two latter shared their breakfast with me, otherwise I should
have had nothing. The second one took me outside: “Sorry, old man,
hard luck! Sure you weren’t in Holland when these ---- [a nasty name]
dropped on you?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Only this--strictly between you and me and the doorpost, mind!--my
friend and I would have liked you to get home. We can imagine what it
means--‘prisoner of war.’ Make no mistake, we’d have stopped you, if
you’d come across us. If only you’d been caught by soldiers instead of
these ---- agents! Don’t let anybody hear it, but from what I heard you
were in Holland all right.”

At about ten o’clock I was taken to the inn to be examined by the
“sergeant-major-lieutenant.” On the way we passed, and I recognized,
the shed.

“How far is it from here to the frontier?” I asked my escort.

He did not answer.

“Look here, I can’t get away from you, can I, with no cover within
two hundred yards and you having five in the magazine and one in the
barrel? Can’t you understand that I want to know?”

He eyed me doubtfully.

“You can spit across the frontier from here,” he made slow answer.

That, I knew, was meant metaphorically, but it sufficed for me.

The examination did not amount to much. I was considered with grave
suspicion by the sergeant-major, because at that time I could not tell
him the name of the village I had escaped from. Also, the British
officer was haunting their minds still. If he and I were not identical,
I might have met and helped him, was their beautifully logical
argument. “See that he is taken to Bocholt on the two-thirty train and
handed over to a man from Company Headquarters. Now take him back to
the guard-room.”

When we got back there, they put a sentry in the yard, who sat on a
chair with a rifle across his lap, and went to sleep. It must have been
a strictly unofficial sentry. Nobody took the slightest notice of him,
and he was quite superfluous, because most of the soldiers off duty
were in the yard all the time enjoying the warm sunshine. Dinner-hour
came and went. I, of course, received nothing officially, but the man
who had talked with me in the morning gave me several of his sandwiches.

After dinner I was alone in the guard-room with a fresh N.C.O. in
charge, who was writing up some reports. The window in the next room
where the men slept at night, and which was now deserted, was not
latched. I wondered whether I could get it open and make a dash for it
down the road into the next cover. I had been fidgeting about, and when
I changed to a steady tramp into the kitchen, through the guard-room,
and then several steps into the dormitory, it attracted no attention. I
doubt whether the N. C. O., intent on his task, was aware of me at all.
The window was hinged, as all windows are in Germany. Twice I visited
it and got it ajar. The third time I pulled it open, and had placed my
hands on the sill to get out, when a patrol came into view. He saw me
at the same time. The movement of his rifle could not be misunderstood.
I closed the window and stepped back. The patrol came into the room and
gave me some good advice: “Don’t be a fool! We’ll get you sure. Can’t
afford not to. What do you think would happen to us, if you escaped?
Last night, a Frenchman wouldn’t stand on challenge. He’s dead now.
This is in the daytime.” He never reported me, though; or, if he did, I
never heard of it.

I talked with the soldiers now and then. It appeared that fugitives
were caught virtually every night. They would not admit that many got
over. About one in ten was killed, so they said; but I think that is
exaggerated.

They laughed when I told them of the punishment I was expecting. “You
to be punished, a civilian?--nonsense! You have a right to try for it,
if you care to take the risk. Why, military prisoners of war get only a
fortnight cell in camp for escaping. We’ve had a Frenchman here three
times in eight weeks.”

Two soldiers took me to the train and to Bocholt. There I was handed
over to another N.C.O., and after a tedious journey on a steam tram we
arrived at Company Headquarters in Vreden, where I was again examined,
this time very thoroughly and with great cleverness.

That evening I was lodged in prison. Also, the weather broke, and it
was to the music of dripping eaves and gurgling spouts that I fell
asleep.



CHAPTER XI

UNDER ESCORT


On the fourth morning, when it seemed to me I had spent about a year
in Vreden prison, the warder informed me that my escort had arrived. I
had plenty of time to get over the excitement produced by this piece of
news, for I was not called for until four o’clock, which caused me to
miss my evening bowl of skilly, a dire calamity.

The soldier was waiting in the gateway. Walking down the passage toward
him, I had to pass by a big burly N.C.O. of the German Army, who had a
tremendous sword attached to him. I felt that something was going to
happen when I approached him. As I was squeezing past him in the narrow
corridor, he suddenly shot out a large hand, with which he grasped
mine, limp with surprise. Giving it a hearty shake, he wished me a
pleasant _Auf Wiedersehen!_ (Au revoir!) I was almost past utterance
with astonishment, and could only repeat his words stammeringly. “Not
on your life, if I can help it,” I murmured when I had turned away and
was recovering from the shock. Still, I suppose it was kindly meant.

My escort, a single soldier, went through the usual formalities of
loading his rifle before my eyes and warning me to behave myself. The
cord for special marksmanship dangled from his shoulder.

He was strictly noncommittal at first, and only assured me again,
apropos of nothing, during our walk to the station, that he did not
intend to have me escape from him. Afterward he thawed considerably,
but always remained serious and subdued, talking a good deal about his
wife and children, what a hard time they had of it, and that he had not
seen them for eighteen months.

The preliminary jolt of the small engine of the narrow-gage train gave
me the sinking sensation usually caused by the downward start of a fast
lift, and for a time my heart seemed to be getting heavier with every
revolution of the wheels, which put a greater distance between me and
the frontier. Had I cherished hopes in spite of all? I don’t know.

With several changes the journey to Berlin lasted through the night. I
was very hungry, and the soldier shared with me what little food he
had. Two incidents are worth mentioning.

At the time of my escape a political tension between Holland and
Germany had caused rumors of a threatened break between the two
countries. The soldier who arrested me in Vehlen had alluded to
it. My escort and I were alone in a third-class compartment of the
east-express, about midnight, when a very dapper N.C.O. entered. He
took in the situation at a glance.

“Prisoner’s escort?”

“Yes.”

“What is he?”

“An Englander.”

“Trying to escape to Holland?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I only hope the trouble with Holland will come to a head. We’ll
soon show those damned Dutchmen what German discipline means. We’ll
sweep the country from end to end in a week. Did he get far?”

“Close to the frontier.”

“However did he manage that in that get-up?” and he sniffed disgustedly.

The other incident was interesting in case of future attempts to
escape. About an hour before the train entered Berlin, detectives
passed along the corridors asking for passports. I began to wonder how
I had managed to get as far as I had.

We arrived in Berlin about 9 A.M. Before we proceeded to the prison,
the soldier compassionately bought me a cup of coffee and a roll at the
station buffet. I had had nothing to eat since 11:30 A.M. the previous
day, except a roll the soldier had given me about midnight.

This was at Alexander Platz Station, fairly in the center of Berlin. As
we left the station, Alexander Platz was in front of us with the façade
of the Polizei Präsidium on our right. Turning in this direction, we
entered a quiet street along the right side of which the arches of the
railway accommodated a few small shops and storage places underneath
them. On the other side a wing of the Polizei Präsidium continued for a
hundred yards or so. The next building was plain, official-looking but
of no very terrible aspect, for the four rows of large windows above
the ground floor were not barred on the outside. In its center a large
gateway was closed by a heavy wooden double door. “Here we are,” said
my escort, as he pressed the button of the electric bell.

One half of the door was opened by an N.C.O. of the army. Inside the
gateway on the left a corridor ran along the front of the building,
terminating at a door bearing the inscription “Office,” on an enameled
shield. A motion of the hand from the N.C.O. directed us toward it. We
entered. Another N.C.O. was sitting at a table, writing. My soldier
saluted, reported, then shook hands with me and departed.

“Your name, date of birth, place of birth, and nationality?” said the
N.C.O. at the table, not unkindly.

I looked at the plain office furniture of the irregular room before
answering, feeling very downhearted. Having given him the information
he wanted, I asked apprehensively: “What are you going to do with me?”

“We’ll put you in solitary confinement.”

“For how long?”

“Couldn’t tell you.”

“And what then?”

“You’re going to stay with us so long that you needn’t bother yet about
the ‘what then.’”

“But aren’t you going to send me back to Ruhleben when I’m through with
my punishment for escaping?”

“I’ve nothing to do with it and don’t know. But I’m pretty sure you’ll
have to stay here till the end of the war.”

“That’s hard punishment for an attempt to get home!”

“Bless my soul, you’re not going to be locked up all the time! There
are a number of Englanders here. Most of them are up and down these
stairs the whole day.” With this he went out and shouted for some one.
Another N.C.O. appeared. “Take this man to Block Twenty-three and lock
him up. Here’s his slip.” The slip, I saw later, was a piece of paper
stating my name and nationality, and marked with a cross which stood
for “solitary confinement.” It was to be fastened to the outside of my
cell door.



CHAPTER XII

THE STADTVOGTEI AND “SOLITARY”


In its original meaning _Stadtvogtei_ denotes the official residence
of the _Stadtvogt_. This was an official appointed in feudal times by
the overlord of the territory, as keeper of one of his castles, around
which an early settlement of farmers and a few artisans had grown into
a medieval town or _Stadt_.

Later on, as a fit successor of the old Stadtvogtei, a prison arose in
its place, which was modernized from time to time, until in 1916 a new
modern building stood where once victims had vanished into dungeons,
and, later, political prisoners (among them Bebel, in 1870) had
languished in dark, musty, insanitary cells.

Bricks, iron, concrete, and glass had been used in the construction of
this building, the scanty furniture and the cell doors being the only
wood to be found in it.

I never came to know the whole of the Stadtvogtei, but learned
gradually that it enclosed a number of courtyards. These were
triangular in shape and just sixty paces in circumference. Around them
the walls rose five stories high, and made deep wells of them rather
than yards. The regularly spaced windows, tier upon tier, with their
iron bars increased the dreariness of their aspect.

With a yard as a center, each part of the prison surrounding it formed
a structural entity, a “block,” separated from the next one by a space
about eight feet wide, and extending from the ground floor right up to
the glass roof above. The aggregation of blocks was enclosed by the
outer walls as the segments of an orange are enclosed by the peel. With
the cell windows toward the yards, the doors were in the circumference
of the blocks. In front of them, frail-looking balconies, or gangways,
extending around the blocks, took the place of corridors, and overhung
by half its width the space separating the component parts of the
prison. Their floors consisted in most places of thick plates of glass,
fitting into the angle-irons of the cantilevers. Iron staircases and
short bridges permitted communication between the different floors and
blocks.

Imagine yourself standing at the end of one of these corridors and
looking down its vista. In the wall nearest to you the perspectively
diminishing quadrilaterals of eighteen evenly spaced doors, each with
its ponderous lock, bolt, and a spy-hole in the center, with a row of
ventilating holes above them, and, underfoot and above, the glass of
two balcony floors. On the opposite side a breast-high iron railing,
beyond it four feet of nothingness, and then the blank stretch of a
whitewashed wall, reflecting the light from the skylights on top of the
building.

Try to think of yourself as so situated that a chance of “enjoying”
this view mornings and evenings, when the cell doors are unlocked for
a few minutes, is eagerly anticipated as a change from the monotony of
the cell, and you will in one respect approach the sensations of a man
in solitary confinement.

Then imagine that the sight of this same gaunt vista every day causes
you a feeling of almost physical nausea, that you keep in your cell, or
somebody else’s, as much as possible to escape it, and you may perhaps
realize a fractional part of the circle of the disagreeable sensations
of a man who has had the “liberty of the prison” for, say, six months.

As a rule such emotions are subconscious, but they come to the surface
when the periodical attack of prison sickness of the soul lays hold of
you, a temporary affection of the mind which is very disagreeable to
the individual who suffers from it, and may have unpleasant effects on
his companions and friends. We used to hide these attacks as carefully
as we could from one another.

Originally the prison had been used for criminals undergoing light
sentences of two or three years and less, and for remand prisoners.
One entire block had been used for the latter. There the cells were
superior to those in the remainder of the building, where there were
stone floors, very small windows, and no artificial light, while the
beds consisted of boards on an iron frame and a paillasse. In the
remand cells the floor was covered with red linoleum, and in this part
landings and corridors were covered with the same material, there were
larger windows, spring mattresses hinged to the wall, and--luxury
beyond belief to a man from Ruhleben camp--electric lamps.

Except when special punishment was being inflicted, the political
prisoners, among whom I count the civil prisoners of war, inhabited
this better part of the prison, comprising perhaps three hundred cells
around one yard.

Over a year before my arrival the German military authorities had taken
over the greater part of the Stadtvogtei for their own prisoners. Only
a small portion was still occupied by the civil prison authorities and
their charges. One or two of the latter occasionally appeared in our
wing, in the charge of a civil warder, to do an odd job. They were
permanently used in the kitchen, the bath and disinfecting place, and
before the furnace.

In the military part of the prison N.C.O.’s of the army acted as
warders for the military and political prisoners.

Of the former there were always a great many. They were undergoing
punishment for slight breaches of discipline, or were remanded there
awaiting trial before a court martial. Occasionally a number of French
soldiers, and now and again an English Tommy or tar, were incarcerated
among them. When this happened, and we heard of it, we tried to help
them with food, tobacco, and cigarettes. It was very seldom that we
succeeded, as we were not allowed on corridors the cells of which were
used for military prisoners.

Since, however, the remand block did not quite suffice for the
political and civilian prisoners of war, we occasionally found
ourselves in the military block, though quartered above the soldiers on
separate corridors. In this fashion, and on occasional trips through
the prison to see the doctor or to get something from the kitchen, we
saw and heard enough of the treatment meted out to the German soldiers
to form an opinion of their sufferings.

In this the most cherished traditions of the German Army, and of the
German N.C.O.’s, were rigidly adhered to. We never heard one of the
poor prisoners being spoken to in an ordinary voice by their jailers.
They were shouted at, jeered at, abused, beaten, and bullied in every
conceivable way. Their part of the prison was in a continual uproar
from the voices of the N.C.O.’s, who evidently enjoyed the privilege of
torturing in perfect safety their fellow-beings.

Sometime during 1917 an N.C.O. who had spent most of his life in
England came to the prison. I heard him talk with one of my friends
one evening. A few days after, on my way to the kitchen, I had the
unpleasant experience of seeing him break up one of his charges. The
man had obviously had a dose before I arrived on the scene, for he was
sobbing in his pitch-dark cell, while the N.C.O. was talking at him in
a way that made my blood boil.

A few weeks before this happened, a friend of ours, a former A. S. C.
man, had shot into the cell where I was sitting with a chum. He was
laughing queerly, highly excited and pale.

“Look into the yard, look into the yard!” he cried, jumping on a table
underneath the window. We followed as fast as we could, but were just
too late. This is what had happened:

A Black Maria had been driven into the yard. Two or three N.C.O.’s had
surrounded it and opened the door, and one of them had climbed inside.
The next moment a German cavalryman, manacles on wrists and ankles, was
pitched literally head over heels on to the stone pavement of the yard,
where he lay, seemingly stunned. Two of the N.C.O.’s grabbed him by the
collar and, kicking the motionless form, dragged him through the gates,
which closed after them.

Most of the military prisoners were kept in dark cells. I do not know
for how long this kind of punishment may be inflicted, but I believe
six weeks is the maximum term. Imagine what it means to spend only
two weeks in a perfectly dark, comfortless room on bread and water,
sleeping on bare boards without blankets. Yet that, as it appeared,
would be a very ordinary sentence.

This kind of punishment could be inflicted on anybody who was directly
under military law, as we prisoners of war were. During my seventeen
months in prison, it occurred only once that an Englishman, an ex-navy
man, got a week of it. My particular friends and I were able to get a
well-cooked, hot meal to him on most days. When he came out, he vowed
he could have stuck a month of it, thanks to our ministrations, but his
drawn face seemed to belie his words.

While the military prisoners had their food sent in from a barracks
outside--judging from what we saw of it, it was rather good--we were
supplied from the prison kitchen. The food varied somewhat in quality
and quantity at different times. In 1914 and again in the following
year it was nauseous, and so insufficient that after four weeks in
prison young men found it impossible to mount the four flights of
stairs to the top corridor in less than half an hour. When I arrived it
happened to be comparatively good for a few weeks. The amount one got
would have kept a man alive, though in constant hunger tortures, for
perhaps six months, if he was in good condition to start with.

Breakfast was at 7:30 and consisted of a pint of hot black fluid,
distantly resembling very thin coffee in taste, and a piece of bread
weighing eight ounces, black, but much better than the bread we were
accustomed to in camp. A pint of soup was served for dinner, but there
was never any meat in it. Rumor had it that meat was occasionally
added but disappeared afterward. The staple substance in the beginning
was potatoes, with mangel-wurzels during the following winter. By far
the best soup, which disappeared from the bill of fare altogether for a
long time, contained plenty of haricot-beans. It was usually given out
on Saturdays or Sundays, and tasted rather good. Another one, tolerable
for a hungry man, consisted of a sort of black bean, with hard shells
but mealy kernels, and potatoes. A fish soup appeared on the menu three
times a week; fortunately one could smell it as soon as the big pails
left the kitchen at the other end of the building. This gave one a
chance of accumulating the necessary courage to face it in one’s bowl.
It really was horrible beyond words.

At about five o’clock a pint of hot water with barley was intended to
furnish the last meal of the day. Often there was less than a pint of
fluid, and most often the barley was entirely absent. But the water had
always a dirty blue color; consequently it did not even appeal to one’s
æsthetic sense. On Sundays these rations were sometimes supplemented
by a pickled herring or a small piece of sausage. I could never bring
myself to touch these.

Subsistence on the prison food exclusively would have been almost
impossible. I am not speaking from the point of view of the average
man, who has had plenty all his life, but as a one-time prisoner of war
in Germany, who has seen what incredibly little will keep the flame of
life burning, at least feebly.

Fortunately, almost all the politicals or prisoners of war obtained
extra sustenance in some way or another, although the majority of the
Poles and Russians did so only occasionally and in small quantities.

As far as the British were concerned, we got enough food from England
in our parcels to do entirely without the prison diet. Those amongst
us who found themselves temporarily short of eatables simply drew from
others who were better supplied.

       *       *       *       *       *

I had had a foretaste of prison in Cologne in November, 1914, which had
not been encouraging. Consequently I felt apprehensive enough, while
mounting the stairs behind the N.C.O. on the morning of my arrival.

The prison being very full, only a convict cell ten feet long and five
wide was available for me, into which I was thrust without ceremony.
A small window, barred, and high up in the narrow wall, faced the
door. The bed on the left was hinged to the brick work and folded flat
against it. A stool in the corner by the door was balanced on the
other side by the hot-water pipes for heating. Farther along, toward
the window, a small double shelf, with three pegs underneath, took the
place of wardrobe, cupboard, and bookcase. It held a Prayer Book, a New
Testament, an earthenware plate, bowl and mug, a wooden salt-cellar, a
tumbler, and a knife, fork, and spoon. Against one side of it hung a
small printed volume of prison rules and a piece of cardboard, showing
a dissected drawing of the shelves, with the contents in regulation
order, and an inventory underneath. In the center of the wall a
small table was hinged and fastened like the bed. A Bible text above
decorated the cell.

When in the course of the morning bed-linen and a towel were issued
to me, I was vastly pleased. I had not expected such luxuries. The
former consisted of a coarse gray bedcloth, an enormous bag of the same
material, but checkered in blue, and another small one of the same
kind. The big bag was to serve as a cover for the two blankets, which
were to be folded inside; the small one was a pillow-slip.

Dinner meant another welcome interruption in the difficult task of
settling down, and, since it was Saturday, turned out to be bean soup.
Although the quantity was far short of what I required, particularly
in my famished state, it appeared so tasty, so far beyond anything I
had been accustomed to in camp as far as German rations were concerned,
that I was beginning to think myself in clover.

Still, I was in solitary confinement. How long was this state of
affairs to last? I had asked the man in charge of the canteen, a
British prisoner who paid me a visit in his official capacity. He did
not know. He had had four and a half months after his escape of the
previous summer. The N.C.O.’s refused to commit themselves, if they
answered my questions at all. So I tried to face the prospect of being
shut up in a small cell, with no company but my own, for five months.
On this basis I worked out the final date, made a very rough calendar,
and thereafter at 11 A.M., the hour of my arrival in the Stadtvogtei,
marked with great ceremony the termination of every twenty-four hours
in “solitary.”

I was not examined again, contrary to my expectations, and my clever
plans, framed in Vreden prison, of “diddling the Boche” into a
forgiving frame of mind could not be tested. My hopes of a glimpse
of Ruhleben camp and my friends were not realized. The term of my
solitary confinement evidently was regarded as a state secret, not
to be communicated even to the person whom it most concerned. This
was a policy always pursued by the _Kommandantur_ in Berlin--whether
out of sheer malice or callous indifference I don’t know. Since I was
the first escaper to be punished under a new regulation, there was
no precedent to form an opinion from; but I did not know that, and
consequently expected the same term of “solitary” as other men before
me. Those who came after me were not permitted to have much doubt about
the subject. We saw to that.

On the morning of the second day I was told that, in addition to
solitary confinement, punishment diet had been ordered by the powers
that were. One day out of every three (for four weeks) I was to
receive bread and water only. It sounded unpleasant. The canteen man,
who came to see me every day for a few minutes, assured me that this
was something new, quite outside his experience, and, being pressed,
cheered me vastly by consenting to my expressed opinion that it might,
perhaps, indicate a correspondingly short term of “solitary.”

As it turned out, the punishment diet proved the reverse of what it
was intended to be, an aggravation. In filling power, twenty-four
ounces of bread were far superior to the ordinary prison food, and much
more palatable than fish soup. Very soon I began to look forward to my
“hard” days.

On the morning of the third day a different N.C.O. took charge of my
corridor and me. I cannot speak too highly of him. Good-natured and
disinterestedly kind, he made my lot as easy as possible. Knowing a
little about prison routine by now, I had got up before the clanging of
the prison bell had sounded, apprehensive of being late. Then I set to
work cleaning my cell, scrubbing the floor and dusting the “furniture,”
and was quite ready when the doors were opened to permit us to empty
the cell utensils and get fresh water. This was soon accomplished, and
I lingered outside in the corridor to enjoy the “view.” Not far from me
a Polish prisoner was cleaning the balcony floor, and the N.C.O.--let
us call him Kindman--was trying hard to make the Pole understand that
the water he was using was too dirty for the purpose. The poor Pole,
not comprehending a word, was working away doggedly, while Kindman was
gradually raising his voice to a shriek in his efforts to make his
charge understand, without producing the slightest effect. He was not
at all nasty about it, as one would have expected from a German N.C.O.;
he merely substituted vocal effort for his lack of knowledge of Polish.

“I tell you, you are to use clean water, not dirty water, clean water,
not dirty water, dirty water no good, no good,” shaking his head.
Pause, to get a fresh breath. Roaring: “Clean water, clean, clean,
clean!” Despairingly he glanced in my direction. I fetched my own pail,
full of clean water, put it beside the Pole’s, and, stirring it with my
hand, nodded vigorously. Then, pointing to the thick fluid in the other
pail, I made the sign of negation. The Pole understood.

“You cleaned your cell before opening time this morning?” Kindman asked
a little later. “You needn’t do that. I’ll get you a _Kalfacter_--a man
to do the dirty work for you. You’re a prisoner of war. You are allowed
these privileges. There are plenty of Poles here who’ll be only too
glad to do it for a mark a week.”

After some hesitation I assented. In camp I had perhaps taken a foolish
pride in doing everything myself, with the exception of washing my
underclothes. Now, in prison, I had a Kalfacter to scrub and clean.
Instead, I began to do my own washing, not liking to entrust it to the
doubtfully clean hands of a Pole.

“I’ll get you a better cell,” was Kindman’s next announcement. A few
days after I moved into one of the remand cells with its comfortable
bed, its nice red “lino” floor, and a bright electric light burning up
to nine o’clock, while hitherto I had sat in darkness of an evening.

So far so good. There were no terrible physical hardships to endure.
It was unpleasant not to have enough food. I did get some help from my
fellow-countrymen, but parcels were arriving irregularly just then, and
it was little they could spare me. My own had stopped altogether, and I
had only very little money to buy things with, and that borrowed, and
consequently it had to be hoarded like a miser’s until I could get some
of my own. I was always hungry, and often could not sleep for griping
pains, while pictures of meals I had once eaten, and menus I would
order as soon as I got to England, kept appearing before me.

It was a red-letter day when my hand-bag arrived from the sanatorium.
Besides the clothes, it contained several tins of food, which I
determined to consume as sparingly as possible. That, however, was
easier planned than done. Knowing the food to be within reach, I
simply could not keep my hands from it. It all went in two days. I
remember getting up in the middle of the night to open a tin containing
a Christmas pudding, and eating it cold to the last crumb. Marvelous to
relate, I went peacefully to sleep after that.

The actual treatment in “solitary” was much better than I had hoped for
in my most optimistic moments. Mentally, however, I suffered somewhat
during the first fortnight or three weeks. I had to battle against
the worst attack of melancholia I had ever experienced. I never lost
my grip of myself entirely, but came very near succumbing to absolute
despair. The uncertainty about the duration of my punishment, the
cessation of all letters and parcels from Blighty at a time when I most
wanted them, the fear that my correspondence would merely wander into
the waste-paper basket of a German censor, and last, but not least, the
lack of response from my friends in camp to my post-cards--all combined
to depress my spirits horribly.

I began to wish heartily that I had made a daylight attempt from the
guard-house, which certainly would have ended my troubles one way or
another. The drop from the balcony to the stone flags below had an
unholy fascination. For a number of days I gazed down every moment of
the few minutes I was allowed outside my cell.

In the beginning of the war I had read of the attempted escape of a
British officer from a fortress in Silesia. When he was apprehended
somewhere in Saxony, he committed suicide with his razor. “What a
fool!” had run my unsympathetic comment to my friends; “what did he
want to do that for?” Now I could not forget his tragic end, and not
only understood his action but almost admired him for it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every afternoon the other men in solitary confinement and I spent an
hour--from three to four o’clock--walking in single file round the
yard. An N.C.O., with a big gun strapped to his waist, kept guard over
us, and had been ordered to see that we did not talk together. With an
indulgent man on guard it was occasionally possible to get in a word
or two, even to carry on a conversation for ten minutes or so. In this
way I made the acquaintance of all the other Englishmen who were in the
same position as I.

As I became more cheerful, I began to relish the books which were sent
to me by the other English prisoners, and to look about for means of
snatching what enjoyment I could under the circumstances. Two visits
to the prison doctor for the treatment of “sleeplessness” gave me
opportunities of chatting for half an hour with my friend Ellison, who
faked up some complaint on the same days.

My punishment diet was to end on the 8th of May. That over, I expected
another four months under lock and key, until the 10th of September.

On the 7th of May, while tramping round the yard, the sergeant-major,
second in command, came in and beckoned me to him.

“You’ve finished your ‘solitary’!” he said.

“Do you mean to say to-day?” I asked. “Am I to have my cell door open,
and may I see the other men?”

When the hour of exercise was over, I sped up the stairs, taking four
steps at a stride, and searched for Kindman.

“I’m out of ‘solitary,’” I bawled. “I’m going to see the other chaps!”

“Hey, wait a moment,” he cried. “I must lock your cell door first.”

“But I tell you I’m out of ‘solitary’!”

“I believe you, though I don’t know officially. I’m not going to lock
you in, but lock the door I will. If we leave it open, you’ll find all
your things gone when you come back. These Poles would take anything
they can lay their hands on, and small blame to them. Most of them
haven’t a shirt to their back.”

I did not return to my cell until lock-up time, feeling comfortably
replete from various teas I had had, and my throat raw from incessant
talking.

The part of our block reserved for men in solitary confinement, one
side of the triangle, was separated from the rest by iron gates on each
landing. These gates barred access to the military part as well. They
were always kept locked. To clamber over them was easy enough; to be
seen doing so spelled seven days’ cells. My first care, consequently,
was to get a cell “in front of the gate.” This term was equivalent
among us for ordinary confinement as opposed to solitary, for, in
ordinary circumstances, nobody would willingly stay in a cell “behind
the gate” if not in “solitary,” and was, in fact, not supposed to do so.

An unexpected physical phenomenon, which I afterward observed in
others, made itself unpleasantly felt in my case. The first days
following my release from “behind the gate” I was extremely nervous and
restless; at times I longed to be back in “solitary” with the cell door
securely locked upon me.



CHAPTER XIII

CLASSES AND MASSES IN THE STADTVOGTEI


The prisoners interned in the Stadtvogtei were divided into two
classes, the aristocrats, or rather the plutocrats, and the rest, thus
repeating faithfully the state of affairs in the outer world.

To the former belonged all the British without exception, a few
occasional Frenchmen and Belgians, a number of Russians of education
and means, temporarily some German socialists--they would be disgusted
if they read this--and one or two German undesirables, adventurers and
high-class pickpockets, who had come out of prison recently, but were
probably not considered safe enough to be at large.

The “rest” was composed of an ever-changing mass of Russian and Polish
laborers, never less than two hundred and fifty in number.

Wealth admitted to the upper class. The possibility of procuring food
was wealth. This explains why all the British were plutocrats, for they
received parcels from home, and had more food, as a rule, than anybody
else. Frenchmen and Belgians, on the contrary, held a precarious
position on the outside edge of society. Not having friends in Germany
who could supply them with food, as was the case with the Russian and
German plutocrats, and their parcels from France and Belgium being
exceedingly few, they were frequently in straits. But then, of course,
they were “taken up” by some of the “plutocratic” Englishmen, who chose
their associates according to other standards than those of digestible
possessions.

As far as malice aforethought is concerned, Englishmen have been,
and are, the worst treated of all the prisoners of war in Germany. I
believe the Russians had a harder time of it from sheer neglect by
the higher authorities, being delivered over to the tender mercies of
the German N.C.O. and private soldier, clothed with a little brief
authority. This class of human beings was always chary of tackling
Englishmen, either singly or in small groups.

In the Stadtvogtei the usual order was reversed. There we were
the cocks of the walk among the prisoners, and, in time, entirely
unofficial privileges developed appertaining to us as Englishmen. They
were inconspicuous enough in themselves. An incident will serve as an
illustration. It was the more startling in its significance as I had
no idea that the privilege in question had come to exist until it had
happened.

It was in the summer of 1917. The prisoners in ordinary confinement
were allowed to be in the courtyard at certain hours of the day, but
were supposed to enter and leave it only at the full and half-hours. I
had observed this rule so far, except on a very few occasions, when I
had asked the doorkeeper to let me in and out at odd times. I was doing
certain work for the British colony, which now and then called me there
on business.

One morning I happened to be walking about with Captain T., then
recently released from solitary confinement for an attempt at escaping.
We were waiting for the door to be unlocked to leave the yard, and when
the doorkeeper opened it between times, I, followed by the captain,
passed through, nodding my acknowledgment to the N.C.O. On seeing
my companion, he stepped up to him threateningly and shouted, “What
d’you mean by coming out, you ----” I had not grasped the situation,
but jumped between them instinctively and said, “Hold on. This is an
Englishman!”

“I beg your pardon, I didn’t know. I thought he was a Pole. I’ve never
seen him before.”

Captain T. had missed the meaning of the affair, and I had to explain
it to him. I went up the stairs to our cell feeling very chesty.

       *       *       *       *       *

Up to the beginning of June, 1916, the British numbered less than
twenty. During the course of the summer and autumn our colony grew
until we were about thirty-four strong. More than half of the new
arrivals were escapers. We had our experiences in common, and a class
feeling, even some class characteristics. We certainly all felt
equally hostile to that particular section in Ruhleben camp whose
attitude toward us was summed up in these words: “Aren’t you ashamed of
yourselves? Can’t you stay and take your gruel?” We were actually asked
these questions.

K. was the doyen of our group. He was older than the rest. His attempt,
with a companion, in April, 1915, to which I have referred in a
previous chapter, was the first made from Ruhleben, and he had been at
liberty longer than any one else--more than three weeks. He was one
of the most charming men one could wish to meet, though, as he was a
Scotsman, it took some little time to break down his reserve. Hailing
from the same part of the kingdom, there were W. and M. who had been
in prison since June, 1915, followed soon after by Wallace Ellison,
my friend and comrade-to-be, and another man--both excellent fellows.
Wallace was my neighbor on the right, as K. was on the left, when I had
succeeded in getting a cell on the top floor, coveted on account of the
light and air and the greater expanse of sky visible from the window.
Of some of the men who came after me I shall speak later on.

One of my companions, not an escaper, was Dr. Béland, a well-known
Canadian. He had been residing in Belgium when the war broke out, and,
although a physician, he had been arrested in the summer of 1915, and
sent to prison in Berlin. The Germans regarded him as a member of an
enemy government, and justified their action in their own way, by
saying that this eliminated his standing as a member of the medical
profession. As a matter of fact, Dr. Béland was not a member of the
Cabinet in Canada, and had not been for some time. He belonged,
however, to the House of Commons.

Dr. Béland was a man of great personal charm. His wide experience,
his high good humor, which never failed under the ordinary, trying
conditions of life in prison, his readiness to help all those in
distress, and his brilliant powers as a conversationalist, made it a
delight to meet him. In the course of time we got to know each other
well, and in January, 1917, he rendered us, particularly a friend and
myself, a great service by the delicate handling of an affair which
almost got us sent to a penal prison.

Little consideration was ordinarily shown him by the German
authorities. When they had an opportunity, as once happened to be the
case, they treated him with a refined cruelty which created universal
indignation among his companions.

Apart from the British who were permanent boarders at our
establishment, occasional birds of passage on their way to Ruhleben
camp alighted there for a night or two. Most of them were boys who
had been residing in Belgium. Unable to get away when the invasion
overwhelmed that unhappy country, and not having attained the
“internable” age of seventeen, they had been compelled to stay on,
until the day of their seventeenth birthday brought their arrest and
subsequent internment as a Greek gift from the conquerors.

Among the other plutocrats, whatever their nationality, we found some
cheery and interesting companions. Several of the socialists were
men of high intellectual attainments and charming manners. We were on
the best terms with them, a circumstance which, I believe, gave rise
to some uneasiness to the prison governor. He certainly had always
something nasty to say about them, looking down from the height of
his semi-education upon men who knew what they were talking about,
who knew--none better--the German governing classes, and who were
perfectly frank about them. We often had them to tea in our cell. They
gave us sufficient insight into the pre-war intrigues which led to the
catastrophe, and into the falsehoods and falsifications of the German
Government, to make us catch our breath.

The component parts of the “rest,” the Polish and Russian laborers,
came and went. We did not get into real contact with them. The
difficulties of language stood in the way, for one thing. Poor and
ignorant, most of them illiterate, they were greatly to be pitied.
With very little besides the prison food to live on, and constantly
maltreated by the N.C.O.’s, it is still somewhat of a marvel to me
that they did not succumb. Their powers of passive resistance, their
ability under such circumstances to keep on living, and even to retain
a certain amount of cheerfulness, can be explained only by their low
intellectual and emotional standard and the centuries of slavery or
semi-slavery their ancestors had endured.

The most pitiable objects were boys, children almost, who occasionally
appeared among them. Tiny mites they were as to stature, with the
faces of old men on bodies of children of eight or nine years of age.
They, too, had been recruited by German agents. Most of them seemed to
have been sent into the coal-mines, where hard work and little food
had broken them completely. Their actual years were usually between
thirteen and sixteen.

With their mental powers almost destroyed, and nearly too weak to
walk, they used to sit in their cells or stand listlessly about the
corridors, their eyes lusterless and vacant.

Whenever any of them were about, they were taken on by some of us as
pensioners. But even a hearty meal set before them did not bring a
smile to their lips or a gleam into their eyes. Like graven images they
wolfed it down, tried to kiss your hand or the hem of your coat, and
went to sit or stand as before.



CHAPTER XIV

PRISON LIFE AND OFFICIALS


Not long before I arrived in prison, a change had taken place in its
official personnel. Formerly, the internment side and the military side
had been under different commanders.

What I heard from my friends about the character of the man in charge
of the interned, previous to my coming, caused me to congratulate
myself upon my good luck in not having to encounter him. He had been an
out-and-out bully. He was transferred to Ruhleben camp later on, where
he went under the name of “Stadtvogtei Billy.”

The officer in command of the prison after “Stadtvogtei Billy”
had gone, had charge of the interned and military prisoners. This
_Oberleutnant_, to give him his German title, was a schoolmaster in
civil life. As such he was a government official and duly imbued with
the prescribed attitude of mind.

Officially we had not much to do with him. Occasionally we had to
approach him for some small request or other, and found him courteous
enough then. When he took the initiative, something disagreeable
usually happened, or was going to happen.

Often he called upon some of us for a chat. That was always something
of a trial. He never could get rid of his _ex cathedra_ manners; he
knew only the approved official version of whatever he was talking
about, and mostly chose rather unfortunate themes for his discourses.
“Prussian superiority in everything, but particularly in war,” “the
eminent qualities of the Prussian rulers,” “Prussian strategy in
war favorably compared with that of other nations, particularly the
British,” “Jewish treason and wickedness”--such were his favorite
topics. Quite frankly he ran down everything British and American. The
United States in particular was sighing under the absolute rule of two
wicked autocrats, one called the “President,” the other the “Almighty
Dollar.” They were inhabited partly by Germans and partly by a mass
of ignorant and unteachable fools and cowards, who, unable to grasp
the intellectual and moral righteousness of the German nation, spouted
against them, but were afraid to act. He used to bore us to tears, and
his departure was always followed by sighs of relief.

Of middle size, he was well built, and kept himself superbly fit. He
knew a little about boxing, and often commanded one of the Englishmen
to be his sparring partner in one of the big empty cells of the
military part. His tactics were to strike blows as hard as he could.
Once or twice this was discouraged by his opponent.

The sergeant-major came officially into contact with us every day when
he made his rounds. He was a handsome fellow, stout, with almost white
hair and a fresh complexion, much younger than he looked, and an old
army man. With the mannerism of a German N.C.O., he was a kindly fellow
at heart, and easy to get on with. Although his voice could be heard
thundering somewhere in the prison at any hour of the day, his bark was
ever so much worse than his bite.

The N.C.O.’s acting as warders in our section were always considerate
to us and the other plutocrats, though in different degrees and for
different reasons. One or two treated us decently, quite spontaneously,
and strictly within the limits of their duty. As for the rest, a _quid
pro quo_ was the more or less openly confessed basis of their behavior
toward us.

The scarcity of food in Germany made it inexpensive and easy for us
to keep the wheels oiled. A tin of herring or of dripping, or a few
biscuits went a very long way. I think we were perfectly justified in
making these small donations.

The doctor visited the prison only for an hour or two every morning,
except Sundays. Any one who was foolish enough to be taken suddenly and
seriously ill after he had gone, had to wait until the next day, and,
if he carried his stupidity so far as to do it on a Saturday, he could
not hope for medical attention until Monday morning.

Dr. Béland always helped as far as he could in such cases. Many a night
he was fetched out of bed to give first aid. He was handicapped in this
work of charity by his lack of drugs and stimulants.

There was a chapel in the prison, whose parson was supposed to look
after our spiritual welfare. Personally, I never spoke to him, nor did
I approach his shop. The expression fits, as I shall try to demonstrate.

Among us we had an engineer, M., who felt it necessary to observe his
religious duties, and wished to take part in the services held in the
chapel. He went to the parson to proffer his request.

“The Lord God is not for the English,” were the words in which he
refused it.

The unchanging routine of our prison day was as follows: the doors of
the cells, locked during the night, were opened again at half-past
seven o’clock in the morning. While the Kalfacters cleaned the cells,
we prepared breakfast in the kitchen. The meal over, some went into the
courtyard for a walk, while others employed themselves in whatever way
they felt most inclined. The canteen was open from ten o’clock until
half-past ten. At eleven o’clock the midday soup was distributed. It
did not concern us Englishmen, for we never took our share. The kitchen
was opened again now for the preparation of the midday meal, and there
was usually a rush to secure one or more of the gas-rings. The cleaning
of vegetables, peeling of potatoes, and other preparations had been
previously undertaken in the cells by all hands. The cooking itself
was attended to by the cook of the mess and day. Soon after eleven
the distribution of parcels from England was to be expected. On their
arrival an N.C.O. went into the yard and shouted the names of the lucky
ones, generally mispronouncing them. Leaving everything to take care of
itself, their owners went helter-skelter down to the office to take
possession of their packages. From half-past three o’clock till five it
was again possible to brew tea and cook, and from four to six to be in
the yard. At seven o’clock we were locked up for the night. In summer,
artificial light was not permitted in the cells; in winter, the current
was switched off at nine o’clock.

The most important question for us was that of the food-supply. If,
accidentally, a week or two was barren of parcels, the man who missed
them was apt to become a nuisance to his companions by his constant
expressions of grieved astonishment about this “absolutely inexplicable
stoppage.” This was the case regardless of whether he had a month’s
supply in hand or not.

It did not mean that we were gluttons. Apart from the absolute
necessity of receiving a sufficient amount of English food, parcels
and letters were the links connecting us with the Old Country. When a
link was broken we felt lost and forsaken. A cessation of letters had
a similar effect. Our correspondence was limited to four post-cards
and two letters a month. Communication between prisoners of war in
different places of internment was prohibited. We were not informed of
this, however, until the summer of 1917. A great light dawned on me
then, for I could understand at last why my friends in camp had not
written to me.

While in “solitary” and for two months afterward, I had a struggle to
make both ends meet as far as food was concerned. Only a modicum of my
letters and parcels from England arrived. I was absolutely ignorant of
the fact that friends were helping me with a generosity for which I can
never be sufficiently grateful. Having no relatives who could send me
food, I applied at last to one of the organizations sending parcels to
prisoners of war and was adopted by a generous lady in Southampton.

About that time I joined a mess of four. The pooling of our resources
made them rather more than merely sufficient for us. I debated whether
I should stop the last-named parcels. But there was always so much
opportunity of helping others, and so much doubt whether our parcels
would continue, that I said nothing.

Among a section of the British community it had always been considered
an obvious duty to help their less fortunate compatriots with food,
when they could afford it and the latter were in need. All new-comers
required help until their parcels began arriving. Those who were
placed in solitary confinement had to be looked after during the term
of their punishment, for they were not permitted to have their parcels.

At first this was all done without method and with resulting hardships
to individuals. When coöperation among the greater number of the
British prisoners was finally brought about, every man “behind the
gate” received tea for breakfast, a hot dinner of canned meat and
vegetables, and a substantial supper at five o’clock.

Occasionally we received cases of food from the Relief in Kind
Committee at Ruhleben to be distributed among the British. Here
again little method was observed at first. But in course of time the
organization was perfected.

Up to the beginning of May, 1916, the prisoners had to heat their food
on spirit stoves as best they might. Then fuel for these stoves became
unobtainable, and the prison authorities turned one of the large cells
on the top floor into a kitchen, installing a number of gas-rings at
the private expense of the British colony. For a charge the equivalent
of a cent, one could obtain a pint of boiling water or use one of the
rings for half an hour.

As long as vegetables were obtainable, we fared very well. On our
declaring that we could not take the prison food, the authorities
issued potatoes to us by way of compensation. During the winter
of 1916-17 the scarcity of this vegetable became so great in the
“Fatherland” that mangel-wurzels were generally used instead, of which
we got our scanty share. It was a severe tax upon our culinary skill to
disguise them sufficiently to make them eatable. Palatable they could
not be made. I was cook at the time for a small mess and the sauces I
manufactured with the help of curry-powder, pepper, salt, vinegar, and
mustard, would haunt a professional cook to the end of his days.

I am afraid I have dwelt a long time upon this question of food. But
then, it was the most important one for us. We never could escape it.
Three times a day at least we were reminded of it by the necessity
of preparing a meal. Our attitude toward food and eating was largely
influenced by a feeling of insecurity. “How long will it be before our
parcels stop arriving?” was a question ever present in our minds.

It must be admitted that we seldom lost our appetites, despite the
fact that we could take little exercise. Officially, the only place
to get this was the yard. Paved with granite blocks, it did not offer
altogether ideal facilities. The sun reached the bottom of this well
in one corner only during the three best months of the year. In fine,
mild weather it was always so packed with humanity--and that not of
the cleanest kind--that the air was worse than in the cells. Except
in rainy or cold weather it stagnated, and engendered a feeling of
lassitude which often was the precursor of a headache.

Generally speaking, the prison was badly ventilated, although seemingly
ample provision had been made for a change of air in the building.
At certain hours of the day smells of the worst kind pervaded the
corridors. In the broken light of the evening, the pall of fetid and
evil air surrounding the whole place became visible to any one looking
from an upper window across the yard toward the bright western sky.
In spite of all, however, Swedish drill at night, occasional fierce
romps with our friends, or a few rounds with the gloves in a space
which permitted only a stand-up ding-dong way of sparring, kept us in
tolerable health.

We were fortunate in having a considerable number of private books.
In addition to these, the Ruhleben camp library sent us consignments
which we returned for others. From serious and instructive books to the
lightest kind of literature, we were plentifully supplied with reading
matter.

Sometimes we managed to get hold of an English newspaper. They were on
sale in Berlin but strictly forbidden to us prisoners. The reason for
this prohibition has always been to me one of the inexplicable vagaries
of the German mind. The “Daily Telegraph” and the “Daily Mail” were
read on the sly, mostly after lock-up time, by one after the other,
until they fell to pieces.

The royal game of chess was a great consolation. It was played to
excess, often resulting in staleness.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first two escapers to arrive after me were C. and L., a happy
combination of Scotland and Ulster. They had gotten away from camp
in a very adventurous fashion, to be caught three days later by an
unfortunate combination of love and flowers.

At dawn, one morning, they had found excellent cover in a clump of
lilac bushes growing close to an unfrequented road. In the course
of the morning a German soldier, fully armed, was passing their
hiding-place, when he caught sight of the lilacs in bloom. Some
flaxen-haired maiden must have been in his thoughts, for he started to
gather a bunch of them. Only the best flowers would do, of course, but
they were inside the thicket, away from the chance passerby. With his
eyes lifted in search of the blooms, the soldier did not see the two
fugitives until he trod on them. Before they had time to do anything,
he had them covered with his rifle.

When C. and L. came out of “solitary,” they and Wallace and I soon
became good friends. Naturally, we discussed the chances of another
attempt to escape from prison. If possible, we would make that attempt
together. For this purpose it would be desirable to be in one cell.

There were four big cells on each landing at the three corners of the
courtyard. They were by far the most desirable, with good company to
share them with you. They had a water-tap and a private lavatory, and
their cubic capacity per man was considerably greater than that of the
single cells. When one of these on the fourth floor became temporarily
empty at the beginning of July, the four of us asked for and obtained
permission to take it.

We all felt a little doubtful about the experiment at first, but it
turned out magnificently; and for all purposes we were a very strong
combination.

As far as I was concerned, the happiest time of the whole of my three
years as a prisoner of war was spent in that cell. I slept well again,
and I lost the restless feeling which had obsessed me while in a cell
by myself, for I had gone through a time of great spiritual loneliness
before C. and L. arrived. Now I simply basked and expanded in this
circle of congenial companionship. I seldom cared to leave the cell,
and almost ceased visiting my other friends in theirs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Generally speaking, the internment in the Stadtvogtei was no worse
than the internment in Ruhleben camp. The latter was healthier, and
there were ever so many more distractions, with opportunities for sport
and serious work. The camp could be almost pleasant in summer, but it
was terrible in wet or cold weather. The prison was always the same,
neither hot nor cold. Climatic conditions, the changes of the seasons,
did not affect us at all. Ruhleben was one of the dirtiest places in
the world; Stadtvogtei was always clean and dry.

We worked hard, nevertheless, to bring about our return to Ruhleben.
Whether any of us preferred the life in camp or that in prison, on one
point we were all agreed: the camp was much easier to escape from.

So we sent periodical petitions to the Kommandantur in Berlin for
transfer to Ruhleben, and on the rare occasions when a representative
from the American Embassy or, later on, from the Dutch Legation, paid
us an unexpected visit we never failed to complain bitterly about
the injustice of being kept in prison. But these complaints did not
avail. It was probably due to the comparative charm of the life in a
big cell that no actual attempt was made by us four between June and
October, 1916. Discussions of ways and means were frequent, of course,
in secret meetings throughout the house. For a long time the plans
under consideration always involved the destruction of iron bars in
front of our windows and the erection of a light scaffolding made from
table boards and legs. This scaffolding was to help us gain the roof,
and less perilously than the method favored by our friend Wallace. But
Wallace was a crag-climber in civil life. We understood perfectly that
his hobby had affected his brain and would not allow him to climb to
any high point unless he could, by stealth or cunning, do it in the
most dangerous way. Under pressure, however, he was still sane enough
to relinquish his idea--for this once. We applied the pressure. Once on
the flat roof of our portion of the prison we were to traverse it for
some distance, and then drop down the face of a blank wall, sixty feet
high, by means of a rope we had plaited from strings saved from our
parcels. I doubt whether the rope was quite long enough.

We finally hit upon another plan. Its attractions were very tempting in
comparison with the first one, and we tried to put it into execution.

If we could get out of our cell at night and open a window on the first
floor, we could easily drop into the street. As I have mentioned in an
earlier chapter, the windows of the prison overlooking the street were
not barred on the outside except on the ground floor. These were made
impassable by iron gratings on the inside which opened like a door, and
were unlocked by the same key that fitted the locks of our cell doors.
The windows themselves were opened by a hollow square key. A pair of
small strong pliers would do as well.

The corridors were almost incessantly patrolled at night. The necessity
of trying to dodge the patrol would be not only disturbing but somewhat
difficult.

Next the stairs, on each landing, was a room used for various purposes.
These rooms were not patrolled. The one on the first floor which was
naturally the most attractive to us was labeled “CLERK.” This too
had the same lock as the cell doors. In there we should be quite
undisturbed while attending strictly to duty.

We made a key out of a piece of thick wire and the tin lid of a
priceless beer-glass. The lid was beautifully and appropriately
engraved. So was the glass, which had a considerable sentimental
value. Wallace, the rightful owner, sacrificed the lid on the altar
of the common weal. With the wire as a core we cast the key in a
plaster-of-Paris mold and filed it to fit. C. filed it. He would not
let anybody else touch it. He now holds it as his most treasured
souvenir of the war.

It was not at all difficult to obtain the plaster of Paris for the
mold. The making of the key was an extremely simple affair altogether,
though it sounds extremely romantic.

The opening of the cell door was an outside job, for the lock was quite
inaccessible from the inside with any of the instruments we possessed.
One of us had to get himself locked out by mistake, hide somewhere
in the prison, and release the others at the proper time. Wallace
volunteered to do this. He got the job.

On the top floor of the building, in a sort of blind corner, was the
prison library. It was separated from the rest of the corridor by a
wood-and-glass partition. Above its door was an opening large enough to
offer an easy passage for Wallace’s small but athletic frame. As the
library would hardly be used after lock-up, Wallace would be more than
reasonably safe there during his vigil.

We intended to walk from Berlin to the Baltic Sea and make the passage
to the nearest Danish island in any kind of craft we could dishonestly
come by.

       *       *       *       *       *

“All there?” asked the N.C.O. in charge of our corridor at seven
o’clock of the evening fixed for the new venture.

C. and I were sitting opposite each other at chess. L. was bending with
knitted brows over another chess board. The stool opposite him was
empty.

“Yes,” I answered absently, without lifting my eyes from the board.

“Where’s Ellison?” using Wallace’s surname.

I looked up and made a motion toward the privy our cell boasted.

“All right. _Gute Nacht._”

“Good night, Herr Unterofficier!”

The door swung closed and the bolt shot home. L. continued playing
chess with himself, still with that concentrated look of his. C. was
mean enough to take an unfair advantage of my inattention and declared
“mate” after ten or twelve more moves.

Then we talked disjointedly with long pauses after each remark. “Wace
must have managed all right.” “Seems so.” “Too early to do anything
yet.” “Oh, I don’t know. If they come in here again to-night, the
game will be up anyway.” “Not necessarily; we might have luck.” “We
certainly need it for the next ten days or so.” “Oh,” with the long
yawn of nervousness, “let’s eat.” “All right, let’s eat.” We ate. Then
we started dressing. Double sets of underwear in my case, and also
collar and tie. I had almost finished, though my two friends still
looked pretty much as usual, when we heard footsteps approach our door
and the rattle of the key in the lock. With a white stiff collar around
my neck, albeit without coat or waistcoat, I took a flying leap toward
the door and into such a position that the whole of my person except my
face would be concealed by one of our two-storied bed structures. It
was our N.C.O. who appeared through the opening door. Without coming
farther than half a step into the cell he handed me, who was nearest
to him, a bundle of letters from “Blighty” and disappeared again.

We completed our preparations and then lay down on our bunks in order
to get as much sleep as possible while there was a chance. We did not
get much during the next five hours. We were under the nervous stress
of having to wait for somebody else to act. The hours seemed to be of
Jupiterian size. Occasionally one of us would turn over and mutter
something, mostly commenting upon the situation we were in, expressing
his views briefly and forcibly. Now and then I lost consciousness in
brief spells of slumber. I think our emotions were not very different
from those experienced by men who are waiting for the zero hour to go
over the top. As my brief fighting experience was in the artillery, I
cannot speak with authority.

At two o’clock, with a tremendous noise and without warning, a key
turned in the lock and Wallace came into the room in his stocking-feet,
carefully fastening the door on the inside by a little wooden latch.
The latch was a strictly unofficial attachment of our own making.

We were up and around him before he had done with the door. “No use.
We’re up against it,” he whispered.

We were not absolutely unprepared for this. We had been alarmed at
something during the afternoon of that day. I forget now precisely
what it was. It had been somewhat intangible. Yet it had puzzled us a
good deal. As Wallace had needed some assistance in getting into the
library, we had been forced to take one or two of our comrades into the
secret. We felt, of course, as sure of their trustworthiness as we were
of our own, but it is always possible to make a mistake.

“I’m certain they have a suspicion that something is afoot,” Wallace
explained, “and are merely lying low in order to catch us in the act.
They may not know who it is. When I came out of the library I passed
X.’s cell. The door was a quarter open. There was a light inside and
they were talking. That pig Doran [one of the N.C.O.’s] was in there.
I then sneaked down to the clerk’s room in order to open the door. I
couldn’t. Has none of you noticed that there is a countersunk screw
through the bolt? Has any one of you ever seen that door used? Now,
what are we to do?”

We decided not to go that night. We were unanimous. Briefly, Wallace
told us the rest of his adventures while we crept between our blankets.
I personally felt of a sudden very, very tired. But before I fell
asleep I reasoned with mixed feelings that we might have pushed the
attempt a little further.

We were up at an unusually early hour in order to remove all traces of
our fell intent. We unpacked the two small grips we had wanted to take
with us and put our extra clothes away. The cell, to appear as usual,
required general tidying up.

Hoch, our N.C.O., thrust a startled face in upon us when he came to
unlock the door at seven o’clock. As usual, L., wrapped in blankets up
to his chin and over his ears, was placidly puffing clouds of smoke
toward the ceiling. As usual, C. and I were performing our morning
ablutions in front of the sink. As usual, Wallace was watching us
sleepily from his elevated bunk next the door, waiting for his turn,
and hoping that it might be long in coming.

Hoch, after his first swift survey while still in the corridor, had
quickly advanced to the center of the room and looked immensely
relieved when he had counted his chickens.

“Why, your door was unlocked!” he exclaimed. Wallace nodded sleepily.

“Yes, one of your fellows came in and disturbed us at six o’clock.”

“Who was it?”

“Don’t know. We were asleep and he woke us up. Very rude of him. He
just looked in and walked away, and forgot to lock the door.”

Hoch laughed loud and long, like a man who has had a bad jolt and finds
himself unhurt. He was an Alsatian and as such was always more or less
suspected of disloyalty. In order to shield him as much as possible we
had chosen a night when he would not be on duty, but even so, he would
have found himself in difficulties had we got away.

Friend Hoch was a smart man, however. Nothing further was said about
the open door, but he didn’t believe us; of that I’m certain. Nothing
had happened, so he let sleeping dogs lie, but he made up his mind that
nothing should happen. He was uncomfortably vigilant from then on. He
never locked up, after that, until he had made sure that we were all in
our cell.



PART II



CHAPTER XV

A FRESH ATTEMPT


The failure of our attempt had a stimulating effect upon us. Wallace,
always ready to do anything at any time and under any circumstances,
the more romantic and adventurous the better, nosed around on his own
hook. C. and L. said little, but would have required no persuasion
to do things which a person like me would have called foolhardy. I,
myself, had been only too well aware of the many flaws in our previous
plan to take its failure to heart. The biggest of these flaws was our
intended procedure after we had broken prison. In the absence of a good
opening I cogitated mainly upon the best way of action, once the start
lay behind us. I will give here some of my reflections, because they
shed light upon our subsequent proceedings.

To escape from the prison, a small amount of help from outside was more
than desirable. To break out was not impossible; to do so carrying
the necessary food and equipment meant minimizing our chances very
considerably, and they were slender indeed, at the best. Once outside,
what were we to do? Was it possible to walk through the streets of
Berlin at night carrying bundles and hand-bags? It must be remembered
that crime was rife in Germany, and the police as inquisitive as
monkeys. Could one go to a hotel and wait there for an early train on
which to get away? To walk out of the capital appeared impossible, for
we had heard that a considerable number of military police, with power
to stop anybody, were always about, looking for deserters and watching
the roads to the country. None of us knew a friendly soul in Germany
of whom we could ask assistance, nor had we a knowledge of the capital
and its seamy side, which would have enabled us to disappear in the
under-world of criminals and to purchase assistance there.

In August, two Englishmen, who had escaped from Ruhleben and who had
managed to live in different towns of Germany for several weeks,
had joined our band of prisoners. They had had false passports, an
absolute knowledge of the German language, and had been caught only
through their own carelessness. Both were awaiting trial on a charge
of traveling with false papers, and on one other count. G., a tall,
distinguished-looking man with a drawling voice and stately manners,
had nothing to lose and everything to gain by another attempt. C. was
approaching his forty-fifth birthday, and hoped for an exchange.

In September, S., another man from Ruhleben, had turned up. He said
he was an escaper, but I had my doubts. I don’t think he was British,
even technically speaking, although the Germans considered him so. He
was daring and clever, however, and had friends in Berlin, and there
was no doubting his sincerity when he swore that he would not stay in
the Stadtvogtei at the pleasure of the Germans, even if an attempt to
escape cost him his life.

G. and S. chummed up with each other. A German with an English name, of
doubtful calling in civil life but of powerful physique, joined them.
Toward the end of October, Wallace found out definitely that something
was afoot, S. being the leading spirit.

Without conceit I believe I can say that my friends and I were regarded
by all who knew us as “dead safe.” Nothing on earth, not excepting
faithlessness on the part of those we trusted, or had to trust, would
have made us squeal. We must naturally have appeared an easy prey for
any unscrupulous man, since he would have nothing to fear. Private
vengeance would have been far too costly for us.

This being so, Wallace’s questions received ready answers. S. was about
to obtain a key for the main gate of the prison. A blank was being
filed right then by one of his friends outside, to an approximate fit,
according to a rough drawing he (S.) had made after a chance inspection
of the key in the hands of the gatekeeper. When the rough key was
delivered he would have to file it to a working fit. This done he and
his party would wait for an opportune moment on a dark evening and walk
out of the prison by the front door.

The scheme was an excellent one, as far as it went, and S. had no
objections to our joining his party. On the contrary, he seemed to my
liking far too pleased. Why should he receive us with open arms, when
it was patent that the danger of discovery increased with numbers?
Without promising definitely to join his party we agreed to help him
in fitting his key and getting away. Almost three weeks went by before
everything was ready, and this brought us into the middle of November.

This was another serious drawback. For a long tramp the weather was
decidedly too cold. We could not hope to be able to take along even
an inadequate equipment. Under these circumstances the hardships would
be such as to make sleeping in the open for a week, or a fortnight,
impossible. The use of the railway would be imperative, which was
against C. and L.’s chances. Neither of them spoke a word of German,
and both were so striking in appearance as to make their arrest almost
a foregone conclusion. C. was about six feet tall, broad out of
proportion, and the picture of well-nourished health; while L., with
black hair, black bushy eyebrows on overhanging bone ridges, a mustache
the like of which had never been seen in Germany, and a typical
seaman’s roll, could have passed about as well for a full-blooded
Chinaman as for a son of the “Fatherland.” A word from Wallace or me
would make them withdraw, but that word we could not easily bring
ourselves to speak.

Wallace, on the other hand, did his utmost to convince me that we
must not let this opportunity slip by. The other conspirators would
certainly go, and their escape would close this one avenue forever.

“If you stay behind, I’ll go with the others.” Another quandary. He
would not get through, I felt sure, for he proposed to throw in his
lot with S., looking to him for help, which he would get only as
long as it suited S. and no longer. As we had no maps, and Wallace on
his first escape had walked only a few miles, and those with a guide,
our only chance lay in striking my old route. On this second trip we
might cover the distance in two nights, which meant spending only one
day in hiding. My knowledge of the disposition of sentries along that
stretch of frontier might possibly get us across, even under adverse
circumstances.

I had never felt so uncomfortable in my life as I felt when I had to
explain to C. and L., that it appeared impossible to take them along
with us, and my feeling of utter shamefacedness was only intensified by
their immediate and good-humored withdrawal.

To take anything with us beyond what we could put in our pockets was
not to be thought of. Could we send out a parcel or two and have them
deposited at a station cloak-room? Neither Wallace nor I could. We had
never sent parcels from the prison. S.? Yes. He was eternally sending
them away. He proffered his services, which were accepted. A parcel was
handed over to him to be deposited at a certain station, the cloak-room
ticket to be handed to us. When the ticket came--there was only one--he
showed it to me, but explained that he could not give it up, as some
of his own luggage was booked on it. He would go with us for our
parcel, or get it for us in another way. We were to meet him in Berlin
anyhow, for we had accepted his offer to procure us quarters where we
could stay a day or two in safety. His further assistance, which was to
make our “getting through” a moral certainty, I had declined both for
Wallace and myself.

On the morning of the 16th of November I said I would not go. At four
o’clock I said I would, and meant it. Between five and six we went.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was already dark at this time. On the ground floor and next to
the stairs was the office of the prison. From its door one had an
unobstructed view of the whole length of the corridor and of that part
of the gateway connecting the street with the yard, nearest to the
front gate. Fortunately the door was always kept shut at this time of
the year on account of the cold.

The gatekeeper had his office in one of the cells off the corridor. He
could not see the gateway without leaving the cell. The gateway was at
right angles with the corridor, and not very well lighted. Two steps
led down to its level. In passing from the corridor into the yard the
front door was to the immediate right of the steps.

At this period of our imprisonment the prisoners had access to the
yard at any moment during recreation time. It was cleared for the day
at half-past six o’clock. Wallace and I went there at the appointed
time--five o’clock--wearing our overcoats, as usual, but our best
clothes underneath. The others were already there.

A sixth man had been admitted to the party, a German stockbroker. This
upset Wallace so much that the slightest attempt at persuasion on my
part would have made him give up the venture altogether. But now that I
had made up my mind I rather urged him on.

That morning an N.C.O. had come on duty at the gate who some months
before had insisted upon being armed while on duty, and who had
declared his intention of preventing any one from leaving the building
alive, if an attempt should be made. Since he was bound to discover the
open gate almost at once, we had a fair chance of getting hurt, which
greatly perturbed G.

At length the moment of action came. S., followed by the rest of the
conspirators, made as if to return to his cell. Once inside, he went
straight to the front gate, while the powerful German put his back
against the gate we had just passed through, to prevent anybody from
following us. Wallace and I walked up the steps into the corridor and
stood there, chatting, to screen S. while he unlocked the door. He
failed in his first attempt. The second time he was successful.

We slipped through the door and found ourselves in the deserted street
in front of the prison. The others, contrary to agreement, broke into a
run and disappeared around a corner on the left. Wallace and I walked
leisurely until we turned underneath a railroad bridge to the right.

We felt somewhat relieved when we had turned the corner. During the
walk up the street we had expected every moment to hear the crackle of
automatics beginning behind us. It is one thing to face a gun; it is
another to expect to be shot in the back.

We were to meet S. and G. at a certain café close to the railway
station where our parcel had been deposited, but it took us a long time
to get there, as we did not know our way about Berlin, and were unable
to hire a taxi or droshky. They had almost given up hope when we
arrived.

We sat down at their table in a well-lighted, large room. Everybody
seemed at ease except me. I felt nervous, but tried to hide it. During
the next half-hour S. left us several times to telephone, as he said,
to the house where Wallace and I were to stay. Each time he came back
saying he could not get the connection.

“Let us go and get our luggage, then,” I suggested.

“Didn’t you say you wanted to buy some things?” S. queried.

“Yes; we want to see whether we can get a couple of oilsilks,
two water-bottles, a portmanteau, and, if possible, a couple of
sleeping-bags.”

“You’d better hurry up, then. The shops will be open only for another
hour. We’ll meet you at Café ---- at ten o’clock. In the meantime I’ll
arrange for your lodgings.”

I was doubtful, but we had trusted him so far; it seemed foolish and
impolitic to show suspicion now. Moreover, to have to carry the parcel
would be a nuisance if not a danger. So we agreed and left them.

In a big department-store we bought the articles mentioned. The
sleeping-bags were thin, by no means waterproof and almost useless,
but better than nothing. Clothed as we were, in ordinary town clothes
only, I was much concerned to get what extra protection from the cold
we could.

While I was completing this purchase, a shop-walker addressed me and
followed up his introductory remarks with a reference to the latest air
raid on London and a pious wish as to the fate of the d----d English.
I heartily endorsed his sentiments, while Wallace, with dancing eyes,
grinned facetiously at me. Just at closing time we left the store and
took the hand-bag to the station cloak-room.

Walking about the streets to wile away the time until ten o’clock, we
met S. and G. carrying their luggage. “Hullo, what the ----! It’s all
right, boys; be at the place at ten.”

We were there at half-past nine. We were still there at eleven. Nobody
came. Several times I made the round of the café, even though we sat
close to the only entrance and could not miss them if they came. At
half-past eleven we left, but returned in twenty minutes. Then we gave
up hope.



CHAPTER XVI

FROM BERLIN TO HALTERN


The night was bitterly cold. The extraordinarily mild weather of the
last weeks had changed at the most inopportune moment. A few hard
flakes of snow were now and again driven into our faces by a searching
wind. We were without shelter, without food for the walking part of
our enterprise, without adequate clothes. In Wallace’s case a year
and a half, in mine seven months, of prison life had not improved the
condition of our health. We were decidedly too soft to stand a number
of days of cold weather without at least some fatty nourishment.

I pictured us sleeping in ordinary townish winter clothes on a freezing
day, perhaps with snow on the ground, in thin sleeping-bags consisting
of an outer cover of canvas and a light lining of shoddy. We should be
wet through in half an hour. The moisture would freeze on our garments
as the generation of body heat, already at a low ebb for want of food,
decreased. Then, we would go to sleep.

I imagined us trying to slip through between two sentries, five hundred
yards apart, with patrols in between, and over bare fields, while the
snow-light gave tolerable vision up to a mile.

I was so disheartened that I proposed that we should walk to the prison
and give ourselves up. We could plead that we had gone away for a
lark. Our punishment would almost certainly be light. There had been
precedents which warranted this view. It was not impossible that the
German authorities might come to the conclusion that one escape apiece
had been enough for us. In this way we might get another chance under
more favorable circumstances. If we persisted now, we had not one in
ten thousand, and we firmly believed that after capture we should
be sent to a penitentiary prison and guarded beyond hope of another
attempt.

With splendid pluck and determination Wallace talked me round. No, he
was not going to do anything of the sort. Let them catch him, if they
could, but no voluntary surrender for him. I could do as I liked, but
we might find it easier than we thought.

“All right! Let’s go to a hotel!”

“That isn’t safe. We must try to get somewhere else.”

I intended to have my way now. “No fear! From what S. told us, it is
safe enough. We both speak German pretty well. If we leave the place
before eight o’clock we’ll be all right. Look at C. and G.! They never
had to show their passports at the hotels. This way to the station for
our luggage! Say, do you know a small hotel hereabouts?”

“Yes, there is the ----. I stopped there once. But it is a good long
way from here.”

“Let’s try it, anyway.”

I had pocketed the luggage-ticket. At the station I could not find it.
An agitated search through my pockets failed to reveal the square thin
paper. We were standing in front of the cloak-room, and I was still
hunting through my pockets when a man approached us.

I had caught sight of him out of the corner of my eye while he was
still some yards away. If ever there was a detective in plain clothes,
he was one. Deliberately I half turned my back toward him. He stepped
up close to my shoulder and peered over it, listening to what we were
saying. I dared not take any notice. Wallace’s eyes, boring for a
moment into mine while he lolled against a counter, are still clear
before me.

A few months earlier I had received an answer to one of our petitions,
in a fine official envelop with a huge blue seal on the back. With an
indefinite idea that the seal might be used as an effective camouflage,
I had kept the envelop by me. I drew out my pocket-book, and while
searching through it, held the back of the envelop conveniently exposed
to the eyes of the detective.

“I must have left it at the hotel. Let’s go there and send for the
luggage,” I said aloud in German. The detective turned away. So did we.

A single cab stood in front of the station. I turned toward the station
police-office to get the brass disk, but was met half-way by the
policeman, who had been watching us. He handed it to me without a word.

The hotel at which we wished to stay was full. After some palaver cabby
took us to one near by, where we got a room. It was a very small place.
The night-porter seemed to be the only servant on duty. He appeared
somewhat suspicious, but said nothing about it.

The double-bedded room we were shown into looked very nice. We thought
it ridiculously luxurious, but Wallace went to bed at once. It was
about one o’clock. While undressing I found the luggage-ticket in an
inner waistcoat pocket.

I had still about two hours’ work ahead of me, for I had to map out the
route for the following day. I was quite convinced that Berlin was too
hot for us. We had not yet discussed our further plans, but had bought
a time-table at the station.

Finally, having considered a number of alternative routes, I selected a
slow train, which was to leave the Zoölogical Garden Station, where our
luggage was, at 10:24 A.M. for Hanover, and was due to arrive some time
after 6 P.M. I went to sleep, dead tired, at about 2:45.

We got our knock and hot water at 6:30, as ordered. Having dressed,
we went into the breakfast-room. A nice, comfortable-looking body
presided there; I believe she was the proprietress. We had foreseen the
formality of the visitors’ book, and had our names and addresses pat.
The landlady peered at them, then at us. I had to negotiate with her
for our breakfast, for we had no bread-cards and wanted something to
eat.

“You are foreigners, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Good gracious, no! Why do you think so?”

“I thought so from your accent.”

“We’re not from this part of Germany, as you can see by the visitors’
book.” I was going to add that we had lived a long time abroad, etc.,
but, if I recollect rightly, I did not. I don’t believe it safe to
volunteer information, unless one is telling the truth.

“That’s quite all right, then. We have to be so careful about
strangers! Just sign these emergency slips for your bread-cards. Thank
you, sir.”

During a very sketchy breakfast consisting of coffee, rolls, and
butter, a young lieutenant passed down the room, and with a bright
smile saluted us civilly. Wallace and I looked at each other, grinning
covertly. What a lark! If he knew!

At a quarter to eight we left the hotel and slowly made our way toward
the station. Having plenty of time, we entered a café to have a chat
and another breakfast, even more sketchy than the first. We were the
only guests in the place, and had to wait for the milk. Here I outlined
my plans for the day. At last Wallace assented.

“Come along, then,” I said, rising. “Let’s see what we can buy in the
way of food. Chocolate first.”

In a high-class confectioner’s we were told that chocolate was out of
the question, but _chocolates_ we could have.

“What price?”

“Nine marks [$1.75] a pound!”

We could not afford more than two pounds, because the things we had
bought the night before had made a big hole in our joint capital of
$125.00--in German money, of course. Next we obtained two small tins of
sardines at $1.10 each. Our efforts to buy something in the way of meat
or fat were not crowned with success.

At the station, however, things went well, in spite of my extreme
agitation when buying the tickets.

Within the first half-hour we passed Ruhleben camp, and had a glimpse
of the grand stands, the barracks, and the enclosure, which we knew so
intimately from the inside.

At about 12:30 the train stopped for over an hour at Stendal. The
station restaurant supplied us with a fairly ample fish meal, beer, and
coffee. Another long stop occurred later on.

During the journey we passed a considerable number of prisoners’ camps.
They seemed as a rule to be situated close to a railway line, within
easy distance from a small station. The aspect of the huddled hutments,
the wire fences around them with watch-towers at the corners, and the
sentries on guard, was indescribably forlorn. At one station at which
we stopped a transport of Russian prisoners entrained under a guard of
ancient territorials.

Wallace was in high spirits all the time. I was, on the contrary,
moody, irritable, and worried. My feelings were in complete accord with
the weather.

A lowering gray wrack of clouds was being torn and driven by a
whistling wind above the naked fields and copses. Occasionally showers
of hard snowflakes could be heard rattling on the glass of the carriage
windows. Our compartment was over-heated, as trains always are in
Germany. Yet, I shivered occasionally, as I looked out of the window,
while trying to construct a small optimistic raft to cling to in a sea
of despondency. I made a bad companion that journey.

Hanover was reached on time, and the luggage temporarily disposed
of in the cloak-room. The town greeted us with a brief but thick
blizzard--about the worst thing that could happen to us short of
arrest. Confronted with it, my spirits improved.

“Snow, or no snow, we’ll make the best attempt we can at the frontier,”
I whispered.

“Just what I think,” Wallace agreed heartily.

His boots did not fit him well, and I urged him to buy bigger ones. A
suitable pair, shown to us in a shop, cost $15.00, too much for our
declining purse. When Wallace looked up at me from his chair, mutely
shaking his head, I could not insist on the expenditure.

After that we walked about the streets, looking for a likely hotel.
We decided on a dirty fifth-rate one, to which we resolved to return
later, and then wandered back to the brighter, fashionable part of the
town. We had dinner in a big restaurant. The warmth, the lights, the
show of gaiety around us, and an ample but meatless meal accompanied
by a glass or two of decent lager, made me feel subduedly optimistic.
Wallace was nearly jumping out of his skin with _joie de vivre_.

At ten o’clock we went to our hotel. It was unnecessarily low-class. We
did not seem to fit into the scheme of things there, and consequently
were regarded with half-concealed suspicion. Nevertheless, no questions
were asked. Our room was cheerless and cold. We waited until our
luggage was brought; then Wallace crept into bed, while I sat in my
overcoat near the guttering candle, looking up trains.

I intended to get to Haltern the following evening. The main railway
lines lay across our route, and several changes were necessary, there
being no direct trains over the branch lines we had to use. My task
proved a difficult one. Few trains were running in Germany at that
time. The fast corridor expresses, which we could have taken over
comparatively small stretches, had to be carefully avoided, for we knew
now of the existence of passport controls on them. The slow trains did
not usually connect. After much comparing, testing, and retesting, I
was fairly satisfied at last.

I had resolved not to leave Hanover from the main station. Detectives
might be watching for us there. By using electric trams we could get to
Hainholz, a village near Hanover, and there pick up our train. At about
12:30 we should be at Minden. A two-hours’ wait there, and a journey of
about one and a half hours would take us to Osnabruck by about 5 P.M.
Forty minutes later a non-corridor express would carry us to Haltern,
where we should arrive at 7:30.

I was nearly beat when I tumbled into bed at two o’clock, envying
Wallace, whose regular breathing had filled the room for hours past.

Bang, bang, bang! bang, bang, bang!

“All ri--” I began.

“_Danke schön, danke!_ [Thank you],” shrieked Wallace, to drown my
voice.

I opened my eyes foolishly, to a dark room. A match spluttered, the
wick caught, and Wallace’s eyes glittered reproachfully into mine from
behind his glasses. “I say, do you know what you said?” This in German.

“Well, I--”

“Shshsh, you chump, _Deutsch!_”

       *       *       *       *       *

“We’d like breakfast, please!” This to a youth in the bar-room.

“Have you got your bread-cards?”

“No. We’re travelers; we’ll sign travelers’ slips.”

“Nothing doing. You can have a cup of coffee.”

“Look here, we got bread at a restaurant last night without them. Why
can’t you give us some?”

At this suggestion the uncivil youth lost his temper completely, and we
were fain to content ourselves with a cup of German coffee-substitute.

Before eight o’clock we were out of the place. Our luggage was again
in the cloak-room of the main station. A long walk got rid of most of
the time before us. At ten we tried to buy some nuts. The oil they
contained would supply our bodies with fuel; but none were to be had.

Having got our luggage, we took a tram to Hainholz, where we arrived
far too early. The cloak-room and ticket-office of the small station
were closed. Some minutes after eleven the train left. It was a
pleasant change to get into the hot carriage after the cold station.

At 12:30 we arrived at Minden. The huge dark waiting-room seemed full
of intangible menaces. We spent an exceedingly uncomfortable time
there, but were recompensed by an excellent meal. A considerable piece
of veal, with plenty of vegetables, blunted our fears and appeased our
ravenous hunger.

At the station where next we had to change we found our train waiting
on a siding, and at 7:30 P.M. we arrived in Haltern.

The weather had been much the same as on the preceding day, a little
colder, a little more snow. With the prospect of getting within
walking-distance of Holland, my spirits were not so depressed. It is
such a bonny feeling to get on “your own feet,” instead of having to
wait in a railway carriage or station, expecting to feel a hand on your
shoulder, and hear a voice asking you for your papers!



CHAPTER XVII

WESTWARD HO!


Until we got out into the open country I was to walk in front, carrying
the portmanteau, which was a little too bulky a load for a man of
smaller stature than mine. Wallace was to follow twenty or thirty paces
in the rear, but not to lose sight of me.

Into the town and the market-place it was plain sailing. Without
looking at the sign “To Wesel,” the existence of which I had forgotten,
I turned into the right lane, recognizing it from its general aspect.
Nevertheless, the darkness made the ground which I had traversed in
daylight look different.

At the cross-roads a long procession of street lamps disappeared down
the street which ought to have been the right one. On my first escape I
had failed to notice these standards on what then looked like a country
road. They are not very conspicuous in daylight. I had had my eyes
fixed upon the landscape generally, rather than upon details close to
me, which had no meaning for me at that time. Furthermore, I had very
soon taken a path on the left.

For the moment I was confused, and, not being able to take bearings in
the dark, I walked ahead, up a lane, pondering the situation. Here were
no lights, which was inviting. A woman passed me, and a moment after
Wallace closed up rapidly.

“Did you see that woman?” he asked. “She turned and looked after you.
She’ll inform the police. We’ve got to get off the road!”

“All right! It’s dark enough for anything. There is no danger. Just
let’s get off the road and see whether anything happens.”

We waited some time, but nothing occurred. Nothing could, as a matter
of fact, for we didn’t wait long enough.

“I can’t recognize this road,” I complained. “The darkness makes
everything look different. We’re too far east. That road with the lamps
along it is the right one, after all.”

“You’re absolutely wrong,” came the quite unexpected opposition from
Wallace. “We’re too far west.”

I had only been soliloquizing aloud, to give Wallace a chance of
understanding every step we took.

“How can you know that?”

“I saw a sign, farther back, ‘To Wesel.’ That means we are too far
west.”

“Are you sure you saw the sign, and did we pass along the road in its
direction?”

“Absolutely certain!”

“I can’t understand it at all. We simply can’t be too far west!”
Wallace had seen the sign in the market-place. This being the
starting-point, his conclusion was not warranted. But he could not know
that. I, on the other hand, was sufficiently doubtful on account of the
lamp standards, and Wallace’s opposition turned the scales.

“All right,” I conceded ungraciously, for I am rather touchy about my
woodcraft, “if you’re so sure of it, we’ll walk straight north. In that
way we’ll come across the road we are looking for, if you’re right. If
not, we can turn back. Now we’ll find a place to pack our knapsacks and
get rid of this beastly bag.”

We left the road definitely now, close to a church which stood dark and
lonely among open fields. We were still near Haltern, but the night
increased the distances.

A drop of rain struck my face. Delighted, I turned to Wallace, who was
behind me: “I say, I believe it’s coming on to rain. It would be fine
if the weather got mild again!”

Behind a wall, which enclosed a churchyard, we stopped to get ready
for the road. We packed our knapsacks as best we could in complete
darkness, for our only flash-lamp refused to act. While we were doing
so, it really began to rain, and we slipped into our oilsilks. Then we
started out across-country, due north, walking by compass.

The going was terrible. The ground was frozen hard and the rain on
coming in contact with it congealed to ice, which caused us to slip and
stumble on the unyielding ridges between the furrows, and now and again
to come down hard. The exertion kept us warm. When I took off my hat
for a moment, to wipe my forehead, I found the brim full of solid ice.

We proceeded for about half an hour, up-hill all the time. Then the
edge of a wood stopped us. That decided me: I knew now that we were
following the wrong course.

“Look here, Wace, there’s not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that we
are too far east. Haltern is bearing south. If we were anywhere near
the right road, it ought to lie in a southeasterly direction. If we had
been too far west, we should have come to the woods much sooner. We can
make one very decisive test. We’ll go east, until the eastern extremity
of Haltern bears south. Then we shall know that we are too far to the
east!”

We altered our course accordingly and proceeded in this new direction.
Suddenly the ground disappeared from underneath my feet, and I fell
headlong down the banks of a deep, hollow road. Wallace was saved
by being last. Up the other side and across more fields we came to
another road. Here we almost ran into a man, whom our sudden appearance
frightened out of his wits, to judge by the way he hurried off toward
the town.

“Now, then, Haltern bears almost southwest now. Back we go to the
cross-roads. Southeast will take us there in a straight line. Come
along.”

On the way back I noticed for the first time a change in my companion.
His steps, all of a sudden, seemed to have lost their elasticity, while
I grew stronger and more contented every minute.

“What’s the matter with you?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“Of course there is. I know it from the way you walk!”

“I don’t feel extra well. Something wrong with my stomach. It’ll pass
soon, I expect.”

That was bad news. We came to a lonely wooden hut, like a very small
barn. I stopped. “Tell me frankly if you think you can’t go on. In
that case we’ll break in here. We’ll have a certain amount of shelter
inside. There is no danger. To-morrow will be Sunday and nobody is
likely to come near us. It is much better to stop in time, before you
have drawn too much upon your reserve strength. The situation is not
precarious enough for that. You’ll want that later on.”

“No,” he insisted; “I can go on.”

At last we turned into the road we were looking for. The rain had
changed to sleet. The road was slippery with ice. Progress would have
been slow under any circumstances, but it was slower on account of
Wallace’s failing strength. He was plucky, however, and he kept going.

The usual thirst began to trouble us. Fortunately we had filled our
water-bottles at the hotel in Hanover. To husband our supply on
Wallace’s behalf, I contented myself with sucking the ice which I
peeled in lumps from my hat brim.

In due course we came to the first clearing. The outlines of a barn
on the right, and a house on the left, seemed familiar. “Let’s rest a
bit,” I proposed to Wallace, for he seemed almost done. He propped
himself in a sitting posture against the wall of the barn, while I
scouted around.

There was a farmyard behind the structure. The barn itself consisted
of a loft, reared on strong uprights. Only half the space below was
enclosed by boards, and filled with compressed straw. The other half
was open, and contained a big farm wagon. Between its wheels and the
straw a number of clumsy ladders were tightly wedged. In the gable of
the loft an open door showed a black interior.

“There will be straw up there,” I said to Wallace. “The cattle were
given a fresh bed to-day, probably. Nobody will want to fetch straw on
a Sunday. We’ll be quite safe.” And I went through the same argument as
before.

Wallace was undecided for a moment, I believe. But, to tell the truth,
I had spoken rather too sharply to him a little time before. My only
excuse is that I was exceedingly worried. Rotten as he felt, he was
bound to be nettled. “No,” he said; “I will go on.”

It was obvious that he was suffering from an attack of something
akin to indigestion. I was unable, though, to make head or tail of
his attack. When I pressed him for information, he told me he had
swallowed some shaving-soap, mistaking it in the dark for chocolate. He
had hardly any pain, but our pace decreased gradually to a crawl as we
neared the crest of the spur of hills, where the path which I had used
on my first escape branched off. Not having a torch, I missed it, but
discovered my mistake about two hundred yards beyond. We had come out
of the forest. Plowed fields on our right had given me the first hint
of my error.

“We’ll have to turn back. I’ve missed the path,” I informed my friend.

“I can’t move any farther. I must lie down,” answered Wallace
indistinctly, swaying on his feet.

Too miserable to say anything, I led him back, and some way into the
timber got out his flimsy sleeping-bag, and put him inside. Then I felt
his pulse. It was going at the rate of about one hundred and thirty a
minute.

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“Done for, old man. But don’t you worry. You go on. No use spoiling
your chance. You leave me here. I’ll be all right.”

“I’m not going to leave you, except for a few minutes. I want to find
that path. I’ll be back in a quarter of an hour. You’ll be all right
that long, won’t you?”

I was still hoping for a miraculous recovery, although Wallace’s rapid
pulse had upset me sorely. My mind was tenaciously holding to the idea
of “carrying on,” and I wished to know how to get my companion on the
right road without wasting his precious strength.

It took me less than ten minutes to find the path. The groping about in
the darkness of the wood had taken my mind off the real issue. Now, on
my way back, I had to face the ugly situation we were in.

I had not enough medical knowledge to gage the insignificance of the
accelerated heart action, and thus almost feared the worst. If only he
could be sick! Perhaps he was going to die on my hands! If he lived
through the night, could I hope that his strength would return to him
on the morrow and allow us to proceed?

One thing was out of the question: I could not leave him alone, even if
he was out of danger and in shelter, for we were both fully persuaded
that, in the event of capture, we should be sent to a penal prison. But
what was to be done? Wallace could not lie out in the cold the rest of
the night and all the next day. The only shelter reasonably near was
the barn, which we had passed some time before. We should have to go
back to it. We had to reach it, even if I had to carry him.

The snow, which had come on again, was whispering in the trees when I
entered among them, groping in the thick darkness for his recumbent
form. It sifted straight down through the still air, while the wind
shrieked and roared overhead. He called feebly when I came close to him
in my blind search.

“Well, how goes it?” I inquired, with seeming cheerfulness.

“I think I’m better.” This through chattering teeth. “But I’m
aw-aw-awfully cold.”

“Get up. I’ll help you.”

“I-I-I don’t want to.”

“But you can’t stay here,” I protested. “You’d be frozen stiff before
morning. We’ve got to get back to that barn we passed.”

“A-a-aren’t you going to lie down, too? We might keep each other warm.”

“No, I’m not,” very emphatically. “Get up, d’you hear, get up!”

Partly by sheer force I got him out of the thing we had bought for a
sleeping-bag. Already the wet had penetrated in places. While Wallace
stood leaning against a tree, I groped round for our knapsacks.

Carrying the double burden, which privilege cost me another struggle
with Wallace, I led back over the ground which we had covered on our
way up, my friend lurching drunkenly by my side. Then he fell and lay
in a faint, but recovered quickly. After I had got him on his feet
again, I kept his arm, supporting him as much as I could. Every few
hundred steps or so he half collapsed, his knees doubling under him.
When this happened I let him slide to the ground, thus to get some rest.

I do not know how often this had occurred when I noticed something
wrong about the road. The clearing on the left, with stumps standing
black against white snow patches--surely I could not have twice missed
noticing it! The ground, too, fell rather sharply. “Traveling toward
the Wesel road!” I thought. “I remember no villages there, if I
recollect the map.”

Wallace had been sitting on the ground all this time. I helped him to
his feet and urged him on: “We’ve got to be traveling! Up hill now!
Awfully sorry, old chap, but I missed the road.”

Three rests, and the old track was under our feet. Three more, and we
were drawing near to the little settlement.

“It’ll not be very long now, old man; cheer up!” I said encouragingly.

“Mus’ get into warmth. Knock first house come to. Can’t stick it,”
Wallace muttered in reply.

“Try to make that barn, won’t you? It’s close by.”

We came abreast of a house with a light in the passage, which showed
dimly through some panes of glass above the front door. The time must
have been about 2:30 A.M.

Wallace stopped and peered at it. “Is that a house?”

“Yes.”

“Knock!” and with a contented sigh he slid to the ground.

I was not prepared to give up so soon. That is what his command meant,
as it appeared to me. My pal moved and struggled into a sitting
position.

“Knock!” he repeated.

I knocked. No answer. I knocked again, but less determined. The same
result. The third time my knuckles met the wood with a nice regard for
the sleepers inside. I did not intend them to hear me; it was only for
Wallace’s satisfaction that I went through this performance.

“They don’t hear,” I announced, having gone back to my companion. “Come
on, make another effort. Let’s get to the barn. It’s only a few more
steps,” I urged.

“Did you knock?” he asked suspiciously.

“Yes, three times!” I replied, with veracious if somewhat misleading
detail, and I dragged him up and on.

At last we reached it. Wallace was soon resting in the same place as
he did hours before, while I went to get a ladder. Three of them were
wedged in on one side between a wheel of the wagon and a support of the
barn, and by the compressed straw on the other. I tore, and heaved, and
struggled with berserk rage until I got one out, the sweat pouring from
underneath my hat brim. It was an enormously clumsy affair, and trying
to rear it against the barn and into the door opening off the loft, I
failed again and again by an inch or two. After a brief rest I went at
it again. The last inch seemed unattainable. Another effort! Suddenly
it leaped right up and into position. Turning in surprise, I saw my
friend standing behind me. His little strength had been added to mine
just at the right moment.

“I’ll go up first and have a look!” I told him. The rear of the loft
was four feet deep in clean-smelling straw. Thank God for that! We
should be warm!

“Up you go!” I was on the ground again to help Wallace up the ladder.
He managed to ascend it, and then pitched forward. I let him lie and
fetched our knapsacks. The ladder I left in position for the time
being. If a few hours’ rest would improve my friend to such an extent
that it became feasible to “carry on” during the following night, I
intended to drag it up after us, and hide it at the rear of the barn,
where I proposed to conceal ourselves. It would not be missed on a
Sunday.

A hearty heave and shove sent Wallace sprawling on the straw. Soon I
had a hollow dug for him, into which he crawled, and I covered him as
best I could. Then I flung myself down by his side, too fagged to care
for overcoat or covering.

Fighting against the drowsiness which immediately stole over me, I
must have fallen asleep for a short spell, for I felt suddenly very
cold. Too tired to move immediately, I lay shivering, listening to the
dying wind and the faint beating of snow against the thin walls and
the roof of our shelter. When the cold became intolerable, I crawled
with stiff joints into the corner where I had flung our knapsacks, got
my overcoat out, and put it on. The exercise cleared my dulled brain,
and I perceived that I had better look after Wallace. His teeth were
chattering when I bent over him. As well as I could, I got him warmer
after a time. I now kept wide awake, trying to piece together what was
left of our hopes.

I did not anticipate hearing any one stirring in the few houses around
until late daylight, and dully wondered at the sound of voices which
penetrated to our hiding-place, hours before some chinks in the roof
showed faintly gray. We could not see the door from where we rested.

With an effort I turned to Wallace. “Are you awake?”

“Yes.”

“Do you feel you’ve got to get into warmth?”

“Yes.”

“That means going to a farm and meeting people!”

“Yes.”

Poor Wallace! His voice sounded so flat and tired! I have often
wondered since whether I ought not to have made another effort to keep
him where he was, and to proceed with him the next night. He might
have stood it. I don’t think he quite realized what it meant getting
into shelter. I believed at the time that he did. However, I acted
according to my lights, without another word.

Sliding from the straw I approached the door, to stop in wonder for a
moment before going down the ladder. Long icicles had grown from the
upper edge of the opening almost to the floor of the loft in the few
hours we had been inside, and between them the cold light of a winter
morning, strongly reflected by a white, unbroken surface, met my eyes.
It was eight o’clock by my watch. The icicles snapped with a glassy
sound and fell noiselessly outside when I broke through their curtain.

Beyond it the world was white,--the ground, as far as I could see it;
the air, thick with dancing flakes; and the sky. What mattered it now
whether we stayed in the loft or sought the shelter of a farm?



CHAPTER XVIII

THE GAME IS UP


The farmhouse door was opened by a girl of about sixteen, who turned
back into the kitchen to call her mother, a woman whom incessant toil
seemed to have aged beyond her years.

“May I speak to your husband?” I asked politely.

“He’s not at home.”

“Do you expect him soon?”

“No; he’s away,”--hesitating--“at Haltern.”

“Well, it’s this way. I am with a friend. We came from Bremen
yesterday, and we’re on our way to Cologne for a holiday. We’ve
relatives living at Klein Recken, and thought of spending a few days
with them. We tried to walk there last night from Haltern, but in the
awful weather we lost the road. My friend fell ill, too. Fortunately,
we found your barn, and slept in the straw. We’ll pay, of course, for
what damage we did. But the question is this: Can you put us up for a
day or two, until my friend gets really better? We’ll pay you well, if
you would.”

“You can’t stay here that long, but you may come into the kitchen and
warm yourself. You may stay until twelve o’clock.”

I reflected. A few hours’ grace! We had better take it and see how
things turned out.

“All right,” I said. “I’ll fetch my friend and our knapsacks.”

With the assistance of the son of the house, a strong lad about fifteen
years of age, I got Wallace into the kitchen. We were given seats in
front of the roaring kitchener. My friend seemed much better.

Our arrival was obviously an extraordinary event, as well it might
be; but if the people did conjecture at all, they showed it only in a
suppressed kind of excitement. There was no atmosphere of suspicion,
and the few curious questions the woman asked us were easily parried.

There were three girls and the boy in the family, all approaching
maturity. While the woman bustled about preparing a breakfast for us,
two of the girls and the boy made ready to go out. I did not like that,
and tried to find out where they were going.

“You’re going to church, I suppose?” This to the eldest girl.

“Yes,” shyly.

“Have you got one near by?”

“No. We go to Haltern to church. My sister will be back soon from the
first service.” So there was a fourth girl!

“Did she go to Haltern, too?”

“Yes.”

“It seems a long way to walk on a day like this.”

Silence.

“You do get up early, even on Sundays, don’t you? I thought I heard you
about very early, this morning.”

“We get up at five o’clock,” broke in the old woman.

“You don’t say so. I always thought there was little farm work to be
done in winter. You don’t seem to take advantage of your slack time.”

“There’s lots to do.” And she ran through a list of duties.

“Do you feel the war as much as we do in town? How are you off for
food?”

“We manage all right.”

“Well, we don’t. We’re chemists in an ammunition factory, and we’re
worked to death and don’t get much to eat. There’s nothing one can buy.
We applied for a holiday, being tired of the everlasting long hours,
and got three weeks. A bit too late for Muller, here. He oughtn’t to
have come, feeling as he did.”

The coffee was brewed, and bread, butter, and a plate of cut sausage
were on the table. Both of us went at it cheerfully. In the middle of
the meal the fourth girl, the eldest, came in, and the boy and his two
sisters left. This was about half-past nine.

When I had an opportunity, I whispered to Wallace: “We’ve got to get
away from here soon after eleven. Play up.” Then I addressed him aloud:
“What do you think we’d better do?”

“I hardly know. I feel pretty rotten still.”

Turning to the woman, I asked: “It’s about two and a half hours to
Klein Recken, isn’t it?”

“About that.”

“Do you think you can manage that, Muller?” I looked seriously at
Wallace, who understood and answered, equally serious:

“No; I’m afraid it would be too much for me.”

“Well, then, we had better go back to Haltern and on to Cologne from
there. Let me see what train we can catch.” Luckily we had kept our
time-table. It came in handy now.

“There’s a train at eleven-fifty-four to Cologne. We might catch that,
don’t you think?”

“Anything you like, Erhardt.”

“Right-o.” To the woman: “How long do you reckon to the station in
Haltern from here?”

“You can do it in a little over three quarters of an hour.”

“That’s what I make it. We’ll leave here at eleven.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A dollar and a quarter seemed to satisfy the old woman. Indeed, she
obviously had not expected so much, but she quickly hid the money in
her purse. Then we took our leave.

The weather had cleared somewhat. It was freezing slightly. The clouds
were thinning here and there, and an occasional ray of sunshine drifted
over the landscape. It was a regular Christmas picture. Two or three
inches of snow covered the ground, reflecting strongly the dispersed
light from the sky. Black and sharply defined, the woods were outlined
against it or the unblemished white of the fields, where they stretched
up the hillsides behind them. Each branch had a ridge of snow on its
upper surface, and looked as if it had been drawn with India ink and a
sharp-pointed pen on glazed paper. The boughs of the dark-green pines
were bending under masses of downy white, lumps of which slid to the
ground as we passed. Then the boughs, relieved from part of their load,
swayed upward.

“You see why I wanted to be off,” I explained to Wallace as soon as
we were out of earshot, glad to drop back into English, since nobody
was about. “Our unexpected appearance at the farm was sufficiently
extraordinary to make the girls serve it up hot and strong to their
friends in Haltern. It’ll fly round the town like bazaar talk, and we’d
have had the police coming for us in a couple of shakes. But what now?”

We talked it over. Again Wallace asked me to leave him, but my stern
answer silenced his arguments. Again it was he who urged “carrying on,”
although he admitted that to walk any distance was out of the question
for him. He submitted a plan which did not strike me as particularly
hopeful, but it was the best we could do under the circumstances.

We were to go back to a certain town in Germany, get help there, and
rest in security until Wallace’s condition and the weather had improved
sufficiently to make another attempt feasible.

Our exchequer was at low water, and I had my doubts whether we could
reach the town. But we might try.

Sundry groups of people were coming from Haltern; some of them stared
rather hard at us. Wallace was improving, and enjoyed the walk, but he
seemed very weak, and his feet hurt him so that he limped painfully
along.

The weather changed again for the worse, and as we approached the
station it began to snow. I took tickets to a junction not far off.
During the twenty minutes until the train was due we intended to wait
on the platform.

“Why don’t you wait in the waiting-room? It’s beastly on the platform,”
said the ticket-collector.

“Might as well,” I said indifferently, and turned back.

We took our seats and ordered coffee. At the counter opposite us stood
a young lieutenant in the long green, peace frock-coat of a rifleman.
We saw the ticket-collector come in and address him, whereupon the
lieutenant walked straight up to us.

“Where do you come from?”

“We walked in from Klein Recken this morning,” I answered.

“Show me your papers!”

I smiled and addressed Wallace in English: “Game’s up, old man!” He
nodded glumly. The lieutenant stared. Then I explained.

The officer did not seem very much surprised, and the miraculous way in
which an armed soldier appeared at his elbow showed that he had been
expecting a dénouement.

“I’ll have to send you to the guard-room at present,” he said. “Don’t
try any tricks. My men are hellishly sharp.” I reflected a moment.
Escape was out of the question for the present. Wallace’s condition,
the tracks we should leave in the snow, etc., would make an attempt
absurd.

“I don’t know whether you will accept our word that we sha’n’t run away
while in your charge. We’ll give it, if you like. That’s right, Wace,
isn’t it?” I turned to my friend with the last words. Wallace nodded.

The lieutenant had been in the act of turning away, but wheeled sharply
when I had spoken. Looking us over carefully, he said: “Right, I will.
Are you hungry?”

“We could do with something to eat,” Wallace spoke up for the first
time. The officer turned to his soldier:

“You will take these men to the guard-room. Leave your rifle here. They
are to have double rations of whatever you get.”

“Besten Dank, Herr Leutnant!” we acknowledged.

With a salute we turned and followed the soldier across the railway
lines to the guard-room. It was in a wooden hut, and similar to all
other guard-rooms. We had a wash and made ourselves as presentable as
possible. Wallace shaved. I was still wearing a beard.

About five o’clock the lieutenant came over to search us. Warning us to
give up everything of importance, he merely asked us to hand him what
we had in our pockets, and glanced through our knapsacks.

At six o’clock we were taken to his office in the station building,
escorted by two armed soldiers.

“You gave me your word that you were not going to make another
attempt!” the lieutenant reminded us.

“Yes, sir, as long as we are in your charge, or that of your men.”

“Good. I shall have to send you to prison now. I can’t keep you in the
guard-room. Don’t let the warder search you. I’ve done that. You are
military prisoners, not under civil authority. If you prefer it, try to
make him give you a cell where you can be together. Tell him I said you
were to have one. You’ll be here for a few days before an escort can be
got for you. Good-by.”

He called our escort in while we stood outside, nobody, seemingly,
heeding us in the least. When he had finished with the two soldiers,
we marched off. They were particularly nice chaps from the Rhine,
not proper Prussians, and largely influenced by socialistic ideas.
They twitted us good-humoredly about having been caught. Laughing and
joking, we arrived at our destination.

       *       *       *       *       *

The old prison building in a narrow side street near the market-place
looked particularly uninviting. After much ringing of the bell and, at
last, thumping with the butt end of a rifle, the door opened, and we
were confronted by a large, flabby-looking man in uniform, with the
placid, unlined face of a person whose life had flowed past him like
a pleasant, quiet stream. He was something between a policeman and a
warder, as it appeared. At the moment he was smoking a long pipe with a
porcelain bowl.

Our arrival agitated him as much as his natural phlegm and his military
training would permit. For a time he seemed undecided what to do,
and repeated over and over again every one of his sentences. This was
a trick of his, which amused us considerably during the days we were
under his care, but made conversation slow and unprofitable. As he
collected his wits, he became more official.

“So, two Englishmen, are they? They are two Englishman, they are.
You’ve brought two Englishmen. Well, well, well! Where are their
papers? Have you got their papers? You must give me their papers. They
are not quite in order; no, no; they are not in order; no, they are not
in order.”

The soldiers explained patiently that they were.

“Well, well, well! Do they speak German? They speak German, I hope.” To
us: “Do you speak German?

“Well, well, I must search you, my men. I must search you, I must; I
must search you.”

“Hold on,” said one of our escort, “the lieutenant says they are not
to be searched. The lieutenant saw to that. And you’ve got to do the
best you can for them, and you are to put them in a cell together.
Orders from the lieutenant!”

“Well, I must search them,” repeated the warder helplessly. “I must
search them, you know; prison rules, you know. I must search them for
concealed weapons!”

“Nothing of the sort. They were searched, and we’ve got orders to see
that you don’t bother them again.”

“Have you any knives, pistols, revolvers, or other weapons on you?”
Stubbornly the warder had turned to us. The habit of years is not so
easily discarded.

“Oh, let’s give him our pocket-knives, Wace, and get it over,” I said,
half laughing, half annoyed.

“Come into this room; come in here; come into this room. Now I’ll enter
the articles in this book; yes, I’ll enter them in this book.” He began
to write, speaking the words aloud: “No. 000000, one ivory-handled
pocketknife. No. 000001, one horn-handled pocketknife.… Now, I’ll give
them back to you when you leave, you see; I’ll give them back to you
when you leave; yes, I’ll give them back to you.”

“Yes, but we want to get back ourselves,” said one of the soldiers.
“Hurry up and show us their cell. We are to have a look at it, the
lieutenant said.”

“All right, all right, all right! I’ve got a single cell will do for
the two of them; a single cell for the two; yes, for the two.”

At last we were in the cell, which was of course as dark as the nether
regions, having taken quite an affectionate farewell of our escort.



PART III



CHAPTER XIX

FOOTING THE BILL


The lieutenant at the station, by his orders to us and the soldiers,
had given us the cue for our behavior. Obviously, we must try to
impress the warder with our standing as “military prisoners,” in order
to be as comfortable as circumstances permitted.

We proceeded to do this with great ingenuousness. Long arguments and
counter-arguments secured us the use of an oil lamp until eight o’clock
at night. We went in force to obtain a second blanket, the warder
leading the procession.

Our cell was very small, and very dirty. What little space there ought
to have been was taken up by stacks of old bicycle tires, which had
been confiscated six months before by the Government to relieve the
rubber famine in the army.

During the three days we spent in Haltern prison we had no exercise
at all. When the weather changed on the second day, and became mild
again, just about the time when we should have been close to the
frontier if everything had gone well, we sulked with fate more than
ever.

The reported arrival of our escort on the evening of the third day
excited the warder to such an extent that he wanted us to get up at
half-past five the next morning in order to catch a train about eight
o’clock. We demurred, of course, and got our way, as usual. Ever
since our arrest we had devoted a good deal of time to weighing the
probability of being sent to a certain penal prison in Berlin.

“Where are you going to take us?” Wallace and I blurted out
simultaneously at two shadowy soldiers in the dark passage of the
prison the following morning.

“To where you came from, the Stadtvogtei in Berlin,” one of them
replied. To say we felt relieved is putting it mildly.

“We’d better not take it for granted that we are going to stay there,
though!” I said, as we tramped through the melting slush to the station.

Several hours later, after a change of trains, Wallace and I had
been put temporarily into a compartment with other travelers, until
it could be cleared for the exclusive use of ourselves and escort.
Slipping into the only two empty seats, we found the burning interest
of our fellow-travelers centered upon a man in the naval uniform of
the Zeppelin service, who was holding forth about his adventures over
England. With extraordinary frankness he was recounting the names of
a number of air-ship stations, and the number of Zeppelins usually
detailed from each for attacks on Great Britain, and predicting another
raid seven days later.

“You give them h---- every time you fly across, don’t you?” asked a
civilian, leaning far forward in his seat.

“Can’t say that there is much to boast about of late,” was the
unexpected reply. “They’ve plenty of guns, and can shoot quite as well
as we. There won’t be many more raids after the one coming off next
week.”

As we saw in the German newspapers eight days later the raid took place
as predicted, and it was the last air-ship raid for a very long time.

       *       *       *       *       *

To be in the company of a friend, and to have some money in my
pocket, made all the difference between this and my first return from
the neighborhood of the Dutch frontier eight months before. We did
ourselves quite well on the journey, trying to discount in this way
the punishment awaiting us.

At ten o’clock that evening we were welcomed to the Stadtvogtei by
several of our old N. C. O.’s with roars of laughter, and conducted to
two adjoining criminal cells in “Block 14,” a long way from our friends.

Before my eyes had become quite accustomed to the darkness, my cell
door opened again, and our sergeant-major beckoned me to follow him.

“Take your things with you!” he said, and led the way to another cell,
farther along the corridor, to separate me from Wallace.

“Come out here! I want to talk to you!” he ordered, when I had dumped
down my luggage. “Who had the key?” he shot at me when I stood opposite
him in the corridor.

We had expected this, and before our escape had rehearsed our answers
to such questions in case one or more of us should be caught.

“Key? What key?” I asked.

“The key to the front door, of course!”

“I don’t know anything about a key.”

“How did you get out, then? How did you open the door?”

“We didn’t open the door. We found it open. It seemed too good an
opportunity, so we slipped out as we were. We weren’t prepared at all!
But you ought to know all this as well as I do. Haven’t you got your
report from Haltern yet?”

His manner changed. He became quite paternal. He wasn’t a bad chap.
Anyway, he knew he couldn’t screw anything out of us by turning rough.
“Now, come! Don’t try to hoodwink me. We know well enough it was S. who
had the key.”

“Well, if you know, why do you ask me?”

“Come on, tell me. It won’t be to your disadvantage! quite the reverse.
Just say it was S.”

But of course I did nothing of the sort, and he gave it up.

“We’ll give you a hard time of it, this journey,” he threatened, rather
mournfully. “Nothing but the prison food for you, no light of an
evening.

“I thought you had shaved off your beard,” he remarked, before turning
away. “I notified the police accordingly within the hour of your
escape. We had all the stations watched. However did you slip out of
Berlin?”

“Oh, rather casually,” I grinned. “Goodnight, Major!”

I felt by no means sprightly and unconcerned just then. I do not like
solitary confinement. The stretch in front of me bade fair to exceed
in discomfort the first one I had had. Still, we were lucky to be in
the Stadtvogtei, near our friends, where, apparently, we were going to
stay. With this consolatory reflection I rolled myself into my blankets
without undressing. The next day we were going to be de-loused.

       *       *       *       *       *

S. was arrested in Berlin on the morning following our arrival in
prison, and lodged in a cell next to Wallace’s before we went into the
yard for our exercise that afternoon. If I am not mistaken, a telephone
conversation, during which he had made an appointment with a “friend,”
had been listened to. Instead of a friend, a detective met S.

He got the same punishment as we did. At the time of his escape a
criminal action had been pending against him. A month after our
solitary confinement had come to an end, he was taken to the court
one morning by a policeman. A few hours later the policeman turned up
alone, considerably the worse for drink, and shedding bitter tears. His
charge had decamped through the rear window of a café where he had been
treating his escort. We never saw him again. He was still at liberty in
June, 1917, and apparently in Holland.

G. was never captured. For several months rumors reached us that he
had been seen here or there in Germany. I have not heard that he has
arrived in England.

The German with the English name went to see his mother one day, two
months after his disappearance from prison. The police were watching
her flat in Berlin, hoping for just that event. Their prey got a term
of solitary confinement in our prison, and was then drafted back into
the army.

The sixth man, the German stockbroker, followed S. by a few days only.
He was kept in prison for a week, and then definitely set at liberty.

On the evening of our second day in cells, we were warned not to go to
bed, as our examination was to take place at nine o’clock. A quarter
before the hour, S., Wallace, and I were taken down to the ground floor
and thoughtfully locked into one cell, so that we were able to make the
final arrangements for a consistent and uncontradictory account. This
we did after a thorough inspection of the place which convinced us that
no trap had been laid for us, and that we could talk freely until we
should hear the key in the lock.

The following morning we were told of the comment of Herr
Kriegsgerichtsrat Wolf of the Kommandantur, who conducted the
examination, upon our respective stories: “Those Englishmen have told
me a pack of lies!”

       *       *       *       *       *

The threat of the sergeant-major had not been an empty one. We were
forbidden to have any food apart from the prison rations. Every third
day for four weeks these consisted only of bread and water, so far as
we were concerned. The parcels arriving for us in the meantime--there
were many of them, for Christmas was approaching--were handed to our
friends for safekeeping. We were debarred from the use of artificial
light in our cells. It being within a month from the shortest day in
the year, this was rather “off.” The dawn did not peep through the
small windows before nine o’clock, and when we returned from the yard
in the afternoon, it was again too dark to read. I think it took the
authorities ten days to relent on the question of light. We then got
the use of an oil lamp up to eight o’clock every night.

I feel quite sure that we had to thank the lieutenant for the extra
punishment of criminal cells, prison food, and no light. He must have
been badly rattled about our escaping, and his superiors may have been
ungentle with him when he reported it. Naturally, he took it out on
us, though to our faces he was quite polite.

The question of food was solved to our complete satisfaction within
three days. Our friends knew, of course, that we were going for our
exercise every afternoon at three o’clock. From the very beginning they
were able to pass us sandwiches and small cans of food.

Not without a little difficulty the N.C.O. in charge of our corridor
had been persuaded that “they are allowed to have their newspapers,
of course.” His referring the question to higher authority had been
discouraged. Why bother busy men with trifles? The newspaper man was
one of us. He brought the papers round every morning, when the cell
doors were opened for cleaning purposes, and also every afternoon.
Frequently he did not exchange a word with us but simply pushed the
papers into the blankets of our beds. After he had gone, sandwiches and
a beer bottle full of hot tea seemed to have been hatched miraculously
among our bed-clothes.

The last and crowning achievement was the ventilator dodge. The
ventilator was a square hole in the wall above the door, inclined
toward the cell. Just after our dinner time, when the N.C.O. on duty
was likely to be otherwise employed, stealthy footsteps might have
been heard passing rapidly along the balcony. Very frequently they were
inaudible even to our strained ears. The scraping of tin against stone
was a signal for us to hurl ourselves toward the door, to catch the
Lyle’s syrup can, filled with hot meat and vegetables, or soup, which
was sliding through the ventilator.

None of the N.C.O.’s knew about this. They marveled at our physical
endurance, which permitted us to retain a flourishing appearance in
the face of starvation. Sagely they counseled the taking of medicine,
or soap for instance, to make us look weak and pale just before our
“solitary” was to terminate. “It’ll never do to be seen with bulging
cheeks and bursting seams by anybody in command.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The chance of seeing old friends, if only for a few seconds every
day, the knowledge that I should have their companionship again as
soon as our punishment was over, and the fact that I was in familiar
surroundings, lessened the depressing effect of my solitary confinement
this second time. Wallace, too, kept in fairly good spirits.
Nevertheless, I came to the conclusion that the game was not worth the
candle. I told Wallace of my decision as soon as I could. When we were
again in front of the gate I qualified it: “Never again, Wace, never
again--except during the mild seasons, and when the chances are as good
as I can make ’em.”

On Christmas Eve, the thirty-fourth day of our punishment, we were
liberated, but we had to sleep in the criminal cells for some time
afterward.

In time, however, Wallace got the single cell he coveted, and I,
after three weeks, again joined my old friends in the big cell. For a
fortnight dear old K. was the fourth man. Then he was sent to Ruhleben.
Wallace was the fifth member of the mess, a sort of day-boarder.

A week after K. had left us, most of the Englishmen got into trouble.
As a punitive measure we were ejected from the large common cells, and
C., L., Wallace, and I were lodged as far apart as possible. C. and I
were warned to be ready to go to a penitentiary. W. received “solitary”
for an indefinite time. Another fortnight, and all our intimate friends
were sent back to Ruhleben. Only those members of the English colony
who preferred prison to the camp, and four escapers, who had made two
attempts, remained in the Stadtvogtei--ten in all. But for Dr. Béland
and one other prisoner, Wallace and I were almost confined to each
other’s society.

       *       *       *       *       *

We had a fairly miserable time of it. The loss of most of our
companions had unsettled us. To crown our misery, we were officially
informed that we could not hope ever to be returned to camp, or even a
camp, as we were considered dangerous to the German Empire.

The announcement ought to have made us feel rather proud. As we knew it
to be only one of their specious arguments, it did nothing of the sort.
Very soon I left it entirely out of my calculations. Wallace did not,
however, but continued to attach importance to it. I must say this, in
order to explain my later attitude toward another attempt to escape
from prison. In the course of months I grew more and more convinced
that we should go back to camp one day. Then would come our chance! I
cannot explain my conviction. It was a “hunch.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Our belief, however, that we should have to wait did not serve as an
excuse for inaction. Wallace and I pushed our preparations for the next
escape as fast as possible, which was incredibly slow.

Our mainstay was an N.C.O. employed in the office. He was a
queer individual, one of the plausible sort. His favorite saying
characterized him sufficiently: “_Eine Hand waescht die andere_ [one
hand must wash the other].” His saving grace was the entirely frank
attitude as to his outlook upon life and its obligations--lack of
obligations, in his case. Through him we were able to take one great
step forward--to procure maps. In the first part of this volume I have
mentioned that the sale of maps to persons without a permit from the
General Staff was forbidden in Prussia. According to the statement
of our friend he got us the maps we wanted from a “relative” of his,
who happened to be a bookseller. “He had these maps in stock and had
forgotten to register them.” One or two of them were indeed slightly
shop-soiled. They were good maps, covering a part of Germany from
Berlin, and including it to the Dutch frontier. Their price--well, it
made my eyes water. They were worth it, though. For a prisoner of war
the collection must have been unique. We each had a compass.

Chiefly on my advocacy we postponed the start again and again. The
chances of getting away from prison were, to my mind, infinitesimally
small. One attempt by another party early in May was cleverly nipped
in the bud. Our last attempt had not encouraged me to trust to luck,
but I clung to my belief in a return to Ruhleben, which appeared as
unlikely as ever, on the face of things. Once, however, we were ready
to go, but almost at the last minute the help we had reckoned upon was
not forthcoming.

Among the men who had tried their luck in May, 1917, were two who,
very pluckily, had started to walk the whole distance between Ruhleben
and the Dutch border. Unsuitable maps, in the first place, had been
their undoing. They both spoke German--one like a native, the other
not so well. They do not wish to be known, so, for the purpose of this
narrative I will call them Kent and Tynsdale.

    Tynsdale is a friend of mine. His pal Kent and he are good men.
    Do your best for them.--X.

This, penciled on a slip of paper and addressed to Wallace and me, was
given to us by Tynsdale soon after his arrival. The brief phrase did
not overstate their merits.

Tynsdale was small, wiry, and, at times, very reticent; Kent, tall,
bulky, and--not reticent. In due course we came to live in a large
cell together. They were as eager as were Wallace and I for a new
venture, but they were quite determined not to break prison. The
information they gave us about Ruhleben from the escaper’s point of
view strengthened my prejudices against this course.

“Let’s wait a little longer. The weather will be favorable until
October. If our hopes should prove vain, we can always make a
desperate sortie. Before it comes to that, something may happen.”
This was the final conclusion we arrived at.

Something did happen--several things, in fact.

The first was an unexpected visit from a representative of the Dutch
Legation in Berlin. It found us well prepared with an impressive
protest against being kept in prison any longer. The same evening I
confirmed the interview in two identical and rather lengthy letters,
to which almost all of us, including the five men then in “solitary,”
subscribed their signatures.

One of these letters was delivered to the Dutch Minister by hand
twenty-four hours after it had left the Stadtvogtei in the pocket of
a person entirely unconnected with the postal service, military or
otherwise. Consequently the German censor had no chance of perusing
it. The other passed through the ordinary channels until it was,
presumably, decently buried in the censor’s waste-basket.

A little later, German newspapers mentioned the fact that negotiations
about the treatment of prisoners of war had taken place at The
Hague, and that an agreement had been come to which was now awaiting
ratification by the governments of Great Britain and Germany.

It so happened that at this time we had unusual facilities for the
secret purchase of English newspapers. In a copy of the “Daily
Telegraph” we read that the agreement had been ratified. Another week
passed and a copy of the same paper contained paragraphs concerning
civilian prisoners of war. The report of a speech in the House of Lords
by Lord Newton, I believe, either in the same paper or in some other
bought at the same time, helped us to interpret these paragraphs so far
as they seemed to refer to cases like ours. At any rate, it gave us a
talking-point in favor of an interpretation as we should have liked
it, and announced further that the agreement had become operative in
England on August 1, 1917, already a few days past.

A memorial in the shape of two letters addressed to the Dutch Minister
in Berlin was the immediate result of reading these articles. The
letters went the same way as the former ones, and drew a good deal of
good-natured chaff upon my head about “writing-sickness,” “Secretary
for Foreign Affairs,” and charges to be made for every signature I came
to collect in future.

Tynsdale and Kent had not been away from camp more than three months.
They knew all the ins and outs of it, including a good deal of
information not usually shouted from the house-tops. Wallace and I,
after an absence of thirty and seventeen months respectively, were
comparative strangers to Ruhleben.

“Will you two come with Wallace and me?” I asked our new friends
one day. “I should like to have your help in getting out of camp,”
I explained. “Later on I can probably be as useful to you.” And I
referred to my record as an escaper, to my equipment, and to my _maps_.
They assented. They knew from previous discussions that I was not
entirely in sympathy with their proposed route; or, rather, I had
explained to them what I thought to be the advantages of a route I had
in mind, which were confirmed by their own information.

As it appeared desirable that each member of the proposed expedition
should be fully equipped as far as essentials were concerned, we
set to work feverishly making tracings of parts of our maps. We had
to finish this work while still in prison, because it would not be
possible to secure sufficient privacy in Ruhleben for this kind of
thing. Fortunately I had anticipated something like this months before,
and possessed some colored inks and drawing-pens. Tracing-paper I
manufactured from thin, strong white paper, which I treated with
olive-oil and benzene. We finished three copies before we left prison,
the original making the fourth.

On the 23rd of August, 1917, a strong guard of policemen escorted a
highly elated batch of British civilian prisoners through a part of
Berlin, then by rail to Spandau, and again, _per pedes apostolorum_, to
Ruhleben camp. We were nineteen in all.

Four Britishers stayed behind voluntarily; five more were in
“solitary,” having recently tried to escape and failed. Among the
latter was our old friend L.



CHAPTER XX

RUHLEBEN AGAIN


We arrived in Ruhleben shortly before noon, and were kept waiting for a
long time just inside the gates, for the good of our souls. But then,
the under dogs are always kept waiting somewhere for the good of their
souls. So that was all right.

When our names had been called a number of times, and some supposedly
witty remarks had been made by a sergeant, whose reputation in camp was
no better than it should be, we were marched off to our barracks (No.
14), a wooden one, and the last one toward the eastern end of the camp,
next to the “Tea House.”

Part of it was divided off by a solid partition and enclosed by a
separate wire fence. This was the punishment place of the camp, called
“the Bird Cage.”

The other and larger part was empty; had, in fact, been cleared
that morning for our reception, much to the disgust of the former
inhabitants, who had been very comfortable in their home-made cubicles
and corners. Now the place was absolutely bare, except for the litter
of broken shelves and partitions on the floor.

We were still contemplating it doubtfully when we received our orders:
“Beds will arrive presently. They are to be placed in two rows in the
center of the barracks. Nothing shall be hung on the walls, or the
beams and supports. No partitions or corners will be allowed. The
barracks is to be kept bare, so that the inmates can be seen at any
hour of the night. The electric light is to be kept burning all night
and must not be obscured in any way.” Thus ran the gist of them.

We were pretty wroth. “Call that a return to the privileges and
liberties of an ordinary prisoner of war?” rang our complaint.

At night our indignation broke forth again. We had to be in bed by 10
P.M. At 10:45 a patrol of three privates and an N.C.O. came to count
us, tramping noisily round and round in their ammunition boots, over
the bare wooden floor. Not much to complain about in that. But they
repeated it six times during the night, and that was distinctly “off.”
For many of us, sleep, even during the intervals, was difficult on
account of the glaring brightness of the electric light.

Our barracks captain protested strongly the captain of the camp. So did
virtually every member of the barracks privately, and gradually this
nuisance abated. The six times we were disturbed dwindled down to four,
then to three; and sometimes we were inspected only twice, when the
patrol considerately kept outside and counted us through the windows.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our reception in Ruhleben was rather flattering. I do not know how many
new acquaintances I made during the first fortnight; several hundred,
I should think. Now and again, inevitably, I met a man who immediately
told me what he would have done “if I had been in your shoes and got as
far as you. They would never have brought _me_ back alive!”

I had only to look at my barracks companions to see that we bore the
prison stamp, and the remarks of my friends did not give me a chance
to forget my own appearance. Compared with the Ruhlebenites proper, we
looked more like animated corpses than living beings. Our faces were
ashen gray, even our lips had paled. The skin around our eyes remained
drawn and puckered, until the eyes had accustomed themselves again to
the strong light of the open sky.

Prison life had taken its toll of our vitality, particularly among the
long-timers. For a few hours the fresh air acted upon us like heady
wine, and during the following days it simply sapped our strength.

Kent and Tynsdale were in comparatively good condition. Wallace was
bad, but had an appetite, and recovered quickly. I was the worst of the
four. My physical condition did not make me a desirable companion for
an arduous venture, and since we found it impossible to “make a move”
at once, as we had intended, I deliberately set myself to repairing the
damage as quickly as I could. I took plenty of rest, and, avoiding any
but the gentlest exercise, grew gradually stronger. About the middle of
the second week I started some very mild training.

Yet I still remained nervous and distraught; more so than my
companions, who showed signs of the same trouble. It was, however,
merely the nervousness of inaction, for I was eager to start. The camp
was not even as desirable as we had pictured it. Barracks No. 14 was
far less comfortable in every respect than the barracks we had called
our own before we made our first attempt. Everything was dirty, and we
missed our accustomed privacy. The two daily roll-calls, which took
place on the playing-field at seven o’clock in the morning and again
twelve hours later, were an unmitigated nuisance.

What, then, could be more tempting than to woo Fortune again? If she
proved fickle, we would go back to the Stadtvogtei. Under the new
arrangement the punishment for a “simple escape” by a military prisoner
was to be a fortnight’s imprisonment. At first we interpreted the
paragraph as applying to civilian prisoners also. Now we had become
more doubtful about it. Our friends, who had been sent to prison
after the 1st of August, had more than doubly exceeded the stipulated
time before we left the camp. What more likely than that the Germans
would treat the agreement as another “scrap of paper” and send us to
comfortable winter quarters, if we were caught?

       *       *       *       *       *

We had intended to start within a few days of our arrival in camp. This
we found impossible, but for two reasons the delay was fortunate. It
permitted us to recruit our health and get accustomed to the open air,
and it brought us nearer to the time of the new moon in the middle of
September.

About a week after our arrival, Wallace decided not to come with us.
For months he had had a plan of his own, which recommended itself
neither to Tynsdale, Kent, nor me. He rather liked the idea of playing
a lone hand, and his strong desire to see a little more of his friends
in Ruhleben finally decided him. Tynsdale, Kent, and I “carried on.”

Our plans were simple enough, once we had got out of camp. First of
all we intended to make for Berlin. From the capital a railway journey
of about twenty hours (including a break of seven) was to take us to
a small town in the northwestern part of Germany, sixty kilometers
from the Dutch frontier as the crow flies. From there we intended to
walk, the distance by road being rather more than seventy miles. One
considerable river would have to be crossed, we did not quite know how,
but we were all fairly powerful swimmers.

Tynsdale’s knowledge of German was not good enough to make it possible
for him to travel on the railway without a companion to do the talking.
Kent, his particular chum, was more than willing to take the risk of
being Tynsdale’s courier, and proposed that he and his friend should
always travel in one compartment, while I traveled alone in another.
This arrangement was obviously unfair. Granted the wisdom of traveling
in two parties, Kent would be taking the greater risk all the time. We
finally agreed that Tynsdale was to be alternately in Kent’s and my
charge.

We had maps and compasses. I had a water-bottle and a knapsack, and
Kent obtained another knapsack in camp. A third and two water-bottles
would have to be bought en route.

Ordinary wearing apparel, dictated by the railway journey, we had;
also sufficient underclothes for cold weather, and two thick overcoats
between us. Two oilsilks of mine would protect my friends on rainy
days. I insisted on carrying a heavy naval oilskin, sufficiently
large to make a decent ground-cloth for the three of us. If possible,
we intended carrying food for ten days; cabin-biscuits, dripping,
compressed beef, chocolate, cocoa-and-milk powder, sugar, and raisins.

A friend of mine, whom I have mentioned several times in this
narrative, spoke to me one morning. “Take,” he began oracularly and
with a twinkle in his eye, “a pound of real Scotch oatmeal, a pound
of dripping, and a pound of sugar. Mix well. Roll out the dough
until it is about three quarters of an inch thick, and bake it in
a hot oven for four hours. The result will resemble shortbread. It
is immensely sustaining. That it will crumble easily into a coarse
powder need concern you only in so far as you will have to carry it
suitably wrapped. Handkerchiefs will do. At a pinch, a cake per day,
smaller than your hand, will keep you going indefinitely. And,” he
added readily, “if you’ll give me the material, I’ll do them for you.
But mind you chew ’em well when you eat ’em. It’ll take some time to
masticate them properly. You must do that, to get the full benefit of
the oatmeal.”

The square cakes, a little smaller than the palm of a man’s hand, which
he handed to us in a parcel a few days after, were rather heavy for
their size. We thought of carrying ten per man, reduced the biscuits to
two per day, and discarded meat and cocoa altogether.

To carry all this during the railway journey, we had a cheap German
portmanteau, which I had bought for this purpose in prison, and two
small leather hand-bags. As to money, I was fairly well supplied. My
companions got hold of smaller sums, and between us we had enough even
for an emergency.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the meantime we managed to be seen together as little as possible.
Escaping was in the air. Two attempts from other barracks failed during
the first fortnight. What was worse for us, three men from our barracks
took the bit in their teeth and went one night. They were in cells
again before dawn.

The camp authorities were wide awake and slowly strengthened the
guards. More police dogs were reported to be arriving almost daily.
(I doubt whether these reports were correct.) N.C.O.’s patrolled the
sentries incessantly, or concealed themselves and watched places for
hours where they thought fugitives would pass. As long as we knew
beforehand where these places were this did not matter much, but it
certainly increased my nervousness and impatience. I believe I was a
sore trial to my friends with my incessant, irrational pleading for
“something to be done.”

Kent and Tynsdale had made their first escape from camp by simply
bribing the sentry at the gate and one other, and walking out. We had
hoped to repeat this performance. Both these sentries were still in
camp on guard-duty. Immediately after our arrival we sounded them as
to their willingness to earn a few hundred marks easily. We did not
do this ourselves, but made use of the good offices of a friend of
Tynsdale’s, who had extensive dealings of a different nature with the
two German soldiers and who could bring a good deal of pressure to bear
on them. To appreciate the importance of the help he rendered us, it
must be remembered that no soldier was allowed to talk with a prisoner.
It would have been difficult for us to establish direct communication
with the two soldiers. Not only was the punishment barracks least
suited for anything like secret meetings, but its inmates were kept
under more continuous surveillance than the rest of the interned.

The two soldiers were quite willing to do business, but maintained
that the most they could do was to take an entirely passive part. The
old, easy way was out of the question. The camp authorities were too
suspicious of the existence of irregularities among the guards and of
the danger of fresh attempts now that the “gang” was back in camp. “If
we get certain posts, we won’t challenge during a specified time,” was
what the soldiers gave us to understand.

The situation became worse when one of these soldiers was suddenly
sent to the front. His manifold activities for the benefit of the
prisoners--payment being made with English food--had at last got him
into trouble. The other man, his associate in most of the deals, went
about expecting the same fate and became quite intractable for a few
days. As nothing happened to him, he gradually assumed his normal state
of mind.

We intended to leave camp at the western corner. This was farther
removed from the escapers’ barracks and nearest to Spandau. Our route
was to lead us through part of Spandau.

A box in Barracks No. 8 was our headquarters. There our equipment was
kept, and there we intended to dress.

The windows in the loft of Barracks No. 4 gave upon the enclosure of
the Visitors’ Barracks. They were about two feet square and covered
with wire netting which could easily be removed. As the loft of this
barracks was divided into a large number of small cubicles, only the
inhabitants of one cubicle needed to be taken into our confidence to
any extent. They undertook with alacrity to have everything ready at
a few hour’s notice, including the rope we should have to descend by.
Once in the enclosure of the Visitors’ Barracks we should have only one
wire fence to climb to get into the space between this and the outer
wooden fence. The wire fences consisted of strong chicken-wire with
barbed-wire strands along the top. They were about eight feet high. The
wooden fence extended only a little way. The rest had been destroyed by
a fire which had occurred in camp in June of that year. Along part of
the way we should be partially protected from the view of the sentries
by the wooden fence and the structures about us.

There was a sunken path which was well lighted by electricity, and well
guarded. The sentries walked on top of a bank and were able to see most
of the space between the wire and the wooden fence. Post No. 2 was at
the corner of the wooden fence, where the path met the road which ran
along the front of the camp, and extended along the path for about
seventy yards. Then came Post No. 3. The end of the wooden fence was
nearer to the road than to the other end of Post No. 2.

The attempt was to be made when our man was on duty. He was to be deaf
and blind. This would leave us free to concentrate our attention upon
Post No. 3.

“Next Sunday!” Kent told me at length on a Friday. “Are you ready?”

“Good heavens, man, I’ve been ready these two weeks past!” Then I began
to ruminate: “Sunday? That’s rather awkward!”

“It is, but do you think we ought to delay it on that account?”

“No, certainly not! Does Tynsdale realize the state of affairs?”

“Haven’t discussed them with him. If we two come to an agreement, he’ll
be sure to take the same view.”

There were two objections to the day proposed--one because it was a
Sunday, which made getting into Berlin rather risky, the other because
it happened to be the 16th of September, which made getting away from
the capital additionally difficult.

As to Sunday, food was scarce in Germany, especially in the capital,
and illegal trading was rife. Every Sunday the inhabitants flocked into
the country in multitudes to buy farm produce from the peasants direct,
offering prices much higher than those fixed by law. To stop this, the
police frequently detained passengers who were traveling into town on
the trunk and local railways, in the Underground, and on trams, and
inspected their baggage. A search of our bags and bundles would mean
immediate arrest.

Secondly, at 2 A.M. on the 17th of September--the Monday after the
day we had chosen--summer time was to change to astronomical time.
Consequently, trains all over the country would leave independently of
the printed timetables during several hours before and after the hands
of the clocks were moved back. Thus we could not be sure whether or not
we could catch the train we had selected.

We came to the conclusion that we should have to risk it. But could we
not minimize the first, the greater of the two risks, by reducing the
amount of our luggage? “We’ll take only one of the small hand-bags,
discard these and these articles, and carry food for six days only,” we
decided.

The amount of food which we finally took with us worked out per man
per day as follows: a bar of chocolate, two small cabin-biscuits with
dripping, one cake of the famous “escapers’ shortbread,” two or three
pieces of sugar, and half a dozen raisins. A tin of Horlick’s malted
milk tablets was carried in reserve, and also a small flask of brandy.



CHAPTER XXI

THE DAY


On the 16th of September, 1917, our man was on guard at Post No. 2 from
7 till 9 P.M. and again four hours later. He had instructions to expect
something between 8 and 9 o’clock, or, failing that, during his next
shift. The latter part of his instructions had been an afterthought.
It was part and parcel of our plan to catch the train from the Lehrter
Bahnhof in Berlin at 11:47 P.M. It would have inconvenienced us very
considerably if we had had to delay our departure. If everything went
satisfactorily as far as the sentry was concerned, he was to receive
his reward the following morning, no matter what happened to us.

That evening we were to be counted for the last time that season at 7
o’clock. The roll-call took place on the playing-field in the center of
the race-course. This was outside the strongly protected camp proper,
and it was beginning to be too dark, at the hour mentioned, to let the
prisoners outside of any of the three wire fences surrounding it.

As soon as the ranks broke after passing back into the inner camp
enclosure, we made our way casually and separately to Barracks No. 8.
The box we entered was quite deserted. Two of its inhabitants could be
seen talking near one of the entrances to the barracks, from where they
could hail any chance visitor who might intend to look them up in their
quarters. We dressed as rapidly as possible, yet were somewhat later in
getting ready than we had expected to be. Our baggage had been taken to
the selected cubicle in the loft of Barracks No. 4 during the afternoon
by men not specially interested in our venture.

The cubicle of our friends was in darkness. The open window opposite
the wood-framed pasteboard door admitted a faint rose-gray after-glow
from the western sky. The confined space seemed crowded with dimly seen
forms who whispered that all was ready.

Somewhat perversely, I thought, Tynsdale suddenly demanded that I
accompany him “to have a look at the gate.” It was a double gate,
plentifully protected by barbed wire, which gave entrance to the
enclosure of the Visitors’ Barracks during the weekly half-hour when
visitors were allowed to see the prisoners. Without heeding my protest
in the least he disappeared, and I had to follow after.

“I think we had better climb over the gate instead of dropping from
the window,” was all he answered to my questions about his unexpected
vagary. To my somewhat heated opposition against any alteration in our
oft-and well-considered course of action he turned a deaf ear.

“I’m going to climb over here,” he announced truculently after a brief
inspection, and almost immediately began to suit the action to his
words. As little attention as he had paid to me, he paid less to some
twenty or thirty men, mostly sailors, who were lounging near the spot.
And then a very fine thing happened. As soon as these men saw what
Tynsdale was up to, and without any perceptible hesitancy, they began
walking carelessly about and around him, shielding his activities in
this fashion more effectively than they could have done by any other
means. As for myself, I hurried back to the loft.

“Come on,” I whispered breathlessly to Kent, “quick! Tynsdale is
climbing over the gate. He’s stark, staring mad.” I grasped the rope,
squeezed through the window, and was in such a hurry to get down that
I let the rope slide through my fingers. Naturally a good deal of
skin stuck to the rope. I landed with a bump and had just time to roll
out of the way as Kent’s two hundred pounds came crashing after me. We
got up, both with smarting palms, while overcoats seemed to be raining
from the window above. We managed to catch the two grips as they fell.
During all this time we could hear Tynsdale making a terrific din
among the wires. As soon as he had negotiated the first two obstacles
he started to overcome the third fence, while Kent and I carried our
paraphernalia to the foot of it. Then Kent went over the top, and I
heaved the things over to Tynsdale, who stood ready to receive them.
Kent was a heavy man, and he appeared to me more than a little awkward
at that moment. How he ever managed to get over the fence without
bringing the whole guard about our ears I cannot yet understand. My own
performance probably sounded as bad to them.

As I let go my last hold, a stage-whisper from the window about fifteen
yards away, reached our ears, “Drop, you fools, drop!” The men in the
loft could see the sentries over the top of the intervening low wooden
barracks. To judge from the suppressed excitement in their voices one
of the sentries must have been coming our way with much determination.

A patch of weeds on our left was the only cover near us. Grabbing the
second portmanteau, which was still lying near the fence, I dived for
it headlong and fell down beside Kent. Tynsdale, who had gone forward,
beat a hasty retreat toward us and disappeared from view on Kent’s
other side.

There we lay, out of breath, and dangerously near the lower end. I did
not dare to raise my head even, and then after a long, long interval,
the suppressed voices sounded again, straight from heaven: “All clear.
Go ahead.”

We reached the end of the wooden fence. The enemy sentry was nowhere
to be seen. A few quick, long steps carried us across the sunken path,
into the potato-field and beyond the circle of the glaring electric
lights. Kent was in the lead. Suddenly he dropped, and we followed his
example just as the gate of the soldiers’ barracks, perhaps fifty yards
on our left, clicked open. Then it slammed shut.

Potato-vines offer very good cover for a man in a prone position. It
was dark, too. But, lying there, I had the uncomfortable feeling that
some large and conspicuous part of my anatomy must be sticking out
into plain view. I flattened myself as much as possible and vainly
tried to decrease my bulk by general muscular contraction, but seemed
to swell to ever greater dimensions. When I lifted my head after some
time I saw two round gray-and-black objects above the potatoes. These
were my companions. We had all given way to the same impulse at the
same time. Nothing menacing was to be seen. Silently we got to our feet
and shortly after gained the road.

From now on we were to play the parts of harmless German civilians, and
consequently the need for silence had passed. “What made that gate open
and slam?” I asked Kent. “I didn’t take the time to look, myself.”

“Two soldiers came out of the barracks and went toward camp.”

“Well, it’s all right, I suppose. You know this road. You lead.”

Kent turned and walked off, closely followed by Tynsdale and me. We had
not taken many steps when I suddenly saw the end of a cigarette glow up
in the dark ahead of us. Kent hesitated, stopped, and whispered to us.

“Oh, go on!” I answered irritably. “We can’t stop here.” Kent walked on
and past two soldiers standing by the roadside. They stepped forward,
barring our way. I made as if to pass them, but they did not move aside
to make room.

“What are you doing here?” one of them asked.

“What do you want?” I countered.

“We want to know who you are and where you come from.”

“What right have you to stop us in this fashion and ask us questions?”

“What do you mean by stopping anybody on a public road?” Kent’s voice
amplified my question. I had not noticed that he had turned and joined
our group. “This is a public road, you know.”

Tynsdale, who could not speak German very well, kept discreetly behind
Kent and me and felt, no doubt, as if he were intruding.

“This isn’t an ordinary public road. There is an English prison camp
down that way. Our instructions are to keep an eye on the traffic along
here, what there is of it.” It was always the same man who was doing
the talking. His statement sounded a little odd to me since neither
he nor his companion was conspicuously armed, and neither one wore
a helmet, two signs that they were not on duty. “Unless you have a
passport or can establish your identity by some other means you will
have to come with us, so we can make sure who you are.”

“No, I haven’t a passport,” I said slowly. “You don’t always require
one just walking back and forth from your work.” I was trying to think
of the right thing to do or to say, and particularly whether to risk
about ten years in a penitentiary, if the only move which seemed open
to us should fail.

“Oh, anything will do,” the soldier continued, “an envelop addressed to
you, for example.”

I had made up my mind. “Right. I’ll give you something. Here’s my
passport,” and I handed him a one-hundred-mark bill from my pocket-book.

The soldier looked at the bill, then at me. He poked his companion in
the ribs with his elbow and showed it to him.

“See what that fellow calls a passport? Is that all right?”

“That’s all right,” said the other.

“Boy, boy! You are some guys, you are! Say, are you only going for a
night in Berlin, or are you not coming back?”

“That is as it may be,” I told him.

“Say, what barracks are you fellows from?”

“You needn’t worry about that yet. You’ll hear all about that in the
morning.”

“Oh, all right! But you beat it now, quick!” and they turned to go. But
I had an idea of making further use of them.

“Say,” I called, “we want to get into Spandau. Is it likely that we
shall be stopped? Are there many sentries about there? Which is the
best road to take?”

“Plenty. Walk straight on and then turn to your left across the
railway.” They went away.

When I looked about for the grip, which I had put down in order to get
at my pocket-book, I found it gone. Kent had walked on. Tynsdale was
still hovering close to me.

“Where’s that portmanteau?” I asked him excitedly. “I put it down here.”

“I don’t know,” he answered. “Didn’t see it at all. Where did you put
it down?”

For a few seconds we looked underneath the bushes without success. “A
man who will take a bribe will steal,” was a not unnatural conclusion
to come to.

“Wait a minute,” I flung over my shoulder, and started in hot pursuit
after the two soldiers. It was the larger of our two grips that was
missing, containing the most important part of our equipment.

“What the hell do you want now?” is the way they received me. Neither
one of them was carrying anything.

“Oh, nothing,” I replied airily. Being unable to catch them in the
act I dared not take the risk of accusing them. “I thought I had lost
something,” I said.

The one who spoke muttered something threateningly. They were naturally
very anxious to get rid of us now.

“Come along,” I said to Tynsdale, resignedly, when I had rejoined him.
“We’ve got to make the best of it.” A little farther down the road
Kent was waiting for us in the shadow of a bush, with both grips.
He had picked mine up when he started to walk ahead and had caused
me a few bad moments. Here, we brushed ourselves with our hands and
handkerchiefs. A short walk through wide, deserted streets, most of
them flanked by factory buildings, proved pleasantly unexciting.

It was still early in the evening, but the wide thoroughfare of
Spandau, not far from the railway station, was deserted, except for a
small group of people between two tall light-standards, who, like us,
were waiting for a tram to Berlin. The arc-lights fizzed slightly now
and again, and cast fleeting purple shadows over the island, which
served as a platform for the tram-cars.

We three stood a little apart, occasionally exchanging a word or two in
German. We were hot with excitement and exertion. I was carrying the
large portmanteau and an overcoat over my arm. Kent had the other bag,
Tynsdale an oilsilk wrapped in his overcoat.

The first tram was crowded, but a second, immediately behind, was only
moderately full. As prearranged, we got on the driver’s platform, the
darkest part of the vehicle, and the least sought after.

For the first quarter of an hour of our ride, tram-lines and street
ran parallel to, but on the other side of, the railway, which passed
along the front of the camp. The eastern gate of Ruhleben camp was at
one point not more than two hundred yards from a stopping-place, where
officers and men of the camp-guard usually boarded the trams when going
to town. Hardly half that distance away a sentry patrolled.

The possibility of an untoward meeting at this point kept us on edge.
If somebody from Ruhleben had accidentally entered our car, we intended
to take no notice of it, unless he came to the front platform. What we
should have done in that case, I do not know. Our resourcefulness was,
fortunately, not put to the test.

The front platform became fairly crowded. I succeeded in manœuvering
Tynsdale into a corner, and planted myself in front of him, thus
cutting him off from any likelihood of being spoken to by any of the
passengers. Kent could take care of himself, better perhaps than I,
for he was readier with his tongue. Half-way to Berlin, in front of
West End Station, Charlottenburg, where eighteen months ago my railway
journey had started, the track was blocked by a car which had broken
down. It took half an hour to shunt it upon a siding and clear the
line. We were not pressed for time, and remained in our places, almost
the only passengers who did so.

Our immediate destination was the Wilhelms Platz in Berlin. From
there we had to get to the Lehrter Station. Without local knowledge
ourselves, we had gathered an idea of how to do it. Kent was to be
guide and acting manager, but he kept consulting me, who was well
content to follow.

Broadway at the most crowded hour of the day is hardly so packed as
were, that night, the far wider streets of the German capital. It
seemed as if the whole population of Berlin were wandering more or
less aimlessly about. Two solid streams of people moved in opposite
directions on the pavements, and spilled over the curb into the
roadway. In a way, this was favorable to us. Except by accident, it
would have been impossible to find us. On the other hand, it made it
difficult for a party of three to proceed by tram or omnibus. At every
stopping-place of these public conveyances a free fight seemed to be
going on for the places inside them; not the rush we are accustomed to
complain about in London, but a scramble in which brute force triumphed
unchecked by any trivial regard for decent manners and the rights of
others.

After we had alighted and threaded our way across the Wilhelms Platz,
Kent found a station of the Underground.

“Take a first-class ticket for yourself. I’ll buy two,” were his
instructions, whispered in German.

I bought a third-class one. I did not want to. I was merely too funky
to ask for first-class. It meant the pronunciation of an extra word. I
could have spoken it as correctly as any German, but suppose there was
no first-class on the Underground! They’d get suspicious! It was very
silly of me. Mistake No. 1.

Naturally, the third-class was crowded. It is not the custom in
Germany to be polite to the gentler sex. I knew it as well as anybody.
But when an elderly woman, looking very tired, was clinging to a strap
just in front of me, I was on my feet before I knew what I was doing.
She declined the proffered seat in confusion. To repair my “break,” I
hastily sat down again, my ears burning. Mistake No. 2. Kent looked
daggers at me from the opposite seat, and as soon as he had a chance I
got my wigging.

At the Leipziger Platz the throng was thicker, if anything. There was
not the faintest chance of getting into a train.

“There are some droshkies down there,” said Kent, pulling my arm to
attract my attention.

“Get one!” I answered curtly.

The marvelous thing was that the driver accepted us as fares. The
luggage we were carrying, and our destination, Lehrter Bahnhof, did the
trick, I believe.

The drive through the Sieges Allee, past the greater atrocity of the
“Iron Hindenburg,” and farther through deserted residential streets,
was splendid. We lit cigarettes, and I regained my coolness. I wanted
it. Grimly I reflected that two mistakes were quite enough for one day.

We found the booking-hall of the Lehrter Station crowded at eleven
o’clock. Kent and I deposited our luggage and took our places in the
long queue in front of the booking-office.

“What time the eleven-forty-seven for Hanover to-night?” I asked a
porter who was passing me.

“Twelve-forty-seven, but to-night only.”

We had almost two hours to get through, somehow and somewhere. Not at
the station, that was certain.

“Follow Tynsdale and me. Keep as far in the rear as possible, and don’t
lose us,” I told Kent.

The Lehrter Station is situated in the northwestern part of Berlin.
There seemed no decent cafés near at hand in which we could spend the
time and get a drink. As we were very thirsty, however, we found a
low-class place not very far off in which we ordered a glass of beer
each. When the waitress brought the drink she told us ungraciously that
the café was going to be closed in a few minutes. Hastily we emptied
our glasses, glad to get out of the place with as little delay as
possible. Three German privates were eyeing us from a table close to
ours much too attentively for our liking.

Outside, the previous formation was resumed. Sauntering very slowly
along, I led back past the station again, along the river Spree, then
through the empty streets of a residential neighborhood, and finally,
by accident, into the Friedrich Strasse with its dense throng of
people. On the way I kept up a semblance of conversation with Tynsdale.
I would not go into a café again, so near closing time, thinking we
were safest among the crowd, which was moving quite as leisurely as
we were. Tynsdale was content to follow me, and Kent had no chance of
pressing his objections.

More slowly, if possible, we sauntered back to the station, where we
arrived with fifty minutes to spare. Having got our luggage, we spent
the time in the waiting-room and restaurant, over beer, coffee, and
lemonade. German cigarettes, bought at the counter, enabled us to enjoy
a soothing smoke.

“Shall we go out on the platform now?” asked Kent twenty minutes before
train time.

“No; wait,” I answered. Later I explained that, since our absence was
presumably known in camp by that time, and since there was a chance
that passports might be inspected at a terminus, I thought it would be
better if we rushed to the platform as late-comers.

If I recollect rightly, Kent was to chaperon Tynsdale as far as
Hanover. At the last moment I requested that he should come into my
compartment. I should have been worried about my friends if I had
traveled alone in comparative security, and was sure of feeling happier
with Tynsdale by my side. Rightly or wrongly, I imagined I could take
care of him just as well as Kent.

The train was a stopping one, and was crowded to the last seat when we
tried to board it.

“Can we get into a first-class compartment?” I asked a busy official.
“There is no room in the second.”

“Third and second only on this train,” he answered, and then shoved
Tynsdale and me into an already crowded carriage, from which he ejected
a soldier who had a third-class ticket.

“Sit down,” I said peremptorily to Tynsdale, who obeyed. I stood in
the gangway, leaning against the window. Kent disappeared into another
compartment.

Then we were off, past Ruhleben camp to Spandau as the first stop. It
appeared a foregone conclusion that our absence was known in camp by
now. We feared that the train might be searched in Spandau. I took some
comfort from its crowded state. When another crush of people packed
themselves into the little standing room left, I blessed the scarcity
of trains which caused the crowding. Information has since reached me
that the camp authorities did not discover our escape until roll-call
the next morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

Within the next hour the compartment emptied, until we were left alone,
but for a German N.C.O., who, fat as a pig, was breathing stertorously
in his sleep. Tynsdale was slumbering behind his overcoat. I followed
his example for short spells, the uneasy feeling that I had something
or somebody to take care of following me into confused dreams.

At the Hanover main station our luggage went into the cloak-room and we
ourselves into the waiting-room and restaurant to have a cup of coffee.

I knew Hanover fairly well, and was to conduct my friends to the
Eilenriede, a huge public park encircling a quarter of the town. The
greater part of it is really a densely timbered forest, where we could
spend the morning, or part of it, in safety. Tynsdale and I in front,
Kent in the rear, we wended our way thither, as much as possible
through back streets.

It was a typical September morning, promising a hot day. The life of
the town was beginning to stir: people were going to work, milkmen were
making their rounds, a belated farmer’s cart rattled over the cobbles
now and again; from the main thoroughfares came the buzzing of trolleys
and the clanging of bells.

In the park Kent closed up, and we walked abreast for a time, talking
freely in German. We felt tired, and finally sat down in a secluded
spot, surrounded by thick timber and undergrowth. At long intervals
early-morning ramblers passed us, solitary old gentlemen, and several
couples who most decidedly felt no craving for further company, and
consequently took more notice of us than the old gentlemen. Near by,
two women were gathering wood and loading it into dilapidated “prams.”
They were usually out of sight, but we heard them all the time,
breaking the dry sticks into convenient lengths.

Gradually the sun sucked up the mists, but the haze of an autumn day
remained. Slanting shafts of light struck through the foliage, which
sent off scintillating reflections, where it moved in a very slight
breeze, while its shadows seemed to dance merrily on the ground. A full
chorus of birds warbled and twittered in praise of the warmth of the
waning summer. The hum of insects was in the air. A butterfly winged
past at intervals, and behind our seat a colony of ants was busily
engaged.

The leaves had begun to fall. They covered the ground between the
trees, but the branches themselves only showed the dark-green foliage
of summer.

Our surroundings moved me intensely. I had not seen in this way a green
thing in seventeen months of prison life. I had not been among green
trees for over three years. The seat, hard as it was, was comfortable
to our tired bodies. We felt lazy, and when we had discussed the
night’s events, and outlined the next move, the talk languished. We
were hungry, too. Two biscuits apiece and a rather generous allowance
of chocolate tasted good.

Kent told us that he had immediately found a seat in the train, the
night before. His compartment had emptied sooner than ours, and he had
chatted through most of the journey with his only traveling companion,
a lieutenant. I do not know how many lies he told him.

At ten o’clock we walked back to the town. The heat was oppressive
by now. A circuitous route, to waste time, brought us into the
main street, the Georg Strasse. In an arcade I entered a shop for
sporting-equipment, leaving Tynsdale to wait outside with Kent, and
obtained two military water-bottles and an extremely shoddy knapsack
at an exorbitant price. Kent bought cigars. A strong clasp-knife was
added to my equipment. At a tram-crossing I inquired from a policeman
about the cars to Hainholz. I intended to repeat the trick Wallace and
I had made use of ten months before, and avoid leaving from the main
station. It was too early to obtain a meal in a restaurant then--about
eleven o’clock--so we went into the famous Kafé Kroepke, where we sat
at different tables in the order of our entrance.

On the way back from the station, carrying our luggage and walking in
the usual order, I caught sight of a very detective-like individual
crossing the road toward us. He fell in behind Tynsdale and me, between
us and Kent. As well as I could I watched him, but we did not seem to
interest him. While we stood waiting for the tram, Kent closed up, and
I nearly choked with rage. I thought his instructions, “Do as we do,
but keep apart,” covered everything. Now he was asking me questions.
But, after all, it was only leveling up the score of the previous night
against _me_.

At Hainholz I went to the ticket-window and asked for two second-class
tickets to Bremen. Kent had asked for one ten minutes before, and had
been told to wait.

“Are you two traveling together?” asked the booking clerk.

“No, no. I’m traveling with my friend,” and I waved an uncertain hand
toward Tynsdale, who looked on with an impassive face from a seat
behind us.

“Do I understand you to want a pass for two, and you,” turning to Kent,
who was standing beside me, “for one?”

Kent signified his assent.

“I want two tickets to Bremen. Two!” said I.

“You see,” explained the man, “I have no tickets to Bremen in stock.
I’ve got to write out passes for you. It’ll save work, if two are
traveling together. I can make out a joint pass for two then.” Thank
heaven it was nothing else!

We rushed to the platform only just in time--and waited for half an
hour for the overdue train, another one of the parliamentary variety.

Tynsdale and I got the last two seats in a compartment occupied by a
well-dressed and well-groomed man, four flappers with school-maps, and
a very pretty woman.

I felt much relieved when the train started. Another part of our
venture had come to an end! We had now left the direct route toward
Holland, the route by which the authorities would expect us to travel.
Cloppenburg, which was the ultimate objective of our railway journey,
lay in a straight line not so many miles to the west of us. Yet we were
going to spend another seven and a half hours in getting there, and had
to change the direction of our flight twice.

It was, therefore, with considerable composure that I sat listening to
the chatter of the flappers and the occasional snores of the man, and
watching the landscape through the window.

It stretched flat to the horizon, dancing in the heat haze. Toward four
o’clock, white clouds made their appearance in the azure sky, followed
presently by gray ones. When we drew into Bremen Station, where we had
to wait forty minutes for another train, due to start at half-past
five, a heavy shower was drumming on the glass roof.

Our traveling companions remained with us all the way. About half an
hour before we reached our destination, the pretty lady next to me
began to make ready for her arrival. Her hair, an abundance of it,
required a lot of patting and pulling about, which did not alter its
appearance in any way to the male eye. She sat forward in her seat, and
with her back straight and her arms raised, she assumed the captivating
pose of a woman putting the last deft touches to her toilet. Although
anxious not to appear rude, I tried to lose none of her movements,
which were the more charming to me as I had not seen a woman of her
class close to me for over three years. Her rounded, well-modeled arms
and shoulders showed dimly through the thin blouse. Fortunately, she
was half turning her back toward me and my companion, and we could gaze
our fill.

“Wasn’t she pretty!” were Tynsdale’s first words in the station
restaurant after four hours of silence.

“Wasn’t she!”

       *       *       *       *       *

We were having a cup of coffee, sociably sitting together at the
same table. I went out to buy the three tickets and have a wash. To
my astonishment, there was real soap for use, not merely to look at
as a curiosity, in the station lavatory. I made a remark about this
extraordinary fact to the attendant, who told me quite frankly that he
made it a point to have real soap, and that it was profitable for him
to buy it at eighteen marks per pound in bulk. This implied illicit
trading, and the outspokenness of his statement was illustrative of the
general evasion of the strict trading laws and price limits.

The journey to Oldenburg, our next stopping-place, took half an hour
only, but was the most trying part of our escape. We were on the main
line to an important naval and air-ship center, Wilhelmshaven, and
although we did not approach it within fifty miles, the fact never left
my mind. Furthermore, the compartment Tynsdale and I were in was so
crowded that we had at first to stand. As soon as a seat became vacant,
Tynsdale slipped into it. It was next the window on the other side
of the car, happily away from an inquisitive and extremely talkative
individual, who, having been rebuffed by an officer and earned the
hostile glare of a man in naval uniform, lapsed for a short time only
into comparative silence. Before he opened his sluice-gates again, I
had sat down beside Tynsdale, covertly watching the dangerous lunatic,
as I called him, and sending up heartfelt prayers that my friend would
stick to reading the book which he held in his hand as usual. He would
not do so, however, but kept looking out of the window, giving an
opportunity every time, I felt, for our conversational friend to open
fire.

The scheduled thirty-five minutes would not come to an end. Even when
my watch told me that they were past, the train still kept stopping at
small stations and in the open country, and jogging on again after a
short halt. My anxiety was great, but at last I had my reward when we
arrived at Oldenburg.

What is it that makes one place feel “safe” and another menacing?
In most cases it is difficult to explain. The comfortable assurance
of security I had here, I put down to the absence of crowds in the
station, and to the fact that a booking-office between the platforms
permitted the purchase of new tickets without the necessity of passing
through the gates with their hostile guard of soldiers. Eighteen months
earlier the shutters in front of the windows of a similar intermediate
office at Dortmund Station, had caused me to reflect that the
authorities wanted to force all passengers to come under the scrutiny
of the guard and the ever-present detectives. Now the face of the clerk
on the other side of the glass appeared a good omen. We were not in
Prussia, by the way, but in the Duchy of Oldenburg.

Our train was due to leave in twenty minutes from the time of our
belated arrival. After a short wait on the platform it was shunted
in. We all three bundled into the same compartment, but took seats in
different corners. We did not carry through very carefully this show
of not belonging together, as nobody joined us. Kent bought two small
baskets of fruit from a vendor who passed along the train, and we were
sufficiently hungry to start munching their contents at once.

During the first part of this last stretch of an hour and a half we
remained alone. Dusk was rapidly changing into total darkness. Soon
it became impossible to distinguish the names of the feebly lighted
stations. I checked them carefully from the open time-table beside me,
lest we should alight too soon or too late.

At 8:30 we arrived at Cloppenburg. The first and probably the most
dangerous part of our venture lay behind us.



CHAPTER XXII

ORDER OF MARCH


My two companions had entrusted themselves to my leadership for the
tramp to the frontier. My first business was to pilot them out of town
from the right side, if possible, and, what was more difficult, by the
most favorable road. I thought it, under the circumstances, about as
hard a task as could be set me, at the very beginning. If so slight
an undertaking as ours may be spoken of in military terms, I should
compare it to a rearguard action and the successful withdrawal from
touch with the enemy’s advance scouts.

It was a very dark night. Only occasional stars glimmered through
the canopy of clouds. I knew nothing of the town, except what little
information could be gleaned from a motor-map, scale 1 to 300,000. The
time-table had taught us that we were to arrive at one station, and
that a train was to start from another about half an hour later. A
number of people were likely to change from the one to the other. To
follow them, as if we were of the same mind, would give us a start
off and carry us beyond the eyes of the railway officials. After that
I should have to do the best I could, without the help of either a
compass, which I could not consult, or the stars, which were not in
evidence.

As long as we were likely to meet people the order of march was to be:
I in the van, Tynsdale and Kent in the rear, as far behind as possible
without losing touch.

Most of the people who had left the station with us kept on the same
road, thus proving our calculation correct. We walked in their rear,
I carrying the portmanteau, which rapidly grew heavy. Big trees lined
the streets throughout; their shadows made it impossible to see more
than a few steps ahead. I followed behind the other travelers more by
sound than by sight. My companions had to keep within arm’s length of
me. There seemed to be a maze of streets, and, trusting to luck, I
turned into one of them. We found ourselves alone. At another corner,
instinct bade me take a sharp turn to the right. Then the streets lost
their character as such. Houses seemed to be irregularly dotted about
on bare ground underneath towering trees. Again they drew together into
a street, or a semblance of one. Here my friends closed up, and I gave
the leaden-weighted portmanteau to Kent. A furtive peep at the compass
heartened me a little. It seemed as if open country appeared in front,
but it was difficult to tell. Near a lamp, three girls passed us, arm
in arm. Inquisitively they turned their heads.

The road ascended and curved, fields were on each side, the silhouette
of a house in front; to the left, perhaps fifty yards away, the ragged
outlines of a wood.

“We’re in the open,” I announced, “and on a favorable road, I think.
Let’s go into that wood and pack our knapsacks. What time is it?”

“Ten minutes past nine,” answered Kent, who carried the luminous
wrist-watch.

It was only a thin belt of trees in whose shelter we arranged our
loads, and discarded the white collars and shirts we were wearing.
From the southward came the barking of a dog and the noise of railway
traffic. The dog was not far away. Whether it was because of his bark,
or because of a light we saw, we sensed a house in the same direction,
near enough to call for careful handling of our electric torches. It
was not necessary to warn my friends. They were squatting cautiously
close to the ground, never rising above a sitting posture, and
screening the light with their bodies. It was I who received a mild
rebuke from the very cautious Kent. I do not think my action deserved
it, but I was so elated that its chastening effect was, perhaps, good.
Not forgetting the fact that we had yet to pass two strongly guarded
lines--the river Ems and the Dutch frontier--I felt, nevertheless, that
our task was more than half accomplished.

When we had finished, I bade my friends lie down, one on each side of
me, so that I might use the flashlight for a thorough scrutiny of the
map. I recognized the road on our right without difficulty. It was a
second-class one, and divided the angle between the two highroads. As
to direction it was entirely favorable; as to safety it was preferable
to a first-class highway. A brook was marked on the map as flowing
across it not very far away, and this was of almost greater importance
than anything else, for we had not been able to fill our water-bottles.
We were thirsty, but not uncomfortably so as yet. My experiences had
taught me the paramount necessity of always having sufficient water.
How to get it began to occupy a great part of my thoughts from now on.

“It’s quite obvious,” I remarked. “We’ll follow this road through
Vahren village. We’ll find water at about twelve o’clock. At about
one-thirty we’ll turn at right angles into this road, which will lead
us to water again, and then into the northern high-road.” I went in
detail over the prospective night’s march. “And now,” I finished,
putting map and torch into my pocket and getting up, “good luck to us!
Come on. I’ll be in front till further orders.”

Once on the road, starting at a good pace, we turned our faces toward
the west, toward Holland, and toward freedom.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I recall the events of my first two escapes, I am astonished at
the clearness with which every minute’s happenings are imprinted on my
mind. I need only close my eyes to see the sights, hear the sounds,
and, in a measure, be under the influence of the same emotions which I
then experienced.

It is somewhat different with my recollections of this last escape.
For the greater part they are as bright as they can be. But there are
blurred patches in the pictures of my memory. A number of them seem
wholly obliterated.

Soon after everything was over we wrote down the course of events.
These notes and our maps are helping me now in my efforts to recall the
next five days. But even at the time of fixing our recollections with
pencil and paper, while they were not yet a week old, our joint efforts
proved inadequate in filling a blank of about six hours in the second
night of our walk.

It was a glorious sensation to feel a road under our feet, and to have
the open country about us. It was about the time of the new moon. The
rain had ceased hours before, but the clouds were still obscuring the
stars, and the night was exceedingly dark.

In due course the first village was indicated by a few scattered
houses--the outposts, as it were. We slowed up.

A dense mass of black shadow lay in front of us. Not a light was to
be seen anywhere. Slowly we advanced, until the faint outlines of a
roof here and a gable there detached themselves from the overshadowing
groups of enormous trees, which embowered the village completely in
dimly seen masses of foliage. With stealthy steps, almost groping, we
entered the blackness, which seemed to close behind us. Nothing broke
the silence except the rattle of a chain once or twice, and the muffled
lowing of a cow. By contrast it seemed light when we emerged into the
open again.

“We ought to get to water in half an hour now. Look out for it. It’ll
be a small stream. We might miss it,” I counseled. Kent was close
behind me with Tynsdale.

Half an hour--three-quarters of an hour--but no water. Instead we
entered another village, not marked on the map. Among the houses a road
branched off to the north. I was awfully thirsty. My tongue lay heavy
in my mouth.

“Let’s try to cut off that corner,” said I. “The other branch of the
brook may exist in reality. I think this road will curve round to the
northwest or west, and get us there quicker. It’s not marked on the
map.”

My friends were always willing to follow my suggestion, and we tried it.

The road curved west, then west-by-south.

“Stop a moment! We had better go back to the old route. I don’t like
this very much now.”

Again Tynsdale and Kent followed obediently.

This was the first instance of many in which I did not allow myself to
be guided by my instinct, as I should have done if I had been alone. I
felt so strongly my responsibility toward my friends that I disliked
taking any move I could not fully explain by cold reasoning. Instinct
is generally unreasonable. Besides, it does sometimes lead one
astray. In our case it might compel us to walk across-country, and the
cross-country stretches in this part of Germany looked forbidding on
the map, being mostly marked as heather, moors, and swamps.

Having regained the former road, I discovered after a while that it was
turning too much to the south. I was still musing about this when we
entered a smooth, broad, first-class highway.

“Let’s rest for a spell,” I suggested.

We sat down, with our feet in the ditch, close to the trunk of one of
the enormous trees lining the roadside.

“Do you know where we are?” asked Kent, after I had consulted the map
and sat blinking again to accustom my eyes to the night.

“Of course I do,” I snorted irritably. “We’re on that beastly southern
highway I wanted to avoid. I wish I hadn’t been such a fool as to
abandon the other road. I don’t know how we got here. The map shows no
connecting road down to here at all. The only damage done, as far as
I can see, is that we have increased our distance from water. We can
hit the by-road leading north, if we follow the _chaussée_. Oh, I’m
thirsty! I’ll try a cigarette.” We all lit up.

Three abreast we started again.

“There’s a sign-post,” said Kent, whose eyes were exceptionally good.

“To Molbergen,” it read, pointing along a straight by-road at right
angles to our direction.

“This is the one we are looking for,” I announced. “How do you feel,
Tynsdale?”

“I can hardly keep my eyes open,” he made answer.

“Well, we’ll soon get water,” I said, to console him.

“I’ll walk ahead as a pace-maker,” suggested Kent.

“Good!” It appeared a splendid idea. “I’ll take the rear. Tynsdale had
better follow you close, to get the benefit of your pace-making.”

Kent led with a swinging pace along the sandy, rutted road for an hour
and a half. The country stretched flat on each hand, often broken by
patches of forest. A telephone line on our left irritated me with the
monotony of its ever-recurring, never-ending succession of poles. I had
the old sensation of walking up-hill. We found no water. Then we came
to the northern highway, into which we swung by a turn to the left.

By this time my tongue was sticky. I had the feeling of a crust having
formed at the corners of my mouth. Neither Tynsdale nor Kent felt
thirst so acutely. A little way down the _chaussée_ I stopped.

“There is a house over there. I’ll see whether or not there’s a well.
They must have a water-supply,” I remarked.

Tynsdale and Kent waited in the road at first, but soon followed me.
The solitary building stood about fifty paces from it, and a well
with windlass and protecting roof faced its western side. No pail was
attached to the wire rope, but an old cast-iron pot lay on the ground
beside the stone coping. This we tied to the end of the rope with
pieces of string, and, turning the handle of the windlass cautiously,
let it down. When it came up, filled with very cold, wonderful water,
was there ever anything so delicious? We drank in turns, not once,
but many times; then filled our water-bottles, and drank most of the
remaining liquid.

We passed through another village in the course of the remaining hours.
Behind it we came to a large brook, not marked on the map, which rushed
gurgling underneath the stone bridge. I insisted upon another drink and
a replenishment of our water-bottles.

“I can’t keep awake any longer,” complained Tynsdale a little later.

“I suppose we had better take a rest, then. Don’t you think so, Kent?
We’ll just turn off the road and lie down underneath that hedge there.
Only for half an hour, mind. We must find decent cover before dawn.”
This was at half-past three.

We spread the oilskins as a ground-cloth and rolled ourselves into our
overcoats. I wanted to keep awake, but fell asleep as promptly as the
other two, not to awaken until an hour afterward.

“Get up, quick! No time to lose. Get up!” I aroused my friends. Not
more than about half an hour was left us in which to find good cover.
Already the air struck my cheek with the damp chill of dawn. It
“smelled” morning.

We packed in haste, and hurried along the road. Once, and again, we
turned into a by-road, which seemed to be leading toward a wood. But
scattered trees near the horizon produce in the dark the impression of
a forest, since only their outlines can be seen against the sky. We
found each time that we had been lured into a fruitless quest.

The eastern horizon was graying when we came to a small spinney at a
cross-roads.

“This will have to do,” I said, a little doubtfully.

Pressing toward the heart of the thicket, and using my torch to avoid
stabbing branches, I discovered a noose in a bush for trapping birds. I
showed it to my friends. “This doesn’t look like security, does it?”

In the densest part of the spinney we halted.

“Wait a few minutes, will you? I’ll see whether or not I can find
something better near at hand.” With that I left them. I explored
our immediate surroundings without success, located a house in the
vicinity, and finally had some difficulty in finding my companions.
When I thought I was near them I whistled softly, to be answered by
Kent, not three feet away. My friends had prepared a camp, and I lay
down by them on the oilskins. The two overcoats we spread over us, and
the oilsilks on top. The knapsacks served as pillows, and almost in a
moment we were asleep.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE ROAD THROUGH THE NIGHT


We woke up in full daylight, which revealed the scantiness of our
cover. By merely raising our heads we could see people and vehicles
pass along the roads, and the sound of voices and the creaking of
wheels were at intervals very distinct all day. That it is very much
more difficult to see into a thicket than from it, was a consolation
with which we reassured ourselves repeatedly. I do not think the others
felt any more nervous than did I, who thought we were safe as long as
we kept our recumbent position. We hardly moved during the sixteen
hours, I believe.

We ate our rations in two instalments and with interruptions slept
a good deal. We never got as much sleep again in one day while in
Germany. I doubt that we got as much until all was over.

Occasional gleams of sunshine during the morning became ever rarer as
the afternoon wore on. Gray clouds threatened rain more determinedly
as the day grew old, but a strong wind which was soughing in the
branches overhead kept it off until evening, when it started with a
small preparatory shower or two.

When the light began to fail, we packed up and sat about in our
raincoats, talking in undertones and listening to the pat-pat-pat of
occasional drops among the leaves. The roads had become deserted as
darkness fell.

At 9:30 we started our second night’s progress.

Two considerations had determined my theoretical choice of route for
the night. One was the desirability of keeping well to the north of
an artillery practice ground on the hither side of the river Ems, the
other the question of water.

In order to carry my intentions into effect, we intended to leave the
first-class highway for a communication road which was to branch off
in a village about an hour’s walk ahead. It was to lead in a tolerably
straight line across a desolate stretch of country of no small
dimensions.

Soon after our start, the drizzle of rain turned into a regular
downpour which drummed noisily on oilskins and hats. A sign-post with
the distance from Cloppenburg gave us our exact position, and enabled
us to calculate the extent of ground covered on the previous night. We
made it 28 kilometers (17½ miles).

Again we looked in vain for the brook which we had expected to find
during the first hour. The water we carried was getting low, and I
was anxious to have the bottles full again, and to get a good drink.
In the first village we came to, the gurgling of a rain-spout was
too tempting, and in spite of the protests of my friends I drank
copiously and filled my bottle, whereupon they followed my example.
It was just as well that they did so, for more than twenty-four hours
were to elapse before we had another, and less enjoyable, opportunity
of slaking our thirst with more than a mouthful at a time from our
bottles, which was all we permitted ourselves between sources.

To our very circumscribed vision, the village, and all those we had
passed through so far, and would have to traverse yet, were of the same
type. At night their streets, ill defined among the loosely scattered
farm buildings, were wrapped in impenetrable blackness, and both safe
and difficult for men in our position to follow. Two steps to one side,
and one’s companions were lost to sight. To distinguish between the
road and a by-lane leading nowhere was frequently impossible, without
the help of the swiftly stabbing, instantly extinguished cone of light
from our torches.

In this and the next village we came to I would not risk taking any of
the likely-looking by-roads, without some extra assurance, such as a
sign-post would have given me, of finding the right turning. Sign-posts
were conspicuous by their absence. During the whole night we found only
two, neither of them any good for the purpose in hand, and they were
the last we saw for the rest of the journey.

Consequently we continued on the first-class highway, which was easy
to follow, until it joined the southern road again in the village of
Werfte. This was about half-past one in the morning.

The high-road from now on continued due west through flat, monotonous,
and swampy country. As fast as we could we pushed along, Kent making
pace with his usual swinging gait, hour after hour. For our objective
we had two small lakes, shown on the map as touching the road on its
northern side. They were to supply us with water before we went into
hiding. Close behind them, a single third-class road, impossible to
mistake, was to start us north on the third evening on our quest for
our proper latitude, and in avoidance of the northern end of the
artillery ground, by this time not more than eight or nine miles in
front of us.

The second sign-post we saw that night not long before dawn enabled
us to fix our position with accuracy, but a little later we came to
the conclusion that our maps had played us false again. The lakes were
nowhere in sight, though we ought to have passed or reached them. Since
we had left Werfte the track of the steam-tram had accompanied the road
on our right, and a screen of bushes and woods had interfered with
our view to the north. Now we burst through them, bent on finding a
hiding-place away from the road.

“There’s the lake!” shouted Kent, pointing over the black expanse to
where, like a shield of dull silver, the surface of the water glimmered
three quarters of a mile to the north-northeast. It was too late to
approach it then. To the north of us, a small thicket, looking as usual
many times its actual size, invited us to rest. We advanced toward it
over springy, heather-covered ground and across several wire fences.

On the banks of a deep ditch, scantily sheltered by bushes, young
trees, some furze and heather, we made camp. It was a fairly safe
place, for the reason that, as we saw later, there was no house within
a third of a mile--at the moment we thought there was no dwelling
within several miles--nor any tilled land.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our resting-place on the bank of the ditch had been selected from the
standpoint of concealment only. It was most uncomfortable to lie on.
Before the sun had cleared the horizon, we were awake again.

The rain had ceased after midnight, and now a boisterous wind
was dispersing the last clouds which hurried across the sky from
the northeast, tinted rosily on their under side. The air was
extraordinarily clear. Its refreshing coolness quickly drove the last
cloying remnants of sleep from our brains. The sun rose. Far away, to
the east, the church spire of Werfte stood sharply defined above the
smudge of green which indicated the village.

I crept away from my friends during the morning to glean some
information, if possible, by a look from the other side of the thicket,
toward the west. The pale blue of the sky above, speckled by hurrying
clouds, the flat rim of the sky-line, broken by two distant villages,
the line of the road by which we had come, continuing toward the large
village of Soegel, and a solitary farm, seven hundred yards away, made
up the landscape. While I lay watching behind a furze bush a country
cart crept across my circle of vision. Between me and the invisible
road a number of cattle sounded unmelodius bells with every hasty
movement of their heads.

“We needn’t look for the road to-night. It’s there, to the west,” I
announced, rejoining my friends. “We can break camp early and get water
as soon as dusk is setting in. After that we’ll go northwesterly across
country, turn north on the road,” etc. I outlined the next night’s
march. Our plans were very elaborate, but came to naught.

“All right,” my companions nodded assent. “Now have something to eat.”
They were munching away at their rations. For a time we chatted in
excellent spirits.

“There is a much better place to lie in just behind us. It looks safe
enough,” suggested Tynsdale, worming his way back to us through the
bushes after a short absence.

“Yes; let’s shift! I saw it, too,” seconded Kent.

So we shifted, and soon lay comfortably ensconced in the lee of some
bushes. Here we were bothered by mosquitoes, for the air was still, but
we felt warm, and managed to snatch some sleep during the remainder of
the day.

At 8:30 P.M. we were plodding through the heather toward the lake,
which glimmered at the bottom of a shallow depression. We were licking
our lips in anticipation of the drink we were going to have. Two
hundred yards from the shore the ground became marshy, then a quagmire.
We strung out in line abreast in order to find a firm path to the
water’s edge, but had to desist in the face of impossibilities.

Rain had been threatening for the last four hours, but was still
holding off, when we got on to the road, and proceeded north. We had
walked steadily for an hour or so. The night was pitch-dark. Black and
flat swamp-land extended all round to the indistinct horizon. Here and
there the lighter streaks of ditches, full of foul, stagnant water,
were ruled across the black expanse. The wires of a telephone line on
our right hummed in the wind.

We were walking as best we could--I a little in front on the right,
Tynsdale on the other side of the road, Kent almost treading on my
heels. The ribbon of turf underneath my feet seemed fairly broad.

A sudden splash behind me caused me to stop and whirl round. A white
face at my feet heaved itself, as it seemed, out of the ground, and
Kent scrambled back on to the road, squirting water from every seam.

“Did _you_ know you were walking within half an inch of a ditch? How is
it _you_ didn’t fall in?” he demanded savagely of me.

“Are you hurt?” I counter-questioned anxiously.

“Not a bit! The water was just deep enough to cover me entirely, except
my knapsack. That seems dry,” he answered, feeling himself all over.
“I’ve lost my hat, though.”

“Anything else?”

“No, I don’t think so. Never mind the old hat. I hardly ever wear it.”

“Come on, then! Keep moving, or you’ll catch a chill.”

After about one hour and a half, during which a number of paths had
demonstrated the unreliability of our maps in this locality, none
of them being marked, a cart road on our left proved too much of a
temptation for me.

“Are you fellows game,” I asked, “to follow me over uncharted ground?
I feel certain I can do better by compass alone, and probably save us
several miles.”

“Don’t make speeches, old man; get along. We’ll follow.”

I was fortunate in being able to justify this move. Three quarters of
an hour afterward we struck a highway a mile in front of the village
of Spahn, our nearest objective. Pleased with myself, I announced a
clear gain of about three miles. Here we took it easy for about twenty
minutes, sitting in the road, with our feet in the ditch. Kent and
Tynsdale had a draft from the brandy flask, and we all had something to
eat.

“This is the fifth shrine we’ve seen since Monday night. I always
thought northern Germany was entirely Protestant,” Kent remarked when
our scouting for water at the entrance of a settlement had led us
around the structure.

“We’d much prefer a well, anyway,” was our unanimous opinion.

We simply had to have water. After searching among the houses we
finally found a rain-tub half full of it. It contained a fair number
of insect larvæ, to judge from the tiny, soft bodies passing over
our tongues while we drank, but we continued our march with heavy
water-bottles.

The name of the village, in black letters on a white board, dispelled
any possible doubt as to our position. A white post close to this sign
elicited my angry comment:

“I’d like to know how many of these beastly poles with the direction
boards missing we’ve seen so far! Do the Boches think they can make it
more difficult for an invading army or something, by knocking their
sign-posts to pieces?”

For the next hour and a half our way lay through dense forest. The
straight, very wide clearing which served as a road was ankle-deep
in sand. As it yielded and gave way under the backward pressure of
our hurrying feet, it produced the nightmarish sensation of striving
hopelessly in a breathless flight against a retarding force. Thousands
of fireflies dotted the roadside with points of greenish light, or
drew curves of phosphorescence in the air. A heavy shower urged us to
assume the sweltering protection of our raincoats. Several times I
checked the direction of the road at its beginning, and even borrowed
Tynsdale’s compass for the purpose, as the needle of mine seemed to
move sluggishly, but I noticed nothing wrong.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next village, which we entered soon after midnight, looked quite
different from what we had expected. It was of considerable size.
The streets were in darkness, although electric street lamps were
installed. But the yellow squares of numerous lighted windows told of
many inhabitants not yet in bed. Near the church we turned into a road
on our right. Among the last houses I checked the road’s direction.

“It isn’t the road we want,” was my conclusion. “Leading too directly
north. We’d better go back and look for the right one. What d’you
think?”

“D’you think it safe?”

“Well, we haven’t much time to spare. But the streets are dark enough.
We might risk it.”

Again we passed in front of the church. In what looked like the
vicarage at one side, three large windows lit the road in front. A
shadow passed over the blinds. A door banged. Hurriedly we dived into
the shadow farther on. The footfalls of a single man sounded behind us,
ominously determined it seemed. It was too dark to see more than three
or four yards, but we were sincerely glad when the sound was gradually
left behind and we found ourselves in the open country on a sort of
cart track.

“This isn’t the road, either. Too far west this time,” was my
conclusion. “The former road is the better of the two. We’ll strike
back to it across-country.”

We did so in twenty minutes’ work over fields. It soon began to tally
better with the direction on the map. Two hours through firefly
infested forest saw us enter another village, as dark and as safe as
any we had yet passed through. At its farther end we stopped.

“We’ve simply got to see whether we can’t get more water,” I said. “I
don’t really know where we are. I expect it will be all right, but I
do not know how long it will take us to find a brook. These farms must
have a water-supply somewhere. Just wait at the corner here. I’ll go
scouting. If anything happens to me, I’ll make enough noise to let you
know of it. Then you can scoot out of the village and wait for me a
reasonable time somewhere along the road.” And I left them protesting
mildly.

Across a manure-littered farmyard I splashed stealthily into a sort of
kitchen-garden, as it turned out. Standing there I used my flashlight
once for a look round. From behind me, right over my head and in easy
reach, stretched the large branch of a tree, bending under a heavy
load of apples. The first I touched remained in my hand at once, which
showed them to be ripe. I crammed my pockets and filled my hat. I got
almost thirty. Then I joined my companions, who were getting impatient
and anxious. It never occurred to me to send Tynsdale and Kent to
get their quota, nor did they think of suggesting it. I am still
regretting the omission. We divided the spoils, and sank our teeth into
the hard, juicy, sweet flesh of the fruit which had tempted the Mother
of us all.

At the end of the village a broken sign-board lay in the ditch:
“Village of Wahn, Borough of ----, District of ----,” etc. With a
sinking heart I fumbled for my map.

“Form round and let’s have a look,” I said. “Here we are! I’m beastly
sorry; I’ve been a fool! We took the wrong road at Spahn. That big
village was Soegel, not Werpeloh, as I thought. No wonder we were
puzzled. No wonder I almost got us into a hopeless mess. Fortunately
we are clear now, and, but for water, better off, if anything, than on
our proper route. Let’s be traveling now, and see whether we can make
Kluse. It’s a little over six miles.”

The mistake was a very bitter pill for me to swallow. The fact that no
harm had come of it was little consolation. One simply must not make
mistakes on an escape.

Forest and swamp-land, telegraph-poles and fireflies, and drumming
showers of rain, and we were, oh, so tired!

At 3:45 a very large, solitary building on our right lured me toward
it in search of the precious liquid. It was an enormous sheep stable,
the packed occupants of which set up a terrified bleating when the ray
of my torch struck accidentally through a hole in the wall. A motion
to get into the loft for a good day’s sleep was negatived on Kent’s
determined opposition, as too dangerous.

Half an hour later we dragged ourselves into a thick pine copse,
pitched camp in impenetrable darkness, moistened our lips with some
vapid rain-water, and fell asleep.



CHAPTER XXIV

CROSSING THE EMS


It was still dark when I opened my eyes. A steady sound was all around
me, and close at hand a more definite one: Tap-tap-tap-tap. I was only
half awake.

I stretched out my hand and put it into a pool of water which had
formed on the oilsilk covering us. It was raining heaven’s hardest.

Half an hour of disjointed thinking brought me to the conclusion
that we had better do something. As yet the overcoats underneath the
oilsilks were hardly wet. The first gray light of dawn was beginning to
filter through the close-standing trees.

“Wake up! Wake up! It’s raining,” I called. “We’ll get soaked, and we
don’t want to carry an extra thirty pounds of water on our backs.”

I got on my feet. With the heavy clasp-knife bought in Hanover I
lopped off the branches just over our heads and stretched an awning of
oilsilks three feet above the ground, attempting ineffectually to make
them shed the water over the edge of the shelter, instead of letting it
accumulate on us. For a time it was all right; then the rain ceased.

By now the light showed that we had camped far too near the road for
proper concealment. But the awning had found approval in the eyes of my
friends, and I felt such pride in the contrivance that I hesitated to
advise moving camp farther into the thicket. Instead, I set to work to
camouflage it with a screen of branches and young trees, which I cut
off and stuck in the ground. I got myself much wetter by doing all this
than if I had taken things quietly. So did Tynsdale, who was infected
by my passion for work.

When a cart creaked along the road, its wheels plainly visible from
our hiding-place, we resolved to move. In the heart of the thicket
the trees were much smaller--only a little taller than ourselves--and
more widely spaced. This and the open sky above us gave us a sensation
of freedom and fresh air. I constructed another shelter. Occasional
showers during the morning filled the sagging places of the awning with
water, and this we drank in spite of the bitter taste imparted to it by
the oiled fabric.

Sleep, even in the intervals between the showers, was almost out of
the question. With the day, thousands of mosquitoes had come to life
among the grasses covering the ground. They rose in clouds wherever
we went, and attacked the rash beings who unexpectedly had penetrated
into their fastness. Soon our hands and faces were red and swollen with
their bites.

About noon the last clouds disappeared. The sun began to pour down from
a deep blue sky, its rays falling hot and scorching into the windless
space between the trees. We divested ourselves of our wet upper
garments, and spread them on the firs around us to dry in the sun.

The only sounds that came to us were the occasional tooting of a tug
on the river Ems, now not more than three miles to the west. The
rarer and nearer shriek of a railway engine on a line parallel to its
bank interrupted every now and again the zzzz-ping, zzzz-ping, of the
hovering mosquitoes. A dog barked near by. A slow cart rolled and
creaked past the copse.

The road in front of the thicket was converging toward the railway,
which it met three to four miles to the north of us at the village and
station of Kluse, a little more than two miles to the east of Steinbild
and the river Ems. Two and a half miles to the north of this last
village a wood was indicated on the map. This was our next objective.

From information received, we supposed the Ems to be strongly guarded
by sentries and patrols. The five-mile-wide ribbon of country between
its western bank and the Dutch frontier was _Sperrgebiet_ (closed
territory). Nobody was allowed to enter it except by special military
permit. A day’s observation from the shelter of the forest was to
show us how best to cross the river--whether we could swim it, with
or without luggage, and if necessary, to permit the construction of a
small raft to ferry the latter across. Perhaps we could steal a boat!

Near the station of Kluse we intended to cross the railway line, sneak
through the village, and then walk across-country to the river and the
forest.

Dusk found us behind some bushes by the deserted roadside, awaiting the
night.

We started early, walking slowly at first, to squander time. As
darkness thickened, we increased our pace. But it is difficult to
speed up when one has started slowly. Perhaps the village and station
were farther away than we thought. Anyhow, it seemed an age before we
caught sight of the first signal-lights on the railway. As during the
previous night, the road lay through perfectly flat, desolate swamp
land, crossed by ditches of stagnant water. A wood accompanied us
on our right for some time. The stars were occasionally obscured by
drifting clouds.

Suddenly we saw a cluster of red signal-lights over the dim shape of a
signal bridge, the lighted station building a hundred yards beyond, and
a level crossing turning out of our road at right angles. “This is it,”
I said.

We stepped across the metals. Just beyond them, a small building on our
left, its windows lighted, cast a glimmer over the road. Apprehensively
glancing round I passed into the deep shadow of the avenue beyond it.

A little later we were standing on a bridge in the small village. A
considerable brook rushed gurgling underneath.

“When we passed that house,” Tynsdale said casually, “a large dog of
the police type came after me. I was walking last, you know. The brute
pushed his nose into the back of my knee and turned away without a
sound!”

We had a good drink at the brook, then proceeded along the cut-up road,
tree-lined and dark. In a likely spot, perhaps five hundred yards
behind the village, I stopped. “Here’s where our cross-country work
starts; keep close behind.”

As nearly as possible we proceeded in a northwesterly direction. The
going was bad. The country was divided by wire fences, deep ditches and
hedges, into small fields, most of them swampy meadows. Half the time
we waded through water over the tops of our shoes. This continued for
an indefinite period, and terminated when we reached a road where it
curved from a northerly direction toward the southwest. Here I had what
proved to be an inspiration.

I had seen the beginning of the road marked on the map farther north.
On paper it terminated nowhere. Actually it was here, in a spot where
it ought not to be. Its deeply rutted surface showed that it was
frequently used. The village of Steinbild, to the south of us now, was
obviously its destination.

I explained to my companions: “I’m as certain as I can be that this
road enters Steinbild close to the water’s edge and avoids the main
street. The curve seems to show that. I’d like to follow it. To lie in
the woods, away from anywhere, and watch the river, may not gain us
anything. In the village we may find a boat. We’ve any amount of time,
anyway, and can always come back. It’ll not be so very dangerous, with
due caution, if the place is as dark as the villages we have seen so
far. Will you chance it and follow me?”

“We’ll follow wherever you lead,” said Kent heartily. Tynsdale’s nod I
took for granted; I couldn’t see it.

In a quarter of an hour we were among scattered houses. Again, five
minutes later, we stood in the shadow of tremendous trees, in such
darkness that we were aware of one another’s presence only from the
sound of breathing and small movements.

In front of us the mirage of a few stars danced uncertainly on the
smooth surface of a fairly wide river. A fish splashed noisily while we
stood listening for suspicious sounds.

We moved carefully along the river path, upstream, to the south. The
trees continued in unbroken, stately procession. A barge of the large
German steel type lay half-way toward midstream. A boat was tied to its
stern. Something, I forget now what it was, made us go on--I have a dim
recollection of a light in its cabin. Another barge, with a boat by her
side, loomed up, riding high on the water and without cargo, opposite
a tiny pier of earth, which ended perhaps twenty yards from the boat.
In a house, some distance farther up, one lighted window winked in the
night.

We were standing on the pier.

“Who’s to get that boat?” asked Tynsdale.

“Draw lots for it,” I suggested. The shortest piece of match remained
in my hand. Off came my knapsack.

“Going in all standing?” inquired Kent.

“No fear; nothing like doing things comfortably. Get out that towel,
will you, and be ready.”

My clothes were off. Cautiously I slipped into the water. I remember
distinctly, even at this moment, that my toes gripped the sticks
forming the foundation of the pier. The bank fell vertically beyond my
depth. Bracing myself against the cold shock, I pushed off, to be taken
into a delicious tepid embrace by the kindly river. Two long strokes. I
paused to feel the current. There was none. Three more. The boat loomed
above me. Shooting up, I caught the gunwale at the stern with the tip
of my fingers. “Bump, bump, bump,” went the bows against the lighter’s
side in feeble movement. “Bump, bump, bump.” I had drawn myself up, and
clambered in. “Bump.” I stood in the bows, fumbling with the painter,
which was big enough to serve a young White Star liner for a hawser.
“Bump.” The gap between lighter and boat widened as I shoved off
carefully.

I grabbed at a pole lying in the bottom of the boat. The water proved
too deep for punting, so I used it as a paddle, standing on a forward
thwart.

The boat was an enormously clumsy affair. Tynsdale snatched at the
painter when the bows touched the pier. “Get into your things, we’ll do
the rest.”

“Here’s the brandy.” Kent solicitously handed me the flask. I didn’t
need it, but thought I deserved a pull.

When I was dressed, I joined my friends, and we put our things into the
boat. Tynsdale, who had grown up among shipping, had swung her round,
so that her nose pointed downstream. We clambered in.

Kent and I were sitting in the bow when he pushed off, and started
to propel us across the river in proper waterman’s style with an oar
he had found in the bottom of the boat. Silently working it over the
stern, he guided her round the counter of the barge, underneath the
wire cable which connected the latter with the one lower down, and out
into the placid stream.

Not a word was spoken after we got clear. The large bulk of the empty
barge dwindled as the strip of water widened between us. The trees on
the bank we had left grew smaller, a trembling line of light glimmered
on the surface of the river from the winking window of the cottage.
Then the other bank grew distinct and high. The boat’s nose swung
upstream and touched. I am not quite sure who was ashore first, Kent or
I, but I am certain I had the painter.

“Don’t let her drift,” Tynsdale whispered from his quarter-deck, when
I had scrambled ashore. “Belay somewhere, if you can.” We found a post
with an iron ring on top, almost embedded in the ground, and made fast.
Our knapsacks were put ashore. Tynsdale left last, as befitted the
captain.

“Leave her there,” he counseled. “If we let her drift and get caught,
we’ll be charged with stealing her. They may not trouble to investigate
if they find her here.”

Hurriedly we retired among some bushes which dotted the hollows along
the river bank.

“Council of war,” I suggested in high glee. “What’s to be done now?
What time, Kent?”

“Twelve-forty-five.”

“What are your opinions? Are we to try to cross the frontier to-night
or not?”

“To-night, by all means to-night!” urged Tynsdale. We were all very
much excited, of course.

“Time’s getting short! Wait until to-morrow night!” counseled cautious
Kent.

The decision rested with me.

“Time _is_ getting rather short, but we might do it. Question is, can
we find cover if we don’t? It must be good, to serve its purpose in the
Sperrgebiet. I think we ought to dump everything we can spare, and go
forward as fast as possible. We can always alter our minds, until after
we get on to the morass.”

“Good!” grunted Tynsdale.

“As you wish,” Kent gave way gracefully.

“Then hurry!” I instructed.

Feverishly we went through our impedimenta, thrust the remainder of
our biscuits, escapers’ shortbread, chocolate, and such indispensable
things as were not already there, into our pockets, and shoved
rucksacks, overcoats, raincoats, and everything else underneath the
bushes.

I knew the map too well to want to look at it long. Had we not spent
days studying the stretch in front of us, often with the help of
magnifying glasses?

“What time, Kent?”

“One o’clock.”

“Give me exactly half an hour.”

Relieved of about thirty pounds in weight, I set the fastest pace in my
power downstream, along the river bank. I hoped to find a path there,
which was to take us to the “jumping-off place” to the north of us,
where I intended to get to the swamp. The path was there. The going
was easy, and comparatively safe. Bushes dotted the banks and gave
continuous shelter.

It cannot be denied that our procedure was risky. We took it for
granted that we should not meet any sentries along the river, in spite
of our information to the contrary. But slow and careful going seemed
equally risky at the time. Only speed could help us across the frontier
that night.

My decision in favor of trying to bring our venture to an immediate
conclusion was wrong. I ought to have seen that it was more than likely
that we should find cover along the river. Yet--I don’t know.

“The half-hour is over,” said Kent.

The river was flowing placidly on our right, swirling softly. Straight
across from us a back-water lost itself between tall reeds. This was
the spot I had hoped to reach. We filled our water-bottles and drank.
Then I slid down the bank, raised here above the surrounding country,
and started due west, followed by my companions. Passing a few yards
of scattered bushes, with rank grass between them, I plunged into
a dense thicket of oak saplings. Pushing and straining, I worked
on, in order to get through what I imagined to be a narrow belt. It
would not come to an end, but grew thicker instead, finally making
progress impossible. In the light of the torch the small trees stood
impenetrably close.

“Here’s our cover; no time to work round this patch, and no need to,
either,” I said.

“Well, I’m glad,” commented Kent.

“I wish we hadn’t left our overcoats behind,” I reflected. “Let’s see.
Four hours till daylight. We’ll be damnably cold. Let’s go fetch ’em.
Heaps of time. Nothing else to do.”

Back on the river bank I tied my handkerchief to a branch, knee-high
above the ground. After a careful look round, to impress the contours
of the landscape on my mind, we started back.

I had not the slightest misgivings about our ability to find our
knapsacks and to disappear again into our hiding-place. The hollow
where we had left them? Gracious me! I could walk there blindfolded.
I could draw its shape now. My cock-sureness was not at all damped by
Kent’s dismal forebodings, on which he started as we approached the
spot.

We found the boat, but not our luggage; we searched for it more than
half an hour, quite recklessly at the last. There were thousands of
apparently identical hollows. They had multiplied exceedingly during
our absence. I thought I entered them all. But our luggage was lost,
and stayed lost.

“No use. We’ve got to go.” I fell in with the urging of the others at
last.

At about 3:30 we stretched ourselves on the dry leaves among the oak
saplings and fell asleep.



CHAPTER XXV

THE LAST LAP


Half an hour later we were awake again, shivering and with chattering
teeth. The wind was rising and rustling in the canopy of leaves over
our heads. It was dark and bitterly cold.

“I’m going to do something,” I announced. “We may have rain. I’ll build
a shelter.”

The oak saplings offered an ideal material for an arbor, although the
clasp-knife did not bite readily through their tough fibers. Jointly
we interlaced the crowns of six or seven stout saplings, growing in a
circle, and twisted long branches in and out of the stems. We made a
small but dense roof. The floor we covered with small twigs and leaves
to the depth of two or three inches.

The exertion made the blood course through our veins again. Before we
had finished, it was day.

The wind had increased to a gale, which shrieked and roared and
rustled among the foliage, sending occasional eddies even into our
hiding-place. It kept the rain off, which threatened now and again
during the forenoon. There were no mosquitoes. I do not think there
ever are any among oaks.

Several excursions to the river bank, in couples or singly, one of
us always remaining in the arbor, warmed us a little when we had got
chilled to the bone. The river path, and the belt of scattered bushes,
remained deserted all day. But we observed a considerable amount of
river traffic. Long strings of barges, mostly empty, were being towed
upstream by powerful tugs.

Tynsdale scouted toward the west, away from the river, and reported a
farm some distance from our hiding-place in that direction, and the
existence of a pond and a belt of marsh-land behind the thicket.

We slept in snatches of minutes, until the cold awoke us again, and
again sent us dancing or scouting about. It was the most miserable
camp we had yet experienced, but the safest, and the one where we were
the least thirsty. There was more water about us than was altogether
desirable, we thought at the time. Twenty-four hours later, looking
back, we altered our opinion.

The distance from this camp to the Dutch frontier was five miles to the
west-northwest, as the crow flies. Opposite to us the border traversed
an extensive swamp, the Bourtange Moor, twenty-five miles in length,
and between five and seven miles in width.

According to our map, neither road nor path led over it, which was
one of the reasons why we had selected it as the point to strike at.
“Information received” had encouraged our belief that the swamps
which extend along nearly the whole of the northern frontier between
Holland and Germany can be traversed in summer and autumn during normal
years. Other information tended to show that comparatively they were
negligently guarded. I had never forgotten a newspaper article which
I had read in Ruhleben in the winter of 1915-1916. A territorial had
described his duties as a frontier guard. There was one passage: “When
on duty I shared a small hut with another man.… We had to walk two
hours to the nearest post.” Two men to guard a two-hours’ stretch!
Ridiculous! Camouflage! but still--

Our route would be across the northern half of the moor. I had talked
it over with my companions many a time.

“There is this large forest at the north end of the swamp. If the
recent rains have made the swamp impassable, we’ll have to make for it
and try to cross the frontier where it runs through the wood. I should
hate to have to do that. A hundred to one, sentries there will be as
thick as flies in summer. But we may have no alternative. For that
eventuality, we will take the most favorable course across the swamp,
walking west by north. Since we must continually go round bad places,
we will make all corrections northerly, and thus edge off toward the
wood, and lessen the distance in that way.

“These two roads, parallel to the river, which we shall have to cross
before getting on to the swamp proper, will be dangerous. I shouldn’t
wonder if sentries and patrols were to be found on them. But I cannot
imagine how they can easily relieve a man on a trackless morass; can
you?”

At 5:30 we ate our last meal. A very slender one it was. We reserved
only some chocolate and the tin of Horlick’s malted milk tablets, which
we always had looked upon as our emergency ration. These we divided
into equal shares.

At 5:45 I advised the cutting of long, stout staves. They would be
useful, I thought, for the work ahead of us. I had no idea that they
would make all the difference between failure and success.

At 6 o’clock we could not stick it any longer inside the thicket. We
made our way out, and walked up and down behind the bushes, waiting for
darkness.

Of course we were on edge. I do not think we had had in all eighteen
hours’ sleep since Saturday. It was now Friday. And we were merely
waiting, waiting for the time when we could act, when the game was to
be decided. We were not very nervous, but we were subdued. I think
we all believed we should succeed, although I tried to look on the
black side of things. It seemed so impossible that three years--three
years!--of captivity should come to an end. Did we look far ahead? I
remember that my mind went no farther than to visualize a river, a mile
or so across the border, which was to tell us that we were free!

The sun had disappeared, the wind lulled into silence. The sky, brushed
free of clouds, spanned pale blue from sky-line to sky-line. A crescent
moon had peeped her last over the western rim of the world, and
followed the sun. The shadows were growing dense underneath bush and
canopied foliage.

The river murmured sleepily as we went to drink. Tynsdale crouched
against the steep bank and handed up the full bottles, one by one. We
took up our staves and very slowly walked down the river, before it was
quite dark, looking for open country on the left.

The stars had come out, one after another. Quickly their numbers
increased, until myriads of them twinkled and glittered. It was an
absolutely ideal night for our purpose.

The oaks on our left came to an end. A shallow depression, with the
glint of water here and there, intervened between us and the rising
ground some distance away.

“Here we start,” said I, “on our last lap!”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Eight-thirty,” said Kent.

“Come on!” I answered.

Descending from the river bank, we found the ground most difficult.
Two or three wide drainage ditches were crossed with the help of their
sluice-gates, smaller ones we jumped with our staves. Then came marshy
meadows and open patches of water. For about an hour we were almost
always in over our ankles, frequently much deeper, wandering through
the shallowest places.

In a sort of dell, on rising ground now, with small copses to right,
left, and in front, we halted, removed our boots and emptied them of
water, and wrung out our socks and trousers. This was quite necessary.
The squirting noise of our steps advertised our presence a long way in
the still night.

Here, if I mistake not--it may have been a little later--we arranged
the order of our march. I took the van. My task was to pick the way
to keep the direction. Kent, next, was to pay particular attention to
our nearer surroundings, try to spot danger--sentries and patrols,
etc.--and keep count of the time. Every four or five hundred yards he
was to signal “down,” when we were to “flop.” By this manœuver we would
contract the horizon and, perhaps, spot sentries against the sky-line.
Tynsdale, in the rear, was to check the direction, and speak, if he saw
me apparently make a wrong move. All of us were to keep our eyes wide
open and all senses on the alert.

When we topped the rise we sank down silently. There was the first
road, across our course, hardly discernible on the black, flat expanse.
Nothing moved; no sound, except that of our own breathing, disturbed
the stillness. Obliquely across some fields we came to the second road.

Again we crouched. “All’s well. Go on.”

After that, a smooth, very springy surface made agreeable walking for a
short time.

“Hou--” I started.

“Houses to left and right in front!” whispered Kent. Again we looked
and listened.

They were two small single structures, standing perhaps three hundred
yards apart, as if dropped from a giant child’s play-box. When I had
led through the space between, a path was found to run past them.

Now began the swamp proper, as flat and as black, at first, as a
congealed lake of asphalt, covered with the same exceedingly short
growth we had already encountered, like very tiny heather plants, or
their densely intertwined roots, and very springy with the concealed
bog underneath.

With the greatest care I kept the north star just a little in front
of my right shoulder. We were advancing rapidly. There seemed no
possibility of sentries standing on a trackless waste.

I felt very sure of myself, very much exhilarated, very happy. We had
time to notice our surroundings. They were eerie in the extreme. We
were in the center of a perfect circle, black as pitch, except for some
whitish patches ahead.

Those whitish patches came nearer. The first we approached I tested
with my staff. Firm sand! They increased in number, flowed together
here and there. Only narrow black strips now, connected with larger
black areas beyond. Suddenly, one of the white spaces, not a whit
different to look at from those we had already crossed, was water.
Correction north. They were all water! We were being pushed to the
north at a great rate. So I corrected southerly once or twice, at
first, then alternately with a northerly deviation.

It was nerve-racking business to pick the way. Our deliberate halts and
surveys had grown more infrequent as the involuntary ones increased in
number. Occasionally we had seen and crossed a track.

I think Kent had just announced “Twelve o’clock,” when--

“Pfattt!” said a rifle, far to the north. We stared intently in the
direction of the sound.

“Pfattt!” it repeated spitefully; “pfattt!”

We could not see the spit of flame. It must have been in the wood.
Later, when we met the men whom the bullets had been meant for, this
proved to be correct.

Without a word to the others I turned due west. The swamps are kindlier
than German riflemen.

We left off making any remarks. We were too strung up for talk.

“This is a patch of a different kind,” I thought. Like dull silver
it gleamed under the stars, not half as bright as the others. The
ground was very unstable all about us. I could feel slow waves rolling
sluggishly under my feet, caused by my own and my companions’ footsteps
on the thin carpet of vegetable matter covering the morass. When I
tested the patch I found it to be slime. Correction southerly, all
southerly now, to edge away from the wood. The areas of slime increased
in number, multiplied, flowed together. The third I came to seemed to
offer some resistance to the probing staff at first, then the pole went
in as into water. I lost my balance. My left foot swung forward, to
find another hold. Instantly it was under the surface. Just as quick
Kent’s arms were about me. Violently he jerked me back, I clinging to
my staff.

“Thanks!”

The ground got worse and worse. Some of the slimy places which appeared
firmer than the rest we crossed. Flat-footedly we slithered over them
one after the other, our staves held horizontally.

Abruptly we were in the peat cuttings--great yawning holes and
ditches, running mainly from north to south, black, with sometimes a
star or two, mirrored in the foul water a foot or so below the edge.
The passage had to be made across bridges of standing peat, hardly ever
more than two feet wide, which swayed as we shuffled over them. I held
grimly to the western course, as well as I could. Going south seemed
easier, but that direction meant no progress toward the frontier,
rather the reverse. And north? No, thank you! Not after those shots.

I was standing precariously balanced on a peat bridge, the pole thrown
far forward as a third leg--oh, those precious poles!--when a splash
sounded behind, and a gurgling noise. Kent had gone in.

“What’s happened? Can’t you help him? I can’t!” I called to Tynsdale.

We were under far too great a stress to feel any particular emotion.
At any rate, I was. And as to helping, I couldn’t even turn my head
without losing my balance.

Before Tynsdale could reply, I heard a slight scramble, the swishing of
water, and then Kent’s subdued voice expressing his entirely unsubdued
opinion about peat cuttings. Part of his particular bridge had crumbled
under his foot. He had fallen into a hole. The stout oak sapling,
carried firmly in both hands, one end of it rammed into the ground for
a hold, had fallen across the opening, its other end descending on firm
ground. It had kept Kent suspended. Only his legs had gone into the
water.

The incident decided me. “South,” I called over my shoulder.

A short time later, the peat holes grew scarcer.

“West!”

There were the slimy patches again! We went around a few. Most of them
we crossed in a bee-line. They seemed firmer here. A few much smaller
sheets of water! Then again a flat, unbroken, springy surface.

We were all going strong, out to make westing as fast as we could put
our feet to the ground; no thought, now, of crouching.

       *       *       *       *       *

A barbed wire, behind it a deep, wide ditch, beyond that a plowed
field, were in front of us.

The human mind is a queer contrivance. We had just negotiated some
rather ugly ground. We had not bothered about, hardly become aware of,
the risks we had taken. Now we were hesitating for a few moments in
front of a ditch with firm sides which, at the worst, we could easily
have waded. At last we jumped, landing in the water half-way up to our
knees. I lost my precious aluminium water-bottle there. Then across the
field, across another ditch, and so four times.

On the way I asked Tynsdale: “Nothing to remark about our course?”

“I thought you altered it, and swung due west at one point.”

“Yes, after the shots.”

“Intentional?”

“Sure!”

“Thought so.”

A canal, seemingly in course of construction, was crossed on a large
tree-trunk, which bridged it. Kent and I did it astride. Tynsdale
walked. Two hundred yards farther we stood on the banks of another
full-grown canal.

“We must be in Holland,” I remarked.

“I wouldn’t like to say so,” replied Kent. “You know there’s a canal
parallel and close to the frontier on the German side, forty or fifty
miles farther south.”

“Yes, and it’s marked on our map, and this isn’t.”

“A river, not a canal, was to show us we were in Holland!”

“True, but they may have turned the river into a canal. Man, the
frontier runs across the swamp. We’re off the swamp. We’re in Holland,
I bet you what you like.”

“I don’t think you ought to be so cock-sure.”

“But I am. Here, do you want to swim across?”

“No.”

“All right! We’ll turn south along its banks!”

Soon we came abreast of a house which lay a hundred yards or so to the
east, toward Germany.

“Let’s go have a look,” I suggested. We did so.

The whole character of the cottage, for such it was, struck me as
un-German. I pulled out my torch: “This isn’t German. Look at that
front door. Decorated with painted flowers!”

Kent arrived breathlessly from somewhere: “This can’t be Germany! There
is a big dish, full of potatoes, on the table in the front room!”

“Let’s knock!”

We knocked. We had no time to ask questions, for, before the last rap
had sounded, “Holland! Holland!” called a male voice from within.

Holland! We stood and looked at one another silently, then retreated a
few steps.

“Cheers, boys,” I said. “Hip, hip, hip--”

Three feeble cheers seemed to be immediately swallowed up in the
darkness. How thin, weak, and far away our voices sounded!

Then we turned, to make our way to the nearest village.



CHAPTER XXVI

FREE AT LAST


We had only gone a few steps when a man came running after us. His
Dutch and our German made conversation possible. Kent was rather good
at understanding and imparting his meaning.

“Orlog gefangenen?” the man asked.

“Yah, yah!”

“Roosland?”

“Nay, nay; Engelsch!”

“Engelsch?” He gripped our hands and shook them warmly. Then we had
to accompany him back to his cottage. He ushered us into the room
where Kent had seen the “big dish, full of potatoes.” His wife, in
picturesque undress, fired a volley of questions at her husband,
clasped her hands, shook ours, and began lighting the kitchener. Two
daughters--or were there three?--emerged from cavernous cabin beds, let
into the wall. Shyly they dressed in front of us.

Then the table was loaded with things to eat. We had fried veal,
bread, butter, and plenty of milk and hot coffee. All this was offered
us spontaneously in a farm laborer’s cottage at 2:30 in the morning.
Enviously I watched my companions enjoying their meal. I was too done
up to make more than a show of it.

A little later the man accompanied us to the nearest village,
Sellingen. He walked in front with Kent, Tynsdale and I followed in
the rear. The walk was a nightmare to me. Our guide carried a lantern.
I could not keep my eyes off its reflex on the ground. The direct
rays stabbed intolerably into my eyes. It seemed to hang in a Gothic
archway, which always kept receding in front of me. I was almost
convinced of the reality of the archway.

“Can’t we get through that gate?” I asked Tynsdale.

“What gate? Here, where are you going?” and he pulled my arm and
saved me from walking slap into the canal. After that I pulled myself
together and felt better. Both my friends were much fresher than I.

We arrived at the village at last, and were given a delicious bed on
plenty of straw, with plenty of blankets.

Kent was up early next morning. He accepted I do not know how many
successive invitations to breakfast, while Tynsdale and I slept until
half-past seven. In the course of the morning we were taken to a
military station at Ter Apel by the village policeman, who appeared in
his best uniform, with two huge silver tassels at his chest.

The very atmosphere was different. A sergeant in whose special charge
we were placed regretted that he could not put proper rooms at our
disposal. “But since the gentlemen will have to be quarantined first,
they will perhaps understand if we keep them away from upholstered
furniture.”

We had a wash, and an excellent meal, with a bottle of port.

“Did you meet any sentries?” we were asked.

“Not one.”

“Where did you cross over?”

“North of Sellingen.”

“You came over the swamp, then?” with elevated eyebrows.

“Yes, right across.”

“You were lucky. Up to a fortnight ago, sentries stood along the
frontier at one hundred-meter intervals. Then they were withdrawn,
because the swamp became impassable. You were fortunate, too, in
getting across the Ems. A great many fugitives get drowned in it.”

“Once, during my first attempt, I got caught on Dutch soil by the
Germans,” I remarked in the course of the conversation.

“What? On Dutch territory? Where was that?” The sergeant was very much
interested.

“I can show it to you on a map. It was northwest of Bocholt.”

He disappeared and returned with maps and telegraph forms. I told him
my story, and he made notes and wrote two telegrams.

“What you say is possible,” he said at last. “Our men stand three
hundred meters behind the actual frontier.”

The next two nights we spent in a hutment in Coevorden. We met a number
of Russian privates and N.C.O.’s there, who had made good their escape
and were, like us, waiting to be sent to a quarantine camp. Among them
were three who had crossed the same night as we, but through the woods
at the northern end of the swamp. We were indebted to them and their
dead comrade on German soil for the warning shots at midnight.

There followed a fortnight in quarantine camp in Enschede. Under the
Dutch regulations, any person “crossing the frontier in an irregular
manner,” without a passport, viséd by a Dutch consul, is subjected to
this quarantine. We tried to shorten our stay there, pleading that we
came from a healthy camp. We were unsuccessful.

We did not like Enschede camp. The food was insufficient for us, who
could not live almost exclusively on potatoes. We found it strange
that we should not be allowed to supplement our rations by purchasing
extra food. The only things we could buy, at first, were apples and
chocolate, and only a limited amount of either. Our deep gratitude
is due, however, to Mr. Tattersall of Enschede, who indefatigably
looked after us and the other Englishmen in Enschede camp, much to the
disadvantage of his pocket.

After we had received a clean bill of health, being civilians, we were
allowed to proceed to Rotterdam without a guard. We arrived there at
ten o’clock one night, and I was promptly arrested, being mistaken
for an embezzler who had decamped the same day from somewhere, taking
fifteen thousand florins of another man’s money with him. My health
passport saved the situation.

The next morning we were at the British consulate. The rest of the day
we careered through the town in a motor-car--from the consulate to
the shipping-office, from the shipping-office to somewhere else, from
there to the consulate’s doctor, back to the shipping-office and the
photographer, and again to the consulate. That night we were on board
at Hook of Holland.

Two days afterward--!

In the gray dawn of an autumn morning our small ship heaved to the
incoming swell as she steamed out to take up her station in the convoy.
Soon she was dancing joyously to the shrilling of the wind and the
sizzling swish of the seas. Two long, low gray shapes accompanied us on
each quarter. Hardly discernible at first, they grew more distinct with
the light. There were more of them, but invisible, guarding the long
line of ships. Occasionally other shapes appeared on the horizon, very
faint in their war-paint.

Toward evening I saw again the well-remembered piles of a British
landing-stage. How often had I pictured them during three long years!
It was always there that I had imagined my home-coming. It had become
reality.

Six weeks later: Time: 10 A.M. Enter servant.

“You’re wanted on the ’phone, sir.”

“Who is it?”

“Doesn’t want to give a name, sir.”

“Thanks.--Hullo! Hullo!”

“That Mr. Keith?”

“Yes. Who’s speaking?”

“Don’t you recognize my voice, Eric?”

“No, can’t say I do.”

“It’s Wace!”

“What’s that?”

“Me--Wallace, Wallace!”

“Good heavens!”

“Yes; arrived last night! Speaking from Hackney. _You_ know!”

So Wallace had won through too, though playing a lone game!





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