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He certainly “came through” with all that could have been expected of him. In fact, the same is true of every Swiss with whom I came in contact.
He took one look at me and knew my story. Paying not the slightest attention to my chattering mixture of French and English, he led me into his house. As he entered, he took off his overcoat and put it around me. He drew a chair before his fire and brought a big pair of wooden-bottom shoes. While doing these things for my comfort, he said nothing and, as he did not stop to try to understand, I too fell silent. Turning to his stove, he poured out a bowl of hot goat's milk and brought it to
I took a few big swallows, and as the warm milk went down, I looked up at him standing there with the pitcher ready to refill my bowl. Then it was that thankfulness and happiness flowed over me. I will not attempt to say how I felt. From my expression he again saw my feeling. Then it was that he spoke. It was the first time that he had said a word, and although he still looked on me with his kindly expression, his words were German. I had thought that the Swiss all spoke French. Instantly a cold dread seized me. My mind flew back to the time, two and a half months ago, when I had first heard that accent. I had been mistaken then as to where I was, and like a ghost the idea seized me that perhaps I was again in the same error. I almost dropped the bowl of milk as that idea stung me. With an effort, I asked him if he were Swiss. Reading my consternation, he assured me that he was Swiss, this was Switzerland, and I was all right.
Life again flowed back into me. I drank the hot milk,
and while he refilled my bowl I told him that I was an American escaped from Germany. This he already knew, and the knowledge increased his interest in me. I asked him for a telephone, that I might telephone Berne. He said that he did not have one, but after breakfast he would take me to the military post nearby, where I could find one. He told me that his wife was away and he was doing the cooking for himself and his two little boys, who, appearing to be about seven and nine years of age, were displaying great interest in me. Of course, I could not speak his Swiss German, but, with a few words and my experience, I can converse on simple and apparent subjects with almost anyone.
I warmed myself before his fire while he busied himself with his household duties. In a few minutes breakfast was prepared. He placed a large bowl in the centre of the table, and he and his two boys and I sat about it. Each had a large spoon, and all ate out of the common bowl.
Breakfast over, we started out for the military post rather a long walk. There a Swiss soldier who spoke English took charge of me. He brought me a complete outfit of dry clothes. The old peasant was given back his overcoat and shoes, and I was soon dry-clad in a Swiss uniform from shoes to hat. I was again fed. Though I had just had one big breakfast, I felt equal to two, or even more.
This post was just across the river from Waldshut. From the windows I could look right over into the German town, and could see the guard at both ends of the railroad bridge.
I was informed that, there being only a non-commis
sioned officer in charge of this post, I would have to be taken to Zurich. While waiting, we went into a café, where the soldier bought me a drink of cognac, as I still felt chilled.
We got to Zurich about eleven o'clock, after quite an interesting trip. My guard, guide, or companion, whatever you might call him, would explain my identity to people at the different places where we stopped. Once our road ran along the Rhine, and I could look over and see the German guards along the other bank. At Zurich I went before the commandant. I had to pass a physical examination, and after I had proved myself to have excellent health, he gave a little note to my guard, and sent me out to buy an outfit of clothes.
I had dinner here, and at two o'clock was sent by train to Reinfelden, to the commanding general of the frontier.
I was then sent out to where I again found my credit unlimited. I ate a fine dinner, had a bath, and hopped into a good feather-bed. I had said to the landlord during dinner that I had been unable to get entirely warm since coming out of the river. My chill had been so great that I had never got my blood to circulating right. Every now and then a cold shiver would run over me, though there was no reason for my being cold. When I got into this bed, I found the biggest hot-water bottle in there that I ever saw. The landlord meant to see that I got “thawed out.” It had been two and a half months since I had been in a comfortable bed, and five nights since I had been in any. You may imagine from that how I felt when I crawled into this one. I sank down in it, and if ever a man was happy, I was.
With this perfect physical comfort was combined the knowledge that I had won my freedom. I thanked the Lord for my deliverance, and went to sleep. The warm bed, with the big hot-water bottle, did the work. I got so warm that night that I have n't felt cold since.
The next morning a Swiss officer called for me and we went to Berne. The American military attaché had been notified, and Captain Davis, assistant military attaché, met us at the train. He did not recognize me, however, in my rustic civilian clothing, as the man he came to meet, and we missed him. The Swiss officer and I went on to the Swiss headquarters. We were just going in when Captain Davis caught us.
I was in hopes that others of the bunch had come through, and, having taken an unnecessarily long time myself to avoid danger of recapture, I expected to find them there ahead of me. None, however, had arrived. Captain Davis told me that I was the first American army officer to escape.