Chapter 4

We got off the train, walked a short distance, and Jean motioned to a blond woman in her forties standing with a bicycle. We approached her and the two embraced briefly. Jean introduced me to the girl, quickly explaining who I was and how he got me. He put the knapsacks into the basket on her bike and we started off, she pushing the bike as we strolled along. It was dark, about 10 p.m., and we were in violation of the curfew. We had gone several blocks when we ran into two gendarmes and, of course, they stopped us. I was walking several paces behind Jean and the woman, so I stopped when they did, thinking I might be able to run if trouble developed. The police asked for their identity cards and they produced them, so I reached into my pocket as though I had one, too. They checked the cards and handed them back then looked at me. At this point the woman said, "He's all right. He's with us." The policemen looked at me causally, handed them their cards back and gestured for us to continue. I may have looked casual, but I was wet clean down to my belt buckle with nervous sweat. After walking for another 10 minutes, we came to a school on a short dead-end street and turned up the street, entering the building. I was now, as I later discovered, at my hiding place and with another branch of the French underground. The woman's husband was there waiting for Jean and he took the knapsacks, opened them, and I could see they held butter. I not only was evading capture; I was engaged in smuggling items that were rationed and illegal to have. Why didn't the gendarmes check those packages? They must have known they contained contraband and chose to look the other way. I could not believe my luck was holding out as well as it was. I now learned that the woman's name was Paulette, the man's name was Marcel, that their last name was Guyon, and that Marcel was a gendarme and they had a small son about 5 years old. I have often suspected that the police who stopped us might have known Paulette and that she was a policeman's wife. It would explain many things, but I never found out if such were the case.

Now I was in Paris, in contact with the underground and arrangements were to be made to get me out. How, when, where, still remained to be seen. The next day a man showed up, asked for one of my dog tags, questioned me about where and when I had been shot down, and left. I asked Paulette what it was all about and she said they must be certain I was indeed an American airman because the Germans were clever and there was much at stake for many people. I asked her what would happen if the information came back negative? She said that then I would have to be eliminated and that I would be watched closely until approval came from England. All I could think of was, "Please God, don't let them foul up this time."

The next day the man was back with the approval and said he would begin to make arrangements for my transportation to get me back to England. Things were still going my way. I could scarcely believe it. I spent the next several days with Paulette and their son, whom they called Te-Te, which I assumed to be a nickname, but not leaving the quarters the school provided them. Food was scarce and rationed very little meat and this only on occasion. This was supplemented with some pasta and not a whole lot of that either. Tobacco was also in short supply and provided only once a month, two small bags, one rough cut, the other stringy and good for rolling cigarettes. We all smoked and they shared everything with me. My job was to run the rolling machine and transfer all the material into cigarettes. We mixed the two types of tobacco together, they instructed me in the operation of the machine and I set to work. I was told that when I finished smoking a cigarette, I was to strip the paper and return the tobacco remaining to a jar that was used for this purpose. We then would re-roll this tobacco into another batch and proceed with the same system. Let me tell you, the last cigarettes we rolled could send you to the moon, they were that strong.

One day Marcel came home with a rabbit and Paulette was ecstatic to have this added food for the larder. She tied its feet together, hung it from the kitchen cabinet door and proceeded to skin it. She then cleaned it and cut it up, and cooked it for dinner. The three of us sat down and, with great pride, Paulette put the head on my plate. I took one look at the thing and immediately declined where upon a big argument broke out as to just whom was going to get this thing. I mean they were not fighting to not eat it. They were fighting to get it. Paulette won, took possession and proceeded to eat the eyes first, then the brain, followed by finishing off the little meat there was on it. The other two looked on in envy, but not me; I was well rid of the problem. However, I did thank them for their consideration as best I could in my poor French. The following week Marcel decided that he and his son and I would go into the near countryside. We walked so it could not have been too far and also we could see the Eiffel Tower from the hill we were standing on. We turned over rocks and found quite a few snails. I could not imagine what anyone would do with a snail but I joined in the hunt and before long we had enough to satisfy Marcel. When we got back home, the snails were turned over to Paulette and she proceeded to extract them from their shell with a hatpin. Then she washed the shells, pulled the pad from the snail body, and re-inserted the body into the shell, adding some butter, parsley and salt. She then placed them on a metal tray, open side up, and baked them in the oven. I had never seen anything quite like this and sat there spellbound. These were incorporated into the dinner that night, served hot. I tried one but then left the remaining ones for my hosts. They loved them, even little Te-Te.

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