Chapter 8

The man with the pipe took us to his house (I never knew nor asked his name), fed us, and let us clean up and stay the night. He told us we would be leaving the next afternoon if things could be arranged. They were working on rebuilding the local organization to replace the operation lost because of the capture of the other men. It was not so simple because they had to arrange connections all the way back to Paris and be sure those connections were safe. It felt good to have a decent meal under our belts as well as a place to sleep after the long train ride and the episode at the station. By checking a map now, I can see we had traveled some 350 miles, as the crow flies, and by land more than that. I can see now why we had left so early in the morning. Chances are the train we took might only go once a day or, because of the war, perhaps once a week. The impression that remains with me to this day about this house we were taken to is that it was a multiple dwelling with, I think, four floors. The building was very old looking, from the outside, but when we entered the apartment itself, it was very modern and furnished well. There was no woman to be seen, the man did everything for us and did it as though he knew what he was doing. I often wondered if he was alone because he was single, or if he had sent his wife away because of the nature of his business. John and I were so exhausted and so hungry that the many things I think about now never occurred to either of us. We seemed to live from minute-to-minute and at the hands of other people. The best way to describe the feeling is to say it was all like a dream or nightmare. We bathed and shaved and fell into bed to sleep the sleep of the dead. I thought I would never be that tired ever again, anytime in my life. Little did I know!

The next day we woke up very late, having been allowed to get all the rest we seemed to require. The man fixed us breakfast, even though it was afternoon, and when we had finished, he announced he was going out and see just what plans had been made. He told us they had a man to guide us over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain and that everything had to be coordinated. We were left alone for several hours as he went about his business. Our only fear was that someone might come to the door looking for him because we surely did not know what to do. To not answer the door was what we probably decided but, at this point, I can't recall. He returned and advised us that everything was in order and we were to leave right away. He had train tickets, which he gave us, and then led us back to the station to join the others. Our instructions now were to pay no attention to our former companions, but just ride the train to the end of the line and get off. We were to be met there by someone and told what to do. Off we went, onto the train, found a seat and waited. Soon the train started to move, and once we were under way the conductor came through and collected the tickets. We either looked like natives or he just did not care, but either way we attracted no attention and went on our way. There were not many people on this train and we were not sure if this was the best condition. Either way it made no difference because there was nothing we could do about it. We were not going as fast as the other train, and stopped at every little burg along the way. It was obvious this was a local line servicing all the little places in the south. Eventually we reached the end of the line and got off, standing alongside the train by the tracks. The station was not much to speak of and we could see no life. A few people got off with us, but they went their way without a backward glance. Here we were again, not knowing what to expect, when along came a man walking quickly to the bunch of us. He never stopped but motioned us all to follow and went by taking the lead. He walked toward the front of the train and from there he branched off into the countryside. It was slightly hilly but not too bad so we had no trouble keeping up. After about 20 minutes he stopped in a small clearing in the woods and had us gather around. He then told us we made it unscathed so far and also undetected by the Germans. We were, he said, to remain there until someone came for us. Under no circumstances were we to move or to do anything that might bring attention to ourselves such as lighting a fire or making any loud noise. He could not say exactly when our help would arrive, only repeating we must stay there. The man we had stayed with had given John and me some sandwiches so at least we had something to eat. Our fellow travelers also had been provided with something, not much, but something. Don't forget food was short for the people and anything they gave was less for themselves. So, not knowing how long we were to wait, we settled down on the grass in small knots of people, those knowing one another together, the rest of us in random fashion. I am certain we all felt our savior would be along before nightfall and we would start the next phase of the escape. The sun went down, dusk came, the moon came out, and night was upon us in full force. I tried to sleep on the ground, but the dampness permeated my clothes and I was most uncomfortable, as were all the others. There was much whispering, such as, "Is he coming? Did he get caught? Have we been set up? Should we strike out on our own? We had only questions, no answers. This, I think, was the longest night of my entire life. By morning I was so cold I thought I was going to freeze to death. It was June and we were in the foothills of the mountains. I remember standing at the top of a small rise waiting for the sun to come up. A young Frenchman was standing alongside me also waiting for the warmth of the sun. He spoke very good English and told me he was in the underground and had made this trip before. He claimed he had information he wanted to get to England so the trip was necessary. I was famished and so was he. He asked if I had any food and I said that what little I had had gone last night. He opened a knapsack and extracted a can of concentrated Pet Milk, poked a couple of holes in the end, tilted his head back, and poured some into his mouth. He offered me a swig and I gratefully accepted, getting it the same as he had. I had never tasted this canned milk before, but I can tell you, it was so high in sugar content, it was like a shot in the arm. I thanked him, returned the can, and he stowed it back in his pack carefully so it would not spill. We both soaked up the warmth of the sun as it got higher and eventually warmed up and dried off. I had no idea what the others did to keep going. All I knew was at last daylight had come and now our man would be there any minute to care for us. Life was looking good again

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