Chapter 9

Time, as such, is relative, as I am sure we all know. Sometimes a minute can seem like an hour, another time the same minute goes so quickly that it seems never to have existed at all. Even days can follow this pattern of fast or slow flow. We all know the old saying, "the watched pot never boils," and it is so true to those involved in the time span in question. All we had to do was have patience and our troubles would be resolved in short order. Spirits were up, life was good, and the next part of the adventure would certainly be less complicated than what had gone on before. The day wore on slowly and the sun got higher until we were at noon. Still no one approached us in our spot in the woods. We were not that far from the little town, so why didn't someone come for us? Oh, well, maybe another hour and we would be on our way because we certainly couldn't just sit here all day and risk getting caught. Someone said that perhaps the Germans had also broken the contact we were waiting for and we would be here forever. We discussed this possibility, agreeing that there might have been a problem, and that if someone did not show up by nightfall, we would strike out on our own, using our escape maps and head for the Spanish border. Having arrived at this decision, we all tried to settle down and make the best of the situation. The afternoon dragged along, each minute like an hour, each hour like a lifetime. Mix this with a dose of scared, and you know how we felt. Hungry? Oh yes, but there wasn't anything to eat so we just endured, but not like heroes. No sir, we complained to whomever would listen. It sure didn't do any good, but we felt better just getting it off our chests. Had we known that it would be three more days before we had anything to eat, I am sure we would have given up on the spot. Finally, everyone got tired of complaining so we just sat and passed the time. We could not speak with the Jewish people very well, so they kept to themselves, talking among themselves. We did find out, through the French fellow, that the old man with this group was 75 years old, and we assumed that the underground was charging them all a lot of money to get them out. Right here, before I forget, I want to mention that this old man made the entire trip under his own power and I never once heard him complain. What happened to them all once we got to Spain, I have no idea, but I hope they lived to tell of their ordeal.

This is how the afternoon passed, just waiting, until at last the sun started to go down. We were quickly reaching our hour of decision as to whether to wait some more or proceed on our own. All through the day, as odd as it might seem, we had been quite quiet, always speaking softly so as not to attract any attention should someone pass near. At last we heard some footsteps on the trail leading to our lair and our pulses quickened as we watched to see whom it might be. It was our man; finally he had arrived. He explained to the French fellow that he never had any intention of coming to us in daylight and that we should have been told. Who cares, he's here; we are going at long last. Did he have any food for us--someone asked. He merely said that he did not, even though he had a knapsack on his back. He carried his own food, and we must shift for ourselves, as he did not have enough for everyone. I have since thought that this man must have been a Basque because he obviously was a mountain man and knew his way around the Pyrenees Mountains. He wasted no time, getting us all on our feet and under way. By now it was quite dark, and the guide led us down to the valley and along a road that led deeper into the mountains. We were told to form a single line and to keep the person ahead in sight, and above all, not to talk. The guide set a rather fast pace and it quickly became obvious that the civilians could not keep up the pace as they were carrying suitcases. The guide stopped and instructed us younger people to carry the luggage. We did this and started off again. Although we were younger, it was not an easy task to carry this stuff. So, when we came to a small bridge some time later, we all threw their things in the river. I have always wondered what was in those suitcases. Money? Jewels, or just clothes? Later on when they found out what we had done, they could have killed us, they were so mad. But as it turned out, we would have lost them anyway, or at least had to abandon them because of events that followed.

We were really making good time down the valley and things seemed to be at their best, until all at once a huge search light came on down the road and a car started up, pulled out of a side road onto our road, and headed toward us. There was a short road to our right leading to the foot of a hill. It was about one quarter mile long, dead ending at the hill, with a field on both sides of the road. The guide ran back down the line of people, headed up this short road and ducked into the tall growth and threw himself on the ground. Needless to say, we all did likewise, lying as still as dead men. The car turned up this road and stopped almost opposite us. They never left the car, just sat there with the motor running for maybe three or four minutes. Finally, they backed down the road, never having flashed a light into the fields, and went back to where they had started. We laid there for about five more minutes to be sure everything was safe, then followed the guide as he abandoned the road and the valley and started to climb the hill at the road's end. It was tough work because the hill was about a 45 degree incline and grassy so the shoes slipped as we worked our way up. We would climb a little and rest a little. After a few hours of this, we were all so exhausted that every time we rested we would fall asleep for a few minutes. We would be so hot from the work of climbing, but after a few minutes of sleep we would wake up shivering from the damp and cold. It was miserable. Our easy journey through the valleys was all over. From now on, it would be climb up and slide down, and climb up again. We were among the trees, so that helped some as it gave us something to grab on to if one was in our path. We asked the Frenchman why the people in the car didn’t come into the field after us. He said the guide told him he was surprised also but felt that they way have been afraid that the people in the field were the French underground and heavily armed and were afraid they might get hurt. Little did they know how close they were to collecting a group of unarmed, frightened people.

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