Postville Herald in Postville, Iowa
25 Oct 1918

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Postville Herald in Postville, Iowa
25 Oct 1918

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Postville Herald (Newspaper) - October 25, 1918, Postville, Iowa Outwitting the Hun by lieutenant Pat o Brien copyright 1918. By Pat Alt o Brien . .111 chapter Xiii. Five Days in an empty House. The five Days i spent in that House seemed to me like five years. During All that time i had very Little to eat less in fact than i had been getting in the Fields. I did not feel it so bad perhaps because of the fact that i was no longer exposed to the other privations a which before had combined to make Tny condition so wretched. I now bad a Good place to sleep at any rate and i did not Wake every half hour or so As i had been accustomed to do in the Fields and Woods and of course my hunger was not aggravated by the physical exertions which had been necessary before. Nevertheless perhaps because i had More time now to think of the hunger pains which were gnawing at me All the time i Don t believe i was Ever so miserable As i was at that period of my adventure. I text so mean towards the world i would have committed murder i think with very Little provocation. German soldiers were passing the House at All hours of the Day. I watched them hour after hour from the Keyhole of the door to have shown myself at the window was out of the question because the House in which i was concealed was supposed to be Unten anted. Because of the fact that i was unable to speak either flemish or Ger Man i could not go out and buy food although i still had the Money with i rummaged the House Many time3. Which to do it. That was one of the things that galled one the thought j that i had the wherewithal in my j jeans to buy All the food i needed and yet no Way of getting it without endangering my Liberty and life. At night however after it was dark i would steal quietly out of the House j to see what i would pick up in the Way of food. By that time of course the stores were closed but i scoured the streets the alleys and the byways for scraps of food and occasionally got up courage enough to Appeal to belgian peasants whom i met on the streets and in that Way i managed to keep body and soul together. It was quite apparent to me however that i was worse off in the City than i had been in the Fields and i decided to get out of that House just As soon As i knew definitely that Hyliger had made up his mind to do nothing further for me. When i was not at the Keyhole of the door i spent most of my Day on the top floor in a room which looked out on the Street. By keeping Well away from the window i could see much of what was going on without being seen myself. In my restlessness i used to walk Back and Forth in that room and i kept it up so constantly that i believe i must have worn a path in the floor. It was nine Steps from one Wall to the other and As i bad Little else to amuse me i figured out one Day after i had been pacing up and Down for several hours just How much distance i would have covered on my Way to Holland if my footsteps had been taken in that direction instead of just up and Down that old room. I was very much surprised to find that itt three hours i crossed the room no less than 5,000 times and the distance covered was Between nine and ten Miles. It was not very Gratifying to realize that after walking Alt that distance i was t a step nearer my goal than when i started but i had to do something while waiting for Huy lager to help me and pacing up and Down waa a natural outlet for my restlessness. While looking oat of the top floor window one Day i noticed a cat on a window ledge of the House across the Street. I bad a Nice piece of a broken Mirror which i had picked up in the House and i used it to amuse myself for an hour at a time shining it in the cat s eyes across the Street. At first the animal was annoyed by the reflection and would move away Only to come Back a few moments later. By and by however. It seemed to get used to the Glare and would t Budge no matter How Strong the sunlight was. Playing with the cat in this Way got me into the habit of watching her comings and goings and was indirectly the Means of my getting food a Day or two later at a time when i was so i famished that i was ready to do almost anything to appease my hunger. It was about 7 o clock in the evening. I was expecting Hyliger at 8, but i had t the slightest Hope that he would bring me food As he had told me that he would t take the risk of having food in his Possession when calling on me. I was standing at the window in such a Way that i could see what was going on in the Street without being observed by those who passed by when i noticed my Friend the cat coming Down the Steps of the opposite House with something in his Mouth. Without considering the risks i ran i opened the front door ran Down the Steps and across the Street and pounced on that cat before it could get away with its supper for that As i had imagined was what i had seen in its Mouth. It turned out to be a piece of stewed Rabbit which i confiscated eagerly and took Back with me to the House. Perhaps i Felt a Little sorry for the cat but i certainly had no qualms about eating the animal s dinner. I was much too hungry to dwell upon niceties and a piece of stewed Rabbit was certainly too Good for a cat to eat when a Man was starving. I ate and enjoyed it and the incident suggested to me a Way in which i might possibly obtain food again when All other avenues failed. Prom my place of concealment i fre gently saw huge carts being pushed through the streets gathering potato peelings refuse of cabbage and similar food remnants which in America Are considered garbage and destroyed. In Belgium they were using this garbage to make their bread out of and while the idea May sound revolting to us the fact is that the germans have brought these things Down to such a science that the bread they make this Way is really very Good to eat. I know it would have been like cake to me when i was in need of food indeed i would have eaten the garbage direct let alone the bread. Although As i have said i suffered greatly from hunger while occupying this House there were one or two things i observed through the Keyhole or from the windows which made me laugh and some of the incidents that occurred during my voluntary imprisonment were really funny. From the Keyhole i could see for instance a shop window on the other Side of the Street several houses Down the Block. All Day Long German soldiers would be passing in front of the House and i noticed that practically every one of them would Stop in front of this store window and look in. Occasionally a Soldier on duty Bent would hurry past but i think nine out of ten of them were sufficiently interested to spend at least a minute and some of them three or four minutes gazing at whatever was being exhibited in that window although i noticed that it failed to attract the belgians. I have a considerable Streak of curiosity in me and i could t help wondering what it could be in that window which almost without exception seemed to interest German soldiers but failed to hold the belgians and after conjuring my brains for a while on the problem i came to the conclusion that the shop must have been a Book shop and the window contained German magazines which naturally enough would be of the greatest interest to the germans but of none to the belgians. At any rate i resolved that As soon As night came i would go out and investigate the window. When i got the answer i laughed so loud that i was afraid for the moment i must have attracted the attention of the neighbors but i could t help it. The window was filled with huge quantities of sausage 1 the store was a Butcher shop and one of the principal things they sold apparently was sausage. The display they made although it consisted merely of sausages piled in the window certainly had plenty of pulling Power. It pulled nine germans out of ten out of their course and indirectly pulled me right across the Street the idea of those germans being so interested in that window display As to stand in front of the window for two three or four minutes at a time however certainly seemed funny to me and when i got Back to the House i sat at the Keyhole again and found just As much interest As before in watching the germans Stop in their tracks when they reached the window even though i was now aware what the attraction was. One of my chief occupations daring these Days was catching flies. I would catch a Fly put him in a spider s web there were plenty of them in the old House and sit Down for the spider to come Down and get him. But always i pictured myself in the same predicament and rescued the Fly just As the spider was about to grab him. Several times when things were Dull i was tempted to see the tragedy through but perhaps the same Providence that guided me safely through All perils was guarding too the destiny of those flies for i always weakened and the flies never did suffer from my lust for amusement. The House was Well supplied with books in fact one of the choicest libraries i think i Ever saw but they were All written either in flemish or French. I could read no flemish and very Little French. I might have made a Little headway with the latter but the books All seemed too deep for Rae and i gave it up. There was one thing though that i did read and reread from beginning to end that was a new work Herald which must have arrived just about the time War was declared. Several things in this interested me and particularly the baseball scores which i studied with As much care As a real fan possibly could an up to Date score. I could t refrain from laughing when i came to an account of Zimmerman of the cubs being benched for some spat with the Umpire and it afforded me just As much interest three years after it had happened perhaps More than some current item of world wide interest had at that time. I rummaged the House Many times from cellar to Garret in my search for something to eat but the Harvest of three years of War had made any Success along that line impossible. I was like the Man out in the Ocean in a boat and thirsty with water every where but not a drop to drink. I was tempted while in the City to go to Church one sunday but my better judgment told me it would be a useless risk. Of course someone would surely say something to me and i did t know How Many germans would be there or what might happen so i gave up that idea. During All the time i was concealed in this House i saw but one automobile and that was a German staff officer s. That same afternoon i had one of the frights of my Young life. I had been gazing out of the Keyhole As usual when i heard coming Down the Street the measured tread of German soldiers. It did t sound like very Many but there was no doubt in my mind that German soldiers were marching Down the Street. I went upstairs Aud peeked through the window and sure enough a squad of German infantry was coming Down the Street accompanied by a military motor truck. I had t the slightest idea that they were coming after me but still the possibilities of the situation gave me More or less alarm and i considered How i could make my escape if by Chance i was the Man they were after. The idea of hiding in the wine cellar appealed to me As the most practical there must have been plenty of places among the wine kegs and cases where a Man could conceal himself but As a matter of fact i did not believe that any such contingency would arise. The marching soldiers came nearer i could hear them at the nest House. In i would see them pass the Keyhole through which i was looking. Halt at the word of command shouted by a Junior officer the squad came to attention right in front of the House i waited no longer. Running Down the stairs i flew into the wine cellar and although it was almost pitch dark the Only Light coming from a grating which led to the backyard i soon found a satisfactory hiding place in the extreme rear of the cellar. I had had the presence of mind to leave the door of the wine cellar ajar figuring that if the soldiers found a closed door they would be More Apt to search for a fugitive behind it than if the door were open. My derision to get away from that front door had been made and carried out none too soon for i Hud Only just located myself Between two big wine cases when i heard the tramp of soldiers feet marching up the front stoop a crash at the front door a few Hasty words of command which i did not understand and then the noise of scurrying feet from room to room and such a banging and hammering and smashing and crashing that i could not make out what was going on. If Hyliger had revealed my hiding place to the huns As i was now confident he had i Felt that there was Little Prospect of their overlooking me. They would search the House from top to Bottom and if necessary raze it to the ground before they would give up the search. To escape from the House through the backyard through the Iron grating which i had no doubt i could i Force seemed to to the logical thing to do but the chances were that the1 huns had thrown a cordon around the entire Block before the squad was sent to the House. The germans do these things in an efficient manner always. I they take nothing Tor granted. My one Chance seemed to be to stand Pat in the Hope that the Oli Ioor in charge might possibly come to the con delusion that he had arrived at the House too late that the Bird had a flown. J my position in that wine cellar was i anything but a comfortable one., rats and mice were scurrying across the j floor and the smashing and crashing j going on overhead was anything hut promising. Evidently those soldiers imagined that i ought to he hiding in the Walls for it sounded As though they were tearing off the wainscoting the picture molding and. In fact everything that they could tear or pull apart. Before very Long they would finish their search upstairs and would come Down to the basement. What they would do when they discovered the wine i had no idea. Perhaps they would let themselves Loose on it und give me my Chance. With a bottle of wine in each hand i figured 1 could put up a Good fight in the dark especially As i was becoming More and More accustomed to it and could begin to distinguish things hero and there whereas when they entered the pitchy darkness of the cellar they would be As Blind As bats in the Sun. Perhaps it was Twenty minutes before i heard what sounded like death Knell to me the soldiers were coming Down the cellar Steps i clutched a wine bottle in each hand and waited with bated breath. Tramp tramp tramp in a moment they would be in the cellar i proper. I could almost hear my heart j beating. The mice scurried across the floor by the scores frightened no doubt by the vibration and noise made by the descending soldiers. Some of the creatures ran across me where i stood Between two wine cases but i was too much interested in bigger game to pay any attention to mice. Tramp tramp halt again an order was Given in German and although i did not understand it i no willing to bless every word of it because it resulted in the soldiers turning right about face marching up the stairs again through the Hall and out of the front door and away i could hardly believe my ears. It seemed almost too Good to be True that they could have Given up the search just As they were about to come upon their Quarry but unless my ears deceived me that was what they Hud done. The possibility that the whole thing might be a German ruse did not escape me and i remained in the cellar for nearly an hour after they had apparently departed before i ventured to move listening intently in the meanwhile for the slightest sound which would reveal the presence of a sentry upstairs. Not hearing a sound i began to feel that they had indeed Given up the Hunt for i did not believe that a German i figured 1 could put up a Good fight officer would be so considerate of his men As to try to trap me rather than carry the cellar by Force if they had the slightest idea that i was there i took off my shoes and crept softly and slowly to the cellar Steps and. Then step by step placing Ray weight Down gradually so us to prevent the Steps from creaking i climbed to the top. The sight that met my eyes As x glanced into the Kitchen told me the whole Story. The water faucets had been ripped from the sinks the water pipes haveling been torn off and Gas fixtures  cooking utensils and everything else which contained even the smallest proportion of the metals the germans so badly needed and been taken from the Kitchen. I walked upstairs now with More Confidence feel in Tolo Rable assured that the soldiers had t been after me at till but had been merely collecting Metal and other materials which they expected an elaborate dwelling House like the one in which i was concealed to yield. Later i heard that the germans have taken practically every ounce of brass Copper and Wool they could Lay their hands on in Belgium. Even the brass out of pianos has been ruthlessly removed the serious damage done to valuable property by the removal of Only an insignificant proportion of Metal never being taken into consideration. I Learned too that All dogs Over fourteen inches High had been seized by the germans. This furnished lots of speculation among the belgians is to what use the germans were putting Tho animals to the general impression apparently being that they were being used for food i this however seemed much less Likely to we than that they were being employed As dispatch dogs in the trenches the same As we use them of our Side of the line. They might possibly kill the dogs and use their skins for leather and their carcasses for tallow but i feel quite sure that the huns Are by no Means so Short of food that they have to eat dogs yet awhile. Indeed i want to repeat Here what i have mentioned before if anyone has the idea that this War can be Wou by starving the huns he has t the slightest idea How Well provided the germans Are in that respect. They have considered their food needs in connection with their resources for several years to come and they have gone at it in such a methodical systematic Way taking into consideration every possible contingency that provided there is not no absolute crop failure there in t the slightest doubt in my mind that they can lust for years and the worst of it is they Are very cocksure about it themselves. It is True that the German soldiers want Pence. As i watched them through the Keyhole in the door i thought How unfavourably they compared with our men. They marched along the Street without laughter without joking without singing. Was quite apparent that the War is telling on them. I Don t believe i saw a single German Soldier who did t look As if he had lost ids Best Friend and he probably Hud. At the same time there is a big difference certainly a difference of several years Between wishing the War was Over and giving up and i Don t believe Tho German rank and tile any More than their leaders have the slightest idea at this time of giving up it All. But to return to my experience while concealed in the House. After the visit of the soldiers which left the House in n wretched condition 1 decided that i would continue my journey towards the Frontier particularly As i Hud gotten All i could out of Hyliger or rather he Hud gotten All he was going to get out of me. During my concealment in the House i had made various sorties into the City at night and i was beginning to feel More comfortable even when German soldiers were about. Through the Keyhole i had studied very closely the gait of the belgians the slovenly Droop that characterized most of them and their general appearance and i Felt that in my own dirty and unshaven condition i must have looked As much like the average poor belgian As a Man could. The Only thing that was against me was my height. I was several inches taller than even the tallest belgians. I had often thought that red hair would have gone Good with my name but now of course i was mighty glad that i was not so endowed for red haired belgians Are about As run us German Charity. There Are Many no doubt who will wonder Why i did not get More help than i did at this time. It is easily answered. When a Man is in hourly fear of his life and Tho country is full of spies As Belgium certainly was he is not going to help just anyone that comes along seeking Aid. One of the German s most successful ways of trapping the belgians has been to pose As an English or French prisoner who has escaped Appeal to them for Aid implicate us Many is possible and then turn the whole German police Force Loose on them. As i look Back on those Days i think it remarkable that i received As much help us i did but when people Avo starving under the conditions now forced upon those unfortunate people it is a great temptation to surrender these escaped prisoners to German authorities and receive Tho Huud Somo rewards offered for them or for alien spies As 1 was classed at that time. Tho passport which i had described me As a Spanish Sailor but i was very dubious about its value. If i could have spoken Spanish fluently it might have been Worth something to to but the few words i knew of the language would not have carried me very fur if i had been confront of with a Spanish interpreter. I decided to use Tho passport Only As a last resort preferring to act the port of a deaf and dumb belgian peasant As far u it would carry me. Before i finally left the House i had a remarkable experience which i shall remember As Long As i live. Chapter Xiv. A night of dissipation. During the first two Days i spent with Hyliger after i had first arrived in the big City he had told me among other things of a Mottag picture show in town which he so j i might have a Chance to see while there. I it is free every night in the week except saturdays and sundays he said and once you Aro inside you would not be Apt to he bothered by a anyone except when they come to Talis your order for something to drink. While there is no at Masslon patrons Are expected to eat or drink while in. Joying Tho picture?." a Day or two later while walking the streets at night in search for food i and passed this place and was very much tempted to go in and spend a few hours particularly As it would perhaps give me an Opportunity to buy something to eat although i was at a loss to know How i was going to ask for what i wanted. While trying to make up my mind whether it was sate for me to go in 1 walked half a Block past the place and when i turned Back again and reached the Entrance with my mind made up that i would take the Chance i run fall tilt into a German officer who was just coming out. That settled All my hankering for moving pictures that night. Where you came from my Friend i figured Thor must be More like you 1 1 guess it is a Good night for the next Day however in recalling the incident of the evening before it seemed to me that i had been rather foolish. What i needed More than anything else at that time was Confidence. Before i could get to the Frontier i would have to confront Gorman soldiers Many times because there were More of them Between this City and Holland than Section of the country through which i had so far travelled. Safety in these routing envies would depend largely upon toe calmness i displayed. It would t do to get nil excited tit the Mere sight of a spiked helmet. The belgians i and noticed while careful to obey the orders of the nun showed no particular fear of them Aud it seemed to me Tho sooner i cultivated the saui8 feeling of indifference the better i would to Able to Curry off the part i was playing. For tills reason i made up my mind then and there that officers or no officers i would go to that show that night and sit it through no matter what happened. While people May think that i had decided unwisely because of the unnecessary risk involved in the adventure it occurred to a that perhaps after All that theater waa about one of the safest places i could attend because that was about the inst place germans would expect to find a fugitive English officer in even if they were searching for me. As soon As even no came therefore i started out for die theatre. I fixed myself up As Well As possible. I had on a fairly decent pair of pants which Hyliger had Given me and i used n clean handkerchief As a Collar. With my hair finished up and my Beard trimmed As neatly As possible with a pair of Rusty scissors which i had found in the House while my up Pun Ronco was not exactly that of a Beau Brummel i Don t think i looked much worse than the average belgian. In these Days Tho average belgian is very poorly dressed at Best. I can t say i and no misgivings As i made my Way to the theatre certainly i was go lug Thero More for discipline than pleasure but i had made up my mind that i was going there to Sec it the Entrance to the theatre or Beer Garden for it was As much one As the other was on Tho Side of the building and was reached by Way of an Alley which ran alongside. Near the door was a ticket seller s Booth but is this was one of the free nights there was no one in the Booth. I marched slowly Down the Alley imitating As Best i could the indifferent gait of the belgians and when i entered the theater endeavoured to act is though i had been Thure Ninny times before. A Hasty Survey of the layout of the place was sufficient to enable to to select my sunt. It was Early and there wore not More than half a dozen people in Tho place it that time. A a that i had my Choice. There was a raised platform perhaps two feet High All around the Walls of the place except at the end where the stage was located. On teds platform tables were arranged and Thero wore tables on the floor prope As Well. To by continued showing it. That do Jones must be a Wondy a fully Bravo what makes you think no because la Tho. Course of a a Tofu Day he defied the Cook flatly disobey Hla wife and bullied the la Mafli a a a

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