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4. Adventures of Two Dutchmen on the Loose
The Germans, as Peter said, are a careful people. A man met us on the quay at
Rotterdam. I was a bit afraid that something might have turned up in Lisbon to discredit
us, and that our little friend might have warned his pals by telegram. But apparently all
was serene.
Peter and I had made our plans pretty carefully on the voyage. We had talked nothing
but Dutch, and had kept up between ourselves the role of Maritz's men, which Peter
said was the only way to play a part well. Upon my soul, before we got to Holland I was
not very clear in my own mind what my past had been. Indeed the danger was that the
other side of my mind, which should be busy with the great problem, would get
atrophied, and that I should soon be mentally on a par with the ordinary backveld
We had agreed that it would be best to get into Germany at once, and when the agent
on the quay told us of a train at midday we decided to take it.
I had another fit of cold feet before we got over the frontier. At the station there was a
King's Messenger whom I had seen in France, and a war correspondent who had been
trotting round our part of the front before Loos. I heard a woman speaking pretty clean-
cut English, which amid the hoarse Dutch jabber sounded like a lark among crows.
There were copies of the English papers for sale, and English cheap editions. I felt
pretty bad about the whole business, and wondered if I should ever see these homely
sights again.
But the mood passed when the train started. It was a clear blowing day, and as we
crawled through the flat pastures of Holland my time was taken up answering Peter's
questions. He had never been in Europe before, and formed a high opinion of the
farming. He said he reckoned that such land would carry four sheep a morgen. We were
thick in talk when we reached the frontier station and jolted over a canal bridge into
I had expected a big barricade with barbed wire and entrenchments. But there was
nothing to see on the German side but half a dozen sentries in the field-grey I had
hunted at Loos. An under- officer, with the black-and-gold button of the Landsturm,
hoicked us out of the train, and we were all shepherded into a big bare waiting-room
where a large stove burned. They took us two at a time into an inner room for
examination. I had explained to Peter all about this formality, but I was glad we went in
together, for they made us strip to the skin, and I had to curse him pretty seriously to
make him keep quiet. The men who did the job were fairly civil, but they were mighty
thorough. They took down a list of all we had in our pockets and bags, and all the
details from the passports the Rotterdam agent had given us.