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5. Further Adventures of the Same
Next morning there was a touch of frost and a nip in the air which stirred my blood and
put me in buoyant spirits. I forgot my precarious position and the long road I had still to
travel. I came down to breakfast in great form, to find Peter's even temper badly ruffled.
He had remembered Stumm in the night and disliked the memory; this he muttered to
me as we rubbed shoulders at the dining-room door. Peter and I got no opportunity for
private talk. The lieutenant was with us all the time, and at night we were locked in our
rooms. Peter discovered this through trying to get out to find matches, for he had the
bad habit of smoking in bed.
Our guide started on the telephone, and announced that we were to be taken to see a
prisoners' camp. In the afternoon I was to go somewhere with Stumm, but the morning
was for sight-seeing. 'You will see,' he told us, 'how merciful is a great people. You will
also see some of the hated English in our power. That will delight you. They are the
forerunners of all their nation.'
We drove in a taxi through the suburbs and then over a stretch of flat market-garden-
like country to a low rise of wooded hills. After an hour's ride we entered the gate of
what looked like a big reformatory or hospital. I believe it had been a home for destitute
children. There were sentries at the gate and massive concentric circles of barbed wire
through which we passed under an arch that was let down like a portcullis at nightfall.
The lieutenant showed his permit, and we ran the car into a brick-paved yard and
marched through a lot more sentries to the office of the commandant.
He was away from home, and we were welcomed by his deputy, a pale young man with
a head nearly bald. There were introductions in German which our guide translated into
Dutch, and a lot of elegant speeches about how Germany was foremost in humanity as
well as martial valour. Then they stood us sandwiches and beer, and we formed a
procession for a tour of inspection. There were two doctors, both mild-looking men in
spectacles, and a couple of warders - under-officers of the good old burly, bullying sort I
knew well. That was the cement which kept the German Army together. Her men were
nothing to boast of on the average; no more were the officers, even in crack corps like
the Guards and the Brandenburgers; but they seemed to have an inexhaustible supply
of hard, competent N.C.O.s.
We marched round the wash-houses, the recreation-ground, the kitchens, the hospital -
with nobody in it save one chap with the 'flu.' It didn't seem to be badly done. This place
was entirely for officers, and I expect it was a show place where American visitors were
taken. If half the stories one heard were true there were some pretty ghastly prisons
away in South and East Germany.
I didn't half like the business. To be a prisoner has always seemed to me about the
worst thing that could happen to a man. The sight of German prisoners used to give me