The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz

From Vol. I—1829-1852. Chapter X, p. 311. Copyright, 1907, by the McClure Co.

Shortly before midnight I stood, equipped as on the night before, well hidden in the dark recess of the house door opposite the penitentiary. The street corners right and left were, according to agreement, properly watched, but our friends kept themselves, as much as possible, concealed. A few minutes later the night watchman shuffled down the street, and, when immediately in front of me, swung his rattle and called the hour of twelve. Then he slouched quietly on and disappeared. What would I have given for a roaring storm and a splashing rain! But the night was perfectly still. My eye was riveted to the roof of the penitentiary building, the dormer windows of which I could scarcely distinguish. The street lights flared dimly. Suddenly there appeared a light above, by which I could observe the frame of one of the dormer windows; it moved three times up and down; that was the signal hoped for. With an eager glance I examined the street right and left. Nothing stirred. Then on my part I gave the signal agreed upon, striking sparks. A second later the light above disappeared and I perceived a dark object slowly moving across the edge of the wall. My heart beat violently and drops of perspiration stood upon my forehead. Then the thing I had apprehended actually happened: tiles and brick, loosened by the rubbing rope, rained down upon the pavement with a loud clatter. "Now, good heaven, help us!" At the same moment Hensel's carriage came rumbling over the cobblestones. The noise of the falling tiles and brick was no longer audible. But would they not strike Kinkel's head and benumb him? Now the dark object had almost reached the ground. I jumped forward and touched him; it was indeed my friend and there he stood alive and on his feet.

"This is a bold deed," were the first words he said to me.

"Thank God," I answered. "Now off with the rope and away."

I labored in vain to untie the rope that was wound around his body.

"I cannot help you," Kinkel whispered, "for the rope has fearfully lacerated both my hands." I pulled out my dirk, and with great effort I succeeded in cutting the rope, the long end of which, as soon as it was free, was quickly pulled up. While I threw a cloak around Kinkel's shoulders and helped him get into the rubber shoes, he looked anxiously around. Hensel's carriage had turned and was coming slowly back.

"What carriage is that?" Kinkel asked.

"Our carriage."

Dark figures showed themselves at the street corners and approached us.

"For heaven's sake, what people are those?"

"Our friends."

At a little distance we heard male voices sing, "Here we sit gayly together."

"What is that?" asked Kinkel, while we hurried through a side street toward Kruger's hotel.

"Your jailers around a bowl of punch."

"Capital!" said Kinkel. We entered the hotel through a back door and soon found ourselves in a room in which Kinkel was to put on the clothes that we had bought for him—a black cloth suit, a big bear-skin overcoat, and a cap like those worn by Prussian forest officers. From a room near by sounded the voices of the revelers. Kruger, who had stood a few minutes looking on while Kinkel was exchanging his convict's garb for an honest man's dress, suddenly went out with a peculiarly sly smile. When he returned carrying a few filled glasses, he said, "Herr Professor, in a room near by some of your jailers are sitting around a bowl of punch. I have just asked them whether they would not permit me to take some for a few friends of mine who have just arrived. They had no objection. Now, Herr Professor, let us drink your health first out of the bowl of your jailers." We found it difficult not to break out in loud laughter. Kinkel was now in his citizen's clothes, and his lacerated hands were washed and bandaged with handkerchiefs. He thanked his faithful friends with a few words which brought tears to their eyes. Then we jumped into Hensel's vehicle. The penitentiary officers were still singing and laughing around their punch bowl.