CHAPTER XIV: HOMEWARD BOUND
HENCEFORTH our journey was free from danger of any kind. We traveled by rail over Damascus and Aleppo through Asia Minor to Constantinople. At two points on our journey we had to leave the railroad and travel by wagon, or afoot, as the railroad had not been completed at these places.
Everywhere we were entertained most cordially and hospitably by our German countrymen and by the Turkish authorities. At the railway stations large crowds were always assembled to greet us. There were bands playing and flags flying to welcome us, and roses with which to decorate ourselves. Gifts were showered upon us as we sat in our carriages. New clothing was provided for us, and we shed no tears when we parted from our old rags and their numerous inhabitants.
My men enjoyed the unprecedented distinction of dining with great dignitaries and men high in authority. Costly presents were bestowed upon us, and our baggage car, that at one time had held nothing but rags and our munitions, now filled up more and more. At some of the way stations at which our train stopped only on our account, large numbers of Bedouins had gathered to see us. They raced along beside our train, and when it stopped, they gave us an exhibition of fancy riding. Many a social glass was drained in the company of our German compatriots.
At last, in Aleppo, we received news from home, the first in ten months. Letters from loved ones and the Iron Cross! What more could the heart desire? There were two large mail bags full, and we devoted the next few days to our mail from home, to reading the many letters and verses that had been sent us, to writing autographs, and to making away with the cigars, chocolates, and other good things that had been given us.
During the afternoon of Whitsunday our train pulled into the station at Haider Pasha, the Asiatic terminus of the railway. Here my men received their long-wished-for German uniforms, which had been forwarded to them. The officers also had succeeded in procuring for themselves an outfit conforming, in a measure at least, to the demands made by the European civilization to which we were returning.
The chief of our Mediterranean Division, who was also chief of the Turkish fleet, Admiral Souchon, had honored us by coming with his staff to meet us at Haider Pasha. My men quickly fell in line. Our flag, which we had followed for ten months, was flying at our right wing. A few brief commands, the execution of which proved that the brigand existence we had led for months had not destroyed our military trim, and my sword was lowered before my superior officer:
"I report the landing squad from the 'Emden,' five officers, seven petty officers, and thirty men strong."