quartered, which had been put up by the French at the time of the Marne,
years before, so a man had told Andy.
"What are you dreamin' about, Indiana?" said Judkins, punching
Chrisfield jovially in the ribs.
Chrisfield doubled his fists and gave him a smashing blow in the jaw
that Judkins warded of just in time.
Judkins's face flamed red. He swung with a long bent arm.
"What the hell d'you think this is?" shouted somebody. "What's he want
to hit me for?" spluttered Judkins, breathless.
Men had edged in between them.
"Lemme git at him."
"Shut up, you fool," said Andy, drawing Chrisfield away. The company
scattered sullenly. Some of the men lay down in the long uncut grass in
the shade of the ruins of the house, one of the walls of which made a
wall of the shanty where they lived. Andrews and Chrisfield strolled in
silence down the road, kicking their feet into the deep dust. Chrisfield
was limping. On both sides of the road were fields of ripe wheat, golden
under the sun. In the distance were low green hills fading to blue, pale
yellow in patches with the ripe grain. Here and there a thick clump
of trees or a screen of poplars broke the flatness of the long smooth
hills. In the hedgerows were blue cornflowers and poppies in all colors
from carmine to orange that danced in the wind on their wiry stalks. At
the turn in the road they lost the noise of the division and could hear
the bees droning in the big dull purple cloverheads and in the gold
hearts of the daisies.
"You're a wild man, Chris. What the hell came over you to try an' smash
poor old Judkie's jaw? He could lick you anyway. He's twice as heavy as
Chrisfield walked on in silence.
"God, I should think you'ld have had enough of that sort of thing....
I should think you'ld be sick of wanting to hurt people. You don't like
pain yourself, do you?"
Andrews spoke in spurts, bitterly, his eyes on the ground.
"Ah think Ah sprained ma goddam ankle when Ah tumbled off the back o'
the truck yesterday."
"Better go on sick call.... Say, Chris, I'm sick of this business....
Almost like you'd rather shoot yourself than keep on."
"Ah guess you're gettin' the dolefuls, Andy. Look... let's go in
swimmin'. There's a lake down the road."
"I've got my soap in my pocket. We can wash a few cooties off."
"Don't walk so goddam fast...Andy, you got more learnin' than I have.
You ought to be able to tell what it is makes a feller go crazy like
that.... Ah guess Ah got a bit o' the devil in me."
Andrews was brushing the soft silk of a poppy petal against his face.
"I wonder if it'ld have any effect if I ate some of these," he said.
"They say you go to sleep if you lie down in a poppy-field. Wouldn't you
like to do that, Chris, an' not wake up till the war was over and you
could be a human being again."
Andrews bit into the green seed capsule he held in his hand. A milky
juice came out.
"It's bitter...I guess it's the opium," he said.
"A stuff that makes you go to sleep and have wonderful dreams. In
"Dreams," interrupted Chrisfield. "Ah had one of them last night.
Dreamed Ah saw a feller that had shot hisself that I saw one time
reconnoitrin' out in the Bringy Wood."
"What was that?"
"Nawthin', juss a Fritzie had shot hisself."
"Better than opium," said Andrews, his voice trembling with sudden
"Ah dreamed the flies buzzin' round him was aeroplanes.... Remember the
last rest village?"
"And the major who wouldn't close the window? You bet I do!"
They lay down on the grassy bank that sloped from the road to the pond.
The road was hidden from them by the tall reeds through which the wind
lisped softly. Overhead huge white cumulus clouds, piled tier on tier
like fantastic galleons in full sail, floated, changing slowly in a
greenish sky. The reflection of clouds in the silvery glisten of the
pond's surface was broken by clumps of grasses and bits of floating
weeds. They lay on their backs for some time before they started taking
their clothes off, looking up at the sky, that seemed vast and free,
like the ocean, vaster and freer than the ocean.
"Sarge says a delousin' machine's comin' through this way soon."
"We need it, Chris."
Andrews pulled his clothes off slowly.
"It's great to feel the sun and the wind on your body, isn't it, Chris?"
Andrews walked towards the pond and lay flat on his belly on the fine
soft grass near the edge.
"It's great to have your body there, isn't it?" he said in a dreamy
voice. "Your skin's so soft and supple, and nothing in the world has the
feel a muscle has.... Gee, I don't know what I'd do without my body."
"Look how ma ole ankle's raised.... Found any cooties yet?" he said.
"I'll try and drown 'em," said Andrews. "Chris, come away from those
stinking uniforms and you'll feel like a human being with the sun on
your flesh instead of like a lousy soldier."
"Hello, boys," came a high-pitched voice unexpectedly. A "Y" man with
sharp nose and chin had come up behind them.
"Hello," said Chrisfield sullenly, limping towards the water.
"Want the soap?" said Andrews.
"Going to take a swim, boys?" asked the "Y" man. Then he added in a tone
of conviction, "That's great."
"Better come in, too," said Andrews.
"Thanks, thanks.... Say, if you don't mind my suggestion, why don't you
fellers get under the water.... You see there's two French girls looking
at you from the road." The "Y" man giggled faintly.
"They don't mind," said Andrews soaping, himself vigorously.
"Ah reckon they lahk it," said Chrisfield.
"I know they haven't any morals.... But still."
"And why should they not look at us? Maybe there won't be many people
who get a chance."
"What do you mean?"
"Have you ever seen what a little splinter of a shell does to a feller's
body?" asked Andrews savagely. He splashed into the shallow water and
swam towards the middle of the pond.
"Ye might ask 'em to come down and help us pick the cooties off," said
Chrisfield and followed in Andrews's wake. In the middle he lay on a
sand bank in the warm shallow water and looked back at the "Y" man, who
still stood on the bank. Behind him were other men undressing, and
soon the grassy slope was filled with naked men and yellowish grey
underclothes, and many dark heads and gleaming backs were bobbing up
and down in the water. When he came out, he found Andrews sitting
cross-legged near his clothes. He reached for his shirt and drew it on
"God, I can't make up my mind to put the damn thing on again," said
Andrews in a low voice, almost as if he were talking to himself; "I feel
so clean and free. It's like voluntarily taking up filth and slavery
again.... I think I'll just walk off naked across the fields."
"D'you call serving your country slavery, my friend?" The "Y" man, who
had been roaming among the bathers, his neat uniform and well-polished
boots and puttees contrasting strangely with the mud-clotted,
sweat-soaked clothing of the men about him, sat down on the grass beside
"You're goddam right I do."
"You'll get into trouble, my boy, if you talk that way," said the "Y"
man in a cautious voice.
"Well, what is your definition of slavery?"
"You must remember that you are a voluntary worker in the cause of
democracy.... You're doing this so that your children will be able to
"Ever shot a man?"
"No.... No, of course not, but I'd have enlisted, really I would. Only
my eyes are weak."
"I guess so," said Andrews under his breath. "Remember that your women
folks, your sisters and sweethearts and mothers, are praying for you at
"I wish somebody'd pray me into a clean shirt," said Andrews, starting
to get into his clothes. "How long have you been over here?"
"Just three months." The man's sallow face, with its pinched nose and
chin lit up. "But, boys, those three months have been worth all the
other years of my min - " he caught himself - "life.... I've heard the
great heart of America beat. O boys, never forget that you are in a
great Christian undertaking."
"Come on, Chris, let's beat it." They left the "Y" man wandering among
the men along the bank of the pond, to which the reflection of the
greenish silvery sky and the great piled white clouds gave all the free
immensity of space. From the road they could still hear his high pitched
"And that's what'll survive you and me," said Andrews.
"Say, Andy, you sure can talk to them guys," said Chris admiringly.
"What's the use of talking? God, there's a bit of honeysuckle still in
bloom. Doesn't that smell like home to you, Chris?"
"Say, how much do they pay those 'Y' men, Andy?"
"Damned if I know."
They were just in time to fall into line for mess. In the line everyone
was talking and laughing, enlivened by the smell of food and the tinkle
of mess-kits. Near the field kitchen Chrisfield saw Sergeant Anderson
talking with Higgins, his own sergeant. They were laughing together,
and he heard Anderson's big voice saying jovially, "We've pulled through
this time, Higgins.... I guess we will again." The two sergeants looked
at each other and cast a paternal, condescending glance over their men
and laughed aloud.
Chrisfield felt powerless as an ox under the yoke. All he could do was
work and strain and stand at attention, while that white-faced Anderson
could lounge about as if he owned the earth and laugh importantly like
that. He held out his plate. The K.P. splashed the meat and gravy into
it. He leaned against the tar-papered wall of the shack, eating his food
and looking sullenly over at the two sergeants, who laughed and
talked with an air of leisure while the men of their two companies ate
hurriedly as dogs all round them.
Chrisfield glanced suddenly at Anderson, who sat in the grass at the
back of the house, looking out over the wheat fields, while the smoke of
a cigarette rose in spirals about his face and his fair hair. He looked
peaceful, almost happy. Chrisfield clenched his fists and felt the
hatred of that other man rising stingingly within him.
"Guess Ah got a bit of the devil in me," he thought.
The windows were so near the grass that the faint light had a greenish
color in the shack where the company was quartered. It gave men's faces,
tanned as they were, the sickly look of people who work in offices, when
they lay on their blankets in the bunks made of chicken wire, stretched
across mouldy scantlings. Swallows had made their nests in the peak
of the roof, and their droppings made white dobs and blotches on the
floorboards in the alley between the bunks, where a few patches of
yellow grass had not yet been completely crushed away by footsteps. Now
that the shack was empty, Chrisfield could hear plainly the peep-peep of
the little swallows in their mud nests. He sat quiet on the end of one
of the bunks, looking out of the open door at the blue shadows that were
beginning to lengthen on the grass of the meadow behind. His hands, that
had got to be the color of terra cotta, hung idly between his legs. He
was whistling faintly. His eyes, in their long black eyelashes, were
fixed on the distance, though he was not thinking. He felt a comfortable
unexpressed well-being all over him. It was pleasant to be alone in the
barracks like this, when the other men were out at grenade practice.
There was no chance of anyone shouting orders at him.
A warm drowsiness came over him. From the field kitchen alongside came
the voice of a man singing:
"O my girl's a lulu, every inch a lulu,
Is Lulu, that pretty lil' girl o' mi-ine."
In their mud nests the young swallows twittered faintly overhead. Now
and then there was a beat of wings and a big swallow skimmed into the
shack. Chrisfield's cheeks began to feel very softly flushed. His head
drooped over on his chest. Outside the cook was singing over and over
again in a low voice, amid a faint clatter of pans:
"O my girl's a lulu, every inch a lulu,
Is Lulu, that pretty lil' girl o' mi-ine."
Chrisfield fell asleep.
He woke up with a start. The shack was almost dark. A tall man stood out
black against the bright oblong of the door.
"What are you doing here?" said a deep snarling voice.
Chrisfield's eyes blinked. Automatically he got to his feet; it might be
an officer. His eyes focussed suddenly. It was Anderson's face that was
between him and the light. In the greenish obscurity the skin looked
chalk-white in contrast to the heavy eyebrows that met over the nose and
the dark stubble on the chin.
"How is it you ain't out with the company?"
"Ah'm barracks guard," muttered Chrisfield. He could feel the blood
beating in his wrists and temples, stinging his eyes like fire. He was
staring at the floor in front of Anderson's feet.
"Orders was all the companies was to go out an' not leave any guard."
"We'll see about that when Sergeant Higgins comes in. Is this place
"You say Ah'm a goddamed liar, do ye?" Chrisfield felt suddenly cool and
joyous. He felt anger taking possession of him. He seemed to be standing
somewhere away from himself watching himself get angry.
"This place has got to be cleaned up.... That damn General may come back
to look over quarters," went on Anderson coolly.
"You call me a goddam liar," said Chrisfield again, putting as much
insolence as he could summon into his voice. "Ah guess you doan'
"Yes, I know, you're the guy tried to run a knife into me once," said
Anderson coolly, squaring his shoulders. "I guess you've learned a
little discipline by this time. Anyhow you've got to clean this place
up. God, they haven't even brushed the birds' nests down! Must be some
company!" said Anderson with a half laugh.
"Ah ain't agoin' to neither, fur you."
"Look here, you do it or it'll be the worse for you," shouted the
sergeant in his deep rasping voice.
"If ever Ah gits out o' the army Ah'm goin' to shoot you. You've picked
on me enough." Chrisfield spoke slowly, as coolly as Anderson.
"Well, we'll see what a court-martial has to say to that."
"Ah doan give a hoot in hell what ye do."
Sergeant Anderson turned on his heel and went out, twisting the corner
button of his tunic in his big fingers. Already the sound of tramping
feet was heard and the shouted order, "Dis-missed." Then men crowded
into the shack, laughing and talking. Chrisfield sat still on the end
of the bunk, looking at the bright oblong of the door. Outside he saw
Anderson talking to Sergeant Higgins. They shook hands, and Anderson
disappeared. Chrisfield heard Sergeant Higgins call after him.
"I guess the next time I see you I'll have to put my heels together an'
Andersen's booming laugh faded as he walked away.
Sergeant Higgins came into the shack and walked straight up to
Chrisfield, saying in a hard official voice:
"You're under arrest.... Small, guard this man; get your gun and
cartridge belt. I'll relieve you so you can get mess."
He went out. Everyone's eyes were turned curiously on Chrisfield. Small,
a red-faced man with a long nose that hung down over his upper lip,
shuffled sheepishly over to his place beside Chrisfield's cot and let
the butt of his rifle come down with a bang on the floor. Somebody
laughed. Andrews walked up to them, a look of trouble in his blue eyes
and in the lines of his lean tanned cheeks.
"What's the matter, Chris?" he asked in a low voice.
"Tol' that bastard Ah didn't give a hoot in hell what he did," said
Chrisfield in a broken voice.
"Say, Andy, I don't think I ought ter let anybody talk to him," said
Small in an apologetic tone. "I don't see why Sarge always gives me all
his dirty work."
Andrews walked off without replying.
"Never mind, Chris; they won't do nothin' to ye," said Jenkins, grinning
at him good-naturedly from the door.
"Ah doan give a hoot in hell what they do," said Chrisfield again.
He lay back in his bunk and looked at the ceiling. The barracks was full
of a bustle of cleaning up. Judkins was sweeping the floor with a broom
made of dry sticks. Another man was knocking down the swallows' nests
with a bayonet. The mud nests crumbled and fell on the floor and
the bunks, filling the air with a flutter of feathers and a smell of
birdlime. The little naked bodies, with their orange bills too big for
them, gave a soft plump when they hit the boards of the floor, where
they lay giving faint gasping squeaks. Meanwhile, with shrill little
cries, the big swallows flew back and forth in the shanty, now and then
striking the low roof.
"Say, pick 'em up, can't yer?" said Small. Judkins was sweeping the
little gasping bodies out among the dust and dirt.
A stoutish man stooped and picked the little birds up one by one,
puckering his lips into an expression of tenderness. He made his two
hands into a nest-shaped hollow, out of which stretched the long necks
and the gaping orange mouths. Andrews ran into him at the door.
"Hello, Dad," he said. "What the hell?"
"I just picked these up."
"So they couldn't let the poor little devils stay there? God! it looks
to me as if they went out of their way to give pain to everything, bird,
beast or man."
"War ain't no picnic," said Judkins.
"Well, God damn it, isn't that a reason for not going out of your way to
raise more hell with people's feelings than you have to?"
A face with peaked chin and nose on which was stretched a
parchment-colored skin appeared in the door.
"Hello, boys," said the "Y" man. "I just thought I'd tell you I'm going
to open the canteen tomorrow, in the last shack on the Beaucourt road.
There'll be chocolate, ciggies, soap, and everything."
Everybody cheered. The "Y" man beamed.
His eye lit on the little birds in Dad's hands.
"How could you?" he said. "An American soldier being deliberately cruel.
I would never have believed it."
"Ye've got somethin' to learn," muttered Dad, waddling out into the
twilight on his bandy legs.
Chrisfield had been watching the scene at the door with unseeing eyes.
A terrified nervousness that he tried to beat off had come over him. It
was useless to repeat to himself again and again that he didn't give a
damn; the prospect of being brought up alone before all those officers,
of being cross-questioned by those curt voices, frightened him. He would
rather have been lashed. Whatever was he to say, he kept asking himself;
he would get mixed up or say things he didn't mean to, or else he
wouldn't be able to get a word out at all. If only Andy could go up with
him, Andy was educated, like the officers were; he had more learning
than the whole shooting-match put together. He'd be able to defend
himself, and defend his friends, too, if only they'd let him.
"I felt just like those little birds that time they got the bead on our
trench at Boticourt," said Jenkins, laughing.
Chrisfield listened to the talk about him as if from another world.
Already he was cut off from his outfit. He'd disappear and they'd never
know or care what became of him.
The mess-call blew and the men filed out. He could hear their talk
outside, and the sound of their mess-kits as they opened them. He lay
on his bunk staring up into the dark. A faint blue light still came
from outside, giving a curious purple color to Small's red face and long
drooping nose at the end of which hung a glistening drop of moisture.
Chrisfield found Andrews washing a shirt in the brook that flowed
through the ruins of the village the other side of the road from the
buildings where the division was quartered. The blue sky flicked with
pinkish-white clouds gave a shimmer of blue and lavender and white to
the bright water. At the bottom could be seen battered helmets and bits
of equipment and tin cans that had once held meat. Andrews turned his
head; he had a smudge of mud down his nose and soapsuds on his chin.
"Hello, Chris," he said, looking him in the eyes with his sparkling blue
eyes, "how's things?" There was a faint anxious frown on his forehead.
"Two-thirds of one month's pay an' confined to quarters," said
"Gee, they were easy."
"Um-hum, said Ah was a good shot an' all that, so they'd let me off this
Andrews started scrubbing at his shirt again.
"I've got this shirt so full of mud I don't think I ever will get it
clean," he said.
"Move ye ole hide away, Andy. Ah'll wash it. You ain't no good for
"Hell no, I'll do it."
"Move ye hide out of there."
Andrews got to his feet and wiped the mud off his nose with his bare
"Ah'm goin' to shoot that bastard," said Chrisfield, scrubbing at the
"Don't be an ass, Chris."
"Ah swear to God Ah am."
"What's the use of getting all wrought up. The thing's over. You'll
probably never see him again."
"Ah ain't all het up.... Ah'm goin' to do it though." He wrung the shirt
out carefully and flipped Andrews in the face with it. "There ye are,"
"You're a good fellow, Chris, even if you are an ass."
"Tell me we're going into the line in a day or two."
"There's been a devil of a lot of artillery going up the road; French,
British, every old kind."
"Tell me they's raisin' hell in the Oregon forest."
They walked slowly across the road. A motorcycle despatch-rider whizzed
"It's them guys has the fun," said Chrisfield.
"I don't believe anybody has much."
"What about the officers?"
"They're too busy feeling important to have a real hell of a time."
The hard cold rain beat like a lash in his; face. There was no light
anywhere and no sound but the hiss of the rain in the grass. His eyes
strained to see through the dark until red and yellow blotches danced
before them. He walked very slowly and carefully, holding something very
gently in his hand under his raincoat. He felt himself full of a strange
subdued fury; he seemed to be walking behind himself spying on his own
actions, and what he saw made him feel joyously happy, made him want to
He turned so that the rain beat against his cheek. Under his helmet
he felt his hair full of sweat that ran with the rain down his glowing
face. His fingers clutched very carefully the smooth stick he had in his
He stopped and shut his eyes for a moment; through the hiss of the rain
he had heard a sound of men talking in one of the shanties. When he shut
his eyes he saw the white face of Anderson before him, with its unshaven
chin and the eyebrows that met across the nose.
Suddenly he felt the wall of a house in front of him. He put out his
hand. His hand jerked back from the rough wet feel of the tar paper,
as if it had touched something dead. He groped along the wall, stepping
very cautiously. He felt as he had felt reconnoitering in the Bringy
Wood. Phrases came to his mind as they had then. Without thinking
what they meant, the words Make the world safe for Democracy formed
themselves in his head. They were very comforting. They occupied his
thoughts. He said them to himself again and again. Meanwhile his free
hand was fumbling very carefully with the fastening that held the
wooden shutter over a window. The shutter opened a very little, creaking
loudly, louder than the patter of rain on the roof of the shack. A
stream of water from the roof was pouring into his face.
Suddenly a beam of light transformed everything, cutting the darkness in
two. The rain glittered like a bead curtain. Chrisfield was looking into
a little room where a lamp was burning. At a table covered with printed
blanks of different size sat a corporal; behind him was a bunk and
a pile of equipment. The corporal was reading a magazine. Chrisfield
looked at him a long time; his fingers were tight about the smooth
stick. There was no one else in the room.
A sort of panic seized Chrisfield; he strode away noisily from the
window and pushed open the door of the shack.
"Where's Sergeant Anderson?" he asked in a breathless voice of the first
man he saw.
"Corp's there if it's anything important," said the man. "Anderson's
gone to an O. T. C. Left day before yesterday."
Chrisfield was out in the rain again. It was beating straight in his
face, so that his eyes were full of water. He was trembling. He had
suddenly become terrified. The smooth stick he held seemed to burn him.
He was straining his ears for an explosion. Walking straight before him
down the road, he went faster and faster as if trying to escape from it.
He stumbled on a pile of stones. Automatically he pulled the string out