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swaggering with a hand at the sword hilt, about the quiet square in
front of the gate of the Chateau. And he thought of the great, sudden
wind of freedom that had blown out of Italy, before which dogmas and
slaveries had crumbled to dust. In contrast, the world today seemed
pitifully arid. Men seemed to have shrunk in stature before the vastness
of the mechanical contrivances they had invented. Michael Angelo,
da Vinci, Aretino, Cellini; would the strong figures of men ever so
dominate the world again? Today everything was congestion, the scurrying
of crowds; men had become ant-like. Perhaps it was inevitable that the
crowds should sink deeper and deeper in slavery. Whichever won, tyranny
from above, or spontaneous organization from below, there could be no

He went through the gates into the park, laid out with a few flower
beds where pansies bloomed; through the dark ranks of elm trunks, was
brilliant sky, with here and there a moss-green statue standing out
against it. At the head of an alley he came out on a terrace. Beyond the
strong curves of the pattern of the iron balustrade was an expanse of
country, pale green, falling to blue towards the horizon, patched with
pink and slate-colored houses and carved with railway tracks. At his
feet the Seine shone like a curved sword blade.

He walked with long strides along the terrace, and followed a road that
turned into the forest, forgetting the monotonous tread mill of his
thoughts, in the flush that the fast walking sent through his whole
body, in the rustling silence of the woods, where the moss on the north
side of the boles of the trees was emerald, and where the sky was soft
grey through a lavender lacework of branches. The green gnarled woods
made him think of the first act of Pelleas. With his tunic unbuttoned
and his shirt open at the neck and his hands stuck deep in his pockets,
he went along whistling like a school boy.

After an hour he came out of the woods on a highroad, where he found
himself walking beside a two-wheeled cart, that kept pace with him
exactly, try as he would to get ahead of it. After a while, a boy leaned

"Hey, l'Americain, vous voulez monter?"

"Where are you going?"


"Where's that?"

The boy flourished his whip vaguely towards the horse's head.

"All right," said Andrews.

"These are potatoes," said the boy, "make yourself comfortable.''
Andrews offered him a cigarette, which he took with muddy fingers. He
had a broad face, red cheeks and chunky features. Reddish-brown hair
escaped spikily from under a mud-spattered beret.

"Where did you say you were going?"

"Conflans-Ste.-Honorine. Silly all these saints, aren't they?"

Andrews laughed.

"Where are you going?" the boy asked.

"I don't know. I was taking a walk."

The boy leaned over to Andrews and whispered in his car: "Deserter?"

"No.... I had a day off and wanted to see the country."

"I just thought, if you were a deserter, I might be able to help you.
Must be silly to be a soldier. Dirty life.... But you like the country.
So do I. You can't call this country. I'm not from this part; I'm from
Brittany. There we have real country. It's stifling near Paris here, so
many people, so many houses."

"It seems mighty fine to me."

"That's because you're a soldier, better than barracks, hein? Dirty life
that. I'll never be a soldier. I'm going into the navy. Merchant marine,
and then if I have to do service I'll do it on the sea."

"I suppose it is pleasanter."

"There's more freedom. And the sea.... We Bretons, you know, we all die
of the sea or of liquor."

They laughed.

"Have you been long in this part of the country?" asked Andrews.

"Six months. It's very dull, this farming work. I'm head of a gang in a
fruit orchard, but not for long. I have a brother shipped on a sailing
vessel. When he comes back to Bordeaux, I'll ship on the same boat."

"Where to?"

"South America, Peru; how should I know?"

"I'd like to ship on a sailing vessel," said Andrews.

"You would? It seems very fine to me to travel, and see new countries.
And perhaps I shall stay over there."


"How should I know? If I like it, that is.... Life is very bad in

"It is stifling, I suppose," said Andrews slowly, "all these nations,
all these hatreds, but still... it is very beautiful. Life is very ugly
in America."

"Let's have something to drink. There's a bistro!"

The boy jumped down from the cart and tied the horse to a tree. They
went into a small wine shop with a counter and one square oak table.

"But won't you be late?" said Andrews.

"I don't care. I like talking, don't you?"

"Yes, indeed."

They ordered wine of an old woman in a green apron, who had three yellow
teeth that protruded from her mouth when she spoke.

"I haven't had anything to eat," said Andrews.

"Wait a minute." The boy ran out to the cart and came back with a canvas
bag, from which he took half a loaf of bread and some cheese.

"My name's Marcel," the boy said when they had sat for a while sipping

"Mine is Jean...Jean Andre."

"I have a brother named Jean, and my father's name is Andre. That's
pleasant, isn't it?"

"But it must be a splendid job, working in a fruit orchard," said
Andrews, munching bread and cheese.

"It's well paid; but you get tired of being in one place all the time.
It's not as it is in Brittany...." Marcel paused. He sat, rocking a
little on the stool, holding on to the seat between his legs. A curious
brilliance came into his grey eyes. "There," he went on in a soft voice,
"it is so quiet in the fields, and from every hill you look at the
sea.... I like that, don't you?" he turned to Andrews, with a smile.

"You are lucky to be free," said Andrews bitterly. He felt as if he
would burst into tears.

"But you will be demobilized soon; the butchery is over. You will go
home to your family. That will be good, hein?"

"I wonder. It's not far enough away. Restless!"

"What do you expect?"

A fine rain was falling. They climbed in on the potato sacks and the
horse started a jog trot; its lanky brown shanks glistened a little from
the rain.

"Do you come out this way often?" asked Marcel.

"I shall. It's the nicest place near Paris."

"Some Sunday you must come and I'll take you round. The Castle is very
fine. And then there is Malmaison, where the great Emperor lived with
the Empress Josephine."

Andrews suddenly remembered Jeanne's card. This was Wednesday. He
pictured her dark figure among the crowd of the pavement in front of the
Cafe de Rohan. Of course it had to be that way. Despair, so helpless as
to be almost sweet, came over him.

"And girls," he said suddenly to Marcel, "are they pretty round here?"

Marcel shrugged his shoulders.

"It's not women that we lack, if a fellow has money," he said.

Andrews felt a sense of shame, he did not exactly know why.

"My brother writes that in South America the women are very brown and
very passionate," added Marcel with a wistful smile. "But travelling and
reading books, that's what I like.... But look, if you want to take the
train back to Paris...." Marcel pulled up the horse to a standstill. "If
you want to take the train, cross that field by the foot path and keep
right along the road to the left till you come to the river. There's a
ferryman. The town's Herblay, and there's a station.... And any Sunday
before noon I'll be at 3 rue des Eveques, Reuil. You must come and we'll
take a walk together."

They shook hands, and Andrews strode off across the wet fields.
Something strangely sweet and wistful that he could not analyse lingered
in his mind from Marcel's talk. Somewhere, beyond everything, he was
conscious of the great free rhythm of the sea.

Then he thought of the Major's office that morning, and of his own
skinny figure in the mirrors, repeated endlessly, standing helpless and
humble before the shining mahogany desk. Even out here in these fields
where the wet earth seemed to heave with the sprouting of new growth, he
was not free. In those office buildings, with white marble halls full
of the clank of officers' heels, in index cards and piles of typewritten
papers, his real self, which they had power to kill if they wanted to,
was in his name and his number, on lists with millions of other names
and other numbers. This sentient body of his, full of possibilities
and hopes and desires, was only a pale ghost that depended on the other
self, that suffered for it and cringed for it. He could not drive out
of his head the picture of himself, skinny, in an illfitting uniform,
repeated endlessly in the two mirrors of the Major's white-painted

All of a sudden, through bare poplar trees, he saw the Seine.

He hurried along the road, splashing now and then in a shining puddle,
until he came to a landing place. The river was very wide, silvery,
streaked with pale-green and violet, and straw-color from the evening
sky. Opposite were bare poplars and behind them clusters of buff-colored
houses climbing up a green hill to a church, all repeated upside down in
the color-streaked river. The river was very full, and welled up above
its banks, the way the water stands up above the rim of a glass filled
too full. From the water came an indefinable rustling, flowing sound
that rose and fell with quiet rhythm in Andrews's ears.

Andrews forgot everything in the great wave of music that rose
impetuously through him, poured with the hot blood through his veins,
with the streaked colors of the river and the sky through his eyes, with
the rhythm of the flowing river through his ears.


"So I came without," said Andrews, laughing.

"What fun!" cried Genevieve. "But anyway they couldn't do anything to
you. Chartres is so near. It's at the gates of Paris."

They were alone in the compartment. The train had pulled out of the
station and was going through suburbs where the trees were in leaf in
the gardens, and fruit trees foamed above the red brick walls, among the
box-like villas.

"Anyway," said Andrews, "it was an opportunity not to be missed."

"That must be one of the most amusing things about being a soldier,
avoiding regulations. I wonder whether Damocles didn't really enjoy his
sword, don't you think so?"

They laughed.

"But mother was very doubtful about my coming with you this way. She's
such a dear, she wants to be very modern and liberal, but she always
gets frightened at the last minute. And my aunt will think the world's
end has come when we appear."

They went through some tunnels, and when the train stopped at Sevres,
had a glimpse of the Seine valley, where the blue mist made a patina
over the soft pea-green of new leaves. Then the train came out on wide
plains, full of the glaucous shimmer of young oats and the golden-green
of fresh-sprinkled wheat fields, where the mist on the horizon was
purplish. The train's shadow, blue, sped along beside them over the
grass and fences.

"How beautiful it is to go out of the city this way in the early
morning!... Has your aunt a piano?"

"Yes, a very old and tinkly one."

"It would be amusing to play you all I have done at the 'Queen of
Sheba.' You say the most helpful things."

"It is that I am interested. I think you will do something some day."

Andrews shrugged his shoulders.

They sat silent, their ears filled up by the jerking rhythm of wheels
over rails, now and then looking at each other, almost furtively.
Outside, fields and hedges and patches of blossom, and poplar trees
faintly powdered with green, unrolled, like a scroll before them, behind
the nicker of telegraph poles and the festooned wires on which the
sun gave glints of red copper. Andrews discovered all at once that
the coppery glint on the telegraph wires was the same as the glint in
Genevieve's hair. "Berenike, Artemisia, Arsinoe," the names lingered in
his mind. So that as he looked out of the window at the long curves of
the telegraph wires that seemed to rise and fall as they glided past,
he could imagine her face, with its large, pale brown eyes and its small
mouth and broad smooth forehead, suddenly stilled into the encaustic
painting on the mummy case of some Alexandrian girl.

"Tell me," she said, "when did you begin to write music?"

Andrews brushed the light, disordered hair off his forehead.

"Why, I think I forgot to brush my hair this morning," he said. "You
see, I was so excited by the idea of coming to Chartres with you."

They laughed.

"But my mother taught me to play the piano when I was very small," he
went on seriously. "She and I lived alone in an old house belonging to
her family in Virginia. How different all that was from anything you
have ever lived. It would not be possible in Europe to be as isolated
as we were in Virginia.... Mother was very unhappy. She had led a
dreadfully thwarted life... that unrelieved hopeless misery that only
a woman can suffer. She used to tell me stories, and I used to make
up little tunes about them, and about anything. The great success," he
laughed, "was, I remember, to a dandelion.... I can remember so well the
way Mother pursed up her lips as she leaned over the writing desk....
She was very tall, and as it was dark in our old sitting room, had to
lean far over to see.... She used to spend hours making beautiful copies
of tunes I made up. My mother is the only person who has ever really had
any importance in my life.... But I lack technical training terribly."

"Do you think it is so important?" said Genevieve, leaning towards him
to make herself heard above the clatter of the train.

"Perhaps it isn't. I don't know."

"I think it always comes sooner or later, if you feel intensely enough."

"But it is so frightful to feel all you want to express getting away
beyond you. An idea comes into your head, and you feel it grow stronger
and stronger and you can't grasp it; you have no means to express it.
It's like standing on a street corner and seeing a gorgeous procession
go by without being able to join it, or like opening a bottle of beer
and having it foam all over you without having a glass to pour it into."

Genevieve burst out laughing.

"But you can drink from the bottle, can't you?" she said, her eyes

"I'm trying to," said Andrews.

"Here we are. There's the cathedral. No, it's hidden," cried Genevieve.

They got to their feet. As they left the station, Andrews said: "But
after all, it's only freedom that matters. When I'm out of the army!..."

"Yes, I suppose you are right... for you that is. The artist should be
free from any sort of entanglement."

"I don't see what difference there is between an artist and any other
sort of workman," said Andrews savagely.

"No, but look."

From the square where they stood, above the green blur of a little park,
they could see the cathedral, creamy yellow and rust color, with the
sober tower and the gaudy tower, and the great rose window between, the
whole pile standing nonchalantly, knee deep in the packed roofs of the

They stood shoulder to shoulder, looking at it without speaking.

In the afternoon they walked down the hill towards the river, that
flowed through a quarter of tottering, peak-gabled houses and mills,
from which came a sound of grinding wheels. Above them, towering over
gardens full of pear trees in bloom, the apse of the cathedral bulged
against the pale sky. On a narrow and very ancient bridge they stopped
and looked at the water, full of a shimmer of blue and green and grey
from the sky and from the vivid new leaves of the willow trees along the

Their senses glutted with the beauty of the day and the intricate
magnificence of the cathedral, languid with all they had seen and said,
they were talking of the future with quiet voices.

"It's all in forming a habit of work," Andrews was saying. "You have to
be a slave to get anything done. It's all a question of choosing your
master, don't you think so?"

"Yes. I suppose all the men who have left their imprint on people's
lives have been slaves in a sense," said Genevieve slowly. "Everyone has
to give up a great deal of life to live anything deeply. But it's worth,
it." She looked Andrews full in the eyes.

"Yes, I think it's worth it," said Andrews. "But you must help me. Now
I am like a man who has come up out of a dark cellar. I'm almost too
dazzled by the gorgeousness of everything. But at least I am out of the

"Look, a fish jumped," cried Genevieve. "I wonder if we could hire a
boat anywhere.... Don't you think it'd be fun to go out in a boat?"

A voice broke in on Genevieve's answer: "Let's see your pass, will you?"

Andrews turned round. A soldier with a round brown face and red cheeks
stood beside him on the bridge. Andrews looked at him fixedly. A little
zigzag scar above his left eye showed white on his heavily tanned skin.

"Let's see your pass," the man said again; he had a high pitched,
squeaky voice.

Andrews felt the blood thumping in his ears. "Are you an M. P.?"


"Well I'm in the Sorbonne Detachment."

"What the hell's that?" said the M. P., laughing thinly.

"What does he say?" asked Genevieve, smiling.

"Nothing. I'll have to go see the officer and explain," said Andrews in
a breathless voice. "You go back to your Aunt's and I'll come as soon as
I've arranged it."

"No, I'll come with you."

"Please go back. It may be serious. I'll come as soon as I can," said
Andrews harshly.

She walked up the hill with swift decisive steps, without turning round.

"Tough luck, buddy," said the M. P. "She's a good-looker. I'd like to
have a half-hour with her myself."

"Look here. I'm in the Sorbonne School Detachment in Paris, and I came
down here without a pass. Is there anything I can do about it?"

"They'll fix you up, don't worry," cried the M. P. shrilly. "You ain't a
member of the General Staff in disguise, are ye? School Detachment! Gee,
won't Bill Huggis laugh when he hears that? You pulled the best one yet,
buddy.... But come along," he added in a confidential tone. "If you come
quiet I won't put the handcuffs on ye."

"How do I know you're an M. P.?"

"You'll know soon enough."

They turned down a narrow street between grey stucco walls leprous with
moss and water stains.

At a chair inside the window of a small wine shop a man with a red M. P.
badge sat smoking. He got up when he saw them pass and opened the door
with one hand on his pistol holster.

"I got one bird, Bill," said the man, shoving Andrews roughly in the

"Good for you, Handsome; is he quiet?"

"Um." Handsome grunted.

"Sit down there. If you move you'll git a bullet in your guts."

The M. P. stuck out a square jaw; he had a sallow skin, puffy under the
eyes that were grey and lustreless.

"He says he's in some goddam School Detachment. First time that's been
pulled, ain't it?"

"School Detachment. D'you mean an O. T. C?" Bill sank laughing into his
chair by the window, spreading his legs out over the floor.

"Ain't that rich?" said Handsome, laughing shrilly again.

"Got any papers on ye? Ye must have some sort of papers."

Andrews searched his pockets. He flushed.

"I ought to have a school pass."

"You sure ought. Gee, this guy's simple," said Bill, leaning far back in
the chair and blowing smoke through his nose.

"Look at his dawg-tag, Handsome."

The man strode over to Andrews and jerked open the top of his tunic.
Andrews pulled his body away.

"I haven't got any on. I forgot to put any on this morning."

"No tag, no insignia."

"Yes, I have, infantry."

"No papers.... I bet he's been out a hell of a time," said Handsome

"Better put the cuffs on him," said Bill in the middle of a yawn.

"Let's wait a while. When's the loot coming?"

"Not till night."


"Yes. Ain't no train."

"How about a side car?"

"No, I know he ain't comin'," snarled Bill.

"What d'you say we have a little liquor, Bill? Bet this bloke's
got money. You'll set us up to a glass o' cognac, won't you, School

Andrews sat very stiff in his chair, staring at them.

"Yes," he said, "order up what you like."

"Keep an eye on him, Handsome. You never can tell what this quiet kind's
likely to pull off on you."

Bill Huggis strode out of the room with heavy steps. In a moment he came
back swinging a bottle of cognac in his hand.

"Tole the Madame you'd pay, Skinny," said the man as he passed Andrews's
chair. Andrews nodded.

The two M. P.'s drew up to the table beside which Andrews sat. Andrews
could not keep his eyes off them. Bill Huggis hummed as he pulled the
cork out of the bottle.

"It's the smile that makes you happy, It's the smile that makes you sad."

Handsome watched him, grinning.

Suddenly they both burst out laughing.

"An' the damn fool thinks he's in a school battalion," said Handsome in
his shrill voice.

"It'll be another kind of a battalion you'll be in, Skinny," cried Bill
Huggis. He stifled his laughter with a long drink from the bottle.

He smacked his lips.

"Not so goddam bad," he said. Then he started humming again:

"It's the smile that makes you happy, It's the smile that makes you sad."

"Have some, Skinny?" said Handsome, pushing the bottle towards Andrews.

"No, thanks," said Andrews.

"Ye won't be gettin' good cognac where yer goin', Skinny, not by a damn
sight," growled Bill Huggis in the middle of a laugh.

"All right, I'll take a swig." An idea had suddenly come into Andrews's

"Gee, the bastard kin drink cognac," cried Handsome.

"Got enough money to buy us another bottle?"

Andrews nodded. He wiped his mouth absently with his handkerchief; he
had drunk the raw cognac without tasting it.

"Get another bottle, Handsome," said Bill Huggis carelessly. A purplish
flush had appeared in the lower part of his cheeks. When the other man
came back, he burst out laughing.

"The last cognac this Skinny guy from the school detachment'll get for
many a day. Better drink up strong, Skinny.... They don't have that
stuff down on the farm.... School Detachment; I'll be goddamned!" He
leaned back in his chair, shaking with laughter.

Handsome's face was crimson. Only the zigzag scar over his eye remained
white. He was swearing in a low voice as he worked the cork out of the

Andrews could not keep his eyes off the men's faces. They went from one
to the other, in spite of him. Now and then, for an instant, he caught
a glimpse of the yellow and brown squares of the wall paper and the bar
with a few empty bottles behind it. He tried to count the bottles; "one,
two, three..." but he was staring in the lustreless grey eyes of Bill
Huggis, who lay back in his chair, blowing smoke out of his nose, now
and then reaching for the cognac bottle, all the while humming faintly,
under his breath:

"It's the smile that makes you happy, It's the smile that makes you sad."

Handsome sat with his elbows on the table, and his chin in his beefy
hands. His face was flushed crimson, but the skin was softly moulded,
like a woman's.

The light in the room was beginning to grow grey.

Handsome and Bill Huggis stood up. A young officer, with clearly-marked
features and a campaign hat worn a little on one side, came in, stood
with his feet wide apart in the middle of the floor.

Andrews went up to him.

"I'm in the Sorbonne Detachment, Lieutenant, stationed in Paris."

"Don't you know enough to salute?" said the officer, looking him up and
down. "One of you men teach him to salute," he said slowly.

Handsome made a step towards Andrews and hit him with his fist between
the eyes. There was a flash of light and the room swung round, and there
was a splitting crash as his head struck the floor. He got to his feet.
The fist hit him in the same place, blinding him, the three figures and
the bright oblong of the window swung round. A chair crashed down
with him, and a hard rap in the back of his skull brought momentary

"That's enough, let him be," he heard a voice far away at the end of a
black tunnel.

A great weight seemed to be holding him down as he struggled to get up,
blinded by tears and blood. Rending pains darted like arrows through his
head. There were handcuffs on his wrists.

"Git up," snarled a voice.

He got to his feet, faint light came through the streaming tears in his
eyes. His forehead flamed as if hot coals were being pressed against it.

"Prisoner, attention!" shouted the officer's voice. "March!"

Automatically, Andrews lifted one foot and then the other. He felt in

Online LibraryJohn Dos PassosThree Soldiers → online text (page 25 of 31)