John Dos Passos.

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brown and red face with a bristly white beard, a bulbous, mullioned sort
of face, hovered over him in the middle of a pinkish mist.


"Oh, qu'il est propre! Oh, qu'il a la peau blanche!" Women's voices were
shrilling behind the mist. A coverlet that felt soft and fuzzy against
his skin was being put about him. He was very warm and torpid. But
somewhere in his thoughts a black crawling thing like a spider was
trying to reach him, trying to work its way through the pinkish veils
of torpor. After a long while he managed to roll over, and looked about

"Mais reste tranquille," came the woman's shrill voice again.

"And the other one? Did you see the other one?" he asked in a choked

"Yes, it's all right. I'm drying it by the stove," came another woman's
voice, deep and growling, almost like a man's.

"Maman's drying your money by the stove. It's all safe. How rich they
are, these Americans!"

"And to think that I nearly threw it overboard with the trousers," said
the other woman again.

John Andrews began to look about him. He was in a dark low cabin. Behind
him, in the direction of the voices, a yellow light flickered. Great
dishevelled shadows of heads moved about on the ceiling. Through the
close smell of the cabin came a warmth of food cooking. He could hear
the soothing hiss of frying grease.

"But didn't you see the Kid?" he asked in English, dazedly trying to
pull himself together, to think coherently. Then he went on in French in
a more natural voice:

"There was another one with me."

"We saw no one. Rosaline, ask the old man," said the older woman.

"No, he didn't see anyone," came the girl's shrill voice. She walked
over to the bed and pulled the coverlet round Andrews with an awkward
gesture. Looking up at her, he had a glimpse of the bulge of her breasts
and her large teeth that glinted in the lamplight, and very vague in the
shadow, a mop of snaky, disordered hair.

"Qu'il parle bien francais," she said, beaming at him. Heavy steps
shuffled across the cabin as the older woman came up to the bed and
peered in his face.

"Il va mieux," she said, with a knowing air.

She was a broad woman with a broad flat face and a swollen body swathed
in shawls. Her eyebrows were very bushy, and she had thick grey whiskers
that came down to a point on either side of her mouth, as well as a few
bristling hairs on her chin. Her voice was deep and growling, and seemed
to come from far down inside her huge body.

Steps creaked somewhere, and the old man looked at him through
spectacles placed on the end of his nose. Andrews recognized the
irregular face full of red knobs and protrusions.

"Thanks very much," he said.

All three looked at him silently for some time. Then the old man pulled
a newspaper out of his pocket, unfolded it carefully, and fluttered
it above Andrews's eyes. In the scant light Andrews made out the name:

"That's why," said the old man, looking at Andrews fixedly, through his

"I'm a sort of a socialist," said Andrews.

"Socialists are good-for-nothings," snarled the old man, every red
protrusion on his face seeming to get redder.

"But I have great sympathy for anarchist comrades," went on Andrews,
feeling a certain liveliness of amusement go through him and fade again.

"Lucky you caught hold of my rope, instead of getting on to the next
barge. He'd have given you up for sure. Sont des royalistes, ces

"We must give him something to eat; hurry, Maman.... Don't worry, he'll
pay, won't you, my little American?"

Andrews nodded his head.

"All you want," he said.

"No, if he says he's a comrade, he shan't pay, not a sou," growled the
old man.

"We'll see about that," cried the old woman, drawing her breath in with
an angry whistling sound.

"It's only that living's so dear nowadays," came the girl's voice.

"Oh, I'll pay anything I've got," said Andrews peevishly, closing his
eyes again.

He lay a long while on his back without moving.

A hand shoved in between his back and the pillow roused him. He sat up.
Rosaline was holding a bowl of broth in front of him that steamed in his

"Mange ca," she said.

He looked into her eyes, smiling. Her rusty hair was neatly combed. A
bright green parrot with a scarlet splash in its wings, balanced itself
unsteadily on her shoulder, looking at Andrews out of angry eyes, hard
as gems.

"Il est jaloux, Coco," said Rosaline, with a shrill little giggle.

Andrews took the bowl in his two hands and drank some of the scalding

"It's too hot," he said, leaning back against the girl's arm.

The parrot squawked out a sentence that Andrews did not understand.

Andrews heard the old man's voice answer from somewhere behind him:

"Nom de Dieu!"

The parrot squawked again.

Rosaline laughed.

"It's the old man who taught him that," she said. "Poor Coco, he doesn't
know what he's saying."

"What does he say?" asked Andrews.

"'Les bourgeois a la lanterne, nom de dieu!' It's from a song," said
Rosaline. "Oh, qu'il est malin, ce Coco!"

Rosaline was standing with her arms folded beside the bunk. The parrot
stretched out his neck and rubbed it against her cheek, closing and
unclosing his gem-like eyes. The girl formed her lips into a kiss, and
murmured in a drowsy voice:

"Tu m'aimes, Coco, n'est-ce pas, Coco? Bon Coco."

"Could I have something more, I'm awfully hungry," said Andrews.

"Oh, I was forgetting," cried Rosaline, running off with the empty bowl.

In a moment she came back without the parrot, with the bowl in her hand
full of a brown stew of potatoes and meat.

Andrews ate it mechanically, and handed back the bowl.

"Thank you," he said, "I am going to sleep."

He settled himself into the bunk. Rosaline drew the covers up about
him and tucked them in round his shoulders. Her hand seemed to linger a
moment as it brushed past his cheek. But Andrews had already sunk into a
torpor again, feeling nothing but the warmth of the food within him and
a great stiffness in his legs and arms.

When he woke up the light was grey instead of yellow, and a swishing
sound puzzled him. He lay listening to it for a long time, wondering
what it was. At last the thought came with a sudden warm spurt of joy
that the barge must be moving.

He lay very quietly on his back, looking up at the faint silvery light
on the ceiling of the bunk, thinking of nothing, with only a vague dread
in the back of his head that someone would come to speak to him, to
question him.

After a long time he began to think of Genevieve Rod. He was having a
long conversation with her about his music, and in his imagination she
kept telling him that he must finish the "Queen of Sheba," and that she
would show it to Monsieur Gibier, who was a great friend of a certain
concert director, who might get it played. How long ago it must be
since they had talked about that. A picture floated through his mind
of himself and Genevieve standing shoulder to shoulder looking at the
Cathedral at Chartres, which stood up nonchalantly, above the tumultuous
roofs of the town, with its sober tower and its gaudy towers and the
great rose windows between. Inexorably his memory carried him forward,
moment by moment, over that day, until he writhed with shame and revolt.
Good god! Would he have to go on all his life remembering that? "Teach
him how to salute," the officer had said, and Handsome had stepped up to
him and hit him. Would he have to go on all his life remembering that?

"We tied up the uniform with some stones, and threw it overboard," said
Rosaline, jabbing him in the shoulder to draw his attention.

"That was a good idea."

"Are you going to get up? It's nearly time to eat. How you have slept."

"But I haven't anything to put on," said Andrews, laughing, and waved a
bare arm above the bedclothes.

"Wait, I'll find something of the old man's. Say, do all Americans have
skin so white as that? Look."

She put her brown hand, with its grimed and broken nails, on Andrews's
arm, that was white with a few silky yellow hairs.

"It's because I'm blond," said Andrews. "There are plenty of blond
Frenchmen, aren't there?"

Rosaline ran off giggling, and came back in a moment with a pair of
corduroy trousers and a torn flannel shirt that smelt of pipe tobacco.

"That'll do for now," she said. "It's warm today for April. Tonight
we'll buy you some clothes and shoes. Where are you going?"

"By God, I don't know."

"We're going to Havre for cargo." She put both hands to her head and
began rearranging her straggling rusty-colored hair. "Oh, my hair," she
said, "it's the water, you know. You can't keep respectable-looking on
these filthy barges. Say, American, why don't you stay with us a while?
You can help the old man run the boat."

He found suddenly that her eyes were looking into his with trembling

"I don't know what to do," he said carelessly. "I wonder if it's safe to
go on deck."

She turned away from him petulantly and led the way up the ladder.

"Oh, v'la le camarade," cried the old man who was leaning with all his
might against the long tiller of the barge. "Come and help me."

The barge was the last of a string of four that were describing a
wide curve in the midst of a reach of silvery river full of glittering
patches of pale, pea-green lavender, hemmed in on either side by
frail blue roots of poplars. The sky was a mottled luminous grey with
occasional patches, the color of robins' eggs. Andrews breathed in the
dank smell of the river and leaned against the tiller when he was told
to, answering the old man's curt questions.

He stayed with the tiller when the rest of them went down to the cabin
to eat. The pale colors and the swishing sound of the water and the
blue-green banks slipping by and unfolding on either hand, were as
soothing as his deep sleep had been. Yet they seemed only a veil
covering other realities, where men stood interminably in line and
marched with legs made all the same length on the drill field, and wore
the same clothes and cringed before the same hierarchy of polished belts
and polished puttees and stiff-visored caps, that had its homes in vast
offices crammed with index cards and card catalogues; a world full of
the tramp of marching, where cold voices kept saying: - "Teach him how to
salute." Like a bird in a net, Andrews's mind struggled to free itself
from the obsession.

Then he thought of his table in his room in Paris, with its piled sheets
of ruled paper, and he felt he wanted nothing in the world except to
work. It would not matter what happened to him if he could only have
time to weave into designs the tangled skein of music that seethed
through him as the blood seethed through his veins.

There he stood, leaning against the long tiller, watching the blue-green
poplars glide by, here and there reflected in the etched silver mirror
of the river, feeling the moist river wind flutter his ragged shirt,
thinking of nothing.

After a while the old man came up out of the cabin, his face purplish,
puffing clouds of smoke out of his pipe.

"All right, young fellow, go down and eat," he said.

Andrews lay flat on his belly on the deck, with his chin resting on the
back of his two hands. The barge was tied up along the river bank among
many other barges. Beside him, a small fuzzy dog barked furiously at a
yellow mongrel on the shore. It was nearly dark, and through the pearly
mist of the river came red oblongs of light from the taverns along the
bank. A slip of a new moon, shrouded in haze, was setting behind the
poplar trees. Amid the round of despairing thoughts, the memory of the
Kid intruded itself. He had sold a Ford for five hundred francs, and
gone on a party with a man who'd stolen an ammunition train, and he
wanted to write for the Italian movies. No war could down people like
that. Andrews smiled, looking into the black water. Funny, the Kid was
dead, probably, and he, John Andrews, was alive and free. And he lay
there moping, still whimpering over old wrongs. "For God's sake be a
man!" he said to himself. He got to his feet.

At the cabin door, Rosaline was playing with the parrot.

"Give me a kiss, Coco," she was saying in a drowsy voice, "just a little
kiss. Just a little kiss for Rosaline, poor little Rosaline."

The parrot, which Andrews could hardly see in the dusk, leaned towards
her, fluttering his feathers, making little clucking noises.

Rosaline caught sight of Andrews.

"Oh, I thought you'd gone to have a drink with the old man," she cried.

"No. I stayed here."

"D'you like it, this life?"

Rosaline put the parrot back on his perch, where he swayed from side to
side, squawking in protest: "Les bourgeois a la lanterne, nom de dieu!"

They both laughed.

"Oh, it must be a wonderful life. This barge seems like heaven after the

"But they pay you well, you Americans."

"Seven francs a day."

"That's luxury, that."

"And be ordered around all day long!"

"But you have no expenses.... It's clear gain.... You men are funny. The
old man's like that too.... It's nice here all by ourselves, isn't it,

Andrews did not answer. He was wondering what Genevieve Rod would say
when she found out he was a deserter.

"I hate it.... It's dirty and cold and miserable in winter," went on
Rosaline. "I'd like to see them at the bottom of the river, all these
barges.... And Paris women, did you have a good time with them?"

"I only knew one. I go very little with women."

"All the same, love's nice, isn't it?"

They were sitting on the rail at the bow of the barge. Rosaline had
sidled up so that her leg touched Andrews's leg along its whole length.

The memory of Genevieve Rod became more and more vivid in his mind. He
kept thinking of things she had said, of the intonations of her voice,
of the blundering way she poured tea, and of her pale-brown eyes wide
open on the world, like the eyes of a woman in an encaustic painting
from a tomb in the Fayoum.

"Mother's talking to the old woman at the Creamery. They're great
friends. She won't be home for two hours yet," said Rosaline.

"She's bringing my clothes, isn't she?"

"But you're all right as you are."

"But they're your father's."

"What does that matter?"

"I must go back to Paris soon. There is somebody I must see in Paris."

"A woman?"

Andrews nodded.

"But it's not so bad, this life on the barge. I'm just lonesome and sick
of the old people. That's why I talk nastily about it.... We could have
good times together if you stayed with us a little."

She leaned her head on his shoulder and put a hand awkwardly on his bare

"How cold these Americans are!" she muttered, giggling drowsily.

Andrews felt her hair tickle his cheek.

"No, it's not a bad life on the barge, honestly. The only thing is,
there's nothing but old people on the river. It isn't life to be always
with old people.... I want to have a good time."

She pressed her cheek against his. He could feel her breath heavy in his

"After all, it's lovely in summer to drowse on the deck that's all warm
with the sun, and see the trees and the fields and the little houses
slipping by on either side.... If there weren't so many old people....
All the boys go away to the cities.... I hate old people; they're so
dirty and slow. We mustn't waste our youth, must we?"

Andrews got to his feet.

"What's the matter?" she cried sharply.

"Rosaline," Andrews said in a low, soft voice, "I can only think of
going to Paris."

"Oh, the Paris woman," said Rosaline scornfully. "But what does that
matter? She isn't here now."

"I don't know.... Perhaps I shall never see her again anyway," said

"You're a fool. You must amuse yourself when you can in this life. And
you a deserter.... Why, they may catch you and shoot you any time."

"Oh, I know, you're right. You're right. But I'm not made like that,
that's all."

"She must be very good to you, your little Paris girl."

"I've never touched her."

Rosaline threw her head back and laughed raspingly.

"But you aren't sick, are you?" she cried.

"Probably I remember too vividly, that's all.... Anyway, I'm a fool,
Rosaline, because you're a nice girl."

There were steps on the plank that led to the shore. A shawl over her
head and a big bundle under her arm, the old woman came up to them,
panting wheezily. She looked from one to the other, trying to make out
their faces in the dark.

"It's a danger... like that... youth," she muttered between hard short

"Did you find the clothes?" asked Andrews in a casual voice.

"Yes. That leaves you forty-five francs out of your money, when I've
taken out for your food and all that. Does that suit you?"

"Thank you very much for your trouble."

"You paid for it. Don't worry about that," said the old woman. She gave
him the bundle. "Here are your clothes and the forty-five francs. If you
want, I'll tell you exactly what each thing cost."

"I'll put them on first," he said, with a laugh.

He climbed down the ladder into the cabin.

Putting on new, unfamiliar-shaped clothes made him suddenly feel strong
and joyous. The old woman had bought him corduroy trousers, cheap cloth
shoes, a blue cotton shirt, woollen socks, and a second-hand black serge
jacket. When he came on deck she held up a lantern to look at him.

"Doesn't he look fine, altogether French?" she said.

Rosaline turned away without answering. A little later she picked up the
perch and carried the parrot, that swayed sleepily on the crosspiece,
down the ladder.

"Les bourgeois a la lanterne, nom de dieu!" came the old man's voice
singing on the shore.

"He's drunk as a pig," muttered the old woman. "If only he doesn't fall
off the gang plank."

A swaying shadow appeared at the end of the plank, standing out against
the haze of light from the houses behind the poplar trees.

Andrews put out a hand to catch him, as he reached the side of the
barge. The old man sprawled against the cabin.

"Don't bawl me out, dearie," he said, dangling an arm round Andrews's
neck, and a hand beckoning vaguely towards his wife.

"I've found a comrade for the little American."

"What's that?" said Andrews sharply. His mouth suddenly went dry with
terror. He felt his nails pressing into the palms of his cold-hands.

"I've found another American for you," said the old man in an important
voice. "Here he comes." Another shadow appeared at the end of the

"Les bourgeois a la lanterne, nom de dieu!" shouted the old man.

Andrews backed away cautiously towards the other side of the barge. All
the little muscles of his thighs were trembling. A hard voice was saying
in his head: "Drown yourself, drown yourself. Then they won't get you."

The man was standing on the end of the plank. Andrews could see the
contour of the uniform against the haze of light behind the poplar

"God, if I only had a pistol," he thought.

"Say, Buddy, where are you?" came an American voice.

The man advanced towards him across the deck.

Andrews stood with every muscle taut.

"Gee! You've taken off your uniform.... Say, I'm not an M.P. I'm
A.W.O.L. too. Shake." He held out his hand.

Andrews took the hand doubtfully, without moving from the edge of the

"Say, Buddy, it's a damn fool thing to take off your uniform. Ain't you
got any? If they pick you up like that it's life, kid."

"I can't help it. It's done now."

"Gawd, you still think I'm an M.P., don't yer?... I swear I ain't. Maybe
you are. Gawd, it's hell, this life. A feller can't put his trust in

"What division are you from?"

"Hell, I came to warn you this bastard frawg's got soused an' has been
blabbin' in the gin mill there how he was an anarchist an' all that, an'
how he had an American deserter who was an anarchist an' all that, an'
I said to myself: 'That guy'll git nabbed if he ain't careful,' so
I cottoned up to the old frawg an' said I'd go with him to see the
camarade, an' I think we'd better both of us make tracks out o' this

"It's damn decent. I'm sorry I was so suspicious. I was scared green
when I first saw you."

"You were goddam right to be. But why did yous take yer uniform off?"

"Come along, let's beat it. I'll tell you about that."

Andrews shook hands with the old man and the old woman. Rosaline had

"Goodnight...Thank you," he said, and followed the other man across the

As they walked away along the road they heard the old man's voice

"Les bourgeois a la lanterne, nom de dieu!"

"My name's Eddy Chambers," said the American.

"Mine's John Andrews."

"How long've you been out?"

"Two days."

Eddy let the air out through his teeth in a whistle.

"I got away from a labor battalion in Paris. They'd picked me up in
Chartres without a pass."

"Gee, I've been out a month an' more. Was you infantry too?"

"Yes. I was in the School Detachment in Paris when I was picked up.
But I never could get word to them. They just put me to work without a
trial. Ever been in a labor battalion?"

"No, thank Gawd, they ain't got my number yet."

They were walking fast along a straight road across a plain under a
clear star-powdered sky.

"I been out eight weeks yesterday. What'd you think o' that?" said Eddy.

"Must have had plenty of money to go on."

"I've been flat fifteen days."

"How d'you work it?"

"I dunno. I juss work it though.... Ye see, it was this way. The gang I
was with went home when I was in hauspital, and the damn skunks put me
in class A and was goin' to send me to the Army of Occupation. Gawd, it
made me sick, goin' out to a new outfit where I didn't know anybody, an'
all the rest of my bunch home walkin' down Water Street with brass bands
an' reception committees an' girls throwing kisses at 'em an' all that.
Where are yous goin'?"


"Gee, I wouldn't. Risky."

"But I've got friends there. I can get hold of some money."

"Looks like I hadn't got a friend in the world. I wish I'd gone to that
goddam outfit now.... I ought to have been in the engineers all the
time, anyway."

"What did you do at home?"


"But gosh, man, with a trade like that you can always make a living

"You're goddam right, I could, but a guy has to live underground, like
a rabbit, at this game. If I could git to a country where I could walk
around like a man, I wouldn't give a damn what happened. If the army
ever moves out of here an' the goddam M.P.'s, I'll set up in business
in one of these here little towns. I can parlee pretty well. I'd juss as
soon marry a French girl an' git to be a regular frawg myself. After the
raw deal they've given me in the army, I don't want to have nothin' more
to do with their damn country. Democracy!"

He cleared his throat and spat angrily on the road before him. They
walked on silently. Andrews was looking at the sky, picking out
constellations he knew among the glittering masses of stars.

"Why don't you try Spain or Italy?" he said after a while.

"Don't know the lingo. No, I'm going to Scotland."

"But how can you get there?"

"Crossing on the car ferries to England from Havre. I've talked to guys
has done it."

"But what'll you do when you do get there?"

"How should I know? Live around best I can. What can a feller do when he
don't dare show his face in the street?"

"Anyway, it makes you feel as if you had some guts in you to be out on
your own this way," cried Andrews boisterously.

"Wait till you've been at it two months, boy, and you'll think what I'm
tellin' yer.... The army's hell when you're in it; but it's a hell of a
lot worse when you're out of it, at the wrong end."

"It's a great night, anyway," said Andrews.

"Looks like we ought to be findin' a haystack to sleep in."

"It'd be different," burst out Andrews, suddenly, "if I didn't have
friends here."

"O, you've met up with a girl, have you?" asked Eddy ironically.

"Yes. The thing is we really get along together, besides all the rest."

Eddy snorted.

"I bet you ain't ever even kissed her," he said. "Gee, I've had buddies
has met up with that friendly kind. I know a guy married one, an' found
out after two weeks."

"It's silly to talk about it. I can't explain it.... It gives you
confidence in anything to feel there's someone who'll always understand
anything you do."

"I s'pose you're goin' to git married."

"I don't see why. That would spoil everything."

Eddy whistled softly.

They walked along briskly without speaking for a long time, their steps

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