John Dos Passos.

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was a nice fellow. His name was Al, he was from San Francisco. He had
nerve, for he amputated his own little finger when his hand was crushed
by a freight car."

"Oh, no, no. Oh, this is so frightful. And you would have been a great
composer. I feel sure of it."

"Why, would have been? The stuff I'm doing now's better than any of the
dribbling things I've done before, I know that."

"Oh, yes, but you'll need to study, to get yourself known."

"If I can pull through six months, I'm safe. The army will have gone. I
don't believe they extradite deserters."

"Yes, but the shame of it, the danger of being found out all the time."

"I am ashamed of many things in my life, Genevieve. I'm rather proud of

"But can't you understand that other people haven't your notions of
individual liberty?"

"I must go, Genevieve."

"You must come in again soon."

"One of these days."

And he was out in the road in the windy twilight, with his music papers
crumpled in his hand. The sky was full of tempestuous purple clouds;
between them were spaces of clear claret-colored light, and here and
there a gleam of opal. There were a few drops of rain in the wind that
rustled the broad leaves of the lindens and filled the wheat fields
with waves like the sea, and made the river very dark between rosy sand
banks. It began to rain. Andrews hurried home so as not to drench his
only suit. Once in his room he lit four candles and placed them at the
corners of his table. A little cold crimson light still filtered in
through the rain from the afterglow, giving the candles a ghostly
glimmer. Then he lay on his bed, and staring up at the flickering light
on the ceiling, tried to think.

"Well, you're alone now, John Andrews," he said aloud, after a
half-hour, and jumped jauntily to his feet. He stretched himself and
yawned. Outside the rain pattered loudly and steadily. "Let's have a
general accounting," he said to himself. "It'll be easily a month before
I hear from old Howe in America, and longer before I hear from Henslowe,
and already I've spent twenty francs on food. Can't make it this way.
Then, in real possessions, I have one volume of Villon, a green book on
counterpoint, a map of France torn in two, and a moderately well-stocked

He put the two books on the middle of the table before him, on top of
his disorderly bundle of music papers and notebooks. Then he went on,
piling his possessions there as he thought of them. Three pencils, a
fountain pen. Automatically he reached for his watch, but he remembered
he'd given it to Al to pawn in case he didn't decide to give himself
up, and needed money. A toothbrush. A shaving set. A piece of soap. A
hairbrush and a broken comb. Anything else? He groped in the musette
that hung on the foot of the bed. A box of matches. A knife with one
blade missing, and a mashed cigarette. Amusement growing on him every
minute, he contemplated the pile. Then, in the drawer, he remembered,
was a clean shirt and two pairs of soiled socks. And that was all,
absolutely all. Nothing saleable there. Except Genevieve's revolver.
He pulled it out of his pocket. The candlelight flashed on the bright
nickel. No, he might need that; it was too valuable to sell. He pointed
it towards himself. Under the chin was said to be the best place.
He wondered if he would pull the trigger when the barrel was pressed
against his chin. No, when his money gave out he'd sell the revolver.
An expensive death for a starving man. He sat on the edge of the bed and

Then he discovered he was very hungry. Two meals in one day; shocking!
He said to himself. Whistling joyfully, like a schoolboy, he strode down
the rickety stairs to order a meal of Madame Boncour.

It was with a strange start that he noticed that the tune he was
whistling was:

"John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on."

The lindens were in bloom. From a tree beside the house great gusts of
fragrance, heavy as incense, came in through the open window. Andrews
lay across the table with his eyes closed and his cheek in a mass of
ruled papers. He was very tired. The first movement of the "Soul and
Body of John Brown" was down on paper. The village clock struck two. He
got to his feet and stood a moment looking absently out of the window.
It was a sultry afternoon of swollen clouds that hung low over the
river. The windmill on the hilltop opposite was motionless. He seemed to
hear Genevieve's voice the last time he had seen her, so long ago.
"You would have been a great composer." He walked over to the table and
turned over some sheets without looking at them. "Would have been!"
He shrugged his shoulders. So you couldn't be a great composer and a
deserter too in the year 1919. Probably Genevieve was right. But he must
have something to eat.

"But how late it is," expostulated Madame Boncour, when he asked for

"I know it's very late. I have just finished a third of the work I'm

"And do you get paid a great deal, when that is finished?" asked Madame
Boncour, the dimples appearing in her broad cheeks.

"Some day, perhaps."

"You will be lonely now that the Rods have left."

"Have they left?"

"Didn't you know? Didn't you go to say goodby? They've gone to the
seashore.... But I'll make you a little omelette."

"Thank you."

When Madame Boncour cams back with the omelette and fried potatoes, she
said to him in a mysterious voice:

"You didn't go to see the Rods as often these last weeks."


Madame Boncour stood staring at him, with her red arms folded round her
breasts, shaking her head.

When he got up to go upstairs again, she suddenly shouted:

"And when are you going to pay me? It's two weeks since you have paid

"But, Madame Boncour, I told you I had no money. If you wait a day or
two, I'm sure to get some in the mail. It can't be more than a day or

"I've heard that story before."

"I've even tried to get work at several farms round here."

Madame Boncour threw back her head and laughed, showing the blackened
teeth of her lower jaw.

"Look here," she said at length, "after this week, it's finished. You
either pay me, or...And I sleep very lightly, Monsieur." Her voice took
on suddenly its usual sleek singsong tone.

Andrews broke away and ran upstairs to his room.

"I must fly the coop tonight," he said to himself. But suppose then
letters came with money the next day. He writhed in indecision all the

That evening he took a long walk. In passing the Rods' house he saw
that the shutters were closed. It gave him a sort of relief to know that
Genevieve no longer lived near him. His solitude was complete, now.

And why, instead of writing music that would have been worth while if he
hadn't been a deserter, he kept asking himself, hadn't he tried long ago
to act, to make a gesture, however feeble, however forlorn, for other
people's freedom? Half by accident he had managed to free himself from
the treadmill. Couldn't he have helped others? If he only had his life
to live over again. No; he had not lived up to the name of John Brown.

It was dark when he got back to the village. He had decided to wait one
more day.

The next morning he started working on the second movement. The lack of
a piano made it very difficult to get ahead, yet he said to himself that
he should put down what he could, as it would be long before he found
leisure again.

One night he had blown out his candle and stood at the window watching
the glint of the moon on the river. He heard a soft heavy step on the
landing outside his room. A floorboard creaked, and the key turned in
the lock. The step was heard again on the stairs. John Andrews laughed
aloud. The window was only twenty feet from the ground, and there was a
trellis. He got into bed contentedly. He must sleep well, for tomorrow
night he would slip out of the window and make for Bordeaux.

Another morning. A brisk wind blew, fluttering Andrews's papers as
he worked. Outside the river was streaked blue and silver and
slate-colored. The windmill's arms waved fast against the piled clouds.
The scent of the lindens came only intermittently on the sharp wind. In
spite of himself, the tune of "John Brown's Body" had crept in among his
ideas. Andrews sat with a pencil at his lips, whistling softly, while in
the back of his mind a vast chorus seemed singing:

"John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
But his soul goes marching on."

If one could only find freedom by marching for it, came the thought.

All at once he became rigid, his hands clutched the table edge.

There was an American voice under his window:

"D'you think she's kiddin' us, Charley?"

Andrews was blinded, falling from a dizzy height. God, could things
repeat themselves like that? Would everything be repeated? And he seemed
to hear voices whisper in his ears: "One of you men teach him how to

He jumped to his feet and pulled open the drawer. It was empty. The
woman had taken the revolver. "It's all planned, then. She knew," he
said aloud in a low voice.

He became suddenly calm.

A man in a boat was passing down the river. The boat was painted bright
green; the man wore a curious jacket of a burnt-brown color, and held a
fishing pole.

Andrews sat in his chair again. The boat was out of sight now, but there
was the windmill turning, turning against the piled white clouds.

There were steps on the stairs.

Two swallows, twittering, curved past the window, very near, so that
Andrews could make out the marking on their wings and the way they
folded their legs against their pale-grey bellies. There was a knock.

"Come in," said Andrews firmly.

"I beg yer pardon," said a soldier with his hat, that had a band, in his
hand. "Are you the American?"


"Well, the woman down there said she thought your papers wasn't in very
good order." The man stammered with embarrassment.

Their eyes met.

"No, I'm a deserter," said Andrews.

The M. P. snatched for his whistle and blew it hard. There was an
answering whistle from outside the window.

"Get your stuff together."

"I have nothing."

"All right, walk downstairs slowly in front of me."

Outside the windmill was turning, turning, against the piled white
clouds of the sky.

Andrews turned his eyes towards the door. The M. P. closed the door
after them, and followed on his heels down the steps.

On John Andrews's writing table the brisk wind rustled among the broad
sheets of paper. First one sheet, then another, blew off the table,
until the floor was littered with them.

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