but I think we got a damn good company."
"Oh, we'll have you sayin' worse things than 'damn' when we get you out
on the front with a goddam German aeroplane droppin' bombs on you," said
the top sergeant, slapping him on the back. "Now, I want you five men to
look out for the grub." Fuselli's chest swelled. "The company'll be in
charge of the corporal for the night. Sergeant Jones and I have got to
be with the lieutenant, understand?"
They all walked back to the dingy room where the rest of the company
waited huddled in their coats, trying to keep their importance from
being too obvious in their step.
"I've really started now," thought Fuselli to himself. "I've really
The bare freight car clattered and rumbled monotonously over the rails.
A bitter cold wind blew up through the cracks in the grimy splintered
boards of the floor. The men huddled in the corners of the car, curled
up together like puppies in a box. It was pitch black. Fuselli lay half
asleep, his head full of curious fragmentary dreams, feeling through his
sleep the aching cold and the unending clattering rumble of the wheels
and the bodies and arms and legs muffled in coats and blankets pressing
against him. He woke up with a start. His teeth were chattering. The
clanking rumble of wheels seemed to be in his head. His head was being
dragged along, bumping over cold iron rails. Someone lighted a match.
The freight car's black swaying walls, the packs piled in the center,
the bodies heaped in the corners where, out of khaki masses here and
there gleamed an occasional white face or a pair of eyes - all showed
clear for a moment and then vanished again in the utter blackness.
Fuselli pillowed his head in the crook of someone's arm and tried to go
to sleep, but the scraping rumble of wheels over rails was too loud;
he stayed with open eyes staring into the blackness, trying to draw his
body away from the blast of cold air that blew up through a crack in the
When the first greyness began filtering into the car, they all stood up
and stamped and pounded each other and wrestled to get warm.
When it was nearly light, the train stopped and they opened the sliding
doors. They were in a station, a foreign-looking station where the walls
were plastered with unfamiliar advertisements. "V-E-R-S-A-I-L-L-E-S";
Fuselli spelt out the name.
"Versales," said Eisenstein. "That's where the kings of France used to
The train started moving again slowly. On the platform stood the top
"How d'ye sleep," he shouted as the car passed him. "Say, Fuselli,
better start some grub going."
"All right, Sarge," said Fuselli.
The sergeant ran back to the front of the car and climbed on. With a
delicious feeling of leadership, Fuselli divided up the bread and the
cans of bully beef and the cheese. Then he sat on his pack eating dry
bread and unsavoury beef, whistling joyfully, while the train
rumbled and clattered along through a strange, misty-green
countryside, - whistling joyfully because he was going to the front,
where there would be glory and excitement, whistling joyfully because he
felt he was getting along in the world.
It was noon. A pallid little sun like a toy balloon hung low in the
reddish-grey sky. The train had stopped on a siding in the middle of a
russet plain. Yellow poplars, faint as mist, rose slender against the
sky along a black shining stream that swirled beside the track. In
the distance a steeple and a few red roofs were etched faintly in the
The men stood about balancing first on one foot and then on the other,
stamping to get warm. On the other side of the river an old man with an
oxcart had stopped and was looking sadly at the train.
"Say, where's the front?" somebody shouted to him.
Everybody took up the cry; "Say, where's the front?"
The old man waved his hand, shook his head and shouted to the oxen. The
oxen took up again their quiet processional gait and the old man walked
ahead of them, his eyes on the ground.
"Say, ain't the frogs dumb?"
"Say, Dan," said Bill Grey, strolling away from a group of men he had
been talking to. "These guys say we are going to the Third Army."
"Say, fellers," shouted Fuselli. "They say we're going to the Third
"In the Oregon forest," ventured somebody.
"That's at the front, ain't it?"
At that moment the lieutenant strode by. A long khaki muffler was thrown
carelessly round his neck and hung down his back.
"Look here, men," he said severely, "the orders are to stay in the
The men slunk back into the cars sullenly.
A hospital train passed, clanking slowly over the cross-tracks. Fuselli
looked fixedly at the dark enigmatic windows, at the red crosses, at
the orderlies in white who leaned out of the doors, waving their hands.
Somebody noticed that there were scars on the new green paint of the
"The Huns have been shooting at it."
"D'ye hear that? The Huns tried to shoot up that hospital train."
Fuselli remembered the pamphlet "German Atrocities" he had read one
night in the Y. M. C. A. His mind became suddenly filled with pictures
of children with their arms cut off, of babies spitted on bayonets,
of women strapped on tables and violated by soldier after soldier. He
thought of Mabe. He wished he were in a combatant service; he wanted
to fight, fight. He pictured himself shooting dozens of men in green
uniforms, and he thought of Mabe reading about it in the papers. He'd
have to try to get into a combatant service. No, he couldn't stay in the
The train had started again. Misty russet fields slipped by and dark
clumps of trees that gyrated slowly waving branches of yellow and brown
leaves and patches of black lace-work against the reddish-grey sky.
Fuselli was thinking of the good chance he had of getting to be
At night. A dim-lighted station platform. The company waited in two
lines, each man sitting on his pack. On the opposite platform crowds
of little men in blue with mustaches and long, soiled overcoats that
reached almost to their feet were shouting and singing. Fuselli watched
them with a faint disgust.
"Gee, they got funny lookin' helmets, ain't they?"
"They're the best fighters in the world," said Eisenstein, "not that
that's sayin' much about a man."
"Say, that's an M. P.," said Bill Grey, catching Fuselli's arm. "Let's
go ask him how near the front we are. I thought I heard guns a minute
"Did you? I guess we're in for it now," said Fuselli. "Say, buddy, how
near the front are we?" they spoke together excitedly.
"The front?" said the M. P., who was a red-faced Irishman with a
crushed nose. "You're 'way back in the middle of France." The M. P.
spat disgustedly. "You fellers ain't never goin' to the front, don't you
"Hell!" said Fuselli.
"I'll be goddamned if I don't get there somehow," said Bill Grey,
squaring his jaw.
A fine rain was falling on the unprotected platform. On the other side
the little men in blue were singing a song Fuselli could not understand,
drinking out of their ungainly-looking canteens.
Fuselli announced the news to the company. Everybody clustered round
him cursing. But the faint sense of importance it gave him did not
compensate for the feeling he had of being lost in the machine, of being
as helpless as a sheep in a flock. Hours passed. They stamped about the
platform in the fine rain or sat in a row on their packs, waiting for
orders. A grey belt appeared behind the trees. The platform began to
take on a silvery gleam. They sat in a row on their packs, waiting.
The company stood at attention lined up outside of their barracks, a
long wooden shack covered with tar paper, in front of them was a row of
dishevelled plane trees with white trunks that looked like ivory in the
faint ruddy sunlight. Then there was a rutted road on which stood a
long line of French motor trucks with hunched grey backs like elephants.
Beyond these were more plane trees and another row of barracks covered
with tar paper, outside of which other companies were lined up standing
A bugle was sounding far away.
The lieutenant stood at attention very stiffly. Fuselli's eyes followed
the curves of his brilliantly-polished puttees up to the braid on his
"Parade rest!" shouted the lieutenant in a muffled voice.
Feet and hands moved in unison.
Fuselli was thinking of the town. After retreat you could go down the
irregular cobbled street from the old fair-ground where the camp was
to a little square where there was a grey stone fountain and a gin-mill
where you could sit at an oak table and have beer and eggs and fried
potatoes served you by a girl with red cheeks and plump white appetizing
Feet and hands moved in unison again. They could hardly hear the bugle,
it was so faint.
"Men, I have some appointments to announce," said the lieutenant, facing
the company and taking on an easy conversational tone. "At rest!...
You've done good work in the storehouse here, men. I'm glad I have such
a willing bunch of men under me. And I certainly hope that we can manage
to make as many promotions as possible - as many as possible."
Fuselli's hands were icy, and his heart was pumping the blood so fast to
his ears that he could hardly hear.
"The following privates to private first-class, read the lieutenant in
a routine voice: "Grey, Appleton, Williams, Eisenstein,
Porter...Eisenstein will be company clerk.... " Fuselli was almost ready
to cry. His name was not on the list. The sergeant's voice came after a
long pause, smooth as velvet.
"You forget Fuselli, sir."
"Oh, so I did," the lieutenant laughed - a small dry laugh. - "And
"Gee, I must write Mabe tonight," Fuselli was saying to himself. "She'll
be a proud kid when she gets that letter."
"Companee dis... missed!", shouted the sergeant genially.
"O Madermoiselle from Armenteers,
O Madermoiselle from Armenteers,
struck up the sergeant in his mellow voice.
The front room of the cafe was full of soldiers. Their khaki hid the
worn oak benches and the edges of the square tables and the red tiles
of the floor. They clustered round the tables, where glasses and bottles
gleamed vaguely through the tobacco smoke. They stood in front of the
bar, drinking out of bottles, laughing, scraping their feet on
the floor. A stout girl with red cheeks and plump white arms moved
contentedly among them, carrying away empty bottles, bringing back full
ones, taking the money to a grim old woman with a grey face and eyes
like bits of jet, who stared carefully at each coin, fingered it with
her grey hands and dropped it reluctantly into the cash drawer. In the
corner sat Sergeant Olster with a flush on his face, and the corporal
who had been on the Red Sox outfield and another sergeant, a big
man with black hair and a black mustache. About them clustered, with
approbation and respect in their faces, Fuselli, Bill Grey and
Meadville the cowboy, and Earl Williams, the blue-eyed and yellow-haired
"O the Yanks are having the hell of a time, Parley voo?"
They pounded their bottles on the table in time to the song.
"It's a good job," the top sergeant said, suddenly interrupting the
song. "You needn't worry about that, fellers. I saw to it that we got
a good job.... And about getting to the front, you needn't worry about
that. We'll all get to the front soon enough.... Tell me - this war is
going to last ten years."
"I guess we'll all be generals by that time, eh, Sarge?" said Williams.
"But, man, I wish I was back jerkin' soda water."
"It's a great life if you don't weaken," murmured Fuselli automatically.
"But I'm beginnin' to weaken," said Williams. "Man, I'm homesick. I
don't care who knows it. I wish I could get to the front and be done
"Say, have a heart. You need a drink," said the top sergeant, banging
his fist on the table. "Say, mamselle, mame shows, mame shows!"
"I didn't know you could talk French, Sarge," said Fuselli.
"French, hell!" said the top sergeant. "Williams is the boy can talk
"Voulay vous couchay aveck moy.... That's all I know."
"Hey, mamzelle," cried the top sergeant. "Voulay vous couchay aveck moy?
We We, champagne." Everybody laughed, uproariously.
The girl slapped his head good-naturedly.
At that moment a man stamped noisily into the cafe, a tall
broad-shouldered man in a loose English tunic, who had a swinging
swagger that made the glasses ring on all the tables. He was humming
under his breath and there was a grin on his broad red face. He went
up to the girl and pretended to kiss her, and she laughed and talked
familiarly with him in French.
"There's wild Dan Cohan," said the dark-haired sergeant. "Say, Dan,
"Here, yer honor."
"Come over and have a drink. We're going to have some fizzy."
"Never known to refuse."
They made room for him on the bench.
"Well, I'm confined to barracks," said Dan Cohan. "Look at me!" He
laughed and gave his head a curious swift jerk to one side. "Compree?"
"Ain't ye scared they'll nab you?" said Fuselli.
"Nab me, hell, they can't do nothin' to me. I've had three
court-martials already and they're gettin' a fourth up on me."
Dan Cohan pushed his head to one side and laughed. "I got a friend. My
old boss is captain, and he's goin' to fix it up. I used to alley around
politics chez moy. Compree?"
The champagne came and Dan Cohan popped the cork up to the ceiling with
dexterous red fingers.
"I was just wondering who was going to give me a drink," he said. "Ain't
had any pay since Christ was a corporal. I've forgotten what it looks
The champagne fizzed into the beer-glasses.
"This is the life," said Fuselli.
"Ye're damn right, buddy, if yer don't let them ride yer," said Dan.
"What they got yer up for now, Dan?"
"Murder, hell! How's that?"
"That is, if that bloke dies."
"The hell you say!"
"It all started by that goddam convoy down from Nantes...Bill Rees an'
me.... They called us the shock troops. - Hy! Marie! Ancore champagne,
beaucoup. - I was in the Ambulance service then. God knows what rotten
service I'm in now.... Our section was on repo and they sent some of us
fellers down to Nantes to fetch a convoy of cars back to Sandrecourt. We
started out like regular racers, just the chassis, savey? Bill Rees
an' me was the goddam tail of the peerade. An' the loot was a hell of a
blockhead that didn't know if he was coming or going."
"Where the hell's Nantes?" asked the top sergeant, as if it had just
slipped his mind.
"On the coast," answered Fuselli. "I seen it on the map."
"Nantes's way off to hell and gone anyway," said wild Dan Cohan, taking
a gulp of champagne that he held in his mouth a moment, making his mouth
move like a cow ruminating.
"An' as Bill Rees an' me was the tail of the peerade an' there was lots
of cafes and little gin-mills, Bill Rees an' me'd stop off every now and
then to have a little drink an' say 'Bonjour' to the girls an' talk to
the people, an' then we'd go like a bat out of hell to catch up. Well, I
don't know if we went too fast for 'em or if they lost the road or what,
but we never saw that goddam convoy from the time we went out of Nantes.
Then we thought we might as well see a bit of the country, compree?...
An' we did, goddam it.... We landed up in Orleans, soused to the gills
and without any gas an' with an M. P; climbing up on the dashboard."
"Did they nab you, then?"
"Not a bit of it," said wild Dan Cohen, jerking his head to one side.
"They gave us gas and commutation of rations an' told us to go on in
the mornin'. You see we put up a good line of talk, compree?... Well,
we went to the swankiest restaurant.... You see we had on those bloody
British uniforms they gave us when the O. D. gave out, an' the M. P.'s
didn't know just what sort o' birds we were. So we went and ordered up a
regular meal an' lots o' vin rouge an' vin blank an' drank a few cognacs
an' before we knew it we were eating dinner with two captains and a
sergeant. One o' the captains was the drunkest man I ever did see....
Good kid! We all had dinner and Bill Rees says, 'Let's go for a
joy-ride.' An' the captains says, 'Fine,' and the sergeant would have
said, 'Fine,' but he was so goggle-eyed drunk he couldn't. An' we
started off!... Say, fellers, I'm dry as hell! Let's order up another
"Sure," said everyone.
"Ban swar, ma cherie,
Comment allez vous?"
"Encore champagne, Marie, gentille!"
"Well," he went on, "we went like a bat out of hell along a good state
road, and it was all fine until one of the captains thought we ought to
have a race. We did.... Compree? The flivvers flivved all right, but
the hell of it was we got so excited about the race we forgot about the
sergeant an' he fell off an' nobody missed him. An' at last we all pull
up before a gin-mill an' one captain says, 'Where's the sergeant?' an'
the other captain says there hadn't been no sergeant. An' we all had a
drink on that. An' one captain kept sayin', 'It's all imagination.
Never was a sergeant. I wouldn't associate with a sergeant, would I,
lootenant?' He kept on calling me lootenant.... Well that was how they
got this new charge against me. Somebody picked up the sergeant an' he
got concussion o' the brain an' there's hell to pay, an' if the poor
buggar croaks.... I'm it.... Compree? About that time the captains start
wantin' to go to Paris, an' we said we'd take 'em, an' so we put all the
gas in my car an' the four of us climbed on that goddam chassis an' off
we went like a bat out of hell! It'ld all have been fine if I wasn't
lookin' cross-eyed.... We piled up in about two minutes on one of those
nice little stone piles an' there we were. We all got up an' one o' the
captains had his arm broke, an' there was hell to pay, worse than losing
the sergeant. So we walked on down the road. I don't know how it got to
be daylight. But we got to some hell of a town or other an' there was
two M. P.'s all ready to meet us.... Compree?... Well, we didn't mess
around with them captains. We just lit off down a side street an' got
into a little cafe an' went in back an' had a hell of a lot o' cafe o'
lay. That made us feel sort o' good an' I says to Bill, 'Bill, we've got
to get to headquarters an' tell 'em that we accidentally smashed up
our car, before the M. P.'s get busy.' An' he says, 'You're goddamned
right,' an' at that minute I sees an M. P. through a crack in the door
comin' into the cafe. We lit out into the garden and made for the wall.
We got over that, although we left a good piece of my pants in the
broken glass. But the hell of it was the M. P.'s got over too an' they
had their pop-guns out. An' the last I saw of Bill Rees was - there was a
big fat woman in a pink dress washing clothes in a big tub, an' poor
ole Bill Rees runs head on into her an' over they both goes into the
washtub. The M. P.'s got him all right. That's how I got away. An' the
last I saw of Bill Rees he was squirming about on top of the washtub
like he was swimmin', an' the fat woman was sittin' on the ground
shaking her fist at him. Bill Rees was the best buddy I ever had."
He paused and poured the rest of the champagne in his glass and wiped
the sweat off his face with his big red hand.
"You ain't stringin' us, are you?" asked Fuselli.
"You just ask Lieutenant Whitehead, who's defending me in the
court-martial, if I'm stringin' yer. I been in the ring, kid, and you
can bet your bottom dollar that a man's been in the ring'll tell the
"Go on, Dan," said the sergeant.
"An' I never heard a word about Bill Rees since. I guess they got him
into the trenches and made short work of him."
Dan Cohan paused to light a cigarette.
"Well, one o' the M. P.'s follows after me and starts shootin'. An'
don't you believe I ran. Gee, I was scared! But I was in luck 'cause
a Frenchman had just started his camion an' I jumped in and said the
gendarmes were after me. He was white, that frog was. He shot the juice
into her an' went off like a bat out of hell an' there was a hell of a
lot of traffic on the road because there was some damn-fool attack or
other goin' on. So I got up to Paris.... An' then it'ld all have been
fine if I hadn't met up with a Jane I knew. I still had five hundred
francs on me, an' so we raised hell until one day we was havin' dinner
in the cafe de Paris, both of us sort of jagged up, an' we didn't have
enough money to pay the bill an' Janey made a run for it, but an M. P.
got me an' then there was hell to pay.... Compree? They put me in the
Bastille, great place.... Then they shipped me off to some damn camp
or other an' gave me a gun an' made me drill for a week an' then they
packed a whole gang of us, all A. W. O. L's, into a train for the front.
That was nearly the end of little Daniel again. But when we was in
Vitry-le-Francois, I chucked my rifle out of one window and jumped out
of the other an' got on a train back to Paris an' went an' reported to
headquarters how I'd smashed the car an' been in the Bastille an' all,
an' they were sore as hell at the M. P.'s an' sent me out to a section
an' all went fine until I got ordered back an' had to alley down to this
goddam camp. Ah' now I don't know what they're goin' to do to me."
"It's a great war, I tell you, Sarge. It's a great war. I wouldn't have
Across the room someone was singing.
"Let's drown 'em out," said the top sergeant boisterously.
"O Mademerselle from Armenteers,
"Well, I've got to get the hell out of here," said wild Dan Cohan,
after a minute. "I've got a Jane waitin' for me. I'm all fixed up,...
He swaggered out singing:
"Bon soir, ma cherie,
Comment alley vous?
Si vous voulez
Couche avec moi...."
The door slammed behind him, leaving the cafe quiet.
Many men had left. Madame had taken up her knitting and Marie of the
plump white arms sat beside her, leaning her head back among the bottles
that rose in tiers behind the bars.
Fuselli was staring at a door on one side of the bar. Men kept opening
it and looking in and closing it again with a peculiar expression on
their faces. Now and then someone would open it with a smile and go into
the next room, shuffling his feet and closing the door carefully behind
"Say, I wonder what they've got there," said the top sergeant, who had
been staring at the door. "Mush be looked into, mush be looked into," he
added, laughing drunkenly.
"I dunno," said Fuselli. The champagne was humming in his head like a
fly against a window pane. He felt very bold and important.
The top sergeant got to his feet unsteadily.
"Corporal, take charge of the colors," he said, and walked to the door.
He opened it a little, peeked in; winked elaborately to his friends and
skipped into the other room, closing the door carefully behind him.
The corporal went over next. He said, "Well, I'll be damned," and walked
straight in, leaving the door ajar. In a moment it was closed from the
"Come on, Bill, let's see what the hell they got in there," said
"All right, old kid," said Bill Grey. They went together over to the
door. Fuselli opened it and looked in. He let out a breath through his
teeth with a faint whistling sound.
"Gee, come in, Bill," he said, giggling.
The room was small, nearly filled up by a dining table with a red cloth.
On the mantel above the empty fireplace were candlesticks with dangling
crystals that glittered red and yellow and purple in the lamplight,
in front of a cracked mirror that seemed a window into another dingier
room. The paper was peeling off the damp walls, giving a mortuary smell
of mildewed plaster that not even the reek of beer and tobacco had done
"Look at her, Bill, ain't she got style?" whispered Fuselli.
Bill Grey grunted.
"Say, d'ye think the Jane that feller was tellin' us he raised hell with
in Paris was like that?"
At the end of the table, leaning on her elbows, was a woman with black
frizzy hair cut short, that stuck out from her head in all directions.
Her eyes were dark and her lips red with a faint swollen look. She
looked with a certain defiance at the men who stood about the walls and
sat at the table.
The men stared at her silently. A big man with red hair and a heavy
jaw who sat next her kept edging up nearer. Someone knocked against the