table making the bottles and liqueur glasses clustered in the center
"She ain't clean; she's got bobbed hair," said the man next Fuselli.
The woman said something in French.
Only one man understood it. His laugh rang hollowly in the silent room
and stopped suddenly.
The woman looked attentively at the faces round her for a moment,
shrugged her shoulders, and began straightening the ribbon on the hat
she held on her lap.
"How the hell did she get here? I thought the M. P.'s ran them out of
town the minute they got here," said one man.
The woman continued plucking at her hat.
"You venay Paris?" said a boy with a soft voice who sat near her. He had
blue eyes and a milky complexion, faintly tanned, that went strangely
with the rough red and brown faces in the room.
"Oui; de Paris," she said after a pause, glancing suddenly in the boy's
"She's a liar, I can tell you that," said the red-haired man, who by
this time had moved his chair very close to the woman's.
"You told him you came from Marseilles, and him you came from Lyon,"
said the boy with the milky complexion, smiling genially. "Vraiment de
ou venay vous?"
"I come from everywhere," she said, and tossed the hair back from her
"Travelled a lot?" asked the boy again.
"A feller told me," said Fuselli to Bill Grey, "that he'd talked to a
girl like that who'd been to Turkey an' Egypt I bet that girl's seen
The woman jumped to her feet suddenly screaming with rage. The man with
the red hair moved away sheepishly. Then he lifted his large dirty hands
in the air.
"Kamarad," he said.
Nobody laughed. The room was silent except for feet scraping
occasionally on the floor.
She put her hat on and took a little box from the chain bag in her lap
and began powdering her face, making faces into the mirror she held in
the palm of her hand.
The men stared at her.
"Guess she thinks she's the Queen of the May," said one man, getting to
his feet. He leaned across the table and spat into the fireplace. "I'm
going back to barracks." He turned to the woman and shouted in a voice
full of hatred, "Bon swar."
The woman was putting the powder puff away in her jet bag. She did not
look up; the door closed sharply.
"Come along," said the woman, suddenly, tossing her head back. "Come
along one at a time; who go with me first?"
Nobody spoke. The men stared at her silently. There was no sound except
that of feet scraping occasionally on the floor.
The oatmeal flopped heavily into the mess-kit. Fuselli's eyes were still
glued together with sleep. He sat at the dark greasy bench and took a
gulp of the scalding coffee that smelt vaguely of dish rags. That woke
him up a little. There was little talk in the mess shack. The men, that
the bugle had wrenched out of their blankets but fifteen minutes before,
sat in rows, eating sullenly or blinking at each other through the misty
darkness. You could hear feet scraping in the ashes of the floor
and mess kits clattering against the tables and here and there a man
coughing. Near the counter where the food was served out one of the
cooks swore interminably in a whiny sing-sing voice.
"Gee, Bill, I've got a head," said Fuselli.
"Ye're ought to have," growled Bill Grey. "I had to carry you up into
the barracks. You said you were goin' back and love up that goddam
"Did I?" said Fuselli, giggling.
"I had a hell of a time getting you past the guard."
"Some cognac!... I got a hangover now," said Fuselli.
"I'm goddamned if I can go this much longer."
They were washing their mess-kits in the tub of warm water thick with
grease from the hundred mess-kits that had gone before, in front of the
shack. An electric light illumined faintly the wet trunk of a plane tree
and the surface of the water where bits of oatmeal floated and coffee
grounds, - and the garbage pails with their painted signs: WET GARBAGE,
DRY GARBAGE; and the line of men who stood waiting to reach the tub.
"This hell of a life!" said Bill Grey, savagely.
"What d'ye mean?"
"Doin' nothin' but pack bandages in packin' cases and take bandages out
of packin' cases. I'll go crazy. I've tried gettin' drunk; it don't do
"Gee; I've got a head," said Fuselli.
Bill Grey put his heavy muscular hand round Fuselli's shoulder as they
strolled towards the barracks.
"Say, Dan, I'm goin' A. W. O. L."
"Don't ye do it, Bill. Hell, look at the chance we've got to get ahead.
We can both of us get promoted if we don't get in wrong."
"I don't give a hoot in hell for all that.... What d'ye think I got in
this goddamed army for? Because I thought I'd look nice in the uniform?"
Bill Grey thrust his hands into his pockets and spat dismally in front
"But, Bill, you don't want to stay a buck private, do you?"
"I want to get to the front.... I don't want to stay here till I get in
the jug for being spiffed or get a court-martial.... Say, Dan, will you
come with me?"
"Hell, Bill, you ain't goin'. You're just kiddin', ain't yer? They'll
send us there soon enough. I want to get to be a corporal," - he puffed
out his chest a little - "before I go to the front, so's to be able to
show what I'm good for. See, Bill?"
A bugle blew.
"There's fatigue, an' I ain't done my bunk."
"Me neither.... They won't do nothin', Dan.... Don't let them ride yer,
They lined up in the dark road feeling the mud slopping under their
feet. The ruts were full of black water, in which gleamed a reflection
of distant electric lights.
"All you fellows work in Storehouse A today," said the sergeant, who had
been a preacher, in his sad, drawling voice. "Lieutenant says that's all
got to be finished by noon. They're sending it to the front today."
Somebody let his breath out in a whistle of surprise.
"Who did that?"
"Dismissed!" snapped the sergeant disgustedly.
They straggled off into the darkness towards one of the lights, their
feet splashing confusedly in the puddles.
Fuselli strolled up to the sentry at the camp gate. He was picking his
teeth meditatively with the splinter of a pine board.
"Say, Phil, you couldn't lend me a half a dollar, could you?" Fuselli
stopped, put his hands in his pockets and looked at the sentry with the
splinter sticking out of a corner of his mouth.
"Sorry, Dan," said the other man; "I'm cleaned out. Ain't had a cent
since New Year's."
"Why the hell don't they pay us?"
"You guys signed the pay roll yet?"
"Sure. So long!"
Fuselli strolled on down the dark road, where the mud was frozen into
deep ruts, towards the town. It was still strange to him, this town of
little houses faced with cracked stucco, where the damp made grey stains
and green stains, of confused red-tiled roofs, and of narrow cobbled
streets that zigzagged in and out among high walls overhung with
balconies. At night, when it was dark except for where a lamp in
a window spilt gold reflections out on the wet street or the light
streamed out from a store or a cafe, it was almost frighteningly unreal.
He walked down into the main square, where he could hear the fountain
gurgling. In the middle he stopped indecisively, his coat unbuttoned,
his hands pushed to the bottom of his trousers pockets, where they
encountered nothing but the cloth. He listened a long time to the
gurgling of the fountain and to the shunting of trains far away in the
freight yards. "An' this is the war," he thought. "Ain't it queer? It's
quieter than it was at home nights." Down the street at the end of the
square a band of white light appeared, the searchlight of a staff car.
The two eyes of the car stared straight into his eyes, dazzling him,
then veered off to one side and whizzed past, leaving a faint smell of
gasoline and a sound of voices. Fuselli watched the fronts of houses
light up as the car made its way to the main road. Then the town was
dark and silent again.
He strolled across the square towards the Cheval Blanc, the large cafe
where the officers went.
"Button yer coat," came a gruff voice. He saw a stiff tall figure at the
edge of the curve. He made out the shape of the pistol holster that
hung like a thin ham at the man's thigh. An M. P. He buttoned his coat
hurriedly and walked off with rapid steps.
He stopped outside a cafe that had "Ham and Eggs" written in white paint
on the window and looked in wistfully. Someone from behind him put two
big hands over his eyes. He wriggled his head free.
"Hello, Dan," he said. "How did you get out of the jug?"
"I'm a trusty, kid," said Dan Cohan. "Got any dough?"
"Not a damn cent!"
"Me neither.... Come on in anyway," said Cohan. "I'll fix it up with
Marie." Fuselli followed doubtfully. He was a little afraid of Dan
Cohan; he remembered how a man had been court-martialed last week for
trying to bolt out of a cafe without paying for his drinks.
He sat down at a table near the door. Dan had disappeared into the back
room. Fuselli felt homesick. He was thinking how long it was since, he
had had a letter from Mabe. "I bet she's got another feller," he told
himself savagely. He tried to remember how she looked, but he had to
take out his watch and peep in the back before he could make out if
her nose were straight or snub. He looked up, clicking the watch in his
pocket. Marie of the white arms was coming laughing out of the inner
room. Her large firm breasts, neatly held in by the close-fitting
blouse, shook a little when she laughed. Her cheeks were very red and
a strand of chestnut hair hung down along her neck. She picked it up
hurriedly and caught it up with a hairpin, walking slowly into the
middle of the room as she did so with her hands behind her head. Dan
Cohan followed her into the room, a broad grin on his face.
"All right, kid," he said. "I told her you'ld pay when Uncle Sam came
across. Ever had any Kummel?"
"What the hell's that?"
They sat down before a dish of fried eggs at the table in the corner,
the favoured table, where Marie herself often sat and chatted, when
wizened Madame did not have her eye upon her.
Several men drew up their chairs. Wild Dan Cohan always had an audience.
"Looks like there was going to be another offensive at Verdun," said Dan
Cohan. Someone answered vaguely.
"Funny how little we know about what's going on out there," said one
man. "I knew more about the war when I was home in Minneapolis than I do
"I guess we're lightin' into 'em all right," said Fuselli in a patriotic
"Hell! Nothin' doin' this time o' year anyway," said Cohan. A grin
spread across his red face. "Last time I was at the front the Boche had
just made a coup de main and captured a whole trenchful."
"Of Americans - of us!"
"The hell you say!"
"That's a goddam lie," shouted a black-haired man with an ill-shaven
jaw, who had just come in. "There ain't never been an American captured,
an' there never will be, by God!"
"How long were you at the front, buddy," asked Cohan coolly. "I guess
you been to Berlin already, ain't yer?"
"I say that any man who says an American'ld let himself be captured by
a stinkin' Hun, is a goddam liar," said the man with the ill-shaven jaw,
sitting down sullenly.
"Well, you'd better not say it to me," said Cohan laughing, looking
meditatively at one of his big red fists.
There had been a look of apprehension on Marie's face. She looked at
Cohan's fist and shrugged her shoulders and laughed.
Another crowd had just slouched into the cafe.
"Well if that isn't wild Dan! Hello, old kid, how are you?"
A small man in a coat that looked almost like an officer's coat, it
was so well cut, was shaking hands effusively with Cohan. He wore a
corporal's stripes and a British aviator's fatigue cap. Cohan made room
for him on the bench.
"What are you doing in this hole, Dook?" The man twisted his mouth so
that his neat black mustache was a slant.
"G. O. 42," he said.
"Battle of Paris?" said Cohan in a sympathetic voice. "Battle of Nice!
I'm going back to my section soon. I'd never have got a court-martial if
I'd been with my outfit. I was in the Base Hospital 15 with pneumonia."
"It was a hell of a note."
"Say, Dook, your outfit was working with ours at Chamfort that time,
"You mean when we evacuated the nut hospital?"
"Yes, wasn't that hell?" Dan Cohan gulped down half a glass of red wine,
smacked his thick lips, and began in his story-telling voice:
"Our section had just come out of Verdun where we'd been getting hell
for three weeks on the Bras road. There was one little hill where we'd
have to get out and shove every damn time, the mud was so deep, and
God, it stank there with the shells turning up the ground all full
of mackabbies as the poilus call them.... Say, Dook, have you got any
"I've got some," said Dook, without enthusiasm.
"Well, the champagne's damn good here. I'm part of the outfit in this
gin mill; they'll give it to you at a reduction."
Dan Cohan turned round and whispered something to Marie. She laughed and
dived down behind the curtain.
"But that Chamfort was worse yet. Everybody was sort o' nervous because
the Germans had dropped a message sayin' they'd give 'em three days
to clear the hospital out, and that then they'd shell hell out of the
"The Germans done that! Quit yer kiddin'," said Fuselli.
"They did it at Souilly, too," said Dook. "Hell, yes.... A funny thing
happened there. The hospital was in a big rambling house, looked like an
Atlantic City hotel.... We used to run our car in back and sleep in it.
It was where we took the shell-shock cases, fellows who were roarin'
mad, and tremblin' all over, and some of 'em paralysed like.... There
was a man in the wing opposite where we slept who kept laugh-in'. Bill
Rees was on the car with me, and we laid in our blankets in the bottom
of the car and every now and then one of us'ld turn over and whisper:
'Ain't this hell, kid?' 'cause that feller kept laughin' like a man who
had just heard a joke that was so funny he couldn't stop laughin'. It
wasn't like a crazy man's laugh usually is. When I first heard it I
thought it was a man really laughin', and I guess I laughed too. But it
didn't stop.... Bill Rees an' me laid in our car shiverin', listenin'
to the barrage in the distance with now and then the big noise of an
aeroplane bomb, an' that feller laughin', laughin', like he'd just
heard a joke, like something had struck him funny." Cohan took a gulp of
champagne and jerked his head to one side. "An that damn laughin'
kept up until about noon the next day when the orderlies strangled the
feller.... Got their goat, I guess."
Fuselli was looking towards the other side of the room, where a faint
murmur of righteous indignation was rising from the dark man with the
unshaven jaw and his companions. Fuselli was thinking that it wasn't
good to be seen round too much with a fellow like Cohan, who talked
about the Germans notifying hospitals before they bombarded them and who
was waiting for a court-martial. Might get him in wrong. He slipped out
of the cafe into the dark. A dank wind blew down the irregular street,
ruffling the reflected light in the puddles, making a shutter bang
interminably somewhere. Fuselli went to the main square again, casting
an envious glance in the window of the Cheval Blanc, where he saw
officers playing billiards in a well-lighted room painted white and
gold, and a blond girl in a raspberry-colored shirtwaist enthroned
haughtily behind the bar. He remembered the M. P. and automatically
hastened his steps. In a narrow street the other side of the square he
stopped before the window of a small grocery shop and peered inside,
keeping carefully out of the oblong of light that showed faintly the
grass-grown cobbles and the green and grey walls opposite. A girl sat
knitting beside the small counter with her two little black feet placed
demurely side by side on the edge of a box full of red beets. She was
very small and slender. The lamplight gleamed on her black hair, done
close to her head. Her face was in the shadow. Several soldiers lounged
awkwardly against the counter and the jambs of the door, following her
movements with their eyes as dogs watch a plate of meat being moved
about in a kitchen.
After a little the girl rolled up her knitting and jumped to her feet,
showing her face, - an oval white face with large dark lashes and an
impertinent mouth. She stood looking at the soldiers who stood about her
in a circle, then twisted up her mouth in a grimace and disappeared into
the inner room.
Fuselli walked to the end of the street where there was a bridge over a
small stream. He leaned on the cold stone rail and looked into the water
that was barely visible gurgling beneath between rims of ice.
"O this is a hell of a life," he muttered.
He shivered in the cold wind but remained leaning over the water. In
the distance trains rumbled interminably, giving him a sense of vast
desolate distances. The village clock struck eight. The bell had a soft
note like the bass string of a guitar. In the darkness Fuselli could
almost see the girl's face grimacing with its broad impertinent lips. He
thought of the sombre barracks and men sitting about on the end of their
cots. Hell, he couldn't go back yet. His whole body was taut with desire
for warmth and softness and quiet. He slouched back along the narrow
street cursing in a dismal monotone. Before the grocery store he
stopped. The men had gone. He went in jauntily pushing his cap a little
to one side so that some of his thick curly hair came out over his
forehead. The little bell in the door clanged.
The girl came out of the inner room. She gave him her hand
"Comment ca va! Yvonne? Bon?"
His pidgin-French made her show her little pearly teeth in a smile.
"Good," she said in English.
They laughed childishly.
"Say, will you be my girl, Yvonne?"
She looked in his eyes and laughed.
"Non compris," she said.
"We, we; voulez vous et' ma fille?"
She shrieked with laughter and slapped him hard on the cheek. "Venez,"
she said, still laughing. He followed her. In the inner room was a
large oak table with chairs round it. At the end Eisenstein and a French
soldier were talking excitedly, so absorbed in what they were saying
that they did not notice the other two. Yvonne took the Frenchman by the
hair and pulled his head back and told him, still laughing, what Fuselli
had said. He laughed.
"No, you must not say that," he said in English, turning to Fuselli.
Fuselli was angry and sat down sullenly at the end of the table, keeping
his eyes on Yvonne. She drew the knitting out of the pocket of her apron
and holding it up comically between two fingers, glanced towards the
dark corner of the room where an old woman with a lace cap on her head
sat asleep, and then let herself fall into a chair.
"Boom!" she said.
Fuselli laughed until the tears filled his eyes. She laughed too. They
sat a long while looking at each other and giggling, while Eisenstein
and the Frenchman talked. Suddenly Fuselli caught a phrase that startled
"What would you Americans do if revolution broke out in France?"
"We'd do what we were ordered to," said Eisenstein bitterly. "We're a
bunch of slaves." Fuselli noticed that Eisenstein's puffy sallow face
was flushed and that there was a flash in his eyes he had never seen
"How do you mean, revolution?" asked Fuselli in a puzzled voice.
The Frenchman turned black eyes searchingly upon him.
"I mean, stop the butchery, - overthrow the capitalist government. - The
"But you're a republic already, ain't yer?"
"As much as you are."
"You talk like a socialist," said Fuselli. "They tell me they shoot guys
in America for talkin' like that."
"You see!" said Eisenstein to the Frenchman.
"Are they all like that?"
"Except a very few. It's hopeless," said Eisenstein, burying his face in
his hands. "I often think of shooting myself."
"Better shoot someone else," said the Frenchman. "It will be more
Fuselli stirred uneasily in his chair.
"Where'd you fellers get that stuff anyway?" he asked. In his mind he
was saying: "A kike and a frog, that's a good combination."
His eye caught Yvonne's and they both laughed, Yvonne threw her knitting
ball at him. It rolled down under the table and they both scrambled
about under the chairs looking for it.
"Twice I have thought it was going to happen," said the Frenchman.
"When was that?"
"A little while ago a division started marching on Paris.... And when I
was in Verdun.... O there will be a revolution.... France is the country
"We'll always be here to shoot you down," said Eisenstein.
"Wait till you've been in the war a little while. A winter in the
trenches will make any army ready for revolution."
"But we have no way of learning the truth. And in the tyranny of the
army a man becomes a brute, a piece of machinery. Remember you are freer
than we are. We are worse than the Russians!"
"It is curious!... O but you must have some feeling of civilization. I
have always heard that Americans were free and independent. Will they
let themselves be driven to the slaughter always?"
"O I don't know." Eisenstein got to his feet. "We'd better be getting to
barracks. Coming, Fuselli?" he said.
"Guess so," said Fuselli indifferently, without getting up.
Eisenstein and the Frenchman went out into the shop.
"Bon swar," said Fuselli, softly, leaning across the table. "Hey,
He threw himself on his belly on the wide table and put his arms round
her neck and kissed her, feeling everything go blank in a flame of
She pushed him away calmly with strong little arms.
"Stop!" she said, and jerked her head in the direction of the old woman
in the chair in the dark corner of the room. They stood side by side
listening to her faint wheezy snoring. He put his arms round her and
kissed her long on the mouth.
"Demain," he said.
She nodded her head.
Fuselli walked fast up the dark street towards the camp. The blood
pounded happily through his veins. He caught up with Eisenstein.
"Say, Eisenstein," he said in a comradely voice, "I don't think you
ought to go talking round like that. You'll get yourself in too deep one
of these days."
"I don't care!"
"But, hell, man, you don't want to get in the wrong that bad. They shoot
fellers for less than you said."
"Christ, man, you don't want to be a damn fool," expostulated Fuselli.
"How old are you, Fuselli?"
"I'm twenty now."
"I'm thirty. I've lived more, kid. I know what's good and what's bad.
This butchery makes me unhappy."
"God, I know. It's a hell of a note. But who brought it on? If somebody
had shot that Kaiser."
Eisenstein laughed bitterly. At the entrance of camp Fuselli lingered a
moment watching the small form of Eisenstein disappear with its curious
waddly walk into the darkness.
"I'm going to be damn careful who I'm seen goin' into barracks with," he
said to himself. "That damn kike may be a German spy or a secret-service
officer." A cold chill of terror went over him, shattering his mood
of joyous self-satisfaction. His feet slopped in the puddles, breaking
through the thin ice, as he walked up the road towards the barracks. He
felt as if people were watching him from everywhere out of the darkness,
as if some gigantic figure were driving him forward through the
darkness, holding a fist over his head, ready to crush him.
When he was rolled up in his blankets in the bunk next to Bill Grey, he
whispered to his friend:
"Say, Bill, I think I've got a skirt all fixed up in town."
"Yvonne - don't tell anybody."
Bill Grey whistled softly.
"You're some highflyer, Dan."
"Hell, man, the best ain't good enough for me."
"Well, I'm going to leave you," said Bill Grey.
"Damn soon. I can't go this life. I don't see how you can."
Fuselli did not answer. He snuggled warmly into his blankets, thinking
of Yvonne and the corporalship.
In the light of the one flickering lamp that made an unsteady circle of
reddish glow on the station platform Fuselli looked at his pass. From
Reveille on February fourth to Reveille on February fifth he was a
free man. His eyes smarted with sleep as he walked up and down the
cold station platform. For twenty-four hours he wouldn't have to obey