To the memory of those with whom I saw rockets in the  sky, on the road
between Erize-la-Petite and Erize-la-Grande,  in that early August  twilight
in the summer of 1917.

     One  Man's Initiation: 1917  was first published  in London in October,
1920 by George Allen  & Unwin Ltd. The original manuscript and corrected
page proofs have not been found. The first American edition was published in
June, 1922, by Goerge H. Doran Company, New York. The  Philosophical Library
reprinted  the book  in 1945,  under  the  title First Encounter, with a new
introduction by the author.
     In  1969  a new  edition was  published  by  Cornell  University Press,
copyright 1969 by John Dos Passos.  This edition, based  on uncorrected page
proofs of the first edition, and with consultation with the author, restored
several passages expurgated  or bowdlerized from  the first  edition.  Along
with several illustrations by the  author, and a new  (1968) introduction by
Dos Passos  including long extracts from his journal,  this attractive book,
Library  of  Congress  Catalog  Card Number  69-15945,  and  catalog  nubmer
PZ3.D740N5, is the authoritative one now.  We have not violated the author's
copyright by including any of the new material.

     IN the huge shed of the wharf, piled with crates and baggage, broken by
gang-planks  leading up  to ships on either  side, a  band plays  a tinselly
Hawaiian tune; people are dancing  in and out among the piles  of trunks and
boxes. There is a  scattering of khaki uniforms, and many young men stand in
groups laughing and talking in voices pitched shrill with excitement. In the
brown  light of the  wharf, full of  rows  of yellow  crates and barrels and
sacks, full of  racket of cranes, among  which winds  in and out the trivial
lilt of  the  Hawaiian tune,  there is a flutter of gay dresses and coloured
hats of women, and white handkerchiefs.
     The booming reverberation of the ship's whistle drowns all other sound.
     After it  the noise of farewells rises shrill. White  handkerchiefs are
agitated  in  the brown  light  of  the  shed. Ropes crack in pulleys as the
gang-planks are raised.
     Again, at the pierhead, white handkerchiefs  and cheering and a flutter
of coloured dresses. On the wharf building a flag spreads exultingly against
the azure afternoon sky.
     Rosy  yellow and drab purple, the buildings  of New York slide together
into  a  pyramid  above brown smudges of smoke standing  out  in  the water,
linked to the land by the dark curves of the bridges.
     In the fresh harbour wind comes now  and then a salt-wafting breath off
the sea.
     Martin  Howe stands in the stern that trembles with the  vibrating push
of the screw. A boy standing beside him turns and asks in a tremulous voice,
"This your first time across?"
     "Yes. . . . Yours?"
     "Yes. . . . I never used to think  that at nineteen I'd be crossing the
Atlantic to go to a war in France." The boy  caught himself up  suddenly and
blushed. Then swallowing a lump in his throat he  said, "It ought to be time
to eat."
     "God help Kaiser Bill!
     O-o-o old Uncle Sam.
     He's got the cavalry,
     He's got the infantry,
     He's got the artillery;
     And then by God we'll all go to Germany!
     God help Kaiser Bill!"
     The iron covers are clamped on the smoking-room windows, for no  lights
must show. So the air is  dense with tobacco smoke and the reek of  beer and
champagne. In  one corner they are playing poker with  their  coats off. All
the chairs are full of sprawling young men who stamp their feet to the time,
and bang their fists down so that the bottles dance on the tables.
     "God help Kaiser Bill."
     Sky and sea are opal grey.  Martin  is stretched on the deck in the bow
of the boat with an unopened book beside him. He has never  been so happy in
his life. The future is nothing to him, the past is nothing to him. All  his
life is effaced in the grey languor of  the  sea, in the soft surge  of  the
water about the ship's  bow as she ploughs through the long swell, eastward.
The tepid moisture of the Gulf  Stream makes his clothes feel damp  and  his
hair stick together into curls that  straggle over his forehead.  There  are
porpoises about, lazily tumbling in the swell, and flying-fish skim from one
grey wave to another, and the bow rises and  falls gently in rhythm with the
surging sing-song of the broken water.
     Martin has been asleep. As through infinite mists of greyness  he looks
back on the sharp hatreds and wringing desires of his life. Now a leaf seems
to  have  been turned and  a new  white  page spread before  him, clean  and
unwritten on. At last things have come to pass.
     And very faintly, like music  heard  across  the water in the  evening,
blurred into strange  harmonies,  his old watchwords echo  a little  in  his
mind. Like the red flame of the sunset setting fire to opal sea and sky, the
old exaltation, the old flame  that would  consume to  ashes all the lies in
the world,  the  trumpet-blast under which  the walls of Jericho would  fall
down, stirs and broods in the womb of his  grey lassitude. The bow rises and
falls  gently in rhythm with the surging sing-song of the  broken water,  as
the steamer ploughs through the long swell of the Gulf Stream, eastward.
     "See that guy,  the feller with  the straw  hat; he  lost five  hundred
dollars at craps last night."
     "Some stakes."
     It is almost dark. Sea and sky are glowing claret colour, darkened to a
cold bluish-green to westward. In a  corner  of the deck a number of men are
crowded in  a circle, while one shakes the dice in  his hand with  a strange
nervous quiver that ends  in a snap of the fingers as the white dice roll on
the deck.
     "Seven up." From the smoking-room  comes a sound of singing and glasses
banged on tables.
     "Oh, we're bound for the Hamburg show,
     To see the elephant and the wild kangaroo,
     An' we'll all stick together
     In fair or foul weather,
     For we're going to see the damn show through!"
     On   the  settee  a  sallow   young  man  is  shaking  the  ice  in   a
whisky-and-soda into a nervous tinkle as he talks: "There's nothing they can
do against this new gas.  . . . It just  corrodes the lungs as  if they were
rotten in a dead body. In the  hospitals they just stand the poor devils  up
against a wall and let them die. They say their skin turns green and that it
takes from five to seven days to die--five to seven days of slow choking."

     "Oh, but I think  it's so splendid  of  you"--she bared  all her teeth,
white  and  regular as those in  a dentist's show-case,  in  a  smile as she
spoke--"to come over this way to help France."
     "Perhaps it's only curiosity," muttered Martin.
     "Oh no. .  .  . You're too modest.  . . . What  I mean  is that it's so
splendid to have understood the issues. . . . That's how I feel. I just told
dad I'd have to come and do my bit, as the English say."
     "What are you going to do?"
     "Something  in Paris.  I don't know just  what, but I'll certainly make
myself useful somehow." She beamed  at him provocatively. "Oh, if only I was
a man, I'd have shouldered my gun the first day; indeed I would."
     "But the issues were hardly . . . defined then," ventured Martin.
     "They  didn't  need to be. I hate those brutes. I've  always hated  the
Germans, their language,  their country, everything about them. And now that
they've done such frightful things . . ."
     "I wonder if it's all true .  . ." "True!  Oh, of course it's all true;
and  lots more that it hasn't been possible to print, that people  have been
ashamed to tell."
     "They've gone pretty far," said Martin, laughing.
     "If  there  are  any  left  alive  after  the  war  they  ought  to  be
chloroformed. .  . . And really I  don't  think it's patriotic or humane  to
take the atrocities so  lightly. . . . But really, you must excuse me if you
think me rude; I  do  get so excited and  wrought up when I  think  of those
frightful things. . . . I get quite beside myself; I'm sure  you do  too, in
your heart. . . . Any red-blooded person would."
     "Only I doubt . . ."
     "But  you're just playing into their  hands if you do  that. . .  . Oh,
dear, I'm quite beside myself,  just  thinking of  it."  She raised a  small
gloved hand to  her pink  cheek in a gesture of horror, and  settled herself
comfortably in her deck chair.  "Really, I oughtn't to talk about it. I lose
all self-control when I do. I hate them so it makes me quite ill. .  . . The
curs! The Huns! Let me tell you just one story. . . . I know it'll make your
blood boil. It's absolutely authentic, too. I  heard it  before  I left  New
York  from  a girl who's really the  best friend I have on earth. She got it
from  a friend of hers who had got it directly from  a  little Belgian girl,
poor little thing, who was in the convent at the time. . . . Oh, I don't see
why they ever take any prisoners; I'd kill them all like mad dogs."
     "What's the story?"
     "Oh, I  can't tell it.  It upsets me too  much. . . . No, that's silly,
I've got to begin facing realities. . . . It was just when the Germans  were
taking Bruges, the  Uhlans broke into this convent. . . . But I think it was
in Louvain, not Bruges. .  .  . I have a wretched memory  for names. .  .  .
Well, they broke in, and took all those poor defenceless little girls . . ."
     "There's the dinner-bell."
     "Oh, so  it is. I must run  and dress. I'll have to tell you later. . .
     Through half-closed  eyes, Martin watched the fluttering  dress and the
backs of the neat little white shoes go jauntily down the deck.

     The  smoking-room  again.  Clink  of  glasses and  chatter of confident
voices. Two men talking over their glasses.
     "They tell me that Paris is some city."
     "The most immoral place in  the  world, before the war.  Why, there are
houses there where . . ." his voice sank into a whisper. The other man burst
into loud guffaws.
     "But the war's put an end to all that. They tell me that  French people
are regenerated, positively regenerated."
     "They  say the lack of  food's  something  awful, that you can't get  a
square meal. They even eat horse."
     "Did you hear what those fellows were saying about that new gas? Sounds
frightful,  don't it? I don't care  a  thing about bullets, but that kind o'
gives me cold feet... . . I don't give a damn about bullets, but that gas. .
. ."
     "That's why so many shoot their friends when they're gassed. . . . "
     "Say, you two, how about a hand of poker?
     A champagne cork pops.
     "Jiminy, don't spill it all over me."
     "Where we goin', boys?"
     "Oh, we're going to the Hamburg show
     To see the elephant and the wild kangaroo,
     And we'll all stick together
     In fair or foul weather,
     For we're going to see the damn show through!"

     BEFORE going  to  bed  Martin had seen  the lighthouses  winking at the
mouth of the Gironde, and had filled his  lungs with  the  new,  indefinably
scented  wind coming off  the  land.  The  sound  of screaming  whistles  of
tugboats awoke  him. Feet  were  tramping on  the deck  above his head.  The
shrill  whine  of  a crane sounded in his ears  and  the throaty  cry of men
lifting something in unison.
     Through his  port-hole  in  the  yet colourless dawn he saw the reddish
water  of a river  with  black-hulled  sailing-boats  on it and  a few lanky
little steamers of a pattern  he  had never seen before. Again  he  breathed
deep of the new indefinable smell off the land.
     Once  on deck in the cold air, he saw through  the faint light a row of
houses beyond the  low wharf buildings, grey mellow  houses  of four storeys
with  tiled roofs and intricate ironwork balconies, with balconies  in which
the  ironwork  had been carefully  twisted by  artisans  long ago dead  into
gracefully modulated curves and spirals.
     Some  in uniform, some not, the ambulance men  marched  to the station,
through  the  grey  streets  of  Bordeaux.  Once a woman opened a window and
crying, "Vive l'Amrique," threw  out a bunch of  roses and daisies. As they
were rounding a corner, a man with a frockcoat on ran up and put his own hat
on  the head of one of the Americans who had none. In  front of the station,
waiting for  the  train,  they sat at the  little tables  of  cafs, lolling
comfortably in the early morning sunlight, and drank beer and cognac.
     Small  railway carriages  into  which they were  crowded so that  their
knees  were  pressed  tight together--and  outside,  slipping by, blue-green
fields,  and  poplars stalking out of the morning  mist,  and long drifts of
poppies.  Scarlet poppies,  and  cornflowers,  and  white  daisies, and  the
red-tiled roofs  and white  walls of  cottages, all against  a background of
glaucous green fields and hedges. Tours, Poitiers, Orlans. In the names  of
the stations rose old wars, until the floods of scarlet  poppies seemed  the
blood  of  fighting  men  slaughtered through  all  time. At  last,  in  the
gloaming, Paris, and, in crossing a bridge over the Seine,  a glimpse of the
two linked towers of Notre Dame, rosy grey in the grey mist up the river.

     "Say, these women here get my goat."
     "How do you mean?"
     "Well, I was  at  the  Olympia  with Johnson and  that crowd. They just
pester  the life  out of you  there. I'd heard that  Paris  was immoral, but
nothing like this."
     "It's the war."
     "But the Jane I went with . . ."
     "Gee, these Frenchwomen are immoral. They say the war does it."
     "Can't be that. Nothing is more purifying than sacrifice."
     "A feller has to be mighty careful, they say."
     "Looks like every woman you saw walking on the street was a whore. They
certainly are good-lookers though."
     "King and his gang are all being sent back to the States."
     "I'll  be darned! They sure have been drunk ever since they got off the
     "Raised hell  in Maxim's  last night. They  tried to clean up the place
and the police  came. They were all soused  to the gills  and  tried to make
everybody there sing the 'Star Spangled Banner.'"
     "Damn fool business."

     Martin Howe sat at a table on the sidewalk under the brown  awning of a
restaurant. Opposite in the last topaz-clear rays of the sun, the foliage of
the  Jardin du Luxembourg shone  bright green  above  deep alleys of  bluish
shadow. From the pavements in front of the mauve-coloured houses rose little
kiosks with advertisements in bright  orange and  vermilion and blue. In the
middle of the triangle formed by the streets and the garden was a round pool
of jade water. Martin leaned back in his chair looking dreamily out  through
half-closed eyes,  breathing  deep now and then of the musty scent of Paris,
that  mingled  with the melting freshness  of  the wild strawberries  on the
plate before him.
     As he stared in front of him two figures crossed his field of vision. A
woman swathed in black crepe veils  was helping a soldier to a seat  at  the
next table. He found himself staring in a face,  a  face that still had some
of the chubbiness of boyhood. Between the  pale-brown frightened eyes, where
the nose should have  been, was a triangular  black patch that ended in some
mechanical  contrivance with  shiny  little black  metal rods that  took the
place of the  jaw. He could not take his eyes from the soldier's  eyes, that
were like those of a hurt  animal, full of  meek dismay. Someone  plucked at
Martin's arm, and he turned suddenly, fearfully.
     A bent old woman was offering him flowers with a jerky curtsey.
     "Just a rose, for good luck?"
     "No, thank you."
     "It will bring you happiness."
     He took a couple of the reddest of the roses.
     "Do you understand the language of flowers?"
     "I shall teach you. . . . Thank you so much. . . . Thank you so much."
     She added a few large daisies to the red roses in his hand.
     "These will  bring you  love.  . . . But another time I shall teach you
the language of flowers, the language of love."
     She curtseyed  again,  and  began  making  her  way  jerkily  down  the
sidewalk, jingling his silver in her hand.
     He stuck the  roses and daisies in the belt of his uniform and sat with
the green flame of Chartreuse in a little glass before him, staring into the
gardens, where the foliage was becoming blue and lavender  with evening, and
the  shadows  darkened to  grey-purple  and black. Now  and  then he glanced
furtively,  with shame, at the  man  at the next table.  When the restaurant
closed  he  wandered  through  the  unlighted  streets  towards  the  river,
listening  to the laughs and conversations  that bubbled like the sparkle in
Burgundy through the purple summer night.
     But  wherever he  looked in  the  comradely  faces of young men, in the
beckoning eyes of women, he saw the brown  hurt eyes of the soldier, and the
triangular black patch where the nose should have been.

     AT Epernay the station was wrecked; the corrugated tin of the roof hung
in strips over the crumbled brick walls.
     "They  say  the  Boches  came  over  last  night. They  killed a lot of
     "That river's the Maine."
     "Gosh, is it? Let me get to the winder."
     The third-class  car, joggling along on a flat wheel, was  full  of the
smell of  sweat and sour wine. Outside, yellow-green and blue-green, crossed
by  long  processions  of poplars,  aflame  with  vermilion  and carmine  of
poppies, the countryside slipped by. At a station where the train stopped on
a siding, they could hear a faint hollow sound in the distance: guns.

     Croix de  Guerre had been given  out that day at the automobile park at
Ch?lons.  There  was  an unusually big  dinner  at the wooden  tables in the
narrow portable  barracks,  and  during  the last course  the General passed
through  and drank  a  glass of  champagne  to  the  health of all  present.
Everybody  had on his best uniform and sweated hugely in the narrow, airless
building, from the  wine  and  the  champagne  and the thick  stew,  thickly
seasoned, that made the dinner's main course.
     "We are  all  one large family,"  said  the General from the end of the
barracks . . . "to France."
     That night the wail of a siren woke Martin suddenly and made him sit up
in his bunk trembling, wondering where he was. Like the shriek of a woman in
a  nightmare, the wail of the siren rose and  rose and then dropped in pitch
and faded throbbingly out.
     "Don't flash a light there. It's Boche planes."
     Outside the night was cold, with a little light from a waned moon.
     "See the shrapnel!" someone cried.
     "The Boche has a Mercedes motor," said someone else. "You can  tell  by
the sound of it."
     "They say one of their  planes chased an  ambulance  ten  miles along a
straight road the other day, trying to get it with a machinegun. The man who
was driving got away, but he had shell-shock afterwards."
     "Did he really?"
     "Oh, I'm goin' to turn in. God, these French nights are cold!"

     The rain  pattered hard with  unfaltering determination on the  roof of
the little arbour.  Martin lolled  over the rough  board  table, resting his
chin on his clasped hands, looking through the tinkling bead curtains of the
rain  towards the other end of the weed-grown garden, where, under a  canvas
shelter,  the  cooks  were  moving about  in front  of  two  black  steaming
cauldrons. Through the fresh scent of rain-beaten leaves came a greasy smell
of soup. He was thinking of the  jolly wedding-parties that must  have drunk
and danced in this garden before the war, of the lovers who must have sat in
that very arbour, pressing sunburned cheek  against sunburned cheek, twining
hands  callous with work in the fields. A man broke suddenly into the arbour
behind Martin and stood flicking the water off his uniform with his cap. His
sand-coloured hair was wet and  was  plastered in little spikes to his broad
forehead,  a forehead  that was the entablature  of  a  determined rock-hewn
     "Hello,"  said Martin, twisting  his head to look at the newcomer. "You
section twenty-four?"
     "Yes.  . . .  Ever  read  'Alice in  Wonderland'?"  asked  the wet man,
sitting down abruptly at the table.
     "Yes, indeed."
     "Doesn't this remind you of it?"
     "This war business. Why, I keep thinking  I'm going  to meet the rabbit
who put butter in his watch round every corner."
     "It was the best butter."
     "That's the hell of it."
     "When's  your  section leaving  here?"  asked  Martin,  picking  up the
conversation after  a pause  during which  they'd  both stared  out into the
rain. They could hear almost constantly the grinding roar of camions  on the
road behind the caf and the slither of their wheels through the mud-puddles
where the road turned into the village.
     "How the devil should I know?"
     "Somebody  had  dope this  morning that we'd leave  here  for  Soissons
to-morrow." Martin's words tailed off into a convictionless mumble.
     "It surely is different than you'd pictured it, isn't it, now?"
     They sat looking at  each other while the big drops from the leaky roof
smacked on the table or splashed cold in their faces.
     "What do you  think of  all this, anyway?"  said the  wet man suddenly,
lowering his voice stealthily.
     "I don't know.  I never did expect  it  to be what  we  were taught  to
believe. . . . Things aren't."
     "But you can't have guessed that it was  like this .  . . like Alice in
Wonderland, like an ill-intentioned Drury Lane pantomime, like all the dusty
futility of Barnum and Bailey's Circus."
     "No, I thought it would be hair-raising," said Martin.
     "Think, man,  think of all the oceans of lies through all the ages that
must have been necessary to make this possible! Think of this new particular
vintage of lies that has been so industriously pumped  out  of the press and
the pulpit. Doesn't it stagger you?"
     Martin nodded.
     "Why, lies are  like a sticky juice  overspreading the world, a living,
growing flypaper to catch and gum the  wings of every human soul.  . . . And
the little helpless buzzings of honest, liberal,  kindly people, aren't they
like the thin little noise flies make when they're caught?"
     "I  agree with you that  the  little  thin  noise is very silly,"  said

     Martin slammed down  the hood  of the  car and  stood  upright.  A cold
stream of  rain ran down the  sleeves  of his slicker and  dripped from  his
greasy hands.
     Infantry tramped  by, the rain  spattering with a  cold glitter on grey
helmets, on gun-barrels,  on the straps of equipment.  Red  sweating  faces,
drooping under the  hard  rims  of helmets, turned  to the  ground  with the
struggle with the  weight  of equipment; rows and patches  of faces were the
only warmth in the desolation of putty-coloured mud and  bowed  mud-coloured
bodies  and dripping mud-coloured sky. In  the cold colourlessness they were
delicate and feeble as  the  faces of  children, rosy  and  soft  under  the
splattering of mud and the shagginess of unshaven beards.
     Martin rubbed the back of  his hand against his face. His skin was like
that, too, soft as the petals of  flowers, soft and  warm amid all this dead
mud, amid all this hard mud-covered steel.
     He  leant against the  side of the car,  his ears  full  of  the  heavy
shuffle,  of  the  jingle of  equipment,  of  the  splashing in  puddles  of
water-soaked boots, and watched the endless rosy patches of faces moving by,
the  faces that drooped  towards  the  dripping boots  that rose  and  fell,
churning into froth the soupy, putty-coloured mud of the road.

     The schoolmaster's garden was full of  late  roses  and marigolds,  all
parched and bleached by the thick layer of dust  that was over them. Next to
the vine-covered trellis that cut the garden off from the road stood a green
table  and  a  few  cane  chairs.  The  schoolmaster,  something  charmingly
eighteenth-century about the  cut of his breeches and the calves of his legs
in their thick woollen golf-stockings, led the way, a brown pitcher of  wine
in  his hand.  Martin  Howe and  the black-haired, brown-faced  boy from New
Orleans who was  his car-mate followed him. Then came a little grey woman in
a pink knitted shawl, carrying a tray with glasses.
     "In  the Verdunois our  wine is not very good," said  the schoolmaster,
bowing them into  chairs. "It  is thin  and cold like  the climate.  To your
health, gentlemen."
     "To France."
     "To America."
     "And down with the Boches."
     In the  pale yellow  light  that came from  among the dark clouds  that
passed over the sky, the wine had the chilly gleam of yellow diamonds.
     "Ah, you  should have seen  that road in  1916," said the schoolmaster,
drawing a  hand over his watery  blue  eyes. "That, you  know,  is the  Voie
Sacre, the sacred way that saved Verdun. All day, all day, a double line of
camions went up, full of ammunition and ravitaillement and men."
     "Oh, the poor  boys, we saw so many  go up, came  the voice, dry as the
rustling of  the  wind in the vine-leaves, of the grey  old woman who  stood
leaning against the schoolmaster's chair, looking  out through a gap  in the
trellis  at  the rutted road so thick with dust, "and never have we seen one
of them come back."
     "It was for France."
     "But this was a nice village before the war. From Verdun to Bar-le-Duc,
the Courrier des Postes used to tell us, there was no such village, so clean
and with such  fine orchards." The old  woman leaned over the schoolmaster's
shoulder, joining eagerly in the conversation.
     "Even now the fruit is very fine," said Martin.
     "But you soldiers,  you steal it all," said the old woman, throwing out
her arms. "You leave us nothing, nothing."
     "We don't  begrudge  it,"  said the schoolmaster, "all  we have is  our
     "We shall starve then. . . ."
     As  she  spoke the glasses on  the table  shook. With  a  roar of heavy
wheels and a grind of gears a camion went by.
     "O good God!"  The  old  woman looked out on to the road with terror in
her face, blinking her eyes in the thick dust.
     Roaring with heavy wheels, grinding with  gears, throbbing with motors,
camion after camion went  by,  slowly, stridently. The  men packed into  the
camions had broken through the canvas  covers and leaned  out  waving  their
arms and shouting.
     "Oh, the poor  children,"  said the old woman, wringing her hands,  her
voice lost in the roar and the shouting.
     "They should  not destroy property  that way," said the schoolmaster. .
.. "Last year it was dreadful. There were mutinies."
     Martin sat,  his chair tilted back, his hands trembling,  staring  with
compressed lips at the men who jolted by on the strident, throbbing camions.
A word formed in his mind: tumbrils.
     In some trucks  the men were drunk and singing, waving their  bidons in
the air, shouting at people along the road, crying out  all sorts of things:
"Get to the front!" "Into the trenches with them!" "Down with  the war!"  In
others  they  sat quiet, faces corpse-like with dust. Through the gap in the
trellis Martin stared  at them, noting intelligent  faces, beautiful  faces,
faces brutally gay, miserable faces like those of sobbing drunkards.
     At  last the  convoy  passed and  the dust  settled again on the rutted
     "Oh, the poor children!" said the old woman. "They know  they are going
to death."
     They tried to  hide  their  agitation. The schoolmaster poured out more
     "Yes," said Martin, "there are fine orchards on the hills round here."
     "You should be here when the plums are ripe," said the schoolmaster.
     A tall bearded man, covered with dust  to the eyelashes, in the uniform
of a commandant, stepped into the garden.
     "My  dear  friends!" He  shook hands with  the schoolmaster and the old
woman and saluted the two Americans. "I could  not pass  without stopping  a
moment. We are going up to an attack. We have the honour to take the lead."
     "You will have a glass of wine, won't you?"
     "With great pleasure."
     "Julie, fetch a bottle, you know which. . . . How is the morale?"
     "I thought they looked a little discontented."
     "No.  . . . It's  always like that. .  . .  They  were yelling at  some
gendarmes. If they  strung  up a couple  it would  serve them  right,  dirty
     "You soldiers are all one against the gendarmes."
     "Yes. We fight  the  enemy but we hate the gendarmes."  The  commandant
rubbed his hands, drank his wine and laughed.
     "Hah! There's the next convoy. I must go."
     "Good luck."
     The  commandant shrugged  his shoulders,  clicked his heels together at
the garden gate, saluted, smiling, and was gone.
     Again the village street was  full  of the grinding  roar and  throb of
camions, full of a frenzy of wheels and drunken shouting.
     "Give us a drink, you."
     "We're the train de luxe, we are."
     "Down with the war!"
     And the old grey woman wrung her hands and said:
     "Oh, the poor children, they know they are going to death!"

     MARTIN, rolled  up in  his  bedroll on the floor of the empty  hayloft,
woke with a start.
     "Say, Howe!" Tom Randolph, who lay  next him, was pressing his hand. "I
think I heard a shell go over."
     As he spoke there came a shrill, loudening whine, and an explosion that
shook the barn. A little dirt fell down on Martin's face.
     "Say, fellers, that was damn near," came a voice from the floor of  the
     "We'd better go over to the quarry."
     "Oh, hell, I was sound asleep!"
     A vicious shriek overhead and a shaking snort of explosion.
     "Gee, that was in the house behind us. . ."
     "I smell gas.
     "Ye damn fool, it's carbide."
     "One of the Frenchmen said it was gas."
     "All right, fellers, put on your masks."
     Outside  there was  a  sickly  rough  smell  in the  air  that  mingled
strangely with the perfume  of the cool night, musical  with the gurgling of
the stream through the little valley where their  barn was. They crouched in
a quarry by the roadside,  a straggling, half-naked  group, and  watched the
flashes in  the  sky northward, where  artillery along  the lines kept up  a
continuous  hammering  drum-beat.  Over  their  head   shells   shrieked  at
two-minute intervals,  to  explode with  a  rattling ripping  sound  in  the
village on the other side of the valley.
     "Damn  foolishness," muttered Tom Randolph in his  rich Southern voice.
"Why don't those damn gunners go to sleep and let us go to sleep? . . . They
must be tired like we are."
     A  shell burst in a  house on the  crest of the hill opposite,  so that
they  saw  the flash  against  the  starry  night sky.  In the silence  that
followed, the moaning shriek of a man came faintly across the valley.

     Martin sat  on the steps of  the dugout, looking up the shattered shaft
of a tree, from the top of which a few ribbons of bark fluttered against the
mauve evening  sky. In the quiet he could hear the voices of men chatting in
the dark below him, and a sound  of someone whistling  as he worked. Now and
then, like some ungainly bird, a high calibre shell trundled through the air
overhead; after  its noise had  completely died away would come the  thud of
the explosion.  It was  like battledore  and  shuttlecock, these huge masses
whirling through the evening far above his head, now from one side, now from
the other. It gave him somehow a cosy feeling of safety, as if he were under
some sort of a bridge over which freight-cars were shunted madly to and fro.
     The doctor in charge of the post came up and sat beside Martin.  He was
a small brown man with slim black moustaches that curved like the horns of a
long-horn  steer. He stood on tip-toe on the  top step  and peered  about in
every direction with  an  air of ownership, then sat  down  again  and began
talking briskly.
     "We are exactly four hundred and five metres from the Boche. . . . Five
hundred metres  from  here they  are  drinking  beer and  saying, 'Hoch  der
     "About as much as we're saying 'Vive la Rpublique,' I should say."
     "Who knows? But it is  quiet  here, isn't it? It's quieter here than in
     "The sky is very beautiful to-night."
     "They  say they're shelling  the Etat-Major  to-day.  Damned embusqus;
it'll do them good to get a bit of their own medicine."
     Martin did not answer. He was crossing in his mind the four hundred and
five metres to the first Boche listening-post. Next beyond the abris was the
latrine from which a puff  of wind brought now and  then a  nauseous stench.
Then there was the tin roof, crumpled as  if by a hand, that had been a cook
shack. That was just behind the second line  trenches that zig-zagged in and
out  of great abscesses of  wet, upturned clay  along the crest of  a little
hill. The  other  day he had been  there, and had clambered up the oily clay
where the boyau had caved  in, and  from the level of the  ground had looked
for an anxious minute or  two at the tangle of trenches and pitted gangrened
soil  in  the direction of the German  outposts.  And all along these random
gashes  in the mucky clay were men, feet  and legs  huge from clotting after
clotting of  clay,  men with greyish-green faces scarred by  lines of strain
and fear and boredom as the hillside was scarred out of all semblance by the
trenches and the shell-holes.
     "We  are  well off here,"  said the  doctor again.  "I have  not  had a
serious case all day."
     "Up in the  front line there's a place where they've planted rhubarb. .
. . You know, where the hillside is beginning to get rocky."
     "It was the Boche who did that. . . . We  took that slope from them two
months ago. . . . How does it grow?"
     "They say the gas makes the leaves shrivel," said Martin, laughing.
     He looked long at the little ranks of clouds that had begun to fill the
sky, like ruffles on a woman's dress. Might not it really be, he kept asking
himself, that the sky was a beneficent goddess who would stoop gently out of
the  infinite spaces and lift him to her breast, where he could lie amid the
amber-fringed ruffles of cloud and look curiously down at the spinning  ball
of the earth? It  might have beauty if he were far enough away to clear  his
nostrils of the stench of pain.
     "It  is  funny," said the little  doctor suddenly, "to  think  how much
nearer we  are,  in state of mind,  in  everything, to the Germans  than  to
anyone else."
     "You mean that the soldiers in the trenches are  all  further from  the
people at home than from each other, no matter what side they are on."
     The little doctor nodded.
     "God,  it's so stupid! Why can't we go  over and talk to them? Nobody's
fighting about anything. . . . God, it's so hideously stupid!" cried Martin,
suddenly carried away, helpless in the flood of his passionate revolt.
     "Life is stupid," said the little doctor sententiously.
     Suddenly from the lines came a splutter of machine-guns.
     "Evensong!"  cried the little doctor. "Ah,  but  here's business. You'd
better get your car ready, my friend."
     The brancardiers  set the stretcher down at  the top of  the steps that
led to the door of the dugout, so that Martin found himself looking into the
lean,  sensitive face, stained  a little with blood  about the mouth, of the
wounded man. His eyes followed along the shapeless  bundles of blood-flecked
uniform till they  suddenly turned  away. Where the  middle  of  the man had
been, where had been the curved belly and the genitals, where the thighs had
joined  with a strong swerving  of muscles to the trunk, was a depression, a
hollow pool of blood, that glinted a little  in the  cold  diffusion of grey
light from the west.

     The rain  beat hard  on the window-panes of the little room and  hissed
down the chimney into  the smouldering fire that  sent up thick green smoke.
At a plain oak table before the fireplace sat Martin Howe  and Tom Randolph,
Tom Randolph with his sunburned hands with their dirty nails spread flat and
his head resting on  the table between them, so  that Martin  could  see the
stiff black hair on top of his head and the dark nape of his neck going into
shadow under the collar of the flannel shirt.
     "Oh, God, it's too damned absurd! An arrangement for mutual suicide and
no damned other thing," said Randolph, raising his head.
     "A certain jolly asinine grotesqueness, though. I mean, if you were God
and could  look at it  like that  .  . . Oh, Randy, why do they enjoy hatred
     "A question of taste . . . as the lady said when she kissed the cow."
     "But it isn't. It isn't natural  for people to  hate that way, it can't
be.  It even disgusts the perfectly stupid  damn-fool people, like  Higgins,
who believes that the  Bible was written in God's  own handwriting and  that
the newspapers tell the truth."
     "It  makes me  sick  at  ma stomach, Howe,  to  talk to  one  of  those
Hun-hatin' women, if they're male or female."
     "It is a stupid affair, la vie, as the doctor at P.I. said yesterday. .
. ."
     "Hell, yes. . ."
     They sat silent, watching the rain beat on the window, and  run down in
sparkling finger-like streams.
     "What I can't get over is these Frenchwomen."  Randolph threw  back his
head and  laughed.  "They're so bloody frank.  Did  I  tell  you about  what
happened to me at that last village on the Verdun road?"
     "I was lyin' down for a nap under a  plumtree, a wonderfully nice place
near a li'l brook  an' all, an' suddenly that crazy Jane. . . . You know the
one  that used to throw  stones at us out  of  that broken-down house at the
corner of the road. . . . Anyway, she comes  up to me  with a funny  look in
her eyes an'  starts makin'  love  to me.  I had a regular  wrastlin'  match
gettin' away from her."
     "Funny position for you to be in, getting away from a woman."
     "But doesn't that  strike you  funny?  Why, down  where I  come from  a
drunken mulatto woman wouldn't act like that. They all keep up a fake of not
wantin'  your attentions." His black  eyes sparkled, and he laughed his deep
ringing  laugh, that made  the withered woman smile as  she set  an omelette
before them.
     "Voil, messieurs," she  said  with a grand air, as if it were a boar's
head that she was serving.
     Three French infantrymen came into the caf, shaking the rain off their
     "Nothing to  drink but  champagne at four  francs fifty," shouted Howe.
"Dirty night out, isn't it?"
     "We'll drink that, then!"
     Howe and Randolph moved up and they all sat at the same table.
     "Fortune of war?"
     "Oh, the war, what do you think of the war?" cried Martin.
     "What do you think of the peste? You think about saving your skin."
     "What's  amusing  about us is that  we three have all  saved our  skins
together," said one of the Frenchmen.
     "Yes. We are of  the  same class,"  said another, holding up his thumb.
"Mobilised same day." He  held up his first finger. "Same company."  He held
up a second finger. "Wounded by the same shell. . . .  Evacuated to the same
hospital. Convalescence at same time. . Rform to the same dept behind the
     "Didn't all marry the same girl, did you, to  make it  complete?" asked
     They all shouted with laughter until the glasses along the bar rang.
     "You must be Athos, Porthos, and d'Artagnan."
     "We are," they shouted.
     "Some more champagne,  madame, for the three musketeers," sang Randolph
in a sort of operatic yodle.
     "All  I have left is this," said the  withered woman, setting  a bottle
down on the table.
     "Is that poison?"
     "It's cognac, it's very good cognac," said the old woman seriously.
     "C'est du cognac! Vive le roi cognac!" everybody shouted.
     "Au plein de mon cognac
     Qu'il fait bon, fait bon, fait bon,
     Au plein de mon cognac
     Qu'il fait bon dormir."
     "Down with the war! Who can sing the 'Internationale'?"
     "Not so  much noise, I beg  you, gentlemen,"  came the withered woman's
whining voice.  "It's after hours. Last week I was fined. Next time  I'll be
closed up."
     The  night  was black  when  Martin  and Randolph,  after  lengthy  and
elaborate farewells, started  down the muddy road towards the hospital. They
staggered  along  the  slippery  footpath beside  the  road,  splashed every
instant with mud by camions, huge and  dark, that roared grindingly by. They
ran and skipped arm-in-arm and shouted at the top of their lungs:
     "Auprs de ma blonde,
     Qu'il fait bon, fait bon, fait bon,
     Auprs de ma blonde,
     Qu'il fait bon dormir."
     A stench of sweat and filth  and formaldehyde caught them by the throat
as they went into the hospital tent, gave them a sense of feverish bodies of
men stretched all about them, stirring in pain.

     "A car for  la Basse, Ambulance 4," said the orderly. Howe got himself
up  off  the  hospital stretcher, shoving his  flannel shirt  back  into his
breeches, put on  his coat and belt and felt his way to  the door, stumbling
over the legs of sleeping brancardiers as  he went. Men swore in their sleep
and turned over heavily. At the door he waited a minute, then shouted:
     "Coming, Tom?"
     "Too damn sleepy," came Randolph's voice from under a blanket.
     "I've got cigarettes, Tom. I'll smoke 'em all up if you don't come."
     "All right, I'll come."
     "Less noise, name of God!" cried a man, sitting up on his stretcher.
     After  the  hospital,  smelling of  chloride and blankets  and  reeking
clothes, the night air was unbelievably sweet. Like a  gilt fringe on a dark
shawl, a little band of brightness had appeared in the east.
     "Some dawn, Howe, ain't it?"
     As they were  going  off, their motor  chugging  regularly,  an orderly
     "It's a special case. Go for orders to the commandant."
     Colours formed gradually out of chaotic grey as the day  brightened. At
the dressing-station an attendant ran up to the car.
     "Oh, you're for the special case? Have you anything to tie a man with?"
     "No, why?"
     "It's nothing. He just tried to stab the sergeant-major."
     The attendant raised a fist and tapped on his  head as if knocking on a
door. "It's nothing. He's quieter now."
     "What caused it?"
     "Who knows? There is so much. . . . He says he must kill everyone. . ."
     "Are you ready?"
     A lieutenant of the medical  corps came to the door  and looked out. He
smiled reassuringly  at Martin Howe.  "He's not violent any more.  And we'll
send two guardians."
     A sergeant came out with a little packet which he handed to Martin.
     "That's his. Will you give it to them at the hospital at Fourreaux? And
here's his knife. They can  give it  back to him when he gets better. He has
an idea he ought to kill everyone he sees. . . . Funny idea."
     The sun  had risen and shone gold  across the  broad  rolling lands, so
that the hedges and the  poplar-rows cast long blue shadows over the fields.
The man,  with a guardian on either side of him who cast  nervous glances to
the right and to the left, came placidly, eyes straight in front of him, out
of  the  dark interior  of  the dressing-station. He  was  a small  man with
moustaches and small, goodnatured lips puffed into an o-shape. At the car he
turned and saluted.
     "Good-bye, my lieutenant. Thank you for your kindness," he said.
     "Good-bye, old chap," said the lieutenant.
     The little man stood up in the car, looking about him anxiously.
     "I've lost my knife. Where's my knife?"
     The  guards got  in  behind  him  with  a  nervous,  sheepish air. They
answered reassuringly, "The driver's got it. The American's got it."
     The orderly jumped  on the seat with the two Americans to show the way.
He whispered in Martin's ear:
     "He's crazy. He says that to stop the war you must kill everybody, kill

     In an open valley that  sloped between hills covered  with beech-woods,
stood  the tall abbey,  a  Gothic nave  and  apse  with  beautifully  traced
windows, with the ruin  of a very ancient  chapel on one side, and  crossing
the  back,   a  well-proportioned  Renaissance  building  that  had  been  a
dormitory. The first time that  Martin saw  the abbey, it towered in ghostly
perfection above a low veil of mist  that made the valley seem a lake in the
shining  moonlight. The lines were perfectly  quiet, and when he stopped the
motor  of  his  ambulance,  he  could  hear  the  wind  rustling  among  the
beech-woods. Except for the  dirty smell of huddled  soldiers  that came now
and  then in drifts along with the cool woodscents, there might have been no
war  at  all. In the  soft  moonlight the  great traceried  windows and  the
buttresses  and the  high-pitched  roof  seemed as  gorgeously untroubled by
decay as if the  carvings on the cusps  and arches had just  come from under
the careful chisels of the Gothic workmen.
     "And you say we ye progressed," he whispered to Tom Randolph.
     "God, it is fine."
     They wandered  up  and  down the road a long time, silently, looking at
the  tall apse of the abbey, breathing the cool night air, moist with  mist,
in which now and then was the huddled, troubling  smell of soldiers. At last
the moon, huge  and swollen with gold, set behind the wooded hills, and they
went back  to the  car, where they rolled  up in their blankets  and went to
     Behind the square lantern that rose over the crossing, there was a trap
door in the broken  tile roof, from which you could climb to the observation
post in the lantern.  Here, half on the roof and half on the platform behind
the trap door, Martin would  spend the long summer afternoons when there was
no call  for the ambulance, looking at the Gothic windows of the lantern and
the  blue sky beyond, where huge soft  clouds passed slowly  over, darkening
the green of the woods and of the weed-grown fields of the valley with their
moving shadows.
     There  was almost no  activity on that part of  the front. A  couple of
times a day a few snapping discharges would come from  the seventy-fives  of
the battery behind the abbey, and the woods would resound like a shaken harp
as  the shells  passed over to explode on the crest of the hill that blocked
the end of the valley where the Boches were.
     Martin  would  sit  and dream of the  quiet  lives the  monks must have
passed  in  their beautiful abbey so far away in the Forest of  the Argonne,
digging and planting in the rich  lands of  the valley, making flowers bloom
in the  garden, of which traces remained in the huge beds of  sunflowers and
orange marigolds that bloomed along the walls of the Dormitory. In a room in
the top  of the  house he had found a few torn remnants of books; there must
have been a library in the old days, rows and rows of musty-smelling volumes
in rich brown calf worn  by use to a velvet softness,  and in cream-coloured
parchment where the fingermarks of  generations showed brown; huge  psalters
with  notes  and  chants illuminated  in  green and  ultramarine  and  gold;
manuscripts out of the  Middle Ages with strange script and pictures in pure
vivid  colours;  lives  of  saints, thoughts  polished  by  years  of  quiet
meditation of old divines;  old  romances  of chivalry;  tales  of blood and
death and love where  the crude agony of  life was seen  through a dawn-like
mist of gentle beauty.
     "God! if  there were somewhere  nowadays  where you could flee from all
this  stupidity, from  all  this  cant  of  governments,  and  this  hideous
reiteration  of hatred,  this  strangling  hatred  . .  ." he would  say  to
himself, and see himself working in the fields, copying parchments in quaint
letterings, drowsing his  feverish  desires  to  calm  in  the deep-throated
passionate chanting of the endless offices of the Church.
     One afternoon towards  evening  as  he lay on the  tiled roof with  his
shirt open  so that the sun warmed his throat and chest, half  asleep in the
beauty  of  the  building  and  of  the woods  and the  clouds that  drifted
overhead,  he heard  a strain from the organ in the church: a few deep notes
in  broken rhythm that  filled  him with wonder, as if he had  suddenly been
transported back to  the  quiet days of the monks.  The rhythm changed in an
instant, and  through the  squeakiness of shattered pipes  came a  swirl  of
fake-oriental ragtime that resounded like mocking laughter in the old vaults
and arches. He went down into the church and  found Tom Randolph  playing on
the little organ, pumping desperately with his feet.
     "Hello!  Impiety I call it; putting your lustful  tunes into that pious
old organ."
     "I bet the ole monks had a merry time, lecherous ole devils," said Tom,
playing away.
     "If there were monasteries nowadays," said Martin, "I think I'd go into
     "But there are. I'll  end up in one, most like, if they don't put me in
jail first. I reckon  every living soul would be a candidate for either  one
if it'd get them out of this God-damned war."
     There was a shriek  overhead that reverberated strangely in the  vaults
of the church and made the swallows nesting there fly in and out through the
glassless windows. Tom Randolph stopped on a wild chord.
     "Guess they don't like me playin'."
     "That one didn't explode though."
     "That one  did, by  gorry,"  said Randolph, getting up  off the  floor,
where he  had thrown himself automatically. A shower  of tiles came rattling
off the roof, and  through the noise could be heard the frightened squeaking
of the swallows.
     "I am afraid that winged somebody."
     "They must have got wind of the ammunition dump in the cellar."
     "Hell of a place to put a dressing-station--over an ammunition dump!"
     The whitewashed room used  as a dressing-station had a  smell of  blood
stronger than  the chloride. A doctor was leaning over a  stretcher on which
Martin caught a  glimpse of two naked legs with flecks of blood on the white
skin, as he passed through on his way to the car.
     "Three  stretcher-cases  for  Les  Islettes.  Very  softly,"  said  the
attendant, handing him the papers.
     Jolting over  the  shell-pitted  road, the  car  wound  slowly  through
unploughed weed-grown fields.  At  every jolt came a rasping groan  from the
wounded men.
     As  they  came  back towards the front posts again, they  found all the
batteries along the  road firing. The air  was a chaos  of  explosions  that
jabbed  viciously into their ears, above the reassuring purr  of the  motor.
Nearly to the abbey a soldier stopped them.
     "Put the car  behind the trees and get into a dugout. They're  shelling
the abbey."
     As he spoke a whining shriek grew suddenly  loud over  their heads. The
soldier threw himself flat in the  muddy road.  The explosion brought gravel
about their ears and made a curious smell of almonds.
     Crowded in the door of the dugout in the hill opposite they watched the
abbey  as shell after shell tore through the roof or exploded  in the strong
buttresses  of the apse.  Dust  rose high above the roof and  filled the air
with an odour of  damp  tiles and plaster. The woods resounded in a jangling
tremor, with the batteries that started firing one after the other.
     "God, I hate them for that!" said Randolph between his teeth.
     "What do you want? It's an observation post."
     "I know, but damn it!"
     There was  a series  of explosions; a shell fragment whizzed past their
     "It's  not  safe  there.  You'd better come in all  the  way,"  someone
shouted from within the dugout.
     "I want to see;  damn it. . . . I'm goin' to stay and see it out, Howe.
That place meant a hell of a lot to me." Randolph blushed as he spoke.
     Another bunch of shells crashing so near together they did not hear the
scream. When  the cloud  of  dust blew away, they saw that  the  lantern had
fallen in on the roof of the apse, leaving only one wall and the tracery  of
a window, of  which the  shattered carving stood out cream-white against the
reddish evening sky.
     There was a lull in the firing. A few swallows still  wheeled about the
walls, giving shrill little cries.
     They  saw  the flash of a shell against  the sky as it exploded  in the
part of the tall roof that still  remained.  The roof  crumpled and fell in,
and again dust hid the abbey.
     "Oh, I  hate  this!"  said Tom Randolph.  "But the question  is, what's
happened to our grub? The popote is buried four feet deep in Gothic art. . .
. Damn fool idea, putting a dressing-station over an ammunition dump."
     "Is the car hit?" The orderly came up to them.
     "Don't think so."
     "Good. Four stretcher-cases for 42 at once."

     At night in  a dugout.  Five men playing cards about  a lamp-flame that
blows from one side to the other in the gusty wind that puffs  every now and
then down  the mouth of the dugout  and whirls round it like something alive
trying to beat a way out.
     Each time the lamp blows  the shadows of the five heads writhe upon the
corrugated  tin ceiling.  In  the distance, like  kettle-drums beaten for  a
dance, a constant reverberation of guns.
     Martin Howe,  stretched out in  the straw  of one of the bunks, watches
their faces in the flickering shadows. He wishes he had the patience to play
too. No, perhaps it is better to look on;  it would be so silly to be killed
in the middle  of one of those grand gestures one makes in slamming the card
down that takes the trick. Suddenly he thinks of all the lives that must, in
these last three  years, have ended in that grand gesture.  It is too silly.
He seems to  see their poor lacerated souls, clutching their greasy dogeared
cards,  climb  to  a  squalid  Valhalla,  and  there,  in  tobacco-stinking,
sweat-stinking rooms, like  those of the little cafs behind the  lines, sit
in groups of five, shuffling, dealing, taking  tricks, always with the  same
slam  of  the  cards on  the  table,  pausing now and then to  scratch their
louse-eaten flesh.
     At this  moment,  how many men, in all the long Golgotha that stretches
from  Belfort  to the sea, must be trying  to  cheat their boredom and their
misery  with that grand gesture  of slamming the cards down to take a trick,
while in their ears, like tom-toms, pounds the death-dance of the guns.
     Martin  lies on his back looking up at the curved corrugated ceiling of
the dugout, where the shadows of the five heads writhe in  fantastic shapes.
Is it death they are playing, that they are so merry when they take a trick?

     THE  three planes  gleamed like mica in the  intense blue  of  the sky.
Round about  the  shrapnel burst in little  puffs like cotton-wool.  A shout
went  up  from the soldiers who stood in groups in the street of the  ruined
town. A whistle split the air, followed by  a rending snort  that tailed off
into the moaning of a wounded man.
     "By damn, they're nervy. They dropped a bomb."
     "I should say they did."
     "The dirty bastards, to get a fellow who's going on permission. Now  if
they beaded you on the way back you wouldn't care."
     In the  sky an escadrille of French planes  had appeared  and the three
German specks had vanished, followed by a trail of little puffs of shrapnel.
The  indigo  dome of  the  afternoon sky  was  full of a  distant snoring of
     The train screamed outside the  station and the permissionaires ran for
the platform, their packed musettes bouncing at their hips.
     The  dark  boulevards, with here and  there  a blue lamp lighting up  a
bench and a few tree-trunks, or a faint glow from inside  a closed caf where
a boy in shirt-sleeves is sweeping the floor. Crowds  of soldiers, Belgians,
Americans, Canadians, civilians with  canes and  straw hats and well-dressed
women on their arms,  shop-girls in twos and threes  laughing  with  shrill,
merry  voices; and everywhere  girls  of  the street, giggling alluringly in
hoarse,  dissipated tones, clutching the arms  of  drunken soldiers, tilting
themselves temptingly in men's way as they walk along. Cigarettes and cigars
make spots of reddish light, and now and then a match lighted makes  a man's
face stand out in yellow  relief and glints red in  the eyes of people round
     Drunk with their freedom, with the jangle of voices, with the rustle of
trees  in  the  faint  light,  with the  scents  of women's  hair  and cheap
perfumes,  Howe and  Randolph  stroll along  slowly,  down one side  to  the
shadowy  columns  of the  Madeleine,  where a few  flower-women still  offer
roses,  scenting the darkness, then back  again  past  the  Opra towards the
Porte St. Martin, lingering to look in the offered faces of women, to listen
to snatches of talk, to chatter laughingly with girls who squeeze their arms
with impatience.
     "I'm goin' to find the prettiest girl in Paris, and then you'll see the
dust fly, Howe, old man."

     The hors d'oeuvres came on a circular three-tiered stand; red strips of
herrings and silver anchovies, salads where  green peas and  bits of  carrot
lurked  under  golden  layers   of  sauce,  sliced  tomatoes,  potato  salad
green-specked with parsley, hard-boiled  eggs barely visible under thickness
of vermilion-tinged  dressing, olives, radishes,  discs  of  sausage of many
different  forms and colours, complicated bundles  of spiced salt fish, and,
forming the  apex, a fat terra-cotta jar of pt de  foie gras. Howe  poured
out pale-coloured Chablis.
     "I used  to  think that down home was the  only  place they knew how to
live, but oh, boy . . ." said Tom Randolph, breaking a little  loaf of bread
that made a merry crackling sound.
     "It's worth starving to death on singe and pinard for four months."
     After   the   hors   d'oeuvres   had  been  taken  away,  leaving  them
Rabelaisianly gay,  with a  joyous sense  of orgy, came  sole  hidden  in  a
cream-coloured sauce with mussels in it.
     "After  the war, Howe, ole man, let's riot all over Europe; I'm getting
a taste for this sort of livin'."
     "You can play the fiddle, can't you, Tom?"
     "Enough to scrape out Auprs de ma blonde on a bet."
     "Then we'll wander about and you can support me. Or  else I'll dress as
a monkey and you can fiddle and I'll gather the pennies."
     "By gum, that'd be great sport."
     "Look, we must have some red wine with the veal."
     "Let's have Mcon."
     "All the same to me as long as there's plenty of it."
     Their round table with its white cloth and its bottles of wine and  its
piles  of ravished  artichoke  leaves was  the centre of a  noisy, fantastic
world. Ever since the orgy of the hors d'ueuvres things had been evolving to
grotesqueness, faces, whites of eyes, twisted red  of lips, crow-like  forms
of waiters, colours of  hats  and uniforms, all involved  and jumbled in the
mele of talk and clink and clatter.
     The red hand of the waiter pouring the Chartreuse,  green like a stormy
sunset, into small glasses before them broke into the vivid  imaginings that
had been  unfolding  in their talk through dinner. No, they had been saying,
it  could not go on; some day amid the rending crash of shells and the whine
of  shrapnel fragments, people  everywhere,  in  all uniforms,  in trenches,
packed  in  camions,  in  stretchers,  in  hospitals,  crowded behind  guns,
involved in  telephone apparatus, generals at their  dinner-tables, colonels
sipping liqueurs, majors developing  photographs,  would jump to their  feet
and  burst out  laughing  at  the solemn inanity,  at  the  stupid,  vicious
pomposity of what they were doing.  Laughter would untune the sky.  It would
be a  new progress  of Bacchus. Drunk with  laughter at the sudden vision of
the silliness of the world, officers and soldiers,  prisoners working on the
roads,  deserters  being driven towards the trenches would  throw down their
guns and their spades and their  heavy packs, and start marching, or driving
in artillery waggons  or in camions,  staff  cars,  private  trains, towards
their  capitals,  where  they  would  laugh the deputies,  the senators, the
congressmen, the M.P.'s out of their  chairs,  laugh the presidents  and the
prime  ministers, and kaisers  and dictators  out  of  their  plush-carpeted
offices; the sun would wear a broad grin and would whisper the  joke to  the
moon, who would giggle and ripple with it all night long. . . . The red hand
of the waiter, with thick nails and work-swollen knuckles, poured Chartreuse
into the small glasses before them.
     "That,"  said Tom Randolph,  when he had half finished his liqueur, "is
the girl for me."
     "But, Tom, she's with a French officer."
     "They're fighting like cats and dogs. You can see that, can't you?"
     "Yes," agreed Howe vaguely.
     "Pay the bill.  I'll meet  you at the  corner  of  the boulevard."  Tom
Randolph was out of  the door. The girl, who had a little of the aspect of a
pierrot, with dark  skin and bright  lips and gold-yellow hat and dress, and
the sour-looking officer who was with her, were getting up to go.
     At the corner of the boulevard Howe heard a woman's voice  joining with
Randolph's rich laugh.
     "What did I tell you? They split at the door and here we are, Howe. . .
.  Mademoiselle Montreil, let  me introduce  a friend. Look, before it's too
late, we must have a drink."
     At the  caf table next  to them an Englishman was seated with his head
sunk on his chest.
     "Oh, I say, you woke me up."
     "No harm. Jolly good thing."
     They invited him  over to their table. There was a moist look about his
eyes and a thickness to his voice that denoted alcohol.
     "You mustn't mind me.  I'm  forgetting. . . . I've been doing it  for a
week. This is the first leave I've had in eighteen months. You Canadians?"
     "No. Ambulance service; Americans."
     "New  at the game  then. You're lucky. .  . . Before I left the front I
saw a man tuck a hand-grenade  under the pillow of a poor devil of  a German
prisoner. The prisoner said, 'Thank you.' The grenade blew him to hell! God!
Know anywhere you can get whisky in this bloody town?"
     "We'll have to hurry; it's near closing-time."
     They started off, Randolph and the girl talking intimately, their heads
close together, Martin supporting the Englishman.
     "I need a bit o' whisky to put me on my pins."
     They tumbled into the seats round a table at an American bar.
     The Englishman felt in his pocket.
     "Oh, I say," he cried, "I've got a ticket to the theatre. It's a box. .
. . We can all get in. Come along; let's hurry."
     They walked a long while, blundering  through the  dark streets, and at
last stopped at a blue-lighted door.
     "Here it is; push in."
     "But there are two gentlemen and a lady already in the box, meester."
     "No matter, there'll be room." The  Englishman waved the  ticket in the
     The little round man with a round red  face who  was taking the tickets
stuttered in bad English  and then dropped into French. Meanwhile, the whole
party had  filed in, leaving the  Englishman, who kept waving the  ticket in
the little man's face.
     Two gendarmes, the theatre guards, came up menacingly; the Englishman's
face wreathed  itself in smiles; he linked an arm in each of the gendarmes',
and pushed them towards the bar.
     "Come drink to the Entente Cordiale. . . . Vive la France!"
     In the box were two Australians and a woman who leaned her head  on the
chest of one and then the other alternately, laughing so that  you could see
the gold caps in her black teeth.
     They  were annoyed at the  intrusion that packed the box  insupportably
tight,  so that the woman had  to  sit on the men's laps, but  the  air soon
cleared in laughter that caused people in the orchestra  to stare angrily at
the box full of noisy men in khaki. At  last  the Englishman came, squeezing
himself in with a finger  mysteriously on his lips. He plucked  at  Martin's
arm,  a serious  set look coming suddenly over his grey  eyes.  "It was like
this"--his  breath  laden  with  whisky  was  like  a  halo  round  Martin's
head--"the Hun was a nice little chap, couldn't 'a' been more than eighteen;
had  a shoulder broken and  he thought that my pal was fixing the pillow. He
said 'Thank you' with  a funny German accent. . . . Mind you, he said 'Thank
you'; that's what  hurt. And the man laughed. God damn him, he  laughed when
the poor devil said 'Thank you.' And the grenade blew him to hell."
     The stage was a glare of light in Martin's eyes; he felt as he had when
at home he had leaned over and looked straight into the headlight of an auto
drawn up  to  the side of  the road.  Screening him from the glare were  the
backs  of people's heads:  Tom Randolph's head and his girl's, side by side,
their  cheeks touching, the pointed red  chin  of one of the Australians and
the frizzy hair of the other woman.
     In the entr'acte they all stood  at the bar, where it was very hot  and
an orchestra was playing and there were many  men in  khaki in all stages of
drunkenness, being led about by women who threw jokes  at  each other behind
the men's backs.
     "Here's  to mud,"  said one of  the Australians. "The  war'll end  when
everybody is drowned in mud."
     The orchestra began playing the  Madelon  and everyone roared  out  the
marching  song that, worn threadbare as it was, still had a roistering verve
to it that caught people's blood.
     People  had  gone  back for  the last  act. The  two  Australians,  the
Englishman, and the two Americans still stood talking.
     "Mind you, I'm not what you'd call  susceptible.  I'm  not soft.  I got
over  all  that long  ago."  The  Englishman was addressing  the company  in
general. "But the poor beggar said 'Thank you.'"
     "What's he saying?" asked a woman, plucking at Martin s arm.
     "He's telling about a German atrocity."
     "Oh, the dirty  Germans! What things they've  done!" the woman answered
     Somehow,  during  the entr'acte,  the Australians had collected another
woman; and a strange fat woman with lips painted very small, and very  large
bulging  eyes, had attached herself to Martin. He suffered her because every
time he looked at her she burst out laughing.
     The bar was closing. They had  a drink of champagne all round that made
the fat woman give little shrieks of delight. They drifted towards the door,
and stood,  a formless, irresolute group, in the dark street in front of the
     Randolph came up to Martin.
     "Look. We're goin'. I wonder if I ought to  leave my money with you . .
     "I doubt if I'm a safe person to-night.""
     "All right. I'll take it along. Look . . . let's meet for breakfast."
     "At the Caf de la Paix."
     "All right. If she is nice I'll bring her."
     "She looks charming."
     Tom Randolph pressed Martin's hand and was  off. There was a sound of a
kiss in the darkness.
     "I  say, I've  got to  have something  to eat," said the Englishman. "I
didn't have a bit of dinner.  I  say-- mangai, mangai." He  made gestures of
putting things into his mouth in the direction of the fat woman.
     The three women put their heads together. One of them knew a place, but
it was a dreadful place.  Really, they mustn't  think that. .  . .  She only
knew it because when she was very young a man had taken her there who wanted
to seduce her.
     At that everyone laughed and the voices of the women rose shrill.
     "All right, don't talk; let's go  there," said  one of the Australians.
"We'll attend to the seducing."
     A thick  woman, a tall comb in  the back of her high-piled  black hair,
and an  immovable face  with jaw muscled like a prize-fighter's, served them
with  cold chicken and ham and  champagne in a room with mouldering greenish
wall-paper lighted by a red-shaded lamp.
     The  Australians  ate  and  sang  and  made  love  to  their women. The
Englishman went to sleep with his head on the table.
     Martin  leaned back out of the  circle of light, keeping up a desultory
conversation with the woman beside him, listening to the sounds of the men's
voices down corridors, of the front door being opened and  slammed again and
again, and of forced, shrill giggles of women.
     "Unfortunately,  I have  an  engagement to-night," said  Martin  to the
woman beside him, whose  large spherical breasts  heaved  as she talked, and
who rolled herself nearer to him invitingly, seeming with her round pop-eyes
and her round  cheeks to be made up entirely of small spheres and large soft
     "Oh, but it is too late. You can break it."
     "It's at four o'clock."
     "Then we have time, ducky."
     "It's something really romantic, you see."
     "The young  are always lucky."  She  rolled  her  eyes  in  sympathetic
     "This will be the fourth night this week that I have not made a sou . .
. . I'll chuck myself into the river soon."
     Martin  felt himself softening  towards her. He  slipped a twenty-franc
note in her hand.
     "Oh, you are too good. You are really galant homme, you."
     Martin  buried his face in his  hands, dreaming of  the  woman he would
like to love to-night. She should be very dark, with  red  lips  and stained
cheeks, like  Randolph's  girl; she should have  small breasts and  slender,
dark,  dancer's thighs,  and in her arms he could forget everything  but the
madness and the  mystery and  the intricate  life of  Paris  about  them. He
thought  of Montmartre, and  Louise  in  the  opera  standing  at her window
singing the madness of Paris. . . .
     One  of the  Australians had gone away with a  little woman  in  a pink
neglige. The other  Australian  and the Englishman were standing unsteadily
near  the table,  each  supported by a sleepy-looking girl. Leaving the  fat
woman sadly finishing the  remains of the chicken,  large tears rolling from
her eyes, they left the house and walked for a long  time down dark streets,
three  men  and two  women,  the Englishman  being  supported in the middle,
singing in a desultory fashion.
     They  stopped under a broken sign  of black  letters  on greyish glass,
within  which one feeble electric light bulb  made a  red glow. The pavement
was  wet, and glimmered  where it  slanted  up to the lamp-post at the  next
     "Here  we  are. Come along,  Janey," cried the  Australian  in  a brisk
     The door  opened and slammed again.  Martin and the other girl stood on
the pavement  facing  each other. The Englishman  collapsed on the doorstep,
and began to snore.
     "Well, there's only you and me," she said.
     "Oh,  if you  were  only  a  person, instead  of being a  member  of  a
profession----" said Martin softly.
     "No, dearie. I must go," said Martin.
     "As you will. I'll take care of your friend." She yawned.
     He kissed her and stumbled down  the dark stairs, his  nostrils full of
the smell of the rouge on her lips.
     He  walked a long while with  his hat off,  breathing deep of the sharp
night air.  The streets  were black and silent. Intemperate  desires prowled
about him like cats in the darkness.

     He  woke  up and  stretched  himself  stiffly, smelling  grass and damp
earth. A pearly lavender  mist was all about him,  through which  loomed the
square towers  of Notre Dame and the row of kings across  the faade and the
sculpture about the darkness of  the doorways.  He had lain down on his back
on the  little grass plot of the Parvis Notre Dame to look at the stars, and
had fallen asleep.
     It must be nearly dawn. Words were droning importunately  in  his head.
"The poor beggar said 'Thank you' with a funny German accent and the grenade
blew him to hell." He  remembered the  man he had once  helped to pick up in
whose pocket a  grenade had exploded. Before that he  had not  realized that
torn flesh was such a black red, like sausage meat.
     "Get up, you can't lie there," cried a gendarme.
     "Notre Dame is beautiful in the morning," said Martin,  stepping across
the low rail on to the pavement.
     "Ah, yes; it is beautiful."
     Martin Howe sat on the rail of the bridge and  looked. Before him, with
nothing  distinct  yet to be seen,  were  two square  towers and the tracery
between  them and  the row of kings on  the faade, and the  long  series of
flying  buttresses  of  the  flank, gleaming  through  the mist, and, barely
visible,  the  dark, slender  spire  soaring above the  crossing. So had the
abbey  in  the forest  gleamed  tall in the misty moonlight; like mist, only
drab and dense, the dust had risen above the tall apse as the shells tore it
to pieces.

     Amid a smell of new-roasted coffee he sat at a table and watched people
pass  briskly  through  the ruddy sunlight. Waiters  in  shirt-sleeves  were
rubbing  off  the other tables and putting out  the chairs. He  sat  sipping
coffee, feeling languid  and nerveless. After a  while Tom Randolph, looking
very  young and  brown with his hat  a  little on one side, came along. With
him,  plainly dressed  in blue serge, was the  girl. They  sat  down and she
dropped her head on his shoulder, covering her eyes with her dark lashes.
     "Oh, I am so tired."
     "Poor child! You must go home and go back to bed."
     "But I've got to go to work."
     "Poor thing." They kissed each other tenderly and languidly.
     The  waiter  came with  coffee and hot milk and little crisp  loaves of
     "Oh, Paris is wonderful in the early morning!" said Martin.
     "Indeed it is. .  . . Good-bye, little girl, if you must  go. We'll see
each other again."
     "You must call me Yvonne." She pouted a little. "All right, Yvonne." He
got to his feet and pressed her two hands.
     "Well, what sort of a time did you have, Howe?"
     "Curious.  I  lost our friends one by one, left  two women and slept  a
little while  on the grass in  front of Notre Dame. That was my real love of
the night."
     "My girl was charming. . . . Honestly, I'd marry  her in a  minute." He
laughed a merry laugh.
     "Let's take a cab somewhere."
     They  climbed  into a  victoria  and  told  the  driver  to  go to  the
     "Look, before I do anything else I must go to the hotel."
     "Of course; you'd better go at once."
     The cab rattled merrily along the streets where the early sunshine cast
rusty  patches on the grey houses and on the thronged fantastic chimney-pots
that rose in clusters and hedges from the mansard roofs.

     THE lamp in the hut of the road control casts an oblong of light on the
white wall opposite. The patch of  light is constantly crossed and scalloped
and obscured by shadows of rifles and helmets and packs of men  passing. Now
and then the shadow of a  single man, a  nose  and a chin under  a helmet, a
head bent forward with the weight of the pack, or a  pack alone beside which
slants a rifle, shows up huge and fantastic  with its  loaf of bread and its
pair of shoes and its pots and pans.
     Then with a jingle  of harness and clank of steel, train after train of
artillery  comes up out of  the darkness  of the road, is thrown by the lamp
into  vivid  relief  and  is swallowed again by the blackness of the village
street,  short  bodies  of  seventy-fives  sticking  like ducks' tails  from
between their  large wheels;  caisson  after  caisson  of  ammunition,  huge
waggons  hooded and unhooded, filled with a chaos of equipment  that catches
fantastic lights and throws huge muddled shadows on the white  wall  of  the
     "Put that light out.  Name  of  God, do you  want  to have  them  start
chucking shells into here?" comes a voice  shrill with anger. The brisk trot
of the officer's horse is lost in the clangour.
     The  door of  the  hut slams to and  only a  thin  ray of  orange light
penetrates into the blackness of the road, where with jingle of  harness and
clatter of  iron and  tramp of hoofs, gun after gun, caisson  after caisson,
waggon  after waggon  files by.  Now and then the passing stops entirely and
matches flare where men  light pipes and cigarettes.  Coming  from the other
direction with throbbing of motors, a convoy of camions, huge black oblongs,
grinds down the other side of the road. Horses rear and there are shouts and
curses and clacking of reins in the darkness.
     Far away where the lowering clouds meet the  hills beyond the village a
white glare grows and fades again at intervals: star-shells.

     "There's a most tremendous concentration of sanitary sections."
     "You bet; two American sections and a French one in this village; three
more down the road. Something's up."
     "There's goin' to be an attack at St. Mihiel, a Frenchman told me."
     "I heard  that the Germans were  concentrating for  an offensive in the
Four de Paris."
     "Damned unlikely."
     "Anyway, this is the third week we've been in this bloody hold with our
feet in the mud."
     "They've got us  quartered in  a  barn  with  a  regular brook  flowing
through the middle of it."
     "The main thing about this damned war is ennui--just plain boredom."
     "Not forgetting the mud."
     Three ambulance drivers in  slickers were on  the  front seat of a car.
The rain fell in perpendicular sheets, pattering on the roof of the  car and
on  the  puddles  that  filled  the village street.  Streaming  with  water,
blackened walls of ruined  houses  rose opposite them above a rank growth of
weeds. Beyond were rain-veiled hills. Every little while, slithering through
the  rain, splashing mud to the right and left, a convoy  of camions went by
and disappeared, truck after truck, in the white streaming rain.
     Inside the car Tom Randolph was playing  an accordion, letting  strange
nostalgic little songs filter out amid the hard patter of the rain.
     "Oh, I's been workin' on de railroad
     All de livelong day;
     I's been workin' on de railroad
     Jus' to pass de time away."
     The  men on  the front seat leaned back and  shook the water  off their
knees and hummed the song.
     The accordion had stopped. Tom Randolph was lying  on his  back  on the
floor  of the  car  with his arm over his  eyes.  The  rain  fell endlessly,
rattling  on  the  roof  of  the car, dancing silver  in the coffee-coloured
puddles of  the  road.  Their  boredom  fell  into the  rhythm  of  crooning
self-pity of the old coon song:
     "I's been workin' on de railroad
     All de livelong day;
     I's been workin' on de railroad
     Jus' to pass de time away."
     "Oh, God, something's got to happen soon."
     Lost in rubber boots, and a huge gleaming slicker and hood, the section
leader splashed across the road.
     "All cars must be ready to leave at six to-night."
     "Yay. Where we goin'?"
     "Orders haven't come  yet. We're to  be  in readiness to  leave  at six
to-night. . . ."
     "I tell you, fellers, there's goin' to be an attack. This concentration
of sanitary sections means something. You can't tell me . . ."
     "They say they have beer," said the aspirant behind Martin  in the long
line of men who waited in the hot sun for  the cop to open,  while the dust
the staff cars and  camions raised as they whirred by on the road settled in
a blanket over the village.
     "Cold beer?"
     "Of course not," said the aspirant, laughing so that  all the brilliant
ivory teeth showed behind his red lips. "It'll be detestable. I'm getting it
because it's rare, for sentimental reasons."
     Martin  laughed, looking in the man's brown  face,  a face in which all
past expressions seemed to linger in the fine lines about the mouth and eyes
and in the modelling of the cheeks and temples.
     "You don't understand that," said the aspirant again.
     "Indeed I do."
     Later  they sat on the edge  of  the  stone  well-head in the courtyard
behind the store, drinking warm  beer out of tin cups blackened by wine, and
staring at a tall barn that had crumpled at  one end so that it looked, with
its two frightened little square windows, like a cow kneeling down.
     "Is it true that the ninety-second's going up to the lines to-night?"
     "Yes, we're going  up to  make a little attack. Probably I'll come back
in your little omnibus."
     "I hope you won't."
     "I'd be very glad to.  A lucky wound! But I'll probably be killed. This
is the first  time  I've  gone up  to the front that I  didn't expect to  be
killed. So it'll probably happen."
     Martin Howe could not help looking at him suddenly. The aspirant sat at
ease on  the  stone  margin of the  well, leaning  against the  wrought iron
support for  the  bucket,  one  knee clasped in  his strong,  heavily veined
hands.  Dead he  would  be different. Martin's mind  could hardly  grasp the
connection  between this man full of latent energies,  full  of thoughts and
desires, this man  whose shoulder he would  have liked to have  put  his arm
round from friendliness, with whom he would have liked to go for long walks,
with whom  he  would  have  liked to sit  long into the night  drinking  and
talking--and those huddled, pulpy masses of blue uniform half-buried  in the
mud of ditches.
     "Have you ever seen a herd of cattle being driven to abattoir on a fine
May morning?"  asked the aspirant  in a scornful, jaunty tone, as if he  had
guessed Martin's thoughts.
     "I wonder what they think of it."
     "It's not that I'm resigned. . . . Don't think that. Resignation is too
easy.  That's why  the herd can be driven by a  boy of six . . . or  a prime
     Martin was sitting with his arms crossed.  The fingers of one hand were
squeezing the  muscle  of  his  forearm. It gave him  pleasure  to feel  the
smooth,  firm modelling of his arm through  his sleeve. And  how  would that
feel when it  was  dead, when a steel  splinter had  slithered through it? A
momentary stench of putrefaction filled  his  nostrils,  making his  stomach
contract with nausea.
     "I'm  not resigned either," he  shouted in a laugh. "I  am going to  do
something some day, but first I  must see. I want to be initiated in all the
circles of hell."
     "I'd play  the  part  of Virgil pretty well," said the aspirant, "but I
suppose Virgil was a staff officer."
     "I must go," said Martin. "My name's Martin Howe, S.S.U. 84."
     "Oh  yes,  you are  quartered in the square. My name is Merrier. You'll
probably carry me back in your little omnibus."

     When Howe  got  back to where  the  cars were packed  in  a row  in the
village square, Randolph came up to him and whispered in his ear:
     "D.J.'s to-morrow."
     "What's that?"
     "The attack. It's to-morrow at  three in the  morning; instructions are
going to be given out to-night."
     A detonation behind them was a blow on the head, making their ear-drums
ring. The glass in the headlight of one of the cars tinkled to the ground.
     "The 410 behind the church,  that was. Pretty near  knocks the wind out
of you."
     "Say, Randolph, have you heard the new orders?"
     A tall, fair-haired man came out from the front of his car where he had
been working on the motor, holding his grease-covered hands away from him.
     "It's put  off," he said, lowering  his voice mysteriously. "D.J.'s not
till day  after to-morrow at  four twenty. But to-morrow  we're  going up to
relieve the section that's coming out and take over the posts. They say it's
hell up there. The Germans have a new gas that you can't  smell at  all. The
other section's got about five men gassed,  and  a bunch of them have broken
down. The posts are shelled all the time."
     "Great," said Tom Randolph. "We'll see the real thing this time."
     There was a whistling  shriek overhead and all three of  them fell in a
heap on the ground in front of the car.  There  was a crash that echoed amid
the house-walls, and a pillar of  black smoke  stood like  a cypress tree at
the other end of the village street.
     "Talk about the real thing!" said Martin.
     "Ole 410 evidently woke 'em up some."
     It was the  fifth  time  that  day  that  Martin's car  had  passed the
cross-roads  where  the  calvary  was. Someone  had  propped up  the  fallen
crucifix so that it tilted dark despairing arms against the sunset sky where
the  sun gleamed like a huge copper kettle lost  in its own steam.  The rain
made bright yellowish stripes across  the sky  and dripped from  the cracked
feet of the old wooden Christ, whose gaunt, scarred figure hung out from the
tilted cross,  swaying a little under the  beating of  the rain. Martin  was
wiping the mud from his hands after changing a wheel. He stared curiously at
the  fallen  jowl  and  the cavernous eyes  that had  meant for some country
sculptor ages ago the utterest agony of pain. Suddenly he noticed that where
the  crown of thorns had been about the forehead  of the  Christ someone had
wound barbed wire. He smiled and asked the swaying figure in his mind:
     "And You, what do You think of it?"
     For an instant he could feel wire barbs ripping through his own flesh.
     He leaned over to crank the car.
     The road  was  filled  suddenly  with the tramp  and splash  of  troops
marching, their wet helmets and their rifles gleaming in the coppery sunset.
Even  through the clean rain came the smell of filth and sweat and misery of
troops marching. The faces  under the helmets were  strained  and colourless
and  cadaverous  from the weight of the  equipment on their necks  and their
backs and their thighs. The faces  drooped under  the helmets, tilted to one
side  or  the other, distorted and wooden  like the  face of the figure that
dangled from the cross.
     Above the splash of feet through mud and the jingle of equipment,  came
occasionally the ping, ping of shrapnel bursting at  the next cross-roads at
the edge of the woods.
     Martin sat in the car with the motor racing, waiting for the end of the
     One of the  stragglers  who floundered along through the churned mud of
the road after the regular ranks  had passed stopped still  and looked up at
the tilted  cross. From the  next cross-roads  came, at intervals, the sharp
twanging ping of shrapnel bursting.
     The straggler suddenly  began  kicking feebly at  the prop of the cross
with his foot, and then dragged himself off after the column. The cross fell
forward with a dull splintering splash into the mud of the road.

     The road went  down the hill in long zig-zags, through a village at the
bottom where out of the mist that steamed from the little river a spire with
a  bent weathercock  rose above the broken  roof  of the church, then up the
hill again into the woods. In the woods the road stretched green and gold in
the first  horizontal  sunlight. Among the  thick  trees, roofs covered with
branches, were rows  of  long portable  barracks with  doors decorated  with
rustic  work. At one  place a  sign announced  in letters  made  of  wattled
sticks, Camp des Pommiers.
     A  few birds sang  in the woods, and at a pump they passed a lot of men
stripped to the waist who were  leaning over washing, laughing and splashing
in the sunlight. Every now and then, distant, metallic, the pong, pong, pong
of a battery of seventy-fives resounded through the rustling trees.
     "Looks like  a  camp meetin'  ground in  Georgia,"  said  Tom Randolph,
blowing his whistle to make  two men carrying a large steaming pot on a pole
between them get out of the way.
     The  road  became muddier  as  they went deeper into  the  woods,  and,
turning  into a cross-road, the car began  slithering, skidding  a little at
the turns, through thick  soupy  mud. On either side the woods became broken
and  jagged, stumps and split boughs littering the ground, trees snapped off
halfway  up.  In the air there  was  a  scent  of newly-split timber and  of
turned-up woodland earth, and among them a sweetish rough smell.
     Covered with greenish mud, splashing the mud  right and left with their
great flat wheels,  camions began passing  them returning from the direction
of the lines.
     At last at a small red cross flag they  stopped and ran the  car into a
grove of tall  chestnuts, where they parked  it beside another car of  their
section and  lay down among the crisp leaves, listening to occasional shells
whining far overhead. All through the wood was a continuous ping, pong, ping
of batteries, with the crash of a big gun coming now and then like the growl
of a bullfrog among the sing-song of small toads in a pond at night.
     Through  the  trees from which they lay they could see the close-packed
wooden crosses of  a cemetery from which  came a  sound of spaded earth, and
where,  preceded by a  priest in  a muddy cassock, little  two-wheeled carts
piled with shapeless things in sacks kept being  brought up and unloaded and
dragged away again.

     Showing  alternately  dark  and  light  in  the sun  and  shadow of the
woodland road,  a  cook  waggon, short chimney  giving out  blue  smoke, and
cauldrons steaming, clatters ahead of Martin and Randolph; the backs  of two
men in  heavy  blue coats,  their  helmets showing above the narrow driver's
seat.  On either  side of  the road  short yellow  flames  keep spitting up,
slanting from hidden guns amid a pandemonium of noise.
     Up the road a sudden column of black smoke rises among falling trees. A
louder explosion and  the  cook waggon in front  of them vanishes  in a  new
whirl of thick smoke. Accelerator  pressed  down,  the car plunges along the
rutted road, tips,  and a wheel sinks in the new shell-hole. The hind wheels
spin for a moment, spattering gravel about, and just  as another  roar comes
behind  them, bite into the road again and the car goes on, speeding through
the alternate sun and shadow of the woods. Martin remembers the beating legs
of a mule rolling on its back on the side  of the road and, steaming  in the
fresh morning air, the purple and yellow and red of its ripped belly.
     "Did  you get the smell of almonds? I sort of like  it," says Randolph,
drawing a long breath as the car slowed down again.

     The  woods  at night,  fantastic blackness  full  of  noise  and yellow
leaping flames from the mouths of guns. Now and then the sulphurous flash of
a  shell  explosion  and  the  sound of  trees falling  and shell  fragments
swishing through the air. At  intervals over a little knoll in the direction
of the trenches,  a white star-shell falls  slowly, making the trees and the
guns among  their tangle of hiding  branches  cast long green-black shadows,
drowning the wood in a strange glare of desolation.
     "Where the devil's the abri?"
     Everything drowned  in the  detonations of three  guns,  one after  the
other,  so near as  to puff  hot  air in  their faces  in  the midst of  the
blinding concussion.
     "Look, Tom, this is foolish; the abri's right here."
     "I haven't got it in my pocket, Howe. Damn those guns."
     Again everything is crushed in the concussion of the guns.
     They throw themselves on the ground as  a  shell shrieks and  explodes.
There is a moment's  pause, and gravel  and bits of bark tumble  about their
     "We've got to find that abri. I wish I hadn't lost my flashlight."
     "Here it is! No, that stinks too much. Must be the latrine."
     "Say, Tom."
     "Damn, I ran into a tree. I found it."
     "All right. Coming."
     Martin  held out his  hand until  Randolph  bumped  into  it; then they
stumbled together down the rough wooden steps, pulled aside the blanket that
served to keep the light in, and found themselves blinking in the low tunnel
of the abri.
     Brancardiers were asleep in the two tiers  of bunks that filled up  the
sides, and at the table  at  the end  a  lieutenant of the medical corps was
writing by the light of a smoky lamp.
     "They are landing  some round here to-night," he said, pointing out two
unoccupied bunks. "I'll call you when we need a car."
     As he spoke, in succession the three big guns went  off. The concussion
put the lamp out.
     "Damn," said Tom Randolph.
     The lieutenant swore and struck a match.
     "The red light of the poste de secours is out, too," said Martin.
     "No use lighting it  again  with  those unholy mortars. It's idiotic to
put a poste de secours in the middle of a battery like this."
     The Americans lay  down  to  try to  sleep.  Shell after shell exploded
round the dugout, but  regularly every few minutes  came the hammer blows of
the mortars, half the time putting the light out.
     A shell  explosion seemed  to  split  the dugout and  a piece  of  clat
whizzed through the blanket that curtained off  the door.  Someone tried  to
pick it up as it lay  half-buried in the board floor, and pulled his fingers
away quickly, blowing on them. The men turned over in the bunks and laughed,
and  a  smile came over the drawn green face of  a wounded man who  sat very
quiet behind the lieutenant, staring at the smoky flame of the lamp.
     The  curtain was pulled  aside and a man staggered in holding with  the
other hand a limp arm twisted in a mud-covered  sleeve, from which blood and
mud dripped on to the floor.
     "Hello,  old  chap,"  said the doctor quietly. A smell of  disinfectant
stole through the dugout.
     Faint above the incessant throbbing of explosions the sound of a claxon
     "Ha,  gas," said the doctor. "Put on your masks, children." A man  went
along the dugout waking those who were asleep and  giving  out fresh  masks.
Someone  stood in the doorway blowing a shrill whistle, then there was again
the clamour of a claxon near at hand.
     The band of the gas-mask was tight about Martin's forehead, biting into
the skin.
     He and  Randolph sat side by side on the edge of  the bunk, looking out
through the crinkled isinglass eye-pieces at the  men in the dugout, most of
whom had gone to sleep again.
     "God, I envy a man who can snore through a gas-mask," said Randolph.
     Men's heads had a ghoulish look, strange large eyes  and  grey oilcloth
flaps instead of faces.
     Outside the constant explosions had given place to a series of swishing
whistles, merging  together into  a sound as of  water  falling,  only  less
regular, more sibilant. Occasionally there was the rending burst of a shell,
and at  intervals  came the swinging  detonations of the three guns.  In the
dugout, except for two men who snored loudly, raspingly, everyone was quiet.
     Several stretchers with wounded men on them were brought in and laid in
the end of the dugout.
     Gradually,  as the bombardment continued, men began  sliding  into  the
dugout, crowding together,  touching each other for company, speaking in low
voices through their masks.
     "A mask, in the name  of God, a mask!" a voice shouted, breaking into a
squeal, and an  unshaven  man,  with mud caked in  his hair and beard, burst
through the curtain. His eyelids kept up a continual trembling and the water
streamed down both sides of his nose.
     "O  God," he kept talking  in a rasping  whisper,  "O  God, they're all
killed.  There were six mules on my  waggon and a shell killed  them all and
threw me into the ditch. You can't  find  the  road  any more.  They're  all
     An orderly was wiping his face as if it were a child's.
     "They're all killed and I lost my mask. . . . O God, this gas . . ."
     The  doctor,  a  short man, looking like  a gnome  in his mask with its
wheezing rubber nosepiece, was walking up and down with short, slow steps.
     Suddenly, as  three  soldiers came  in  drawing  the curtain aside,  he
shouted in a shrill, high-pitched voice:
     "Keep the curtain closed! Do you want to asphyxiate us?"
     He  strode up  to  the  newcomers,  his  voice  strident  like an angry
woman's.  "What are you doing here? This is the  poste de secours.  Are  you
     "But, my lieutenant, we can't  stay outside .  .  ." "Where's  your own
cantonment? You can't stay here; you can't stay here," he shrieked.
     "But, my lieutenant, our dugout's been hit."
     "You can't stay here. You can't stay here. There's  not enough room for
the wounded. Name of God!"
     "But, my lieutenant."
     "Get the hell out of here, d'you hear?"
     The  men  began  stumbling  out  into  the  darkness,  tightening   the
adjustments of their masks behind their heads.
     The  guns  had  stopped  firing.  There  was nothing  but  the constant
swishing and whistling  of gas-shells, like  endless  pails  of dirty  water
being thrown on gravel.
     "We've been at it three hours," whispered Martin to Tom Randolph.
     "God, suppose these masks need changing."  The sweat from Martin's face
steamed in the eyepieces, blinding him.
     "Any more masks?" he asked.
     A brancardier handed him one. "There aren't any more in the abri."
     "I have some more in the ear," said Martin.
     "I'll get one,"  cried Randolph, getting to his  feet. They started out
of the door together. In the light that  streamed  out as they drew the flap
aside they saw a tree opposite them.  A shell exploded,  it seemed, right on
top of them; the tree rose and bowed towards them and fell.
     "Are you all there, Tom?" whispered Martin, his ears ringing.
     "Bet your life."
     Someone pulled them back into the abri. "Here; we've found another."
     Martin lay down on the bunk again, drawing with difficulty each breath.
His lips had a wet, decomposed feeling.
     At  the wrist  of the arm  he  rested  his  head on, the  watch  ticked
     He began to think how ridiculous it would be if he, Martin Howe, should
be extinguished like this. The gas-mask might be defective.
     God, it would be silly.
     Outside the gas-shells were still coming in.  The lamp showed through a
faint bluish haze. Everyone was still waiting.
     Another hour.
     Martin  began  to  recite to himself the only  thing he could remember,
over and over again in time to the ticking of his watch.
     "Ah, sunflower, weary of time.
     Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
     Who countest the steps of the sun;
     Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
     Who countest . . ."
     "One,  two, three, four," he counted the  shells outside  exploding  at
irregular intervals.
     There  were periods of absolute silence, when  he could  hear batteries
pong, pong, pong in the distance.
     He began again.
     "Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
     Who countest the steps of the sun
     In search of that far golden clime
     Where the traveller's journey is done.
     "Where the youth pined away with desire
     And the pale virgin shrouded in snow
     Arise from their graves and aspire
     Where my sunflower wishes to go."
     Whang, whang, whang; the battery alongside began again, sending out the
light. Someone pulled the  blanket aside. A little leprous greyness filtered
into the dugout.
     "Ah, it's getting light."
     The doctor went out and they  could hear his steps  climbing up  to the
level of the ground.
     Howe saw a man take his mask off and spit.
     "O God, a cigarette!" Tom Randolph cried, pulling his mask off. The air
of the woods was fresh and cool  outside.  Everything was lost  in mist that
filled the  shell--holes  as  with water  and wreathed itself  fantastically
about  the shattered trunks of  trees.  Here  and there  was still a  little
greenish  haze of gas. It cut  their throats and made their eyes run as they
breathed in the cool air of the dawn.

     Dawn in a wilderness  of jagged stumps and ploughed earth;  against the
yellow sky, the  yellow glare  of guns  that squat like toads in a tangle of
wire  and piles  of brass shell-cases and  split  wooden boxes. Long  rutted
roads littered with shell-cases stretching through the wrecked  woods in the
yellow  light;  strung alongside of them, tangled masses of telephone wires.
Torn camouflage fluttering  greenish-grey against the ardent yellow sky, and
twining among  the fantastic  black leafless trees, the  greenish wraiths of
gas. Along the roads camions overturned, dead mules  tangled in their traces
beside shattered caissons, huddled bodies in long  blue coats half buried in
the mud of the ditches.
     "We've got to pass. . . . We've got five very bad cases."
     "We've got to pass. . . . Sacred name of God!"
     "But it is  impossible.  Two  camions  are blocked across  the road and
there are three batteries of seventy-fives waiting to get up the road."
     Long  lines  of  men  on  horseback with  gas-masks  on,  a rearing  of
frightened horses and jingle of harness.
     "Talk to 'em, Howe, for God's sake; we've got to get past."
     "I'm doing the best I can, Tom."
     "Well, make 'em look lively. Damn this gas!"
     "Put your  masks  on  again;  you can't breathe without  them  in  this
     "Hay! ye God-damn sons of bitches, get out of the way."
     "But they can't."
     "Oh, hell, I'll go talk to 'em. You take the wheel."
     "No, sit still and don't get excited."
     "You're the one's getting excited."
     "Damn this gas."
     "My lieutenant, I beg you to move the horses to the side of the road. I
have five very badly wounded men. They will die in this gas. I've got to get
     "God damn him, tell him to hurry."
     "Shut up, Tom, for God's sake."
     "They're moving. I can't see a thing in this mask."
     "Hah, that did for the two back horses."
     "Halt! Is there any room in the ambulance? One of my men's just got his
thigh ripped up."
     "No room, no room."
     "He'll have to go to a poste de secours."
     The fresh air blowing hard in their faces and the woods getting greener
on either  side, full of ferns and small  plants that half cover the strands
of barbed wire and the rows of shells.
     At the end  of the woods the sun rises golden into a cloudless sky, and
on the grassy slope of the valley  sheep and  a herd  of little  donkeys are
feeding, looking up with  quietly moving jaws as  the ambulance, smelling of
blood and filthy sweat-soaked clothes, rattles by.

     Black night.  All  through the  woods along the road squatting  mortars
spit yellow flame. Constant throbbing of detonations.
     Martin,  inside the ambulance, is holding together a  broken stretcher,
while the  car  jolts slowly along. It is pitch dark in the car, except when
the  glare  of a  gun  from near  the road gives him a momentary view of the
man's  head, a  mass  of bandages from the  middle of which a little  bit of
blood-soaked beard sticks out, and of his lean body tossing on the stretcher
with every jolt of the car. Martin is kneeling on the floor of  the car, his
knees bruised  by the jolting,  holding the man on the  stretcher, with  his
chest pressed on the man's chest and one arm stretched down to keep the limp
bandaged leg still.
     The man's breath comes with  a bubbling  sound, now  and then  mingling
with an articulate groan.
     "Softly. . . . Oh, softly, oh--oh--oh!"
     "Slow as you can, Tom, old man," Martin calls out above the pandemonium
of firing on both sides of the road, tightening the muscles  of his arm in a
desperate effort to  keep the limp leg from bouncing. The smell of blood and
filth is misery in his nostrils.
     "Softly. . . . Softly. . .. Oh--oh--oh!" The groan is barely heard amid
the bubbling breath.
     Pitch dark in the car. Martin,  his every muscle taut with the agony of
the man's pain,  is on his  knees, pressing his  chest  on the  man's chest,
trying with  an arm stretched along the man's leg to keep him  from bouncing
in the broken stretcher.
     "Needn't have troubled to have brought him," said the hospital orderly,
as blood dripped fast from the stretcher, black in the light of the lantern.
"He's pretty near dead now. He won't last long."

     SO you like it, Will? You like this sort of thing?"
     Martin Howe was stretched on the grass of a  hillside  a little above a
cross-roads. Beside him squatted a ruddy-faced youth with a smudge of grease
on his faintly-hooked nose. A champagne bottle rested against his knees.
     "Yes. I've never been happier in my life. It's a coarse boozing sort of
a life, but I like it."
     They  looked  over  the  landscape of  greyish  rolling  hills  scarred
everywhere by new roads and  ranks of wooden shacks. Along  the road beneath
them crawled like beetles convoy after convoy of motor trucks. The wind came
to them full of a stench of latrines and of the exhaust of motors.
     "The last time I saw you," said Martin, after a pause,  "was  early one
morning  on the Cambridge  bridge.  I was walking  out  from Boston, and  we
talked of  the  Eroica they'd  played at the Symphony, and  you said it  was
silly to have a great musician try to play soldier. D'you remember?"
     "No. That was in another incarnation. Have some fizz."
     He poured from the bottle into a battered tin cup.
     "But talking about playing soldier, Howe, I must tell you about how our
lieutenant got the Croix de Guerre.
     Somebody ought to write a book called Heroisms of the Great War. . . ."
     "I  am  sure that many  people have,  and will. You  probably'll do  it
yourself, Will. But go on."
     The sun burst from the huddled clouds  for a moment, mottling the hills
and the  scarred valleys with  light. The  shadow of an aeroplane flying low
passed across the  field, and  the snoring of  its motors  cut out all other
     "Well, our louie's name's  Duval, but he spells it with a small 'd' and
a big 'V.' He's been wanting a  Croix de Guerre for a hell of a time because
lots  of  fellows in  the  section  have been getting  'em. He tried  giving
dinners to the General Staff and  everything, but that didn't seem to  work.
So there was  nothing to it  but to get wounded.  So he took to going to the
front posts; but the trouble was that it was a hell of a quiet sector and no
shells ever came within a mile of it. At last somebody  made a mistake and a
little Austrian eighty-eight came tumbling  in and popped about fifty  yards
from his staff car. He showed the most marvellous presence of mind, cause he
clapped his hand  over his eye and sank back  in the seat with  a groan. The
doctor  asked what  was the  matter, but old Duval just  kept his hand tight
over his  eye and said, 'Nothing,  nothing; just a scratch,' and went off to
inspect the posts. Of course  the posts didn't need inspecting.  And he rode
round  all day with a handkerchief over one eye and a look of heroism in the
other. But never would he let  the doctor even  peep at  it. Next morning he
came out with  a bandage round his head as big as  a sheik's turban. He went
to  see headquarters in  that get-up  and  lunched  with the staff-officers.
Well,  he  got  his  Croix  de  Guerre  all  right--cited  for assuring  the
evacuation of the wounded under fire and all the rest of it."
     "Some bird. He'll probably get to be a general before the war's over."
     Howe  poured  out  the  last  of  the  champagne,  and threw the bottle
listlessly  off into  the grass,  where it  struck an  empty shell-case  and
     "But,  Will,  you  can't  like  this," he  said.  "It's all so like  an
ash-heap, a huge garbage-dump of men and equipment."
     "I suppose  it is .  .  ." said the ruddy-faced youth, discovering  the
grease on his nose and rubbing it off with the back of his hand.
     "Damn those dirty  Fords. They get grease all over you! I suppose it is
that life was so dull in America that anything seems better. I worked a year
in an office before leaving home. Give me the garbage-dump."
     "Look,"  said  Martin,  shading  his  eyes  with his hand  and  staring
straight up into the sky. "There are two planes fighting."
     They both screwed up their eyes to stare  into the sky, where two  bits
of mica were circling. Below them, like wads of  cotton-wool, some white and
others black, were rows  of the smoke-puffs  of shrapnel from  anti-aircraft
     The  two boys  watched the specks in silence. At last one began to grow
larger,  seemed to  be falling in wide spirals. The other had  vanished. The
falling  aeroplane started  rising again into  the middle sky,  then stopped
suddenly, burst into flames, and fluttered down behind the hills, leaving an
irregular trail of smoke.
     "More garbage," said the ruddy-faced youth, as he rose to his feet.

     "Shrapnel. What a funny place to shoot shrapnel!"
     "They  must have got the  bead  on  that  bunch of material the genie's
bringing in."
     There  was  an explosion and a vicious whine of shrapnel bullets  among
the trees. On the road a staff-car turned round hastily and speeded back.
     Martin got up from where he was lying on the grass  under  a pine tree,
looking at the sky, and put his helmet  on; as  he did so  there was another
sharp bang overhead  and a little  reddish-brown cloud that suddenly  spread
and  drifted away among  the quiet tree-tops.  He took  off  his helmet  and
examined it quizzically.
     "Tom, I've got a dent in the helmet."
     Tom Randolph made a  grab for  the little piece of jagged iron that had
rebounded from the helmet and lay at his feet.
     "God  damn,  it's hot,"  he  cried,  dropping  it;  "anyway,  finding's
keepings." He put his foot on the shrapnel splinter.
     "That ought to be mine, I swear, Tom."
     "You've got the dent, Howe; what more do you want?"
     "Damn hog."
     Martin sat on the top step of the dugout, diving down whenever he heard
a shell-shriek loudening in the distance. Beside him was a tall man with the
crossed cannon  of the  artillery in his  helmet, and a shrunken brown  face
with crimson-veined cheeks and very long silky black moustaches.
     "A dirty business," he said. "It's idiotic. . . . Name of a dog!"
     Grabbing each other's arms, they tumbled down the  steps together  as a
shell passed overhead to burst in a tree down the road.
     "Now look at that." The man held  up  his musette to Howe. "I've broken
the bottle of Bordeaux I had in my musette. It's idiotic."
     "Been on permission?"
     "Don't I look it?"
     They sat at the top of the steps again;  the man  took  out bits of wet
glass dripping red wine from his little bag, swearing all the while.
     "I was bringing it to the little captain. He's a nice little old  chap,
the little captain, and he loves good wine."
     "Can't you smell  it? It's Medoc, 1900, from my own vines. . . .  Look,
taste it,  there's still a little."  He held up the neck  of the  bottle and
Martin took a sip.
     The artilleryman drank the rest  of it, twisted his long moustaches and
heaved a deep sigh.
     "Go there, my poor good old wine."  He threw the remnants of the bottle
into  the underbrush. Shrapnel burst a little down the  road. "Oh, this is a
dirty business! I  am a Gascon. .  . . I like to live." He put a dirty brown
hand on Martin's arm.
     "How old do you think I am?"
     "I  am  twenty-four.  Look at  the  picture."  From  a  tattered  black
note-book held together  by an  elastic band  he  pulled  a  snapshot  of  a
jolly-looking young man with a fleshy face and his hands tucked into the top
of a wide, tightly-wound sash. He looked at the picture, smiling and tugging
at  one  of his  long moustaches.  "Then I  was twenty.  It's  the  war." He
shrugged his  shoulders and put the  picture carefully back into  his inside
pocket. "Oh, it's idiotic!"
     "You must have had a tough time."
     "It's just that people aren't  meant for this  sort ofthing,"  said the
artilleryman  quietly. "You don't get accustomed. The more you see the worse
it is. Then you end by going crazy. Oh, it's idiotic!"
     "How did you find things at home?"
     "Oh, at home! Oh, what do  I care about that now? They get  on  without
you. . . . But we used to know how to live, we Gascons. We worked so hard on
the  vines  and on the fruit-trees, and we kept a  horse and carriage. I had
the best-looking rig in  the department. Sunday  it was fun; we'd play bowls
and  I'd ride about with  my wife. Oh, she was  nice in those  days! She was
young  and  fat  and laughed all the time. She was something a man could put
his  arms around, she was. We'd  go out in my rig. It was click-clack of the
whip in  the air  and off we were in the broad  road. . . . Sacred name of a
pig,  that one  was close. . . . And  the Marquis of Montmarieul had a  rig,
too,  but  not so  good as  mine, and my  horse would always pass his in the
road. Oh, it was funny, and he'd look so sour to have  common people like us
pass him in the road. . . . Boom, there's another. . . . And the Marquis now
is nicely embusqu in the automobile service. He is stationed at Versailles.
. . . And look at me. . . . But what do I care about all that now?"
     "But after the war . . ."
     "After the  war?" He  spat savagely on the first  step  of the  dugout.
"They learn to get on without you."
     "But we'll be free to do as we please."
     "We'll never forget."
     "I shall  go to Spain  . . ." A piece of shrapnel ripped past  Martin's
ear, cutting off the sentence.
     "Name of God!  It's  getting  hot.  . .  . Spain:  I  know Spain."  The
artilleryman jumped up  and began  dancing,  Spanish fashion,  snapping  his
fingers, his big moustaches swaying and trembling. Several shells burst down
the road in quick succession, filling the air with a whine of fragments.
     "A cook waggon got  it!" the artilleryman  shouted, dancing on. "Tra-la
la la-la-la-la, la-la la," he sang, snapping his fingers.
     He stopped and spat again.
     "What do I care?" he  said. "Well, so long, old chap.  I must go. . . .
Say, let's change knives--a little souvenir."
     "Good luck."
     The artilleryman  strode off through the woods, past the portable fence
that surrounded the huddled wooden crosses of the graveyard.

     Against  the  red  glare of the dawn the wilderness of shattered  trees
stands out purple,  hidden by grey  mist in the  hollows,  looped and draped
fantastically with strands of telephone wire and barbed wire,  tangled  like
leafless creepers, that  hang  in clots against the red sky. Here and  there
guns  squat among piles of  shells covered with mottled  green cheese-cloth,
and spit long  tongues of yellow flame against  the sky. The ambulance waits
by the side of the rutted road littered with tin cans and brass shell-cases,
while a doctor and two stretcher-bearers bend over a man on a stretcher laid
among  the  underbrush. The man  groans and  there is  a  sound  of  ripping
bandages.  On the other  side of the road a fallen mule feebly wags its head
from  side to side,  a mass of  purple  froth  hanging  from  its mouth  and
wide-stretched scarlet nostrils.
     There is a new smell in the wind, a smell unutterably sordid,  like the
smell of  the poor immigrants landing  at Ellis Island. Martin Howe  glances
round  and sees advancing down the road ranks  and ranks of strange grey men
whose mushroom-shaped helmets give  an eerie look as of men from the moon in
a fairy tale.
     "Why,  they're Germans,"  he says to himself; "I'd quite forgotten they
     "Ah, they're prisoners."  The  doctor gets to his feet and glances down
the road and then turns to his work again.
     The  tramp of feet marching in unison on  the rough shell-pitted  road,
and piles and  piles of grey men clotted with dried mud, from whom comes the
new smell, the sordid, miserable smell of the enemy.
     "Things going well?" Martin asks  a  guard, a man  with ashen  face and
eyes that burn out of black sockets.
     "How should I know?"
     "Many prisoners?"
     "How should I know?"

     The  captain and the aumonier  are taking their breakfast, each sitting
on a packing-box with  their  tin cups and  tin plates ranged  on the  board
propped  up between  them. All  round red  clay, out of which  the abri  was
excavated. A smell  of antiseptics from the door of the dressing-station and
of lime and latrines mingling  with the greasy smell  of the movable kitchen
not far away. They  are  eating dessert, slices  of pineapple speared with a
knife out of a can. In their manner there is something that makes Martin see
vividly two gentlemen in frock-coats dining at a table under the awning of a
caf on the boulevards. It has  a leisurely  ceremoniousness,  an ease  that
could exist nowhere else.
     "No,  my friend,"  the  doctor  is  saying, "I  do  not  think that  an
apprehension of religion existed in the mind of palaeolithic man."
     "But, my captain, don't you think that you scientific  people sometimes
lose  a  little  of  the  significance  of things, insisting always on their
scientific, in this case on their anthropological, aspect?"
     "Not in the least; it is the only way to look at them."
     "There are other ways," says the aumonier, smiling.
     "One moment. . . ." From under  the packing-box the captain  produced a
small bottle of anisette. "You'll have a little glass, won't you?"
     "With the greatest pleasure. What a rarity here, anisette."
     "But, as I was about to say, take our life here, for an example." . . .
A  shell  shrieks  overhead and crashes  hollowly  in the  woods  behind the
dugout.  Another  follows it, exploding nearer. The captain picks a few bits
of gravel off the table, reaches for his helmet and continues. "For example,
our life here, which is, as was the life of palaeolithic man, taken up  only
with  the  bare  struggle  for existence against overwhelming odds. You know
yourself that it  is not conducive to religion or any emotion except that of
     "I hardly admit that. . . . Ah, I  saved it," the  aumonier  announces,
catching the bottle  of anisette  as it  is about to fall off  the table. An
exploding  shell rends the air about them. There is a pause, and a shower of
earth and gravel tumbles about their ears.
     "I  must go and see if anyone was hurt," says  the aumonier, clambering
up  the  clay bank to the  level of  the  ground;  "but you will  admit,  my
captain,  that  the  sentiment  of  preservation is  at  least akin  to  the
fundamental feelings of religion."
     "My dear friend, I admit nothing. . . .  Till this  evening, good-bye."
He waves his hand and goes into the dugout.

     Martin and two French soldiers drinking sour wine in  the  doorway of a
deserted  house. It was raining  outside and  now and then a dripping camion
passed along the road, slithering through the mud.
     "This is the last summer of the war. . . . It must be," said the little
man  with large brown eyes and a  childish,  chubby brown face,  who sat  on
Martin's left.
     "Oh, I don't know. Everyone feels like that."
     "I don't  see,"  said  Martin, "why it shouldn't last for ten or twenty
years. Wars have before. . ."
     "How long have you been at the front?"
     "Six months, off and on."
     "After another six months you'll know why it can't go on."
     "I  don't know;  it suits me all right," said the man on the other side
of Martin, a man with a  jovial red  rabbit-like face. "Of course,  I  don't
like being dirty and smelling and all that, but one gets accustomed to it."
     "But you are an Alsatian; you don't care."
     "I  was a baker. They're going  to  send me to Dijon soon to  bake army
bread.  It'll be a change. There'll be wine and  lots of  little girls. Good
God, how drunk I'll be; and, old chap, you just watch me with the women. . .
     "I  should  just like  to get home and not be  ordered about," said the
first man. "I've been  lucky, though," he went  on; "I've been kept  most of
the time in reserve. I only had to use my bayonet once."
     "When was that?" asked Martin.
     "Near Mont Cornlien, last  year. We put them to the bayonet and  I was
running  and a  man  threw his arms up just in front of me saying, 'Mon ami,
mon ami,' in  French.  I  ran on because I  couldn't stop,  and I  heard  my
bayonet grind  as  it went through his chest. I tripped over  something  and
fell down."
     "You were scared," said the Alsatian.
     "Of  course I was scared. I was trembling all over like an old dog in a
thunderstorm. When I got up,  he was lying  on his side with his mouth  open
and blood running out, my bayonet still sticking into him. You know you have
to put your foot against a man and pull hard to get the bayonet out."
     "And if you're good at it," cried  the Alsatian,  "you ought to yank it
out as your Boche falls and be ready for the next one. The time they gave me
the Croix de Guerre I got three in succession, just like at drill."
     "Oh, I  was so  sorry I had killed  him," went on  the other Frenchman.
"When  I went through his  pockets I found a post-card.  Here it is;  I have
it." He pulled out a cracked  and worn leather  wallet, from which he took a
photograph and a bunch of  pictures.  "Look, this photograph was there, too.
It hurt my heart. You see, it  s a woman  and two little girls. They look so
nice. . . . It's strange, but I  have two children, too, only one's a boy. I
lay  down on  the  ground  beside  him--I  was all  in--and listened  to the
machine-guns  tapping put,  put, put, put, put, all round. I wished  I'd let
him kill me instead. That was funny, wasn't it?"
     "It's  idiotic to feel like that. Put them to the bayonet, all of them,
the dirty  Boches. Why, the only money I've had since the  war began, except
my five sous, was  fifty francs I found on a  German officer. I wonder where
he got it, the old corpse-stripper."
     "Oh,  it's  shameful! I am ashamed of  being  a man. Oh, the shame, the
shame . . ." The other man buried his face in his hands.
     "I wish they were serving out gniolle  for an attack  right now,"  said
the Alsatian, "or the gniolle without the attack'd be better yet."
     "Wait here," said Martin, "I'll go round to  the cop and get a  bottle
of fizzy. We'll drink to peace or war, as you like. Damn this rain!"
     "It's  a  shame  to  bury  those  boots,"  said  the  sergeant  of  the
     From the long roll  of  blanket on  the ground  beside  the hastily-dug
grave  protruded  a  pair of high boots,  new and  well polished as  if  for
parade. All about the earth  was scarred with turned  clay like raw  wounds,
and  the  tilting arms of little wooden  crosses huddled together, with here
and there a bent wreath or a faded bunch of flowers.
     Overhead in the stripped trees a bird was singing.
     "Shall  we  take them  off?  It's  a shame to bury a pair of boots like
     "So many poor devils need boots."
     "Boots cost so dear."
     Already two men were lowering the long bundle into the grave.
     "Wait a minute; we've got a coffin for him."
     A white board coffin was brought.
     The boots thumped against the bottom as they put the big bundle in.
     An officer  strode into  the enclosure of  the graveyard,  flicking his
knees with a twig.
     "Is this Lieutenant Dupont?" he asked of the sergeant.
     "Yes, my lieutenant."
     "Can  you  see  his  face?" The  officer stooped and  pulled apart  the
blanket where the head was.
     "Poor  Ren,"  he  said.  "Thank you.  Good-bye," and strode  out of the
     The  yellowish  clay fell  in clots  on the  boards of the coffin.  The
sergeant  bared his head and the aumonier came up, opening  his book  with a
vaguely professional air.
     "It was  a shame to bury those boots. Boots are so dear nowadays," said
the sergeant, mumbling to himself as he walked back towards the little broad
shanty they used as a morgue.

     Of  the house,  a  little  pale salmon-coloured  villa,  only  a  shell
remained,  but the  garden was quite  untouched; fall roses and  bunches  of
white and pink and violet phlox bloomed  there  among the long grass and the
intruding nettles. In  the centre  the round concrete fountain was no longer
full of water, but a few brownish-green toads still inhabited it.  The place
smelt  of box and  sweetbriar and yew,  and when you lay down on  the  grass
where it  grew short under the old yew  tree by the  fountain, you could see
nothing but placid sky and waving green leaves. Martin Howe and Tom Randolph
would spend there the quiet afternoons when  they were off duty, sleeping in
the  languid  sunlight, or chatting  lazily, pointing out to each other tiny
things, the pattern of snail-shells, the glitter of insects' wings, colours,
fragrances  that  made vivid for them suddenly beauty and life, all that the
shells  that  shrieked  overhead,  to  explode  on  the  road  behind  them,
threatened to wipe out.
     One afternoon Russell joined them, a tall young man with thin face  and
aquiline nose and unexpectedly light hair.
     "Chef says we may go en repos in three days," he said, throwing himself
on the ground beside the other two.
     "We've heard that before," said Tom Randolph.
     "Division  hasn't started out yet, ole boy; an' we're the last  of  the
     "God, I'll be glad to go. . . I'm dead," said Russell.
     "I was up all last night with dysentery."
     "So was  I. . .  . It was not funny; first it'd  be vomiting,  and then
diarrhoea, and then  the shells'd start  coming in. Gave me a merry  time of
     "They say it's the gas," said Martin.
     "God, the  gas! Turns me sick to think  of it,"  said Russell, stroking
his  forehead  with his  hand. "Did I tell you about what happened to me the
night after the attack, up in the woods?"
     "Well, I was bringing a  load of wounded down from  P.J.  right and I'd
got just beyond the corner where  the little muddy hill is--you know,  where
they're always shelling--when I found the road blocked. It was so God-damned
black you couldn't see your hand in  front of  you. A camion'd  gone off the
road and another  had run into it, and everything was littered with boxes of
shells spilt about."
     "Must have been real nice," said Randolph.
     "The devilish part of it was that I was  all alone. Coney  was too sick
with diarrhoea to be any use, so I left him up at  the post,  running out at
both ends like he'd die. Well . . . I yelled and shouted like hell in my bad
French and blew my whistle and sweated, and the damned wounded inside moaned
and groaned. And  the  shells were coming in so thick I thought  my number'd
turn up any time. An' I couldn't  get anybody. So I just climbed up  in  the
second camion and backed it off into the bushes. . . . God, I bet it'll take
a wrecking crew to get it out. .
     "That was one good job.
     "But there I  was with another square in the road and no chance to pass
that I could see in that darkness. Then what I was going to  tell you  about
happened.  I saw  a little bit of  light in  a ditch beside a  big car  that
seemed to be laying on its side, and I went down to it and there was a bunch
of camion drivers, sitting round a lantern drinking.
     "'Hello, have a drink!' they called out to me, and one of  them got up,
waving his arms, ravin' drunk, and threw his arms around me and kissed me on
the mouth. His hair and beard were full of wet mud. . . . Then he dragged me
into the crowd.
     "'Ha, here's a copain come to die with us,' he cried.
     "I gave him a shove and he fell down. But another one got up and handed
me a tin cup  full of that God-damned gniolle,  that I drank not to make 'em
sore.  Then they all shouted, and stood about  me, sayin', 'American's goin'
to die with us. He's goin' to drink with us. He's goin' to die with us.' And
the shells comin' in all the while. God, I was scared.
     "'I  want to  get  a  camion  moved  to  the side of the  road.  . .  .
Good-bye,' I said. There didn't seem any use talkin' to them.
     "'But you've come to stay with us,' they said, and  made  me drink some
more booze. 'You've come to die with us. Remember you said so.'
     "The sweat was running into my eyes so's I could hardly see. I told 'em
I'd be right back and slipped  away  into the dark. Then I thought I'd never
get the second camion  cranked. At last  I managed it and put it so  I could
squeeze  past,  but they saw me and  jumped up  on the  running-board of the
ambulance, tried  to stop the car,  all yellin' at once, 'It's  no  use, the
road's blocked both ways. You can't pass. You'd better stay and die with us.
     "Well,  I  put my foot on the accelerator and hit  one  of them so hard
with the mud-guard he fell into the lantern and put it out. Then I got away.
An'  how  I got  past  the stuff  in that  road afterwards was just luck.  I
couldn't see a God-damn thing; it  was so black and I was so nerved up. God,
I'll never forget  these chaps' shoutin',  'Here's a feller come to die with
us.' "
     "Whew! That's some story," said Randolph.
     "That'll make  a  letter home, won't it?" said Russell, smiling. "Guess
my girl'll think I'm heroic enough after that."
     Martin's eyes  were watching a big dragonfly with brown  body and cream
and  rainbow wings that hovered over the  empty  fountain and the three boys
stretched on the grass, and was gone against the azure sky.
     The prisoner had grey flesh, so grimed with mud that you could not tell
if he were young or old. His uniform hung in a formless clot of mud about  a
slender frame. They had  treated him at the dressing-station for a  gash  in
his  upper arm, and he was being used to help  the stretcher-bearers. Martin
sat in the front seat of the ambulance, watching him listlessly as he walked
down the rutted road under the  torn shreds  of camouflage that fluttered  a
little in the wind. Martin  wondered what he was thinking. Did he accept all
this stench and filth and degradation of slavery as part of the divine order
of things? Or did he too burn with loathing and revolt?
     And  all those men  beyond  the  hill  and  the  wood, what  were  they
thinking? But how could they  think? The lies they were drunk on would  keep
them eternally  from thinking. They had never had any chance to think  until
they were hurried into the jaws of it, where was no  room  but  for laughter
and misery and the smell of blood.
     The  rutted road  was  empty now. Most  of  the  batteries were  quiet.
Overhead in the brilliant sky aeroplanes snored monotonously.
     The  woods  all  about  him  were  a  vast  rubbish-heap;  the  jagged,
splintered  boles  of leafless trees rose in every direction  from heaps  of
brass shell-cases,  of tin cans,  of bits of uniform and equipment. The wind
came in puffs laden with an odour as of dead rats in an attic. And  this was
what all  the  centuries  of civilisation  had  struggled for. For  this had
generations  worn  away  their lives in mines and  factories and forges,  in
fields  and work-shops, toiling, screwing higher and  higher  the tension of
their minds and muscles, polishing brighter and brighter the mirror of their
intelligence. For this!
     The German prisoner and  another  man had  appeared  in the road again,
carrying a stretcher between  them, walking  with the slow, meticulous steps
of great fatigue.  A series of shells came in, like three cracks  of a  whip
along the road. Martin followed the stretcher-bearers into the dugout.
     The  prisoner wiped  the sweat  from his grime-streaked  forehead,  and
started up the step of the dugout again, a closed stretcher on his shoulder.
Something made Martin look after him as he strolled down the rutted road. He
wished he knew German so  that he might call  after the man and ask him what
manner of a man he was.
     Again, like snapping  of a whip,  three shells  flashed yellow  as they
exploded in the brilliant sunlight  of the road.  The slender  figure of the
prisoner bent suddenly double, like  a pocket-knife  closing, and lay still.
Martin  ran out, stumbling  in the  hard  ruts. In a  soft child's voice the
prisoner was babbling endlessly, contentedly. Martin kneeled beside him  and
tried to lift him, clasping him round the chest under  the arms. He was very
hard to lift, for his  legs dragged limply  in their soaked trousers,  where
the blood was beginning to saturate the muddy cloth, stickily. Sweat dripped
from  Martin's face, on the man's face, and he felt the arm-muscles and  the
ribs pressed against his  body as he clutched the wounded man tightly to him
in the effort of carrying him towards the  dugout. The effort  gave Martin a
strange  contentment. It was as if his body were taking part in the agony of
this  man's body. At  last they  were washed  out, all  the hatreds, all the
lies,  in blood  and sweat.  Nothing  was left but the quiet friendliness of
beings alike in every part, eternally alike.
     Two men  with a  stretcher came from  the dugout,  and  Martin laid the
man's body, fast growing limper, less animated, down very carefully.
     As he  stood by the car, wiping the  blood off his hands  with  an oily
rag,  he  could still feel the man's ribs and the muscles of  the  man's arm
against his side. It made him strangely happy.

     At the end of the dugout a man was drawing  short,  hard  breath as  if
he'd been running. There was the accustomed smell of blood  and chloride and
bandages and filthy miserable flesh. Howe lay on a  stretcher wrapped in his
blanket,  with  his coat over  him, trying to sleep.  There  was very little
light from a smoky lamp down  at the end where the wounded were. The  French
batteries were fairly quiet, but the German shells  were combing through the
woods, coming in  series of three and four, gradually nearing the dugout and
edging away again.  Howe saw the  woods as a gambling table on  which, throw
after throw, scattered the random dice of death.
     He pulled his blanket up round his  head. He  must sleep.  How silly to
think about it.  It was luck. If a shell had his number on it he'd  be  gone
before the words were out of his mouth. How silly that he  might be dead any
minute! What right had a nasty little piece of tinware to go tearing through
his rich, feeling flesh, extinguishing it?
     Like  the sound of a mosquito in his ear, only louder, more vicious,  a
shell-shriek shrilled to the crash.
     Damn! How foolish, how supremely silly that tired men somewhere away in
the woods the other side of the lines  should be  shoving  a shell into  the
breach of a gun to kill him, Martin Howe!
     Like dice  thrown on a table, shells burst about  the dugout,  now  one
side, now the other.
     "Seem to have taken  a  fancy  to  us  this  evenin'," Howe  heard  Tom
Randolph's voice from the bunk opposite.
     "One," muttered Martin to himself, as he lay frozen  with fear, flat on
his back, biting his trembling lips, "two. . . . God, that was near!"
     A dragging instant of suspense, and the shriek growing  loud out of the
     "This is us." He clutched the sides of the stretcher.
     A snorting roar rocked the  dugout.  Dirt  fell in his  face. He looked
about, dazed.  The lamp was still  burning. One of  the wounded men,  with a
bandage like an Arab's turban  about his head, sat up  in his stretcher with
wide, terrified eyes.
     "God watches over drunkards and the feeble-minded. Don't  let's  worry,
Howe," shouted Randolph from his bunk.
     "That probably bitched car No. 4 for evermore," he answered, turning on
his stretcher, relieved for some reason from the icy suspense.
     "We should worry! We'll foot it home,  that's all."  The casting of the
dice began again, farther away this time.
     "We won that throw," thought Martin to himself.

     DUCKS  quacking woke Martin.  For a  moment he could not think where he
was; then he remembered. The rafters of the  loft of  the farmhouse over his
head were hung with bunches of herbs drying. He lay a long while on his back
looking at them, sniffing the sweetened air, while farmyard  sounds occupied
his  ears,  hens cackling,  the  grunting  of  pigs,  the  rou-cou-cou  cou,
rou-cou-coucou of pigeons under the eaves. He stretched himself  and  looked
about  him.  He was alone except  for Tom Randolph, who slept  in a pile  of
blankets  next to  the  wall, his head,  with  its close-cropped black hair,
pillowed on his bare arm. Martin slipped off the canvas cot he  had slept on
and went to the window of the loft, a little square open at the level of the
floor,  through  which came a  dazzle of blue and  gold and green. He looked
out.  Stables  and  hay-barns  filled two  sides of the  farmyard below him.
Behind  them was  a mass  of rustling oak-trees. On  the lichen-greened tile
roofs pigeons strutted  about, putting their coral feet  daintily one before
the other,  puffing  out their glittering breasts. He  breathed deep  of the
smell of hay and manure and cows and of unpolluted farms.
     From the  yard came  a  riotous  cackling  of chickens and quacking  of
ducks, mingled with the  peeping of the  little broods. In the middle a girl
in blue  gingham, sleeves rolled up as far as possible on her  brown arms, a
girl with a mass of dark hair loosely coiled above the nape of her neck, was
throwing to the fowls handfuls of grain with a wide gesture.
     "And to think that only yesterday . .  ."  said  Martin to  himself. He
listened carefully for some time. "Wonderful! You can't even hear the guns."

     THE  evening  was  pearl-grey  when they left  the  village;  in  their
nostrils was the smell of the leisurely death  of the year, of leaves drying
and falling, of ripened fruit and bursting seed-pods.
     "The fall's a maddening sort o' time for me," said  Tom  Randolph.  "It
makes me itch to get up on ma hind legs an' do things, go places."
     "I suppose it's that the earth has such a feel of accomplishment," said
     "You do feel as if  Nature had pulled  off her part of the job  and was
     They  stopped  a  second  and looked about them, breathing deep. On one
side of the road were woods  where in long  alleys the  mists deepened  into
purple darkness.
     "There's the moon."
     "God! it looks like a pumpkin."
     "I wish those guns'd shut up 'way off there to the north."
     "They're sort of irrelevant, aren't they?"
     They walked on, silent, listening to the guns throbbing  far away, like
muffled drums beaten in nervous haste.
     "Sounds almost like a barrage."
     Martin for  some reason was  thinking  of the last verses  of Shelley's
Hellas. He wished he knew them so that he could recite them.
     "Faiths and empires gleam
     Like wrecks in a dissolving dream."
     The purple  trunks of saplings passed  slowly across the broad face  of
the moon as they walked along. How beautiful the world was!
     "Look,  Tom."  Martin put his arm about  Randolph's shoulder and nodded
towards the  moon. "It  might be  a ship  with  puffed-out  pumpkin-coloured
sails, the way the trees make it look now."
     "Wouldn't it be great to  go  to  sea?" said Randolph, looking straight
into the moon, "an' get out  of  this slaughter-house. It's nice to  see the
war, but I have no intention of taking up butchery as a profession. There is
too much else to do in the world."
     They  walked slowly along  the road talking of the sea, and Martin told
how when he was  a little kid he'd had an  uncle who used to tell  him about
the Vikings and  the Swan Path, and how one of the great moments of his life
had been when he and a friend had looked out of their window in a little inn
on Cape Cod  one morning and seen the  sea and the swaying gold  path of the
sun on it, stretching away, beyond the horizon.
     "Poor  old life," he  said. "I'd expected to  do so much with you." And
they both laughed, a little bitterly.
     They were strolling past a large farmhouse  that stood like a hen among
chicks in a crowd of little outbuildings.  A man in the road lit a cigarette
and Martin recognised him in the orange glare of the match.
     "Monsieur Merrier!" He held out his  hand. It was the  aspirant  he had
drunk beer with weeks ago at Brocourt.
     "Hah! It's you!"
     "So you are en repos here, too?"
     "Yes,  indeed.  But  you  two  come  in and see us; we are dying of the
     "We'd love to stop in for a second."
     A fire smouldered in the big hearth of the farmhouse kitchen, sending a
little irregular fringe of red light out over the tiled floor. At the end of
the room towards the  door three men were seated  round a table, smoking.  A
candle  threw their huge  and  grotesque  shadows on the  floor  and  on the
whitewashed walls, and lit up the dark beams  of  that part of the  ceiling.
The three men got up and everyone shook hands, filling the room with swaying
giant  shadows. Champagne was brought and tin cups and more candles, and the
Americans were given the two most comfortable chairs.
     "It's such a find to have Americans who  speak French," said  a bearded
man with unusually large brilliant  eyes. He had  been introduced  as  Andr
Dubois, "a  very  terrible  person,"  had  added Merrier, laughing. The cork
popped out of the bottle he had been struggling with.
     "You see, we never can find  out what you think about things. . . . All
we can  do is to be  sympathetically  inane,  and vive les braves allis and
that sort of stuff."
     "I doubt if we Americans do think," said Martin.
     "Cigarettes, who wants some cigarettes?"  cried Lully, a small man with
a very  brown oval face to which  long eyelashes  and a little  bit of silky
black  moustache  gave  almost a  winsomeness.  When he  laughed  he  showed
brilliant, very regular teeth. As he handed the cigarettes  about he  looked
searchingly  at  Martin with eyes disconcertingly intense. "Merrier has told
us about  you," he said.  "You seem to be  the  first American we'd  met who
agreed with us."
     "What about?"
     "About the war, of course."
     "Yes,"  took  up the fourth  man,  a blonde Norman  with an impressive,
rather majestic face, "we were very interested. You see, we bore each other,
talking always  among ourselves.  . . . I hope you  won't  be  offended if I
agree with you in saying that Americans never think. I've been in Texas, you
     "Yes, I went to a Jesuit College  in  Dallas.  I was preparing to enter
the Society of Jesus."
     "How long have you  been in the  war?"  asked Andr Dubois, passing his
hand across his beard.
     "We've both been in the same length of time--about six months."
     "Do you like it?"
     "I don't have a bad time. . . . But the people in Boccaccio  managed to
enjoy themselves while the plague was at Florence. That seems to me the only
way to take the war."
     "We have no villa to take refuge in, though," said Dubois, "and we have
forgotten all our amusing stories."
     "And in America--they like the war?"
     "They don't  know  what  it  is.  They are like children. They  believe
everything  they  are  told,  you  see;  they  have  had  no  experience  in
international affairs, like you  Europeans. To  me our entrance into the war
is a tragedy."
     "It's sort of  goin'  back on  our  only excuse  for  existing," put in
     "In exchange for all the quiet and the civilisation and  the  beauty of
ordered lives that Europeans gave up in  going to the new world we gave them
opportunity to earn luxury, and, infinitely more important, freedom from the
past, that gangrened ghost  of the past that  is killing Europe to-day  with
its infection of hate and greed of murder.
     "America  has turned traitor to all that,  you see; that's  the  way we
look at it. Now we're a military nation, an organised pirate like France and
England and Germany."
     "But American idealism? The speeches, the notes?" cried Lully, catching
the edge of the table with his two brown hands.
     "Camouflage," said Martin.
     "You mean it's insincere?"
     "The best camouflage is always sincere."
     Dubois ran his hands through his hair.
     "Of course, why should there be any difference?" he said.
     "Oh, we're  all dupes, we're all dupes. Look,  Lully,  old man, fill up
the Americans' glasses."
     "And I used to believe in liberty," said Martin. He raised his  tumbler
and looked  at the candle  through the pale  yellow champagne. On  the  wall
behind him,  his  arm and hand and the tumbler were  shadowed  huge in dusky
lavender blue. He noticed that his was the only tumbler.
     "I am honoured," he said; "mine is the only glass."
     "And that's looted," said Merrier.
     "It's funny . . ." Martin suddenly felt himself filled with a desire to
talk. "All  my life I've struggled for my own liberty in my small way. Now I
hardly know if the thing exists."
     "Exists? Of  course it  does,  or  people wouldn't  hate it  so," cried
     "I used to think," went on Martin, "that it was my family I must escape
from to be free; I mean  all  the conventional ties, the worship  of success
and the respect-abilities that is drummed into you when you're young."
     "I suppose everyone has thought that. . . ."
     "How stupid we were before the war, how we prated of small revolts, how
we  sniggered  over little  jokes at religion  and government. And  all  the
while,  in  the infinite greed, in the infinite stupidity of men,  this  was
being prepared." Andr Dubois was speaking, puffing nervously at a cigarette
between phrases, now and then pulling at his beard with a long, sinewy hand.
     "What terrifies me rather is their power to enslave our  minds," Martin
went on, his voice growing louder and  surer  as his idea carried him along.
"I shall  never forget the flags, the menacing, exultant flags along all the
streets  before  we went  to war, the gradual  unbaring  of  teeth,  gradual
lulling to sleep of people's humanity and sense by the phrases, the phrases.
. . . America, as you know, is ruled by the press. And the press is ruled by
whom? Who shall ever know what dark forces bought and bought until we should
be ready to go blinded and gagged to war? . . . People seem to so love to be
fooled. Intellect used to mean freedom, a light struggling against darkness.
Now  the darkness is  using the  light for its own  purposes.  .  . . We are
slaves of bought intellect, willing slaves."
     "But,  Howe, the  minute you see that  and laugh  at  it,  you're not a
slave. Laugh and be individually  as decent as you can, and don't worry your
head about  the rest of the  world;  and have  a good time  in spite of  the
God-damned  scoundrels,"  broke out  Randolph in English.  "No use  worrying
yourself into the grave over a thing you can't help."
     "There  is  one  solution and  one  only, my friends,"  said the blonde
Norman; "the Church. . . ." He sat up straight in his chair, speaking slowly
with  expressionless face. "People are too weak and  too kindly to shift for
themselves. Government of some sort there must be. Lay Government has proved
through all the tragic years of history to be merely a ruse of the strong to
oppress the  weak, of the wicked to  fool the confiding.  There remains only
religion. In  the organisation  of  religion  lies  the natural and suitable
arrangement for  the happiness  of  man. The Church will govern  not through
physical force but through spiritual force."
     "The force of fear."  Lully jumped to his feet impatiently,  making the
bottles sway on the table.
     "The  force of love. . . . I  once thought as you do, my friend,"  said
the Norman, pulling Lully back into his chair with a smile.
     Lully  drank a glass of champagne greedily and undid the buttons of his
blue jacket.
     "Go on," he said; "it's madness."
     "All  the  evil of the Church," went on the Norman's even voice, "comes
from her struggles to attain supremacy. Once assured of triumph, established
as the rule of the world,  it  becomes the natural channel through which the
wise rule  and  direct  the  stupid,  not  for  their own interest, not  for
ambition  for  worldly things, but for the love that is in them. The freedom
the  Church offers  is the  only true freedom. It denies the  world, and the
slaveries and  rewards  of it.  It gives the love of God as  the only aim of
     "But think of  the  Church  to-day, the  cardinals at Rome,  the Church
turned everywhere to the worship of tribal gods. . . ."
     "Yes,  but admit that that can be changed. The  Church has been supreme
in  the  past;  can  it not again be supreme?  All  the evil comes from  the
struggle, from the  compromise. Picture  to  yourself  for a moment a  world
conquered by the Church,  ruled through the soul and mind, where force  will
not exist, where instead of  all  the multitudinous tyrannies man has choked
his life with in organising against other  men,  will exist  the one supreme
thing, the Church of God. Instead of many hatreds, one love. Instead of many
slaveries, one freedom."
     "A  single  tyranny, instead  of a million. What's  the  choice?" cried
     "But you are  both violent, my children." Merrier  got to  his feet and
smilingly filled the glasses all round. "You go at  the matter too much from
the heroic point of  view. All  this  sermonising does no good. We are  very
simple people  who want to live quietly and have plenty to eat  and  have no
one worry us or hurt us in the little span of sunlight before we die. All we
have now is the same war between  the classes: those  that exploit and those
that  are exploited. The  cunning, unscrupulous  people  control the humane,
kindly people. This war that has  smashed our little European world in which
order was so painfully  taking  the  place  of chaos,  seems to me  merely a
gigantic battle fought over the plunder of the world by the pirates who have
grown fat to  the  point of madness on the work of  their own people, on the
work of the millions in Africa, in India, in America, who have come directly
or indirectly under the yoke of the  insane  greed of the white races. Well,
our edifice  is ruined. Let's think no  more  of it. Ours is now the duty of
rebuilding, reorganising. I have not  faith enough in  human nature to be an
anarchist. . . . We are too like sheep; we must go in flocks, and a flock to
live must organise. There is plenty for everyone, even with the huge  growth
in  population all over  the world. What we  want  is  organisation from the
bottom,  organisation  by the  ungreedy, by the  humane,  by  the uncunning,
socialism of the masses that shall spring  from the  natural need  of men to
help one another;  not socialism from the top to the ends  of the governors,
that they may  clamp  us tighter in their fetters. We must stop the economic
war, the war for existence of man against  man. That will  be the first step
in  the long climb to  civilisation.  They must co-operate, they  must learn
that it is saner  and more advantageous to  help one another than  to hinder
one another in the great war  against nature. And the tyranny of the  feudal
money  lords,  the unspeakable misery  of  this war  is  driving men  closer
together into fraternity, co-operation. It  is the lower classes, therefore,
that the new world must be founded  on. The rich must be extinguished;  with
them wars will  die. First  between rich and poor, between the exploiter and
the exploited. . . ."
     "They  have  one thing  in  common,"  interrupted  the  blonde  Norman,
     "What's that?"
     "Humanity. . . . That is, feebleness, cowardice."
     "No, indeed. All through the world's history there has been one law for
the  lord and another  for the slave, one humanity for  the lord and another
humanity  for  the  slave. What we  must  strive  for  is  a true  universal
     "True,"  cried Lully, "but why  take the longest,  the  most  difficult
road? You say that people are sheep; they must be driven. I say that you and
I  and our  American friends here are not sheep. We are capable  of standing
alone, of judging all for ourselves,  and we  are just ordinary  people like
anyone else."
     "Oh, but look  at us, Lully!" interrupted Merrier. "We are too weak and
too cowardly . . ."
     "An example," said Martin, excitedly leaning across the table. "We none
of us believe that war is right or useful or anything but a  hideous  method
of mutual suicide. Have we the courage of our own faith?"
     "As  I said," Merrier took up again, "I have too little faith  to be an
anarchist,  but I have too much to believe in religion." His tin cup  rapped
sharply on the table as he set it down.
     "No," Lully continued, after a pause, "it is better for man to  worship
God, His image on the clouds, the creation of his fancy, than to worship the
vulgar  apparatus  of  organised  life,  government.  Better  sacrifice  his
children to Moloch than to that  society for the propagation and  protection
of commerce, the nation. Oh, think of the cost of government in all the ages
since  men stopped living  in  marauding tribes!  Think  of  the  great  men
martyred.  Think of the  thought  trodden into the  dust. . . .  Give man  a
chance for once. Government should be purely  utilitarian, like the electric
light wires in  a house. It is  a method for attaining  peace and comfort--a
bad one,  I think, at that;  not  a thing to be worshipped as God.  The  one
reason for it is the  protection of property. Why should we  have  property?
That is  the central evil of the  world. . .  . That  is the cancer that has
made life a hell  of misery until now; the inflated greed  of it has spurred
on our nations of the West to throw themselves back, for ever, perhaps, into
the  depths  of  savagery. . . . Oh, if  people would  only  trust their own
fundamental kindliness, the fraternity, the love that is the strongest thing
in life. Abolish property, and the disease of the desire for  it, the desire
to  grasp  and  have, and  you'll  need no government to  protect  you.  The
vividness  and  resiliency of the  life of man is  being  fast crushed under
organisation, tabulation. Overorganisation is death. It is  disorganisation,
not organisation, that is the aim of life."
     "I grant that what all of you say is true, but why say it over and over
again?"  Andr Dubois talked, striding back  and forth beside the table, his
arms gesticulating. His compound shadow  thrown by the candles on  the white
wall followed him back  and forth, mocking him with huge  blurred  gestures.
"The Greek  philosophers  said it  and  the  Indian sages.  Our  descendants
thousands of years from now will say it and wring  their hands as we do. Has
not someone on earth the courage to act?  . . ." The men at the table turned
towards him, watching his tall figure move back and forth.
     "We are  slaves. We are blind. We are deaf. Why should we argue, we who
have  no experience of different  things  to go on?  It has always  been the
same: man the slave of property or religion, of his own shadow. . . First we
must burst our bonds, open our eyes, clear our ears. Now we know nothing but
what we are told by  the rulers.  Oh, the lies, the lies, the lies, the lies
that life is smothered  in! We must  strike  once more for  freedom, for the
sake of  the dignity of man. Hopelessly, cynically, ruthlessly we must  rise
and  show  at  least that we are not  taken in;  that we are  slaves but not
willing  slaves. Oh, they have deceived  us so many times. We have been such
dupes, we have been such dupes!"
     "You are  right,"  said  the blonde Norman sullenly;  "we have all been
     A  sudden self-consciousness chilled  them  all to silence for a while.
Without wanting to, they strained  their  ears to hear the  guns. There they
were,  throbbing  loud, unceasing, towards  the  north,  like  hasty muffled
     "Cease; drain not to its dregs the wine,
     Of bitter Prophecy.
     The world is weary of its past.
     Oh, might it die or rest at last."
     All  through  the talk snatches from Hellas  had  been  running through
Howe's head.
     After a long pause he turned to  Merrier and asked him how he had fared
in the attack.
     "Oh, not so badly. I brought my skin back," said Merrier, laughing. "It
was a dull  business. After waiting eight hours under gas bombardment we got
orders to  advance, and  so over we  went with  the barrage way ahead of us.
There was no resistance where we  were. We took a lot  of prisoners and blew
up some dugouts and I had the good luck to find a lot  of German  chocolate.
It came in handy, I can tell you, as no ravitaillement came for two days. We
just had biscuits and I  toasted the biscuits and chocolate together and had
quite good meals,  though I  nearly died of thirst afterwards. . . . We lost
heavily, though, when they started counterattacking."
     "An' no one of you were touched?"
     "Luck. . . . But we lost many dear friends. Oh, it's always like that."
     "Look what I  brought back--a German gun," said Andr  Dubois, going to
the corner of the room.
     "That's some souvenir," said Tom Randolph, sitting up suddenly, shaking
himself  out  of the reverie he had been sunk in all through the talk of the
     "And I have three hundred rounds. They'll come in handy some day."
     "In the revolution--after the war."
     "That's the stuff I like to hear," cried Randolph, getting to his feet.
"Why wait for the war to end?"
     "Why? Because we have not the courage. . . . But it is impossible until
after the war."
     "And then you think it is possible?"
     "Will it accomplish anything?"
     "God knows."
     "One last bottle of champagne," cried Merrier.
     They  seated  themselves round  the table again. Martin  took  in  at a
glance  the  eager  sunburned  faces,  the  eyes  burning  with  hope,  with
determination, and a sudden joy flared through him.
     "Oh,  there  is hope," he said, drinking down his  glass.  "We  are too
young, too needed to fail. We must find a  way, find the first step of a way
to freedom, or life is a hollow mockery."
     "To Revolution,  to  Anarchy, to the  Socialist state," they all cried,
drinking down  the  last  of  the  champagne. All the  candles  but one  had
guttered  out. Their  shadows swayed and darted in long  arms  and changing,
grotesque limbs about the room.
     "But  first  there  must  be  peace," said  the  Norman,  Jean Chenier,
twisting his mouth into a faintly bitter smile.
     "Oh, indeed, there must be peace."
     "Of all slaveries, the slavery of war, of armies, is the bitterest, the
most  hopeless slavery."  Lully  was speaking,  his smooth brown  face in  a
grimace of excitement and loathing. "War is our first enemy."
     "But oh,  my friend," said  Merrier, "we will  win in  the end. All the
people in all the armies of the world believe as we do. In all the minds the
seed is sprouting."
     "Before long the day will come. The tocsin will ring."
     "Do you  really believe that?" cried Martin. "Have we the courage, have
we the energy, have we the power? Are we the men our ancestors were?"
     "No,"  said  Dubois, crashing down on the  table with his fist; "we are
merely intellectuals. We cling to a mummified world. But they have the power
and the nerve."
     "The stupid average working-people."
     "We only can combat the lies," said  Lully; "they are so  easily duped.
After the war that is what we must do."
     "Oh, but we are all such dupes," cried Dubois. "First we must fight the
lies. It is the lies that choke us."

     It was very late. Howe and Tom Randolph  were walking home under a cold
white moon already well sunk in the west; northward was  a little flickering
glare above the  tops of the low hills and a sound of firing  as  of muffled
drums beaten hastily.
     "With people like that we needn't despair of civilisation," said Howe.
     "With people who are young and aren't scared you can do lots."
     "We must come over and see those fellows  again. It's such a  relief to
be able to talk."
     "And  they give  you the idea  that something's really going  on in the
world, don't they?"
     "Oh, it's wonderful! Think that the awakening may come soon."
     "We might wake up to-morrow and . . ."
     "It's too important to joke about; don't be an ass, Tom."
     They rolled up in their blankets in the silent barn and listened to the
drum-fire in the distance. Martin saw again, as he lay on his side  with his
eyes closed,  the group of men  in blue uniforms, men with eager brown faces
and eyes  gleaming  with  hope, and saw their full red lips  moving  as they
     The candle threw the shadows of their  heads, huge,  fantastic, and  of
their gesticulating arms on the white walls of the kitchen. And it seemed to
Martin Howe that all his friends were gathered in that room.

     "THEY say you sell shoe-laces," said Martin,  his eyes blinking in  the
faint candlelight.
     Crouched in the  end of  the dugout  was a man with  a  brown skin like
wrinkled  leather,  and  white eyebrows  and moustaches. All about him  were
piles of  old  boots,  rotten with wear  and mud, holding  fantastically the
imprints of the toes and ankle-bones  of the feet that  had worn  them.  The
candle cast flitting shadows over them so that they seemed to move back  and
forth  faintly,  as do the feet of wounded men laid out on the floor of  the
     "I'm a cobbler by profession," said the man. He made a gesture with the
blade of his knife in the direction  of a huge bundle of  leather laces that
hung from a beam above his head. "I've done all those since yesterday. I cut
up old boots into laces."
     "Helps out the five sous a bit," said Martin, laughing.
     "This post is convenient for my  trade,"  went  on the  cobbler, as  he
picked out another boot to be  cut into laces, and started hacking the upper
part off  the worn  sole. "At the little hut, where they  pile up the stiffs
before  they  bury them--you know, just to  the left outside  the abri--they
leave  lots of their boots around. I can pick up  any number I want." With a
clasp-knife he  was cutting the leather in a spiral, paring off a thin lace.
He contracted his bushy eyebrows  as he bent over  his work. The candlelight
glinted on the knife blade as he twisted it about dexterously.
     "Yes, many a good copain of mine has had his poor feet in those  boots.
What  of it?  Some day another fellow will be making laces out of mine, eh?"
He gave a wheezy, coughing laugh.
     "I guess I'll take a pair. How much are they?"
     "Six sous."
     The  coins glinted in the light of the  candle  as  they clinked in the
man's leather-blackened palm.
     "Good-bye,"  said  Martin. He walked past men sleeping in  the bunks on
either side as he went towards the steps.
     At the end of the dugout the man crouched on  his pile  of old leather,
with his knife that glinted in the candlelight dexterously carving laces out
of the boots of those who no longer needed them.

     THERE  is no sound in  the  poste de  secours. A  faint greenish  light
filters down  from the  quiet  woods  outside. Martin is  kneeling beside  a
stretcher where lies a mass of torn blue uniform crossed  in  several places
by  strips  of white  bandages  clotted with  dark blood.  The massive face,
grimed with mud, is  very waxy and grey. The light hair hangs in clots about
the forehead. The  nose is sharp, but there is a faint smile  about the lips
made thin by pain.
     "Is  there  anything  I  can get you?" asks  Martin  softly. "Nothing."
Slowly the blue eyelids uncover hazel eyes that burn feverishly.
     "But you haven't told me yet, how's Merrier?"
     "A shell . . . dead . . . poor chap."
     "And the anarchist, Lully?"
     "And Dubois?"
     "Why ask?" came the faint rustling voice peevishly.  "Everybody's dead.
You're dead, aren't you?"
     "No, I'm alive, and you. A little courage. . . . We must be cheerful."
     "It's not for long. To-morrow,  the  next day. . .  ." The blue eyelids
slip back over the crazy burning eyes  and the face takes on again the waxen
look of death.

: 6, Last-modified: Sun, 02 Feb 2003 20:57:42 GMT