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   Chapter 4 No.4

Three Soldiers By John Dos Passos Characters: 62673

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The stars were very bright when Fuselli, eyes stinging with sleep, stumbled out of the barracks. They trembled like bits of brilliant jelly in the black velvet of the sky, just as something inside him trembled with excitement.

"Anybody know where the electricity turns on?" asked the sergeant in a good-humored voice. "Here it is." The light over the door of the barracks snapped on, revealing a rotund cheerful man with a little yellow mustache and an unlit cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. Grouped about him, in overcoats and caps, the men of the company rested their packs against their knees.

"All right; line up, men."

Eyes looked curiously at Fuselli as he lined up with the rest. He had been transferred into the company the night before.

"Attenshun," shouted the sergeant. Then he wrinkled up his eyes and grinned hard at the slip of paper he had in his hand, while the men of his company watched him affectionately.

"Answer 'Here' when your name is called. Allan, B.C."

"Yo!" came a shrill voice from the end of the line.

"Anspach."

"Here."

Meanwhile outside the other barracks other companies could be heard calling the roll. Somewhere from the end of the street came a cheer.

"Well, I guess I can tell you now, fellers," said the sergeant with his air of quiet omniscience, when he had called the last name. "We're going overseas."

Everybody cheered.

"Shut up, you don't want the Huns to hear us, do you?"

The company laughed, and there was a broad grin on the sergeant's round face.

"Seem to have a pretty decent top-kicker," whispered Fuselli to the man next to him.

"You bet yer, kid, he's a peach," said the other man in a voice full of devotion. "This is some company, I can tell you that."

"You bet it is," said the next man along. "The corporal's in the Red Sox outfield."

The lieutenant appeared suddenly in the area of light in front of the barracks. He was a pink-faced boy. His trench coat, a little too large, was very new and stuck out stiffly from his legs.

"Everything all right, sergeant? Everything all right?" he asked several times, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

"All ready for entrainment, sir," said the sergeant heartily.

"Very good, I'll let you know the order of march in a minute."

Fuselli's ears pounded with strange excitement. These phrases, "entrainment," "order of march," had a businesslike sound. He suddenly started to wonder how it would feel to be under fire. Memories of movies flickered in his mind.

"Gawd, ain't I glad to git out o' this hell-hole," he said to the man next him.

"The next one may be more of a hell-hole yet, buddy," said the sergeant striding up and down with his important confident walk.

Everybody laughed.

"He's some sergeant, our sergeant is," said the man next to Fuselli. "He's got brains in his head, that boy has."

"All right, break ranks," said the sergeant, "but if anybody moves away from this barracks, I'll put him in K. P. Till-till he'll be able to peel spuds in his sleep."

The company laughed again. Fuselli noticed with displeasure that the tall man with the shrill voice whose name had been called first on the roll did not laugh but spat disgustedly out of the corner of his mouth.

"Well, there are bad eggs in every good bunch," thought Fuselli.

It gradually grew grey with dawn. Fuselli's legs were tired from standing so long. Outside all the barracks, as far as he could see up the street, men stood in ragged lines waiting.

The sun rose hot on a cloudless day. A few sparrows twittered about the tin roof of the barracks.

"Hell, we're not goin' this day."

"Why?" asked somebody savagely.

"Troops always leaves at night."

"The hell they do!"

"Here comes Sarge."

Everybody craned their necks in the direction pointed out.

The sergeant strolled up with a mysterious smile on his face.

"Put away your overcoats and get out your mess kits."

Mess kits clattered and gleamed in the slanting rays of the sun. They marched to the mess hall and back again, lined up again with packs and waited some more.

Everybody began to get tired and peevish. Fuselli wondered where his old friends of the other company were. They were good kids too, Chris and that educated fellow, Andrews. Tough luck they couldn't have come along.

The sun rose higher. Men sneaked into the barracks one by one and lay down on the bare cots.

"What you want to bet we won't leave this camp for a week yet?" asked someone.

At noon they lined up for mess again, ate dismally and hurriedly. As Fuselli was leaving the mess hall tapping a tattoo on his kit with two dirty finger nails, the corporal spoke to him in a low voice.

"Be sure to wash yer kit, buddy. We may have pack inspection."

The corporal was a slim yellow-faced man with a wrinkled skin, though he was still young, and an arrow-shaped mouth that opened and shut like the paper mouths children make.

"All right, corporal," Fuselli answered cheerfully. He wanted to make a good impression. "Fellers'll be sayin' 'All right, corporal,' to me soon," he thought. An idea that he repelled came into his mind. The corporal didn't look strong. He wouldn't last long overseas. And he pictured Mabe writing Corporal Dan Fuselli, O.A.R.D.5.

At the end of the afternoon, the lieutenant appeared suddenly, his face flushed, his trench coat stiffer than ever.

"All right, sergeant; line up your men," he said in a breathless voice.

All down the camp street companies were forming. One by one they marched out in columns of fours and halted with their packs on. The day was getting amber with sunset. Retreat sounded.

Fuselli's mind had suddenly become very active. The notes of the bugle and of the band playing "The Star Spangled Banner" sifted into his consciousness through a dream of what it would be like over there. He was in a place like the Exposition ground, full of old men and women in peasant costume, like in the song, "When It's Apple Blossom Time in Normandy." Men in spiked helmets who looked like firemen kept charging through, like the Ku-Klux Klan in the movies, jumping from their horses and setting fire to buildings with strange outlandish gestures, spitting babies on their long swords. Those were the Huns. Then there were flags blowing very hard in the wind, and the sound of a band. The Yanks were coming. Everything was lost in a scene from a movie in which khaki-clad regiments marched fast, fast across the scene. The memory of the shouting that always accompanied it drowned out the picture. "The guns must make a racket, though," he added as an after-thought.

"Atten-shun!

"Forwa-ard, march!"

The long street of the camp was full of the tramping of feet. They were off. As they passed through the gate Fuselli caught a glimpse of Chris standing with his arm about Andrews's shoulders. They both waved. Fuselli grinned and expanded his chest. They were just rookies still. He was going overseas.

The weight of the pack tugged at his shoulders and made his feet heavy as if they were charged with lead. The sweat ran down his close-clipped head under the overseas cap and streamed into his eyes and down the sides of his nose. Through the tramp of feet he heard confusedly cheering from the sidewalk. In front of him the backs of heads and the swaying packs got smaller, rank by rank up the street. Above them flags dangled from windows, flags leisurely swaying in the twilight. But the weight of the pack, as the column marched under arc lights glaring through the afterglow, inevitably forced his head to droop forward. The soles of boots and legs wrapped in puttees and the bottom strap of the pack of the man ahead of him were all he could see. The pack seemed heavy enough to push him through the asphalt pavement. And all about him was the faint jingle of equipment and the tramp of feet. Every part of him was full of sweat. He could feel vaguely the steam of sweat that rose from the ranks of struggling bodies about him. But gradually he forgot everything but the pack tugging at his shoulders, weighing down his thighs and ankles and feet, and the monotonous rhythm of his feet striking the pavement and of the other feet, in front of him, behind him, beside him, crunching, crunching.

The train smelt of new uniforms on which the sweat had dried, and of the smoke of cheap cigarettes. Fuselli awoke with a start. He had been asleep with his head on Bill Grey's shoulder. It was already broad daylight. The train was jolting slowly over cross-tracks in some dismal suburb, full of long soot-smeared warehouses and endless rows of freight cars, beyond which lay brown marshland and slate-grey stretches of water.

"God! that must be the Atlantic Ocean," cried Fuselli in excitement.

"Ain't yer never seen it before? That's the Perth River," said Bill Grey scornfully.

"No, I come from the Coast."

They stuck their heads out of the window side by side so that their cheeks touched.

"Gee, there's some skirts," said Bill Grey. The train jolted to a stop. Two untidy red-haired girls were standing beside the track waving their hands.

"Give us a kiss," cried Bill Grey.

"Sure," said a girl,-"anythin' fer one of our boys."

She stood on tiptoe and Grey leaned far out of the window, just managing to reach the girl's forehead.

Fuselli felt a flush of desire all over him.

"Hol' onter my belt," he said. "I'll kiss her right."

He leaned far out, and, throwing his arms around the girl's pink gingham shoulders, lifted her off the ground and kissed her furiously on the lips.

"Lemme go, lemme go," cried the girl. Men leaning out of the other windows of the car cheered and shouted.

Fuselli kissed her again and then dropped her.

"Ye're too rough, damn ye," said the girl angrily.

A man from one of the windows yelled, "I'll go an' tell mommer"; and everybody laughed. The train moved on. Fuselli looked about him proudly. The image of Mabe giving him the five-pound box of candy rose a moment in his mind.

"Ain't no harm in havin' a little fun. Don't mean nothin'," he said aloud.

"You just wait till we hit France. We'll hit it up some with the Madimerzels, won't we, kid?" said Bill Grey, slapping Fuselli on the knee.

"Beautiful Katy,

Ki-Ki-Katy,

You're the only gugugu-girl that I adore;

And when the mo-moon shines

Over the cowshed,

I'll be waiting at the ki-ki-ki-kitchen door."

Everybody sang as the thumping of wheels over rails grew faster. Fuselli looked about contentedly at the company sprawling over their packs and equipment in the smoky car.

"It's great to be a soldier," he said to Bill Grey. "Ye kin do anything ye goddam please."

"This," said the corporal, as the company filed into barracks identical to those they had left two days before, "is an embarkation camp, but I'd like to know where the hell we embark at." He twisted his face into a smile, and then shouted with lugubrious intonation: "Fall in for mess."

It was pitch dark in that part of the camp. The electric lights had a sparse reddish glow. Fuselli kept straining his eyes, expecting to see a wharf and the masts of a ship at the end of every alley. The line filed into a dim mess hall, where a thin stew was splashed into the mess kits. Behind the counter of the kitchen the non-coms, the jovial first sergeant, and the businesslike sergeant who looked like a preacher, and the wrinkled-faced corporal who had been on the Red Sox outfield, could be seen eating steak. A faint odor of steak frying went through the mess hall and made the thin chilly stew utterly tasteless in comparison.

Fuselli looked enviously towards the kitchen and thought of the day when he would be a non-com too. "I got to get busy," he said to himself earnestly. Overseas, under fire, he'd have a chance to show what he was worth; and he pictured himself heroically carrying a wounded captain back to a dressing tent, pursued by fierce-whiskered men with spiked helmets like firemen's helmets.

The strumming of a guitar came strangely down the dark street of the camp.

"Some guy sure can play," said Bill Grey who, with his hands in his pockets, slouched along beside Fuselli.

They looked in the door of one of the barracks. A lot of soldiers were sitting in a ring round two tall negroes whose black faces and chests glistened like jet in the faint light.

"Come on, Charley, give us another," said someone.

"Do Ah git it now, or mus' Ah hesit-ate?"

One negro began chanting while the other strummed carelessly on the guitar.

"No, give us the 'Titanic.'"

The guitar strummed in a crooning rag-time for a moment. The negro's voice broke into it suddenly, pitched high.

"Dis is de song ob de Titanic, Sailin' on de sea."

The guitar strummed on. There had been a tension in the negro's voice that had made everyone stop talking. The soldiers looked at him curiously.

"How de Titanic ran in dat cole iceberg,

How de Titanic ran in dat cole iceberg

Sailin' on de sea."

His voice was confidential and soft, and the guitar strummed to the same sobbing rag-time. Verse after verse the voice grew louder and the strumming faster.

"De Titanic's sinkin' in de deep blue,

Sinkin' in de deep blue, deep blue,

Sinkin' in de sea.

O de women an' de chilen a-floatin' in de sea,

O de women an' de chilen a-floatin' in de sea,

Roun' dat cole iceberg,

Sung 'Nearer, my gawd, to Thee,'

Sung 'Nearer, my gawd, to Thee,

Nearer to Thee.'"

The guitar was strumming the hymn-tune. The negro was singing with every cord in his throat taut, almost sobbing.

A man next to Fuselli took careful aim and spat into the box of sawdust in the middle of the ring of motionless soldiers.

The guitar played the rag-time again, fast, almost mockingly. The negro sang in low confidential tones.

"O de women an' de chilen dey sank in de sea.

O de women an' de chilen dey sank in de sea,

Roun' dat cole iceberg."

Before he had finished a bugle blew in the distance. Everybody scattered.

Fuselli and Bill Grey went silently back to their barracks.

"It must be an awful thing to drown in the sea," said Grey as he rolled himself in his blankets. "If one of those bastard U-boats..."

"I don't give a damn," said Fuselli boisterously; but as he lay staring into the darkness, cold terror stiffened him suddenly. He thought for a moment of deserting, pretending he was sick, anything to keep from going on the transport.

"O de women an' de chilen dey sank in de sea,

Roun" dat cole iceberg."

He could feel himself going down through icy water. "It's a hell of a thing to send a guy over there to drown," he said to himself, and he thought of the hilly streets of San Francisco, and the glow of the sunset over the harbor and ships coming in through the Golden Gate. His mind went gradually blank and he went to sleep.

The column was like some curious khaki-colored carpet, hiding the road as far as you could see. In Fuselli's company the men were shifting their weight from one foot to the other, muttering, "What the hell a' they waiting for now?" Bill Grey, next to Fuselli in the ranks, stood bent double so as to take the weight of his pack off his shoulders. They were at a cross-roads on fairly high ground so that they could see the long sheds and barracks of the camp stretching away in every direction, in rows and rows, broken now and then by a grey drill field. In front of them the column stretched to the last bend in the road, where it disappeared on a hill among mustard-yellow suburban houses.

Fuselli was excited. He kept thinking of the night before, when he had helped the sergeant distribute emergency rations, and had carried about piles of boxes of hard bread, counting them carefully without a mistake. He felt full of desire to do things, to show what he was good for. "Gee," he said to himself, "this war's a lucky thing for me. I might have been in the R.C. Vicker Company's store for five years an' never got a raise, an' here in the army I got a chance to do almost anything."

Far ahead down the road the column was beginning to move. Voices shouting orders beat crisply on the morning air. Fuselli's heart was thumping. He felt proud of himself and of the company-the damn best company in the whole outfit. The company ahead was moving, it was their turn now.

"Forwa-ard, march!"

They were lost in the monotonous tramp of feet. Dust rose from the road, along which like a drab brown worm crawled the column.

A sickening unfamiliar smell choked their nostrils.

"What are they taking us down here for?"

"Damned if I know."

They were filing down ladders into the terrifying pit which the hold of the ship seemed to them. Every man had a blue card in his hand with a number on it. In a dim place like an empty warehouse they stopped. The sergeant shouted out:

"I guess this is our diggings. We'll have to make the best of it." Then he disappeared.

Fuselli looked about him. He was sitting in one of the lowest of three tiers of bunks roughly built of new pine boards. Electric lights placed here and there gave a faint reddish tone to the gloom, except at the ladders, where high-power lamps made a white glare. The place was full of tramping of feet and the sound of packs being thrown on bunks as endless files of soldiers poured in down every ladder. Somewhere down the alley an officer with a shrill voice was shouting to his men: "Speed it up there; speed it up there." Fuselli sat on his bunk looking at the terrifying confusion all about, feeling bewildered and humiliated. For how many days would they be in that dark pit? He suddenly felt angry. They had no right to treat a feller like that. He was a man, not a bale of hay to be bundled about as anybody liked.

"An' if we're torpedoed a fat chance we'll have down here," he said aloud.

"They got sentries posted to keep us from goin up on deck," said someone.

"God damn them. They treat you like you was a steer being taken over for meat."

"Well, you're not a damn sight more. Meat for the guns."

A little man lying in one of the upper bunks had spoken suddenly, contracting his sallow face into a curious spasm, as if the words had burst from him in spite of an effort to keep them in.

Everybody looked up at him angrily.

"That goddam kike Eisenstein," muttered someone.

"Say, tie that bull outside," shouted Bill Grey good-naturedly.

"Fools," muttered Eisenstein, turning over and burying his face in his hands.

"Gee, I wonder what it is makes it smell so funny down here," said Fuselli.

Fuselli lay flat on deck resting his head on his crossed arms. When he looked straight up he could see a lead-colored mast sweep back and forth across the sky full of clouds of light grey and silver and dark purplish-grey showing yellowish at the edges. When he tilted his head a little to one side he could see Bill Grey's heavy colorless face and the dark bristles of his unshaven chin and his mouth a little twisted to the left, from which a cigarette dangled unlighted. Beyond were heads and bodies huddled together in a mass of khaki overcoats and life preservers. And when the roll tipped the deck he had a view of moving green waves and of a steamer striped grey and white, and the horizon, a dark taut line, broken here and there by the tops of waves.

"O God, I feel sick," said Bill Grey, taking the cigarette out of his mouth and looking at it revengefully.

"I'd be all right if everything didn't stink so. An' that mess hall. Nearly makes a guy puke to think of it." Fuselli spoke in a whining voice, watching the top of the mast move like a pencil scrawling on paper, back and forth across the mottled clouds.

"You belly-achin' again?" A brown moon-shaped face with thick black eyebrows and hair curling crisply about a forehead with many horizontal wrinkles rose from the deck on the other side of Fuselli.

"Get the hell out of here."

"Feel sick, sonny?" came the deep voice again, and the dark eyebrows contracted in an expression of sympathy. "Funny, I'd have my sixshooter out if I was home and you told me to get the hell out, sonny."

"Well, who wouldn't be sore when they have to go on K.P.?" said Fuselli peevishly.

"I ain't been down to mess in three days. A feller who lives on the plains like I do ought to take to the sea like a duck, but it don't seem to suit me."

"God, they're a sick lookin' bunch I have to sling the hash to," said Fuselli more cheerfully. "I don't know how they get that way. The fellers in our company ain't that way. They look like they was askeered somebody was going to hit 'em. Ever noticed that, Meadville?"

"Well, what d'ye expect of you guys who live in the city all your lives and don't know the butt from the barrel of a gun an' never straddled anything more like a horse than a broomstick. Ye're juss made to be sheep. No wonder they have to herd you round like calves." Meadville got to his feet and went unsteadily to the rail, keeping, as he threaded his way through the groups that covered the transport's after deck, a little of his cowboy's bow-legged stride.

"I know what it is that makes men's eyes blink when they go down to that putrid mess," came a nasal voice.

Fuselli turned round.

Eisenstein was sitting in the place Meadville had just left.

"You do, do you?"

"It's part of the system. You've got to turn men into beasts before ye can get 'em to act that way. Ever read Tolstoi?"

"No. Say, you want to be careful how you go talkin' around the way you do." Fuselli lowered his voice confidentially. "I heard of a feller bein' shot at Camp Merritt for talkin' around."

"I don't care.... I'm a desperate man," said Eisenstein.

"Don't ye feel sick? Gawd, I do.... Did you get rid o' any of it, Meadville?"

"Why don't they fight their ole war somewhere a man can get to on a horse?... Say that's my seat."

"The place was empty.... I sat down in it," said Eisenstein, lowering his head sullenly.

"You kin have three winks to get out o' my place," said Meadville, squaring his broad shoulders.

"You are stronger than me," said Eisenstein, moving off.

"God, it's hell not to have a gun," muttered Meadville as he settled himself on the deck again. "D'ye know, sonny, I nearly cried when I found I was going to be in this damn medical corps? I enlisted for the tanks. This is the first time in my life I haven't had a gun. I even think I had one in my cradle."

"That's funny," said Fuselli.

The sergeant appeared suddenly in the middle of the group, his face red.

"Say, fellers," he said in a low voice, "go down an' straighten out the bunks as fast as you goddam can. They're having an inspection. It's a hell of a note."

They all filed down the gang planks into the foul-smelling hold, where there was no light but the invariable reddish glow of electric bulbs. They had hardly reached their bunks when someone called, "Attention!"

Three officers stalked by, their firm important tread a little disturbed by the rolling. Their heads were stuck forward and they peered from side to side among the bunks with the cruel, searching glance of hens looking for worms.

"Fuselli," said the first sergeant, "bring up the record book to my stateroom; 213 on the lower deck."

"All right, Sarge," said Fuselli with alacrity. He admired the first sergeant and wished he could imitate his jovial, domineering manner.

It was the first time he had been in the upper part of the ship. It seemed a different world. The long corridors with red carpets, the white paint and the gilt mouldings on the partitions, the officers strolling about at their ease-it all made him think of the big liners he used to watch come in through the Golden Gate, the liners he was going to Europe on some day, when he got rich. Oh, if he could only get to be a sergeant first-class, all this comfort and magnificence would be his. He found the number and knocked on the door. Laughter and loud talking came from inside the stateroom.

"Wait a sec!" came an unfamiliar voice.

"Sergeant Olster here?"

"Oh, it's one o' my gang," came the sergeant's voice. "Let him in. He won't peach on us."

The door opened and he saw Sergeant Olster and two other young men sitting with their feet dangling over the red varnished boards that enclosed the bunks. They were talking gaily, and had glasses in their hands.

"Paris is some town, I can tell you," one was saying. "They say the girls come up an' put their arms round you right in the main street."

"Here's the records, sergeant," said Fuselli stiffly in his best military manner.

"Oh thanks.... There's nothing else I want," said the sergeant, his voice more jovial than ever. "Don't fall overboard like the guy in Company C."

Fuselli laughed as he closed the door, growing serious suddenly on noticing that one of the young men wore in his shirt the gold bar of a second lieutenant.

"Gee," he said to himself. "I ought to have saluted."

He waited a moment outside the closed door of the stateroom, listening to the talk and the laughter, wishing he were one of that merry group talking about women in Paris. He began thinking. Sure he'd get private first-class as soon as they got overseas. Then in a couple of months he might be corporal. If they saw much service, he'd move along all right, once he got to be a non-com.

"Oh, I mustn't get in wrong. Oh, I mustn't get in wrong," he kept saying to himself as he went down the ladder into the hold. But he forgot everything in the seasickness that came on again as he breathed in the fetid air.

The deck now slanted down in front of him, now rose so that he was walking up an incline. Dirty water slushed about from one side of the passage to the other with every lurch of the ship. When he reached the door the whistling howl of the wind through the hinges and cracks made Fuselli hesitate a long time with his hand on the knob. The moment he turned the knob the door flew open and he was in the full sweep of the wind. The deck was deserted. The wet ropes strung along it shivered dismally in the wind. Every other moment came the rattle of spray, that rose up in white fringy trees to windward and smashed against him like hail. Without closing the door he crept forward along the deck, clinging as hard as he could to the icy rope. Beyond the spray he could see huge marbled green waves rise in constant succession out of the mist. The roar of the wind in his ears confused him and terrified him. It seemed ages before he reached the door of the forward house that opened on a passage that smelt of drugs; and breathed out air, where men waited in a packed line, thrown one against the other by the lurching of the boat, to get into the dispensary. The roar of the wind came to them faintly, and only now and then the hollow thump of a wave against the bow.

"You sick?" a man asked Fuselli.

"Naw, I'm not sick; but Sarge sent me to get some stuff for some guys that's too sick to move."

"An awful lot o' sickness on this boat."

"Two fellers died this mornin' in that there room," said another man solemnly, pointing over his shoulder with a jerk of the thumb. "Ain't buried 'em yet. It's too rough."

"What'd they die of?" asked Fuselli eagerly.

"Spinal somethin'...."

"Menegitis," broke in a man at the end of the line.

"Say, that's awful catchin' ain't it?"

"It sure is."

"Where does it hit yer?" asked Fuselli.

"Yer neck swells up, an' then you juss go stiff all over," came the man's voice from the end of the line.

There was a silence. From the direction of the infirmary a man with a packet of medicines in his hand began making his way towards the door.

"Many guys in there?" asked Fuselli in a low voice as the man brushed past him.

When the door closed again the man beside Fuselli, who was tall and broad shouldered with heavy black eyebrows, burst out, as if he were saying something he'd been trying to keep from saying for a long while:

"It won't be right if that sickness gets me; indeed it won't.... I've got a girl waitin' for me at home. It's two years since I ain't touched a woman all on account of her. It ain't natural for a fellow to go so long as that.

"Why didn't you marry her before you left?" somebody asked mockingly.

"Said she didn't want to be no war bride, that she could wait for me better if I didn't."

Several men laughed.

"It wouldn't be right if I took sick an' died of this sickness, after keepin' myself clean on account of that girl.... It wouldn't be right," the man muttered again to Fuselli.

Fuselli was picturing himself lying in his bunk with a swollen neck, while his arms and legs stiffened, stiffened.

A red-faced man half way up the passage started speaking:

"When I thinks to myself how much the folks need me home, it makes me feel sort o' confident-like, I dunno why. I juss can't cash in my checks, that's all." He laughed jovially.

No one joined in the laugh.

"Is it awfully catchin'?" asked Fuselli of the man next him.

"Most catchin' thing there is," he answered solemnly. "The worst of it is," another man was muttering in a shrill hysterical voice, "bein' thrown over to the sharks. Gee, they ain't got a right to do that, even if it is war time, they ain't got a right to treat a Christian like he was a dead dawg."

"They got a right to do anythin' they goddam please, buddy. Who's goin' to stop 'em I'd like to know," cried the red-faced man.

"If he was an awficer, they wouldn't throw him over like that," came the shrill hysterical voice again.

"Cut that," said someone else, "no use gettin' in wrong juss for the sake of talkin'."

"But ain't it dangerous, waitin' round up here so near where those fellers are with that sickness," whispered Fuselli to the man next him.

"Reckon it is, buddy," came the other man's voice dully.

Fuselli started making his way toward the door.

"Lemme out, fellers, I've got to puke," he said. "Shoot," he was thinking, "I'll tell 'em the place was closed; they'll never come to look."

As he opened the door he thought of himself crawling back to his bunk and feeling his neck swell and his hands burn with fever and his arms and legs stiffen until everything would be effaced in the blackness of death. But the roar of the wind and the lash of the spray as he staggered back along the deck drowned all other thought.

Fuselli and another man carried the dripping garbage-can up the ladder that led up from the mess hall. It smelt of rancid grease and coffee grounds and greasy juice trickled over their fingers as they struggled with it. At last they burst out on to the deck where a free wind blew out of the black night. They staggered unsteadily to the rail and emptied the pail into the darkness. The splash was lost in the sound of the waves and of churned water fleeing along the sides. Fuselli leaned over the rail and looked down at the faint phosphorescence that was the only light in the whole black gulf. He had never seen such darkness before. He clutched hold of the rail with both hands, feeling lost and terrified in the blackness, in the roaring of the wind in his ears and the sound of churned wate

r fleeing astern. The alternative was the stench of below decks.

"I'll bring down the rosie, don't you bother," he said to the other man, kicking the can that gave out a ringing sound as he spoke.

He strained his eyes to make out something. The darkness seemed to press in upon his eyeballs, blinding him. Suddenly he noticed voices near him. Two men were talking.

"I ain't never seen the sea before this, I didn't know it was like this."

"We're in the zone, now."

"That means we may go down any minute."

"Yare."

"Christ, how black it is.... It'ld be awful to drown in the dark like this."

"It'ld be over soon."

"Say, Fred, have you ever been so skeered that...?"

"D'you feel a-skeert?"

"Feel my hand, Fred.... No.... There it is. God, it's so hellish black you can't see yer own hand."

"It's cold. Why are you shiverin' so? God, I wish I had a drink."

"I ain't never seen the sea before...I didn't know..."

Fuselli heard distinctly the man's teeth chattering in the darkness.

"God, pull yerself together, kid. You can't be skeered like this."

"O God."

There was a long pause. Fuselli heard nothing but the churned water speeding along the ship's side and the wind roaring in his ears.

"I ain't never seen the sea before this time, Fred, an' it sort o' gits my goat, all this sickness an' all.... They dropped three of 'em overboard yesterday."

"Hell, kid, don't think of it."

"Say, Fred, if I... if I... if you're saved, Fred, an' not me, you'll write to my folks, won't you?"

"Indeed I will. But I reckon you an' me'll both go down together."

"Don't say that. An' you won't forget to write that girl I gave you the address of?"

"You'll do the same for me."

"Oh, no, Fred, I'll never see land.... Oh, it's no use. An' I feel so well an' husky.... I don't want to die. I can't die like this."

"If it only wasn't so goddam black."

PART TWO: THE METAL COOLS I

It was purplish dusk outside the window. The rain fell steadily making long flashing stripes on the cracked panes, beating a hard monotonous tattoo on the tin roof overhead. Fuselli had taken off his wet slicker and stood in front of the window looking out dismally at the rain. Behind him was the smoking stove into which a man was poking wood, and beyond that a few broken folding chairs on which soldiers sprawled in attitudes of utter boredom, and the counter where the "Y" man stood with a set smile doling out chocolate to a line of men that filed past.

"Gee, you have to line up for everything here, don't you?" Fuselli muttered.

"That's about all you do do in this hell-hole, buddy," said a man beside him.

The man pointed with his thumb at the window and said again:

"See that rain? Well, I been in this camp three weeks and it ain't stopped rainin' once. What d'yer think of that fer a country?"

"It certainly ain't like home," said Fuselli. "I'm going to have some chauclate."

"It's damn rotten."

"I might as well try it once."

Fuselli slouched over to the end of the line and stood waiting his turn. He was thinking of the steep streets of San Francisco and the glimpses he used to get of the harbor full of yellow lights, the color of amber in a cigarette holder, as he went home from work through the blue dusk. He had begun to think of Mabe handing him the five-pound box of candy when his attention was distracted by the talk of the men behind him. The man next to him was speaking with hurried nervous intonation. Fuselli could feel his breath on the back of his neck.

"I'll be goddamned," the man said, "was you there too? Where d'you get yours?"

"In the leg; it's about all right, though."

"I ain't. I won't never be all right. The doctor says I'm all right now, but I know I'm not, the lyin' fool."

"Some time, wasn't it?"

"I'll be damned to hell if I do it again. I can't sleep at night thinkin' of the shape of the Fritzies' helmets. Have you ever thought that there was somethin' about the shape of them goddam helmets...?"

"Ain't they just or'nary shapes?" asked Fuselli, half turning round. "I seen 'em in the movies." He laughed apologetically.

"Listen to the rookie, Tub, he's seen 'em in the movies!" said the man with the nervous twitch in his voice, laughing a croaking little laugh. "How long you been in this country, buddy?"

"Two days."

"Well, we only been here two months, ain't we, Tub?"

"Four months; you're forgettin', kid."

The "Y" man turned his set smile on Fuselli while he filled his tin cup up with chocolate.

"How much?"

"A franc; one of those looks like a quarter," said the "Y" man, his well-fed voice full of amiable condescension.

"That's a hell of a lot for a cup of chauclate," said Fuselli.

"You're at the war, young man, remember that," said the "Y" man severely. "You're lucky to get it at all."

A cold chill gripped Fuselli's spine as he went back to the stove to drink the chocolate. Of course he mustn't crab. He was in the war now. If the sergeant had heard him crabbing, it might have spoiled his chances for a corporalship. He must be careful. If he just watched out and kept on his toes, he'd be sure to get it.

"And why ain't there no more chocolate, I want to know?" the nervous voice of the man who had stood in line behind Fuselli rose to a sudden shriek. Everybody looked round. The "Y" man was moving his head from side to side in a flustered way, saying in a shrill little voice:

"I've told you there's no more. Go away!"

"You ain't got no right to tell me to go away. You got to get me some chocolate. You ain't never been at the front, you goddam slacker." The man was yelling at the top of his lungs. He had hold of the counter with two hands and swayed from side to side. His friend was trying to pull him away.

"Look here, none of that, I'll report you," said the "Y" man. "Is there a non-commissioned officer in the hut?"

"Go ahead, you can't do nothin'. I can't never have nothing done worse than what's been done to me already." The man's voice had reached a sing-song fury.

"Is there a non-commissioned officer in the room?" The "Y" man kept looking from side to side. His little eyes were hard and spiteful and his lips were drawn up in a thin straight line.

"Keep quiet, I'll get him away," said the other man in a low voice. "Can't you see he's not...?"

A strange terror took hold of Fuselli. He hadn't expected things to be like that. When he had sat in the grandstand in the training camp and watched the jolly soldiers in khaki marching into towns, pursuing terrified Huns across potato fields, saving Belgian milk-maids against picturesque backgrounds.

"Does many of 'em come back that way?" he asked a man beside him.

"Some do. It's this convalescent camp." The man and his friend stood side by side near the stove talking in low voices.

"Pull yourself together, kid," the friend was saying.

"All right, Tub; I'm all right now, Tub. That slacker got my goat, that was all."

Fuselli was looking at him curiously. He had a yellow parchment face and a high, gaunt forehead going up to sparse, curly brown hair. His eyes had a glassy look about them when they met Fuselli's. He smiled amiably.

"Oh, there's the kid who's seen Fritzies' helmets in the movies.... Come on, buddy, come and have a beer at the English canteen."

"Can you get beer?"

"Sure, over in the English camp." They went out into the slanting rain. It was nearly dark, but the sky had a purplish-red color that was reflected a little on the slanting sides of tents and on the roofs of the rows of sheds that disappeared into the rainy mist in every direction. A few lights gleamed, a very bright polished yellow. They followed a board-walk that splashed mud up from the puddles under the tramp of their heavy boots.

At one place they flattened themselves against the wet flap of a tent and saluted as an officer passed waving a little cane jauntily.

"How long does a fellow usually stay in these rest camps?" asked Fuselli.

"Depends on what's goin' on out there," said Tub, pointing carelessly to the sky beyond the peaks of the tents.

"You'll leave here soon enough. Don't you worry, buddy," said the man with the nervous voice. "What you in?"

"Medical Replacement Unit."

"A medic are you? Those boys didn't last long at the Chateau, did they, Tub?"

"No, they didn't."

Something inside Fuselli was protesting; "I'll last out though. I'll last out though."

"Do you remember the fellers went out to get poor ole Corporal Jones, Tub? I'll be goddamned if anybody ever found a button of their pants." He laughed his creaky little laugh. "They got in the way of a torpedo."

The "wet" canteen was full of smoke and a cosy steam of beer. It was crowded with red-faced men, with shiny brass buttons on their khaki uniforms, among whom was a good sprinkling of lanky Americans.

"Tommies," said Fuselli to himself.

After standing in line a while, Fuselli's cup was handed back to him across the counter, foaming with beer.

"Hello, Fuselli," Meadville clapped him on the shoulder. "You found the liquor pretty damn quick, looks like to me."

Fuselli laughed.

"May I sit with you fellers?"

"Sure, come along," said Fuselli proudly, "these guys have been to the front."

"You have?" asked Meadville. "The Huns are pretty good scrappers, they say. Tell me, do you use your rifle much, or is it mostly big gun work?"

"Naw; after all the months I spent learnin' how to drill with my goddam rifle, I'll be a sucker if I've used it once. I'm in the grenade squad."

Someone at the end of the room had started singing:

"O Mademerselle from Armenteers, Parley voo!"

The man with the nervous voice went on talking, while the song roared about them.

"I don't spend a night without thinkin' o' them funny helmets the Fritzies wear. Have you ever thought that there was something goddam funny about the shape o' them helmets?"

"Can the helmets, kid," said his friend. "You told us all about them onct."

"I ain't told you why I can't forgit 'em, have I?"

"A German officer crossed the Rhine;

Parley voo?

A German officer crossed the Rhine;

He loved the women and liked the wine;

Hanky Panky, parley voo.... "

"Listen to this, fellers," said the man in his twitching nervous voice, staring straight into Fuselli's eyes. "We made a little attack to straighten out our trenches a bit just before I got winged. Our barrage cut off a bit of Fritzie's trench an' we ran right ahead juss about dawn an' occupied it. I'll be goddamned if it wasn't as quiet as a Sunday morning at home."

"It was!" said his friend.

"An' I had a bunch of grenades an' a feller came runnin' up to me, whisperin', 'There's a bunch of Fritzies playin' cards in a dugout. They don't seem to know they're captured. We'd better take 'em pris'ners!"

"'Pris'ners, hell,' says I, 'We'll go and clear the buggars out.' So we crept along to the steps and looked down.... "

The song had started again:

"O Mademerselle from Armenteers,

Parley voo?

"Their helmets looked so damn like toadstools I came near laughin'. An' they sat round the lamp layin' down the cards serious-like, the way I've seen Germans do in the Rathskeller at home."

"He loved the women and liked the wine,

Parley voo?

"I lay there lookin' at 'em for a hell of a time, an' then I clicked a grenade an' tossed it gently down the steps. An' all those funny helmets like toadstools popped up in the air an' somebody gave a yell an' the light went out an' the damn grenade went off. Then I let 'em have the rest of 'em an' went away 'cause one o' 'em was still moanin'-like. It was about that time they let their barrage down on us and I got mine."

"The Yanks are havin' a hell of a time,

Parley voo?

"An' the first thing I thought of when I woke up was how those goddam helmets looked. It upsets a feller to think of a thing like that." His voice ended in a whine like the broken voice of a child that has been beaten.

"You need to pull yourself together, kid," said his friend.

"I know what I need, Tub. I need a woman."

"You know where you get one?" asked Meadville. "I'd like to get me a nice little French girl a rainy night like this."

"It must be a hell of a ways to the town.... They say it's full of M. P.'s too," said Fuselli.

"I know a way," said the man with the nervous voice, "Come on; Tub."

"No, I've had enough of these goddam frog women."

They all left the canteen.

As the two men went off down the side of the building, Fuselli heard the nervous twitching voice through the metallic patter of the rain:

"I can't find no way of forgettin' how funny the helmets looked all round the lamp... I can't find no way.... "

Bill Grey and Fuselli pooled their blankets and slept together. They lay on the hard floor of the tent very close to each other, listening to the rain pattering endlessly on the drenched canvas that slanted above their heads.

"Hell, Bill, I'm gettin' pneumonia," said Fuselli, clearing his nose.

"That's the only thing that scares me in the whole goddam business. I'd hate to die o' sickness... an' they say another kid's kicked off with that-what d'they call it?-menegitis."

"Was that what was the matter with Stein?"

"The corporal won't say."

"Ole Corp. looks sort o' sick himself," said Fuselli.

"It's this rotten climate" whispered Bill Grey, in the middle of a fit of coughing.

"For cat's sake quit that coughin'. Let a feller sleep," came a voice from the other side of the tent.

"Go an' get a room in a hotel if you don't like it."

"That's it, Bill, tell him where to get off."

"If you fellers don't quit yellin', I'll put the whole blame lot of you on K. P.," came the sergeant's good-natured voice.

"Don't you know that taps has blown?"

The tent was silent except for the fast patter of the rain and Bill Grey's coughing.

"That sergeant gives me a pain in the neck," muttered Bill Grey peevishly, when his coughing had stopped, wriggling about under the blankets.

After a while Fuselli said in a very low voice, so that no one but his friend should hear:

"Say, Bill, ain't it different from what we thought it was going to be?"

"Yare."

"I mean fellers don't seem to think about beatin' the Huns at all, they're so busy crabbin' on everything."

"It's the guys higher up that does the thinkin'," said Grey grandiloquently.

"Hell, but I thought it'd be excitin' like in the movies."

"I guess that was a lot o' talk."

"Maybe."

Fuselli went to sleep on the hard floor, feeling the comfortable warmth of Grey's body along the side of him, hearing the endless, monotonous patter of the rain on the drenched canvas above his head. He tried to stay awake a minute to remember what Mabe looked like, but sleep closed down on him suddenly.

The bugle wrenched them out of their blankets before it was light. It was not raining. The air was raw and full of white mist that was cold as snow against their faces still warm from sleep. The corporal called the roll, lighting matches to read the list. When he dismissed the formation the sergeant's voice was heard from the tent, where he still lay rolled in his blankets.

"Say, Corp, go an' tell Fuselli to straighten out Lieutenant Stanford's room at eight sharp in Officers' Barracks, Number Four."

"Did you hear, Fuselli?"

"All right," said Fuselli. His blood boiled up suddenly. This was the first time he'd had to do servants' work. He hadn't joined the army to be a slavey to any damned first loot. It was against army regulations anyway. He'd go and kick. He wasn't going to be a slavey.... He walked towards the door of the tent, thinking what he'd say to the sergeant. But he noticed the corporal coughing into his handkerchief with an expression of pain on his face. He turned and strolled away. It would get him in wrong if he started kicking like that. Much better shut his mouth and put up with it. The poor old corp couldn't last long at this rate. No, it wouldn't do to get in wrong.

At eight, Fuselli, with a broom in his hand, feeling dull fury pounding and fluttering within him, knocked on the unpainted board door.

"Who's that?"

"To clean the room, sir," said Fuselli. "Come back in about twenty minutes," came the voice of the lieutenant.

"All right, sir."

Fuselli leaned against the back of the barracks and smoked a cigarette. The air stung his hands as if they had been scraped by a nutmeg-grater. Twenty minutes passed slowly. Despair seized hold of him. He was so far from anyone who cared about him, so lost in the vast machine. He was telling himself that he'd never get on, would never get up where he could show what he was good for. He felt as if he were in a treadmill. Day after day it would be like this,-the same routine, the same helplessness. He looked at his watch. Twenty-five minutes had passed. He picked up his broom and moved round to the lieutenant's room.

"Come in," said the lieutenant carelessly. He was in his shirtsleeves, shaving. A pleasant smell of shaving soap filled the dark clapboard room, which had no furniture but three cots and some officers' trunks. He was a red-faced young man with flabby cheeks and dark straight eyebrows. He had taken command of the company only a day or two before.

"Looks like a decent feller," thought Fuselli.

"What's your name?" asked the lieutenant, speaking into the small nickel mirror, while he ran the safety razor obliquely across his throat. He stuttered a little. To Fuselli he seemed to speak like an Englishman.

"Fuselli."

"Italian parentage, I presume?"

"Yes," said Fuselli sullenly, dragging one of the cots away from the wall.

"Parla Italiano?"

"You mean, do I speak Eyetalian? Naw, sir," said Fuselli emphatically, "I was born in Frisco."

"Indeed? But get me some more water, will you, please?"

When Fuselli came back, he stood with his broom between his knees, blowing on his hands that were blue and stiff from carrying the heavy bucket. The lieutenant was dressed and was hooking the top hook of the uniform carefully. The collar made a red mark on his pink throat.

"All right; when you're through, report back to the Company." The lieutenant went out, drawing on a pair of khaki-colored gloves with a satisfied and important gesture.

Fuselli walked back slowly to the tents where the Company was quartered, looking about him at the long lines of barracks, gaunt and dripping in the mist, at the big tin sheds of the cook shacks where the cooks and K. P.'s in greasy blue denims were slouching about amid a steam of cooking food.

Something of the gesture with which the lieutenant drew on his gloves caught in the mind of Fuselli. He had seen peoople make gestures like that in the movies, stout dignified people in evening suits. The president of the Company that owned the optical goods store, where he had worked, at home in Frisco, had had something of that gesture about him.

And he pictured himself drawing on a pair of gloves that way, importantly, finger by finger, with a little wave, of self-satisfaction when the gesture was completed.... He'd have to get that corporalship.

"There's a long, long trail a-winding Through no man's land in France."

The company sang lustily as it splashed through the mud down a grey road between high fences covered with great tangles of barbed wire, above which peeked the ends of warehouses and the chimneys of factories.

The lieutenant and the top sergeant walked side by side chatting, now and then singing a little of the song in a deprecating way. The corporal sang, his eyes sparkling with delight. Even the sombre sergeant who rarely spoke to anyone, sang. The company strode along, its ninety-six legs splashing jauntily through the deep putty-colored puddles. The packs swayed merrily from side to side as if it were they and not the legs that were walking.

"There's a long, long trail a-winding Through no man's land in France."

At last they were going somewhere. They had separated from the contingent they had come over with. They were all alone now. They were going to be put to work. The lieutenant strode along importantly. The sergeant strode along importantly. The corporal strode along importantly. The right guard strode along more importantly than anyone. A sense of importance, of something tremendous to do, animated the company like wine, made the packs and the belts seem less heavy, made their necks and shoulders less stiff from struggling with the weight of the packs, made the ninety-six legs tramp jauntily in spite of the oozy mud and the deep putty-colored puddles.

It was cold in the dark shed of the freight station where they waited. Some gas lamps flickered feebly high up among the rafters, lighting up in a ghastly way white piles of ammunition boxes and ranks and ranks of shells that disappeared in the darkness. The raw air was full of coal smoke and a smell of freshly-cut boards. The captain and the top sergeant had disappeared. The men sat about, huddled in groups, sinking as far as they could into their overcoats, stamping their numb wet feet on the mud-covered cement of the floor. The sliding doors were shut. Through them came a monotonous sound of cars shunting, of buffers bumping against buffers, and now and then the shrill whistle of an engine.

"Hell, the French railroads are rotten," said someone.

"How d'you know?" snapped Eisenstein, who sat on a box away from the rest with his lean face in his hands staring at his mud-covered boots.

"Look at this," Bill Grey made a disgusted gesture towards the ceiling. "Gas. Don't even have electric light."

"Their trains run faster than ours," said Eisenstein.

"The hell they do. Why, a fellow back in that rest camp told me that it took four or five days to get anywhere."

"He was stuffing you," said Eisenstein. "They used to run the fastest trains in the world in France."

"Not so fast as the 'Twentieth Century.' Goddam, I'm a railroad man and I know."

"I want five men to help me sort out the eats," said the top sergeant, coming suddenly out of the shadows. "Fuselli, Grey, Eisenstein, Meadville, Williams... all right, come along."

"Say, Sarge, this guy says that frog trains are faster than our trains. What d'ye think o' that?"

The sergeant put on his comic expression. Everybody got ready to laugh.

"Well, if he'd rather take the side-door Pullmans we're going to get aboard tonight than the 'Sunset Limited,' he's welcome. I've seen 'em. You fellers haven't."

Everybody laughed. The top sergeant turned confidentially to the five men who followed him into a small well-lighted room that looked like a freight office.

"We've got to sort out the grub, fellers. See those cases? That's three days' rations for the outfit. I want to sort it into three lots, one for each car. Understand?"

Fuselli pulled open one of the boxes. The cans of bully beef flew under his fingers. He kept looking out of the corner of his eye at Eisenstein, who seemed very skilful in a careless way. The top sergeant stood beaming at them with his legs wide apart. Once he said something in a low voice to the corporal. Fuselli thought he caught the words: "privates first-class," and his heart started thumping hard. In a few minutes the job was done, and everybody stood about lighting cigarettes.

"Well, fellers," said Sergeant Jones, the sombre man who rarely spoke, "I certainly didn't reckon when I used to be teachin' and preachin' and tendin' Sunday School and the like that I'd come to be usin' cuss words, but I think we got a damn good company."

"Oh, we'll have you sayin' worse things than 'damn' when we get you out on the front with a goddam German aeroplane droppin' bombs on you," said the top sergeant, slapping him on the back. "Now, I want you five men to look out for the grub." Fuselli's chest swelled. "The company'll be in charge of the corporal for the night. Sergeant Jones and I have got to be with the lieutenant, understand?"

They all walked back to the dingy room where the rest of the company waited huddled in their coats, trying to keep their importance from being too obvious in their step.

"I've really started now," thought Fuselli to himself. "I've really started now."

The bare freight car clattered and rumbled monotonously over the rails. A bitter cold wind blew up through the cracks in the grimy splintered boards of the floor. The men huddled in the corners of the car, curled up together like puppies in a box. It was pitch black. Fuselli lay half asleep, his head full of curious fragmentary dreams, feeling through his sleep the aching cold and the unending clattering rumble of the wheels and the bodies and arms and legs muffled in coats and blankets pressing against him. He woke up with a start. His teeth were chattering. The clanking rumble of wheels seemed to be in his head. His head was being dragged along, bumping over cold iron rails. Someone lighted a match. The freight car's black swaying walls, the packs piled in the center, the bodies heaped in the corners where, out of khaki masses here and there gleamed an occasional white face or a pair of eyes-all showed clear for a moment and then vanished again in the utter blackness. Fuselli pillowed his head in the crook of someone's arm and tried to go to sleep, but the scraping rumble of wheels over rails was too loud; he stayed with open eyes staring into the blackness, trying to draw his body away from the blast of cold air that blew up through a crack in the floor.

When the first greyness began filtering into the car, they all stood up and stamped and pounded each other and wrestled to get warm.

When it was nearly light, the train stopped and they opened the sliding doors. They were in a station, a foreign-looking station where the walls were plastered with unfamiliar advertisements. "V-E-R-S-A-I-L-L-E-S"; Fuselli spelt out the name.

"Versales," said Eisenstein. "That's where the kings of France used to live."

The train started moving again slowly. On the platform stood the top sergeant.

"How d'ye sleep," he shouted as the car passed him. "Say, Fuselli, better start some grub going."

"All right, Sarge," said Fuselli.

The sergeant ran back to the front of the car and climbed on. With a delicious feeling of leadership, Fuselli divided up the bread and the cans of bully beef and the cheese. Then he sat on his pack eating dry bread and unsavoury beef, whistling joyfully, while the train rumbled and clattered along through a strange, misty-green countryside,-whistling joyfully because he was going to the front, where there would be glory and excitement, whistling joyfully because he felt he was getting along in the world.

It was noon. A pallid little sun like a toy balloon hung low in the reddish-grey sky. The train had stopped on a siding in the middle of a russet plain. Yellow poplars, faint as mist, rose slender against the sky along a black shining stream that swirled beside the track. In the distance a steeple and a few red roofs were etched faintly in the greyness.

The men stood about balancing first on one foot and then on the other, stamping to get warm. On the other side of the river an old man with an oxcart had stopped and was looking sadly at the train.

"Say, where's the front?" somebody shouted to him.

Everybody took up the cry; "Say, where's the front?"

The old man waved his hand, shook his head and shouted to the oxen. The oxen took up again their quiet processional gait and the old man walked ahead of them, his eyes on the ground.

"Say, ain't the frogs dumb?"

"Say, Dan," said Bill Grey, strolling away from a group of men he had been talking to. "These guys say we are going to the Third Army."

"Say, fellers," shouted Fuselli. "They say we're going to the Third Army."

"Where's that?"

"In the Oregon forest," ventured somebody.

"That's at the front, ain't it?"

At that moment the lieutenant strode by. A long khaki muffler was thrown carelessly round his neck and hung down his back.

"Look here, men," he said severely, "the orders are to stay in the cars."

The men slunk back into the cars sullenly.

A hospital train passed, clanking slowly over the cross-tracks. Fuselli looked fixedly at the dark enigmatic windows, at the red crosses, at the orderlies in white who leaned out of the doors, waving their hands. Somebody noticed that there were scars on the new green paint of the last car.

"The Huns have been shooting at it."

"D'ye hear that? The Huns tried to shoot up that hospital train."

Fuselli remembered the pamphlet "German Atrocities" he had read one night in the Y. M. C. A. His mind became suddenly filled with pictures of children with their arms cut off, of babies spitted on bayonets, of women strapped on tables and violated by soldier after soldier. He thought of Mabe. He wished he were in a combatant service; he wanted to fight, fight. He pictured himself shooting dozens of men in green uniforms, and he thought of Mabe reading about it in the papers. He'd have to try to get into a combatant service. No, he couldn't stay in the medics.

The train had started again. Misty russet fields slipped by and dark clumps of trees that gyrated slowly waving branches of yellow and brown leaves and patches of black lace-work against the reddish-grey sky. Fuselli was thinking of the good chance he had of getting to be corporal.

At night. A dim-lighted station platform. The company waited in two lines, each man sitting on his pack. On the opposite platform crowds of little men in blue with mustaches and long, soiled overcoats that reached almost to their feet were shouting and singing. Fuselli watched them with a faint disgust.

"Gee, they got funny lookin' helmets, ain't they?"

"They're the best fighters in the world," said Eisenstein, "not that that's sayin' much about a man."

"Say, that's an M. P.," said Bill Grey, catching Fuselli's arm. "Let's go ask him how near the front we are. I thought I heard guns a minute ago."

"Did you? I guess we're in for it now," said Fuselli. "Say, buddy, how near the front are we?" they spoke together excitedly.

"The front?" said the M. P., who was a red-faced Irishman with a crushed nose. "You're 'way back in the middle of France." The M. P. spat disgustedly. "You fellers ain't never goin' to the front, don't you worry."

"Hell!" said Fuselli.

"I'll be goddamned if I don't get there somehow," said Bill Grey, squaring his jaw.

A fine rain was falling on the unprotected platform. On the other side the little men in blue were singing a song Fuselli could not understand, drinking out of their ungainly-looking canteens.

Fuselli announced the news to the company. Everybody clustered round him cursing. But the faint sense of importance it gave him did not compensate for the feeling he had of being lost in the machine, of being as helpless as a sheep in a flock. Hours passed. They stamped about the platform in the fine rain or sat in a row on their packs, waiting for orders. A grey belt appeared behind the trees. The platform began to take on a silvery gleam. They sat in a row on their packs, waiting.

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