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   Chapter 6 No.6

Three Soldiers By John Dos Passos Characters: 30746

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

The oatmeal flopped heavily into the mess-kit. Fuselli's eyes were still glued together with sleep. He sat at the dark greasy bench and took a gulp of the scalding coffee that smelt vaguely of dish rags. That woke him up a little. There was little talk in the mess shack. The men, that the bugle had wrenched out of their blankets but fifteen minutes before, sat in rows, eating sullenly or blinking at each other through the misty darkness. You could hear feet scraping in the ashes of the floor and mess kits clattering against the tables and here and there a man coughing. Near the counter where the food was served out one of the cooks swore interminably in a whiny sing-sing voice.

"Gee, Bill, I've got a head," said Fuselli.

"Ye're ought to have," growled Bill Grey. "I had to carry you up into the barracks. You said you were goin' back and love up that goddam girl."

"Did I?" said Fuselli, giggling.

"I had a hell of a time getting you past the guard."

"Some cognac!... I got a hangover now," said Fuselli.

"I'm goddamned if I can go this much longer."


They were washing their mess-kits in the tub of warm water thick with grease from the hundred mess-kits that had gone before, in front of the shack. An electric light illumined faintly the wet trunk of a plane tree and the surface of the water where bits of oatmeal floated and coffee grounds,-and the garbage pails with their painted signs: WET GARBAGE, DRY GARBAGE; and the line of men who stood waiting to reach the tub.

"This hell of a life!" said Bill Grey, savagely.

"What d'ye mean?"

"Doin' nothin' but pack bandages in packin' cases and take bandages out of packin' cases. I'll go crazy. I've tried gettin' drunk; it don't do no good."

"Gee; I've got a head," said Fuselli.

Bill Grey put his heavy muscular hand round Fuselli's shoulder as they strolled towards the barracks.

"Say, Dan, I'm goin' A. W. O. L."

"Don't ye do it, Bill. Hell, look at the chance we've got to get ahead. We can both of us get promoted if we don't get in wrong."

"I don't give a hoot in hell for all that.... What d'ye think I got in this goddamed army for? Because I thought I'd look nice in the uniform?"

Bill Grey thrust his hands into his pockets and spat dismally in front of him.

"But, Bill, you don't want to stay a buck private, do you?"

"I want to get to the front.... I don't want to stay here till I get in the jug for being spiffed or get a court-martial.... Say, Dan, will you come with me?"

"Hell, Bill, you ain't goin'. You're just kiddin', ain't yer? They'll send us there soon enough. I want to get to be a corporal,"-he puffed out his chest a little-"before I go to the front, so's to be able to show what I'm good for. See, Bill?"

A bugle blew.

"There's fatigue, an' I ain't done my bunk."

"Me neither.... They won't do nothin', Dan.... Don't let them ride yer, Dan."

They lined up in the dark road feeling the mud slopping under their feet. The ruts were full of black water, in which gleamed a reflection of distant electric lights.

"All you fellows work in Storehouse A today," said the sergeant, who had been a preacher, in his sad, drawling voice. "Lieutenant says that's all got to be finished by noon. They're sending it to the front today."

Somebody let his breath out in a whistle of surprise.

"Who did that?"

Nobody answered.

"Dismissed!" snapped the sergeant disgustedly.

They straggled off into the darkness towards one of the lights, their feet splashing confusedly in the puddles.

Fuselli strolled up to the sentry at the camp gate. He was picking his teeth meditatively with the splinter of a pine board.

"Say, Phil, you couldn't lend me a half a dollar, could you?" Fuselli stopped, put his hands in his pockets and looked at the sentry with the splinter sticking out of a corner of his mouth.

"Sorry, Dan," said the other man; "I'm cleaned out. Ain't had a cent since New Year's."

"Why the hell don't they pay us?"

"You guys signed the pay roll yet?"

"Sure. So long!"

Fuselli strolled on down the dark road, where the mud was frozen into deep ruts, towards the town. It was still strange to him, this town of little houses faced with cracked stucco, where the damp made grey stains and green stains, of confused red-tiled roofs, and of narrow cobbled streets that zigzagged in and out among high walls overhung with balconies. At night, when it was dark except for where a lamp in a window spilt gold reflections out on the wet street or the light streamed out from a store or a cafe, it was almost frighteningly unreal. He walked down into the main square, where he could hear the fountain gurgling. In the middle he stopped indecisively, his coat unbuttoned, his hands pushed to the bottom of his trousers pockets, where they encountered nothing but the cloth. He listened a long time to the gurgling of the fountain and to the shunting of trains far away in the freight yards. "An' this is the war," he thought. "Ain't it queer? It's quieter than it was at home nights." Down the street at the end of the square a band of white light appeared, the searchlight of a staff car. The two eyes of the car stared straight into his eyes, dazzling him, then veered off to one side and whizzed past, leaving a faint smell of gasoline and a sound of voices. Fuselli watched the fronts of houses light up as the car made its way to the main road. Then the town was dark and silent again.

He strolled across the square towards the Cheval Blanc, the large cafe where the officers went.

"Button yer coat," came a gruff voice. He saw a stiff tall figure at the edge of the curve. He made out the shape of the pistol holster that hung like a thin ham at the man's thigh. An M. P. He buttoned his coat hurriedly and walked off with rapid steps.

He stopped outside a cafe that had "Ham and Eggs" written in white paint on the window and looked in wistfully. Someone from behind him put two big hands over his eyes. He wriggled his head free.

"Hello, Dan," he said. "How did you get out of the jug?"

"I'm a trusty, kid," said Dan Cohan. "Got any dough?"

"Not a damn cent!"

"Me neither.... Come on in anyway," said Cohan. "I'll fix it up with Marie." Fuselli followed doubtfully. He was a little afraid of Dan Cohan; he remembered how a man had been court-martialed last week for trying to bolt out of a cafe without paying for his drinks.

He sat down at a table near the door. Dan had disappeared into the back room. Fuselli felt homesick. He was thinking how long it was since, he had had a letter from Mabe. "I bet she's got another feller," he told himself savagely. He tried to remember how she looked, but he had to take out his watch and peep in the back before he could make out if her nose were straight or snub. He looked up, clicking the watch in his pocket. Marie of the white arms was coming laughing out of the inner room. Her large firm breasts, neatly held in by the close-fitting blouse, shook a little when she laughed. Her cheeks were very red and a strand of chestnut hair hung down along her neck. She picked it up hurriedly and caught it up with a hairpin, walking slowly into the middle of the room as she did so with her hands behind her head. Dan Cohan followed her into the room, a broad grin on his face.

"All right, kid," he said. "I told her you'ld pay when Uncle Sam came across. Ever had any Kummel?"

"What the hell's that?"

"You'll see."

They sat down before a dish of fried eggs at the table in the corner, the favoured table, where Marie herself often sat and chatted, when wizened Madame did not have her eye upon her.

Several men drew up their chairs. Wild Dan Cohan always had an audience.

"Looks like there was going to be another offensive at Verdun," said Dan Cohan. Someone answered vaguely.

"Funny how little we know about what's going on out there," said one man. "I knew more about the war when I was home in Minneapolis than I do here."

"I guess we're lightin' into 'em all right," said Fuselli in a patriotic voice.

"Hell! Nothin' doin' this time o' year anyway," said Cohan. A grin spread across his red face. "Last time I was at the front the Boche had just made a coup de main and captured a whole trenchful."

"Of who?"

"Of Americans-of us!"

"The hell you say!"

"That's a goddam lie," shouted a black-haired man with an ill-shaven jaw, who had just come in. "There ain't never been an American captured, an' there never will be, by God!"

"How long were you at the front, buddy," asked Cohan coolly. "I guess you been to Berlin already, ain't yer?"

"I say that any man who says an American'ld let himself be captured by a stinkin' Hun, is a goddam liar," said the man with the ill-shaven jaw, sitting down sullenly.

"Well, you'd better not say it to me," said Cohan laughing, looking meditatively at one of his big red fists.

There had been a look of apprehension on Marie's face. She looked at Cohan's fist and shrugged her shoulders and laughed.

Another crowd had just slouched into the cafe.

"Well if that isn't wild Dan! Hello, old kid, how are you?"

"Hello, Dook!"

A small man in a coat that looked almost like an officer's coat, it was so well cut, was shaking hands effusively with Cohan. He wore a corporal's stripes and a British aviator's fatigue cap. Cohan made room for him on the bench.

"What are you doing in this hole, Dook?" The man twisted his mouth so that his neat black mustache was a slant.

"G. O. 42," he said.

"Battle of Paris?" said Cohan in a sympathetic voice. "Battle of Nice! I'm going back to my section soon. I'd never have got a court-martial if I'd been with my outfit. I was in the Base Hospital 15 with pneumonia."

"Tough luck!"

"It was a hell of a note."

"Say, Dook, your outfit was working with ours at Chamfort that time, wasn't it?"

"You mean when we evacuated the nut hospital?"

"Yes, wasn't that hell?" Dan Cohan gulped down half a glass of red wine, smacked his thick lips, and began in his story-telling voice:

"Our section had just come out of Verdun where we'd been getting hell for three weeks on the Bras road. There was one little hill where we'd have to get out and shove every damn time, the mud was so deep, and God, it stank there with the shells turning up the ground all full of mackabbies as the poilus call them.... Say, Dook, have you got any money?"

"I've got some," said Dook, without enthusiasm.

"Well, the champagne's damn good here. I'm part of the outfit in this gin mill; they'll give it to you at a reduction."

"All right!"

Dan Cohan turned round and whispered something to Marie. She laughed and dived down behind the curtain.

"But that Chamfort was worse yet. Everybody was sort o' nervous because the Germans had dropped a message sayin' they'd give 'em three days to clear the hospital out, and that then they'd shell hell out of the place."

"The Germans done that! Quit yer kiddin'," said Fuselli.

"They did it at Souilly, too," said Dook. "Hell, yes.... A funny thing happened there. The hospital was in a big rambling house, looked like an Atlantic City hotel.... We used to run our car in back and sleep in it. It was where we took the shell-shock cases, fellows who were roarin' mad, and tremblin' all over, and some of 'em paralysed like.... There was a man in the wing opposite where we slept who kept laugh-in'. Bill Rees was on the car with me, and we laid in our blankets in the bottom of the car and every now and then one of us'ld turn over and whisper: 'Ain't this hell, kid?' 'cause that feller kept laughin' like a man who had just heard a joke that was so funny he couldn't stop laughin'. It wasn't like a crazy man's laugh usually is. When I first heard it I thought it was a man really laughin', and I guess I laughed too. But it didn't stop.... Bill Rees an' me laid in our car shiverin', listenin' to the barrage in the distance with now and then the big noise of an aeroplane bomb, an' that feller laughin', laughin', like he'd just heard a joke, like something had struck him funny." Cohan took a gulp of champagne and jerked his head to one side. "An that damn laughin' kept up until about noon the next day when the orderlies strangled the feller.... Got their goat, I guess."

Fuselli was looking towards the other side of the room, where a faint murmur of righteous indignation was rising from the dark man with the unshaven jaw and his companions. Fuselli was thinking that it wasn't good to be seen round too much with a fellow like Cohan, who talked about the Germans notifying hospitals before they bombarded them and who was waiting for a court-martial. Might get him in wrong. He slipped out of the cafe into the dark. A dank wind blew down the irregular street, ruffling the reflected light in the puddles, making a shutter bang interminably somewhere. Fuselli went to the main square again, casting an envious glance in the window of the Cheval Blanc, where he saw officers playing billiards in a well-lighted room painted white and gold, and a blond girl in a raspberry-colored shirtwaist enthroned haughtily behind the bar. He remembered the M. P. and automatically hastened his steps. In a narrow street the other side of the square he stopped before the window of a small grocery shop and peered inside, keeping carefully out of the oblong of light that showed faintly the grass-grown cobbles and the green and grey walls opposite. A girl sat knitting beside the small counter with her two little black feet placed demurely side by side on the edge of a box full of red beets. She was very small and slender. The lamplight gleamed on her black hair, done close to her head. Her face was in the shadow. Several soldiers lounged awkwardly against the counter and the jambs of the door, following her movements with their eyes as dogs watch a plate of meat being moved about in a kitchen.

After a little the girl rolled up her knitting and jumped to her feet, showing her face,-an oval white face with large dark lashes and an impertinent mouth. She stood looking at the soldiers who stood about her in a circle, then twisted up her mouth in a grimace and disappeared into the inner room.

Fuselli walked to the end of the street where there was a bridge over a small stream. He leaned on the cold stone rail and looked into the water that was barely visible gurgling beneath between rims of ice.

"O this is a hell of a life," he muttered.

He shivered in the cold wind but remained leaning over the water. In the distance trains rumbled interminably, giving him a sense of vast desolate distances. The village clock struck eight. The bell had a soft note like the bass string of a guitar. In the darkness Fuselli could almost see the girl's face grimacing with its broad impertinent lips. He thought of the sombre barracks and men sitting about on the end of their cots. Hell, he couldn't go back yet. His whole body was taut with desire for warmth and softness and quiet. He slouched back along the narrow street cursing in a dismal monotone. Before the grocery store he stopped. The men had gone. He went in jauntily pushing his cap a little to one side so that some of his thick curly hair came out over his forehead. The little bell in the door clanged.

The girl came out of the inne

r room. She gave him her hand indifferently.

"Comment ca va! Yvonne? Bon?"

His pidgin-French made her show her little pearly teeth in a smile.

"Good," she said in English.

They laughed childishly.

"Say, will you be my girl, Yvonne?"

She looked in his eyes and laughed.

"Non compris," she said.

"We, we; voulez vous et' ma fille?"

She shrieked with laughter and slapped him hard on the cheek. "Venez," she said, still laughing. He followed her. In the inner room was a large oak table with chairs round it. At the end Eisenstein and a French soldier were talking excitedly, so absorbed in what they were saying that they did not notice the other two. Yvonne took the Frenchman by the hair and pulled his head back and told him, still laughing, what Fuselli had said. He laughed.

"No, you must not say that," he said in English, turning to Fuselli.

Fuselli was angry and sat down sullenly at the end of the table, keeping his eyes on Yvonne. She drew the knitting out of the pocket of her apron and holding it up comically between two fingers, glanced towards the dark corner of the room where an old woman with a lace cap on her head sat asleep, and then let herself fall into a chair.

"Boom!" she said.

Fuselli laughed until the tears filled his eyes. She laughed too. They sat a long while looking at each other and giggling, while Eisenstein and the Frenchman talked. Suddenly Fuselli caught a phrase that startled him.

"What would you Americans do if revolution broke out in France?"

"We'd do what we were ordered to," said Eisenstein bitterly. "We're a bunch of slaves." Fuselli noticed that Eisenstein's puffy sallow face was flushed and that there was a flash in his eyes he had never seen before.

"How do you mean, revolution?" asked Fuselli in a puzzled voice.

The Frenchman turned black eyes searchingly upon him.

"I mean, stop the butchery,-overthrow the capitalist government.-The social revolution."

"But you're a republic already, ain't yer?"

"As much as you are."

"You talk like a socialist," said Fuselli. "They tell me they shoot guys in America for talkin' like that."

"You see!" said Eisenstein to the Frenchman.

"Are they all like that?"

"Except a very few. It's hopeless," said Eisenstein, burying his face in his hands. "I often think of shooting myself."

"Better shoot someone else," said the Frenchman. "It will be more useful."

Fuselli stirred uneasily in his chair.

"Where'd you fellers get that stuff anyway?" he asked. In his mind he was saying: "A kike and a frog, that's a good combination."

His eye caught Yvonne's and they both laughed, Yvonne threw her knitting ball at him. It rolled down under the table and they both scrambled about under the chairs looking for it.

"Twice I have thought it was going to happen," said the Frenchman.

"When was that?"

"A little while ago a division started marching on Paris.... And when I was in Verdun.... O there will be a revolution.... France is the country of revolutions."

"We'll always be here to shoot you down," said Eisenstein.

"Wait till you've been in the war a little while. A winter in the trenches will make any army ready for revolution."

"But we have no way of learning the truth. And in the tyranny of the army a man becomes a brute, a piece of machinery. Remember you are freer than we are. We are worse than the Russians!"

"It is curious!... O but you must have some feeling of civilization. I have always heard that Americans were free and independent. Will they let themselves be driven to the slaughter always?"

"O I don't know." Eisenstein got to his feet. "We'd better be getting to barracks. Coming, Fuselli?" he said.

"Guess so," said Fuselli indifferently, without getting up.

Eisenstein and the Frenchman went out into the shop.

"Bon swar," said Fuselli, softly, leaning across the table. "Hey, girlie?"

He threw himself on his belly on the wide table and put his arms round her neck and kissed her, feeling everything go blank in a flame of desire.

She pushed him away calmly with strong little arms.

"Stop!" she said, and jerked her head in the direction of the old woman in the chair in the dark corner of the room. They stood side by side listening to her faint wheezy snoring. He put his arms round her and kissed her long on the mouth.

"Demain," he said.

She nodded her head.

Fuselli walked fast up the dark street towards the camp. The blood pounded happily through his veins. He caught up with Eisenstein.

"Say, Eisenstein," he said in a comradely voice, "I don't think you ought to go talking round like that. You'll get yourself in too deep one of these days."

"I don't care!"

"But, hell, man, you don't want to get in the wrong that bad. They shoot fellers for less than you said."

"Let them."

"Christ, man, you don't want to be a damn fool," expostulated Fuselli.

"How old are you, Fuselli?"

"I'm twenty now."

"I'm thirty. I've lived more, kid. I know what's good and what's bad. This butchery makes me unhappy."

"God, I know. It's a hell of a note. But who brought it on? If somebody had shot that Kaiser."

Eisenstein laughed bitterly. At the entrance of camp Fuselli lingered a moment watching the small form of Eisenstein disappear with its curious waddly walk into the darkness.

"I'm going to be damn careful who I'm seen goin' into barracks with," he said to himself. "That damn kike may be a German spy or a secret-service officer." A cold chill of terror went over him, shattering his mood of joyous self-satisfaction. His feet slopped in the puddles, breaking through the thin ice, as he walked up the road towards the barracks. He felt as if people were watching him from everywhere out of the darkness, as if some gigantic figure were driving him forward through the darkness, holding a fist over his head, ready to crush him.

When he was rolled up in his blankets in the bunk next to Bill Grey, he whispered to his friend:

"Say, Bill, I think I've got a skirt all fixed up in town."


"Yvonne-don't tell anybody."

Bill Grey whistled softly.

"You're some highflyer, Dan."

Fuselli chuckled.

"Hell, man, the best ain't good enough for me."

"Well, I'm going to leave you," said Bill Grey.


"Damn soon. I can't go this life. I don't see how you can."

Fuselli did not answer. He snuggled warmly into his blankets, thinking of Yvonne and the corporalship.

In the light of the one flickering lamp that made an unsteady circle of reddish glow on the station platform Fuselli looked at his pass. From Reveille on February fourth to Reveille on February fifth he was a free man. His eyes smarted with sleep as he walked up and down the cold station platform. For twenty-four hours he wouldn't have to obey anybody's orders. Despite the loneliness of going away on a train in a night like this in a strange country Fuselli was happy. He clinked the money in his pocket.

Down the track a red eye appeared and grew nearer. He could hear the hard puffing of the engine up the grade. Huge curves gleamed as the engine roared slowly past him. A man with bare arms black with coal dust was leaning out of the cab, lit up from behind by a yellowish red glare. Now the cars were going by, flat cars with guns, tilted up like the muzzles of hunting dogs, freight cars out of which here and there peered a man's head. The train almost came to a stop. The cars clanged one against the other all down the train. Fuselli was looking into a pair of eyes that shone in the lamplight; a hand was held out to him.

"So long, kid," said a boyish voice. "I don't know who the hell you are, but so long; good luck."

"So long," stammered Fuselli. "Going to the front?"

"Yer goddam right," answered another voice.

The train took up speed again; the clanging of car against car ceased and in a moment they were moving fast before Fuselli's eyes. Then the station was dark and empty again, and he was watching the red light grow smaller and paler while the train rumbled on into the darkness.

A confusion of gold and green and crimson silks and intricate designs of naked pink-fleshed cupids filled Fuselli's mind, when, full of wonder, he walked down the steps of the palace out into the faint ruddy sunlight of the afternoon. A few names, Napoleon, Josephine, the Empire, that had never had significance in his mind before, flared with a lurid gorgeous light in his imagination like a tableau of living statues at a vaudeville theatre.

"They must have had a heap of money, them guys," said the man who was with him, a private in Aviation. "Let's go have a drink."

Fuselli was silent and absorbed in his thoughts. Here was something that supplemented his visions of wealth and glory that he used to tell Al about, when they'd sit and watch the big liners come in, all glittering with lights, through the Golden Gate.

"They didn't mind having naked women about, did they?" said the private in Aviation, a morose foul-mouthed little man who had been in the woolen business. "D'ye blame them?"

"No, I can't say's I do.... I bet they was immoral, them guys," he continued vaguely.

They wandered about the streets of Fontainebleau listlessly, looking into shop windows, staring at women, lolling on benches in the parks where the faint sunlight came through a lacework of twigs purple and crimson and yellow, that cast intricate lavender-grey shadows on the asphalt.

"Let's go have another drink," said the private in Aviation.

Fuselli looked at his watch; they had hours before train time.

A girl in a loose dirty blouse wiped off the table.

"Vin blank," said the other man.

"Mame shows," said Fuselli.

His head was full of gold and green mouldings and silk and crimson velvet and intricate designs in which naked pink-fleshed cupids writhed indecently. Some day, he was saying to himself, he'd make a hell of a lot of money and live in a house like that with Mabe; no, with Yvonne, or with some other girl.

"Must have been immoral, them guys," said the private in Aviation, leering at the girl in the dirty blouse.

Fuselli remembered a revel he'd seen in a moving picture of "Quo Vadis," people in bath robes dancing around with large cups in their hands and tables full of dishes being upset.

"Cognac, beaucoup," said the private in Aviation.

"Mame shows," said Fuselli.

The cafe was full of gold and green silks, and great brocaded beds with heavy carvings above them, beds in which writhed, pink-fleshed and indecent, intricate patterns of cupids.

Somebody said, "Hello, Fuselli."

He was on the train; his ears hummed and his head had an iron band round it. It was dark except for the little light that flickered in the ceiling. For a minute he thought it was a goldfish in a bowl, but it was a light that flickered in the ceiling.

"Hello, Fuselli," said Eisenstein. "Feel all right?"

"Sure," said Fuselli with a thick voice. "Why shouldn't I?"

"How did you find that house?" said Eisenstein seriously.

"Hell, I don't know," muttered Fuselli. "I'm goin' to sleep."

His mind was a jumble. He remembered vast halls full of green and gold silks, and great beds with crowns over them where Napoleon and Josephine used to sleep. Who were they? O yes, the Empire,-or was it the Abdication? Then there were patterns of flowers and fruits and cupids, all gilded, and a dark passage and stairs that smelt musty, where he and the man in Aviation fell down. He remembered how it felt to rub his nose hard on the gritty red plush carpet of the stairs. Then there were women in open-work skirts standing about, or were those the pictures on the walls? And there was a bed with mirrors round it. He opened his eyes. Eisenstein was talking to him. He must have been talking to him for some time.

"I look at it this way," he was saying. "A feller needs a little of that to keep healthy. Now, if he's abstemious and careful..."

Fuselli went to sleep. He woke up again thinking suddenly: he must borrow that little blue book of army regulations. It would be useful to know that in case something came up. The corporal who had been in the Red Sox outfield had been transferred to a Base Hospital. It was t. b. so Sergeant Osier said. Anyway they were going to appoint an acting corporal. He stared at the flickering little light in the ceiling.

"How did you get a pass?" Eisenstein was asking.

"Oh, the sergeant fixed me up with one," answered Fuselli mysteriously.

"You're in pretty good with the sergeant, ain't yer?" said Eisenstein.

Fuselli smiled deprecatingly.

"Say, d'ye know that little kid Stockton?"

"The white-faced little kid who's clerk in that outfit that has the other end of the barracks?"

"That's him," said Eisenstein. "I wish I could do something to help that kid. He just can't stand the discipline.... You ought to see him wince when the red-haired sergeant over there yells at him.... The kid looks sicker every day."

"Well, he's got a good soft job: clerk," said Fuselli.

"Ye think it's soft? I worked twelve hours day before yesterday getting out reports," said Eisenstein, indignantly. "But the kid's lost it and they keep ridin' him for some reason or other. It hurts a feller to see that. He ought to be at home at school."

"He's got to take his medicine," said Fuselli.

"You wait till we get butchered in the trenches. We'll see how you like your medicine," said Eisenstein.

"Damn fool," muttered Fuselli, composing himself to sleep again.

The bugle wrenched Fuselli out of his blankets, half dead with sleep.

"Say, Bill, I got a head again," he muttered. There was no answer. It was only then that he noticed that the cot next to his was empty. The blankets were folded neatly at the foot. Sudden panic seized him. He couldn't get along without Bill Grey, he said to himself, he wouldn't have anyone to go round with. He looked fixedly at the empty cot.


The company was lined up in the dark with their feet in the mud puddles of the road. The lieutenant strode up and down in front of them with the tail of his trench coat sticking out behind. He had a pocket flashlight that he kept flashing at the gaunt trunks of trees, in the faces of the company, at his feet, in the puddles of the road.

"If any man knows anything about the whereabouts of Private 1st-class William Grey, report at once, as otherwise we shall have to put him down A. W. O. L. You know what that means?" The lieutenant spoke in short shrill periods, chopping off the ends of his words as if with a hatchet.

No one said anything.

"I guess he's S. O. L."; this from someone behind Fuselli.

"And I have one more announcement to make, men," said the lieutenant in his natural voice. "I'm going to appoint Fuselli, 1st-class private, acting corporal."

Fuselli's knees were weak under him. He felt like shouting and dancing with joy. He was glad it was dark so that no one could see how excited he was.

"Sergeant, dismiss the company," said the lieutenant bringing his voice back to its military tone.

"Companee dis-missed!" said out the sergeant jovially.

In groups, talking with crisp voices, cheered by the occurrence of events, the company straggled across the great stretch of mud puddles towards the mess shack.

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