They crossed the bridge towards the portico of the Chamber of Deputies with its high pediment and its grey columns. Down the river they could see faintly the Eiffel Tower with a drift of mist athwart it, like a section of spider web spun between the city and the clouds.
"Do we have to go to see these people, Aubrey?"
"Yes, you can't back out now. Genevieve Rod wants to know about American music."
"But what on earth can I tell her about American music?"
"Wasn't there a man named MacDowell who went mad or something?" Andrews laughed.
"But you know I haven't any social graces.... I suppose I'll have to say I think Foch is a little tin god."
"You needn't say anything if you don't want to.... They're very advanced, anyway."
They were going up a brown-carpeted stair that had engravings on the landings, where there was a faint smell of stale food and dustpans. At the top landing Aubrey rang the bell at a varnished door. In a moment a girl opened it. She had a cigarette in her hand, her face was pale under a mass of reddish-chestnut hair, her eyes very large, a pale brown, as large as the eyes of women in those paintings of Artemisias and Berenikes found in tombs in the Fayum. She wore a plain black dress.
"Enfin!" she said, and held out her hand to Aubrey.
"There's my friend Andrews."
She held out her hand to him absently, still looking at Aubrey.
"Does he speak French?... Good.... This way." They went into a large room with a piano where an elderly woman, with grey hair and yellow teeth and the same large eyes as her daughter, stood before the fireplace.
"Maman...enfin ils arrivent, ces messieurs."
"Genevieve was afraid you weren't coming," Mme. Rod said to Andrews, smiling. "Monsieur Aubrey gave us such a picture of your playing that we have been excited all day.... We adore music."
"I wish I could do something more to the point with it than adore it," said Genevieve Rod hastily, then she went on with a laugh: "But I forget..... Monsieur Andreffs.... Monsieur Ronsard." She made a gesture with her hand from Andrews to a young Frenchman in a cut-away coat, with small mustaches and a very tight vest, who bowed towards Andrews.
"Now we'll have tea," said Genevieve Rod. "Everybody talks sense until they've had tea.... It's only after tea that anyone is ever amusing." She pulled open some curtains that covered the door into the adjoining room.
"I understand why Sarah Bernhardt is so fond of curtains," she said. "They give an air of drama to existence.... There is nothing more heroic than curtains."
She sat at the head of an oak table where were china platters with vari-colored pastries, an old pewter kettle under which an alcohol lamp burned, a Dresden china teapot in pale yellows and greens, and cups and saucers and plates with a double-headed eagle design in dull vermilion. "Tout ca," said Genevieve, waving her hand across the table, "c'est Boche.... But we haven't any others, so they'll have to do."
The older woman, who sat beside her, whispered something in her ear and laughed.
Genevieve put on a pair of tortoise-shell spectacles and starting pouring out tea.
"Debussy once drank out of that cup..... It's cracked," she said, handing a cup to John Andrews. "Do you know anything of Moussorgski's you can play to us after tea?"
"I can't play anything any more.... Ask me three months from now."
"Oh, yes; but nobody expects you to do any tricks with it. You can certainly make it intelligible. That's all I want."
"I have my doubts."
Andrews sipped his tea slowly, looking now and then at Genevieve Rod who had suddenly begun talking very fast to Ronsard. She held a cigarette between the fingers of a long thin hand. Her large pale-brown eyes kept their startled look of having just opened on the world; a little smile appeared and disappeared maliciously in the curve of her cheek away from her small firm lips. The older woman beside her kept looking round the table with a jolly air of hospitality, and showing her yellow teeth in a smile.
Afterwards they went back to the sitting room and Andrews sat down at the piano. The girl sat very straight on a little chair beside the piano. Andrews ran his fingers up and down the keys.
"Did you say you knew Debussy?" he said suddenly. "I? No; but he used to come to see my father when I was a little girl.... I have been brought up in the middle of music.... That shows how silly it is to be a woman. There is no music in my head. Of course I am sensitive to it, but so are the tables and chairs in this apartment, after all they've heard."
Andrews started playing Schumann. He stopped suddenly.
"Can you sing?" he said.
"I'd like to do the Proses Lyriques.... I've never heard them."
"I once tried to sing Le Soir," she said.
"Wonderful. Do bring it out."
"But, good Lord, it's too difficult."
"What is the use of being fond of music if you aren't willing to mangle it for the sake of producing it?... I swear I'd rather hear a man picking out Aupres de ma Blonde on a trombone that Kreisler playing Paganini impeccably enough to make you ill."
"But there is a middle ground."
He interrupted her by starting to play again. As he played without looking at her, he felt that her eyes were fixed on him, that she was standing tensely behind him. Her hand touched his shoulder. He stopped playing.
"Oh, I am dreadfully sorry," she said.
"Nothing. I am finished."
"You were playing something of your own?"
"Have you ever read La Tentation de Saint Antoine?" he asked in a low voice.
"It's not his best work. A very interesting failure though," she said.
Andrews got up from the piano with difficulty, controlling a sudden growing irritation.
"They seem to teach everybody to say that," he muttered.
Suddenly he realized that other people were in the room. He went up to Mme. Rod.
"You must excuse me," he said, "I have an engagement.... Aubrey, don't let me drag you away. I am late, I've got to run."
"You must come to see us again."
"Thank you," mumbled Andrews.
Genevieve Rod went with him to the door. "We must know each other better," she said. "I like you for going off in a huff."
"I was badly brought up," he said, pressing her thin cold hand. "And you French must always remember that we are barbarians.... Some are repentant barbarians.... I am not."
She laughed, and John Andrews ran down the stairs and out into the grey-blue streets, where the lamps were blooming into primrose color. He had a confused feeling that he had made a fool of himself, which made him writhe with helpless anger. He walked with long strides through the streets of the Rive Gauche full of people going home from work, towards the little wine shop on the Quai de la Tournelle.
It was a Paris Sunday morning. Old women in black shawls were going into the church of St. Etienne-du-Mont. Each time the leather doors opened it let a little whiff of incense out into the smoky morning air. Three pigeons walked about the cobblestones, putting their coral feet one before the other with an air of importance. The pointed facade of the church and its slender tower and cupola cast a bluish shadow on the square in front of it, into which the shadows the old women trailed behind them vanished as they hobbled towards the church. The opposite side of the square and the railing of the Pantheon and its tall brownish-gray flank were flooded with dull orange-colored sunlight.
Andrews walked back and forth in front of the church, looking at the sky and the pigeons and the facade of the Library of Ste. Genevieve, and at the rare people who passed across the end of the square, noting forms and colors and small comical aspects of things with calm delight, savoring everything almost with complacency. His music, he felt, was progressing now that, undisturbed, he lived all day long in the rhythm of it; his mind and his fingers were growing supple. The hard moulds that had grown up about his spirit were softening. As he walked back and forth in front of the church waiting for Jeanne, he took an inventory of his state of mind; he was very happy.
Jeanne had come up behind him. They ran like children hand in hand across the sunny square.
"I have not had any coffee yet," said Andrews.
"How late you must get up!... But you can't have any till we get to the Porte Maillot, Jean."
"Because I say you can't."
"But that's cruelty."
"It won't be long."
"But I am dying with hunger. I will die in your hands."
"Can't you understand? Once we get to the Porte Maillot we'll be far from your life and my life. The day will be ours. One must not tempt fate."
"You funny girl."
The Metro was not crowded, Andrews and Jeanne sat opposite each other without talking. Andrews was looking at the girl's hands, limp on her lap, small overworked hands with places at the tips of the fingers where the skin was broken and scarred, with chipped uneven nails. Suddenly she caught his glance. He flushed, and she said jauntily:
"Well, we'll all be rich some day, like princes and princesses in fairy tales." They both laughed.
As they were leaving the train at the terminus, he put his arm timidly round her waist. She wore no corsets. His fingers trembled at the litheness of the flesh under her clothes. Feeling a sort of terror go through him he took away his arm.
"Now," she said quietly as they emerged into the sunlight and the bare trees of the broad avenue, "you can have all the cafe-au-lait you want."
"You'll have some too."
"Why be extravagant? I've had my petit dejeuner."
"But I'm going to be extravagant all day.... We might as well start now. I don't know exactly why, but I am very happy. We'll eat brioches."
"But, my dear, it's only profiteers who can eat brioches now-a- days."
"You just watch us."
They went into a patisserie. An elderly woman with a lean yellow face and thin hair waited on them, casting envious glances up through her eyelashes as she piled the rich brown brioches on a piece of tissue paper.
"You'll pass the day in the country?" she asked in a little wistful voice as she handed Andrews the change.
"Yes," he said, "how well you guessed."
As they went out of the door they heard her muttering, "O la jeunesse, la jeunesse."
They found a table in the sun at a cafe opposite the gate from which they could watch people and automobiles and carriages coming in and out. Beyond, a grass-grown bit of fortifications gave an 1870 look to things.
"How jolly it is at the Porte Maillot!" cried Andrews.
She looked at him and laughed.
"But how gay he is to-day."
"No. I always like it here. It's the spot in Paris where you always feel well.... When you go out you have all the fun of leaving town, when you go in you have all the fun of coming back to town.... But you aren't eating any brioches?"
"I've eaten one. You eat them. You are hungry."
"Jeanne, I don't think I have ever been so happy in my life.... It's almost worth having been in the army for the joy your freedom gives you. That frightful life.... How is Etienne?"
"He is in Mayence. He's bored."
"Jeanne, we must live very much, we who are free to make up for all the people who are still...bored."
"A lot of good it'll do them," she cried laughing.
"It's funny, Jeanne, I threw myself into the army. I was so sick of being free and not getting anywhere. Now I have learnt that life is to be used, not just held in the hand like a box of bonbons that nobody eats."
She looked at him blankly.
"I mean, I don't think I get enough out of life," he said. "Let's go."
They got to their feet.
"What do you mean?" she said slowly. "One takes what life gives, that is all, there's no choice.... But look, there's the Malmaison train.... We must run."
Giggling and breathless they climbed on the trailer, squeezing themselves on the back platform where everyone was pushing and exclaiming. The car began to joggle its way through Neuilly. Their bodies were pressed together by the men and women about them. Andrews put his arm firmly round Jeanne's waist and looked down at her pale cheek that was pressed against his chest. Her little round black straw hat with a bit of a red flower on it was just under his chin.
"I can't see a thing," she gasped, still giggling.
"I'll describe the landscape," said Andrews. "Why, we are crossing the Seine already."
"Oh, how pretty it must be!"
An old gentleman with a pointed white beard who stood beside them laughed benevolently.
"But don't you think the Seine's pretty?" Jeanne looked up at him impudently.
"Without a doubt, without a doubt.... It was the way you said it," said the old gentleman.... "You are going to St. Germain?" he asked Andrews.
"No, to Malmaison."
"Oh, you should go to St. Germain. M. Reinach's prehistoric museum is there. It is very beautiful. You should not go home to your country without seeing it."
"Are there monkeys in it?" asked Jeanne.
"No," said the old gentleman turning away.
"I adore monkeys," said Jeanne.
The car was going along a broad empty boulevard with trees and grass plots and rows of low store-houses and little dilapidated rooming houses along either side. Many people had got out and there was plenty of room, but Andrews kept his arm round the girl's waist. The constant contact with her body made him feel very languid.
"How good it smells!" said Jeanne.
"It's the spring."
"I want to lie on the grass and eat violets.... Oh, how good you were to bring me out like this, Jean. You must know lots of fine ladies you could have brought out, because you are so well educated. How is it you are only an ordinary soldier?"
"Good God! I wouldn't be an officer."
"Why? It must be rather nice to be an officer."
"Does Etienne want to be an officer?"
"But he's a socialist, that's different."
"Well, I suppose I must be a socialist too, but let's talk of something else."
Andrews moved over to the other side of the platform. They were passing little villas with gardens on the road where yellow and pale-purple crocuses bloomed. Now and then there was a scent of violets in the moist air. The sun had disappeared under soft purplish-grey clouds. There was occasionally a rainy chill in the wind.
Andrews suddenly thought of Genevieve Rod. Curious how vividly he remembered her face, her wide, open eyes and her way of smiling without moving her firm lips. A feeling of annoyance went through him. How silly of him to go off rudely like that! And he became very anxious to talk to her again; things he wanted to say to her came to his mind.
"Well, are you asleep?" said Jeanne tugging at his arm. "Here we are."
Andrews flushed furiously.
"Oh, how nice it is here, how nice it is here!" Jeanne was saying.
"Why, it is eleven o'clock," said Andrews.
"We must see the palace before lunch," cried Jeanne, and she started running up a lane of linden trees, where the fat buds were just bursting into little crinkling fans of green. New grass was sprouting in the wet ditches on either side. Andrews ran after her, his feet pounding hard in the moist gravel road. When he caught up to her he threw his arms round her recklessly and kissed her panting mouth. She broke away from him and strode demurely arranging her hat.
"Monster," she said, "I trimmed this hat specially to come out with you and you do your best to wreck it."
"Poor little hat," said Andrews, "but it is so beautiful today, and you are very lovely, Jeanne."
"The great Napoleon must have said that to the Empress Josephine and you know what he did to her," said Jeanne almost solemnly.
"But she must have been awfully bored with him long before."
"No," said Jeanne, "that's how women are."
They went through big iron gates into the palace grounds.
Later they sat at a table in the garden of a little restaurant. The sun, very pale, had just showed itself, making the knives and forks and the white wine in their glasses gleam faintly. Lunch had not come yet. They sat looking at each other silently. Andrews felt weary and melancholy. He could think of nothing to say. Jeanne was playing with some tiny white daisies with pink tips to their petals, arranging them in circles and crosses on the table- cloth.
"Aren't they slow?" said Andrews.
"But it's nice here, isn't it?" Jeanne smiled brilliantly. "But how glum he looks now." She threw some daisies at him. Then, after a pause, she added mockingly: "It's hunger, my dear. Good Lord, how dependent men are on food!"
Andrews drank down his wine at a gulp. He felt that if he could only make an effort he could lift off the stifling melancholy that was settling down on him like a weight that kept growing heavier.
A man in khaki, with his face and neck scarlet, staggered into the garden dragging beside him a mud-encrusted bicycle. He sank into an iron chair, letting the bicycle fall with a clatter at his feet.
"Hi, hi," he called in a hoarse voice.
A waiter appeared and contemplated him suspiciously. The man in khaki had hair as red as his face, which was glistening with sweat. His shirt was torn, and he had no coat. His breeches and puttees were invisible for mud.
"Gimme a beer," croaked the man in khaki.
The waiter shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
"Il demande une biere," said Andrews.
"I'll pay. Get it for him."
The waiter disappeared.
"Thankee, Yank," roared the man in khaki.
The waiter brought a tall narrow yellow glass. The man in khaki took it from his hand, drank it down at a draught and handed back the empty glass. Then he spat, wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, got with difficulty to his feet and shambled towards Andrews's table.
"Oi presoom the loidy and you don't mind, Yank, if Oi parley wi' yez a bit. Do yez?"
"No, come along; where did you come from?"
The man in khaki dragged an iron chair behind him to a spot near the table. Before sitting down he bobbed his head in the direction of Jeanne with an air of solemnity tugging at the same time at a lock of his red hair. After some fumbling he got a red-bordered handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his face with it, leaving a long black smudge of machine oil on his forehead.
"Oi'm a bearer of important secret messages, Yank," he said, leaning back in the little iron chair. "Oi'm a despatch-rider."
"You look all in."
"Not a bit of it. Oi just had a little hold up, that's all, in a woodland lane. Some buggers tried to do me in."
"What d'you mean?"
"Oi guess they had a little information...that's all. Oi'm carryin' important messages from our headquarters in Rouen to your president. Oi was goin' through a bloody thicket past this side. Oi don't know how you pronounce the bloody town.... Oi was on my bike making about thoity for the road was all a-murk when Oi saw four buggers standing acrost the road...lookter me suspicious- like, so Oi jus' jammed the juice into the boike and made for the middle 'un. He dodged all right. Then they started shootin' and a bloody bullet buggered the boike.... It was bein' born with a caul that saved me.... Oi picked myself up outer the ditch an lost 'em in the woods. Then Oi got to another bloody town and commandeered this old sweatin' machine.... How many kills is there to Paris, Yank?"
"Fifteen or sixteen, I think,"
"What's he saying, Jean?"
"Some men tried to stop him on the road. He's a despatch-rider."
"Isn't he ugly? Is he English?"
"You bet you, miss; Hirlanday; that's me.... You picked a good looker this toime, Yank. But wait till Oi git to Paree. Oi clane up a good hundre' pound on this job in bonuses. What part d'ye come from, Yank?"
"Virginia. I live in New York."
"Oi been in Detroit; goin' back there to git in the automoebile business soon as Oi clane up a few more bonuses. Europe's dead an stinkin', Yank. Ain't no place for a young fellow. It's dead an stinkin', that's what it is."
"It's pleasanter to live here than in America.... Say, d'you often get held up that way?"
"Ain't happened to me before, but it has to pals o' moine."
"Who d'you think it was?
"Oi dunno; 'Unns or some of these bloody secret agents round the Peace Conference.... But Oi got to go; that despatch won't keep."
"All right. The beer's on me."
"Thank ye, Yank." The man got to his feet, shook hands with Andrews and Jeanne, jumped on the bicycle and rode out of the garden to the road, threading his way through the iron chairs and tables.
"Wasn't he a funny customer?" cried Andrews, laughing. "What a wonderful joke things are!"
The waiter arrived with the omelette that began their lunch.
"Gives you an idea of how the old lava's bubbling in the volcano. There's nowhere on earth a man can dance so well as on a volcano."
"But don't talk that way," said Jeanne laying down her knife and fork. "It's terrible. We will waste our youth to no purpose. Our fathers enjoyed themselves when they were young.... And if there had been no war we should have been so happy, Etienne and I. My father was a small manufacturer of soap and perfumery. Etienne would have had a splendid situation. I should never have had to work. We had a nice house. I should have been married...."
"But this way, Jeanne, haven't you more freedom?"
She shrugged her shoulders. Later she burst out: "But what's the good of freedom? What can you do with it? What one wants is to live well and have a beautiful house and be respected by people. Oh, life was so sweet in France before the war."
"In that case it's not worth living," said Andrews in a savage voice, holding himself in.
They went on eating silently. The sky became overcast. A few drops splashed on the table-cloth.
"We'll have to take coffee inside," said Andrews.
"And you think it is funny that people shoot at a man on a motorcycle going through a wood. All that seems to me terrible, terrible," said Jeanne.
"Look out. Here comes the rain!"
They ran into the restaurant through the first hissing sheet of the shower and sat at a table near a window watching the rain drops dance and flicker on the green iron tables. A scent of wet earth and the mushroom-like odor of sodden leaves came in borne on damp gusts through the open door. A waiter closed the glass doors and bolted them.
"He wants to keep out the spring. He can't," said Andrews.
They smiled at each other over their coffee cups. They were in sympathy again.
When the rain stopped they walked across wet fields by a foot path full of little clear puddles that reflected the blue sky and the white-and amber-tinged clouds where the shadows were light purplish-grey. They walked slowly arm in arm, pressing their bodies together. They were very tired, they did not know why and stopped often to rest leaning against the damp boles of trees. Beside a pond pale blue and amber and silver from the reflected sky, they found under a big beech tree a patch of wild violets, which Jeanne picked greedily, mixing them with the little crimson- tipped daisies in the tight bouquet. At the suburban railway station, they sat silent, side by side on a bench, sniffing the flowers now and then, so sunk in languid weariness that they could hardly summon strength to climb into a seat on top of a third class coach, which was crowded with people coming home from a day in the country. Everybody had violets and crocuses and twigs with buds on them. In people's stiff, citified clothes lingered a smell of wet fields and sprouting woods. All the girls shrieked and threw their arms round the men when the train went through a tunnel or under a bridge. Whatever happened, everybody laughed. When the train arrived in the station, it was almost with reluctance that they left it, as if they felt that from that moment their work-a-day lives began again. Andrews and Jeanne walked down the platform without touching each other. Their fingers were stained and sticky from touching buds and crushing young sappy leaves and grass stalks. The air of the city seemed dense and unbreathable after the scented moisture of the fields.
They dined at a little restaurant on the Quai Voltaire and afterwards walked slowly towards the Place St. Michel, feeling the wine and the warmth of the food sending new vigor into their tired bodies. Andrews had his arm round her shoulder and they talked in low intimate voices, hardly moving their lips, looking long at the men and women they saw sitting twined in each other's arms on benches, at the couples of boys and girls that kept passing them, talking slowly and quietly, as they were, bodies pressed together as theirs were.
"How many lovers there are," said Andrews.
"Are we lovers?" asked Jeanne with a curious little laugh.
"I wonder.... Have you ever been crazily in love, Jeanne?"
"I don't know. There was a boy in Laon named Marcelin. But I was a little fool then. The last news of him was from Verdun."
"Have you had many...like I am?"
"How sentimental we are," she cried laughing.
"No. I wanted to know. I know so little of life," said Andrews.
"I have amused myself, as best I could," said Jeanne in a serious tone. "But I am not frivolous.... There have been very few men I have liked.... So I have had few friends...do you want to call them lovers? But lovers are what married women have on the stage.... All that sort of thing is very silly."
"Not so very long ago," said Andrews, "I used to dream of being romantically in love, with people climbing up the ivy on castle walls, and fiery kisses on balconies in the moonlight."
"Like at the Opera Comique," cried Jeanne laughing.
"That was all very silly. But even now, I want so much more of life than life can give."
They leaned over the parapet and listened to the hurrying swish of the river, now soft and now loud, where the reflections of the lights on the opposite bank writhed like golden snakes.
Andrews noticed that there was someone beside them. The faint, greenish glow from the lamp on the quai enabled him to recognize the lame boy he had talked to months ago on the Butte.
"I wonder if you'll remember me," he said.
"You are the American who was in the Restaurant, Place du Terte, I don't remember when, but it was long ago."
They shook hands.
"But you are alone," said Andrews.
"Yes, I am always alone," said the lame boy firmly. He held out his hand again.
"Au revoir," said Andrews.
"Good luck!" said the lame boy. Andrews heard his crutch tapping on the pavement as he went away along the quai.
"Jeanne," said Andrews, suddenly, "you'll come home with me, won't you?"
"But you have a friend living with you."
"He's gone to Brussels. He won't be back till tomorrow."
"I suppose one must pay for one's dinner," said Jeanne maliciously.
"Good God, no." Andrews buried his face in his hands. The singsong of the river pouring through the bridges, filled his ears. He wanted desperately to cry. Bitter desire that was like hatred made his flesh tingle, made his hands ache to crush her hands in them.
"Come along," he said gruffly.
"I didn't mean to say that," she said in a gentle, tired voice. "You know, I'm not a very nice person." The greenish glow of the lamp lit up the contour of one of her cheeks as she tilted her head up, and glimmered in her eyes. A soft sentimental sadness suddenly took hold of Andrews; he felt as he used to feel when, as a very small child, his mother used to tell him Br' Rabbit stories, and he would feel himself drifting helplessly on the stream of her soft voice, narrating, drifting towards something unknown and very sad, which he could not help.
They started walking again, past the Pont Neuf, towards the glare of the Place St. Michel. Three names had come into Andrews's head, "Arsinoe, Berenike, Artemisia." For a little while he puzzled over them, and then he remembered that Genevieve Rod had the large eyes and the wide, smooth forehead and the firm little lips the women had in the portraits that were sewn on the mummy cases in the Fayum. But those patrician women of Alexandria had not had chestnut hair with a glimpse of burnished copper in it; they might have dyed it, though!
"Why are you laughing?" asked Jeanne.
"Because things are so silly."
"Perhaps you mean people are silly," she said, looking up at him out of the corners of her eyes.
They walked in silence till they reached Andrews's door.
"You go up first and see that there's no one there," said Jeanne in a business-like tone.
Andrews's hands were cold. He felt his heart thumping while he climbed the stairs.
The room was empty. A fire was ready to light in the small fireplace. Andrews hastily tidied up the table and kicked under the bed some soiled clothes that lay in a heap in a corner. A thought came to him: how like his performances in his room at college when he had heard that a relative was coming to see him.
He tiptoed downstairs.
"Bien. Tu peux venir, Jeanne," he said.
She sat down rather stiffly in the straight-backed armchair beside the fire.
"How pretty the fire is," she said.
"Jeanne, I think I'm crazily in love with you," said Andrews in an excited voice.
"Like at the Opera Comique." She shrugged her shoulders. "The room's nice," she said. "Oh, but, what a big bed!"
"You're the first woman who's been up here in my time, Jeanne.... Oh, but this uniform is frightful."
Andrews thought suddenly of all the tingling bodies constrained into the rigid attitudes of automatons in uniforms like this one; of all the hideous farce of making men into machines. Oh, if some gesture of his could only free them all for life and freedom and joy. The thought drowned everything else for the moment.
"But you pulled a button off," cried Jeanne laughing hysterically. "I'll just have to sew it on again."
"Never mind. If you knew how I hated them."
"What white skin you have, like a woman's. I suppose that's because you are blond," said Jeanne.
The sound of the door being shaken vigorously woke Andrews. He got up and stood in the middle of the floor for a moment without being able to collect his wits. The shaking of the door continued, and he heard Walters's voice crying "Andy, Andy." Andrews felt shame creeping up through him like nausea. He felt a passionate disgust towards himself and Jeanne and Walters. He had an impulse to move furtively as if he had stolen something. He went to the door and opened it a little.
"Say, Walters, old man," he said, "I can't let you in.... I've got a girl with me. I'm sorry.... I thought you wouldn't get back till tomorrow."
"You're kidding, aren't you?" came Walters's voice out of the dark hall.
"No." Andrews shut the door decisively and bolted it again.
Jeanne was still asleep. Her black hair had come undone and spread over the pillow. Andrews pulled the covers up about her carefully.
Then he got into the other bed, where he lay awake a long time, staring at the ceiling.
People walking along the boulevard looked curiously through the railing at the line of men in olive-drab that straggled round the edge of the courtyard. The line moved slowly, past a table where an officer and two enlisted men sat poring over big lists of names and piles of palely tinted banknotes and silver francs that glittered white. Above the men's heads a thin haze of cigarette smoke rose into the sunlight. There was a sound of voices and of feet shuffling on the gravel. The men who had been paid went off jauntily, the money jingling in their pockets.
The men at the table had red faces and tense, serious expressions. They pushed the money into the soldiers' hands with a rough jerk and pronounced the names as if they were machines clicking.
Andrews saw that one of the men at the table was Walters; he smiled and whispered "Hello" as he came up to him. Walters kept his eyes fixed on the list.
While Andrews was waiting for the man ahead of him to be paid, he heard two men in the line talking.
"Wasn't that a hell of a place? D'you remember the lad that died in the barracks one day?"
"Sure, I was in the medicks there too. There was a hell of a sergeant in that company tried to make the kid get up, and the loot came and said he'd court-martial him, an' then they found out that he'd cashed in his checks."
"What'd 'ee die of?"
"Heart failure, I guess. I dunno, though, he never did take to the life."
"No. That place Cosne was enough to make any guy cash in his checks."
Andrews got his money. As he was walking away, he strolled up to the two men he had heard talking.
"Were you fellows in Cosne?"
"Did you know a fellow named Fuselli?"
"Sure, you do," said the other man. "You remember Dan Fuselli, the little wop thought he was goin' to be corporal."
"He had another think comin'." They both laughed.
Andrews walked off, vaguely angry. There were many soldiers on the Boulevard Montparnasse. He turned into a side street, feeling suddenly furtive and humble, as if he would hear any minute the harsh voice of a sergeant shouting orders at him.
The silver in his breeches pocket jingled with every step.
Andrews leaned on the balustrade of the balcony, looking down into the square in front of the Opera Comique. He was dizzy with the beauty of the music he had been hearing. He had a sense somewhere in the distances of his mind of the great rhythm of the sea. People chattered all about him on the wide, crowded balcony, but he was only conscious of the blue-grey mistiness of the night where the lights made patterns in green-gold and red-gold. And compelling his attention from everything else, the rhythm swept through him like sea waves.
"I thought you'd be here," said Genevieve Rod in a quiet voice beside him.
Andrews felt strangely tongue-tied.
"It's nice to see you," he blurted out, after looking at her silently for a moment.
"Of course you love Pelleas."
"It is the first time I've heard it."
"Why haven't you been to see us? It's two weeks.... We've been expecting you."
"I didn't know...Oh, I'll certainly come. I don't know anyone at present I can talk music to."
"You know me."
"Anyone else, I should have said."
"Are you working?"
"Yes.... But this hinders frightfully." Andrews yanked at the front of his tunic. "Still, I expect to be free very soon. I'm putting in an application for discharge."
"I suppose you will feel you can do so much better.... You will be much stronger now that you have done your duty."
"No...by no means."
"Tell me, what was that you played at our house?"
"'The Three Green Riders on Wild Asses,'" said Andrews smiling.
"What do you mean?"
"It's a prelude to the 'Queen of Sheba,'" said Andrews. "If you didn't think the same as M. Emile Faguet and everyone else about St. Antoine, I'd tell you what I mean."
"That was very silly of me.... But if you pick up all the silly things people say accidentally...well, you must be angry most of the time."
In the dim light he could not see her eyes. There was a little glow on the curve of her cheek coming from under the dark of her hat to her rather pointed chin. Behind it he could see other faces of men and women crowded on the balcony talking, lit up crudely by the gold glare that came out through the French windows from the lobby.
"I have always been tremendously fascinated by the place in La Tentation where the Queen of Sheba visited Antoine, that's all," said Andrews gruffly.
"Is that the first thing you've done? It made me think a little of Borodine."
"The first that's at all pretentious. It's probably just a steal from everything I've ever heard."
"No, it's good. I suppose you had it in your head all through those dreadful and glorious days at the front.... Is it for piano or orchestra?"
"All that's finished is for piano. I hope to orchestrate it eventually.... Oh, but it's really silly to talk this way. I don't know enough.... I need years of hard work before I can do anything.... And I have wasted so much time.... That is the most frightful thing. One has so few years of youth!"
"There's the bell, we must scuttle back to our seats. Till the next intermission." She slipped through the glass doors and disappeared. Andrews went back to his seat very excited, full of unquiet exultation. The first strains of the orchestra were pain, he felt them so acutely.
After the last act they walked in silence down a dark street, hurrying to get away from the crowds of the Boulevards.
When they reached the Avenue de l'Opera, she said: "Did you say you were going to stay in France?"
"Yes, indeed, if I can. I am going tomorrow to put in an application for discharge in France."
"What will you do then?"
"I shall have to find a job of some sort that will let me study at the Schola Cantorum. But I have enough money to last a little while."
"You are courageous."
"I forgot to ask you if you would rather take the Metro."
"No; let's walk."
They went under the arch of the Louvre. The air was full of a fine wet mist, so that every street lamp was surrounded by a blur of light.
"My blood is full of the music of Debussy," said Genevieve Rod, spreading out her arms.
"It's no use trying to say what one feels about it. Words aren't much good, anyway, are they?"
They walked silently along the quais. The mist was so thick they could not see the Seine, but whenever they came near a bridge they could hear the water rustling through the arches.
"France is stifling," said Andrews, all of a sudden. "It stifles you very slowly, with beautiful silk bands.... America beats your brains out with a policeman's billy."
"What do you mean?" she asked, letting pique chill her voice.
"You know so much in France. You have made the world so neat...."
"But you seem to want to stay here," she said with a laugh.
"It's that there's nowhere else. There is nowhere except Paris where one can find out things about music, particularly.... But I am one of those people who was not made to be contented."
"Only sheep are contented."
"I think I have been happier this month in Paris than ever before in my life. It seems six, so much has happened in it."
"Poissac is where I am happiest."
"Where is that?"
"We have a country house there, very old and very tumbledown. They say that Rabelais used to come to the village. But our house is from later, from the time of Henri Quatre. Poissac is not far from Tours. An ugly name, isn't it? But to me it is very beautiful. The house has orchards all round it, and yellow roses with flushed centers poke themselves in my window, and there is a little tower like Montaigne's."
"When I get out of the army, I shall go somewhere in the country and work and work."
"Music should be made in the country, when the sap is rising in the trees."
"'D'apres nature,' as the rabbit man said."
"Who's the rabbit man?"
"A very pleasant person," said Andrews, bubbling with laughter. "You shall meet him some day. He sells little stuffed rabbits that jump, outside the Cafe de Rohan."
"Here we are.... Thank you for coming home with me."
"But how soon. Are you sure it is the house? We can't have got there as soon as this."
"Yes, it's my house," said Genevieve Rod laughing. She held out her hand to him and he shook it eagerly. The latchkey clicked in the door.
"Why don't you have a cup of tea with us here tomorrow?" she said.
The big varnished door with its knocker in the shape of a ring closed behind her. Andrews walked away with a light step, feeling jolly and exhilarated.
As he walked down the mist-filled quai towards the Place St. Michel, his ears were filled with the lisping gurgle of the river past the piers of the bridges.
Walters was asleep. On the table in his room was a card from Jeanne. Andrews read the card holding it close to the candle.
"How long it is since I saw you!" it read. "I shall pass the Cafe de Rohan Wednesday at seven, along the pavement opposite the Magazin du Louvre."
It was a card of Malmaison.
Andrews flushed. Bitter melancholy throbbed through him. He walked languidly to the window and looked out into the dark court. A window below his spilled a warm golden haze into the misty night, through which he could make out vaguely some pots of ferns standing on the wet flagstones. From somewhere came a dense smell of hyacinths. Fragments of thought slipped one after another through his mind. He thought of himself washing windows long ago at training camp, and remembered the way the gritty sponge scraped his hands. He could not help feeling shame when he thought of those days. "Well, that's all over now," he told himself. He wondered, in a half-irritated way, about Genevieve Rod. What sort of a person was she? Her face, with its wide eyes and pointed chin and the reddish-chestnut hair, unpretentiously coiled above the white forehead, was very vivid in his mind, though when he tried to remember what it was like in profile, he could not. She had thin hands, with long fingers that ought to play the piano well. When she grew old would she be yellow-toothed and jolly, like her mother? He could not think of her old; she was too vigorous; there was too much malice in her passionately-restrained gestures. The memory of her faded, and there came to his mind Jeanne's overworked little hands, with callous places, and the tips of the fingers grimy and scarred from needlework. But the smell of hyacinths that came up from the mist-filled courtyard was like a sponge wiping all impressions from his brain. The dense sweet smell in the damp air made him feel languid and melancholy.
He took off his clothes slowly and got into bed. The smell of the hyacinths came to him very faintly, so that he did not know whether or not he was imagining it.
The major's office was a large white-painted room, with elaborate mouldings and mirrors in all four walls, so that while Andrews waited, cap in hand, to go up to the desk, he could see the small round major with his pink face and bald head repeated to infinity in two directions in the grey brilliance of the mirrors.
"What do you want?" said the major, looking up from some papers he was signing.
Andrews stepped up to the desk. On both sides of the room a skinny figure in olive-drab, repeated endlessly, stepped up to endless mahogany desks, which faded into each other in an endless dusty perspective.
"Would you mind O.K.-ing this application for discharge, Major?"
"How many dependents?" muttered the major through his teeth, poring over the application.
"None. It's for discharge in France to study music."
"Won't do. You need an affidavit that you can support yourself, that you have enough money to continue your studies. You want to study music, eh? D'you think you've got talent? Needs a very great deal of talent to study music."
"Yes, sir.... But is there anything else I need except the affidavit?"
"No.... It'll go through in short order. We're glad to release men.... We're glad to release any man with a good military record.... Williams!"
A sergeant came over from a small table by the door.
"Show this man what he needs to do to get discharged in France."
Andrews saluted. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the figures in the mirror, saluting down an endless corridor.
When he got out on the street in front of the great white building where the major's office was, a morose feeling of helplessness came over him. There were many automobiles of different sizes and shapes, limousines, runabouts, touring cars, lined up along the curb, all painted olive-drab and neatly stenciled with numbers in white. Now and then a personage came out of the white marble building, puttees and Sam Browne belt gleaming, and darted into an automobile, or a noisy motorcycle stopped with a jerk in front of the wide door to let out an officer in goggles and mud-splattered trench coat, who disappeared immediately through revolving doors. Andrews could imagine him striding along halls, where from every door came an imperious clicking of typewriters, where papers were piled high on yellow varnished desks, where sallow-faced clerks in uniform loafed in rooms, where the four walls were covered from floor to ceiling with card catalogues. And every day they were adding to the paper, piling up more little drawers with index cards. It seemed to Andrews that the shiny white marble building would have to burst with all the paper stored up within it, and would flood the broad avenue with avalanches of index cards.
"Button yer coat," snarled a voice in his ear.
Andrews looked up suddenly. An M. P. with a raw-looking face in which was a long sharp nose, had come up to him.
Andrews buttoned up his overcoat and said nothing.
"Ye can't hang around here this way," the M. P. called after him.
Andrews flushed and walked away without turning his head. He was stinging with humiliation; an angry voice inside him kept telling him that he was a coward, that he should make some futile gesture of protest. Grotesque pictures of revolt flamed through his mind, until he remembered that when he was very small, the same tumul- tuous pride had seethed and ached in him whenever he had been reproved by an older person. Helpless despair fluttered about within him like a bird beating against the wires of a cage. Was there no outlet, no gesture of expression, would he have to go on this way day after day, swallowing the bitter gall of indignation, that every new symbol of his slavery brought to his lips?
He was walking in an agitated way across the Jardin des Tuileries, full of little children and women with dogs on leashes and nursemaids with starched white caps, when he met Genevieve Rod and her mother. Genevieve was dressed in pearl grey, with an elegance a little too fashionable to please Andrews. Mme. Rod wore black. In front of them a black and tan terrier ran from one side to the other, on nervous little legs that trembled like steel springs.
"Isn't it lovely this morning?" cried Genevieve.
"I didn't know you had a dog."
"Oh, we never go out without Santo, a protection to two lone women, you know," said Mme. Rod, laughing. "Viens, Santo, dis bonjour au Monsieur."
"He usually lives at Poissac," said Genevieve.
The little dog barked furiously at Andrews, a shrill bark like a child squalling.
"He knows he ought to be suspicious of soldiers.... I imagine most soldiers would change with him if they had a chance.... Viens Santo, viens Santo.... Will you change lives with me, Santo?"
"You look as if you'd been quarrelling with somebody," said Genevieve Rod lightly.
"I have, with myself.... I'm going to write a book on slave psychology. It would be very amusing," said Andrews in a gruff, breathless voice.
"But we must hurry, dear, or we'll be late to the tailor's," said Mme. Rod. She held out her black-gloved hand to Andrews.
"We'll be in at tea time this afternoon. You might play me some more of the 'Queen of Sheba,'" said Genevieve.
"I'm afraid I shan't be able to, but you never can tell.... Thank you."
He was relieved to have left them. He had been afraid he would burst out into some childish tirade. What a shame old Henslowe hadn't come back yet. He could have poured out all his despair to him; he had often enough before; and Henslowe was out of the army now. Wearily Andrews decided that he would have to start scheming and intriguing again as he had schemed and intrigued to come to Paris in the first place. He thought of the white marble building and the officers with shiny puttees going in and out, and the typewriters clicking in every room, and the understanding of his helplessness before all that complication made him shiver.
An idea came to him. He ran down the steps of a metro station. Aubrey would know someone at the Crillon who could help him.
But when the train reached the Concorde station, he could not summon the will power to get out. He felt a harsh repugnance to any effort. What was the use of humiliating himself and begging favors of people? It was hopeless anyway. In a fierce burst of pride a voice inside of him was shouting that he, John Andrews, should have no shame, that he should force people to do things for him, that he, who lived more acutely than the rest, suffering more pain and more joy, who had the power to express his pain and his joy so that it would impose itself on others, should force his will on those around him. "More of the psychology of slavery," said Andrews to himself, suddenly smashing the soap-bubble of his egoism.
The train had reached the Porte Maillot.
Andrews stood in the sunny boulevard in front of the metro station, where the plane trees were showing tiny gold-brown leaves, sniffing the smell of a flower-stall in front of which a woman stood, with a deft abstracted gesture tying up bunch after bunch of violets. He felt a desire to be out in the country, to be away from houses and people. There was a line of men and women buying tickets for St. Germain; still indecisive, he joined it, and at last, almost without intending it, found himself jolting through Neuilly in the green trailer of the electric car, that waggled like a duck's tail when the car went fast.
He remembered his last trip on that same car with Jeanne, and wished mournfully that he might have fallen in love with her, that he might have forgotten himself and the army and everything in crazy, romantic love.
When he got off the car at St. Germain, he had stopped formulating his thoughts; soggy despair throbbed in him like an infected wound.
He sat for a while at the cafe opposite the Chateau looking at the light red walls and the strong stone-bordered windows and the jaunty turrets and chimneys that rose above the classic balustrade with its big urns on the edge of the roof. The park, through the tall iron railings, was full of russet and pale lines, all mist of new leaves. Had they really lived more vividly, the people of the Renaissance? Andrews could almost see men with plumed hats and short cloaks and elaborate brocaded tunics swaggering with a hand at the sword hilt, about the quiet square in front of the gate of the Chateau. And he thought of the great, sudden wind of freedom that had blown out of Italy, before which dogmas and slaveries had crumbled to dust. In contrast, the world today seemed pitifully arid. Men seemed to have shrunk in stature before the vastness of the mechanical contrivances they had invented. Michael Angelo, da Vinci, Aretino, Cellini; would the strong figures of men ever so dominate the world again? Today everything was congestion, the scurrying of crowds; men had become ant-like. Perhaps it was inevitable that the crowds should sink deeper and deeper in slavery. Whichever won, tyranny from above, or spontaneous organization from below, there could be no individuals.
He went through the gates into the park, laid out with a few flower beds where pansies bloomed; through the dark ranks of elm trunks, was brilliant sky, with here and there a moss-green statue standing out against it. At the head of an alley he came out on a terrace. Beyond the strong curves of the pattern of the iron balustrade was an expanse of country, pale green, falling to blue towards the horizon, patched with pink and slate-colored houses and carved with railway tracks. At his feet the Seine shone like a curved sword blade.
He walked with long strides along the terrace, and followed a road that turned into the forest, forgetting the monotonous tread mill of his thoughts, in the flush that the fast walking sent through his whole body, in the rustling silence of the woods, where the moss on the north side of the boles of the trees was emerald, and where the sky was soft grey through a lavender lacework of branches. The green gnarled woods made him think of the first act of Pelleas. With his tunic unbuttoned and his shirt open at the neck and his hands stuck deep in his pockets, he went along whistling like a school boy.
After an hour he came out of the woods on a highroad, where he found himself walking beside a two-wheeled cart, that kept pace with him exactly, try as he would to get ahead of it. After a while, a boy leaned out:
"Hey, l'Americain, vous voulez monter?"
"Where are you going?"
The boy flourished his whip vaguely towards the horse's head.
"All right," said Andrews.
"These are potatoes," said the boy, "make yourself comfortable.'' Andrews offered him a cigarette, which he took with muddy fingers. He had a broad face, red cheeks and chunky features. Reddish-brown hair escaped spikily from under a mud-spattered beret.
"Where did you say you were going?"
"Conflans-Ste.-Honorine. Silly all these saints, aren't they?"
"Where are you going?" the boy asked.
"I don't know. I was taking a walk."
The boy leaned over to Andrews and whispered in his car: "Deserter?"
"No.... I had a day off and wanted to see the country."
"I just thought, if you were a deserter, I might be able to help you. Must be silly to be a soldier. Dirty life.... But you like the country. So do I. You can't call this country. I'm not from this part; I'm from Brittany. There we have real country. It's stifling near Paris here, so many people, so many houses."
"It seems mighty fine to me."
"That's because you're a soldier, better than barracks, hein? Dirty life that. I'll never be a soldier. I'm going into the navy. Merchant marine, and then if I have to do service I'll do it on the sea."
"I suppose it is pleasanter."
"There's more freedom. And the sea.... We Bretons, you know, we all die of the sea or of liquor."
"Have you been long in this part of the country?" asked Andrews.
"Six months. It's very dull, this farming work. I'm head of a gang in a fruit orchard, but not for long. I have a brother shipped on a sailing vessel. When he comes back to Bordeaux, I'll ship on the same boat."
"South America, Peru; how should I know?"
"I'd like to ship on a sailing vessel," said Andrews.
"You would? It seems very fine to me to travel, and see new countries. And perhaps I shall stay over there."
"How should I know? If I like it, that is.... Life is very bad in Europe."
"It is stifling, I suppose," said Andrews slowly, "all these nations, all these hatreds, but still...it is very beautiful. Life is very ugly in America."
"Let's have something to drink. There's a bistro!"
The boy jumped down from the cart and tied the horse to a tree. They went into a small wine shop with a counter and one square oak table.
"But won't you be late?" said Andrews.
"I don't care. I like talking, don't you?"
They ordered wine of an old woman in a green apron, who had three yellow teeth that protruded from her mouth when she spoke.
"I haven't had anything to eat," said Andrews.
"Wait a minute." The boy ran out to the cart and came back with a canvas bag, from which he took half a loaf of bread and some cheese.
"My name's Marcel," the boy said when they had sat for a while sipping wine.
"Mine is Jean...Jean Andre."
"I have a brother named Jean, and my father's name is Andre. That's pleasant, isn't it?"
"But it must be a splendid job, working in a fruit orchard," said Andrews, munching bread and cheese.
"It's well paid; but you get tired of being in one place all the time. It's not as it is in Brittany...." Marcel paused. He sat, rocking a little on the stool, holding on to the seat between his legs. A curious brilliance came into his grey eyes. "There," he went on in a soft voice, "it is so quiet in the fields, and from every hill you look at the sea.... I like that, don't you?" he turned to Andrews, with a smile.
"You are lucky to be free," said Andrews bitterly. He felt as if he would burst into tears.
"But you will be demobilized soon; the butchery is over. You will go home to your family. That will be good, hein?"
"I wonder. It's not far enough away. Restless!"
"What do you expect?"
A fine rain was falling. They climbed in on the potato sacks and the horse started a jog trot; its lanky brown shanks glistened a little from the rain.
"Do you come out this way often?" asked Marcel.
"I shall. It's the nicest place near Paris."
"Some Sunday you must come and I'll take you round. The Castle is very fine. And then there is Malmaison, where the great Emperor lived with the Empress Josephine."
Andrews suddenly remembered Jeanne's card. This was Wednesday. He pictured her dark figure among the crowd of the pavement in front of the Cafe de Rohan. Of course it had to be that way. Despair, so helpless as to be almost sweet, came over him.
"And girls," he said suddenly to Marcel, "are they pretty round here?"
Marcel shrugged his shoulders.
"It's not women that we lack, if a fellow has money," he said.
Andrews felt a sense of shame, he did not exactly know why.
"My brother writes that in South America the women are very brown and very passionate," added Marcel with a wistful smile. "But travelling and reading books, that's what I like.... But look, if you want to take the train back to Paris...." Marcel pulled up the horse to a standstill. "If you want to take the train, cross that field by the foot path and keep right along the road to the left till you come to the river. There's a ferryman. The town's Herblay, and there's a station.... And any Sunday before noon I'll be at 3 rue des Eveques, Reuil. You must come and we'll take a walk together."
They shook hands, and Andrews strode off across the wet fields. Something strangely sweet and wistful that he could not analyse lingered in his mind from Marcel's talk. Somewhere, beyond everything, he was conscious of the great free rhythm of the sea.
Then he thought of the Major's office that morning, and of his own skinny figure in the mirrors, repeated endlessly, standing helpless and humble before the shining mahogany desk. Even out here in these fields where the wet earth seemed to heave with the sprouting of new growth, he was not free. In those office buildings, with white marble halls full of the clank of officers' heels, in index cards and piles of typewritten papers, his real self, which they had power to kill if they wanted to, was in his name and his number, on lists with millions of other names and other numbers. This sentient body of his, full of possibilities and hopes and desires, was only a pale ghost that depended on the other self, that suffered for it and cringed for it. He could not drive out of his head the picture of himself, skinny, in an ill- fitting uniform, repeated endlessly in the two mirrors of the Major's white-painted office.
All of a sudden, through bare poplar trees, he saw the Seine.
He hurried along the road, splashing now and then in a shining puddle, until he came to a landing place. The river was very wide, silvery, streaked with pale-green and violet, and straw-color from the evening sky. Opposite were bare poplars and behind them clusters of buff-colored houses climbing up a green hill to a church, all repeated upside down in the color-streaked river. The river was very full, and welled up above its banks, the way the water stands up above the rim of a glass filled too full. From the water came an indefinable rustling, flowing sound that rose and fell with quiet rhythm in Andrews's ears.
Andrews forgot everything in the great wave of music that rose impetuously through him, poured with the hot blood through his veins, with the streaked colors of the river and the sky through his eyes, with the rhythm of the flowing river through his ears.
"So I came without," said Andrews, laughing.
"What fun!" cried Genevieve. "But anyway they couldn't do anything to you. Chartres is so near. It's at the gates of Paris."
They were alone in the compartment. The train had pulled out of the station and was going through suburbs where the trees were in leaf in the gardens, and fruit trees foamed above the red brick walls, among the box-like villas.
"Anyway," said Andrews, "it was an opportunity not to be missed."
"That must be one of the most amusing things about being a soldier, avoiding regulations. I wonder whether Damocles didn't really enjoy his sword, don't you think so?"
"But mother was very doubtful about my coming with you this way. She's such a dear, she wants to be very modern and liberal, but she always gets frightened at the last minute. And my aunt will think the world's end has come when we appear."
They went through some tunnels, and when the train stopped at Sevres, had a glimpse of the Seine valley, where the blue mist made a patina over the soft pea-green of new leaves. Then the train came out on wide plains, full of the glaucous shimmer of young oats and the golden-green of fresh-sprinkled wheat fields, where the mist on the horizon was purplish. The train's shadow, blue, sped along beside them over the grass and fences.
"How beautiful it is to go out of the city this way in the early morning!... Has your aunt a piano?"
"Yes, a very old and tinkly one."
"It would be amusing to play you all I have done at the 'Queen of Sheba.' You say the most helpful things."
"It is that I am interested. I think you will do something some day."
Andrews shrugged his shoulders.
They sat silent, their ears filled up by the jerking rhythm of wheels over rails, now and then looking at each other, almost furtively. Outside, fields and hedges and patches of blossom, and poplar trees faintly powdered with green, unrolled, like a scroll before them, behind the nicker of telegraph poles and the festooned wires on which the sun gave glints of red copper. Andrews discovered all at once that the coppery glint on the telegraph wires was the same as the glint in Genevieve's hair. "Berenike, Artemisia, Arsinoe," the names lingered in his mind. So that as he looked out of the window at the long curves of the telegraph wires that seemed to rise and fall as they glided past, he could imagine her face, with its large, pale brown eyes and its small mouth and broad smooth forehead, suddenly stilled into the encaustic painting on the mummy case of some Alexandrian girl.
"Tell me," she said, "when did you begin to write music?"
Andrews brushed the light, disordered hair off his forehead.
"Why, I think I forgot to brush my hair this morning," he said. "You see, I was so excited by the idea of coming to Chartres with you."
"But my mother taught me to play the piano when I was very small," he went on seriously. "She and I lived alone in an old house belonging to her family in Virginia. How different all that was from anything you have ever lived. It would not be possible in Europe to be as isolated as we were in Virginia.... Mother was very unhappy. She had led a dreadfully thwarted life...that unre- lieved hopeless misery that only a woman can suffer. She used to tell me stories, and I used to make up little tunes about them, and about anything. The great success," he laughed, "was, I remember, to a dandelion.... I can remember so well the way Mother pursed up her lips as she leaned over the writing desk.... She was very tall, and as it was dark in our old sitting room, had to lean far over to see.... She used to spend hours making beautiful copies of tunes I made up. My mother is the only person who has ever really had any importance in my life.... But I lack technical training terribly."
"Do you think it is so important?" said Genevieve, leaning towards him to make herself heard above the clatter of the train.
"Perhaps it isn't. I don't know."
"I think it always comes sooner or later, if you feel intensely enough."
"But it is so frightful to feel all you want to express getting away beyond you. An idea comes into your head, and you feel it grow stronger and stronger and you can't grasp it; you have no means to express it. It's like standing on a street corner and seeing a gorgeous procession go by without being able to join it, or like opening a bottle of beer and having it foam all over you without having a glass to pour it into."
Genevieve burst out laughing.
"But you can drink from the bottle, can't you?" she said, her eyes sparkling.
"I'm trying to," said Andrews.
"Here we are. There's the cathedral. No, it's hidden," cried Genevieve.
They got to their feet. As they left the station, Andrews said: "But after all, it's only freedom that matters. When I'm out of the army!..."
"Yes, I suppose you are right...for you that is. The artist should be free from any sort of entanglement."
"I don't see what difference there is between an artist and any other sort of workman," said Andrews savagely.
"No, but look."
From the square where they stood, above the green blur of a little park, they could see the cathedral, creamy yellow and rust color, with the sober tower and the gaudy tower, and the great rose window between, the whole pile standing nonchalantly, knee deep in the packed roofs of the town.
They stood shoulder to shoulder, looking at it without speaking.
In the afternoon they walked down the hill towards the river, that flowed through a quarter of tottering, peak-gabled houses and mills, from which came a sound of grinding wheels. Above them, towering over gardens full of pear trees in bloom, the apse of the cathedral bulged against the pale sky. On a narrow and very ancient bridge they stopped and looked at the water, full of a shimmer of blue and green and grey from the sky and from the vivid new leaves of the willow trees along the bank.
Their senses glutted with the beauty of the day and the intricate magnificence of the cathedral, languid with all they had seen and said, they were talking of the future with quiet voices.
"It's all in forming a habit of work," Andrews was saying. "You have to be a slave to get anything done. It's all a question of choosing your master, don't you think so?"
"Yes. I suppose all the men who have left their imprint on people's lives have been slaves in a sense," said Genevieve slowly. "Everyone has to give up a great deal of life to live anything deeply. But it's worth, it." She looked Andrews full in the eyes.
"Yes, I think it's worth it," said Andrews. "But you must help me. Now I am like a man who has come up out of a dark cellar. I'm almost too dazzled by the gorgeousness of everything. But at least I am out of the cellar."
"Look, a fish jumped," cried Genevieve. "I wonder if we could hire a boat anywhere.... Don't you think it'd be fun to go out in a boat?"
A voice broke in on Genevieve's answer: "Let's see your pass, will you?"
Andrews turned round. A soldier with a round brown face and red cheeks stood beside him on the bridge. Andrews looked at him fixedly. A little zigzag scar above his left eye showed white on his heavily tanned skin.
"Let's see your pass," the man said again; he had a high pitched, squeaky voice.
Andrews felt the blood thumping in his ears. "Are you an M. P.?"
"Well I'm in the Sorbonne Detachment."
"What the hell's that?" said the M. P., laughing thinly.
"What does he say?" asked Genevieve, smiling.
"Nothing. I'll have to go see the officer and explain," said Andrews in a breathless voice. "You go back to your Aunt's and I'll come as soon as I've arranged it."
"No, I'll come with you."
"Please go back. It may be serious. I'll come as soon as I can," said Andrews harshly.
She walked up the hill with swift decisive steps, without turning round.
"Tough luck, buddy," said the M. P. "She's a good-looker. I'd like to have a half-hour with her myself."
"Look here. I'm in the Sorbonne School Detachment in Paris, and I came down here without a pass. Is there anything I can do about it?"
"They'll fix you up, don't worry," cried the M. P. shrilly. "You ain't a member of the General Staff in disguise, are ye? School Detachment! Gee, won't Bill Huggis laugh when he hears that? You pulled the best one yet, buddy.... But come along," he added in a confidential tone. "If you come quiet I won't put the handcuffs on ye."
"How do I know you're an M. P.?"
"You'll know soon enough."
They turned down a narrow street between grey stucco walls leprous with moss and water stains.
At a chair inside the window of a small wine shop a man with a red M. P. badge sat smoking. He got up when he saw them pass and opened the door with one hand on his pistol holster.
"I got one bird, Bill," said the man, shoving Andrews roughly in the door.
"Good for you, Handsome; is he quiet?"
"Um." Handsome grunted.
"Sit down there. If you move you'll git a bullet in your guts."
The M. P. stuck out a square jaw; he had a sallow skin, puffy under the eyes that were grey and lustreless.
"He says he's in some goddam School Detachment. First time that's been pulled, ain't it?"
"School Detachment. D'you mean an O. T. C?" Bill sank laughing into his chair by the window, spreading his legs out over the floor.
"Ain't that rich?" said Handsome, laughing shrilly again.
"Got any papers on ye? Ye must have some sort of papers."
Andrews searched his pockets. He flushed.
"I ought to have a school pass."
"You sure ought. Gee, this guy's simple," said Bill, leaning far back in the chair and blowing smoke through his nose.
"Look at his dawg-tag, Handsome."
The man strode over to Andrews and jerked open the top of his tunic. Andrews pulled his body away.
"I haven't got any on. I forgot to put any on this morning."
"No tag, no insignia."
"Yes, I have, infantry."
"No papers.... I bet he's been out a hell of a time," said Handsome meditatively.
"Better put the cuffs on him," said Bill in the middle of a yawn.
"Let's wait a while. When's the loot coming?"
"Not till night."
"Yes. Ain't no train."
"How about a side car?"
"No, I know he ain't comin'," snarled Bill.
"What d'you say we have a little liquor, Bill? Bet this bloke's got money. You'll set us up to a glass o' cognac, won't you, School Detachment?"
Andrews sat very stiff in his chair, staring at them.
"Yes," he said, "order up what you like."
"Keep an eye on him, Handsome. You never can tell what this quiet kind's likely to pull off on you."
Bill Huggis strode out of the room with heavy steps. In a moment he came back swinging a bottle of cognac in his hand.
"Tole the Madame you'd pay, Skinny," said the man as he passed Andrews's chair. Andrews nodded.
The two M. P.'s drew up to the table beside which Andrews sat. Andrews could not keep his eyes off them. Bill Huggis hummed as he pulled the cork out of the bottle.
"It's the smile that makes you happy, It's the smile that makes you sad."
Handsome watched him, grinning.
Suddenly they both burst out laughing.
"An" the damn fool thinks he's in a school battalion," said Handsome in his shrill voice.
"It'll be another kind of a battalion you'll be in, Skinny," cried Bill Huggis. He stifled his laughter with a long drink from the bottle.
He smacked his lips.
"Not so goddam bad," he said. Then he started humming again:
"It's the smile that makes you happy, It's the smile that makes you sad."
"Have some, Skinny?" said Handsome, pushing the bottle towards Andrews.
"No, thanks," said Andrews.
"Ye won't be gettin' good cognac where yer goin', Skinny, not by a damn sight," growled Bill Huggis in the middle of a laugh.
"All right, I'll take a swig." An idea had suddenly come into Andrews's head.
"Gee, the bastard kin drink cognac," cried Handsome.
"Got enough money to buy us another bottle?"
Andrews nodded. He wiped his mouth absently with his handkerchief; he had drunk the raw cognac without tasting it.
"Get another bottle, Handsome," said Bill Huggis carelessly. A purplish flush had appeared in the lower part of his cheeks. When the other man came back, he burst out laughing.
"The last cognac this Skinny guy from the school detachment'll get for many a day. Better drink up strong, Skinny.... They don't have that stuff down on the farm.... School Detachment; I'll be goddamned!" He leaned back in his chair, shaking with laughter.
Handsome's face was crimson. Only the zigzag scar over his eye remained white. He was swearing in a low voice as he worked the cork out of the bottle.
Andrews could not keep his eyes off the men's faces. They went from one to the other, in spite of him. Now and then, for an instant, he caught a glimpse of the yellow and brown squares of the wall paper and the bar with a few empty bottles behind it. He tried to count the bottles; "one, two, three..." but he was staring in the lustreless grey eyes of Bill Huggis, who lay back in his chair, blowing smoke out of his nose, now and then reaching for the cognac bottle, all the while humming faintly, under his breath:
"It's the smile that makes you happy, It's the smile that makes you sad."
Handsome sat with his elbows on the table, and his chin in his beefy hands. His face was flushed crimson, but the skin was softly moulded, like a woman's.
The light in the room was beginning to grow grey.
Handsome and Bill Huggis stood up. A young officer, with clearly- marked features and a campaign hat worn a little on one side, came in, stood with his feet wide apart in the middle of the floor.
Andrews went up to him.
"I'm in the Sorbonne Detachment, Lieutenant, stationed in Paris."
"Don't you know enough to salute?" said the officer, looking him up and down. "One of you men teach him to salute," he said slowly.
Handsome made a step towards Andrews and hit him with his fist between the eyes. There was a flash of light and the room swung round, and there was a splitting crash as his head struck the floor. He got to his feet. The fist hit him in the same place, blinding him, the three figures and the bright oblong of the window swung round. A chair crashed down with him, and a hard rap in the back of his skull brought momentary blackness.
"That's enough, let him be," he heard a voice far away at the end of a black tunnel.
A great weight seemed to be holding him down as he struggled to get up, blinded by tears and blood. Rending pains darted like arrows through his head. There were handcuffs on his wrists.
"Git up," snarled a voice.
He got to his feet, faint light came through the streaming tears in his eyes. His forehead flamed as if hot coals were being pressed against it.
"Prisoner, attention!" shouted the officer's voice. "March!"
Automatically, Andrews lifted one foot and then the other. He felt in his face the cool air of the street. On either side of him were the hard steps of the M. P.'s. Within him a nightmare voice was shrieking, shrieking.
PART SIX: UNDER THE WHEELS
The uncovered garbage cans clattered as they were thrown one by one into the truck. Dust, and a smell of putrid things, hung in the air about the men as they worked. A guard stood by with his legs wide apart, and his rifle-butt on the pavement between them. The early mist hung low, hiding the upper windows of the hospital. From the door beside which the garbage cans were ranged came a thick odor of carbolic. The last garbage can rattled into place on the truck, the four prisoners and the guard clambered on, finding room as best they could among the cans, from which dripped bloody bandages, ashes, and bits of decaying food, and the truck rumbled off towards the incinerator, through the streets of Paris that sparkled with the gaiety of early morning.
The prisoners wore no tunics; their shirts and breeches had dark stains of grease and dirt; on their hands were torn canvas gloves. The guard was a sheepish, pink-faced youth, who kept grinning apologetically, and had trouble keeping his balance when the truck went round corners.
"How many days do they keep a guy on this job, Happy?" asked a boy with mild blue eyes and a creamy complexion, and reddish curly hair.
"Damned if I know, kid; as long as they please, I guess," said the bull-necked man next him, who had a lined prize fighter's face, with a heavy protruding jaw.
Then, after looking at the boy for a minute, with his face twisted into an astonished sort of grin, he went on: "Say, kid, how in hell did you git here? Robbin' the cradle, Oi call it, to send you here, kid."
"I stole a Ford," the boy answered cheerfully.
"Like hell you did!"
"Sold it for five hundred francs."
Happy laughed, and caught hold of an ash can to keep from being thrown out of the jolting truck.
"Kin ye beat that, guard?" he cried. "Ain't that somethin'?"
The guard sniggered.
"Didn't send me to Leavenworth 'cause I was so young," went on the kid placidly.
"How old are you, kid?" asked Andrews, who was leaning against the driver's seat.
"Seventeen," said the boy, blushing and casting his eyes down.
"He must have lied like hell to git in this goddam army," boomed the deep voice of the truck driver, who had leaned over to spit s long squirt of tobacco juice.
The truck driver jammed the brakes on. The garbage cans banged against each other.
The Kid cried out in pain: "Hold your horses, can't you? You nearly broke my leg."
The truck driver was swearing in a long string of words.
"Goddam these dreamin', skygazin' sons of French bastards. Why don't they get out of your way? Git out an' crank her up, Happy."
"Guess a feller'd be lucky if he'd break his leg or somethin'; don't you think so, Skinny?" said the fourth prisoner in a low voice.
"It'll take mor'n a broken leg to git you out o' this labor battalion, Hoggenback. Won't it, guard?" said Happy, as he climbed on again.
The truck jolted away, trailing a haze of cinder dust and a sour stench of garbage behind it. Andrews noticed all at once that they were going down the quais along the river. Notre Dame was rosy in the misty sunlight, the color of lilacs in full bloom. He looked at it fixedly a moment, and then looked away. He felt very far from it, like a man looking at the stars from the bottom of a pit.
"My mate, he's gone to Leavenworth for five years," said the Kid when they had been silent some time listening to the rattle of the garbage cans as the trucks jolted over the cobbles.
"Helped yer steal the Ford, did he?" asked Happy.
"Ford nothin'! He sold an ammunition train. He was a railroad man. He was a mason, that's why he only got five years."
"I guess five years in Leavenworth's enough for anybody," muttered Hoggenback, scowling. He was a square-shouldered dark man, who always hung his head when he worked.
"We didn't meet up till we got to Paris; we was on a hell of a party together at the Olympia. That's where they picked us up. Took us to the Bastille. Ever been in the Bastille?"
"I have," said Hoggenback.
"Ain't no joke, is it?"
"Christ!" said Hoggenback. His face flushed a furious red. He turned away and looked at the civilians walking briskly along the early morning streets, at the waiters in shirt sleeves swabbing off the cafe tables, at the women pushing handcarts full of bright-colored vegetables over the cobblestones.
"I guess they ain't nobody gone through what we guys go through with," said Happy. "It'd be better if the ole war was still a' goin', to my way o' thinkin'. They'd chuck us into the trenches then. Ain't so low as this."
"Look lively," shouted the truck driver, as the truck stopped in a dirty yard full of cinder piles. "Ain't got all day. Five more loads to get yet."
The guard stood by with angry face and stiff limbs; for he feared there were officers about, and the prisoners started unloading the garbage cans; their nostrils were full of the stench of putrescence; between their lips was a gritty taste of cinders.
The air in the dark mess shack was thick with steam from the kitchen at one end. The men filed past the counter, holding out their mess kits, into which the K. P.'s splashed the food. Occasionally someone stopped to ask for a larger helping in an ingratiating voice. They ate packed together at long tables of roughly planed boards, stained from the constant spilling of grease and coffee and still wet from a perfunctory scrubbing. Andrews sat at the end of a bench, near the door through which came the glimmer of twilight, eating slowly, surprised at the relish with which he ate the greasy food, and at the exhausted contentment that had come over him almost in spite of himself. Hoggenback sat opposite him.
"Funny," he said to Hoggenback, "it's not really as bad as I thought it would be."
"What d'you mean, this labor battalion? Hell, a feller can put up with anything; that's one thing you learn in the army."
"I guess people would rather put up with things than make an effort to change them."
"You're goddam right. Got a butt?"
Andrews handed him a cigarette. They got to their feet and walked out into the twilight, holding their mess kits in front of them. As they were washing their mess kits in a tub of greasy water, where bits of food floated in a thick scum, Hoggenback suddenly said in a low voice:
"But it all piles up, Buddy; some day there'll be an accountin'. D'you believe in religion?"
"Neither do I. I come of folks as done their own accountin'. My father an' my gran'father before him. A feller can't eat his bile day after day, day after day."
"I'm afraid he can, Hoggenback," broke in Andrews. They walked towards the barracks.
"Goddam it, no," cried Hoggenback aloud. "There comes a point where you can't eat yer bile any more, where it don't do no good to cuss. Then you runs amuck." Hanging his head he went slowly into the barracks.
Andrews leaned against the outside of the building, staring up at the sky. He was trying desperately to think, to pull together a few threads of his life in this moment of respite from the nightmare. In five minutes the bugle would din in his ears, and he would be driven into the barracks. A tune came to his head that he played with eagerly for a moment, and then, as memory came to him, tried to efface with a shudder of disgust.
"There's the smile that makes you happy, There's the smile that makes you sad."
It was almost dark. Two men walked slowly by in front of him.
"Sarge, may I speak to you?" came a voice in a whisper.
The sergeant grunted.
"I think there's two guys trying to break loose out of here."
"Who? If you're wrong it'll be the worse for you, remember that."
"Surley an' Watson. I heard 'em talkin' about it behind the latrine."
"They was sayin' they'd rather be dead than keep up this life."
"They did, did they?"
"Don't talk so loud, Sarge. It wouldn't do for any of the fellers to know I was talkin' to yer. Say, Sarge..." the voice became whining, "don't you think I've nearly served my time down here?"
"What do I know about that? 'Tain't my job."
"But, Sarge, I used to be company clerk with my old outfit. Don't ye need a guy round the office?" Andrews strode past them into the barracks. Dull fury possessed him. He took off his clothes and got silently into his blankets.
Hoggenback and Happy were talking beside his bunk.
"Never you mind," said Hoggenback, "somebody'll get that guy sooner or later."
"Git him, nauthin'! The fellers in that camp was so damn skeered they jumped if you snapped yer fingers at 'em. It's the discipline. I'm tellin' yer, it gits a feller in the end," said Happy.
Andrews lay without speaking, listening to their talk, aching in every muscle from the crushing work of the day.
"They court-martialled that guy, a feller told me," went on Hoggenback. "An' what d'ye think they did to him? Retired on half pay. He was a major."
"Gawd, if I iver git out o' this army, I'll be so goddam glad," began Happy. Hoggenback interrupted:
"That you'll forgit all about the raw deal they gave you, an' tell everybody how fine ye liked it."
Andrews felt the mocking notes of the bugle outside stabbing his ears. A non-com's voice roared: "Quiet," from the end of the building, and the lights went out. Already Andrews could hear the deep breathing of men asleep. He lay awake, staring into the darkness, his body throbbing with the monotonous rhythms of the work of the day. He seemed still to hear the sickening whine in the man's voice as he talked to the sergeant outside in the twilight. "And shall I be reduced to that?" he was asking himself.
Andrews was leaving the latrine when he heard a voice call softly, "Skinny."
"Yes," he said.
"Come here, I want to talk to you." It was the Kid's voice. There was no light in the ill-smelling shack that served for a latrine. Outside they could hear the guard humming softly to himself as he went back and forth before the barracks door.
"Let's you and me be buddies, Skinny."
"Sure," said Andrews.
"Say, what d'you think the chance is o' cuttin' loose?"
"Pretty damn poor," said Andrews.
"Couldn't you just make a noise like a hoop an' roll away?"
They giggled softly.
Andrews put his hand on the boy's arm.
"But, Kid, it's too risky. I got in this fix by taking a risk. I don't feel like beginning over again, and if they catch you, it's desertion. Leavenworth for twenty years, or life. That'd be the end of everything."
"Well, what the hell's this?"
"Oh, I don't know; they've got to let us out some day."
Kid put his hand suddenly over Andrews's mouth. They stood rigid, so that they could hear their hearts pounding.
Outside there was a brisk step on the gravel. The sentry halted and saluted. The steps faded into the distance, and the sentry's humming began again.
"They put two fellers in the jug for a month for talking like we are.... In solitary," whispered Kid.
"But, Kid, I haven't got the guts to try anything now."
"Sure you have, Skinny. You an' me's got more guts than all the rest of 'em put together. God, if people had guts, you couldn't treat 'em like they were curs. Look, if I can ever get out o' this, I've got a hunch I can make a good thing writing movie scenarios. I want to get on in the world, Skinny."
"But, Kid, you won't be able to go back to the States."
"I don't care. New Rochelle's not the whole world. They got the movies in Italy, ain't they?"
"Sure. Let's go to bed."
"All right. Look, you an' me are buddies from now on, Skinny."
Andrews felt the Kid's hand press his arm.
In his dark, airless bunk, in the lowest of three tiers, Andrews lay awake a long time, listening to the snores and the heavy breathing about him. Thoughts fluttered restlessly in his head, but in his blank hopelessness he could only frown and bite his lips, and roll his head from side to side on the rolled-up tunic he used for a pillow, listening with desperate attention to the heavy breathing of the men who slept above him and beside him.
When he fell asleep he dreamed that he was alone with Genevieve Rod in the concert hall of the Schola Cantorum, and that he was trying desperately hard to play some tune for her on the violin, a tune he kept forgetting, and in the agony of trying to remember, the tears streamed down his cheeks. Then he had his arms round Genevieve's shoulders and was kissing her, kissing her, until he found that it was a wooden board he was kissing, a wooden board on which was painted a face with broad forehead and great pale brown eyes, and small tight lips, and all the while a boy who seemed to be both Chrisfield and the Kid kept telling him to run or the M.P.'s would get him. Then he sat frozen in icy terror with a bottle in his hand, while a frightful voice behind him sang very loud:
"There's the smile that makes you happy, There's the smile that makes you sad."
The bugle woke him, and he sat up with such a start that he hit his head hard against the bunk above him. He lay back cringing from the pain like a child. But he had to hurry desperately to get his clothes on in time for roll call. It was with a feeling of relief that he found that mess was not ready, and that men were waiting in line outside the kitchen shack, stamping their feet and clattering their mess kits as they moved about through the chilly twilight of the spring morning. Andrews found he was standing behind Hoggenback.
"How's she comin', Skinny?" whispered Hoggenback, in his low mysterious voice.
"Oh, we're all in the same boat," said Andrews with a laugh.
"Wish it'd sink," muttered the other man. "D'ye know," he went on after a pause, "I kinder thought an edicated guy like you'd be able to keep out of a mess like this. I wasn't brought up without edication, but I guess I didn't have enough."
"I guess most of 'em can; I don't sec that it's much to the point. A man suffers as much if he doesn't know how to read and write as if he had a college education."
"I dunno, Skinny. A feller who's led a rough life can put up with an awful lot. The thing is, Skinny, I might have had a commission if I hadn't been so damned impatient.... I'm a lumberman by trade, and my dad's cleaned up a pretty thing in war contracts jus' a short time ago. He could have got me in the engineers if I hadn't gone off an' enlisted."
"Why did you?"
"I was restless-like. I guess I wanted to see the world. I didn't care about the goddam war, but I wanted to see what things was like over here."
"Well, you've seen," said Andrews, smiling.
"In the neck," said Hoggenback, as he pushed out his cup for coffee.
In the truck that was taking them to work, Andrews and the Kid sat side by side on the jouncing backboard and tried to talk above the rumble of the exhaust.
"Like Paris?" asked the Kid.
"Not this way," said Andrews.
"Say, one of the guys said you could parlay French real well. I want you to teach me. A guy's got to know languages to get along in this country."
"But you must know some."
"Bedroom French," said the Kid, laughing.
"But if I want to write a movie scenario for an Eytalian firm, I can't just write 'voulay-vous couchezavecmoa' over and over again."
"But you'll have to learn Italian, Kid."
"I'm goin' to. Say, ain't they taking us a hell of a ways today, Skinny?"
"We're goin' to Passy Wharf to unload rock," said somebody in a grumbling voice.
"No, it's a cement...cement for the stadium we're presentin' the French Nation. Ain't you read in the 'Stars and Stripes' about it?"
"I'd present 'em with a swift kick, and a hell of a lot of other people, too."
"So we have to sweat unloadin' cement all day," muttered Hoggenback, "to give these goddam frawgs a stadium."
"If it weren't that it'd be somethin' else."
"But, ain't we got folks at home to work for?" cried Hoggenback. "Mightn't all this sweat be doin' some good for us? Building a stadium! My gawd!"
"Pile out there.... Quick!" rasped a voice from the driver's seat.
Through the haze of choking white dust, Andrews got now and then a glimpse of the grey-green river, with its tugboats sporting their white cockades of steam and their long trailing plumes of smoke, and its blunt-nosed barges and its bridges, where people walked jauntily back and forth, going about their business, going where they wanted to go. The bags of cement were very heavy, and the unaccustomed work sent racking pains through his back. The biting dust stung under his finger nails, and in his mouth and eyes. All the morning a sort of refrain went through his head: "People have spent their lives...doing only this. People have spent their lives doing only this." As he crossed and recrossed the narrow plank from the barge to the shore, he looked at the black water speeding seawards and took extraordinary care not to let his foot slip. He did not know why, for one-half of him was thinking how wonderful it would be to drown, to forget in eternal black silence the hopeless struggle. Once he saw the Kid standing before the sergeant in charge in an attitude of complete exhaustion, and caught a glint of his blue eyes as he looked up appealingly, looking like a child begging out of a spanking. The sight amused him, and he said to himself: "If I had pink cheeks and cupid's bow lips, I might be able to go through life on my blue eyes"; and he pictured the Kid, a fat, cherubic old man, stepping out of a white limousine, the way people do in the movies, and looking about him with those same mild blue eyes. But soon he forgot everything in the agony of the heavy cement bags bearing down on his back and hips.
In the truck on the way back to the mess the Kid, looking fresh and smiling among the sweating men, like ghosts from the white dust, talking hoarsely above the clatter of the truck, sidled up very close to Andrews.
"D'you like swimmin', Skinny?"
"Yes. I'd give a lot to get some of this cement dust off me," said Andrews, without interest.
"I once won a boy's swimmin' race at Coney," said the Kid. Andrews did not answer.
"Were you in the swimmin' team or anything like that, Skinny, when you went to school?"
"No.... It would be wonderful to be in the water, though. I used to swim way out in Chesapeake Bay at night when the water was phosphorescent."
Andrews suddenly found the Kid's blue eyes, bright as flames from excitement, staring into his.
"God, I'm an ass," he muttered.
He felt the Kid's fist punch him softly in the back. "Sergeant said they was goin' to work us late as hell tonight," the Kid was saying aloud to the men round him.