Andrews, and six other men from his division, sat at a table outside the cafe opposite the Gare de l’Est. He leaned back in his chair with a cup of coffee lifted, looking across it at the stone houses with many balconies. Steam, scented of milk and coffee, rose from the cup as he sipped from it. His ears were full of a rumble of traffic and a clacking of heels as people walked briskly by along the damp pavements. For a while he did not hear what the men he was sitting with were saying. They talked and laughed, but he looked beyond their khaki uniforms and their boat-shaped caps unconsciously. He was taken up with the smell of the coffee and of the mist. A little rusty sunshine shone on the table of the cafe and on the thin varnish of wet mud that covered the asphalt pavement. Looking down the Avenue, away from the station, the houses, dark grey tending to greenish in the shadow and to violet in the sun, faded into a soft haze of distance. Dull gilt lettering glittered along black balconies. In the foreground were men and women walking briskly, their cheeks whipped a little into color by the rawness of the morning. The sky was a faintly roseate grey.
Walters was speaking:
“The first thing I want to see is the Eiffel Tower.”
“Why d’you want to see that?” said the small sergeant with a black mustache and rings round his eyes like a monkey.
“Why, man, don’t you know that everything begins from the Eiffel Tower? If it weren’t for the Eiffel Tower, there wouldn’t be any sky-scrapers....”
“How about the Flatiron Building and Brooklyn Bridge? They were built before the Eiffel Tower, weren’t they?” interrupted the man from New York.
“The Eiffel Tower’s the first piece of complete girder construction in the whole world,” reiterated Walters dogmatically.
“First thing I’m going to do’s go to the Folies Berd-jairs; me for the w.w.‘s.”
“Better lay off the wild women, Bill,” said Walters.
“I ain’t goin’ to look at a woman,” said the sergeant with the black mustache. “I guess I seen enough women in my time, anyway.... The war’s over, anyway.”
“You just wait, kid, till you fasten your lamps on a real Parizianne,” said a burly, unshaven man with a corporal’s stripes on his arm, roaring with laughter.
Andrews lost track of the talk again, staring dreamily through half-closed eyes down the long straight street, where greens and violets and browns merged into a bluish grey monochrome at a little distance. He wanted to be alone, to wander at random through the city, to stare dreamily at people and things, to talk by chance to men and women, to sink his life into the misty sparkling life of the streets. The smell of the mist brought a memory to his mind. For a long while he groped for it, until suddenly he remembered his dinner with Henslowe and the faces of the boy and girl he had talked to on the Butte. He must find Henslowe at once. A second’s fierce resentment went through him against all these people about him. Christ! He must get away from them all; his freedom had been hard enough won; he must enjoy it to the uttermost.
“Say, I’m going to stick to you, Andy.” Walters’s voice broke into his reverie. “I’m going to appoint you the corps of interpreters.”
“D’you know the way to the School Headquarters?”
“The R. T. O. said take the subway.”
“I’m going to walk,” said Andrews.
“You’ll get lost, won’t you?”
“No danger, worse luck,” said Andrews, getting to his feet. “I’ll see you fellows at the School Headquarters, whatever those are.... So long.”
“Say, Andy, I’ll wait for you there,” Walters called after him.
Andrews darted down a side street. He could hardly keep from shouting aloud when he found himself alone, free, with days and days ahead of him to work and think, gradually to rid his limbs of the stiff attitudes of the automaton. The smell of the streets, and the mist, indefinably poignant, rose like incense smoke in fantastic spirals through his brain, making him hungry and dazzled, making his arms and legs feel lithe and as ready for delight as a crouching cat for a spring. His heavy shoes beat out a dance as they clattered on the wet pavements under his springy steps. He was walking very fast, stopping suddenly now and then to look at the greens and oranges and crimsons of vegetables in a push cart, to catch a vista down intricate streets, to look into the rich brown obscurity of a small wine shop where workmen stood at the counter sipping white wine. Oval, delicate faces, bearded faces of men, slightly gaunt faces of young women, red cheeks of boys, wrinkled faces of old women, whose ugliness seemed to have hidden in it, stirringly, all the beauty of youth and the tragedy of lives that had been lived; the faces of the people he passed moved him like rhythms of an orchestra. After much walking, turning always down the street which looked pleasantest, he came to an oval with a statue of a pompous personage on a ramping horse. “Place des Victoires,” he read the name, which gave him a faint tinge of amusement. He looked quizzically at the heroic features of the sun king and walked off laughing. “I suppose they did it better in those days, the grand manner,” he muttered. And his delight redoubled in rubbing shoulders with the people whose effigies would never appear astride ramping-eared horses in squares built to commemorate victories. He came out on a broad straight avenue, where there were many American officers he had to salute, and M. P.‘s and shops with wide plate-glass windows, full of objects that had a shiny, expensive look. “Another case of victories,” he thought, as he went off into a side street, taking with him a glimpse of the bluish-grey pile of the Opera, with its pompous windows and its naked bronze ladies holding lamps.
He was in a narrow street full of hotels and fashionable barber shops, from which came an odor of cosmopolitan perfumery, of casinos and ballrooms and diplomatic receptions, when he noticed an American officer coming towards him, reeling a little,—a tall, elderly man with a red face and a bottle nose. He saluted.
The officer stopped still, swaying from side to side, and said in a whining voice:
“Shonny, d’you know where Henry’sh Bar is?”
“No, I don’t, Major,” said Andrews, who felt himself enveloped in an odor of cocktails.
“You’ll help me to find it, shonny, won’t you?... It’s dreadful not to be able to find it.... I’ve got to meet Lootenant Trevors in Henry’sh Bar.” The major steadied himself by putting a hand on Andrews’ shoulder. A civilian passed them.
“Dee-donc,” shouted the major after him, “Dee-donc, Monshier, ou ay Henry’sh Bar?”
The man walked on without answering.
“Now isn’t that like a frog, not to understand his own language?” said the major.
“But there’s Henry’s Bar, right across the street,” said Andrews suddenly.
“Bon, bon,” said the major.
They crossed the street and went in. At the bar the major, still clinging to Andrews’ shoulder, whispered in his ear: “I’m A. W. O. L., shee?... Shee?.... Whole damn Air Service is A. W. O. L. Have a drink with me.... You enlisted man? Nobody cares here.... Warsh over, Sonny.... Democracy is shafe for the world.”
Andrews was just raising a champagne cocktail to his lips, looking with amusement at the crowd of American officers and civilians who crowded into the small mahogany barroom, when a voice behind him drawled out:
“I’ll be damned!”
Andrews turned and saw Henslowe’s brown face and small silky mustache. He abandoned his major to his fate.
“God, I’m glad to see you.... I was afraid you hadn’t been able to work it.”...Said Henslowe slowly, stuttering a little.
“I’m about crazy, Henny, with delight. I just got in a couple of hours ago....” Laughing, interrupting each other, they chattered in broken sentences.
“But how in the name of everything did you get here?”
“With the major?” said Andrews, laughing.
“What the devil?”
“Yes; that major,” whispered Andrews in his friend’s ear, “rather the worse for wear, asked me to lead him to Henry’s Bar and just fed me a cocktail in the memory of Democracy, late defunct.... But what are you doing here? It’s not exactly... exotic.”
“I came to see a man who was going to tell me how I could get to Rumania with the Red Cross.... But that can wait.... Let’s get out of here. God, I was afraid you hadn’t made it.”
“I had to crawl on my belly and lick people’s boots to do it.... God, it was low!... But here I am.”
They were out in the street again, walking and gesticulating.
“But ‘Libertad, Libertad, allons, ma femme!’ as Walt Whitman would have said,” shouted Andrews.
“It’s one grand and glorious feeling.... I’ve been here three days. My section’s gone home; God bless them.”
“But what do you have to do?”
“Do? Nothing,” cried Henslowe. “Not a blooming bloody goddam thing! In fact, it’s no use trying... the whole thing is such a mess you couldn’t do anything if you wanted to.”
“I want to go and talk to people at the Schola Cantorum.”
“There’ll be time for that. You’ll never make anything out of music if you get serious-minded about it.”
“Then, last but not least, I’ve got to get some money from somewhere.”
“Now you’re talking!” Henslowe pulled a burnt leather pocket book out of the inside of his tunic. “Monaco,” he said, tapping the pocket book, which was engraved with a pattern of dull red flowers. He pursed up his lips and pulled out some hundred franc notes, which he pushed into Andrews’s hand.
“Give me one of them,” said Andrews.
“All or none.... They last about five minutes each.”
“But it’s so damn much to pay back.”
“Pay it back—heavens!... Here take it and stop your talking. I probably won’t have it again, so you’d better make hay this time. I warn you it’ll be spent by the end of the week.”
“All right. I’m dead with hunger.”
“Let’s sit down on the Boulevard and think about where we’ll have lunch to celebrate Miss Libertad.... But let’s not call her that, sounds like Liverpool, Andy, a horrid place.”
“How about Freiheit?” said Andrews, as they sat down in basket chairs in the reddish yellow sunlight.
“Treasonable... off with your head.”
“But think of it, man,” said Andrews, “the butchery’s over, and you and I and everybody else will soon be human beings again. Human; all too human!”
“No more than eighteen wars going,” muttered Henslowe.
“I haven’t seen any papers for an age.... How do you mean?”
“People are fighting to beat the cats everywhere except on the’ western front,” said Henslowe. “But that’s where I come in. The Red Cross sends supply trains to keep them at it.... I’m going to Russia if I can work it.”
“But what about the Sorbonne?”
“The Sorbonne can go to Ballyhack.”
“But, Henny, I’m going to croak on your hands if you don’t take me somewhere to get some food.”
“Do you want a solemn place with red plush or with salmon pink brocade?”
“Why have a solemn place at all?”
“Because solemnity and good food go together. It’s only a religious restaurant that has a proper devotion to the belly. O, I know, we’ll go over to Brooklyn.”
“To the Rive Gauche. I know a man who insists on calling it Brooklyn. Awfully funny man... never been sober in his life. You must meet him.”
“Oh, I want to.... It’s a dog’s age since I met anyone new, except you. I can’t live without having a variegated crowd about, can you?”
“You’ve got that right on this boulevard. Serbs, French, English, Americans, Australians, Rumanians, Tcheco-Slovaks; God, is there any uniform that isn’t here?... I tell you, Andy, the war’s been a great thing for the people who knew how to take advantage of it. Just look at their puttees.”
“I guess they’ll know how to make a good thing of the Peace too.”
“Oh, that’s going to be the best yet.... Come along. Let’s be little devils and take a taxi.”
“This certainly is the main street of Cosmopolis.”
They threaded their way through the crowd, full of uniforms and glitter and bright colors, that moved in two streams up and down the wide sidewalk between the cafes and the boles of the bare trees. They climbed into a taxi, and lurched fast through streets where, in the misty sunlight, grey-green and grey-violet mingled with blues and pale lights as the colors mingle in a pigeon’s breast feathers. They passed the leafless gardens of the Tuileries on one side, and the great inner Courts of the Louvre, with their purple mansard roofs and their high chimneys on the other, and saw for a second the river, dull jade green, and the plane trees splotched with brown and cream color along the quais, before they were lost in the narrow brownish-grey streets of the old quarters.
“This is Paris; that was Cosmopolis,” said Henslowe.
“I’m not particular, just at present,” cried Andrews gaily.
The square in front of the Odeon was a splash of white and the collonade a blur of darkness as the cab swerved round the corner and along the edge of the Luxembourg, where, through the black iron fence, many brown and reddish colors in the intricate patterns of leafless twigs opened here and there on statues and balustrades and vistas of misty distances. The cab stopped with a jerk.
“This is the Place des Medicis,” said Henslowe.
At the end of a slanting street looking very flat, through the haze, was the dome of the Pantheon. In the middle of the square between the yellow trams and the green low busses, was a quiet pool, where the shadow of horizontals of the house fronts was reflected.
They sat beside the window looking out at the square.
“Remember how sentimental history books used to talk about prisoners who were let out after years in dungeons, not being able to stand it, and going back to their cells?”
“D’you like sole meuniere?”
“Anything, or rather everything! But take it from me, that’s all rubbish. Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life.... D’you know, Henslowe, there’s something in you that is afraid to be happy.”
“Don’t be morbid.... There’s only one real evil in the world: being somewhere without being able to get away;... I ordered beer. This is the only place in Paris where it’s fit to drink.”
“And I’m going to every blooming concert...Colonne-Lamoureux on Sunday, I know that.... The only evil in the world is not to be able to hear music or to make it.... These oysters are fit for Lucullus.”
“Why not say fit for John Andrews and Bob Henslowe, damn it?... Why the ghosts of poor old dead Romans should be dragged in every time a man eats an oyster, I don’t see. We’re as fine specimens as they were. I swear I shan’t let any old turned-toclay Lucullus outlive me, even if I’ve never eaten a lamprey.”
“And why should you eat a lamp—chimney, Bob?” came a hoarse voice beside them.
Andrews looked up into a round, white face with large grey eyes hidden behind thick steel-rimmed spectacles. Except for the eyes, the face had a vaguely Chinese air.
“Hello, Heinz! Mr. Andrews, Mr. Heineman,” said Henslowe.
“Glad to meet you,” said Heineman in a jovially hoarse voice. “You guys seem to be overeating, to reckon by the way things are piled up on the table.” Through the hoarseness Andrews could detect a faint Yankee tang in Heineman’s voice.
“You’d better sit down and help us,” said Henslowe.
“Sure....D’you know my name for this guy?” He turned to Andrews.... “Sinbad!”
“Sinbad was in bad in Tokio and Rome, In bad in Trinidad
And twice as bad at home.”
He sang the words loudly, waving a bread stick to keep time.
“Shut up, Heinz, or you’ll get us run out of here the way you got us run out of the Olympia that night.”
They both laughed.
“An’ d’you remember Monsieur Le Guy with his coat?
“Do I? God!” They laughed till the tears ran down their cheeks. Heineman took off his glasses and wiped them. He turned to Andrews.
“Oh, Paris is the best yet. First absurdity: the Peace Conference and its nine hundred and ninety-nine branches. Second absurdity: spies. Third: American officers A.W.O.L. Fourth: The seven sisters sworn to slay.” He broke out laughing again, his chunky body rolling about on the chair.
“What are they?”
“Three of them have sworn to slay Sinbad, and four of them have sworn to slay me.... But that’s too complicated to tell at lunch time.... Eighth: there are the lady relievers, Sinbad’s specialty. Ninth: there’s Sinbad....”
“Shut up, Heinz, you’re getting me maudlin,” spluttered Henslowe.
“O Sinbad was in bad all around,” chanted Heineman. “But no one’s given me anything to drink,” he said suddenly in a petulant voice. “Garcon, une bouteille de Macon, pour un Cadet de Gascogne.... What’s the next? It ends with vergogne. You’ve seen the play, haven’t you? Greatest play going.... Seen it twice sober and seven other times.”
“Cyrano de Bergerac?”
“That’s it. Nous sommes les Cadets de Gasgogne, rhymes with ivrogne and sans vergogne.... You see I work in the Red Cross.... You know Sinbad, old Peterson’s a brick.... I’m supposed to be taking photographs of tubercular children at this minute.... The noblest of my professions is that of artistic photographer.... Borrowed the photographs from the rickets man. So I have nothing to do for three months and five hundred francs travelling expenses. Oh, children, my only prayer is ‘give us this day our red worker’s permit’ and the Red Cross does the rest.” Heineman laughed till the glasses rang on the table. He took off his glasses and wiped them with a rueful air.
“So now I call the Red Cross the Cadets!” cried Heineman, his voice a thin shriek from laughter.
Andrews was drinking his coffee in little sips, looking out of the window at the people that passed. An old woman with a stand of flowers sat on a small cane chair at the corner. The pink and yellow and blue-violet shades of the flowers seemed to intensify the misty straw color and azured grey of the wintry sun and shadow of the streets. A girl in a tight-fitting black dress and black hat stopped at the stand to buy a bunch of pale yellow daisies, and then walked slowly past the window of the restaurant in the direction of the gardens. Her ivory face and slender body and her very dark eyes sent a sudden flush through Andrews’s whole frame as he looked at her. The black erect figure disappeared in the gate of the gardens.
Andrews got to his feet suddenly.
“I’ve got to go,” he said in a strange voice.... “I just remember a man was waiting for me at the School Headquarters.”
“Let him wait.”
“Why, you haven’t had a liqueur yet,” cried Heineman.
“No... but where can I meet you people later?”
“Cafe de Rohan at five... opposite the Palais Royal.”
“You’ll never find it.”
“Yes I will,” said Andrews.
“Palais Royal metro station,” they shouted after him as he dashed out of the door.
He hurried into the gardens. Many people sat on benches in the frail sunlight. Children in bright-colored clothes ran about chasing hoops. A woman paraded a bunch of toy balloons in carmine and green and purple, like a huge bunch of parti-colored grapes inverted above her head. Andrews walked up and down the alleys, scanning faces. The girl had disappeared. He leaned against a grey balustrade and looked down into the empty pond where traces of the explosion of a Bertha still subsisted. He was telling himself that he was a fool. That even if he had found her he could not have spoken to her; just because he was free for a day or two from the army he needn’t think the age of gold had come back to earth. Smiling at the thought, he walked across the gardens, wandered through some streets of old houses in grey and white stucco with slate mansard roofs and fantastic complications of chimney-pots till he came out in front of a church with a new classic facade of huge columns that seemed toppling by their own weight.
He asked a woman selling newspapers what the church’s name was. “Mais, Monsieur, c’est Saint Sulpice,” said the woman in a surprised tone.
Saint Sulpice. Manon’s songs came to his head, and the sentimental melancholy of eighteenth century Paris with its gambling houses in the Palais Royal where people dishonored themselves in the presence of their stern Catonian fathers, and its billets doux written at little gilt tables, and its coaches lumbering in covered with mud from the provinces through the Porte d’Orleans and the Porte de Versailles; the Paris of Diderot and Voltaire and Jean-Jacques, with its muddy streets and its ordinaries where one ate bisques and larded pullets and souffles; a Paris full of mouldy gilt magnificence, full of pompous ennui of the past and insane hope of the future.
He walked down a narrow, smoky street full of antique shops and old bookshops and came out unexpectedly on the river opposite the statue of Voltaire. The name on the corner was quai Malaquais. Andrews crossed and looked down for a long time at the river. Opposite, behind a lace-work of leafless trees, were the purplish roofs of the Louvre with their high peaks and their ranks and ranks of chimneys; behind him the old houses of the quai and the wing, topped by a balustrade with great grey stone urns of a domed building of which he did not know the name. Barges were coming upstream, the dense green water spuming under their blunt bows, towed by a little black tugboat with its chimney bent back to pass under the bridges. The tug gave a thin shrill whistle. Andrews started walking downstream. He crossed by the bridge at the corner of the Louvre, turned his back on the arch Napoleon built to receive the famous horses from St. Marc’s,—a pinkish pastry-like affair—and walked through the Tuileries which were full of people strolling about or sitting in the sun, of doll-like children and nursemaids with elaborate white caps, of fluffy little dogs straining at the ends of leashes. Suddenly a peaceful sleepiness came over him. He sat down in the sun on a bench, watching, hardly seeing them, the people who passed to and fro casting long shadows. Voices and laughter came very softly to his ears above the distant stridency of traffic. From far away he heard for a few moments notes of a military band playing a march. The shadows of the trees were faint blue-grey in the ruddy yellow gravel. Shadows of people kept passing and repassing across them. He felt very languid and happy.
Suddenly he started up; he had been dozing. He asked an old man with a beautifully pointed white beard the way to rue du Faubourg St. Honore.
After losing his way a couple of times, he walked listlessly up some marble steps where a great many men in khaki were talking. Leaning against the doorpost was Walters. As he drew near Andrews heard him saying to the man next to him:
“Why, the Eiffel tower was the first piece of complete girder construction ever built.... That’s the first thing a feller who’s wide awake ought to see.”
“Tell me the Opery’s the grandest thing to look at,” said the man next it.
“If there’s wine an’ women there, me for it.”
“An’ don’t forget the song.”
“But that isn’t interesting like the Eiffel tower is,” persisted Walters.
“Say, Walters, I hope you haven’t been waiting for me,” stammered Andrews.
“No, I’ve been waiting in line to see the guy about courses.... I want to start this thing right.”
“I guess I’ll see them tomorrow,” said Andrews.
“Say have you done anything about a room, Andy? Let’s you and me be bunkies.”
“All right.... But maybe you won’t want to room where I do, Walters.”
“Where’s that? In the Latin Quarter?... You bet. I want to see some French life while I am about it.”
“Well, it’s too late to get a room to-day.”
“I’m going to the ‘Y’ tonight anyway.”
“I’ll get a fellow I know to put me up.... Then tomorrow, we’ll see. Well, so long,” said Andrews, moving away.
“Wait. I’m coming with you.... We’ll walk around town together.”
“All right,” said Andrews.
The rabbit was rather formless, very fluffy and had a glance of madness in its pink eye with a black center. It hopped like a sparrow along the pavement, emitting a rubber tube from its back, which went up to a bulb in a man’s hand which the man pressed to make the rabbit hop. Yet the rabbit had an air of organic completeness. Andrews laughed inordinately when he first saw it. The vendor, who had a basket full of other such rabbits on his arm, saw Andrews laughing and drew timidly near to the table; he had a pink face with little, sensitive lips rather like a real rabbit’s, and large frightened eyes of a wan brown.
“Do you make them yourself?” asked Andrews, smiling.
The man dropped his rabbit on the table with a negligent air.
“Oh, oui, Monsieur, d’apres la nature.”
He made the rabbit turn a somersault by suddenly pressing the bulb hard. Andrews laughed and the rabbit man laughed.
“Think of a big strong man making his living that way,” said Walters, disgusted.
“I do it all... de matiere premiere au profit de l’accapareur,” said the rabbit man.
“Hello, Andy... late as hell.... I’m sorry,” said Henslowe, dropping down into a chair beside them. Andrews introduced Walters, the rabbit man took off his hat, bowed to the company and went off, making the rabbit hop before him along the edge of the curbstone.
“What’s happened to Heineman?”
“Here he comes now,” said Henslowe.
An open cab had driven up to the curb in front of the cafe. In it sat Heineman with a broad grin on his face and beside him a woman in a salmon-colored dress, ermine furs and an emerald-green hat. The cab drove off and Heineman, still grinning, walked up to the table.
“Where’s the lion cub?” asked Henslowe.
“They say it’s got pneumonia.”
“Mr. Heineman. Mr. Walters.”
The grin left Heineman’s face; he said: “How do you do?” curtly, cast a furious glance at Andrews and settled himself in a chair.
The sun had set. The sky was full of lilac and bright purple and carmine. Among the deep blue shadows lights were coming on, primrose-colored street lamps, violet arc lights, ruddy sheets of light poured out of shop windows.
“Let’s go inside. I’m cold as hell,” said Heineman crossly, and they filed in through the revolving door, followed by a waiter with their drinks.
“I’ve been in the Red Cross all afternoon, Andy.... I think I am going to work that Roumania business.... Want to come?” said Henslowe in Andrews’ ear.
“If I can get hold of a piano and some lessons and the concerts keep up you won’t be able to get me away from Paris with wild horses. No, sir, I want to see what Paris is like.... It’s going to my head so it’ll be weeks before I know what I think about it.”
“Don’t think about it.... Drink,” growled Heineman, scowling savagely.
“That’s two things I’m going to keep away from in Paris; drink and women.... And you can’t have one without the other,” said Walters.
“True enough.... You sure do need them both,” said Heineman.
Andrews was not listening to their talk; twirling the stem of his glass of vermouth in his fingers, he was thinking of the Queen of Sheba slipping down from off the shoulders of her elephant, glistening fantastically with jewels in the light of crackling, resinous torches. Music was seeping up through his mind as the water seeps into a hole dug in the sand of the seashore. He could feel all through his body the tension of rhythms and phrases taking form, not quite to be seized as yet, still hovering on the borderland of consciousness. “From the girl at the cross-roads singing under her street-lamp to the patrician pulling roses to pieces from the height of her litter....All the imaginings of your desire....” He thought of the girl with skin like old ivory he had seen in the Place de Medicis. The Queen of Sheba’s face was like that now in his imaginings, quiet and inscrutable. A sudden cymbal-clanging of joy made his heart thump hard. He was free now of the imaginings of his desire, to loll all day at cafe tables watching the tables move in changing patterns before him, to fill his mind and body with a reverberation of all the rhythms of men and women moving in the frieze of life before his eyes; no more like wooden automatons knowing only the motions of the drill manual, but supple and varied, full of force and tragedy.
“For Heaven’s sake let’s beat it from here.... Gives me a pain this place does.” Heineman beat his fist on the table.
“All right,” said Andrews, getting up with a yawn.
Henslowe and Andrews walked off, leaving Walters to follow them with Heineman.
“We’re going to dine at Le Rat qui Danse,” said Henslowe, “an awfully funny place.... We just have time to walk there comfortably with an appetite.”
They followed the long dimly-lighted Rue de Richelieu to the Boulevards, where they drifted a little while with the crowd. The glaring lights seemed to powder the air with gold. Cafes and the tables outside were crowded. There was an odor of vermouth and coffee and perfume and cigarette smoke mixed with the fumes of burnt gasoline from taxicabs.
“Isn’t this mad?” said Andrews.
“It’s always carnival at seven on the Grands Boulevards.”
They started climbing the steep streets to Montmartre. At a corner they passed a hard-faced girl with rouge-smeared lips and overpowdered cheeks, laughing on the arm of an American soldier, who had a sallow face and dull-green eyes that glittered in the slanting light of a street-lamp.
“Hello, Stein,” said Andrews.
“A fellow from our division, got here with me this morning.”
“He’s got curious lips for a Jew,” said Henslowe.
At the fork of two slanting streets, they went into a restaurant that had small windows pasted over with red paper, through which the light came dimly. Inside were crowded oak tables and oak wainscoting with a shelf round the top, on which were shell-cans, a couple of skulls, several cracked majolica plates and a number of stuffed rats. The only people there were a fat woman and a man with long grey hair and beard who sat talking earnestly over two small glasses in the center of the room. A husky-looking waitress with a Dutch cap and apron hovered near the inner door from which came a great smell of fish frying in olive oil.
“The cook here’s from Marseilles,” said Henslowe, as they settled themselves at a table for four.
“I wonder if the rest of them lost the way,” said Andrews.
“More likely old Heinz stopped to have a drink,” said Henslowe. “Let’s have some hors d’oeuvre while we are waiting.”
The waitress brought a collection of boat-shaped plates of red salads and yellow salads and green salads and two little wooden tubs with herrings and anchovies.
Henslowe stopped her as she was going, saying: “Rien de plus?”
The waitress contemplated the array with a tragic air, her arms folded over her ample bosom. “Que voulez-vous, Monsieur, c’est l’armistice.”
“The greatest fake about all this war business is the peace. I tell you, not till the hors d’oeuvre has been restored to its proper abundance and variety will I admit that the war’s over.”
The waitress tittered.
“Things aren’t what they used to be,” she said, going back to the kitchen.
Heineman burst into the restaurant at that moment, slamming the door behind him so that the glass rang, and the fat woman and the hairy man started violently in their chairs. He tumbled into a place, grinning broadly.
“And what have you done to Walters?”
Heineman wiped his glasses meticulously.
“Oh, he died of drinking raspberry shrub,” he said.... “Dee-dong peteet du ving de Bourgogne,” he shouted towards the waitress in his nasal French. Then he added: “Le Guy is coming in a minute, I just met him.”
The restaurant was gradually filling up with men and women of very various costumes, with a good sprinkling of Americans in uniform and out.
“God I hate people who don’t drink,” cried Heineman, pouring out wine. “A man who don’t drink just cumbers the earth.”
“How are you going to take it in America when they have prohibition?”
“Don’t talk about it; here’s le Guy. I wouldn’t have him know I belong to a nation that prohibits good liquor.... Monsieur le Guy, Monsieur Henslowe et Monsieur Andrews,” he continued getting up ceremoniously. A little man with twirled mustaches and a small vandyke beard sat down at the fourth place. He had a faintly red nose and little twinkling eyes.
“How glad I am,” he said, exposing his starched cuffs with a curious gesture, “to have some one to dine with! When one begins to get old loneliness is impossible. It is only youth that dares think.... Afterwards one has only one thing to think about: old age.”
“There’s always work,” said Andrews.
“Slavery. Any work is slavery. What is the use of freeing your intellect if you sell yourself again to the first bidder?”
“Rot!” said Heineman, pouring out from a new bottle.
Andrews had begun to notice the girl who sat at the next table, in front of a pale young soldier in French-blue who resembled her extraordinarily. She had high cheek bones and a forehead in which the modelling of the skull showed through the transparent, faintly-olive skin. Her heavy chestnut hair was coiled carelessly at the back of her head. She spoke very quietly, and pressed her lips together when she smiled. She ate quickly and neatly, like a cat.
The restaurant had gradually filled up with people. The waitress and the patron, a fat man with a wide red sash coiled tightly round his waist, moved with difficulty among the crowded tables. A woman at a table in the corner, with dead white skin and drugged staring eyes, kept laughing hoarsely, leaning her head, in a hat with bedraggled white plumes, against the wall. There was a constant jingle of plates and glasses, and an oily fume of food and women’s clothes and wine.
“D’you want to know what I really did with your friend?” said Heineman, leaning towards Andrews.
“I hope you didn’t push him into the Seine.”
“It was damn impolite.... But hell, it was damn impolite of him not to drink.... No use wasting time with a man who don’t drink. I took him into a cafe and asked him to wait while I telephoned. I guess he’s still waiting. One of the whoreiest cafes on the whole Boulevard Clichy.” Heineman laughed uproariously and started explaining it in nasal French to M. le Guy.
Andrews flushed with annoyance for a moment, but soon started laughing. Heineman had started singing again.
“O, Sinbad was in bad in Tokio and Rome,
In bad in Trinidad
And twice as bad at home,
O, Sinbad was in bad all around!”
Everybody clapped. The white-faced woman in the corner cried “Bravo, Bravo,” in a shrill nightmare voice.
Heineman bowed, his big grinning face bobbing up and down like the face of a Chinese figure in porcelain.
“Lui est Sinbad,” he cried, pointing with a wide gesture towards Henslowe.
“Give ‘em some more, Heinz. Give them some more,” said Henslowe, laughing.
“Big brunettes with long stelets
On the shores of Italee,
Dutch girls with golden curls
Beside the Zuyder Zee...”
Everybody cheered again; Andrews kept looking at the girl at the next table, whose face was red from laughter. She had a handkerchief pressed to her mouth, and kept saying in a low voice:
“O qu’il est drole, celui-la.... O qu’il est drole.”
Heineman picked up a glass and waved it in the air before drinking it off. Several people got up and filled it up from their bottles with white wine and red. The French soldier at the next table pulled an army canteen from under his chair and hung it round Heineman’s neck.
Heineman, his face crimson, bowed to all sides, more like a Chinese porcelain figure than ever, and started singing in all solemnity this time.
“Hulas and hulas would pucker up their lips,
He fell for their ball-bearing hips
For they were pips...”
His chunky body swayed to the ragtime. The woman in the corner kept time with long white arms raised above her head.
“Bet she’s a snake charmer,” said Henslowe.
“O, wild woman loved that child
He would drive ten women wild!
O, Sinbad was in bad all around!”
Heineman waved his arms, pointed again to Henslowe, and sank into his chair saying in the tones of a Shakespearean actor:
“C’est lui Sinbad.”
The girl hid her face on the tablecloth, shaken with laughter. Andrews could hear a convulsed little voice saying:
“O qu’il est rigolo....”
Heineman took off the canteen and handed it back to the French soldier.
“Merci, Camarade,” he said solemnly.
“Eh bien, Jeanne, c’est temps de ficher le camp,” said the French soldier to the girl. They got up. He shook hands with the Americans. Andrews caught the girl’s eye and they both started laughing convulsively again. Andrews noticed how erect and supple she walked as his eyes followed her to the door.
Andrews’s party followed soon after.
“We’ve got to hurry if we want to get to the Lapin Agile before closing... and I’ve got to have a drink,” said Heineman, still talking in his stagey Shakespearean voice.
“Have you ever been on the stage?” asked Andrews.
“What stage, sir? I’m in the last stages now, sir.... I am an artistic photographer and none other.... Moki and I are going into the movies together when they decide to have peace.”
“Moki Hadj is the lady in the salmon-colored dress,” said Henslowe, in a loud stage whisper in Andrews’s ear. “They have a lion cub named Bubu.”
“Our first born,” said Heineman with a wave of the hand.
The streets were deserted. A thin ray of moonlight, bursting now and then through the heavy clouds, lit up low houses and roughly-cobbled streets and the flights of steps with rare dim lamps bracketed in house walls that led up to the Butte.
There was a gendarme in front of the door of the Lapin Agile. The street was still full of groups that had just come out, American officers and Y.M.C.A, women with a sprinkling of the inhabitants of the region.
“Now look, we’re late,” groaned Heineman in a tearful voice.
“Never mind, Heinz,” said Henslowe, “le Guy’ll take us to see de Clocheville like he did last time, n’est pas, le Guy?” Then Andrews heard him add, talking to a man he had not seen before, “Come along Aubrey, I’ll introduce you later.”
They climbed further up the hill. There was a scent of wet gardens in the air, entirely silent except for the clatter of their feet on the cobbles. Heineman was dancing a sort of a jig at the head of the procession. They stopped before a tall cadaverous house and started climbing a rickety wooden stairway.
“Talk about inside dope.... I got this from a man who’s actually in the room when the Peace Conference meets.” Andrews heard Aubrey’s voice with a Chicago burr in the r’s behind him in the stairs.
“Fine, let’s hear it,” said Henslowe.
“Did you say the Peace Conference took dope?” shouted Heineman, whose puffing could be heard as he climbed the dark stairs ahead of them.
“Shut up, Heinz.”
They stumbled over a raised doorstep into a large garret room with a tile floor, where a tall lean man in a monastic-looking dressing gown of some brown material received them. The only candle made all their shadows dance fantastically on the slanting white walls as they moved about. One side of the room had three big windows, with an occasional cracked pane mended with newspaper, stretching from floor to ceiling. In front of them were two couches with rugs piled on them. On the opposite wall was a confused mass of canvases piled one against the other, leaning helter skelter against the slanting wall of the room.
“C’est le bon vin, le bon vin,
C’est la chanson du vin.”
chanted Heineman. Everybody settled themselves on couches. The lanky man in the brown dressing gown brought a table out of the shadow, put some black bottles and heavy glasses on it, and drew up a camp stool for himself.
“He lives that way.... They say he never goes out. Stays here and paints, and when friends come in, he feeds them wine and charges them double,” said Henslowe. “That’s how he lives.”
The lanky man began taking bits of candle out of a drawer of the table and lighting them. Andrews saw that his feet and legs were bare below the frayed edge of the dressing gown. The candle light lit up the men’s flushed faces and the crude banana yellows and arsenic greens of the canvases along the walls, against which jars full of paint brushes cast blurred shadows.
“I was going to tell you, Henny,” said Aubrey, “the dope is that the President’s going to leave the conference, going to call them all damn blackguards to their faces and walk out, with the band playing the ‘Internationale.’”
“God, that’s news,” cried Andrews.
“If he does that he’ll recognize the Soviets,” said Henslowe. “Me for the first Red Cross Mission that goes to save starving Russia.... Gee, that’s great. I’ll write you a postal from Moscow, Andy, if they haven’t been abolished as delusions of the bourgeoisie.”
“Hell, no.... I’ve got five hundred dollars’ worth of Russian bonds that girl Vera gave me.... But worth five million, ten million, fifty million if the Czar gets back.... I’m backing the little white father,” cried Heineman. “Anyway Moki says he’s alive; that Savaroffs got him locked up in a suite in the Ritz.... And Moki knows.”
“Moki knows a damn lot, I’ll admit that,” said Henslowe.
“But just think of it,” said Aubrey, “that means world revolution with the United States at the head of it. What do you think of that?”
“Moki doesn’t think so,” said Heineman. “And Moki knows.”
“She just knows what a lot of reactionary warlords tell her,” said Aubrey. “This man I was talking with at the Crillon—I wish I could tell you his name—heard it directly from...Well, you know who.” He turned to Henslowe, who smiled knowingly. “There’s a mission in Russia at this minute making peace with Lenin.”
“A goddam outrage!” cried Heineman, knocking a bottle off the table. The lanky man picked up the pieces patiently, without comment.
“The new era is opening, men, I swear it is...” began Aubrey. “The old order is dissolving. It is going down under a weight of misery and crime.... This will be the first great gesture towards a newer and better world. There is no alternative. The chance will never come back. It is either for us to step courageously forward, or sink into unbelievable horrors of anarchy and civil war.... Peace or the dark ages again.”
Andrews had felt for some time an uncontrollable sleepiness coming over him. He rolled himself on a rug and stretched out on the empty couch. The voices arguing, wrangling, enunciating emphatic phrases, dinned for a minute in his ears. He went to sleep.
When Andrews woke up he found himself staring at the cracked plaster of an unfamiliar ceiling. For some moments he could not guess where he was. Henslowe was sleeping, wrapped in another rug, on the couch beside him. Except for Henslowe’s breathing, there was complete silence. Floods of silvery-grey light poured in through the wide windows, behind which Andrews could see a sky full of bright dove-colored clouds. He sat up carefully. Some time in the night he must have taken off his tunic and boots and puttees, which were on the floor beside the couch. The tables with the bottles had gone and the lanky man was nowhere to be seen.
Andrews went to the window in his stockinged feet. Paris way a slate-grey and dove-color lay spread out like a Turkish carpet, with a silvery band of mist where the river was, out of which the Eiffel Tower stood up like a man wading. Here and there blue smoke and brown spiralled up to lose itself in the faint canopy of brown fog that hung high above the houses. Andrews stood a long while leaning against the window frame, until he heard Henslowe’s voice behind him:
“Depuis le jour ou je me suis donnee.”
“You look like ‘Louise.’”
Andrews turned round.
Henslowe was sitting on the edge of the bed with his hair in disorder, combing his little silky mustache with a pocket comb.
“Gee, I have a head,” he said. “My tongue feels like a nutmeg grater.... Doesn’t yours?”
“No. I feel like a fighting cock.”
“What do you say we go down to the Seine and have a bath in Benny Franklin’s bathtub?”
“Where’s that? It sounds grand.”
“Then we’ll have the biggest breakfast ever.”
“That’s the right spirit.... Where’s everybody gone to?”
“Old Heinz has gone to his Moki, I guess, and Aubrey’s gone to collect more dope at the Crillon. He says four in the morning when the drunks come home is the prime time for a newspaper man.”
“And the Monkish man?”
The streets were full of men and girls hurrying to work. Everything sparkled, had an air of being just scrubbed. They passed bakeries from which came a rich smell of fresh-baked bread. From cafes came whiffs of roasting coffee. They crossed through the markets that were full of heavy carts lumbering to and fro, and women with net bags full of vegetables. There was a pungent scent of crushed cabbage leaves and carrots and wet clay. The mist was raw and biting along the quais, and made the blood come into their cheeks and their hands stiff with cold.
The bathhouse was a huge barge with a house built on it in a lozenge shape. They crossed to it by a little gangplank on which were a few geraniums in pots. The attendant gave them two rooms side by side on the lower deck, painted grey, with steamed over windows, through which Andrews caught glimpses of hurrying green water. He stripped his clothes off quickly. The tub was of copper varnished with some white metal inside. The water flowed in through two copper swans’ necks. When Andrews stepped into the hot green water, a little window in the partition flew open and Henslowe shouted in to him:
“Talk about modern conveniences. You can converse while you bathe!”
Andrews scrubbed himself jauntily with a square piece of pink soap, splashing the water about like a small boy. He stood up and lathered himself all over and then let himself slide into the water, which splashed out over the floor.
“Do you think you’re a performing seal?” shouted Henslowe.
“It’s all so preposterous,” cried Andrews, going off into convulsions of laughter. “She has a lion cub named Bubu and Nicolas Romanoff lives in the Ritz, and the Revolution is scheduled for day after tomorrow at twelve noon.”
“I’d put it about the first of May,” answered Henslowe, amid a sound of splashing. “Gee, it’d be great to be a people’s Commissary.... You could go and revolute the grand Llama of Thibet.”
“O, it’s too deliciously preposterous,” cried Andrews, letting himself slide a second time into the bathtub.
Two M.P.‘s passed outside the window. Andrews watched the yellow pigskin revolver cases until they were out of sight. He felt joyfully secure from them. The waiter, standing by the door with a napkin on his arm, gave him a sense of security so intense it made him laugh. On the marble table before him were a small glass of beer, a notebook full of ruled sheets of paper and a couple of yellow pencils. The beer, the color of topaz in the clear grey light that streamed in through the window, threw a pale yellow glow with a bright center on the table. Outside was the boulevard with a few people walking hurriedly. An empty market wagon passed now and then, rumbling loud. On a bench a woman in a black knitted shawl, with a bundle of newspapers in her knees, was counting sous with loving concentration.
Andrews looked at his watch. He had an hour before going to the Schola Cantorum.
He got to his feet, paid the waiter and strolled down the center of the boulevard, thinking smilingly of pages he had written, of pages he was going to write, filled with a sense of leisurely well-being. It was a grey morning with a little yellowish fog in the air. The pavements were damp, reflected women’s dresses and men’s legs and the angular outlines of taxicabs. From a flower stand with violets and red and pink carnations irregular blotches of color ran down into the brownish grey of the pavement. Andrews caught a faint smell of violets in the smell of the fog as he passed the flower stand and remembered suddenly that spring was coming. He would not miss a moment of this spring, he told himself; he would follow it step by step, from the first violets. Oh, how fully he must live now to make up for all the years he had wasted in his life.
He kept on walking along the boulevard. He was remembering how he and the girl the soldier had called Jeanne had both kindled with uncontrollable laughter when their eyes had met that night in the restaurant. He wished he could go down the boulevard with a girl like that, laughing through the foggy morning.
He wondered vaguely what part of Paris he was getting to, but was too happy to care. How beautifully long the hours were in the early morning!
At a concert at the Salle Gaveau the day before he had heard Debussy’s Nocturnes and Les Sirenes. Rhythms from them were the warp of all his thoughts. Against the background of the grey street and the brownish fog that hung a veil at the end of every vista he began to imagine rhythms of his own, modulations and phrases that grew brilliant and faded, that flapped for a while like gaudy banners above his head through the clatter of the street.
He noticed that he was passing a long building with blank rows of windows, at the central door of which stood groups of American soldiers smoking. Unconsciously he hastened his steps, for fear of meeting an officer he would have to salute. He passed the men without looking at them.
A voice detained him. “Say, Andrews.”
When he turned he saw that a short man with curly hair, whose face, though familiar, he could not place, had left the group at the door and was coming towards him. “Hello, Andrews.... Your name’s Andrews, ain’t it?”
“Yes.” Andrews shook his hand, trying to remember.
“I’m Fuselli.... Remember? Last time I saw you you was goin’ up to the lines on a train with Chrisfield.... Chris we used to call him.... At Cosne, don’t you remember?”
“Of course I do.”
“Well, what’s happened to Chris?”
“He’s a corporal now,” said Andrews.
“Gee he is.... I’ll be goddamned.... They was goin’ to make me a corporal once.”
Fuselli wore stained olive-drab breeches and badly rolled puttees; his shirt was open at the neck. From his blue denim jacket came a smell of stale grease that Andrews recognised; the smell of army kitchens. He had a momentary recollection of standing in line cold dark mornings and of the sound the food made slopping into mess kits.
“Why didn’t they make you a corporal, Fuselli?” Andrcws said, after a pause, in a constrained voice.
“Hell, I got in wrong, I suppose.”
They were leaning against the dusty house wall. Andrews looked at his feet. The mud of the pavement, splashing up on the wall, made an even dado along the bottom, on which Andrews scraped the toe of his shoe up and down.
“Well, how’s everything?” Andrews asked looking up suddenly.
“I’ve been in a labor battalion. That’s how everything is.”
“God, that’s tough luck!”
Andrews wanted to go on. He had a sudden fear that he would be late. But he did not know how to break away.
“I got sick,” said Fuselli grinning. “I guess I am yet, G. O. 42. It’s a hell of a note the way they treat a feller... like he was lower than the dirt.”
“Were you at Cosne all the time? That’s damned rough luck, Fuselli.”
“Cosne sure is a hell of a hole.... I guess you saw a lot of fighting. God! you must have been glad not to be in the goddam medics.”
“I don’t know that I’m glad I saw fighting.... Oh, yes, I suppose I am.”
“You see, I had it a hell of a time before they found out. Courtmartial was damn stiff... after the armistice too.... Oh, God! why can’t they let a feller go home?”
A woman in a bright blue hat passed them. Andrews caught a glimpse of a white over-powdered face; her hips trembled like jelly under the blue skirt with each hard clack of her high heels on the pavement.
“Gee, that looks like Jenny.... I’m glad she didn’t see me....” Fuselli laughed. “Ought to ‘a seen her one night last week. We were so dead drunk we just couldn’t move.”
“Isn’t that bad for what’s the matter with you?”
“I don’t give a damn now; what’s the use?”
“But God; man!” Andrews stopped himself suddenly. Then he said in a different voice, “What outfit are you in now?”
“I’m on the permanent K.P. here,” Fuselli jerked his thumb towards the door of the building. “Not a bad job, off two days a week; no drill, good eats.... At least you get all you want.... But it surely has been hell emptying ash cans and shovelling coal an’ now all they’ve done is dry me up.”
“But you’ll be goin’ home soon now, won’t you? They can’t discharge you till they cure you.”
“Damned if I know.... Some guys say a guy never can be cured....”
“Don’t you find K.P. work pretty damn dull?”
“No worse than anything else. What are you doin’ in Paris?”
“Men who wanted to study in the university, who managed to work it.”
“Gee, I’m glad I ain’t goin’ to school again.”
“Well, so long, Fuselli.”
“So long, Andrews.”
Fuselli turned and slouched back to the group of men at the door. Andrews hurried away. As he turned the corner he had a glimpse of Fuselli with his hands in his pockets and his legs crossed leaning against the wall behind the door of the barracks.
The darkness, where the rain fell through the vague halos of light round the street lamps, glittered with streaks of pale gold. Andrews’s ears were full of the sound of racing gutters and spattering waterspouts, and of the hard unceasing beat of the rain on the pavements. It was after closing time. The corrugated shutters were drawn down, in front of cafe windows. Andrews’s cap was wet; water trickled down his forehead and the sides of his nose, running into his eyes. His feet were soaked and he could feel the wet patches growing on his knees where they received the water running off his overcoat. The street stretched wide and dark ahead of him, with an occasional glimmer of greenish reflection from a lamp. As he walked, splashing with long strides through the rain, he noticed that he was keeping pace with a woman under an umbrella, a slender person who was hurrying with small resolute steps up the boulevard. When he saw her, a mad hope flamed suddenly through him. He remembered a vulgar little theatre and the crude light of a spot light. Through the paint and powder a girl’s golden-brown skin had shone with a firm brilliance that made him think of wide sun-scorched uplands, and dancing figures on Greek vases. Since he had seen her two nights ago, he had thought of nothing else. He had feverishly found out her name. “Naya Selikoff!” A mad hope flared through him that this girl he was walking beside was the girl whose slender limbs moved in an endless frieze through his thoughts. He peered at her with eyes blurred with rain. What an ass he was! Of course it couldn’t be; it was too early. She was on the stage at this minute. Other hungry eyes were staring at her slenderness, other hands were twitching to stroke her golden-brown skin. Walking under the steady downpour that stung his face and ears and sent a tiny cold trickle down his back, he felt a sudden dizziness of desire come over him. His hands, thrust to the bottom of his coat pockets, clutched convulsively. He felt that he would die, that his pounding blood vessels would burst. The bead curtains of rain rustled and tinkled about him, awakening his nerves, making his skin flash and tingle. In the gurgle of water in gutters and water spouts he could imagine he heard orchestras droning libidinous music. The feverish excitement of his senses began to create frenzied rhythms in his ears:
“O ce pauvre poilu! Qu’il doit etre mouille” said a small tremulous voice beside him.
The girl was offering him part of her umbrella.
“O c’est un Americain!” she said again, still speaking as if to herself.
“Mais ca ne vaut pas la peine.”
“Mais oui, mais oui.”
He stepped under the umbrella beside her.
“But you must let me hold it.”
As he took the umbrella he caught her eye. He stopped still in his tracks.
“But you’re the girl at the Rat qui Danse.”
“And you were at the next table with the man who sang?”
“Et celui-la! O il etait rigolo....” She burst out laughing; her head, encased in a little round black hat, bobbed up and down under the umbrella. Andrews laughed too. Crossing the Boulevard St. Germain, a taxi nearly ran them down and splashed a great wave of mud over them. She clutched his arm and then stood roaring with laughter.
“O quelle horreur! Quelle horreur!” she kept exclaiming.
Andrews laughed and laughed.
“But hold the umbrella over us.... You’re letting the rain in on my best hat,” she said again.
“Your name is Jeanne,” said Andrews.
“Impertinent! You heard my brother call me that.... He went back to the front that night, poor little chap.... He’s only nineteen ... he’s very clever.... O, how happy I am now that the war’s over.”
“You are older than he?”
“Two years.... I am the head of the family.... It is a dignified position.”
“Have you always lived in Paris?”
“No, we are from Laon.... It’s the war.”
“Don’t call us that.... We work.”
“Are you going far?” she asked peering in his face.
“No, I live up here.... My name is the same as yours.”
“Jean? How funny!”
“Where are you going?”
“Rue Descartes.... Behind St. Etienne.”
“I live near you.”
“But you mustn’t come. The concierge is a tigress.... Etienne calls her Mme. Clemenceau.”
“Who? The saint?”
“No, you silly—my brother. He is a socialist. He’s a typesetter at l’Humanite.”
“Really? I often read l’Humanite.”
“Poor boy, he used to swear he’d never go in the army. He thought of going to America.”
“That wouldn’t do him any good now,” said Andrews bitterly. “What do you do?”
“I?” a gruff bitterness came into her voice. “Why should I tell you? I work at a dressmaker’s.”
“You’ve heard Louise? Oh, how I cried.”
“Why did it make you sad?”
“Oh, I don’t know.... But I’m learning stenography.... But here we are!”
The great bulk of the Pantheon stood up dimly through the rain beside them. In front the tower of St. Etienne-du-Mont was just visible. The rain roared about them.
“Oh, how wet I am!” said Jeanne.
“Look, they are giving Louise day after tomorrow at the Opera Comique.... Won’t you come; with me?”
“No, I should cry too much.”
“I’ll cry too.”
“But it’s not...”
“Cest l’armistice,” interrupted Andrews.
They both laughed!
“All right! Meet me at the cafe at the end of the Boul’ Mich’ at a quarter past seven.... But you probably won’t come.”
“I swear I will,” cried Andrews eagerly.
“We’ll see!” She darted away down the street beside St. Etienne-du-Mont. Andrews was left alone amid the seethe of the rain and the tumultuous gurgle of water-spouts. He felt calm and tired.
When he got to his room, he found he had no matches in his pocket. No light came from the window through which he could hear the hissing clamor of the rain in the court. He stumbled over a chair.
“Are you drunk?” came Walters’s voice swathed in bedclothes. “There are matches on the table.”
“But where the hell’s the table?”
At last his hand, groping over the table, closed on the matchbox.
The match’s red and white flicker dazzled him. He blinked his eyes; the lashes were still full of raindrops. When he had lit a candle and set it amongst the music papers upon the table, he tore off his dripping clothes.
“I just met the most charming girl, Walters,” Andrews stood naked beside the pile of his clothes, rubbing himself with a towel. “Gee! I was wet.... But she was the most charming person I’ve met since I’ve been in Paris.”
“I thought you said you let the girls alone.”
“Whores, I must have said.”
“Well! Any girl you could pick up on the street....”
“I guess they are all that way in this damned country.... God, it will do me good to see a nice sweet wholesome American girl.”
Andrews did not answer. He blew out the light and got into bed.
“But I’ve got a new job,” Walters went on. “I’m working in the school detachment office.”
“Why the hell do that? You came here to take courses in the Sorbonne, didn’t you?”
“Sure. I go to most of them now. But in this army I like to be in the middle of things, see? Just so they can’t put anything over on me.”
“There’s something in that.”
“There’s a damn lot in it, boy. The only way is to keep in right and not let the man higher up forget you.... Why, we may start fighting again. These damn Germans ain’t showin’ the right spirit at all... after all the President’s done for them. I expect to get my sergeantcy out of it anyway.”
“Well, I’m going to sleep,” said Andrews sulkily.
John Andrews sat at a table outside the cafe de Rohan. The sun had just set on a ruddy afternoon, flooding everything with violet-blue light and cold greenish shadow. The sky was bright lilac color, streaked with a few amber clouds. The lights were on in all the windows of the Magazin du Louvre opposite, so that the windows seemed bits of polished glass in the afterglow. In the colonnade of the Palais Royal the shadows were deepening and growing colder. A steady stream of people poured in and out of the Metro. Green buses stuffed with people kept passing. The roar of the traffic and the clatter of footsteps and the grumble of voices swirled like dance music about Andrews’s head. He noticed all at once that the rabbit man stood in front of him, a rabbit dangling forgotten at the end of its rubber tube.
“Et ca va bien? le commerce,” said Andrews.
“Quietly, quietly,” said the rabbit man, distractedly making the rabbit turn a somersault at his feet. Andrews watched the people going into the Metro.
“The gentleman amuses himself in Paris?” asked the rabbit man timidly.
“Oh, yes; and you?”
“Quietly,” the rabbit man smiled. “Women are very beautiful at this hour of the evening,” he said again in his very timid tone.
“There is nothing more beautiful than this moment of the evening... in Paris.”
“Or Parisian women.” The eyes of the rabbit man glittered. “Excuse me, sir,” he went on. “I must try and sell some rabbits.”
“Au revoir,” said Andrews holding out his hand.
The rabbit man shook it with sudden vigor and went off, making a rabbit hop before him along the curbstone. He was hidden by the swiftly moving crowds.
In the square, flaring violet arclights were flickering on, lighting up their net-covered globes that hung like harsh moons above the pavement.
Henslowe sat down on a chair beside Andrews.
“Sinbad, old boy, is functioning.... Aren’t you frozen?”
“How do you mean, Henslowe?”
“Overheated, you chump, sitting out here in polar weather.”
“No, but I mean.... How are you functioning?” said Andrews laughing.
“I’m going to Poland tomorrow.”
“As guard on a Red Cross supply train. I think you might make it if you want to come, if we beat it right over to the Red Cross before Major Smithers goes. Or we might take him out to dinner.”
“But, Henny, I’m staying.”
“Why the hell stay in this hole?”
“I like it. I’m getting a better course in orchestration than I imagined existed, and I met a girl the other day, and I’m crazy over Paris.”
“If you go and get entangled, I swear I’ll beat your head in with a Polish shillaughly.... Of course you’ve met a girl—so have I—lots. We can meet some more in Poland and dance polonaises with them.”
“No, but this girl’s charming.... You’ve seen her. She’s the girl who was with the poilu at the Rat qui Danse the first night I was in Paris. We went to Louise together.”
“Must have been a grand sentimental party.... I swear.... I may run after a Jane now and again but I never let them interfere with the business of existence,” muttered Henslowe crossly.
They were both silent.
“You’ll be as bad as Heinz with his Moki and the lion cub named Bubu.... By the way, it’s dead.... Well, where shall we have dinner?”
“I’m dining with Jeanne.... I’m going to meet her in half an hour.... I’m awfully sorry, Henny. We might all dine together.”
“A fat chance! No, I’ll have to go and find that ass Aubrey, and hear all about the Peace Conference.... Heinz can’t leave Moki because she’s having hysterics on account of Bubu. I’ll probably be driven to going to see Berthe in the end.... You’re a nice one.”
“We’ll have a grand seeing-off party for you tomorrow, Henny.”
“Look! I forgot! You’re to meet Aubrey at the Crillon at five tomorrow, and he’s going to take you to see Genevieve Rod?”
“Who the hell’s Genevieve Rod?”
“Darned if I know. But Aubrey said you’d got to come. She is an intellectual, so Aubrey says.”
“That’s the last thing I want to meet.”
“Well, you can’t help yourself. So long!”
Andrews sat a while more at the table outside the cafe. A cold wind was blowing. The sky was blue-black and the ashen white arc lamps cast a mortuary light over everything. In the Colonnade of the Palais Royal the shadows were harsh and inky. In the square the people were gradually thinning. The lights in the Magazin du Louvre had gone out. From the cafe behind him, a faint smell of fresh-cooked food began to saturate the cold air of the street.
Then he saw Jeanne advancing across the ash-grey pavement of the square, slim and black under the arc lights. He ran to meet her.
The cylindrical stove in the middle of the floor roared softly. In front of it the white cat was rolled into a fluffy ball in which ears and nose made tiny splashes of pink like those at the tips of the petals of certain white roses. One side of the stove at the table against the window, sat an old brown man with a bright red stain on each cheek bone, who wore formless corduroy clothes, the color of his skin. Holding the small spoon in a knotted hand he was stirring slowly and continuously a liquid that was yellow and steamed in a glass. Behind him was the window with sleet beating against it in the leaden light of a wintry afternoon. The other side of the stove was a zinc bar with yellow bottles and green bottles and a water spigot with a neck like a giraffe’s that rose out of the bar beside a varnished wood pillar that made the decoration of the corner, with a terra cotta pot of ferns on top of it. From where Andrews sat on the padded bench at the back of the room the fern fronds made a black lacework against the lefthand side of the window, while against the other was the brown silhouette of the old man’s head, and the slant of his cap. The stove hid the door and the white cat, round and symmetrical, formed the center of the visible universe. On the marble table beside Andrews were some pieces of crisp bread with butter on them, a saucer of damson jam and a bowl with coffee and hot milk from which the steam rose in a faint spiral. His tunic was unbuttoned and he rested his head on his two hands, staring through his fingers at a thick pile of ruled paper full of hastily drawn signs, some in ink and some in pencil, where now and then he made a mark with a pencil. At the other edge of the pile of papers were two books, one yellow and one white with coffee stains on it.
The fire roared and the cat slept and the old brown man stirred and stirred, rarely stopping for a moment to lift the glass to his lips. Occasionally the scratching of sleet upon the windows became audible, or there was a distant sound of dish pans through the door in the back.
The sallow-faced clock that hung above the mirror that backed the bar, jerked out one jingly strike, a half hour. Andrews did not look up. The cat still slept in front of the stove which roared with a gentle singsong. The old brown man still stirred the yellow liquid in his glass. The clock was ticking uphill towards the hour.
Andrews’s hands were cold. There was a nervous flutter in his wrists and in his chest. Inside of him was a great rift of light, infinitely vast and infinitely distant. Through it sounds poured from somewhere, so that he trembled with them to his finger tips, sounds modulated into rhythms that washed back and forth and crossed each other like sea waves in a cove, sounds clotted into harmonies.
Behind everything the Queen of Sheba, out of Flaubert, held her fantastic hand with its long, gilded finger nails on his shoulder; and he was leaning forward over the brink of life. But the image was vague, like a shadow cast on the brilliance of his mind.
The clock struck four.
The white fluffy ball of the cat unrolled very slowly. Its eyes were very round and yellow. It put first one leg and then the other out before it on the tiled floor, spreading wide the pinkey-grey claws. Its tail rose up behind it straight as the mast of a ship. With slow processional steps the cat walked towards the door.
The old brown man drank down the yellow liquid and smacked his lips twice, loudly, meditatively.
Andrews raised his head, his blue eyes looking straight before him without seeing anything. Dropping the pencil, he leaned back against the wall and stretched his arms out. Taking the coffee bowl between his two hands, he drank s little. It was cold. He piled some jam on a piece of bread and ate it, licking a little off his fingers afterwards. Then he looked towards the old brown man and said:
“On est bien ici, n’est ce pas, Monsieur Morue?”
“Oui, on est bien ici,” said the old brown man in a voice so gruff it seemed to rattle. Very slowly he got to his feet.
“Good. I am going to the barge,” he said. Then he called, “Chipette!”
A little girl in a black apron with her hair in two tight pigtails that stood out behind her tiny bullet head as she ran, came through the door from the back part of the house.
“There, give that to your mother,” said the old brown man, putting some coppers in her hand.
“You’d better stay here where it’s warm,” said Andrews yawning.
“I have to work. It’s only soldiers don’t have to work,” rattled the old brown man.
When the door opened a gust of raw air circled about the wine shop, and a roar of wind and hiss of sleet came from the slush-covered quai outside. The cat took refuge beside the stove, with its back up and its tail waving. The door closed and the old brown man’s silhouette, slanted against the wind, crossed the grey oblong of the window.
Andrews settled down to work again.
“But you work a lot a lot, don’t you; M’sieu Jean?” said Chipette, putting her chin on the table beside the books and looking up into his eyes with little eyes like black beads.
“I wonder if I do.”
“When I’m grown up I shan’t work a bit. I’ll drive round in a carriage.”
Andrews laughed. Chipette looked at him for a minute and then went into the other room carrying away the empty coffee bowl.
In front of the stove the cat sat on its haunches, licking a paw rhythmically with a pink curling tongue like a rose petal.
Andrews whistled a few bars, staring at the cat.
“What d’you think of that, Minet? That’s la reine de Saba... la reine de Saba.”
The cat curled into a ball again with great deliberation and went to sleep.
Andrews began thinking of Jeanne and the thought gave him a sense of quiet well-being. Strolling with her in the evening through the streets full of men and women walking significantly together sent a languid calm through his jangling nerves which he had never known in his life before. It excited him to be with her, but very suavely, so that he forgot that his limbs were swathed stiffly in an uncomfortable uniform, so that his feverish desire seemed to fly out of him until with her body beside him, he seemed to drift effortlessly in the stream of the lives of all the people he passed, so languid, from the quiet loves that streamed up about him that the hard walls of his personality seemed to have melted entirely into the mistiness of twilight streets. And for a moment as he thought of it a scent of flowers, heavy with pollen, and sprouting grass and damp moss and swelling sap, seemed to tingle in his nostrils. Sometimes, swimming in the ocean on a rough day, he had felt that same reckless exhilaration when, towards the shore, a huge seething wave had caught him up and sped him forward on its crest. Sitting quietly in the empty wine shop that grey afternoon, he felt his blood grumble and swell in his veins as the new life was grumbling and swelling in the sticky buds of the trees, in the tender green quick under their rough bark, in the little furry animals of the woods and in the sweet-smelling cattle that tramped into mud the lush meadows. In the premonition of spring was a resistless wave of force that carried him and all of them with it tumultuously.
The clock struck five.
Andrews jumped to his feet and still struggling into his overcoat darted out of the door.
A raw wind blew on the square. The river was a muddy grey-green, swollen and rapid. A hoarse triumphant roaring came from it. The sleet had stopped; but the pavements were covered with slush and in the gutters were large puddles which the wind ruffled. Everything,—houses, bridges, river and sky,—was in shades of cold grey-green, broken by one jagged ochre-colored rift across the sky against which the bulk of Notre Dame and the slender spire of the crossing rose dark and purplish. Andrews walked with long strides, splashing through the puddles, until, opposite the low building of the Morgue, he caught a crowded green bus.
Outside the Hotel Crillon were many limousines, painted olive-drab, with numbers in white letters on the doors; the drivers, men with their olive-drab coat collars turned up round their red faces, stood in groups under the portico. Andrews passed the sentry and went through the revolving doors into the lobby, which was vividly familiar. It had the smell he remembered having smelt in the lobbies of New York hotels,—a smell of cigar smoke and furniture polish. On one side a door led to a big dining room where many men and women were having tea, from which came a smell of pastry and rich food. On the expanse of red carpet in front of him officers and civilians stood in groups talking in low voices. There was a sound of jingling spurs and jingling dishes from the restaurant, and near where Andrews stood shifting his weight from one foot to the other, sprawled in a leather chair a fat man with a black felt hat over his eyes and a large watch chain dangling limply over his bulbous paunch. He cleared his throat occasionally with a rasping noise and spat loudly into the spittoon beside him.
At last Andrews caught sight of Aubrey, who was dapper with white cheeks and tortoise shell glasses.
“Come along,” he said, seizing Andrews by the arm.
“You are late.” Then, he went on, whispering in Andrews’s ear as they went out through the revolving doors: “Great things happened in the Conference today.... I can tell you that, old man.”
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 tablecloth.
“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 suspiciouslike, 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 tumultuous 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 illfitting 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 unrelieved 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.