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Under Fire by Henri Barbusse

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Edited by Charles Aldarondo Aldarondo@yahoo.com

Under Fire

The Story of a Squad

By Henri Barbusse


Translated by Fitzwater Wray

To the memory of the comrades who fell by my side
at Crouy and on Hill 119

January, May, and September, 1915


The Vision

In the Earth

The Return

Volpatte and Fouillade




On Leave

The Anger of Volpatte


The Dog

The Doorway

The Big Words

Of Burdens

The Egg

An Idyll

The Sap

A Box of Matches


Under Fire

The Refuge

Going About

The Fatigue-Party

The Dawn


The Vision

MONT BLANC, the Dent du Midi, and the Aiguille Verte look across at
the bloodless faces that show above the blankets along the gallery
of the sanatorium. This roofed-in gallery of rustic wood-work on the
first floor of the palatial hospital is isolated in Space and
overlooks the world. The blankets of fine wool--red, green, brown,
or white--from which those wasted cheeks and shining eyes protrude
are quite still. No sound comes from the long couches except when
some one coughs, or that of the pages of a book turned over at long
and regular intervals, or the undertone of question and quiet answer
between neighbors, or now and again the crescendo disturbance of a
daring crow, escaped to the balcony from those flocks that seem
threaded across the immense transparency like chaplets of black

Silence is obligatory. Besides, the rich and high-placed who have
come here from all the ends of the earth, smitten by the same evil,
have lost the habit of talking. They have withdrawn into themselves,
to think of their life and of their death.

A servant appears in the balcony, dressed in white and walking
softly. She brings newspapers and hands them about.

"It's decided," says the first to unfold his paper. "War is

Expected as the news is, its effect is almost dazing, for this
audience feels that its portent is without measure or limit. These
men of culture and intelligence, detached from the affairs of the
world and almost from the world itself, whose faculties are deepened
by suffering and meditation, as far remote from their fellow men as
if they were already of the Future--these men look deeply into the
distance, towards the unknowable land of the living and the insane.

"Austria's act is a crime," says the Austrian.

"France must win," says the Englishman.

"I hope Germany will be beaten," says the German.

They settle down again under the blankets and on the pillows,
looking to heaven and the high peaks. But in spite of that vast
purity, the silence is filled with the dire disclosure of a moment


Some of the invalids break the silence, and say the word again under
their breath, reflecting that this is the greatest happening of the
age, and perhaps of all ages. Even on the lucid landscape at which
they gaze the news casts something like a vague and somber mirage.

The tranquil expanses of the valley, adorned with soft and smooth
pastures and hamlets rosy as the rose, with the sable shadow-stains
of the majestic mountains and the black lace and white of pines and
eternal snow, become alive with the movements of men, whose
multitudes swarm in distinct masses. Attacks develop, wave by wave,
across the fields and then stand still. Houses are eviscerated like
human beings and towns like houses. Villages appear in crumpled
whiteness as though fallen from heaven to earth. The very shape of
the plain is changed by the frightful heaps of wounded and slain.

Each country whose frontiers are consumed by carnage is seen tearing
from its heart ever more warriors of full blood and force. One's
eyes follow the flow of these living tributaries to the River of
Death. To north and south and west ajar there are battles on every
side. Turn where you will, there is war in every corner of that

One of the pale-faced clairvoyants lifts himself on his elbow,
reckons and numbers the fighters present and to come--thirty
millions of soldiers. Another stammers, his eyes full of slaughter,
"Two armies at death-grips--that is one great army committing

"It should not have been," says the deep and hollow voice of the
first in the line. But another says, "It is the French Revolution
beginning again." "Let thrones beware!" says another's undertone.

The third adds, "Perhaps it is the last war of all." A silence
follows, then some heads are shaken in dissent whose faces have been
blanched anew by the stale tragedy of sleepless night--"Stop war?
Stop war? Impossible! There is no cure for the world's disease."

Some one coughs, and then the Vision is swallowed up in the huge
sunlit peace of the lush meadows. In the rich colors of the glowing
kine, the black forests, the green fields and the blue distance,
dies the reflection of the fire where the old world burns and
breaks. Infinite silence engulfs the uproar of hate and pain from
the dark swarmings of mankind. They who have spoken retire one by
one within themselves, absorbed once more in their own mysterious

But when evening is ready to descend within the valley, a storm
breaks over the mass of Mont Blanc. One may not go forth in such
peril, for the last waves of the storm-wind roll even to the great
veranda, to that harbor where they have taken refuge; and these
victims of a great internal wound encompass with their gaze the
elemental convulsion.

They watch how the explosions of thunder on the mountain upheave the
level clouds like a stormy sea, how each one hurls a shaft of fire
and a column of cloud together into the twilight; and they turn
their wan and sunken faces to follow the flight of the eagles that
wheel in the sky and look from their supreme height down through the
wreathing mists, down to earth.

"Put an end to war?" say the watchers.--"Forbid the Storm!"

Cleansed from the passions of party and faction, liberated from
prejudice and infatuation and the tyranny of tradition, these
watchers on the threshold of another world are vaguely conscious of
the simplicity of the present and the yawning possibilities of the

The man at the end of the rank cries, "I can see crawling things
down there"--"Yes, as though they were alive"--"Some sort of plant,
perhaps"--"Some kind of men"--

And there amid the baleful glimmers of the storm, below the dark
disorder of the clouds that extend and unfurl over the earth like
evil spirits, they seem to see a great livid plain unrolled, which
to their seeing is made of mud and water, while figures appear and
fast fix themselves to the surface of it, all blinded and borne down
with filth, like the dreadful castaways of shipwreck. And it seems
to them that these are soldiers.

The streaming plain, seamed and seared with long parallel canals and
scooped into water-holes, is an immensity, and these castaways who
strive to exhume themselves from it are legion. But the thirty
million slaves, hurled upon one another in the mud of war by guilt
and error, uplift their human faces and reveal at last a bourgeoning
Will. The future is in the hands of these slaves, and it is clearly
certain that the alliance to be cemented some day by those whose
number and whose misery alike are infinite will transform the old


In the Earth

THE great pale sky is alive with thunderclaps. Each detonation
reveals together a shaft of red falling fire in what is left of the
night, and a column of smoke in what has dawned of the day. Up
there--so high and so far that they are heard unseen--a flight of
dreadful birds goes circling up with strong and palpitating cries to
look down upon the earth.

The earth! It is a vast and water-logged desert that begins to take
shape under the long-drawn desolation of daybreak. There are pools
and gullies where the bitter breath of earliest morning nips the
water and sets it a-shiver; tracks traced by the troops and the
convoys of the night in these barren fields, the lines of ruts that
glisten in the weak light like steel rails, mud-masses with broken
stakes protruding from them, ruined trestles, and bushes of wire in
tangled coils. With its slime-beds and puddles, the plain might be
an endless gray sheet that floats on the sea and has here and there
gone under. Though no rain is falling, all is drenched, oozing,
washed out and drowned, and even the wan light seems to flow.

Now you can make out a network of long ditches where the lave of the
night still lingers. It is the trench. It is carpeted at bottom with
a layer of slime that liberates the foot at each step with a sticky
sound; and by each dug-out it smells of the night's excretions. The
holes themselves, as you stoop to peer in, are foul of breath.

I see shadows coming from these sidelong pits and moving about, huge
and misshapen lumps, bear-like, that flounder and growl. They are
"us." We are muffled like Eskimos. Fleeces and blankets and sacking
wrap us up, weigh us down, magnify us strangely. Some stretch
themselves, yawning profoundly. Faces appear, ruddy or leaden,
dirt-disfigured, pierced by the little lamps of dull and
heavy-lidded eyes, matted with uncut beards and foul with forgotten

Crack! Crack! Boom!--rifle fire and cannonade. Above us and all
around, it crackles and rolls, in long gusts or separate explosions.
The flaming and melancholy storm never, never ends. For more than
fifteen months, for five hundred days in this part of the world
where we are, the rifles and the big guns have gone on from morning
to night and from night to morning. We are buried deep in an
everlasting battlefield; but like the ticking of the clocks at home
in the days gone by--in the now almost legendary Past--you only hear
the noise when you listen.

A babyish face with puffy eyelids, and cheek-bones as lurid as if
lozenge-shaped bits of crimson paper had been stuck on, comes out of
the ground, opens one eye, then the other. It is Paradis. The skin
of his fat cheeks is scored with the marks of the folds in the
tent-cloth that has served him for night-cap. The glance of his
little eye wanders all round me; he sees me, nods, and
says--"Another night gone, old chap."

"Yes, sonny; how many more like it still?"

He raises his two plump arms skywards. He has managed to scrape out
by the steps of the dug-out and is beside me. After stumbling over
the dim obstacle of a man who sits in the shadows, fervently
scratches himself and sighs hoarsely, Paradis makes off--lamely
splashing like a penguin through the flooded picture.

One by one the men appear from the depths. In the corners, heavy
shadows are seen forming--human clouds that move and break up. One
by one they become recognizable. There is one who comes out hooded
with his blanket--a savage, you would say, or rather, the tent of a
savage, which walks and sways from side to side. Near by, and
heavily framed in knitted wool, a square face is disclosed,
yellow-brown as though iodized, and patterned with blackish patches,
the nose broken, the eyes of Chinese restriction and red-circled, a
little coarse and moist mustache like a greasing-brush.

"There's Volpatte. How goes it, Firmin?"

"It goes, it goes, and it comes," says Volpatte. His heavy and
drawling voice is aggravated by hoarseness. He coughs--"My number's
up, this time. Say, did you hear it last night, the attack? My boy,
talk about a bombardment--something very choice in the way of
mixtures!" He sniffles and passes his sleeve under his concave nose.
His hand gropes within his greatcoat and his jacket till it finds
the skin, and scratches. "I've killed thirty of them in the candle,"
he growls; "in the big dug-out by the tunnel, mon vieux, there are
some like crumbs of metal bread. You can see them running about in
the straw like I'm telling you."

"Who's been attacking? The Boches?"

"The Boches and us too--out Vimy way--a counterattack--didn't you
hear it?"

"No," the big Lamuse, the ox-man, replies on my account; "I was
snoring; but I was on fatigue all night the night before."

"I heard it," declares the little Breton, Biquet; "I slept badly, or
rather, didn't sleep. I've got a doss-house all to myself. Look,
see, there it is--the damned thing." He points to a trough on the
ground level, where on a meager mattress of muck, there is just
body-room for one. "Talk about home in a nutshell!" he declares,
wagging the rough and rock-hard little head that looks as if it had
never been finished. "I hardly snoozed. I'd just got off, but was
woke up by the relief of the 129th that went by--not by the noise,
but the smell. Ah, all those chaps with their feet on the level with
my nose! It woke me up, it gave me nose-ache so."

I knew it. I have often been wakened in the trench myself by the
trail of heavy smell in the wake of marching men.

"It was all right, at least, if it killed the vermin," said Tirette.

"On the contrary, it excites them," says Lamuse; "the worse you
smell, the more you have of 'em."

"And it's lucky," Biquet went on, "that their stink woke me up. As I
was telling that great tub just now, I got my peepers open just in
time to seize the tent-cloth that shut my hole up--one of those
muck-heaps was going to pinch it off me."

"Dirty devils, the 129th." The human form from which the words came
could now be distinguished down below at our feet, where the morning
had not yet reached it. Grasping his abundant clothing by handsful,
he squatted and wriggled. It was Papa Blaire. His little eyes
blinked among the dust that luxuriated on his face. Above the gap of
his toothless mouth, his mustache made a heavy sallow lump. His
hands were horribly black, the top of them shaggy with dirt, the
palms plastered in gray relief. Himself, shriveled and dirtbedight,
exhaled the scent of an ancient stewpan. Though busily scratching,
he chatted with big Barque, who leaned towards him from a little way

"I wasn't as mucky as this when I was a civvy," he said.

"Well, my poor friend, it's a dirty change for the worse," said

"Lucky for you," says Tirette, going one better; "when it comes to
kids, you'll present madame with some little niggers!"

Blaire took offense, and gathering gloom wrinkled his brow. "What
have you got to give me lip about, you? What next? It's war-time. As
for you, bean-face, you think perhaps the war hasn't changed your
phizog and your manners? Look at yourself, monkey-snout,
buttock-skin! A man must be a beast to talk as you do." He passed
his hand over the dark deposit on his face, which the rains of those
days had proved finally indelible, and added, "Besides, if I am as I
am, it's my own choosing. To begin with, I have no teeth. The major
said to me a long time ago, 'You haven't a single tooth. It's not
enough. At your next rest,' he says, 'take a turn round to the
estomalogical ambulance.'"

"The tomatological ambulance," corrected Barque.

"Stomatological," Bertrand amended.

"You have all the making of an army cook--you ought to have been
one," said Barque.

"My idea, too," retorted Blaire innocently. Some one laughed. The
black man got up at the insult. "You give me belly-ache," he said
with scorn. "I'm off to the latrines."

When his doubly dark silhouette had vanished, the others scrutinized
once more the great truth that down here in the earth the cooks are
the dirtiest of men.

"If you see a chap with his skin and toggery so smeared and stained
that you wouldn't touch him with a barge-pole, you can say to
yourself, 'Probably he's a cook.' And the dirtier he is, the more
likely to be a cook."

"It's true, and true again," said Marthereau.

"Tiens, there's Tirloir! Hey, Tirloir!"

He comes up busily, peering this way and that, on an eager scent.
His insignificant head, pale as chlorine, hops centrally about in
the cushioning collar of a greatcoat that is much too heavy and big
for him. His chin is pointed, and his upper teeth protrude. A
wrinkle round his mouth is so deep with dirt that it looks like a
muzzle. As usual, he is angry, and as usual, he rages aloud.

"Some one cut my pouch in two last night!"

"It was the relief of the 129th. Where had you put it?"

He indicates a bayonet stuck in the wall of the trench close to the
mouth of a funk-hole--"There, hanging on the toothpick there."

"Ass!" comes the chorus. "Within reach of passing soldiers! Not
dotty, are you?"

"It's hard lines all the same," wails Tirloir. Then suddenly a fit
of rage seizes him, his face crumples, his little fists clench in
fury, he tightens them like knots in string and waves them about.
"Alors quoi? Ah, if I had hold of the mongrel that did it! Talk
about breaking his jaw--I'd stave in his bread-pan, I'd--there was a
whole Camembert in there, I'll go and look for it." He massages his
stomach with the little sharp taps of a guitar player, and plunges
into the gray of the morning, grinning yet dignified, with his
awkward outlines of an invalid in a dressing-gown. We hear him
grumbling until he disappears.

"Strange man, that," says Pepin; the others chuckle. "He's
daft and crazy," declares Marthereau, who is in the habit of
fortifying the expression of his thought by using two synonyms at

* * * * * *

"Tiens, old man," says Tulacque, as he comes up. "Look at this."

Tulacque is magnificent. He is wearing a lemon-yellow coat made out
of an oilskin sleeping-sack. He has arranged a hole in the middle to
get his head through, and compelled his shoulder-straps and belt to
go over it. He is tall and bony. He holds his face in advance as he
walks, a forceful face, with eyes that squint. He has something in
his hand. "I found this while digging last night at the end of the
new gallery to change the rotten gratings. It took my fancy
off-hand, that knick-knack. It's an old pattern of hatchet."

It was indeed an old pattern, a sharpened flint hafted with an old
brown bone--quite a prehistoric tool in appearance.

"Very handy," said Tulacque, fingering it. "Yes, not badly thought
out. Better balanced than the regulation ax. That'll be useful to
me, you'll see." As he brandishes that ax of Post-Tertiary Man, he
would himself pass for an ape-man, decked out with rags and lurking
in the bowels of the earth.

One by one we gathered, we of Bertrand's squad and the half-section,
at an elbow of the trench. Just here it is a little wider than in
the straight part where when you meet another and have to pass you
must throw yourself against the side, rub your back in the earth and
your stomach against the stomach of the other.

Our company occupies, in reserve, a second line parallel. No night
watchman works here. At night we are ready for making earthworks in
front, but as long as the day lasts we have nothing to do. Huddled
up together and linked arm in arm, it only remains to await the
evening as best we can.

Daylight has at last crept into the interminable crevices that
furrow this part of the earth, and now it finds the threshold of our
holes. It is the melancholy light of the North Country, of a
restricted and muddy sky, a sky which itself, one would say, is
heavy with the smoke and smell of factories. In this leaden light,
the uncouth array of these dwellers in the depths reveals the stark
reality of the huge and hopeless misery that brought it into being.
But that is like the rattle of rifles and the verberation of
artillery. The drama in which we are actors has lasted much too long
for us to be surprised any more, either at the stubbornness we have
evolved or the garb we have devised against the rain that comes from
above, against the mud that comes from beneath, and against the
cold--that sort of infinity that is everywhere. The skins of
animals, bundles of blankets, Balaklava helmets, woolen caps, furs,
bulging mufflers (sometimes worn turban-wise), paddings and
quiltings, knittings and double-knittings, coverings and roofings
and cowls, tarred or oiled or rubbered, black or all the colors
(once upon a time) of the rainbow--all these things mask and magnify
the men, and wipe out their uniforms almost as effectively as their
skins. One has fastened on his back a square of linoleum, with a big
draught-board pattern in white and red, that he found in the middle
of the dining-room of some temporary refuge. That is Pepin.
We know him afar off by his harlequin placard sooner even than by
his pale Apache face. Here is Barque's bulging chest-protector,
carven from an eiderdown quilt, formerly pink, but now fantastically
bleached and mottled by dust and rain. There, Lamuse the Huge rises
like a ruined tower to which tattered posters still cling. A cuirass
of moleskin, with the fur inside, adorns little Eudore with the
burnished back of a beetle; while the golden corselet of Tulacque
the Big Chief surpasses all.

The "tin hat" gives a certain sameness to the highest points of the
beings that are there, but even then the divers ways of wearing
it--on the regulation cap like Biquet, over a Balaklava like
Cadilhac, or on a cotton cap like Barque--produce a complicated
diversity of appearance.

And our legs! I went down just now, bent double, into our dug-out,
the little low cave that smells musty and damp, where one stumbles
over empty jam-pots and dirty rags, where two long lumps lay asleep,
while in the corner a kneeling shape rummaged a pouch by
candle-light. As I climbed out, the rectangle of entry afforded me a
revelation of our legs. Flat on the ground, vertically in the air,
or aslant; spread about, doubled up, or mixed together; blocking the
fairway and cursed by passers-by, they present a collection of many
colors and many shapes--gaiters, leggings black or yellow, long or
short, in leather, in tawny cloth, in any sort of waterproof stuff;
puttees in dark blue, light blue, black, sage green, khaki, and
beige. Alone of all his kind, Volpatte has retained the modest
gaiters of mobilization. Mesnil Andre has displayed for a
fortnight a pair of thick woolen stockings, ribbed and green; and
Tirette has always been known by his gray cloth puttees with white
stripes, commandeered from a pair of civilian trousers that was
hanging goodness knows where at the beginning of the war. As for
Marthereau's puttees, they are not both of the same hue, for he
failed to find two fag-ends of greatcoat equally worn and equally
dirty, to be cut up into strips.

There are legs wrapped up in rags, too, and even in newspapers,
which are kept in place with spirals of thread or--much more
practical--telephone wire. Pepin fascinated his friends and
the passers-by with a pair of fawn gaiters, borrowed from a corpse.
Barque, who poses as a resourceful man, full of ideas--and Heaven
knows what a bore it makes of him at times!--has white calves, for
he wrapped surgical bandages round his leg-cloths to preserve them,
a snowy souvenir at his latter end of the cotton cap at the other,
which protrudes below his helmet and is left behind in its turn by a
saucy red tassel. Poterloo has been walking about for a month in the
boots of a German soldier, nearly new, and with horseshoes on the
heels. Caron entrusted them to Poterloo when he was sent back on
account of his arm. Caron had taken them himself from a Bavarian
machine-gunner, knocked out near the Pylones road. I can hear
Caron telling about it yet--

"Old man, he was there, his buttocks in a hole, doubled up, gaping
at the sky with his legs in the air, and his pumps offered
themselves to me with an air that meant they were worth my while. 'A
tight fit,' says I. But you talk about a job to bring those
beetle-crushers of his away! I worked on top of him, tugging,
twisting and shaking, for half an hour and no lie about it. With his
feet gone quite stiff, the patient didn't help me a bit. Then at
last the legs of it--they'd been pulled about so--came unstuck at
the knees, and his breeks tore away, and all the lot came, flop!
There was me, all of a sudden, with a full boot in each fist. The
legs and feet had to be emptied out."

"You're going it a bit strong!"

"Ask Euterpe the cyclist if it isn't true. I tell you he did it
along of me, too. We shoved our arms inside the boots and pulled out
of 'em some bones and bits of sock and bits of feet. But look if
they weren't worth while!"

So, until Caron returns, Poterloo continues on his behalf the
wearing of the Bavarian machine-gunner's boots.

Thus do they exercise their wits, according to their intelligence,
their vivacity, their resources, and their boldness, in the struggle
with the terrible discomfort. Each one seems to make the revealing
declaration, "This is all that I knew, all I was able, all that I
dared to do in the great misery which has befallen me."

* * * * * *

Mesnil Joseph drowses; Blaire yawns; Marthereau smokes, "eyes
front." Lamuse scratches himself like a gorilla, and Eudore like a
marmoset. Volpatte coughs, and says, "I'm kicking the bucket."
Mesnil Andre has got out his mirror and comb and is tending
his fine chestnut beard as though it were a rare plant. The
monotonous calm is disturbed here and there by the outbreaks of
ferocious resentment provoked by the presence of parasites--endemic,
chronic, and contagious.

Barque, who is an observant man, sends an itinerant glance around,
takes his pipe from his mouth, spits, winks, and says--"I say, we
don't resemble each other much."

"Why should we?" says Lamuse. "It would be a miracle if we did."

* * * * *

Our ages? We are of all ages. Ours is a regiment in reserve which
successive reinforcements have renewed partly with fighting units
and partly with Territorials. In our half-section there are
reservists of the Territorial Army, new recruits, and demi-poils.
Fouillade is forty; Blaire might be the father of Biquet, who is a
gosling of Class 1913. The corporal calls Marthereau "Grandpa" or
"Old Rubbish-heap," according as in jest or in earnest. Mesnil
Joseph would be at the barracks if there were no war. It is a
comical effect when we are in charge of Sergeant Vigile, a nice
little boy, with a dab on his lip by way of mustache. When we were
in quarters the other day, he played at skipping-rope with the
kiddies. In our ill-assorted flock, in this family without kindred,
this home without a hearth at which we gather, there are three
generations side by side, living, waiting, standing still, like
unfinished statues, like posts.

Our races? We are of all races; we come from everywhere. I look at
the two men beside me. Poterloo, the miner from the Calonne pit, is
pink; his eyebrows are the color of straw, his eyes flax-blue. His
great golden head involved a long search in the stores to find the
vast steel-blue tureen that bonnets him. Fouillade, the boatman from
Cette, rolls his wicked eyes in the long, lean face of a musketeer,
with sunken cheeks and his skin the color of a violin. In good
sooth, my two neighbors are as unlike as day and night.

Cocon, no less, a slight and desiccated person in spectacles, whose
tint tells of corrosion in the chemical vapors of great towns,
contrasts with Biquet, a Breton in the rough, whose skin is gray and
his jaw like a paving-stone; and Mesnil Andre, the
comfortable chemist from a country town in Normandy, who has such a
handsome and silky beard and who talks so much and so well--he has
little in common with Lamuse, the fat peasant of Poitou, whose
cheeks and neck are like underdone beef. The suburban accent of
Barque, whose long legs have scoured the streets of Paris in all
directions, alternates with the semi-Belgian cadence of those
Northerners who came from the 8th Territorial; with the sonorous
speech, rolling on the syllables as if over cobblestone, that the
144th pours out upon us; with the dialect blown from those ant-like
clusters that the Auvergnats so obstinately form among the rest. I
remember the first words of that wag, Tirette, when he arrived--"I,
mes enfants, I am from Clichy-la-Garenne! Can any one beat
that?"--and the first grievance that Paradis brought to me, "They
don't give a damn for me, because I'm from Morvan!"

* * * * * *

Our callings? A little of all--in the lump. In those departed days
when we had a social status, before we came to immure our destiny in
the molehills that we must always build up again as fast as rain and
scrap-iron beat them down, what were we? Sons of the soil and
artisans mostly. Lamuse was a farm-servant, Paradis a carter.
Cadilhac, whose helmet rides loosely on his pointed head, though it
is a juvenile size--like a dome on a steeple, says Tirette--owns
land. Papa Blaire was a small farmer in La Brie. Barque, porter and
messenger, performed acrobatic tricks with his carrier-tricycle
among the trains and taxis of Paris, with solemn abuse (so they say)
for the pedestrians, fleeing like bewildered hens across the big
streets and squares. Corporal Bertrand, who keeps himself always a
little aloof, correct, erect, and silent, with a strong and handsome
face and forthright gaze, was foreman in a case-factory. Tirloir
daubed carts with paint--and without grumbling, they say. Tulacque
was barman at the Throne Tavern in the suburbs; and Eudore of the
pale and pleasant face kept a roadside cafe not very far from
the front lines. It has been ill-used by the shells--naturally, for
we all know that Eudore has no luck. Mesnil Andre, who still
retains a trace of well-kept distinction, sold bicarbonate and
infallible remedies at his pharmacy in a Grande Place. His brother
Joseph was selling papers and illustrated story-books in a station
on the State Railways at the same time that, in far-off Lyons,
Cocon, the man of spectacles and statistics, dressed in a black
smock, busied himself behind the counters of an ironmongery, his
hands glittering with plumbago; while the lamps of Becuwe
Adolphe and Poterloo, risen with the dawn, trailed about the
coalpits of the North like weakling Will-o'-th'-wisps.

And there are others amongst us whose occupations one can never
recall, whom one confuses with one another; and the rural
nondescripts who peddled ten trades at once in their packs, without
counting the dubious Pepin, who can have had none at all.
(While at the depot after sick leave, three months ago, they say, he
got married--to secure the separation allowance.)

The liberal professions are not represented among those around me.
Some teachers are subalterns in the company or Red Cross men. In the
regiment a Marist Brother is sergeant in the Service de
Sante; a professional tenor is cyclist dispatch-rider to the
Major; a "gentleman of independent means" is mess corporal to the
C.H.R. But here there is nothing of all that. We are fighting men,
we others, and we include hardly any intellectuals, or men of the
arts or of wealth, who during this war will have risked their faces
only at the loopholes, unless in passing by, or under gold-laced

Yes, we are truly and deeply different from each other. But we are
alike all the same. In spite of this diversity of age, of country,
of education, of position, of everything possible, in spite of the
former gulfs that kept us apart, we are in the main alike. Under the
same uncouth outlines we conceal and reveal the same ways and
habits, the same simple nature of men who have reverted to the state

The same language, compounded of dialect and the slang of workshop
and barracks, seasoned with the latest inventions, blends us in the
sauce of speech with the massed multitudes of men who (for seasons
now) have emptied France and crowded together in the North-East.

Here, too, linked by a fate from which there is no escape, swept
willy-nilly by the vast adventure into one rank, we have no choice
but to go as the weeks and months go--alike. The terrible narrowness
of the common life binds us close, adapts us, merges us one in the
other. It is a sort of fatal contagion. Nor need you, to see how
alike we soldiers are, be afar off--at that distance, say, when we
are only specks of the dust-clouds that roll across the plain.

We are waiting. Weary of sitting, we get up, our joints creaking
like warping wood or old hinges. Damp rusts men as it rusts rifles;
more slowly, but deeper. And we begin again, but not in the same
way, to wait. In a state of war, one is always waiting. We have
become waiting-machines. For the moment it is food we are waiting
for. Then it will be the post. But each in its turn. When we have
done with dinner we will think about the letters. After that, we
shall set ourselves to wait for something else.

Hunger and thirst are urgent instincts which formidably excite the
temper of my companions. As the meal gets later they become
grumblesome and angry. Their need of food and drink snarls from
their lips--"That's eight o'clock. Now, why the hell doesn't it

"Just so, and me that's been pining since noon yesterday," sulks
Lamuse, whose eyes are moist with longing, while his cheeks seem to
carry great daubs of wine-colored grease-paint.

Discontent grows more acute every minute.

"I'll bet Plumet has poured down his own gullet my wine ration that
he's supposed to have, and others with it, and he's lying drunk over
there somewhere."

"It's sure and certain"--Marthereau seconds the proposition.

"Ah, the rotters, the vermin, these fatigue men!" Tirloir bellows.
"An abominable race--all of 'em--mucky-nosed idlers! They roll over
each other all day long at the rear, and they'll be damned before
they'll be in time. Ah, if I were boss, they should damn quick take
our places in the trenches, and they'd have to work for a change. To
begin with, I should say, 'Every man in the section will carry
grease and soup in turns.' Those who were willing, of course--"

"I'm confident," cries Cocon, "it's that Pepere that's
keeping the others back. He does it on purpose, firstly, and then,
too, he can't finish plucking himself in the morning, poor lad. He
wants ten hours for his flea-hunt, he's so finicking; and if he
can't get 'em, monsieur has the pip all day."

"Be damned to him," growls Lamuse. "I'd shift him out of bed if only
I was there! I'd wake him up with boot-toe, I'd--"

"I was reckoning, the other day," Cocon went on; "it took him seven
hours forty-seven minutes to come from thirty-one dug-out. It should
take him five good hours, but no longer."

Cocon is the Man of Figures. He has a deep affection, amounting to
rapacity, for accuracy in recorded computation. On any subject at
all, he goes burrowing after statistics, gathers them with the
industry of an insect, and serves them up on any one who will
listen. Just now, while he wields his figures like weapons, the
sharp ridges and angles and triangles that make up the paltry face
where perch the double discs of his glasses, are contracted with
vexation. He climbs to the firing-step (made in the days when this
was the first line), and raises his head angrily over the parapet.
The light touch of a little shaft of cold sunlight that lingers on
the land sets a-glitter both his glasses and the diamond that hangs
from his nose.

"And that Pepere, too, talk about a drinking-cup with
the bottom out! You'd never believe the weight of stuff he can let
drop on a single journey."

With his pipe in the corner, Papa Blaire fumes in two senses. You
can see his heavy mustache trembling. It is like a comb made of
bone, whitish and drooping.

"Do you want to know what I think? These dinner men, they're the
dirtiest dogs of all. It's 'Blast this' and 'Blast that'--John Blast
and Co., I call 'em."

"They have all the elements of a dunghill about them," says Eudore,
with a sigh of conviction. He is prone on the ground, with his mouth
half-open and the air of a martyr. With one fading eye he follows
the movements of Pepin, who prowls to and fro like a hyaena.

Their spiteful exasperation with the loiterers mounts higher and
higher. Tirloir the Grumbler takes the lead and expands. This is
where he comes in. With his little pointed gesticulations he goads
and spurs the anger all around him.

"Ah, the devils, what? The sort of meat they threw at us yesterday!
Talk about whetstones! Beef from an ox, that? Beef from a bicycle,
yes rather! I said to the boys, 'Look here, you chaps, don't you
chew it too quick, or you'll break your front teeth on the nails!'"

Tirloir's harangue--he was manager of a traveling cinema, it
seems--would have made us laugh at other times, but in the present
temper it is only echoed by a circulating growl.

"Another time, so that you won't grumble about the toughness, they
send you something soft and flabby that passes for meat, something
with the look and the taste of a sponge--or a poultice. When you
chew that, it's the same as a cup of water, no more and no less."

"Tout ca," says Lamuse, "has no substance; it gets no grip on
your guts. You think you're full, but at the bottom of your tank
you're empty. So, bit by bit, you turn your eyes up, poisoned for
want of sustenance."

"The next time," Biquet exclaims in desperation, "I shall ask to see
the old man, and I shall say, 'Mon capitaine'--"

"And I," says Barque, "shall make myself look sick, and I shall say,
'Monsieur le major'--"

"And get nix or the kick-out--they're all alike--all in a band to
take it out of the poor private."

"I tell you, they'd like to get the very skin off us!"

"And the brandy, too! We have a right to get it brought to the
trenches--as long as it's been decided somewhere--I don't know when
or where, but I know it--and in the three days that we've been here,
there's three days that the brandy's been dealt out to us on the end
of a fork!"

"Ah, malheur!"

* * * * * *

"There's the grub!" announces a poilu [note 1] who was on the
look-out at the corner.

"Time, too!"

And the storm of revilings ceases as if by magic. Wrath is changed
into sudden contentment.

Three breathless fatigue men, their faces streaming with tears of
sweat, put down on the ground some large tins, a paraffin can, two
canvas buckets, and a file of loaves, skewered on a stick. Leaning
against the wall of the trench, they mop their faces with their
handkerchiefs or sleeves. And I see Cocon go up to Pepere with a
smile, and forgetful of the abuse he had been heaping on the other's
reputation, he stretches out a cordial hand towards one of the cans
in the collection that swells the circumference of Pepere. after the
manner of a life-belt.

"What is there to eat?"

"It's there," is the evasive reply of the second fatigue man, whom
experience has taught that a proclamation of the menu always evokes
the bitterness of disillusion. So they set themselves to panting
abuse of the length and the difficulties of the trip they have just
accomplished: "Some crowds about, everywhere! It's a tough job to
get along--got to disguise yourself as a cigarette paper,
sometimes."--"And there are people who say they're shirkers in the
kitchens!" As for him, he would a hundred thousand times rather be
with the company in the trenches, to mount guard and dig, than earn
his keep by such a job, twice a day during the night!

Paradis, having lifted the lids of the jars, surveys the recipients
and announces, "Kidney beans in oil, bully, pudding, and
coffee--that's all."

"Nom de Dieu!" bawls Tulacque. "And wine?" He summons the crowd:
"Come and look here, all of you! That--that's the limit! We're done
out of our wine!"

Athirst and grimacing, they hurry up; and from the profoundest
depths of their being wells up the chorus of despair and
disappointment, "Oh, Hell!"

"Then what's that in there?" says the fatigue man, still ruddily
sweating, and using his foot to point at a bucket.

"Yes," says Paradis, "my mistake, there is some."

The fatigue man shrugs his shoulders, and hurls at Paradis a look of
unspeakable scorn--"Now you're beginning! Get your gig-lamps on, if
your sight's bad." He adds, "One cup each--rather less perhaps--some
chucklehead bumped against me, coming through the Boyau du Bois, and
a drop got spilled." "Ah!" he hastens to add, raising his voice, "if
I hadn't been loaded up, talk about the boot-toe he'd have got in
the rump! But he hopped it on his top gear, the brute!"

In spite of this confident assurance, the fatigue man makes off
himself, curses overtaking him as he goes, maledictions charged with
offensive reflections on his honesty and temperance, imprecations
inspired by this revelation of a ration reduced.

All the same, they throw themselves on the food, and eat it
standing, squatting, kneeling, sitting on tins, or on haversacks
pulled out of the holes where they sleep--or even prone, their backs
on the ground, disturbed by passers-by, cursed at and cursing. Apart
from these fleeting insults and jests, they say nothing, the primary
and universal interest being but to swallow, with their mouths and
the circumference thereof as greasy as a rifle-breech. Contentment
is theirs.

At the earliest cessation of their jaw-bones' activity, they serve
up the most ribald of raillery. They knock each other about, and
clamor in riotous rivalry to have their say. One sees even Farfadet
smiling, the frail municipal clerk who in the early days kept
himself so decent and clean amongst us all that he was taken for a
foreigner or a convalescent. One sees the tomato-like mouth of
Lamuse dilate and divide, and his delight ooze out in tears.
Poterloo's face, like a pink peony, opens out wider and wider. Papa
Blaire's wrinkles flicker with frivolity as he stands up, pokes his
head forward, and gesticulates with the abbreviated body that serves
as a handle for his huge drooping mustache. Even the corrugations of
Cocon's poor little face are lighted up.

Becuwe goes in search of firewood to warm the coffee. While
we wait for our drink, we roll cigarettes and fill pipes. Pouches
are pulled out. Some of us have shop-acquired pouches in leather or
rubber, but they are a minority. Biquet extracts his tobacco from a
sock, of which the mouth is drawn tight with string. Most of the
others use the bags for anti-gas pads, made of some waterproof
material which is an excellent preservative of shag, be it coarse or
fine; and there are those who simply fumble for it in the bottom of
their greatcoat pockets.

The smokers spit in a circle, just at the mouth of the dug-out which
most of the half-section inhabit, and flood with tobacco-stained
saliva the place where they put their hands and feet when they
flatten themselves to get in or out.

But who notices such a detail?

* * * * * *

Now, a propos of a letter to Marthereau from his wife, they
discuss produce.

"La mere Marthereau has written," he says. "That fat pig
we've got at home, a fine specimen, guess how much she's worth now?"

But the subject of domestic economy degenerates suddenly into a
fierce altercation between Pepin and Tulacque. Words of quite
unmistakable significance are exchanged. Then--"I don't care a what
you say or what you don't say! Shut it up!"--"I shall shut it when I
want, midden!"--"A seven-pound thump would shut it up quick
enough!"--"Who from? Who'll give it me?"--"Come and find out!"

They grind their teeth and approach each other in a foaming rage.
Tulacque grasps his prehistoric ax, and his squinting eyes are
flashing. The other is pale and his eyes have a greenish glint; you
can see in his blackguard face that his thoughts are with his knife.

But between the two, as they grip each other in looks and mangle in
words, Lamuse intervenes with his huge pacific head, like a baby's,
and his face of sanguinary hue: "Allons, allons! You're not going to
cut yourselves up! Can't be allowed!"

The others also interpose, and the antagonists are separated, but
they continue to hurl murderous looks at each other across the
barrier of their comrades. Pepin mutters a residue of slander
in tones that quiver with malice--

"The hooligan, the ruffian, the blackguard! But wait a bit! I'll see
him later about this!"

On the other side, Tulacque confides in the poilu who is beside him:
"That crab-louse! Non, but you know what he is! You know--there's no
more to be said. Here, we've got to rub along with a lot of people
that we don't know from Adam. We know 'em and yet we don't know 'em;
but that man, if he thinks he can mess me about, he'll find himself
up the wrong street! You wait a bit. I'll smash him up one of these
days, you'll see!"

Meanwhile the general conversation is resumed, drowning the last
twin echoes of the quarrel.

"It's every day alike, alors!" says Paradis to me; "yesterday it was
Plaisance who wanted to let Fumex have it heavy on the jaw, about
God knows what--a matter of opium pills, I think. First it's one and
then it's another that talks of doing some one in. Are we getting to
be a lot of wild animals because we look like 'em?"

"Mustn't take them too seriously, these men," Lamuse declares;
"they're only kids."

"True enough, seeing that they're men."

* * * * * *

The day matures. A little more light has trickled through the mists
that enclose the earth. But the sky has remained overcast, and now
it dissolves in rain; With a slowness which itself disheartens, the
wind brings back its great wet void upon us. The rain-haze makes
everything clammy and dull--even the Turkey red of Lamuse s cheeks,
and even the orange armor that caparisons Tulacque. The water
penetrates to the deep joy with which dinner endowed us, and puts it
out. Space itself shrinks; and the sky, which is a field of
melancholy, comes closely down upon the earth, which is a field of

We are still there, implanted and idle. It will be hard to-day to
reach the end of it, to get rid of the afternoon. We shiver in
discomfort, and keep shifting our positions, like cattle enclosed.

Cocon is explaining to his neighbor the arrangement and intricacy of
our trenches. He has seen a military map and made some calculations.
In the sector occupied by our regiment there are fifteen lines of
French trenches. Some are abandoned, invaded by grass, and half
leveled; the others solidly upkept and bristling with men. These
parallels are joined up by innumerable galleries which hook and
crook themselves like ancient streets. The system is much more dense
than we believe who live inside it. On the twenty-five kilometers'
width that form the army front, one must count on a thousand
kilometers of hollowed lines--trenches and saps of all sorts. And
the French Army consists of ten such armies. There are then, on the
French side, about 10,000 kilometers [note 2] of trenches, and as
much again on the German side. And the French front is only about
one-eighth of the whole war-front of the world.

Thus speaks Cocon, and he ends by saying to his neighbor, "In all
that lot, you see what we are, us chaps?"

Poor Barque's head droops. His face, bloodless as a slum child's, is
underlined by a red goatee that punctuates his hair like an
apostrophe: "Yes, it's true, when you come to think of it. What's a
soldier, or even several soldiers?--Nothing, and less than nothing,
in the whole crowd; and so we see ourselves lost, drowned, like the
few drops of blood that we are among all this flood of men and

Barque sighs and is silent, and the end of his discourse gives a
chance of hearing to a bit of jingling narrative, told in an
undertone: "He was coming along with two horses--Fs-s-s--a shell;
and he's only one horse left."

"You get fed up with it," says Volpatte.

"But you stick it," growls Barque.

"You've got to," says Paradis.

"Why?" asks Marthereau, without conviction.

"No need for a reason, as long as we've got to."

"There is no reason," Lamuse avers.

"Yes, there is," says Cocon. "It's--or rather, there are several."

"Shut it up! Much better to have no reason, as long as we've got to
stick it."

"All the same," comes the hollow voice of Blaire, who lets no chance
slip of airing his pet phrase--"All the same, they'd like to steal
the very skin off us!"

"At the beginning of it," says Tirette, "I used to think about a
heap of things. I considered and calculated. Now, I don't think any

"Nor me either."

"Nor me."

"I've never tried to."

"You're not such a fool as you look, flea-face," says the shrill and
jeering voice of Mesnil Andre. Obscurely flattered, the other
develops his theme--

"To begin with, you can't know anything about anything."

Says Corporal Bertrand, "There's only one thing you need know, and
it's this; that the Boches are here in front of us, deep dug in, and
we've got to see that they don't get through, and we've got to put
'em out, one day or another--as soon as possible."

"Oui, oui, they've got to leg it, and no mistake about it. What else
is there? Not worth while to worry your head thinking about anything
else. But it's a long job."

An explosion of profane assent comes from Fouillade, and he adds,
"That's what it is!"

"I've given up grousing," says Barque. "At the beginning of it, I
played hell with everybody--with the people at the rear, with the
civilians, with the natives, with the shirkers. Yes, I played hell;
but that was at the beginning of the war--I was young. Now, I take
things better."

"There's only one way of taking 'em--as they come!"

"Of course! Otherwise, you'd go crazy. We're dotty enough already,
eh, Firmin?"

Volpatte assents with a nod of profound conviction. He spits, and
then contemplates his missile with a fixed and unseeing eye.

"You were saying?" insists Barque.

"Here, you haven't got to look too far in front. You must live from
day to day and from hour to hour, as well as you can."

"Certain sure, monkey-face. We've got to do what they tell us to do,
until they tell us to go away."

"That's all," yawns Mesnil Joseph.

Silence follows the recorded opinions that proceed from these dried
and tanned faces, inlaid with dust. This, evidently, is the credo of
the men who, a year and a half ago, left all the corners of the land
to mass themselves on the frontier: Give up trying to understand,
and give up trying to be yourself. Hope that you will not die, and
fight for life as well as you can.

"Do what you've got to do, oui, but get out of your own messes
yourself," says Barque, as he slowly stirs the mud to and fro.

"No choice"--Tulacque backs him up. "If you don't get out of 'em
yourself, no one'll do it for you."

"He's not yet quite extinct, the man that bothers about the other

"Every man for himself, in war!"

"That's so, that's so."

Silence. Then from the depth of their destitution, these men summon
sweet souvenirs--"All that," Barque goes on, "isn't worth much,
compared with the good times we had at Soissons."

"Ah, the Devil!"

A gleam of Paradise lost lights up their eyes and seems even to
redden their cold faces.

"Talk about a festival!" sighs Tirloir, as he leaves off scratching
himself, and looks pensively far away over Trenchland.

"Ah, nom de Dieu! All that town, nearly abandoned, that used to be
ours! The houses and the beds--"

"And the cupboards!"

"And the cellars!"

Lamuse's eyes are wet, his face like a nosegay, his heart full.

"Were you there long?" asks Cadilhac, who came here later, with the
drafts from Auvergne.

"Several months."

The conversation had almost died out, but it flames up again
fiercely at this vision of the days of plenty.

"We used to see," said Paradis dreamily, "the poilus pouring along
and behind the houses on the way back to camp with fowls hung round
their middles, and a rabbit under each arm, borrowed from some good
fellow or woman that they hadn't seen and won't ever see again."

We reflect on the far-off flavor of chicken and rabbit. "There were
things that we paid for, too. The spondu-licks just danced about. We
held all the aces in those days."

"A hundred thousand francs went rolling round the shops."

"Millions, oui. All the day, just a squandering that you've no idea
of, a sort of devil's delight."

"Believe me or not," said Blaire to Cadilhac, "but in the middle of
it all, what we had the least of was fires, just like here and
everywhere else you go. You had to chase it and find it and stick to
it. Ah, mon vieux, how we did run after the kindlings!"

"Well, we were in the camp of the C.H.R. The cook there was the
great Martin Cesar. He was the man for finding wood!"

"Ah, oui, oui! He was the ace of trumps! He got what he wanted
without twisting himself."

"Always some fire in his kitchen, young fellow. You saw cooks
chasing and gabbling about the streets in all directions, blubbering
because they had no coal or wood. But he'd got a fire. When he
hadn't any, he said, 'Don't worry, I'll see you through.' And he
wasn't long about it, either."

"He went a bit too far, even. The first time I saw him in his
kitchen, you'd never guess what he'd got the stew going with! With a
violin that he'd found in the house!"

"Rotten, all the same," says Mesnil Andre. "One knows well
enough that a violin isn't worth much when it comes to utility, but
all the same--"

"Other times, he used billiard cues. Zizi just succeeded in pinching
one for a cane, but the rest--into the fire! Then the arm-chairs in
the drawing-room went by degrees--mahogany, they were. He did 'em in
and cut them up by night, case some N.C.O. had something to say
about it."

"He knew his way about," said Pepin. "As for us, we got busy
with an old suite of furniture that lasted us a fortnight."

"And what for should we be without? You've got to make dinner, and
there's no wood or coal. After the grub's served out, there you are
with your jaws empty, with a pile of meat in front of you, and in
the middle of a lot of pals that chaff and bullyrag you!"

"It's the War Office's doing, it isn't ours."

"Hadn't the officers a lot to say about the pinching?"

"They damn well did it themselves, I give you my word! Desmaisons,
do you remember Lieutenant Virvin's trick, breaking down a cellar
door with an ax? And when a poilu saw him at it, he gave him the
door for firewood, so that he wouldn't spread it about."

"And poor old Saladin, the transport officer. He was found coming
out of a basement in the dusk with two bottles of white wine in each
arm, the sport, like a nurse with two pairs of twins. When he was
spotted, they made him go back down to the wine-cellar, and serve
out bottles for everybody. But Corporal Bertrand, who is a man of
scruples, wouldn't have any. Ah, you remember that, do you,

"Where's that cook now that always found wood?" asks Cadilhac.

"He's dead. A bomb fell in his stove. He didn't get it, but he's
dead all the same--died of shock when he saw his macaroni with its
legs in the air. Heart seizure, so the doc' said. His heart was
weak--he was only strong on wood. They gave him a proper
funeral--made him a coffin out of the bedroom floor, and got the
picture nails out of the walls to fasten 'em together, and used
bricks to drive 'em in. While they were carrying him off, I thought
to myself, 'Good thing for him he's dead. If he saw that, he'd never
be able to forgive himself for not having thought of the bedroom
floor for his fire.'--Ah, what the devil are you doing, son of a

Volpatte offers philosophy on the rude intrusion of a passing
fatigue party: "The private gets along on the back of his pals. When
you spin your yarns in front of a fatigue gang, or when you take the
best bit or the best place, it's the others that suffer."

"I've often," says Lamuse, "put up dodges so as not to go into the
trenches, and it's come off no end of times. I own up to that. But
when my pals are in danger, I'm not a dodger any more. I forget
discipline and everything else. I see men, and I go. But otherwise,
my boy, I look after my little self."

Lamuse's claims are not idle words. He is an admitted expert at
loafing, but all the same he has brought wounded in under fire and
saved their lives. Without any brag, he relates the deed--

"We were all lying on the grass, and having a hot time. Crack,
crack! Whizz, whizz! When I saw them downed, I got up, though they
yelled at me, 'Get down!' Couldn't leave 'em like that. Nothing to
make a song about, seeing I couldn't do anything else,"

Nearly all the boys of the squad have some high deed of arms to
their credit, and the Croix de Guerre has been successively set upon
their breasts.

"I haven't saved any Frenchmen," says Biquet, "but I've given some
Boches the bitter pill." In the May attacks, he ran off in advance
and was seen to disappear in the distance, but came back with four
fine fellows in helmets.

"I, too," says Tulacque, "I've killed some." Two months ago, with
quaint vanity, he laid out nine in a straight row, in front of the
taken trench. "But," he adds, "it's always the Boche officer that
I'm after."

"Ah, the beasts!" The curse comes from several men at once and from
the bottom of their hearts.

"Ah, mon vieux," says Tirloir, "we talk about the dirty Boche race;
but as for the common soldier, I don't know if it's true or whether
we're codded about that as well, and if at bottom they're not men
pretty much like us."

"Probably they're men like us," says Eudore.

"Perhaps!" cries Cocon, "and perhaps not."

"Anyway," Tirloir goes on, "we've not got a dead set on the men, but
on the German officers; non, non, non, they're not men, they're
monsters. I tell you, they're really a specially filthy sort o'
vermin. One might say that they're the microbes of the war. You
ought to see them close to--the infernal great stiff-backs, thin as
nails, though they've got calf-heads."

"And snouts like snakes."

Tirloir continues: "I saw one once, a prisoner, as I came back from
liaison. The beastly bastard! A Prussian colonel, that wore a
prince's crown, so they told me, and a gold coat-of-arms. He was mad
because we took leave to graze against him when they were bringing
him back along the communication trench, and he looked down on
everybody--like that. I said to myself, 'Wait a bit, old cock, I'll
make you rattle directly!' I took my time and squared up behind him,
and kicked into his tailpiece with all my might. I tell you, he fell
down half-strangled."


"Yes, with rage, when it dawned on him that the rump of an officer
and nobleman had been bust in by the hobnailed socks of a poor
private! He went off chattering like a woman and wriggling like an

"I'm not spiteful myself," says Blaire, "I've got kiddies. And it
worries me, too, at home, when I've got to kill a pig that I
know--but those, I shall run 'em through--Bing!--full in the

"I, too."

"Not to mention," says Pepin, "that they've got silver hats,
and pistols that you can get four quid for whenever you like, and
field-glasses that simply haven't got a price. Ah, bad luck, what a
lot of chances I let slip in the early part of the campaign! I was
too much of a beginner then, and it serves me right. But don't
worry, I shall get a silver hat. Mark my words, I swear I'll have
one. I must have not only the skin of one of Wilhelm's red-tabs, but
his togs as well. Don't fret yourself; I'll fasten on to that before
the war ends."

"You think it'll have an end, then?" asks some one.

"Don't worry!" replies the other.

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, a hubbub has arisen to the right of us, and suddenly a
moving and buzzing group appears, in which dark and bright forms

"What's all that?"

Biquet has ventured on a reconnaissance, and returns contemptuously
pointing with his thumb towards the motley mass: "Eh, boys! Come and
have a squint at them! Some people!"

"Some people?"

"Oui, some gentlemen, look you. Civvies, with Staff officers."

"Civilians! Let's hope they'll stick it!" [note 3]

It is the sacramental saying and evokes laughter, although we have
heard it a hundred times, and although the soldier has rightly or
wrongly perverted the original meaning and regards it as an ironical
reflection on his life of privations and peril.

Two Somebodies come up; two Somebodies with overcoats and canes.
Another is dressed in a sporting suit, adorned with a plush hat and
binoculars. Pale blue tunics, with shining belts of fawn color or
patent leather, follow and steer the civilians.

With an arm where a brassard glitters in gold-edged silk and golden
ornament, a captain indicates the firing-step in front of an old
emplacement and invites the visitors to get up and try it. The
gentleman in the touring suit clambers up with the aid of his

Says Barque, "You've seen the station-master at the Gare du Nord,
all in his Sunday best, and opening the door of a first-class
compartment for a rich sportsman on the first day of the shooting?
With his 'Montez, monsieur le Propritaire!'--you know, when the
toffs are all togged up in brand-new outfits and leathers and
ironmongery, and showing off with all their paraphernalia for
killing poor little animals!"

Three or four poilus who were quite without their accouterments have
disappeared underground. The others sit as though paralyzed. Even
the pipes go out, and nothing is heard but the babble of talk
exchanged by the officers and their guests.

"Trench tourists," says Barque in an undertone, and then
louder--"This way, mesdames et messieurs"--in the manner of the

"Chuck it!" whispers Farfadet, fearing that Barque's malicious
tongue will draw the attention of the potent personages.

Some heads in the group are now turned our way. One gentleman who
detaches himself and comes up wears a soft hat and a loose tie. He
has a white billy-goat beard, and might be an artiste. Another
follows him, wearing a black overcoat, a black bowler hat, a black
beard, a white tie and an eyeglass.

"Ah, ah! There are some poilus," says the first gentleman. "These
are real poilus, indeed."

He comes up to our party a little timidly, as though in the
Zoological Gardens, and offers his hand to the one who is nearest to
him--not without awkwardness, as one offers a piece of bread to the

"He, he! They are drinking coffee," he remarks.

"They call it 'the juice,'" corrects the magpie-man.

"Is it good, my friends?" The soldier, abashed in his turn by this
alien and unusual visitation, grunts, giggles, and reddens, and the
gentleman says, "He, he!" Then, with a slight motion of the head,
he withdraws backwards.

The assemblage, with its neutral shades of civilian cloth and its
sprinkling of bright military hues--like geraniums and hortensias in
the dark soil of a flowerbed--oscillates, then passes, and moves off
the opposite way it came. One of the officers was heard to say, "We
have yet much to see, messieurs les journalistes."

When the radiant spectacle has faded away, we look at each other.
Those who had fled into the funk-holes now gradually and head first
disinter themselves. The group recovers itself and shrugs its

"They're journalists," says Tirette.


"Why, yes, the individuals that lay the newspapers. You don't seem
to catch on, fathead. Newspapers must have chaps to write 'em."

"Then it's those that stuff up our craniums?" says Marthereau.

Barque assumes a shrill treble, and pretending that he has a
newspaper in front of his nose, recites--"'The Crown Prince is mad,
after having been killed at the beginning of the campaign, and
meanwhile he has all the diseases you can name. William will die
this evening, and again to-morrow. The Germans have no more
munitions and are chewing wood. They cannot hold out, according to
the most authoritative calculations, beyond the end of the week. We
can have them when we like, with their rifles slung. If one can wait
a few days longer, there will be no desire to forsake the life of
the trenches. One is so comfortable there, with water and gas laid
on, and shower-baths at every step. The only drawback is that it is
rather too hot in winter. As for the Austrians, they gave in a long
time since and are only pretending.' For fifteen months now it's
been like that, and you can hear the editor saying to his scribes,
'Now, boys, get into it! Find some way of brushing that up again for
me in five secs, and make it spin out all over those four damned
white sheets that we've got to mucky.'"

"Ah, yes!" says Fouillade.

"Look here, corporal; you're making fun of it--isn't it true what I

"There's a little truth in it, but you're too slashing on the poor
boys, and you'd be the first to make a song about it if you had to
go without papers. Oui, when the paper-man's going by, why do you
all shout, 'Here, here'?"

"And what good can you get out of them all?" cries Papa Blaire.
"Read 'em by the tubful if you like, but do the same as me--don't
believe 'em!"

"Oui, oui, that's enough about them. Turn the page over,

The conversation is breaking up; interest in it follows suit and is
scattered. Four poilus join in a game of manille, that will last
until night blacks out the cards. Volpatte is trying to catch a leaf
of cigarette paper that has escaped his fingers and goes hopping and
dodging in the wind along the wall of the trench like a fragile

Cocon and Tirette are recalling their memories of barrack-life. The
impressions left upon their minds by those years of military
training are ineffaceable. Into that fund of abundant souvenirs, of
abiding color and instant service, they have been wont to dip for
their subjects of conversation for ten, fifteen, or twenty years. So
that they still frequent it, even after a year and a half of actual
war in all its forms.

I can hear some of the talk and guess the rest of it. For it is
everlastingly the same sort of tale that they get out of their
military past;--the narrator once shut up a bad-tempered N.C.O. with
words of extreme appropriateness and daring. He wasn't afraid, he
spoke out loud and strong! Some scraps of it reach my ears--

"Alors, d'you think I flinched when Nenoeil said that to me? Not a
bit, my boy. All the pals kept their jaws shut but me; I spoke up,
'Mon adjudant,' I says, 'it's possible, but--'" A sentence follows
that I cannot secure--"Oh, tu sais, just like that, I said it. He
didn't get shirty; 'Good, that's good,' he says as he hops it, and
afterwards he was as good as all that, with me."

"Just like me, with Dodore, 'jutant of the 13th, when I was on
leave--a mongrel. Now he's at the Pantheon, as caretaker.
He'd got it in for me, so--"

So each unpacks his own little load of historical anecdote. They are
all alike, and not one of them but says, "As for me, I am not like
the others."

* * * * * *

The post-orderly! He is a tall and broad man with fat calves;
comfortable looking, and as neat and tidy as a policeman. He is in a
bad temper. There are new orders, and now he has to go every day as
far as Battalion Headquarters. He abuses the order as if it had been
directed exclusively against himself; and he continues to complain
even while he calls up the corporals for the post and maintains his
customary chat en passant with this man and that. And in spite of
his spleen he does not keep to himself all the information with
which he comes provided. While removing the string from the
letter-packets he dispenses his verbal news, and announces first,
that according to rumor, there is a very explicit ban on the wearing
of hoods.

"Hear that?" says Tirette to Tirloir. "Got to chuck your fine hood

"Not likely! I'm not on. That's nothing to do with me," replies the
hooded one, whose pride no less than his comfort is at stake.

"Order of the General Commanding the Army."

"Then let the General give an order that it's not to rain any more.
I want to know nothing about it."

The majority of Orders, even when less peculiar than this one, are
always received in this way--and then carried out.

"There's a reported order as well," says the man of letters, "that
beards have got to be trimmed and hair got to be clipped close."

"Talk on, my lad," says Barque, on whose head the threatened order
directly falls; "you didn't see me! You can draw the curtains!"

"I'm telling you. Do it or don't do it--doesn't matter a damn to

Besides what is real and written, there is bigger news, but still
more dubious and imaginative--the division is going to be relieved,
and sent either to rest--real rest, for six weeks--or to Morocco, or
perhaps to Egypt.

Divers exclamations. They listen, and let themselves be tempted by
the fascination of the new, the wonderful.

But some one questions the post-orderly: "Who told you that?"

"The adjutant commanding the Territorial detachment that fatigues
for the H.Q. of the A.C."

"For the what?"

"For Headquarters of the Army Corps, and he's not the only one that
says it. There's--you know him--I've forgotten his name--he's like
Galle, but he isn't Galle--there's some one in his family who is
Some One. Anyway, he knows all about it."

"Then what?" With hungry eyes they form a circle around the

"Egypt, you say, we shall go to? Don't know it. I know there were
Pharaohs there at the time when I was a kid and went to school, but

"To Egypt!" The idea finds unconscious anchorage in their minds.

"Ah, non," says Blaire, "for I get sea-sick. Still, it doesn't last,
sea-sickness. Oui, but what would my good lady say?"

"What about it? She'll get used to it. You see niggers, and streets
full of big birds, like we see sparrows here."

"But haven't we to go to Alsace?"

"Yes," says the post-orderly, "there are some who think so at the

"That'd do me well enough."

But common sense and acquired experience regain the upper hand and
put the visions to flight. We have been told so often that we were
going a long way off, so often have we believed it, so often been
undeceived! So, as if at a moment arranged, we wake up.

"It's all my eye--they've done it on us too often. Wait before
believing--and don't count a crumb's worth on it."

We reoccupy our corner. Here and there a man bears in his hand the
light momentous burden of a letter.

"Ah," says Tirloir, "I must be writing. Can't go eight days without

"Me too," says Eudore, "I must write to my p'tit' femme."

"Is she all right, Mariette?"

"Oui, oui, don't fret about Mariette."

A few have already settled themselves for correspondence. Barque is
standing up. He stoops over a sheet of paper flattened on a
note-book upon a jutting crag in the trench wall. Apparently in the
grip of an inspiration, he writes on and on, with his eyes in
bondage and the concentrated expression of a horseman at full

When once Lamuse--who lacks imagination--has sat down, placed his
little writing-block on the padded summit of his knees, and
moistened his copying-ink pencil, he passes the time in reading
again the last letters received, in wondering what he can say that
he has not already said, and in fostering a grim determination to
say something else.

A sentimental gentleness seems to have overspread little Eudore, who
is curled up in a sort of niche in the ground. He is lost in
meditation, pencil in hand, eyes on paper. Dreaming, he looks and
stares and sees. It is another sky that lends him light, another to
which his vision reaches. He has gone home.

In this time of letter-writing, the men reveal the most and the best
that they ever were. Several others surrender to the past, and its
first expression is to talk once more of fleshly comforts.

Through their outer crust of coarseness and concealment, other
hearts venture upon murmured memories, and the rekindling of bygone
brightness: the summer morning, when the green freshness of the
garden steals in upon the purity of the country bedroom; or when the
wind in the wheat of the level lands sets it slowly stirring or
deeply waving, and shakes the square of oats hard by into quick
little feminine tremors; or the winter evening, with women and their
gentleness around the shaded luster of the lamp.

But Papa Blaire resumes work upon the ring he has begun. He has
threaded the still formless disc of aluminium over a bit of rounded
wood, and rubs it with the file. As he applies himself to the job,
two wrinkles of mighty meditation deepen upon his forehead. Anon he
stops, straightens himself, and looks tenderly at the trifle, as
though she also were looking at it.

"You know," he said to me once, speaking of another ring, "it's not
a question of doing it well or not well. The point is that I've done
it for my wife, d'you see? When I had nothing to do but scratch
myself, I used to have a look at this photo"--he showed me a
photograph of a big, chubby-faced woman--"and then it was quite easy
to set about this damned ring. You might say that we've made it
together, see? The proof of that is that it was company for me, and
that I said Adieu to it when I sent it off to Mother Blaire."

He is making another just now, and this one will have copper in it,
too. He works eagerly. His heart would fain express itself to the
best advantage in this the sort of penmanship upon which he is so
tenaciously bent.

As they stoop reverently, in their naked earth-holes, over the
slender rudimentary trinkets--so tiny that the great hide-bound
hands hold them with difficulty or let them fall--these men seem
still more wild, more primitive, and more human, than at all other

You are set thinking of the first inventor, the father of all
craftsmen, who sought to invest enduring materials with the shapes
of what he saw and the spirit of what he felt.

* * * * * *

"People coming along," announces Biquet the mobile, who acts as
hall-porter to our section of the trench--"buckets of 'em."
Immediately an adjutant appears, with straps round his belly and his
chin, and brandishing his sword-scabbard.

"Out of the way, you! Out of the way, I tell you! You loafers there,
out of it! Let me see you quit, hey!" We make way indolently. Those
at the sides push back into the earth by slow degrees.

It is a company of Territorials, deputed to our sector for the
fortification of the second line and the upkeep of its communication
trenches. They come into view--miserable bundles of implements, and
dragging their feet.

We watch them, one by one, as they come up, pass, and disappear.
They are stunted and elderly, with dusty faces, or big and
broken-winded, tightly enfolded in greatcoats stained and over-worn,
that yawn at the toothless gaps where the buttons are missing.

Tirette and Barque, the twin wags, leaning close together against
the wall, stare at them, at first in silence. Then they begin to

"March past of the Broom Brigade," says Tirette.

"We'll have a bit of fun for three minutes," announces Barque.

Some of the old toilers are comical. This one whom the file brings
up has bottle-shaped shoulders. Although extremely narrow-chested
and spindle-shanked, he is big-bellied. He is too much for Barque.
"Hullo, Sir Canteen!" he says.

When a more outrageously patched-up greatcoat appears than all the
others can show, Tirette questions the veteran recruit. "Hey, Father
Samples! Hey, you there!" he insists.

The other turns and looks at him, open-mouthed.

"Say there, papa, if you will be so kind as to give me the address
of your tailor in London!"

A chuckle comes from the antiquated and wrinkle-scrawled face, and
then the poilu, checked for an instant by Barque's command, is
jostled by the following flood and swept away.

When some less striking figures have gone past, a new victim is
provided for the jokers. On his red and wrinkled neck luxuriates
some dirty sheep's-wool. With knees bent, his body forward, his back
bowed, this Territorial's carriage is the worst.

"Tiens!" bawls Tirette, with pointed finger, "the famous
concertina-man! It would cost you something to see him at the
fair--here, he's free gratis!"

The victim stammers responsive insults amid the scattered laughter
that arises.

No more than that laughter is required to excite the two comrades.
It is the ambition to have their jests voted funny by their easy
audience that stimulates them to mock the peculiarities of their old
comrades-in-arms, of those who toil night and day on the brink of
the great war to make ready and make good the fields of battle.

And even the other watchers join in. Miserable themselves, they
scoff at the still more miserable.

"Look at that one! And that, look!"

"Non, but take me a snapshot of that little rump-end! Hey,

"And that one that has no ending! Talk about a sky-scratcher! Tiens,
la, he takes the biscuit. Yes, you take it, old chap!"

This man goes with little steps, and holds his pickax up in front
like a candle; his face is withered, and his body borne down by the
blows of lumbago.

"Like a penny, gran'pa?" Barque asks him, as he passes within reach
of a tap on the shoulder.

The broken-down poilu replies with a great oath of annoyance, and
provokes the harsh rejoinder of Barque: "Come now, you might be
polite, filthy-face, old muck-mill!"

Turning right round in fury, the old one defies his tormentor.

"Hullo!" cries Barque, laughing, "He's showing fight; the ruin! He's
warlike, look you, and he might be mischievous if only he were sixty
years younger!"

"And if he wasn't alone," wantonly adds Pepin, whose eye is
in quest of other targets among the flow of new arrivals.

The hollow chest of the last straggler appears, and then his
distorted back disappears.

The march past of the worn-out and trench-foul veterans comes to an
end among the ironical and almost malevolent faces of these sinister
troglodytes, whom their caverns of mud but half reveal.

Meanwhile, the hours slip away, and evening begins to veil the sky
and darken the things of earth. It comes to blend itself at once
with the blind fate and the ignorant dark minds of the multitude
there enshrouded.

Through the twilight comes the rolling hum of tramping men, and
another throng. rubs its way through.


They march past with faces red-brown, yellow or chestnut, their
beards scanty and fine or thick and frizzled, their greatcoats
yellowish-green, and their muddy helmets sporting the crescent in
place of our grenade. Their eyes are like balls of ivory or onyx,
that shine from faces like new pennies, flattened or angular. Now
and again comes swaying along above the line the coal-black mask of
a Senegalese sharpshooter. Behind the company goes a red flag with a
green hand in the center.

We watch them in silence. These are asked no questions. They command
respect, and even a little fear.

All the same, these Africans seem jolly and in high spirits. They
are going, of course, to the first line. That is their place, and
their passing is the sign of an imminent attack. They are made for
the offensive.

"Those and the 75 gun we can take our hats off to. They're
everywhere sent ahead at big moments, the Moroccan Division."

"They can't quite fit in with us. They go too fast--and there's no
way of stopping them."

Some of these diabolical images in yellow wood or bronze or ebony
are serious of mien, uneasy, and taciturn. Their faces have the
disquieting and secret look of the snare suddenly discovered. The
others laugh with a laugh that jangles like fantastic foreign
instruments of music, a laugh that bares the teeth.

We talk over the characteristics of these Africans; their ferocity
in attack, their devouring passion to be in with the bayonet, their
predilection for "no quarter." We recall those tales that they
themselves willingly tell, all in much the same words and with the
same gestures. They raise their arms over their heads--"Kam'rad,
Kam'rad!" "Non, pas Kam'rad!" And in pantomime they drive a bayonet
forward, at belly-height, drawing it back then with the help of a

One of the sharpshooters overhears our talk as he passes. He looks
upon us, laughs abundantly in his helmeted turban, and repeats our
words with significant shakes of his head: "Pas Kam'rad, non pas
Kam'rad, never! Cut head off!"

"No doubt they're a different race from us, with their tent-cloth
skin," Barque confesses, though he does not know himself what "cold
feet" are. "It worries them to rest, you know; they only live for
the minute when the officer puts his watch back in his pocket and
says, 'Off you go!'"

"In fact, they're real soldiers."

"We are not soldiers," says big Lamuse, "we're men." Though the
evening has grown darker now, that plain true saying sheds something
like a glimmering light on the men who are waiting here, waiting
since the morning. waiting since months ago.

They are men, good fellows of all kinds, rudely torn away from the
joy of life. Like any other men whom you take in the mass, they are
ignorant and of narrow outlook, full of a sound common sense--which
some-times gets off the rails--disposed to be led and to do as they
are bid, enduring under hardships, long-suffering.

They are simple men further simplified, in whom the merely primitive
instincts have been accentuated by the force of circumstances--the
instinct of self-preservation, the hard-gripped hope of living
through, the joy of food, of drink, and of sleep. And at intervals
they are cries and dark shudders of humanity that issue from the
silence and the shadows of their great human hearts.

When we can no longer see clearly, we hear down there the murmur of
a command, which comes nearer and rings loud--"Second half-section!
Muster!" We fall in; it is the call.

"Gee up!" says the corporal. We are set in motion. In front of the
tool-depot there is a halt and trampling. To each is given a spade
or pickax. An N.C.O. presents the handles in the gloom: "You, a
spade; there, hop it! You a spade, too; you a pick. Allons, hurry up
and get off."

We leave by the communication trench at right angles to our own, and
straight ahead towards the changeful frontier, now alive and

Up in the somber sky, the strong staccato panting of an invisible
aeroplane circles in wide descending coils and fills infinity. In
front, to right and left, everywhere, thunderclaps roll with great
glimpses of short-lived light in the dark-blue sky.


[note 1:] The popular and international name for a French soldier.
Its literal meaning is "hairy, shaggy," but the word has conveyed
for over a century the idea of the virility of a Samson, whose
strength lay in his locks.--Tr.

[note 2:] 6250 miles.

[note 3:] Pourvu que les civils tiennent. In the early days of the
war it was a common French saying that victory was certain--"if the
civilians hold out."--Tr.


The Return

RELUCTANTLY the ashen dawn is bleaching the still dark and formless
landscape. Between the declining road on the right that falls into
the gloom, and the black cloud of the Alleux Wood--where we hear the
convoy teams assembling and getting under way--a field extends. We
have reached it, we of the 6th Battalion, at the end of the night.
We have piled arms, and now, in the center of this circle of
uncertain light, our feet in the mist and mud, we stand in dark
clusters (that yet are hardly blue), or as solitary phantoms; and
the heads of all are turned towards the road that comes from "down
there." We are waiting for the rest of the regiment, the 5th
Battalion, who were in the first line and left the trenches after

Noises; "There they are!" A long and shapeless mass appears in the
west and comes down out of the night upon the dawning road.

At last! It is ended, the accursed shift that began at six o'clock
yesterday evening and has lasted all night, and now the last man has
stepped from the last communication trench.

This time it has been an awful sojourn in the trenches. The 18th
company was foremost and has been cut up, eighteen killed and fifty
wounded--one in three less in four days. And this without attack--by
bombardment alone.

This is known to us, and as the mutilated battalion approaches down
there, and we join them in trampling the muddy field and exchanging
nods of recognition, we cry, "What about the 18th?" We are thinking
as we put the question, "If it goes on like this, what is to become
of all of us? What will become of me?"

The 17th, the 19th, and the 20th arrive in turn and pile arms.
"There's the 18th!" It arrives after all the others; having held the
first trench, it has been last relieved.

The light is a little cleaner, and the world is paling. We can make
out, as he comes down the road, the company's captain, ahead of his
men and alone. He helps himself along with a stick, and walks with
difficulty, by reason of his old wound of the Marne battle that
rheumatism is troubling; and there are other pangs, too. He lowers
his hooded head, and might be attending a funeral. We can see that
in his mind he is indeed following the dead, and his thoughts are
with them.

Here is the company, debouching in dire disorder, and our hearts are
heavy. It is obviously shorter than the other three, in the march
past of the battalion.

I reach the road, and confront the descending mass of the 18th. The
uniforms of these survivors are all earth-yellowed alike, so that
they appear to be clad in khaki. The cloth is stiff with the
ochreous mud that has dried underneath. The skirts of their
greatcoats are like lumps of wood, jumping about on the yellow crust
that reaches to their knees. Their faces are drawn and blackened;
dust and dirt have wrinkled them anew; their eyes are big and
fevered. And from these soldiers whom the depths of horror have
given back there rises a deafening din. They talk all at once, and
loudly; they gesticulate, they laugh and sing. You would think, to
see them, that it was a holiday crowd pouring over the road!

These are the second section and its big sub-lieutenant, whose
greatcoat is tightened and strapped around a body as stiff as a
rolled umbrella. I elbow my way along the marching crowd as far as
Marchal's squad, the most sorely tried of all. Out of eleven
comrades that they were, and had been without a break for a year and
a half, there were three men only with Corporal Marchal.

He sees me--with a glad exclamation and a broad smile. He lets go
his rifle-sling and offers me his hands, from one of which hangs his
trench stick--"Eh, vieux frere, still going strong? What's
become of you lately?"

I turn my head away and say, almost under my breath, "So, old chap,
it's happened badly."

His smile dies at once, and he is serious: "Eh, oui, old man; it
can't be helped; it was awful this time. Barbier is killed."

"They told us--Barbier!"

"Saturday night it was, at eleven o'clock. He had the top of his
back taken away by a shell," says Marchal, "cut off like a razor.
Besse got a bit of shell that went clean through his belly and
stomach. Barthlemy and Baubex got it in the head and neck. We passed
the night skedaddling up and down the trench at full speed, to dodge
the showers. And little Godefroy--did you know him?--middle of his
body blown away. He was emptied of blood on the spot in an instant,
like a bucket kicked over. Little as he was, it was remarkable how
much blood he had, it made a stream at least fifty meters long.
Gougnard got his legs cut up by one explosion. They picked him up
not quite dead. That was at the listening post. I was there on duty
with them. But when that shell fell I had gone into the trench to
ask the time. I found my rifle, that I'd left in my place, bent
double, as if some one had folded it in his hands, the barrel like a
corkscrew, and half of the stock in sawdust. The smell of fresh
blood was enough to bring your heart up."

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