by Will Levington Comfort
WOMAN AND THE
II. THE COURT OF
III. THE HOUSE
IV. IN THE
V. THE SKYLIGHT
VI. THE FIELD OF
VII. THE GREEN
I. THE WOMAN AND THE EXILE
Peter Mowbray first saw her at the corner of Palace Square nearest
the river. He was not in the least the kind of young man who appraises
passing women, very far from a starer. At the instant their eyes met,
his thoughts had been occupied with work matters and the trickery of
events. In fact, there was so much to do that he resented the
intrusion, found himself hoping in the first flash that she would show
some flaw to break the attraction.
It may have been that her eyes were called to the passer-by just as
his had been, without warning or volition. In any event their eyes met
full, leisurely in that stirring silence before the consciousness of
self, time, place and convention rushes in. ... Though she seemed very
poor, there was something about her beyond reach in nobility. He was
left with the impression of the whitest skin, the blackest hair and the
reddest lips, but mainly of a gray-eyed girl—eyes that had become
wider and wider, and had filled with sudden amazement (doubtless at her
own answering look) before they turned away.
Desolation was abroad in Warsaw after this encounter. Mowbray
thought of New York with loneliness, the zest gone from all present
activity. Presently with curious grip his thoughts returned to a
certain luncheon in New York with a tired literary man who had talked
about women with the air of a connoisseur. The pith of the writer's
observations was restored to his mind in this form:
“If I were to marry again it would be to a Latin woman—French,
Italian, even Spanish—a close-to-nature woman born and bred in one of
the Mediterranean countries. Not a blue-blood, for that has to do with
decadence, but a woman of the people. They are passionate but pure, as
Poe would say. If they find a man of any value, he becomes their world.
They are strong natural mothers—mothering their children and their
husband, too,—and immune to common sicknesses. Given a little food,
they know enough to prepare it with art. If a man has a bit of a dream
left, such a woman will either make him forget it painlessly, or she
will make it come true.”
There was no apparent relation, and none that proved afterward. What
he had seen at the corner of Palace Square nearest the Vistula was not
the face of a Latin woman, nor was any looseness of common birth
evident in it. The key might have had to do with the little hat she
wore, just a hat for wearing on the head, a protection against sun and
rain, and with the austerely simple black dress; but these weathered
exteriors again were effective in contrast to the vivid freshness of
her natural coloring. As for what remained of the literary man's
picture of the ideal woman to marry, it was the last word of
decadence—the eminent selfishness of a man willing to accept the
luxury of a woman who asks little to be happy. ... The next day at the
same time and place Mowbray was there, and saw her coming from afar.
She seemed both afraid and angry, stopped abruptly and asked in
Polish what he wanted. He was startled. It was a hard moment. He
explained with difficulty that her language was as yet an inconvenient
vehicle for him.
“You are not Russian?” she said in French.
He shook his head. She seemed to be relieved and he wondered why.
“What do you want?” she asked, though not quite with the original
“It did not occur to me you would notice,” he said in the language
she had ventured. “I saw you yesterday. You made me think of New York.
As I was near to-day, I hoped to see you again—-” “You are American?”
She spoke now in English, and with a still softer intonation.
“Yes,—you speak English, too?”
“I like it. It is—-” she checked herself and asked with just a
shade of coldness, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
It might be construed as a courtesy to a stranger from one who lived
in Warsaw. Peter liked it, a certain vista opening. However, there was
no answer within reach except the truth, and he plunged:
“I should like to know you better.”
The red lower lip disappeared beneath the other. Her gray eyes grew
very wide; something intrepid and exquisite in her manner as she
searched his face. Whatever she knew of the world, she dared still to
trust her intuition—this was something of the revelation he drew.
Many people were passing. He looked toward the quieter center of the
“Will you walk with me there?” he asked. “It is not easy to explain
this sort of thing—-”
“No. I must go on. You may walk a little way.”
“You are very good.... You see, I cannot tell just why—as
you asked. If I knew you well, I could tell you. Yesterday I was quite
She made it hard for him and did not let him see her smile. “You
mean you are romantic to-day?”
Peter laughed. “What a trap—and I was trying so hard to tell you.”
“You were trying—-”
“I don't need to tell you. All there is to say is that I want you to
be my friend.”
“I should have to think,” she answered.
“Of course. ... Do you pass here every day?”
“I should have to think,” she said.
It was the third day afterward that she passed again.
The first time that Boylan of the Rhodes News Agency of New
York saw Peter Mowbray was in the office of Lonegan of The States
, Mowbray's chief in Warsaw. Lonegan had known Peter in New York and had
wanted him for his second many months before the fact was brought
about. This was the Boylan of the Schmedding Polar Failure, of various
wars and expeditions, a huge spectacle of a man, an old-timer, and very
fond of Lonegan, though as representative of Rhodes' he was
structurally the competitor of The States in this territory.
“Young Mowbray may be all right,” Boylan observed, “but the curse of
the student is on him. I should say that he isn't gusty enough for hard
work—vest buttons too safe—”
“You can't measure health by the pound,” Lonegan observed, regarding
the other's bulk with one eye shut. “I never heard of Mowbray spending
much time in bed outside of the small hours.” “How old is he?”
“Twenty-six or seven.”
“I suppose he put on his gear all in a year or two?”
“There is that look about him, but he's safely over it. Some people
never stop, but I've had to look up at him from the same angle now and
then during the last five years.... It was just a little before that he
happened into—his route like mine—his cub-year in London, then
assistant in Antwerp, then in Dresden. He had Dresden alone for a year.
I've been angling for him some time——”
“Yes,” Boylan remarked, “you need the right kind of help to stand up
with Rhodes from this end——”
“You do make it wildly exciting,” Lonegan answered gently. “We'll
rock Peter yet.”
This chat took place in June. Ten weeks afterward Boylan came in
with the big news, and found Lonegan bending over the following
cablegram, almost the last that came through in the private cipher of
Get Mowbray post with Russians. We are mailing influential matters.
Warsaw key-desk for northern campaigns. We are to be congratulated on
having Lonegan there.
It was from the Old Man, who in certain cases ventured thus to be
“I'm sorry, Lonegan,” Boylan said. “I thought you would be taking
“No, the Old Man's got the right eye for these affairs. I'm a desk
What Lonegan had swallowed to make his voice clear and steady, only
he knew, but his nerve was effective. “You've got to help me, Boylan,”
he said. “You know the military end. You've got to help me get him
attached. I know you'd do it for me, but I want you to do it for him—”
A grunt from the big man, who disappeared.
...Lonegan's lip curled. Again it was only Lonegan who knew why. He
read the cablegram carefully again, and felt his face as if speculating
whether he could wait until morning for a shave. There was routine to
do, and the developments of the day to file. Peter was on a mail
story.... It occurred to him presently that his second would be
interested in this eventuality from the Office. He called several
places by 'phone without locating the younger man.
“He's with the woman,” Lonegan concluded.
Peter had left her address somewhere, but it was not at hand;
neither was her house available to telephone. Lonegan took down the
Warsaw directory, and came finally to the street-number after this
“Bertha Solwicz, sempstress.”
She, too, was almost a stranger in Warsaw, and lonely. Each had
their work, and many hours each day were required for it; still, after
the first fortnight, they managed to meet often. Peter's time was hers,
for he had the habit of leaving his feature-letter for the quiet hours
of the night.
“I hate the name of Solwicz,” she told him the first time he came to
her house, “especially from you. And you must call me Berthe,
not Bertha.” In spite of her obvious lack of means, she had a few
friends of rare quality, and yet he did not meet them. On her table
that first day, he picked up a little book of poems, the leader of
which was entitled We Are Free. Peter had read it a few weeks
before and given it a quality of appreciation that was seldom called in
these days. Just now he noted that the volume was affectionately
inscribed to her from the author, Moritz Abel. She spoke of him and of
the group of young master workmen to which he belonged. Then she read
the poem, as they stood together. It was a moment of honor to the poet.
Peter had turned pale, and the little room was hushed about them, as if
Warsaw were suddenly stilled.
“You see what they are doing,” she said. “There is a new race of
artists in Russia. They have passed the emotions—-”
“This poem was due in the world,” Peter said. “But it is still an
age ahead of the crowd.”
“That's what makes it so hard for them—for him. He does not like
that. He would like to talk to all men straight. Moritz Abel—the name
will not be forgotten. He is like the others of the new race. They are
terrible in their calm. They have passed the emotions. They are free.
Other artists in Europe or America repress the emotions. That is but
the beginning of the mastery. When they are as great as this group of
young men, they will show the spirit of the thing, not the emotion of
it. Emotions are red. This is pure white, don't you see?”
For three days Warsaw had been upheaved in excitement. On the
afternoon that the messenger from Lonegan brought the news of the
cablegram, Berthe and Peter were planning an excursion into the country
for the next day. She watched him closely as he read, and was sensitive
enough to realize the importance of the message, before he spoke.... He
found her gray eyes upon him. She chose her own way to break the
“The country is heaven, no doubt about that. One must die to get
there. Also one must live just so. Even when I was little, something
always happened—just as we were planning to set out for the country.”
He showed her the message, but had hardly heard her words. His
discovery of this slender solitary red-lipped girl and what it meant,
was rarely clear at this moment. She had awakened him plane by plane,
awakened his passion and his mercy and his intuition.
“Tell me again what you said about the country. I was away for a
“It is hard to think of a little excursion to the fields—with such
a holiday ahead, as you are called upon.”
“I wasn't thinking of that either, Berthe, but of you.”
“Of course, you will go?”
“I was only talking foolishly, about our little excursion. One's own
wants are so pitifully unimportant now.”
“I had hardly expected personally to encounter a war,” he remarked
and added smilingly, “The fact is, I hadn't thought of meeting a woman
“I don't believe you're as cold-blooded as you try to seem, Peter.”
“I have fought all my life to be cold-blooded.”
She never forgot that. “I wonder why men do it?”
“It's the cultivation, perhaps, of that which Americans love best of
“We of Poland dare to be emotional,” she said.
“You are an older people. You know how.”
“One needs only to be one's self.”
Peter smiled. “Sometimes I dare actually to be honest with you. Even
Lonegan and I take no such liberties together.”
“It isn't a matter of courage,” she said. “You would dare anything.
I know your quiet, deadly kind of courage. That's the first thing I
felt about you.”
It was like Mowbray not to acknowledge that such a thing had been
“I came to you asleep. I wonder if I should always have remained
“Your words are pretty, Peter. It makes me sad that you are going
“You remember that company of soldiers that passed us yesterday as
we walked? I had seen many such groups before—great shocky-haired
fellows who ate and drank disgustingly. But yesterday you made me see
that their blood is redder than the Little Father's—that empires ripen
and go to seed only on a grander scale than turnips.” Her eyes were
“We who are so wise, who have mastered ourselves, should be very
good to the peasants—and not take what they have and kill them in
“Did I lead you to believe in any way that I felt myself mastered?”
he asked quickly.
She touched his arm. “I was talking of the Fatherland,” she
He had met this intensity of hers before. Her scorn was neither hot
nor cold, but electric. So often when words failed her, Peter fancied
himself lost in some superb wilderness... Her own gray tone was in the
room to-day—her gray eyes and black hair that made the shadows seem
gray; her face that no night could hide from him. Sometimes his glance
was held to her lips—as one turns to the firelight. Passion there—or
was it the higher thing, compassion? There was bend and give to
the black cloth she wore, as to the inflections of her voice. She could
forget herself. That was the first and the inexhaustible charm.
It is true that she was very poor. This room which had become his
sanctuary in Warsaw was in a humble house of a common quarter. She
laughed at this, and at her many hours of work each day, for which the
return was meager. There was the sweetest pathos to him in her little
purse, and her pride in these matters was a thing of royalty.
“My father earned the right to be poor,” she once said.
It seemed to him that her father was mentioned in the moments most
memorable... She was at the window now, her hand lifting the shade. The
light of the gray day shone through her fingers—a long, fragile hand
“Shall we walk somewhere, or must you go to your office, Peter?”
“I won't, just yet. Yes, let's go outside.”
They felt they must climb, a bit of suffocation in their hearts.
Until to-day there had been invariable stimulus for Mowbray in the age
of all things, even in the dusty, narrow, lower streets, but his
smiling, easy countenance was a lie that he disliked now. It pinched
him cruelly to leave her, and there was small amelioration in anything
that the war might bring. She would give him sympathy and zeal and
honor for the work and through all the lonely days, but what a lack
would be of that swift directness of purpose, the deeper seeing, the
glad capacity for higher heroism which he had found only in her
presence. They crossed the riverward corner of the Square, where they
had met. He tried to tell her how she had seemed that first day.
“I cannot understand,” she replied. “Especially that day when I
first saw you, I had nothing.”
Now they ascended the terraces that commanded the Vistula. The rocky
turf of the footpath, smoothed by the tread of forgotten generations
(but still whispering to her of those who had passed on); the crumbling
masonry of the retaining walls, gray with the pallor of the years; and
afar the curving, dust-swept farmlands, which had mothered a thousand
harvests, now moved with strange planting of peasant- soldiers.
Mobilization business everywhere, drilling of the half- equipped, a
singing excitement of parting, recruiting—no time for the actual
They stood in the very frown of the fortress at sunset. A column of
raw infantry came swinging out and started the descent. A moment
afterward the roar of a folk-song came up in a gust. It was as if the
underworld suddenly had been cratered.
“When they sing like that, and I think of what they shall soon be
called upon to do—I can hardly endure it!” she whispered.... They
stood with backs against the wall, as the tail of the column moved
past. “Look at that weary one—so spent and sick—yet trying to sing—”
They were in the silence again. Across the river, against the red
background, they watched another column of foot-soldiers moving like a
procession of ants erect; and beyond, on the dim plain, a field
battery, just replenished to war footing, was toiling with tired beasts
and untried pieces. Mowbray thought of the human meat being herded in
Austria for those great rakish guns, as the infantry below was being
trained for distant slaughter arenas.
“Do speak, Peter,” she whispered.
He turned to find her white face looking up to him and very close.
They were alone.
“You won't mind if I think about myself this once?” he asked.
“I only want to say that, if you'll stay where you are, I'll come
back from this stuff—I was going to say, dead or alive.”
“Do you mean I am to stay in Warsaw?” she asked.
“No—not that exactly. I mean if you will stay where you are in
regard to me——”
Tears filled her eyes. He would have known it even if they had not
shone through the dusk, because his fingers felt the tremor in her
arms. She tried to speak, but finished, “How utterly silly words are!”
The face of young Mowbray was strange with emotion, pale but
brilliant-eyed, his long features bending to her. She was utter
receptivity. Neither knew until afterward how rare and perfect was this
“Anyway—we understand. We understand, Berthe.”
“...As for Berthe,” she said slowly, as they walked back, “her heart
will stay where you have put it, Peter. That's out of her power to
change. But the rest—I can't tell, yet——”
It was as if a finger had crossed Mowbray's face laterally under the
eyes and across his nostrils, leaving a gray welt.
“I know you belong to the moderns,” he said, after a moment. “We men
belong to the ancients. We want a woman to wait and weep while we go
off to the wars.”
“We understand,” she kept repeating.... “And now, before you go,
come home with me and let me make you a cup of tea—just a cup of tea—
before you go.”
He went with her, and, when his tea-cup was finished, he happened to
look into the bottom.
“What do you see?” she asked quickly, taking the cup.
“M-m-m,” said Mowbray.
Peter and Lonegan were together at dinner three hours after the
message from The States.
“It's a big chance, Mowbray. That's all I can say. I stay at the
wire —no heroics.”
“You ought to see it all from here.”
Lonegan smiled deprecatingly. “Boylan will help you get through. You
don't know him yet. Some time, perhaps, you will—two hundred and fifty
pounds of soul. He'll do all he can to get you the same chance he has,
because I asked him; and then he'll try to make The States look
obsolete as a newspaper, wherein, of course, he'll fail. But he'll try.
If he takes to you, it won't make him try less, but he'd do your stuff
and his, if you fell sick. There isn't another Boylan—a great
newspaper man, too. The States will watch closely, knowing that
Rhodes' will get everything possible from Boylan's part of the
front. The point is—and I think he'll want it, too—you'd better work
together on the main line of stuff, as we do here. Your letters on the
side should be better than his, because you're a better writer. As for
war stuff, Boylan is the old master— Peking, Manchuria and the
Balkans—that I think of; also the Schmedding Polar Failure. That last
was war—a spectacular expedition of the Germans—
“I might as well make this a lecture, now that I've started,”
Lonegan went on. “The war game isn't complex. All the bewildering
technicalities that bristle from a military officer's talk are just
big-name stuff designed to keep down the contempt of the crowd—the
oldest professional trick. Whenever the crowd gets to understand your
terminology your game is cooked. You know how it is in a drug-store,
and you've seen the old family doctor look wise....
“There's a lot of different explosives which they fire by
mathematics, and which you can learn in part from our homely
encyclopedias, but the main game will be fought out on the same
principles that Attila fought it and Genghis Khan—numbers, traps,
unexpectedness, the same dull old flanking activities, the raid of
supplies and communications, the bending back of wings, the crimp of a
line by making a hole in one part—and all that archaic rot. As I say,
the game is extinct, so far as our modern complicated intelligences go,
and the men whose names are biggest in the papers from now on are the
same old beefy type of rudiments whom a man wouldn't associate with in
times of national quiet.... I will end this by saying that the big
story is the man— the peasant, the trooper, the one blinded little
dupe, who dies, or plunges, or loses his legs in the name of the
“I see that,” said Peter; “but what really is interesting to me is
this peasant's blindness and the monkey other men make of him—”
“I'm glad you spoke of that, for it is a thing to avoid.
Interesting, I grant, but not popular with our kind of press. We are
not servants of the minority or the elect. You'll find Boylan
exploiting the army he's with—just as another might have done under
Napoleon. By the way, where are you going to-night?”
“I'm going to sit at the feet of the most genial anarchist at large.
His name is Fallows, an American, who has been ten years in Russia
among the peasants.”
“Duke Fallows—I know of him. When did he come to town?”
“Two days ago.”
“Peter, how did you get next?” Lonegan looked a bit in awe at the
“I was asked to one of his private audiences last night.”
Peter knew that Lonegan had many things to ask by the quick tone in
which he spoke the first question.
“You know what Fallows will do to you?”
“Yes, if one lets go. He has learned how to use his power. He has
brought forth his young upon the bare rocks, as somebody said.”
“He'd turn an angel into an anarchist.”
“A man ought not to be afraid to listen if there's a chance for him
to be proved wrong—”
“Correct, absolutely. I am merely thinking about our job.”
“A man gets in the habit of thinking about his job—doesn't he?”
“Did he tell you about the plowman of Liaoyang?”
“No, but my companion did. Fallows must have seen that episode
“Let's not get off the job business, Peter. As I was saying, the
truth isn't popular—”
“That doesn't sound like Lonegan.”
“No, and I don't like the feel of saying it, but it's very much to
“Mowbray, we are taking our bread, and its cake, too, from a paper
that expects us to exploit the orthodox heroics. The pity and atrocious
sham of it all has its side. But the fact still remains its side does
not furnish the stuff that American newspapers pay men and cable tolls
“Won't you come to-night?” Peter asked laughing. “Perhaps we can
both reach the high point some day when we have earned the right to be
“That's a higher point than I dream of, Peter. I can't help but
think what a nest you've got into. Of course, I mean with Fallows and
“An eagle's nest.”
“But the eaglets are starving.”
“Heretofore the job has been served. Come along with me and meet
Duke Fallows again—”
“No. I must go back to the wire for the present. Boylan would be
shocked, too. By the way, I've got a bid in for you with General
Kohlvihr. Boylan is to help me put it through, of course. The more
decorated they are the more they fall for Boylan. There's a chance that
you'll start south with a column within two days. So you'd better get
at that encyclopedia stuff—”
“Yes, I'll attend to that.”
Peter left him smiling, and turned his steps across the Square, into
a narrow street of the poor quarter, and on toward a little room and a
low lamp, where a woman's hands sewed magically as she waited.
Fallows met them in his small bleak room, turned the lamp low, and
opened the door of the diminutive wood-stove to let the firelight in
the room. The three sat around it.... Peter Mowbray felt strange and
young beside them. The woman seemed to belong to this world, and it was
a world at war with every existing power. All Peter's training resisted
stubbornly. Still, right or wrong, there was a nobility about their
stand. He did not need to be sure their vision was absolutely true, yet
the suspicion developed that they saw more clearly than he, and acted
more purely. Mowbray did not lack anything of valor, but he lacked the
fire somehow. He loved Berthe Solwicz, could have made every sacrifice
for her, but that was a concrete thing.
Fallow's bony knees were close to the fire. He seemed both light and
deep, often turning to Peter with secret intentness, and openly
regarding the young woman with amazement and delight. Nearing fifty,
Fallows was tall, thin and tanned. The deep lines of his face were
those which make a man look homely to himself, but often interesting to
others. His soft, low-collared shirt was somewhat of a spectacle in
consideration of the angular and weathered neck. No rest could exist in
the room that contained such loneliness as burned from his eyes. It was
said that he had been rich, though everything about him was poor now.
One would suspect the articles in his pockets to be meager and of poor
quality—the things you might find in a peasant's coat. That which he
called home was a peasant's house in the Bosk hills—the house of the
plowman of Liaoyang, whose children he fathered. Annually, however, he
went abroad, telling the story of the underdog, usually making the big
circuit from the East to the West, and stopping at a certain little
cabin within hearing distance of the whistles of Manhattan, where his
first disciple worked in solitude mainly, and against the stream. Just
now Fallows was planning a different winter's work.... They talked of
the first fighting.
“The startling thing to realize is that for the present we are
allied with England,” said Fallows. “I mean Russia. You see, I am
Russian, now, not the Russia of the Bear, but of the Man—”
Mowbray and the woman exchanged glances, each thinking of the
tea-cup in the afternoon.... The exile showed traces of his ten years'
training among simple men. Rhetoric and dithyramb were gone from his
speech and habit of mind. The whole study and vision of the man was to
make his words plain. Thus he said slowly:
“The peasants are children—children in mind and soul. We who have
come a little farther are responsible for them, as a father is
responsible for his children. So far we have wronged them, taught them
to grasp instead of to give, to look down instead of up. We have even
stolen from them the fruits of their looking down. The time is near at
hand when we shall have to pay for all this.... A true father would die
for his children. I know men who have done that, and there are men
about us here, even in Warsaw tonight, who are ready for that—”
Fallows' voice was tender. He watched the face of the woman as he
spoke. She was looking hard into the fire.
Fallows added: “There are fifty million men here in Russia—roughly
speaking. Very strong, very simple, possibly very brutal men, but
brutal as a fine dog is brutal, a simplicity about that. I do not
idealize them. I have lived among them. I know this: They might be led
to virtue, instead of to wickedness. My heart bleeds for them being led
to slaughter again. The hard thing is to make them see, but the reason
for that is simple, too. If they could see—they would not be children.
They must be led. Never in modern history have they been purely led.
Words cannot make them see; wars so far have not made them see. It may
be that the sufferings and heroisms of this war shall be great enough
to make them see....”
“What would you have the peasants see first?” Peter asked.
“Their real fathers—that men of wisdom and genius are the true
fathers of the Fatherland, not the groups of predatory men. True
fathers would die for their children. To me it has been blasphemy, when
the nations of the past have called themselves Fatherlands. I would
have the peasants fathered by men who realize that the peasants are the
strength and salt of the earth; men who realize that the plan of life
is good—that the plan of life is for concord and service each to the
other—that the hate of man for man is the deadly sin, the hell of the
world—that the fields and all the treasures of the mother earth are
for those who serve and aspire, and not for those who hold fast, look
down and covet more.”
Mowbray was interested in the fact that Fallows had passed the stage
of eloquence and scorn and burning hatred against evil in persons and
institutions. There was no hue and cry about his convictions. He seemed
to live in continual amazement at the slowness with which the world
moves—the slowness to a man who is ahead and trying to pull his people
along. Moreover there was that final wisdom which Fallows revealed from
time to time—momentary loss of the conviction that he himself was
immortally right. Fallows saw, indeed, that a man may be atrociously
out of plumb, even to the point of becoming a private and public
nuisance, when allowed to feed too long alone on the strong diet of his
own convictions.... An hour sped by. Fallows replenished the fire and
turned to Berthe Solwicz.
“All evening you've had something in your mind to tell me and I've
been giving forth. You must forgive a man for so many words—when he
has been living with little children so long. What is it?”
“Just a reading of a tea-cup to-day—but everything you said has its
meaning concerned in it.”
“I'm almost as interested in tea-cups as in the stars,” said
“You know a toy-bear, such as the Germans make?”
“Well, it would have been like that—if one were thinking of toys.
We thought of the Russian Bear. It was perfect—in the bottom of the
cup —standing up, walking like a man—huge paunch, thick paws held out
pathetically, legs stretched out, just as he would be, rocking, you
Fallows bowed seriously. Mowbray turned his smile to the shadows.
“Near him,” Berthe added, “was a Russian soldier—perfect—fur cap,
high boots, tightly belted, very natty—more perfect than we see in the
streets, as if drawn from ideal. He was stabbing the bear with a long
“It was a rifle and bayonet,” said Peter. “We both saw it, but
didn't speak until now. He was churning the bayonet around in the great
paunch as if feeling for the vitals. The bear looked large and
Fallows' bronzed head had sunk upon his chest. His eyes, red with
firelight, seemed lost to all expression. “I was thinking it would
happen in Germany first,” he said.
A moment afterward he added: “There's a time when a man wants to die
for what he believes, and another time when he's afraid he will die
before he gets a chance to make his life count.”
Again he paused, and then looked up to Mowbray. “It's a good omen.
That's the real war.... And was it your cup?”
“You say that you are going out for the Galician service?”
“Yes, possibly with Kohlvihr's column.”
“You will see much service,” said Fallows. “That used to be our
dream —to see service. It will be easier seen with the Russians. They
are not so modern in method as the French or Germans, or even the
Japanese. Of course, war is the same. The nation at the end will win on
the fields, not in the skies. The sky fulfillment is reserved for a
better utility than war. But war belongs under the sea.... You will not
be suppressed so rigidly with the Russians. You will see the side of
the war which will have the most bearing on the future. I do not
believe France and Germany are in the future as Russia is—”
“And England?” Peter asked quickly.
“The key to that is the wealth of the Indies—as of yore.”
“You mean if India remains loyal?”
“If India remains under the yoke.”
“But, if Britain should preserve her tenure in India with the
Japanese troops—” Peter suggested.
Fallows shuddered. “As yet I can see no philosophy under heaven to
“And you think Britain and Russia are enemies in spite of this
“Enemies, temperamental and structural—enemies, past and future.”
Peter recurred to this point: “You think that India would not remain
loyal if she had arms?”
“I was in a little village of the Punjab two years ago,” Fallows
replied, “and there was a lad of sixteen there, wonderful in promise—
a mind, a spirit. They could not raise in the village enough money to
send him across the seas steerage for his education. A single rifle
costs nearly three pounds. It is hard for us to realize how poor India
Peter stood fast against this in his mind; his intellect would not
accept.... “Are you going to take the field again, Mr. Fallows?”
“Not in a newspaper way. I shall nurse wounded soldiers. At least
they have accepted me.... These are fearful and amazing days. We have
all been in a kind of long feeding dream, like the insects,
accumulating energy and terrible power for these days. Such death as we
There was silence.
“I wonder how they are taking it in America?” Fallows mused.
“Doubtless as an opportunity for world-trade,” said Peter.
“Oh, I hope not!” the exile said passionately. “There must be
Fallows placed his hands on Berthe's shoulders, looking down: “You
make me think of a young woman I once knew,” he said. “Not that you
look like her—but that you have the same zeal for something....
You are a very true daughter of your father—”
“You knew him?” she said huskily.
“We all knew him—we who dare to think we look ahead. When he died,
his courage came to all of us. We were changed. If it had not been a
pure and durable thing—his courage would have died with him. It is
wonderful for me to be here with you. And this man loves you.”
It was not a question, just a fragmentary utterance of a fine
moment. Fallows said it as a man who has passed on, and yet loves to
study the lives and loves of younger men. Even to Mowbray the feeling
came for an instant that he was part of the solution to which they gave
“I have not told him of my father. He does not know my name,” Berthe
said. “But I am going to tell him—before he goes.”
“He is safe,” said Fallows. “I felt free with him—almost
immediately —and that picture in the tea-cup!... Peter Mowbray, Peter
Mowbray. It is a good name. And you are going out on the big story of
the war for The States. You will see great things—best of all
with the Russian columns. There will be an Austerlitz every day—a
Liaoyang every day. I was in Manchuria with a man who made that his
battle. I wonder if he will come out this time—to find how his dream
of brotherhood is faring? God, how he took to that dream! He will be a
They were standing. Fallows suddenly reached for his cap. “I'll go
out with you—just to get out. The room is too small for me to-night.”
Yet, when they reached the street, he left them abruptly, as if he
had already said too much.
“He seems to be burning up,” said Peter.
Berthe did not answer.
“He was like Zarathustra coming down from the mountain—so
shockingly full of power,” Peter added. “And yet he said so little of
his own part.”
“He couldn't, Peter. He's like you—when moments are biggest.... Oh,
Peter, where do you keep your passion?”
“You mean this great burning that Fallows knows?”
“I haven't it. I haven't that passion. I think I am just a reporter.
But you have it.... My father loved his family. I think your father
must have loved the world—”
“But you love the world—”
“No, I love you.”
“Peter, Peter—come to-morrow! Don't come in with me to-night!”
Peter went to his rooms at once. He was struck hard, but merely
showed a bit weary. He found himself objecting to characteristics of
Fallows' mind, the same which he had admired and delighted in from
Berthe. She had always talked easily of death, and he had been without
criticism; now he disliked the casual mention of death in Fallows'
Peter saw that he was sore, and hated himself for it. Fallows
personally was ready for death; therefore he had the right to counsel
martyrdoms for others if he wished. Death to Peter, however, was not
strictly a conversational subject. If a man were ready to die for
another, it was not good taste to say so. Still he forced himself to be
just, by thinking of Fallows' life.
Fallows somehow had turned a corner that he, Peter Mowbray, had not
come to so far. Self-hypnotized, or not, the exile had given up
everything in life to make the world better as he saw it. He had
written and traveled and talked and plotted, even vowed himself to
poverty, all for the good of the under-dog.
“It isn't fanaticism, when you come to look at it,” Peter mused. “He
sees it clearly, and makes one see it for the moment of listening. He
isn't afraid. He would die every day for it, if he could.... And I take
things as I find them, and grin. I wouldn't even have thought
otherwise, except for Berthe. I have a suspicion that I'm half-baked.”
Peter's mind was engaging itself thus feverishly, to avoid the main
issue that the woman had flung him from her, and run to cover, stuffing
her ears, so to speak, and asking him not to follow. He braced himself
now and faced it. “If it happened to another pair, I should say it was
the finish,” he thought. “I should say that no man and woman could pass
a rock like that.... I can't get to her point of view by thinking
myself there. I'm cold—that's the word. And she's superb. I'd rather
be her friend than lord of any other woman. That won't change. And she
has spoiled everything I thought I knew. Altogether—it's a game,
bright little story—and deep.”
Lonegan came in and flung himself down wearily.
“I've been busy. Boylan is leaving in thirty-six hours. You're going
“I'm ready,” said Peter.
“Did you have a big time?”
“What do you think of Fallows now?”
“I'm strong for him.”
“Peter—you look bushed.”
“It drains a man to spend an evening in that company. A fellow has
to have a heavy lid—not to waste fire.”
Lonegan was worried. “You don't mean to say you're getting fevers
“Mowbray—you're lying. I don't believe you'd let anybody see your
fires—not even how well you bank 'em. It isn't in you.”
“I wish it were,” said Peter.
* * *
For a long time after Lonegan left he plunged into his work, but
there was no sleep for him afterward. He lay very still, breathing
easily, as the fag-end of the night crawled by. At dawn he arose,
dressed noiselessly, and went out into the city.
It was too early to go to Berthe, yet his steps led him to the
street of her house, and he had not passed it a second time before she
opened the blinds above, and called to him. He looked at her
sorrowfully, and she met his eyes.
“Come in, Peter. I've been so sorry! If you can forgive me, we'll
have coffee together—”
He followed her upstairs. The premonition came that he was to take
away the image of Berthe Solwicz at its highest—inimitably enticing to
his heart, the girlish and utterly feminine spirit that had captivated
the man in his breast. She did not seem to know that she was like the
woman of the first meeting, but to him all her grace of that day had
returned, as if to complete the circle of the episode; and all that he
had loved since was added. The one thing in his life that he was proud
of, was that he had chosen this woman from the crowd.... They were in
her room. With both hands she held him in his coat, so that he could
not remove it, begging him to forget the last of last night before they
could be at rest.
“I don't know as I want to, Berthe,” he said. “It made me think.
There are two kinds of people in the world—the kind who give and the
kind who take. We represent each. I'm afraid the difference is
intrinsic. There would be no satisfaction in me trying to be some one
else—even trying to be like you. I am what I am—and must be that.
But, Berthe, I can hold the suspicion that I am your inferior, and be
pleasant about it—”
“Peter, Peter—you don't understand. I don't love myself—nor my way
better. I am poor and tortured, carrying about a legacy, or a dream. I
need you. I can tell you now—I never needed you so much as last night
when I sent you away. I need your brain and balance—your big heart. It
was never so dear to me.”
This was too much for him. He sat down before her. All night he had
been trying to qualify for a lower place in her heart than his earlier
dreams had called for—any place rather than to be apart—for the stuff
of adoration was in Peter Mowbray. Half-sitting, half-kneeling, she
took her place on the rug before him.
“But first I must tell you the story. I could not tell you at once;
and since then we have managed so well. But you must know before you
go. I am not Polish, not even in name. My father's mother was a Russian
woman, but his father was an Irishman, and the name—my name— is
Wyndham. My father's given name was 'Metz'—”
Peter had caught it all before her last sentence. “Wyndham” had been
enough. He saw clearly the natural and excellent reason for the
tenderness of Duke Fallows toward the daughter of Metz Wyndham, and
recalled the tragic story of the power and fire of this prophet of the
people, who was executed by the Russian government in the midst of the
turmoil following Red Sunday—“Metz Wyndham, the notorious Red,” as he
was denoted in the subsidized press of Petersburg, though “Metz
Wyndham, the peasants' martyr,” was a whisper which seemed destined in
the end to silence all such uproar.
“You have heard of him? You knew his story?”
The upturned face shone with a different bloom for his eyes. “Yes,”
“...I was away from Russia for years—in London and Paris,” she said
quickly. “But at last I felt I could not stay longer. I wanted to come
back here—where the struggle is so tense and constant. He worked much
here in Warsaw. All of his kind come some time to Warsaw. And so the
name Solwicz, which I hate; and so the fear when I found you
watching me in the street a second time, and my relief to learn that
you were not Russian-”
“Of course I understand,” said Peter. He put his hand upon her head.
“I was in awe of you before I knew,” he added, “and yet, I always saw
that in the most vital moments something of him would come out.... I
keep seeing you with him now—what a life for a young girl—what a
builder, those years, for a young girl—and how brave you are. Berthe,
I have it—you are spoiled for common people because you were brought
up with that kind of a man. How clearly I understand last night now!”
“There's another side to that,” she said huskily.
“Oh, I'm sorry—”
The most consummate plotting could not have endeared him to her as
those three words.
“Peter, you must see it—the other side. There was no rest with him.
All his brilliance, all his brilliant companions were one part, but
there was a steady pressure of tragedy about us—from outside. And
there was tragic pressure from him. He was subject to the most terrible
melancholia. He had enough vision to see the wrong everywhere. It was
not mania. There is wrong everywhere, if one looks—in judges
and cities, in nations, wars, in the kind of amusements people plunge
into—wrong and coarseness and stupidity. He loved men but hated
institutions. Sometimes, he would see it all so clearly that the sense
of his own powerlessness would come. He would cry, 'One man can't do
anything. A man like me can't be heard—oh, I can't make myself heard!
It is as if I were shut in a tomb.' He would only have been happy
passing from one great crowd to another— harrowing, pleading,
electrifying men. He would rise—even alone with me—to the heights of
his power—and then fall into the valleys because no one could hear.
That was his cry, 'I can't make myself heard! Then often, when he was
waiting to speak, the power would come, and leave him drained when he
faced his people. He would tell me afterward, 'If I could only have
talked to them yesterday, or an hour before!'
“Then the doubt of self would come to him—the fear that he was
wrong or insane. 'Berthe, it can't be that the crowds are wrong; that I
am right—against all the crowds. It must be that I am insane.' He
would suffer like one damned from that. Worse than all was the fear of
his own Ego. He was more afraid of that than any other lion in the way.
'It isn't the cause, it's me—that wants to be heard. It's the accursed
me that I am striving for—in agony to relieve. I merely use the Cause.
All the time it is myself that I wish to make heard.' That would make
“I am only telling you these moods. He was a child, a playmate, the
loveliest companion a girl ever had—seeing the beauty and analogy in
all nature and outdoors—full of jest and delights. I just wanted to
show you the other side——”
It was all of breathless interest.
“There came a day,” she added, as Peter watched her raptly, “when he
did make himself heard, even as he dreamed....”
Peter thought of his reading the story—a boy at school, and was
struck with the memory of its appeal to him in the light of the
“...The sustaining of his friends was taken from us at the last.
They dared not come, of course. 'Berthe, little heart, it's all right,'
he would say. 'You will have to go on alone, but the way will be shown
you. You have the strength. You have been heaven and earth to me. I
must go and leave you, but that's only a temporary matter. It will be
hard—but it has been hard with me.... This is all right. It's
good for what ails the world—but you are only a little girl! My God, I
dare not think of it....'
“I remember the dawn and the cold rain and the stone buildings—and
then to find the world's relation to his daughter. That had been spared
before. He kept it from me, and there was such a sustaining from his
friends and power. Those most concerned are slowest to learn exactly
what the world thinks of them.... It did not come until afterward, and
then it almost killed me. I was clinging to a sorrow almost sacred, and
I found that the world saw only the shame and madness of my plight. I
suddenly saw it in the eyes of the people—how they drew apart from
me.... He had only wanted to make them better. He said that all evil
was the result of men hating one another. He did not hate men, but
predatory institutions, false fatherlands, and all slave-drivers. They
hanged him for that hatred, but what was more shocking was to find that
the people whom he loved and served were horrified at his daughter....”
It did not detract from Peter's ardor that his intellect was away
for an instant in a rather skeptical study of Metz Wyndham's life. To
Peter had come glimpses of the magnificent selfishness of this prophet
of the people. Did all great men have such an ego? If their lives were
closely examined would they all reveal, in their intimate and familiar
relations, the most subtle and insidious forms of self-service? In
fact, was not the mighty ego the source of their record-making
in the world? ... Peter banished this rush of conjectures. Whatever the
father, the whole art of the life of Metz Wyndham's daughter was the
loss of the love of self.
“I feel before you,” he said, “as I once felt in the vineyards
She smiled at him. “There are several ways to take that.”
“Just one that I mean—and no explanation.”
“... Peter, our last day together—all shadowy background to be put
“And breakfast to occupy the immediate fore.”
He went out into the street to purchase certain essentials, found
some tall white flowers, and a copper vase to put them in. They were
hungry, after the long night, and their happiness was the exquisite
moments which they found between the darkenings. They would not permit
the parting altogether to pervade. Her face was lustrous white; her
eyes made him think of those gray days on the ocean, in which one can
see great distances. More of a girl than ever she seemed to him, with
her black hair combed loosely back and hanging in a pair of braids. The
flowers stood tall between them.
“War weather like this makes one grow quickly,” he said. “To think
how easy and content we thought ourselves—even three days ago. Now, I
want to say, 'Come, Berthe—come with me....' I want to take you to
some quiet place, back in the States, in the country by the water. Yes,
north country—by some lake that would be frozen when we got there.
That's where the silence is, that winter silence. A cabin, a roaring
fire—you and I together, alone. It seems you would be safe there, and
I could begin to be satisfied—”.
“Peter, Peter—don't make heavens to-day!”
“It's your particular heaven. No other would ever have made me think
of winter—of something austere and silent for you to ignite.”
“I wonder, shall it ever come to me—to have peace and abundance of
nature? I have always had the cities, and now it is more war again—
the opposite to nature—but I shall think every hour of that winter
cabin. That is my place,” she added. “Another would have made you think
of the South—or the seas. I shall think of your being there with
me—every day—no matter where I am—-”
Her words had grown vague to his ears. Her lips were so red that for
the time he saw them only. He arose and went to her around the tall
“What did you say?” he asked, after a moment.
“I don't know—oh, yes—perhaps, if we are very good in this war,
and do all we can to make orderly our little circle of things in the
great chaos—perhaps we may earn that winter cabin and the fireplace
and the stillness. To plan our garden in the winter days—-”
“I wish I hadn't spoken of it. It's almost unearthly far—in such a
time. But, Berthe, will you ever be satisfied with one who hasn't the
white fire of passion—as you have, in the cause of the peasants?”
“Oh, that's what I wanted to tell you. We are to be separated. We
are grown up—a man and a woman. We dare speak to each other. At least,
I dare.... Peter, I couldn't love you if you were all that—all
that—-” She hesitated.
“All that you missed in me last night?” he suggested.
“Yes, but I didn't miss it exactly. I was excited and overwrought.
You are splendid with me. It is when others are near, that you
are—cold and unemotional. I know it's your training—that thing you
Americans have from the English. You are that way with men. You are not
so with me. But, if you were like Fallows, or like my father, I could
not love you. I would not dare—-”
“First, I could not—and then I would not dare. First, that which we
are, we do not love. We love another kind—for completion——”
“Clearly said. That must be true,” he answered quickly. “And why
would you not dare?”
“Because we should have a little baby, and it would suffer so in
coming years. Peter, the poise and the balance—the very qualities I
need in you, and which I love, the little baby would require as his
gift from his father.”
II. THE COURT OF EXECUTION
“Hai, you, Peter—wake up!”
It was Boylan's voice, seemingly afar off, but coming closer.
“Wake up.... I say, young man, what do you think of it by this
Thus Peter was awakened the seventh morning out—and in a place he
had not observed the previous night. It was as good a place as usual,
if not better, except for the smell of fish that had gone before.
Clearly it had been a fish shop, business suspended some time. There
were certain scaly trays on the sloping showboards to the street;
scales glistened among the cobwebs of the low ceilings; also the floor
was of turf, and doubtless very full of phosphor, an excellent base for
rose- culture. The place dwindled and darkened to the rear, from which
the head and shoulders of Samarc presently emerged, and a moment later
Little Spenski, his companion, sat up and rubbed his eyes. These two,
invariably together, were men of a rapid-fire battery, to meet their
pieces lower in the fields, and attached for the present, as were
Boylan and Mowbray, to the staff of General Kohlvihr's command.
“Think of what?” Peter asked.
Boylan disdained answer. He was strapping a pigskin legging over a
bulging calf, always a severe strain. He looked up presently, reached
across and touched his forefinger to Peter's chin then to his own,
which bristled black and gray.
“Young man, you've got a secret,” he remarked darkly.
Peter smiled. He kept his razors in the same case as his
tooth-brush, and the case had not been mislaid so far. He could shave
in the dark.
“You're either not of age, or your face is sterile,” said Boylan.
“The floor of this fish shop isn't,” said Peter.
“I've been with you the last forty-eight hours straight. No sign of
life in that time.”
“You went out looking for fresh meat at sundown. You were gone—-”
“I was gone just five minutes, because the train wasn't up. You had
tea on when I came back.”
“There was a bit too much hot water.”
“Peter, that will do once more, but I've got a suspicion. No man
living can shave in the saddle—so you won't be able to spring that
one. Besides, you are willing to discuss the matter.”
“Did you ask what town this is?”
“No,” said Boylan; “I couldn't remember if they told me. New town
every night. The only thing to name a town is a battle. God, smell the
wood smoke—doesn't it make you keen?”
Boylan looked at him. “What are we out for?”
“Apparently the column is out for blood, but I thought you might
“The column will get blood, right enough,” said Boylan, “whether it
gets breakfast or not. What's the news, I wonder?”
“I've forgotten my relation to news.... Where are you going?”
“To see if that beef-train is in. I suppose you'll have rigged up a
turkish bath and be in the cooling room by the time I get back.”
Peter fed the horses and had tea and black bread served for two, by
the time Boylan called from a distance: “Put on the griddle, Peter—a
regular steak.... I stopped in the farrier's on the way back and had it
anviled a bit. That's what kept me,” he added.
Peter tossed it in the pan. Their fire was in the turf at the door
of the fish shop. Boylan drew in close, having washed noisily, and
deposited the remaining provisions in the two saddle-bags. “We're fixed
for supper and breakfast,” he remarked, with a sigh.
“You said that the army that would win this war must win through
famine. The Russians had better begin—”
“I didn't say anything about Mr. B. B. Boylan—”
“Mr. Big Belt Boylan,” Peter muttered, twisting his face away from
the heat and sizzling smoke steam. The name held.
The huge Rhodes' man liked Peter more than the latter knew, and his
likings of this sort were deep and peculiar. Boylan was nearing fifty,
a man all in one piece—thick, ponderous, hard, scarred with la
viruela, a saber sweep, a green-blue arc in his throat where some
dart or arrow had torn its way in between vital columns. His head was
bald and wrinkled, but very large, his neck and jaw to match, his eyes
a soft blue that once had been his secret shame. Very often he had been
called into the public glare.
“I was so hungry once,” Boylan said, “that I've been a slave to the
fear of it ever since.” He referred to the Polar Failure. “Once in
Farrel's Island—we were four,” he added. “We drew lots to find out
which one of us we must eat. That was a winter.... All you
fellows may begin famine as soon as you like. You'll come a long way
before you arrive at the personal familiarity of the subject earned by
this same little fat boy.... Turn it again, Peter.”
Samarc rushed past, speaking excitedly in French, and in the shadows
behind they saw the eyes of Spenski, sympathetic and wistful.
“What did he say, Peter?” Boylan asked quickly. “Samarc's French is
like my Russian.”
“He said his face had been fixed for tea—and toast with Spenski—
until we began to steam up the place. Now he's gone to the feed-wagons.”
“Why, bless the ruffian, there's enough here for four.”
“I told him that, but you know Samarc.”
Little Spenski's voice now drawled from behind.
“We're getting low, anyway. It was right for him to fill the bags
this morning, though very kind of you to offer—”
“I don't like that, Spenski,” said Boylan. “Bull cheek for four was
my order. Why, you fellows—”
Boylan was going to say how consistently generous with rations and
private provisions the two Warsaw men had been, but got tangled in the
language. Peter helped him. Boylan wouldn't have it otherwise, and
quartered the steak, serving Spenski and covering the fourth with a
tin. It was an excellent feast. For five days these two pair had
cautiously, timidly even, stood for each other in that reserved way
that much-weathered men integrate a memorable friendship.... Samarc
returned. They helped him cache his provisions and drew him into the
quadrangle around the fire. There was time for an extra pot of tea, and
the dawn rose superbly. That day in the column Spenski was called into
the personal escort of Kohlvihr, Boylan accompanying. Samarc and Peter
rode as usual with the forward infantry—just behind the van,
headquarters back a quarter of a mile.
“Tell me about Spenski,” Peter asked. “He's an interesting chap. I
heard him talking to you about the stars last evening, before supper,
pointing out Venus and Jupiter.”
“He'll grow on you,” said Samarc, their talk in French. “He did in
my case. We've been together six years in and out of the big instrument
shop in Warsaw—Bloom's. We make a camera, microscopes and even a
telescope now and then. I invented a rather profitable objective for
the Blooms, for which they gave me a position, and a small interest
that has kept me from wandering far from Warsaw. In the first days they
told me about Spenski—his remarkable workmanship—and pointed out the
wiry, red-headed little chap with the quick imperative smile you've
seen. We got on well together from the first. It has been no small
thing for me that he likes my ways. I got him in this service, by the
way, and I don't know whether I'm very proud of that. He's a lot more
famous as a workman now than six years ago.”
“What is his work?” Peter asked.
“A lens-maker. His art is one of the finest of the human
eye—requires genius to begin with. Spenski's craft on a glass in many
cases doubles the price of the instrument. No one knows better what
kind of a workman he is, nor can follow his particular finish with a
keener or more appreciative eye, than old Dr. Abbe himself. Spenski has
letters from that old master.
“He knows all sorts of out-of-the-way things—like the star stuff.
He'll name for you scores of the vague, indefinite ones, not to speak
of the larger magnitudes, which he can call by color at any hour of the
night. It was this passion of his for the stars which showed him his
work as a boy. That started him fabricating glasses to see them better.
He has a supreme eye for light, circles and foci, and a brain that just
plays with heavy mathematics—the most abstruse calculations. Yet, you
see, he carries it all with the ease of a boy. I think men who come
with a task to do are like that. It's part of them. They don't feel the
weight of what they know, because it's all through them—not localized.
You might be with Spenski an hour or a week and never know that he was
more than just a mechanic—if you were just a mechanic.”
“It's very interesting,” said Peter, as charmed with his companion
as with the man he talked about.
“A little while ago Spenski found his girl, and I would have
withdrawn—for that is the high test,” Samarc resumed. “But Spenski
managed to keep us both without strain.... And then the war came along.
A blight fell upon all workmanship in an hour. I had been on the
military side of things from a boy, a matter of training and heredity.
Of course, I would go. Spenski looked around the shop when I told him
this. It was stricken, the machinery cranking down, the faces of the
men white and troubled. 'I'll go, too,' said he.... I reminded him of
her.... 'She wouldn't be interested in a chap who remained at home,' he
said.... I told him of the big plants in Switzerland and America, where
he could be of great value, but he was not tempted. 'I want to go if
they'll take me in your battery,' was his last word on the matter.
“Of course I saw to that, but there's no work here, and there won't
be, that can bring out Spenski's real values. Think of using such a man
to feed the hopper of a rapid-fire piece.... But it's good to have him
along. Spenski's a hard habit to break.”
That night, when Boylan and Mowbray were together again, but a
little apart from the others, Big Belt said:
“Say, Peter, that little Spenski is a card. A good little chap,
smart and modest. I like him.”
“I found Samarc worth cultivating, too,” said Peter.
Marching south along the Vistula with the old-fashioned army—no
airships, nothing that intensely puzzled Mowbray in this service—that
is, in the exteriors of it—nothing but earth poundage and earth power,
a game that had much to do with earth and not with heaven. Seven quiet
days of marching in splendid summer weather, the raw peasant soldiery
well fed and comfortable, becoming a unit, all outbreak of separate
consciousness anywhere more and more impossible, hardening to the
peculiar day's work. They were used to heavy work, but this was a
particular task that needed specific hardening of feet and lungs; also
the personal idea in each breast required numbing. The physical aim was
to make men light for heavy work; to give them a taste of the joy and
the true health of the field—before the entrainments, the haste and
the fighting; but the psychological purpose was to make each atom
forget itself, to weave it well into the fabric of the mass. Kohlvihr's
division had to be moved; very well, let the movement gather the values
of practice marching as well.
A raw division, with a scattering of Poles and Finns mixed with the
straight Slav peasantry and regarded by the Russian war office, as
Peter Mowbray understood at once, a ticklish proposition. The cement
for this new service was “green” as yet; it had to set, required
frequent wettings of fine humor and affiliation. The marvel to Mowbray
was that the thousands fell for it. They had practically all left
something that was life and death to them—land, labor, women,
children. Each had established the beginnings at least of a personal
connection in the world, and this relation had to be rubbed out. What
had they been promised to take its place? Freedom, doubtless.
But intrinsically they were free men.
Peter recalled what Fallows had said: that properly fathered this
peasantry might be led into a citizenship and virtue that would change
the world. Instead they were to be impregnated with every crime. With
such thoughts Peter felt the spirit of Berthe Wyndham awake in his
Seven days and not a breath from the outer world. The correspondents
were allowed to move in and out of Kohlvihr's headquarters; and, though
they paid richly for everything, were treated well, and regarded as
guests by the staff officers. Peter had met Kohlvihr in Warsaw before
the thought of war—a good-tempered, if dull and bibulous old man, he
had seemed in the midst of semi-civilian routine; but a different party
here afield. Peter recalled the saying of old sailors that you never
know a skipper until you ship under him.
Moments of evening, in the sharp hazes of wood smoke, when the whole
army seemed nestling into itself, laughing, covering its nostalgia,
putting on its strength, Peter met in certain moments the advisability
of turning his back upon Boylan and Spenski and Samarc. The
extraordinary nature of Berthe Wyndham would flood home to him, as to
one to whom it belonged, very dear but very far.... He would smile when
he thought of The States and the Old Man.... “He thinks I'm
clutched in the ripping drama and waiting for blood,” he muttered,
“that I am burning to stop the breath of the outer world with my story
of gore and conquest.... But I'm eating his bread. I won't betray.
There must be a wise way to feed the red melodramatic receptivity of
the cities and at the same time to tell the real story.”
He stood in the midst of square miles of men and military engines.
On every road other Russian forces moved southward and to the
southeast. The railroads groaned with troops, for the most part in a
better state of preparation than Kohlvihr's division. Rumors reached
the staff, as they neared the Galician border, that the Austrian fields
below were already bleeding; finally word came, as they turned
eastward, that they were to entrain at Fransic and make a junction with
the main Russian columns preparing to invade Galicia from the
On the night before they entered Fransic, Mowbray awoke, and saw a
figure sitting in the doorway of the little hut assigned them for
quarters. It was Spenski, his face upturned in the starlight. He sat so
still that Peter slipped out from the blankets (which covered Boylan as
well) and took his place beside the lens-maker. Spenski was facing the
east. The street of the little hill town lost itself in a sharp
declivity just ahead; the nearer huts were low. The whole east was
naked to the horizon and an indescribable glory of starlight.
“Aren't they amazing?” Spenski whispered. “It must be nearly
morning, for those are the winter stars. I think they must have wakened
me up. Do you know them?”
“Just the first magnitudes. They are more brilliant than I have ever
Orion and a great kite of suns stood out with new and flashing
“I never saw that huge W before—” said Peter.
“You don't mean Cassiopeia? Her chair isn't there, but over to the
“No, no—there. Rigel, the upper right corner, down to the
left, the Dog-star; up to Betelguese, down to the left again to
Procyon, and up to the brightest of all—the stranger, not usually
Spenski clutched him. “I was watching the bigger configuration, and
didn't notice. Your stranger is the planet Saturn in transit between
Taurus and Orion. Saturn completes the W, and the W
“War, possibly,” said Peter.
There was a growl just now from Boylan: “Come on back to bed, you
“Saturn is so far and moves so slowly,” the little man whispered,
“that the W will not be deranged for many months.”
The hurry call for Kohlvihr came as expected in Fransic. The first
sections of the divisions were entrained the next day—an end to summer
road-work.... A day and night of intolerable slowness in a vile coach,
and on the following noon the troop-train was halted, while a string of
Red Cross cars drew up to a siding to give the soldiers the right of
way; a momentary halt—the line of passing windows filled with
cheering, weeping nurses.
Just one reposeful face—as both trains halted a second or two. It
was the face of one who seemed to understand the whole sorry story,
already to be contemplating the ruin ahead. Her hands were folded, the
eyes intent upon the distance rather than the immediate faces of men.
Mowbray could not articulate. Above all he wanted to meet her eyes, to
put back the light of the present in them, but it was neither sound nor
gesture that accomplished it; rather the storming intensity of anguish
in his mind. His train jerked, her eyes found him, her arms raised
toward him, lips parted. It became the one, above all, of the exquisite
pictures in his consciousness, and the reality passed so quickly—gone,
and no word between them.
Thus her colors came to him again—the mystic trinity of white and
gray and black—all he had since known and loved added to the mystery
of their first meeting. It was like an awakening to the rack of thirst
after one has dreamed of a spring of gurgling water—the swift passing
of that face of tender beauty and fortitude, that fair brow, gray eyes
and black hair....
Boylan was looking deeply into his face.
“Good God, man, you're a ghost. What is it, Peter?”
“It struck me queer to see a trainload of girls down here in the
field,” said Peter quite steadily.
“Well, if a trainload of strange women can do that to you—here's
hoping we never do Paris together.”
Little Spenski opposite had seen the outstretched hands, and Peter
saw that he had seen.
And now a rainy field. Two days of cold wind and rain after the
cattle-cars; a different tone and temper from the men, coughing instead
of laughter at night-fall. Another nameless village—Galician, now, for
the border had been crossed, and the stillest night Peter Mowbray had
so far known among the troops. It was a listening army— the far
distance breathing just the murmur of cannonading.
He moved about within the cordon of head-quarter sentries, studying
the edges of the bivouac as the rain and the darkness fell. Kohlvihr's
division was but a tooth of the main army now; the whole region was
massed with Russians marching westward; but still the outfit from
Warsaw was enough, all that he could encompass of the mystery of
numbers. Others had met the enemy, but these were still virgin. They
Their faces looked white in the thickening dark, noses pinched and
the rest beard.... Hair—it was like some rapidly ripening
harvest in the command, different each day, making the faces harder and
harder to memorize. Mowbray had been disgusted at first—faces like
changelings, atrocious like chickens. But the beards were taking form
now—all gradations of yellow and red and black—many of that gray-yellow which loses itself in the middle distance and becomes a blur.
How he hated hair like that!
The next day dawned bright and cold. At ten Kohlvihr, in the midst
of the southern wing, brushed the tail of an Austrian force in its
turning. The engagement was sharp exhilaration to Peter; perhaps it was
to certain of the soldiers; yet it was the first. Its touch of blood
quivered through Kohlvihr's command not yet assimilated, stirred this
raw entity with deep inexplicable passion.
The correspondents were riding with the staff; the point of the van
was moving below in plain sight when its baptism fell. Kohlvihr licked
his white lips, the upper lip uncontrollable like a deprived
drunkard's. Below a skirmish was spreading out, the commands trumpeting
back their messages. Mowbray turned. A little battery of mountain guns
was racing forward through the infantry column, the drivers yelling for
gangway. It was like a small town's fire department in action. Now
the infantry poured down the rocky slopes that bordered the old iron
road. Peter turned quite around in the saddle. The murmur in the air
was queer—like something wrong below in a ship at sea. Kohlvihr's face
interested him, the skirmish lines and their reinforcements, the voice
of Boylan (though his faculties were too occupied to catch that rush of
humorous comment in English); the mountain guns interested him, and the
sudden racket of Russian riflery below.
Now one of the peasant soldiers was running up the slope from the
van toward the staff. He was bare-headed, shocky-haired and bearded,
making queer, high sounds like a squirrel as he ran—quite out of order
and amazed at himself. He would have been struck down by his nearest
neighbor ten days later, felled with the nearest officer's sword, but
there was funk and a bit of dismay in the heart of the raw division
that suffered the soldier to make his way to the staff.
Lifting his legs lumberingly, he held fast to his left wrist, where
a bullet had started the blood. He held the wound high, like a trophy,
the blood spurting, crying about it.... This was sudden discovery of
something the army had started out to find, but had forgotten in the
length of days. This was the red fleece—its drips of red were in each
raw soul now. A little way farther and the staff awoke. An officer
spoke. The peasant was caught and booted quiet. Kohlvihr licked his
lips to keep them still. He perceived that Mowbray's eyes had fastened
upon his mouth. The lips opened again. The order came forth for the
soldier to be flogged.... It was their particular friend, Dabnitz, a
lieutenant of the staff, who was given the execution of this order.
The four were much together for a few days after that, Samarc and
Spenski not yet assigned to their battery. They learned each other in
those few days as men often fail to learn the hearts of their immediate
associates during years. There was fighting—scattered, open,
surprising often to one out of touch with the points and the scouting.
Different towns every day, and a continual giving of territory on the
part of the Austrians.
“This is not the main fighting at all,” said Boylan. “This is but
the edge of the game. It won't break into print. The big stuff is
farther on. These that we meet are the Austrian columns hurrying
forward. This territory is ours for the marching through. We'll catch
it later—and this will be forgotten.”
Samarc had known these towns that the Russian column was passing
through, yet he had to ask the names, because of the destruction. The
Austrians would always destroy in haste before leaving, and more
leisurely the Russians would destroy. It seemed to affect Samarc, as
some landmark reopened from its ruin for his eyes,
“It seems to say,” he told the lens-maker, “'I was this at one time,
and now I must go.'“ Orders came for Samarc and Spenski, but they were
not to be remotely stationed, since their battery was assigned to
Kohlvihr's division—a different camp but the same field. Few words
about the separation, but each of the four understood.... Night and
day, the dead had been with them in the recent days—in such richness
and variety they could not escape, could not cover them, and something
from the dead entered their hearts. To Peter—so queerly were his
thoughts running—the memorable incident of their last night together
had to do with an ant colony.
Supper was over, and they had tossed on a decayed log to keep up the
fire. A nest of ants was presently driven forth by the heat from the
soft heart of the wood. They found themselves hemmed in flame and
turned back, as Peter thought, to seek the treacherous shelter of the
nest again. It was not so; they were wiser than that, and marched forth
in scores once more, each carrying an egg in its jaws. Spenski swung
the end of the log out to the grass for them to make good their
retiring. It was all very sane and admirable. Peter respected them....
The dead were with them. They had not learned to forget. Spenski
would whimper in his sleep. The days did not fill him, wearied his body
but other faculties and potencies were restless at night. This man who
could grind a lens so that a line from the center of the earth to the
center of the sun would pass through it without chromatic aberration,
was more shocked than the other three by the cursory killing of the
days, his imagination intoxicated and sleep perverted. His companion
who imagined himself of coarser and heavier texture often placed his
hand upon the dreaming one. Spenski would start, open his eyes and say,
Continual rocking through the long days, and the rumbling of the
earth from the artillery forward. A mountain country of sharply cool
nights, of cool bright days—the scent of cedar and balsam, good water,
steady skirmishing—food just a bit scarce so that the peasants snapped
and bolted, showing sharp about the eyes. It was not hunger—just the
lean kind of fare. Peter often watched the halted columns at night as
the men sprang to the feeding. Supper fires burst forth at the drop of
the rifles. Not so raw now, the Warsaw contingent, a military eye would
remark—getting ripe, in fact.
A week afterward, Boylan reported at supper that they would be
permitted to ride with the battery on the following day. In the
meantime they had not seen nor heard of the other pair. Fighting and
marching from dawn to nightfall usually; human nature refused effort
after that. They were so near dead at night that they laughed about it,
and felt their faces in embarrassment, sharp-boned and unfamiliar as
the faces of the dead. Mowbray's was still clean shaven. Young Dabnitz,
the exquisite of the staff, and a rather brilliant young Russian, was
the only other who had kept his razors in order. Perhaps a woman ruled
his heart, as Berthe Wyndham ruled Mowbray's.
Big Belt had lost his last reservation about his companion. He gave
everything to Peter that he had given to Lonegan and something more—
for the field called a little more, and perhaps Peter called a little
more. The extent of Boylan's loyalty had nothing to do with words or
matters of conduct so far, but it was a huge affair, a suggestion of
which came to the younger man from time to time and humbled him.
Twice during the first fortnight, Boylan had asked if this were
positively his first venture into the field with troops. “The reason I
ask,” he explained later, “is that you appear to have been on the job
This would have been a matter interesting to the Old Man of The
States, according to Lonegan's story.
“I miss the little guy,” said Boylan, referring to Spenski. They
were anticipating the next day with the battery.
“I miss Samarc, too,” said Peter.
Romanceless, remorseless routine. The day that followed was their
hardest, for they were pressing the Austrians, taking their punishment
but inflicting punishment, as if called of God to extinguish a nation.
The face of the world seemed turned from them, in Peter's fancy. He
marveled at what seemed the swift disintegration of an ancient worldly
establishment like Austria—going down unsung. It was not like a
country losing its identity, though that had to do with the facts; but
rather like a shadow passing, to be followed, not by sunlight, but by
another shadow of different contour and texture.
“We put such store by names,” he muttered, as he watched the
Austrian infantry give way before them, “and yet, the world will get on
with other names just the same.”
...There had been no chance for talk. They had merely pressed the
hands of their friends, something darkly melancholy about Samarc, as if
his eyes were in deep shadow, and something luminous in the eyes that
shone from the haggard face of Little Spenski. They looked forward to
the night, as men famished and athirst in a pit listen to the toil of
rescuers. Almost the last thing that Peter remembered was that the moon
came up before the sun had set. The rapid-fire battery was at work on a
hot smoky hill, the shrapnel and larger pieces still higher, and the
great masses of infantry moving below among the wind- driven hazes of
the valley, their long necklaces, of white puffs, showing and
Mowbray's ears were deadened to all sounds save from the immediate
machine-guns and the big hounds above; to his eyes the swaying strings
of infantry smoke-puffs in the valley were spectral and soundless.
The Russians had taken the little town of Judenbach in the early
afternoon, but the Austrians gave them a stand two miles beyond,
finding solid position in a range of craggy hills. The Russians had not
cared to leave them there over night, but the dislodgment proved
difficult. The unlimbering of the batteries toward the end of the day
on the shoulders of a thickly-wooded mass (from which Peter watched the
infantry and the moonrise in daylight), was the final effort of the day
to drive the enemy farther afield from Judenbach.
The two infantries were contending; gray Russian lines in the bottom
land and already advancing up the slopes. Day after day, smitten and
replenished—tillers of land becoming the dung of the land. Mowbray had
always pitied the infantry, and watched them now with unspeakable awe
and depression—moving up the slopes, lost in their white necklaces of
skirmish-fire, sprayed upon with steel vomit from the Austrian
Samarc's battery was idle. It was often so, Boylan reported, when
the enemy's duplicate pieces were busy.
Now withering—those gray Russian lines. They diminished, gave way,
a thin ghostly pattern of the whole, falling back. An Austrian sortie
of yellow-brown men to finish the task.
“That's our cue,” Big Belt whispered.
The officers were already finding the range and fall. Samarc's
machine was set, before his superior spoke. Peter saw what a week had
done for him. Samarc seemed old at the task, already to have grown old.
Spenski at the hopper—and the mutilating racket on. Between fire,
Peter could not hold in mind the inconceivable magnitude and velocity
of these sounds. His brain seemed to plow under, as it does the great
events of pain, the impress of hideous suffering which the proximity of
the machines caused. Yet at every firing the damnable things hurt him
more. Fast beyond count, as the threads break in a strip of canvas torn
with one movement—yet each crackling thread here meant projected
They saw their work on the Austrian infantry lines. Yet always more
infantry would come forth, and in the silence following the machines,
the gray Russian lines stole forward again. Such was the slow battle
A company of sappers was below, opening the wood of the slope, so
that the machine fire would not be impeded in case the Austrians drove
back the infantry beyond the hollows at the bottom of the valley. A
hundred yards down they were working like beavers among the trunks of
cedar and balsam, when a shrapnel broke among them. The Russian higher
batteries had been trying the same game among the Austrian
emplacements, but could not see results.
All battery men near the two Americans knew well that the Austrians
would note that explosion of their shrapnel, and would relate
the range to the higher positions above. That one shot showed the
Russian artillerymen that their position was untenable. It was not that
the Austrians could see the damage they inflicted in one company of
sappers, but that the shattering blow in plain sight from their
position would show the exact means to displace the higher pieces that
devastated their infantry.
“We've got to get out of here,” Boylan whispered. Again as he spoke
the orders to retire came quietly as a bit of garrison gossip, and as
coldly. Horses came running down for the ammunition carts; every muscle
of man and beast had its work now.
In thirty or forty seconds Austrian shrapnel would land higher.
Peter was tallying off the seconds, wondering if they would get
clear.... At this moment he noted that the moon had come up and that
the sun was not yet sunk. The two on the eastern and western rims of
the world were almost of a size and color, very huge and alike, except
that one dazzled the eyes—the difference between incandescence and
reflection. The whole dome was lost in florid haze. He almost laughed
at what followed in his mind, so strange is the caravan of pictures
that hurries through in action. It was the beauty above and ghastly
waste of the infantry that brought back to his brain the reason and
decency of the ants in the burning log—their order in contrast to this
The Austrians were workmen. Their searching shrapnel had been quite
enough. Samarc's battery had begun to move, when they landed in the
heart of it. All was changed about, and new. The silence was like a
deep excavation, and the smell of fresh ground was in the air.
Peter did not see Boylan. He arose, half crawled up the torn ground
to the place where Spenski and Samarc had stood. They were some
distance —a saving distance for Mowbray—when he saw Samarc arise, his
face sheeted in red. Samarc was staring about for Spenski. Presently,
Peter followed the eyes of Samarc and saw the little man—half down,
but looking up toward his friend, the eyes wide open; also Spenski's
mouth, and the most extraordinary smile in the red beard.
Peter crawled a step nearer. There was no voice yet. He was tranced
before this meeting of the companions, each of whom saw none but the
other. Spenski had been partly kneeling, but as Samarc approached, his
head bowed slowly down, and the smile was gone.
“Come on—they'll do it again!”
Peter heard the words—but did not know who spoke them—possibly
Boylan from behind, possibly he had said it. He had not seen
Samarc's lips move.
The voice was an offense in that silence.
Now Peter saw none but Spenski, until Samarc reached him, lifted,
called. Peter saw the body raised from the ground to Samarc's arms—
saw the little man's body open upon his friend like a melon that has
All went black for Peter. The slope rose up and took him. For an
eternity afterward he felt someone tugging at him—hands of terrible
strength that would not let him die, would not let him sleep. After
that a familiar voice began calling at intervals.
“Hello,” said Peter at last. “What have I been doing?”
“Not anything that you've pulled before. Is this an old habit?”
“Passing out unhurt—lying like a log for an hour or two?”
“No, it's a new one. Where are we?”
“Judenbach. It's past supper time—”
Peter sat up, wobbled. The terrible hands steadied him again. He
knew now what had lamed him.
“Where is she?” he asked.
“I was wondering what hit me?”
“Now, you're getting glib again,” said Boylan. Peter's reserve had
interposed. His absence had something to do with her, but he could not
remember. “Where is she?” had got away from him as he crossed the
border back into the racking physical domain. He didn't like that.
“Did I say anything?”
“Nothing that will be used against you,” Boylan observed. “As for
what hit you—that's the mystery. Not a scratch in sight.... I was
behind. You were standing still as a sentry after that shrapnel.
Presently you bowled over—”
There was an instant of silence; the picture returned and wrung a
groan from Peter. All the energy of his life rebelled against the
fact. Boylan's hand tightened upon him. For the moment Mowbray was
in a kind of delirium.
“The moon had just come up,” he said, “like another sun. The real
sun was still in the sky from our hill.”
“I know. I was there. Cut it, Peter.”
“Where is Samarc?”
“In one of the hospital buildings, likely. I meant to find him as
soon as I could leave you—”
“I'll go with you.”
Big Belt fumbled in his saddled bags for a flask, brought it in one
hand, a cup of water in the other....
They were in the streets, very dark. Once they were caught in a
swift current of sheep driven in for the commissary. Judenbach sat on
the slope of a hill, a little city, its heart of stone, very ancient,
its “hoopskirts,” as Boylan said, made of woven-cane huts. Already the
stone buildings of the narrow main street were crowded with wounded.
The correspondents were not permitted far either way from headquarters.
Finally it was necessary to get Dabnitz of the staff to conduct
them.... It had all been a jumble of ambulances at nightfall from the
field, the lieutenant said. Russian soldiers were not ticketed. Many
faces on the cots were bandaged beyond recognition. The three gave up
at midnight, Peter gaining strength rather than losing it in the later
hours. Orders were that the streets be emptied of all but sentries.
“No, nothing like that—” said Boylan, as Mowbray sank to the floor
by his blanket roll. “You haven't had supper—”
“Don't, Boylan.... I say, what do they do with the dead?”
Rain was pattering down; the smell of drugs reached them.
“It does make a difference when you know one of them—doesn't
it?.... God, man, we're cluttered with wounded. The dead are at
“I wonder what stars he's watching to-night?”
“Come, come. Peter—”
“I know.... I know, Boylan. Only it shows me something. He was a
great workman. There are things in the world that can't be done because
he's gone. There are others like him. He had a girl. He had a friend.
He had us—”
Boylan decided that talking was good. He listened and prepared soup.
“And to-morrow they're at it again,” said Peter.
“It won't look the same in the morning—”
Peter did not answer.
“Anyway, you didn't bring on the war, Peter—”
“It makes a man cold with that kind of cold a supper-fire don't
“Peter, you've got me stopped with your moods—like a woman. Women
were always too profound for Mr. B. B. Boylan—”
“Sorry. You've been a prince. I'll do better now. I'll get out of
it. Little shock—that's all. I think it wasn't so much physical.
Something changed all around. I've been taking things as I found them
so long. That helps to bring on a war—”
Boylan glanced at him narrowly.
Peter laughed. “I'm all right. Head's working.”
Big Belt sighed. “I loved that little guy, too. God, I'd run east to
Asia and keep on running rather than meet his girl.”
Peter drank hot soup and slept. Next morning it was like a hard
problem that one has slept upon and awakened with the process and
answer straight-going. They had not searched ten minutes (calling
“Samarc” softly among the cots where the faces were bandaged) before a
hand came up to them. It was Peter who took it; and as their hands met,
the whole fabric of the man on the cot broke into trembling. They
understood. Samarc had been lying there rigid with his tragedy. Peter's
touch had been enough to break the dam of his misery.
“I have ceased to kill,” he said.
The head was twice as big with bandages; yet under that effigy, so
terrible was the intensity of the moment, Peter became conscious of
ruin there, also of a sudden icy cold in the morning air. Samarc's
powerful hand still clutched his. The voice that had emerged from under
the cloths was still in his ears. It had seemed to come as water from a
pipe—loosely, the faucet gone. The hand was unhurt.
“...He came in the night. I did not speak—but my heart was fighting
against the guns. He was moving here and there. He turned to me, as if
I had suddenly cried out, 'What shall I do?'...'You can cease to kill,'
Boylan was watching Peter. His face turned gray.
They received the intelligence of the words, as they came, although
at another time the mouthing would have been inarticulate as wind in
one of Judenbach's archaic street-lamps.
“I'll stay with him, Boylan,” said Peter, choosing the hardest
thing, but Big Belt would not leave, though the Russian columns were
moving in the street—off to renew the battle among the hills. The two
sat by until Samarc slept.
* * *
They were in the street again, moving close to the walls, for the
cavalry was crowding the narrow highway. They crossed finally to a
stone-paved area at the side of Judenbach's main building. Their feet
were upon the stone flags of this court, when Dabnitz suddenly hurried
forward, with a gesture for them to stand back.
“Just a moment, my friends,” he said. “A little formality, but very
Peter lifted his eyes, perceived three men standing bare-headed
against the wall of head-quarters, twenty paces away. One of them
exclaimed, his voice calm but penetrating:
“We are not spies. We do not care to turn our backs. We are not
afraid to die, for we have made our lives count—”
It was the voice of a public speaker; the voice of a man making good
many words.... Dabnitz stepped between Boylan and Mowbray, stretching
out his arms before them. It was all in an instant. They saw Dabnitz's
apologetic smile—and a Russian platoon at their right, rifles raised
—then the ragged volley.
Each of the three fell differently.
Boylan and Peter sat together in the ante-room of headquarters. They
did not speak. Peter was getting down to the quick. He thought many
things which a man never tells another man, and seldom tells a woman;
yet they were matters of truth and reason, no sentiment about them. He
recalled many incidents of early years in which his mother had tried to
teach him sensitiveness and mercy. Until now her effort seemed to have
been wasted. It had been more simple and appealing to him to follow his
father's picture of manhood. Possibly his mother had wearied of pitting
her will against his. He had grown up under his father's control and
ideal. As it looked to him now, he had become all that was obvious and
average and easy; while his mother's passion had been for him to become
one of the singular and precious and elect.... He would never have seen
this so clearly had it not been for Berthe Wyndham. She had given him a
kind of new birth, taken up the work wherein his mother had failed....
Dabnitz came in. The young staff-officer was handsome, soldierly,
black-eyed. His manner was one of enfolding cheerfulness. He had proved
fair and kindly, temperate in his tastes and delicate in his
appreciations of humor and natural effects. He could express himself
fluently in Russian, German, English and French, but was a caste-man to
the core, a militarist and autocrat. As such he proved rather appalling
to Peter Mowbray on this day.
“Is General Kohlvihr out with the fronts?” Boylan asked.
“He's in the field, but not at the front. We got the point
yesterday, you see. I'd rather be in the van every day than left to
these matters of clean-up—”
Peter looked up at him. “Is there much of this to do?”
“I'm afraid so. They work among the hospitals. You don't catch many
of them in the ranks—”
“Perhaps they would rather tend the wounded than to make the
Dabnitz smiled cheerfully. “They're afraid of their hides. When a
man does a lot of talking, he is generally shy on action—”
Peter saw the ease of the acceptance of this view on the part of the
others; saw how clearly it was the view of the military man.
“And yet it was a clean-cut death of that talker and his two
companions you just executed—”
“An exception now and then,” Dabnitz granted.
“How do you catch them?”
“We have a system at work for that purpose—everywhere, especially
in the hospitals. There isn't much temporizing when we get them.”
Peter Mowbray's skull prickled with heat and his face was cold with
“What do they preach?” he managed to ask.
“Sometimes for men to rise and go home; sometimes for them to cease
to kill, and sometimes to shoot down the officers. It isn't all that a
man has to do now to lead his men forward,” Dabnitz observed. “He must
do that, of course, but all the danger isn't in front. It doesn't
follow that a man has turned his back upon the enemy nowadays—if he
happens to be found with a wound in the back.”
“Were these—these that you put out this morning—working in the
Peter turned away.
“In a good many cases we bring a man to his feet again from a bad
wound—to find him not a soldier but a damned anarchist.”
“It's expensive and cumbersome also to carry such a hospital system
afield,” Peter observed.
Dabnitz did not catch the irony. “Yes, it would be cheaper and
simpler to put a hard-hit soldier out of his misery—”
Boylan, watching Peter's face, suddenly arose, suggesting that they
ride out toward the fighting. ....When they were alone, he added:
“I know you don't want the front to-day, but it was very clear that
I'd better get you out of there....Peter, did you ever kill a man?”
“No.” The question did not seem wild to either of them—there by the
open court of Judenbach.
“I knew a man who did. I saw him getting whiter and whiter like your
face—and looking into his victim's eyes in that queer surprised way
you looked at Dabnitz. It wasn't in the field; in a city bar-room. I
didn't look for what happened—but I knew something was coming. The
fool went on talking, talking. The other watched him, and when all the
blood was burned out of him....Great God, here I am talking blood—”
“It's in the air,” said Peter. “It's hard to breathe!....No, I won't
go down front to-day. I wish I could go back—back—oh, to the clean
Pole—no, to some little snowy woods in the States....Boylan, does it
“It's different from anything I knew,” said Boylan. “It's so damned
businesslike. Something's come over the world. War was more like a
picnic before. I never saw it like this. I believe we've gone crazy.”
They stood before the main building, just at the entrance of the
stone court—halted by the hideous outcry that reached them from
another building just a few doors below. It was as if a strong man were
being murdered by torture. The big cannons boomed up the narrow
cobble-paved road from the field. As far as they could see in either
direction, the street was crowded with soldiers, stepping aside for
artillery going south, and the stream of ambulances coming in from the
front. Passing them now from the street into the court was a cortege,
little but grim—a Cossack trooper leading two bare-headed men by a
rope attached to his saddle, a Cossack non-commissioned officer walking
behind with raised pistol. Both the prisoners were young, one a mere
boy, yet he was supporting the elder. Peter's eyes turned to the blank
wall of the main building where Dabnitz had been busy as they passed.
To the right, in the gloom from the walls, was a row of iron gratings,
the windows knocked out—darkness under the low stone lintels.
Peter had not noticed before this dim square, within the square. His
mind dwelt upon it now in the peculiar way of the faculties, when
thoughts are too swift and too terrible to bear....It was like
something he had seen before, the dark little square. Yes, it was like
part of a recess yard he had known in an old school-building years
He couldn't keep off the reality long. In every direction the
murderous army—no song, no laugh, no human nature, no love, no work,
but death. He was imprisoned. And somewhere near or far in the midst of
such a chaos, was Berthe Wyndham. Could she live in this?.... Peter was
suicidal, very close to that, a new thing to him. Queerly he realized
that death would be easy for himself, simple, acceptable. For there was
no escape. They would not let him go. There was no place that one could
go out of the army. Not even the dead go back.... It would not be fair
to her. She might live, and call to him afterward. He did not think she
could live, but there was that chance. He thought of his mother—quite
as a little boy would, his lip quivering.... He started at the touch of
“I'll tell you what we'll do,” Big Belt said. “We'll write, Peter.
We'll get out the machines to-day. We'll write a story—just as if we
could file it on a free cable. It will do us good. We'll tell the
“We'd have to eat it....Boylan, if I should tell this story on
paper, the Russians would burn it and me and the house in which it was
written....No. I must work better than that. Come back. I want
Boylan drew him face about.
“You're not going to—”
“No—no. I wasn't thinking of killing him. It wouldn't do any good.
One would have to kill all the officers and save enough energy for the
Little Father at the last. No, I want him to help me—”
They found him at headquarters.
“Lieutenant Dabnitz,” Peter said, his hand upon the Russian's
shoulder, speaking very quietly, “I feel like a fool doing nothing all
day long—and so much to do. I want you to take me over to that
hospital Samarc is in, and set me officially to work. Let me be
orderly, anything, to-day. I want to help, if you'll forgive me—”
“Gladly, Mr. Mowbray. I'm sure they'll be very glad. Of course, they
are always short-handed in the hospitals.”
Boylan's heart gave a thump at the new light in Mowbray's eyes.
“I'll go along, too,” he said. “I'm the daddy of them all, when it
comes to lifting.”
A ragged platoon volley crashed from the court as they entered the
street. Peter's steps quickened.
Of course, they did not know it in The States' office, neither
the Old Man nor his managing editor, but a way had been found to
rock Peter Mowbray. Indeed he would have been rocked to pieces had
he not found his work that day in Judenbach. ....When no one was
listening, he would talk to the wounded. Peter discovered that there
was a woman in him, as many a field-man has discovered. In fact he came
to believe that we are all mixed men and women, and that it is the
woman in us that suffers most. He had a suspicion that there was a
woman in Boylan, and had to smile just there. He sank into the work,
and saved himself. Samarc appeared to be asleep.
He would have laughed to have heard his own talk afterward. A man
does not remember what he says to a loved horse, or to a dog that looks
up in passing. Innocent as that, Peter's sayings to the wounded and
dying. Had there been spies about, the American would have been counted
eminently safe. He had to talk; his heart was so full; it was part of
the action that saved him. All the time there was in the background of
his mind a steady amazement at himself—something of his, aloof,
watchful, that was not exactly ready to accede to all this change and
emotion, and yet was not strong enough to prevent.
Twice through the long forenoon he saw a little black-whiskered
orderly, eyes dark and wide and deep, his nose sensitive and finely
shaped, his shoulders unsoldierly. Once his cap fell as he went to lift
a pan, and Peter saw as noble a brow as ever dignified a man. He went
to him and, as he stood there, he found there was nothing to say.
“Who are you?” the other asked.
“That's what I was trying to think to ask you?” Peter said with a
smile. “I am Mowbray, an American correspondent—”
“Why are you here?” He pointed to the cots.
“I had to do something.”
“The misery called to you?”
“Perhaps. To be sure, I'd better say my own misery made me come.”
They talked in French.
“It is all the same. You are not a beast.”
“I'm not sure,” said Peter.
“That is good, too. I'm glad you have come. All morning I have
“You did not answer me. Who are you?”
“I am Moritz Abel.”
He held a wash basin in one hand, a bit of linen in the other—this
man who had done such a poem that the glory of the future flashed back
through it, to sustain and to be held by men. It was a queer moment.
Facing each other, Mowbray thought of Spenski—as if the little lens-maker stood behind the narrow shoulders of the poet.... Was it only the
little red-headed body that they had killed”? Would the immortal come
back with a new story of the stars? Thus Peter found himself thinking
of Spenski, with this lover of new Russia before him. And would the
destroyers slay this one too?... Now his humanity came back in a cloud,
and he shuddered at the thought of Russia murdering the man who wrote
We Are Free.... Perhaps it was the woman in him that made him say:
“I hope you live through the long night, Monsieur.”
Moritz Abel stepped nearer. In the silence Peter grew embarrassed.
What he had said would sound without footing since the poet did not
understand the trend of his thoughts. He meant to, add what the long
night signified, and wanted his saying really known for what it
was—an utterance of pure passion against the destruction of genius.
The other replied, making all explanation unnecessary:
“I knew you for one of us. It is the long night, but it is a great
honor for us to be here and at work.”
“Where are your companions?”
The Russian smiled. “They are all about through the dark of the long
night. We may only signal in passing. In fact, I must go now—”
The surgeon in charge had entered. Peter went to Samarc's cot,
steeling himself. “Samarc,” he whispered, without bending, “Samarc—”
The wounded man stirred a little, moaned, but did not answer.... In
the far corner Boylan was moving cots (occupants and all) closer
together for the admission of more. His sleeves were rolled. Near him a
little woman, whose waist was no larger than the white revelation of
Boylan's forearm, was directing the way, the giant of the Polar Failure
struggling to please. Something of ease and uplift had come to Peter
from this, and from the passing of Moritz Abel. Silently battling with
Dabnitz, with Kohlvihr, with king's desire and the animal of men, was
this service-thing greater than all, greater than death.... A soldier
called and he went toward the voice. Presently Peter was jockeying him
into good humor with low talk.
All day the battle tortured the southern distance—the cannonading
nearer, as the hours waned. The Austrians were holding their own or
better. It was the fiercest resistance which the Russian columns had as
yet encountered. All afternoon wounded were brought back. It became
more and more difficult to move among the cots in the building. So it
was with all Judenbach that was not in ruins. Twice through the
afternoon there were volleys in the court below; and when the two went
forth for food, they saw a soldier carrying baskets of dirt from the
street, and covering the stone flags close to the main building.... And
from that grim house a little down the street, came at intervals,
shocking their senses, the hideous outcry as of murder taking place....
Boylan went down into the field an hour before sunset, Peter back to
“I'll see what I can find,” Big Belt remarked. “You're right to go
back, Peter. As for me, I can stand it better outdoors.”
Crossing the street, it seemed to Peter that he had been in
Judenbach certain ages, a reckonable space of eternity—despite the
lowering sun which calmly informed him that at this time yesterday the
Austrians had found the range of Samarc's battery with a shrapnel or
two. Many things had come to him. He wished as never before for a free
cable.... Boylan came in at dark and drew him away from Samarc's cot.
“I'll be back to-night,” Peter promised.
“...There's been no break in the check to-day,” Big Belt reported.
“Kohlvihr's division, and the immediate forces surrounding, are part of
the great right wing, and this right is holding up the whole Russian
command. I heard Kohlvihr explaining to the Commander's aide that the
Austrians here had been reinforced; that they gave us Judenbach for the
taking yesterday, in order to fall back into the hills beyond. The
center and left, it appears, is clear, ready to fight on to Berlin or
Budapest, but the whole line is held up for this right wing. Kohlvihr
is desperate. There'll be a hard pull to get across the hills
to-morrow—all hands, Peter.”
“This may be our last night in Judenbach then?”
“If killing a division will start a hole across that range of hills,
it's our last night—”
I'll sit it out with Samarc,” Peter said.
“Go to it, if you think best. You were a mighty sick woman this
morning. Something in yonder helped you. I'll see you through for
“Boylan, don't you stay up. You've roughed it to-day and been
afield. Don't let me spoil your sleep—with a big day ahead. It wasn't
lack of sleep that got my nerve this morning—”
“Oh, I'll yap around till bedtime,” said the other. “What does
“Something has come over him. Some one came to him last night and
seemed to drive a nail right into his thinking—pinned him.”
“He's turned against the killing?”
“Yes. And he'll be restless to-night, sleeping so much to-day.... At
least, he made the appearance of sleeping. I think he was shocked to
hear his voice.... His eyes are right enough. But below—”
“What made you think he had the appearance of sleeping?”
“It just occurred to me. He didn't want to take all my time. I
whispered his name several times—no answer. Once when I was leaving,
his hand reached up and touched my coat.”
“Is he hurt badly?”
“Not a thing in the body. It's between his throat and his eyes....
You know I saw him last night after the shrapnel as he lifted—it was
just a sheet of blood. Afterward it was covered in cloth. I don't think
he knew until this morning, when he started to talk.”
“He was all knit to the little man,” Boylan said. “As good a pair as
I ever met afield.... Oh, I say, eat something—”
Peter smiled at the big fellow and turned to his soup and black
bread. He didn't say what he thought, but it had to do with his own
field companion this time.
* * *
...Midnight. Boylan had gone back to quarters. Peter's ward was low-lit and still. ...The wounded man's hands waved before his bandage, as
if to detract attention from the windy blur of his utterance. Samarc
wanted to die.
“You know it was because of me that he came—” he repeated.
“But you mustn't suffer for that. Really, Samarc, a man couldn't
have been a better friend than you. Spenski would tell you so if he
could. These are times for men to live. I wanted to kill myself
this morning. You know I was behind you on the hill, too. That, and the
tragedy all about, and then they were murdering spies and martyring
real Fatherland men out in the court—as if there wasn't enough death
afield. It was too much for me. Old Boylan helped me, but if I hadn't
come in to work, I'd have shot my head off. Here—men dying hard and
easy; men and women serving; so much to do,—I got better. Death isn't
everything. I'm not a genius or a dreamer, man. I'm so slow at dreaming
and brotherhood and all that, that a woman once ran from me. But I saw
to-day that death isn't all. I don't know what else there is, but this
is a sort of long night, this war. A few of us are awake. If we are put
to sleep—that's all right—I mean knocked out, you know. But so long
as we are not, we've got to watch and root for the dawn. God, man,
there is much to do. We've got to make our lives count—”
He was bending forward talking very low. He thought from the
pressure of Samarc's hands that he was gaining ground. It was queer and
laughable to himself—this line of talk that came to him. He knew so
well the pangs of that suicidal suffocation, that he could talk for the
very life of the other. He added:
“A little black-whispered man looked up from his soap and towels
this morning. His hat fell off, and I saw he had come a long ways. He
looked at me again, and I spoke to him. Samarc, it was another of these
little whirlwinds of human force—a master workman like the man you
“It was Moritz Abel who wrote We Are Free....
“And there are others—like Spenski and Abel—some of them
dead—some to die to-morrow. Do you think the good God would let them
die so easily if it wasn't all right? But we mustn't die without making
our lives count.”
Peter's eyes were covered by slender hands. It was like passing a
garden of mignonette in the night, that fleeting perfume of the hands.
“Oh, Peter, how sweet to see you and hear your voice!”
It seemed that he became molten in her presence. A heavenly
adagio after a prolonged movement of sin and shame and every
dissonance. It was as if she had come from a bath of peace to him;
another inimitable moment in the life of his romance. He turned to her,
holding fast to the hand that was stretched toward him. He cleared his
“Excuse me, Samarc,” he said.
III. THE HOUSE OF AMPUTATIONS
They looked long into each other's faces. “You were wonderful as you
spoke of your friend. Did you know that, Peter?”
He turned away deprecatingly.
“Forgive me. Of course you didn't know.” ”...And you meant to come
all the time?” he asked at last.
“I should have known it.... That day—that day across the
siding—why, Berthe, it was almost more than I could stand. I had just
been thinking of you.”
“We were like two spirits who hadn't earned the right to be
together,” she said.
“I'm afraid it's dangerous now,” he answered. “One mustn't have a
whim, other than to extinguish the enemy. The army is afraid of itself.
Though he checked himself, she knew his thought.
“Yes, all day, they murdered white-browed men in the court below.”
“I want you to guard your life—as if it were mine—just that.”
All surroundings were melting away from them. She had never seen him
like this.... Even Samarc could not hear their whispers.
“You came like an angel, Berthe,—all I ever want of an angel. I
tell you I am proud.”
“Of what, Peter?”
“That I had sense enough to go a second time to the Square at
“I'm glad, too.... If we were only in the winter stillness—”
They were silent. Samarc's hand came up to Peter, and drew him
close. It was clear that he could not bear the woman to hear his
struggle for speech. “Tell her about Spenski,” came to Peter's ears in
the lipless mouthing.
Berthe saw that Peter was ghostly white, as he lifted his head. She
thought it had to do with what the wounded man said.
Peter began at random, gathering his thoughts on the wing. Nothing
hurt him in quite the same way as that suggested havoc under the
bandage. He steadied himself, and talked of the little lens-maker.
Strength came from the joy he was giving Samarc.... It seemed that they
were quite alone. He told of the night of stars, of the little man's
superb sensitiveness.... She bent to Samarc at last.
“You wanted him to tell me?”
He nodded. There was something intensely pathetic in it all. Her
eyes were full of light.
“The story thrills me,” she whispered. “Oh, this is very far from a
hopeless world. What I have seen to-day—even the fortitude of infamous
men—manhood, black and white—the war within the war. Don't you see,
all Russia is out here in the wilderness casting forth her demon? We
must not mind blood nor death—for the result means the life or death
of the world's soul!”
Once she would have seemed very far and remotely high to Peter
Mowbray.... They had drawn a little apart from the cot.
“What made you so white?” she asked.
“It's my weakness. We rode together for days and quartered together.
He was so clean-cut. It's the way his words come. And he seems so
utterly bereft without the little man.”
She pressed his hand in understanding.
“Berthe, do you sleep? Do you take food? Are you well? Are they good
to you? Can you live through?”
“Yes, and what of you?”
“All is quite well with me. I can endure anything with the hope of
taking you home afterward.”
“We must be ready to give up that, too. It is hard; it's our
ordeal— but if the end should appear, we must find strength to look it
in the face. These are the times for heroics. Every real emotion that I
have ever known is a lie—if those who love each other well enough to
love the world—do not pass on. Why, Peter, you said the same to him—
speaking of his friend and Moritz Abel, 'Do you think the good God
would let such men die so easily, if it weren't all right?'“
“Did I say that?”
She drew back her head, looking him through and through.
“Peter, it's the child in you that I love. You're so much a man, and
they all think of you as a man, man—all your training to be a man—
and yet it's the child that a woman's heart sees and wants to preserve
for her own.”
“Do you see much of Moritz Abel?” he asked.
“Yes.... It was he who found you for me.”
Peter was watching her red lips now. It was like that morning in her
room, the tall flowers between. He did not hear what she was saying.
The room was dim. Samarc's face was turned from them. One man in a near
cot flung his arms about his head wearily, but his eyes were toward the
wall.... He caught her in his arms and loved the beauty of earth in her
“...Peter, we must forget ourselves!”
“I can't forget you. I want you as you are,” he repeated in tumult.
“I want you here in the world—as you are now! We'll stand for what we
can't help. There's no use fighting the end if it comes. The greatest
thing here to a man will be the greatest thing after he's dead—that's
clear enough. But I haven't had you here—only a few minutes. I want
the winter stillness on earth—in the woods—not in some
“Hush—I want it too. Oh, you can never know how much!... I had
better go now—”
“Not until I know all about you. To-morrow is to be the big day of
the battle. All may be changed. If it's a Russian victory, this is our
last night in Judenbach—”
“You will go out to the fronts?”
“Yes, for a little, but I shall watch how the day fares, so I can
“To-day—we were just a stone's throw apart. I was in that building
down the street—the amputation cases.”
“Not the house where those cries come from?”
“Yes, we work there. Moritz Abel, Fallows, Poltneck, the singer, and
others.... This morning I thought I could not bear to live. It was as
you told him—about yourself. You see we had no anesthesia, except for
cases of life or death—among the officers.”
“And you came to me from a day like that?” he asked unsteadily, his
passion blurred, even the beauty of it. The chance of her living had
“It was like coming home,” she whispered. “...In Warsaw before your
day—sometimes crossing the Square in the darkness—I used to think
what it would mean to come to a house of happiness, after a long cruel
day. It seemed too far from me; sometimes even farther than now. When I
came in here to-night, and heard your voice—I knew what it would mean
to come home. We must not ask too much. Many have never known what has
been given to us—in these few minutes.”
“We must not ask too much,” he repeated.
She saw that he had a vivid picture of her day in that house of
amputations, that the picture had stunned him.
“But, Peter, I have seen such courage to-day. It was a revelation.
All that I had seen of isolated courage before in the world—all was
there to-day, and ten times more, there in the blood and torture. And
Poltneck sang to them—sang to the maimed and limbless—sang through
the probings—with the sound of the cannon in the distance and more
wounded coming in. He sang of home and Fatherland—even of the old
Fatherland. The many love the old still; it is only the few who love
the dream of the new.... We must not ask too much. The new spirit is
being born into the world. This war is greater than we dream of. In
Warsaw I could see only the evil, but here—under everything—is the
humble and the heroic in man. Hate and soldiery are just the surface.
That which is beneath will be above—”
She was far from him now; the white flame in her face. He saw that
he could only go on through the days and work and wait and trust in the
God he had told Samarc to trust in. How easily—without an impress of
memory, he had said that; and how heroic to accomplish—for mere man.
He did not answer—just looked at her. He saw her turn and smile.
Moritz Abel was standing there.
“I cannot tell you—what it meant to me to see you two standing so,”
he said. “And this place of quiet—you two and your paradise!... Let me
see, it occurred to me to suggest—”
He found himself reluctant to finish. He had spoken lightly as if to
propose that they would be more comfortable in another room—but his
thoughts concerned the volleys in the court. They knew it.
“The staff knows me rather well,” said Mowbray. “I was counting on
that, but one cannot be sure—”
“There has been no secret,” she said. “Will you come in the morning
before the columns go out?”
“Yes, it will be early.”
“I'll be watching. If not—he will be there to tell you why.”
Peter turned to the poet. “Watch over her—won't you?”
“You honor me, Mr. Mowbray. All that I can do—be very sure of.”
She went to Samarc's cot and took his hand. Peter saw her face
differently, as she leaned. It was one of the mysteries that her
tenderness was the face of one woman, her sorrow another.
.... A little later Peter found himself with Samarc's hand in his.
He had been sitting by the cot watching the war within the war, head
bowed on his free hand. It was a struggle of white and black—of
knights and kings, plumes and horses, white and black.... Now the
wounded man seemed sending messages through his hand. The lamps were
“It's been the day of days, Samarc,” Mowbray said. “You brought me
something that I needed very much. I wish I could do as much for you.
Let me know, won't you, if I can?... Yes, I'll be right here through
He heard the tread of soldiers in the hollow-sounding court below—
clanking accouterments, heavy steps. There was a halt, a voice, and a
long moment before he breathed. It was just a change of sentries,
Just a moment's talk in the street—twice interrupted by sentries,
as they moved the hundred yards from the courtyard of Judenbach to the
house of amputations.
“...He was trying to lift a man from the hopelessness of death when
I stepped up quietly behind,” Berthe was saying. “He was wonderful
about it, because he had felt the same hopelessness. I wish you could
have heard him.”
Moritz Abel said: “He is effective. He is intellect and heart—very
sound. His vision will come quickly. He does not wing—that is our
trouble. We are carried away. He is still within the comprehension of
the average man. We need him greatly. Also he needs us. What a man he
would be to steady us—to interpret for us. The new Fatherland must
have such men. It has been our destiny always to dream and to pass—
another generation to make our vision flesh—”
“You mean such men as Peter Mowbray would be direct interpreters?”
“Exactly. We are poets and artists and singers. We are the fathers
of the new Fatherland in a sense, but we need among us lawgivers and
statesmen—men who love men straight and not through the arts—men who
have the same zeal for men that the arts give us when we are pure, but
who are conservers and constructors, men of great force and acumen and
“Oh, I know so well what you mean,” she whispered. “If you could
only have heard him with the bandaged man—'I am not a genius or a
dreamer, man. I am so slow at dreaming and brotherhood, and all that,
that a woman once ran away from me. But I saw to-day that death isn't
“Yes, that is it,” Moritz Abel said. “That is the quality. And many
times among those who do not make claim nor talk of brotherhood, the
reality is beaming from their daily service. Yes, that is it. I hope to
know him better after the long night.”
They had reached the place of blood and torture.
“And now you must rest a little,” he told her. “You know he asked me
to take care of you. I like him for that. A man would see a great deal
in that, for he honored me.”
“And me—” she whispered.
It was not yet dawn. Peter heard the moaning of the men as they
awoke and turned in their bandages. Surgeon and assistants passed
through; two of the latter remained to start up the malingerers.
Machine and rapid-fire men especially were needed at the front, it was
said. Four thousand men had fallen in the past three days, and this was
to be the day of the most furious battle—Kohlvihr to drive a hole
through the hills, this day. An early incident revealed certain
facts—personal— and had a temporary numbing influence upon Mowbray.
The day had risen and Samarc awakened, when a strange orderly entered
the ward, and came leisurely to the cot where Peter sat:
“What have you here?”
“A shrapnel wound in the face.”
The orderly looked under the cot for the uniform, as if to determine
Samarc's place and rank.
“Where's the blouse?” he asked.
“It was covered with blood,” said Peter. “They took it away.”
“What branch of the service?”
Peter was not sure—infantry possibly. He didn't care for the
stranger's manner, nor to have this particular gunner of the rapid-fire pieces hurried to the field unhealed. The orderly bent suddenly,
“She told me to tell you that she wants to come, but that it
...Moritz Abel looking for an interpreter would have been interested
now; also the Old Man of The States. The stranger had spoken
leisurely. Peter's temptation was conquered before he was half through.
“Are you sure you were to give me some message?” he asked.
“But I wasn't expecting anyone.”
The other regarded him keenly. Peter was well trained for that. An
officer appeared in the doorway and beckoned the orderly.
“It must have been a mistake,” the latter muttered.
Peter was thinking fast. The fact remained that their meeting the
night before had been noted. He was leaving for the field shortly; the
harm of suspicion would fall upon her.
“I promised to call a moment this morning at the amputation
house—but no one was to come for me,” he added.
“I have made a mistake,” the orderly repeated.
“...I wonder if I have?” Peter thought.
Samarc's hand came up to him, and the pull that meant he wanted to
speak. Peter invariably paled before this ordeal. Not through words but
sounds were the meanings tortured out.... Samarc meant to take the
field. In the usual course there would be no coming back for him at
nightfall, because he had “ceased to kill—”
“But must your officers know?” Peter whispered.
...The officers would know if it were the same old crew, because
they knew Samarc's work. This was the substance of the answer.
“But why go?”
...They would take off the bandages to be sure that he required
further hospital care. He could not endure that. The bandages must
never come off.... He would rather be afield.
Peter saw the grim finality of it. Samarc wasn't changed. He meant
to end it. It was not only Spenski, but the havoc under the cloths....
A young assistant surgeon at a near cot was rather too hastily
laying bare the lint from a severe shoulder wound.
Exchange with Samarc had of course stopped. Peter, thinking deeply,
watched with but half attention until the assistant surgeon briskly
rebound the wound, and began tugging at the soldier to get on his feet.
The wounded one whimpered his weakness.
The order was repeated. “Into your clothes, man. Scores are already
in the column with wounds worse than yours.”
The man groaned, stirred, but fell back. Peter had seen the
wound—not a desperate one, but enough to lay a man up for a fortnight
at home, and this could not have been more than three days old. There
wasn't much chance of malingering.
“Come, come!” the young officer urged angrily.
The soldier tried to raise himself, but did not make good work of
“I'll get you up, damn you—”
A quick scream from the man on the cot. Peter did not know what the
doctor did, but he smelled acid. All was cloudy before his eyes. He was
a bit surprised a second after to feel the Russian's neck in his two
“None but a beast would take from the stable a horse crippled like
that,” he was saying.
The assistant was but a boy. Peter caught this before lasting damage
was done. He left the place half crying, threatening to kill Mowbray
later. His superior appeared. Peter smiled at him. Samarc was up,
drawing on his clothes.
“A bit of bad judgment,” Peter said, not explaining whether it was
his or the young doctor's.
The surgeon did not ask, but turned to the great muffled face.
“This man was from one of the rapid-fire commands, I believe?”
Peter was prevented from further glibness by a decisive nod from
“The Fatherland will need you to-day,” the surgeon said with a
To Peter's trained ear the sounds from Samarc were dangerously like,
“A shrapnel splinter struck him in the mouth,” he explained. “He
says he is ready to take the field.”
Samarc spoke again.
“His blouse is gone,” said Peter hastily. “I can manage for him.”
“Has he a fever?”
“I'm afraid so—a slight fever.”
The surgeon turned to the other cot. “Let this fellow sleep another
day,” he said.
The soldier lying there gave Peter a look almost uncanny in its
“Sit down, Samarc. I'll get you a blouse,” the latter said and left
Big Belt awoke early in his own quarters, and beat around under the
blankets for his friend. Peter was not there. Boylan remembered and sat
up. This was the day of the great battle, but there was to be breakfast
first. He recalled what was in the saddle-bags. This proved
unsatisfactory. Even that hinged on Peter, as every thought so far. ...
Boylan now reflected that he might have stayed longer in the ward last
night. There was just as much to hold him to the cot of Samarc as had
called Peter. Altogether, the day was not beginning in a way to suit,
He sat in the center of a tired tangle of woolen blankets and
buckled on his leggings. His face pricked his chest as he bent forward.
There was a stabbing run of ideas that had to do with marble baths,
tepid plunges and fragrant steam. This collection he made haste to
banish with matters of the day, and the absence of Peter,—but the
pictures were various and persistent—exceptionally enticing baths from
all his history recurring. He stretched out his gray woolen shirt and
brushed it hard with handfuls of dried grass; he washed uncomfortably.
It was like an ablution before one is undressed—that pervasive beard
affair —and a general chill and dampness about clothes and boots that
had not yet worked warm. The day was alternate gray and red. Noise
gained in the street. Big Belt stepped forth.
Just at this moment he saw Peter Mowbray disappear into that grim
street entrance from which the unspeakable human outcry had issued
yesterday. He followed, twisting into doorways to let provision wagons
pass, quickening his steps to cross between detachments of infantry. A
certain dead cavalry horse was powerful in the air. Boylan knew exactly
where it lay, for it had called attention these three days, an Austrian
property, saddle and all, a ghastly outpouring upon the turf.
Boylan found himself stepping forward with a gladness that was
answered with sharp objection by his own nature, and which he would not
have let Peter Mowbray know for all Judenbach. He was disgusted with
the weakness that made a man friend such a profound institution in his
The hall-way was dark. Boylan heard low voices; something from them
prevailed to hush his entrance. In fact, at the turning he stood quite
still for possibly three seconds. Beyond in the shadows Peter stood
with a woman. Afterward Boylan recalled that there had been one
poignant cry of pain from above, as if born of the monotone of moaning
in that house.
They did not see him.... A little man appeared from the shadows,
joined the two, and handed Peter a Russian blouse such as is worn by
hospital stewards of the service. Peter thanked him; the other
departed; the two were once more alone.... The huge scarred head of the
old war-wolf withdrew jerkily; with stealth, he stepped back into the
street. He did not stop until he reached his own quarters. There he
found that he had not folded his blankets. In the midst of this work
his hands stopped.... He was as accustomed as any man can be to
unremoved horse by this time. It came steadily to his nostrils, mingled
with the leathery smell of his own field-outfit. Presently he looked at
his watch, and snapped the case shut with a crack. The strength of his
fingers would have broken a filbert.
“Some men can find 'em anywhere,” he muttered. “And such a one! She
was a flame.... As for Mr. B. B.—it's dead horse all his days.”
Ashamed of himself, Big Belt waited to see if Peter would turn in to
their quarters, as he approached carrying the hospital steward's blouse
across his arm. Boylan would not call. It was like a woman's way—to
learn if a man had forgotten her; still he would not call....
Clean-shaven, very straight and full of life, Peter approached, smiling
at packers and soldiers, a smile for all the world. “Why not?” Boylan
thought. Peter did turn in, and came toward him, hand out.
“Tomato ketchup with duck's eggs. Draw up a chair,” said Boylan. He
appeared just now to see the steward's blouse.
“Samarc takes the field to-day. It's for him,” Peter explained....
“He's going out to kill himself. Only one reservation—that he kill no
Boylan seemed staring at Peter's knees.
“You're letting the ketchup burn,” Peter said mildly.
“I suppose that's what he really means to do,” Big Belt observed,
after a moment. “And what are we to do about it?”
“I thought I would stand by a little—not so as to be a nuisance,
“Naturally not. Of course.”
They ate in silence—a thousand things to say.
“I won't be very far from the staff,” said Peter, hurrying back to
the hospital. “Poor old Samarc has two wounds, you know—”
* * *
It wasn't a day to explain things—not a day to talk. Men afield can
never tell what they are doing; some devilish irony is in the air. They
laugh; they listen; they hope—only a jest comes. The most thrilling
and stupendous situations bring forth but a curse or a roar. Human
throats are inarticulate, afield; the reality that voices heroic
utterance and makes it memorable is not at work in man-fabric; splendid
faces and brave actions—but the words are the revealers of emptiness.
For the animal is awake and upstanding; the spirit that quickens
reality is apart.
The battlefield opened to Mowbray's eyes that day with abnormal
clearness, as if he had brought rest and reflection to a problem that
long had harried him, He felt singularly light and full of ease—as one
does sometimes in the first hours of the day after a sleepless night.
The day was wild with west wind, a touch of south still clinging. The
east arrayed itself again and again in all the delicate blends of pink
and gray, watery yellow, rose, and azure; a different arrangement at
each glance, as if separate groups of maidens followed each around a
Samarc was given a seat in an ammunition wagon, with orders to join
his battery. Peter found his horse, already saddled by Boylan, and
overtook the wagon train as it left the town. In a halt for the way to
clear, Kohlvihr and his staff passed, Dabnitz and Boylan riding
together. The General sat soft and lumpy in the saddle, his eyes small
and feverish, his face hotly red. The staff passed on, all except
Boylan believing that the correspondent had fallen in behind. Riding
with the wagons, Peter frequently turned to the terrifying bandage
above the steward's blouse. When the light was right, he caught a glint
of the eyes beneath.
The way became steep for the wagons as they neared the emplacements.
Peter swung off and led his pony. Infantry was already engaged down in
the hollows; the reek of powder began to cut the air at intervals, but
the strong wind as often cleansed it away, and the scent of woods came
up startlingly, with the warmth of the sun upon the ground—the sweet
healing breath of drying cedar boughs.
He was sorry now he had roughed it with the young doctor; that sort
of thing was very far from him. He had no memory of another episode
like it. On occasion, dropping into the queerest abstractions, he
fancied her near.... It had been like a soldier leaving his lady
for the battle—the precious few minutes less than an hour ago. She had
promised to be with him. There had been no talk nor thought of the
terrifying day she faced in the hospital; everything had to do with his
taking the field. She would follow him with her thoughts. Perhaps he
would find his soul out there, she suggested, as he had never found it
before. Peter wondered now just what she meant by that. It was not his
way to fall back upon any such abstraction.
He reflected how her presence always changed him, gave him strength
of a different sort, and directness of aim.... It was true that she
seemed near—on the other side from Samarc—a part of the mountain
fragrance that would not be overpowered in the gun-reek. He felt if he
could turn quickly enough he would catch the gleam of her colors. This
was her country. She was of the north and the cold lands; she belonged
to the purity of the cedars.
He played with the thought that she was near; and from the thought,
because it was good, a glimpse of the future came to him—the peace to
come, when men would dwell again with their loves, and the dream of
superb affiliation would come true. All this madness of men would pass,
as the rising powder-reek would pass from these Galician hills, and
leave them their silence and their natural fragrance.
The wagons had gone on. Samarc's battery might have been rubbed out
for all their ability to find it. All faces strange—gunners, range-finders, and the cartridge hands. Peter felt a horror in his breast for
the immediate presence of the guns—as if he had reached the end of
toleration in the one day with them. Samarc felt this hate, too, his
ruling passion.... Any moment one of the rapid-firers might drum into
action. Their sense was one—that something would be uncoupled in their
minds. They turned, Peter laughing at his desire to run—as they found
another group of machines emplaced in a rocky shelter a little higher
than the spot where the shrapnel had struck three days before.
No one called to them as they turned back. A small belated wagon
train rumbled by, but no one hailed them from the seats. They were
free, alone. Peter inhaled the scent of the forest, sharp again from
the acrid taint of the cool, hazy air. He loved the sweet mountain wind
as never before—almost as if he were to leave it all. There was little
need of exchange of words. Each understood mainly the thoughts of the
other. Big guns thundered at each other from the remoter hills. Again
they saw an infantry movement start forth below—the endless strings of
infantry along the broad lower slopes. They stopped to watch them.
Creatures of the hollows, their business to rise and be swept back—
marching forth now—Kohlvihr's command. Peter's eyes filled and his
throat stopped at the spectacle of the gray lines. Surely something was
the matter with him, he thought. Was it pathological—loss of sleep, or
fatigue? Or was it something that Spenski and Abel, the field and
hospital; more than all was it something that Berthe Wyndham had given
him? In any event, it seemed as if those infantry lines marching out
now to the burning front were being torn from his own breast, every
moujik precious. He wanted to be with them, not with the heinous
guns. He wished he could spare them, stop the continual sacrifice.
Miles of gray lines moving out now. ...His companion's tugging hand.
It dawned upon Peter before many sounds that Samarc wanted to go
alone. He pointed the trail back around the hills toward Judenbach,
where it would meet the road Kohlvihr had taken, suggesting that Peter
join the staff. He, Samarc, would continue the search for his battery.
As a rule Mowbray was the last to continue in the presence of a man who
wanted him to go; and yet, he knew that Samarc hated the field pieces
as much as he, and that he did not mean to live through the day. He
hesitated. The final urging was pitiful—a sort of tumult from under
“Nothing doing, Samarc,” he said suddenly. “You and I for it—at
least a while yet. I say—do the hard thing. The little man would have
it so. We'll go down closer to the infantry stuff and forget
...Yes, Samarc would do the hard thing. There was gratitude for
which Peter had no receptivity—gratitude for the friendship, the
night's watching. His hand was taken and carried to the other's breast,
as only a Russian could do—and down they went together.
The infantry was their magnet as they made the down grade—miles of
gray lines. The lower land was trampled and dusty; the breeze lost
itself in the hollows. Just as an orchardist, discovering a certain
parasite on his trees, thinks of a specific poison, so they knew that
this great “forward” of the Russian foot-soldiers would start the
Austrian machine and rapid-fire batteries.
They were moving now in front of a long line of new Russian works
which had appeared deserted. Boylan would have known better; Samarc
should have known. Peter had taken for granted that these had been
emptied by the huge advances already in movement. They were in the path
of Kohlvihr's reserves, it appeared, in the center of the line, when
the signal “forward” was sounded. The works suddenly blackened with
men. It was too much for the pony. Peter found a bridle with a broken
throat latch in his hand, as he watched the little beast tear down the
front, and heard the roar of laughter from the oncoming line.
The new front seemed endless in the rolling land. They were
instantly enveloped. Out of the throng appeared one face that Peter had
bowed to once or twice before—a captain, now working his way toward
them. He glanced at the civilian insignia on Peter's sleeve, and said,
with a smile:
“You've tricked us well this time, Mr. Mowbray. I hope you get back
as cheerfully. You'll have to go forward now—at least, until we
stretch out in skirmish. We're rather thick just here. Stay with my
“We thought we were back of you,” Peter said. “I assure you I didn't
plan this, but it's very kind of you.”
The Captain glanced at Samarc and turned to the American as they
“Just his face.”
“Stay by—some of the soldiers might be rough—”
They were carried forward in the resistless interference of great
Peter had pitied the infantry formerly from a hill, having stood
with a battery as it sprayed the Austrian lines. He had watched the
Austrian machines pouring steel upon the Russians also. There had been
emotion; he had felt the shame of it powerfully on this very morning;
but now he reflected, with a touch of levity, that his pity had not
been adequate. At the present juncture he belonged to the sacrifice.
The process was reversed; the globe of his experience shortly to be
made complete. He would have the effects of light and darkness from the
vantage of the preying and the preyed upon.
Peter had never been actually down among men before. He had watched
men, studied them sincerely, passed them in the street, reflected upon
their problems. At the same time, his personal impetus had always been
away from men, his a different purpose, a different aim. He was one
now, one in the massed destiny of the command, one to obey. Only by
falling could he be free from this extraordinary authority of the army.
Moreover, he felt that the motive energizing this authority was not
of the human but of the tiger.
He might have thought of all this before, as he had thought of death
as one thing for the outsider and a different thing for the little
lens-maker he liked so well. But this was experience, not conjecture.
He was an atom of the charge. The army authority disrupted his moral
sense. It bound and gagged him. No imagination could have constricted
his vital and creative force as this adventure, in which he was caught
up like a chip and carried forward in a rush of animal power. Fear had
no part of his revulsion, but the break of his will. It was not like a
man drowning, in an insensible element; this that carried him had
a consciousness and it was unclean.
He saw that the rankers leaned on each other; that there was not yet
in the peasant faces about him a single separate individual relation to
the impending peril. These men might have, seen others fall by the
hundreds, but their faith was in the command, their law its law. Peter
saw that they were in a sense like men parading through city streets,
who endure the eyes of the crowds because they are part of a line. It
was the eternal illusion of numbers again—the elbow brush, the heat,
the breath, the muttering of men—this atmosphere that the military
machine breathed. Standing alone, most of them would have fallen from
He smelled the unwashed crowd. Under all the bronze that life in the
open had given the command was the lardy look of earth-born men,
close-to-the-ground men; these were the hordes that put on pounds and
size, the rudiment of a mind, the momentary ignition of soul perhaps in
moments such as now—and pass to the earth again. Yet the history of
Europe was to be written upon a surface like this; this, the soil of
the future. It was close to chaos, but as yet undefiled by man. This
was the newest product of earth, the new terrific fecundity of the
North that had alarmed lower Europe; these were the peasant millions as
yet unfathered, strong as yet only as bulls are strong, gregarians,
almost without memory; their terror, pain, passion, hope, genius not
individual yet, but in the solution of the crowds.
Peter Mowbray's shock was the loss of the sense of self; his battle
to retain this sense. He seemed to fuse in the heat, the vast solution
draining his vitality. He could have given himself to the white fire of
a group of men like Spenski, Abel, Fallows, Poltneck, perhaps—but to
give himself to this.... They were stretching out now as skirmishers,
the crush ended. Entire figures of men could be seen, instead of necks,
beards, and shoulders. Samarc gripped his arm, the other hand pointing
to a little red-haired boy who ran, crouched, sped on again, halted to
look, in the true squirrel fashion of advance, which is the approved
procedure of skirmishers. He talked to himself, appeared lost in
absorption, reminded one continually of Spenski when his face was
averted—and was just one of the miles of infantry.
Their faces looked cold now; a part of the gray tone so often
observed. The officers fought to stretch them out. Every line of fear
that the human mouth can express Peter saw. Now the drum of the
Austrian pieces. It was not as they had heard it in the heights, but
like an encore at first—as if some tremendous mass of men in a wooden
gallery had started a buffeting of feet. The valley muffled the
volleys; the actual steel was not heard until it neared like a rain
torrent; indeed it found their immediate lines before they heard the
murderous cutting of the air. The Austrian gunners were placed for
enfilading, so that a fraction of point gave them impaling force and a
wide swath in the ranks.
Peter saw the little red head cocked forward as if to listen to the
nearing gusts of steel.
Now men were down and crying out. The fire was like that of a
hostile regiment concentrating its volley upon a little knot of
soldiers—the air was whipped, wild with throbbing missiles.
Supernatural fear was the answer from the very souls of men. Their
prayer (in Mowbray's conception) was not for life, but for cessation.
Yet the machines held them with infernal leisure as one holds the
stream from a garden hose to a spot of clay clinging to masonry.
In all postures the soldiers met the gale, with every answering
sound. Then falling, rising, crawling, the remnant went back. It was
not pain nor death nor wounds that mattered—but the hurtling
concussions in the air, the plague of steel....
It stopped. Peter lay exhausted an instant. He felt no hurt. He was
down because one could not stand in that sweep of projectiles. He
recalled that he had seen the red head fall a moment before, and turned
like a sick man, his eyes rolling, to learn if it were a dream or not.
Yes, Redhead had fallen. Samarc was crawling toward him on his knees.
Peter writhed forward, too, but disliking the movement lest it bring
the guns upon them again. He forgot that. Redhead was muttering about
“Are you hard hit, boy?” Peter called.
There were others about—a whole line of fallen, but they saw just
this one—his cheek to the dirt, his mouth moving queerly. He was young
like the undersurgeon, seventeen or eighteen, and much bewildered, the
gray, clayey hue upon him, but not at all uncouth. Samarc felt his
spine, turned him. The wound was in his body. Just now Redhead saw the
effigy that was Samarc. He had been watching Peter before.
His mouth opened, eyes seemed to settle back into a red gleam of
horror, his face swung around into the dirt. Peter would have given his
arm to spare Samarc that. No sound from under the cloth—only a breath.
Samarc shouldered him, raised himself with the burden.
There are pressures of will. One turns on a certain force to meet an
obstacle, and it is exhausted. There are other sources of power, but
one brushes death to summon them. Far ahead they saw the remnant making
cover. Now Peter noted that there was human need at every step. They
lay in all positions, squirmed their faces up to him and implored. The
few were still; the many writhed. He looked for a small one. He had
never lifted a man and was surprised when one came up and rolled as if
by magic across his back. It was so easy that he wanted to take others.
“I will come back,” he called to the faces.
He meant to come back as he said it. He wanted to bring them all in.
He had no hate for the Austrian gunners, because he had seen Samarc and
Spenski at the same work, and he knew that the heart of man changes in
a day. He would have helped the little undersurgeon had he been there.
A moujik arose from his knees in front of them, as they
staggered on. He was stunned, bewildered, blinded, but he could hear.
“Come on—we're going back,” Peter said.
The other held out his hand gropingly. Peter placed the flap of his
coat in it, and the moujik stumblingly followed.... Another soldier on
his knees barred the way.
“We're going back,” Peter said. “Come on. You can crawl—”
The soldier set out eagerly to obey, as if it had been a great boon
to follow with his own strength. It was the mightiest episode of the
day to Peter Mowbray. “My God, how they obey men!” he said, with
awe. “They could be led right—peasants who obey like that!”
There was singing all about him—not of bullets, though this little
movement on the field drew a thin, uncertain long-range fire from some
intrenchment (apparently it was not enough to start a machine)—a low
singing as of wells of gladness reaching the surface. Peter was torn
with the agony of the field, yet thrilling with happiness—as if there
was liberation somewhere within. He turned to the crawling one who
“We're all hurt, but we're going back to bed. Come on—you're doing
The back bobbed to greater effort. The blind one held him fast, and
the Redhead left his trail of blood and murmured about the storm
.... It was a long range for the rifles, and seemed as harmless as
sandflies after the horror of hornets they had known.... They were
alone. They saw the heaped rims of the Russian works ahead— five of
them, alone, for, queerly enough, they were as one.
And now from ahead, from the concealed Russian lines, arose a roar
such as Peter had never known. It struck him with a psychic force that
filled his eyes with tears, though he did not understand. He thought
that the end of the war must have come—so glad and so mighty was that
Now a fragment of the line ran forth to bring the little party in,
not minding Peter's gestures in the least; for he waved them back, lest
they start the machines again.... It appeared that his little group of
maimed and blind came home marching into the very hearts of the
command—even the Red one.... They had laid their burdens down; an
incoherent Boylan took Peter, leading the way back to the staff.
Kohlvihr and Dabnitz stood there, the old man repeating:
“Get the name of the hospital man.”
Dabnitz plucked the sleeve of Samarc's coat.
“Hospital steward,—I have that,” he said a second time, “but what's
the name and the division?”
“He can't speak,” said Peter. “I'll get his name later. He's been
wounded in the mouth.”
Curiously enough in this turmoil it appeared for the first time why
Samarc had been allowed a free field practically—why he had not been
impressed for service by one of the batteries. It was the steward's
blouse that Abel had given him.... Peter lost wonder at this. Things
were darkening about him. He smelled the cedars. Her colors seemed just
out of view.... She had been near.
“Peter—are you hit?” It was Boylan's voice.
“No, just bushed.”
Now he heard Kohlvihr say: “Anything for you we can, Mr. Mowbray. As
a civilian, you are of course exempt from specific honors, but as soon
as I learn your companion's name I shall suggest that he be honored by
the Little Father.”
“Why, you've put the whole line back into fighting trim!” Boylan
Something of the activity now apparent to the blurred faculties of
Mowbray, as he sat in the clammy embrace of nausea and struggling for
breath, appealed to him as structurally wrong; almost inconceivably
abominable, in fact. He had no interest in his so-called achievement,
regarded it with a laugh, repeated that it was pure accident; but such
as it was, he objected to it being used to put the line back into
He was in the large sod-covered pit occupied by field headquarters.
He turned at the sound of breathing at his side. Samarc was sitting
there. Peter's hand went to his knee. Aides, messengers, and orderlies
hastened in and out. There were twenty men in the pit—Kohlvihr the
center of all. Big Belt was ministering—a flask, a momentary massage,
a steady run of comment, ruddy from the heart.... The activity came to
Kohlvihr was actually planning another infantry advance.
Peter started to speak, but halted for further reflection, a bit
skeptical as to his own sanity. This was the third day of the battle;
this the day planned to drive a hole through the difficult Austrian
hills; the whole Russian army was dependent upon taking this Austrian
position; the weather was becoming colder, Berlin still afar off; the
Russian left and center pinned to the results of action here.
So far mental processes seemed adequate, but this changed in no way
his attitude toward the atrocious activity in the brain of Kohlvihr of
the bomb-proof pit.
Kohlvihr might sally forth for his wounded; hundreds were dying out
there in the windy hollow. He, Peter Mowbray, had seen their faces—
their bodies to the end of sight. But Kohlvihr had no thought of that;
rather to meet the range of death machines again with another horde of
his skirmishers—and again—and again, until the end of the day—until
enough passed through to gain the opposite slopes in fighting force, or
until the Austrian ammunition was exhausted....
And Kohlvihr had never been out there. His cave was well back in the
shelter of the works—sheltered from ahead and from the sky, with
Judenbach behind.... Old Doltmir, the second in command, was saying:
“It's a terrible price to pay, General—a terrible price. You will
note that they enfilade our lines as we reach the bottom land. You will
note that their machines cover the valley perfectly and that they are
There was balm in that, but acid covered it an instant later from
Kohlvihr, who swallowed a drink and turned with a snarl.
“We have the price to pay—”
Peter was thinking now of the front line that had cheered his coming
in; the men so ready to forget themselves for a little spectacle, and
the thrill that had come to his own breast from their shouting. He
loved them and knew why. And those men, their lives and deaths—
were in the hands of this red-eyed human rat who fouled the air.... No,
Peter thought, it wasn't the brandy that smelled. It's Kohlvihr and the
“Good God, Boylan,” he muttered in English, “can't you get him by
Boylan's eyes were wild. He laughed softly, however, saying in
Russian: “Very good, Peter—you'd joke at your death—”
And Big Belt's eyes roved to Dabnitz, who apparently had not heard
...And now the tugging from Samarc that meant words! It seemed as if
a ghastly stillness prepared for that final rumble; certainly stillness
followed it. All eyes turned, even Kohlvihr's, to the effigy. But Peter
“...Don't let them take off the bandages.”
Samarc left his seat in the dark corner and walked evenly toward the
center where Kohlvihr stood, his aides about him—poor old Doltmir
standing apart and distressed. The moment had come for the order to be
given. Kohlvihr turned to a dispatch rider at the door—a door made of
For the moment Peter was blocked between two desires, or paralyzed.
The huge face of Boylan close by mutely implored him to be silent.
“Samarc,” he called.
Samarc did not turn. Now Peter saw the red face of Kohlvihr in its
gray fringe suddenly lifted and enlarged. The effigy was close to it,
but not higher, and hands were tightening beneath it—Samarc's strong
unhurt hands. There had been one snarling scream. It was followed by a
shot from Dabnitz. The red face went down with the other to the clay
The roar of the battle followed as Peter staggered back alone to
Judenbach. He must have traversed a mile before there was a rational
activity of his faculties. The first mental picture was that of the
officers running along the works as the order for “advance as
skirmishers” was given. They were inspiring the men in the name of the
“If only they hadn't said that,” Peter muttered pathetically.
Then he recalled that Kohlvihr had been lifted practically unhurt
from the clay floor; that his order was carried out. The infantry had
obeyed. With all he knew, and all he had seen that day, the mystery of
common men deepened. Out of it all strangely stood forth in his mind
now the man who could not rise, but who crawled after him at a word....
These men obeyed—that was the whole story. If they were given true
fathers!... Why, that was the answer!
Peter had come into this with all the fire of revelation. He had
earned it. Blood and courage, and the stress of death, had given it to
him. Yet it was worth it all. He would tell Berthe Wyndham....
He stopped short at the edge of the town. Never was there in his
life a moment of profounder humility. Berthe Wyndham had told him all
this before they left Warsaw—on the day that the message came from
Lonegan. All he had learned to-day through such rigor and jeopardy she
had told him; and she had understood it then with the same passion that
he had it now.
Peter had only listened that day; he had lived it to-day. His heart
suddenly flooded with warmth for Fallows. Fallows had been through all
this—all the burning and zealotry of it, and had come forth into the
coldness and austerity of service. It was very wonderful. Peter
Mowbray's eyes smarted. They, and the service, had certainly crumpled
the old fronts of calm and the sterile pools of intellect. He loved the
peasants now, and he knew why.... He saw what a stick he had
been, but this didn't trouble him greatly. The new seeing was enough;
he was changed. His emotions presently concerned the fresh realizations
so dearly bought—in the past three days... three days.
Not until now did he think of Samarc.... The reality had stood like
a black figure at the door of his brain throughout all the walk, but it
did not enter until now. No, Samarc would not come back to Judenbach.
It was finished as he had intended. He had ceased to kill. Even at the
last he had but used his hands, and in as righteous wrath as ever
tortured human fingers to terrible strength.... He, Mowbray, had not
remained to assure himself that the last command of his friend was
obeyed. This hurt him not a little.... He was in the main street...
exertion, sorrow, exaltation; now he was whipped again. He felt he had
not done well at the last. A teamster yelled to him to get out of the
way. Peter stepped back wearily to let a string of ambulances by.
Across was that grim door of the house of amputations. He was not
quite ready to enter. He would get himself in hand better. He had not
been gone long—it was only mid-forenoon. He would go to his quarters
and clean up a little—perhaps rest a moment. His thoughts turned often
to Samarc, always with a pang. He wished the Big Belt were here. This
last reminded him of his saddle bags—razors and all gone with the
pony. Boylan would have the laugh at him now.
He could not sit still in his quarters. Voices came to him from the
street, from the court—even from that grim place a little down the
way. He arose and went across to the familiar hospital ward.... Another
was in Samarc's place. A hand beckoned. It was from the cot of the
soldier for whom he had struggled with the young doctor. He went to it.
There was a message:
“They were talking of you as an enemy—”
That was all. Peter did not care for particulars. His volition was
quickened. He had been sadly in need of that. Now he went direct to the
hallway, where he had left her in the morning, and on upstairs. The
rooms were crowded with wounded and medical officers, but no familiar
face—neither Berthe Wyndham nor Moritz Abel.
Many eyes held him. He did not see the young doctor, but the surgeon
who had come to the other ward was there—that bland, quiet face,
regarding him curiously now. Peter asked nothing, and was free
apparently to move anywhere about the building. None of his own was
there. His loneliness was untellable. He could not have spoken to a
stranger without a break of tone....
He wished for Boylan again.
Peter was in the street, moved along the walls as one very tired. He
was searching, but the thoughts grew so terrible that he could not keep
his eyes to outer activity. His steps led him to the Court of
Executions. Standing by the street gate, he dreaded to enter. He would
not tolerate this, yet it was more than life or death. He had a mental
picture of finding her there, her body shrinking into one of the stone
corners—as a maimed bird that has fallen lies still under its wings.
His breath burst from him. He had been holding it as if under water.
His eyes traveled electrically now.
There were dead in the court, but she was not there, nor Abel nor
Fallows. He looked through the row of gratings and under the arches.
There was a low stone lintel with a dim deserted hall beyond....
Just now a step behind him, heavy boots ringing on the stone flags.
Peter turned. A Russian soldier halted, raised his rifle, commanded him
Peter waved his hand in a gesture of obedience, but turned to glance
in the gloom under the lintel again. It was just in the turning
that he had caught the gleam of her colors—not when he stared straight
in. Peter assured himself of this before giving himself up.
IV. IN THE BOMB-PROOF PIT
The dead man in the hospital steward's coat had been carried forth
from the bomb-proof pit.
Big Belt perceived that the day was working out according to its
evil beginnings.... After coming in from the infantry hollows as one
risen from the dead (and transfigured in the garish light of field
bravery) Peter Mowbray had left him again, now in the possession of
Boylan was not ready to go back to Judenbach. It was almost noon. He
was watching the heart of the Russian invasion of Galicia, and from its
main lesion. This he knew quite as well as Dabnitz, or Doltmir, or the
half-insane Kohlvihr himself. The Austrians still held. Indeed, it was
not hard for them. The Russian west wing entire, and possibly part of
its center, would be called upon to flank this stoutly adhering force,
if Kohlvihr continued to fail. Such an action would greatly delay the
general forward movement of the Russian arms.
“You will be without a command, General,” Doltmir suggested, at the
end of the second infantry throwback, following that in which Peter had
participated. “We are not disturbing them greatly in our advances. We
are chiefly effective in destroying their ammunition—”
“Then we must continue that,” said Kohlvihr.
“But the troops will not continue to charge. Our reserves are in.
The fresher men see the fate of the former advances. The hollows are in
plain sight from the forward rifle pits.”
“The officers must drive them forward—”
“Most of the lesser commanders are lying in the valley. The troops
are killing them as well as the enemy—”
“Do you mean there is mutiny, sir?”
“Not of a reckonable type. These men work in the midst of action.
Moreover, our troops are hard pressed. Our division has borne the brunt
for three days in almost unparalleled action.”
“Would you advise me to leave them funking in the trenches?”
“General, I would advise a report to the Commander of our failure in
four advances—that we can not get sufficient men across the valley to
charge the Austrian positions. Meanwhile I would order the wounded to
be brought in. After that, I would suggest food for the men in the
“I do not care to report four failures without a fifth trial.”
Doltmir turned back.
Big Belt was thinking fast. In all his experience, he had never seen
the Inside stripped naked like this. Of course, he had observed the
strategy of small bodies of troops determined by a swift consultation
of officers; but this was an army in itself, or had been, and on the
part of Kohlvihr it was very clear that personal matters were
powerfully to the fore. Kohlvihr was enraged; Kohlvihr was ambitious.
Big Belt was aware that, given a free hand and a free cable, he could
make Kohlvihr a loathsome monster in the eyes of the world, this merely
by a display of the facts.
Boylan's view was cleared a little as he thought of such a
narrative. His sense of the reception of the story showed him the
commanding nature of it. The thing might be done later. Peter's trouble
was that he could not forget it for the present. Thoughts of work put a
new energy into Boylan's thinking. These things now passing in the
bomb- proof pit formed the climax of a narrative that had been running
from the Warsaw office to the present hour.... For a moment in the
story's grasp, Boylan did not hear the voice of the invaluable Dabnitz:
“...He is under suspicion, sir,” that young officer was saying to
his chief. “In fact, the whole hospital corps is rotten with
revolutionists, but the fact remains he can sing like an angel. I think
if Poltneck were brought here to the lines and made to sing the folk
“Get him,” said Kohlvihr. “Is he under arrest?”
“No; as yet merely under espionage. He was valuable in rather a
unique way in the hospitals yesterday.”
“Bring him at once.”
Kohlvihr sent an order for his troops to rest and have a bite in the
The sorry Doltmir stepped forward again:
“Would it not be well to bring in our wounded from the field, sir?”
“We will have the field presently,” said Kohlvihr. “The sun
is not hot. The lines already have seen too much of their blood.”
Big Belt remembered that. Moments were intense again when Poltneck
was brought in—a tall, angular, sandy-faced chap, with a wide mouth
and glistening teeth, a smile that quickened the pulse, somehow. Boylan
thought of the passions of women for such men. His shoulders were lean
and square. Yellow hair, long on top and cropped tight below the brim
of his hat, dropped a lock across his forehead, as he uncovered in the
bomb-proof pit. He had been shaven-recently. Boylan reflected that he
belonged to the hospital corps. There was a thrill about him not to be
“Poltneck—he calls himself,” Dabnitz whispered. “Poltneck perhaps,
but I've seen him with the Imperial orchestra or I'm losing memory. I
didn't have a good look at him before—”
Dabnitz was called by the General, who was seated with Doltmir over
a small collation with wine and bread. The lieutenant was requested to
arrange the inspiration for the men in the trenches.
Boylan noted how much taller the singer was than even the tall
Russian officer—as the two stood together.
“The men are very tired, Poltneck,” Dabnitz began. “Much has been
required of them, and much is still required. We want you to help us.”
Poltneck had been looking about, interested as a kitten in a strange
house. He regarded Kohlvihr and the rest, the trace of a smile around
his mouth. The smile was still there as he turned quickly to Dabnitz
with the single questioning word, not contemptuous in itself, but
Boylan imagined it morally so. The voice furnished a second and very
“We thought you would sing for your fellow soldiers. You are from
the peasantry, I am told?”
“Yes, from the people.”
“We thought you would understand,” Dabnitz added. “There is an
operatic tenor in the command—one Chautonville. We might have sent for
him, but our thought was to reach the soldiers directly. It is a great
“Is it? How and where do you want me to sing?”
“An advance is to be ordered immediately. We will send an escort
with you along the trenches—just before the order is given. I heard
you singing yesterday. I am sure the men will answer with zeal.”
Poltneck seemed to wilt. Boylan was caught with the others thinking
it was the mention of the trenches that frightened this hospital
soldier. Yet the smile had not changed when Boylan's eye roved to that.
It was not more contemptuous, nor less; but something about it was
unsteadying. Dabnitz already had used many more words than he expected.
“I am not used to crowds,” Poltneck objected weakly. “I am just a
simple man. Already I am without voice. I beg of you to send for
Chautonville of the opera.”
Dabnitz was puzzled.
“That is out of the question. Chautonville is back in the city.
Within twenty minutes the order for advance will be given. Come,
Poltneck; you will do very well when you see your soldiers—”
Boylan reflected swiftly at this point that the smile might be
neither deep nor portentous—a single accomplishment, some stray
refinement perhaps that had leaked back somehow to the people.
“No, no. I am afraid. I belong back among the wounded. I am very
good there. This is not my place—”
“Will you require men to assist you to the trenches? Already I have
talked too long.”
“Yesterday I was an anesthetic,” Poltneck wailed. “To-day I am to be
Kohlvihr now came forward. “It is time,” he said.
“General,” said Dabnitz, “we have to deal with an unusual peasant, I
“It would not do for me to encroach upon the work of professionals,”
the singer explained in dilemma.
“You see he is humorous,” Dabnitz observed.
“We sent for you to sing to the soldiers. Will you do that?” the
General asked, from puffing cheeks.
Poltneck looked down at him with sudden steadiness. “On the way
home,” he said.
“I would prefer that you wound them first.”
“At least, he has declared himself,” said Dabnitz.
They did not murder him then and there. Boylan was glad of that. His
sack was already full of blood.... It was all too big. Something would
happen to spoil the telling. No man ever got out with such a story....
He was a little ashamed to find himself thinking of his newspaper story
so soon after the singer was led forth—the man who would sing for the
wounded, but who would not sing men to their death. Come to
think—there was a prostitution about it. Certainly Poltneck had a
point of view. And he was a hair-raiser of quality... everything about
Boylan thought of writing the Poltneck incident, and became hopeless
again. The Russians would be idiots to let him out alive. He did not
expect it. The only chance was that they couldn't see themselves.
Perhaps Kohlvihr thought he was a hero to-day. Doubtless he did.... One
thing was sure, he, Boylan, must sit tight with his enthusiasm for the
Russian force; must play it harder than ever—must play it for Peter
“You fellows certainly have your troubles—front and back,” he said
to Dabnitz. “But I say, Lieutenant, you couldn't ask troops to go
forward better—you couldn't ask more of the Japanese in the business
“I wasn't out in that service,” Dabnitz observed.
“Grand little bunch of celibates afield, those Japanese—religious
about these matters of using up hostile ammunition. Fact is, I never
saw white troops go out to a finish four times in one day—as yours did
to-day—out over their own dead, too—”
He was becoming genial; his heart quaking for Peter, as he thought
suddenly of the words aimed at Kohlvihr's throat, and of Peter's
association at the last with the man in the steward's blouse.
...Dabnitz was unvaryingly courteous.
The advance was on again. Boylan went forth to see the repulse. The
main lines on either side had loosened to fill the gaps of Kohlvihr's
division, the much-torn outfits braced by the fresher infantrymen. On
they went, a last time, over the strewn land.
Boylan saw it all again; heard the drum of the batteries when the
troops reached the hollow of the valley; saw them change like figures
on a blurred screen; perceived the antics and the general settling—
and turned away....
It was like the swoop of a carrion bird an instant afterward—and
the deafening strike. The Austrians had varied a little. A shrapnel
battery had been emplaced among the rapid-fire pieces during the recent
interval. A hundred yards down the works to the east landed the first
finger of a hand that groped for headquarters. Boylan watched for the
second shell—one eye, and as little besides as possible, above the rim
of the trench now deserted. It was the same tension and tallying of
seconds that Peter had known on the afternoon that the moon rose before
the setting sun. Big Belt ducked at the second scream. The explosion
was nearer and a little back. He returned to field headquarters just as
a third shrapnel shivered the land still nearer the bomb-proof pit.
Kohlvihr's face was gray as the fringe of his hair. He looked little
“My compliments to the commander,” he was dictating, ”...report that
after five advances we find enemy's front impregnable to infantry.
Headquarters now under shrapnel fire. We are forced to withdraw toward
The dispatch rider was standing by. The dirt sprinkled down on their
heads through the wooden buttresses as another shrapnel broke outside.
“But the wounded, General. The field is alive with wounded—” came
“I can't send troops out there again—” The voice was thick and
hoarse with repression. “We'll get them at nightfall.... Gentlemen, we
may now withdraw.”
Boylan was one of the last to leave. He saw the aged legs disappear
up the earth-rise as the rear door opened. The legs jerked and twitched
spasmodically, as if taking an invisible spanking.
Boylan was actually afraid of his thoughts, lest they be read in his
face—the shocking personal business on Kohlvihr's part. “A little
shrapnel or two sends him quaking home, and they went out five
times for him into the very steam of hell.”
His brain kept repeating this in spite of him, so that he did not
try to overtake the staff.
And they—the poor last fragment of them—were piling back
toward Judenbach, leaving their wounded behind.
Goylan was back in Judenbach. It was four in the afternoon. He had
searched everywhere for Peter Mowbray. The whole war zone was getting
blacker and blacker to his sight. He had even gone to the Grim House to
look for the white-fire creature who had taken his companion to her
breast, figuratively speaking; but neither she, nor the weak-shouldered little chap who had brought the hospital steward's blouse,
was there. There remained Dabnitz, who more than any other was aware
generally of what passed. Big Belt returned to headquarters and waited.
Darkness was thickening before the Lieutenant came in.
Dabnitz came close and looked at the other sorrowfully.
“How long have you known Mr. Mowbray?”
Boylan tried to think. His faculties were at large. According to
facts he had known Peter (and not at all intimately) during a mere ten
weeks before the column left Warsaw. Facts, however, hadn't anything to
do with the reality. Peter Mowbray was his own property. He said as
much, his voice going back on him.
“Mr. Boylan, I have seldom been more hard hit. He was my friend,
too. A more charming and accomplished young American would be hard to
find, but we who are out for service, a life and death matter for our
country, must not let these things enter. Mr. Mowbray is affiliated in
various ways with our enemies—not the Austrians, but enemies more
subtle and insidious.”
“For God's sake—Dabnitz!”
“I thought it would hurt you.”
“You might just as well say it of me.”
“Not at all. Your record stands. It was well known to us when you
were accepted to accompany our column. You will recall that it was your
estimate of Mr. Mowbray's superior that decided us to accept the
“I have been with Mowbray night and day. He is a newspaper man,
brain and soul—one of the coolest and most effective I have ever met.
He has been for years in Paris and Berlin, before Warsaw.”
“I am sorry. You did not know that he caught a young surgeon by the
throat this morning, when the former was very properly stimulating a
“I did not. But a personal matter ought not to weigh against a man's
“You did not know that he was seen in somewhat extended conversation
yesterday and last evening with one of the most dangerous of our recent
discoveries among the revolutionists?”
“I did not.”
“Or that a woman came to him last night, in the heart of the night—
and talked long—and was called for by the same revolutionist; that Mr.
Mowbray went to her a little after daybreak this morning—”
“Ah, Dabnitz—a little romance! All night he was serving in the
hospital. I went out to find him this morning, and saw him turn into
the amputation house. Following, I saw him standing there.... He had
probably never seen her until last night. You know how some young
fellows are. They—you turn around—and they are in an affair—”
“But the two were overheard to speak of days in Warsaw together. It
is not such a little affair.”
“I know nothing of it, but is such a thing fatal?”
“She is under arrest with the other revolutionist that I
mentioned—a case against her that is hardly breakable—”
Boylan sat down,
“Of course you are aware—of the remark he made this morning in the
field headquarters? I saw how gallantly you tried to cover it. It was
that remark, by the way, which nearly cost the life of our General. The
hospital steward, took up the action as you know—”
“Dabnitz, I was shocked as you. Peter was beside himself. He had
come in from the field—the actuality of it. He forgot where he was.
The unparalleled energy of the General to win the day, you know—and
Peter had just come in from the hollows where the men lay—”
“My dear Boylan, I'm sorry—”
For the first time, Big Belt felt the iron personality of the other.
There was something commercial in the manner of the last, a kind of
ushering out one who would not do. There are men who remain as aloof as
the peaks of Phyrges, though their words and intonations come down
running softly out of a smile. Boylan looked away, and then, with an
inner groan, turned back.
“I tell you it is a mistake. The boy is as sound as—”
He couldn't finish. There were exceptions to everything he thought
of. “I want to see him,” he added.
“I'll try to manage that for you, a little later.”
* * *
It was darkening. In the front room of the house, Kohlvihr sat bung-eyed by a telegraph instrument. The further strategy from Judenbach was
still in the dark to Boylan. He wished the heavens would fall. As never
before, he had the sense that he had pinned his life and faith to
matters of no account; not that Peter Mowbray belonged to these
matters, but that he, too, was meshed in them.... A shot from somewhere
below in the town. Boylan shivered. There was shooting from time to
time for various butchering reasons, but this particular shot was all
Big Belt needed to finish the picture.
“Why, they'll shoot the lad,” he muttered.
The sentence remained in his brain in lit letters.
The States of America couldn't help him; even Mother Nature had
turned her face from this war.... “My dear Boylan, I'm sorry—“
something crippling in that.
Dabnitz returned, bringing a pair of saddle bags.
“They're Mr. Mowbray's,” he said. “His horse got loose and tangled
himself in a battery. One of the men brought in the bags.”
“Thanks, Lieutenant,” said Boylan.
Dabnitz started to the door when Boylan called, “Oh, I say, did you
look through 'em?”
The Russian smiled deprecatingly.
“Of course, I needn't have asked that, but I wanted you to. I'll
gamble you didn't find anything—”
“A little book of poems by a man we're familiar with. A woman's name
on the front page—a woman we're familiar with. Nothing startling, Mr.
Dabnitz was gone, the bags lying on the floor. Big Belt opened the
nearest flap. On top was a case containing a tooth brush and a pair of
“Peter will want these,” he muttered.
V. THE SKYLIGHT PRISON
Peter walked ahead unbound. He could not keep his mind on the
journey with the sentry. His thoughts winged from Lonegan at Warsaw, to
The States' office and home, as if carrying the message of his own
end.... Boylan might finally break out with the details.... The
personal part ended suddenly, like an essential formality, leaving him
a sorrow for Boylan and his mother especially. His full faculties now
opened to Berthe Wyndham.
He was ordered to turn twice to the left. They had left the little
stone court, entering the main street, and back again into the first
side street for a short distance to a narrow stairway, between low
mercantile houses now used for hospitals. Up the creaking way; the
sentry within answered the sentry without and opened the door. A long
narrow room with a single square of light from the roof, and Moritz
Abel came forward.
“I'm sorry,” the poet said. “I had hoped—”
“Yes, we had hoped,” Peter replied with a smile.
Duke Fallows appeared from the shadows and hastily pressed his hand.
Abel had turned toward the square of light, as if there were still
She came forward like a wraith—into the light—and still toward
him, her lips parted, her eyes intent upon him. The sentry who had
brought him turned, clattered down the stairs. The door was shut by the
other sentry. Her lips moved, but there was nothing that he heard. With
one hand still in his, she turned and led him back under the daylight
to the shadows.... He heard Moritz Abel's voice repeating that he had
been a poor protector. Fallows spoke....
There was much to it, hardly like a human episode—the silence so
far as words between them, the tragedy in each soul that the other must
go; the tearing readjustments to the end of all work in the world, and
the swift reversion of the mind to its innumerable broken ends of
activity; and above all, the deep joy of their being together in this
last intense weariness.... She wore her white veiled cap and apron;
having followed the summons from her work. There was a chair in the
shadows, and she pressed him down in her old way, and took her own
place before him (as in her own house) half-sitting, half-kneeling.
“Peter, I could not believe—until I touched you. I was praying just
here, that you would not come—”
“I am very grateful to be here,” he said.
“I was so lonely. I was afraid of death. Fallows talked to me and
Moritz Abel—but it did not do. I was thinking of you at the battle, as
if you were a thousand miles away—as if I were waiting, as a mother
for you, waiting for tidings with a babe in her arms—”
She paused and he said, “Tell me,” knowing that she must speak on.
“...It was just like that. I prayed that you would live—that you
would not be brought here—that the time would pass swiftly. We have
been here hours. They came for us soon after you went. We were all
together in that place—all at our work. They led us here through the
streets. It seemed very far. Something caught in the throat when the
soldiers looked at me. I know what my father felt when he kept saying,
'It's all right. Yes, this is all right.' I know just how the surprise
and the amazement affected him from time to time, and made him say
that.... Then we were here. I wanted this darker chair. They came—I
mean our good friends—Fallows came and talked to me, and Moritz Abel,
but it wasn't what I seemed to need. Ah, Peter, I'm talking in
Something warned him that she was going to break, but he could not
speak quickly enough. The human frightened little girl that he had
never seen before in Berthe Wyndham, was so utterly revealing to his
heart that he was held in enchantment. She seemed so frail and tender,
as she said plaintively:
“We must be very dear to each other—”
There were tears in her eyes now, and her breast rose and fell with
emotion, as poignant to Mowbray as if it were his own.
“I did pray for them not to bring you here,” she added. “If I had
not left Warsaw, you would not be here now—”
“Listen—oh, Berthe, don't say that. Please, listen—”
The current was turned on in his brain, thoughts revolving faster
“It would all have been a mere military movement if you had not
come. I would not have understood Spenski, nor the real Samarc, nor
Kohlvihr as he is, nor the charges of infantry. The coming of Moritz
Abel, words I have heard, the street, the singing, the field, the
future— why, it's all different because you came. I am not dismayed by
this. I have had a great life here. If this is our last day—the matter
is lifted out of our hands. And dear Berthe, what do you think it means
to me—this last hour together?”
“What does it mean, Peter?'
“I look into your face, and know that I've found something the world
tried to make me believe wasn't here. Everything I did as a boy and man
tried to show me that there isn't anything uncommon in a man finding a
woman. My mother knew differently, but every time she wanted to tell me
something happened. Another voice broke in, or perhaps she saw I wasn't
attentive or ready. But I know now—and it didn't come to me until here
“She must have known,” Berthe whispered.
Fallows drew near. He seemed calm but very weary. “May I bring up my
chair for a little while?” he asked as an old nurse might.
“Please do,” they said.
“Thank you,” Fallows answered, and returned with his wooden chair.
“If you change the subject I shall have to go.”
“I was just saying that I had found something in the world that my
mother knew all the time,” Peter explained.
“Oh, I say, this is important. Moritz must come in,” Fallows told
They nodded laughingly.
“Moritz,” he called. “Here's a little boy and girl telling stories—
very important stories. You must hear.... We're all one, Peter
They drew closer together. Berthe was watching Peter intensely,
knowing that it was his test, very far from his way. Then she
remembered the death-room, and that all things are changed by that. She
sat very still, trying to give him strength to go on. “I've always used
my head,” he said, “always explained why, and made diagrams. The one
time I didn't use my head—well, the best thing happened in my
Peter was in for it, and weathered gracefully.
“You'll forgive me,” he said, when they asked to know. “I was
thinking of meeting Berthe Wyndham. I saw her one day passing through
the Square in Warsaw near the river corner. Well, it all came about,
because I went there again the next day at the same time—”
He was a little breathless, but the glad and eager sincerity of his
listeners helped him, and he wanted more than all to lift Berthe if he
“I could not help thinking of that when I recalled another little
matter yesterday—in Judenbach. Once when we were little, my brother
Paul and I quarreled. My mother and I were alone afterward. I told her
of the tragedy. Everything seemed lost since I had lost Paul. She said,
'Some time you will find your real playmate, if you are good and search
very hard.' I suppose she has forgotten. I forgot for years. But it
came to me here.... You see I never suffered before, never was tested,
everything came smoothly, everything covered up—”
“You are good to let us listen,” Fallows said quietly. He was
staring at the ceiling.
“Here in Judenbach the relations of all other days began to match
up. It was as if the whole war was to show me, each department
carried on clearly. I didn't know a man could stand so much. Day before
yesterday morning, I wanted to quit. I had a kind of madness from it
all—an ache that wouldn't break or bleed, and was driving the life out
of me. I found the way out by going into the hospital. I had to forget
myself or go under.... When it seemed all over to-day, and the sentry
was marching me here (you see I had gone back to the house of
amputations and couldn't find any of you, and then to the Court of
Execution, and you were not there), it was all slipping away in a
loneliness not to be described, when I found you here—”
Fallows straightened his head and blinked.
“'It was all slipping away in a loneliness not to be described,'“ he
repeated. “We know that. This is too fine.”
Peter laughed. He was thinking of what Lonegan had said on the night
he came back from Berthe's door, after she had asked him not to come
in.... “Peter, you're lying. I don't believe you'd let anybody see your
fires—not even how well you bank 'em.”
They seemed to require further talk from him. He did not want the
two men, sorry they had drawn up their chairs. His heart was very
tender to them—Fallows and Abel, and the woman who had changed him.
They were before him now as messengers from the benignant empire of the
future—strange strong souls gathered together now in waiting at the
end of a road.... He told them of the bomb-proof pit, the naked
animalism of Kohlvihr, the infantry advances and of Samarc. Presently
his heart was light again, the pent forces of expression springing
gladly into use.
“...The laughable thing about it,” he finished, “—the thing that
held me speechless as Samarc left my side there in the dark corner of
the pit—was that just a few minutes before Kohlvihr had promised to
see that the Little Father decorated him. He had almost reached the
General when my throat worked, and I called, 'Samarc.' It was as if he
didn't hear me. Nothing would have stopped him. It was his idea, yet I
think he meant only to stop the order of another infantry advance. He
had ceased to kill, you know....”
Peter ended it hastily. They were all interested to know why Samarc
was to have been decorated. This opened the earlier part of the day,
and his strange wandering with Samarc among the hills—the magic of the
hospital steward's coat, the scent of the cedars, and Peter's
persistent sense of Berthe's nearness.
“Actually, I had to stop and think,” he explained. “Each time I fell
into an abstraction, it struck me that she was there. It seems
“I was just here,” Berthe said. “It was soon after we came. We were
all quiet at first—in different corners—”
“Slipping away in that loneliness,” Fallows suggested.
“As for me,” said Moritz Abel, “I had to make peace with myself. We
have been very busy the last few days. I have discovered that I am a
bit of a coward at heart—and I missed having something to do—”
They smiled at him. “Perhaps I was out there,” Berthe said. “Perhaps
I was only sitting here—”
It was a queer matter that the three men, each of whom would have
given his life to save the woman's, to all appearances accepted the
fact of her as one of them in courage and control. It was Abel who
mentioned the singer, Poltneck, whom Peter had not met. He had been
left in the hospital when the others were taken; yet he had been one in
all their interests and the most reckless and outspoken of all in his
hatred of slaughter. They did not understand, but hoped he would be
“He's a magician,” Abel said. “He sang to them yesterday—as they
bore the knife. He seemed to hold them in the everlasting arms. It was
worth living to witness that, but I'm afraid Poltneck will come to us.
He's got the fury. Hearing that we are gone, he will start something—
if only to join us. Then there will be no one to escape with the story.
It troubles me.... If Mr. Mowbray were only free. Doesn't it seem that
our brothers should hear the story?”
His voice broke a little. His brow was wet.
Fallows came back from the ceiling, and said:
“Moritz, my boy, all is well with us. That which is true is
“Yes,” he said presently, “but we have not fulfilled our purpose....
You know, we set out in high courage to start the army back home
again—and now, here we are.”
“A man named Columbus set out to discover a short passage to India
and found a New World. Really my son—these are not our affairs. We
have done what we could.... Once I wanted the world to answer abruptly
to my service—to speak up sharp. But I have made terms—hard terms we
all must make. This is it—to do our part the best we can, and keep off
the results. They are God's concern, Moritz.”
“I dare say.”
“When I was younger,” Fallows went on, “I wanted to make a circle of
light around the world. I thought they must see it, as I did. And often
I left my friends discussing my failure. But once I came home and
looked into the eyes of a little boy—a little peasant child named Jan.
I saw that his love for me had awakened his soul.... Man, these matters
are managed with a finer art than we dream of. The work is the thing.”
Peter swung into the larger current. They had all been cold. Fallows
was burning for them. The ice and the agony were melting from each
“We think all is going wrong. We sit and breathe our failures often
when the celestial answer is in the air. If we were not so obtuse and
fleshly, we could see the quickening of light about us. We have had our
hours here. We have breathed the open. A very huge army is about us,
and we are thrust aside. It would seem that we and our little story are
lost in the great brute noise. Why, Moritz, these things that we have
thought and dreamed will rise again in the midst of a world that has
forgotten the tread of armies.”
They heard a voice in the street—a running step upon the stair.
Queerly it happened in that instant of waiting, that Peter heard the
sound of dropping water beyond the partition—drip, drip, drip, upon a
tinny surface. Berthe had risen, and followed Fallows and Abel to the
door. A moment later Poltneck, the singer, was with them, and the
sentry who brought him took his post with the other at the entrance. He
freed himself from them, and strode alone to the front of the room,
where he sat, face covered in his hands, weaving his head to and fro.
“You do not well to welcome me,” he groaned at last. “I should have
been in a cell alone—not here among friends. You see in me the most
abject failure—a mere music-monger who forgot his greater work.”
He did not answer at once. They led him back into the shadows where
Peter and Berthe had been; gathered closely about, so their voices
would not carry.
“We were hoping not to see you, said Abel, “yet sending our dearest
thoughts. What you have done is good, and we will not be denied a song.
“I was all right till you went. I was thinking of everything—but
then I became blind. The work in the hospitals palled. I did not do
what I could. They saw I was different, and watched closely. That made
me mad. I am a fool to temper and pride. All I have is something that I
did not earn—something thrust upon me that makes sounds. The rest is
emptiness. In fact there must be emptiness where sounds come from—”
“We know better than that,” said Fallows. “Tell us and we will
Poltneck straightened up and met the eyes of Peter. “This is the
correspondent?” he asked.
“He came up from the field this morning and in looking for us—fell
under suspicion,” Berthe explained.
The long hard arm stretched out to Peter, who still was somewhat at
sea, as Boylan had been, and afraid that he detected a taint of the
“I saw your companion in the bomb-proof pit,” Poltneck declared. “In
fact, I just came from there, but I will tell you.... I was perhaps two
hours or more in the hospital, after you three were taken, when they
sent for me. I thought it a summons, of course, such, as you—”
He glanced at the faces about him, and continued:
“But instead of leading me in the direction you had taken, the
sentry bade me mount a horse at the door, and we rode rapidly down to
the edge of the valley, to Kohlvihr's headquarters—a pestilential
place sunken in the ground and covered with sods. There they broke it
to me what was wanted—”
His listeners began to understand.
“Yes, I was to sing to the lines,” Poltneck added. “It appears they
had been driven back several times, leaving their dead and wounded in
such numbers on the field—officers and men—that there was some
hesitation about the expediency of trying it again. Not, however, in
the bomb-proof pit. Kohlvihr was of a single mind, determined to make
his reputation as man-indomitable at the expense of his division. A
patchy old rodent of a man—
“I was to be used to sing the men forward. Great God, they didn't
see the difference from singing to wounded men, to men under the knife
without sleep, to dying men and to homesick bivouacs—from this that
they asked. It is my devil. I played with them. I made them think I was
afraid. I made them think I was simple. One of them told me of the
tenor Chautonville with the army. I played to that. It was very petty
of me to get caught in this cleverness, because that's how I fell—”
“You didn't sing the lines into a new advance?” Fallows asked. His
face looked lined and gray as he leaned forward.
“No, I didn't do that. But I made them wait to find out. I was so
occupied with repartee and acting that I failed to seize the real
chance of all the world. I told them I had been tried out as an
anesthetic, but was not sure of myself in an opposite capacity. I
begged them to send for the member of imperial orchestra stars—”
Poltneck's self-scorn was vitriolic as he now spoke.
“I told them I was a poor simple man afraid of great numbers, abased
even before wounded, but that if they would wound the men first I would
try. It was this that betrayed me—the joy of astonishing. Oh, they
were without humor. It goes with the army—to be without humor. Really,
you would have been dumfounded at the brittleness of mind which I
encountered in the bomb-proof pit.... Of course, it had to come. It
dawned on them—what I meant, and what the real state of my scorn
was—at least, in part. And I was taken away, very pleased with myself
“I do not see where you failed. Where, where?” Berthe asked.
It was Fallows who understood first—even before Abel and Peter, who
was not so imbued with the specific passion of the revolutionist.
“I was here—back in the city when it came to me what I might have
done. And so clearly the cause of the failure was shown to me,”
Poltneck said, with a humility that touched Peter deeply, for his first
thought had vanished before the fact that Poltneck neither in the
action nor the narrative had once thought of his own life or death.
“I should have gone out to the lines and met the men face to face.
Oh, it is hard—hard that I did not think of it, for I could have sung
them home, instead of on into the valley. We might have been marching
back now—all the lines crumbling—the bomb-proof pit squashed!”
The final stroke fell upon him this instant. None of the others had
thought of it.
“And these—doors! Living God, we could have opened these doors!”
Their hands went out to him.
A basket of food was sent in during the early afternoon. They
gathered about, making a place for the woman under the light. Abel was
brighter, his eyes full of tenderness. Poltneck had not long been able
to hold out in his misery against the philosophy of Fallows, who said
as they broke the bread:
“We have spoken our testimony, and the big adventure is ahead. It's
against the law to look back. We are honored men. I am proud to be
here, proud of a service that requires no herald. In all my dreaming in
the little cabin in the Bosks I could think of no rarer thing than
this—five together, a singer, a poet, a peasant, and two lovers. It's
like a pastoral—but the dark suffering army is about us. ... Listen to
the fighting. ... But there will be an end to fighting? ... Our
Poltneck may already have sung the song to turn the armies back. Be
very sure, he would have thought of his coup in time to-day, had
the hour struck for that. Sing to us now, my son. Your soul will come
home to you. Sing to us—The Lord Is Mindful of His Own—”
It was started as one would answer a question—food in his hand, and
his eyes turned upward—a song of the Germans, too, the music of
... It became very clear to the five that the plan was good, that
nothing mattered but the inner life, and that the soul breathes deeply
and comes into its own immortal health, by man's thought and service to
his brother. They saw it again—that goodly rock of things. The light
was shining above. Their eyes filled with tears, and their hands
touched each others' like children in a strange hush and shadow. ...
They heard a ragged volley of platoon fire from the distant court,
but it did not hold their thoughts from the song nor change a note. The
huge sandy head was turned upward, and the hand with its bit of broken
bread moved to and fro. ...
Boylan went back to headquarters again, but his nerve was breaking.
He did not feel at one with the staff this afternoon, rather as a
stranger who wanted something which the great brute force was unwilling
to give. He was full of fears and disorders, as if all the eyes of men
were searching his secret places. He told the sentry that he would like
to see Lieutenant Dabnitz, and gave his name, much as a trooper would.
He sat cold and breathing hard for many minutes—an outsider, as never
before. Dabnitz came at last. Big Belt arose and clutched his arms.
“Lieutenant,” he said. “I'll spend my life to prove you wrong about
Peter Mowbray. I'll get the United States of America to thank you and
General Kohlvihr, and the army for your kindness—if you spare him. I
don't care to go to him—unless I can take him word. My God,
Lieutenant, you mustn't shoot that boy! We've ridden together, all
three. There's so much death without that. He's innocent as a babe of
any revolutionary principle. I'll give America the greatest Russian
“My dear Boylan, believe me, you are wrong. They are deep as hell
against us. You need not trouble, for they are happy as children at a
birthday party—with Poltneck singing and all joined hands—”
Boylan's knees bent to the seat.
“But we will not disturb them for the time. We will let you know,”
said Dabnitz. “It would be a shame to interrupt such a pleasant party.
Judenbach will be our headquarters for one more night.”
Moritz Abel was saying:
“... There is one perfect story in the world. It will bear the
deepest scrutiny of mind or matter or soul. Physically it is exact;
mentally it balances; spiritually it is the ultimate lesson. You will
find in it all that you need to know about Christianity, for it is the
soul of that; the one thing that was not in the world before the Christ
came. You will learn in it who is your Father; who your Brother is, and
who your Neighbor.
“It will impart to you the clear eye for shams and material offices
and for the peril of fancied chosen peoples. From it you will draw the
cosmic simplicity of good actions, and a fresh and kindling hatred for
the human animal of grotesque desire.
“Children grasp it with thrilling comprehension; it silences the
critical faculty of the intellectuals and animates the saint to tears
of ecstasy, even to martyrdoms. It expresses the dream of peace alike
for nations and men. It is a globe. You can go it blind, and win—
following the spirit of the Good Samaritan.”
The light was gray that came down through the skylight. Abel and
Poltneck and Fallows sat on the floor in the front end, because there
were not chairs for all. Back in the shadows sat Berthe and Peter.
“...I think we will be a little bewildered,” she was saying, “as one
awakening from a dream, as one awakening in the sunlight. One stirs,
you know, and shuts the eyes again. The reality dawns slowly—if the
house is quiet.... It will be very quiet. We have been used to the
cannonading so long, and the cries in the night. It will take us a
moment to realize that it is all over. I think I see just how it will
be then. I will have that sense of the glad unknown—that something
long anticipated is about to happen. You know how it comes to one upon
awakening, when something perfect is to happen—the presence of it,
before one remembers just what it is?”
Peter nodded in the shadow.
“And then I will remember. It will be you. I will really open my
eyes —and you will be there!”
Something of her fire came to him.
“You are sure it will be like that—afterward?” he repeated.
Her voice and lips trembled. “You ask just like a little child,
Peter. It is the little child in you that strikes the heart. Don't you
really believe in the afterward?”
“Yes, but I can't see it quite clearly, you know, as you do.”
“You don't think it is all wayward and stupidly arranged as the army
would like to do it—do you?”
They laughed softly together, but she wanted him to see it, as she
did, “Because,” she said, “if you do, we will be together more quickly.
I would have to go and find you, if you didn't come——”
“I should want to come,” said Peter.
He followed her eyes beyond the twilight from the roof, to the face
of Fallows, seen indistinctly in the shadows. It was like the figure of
a Hindu holy man sitting there so low, his hands raised palms upward,
his voice just audible.
“Listen,” she said, her hand falling upon Peter's.
“It isn't so much their death that is the great wrong to the
soldiers by the Fatherland. A man may do worse than die, at any time.
It's the death of hate the Fatherland inspires—the fighting death—the
going- down with blood-madness and hatred for the men of another
country—not enemies at all, no harm exchanged whatsoever between them.
It is such deaths that make the world hard to breathe in—the death of
preying animals. But all that is passing. These battles had to come at
the last to hurry it away....”
“That's what I wanted to say, Peter,” Berthe whispered eagerly....
“Fallows is greater than any,—an inspirer. He will go out with his
dream for men, strong and bright. Do you think that is the same as
dying the fighting death—with a curse and a passion for the death of
men whom you have never seen face to face?”
“It's quite all right, you know,” said Peter. “I'm keen enough to
see it through, but it's a closed door yet. However, there's something
deathless about a woman like you—yes, I'm sure of that——”
Her hands pressed his swiftly. “Then you may be very sure, there's
something deathless in the man she loves.... Listen, Fallows is talking
about your country now:”
“... Russia is the invader, but America is the temple of the new
spirit. America must reanimate the world after this war. I believe she
is being born again now.... She was bred right. There is always that to
fall back upon. She was founded upon the principles of liberty and
service to the distressed. No other nation can say that. But America
must lose the love of self, must cease to be a national soul and become
the nucleus of the world soul of the future. Otherwise all that was
holy in her conception is dead, and the passion of her prophets is
“There is a time for the development of the national soul, but ahead
on the road is the world soul, the true Fatherland. The precious
whisper is abroad that more sins have been committed in the name of
patriotism than any other. The time will come when this little orbit
and its slaying delusions will be well back among the provincialisms;
not a bad word in itself, rather a lost meaning through abuse.
“Over a century ago the inspired Fichte addressed the Germans in a
series of documents charged with the most exalted enthusiasm for the
future of his people, on the basis of such a Fatherland that the only
living answer could be the superb affiliation of men. For years and
decades the gleam of that spiritual ignition endured there. Carlyle,
not a countryman, saw it and made it blaze with the fuel of his genius.
It seems dead to Prussia now, but that gleam shall never die. Some
strong youth on the road to Damascus shall be struck to the ground by
its radiance and arise to carry the light to the Gentiles.
“There must be such a voice in America now. I seem to feel the new
genius of America, not yet in its prime, hardly articulate as yet, but
rapidly maturing in these days of unparalleled suffering. They will
interpret the New Age. They will meet the New Russia face to face. I
think they are watching for us now. The bond is thicker than blood.
They will see the future of Europe written upon these millions, now the
invaders from the cold lands of poverty. I think they will hold the
spirit until we come.
“All that was true of Germany when Fichte addressed his countrymen
is true of America in this hour. All the physical and spiritual
pressures of the European disruption are turned upon the temple of
America to drive out the money-changers and make it the house of God.”
Fallows' voice softened. He was talking of America with the passion
of an exile. He loved the thoughts of her good, as he loved the
peasants about him. The room was still.
“It is a time for heroics,” he added. “America is emancipating her
genius, not only from herself, but from the thrall of the old world's
decadence. Do you think there is nothing fateful in the destructive
energy that is rubbing out ancient landmarks? Rather it would seem that
the old and the unclean has played its part, and may not be used in the
new spiritual experiment. I want to hear America's new song— the song
of the New Age—the unspoiled workmen at their task. They will sing as
they lift.... Yes, we shall hear the song of the New Age. Since the
pilgrims sang together, no such thrilling harmony shall move that
western land. They shall be singing it for Russia when we come.”
“It makes me so ashamed,” Berthe whispered after a moment, “when I
think of my weakness to-day, when you came. But, Peter, oh, I didn't
want you to come——”
“I wouldn't be ashamed,” he said. “It gave me something from you
that I couldn't have had without it. There was plenty to hold a man in
wonder—your zeal to do for others, and the exaltations, but to-day you
were down in my valley, in the earth bottoms, just seeing in the human
light, your wings tired. It was the best moment of the pilgrimage,
Peter had wanted to tell her that.
Big Belt stood before a man of his own size—Lornievitch, the
Commander of commanders, Himself.
It was night. Boylan had plunged into a new vat of power, and
persuaded Dabnitz to furnish an escort from Judenbach, four miles to
the east to the main headquarters of the Galician army.
Rows of sleepy stenographers in the outer room of a broad shepherd's
house in a little hill village—a web of wires on the low ceiling,
lanterns, candles, field 'phones and telegraph tickers, none altogether
subsided; as much routine as in the management of a state— the center
of this monster battle-line—to say nothing of the spectacular.
The two men now filled a small inner room. Lornievitch spoke
English— an English much to the caller's liking. Perhaps it was the
bond of bulk between them.
“Well, and so you are Boylan of the Rhodes?—what is it, Mr.
Boylan? We are very busy.”
“I have a young friend of The States” he began and talked for
three minutes—talked until Lornievitch squirmed and his aides hurried
forward ready to assist.
“And what does Kohlvihr say?”
“I had to speak to him through an interpreter. I could not get the
answer I wanted. He has had a terrible day. The life of one American is
too small for discussion there—”
“And you have come here to me. Meanwhile, on the wire is the young
man's case—a love affair with a revolutionist—and a sort of be-damned to the Russian army. You are a strong man, doubtless a brave
Boylan was fighting for Peter's life as he would not have fought for
his own; and yet he warmed to the commander—fibers all through him
warming—something of man-business about this office that made the
headquarters at Judenbach look sinister and den-like. It was just his
hope in all likelihood.
“But Mr. Boylan,” Lornievitch added, “what would you do in my case?
There's big action, front, side, within. They have a case against the
others—and he is one of them.”
“He may be one in a momentary infatuation—”
“Nonsense, Boylan—this is no time for girls!”
“I grant you that, sir. But he is not a revolutionist. I've slept
and ridden with him night and day. His paper wouldn't pay for
cigarettes to do other than tell the story from the army end. If he's
gone loco, I'll take him home under my arm—”
“I say, Boylan, what do you want of him this way? He's a newspaper
“Mowbray got to me. Didn't try to, but he's there. Took the field as
if it had been his work always. He's a friend, clever, courageous, a
gentleman always, clean cut, a laugh, a hand—and a boy over it all. I
didn't know—until I found him in danger. I couldn't feel worse if I
were his old woman—I am twice his age, damn near—”
“You're invincible, Boylan. I'll tell you this: I feel better.
That's worth something. Things look black here in the valleys.
Something human I needed, in your coming. Go back now. Nothing will be
done until the morning. We've had to shoot Austrian spies all day.
Caught 'em red-handed. I feel red-handed, too. Go back, and before
to-morrow morning I'll get an order over to straighten him out from the
others— before final action is taken. Maybe I'll look him over myself.
Good night.... Oh, I say, Mr. Boylan—”
“Oh, it doesn't matter. I was just thinking I'd like to have one
friend like young what's-his-name of The States has—”
“Mowbray—Mowbray—don't forget the name, General—”
Boylan put his soul in it. He loved the Russians. It was far this
side of midnight, but he smelled the dawn.
Back in his own quarters, as he yawned largely at the flickering
shadows of the freshly-lit candle, he noted Peter's saddle bags on the
floor, and considered that it might be well to get them over to-night.
Peter walked the room, a changing star or two in the windy skylight;
a candle in the center by the stair-door where the sentry stood; Berthe
watching him steadily from her chair. The others at the far end looked
up occasionally. They were talking low-toned. Poltneck had been singing
folk-songs—pure spirit of the boat and cradle, of the march and the
marriage and the harvest, of the cruel winter and the pregnant warmth
again; songs that had come up from the soil and stream and the simple
heart of man, older than Mother Moscow, old beyond any human name to
attach to them. True and anonymous, these songs. The lips that first
sung them never knew that they had breathed the basic gospel which does
not die, but moves from house to house around the world. Indeed, the
melodies were born of the land and the sky, like the mist that rises
from the earth when the yellow sun comes up from the south, and the
“green noise” of spring breaks the iron cold.
The moment had come when Peter could not sit still. Berthe was never
so dear, but he could not stay. He held the three men in true full
comrade spirit, but he could not sit with them now. He had nothing to
fear; all was quite well.
He was thinking of America, that she was “bred right”; that some
change might be upon her now, something akin to his own transformation.
Was there a bond thicker than blood between America and the New Russia?
Word had reached the field that Russia had put away her greatest devil
in a day. A nation is to be reckoned with that makes her changes thus
at a sweep. Had Russia not freed fifty million slaves at one stroke of
the pen—that great emancipation of Alexander? And Russia now held the
Earth's mighty energy of fecundity—an ultimate significance here; for
this guest invariably comes before a people has reached its meridian,
and not afterward.... His companions of the death cell were touching
the truth; this dark suffering army was the Europe of the future—the
Russian voice that would challenge America to answer brother to
The folk songs were singing in his soul, and the lines of Abel's
We Are Free, the friendships of Spenski and Samarc, of these in the
room, and the love of Berthe Wyndham.
All had prevailed. The culmination was now. He thought of the
actuality of to-morrow, but without terror, or blankness. It would seem
that he were leaving all this; that America, Russia, friendship, the
love of woman, were no longer his portion; yet he seemed closer than
ever to them. It was as Fallows said, “These things are immortal.”
Perhaps this very room, and this, the greatest of his days in the
world, would be pictured by some one to come, as clearly and as
magically as he saw it all now; by some young workman of the
reconstruction, after the red horse of war was driven back forever.
He was sustained. The sense came clearly that nothing men might do
could cause him harm. He felt even that his mother would some time know
how well he had come to understand her at the last. Everything was
answered by the mystic future. It was all there; all would be told.
“Why, to-morrow,” he exclaimed aloud suddenly, “why, to-morrow, we
will laugh at today.”
They were about him. They seemed to understand all that had brought
his words, as if they had followed his thoughts to the same apostrophe.
...He was laughing in the midst of them.
“I think it must have been the singing and all,” he said
breathlessly. “It got away from me. It has all been too fine to-day. I
don't see—I really don't—how I managed to earn it all.”
A step upon the stair, slow and heavy, a step that Peter Mowbray
knew. The companion sentry had remained below at the street door, and
now called to his fellow of the guard to open. ...Peter was abashed
before his friend like a child that had disobeyed, and come to believe
that he knew better than the father. It was Big Belt at midnight.
“I brought your shaving-tackle,” he said. “Hello, Peter.”
The face in the thin ray looked like polished metal.
“Come in.” Peter had him by the hand, which was easily pulled across
the threshold, but the body didn't move.
“No, I won't come in—”
“Boylan, come in!... I want you to meet—”
“No. I'll see you in the morning.... For God's sake, don't look so
happy, and keep your mouth shut.... Good-night.”
A curtain had fallen before the glowing future. Peter couldn't raise
it again. He tried to restore his laugh and light-heartedness for the
others, but it was a mockery. The world had come in all its chaos and
mad fatigue. All that he had said was without meaning. The singing was
over. Berthe gave him her hand as he returned to the dark corner. She
did not speak, for a moment, and then only to say:
“How sensitive we are!”
All the weariness that he had ever known came upon him, gathering
together for descent, pressing out vitality, leaving him cold and
“You are very tired,” she whispered. “Perhaps we can rest a little.
The three are resting.” Then a little later, like a child half-asleep,
she added, “I love you.”
It was her good-night.
Throughout that short night he dreamed of cedar boughs and pungent
autumn air; flurries of snow falling from wide pine branches. There was
gray in the skylight when he awoke. Berthe was near, her cheek against
his saddle bags, which he had placed for her the last thing. Very white
and small her face looked as she slept, her hands folded under her
chin.... Peter watched, his eyes becoming accustomed to the faint
light. The white cap lay near, a different and imperfect white compared
to her flesh; and the soft deep night of her hair seemed to him of
sufficient loveliness for any world. A girl asleep—and such a faith
had they known. There was a beauty about it all that rebuked the
actuality of the place and the town and the soldiery.
Misery began deep in his heart, welled up to his throat, blurring
his eyes, resolving his whole nature almost past resistance; that a
love- woman still without her chance, without her child, so fair and
unafraid, who had asked so little for herself and so much for the
world—should be brought to the shame and the shot of fools. A flutter
of eyes. Mowbray gripped his self-control with every ounce of force. He
would hold her in his power of will while she met the issue of the day,
and its first cruel thought. Her brow contracted a little, as if
through some passing pain.... The dawn of a smile that pursed her lips
to speak his name, met his kiss instead. He held her face between his
hands, smiling at her, while the realization came.
“Dear Peter—it's the day of our journey—”
He brushed the lather in gratefully with cold water. The touch of
the razor gave him a queer pang such as he had never met before.
“You're just a boy,” Berthe remarked.... “It must make one feel
clean. It has been years since I was present—”
The others were now awake. They made merry over the shaving, all
taking turns, even Fallows, the last and the longest. Indeed he had
scarcely finished before their first test came. It was like a whip—
that step upon the stair, but only a sentry with tea and bread.
A gray dawn, an east wind with a driving mist, a miserable day
afield in every promise, and Big Belt had missed none of these portents
since the full darkness. With the first relief of the morning-guard at
headquarters, he was there. Dabnitz appeared and smiled grimly. The
wire was already busy; Kohlvihr came in unsteadily, the old fume about
him that made Boylan lick his lips. His own nerves had been badly
wrenched. He could have relished a stimulant, but he hadn't thought of
“You're looking for word from the Commander?” Dabnitz asked.
“So are we. It's up to him to-day. We're a mere wisp of what we
Boylan simulated interest. There was but one idea in his world,
“By the way,” Dabnitz added. “The Commander asked for full
particulars this morning at three. They were sent to him—Mr. Mowbray's
Boylan jerked up his chin. Of late, his woolen collar had apparently
“You haven't heard yet?”
“Not yet. We're waiting—”
“Nothing will be done until you hear?”
“Not in Mowbray's case. The others—the others have had tea.... They
are very quiet this morning—no singing.”
Boylan hated him for that, a momentary but scarring hatred.... The
field telephone began. Presently it occupied the steady swift attention
of a stenographer whose pages were put on the machine and handed in
strips to the staff members, like a last-minute news story to
compositors. ...One of the hardest things Boylan ever did was to speak
to Dabnitz as follows: “I'd better be there if you take the others and
leave—leave Peter Mowbray. He's impulsive. You wouldn't want a
“Wait a minute—I think your matter is on the wire,” Dabnitz said,
drawing back to the telegraph.
“Yes,” he nodded, and a moment later handed Big Belt this message:
“My compliments to Mr. Boylan and assurances of excellent regard. I
have found the favor he asks, however, altogether out of my power to
Boylan's jaw dropped; his mouth filled with saliva. Dabnitz said
something, ”...desperately sorry... couldn't possibly have ended
“Come, come—this won't do,” Big Belt muttered queerly. He was not
answering Dabnitz, but commanding himself.... He swallowed again and
“You will have charge of the affair?”
“Yes, doubtless. It will be very short—”
“I will wait for you below. Of course, I'll want to be there, you
“I didn't know,” Dabnitz sighed.
Boylan was standing below. He heard distant firing through the rain
in the direction of the field.... Lornievitch had doubtless begun a
flank movement. Kohlvihr would lick his wounds in Judenbach for another
Dabnitz appeared from the stairway, a paper in his hand. He
dispatched a sentry to the barracks for a platoon, and stood waiting
impatiently for its coming. Big Belt, in the door of his quarters a few
paces distant, swallowed again.... It might delay matters.... The black
fact was that it would not do more....
“Oh, I say, Lieutenant, come here a moment, please. I want to show
Boylan led the Russian in, and turned. The place was empty. Dabnitz
regarded him wearily—then with sudden amazement.
It was a kind of bear reaching. He was pulled down, his face
smothered in a woolen shirt that covered a breast like cushioned stone.
The building must have fallen. The hands were neither rough nor swift,
but they pawed him with a kind of power that turned him to vapor. There
was one finger upon his backbone at the neck that shut off the life
currents.... Dabnitz opened his eyes presently—a choking wad of paper
in his mouth. The mammoth looked down upon him and said:
“Excuse me, Lieutenant, but I had to have a chance to think.”
At this instant Boylan saw the paper that the Russian had carried.
It had fluttered to the floor, Kohlvihr's signature in plain view. The
weights that beset the American had now to do with the uselessness of
it all. He had rendered the momentary order and its bearer ineffectual;
he might possibly divert the platoon. But the great one- eyed system
was all about, knowing its single task of destruction. It would turn
back to that piece by piece—until the task was done. Yet while he
lived, Boylan could not let it go on, in this specific instance. He was
fighting the Russian army now; that die was cast; the one thing to do
was to keep Peter Mowbray alive as long as possible. He went about
further details without hope, however.
Dabnitz was carefully bound and lifted to the corner in the midst of
saddles and kit. An extra strip was fastened around his chin to prevent
the ejection of the gag. Big Belt spoke steadily and softly as he
“You're a good soldier. You play your game to the seeds. I have no
objection to you. When it's all over I'll think of you—as a corking
field man. You've been good to us, too—everything you could do to make
us comfortable and to help us see the wheels go round.... Only this one
little thing. Perhaps you think I take it too seriously—this Mowbray
thing. Perhaps I do. That's my funeral.... Wow, and I was merely
speaking figuratively!... In any event I'm not a nihilist. I've only
got Mowbray on the brain.... I've hurt you as little as possible. I
won't leave you here long, my boy. I wasn't rough with you. You must
have seen that—”
Dabnitz's eyes rolled.
“Well, you see I couldn't have a whole lot of noise. There's the
true official timbre in your voice, Lieutenant.... Now you're snug, and
the platoon is served in the street.... Look what's here! I'm a
careless hand—six-shooter and belt. You'll rest more comfortably with
'em off. And a bit of a sword? I'll take that, too. ...I won't be long,
He went forth carrying the paper. “Lieutenant was called to another
task,” he said haltingly to the enlisted officer in charge. “Hold your
men here, until I come—”
The firing was intense valleyward. Boylan felt the need of thinking
further and dashed into the headquarters' stairway. There were excited
voices above, and he made haste to see. Kohlvihr was wild-eyed in the
center of the upper room—the telegraph ticking nervously, half of his
staff bending with extraordinary intensity over the birth of a certain
message.... What they wanted came over the 'phone.
Boylan saw four Russian officers rush to the 'phone from the
telegraph table.... Something had happened. He backed out.
“It's all off,” he told the soldier. “Go back to barracks. The enemy
has broken through—”
He wasn't sure of the last, but tore the paper and crumpled the
pieces. The platoon reversed and vanished. At the far end of the street
a cavalry squad was galloping forward, behind a single dispatch rider.
Already the news was known in headquarters and the staff officers burst
forth with orders for retreat—retreat to the eastward. It was no
secret now. The enemy was crossing the valley that Kohlvihr had found
Big Belt felt the life brimming up in his heart. Then he thought of
Dabnitz, and went to him, shutting the door behind.
“Do you get what's on, Lieutenant? Wink once—if you do.”
Dabnitz shook his head.
“It's the enemy breaking through. Judenbach is to be abandoned
The cavalry was in the street, carrying abroad the order for
retreat.... They heard it plainly now, even the details. Hospitals not
to be emptied, guns and ammunition not readily to be transported, must
be destroyed. The final hell was started in the town.
“Dabnitz, I don't want you among the captured on my account. Just
forget that order! The platoon has gone back. The staff is blocked and
jammed with greater things. Will you forget it? Wink twice—”
There was no hesitation.
“Good. The sentries must be called off—that stair-door left open.
I'll join them—and bother you no more. We'll not leave the room while
the town changes hands. They'll never even ask you if that little job
is done. Will you go with me now and do this? Wink twice—”
It was done emphatically; a beseeching for haste.
“Dabnitz, I trust you. I'll entertain you in America some time—all
Washington and New York.... You'll do exactly what I ask—no more, no
less? Good God, man, it wouldn't do any good to kill 'em now. They're
out of hand forever. Perhaps the Austrians will do it, anyway. Wink
“Good.” The gag was jerked free, and the various bindings.
“Now, come with me. I'll detain you but a second or two—”
Dabnitz walked at his side to the stair entrance of the skylight
prison. He spoke to the sentry below. The officer of the guard was
called; the sentry summoned from above, the door left open.
“Wait,” Boylan said finally to Dabnitz. “Here's your gun,
Lieutenant. I'm obliged to you. You'll know better some day what I mean
“Keep them under cover,” Dabnitz said hoarsely. “I'll kill you or
any of the others that I see in the street.”
“You'd be quite right.”
Dabnitz turned away. Big Belt deliberated. He did not quite trust
the Russian. He had covered him with his little pocket gun, as he
handed back the arms. Still Boylan couldn't have caused him to fall
prisoner. His hope now was that the Lieutenant would find such a rush
and turmoil that he would be compelled to forget the incident. ...He
heard their voices at the upper door of the stairway.
“Is that you, Boylan?”
“Good-morning. What's up?” It was Peter.
“I haven't quite settled in my mind. You're not to come down. We
haven't decorated the Christmas tree. I'm sentry here—”
The side street was deserted. The main highway was a throng, strange
in its new direction of northward, for the bulk of energy had
heretofore moved toward the valley. The sappers were at their work of
destruction. The town rocked with explosions, but the main
consideration to Big Belt was that moments passed without bringing
further fighting to him, personally.
“Maybe he means to stick after all,” he muttered. “He must see that
I was square with him—”
Then Big Belt smiled grimly, as if he had heard his own words.
He watched with a kind of ferocity until the passing of the staff
made him duck back into the doorway.... Kohlvihr sitting like a
potato-bag, the brave but melancholy Doltmir—finally Dabnitz. The
latter passed the little side-street without a turn of the head. After
many moments Boylan ventured to the corner. Rifle shots from the
southern border, and the smell of fire, were matters of critical
interest. The main highway was all but emptied of Russians. One little
party of artillerymen was struggling to save a big gun half-horsed.
Three ambulances hurried by filled with wounded officers—but the cries
of the thousands of wounded enlisted men went up from the hospitals
which the Russians were abandoning. The lower half of the town was in a
final ruin that blocked the streets.
But beyond as the wind cleared the smoke an instant (or the rain
held it low to the earth), Big Belt saw a column of troops. Its single
peculiarity struck him with queer emotion. He returned to the stair-door. A long-repressed volume came forth from his lungs, as he trudged
VI. THE FIELD OF HELMETS
Peter turned back from the upper door, since nothing further in the
way of news was to be had from Boylan. The first face that he saw
within was Fallows', and over it, as his own glance sped quickly, there
passed a look as from some poignant burden. It was the look of a man
who had thought the fight won, and now perceived that it must be
resumed again. Poltneck was just behind. Peter would like to have
preserved in picture the singer's realization that the chance was life
instead of death—the blend of animal and angel which is so thrillingly
human, as it was expressed upon that countenance. Abel was smiling,
something of a child in the smile, a tremulousness around the lips; and
Berthe came forward under the rain-blurred skylight— gladness,
animation, a touch of the great tension lingering, but something else
that he had not seen before in their prison hours. He went to her.
“What does it mean?” she whispered.
“It means that the door is open, the sentries gone. Big Belt is
below and the town wild with some new trouble—”
“The Austrians must have broken through,” said Fallows.
“We are to stay until he gives us word,” Peter added.
Berthe was leading him back to the shadows.
“Peter, does it mean that?”
He saw the dark low-glowing jewel in her eyes—the earth-shine, all
the sweetness of earth in it. So close to death, it had not been
ignited before in the skylight prison, but it was there for him now,
and he loved her bewilderingly.
“I think we may almost dare to hope,” he whispered.
“The still snowy woods—only a brave bird or two remaining—the
short brilliant days and early nightfall—our talks that will never
come to an end—”
Something of her longing frightened him—the danger of its
“I think we may almost dare to hope,” he repeated.
“Peter, I think—I think you are braver than any—”
“But you did not see ahead! To you, it was a closed door
yesterday and last night. Fallows wants to go. He's weary. Abel and
Poltneck are old rebels with visions. They have thought much of such
hours as we have known here. But you—I saw it the first day in
Warsaw—the deadly courage. You had built no dream. You asked no
future. You faced it—light or black.”
“Berthe—I almost broke this morning—when I looked at you
sleeping— and last night after Boylan came.... I think I would have
fought them in the street! It seemed—blasphemous for them to kill
you—those dim fellows—”
She had seemed to lose her way, the light gone from her eyes, her
lips cold.... A sprinkle of water, and she was smiling again in his
“It's strong—too strong,” she murmured vaguely.
The heavy step that Peter knew was upon the stairs. He listened.
Yes, it was alone. Boylan appeared in the doorway.
“Go to him,” Berthe whispered.
Peter obeyed. There was a gladness for him in the touch of the big
“Tell us, Boylan,” he said.
Abel had propped a chair behind Big Belt, who sank into it eagerly.
“The Austrians have broken through?” Poltneck said.
“I'm not quite sure about that,” Boylan answered. “The column I saw
from the main road a minute ago—coming up from the valley—looked like
helmets to me.”
“Berthe, what did you mean by 'strong—too strong'?”
Peter had stepped back to her for a moment.
“Did I say that?” she whispered smiling.
“I can't think of anything—but my love for you. It must have been
For an hour in the skylight prison, they had waited for the step
upon the stairs. When it came Fallows had an inspiration, and said
“Sing to 'em, Poltneck—The Lord Is Mindful of His Own—!”
As before, the song was on the wing at the word.... Throughout the
hour the Germans had flooded into the little city, the main column
moving rapidly on in pursuit of the Russians, a comparatively small
force remaining to garrison. As Boylan had pointed out, the new enemy
must have appeared in tremendous numbers thus to dare such a drive
through the Russian east wing. Lornievitch was at the head of a mighty
force to the east; it was but the tip of the right wing that the
Germans had cut off.
An old ranker had halted at the door, his platoon behind crowding
the stairway. He was small and scarred, serious and decorous. Peter
felt that the head under the helmet was shaven; that here was a man
conscious of moving through the days of his life's stateliest
fulfillment. Boylan was nearest; a little back from the rest Poltneck
stood smiling, singing as he had never sung for the Little Father. It
is a fact that the old ranker waited for the end of the stanza.
“Who are you?”
Peter talked: “Four of the hospital service from Warsaw, and two
American correspondents, until to-day with the Russian army—”
The platoon-officer ordered his men at rest and sent for his
“Prisoners, you may sing,” he said.
They heard the voices of the gathering in the street as Poltneck
sang on, and presently the clatter of a sword in the stairway. A young
officer, not the Captain, appeared. There was a quick appeal in the
veteran's deference and his whisper. The old head bowed affectionately,
too, as to a son of finer blood than he.
“Two American correspondents,—these two,” he reported. “The others
are of the hospital service of the enemy.”
Poltneck had finished.
“Why are you here?” the officer asked.
“They were at work all night,” said Peter, “and were here for a
little rest. The change this morning was effected before they were
aware. We were helping.
“You were helping?” the officer repeated.
“There has been much to do in the hospitals. We have been in
Judenbach—this is the fourth day.”
“We will look at your passports—yours and this gentleman's—”
The papers were produced. It was almost like a hand that came to
Peter at this instant, though Berthe had not moved—the premonition
that they were to be separated. He had planned nothing for this moment
although it had been inevitable. There was a certain guilelessness
about their whole presence together in the skylight prison, although
Peter had tortured the facts a little—to avoid complication of making
known their revolutionary parts. He had become so identified with his
new friends, in the past three whelming days, that he had forgotten for
the moment the great difference in his position as an American
correspondent and noncombatant from Berthe's and the others.
Boylan had never forgotten. He had cursed his own slowness as a
linguist, when Peter had taken the part of answering the German
officer. He was afraid of Peter's answers, but that fear was passing
now. In fact, Peter had answered surprisingly well, and his companion
was breathing easily, as a man should in a state of mental health.
It was not until this moment—the German officer examining his
passports, the ranker studying the insignia upon his sleeve—that Peter
met the disaster of the future. It suddenly appeared to him— that life
apart from these was bleak and a nothingness. To be caught in
the great war-machine again, even with the superb loyalty of Boylan at
his hand, had the grimness of death to his soul. Already he felt the
new mastery of Judenbach, the hard insensitiveness of it—the stone and
iron of its nature, the ineffable cruelty of its meaning and morale....
“These seem to be very complete and satisfactory,” the young officer
reported presently. “I shall furnish an escort to accompany you and
“Boylan,” said the voice of the Rhodes' Agency.
“—to our Colonel Ulrich in charge of the garrison. These papers
will go with you of course.”
Peter cleared his voice and said steadily: “We have long given up
any hope of getting anything out as newspaper men. I, for one, would be
very glad of employment in the hospitals with my friends here. There
has been work for many more hands than could be spared—”
“We appreciate your sacrifice,” said the officer, “perhaps we
are not so short-handed for the care of wounded. We have already
brought in men not dead whom the Russian orderlies missed on the field
yesterday. I believe the abandoned hospitals in Judenbach will not
suffer for the change of flags.”
Peter had noted Boylan's face as the German spoke. It was slightly
upturned and like bronze in its hardness, reminding him of the night
before in the candle-light. It weakened him.... He glanced about the
room as the officer finished. Everywhere he saw their silent urge to
accept. Fallows came forward.
“Some time again, dear friend—we will work together. All is well
Abel seemed to smile; Poltneck gripped his hand, neither venturing
to speak, nor did the moment require it, for they had all gone down to
the gates of understanding together.... Berthe's hands were in his.
Boylan had arisen.
“Your escort is ready,” the German said.
Peter turned from them, but Berthe's face was placed for all to
see.... A little warmth, the mild pleasure of untried friendship, the
good wish of one fellow-worker to another in passing—this was all that
the watchers saw. Even Peter in his great passion could draw no further
message from that white upturned face. But her hidden hands, held in
his, gave him the very respiration of her soul.
Big Belt was alone with his friend again, but Peter seemed merely
the body of a man, not much use. They were kept very close by the
Germans, and told frankly that they were to be sent as soon as possible
to the big prison-hospital at Sondreig. Even German correspondents were
not permitted afield. Judenbach was retained, but the Americans were
drawn forth by the exigencies of service with Colonel Ulrich's force,
and on the afternoon of the third day following the German entry, they
looked back upon the little hill-town a last time. Though there had not
been sound nor sight of Berthe nor the group around her, during the
three days, Peter was different afield, as if he missed a certain
personal identification with that obscure Galician settlement where so
much had happened. He moved about as if there were something dead
inside. His world had turned insane.
Those were the terrible days of November, and the two Americans were
forgotten at length—as a pair of buttons on the German uniform,
forgotten because they served and were not in the way. All that had
not to do with Berthe Wyndham was black as the Prussian night to
Mowbray's brain, but Big Belt was always by. He could not have managed
except for that. There were days in which it appeared as if half the
world were down and bleeding; the other half trying to lift, pulling at
the edges of the fallen, as one half-stupefied would pull at a fallen
body in a burning house.
At night through the silences between the cannon, sometimes over the
hills through the cold rains, came to Peter Mowbray's ears the sounds
of church-bells. Boylan did not always hear them. The German officers
declared that there were no such sounds. Boylan's sack was filled with
“If I ever get out of here,” he said, “I'll write one story—one
battle till I die—and I'll call it 'Vintage Fourteen'.”
For he was sick of the spilled wine of men. And other armies were
fighting in the vineyards of France—as were these in the piney hills
of the ancient shepherd kings; and what a fertilizing it was for the
manhandled lands of Europe—potash and phosphor and nitrogen in the
perfect solution of the human blood.
More and more Boylan saw that Peter was queer.
“I can't think,” the latter would say. “I feel like a man dying,
under a mountain of dead. Mostly I don't want to live. I don't want to
die. I believe that it's all one and that this is the end of the
Peter could work, however. Day and night when they would let him,
and mostly the Germans accepted his services gratefully now, he tugged
at the dead and the dying in the field and in the field hospitals. And
with the lanterns at night, often under fire, often so long that Boylan
could not rest, but would wait at the hospital-division like a mother
for a dissipated son.
“They call this the great German fighting machine,” Peter whispered
to Boylan one night, “but we're inside. We can't call it that. It's the
most pitiful and devitalized thing that ever ran up and down the earth.
And it doesn't mean anything. It's all waste—like a great body killing
itself piece by piece—all waste and death.”
He tried to make death easy for a soldier here and there, but there
was so much. His clothing smelled of death; and one morning before the
smoke fell, he watched the sun shining upon the pine-clad hills. That
moment the thought held him that the pine trees were immortal, and men
just the dung of the earth.
...One night Boylan asked as they lay down:
“Who are you?”
“Yep, and I'm Boylan. You're at liberty to correct if wrong. Are we
ever going to die or get out?”
“I don't know.... Boylan, you've been good to me. We're two to make
one—eye to eye—”
“You're making a noise like breaking down again. Don't, Peter. I've
gone on a bluff all my life. I'm a rotten sentimentalist at heart—
soft as smashed grapes. It's my devil. If you break down, I'll show him
“It wouldn't hurt you to bellow like a girl.”
“Maybe not, but I'd shoot my head off first.”
“Did you see the old leprous peasant to-day? He was hump-backed, and
he had no lips, but teeth like a dog. He pulled at a soldier's stirrup
as we came into town. The soldier was afraid and shot him through the
“Shut up, Peter, or you'll get me. I've shown you more now than any
living soul knows—”
“You ought to show it to a woman. A man isn't right until a woman
knows him in and out.”
“For the love of God—go to sleep!”
They sank into restless death-ridden dreaming; and so it was many
nights, until the dawn that they fronted a swift river, black from its
snowy banks, saw the rising pine hills opposite and were swept possibly
by mistake into the center of comprehensible action—a picture lifted
from the hundred-mile ruck.
A little town, so far nameless, sat with a shivering look on the
slope, about a half mile up from the river. A Russian quick-fire gun or
two was emplaced in that vicinity, and two batteries of bigger bores
(that the correspondents knew of) were higher on either side. Infantry
intrenchments that looked like mole tracks from the distance corrugated
the slopes in lateral lines, and roads came down to the two bridges
that spanned the swift stream, less than a mile apart.
The morning was spent in artillery dueling. The Russians seemed
partly silenced at noon. At no time was their attack cocky and
confident. The Germans determined to cross in the early afternoon. This
movement was not answered by excessive firing. German cavalry and small
guns on the east bridge, a heavy field of helmets took the west. Boylan
and Mowbray rode with the artillery. Even as the German forces combined
for position, the firing of the Russians was not spiteful. There seemed
a note of complaint and hysteria. There was no tension in the German
command; it was too weathered for that.
Now the cavalry went into action and guns moved away farther to the
east for higher emplacement.
“They're going to charge the horses up into the town. They haven't
much respect for the infantry trenches,” said Boylan.
At that instant Peter's mind opened a clearer series of pictures of
Berthe Wyndham than he had known for days. Palace Square near the river
corner; her little house in Warsaw and the tall flowers between; across
the siding after Fransic; her coming to the cot of Samarc, and all the
wonderful films of the skylight prison—the dearest of all as she
slept. He could not hold the battle in mind, for he was very rich with
these pictures, and for days had tried vainly to think just how she
looked. It had been easier to remember something which Peter designated
secretly as her soul.
Suddenly the turf rocked under his feet and his body was bent in the
terrific concussion from behind. They turned and saw the middle stone
abutment of the nearer bridge lifted from the stream—the whole
background sky black with dust and rock. Then, just as he thought of
it, the west bridge went. He spoke before Boylan, and rather
unerringly, as one does at times coming up from a dream.
“They've trapped what they think they can handle—and fired the
bridges by wire.”
Boylan said: “I can't call it German stupidity, because it didn't
occur to me that the bridges were mined.... It's to be another leisure
spraying. We're in the slaughter-pen.... God, man, look at the horses!”
It had been too late to call back the cavalry. Peter's eyes followed
Boylan's sweeping arm. The horsemen were in skirmish on the slope, just
breaking out into charge. The town above and the emplacements adjoining
which had kept their secret so well, were now in a blur of sulphur and
action directed upon the cavalry charge. The whole line went down in
the deluge—suddenly vanished under the hideous blat of the
machines—whole rows rubbed into the earth—a few beasts rising empty,
shaking themselves and tumbling back, no riders. Peter turned to the
infantry in formation on the western slopes. The Russian fire was not
lax now, not discouraged in the least, nor hysterical. It was
cold-blooded murder in gluttonous quantity.
The Americans forgot themselves. Cavalry gone—they turned to the
west and saw the poor men-beasts in rout. Even the infantry
comprehended the trick, and felt something superhuman behind it. They
rushed back toward the river—swift, ugly with white patches and
unfordable, requiring a good swimmer.... The eyes of Boylan turned back
to the Horse. He had always loved the cavalry, ridden with the cavalry
always by preference. Peter was watching the river—the hands up from
the center of the river....
They were alone, and now the Russian machines were on the German
batteries not yet emplaced, none unlimbered. It was as if the wind
carried them the spray from the sweeping fountains, turned from the
horse to put out the guns. Peter was hit and down—hit again and the
night slowly settled upon him, bringing the bells.
Big Belt talked to himself in that blizzard of fire.
“He's hit—hit twice—but we can't go back to the Russians. They'll
finish the lad. Dabnitz promised. The Germans can't rescue us, because
the bridges are down. I've got to get him across the river—”
He knelt and swung the burden across his back. The firing was
thinner, and the weight hurried his great legs down to the water....
Personally he would have waited for recapture. How he would have
laughed at Lornievitch in that case. But this that he bore was under
sentence of death in that camp. He regarded the river now, propping up
his head under the burden. It was a swift devil of a stream, black from
its winter borders and cold. He moved toward the broken bridge,
hundreds of soldiers doing the same. But none of them bore a burden.
Now he was on the steep and slidy bank-the roar of the current in
his ears, the roar of the guns behind. The stone abutments of the
bridge still stood, but the huge beams of the upper frame-work were
sprawled in the stream, the ends visible. A string of soldiers crawled
along, toward the center of the current. There was a place in which
they disappeared.... He took his position in the waiting line and heard
the cries wrung from the throats of those in the crossing—from the
paralyzing cold. Only a few succeeded. Boylan saw this, as he awaited
his turn. A steady grim procession on this side, whispering, crowding
—but a thin and straggling output on the far bank. Scenes enacting in
the center of the current shook his heart—faces and arms against the
black water, the struggles and the cries of men as they were whipped
Big Belt was in; no crawl for him. He walked the ten-inch beam with
his burden, as it sank deeper and deeper toward the center. The ice of
the water bit and tore at him. It was like a burn, too, but the
paralysis was not that of fire. The chill wrestled with his
consciousness, as he reached the depth of his waist; the current was
bewildering in its pressures—like a woman clinging to his limbs,
betraying him to an enemy. A mysterious force, this of a running river,
for the body of man is not built for it, and man's mind is slow to
learn the necessity of slow movements. The temptation to hasten is like
the tug of demons. There is much to break the nerve—and yet nerve must
remain king of every action.
Boylan may have learned the trick in other wanderings. His own
weight and the weight of his burden helped his feet in the rapid runs
of white water. He made his way deeper and deeper upon the slanting
ten- inch piece, holding his consciousness steady against the
penetrating stab of the cold as it rose higher and higher, against the
dizzying swirl of the stream, and against the fact that the timber
might be broken at the center. ...The man before him seemed to go to
his knees, reaching down with his hands. Then the white-topped rush
took him.... One must stand; one must have weight to stand. The beam
sunk to the center now-the water to his heart; the man behind
urging.... One soldier ahead crawled forth where three had been.
Boylan's fears were equalized now by the sudden dread of the man
behind. If he slipped he would catch at Peter's body.
“Go slow—that's the trick!” he called. “Feel for your footing each
time. It's there. I tell you it's there, man! We rise in a moment
He felt the jointure with his feet—some renewal or stoppage of the
timber. He halted, yelling at the man behind:
“Wait—something different! I'll get you through—”
It was the slight turn of the top timbers as they had reached the
“It's the top of the bridge,” he yelled above the boom of the
current, “—a turn like the peak of a low roof. A slight turn to the
right. Now the climb—”
He put it in Russian somehow, making the words clear. His intensity
was almost madness to keep the other's hands off.
A shiver passed through his burden. The water had whipped Peter's
limbs. An added call for steadiness, but a gladness about it, too,
since he was not carrying the dead.... Upgrade now. The soldier behind
had passed the turn safely and was following.
...It seemed that he had walked hours, A thousand or more German
soldiers were lost even as he. Their faces in the dusk passed him—to
and fro—hoarse questions. The gray chill dusk was all about, quite
different from anything Big Belt had known. His clothing had warmed to
him from great exertion. There was a line that caked and dampened again
down his left thigh, like an artillery stripe, from Peter's wounds.
Night came on, finding him without a command—a strange sort of
abandonment, and a certain fear of being overtaken by a Russian party.
The character of his fatigue brought back ancient memories, when he had
looked death face to face and was afraid.
“Who are you?” someone piped sharply in German.
He had moved long through the dark toward a moving file of lights.
“Two American correspondents.”
“What's that you carry?”
“The other one.”
Peter heard this. It seemed that terrible hands had been tugging at
his flesh for hours; yet he could not move, and lay upon a bed that
swung and swayed and stumbled.
“Two American correspondents,” the voice repeated.... “Search....”
Then Peter looked into the dazzle of a flashlight, and the familiar
“Yes, he's hard hit and heavy as hell.... Passports in hip pocket-handle him gently. ... Thanks, I'll take care of this man—unless you
have a stretcher—”
“To whom were you formerly assigned?”
“To Colonel Ulrich. We were across the river when that trap was
sprung this afternoon—”
“Just about wiped you fellows out, didn't they?... Passports right
enough as far as I can see. Stay here, I'll try to get a conduct. I'm
afraid there isn't any Colonel Ulrich—at least I am of that
Peter was let down. It puzzled him a long time because the ground
was still. The big hands eased. His familiar was beside him, however,
wet and panting. Now Peter seemed to remember that he had messages to
“There's no other way—I've got to get through the lines—”
“Quite right,” Boylan answered.
“I don't want to fail. She wouldn't look twice at a man who
“Hell, child, sit still. She'd look twice if you failed a thousand
times.... Hai, don't tear open a man's bridle arm. What is it?”
“He was hump-backed—no lips—teeth like a dog—and the trooper shot
him through the mouth—”
“I know, but he's dead. His back is straight now—don't look any
worse now than ten thousand others....”
For a long time all was bewilderment. He had been lifted and lost
consciousness again in the wrenching of the hands. Then slowly he came
back and eternity began as before, his bed swaying and straining. The
familiar voice was near, the German ahead. Sentry after sentry was
passed, and each time deadly waiting.... In snatches he understood that
the voice always near was Boylan's, but as often forgot it again. Once
he realized that Boylan was carrying him, but he could not hold it in
mind.... Now he was sure that it was Boylan. He wished he could die
from the cold. He recalled that the cold climbs to a man's heart and
then lets him out in comfortable dreams.
“Hai, you!” he heard in the familiar tones. “I can't go any further.
Send a stretcher or a wagon. Tell 'em two American correspondents are
sitting out here—one with a bullet or two through his chest of
The bed was sinking now.... Then he was dragged across the big man's
lap, and the voice was saying:
“I never knew it to fail. The man who wins a woman gets the steel,
when it's anywhere in the air, but bullets fly wide and knives curve
about a lonely maverick who has lost all his heart winnings.”
They found Boylan so, his jaw clenched, the huge scarred head bare
and covered with night dew, but ready to talk. Across his legs, Mowbray
lay, and still breathed.
Some unique thing, Big Belt, that rock of a man, had found in Peter
Mowbray. For seven days and nights, though broken with incredible
fatigues (a yellow line of bone color showing across his face under the
eyes), Boylan sat by in cars and ambulances until they reached
Sondreig, the city of the women-folk, and a regular civilized bed. What
he gave to Peter was clear; what he took from a man down, a woman's
property at best, is harder to tell. Perhaps in the great strains and
pressures of the campaigns, he had seen Peter inside, the mechanism and
light effects appertaining, and found it true. It may be that Big Belt
had never been quite sure that a man-soul could be true, and having
found one, was ready to go the limit. This is only a hazard.
Peter didn't know. He was a lump—one little red lamp burning in
that long house of a man—flickering at that, its color bad, its shadow
monstrous. Everyone but Boylan declared he would die from that wound in
his chest; and Boylan was right.
The Germans were good. They gave him a little room over an
apothecary shop at the edge of the city, off one of the bullet-wards,
so that the American would suffer from no lack that the hospital
routine could furnish, and still not be denied the ministration of his
friend. There were reasons, from the German standpoint, why it was well
for Mowbray to have every chance for life. The Russian coup of
the destroyed bridges, that lesser disaster, would some time be told.
Boylan might be persuaded to tell the story to America without
adjectives. This was not a very humane way to regard large kindness
from saddened and maddened men, and Boylan did not linger over it.
The Order in Sondreig soothed. It was like a fine morale
shown by troops in a pinch. The city was one spacious hospital, but
orderly, the horizon smokeless, the distance free from the crash of
guns. In fact, it seemed that the city must have prepared itself for a
thousand years—as if waiting for its messiah. There was a glad quiet
in the thronging streets that seemed to say, “It has come....”
When he found that Peter would live—all the pathological vortices
past—Big Belt turned with strange joy to exterior activities. Of
course, months would be required to make his companion a man again.
There might remain a crimp in him that would last always, but Boylan
was aware that a man's weakness may be made his strength, and that a
life habit of care which comes from cushioning a wound often results in
extraordinary development of the parts of strength.
The sight of women and children brought him gusts of emotion. In one
evening hour, he followed a middle-aged woman who was leading a child
through the faintly-lit streets; trailed the pair for a square or two
through the soft snow, a sort of miracle in the picture to him, a
heaven of gentleness and order. This was his first grand reaction from
the field of strife—at least, from this campaign—and he was struck as
never before with the main fact—how little a man really needs to live
his life in brightness and calm. Such a sense of the emptiness of
war-fields surged home to him that he was left a heretic in relation to
all that had called him before. It did not occur to Boylan that this
was wisdom; rather the pith of the emotion was to the effect that he
was getting old.
The child's thin voice reached him in questionings, and the steady
low tones of the woman. A man could ask little more of the world than
to lead a child thus.... Perhaps they were poor. Boylan would have
liked to fix that. It had to do with the whole inner ideal of the man
to be a fixer of such things—to come home to a house of little ones in
quantity and many women—a broad house of aunts, sisters and old women,
a long broad table of all ages, the many problems resting on him—and
one woman looking straight across.... She would know everything, and
yet would advise with him—quiet discussions of policy regarding this
one or that one, and the interposition of food....
He was perspiring. Always after a war or expedition he had perceived
such matters more or less clearly, but not quite as now. Never before
had he constructed his secret heaven with such durable substance.... He
actually believed that the field would never call to him again. It had
become like the fear of hunger that he had learned once for all. No
more of that—no more of war. He had given everything to the field, and
lost his broad board in the world-house. At least, he could find a
They were gone. He thought of his companion—the sense of summons
that he seemed to have known always. He turned and walked back. The
snow fell softly; the street lights were pleasant and warming with this
bit of peace in the world, this little circle of life with men and
women and children together.... As he neared the apothecary shop, his
thoughts became rounder and rounder with what he had missed. He had
taken the arc and lost the globe—a sorry old specimen of a man, if the
truth were told, a career behind him designed to arouse the wildness of
boys, but without appeal and very much to be discouraged by real men.
Finally it occurred to him of the whole races of men who had what he
lacked, yet were restless for the harshness and crudity of the
“If they only knew what they have,” he muttered. “I suppose they
forget. Just as I forget between wars what hell is like.... I suppose
they do forget, and read a man's stuff by their fires (ordering the
kids to be quiet)... thinking that this war-man writing from the field
is a great and lucky guy. I suppose they stop and think how things
might have been different with them—had they taken to the open
when the old call came.... Ordering the kids to be quiet—Good
Whether it was the audacity of fatherhood that called this last into
the world, or the face of the woman who had passed him—is not known.
Enough that Big Belt forgot all his dreams. ...That white-skinned,
wonder-eyed girl, the fire creature, twice seen in the bitter shadows
She had looked into his face, as if she scarcely dared to trust her
eyes, as if she, too, were not sure; and yet it had come over him like
death that she was here for her own.... He tried to make himself
believe that it was an illusion, just one of the queer jolts that come
to a man when his thoughts are far off. But actualities rubbed this
out. She was a prisoner of the Germans; probably had proved invaluable
in the hospital service and had earned certain privileges; but it
wouldn't do to let Peter fall into her clutches again; that meant
revolution and death. They would make a dupe of him as before. It had
nothing to do with peace and the outer world; it meant—
Boylan saw that he wanted Peter for his own. He wiped the sweat from
under his hat.... He couldn't keep them apart; she would think out a
way; a man can't wrestle with a woman.... The world was bleak and
wide-open to disruption again. He climbed the stairs.
The wounded man was not awake. Boylan had objected from the first to
his manner of breathing—too much in the throat, hardly a man-sized
volume of air, the breathing of one who hadn't proper lung-room; but
this was an old matter. He reflected on the various fatigues Mowbray
had met with a smile, and the vitality which had finally pulled him
loose from the cold clutch itself; standing him in stead through a
journey so grisly that Boylan had not had the detachment so far to
contemplate it from first to last. So he had been forced seriously to
grant exceptions to the rule of chest inches and vitality. The soft
winter air blew in from the slightly opened casement.
Peter's face was wan and boyish—different to Boylan as a result of
his encounter in the street. He saw Peter now with the eyes of a man
who must give up.... She was here in Sondreig. He would not help her,
but if she came, there would be no fight.... It had been his fault.
Boylan had sensed the danger of giving too much—from the beginning....
One woman brings a man into the world, sees him properly a man, and
another woman takes him away.... Just how Big Belt broke into this
particular picture must be suggested rather than explained. He was very
close to mothers that night. He could understand fathers, too.
...They would never know what he had done. The Russians had not
understood, except Lornievitch, in part, and he was far away; the
Germans would never piece the fragments together, and Peter himself had
been mainly unconscious. Peter had not been told even of the Dabnitz
episode.... They might have pulled together for years if it hadn't been
for the woman, but there was bound to be a woman. Mowbray was like
Big Belt yawned over it all, drew his cot close, so he could hear
Peter's call, lit a fresh candle, and wished he had remembered to smoke
outside. Presently, however, he was breathing forth the full volume of
Sitting by the civilized bed early the next afternoon he heard a
voice below that clenched his jaw much as it had been that night
outside the German camp before the stretcher was brought. She had found
them. She did not speak first, but looked in.... Seeing the face upon
the bed, she could not ask, nor speak, but crossed the room. It would
have been just the same so far—had Boylan not been there. In fact, he
had withdrawn from the place by his companion.... She knelt an instant.
Now she arose and faced the friend.
“He will live.”
Peter was still afar off.
“Yes, ma'am—I think he will.”
She came to him now. “I saw you last night,” she whispered. “I saw
you come here. I could not come until now.”
“Humph—” or something of the sort was heard from Boylan.
Berthe appeared to draw a certain truth from the situation. Perhaps
she saw the woman in Boylan—the mysterious, draggled creature
which he designated his devil on occasion. The old war-wolf gave her
credit for no such penetration. Still she kept herself second, advised,
assisted for a few moments, but would not let Boylan go.
“He's knit to you. He might die if you go,” she said.
Something about her choked him. He had been with men so continually.
“And then I can't stay,” she whispered. “But I am so thankful to
have found you—that nothing else matters.... You see, we are
prisoners. They have trusted certain of us to work; still we have no
names, no way of hearing, no mails, or anything. It's a good miracle
that I found you.”
Presently she said again: “You don't think I understand, but I do.
You have stood by him. He would not have been here but for you. He is
living because of you. I see that. I see that he has been very
close.... You may hate me as you wish, but you cannot help taking what
I give you.”
“You're an all-right young woman,” Big Belt managed to remark. “I
knew something of that.” Then, in a panic, he added: “He'll know you
to- night. He's cool now. He'll pull through. He'll know you to-night,
and then I go.”
“Not until he sees you.... Besides, I am a prisoner. I cannot come
and go as I would. I may not be able to come to-night—they may say
no.” “He'll have all that he needs until you come,” Boylan said.
She did come that night. Peter had returned, but voyaged again
meanwhile. In the morning she came again.... Boylan ordered her to sit
down in the far corner. He went to the bed, for Peter was stirring, and
presently opened his eyes with reason and organization in them.
“Hello,” he said.
Peter looked beyond him and around the room.
“Go to sleep,” said Boylan.
Big Belt stepped aside. Peter managed to get a knuckle up to rub his
“He's back with us,” Boylan whispered.
“Don't go,” she pleaded.
“Don't be a fool,” said Boylan.
She was there beside him, bending lower and lower. It was against
nature for them not to forget the exterior world for a moment, and
Boylan was on the stairs....
He saw Sondreig with eyes that seemed to have dropped their scales.
It was early in the morning, and a light snow had freshened everything.
An old woman was sitting at the locked entrance of what had been a
dairy shop, weeping for her only son. Boylan stopped.
She was very poor and weak.
“Come, mother,” he said, lifting her.
She looked into his face in a way that roweled the man.
“Come on,” he said softly. “We'll have some breakfast. And you'll
tell me about it. I belong to the widows and the fatherless, too.”
So they rocked away together.
He was sleeping again. Berthe went to the window. Even in her
happiness she was afraid, for she was remaining longer than her
leave.... The window faced the south, and the apothecary shop was on
the edge of town. The day was like a pearl—snowy distance, a soft-toned sky and the low shine of the sun. Deep down in the west, like an
island, was a thick brush of cedars, preserving their green across the
miles, and calling to her with something of the native wonder of old
Mother Earth; and to the right, east of south, was the huge blurred
stockade where King Cholera was so far imprisoned with the bait of
fresh lives each day.
The old Mother was in her winter bloom, so pure and deep-eyed, so
calm and above sorrow in her distance and coloring, that it became to
Berthe a moment not to be forgotten—such a moment as would make a
woman homesick in heaven.
...If the big man would only come back. They might be angry for her
staying. It would be so easy to lose all that she had won from the
Germans. They had come to rely upon her more and more, realizing the
character of her service, and forgetting its origin in Judenbach. She
did not want to disappoint them. With Peter Mowbray here in good hands
and climbing back to life—no woman in the midst of war could ask
more.... At the bedside again, she pondered the recent weeks to this
hour. Without words, without heaviness, he had come along, fitting so
blithely into the new places, bringing his laugh and his skepticism of
self always, asking for no sign nor reward of the future, building no
dream of heaven, but standing true to the tasks of earth. Greatly more,
and differently, she loved him now, and the distance held the green of
...An officer came to her from the bullet-ward.
“You are to stay until Mr. Boylan, the correspondent, comes,” he
“But will they know? They were good to let me come.”
“Colonel Hartz has signed the order. Word has been sent to the
entrainment wards. You were attached there, I believe?”
“Let us know in case of any need here.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
A most satisfying adventure, so that Big Belt added many things to
the matters which could not be related. The old mother had told him of
her son (as they sat together in the little room she called home) and
Boylan had seen in him a singular hero, and made the mother see it.
Presently he strode forth to the shops and returned with many packages
of food affairs, and a cart of fuel following. The prodigious prices
which these things commanded in Sondreig appealed to him as a trifle;
in fact, the simplicity of life on these direct terms of living first
hand, struck him as the eternally right way.... Then she cooked for
him, very intent and eager in the great joy of it, agitated by his
praise. In fact, he went to great lengths of breakfasting to show his
appreciation; until, perceiving what he had done, he strode forth again
with replenished understanding and restocked the cupboard by means of
the cart.... Yes, he would come to-morrow.... Yes, by all means, while
he was in Sondreig.
Even if he had not thought of the white-fire creature being held in
the room above the apothecary shop for his return, Boylan had found it
necessary to leave the old mother, since she could not be made to eat
with him there. She would have cooked for him until she fell by the
fire, but as for her sharing the repast, she begged him to have peace,
that time was plentiful for that.... He was thinking it all out once
more, a most delectable incident, as he walked swiftly through the snow
toward the apothecary shop, when his shoulder was plucked by a
passerby, and he turned, stiffening a bit at the roughness of it. A
black-bearded man of much rank peered into his face, crying out:
“Boylan, by the One God!”
“Herr Hartz—by the same!” Big Belt exclaimed.
And now they embraced—a mighty affair, a memorable spectacle of
pounding, of disengagement, of renewed embrace—so that soldiers and
hospital men circled wide in passing, and the little street was hushed
with the exceeding joy.
“Come and live with me, Boylan. I will not take no for an answer.
Come at once, and let us a table between us have, to prevent further
inderrupption of travvic—”
At no time would the cause of this majestic effusion have been made
clear to an outsider, though it was plain that the American
correspondent and the German officer of rank shared it alike. The
truth: these two, and two others somewhere in the world, were the
surviving four of a complement of over thirty men who had made up the
original outfit now known as the Schmedding Polar Failure. Colonel
Hartz, detached from his cavalry command for service in the prison-hospital at Sondreig, was second in command here as he had been to
Schmedding in that former ill-starred expedition.
The table was between them.
“But first,” said Boylan, “there is a little business in which you
can help. My friend, Mowbray... is just coming back to life from
Russian wounds. I could not leave him without being assured of his
care. There is one little nurse from the entrainment wards—it is a
good story, which I will tell in good time—competent to care for him.
She is there now, but I have already stayed longer than her leave
granted. She must be set at rest, and word sent also to her own post—”
“So much words for a little thing—dictate and I write. Then tell me
of yourself, which is more imbortant—”
It happened, even after the messages were sent, that Boylan spoke
very little of himself. He was grappling with a certain final disposal.
His talk was colored with desire. In fact, within an hour he had
reached the critical part of his narrative, and was becoming more glib
momentarily as the way out cleared:
“...You see, they met in Warsaw, where I was stationed before the
war. She did not tell him what was in her mind. He parted from her—as
any other married man taking the field. We were together with
Kohlvihr's column, of which I will tell you later.... Now what do you
Herr Hartz snorted. He did not care to think.
“She didn't stay in Warsaw,” Boylan went on, with great intensity.
“No, my friend, she joined the hospital corps, and followed him
“The Russians take anyone for the hosbittles,” the other remarked
“Exactly; and my friend Mowbray found her nursing sick soldiers in
Judenbach. It happened that they were together when the city changed
hands. By the way, there was much of interest in those days of which I
will tell you later.... This is the point. She was a Polish prisoner—
he an American non-combatant. I advised them to say nothing for the
present that they were married. It was very ticklish to change hands
anyway, and would have complicated the position of each one. So they
were separated. He was with me day by day until he was wounded. He
moved in a dream without her—a good boy, Colonel—and a good girl—
but war. I say, we learned something about men, you and I—long ago—-“
Herr Hartz now beamed.
“We learned it,” he breathed.
“They make only a few on the pattern of Mowbray.... Last night I saw
her in the street here at Sondreig.... So you see why I arranged for
her to take my place at his side—but you can arrange the rest—”
“For God's sake, what do you want? You talk and talk about such
people and women and love stories—when we have so much to say about
“Be patient. We have all time,” said Big Belt. “I only want them
together—a true married pair. Then they will be off my hands. You can
make Headquarters forget she is Polish—that is all. Some little place
apart—for them to be together while he heals—”
“Such a lot of talk for small things. It shall be done, Boylan, with
a paper. I will send them to the country and monobolize you myself.
This is a big war—yes?”
A last time he climbed to the floor above the apothecary shop. If
only she wouldn't act up. A serious thing, this he had done. Big Belt
felt that he had rushed matters, possibly treading upon a host of
delicate and incomprehensible affairs. But, when he had found in
Colonel Hartz a man to make action of his words, he had plunged....
Peter was asleep. The woman came forward noiselessly, offering her
hand. By her face he knew that all was well with the patient. Boylan
had stiffened to resist the pang of Peter's passing from his life. This
had so far prevented his voice from softening to the woman. It was now
“I've done what seemed best,” he began abruptly in a whisper. “It
appears to have accomplished what I set out after, but it's likely a
Her gray eyes widened, her face blanched.
Big Belt cleared his throat. Whispering was difficult.
“I met an old friend who made possible your remaining here. He's to
send you into the country—as soon as the young fellow is able to be
moved. You are to take care of him there. You see, my friend happened
to be second in command here at Sondreig, and he thinks he can make all
concerned forget that you were picked up from the opposition in
“Can make Sondreig forget that?” she whispered.
“We are very old friends. We were out together in a former
“And we are to be sent into the country—as soon as Peter is able?”
“But what is the terrible part?”
“There might have been a better way, but I didn't think of it—”
“Oh, what, Mr. Boylan?”
“I told him that you two were married—”
“I say, I told him that you two were married—”
Big Belt backed from her, and sat down.
“There isn't any then,” he said. “That's it.... That you were
married in Warsaw, and followed him to the field—without his knowing.”
“Is that all?”
“Oh, you frightened me.”
...Boylan was on the stairs. He halted, turned back. She came to him
“But were you married?” he asked.
“No. But it's such a little thing compared to what might have
happened—to keep us apart. I mean what might have happened here....
Oh, God bless you!”
He twisted his chin away from his collar, drew it clear with his
hand, cleared his throat to speak, and vanished.
VII. THE GREEN OF CEDARS
It wasn't an open fire, but a little iron stove that got so red that
it trembled, and at intervals could hardly contain the puttering of the
pine; and there was a one-armed soldier, who spent the long forenoons
cutting carefully and piling, until there was a rustic wainscot half
around the room, the drying breath of which was the purest fragrance in
the world.... They petted the soldier until an officer came down.
It was the hunting forest of a certain Count, and the hut they lived
in was but the lodge of one of his keepers; but it was far enough from
the great mansion (where wounded officers of royal blood and toppling
rank healed or died in much the same fashion as other men) to afford
the silence and solitude they had dreamed of. And all about them the
great trees pondered between the winds—pine and balsam, cedar and fir.
It had looked like a bit of an island from the Sondreig window, but
proved a true forest when they reached there—an enchanted one to
Berthe and Mowbray.
Twice Boylan came down for a day, bringing Moritz Abel the second
time; but the Colonel, whose authority had done so much for them,
required much of Big Belt, and there was a woman (some mystery about
this) who would keep dinner waiting, he said. So both times he had
started back while there remained light in the sky. And Peter had
“Why, there are whole days I can't account for,” he muttered. “He
must have had me strapped to him for days at a time.”
He had asked for Poltneck, of whom she had seen the last in
Judenbach. The Germans had loved his singing and made very much of him;
and Peter had asked for Moritz Abel before the latter came for the day.
Berthe had answered freely, but of Duke Fallows she had not spoken in a
way to satisfy his questions. In fact, it was not until the day that
Peter first crossed the little room alone that she seemed ready to
speak. That afternoon he had called her from the window.
“Where is Fallows, Berthe?”
“Not far from here,” she said. “Not as far as Sondreig from here—a
place you have never seen, but I watched it every day from the window
of the apothecary shop until you were moved. He offered himself at once
when he heard—the cholera quarantine.... But he left a message for you
to carry, Peter—gave it to me for you.
“I saw him for a few brief moments after he had volunteered. He
talked of you and that other American boy of the other war. He said
that the night he separated from that other—just after the battle of
Liaoyang, the Russians in full retreat, he had written his story of the
battle— the story of the Ploughman, and intrusted it to his friend to
carry to America. He wants you to carry his story of this
service—asked me to give it to you when you were better—to take to
America with yours. 'Just a picture,' he said. 'It may be all wrong,
but I see it so to- night, and I would like to have it come out in
America some time.'
“He is very dear to us, Peter—that old burning exile. Some time we
may understand his love for America.... It was hard to let him go. They
fight day and night in the Stockade. They are trying to spare
Sondreig.... I wish you might have been with him that last night before
he went. It was before I found you—before I saw the big man in the
street.... He was glad to go. There was no sense of sacrifice in it.
His whole sense was of our sorrow and the world's sorrow. But it would
have been good for him if you had been there—because you are of his
country. He said it again and again: 'She must see it. It is her
immortal opportunity,' meaning America—”
“Is his story so we can see it?” Peter asked.
She took from her breast a little chamois, in which was wrapped two
pages of tough tissue, spread them out, drew her chair close to him,
and read this picture Fallows had made, and his message to America:
..._It is the long night of Europe. France sits in dust upon the
ground, staring toward the End. Mother England has called for her sons,
and some have not answered. She turns her frost-rimed glass from the
grim horizons to the grimmer skies, and always in the movement of the
darkened shadows is written the word, “Disaster.” ...Smileless Germany,
stricken as never a nation was stricken before, save by the wrath of
God, still holds to the fatal enchantment of a fatherland of the
ground, while the changes in the Prussian boundaries are marked in fire
and the blood of her children.... Russia is looking southward, furious
to open her casements upon the perilous seas—gloomy millions of the
tundras, mighty millions of the ice-ringing plains—looking southward,
marching southward, to-day marking time, to-morrow a league, but
southward as a ship in passage. Russia, the young, holy genii battling
with demons in her breast, everything to win and only the fruits of her
world-shocking fecundity to lose—southward to slaughter through the
...A call to America through the long night—the voice calling for
her to put on her splendid, her initial magic. The voice from the
vision of sorrow-illumined men in frozen bivouacs, crying to America to
hold fast to the dream of her Founders, lest the vessel of the future
be drained of vital essence, indeed—to hold fast until we come
...crying for America to answer, not with rapacious intellect, not the
answer of a militant body, but an answer from the soul of the New
World, with its original vitality in the Fatherhood of God.
...Repeating through the long night that the patience of Nature is
exhausted with the hate of man for man; that the hatred of nation for
nation is a lost experiment; that the bitter romance of the predatory
is a story finished in hell; that the passion for self and boundary is
done, that Compassion for neighbor and nation is the art of the future;
crying the end of the national soul and the stroke of the hour for the
birth of the world-soul; crying to America, the only temple, the sole
house of nativity, to put on again her youthful magic, to ignite afresh
the Gleam of her Founders, to arise to her superb and heroic destiny.
They sat in silence until the tap at the door. It was the one-armed
soldier, who came in, regarded the stove critically inside and out,
judiciously chose one knot of pine, inserted it with grave care, and,
departing, inquired if there was anything further he could do.
“No,” said Peter.
And Berthe asked: “Is there anything we can do for you?”
He bowed his head in the doorway, and they saw beyond him the
winding aisles of the forest—green and white, the dusk creeping in.
A brief expression of the critical Reception of DOWN AMONG
Outlook: Possessed of a marvelous descriptive genius,
equipped with a remarkably flexible use of English and impelled by the
passion of a mystic—the author of Down Among Men has written a
The Dial: Seems to us the most exalted and appealing story
Mr. Comfort has thus far written.
The Argonaut: A novel of extraordinary power. It is good as
Routledge Rides Alone. It could hardly be better.
London Post: Alive with incident, bounding with physical
energy, dramatic in coloring, and modern in every phrase. He has a
message delivered with vigor, inspired with tense passion.
Atlantic Monthly: There is so much real fire in it—the fire
of youth that has seen and suffered—so much vitality and passion that
one grows chary of petty comments. The writer offers us the cup of
life, and there is blood in the cup.
Chicago Record-Herald: An almost perfect tale of courage and
Chicago Tribune: Contains some of the most remarkable scenes
that have appeared in recent American fiction.
New York Times: Few richer novels than this of Mr. Comfort's
have been published in many a long day.
New York Globe: We can say in all sincerity that we know of
no recent bit of descriptive writing that can match this for sustained,
breathless, dramatic interest.
Springfield Republican: Down Among Men is perhaps the most
ambitious American novel that has come out during the past year.
...A hint from the first-year's recognition of a book that was made
to remain in American literature:
Boston Transcript: If it be extravagance, let it be so, to
say that Comfort's account of his childhood has seldom been rivaled in
literature. It amounts to revelation. Really the only parallels that
will suggest themselves in our letters are the great ones that occur in
Huckleberry Finn.... This man Comfort's gamut is long and he has
raced its full length. One wonders whether the interest, the skill, the
general worth of it, the things it has to report of all life, as well
as the one life, do not entitle Midstream to the very long life
that is enjoyed only by the very best of books.
San Francisco Argonaut: Read the book. It is autobiography in
its perfection. It shows more of the realities of the human being, more
of god and devil in conflict, than any book of its kind.
Springfield Republican: It is difficult to think of any other
young American who has so courageously reversed the process of writing
for the “market” and so flatly insisted upon being taken, if at all, on
his own terms of life and art. And now comes his frank and amazing
revelation, Midstream, in which he captures and carries the
reader on to a story of regeneration. He has come far; the question is,
how much farther will he go?
Mary Fanton Roberts in The Craftsman: Beside the stature of
this book, the ordinary novel and biography are curiously dwarfed. You
read it with a poignant interest and close it with wonder, reverence
and gratitude. There is something strangely touching about words so
candid, and a draught of philosophy that has been pressed from such
wild and bitter-sweet fruit. The message it contains is one to sink
deep, penetrating and enriching whatever receptive soul it touches.
This man's words are incandescent. Many of us feel that he is breathing
into a language, grown trite from hackneyed usage, the inspiration of a
Ida Gilbert Myers in Washington Star: Courage backs this
revelation. The gift of self-searching animates it. Honesty sustains
it. And Mr. Comfort's rare power to seize and deliver his vision
inspires it. It is a tremendous thing—the greatest thing that this
writer has yet done.
George Soule in The Little Review: Here is a man's life laid
absolutely bare. A direct, big thing, so simple that almost no one has
done it before—this Mr. Comfort has dared. People who are made
uncomfortable by intimate grasp of anything, to whom reserve is more
important than truth—these will not read Midstream through, but
others will emerge from the book with a sense of the absolute nobility
of Mr. Comfort's frankness.
Edwin Markham in Hearst's Magazine: Will Levington Comfort, a
novelist of distinction, has given us a book alive with human interest,
with passionate sincerity, and with all the power of his despotism over
words. He has been a wandering foot—familiar with many strands; he has
known shame and sorrow and striving; he has won to serene heights. He
tells it all without vaunt, relating his experience to the large
meanings of life for all men, to the mystic currents behind life, out
of which we come, to whose great deep we return.