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Title: Menschen im Krieg. English - Men in War
Author: Latzko, Andreas, 1876-1943
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Menschen im Krieg. English - Men in War" ***

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By Andreas Latzko


_"I am convinced the time will come when all will think as I do."_









The time was late in the autumn of the second year of the war; the
place, the garden of a war hospital in a small Austrian town, which lay
at the base of wooded hills, sequestered as behind a Spanish wall, and
still preserving its sleepy contented outlook upon existence.

Day and night the locomotives whistled by. Some of them hauled to the
front trains of soldiers singing and hallooing, high-piled bales of
hay, bellowing cattle and ammunition in tightly-closed, sinister-looking
cars. The others, in the opposite direction, came creeping homeward
slowly, marked by the bleeding cross that the war has thrown upon all
walls and the people behind them. But the great madness raced through
the town like a hurricane, without disturbing its calm, as though the
low, brightly colored houses with the old-fashioned ornate façades
had tacitly come to the sensible agreement to ignore with aristocratic
reserve this arrogant, blustering fellow, War, who turned everything

In the parks the children played unmolested with the large russet leaves
of the old chestnut trees. Women stood gossiping in front of the shops,
and somewhere in every street a girl with a bright kerchief on her head
could be seen washing windows. In spite of the hospital flags waving
from almost every house, in spite of innumerable bulletin boards,
notices and sign-posts that the intruder had thrust upon the defenseless
town, peace still seemed to prevail here, scarcely fifty miles away from
the butchery, which on clear nights threw its glow on the horizon like
an artificial illumination. When, for a few moments at a time, there was
a lull in the stream of heavy, snorting automobile trucks and rattling
drays, and no train happened to be rumbling over the railroad bridge and
no signal of trumpet or clanking of sabres sounded the strains of
war, then the obstinate little place instantly showed up its dull but
good-natured provincial face, only to hide it again in resignation
behind its ill-fitting soldier's mask, when the next automobile from
the general staff came dashing around the corner with a great show of

To be sure the cannons growled in the distance, as if a gigantic dog
were crouching way below the ground ready to jump up at the heavens,
snarling and snapping. The muffled barking of the big mortars came from
over there like a bad fit of coughing from a sickroom, frightening the
watchers who sit with eyes red with crying, listening for every sound
from the dying man. Even the long, low rows of houses shrank together
with a rattle and listened horrorstruck each time the coughing convulsed
the earth, as though the stress of war lay on the world's chest like a

The streets exchanged astonished glances, blinking sleepily in the
reflection of the night-lamps that inside cast their merrily dancing
shadows over close rows of beds. The rooms, choke-full of misery, sent
piercing shrieks and wails and groans out into the night. Every human
sound coming through the windows fell upon the silence like a furious
attack. It was a wild denunciation of the war that out there at the
front was doing its work, discharging mangled human bodies like so much
offal and filling all the houses with its bloody refuse.

But the beautiful wrought-iron fountains continued to gurgle and murmur
complacently, prattling with soothing insistence of the days of their
youth, when men still had the time and the care for noble lines and
curves, and war was the affair of princes and adventurers. Legend popped
out of every corner and every gargoyle, and ran on padded soles through
all the narrow little streets, like an invisible gossip whispering of
peace and comfort. And the ancient chestnut trees nodded assent, and
with the shadows of their outspread fingers stroked the frightened
façades to calm them. The past grew so lavishly out of the fissured
walls that any one coming within their embrace heard the plashing of the
fountains above the thunder of the artillery; and the sick and wounded
men felt soothed and listened from their fevered couches to the
talkative night outside. Pale men, who had been carried through the town
on swinging stretchers, forgot the hell they had come from; and even the
heavily laden victims tramping through the place on a forced march by
night became softened for a space, as if they had encountered Peace
and their own unarmed selves in the shadow of the columns and the
flower-filled bay-windows.

The same thing took place with the war in this town as with the stream
that came down from out of the mountains in the north, foaming with rage
at each pebble it rolled over. At the other end of the town, on passing
the last houses, it took a tender leave, quite tamed and subdued,
murmuring very gently, as if treading on tiptoe, as if drowsy with all
the dreaminess it had reflected. Between wide banks, it stepped out into
the broad meadowland, and circled about the war hospital, making almost
an island of the ground it stood on. Thick-stemmed sycamores cast their
shadow on the hospital, and from three sides came the murmur of the
slothful stream mingled with the rustling of the leaves, as if the
garden, when twilight fell, was moved by compassion and sang a slumber
song for the lacerated men, who had to suffer in rank and file,
regimented up to their very death, up to the grave, into which
they--unfortunate cobblers, tinkers, peasants, and clerks--were shoved
to the accompaniment of salvos from big-mouthed cannon.

The sound of taps had just died away, and the watchmen were making their
rounds, when they discovered three men in the deep shadow of the broad
avenue, and drove them into the house.

"Are you officers, eh?" the head-watchman, a stocky corporal of
the landsturm, with grey on his temples, growled and blustered
good-naturedly. "Privates must be in bed by nine o'clock." To preserve a
show of authority he added with poorly simulated bearishness: "Well, are
you going or not?"

He was about to give his usual order, "Quick, take to your legs!" but
caught himself just in time, and made a face as though he had swallowed

The three men now hobbling toward the entrance for inmates, would have
been only too glad to carry out such an order. However, they had only
two legs and six clattering crutches between them. It was like a living
picture posed by a stage manager who has an eye for symmetry. On the
right went the one whose right leg had been saved, on the left went his
counterpart, hopping on his left leg, and in the middle the miserable
left-over of a human body swung between two high crutches, his empty
trousers raised and pinned across his chest, so that the whole man could
have gone comfortably into a cradle.

The corporal followed the group with his eyes, his head bent and his
fists clenched, as if bowed down beneath the burden of the sight. He
muttered a not exactly patriotic oath and spat out a long curve of
saliva with a hiss from between his front teeth. As he was about to turn
and go on his round again, a burst of laughter came from the direction
of the officers' wing. He stood still and drew in his head as if from a
blow on the back of his neck, and a gleam of ungovernable hatred flitted
over his broad, good-natured peasant face. He spat out again, to soothe
his feelings, then took a fresh start and passed the merry company with
a stiff salute.

The gentlemen returned the salute carelessly. Infected by the coziness
that hung over the whole of the town like a light cloud, they were
sitting chatting in front of the hospital on benches moved together to
form a square. They spoke of the war and--laughed, laughed like happy
schoolboys discussing the miseries of examinations just gone through.
Each had done his duty, each had had his ordeal, and now, under the
protection of his wound, each sat there in the comfortable expectation
of returning home, of seeing his people again, of being fêted, and for
at least two whole weeks, of living the life of a man who is not tagged
with a number.

The loudest of the laughers was the young lieutenant whom they had
nicknamed the Mussulman because of the Turkish turban he wore as officer
of a regiment of Bosnians. A shell had broken his leg, and done its
work thoroughly. For weeks already the shattered limb had been tightly
encased in a plaster cast, and its owner, who went about on crutches,
cherished it carefully, as though it were some precious object that had
been confided to his care.

On the bench opposite the Mussulman sat two gentlemen, a cavalry
officer, the only one on the active list, and an artillery officer,
who in civil life was a professor of philosophy, and so was called
"Philosopher" for short. The cavalry captain had received a cut across
his right arm, and the Philosopher's upper lip had been ripped by a
splinter from a grenade. Two ladies were sitting on the bench that
leaned against the wall of the hospital, and these three men were
monopolizing the conversation with them, because the fourth man sat on
his bench without speaking. He was lost in his own thoughts, his
limbs twitched, and his eyes wandered unsteadily. In the war he was a
lieutenant of the landsturm, in civil life a well-known composer. He had
been brought to the hospital a week before, suffering from severe
shock. Horror still gloomed in his eyes, and he kept gazing ahead of him
darkly. He always allowed the attendants at the hospital to do whatever
they wanted to him without resistance, and he went to bed or sat in the
garden, separated from the others as by an invisible wall, at which he
stared and stared. Even the unexpected arrival of his pretty, fair wife
had not resulted in dispelling for so much as a second the vision of
the awful occurrence that had unbalanced his mind. With his chin on his
chest he sat without a smile, while she murmured words of endearment;
and whenever she tried to touch his poor twitching hands with the tips
of her fingers, full of infinite love, he would jerk away as if seized
by a convulsion, or under torture.

Tears rolled down the little woman's cheeks--cheeks hungry for caresses.
She had fought her way bravely through the zones barred to civilians
until she finally succeeded in reaching this hospital in the war zone.
And now, after the great relief and joy of finding her husband alive and
unmutilated, she suddenly sensed an enigmatic resistance, an unexpected
obstacle, which she could not beg away or cry away, as she had used to
do. There was a something there that separated her mercilessly from the
man she had so yearned to see.

She sat beside him impatiently, tortured by her powerlessness to find an
explanation for the hostility that he shed around him. Her eyes pierced
the darkness, and her hands always went the same way, groping forward
timidly, then quickly withdrawing as though scorched when his shrinking
away in hatred threw her into despair again.

It was hard to have to choke down her grief like this, and not burst
out in reproach and tear this secret from her husband, which he in
his misery still interposed so stubbornly between himself and his one
support. And it was hard to simulate happiness and take part in the airy
conversation; hard always to have to force some sort of a reply, and
hard not to lose patience with the other woman's perpetual giggling. It
was easy enough for _her_. She knew that her husband, a major-general,
was safe behind the lines on the staff of a high command. She had fled
from the ennui of a childless home to enter into the eventful life of
the war hospital.

The major's wife had been sitting in the garden with the gentlemen ever
since seven o'clock, always on the point of leaving, quite ready to go
in her hat and jacket, but she let herself be induced again and again to
remain a little longer. She kept up her flirtatious conversation in the
gayest of spirits, as if she had no knowledge of all the torments she
had seen during the day in the very house against which she was leaning
her back. The sad little woman breathed a sigh of relief when it grew so
dark that she could move away from the frivolous chatterbox unnoticed.

And yet in spite of her titillating conversation and the air of
importance with which she spoke of her duties as a nurse, the Frau Major
was penetrated by a feeling that, without her being conscious of it,
raised her high above herself. The great wave of motherliness that had
swept over all the women when the fatal hour struck for the men, had
borne her aloft, too. She had seen the three men with whom she was now
genially exchanging light nothings come to the hospital--like thousands
of others--streaming with blood, helpless, whimpering with pain. And
something of the joy of the hen whose brood has safely hatched warmed
her coquetry.

Since the men have been going for months, crouching, creeping on
all fours, starving, carrying their own death as mothers carry their
children; since suffering and waiting and the passive acceptance of
danger and pain have reversed the sexes, the women have felt strong,
and even in their sensuality there has been a little glimmer of the new
passion for mothering.

The melancholy wife, just arrived from a region in which the war exists
in conversation only, and engrossed in the one man to the exclusion of
the others, suffered from the sexless familiarity that they so freely
indulged in there in the shadow of death and agony. But the others were
at home in the war. They spoke its language, which in the men was a
mixture of obstinate greed for life and a paradoxical softness born of
a surfeit of brutality; while in the woman it was a peculiar, garrulous
cold-bloodedness. She had heard so much of blood and dying that her
endless curiosity gave the impression of hardness and hysterical

The Mussulman and the cavalry officer were chaffing the Philosopher and
poking fun at the phrase-mongers, hair-splitters, and other wasters of
time. They took a childish delight in his broad smile of embarrassment
at being teased in the Frau Major's presence, and she, out of feminine
politeness, came to the Philosopher's rescue, while casting amorous
looks at the others who could deal such pert blows with their tongues.

"Oh, let the poor man alone," she laughed and cooed. "He's right. War
is horrible. These two gentlemen are just trying to get your temper up."
She twinkled at the Philosopher to soothe him. His good nature made him
so helpless.

The Philosopher grinned phlegmatically and said nothing. The Mussulman,
setting his teeth, shifted his leg, which in its white bandage was the
only part of him that was visible, and placed it in a more comfortable
position on the bench.

"The Philosopher?" he laughed. "As a matter of fact, what does the
Philosopher know about war? He's in the artillery. And war is conducted
by the infantry. Don't you know that, Mrs. ----?"

"I am not Mrs. here. Here I am Sister Engelberta," she cut in, and for a
moment the expression on her face became almost serious.

"I beg your pardon, Sister Engelberta. Artillery and infantry, you see,
are like husband and wife. We infantrymen must bring the child into the
world when a victory is to be born. The artillery has only the pleasure,
just like a man's part in love. It is not until after the child has been
baptized that he comes strutting out proudly. Am I not right, Captain?"
he asked, appealing to the cavalry officer. "You are an equestrian on
foot now, too."

The captain boomed his assent. In his summary view, members of the
Reichstag who refused to vote enough money for the military, Socialists,
pacifists, all men, in brief, who lectured or wrote or spoke superfluous
stuff and lived by their brains belonged in the same category as the
Philosopher. They were all "bookworms."

"Yes, indeed," he said in his voice hoarse from shouting commands.
"A philosopher like our friend here is just the right person for the
artillery. Nothing to do but wait around on the top of a hill and
look on. If only they don't shoot up our own men! It is easy enough to
dispose of the fellows on the other side, in front of us. But I always
have a devilish lot of respect for you assassins in the back. But let's
stop talking of the war. Else I'll go off to bed. Here we are at last
with two charming ladies, when it's been an age since we've seen a face
that isn't covered with stubble, and you still keep talking of that
damned shooting. Good Lord, when I was in the hospital train and the
first girl came in with a white cap on her curly light hair, I'd have
liked to hold her hand and just keep looking and looking at her. Upon my
word of honor, Sister Engelberta, after a while the shooting gets to
be a nuisance. The lice are worse. But the worst thing of all is the
complete absence of the lovely feminine. For five months to see nothing
but men--and then all of a sudden to hear a dear clear woman's voice!
That's the finest thing of all. It's worth going to war for."

The Mussulman pulled his mobile face flashing with youth into a grimace.

"The finest thing of all! No, sir. To be quite frank, the finest thing
of all is to get a bath and a fresh bandage, and be put into a clean
white bed, and know that for a few weeks you're going to have a rest.
It's a feeling like--well, there's no comparison for it. But, of course,
it is very nice, too, to be seeing ladies again."

The Philosopher had tilted his round fleshy Epicurean head to one side,
and a moist sheen came into his small crafty eyes. He glanced at the
place where a bright spot in the almost palpable darkness suggested the
Frau Major's white dress, and began to tell what he thought, very slowly
in a slight sing-song.

"The finest thing of all, I think, is the quiet--when you have been
lying up there in the mountains where every shot is echoed back and
forth five times, and all of a sudden it turns absolutely quiet--no
whistling, no howling, no thundering--nothing but a glorious quiet that
you can listen to as to a piece of music! The first few nights I sat up
the whole time and kept my ears cocked for the quiet, the way you try
to catch a tune at a distance. I believe I even howled a bit, it was so
delightful to listen to no sound."

The captain of cavalry sent his cigarette flying through the night like
a comet scattering sparks, and brought his hand down with a thump on his

"There, there, Sister Engelberta, did you get that?" he cried
sarcastically. "'Listen to no sound.' You see, that's what's called
philosophy. I know something better than that, Mr. Philosopher, namely,
not to hear what you hear, especially when it's such philosophical

They laughed, and the man they were teasing smiled good-naturedly. He,
too, was permeated by the peacefulness that floated into the garden from
the sleeping town. The cavalryman's aggressive jokes glided off without
leaving a sting, as did everything else that might have lessened the
sweetness of the few days still lying between him and the front. He
wanted to make the most of his time, and take everything easily with his
eyes tight shut, like a child who has to enter a dark room.

The Frau Major leaned over to the Philosopher.

"So opinions differ as to what was the finest thing," she said; and her
breath came more rapidly. "But, tell me, what was the most awful thing
you went through out there? A lot of the men say the drumfire is the
worst, and a lot of them can't get over the sight of the first man they
saw killed. How about you?"

The Philosopher looked tortured. It was a theme that did not fit
into his programme. He was casting about for an evasive reply when an
unintelligible wheezing exclamation drew all eyes to the corner in which
the landsturm officer and his wife were sitting. The others had almost
forgotten them in the darkness and exchanged frightened glances when
they heard a voice that scarcely one of them knew, and the man with the
glazed eyes and uncertain gestures, a marionette with broken joints,
began to speak hastily in a falsetto like the crowing of a rooster.

"What was the most awful thing? The only awful thing is the going off.
You go off to war--and they let you go. That's the awful thing."

A cold sickening silence fell upon the company. Even the Mussulman's
face lost its perpetually happy expression and stiffened in
embarrassment. It had come so unexpectedly and sounded so
unintelligible. It caught them by the throat and set their pulses
bounding--perhaps because of the vibrating of the voice that issued from
the twitching body, or because of the rattling that went along with it,
and made it sound like a voice broken by long sobbing.

The Frau Major jumped up. She had seen the landsturm officer brought
to the hospital strapped fast to the stretcher, because his sobbing
wrenched and tore his body so that the bearers could not control him
otherwise. Something inexpressibly hideous--so it was said--had half
robbed the poor devil of his reason, and the Frau Major suddenly dreaded
a fit of insanity. She pinched the cavalryman's arm and exclaimed with a
pretense of great haste:

"My goodness! There's the gong of the last car. Quick, quick,"
addressing the sick man's wife, "quick! We must run."

They all rose. The Frau Major passed her arm through the unhappy little
woman's and urged with even greater insistence:

"We'll have a whole hour's walk back to town if we miss the car."

The little wife, completely at a loss, her whole body quivering, bent
over her husband again to take leave. She was certain that his outburst
had reference to her and held a grim deadly reproach, which she did not
comprehend. She felt her husband draw back and start convulsively under
the touch of her lips. And she sobbed aloud at the awful prospect of
spending an endless night in the chilly neglected room in the hotel,
left alone with this tormenting doubt. But the Frau Major drew her
along, forcing her to run, and did not let go her arm until they
had passed the sentinel at the gate and were out on the street. The
gentlemen followed them with their eyes, saw them reappear once again
on the street in the lamplight, and listened to the sound of the car
receding in the distance. The Mussulman picked up his crutches, and
winked at the Philosopher significantly, and said something with a yawn
about going to bed. The cavalry officer looked down at the sick man
curiously and felt sorry for him. Wanting to give the poor devil a bit
of pleasure, he tapped him on his shoulder and said in his free and easy

"You've got a chic wife, I must say. I congratulate you."

The next instant he drew back startled. The pitiful heap on the bench
jumped up suddenly, as though a force just awakened had tossed him up
from his seat.

"Chic wife? Oh, yes. Very dashing!" came sputtering from his twitching
lips with a fury that cast out the words like a seething stream. "She
didn't shed a single tear when I left on the train. Oh, they were all
very dashing when we went off. Poor Dill's wife was, too. Very plucky!
She threw roses at him in the train and she'd been his wife for only two
months." He chuckled disdainfully and clenched his teeth, fighting hard
to suppress the tears burning in his threat. "Roses! He-he! And 'See you
soon again!' They were all so patriotic! Our colonel congratulated Dill
because his wife had restrained herself so well--as if he were simply
going off to maneuvers."

The lieutenant was now standing up. He swayed on his legs, which he
held wide apart, and supported himself on the cavalry captain's arm, and
looked up into his face expectantly with unsteady eyes.

"Do you know what happened to him--to Dill? I was there. Do you know

The captain looked at the others in dismay.

"Come on--come on to bed. Don't excite yourself," he stammered in

With a howl of triumph the sick man cut him short and snapped in an
unnaturally high voice:

"You don't know what happened to Dill, you don't? We were standing just
the way we are now, and he was just going to show me the new photograph
that his wife had sent him--his brave wife, he-he, his restrained
wife. Oh yes, restrained! That's what they all were--all prepared for
anything. And while we were standing there, he about to show me the
picture, a twenty-eighter struck quite a distance away from us, a good
two-hundred yards. We didn't even look that way. Then all of a sudden I
saw something black come flying through the air--and Dill fell over with
his dashing wife's picture in his hand and a boot, a leg, a boot with
the leg of a baggage soldier sticking in his head--a soldier that the
twenty-eighter had blown to pieces far away from where we stood."

He stopped for an instant and stared at the captain triumphantly. Then
he went on with a note of spiteful pride in his voice, though every now
and then interrupted by a peculiar gurgling groan.

"Poor Dill never said another word--Dill with the spur sticking in his
skull, a regular cavalry spur, as big as a five-crown piece. He only
turned up the whites of his eyes a little and looked sadly at his wife's
picture, that she should have permitted such a thing as that. Such
a thing as that! Such a thing! It took four of us to pull the boot
out--four of us. We had to turn it and twist it, until a piece of
his brain came along--like roots pulled up--like a jellyfish--a dead
one--sticking to the spur."

"Shut up!" the captain yelled furiously, and tore himself away and
walked into the house cursing.

The other two looked after him longingly, but they could not let the
unfortunate man stay there by himself. When the captain had withdrawn
his arm, he had fallen down on the bench again and sat whimpering like
a whipped child, with his head leaning on the back. The Philosopher
touched his shoulder gently, and was about to speak to him kindly and
induce him to go into the house when he started up again and broke out
into an ugly, snarling laugh.

"But we tore her out of him, his dashing wife. Four of us had to tug and
pull until she came out. I got him rid of her. Out with her! She's gone.
All of them are gone. Mine is gone, too. Mine is torn out, too. All are
being torn out. There's no wife any more! No wife any more, no--"

His head bobbed and fell forward. Tears slowly rolled down his sad, sad

The captain reappeared followed by the little assistant physician, who
was on night duty.

"You must go to bed now, Lieutenant," the physician said with affected

The sick man threw his head up and stared blankly at the strange face.
When the physician repeated the order in a raised voice, his eyes
suddenly gleamed, and he nodded approvingly.

"Must go, of course," he repeated eagerly, and drew a deep sigh. "We all
must go. The man who doesn't go is a coward, and they have no use for
a coward. That's the very thing. Don't you understand? Heroes are the
style now. The chic Mrs. Dill wanted a hero to match her new hat. Ha-ha!
That's why poor Dill had to go and lose his brains. I, too--you, too--we
must go die. You must let yourself be trampled on--your brains trampled
on, while the women look on--chic--because it's the style now."

He raised his emaciated body painfully, holding on to the back of the
bench, and eyed each man in turn, waiting for assent.

"Isn't it sad?" he asked softly. Then his voice rose suddenly to a
shriek again, and the sound of his fury rang out weirdly in the garden.
"Weren't they deceiving us, eh? I'd like to know--weren't they cheats?
Was I an assassin? Was I a ruffian? Didn't I suit her when I sat at
the piano playing? We were expected to be gentle and considerate!
Considerate! And all at once, because the fashion changed, they had to
have murderers. Do you understand? Murderers!"

He broke away from the physician, and stood swaying again, and his
voice gradually sank to a complaining sound like the thick strangulated
utterance of a drunkard.

"My wife was in fashion too, you know. Not a tear! I kept waiting and
waiting for her to begin to scream and beg me at last to get out of the
train, and not go with the others--beg me to be a coward for her sake.
Not one of them had the courage to. They just wanted to be in fashion.
Mine, too! Mine, too! She waved her handkerchief just like all the

His twitching arms writhed upwards, as though he were calling the
heavens to witness.

"You want to know what was the most awful thing?" he groaned, turning
to the Philosopher abruptly. "The disillusionment was the most awful
thing--the going off. The war wasn't. The war is what it has to be. Did
it surprise you to find out that war is horrible? The only surprising
thing was the going off. To find out that the women are horrible--that
was the surprising thing. That they can smile and throw roses, that they
can give up their men, their children, the boys they have put to bed a
thousand times and pulled the covers over a thousand times, and petted
and brought up to be men. That was the surprise! That they gave us
up--that they sent us--_sent_ us! Because every one of them would
have been ashamed to stand there without a hero. That was the great
disillusionment. Do you think we should have gone if they had not sent
us? Do you think so? Just ask the stupidest peasant out there why he'd
like to have a medal before going back on furlough. Because if he has a
medal his girl will like him better, and the other girls will run after
him, and he can use his medal to hook other men's women away from under
their noses. That's the reason, the only reason. The women sent us.
No general could have made us go if the women hadn't allowed us to be
stacked on the trains, if they had screamed out that they would never
look at us again if we turned into murderers. Not a single man would
have gone off if they had sworn never to give themselves to a man who
has split open other men's skulls and shot and bayoneted human beings.
Not one man, I tell you, would have gone. I didn't want to believe that
they could stand it like that. 'They're only pretending,' I thought.
'They're just restraining themselves. But when the first whistle blows,
they'll begin to scream and tear us out of the train, and rescue us.'
_Once_ they had the chance to protect us, but all they cared about was
being in style--nothing else in the world but just being in style."

He sank down on the bench again and sat as though he were all broken up.
His body was shaken by a low weeping, and his head rolled to and fro
on his panting chest. A little circle of people had gathered behind his
back. The old landsturm corporal was standing beside the physician with
four sentries ready to intervene at a moment's notice. All the windows
in the officers' wing had lighted up, and scantily clad figures leaned
out, looking down into the garden curiously.

The sick man eagerly scrutinized the indifferent faces around him. He
was exhausted.

His hoarse throat no longer gave forth a sound. His hand reached out for
help to the Philosopher, who stood beside him, all upset.

The physician felt the right moment had come to lead him away.

"Come, Lieutenant, let's go to sleep," he said with a clumsy affectation
of geniality. "That's the way women are once for all, and there's
nothing to be done about it."

The physician wanted to go on talking and in conversing lure the
sick man into the house unawares. But the very next sentence remained
sticking in his throat, and he stopped short in amazement. The limp
wobbling skeleton that only a moment before had sat there as in a faint
and let himself be raised up by the physician and the Philosopher,
suddenly jumped up with a jerk, and tore his arms away so violently that
the two men who were about to assist him were sent tumbling up against
the others. He bent over with crooked knees, staggering like a man
carrying a heavy load on his back. His veins swelled, and he panted with

"That's the way women are once for all, are they? Since when, eh?
Have you never heard of the suffragettes who boxed the ears of prime
ministers, and set fire to museums, and let themselves be chained to
lamp-posts for the sake of the vote? For the sake of the vote, do you
hear? But for the sake of their men? No. Not one sound. Not one single

He stopped to take breath, overcome by a wild suffocating despair. Then
he pulled himself together once more and with difficulty suppressing the
sobs, which kept bringing a lump into his throat, he screamed in deepest
misery like a hunted animal:

"Have you heard of one woman throwing herself in front of a train for
the sake of her husband? Has a single one of them boxed the ears of a
prime minister or tied herself to a railroad track for us? There wasn't
one that had to be torn away. Not one fought for us or defended us. Not
one moved a little finger for us in the whole wide world! They drove us
out! They gagged us! They gave us the spur, like poor Dill. They sent
us to murder, they sent us to die--for their vanity. Are you going to
defend them? No! They must be pulled out! Pulled out like weeds, by the
roots! Four of you together must pull the way we had to do with Dill.
Four of you together! Then she'll have to come out. Are you the doctor?
There! Do it to my head. I don't want a wife! Pull--pull her out!"

He flung out his arm and his fist came down like a hammer on his own
skull, and his crooked fingers clutched pitilessly at the sparse growth
of hair on the back of his head, until he held up a whole handful torn
out by the roots, and howled with pain.

The doctor gave a sign, and the next moment the four sentries were on
him, panting. He screamed, gnashed his teeth, beat about him, kicked
himself free, shook off his assailants like burrs. It was not until the
old corporal and the doctor came to their assistance that they succeeded
in dragging him into the house.

As soon as he was gone the people left the garden. The last to go were
the Mussulman and the Philosopher. The Mussulman stopped at the door,
and in the light of the lantern looked gravely down at his leg, which,
in its plaster cast, hung like a dead thing between his two crutches.

"Do you know, Philosopher," he said, "I'd much rather have this stick
of mine. The worst thing that can happen to one out there is to go crazy
like that poor devil. Rather off with one's head altogether and be done
with it. Or do you think he still has a chance?"

The Philosopher said nothing. His round good-natured face had gone ashen
pale, and his eyes were swimming with tears. He shrugged his shoulders
and helped his comrade up the steps without speaking. On entering the
ward they heard the banging of doors somewhere far away in the house and
a muffled cry.

Then everything was still. One by one the lights went out in the windows
of the officers' wing. Soon the garden lay like a bushy black island
in the river's silent embrace. Only now and then a gust of wind brought
from the west the coughing of the guns like a faint echo.

Once more a crunching sound was heard on the gravel. It was the four
sentries marching back to the watch-house. One soldier was cursing under
his breath as he tried to refasten his torn blouse. The others were
breathing heavily and were wiping the sweat from their red foreheads
with the backs of their hands. The old corporal brought up the rear, his
pipe in the corner of his mouth, his head bent low. As he turned into
the main walk a bright sheet of light lit up the sky, and a prolonged
rumbling that finally sank into the earth with a growl shook all the
windows of the hospital.

The old man stood still and listened until the rumbling had died away.
Then he shook his clenched fist, and sent out a long curve of saliva
from between his set teeth, and muttered in a disgust that came from the
depths of his soul:



The company rested for half an hour at the edge of the woods. Then
Captain Marschner gave the command to start. He was pale, in spite of
the killing heat, and he turned his eyes aside when he gave Lieutenant
Weixler instructions that in ten minutes every man should be ready for
the march without fail.

He had really forced his own hand in giving the order. For now, he knew
very well, there could be no delay. Whenever he left Weixler loose on
the privates, everything went like clock-work. They trembled before
this lad of barely twenty as though he were the devil incarnate. And
sometimes it actually seemed to the captain himself as though there
were something uncanny about that overgrown, bony figure. Never, by any
chance, did a spark of warmth flash from those small, piercing eyes,
which always mirrored a flickering unrest and gleamed as though from
fever. The one young thing in his whole personality was the small, shy
moustache above the compressed lips, which never opened except to ask
in a mean, harsh way for some soldier to be punished. For almost a year
Captain Marschner had lived side by side with him and had never yet
heard him laugh, knew nothing of his family, nor from where he came,
nor whether he had any ties at all. He spoke rarely, in brief, quick
sentences, and brought out his words in a hiss, like the seething of
a suppressed rage; and his only topic was the service or the war, as
though outside these two things there was nothing else in the world
worth talking about.

And this man, of all others, fate had tricked by keeping him in the
hinterland for the whole first year of the war. The war had been going
on for eleven months and a half, and Lieutenant Weixler had not yet seen
an enemy.

At the very outset, when only a few miles across the Russian frontier,
typhus had caught him before he had fired a single shot. Now at last he
was going to face the enemy!

Captain Marschner knew that the young man had a private's rifle dragged
along for his own use, and had sacrificed all his savings for special
field-glasses in order to be quite on the safe side and know exactly how
many enemy lives he had snuffed out. Since they had come within close
sound of the firing he had grown almost merry, even talkative, impelled
by a nervous zeal, like an enthusiastic hunter who has picked up the
trail. The captain saw him going in and out among the massed men, and
turned away, hating to see how the fellow plagued his poor weary men,
and went at them precisely like a sheep dog gathering in the herd,
barking shrilly all the while. Long before the ten minutes were up, the
company would be in formation, Weixler's impatience guaranteed that.
And then--then there would be no reason any more for longer delay, no
further possibility of putting off the fatal decision.

Captain Marschner took a deep breath and looked up at the sky with
wide-open eyes that had a peculiarly intent look in them. In the
foreground, beyond the steep hill that still hid the actual field of
battle from view, the invisible machine guns were beating in breathless
haste; and scarcely a fathom above the edge of the slope small,
yellowish-white packages floated in thick clusters, like snowballs flung
high in the air--the smoke of the barrage fire through which he had to
lead his men.

It was not a short way. Two kilometers still from the farther spur of
the hill to the entrance of the communication trenches, and straight
across open fields without cover of any kind. Assuredly no small task
for a company of the last class of reservists, for respectable family
men who had been in the field but a few hours, and who were only now to
smell powder for the first time and receive their baptism of fire. For
Weixler, whose mind was set on nothing but the medal for distinguished
service, which he wanted to obtain as soon as possible--for a
twenty-year-old fighting cock who fancied the world rotated about his
own, most important person and had had no time to estimate the truer
values of life--for him it might be no more than an exciting promenade,
a new sting to the nerves, a fine way of becoming thoroughly conscious
of one's personality and placing one's fearlessness in a more brilliant
light. Probably he had long been secretly deriding his old captain's
indecision and had cursed the last halt because it forced him to wait
another half hour to achieve his first deed of heroism.

Marschner mowed down the tall blades of grass with his riding whip and
from time to time glanced at his company surreptitiously. He could
tell by the way the men dragged themselves to their feet with a sort of
resistance, like children roused from sleep, that they fully understood
where they were now to go.

The complete silence in which they packed their bundles and fell into
line made his heart contract.

Ever since the beginning of the war, he had been preparing himself for
this moment without relax. He had brooded over it day and night, had
told himself a thousand times that where a higher interest is at stake,
the misery of the individual counts for nothing, and a conscientious
leader must armor himself with indifference. And now he stood there and
observed with terror how all his good resolutions crumbled, and nothing
remained in him but an impassioned, boundless pity for these driven
home-keepers, who prepared themselves with such quiet resignation. It
was as if they were taking their life into their hands like a costly
vessel in order to carry it into battle and cast it at the feet of the
enemy, as though the least thing they owned was that which would soon be
crashing into fragments.

His friends, among whom he was known as "uncle Marschner," would not
have dared to suggest his sending a rabbit he had reared to the butcher
or dragging a dog that had won his affection to the pound. And now he
was to drive into shrapnel fire men whom he himself had trained to be
soldiers and had had under his own eyes for months, men whom he knew as
he did his own pockets. Of what avail were subtle or deep reflections
now? He saw nothing but the glances of dread and beseeching that his
men turned on him, asking protection, as though they believed that their
captain could prescribe a path even for bullets and shells. And now was
he to abuse their confidence? Was he to marshal these bearded children
to death and not feel any emotion? Only two days before he had seen them
surrounded by their little ones, saying good-bye to their sobbing wives.
Was he to march on without caring if one or another of them was hit and
fell over and rolled in agony in his blood? Whence was he to take the
strength for such hardness of heart? From that higher interest? It had
faded away. It was impalpable. It was too much a matter of mere words,
too much mere sound for him to think that it could fool his soldiers,
who looked forward to the barrage fire in dread, with homeward-turned

Lieutenant Weixler, red-cheeked and radiant, came and shouted in his
face that the company was ready. It struck the captain like a blow
below the belt. It sounded like a challenge. The captain could not help
hearing in it the insolent question, "Well, why aren't you as glad of
the danger as I am?" Every drop of Captain Marschner's blood rose to his
temples. He had to look aside and his eyes wandered involuntarily up
to the shrapnel clouds, bearing a prayer, a silent invocation to those
senseless things up there rattling down so indiscriminately, a prayer
that they would teach this cold-blooded boy suffering, convince him that
he was vulnerable.

But a moment later he bowed his head in shame. His anger grew against
the man who had been able to arouse such a feeling in him.

"Thank you. Let the men stand at rest. I must look after the horses once
more," he said in measured tones, with a forced composure that soothed
him. He did not intend to be hustled, now less than ever. He was glad
to see the lieutenant give a start, and he smiled to himself with quiet
satisfaction at the indignant face, the defiant "Yes, sir," said in a
voice no longer so loud and so clear, but coming through gnashed teeth
from a contracted throat. The boy was for once in his turn to experience
how it feels to be held in check. He was so fond of intoxicating himself
with his own power at the cost of the privates, triumphing, as though it
were the force of his own personality that lorded it over them and not
the rule of the service that was always backing him.

Captain Marschner walked back to the woods deliberately, doubly glad
of the lesson he had just given Weixler because it also meant a brief
respite for his old boys. Perhaps a shell would hurtle down into the
earth before their noses, and so these few minutes would save the lives
of twenty men. Perhaps? It might turn out just the other way, too. Those
very minutes--ah, what was the use of speculating? It was better not
to think at all! He wanted to help the men as much as he could, but he
could not be a savior to any of them.

And yet, perhaps? One man had just come rushing up to him from the
woods. This one man he was managing to shelter for the present. He and
six others were to stay behind with the horses and the baggage. Was
it an injustice to detail this particular man? All the other
non-commissioned officers were older and married. The short, fat man
with the bow-legs even had six children at home. Could he justify
himself at the bar of his conscience for leaving this young, unmarried
man here in safety?

With a furious gesture the captain interrupted his thoughts. He would
have liked best to catch hold of his own chest and give himself a sound
shaking. Why could he not rid himself of that confounded brooding and
pondering the right and wrong of things? Was there any justice at all
left here, here in the domain of the shells that spared the worst
and laid low the best? Had he not quite made up his mind to leave his
conscience, his over-sensitiveness, his ever-wakeful sympathy, and
all his superfluous thoughts at home along with his civilian's clothes
packed away in camphor in the house where he lived in peace times?

All these things were part of the civil engineer, Rudolf Marschner, who
once upon a time had been an officer, but who had returned to school
when thirty years old to exchange the trade of war, into which he had
wandered in the folly of youth, for a profession that harmonized better
with his gentle, thoughtful nature. That this war had now, twenty years
later, turned him into a soldier again was a misfortune, a catastrophe
which had overtaken him, as it had all the others, without any fault of
his or theirs. Yet there was nothing to do but to reconcile himself to
it; and first of all he had to avoid that constant hair-splitting. Why
torment himself so with questions? Some man had to stay behind in the
woods as a guard. The commander had decided on the young sergeant, and
the young sergeant would stay behind. That settled it.

The painful thing was the way the fellow's face so plainly showed
his emotion. His eyes moistened and looked at the captain in dog-like
gratitude. Disgusting, simply disgusting! And what possessed the man to
stammer out something about his mother? He was to stay behind because
the service required it; his mother had nothing to do with it. She was
safe in Vienna--and here it was war.

The captain told the man so. He could not let him think it was a bit of
good fortune, a special dispensation, not to have to go into battle.

Captain Marschner felt easier the minute he had finished scolding the
crushed sinner. His conscience was now quite clear, just as though it
had really been by chance that he had placed the man at that post. But
the feeling did not last very long. The silly fellow would not give up
adoring him as his savior. And when he stammered, "I take the liberty
of wishing you good luck, Captain," standing in stiff military attitude,
but in a voice hoarse and quivering from suppressed tears, such fervor,
such ardent devotion radiated from his wish that the captain suddenly
felt a strange emptiness again in the pit of his stomach, and he turned
sharply and walked away.

Now he knew. Now he could approximately calculate all the things Weixler
had observed in him. Now he could guess how the fellow must have
made secret fun of his sensitiveness, if this simple man, this mere
carpenter's journeyman, could guess his innermost thoughts. For he had
not spoken to him once--simply the night before last, at the entrainment
in Vienna, he had furtively observed his leavetaking from his mother.
How had the confounded fellow come to suspect that the wizened, shrunken
little old hag whose skin, dried by long living, hung in a thousand
loose folds from her cheek-bones, had made such an impression on his
captain? The man himself certainly did not know how touching it looked
when the tiny mother gazed up at him from below and stroked his broad
chest with her trembling hand because she could not reach his face. No
one could have betrayed to the soldier that since then, whenever
his company commander looked at him, he could not help seeing the
lemon-hued, thick-veined hand with its knotted, distorted fingers, which
had touched the rough, hairy cloth with such ineffable love. And yet,
somehow, the rascal had discovered that this hand floated above him
protectingly, that it prayed for him and had softened the heart of his

Marschner tramped across the meadow in rage against himself. He was as
ashamed as though some one had torn a mask from his face. Was it as easy
as that to see through him, then, in spite of all the trouble he took?
He stopped to get his breath, hewed at the grass again with his riding
whip, and cursed aloud. Oh, well, he simply couldn't act a part,
couldn't step out of his skin suddenly, even though there was a world
war a thousand times over. He used to let his nephews and nieces twist
him round their fingers, and laughed good-naturedly when they did it. In
a single day he could not change into a fire-eater and go merrily upon
the man-hunt. What an utterly mad idea it was, too, to try to cast all
people into the same mould! No one dreamed of making a soft-hearted
philanthropist of Weixler; and he was supposed so lightly to turn
straight into a blood-thirsty militarist. He was no longer twenty, like
Weixler, and these sad, silent men who had been so cruelly uprooted from
their lives were each of them far more to him than a mere rifle to be
sent to the repair shop if broken, or to be indifferently discarded if
smashed beyond repair. Whoever had looked on life from all sides and
reflected upon it could not so easily turn into the mere soldier, like
his lieutenant, who had not been humanized yet, nor seen the world from
any point of view but the military school and the barracks.

Ah, yes, if conditions still were as at the beginning of the war, when
none but young fellows, happy to be off on an adventure, hallooed from
the train windows. If they left any dear ones at all behind, they
were only their parents, and here at last was a chance to make a great
impression on the old folks. Then Captain Marschner would have held
his own as well as anyone, as well even as the strict disciplinarian,
Lieutenant Weixler, perhaps even better. Then the men marched two or
three weeks before coming upon the enemy, and the links that bound them
to life broke off one at a time. They underwent a thousand difficulties
and deprivations, until under the stress of hunger and thirst and
weariness they gradually forgot everything they had left far--far
behind. In those days hatred of the enemy who had done them all that
harm smouldered and flared higher every day, while actual battle was a
relief after the long period of passive suffering.

But now things went like lightning. Day before yesterday in Vienna
still--and now, with the farewell kisses still on one's lips, scarcely
torn from another's arms, straight into the fire. And not blindly,
unsuspectingly, like the first ones. For these poor devils now the war
had no secrets left. Each of them had already lost some relative or
friend; each had talked to wounded men, had seen mutilated, distorted
invalids, and knew more about shell wounds, gas grenades, and liquid
fire than artillery generals or staff physicians had known before the

And now it was the captain's lot to lead precisely these clairvoyants,
these men so rudely torn up by the roots--he, the retired captain, the
civilian, who at first had had to stay at home training recruits. Now
that it was a thousand times harder, now his turn had come to be a
leader, and he dared not resist the task to which he was not equal. On
the contrary, as a matter of decency, he had been forced to push his
claims so that others who had already shed their blood out there should
not have to go again for him.

A dull, impotent rage came over him when he stepped up in front of his
men ranged in deep rows. They stared at his lips in breathless suspense.
What was he to say to them? It went against him to reel off compliantly
the usual patriotic phrases that forced themselves on one's lips as
though dictated by an outside power. For months he had carried about the
defiant resolve not to utter the prescribed "_dulce et decorum est pro
patria mori_," whatever the refusal might cost. Nothing was so repulsive
to him as singing the praises of the sacrifice of one's life. It was
a juggler's trick to cry out that some one was dying while inside the
booth murder was being done.

He clenched his teeth and lowered his eyes shyly before the wall of
pallid faces. The foolish, childlike prayer, "Take care of us!" gazed at
him maddeningly from all those eyes. It drove him to sheer despair.

If only he could have driven them back to their own people and gone
ahead alone! With a jerk he threw out his chest, fixed his eyes on a
medal that a man in the middle of the long row was wearing, and said:

"Boys, we're going to meet the enemy now. I count upon each of you to do
his duty, faithful to the oath you have sworn to the flag. I shall ask
nothing of you that the interest of our fatherland and your own interest
therefore and the safety of your wives and children do not absolutely
require. You may depend upon that. Good luck! And now--forward, march!"

Without being conscious of it, he had imitated Weixler's voice, his
unnaturally loud, studiedly incisive tone of command, so as to drown the
emotion that fluttered in his throat. At the last words he faced about
abruptly and without looking around tossed the final command over his
shoulder for the men to deploy, and with his head sunk upon his chest
he began the ascent, taking long strides. Behind him boots crunched and
food pails clattered against some other part of the men's accouterment.
Soon, too, there came the sound of the gasping of heavily laden men; and
a thick, suffocating smell of sweat settled upon the marching company.

Captain Marschner was ashamed. A real physical nausea at the part he had
just played overcame him. What was there left for these simple people to
do, these bricklayers and engineers and cultivators of the earth,
who, bent over their daily tasks, had lived without vision into the
future--what was there left for them to do when the grand folks, the
learned people, their own captain with the three golden stars on his
collar, assured them it was their duty and a most praiseworthy thing to
shoot Italian bricklayers and engineers and farmers into fragments? They
went--gasping behind him, and he--he led them on! Led them, against his
inner conviction, because of his pitiful cowardice, and asked them to
be courageous and contemptuous of death. He had talked them into it, had
abused their confidence, had made capital of their love for their wives
and children, because if he acted in the service of a lie, there was a
chance of his continuing to live and even coming back home safe again,
while if he stuck to the truth he believed in there was the certainty of
his being stood up against a wall and shot.

He staked their lives and his own life on the throw of loaded dice
because he was too cowardly to contemplate the certain loss of the game
for himself alone.

The sun beat down murderously on the steep, treeless declivity. The
sound of shells bursting off at a distance, of tattooing machine guns,
and roaring artillery on their own side was now mingled with the howling
sound of shots whizzing through the air and coming closer and closer.
And still the top of the ridge had not been reached! The captain felt
his breath fail him, stopped and raised his hand. The men were to get
their wind back for a moment; they had been on the march since four
o'clock that morning; they had done bravely with their forty-year-old
legs. He could tell that by his own.

Full of compassion he looked upon the bluish red faces streaming with
sweat, and gave a start when he saw Lieutenant Weixler approaching in
long strides. Why could he no longer see that face without a sense
of being attacked, of being caught at the throat by a hatred he could
hardly control? He ought really to be glad to have the man at his side
there. One glance into those coldly watchful eyes was sufficient to
subdue any surge of compassion.

"With your permission, Captain," he heard him rasp out, "I'm going over
to the left wing. A couple of fellows there that don't please me at all.
Especially Simmel, the red-haired dog. He's already pulling his head in
when a shrapnel bursts over there."

Marschner was silent. The red-haired dog--Simmel? Wasn't that the
red-haired endman in the second line, the paper-hanger and upholsterer
who had carried that exquisite little girl in his arms up to the last
moment--until Weixler had brutally driven him off to the train? It
seemed to the captain as though he could still see the children's
astonished upward look at the mighty man who could scold their own

"Let him be, he'll get used to it by and by," he said mildly. "He's got
his children on his mind and isn't in a hurry to make orphans of them.
The men can't all be heroes. If they just do their duty."

Weixler's face became rigid. His narrow lips tightened again into that
hard, contemptuous expression which the captain felt each time like the
blow of a whip.

"He's not supposed to think of his brats now, but of his oath to the
flag, of the oath he swore to his Majesty, his Commander-in-Chief! You
just told them so yourself, Captain."

"Yes, yes, I know I did," Captain Marschner nodded absent-mindedly, and
let himself slide down slowly on the grass. It was not surprising that
this boy spoke as he did, but what was surprising was that twenty-five
years ago, when he himself had come from the military academy all aglow
with enthusiasm, the phrases "oath to the flag," "his Majesty, and
Commander-in-Chief" had seemed to him, too, to be the sum and substance
of all things. In those days he would have been like this lad and would
have gone to war full of joyous enthusiasm. But now that he had grown
deaf to the fanfaronade of such words and clearly saw the framework on
which they were constructed, how was he to keep pace with the young who
were a credulous echo of every speech they heard? How was he suddenly
to make bold reckless blades of his excellent, comfortable Philistines,
whom life had so thoroughly tamed that at home they were capable of
going hungry and not snatching at treasures that were separated from
them by only a thin partition of glass? What was the use of making the
same demands upon the upholsterer Simmel as upon the young lieutenant,
who had never striven for anything else than to be named first for
fencing, wrestling, and courageous conduct? Have mercenaries ever been
famous for their morals, or good solid citizens for their fearlessness?
Can one and the same man be twenty and forty-five years old at the same

Crouching there, his head between his fists, the captain became so
absorbed in these thoughts that he lost all sense of the time and the
place, and the lieutenant's attempts to rouse him by passing by several
times and hustling the men about loudly remained unsuccessful. But at
last the sound of a horse's hoofs brought him back to consciousness. An
officer was galloping along the path that ran about the hill half way
from the top. On his head he wore the tall cap that marked him as a
member of the general staff. He reined in his horse, asked courteously
where the company was bound and raised his eyebrows when Captain
Marschner explained the precise position they were to take.

"So that's where you're going?" he exclaimed, and his grimace turned
into a respectful smile. "Well, I congratulate you! You're going into
the very thickest of the lousy mess. For three days the Italians have
been trying to break through at that point. I wouldn't hold you back for
a moment! The poor devils there now will make good use of the relief.
Good-bye and good luck!"

Gracefully he touched the edge of his cap. His horse cried out under the
pressure of his spurs, and he was gone.

The captain stared after him as though dazed. "Well, I congratulate
you!" The words echoed in his ears. A man, well mounted, thoroughly
rested, pink and neat as though he had just come out of a band-box,
meets two hundred fellowmen dedicated to death; sees them sweaty,
breathless, on the very edge of destruction; knows that in another
hour many a face now turned upon him curiously will lie in the grass
distorted by pain or rigid in death--and he says, smiling, "Well, I
congratulate you!" And he rides on and no shudder of awe creeps down his
back, no shadow touches his forehead!

The meeting will fade from the man's memory without leaving a trace.
At dinner that night nothing will remind him of the comrade whose hand,
perhaps, he was the last one to press. To these chosen ones, who from
their safe positions in the rear, drive the columns on into the fire,
what matters a single company's march to death? And the miserable,
red-haired upholsterer here was trembling, pulling back his head,
tearing his eyes open mightily, as though the fate of the world depended
upon whether he would ever again carry his little red-haired girl in
his arms. To be sure, if one viewed the whole matter in the proper
perspective--as a member of the general staff riding by, who kept his
vision fixed on the aim, that is, the victory that sooner or later would
be celebrated to the clinking of glasses--why, from that point of view
Weixler was right! It must make him indignant to have events of such
epic grandeur made ridiculous by such a chicken-hearted creature as
Simmel and degraded into a doleful family affair.

"The poor devils there now!" A cold shiver ran down Marschner's back.
The staff officer's words suddenly evoked a vision of the shattered,
blood-soaked trench where the men, exhausted to the point of death, were
yearning for him as for a redeemer. He arose, with a groan, seized by a
grim, embittered hatred against this age. Not a single mesh in the net
left open! Every minute of respite granted his own men was theft or even
murder committed against the men out there. He threw up his arms and
strode forward, determined to rest no more until he reached the trench
that he and his company were to man and hold. His face was pale
and careworn, and each time he caught the exasperating rasp of his
lieutenant's voice from the other wing crying "Forward! Forward!" it was
drawn by a tortured smile.

Suddenly he stood still. Into the rattle, the boom, the explosion of
artillery there leaped suddenly a new tone. It rose clearly above the
rest of the din, which had almost ceased to penetrate the consciousness.
It approached with such a shrill sound, with such indescribable
swiftness, with so fierce a threat, that the sound seemed to be visible,
as though you could actually see a screaming semicircle rise in the air,
bite its way to one's very forehead, and snap there with a short, hard,
whiplike crack. A few feet away a little whirl of dust was puffed up,
and invisible hail stones slapped rattling down upon the grass.

A shrapnel!

Captain Marschner looked round startled, and to his terror saw all the
men's eyes fixed on him, as though asking his advice. A peculiar smile
of shame and embarrassment hovered about their lips.

It was his business to set the men a good example, to march on
carelessly without stopping or looking up. After all it made no
difference what one did one way or the other. There was no possibility
of running away or hiding. It was all a matter of chance. Chance was the
one thing that would protect a man. So the thing to do was to go ahead
as if not noticing anything. If there was only one man in the company
who did not seem to care, the others would be put to shame and would
mutually control each other, and then everything was won. He could tell
by his own experience how the feeling of being watched on all sides
upheld him. Had he been by himself, he might have thrown himself on the
ground and tried to hide behind a stone no matter how small.

"Nothing but a spent shot! Forward, boys!" he cried, the thought of
being a support to his men almost making him cheerful. But the words
were not out of his mouth when other shots whizzed through the air. In
spite of himself, his body twitched backward and his head sank lower
between his shoulders. That made him stiffen his muscles and grind his
teeth in rage. It was not the violence with which the scream flew toward
him that made him twitch. It was the strange precision with which the
circle of the thing's flight (exactly like a diagram at a lecture on
artillery) curved in front of him. It was this unnatural feeling of
perceiving a sound more with the eye than with the ear that made the
will powerless.

Something had to be done to create the illusion of not being wholly

"Forward, run!" he shouted at the top of his voice, holding his hands to
his mouth to make a megaphone.

His men stormed forward as if relieved. The tension left their faces;
each one was somehow busied with himself, stumbled, picked himself
up, grasped some piece of equipment that was coming loose; and in the
general snorting and gasping, the whistle of the approaching shells
passed almost unobserved.

After a while it came to Captain Marschner's consciousness that some
one was hissing into his left ear. He turned his head and saw Weixler
running beside him, scarlet in the face.

"What is it?" he asked, involuntarily slowing down from a run to a walk.

"Captain, I beg to announce that an example ought to be instituted! That
coward Simmel is demoralizing the whole company. At each shrapnel he
yells out, 'Jesus, my Savior,' and flings himself to the ground. He
is frightening the rest of the men. He ought to be made an example of,

A charge of four shrapnels whizzed into the middle of his sentence. The
screaming seemed to have grown louder, more piercing. The captain felt
as though a monstrous, glittering scythe were flashing in a steep curve
directly down on his skull. But this time he did not dare to move an
eyelash. His limbs contracted and grew taut, as in the dentist's chair
when the forceps grip the tooth. At the same time, he examined the
lieutenant's face closely, curious to see how he was taking the fire for
which he had so yearned. But he seemed not to be noticing the shrapnels
in the least. He was stretching his neck to inspect the left wing.

"There!" he cried indignantly. "D'you see, Captain? The miserable cur is
down on his face again. I'll go for him!"

Before Marschner could hold him back, he had dashed off. But half-way he
stopped, stood still, and then turned back in annoyance.

"The fellow's hit," he announced glumly, with an irritated shrug of his

"Hit?" the captain burst out, and an ugly, bitter taste suddenly made
his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth. He observed the frosty calm
in Weixler's features, the unsympathetic, indifferent look, and his
hand started upward. He could have slapped him, his insensibility was so
maddening and that careless "the fellow's hit" hurt so. The image of the
dear little girl with the bright ribbon in her red curls flashed into
his mind, and also the vision of a distorted corpse holding a child in
its arms. As through a veil he saw Weixler hasten past him to catch up
with the company, and he ran to where the two stretcher-bearers kneeled
next to something invisible.

The wounded man lay on his back. His flaming red hair framed a greenish
grey face ghostly in its rigidity. A few minutes before Captain
Marschner had seen the man still running--the same face still full of
vitality--from heat and excitement. His knees gave way. The sight of
that change, so incomprehensible in its suddenness, gripped at his
vitals like an icy hand. Was it possible? Could all the life blood
recede in the twinkling of an eye, and a strong, hale man crumble into
ruins in a few moments? What powers of hell slept in such pieces of iron
that between two breaths they could perform the work of many months of

"Don't be frightened, Simmel!" the captain stammered, supporting himself
on the shoulder of one of the stretcher-bearers. "They'll carry you back
to the baggage!" He forced the lie out with an effort, drawing a deep
breath. "You'll be the first one to get back to Vienna now!" He wanted
to add something about the man's family and the little girl with the red
curls, but he could not get it over his lips. He dreaded a cry from
the dying man for his dear ones, and when the mouth writhing with pain
opened slowly, it sent an inner tremor through the captain. He saw the
eyes open, too, and he shuddered at their glassy stare, which seemed no
longer to fix itself upon any bodily thing but to be looking through all
those present and seeking something at a distance.

Simmers body writhed under the forcible examination of the doctor's
hands. Incomprehensible gurgling sounds arose from his torn chest
streaming with blood, and his breath blew the scarlet foam at his mouth
into bursting bubbles.

"Simmel! What do you want, Simmel?" Marschner besought, bending low over
the wounded man. He listened intently to the broken sounds, convinced
that he would have to try to catch a last message. He breathed in
relief when the wandering eyes at last found their way back and fastened
themselves on his face with a look of anxious inquiry in them. "Simmel!"
he cried again, and grasped his hand, which trembled toward the wound.
"Simmel, don't you know me?"

Simmel nodded. His eyes widened, the corners of his mouth drooped.

"It hurts--Captain--hurts so!" came from the shattered breast. To the
captain it sounded like a reproach. After a short rattling sound of pain
he cried out again, foaming at the mouth and with a piercing shriek of
rage: "It hurts! It hurts!" He beat about with his hands and feet.

Captain Marschner jumped up.

"Carry him back," he commanded, and without knowing what he did, he put
his fingers into his ears, and ran after the company, which had already
reached the top of the ridge. He ran pressing his head between his hands
as in a vise, reeling, panting, driven by a fear, as though the wounded
man's agonized cry were pursuing him with lifted axe. He saw the
shrunken body writhe, the face that had so suddenly withered, the
yellowish white of the eyes. And that cry: "Captain--hurts so!" echoed
within him and clawed at his breast, so that when he reached the summit
he fell down, half choked, as if the ground had been dragged from under
his feet.

No, he couldn't do that sort of thing! He didn't want to go on with it.
He was no hangman, he was incapable of lashing men on to their death. He
could not be deaf to their woe, to that childlike whimpering which
stung his conscience like a bitter reproach. He stamped on the ground
defiantly. Everything in him arose in rebellion against the task that
called him.

Below, the field of battle stretched far out, cheerlessly grey. No tree,
no patch of green. A stony waste--chopped up, crushed, dug inside out,
no sign of life. The communication trenches, which started in the bottom
of the valley and led to the edge of the hill, from which the wire
entanglements projected, looked like fingers spread out to grasp
something and clawed deep into the throttled earth. Marschner looked
round again involuntarily. Behind him the green slope descended steeply
to the little woods in which the baggage had been left. Farther behind
the white highroad gleamed like a river framed in colored meadows. A
short turn--and the greenness vanished! All life succumbed, as though
roared down by the cannons, by the howling and pounding that hammered in
the valley like the pulsating of a colossal fever. Shell hole upon shell
hole yawned down there. From time to time thick, black pillars of earth
leaped up and for moments hid small parts of this desert burned to
ashes, where the cloven stumps of trees, whittled as by pen-knives,
stuck up like a jeering challenge to the impotent imagination, a
challenge to recognize in this field of death and refuse, the landscape
it once had been, before the great madness had swept over it and sown
it with ruins, leaving it like a dancing floor on which two worlds had
fought for a loose woman.

And into this vale of hell he was now to descend! _Live_ down there five
days and five nights, he and his little company of the damned, spewed
down into that place, their living bodies speared on the fishing hook,
bait for the enemy!

All alone, with no one near to hear him, amid the fury of the bursting
shrapnel, which fell up there as thick as rain in a thunderstorm,
Captain Marschner gave himself up to his rage, his impotent rage against
a world that had inflicted such a thing on him. He cursed and roared out
his hatred into the deaf tumult; and then he sprang up when, far below,
almost in the valley already, his men emerged followed by Lieutenant
Weixler, who ran behind them like a butcher's helper driving oxen to the
shambles. The captain saw them hurry, saw the clouds of the explosions
multiply above their heads, and on the slope in front of him saw
bluish-green heaps scattered here and there, like knapsacks dropped
by the way, some motionless, some twitching like great spiders--and he
rushed on.

He raced like a madman down the steep slope, scarcely feeling the ground
under his feet, nor hearing the rattle of the exploding shells. He flew
rather than ran, stumbled over charred roots, fell, picked himself up
again and darted onward, looking neither to the right nor to the left,
almost with closed eyes. Now and then, as from a train window, he saw
a pale, troubled face flit by. Once it seemed to him he heard a man
moaning for water. But he wished to hear nothing, to see nothing. He ran
on, blind and deaf, without stopping, driven by the terror of that bad,
reproachful, "Hurts so!"

Only once did he halt, as though he had stepped into a trap and were
held fast in an iron vise. A hand stopped him, a grey, convulsed hand
with crooked fingers. It stuck up in front of him as though hewn out
of stone. He saw no face, nor knew who it was that held out that dead,
threatening fist. All he knew was that two hours before, over there in
the little piece of woods, that hand had still comfortably cut slices
of rye bread or had written a last post-card home. And a horror of those
fingers took hold of the captain and lent new strength to his limbs, so
that he stormed onward in great leaps like a boy until, with throbbing
sides and a red cloud before his eyes, he caught up with his company
at last, way down in the valley at the entrance to the communication

Lieutenant Weixler presented himself in strictest military form and
announced the loss of fourteen men. Marschner heard the ring of pride in
his voice, like triumph over what had been achieved, like the rejoicing
of a boy bragging of the first down on his lip and deepening the newly
acquired dignity of a bass voice. What were the wounded men writhing on
the slope above to this raw youth, what the red-haired coward with
his whine, what the children robbed of their provider growing up to be
beggars, to a life in the abyss, perhaps to a life in jail? All these
were mere supers, a stage background for Lieutenant Weixler's heroism
to stand out in relief. Fourteen bloody bodies lined the path he had
trodden without fear. How should his eyes not radiate arrogance?

The captain hastened on, past Weixler. If only he did not have to see
him, he told himself, if only he did not have to meet the contented
gleam of the man's eyes. He feared his rage might master his reason
and his tongue get beyond his control, and his clenched fist do its own
will. But here he had to spare this man. Here Lieutenant Weixler was
within his rights. He grew from moment to moment. His stature dwarfed
the others. He swam upon the stream, while the others, weighed down by
the burden of their riper humanity, sank like heavy clods. Here other
laws obtained. The dark shaft in which they now reeled forward with
trembling knees led to an island washed by a sea of death. Whoever was
stranded there dared not keep anything that he used in another world.
The man who was master here was the one who had kept nothing but his
axe and his fist. And he was the rich one upon whose superabundance
the others depended. As Captain Marschner groped his way through the
slippery trench in a daze, it became clearer and clearer to him that he
must now hold on to his detested lieutenant like a treasure. Without him
he would be lost.

He saw the traces of puddles of blood at his feet, and trod upon
tattered, blood-soaked pieces of uniforms, on empty shells, rattling
preserve tins, fragments of cannon balls. Yawning shell holes would open
up suddenly, precariously bridged with half-charred boards.

Everywhere the traces of frenzied devastation grinned, blackened remains
of a wilderness of wires, beams, sacks, broken tools, a disorder
that took one's breath away and made one dizzy--all steeped in the
suffocating stench of combustion, powder smoke, and the pungent,
stinging breath of the ecrasite shells. Wherever one stepped the earth
had been lacerated by gigantic explosions, laboriously patched up again,
once more ripped open to its very bowels, and leveled a second time, so
that one reeled on unconscious, as if in a hurricane.

Crushed by the weight of his impressions, Captain Marschner crept
through the trench like a worm, and his thoughts turned ever more
passionately, ever more desperately to Lieutenant Weixler. Weixler alone
could help him or take his place, with that grim, cold energy of his,
with that blindness to everything which did not touch his own life, or
which was eclipsed by the glowing vision of an Erich Weixler studded
with decorations and promoted out of his turn. The captain kept looking
about for him anxiously, and breathed with relief each time the urgent,
rasping voice came to his ears from the rear.

The trench seemed never to be coming to an end. Marschner felt his
strength giving way. He stumbled more frequently and closed his eyes
with a shudder at the criss-cross traces of blood that precisely
indicated the path of the wounded. Suddenly he raised his head with
a jerk. A new smell struck him, a sweetish stench which kept getting
stronger and stronger until at a curve of the trench wall, which swung
off to the left at this point and receded semicircularly, it burst upon
him like a great cloud. He looked about, shaken by nausea, his gorge
rising. In a dip in the trench he saw a pile of dirty, tattered uniforms
heaped in layers and with strangely rigid outlines. It took him some
time to grasp the full horror of that which towered in front of him.
Fallen soldiers were lying there like gathered logs, in the contorted
shapes of the last death agony. Tent flaps had been spread over them,
but had slipped down and revealed the grim, stony grey caricatures, the
fallen jaws, the staring eyes. The arms of those in the top tier hung
earthward like parts of a trellis, and grasped at the faces of
those lying below, and were already sown with the livid splotches of

Captain Marschner uttered a short, belching cry and reeled forward. His
head shook as though loosened from his neck, and his knees gave way so
that he already saw the ground rising up toward him, when suddenly
an unknown face emerged directly in front of him and attracted his
attention, and gave him back his self-control. It was a sergeant, who
was staring at him silently with great, fevered, gleaming eyes in a
deathly pale face. For a moment the man stood as though paralyzed, then
his mouth opened wide, he clapped his hands, and jumped into the air
like a dancer, and dashed off, without thinking of a salute.

"Relief!" he shouted while running.

He came to a halt before a black hole in the trench wall, like the
entrance to a cave, and bent down and shouted into the opening with a
ring of indescribable joy in his voice--with a rejoicing that sounded as
if it came through tears:

"Relief! Lieutenant! The relief party is here!"

The captain looked after him and heard his cry. His eyes grew moist,
so touching was that childlike cry of joy, that shout from out of a
relieved heart. He followed the sergeant slowly, and saw--as though
the cry had awakened the dead--pallid faces peering from all corners,
wounded men with blood-soaked bandages, tottering figures holding their
rifles. Men streamed toward him from every direction, stared at him and
with speechless lips formed the word "relief," until at length one of
them roared out a piercing "hurrah," which spread like wildfire and
found an echo in unseen throats that repeated it enthusiastically.
Deeply shaken, Marschner bowed his head and swiftly drew his hand across
his eyes when the commandant of the trench rushed toward him from the

Nothing that betokens life was left about the man. His face was ashen,
his eyes like lamps extinguished, glazed and surrounded by broad blue
rims. His lids were a vivid red from sleeplessness. His hair, his beard,
his clothes were encased in a thick crust of mud, so that he looked as
if he had just arisen from the grave. He gave a brief, military salute,
then grasped the captain's hand with hysterical joy. His hand was cold
as a corpse's and sticky with sweat and dirt. And most uncanny was the
contrast between this skeleton hung with clothes, this rigid death-mask
of a face, and the twitching, over-excited nervousness with which the
lieutenant greeted their liberator.

The words leaped like a waterfall from his cracked lips. He drew
Marschner into the dugout and pushed him, stumbling and groping as if
dazzled, down on an invisible something meant for a seat and began to
tell his tale. He couldn't stand still for a second. He hopped about,
slapped his thighs, laughed with unnatural loudness, ran up and down
trippingly, threw himself on the couch in the corner, asked for a
cigarette every other minute, threw it away without knowing it after two
puffs, and at once asked for another.

"I tell you, three hours more," he crowed blissfully, with affected
gaiety, "--three? What am I talking about. _One_ hour more, and it would
have been too late. D'you know how many rounds of ammunition I've got
left? Eleven hundred in all! Machine guns? Run down! Telephone? Smashed
since last night already! Send out a party to repair it? Impossible!
Needed every man in the trench! A hundred and sixty-four of us at first.
Now I've got thirty-one, eleven of them wounded so that they can't hold
a rifle. Thirty-one fellows to hold the trench with! Last night there
were still forty-five of us when they attacked. We drove 'em to hell, of
course, but fourteen of our men went again. We haven't had a chance to
bury them yet. Didn't you see them lying out there?"

The Captain let him talk. He leaned his elbows on the primitive table,
held his head between his hands, and kept silent. His eyes wandered
about the dark, mouldy den, filled with the stench of a smoking little
kerosene lamp. He saw the mildewed straw in the corner, the disconnected
telephone at the entrance, an empty box of tinned food on which a
crumpled map was spread out. He saw a mountain of rifles, bundles of
uniforms, each one ticketed. And he felt how inch by inch, a dumb, icy
horror arose within him and paralyzed his breathing, as though the
earth overhead, upheld by only a thin scaffolding of cracked boards
and threatening to fall at any moment, had already laid its intolerable
weight upon his chest. And that prancing ghost, that giggling death's
head, which only a week before perhaps had still been young, affected
him like a nightmare. And the thought that now his turn had come to
stick it out in that sepulchral vault for five or six days or a week and
experience the same horrors that the man there was telling about with
a laugh intensified his discouragement into a passionate, throbbing
indignation which he could scarcely control any more. He could have
roared out, could have jumped up, run out, and shouted to mankind from
the depths of his soul asking why he had been tossed there, why he would
have to lie there until he had turned into carrion or a crazy man. How
could he have let himself be driven out there? He could not understand
it. He saw no meaning to it all, no aim. All he saw was that hole in the
earth, those rotting corpses outside, and nearby, but one step removed
from all that madness, his own Vienna as he had left it only two days
before, with its tramways, its show windows, its smiling people and its
lighted theaters. What madness to be crouching there waiting for death
with idiotic patience, to perish on the naked earth in blood and filth,
like a beast, while other people, happy, clean, dressed up, sat in
bright halls and listened to music, and then nestled in soft beds
without fear, without danger, guarded by a whole world, which would come
down in indignation upon any who dared to harm a single hair of their
heads. Had madness already stolen upon him or were the others mad?

His pulse raged as though his heart would burst if he could not relieve
his soul by a loud shout.

At that very moment Lieutenant Weixler came bustling in, like the master
of ceremonies at a ball. He stood stiff and straight in front of the
captain, and announced that everything above was in readiness, that he
had already assigned the posts and arranged the watches, and placed the
machine guns. The captain looked at him and had to lower his eyes as if
boxed on the ears by this tranquillity, which would suddenly wither his
fury into a burning shame at himself.

Why did that man remain untouched by the great fear of death which
impregnated the very air here? How was it that he could give orders
and commands with the foresightedness of a mature man, while he himself
crept out of sight like a frightened child and rebelled against his fate
with the senseless fury of an animal at bay, instead of mastering fate
as befitted his age? Was he a coward? Was he in the grip of a mean,
paltry fear, was he overcome by that wretched blindness of the soul
which cannot lift its vision beyond its own ego nor lose sight of its
ego for the sake of an idea? Was he really so devoid of any sense for
the common welfare, so utterly ruled by short-sighted selfishness,
concerned with nothing but his bare, miserable existence? No, he was not
like that. He clung to his own life no more than any other man. He could
have cast it away enthusiastically, and without flying banners, without
ecstasy, without the world's applause, had the hostile trenches over
there been filled with men like Weixler, had the combat been against
such crazy hardness of soul, against catchwords fattened with human
flesh, against that whole, cleverly built-up machine of force which
drove those whom it was supposed to protect to form a wall to protect
itself. He would have hurled himself into the fight with bare fists,
unmindful of the bursting of shells, the moans of the wounded. Oh no,
he was not a coward. Not what those two men thought. He saw them wink
scornfully and make fun of the unhappy old uncle of a reserve officer
who sat in the corner like a bundle of misery. What did they know of his
soul's bitterness? They stood there as heroes and felt the glances of
their home upon them, and spoke words which, upborne by the echo of a
whole world, peopled the loneliness with all the hosts of the likeminded
and filled their souls with the strength of millions. And they laughed
at a man who was to kill without feeling hatred and die without ecstasy,
for a victory that was nothing to him but a big force which achieved its
objects simply because it hit harder, not because it had justice on its
side or a fine and noble aim. He had no cause to slink off, humbled by
their courage.

A cold, proud defiance heartened him, so that he arose, strengthened
suddenly, as if elevated by the superhuman burden that he alone carried
on his shoulders. He saw the strange lieutenant still dancing about,
hastily gathering up his belongings and stuffing them into his knapsack.
He heard him scold his orderly and bellow at him to hurry up, in between
digging up fresh details, hideous episodes, from the combats of the past
few days, which Weixler devoured in breathless attention.

"What a question!" the commandant of the trench exclaimed, laughing at
his audience. "Whether the Italians had heavy losses, too? Do you think
we let them pepper us like rabbits? You can easily calculate what those
fellows lost in their eleven attacks if we've melted down to thirty men
without crawling out of our trench. Just let them go on like that a few
weeks longer and they'll be at the end of their human material."

Captain Marschner had not wanted to listen. He stood bending over a map,
but at the phrase, "human material," he started violently. It sounded
like a taunt directed at his own thoughts, as if the two men had seen
into him and had agreed with each other to give him a good lesson and
show him how alone he was.

"Human material!"

In a trench, filled with the stench of dead bodies, shaken by the impact
of the shells, stood two men, each himself a stake in the game, and
while the dice were still being tossed for their very bones, they talked
of--human material! They uttered those ruthless, shameful words without
a shadow of indignation, as though it were natural for their living
bodies to be no more than a gambler's chips in the hands of men who
arrogated to themselves the right to play the game of gods. Without
hesitating they laid their one, irrevocable life at the feet of a
power that could not prove whether it had known how to place the stakes
rightly except by their dead bodies. And the men who were speaking that
way were officers! So where was there a gleam of hope?

Out there, among the simple men, perhaps, the plain cannon fodder? They
were now crouching resignedly in their places, thinking of home and each
of them still feeling himself a man. He was drawn to his men, to their
dull, silent sadness, to their true greatness, which without pathos and
without solemnity, in everyday clothes, as it were, patiently awaited
the hero's death.

Outside the dugout stood the remnants of the relieved company ready for
the march, always two men abreast with a dead comrade on a tent canvas
between them. A long procession, profoundly stirring in its silent
expectancy, into which the hissing and crackling of shrapnel and the
thunder of grenades fell like a warning from above to those who
still had their lives. Bitterly, Marschner clenched his fist at this

At that moment the pale sergeant stepped in front of the place where the
dead had been piled and frightened Marschner out of his thoughts.

"Captain, I beg to announce that beside the fourteen dead there are
three seriously wounded men who can't walk--Italians. I have no bearers
left for them."

"We'll leave them to you as a souvenir," the trench commandant, who was
just leaving the dugout with Weixler, laughed in his maundering way.
"You can have them dug in at night up there among the communication
trenches, Captain. When it gets dark, the Italians direct their barrage
fire farther back, and give you a chance to climb out. To be sure, they
won't lie in peace there under the earth very long, because the shells
rip everything open right away again. I've had to have my poor ensign
buried three times over already."

"How did they get in here anyhow?" Weixler asked, pushing himself
forward. "Did you have a fight in the trench?"

The other lieutenant shook his head proudly. "I should rather say not.
The gentlemen never got as far as that. These three tried to cut the
wire entanglements night before last, but our machine gun man caught 'em
at it and his iron spatter spoiled their little game. Well, there they
lay, of course, right under our very noses and they had on the loveliest
shoes of bright yellow. My men begrudged 'em those shoes. There--" he
ended, pointing with his finger at the feet of the pale sergeant--"there
you see one pair. But we'll have to start now. March, sergeant! My
respects, Captain. The Italians'll open their eyes when they come over
to-night to finish us off comfortably and a hundred and fifty rifles go
off and two brand-new bullet squirters. Ha-ha! Sorry I can't be here to
see it! Good-by, little man! Good luck!" Humming a merry popular song
he followed his men without looking back, without even observing that
Marschner accompanied him a little on his way.

Gaily, as though on a Sunday picnic, the men started on the way, which
led over the terrible field of shards and ruins and the steep, shot-up
hill. What hells they must have endured there, in that mole's gallery!
The captain remained standing and heaved a deep sigh. It was as if
that long, grey column slowly winding its way through the trench were
carrying away the last hope. The back of the last soldier, growing
smaller and smaller, was the world. The captain's eyes clung greedily
to that back and measured fearfully the distance to the corner of the
trench from which he must lose sight of it forever. There was still time
to call out a greeting, and by running very fast one might still catch
up and hand over a letter.

Then the last medium disappeared--the last possibility of dividing the
world into two halves. And his yearning recoiled before the endless
space it had to bridge--and there was nothing else to bridge it but his

Marschner sank into himself as he stood deserted in the empty trench. He
felt as though he had been hollowed out, and looked about for help, and
his eyes clung to the depression from which the corpses had now been
lifted. Only the three Italians were lying there, the life already gone
from them. The one showed his face, his mouth was still wide open as for
a cry, and his hands dug themselves, as though to ward off pain, into
his unnaturally swollen body. The other two lay with their knees drawn
up and their heads between their arms. The naked feet with their grey
convulsed toes stared into the communication trench like things robbed,
with a mute accusal. There was a remoteness about these dead bodies,
a loneliness, an isolation about their bared feet. A tangled web of
memories arose, a throng of fleeting faces glimmered in the captain's
soul--gondoliers of Venice, voluble cabbies, a toothless inn-keeper's
wife at Posilipo. Two trips on a vacation in Italy drove an army of
sorrowing figures through his mind. And finally another figure appeared
in that ghostly dance of death, his own sister, sitting in a concert
hall in Vienna, care-free, listening to music, while her brother lay
somewhere stretched out on the ground, rigid in death, an enemy's corpse
just to be kicked aside.

Shuddering, the captain hastened back down the trench, as though the
three dead men were pursuing him noiselessly on their naked soles. When
he reached his own men at last, he felt as if he had arrived at a harbor
of safety.

The shells were now falling so thick that there was not a moment's pause
between the explosions, and all sounds merged into a single, equal,
rolling thunder, which made the earth tremble like the hull of a ship.
But there was a particularly sharp crashing and splintering from one
shot that hit the trench squarely and whirled the coverings above in all
directions. A few minutes later two groaning men dragged down a corpse,
leaned it against the trench wall, and climbed back to their posts
through the narrow shaft. Marschner saw his sergeant get up and move
his lips--then a soldier in the corner arose and took up his rifle
and followed the two others heavily. It was all so comfortless, so
unmercifully businesslike, precisely as when "Next!" breaks into the
monotony of the practising in the yard of the barracks, only with the
difference that a little group at once gathered about the dead man,
drawn by that shy curiosity which irresistibly attracts simple folk to
corpses and funerals. Most of the men expected the same of him--he saw
it in their eyes--that he, too, would go over and pay a last tribute
of respect to the dead. But he did not want to. He was absolutely
determined not to learn the fallen man's name. He was bent upon
practising self-mastery at last and remaining indifferent to all small
happenings. So long as he had not seen the dead man's face nor heard his
name, only a man had fallen in battle, one of the many thousands. If he
kept his distance and did not bend over each individual and did not
let a definite fate come to his notice, it was not so hard to remain

Stubbornly he walked over to the second shaft leading to the top and for
the first time observed that it had grown quite silent up above. There
was no longer any screaming or bursting. This silence came upon the
deafening din like a paralyzing weight and filled space with a tense
expectancy that flickered in all eyes. He wanted to rid himself of this
oppression and crept through the crumbling shaft up to the top.

The first thing he saw was Weixler's curved back. He was holding his
field-glass glued to his eyes under cover of a shooting shield. The
others were also standing as if pasted to their posts, and there was
something alarming in the motionlessness of their shoulder blades. All
at once a twitching ran through the petrified row. Weixler sprang back,
jostled against the captain, and cried out: "They are coming!" Then he
stormed to the shaft and blew the alarm whistle.

Marschner stared after him helplessly. He walked with hesitating steps
to the shield and looked out upon the wide, smoke-covered field, which
curved beyond the tangle of wires, grey, torn, blood-flecked, like the
bloated form of a gigantic corpse. Far in the background the sun was
sinking. Its great copper disc already cut in half by the horizon seemed
to be growing out of the ground. And against that dazzling background
black silhouettes were dancing like midges under a microscope, like
Indians swinging their tomahawks. They were still mere specks. Sometimes
they disappeared entirely and then leaped high, and came nearer, their
rifles wriggling in the air like the feet of a polyp. Gradually their
cries became audible and swelled louder and louder like the far barking
of dogs. When they called "Avanti!" it was a piercing cry, and when
the call "Coraggio!" went through their lines, it changed to a dull,
thunderous roll.

The entire company now stood close-packed up against the slope of the
trench, their faces as of stone, restrained, pale as chalk, with lipless
mouths, each man's gun in position--a single beast of prey with a
hundred eyes and arms.

"Don't shoot! Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" Lieutenant Weixler's voice
yelled without pause through the trench. His command seemed to lay its
grasp on every throat and to hold the fingers moveless that greedily
clasped the triggers. The first hand grenade flew into the trench. The
captain saw it coming, then saw a man loosen from the mass, reel
toward the dugout with outstretched arms, bending over, a veil of blood
covering his face. Then--at last!--it was a relief--came the beating of
the machine guns, and at once the rifles went off, too, like the raging
of an angry pack. A cold, repulsive greed lay on all faces. Some of the
men cried out aloud in their hate and rage when new groups emerged out
there behind the thinning rows. The barrels of the rifles glowed with
heat--and still the rumbling cries of "Coraggio!" came nearer and

As though in a frenzy of insanity, the silhouettes hopped about out
there, sprang into the air, fell, and rolled over each other, as though
the war dance had only just reached the climax of its paroxysm.

Then Captain Marschner observed the man next to him let his rifle sink
for a moment and with hasty, shaking hands insert the bayonet into the
smoking barrel. The captain felt as though he were going to vomit. He
closed his eyes in dizziness and leaned against the trench wall, and let
himself glide to the earth. Was he to--to see--that? Was he to see men
being murdered right alongside of him? He tore his revolver from his
pocket, emptied it, and threw it away. Now he was defenseless. And
suddenly he grew calm and rose to his feet, elevated by a wonderful
composure, ready to let himself be butchered by one of those panting
beasts who were storming on, chased by the blind fear of death. He
wanted to die like a man, without hatred, without rage, with clean

A hoarse roar, a frightful, dehumanized cry almost beside him wrenched
his thoughts back into the trench. A broad stream of light and fire,
travelling in a steep curve, flowed blindingly down beside him and
sprayed over the shoulder of the tall pock-marked tailor of the first
line. In the twinkling of an eye the man's entire left side flared up in
flames. With a howl of agony he threw himself to the ground, writhed and
screamed and leaped to his feet again, and ran moaning up and down like
a living torch, until he broke down, half-charred, and twitched, and
then lay rigid. Captain Marschner saw him lying there and smelt the odor
of burned flesh, and his eyes involuntarily strayed to his own hand
on which a tiny, white spot just under his thumb reminded him of the
torments he had suffered in his boyhood from a bad burn.

At that moment a jubilant hurrah roared through the trench, rising from
a hundred relieved throats. The attack had been repulsed! Lieutenant
Weixler had carefully taken aim at the thrower of the liquid fire and
hit at the first shot. The liquid fire had risen up like a fountain from
the falling man's stiffening hand and rained down on his own comrades.
Their decimated lines shrank back suddenly before the unexpected danger
and they fled pell-mell, followed by the furious shots from all the

The men fell down as if lifeless, with slack faces and lusterless eyes,
as though some one had turned off the current that had fed those dead
creatures with strength from some unknown source. Some of them leaned
against the trench wall white as cheese, and held their heads over, and
vomited from exhaustion. Marschner also felt his gorge rising and groped
his way toward the dugout. He wanted to go into his own place now and
be alone and somehow relieve himself of the despair that held him in its

"Hello!" Lieutenant Weixler cried unexpectedly through the silence, and
bounded over to the left where the machine guns stood.

The captain turned back again, mounted the ladder, and gazed out
into the foreground of the field. There, right in front of the
wire-entanglements, kneeled an Italian. His left arm was hanging down
limp, and his right arm was raised beseechingly, and he was crawling
toward them slowly. A little farther back, half hidden by the kneeling
man, something kept stirring on the ground. There three wounded men were
trying to creep toward their own trench, pressing close to the ground.
One could see very clearly how they sought cover behind corpses and now
and then lay motionless so as to escape discovery by the foe. It was a
pitiful sight--those God-forsaken creatures surrounded by death, each
moment like an eternity above them, yet clinging with tooth and nail to
their little remnant of life.

"Come on! Isn't there a rope somewhere?" an old corporal called down
into the trench. "I'm sorry for the poor devil of an Italian. Let's pull
him in!"

The machine guns interrupted him. The kneeling man beside the wires
listened, started as if to run, and fell upon his face. The earth
behind him rose in dust from the bullets and the others beyond raised
themselves like snakes, then all three gave a short leap forward
and--lay very still.

For a moment Captain Marschner stood speechless. He opened his lips,
but no sound came from his throat. At last his tongue obeyed him and he
yelled, with a mad choking fury in his voice:

"Lieutenant Weixler!"

"Yes, sir," came back unconcernedly.

Captain Marschner ran toward the lieutenant with clenched fists and
scarlet face.

"Did you fire?" he panted, breathless.

The lieutenant looked at him in astonishment, placed his hands against
the seams of his trousers and replied with perfect formality:

"I did, sir."

Marschner's voice failed him again for a moment. His teeth chattered.
His whole body trembled as he stammered:

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself? A soldier doesn't fire at helpless,
wounded men. Remember that!"

Weixler went white.

"I beg to inform you, Captain, that the one who was near our trench was
hiding the others from us. I couldn't spare him." Then, with a sudden
explosion of anger, he added defiantly: "Besides, I thought we had quite
enough hungry mouths at home as it is."

The captain jumped at him like a snapping dog and stamped his foot and

"I'm not interested in what you think. I forbid you to shoot at the
wounded! As long as I am commanding officer here every wounded man shall
be held sacred, whether he tries to get to us or to return to the enemy.
Do you understand me?"

The lieutenant drew himself up haughtily.

"In that case I must take the liberty, sir, of begging you to hand me
that order in writing. I consider it my duty to inflict as much injury
upon the enemy as possible. A man that I let off to-day may be cured and
come back two months later and perhaps kill ten of my comrades."

For a moment the two men stood still, staring at each other as though
about to engage in mortal combat. Then Marschner nodded his head almost
imperceptibly, and said in a toneless voice:

"You shall have it in writing."

He swung on his heel and left. Colored spheres seemed to dance before
his eyes, and he had to summon all his strength to keep his equilibrium.
When at last he reached the dugout, he fell on the box of empty tins as
if he had been beaten. His hatred changed slowly into a deep, embittered
sense of discouragement. He knew perfectly well that he was in the
wrong. Not at the bar of his conscience! His conscience told him that
the deed the lieutenant had done was cowardly murder. But he and his
conscience had nothing to say here. They had happened to stray into this
place and would have to stay in the wrong. What was he to do? If he gave
the order in writing, he would afford Weixler his desired opportunity of
pushing himself forward and invite an investigation of his own conduct.
He begrudged the malicious creature that triumph. Perhaps it were better
to make an end of the whole business by going to the brigade staff and
telling the exalted gentlemen there frankly to their faces that he could
no longer be a witness to that bloody firing, that he could not hunt men
like wild beasts, no matter what uniform they happened to wear. Then, at
least, this playing at hide and seek would end. Let them shoot him, if
they wanted to, or hang him like a common felon. He would show them that
he knew how to die.

He walked out into the trench firmly, and ordered a soldier to summon
Lieutenant Weixler. Now it was so clear within him and so calm. He
heard the hellish shooting that the Italians were again directing at the
trench and went forward slowly like a man out promenading.

"They're throwing heavy mines at us now, Captain," the old corporal
announced, and looked at Marschner in despair. But Marschner went by
unmoved. All that no longer mattered to him. The lieutenant would take
over the command. That was what he was going to tell him. He could
hardly await the moment to relieve himself of the responsibility.

As Weixler delayed coming, he crept up through the shaft to the top.

The man's small, evil eyes flew to meet him and sought the written order
in his hand. The captain acted as though he did not notice the question
in his look, and said imperiously:

"Lieutenant, I turn the command of the company over to you until----"
A short roar of unheard-of violence cut short his speech. He had the
feeling, "That will hit me," and that very instant he saw something like
a black whale rush down in front of his eyes from out of the heavens
and plunge head foremost into the trench wall behind him. Then a crater
opened up in the earth, a sea of flame that raised him up and filled his
lungs with fire.

On slowly recovering his consciousness he found himself buried under a
huge mound of earth, with only his head and his left arm free. He had
no feeling in his other limbs. His whole body had grown weightless. He
could not find his legs. Nothing was there that he could move. But
there was a burning and burrowing that came from somewhere in his brain,
scorched his forehead, and made his tongue swell into a heavy, choking

"Water!" he moaned. Was there no one there who could pour a drop of
moisture into the burning hollow of his mouth? No one at all? Then where
was Weixler? He must be near by. Or else--was it possible that Weixler
was wounded too? Marschner wanted to jump up and find out what had
happened to Weixler--he wanted to----

Like an overburdened steam-crane his left hand struggled toward his
head, and when he at last succeeded in pushing it under his neck, he
felt with a shudder that his skull offered no resistance and his hand
slid into a warm, soft mush, and his hair, pasty with coagulated blood,
stuck to his fingers like warm, moist felt.

"Dying!" went through him with a chill. To die there--all alone. And
Weixler? He had to find out what had happened to--happened to----

With a superhuman effort he propped his head up on his left hand high
enough to have a view of a few paces along the trench. Now he saw
Weixler, with his back turned, leaning on his right side against the
trench wall, standing there crookedly, his left hand pressed against
his body, his shoulders hunched as if he had a cramp. The captain raised
himself a little higher and saw the ground and a broad, dark shadow that
Weixler cast. Blood? He was bleeding? Or what? Surely that was blood. It
couldn't be anything but blood. And yet it stretched out so peculiarly
and drew itself like a thin, red thread up to Weixler, up to where his
hand pressed his body as though he wanted to pull up the roots that
bound him to the earth.

The captain _had_ to see! He pulled his head farther out from under the
mound--and uttered a hoarse cry, a cry of infinite horror. The wretched
man was dragging his entrails behind him!

"Weixler!" burst from him in a shudder of compassion.

The man turned slowly, looked down at Marschner questioningly, pale,
sad, with frightened eyes. He stood like that only the fraction of a
second, then he lost his balance, reeled, and fell down, and was lost
from the captain's circle of vision. Their glances scarcely had time to
cross, the pallid face had merely flitted by. And yet it stood there,
remained fixed in the air, with a mild, soft, plaintive expression about
the narrow lips, an unforgettable air of gentle anxious resignation.

"He is suffering!" flashed through Marschner. "He is suffering!"--it
exulted him. And a glow suffused his pallor. His fingers, sticky with
blood, seemed to caress the air, until his head sank backward, and his
eyes broke.

The first soldiers who penetrated the towering mound of earth to where
he lay found him dead. But in spite of his ghastly wound, a contented,
almost happy smile hovered about his lips.


On the big square before the old courthouse, which now served as
regimental headquarters and bore the magic letters A.O.K. as a sort of
cabalistic sign on its front, a military band played every afternoon
from three to four at command of His Excellency. This little
diversion was meant to compensate the civilian population for the many
inconveniences that the quartering of several hundreds of staff officers
and a number of lesser officers inevitably brought upon them. Then, too,
according to His Excellency, such an institution helped considerably
to promote the popularity of the army and inspire patriotism in school
children and the masses. In the interest of the right conduct of the
war the strict commander deemed it highly essential to foster a right
attitude in the public and to encourage friendly relations between
military and civilian authorities--while fully preserving his own
privileges. It was essential to a successful continuation of the war.
Incidentally, the fact that the staff officers, with His Excellency at
their head, usually took their black coffee at just about this time had
helped a good deal to bring about these afternoon concerts.

It was indeed delightful to sit in the shade of the centenarian
plane-trees, whose intertwining branches overarched the entire square
like the nave of a cathedral. The autumn sun cast a dull glow on the
walls of the houses round about, and shed golden rings through the thick
foliage on the small round tables arrayed in long rows in front of the
coffeehouse. There was a reserved row for the staff officers set in
snowy linens, with little flower vases and fresh crisp cakes, which the
sergeant of the commissary brought punctually at three o'clock every day
from the field bakery, where they had been baked with particular care
under the personal supervision of the chef especially for His Excellency
and staff.

It was a beautiful gay picture of lively, varied metropolitan life that
surged about the music pavilion. Every one seemed as joyous and
carefree as on the Graben in Vienna on a sunny spring Sunday in times of
undisturbed peace. The children crowded around the orchestra, beat the
measure, and applauded enthusiastically after every piece. The streets
leading into the square were filled with giggling girls and students
wearing bright caps; while the _haute-volée_, the wives of the resident
officials and merchants, sat in the confectioner's shop on the square,
eagerly awaiting an opportunity to show their righteous indignation at
the daring millinery, transparent hose, and little more than knee-length
skirts of a certain class of women who had forced their way into the
town and, despite all protests and orders, were shamelessly plying their
trade in broad daylight.

But the chief tone was given by the transient officers. Whether on
furlough or on their way back to the front, they all had to pass through
this town, and enjoyed in deep draughts this first or last day of
freedom. Besides, if anything was needed at the front--horse-shoe nails,
saddle-soap, sanitary appliances, or bottled beer--this first little
"big town" was the quickest, most convenient place to buy it in. An
unlucky or an unpopular man merely received a commendation for his
bravery, and that settled him. But the man who enjoyed his commanding
officer's favor was given the preference to do the shopping here as
a reward. And an amazing ingenuity developed in discovering immediate
necessities. A secret arithmetical relation undeniably existed between
the consumption of charcoal, axle grease, etc., by individual troop
divisions and the distance of their outposts from this favorite
provisioning station.

Of course, the pleasure did not last long. There was just enough time
for a hot tub-bath, for showing off one's best newly-pressed uniform
once or twice on the main streets, for taking two meals at a table
spread with a tablecloth, and for spending a short night in a
comfortable bed--with, or, if the man could not help it, without
caresses--and then off again, depressed and irritable, off to the
maddeningly overcrowded railroad station, back to the front, into the
damp trench or the sunbaked block house.

The greed of life in these young officers, who promenaded, hungry-eyed,
through the town, the racing of their blood, like a diver who fills his
lungs full in one second, had gradually infected the entire, boresome
little place. It tingled, it foamed, it enriched itself and became
frivolous; it could not get enough sensations, now that it stood in the
center of world activities and had a claim upon real events.

Close-packed, the crowd surged past the music in holiday attire and
holiday mood on this ordinary week-day, quivering to the rhythm of the
Blue Danube Waltz, which the orchestra was playing catchingly, with a
roll of drums and a clash of cymbals. The whole spectacle brought to
mind the goings-on behind the scenes in a huge playhouse during the
performance of a tragedy with choruses and mob scenes. Nothing was seen
or heard here of the sanguinary piece being enacted at the front. The
features of the actors relaxed, they rested, or threw themselves
into the gay hubbub, heartily glad not to know how the tragedy was
progressing; exactly as real actors behind the scenes fall back into
their unprofessional selves until they get their next cue.

Sitting in the shade of the old trees, over coffee and cigars,
comfortably watching these doings, one might easily be deluded into
thinking that the drama taking place at the front was nothing but a
jolly spectacular play. From this point of view the whole war showed up
like a life-giving stream that washes orchestras ashore, brings wealth
and gaiety to the people, is navigated by promenading officers, and
directed by portly, comfortable generals. No suggestion of its bloody
side, no roar of artillery reaching your ears, no wounded soldier
dragging in his personal wretchedness and so striking a false note in
the general jollification.

Of course, it had not always been like that. In the first days, when the
daily concert still had the charm of novelty, all the regular, emergency
and reserve hospitals in the neighborhood had poured their vast number
of convalescents and slightly wounded men into the square. But that
lasted only two days. Then His Excellency summoned the head army
physician to a short interview and in sharp terms made it clear to the
crushed culprit what an unfavorable influence such a sight would have
upon the public, and expressed the hope that men wearing bandages, or
maimed men, or any men who might have a depressing effect on the general
war enthusiasm, should henceforth remain in the hospitals.

He was not defrauded of his hope. No disagreeable sight ever again
marred his pleasure when, with his favorite Havana between his teeth,
he gazed past the long row of his subordinates out on the street. No
one ever went by without casting a shy, deferential side-glance at the
omnipotent director of battles, who sat there like any other ordinary
human being, sipping his coffee, although he was the celebrated General
X, unlimited master of hundreds of thousands of human lives, the man the
papers liked to call the "Victor of ----." There was not a human being
in the town whose fate he could not have changed with one stroke of his
pen. There was nothing he could not promote or destroy as he saw fit.
His good will meant orders for army supplies and wealth, or distinction
and advancement; his ill will meant no prospects at all, or an order to
march along the way that led to certain death.

Leaning back comfortably in the large wicker chair, a chair destined in
all likelihood some day to become an object of historic interest, the
Powerful One jested gaily with the wife of his adjutant. He pointed to
the street, where the crowds surged in the brilliant sunshine, and said
with a sort of satisfied, triumphant delight in his tone:

"Just look! I should like to show this picture to our pacifists, who
always act as though war were nothing but a hideous carnage. You should
have seen this hole in peace times. It was enough to put you to sleep.
Why, the porter at the corner is earning more to-day than the biggest
merchant used to earn before the war. And have you noticed the young
fellows who come back from the front? Sunburnt, healthy and happy! Most
of them before the war were employed in offices. They held themselves
badly and were dissipated and looked cheesy. I assure you, the world has
never been so healthy as it is now. But if you look at your newspapers,
you read about a world-catastrophe, about a blood-drained Europe, and a
whole lot of other stuff."

He raised his bushy white eyebrows until they reached the middle of his
bulging forehead, and his small, piercing black eyes skimmed observantly
over the faces of those present.

His Excellency's pronouncement was a suggestion to the others and was
immediately taken up. At every table the conversation grew animated, the
benefits of the war were told over, and the wits cracked jokes at
the expense of the pacifists. There was not a single man in the whole
assemblage who did not owe at least two blessings to the war: financial
independence and such munificence of living as only much-envied money
magnates have allotted to them in times of peace. Among this circle
of people the war wore the mask of a Santa Claus with a bag full of
wonderful gifts on his back and assignments for brilliant careers in
his hand. To be sure here and there a gentleman was to be seen wearing
a crêpe-band on his sleeve for a brother or a brother-in-law who, as
officer, had seen that other aspect of the war, the Gorgon's face.

Yet the Gorgon's face was so far away, more than sixty miles in a
bee-line, and an occasional excursion in its vicinity was an exciting
little adventure, a brief titillation of the nerves. Inside an hour
the automobile raced back to safety, back to the bath-tub, and you
promenaded asphalt streets again in shining pumps. So, who would refrain
from joining in the hymn of praise to His Excellency?

The mighty man contentedly listened a while longer to the babel of
voices aroused by what he had said, then gradually sank back into his
reflections, and gazed ahead of him seriously. He saw the sunbeams
sifting through the thick foliage and glittering on the crosses and
stars that covered the left half of his chest in three close rows. It
was a magnificent and complete collection of every decoration that
the rulers of four great empires had to bestow upon a man for heroism,
contempt of death, and high merit. There was no honor left for the
Victor of ---- still to aspire to. And only eleven short months of war
had cast all that at his feet. It was the harvest of but a single year
of war. Thirty-nine years of his life had previously gone in the service
in tedious monotony, in an eternal struggle with sordid everyday cares.
He had worn himself out over all the exigencies of a petty bourgeois
existence, like a poor man ashamed of his poverty, making pathetic
efforts to conceal a tear in his clothes and always seeing the telltale
hole staring out from under the covering. For thirty-nine years he had
never swerved from disciplining himself to abstemiousness, and there was
much gold on his uniform, but very little in his pocket. As a matter of
fact, he had been quite ready for some time to quit. He was thoroughly
tired of the cheap pleasure of tyrannizing over the young officers on
the drill ground.

But then the miracle occurred! Over night the grouchy, obscure old
gentleman changed into a sort of national hero, a European celebrity.
He was "the Victor of ----!" It was like in a fairy tale, when the good
fairy appears and frees the enchanted prince from his hideous disguise,
and he emerges in his glowing youth, surrounded by knights and lackeys,
and enters his magnificent castle.

To be sure the miracle had not brought the general the glow of youth.
But it put elasticity into him. The eventful year had given him a
shaking up, and his veins pulsed with the joy of life and the energy for
work of a man in his prime. It was as a sovereign that he sat there in
the shadow of the plane-trees, with good fortune sparkling on his chest
and a city lying at his feet. Nothing, not a single thing, was lacking
to make the fairy tale perfect.

In front of the coffee-house, guarded by two sturdy corporals, rested
the great grey beast, with the lungs of a hundred horses in its chest,
awaiting the cranking-up to rush its master off to his castle high above
town and valley. Where were the days when, with his general's stripes on
his trousers, he took the street-car to his home, befitting his station
in life, a six-room apartment that was really a five-room apartment plus
a closet? Where was all that? Centuries had given their noblest powers,
generations had expended their artistic skill in filling the castle
requisitioned for His Excellency, the Commander-in-Chief of the ----th
Army, with the choicest treasure. Sun and time had done their best to
mellow the dazzle of the accumulated wealth till it shone in subdued
grandeur as through a delicate veil. Any man master in that house, who
mounted those broad steps and shouted his wishes in those aristocratic
rooms, necessarily felt like a king and could not take the war in any
other way than as a glorious fairy tale.

Indeed, was there ever a royal household that approached the miraculous
more closely? In the kitchen reigned a master of the culinary art, the
chef of the best hotel in the country, who in other circumstances would
not have been satisfied with double the wages of a general and was now
getting only a dollar a day. Yet he was using every bit of his skill. He
had never been so eager to please the palate of him whom he served. The
roast he prepared was the finest piece of meat to be selected from among
the two hundred oxen that daily gave up their lives to the army for the
fatherland. The men who served the roast on silver platters, wrought
by pupils of Benvenuto for the ancestors of the house, were generals of
their trade, who in peace times had had their clothes built in London,
and stood about tremblingly awaiting each sign from their master. And
this entire retinue, this whole princely household, functioned quite
automatically, and--entirely without cost! The master for whom every one
slaved never once had to perform that inevitable nuisance of putting
his hand in his pocket to draw out his purse. The gasoline circulated
inexhaustibly through the veins of the three motor cars, which lounged
day and night on the marble flagging of the courtyard. As by magic
everything flowed in that eye and palate could desire.

No servant asked for wages, everything seemed to be there of itself, as
in fairy castles where it is enough to wish for a thing in order to have

But that was not all. It was not the whole of the miracle that the
table spread itself every day of the month and the store-rooms filled
themselves with provisions. When the first of the month came round,
bank-notes instead of bills came fluttering into the house.

No worry, no disputing, no stinting of one's self to be borne with a
sigh. With an air of boredom one stuffed his pockets with greenbacks,
which were really quite superfluous in this lazy man's paradise that the
war had opened up to its vassals.

One single lowering cloud now and then streaked the shining firmament
of this wonderland and cast its shadow on the brow of His Excellency.
Sometimes his pure joy was disturbed by the thought that the fairy tale
might give way to reality and he might be awakened from the glorious
dream. It was not peace that His Excellency dreaded. He never even
thought of peace. But what if the wall so artfully constructed out of
human bodies should begin to totter some day? What if the enemy were
to penetrate all the fortifications, and discipline were to give way
to panic, and the mighty wall should dissolve into its component parts,
human beings fleeing madly to save their lives? Then the "Victor of
----," the almighty fairy tale king, would sink back again into the
sordid commonplace of old. He would have to eke out his existence in
some obscure corner, crowd his trophies into some modest apartment,
and content himself, like other discharged officers, with being a
coffeehouse king. Were he to suffer a single defeat, the world would
instantly forget its enthusiasm. Another general would assume the reign,
another sovereign would fly through the town in a motor car, and the
vast retinue of servants would reverently bow before their new ruler.
The old one would be nothing but a past episode, a scarecrow revealed,
which any sparrow impudently besmirches.

The general's pudgy hand involuntarily clenched itself, and the dreaded
frown, the "storm-signal" that his own soldiers, as well as the enemy,
had learned to fear, appeared for a moment on his prominent forehead.
Then his face cleared again, and His Excellency looked around proudly.

No! The Victor of ---- was not afraid. His wall stood firm and swayed
not. For three months every report that emissaries brought to camp had
told of the enormous preparations being made by the enemy. For three
months they had been storing up ammunition and gathering together their
forces for the tremendous offensive. And the offensive had begun the
night before. The general knew that the crowd gaily thronging in the sun
would not read in the newspaper till the next morning that out at the
front a fierce battle had been raging for the past twenty hours, and
hardly sixty miles from the promenade shells were bursting without
cease, and a heavy rain of hot iron was pouring down upon his soldiers.
Three infantry attacks had already been reported as repulsed, and now
the artillery was hammering with frenzied fury, a prologue to fresh
conflicts during the night.

Well, let them come!

With a jerk, His Excellency sat up, and while his fingers beat on the
table in tune to the Blue Danube, a tense expression came into his face,
as though he could hear the terrific drumfire raging at the front like a
hurricane. His preparations had been made: the human reservoir had been
filled to overflowing. Two hundred thousand strong young lads of the
very right age lay behind the lines ready at the proper moment to be
thrown in front of the steam-roller until it caught and stuck in a
marsh of blood and bones. Just let them come! The more, the merrier! The
Victor of ---- was prepared to add another branch to his laurels, and
his eyes sparkled like the medals on his breast.

His adjutant got up from the table next to his, approached hesitatingly,
and whispered a few words in His Excellency's ear.

The great man shook his head, waving the adjutant off.

"It is an important foreign newspaper, Your Excellency," the adjutant
urged; and when his commander still waved him aside, he added
significantly: "The gentleman has brought a letter of recommendation
from headquarters, Your Excellency."

At this the general finally gave in, arose with a sigh, and said, half
in jest, half in annoyance to the lady beside him:

"A drumfire would be more welcome!" Then he followed his adjutant and
shook hands jovially with the bald civilian, who popped up from his seat
and bent at the middle like a penknife snapping shut. His Excellency
invited him to be seated.

The war correspondent stammered a few words of admiration, and opened
his note-book expectantly, a whole string of questions on his lips.
But His Excellency did not let him speak. In the course of time he had
constructed for occasions like this a speech in which every point was
well thought out and which made a simple impression. He delivered it
now, speaking with emphasis and pausing occasionally to recall what came

To begin with he spoke of his brave soldiers, praising their courage,
their contempt of death, their wonderful deeds of valor. Then he
expressed regret at the impossibility of rewarding each soldier
according to his merits, and--this in a raised voice--invoked the
fatherland's eternal gratitude for such loyalty and self-abnegation
even unto death. Pointing to the heavy crop of medals on his chest, he
explained that the distinctions awarded him were really an honor done to
his men. Finally he wove in a few well-chosen remarks complimenting the
enemy's fighting ability and cautious leadership, and concluded with an
expression of his unshakable confidence in ultimate victory.

The newspaper man listened respectfully and occasionally jotted down
a note. The main thing, of course, was to observe the Great One's
appearance, his manner of speech, his gestures, and to sum up his
personality in a few striking phrases.

His Excellency now discarded his military role, and changed himself from
the Victor of ---- into the man of the world.

"You are going to the front now?" he asked with a courteous smile,
and responded to the correspondent's enthusiastic "Yes" with a deep,
melancholy sigh.

"How fortunate you are! I envy you. You see, the tragedy in the life of
the general of to-day is that he cannot lead his men personally into
the fray. He spends his whole life preparing for war, he is a soldier
in body and soul, and yet he knows the excitement of battle only from

The correspondent was delighted with this subjective utterance which he
had managed to evoke. Now he could show the commander in the sympathetic
rôle of one who renounces, one who cannot always do as he would. He bent
over his note-book for an instant. When he looked up again he found to
his astonishment that His Excellency's face had completely changed. His
brow was furrowed, his eyes stared wide-open with an anxiously expectant
look in them at something back of the correspondent.

The correspondent turned and saw a pale, emaciated infantry captain
making straight toward His Excellency. The man was grinning and he had
a peculiar shambling walk. He came closer and closer, and stared with
glassy, glaring eyes, and laughed an ugly idiotic laugh. The adjutant
started up from his seat frightened. The veins on His Excellency's
forehead swelled up like ropes. The correspondent saw an assassination
coming and turned pale. The uncanny captain swayed to within a foot
or two of the general and his adjutant, then stood still, giggled
foolishly, and snatched at the orders on His Excellency's chest like a
child snatching at a beam of light.

"Beautiful--shines beautifully--" he gurgled in a thick voice. Then he
pointed his frightfully thin, trembling forefinger up at the sun and
shrieked, "Sun!" Next he snatched at the medals again and said, "Shines
beautifully." And all the while his restless glance wandered hither
and thither as if looking for something, and his ugly, bestial laugh
repeated itself after each word.

His Excellency's right fist was up in the air ready for a blow at the
fellow's chest for approaching him so disrespectfully, but, instead, he
laid his hand soothingly on the poor idiot's shoulder.

"I suppose you have come from the hospital to listen to the music,
Captain?" he said, winking to his adjutant. "It's a long ride to the
hospital in the street-car. Take my automobile. It's quicker."

"Auto--quicker," echoed the lunatic with his hideous laugh. He patiently
let himself be taken by the arm and led away. He turned round once with
a grin at the glittering medals, but the adjutant pulled him along.

The general followed them with his eyes until they entered the machine.
The "storm-signal" was hoisted ominously between his eyebrows. He was
boiling with rage at such carelessness in allowing a creature like
that to walk abroad freely. But in the nick of time he remembered the
civilian at his side, and controlled himself, and said with a shrug of
the shoulders:

"Yes, these are some of the sad aspects of the war. You see, it is just
because of such things that the leader must stay behind, where nothing
appeals to his heart. No general could ever summon the necessary
severity to direct a war if he had to witness all the misery at the

"Very interesting," the correspondent breathed gratefully, and closed
his book. "I fear I have already taken up too much of Your Excellency's
valuable time, but may I be permitted one more question? When does Your
Excellency hope for peace?"

The general started, bit his underlip, and glanced aside with a look
that would have made every staff officer of the ----th Army shake in
his boots. With a visible effort he put on his polite smile and pointed
across the square to the open portals of the old cathedral.

"The only advice I can give is for you to go over there and ask our
Heavenly Father. He is the only one who can answer that question."

A friendly nod, a hearty handshake, then His Excellency strode to his
office across the square amid the respectful salutations of the crowd.
When he entered the building the dreaded furrow cleaving his brow was
deeper than ever. An orderly tremblingly conducted him to the office of
the head army physician. For several minutes the entire house held
its breath while the voice of the Mighty One thundered through the
corridors. He ordered the fine old physician to come to his table as if
he were his secretary, and dictated a decree forbidding all the inmates
of the hospitals, without distinction or exception, whether sick
or wounded, to leave the hospital premises. "For"--the decree
concluded--"if a man is ill, he belongs in bed, and if he feels strong
enough to go to town and sit in the coffee-house, he should report at
the front, where his duty calls him."

This pacing to and fro with clinking spurs and this thundering at the
cowering old doctor calmed his anger. The storm had about blown over
when unfortunately the general's notice was drawn to the report from the
brigade that was being most heavily beset by the enemy and had suffered
desperate losses and was holding its post only in order to make the
enterprise as costly as possible to the advancing enemy. Behind it the
mines had already been laid, and a whole new division was already in
wait in subterranean hiding ready to prepare a little surprise for the
enemy after the doomed brigade had gone to its destruction. Of course,
the general had not considered it necessary to inform the brigadier that
he was holding a lost post and all he was to do was to sell his hide as
dearly as possible. The longer the struggle raged the better! And men
fight so much more stubbornly if they hope for relief until the very
last moment.

All this His Excellency himself had ordained, and he was really greatly
rejoiced that the brigade was still holding out after three overwhelming
infantry charges. But now a report lay before him which went against all
military tradition; and it brought back the storm that had been about to

The major-general (His Excellency made careful note of his name)
described the frightful effect of the drumfire in a nervous, talkative
way that was most unmilitary. Instead of confining himself to a
statement of numbers, he explained at length how his brigade had been
decimated and his men's power of resistance was gone. He concluded his
report by begging for reinforcements, else it would be impossible for
the remnant of his company to withstand the attack to take place that

"Impossible? Impossible?" His Excellency blared like a trumpet into the
ears of the gentlemen standing motionless around him. "Impossible?
Since when is the commander instructed by his subordinates as to what is
possible and what is not?"

Blue in the face with rage he took a pen and wrote this single sentence
in answer to the report: "The sector is to be held." Underneath he
signed his name in the perpendicular scrawl that every school child
knew from the picture card of the "Victor of ----." He himself put
the envelope into the motor-cyclist's hand for it to be taken to the
wireless station as the telephone wires of the brigade had long since
been shot into the ground. Then he blustered like a storm cloud
from room to room, stayed half an hour in the card room, had a short
interview with the chief of the staff, and asked to have the evening
reports sent to the castle. When his rumbling "Good night, gentlemen!"
at last resounded in the large hall under the dome, every one heaved a
sigh of relief. The guard stood at attention, the chauffeur started the
motor, and the big machine plunged into the street with a bellow like a
wild beast's. Panting and tooting, it darted its way through the narrow
streets out into the open, where the castle like a fairy palace looked
down into the misty valley below with its pearly rows of illuminated

With his coat collar turned up, His Excellency sat in the car and
reflected as he usually did at this time on the things that had happened
during the day. The correspondent came to his mind and the man's stupid
question, "When does Your Excellency hope for peace?" Hope? Was it
credible that a man who must have some standing in his profession,
else he never would have received a letter of recommendation from
headquarters, had so little suspicion of how contrary that was to every
soldierly feeling? Hope for peace? What good was a general to expect
from peace? Could this civilian not comprehend that a commanding general
really commanded, was really a general, just in times of war, while in
times of peace he was like a strict teacher in galloons, an old duffer
who occasionally shouted himself hoarse out of pure ennui? Was he to
long for that dreary treadmill existence again? Was he to hope for the
time--to please the gentlemen civilians--when he, the victorious leader
of the ----th Army, would be used again merely for reviews? Was he to
await impatiently going back to that other hopeless struggle between a
meager salary and a life polished for show, a struggle in which the lack
of money always came out triumphant?

The general leaned back on the cushioned seat in annoyance.

Suddenly the car stopped with a jerk right in the middle of the road.
The general started up in surprise and was about to question the
chauffeur, when the first big drops of rain fell on his helmet. It was
the same storm that earlier in the afternoon had given the men at the
front a short respite.

The two corporals jumped out and quickly put up the top. His Excellency
sat stark upright, leaned his ear to the wind, and listened attentively.
Mingled with the rushing sound of the wind he caught quite clearly, but
very--very faintly a dull growling, a hollow, scarcely audible pounding,
like the distant echo of trees being chopped down in the woods.


His Excellency's eyes brightened. A gleam of inner satisfaction passed
over his face so recently clouded with vexation.

Thank God! There still was war!


(_A Diary_)

This world war has given me a comrade, too. You couldn't find a better

It is exactly fourteen months ago that I met him for the first time in
a small piece of woods near the road to Goerz. Since then he has never
left my side for a single moment. We sat up together hundreds of nights
through, and still he walks beside me steadfastly.

Not that he intrudes himself upon me. On the contrary. He
conscientiously keeps the distance that separates him, the common
soldier, from the officer that he must respect in me. Strictly according
to regulations he stands three paces off in some corner or behind some
column and only dares to cast his shy glances at me.

He simply wants to be near me. That's all he asks for, just for me to
let him be in my presence.

Sometimes I close my eyes to be by myself again, quite by myself for a
few moments, as I used to be before the war. Then he fixes his gaze
upon me so firmly and penetratingly and with such obstinate, reproachful
insistence that it burns into my back, settles under my eyelids, and so
steeps my being with the picture of him that I look round, if a little
tune has passed without his reminding me of his presence.

He has gnawed his way into me, he has taken up his abode within me. He
sits inside of me like the mysterious magician at moving-picture shows
who turns the crank inside of the black booth above the heads of the
spectators. He casts his picture through my eyes upon every wall, every
curtain, every flat surface that my eyes fall on.

But even when there is no background for his picture, even when I
frantically look out of the window and stare into the distance so as
to be rid of him for a short while, even then he is there, hovering in
front of me as though impaled upon the lance of my gaze, like a banner
swaying at the head of a parade. If X-rays could penetrate the skull,
one would find his picture woven into my brain in vague outline, like
the figures in old tapestries.

I remember a trip I took before the war from Munich to Vienna on the
Oriental Express. I looked out upon the autumnal mellowness of the
country around the Bavarian lakes and the golden glow of the Wiener
Wald. But across all this glory that I drank in leaning back on the
comfortable seat in luxurious contentment, there steadily ran an ugly
black spot--a flaw in the window-pane. That is the way my obstinate
comrade flits across woods and walls, stands still when I stand still,
dances over the faces of passers-by, over the asphalt paving wet from
the rain, over everything my eyes happen to fall upon. He interposes
himself between me and the world, just like that flaw in the
window-pane, which degraded everything I saw to the quality of the
background that it made.

The physicians, of course, know better. They do not believe that He
lives in me and stays by me like a sworn comrade. From the standpoint of
science it rests with me not to drag him round any longer, but to give
him his dismissal, precisely as I might have freed myself from the
annoying spot by angrily smashing the window-pane. The physicians do
not believe that one human being can unite himself at death with another
human being and continue to live on in him with obstinate persistence.
It is their opinion that a man standing at a window should see the house
opposite but never the wall of the room behind his back.

The physicians only believe in things that _are_. Such superstitions as
that a man can carry dead men within him and see them standing in front
of him so distinctly that they hide a picture behind them from his
sight, do not come within the range of the gentlemen's reasoning. In
their lives death plays no part. A patient who dies ceases to be a
patient. And what does the day know of the night, though the one forever
succeeds the other?

But I know it is not I who forcibly drag the dead comrade through my
life. I know that the dead man's life within me is stronger than my own
life. It may be that the shapes I see flitting across the wall papers,
cowering in corners and staring into the lighted room from dark
balconies, and knocking so hard on the windows that the panes rattle,
are only visions and nothing more. Where do they come from? _My_ brain
furnishes the picture, _my_ eyes provide the projection, but it is the
dead man that sits at the crank. He tends to the film. The show begins
when it suits Him and does not stop as long as He turns the crank. How
can I help seeing what He shows me? If I close my eyes the picture falls
upon the inside of my lids, and the drama plays inside of me instead of
dancing far away over doors and walls.

I should be the stronger of the two, they say. But you cannot kill a
dead man, the physicians should know that.

Are not the paintings by Titian and Michael Angelo still hanging in
the museums centuries after Titian and Michael Angelo lived? And the
pictures that a dying man chiseled into my brain fourteen months ago
with the prodigious strength of his final agony--are they supposed
to disappear simply because the man that created them is lying in his
soldier's grave?

Who, when he reads or hears the word "woods," does not see some woods he
has once walked through or looked out on from a train window? Or when
a man speaks of his dead father does he not see the face that has long
been rotting in the grave appear again, now stern, now gentle, now in
the rigidity of the last moments? What would our whole existence be
without these visions which, each at its own word, rise up for moments
out of oblivion as if in the glare of a flashlight?

Sick? Of course. The world is sore, and will have no words or pictures
that do not have reference to the wholesale graves. Not for a moment can
the comrade within me join the rest of the dead, because everything that
happens is as a flashlight falling upon him. There's the newspaper each
morning to begin with: "Ships sunk," "Attacks repulsed." And immediately
the film reels off a whirl of gasping, struggling men, fingers rising
out of mountainous waves grasping for life once more, faces disfigured
by pain and fury. Every conversation that one overhears, every shop
window, every breath that is drawn is a reminder of the wholesale
carnage. Even the silence of the night is a reminder. Does not each tick
of the second-hand mark the death rattle of thousands of men? In order
to hear the hell raging yonder on the other side of the thick wall of
air, is it not enough to know of chins blown off, throats cut open, and
corpses locked in a death embrace?

If a man were lying comfortably in bed and then found out for certain
that some one next door was being murdered, would you say he was sick if
he jumped up out of bed with his heart pounding? And are we anything
but next door to the places where thousands duck down in frantic terror,
where the earth spits mangled fragments of bodies up into the sky, and
the sky hammers down on the earth with fists of iron? Can a man live at
a distance from his crucified self when the whole world resounds with
reminders of these horrors?


It is the others that are sick. They are sick who gloat over news of
victories and see conquered miles of territory rise resplendent above
mounds of corpses. They are sick who stretch a wall of flags between
themselves and their humanity so as not to know what crimes are being
committed against their brothers in the beyond that they call "the
front." Every man is sick who still can think, talk, discuss, sleep,
knowing that other men holding their own entrails in their hands are
crawling like half-crushed worms across the furrows in the fields
and before they reach the stations for the wounded are dying off like
animals, while somewhere, far away, a woman with passionate longing is
dreaming beside an empty bed. All those are sick who can fail to hear
the moaning, the gnashing of teeth, the howling, the crashing and
bursting, the wailing and cursing and agonizing in death, because the
murmur of everyday affairs is around them or the blissful silence of

It is the deaf and the blind that are sick, not I!

It is the dull ones that are sick, those whose souls sing neither
compassion for others nor their own anger. All those numerous people
are sick who, like a violin without strings, merely echo every sound. Or
would you say that the man whose memory is like a photographic plate on
which the light has fallen and which cannot record any more impressions,
is the healthy man? Is not memory the very highest possession of every
human being? It is the treasure that animals do not own, because they
are incapable of holding the past and reviving it.

Am I to be cured of my memory as from an illness? Why, without my memory
I would not be myself, because every man is built up of his memories and
really lives only as long as he goes through life like a loaded camera.
Supposing I could not tell where I lived in my childhood, what color
my father's eyes and my mother's hair were, and supposing at any moment
that I were called upon to give an account, I could not turn the leaves
of the past and point to the right picture, how quick they would be
to diagnose my case as feeblemindedness, or imbecility. Then, to be
considered mentally normal, must one treat one's brain like a slate to
be sponged off and be able at command to tear out pictures that have
burned the most hideous misery into the soul, and throw them away as one
does leaves from an album of photographs?

One man died before my eyes, he died hard, torn asunder after a
frightful struggle between the two Titans, Life and Death. Am I
sick, then, if I experience all over again all the phases of his
agonizing--preserved in my brain like snapshots--as long as every
happening inexorably opens the pages of this series? And the other
people, are they well, those, I mean, who skip the pages as though they
were blank that record the dismemberment, the mutilation, the crushing
of their brothers, the slow writhing to death of men caught in barbed
wire entanglements?

Tell me, my dear doctors, at just what point am I to begin to forget?

Am I to forget I was in the war? Am I to forget the moment in the smoky
railway station when I leaned out of the car window and saw my boy ashen
white, with compressed lips, standing beside his mother, and I made a
poor show of cheerfulness and talked of seeing them soon again, while
my eyes greedily searched the features of my wife and child, and my soul
drank in the picture of them like parched lips after a many days' march
drinking in the water so madly longed for? Am I to forget the choking
and the bitterness in my mouth when the train began to move and the
distance swallowed up my child, my wife, my world?

And the whole ride to death, when I was the only military traveler in a
car full of happy family men off for a summer Sunday in the country--am
I to tear it out of my memory like so much cumbersome waste paper? Am
I to forget how I felt when it grew quieter at each station, as though
life were crumbling away, bit by bit, until at midnight only one or two
sleepy soldiers remained in my coach and an ashen young face drawn with
sorrow hovered about the flickering lamplight? Must one actually be sick
if it is like an incurable wound always to feel that leave-taking of
home and warmth, that riding away with hatred and danger awaiting one at
the end of the trip? Is there anything harder to understand--when have
men done anything madder--than this: to race through the night at sixty
miles an hour, to run away from all love, all security, to leave the
train and take another train because it is the only one that goes to
where invisible machines belch red-hot pieces, of iron and Death casts
out a finely meshed net of steel and lead to capture men? Who will
obliterate from my soul the picture of that small dirty junction, the
shivering, sleepy soldiers without any intoxication or music in their
blood, looking wistfully after the civilian's train and its brightly
lighted windows as it disappeared behind the trees with a jolly blow
of its whistle? Who will obliterate the picture of that exchanging for
Death in the drab light of early dawn?

And supposing I could cross out that first endless night as something
settled and done with, would not the next morning remain, when our train
stopped at a switch in the middle of a wide, dewy meadow, and we were
told that we had to wait to let hospital trains go by? How shall I ever
banish the memory of those thick exhalations of lysol and blood blown
upon the happy fields from a dragon's nostrils? Won't I forever see
those endless serpents creeping up so indolently, as though surfeited
with mangled human flesh? From hundreds of windows white bandages
gleamed and dull, glassy eyes stared out. Lying, crouching, on top of
each other, body to body, they even hung on to the running-boards like
bloody bunches of grapes, an overflowing abundance of distress and
agony. And those wretched remains of strength and youth, those bruised
and battered men, looked with pity, yes, _with pity_, at our train. Am
I really sick because those glances of warm compassion from bleeding
cripples to sound, strapping young fellows burn in my soul with a fire
never to be extinguished? An apprehension sent a chill through our whole
train, the foreboding of a hell that one would rather run away from
wrapped in bloody bandages than go to meet whole and strong. And when
this shudder of apprehension has turned into reality, into experience
and memory, is it to be shaken off as long as such trains still meet
every day? A casual remark about the transfer of troops, news of fresh
battles inevitably recall this first actual contact with the war, just
as a certain note when struck will produce a certain tone, and I see the
tracks and ties and stones spattered with blood, shining in the early
morning light of a summer day--signposts pointing to the front.

"The Front!"

Am _I_ really the sick person because I cannot utter that word or write
it down without my tongue growing coated from the intense hatred I
feel? Axe not the others mad who look upon this wholesale
cripple-and-corpse-factory with a mixture of religious devotion,
romantic longing and shy sympathy? Would it not be wiser once for a
change to examine those others for the state of their mind? Must _I_
disclose it to my wise physicians, who watch over me so compassionately,
that all this mischief is the work of a few words that have been let
loose upon humanity like a pack of mad dogs?

Front--Enemy--Hero's death--Victory--the curs rage through the world
with frothing mouth and rolling eyes. Millions who have been carefully
inoculated against smallpox, cholera and typhoid fever are chased into
madness. Millions, on either side, are packed into cars--ride, singing,
to meet each other at the front--hack, stab, shoot at each other, blow
each other into bits, give their flesh and their bones for the bloody
hash out of which the dish of peace is to be cooked for those fortunate
ones who give the flesh of their calves and oxen to their fatherland for
a hundred per cent profit, instead of carrying their own flesh to market
for fifty cents a day.

Suppose the word "war" had never been invented and had never been
hallowed through the ages and decked with gay trappings. Who would
dare to supplement the deficient phrase, "declaration of war," by the
following speech?

"After long, fruitless negotiations our emissary to the government of X
left to-day. From the window of his parlor car he raised his silk hat to
the gentlemen who had escorted him to the station, and he will not meet
them with a friendly smile again until _you_ have made corpses of many
hundreds of thousands of men in the country of X. Up then! Squeeze
yourself into box-cars meant for six horses or twenty-eight men! Ride to
meet them, those other men. Knock them dead, hack off their heads, live
like wild beasts in damp excavations, in neglect, in filth, overrun with
lice, until we shall deem the time has come again for our emissary to
take a seat in a parlor car and lift his silk hat, and in ornate rooms
politely and aristocratically dispute over the advantages which our big
merchants and manufacturers are to derive from the slaughter. Then as
many of you as are not rotting under the ground or hobbling on crutches
and begging from door to door may return to your half-starved families,
and may--nay must!--take up your work again with redoubled energy, more
indefatigably and yet with fewer demands than before, so as to be
able to pay in sweat and privation for the shoes that you wore out in
hundreds of marches and the clothes that decayed on your bodies."

A fool he who would sue for a following in such terms! But _no_ fools
they who are the victims, who freeze, starve, kill, and let themselves
be killed, just because they have learned to believe that this must be
so, once the mad dog War has burst his chains and bitten the world.

Is this what the wars were like from which the word "war" has come down
to us? Did not war use to guarantee booty? Were not the mercenaries
led on by hopes of a gay, lawless life--women and ducats and
gold-caparisoned steeds? Is this cowering under iron discipline, this
holding out of your head to be chopped off, this passive play with
monsters that spill their hellish cauldron on you from out of the blue
distance still "war"? War was the collision of the superfluous forces,
the ruffians of all nations. Youth, for whom the town had grown too
small and the doublet too tight, ventured out, intoxicated by the play
of its own muscles. And now shall the same word hold good when men
already anchored to house and home are torn away and whipped into the
ranks and laid out before the enemy, and made to wait, defenseless, in
dull resignation, like supers in this duel of the munition industries?

Is it right to misuse the word "war" as a standard when it is not
courage and strength that count, but explosive bombs and the length of
range of the guns and the speed with which women and children turn out
shells? We used to speak with horror of the tyrants of dark ages, who
threw helpless men and women to the lions and tigers; but now is there
one of us who would not mention them with respect in comparison with
the rulers who are at present directing the struggle between men and
machines, as though it were a puppet show at the end of telegraph wires,
and who are animated by the delightful hope that our supply of human
flesh may outlast the enemy's supply of steel and iron?

No! All words coined before this carnage began are too beautiful and too
honest, like the word "front," which I have learned to abhor. Are you
"facing" the enemy when their artillery is hidden behind mountains and
sends death over a distance of a day's journey, and when their sappers
come creeping up thirty feet below the surface? And your "front" is a
terminal station, a little house all shot up, behind which the tracks
have been torn up because the trains turn back here after unloading
their cargo of fresh, sunburned men, to call for them again when they
have emerged from the machines with torn limbs and faces covered with

It was towards evening when I got off the train at this terminal. A
bearded soldier with his right arm in a sling was sitting on the ground
leaning against the iron railing around the platform. When he saw me
pass by, quite spick and span, he stroked his right arm tenderly with
his left hand and threw me an ugly look of hatred and called out through
clenched teeth:

"Yes, Lieutenant, here's the place for man salad."

Am I to forget the wicked grin that widened his mouth, already distorted
by pain? Am I sick because each time I hear the word "front" an echo,
"man salad," inevitably croaks in my ears? Or are the others sick who do
not hear "man salad," but swallow down the cowardly stuff written by our
war bards, who try like industrious salesmen to make the brand "world
war" famous, because in reward they will have the privilege of dashing
about in automobiles like commanding generals instead of being forced to
face death in muddy ditches and be bossed by a little corporal?

Are there really human beings of flesh and blood who can still take a
newspaper in their hands and not foam at the mouth with rage? Can one
carry in one's brain the picture of wounded men lying exposed on slimy
fields in the pouring rain, slowly, dumbly bleeding to death, and yet
quietly read the vile stuff written about "perfect hospital service,"
"smoothly running ambulances," and "elegantly papered trenches," with
which these fellows poetize themselves free from military service?

Men come home with motionless, astonished eyes, still reflecting death.
They walk about shyly, like somnambulists in brightly lighted streets.
In their ears there still resound the bestial howls of fury that they
themselves bellowed into the hurricane of the drumfire so as to keep
from bursting from inner stress. They come loaded down, like beasts of
burden, with horrors, the astonished looks of bayoneted, dying foes
on their conscience--and they don't dare open their mouths because
everybody, wife and child included, grinds out the same tune, a flow of
curious questions about shells, gas bombs and bayonet attacks. So the
days of the furlough expire, one by one, and the return to death is
almost a deliverance from the shame of being a coward in disguise
among the friends at home, to whom dying and killing have become mere

So be it, my dear doctors! It is an honor to be charged with madness if
those villains are not called mad who, to save their own necks, have so
gloriously hardened the people's hearts and abolished pity and
implanted pride in the enemy's suffering, instead of acting as the one
intermediary between distress and power and arousing the conscience
of the world by going to the most frequented places and shouting _"Man
Sal-ad"_ through a megaphone so loud and so long that at length
all those whose fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, have gone to the
corpse-factory will be seized with terror and all the throats in the
world will be _one_ echo to "Man Sal-ad!"

If you were here right now, dear doctors, I could show you my comrade,
summoned to this room in the very body by the flames of hate against
news from the front and against the indifference of the hinterland. I
feel him standing behind my back, but his face is lying on the white
sheet in front of me, like a faint water-mark, and my pen races
frantically so as to cover his eyes at least with letters and hide their
reproachful stare.

Large, widening, hideously distorted, his face, slowly swelling, rises
from the paper like the face of Jesus of the handkerchief.

It was just like this that the three war correspondents saw him lying
at the edge of the woods on that midsummer morning and--turned away
involuntarily with almost the military exactness of soldiers at a "right
about face." Their visit was meant for _me_! I was to furnish them with
carriage and horses because the automobile that was to have darted them
through the danger zone was lying on the road to Goerz with a broken

Charming gentlemen, in wonderfully well-cut breeches and traveling caps,
looking as if they had stepped out of a Sherlock Holmes motion picture.
They offered to carry letters back and deliver messages, and they found
everything on my place perfectly fascinating, and laughed heartily at
my mattress of willow twigs--and were particularly grateful when the
carriage stood ready to carry them off before the daily bombardment of
the Italians began.

On driving out of the woods they had to pass the wounded man again with
the hideously disfigured face. He was crouching on the meadow. But this
time they did not see him. As if at command they turned their heads the
other way and with animated gestures viewed the damage done by an air
raid the day before, as though they were already sitting over a table in
a coffee-house.

I lost my breath, as though I had run a long distance up-hill. The place
where I stood suddenly seemed strange and altered. Was that the same
piece of woods into which shells had so often come crashing, which
the huge Caproni planes had circled about with wide-spread wings like
vultures, shedding bombs, while our machine guns lashed the leaves with
a hailstorm of shot? Was it out of _this_ piece of woods that three men
had just driven off, healthy, unscathed, gaily waving their caps? Where
was the wall that held us others imprisoned under the cracking branches?
Was there not a door that opened only to let out pale, sunken cheeks,
feverish eyes, or mangled limbs?

The carriage rolled lightly over the field, trampled down brown, and the
one thing missing to make it the perfect picture of a pleasure trip was
the brilliant red of a Baedeker.

Those men were riding back home.

To wife and child, perhaps?

A painful pulling and tugging, as though my eyes were caught to the
carriage wheels. Then my body rebounded--as if torn off--back into
emptiness, and--at that moment, just when my soul was as if ploughed
up by the carriage and laid bare and defenseless by yearning--at that
moment the experience sprang upon me--with one dreadful leap, one single
bite--incurable for the rest of my life.

Unsuspecting, I crossed over to the wounded man upon whom the three had
so unceremoniously turned their backs, as though he did not also belong
to the interesting museum of shell holes that they had come to inspect.
He was cowering near the dirty ragged little Red Cross flag, with his
head between his knees, and did not hear me come up. Behind him lay the
brown spot which stood out from the green still left on the field like
a circus ring. The wounded soldiers who gathered here every morning at
dawn to be driven to the field hospital in the wagons that brought us
ammunition had rubbed this spot in like a favorite corner of a sofa.

How many I had seen crouching there like that, for ten--often twelve
hours, when the wagons had left too early, or had been overcrowded, or,
after violent fighting, had stood waiting in line at the munitions depot
behind the lines. Happy fellows, some of them, with broken arms or legs,
the war slang, "a thousand-dollar shot," on their pale, yet laughing
lips--enviously ogled by the men with slight wounds or the men sick with
typhoid fever, who would all gladly have sacrificed a thousand dollars
and a limb into the bargain for the same certainty of not having to
return to the front again. How many I had seen rolling on the ground,
biting into the earth in their agony--how many in the pouring rain,
half buried already in the mud, their bodies ripped open, groaning and
whimpering and outbellowing the storm.

This man seemed to be only slightly hurt in the right leg. The blood had
oozed out on one spot through the hastily made bandage, so I offered
him my first-aid package, besides cognac and cigarettes. But he did not
move. It was not until I laid my hand on his shoulder that he raised his
head--and the face he showed me threw me back like a blow on the chest.

His mouth and nose had come apart, and crept like a thick vine up his
right cheek--which was no longer a cheek. A chunk of bluish red flesh
swelled up there, covered by skin stretched to bursting and shining from
being drawn so tight. The whole right side of his face seemed more like
an exotic fruit than a human countenance, while from the left side, from
out of grey twitching misery, a sad, frightened eye looked up at me.

Violent terror slung itself round my neck like a lasso.

What was it? Such a frightful thing as that even this field, this
waiting-room to the Beyond, had never witnessed before. Even the awful
recollection of another wounded man who had stood at this same spot
a few days before, his hands looking as though they were modeling
something, while in actuality they were carefully holding his own
entrails--even that hideous recollection faded before the sight of this
Janus head, all peace, all gentle humanity on one side; all war, all
distorted, puffed-up image of fiendish hatred on the other side.

"Shrapnel?" I stammered timidly.

The answer was confused. All I could get out of it was that a dumdum
bullet had smashed his right shinbone. But what was that he kept
mumbling about a hook each time his hand trembled up to his glowing

I could not understand him; for the thing he had gone through still
seethed in his veins so violently that he spoke as though it were just
then happening and I were witnessing it. His peasant's mind could not
comprehend that there were people who had not seen or heard of the
tremendous misery of the last hours he had gone through. So it was more
by guess-work that I gradually pieced together his story from unfinished
sentences, coarse oaths, and groans.

For a whole night, after a repulsed attack on the enemy's trench, he had
lain with a broken leg, unconscious, near our own wire entanglements.
At dawn they threw out the iron grappling hook for him, with which they
pull over into the trench the corpses of friend and foe so as to be able
to bury them unceremoniously before the sun of Goerz has a chance to do
its work. With this hook, dipped in hundreds of corpses, a dunce--"God
damn him!"--had torn his cheek open before a more skilful hand caught
hold of it and got him over safely. And now he asked humbly to be taken
away to the hospital quickly, because he was worried--about his leg and
being a crippled beggar the rest of his life.

I ran off as though mad dogs were at my heels, over rocks and roots,
through the woods to the next detachment. In vain! In the whole woods
there was not a single vehicle to be found. I had given up the last one
to those three war correspondents.

Why had I not asked them to take the one wounded man lying on the field
along with them and leave him at the hospital that they would pass? Why
had they themselves not thought of doing their human duty? Why?

I clenched my fists in impotent fury and caught myself reaching for
my revolver as though I could still shoot those gay sparks in their

Breathless, overheated from the long race, I tottered back, my knees
trembling the whole way. I felt utterly broken, as though I were
carrying on my shoulders a picture, weighing a ton, of men who for sport
angle for human carrion.

An odd choking and tickling came into my throat--a sensation I had not
known since childhood--when, back at my post again, I had to listen to
the low whimpering of the helpless man.

He was no longer alone. In my absence a little band of slightly wounded
men had joined him. Peering between the tree trunks I saw them sitting
in a circle on the field, while the man who had been hooked was hopping
about holding on to his injured leg and tossing his head from one
shoulder to the other.

Towards noon I sent my corporals in search of a vehicle, promising them
a princely reward, while I ran to the field again with my whisky flask.

He was no longer dancing about. He was kneeling in the center of the
circle of wounded men, his body bent over, rolling his head on the
ground as though it were a thing apart from himself. Suddenly he jumped
up with such a yell of fury that a frightened murmur came even from the
line of wounded men, who had been sitting there indifferent, sunk in
their own suffering.

That was no longer anything human. The man's skin could not stand any
more stretching and had burst. The broad splits ran apart like the lines
of a compass and in the middle the raw flesh glowed and gushed out.

And he yelled! He hammered with his fist on the enormous purplish lump,
until he fell to his knees again moaning under the blows of his own

It was dark already when--at last!--they came and carted him away.
And when the night slowly wove its web of mist in the woods and I lay
wrapped in a mound of blankets, the only one who was still awake in
the throng of black tree-trunks that moved closer together in the
darkness--there he was back again, standing up stiff in the moonlight,
his tortured cheek, huge as a pumpkin, shining blue against the black
shadows of the trees. It glimmered like a will-o'-the-wisp, now here,
now there. Night after night. It shone into every dream, so that I
forced my eyelids open with my fingers--until, after ten frightful
nights, my body broke down and was carried, a shrieking, convulsed heap,
to the same hospital in which He had succumbed to blood-poisoning.

And now I am a madman! You can read it, black on white, on the placard
at the head of my bed. They pat me on the back soothingly, like a shying
horse, when I flare up and ask to be let out of this place in which _the
others_ should be shut up.

But the others are free! From my window I can look over the garden
wall into the street, and see them hurrying along, raising their hats,
shaking hands, and crowding in front of the latest bulletin. I see women
and girls, dressed coquettishly, tripping along with pride shining in
their eyes, beside men whom a cross on the breast brands as murderers.
I see widows in long black veils--still patient. I see lads with flowers
stuck in their helmets ready to leave for the war. And not one of them
rebels! Not one of them sees bruised, mangled men cowering in dark
corners, men ripped apart by grappling hooks, men with their entrails
gushing out, and men with blue shining cheeks.

They go by under my window, gesticulating, enthusiastic; because the
enthusiastic phrases arrive coined fresh every day from the mint, and
each person feels sheltered and enveloped in a warmth of assent if the
phrases ring clear from his lips. I know that they keep quiet even when
they would like to speak, to cry out, to scream. I know that they hunt
down "slackers," and have no word of abuse for those who are a thousand
times worse cowards, those who clearly recognise the utter senselessness
of this butchery of millions, yet will not open their mouths for fear of
the censure of the thoughtless crowd.

From my window I can see the whole globe spinning round like a crazy
whirligig, whipped on by haughty lords in cunning calculation and by
venal servants in sneaking submissiveness.

I see the whole pack! The bawlers who are too empty and too lazy to
develop their own selves and want to puff themselves with the glittering
praise meant for their herd. The scoundrels who are protected by the
masses, carried by them and fed by them, and who look up sanctimoniously
to a bogy of their own invention, and hammer that bogy into the
conscience of millions of good men, until the mass has been forged that
has neither heart nor brain, but only fury and blind faith. I see the
whole game proceeding madly in blood and agony. I see the spectators
going by indifferently, and I am called a madman when I raise the window
to call down to them that the sons they have born and bred, the men they
have loved are being chased like wild animals, are being butchered like

Those fools down there, who for the sake of respectable condolence
calls, for a neighbor's eyes raised heavenward in sympathy, sacrificed
the splendor and warmth of their lives, who threw their flesh and blood
into the barbed wire entanglements, to rot as carrion on the fields or
be hooked in with grappling hooks, who have no other consolation than
that the "enemy" have had the same done to them--those fools remain
free; and in their despicable vanity and wicked patience they may
daily shove fresh hecatombs out to the cannons. But I must stay here
impotent--left alone with the relentless comrade that my conscience
gives birth to over again every day.

I stand at my window and between me and the street lie piled high the
bodies of the many I saw bleeding. And I stand here powerless--because
the revolver that was given me to shoot down poor homesick devils,
forced into a uniform by iron necessity, has been taken from me, out of
fear that I might dislodge a few mass murderers from their security and
send them as a warning example down to their victims.

So I must stay here, as a seer over the blind--behind iron gratings. And
all I can do is consign these leaves to the wind--every day write it all
down again and keep scattering the pages out on the street.

I will write indefatigably. I will sow the whole world with my pages.
Until the seed shall sprout in every heart, until every bedroom will be
entered by a blue apparition--a dear dead one showing his wounds; and at
last, at last, the glorious song of the world's redemption will resound
under my window, the wrathful cry shouted by a million throats:

"Man Sal-ad!"


The staff physician had not understood. He shook his head, vexed, and
looked questioningly over the rims of his glasses at his assistant.

But his assistant had not understood either, and was embarrassed, and
stood stiffly without saying anything.

The only one who seemed to have any clue at all to the man's ravings was
his orderly. For two tears glistened on the upturned ends of his waxed
mustache. But the orderly spoke nothing but Hungarian, and the staff
physician turned away with a muttered "blooming idiot". Followed by
his flaxen-haired assistant, he made his way toward the operating room,
panting and perspiring.

The huge ball of cotton, inside of which, according to the placard
hanging at the top of the bed, was hidden the head of First Lieutenant
of the Reserves, Otto Kadar, of the ----th Regiment of Field Artillery,
sank back on the pillow, and Miska seated himself again on his knapsack,
snuffed up his tears, put his head between his big unwashed hands, and
speculated despairingly about his future.

For it was plain that his Lieutenant could not last much longer. Miska
knew what was hidden in the huge cotton ball. He had seen the crushed
skull and the horrible grey mess under the bloody splinters which were
the brains of his poor Lieutenant, who had been such a good man and kind
superior. Miska could not hope for such wonderful luck a second time.
You didn't come across such a kind-hearted master twice in your life.
The many, many slices of salami that the Lieutenant always had given him
from his own store of provisions, the gentle, cordial words that Miska
had heard him whisper to every wounded man--all the memories of the
long, bloody months he had gone through dully beside his master almost
like a comrade, rose to his mind. He felt dreadfully sorry for himself,
the good fellow did, in his infinite defenselessness against the huge
war machine into which he would now be thrown again without the sure
support of his kind Lieutenant next to him.

His broad peasant's head between his hands, he crouched like a dog
at the feet of his dying master, and the tears rolled gently down his
cheeks and stuck one by one on the ends of his mustache glued with dust
and pomade.

It was not quite clear to Miska either just why the poor Lieutenant kept
clamoring so frightfully for his talking-machine. All he knew was that
the officers had been sitting under cover, listening to the Rakoczy
March on the phonograph, when suddenly that accursed shell burst upon
them and everything disappeared in smoke and earth. He himself had been
knocked unconscious by a heavy board which came out of a clear sky and
hit him on the back. He had fallen flat and it was an eternity before he
got his breath back again.

Then--then--Miska's recollections of things after this were a bit
hazy--then he remembered an indescribable heap of splintered boards and
fallen beams, a hash of rags, cement, earth, human limbs, and quantities
of blood. And then--then he remembered--young Meltzar. Meltzar was still
sitting upright with his back against the remains of the wall, and
the record that had just played the Rakoczy March and had miraculously
remained whole was perched on the place where his head belonged. But his
head was not there. It was gone--completely gone, while the black
record remained, also leaning against the wall, directly on top of the
bloodsoaked collar. It was awful. Not one of the soldiers had dared
touch the upright body with the record exactly like a head on its neck.

Brrr! A cold shiver ran down Miska's back at the recollection, and his
heart stopped beating in fright when just at that moment the Lieutenant
again began to scream:

"Phonograph! Only a phonograph!"

Miska jumped up and saw the huge ball of cotton lift itself with an
effort from the pillow, and his officer's one remaining eye fix greedily
upon some invisible object. He stood there ashamed, as though guilty of
a crime, when indignant glances were darted at him from the other beds
in the ward.

"This is unbearable!" cried a Major, who had been severely wounded, from
the other end of the long ward. "Carry the man out."

But the Major spoke German, and Miska was more than ever at sea. He
wiped the sweat of anguish from his brow and explained to a lieutenant
in the next bed, since his master could not hear what he said anyhow,
that the phonograph had been broken--broken into a thousand pieces,
else he would never have left it there, but would surely have brought it
along as he had brought everything else belonging to his Lieutenant that
he had managed to find.

No one answered him. As at a word of command, each one of the officers
the whole length of the ward stuck his head under his pillow and pulled
the covers over his ears so as not to hear that horrible gurgling laugh
which changed into a howl or into infuriated cries for the phonograph.
The old Major even wrapped his blood-stained cloak around his head like
a turban.

"Lieutenant! I beg pardon, Lieutenant----" Miska begged, and very, very
gently stroked his master's quivering knees with his big hard palms.

But Lieutenant Kadar heard him not. Neither did he feel the heavy hand
resting on his knees. For, opposite him, young Meltzar was still sitting
with a flat, black, round head on his neck on which the Rakoczy March
was ingraved in spirals. And all at once the officer realized that for
the past six months he had done poor Meltzar a grievous injustice. How
could the poor fellow help his stupidity, how could he help his silly,
high-flown patriotic talk? How could he possibly have had sensible ideas
with a record for a head? Poor Meltzar!

Lieutenant Kadar simply could not understand why it was that six months
before, right away, when young Meltzar announced his entrance into
the battery, he had not guessed what they had done to the boy in the

They had given him a different head. They had unscrewed the handsome
fair young head of a lad of eighteen and in its place put a black,
scratched-up disc, which could do nothing but squeak the Rakoczy March.
That had now been proved! How the boy must have suffered whenever his
superior officer, his senior by twenty years, inflicted long sermons on
him about humanity! With the flat, round disc that they had put on him
he of course could not comprehend that the Italian soldiers being led
past the battery, reeking with blood and in rags, would also much rather
have stayed at home, if a bulletin on the street corner had not forced
them to leave their homes immediately, just as the mobilization in
Hungary had forced the Hungarian gunners to leave their homes.

Now for the first time Lieutenant Kadar comprehended the young man's
unbending resistance to him. Now at last he realized why this boy, who
could have been his son, had so completely ignored his wisest, kindest
admonitions and explanations, and had always responded by whistling
the Rakoczy March through clenched teeth and hissing the stereotyped
fulmination, "The dogs ought to be shot to pieces."

So then it was not because of his being young and stupid that Meltzar
had behaved as he did; not because he had come direct from the military
academy to the trenches. The phonograph record was to blame, the
phonograph record!

Lieutenant Kadar felt his veins swell up like ropes and his blood pound
on his temples like blows on an anvil, so great was his wrath against
the wrongdoers who had treacherously unscrewed poor Meltzar's lovely
young head from his body.

And--this was the most gruesome--as he now thought of his subordinates
and fellow-officers, he saw them all going about exactly like poor
Meltzar, without heads on their bodies. He shut his eyes and tried to
recall the looks of his gunners--in vain! Not a single face rose before
his mind's eye. He had spent months and months among those men and had
not discovered until that moment that not one of them had a head on his
shoulders. Otherwise he would surely have remembered whether his gunner
had a mustache or not and whether the artillery captain was light or
dark. No! Nothing stuck in his mind--nothing but phonograph records,
hideous, black, round plates lying on bloody blouses.

The whole region of the Isonzo suddenly lay spread out way below him
like a huge map such as he had often seen in illustrated papers. The
silver ribbon of the river wound in and out among hills and coppices,
and Lieutenant Kadar soared high above the welter down below without
motor or aeroplane, but borne along merely by his own outspread arms.
And everywhere he looked, on every hill and in every hollow, he saw
the horns of innumerable talking-machines growing out of the ground.
Thousands upon thousands of those familiar cornucopias of bright lacquer
with gilt edges pointed their open mouths up at him. And each one was
the center of a swarming ant-hill of busy gunners carrying shot and

And now Lieutenant Kadar saw it very distinctly: all the men had records
on their necks like young Meltzar. Not a single one carried his own
head. But when the shells burst with a howl from the lacquered horns and
flew straight into an ant-hill, then the flat, black discs broke apart
and at the very same instant changed back into real heads. From his
height Lieutenant Kadar saw the brains gush out of the shattered discs
and the evenly-marked surfaces turn on the second into ashen, agonized
human countenances.

Everything seemed to be revealed now in one stroke to the dying
lieutenant--all the secrets of the war, all the problems he had brooded
over for many months past. So he had the key to the riddle. These people
evidently did not get their heads back until they were about to die.
Somewhere--somewhere--far back--far back of the lines, their heads had
been unscrewed and replaced by records that could do nothing but play
the Rakoczy March. Prepared in this fashion, they had been jammed into
the trains and sent to the front, like poor Meltzar, like himself, like
all of them.

In a fury of anger, the ball of cotton tossed itself up again with a
jerk. Lieutenant Kadar wanted to jump out of bed and reveal the secret
to his men, and urge them to insist upon having their heads back again.
He wanted to whisper the secret to each individual along the entire
front, from Plava all the way down to the sea. He wanted to tell it to
each gunner, each soldier in the infantry and even to the Italians over
there! He even wanted to tell it to the Italians. The Italians, too,
had had records screwed on to their necks. And they should go back home,
too, back to Verona, to Venice, to Naples, where their heads lay
piled up in the store-houses for safekeeping until the war was over.
Lieutenant Kadar wanted to run from one man to another, so as to help
each individual to recover his head, whether friend or foe.

But all at once he noticed he could not walk. And he wasn't soaring any
more either. Heavy iron weights clamped his feet down to the bed to keep
him from revealing the great secret.

Well, then, he would shout it out in a roar, in a voice supernaturally
loud that would sound above the bursting of the shells and the blare of
trumpets on the Day of Judgment, and proclaim the truth from Plava to
Trieste, even into the Tyrol. He would shout as no man had ever shouted

"Phonograph!--Bring the heads!--Phonograph!--"

Here his voice suddenly broke with a gurgling sound of agony right in
the midst of his message of salvation. It hurt too much. He could not
shout. He felt as though at each word a sharp needle went deep into his

A needle?

Of course! How could he have forgotten it? His head had been screwed
off, too. He wore a record on his neck, too, like all the others. When
he tried to say something, the needle stuck itself into his skull and
ran mercilessly along all the coils of his brain.

No! He could not bear it! He'd rather keep quiet--keep the secret to
himself. Only not to feel that pain--that maddening pain in his head!

But the machine ran on. Lieutenant Kadar grabbed his head with both
hands and dug his nails deep into his temples. If he didn't stop that
thing in time from going round and round, then his revolving head would
certainly break his neck in a few seconds.

Icy drops of anguish flowed from all his pores. "Miska!" he yelled in
the extreme of his distress.

But Miska did not know what to do.

The record kept on revolving and joyously thrummed the Rakoczy March.
All the sinews in the Lieutenant's body grew tense. Again and again he
felt his head slip from between his hands--his spine was already rising
before his eyes! With a last, frantic effort he tried once more to get
his hands inside the bandages and press his head forward. Then one more
dreadful gnashing of his teeth and one more horrible groan and--the long
ward was at length as silent as an empty church.

When the flaxen-haired assistant returned from the operating-room
Miska's whining informed him from afar that another cot in the officers'
division was now vacant. The impatient old Major quite needlessly
beckoned him to his side and announced in a loud voice so that all the
gentlemen could hear:

"The poor devil there has at last come to the end of his sufferings."
Then he added in a voice vibrating with respect: "He died like a true
Hungarian--singing the Rakoczy March."


At last the lake gleamed through the leaves, and the familiar grey chalk
mountains emerged into view, reaching out across the railroad embankment
as with threatening fingers deep down into the water. There, beyond the
smoky black opening of the short tunnel, the church steeple and a corner
of the castle peeped for an instant above the grove.

John Bogdán leaned way out of the train window and looked at
everything with greedy eyes, like a man going over the inventory of his
possessions, all tense and distrustful, for fear something may have been
lost in his absence. As each group of trees for which he waited darted
by, he gave a satisfied nod, measuring the correctness of the landscape
by the picture of it that he carried fairly seared in his memory.
Everything agreed. Every milestone on the highroad, now running parallel
to the railroad tracks, stood on the right spot. There! The flash of the
flaming red copper beech, at which the horses always shied and once came
within an ace of upsetting the carriage.

John Bogdán drew a deep, heavy sigh, fished a small mirror out of his
pocket, and gave his face a final scrutiny before leaving the train. At
each station his face seemed to grow uglier. The right side was not
so bad. A bit of his mustache still remained, and his right cheek was
fairly smooth except for the gash at the corner of his mouth, which had
not healed properly. But the left side! He had let those damned city
folk tell him a whole lot of nonsense about the left side of his face.
A bunch of damned scoundrels they were, bent upon making fools of poor
peasants, in wartime just the same as in peacetime--all of them, the
great doctor as well as the fine ladies in their dazzling white gowns
and with their silly affected talk. Heaven knows it was no great trick
to bamboozle a simple coachman, who had managed with only the greatest
pains to learn a bit of reading and writing. They had smiled and
simpered at him and were so nice and had promised him such a paradise.
And now, here he was helpless, left all alone to himself, a lost man.

With a furious curse, he tore off his hat and threw it on the seat.

Was that the face of a human being? Was it permitted to do such a thing
to a man? His nose looked like a patchwork of small dice of different
colors. His mouth was awry, and the whole left cheek was like a piece of
bloated raw meat, red and criss-crossed with deep scars. Ugh! How ugly!
A fright! And besides, instead of a cheekbone, he had a long hollow,
deep enough to hold a man's finger. And it was for this he had let
himself be tortured so? For this he had let himself be enticed seventeen
times, like a patient sheep, into that confounded room with the glass
walls and the shining instruments? A shudder ran down his back at the
recollection of the tortures he had gone through with clenched teeth,
just to look like a human being again and be able to go back home to his

And now he _was_ home.

The train pulled out of the tunnel, the whistle blew, and the dwarf
acacias in front of the station-master's hut sent a greeting through
the window. Grimly John Bogdán dragged his heavy bag through the train
corridor, descended the steps hesitatingly, and stood there at a loss,
looking around for help as the train rolled on behind his back.

He took out his large flowered handkerchief and wiped off the heavy
beads of perspiration from his forehead. What was he to do now? Why had
he come here at all? Now that he had finally set foot again on the home
soil for which he had yearned so ardently, a great longing came over him
for the hospital, which he had left that very morning, only a few hours
before, full of rejoicing. He thought of the long ward with all
those men wrapped in bandages who limped and hobbled, lame, blind or
disfigured. There nobody was revolted by the sight of his mutilated
face, no indeed. On the contrary, most of them envied him. He was at
least capable of going back to work, his arms and legs were sound, and
his right eye was perfect. Many would have been ready to exchange places
with him. Some had begrudged him his lot and said it was wrong for the
government to have granted him a pension on account of losing his left
eye. One eye and a face a little scratched up--what was that compared
with a wooden leg, a crippled arm, or a perforated lung, which wheezed
and rattled like a poor machine at the slightest exertion?

Among the many cripples in the hospital John Bogdán was looked upon as a
lucky devil, a celebrity. Everybody knew his story. The visitors to the
hospital wanted first of all to see the man who had had himself operated
on seventeen times and the skin cut away in bands from his back, his
chest, and his thighs. After each operation, as soon as the bandages
were removed, the door to his ward never remained shut, a hundred
opinions were pronounced, and every newcomer was given a detailed
description of how terrible his face had been before. The few men who
had shared Bogdán's room with him from the start described the former
awfulness of his face with a sort of pride, as though they had taken
part in the successful operations.

Thus John Bogdán had gradually become almost vain of his shocking
mutilation and the progress of the beautifying process. And when he
left the hospital, it was with the expectation of being admired as a
sensation in his village.

And now?

Alone in the world, with no relatives to go to, with nothing but his
knapsack and his little trunk, the brilliant sunlight of the Hungarian
plain country flooding down on him, and the village stretching away to
a distance before him, John Bogdán suddenly felt himself a prey to
timidity, to a terror that he had not known amid the bursting of the
shells, the most violent charges, the most ferocious hand-to-hand
encounters. His inert peasant intellect, his nature crudely compounded
of wilfulness and vanity, had always been a stranger to deep-going
reflections. Yet an instinctive misgiving, the sense of distrust and
hostility that overwhelmed him, told him plainly enough that he was
about to face disillusionment and mortification such as he had not
dreamed of in the hospital.

He lifted his luggage to his back dejectedly and walked toward the exit
with hesitating steps. There, in the shadow of the dusty acacias that
he had seen grow up and that had seen him grow up, he felt himself
confronted with his former self, with the handsome John Bogdán who was
known in the village as the smart coachman of the manor. A lot of good
were all the operations and patchwork now. The thing now was the painful
contrast between the high-spirited, forward lad, who on this spot had
sung out a last hoarse farewell to his sweetheart, Marcsa, on the first
day of mobilization, and the disfigured creature who was standing
in front of the same railroad station with one eye gone, a shattered
cheekbone, a patched-up cheek, and half a nose, embittered and
cast down, as if it were only that morning that he had met with the

At the small grille gate stood the wife of the station-guard,
Kovacs--since the beginning of the war Kovacs himself had been
somewhere on the Russian front--talking and holding the ticket-puncher,
impatiently waiting for the last passenger to pass through. John Bogdán
saw her, and his heart began to beat so violently that he involuntarily
lingered at each step. Would she recognize him, or would she not? His
knee joints gave way as if they had suddenly decayed, and his hand
trembled as he held out the ticket.

She took the ticket and let him pass through--without a word!

Poor John Bogdán's breath stopped short.

But he pulled himself together with all his might, looked her firmly in
the face with his one eye and said, with a painful effort to steady his

"How do you do?"

"How do you do?" the woman rejoined. He encountered her eyes, saw them
widen into a stare, saw them grope over his mangled face, and then
quickly turn in another direction, as if she could not bear the sight.
He wanted to stop, but he noticed her lips quiver and heard a murmured
"Jesus, son of Mary," as if he were the devil incarnate. And he tottered
on, deeply wounded.

"She did not recognize me!" the blood hammered in his ears. "She did
not recognize me--did not recognize me!" He dragged himself to the bench
opposite the station, threw his luggage to the ground and sank down on
the seat.

She did not recognize him! The wife of Kovacs, the station-guard, did
not recognize John Bogdán. The house of her parents stood next to the
house of his parents. She and he had gone to school together, they had
been confirmed together. He had held her in his arms and kissed and
kissed her, heaven knows how many times, before Kovacs came to the
village to woo her. And _she_ had not recognized him! Not even by his
voice, so great was the change.

He glanced over at her again involuntarily, and saw her talking eagerly
with the station-master. From her gestures, he guessed she was telling
of the horrible sight she had just seen, the stranger soldier so
hideously disfigured. He uttered a short croaking sound, an abortive
curse, and then his head fell on his chest, and he sobbed like a
deserted woman.

What was he to do? Go up to the castle, open the door to the servants'
quarters, and call out a saucy "Hello, Marcsa" to the astonished girl?

That was the way he had always thought of it. The devil knows how often
he had painted the picture to the dot--the maids' screaming, Marcsa's
cry of delight, her flinging her arms about his neck, and the thousand
questions that would come pouring down on him, while he would sit there
with Marcsa on his knees, and now and then throw out a casual reply to
his awed, attentive listeners.

But now--how about it now? Go to Marcsa? He? With that face, the face
that had made Julia, the station-guard's wife, cross herself in fright?
Wasn't Marcsa famed throughout the county for her sharp tongue and
haughty ways? She had snubbed the men by the score, laughed at them,
made fools of them all, until she finally fell in love with him.

John Bogdán thrust his fist into his mouth and dug his teeth into the
flesh, until the pain of it at length helped him subdue his sobbing.
Then he buried his head in his hands and tried to think.

Never in his life had anything gone amiss with him. He had always been
liked, at school, in the castle, and even in the barracks. He had
gone through life whistling contentedly, a good-looking alert lad, an
excellent jockey, and a coachman who drove with style and loved his
horses, as his horses loved him. When he deigned to toss a kiss to the
women as he dashed by, he was accustomed to see a flattered smile come
to their faces. Only with Marcsa did it take a little longer. But she
was famous for her beauty far and wide. Even John's master, the lord of
the castle, had patted him on the shoulder almost enviously when Marcsa
and he had become engaged.

"A handsome couple," the pastor had said.

John Bogdán groped again for the little mirror in his pocket and then
sat with drooping body, oppressed by a profound melancholy. That thing
in the glass was to be the bridegroom of the beautiful Marcsa? What did
that ape's face, that piece of patchwork, that checkerboard which the
damned quack, the impostor, whom they called a distinguished medical
authority, a celebrated doctor, had basted together--what did it have
to do with _that_ John Bogdán whom Marcsa had promised to marry and whom
she had accompanied to the station crying when he had gone off to the
war? For Marcsa there was only _one_ John Bogdán, the one that was
coachman to the lord of the castle and the handsomest man in the
village. Was he still coachman? The lord would take care not to disgrace
his magnificent pair with such a scarecrow or drive to the county seat
with such a monstrosity on the box. Haying--that's what they would
put him to--cleaning out the dung from the stables. And Marcsa, the
beautiful Marcsa whom all the men were vying for, would she be the wife
of a miserable day laborer?

No, of this John Bogdán was certain, the man sitting on the bench there
was no longer John Bogdán to Marcsa. She would not have him now--no
more than the lord would have him on the coachman's box. A cripple is
a cripple, and Marcsa had engaged herself to John Bogdán, not to the
fright that he was bringing back home to her.

His melancholy gradually gave way to an ungovernable fury against those
people in the city who had given him all that buncombe and talked him
into heaven knows what. Marcsa should be proud because he had been
disfigured in the service of his fatherland. Proud? Ha-ha!

He laughed scornfully, and his fingers tightened convulsively about the
cursed mirror, until the glass broke into bits and cut his hand. The
blood trickled slowly down his sleeves without his noticing it, so great
was his rage against that bunch of aristocratic ladies in the hospital
whose twaddle had deprived him of his reason. They probably thought that
a man with one eye and half a nose was good enough for a peasant girl?
Fatherland? Would Marcsa go to the altar with the fatherland? Could she
show off the fatherland to the women when she would see them looking at
her pityingly? Did the fatherland drive through the village with ribbons
flying from its hat? Ridiculous! Sitting on the bench opposite the
station, with the sign of the village in view, a short name, a single
word, which comprised his whole life, all his memories, hopes and
experiences, John Bogdán suddenly thought of one of the village
characters, Peter the cripple, who had lived in the tumbledown hut
behind the mill many years before, when John was still a child. John saw
him quite distinctly, standing there with his noisy wooden leg and his
sad, starved, emaciated face. He, too, had sacrificed a part of himself,
his leg, "for the fatherland," in Bosnia during the occupation; and
then he had had to live in the old hovel all alone, made fun of by
the children, who imitated his walk, and grumblingly tolerated by the
peasants, who resented the imposition of this burden upon the community.
"In the service of the fatherland." Never had the "fatherland" been
mentioned when Peter the cripple went by. They called him contemptuously
the village pauper, and that was all there was to it.

John Bogdán gnashed his teeth in a rage that he had not thought of Peter
the cripple in the hospital. Then he would have given those city people
a piece of his mind. He would have told them what he thought of their
silly, prattling humbug about the fatherland and about the great honor
it was to return home to Marcsa looking like a monkey. If he had the
doctor in his clutches now! The fakir had photographed him, not once,
but a dozen times, from all sides, after each butchery, as though he had
accomplished a miracle, had turned out a wonderful masterpiece. And here
Julia, even Julia, his playmate, his neighbor, had not recognized him.

So deep was John Bogdán sunk in his misery, so engulfed in grim plans of
vengeance, that he did not notice a man who had been standing in front
of him for several minutes, eyeing him curiously from every angle.
Suddenly a voice woke him up out of his brooding, and a hot wave surged
into his face, and his heart stood still with delighted terror, as he
heard some one say:

"Is that you, Bogdán?"

He raised himself, happy at having been recognized after all. But the
next moment he knitted his brows in complete disappointment. It was
Mihály the humpback.

There was no other man in the whole village, even in the whole county,
whose hand John Bogdán would not at that moment have grasped cordially
in a surge of gratitude. But this humpback--he never had wanted to have
anything to do with him, and now certainly not. The fellow might imagine
he had found a comrade, and was probably glad that he was no longer the
only disfigured person in the place.

"Yes, it's I. Well?"

The humpback's small, piercing eyes searched Bogdán's scarred face
curiously, and he shook his head in pity.

"Well, well, the Russians certainly have done you up."

Bogdán snarled at him like a vicious cur.

"It's none of your business. What right have you to talk? If I had come
into the world like you, with my belly on my back, the Russians couldn't
have done anything to me."

The humpback seated himself quietly beside John without showing the
least sign of being insulted.

"The war hasn't made you any politer, I can see that," he remarked
drily. "You're not exactly in a happy frame of mind, which does not
surprise me. Yes, that's the way it is. The poor people must give up
their sound flesh and bone so that the enemy should not deprive the rich
of their superfluity. You may bless your stars you came out of it as
well as you did."

"I do," Bogdán growled with a glance of hatred. "The shells don't ask if
you are rich or poor. Counts and barons are lying out there, rotting in
the sun like dead beasts. Any man that God has not smitten in his
cradle so that he's not fit to be either a man or a woman is out in
the battlefield now, whether he's as poor as a church mouse or used to
eating from golden plates."

The humpback cleared his throat and shrugged his shoulders.

"There are all sorts of people," he observed, and was about to add
something else, but bethought himself and remained silent.

This Bogdán always had had the soul of a flunkey, proud of being allowed
to serve the high and mighty and feeling solid with his oppressors
because he was allowed to contribute to their pomp in gold-laced livery
and silver buttons. His masters had sicked him on to face the cannons in
defense of their own wealth, and now the man sat there disfigured, with
only one eye, and still would not permit any criticism of his gracious
employers. Against such stupidity there was nothing to be done. There
was no use wasting a single word on him.

The two remained sitting for a while in silence. Bogdán filled his pipe
carefully and deliberately, and Mihály watched him with interest.

"Are you going to the castle?" the humpback asked cautiously, when the
pipe was at last lit.

John Bogdán was well aware just what the hateful creature was aiming
at. He knew him. A Socialist--that's what he was, one of those
good-for-nothings who take the bread out of poor people's mouths by
dinning a lot of nonsense into their ears, just like a mean dog who
snaps at the hand that feeds him. He had made a good living as foreman
in the brickyard, and as thanks he had incited all the workmen against
the owner, Bogdán's master, until they demanded twice as much wages, and
were ready to set fire to the castle on all four corners. Once Mihály
had tried his luck with him, too. He had wanted to make his master out a
bad man. But this time he had bucked up against the right person. A
box on his right ear and a box on his left ear, and then a good sound
kick--that was the answer to keep him from ever again trying to make a
Socialist of John Bogdán, one of those low fellows who know no God or

Mihály moved on the bench uneasily, every now and then scrutinizing his
neighbor from the side. At last he plucked up courage and said suddenly:

"They'll probably be glad up there that you are back. Your arms are
still whole, and they need people in the factory."

Bogdán turned up his nose.

"In the brickyard?" he asked disdainfully.

The humpback burst out laughing.

"Brickyard? Brickyard is good. Who needs bricks in war? The brickyard's
gone long ago, man. Do you see those trucks over there? They are all
loaded up with shells. Every Saturday a whole train of shells leaves

Bogdán listened eagerly. That was news. A change on the estate of which
he had not yet heard.

"You see, there is such a nice division," Mihály continued, smiling
sarcastically. "One goes away and lets his head be blown off. The other
remains comfortably at home and manufactures shells and decorates his
castle with thousand-dollar bills. Well, I'm satisfied."

"What are we to do, eh, shoot with peas or with air? You can't carry on
a war without shells. Shells are needed just as much as soldiers."

"Exactly. And because the rich have the choice of being soldiers or
making shells, they choose to make the shells and send _you_ off to
have your head blown off. What are you getting for your eye? Twenty-five
dollars a year? Or perhaps as much as fifty? And the others whom the
ravens are feeding on don't get even that out of the war. But the
gentleman up in the castle is making his five hundred a day and doesn't
risk even his little finger doing it. I'd be a patriot on those terms
myself. I am telling you the truth. At first, of course, they said he
was going to war, and he did actually ride off in great state, but three
weeks later he was back here again with machines and all the equipment,
and now he delivers fine orations in the townhouse and sends other men
off to die--and on top of it is gallant to the wives left behind. He
stuffs his pockets and fools with every girl in the factory. He's the
cock of the whole district."

Bogdán, his brows knit in annoyance, let the man talk on. But the last
part struck him with a shock. He pricked up his ears and grew uneasy and
for a while struggled heroically against asking a question that burned
on his lips. But in the end he could not restrain himself and blurted

"Is--is Marcsa working in the factory, too?"

The humpback's eyes flashed.

"Marcsa, the beautiful Marcsa! I should say so! She's been made a
forelady, though they say she's never had a shell in her hands, but, to
make up, the lord's hands have--"

With a short, hoarse growl John Bogdán flew at the humpback's throat,
squeezed in his Adam's apple, pressing it into his neck, and held him
in a merciless clutch. The man beat about with his arms, his eyes popped
from his head in fright, his throat gurgled, and his face turned livid.
Then John Bogdán released his hold, and Mihály fell to the ground and
lay there gasping. Bogdán quickly gathered up his things and strode
off, taking long, quick steps, as if afraid of arriving too late for
something in the castle.

He gave not another look back at Mihály the humpback, never turned
around once, but quietly went his way and for a long while felt the warm
throat in his hand.

What was a man who lay gasping on the road to him? One man more or less.
In the rhythmic regularity of the marching column, he had passed by
thousands like him, and it had never occurred to his mind, dulled by
weariness, that the grey spots thickly strewn over the fields, the heaps
lining the roadway like piles of dung in the spring, were human beings
struck down by death. He and his comrades had waded in the dead, there
at Kielce, when they made a dash across the fields, and earthy grey
hands rose out of every furrow pawing the air, and trousers drenched
in blood and distorted faces grew out of the ground, as if all the
dead were scrambling from their graves for the Last Judgment. They
had stepped and stumbled over corpses. Once the fat little officer of
reserves, to the great amusement of his company, had gotten deathly sick
at his stomach because he had inadvertently stepped on the chest of a
half-decayed Russian, and the body had given way under him, and he had
scarcely been able to withdraw his foot from the foul hole. John Bogdán
smiled as he recalled the wicked jokes the men had cracked at the
officer's expense, how the officer had gone all white and leaned against
a tree and carried on like a man who has much more than quenched his

The road glowed in the mid-day sun. The village clock struck twelve.
From the hill yonder came, like an answer, the deep bellow of the
factory whistle, and a little white cloud rose over the tops of the
trees. Bogdán quickened his pace, running rather than walking, heedless
of the drops of sweat that ran down and tickled his neck. For almost a
year he had breathed nothing but the hospital atmosphere, had smelled
nothing but iodoform and lysol and seen nothing but roofs and walls.
His lungs drew in the aroma of the blossoming meadows with deep
satisfaction, and the soles of his boots tramped the ground sturdily, as
if he were again marching in regular order.

This was the first walk he had taken since he was wounded, the first
road he had seen since those wild marches on Russian soil. At moments he
seemed to hear the cannons roaring. The short struggle with the humpback
had set his blood coursing, and his memories of the war, for a time
stifled as it were beneath a layer of dust by the dreary monotony of the
hospital life, suddenly came whirling back to him.

He almost regretted having let that damned blackguard go so soon. One
moment more, and he would never have opened his blasphemous mouth again.
His head would have fallen back exhausted to one side, he would once
again have embraced the air longingly with outspread fingers, and then
in a flash would have shrunk together, exactly like the fat, messy
Russian with the large blue eyes who was the first man to present
himself to St. Peter with a greeting from John Bogdán. Bogdán had not
let _him_ loose until he had altogether quit squirming. He had choked
him dead as a doornail. And still he was a comical fellow, not nearly so
disgusting as that rascally humpback. But he was the first enemy soldier
whom he had got into his grasp, his very first Russian. A magnificent
array of others had followed, though the fat man was the only one Bogdán
had choked to death. He had smashed scores with the butt-end of his gun
and run his bayonet through scores of others. He had even squashed with
his boots the wretch who had struck down his dearest comrade before his
very eyes. But never again did he choke a man to death. That was why
the little fat fellow stuck in his memory. He had no recollection of
the others whatever. All he saw now in his mind was a tangle of
greyish-green uniforms. And as he thought of his heroic deeds, the
gnashing, the stamping, the gasping, and the cursing of the hand-to-hand
encounters resounded in his ears. How many, he wondered, had he sent
to the other world? God alone may have counted them. He himself had
had enough to do trying to save his own skin. Had a man stopped to look
around, he would have carried his curiosity to the next world.

And yet--there was another face that remained fixed in his memory.
A great big thin fellow, as tall as a beanpole, with enormous yellow
tusks, which he gnashed like a boar. Yes, he had as clear a picture of
him as if it had been yesterday. He saw him half-backed up against the
wall already, swinging his gun over his head. One second more, and the
butt-end would have come whizzing down. But a sleepy Russian was never
the man to get the better of John Bogdán. Before he had the chance to
bring down his gun, Bogdán's bayonet was in between his ribs, and the
Russian fell over on his own gun. The bayonet pierced him through and
through, and even went into the wall behind him, and came mighty near
breaking off.

But the same thing never happened to Bogdán again. It had happened that
once because he had thrust too hard, with clenched teeth, gripping the
rod in a tight clutch, as if it were iron that he had to cleave. The
fact was, he had not yet discovered that it really isn't so difficult
to mow down a human being. He had been prepared for any amount of
resistance, and his bayonet had glided into the fellow's body like
butter. His mouth had remained wide open in astonishment--he recalled
it to the dot. A man who has never tried a bayonet thrust thinks a
human being is made up all of bones, and he fetches out for a good hard
stroke. Then he's in a pickle to free his weapon again before one of the
messy-looking devils takes advantage of his defenselessness. The way
to do was to go at it very lightly, with a short jerky thrust. Then
the blade ran in of itself, like a good horse--you actually had trouble
holding it back. The most important thing was, not to take your eye off
your enemy. You mustn't look at your bayonet, or the spot you intend
to pierce. You must always watch your enemy so as to guess his move in
time. It's from your enemy's face that you must read the right moment
for stepping backward. They all behaved the same way--exactly like the
first tall wild fellow who gnashed his tusks. All of a sudden their
faces turned absolutely smooth, as if the cold iron in their body had
chilled their fury, their eyes opened wide in astonishment and looked
at their enemy as if to ask in reproach, "What are you doing?" Then they
usually clutched at the bayonet and needlessly cut their fingers, too,
before they fell over dead. If you didn't know exactly what to do and
didn't hold your weapon back in time and withdraw it quickly from the
wound, just when you saw the man's eyes growing large, you would be
carried along down with him or would get hit on the head by the butt-end
of another enemy's gun long before you could draw your bayonet out.

These were all things that John Bogdán had often discussed with his
comrades after severe frays when they criticized the men who had fallen
for behaving stupidly and who had had to pay with their lives for their

As he strode along in haste up the familiar road to the castle, he was
fairly lost in recollections. His legs moved of themselves, like horses
on the homeward way. He passed through the open grille gateway and was
already walking on the gravel path, his head bowed on his chest, without
noticing that he had reached home.

The neighing of horses woke him up from his thoughts with a start. He
stood still, deeply stirred by the sight of the stables, only a few feet
away, and inside, in the twilight, the gleam of his favorite horse's
flanks. He was about to turn off the path and make for the stable door
when far away down below, at the other end of the large place, he saw a
woman coming from the brickyard. She wore a dotted red silk kerchief on
her head and carried her full figure proudly, and the challenging sway
of her hips billowed her wide skirts as the wind billows a field of ripe

John Bogdán stood stockstill, as if some one had struck him on the
chest. It was Marcsa! There was not another girl in the whole country
who walked like that. He threw his luggage to the ground and dashed off.

"Marcsa! Marcsa!" his cry thundered out over the broad courtyard.

The girl turned and waited for his approach, peering curiously through
half-closed eyes. When almost face to face with her Bogdán stood still.

"Marcsa!" he repeated in a whisper, his gaze fastened upon her face
anxiously. He saw her turn pale, white as chalk, saw her eyes leap
to and fro uneasily, from his left cheek to his right cheek, and back
again. Then horror came into her eyes. She clapped her hands to her
face, and turned and ran away as fast as her legs would carry her.

In utter sadness Bogdán stared after her. That was exactly the way he
had imagined their meeting again since Julia, the station-guard's wife,
the woman he had grown up with, had not recognized him. But to run away!
That rankled. No need for her to run away. John Bogdán was not the man
to force himself on a woman. If he no longer pleased her now that he was
disfigured, well, then she could look for another man, and he, too--he
would find another woman. He wasn't bothered about that.

This was what he had wanted to tell Marcsa.

He bounded after her and overtook her a few feet from the machine shop.

"Why do you run away from me?" he growled, breathless, and caught her
hand. "If you don't want me any more, you need only say so. What do you
think--I'm going to eat you up?"

She stared at him searchingly--in uncertainty. He almost felt sorry for
her, she was trembling so.

"How you look!" he heard her stammer, and he turned red with anger.

"You knew it. I had them write to you that a shell hit me. Did you think
it made me better-looking? Just speak straight out if you don't want me
any more. Straight wine is what I want, no mixture. Yes or no? I won't
force you to marry me. Just say it right away--yes or no?"

Marcsa was silent. There was something in his face, in his one eye, that
took her breath away, that dug into her vitals like cold fingers. She
cast her eyes down and stammered:

"But you have no position yet. How can we marry? You must first ask the
master if he--"

It was as if a red pall woven of flames dropped in front of John
Bogdán's eyes. The master? What was she saying about the master? He
thought of the humpback, and it came to him in a flash that the fellow
had not lied. His fingers clutched her wrist like a pair of glowing
tongs, so that she cried out with the pain.

"The master!" Bogdán bellowed. "What has the master got to do between
you and me? Yes or no? I want an answer. The master has nothing to do
with us."

Marcsa drew herself up. All of a sudden a remarkable assurance came to
her. The color returned to her cheeks, and her eyes flashed proudly.
She stood there with the haughty bearing so familiar to Bogdán, her head
held high in defiance.

Bogdán observed the change and saw that her gaze traveled over his
shoulder. He let go her hand and turned instantly. Just what he
thought--the master coming out of the machine shop. His old forester,
Tóth, followed him.

Marcsa bounded past Bogdán like a cat and ran up to the lord and bent
over and kissed his hand.

Bogdán saw the three of them draw near and lowered his head like a
ram for attack. A cold, determined quiet rose in him slowly, as in the
trenches when the trumpeter gave the signal for a charge. He felt the
lord's hand touch his shoulder, and he took a step backward.

What was the meaning of it all? The lord was speaking of heroism and
fatherland, a lot of rubbish that had nothing to do with Marcsa. He let
him go on talking, let the words pour down on him like rain, without
paying any attention to their meaning. His glance wandered to and fro
uneasily, from the lord to Marcsa and then to the forester, until it
rested curiously on something shining.

It was the nickeled hilt of the hunting-knife hanging at the old
forester's side and sparkling in the sunlight.

"Like a bayonet," thought Bogdán, and an idea flashed through his mind,
to whip the thing out of the scabbard and run it up to the hilt in the
hussy's body. But her rounded hips, her bright billowing skirts confused
him. In war he had never had to do with women. He could not exactly
imagine what it would be like to make a thrust into that beskirted body
there. His glance traveled back to the master, and now he noticed that
his stiffnecked silence had pulled him up short.

"He is gnashing his teeth," it struck him, "just like the tall Russian."
And he almost smiled at a vision that came to his mind--of the lord also
getting a smooth face and astonished, reproachful eyes.

But hadn't he said something about Marcsa just then? What was Marcsa to

Bogdán drew himself up defiantly.

"I will arrange matters with Marcsa myself, sir. It's between her and
me," he rejoined hoarsely, and looked his master straight in the face.
_He_ still had his mustache, quite even on the two sides, and curling
delicately upwards at the ends. What was it the humpback had said? "One
man goes away and lets his head be blown off." He wasn't so stupid after
all, the humpback wasn't.

What Bogdán said infuriated the master. Bogdán let him shout and stared
like a man hypnotized at the nickeled hilt of the hunting-knife. It
was not until the name "Marcsa" again struck his ear that he became

"Marcsa is in my employ now," he heard the lord saying. "You know I am
fond of you, Bogdán. I'll let you take care of the horses again, if you
care to. But Marcsa is to be let alone. I won't have any rumpus. If she
still wants to marry you, all well and good. But if she doesn't, she's
to be let alone. If I hear once again that you have annoyed her, I'll
chase you to the devil. Do you understand?"

Foaming with rage, Bogdán let out the stream of his wrath.

"To the devil?" he shouted. "You chase me to the devil? You had first
better go there yourself. I've been to the devil already. For eight
months I was in hell. Here's my face--you can tell from my face that I
come from hell. To play the protector here and stuff your pockets full
and send the others out to die--that's easy. A man who dawdles at home
has no right to send men to the devil who have already been in hell for
his sake."

So overwhelming was his indignation that he spoke like the humpback
Socialist and was not ashamed of it. He stood there ready to leap, with
tensely drawn muscles, like a wild animal. He saw the lord make ready
to strike him, saw his distorted face, saw the riding-crop flash through
the air, and even saw it descending upon him. But he did not feel the
short, hard blow on his back.

With one bound he ripped the hunting-knife out of the scabbard and
thrust it between the lord's ribs--not with a long sweep, so that
some one could have stayed his arm before he struck. Oh, no! But quite
lightly, from below, with a short jerk, exactly as he had learned by
experience in battle. The hunting-knife was as good as his bayonet. It
ran into the flesh like butter.

Then everything came about just as it always did. John Bogdán stood with
his chin forward and saw the lord's face distorted by anger suddenly
smooth out and turn as placid and even as if it had been ironed. He saw
his eyes widen and look over at him in astonishment with the reproachful
question, "What are you doing?" The one thing Bogdán did not see was the
collapsing of the lord's body, for at that instant a blow crashed down
on the back of his head, like the downpour of a waterfall dropping from
an infinite height. For one second he still saw Marcsa's face framed in
a fiery wheel, then, his skull split open, he fell over on top of his
master, whose body already lay quivering on the ground.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Menschen im Krieg. English - Men in War" ***

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