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NEWSREEL XX 3 страница

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When he crossed the deck to go to the galley, his ankles
still stiff from the irons, he noticed that they were already
in the Mersey. It was a ruddy sunlit morning. In every
direction there were ships at anchor, stumpylooking black
sailboats and patrolboats cutting through the palegreen
ruffled water. Overhead the great pall of brown smoke
was shot here and there with crisp white steam that
caught the sun.

 

The cook gave him some porridge and a mug of bitter
barely warm tea. When he came out of the galley they
were further up the river, you could see towns on both
sides, the sky was entirely overcast with brown smoke and
fog. The Argyle was steaming under one bell.

 

-32-

 

Joe went below to the focastle and rolled into his bunk.
His shipmates all stared at him without speaking and
when he spoke to Tiny who was in the bunk below him,
he didn't answer. That made Joe feel worse than any-
thing. He turned his face to the wall, pulled the blanket
over his head and went to sleep.

 

Somebody shaking him woke him up. "Come on, my
man," said a tall English bobby with a blue helmet and
varnished chinstrap who had hold of his shoulder. "All
right, just a sec," Joe said. "I'd like to get washed up."
The bobby shook his head. "The quieter and quicker you
come the better it'll be for you."

 

Joe pulled his cap over his eyes, took his cigarbox out
from under his mattress, and followed the bobby out on
deck. The Argyle was already tied up to the wharf. So
without saying goodby to anybody or getting paid off, he
went down the gangplank with the bobby half a step
behind. The bobby had a tight grip on the muscle of his
arm. They walked across a flagstoned wharf and out
through some big iron gates to where the Black Maria
was waiting. A small crowd of loafers, red faces in the
fog, black grimy clothes. "Look at the filthy 'un," one
man said. A woman hissed, there were a couple of boos
and a catcall and the shiny black doors closed behind him;
the car started smoothly and he could feel it speeding
through the cobbled streets.

 

Joe sat hunched up in the dark. He was glad he was
alone in there. It gave him a chance to get hold of him-
self. His hands and feet were cold. He had hard work to
keep from shivering. He wished he was dressed decently.
All he had on was a shirt and pants spotted with paint
and a pair of dirty felt slippers. Suddenly the car stopped,
two hobbies told him to get out and he was hustled down
a whitewashed corridor into a little room where a police
inspector, a tall longfaced Englishman, sat at a yellow
varnished table. The inspector jumped to his feet, walked



 

-33-

 

towards Joe with his fists clenched as if he was going to
hit him and suddenly said something in what Joe thought
must be German. Joe shook his head, it struck him funny
somehow and he grinned. "No'savvy," he said.

 

"What's in that box?" the inspector, who had sat down
at the desk again, suddenly bawled out at the bobbies.
"You'd oughter search these buggers before you bring
'em in here."

 

One of the bobbies snatched the cigarbox out from
under Joe's arm and opened it, looked relieved when he
saw it didn't have a bomb in it and dumped everything
out on the desk. "So you pretend to be an American?" the
man yelled at Joe. "Sure I'm an American," said Joe.
"What the hell do you want to come to England in war-
time for?""I didn't want to come to . . .""Shut up."
the man yelled.



 

Then he motioned to the bobbies to go, and said, "Send
in Corporal Eakins.""Very good, sir," said the two bob-
bies respectfully in unison. When they'd gone, he came
towards Joe with his fists clenched again. "You might as
well make a clean breast of it, my lad. . . . We have all
the necessary information."

 

Joe had to keep his teeth clenched to keep them from
chattering. He was scared.

 

"I was on the beach in B.A. you see . . . had to take
the first berth I could get. You don't think anybody'd ship
on a limejuicer if they could help it, do you?" Joe was
getting sore; he felt warm again.

 

The plainclothes man took up a pencil and tapped with
it threateningly on the desk. "Impudence won't help you,
my lad . . . you'd better keep a civil tongue in your
head." Then he began looking over the photographs and
stamps and newspaper clippings that had come out of
Joe's cigarbox. Two men in khaki came in. "Strip him
and search him," the man at the desk said without look-
ing up.

 

-34-

 

Joe looked at the two men without understanding;
they had a little the look of hospital orderlies. "Sharp
now," one of them said. "We don't want to 'ave to use
force." Joe took off his shirt. It made him sore that he
was blushing; he was ashamed because he didn't have any
underwear. "All right, breeches next." Joe stood naked
in his slippers while the men in khaki went through his
shirt and pants. They found a bunch of clean waste in one
pocket, a battered Prince Albert can with a piece of
chewing tobacco in it and a small jackknife with a broken
blade. One of them was examining the belt and pointed
out to the other the place where it had been resewed. He
slit it up with a knife and they both looked eagerly inside.
Joe grinned, "I used to keep my bills in there," he said.
They kept their faces stiff.

 

"Open your mouth." One of them put a heavy hand
on Joe's jaw. "Sergeant, shall we take out the fillin's? 'E's
got two or three fillin's in the back of 'is mouth." The
man behind the desk shook his head. One of the men
stepped out of the door and came back with an oiled rub-
ber glove on his hand. "Lean hover," said the other man,
putting his hand on Joe's neck and shoving his head down
while the man with the rubber glove felt in his rectum.
"Hay, for Chris' sake," hissed Joe through his teeth.

 

"All right, me lad, that's all for the present," said the
man who held his head, letting go. "Sorry, but we 'ave
to do it . . . part of the regulations."

 

The corporal walked up to the desk and stood at
attention. "All right, sir . . . Nothin' of interest on the
prisoner's person."

 

Joe was terribly cold. He couldn't keep his teeth from
chattering.

 

"Look in his slippers, can't you?" growled the inspec-
tor. Joe didn't like handing over his slippers because his
feet were dirty, but there was nothing he could do. The
corporal slashed them to pieces with his penknife. Then

 

-35-

 

both men stood at attention and waited for the inspector
to lift his eye. "All right, sir . . . nothin' to report. Shall
I get the prisoner a blanket, sir? 'E looks chilly."

 

The man behind the desk shook his head and beckoned
to Joe, "Come over here. Now are you ready to answer
truthfully and give us no trouble it won't be worse than a
concentraytion camp for duraytion. . . . But if you give
us trouble I can't say how serious it mightn't be. We're
under the Defence of the Realm Act, don't forget
that. . . . What's your name?"

 

After Joe had told his name, birthplace, father's and
mother's names, names, of ships he'd sailed on, the inspec-
tor suddenly shot a question in German at him. Joe shook
his head, "Hay, what do you think I know German for?"

 

"Shut the bugger up. . . . We know all about him
anyway."

 

"Shall we give him 'is kit, sir?" asked one of the men
timidly.

 

"He won't need a kit if he isn't jolly careful."

 

The corporal got a bunch of keys and opened a heavy
wooden door on the side of the room. They pushed Joe
into a little cell with a bench and no window. The door
slammed behind him and Joe was there shivering in the
dark. Well, you're in the pig's a. h. for fair, Joe Williams,
he said aloud. He found he could warm himself by doing
exercises and rubbing his arms and legs, but his feet
stayed numb.

 

After a while he heard the key in the lock; the man in
khaki threw a blanket into the cell and slammed the door
to, without giving him a chance to say anything.

 

Joe curled up in the blanket on the bench and tried to
go to sleep.

 

He woke in a sudden nightmare fright. It was cold. The
watch had been called. He jumped off the bench. It was
blind dark. For a second he thought he'd gone blind in
the night. Where he was, and everything since they

 

-36-

 

sighted the Scilly Island lights came back. He had a lump
of ice in his stomach. He walked up and down from wall
to wall of the cell for a while and then rolled up in the
blanket again. It was a good clean blanket and smelt of
lysol or something like that. He went to sleep.

 

He woke up again hungry as hell, wanting to make
water. He shuffled around the square cell for a long time
until he found an enamelled pail under the bench. He
used it and felt better. He was glad it had a cover on it.
He began wondering how he'd pass the time. He began
thinking about Georgetown and good times he'd had with
Alec and Janey and the gang that hung around Mul-
vaney's pool parlor and making pickups on moonlight
trips on the Charles Macalister and went over all the
good pitchers he'd ever seen or read about and tried to
remember the batting averages of every man on the
Washington ballteams.

 

He'd gotten back to trying to remember his high-
school games, inning by inning, when the key was put
into the lock. The corporal who'd searched him opened
the door and handed him his shirt and pants. "You can
wash up if you want to," he said. "Better clean up smart.
Orders is to take you to Captain Cooper-Trahsk.""Gosh,
can't you get me somethin' to eat or some water. I'm about
starved. . . . Say, how long have I been in here, any-
way?" Joe was blinking in the bright white light that
came in from the other room. He pulled on his shirt and
pants.

 

"Come along," said the corporal. "Can't ahnswer no
question till you've seen Captain Cooper-Trahsk.""But
what about my slippers?""You keep a civil tongue in
your mouth and ahnswer all questions you're harsked and
it'll be all the better for you. . . . Come along."

 

When he followed the corporal down the same corri-
dor he'd come in by all the English tommies stared at
his bare feet. In the lavatory there was a shiny brass tap

 

-37-

 

of cold water and a hunk of soap. First Joe took a long
drink. He felt giddy and his knees were shaking. The
cold water and washing his hands and face and feet made
him feel better. The only thing he had to dry himself on
was a roller towel already grimy. "Say, I need a shave,"
he said. "You'll 'ave to come along now," said the corporal
sternly. "But I got a Gillette somewheres. . . ."

 

The corporal gave him an angry stare. They were going
in the door of a nicely furnished office with a thick red
and brown carpet on the floor. At a mahogany desk sat
an elderly man with white hair and a round roastbeef
face and lots of insignia on his uniform. "Is that . . . ?"
Joe began, but he saw that the corporal after clicking his
heels and saluting had frozen into attention.

 

The elderly man raised his head and looked at them
with a fatherly blue eye, "Ah . . . quite so . . ." he said.
"Bring him up closer, corporal, and let's have a look at
him. . . . Isn't he in rather a mess, corporal? You'd bet-
ter give the poor beggar some shoes and stockings. . . ."
"Very good, sir," said the corporal in a spiteful tone, stif-
fening to attention again. "At ease, corporal, at ease," said
the elderly man, putting on a pair of eyeglasses and look-
ing at some papers on his desk. "This is . . . er . . .
Zentner . . . claim American citizenship, eh?""The
name is Williams, sir.""Ah, quite so . . . Joe Williams,
seaman. . . ." He fixed his blue eyes confidentially on
Joe. "Is that your name, me boy?"

 

"Yessir."

 

"Well, how do you come to be trying to get into Eng-
land in wartime without passport or other identifying doc-
ument?"

 

Joe told about how he had an American A.B. certifi-
cate and had been on the beach at B.A. . . . Buenos
Aires. "And why were you . . . er . . . in this condi-
tion in the Argentine?""Well, sir, I'd been on the Mal-
lory Line and my ship sailed without me and I'd been

 

-38-

 

painting the town red a little, sir, and the skipper pulled
out ahead of schedule so that left me on the beach."

 

"Ah . . . a hot time in the old town tonight . . . that
sort of thing, eh?" The elderly man laughed; then sud-
denly he puckered up his brows. "Let me see . . . er . . .
what steamer of the Mallory Line were you travelling
on?""The Patagonia, sir, and I wasn't travellin' on her,
I was a seaman on board of her."

 

The elderly man wrote a long while on a sheet of
paper, then he lifted Joe's cigarbox out of the desk drawer
and began looking through the clippings and photographs.
He brought out a photograph and turned it out so that
Joe could see it. "Quite a pretty girl . . . is that your
best beloved, Williams?" Joe blushed scarlet. "That's my
sister.""I say she looks like a ripping girl . . . don't you
think so, corporal?""Quite so, sir," said the corporal dis-
tantly. "Now, me boy, if you know anything about the ac-
tivities of German agents in South America . . . many of
them are Americans or impostors masquerading as Ameri-
cans . . . it'll be much better for you to make a clean
breast of it."

 

"Honestly, sir," said Joe, "I don't know a thing about
it. I was only in B.A. for a few days.""Have you any
parents living?""My father's a pretty sick man. . . . But
I have my mother and sisters in Georgetown."" George-
town . . . Georgetown . . . let me see . . . isn't that
in British Guiana?""It's part of Washington, D. C."
"Of course . . . ah, I see you were in the navy. . . ."
The elderly man held off the picture of Joe and the two
other gobs. Joe's knees felt so weak he thought he was
going to fall down. "No, sir, that was in the naval re-
serve."

 

The elderly man put everything back in the cigarbox.
"You can have these now, my boy. . . . You'd better give
him a bit of breakfast and let him have an airing in the
yard. He looks a bit weak on his pins, corporal."

 

-39-

 

"Very good, sir." The corporal saluted, and they
marched out.

 

The breakfast was watery oatmeal, stale tea and two
slices of bread with margarine on it. After it Joe felt hun-
grier than before. Still it was good to get out in the air,
even if it was drizzling and the flagstones of the small
courtyard where they put him were like ice to his bare
feet under the thin slime of black mud that was over
them.

 

There was another prisoner in the courtyard, a little
fatfaced man in a derby hat and a brown overcoat, who
came up to Joe immediately. "Say, are you an American?"

 

"Sure," said Joe.

 

"My name's Zentner . . . buyer in restaurant furnish-
ings . . . from Chicago. . . . This is the tamnest out-
rage. Here I come to this tamned country to buy their
tamned goods, to spend good American dollars. . . .
Three days ago yet I placed a ten tousand dollar order
in Sheffield. And they arrest me for a spy and I been
here all night yet and only this morning vill they let
me telephone the consulate. It is outrageous and I hale a
passport and visa all they vant. I can sue for this outrage.
I shall take it to Vashington. I shall sue the British gov-
ernment for a hundred tousand dollars for defamation of
character. Forty years an American citizen and my fader
he came not from Chermany but from Poland. . . . And
you, poor boy, I see that you haf no shoes. And they talk
about the atrocious Chermans and if this ain't an atrocity,
vat is it?"

 

Joe was shivering and running round the court at a jog-
trot to try to keep warm. Mr. Zentner took off his brown
coat and handed it to him.

 

"Here, kid, you put that coat on.""But, jeez, it's too
good; that's damn nice of you.""In adversity ve must
help von anoder."

 

"Dod gast it, if this is their spring, I hate to think what

 

-40-

 

their winter's like. . . . I'll give the coat back to you
when I go in. Jeez, my feet are cold. . . . Say, did they
search you?" Mr. Zentner rolled up his eyes. "Outra-
geous," he spluttered . . . "Vat indignities to a buyer
from a neutral and friendly country. Vait till I tell the
ambassador. I shall sue. I shall demand damages.""Same
here," said Joe, laughing.

 

The corporal appeared in the door and shouted, " Wil-
liams." Joe gave back the coat and shook Mr. Zentner's
fat hand. "Say, for Gawd's sake, don't forget to tell the
consul there's another American here. They're talkin'
about sendin' me to a concentration camp for duration."
"Sure, don't vorry, boy. I'll get you out," said Mr. Zent-
ner, puffing out his chest.

 

This time Joe was taken to a regular cell that had a
little light and room to walk around. The corporal gave
him a pair of shoes and some wool socks full of holes. He
couldn't get the shoes on but the socks warmed his feet
up a little. At noon they handed him a kind of stew that
was mostly potatoes with eyes in them and some more
bread and margarine.

 

The third day when the turnkey brought the noonday
slum, he brought a brownpaper package that had been
opened. In it was a suit of clothes, shirt, flannel under-
wear, socks and even a necktie.

 

"There was a chit with it, but it's against the regulay-
tions," said the turnkey. "That outfit'll make a bloomin'
toff out of you."

 

Late that afternoon the turnkey told Joe to come along
and he put on the clean collar that was too tight for his
neck and the necktie and hitched up the pants that were
much too big for him around the waist and followed along
corridors and across a court full of tommies into a little
office with a sentry at the door and a sergeant at a desk.
Sitting on a chair was a busylooking young man with a
straw hat on his knees. " 'Ere's your man, sir," said the

 

-41-

 

sergeant without looking at Joe. "I'll let you question
him."

 

The busylooking young man got to his feet and went
up to Joe. "Well, you've certainly been making me a lot
of trouble, but I've been over the records in your case and
it looks to me as if you were what you represented your-
self to be. . . . What's your father's name?"

 

"Same as mine, Joseph P. Williams. . . . Say, are you
the American consul?"

 

"I'm from the consulate. . . . Say, what the hell do
you want to come ashore without a passport for? Don't
you think we have anything better to do than to take care
of a lot of damn fools that don't know enough to come in
when it rains? Damn it, I was goin' to play golf this
afternoon and here I've been here two hours waiting to
get you out of the cooler."

 

"Jeez, I didn't come ashore. They come on and got
me."

 

"That'll teach you a lesson, I hope. . . . Next time
you have your papers in order."

 

"Yessirree . . . I shu will."

 

A half an hour later Joe was out on the street, the cigar-
box and his old clothes rolled up in a ball under his arm.
It was a sunny afternoon; the redfaced people in dark
clothes, longfaced women in crummy hats, the streets full
of big buses and the tall trolleycars; everything looked
awful funny, until he suddenly remembered it was Eng-
land and he'd never been there before.

 

He had to wait a long time in an empty office at the
consulate while the busylooking young man made up a
lot of papers. He was hungry and kept thinking of beef-
steak and frenchfried. At last he was called to the desk and
given a paper and told that there was a berth all ready
for him on the American steamer Tampa, out of Pensa-
cola, and held better go right down to the agents and make
sure about it and go on board and if they caught him

 

-42-

 

around Liverpool again it would be the worse for him.

 

Say, is there any way I can get anything to eat around
here, Mr. Consul?""What do you think this is, a restau-
rant? . . . No, we have no appropriations for any hand-
outs. You ought to be grateful for what we've done al-
ready.""They never paid me off on the Argyle and I'm
about starved in that jail, that's all.""Well, here's a shil-
ling but that's absolutely all I can do." Joe looked at the
coin, "Who's 'at -- King George? Well, thank you, Mr.
Consul."

 

He was walking along the street with the agent's ad-
dress in one hand and the shilling in the other. He felt
sore and faint and sick at his stomach. He saw Mr. Zent-
ner the other side of the street. He ran across through the
jammed up traffic and went up to him with his hand held
out.

 

"I got the clothes, Mr. Zentner, it was damn nice of
you to send them." Mr. Zentner was walking along with
a small man in an officer's uniform. He waved a pudgy
hand and said, "Glad to be of service to a fellow citizen,
and walked on.

 

Joe went into a fried fish shop and spent sixpence on
fried fish and spent the other sixpence on a big mug of
beer in a saloon where he'd hoped to find free lunch to
fill up on but there wasn't any free lunch. By the time
he'd found his way to the agent's office it was closed and
there he was roaming round the streets in the white misty
evening without any place to go. He asked several guys
around the wharves if they knew where the Tampa was
docked, but nobody did and they talked so funny he could
hardly understand what they said anyway.

 

Then just when the streetlights were going on, and Joe
was feeling pretty discouraged, he found himself walking
down a side street behind three Americans. He caught
up to them and asked them if they knew where the Tampa
was. Why the hell shouldn't they know, weren't they

 

-43-

 

off'n her and out to see the goddam town and he'd better
come along. And if he wasn't tickled to meet some guys
from home after those two months on the limejuicer and
being in jail and everything. They went into a bar and
drank some whiskey and he told all about the jail and
how the damn bobbies had taken him off the Argyle and
he'd never gotten his pay nor nutten and they set him up
to drinks and one of the guys who was from Norfolk,
Virginia, named Will Stirp pulled out a five dollar bill
and said to take that and pay him back when he could.

 

It was like coming home to God's country running into
guys like that and they all had a drink all around; they
were four of 'em Americans in this lousy limejuicer town
and they each set up a round because they were four of
'em Americans ready to fight the world. Olaf was a Swede
but he had his first papers so he counted too and the other
feller's name was Maloney. The hatchetfaced barmaid
held back on the change but they got it out of her; she'd
only given 'em fifteen shillings instead of twenty for a
pound, but they made her give the five shillings back.
They went to another fried fish shop; couldn't seem to
get a damn thing to eat in this country except fried fish
and then they all had some more drinks and were the
four of them Americans feeling pretty good in this lousy
limejuicer town. A runner got hold of them because it was
closing time on account of the war and there wasn't a damn
thing open and very few streetlights and funily little hats
on the streetlights on account of the zeppelins. The runner
was a pale ratfaced punk and said he knowed a house
where they could 'ave a bit of beer and nice girls and a
quiet social time. There was a big lamp with red roses
painted on it in the parlor of the house and the girls were
skinny and had horseteeth and there were some bloody
limejuicers there who were pretty well under way and
they were the four of them Americans. The limeys began
to pick on Olaf for bein' a bloody 'un. Olaf said he was a

 

-44-

 

Swede but that he'd sooner be a bloody 'un than a lime-
juicer at that. Somebody poked somebody else and the
first thing Joe knew he was fighting a guy bigger 'n he
was and police whistles blew and there was the whole
crowd of them piled up in the Black Maria.

 

Will Stirp kept saying they was the four of them
Americans just havin' a pleasant social time and there was
no call for the bobbies to interfere. But they were all
dragged up to a desk and committed and all four of 'em
Americans locked up in the same cell and the limeys in
another cell. The police station was full of drunks yelling
and singing. Maloney had a bloody nose. Olaf went to
sleep. Joe couldn't sleep; he kept saying to Will Stirp he
was scared they sure would send him to a concentration
camp for the duration of the war this time and each time
Will Stirp said they were the four of them Americans
and wasn't he a Freeborn American Citizen and there
wasn't a damn thing they could do to 'em. Freedom of the
seas, God damn it.

 

Next morning they were in court and it was funny as
hell except that Joe was scared; it was solemn as Quaker-
meetin' and the magistrate wore a little wig and they
were everyone of 'em fined three and six and costs. It
came to about a dollar a head. Darned lucky they still
had some jack on them.

 

And the magistrate in the little wig gave 'em a hell of
a talking to about how this was wartime and they had no
right being drunk and disorderly on British soil but had
ought to be fighting shoulder to shoulder with their broth-
ers, Englishmen of their own blood and to whom the
Americans owed everything, even their existence as a
great nation, to defend civilization and free institutions
and plucky little Belgium against the invading huns who
were raping women and sinking peaceful merchantmen.


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