He reached out the bottle and Nick swallowed some of the brandy.
“No. Come on, Nick. We’ll leave him.”
“I go on duty with the men at midnight,” Galinski said.
“Don’t get drunk,” Nick said.
“I have never been drunk.”
In the upper bunk the Carper muttered something.
“What you say, Carper?”
“I was calling on God to strike him.”
“I have neffer been drunk,” Galinski repeated and poured the tooth mug half full of cognac.
“Go on, God,” the Carper said. “Strike him.”
“I have neffer been drunk. I have neffer slept with a woman.”
“Come on. Do your stuff, God. Strike him.”
“Come on, Nick. Let’s get out.”
Galinski handed the bottle to Nick. He took a swallow and followed the tall Pole out.
Outside the door they heard Galinski’s voice shouting, “I have neffer been drunk. I have neffer slept with a woman. I have neffer told a lie.”
“Strike him,” came the Carper’s thin voice. “Don’t take that stuff from him, God. Strike him.”
“They’re a fine pair,” Nick said.
“What about this Carper? Where does he come from?”
“He was two years in the ambulance before. They sent him home. He got fired out of college and now he’s going back.”
“He drinks too much.”
“He isn’t happy.”
“Let’s get a bottle of wine and sleep out in a lifeboat.”
They stopped at the smoking room bar and Nick bought a bottle of red wine. Leon stood at the bar, tall in his French uniform, inside the smoking room two big poker games were going on. Nick would have liked to play but not on the last night. Everybody was playing, it was smoky and hot with all the portholes closed and shuttered. Nick looked at Leon. “Want to play?”
“No. Let’s drink the wine and talk.”
“Let’s get two bottles then.”
They went out of the hot room onto the deck carrying the bottles, it was not hard to climb out onto one of the lifeboats although it scared Nick to look down at the water as he climbed out on the davits. Inside the boat they made themselves comfortable with life belts to lie back against the thwarts. There was a feeling of being between the sea and the sky. It was not like being on the throbbing of the big boat.
“This is good,” said Nick.
“I sleep in one of these every night.”
“I’d be afraid I’d walk in my sleep,” Nick said. He was uncorking the wine. “I sleep on the deck.”
He handed the bottle to Leon. “Keep this and open the other bottle for me,” the Pole said.
“You take it,” Nick said. He drew the cork from the second bottle and clinked it across the dark with Leon. They drank.
“You’ll get better wine than this in France,” Leon said.
“I won’t be in France.”
“I forgot. I wish we were going to soldier together.”
“I wouldn’t be any good,” Nick said. He looked over the gunwale of the boat at the dark water below. He had been frightened coming out of the davits.
“I wonder if I’ll be scared,” he said.
“No,” Leon said. “I don’t think so.”
“It will be fun to see all the planes and that stuff.”
“Yes,” said Leon. “I am going to fly as soon as I can transfer.”
“I couldn’t do that.”
“I don’t know.”
“You mustn’t think about being scared.”
“I don’t. Really I don’t. I never worry about it. I just thought because it made me feel funny coming out onto the boat just now.”
Leon lay on his side, the bottle straight up beside his head.
“We don’t have to think about being scared,” he said. “We’re not that kind.”
“The Carper’s scared,” Nick said.
“Yes. Galinski told me.”
“That’s what he was sent back for. That’s why he’s drunk all the time.”
“He’s not like us,” Leon said. “Listen, Nick. You and me, we’ve got something in us.”
“I know. I feel that way. Other people can get killed but not me. I feel that absolutely.”
“That’s it. That’s what we’ve got.”
“I wanted to get into the Canadian army but they wouldn’t take me.”