Down And Out In Madrid Part 2 Eric Blair

"Down and Out in Madrid, Part 2: Eric Blair"

Who: Marchand, Rothschild and NPC Eric Blair
What: Marchand and Rothschild go to meet Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) and the three men resolve to escape Spain … if all goes well.
Where: Madrid, Spain
IC Date: July 1937
RL Date: Jan. 6, 2007

The Grid-----> > > > > THE GREATEST GENERATION < < <

Coordinates : 9 6

The streets of Madrid are fairly wide and open by the standards of the typical Western city. Each side of the road is lined with houses. This is one of the better parts of the town, so the houses are of the middle class, possibly even the wealthy, though presumably the occupants have left - as revolutionary graffiti and posters are everywhere.

It is currently dusk.


West <W> South <S>
North <N>

Marchand has arrived.

Marchand walks ahead, but slows when Rothschild appears capable of catching up. He idly waits, then walks together with him well behind Juan.

Juan leads the two ex-marines deeper into the city, and eventually comes to a halt at what was once a fairly expensive townhouse. It looks abandoned now however, the windows smashed in and not even since boarded up.

Marchand looks around cautiously. "We should be careful. We're not too far from the university campus where the Fascists have infiltrated." over to his old Marine corps fellow veteran.

Rothschild does some dodging and weaving through shadows and alleys before catching up with Marchand and Juan. All about misdirection. He's putting his old scout skills to good use. "At the moment, Delaware, we might be safer in Fascist hands than with your 'comrades'," he notes quietly. But he nods in agreement with the sentiment.

Juan nods at Marchand. "Better here, the police cowards would not risk being close to danger." he explains, and then heads over to the door. It opens at his touch, revealing a mouldy, dirty corridor which must once have been quite grand, when its wooden floors were scrubbed to blinding and the paintings were still on the walls. Now only the hooks remain to hint at what it was like a year and a half ago.

Marchand offers a nod in return, and walks to where Juan speaks to him. "Comrade", and glances at the building. "Well, we'd better go inside. I'm still in uniform." as he takes a step to at least enter the mouldy corridor himself.

Rothschild follows Juan and Marchand into the house. He takes in the mouldy remains of the place, pausing as his eyes follow the hooks on the walls. Trying to picture what the place once was.

Juan leads the two of them up the stairs, and calls out, as he goes. "Felipe?". The stairs creak a bit under his weight. He's about half way, when the sound of movement can be heard from upstairs, and a pale face peers over the landing down at you.

Marchand looks up, removing his cap to more fully reveal his face and appearance to the man above. "It's me, Frank." to the partly hidden pale face up the stairs.

Marchand speaks that in English.

Rothschild doesn't speak yet. He's a stranger here, not even a POUM man, and is still trying to feel out the situation. When the pale face appears, that's what he focuses on, squinting at it from behind his glasses.

The man heads to the top of the stairs, and when in plainer sight, it can be seen that he's bandaged about the throat, and supported on one arm by another Spaniard. He looks like he's in a rather bad way, worse than he was in Barcelona anyway. "Frank?" he says in a voice reduced to a whisper by his injury. His gaze moves to Rothschild. "This is the friend you mentioned?" he asks, moving to pad down the stairs.

Marchand gives a nod up, quietly looking to the man and his bandages wrapped around the neck. "Yes. I'm glad you made it safely to Madrid." and turns to look towards Rothschild, "May I present Mr. Benjamin Rothschild, journalist, formerly my compatriot in France during the Great War." A motion of his head back up to the pale man above, "Mr. Eric Blair."

"'Down and Out in Paris and London' was a damn good piece of work," Rothschild says, first and foremost. "Pleasure, Mr. Blair. Or Mr. Orwell. Whichever you prefer. So, I hear you're ready to leave the lovely country of Spain."

Eric Blair smiles faintly, but shrugs modestly. "Well, it's good to see that someone read it.", evidently happy however that someone here knows his work. "I'm not sure all that many have. But it was a story that needed telling, and I suppose commercial success isn't my main goal.". As for the question, he looks a little pained. "It's not so much that I am ready to leave, but that Spain has had enough of me.".

Marchand clears his throat. "Some parties in Spain. I can't believe the ordinary worker, fighting against a return to the old dictatorship and monarchy, really hates us being here." But then he sighs, accepting the truth in the feeling behind the man's words. "Getting to France would be easier if the Fascists hadn't advanced past Bilbao, taking the ports. We're almost cut off from Asturia now."

Rothschild snorts. "From the look of things, Spain's had enough of everyone who isn't a Nazi or a Stalinist right now. Anyway, it was a damn sight better than most anything I've written." Most. He has to keep that open, for his own ego. "I have some money and papers you can use, and I've got friends in the dispatch offices in the various provinces who'd be willing to help you along. We just need to get things moving before the PCE gets wind of you here."

Eric nods at Marchand. "Yes, you are right. I'm just, a little bitter is all, seeing the underclass betrayed at Barcelona, and after all the fighting. I'm not sure who is worse… Stalin and Ibarruri, or Franco. Two sides of the same coin.". He glances at the two Spaniards who are minding him. "I can't complain about the Spanish people, my companions from the militia have been as loyal a group of friends as any man could ask for.". He blinks at Rothschild. "You are here as a reporter? You seem a cautious man… or a well connected one." he says, the pain in his throat not stopping him from talking it seems, though it must be an effort.

Marchand quietly listens to the man's words, nodding to Eric's. "He's lived in Europe since the war. Better connections here than me." and tries to offer a small smile of encouragement.

"I've made a few friends in a few spots of the world. Hopefully enough," Rothschild replies simply. "Cautious? Maybe. I'm just trying to do my job. I'm not here for anything more than that." Those words don't quite ring true, and he's eager to move off this subject. "Where will you go?"

Eric Blair shakes his head a little. "A worthy enough job, a journalist, but you must be tough to sit by as an observer. I know I couldn't do it, after all.". A pause. "Though it seems the mistake might have been mine.". Yeah, he's bitter.

"Tough. Right," Rothschild mutters to himself, with no small bitterness of his own. "I gave up trying to change the world when I was twenty, George my friend. Now I'm just trying to survive it." Doing things like this may not be the best way to go about surviving, but that doesn't seem to occur to him. "Not that I have much choice of sides. I doubt the fascists would take to a man like me, with the Germans breathing down their necks. And, sorry to say Frank, I don't have much use for those commissar pigs."

Marchand speaks quietly, "Then get back to England, or Paris, and survive to write about it." His voice grows more solemn, serious and determined, "Write and let the world know, or at least students and other intellectuals who care, who are trying to make a difference." Taking a step forward, lifting his chin a bit, "If Spain's gone wrong, prepare them for the next fight against Imperialism and Fascism. Be it in Ethiopia, or China, or wherever. Be like that King's Scholar I once met with the bright ideas and certainty of what Mankind can accomplish. Be positive, old man, and not a broken old soldier like me who's probably going to be forgotten."

Marchand doesn't make it specifically clear who his words in English are to, perhaps they're to both. He's generally facing the man with the neck wound, but the voice packed conviction in its strength enough to carry.

Eric shakes his head slightly at Rothschild. "If you were just trying to survive you wouldn't be in Spain at all." he points out. And to Marchand, he nods… "I'm not sure if it will be any different in the future, Frank. The leaders, it always seems to be the leaders, be they communist or fascist or whatever. Its never the leaders who are poor after all. But if nothing else this war has shown the power of words, and of lies. I hope the truth has as much as power. I won't remain silent anyway, it's those who have chosen to back a lie for what they thought was the good of the Republic that have destroyed what they were fighting for.".

Rothschild doesn't respond to Marchand's words. Though, from the way his shoulders stiffen, they made /some/ sort of impact. To Blair he says, "The PCE hasn't managed to shut the flow of information out of the country down, and even their best propaganda can't hide what's going on. The world deserves to know the story of Spain, the truth. I'll try to tell it. Maybe that'll be worth something."

Marchand gives a nod to the words of both. "Great artists are seldom appreciated in their own time." and tries to shed his sterness with a warmer smile. "I can't forget your writings from Burma, Eric. That was before you took the pen name." Turning to Rothschild, as if to explain. "About the British colonial system, and how it gave squat about the concerns of the local indigenous people. Laborers with no hope, no future, breaking their backs on plantations to make the rich richer and the foreign colonial rulers shine for personal advancement." A single nod. "That was years ago, but I think the feeling is relevant to more than just people there." Turning to both, then, "It just has to be written in words understood, better than I can, so people everywhere can connect it to their own situation. Marx wasn't even Russian, he wrote for workers everywhere." A pause for a breath, "Stalin is not interested in anyone more than Stalin."

Eric Blair nods, but shakes his head with faint amusement. "I don't think my work is going to be in the same league as Marx… As for Stalin.". His face hardens. "Yes. Stalin is an evil man, there is no other word for it.".

"Evil he may be, but he's got his share of power in this country right now," Rothschild says. "So, best to get you out of it as soon as possible, Mr. Blair." He turns to Marchand. Might as well give it one more try. "I'm sure your friend'd have an easier time of it with someone along to help him, Frank. Please. You don't have to do this anymore."

Marchand looks to Rothschild and slowly nods. "If other countries had stepped up to support the workers, the democracy in Spain, we'd not have to worry so much about Stalin." More crisply, "Unfortunately, aside from the Left in Mexico, where Trotsky's had to flee in Exile, no other county is sending the people of Spain any weapons or materials to let them fight for their freedom." There's a sigh then, lowering his eyes. "You're probably right" to Rothschild. He then turns to the injured British man, looking to his gaunt and hollowed face, "If you want me to come with you, Eric, I will. As a friend and fellow fighter for the working man." More quietly, "I wish it had never come to me having to make this choice."

Eric Blair gives Marchand an appraising look, with a frown. "Do you think you will do any good if you stay here?" he asks. "It seems to me that no matter who wins, the Spanish are going to lose in the end. It was only pure accident that had me fighting for the POUM, but if I was a Brigader like you, I am not sure that I would be happy to fight as a soldier of Stalin. If you think you can do some good, more good here, then perhaps you should stay - but do you really think that, with the way things are going? They shoot reasonable men, now."

Rothschild frowns when he hears Marchand's tone, looking half-sorry to have brought the idea of leaving up again. "Do what you think is right, Frank," he says quietly. "The rest…the world is what it is. We all just have to live in it as best we can."

Marchand slowly shakes his head. "The man is right" in apparent reference to the statement about who they're shooting. "If Dr. Cortez died in interrogation, not killed in battle, he'd have been tortured by the S.I.M. certainly." There's a quiet pause for a moment, then he looks to Rothschild again. "Remember that night in Madrid, at La Tosca, where he got drunk and was talking loudly, angrily, about Stalin and the PCE? I helped get him safely home, making sure others, Communists, didn't hear." Another pause for a shake of his head. "And he was there in Barcelona, when I helped close the POUM newspaper. The Passion Flower had assured me it'd only be temporary, that it was in the name of unity." Grave his visage, the American now speaks in a low voice. "I believed her. And now, the POUM is outlawed and hunted."

Blair ponders. "Maybe the Passion Flower is caught up in events herself, it is Moscow who is her master after all. But as I said before, anybody who is willing to obfuscate and blind with lies as much as she in the name of power is unlikely to be on the side of the poor.".

"A lot of people believed her and the PCE, Delaware," Rothschild says. "Good people believed them, believed they were on the side of right. Maybe they were, but they've taken over whatever right there was in this cause for themselves."

Marchand lowers his eyes and just nods. "I'll go. But I'll surrender my weapons first. Somehow. And write an official letter to resign with my seperation from the XIth Brigade." Eyes then return to Benjamin, "I cannot leave as a criminal, deserting with no effort to respect duty. I'll just have to make sure I depart before the Commissar hears of it, or any other officer. No time for the paperwork to be made official, because without being one of their fighters, I'm more likely to be a target for the SIM." He swallows, "Deserters are shot. I'll never get work back in America as a union organizer again, either. Maybe the American Worker's Party will still welcome me back, but England won't allow me to linger on her shores either." He grimaces, "I'm no ex-patriot drinking it up in Europe, Ben. I can't live like that."

Eric sighs. "If I could help you Frank, I would, but I am not sure if I can. I still have a few friends with the left wing press in England, maybe they will count for something. The Comintern doesn't run everything on the Left, least of all in the United States. I think maybe it is time for you to be leaving Spain. It's wearing you down.".

Marchand gives a solemn nod, but there's no cheer in his features. "Most in the Brigade joined for the right reasons. I haven't seen alot of new men come aboard, though. Few new recruits, and the battles are turning more and more into losses." Then, to the reporter, "I'll go if you'll come soon after. You know they'll be hunting journalists, too, unless you're so favored by credentials in the international press that your paper will demand your release." More quietly added, "Or you print what the communists want to read. Do you really expect you can still do that, Ben?"

Rothschild smirks wryly. "I'm not sure I can live like that much longer either, Delaware. It's funny. I haven't allowed myself to think of home in so long, but I've been doing a lot of that lately. Part of me would love to set foot on American soil again. See my father in Newark, and my sister on the Lower East Side. Maybe start going to synagogue again…I've been running away from that life for so long, and now it's all I want." He sighs, nodding to Marchand. "I doubt the North American Newspaper Alliance could do much against Stalin and his henchmen. I can't stay here much longer, Delaware. More importantly, I can't let Lizzie stay here much longer. But I also can't leave. Not yet."

Eric looks over at Rothschild. "He is right, you know. You should be careful. At least you've had more forethought than I in organising a route out.".

Marchand shakes his head firmly, "You don't understand the PCE, Jersey. It's not about what Stalin wants, cause the Big Man of Russia doesn't even know our names, nor cares. It's a world of petty functionaries, bureaucrats, party officials. They're all working for their own self-interest, in the name of Society. They believe in what they're doing, sure, but when you become a threat to the Message, you become a threat to them." He quickly turns back to Eric, "You work out a date to move for the border with Ben Rothschild's schedules and connections. Once that date's set, I'll wrap up here with the final move, and join you." Quietly, to himself, "Just have to hope it's before they send us out again to fight."

"We can hope," Rothschild adds, more to himself than either man. It's about all anyone in this country can do right now.

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