|◄ Chapter VIII|| Across the River and Into the Trees
written by Ernest Hemingway
|Chapter X ►|
|Charles Scribner's Sons 1950 (pages 77-101)|
AS Colonel Cantwell stepped out of the door of the Gritti Palace Hotel he came out into the last sunlight of that day. There was still sunlight on the opposite side of the Square but the gondoliers preferred to be sheltered from the cold wind by lounging in the lee of the Gritti, than to use the last remaining heat of the sun on the wind-swept side of the Square.
After noting this, the Colonel turned to the right and walked along the Square to the paved street which turned off on the right. As he turned, he stopped for a moment and looked at the church of Santa Maria del Giglio.
What a fine, compact and, yet, ready to be air-borne building, he thought. I never realized a small church could look like a P47. Must find out when it was built, and who built it. Damn, I wish I might walk around this town all my life. All my life, he thought. What a gag that is. A gag to gag on. A throttle to throttle you with. Come on, boy, he said to himself. No horse named Morbid ever won a race.
Besides, he thought, as he looked in the windows of the various shops he passed, the charcuterie with the Parmesan cheeses and the hams from San Daniele, and the sausages alla cacciatora, and the bottles of good Scotch whisky and real Gordon’s gin, the cutlery store, an antique dealer’s with some good pieces and some old maps and prints, a second-rate restaurant disguised expensively as one of the first class, and then came to the first bridge crossing a feeder canal with steps to be climbed, I don’t feel so badly. There is only the buzzing. I remember when that started and I thought perhaps it was seven year locusts in the trees and I did not like to ask young Lowry but I did. And he answered, No, General, I don’t hear any crickets or seven year locusts. The night is perfectly quiet except for the usual noises.
Then, as he climbed, he felt the twinges, and coming down the other side, he saw two lovely looking girls. They were beautiful and hatless and poorly but chicly dressed, and they were talking very fast to each other and the wind was blowing their hair as they climbed with their long, easy striding Venetian legs and the Colonel said to himself, I’d better quit window gazing along this street and make that next bridge, and two squares afterwards you turn due right and keep along it till you are in Harry’s.
He did just that, twinging on the bridge, but walking with his same old stride and only seeing, quickly, the people that he passed. There’s a lot of oxygen in this air, he thought, as he faced into the wind and breathed deeply.
Then he was pulling open the door of Harry’s bar and was inside and he had made it again, and was at home.
At the bar a tall, very tall, man, with a ravaged face of great breeding, merry blue eyes, and the long, loose-coupled body of a buffalo wolf, said, “My ancient and depraved Colonel.”
“My wicked Andrea.”
They embraced and the Colonel felt the rough texture of Andrea’s handsome tweed coat that must have been entering, at least, its twentieth year.
“You look well, Andrea,” the Colonel said.
It was a lie and they both knew it.
“I am,” said Andrea, returning the lie. “I must say I never felt better. You look extraordinarily well, yourself.”
“Thank you, Andrea. Us healthy bastards shall inherit the earth.”
“Very good idea. I must say I wouldn’t mind inheriting something these days.”
“You have no kick. You’ll inherit well over six feet four of it.”
“Six feet six,” said Andrea. “You wicked old man. Are you still slaving away at la vie militaire?”
“I don’t slave too hard at it,” the Colonel said. “I’m down to shoot at San Relajo.”
“I know. But don’t make jokes in Spanish at this hour. Alvarito was looking for you. He said to tell you he’d be back.”
“Good. Is your lovely wife and are the children well?”
“Absolutely, and they asked me to remember them to you if I saw you. They’re down in Rome. There comes your girl. Or one of your girls.” He was so tall he could see into the now almost dark street, but this was a girl you could recognize if it was much darker than it was at this hour.
“Ask her to have a drink with us here before you carry her off to that corner table. Isn’t she a lovely girl?”
Then she came into the room, shining in her youth and tall striding beauty, and the carelessness the wind had made of her hair. She had pale, almost olive colored skin, a profile that could break your, or any one else’s heart, and her dark hair, of an alive texture, hung down over her shoulders.
“Hello, my great beauty,” the Colonel said.
“Oh, oh, hello,” she said. “I thought I would miss you. I am so sorry to be late.”
Her voice was low and delicate and she spoke English with caution.
“Ciao, Andrea,” she said. “How is Emily and are the children?”
“Probably just the same as when I answered that same question for you at noon.”
“I am so sorry,” she said and blushed. “I am so excited and I always say the wrong things. What should I say? Have you had a good time here all afternoon?”
“Yes,” said Andrea. “With my old friend and severest critic.”
“Who is that?”
“Scotch whisky and water.”
“I suppose if he must tease me he must,” she said to the Colonel. “But you won’t tease me, will you?”
“Take him over to that corner table and talk to him. I’m tired of you both.”
“I’m not tired of you,” the Colonel told him. “But I think it is a good idea. Should we have a drink sitting down, Renata?”
“I’d love to if Andrea isn’t angry.”
“I’m never angry.”
“Would you have a drink with us, Andrea?”
“No,” said Andrea. “Get along to your table. I’m sick of seeing it unoccupied.”
“Good-bye, Caro. Thanks for the drink we didn’t have.”
“Ciao, Ricardo,” Andrea said and that was all.
He turned his fine, long, tall back on them and looked into the mirror that is placed behind bars so a man can tell when he is drinking too much, and decided that he did not like what he saw there. “Ettore,” he said. “Please put this nonsense on my bill.”
He walked out after waiting carefully for his coat, swinging into it, and tipping the man who brought it exactly what he should be tipped plus twenty per cent.
At the corner table, Renata said, “Do you think we hurt his feelings?”
“No. He loves you and he likes me.”
“Andrea is so nice. And you’re so nice.”
“Waiter,” the Colonel called; then asked, “Do you want a dry Martini, too?”
“Yes,” she said. “I’d love one.”
“Two very dry Martinis,” the Colonel said. “Montgomerys. Fifteen to one.”
The waiter, who had been in the desert, smiled and was gone, and the Colonel turned to Renata.
“You’re nice,” he said. “You’re also very beautiful and lovely and I love you.”
“You always say that and I don’t know what it means but I like to hear it.”
“How old are you now?”
“Nearly nineteen. Why?”
“And you don’t know what it means?”
“No. Why should I? Americans always say it to you before they go away. It seems to be necessary to them. But I love you very much, too, whatever that is.”
“Let’s have a fine time,” the Colonel said. “Let’s not think about anything at all.”
“I would like that. I cannot think very well this time of day at any rate.”
“Here are the drinks,” the Colonel said. “Remember not to say, chin-chin.”
“I remember that from before. I never say chin-chin, nor here’s to you, nor bottom’s up.”
“We just raise the glass to each other and, if you wish, we can touch the edges.”
“I wish,” she said.
The Martinis were icy cold and true Montgomerys, and, after touching the edges, they felt them glow happily all through their upper bodies.
“And what have you been doing?” the Colonel asked.
“Nothing. I still wait to go away to school.”
“God knows. Wherever I go to learn English.”
“Turn your head and raise your chin once for me.”
“You’re not making fun?”
“No. I’m not making fun.”
She turned her head and raised her chin, without vanity, nor coquetry, and the Colonel felt his heart turn over inside him, as though some sleeping animal had rolled over in its burrow and frightened, deliciously, the other animal sleeping close beside.
“Oh you,” he said. “Would you ever like to run for Queen of Heaven?”
“That would be sacrilegious.”
“Yes,” he said. “I suppose it would and I withdraw the suggestion.”
“Richard,” she said. “No I can’t say it.”
The Colonel thought, I order you to say it. And she said, “Please never look at me like that.”
“I’m sorry,” the Colonel said. “I had just slipped into my trade unconsciously.”
“And if we were such a thing as married would you practice your trade in the home?”
“No. I swear it. I never have. Not in my heart.”
“With no one?”
“With no one of your sex.”
“I don’t like that word your sex. It sounds as though you were practicing your trade.”
“I throw my trade out of that God-damn window into the Grand Canal.”
“There,” she said. “You see how quickly you practice it?”
“All right,” he said. “I love you and my trade can gently leave.”
“Let me feel your hand,” she said. “It’s all right. You can put it on the table.”
“Thank you,” the Colonel said.
“Please don’t,” she said. “I wanted to feel it because all last week, every night, or I think nearly every night, I dreamed about it, and it was a strange mixed-up dream and I dreamed it was the hand of Our Lord.”
“That’s bad. You oughtn’t to do that.”
“I know it. That’s just what I dreamed.”
“You aren’t on the junk, are you?”
“I don’t know what you mean, and please don’t make fun when I tell you something true. I dreamed just as I say.”
“What did the hand do?”
“Nothing. Or maybe that is not true. Mostly it was just a hand.”
“Like this one?” The Colonel asked, looking at the misshapen hand with distaste, and remembering the two times that had made it that way.
“Not like. It was that one. May I touch it carefully with my fingers if it does not hurt?”
“It does not hurt. Where it hurts is in the head, the legs and the feet. I don’t believe there’s any sensation in that hand.”
“You’re wrong,” she said. “Richard. There is very much sensation in that hand.”
“I don’t like to look at it much. You don’t think we could skip it.”
“Of course. But you don’t have to dream about it.”
“No. I have other dreams.”
“Yes. I can imagine. But I dream lately about this hand. Now that I have touched it carefully, we can talk about funny things if you like. What is there funny we should talk about?”
“Let’s look at the people and discuss them.”
“That’s lovely,” she said. “And we won’t do it with malice. Only with our best wit. Yours and mine.”
“Good,” the Colonel said. “Waiter, Ancora due Martini.”
He did not like to call for Montgomerys in a tone that could be overheard because there were two obvious Britishers at the next table.
The male might have been wounded, the Colonel thought, although, from his looks, it seems unlikely. But God help me to avoid brutality. And look at Renata’s eyes, he thought. They are probably the most beautiful of all the beautiful things she has, with the longest honest lashes I have ever seen and she never uses them for anything except to look at you honestly and straight. What a damn wonderful girl and what am I doing here anyway? It is wicked. She is your last and true and only love, he thought, and that’s not evil. It is only unfortunate. No, he thought, it is damned fortunate and you are very fortunate.
They sat at a small table in the corner of the room and on their right there were four women at a larger table. One of the women was in mourning; a mourning so theatrical that it reminded the Colonel of the Lady Diana Manners playing the nun in Max Reinhardt’s, “The Miracle.” This woman had an attractive, plump, naturally gay face and her mourning was incongruous.
At the table there was another woman who had hair three times as white as hair can be, the Colonel thought. She, also, had a pleasant face. There were two other women whose faces meant nothing to the Colonel.
“Are they lesbians?” he asked the girl.
“I do not know,” she said. “They are all very nice people.”
“I should say they are lesbians. But maybe they are just good friends. Maybe they are both. It means nothing to me and it was not a criticism.”
“You are nice when you are gentle.”
“Do you suppose the word gentleman derives from a man who is gentle?”
“I do not know,” the girl said, and she ran her fingers very lightly over the scarred hand. “But I love you when you are gentle.”
“I’ll try very hard to be gentle,” the Colonel said. “Who do you suppose that son of a bitch is at the table beyond them?”
“You don’t stay gentle very long,” the girl said. “Let us ask Ettore.”
They looked at the man at the third table. He had a strange face like an over-enlarged, disappointed weasel or ferret. It looked as pock-marked and as blemished as the mountains of the moon seen through a cheap telescope and, the Colonel thought, it looked like Goebbels’ face, if Herr Goebbels had ever been in a plane that burned, and not been able to bail out before the fire reached him.
Above this face, which was ceaselessly peering, as though the answer might be found by enough well directed glances and by queries, there was black hair that seemed to have no connection with the human race. The man looked as though he had been scalped and then the hair replaced. Very interesting, the Colonel thought. Can he be a compatriot? Yes, he must.
A little spit ran out of the corner of his mouth as he spoke, peeringly, with the elderly, wholesome looking woman who was with him. She looks like anybody’s mother in an illustration in “The Ladies’ Home Journal,” the Colonel thought. “The Ladies’ Home Journal” was one of the magazines received regularly at the Officer’s Club in Trieste and the Colonel looked through it when it came. It is a wonderful magazine, he thought, because it combines sexology and beautiful foods. It makes me hungry both ways.
But who do you suppose that character is? He looks like a caricature of an American who has been run one half way through a meat chopper and then been boiled, slightly, in oil. I’m not being so gentle, he thought.
Ettore, with his emaciated face, and his love of joking and fundamental and abiding disrespect, came over and the Colonel said, “Who is that spiritual character?”
Ettore shook his head.
The man was short and dark with glossy black hair that did not seem to go with his strange face. He looked, the Colonel thought, as though he had forgotten to change his wig as he grew older. Has a wonderful face though, the Colonel thought. Looks like some of the hills around Verdun. I don’t suppose he could be Goebbels and he picked up that face in the last days when they were all playing at G'ötterd'ämmerung. Komm’ S'üsser Tod, he thought. Well they sure bought themselves a nice big piece of Süsser Tod at the end.
“You don’t want a nice Süsser Tod sandwich do you Miss Renata?”
“I don’t think so,” the girl said. “Though I love Bach and I am sure Cipriani could make one.”
“I was not talking against Bach,” the Colonel said.
“I know it.”
“Hell,” the Colonel said. “Bach was practically a co-belligerent. As you were,” he added.
“I don’t think we have to talk against me.”
“Daughter,” the Colonel said. “When will you learn that I might joke against you because I love you?”
“Now,” she said. “I’ve learned it. But you know it’s fun not to joke too rough.”
“Good. I’ve learned it.”
“How often do you think of me during the week?”
“All of the time.”
“No. Tell me truly.”
“All of the time. Truly.”
“Do you think it is this bad for everyone?”
“I wouldn’t know,” the Colonel said. “That’s one of the things I would not know.”
“I hope it’s not this bad for everyone. I had no idea it could be this bad.”
“Well you know now.”
“Yes,” the girl said. “I know now. I know now and for keeps and for always. Is that the correct way to say it?”
“I know now is enough,” the Colonel said. “Ettore, that character with the inspiring face and the nice looking woman with him doesn’t live at the Gritti does he?”
“No,” Ettore said. “He lives next door but he goes to the Gritti sometimes to eat.”
“Good,” the Colonel said. “It will be wonderful to see him if I should ever be down hearted. Who is the woman with him? His wife? His mother? His daughter?”
“There you have me,” Ettore said. “We haven’t kept track of him in Venice. He has aroused neither love, hate, dislike, fear nor suspicion. Do you really want to know anything about him? I could ask Cipriani.”
“Let us skip him,” the girl said. “Is that how you say it?”
“Let’s skip him,” the Colonel said.
“When we have so little time, Richard. He is rather a waste of time.”
“I was looking at him as at a drawing by Goya. Faces are pictures too.”
“Look at mine and I will look at yours. Please skip the man. He didn’t come here to do anyone any harm.”
“Let me look at your face and you not look at mine.”
“No,” she said. “That’s not fair. I have to remember yours all week.”
“And what do I do?” the Colonel asked her.
Ettore came over, unable to avoid conspiracy and, having gathered his intelligence rapidly and as a Venetian should, said,
“My colleague who works at his hotel, says that he drinks three or four highballs, and then writes vastly and fluently far into the night.”
“I dare say that makes marvelous reading.”
“I dare say,” Ettore said. “But it was hardly the method of Dante.”
“Dante was another vieux con,” the Colonel said. “I mean as a man. Not as a writer.”
“I agree,” Ettore said. “I think you will find no one, outside of Firenze, who has studied his life who would not agree.”
“Eff Florence,” the Colonel said.
“A difficult maneuver,” Ettore said. “Many have attempted it but very few have succeeded. Why do you dislike it, my Colonel?”
“Too complicated to explain. But it was the depot,” he said deposito, “of my old regiment when I was a boy.”
“That I can understand. I have my own reasons for disliking it too. You know a good town?”
“Yes,” said the Colonel. “This one. A part of Milano; and Bologna. And Bergamo.”
“Cipriani has a large store of vodka in case the Russians should come,” Ettore said, loving to joke rough.
“They’ll bring their own vodka, duty free.”
“Still I believe Cipriani is prepared for them.”
“Then he is the only man who is,” the Colonel said.
“Tell him not to take any checks from junior officers on the Bank of Odessa, and thank you for the data on my compatriot. I won’t take more of your time.”
Ettore left and the girl turned toward him, and looked in his old steel eyes and put both her hands on his bad one and said, “You were quite gentle.”
“And you are most beautiful and I love you.”
“It’s nice to hear it anyway.”
“What are we going to do about dinner?”
“I will have to call my home and find out if I can come out.”
“Why do you look sad now?”
“I am not, really. I am as happy as I ever am. Truly. Please believe me, Richard. But how would you like to be a girl nineteen years old in love with a man over fifty years old that you knew was going to die?”
“You put it a little bluntly,” the Colonel said. “But you are very beautiful when you say it.”
“I never cry,” the girl said. “Never. I made a rule not to. But I would cry now.”
“Don’t cry,” the Colonel said. “I’m gentle now and the hell with the rest of it.”
“Say once again that you love me.”
“I love you and I love you and I love you.”
“Will you do your best not to die?”
“What did the doctor say?”
“No,” he lied.
“Then let us have another Martini,” the girl said. “You know I never drank a Martini until we met.”
“I know. But you drink them awfully well.”
“Shouldn’t you take the medicine?”
“Yes,” the Colonel said. “I should take the medicine.”
“May I give it to you?”
“Yes,” the Colonel said. “You may give it to me.”
They continued to sit at the table in the corner and some people went out, and others came in. The Colonel felt a little dizzy from the medicine and he let it ride. That’s the way it always is, he thought. To hell with it.
He saw the girl watching him and he smiled at her. It was an old smile that he had been using for fifty years, ever since he first smiled, and it was still as sound as your grandfather’s Purdey shot-gun. I guess my older brother has that, he thought. Well, he could always shoot better than I could and he deserves it.
“Listen, daughter,” he said. “Don’t be sorry for me.”
“I’m not. Not at all. I just love you.”
“It isn’t much of a trade is it?” He said oficio instead of trade, because they spoke Spanish together too, when they left French, and when they did not wish to speak English before other people. Spanish is a rough language, the Colonel thought, rougher than a corncob sometimes. But you can say what you mean in it and make it stick.
“Es un oficio bastante malo,” he repeated, “loving me.”
“Yes. But it is the only one I have.”
“Don’t you write any more poetry?”
“It was young girl poetry. Like young girl painting. Everyone is talented at a certain age.”
At what age do you become old in this country, the Colonel thought. No one is ever old in Venice, but they grow up very fast. I grew up very rapidly in the Veneto myself, and I was never as old as I was at twenty-one.
“How is your mother?” he asked, lovingly.
“She is very well. She does not receive and she sees almost no one because of her sorrow.”
“Do you think she would mind if we had a baby?”
“I don’t know. She is very intelligent, you know. But I would have to marry someone, I suppose. I don’t really want to.”
“We could be married.”
“No,” she said. “I thought it over, and I thought we should not. It is just a decision as the one about crying.”
“Maybe you make wrong decisions. Christ knows I’ve made a few and too many men are dead from when I was wrong.”
“I think, perhaps, you exaggerate. I don’t believe you made many wrong decisions.”
“Not many,” the Colonel said. “But enough. Three is plenty in my trade, and I made all three.”
“I’d like to know about them.”
“They’d bore you,” the Colonel told her. “They beat the hell out of me to remember them. So what would they do to some outsider?”
“Am I an outsider?”
“No. You’re my true love. My last and only and true love.”
“Did you make them early or late? The decisions.”
“I made them early. In the middle. And late.”
“Wouldn’t you tell me about them? I would like to have a share in your sad trade.”
“The hell with them,” the Colonel said. “They were made and they’ve all been paid for. Only you can’t pay for that.”
“Can you tell me about that and why?”
“No,” the Colonel said. And that was the end of that.
“Then let’s have fun.”
“Let’s,” the Colonel said. “With our one and only life.”
“Maybe there are others. Other lives.”
“I don’t think so,” the Colonel said. “Turn your head sideways, beauty.”
“Like that,” the Colonel said. “Exactly like that.”
So, the Colonel thought, here we come into the last round and I do not know even the number of the round. I have loved but three women and have lost them thrice.
You lose them the same way you lose a battalion; by errors of judgment; orders that are impossible to fulfill, and through impossible conditions. Also through brutality.
I have lost three battalions in my life and three women and now I have a fourth, and loveliest, and where the hell does it end?
You tell me, General, and, incidentally, while we are discussing the matter, and it is a frank discussion of the situation and in no sense a Council of War, as you have so often pointed out to me General: GENERAL WHERE IS YOUR CAVALRY?
I have thought so, he said to himself. The Commanding Officer does not know where his cavalry is, and his cavalry are not completely accurate as to their situation, nor their mission, and they will, some of them, enough, muck off as cavalry have always mucked off in all the wars since they, the Cavalry, had the big horses.
“Beauty,” he said, “Ma tr'ès ch'ère et bien aim'ée. I am very dull and I am sorry.”
“You are never dull, to me, and I love you and I only wish we could be cheerful tonight.”
“We damn well will be,” said the Colonel. “Do you know anything particular we should be cheerful about?”
“We might be cheerful about us, and about the town. You’ve often been very cheerful.”
“Yes,” the Colonel agreed. “I have been.”
“Don’t you think we could do it once more?”
“Sure. Of course. Why not?”
“Do you see the boy with the wave in his hair, that is natural, and he only pushes it a little, skillfully, to be more handsome?”
“I see him,” the Colonel said.
“He is a very good painter, but he has false teeth in front because he was a little bit pédéraste once and other pédérastes attacked him one night on the Lido when there was a full moon.”
“How old are you?”
“I will be nineteen.”
“How do you know this?”
“I know it from the Gondoliere. This boy is a very good painter, for now. There aren’t any really good painters now. But with false teeth, now, in his twenty-fifth year, what a thing.”
“I love you very truly,” the Colonel said.
“I love you very truly, too. Whatever that means in American. I also love you in Italian, against all my judgment and all of my wishes.”
“We shouldn’t wish for too God-damn much,” the Colonel said. “Because we are always liable to get it.”
“I agree,” she said. “But I would like to get what I wish for now.”
Neither of them said anything and then the girl said, “That boy, he is a man now, of course, and goes with very many women to hide what he is, painted my portrait once. You can have it if you like.”
“Thank you,” the Colonel said. “I would love it.”
“It is very romantic. My hair is twice as long as it has ever been and I look as though I were rising from the sea without the head wet. Actually, you rise from the sea with the hair very flat and coming to points at the end. It is almost the look of a very nearly dead rat. But Daddy paid him adequately for the portrait, and, while it is not truly me, it is the way you like to think of me.”
“I think of you when you come from the sea too.”
“Of course. Very ugly. But you might like to have this portrait for a souvenir.”
“Your lovely mother would not mind?”
“Mummy would not mind. She would be glad to be rid of it, I think. We have better pictures in the house.”
“I love you and your mother both very much.”
“I must tell her,” the girl said.
“Do you think that pock-marked jerk is really a writer?”
“Yes. If Ettore says so. He loves to joke but he does not lie. Richard, what is a jerk? Tell me truly.”
“It is a little rough to state. But I think it means a man who has never worked at his trade (oficio) truly, and is presumptuous in some annoying way.”
“I must learn to use the term properly.”
“Don’t use it,” the Colonel said.
Then the Colonel asked, “When do I get the portrait?”
“Tonight if you wish it. I’ll have someone wrap it and send it from the house. Where will you hang it?”
“In my quarters.”
“And no one will come in and make remarks and speak badly of me?”
“No. They damn well will not. Also I’ll tell them it is a portrait of my daughter.”
“Did you ever have a daughter?”
“No. I always wanted one.”
“I can be your daughter as well as everything else.”
“That would be incest.”
“I don’t think that would be so terrible in a city as old as this and that has seen what this city has seen.”
“Good,” she said. “That was fine. I liked it.”
“All right,” the Colonel said and his voice was thickened a little. “I liked it, too.”
“Do you see now why I love you when I know better than to do it?”
“Look, Daughter. Where should we dine?”
“Wherever you like.”
“Would you eat at the Gritti?”
“Then call the house and ask for permission.”
“No. I decided not to ask permission but to send word where I was dining. So they would not worry.”
“But do you really prefer the Gritti?”
“I do. Because it is a lovely restaurant and it is where you live and anyone can look at us that wants to.”
“When did you get like that?”
“I have always been like that. I have never cared what anyone thought, ever. Nor have I ever done anything that I was ashamed of except tell lies when I was a little girl and be unkind to people.”
“I wish we could be married and have five sons,” the Colonel said.
“So do I,” the girl said. “And send them to the five corners of the world.”
“Are there five corners to the world?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “It sounded as though there were when I said it. And now we are having fun again, aren’t we?”
“Yes, Daughter,” the Colonel said.
“Say it again. Just as you said it.”
“Oh,” she said. “People must be very complicated. Please may I take your hand?”
“It’s so damned ugly and I dislike looking at it.”
“You don’t know about your hand.”
“That’s a matter of opinion,” he said. “I’d say you were wrong, Daughter.”
“Maybe I am wrong. But we’re having fun again and whatever the bad thing was is gone now.”
“It’s gone the way the mist is burned off the hollows in broken ground when the sun comes out,” the Colonel said. “And you’re the sun.”
“I want to be the moon, too.”
“You are,” the Colonel told her. “Also any particular planet that you wish to be and I will give you an accurate location of the planet. Christ, Daughter, you can be a God-damn constellation if you like. Only that’s an airplane.”
“I’ll be the moon. She has many troubles too.”
“Yes. Her sorrows come regularly. But she always fills before she wanes.”
“She looks so sad to me sometimes across the Canal that I cannot stand it.”
“She’s been around a long time,” the Colonel said.
“Do you think we should have one more Montgomery?” the girl asked and the Colonel noticed that the British were gone.
He had been noticing nothing but her lovely face. I’ll get killed sometime that way, he thought. On the other hand it is a form of concentration, I suppose. But it is damned careless.
“Yes,” he said. “Why not?”
“They make me feel very good,” the girl said. “They have a certain effect on me, too, the way Cipriani makes them.”
“Cipriani is very intelligent.”
“He’s more than that. He’s able.”
“Some day he’ll own all Venice.”
“Not quite all,” the Colonel disagreed. “He’ll never own you.”
“No,” she said. “Nor will anyone else unless you want me.”
“I want you Daughter. But I don’t want to own you.”
“I know it,” the girl said. “And that’s one more reason why I love you.”
“Let’s get Ettore and have him call up your house. You can tell them about the portrait.”
“You are quite correct. If you want the portrait tonight, I must speak to the butler to have it wrapped and sent. I will also ask to speak to Mummy and tell her where we are dining and, if you like, I will ask her permission.”
“No,” the Colonel said. “Ettore, two Montgomerys, super Montgomerys, with garlic olives, not the big ones, and please call the home of this lady and let her know when you have completed the communication. And all of this as rapidly as possible.”
“Yes, my Colonel.”
“Now, Daughter, let us resume the having of the fun.”
“It was resumed when you spoke,” she said.