Across the River and Into the Trees/Chapter X

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◄  Chapter IX Across the River and Into the Trees
Chapter X
written by Ernest Hemingway
Chapter XI  ►
Charles Scribner's Sons 1950 (pages 102-105)



Chapter X

THEY were walking, now, along the right side of the street that led to the Gritti. The wind was at their backs and it blew the girl’s hair forward. The wind parted her hair in the back and blew it forward about her face. They were looking in the shop windows and the girl stopped in front of the lighted window of a jewelry shop.

There were many good pieces of old jewelry in the window and they stood and looked at them and pointed out the best ones to each other, unclasping their hands to do so.

“Is there anything you really want? I could get it in the morning. Cipriani would loan me the money.”

“No,” she said. “I do not want anything but I notice that you never give me presents.”

“You are much richer than I am. I bring you small things from the PX and I buy you drinks and meals.”

“And take me in gondolas and to lovely places in the country.”

“I never thought you wanted presents of hard stones.”

“I don’t. It is just the thought of giving and then one looks at them and thinks about them when they are worn.”

“I’m learning,” the Colonel said. “But what could I buy you on Army pay that would be like your square emeralds?”

“But don’t you see. I inherited them. They came from my grandmother, and she had them from her mother who had them from her mother. Do you think it is the same to wear stones that come from dead people?”

“I never thought about it.”

“You can have them if you like, if you like stones. To me they are only something to wear like a dress from Paris. You don’t like to wear your dress uniform, do you?”

“No.”

“You don’t like to carry a sword, do you?”

“No, repeat, no.”

“You are not that kind of a soldier and I am not that sort of girl. But sometime give me something lasting that I can wear and be happy each time I wear it.”

“I see,” the Colonel said. “And I will.”

“You learn fast about things you do not know,” the girl said. “And you make lovely quick decisions. I would like you to have the emeralds and you could keep them in your pocket like a lucky piece, and feel them if you were lonely.”

“I don’t put my hands much in my pockets when I’m working. I usually twirl a stick, or something, or point things out with a pencil.”

“But you could put your hand in your pocket only once in a long time and feel them.”

“I’m not lonely when I’m working. I have to think too hard to ever be lonely.”

“But you are not working now.”

“No. Only preparing the best way to be over-run.”

“I’m going to give them to you anyway. I’m quite sure Mummy will understand. Also I won’t need to tell her for quite a long time. She keeps no check on my things. I’m sure my maid would never tell her.”

“I don’t think I should take them.”

“You should, please, to give me pleasure.”

“I’m not sure it’s honorable.”

“That is like not being sure whether you are a virgin. What you do to give pleasure to another whom you love is most honorable.”

“All right,” the Colonel said. “I will take them for better or for worse.”

“Now you say thank you,” the girl said and slipped them into his pocket as quickly and ably as a jewel thief might. “I brought them with me because I have been thinking and deciding about this all week.”

“I thought you thought about my hand.”

“Don’t be surly, Richard. And you should never be stupid. It is your hand you touch them with. Didn’t you think of that?”

“No. And I was stupid. What would you like from that window?”

“I would like that small Negro with the ebony face and the turban made of chip diamonds with the small ruby on the crown of the turban. I should wear it as a pin. Everyone wore them in the old days in this city and the faces were those of their confidential servants. I have coveted this for a long time, but I wanted you to give it to me.”

“I’ll send it in the morning.”

“No. Give it to me when we have lunch before you go.”

“Right,” the Colonel said.

“Now we must walk or we will be too late for dinner.”

They started to walk, arm through arm, and as they went up the first bridge, the wind lashed at them.

When the twinge came, the Colonel said to himself, the hell with that.

“Richard,” the girl said. “Put your hand in your pocket to please me and feel them.”

The Colonel did.

“They feel wonderful,” he said.