Across the River and Into the Trees/Chapter XLV

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◄  Chapter XLIV Across the River and Into the Trees
Chapter XLV
written by Ernest Hemingway
Charles Scribner's Sons 1950 (pages 305-308)



Chapter XLV

THEY were out on the road now and the early darkness was beginning.

“Turn left,” the Colonel said.

“That’s not the road for Trieste, sir,” Jackson said.

“The hell with the road to Trieste. I ordered you to turn left. Do you think there is only one way in the world to get to Trieste?”

“No, sir. I was only pointing out to the Colonel—”

“Don’t you point me out a God-damn thing and until I direct you otherwise, don’t speak to me until you are spoken to.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m sorry, Jackson. What I mean is I know where I’m going and I want to think.”

“Yes, sir.”

They were on the old road that he knew so well and the Colonel thought, well, I sent four of the ducks I promised to those I promised them to at the Gritti. There wasn’t enough shooting to be enough feathers to do that boy’s wife any good with feathers. But they are all big ducks and fat and they will be good eating. I forgot to give Bobby the sausage.

There was no time to write Renata a note. But what could I say, in a note, that we did not say?

He reached into his pocket and found a pad and pencil. He put on the map reading light, and with his bad hand, printed a short message in block letters.

“Put that in your pocket, Jackson, and act on it if necessary. If the circumstances described occur, it is an order.”

“Yes, sir,” Jackson said and took the folded order blank with one hand and put it in the top left hand pocket of his tunic.

Now take it easy, the Colonel said to himself. Any further concern you may have is about yourself and that is just a luxury.

You are no longer of any real use to the Army of the United States. That has been made quite clear.

You have said good-bye to your girl and she has said good-bye to you.

That is certainly simple.

You shot well and Alvarito understands. That is that.

So what the hell do you have to worry about, boy? I hope you’re not the type of jerk who worries about what happens to him when there’s nothing to be done. Let’s certainly hope not.

Just then it hit him as he had known it would since they had picked up the decoys.

Three strikes is out, he thought, and they gave me four. I’ve always been a lucky son of a bitch.

It hit him again, badly.

“Jackson,” he said. “Do you know what General Thomas J. Jackson said on one occasion? On the occasion of his unfortunate death. I memorized it once. I can’t respond for its accuracy of course. But this is how it was reported: ‘Order A. P. Hill to prepare for action.’ Then some more delirious crap. Then he said, ‘No, no, let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.’ ”

“That’s very interesting, sir,” Jackson said. “That must have been Stonewall Jackson, sir.”

The Colonel started to speak but he stopped while it hit him the third time and gripped him so he knew he could not live.

“Jackson,” the Colonel said. “Pull up at the side of the road and cut to your parking lights. Do you know the way to Trieste from here?”

“Yes, sir, I have my map.”

“Good. I’m now going to get into the large back seat of this god-damned, over-sized luxurious automobile.”

That was the last thing the Colonel ever said. But he made the back seat all right and he shut the door. He shut it carefully and well.

After a while Jackson drove the car down the ditch and willow lined road with the car’s big lights on, looking for a place to turn. He found one, finally, and turned carefully. When he was on the right-hand side of the road, facing south toward the road juncture that would put him on the highway that led to Trieste, the one he was familiar with, he put his map light on and took out the order blank and read:

 

IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH THE WRAPPED PAINTING AND THE TWO SHOTGUNS IN THIS CAR WILL BE RETURNED TO THE HOTEL GRITTI VENICE WHERE THEY WILL BE CLAIMED BY THEIR RIGHTFUL OWNER SIGNED RICHARD CANTWELL, COL., INFANTRY, U.S.A.

 

“They’ll return them all right, through channels,” Jackson thought, and put the car in gear.