Across the River and Into the Trees/Chapter XV

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◄  Chapter XIV Across the River and Into the Trees
Chapter XV
written by Ernest Hemingway
Chapter XVI  ►
Charles Scribner's Sons 1950 (pages 164-166)

Chapter XV

IT WAS really home, if a hotel room can be so described. His pajamas were laid on the bed. There was a bottle of Valpolicella by the reading light, and by the bed a bottle of mineral water, in an ice bucket with a glass beside it on the silver tray. The portrait had been de-framed and was placed on two chairs where he could see it from the bed.

The Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune lay on the bed beside his three pillows. He used three pillows, as Arnaldo knew, and his extra bottle of medicine, not the one that he carried in his pocket, was beside the reading light. The inner doors of the armoire, the mirrored ones, were opened in such a way, that he could see the portrait from the side. His scuffed slippers were by the bed.

I’ll buy it, the Colonel said, to himself, since there was no one else there except the portrait.

He opened the Valpolicella which had been uncorked, and then re-corked, carefully, precisely, and lovingly, and poured himself a glass into the glass which was much better than any hotel should use which was faced with breakage.

“Here’s to you, Daughter,” he said. “You beauty and lovely. Do you know, that, among other things, you smell good always? You smell wonderfully even in a high wind or under a blanket or kissing goodnight. You know almost no one does, and you don’t use scent.”

She looked at him from the portrait and said nothing.

“The hell with it,” he said. “I’m not going to talk to a picture.”

What do you think went wrong tonight? he thought.

Me, I guess. Well I will try to be a good boy tomorrow all day; starting at first light.

“Daughter,” he said, and he was talking to her, and not to a picture now. “Please know I love you and that I wish to be delicate and good. And please stay with me always now.”

The picture was the same.

The Colonel took out the emeralds from his pocket, and looked at them, feeling them slide, cold and yet warm, as they take warmth, and as all good stones have warmth, from his bad hand into his good hand.

I should have put these in an envelope and locked them up, he thought. But what the effing security is there better than I can give them? I have to get these back to you fast, Daughter.

It was fun, though. And they’re not worth more than a quarter of a million. What I would make in four hundred years. Have to check that figure.

He put the stones in the pocket of his pajamas and put a handkerchief over them. Then he buttoned the pocket. The first sound thing you learn, he thought, is to have flaps and buttons on all your pockets. I imagine that I learned it too early.

The stones felt good. They were hard and warm against his flat, hard, old, and warm chest, and he noted how the wind was blowing, looked at the portrait, poured another glass of Valpolicella and then started to read the Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune.

I ought to take the pills, he thought. But the hell with the pills.

Then he took them just the same, and went on reading the New York Herald. He was reading Red Smith, and he liked him very much.