Across the River and Into the Trees/Chapter XXIV

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◄  Chapter XXIII Across the River and Into the Trees
Chapter XXIV
written by Ernest Hemingway
Chapter XXV  ►
Charles Scribner's Sons 1950 (pages 199-201)




Chapter XXIV

HIS true love was at the table at the exact time that she said she would be. She was as beautiful as always in the hard, morning light that came across the flooded square, and she said, “Please, Richard. Are you all right? Please?”

“Sure,” the Colonel said. “You wonder beauty.”

“Did you go to all our places in the market?”

“Only a few of them. I did not go to where they have the wild ducks.”

“Thank you.”

“For nothing,” the Colonel said. “I never go there when we are not together.”

“Don’t you think I should go to the shoot?”

“No. I am quite sure. Alvarito would have asked you if he wanted you.”

“He might not have asked me because he wanted me.”

“That’s true,” the Colonel said, and pondered that for two seconds. “What do you want for breakfast?”

“Breakfast is worthless here, and I don’t like the square when it is flooded. It is sad and the pigeons have no place to alight. It is only really fun toward the last when the children play. Should we go and have breakfast at the Gritti?”

“Do you want to?”

“Yes.”

“Good. We’ll have breakfast there. I’ve had mine already.”

“Really?”

“I’ll have some coffee and hot rolls, and only feel them with my fingers. Are you awfully hungry?”

“Awfully,” she said, truly.

“We’ll give breakfast the full treatment,” the Colonel said. “You’ll wish you had never heard of breakfast.”

As they walked, with the wind at their back, and her hair blowing better than any banner, she asked him, holding close, “Do you still love me in the cold, hard Venice light of morning? It is really cold and hard isn’t it?”

“I love you and it is cold and hard.”

“I loved you all night when I was skiing in the dark.”

“How do you do that?”

“It is the same runs except that it is dark and the snow is dark instead of light. You ski the same; controlled and good.”

“Did you ski all night? That would be many runs.”

“No. Afterwards I slept soundly and well and I woke happy. You were with me and you were asleep like a baby.”

“I wasn’t with you and I was not asleep.”

“You’re with me now,” she said and held close and tight.

“And we are almost there.”

“Yes.”

“Have I told you, yet, properly, that I love you?”

“You told me. But tell me again.”

“I love you,” he said. “Take it frontally and formally please.”

“I take it anyway you want as long as it is true.”

“That’s the proper attitude,” he said. “You good, brave, lovely girl. Turn your hair sideways once on top of this bridge and let it blow obliquely.”

He had made a concession, with obliquely, instead of saying, correctly, oblique.

“That’s easy,” she said. “Do you like it?”

He looked and saw the profile and the wonder early morning colour and her chest upstanding in the black sweater and her eyes in the wind and he said, “Yes. I like it.”

“I’m very glad,” she said.