Across the River and Into the Trees/Chapter XXV

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◄  Chapter XXIV Across the River and Into the Trees
Chapter XXV
written by Ernest Hemingway
Chapter XXVI  ►
Charles Scribner's Sons 1950 (pages 202-204)



Chapter XXV

AT the Gritti, the Gran Maestro seated them at the table which was beside the window that looked out on the Grand Canal. There was no one else in the dining room.

The Gran Maestro was festive and well with the morning. He took his ulcers day by day, and his heart the same way. When they did not hurt he did not hurt either.

“Your pitted compatriot eats in bed at his hotel, my colleague tells me,” he confided to the Colonel. “We may have a few Belgians. ‘The bravest of these were the Belgians,’ ” he quoted. “There is a pair of pescecani from you know where. But they are exhausted and I believe they will eat, as pigs, in their room.”

“An excellent situation report,” the Colonel said. “Our problem, Gran Maestro, is that I have already eaten in my room as pitted does and as the pescecani will. But this lady—”

“Young girl,” interrupted the Gran Maestro with his whole-face smile. He was feeling very good since it was a completely new day.

“This very young lady wants a breakfast to end breakfasts.”

“I understand,” the Gran Maestro said and he looked at Renata and his heart rolled over as a porpoise does in the sea. It is a beautiful movement and only a few people in this world can feel it and accomplish it.

“What do you want to eat, Daughter?” the Colonel asked, looking at her early morning, unretouched dark beauty.

“Everything.”

“Would you give any suggestions?”

“Tea instead of coffee and whatever the Gran Maestro can salvage.”

“It won’t be salvage, Daughter,” said the Gran Maestro.

“I’m the one who calls her Daughter.”

“I said it honestly,” the Gran Maestro said. “We can make or fabricar rognons grilled with champignons dug by people I know. Or, raised in damp cellars. There can be an omelet with truffles dug by pigs of distinction. There can be real Canadian bacon from maybe Canada, even.”

“Wherever that is,” the girl said happily and unillusioned.

“Wherever that is,” said the Colonel seriously. “And I know damn well where it is.”

“I think we should stop the jokes now and get to the breakfast.”

“If it is not unmaidenly I think so too. Mine is a decanted flask of the Valpolicella.”

“Nothing else?”

“Bring me one ration of the alleged Canadian bacon,” the Colonel said.

He looked at the girl, since they were alone now, and he said, “How are you my dearest?”

“Quite hungry, I suppose. But thank you for being good for so long a time.”

“It was easy,” the Colonel told her in Italian.