Across the River and Into the Trees/Chapter XXXIX

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◄  Chapter XXXVIII Across the River and Into the Trees
Chapter XXXIX
written by Ernest Hemingway
Chapter XL  ►
Charles Scribner's Sons 1950 (pages 274-277)



Chapter XXXIX

THE hall porter had telephoned, under the direction of the concierge, and it was the same motor boat that they had ridden in before.

T5 Jackson was in the boat with the luggage, and the portrait, which had been well and sturdily wrapped. It was still blowing hard.

The Colonel had paid his bill and made the proper tips. The people of the hotel had put the luggage and the picture in the boat, and seen that Jackson was seated properly. Then they had retired.

“Well, daughter,” the Colonel said.

“Can’t I ride with you to the garage?”

“It would be just as bad at the garage.”

“Please let me ride to the garage.”

“All right,” the Colonel said. “It’s your show, really. Get in.”

They did not talk at all, and the wind was a stern wind so that, with what speed the old calamity of a motor made, there seemed almost to be no wind at all.

At the landing place, where Jackson was handing the luggage to a porter, and looking after the portrait himself, the Colonel said, “Do you want to say good-bye here?”

“Do I have to?”

“No.”

“May I come up to the bar in the garage while they are getting the car down?”

“That will be worse.”

“I do not care.”

“Get that stuff up to the garage, and have somebody look after it until you get the car down,” the Colonel said to Jackson. “Check on my guns and pack this stuff in a way to give the maximum space in the rear seat.”

“Yes, sir,” Jackson said.

“Am I going then?” the girl asked.

“No,” the Colonel told her.

“Why can’t I go?”

“You know very well. You weren’t invited.”

“Please don’t be bad.”

“Christ, Daughter, if you knew how hard I am trying not to be. It’s easy if you’re bad. Let’s pay this good man off, and go over and sit on the bench there under the tree.”

He paid the owner of the motor boat, and told him that he had not forgotten about the jeep engine. He also told him not to count on it, but that there was a good chance that he could get it.

“It will be a used engine. But it will be better than that coffee pot you have in there now.”

They went up the worn stone steps and walked across the gravel and sat on a bench under the trees.

The trees were black and moved in the wind, and there were no leaves on them. The leaves had fallen early, that year, and been swept up long ago.

A man came over to offer postcards for sale and the Colonel told him, “Run along, son. We don’t need you now.”

The girl was crying, finally, although she had made the decision never to cry.

“Look, Daughter,” the Colonel said. “There isn’t anything to say. They didn’t install shock-absorbers in this vehicle we ride in now.”

“I’ve stopped,” she said. “I’m not an hysterical.”

“I wouldn’t say you were. I’d say you were the loveliest and most beautiful girl that ever lived. Any time. Any place. Anywhere.”

“If it were true, what difference would it make?”

“You have me there,” the Colonel said. “But it is true.”

“So now what?”

“So now we stand up and kiss each other and say good-bye.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t know,” the Colonel said. “I guess that is one of the things everybody has to figure out for themselves.”

“I’ll try to figure it.”

“Just take it as easy as you can, Daughter.”

“Yes,” the girl said. “In the vehicle without the shock-absorbers.”

“You were tumbril bait from the start.”

“Can’t you do anything kindly?”

“I guess not. But I’ve tried.”

“Please keep on trying. That’s all the hope we have.”

“I’ll keep on trying.”

So they held each other close and kissed each other hard and true, and the Colonel took the girl across the stretch of gravel and down the stone steps.

“You ought to take a good one. Not that old displaced engine boat.”

“I’d rather take the displaced engine boat if you don’t mind.”

“Mind?” the Colonel said. “Not me. I only give orders and obey orders. I don’t mind. Good-bye, my dear, lovely, beautiful.”

“Good-bye,” she said.