Across the River and Into the Trees/Chapter XXXVII

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◄  Chapter XXXVI Across the River and Into the Trees
Chapter XXXVII
written by Ernest Hemingway
Chapter XXXVIII  ►
Charles Scribner's Sons 1950 (pages 262-267)



Chapter XXXVII

THERE was no one in Harry’s except some early morning drinkers that the Colonel did not know, and two men that were doing business at the back of the bar.

There were hours at Harry’s when it filled with the people that you knew, with the same rushing regularity as the tide coming in at Mont St. Michel. Except, the Colonel thought, the hours of the tides change each day with the moon, and the hours at Harry’s are as the Greenwich Meridian, or the standard meter in Paris, or the good opinion the French military hold of themselves.

“Do you know any of these morning drinkers?” he asked the girl.

“No. I am not a morning drinker so I have never met them.”

“They will be swept out when the tide comes in.”

“No. They will leave, just as it comes, of their own accord.”

“Do you mind being here out of season?”

“Did you think I was a snob because I come from an old family? We’re the ones who are not snobs. The snobs are what you call jerks, and the people with all the new money. Did you ever see so much new money?”

“Yes,” the Colonel said. “I saw it in Kansas City when I used to come in from Ft. Riley to play polo at the Country Club.”

“Was it as bad as here?”

“No, it was quite pleasant. I liked it and that part of Kansas City is very beautiful.”

“Is it really? I wish that we could go there. Do they have the camps there too? The ones that we are going to stay at?”

“Surely. But we’ll stay at the Muehlebach hotel which has the biggest beds in the world and we’ll pretend that we are oil millionaires.”

“Where will we leave the Cadillac?”

“Is it a Cadillac now?”

“Yes. Unless you want to take the big Buick Road-master, with the Dynaflow drive. I’ve driven it all over Europe. It was in that last Vogue you sent me.”

“We’d probably better just use one at a time,” the Colonel said. “Whichever one we decide to use we will park in the garage alongside the Muehlebach.”

“Is the Muehlebach very splendid?”

“Wonderful. You’ll love it. When we leave town we’ll drive north to St. Joe and have a drink in the bar at the Roubidoux, maybe two drinks, and then we will cross the river and go west. You can drive, and we can spell each other.”

“What is that?”

“Take turns driving.”

“I’m driving now.”

“Let’s skip the dull part and get to Chimney Rock and go on to Scott’s Bluff and Torrington and after that you will begin to see it.”

“I have the road maps and the guides and that man who says where to eat, and the A.A.A. guide to the camps and the hotels.”

“Do you work on this much?”

“I work at it in the evenings, with the things you sent me. What kind of a license will we have?”

“Missouri. We’ll buy the car in Kansas City. We fly to Kansas City, don’t you remember? Or we can go on a really good train.”

“I thought we flew to Albuquerque.”

“That was another time.”

“Will we stop early in the afternoons at the best Motel in the A.A.A. book and I make you any drinks you want while you read the paper and Life and Time and Newsweek, and I will read the new fresh Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar?”

“Yes. But we come back here too.”

“Of course. With our car. On an Italian liner; whichever one is best then. We drive straight here from Geneva.”

“You don’t want to stop anywhere for the night?”

“Why? We want to get home to our own house.”

“Where will our house be?”

“We can decide that any time. There are always plenty of houses in this town. Would you like to live in the country too?”

“Yes,” the Colonel said. “Why not?”

“Then we could see the trees when we woke up. What sort of trees will we see on this journey?”

“Pine mostly, and cotton-wood along the creeks, and aspen. Wait till you see the aspen turn yellow in the fall.”

“I’m waiting. Where will we stay in Wyoming?”

“We’ll go to Sheridan first and then decide.”

“Is Sheridan nice?”

“It’s wonderful. In the car we’ll drive to where they had the Wagon-Box Fight and I’ll tell you about it. We will drive up, on the way to Billings, to where they killed that fool George Armstrong Custer, and you can see the markers where everybody died and I’ll explain the fight to you.”

“That will be wonderful. Which is Sheridan more like, Mantova or Verona or Vicenza?”

“It isn’t like any of those. It is right up against the mountains, almost like Schio.”

“Is it like Cortina then?”

“Nothing like. Cortina is in a high valley in the mountains. Sheridan lays right up against them. They aren’t any foot-hills to the Big Horns. They rise high out of the plateau. You can see Cloud’s Peak.”

“Will our cars climb them properly?”

“You’re damn right they will. But I would much rather not have any hydramatic drive.”

“I can do without it,” the girl said. Then she held her self straight and hard not to cry. “As I can do without everything else.”

“What are you drinking?” the Colonel said. “We haven’t even ordered yet.”

“I don’t think I will drink anything.”

“Two very dry Martinis,” the Colonel said to the bartender, “and a glass of cold water.”

He reached into his pocket and unscrewed the top of the medicine bottle, and shook two of the big tablets into his left hand. With them in his hand, he screwed the top back on the bottle. It was no feat for a man with a bad right hand.

“I said I didn’t want to drink anything.”

“I know daughter. But I thought you might need one. We can leave it on the bar. Or I can drink it myself. Please,” he said. “I did not mean to be brusque.”

“We haven’t asked for the little negro that will look after me.”

“No. Because I did not want to ask for him until Cipriani came in and I could pay for him.”

“Is everything that rigid?”

“With me, I guess,” the Colonel said. “I’m sorry daughter.”

“Say daughter three times straight.”

“Hija, figlia, Daughter.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think we should just leave here. I love to have people see us, but I don’t want to see anybody.”

“The box with the negro in it is on top of the cash register.”

“I know. I’ve seen it for sometime.”

The bar-tender came, with the two drinks, frost cold from the chilled coldness of the glasses, and he brought the glass of water.

“Give me that small packet that came in my name and is on top of the cash register,” the Colonel said to him. “Tell Cipriani I will send him a check for it.”

He had made another decision.

“Do you want your drink, daughter?”

“Yes. If you don’t mind me changing my mind too.”

They drank, after touching the glasses very lightly, so lightly that the contact was almost imperceptible.

“You were right,” she said feeling its warmth and its momentary destruction of sorrow.

“You were right too,” he said and palmed the two tablets.

He thought taking them with the water now was in bad taste. So, when the girl turned her head a moment to watch a morning drinker go out the door, he swallowed them with the Martini.

“Should we go, Daughter?”

“Yes. By all means.”

“Bar-tender,” the Colonel said. “How much are these drinks? And do not forget to tell Cipriani I am sending him a check for this nonsense.”