I did not see Brett again until she came back from San Sebastian. One card came from her from there. It had a picture of the Concha, and said: “Darling. Very quiet and healthy. Love to all the chaps. BRETT.”
Nor did I see Robert Cohn again. I heard Frances had left for England and I had a note from Cohn saying he was going out in the country for a couple of weeks, he did not know where, but that he wanted to hold me to the fishing-trip in Spain we had talked about last winter. I could reach him always, he wrote, through his bankers.
Brett was gone, I was not bothered by Cohn’s troubles, I rather enjoyed not having to play tennis, there was plenty of work to do, I went often to the races, dined with friends, and put in some extra time at the office getting things ahead so I could leave it in charge of my secretary when Bill Gorton and I should shove off to Spain the end of June. Bill Gorton arrived, put up a couple of days at the flat and went off to Vienna. He was very cheerful and said the States were wonderful. New York was wonderful. There had been a grand theatrical season and a whole crop of great young light heavyweights. Any one of them was a good prospect to grow up, put on weight and trim Dempsey. Bill was very happy. He had made a lot of money on his last book, and was going to make a lot more. We had a good time while he was in Paris, and then he went off to Vienna. He was coming back in three weeks and we would leave for Spain to get in some fishing and go to the fiesta at Pamplona. He wrote that Vienna was wonderful. Then a card from Budapest: “Jake, Budapest is wonderful.” Then I got a wire: “Back on Monday.”
Monday evening he turned up at the flat. I heard his taxi stop and went to the window and called to him; he waved and started up-stairs carrying his bags. I met him on the stairs, and took one of the bags.
“Well,” I said, “I hear you had a wonderful trip.”
“Wonderful,” he said. “Budapest is absolutely wonderful.”
“How about Vienna?”
“Not so good, Jake. Not so good. It seemed better than it was.”
“How do you mean?” I was getting glasses and a siphon.
“Tight, Jake. I was tight.”
“That’s strange. Better have a drink.”
Bill rubbed his forehead. “Remarkable thing,” he said. “Don’t know how it happened. Suddenly it happened.”
“Four days, Jake. Lasted just four days.”
“Where did you go?”
“Don’t remember. Wrote you a post-card. Remember that perfectly.”
“Do anything else?”
“Not so sure. Possible.”
“Go on. Tell me about it.”
“Can’t remember. Tell you anything I could remember.”
“Go on. Take that drink and remember.”
“Might remember a little,” Bill said. “Remember something about a prize-fight. Enormous Vienna prize-fight. Had a nigger in it. Remember the nigger perfectly.”
“Wonderful nigger. Looked like Tiger Flowers, only four times as big. All of a sudden everybody started to throw things. Not me. Nigger’d just knocked local boy down. Nigger put up his glove. Wanted to make a speech. Awful noble-looking nigger. Started to make a speech. Then local white boy hit him. Then he knocked white boy cold. Then everybody commenced to throw chairs. Nigger went home with us in our car. Couldn’t get his clothes. Wore my coat. Remember the whole thing now. Big sporting evening.”
“Loaned the nigger some clothes and went around with him to try and get his money. Claimed nigger owed them money on account of wrecking hall. Wonder who translated? Was it me?”
“Probably it wasn’t you.”
“You’re right. Wasn’t me at all. Was another fellow. Think we called him the local Harvard man. Remember him now. Studying music.”
“How’d you come out?”
“Not so good, Jake. Injustice everywhere. Promoter claimed nigger promised let local boy stay. Claimed nigger violated contract. Can’t knock out Vienna boy in Vienna. ‘My God, Mister Gorton,’ said nigger, ‘I didn’t do nothing in there for forty minutes but try and let him stay. That white boy musta ruptured himself swinging at me. I never did hit him.’”
“Did you get any money?”
“No money, Jake. All we could get was nigger’s clothes. Somebody took his watch, too. Splendid nigger. Big mistake to have come to Vienna. Not so good, Jake. Not so good.”
“What became of the nigger?”
“Went back to Cologne. Lives there. Married. Got a family. Going to write me a letter and send me the money I loaned him. Wonderful nigger. Hope I gave him the right address.”
“You probably did.”
“Well, anyway, let’s eat,” said Bill. “Unless you want me to tell you some more travel stories.”
We went down-stairs and out onto the Boulevard St. Michel in the warm June evening.
“Where will we go?”
“Want to eat on the island?”
We walked down the Boulevard. At the juncture of the Rue Denfert-Rochereau with the Boulevard is a statue of two men in flowing robes.
“I know who they are.” Bill eyed the monument. “Gentlemen who invented pharmacy. Don’t try and fool me on Paris.”
We went on.
“Here’s a taxidermist’s,” Bill said. “Want to buy anything? Nice stuffed dog?”
“Come on,” I said. “You’re pie-eyed.”
“Pretty nice stuffed dogs,” Bill said. “Certainly brighten up your flat.”
“Just one stuffed dog. I can take ’em or leave ’em alone. But listen, Jake. Just one stuffed dog.”
“Mean everything in the world to you after you bought it. Simple exchange of values. You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog.”
“We’ll get one on the way back.”
“All right. Have it your own way. Road to hell paved with unbought stuffed dogs. Not my fault.”
We went on.
“How’d you feel that way about dogs so sudden?”
“Always felt that way about dogs. Always been a great lover of stuffed animals.”
We stopped and had a drink.
“Certainly like to drink,” Bill said. “You ought to try it some times, Jake.”
“You’re about a hundred and forty-four ahead of me.”
“Ought not to daunt you. Never be daunted. Secret of my success. Never been daunted. Never been daunted in public.”
“Where were you drinking?”
“Stopped at the Crillon. George made me a couple of Jack Roses. George’s a great man. Know the secret of his success? Never been daunted.”
“You’ll be daunted after about three more pernods.”
“Not in public. If I begin to feel daunted I’ll go off by myself. I’m like a cat that way.”
“When did you see Harvey Stone?”
“At the Crillon. Harvey was just a little daunted. Hadn’t eaten for three days. Doesn’t eat any more. Just goes off like a cat. Pretty sad.”
“He’s all right.”
“Splendid. Wish he wouldn’t keep going off like a cat, though. Makes me nervous.”
“What’ll we do to-night?”
“Doesn’t make any difference. Only let’s not get daunted. Suppose they got any hard-boiled eggs here? If they had hard-boiled eggs here we wouldn’t have to go all the way down to the island to eat.”
“Nix,” I said. “We’re going to have a regular meal.”
“Just a suggestion,” said Bill. “Want to start now?”
We started on again down the Boulevard. A horse-cab passed us. Bill looked at it.
“See that horse-cab? Going to have that horse-cab stuffed for you for Christmas. Going to give all my friends stuffed animals. I’m a nature-writer.”
A taxi passed, some one in it waved, then banged for the driver to stop. The taxi backed up to the curb. In it was Brett.
“Beautiful lady,” said Bill. “Going to kidnap us.”
“Hullo!” Brett said. “Hullo!”
“This is Bill Gorton. Lady Ashley.”
Brett smiled at Bill. “I say I’m just back. Haven’t bathed even. Michael comes in to-night.”
“Good. Come on and eat with us, and we’ll all go to meet him.”
“Must clean myself.”
“Oh, rot! Come on.”
“Must bathe. He doesn’t get in till nine.”
“Come and have a drink, then, before you bathe.”
“Might do that. Now you’re not talking rot.”
We got in the taxi. The driver looked around.
“Stop at the nearest bistro,” I said.
“We might as well go to the Closerie,” Brett said. “I can’t drink these rotten brandies.”
“Closerie des Lilas.”
Brett turned to Bill.
“Have you been in this pestilential city long?”
“Just got in to-day from Budapest.”
“How was Budapest?”
“Wonderful. Budapest was wonderful.”
“Ask him about Vienna.”
“Vienna,” said Bill, “is a strange city.”
“Very much like Paris,” Brett smiled at him, wrinkling the corners of her eyes.
“Exactly,” Bill said. “Very much like Paris at this moment.”
“You have a good start.”
Sitting out on the terraces of the Lilas Brett ordered a whiskey and soda, I took one, too, and Bill took another pernod.
“How are you, Jake?”
“Great,” I said. “I’ve had a good time.”
Brett looked at me. “I was a fool to go away,” she said. “One’s an ass to leave Paris.”
“Did you have a good time?”
“Oh, all right. Interesting. Not frightfully amusing.”
“No, hardly anybody. I never went out.”
“Didn’t you swim?”
“No. Didn’t do a thing.”
“Sounds like Vienna,” Bill said.
Brett wrinkled up the corners of her eyes at him.
“So that’s the way it was in Vienna.”
“It was like everything in Vienna.”
Brett smiled at him again.
“You’ve a nice friend, Jake.”
“He’s all right,” I said. “He’s a taxidermist.”
“That was in another country,” Bill said. “And besides all the animals were dead.”
“One more,” Brett said, “and I must run. Do send the waiter for a taxi.”
“There’s a line of them. Right out in front.”
We had the drink and put Brett into her taxi.
“Mind you’re at the Select around ten. Make him come. Michael will be there.”
“We’ll be there,” Bill said. The taxi started and Brett waved.
“Quite a girl,” Bill said. “She’s damned nice. Who’s Michael?”
“The man she’s going to marry.”
“Well, well,” Bill said. “That’s always just the stage I meet anybody. What’ll I send them? Think they’d like a couple of stuffed race-horses?”
“We better eat.”
“Is she really Lady something or other?” Bill asked in the taxi on our way down to the Ile Saint Louis.
“Oh, yes. In the stud-book and everything.”
We ate dinner at Madame Lecomte’s restaurant on the far side of the island. It was crowded with Americans and we had to stand up and wait for a place. Some one had put it in the American Women’s Club list as a quaint restaurant on the Paris quais as yet untouched by Americans, so we had to wait forty-five minutes for a table. Bill had eaten at the restaurant in 1918, and right after the armistice, and Madame Lecomte made a great fuss over seeing him.
“Doesn’t get us a table, though,” Bill said. “Grand woman, though.”
We had a good meal, a roast chicken, new green beans, mashed potatoes, a salad, and some apple-pie and cheese.
“You’ve got the world here all right,” Bill said to Madame Lecomte. She raised her hand. “Oh, my God!”
“You’ll be rich.”
“I hope so.”
After the coffee and a fine we got the bill, chalked up the same as ever on a slate, that was doubtless one of the “quaint” features, paid it, shook hands, and went out.
“You never come here any more, Monsieur Barnes,” Madame Lecomte said.
“Too many compatriots.”
“Come at lunch-time. It’s not crowded then.”
“Good. I’ll be down soon.”
We walked along under the trees that grew out over the river on the Quai d’Orléans side of the island. Across the river were the broken walls of old houses that were being torn down.
“They’re going to cut a street through.”
“They would,” Bill said.
We walked on and circled the island. The river was dark and a bateau mouche went by, all bright with lights, going fast and quiet up and out of sight under the bridge. Down the river was Notre Dame squatting against the night sky. We crossed to the left bank of the Seine by the wooden foot-bridge from the Quai de Bethune, and stopped on the bridge and looked down the river at Notre Dame. Standing on the bridge the island looked dark, the houses were high against the sky, and the trees were shadows.
“It’s pretty grand,” Bill said. “God, I love to get back.”
We leaned on the wooden rail of the bridge and looked up the river to the lights of the big bridges. Below the water was smooth and black. It made no sound against the piles of the bridge. A man and a girl passed us. They were walking with their arms around each other.
We crossed the bridge and walked up the Rue du Cardinal Lemoine. It was steep walking, and we went all the way up to the Place Contrescarpe. The arc-light shone through the leaves of the trees in the square, and underneath the trees was an S bus ready to start. Music came out of the door of the Negre Joyeux. Through the window of the Café Aux Amateurs I saw the long zinc bar. Outside on the terrace working people were drinking. In the open kitchen of the Amateurs a girl was cooking potato-chips in oil. There was an iron pot of stew. The girl ladled some onto a plate for an old man who stood holding a bottle of red wine in one hand.
“Want to have a drink?”
“No,” said Bill. “I don’t need it.”
We turned to the right off the Place Contrescarpe, walking along smooth narrow streets with high old houses on both sides. Some of the houses jutted out toward the street. Others were cut back. We came onto the Rue du Pot de Fer and followed it along until it brought us to the rigid north and south of the Rue Saint Jacques and then walked south, past Val de Grâce, set back behind the courtyard and the iron fence, to the Boulevard du Port Royal.
“What do you want to do?” I asked. “Go up to the café and see Brett and Mike?”
We walked along Port Royal until it became Montparnasse, and then on past the Lilas, Lavigne’s, and all the little cafés, Damoy’s, crossed the street to the Rotonde, past its lights and tables to the Select.
Michael came toward us from the tables. He was tanned and healthy-looking.
“Hel-lo, Jake,” he said. “Hel-lo! Hel-lo! How are you, old lad?”
“You look very fit, Mike.”
“Oh, I am. I’m frightfully fit. I’ve done nothing but walk. Walk all day long. One drink a day with my mother at tea.”
Bill had gone into the bar. He was standing talking with Brett, who was sitting on a high stool, her legs crossed. She had no stockings on.
“It’s good to see you, Jake,” Michael said. “I’m a little tight you know. Amazing, isn’t it? Did you see my nose?”
There was a patch of dried blood on the bridge of his nose.
“An old lady’s bags did that,” Mike said. “I reached up to help her with them and they fell on me.”
Brett gestured at him from the bar with her cigarette-holder and wrinkled the corners of her eyes.
“An old lady,” said Mike. “Her bags fell on me. Let’s go in and see Brett. I say, she is a piece. You are a lovely lady, Brett. Where did you get that hat?”
“Chap bought it for me. Don’t you like it?”
“It’s a dreadful hat. Do get a good hat.”
“Oh, we’ve so much money now,” Brett said. “I say, haven’t you met Bill yet? You are a lovely host, Jake.”
She turned to Mike. “This is Bill Gorton. This drunkard is Mike Campbell. Mr. Campbell is an undischarged bankrupt.”
“Aren’t I, though? You know I met my ex-partner yesterday in London. Chap who did me in.”
“What did he say?”
“Bought me a drink. I thought I might as well take it. I say, Brett, you are a lovely piece. Don’t you think she’s beautiful?”
“Beautiful. With this nose?”
“It’s a lovely nose. Go on, point it at me. Isn’t she a lovely piece?”
“Couldn’t we have kept the man in Scotland?”
“I say, Brett, let’s turn in early.”
“Don’t be indecent, Michael. Remember there are ladies at this bar.”
“Isn’t she a lovely piece? Don’t you think so, Jake?”
“There’s a fight to-night,” Bill said. “Like to go?”
“Fight,” said Mike. “Who’s fighting?”
“Ledoux and somebody.”
“He’s very good, Ledoux,” Mike said. “I’d like to see it, rather”—he was making an effort to pull himself together—“but I can’t go. I had a date with this thing here. I say, Brett, do get a new hat.”
Brett pulled the felt hat down far over one eye and smiled out from under it. “You two run along to the fight. I’ll have to be taking Mr. Campbell home directly.”
“I’m not tight,” Mike said. “Perhaps just a little. I say, Brett, you are a lovely piece.”
“Go on to the fight,” Brett said. “Mr. Campbell’s getting difficult. What are these outbursts of affection, Michael?”
“I say, you are a lovely piece.”
We said good night. “I’m sorry I can’t go,” Mike said. Brett laughed. I looked back from the door. Mike had one hand on the bar and was leaning toward Brett, talking. Brett was looking at him quite coolly, but the corners of her eyes were smiling.
Outside on the pavement I said: “Do you want to go to the fight?”
“Sure,” said Bill. “If we don’t have to walk.”
“Mike was pretty excited about his girl friend,” I said in the taxi.
“Well,” said Bill. “You can’t blame him such a hell of a lot.”