“That’s a young man that will go a long way in Italy,” I said to Guy.

“Well,” said Guy, “he went twenty kilometers with us.”


We came into Spezia looking for a place to eat. The street was wide and the houses high and yellow. We followed the tram-track into the centre of town. On the walls of the houses were stenciled eye-bugging portraits of Mussolini, with hand-painted “vivas”, the double V in black paint with drippings of paint down the wall. Side-streets went down to the harbor. It was bright and the people were all out for Sunday. The stone paving had been sprinkled and there were damp stretches in the dust. We went close to the curb to avoid a train.

“Let’s eat somewhere simple,” Guy said.

We stopped opposite two restaurant signs. We were standing across the street and I was buying the papers. The two restaurants were side by side. A woman standing in the doorway of one smiled at us and we crossed the street and went in.

It was dark inside and at the back of the room three girls were sitting at a table with an old woman. Across from us, at another table, sat a sailor. He sat there neither eating nor drinking. Further back, a young man in a blue suit was writing at a table. His hair was pomaded and shining and he was very smartly dressed and clean-cut looking.

The light came through the doorway, and through the window where vegetables, fruit, steaks, and chops were arranged in a showcase. A girl came and took our order and another girl stood in the doorway. We noticed that she wore nothing under her house dress. The girl who took our order put her arm around Guy’s neck while we were looking at the menu. There were three girls in all, and they all took turns going and standing in the doorway. The old woman at the table in the back of the room spoke to them and they sat down again with her.

There was no doorway leading from the room except into the kitchen. A curtain hung over it. The girl who had taken our order came in from the kitchen with spaghetti. She put it on the table and brought a bottle of red wine and sat down at the table.

“Well,” I said to Guy, “you wanted to eat at some place simple.”

“This isn’t simple. This is complicated.”

“What do you say?” asked the girl. “Are you Germans?”

“South Germans,” I said. “The South Germans are a gentle, lovable people.”

“Don’t understand,” she said.

“What’s the mechanics of this place?” Guy asked. “Do I have to let her put her arm around my neck?”

“Certainly,” I said. “Mussolini has abolished brothels. This is a restaurant.”

The girl wore a one-piece dress. She leaned forward against the table and put her hands on her breasts and smiled. She smiled better on one side than on the other and turned the good side towards us. The charm of the good side had been enhanced by some event which had smoothed the other side of her nose in, as warm wax can be smoothed. Her nose, however, did not look like warm wax. It was very cold and firmed, only smoothed in. “You like me?” she asked Guy.

“He adores you,” I said. “But he doesn’t speak Italian.”

“Ich spreche Deutsch,” she said, and stroked Guy’s hair.

“Speak to the lady in your native tongue, Guy.”

“Where do you come from?” asked the lady.


“And you will stay here now for a little while?”

“In this so dear Spezia?” I asked.

“Tell him we have to go,” said Guy. “Tell her we are very ill, and have no money.”

“My friend is a misogynist,” I said, “an old German misogynist.”

“Tell him I love him.”

I told him.

“Will you shut your mouth and get us out of here?” Guy said. The lady had placed another arm around his neck. “Tell him he is mine,” she said.

I told him.

“Will you get us out of here?”

“You are quarreling,” the lady said. “You do not love one another.”

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest