“This was practical enough. Wait till you hear it. Can I kiss you while you’re making supper?”

“Wait a while and I’ll tell you. What was it you were going to do?”

“Well, I guess I was ruined morally last night when I stole the whiskey. Do you think you can be ruined morally by just one thing like that?”

“No. Anyway the bottle was open.”

“Yes. But I took the empty pint bottle and the quart bottle with the whiskey in it out to the kitchen and I poured the pint bottle full and some spilled on my hand and I licked it off and I thought that probably ruined me morally.”

“How’d it taste?”

“Awfully strong and funny and a little sick-making.”

“That wouldn’t ruin you morally.”

“Well, I’m glad because if I was ruined morally how could I exercise a good influence on you?”

“I don’t know,” Nick said. “What was it you were going to do?”

He had his fire made and the skillet resting on it and he was laying strips of bacon in the skillet. His sister was watching and she had her hands folded across her knees and he watched her unclasp her hands and put one arm down and lean on it and put her legs out straight. She was practicing being a boy.

“I’ve got to learn to put my hands right.”

“Keep them away from your head.”

“I know. It would be easy if there was some boy my own age to copy.”

“Copy me.”

“That would be natural, wouldn’t it? You won’t laugh, though?”


“Gee, I hope I won’t start to be a girl while we’re on the trip.”

“Don’t worry.”

“We have the same shoulders and the same kind of legs.”

“What was the other thing you were going to do?”

Nick was cooking the trout now. The bacon was curled brown on a fresh-cut chip of wood from the piece of fallen timber they were using for the fire and they both smelled the trout cooking in the bacon fat. Nick basted them and then turned them and basted them again. It was getting dark and he had rigged a piece of canvas behind the little fire so that it would not be seen.

“What were you going to do?” he asked again. Littless leaned forward and spat toward the fire.

“How was that?”

“You missed the skillet anyway.”

“Oh, it’s pretty bad. I got it out of the Bible. I was going to take three spikes, one for each of them, and drive them into the temples of those two and that boy while they slept.”

“What were you going to drive them in with?”

“A muffled hammer.”

“How do you muffle a hammer?”

“I’d muffle it all right.”

“That nail thing’s pretty rough to try.”

“Well, that girl did it in the Bible and since I’ve seen armed men drunk and asleep and circulated among them at night and stolen their whiskey why shouldn’t I go the whole way, especially if I learned it in the Bible?”

“They didn’t have a muffled hammer in the Bible.”

“I guess I mixed it up with muffled oars.”

“Maybe. And we don’t want to kill anybody. That’s why you came along.”

“I know. But crime comes easy for you and me, Nickie. We’re different from the others. Then I thought if I was ruined morally I might as well be useful.”

“You’re crazy, Littless,” he said. “Listen, does tea keep you awake?”

“I don’t know. I never had it at night. Only pepper­mint tea.”

“I’ll make it very weak and put canned cream in it.”

“I don’t need it, Nickie, if we’re short.”

“It will just give the milk a little taste.”

They were eating now. Nick had cut them each two slices of rye bread and he soaked one slice for each in the bacon fat in the skillet. They ate that and the trout that were crisp outside and cooked well and very tender inside. Then they put the trout skeletons in the fire and ate the bacon made in a sandwich with the other piece of bread, and then Littless drank the weak tea with the condensed milk in it and Nick tapped two slivers of wood into the holes he had punched in the can.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest