“Prunes taste like a celebration,” Littless said. “Think of that. How did you sleep, Nickie?”


“Thank you for putting the Mackinaw on me. Wasn’t it a lovely night, though?”

“Yes. Did you sleep all night?”

“I’m still asleep. Nickie, can we stay here always?”

“I don’t think so. You’d grow up and have to get married.”

“I’m going to get married to you anyway. I want to be your common-law wife. I read about it in the pa­per.”

“That’s where you read about the Unwritten Law.”

“Sure. I’m going to be your common-law wife under the Unwritten Law. Can’t I, Nickie?”


“I will. I’ll surprise you. All you have to do is live a certain time as man and wife. I’ll get them to count this time now. It’s just like homesteading.”

“I won’t let you file.”

“You can’t help yourself. That’s the Unwritten Law. I’ve thought it out lots of times. I’ll get cards printed Mrs. Nick Adams, Cross Village, Michigan—common-law wife. I’ll hand these out to a few people openly each year until the time’s up.”

“I don’t think it would work.”

“I’ve got another scheme. We’ll have a couple of children while I’m a minor. Then you have to many me under the Unwritten Law.”

“That’s not the Unwritten Law.”

“I get mixed up on it.”

“Anyway, nobody knows yet if it works.”

“It must,” she said. “Mr. Thaw is counting on it.”

“Mr. Thaw might make a mistake.”

“Why Nickie, Mr. Thaw practically invented the Un­written Law.”

“I thought it was his lawyer.”

“Well, Mr. Thaw put it in action anyway.”

“I don’t like Mr. Thaw,” Nick Adams said.

“That’s good. There’s things about him I don’t like either. But he certainly made the paper more interesting reading, didn’t he?”

“He gives the others something new to hate.”

“They hate Mr. Stanford White, too.”

“I think they’re jealous of both of them.”

“I believe that’s true, Nickie. Just like they’re jealous of us.”

“Think anybody is jealous of us now?”

“Not right now maybe. Our mother will think we’re fugitives from justice steeped in sin and iniquity. It’s a good thing she doesn’t know I got you that whiskey.”

“I tried it last night. It’s very good.”

“Oh, I’m glad. That’s the first whiskey I ever stole anywhere. Isn’t it wonderful that it’s good? I didn’t think anything about those people could be good.”

“I’ve got to think about them too much. Let’s not talk about them,” Nick said.

“All right. What are we going to do today?”

“What would you like to do?”

“I’d like to go to Mr. John’s store and get everything we need.”

“We can’t do that.”

“I know it. What do you plan to really do?”

“We ought to get some berries and I ought to get a partridge or some partridges. We’ve always got trout. But I don’t want you to get tired of trout.”

“Were you ever tired of trout?”

“No. But they say people get tired of them.”

“I wouldn’t get tired of them,” Littless said. “You get tired of pike right away. But you never get tired of trout nor of perch. I know, Nickie. True.”

“You don’t get tired of walleyed pike either,” Nick said. “Only of shovelnose. Boy, you sure get tired of them.”

“I don’t like the pitchfork bones,” his sister said. “It’s a fish that surfeits you.”

“We’ll clean up here and I’ll find a place to cache the shells and we’ll make a trip for berries and try to get some birds.”

“I’ll bring two lard pails and a couple of the sacks,” his sister said.

“Littless,” Nick said. “You remember about going to the bathroom, will you please?”

“Of course.”

“That’s important.”

“I know it.” You remember, too.”

“I will.”

Nick went back into the timber and buried the carton of .22 long-rifles and the loose boxes of .22 shorts under the brown-needled floor at the base of a big hemlock. He put back the packed needles he had cut with his knife and made a small cut as far up as he could reach on the heavy bark of the tree. He took a bearing on the tree and then came out onto the hillside and walked down to the lean-to.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest