“Boy!” Nick said, remembering.

Bill reached over to the table under the window for the book that lay there, face down, where he had put it when he went to the door. He held his glass in one hand and the book in the other, leaning back against Nick’s chair.

“What are you reading?”

“Richard Feverel.”

“I couldn’t get into it.”

“It’s all right,” Bill said. “It ain’t a bad book, Wemedge.”

“What else have you got I haven’t read,” Nick asked.

“Did you read the Forest Lovers?”

“Yup. That’s the one where they go to bed every night with the naked sword between them.”

“That’s a good book, Wemedge.”

“It’s a swell book. What I couldn’t ever understand was what good the sword would do. It would have to stay edge up all the time because if it went over flat you could roll right over it and it wouldn’t make any trouble.”

“It’s a symbol,” Bill said.

“Sure,” said Nick, “but it isn’t practical.”

“Did you ever read Fortitude?”

“It’s fine,” Nick said. “That’s a real book. That’s where his old man is after him all the time. Have you got any more by Walpole?”

“The Dark Forest,” Bill said. “It’s about Russia.”

“What does he know about Russia?” Nick asked.

“I don’t know. You can’t ever tell about those guys. Maybe he was there when he was a boy. He’s got a lot of dope on it.”

“I’d like to meet him,” Nick said.

“I’d like to meet Chesterton,” Bill said.

“I wish he was here now,” Nick said. “We’d take him fishing to the ’Voix tomorrow.”

“I wonder if he’d like to go fishing,” Bill said.

“Sure,” said Nick. “He must be about the best guy there is. Do you remember the ‘Flying Inn’?”

If an angel out of heaven

Gives you something else to drink,

Thank him for his kind intentions;

Go and pour them down the sink.

“That’s right,” said Nick. “I guess he’s a better guy than Walpole.”

“Oh, he’s a better guy, all right,” Bill said.

“But Walpole’s a better writer.”

“I don’t know,” Nick said. “Chesterton’s a classic.”

“Walpole’s a classic, too,” Bill insisted.

“I wish we had them both here,” Nick said. “We’d take them both fishing to the ’Voix tomorrow.”

“Let’s get drunk,” Bill said.

“All right,” Nick agreed.

“My old man won’t care,” Bill said.

“Are you sure?” said Nick.

“I know it,” Bill said.

“I’m a little drunk now,” Nick said.

“You aren’t drunk,” Bill said.

He got up from the floor and reached for the whiskey bottle. Nick held out his glass. His eyes fixed on it while Bill poured.

Bill poured the glass half full of whiskey.

“Put in your own water,” he said. “There’s just one more shot.”

“Got any more?” Nick asked.

“There’s plenty more, but Dad only likes me to drink what’s open.”

“Sure,” said Nick.

“He says opening bottles is what makes drunkards,” Bill explained.

“That’s right,” said Nick. He was impressed. He had never thought of that before. He had always thought it was solitary drinking that made drunkards.

“How is your dad?” he asked respectfully.

“He’s all right,” Bill said. “He gets a little wild sometimes.”

“He’s a swell guy,” Nick said. He poured water into his glass out of the pitcher. It mixed slowly with the whiskey. There was more whiskey than water.

“You bet your life he is,” Bill said.

“My old man’s all right,” Nick said.

“You’re damn right he is,” said Bill.

“He claims he’s never taken a drink in his life,” Nick said, as though announcing a scientific fact.

“Well, he’s a doctor. My old man’s a painter. That’s different.”

“He’s missed a lot,” Nick said sadly.

“You can’t tell,” Bill said. “Everything’s got its compensations.”

“He says he’s missed a lot himself,” Nick confessed.

“Well, Dad’s had a tough time,” Bill said.

“It all evens up,” Nick said.

They sat looking into the fire and thinking of this profound truth.

“I’ll get a chunk from the back porch,” Nick said. He had noticed while looking into the fire that the fire was dying down. Also he wished to show he could hold his liquor and be practical. Even if his father had never touched a drop Bill was not going to get him drunk before he himself was drunk.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest