“We might as well carry them up here,” he said.
He climbed the steep road with the skis on his shoulder, kicking his heel nails into the icy footing. He heard George breathing and kicking in his heels just behind him. They stacked the skis against the side of the inn and slapped the snow off each other’s trousers, stamped their boots clean, and went in.
Inside it was quite dark. A big porcelain stove shone in the corner of the room. There was a low ceiling. Smooth benches back of dark, wine-stained tables were along each side of the room. Two Swiss sat over their pipes and two decies of cloudy new wine next to the stove. The boys took off their jackets and sat against the wall on the other side of the stove. A voice in the next room stopped singing and a girl in a blue apron came in through the door to see what they wanted to drink.
“A bottle of Sion,” Nick said. “Is that all right, Gidge?”
“Sure,” said George. “You know more about wine than I do. I like any of it.”
The girl went out.
“There’s nothing really can touch skiing, is there?” Nick said. “The way it feels when you first drop off on a long run.”
“Huh,” said George. “It’s too swell to talk about.”
The girl brought the wine in and they had trouble with the cork. Nick finally opened it. The girl went out and they heard her singing in German in the next room.
“Those specks of cork in it don’t matter,” said Nick.
“I wonder if she’s got any cake.”
“Let’s find out.”
The girl came in and Nick noticed that her apron covered swellingly her pregnancy. I wonder why I didn’t see that when she first came in, he thought.
“What were you singing?” he asked her.
“Opera, German opera.” She did not care to discuss the subject. “We have some apple Strudel if you want it.”
“She isn’t so cordial, is she?” said George.
“Oh, well. She doesn’t know us and she thought we were going to kid her about her singing, maybe. She’s from up where they speak German probably and she’s touchy about being here and then she’s got that baby coming without being married and she’s touchy.”
“How do you know she isn’t married?”
“No ring. Hell, no girls get married around here till they’re knocked up.”
The door came open and a gang of woodcutters from up the road came in, stamping their boots and steaming in the room. The waitress brought in three litres of new wine for the gang and they sat at the two tables, smoking and quiet, with their hats off, leaning back against the wall or forward on the table. Outside the horses on the wood sledges made an occasional sharp jangle of bells as they tossed their heads.
George and Nick were happy. They were fond of each other. They knew they had the run back home ahead of them.
“When have you got to go back to school?” Nick asked.
“Tonight,” George answered. “I’ve got to get the ten-forty from Montreux.”
“I wish you could stick over and we could do the Dent du Lys tomorrow.”
“I got to get educated,” George said. “Gee, Nick, don’t you wish we could just bum together? Take our skis and go on the train to where there was good running and then go on and put up at pubs and go right across the Oberland and up the Valais and all through the Engadine and just take repair kit and extra sweaters and pajamas in our rucksacks and not give a damn about school or anything.”
“Yes, and go through the Schwartzwald that way. Gee, the swell places.”
“That’s where you went fishing last summer, isn’t it?”
They ate the Strudel and drank the rest of the wine.
George leaned back against the wall and shut his eyes.
“Wine always makes me feel this way,” he said.
“Feel bad?” Nick asked.
“No. I feel good, but funny.”
“I know,” Nick said.
“Sure,” said George.
“Should we have another bottle?” Nick asked.
“Not for me,” George said.