They sat there, Nick leaning his elbows on the table, George slumped back against the wall.
“Is Helen going to have a baby?” George said, coming down to the table from the wall.
“Late next summer.”
“Are you glad?”
“Will you go back to the States?”
“I guess so.”
“Do you want to?”
George sat silent. He looked at the empty bottle and the empty glasses.
“It’s hell, isn’t it?” he said.
“No. Not exactly,” Nick said.
“I don’t know,” Nick said.
“Will you ever go skiing together in the States?” George said.
“I don’t know,” said Nick.
“The mountains aren’t much,” George said.
“No,” said Nick. “They’re too rocky. There’s too much timber and they’re too far away.”
“Yes,” said George, “that’s the way it is in California.”
“Yes,” Nick said, “that’s the way it is everywhere I’ve ever been.”
“Yes,” said George, “that’s the way it is.”
The Swiss got up and paid and went out.
“I wish we were Swiss,” George said.
“They’ve all got goiter,” said Nick.
“I don’t believe it,” George said.
“Neither do I,” said Nick.
“Maybe we’ll never go skiing again, Nick,” George said.
“We’ve got to,” said Nick. “It isn’t worth while if you can’t.”
“We’ll go, all right,” George said.
“We’ve got to,” Nick agreed.
“I wish we could make a promise about it,” George said.
Nick stood up. He buckled his wind jacket tight. He leaned over George and picked up the two ski poles from against the wall. He stuck one of the ski poles into the floor.
“There isn’t any good in promising,” he said.
They opened the door and went out. It was very cold. The snow had crusted hard. The road ran up the hill into the pine trees.
They took down their skis from where they leaned against the wall in the inn. Nick put on his gloves. George was already started up the road, his skis on his shoulder. Now they would have the run home together.
Fathers and Sons
There had been a sign to detour in the center of the main street of this town, but cars had obviously gone through, so, believing it was some repair which had been completed, Nicholas Adams drove on through the town along the empty, brick-paved street, stopped by traffic lights that flashed on and off on this trafficless Sunday, and would be gone next year when the payments on the system were not met; on under the heavy trees of the small town that are a part of your heart if it is your town and you have walked under them, but that are only too heavy, that shut out the sun and that dampen the houses for a stranger; out past the last house and onto the highway that rose and fell straight away ahead with banks of red dirt sliced cleanly away and the second-growth timber on both sides. It was not his country but it was the middle of fall and all of this country was good to drive through and to see. The cotton was picked and in the clearings there were patches of corn, some cut with streaks of red sorghum, and, driving easily, his son asleep on the seat by his side, the day’s run made, knowing the town he would reach for the night, Nick noticed which corn fields had soy beans or peas in them, how the thickets and the cutover land lay, where the cabins and houses were in relation to the fields and the thickets, hunting the country in his mind as he went by, sizing up each clearing as to feed and cover and figuring where you would find a covey and which way they would fly.
In shooting quail you must not get between them and their habitual cover, once the dogs have found them, or when they flush they will come pouring at you, some rising steep, some skimming by your ears, whirring into a size you have never seen them in the air as they pass, the only way being to turn and take them over your shoulder as they go, before they set their wings and angle down into the thicket. Hunting this country for quail as his father had taught him, Nicholas Adams started thinking about his father. When he first thought about him it was always the eyes. The big frame, the quick movements, the wide shoulders, the hooked, hawk nose, the beard that covered the weak chin, you never thought about—it was always the eyes. They were protected in his head by the formation of the brows, set deep as though a special protection had been devised for some very valuable instrument. They saw much further and much quicker than the human eye sees and they were the great gift his father had. His father saw as a bighorn ram or as an eagle sees, literally.