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We went out to the Caf

CHAPTER 3



It was a warm spring night and I sat at a table on the terrace of the Napolitain after Robert had gone, watching it get dark and the electric signs come on, and the red and green stop-and-go traffic-signal, and the crowd going by, and the horse-cabs clippety-clopping along at the edge of the solid taxi traffic, and the _poules_ going by, singly and in pairs, looking for the evening meal. I watched a good-looking girl walk past the table and watched her go up the street and lost sight of her, and watched another, and then saw the first one coming back again. She went by once more and I caught her eye, and she came over and sat down at the table. The waiter came up.


"Well, what will you drink?" I asked.


"pernod."


"That's not good for little girls."


"Little girl yourself. Dites garcon, un pernod."


"A pernod for me, too."


"What's the matter?" she asked. "Going on a party?"


"Sure. Aren't you?"


"I don't know. You never know in this town."


"Don't you like paris?"


"No."


"Why don't you go somewhere else?"


"Isn't anywhere else."


"You're happy, all right."


"Happy, hell!"


pernod is greenish imitation absinthe. When you add water it turns milky. It tastes like licorice and it has a good uplift, but it drops you just as far. We sat and drank it, and the girl looked sullen.


"Well," I said, "are you going to buy me a dinner?"


She grinned and I saw why she made a point of not laughing. With her mouth closed she was a rather pretty girl. I paid for the saucers and we walked out to the street. I hailed a horse-cab and the driver pulled up at the curb. Settled back in the slow, smoothly rolling _fiacre_ we moved up the Avenue de l'Opera, passed the locked doors of the shops, their windows lighted, the Avenue broad and shiny and almost deserted. The cab passed the New York _Herald_ bureau with the window full of clocks.


"What are all the clocks for?" she asked.


"They show the hour all over America."


"Don't kid me."


We turned off the Avenue up the Rue des pyramides, through the traffic of the Rue de Rivoli, and through a dark gate into the Tuileries. She cuddled against me and I put my arm around her. She looked up to be kissed. She touched me with one hand and I put her hand away.


"Never mind."


"What's the matter? You sick?"


"Yes."


"Everybody's sick. I'm sick, too."


We came out of the Tuileries into the light and crossed the Seine and then turned up the Rue des Saints peres.


"You oughtn't to drink pernod if you're sick."


"You neither."


"It doesn't make any difference with me. It doesn't make any difference with a woman."


"What are you called?"


"Georgette. How are you called?"


"Jacob."


"That's a Flemish name."


"American too."


"You're not Flamand?"


"No, American."


"Good, I detest Flamands."


By this time we were at the restaurant. I called to the _cocher_ to stop. We got out and Georgette did not like the looks of the place. "This is no great thing of a restaurant."


"No," I said. "Maybe you would rather go to Foyot's. Why don't you keep the cab and go on?"


I had picked her up because of a vague sentimental idea that it would be nice to eat with some one. It was a long time since I had dined with a _poule_, and I had forgotten how dull it could be. We went into the restaurant, passed Madame Lavigne at the desk and into a little room. Georgette cheered up a little under the food.


"It isn't bad here," she said. "It isn't chic, but the food is all right."


"Better than you eat in Liege."


"Brussels, you mean."


We had another bottle of wine and Georgette made a joke. She smiled and showed all her bad teeth, and we touched glasses.


"You're not a bad type," she said. "It's a shame you're sick. We get on well. What's the matter with you, anyway?"


"I got hurt in the war," I said.


"Oh, that dirty war."


We would probably have gone on and discussed the war and agreed that it was in reality a calamity for civilization, and perhaps would have been better avoided. I was bored enough. Just then from the other room some one called: "Barnes! I say, Barnes! Jacob Barnes!


"It's a friend calling me," I explained, and went out.


There was Braddocks at a big table with a party: Cohn, Frances Clyne, Mrs. Braddocks, several people I did not know.


"You're coming to the dance, aren't you?" Braddocks asked.


"What dance?"


"Why, the dancings. Don't you know we've revived them?" Mrs. Braddocks put in.


"You must come, Jake. We're all going," Frances said from the end of the table. She was tall and had a smile.


"Of course, he's coming," Braddocks said. "Come in and have coffee with us, Barnes."


"Right."


"And bring your friend," said Mrs. Braddocks laughing. She was a Canadian and had all their easy social graces.


"Thanks, we'll be in," I said. I went back to the small room.


"Who are your friends?" Georgette asked.


"Writers and artists."


"There are lots of those on this side of the river."


"Too many."


"I think so. Still, some of them make money."


"Oh, yes."


We finished the meal and the wine. "Come on," I said. "We're going to have coffee with the others."


Georgette opened her bag, made a few passes at her face as she looked in the little mirror, re-defined her lips with the lip-stick, and straightened her hat.


"Good," she said.


We went into the room full of people and Braddocks and the men at his table stood up.


"I wish to present my fiancee, Mademoiselle Georgette Leblanc," I said. Georgette smiled that wonderful smile, and we shook hands all round.


"Are you related to Georgette Leblanc, the singer?" Mrs. Braddocks asked.


"Connais pas," Georgette answered.


"But you have the same name," Mrs. Braddocks insisted cordially.


"No," said Georgette. "Not at all. My name is Hobin."


"But Mr. Barnes introduced you as Mademoiselle Georgette Leblanc. Surely he did," insisted Mrs. Braddocks, who in the excitement of talking French was liable to have no idea what she was saying.


"He's a fool," Georgette said.


"Oh, it was a joke, then," Mrs. Braddocks said.


"Yes," said Georgette. "To laugh at."


"Did you hear that, Henry?" Mrs. Braddocks called down the table to Braddocks. "Mr. Barnes introduced his fiancee as Mademoiselle Leblanc, and her name is actually Hobin."


"Of course, darling. Mademoiselle Hobin, I've known her for a very long time."


"Oh, Mademoiselle Hobin," Frances Clyne calIed, speaking French very rapidly and not seeming so proud and astonished as Mrs. Braddocks at its coming out really French. "Have you been in paris long? Do you like it here? You love paris, do you not?"


"Who's she?" Georgette turned to me. "Do I have to talk to her?"


She turned to Frances, sitting smiling, her hands folded, her head poised on her long neck, her lips pursed ready to start talking again.


"No, I don't like paris. It's expensive and dirty."


"Really? I find it so extraordinarily clean. One of the cleanest cities in all Europe."


"I find it dirty."


"How strange! But perhaps you have not been here very long."


"I've been here long enough."


"But it does have nice people in it. One must grant that."


Georgette turned to me. "You have nice friends."


Frances was a little drunk and would have liked to have kept it up but the coffee came, and Lavigne with the liqueurs, and after that we all went out and started for Braddocks's dancing-club.


The dancing-club was a _bal musette_ in the Rue de la Montagne Sainte Genevieve. Five nights a week the working people of the pantheon quarter danced there. One night a week it was the dancingclub. On Monday nights it was closed. When we arrived it was quite empty, except for a policeman sitting near the door, the wife of the proprietor back of the zinc bar, and the proprietor himself. The daughter of the house came down-stairs as we went in. There were long benches, and tables ran across the room, and at the far end a dancing-floor.


"I wish people would come earlier," Braddocks said. The daughter came up and wanted to know what we would drink. The proprietor got up on a high stool beside the dancing-floor and began to play the accordion. He had a string of bells around one of his ankles and beat time with his foot as he played. Every one danced. It was hot and we came off the floor perspiring.


"My God," Georgette said. "What a box to sweat in!"


"It's hot."


"Hot, my God!"


"Take off your hat."


"That's a good idea."


Some one asked Georgette to dance, and I went over to the bar. It was really very hot and the accordion music was pleasant in the hot night. I drank a beer, standing in the doorway and getting the cool breath of wind from the street. Two taxis were coming down the steep street. They both stopped in front of the Bal. A crowd of young men, some in jerseys and some in their shirt-sleeves, got out. I could see their hands and newly washed, wavy hair in the light from the door. The policeman standing by the door looked at me and smiled. They came in. As they went in, under the light I saw white hands, wavy hair, white faces, grimacing, gesturing, talking. With them was Brett. She looked very lovely and she was very much with them.