The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
It was now lunch time and they were all sitting under the double green fly of the dining tent pretending that nothing had happened..
“Will you have lime juice or lemon squash? Macomber asked.
“I’ll have a gimlet,” Robert Wilson told him.
“I’ll have a gimlet too. I need something,” Macomber’s wife said.
“I suppose it’s the thing to do,” Macomber agreed. “Tell him to make three gimlets.”
The mess boy had started them already, lifting the bottles out of the canvas cooling bags that sweated wet in the wind that blew through the trees that shaded the tents.
“What had I ought to give them?” Macomber asked.
“A quid would be plenty,” Wilson told him. “You don’t want to spoil them.”
“Will the headman distribute it?”
Francis Macomber had, half an hour before, been carried to his tent from the edge of the camp in triumph on the arms and shoulders of the cook, the personal boys, the skinner and the porters. The gun bearers had taken no part in the demonstration. When the native boys put him down at the door of his tent, he had shaken all their hands, received their congratulations, and then gone into the tent and sat on the bed until his wife came in. She did not speak to him when she came in and he left the tent at once to wash his face and hands in the portable wash basin outside and go over to the dining tent to sit in a comfortable canvas chair in the breeze and the shade.
“You’ve got your lion,” Robert Wilson said to him, “and a damned fine one too.”
Mrs. Macomber looked at Wilson quickly. She was an extremely handsome and well-kept woman of the beauty and social position which had, five years before, commanded five thousand dollars as the price
of endorsing, with photographs, a beauty product which she had never used. She had been married to Francis Macomber for eleven years.
“He is a good lion, isn’t he?” Macomber said. His wife looked at him now. She looked at both these men as though she had never seen them before.
One, Wilson, the white hunter, she knew she had never truly seen before. He was about middle height with sandy hair, a stubby mustache, a very red face and extremely cold blue eyes with faint white wrinkles at the corners that grooved merrily when he smiled. He smiled at her now and she looked away from his face at the way his shoulders sloped in the loose tunic he wore with the four big cartridges held in loops where the left breast pocket should have been, at his big brown hands, his old slacks, his very dirty boots and back to his red face again. She noticed where the baked red of his face stopped in a white line that marked the circle left by his Stetson hat that hung now from one of the pegs of the tent pole.
“Well, here’s to the lion,” Robert Wilson said. He smiled at her again and, not smiling, she looked curiously at her husband.
Francis Macomber was very tall, very well built if you did not mind that length of bone, dark, his hair cropped like an oarsman, rather thin-lipped, and was considered handsome. He was dressed in the same sort of safari clothes that Wilson wore except that his were new, he was thirty-five years old, kept himself very fit, was good at court games, had a number of big-game fishing records, and had just shown himself, very publicly, to be a coward.
“Here’s to the lion,” he said. “I can’t ever thank you for what you did.”
Margaret, his wife, looked away from him and back to Wilson.
“Let’s not talk about the lion,” she said.
Wilson looked over at her without smiling and now she smiled at him.