BOOK ONE / 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.
“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?”
“Why don’t you go somewhere else?”
“Isn’t anywhere else.”
“You’re happy, all right.”
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’Opéra, 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.
“What’s the matter? You sick?”
“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 Pères.
“You oughtn’t to drink pernod if you’re sick.”
“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?”
“That’s a Flemish name.”
“You’re not Flamand?”
“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.