BOOK ONE / CHAPTER 4
The taxi went up the hill, passed the lighted square, then on into the dark, still climbing, then levelled out onto a dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, went smoothly down the asphalt, passed the trees and the standing bus at the Place de la Contrescarpe, then turned onto the cobbles of the Rue Mouffetard. There were lighted bars and late open shops on each side of the street. We were sitting apart and we jolted close together going down the old street. Brett’s hat was off. Her head was back. I saw her face in the lights from the open shops, then it was dark, then I saw her face clearly as we came out on the Avenue des Gobelins. The street was torn up and men were working on the car-tracks by the light of acetylene flares. Brett’s face was white and the long line of her neck showed in the bright light of the flares. The street was dark again and I kissed her. Our lips were tight together and then she
Turned away and pressed against the
corner of the seat, as far away as she could get.
Her head was down.
“Don’t touch me,” she said. “Please don’t touch me.”
“What’s the matter?”
“I can’t stand it.”
“You mustn’t. You must know. I can’t stand it, that’s all. Oh, darling, please understand!”
“Don’t you love me?”
“Love you? I simply turn all to jelly when you touch me.”
“Isn’t there anything we can do about it?”
She was sitting up now. My arm was around her and she was leaning back against me, and we were quite calm. She was looking into my eyes with that way she had of looking that made you wonder whether she really saw out of her own eyes.
They would look on and on after every one else’s eyes in the world would have stopped looking. She looked as though there were nothing on earth she would not look at like that, and really she was afraid of so many things.
“And there’s not a damn thing we could do,” I said.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t want to go through that hell again.”
“We’d better keep away from each other.”
“But, darling, I have to see you. It isn’t all that you know.”
“No, but it always gets to be.”
“That’s my fault. Don’t we pay for all the things we do, though?”
She had been looking into my eyes all the time. Her eyes had different depths, sometimes they seemed perfectly flat. Now you could see all the way into them.
“When I think of the hell I’ve put chaps through. I’m paying for it all now.”
“Don’t talk like a fool,” I said. “Besides, what happened to me is supposed to be funny. I never think about it.”
“Oh, no. I’ll lay you don’t.”
“‘Well, let’s shut up about it.”
“I laughed about it too, myself, once.” She wasn’t looking at me. “A friend of my brother’s came home that way from Mons. It seemed like a hell of a joke. Chaps
Never know anything, do they?”
“No,” I said. “Nobody ever knows anything.”
I was pretty well through with the subject. At one time or another I had probably considered it from most of its various angles, including the one that certain injuries or imperfections are a subject of merriment while remaining quite serious for the person possessing them.
“It’s funny,” I said. “It’s very funny. And it’s a lot of fun, too, to be in love.”
“Do you think so?” her eyes looked flat again.
“I don’t mean fun that way. In a way it’s an enjoyable feeling.”
“No,” she said. “I think it’s hell on earth.”
“It’s good to see each other.”
“No. I don’t think it is.”
“Don’t you want to?”
“I have to.”
We were sitting now like two strangers. On the right was the Parc Montsouris.