|A hotel in Ravello, Italy near the sea.|
Their room was on the second floor facing the sea. It also faced the public garden and the war monument. There were big palms and green benches in the public garden.
In the good weather there was always an artist with his easel. Artists liked the way the palms grew and the bright colors of the hotels facing the gardens and the sea.
Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. It was made of bronze and glistened in the rain.
Today, it was raining.
The rain dripped from the palm trees. Water stood in pools on the gravel paths. The sea broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back down the beach to come up and break again in a long line in the rain.
Most cars were gone from the square by the war monument. Across the square in the doorway of the café a waiter stood looking out at the empty square.
The American wife [Hadley] stood at the window looking out. Outside right under their window a cat was crouched under one of the dripping green tables. The cat was trying to make herself so compact that she would not be dripped on.
‘I’m going down and get that kitty,’ the American wife said.
‘I’ll do it,’ her husband [George] offered from the bed.
‘No, I’ll get it. The poor kitty out trying to keep dry under a table.’
The husband went on reading, lying propped up with the two pillows at the foot of the bed. ‘Don’t get wet,’ he said.
Hadley went downstairs and the hotel owner stood up and bowed to her as she passed the office. His desk was at the far end of the office. He was an old man and very tall.
‘Il piove,1’the wife said.
‘Si, Si, Signora, brutto tempo. It is very bad weather.’ He stood behind his desk in the far end of the dim room. The wife liked him. She liked the deadly serious way he received any complaints. She liked his dignity. She liked the way he wanted to serve her. She liked the way he felt about being a hotelkeeper. She liked his old, heavy face and big hands. She moved to the door, opened it and looked out.
It was raining harder.
A man in a rubber cape was crossing the empty square to the café. The cat would be around to the right. Perhaps she could go along under the eaves. As she stood in the doorway an umbrella opened behind her. It was the maid who looked after their room.
‘You must not get wet,’ she smiled, speaking Italian. Of course, the hotel-keeper had sent her. With the maid holding the umbrella over her, she walked along the gravel path until she was under their window. The table was there, washed bright green in the rain, but the cat was gone. She was suddenly disappointed. The maid looked up at her. ‘Ha perduto qualque cosa, Signora?’
‘There was a cat,’ said the American girl.
‘Si, il gatto.’
‘A cat?’ the maid laughed. ‘A cat in the rain?’
‘Yes, –’ she said, ‘under the table.’ Then, ‘Oh, I wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty.’ When she talked English the maid’s face tightened.
‘Come, Signora,’ she said. ‘We must get back inside. You will be wet.’
‘I suppose so,’ said the American girl. They went back along the gravel path and passed in the door. The maid stayed outside to close the umbrella.
As the American girl passed the office, the padrone bowed from his desk. Something felt very small and tight inside the girl. The padrone made her feel very small and at the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance. She went on up the stairs. She opened the door of the room. George was on the bed, reading.
‘Did you get the cat?’ he asked, putting the book down.
‘It was gone.’
‘Wonder where it went to,’ he said, rubbing his eyes from reading.
She sat down on the bed. ‘I wanted it so much,’ she said. ‘I don’t know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor kitty. It isn’t any fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain.’
George was reading again.
She went over and sat in front of the mirror of the dressing table looking at herself with the hand glass. She studied her profile, first one side and then the other. Then she studied the back of her head and her neck. ‘Don’t you think it would be a good idea if I let my hair grow out?’ she asked, looking at her profile again.
George looked up and saw the back of her neck, clipped close like a boy’s. Women were wearing their hair shorter now that the war was still raging. ‘I like it the way it is.’
‘I get so tired of it,’ Hadley said. ‘I get so tired of looking like a boy.’
George shifted his position in the bed. He hadn’t looked away from her since she started to speak. ‘You look pretty darn nice,’ he said.
She laid the mirror down on the dresser and went over to the window and looked out. It was getting darker. ‘I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back that I can feel,’ she said. ‘I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her.’
‘Yeah?’ George said from the bed.
‘And I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles. And I want it to be spring and I want to brush my hair out in front of a mirror and I want a kitty and I want some new clothes.’
‘Oh, find something to read,’ George said. He was reading again. His wife was looking out of the window. It was quite dark now and still raining in the palm trees.
‘Anyway, I want a cat,’ she said, ‘I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can’t have long hair or any fun, I can have a cat.’
George was not listening. He was still reading his book. His wife still looked out of the window where the light had come on in the square.
There was a knock at the door.
‘Avanti,’ George said. He looked up from his book.
In the doorway stood the maid. She held the tortoiseshell kitten pressed tight against her and swung down against her body. ‘Excuse me,’ she said, ‘the padrone asked me to bring this for the Signora.’
|Author Hemingway with one of the cat’s in his life. He loved cats.|
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