28. There is no month in the whole year, in which nature wears a more beautiful appearance than in the month of August; Spring has many beauties, and May is a fresh and blooming month: but the charms of this time of year are enhanced by their contrast with the winter season. August has no such advantage. It comes when we remember nothing but clear skies, green fields, and sweet-smelling flowers - when the recollection of snow, and ice. and bleak winds, has faded from our minds as completely as they have disappeared from the earth - and yet what a pleasant time it is. Orchards and cornfields ring with the hum of labour; trees bend beneath the thick clusters of rich fruit which bow their branches to the ground; and the corn, piled in graceful sheaves, or waving in every light breath that sweeps above it, as if it wooed the sickle, tinges the landscape with a golden hue. A mellow softness appears to hang over the whole earth; the influence of the season seems to extend itself to the very wagon, whose slow motion across the wellreaped field is perceptible only to the eye, but strikes with no harsh sound upon the ear. (D.)
29. They say you never hear the one that hits you. That is true of bullets because if you hear them they are already past. I heard the last shell that hit this hotel. Heard it start from the battery, then come with a whistling incoming roar like a subway train, to crash against a cornice and shower the room with broken glass and plaster. And while the glass still tinkled down and you listened for the next one to start, you realized that now finally you were back in Madrid.
Madrid is quiet now. Aragon is the active front. There is little fighting around Madrid except mining and countermining, trench raiding, trench mortar strafing and sniping in the stalemate of constant siege warfare going on in Carabanchel, Usera and University City. The cities are shelled very little. Some days there is no shelling and the weather is beautiful and the streets crowded. Shops full of clothing, jewelry stores, camera shops, picture dealers, antiquarians are all open and cafes and bars are crowded. Beer is scarce and whisky is almost unobtainable. The store windows are full of Spanish imitations of all cordials, whiskys, vermouths. These are not recommended for internal use though I am employing something called Milords Ecosses Whisky on my face after shaving. It swarts a little but feels very hygienic. I believe it would be a possible cure for athlete's foot, but one must be very careful not to spill it on one's clothes because it eats wool.
The crowds are cheerful and the sandbagged-fronted cinemas are crowded every afternoon. The nearer one gets to the front, the more cheerful and optimistic the people are. At the front itself optimism reaches such a point that, very much against my good judgement, I was induced to go swimming in a small river forming No Man's Land on the Guenca. The river was a fast flowing stream, very chilly and completely dominated by the Fascist positions, which made me even chiller. I became so chilly at the idea of swimming in the river at all under the circumstances that when I actually entered the water it felt rather pleasant. But it felt even pleasanter to get out of the water and behind a tree. At this moment a Government officer, who was a member of the optimistic swimming parry shot a watersnake with his pistol, hitting it on the third shot. This brought a reprimand from another not so completely optimistic officer member who asked what he wanted to do with that shooting, get the machineguns turned on us? We shot no more snakes that day but I saw three trout in the stream which would weigh over four pound apiece. Heavy old deep-sided ones that rolled up to take the grasshoppers I threw them, making swirls in the water as deep as though you had dropped a paving stone into the stream. All along the stream where no road ever led until the war you could see trout, small ones in the shallows and the bigger kind in the pools and in the shadows of the bank. It is a river worth fighting for, but just a little cold for swimming.
At this moment a shell has just alighted on a house up the street from the hotel where I am typing this. A little boy is crying in the street. A Militiaman has picked him and is comforting him. There is no one killed in our street and the people who started to run slowed down and grin nervously. The one who never started to run at all looks at the others in a very superior way, and the town we are living in now is called Madrid. (H.)
30. And then he remembered that he did not love Gloria. He could not love a common thief. She was a common thief, too. You could see that in her face. There was something in her face, some unconventional thing along with the rest of her beauty, her mouth and eyes and nose -somewhere around the eyes, perhaps, or was it the mouth? - she did not have the conventional look. Emily, yes, Emily had it. He could look at Emily dispassionately, impersonally, as though he did not know her - objectively? wasn't it called? He could look at her and see how much she looked like dozens of girls who had been born and brought up as she had been. You saw them at the theatres, at the best cabarets and speakeasies, at the good clubs on Long Island - and then you saw the same girls, the same women, dressed the same, differing only in the accent of their speech, at clubs in other cities, at horse shows and football games and dances, at Junior League conventions. Emily, he decided after eighteen years of marriage, was a type. And he knew why she was a type, or he knew the thing that made the difference in the look of a girl like Gloria. Gloria led a certain kind of life, a sordid life; drinking and sleeping with men and God knows what all, and had seen more of "life" than Emily ever possibly would see. Whereas Emily had been brought up a certain way, always accustomed to money and the good ways of spending it. In other words, all her life Emily had been looking at nice things, nice houses, cars, pictures, grounds, clothes, people. Things that were easy to look at, and people that were easy to look at: with healthy complexions and good teeth, people who had had pasturized milk to drink and proper food all their lives from the time they were infants; people who lived in houses that were kept clean, and painted when paint was needed, who took care of their minds, were taken care of: and they got the look that Emily and girls-women like her had. Whereas Gloria -well, take for instance the people she was with the night he saw her two nights ago, the first night he went out with her. The man that liked to eat, for instance. Where did he come from? He might have come from the Ghetto. Ligget happened to know that there were places in the slums where eighty families would use the same outside toilet. A little thing, but imagine what it must look like! Imagine having spent your formative years living like, well, somewhat the way you lived in the Army. Imagine what effect that would have on your mind. And of course a thing like that didn't only affect your mind: it showed in your face, absolutely. Not that it was so obvious in Gloria's case. She had good teeth and a good complexion and a healthy body but there was something wrong somewhere. She had not gone to the very best schools, for instance. A little thing perhaps, but important. Her family - he didn't know anything about them; just that she lived with her mother and her mother's brother. Maybe she was a bastard. That was possible. She could be a bastard. That can happen in this country. Maybe her mother was never married. Sure, that could happen in this country. He never heard of it except among poor people and Gloria's family were not poor. But why couldn't it happen in this country? The first time he and Emily ever stayed together they took a chance on having children, and in those days people didn't know as much about not getting caught as they do today. Gloria was even older than Ruth so maybe her mother had done just what Emily had done, with no luck. Maybe Gloria's father was killed in a railroad accident or something, intending to marry Gloria's mother, but on the night he first stayed with her, maybe on his way home he was killed by an automobile or a hold-up man, or something. It could happen. There was a fellow in New Haven that was very mysterious about his family. His mother was on the stage, and nothing was ever said about his father. Liggett wished now that he had known the fellow better. Now he couldn't remember the fellow's name, but some of the fellows in Liggett's crowd had wondered about this What's-His-Name. He drew for the "Record". An artist. Well, bastards were always talented people. Some of the most famous men in history were bastards. Not bastards in any derogatory sense of the word, but love children. (How awful to be a love child. It'd be better to be a bastard. If I were a bastard I'd rather be called a bastard than a love child.) Now Gloria, she drew or painted. She was interested in art. And she certainly knew a lot of funny people. She knew that bunch of kids from New Haven, young Billy and those kids. But anybody could meet them, and anybody could meet Gloria. God damn it! That was the worst of it! Anybody could meet Gloria. He thought that all through dinner, looking at his wife, his two daughters, seeing in their faces the thing he had been thinking about: a proper upbringing and looking at nice things and what it does to your face. He saw them, and he thought of Gloria, and that anybody could meet Gloria, and anybody, somebody she picked up in a speakeasy somewhere, probably was with her now, this minute. "I don't think I'll wait for dessert," he said. (J.O'H.)