凯瑟琳沿着湖走，往小 旅馆去找弗格逊，我则坐在酒吧间里看报。酒吧间里备有舒服的皮椅，我就坐在一只皮椅上看报，一直到酒保来了。原来意军连塔利亚门托河都没守住。他们正在朝 皮阿维河退却。我还记得皮阿维河。上前线去时，火车在圣多那附近跨过这条河。那儿河水又深又慢，相当狭窄。河下边是蚊蚋丛生的沼泽和运河。那儿有些可爱的 别墅。战前我有一次上科丁那丹佩佐②去，曾在临河的山间走了几小时。从山上望下去，那河道倒像一条出鳟鱼的溪流，水流得很急，有一段段的浅滩，山岩阴影下 有水潭。公路到了卡多雷就和河道岔开了。不晓得山岭上的军队撤退
酒保披上一件上衣，我们就走出去。我们走到湖边，上了一条船，我划船，酒保坐在船尾放出线去钓湖上的鳟鱼——线的一头有一个旋转匙形的诱饵和一个沉 重的铅锤。我沿着湖岸划船，酒保手里扯着线，时而朝前抖它一抖。从湖上看来，施特雷沙相当荒凉，一长排一长排光秃的树木、一座座大旅馆和关闭的别墅。我把 船划出去，横跨湖面，划到美人岛①，紧挨着石壁，在那儿，湖水突然变深了，你看见岩壁在晶莹的湖水中低斜下去，接着我们又朝北划往渔人岛。太阳给一朵云遮 住了，湖水黑暗平滑，冷气逼人。我们虽然看见水上有鱼上升时的一些涟漪，但是始终没有鱼来上钩。
酒保划船回去。我们到施特雷沙后边的湖上钓鱼，接着又划到离岸不远的地方试试。我握着绷紧的鱼线，感觉到那旋转中的诱饵在轻微抖动，眼睛望着十一月 中的暗淡的湖水和荒凉的湖岸。酒保荡长桨，船每往前一冲，鱼线就跳动一下。一次有一条鱼来咬钩，钓线突然扳紧，往后死抖，我用手去拉，感觉到一条活蹦蹦的 鳟鱼的分量，随后钓线又是有规则地跳动着。鱼溜啦。
我们下楼和弗格逊一同吃中饭。弗格逊对这旅馆和饭厅的富丽堂皇，印象很深。我们吃了顿很好的午餐，还喝了两瓶卡普里白葡萄酒。葛雷非伯爵到饭厅里 来，对我们点点头。陪着他的是他的侄女，她那模样有点像我的祖母。我把他的来历告诉了凯瑟琳和弗格逊，弗格逊又是印象很深。旅馆又宏大又空旷，但是饭菜很 好，酒也很好，大家喝了酒以后愉快起来。凯瑟琳再也没有别的要求了。她很快乐。弗格逊也相当高兴。我也觉得挺不错。饭后弗格逊回她旅馆去了。她饭后要躺一 会儿，她说。那天午后近黄昏时，有人来敲房门。
① 美人岛原只是湖中的一些大岩石，后来经过17 世纪一位巴罗美伯爵加以点缀修建，成为著名名胜地。
葛雷非伯爵已经在弹子间里。他正在练习打弹子，弹子台顶上的灯光照耀下来，他的身子显得很脆弱。灯光圈外不远的地方有一张打纸牌的桌子，上面摆着一 只放冰的银桶，冰块上突出着两瓶香槟酒的瓶颈和瓶塞。我进去往台子走，葛雷非伯爵直起身子朝我迎上来。他伸出手来。“你在这里真是太叫人愉快了。你还赏光 和我打弹子，实在太好了。““谢谢你的邀请。““你完全恢复了没有？人家告诉我，你在伊孙左河上受了伤。我希望你现在好了。“
② 阿比西尼亚，现名埃塞俄比亚，在非洲东北部。1896 年意军进犯，结果失败。
“谢谢。我已经是如此了。还有，你以后倘若变得虔诚的话，我死后请替我祷告。这事我已经拜托了好几位朋友。我本以为自己会虔诚起来，可是到底不 行。“他似乎苦笑了一下，不过到底笑还是没笑，却很难说。他太老了，满脸皱纹，一笑起来，牵动那么多的皱纹，全然分不出层次。“我可能变得很虔诚，“我 说。“无论如何，我为你祷告就是了。““我一向以为自己会变得虔诚的。我家里的人，死时都很虔诚。但是我到现在还不热心。“
Catherine went along the lake to the little hotel to see Ferguson and I sat in the bar and read the papers. There were comfortable leather chairs in the bar and I sat in one of them and read until the barman came in. The army had not stood at the Tagliamento. They were falling back to the Piave. I remembered the Piave. The railroad crossed it near San Dona going up to the front. It was deep and slow there and quite narrow. Down below there were mosquito marshes and canals. There were some lovely villas. Once, before the war, going up to Cortina D'Ampezzo I had gone along it for several hours in the hills. Up there it looked like a trout stream, flowing swiftly with shallow stretches and pools under the shadow of the rocks. The road turned off from it at Cadore. I wondered how the army that was up there would come down. The barman came in.
"Count Greffi was asking for you," he said.
"Count Greffi. You remember the old man who was here when you were here before."
"Is he here?"
"Yes, he's here with his niece. I told him you were here. He wants you to play billiards."
"Where is he?"
"He's taking a walk."
"How is he?"
"He's younger than ever. He drank three champagne cocktails last night before dinner."
"How's his billiard game?"
"Good. He beat me. When I told him you were here he was very pleased. There's nobody here for him to play with."
Count Greffi was ninety-four years old. He had been a contemporary of Metternich and was an old man with white hair and mustache and beautiful manners. He had been in the diplomatic service of both Austria and Italy and his birthday parties were the great social event of Milan. He was living to be one hundred years old and played a smoothly fluent game of billiards that contrasted with his own ninety-four-year-old brittleness. I had met him when I had been at Stresa once before out of season and while we played billiards we drank champagne. I thought it was a splendid custom and he gave me fifteen points in a hundred and beat me.
"Why didn't you tell me he was here?"
"I forgot it."
"Who else is here?"
"No one you know. There are only six people altogether."
"What are you doing now?"
"Come on out fishing."
"I could come for an hour."
"Come on. Bring the trolling line."
The barman put on a coat and we went out. We went down and got a boat and I rowed while the barman sat in the stern and let out the line with a spinner and a heavy sinker on the end to troll for lake trout. We rowed along the shore, the barman holding the line in his hand and giving it occasional jerks forward. Stresa looked very deserted from the lake. There were the long rows of bare trees, the big hotels and the closed villas. I rowed across to Isola Bella and went close to the walls, where the water deepened sharply, and you saw the rock wall slanting down in the clear water, and then up and along to the fisherman's island. The sun was under a cloud and the water was dark and smooth and very cold. We did not have a strike though we saw some circles on the water from rising fish.
I rowed up opposite the fisherman's island where there were boats drawn up and men were mending nets.
"Should we get a drink?"
I brought the boat up to the stone pier and the barman pulled in the line, coiling it on the bottom of the boat and hooking the spinner on the edge of the gunwale. I stepped out and tied the boat. We went into a little caf? sat at a bare wooden table and ordered vermouth.
"Are you tired from rowing?"
"I'll row back," he said.
"I like to row."
"Maybe if you hold the line it will change the luck."
"Tell me how goes the war."
"I don't have to go. I'm too old, like Count Greffi."
"Maybe you'll have to go yet."
"Next year they'll call my class. But I won't go."
"What will you do?"
"Get out of the country. I wouldn't go to war. I was at the war once in Abyssinia. Nix. Why do you go?"
"I don't know. I was a fool."
"Have another vermouth?"
The barman rowed back. We trolled up the lake beyond Stresa and then down not far from shore. I held the taut line and felt the faint pulsing of the spinner revolving while I looked at the dark November water of the lake and the deserted shore. The barman rowed with long strokes and on the forward thrust of the boat the line throbbed. Once I had a strike: the line hardened suddenly and jerked back. I pulled and felt the live weight of the trout and then the line throbbed again. I had missed him.
"Did he feel big?"
"Once when I was out trolling alone I had the line in my teeth and one struck and nearly took my mouth out."
"The best way is to have it over your leg," I said. "Then you feel it and don't lose your teeth."
I put my hand in the water. It was very cold. We were almost opposite the hotel now.
"I have to go in," the barman said, "to be there for eleven o'clock. L'heure du cocktail."
I pulled in the line and wrapped it on a stick notched at each end. The barman put the boat in a little slip in the stone wall and locked it with a chain and padlock.
"Any time you want it," he said, "I'll give you the key."
We went up to the hotel and into the bar. I did not want another drink so early in the morning so I went up to our room. The maid had just finished doing the room and Catherine was not back yet. I lay down on the bed and tried to keep from thinking.
When Catherine came back it was all right again. Ferguson was downstairs, she said. She was coming to lunch.
"I knew you wouldn't mind," Catherine said.
"No," I said.
"What's the matter, darling?"
"I don't know."
"I know. You haven't anything to do. All you have is me and I go away."
"I'm sorry, darling. I know it must be a dreadful feeling to have nothing at all suddenly."
"My life used to be full of everything," I said. "Now if you aren't with me I haven't a thing in the world."
"But I'll be with you. I was only gone for two hours. Isn't there anything you can do?"
"I went fishing with the barman."
"Wasn't it fun?"
"Don't think about me when I'm not here."
"That's the way I worked it at the front. But there was something to do then."
"Othello with his occupation gone," she teased.
"Othello was a nigger," I said. "Besides, I'm not jealous. I'm just so in love with you that there isn't anything else."
"Will you be a good boy and be nice to Ferguson?"
"I'm always nice to Ferguson unless she curses me."
"Be nice to her. Think how much we have and she hasn't anything."
"I don't think she wants what we have."
"You don't know much, darling, for such a wise boy."
"I'll be nice to her."
"I know you will. You're so sweet."
"She won't stay afterward, will she?"
"No. I'll get rid of her."
"And then we'll come up here."
"Of course. What do you think I want to do?"
We went downstairs to have lunch with Ferguson. She was very impressed by the hotel and the splendor of the dining-room. We had a good lunch with a couple of bottles of white capri. Count Greffi came into the dining-room and bowed to us. His niece, who looked a little like my grandmother, was with him. I told Catherine and Ferguson about him and Ferguson was very impressed. The hotel was very big and grand and empty but the food was good, the wine was very pleasant and finally the wine made us all feel very well. Catherine had no need to feel any better. She was very happy. Ferguson became quite cheerful. I felt very well myself. After lunch Ferguson went back to her hotel. She was going to lie down for a while after lunch she said.
Along late in the afternoon some one knocked on our door.
"Who is it?"
"The Count Greffi wishes to know if you will play billiards with him."
I looked at my watch; I had taken it off and it was under the pillow.
"Do you have to go, darling?" Catherine whispered.
"I think I'd better." The watch was a quarter-past four o'clock. Out loud I said, "Tell the Count Greffi I will be in the billiard-room at five o'clock."
At a quarter to five I kissed Catherine good-by and went into the bathroom to dress. Knotting my tie and looking in the glass I looked strange to myself in the civilian clothes. I must remember to buy some more shirts and socks.
"Will you be away a long time?" Catherine asked. She looked lovely in the bed. "Would you hand me the brush?"
I watched her brushing her hair, holding her head so the weight of her hair all came on one side. It was dark outside and the light over the head of the bed shone on her hair and on her neck and shoulders. I went over and kissed her and held her hand with the brush and her head sunk back on the pillow. I kissed her neck and shoulders. I felt faint with loving her so much.
"I don't want to go away."
"I don't want you to go away."
"I won't go then."
"Yes. Go. It's only for a little while and then you'll come back." "We'll have dinner up here."
"Hurry and come back."
I found the Count Greffi in the billiard-room. He was practising strokes, looking very fragile under the light that came down above the billiard table. On a card table a little way beyond the light was a silver icing-bucket with the necks and corks of two champagne bottles showing above the ice. The Count Greffi straightened up when I came toward the table and walked toward me. He put out his hand, "It is such a great pleasure that you are here. You were very kind to come to play with me."
"It was very nice of you to ask me."
"Are you quite well? They told me you were wounded on the Isonzo. I hope you are well again."
"I'm very well. Have you been well?"
"Oh, I am always well. But I am getting old. I detect signs of age now."
"I can't believe it."
"Yes. Do you want to know one? It is easier for me to talk Italian. I discipline myself but I find when I am tired that it is so much easier to talk Italian. So I know I must be getting old."
"We could talk Italian. I am a little tired, too."
"Oh, but when you are tired it will be easier for you to talk English."
"Yes. American. You will please talk American. It is a delightful language."
"I hardly ever see Americans."
"You must miss them. One misses one's countrymen and especially one's countrywomen. I know that experience. Should we play or are you too tired?"
"I'm not really tired. I said that for a joke. What handicap will you give me?"
"Have you been playing very much?"
"None at all."
"You play very well. Ten points in a hundred?"
"You flatter me."
"That would be fine but you will beat me."
"Should we play for a stake? You always wished to play for a stake."
"I think we'd better."
"All right. I will give you eighteen points and we will play for a franc a point."
He played a lovely game of billiards and with the handicap I was only four ahead at fifty. Count Greffi pushed a button on the wall to ring for the barman.
"Open one bottle please," he said. Then to me, "We will take a little stimulant." The wine was icy cold and very dry and good.
"Should we talk Italian? Would you mind very much? It is my weakness now."
We went on playing, sipping the wine between shots, speaking in Italian, but talking little, concentrated on the game. Count Greffi made his one hundredth point and with the handicap I was only at ninety-four. He smiled and patted me on the shoulder.
"Now we will drink the other bottle and you will tell me about the war." He waited for me to sit down.
"About anything else," I said.
"You don't want to talk about it? Good. What have you been reading?"
"Nothing," I said. "I'm afraid I am very dull."
"No. But you should read."
"What is there written in war-time?"
"There is 'Le Feu' by a Frenchman, Barbusse. There is 'Mr. Britling Sees Through It."
"No, he doesn't."
"He doesn't see through it. Those books were at the hospital."
"Then you have been reading?"
"Yes, but nothing any good."
"I thought 'Mr. Britling' a very good study of the English middle-class soul."
"I don't know about the soul."
"Poor boy. We none of us know about the soul. Are you Croyant?"
Count Greffi smiled and turned the glass with his fingers. "I had expected to become more devout as I grow older but somehow I haven't," he said. "It is a great pity."
"Would you like to live after death?" I asked and instantly felt a fool to mention death. But he did not mind the word.
"It would depend on the life. This life is very pleasant. I would like to live forever," he smiled. "I very nearly have."
We were sitting in the deep leather chairs, the champagne in the ice-bucket and our glasses on the table between us.
"If you ever live to be as old as I am you will find many things strange."
"You never seem old."
"It is the body that is old. Sometimes I am afraid I will break off a finger as one breaks a stick of chalk. And the spirit is no older and not much wiser."
"You are wise."
"No, that is the great fallacy; the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful."
"Perhaps that is wisdom."
"It is a very unattractive wisdom. What do you value most?"
"Some one I love."
"With me it is the same. That is not wisdom. Do you value life?"
"So do I. Because it is all I have. And to give birthday parties," he laughed. "You are probably wiser than I am. You do not give birthday parties."
We both drank the wine.
"What do you think of the war really?" I asked.
"I think it is stupid."
"Who will win it?"
"They are a younger nation."
"Do younger nations always win wars?"
"They are apt to for a time."
"Then what happens?"
"They become older nations."
"You said you were not wise."
"Dear boy, that is not wisdom. That is cynicism."
"It sounds very wise to me."
"It's not particularly. I could quote you the examples on the other side. But it is not bad. Have we finished the champagne?"
"Should we drink some more? Then I must dress."
"Perhaps we'd better not now."
"You are sure you don't want more?"
"Yes." He stood up.
"I hope you will be very fortunate and very happy and very, very healthy."
"Thank you. And I hope you will live forever."
"Thank you. I have. And if you ever become devout pray for me if I am dead. I am asking several of my friends to do that. I had expected to become devout myself but it has not come." I thought he smiled sadly but I could not tell. He was so old and his face was very wrinkled, so that a smile used so many lines that all gradations were lost.
"I might become very devout," I said. "Anyway, I will pray for you."
"I had always expected to become devout. All my family died very devout. But somehow it does not come."
"It's too early."
"Maybe it is too late. Perhaps I have outlived my religious feeling."
"My own comes only at night."
"Then too you are in love. Do not forget that is a religious feeling."
"You believe so?"
"Of course." He took a step toward the table. "You were very kind to play."
"It was a great pleasure."
"We will walk up stairs together."