Ernest Hemingway: War Correspondent 1944–1945: Part 6
Hemingway is Interviewed, Argues with Mary, experiences the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, then Heads Home to Cuba — Autumn/Winter 1944–1945
Hemingway and Colonel Park
After receiving his invitation from Colonel Park to attend an ‘interview’ Ernest Hemingway went by jeep to Nancy and then walked to the hotel where the Inspector General worked. Plucking up courage, and pondering his fate, Hemingway asked a young female army sergeant sitting behind the reception desk if he could see Colonel Clarence Park.
“ Your name, sir?”
“ Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway.”
“ Just one moment, Mr Hemingway.”
With that the young woman made her way down the corridor, disappearing into an office; although to Hemingway it looked more like a dining room. After a while the young woman came back and led Hemingway back down the corridor before ushering him into Colonel Park’s office.
On seeing the novelist Colonel Park strode forward, and, against military regulations, shook Hemingway’s hand and offered him a cigarette.
“ No thanks, gave up years ago.”
“ Mr Hemingway, I guess you know why you’re here?”
Colonel Clarence C. Park was a professional and much respected military lawyer, and something of an expert on American literature, especially the works of Mark Twain and Herman Melville. To try and put Hemingway a little at ease he asked the novelist what he thought of those two writers.
“ Huck Finn is the finest book ever written, and Moby Dick the biggest and heaviest. Now Colonel can we get on with things?”
Colonel Park was rather taken aback by Hemingway’s curt rebuttal of Park’s courteous attempts at conversation, and to fill the silence that descended upon the room like a universal deafness the Colonel shook another Lucky Strike from its paper carton, lit it with a miniature flame thrower and perched himself on the edge of the desk and took a long, lung satisfying draw, exhaling as he spoke.
“ Mr Hemingway, I would like to outline the charges filed against you.”
“ File away, Colonel.”
Park now realised that Hemingway was very afraid, and very unsure of himself. The tough, sub Dashiel Hammett stuff was a bluff, and a bad one. Okay, Pal, thought Park, have it your own way, and then started pacing slowly around the room, never allowing Hemingway the chance of looking at him directly. He then began to read from a thick, cardboard bound file.
“ That you did remove your correspondents insignia in order to assume…”
“ Bullshit, Colonel.”
“ At this stage, Mr Hemingway, you will allow me to read out the charges without interruption. And I am doing this as a favour to you, sir, to enable you to take in the enormity of your actions. Do you have legal representation, Mr Hemingway?”
“ Pity. Anyway, if you will allow me to continue?”
“ Sure, sure, go on.”
Park back-tracked a few words and continued to read.
“ That you did remove your correspondents insignia in order to assume command of Free French Irregular forces in Rambouillet, and that you helped to defend that town on August 19, through 20, and that you had been referred to as a Colonel and a General with said FFI, and in this capacity had persistently run patrols. Witnesses, mostly other correspondents, claim they found stocks of anti-personnel, and anti-tank grenades, plus mines, German bazookas, and sundry small arms in your various hotel rooms. These witnesses have also alleged that you maintained a map room in Rambouillet, and that a full Colonel, a real one, acted as your chief of staff, and that you declared to fellow correspondents that you no longer sent dispatches.”
Park then sat back down behind his desk and lit another Lucky Strike.
“ You smoke too much, Colonel.”
“ I know, but what else can a guy do in Nancy in October?”
“ Anything to drink in this place?”
“ Not a big drinker, Mr Hemingway, but you’ll find a bottle of cognac behind a copy of, A Life of Bonaparte, on the shelves over there.
Hemingway retrieved the bottle, found a glass, and poured a hefty amount of a very fine Napoleon.
“ Fancy a slug, Colonel?”
“ No thanks.”
“ What’ll happen if you find me guilty, assuming you haven’t already made up your mind?”
“ If not sent to prison, you will, at the very least, be stripped of your correspondents credentials and shipped back to the States on the first available ship or plane. We shall also make sure the newspapers and wire services, the radio and newsreels are fully informed. The publicity will either kill your career dead, or revive it.”
“ Revive it, why you…”
“ Not wise to get too personal, yet, Mr Hemingway.”
“ No. Have another drink, and this time I’ll join you.”
Hemingway found another glass and poured two drinks, then asked.
“ You read any Robert Frost, Colonel?”
“ Some, but I have to say I find his imagery a little too romantic, without the danger that Whitman brings to imagery, the danger of people, of involvement, of not holding back.”
Park slugged his cognac back in one.
“ Good to see a man with a thirst.”
“ Never touched the stuff at all until this year, still don’t drink much of it, but I can see how a man can get the taste.”
“ Never trust a man that doesn’t drink my grandfather used to say.”
“ A wise man I’m sure.”
“ Indeed he was. Taught me one hell of a lot about warfare. Wish to God he hadn’t at times.”
“ You had a rough time in the first war I hear?”
“ Rough? No, not rough, not compared to millions of others. Mine was a short and painful little war, but not rough. Quite enjoyable at times, and very rewarding in the end.”
“ Paying for it now?”
“ You mean I got a taste but not enough to satisfy, hence my alleged actions here?”
“ You a shrink too, Colonel?”
“ You get to know a good deal about the human condition working for an organisation like this one, believe me.”
“ The human condition? Let me tell you about the human condition, Colonel. My old man was a doctor, and a damned good one too. The only mistake he ever made was marrying my mother. I tell you, Colonel, that bitch ruined his life, made him question every goddam thing he ever did. But who’s to say what I might have been had I popped out of some other woman? I might have ended up a lawyer pretending to be a Colonel pretending to be a soldier.”
“ Hardly bears thinking about does it, but tell me more about your father.”
“ Hell, you even sound like a shrink now. Like I said, he was a good doctor, and had a good list of patients, but he always made a point of looking after those who couldn’t afford a doctor, and in Oak Park that meant the Indians on the reservations on the north side of Horton Lake, and in the woods, Cherokee mostly but with the fire long gone, and most of the men toothless and drunk, with the best building skyscrapers in Chicago, and the woman pregnant most of the time from those who were too lazy to find a job. And the old man used to go out in his boat and take me with him, and he’d treat whoever needed treatment, and never charge a blind cent which made the Bitch as angry as Hell I can tell you. I remember one day in the early spring we set out because the old man had heard from a hunter that a young pregnant woman was in a bad way, needed help fast. We found her writhing in this filthy bed in a broken down log cabin. She couldn’t have been more than fourteen, with black hair, and eyes that never left my face, and a mouth that wanted to scream, but there were no women around to hear her scream the scream that meant new life, just a drunk husband twice her age asleep in his own vomit. The old man gave him one hell of a kick and asked him why the hell he hadn’t called him, but the bastard just took another slug from his bottle of bad whiskey and fell asleep again. Then the old man gave the girl an examination, and I could hear him suck the air in through his teeth and shake his head. Then he turned and looked at me.
- Son, we’ve got a bad one and no mistake. I’ve got to cut her to get the baby out or they’ll both die. Do you understand?
- Yes, Pa.
- Good boy. Now I want you to go behind the bed and hold the girl’s hands hard while I put a morphine pad over her mouth. Now, she’s going to think I’m trying to kill her and will probably struggle hard, but you hold onto her, son, until she’s out. Got that?
- Yes, Pa.
And she did, too, struggle that is, and scream for real this time, and her husband came to and went for the old man with a knife when he saw him cut her but the sight of the blood made the punk again and pass right out in the dirt. But the old man did a good job. Delivered a perfect baby boy, then sowed the girl up neat as a carpet seam. We gave the baby to an old woman we found sitting outside the cabin, and the old man told her to look after the girl, and get one of the elders to give her husband a lecture on being a father, and the old girl clucked like a hen when the old man put that baby in her arms. We heard a few days later that the girl and her baby were okay, but that the husband had cut his throat because my old man had touched his wife. All the old man could say was good riddance, and I guess he was right. How’s that for the human condition, Colonel?”
“ Have another drink, Mr Hemingway?”
“ No thanks, think I’ll get to bed.”
“ Sleep well. See you in the morning at nine, prompt.”
But Hemingway didn’t sleep much that night for thinking about that Indian girl and his father, who’d spoiled everything by shooting himself.
Park took the accusations made against Hemingway very seriously indeed, and had, over the weeks since receiving Patton’s instructions, interviewed many of the correspondents and army personnel — who had witnessed the goings on at Rambouillet — all of whom testified that Hemingway, who had come to France as a civilian newspaperman (albeit under the jurisdiction of the US Army) — had “borne arms against the enemy.” For this — and because he was under army jurisdiction — he could only be courts-martialled. He did not come under French jurisdiction because there wasn’t any, he could not be sent back to the States to be tried as he had not committed a crime there. An American Army military court was the only solution, and if found guilty Hemingway could be sentenced to a long stretch in a military prison, or, at the very least, be sent back to the US in disgrace, with his passport withdrawn.
As historian Charles Whiting points out, had Hemingway “fallen into German hands bearing arms as a civilian dressed in US Army uniform, he would have prejudiced the enemy against any other correspondent unfortunate enough to be taken prisoner.”
And Hemingway was famous in Germany too, with all his books translated into German. He was high profile and a huge risk to the safety of other correspondents. Something should have been done sooner of course, but everyone, including Hemingway, were far too busy fighting a war.
The Germans had acted very quickly throughout the war when they felt that the “Rules of Land Warfare” had been infringed by the Allies. They, of course, broke virtually all of those rules themselves, especially on the Eastern Front, but that made no difference. When the Canadians raided Dieppe, in 1942, they handcuffed their German prisoners which resulted in British POWs being handcuffed when captured thereafter. Rather more brutally, two years later, the German high command ordered that all captured Allied commandos be summarily executed without trial in retaliation for several German prisoners executed by Allied commandos.
Before Hemingway ever set foot on French soil, in 1944, it was turning into a very dirty war indeed. It was not a place to play games.
What Park also knew was that when Hemingway was brought to trial — and Park informed Patton there was no way out of that course of action — the manure was going to hit the fan big time; and if it wasn’t handled very carefully the American Army, and the US government, could be seriously embarrassed.
After a lot of increased pressure from Patton’s HQ, and from Eisenhower, the charges against Hemingway were effectively dropped, with Colonel Park telling Hemingway to put his mind at rest.
After the not guilty verdict Hemingway left the hotel, got into the waiting Jeep and headed back to Paris, and an eagerly waiting Mary Welsh. Ernest Hemingway had beaten the “rap” as he called it.
The Ritz and Mary
But despite his relief at the outcome Hemingway still felt bitter at having to suffer the indignities, as he saw them, of undergoing a “trial” where he was forced to lie about his actions when he should have admitted them openly even if that meant being sent back home where he could expect a “lousy hero’s” welcome, but could nevertheless comfortably sit back and wait for a suitable medal to be struck by the Key West Chamber of Commerce, or the Havana Pigeon Shooters Club. Instead, he’d stood up in front of Park and denied all the things that had made him proud to be an American.
Hemingway’s chief emotion in October, apart from his bitterness, one of shame at having the Ritz Hotel in Paris as an address when all those guys he loved most dearly were dug in all along the quickly freezing front line on the Belgian/German border. That’s where he wanted to be — where the fighting was.
And there was plenty of fighting back at the Ritz too between Mary and Hemingway. It was probably all due to the various tensions that had built up with Hemingway’s impending interrogation — and the fiasco of the interrogation itself — which all came to a head one night when Hemingway turned up at the Ritz with some drunken cronies, depositing them upon an unsuspecting Mary. The evening turned into a thoroughly unpleasant, vomit ridden incident that ended — as unconvincing as it may sound — in a fist fight between Hemingway and Mary, with Mary coming out on top, in more ways than one.
It was to be the start of a new strain within their relationship which, fortunately, always remained in control. Perhaps only Mary Welsh, from a very stable, and forgiving background, could manage.
Hemingway had to get back to the action. He felt he had something — he wasn’t sure what — to prove.
His chance came in early November, 1944, when a new offensive by the 4th Infantry Division got underway to clear a wide pathway through some fifty square miles of thickly wooded hill country in the Rhineland. The whole thing seemed ridiculous to Hemingway. The ground was a sodden mess, with vehicles sinking into the mud up to their axles.
The Germans were dug in, with mortars and heavy machine guns every fifty yards or so, with every village turned into a fortress. The area was known as the Hurtgenwald. The battle of the Hurtgen Forest was about to begin.
Late on the afternoon of November 15th 1944, Lt Colonel Tom Kenan looked out from his battalion command post, located in a deep hole in a clearing on the west edge of the Hurtgen Forest, and saw a “…tall man in olive drab trousers, combat boots, a knitted helmet liner, and a steel helmet. His bulk was further accentuated by a white leather jacket, lined with sheepskin. By contrast, the spectacles astride his nose seemed pitifully small and inadequate.” He was carrying a Thompson sub-machine gun.
This was Lt Col Kenan’s first sight of Ernest Hemingway still carrying arms. Within minutes Hemingway was re-united with his staunchest ally, Colonel “Buck” Lanham.
The attack on the German lines commenced the following day at 1245 hours, but the German artillery responded shell for shell, with the whole thing quickly becoming something of a stand-off, with casualties mounting by the hour. Artillery fire from both sides smashed the tops out of the tall fir trees, sending heavy branches and deadly shell fragments scattering in all directions. It soon became a senseless and costly campaign, with the US generals quickly taking on a First World War mentality that sent more and more US infantry into the forest of death (as it soon became known) to fight an unseen, well dug in enemy. Had the US generals sent their forces around the forest things might have been very different indeed.
And Hemingway stuck right in there with the troops. He at last was making an association with the real fighting men, something he’d been unable — or unwilling — to do in those days and months after he landed in Normandy back in the summer. It was almost as if he was seeking forgiveness.
During his stay in Hurtgen Forest Hemingway was visited one night by a US Army psychiatrist — probably ordered to keep an eye on Hemingway — who gently began to question Hemingway about his feelings, and emotions. Hemingway told the psychiatrist that he was often troubled by dreams about Walt Whitman, and the goings on at Pfaffâ’s Bar, but that he was also worried about his thirty odd cats, and the increasing amount of kittens being born every week, back at the Finca in Cuba, and that he really didn’t know what to do about the situation. The psychiatrist told Hemingway to stop worrying, that it was natural to be concerned about his animals.
“ Yes, I know that, Doc. But how the hell do I stop dreaming that I’m a Tom, and the one making all the kittens?” Hemingway paused and looked at the psychiatrist.
“ That I’m a Tom cat, and the one…”
“ Oh, I see.”
“ So how do I…?”
“ I really must be going, Mr Hemingway, I have a lot of patients to see.”
“ I bet you do.”
The two men shook hands, and as the psychiatrist walked away Hemingway called after him.
“ If you ever want a kitten.”
There was no reply as Ernest Hemingway burst into deep glorious laughter that echoed around the forest.
The Hurtgen Forest campaign lasted for three months (Hemingway was there for eighteen days) and in some of the worst winter weather ever known in that part of the world. To get a visual idea of the fighting and the conditions the GIs had to endure, watch John Irvin’s film, When Trumpets Fade, which is as shattering a cinematic experience as watching Saving Private Ryan, and then think hard what it must have been like for the men involved, on both sides.
But for Ernest Hemingway his involvement in World War II was coming to an end, and it could have been a bloody end too had someone, somewhere, not been looking out for him.
By early December, 1944, Colonel “Buck” Lanham’s 22nd Infantry Regiment had been decimated.
Between the middle of November and the 3rd of December the regiment had sustained 2,678 casualties, including 12 officers and 126 men killed in action, 184 missing, 1,859 wounded, and 500 non-battle casualties. Add these figures to those killed and wounded since July, when Hemingway joined the regiment, and there were very few left — apart from Lanham himself — that Hemingway knew. It was the same story across the whole of the US Army. The American Army that landed on D-Day was not the same one that marched into Berlin in 1945.
On the morning of 4th December Hemingway suggested to his friend, William Walton, they should drive over to the 22nd HQ and say goodbye to their remaining old friends, and say a farewell to the guys in the field hospitals. Walton agreed, and the two of them jumped into a Jeep. It was a bone-chillingly cold morning, with a heavy freezing fog that hugged the ground.
Walton drove the Jeep slowly along the rutted, mud-frozen, road, with the two of them passing a flask of brandy back and forth to keep the chill out. After about four miles or so Hemingway heard a low buzzing sound in the distance, a sound that grew closer and closer. He couldn’t place the sound at first, then recognised it from the time he lay in that frog-infested ditch in Spain. It was the sound of a German aircraft. Not the low hum of a 109, but the high pitched, bee-like buzz of a Focker trainer the Germans had used in Spain to teach new pilots the art of strafing.
“ Hear that, Bill?”
“ Yeh. What is it?”
“ The last of the Luftwaffe come looking for me is what.”
“ How the…”
“ Jump! Jump, Bill!”
Both men jumped, and as they did so the German aircraft, painted in grey and green camouflage, emerged eerily out of the freezing fog no more than twenty feet off the ground and emptied its 9mm ammo into the careering Jeep, opening the petrol tank like a can of sardines. The explosion propelled the two men cleanly into a ditch filled with water, and three decomposing German corpses.
“ Shit!” Shouted Hemingway as he shook a fist at the departing aircraft.
Bill Walton was impressed at Hemingway’s calm.
“ You okay, Ernie?”
“ Shit! The Bastard got the brandy.”
Walton could see the familiar flask in the middle of the rutted road, a bullet hole clean through its centre.
“ Shit indeed, and I sure could use a drink right now.”
Hemingway began to laugh as he dragged himself out of the ditch, his white sheepskin soaking, and smeared in filth.
“ Don’t say old Hemeroid don’t come prepared, Bill, because he do.”
With that Hemingway handed Walton, who had now dragged himself out of the ditch, his water bottle.
“ Drink, my man, drink to the poor bastards in that ditch who ain’t gonna drink nothing but ditch water. Drink!”
And Bill Walton did drink, a long drink of one of the best dry martinis he’d ever tasted.
“ Ernie, you never fail to amaze me, never.”
“ At your service. Now hand it over for I am, as they say, as dry as a dogs tail in a following wind. A toast to the Hun: long may they die!”
They eventually found the 22nd’s HQ, said their farewells, and headed back to Paris, and the Ritz, which now had a sign outside that read:
“Everything Available To Those Who Can Pay.”
For Hemingway the war was now almost over, and with a severe cold took to his bed in the Ritz where he sipped champagne, ate wonderful goose patie, and held court to all and sundry.
The sundry included Simon de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre, who sat on the end of his bed and ate his patie, and drank his champagne (they had no such luxuries) and tried to involve Hemingway in long convoluted discussions about literature, and its place, its rightful place, in the philosophical scheme of things. Hemingway was rather bored by it all, but in the end stated:
“ Jean, I’ll tell you this: William Faulkner is a goddam better writer than me, so put that in your existential pipe and smoke it.”
In the weeks that followed Hemingway visited old friends in the 4th Division, watched Von Rundstedt’s final offensive, and in January 1945 met up again with his old RAF friend, Peter Wykeham Barnes, who was on leave in Paris, with whom, after taking in a quantity of grog adjourned to the George V for dinner. “ We went down to the lower to eat, and everything was ringing like bells when Ernest espied William Saroyan sitting two tables away.”
“ Well, for God’s sake what’s he doing here…?”
“ Ernie, let’s go somewhere else?”
“ Go somewhere else, but that…”
But the more Wykham Barnes tried to quieten Hemingway the worse he became, calling the young American novelist, who later came to fame as the author of The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, all the names under the sun. Saroyan could only take so much, and when Hemingway called Saroyan’s mother something unspeakable the young novelist went across to Hemingway and smacked him in the mouth, which resulted in Hemingway retaliating, which resulted in Saroyan’s dinner guests setting about Hemingway and Wykham Barnes, which then involved the rest of the restaurant taking sides in an all out brawl from which Wykham Barnes escaped on his hands and knees just as the gendarmes arrived in force.
Hemingway Heads Home
Early in 1945, after hearing that his son Jack was safe in a German POW camp, Hemingway went “shopping for transport” and found space for himself aboard a Super Fortress that was leaving on the 6th March from Orly. On the morning of his departure, at around 3am, he left a scribbled note for Mary:
My Dearest Pickle:
I will love you always. I am going to get our new life together
started. Every minute that we are apart I shall be truly faithful. In my
heart, in my heat, and in my body.
Your Loving Husband
The aircraft stopped over in London for refuelling, and Hemingway made his way to the Dorchester to look in on Martha — she hadn’t yet moved into her new home — who was in bed with flu, and as miserable as sin about her relationship with Gavin. Hemingway didn’t linger, just told her to get her hair cut, and to quit smoking. Martha yelled at him to get the hell out, and threw a vase of flowers at his departing back. On the landing outside he kissed a very unsuspecting bedroom maid and tipped her £5 to make sure Miss Martha was well looked after.
During the long flight across the Atlantic Hemingway was allowed to fly the aircraft for a few minutes between hands of gin rummy with a one-armed colonel from Georgia, and read most of the 1928 first edition of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterleys Lover, reading out loud the more sexually explicit bits:
“ ‘And softly, with that marvellous swoon-like caress of his hand in pure soft desire, softly he stroked the silky slope of her loins, down, down…’ ”
“ Hey, fella, give me a break will ya.”
“ Listen and learn, soldier” came Hemingway’s shouted reply. “Now where the hell was I? Ah, here we are. ‘She yielded with a quiver that was like death, she went all open to him. And oh, if he were not tender to her now, how cruel, for she was all open to him and helpless…’ “
“Listen, man, I ain’t seen my old lady in two years, and you read that crap. Now shut your goddam mouth.”
“ Sorry, son.”
Hemingway, putting the book back into his rucksack, looks out of the aircraft window and listens to the four Pratt and Whitney engines pulling the Boeing through the thin atmosphere at fifteen thousand feet. All Hemingway could think about now was Mary.
“ Hey, man, what were you reading?” .
“ That, soldier, was Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence.”
“ Lawrence? Never heard of the guy.”
“ He was English.”
“ Another goddam limey.”
“ Dead now. One of the finest novelists of all time.”
“ Is that right? “
“ Well I’ll be damned. Who’s the broad, in the book?”
“ Connie, Constance Chatterley.”
“ And the guy?”
“ Mellors, her gamekeeper.”
“ She ain’t got no old man, right? “
“ Married to Sir Clifford Chatterley.”
“ So, what’s his problem? She sounds one gorgeous broad. Man I could see her, Jesus. Sir Clifford Whatsit lost interest has he?”
“ Badly injured in the Great War. Confined to a wheelchair. Helpless piece of expensive meat.”
“ So she goes with the gamekeeper?”
“ Broads, eh.”
The soldier lights a cigarette, and, easing what’s left of his left leg into a more comfortable position, closes his eyes and inhales deeply.
Hemingway takes a drink of brandy from a new hip flask as the aircraft slowly turns south-westward for the two hour descent toward New York and fell asleep thinking of Mary.
When the Super Fortress landed in the early morning mist, Hemingway thanked the crew, and said his farewells to the other passengers, especially the GI with the one leg, then manages to get a lift with General Anderson into New York, where he has breakfast at a favourite coffee stall on 5th Avenue, before heading for Scribners.
Max Perkins had kept in touch with Hemingway throughout the war, and Hemingway could tell from the tone of Max’s letters that the famous Scribners editor was losing his vitality. And when Hemingway saw his old friend on that March morning he was shocked to encounter a man who was now too thin for his clothes, who constantly had to stop talking to regain his breath. But nonetheless Perkins was still one of Scribners finest editors, who had, just a month before, signed James Jones, and was busy editing what would eventually become From Here To Eternity.
“ Max, I owe you more than any man on this Earth.”
“ Don’t get emotional on me, Ernest.”
“ True, nonetheless, old man.”
“ This is starting to sound like a bad Hemingway novel.”
“ A very bad Hemingway novel.”
Hemingway embraces Max, turns, and quickly leaves the editor’s office and heads for Grand Central Station, where he catches the 7.15pm sleeper for Miami.
Like a Cary Grant movie Hemingway finds himself having dinner with a strange, darkly attractive woman, who begins to tell Hemingway a long story about her family, and their disinheritance at the end of the Civil War. It was obvious to Hemingway the woman, although hugely attractive, was clearly off her head, and wouldn’t you just believe it, was writing a novel about her family, and did Mr Hemingway have any tips about writing that he might like to impart in the privacy of her compartment in Car C?
Hemingway had to admit he was tempted, very tempted. But he’d made a promise to Mary, and he was going to keep it.
Hemingway then beckoned the steward.
“ Yes, sir?”
“ A bottle of Champagne.”
“ Yes, sir.”
“ A little Champagne first, er…?”
“ What do you mean, first?”
“ Before you tell me about your novel.”
“ Ah, yes, Champagne. Thank you. I’m a great admirer of your work, Mr Hemingway.”
“ Thank you. But please call me, Ernest.”
The steward brings Champagne, and shows Ernest the label.
Hemingway smiles, “Excellent. Good man.”
The steward pours the Champagne and, after leaving the bottle in a silver ice bucket, leaves.
“ What shall we drink to?” asks the woman.
“ To your novel.”
They touch glasses and drink. And before Marianne can refuse Hemingway has filled her glass again.
“ Where is the novel set?”
As the evening progresses, with more Champagne ordered by Hemingway, Marianne becomes increasingly intoxicated and eventually collapses across the table. Hemingway beckons the steward over, gives him a fifty and asks that he makes sure Marianne is safely put to bed, and then asks for his breakfast to be served in his compartment.
“ Yes, sir.”
There was something about the woman that had disturbed Hemingway, disturbed him greatly, and he knew that had he spent the night with her one of them would have ended up dead.
When the train pulled into Miami the following evening there was an ambulance waiting, and Hemingway watched from his compartment as two medics carried someone from the train, someone with their face covered.
“ Hi, Dad!”
The shouting came from outside Hemingway’s carriage. It was Patrick and Gregory. Hemingway forgot all about Marianne, and made his way out onto the station platform where he gave his two youngest sons a huge bear hug.
“ Come on, boys, lets get the hell outta here and head home to Cuba.”
Note: Although based on fact I have used certain elements of creative licence.