said, defensively. “It’s a cute phrase.”
“Descriptive,” I nodded. “It is pretty. It’s a pretty, and descriptive, phrase in English, too.” I was suddenly reminded of the current American-English joke about the young man explaining to his fiancée that “blow” was just a figure of speech, and almost collapsed. I wanted to let out a roar and laugh out loud, but restrained myself.
“I don’t really think you really understand how it is with us, Uncle Jack,” Hill said, peering at me with a frown again. “We’re a sort of a— of a family, really.
“I don’t think you understand.”
I caught that return to Uncle Jack. “ Sure I do,” I said. “Of course I do. You’re all on the same committee— sub -committee. And Anne-Marie is the only girl on the sub -committee. And she feels . . . She wants to . . .”
“No, no!” Hill said. “She likes us all. It just happens that we’re all on the same sub -committee.”
“Of course,” I said. “I understand that. I’m really not as old as you think, Hill. I mean, it’s not like as if I were your grandfather. I think we ought to get back out to your guests, in any case.”
“?” Hill reacted, but didn’t answer.
“My God, didn’t you ever read a copy of my Review!” I couldn’t resist crying.
“Yeah; it’s pretty hip,” he said from the door.
They were all still standing, or sitting, just exactly as we had left them, in exactly the same positions exactly, as if, when I disappeared from view, they had immediately and at once frozen themselves in the postures they had had, so that, when I eventually and inevitably returned, I would be able to see at a glance that they had not been nosing around or poking into any of my things, of peering at anything. I could not help thinking that, even for French politeness—and the French set a great store by politeness, more than Americans do—this was going a bit too far. “Well, kids,” I said, “what about one more drink!” I went around with the bottle. I could not get rid, whenever I glanced at her, of a sort of imaginative picture like a film clip double-image of Anne-Marie standing like a sergeant before her four ranked boys, all standing at attention with large erections projecting from their Revolutionary uniforms, and her going down the line like a good Commissar, or dutiful Den Mother, doing each in turn so that he could keep his mind where it ought to be on the Revolutionary business at hand and stop thinking about his crotch. Therapeutic service. I kept having to blink. And around me, they all sat and talked together easily, about the Revolution. Everybody had accepted the drink, after a confirmatory glance at Hill.
They were clearly all working together, it came out as they all talked, on the formation of this Committee having something or other to do with Cinema. But mostly they talked about what would be the fate of their comrades who had been arrested the day before. No word had been heard about them yet, and they were still locked up. The big question of the moment was whether they would all be freed or not. None of Hill’s gang thought that they would all be freed; and all was what the students were demanding.
As they left, Hill said to me in English in a low voice, “Don’t forget what we talked about, about home?” I nodded and winked and, after they had gone, went to the window to watch them walking together arm in arm, two in front and three behind, down the quai toward the old Bailey bridge footbridge that crosses over to the rear of Notre-Dame. I watched them swing along through the crowd, and discovered I had a definite lump in my throat. In spite of Anne-Marie. As they passed from sight around an angle of the quai, I found myself thinking that nothing could ever really hurt them. Not, at least, the them of this moment, now. That particular them was eternal.
Then I got ready to go down and see Harry at his apartment. I called him first.
Hill came by again the