A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY
It was very late and everyone had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the
shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light. In the day time the
street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust and the old man liked to sit
late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference.
The two waiters inside the cafe knew that the old man was a little drunk, and while
he was a good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without
paying, so they kept watch on him.
"Last week he tried to commit suicide," one waiter said.
"He was in despair."
"How do you know it was nothing?"
"He has plenty of money."
They sat together at a table that was close against the wall near the door of the cafe
and looked at the terrace where the tableswere all empty except where the old man
sat in the shadow of the leaves of the tree that moved slightly in the wind. A girl
and a soldier went by in the street. The street light shone on the brass number on
his collar. The girl wore no head covering and hurried beside him.
"The guard will pick him up," one waiter said.
"What does it matter if he gets what he's after?"
"He had better get off the street now. The guard will get him. They went by five
The old man sitting in the shadow rapped on his saucer with his glass. The younger
waiter went over to him.
"What do you want?"
The old man looked at him. "Another brandy," he said.
"You'll be drunk," the waiter said. The old man looked at him. The waiter went
"He'll stay all night," he said to his colleague. "I'm sleepy now.I never get into bed
before three o'clock. He should have killed himself last week."
The waiter took the brandy bottle and another saucer from thecounter inside the
cafe and marched out to the old man's table. Heput down the saucer and poured the
glass full of brandy.
"You should have killed yourself last week," he said to the deafman. The old man
motioned with his finger. "A little more," hesaid. The waiter poured on into the
glass so that the brandy slopped over and ran down the stem into the top saucer of
the pile."Thank you," the old man said. The waiter took the bottle back inside the
cafe. He sat down at the table with his colleague again.
"He's drunk now," he said.
"He's drunk every night."
"What did he want to kill himself for?"
"How should I know."
"How did he do it?"
"He hung himself with a rope."
"Who cut him down?"
"Why did they do it?"
"Fear for his soul."
"How much money has he got?" "He's got plenty."
"He must be eighty years old."
"Anyway I should say he was eighty."
"I wish he would go home. I never get to bed before three o'clock.What kind of
hour is that to go to bed?"
"He stays up because he likes it."
"He's lonely. I'm not lonely. I have a wife waiting in bed for me."
"He had a wife once too."
"A wife would be no good to him now."
"You can't tell. He might be bet...