This first chapter of Book II begins with a brief summary of the three or four weeks that pass while Brett and Cohn are out of Paris. Jake says that he receives a card from Brett from San Sebastian. He also says that Cohn has told him that he would be out in the country for a few weeks. Jake says that he passes the time mostly with work, and that his friend Bill Gorton, a successful writer who lives in New York, arrived for a few days and went off to Vienna.
Jake picks up the story when Bill returns from Vienna. Bill arrives at Jakes flat, and they have a drink together, though Bill appears to be already drunk. Bill tells the story of an African boxer in Vienna. Bill says that the African, who was enormous, inadvertently knocked the white Vienna boxer down, and that the crowd starting throwing chairs at him. Bill says that he helped the African escape the angry crowd, and that he tried to help him claim his money for winning the fight, but that the African was cheated out of his winnings.
Jake and Bill go out for dinner, and on the way Bill makes jokes about statues and stuffed dogs. They stop for a drink and talk about Harvey Stone briefly. Continuing the trip they encounter Brett, just back from her trip to San Sebastian. Jake introduces Bill to her, and they persuade her to join them for a drink. The three of them talk about Bills trip to Budapest and Vienna, and Bretts time in San Sebastian. Brett says that she didnt go out much, and didnt see very many people. After a few drinks, Jake and Bill put Brett in a taxi back to her hotel to meet her fianc, Mike, who is just arriving from Scotland. They make plans to meet at a caf later that evening.
Jake and Bill take a taxi to Madame Lecomtes, a restaurant frequented by American tourists on the Ile Saint Louis. Bill knows the owner from a previous visit just after the end of the war. Outside the restaurant, they notice some demolition of old homes for a street being built, and they spend some time looking down the Seine at Notre Dame. Then they take a long walk through the surrounding neighborhoods, before deciding to join Brett and Mike at the Caf Select. They walk to the Select, and Mike comes out to greet them. Jake and Mike talk for a minute, and Bill goes into the caf to talk to Brett. Mike and Jake join Brett and Bill, and Brett makes it clear that Mike is drunk. They talk briefly, and Mike makes several comments about Bretts appearance. Bill suggests that they go see a boxing match. Mike and Brett send Jake and Bill to the fight, while they stay behind in the caf.
Jake mentions a letter from Cohn, and gives the date of the fight that he and Bill went to-June 20th. Cohn says that he is in Hendaye and anxious to join Jake and Bill on their fishing trip in Spain. Jake writes back that he and Bill will meet Cohn in Bayonne on the 25th unless he writes otherwise. Jake then goes in search of Brett and Mike. Mike asks if they could join Jake and Bill on their trip to Spain. Jake politely agrees, and the three of them talk about what to bring and what day they will leave. Brett and Mike say that they suspect that their hotel is a brothel. Mike says that he needs a haircut, and Brett asks Jake to walk her back to her hotel. On the walk back, Brett asks if Cohn will be going with them to Spain. Jake says yes. Brett asks if it will be awkward for Cohn, traveling with Brett and her fianc. Brett admits that Cohn went with her to San Sebastian. Jake seems annoyed for a moment, but then regains his composure. He suggests that Brett write to Cohn and tell him that she and Mike will be on the trip, and give Cohn a chance to back out. In a few days she hears back that Cohn still wants to come, and that he is quite excited about seeing her again.
Jake and Bill take a train to Bayonne, and Brett and Mike plan to travel separately, waiting for money from Mikes family. On the train, Jake and Bill share a compartment with an American family. They talk about fishing and about traveling. Jake and Bill are unable to get lunch tickets until 3:30, so they ask that sandwiches be sent to their compartment. They are told by the American family that a large contingent of American pilgrims from Dayton, Ohio, are on the train, and that they have filled the dining schedule. At a stop, the American family returns to the dining car, saying that they are going to get another breakfast. They dont come back for some time. When they do, Jake and Bill are told that the Americans had merely sat down and refused to move, and had been served. In telling how it happened, the father remarks that this shows the power of the Catholic church. Jake admits that he, too, is Catholic. A little later, Bill accosts a priest and asks when the Protestants will have a chance to eat. The priest asks about Bills lunch ticket, and Bill remarks that he resents the situation enough to join the Ku Klux Klan.
At Bayonne, Jake and Bill say goodbye to the American family and get off the train. They find Cohn waiting to meet them on the platform. Jake introduces Bill and Cohn, and Cohn seems a little unsure what to say. When they are in the taxi, Cohn says that he is glad to meet Bill and that he has read Bills books. Then they check into Cohns hotel.
Analysis, Chapters VIII – IX
In these chapters, Jake is forced to confront the flippant way that Brett seduces and discards Cohn, as well as the physical reality of Mike, the man who plans to marry Brett. The surprising way that Cohn responds to Bretts decision to join them on the fishing trip prefigures some of the conflict that awaits the characters in the rest of the book.
These chapters also introduce the character of Bill Gorton, who seems to offer both an opportunity for humor and a romantic substitute, with his quiet walks alone through Paris with Jake, and their pairing with Brett and Mike. The anecdote about the African boxer, though, along with his remarks about stuffed dogs and horses, suggests more than comedy. Bills good-natured treatment and unconscious racism toward the boxer will become an important contrast with his relationship with Cohn.