Brett and Jake's cab winds through the streets of Paris. As they pass the lights of bars and workmen fixing the car tracks, Jake notices how Brett's face comes in and out of view.
In the presence of Brett, the city of Paris becomes beautiful to Jake. Her presence seems to give what he sees more meaning.
In the dark, they kiss, but Brett pulls away, begging Jake to understand. Jake asks if she loves him and she "turns all to jelly." But as they discuss the "hell" of what it was like the last time they were together, Jake decides that they should stay away from each other. Brett disagrees, commenting that she's now paying for the hell she puts other men through all the time.
It's clear that there is real love behind Jake and Brett's relationship, but there's also something that's standing in the way of them being together (though exactly what isn't totally evident yet). Even so, this love is not something Brett or Jake can give up.
They talk about how injuries like Jake's are supposed to be funny, but how "nobody knows anything." Jake says he rarely thinks about his injury, but agrees that it is funny, and fun to be in love, but Brett persists that it's hell. She says that it's not about wanting to see Jake but about having to. As they near the club where they are going, Brett asks Jake to kiss her once more before they arrive. Brett is shaky as they leave the cab, but they gather themselves and go in to find the same crowd from the last club.
Now the obstacle to their relationship begins to make sense—Jake received a war wound of some kind that, it is implied, makes him impotent. Brett and Jake's love is therefore separated from sex, and for Brett this stands in the way of their being together. Note how Jake's comments about not thinking about his war wound ring false, and also how Brett hates having anything that forces her to do anything, even love. She wants to be free above all else. And then they escape having to talk about any of these tough things by jumping back into the social scene at a club, which is essentially the same as the last club.
In the club, a painter named Zisi approaches Brett in order to introduce her to a man named Count Mippipopolous, who has taken a liking to her. Meanwhile, Jake talks with Braddocks, but all Jake wants to do is go home. When he says goodnight to Brett, she's drinking with the Count, and asks to see Jake again the following day. Jake agrees even though he thinks she probably won't show up. He then asks Brett whether she's heard from Mike. When she says she has, Jake leaves the bar and walks along the boulevards, walking past acquaintances but not stopping because he wants to get home.
For Jake, Brett's presence transforms the social scene into one of constant competition that because of his injury he can't win. The very thing Jake has been using to distract himself from the war and his injury now pushes it back into his face, so he leaves.
On the way, Jake passes a statue of a soldier, Marshal Ney, which he thinks looks "very fine." When Jake arrives at his building he picks up his mail from the concierge, including a wedding announcement for a couple he's never heard of before. His thoughts circle back to Brett, and he curses her for coming up in his mind again. As Jake undresses for bed he looks at himself naked in the mirror and sees his wound, and claims to see the funny side as he is supposed to.
The soldier on horseback is of a general from Napoleonic times and radiates the ideals of wartime glory and masculine courage and honor that WWI forever destroyed. The wedding with a couple Jake doesn't know shows both the emptiness of his acquaintances and the foreign-ness of marriage to the Lost Generation. But the wedding also pushes Jake's thoughts back to Brett, back to his injury, and back to his habitual avoidance of those things.
Jake goes to bed and reads through two bullfighting newspapers. He then turns out the lamp, but is unable to sleep and he thinks about his injury. He remembers the Italian hospital where several men with the same injury thought about setting up a society. He remembers the "first funny thing," when a colonel came to visit him and gave a serious speech about how Jake had given more than his life. Jake comments that he always just played along, but that it was meeting Brett that caused him trouble, and, like all people, she only wanted what she couldn't have. Jake starts to cry. After a while, he falls asleep.
Jake uses sports to distract himself. And when he must finally sleep he tries to distance himself from his sadness by seeing it as funny, but his insomnia and eventual tears shows that avoidance is only helpful for a while. You can't hide from yourself forever. Note that Jake's injury didn't cause him true sadness until he fell in love with Brett, until he truly wanted something meaningful—this is the danger of love—it makes you vulnerable to pain.
Loud noises outside his room wake Jake in the middle of the night. Downstairs, he finds the concierge dealing with a drunken Brett. Jake brings Brett up to his apartment, where Brett tells him that the count is waiting outside in his car. She tells Jake about the count's many connections and his chain of sweetshops in America, and how the count offered her ten thousand dollars to go to Biarritz, or Cannes, or Monte Carlo with him. But Brett refused because she knew too many people in all those places. And when she told the count she was in love with Jake, the count has invited them for a drive the next day.
Brett disregards social norms. She just does what she wants, and doesn't care about what society will think or traditional ideas of proper feminine behavior. The Counts offer of money puts Brett in the role of a prostitute, but she doesn't seem to be bothered by that. Like Georgette, like Frances, she seems to accept that relationships and sex are just another transaction, except for her love with Jake, that is. The Count seems equally untroubled, and is just as happy whisking Brett off on a trip and going for a ride with Jake, her love.
Jake agrees to go for the drive, but refuses to get dressed and come down to the car to carry on the evening with the count and Brett. Brett and Jake kiss goodbye. As he watches Brett leave from the window, he pours himself another drink and goes to bed, knowing that he'll think about Brett again and feel like crying—it's easy to be "hard-boiled" in the daytime, he admits, but night is a different thing, he admits.
The repetitive pattern between Jake and Brett of touching and parting, touching and parting, defines both the nature of their love (which they wish could be physical but can't be) but also their inability to actually face and accept those facts one way or another. Jake responds to this traumatic experience as he does to nearly every other one—he looks for distraction in a drink. But as Jake's comment about the night vs. the daytime indicates, at night there is no larger social world to provide additional distraction, Ultimately, you must sleep and in doing so face your thoughts. Jake can only be "hard-boiled" when he has the normal daytime distractions to help him avoid his own thoughts.