A Farewell to Arms / Ernest Hemingway / Ch-39


By the middle of January I had a beard and the winter had settled into bright cold days and hard cold nights. We could walk on the roads again. The snow was packed hard and smooth by the hay-sleds and wood-sledges and the logs that were hauled down the mountain. The snow lay over all the country, down almost to Montreux. The mountains on the other side of the lake were all white and the plain of the Rhone valley was covered. We took long walks on the other side of the mountain to the Bains de l’Alliaz. Catherine wore hobnailed boots and a cape and carried a stick with a sharp steel point. She did not look big with the cape and we would not walk too fast but stopped and sat on logs by the roadside to rest when she was tired.

There was an inn in the trees at the Bains de l’Alliaz where the woodcutters stopped to drink, and we sat inside warmed by the stove and drank hot red wine with spices and lemon in it. They called it glühwein and it was a good thing to warm you and to celebrate with. The inn was dark and smoky inside and afterward when you went out the cold air came sharply into your lungs and numbed the edge of your nose as you inhaled. We looked back at the inn with light coming from the windows and the woodcutters’ horses stamping and jerking their heads outside to keep warm. There was frost on the hairs of their muzzles and their breathing made plumes of frost in the air. Going up the road toward home the road was smooth and slippery for a while and the ice orange from the horses until the wood-hauling track turned off. Then the road was clean-packed snow and led through the woods, and twice coming home in the evening, we saw foxes.

It was a fine country and every time that we went out it was fun.

“You have a splendid beard now,” Catherine said. “It looks just like the woodcutters’. Did you see the man with the tiny gold ear-rings?”

“He’s a chamois hunter,” I said. “They wear them because they say it makes them hear better.”

“Really? I don’t believe it. I think they wear them to show they are chamois hunters. Are there chamois near here?”

“Yes, beyond the Dent de Jaman.”

“It was fun seeing the fox.”

“When he sleeps he wraps that tail around him to keep warm.”

“It must be a lovely feeling.”

“I always wanted to have a tail like that. Wouldn’t it be fun if we had brushes like a fox?”

“It might be very difficult dressing.”

“We’d have clothes made, or live in a country where it wouldn’t make any difference.”

“We live in a country where nothing makes any difference. Isn’t it grand how we never see any one? You don’t want to see people do you, darling?”


“Should we sit here just a minute? I’m a little bit tired.”

We sat close together on the logs. Ahead the road went down through the forest.

“She won’t come between us, will she? The little brat.”

“No. We won’t let her.”

“How are we for money?”

“We have plenty. They honored the last sight draft.”

“Won’t your family try and get hold of you now they know you’re in Switzerland?”

“Probably. I’ll write them something.”

“Haven’t you written them?”

“No. Only the sight draft.”

“Thank God I’m not your family.”

“I’ll send them a cable.”

“Don’t you care anything about them?”

“I did, but we quarrelled so much it wore itself out.”

“I think I’d like them. I’d probably like them very much.”

“Let’s not talk about them or I’ll start to worry about them.” After a while I said, “Let’s go on if you’re rested.”

“I’m rested.”

We went on down the road. It was dark now and the snow squeaked under our boots. The night was dry and cold and very clear.

“I love your beard,” Catherine said. “It’s a great success. It looks so stiff and fierce and it’s very soft and a great pleasure.”

“Do you like it better than without?”

“I think so. You know, darling, I’m not going to cut my hair now until after young Catherine’s born. I look too big and matronly now. But after she’s born and I’m thin again I’m going to cut it and then I’ll be a fine new and different girl for you. We’ll go together and get it cut, or I’ll go alone and come and surprise you.”

I did not say anything.

“You won’t say I can’t, will you?”

“No. I think it would be exciting.”

“Oh, you’re so sweet. And maybe I’d look lovely, darling, and be so thin and exciting to you and you’ll fall in love with me all over again.”

“Hell,” I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?”

“Yes. I want to ruin you.”

“Good,” I said, “that’s what I want too.”

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