A Farewell to Arms / Ernest Hemingway / Ch-21


In September the first cool nights came, then the days were cool and the leaves on the trees in the park began to turn color and we knew the summer was gone. The fighting at the front went very badly and they could not take San Gabriele. The fighting on the Bainsizza plateau was over and by the middle of the month the fighting for San Gabriele was about over too. They could not take it. Ettore was gone back to the front. The horses were gone to Rome and there was no more racing. Crowell had gone to Rome too, to be sent back to America. There were riots twice in the town against the war and bad rioting in Turin. A British major at the club told me the Italians had lost one hundred and fifty thousand men on the Bainsizza plateau and on San Gabriele. He said they had lost forty thousand on the Carso besides. We had a drink and he talked. He said the fighting was over for the year down here and that the Italians had bitten off more than they could chew. He said the offensive in Flanders was going to the bad. If they killed men as they did this fall the Allies would be cooked in another year. He said we were all cooked but we were all right as long as we did not know it. We were all cooked. The thing was not to recognize it. The last country to realize they were cooked would win the war. We had another drink. Was I on somebody’s staff? No. He was. It was all balls. We were alone in the club sitting back in one of the big leather sofas. His boots were smoothly polished dull leather. They were beautiful boots. He said it was all balls. They thought only in divisions and man-power. They all squabbled about divisions and only killed them when they got them. They were all cooked. The Germans won the victories. By God they were soldiers. The old Hun was a soldier. But they were cooked too. We were all cooked. I asked about Russia. He said they were cooked already. I’d soon see they were cooked. Then the Austrians were cooked too. If they got some Hun divisions they could do it. Did he think they would attack this fall? Of course they would. The Italians were cooked. Everybody knew they were cooked. The old Hun would come down through the Trentino and cut the railway at Vicenza and then where would the Italians be? They tried that in ’sixteen, I said. Not with Germans. Yes, I said. But they probably wouldn’t do that, he said. It was too simple. They’d try something complicated and get royally cooked. I had to go, I said. I had to get back to the hospital. “Good-by,” he said. Then cheerily, “Every sort of luck!” There was a great contrast between his world pessimism and personal cheeriness.

I stopped at a barber shop and was shaved and went home to the hospital. My leg was as well as it would get for a long time. I had been up for examination three days before. There were still some treatments to take before my course at the Ospedale Maggiore was finished and I walked along the side street practising not limping. An old man was cutting silhouettes under an arcade. I stopped to watch him. Two girls were posing and he cut their silhouettes together, snipping very fast and looking at them, his head on one side. The girls were giggling. He showed me the silhouettes before he pasted them on white paper and handed them to the girls.

“They’re beautiful,” he said. “How about you, Tenente?”

The girls went away looking at their silhouettes and laughing. They were nice-looking girls. One of them worked in the wine shop across from the hospital.

“All right,” I said.

“Take your cap off.”

“No. With it on.”

“It will not be so beautiful,” the old man said. “But,” he brightened, “it will be more military.”

He snipped away at the black paper, then separated the two thicknesses and pasted the profiles on a card and handed them to me.

“How much?”

“That’s all right.” He waved his hand. “I just made them for you.”

“Please.” I brought out some coppers. “For pleasure.”

“No. I did them for a pleasure. Give them to your girl.”

“Many thanks until we meet.”

“Until I see thee.”

I went on to the hospital. There were some letters, an official one, and some others. I was to have three weeks’ convalescent leave and then return to the front. I read it over carefully. Well, that was that. The convalescent leave started October fourth when my course was finished. Three weeks was twenty-one days. That made October twenty-fifth. I told them I would not be in and went to the restaurant a little way up the street from the hospital for supper and read my letters and the Corriere Della Sera at the table. There was a letter from my grandfather, containing family news, patriotic encouragement, a draft for two hundred dollars, and a few clippings; a dull letter from the priest at our mess, a letter from a man I knew who was flying with the French and had gotten in with a wild gang and was telling about it, and a note from Rinaldi asking me how long I was going to skulk in Milano and what was all the news? He wanted me to bring him phonograph records and enclosed a list. I drank a small bottle of chianti with the meal, had a coffee afterward with a glass of cognac, finished the paper, put my letters in my pocket, left the paper on the table with the tip and went out. In my room at the hospital I undressed, put on pajamas and a dressing-gown, pulled down the curtains on the door that opened onto the balcony and sitting up in bed read Boston papers from a pile Mrs. Meyers had left for her boys at the hospital. The Chicago White Sox were winning the American League pennant and the New York Giants were leading the National League. Babe Ruth was a pitcher then playing for Boston. The papers were dull, the news was local and stale, and the war news was all old. The American news was all training camps. I was glad I wasn’t in a training camp. The baseball news was all I could read and I did not have the slightest interest in it. A number of papers together made it impossible to read with interest. It was not very timely but I read at it for a while. I wondered if America really got into the war, if they would close down the major leagues. They probably wouldn’t. There was still racing in Milan and the war could not be much worse. They had stopped racing in France. That was where our horse Japalac came from. Catherine was not due on duty until nine o’clock. I heard her passing along the floor when she first came on duty and once saw her pass in the hall. She went to several other rooms and finally came into mine.

“I’m late, darling,” she said. “There was a lot to do. How are you?”

I told her about my papers and the leave.

“That’s lovely,” she said. “Where do you want to go?”

“Nowhere. I want to stay here.”

“That’s silly. You pick a place to go and I’ll come too.”

“How will you work it?”

“I don’t know. But I will.”

“You’re pretty wonderful.”

“No I’m not. But life isn’t hard to manage when you’ve nothing to lose.”

“How do you mean?”

“Nothing. I was only thinking how small obstacles seemed that once were so big.”

“I should think it might be hard to manage.”

“No it won’t, darling. If necessary I’ll simply leave. But it won’t come to that.”

“Where should we go?”

“I don’t care. Anywhere you want. Anywhere we don’t know people.”

“Don’t you care where we go?”

“No. I’ll like any place.”

She seemed upset and taut.

“What’s the matter, Catherine?”

“Nothing. Nothing’s the matter.”

“Yes there is.”

“No nothing. Really nothing.”

“I know there is. Tell me, darling. You can tell me.”

“It’s nothing.”

“Tell me.”

“I don’t want to. I’m afraid I’ll make you unhappy or worry you.”

“No it won’t.”

“You’re sure? It doesn’t worry me but I’m afraid to worry you.”

“It won’t if it doesn’t worry you.”

“I don’t want to tell.”

“Tell it.”

“Do I have to?”


“I’m going to have a baby, darling. It’s almost three months along. You’re not worried, are you? Please please don’t. You mustn’t worry.”

“All right.”

“Is it all right?”

“Of course.”

“I did everything. I took everything but it didn’t make any difference.”

“I’m not worried.”

“I couldn’t help it, darling, and I haven’t worried about it. You mustn’t worry or feel badly.”

“I only worry about you.”

“That’s it. That’s what you mustn’t do. People have babies all the time. Everybody has babies. It’s a natural thing.”

“You’re pretty wonderful.”

“No I’m not. But you mustn’t mind, darling. I’ll try and not make trouble for you. I know I’ve made trouble now. But haven’t I been a good girl until now? You never knew it, did you?”


“It will all be like that. You simply mustn’t worry. I can see you’re worrying. Stop it. Stop it right away. Wouldn’t you like a drink, darling? I know a drink always makes you feel cheerful.”

“No. I feel cheerful. And you’re pretty wonderful.”

“No I’m not. But I’ll fix everything to be together if you pick out a place for us to go. It ought to be lovely in October. We’ll have a lovely time, darling, and I’ll write you every day while you’re at the front.”

“Where will you be?”

“I don’t know yet. But somewhere splendid. I’ll look after all that.”

We were quiet awhile and did not talk. Catherine was sitting on the bed and I was looking at her but we did not touch each other. We were apart as when some one comes into a room and people are self-conscious. She put out her hand and took mine.

“You aren’t angry are you, darling?”


“And you don’t feel trapped?”

“Maybe a little. But not by you.”

“I didn’t mean by me. You mustn’t be stupid. I meant trapped at all.”

“You always feel trapped biologically.”

She went away a long way without stirring or removing her hand.

“ ‘Always’ isn’t a pretty word.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right. But you see I’ve never had a baby and I’ve never even loved any one. And I’ve tried to be the way you wanted and then you talk about ‘always.’ ”

“I could cut off my tongue,” I offered.

“Oh, darling!” she came back from wherever she had been. “You mustn’t mind me.” We were both together again and the self-consciousness was gone. “We really are the same one and we mustn’t misunderstand on purpose.”

“We won’t.”

“But people do. They love each other and they misunderstand on purpose and they fight and then suddenly they aren’t the same one.”

“We won’t fight.”

“We mustn’t. Because there’s only us two and in the world there’s all the rest of them. If anything comes between us we’re gone and then they have us.”

“They won’t get us,” I said. “Because you’re too brave. Nothing ever happens to the brave.”

“They die of course.”

“But only once.”

“I don’t know. Who said that?”

“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one?”

“Of course. Who said it?”

“I don’t know.”

“He was probably a coward,” she said. “He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he’s intelligent. He simply doesn’t mention them.”

“I don’t know. It’s hard to see inside the head of the brave.”

“Yes. That’s how they keep that way.”

“You’re an authority.”

“You’re right, darling. That was deserved.”

“You’re brave.”

“No,” she said. “But I would like to be.”

“I’m not,” I said, “I know where I stand. I’ve been out long enough to know. I’m like a ball-player that bats two hundred and thirty and knows he’s no better.”

“What is a ball-player that bats two hundred and thirty? It’s awfully impressive.”

“It’s not. It means a mediocre hitter in baseball.”

“But still a hitter,” she prodded me.

“I guess we’re both conceited,” I said. “But you are brave.”

“No. But I hope to be.”

“We’re both brave,” I said. “And I’m very brave when I’ve had a drink.”

“We’re splendid people,” Catherine said. She went over to the armoire and brought me the cognac and a glass. “Have a drink, darling,” she said. “You’ve been awfully good.”

“I don’t really want one.”

“Take one.”

“All right.” I poured the water glass a third full of cognac and drank it off.

“That was very big,” she said. “I know brandy is for heroes. But you shouldn’t exaggerate.”

“Where will we live after the war?”

“In an old people’s home probably,” she said. “For three years I looked forward very childishly to the war ending at Christmas. But now I look forward till when our son will be a lieutenant commander.”

“Maybe he’ll be a general.”

“If it’s an hundred years’ war he’ll have time to try both of the services.”

“Don’t you want a drink?”

“No. It always makes you happy, darling, and it only makes me dizzy.”

“Didn’t you ever drink brandy?”

“No, darling. I’m a very old-fashioned wife.”

I reached down to the floor for the bottle and poured another drink.

“I’d better go to have a look at your compatriots,” Catherine said. “Perhaps you’ll read the papers until I come back.”

“Do you have to go?”

“Now or later.”

“All right. Now.”

“I’ll come back later.”

“I’ll have finished the papers,” I said.

Popular Posts