A Farewell to Arms / Ernest Hemingway / Ch-11


It was dusk when the priest came. They had brought the soup and afterward taken away the bowls and I was lying looking at the rows of beds and out the window at the tree-top that moved a little in the evening breeze. The breeze came in through the window and it was cooler with the evening. The flies were on the ceiling now and on the electric light bulbs that hung on wires. The lights were only turned on when some one was brought in at night or when something was being done. It made me feel very young to have the dark come after the dusk and then remain. It was like being put to bed after early supper. The orderly came down between the beds and stopped. Some one was with him. It was the priest. He stood there small, brown-faced, and embarrassed.

“How do you do?” he asked. He put some packages down by the bed, on the floor.

“All right, father.”

He sat down in the chair that had been brought for Rinaldi and looked out of the window embarrassedly. I noticed his face looked very tired.

“I can only stay a minute,” he said. “It is late.”

“It’s not late. How is the mess?”

He smiled. “I am still a great joke,” he sounded tired too. “Thank God they are all well.”

“I am so glad you are all right,” he said. “I hope you don’t suffer.” He seemed very tired and I was not used to seeing him tired.

“Not any more.”

“I miss you at the mess.”

“I wish I were there. I always enjoyed our talking.”

“I brought you a few little things,” he said. He picked up the packages. “This is mosquito netting. This is a bottle of vermouth. You like vermouth? These are English papers.”

“Please open them.”

He was pleased and undid them. I held the mosquito netting in my hands. The vermouth he held up for me to see and then put it on the floor beside the bed. I held up one of the sheaf of English papers. I could read the headlines by turning it so the half-light from the window was on it. It was the News of the World.

“The others are illustrated,” he said.

“It will be a great happiness to read them. Where did you get them?”

“I sent for them to Mestre. I will have more.”

“You were very good to come, father. Will you drink a glass of vermouth?”

“Thank you. You keep it. It’s for you.”

“No, drink a glass.”

“All right. I will bring you more then.”

The orderly brought the glasses and opened the bottle. He broke off the cork and the end had to be shoved down into the bottle. I could see the priest was disappointed but he said, “That’s all right. It’s no matter.”

“Here’s to your health, father.”

“To your better health.”

Afterward he held the glass in his hand and we looked at one another. Sometimes we talked and were good friends but to-night it was difficult.

“What’s the matter, father? You seem very tired.”

“I am tired but I have no right to be.”

“It’s the heat.”

“No. This is only the Spring. I feel very low.”

“You have the war disgust.”

“No. But I hate the war.”

“I don’t enjoy it,” I said. He shook his head and looked out of the window.

“You do not mind it. You do not see it. You must forgive me. I know you are wounded.”

“That is an accident.”

“Still even wounded you do not see it. I can tell. I do not see it myself but I feel it a little.”

“When I was wounded we were talking about it. Passini was talking.”

The priest put down the glass. He was thinking about something else.

“I know them because I am like they are,” he said.

“You are different though.”

“But really I am like they are.”

“The officers don’t see anything.”

“Some of them do. Some are very delicate and feel worse than any of us.”

“They are mostly different.”

“It is not education or money. It is something else. Even if they had education or money men like Passini would not wish to be officers. I would not be an officer.”

“You rank as an officer. I am an officer.”

“I am not really. You are not even an Italian. You are a foreigner. But you are nearer the officers than you are to the men.”

“What is the difference?”

“I cannot say it easily. There are people who would make war. In this country there are many like that. There are other people who would not make war.”

“But the first ones make them do it.”


“And I help them.”

“You are a foreigner. You are a patriot.”

“And the ones who would not make war? Can they stop it?”

“I do not know.”

He looked out of the window again. I watched his face.

“Have they ever been able to stop it?”

“They are not organized to stop things and when they get organized their leaders sell them out.”

“Then it’s hopeless?”

“It is never hopeless. But sometimes I cannot hope. I try always to hope but sometimes I cannot.”

“Maybe the war will be over.”

“I hope so.”

“What will you do then?”

“If it is possible I will return to the Abruzzi.”

His brown face was suddenly very happy.

“You love the Abruzzi!”

“Yes, I love it very much.”

“You ought to go there then.”

“I would be too happy. If I could live there and love God and serve Him.”

“And be respected,” I said.

“Yes and be respected. Why not?”

“No reason not. You should be respected.”

“It does not matter. But there in my country it is understood that a man may love God. It is not a dirty joke.”

“I understand.”

He looked at me and smiled.

“You understand but you do not love God.”


“You do not love Him at all?” he asked.

“I am afraid of him in the night sometimes.”

“You should love Him.”

“I don’t love much.”

“Yes,” he said. “You do. What you tell me about in the nights. That is not love. That is only passion and lust. When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.”

“I don’t love.”

“You will. I know you will. Then you will be happy.”

“I’m happy. I’ve always been happy.”

“It is another thing. You cannot know about it unless you have it.”

“Well,” I said. “If I ever get it I will tell you.”

“I stay too long and talk too much.” He was worried that he really did.

“No. Don’t go. How about loving women? If I really loved some woman would it be like that?”

“I don’t know about that. I never loved any woman.”

“What about your mother?”

“Yes, I must have loved my mother.”

“Did you always love God?”

“Ever since I was a little boy.”

“Well,” I said. I did not know what to say. “You are a fine boy,” I said.

“I am a boy,” he said. “But you call me father.”

“That’s politeness.”

He smiled.

“I must go, really,” he said. “You do not want me for anything?” he asked hopefully.

“No. Just to talk.”

“I will take your greetings to the mess.”

“Thank you for the many fine presents.”


“Come and see me again.”

“Yes. Good-by,” he patted my hand.

“So long,” I said in dialect.

“Ciaou,” he repeated.

It was dark in the room and the orderly, who had sat by the foot of the bed, got up and went out with him. I liked him very much and I hoped he would get back to the Abruzzi some time. He had a rotten life in the mess and he was fine about it but I thought how he would be in his own country. At Capracotta, he had told me, there were trout in the stream below the town. It was forbidden to play the flute at night. When the young men serenaded only the flute was forbidden. Why, I had asked. Because it was bad for the girls to hear the flute at night. The peasants all called you “Don” and when you met them they took off their hats. His father hunted every day and stopped to eat at the houses of peasants. They were always honored. For a foreigner to hunt he must present a certificate that he had never been arrested. There were bears on the Gran Sasso D’Italia but it was a long way. Aquila was a fine town. It was cool in the summer at night and the spring in Abruzzi was the most beautiful in Italy. But what was lovely was the fall to go hunting through the chestnut woods. The birds were all good because they fed on grapes and you never took a lunch because the peasants were always honored if you would eat with them at their houses. After a while I went to sleep.

Popular Posts