A Farewell to Arms / Ernest Hemingway / Ch-36


That night there was a storm and I woke to hear the rain lashing the window-panes. It was coming in the open window. Some one had knocked on the door. I went to the door very softly, not to disturb Catherine, and opened it. The barman stood there. He wore his overcoat and carried his wet hat.

“Can I speak to you, Tenente?”

“What’s the matter?”

“It’s a very serious matter.”

I looked around. The room was dark. I saw the water on the floor from the window. “Come in,” I said. I took him by the arm into the bathroom; locked the door and put on the light. I sat down on the edge of the bathtub.

“What’s the matter, Emilio? Are you in trouble?”

“No. You are, Tenente.”


“They are going to arrest you in the morning.”


“I came to tell you. I was out in the town and I heard them talking in a café.”

“I see.”

He stood there, his coat wet, holding his wet hat and said nothing.

“Why are they going to arrest me?”

“For something about the war.”

“Do you know what?”

“No. But I know that they know you were here before as an officer and now you are here out of uniform. After this retreat they arrest everybody.”

I thought a minute.

“What time do they come to arrest me?”

“In the morning. I don’t know the time.”

“What do you say to do?”

He put his hat in the washbowl. It was very wet and had been dripping on the floor.

“If you have nothing to fear an arrest is nothing. But it is always bad to be arrested—especially now.”

“I don’t want to be arrested.”

“Then go to Switzerland.”


“In my boat.”

“There is a storm,” I said.

“The storm is over. It is rough but you will be all right.”

“When should we go?”

“Right away. They might come to arrest you early in the morning.”

“What about our bags?”

“Get them packed. Get your lady dressed. I will take care of them.”

“Where will you be?”

“I will wait here. I don’t want any one to see me outside in the hall.”

I opened the door, closed it, and went into the bedroom. Catherine was awake.

“What is it, darling?”

“It’s all right, Cat,” I said. “Would you like to get dressed right away and go in a boat to Switzerland?”

“Would you?”

“No,” I said. “I’d like to go back to bed.”

“What is it about?”

“The barman says they are going to arrest me in the morning.”

“Is the barman crazy?”


“Then please hurry, darling, and get dressed so we can start.” She sat up on the side of the bed. She was still sleepy. “Is that the barman in the bathroom?”


“Then I won’t wash. Please look the other way, darling, and I’ll be dressed in just a minute.”

I saw her white back as she took off her nightgown and then I looked away because she wanted me to. She was beginning to be a little big with the child and she did not want me to see her. I dressed hearing the rain on the windows. I did not have much to put in my bag.

“There’s plenty of room in my bag, Cat, if you need any.”

“I’m almost packed,” she said. “Darling, I’m awfully stupid, but why is the barman in the bathroom?”

“Sh—he’s waiting to take our bags down.”

“He’s awfully nice.”

“He’s an old friend,” I said. “I nearly sent him some pipe-tobacco once.”

I looked out the open window at the dark night. I could not see the lake, only the dark and the rain but the wind was quieter.

“I’m ready, darling,” Catherine said.

“All right.” I went to the bathroom door. “Here are the bags, Emilio,” I said. The barman took the two bags.

“You’re very good to help us,” Catherine said.

“That’s nothing, lady,” the barman said. “I’m glad to help you just so I don’t get in trouble myself. Listen,” he said to me. “I’ll take these out the servants’ stairs and to the boat. You just go out as though you were going for a walk.”

“It’s a lovely night for a walk,” Catherine said.

“It’s a bad night all right.”

“I’m glad I’ve an umbrella,” Catherine said.

We walked down the hall and down the wide thickly carpeted stairs. At the foot of the stairs by the door the porter sat behind his desk.

He looked surprised at seeing us.

“You’re not going out, sir?” he said.

“Yes,” I said. “We’re going to see the storm along the lake.”

“Haven’t you got an umbrella, sir?”

“No,” I said. “This coat sheds water.”

He looked at it doubtfully. “I’ll get you an umbrella, sir,” he said. He went away and came back with a big umbrella. “It is a little big, sir,” he said. I gave him a ten-lira note. “Oh you are too good, sir. Thank you very much,” he said. He held the door open and we went out into the rain. He smiled at Catherine and she smiled at him. “Don’t stay out in the storm,” he said. “You will get wet, sir and lady.” He was only the second porter, and his English was still literally translated.

“We’ll be back,” I said. We walked down the path under the giant umbrella and out through the dark wet gardens to the road and across the road to the trellised pathway along the lake. The wind was blowing offshore now. It was a cold, wet November wind and I knew it was snowing in the mountains. We came along past the chained boats in the slips along the quay to where the barman’s boat should be. The water was dark against the stone. The barman stepped out from beside the row of trees.

“The bags are in the boat,” he said.

“I want to pay you for the boat,” I said.

“How much money have you?”

“Not so much.”

“You send me the money later. That will be all right.”

“How much?”

“What you want.”

“Tell me how much.”

“If you get through send me five hundred francs. You won’t mind that if you get through.”

“All right.”

“Here are sandwiches.” He handed me a package. “Everything there was in the bar. It’s all here. This is a bottle of brandy and a bottle of wine.” I put them in my bag. “Let me pay you for those.”

“All right, give me fifty lire.”

I gave it to him. “The brandy is good,” he said. “You don’t need to be afraid to give it to your lady. She better get in the boat.” He held the boat, it rising and falling against the stone wall and I helped Catherine in. She sat in the stern and pulled her cape around her.

“You know where to go?”

“Up the lake.”

“You know how far?”

“Past Luino.”

“Past Luino, Cannero, Cannobio, Tranzano. You aren’t in Switzerland until you come to Brissago. You have to pass Monte Tamara.”

“What time is it?” Catherine asked.

“It’s only eleven o’clock,” I said.

“If you row all the time you ought to be there by seven o’clock in the morning.”

“Is it that far?”

“It’s thirty-five kilometres.”

“How should we go? In this rain we need a compass.”

“No. Row to Isola Bella. Then on the other side of Isola Madre go with the wind. The wind will take you to Pallanza. You will see the lights. Then go up the shore.”

“Maybe the wind will change.”

“No,” he said. “This wind will blow like this for three days. It comes straight down from the Mattarone. There is a can to bail with.”

“Let me pay you something for the boat now.”

“No, I’d rather take a chance. If you get through you pay me all you can.”

“All right.”

“I don’t think you’ll get drowned.”

“That’s good.”

“Go with the wind up the lake.”

“All right.” I stepped in the boat.

“Did you leave the money for the hotel?”

“Yes. In an envelope in the room.”

“All right. Good luck, Tenente.”

“Good luck. We thank you many times.”

“You won’t thank me if you get drowned.”

“What does he say?” Catherine asked.

“He says good luck.”

“Good luck,” Catherine said. “Thank you very much.”

“Are you ready?”


He bent down and shoved us off. I dug at the water with the oars, then waved one hand. The barman waved back deprecatingly. I saw the lights of the hotel and rowed out, rowing straight out until they were out of sight. There was quite a sea running but we were going with the wind.

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