A Farewell to Arms / Ernest Hemingway / Ch-19


The summer went that way. I do not remember much about the days, except that they were hot and that there were many victories in the papers. I was very healthy and my legs healed quickly so that it was not very long after I was first on crutches before I was through with them and walking with a cane. Then I started treatments at the Ospedale Maggiore for bending the knees, mechanical treatments, baking in a box of mirrors with violet rays, massage, and baths. I went over there afternoons and afterward stopped at the café and had a drink and read the papers. I did not roam around the town; but wanted to get home to the hospital from the café. All I wanted was to see Catherine. The rest of the time I was glad to kill. Mostly I slept in the mornings, and in the afternoons, sometimes, I went to the races, and late to the mechano-therapy treatments. Sometimes I stopped in at the Anglo-American Club and sat in a deep leather-cushioned chair in front of the window and read the magazines. They would not let us go out together when I was off crutches because it was unseemly for a nurse to be seen unchaperoned with a patient who did not look as though he needed attendance, so we were not together much in the afternoons. Although sometimes we could go out to dinner if Ferguson went along. Miss Van Campen had accepted the status that we were great friends because she got a great amount of work out of Catherine. She thought Catherine came from very good people and that prejudiced her in her favor finally. Miss Van Campen admired family very much and came from an excellent family herself. The hospital was quite busy, too, and that kept her occupied. It was a hot summer and I knew many people in Milan but always was anxious to get back home to the hospital as soon as the afternoon was over. At the front they were advancing on the Carso, they had taken Kuk across from Plava and were taking the Bainsizza plateau. The West front did not sound so good. It looked as though the war were going on for a long time. We were in the war now but I thought it would take a year to get any great amount of troops over and train them for combat. Next year would be a bad year, or a good year maybe. The Italians were using up an awful amount of men. I did not see how it could go on. Even if they took all the Bainsizza and Monte San Gabriele there were plenty of mountains beyond for the Austrians. I had seen them. All the highest mountains were beyond. On the Carso they were going forward but there were marshes and swamps down by the sea. Napoleon would have whipped the Austrians on the plains. He never would have fought them in the mountains. He would have let them come down and whipped them around Verona. Still nobody was whipping any one on the Western front. Perhaps wars weren’t won any more. Maybe they went on forever. Maybe it was another Hundred Years’ War. I put the paper back on the rack and left the club. I went down the steps carefully and walked up the Via Manzoni. Outside the Gran Hotel I met old Meyers and his wife getting out of a carriage. They were coming back from the races. She was a big-busted woman in black satin. He was short and old, with a white mustache and walked flat-footed with a cane.

“How do you do? How do you do?” She shook hands. “Hello,” said Meyers.

“How were the races?”

“Fine. They were just lovely. I had three winners.”

“How did you do?” I asked Meyers.

“All right. I had a winner.”

“I never know how he does,” Mrs. Meyers said. “He never tells me.”

“I do all right,” Meyers said. He was being cordial. “You ought to come out.” While he talked you had the impression that he was not looking at you or that he mistook you for some one else.

“I will,” I said.

“I’m coming up to the hospital to see you,” Mrs. Meyers said. “I have some things for my boys. You’re all my boys. You certainly are my dear boys.”

“They’ll be glad to see you.”

“Those dear boys. You too. You’re one of my boys.”

“I have to get back,” I said.

“You give my love to all those dear boys. I’ve got lots of things to bring. I’ve some fine Marsala and cakes.”

“Good-by,” I said. “They’ll be awfully glad to see you.”

“Good-by,” said Meyers. “You come around to the galleria. You know where my table is. We’re all there every afternoon.” I went on up the street. I wanted to buy something at the Cova to take to Catherine. Inside, at the Cova, I bought a box of chocolate and while the girl wrapped it up I walked over to the bar. There were a couple of British and some aviators. I had a martini alone, paid for it, picked up the box of chocolate at the outside counter and walked on home toward the hospital. Outside the little bar up the street from the Scala there were some people I knew, a vice-consul, two fellows who studied singing, and Ettore Moretti, an Italian from San Francisco who was in the Italian army. I had a drink with them. One of the singers was named Ralph Simmons, and he was singing under the name of Enrico DelCredo. I never knew how well he could sing but he was always on the point of something very big happening. He was fat and looked shopworn around the nose and mouth as though he had hayfever. He had come back from singing in Piacenza. He had sung Tosca and it had been wonderful.

“Of course you’ve never heard me sing,” he said.

“When will you sing here?”

“I’ll be at the Scala in the fall.”

“I’ll bet they throw the benches at you,” Ettore said. “Did you hear how they threw the benches at him in Modena?”

“It’s a damned lie.”

“They threw the benches at him,” Ettore said. “I was there. I threw six benches myself.”

“You’re just a wop from Frisco.”

“He can’t pronounce Italian,” Ettore said. “Everywhere he goes they throw the benches at him.”

“Piacenza’s the toughest house to sing in the north of Italy,” the other tenor said. “Believe me that’s a tough little house to sing.” This tenor’s name was Edgar Saunders, and he sang under the name of Edouardo Giovanni.

“I’d like to be there to see them throw the benches at you,” Ettore said. “You can’t sing Italian.”

“He’s a nut,” said Edgar Saunders. “All he knows how to say is throw benches.”

“That’s all they know how to do when you two sing,” Ettore said. “Then when you go to America you’ll tell about your triumphs at the Scala. They wouldn’t let you get by the first note at the Scala.”

“I’ll sing at the Scala,” Simmons said. “I’m going to sing Tosca in October.”

“We’ll go, won’t we, Mac?” Ettore said to the vice-consul. “They’ll need somebody to protect them.”

“Maybe the American army will be there to protect them,” the vice-consul said. “Do you want another drink, Simmons? You want a drink, Saunders?”

“All right,” said Saunders.

“I hear you’re going to get the silver medal,” Ettore said to me. “What kind of citation you going to get?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know I’m going to get it.”

“You’re going to get it. Oh boy, the girls at the Cova will think you’re fine then. They’ll all think you killed two hundred Austrians or captured a whole trench by yourself. Believe me, I got to work for my decorations.”

“How many have you got, Ettore?” asked the vice-consul.

“He’s got everything,” Simmons said. “He’s the boy they’re running the war for.”

“I’ve got the bronze twice and three silver medals,” said Ettore. “But the papers on only one have come through.”

“What’s the matter with the others?” asked Simmons.

“The action wasn’t successful,” said Ettore. “When the action isn’t successful they hold up all the medals.”

“How many times have you been wounded, Ettore?”

“Three times bad. I got three wound stripes. See?” He pulled his sleeve around. The stripes were parallel silver lines on a black background sewed to the cloth of the sleeve about eight inches below the shoulder.

“You got one too,” Ettore said to me. “Believe me they’re fine to have. I’d rather have them than medals. Believe me, boy, when you get three you’ve got something. You only get one for a wound that puts you three months in the hospital.”

“Where were you wounded, Ettore?” asked the vice-consul.

Ettore pulled up his sleeve. “Here,” he showed the deep smooth red scar. “Here on my leg. I can’t show you that because I got puttees on; and in the foot. There’s dead bone in my foot that stinks right now. Every morning I take new little pieces out and it stinks all the time.”

“What hit you?” asked Simmons.

“A hand-grenade. One of those potato mashers. It just blew the whole side of my foot off. You know those potato mashers?” He turned to me.


“I saw the son of a bitch throw it,” Ettore said. “It knocked me down and I thought I was dead all right but those damn potato mashers haven’t got anything in them. I shot the son of a bitch with my rifle. I always carry a rifle so they can’t tell I’m an officer.”

“How did he look?” asked Simmons.

“That was the only one he had,” Ettore said. “I don’t know why he threw it. I guess he always wanted to throw one. He never saw any real fighting probably. I shot the son of a bitch all right.”

“How did he look when you shot him?” Simmons asked.

“Hell, how should I know,” said Ettore. “I shot him in the belly. I was afraid I’d miss him if I shot him in the head.”

“How long have you been an officer, Ettore?” I asked.

“Two years. I’m going to be a captain. How long have you been a lieutenant?”

“Going on three years.”

“You can’t be a captain because you don’t know the Italian language well enough,” Ettore said. “You can talk but you can’t read and write well enough. You got to have an education to be a captain. Why don’t you go in the American army?”

“Maybe I will.”

“I wish to God I could. Oh, boy, how much does a captain get, Mac?”

“I don’t know exactly. Around two hundred and fifty dollars, I think.”

“Jesus Christ what I could do with two hundred and fifty dollars. You better get in the American army quick, Fred. See if you can’t get me in.”

“All right.”

“I can command a company in Italian. I could learn it in English easy.”

“You’d be a general,” said Simmons.

“No, I don’t know enough to be a general. A general’s got to know a hell of a lot. You guys think there ain’t anything to war. You ain’t got brains enough to be a second-class corporal.”

“Thank God I don’t have to be,” Simmons said.

“Maybe you will if they round up all you slackers. Oh, boy, I’d like to have you two in my platoon. Mac too. I’d make you my orderly, Mac.”

“You’re a great boy, Ettore,” Mac said. “But I’m afraid you’re a militarist.”

“I’ll be a colonel before the war’s over,” Ettore said.

“If they don’t kill you.”

“They won’t kill me.” He touched the stars at his collar with his thumb and forefinger. “See me do that? We always touch our stars if anybody mentions getting killed.”

“Let’s go, Sim,” said Saunders standing up.

“All right.”

“So long,” I said. “I have to go too.” It was a quarter to six by the clock inside the bar. “Ciaou, Ettore.”

“Ciaou, Fred,” said Ettore. “That’s pretty fine you’re going to get the silver medal.”

“I don’t know I’ll get it.”

“You’ll get it all right, Fred. I heard you were going to get it all right.”

“Well, so long,” I said. “Keep out of trouble, Ettore.”

“Don’t worry about me. I don’t drink and I don’t run around. I’m no boozer and whorehound. I know what’s good for me.”

“So long,” I said. “I’m glad you’re going to be promoted captain.”

“I don’t have to wait to be promoted. I’m going to be a captain for merit of war. You know. Three stars with the crossed swords and crown above. That’s me.”

“Good luck.”

“Good luck. When you going back to the front?”

“Pretty soon.”

“Well, I’ll see you around.”

“So long.”

“So long. Don’t take any bad nickels.”

I walked on down a back street that led to a cross-cut to the hospital. Ettore was twenty-three. He had been brought up by an uncle in San Francisco and was visiting his father and mother in Torino when war was declared. He had a sister, who had been sent to America with him at the same time to live with the uncle, who would graduate from normal school this year. He was a legitimate hero who bored every one he met. Catherine could not stand him.

“We have heroes too,” she said. “But usually, darling, they’re much quieter.”

“I don’t mind him.”

“I wouldn’t mind him if he wasn’t so conceited and didn’t bore me, and bore me, and bore me.”

“He bores me.”

“You’re sweet to say so, darling. But you don’t need to. You can picture him at the front and you know he’s useful but he’s so much the type of boy I don’t care for.”

“I know.”

“You’re awfully sweet to know, and I try and like him but he’s a dreadful, dreadful boy really.”

“He said this afternoon he was going to be a captain.”

“I’m glad,” said Catherine. “That should please him.”

“Wouldn’t you like me to have some more exalted rank?”

“No, darling. I only want you to have enough rank so that we’re admitted to the better restaurants.”

“That’s just the rank I have.”

“You have a splendid rank. I don’t want you to have any more rank. It might go to your head. Oh, darling, I’m awfully glad you’re not conceited. I’d have married you even if you were conceited but it’s very restful to have a husband who’s not conceited.”

We were talking softly out on the balcony. The moon was supposed to rise but there was a mist over the town and it did not come up and in a little while it started to drizzle and we came in. Outside the mist turned to rain and in a little while it was raining hard and we heard it drumming on the roof. I got up and stood at the door to see if it was raining in but it wasn’t, so I left the door open.

“Who else did you see?” Catherine asked.

“Mr. and Mrs. Meyers.”

“They’re a strange lot.”

“He’s supposed to have been in the penitentiary at home. They let him out to die.”

“And he lived happily in Milan forever after.”

“I don’t know how happily.”

“Happily enough after jail I should think.”

“She’s bringing some things here.”

“She brings splendid things. Were you her dear boy?”

“One of them.”

“You are all her dear boys,” Catherine said. “She prefers the dear boys. Listen to it rain.”

“It’s raining hard.”

“And you’ll always love me, won’t you?”


“And the rain won’t make any difference?”


“That’s good. Because I’m afraid of the rain.”

“Why?” I was sleepy. Outside the rain was falling steadily.

“I don’t know, darling. I’ve always been afraid of the rain.”

“I like it.”

“I like to walk in it. But it’s very hard on loving.”

“I’ll love you always.”

“I’ll love you in the rain and in the snow and in the hail and—what else is there?”

“I don’t know. I guess I’m sleepy.”

“Go to sleep, darling, and I’ll love you no matter how it is.”

“You’re not really afraid of the rain are you?”

“Not when I’m with you.”

“Why are you afraid of it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tell me.”

“Don’t make me.”

“Tell me.”


“Tell me.”

“All right. I’m afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it.”


“And sometimes I see you dead in it.”

“That’s more likely.”

“No it’s not, darling. Because I can keep you safe. I know I can. But nobody can help themselves.”

“Please stop it. I don’t want you to get Scotch and crazy to-night. We won’t be together much longer.”

“No, but I am Scotch and crazy. But I’ll stop it. It’s all nonsense.”

“Yes it’s all nonsense.”

“It’s all nonsense. It’s only nonsense. I’m not afraid of the rain. I’m not afraid of the rain. Oh, oh, God, I wish I wasn’t.” She was crying. I comforted her and she stopped crying. But outside it kept on raining.

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