A Farewell to Arms / Ernest Hemingway / Ch-17


When I was awake after the operation I had not been away. You do not go away. They only choke you. It is not like dying it is just a chemical choking so you do not feel, and afterward you might as well have been drunk except that when you throw up nothing comes but bile and you do not feel better afterward. I saw sandbags at the end of the bed. They were on pipes that came out of the cast. After a while I saw Miss Gage and she said, “How is it now?”

“Better,” I said.

“He did a wonderful job on your knee.”

“How long did it take?”

“Two hours and a half.”

“Did I say anything silly?”

“Not a thing. Don’t talk. Just be quiet.”

I was sick and Catherine was right. It did not make any difference who was on night duty.

There were three other patients in the hospital now, a thin boy in the Red Cross from Georgia with malaria, a nice boy, also thin, from New York, with malaria and jaundice, and a fine boy who had tried to unscrew the fuse-cap from a combination shrapnel and high explosive shell for a souvenir. This was a shrapnel shell used by the Austrians in the mountains with a nose-cap which went on after the burst and exploded on contact.

Catherine Barkley was greatly liked by the nurses because she would do night duty indefinitely. She had quite a little work with the malaria people, the boy who had unscrewed the nose-cap was a friend of ours and never rang at night, unless it was necessary but between the times of working we were together. I loved her very much and she loved me. I slept in the daytime and we wrote notes during the day when we were awake and sent them by Ferguson. Ferguson was a fine girl. I never learned anything about her except that she had a brother in the Fifty-Second Division and a brother in Mesopotamia and she was very good to Catherine Barkley.

“Will you come to our wedding, Fergy?” I said to her once.

“You’ll never get married.”

“We will.”

“No you won’t.”

“Why not?”

“You’ll fight before you’ll marry.”

“We never fight.”

“You’ve time yet.”

“We don’t fight.”

“You’ll die then. Fight or die. That’s what people do. They don’t marry.”

I reached for her hand. “Don’t take hold of me,” she said. “I’m not crying. Maybe you’ll be all right you two. But watch out you don’t get her in trouble. You get her in trouble and I’ll kill you.”

“I won’t get her in trouble.”

“Well watch out then. I hope you’ll be all right. You have a good time.”

“We have a fine time.”

“Don’t fight then and don’t get her into trouble.”

“I won’t.”

“Mind you watch out. I don’t want her with any of these war babies.”

“You’re a fine girl, Fergy.”

“I’m not. Don’t try to flatter me. How does your leg feel?”


“How is your head?” She touched the top of it with her fingers. It was sensitive like a foot that had gone to sleep. “It’s never bothered me.”

“A bump like that could make you crazy. It never bothers you?”


“You’re a lucky young man. Have you the letter done? I’m going down.”

“It’s here,” I said.

“You ought to ask her not to do night duty for a while. She’s getting very tired.”

“All right. I will.”

“I want to do it but she won’t let me. The others are glad to let her have it. You might give her just a little rest.”

“All right.”

“Miss Van Campen spoke about you sleeping all the forenoons.”

“She would.”

“It would be better if you let her stay off nights a little while.”

“I want her to.”

“You do not. But if you would make her I’d respect you for it.”

“I’ll make her.”

“I don’t believe it.” She took the note and went out. I rang the bell and in a little while Miss Gage came in.

“What’s the matter?”

“I just wanted to talk to you. Don’t you think Miss Barkley ought to go off night duty for a while? She looks awfully tired. Why does she stay on so long?”

Miss Gage looked at me.

“I’m a friend of yours,” she said. “You don’t have to talk to me like that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t be silly. Was that all you wanted?”

“Do you want a vermouth?”

“All right. Then I have to go.” She got out the bottle from the armoire and brought a glass.

“You take the glass,” I said. “I’ll drink out of the bottle.”

“Here’s to you,” said Miss Gage.

“What did Van Campen say about me sleeping late in the mornings?”

“She just jawed about it. She calls you our privileged patient.”

“To hell with her.”

“She isn’t mean,” Miss Gage said. “She’s just old and cranky. She never liked you.”


“Well, I do. And I’m your friend. Don’t forget that.”

“You’re awfully damned nice.”

“No. I know who you think is nice. But I’m your friend. How does your leg feel?”


“I’ll bring some cold mineral water to pour over it. It must itch under the cast. It’s hot outside.”

“You’re awful nice.”

“Does it itch much?”

“No. It’s fine.”

“I’ll fix those sandbags better.” She leaned over. “I’m your friend.”

“I know you are.”

“No you don’t. But you will some day.”

Catherine Barkley took three nights off night duty and then she came back on again. It was as though we met again after each of us had been away on a long journey.

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