A Farewell to Arms / Ernest Hemingway / Ch-33


I dropped off the train in Milan as it slowed to come into the station early in the morning before it was light. I crossed the track and came out between some buildings and down onto the street. A wine shop was open and I went in for some coffee. It smelled of early morning, of swept dust, spoons in coffee-glasses and the wet circles left by wine-glasses. The proprietor was behind the bar. Two soldiers sat at a table. I stood at the bar and drank a glass of coffee and ate a piece of bread. The coffee was gray with milk, and I skimmed the milk scum off the top with a piece of bread. The proprietor looked at me.

“You want a glass of grappa?”

“No thanks.”

“On me,” he said and poured a small glass and pushed it toward me. “What’s happening at the front?”

“I would not know.”

“They are drunk,” he said, moving his hand toward the two soldiers. I could believe him. They looked drunk.

“Tell me,” he said, “what is happening at the front?”

“I would not know about the front.”

“I saw you come down the wall. You came off the train.”

“There is a big retreat.”

“I read the papers. What happens? Is it over?”

“I don’t think so.”

He filled the glass with grappa from a short bottle. “If you are in trouble,” he said, “I can keep you.”

“I am not in trouble.”

“If you are in trouble stay here with me.”

“Where does one stay?”

“In the building. Many stay here. Any who are in trouble stay here.”

“Are many in trouble?”

“It depends on the trouble. You are a South American?”


“Speak Spanish?”

“A little.”

He wiped off the bar.

“It is hard now to leave the country but in no way impossible.”

“I have no wish to leave.”

“You can stay here as long as you want. You will see what sort of man I am.”

“I have to go this morning but I will remember the address to return.”

He shook his head. “You won’t come back if you talk like that. I thought you were in real trouble.”

“I am in no trouble. But I value the address of a friend.”

I put a ten-lira note on the bar to pay for the coffee.

“Have a grappa with me,” I said.

“It is not necessary.”

“Have one.”

He poured the two glasses.

“Remember,” he said. “Come here. Do not let other people take you in. Here you are all right.”

“I am sure.”

“You are sure?”


He was serious. “Then let me tell you one thing. Do not go about with that coat.”


“On the sleeves it shows very plainly where the stars have been cut away. The cloth is a different color.”

I did not say anything.

“If you have no papers I can give you papers.”

“What papers?”


“I have no need for papers. I have papers.”

“All right,” he said. “But if you need papers I can get what you wish.”

“How much are such papers?”

“It depends on what they are. The price is reasonable.”

“I don’t need any now.”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“I’m all right,” I said.

When I went out he said, “Don’t forget that I am your friend.”


“I will see you again,” he said.

“Good,” I said.

Outside I kept away from the station, where there were military police, and picked up a cab at the edge of the little park. I gave the driver the address of the hospital. At the hospital I went to the porter’s lodge. His wife embraced me. He shook my hand.

“You are back. You are safe.”


“Have you had breakfast?”


“How are you, Tenente? How are you?” the wife asked.


“Won’t you have breakfast with us?”

“No, thank you. Tell me is Miss Barkley here at the hospital now?”

“Miss Barkley?”

“The English lady nurse.”

“His girl,” the wife said. She patted my arm and smiled.

“No,” the porter said. “She is away.”

My heart went down. “You are sure? I mean the tall blonde English young lady.”

“I am sure. She is gone to Stresa.”

“When did she go?”

“She went two days ago with the other lady English.”

“Good,” I said. “I wish you to do something for me. Do not tell any one you have seen me. It is very important.”

“I won’t tell any one,” the porter said. I gave him a ten-lira note. He pushed it away.

“I promise you I will tell no one,” he said. “I don’t want any money.”

“What can we do for you, Signor Tenente?” his wife asked.

“Only that,” I said.

“We are dumb,” the porter said. “You will let me know anything I can do?”

“Yes,” I said. “Good-by. I will see you again.”

They stood in the door, looking after me.

I got into the cab and gave the driver the address of Simmons, one of the men I knew who was studying singing.

Simmons lived a long way out in the town toward the Porta Magenta. He was still in bed and sleepy when I went to see him.

“You get up awfully early, Henry,” he said.

“I came in on the early train.”

“What’s all this retreat? Were you at the front? Will you have a cigarette? They’re in that box on the table.” It was a big room with a bed beside the wall, a piano over on the far side and a dresser and table. I sat on a chair by the bed. Simmons sat propped up by the pillows and smoked.

“I’m in a jam, Sim,” I said.

“So am I,” he said. “I’m always in a jam. Won’t you smoke?”

“No,” I said. “What’s the procedure in going to Switzerland?”

“For you? The Italians wouldn’t let you out of the country.”

“Yes. I know that. But the Swiss. What will they do?”

“They intern you.”

“I know. But what’s the mechanics of it?”

“Nothing. It’s very simple. You can go anywhere. I think you just have to report or something. Why? Are you fleeing the police?”

“Nothing definite yet.”

“Don’t tell me if you don’t want. But it would be interesting to hear. Nothing happens here. I was a great flop at Piacenza.”

“I’m awfully sorry.”

“Oh yes—I went very badly. I sung well too. I’m going to try it again at the Lyrico here.”

“I’d like to be there.”

“You’re awfully polite. You aren’t in a bad mess, are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t tell me if you don’t want. How do you happen to be away from the bloody front?”

“I think I’m through with it.”

“Good boy. I always knew you had sense. Can I help you any way?”

“You’re awfully busy.”

“Not a bit of it, my dear Henry. Not a bit of it. I’d be happy to do anything.”

“You’re about my size. Would you go out and buy me an outfit of civilian clothes? I’ve clothes but they’re all at Rome.”

“You did live there, didn’t you? It’s a filthy place. How did you ever live there?”

“I wanted to be an architect.”

“That’s no place for that. Don’t buy clothes. I’ll give you all the clothes you want. I’ll fit you out so you’ll be a great success. Go in that dressing room. There’s a closet. Take anything you want. My dear fellow, you don’t want to buy clothes.”

“I’d rather buy them, Sim.”

“My dear fellow, it’s easier for me to let you have them than go out and buy them. Have you got a passport? You won’t get far without a passport.”

“Yes. I’ve still got my passport.”

“Then get dressed, my dear fellow, and off to old Helvetia.”

“It’s not that simple. I have to go up to Stresa first.”

“Ideal, my dear fellow. You just row a boat across. If I wasn’t trying to sing, I’d go with you. I’ll go yet.”

“You could take up yodelling.”

“My dear fellow, I’ll take up yodelling yet. I really can sing though. That’s the strange part.”

“I’ll bet you can sing.”

He lay back in bed smoking a cigarette.

“Don’t bet too much. But I can sing though. It’s damned funny, but I can. I like to sing. Listen.” He roared into “Africana,” his neck swelling, the veins standing out. “I can sing,” he said. “Whether they like it or not.” I looked out of the window. “I’ll go down and let my cab go.”

“Come back up, my dear fellow, and we’ll have breakfast.” He stepped out of bed, stood straight, took a deep breath and commenced doing bending exercises. I went downstairs and paid off the cab.

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