Authors: Ernest Hemingway
Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #Classics, #General
A Farewell To Arms Hemingway, Ernest
In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.
The plain was rich with crops; there were many orchards of fruit trees and beyond the plain the mountains were brown and bare. There was fighting in the mountains and at night we could see the flashes from the artillery. In the dark it was like summer lightning, but the nights were cool and there was not the feeling of a storm coming.
Sometimes in the dark we heard the troops marching under the window and guns going past pulled by motor-tractors. There was much traffic at night and many mules on the roads with boxes of ammunition on each side of their pack-saddles and gray motor trucks that carried men, and other trucks with loads covered with canvas that moved slower in the traffic. There were big guns too that passed in the day drawn by tractors, the long barrels of the guns covered with green branches and green leafy branches and vines laid over the tractors. To the north we could look across a valley and see a forest of chestnut trees and behind it another mountain on this side of the river. There was fighting for that mountain too, but it was not successful, and in the fall when the rains came the leaves all fell from the chestnut trees and the branches were bare and the trunks black with rain. The vineyards were thin and bare-branched too and all the country wet and brown and dead with the autumn. There were mists over the river and clouds on the mountain and the trucks splashed mud on the road and the troops were muddy and wet in their capes; their rifles were wet and under their capes the two leather cartridge-boxes on the front of the belts, gray leather boxes heavy with the packs of clips of thin, long 6.5 mm. cartridges, bulged forward under the capes so that the men, passing on the road, marched as though they were six months gone with child.
There were small gray motor cars that passed going very fast; usually there was an officer on the seat with the driver and more officers in the back seat. They splashed more mud than the camions even and if one of the officers in the back was very small and sitting between two generals, he himself so small that you could not see his face but only the top of his cap and his narrow back, and if the car went especially fast it was probably the King. He lived in Udine
and came out in this way nearly every day to see how things were going, and things went very badly.
At the start of the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain came the cholera. But it was checked and in the end only seven thousand died of it in the army.
The next year there were many victories. The mountain that was beyond the valley and the hillside where the chestnut forest grew was captured and there were victories beyond the plain on the plateau to the south and we crossed the river in August and lived in a house in Gorizia that had a fountain and many thick shady trees in a walled garden and a wistaria vine purple on the side of the house. Now the fighting was in the next mountains beyond and was not a mile away. The town was very nice and our house was very fine. The river ran behind us and the town had been captured very handsomely but the mountains beyond it could not be taken and I was very glad the Austrians seemed to want to come back to the town some time, if the war should end, because they did not bombard it to destroy it but only a little in a military way. People lived on in it and there were hospitals and cafés and artillery up side streets and two bawdy houses, one for troops and one for officers, and with the end of the summer, the cool nights, the fighting in the mountains beyond the town, the shell-marked iron of the railway bridge, the smashed tunnel by the river where the fighting had been, the trees around the square and the long avenue of trees that led to the square; these with there being girls in the town, the King passing in his motor car, sometimes now seeing his face and little long necked body and gray beard like a goat's chin tuft; all these with the sudden interiors of houses that had lost a wall through shelling, with plaster and rubble in their gardens and sometimes in the street, and the whole thing going well on the Carso made the fall very different from the last fall when we had been in the country. The war was changed too.
The forest of oak trees on the mountain beyond the town was gone. The forest had been green in the summer when we had come into the town but now there were the stumps and the broken trunks and the ground torn up, and one day at the end of the fall when I was out where the oak forest
had been I saw a cloud coming over the mountain. It came very fast and the sun went a dull yellow and then everything was gray and the sky was covered and the cloud came on down the mountain and suddenly we were in it and it was snow. The snow slanted across the wind, the bare ground was covered, the stumps of trees projected, there was snow on the guns and there were paths in the snow going back to the latrines behind trenches.
Later, below in the town, I watched the snow falling, looking out of the window of the bawdy house, the house for officers, where I sat with a friend and two glasses drinking a bottle of Asti
, and, looking out at the snow falling slowly and heavily, we knew it was all over for that year. Up the river the mountains had not been taken; none of the mountains beyond the river had been taken. That was all left for next year. My friend saw the priest from our mess going by in the street, walking carefully in the slush, and pounded on the window to attract his attention. The priest looked up. He saw us and smiled. My friend motioned for him to come in. The priest shook his head and went on. That night in the mess after the spaghetti course, which every one ate very quickly and seriously, lifting the spaghetti on the fork until the loose strands hung clear then lowering it into the mouth, or else using a continuous lift and sucking into the mouth, helping ourselves to wine from the grass-covered gallon flask; it swung in a metal cradle and you pulled the neck of the flask down with the forefinger and the wine, clear red, tannic and lovely, poured out into the glass held with the same hand; after this course, the captain commenced picking on the priest.
The priest was young and blushed easily and wore a uniform like the rest of us but with a cross in dark red velvet above the left breast pocket of his gray tunic. The captain spoke pidgin Italian for my doubtful benefit, in order that I might understand perfectly, that nothing should be lost.
“Priest to-day with girls,” the captain said looking at the priest and at me. The priest smiled and blushed and shook his head. This captain baited him often.
“Not true?” asked the captain. “To-day I see priest with girls.”
“No,” said the priest. The other officers were amused at the baiting.
“Priest not with girls,” went on the captain. “Priest never with girls,” he explained to me. He took my glass and filled it, looking at my eyes all the time, but not losing sight of the priest.
“Priest every night five against one.” Every one at the table laughed. “You understand? Priest every night five against one.” He made a gesture and laughed loudly. The priest accepted it as a joke.
“The Pope wants the Austrians to win the war,” the major said. “He loves Franz Joseph. That's where the money comes from. I am an atheist.”
“Did you ever read the 'Black Pig'?” asked the lieutenant. “I will get you a copy. It was that which shook my faith.”
“It is a filthy and vile book,” said the priest. “You do not really like it.”
“It is very valuable,” said the lieutenant. “It tells you about those priests. You will like it,” he said to me. I smiled at the priest and he smiled back across the candle-light. “Don't you read it,” he said.
“I will get it for you,” said the lieutenant.
“All thinking men are atheists,” the major said. “I do not believe in the Free Masons however.”
“I believe in the Free Masons,” the lieutenant said. “It is a noble organization.” Some one came in and as the door opened I could see the snow falling.
“There will be no more offensive now that the snow has come,” I said.
“Certainly not,” said the major. “You should go on leave. You should go to Rome
, Naples, Sicily--”
“He should visit Amalfi,” said the lieutenant. “I will write you cards to my family in Amalfi. They will love you like a son.”
“He should go to Palermo
“He ought to go to Capri.”
“I would like you to see Abruzzi
and visit my family at Capracotta,” said the priest.
“Listen to him talk about the Abruzzi
. There's more snow there than here. He doesn't want to see peasants. Let him go to centres of culture and civilization.”
“He should have fine girls. I will give you the addresses of places in Naples
. Beautiful young girls--accompanied by their mothers. Ha! Ha! Ha!” The captain spread his hand open, the thumb up and fingers outspread as when you make shadow pictures. There was a shadow from his hand on the wall. He spoke again in pidgin Italian. “You go away like this,” he pointed to the thumb, “and come back like this,” he touched the little finger. Every one laughed.
“Look,” said the captain. He spread the hand again. Again the candle-light made its shadows on the wall. He started with the upright thumb and named in their order the thumb and four fingers, “soto-tenente (the thumb), tenente (first finger), capitano (next finger), maggiore (next to the little finger), and tenentecolonello (the little finger). You go away soto-tenente! You come back soto-colonello!” They all laughed. The captain was having a great success with finger games. He looked at the priest and shouted, “Every night priest five against one!” They all laughed again.
“You must go on leave at once,” the major said.
“I would like to go with you and show you things,” the lieutenant said.
“When you come back bring a phonograph.”
“Bring good opera disks.”
“Don't bring Caruso. He bellows.”
“Don't you wish you could bellow like him?”
“He bellows. I say he bellows!”
“I would like you to go to Abruzzi
,” the priest said. The others were shouting. “There is good hunting. You would like the people and though it is cold it is clear and dry. You could stay with my family. My father is a famous hunter.”
“Come on,” said the captain. “We go whorehouse before it shuts.”
“Good-night,” I said to the priest.
“Good-night,” he said.
When I came back to the front we still lived in that town. There were many more guns in the country around and the spring had come. The fields were green and there were small green shoots on the vines, the trees along the road had small leaves and a breeze came from the sea. I saw the town with the hill and the old castle above it in a cup in the hills with the mountains beyond, brown mountains with a little green on their slopes. In the town there were more guns, there were some new hospitals, you met British men and sometimes women, on the street, and a few more houses had been hit by shell fire. Jt was warm and like the spring and I walked down the alleyway of trees, warmed from the sun on the wall, and found we still lived in the same house and that it all looked the same as when I had left it. The door was open, there was a soldier sitting on a bench outside in the sun, an ambulance was waiting by the side door and inside the door, as I went in, there was the smell of marble floors and hospital. It was all as I had left it except that now it was spring. I looked in the door of the big room and saw the major sitting at his desk, the window open and the sunlight coming into the room. He did not see me and I did not know whether to go in and report or go upstairs first and clean up. I decided to go on upstairs.
The room I shared with the lieutenant Rinaldi looked out on the courtyard. The window was open, my bed was made up with blankets and my things hung on the wall, the gas mask in an oblong tin can, the steel helmet on the same peg. At the foot of the bed was my flat trunk, and my winter boots, the leather shiny with oil, were on the trunk. My Austrian sniper's rifle with its blued octagon barrel and the lovely dark walnut, cheek-fitted, schutzen stock, hung over the two beds. The telescope that fitted it was, I remembered, locked in the trunk. The lieutenant, Rinaldi, lay asleep on the other bed. He woke when he heard me in the room and sat up.
“Ciaou!” he said. “What kind of time did you have?”
We shook hands and he put his arm around my neck and kissed me.
“Oughf,” I said.
“You're dirty,” he said. “You ought to wash. Where did you go and what did you do? Tell me everything at once.”
“I went everywhere. Milan
, Villa San Giovanni, Messina
“You talk like a time-table. Did you have any beautiful adventures?”
“Milano, Firenze, Roma, Napoli--”
“That's enough. Tell me really what was the best.”
“That was because it was first. Where did you meet her? In the Cova? Where did you go? How did you feel? Tell me everything at once. Did you stay all night?”
“That's nothing. Here now we have beautiful girls. New girls never been to the front before.”
“You don't believe me? We will go now this afternoon and see. And in the town we have beautiful English girls. I am now in love with Miss Barkley. I will take you to call. I will probably marry Miss Barkley.”
“I have to get washed and report. Doesn't anybody work now?”
“Since you are gone we have nothing but frostbites, chilblains, jaundice, gonorrhea, self-inflicted wounds, pneumonia and hard and soft chancres. Every week some one gets wounded by rock fragments. There are a few real wounded. Next week the war starts again. Perhaps it start again. They say so. Do you think I would do right to marry Miss Barkley--after the war of course?”
“Absolutely,” I said and poured the basin full of water.
“To-night you will tell me everything,” said Rinaldi. “Now I must go back to sleep to be fresh and beautiful for Miss Barkley.”
I took off my tunic and shirt and washed in the cold water in the basin. While I rubbed myself with a towel I looked around the room and out the window and at Rinaldi lying with his eyes closed on the bed. He was good-looking, was my age, and he came from Amalfi. He loved being a surgeon and we were great friends. While I was looking at him he opened his eyes.
“Have you any money?”
“Loan me fifty lire.”
I dried my hands and took out my pocket-book from the inside of my tunic hanging on the wall. Rinaldi took the note, folded it without rising from the bed and slid it in his breeches pocket. He smiled, “I must make on Miss Barkley the impression of a man of sufficient wealth. You are my great and good friend and financial protector.”
“Go to hell,” I said.
That night at the mess I sat next to the priest and he was disappointed and suddenly hurt that I had not gone to the Abruzzi
. He had written to his father that I was coming and they had made preparations. I myself felt as badly as he did and could not understand why I had not gone. It was what I had wanted to do and I tried to explain how one thing had led to another and finally he saw it and understood that I had really wanted to go and it was almost all right. I had drunk much wine and afterward coffee and Strega and I explained, winefully, how we did not do the things we wanted to do; we never did such things.
We two were talking while the others argued. I had wanted to go to Abruzzi
. I had gone to no place where the roads were frozen and hard as iron, where it was clear cold and dry and the snow was dry and powdery and hare-tracks in the snow and the peasants took off their hats and called you Lord and there was good hunting. I had gone to no such place but to the smoke of cafés and nights when the room whirled and you needed to look at the wall to make it stop, nights in bed, drunk, when you knew that that was all there was, and the strange excitement of waking and not knowing who it was with you, and the world all unreal in the dark and so exciting that you must resume again unknowing and not caring in the night, sure that this was all and all and all and not caring. Suddenly to care very much and to sleep to wake with it sometimes morning and all that had been there gone and everything sharp and hard and clear and sometimes a dispute about the cost. Sometimes still pleasant and fond and warm and breakfast and lunch. Sometimes all niceness gone and glad to get out on the street but always another day starting and then another night. I tried to tell about the night and the difference between the night and the day and how the night was better unless the day was very clean and cold and I could not tell it; as I cannot tell it now. But if you have had it you know. He had not had it but he understood that I had really wanted to go to the Abruzzi
but had not gone and we were still friends, with many tastes alike, but with the difference between us. He had always known what I did not know and what, when I learned it, I was always able to forget. But I did not know that then, although I learned it later. In the meantime we were all at the mess, the meal was finished, and the argument went on. We two stopped talking and the captain shouted, “Priest not happy. Priest not happy without girls.”
“I am happy,” said the priest.
“Priest not happy. Priest wants Austrians to win the war,” the captain said. The others listened. The priest shook his head.
“No,” he said.
“Priest wants us never to attack. Don't you want us never to attack?”
“No. If there is a war I suppose we must attack.”
“Must attack. Shall attack!”
The priest nodded.
“Leave him alone,” the major said. “He's all right.”
“He can't do anything about it anyway,” the captain said. We all got up and left the table.