A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway


We had a fine life. We lived through the months of January and February and the winter was very fine and we were very happy. There had been short thaws when the wind blew warm and the snow softened and the air felt like spring, but always the clear hard cold had come again and the winter had returned. In March came the first break in the winter. In the night it started raining. It rained on all morning and turned the snow to slush and made the mountain-side dismal. There were clouds over the lake and over the valley. It was raining high up the mountain. Catherine wore heavy overshoes and I wore Mr. Guttingen’s rubber-boots and we walked to the station under an umbrella, through the slush and the running water that was washing the ice of the roads bare, to stop at the pub before lunch for a vermouth. Outside we could hear the rain.

“Do you think we ought to move into town?”

“What do you think?” Catherine asked.

“If the winter is over and the rain keeps up it won’t be fun up here. How long is it before young Catherine?”

“About a month. Perhaps a little more.”

“We might go down and stay in Montreux.”

“Why don’t we go to Lausanne? That’s where the hospital is.”

“All right. But I thought maybe that was too big a town.”

“We can be as much alone in a bigger town and Lausanne might be nice.”

“When should we go?”

“I don’t care. Whenever you want, darling. I don’t want to leave here if you don’t want.”

“Let’s see how the weather turns out.”

It rained for three days. The snow was all gone now on the mountain-side below the station. The road was a torrent of muddy snow-water. It was too wet and slushy to go out. On the morning of the third day of rain we decided to go down into town.

“That is all right, Mr. Henry,” Guttingen said. “You do not have to give me any notice. I did not think you would want to stay now the bad weather is come.”

“We have to be near the hospital anyway on account of Madame,” I said.

“I understand,” he said. “Will you come back some time and stay, with the little one?”

“Yes, if you would have room.”

“In the spring when it is nice you could come and enjoy it. We could put the little one and the nurse in the big room that is closed now and you and Madame could have your same room looking out over the lake.”

“I’ll write about coming,” I said. We packed and left on the train that went down after lunch. Mr. and Mrs. Guttingen came down to the station with us and he hauled our baggage down on a sled through the slush. They stood beside the station in the rain waving good-by.

“They were very sweet,” Catherine said.

“They were fine to us.”

We took the train to Lausanne from Montreux. Looking out the window toward where we had lived you could not see the mountains for the clouds. The train stopped in Vevey, then went on, passing the lake on one side and on the other the wet brown fields and the bare woods and the wet houses. We came into Lausanne and went into a medium-sized hotel to stay. It was still raining as we drove through the streets and into the carriage entrance of the hotel. The concierge with brass keys on his lapels, the elevator, the carpets on the floors, and the white washbowls with shining fixtures, the brass bed and the big comfortable bedroom all seemed very great luxury after the Guttingens. The windows of the room looked out on a wet garden with a wall topped by an iron fence. Across the street, which sloped steeply, was another hotel with a similar wall and garden. I looked out at the rain falling in the fountain of the garden.

Catherine turned on all the lights and commenced unpacking. I ordered a whiskey and soda and lay on the bed and read the papers I had bought at the station. It was March, 1918, and the German offensive had started in France. I drank the whiskey and soda and read while Catherine unpacked and moved around the room.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest