A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“You can come in,” the nurse said. I went in.

“Hello, darling,” Catherine said.

“How is it?”

“They are coming quite often now.” Her face drew up. Then she smiled.

“That was a real one. Do you want to put your hand on my back again, nurse?”

“If it helps you,” the nurse said.

“You go away, darling,” Catherine said. “Go out and get something to eat. I may do this for a long time the nurse says.”

“The first labor is usually protracted,” the nurse said.

“Please go out and get something to eat,” Catherine said. “I’m fine, really.”

“I’ll stay awhile,” I said.

The pains came quite regularly, then slackened off. Catherine was very excited. When the pains were bad she called them good ones. When they started to fall off she was disappointed and ashamed.

“You go out, darling,” she said. “I think you are just making me self-conscious.” Her face tied up. “There. That was better. I so want to be a good wife and have this child without any foolishness. Please go and get some breakfast, darling, and then come back. I won’t miss you. Nurse is splendid to me.”

“You have plenty of time for breakfast,” the nurse said.

“I’ll go then. Good-by, sweet.”

“Good-by,” Catherine said, “and have a fine breakfast for me too.”

“Where can I get breakfast?” I asked the nurse.

“There’s a café down the street at the square,” she said. “It should be open now.”

Outside it was getting light. I walked down the empty street to the café. There was a light in the window. I went in and stood at the zinc bar and an old man served me a glass of white wine and a brioche. The brioche was yesterday’s. I dipped it in the wine and then drank a glass of coffee.

“What do you do at this hour?” the old man asked.

“My wife is in labor at the hospital.”

“So. I wish you good luck.”

“Give me another glass of wine.”

He poured it from the bottle slopping it over a little so some ran down on the zinc. I drank this glass, paid and went out. Outside along the street were the refuse cans from the houses waiting for the collector. A dog was nosing at one of the cans.

“What do you want?” I asked and looked in the can to see if there was anything I could pull out for him; there was nothing on top but coffee-grounds, dust and some dead flowers.

“There isn’t anything, dog,” I said. The dog crossed the street. I went up the stairs in the hospital to the floor Catherine was on and down the hall to her room. I knocked on the door. There was no answer. I opened the door; the room was empty, except for Catherine’s bag on a chair and her dressing-gown hanging on a hook on the wall. I went out and down the hall, looking for somebody. I found a nurse.

“Where is Madame Henry?”

“A lady has just gone to the delivery room.”

“Where is it?”

“I will show you.”

She took me down to the end of the hall. The door of the room was partly open. I could see Catherine lying on a table, covered by a sheet. The nurse was on one side and the doctor stood on the other side of the table beside some cylinders. The doctor held a rubber mask attached to a tube in one hand.

“I will give you a gown and you can go in,” the nurse said. “Come in here, please.”

She put a white gown on me and pinned it at the neck in back with a safety pin.

“Now you can go in,” she said. I went into the room.

“Hello, darling,” Catherine said in a strained voice. “I’m not doing much.”

“You are Mr. Henry?” the doctor asked.

“Yes. How is everything going, doctor?”

“Things are going very well,” the doctor said. “We came in here where it is easy to give gas for the pains.”

“I want it now,” Catherine said. The doctor placed the rubber mask over her face and turned a dial and I watched Catherine breathing deeply and rapidly. Then she pushed the mask away. The doctor shut off the petcock.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest