A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“How does it go, doctor?”

“It doesn’t go,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“Just that. I made an examination–” He detailed the result of the examination. “Since then I’ve waited to see. But it doesn’t go.”

“What do you advise?”

“There are two things. Either a high forceps delivery which can tear and be quite dangerous besides being possibly bad for the child, and a Caesarean.”

“What is the danger of a Caesarean?” What if she should die!

“It should be no greater than the danger of an ordinary delivery.”

“Would you do it yourself?”

“Yes. I would need possibly an hour to get things ready and to get the people I would need. Perhaps a little less.”

“What do you think?”

“I would advise a Caesarean operation. If it were my wife I would do a Caesarean.”

“What are the after effects?”

“There are none. There is only the scar.”

“What about infection?”

“The danger is not so great as in a high forceps delivery.”

“What if you just went on and did nothing?”

“You would have to do something eventually. Mrs. Henry is already losing much of her strength. The sooner we operate now the safer.”

“Operate as soon as you can,” I said.

“I will go and give the instructions.”

I went into the delivery room. The nurse was with Catherine who lay on the table, big under the sheet, looking very pale and tired.

“Did you tell him he could do it?” she asked.


“Isn’t that grand. Now it will be all over in an hour. I’m almost done, darling. I’m going all to pieces. Please give me that. It doesn’t work. Oh, it doesn’t work!”

“Breathe deeply.”

“I am. Oh, it doesn’t work any more. It doesn’t work!”

“Get another cylinder,” I said to the nurse.

“That is a new cylinder.”

“I’m just a fool, darling,” Catherine said. “But it doesn’t work any more.” She began to cry. “Oh, I wanted so to have this baby and not make trouble, and now I’m all done and all gone to pieces and it doesn’t work. Oh, darling, it doesn’t work at all. I don’t care if I die if it will only stop. Oh, please, darling, please make it stop. There it comes. Oh Oh Oh!” She breathed sobbingly in the mask.

“It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. Don’t mind me, darling. Please don’t cry. Don’t mind me. I’m just gone all to pieces. You poor sweet. I love you so and I’ll be good again. I’ll be good this time. Can’t they give me something? If they could only give me something.”

“I’ll make it work. I’ll turn it all the way.”

“Give it to me now.”

I turned the dial all the way and as she breathed hard and deep her hand relaxed on the mask. I shut off the gas and lifted the mask. She came back from a long way away.

“That was lovely, darling. Oh, you’re so good to me.”

“You be brave, because I can’t do that all the time. It might kill you.”

“I’m not brave any more, darling. I’m all broken. They’ve broken me. I know it now.”

“Everybody is that way.”

“But it’s awful. They just keep it up till they break you.”

“In an hour it will be over.”

“Isn’t that lovely? Darling, I won’t die, will I?”

“No. I promise you won’t.”

“Because I don’t want to die and leave you, but I get so tired of it and I feel I’m going to die.”

“Nonsense. Everybody feels that.”

“Sometimes I know I’m going to die.”

“You won’t. You can’t.”

“But what if I should?”

“I won’t let you.”

“Give it to me quick. Give it to me!”

Then afterward, “I won’t die. I won’t let myself die.”

“Of course you won’t.”

“You’ll stay with me?”

“Not to watch it.”

“No, just to be there.”

“Sure. I’ll be there all the time.”

“You’re so good to me. There, give it to me. Give me some more. It’s not working!”

I turned the dial to three and then four. I wished the doctor would come back. I was afraid of the numbers above two.

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