“Yes, I do sometimes. A little that way like the number of the first regiment of the Brigata Ancona.”
“Oh, go to hell.”
He stood up and put on his gloves.
“Oh I love to tease you, baby. With your priest and your English girl, and really you are just like me underneath.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, we are. You are really an Italian. All fire and smoke and nothing inside. You only pretend to be American. We are brothers and we love each other.”
“Be good while I’m gone,” I said.
“I will send Miss Barkley. You are better with her without me. You are purer and sweeter.”
“Oh, go to hell.”
“I will send her. Your lovely cool goddess. English goddess. My God what would a man do with a woman like that except worship her? What else is an Englishwoman good for?”
“You are an ignorant foul-mouthed dago.”
“An ignorant wop.”
“Wop. You are a frozen-faced . . . wop.”
“You are ignorant. Stupid.” I saw that word pricked him and kept on. “Uninformed. Inexperienced, stupid from inexperience.”
“Truly? I tell you something about your good women. Your goddesses. There is only one difference between taking a girl who has always been good and a woman. With a girl it is painful. That’s all I know.” He slapped the bed with his glove. “And you never know if the girl will really like it.”
“Don’t get angry.”
“I’m not angry. I just tell you, baby, for your own good. To save you trouble.”
“That’s the only difference?”
“Yes. But millions of fools like you don’t know it.”
“You were sweet to tell me.”
“We won’t quarrel, baby. I love you too much. But don’t be a fool.”
“No. I’ll be wise like you.”
“Don’t be angry, baby. Laugh. Take a drink. I must go, really.”
“You’re a good old boy.”
“Now you see. Underneath we are the same. We are war brothers. Kiss me good-by.”
“No. I am just more affectionate.”
I felt his breath come toward me. “Good-by. I come to see you again soon.” His breath went away. “I won’t kiss you if you don’t want. I’ll send your English girl. Good-by, baby. The cognac is under the bed. Get well soon.”
He was gone.
It was dusk when the priest came. They had brought the soup and afterward taken away the bowls and I was lying looking at the rows of beds and out the window at the tree-top that moved a little in the evening breeze. The breeze came in through the window and it was cooler with the evening. The flies were on the ceiling now and on the electric light bulbs that hung on wires. The lights were only turned on when some one was brought in at night or when something was being done. It made me feel very young to have the dark come after the dusk and then remain. It was like being put to bed after early supper. The orderly came down between the beds and stopped. Some one was with him. It was the priest. He stood there small, brown-faced, and embarrassed.
“How do you do?” he asked. He put some packages down by the bed, on the floor.
“All right, father.”
He sat down in the chair that had been brought for Rinaldi and looked out of the window embarrassedly. I noticed his face looked Very tired.
“I can only stay a minute,” he said. “It is late.”
“It’s not late. How is the mess?”
He smiled. “I am still a great joke,” he sounded tired too. “Thank God they are all well.
“I am so glad you are all right,” he said. “I hope you don’t suffer.” He seemed very tired and I was not used to seeing him tired.
“Not any more.”
“I miss you at the mess.”
“I wish I were there. I always enjoyed our talking.”
“I brought you a few little things,” he said. He picked up the packages. “This is mosquito netting. This is a bottle of vermouth. You like vermouth? These are English papers.”
“Please open them.”
He was pleased and undid them. I held the mosquito netting in my hands. The vermouth he held up for me to see and then put it on the floor beside the bed. I held up one of the sheaf of English papers. I could read the headlines by turning it so the half-light from the window was on it. It was _The News of the World_.