A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

I could see that none of the places meant anything to her.

“Do you have a lot of pain?”

“No. Not much now.”

She put a thermometer in my mouth.

“The Italians put it under the arm,” I said.

“Don’t talk.”

When she took the thermometer out she read it and then shook it.

“What’s the temperature?”

“You’re not supposed to know that.”

“Tell me what it is.”

“It’s almost normal.”

“I never have any fever. My legs are full of old iron too.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re full of trench-mortar fragments, old screws and bedsprings and things.”

She shook her head and smiled.

“If you had any foreign bodies in your legs they would set up an inflammation and you’d have fever.”

“All right,” I said. “We’ll see what comes out.”

She went out of the room and came back with the old nurse of the early morning. Together they made the bed with me in it. That was new to me and an admirable proceeding.

“Who is in charge here?”

“Miss Van Campen.”

“How many nurses are there?”

“Just us two.”

“Won’t there be more?”

“Some more are coming.”

“When will they get here?”

“I don’t know. You ask a great many questions for a sick boy.”

“I’m not sick,” I said. “I’m wounded.”

They had finished making the bed and I lay with a clean smooth sheet under me and another sheet over me. Mrs. Walker went out and came back with a pajama jacket. They put that on me and I felt very clean and dressed.

“You’re awfully nice to me,” I said. The nurse called Miss Gage giggled. “Could I have a drink of water?” I asked.

“Certainly. Then you can have breakfast.”

“I don’t want breakfast. Can I have the shutters opened please?”

The light had been dim in the room and when the shutters were opened it was bright sunlight and I looked out on a balcony and beyond were the tile roofs of houses and chimneys. I looked out over the tiled roofs and saw white clouds and the sky very blue.

“Don’t you know when the other nurses are coming?”

“Why? Don’t we take good care of you?”

“You’re very nice.”

“Would you like to use the bedpan?”

“I might try.”

They helped me and held me up but it was not any use. Afterward I lay and looked out the open doors onto the balcony.

“When does the doctor come?”

“When he gets back. We’ve tried to telephone to Lake Como for him.”

“Aren’t there any other doctors?”

“He’s the doctor for the hospital.”

Miss Gage brought a pitcher of water and a glass. I drank three glasses and then they left me and I looked out the window a while and went back to sleep. I ate some lunch and in the afternoon Miss Van Campen, the superintendent, came up to see me. She did not like me and I did not like her. She was small and neatly suspicious and too good for her position. She asked many questions and seemed to think it was somewhat disgraceful that I was with the Italians.

“Can I have wine with the meals?” I asked her.

“Only if the doctor prescribes it.”

“I can’t have it until he comes?”

“Absolutely not.”

“You plan on having him come eventually?”

“We’ve telephoned him at Lake Como.”

She went out and Miss Gage came back.

“Why were you rude to Miss Van Campen?” she asked after she had done something for me very skilfully.

“I didn’t mean to be. But she was snooty.”

“She said you were domineering and rude.”

“I wasn’t. But what’s the idea of a hospital without a doctor?”

“He’s coming. They’ve telephoned for him to Lake Como.”

“What does he do there? Swim?”

“No. He has a clinic there.”

“Why don’t they get another doctor?”

“Hush. Hush. Be a good boy and he’ll come.”

I sent for the porter and when he came I told him in Italian to get me a bottle of Cinzano at the wine shop, a fiasco of chianti and the evening papers. He went away and brought them wrapped in newspaper, unwrapped them and, when I asked him to, drew the corks and put the wine and vermouth under the bed. They left me alone and I lay in bed and read the papers awhile, the news from the front, and the list of dead officers with their decorations and then reached down and brought up the bottle of Cinzano and held it straight up on my stomach, the cool glass against my stomach, and took little drinks making rings on my stomach from holding the bottle there between drinks, and watched it get dark outside over the roofs of the town. The swallows circled around and I watched them and the night-hawks flying above the roofs and drank the Cinzano. Miss Gage brought up a glass with some eggnog in it. I lowered the vermouth bottle to the other side of the bed when she came in.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest