A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“How do you do? How do you do?” She shook hands. “Hello,” said Meyers.

“How were the races?”

“Fine. They were just lovely. I had three winners.”

“How did you do?” I asked Meyers.

“All right. I had a winner.”

“I never know how he does,” Mrs. Meyers said. “He never tells me.”

“I do all right,” Meyers said. He was being cordial. “You ought to come out.” While he talked you had the impression that he was not looking at you or that he mistook you for some one else.

“I will,” I said.

“I’m coming up to the hospital to see you,” Mrs. Meyers said. “I have some things for my boys. You’re all my boys. You certainly are my dear boys.”

“They’ll be glad to see you.”

“Those dear boys. You too. You’re one of my boys.”

“I have to get back,” I said.

“You give my love to all those dear boys. I’ve got lots of things to bring. I’ve some fine marsala and cakes.”

“Good-by,” I said. “They’ll be awfully glad to see you.”

“Good-by,” said Meyers. “You come around to the galleria. You know where my table is. We’re all there every afternoon.” I went on up the street. I wanted to buy something at the Cova to take to Catherine. Inside, at the Cova, I bought a box of chocolate and while the girl wrapped it up I walked over to the bar. There were a couple of British and some aviators. I had a martini alone, paid for it, picked up the box of chocolate at the outside counter and walked on home toward the hospital. Outside the little bar up the street from the Scala there were some people I knew, a vice-consul, two fellows who studied singing, and Ettore Moretti, an Italian from San Francisco who was in the Italian army. I had a drink with them. One of the singers was named Ralph Simmons, and he was singing under the name of Enrico DelCredo. I never knew how well he could sing but he was always on the point of something very big happening. He was fat and looked shopworn around the nose and mouth as though he had hayfever. He had come back from singing in Piacenza. He had sung Tosca and it had been wonderful.

“Of course you’ve never heard me sing,” he said.

“When will you sing here?”

“I’ll be at the Scala in the fall.”

“I’ll bet they throw the benches at you,” Ettore said. “Did you hear how they threw the benches at him in Modena?”

“It’s a damned lie.”

“They threw the benches at him,” Ettore said. “I was there. I threw six benches myself.”

“You’re just a wop from Frisco.”

“He can’t pronounce Italian,” Ettore said. “Everywhere he goes they throw the benches at him.”

“Piacenza’s the toughest house to sing in the north of Italy,” the other tenor said. “Believe me that’s a tough little house to sing.” This tenor’s name was Edgar Saunders, and he sang under the name of Edouardo Giovanni.

“I’d like to be there to see them throw the benches at you.” Ettore said. “You can’t sing Italian.”

“He’s a nut,” said Edgar Saunders. “All he knows how to say is throw benches.”

“That’s all they know how to do when you two sing,” Ettore said. “Then when you go to America you’ll tell about your triumphs at the Scala. They wouldn’t let you get by the first note at the Scala.”

“I’ll sing at the Scala,” Simmons said. “I’m going to sing Tosca in October.”

“We’ll go, won’t we, Mac?” Ettore said to the vice-consul. “They’ll need somebody to protect them.”

“Maybe the American army will be there to protect them,” the vice-consul said. “Do you want another drink, Simmons? You want a drink, Saunders?”

“All right,” said Saunders.

“I hear you’re going to get the silver medal,” Ettore said to me. “What kind of citation you going to get?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know I’m going to get it.”

“You’re going to get it. Oh boy, the girls at the Cova will think you’re fine then. They’ll all think you killed two hundred Austrians or captured a whole trench by yourself. Believe me, I got to work for my decorations.”

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest