“Yes,” I said. I remembered it as a little white town with a campanile in a valley. It was a clean little town and there was a fine fountain in the square.
“They are working from there. There are many sick now. The fighting is over.”
“Where are the others?”
“There are two up in the mountains and four still on the Bainsizza. The other two ambulance sections are in the Carso with the third army.”
“What do you wish me to do?”
“You can go and take over the four cars on the Bainsizza if you like. Gino has been up there a long time. You haven’t seen it up there, have you?”
“It was very bad. We lost three cars.”
“I heard about it.”
“Yes, Rinaldi wrote you.”
“Where is Rinaldi?”
“He is here at the hospital. He has had a summer and fall of it.”
“I believe it.”
“It has been bad,” the major said. “You couldn’t believe how bad it’s been. I’ve often thought you were lucky to be hit when you were.”
“I know I was.”
“Next year will be worse,” the major said. “Perhaps they will attack now. They say they are to attack but I can’t believe it. It is too late. You saw the river?”
“Yes. It’s high already.”
“I don’t believe they will attack now that the rains have started. We will have the snow soon. What about your countrymen? Will there be other Americans besides yourself?”
“They are training an army of ten million.”
“I hope we get some of them. But the French will hog them all. We’ll never get any down here. All right. You stay here to-night and go out to-morrow with the little car and send Gino back. I’ll send somebody with you that knows the road. Gino will tell you everything. They are shelling quite a little still but it is all over. You will want to see the Bainsizza.”
“I’m glad to see it. I am glad to be back with you again, Signor Maggiore.”
He smiled. “You are very good to say so. I am very tired of this war. If I was away I do not believe I would come back.”
“Is it so bad?”
“Yes. It is so bad and worse. Go get cleaned up and find your friend Rinaldi.”
I went out and carried my bags up the stairs. Rinaldi was not in the room but his things were there and I sat down on the bed and unwrapped my puttees and took the shoe off my right foot. Then I lay back on the bed. I was tired and my right foot hurt. It seemed silly to lie on the bed with one shoe off, so I sat up and unlaced the other shoe and dropped it on the floor, then lay back on the blanket again. The room was stuffy with the window closed but I was too tired to get up and open it. I saw my things were all in one corner of the room. Outside it was getting dark. I lay on the bed and thought about Catherine and waited for Rinaldi. I was going to try not to think about Catherine except at night before I went to sleep. But now I was tired and there was nothing to do, so I lay and thought about her. I was thinking about her when Rinaldi came in. He looked just the same. Perhaps he was a little thinner.
“Well, baby,” he said. I sat up on the bed. He came over, sat down and put his arm around me. “Good old baby.” He whacked me on the back and I held both his arms.
“Old baby,” he said. “Let me see your knee.”
“I’ll have to take off my pants.”
“Take off your pants, baby. We’re all friends here. I want to see what kind of a job they did.” I stood up, took off the breeches and pulled off the knee-brace. Rinaldi sat on the floor and bent the knee gently back and forth. He ran his finger along the scar; put his thumbs together over the kneecap and rocked the knee gently with his fingers.