A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

I was very dusty and dirty and went up to my room to wash. Rinaldi was sitting on the bed with a copy of Hugo’s English grammar. He was dressed, wore his black boots, and his hair shone.

“Splendid,” he said when he saw me. “You will come with me to see Miss Barkley.”


“Yes. You will please come and make me a good impression on her.”

“All right. Wait till I get cleaned up.”

“Wash up and come as you are.”

I washed, brushed my hair and we started.

“Wait a minute,” Rinaldi said. “Perhaps we should have a drink.” He opened his trunk and took out a bottle.

“Not Strega,” I said.

“No. Grappa.”

“All right.”

He poured two glasses and we touched them, first fingers extended. The grappa was very strong.


“All right,” I said. We drank the second grappa, Rinaldi put away the bottle and we went down the stairs. It was hot walking through the town but the sun was starting to go down and it was very pleasant. The British hospital was a big villa built by Germans before the war. Miss Barkley was in the garden. Another nurse was with her. We saw their white uniforms through the trees and walked toward them. Rinaldi saluted. I saluted too but more moderately.

“How do you do?” Miss Barkley said. “You’re not an Italian, are you?”

“Oh, no.”

Rinaldi was talking with the other nurse. They were laughing. “What an odd thing–to be in the Italian army.”

“It’s not really the army. It’s only the ambulance.”

“It’s very odd though. Why did you do it?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “There isn’t always an explanation for everything.”

“Oh, isn’t there? I was brought up to think there was.”

“That’s awfully nice.”

“Do we have to go on and talk this way?”

“No,” I said.

“That’s a relief. Isn’t it?”

“What is the stick?” I asked. Miss Barkley was quite tall. She wore what seemed to me to be a nurse’s uniform, was blonde and had a tawny skin and gray eyes. I thought she was very beautiful. She was carrying a thin rattan stick like a toy riding-crop, bound in leather.

“It belonged to a boy who was killed last year.”

“I’m awfully sorry.”

“He was a very nice boy. He was going to marry me and he was killed in the Somme.”

“It was a ghastly show.”

“Were you there?”


“I’ve heard about it,” she said. “There’s not really any war of that sort down here. They sent me the little stick. His mother sent it to me. They returned it with his things.”

“Had you been engaged long?”

“Eight years. We grew up together.”

“And why didn’t you marry?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I was a fool not to. I could have given him that anyway. But I thought it would be bad for him.”

“I see.”

“Have you ever loved any one?”

“No,” I said.

We sat down on a bench and I looked at her.

“You have beautiful hair,” I said.

“Do you like it?”

“Very much.”

“I was going to cut it all off when he died.”


“I wanted to do something for him. You see I didn’t care about the other thing and he could have had it all. He could have had anything he wanted if I would have known. I would have married him or anything. I know all about it now. But then he wanted to go to war and I didn’t know.”

I did not say anything.

“I didn’t know about anything then. I thought it would be worse for him. I thought perhaps he couldn’t stand it and then of course he was killed and that was the end of it.”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “That’s the end of it.”

We looked at Rinaldi talking with the other nurse.

“What is her name?”

“Ferguson. Helen Ferguson. Your friend is a doctor, isn’t he?”

“Yes. He’s very good.”

“That’s splendid. You rarely find any one any good this close to the front. This is close to the front, isn’t it?”


“It’s a silly front,” she said. “But it’s very beautiful. Are they going to have an offensive?”

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest