A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“Too much,” I said and held up the glass and sighted at the lamp on the table.

“Not for an empty stomach. It is a wonderful thing. It burns out the stomach completely. Nothing is worse for you.”

“All right.”

“Self-destruction day by day,” Rinaldi said. “It ruins the stomach and makes the hand shake. Just the thing for a surgeon.”

“You recommend it?”

“Heartily. I use no other. Drink it down, baby, and look forward to being sick.”

I drank half the glass. In the hall I could hear the orderly calling. “Soup! Soup is ready!”

The major came in, nodded to us and sat down. He seemed very small at table.

“Is this all we are?” he asked. The orderly put the soup bowl down and he ladled out a plate full.

“We are all,” Rinaldi said. “Unless the priest comes. If he knew Federico was here he would be here.”

“Where is he?” I asked.

“He’s at 307,” the major said. He was busy with his soup. He wiped his mouth, wiping his upturned gray mustache carefully. “He will come I think. I called them and left word to tell him you were here.”

“I miss the noise of the mess,” I said.

“Yes, it’s quiet,” the major said.

“I will be noisy,” said Rinaldi.

“Drink some wine, Enrico,” said the major. He filled my glass. The spaghetti came in and we were all busy. We were finishing the spaghetti when the priest came in. He was the same as ever, small and brown and compact looking. I stood up and we shook hands. He put his hand on my shoulder.

“I came as soon as I heard,” he said.

“Sit down,” the major said. “You’re late.”

“Good-evening, priest,” Rinaldi said, using the English word. They had taken that up from the priest-baiting captain, who spoke a little English. “Good-evening, Rinaldo,” the priest said. The orderly brought him soup but he said he would start with the spaghetti.

“How are you?” he asked me.

“Fine,” I said. “How have things been?”

“Drink some wine, priest,” Rinaldi said. “Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake. That’s Saint Paul, you know.”

“Yes I know,” said the priest politely. Rinaldi filled his glass.

“That Saint Paul,” said Rinaldi. “He’s the one who makes all the trouble.” The priest looked at me and smiled. I could see that the baiting did not touch him now.

“That Saint Paul,” Rinaldi said. “He was a rounder and a chaser and then when he was no longer hot he said it was no good. When he was finished he made the rules for us who are still hot. Isn’t it true, Federico?”

The major smiled. We were eating meat stew now.

“I never discuss a Saint after dark,” I said. The priest looked up from the stew and smiled at me.

“There he is, gone over with the priest,” Rinaldi said. “Where are all the good old priest-baiters? Where is Cavalcanti? Where is Brundi? Where is Cesare? Do I have to bait this priest alone without support?”

“He is a good priest,” said the major.

“He is a good priest,” said Rinaldi. “But still a priest. I try to make the mess like the old days. I want to make Federico happy. To hell with you, priest!”

I saw the major look at him and notice that he was drunk. His thin face was white. The line of his hair was very black against the white of his forehead.

“It’s all right, Rinaldo,” said the priest. “It’s all right.”

“To hell with you,” said Rinaldi. “To hell with the whole damn business.” He sat back in his chair.

“He’s been under a strain and he’s tired,” the major said to me. He finished his meat and wiped up the gravy with a piece of bread.

“I don’t give a damn,” Rinaldi said to the table. “To hell with the whole business.” He looked defiantly around the table, his eyes flat, his face pale.

“All right,” I said. “To hell with the whole damn business.”

“No, no,” said Rinaldi. “You can’t do it. You can’t do it. I say you can’t do it. You’re dry and you’re empty and there’s nothing else. There’s nothing else I tell you. Not a damned thing. I know, when I stop working.”

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest