A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

I stopped the car and went over and spoke to the matron. The girls from the officers’ house had left early that morning, she said. Where were they going? To Conegliano, she said. The truck started. The girl with thick lips put out her tongue again at us. The matron waved. The two girls kept on crying. The others looked interestedly out at the town. I got back in the car.

“We ought to go with them,” Bonello said. “That would be a good trip.”

“We’ll have a good trip,” I said.

“We’ll have a hell of a trip.”

“That’s what I mean,” I said. We came up the drive to the villa.

“I’d like to be there when some of those tough babies climb in and try and hop them.”

“You think they will?”

“Sure. Everybody in the Second Army knows that matron.”

We were outside the villa.

“They call her the Mother Superior,” Bonello said. “The girls are new but everybody knows her. They must have brought them up just before the retreat.”

“They’ll have a time.”

“I’ll say they’ll have a time. I’d like to have a crack at them for nothing. They charge too much at that house anyway. The government gyps us.”

“Take the car out and have the mechanics go over it,” I said. “Change the oil and check the differential. Fill it up and then get some sleep.”

“Yes, Signor Tenente.”

The villa was empty. Rinaldi was gone with the hospital. The major was gone taking hospital personnel in the staff car. There was a note on the window for me to fill the cars with the material piled in the hall and to proceed to Pordenone. The mechanics were gone already. I went out back to the garage. The other two cars came in while I was there and their drivers got down. It was starting to rain again.

“I’m so–sleepy I went to sleep three times coming here from Plava,” Piani said. “What are we going to do, Tenente?”

“We’ll change the oil, grease them, fill them up, then take them around in front and load up the junk they’ve left.”

“Then do we start?”

“No, we’ll sleep for three hours.”

“Christ I’m glad to sleep,” Bonello said. “I couldn’t keep awake driving.”

“How’s your car, Aymo?” I asked.

“It’s all right.”

“Get me a monkey suit and I’ll help you with the oil.”

“Don’t you do that, Tenente,” Aymo said. “Ifs nothing to do. You go and pack your things.”

“My things are all packed,” I said. “I’ll go and carry out the stuff that they left for us. Bring the cars around as soon as they’re ready.”

They brought the cars around to the front of the villa and we loaded them with the hospital equipment which was piled in the hallway. When it was all in, the three cars stood in line down the driveway under the trees in the rain. We went inside.

“Make a fire in the kitchen and dry your things,” I said.

“I don’t care about dry clothes,” Piani said. “I want to sleep.”

“I’m going to sleep on the major’s bed,” Bonello said. “I’m going to sleep where the old man corks off.”

“I don’t care where I sleep,” Piani said.

“There are two beds in here.” I opened the door.

“I never knew what was in that room,” Bonello said.

“That was old fish-face’s room,” Piani said.

“You two sleep in there,” I said. “I’ll wake you.”

“The Austrians will wake us if you sleep too long, Tenente,” Bonello said.

“I won’t oversleep,” I said. “Where’s Aymo?”

“He went out in the kitchen.”

“Get to sleep,” I said.

“I’ll sleep,” Piani said. “I’ve been asleep sitting up all day. The whole top of my head kept coming down over my eyes.”

“Take your boots off,” Bonello said. “That’s old fish-face’s bed.”

“Fish-face is nothing to me.” Piani lay on the bed, his muddy boots straight out, his head on his arm. I went out to the kitchen. Aymo had a fire in the stove and a kettle of water on.

“I thought I’d start some pasta asciutta,” he said. “We’ll be hungry when we wake up.”

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest