A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway


“Then we’ll have to work. There’s no work now.”

“Have you done nursing long?”

“Since the end of ‘fifteen. I started when he did. I remember having a silly idea he might come to the hospital where I was. With a sabre cut, I suppose, and a bandage around his head. Or shot through the shoulder. Something picturesque.”

“This is the picturesque front,” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “People can’t realize what France is like. If they did, it couldn’t all go on. He didn’t have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits.”

I didn’t say anything.

“Do you suppose it will always go on?”


“What’s to stop it?”

“It will crack somewhere.”

“We’ll crack. We’ll crack in France. They can’t go on doing things like the Somme and not crack.”

“They won’t crack here,” I said.

“You think not?”

“No. They did very well last summer.”

“They may crack,” she said. “Anybody may crack.”

“The Germans too.”

“No,” she said. “I think not.”

We went over toward Rinaldi and Miss Ferguson.

“You love Italy?” Rinaldi asked Miss Ferguson in English.

“Quite well.”

“No understand,” Rinaldi shook his head.

“Abbastanza bene,” I translated.

He shook his head.

“That is not good. You love England?”

“Not too well. I’m Scotch, you see.”

Rinaldi looked at me blankly.

“She’s Scotch, so she loves Scotland better than England,” I said in Italian.

“But Scotland is England.”

I translated this for Miss Ferguson.

“Pas encore,” said Miss Ferguson.

“Not really?”

“Never. We do not like the English.”

“Not like the English? Not like Miss Barkley?”

“Oh, that’s different. You mustn’t take everything so literally.”

After a while we said good-night and left. Walking home Rinaldi said, “Miss Barkley prefers you to me. That is very clear. But the little Scotch one is very nice.”

“Very,” I said. I had not noticed her. “You like her?”

“No,” said Rinaldi.


The next afternoon I went to call on Miss Barkley again. She was not in the garden and I went to the side door of the villa where the ambulances drove up. Inside I saw the head nurse, who said Miss Barkley was on duty–“there’s a war on, you know.”

I said I knew.

“You’re the American in the Italian army?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“How did you happen to do that? Why didn’t you join up with us?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Could I join now?”

“I’m afraid not now. Tell me. Why did you join up with the Italians?”

“I was in Italy,” I said, “and I spoke Italian.”

“Oh,” she said. “I’m learning it. It’s beautiful language.”

“Somebody said you should be able to learn it in two weeks.”

“Oh, I’ll not learn it in two weeks. I’ve studied it for months now. You may come and see her after seven o’clock if you wish. She’ll be off then. But don’t bring a lot of Italians.”

“Not even for the beautiful language?”

“No. Nor for the beautiful uniforms.”

“Good evening,” I said.

“A rivederci, Tenente.”

“A rivederla.” I saluted and went out. It was impossible to salute foreigners as an Italian, without embarrassment. The Italian salute never seemed made for export.

The day had been hot. I had been up the river to the bridgehead at Plava. It was there that the offensive was to begin. It had been impossible to advance on the far side the year before because there was only one road leading down from the pass to the pontoon bridge and it was under machine-gun and shell fire for nearly a mile. It was not wide enough either to carry all the transport for an offensive and the Austrians could make a shambles out of it. But the Italians had crossed and spread out a little way on the far side to hold about a mile and a half on the Austrian side of the river. It was a nasty place and the Austrians should not have let them hold it. I suppose it was mutual tolerance because the Austrians still kept a bridgehead further down the river. The Austrian trenches were above on the hillside only a few yards from the Italian lines. There had been a little town but it was all rubble. There was what was left of a railway station and a smashed permanent bridge that could not be repaired and used because it was in plain sight.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest