A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“You have to cock it,” I said. He cocked it and fired twice. He took hold of the sergeant’s legs and pulled him to the side of the road so he lay beside the hedge. He came back and handed me the pistol.

“The son of a bitch,” he said. He looked toward the sergeant. “You see me shoot him, Tenente?”

“We’ve got to get the brush quickly,” I said. “Did I hit the other one at all?”

“I don’t think so,” Aymo said. “He was too far away to hit with a pistol.”

“The dirty scum,” Piani said. We were all cutting twigs and branches. Everything had been taken out of the car. Bonello was digging out in front of the wheels. When we were ready Aymo started the car and put it into gear. The wheels spun round throwing brush and mud. Bonello and I pushed until we could feel our joints crack. The car would not move.

“Rock her back and forth, Barto,” I said.

He drove the engine in reverse, then forward. The wheels only dug in deeper. Then the car was resting on the differential again, and the wheels spun freely in the holes they had dug. I straightened up.

“We’ll try her with a rope,” I said.

“I don’t think it’s any use, Tenente. You can’t get a straight pull.”

“We have to try it,” I said. “She won’t come out any other way.”

Piani’s and Bonello’s cars could only move straight ahead down the narrow road. We roped both cars together and pulled. The wheels only pulled sideways against the ruts.

“It’s no good,” I shouted. “Stop it.”

Piani and Bonello got down from their cars and came back. Aymo got down. The girls were up the road about forty yards sitting on a stone wall.

“What do you say, Tenente?” Bonello asked.

“We’ll dig out and try once more with the brush,” I said. I looked down the road. It was my fault. I had led them up here. The sun was almost out from behind the clouds and the body of the sergeant lay beside the hedge.

“We’ll put his coat and cape under,” I said. Bonello went to get them. I cut brush and Aymo and Piani dug out in front and between the wheels. I cut the cape, then ripped it in two, and laid it under the wheel in the mud, then piled brush for the wheels to catch. We were ready to start and Aymo got up on the seat and started the car. The wheels spun and we pushed and pushed. But it wasn’t any use.

“It’s –ed,” I said. “Is there anything you want in the car, Barto?”

Aymo climbed up with Bonello, carrying the cheese and two bottles of wine and his cape. Bonello, sitting behind the wheel, was looking through the pockets of the sergeant’s coat.

“Better throw the coat away,” I said. “What about Barto’s virgins?”

“They can get in the back,” Piani said. “I don’t think we are going far.”

I opened the back door of the ambulance.

“Come on,” I said. “Get in.” The two girls climbed in and sat in the corner. They seemed to have taken no notice of the shooting. I looked back up the road. The sergeant lay in his dirty long-sleeved underwear. I got up with Piani and we started. We were going to try to cross the field. When the road entered the field I got down and walked ahead. If we could get across, there was a road on the other side. We could not get across. It was too soft and muddy for the cars. When they were finally and completely stalled, the wheels dug in to the hubs, we left them in the field and started on foot for Udine.

When we came to the road which led back toward the main highway I pointed down it to the two girls.

“Go down there,” I said. “You’ll meet people.” They looked at me. I took out my pocket-book and gave them each a ten-lira note. “Go down there,” I said, pointing. “Friends! Family!”

They did not understand but they held the money tightly and started down the road. They looked back as though they were afraid I might take the money back. I watched them go down the road, their shawls close around them, looking back apprehensively at us. The three drivers were laughing.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest