A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“Come one at a time,” I said and started across the bridge. I watched the ties and the rails for any trip-wires or signs of explosive but I saw nothing. Down below the gaps in the ties the river ran muddy and fast. Ahead across the wet countryside I could see Udine in the rain. Across the bridge I looked back. Just up the river was another bridge. As I watched, a yellow mud-colored motor car crossed it. The sides of the bridge were high and the body of the car, once on, was out of sight. But I saw the heads of the driver, the man on the seat with him, and the two men on the rear seat. They all wore German helmets. Then the car was over the bridge and out of sight behind the trees and the abandoned vehicles on the road. I waved to Aymo who was crossing and to the others to come on. I climbed down and crouched beside the railway embankment. Aymo came down with me.

“Did you see the car?” I asked.

“No. We were watching you.”

“A German staff car crossed on the upper bridge.”

“A staff car?”


“Holy Mary.”

The others came and we all crouched in the mud behind the embankment, looking across the rails at the bridge, the line of trees, the ditch and the road.

“Do you think we’re cut off then, Tenente?”

“I don’t know. All I know is a German staff car went along that road.”

“You don’t feel funny, Tenente? You haven’t got strange feelings in the head?”

“Don’t be funny, Bonello.”

“What about a drink?” Piani asked. “If we’re cut off we might as well have a drink.” He unhooked his canteen and uncorked it.

“Look! Look!” Aymo said and pointed toward the road. Along the top of the stone bridge we could see German helmets moving. They were bent forward and moved smoothly, almost supernatu rally, along. As they came off the bridge we saw them. They were bicycle troops. I saw the faces of the first two. They were ruddy and healthy-looking. Their helmets came iow down over their foreheads and the side of their faces. Their carbines were clipped to the frame of the bicycles. Stick bombs hung handle down from their belts. Their helmets and their gray uniforms were wet and they rode easily, looking ahead and to both sides. There were two–then four in line, then two, then almost a dozen; then another dozen– then one alone. They did not talk but we could not have heard them because of the noise from the river. They were gone out of sight up the road.

“Holy Mary,” Aymo said.

“They were Germans,” Piani said. “Those weren’t Austrians.”

“Why isn’t there somebody here to stop them?” I said. “Why haven’t they blown the bridge up? Why aren’t there machine-guns along this embankment?”

“You tell us, Tenente,” Bonello said.

I was very angry.

“The whole bloody thing is crazy. Down below they blow up a little bridge. Here they leave a bridge on the main road. Where is everybody? Don’t they try and stop them at all?”

“You tell us, Tenente,” Bonello said. I shut up. It was none of my business; all I had to do was to get to Pordenone with three ambulances. I had failed at that. All I had to do now was get to Pordenone. I probably could not even get to Udine. The hell I couldn’t. The thing to do was to be calm and not get shot or captured.

“Didn’t you have a canteen open?” I asked Piani. He handed it to me. I took a long drink. “We might as well start,” I said. “There’s no hurry though. Do you want to eat something?”

“This is no place to stay,” Bonello said.

“All right. We’ll start.”

“Should we keep on this side–out of sight?”

“We’d be better off on top. They may come along this bridge too. We don’t want them on top of us before we see them.”

We walked along the railroad track. On both sides of us stretched the wet plain. Ahead across the plain was the hill of Udine. The roofs fell away from the castle on the hill. We could see the campanile and the clock-tower. There were many mulberry trees in the fields. Ahead I saw a place where the rails were torn up. The ties had been dug out too and thrown down the embankment.

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