A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“Down! down!” Aymo said. We dropped down beside the embankment. There was another group of bicyclists passing along the road. I looked over the edge and saw them go on.

“They saw us but they went on,” Aymo said.

“We’ll get killed up there, Tenente,” Bonello said.

“They don’t want us,” I said. “They’re after something else. We’re in more danger if they should come on us suddenly.”

“I’d rather walk here out of sight,” Bonello said.

“All right. We’ll walk along the tracks.”

“Do you think we can get through?” Aymo asked.

“Sure. There aren’t very many of them yet. We’ll go through in the dark.”

“What was that staff car doing?”

“Christ knows,” I said. We kept on up the tracks. Bonello tired of walking in the mud of the embankment and came up with the rest of us. The railway moved south away from the highway now and we could not see what passed along the road. A short bridge over a canal was blown up but we climbed across on what was left of the span. We heard firing ahead of us.

We came up on the railway beyond the canal. It went on straight toward the town across the low fields. We could see the line of the other railway ahead of us. To the north was the main road where we had seen the cyclists; to the south there was a small branch-road across the fields with thick trees on each side. I thought we had better cut to the south and work around the town that way and across country toward Campoformio and the main road to the Tagliamento. We could avoid the main line of the retreat by keeping to the secondary roads beyond Udine. I knew there were plenty of side-roads across the plain. I started down the embankment.

“Come on,” I said. We would make for the side-road and work to the south of the town. We all started down the embankment. A shot was fired at us from the side-road. The bullet went into the mud of the embankment.

“Go on back,” I shouted. I started up the embankment, slipping in the mud. The drivers were ahead of me. I went up the embankment as fast as I could go. Two more shots came from the thick brush and Aymo, as he was crossing the tracks, lurched, tripped and fell face down. We pulled him down on the other side and turned him over. “His head ought to be uphill,” I said. Piani moved him around. He lay in the mud on the side of the embankment, his feet pointing downhill, breathing blood irregularly. The three of us squatted over him in the rain. He was hit low in the back of the neck and the bullet had ranged upward and come out under the right eye. He died while I was stopping up the two holes. Piani laid his head down, wiped at his face, with a piece of the emergency dressing, then let it alone.

“The –,” he said.

“They weren’t Germans,” I said. “There can’t be any Germans over there.”

“Italians,” Piani said, using the word as an epithet, “Italiani!” Bonello said nothing. He was sitting beside Aymo, not looking at him. Piani picked up Aymo’s cap where it had rolled down the embankment and put it over his face. He took out his canteen.

“Do you want a drink?” Piani handed Bonello the canteen.

“No,” Bonello said. He turned to me. “That might have happened to us any time on the railway tracks.”

“No,” I said. “It was because we started across the field.”

Bonello shook his head. “Aymo’s dead,” he said. “Who’s dead next, Tenente? Where do we go now?”

“Those were Italians that shot,” I said. “They weren’t Germans.”

“I suppose if they were Germans they’d have killed all of us,” Bonello said.

“We are in more danger from Italians than Germans,” I said. “The rear guard are afraid of everything. The Germans know what they’re after.”

“You reason it out, Tenente,” Bonello said.

“Where do we go now?” Piani asked.

“We better lie up some place till it’s dark. If we could get south we’d be all right.”

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