“Piani,” I said.
“Here I am, Tenente.” He was a little ahead in the jam. No one was talking. They were all trying to get across as soon as they could: thinking only of that. We were almost across. At the far end of the bridge there were officers and carabinieri standing on both sides flashing lights. I saw them silhouetted against the sky-line. As we came close to them I saw one of the officers point to a man in the column. A carabiniere went in after him and came out holding the man by the arm. He took him away from the road. We came almost opposite them. The officers were scrutinizing every one in the column, sometimes speaking to each other, going forward to flash a light in some one’s face. They took some one else out just before we came opposite. I saw the man. He was a lieutenantcolonel. I saw the stars in the box on his sleeve as they flashed a light on him. His hair was gray and he was short and fat. The carabiniere pulled him in behind the line of officers. As we came opposite I saw one or two of them look at me. Then one pointed at me and spoke to a carabiniere. I saw the carabiniere start for me, come through the edge of the column toward me, then felt him take me by the collar.
“What’s the matter with you?” I said and hit him in the face. I saw his face under the hat, upturned mustaches and blood coming down his cheek. Another one dove in toward us.
“What’s the matter with you?” I said. He did not answer. He was watching a chance to grab me. I put my arm behind me to loosen my pistol.
“Don’t you know you can’t touch an officer?”
The other one grabbed me from behind and pulled my arm up so that it twisted in the socket. I turned with him and the other one grabbed me around the neck. I kicked his shins and got my left knee into his groin.
“Shoot him if he resists,” I heard some one say.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Itried to shout but my voice was not very loud. They had me at the side of the road now.
“Shoot him if he resists,” an officer said. “Take him over back.”
“Who are you?”
“You’ll find out.”
“Who are you?”
“Battle police,” another officer said.
“Why don’t you ask me to step over instead of having one of these airplanes grab me?”
They did not answer. They did not have to answer. They were battle police.
“Take him back there with the others,” the first officer said. “You see. He speaks Italian with an accent.”
“So do you, you ,” I said.
“Take him back with the others,” the first officer said. They took me down behind the line of officers below the road toward a group of people in a field by the river bank. As we walked toward them shots were fired. I saw flashes of the rifles and heard the reports. We came up to the group. There were four officers standing together, with a man in front of them with a carabiniere on each side of him. A group of men were standing guarded by carabinieri. Four other carabinieri stood near the questioning officers, leaning on their carbines. They were wide-hatted carabinieri. The two who had me shoved me in with the group waiting to be questioned. I looked at the man the officers were questioning. He was the fat gray-haired little lieutenant-colonel they had taken out of the column. The questioners had all the efficiency, coldness and command of themselves of Italians who are firing and are not being fired on.
He told them.
He told them.
“Why are you not with your regiment?”
He told them.
“Do you not know that an officer should be with his troops?” He did.
That was all. Another officer spoke.
“It is you and such as you that have let the barbarians onto the sacred soil of the fatherland.”
“I beg your pardon,” said the lieutenant-colonel.
“It is because of treachery such as yours that we have lost the fruits of victory.”
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