A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“I’d like to be there.”

“You’re awfully polite. You aren’t in a bad mess, are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t tell me if you don’t want. How do you happen to be away from the bloody front?”

“I think I’m through with it.”

“Good boy. I always knew you had sense. Can I help you any way?”

“You’re awfully busy.”

“Not a bit of it, my dear Henry. Not a bit of it. I’d be happy to do anything.”

“You’re about my size. Would you go out and buy me an outfit of civilian clothes? I’ve clothes but they’re all at Rome.”

“You did live there, didn’t you? It’s a filthy place. How did you ever live there?”

“I wanted to be an architect.”

“That’s no place for that. Don’t buy clothes. I’ll give you all the clothes you want. I’ll fit you out so you’ll be a great success. Go in that dressing room. There’s a closet. Take anything you want. My dear fellow, you don’t want to buy clothes.”

“I’d rather buy them, Sim.”

“My dear fellow, it’s easier for me to let you have them than go out and buy them. Have you got a passport? You won’t get far without a passport.”

“Yes. I’ve still got my passport.”

“Then get dressed, my dear fellow, and off to old Helvetia.”

“It’s not that simple. I have to go up to Stresa first.”

“Ideal, my dear fellow. You just row a boat across. If I wasn’t trying to sing, I’d go with you. I’ll go yet.”

“You could take up yodelling.”

“My dear fellow, I’ll take up yodelling yet. I really can sing though. That’s the strange part.”

“I’ll bet you can sing.”

He lay back in bed smoking a cigarette.

“Don’t bet too much. But I can sing though. It’s damned funny, but I can. I like to sing. Listen.” He roared into “Africana,” his neck swelling, the veins standing out. “I can sing,” he said. “Whether they like it or not.” I looked out of the window. “I’ll go down and let my cab go.”

“Come back up, my dear fellow, and we’ll have breakfast.” He stepped out of bed, stood straight, took a deep breath and commenced doing bending exercises. I went downstairs and paid off the cab.


In civilian clothes I felt a masquerader. I had been in uniform a long time and I missed the feeling of being held by your clothes. The trousers felt very floppy. I had bought a ticket at Milan for Stresa. I had also bought a new hat. I could not wear Sim’s hat but his clothes were fine. They smelled of tobacco and as I sat in the compartment and looked out the window the new hat felt very new and the clothes very old. I myself felt as sad as the wet Lombard country that was outside through the window. There were some aviators in the compartment who did not think much of me. They avoided looking at me and were very scornful of a civilian my age. I did not feel insulted. In the old days I would have insulted them and picked a fight. They got off at Gallarate and I was glad to be alone. I had the paper but I did not read it because I did not want to read about the war. I was going to forget the war. I had made a separate peace. I felt damned lonely and was glad when the train got to Stresa.

At the station I had expected to see the porters from the hotels but there was no one. The season had been over a long time and no one met the train. I got down from the train with my bag, it was Sim’s bag, and very light to carry, being empty except for two shirts, and stood under the roof of the station in the rain while the train went on. I found a man in the station and asked him if he knew what hotels were open. The Grand-Hotel & des Isles Borromées was open and several small hotels that stayed open all the year. I started in the rain for the Isles Borromées carrying my bag. I saw a carriage coming down the street and signalled to the driver. It was better to arrive in a carriage. We drove up to the carriage entrance of the big hotel and the concierge came out with an umbrella and was very polite.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest