A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

I took a good room. It was very big and light and looked out on the lake. The clouds were down over the lake but it would be beautiful with the sunlight. I was expecting my wife, I said. There was a big double bed, a _letto matrimoniale_ with a satin coverlet. The hotel was very luxurious. I went down the long halls, down the wide stairs, through the rooms to the bar. I knew the barman and sat on a high stool and ate salted almonds and potato chips. The martini felt cool and clean.

“What are you doing here in _borghese?_” the barman asked after he had mixed a second martini.

“I am on leave. Convalescing-leave.”

“There is no one here. I don’t know why they keep the hotel open.”

“Have you been fishing?”

“I’ve caught some beautiful pieces. Trolling this time of year you catch some beautiful pieces.”

“Did you ever get the tobacco I sent?”

“Yes. Didn’t you get my card?”

I laughed. I had not been able to get the tobacco. It was American pipe-tobacco that he wanted, but my relatives had stopped sending it or it was being held up. Anyway it never came.

“I’ll get some somewhere,” I said. “Tell me have you seen two English girls in the town? They came here day before yesterday.”

“They are not at the hotel.”

“They are nurses.”

“I have seen two nurses. Wait a minute, I will find out where they are.”

“One of them is my wife,” I said. “I have come here to meet her.”

“The other is my wife.”

“I am not joking.”

“Pardon my stupid joke,” he said. “I did not understand.” He went away and was gone quite a little while. I ate olives, salted almonds and potato chips and looked at myself in civilian clothes in the mirror behind the bar. The bartender came back. “They are at the little hotel near the station,” he said.

“How about some sandwiches?”

“I’ll ring for some. You understand there is nothing here, now there are no people.”

“Isn’t there really any one at all?”

“Yes. There are a few people.”

The sandwiches came and I ate three and drank a couple more martinis. I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized. I had had too much red wine, bread, cheese, bad coffee and grappa. I sat on the high stool before the pleasant mahogany, the brass and the mirrors and did not think at all. The barman asked me some question.

“Don’t talk about the war,” I said. The war was a long way away. Maybe there wasn’t any war. There was no war here. Then I realized it was over for me. But I did not have the feeling that it was really over. I had the feeling of a boy who thinks of what is happening at a certain hour at the schoolhouse from which he has played truant.

Catherine and Helen Ferguson were at supper when I came to their hotel. Standing in the hallway I saw them at table. Catherine’s face was away from me and I saw the line of her hair and her cheek and her lovely neck and shoulders. Ferguson was talking. She stopped when I came in.

“My God,” she said.

“Hello,” I said.

“Why it’s you!” Catherine said. Her face lighted up. She looked too happy to believe it. I kissed her. Catherine blushed and I sat down at the table.

“You’re a fine mess,” Ferguson said. “What are you doing here? Have you eaten?”

“No.” The girl who was serving the meal came in and I told her to bring a plate for me. Catherine looked at me all the time, her eyes happy.

“What are you doing in mufti?” Ferguson asked.

“I’m in the Cabinet.”

“You’re in some mess.”

“Cheer up, Fergy. Cheer up just a little.”

“I’m not cheered by seeing you. I know the mess you’ve gotten this girl into. You’re no cheerful sight to me.”

Catherine smiled at me and touched me with her foot under the table.

“No one got me in a mess, Fergy. I get in my own messes.”

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest