A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

Count Greffi smiled and turned the glass with his fingers. “I had expected to become more devout as I grow older but somehow I haven’t,” he said. “It is a great pity.”

“Would you like to live after death?” I asked and instantly felt a fool to mention death. But he did not mind the word.

“It would depend on the life. This life is very pleasant. I would like to live forever,” he smiled. “I very nearly have.”

We were sitting in the deep leather chairs, the champagne in the ice-bucket and our glasses on the table between us.

“If you ever live to be as old as I am you will find many things strange.”

“You never seem old.”

“It is the body that is old. Sometimes I am afraid I will break off a finger as one breaks a stick of chalk. And the spirit is no older and not much wiser.”

“You are wise.”

“No, that is the great fallacy; the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.”

“Perhaps that is wisdom.”

“It is a very unattractive wisdom. What do you value most?”

“Some one I love.”

“With me it is the same. That is not wisdom. Do you value life?”


“So do I. Because it is all I have. And to give birthday parties,” he laughed. “You are probably wiser than I am. You do not give birthday parties.”

We both drank the wine.

“What do you think of the war really?” I asked.

“I think it is stupid.”

“Who will win it?”



“They are a younger nation.”

“Do younger nations always win wars?”

“They are apt to for a time.”

“Then what happens?”

“They become older nations.”

“You said you were not wise.”

“Dear boy, that is not wisdom. That is cynicism.”

“It sounds very wise to me.”

“It’s not particularly. I could quote you the examples on the other side. But it is not bad. Have we finished the champagne?”


“Should we drink some more? Then I must dress.”

“Perhaps we’d better not now.”

“You are sure you don’t want more?”

“Yes.” He stood up.

“I hope you will be very fortunate and very happy and very, very healthy.”

“Thank you. And I hope you will live forever.”

“Thank you. I have. And if you ever become devout pray for me if I am dead. I am asking several of my friends to do that. I had expected to become devout myself but it has not come.” I thought he smiled sadly but I could not tell. He was so old and his face was very wrinkled, so that a smile used so many lines that all gradations were lost.

“I might become very devout,” I said. “Anyway, I will pray for you.”

“I had always expected to become devout. All my family died very devout. But somehow it does not come.”

“It’s too early.”

“Maybe it is too late. Perhaps I have outlived my religious feeling.”

“My own comes only at night.”

“Then too you are in love. Do not forget that is a religious feeling.”

“You believe so?”

“Of course.” He took a step toward the table. “You were very kind to play.”

“It was a great pleasure.”

“We will walk up stairs together.”


That night there was a storm and I woke to hear the rain lashing the window-panes. It was coming in the open window. Some one had knocked on the door. I went to the door very softly, not to disturb Catherine, and opened it. The barman stood there. He wore his overcoat and carried his wet hat.

“Can I speak to you, Tenente?”

“What’s the matter?”

“It’s a very serious matter.”

I looked around. The room was dark. I saw the water on the floor from the window. “Come in,” I said. I took him by the arm into the bathroom; locked the door and put on the light. I sat down on the edge of the bathtub.

“What’s the matter, Emilio? Are you in trouble?”

“No. You are, Tenente.”


“They are going to arrest you in the morning.”


“I came to tell you. I was out in the town and I heard them talking in a café.”

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest