A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“What’s the matter?” I took the oar.

“You looked so funny holding that thing.”

“I suppose so.”

“Don’t be cross, darling. It was awfully funny. You looked about twenty feet broad and very affectionate holding the umbrella by the edges–” she choked.

“I’ll row.”

“Take a rest and a drink. It’s a grand night and we’ve come a long way.”

“I have to keep the boat out of the trough of the waves.”

“I’ll get you a drink. Then rest a little while, darling.”

I held the oars up and we sailed with them. Catherine was opening the bag. She handed me the brandy bottle. I pulled the cork with my pocket-knife and took a long drink. It was smooth and hot and the heat went all through me and I felt warmed and cheerful. “It’s lovely brandy,” I said. The moon was under again but I could see the shore. There seemed to be another point going out a long way ahead into the lake.

“Are you warm enough, Cat?”

“I’m splendid. I’m a little stiff.”

“Bail out that water and you can put your feet down.”

Then I rowed and listened to the oarlocks and the dip and scrape of the bailing tin under the stern seat.

“Would you give me the bailer?” I said. “I want a drink.”

“It’s awful dirty.”

“That’s all right. I’ll rinse it.”

I heard Catherine rinsing it over the side. Then she handed it to me dipped full of water. I was thirsty after the brandy and the water was icy cold, so cold it made my teeth ache. I looked toward the shore. We were closer to the long point. There were lights in the bay ahead.

“Thanks,” I said and handed back the tin pail.

“You’re ever so welcome,” Catherine said. “There’s much more if you want it.”

“Don’t you want to eat something?”

“No. I’ll be hungry in a little while. We’ll save it till then.”

“All right.”

What looked like a point ahead was a long high headland. I went further out in the lake to pass it. The lake was much narrower now. The moon was out again and the guardia di finanza could have seen our boat black on the water if they had been watching.

“How are you, Cat?” I asked.

“I’m all right. Where are we?”

“I don’t think we have more than about eight miles more.”

“That’s a long way to row, you poor sweet. Aren’t you dead?”

“No. I’m all right. My hands are sore is all.”

We went on up the lake. There was a break in the mountains on the right bank, a flattening-out with a low shore line that I thought must be Cannobio. I stayed a long way out because it was from now on that we ran the most danger of meeting guardia. There was a high dome-capped mountain on the other shore a way ahead. I was tired. It was no great distance to row but when you were out of condition it had been a long way. I knew I had to pass that mountain and go up the lake at least five miles further before we would be in Swiss water. The moon was almost down now but before it went down the sky clouded over again and it was very dark. I stayed well out in the lake, rowing awhile, then resting and holding the oars so that the wind struck the blades.

“Let me row awhile,” Catherine said.

“I don’t think you ought to.”

“Nonsense. It would be good for me. It would keep me from being too stiff.”

“I don’t think you should, Cat.”

“Nonsense. Rowing in moderation is very good for the pregnant lady.”

“All right, you row a little moderately. I’ll go back, then you come up. Hold on to both gunwales when you come up.”

I sat in the stern with my coat on and the collar turned up and watched Catherine row. She rowed very well but the oars were too long and bothered her. I opened the bag and ate a couple of sandwiches and took a drink of the brandy. It made everything much better and I took another drink.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest