A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“Tell me when you’re tired,” I said. Then a little later, “Watch out the oar doesn’t pop you in the tummy.”

“If it did”–Catherine said between strokes–“life might be much simpler.”

I took another drink of the brandy.

“How are you going?”

“All right.”

“Tell me when you want to stop.”

“All right.”

I took another drink of the brandy, then took hold of the two gunwales of the boat and moved forward.

“No. I’m going beautifully.”

“Go on back to the stern. I’ve had a grand rest.”

For a while, with the brandy, I rowed easily and steadily. Then I began to catch crabs and soon I was just chopping along again with a thin brown taste of bile from having rowed too hard after the brandy.

“Give me a drink of water, will you?” I said.

“That’s easy,” Catherine said.

Before daylight it started to drizzle. The wind was down or we were protected by mountains that bounded the curve the lake had made. When I knew daylight was coming I settled down and rowed hard. I did not know where we were and I wanted to get into the Swiss part of the lake. When it was beginning to be daylight we were quite close to the shore. I could see the rocky shore and the trees.

“What’s that?” Catherine said. I rested on the oars and listened. It was a motor boat chugging out on the lake. I pulled close up to the shore and lay quiet. The chugging came closer; then we saw the motor boat in the rain a little astern of us. There were four guardia di finanza in the stern, their alpini hats pulled down, their cape collars turned up and their carbines slung across their backs. They all looked sleepy so early in the morning. I could see the yellow on their hats and the yellow marks on their cape collars. The motor boat chugged on and out of sight in the rain.

I pulled out into the lake. If we were that close to the border I did not want to be hailed by a sentry along the road. I stayed out where I could just see the shore and rowed on for three quarters of an hour in the rain. We heard a motor boat once more but I kept quiet until the noise of the engine went away across the lake.

“I think we’re in Switzerland, Cat,” I said.


“There’s no way to know until we see Swiss troops.”

“Or the Swiss navy.”

“The Swiss navy’s no joke for us. That last motor boat we heard was probably the Swiss navy.”

“If we’re in Switzerland let’s have a big breakfast. They have wonderful rolls and butter and jam in Switzerland.”

It was clear daylight now and a fine rain was falling. The wind was still blowing outside up the lake and we could see the tops of the white-caps going away from us and up the lake. I was sure we were in Switzerland now. There were many houses back in the trees from the shore and up the shore a way was a village with stone houses, some villas on the hills and a church. I had been looking at the road that skirted the shore for guards but did not see any. The road came quite close to the lake now and I saw a soldier coming out of a café on the road. He wore a gray-green uniform and a helmet like the Germans. He had a healthy-looking face and a little toothbrush mustache. He looked at us.

“Wave to him,” I said to Catherine. She waved and the soldier smiled embarrassedly and gave a wave of his hand. I eased up rowing. We were passing the waterfront of the village.

“We must be well inside the border,” I said.

“We want to be sure, darling. We don’t want them to turn us back at the frontier.”

“The frontier is a long way back. I think this is the customs town. I’m pretty sure it’s Brissago.”

“Won’t there be Italians there? There are always both sides at a customs town.”

“Not in war-time. I don’t think they let the Italians cross the frontier.”

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest