These were new dead and no one had bothered with anything but their pockets. Our own dead, or what he thought of, still, as our own dead, were surprisingly few, Nick noticed. Their coats had been opened too and their pockets were out, and they showed, by their position, the manner and the skill of the attack. The hot weather had swollen them all alike regardless of nationality.

The town had evidently been defended, at the last, from the line of the sunken road and there had been few or no Austrians to fall back into it. There were only three bodies in the street and they looked to have been killed running. The houses of the town were broken by the shelling and the street had much rubble of plaster and mortar and there were broken beams, broken tiles, and many holes, some of them yellow-edged from the mustard gas. There were many pieces of shell, and shrapnel balls were scattered in the rubble. There was no one in the town at all.

Nick Adams had seen no one since he had left Fornaci, although, riding along the road through the over-foliaged country, he had seen guns hidden under screens of mulberry leaves to the left of the road, noticing them by the heat waves in the air above the leaves where the sun hit the metal. Now he went on through the town, surprised to find it deserted, and came out on the low road beneath the bank of the river. Leaving the town there was a bare open space where the road slanted down and he could see the placid reach of the river and the low curve of the opposite bank and the whitened, sun-baked mud where the Austrians had dug. It was all very lush and over-green since he had seen it last and becoming historical had made no change in this, the lower river.

The battalion was along the bank to the left. There was a series of holes in the top of the bank with a few men in them. Nick noticed where the machine guns were posted and the signal rockets in their racks. The men in the holes in the side of the bank were sleeping. No one challenged. He went on and as he came around a turn in the mud bank a young second lieu­tenant with a stubble of beard and red-rimmed, very bloodshot eyes pointed a pistol at him.

“Who are you?”

Nick told him.

“How do I know this?”

Nick showed him the tessera with photograph and identification and the seal of the Third Army. He took hold of it.

“I will keep this.”

“You will not,” Nick said. “Give me back the card and put your gun away. There. In the holster.”

“How am I to know who you are?”

“The tessera tells you.”

“And if the tessera is false? Give me that card.”

“Don’t be a fool,” Nick said cheerfully.. “Take me to your company commander.”

“I should send you to battalion headquarters.”

“All right,” said Nick. “Listen, do you know the Captain Paravicini? The tall one with the small mus­tache who was an architect and speaks English?”

“You know him?”

“A little.”

“What company does he command?”

“The second.”

“He is commanding the battalion.”

“Good,” said Nick. He was relieved to know that Para was all right. “Let us go to the battalion.”

As Nick had left the edge of the town three shrapnel had burst high and to the right over one of the wrecked houses and since then there had been no shelling. But the face of this officer looked like the face of a man during a bombardment. There was the same tightness and the voice did not sound natural. His pistol made Nick nervous.

“Put it away,” he said. “There’s the whole river between them and you.”

“If I thought you were a spy I would shoot you now,” the second lieutenant said.

“Come on,” said Nick. “Let us go to the battalion.” This officer made him very nervous.

The Captain Paravicini, acting major, thinner and more English-looking than ever, rose when Nick saluted from behind the table in the dugout that was battalion headquarters.

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest