|◄ Book I|| A Farewell to Arms
written by Ernest Hemingway
|Book III ►|
|Jonathan Cape (pages 91-170)|
We got into Milan early in the morning and they unloaded us in the freight yard. An ambulance took me to the American hospital. Riding in the ambulance on a stretcher I could not tell what part of town we were passing through but when they unloaded the stretcher I saw a market-place and an open wine shop with a girl sweeping out. They were watering the street and it smelled of the early morning. They put the stretcher down and went in. The porter came out with them. He had gray mustaches, wore a doorman’s cap and was in his shirt sleeves. The stretcher would not go into the elevator and they discussed whether it was better to lift me off the stretcher and go up in the elevator or carry the stretcher up the stairs. I listened to them discussing it. They decided on the elevator. They lifted me from the stretcher. “Go easy,” I said. “Take it softly.”
In the elevator we were crowded and as my legs bent the pain was very bad. “Straighten out the legs,” I said.
“We can’t, Signor Tenente. There isn’t room.” The man who said this had his arm around me and my arm was around his neck. His breath came in my face metallic with garlic and red wine.
“Be gentle,” the other man said.
“Son of a bitch who isn’t gentle!”
“Be gentle I say,” the man with my feet repeated.
I saw the doors of the elevator closed, and the grill shut and the fourth-floor button pushed by the porter. The porter looked worried. The elevator rose slowly.
“Heavy?” I asked the man with the garlic.
“Nothing,” he said. His face was sweating and he grunted. The elevator rose steadily and stopped. The man holding the feet opened the door and stepped out. We were on a balcony. There were several doors with brass knobs. The man carrying the feet pushed a button that rang a bell. We heard it inside the doors. No one came. Then the porter came up the stairs.
“Where are they?” the stretcher-bearers asked.
“I don’t know,” said the porter. “They sleep down stairs.”
The porter rang the bell, then knocked on the door, then he opened the door and went in. When he came back there was an elderly woman wearing glasses with him. Her hair was loose and half-falling and she wore a nurse’s dress.
“I can’t understand,” she said. “I can’t understand Italian.”
“I can speak English,” I said. “They want to put me somewhere.”
“None of the rooms are ready. There isn’t any patient expected.” She tucked at her hair and looked at me near-sightedly.
“Show them any room where they can put me.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “There’s no patient expected. I couldn’t put you in just any room.”
“Any room will do,” I said. Then to the porter in Italian, “Find an empty room.”
“They are all empty,” said the porter. “You are the first patient.” He held his cap in his hand and looked at the elderly nurse.
“For Christ’s sweet sake take me to some room.” The pain had gone on and on with the legs bent and I could feel it going in and out of the bone. The porter went in the door, followed by the grayhaired woman, then came hurrying back. “Follow me,” he said. They carried me down a long hallway and into a room with drawn blinds. It smelled of new furniture. There was a bed and a big wardrobe with a mirror. They laid me down on the bed.
“I can’t put on sheets,” the woman said. “The sheets are locked up.”
I did not speak to her. “There is money in my pocket,” I said to the porter. “In the buttoned-down pocket.” The porter took out the money. The two stretcher-bearers stood beside the bed holding their caps. “Give them five lire apiece and five lire for yourself. My papers are in the other pocket. You may give them to the nurse.”
The stretcher-bearers saluted and said thank you. “Good-by,” I said. “And many thanks.” They saluted again and went out.
“Those papers,” I said to the nurse, “describe my case and the treatment already given.”
The woman picked them up and looked at them through her glasses. There were three papers and they were folded. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. “I can’t read Italian. I can’t do anything without the doctor’s orders.” She commenced to cry and put the papers in her apron pocket. “Are you an American?” she asked crying.
“Yes. Please put the papers on the table by the bed.”
It was dim and cool in the room. As I lay on the bed I could see the big mirror on the other side of the room but could not see what it reflected. The porter stood by the bed. He had a nice face and was very kind.
“You can go,” I said to him. “You can go too,” I said to the nurse. “What is your name?”
“You can go, Mrs. Walker. I think I will go to sleep.”
I was alone in the room. It was cool and did not smell like a hospital. The mattress was firm and comfortable and I lay without moving, hardly breathing, happy in feeling the pain lessen. After a while I wanted a drink of water and found the bell on a cord by the bed and rang it but nobody came. I went to sleep.
When I woke I looked around. There was sunlight coming in through the shutters. I saw the big armoire, the bare walls, and two chairs. My legs in the dirty bandages, stuck straight out in the bed. I was careful not to move them. I was thirsty and I reached for the bell and pushed the button. I heard the door open and looked and it was a nurse. She looked young and pretty.
“Good-morning,” I said.
“Good-morning,” she said and came over to the bed. “We haven’t been able to get the doctor. He’s gone to Lake Como. No one knew there was a patient coming. What’s wrong with you anyway?”
“I’m wounded. In the legs and feet and my head is hurt.”
“What’s your name?”
“Henry. Frederic Henry.”
“I’ll wash you up. But we can’t do anything to the dressings until the doctor comes.”
“Is Miss Barkley here?”
“No. There’s no one by that name here.”
“Who was the woman who cried when I came in?”
The nurse laughed. “That’s Mrs. Walker. She was on night duty and she’d been asleep. She wasn’t expecting any one.”
While we were talking she was undressing me, and when I was undressed, except for the bandages, she washed me, very gently and smoothly. The washing felt very good. There was a bandage on my head but she washed all around the edge.
“Where were you wounded?”
“On the Isonze north of Plava.”
“Where is that?”
“North of Gorizia.”
I could see that none of the places meant anything to her.
“Do you have a lot of pain?”
“No. Not much now.”
She put a thermometer in my mouth.
“The Italians put it under the arm,” I said.
When she took the thermometer out she read it and then shook it.
“What’s the temperature?”
“You’re not supposed to know that.”
“Tell me what it is.”
“It’s almost normal.”
“I never have any fever. My legs are full of old iron too.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’re full of trench-mortar fragments, old screws and bedsprings and things.”
She shook her head and smiled.
“If you had any foreign bodies in your legs they would set up an inflammation and you’d have fever.”
“All right,” I said. “We’ll see what comes out.”
She went out of the room and came back with the old nurse of the early morning. Together they made the bed with me in it. That was new to me and an admirable proceeding.
“Who is in charge here?”
“Miss Van Campen.”
“How many nurses are there?”
“Just us two.”
“Won’t there be more?”
“Some more are coming.”
“When will they get here?”
“I don’t know. You ask a great many questions for a sick boy.”
“I’m not sick,” I said. “I’m wounded.”
They had finished making the bed and I lay with a clean smooth sheet under me and another sheet over me. Mrs. Walker went out and came back with a pajama jacket. They put that on me and I felt very clean and dressed.
“You’re awfully nice to me,” I said. The nurse called Miss Gage giggled. “Could I have a drink of water?” I asked.
“Certainly. Then you can have breakfast.”
“I don’t want breakfast. Can I have the shutters opened please?”
The light had been dim in the room and when the shutters were opened it was bright sunlight and I looked out on a balcony and beyond were the tile roofs of houses and chimneys. I looked out over the tiled roofs and saw white clouds and the sky very blue.
“Don’t you know when the other nurses are coming?”
“Why? Don’t we take good care of you?”
“You’re very nice.”
“Would you like to use the bedpan?”
“I might try.”
They helped me and held me up but it was not any use. Afterward I lay and looked out the open doors onto the balcony.
“When does the doctor come?”
“When he gets back. We’ve tried to telephone to Lake Como for him.”
“Aren’t there any other doctors?”
“He’s the doctor for the hospital.”
Miss Gage brought a pitcher of water and a glass. I drank three glasses and then they left me and I looked out the window a while and went back to sleep. I ate some lunch and in the afternoon Miss Van Campen, the superintendent, came up to see me. She did not like me and I did not like her. She was small and neatly suspicious and too good for her position. She asked many questions and seemed to think it was somewhat disgraceful that I was with the Italians.
“Can I have wine with the meals?” I asked her.
“Only if the doctor prescribes it.”
“I can’t have it until he comes?”
“You plan on having him come eventually?”
“We’ve telephoned him at Lake Como.”
She went out and Miss Gage came back.
“Why were you rude to Miss Van Campen?” she asked after she had done something for me very skilfully.
“I didn’t mean to be. But she was snooty.”
“She said you were domineering and rude.”
“I wasn’t. But what’s the idea of a hospital without a doctor?”
“He’s coming. They’ve telephoned for him to Lake Como.”
“What does he do there? Swim?”
“No. He has a clinic there.”
“Why don’t they get another doctor?”
“Hush. Hush. Be a good boy and he’ll come.”
I sent for the porter and when he came I told him in Italian to get me a bottle of Cinzano at the wine shop, a fiasco of chianti and the evening papers. He went away and brought them wrapped in newspaper, unwrapped them and, when I asked him to, drew the corks and put the wine and vermouth under the bed. They left me alone and I lay in bed and read the papers awhile, the news from the front, and the list of dead officers with their decorations and then reached down and brought up the bottle of Cinzano and held it straight up on my stomach, the cool glass against my stomach, and took little drinks making rings on my stomach from holding the bottle there between drinks, and watched it get dark outside over the roofs of the town. The swallows circled around and I watched them and the night-hawks flying above the roofs and drank the Cinzano. Miss Gage brought up a glass with some eggnog in it. I lowered the vermouth bottle to the other side of the bed when she came in.
“Miss Van Campen had some sherry put in this,” she said. “You shouldn’t be rude to her. She’s not young and this hospital is a big responsibility for her. Mrs. Walker’s too old and she’s no use to her.”
“She’s a splendid woman,” I said. “Thank her very much.”
“I’m going to bring your supper right away.”
“That’s all right,” I said. “I’m not hungry.”
When she brought the tray and put it on the bed table I thanked her and ate a little of the supper. Afterward it was dark outside and I could see the beams of the search-lights moving in the sky. I watched for a while and then went to sleep. I slept heavily except once I woke sweating and scared and then went back to sleep trying to stay outside of my dream. I woke for good long before it was light and heard roosters crowing and stayed on awake until it began to be light. I was tired and once it was really light I went back to sleep again.
It was bright sunlight in the room when I woke. I thought I was back at the front and stretched out in bed. My legs hurt me and I looked down at them still in the dirty bandages, and seeing them knew where I was. I reached up for the bell-cord and pushed the button. I heard it buzz down the hall and then some one coming on rubber soles along the hall. It was Miss Gage and she looked a little older in the bright sunlight and not so pretty.
“Good-morning,” she said. “Did you have a good night?”
“Yes. Thanks very much,” I said. “Can I have a barber?”
“I came in to see you and you were asleep with this in the bed with you.”
She opened the armoire door and held up the vermouth bottle. It was nearly empty. “I put the other bottle from under the bed in there too,” she said. “Why didn’t you ask me for a glass?”
“I thought maybe you wouldn’t let me have it.”
“I’d have had some with you.”
“You’re a fine girl.”
“It isn’t good for you to drink alone,” she said. “You mustn’t do it.”
“Your friend Miss Barkley’s come,” she said.
“Yes. I don’t like her.”
“You will like her. She’s awfully nice.”
She shook her head. “I’m sure she’s fine. Can you move just a little to this side? That’s fine. I’ll clean you up for breakfast.” She washed me with a cloth and soap and warm water. “Hold your shoulder up,” she said. “That’s fine.”
“Can I have the barber before breakfast?”
“I’ll send the porter for him.” She went out and came back. “He’s gone for him,” she said and dipped the cloth she held in the basin of water.
The barber came with the porter. He was a man of about fifty with an upturned mustache. Miss Gage was finished with me and went out and the barber lathered my face and shaved. He was very solemn and refrained from talking.
“What’s the matter? Don’t you know any news?” I asked.
“Any news. What’s happened in the town?”
“It is time of wai” he said. “The enemy’s ears are everywhere.”
I looked up at him. “Please hold your face still,” he said and went on shaving. “I will tell nothing.”
“What’s the matter with you?” I asked.
“I am an Italian. I will not communicate with the enemy.”
I let it go at that. If he was crazy, the sooner I could get out from under the razor the better. Once I tried to get a good look at him. “Beware,” he said. “The razor is sharp.”
I paid him when it was over and tipped him half a lira. He returned the coins.
“I will not. I am not at the front. But I am an Italian.”
“Get the hell out of here.”
“With your permission,” he said and wrapped his razors in newspaper. He went out leaving the five copper coins on the table beside the bed. I rang the bell. Miss Gage came in. “Would you ask the porter to come please?”
The porter came in. He was trying to keep from laughing.
“Is that barber crazy?”
“No, signorino. He made a mistake. He doesn’t understand very well and he thought I said you were an Austrian officer.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Ho ho ho,” the porter laughed. “He was funny. One move from you he said and he would have—” he drew his forefinger across his throat.
“Ho ho ho,” he tried to keep from laughing. “When I tell him you were not an Austrian. Ho ho ho.”
“Hoho ho,” I said bitterly. “How funny if he would cut my throat. Ho ho ho.”
“No, signorino. No, no. He was so frightened of an Austrian. Ho ho ho.”
“Ho ho ho,” I said. “Get out of here.”
He went out and I heard him laughing in the hall. I heard some one coming down the hallway. I looked toward the door. It was Catherine Barkley.
She came in the room and over to the bed.
“Hello, darling,” she said. She looked fresh and young and very beautiful. I thought I had never seen any one so beautiful.
“Hello,” I said. When I saw her I was in love with her. Everything turned over inside of me. She looked toward the door, saw there was no one, then she sat on the side of the bed and leaned over and kissed me. I pulled her down and kissed her and felt her heart beating.
“You sweet,” I said. “Weren’t you wonderful to come here?”
“It wasn’t very hard. It may be hard to stay.”
“You’ve got to stay,” I said. “Oh, you’re wonderful.” I was crazy about her. I could not believe she was really there and held her tight to me.
“You mustn’t,” she said. “You’re not well enough.”
“Yes, I am. Come on.”
“No. You’re not strong enough.”
“Yes. I am. Yes. Please.”
“You do love me?”
“I really love you. I’m crazy about you. Come on please.”
“Feel our hearts beating.”
“I don’t care about our hearts. I want you. I’m just mad about you.”
“You really love me?”
“Don’t keep on saying that. Come on. Please. Please, Catherine.”
“All right but only for a minute.”
“All right,” I said. “Shut the door.”
“You can’t. You shouldn’t.”
“Come on. Don’t talk. Please come on.”
Catherine sat in a chair by the bed. The door was open into the hall. The wildness was gone and I felt finer than I had ever felt.
She asked, “Now do you believe I love you?”
“Oh, you’re lovely,” I said. “You’ve got to stay. They can’t send you away. I’m crazy in love with you.”
“We’ll have to be awfully careful. That was just madness. We can’t do that.”
“We can at night.”
“We’ll have to be awfully careful. You’ll have to be careful in front of other people.”
“You’ll have to be. You’re sweet. You do love me, don’t you?”
“Don’t say that again. You don’t know what that does to me.”
“I’ll be careful then. I don’t want to do anything more to you. I have to go now, darling, really.”
“Come back right away.”
“I’ll come when I can.”
She went out. God knows I had not wanted to fall in love with her. I had not wanted to fall in love with any one. But God knows I had and I lay on the bed in the room of the hospital in Milan and all sorts of things went through my head but I felt wonderful and finally Miss Gage came in.
“The doctor’s coming,” she said. “He telephoned from Lake Como.”
“When does he get here?”
“He’ll be here this afternoon.”
Nothing happened until afternoon. The doctor was a thin quiet little man who seemed disturbed by the war. He took out a number of small steel splinters from my thighs with delicate and refined distaste. He used a local anaesthetic called something or other “snow,” which froze the tissue and avoided pain until the probe, the scalpel or the forceps got below the frozen portion. The anxsthetized area was clearly defined by the patient and after a time the doctor’s fragile delicacy was exhausted and he said it would be better to have an X-ray. Probing was unsatisfactory, he said.
The X-ray was taken at the Ospedale Maggiore and the doctor who did it was excitable, efficient and cheerful. It was arranged by holding up the shoulders, that the patient should see personally some of the larger foreign bodies through the machine. The plates were to be sent over. The doctor requested me to write in his pocket notebook, my name, and regiment and some sentiment. He declared that the foreign bodies were ugly, nasty, brutal. The Austrians were sons of bitches. How many had I killed? I had not killed any but I was anxious to please—and I said I had killed plenty. Miss Gage was with me and the doctor put his arm around her and said she was more beautiful than Cleopatra. Did she understand that? Cleopatra the former queen of Egypt. Yes, by God she was. We returned to the little hospital in the ambulance and after a while and much lifting I was upstairs and in bed again. The plates came that afternoon, the doctor had said by God he would have them that afternoon and he did. Catherine Barkley showed them to me. They were in red envelopes and she took them out of the envelopes and held them up to the light and we both looked.
“That’s your right leg,” she said, then put the plate back in the envelope. “This is your left.”
“Put them away,” I said, “and come over to the bed.”
“I can’t,” she said. “I just brought them in for a second to show you.”
She went out and I lay there. It was a hot afternoon and I was sick of lying in bed. I sent the porter for the papers, all the papers he could get.
Before he came back three doctors came into the room. I have noticed that doctors who fail in the practice of medicine have a tendency to seek one another’s company and aid in consultation. A doctor who cannot take out your appendix properly will recommend to you a doctor who will be unable to remove your tonsils with success. These were three such doctors.
“This is the young man,” said the house doctor with the delicate hands.
“How do you do?” said the tall gaunt doctor with the beard. The third doctor, who carried the X-ray plates in their red envelopes, said nothing.
“Remove the dressings?” questioned the bearded doctor.
“Certainly. Remove the dressings, please, nurse,” the house doctor said to Miss Gage. Miss Gage removed the dressings. I looked down at the legs. At the field hospital they had the look of not too freshly ground hamburger steak. Now they were crusted and the knee was swollen and discolored and the calf sunken but there was no pus.
“Very clean,” said the house doctor. “Very clean and nice.”
“Um,” said the doctor with the beard. The third doctor looked over the house doctor’s shoulder.
“Please move the knee,” said the bearded doctor.
“Test the articulation?” the bearded doctor questioned. He had a stripe beside the three stars on his sleeve. That meant he was a first captain.
“Certainly,” the house doctor said. Two of them took hold of my right leg very gingerly and bent it.
“That hurts,” I said.
“Yes. Yes. A little further, doctor.”
“That’s enough. That’s as far as it goes,” I said.
“Partial articulation,” said the first captain. He straightened up. “May I see the plates again, please, doctor?” The third doctor handed him one of the plates. “No. The left leg, please.”
“That is the left leg, doctor.”
“You are right. I was looking from a different angle.” He returned the plate. The other plate he examined for some time. “You see, doctor?” he pointed to one of the foreign bodies which showed spherical and clear against the light. They examined the plate for some time.
“Only one thing I can say,” the first captain with the beard said. “It is a question of time. Three months, six months probably.”
“Certainly the synovial fluid must re-form.”
“Certainly. It is a question of time. I could not conscientiously open a knee like that before the projectile was encysted.”
“I agree with you, doctor.”
“Six months for what?” I asked.
“Six months for the projectile to encyst before the knee can be opened safely.”
“I don’t believe it,” I said.
“Do you want to keep your knee, young man?”
“No,” I said.
“I want it cut off,” I said, “so I can wear a hook on it.”
“What do you mean? A hook?”
“He is joking,” said the house doctor. He patted my shoulder very delicately. “He wants to keep his knee. This is a very brave young man. He has been proposed for the silver medal of valor.”
“All my felicitations,” said the first captain. He shook my hand. “I can only say that to be on the safe side you should wait at least six months before opening such a knee. You are welcome of course to another opinion.”
“Thank you very much,” I said. “I value your opinion.”
The first captain looked at his watch.
“We must go,” he said. “All my best wishes.”
“All my best wishes and many thanks,” I said. I shook hands with the third doctor. “Capitano Varini—Tenente Enry,” and they all three went out of the room.
“Miss Gage,” I called. She came in. “Please ask the house doctor to come back a minute.”
He came in holding his cap and stood by the bed. “Did you wish to see me?”
“Yes. I can’t wait six months to be operated on. My God, doctor, did you ever stay in bed six months?”
“You won’t be in bed all the time. You must first have the wounds exposed to the sun. Then afterward you can be on crutches.”
“For six months and then have an operation?”
“That is the safe way. The foreign bodies must be allowed to encyst and the synovial fluid will re-form. Then it will be safe to open up the knee.”
“Do you really think yourself I will have to wait that long?”
“That is the safe way.”
“Who is that first captain?”
“He is a very excellent surgeon of Milan.”
“He’s a first captain, isn’t he?”
“Yes, but he is an excellent surgeon.”
“I don’t want my leg fooled with by a first captain. If he was any good he would be made a major. I know what a first captain is, doctor.”
“He is an excellent surgeon and I would rather have his judgment than any surgeon I know.”
“Could another surgeon see it?”
“Certainly if you wish. But I would take Dr. Varella’s opinion myself.”
“Could you ask another surgeon to come and see it?”
“I will ask Valentini to come.”
“Who is he?”
“He is a surgeon of the Ospedale Maggiore.”
“Good. I appreciate it very much. You understand, doctor, I couldn’t stay in bed six months.”
“You would not be in bed. You would first take a sun cure. Then you could have light exercise. Then when it was encysted we would operate.”
“But I can’t wait six months.”
The doctor spread his delicate fingers on the cap he held and smiled. “You are in such a hurry to get back to the front?”
“It is very beautiful,” he said. “You are a noble young man.” He stooped over and kissed me very delicately on the forehead. “I will send for Valentini. Do not worry and excite yourself. Be a good boy.”
“Will you have a drink?” I asked.
“No thank you. I never drink alcohol.”
“Just have one.” I rang for the porter to bring glasses.
“No. No thank you. They are waiting for me.”
“Good-by,” I said.
Two hours later Dr. Valentini came into the room. He was in a great hurry and the points of his mustache stood straight up. He was a major, his face was tanned and he laughed all the time.
“How did you do it, this rotten thing?” he asked. “Let me see the plates. Yes. Yes. That’s it. You look healthy as a goat. Who’s the pretty girl? Is she your girl? I thought so. Isn’t this a bloody war? How does that feel? You are a fine boy. I’ll make you better than new. Does that hurt? You bet it hurts. How they love to hurt you, these doctors. What have they done for you so far? Can’t that girl talk Italian? She should learn. What a lovely girl. I could teach her. I will be a patient here myself. No, but I will do all your maternity work free. Does she understand that? She will make you a fine boy. A fine blonde like she is. That’s fine. That’s all right. What a lovely girl. Ask her if she eats supper with me. No I won’t take her away from you. Thank you. Thank you very much, Miss. That’s all.”
“That’s all I want to know.” He patted me on the shoulder. “Leave the dressings off.”
“Will you have a drink, Dr. Valentini?”
“A drink? Certainly. I will have ten drinks. Where are they?”
“In the armoire. Miss Barkley will get the bottle.”
“Cheery oh. Cheery oh to you, Miss. What a lovely girl. I will bring you better cognac than that.” He wiped his mustache.
“When do you think it can be operated on?”
“To-morrow morning. Not before. Your stomach must be emptied. You must be washed out. I will see the old lady downstairs and leave instructions. Good-by. I see you to-morrow. I’ll bring you better cognac than that. You are very comfortable here. Good-by. Until to-morrow. Get a good sleep. I’ll see you early.” He waved from the doorway, his mustaches went straight up, his brown face was smiling. There was a star in a box on his sleeve because he was a major.
That night a bat flew into the room through the open door that led onto the balcony and through which we watched the night over the roofs of the town. It was dark in our room except for the small light of the night over the town and the bat was not frightened but hunted in the room as though he had been outside. We lay and watched him and I do not think he saw us because we lay so still. After he went out we saw a searchlight come on and watched the beam move across the sky and then go off and it was dark again. A breeze came in the night and we heard the men of the anti-aircraft gun on the next roof talking. It was cool and they were putting on their capes. I worried in the night about some one coming up but Catherine said they were all asleep. Once in the night we went to sleep and when I woke she was not there but I heard her coming along the hall and the door opened and she came back to the bed and said it was all right she had been downstairs and they were all asleep. She had been outside Miss Van Campen’s door and heard her breathing in her sleep. She brought crackers and we ate them and drank some vermouth. We were very hungry but she said that would all have to be gotten out of me in the morning. I went to sleep again in the morning when it was light and when I was awake I found she was gone again. She came in looking fresh and lovely and sat on the bed and the sun rose while I had the thermometer in my mouth and we smelled the dew on the roofs and then the coffee of the men at the gun on the next roof.
“I wish we could go for a walk,” Catherine said. “I’d wheel you if we had a chair.”
“How would I get into the chair?”
“We’d do it.”
“We could go out to the park and have breakfast outdoors.” I looked out the open doorway.
“What we’ll really do,” she said, “is get you ready for your friend Dr. Valentini.”
“I thought he was grand.”
“I didn’t like him as much as you did. But I imagine he’s very good.”
“Come back to bed, Catherine. Please,” I said.
“I can’t. Didn’t we have a lovely night?”
“And can you be on night duty to-night?”
“I probably will. But you won’t want me.”
“Yes, I will.”
“No, you won’t. You’ve never been operated on. You don’t know how you’ll be.”
“I’ll be all right.”
“You’ll be sick and I won’t be anything to you.”
“Come back then now.”
“No,” she said. “I have to do the chart, darling, and fix you up.”
“You don’t really love me or you’d come back again.”
“You’re such a silly boy.” She kissed me. “That’s all right for the chart. Your temperature’s always normal. You’ve such a lovely temperature.”
“You’ve got a lovely everything.”
“Oh no. You have the lovely temperature. I’m awfully proud of your temperature.”
“Maybe all our children will have fine temperatures.”
“Our children will probably have beastly temperatures.”
“What do you have to do to get me ready for Valentini?”
“Not much. But quite unpleasant.”
“I wish you didn’t have to do it.”
“I don’t. I don’t want any one else to touch you. I’m silly. I get furious if they couch you.”
“Especially Ferguson and Gage and the other, what’s her name?”
“That’s it. They’ve too many nurses here now. There must be some more patients or they’ll send us away. They have four nurses now.”
“Perhaps there’ll be some. They need that many nurses. It’s quite a big hospital.”
“I hope some will come. What would I do if they sent me away? They will unless there are more patients.”
“I’d go too.”
“Don’t be silly. You can’t go yet. But get well quickly, darling, and we will go somewhere.”
“And then what?”
“Maybe the war will be over. It can’t always go on.”
“I’ll get well,” I said. “Valentini will fix me.”
“He should with those mustaches. And, darling, when you’re going under the ether just think about something else—not us. Because people get very blabby under an anaesthetic.”
“What should I think about?”
“Anything. Anything but us. Think about your people. Or even any other girl.”
“Say your prayers then. That ought to create a splendid impression.”
“Maybe I won’t talk.”
“That’s true. Often people don’t talk.”
“I won’t talk.”
“Don’t brag, darling. Please don’t brag. You’re so sweet and you don’t have to brag.”
“I won’t talk a word.”
“Now you’re bragging, darling. You know you don’t need to brag. Just start your prayers or poetry or something when they tell you to breathe deeply. You’ll be lovely that way and I’ll be so proud of you. I’m very proud of you anyway. You have such a lovely temperature and you sleep like a little boy with your arm around the pillow and think it’s me. Or is it some other girl? Some fine Italian girl?”
“Of course it’s me. Oh I do love you and Valentini will make you a fine leg. I’m glad I don’t have to watch it.”
“And you’ll be on night duty to-night.”
“Yes. But you won’t care.”
“You wait and see.”
“There, darling. Now you’re all clean inside and out. Tell me. How many people have you ever loved?”
“Not me even?”
“How many others really?”
“How many have you—how do you say it?—stayed with?”
“You’re lying to me.”
“It’s all right. Keep right on lying to me. That’s what I want you to do. Were they pretty?”
“I never stayed with any one.”
“That’s right. Were they very attractive?”
“I don’t know anything about it.”
“You’re just mine. That’s true and you’ve never belonged to any one else. But I don’t care if you have. I’m not afraid of them. But don’t tell me about them. When a man stays with a girl when does she say how much it costs?”
“I don’t know.”
“Of course not. Does she say she loves him? Tell me that. I want to know that.”
“Yes. If he wants her to.”
“Does he say he loves her? Tell me please. It’s important.”
“He does if he wants to.”
“But you never did? Really?”
“Not really. Tell me the truth.”
“No,” I lied.
“You wouldn’t,” she said. “I knew you wouldn’t. Oh, I love you, darling.”
Outside the sun was up over the roofs and I could see the points of the cathedral with the sunlight on them. I was clean inside and outside and waiting for the doctor.
“And that’s it?” Catherine said. “She says just what he wants her to?”
“But I will. I’ll say just what you wish and I’ll do what you wish and then you will never want any other girls, will you?” She looked at me very happily. “I’ll do what you want and say what you want and then I’ll be a great success, won’t I?”
“What would you like me to do now that you’re all ready?”
“Come to the bed again.”
“All right. I’ll come.”
“Oh, darling, darling, darling,” I said.
“You see,” she said. “I do anything you want.”
“You’re so lovely.”
“I’m afraid I’m not very good at it yet.”
“I want what you want. There isn’t any me any more. Just what you want.”
“I’m good. Aren’t I good? You don’t want any other girls, do you?”
“You see? I’m good. I do what you want.”
When I was awake after the operation I had not been away. You do not go away. They only choke you. It is not like dying it is just a chemical choking so you do not feel, and afterward you might as well have been drunk except that when you throw up nothing comes but bile and you do not feel better afterward. I saw sandbags at the end of the bed. They were on pipes that came out of the cast. After a while I saw Miss Gage and she said, “How is it now?”
“Better,” I said.
“He did a wonderful job on your knee.”
“How long did it take?”
“Two hours and a half.”
“Did I say anything silly?”
“Not a thing. Don’t talk. Just be quiet.”
I was sick and Catherine was right. It did not make any difference who was on night duty.
There were three other patients in the hospital now, a thin boy in the Red Cross from Georgia with malaria, a nice boy, also thin, from New York, with malaria and jaundice, and a fine boy who had tried to unscrew the fuse-cap from a combination shrapnel and high explosive shell for a souvenir. This was a shrapnel shell used by the Austrians in the mountains with a nose-cap which went on after the burst and exploded on contact.
Catherine Barkley was greatly liked by the nurses because she would do night duty indefinitely. She had quite a little work with the malaria people, the boy who had unscrewed the nose-cap was a friend of ours and never rang at night, unless it was necessary but between the times of working we were together. I loved her very much and she loved me. I slept in the daytime and we wrote notes during the day when we were awake and sent them by Ferguson. Ferguson was a fine girl. I never learned anything about her except that she had a brother in the Fifty-Second Division and a brother in Mesopotamia and she was very good to Catherine Barkley.
“Will you come to our wedding, Fergy?” I said to her once.
“You’ll never get married.”
“No you won’t.”
“You’ll fight before you’ll marry.”
“We never fight.”
“You’ve time yet.”
“We don’t fight.”
“You’ll die then. Fight or die. That’s what people do. They don’t marry.”
I reached for her hand. “Don’t take hold of me,” she said. “I’m not crying. Maybe you’ll be all right you two. But watch out you don’t get her in trouble. You get her in trouble and I’ll kill you.”
“I won’t get her in trouble.”
“Well watch out then. I hope you’ll be all right. You have a good time.”
“We have a fine time.”
“Don’t fight then and don’t get her into trouble.”
“Mind you watch out. I don’t want her with any of these war babies.”
“You’re a fine girl, Fergy.”
“I’m not. Don’t try to flatter me. How does your leg feel?”
“How is your head?” She touched the top of it with her fingers.
It was sensitive like a foot that had gone to sleep.
“It’s never bothered me.”
“A bump like that could make you crazy. It never bothers you?”
“You’re a lucky young man. Have you the letter done? I’m going down.”
“It’s here,” I said.
“You ought to ask her not to do night duty for a while. She’s getting very tired.”
“All right. I will.”
“I want to do it but she won’t let me. The others are glad to let her have it. You might give her just a little rest.”
“Miss Van Campen spoke about you sleeping all the forenoons.”
“It would be better if you let her stay off nights a little while.”
“I want her to.”
“You do not. But if you would make her I’d respect you for it.”
“I’ll make her.”
“I don’t believe it.” She took the note and went out. I rang the bell and in a little while Miss Gage came in.
“What’s the matter?”
“I just wanted to talk to you. Don’t you think Miss Barkley ought to go off night duty for a while? She looks awfully tired. Why does she stay on so long?”
Miss Gage looked at me.
“I’m a friend of yours,” she said. “You don’t have to talk to me like that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t be silly. Was that all you wanted?”
“Do you want a vermouth?”
“All right. Then I have to go.” She got out the bottle from the armoire and brought a glass.
“You take the glass,” I said. “I’ll drink out of the bottle.”
“Here’s to you,” said Miss Gage.
“What did Van Campen say about me sleeping late in the mornings?”
“She just jawed about it. She calls you our privileged patient.”
“To hell with her.”
“She isn’t mean,” Miss Gage said. “She’s just old and cranky. She never liked you.”
“Well, I do. And I’m your friend. Don’t forget that.”
“You’re awfully damned nice.”
“No. I know who you think is nice. But I’m your friend. How does your leg feel?”
“I’ll bring some cold mineral water to pour over it. It must itch under the cast. It’s hot outside.”
“You’re awful nice.”
“Does it itch much?”
“No. It’s fine.”
“I’ll fix those sandbags better.” She leaned over. “I’m your friend.”
“I know you are.”
“No you don’t. But you will some day.”
Catherine Barkley took three nights off night duty and then she came back on again. It was as though we met again after each of us had been away on a long journey.
We had a lovely time that summer. When I could go out we rode in a carriage in the park. I remember the carriage, the horse going slowly, and up ahead the back of the driver with his varnished high hat, and Catherine Barkley sitting beside me. If we let our hands touch, just the side of my hand touching hers, we were excited. Afterward when I could get around on crutches we went to dinner at Biffi’s or the Gran Italia and sat at the tables outside on the floor of the galleria. The waiters came in and out and there were people going by and candles with shades on the tablecloths and after we decided that we liked the Gran Italia best, George, the headwaiter, saved us a table. He was a fine waiter and we let him order the meal while we looked at the people, and the great galleria in the dusk, and each other. We drank dry white capri iced in a bucket; although we tried many of the other wines, fresa, barbera and the sweet white wines. They had no wine waiter because of the war and George would smile ashamedly when I asked about wines like fresa.
“If you imagine a country that makes a wine because it tastes like strawberries,” he said.
“Why shouldn’t it?” Catherine asked. “It sounds splendid.”
“You try it, lady,” said George, “if you want to. But let me bring a little bottle of margaux for the Tenente.”
“I’ll try it too, George.”
“Sir, I can’t recommend you to. It doesn’t even taste like strawberries.”
“It might,” said Catherine. “It would be wonderful if it did.”
“I’ll bring it,” said George, “and when the lady is satisfied I’ll take it away.”
It was not much of a wine. As he said, it did not even taste like strawberries. We went back to capri. One evening I was short of money and George loaned me a hundred lire. “That’s all right, Tenente,” he said. “I know how it is. I know how a man gets short. If you or the lady need money I’ve always got money.”
After dinner we walked through the galleria, past the other restaurants and the shops with their steel shutters down, and stopped at the little place where they sold sandwiches; ham and lettuce sandwiches and anchovy sandwiches made of very tiny brown glazed rolls and only about as long as your finger. They were to eat in the night when we were hungry. Then we got into an open carriage outside the galleria in front of the cathedral and rode to the hospital. At the door of the hospital the porter came out to help with the crutches. I paid the driver, and then we rode upstairs in the elevator. Catherine got off at the lower floor where the nurses lived and I went on up and went down the hall on crutches to my room; sometimes I undressed and got into bed and sometimes I sat out on the balcony with my leg up on another chair and watched the swallows over the roofs and waited for Catherine. When she came upstairs it was as though she had been away on a long trip and I went along the hall with her on the crutches and carried the basins and waited outside the doors, or went in with her; it depending on whether they were friends of ours or not, and when she had done all there was to be done we sat out on the balcony outside my room. Afterward I went to bed and when they were all asleep and she was sure they would not call she came in. I loved to take her hair down and she sat on the bed and kept very still, except suddenly she would dip down to kiss me while I was doing it, and I would take out the pins and lay them on the sheet and it would be loose and I would watch her while she kept very still and then take out the last two pins and it would all come down and she would drop her head and we would both be inside of it, and it was the feeling of inside a tent or behind a falls.
She had wonderfully beautiful hair and I would lie sometimes and watch her twisting it up in the light that came in the open door and it shone even in the night as water shines sometimes just before it is really daylight. She had a lovely face and body and lovely smooth skin too. We would be lying together and I would touch her cheeks and her forehead and under her eyes and her chin and throat with the tips of my fingers and say, “Smooth as piano keys,” and she would stroke my chin with her finger and say, “Smooth as emery paper and very hard on piano keys.”
“Is it rough?”
“No, darling. I was just making fun of you.”
It was lovely in the nights and if we could only touch each other we were happy. Besides all the big times we had many small ways of making love and we tried putting thoughts in the other one’s head while we were in different rooms. It seemed to work sometimes but that was probably because we were thinking the same thing anyway.
We said to each other that we were married the first day she had come to the hospital and we counted months from our wedding day. I wanted to be really married but Catherine said that if we were they would send her away and if we merely started on the formalities they would watch her and would break us up. We would have to be married under Italian law and the formalities were terrific. I wanted us to be married really because I worried about having a child if I thought about it, but we pretended to ourselves we were married and did not worry much and I suppose I enjoyed not being married, really. I know one night we talked about it and Catherine said, “But, darling, they’d send me away.”
“Maybe they wouldn’t.”
“They would. They’d send me home and then we would he apart until after the war.”
“I’d come on leave.”
“You couldn’t get to Scotland and back on a leave. Besides, I won’t leave you. What good would it do to marry now? We’re really married. I couldn’t be any more married.”
“I only wanted to for you.”
“There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me.”
“I thought girls always wanted to be married.”
“They do. But, darling, I am married. I’m married to you. Don’t I make you a good wife?”
“You’re a lovely wife.”
“You see, darling, I had one experience of waiting to be married.”
“I don’t want to hear about it.”
“You know I don’t love any one but you. You shouldn’t mind because some one else loved me.”
“You shouldn’t be jealous of some one who’s dead when you have everything.”
“No, but I don’t want to hear about it.”
“Poor darling. And I know you’ve been with all kinds of girls and it doesn’t matter to me.”
“Couldn’t we be married privately some way? Then if anything happened to me or if you had a child.”
“There’s no way to be married except by church or state. We are married privately. You see, darling, it would mean everything to me if I had any religion. But I haven’t any religion.”
“You gave me the Saint Anthony.”
“That was for luck. Some one gave it to me.”
“Then nothing worries you?”
“Only being sent away from you. You’re my religion. You’re all I’ve got.”
“All right. But I’ll marry you the day you say.”
“Don’t talk as though you had to make an honest woman of me, darling. I’m a very honest woman. You can’t be ashamed of something if you’re only happy and proud of it. Aren’t you happy?”
“But you won’t ever leave me for some one else.”
“No, darling. I won’t ever leave you for some one else. I suppose all sorts of dreadful things will happen to us. But you don’t have to worry about that.”
“I don’t. But I love you so much and you did love some one else before.”
“And what happened to him?”
“Yes and if he hadn’t I wouldn’t have met you. I’m not unfaithful, darling. I’ve plenty of faults but I’m very faithful. You’ll be sick of me I’ll be so faithful.”
“I’ll have to go back to the front pretty soon.”
“We won’t think about that until you go. You see I’m happy, darling, and we have a lovely time. I haven’t been happy for a long time and when I met you perhaps I was nearly crazy. Perhaps I was crazy. But now we’re happy and we love each other. Do let’s please just be happy. You are happy, aren’t you? Is there anything I do you don’t like? Can I do anything to please you? Would you like me to take down my hair? Do you want to play?”
“Yes and come to bed.”
“All right. I’ll go and see the patients first.”
The summer went that way. I do not remember much about the days, except that they were hot and that there were many victories in the papers. I was very healthy and my legs healed quickly so that it was not very long after I was first on crutches before I was through with them and walking with a cane. Then I started treatments at the Ospedale Maggiore for bending the knees, mechanical treatments, baking in a box of mirrors with violet rays, massage, and baths. I went over there afternoons and afterward stopped at the café and had a drink and read the papers. I did not roam around the town; but wanted to get home to the hospital from the café. All I wanted was to see Catherine. The rest of the time I was glad to kill. Mostly I slept in the mornings, and in the afternoons, sometimes, I went to the races, and late to the mechanotherapy treatments. Sometimes I stopped in at the Anglo-American Club and sat in a deep leather-cushioned chair in front of the window and read the magazines. They would not let us go out together when I was off crutches because it was unseemly for a nurse to be seen unchaperoned with a patient who did not look as though he needed attendance, so we were not together much in the afternoons. Although sometimes we could go out to dinner if Ferguson went along. Miss Van Campen had accepted the status that we were great friends because she got a great amount of work out of Catherine. She thought Catherine came from very good people and that prejudiced her in her favor finally. Miss Van Campen admired family very much and came from an excellent family herself. The hospital was quite busy, too, and that kept her occupied. It was a hot summer and I knew many people in Milan but always was anxious to get back home to the hospital as soon as the afternoon was over. At the front they were advancing on the Carso, they had taken Kuk across from Plava and were taking the Bainsizza plateau. The West front did not sound so good. It looked as though the war were going on for a long time. We were in the war now but I thought it would take a year to get any great amount of troops over and train them for combat. Next year would be a bad year, or a good year maybe. The Italians were using up an awful amount of men. I did not see how it could go on. Even if they took all the Bainsizza and Monte San Gabriele there were plenty of mountains beyond for the Austrians. I had seen them. All the highest mountains were beyond. On the Carso they were going forward but there were marshes and swamps down by the sea. Napoleon would have whipped the Austrians on the plains. He never would have fought them in the mountains. He would have let them come down and whipped them around Verona. Still nobody was whipping any one on the Western front. Perhaps wars weren’t won any more. Maybe they went on forever. Maybe it was another Hundred Years’War. I put the paper back on the rack and left the club. I went down the steps carefully and walked up the Via Manzoni. Outside the Gran Hotel I met old Meyers and his wife getting out of a carriage. They were coming back from the races. She was a big-busted woman in black satin. He was short and old, with a white mustache and walked flat-footed with a cane.
“How do you do? How do you do?” She shook hands. “Hello,” said Meyers.
“How were the races?”
“Fine. They were just lovely. I had three winners.”
“How did you do?” I asked Meyers.
“All right. I had a winner.”
“I never know how he does,” Mrs. Meyers said. “He never tells me.”
“I do all right,” Meyers said. He was being cordial. “You ought to come out.” While he talked you had the impression that he was not looking at you or that he mistook you for some one else.
“I will,” I said.
“I’m coming up to the hospital to see you,” Mrs. Meyers said. “I have some things for my boys. You’re all my boys. You certainly are my dear boys.”
“They’ll be glad to see you.”
“Those dear boys. You too. You’re one of my boys.”
“I have to get back,” I said.
“You give my love to all those dear boys. I’ve got lots of things to bring. I’ve some fine marsala and cakes.”
“Good-by,” I said. “They’ll be awfully glad to see you.”
“Good-by,” said Meyers. “You come around to the galleria. You know where my table is. We’re all there every afternoon.” I went on up the street. I wanted to buy something at the Cova to take to Catherine. Inside, at the Cova, I bought a box of chocolate and while the girl wrapped it up I walked over to the bar. There were a couple of British and some aviators. I had a martini alone, paid for it, picked up the box of chocolate at the outside counter and walked on home toward the hospital. Outside the little bar up the street from the Scala there were some people I knew, a vice-consul, two fellows who studied singing, and Ettore Moretti, an Italian from San Francisco who was in the Italian army. I had a drink with them. One of the singers was named Ralph Simmons, and he was singing under the name of Enrico DelCredo. I never knew how well he could sing but he was always on the point of something very big happening. He was fat and looked shopworn around the nose and mouth as though he had hayfever. He had come back from singing in Piacenza. He had sung Tosca and it had been wonderful.
“Of course you’ve never heard me sing,” he said.
“When will you sing here?”
“I’ll be at the Scala in the fall.”
“I’ll bet they throw the benches at you,” Ettore said. “Did you hear how they threw the benches at him in Modena?”
“It’s a damned lie.”
“They threw the benches at him,” Ettore said. “I was there. I threw six benches myself.”
“You’re just a wop from Frisco.”
“He can’t pronounce Italian,” Ettore said. “Everywhere he goes they throw the benches at him.”
“Piacenza’s the toughest house to sing in the north of Italy,” the other tenor said. “Believe me that’s a tough little house to sing.” This tenor’s name was Edgar Saunders, and he sang under the name of Edouardo Giovanni.
“I’d like to be there to see them throw the benches at you.” Ettore said. “You can’t sing Italian.”
“He’s a nut,” said Edgar Saunders. “All he knows how to say is throw benches.”
“That’s all they know how to do when you two sing,” Ettore said. “Then when you go to America you’ll tell about your triumphs at the Scala. They wouldn’t let you get by the first note at the Scala.”
“I’ll sing at the Scala,” Simmons said. “I’m going to sing Tosca in October.”
“We’ll go, won’t we, Mac?” Ettore said to the vice-consul. “They’ll need somebody to protect them.”
“Maybe the American army will be there to protect them,” the vice-consul said. “Do you want another drink, Simmons? You want a drink, Saunders?”
“All right,” said Saunders.
“I hear you’re going to get the silver medal,” Ettore said to me. “What kind of citation you going to get?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know I’m going to get it.”
“You’re going to get it. Oh boy, the girls at the Cova will think you’re fine then. They’ll all think you killed two hundred Austrians or captured a whole trench by yourself. Believe me, I got to work for my decorations.”
“How many have you got, Ettore?” asked the vice-consul.
“He’s got everything,” Simmons said. “He’s the boy they’re running the war for.”
“I’ve got the bronze twice and three silver medals,” said Ettore. “But the papers on only one have come through.”
“What’s the matter with the others?” asked Simmons.
“The action wasn’t successful,” said Ettore. “When the action isn’t successful they hold up all the medals.”
“How many times have you been wounded, Ettore?”
“Three times bad. I got three wound stripes. See?” He pulled his sleeve around. The stripes were parallel silver lines on a black background sewed to the cloth of the sleeve about eight inches below the shoulder.
“You got one too,” Ettore said to me. “Believe me they’re fine to have. I’d rather have them than medals. Believe me, boy, when you get three you’ve got something. You only get one for a wound that puts you three months in the hospital.”
“Where were you wounded, Ettore?” asked the vice-consul.
Ettore pulled up his sleeve.
“Here,” he showed the deep smooth red scar. “Here on my leg. I can’t show you that because I got puttees on; and in the foot. There’s dead bone in my foot that stinks right now. Every morning I take new little pieces out and it stinks all the time.”
“What hit you?” asked Simmons.
“A hand-grenade. One of those potato mashers. It just blew the whole side of my foot off. You know those potato mashers?” He turned to me.
“I saw the son of a bitch throw it,” Ettore said. “It knocked me down and I thought I was dead all right but those damn potato mashers haven’t got anything in them. I shot the son of a bitch with my rifle. I always carry a rifle so they can’t tell I’m an officer.”
“How did he look?” asked Simmons.
“That was the only one he had,” Ettore said. “I don’t know why he threw it. I guess he always wanted to throw one. He never saw any real fighting probably. I shot the son of a bitch all right.”
“How did he look when you shot him?” Simmons asked.
“Hell, how should I know?” said Ettore. “I shot him in the belly. I was afraid I’d miss him if I shot him in the head.”
“How long have you been an officer, Ettore?” I asked.
“Two years. I’m going to be a captain. How long have you been a lieutenant?”
“Going on three years.”
“You can’t be a captain because you don’t know the Italian language well enough,” Ettore said. “You can talk but you can’t read and write well enough. You got to have an education to be a captain. Why don’t you go in the American army?”
“Maybe I will.”
“I wish to God I could. Oh, boy, how much does a captain get, Mac?”
“I don’t know exactly. Around two hundred and fifty dollars, I think.”
“Jesus Christ what I could do with two hundred and fifty dollars. You better get in the American army quick, Fred. See if you can’t get me in.”
“I can command a company in Italian. I could learn it in English easy.”
“You’d be a general,” said Simmons.
“No, I don’t know enough to be a general. A general’s got to know a hell of a lot. You guys think there ain’t anything to war. You ain’t got brains enough to be a second-class corporal.”
“Thank God I don’t have to be,” Simmons said.
“Maybe you will if they round up all you slackers. Oh, boy, I’d like to have you two in my platoon. Mac too. I’d make you my orderly, Mac.”
“You’re a great boy, Ettore,” Mac said. “But I’m afraid you’re a militarist.”
“I’ll be a colonel before the war’s over,” Ettore said.
“If they don’t kill you.”
“They won’t kill me.” He touched the stars at his collar with his thumb and forefinger. “See me do that? We always touch our stars if anybody mentions getting killed.”
“Let’s go, Sim,” said Saunders standing up.
“So long,” I said. “I have to go too.” It was a quarter to six by the clock inside the bar. “Ciaou, Ettore.”
“Ciaou, Fred,” said Ettore. “That’s pretty fine you’re going to get the silver medal.”
“I don’t know I’ll get it.”
“You’ll get it all right, Fred. I heard you were going to get it all right.”
“Well, so long,” I said. “Keep out of trouble, Ettore.”
“Don’t worry about me. I don’t drink and I don’t run around. I’m no boozer and whorehound. I know what’s good for me.”
“So long,” I said. “I’m glad you’re going to be promoted captain.”
“I don’t have to wait to be promoted. I’m going to be a captain for merit of war. You know. Three stars with the crossed swords and crown above. That’s me.”
“Good luck. When you going back to the front?”
“Well, I’ll see you around.”
“So long. Don’t take any bad nickels.”
I walked on down a back Street that led to a cross-cut to the hospital. Ettore was twenty-three. He had been brought up by an uncle in San Francisco and was visiting his father and mother in Torino when war was declared. He had a sister, who had been sent to America with him at the same time to live with the uncle, who would graduate from normal school this year. He was a legitimate hero who bored every one he met. Catherine could not stand him.
“We have heroes too,” she said. “But usually, darling, they’re much quieter.”
“I don’t mind him.”
“I wouldn’t mind him if he wasn’t so conceited and didn’t bore me, and bore me, and bore me.”
“He bores me.”
“You’re sweet to say so, darling. But you don’t need to. You can picture him at the front and you know he’s useful but he’s so much the type of boy I don’t care for.”
“You’re awfully sweet to know, and I try and like him but he’s a dreadful, dreadful boy really.”
“He said this afternoon he was going to be a captain.”
“I’m glad,” said Catherine. “That should please him.”
“Wouldn’t you like me to have some more exalted rank?”
“No, darling. I only want you to have enough rank so that we’re admitted to the better restaurants.”
“That’s just the rank I have.”
“You have a splendid rank. I don’t want you to have any more rank. It might go to your head. Oh, darling, I’m awfully glad you’re not conceited. I’d have married you even if you were conceited but it’s very restful to have a husband who’s not conceited.”
We were talking softly out on the balcony. The moon was supposed to rise but there was a mist over the town and it did not come up and in a little while it started to drizzle and we came in. Outside the mist turned to rain and in a little while it was raining hard and we heard it drumming on the roof. I got up and stood at the door to see if it was raining in but it wasn’t, so I left the door open.
“Who else did you see?” Catherine asked.
“Mr. and Mrs. Meyers.”
“They’re a strange lot.”
“He’s supposed to have been in the penitentiary at home. They let him out to die.”
“And he lived happily in Milan forever after.”
“I don’t know how happily.”
“Happily enough after jail I should think.”
“She’s bringing some things here.”
“She brings splendid things. Were you her dear boy?”
“One of them.”
“You are all her dear boys,” Catherine said. “She prefers the dear boys. Listen to it rain.”
“It’s raining hard.”
“And you’ll always love me, won’t you?”
“And the rain won’t make any difference?”
“That’s good. Because I’m afraid of the rain.”
“Why?” I was sleepy. Outside the rain was falling steadily.
“I don’t know, darling. I’ve always been afraid of the rain.”
“I like it.”
“I like to walk in it. But it’s very hard on loving.”
“I’ll love you always.”
“I’ll love you in the rain and in the snow and in the hail and— what else is there?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’m sleepy.”
“Go to sleep, darling, and I’ll love you no matter how it is.”
“You’re not really afraid of the rain are you?”
“Not when I’m with you.”
“Why are you afraid of it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t make me.”
“All right. I’m afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it.”
“And sometimes I see you dead in it.”
“That’s more likely.”
“No, it’s not, darling. Because I can keep you safe. I know I can. But nobody can help themselves.”
“Please stop it. I don’t want you to get Scotch and crazy tonight. We won’t be together much longer.”
“No, but I am Scotch and crazy. But I’ll stop it. It’s all nonsense.”
“Yes it’s all nonsense.”
“It’s all nonsense. It’s only nonsense. I’m not afraid of the rain. I’m not afraid of the rain. Oh, oh, God, I wish I wasn’t.” She was crying. I comforted her and she stopped crying. But outside it kept on raining.
One day in the afternoon we went to the races. Ferguson went too and Crowell Rodgers, the boy who had been wounded in the eyes by the explosion of the shell nose-cap. The girls dressed to go after lunch while Crowell and I sat on the bed in his room and read the past performances of the horses and the predictions in the racing paper. Crowell’s head was bandaged and he did not care much about these races but read the racing paper constantly and kept track of all the horses for something to do. He said the horses were a terrible lot but they were all the horses we had. Old Meyers liked him and gave him tips. Meyers won on nearly every race but disliked to give tips because it brought down the prices. The racing was very crooked. Men who had been ruled off the turf everywhere else were racing in Italy. Meyers’information was good but I hated to ask him because sometimes he did not answer, and always you could see it hurt him to tell you, but he felt obligated to tell us for some reason and he hated less to tell Crowell. Crowell’s eyes had been hurt, one was hurt badly, and Meyers had trouble with his eyes and so he liked Crowell. Meyers never told his wife what horses he was playing and she won or lost, mostly lost, and talked all the time.
We four drove out to San Siro in an open carriage. It was a lovely day and we drove out through the park and out along the tramway and out of town where the road was dusty. There were villas with iron fences and big overgrown gardens and ditches with water flowing and green vegetable gardens with dust on the leaves. We could look across the plain and see farmhouses and the rich green farms with their irrigation ditches and the mountains to the north. There were many carriages going into the race track and the men at the gate let us in without cards because we were in uniform. We left the carriage, bought programmes, and walked across the infield and then across the smooth thick turf of the course to the paddock. The grand-stands were old and made of wood and the betting booths were under the stands and in a row out near the stables. There was a crowd of soldiers along the fence in the infield. The paddock was fairly well filled with people and they were walking the horses around in a ring under the trees behind the grandstand. We saw people we knew and got chairs for Ferguson and Catherine and watched the horses.
They went around, one after the other, their heads down, the grooms leading them. One horse, a purplish black, Crowell swore was dyed that color. We watched him and it seemed possible. He had only come out just before the bell rang to saddle. We looked him up in the programme from the number on the groom’s arm and it was listed a black gelding named Japalac. The race was for horses that had never won a race worth one thousand lire or more. Catherine was sure his color had been changed. Ferguson said she could not tell. I thought he looked suspicious. We all agreed we ought to back him and pooled one hundred lire. The odds sheets showed he would pay thirty-five to one. Crowell went over and bought the tickets while we watched the jockeys ride around once more and then go out under the trees to the track and gallop slowly up to the turn where the start was to be.
We went up in the grand-stand to watch the race. They had no elastic barrier at San Siro then and the starter lined up all the horses, they looked very small way up the track, and then sent them off with a crack of his long whip. They came past us with the black horse well in front and on the turn he was running away from the others. I watched them on the far side with the glasses and saw the jockey fighting to hold him in but he could not hold him and when they came around the turn and into the stretch the black horse was fifteen lengths ahead of the others. He went way on up and around the turn after the finish.
“Isn’t it wonderful,” Catherine said. “We’ll have over three thousand lire. He must be a splendid horse.”
“I hope his color doesn’t run,” Crowell said, “before they pay off.”
“He was really a lovely horse,” Catherine said. “I wonder if Mr. Meyers backed him.”
“Did you have the winner?” I called to Meyers. He nodded.
“I didn’t,” Mrs. Meyers said. “Who did you children bet on?”
“Really? He’s thirty-five to one!”
“We liked his color.”
“I didn’t. I thought he looked seedy. They told me not to back him.”
“He won’t pay much,” Meyers said.
“He’s marked thirty-five to one in the quotes,” I said.
“He won’t pay much. At the last minute,” Meyers said, “they put a lot of money on him.”
“Kempton and the boys. You’ll see. He won’t pay two to one.”
“Then we won’t get three thousand lire,” Catherine said. “I don’t like this crooked racing!”
“We’ll get two hundred lire.”
“That’s nothing. That doesn’t do us any good. I thought we were going to get three thousand.”
“It’s crooked and disgusting,” Ferguson said.
“Of course,” said Catherine, “if it hadn’t been crooked we’d never have backed him at all. But I would have liked the three thousand lire.”
“Let’s go down and get a drink and see what they pay,” Crowell said. We went out to where they posted the numbers and the bell rang to pay off and they put up 18.50 after Japalac to win. That meant he paid less than even money on a ten-lira bet.
We went to the bar under the grand-stand and had a whiskey and soda apiece. We ran into a couple of Italians we knew and McAdams, the vice-consul, and they came up with us when we joined the girls. The Italians were full of manners and McAdams talked to Catherine while we went down to bet again. Mr. Meyers was standing near the pari-mutuel.
“Ask him what he played,” I said to Crowell.
“What are you on, Mr. Meyers?” Crowell asked. Meyers took out his programme and pointed to the number five with his pencil.
“Do you mind if we play him too?” Crowell asked.
“Go ahead. Go ahead. But don’t tell my wife I gave it to you.”
“Will you have a drink?” I asked.
“No thanks. I never drink.”
We put a hundred lire on number five to win and a hundred to place and then had another whiskey and soda apiece. I was feeling very good and we picked up a couple more Italians, who each had a drink with us, and went back to the girls. These Italians were also very mannered and matched manners with the two we had collected before. In a little while no one could sit down. I gave the tickets to Catherine.
“What horse is it?”
“I don’t know. Mr. Meyers’choice.”
“Don’t you even know the name?”
“No. You can find it on the programme. Number five I think.”
“You have touching faith,” she said. The number five won but did not pay anything. Mr. Meyers was angry.
“You have to put up two hundred lire to make twenty,” he said. “Twelve lire for ten. It’s not worth it. My wife lost twenty lire.”
“I’ll go down with you,” Catherine said to me. The Italians all stood up. We went downstairs and out to the paddock.
“Do you like this?” Catherine asked.
“Yes. I guess I do.”
“It’s all right, I suppose,” she said. “But, darling, I can’t stand to see so many people.”
“We don’t see many.”
“No. But those Meyers and the man from the bank with his wife and daughters—”
“He cashes my sight drafts,” I said.
“Yes but some one else would if he didn’t. Those last four boys were awful.”
“We can stay out here and watch the race from the fence.”
“That will be lovely. And, darling, let’s back a horse we’ve never heard of and that Mr. Meyers won’t be backing.”
We backed a horse named Light For Me that finished fourth in a field of five. We leaned on the fence and watched the horses go by, their hoofs thudding as they went past, and saw the mountains off in the distance and Milan beyond the trees and the fields.
“I feel so much cleaner,” Catherine said. The horses were coming back, through the gate, wet and sweating, the jockeys quieting them and riding up to dismount under the trees.
“Wouldn’t you like a drink? We could have one out here and see the horses.”
“I’ll get them,” I said.
“The boy will bring them,” Catherine said. She put her hand up and the boy came out from the Pagoda bar beside the stables. We sat down at a round iron table.
“Don’t you like it better when we’re alone?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I felt very lonely when they were all there.”
“It’s grand here,” I said.
“Yes. It’s really a pretty course.”
“Don’t let me spoil your fun, darling. I’ll go back whenever you want.”
“No,” I said. “We’ll stay here and have our drink. Then we’ll go down and stand at the water jump for the steeplechase.”
“You’re awfully good to me,” she said.
After we had been alone awhile we were glad to see the others again. We had a good time.
== 21 ==
In September the first cool nights came, then the days were cool and the leaves on the trees in the park began to turn color and we knew the summer was gone. The fighting at the front went very badly and they could not take San Gabriele. The fighting on the Bainsizza plateau was over and by the middle of the month the fighting for San Gabriele was about over too. They could not take it. Ettore was gone back to the front. The horses were gone to Rome and there was no more racing. Crowell had gone to Rome too, to be sent back to America. There were riots twice in the town against the war and bad rioting in Turin. A British major at the club told me the Italians had lost one hundred and fifty thousand men on the Bainsizza plateau and on San Gabriele. He said they had lost forty thousand on the Carso besides. We had a drink and he talked. He said the fighting was over for the year down here and that the Italians had bitten off more than they could chew. He said the offensive in Flanders was going to the bad. If they killed men as they did this fall the Allies would be cooked in another year. He said we were all cooked but we were all right as long as we did not know it. We were all cooked. The thing was not to recognize it. The last country to realize they were cooked would win the war. We had another drink. Was I on somebody’s staff? No. He was. It was all balls. We were alone in the club sitting back in one of the big leather sofas. His boots were smoothly polished dull leather. They were beautiful boots. He said it was all balls. They thought only in divisions and man-power. They all squabbled about divisions and only killed them when they got them. They were all cooked. The Germans won the victories. By God they were soldiers. The old Hun was a soldier. But they were cooked too. We were all cooked. I asked about Russia. He said they were cooked already. I’d soon see they were cooked. Then the Austrians were cooked too. If they got some Hun divisions they could do it. Did he think they would attack this fall? Of course they would. The Italians were cooked. Everybody knew they were cooked. The old Hun would come down through the Trentino and cut the railway at Vicenza and then where would the Italians be? They tried that in’sixteen, I said. Not with Germans. Yes, I said. But they probably wouldn’t do that, he said. It was too simple. They’d try something complicated and get royally cooked. I had to go, I said. I had to get back to the hospital. “Good-by,” he said. Then cheerily, “Every sort of luck!” There was a great contrast between his world pessimism and personal cheeriness.
I stopped at a barber shop and was shaved and went home to the hospital. My leg was as well as it would get for a long time. I had been up for examination three days before. There were still some treatments to take before my course at the Ospedale.
Maggiore was finished and I walked along the side street practising not limping. An old man was cutting silhouettes under an arcade. I stopped to watch him. Two girls were posing and he cut their silhouettes together, snipping very fast and looking at them, his head on one side. The girls were giggling. He showed me the silhouettes before he pasted them on white paper and handed them to the girls.
“They’re beautiful,” he said. “How about you, Tenente?”
The girls went away looking at their silhouettes and laughing. They were nice-looking girls. One of them worked in the wine shop across from the hospital.
“All right,” I said.
“Take your cap off.”
“No. With it on.”
“It will not be so beautiful,” the old man said. “But,” he brightened, “it will be more military.”
He snipped away at the black paper, then separated the two thicknesses and pasted the profiles on a card and handed them to me.
“That’s all right.” He waved his hand. “I just made them for you.”
“Please.” I brought out some coppers. “For pleasure.”
“No. I did them for a pleasure. Give them to your girl.”
“Many thanks until we meet.”
“Until I see thee.”
I went on to the hospital. There were some letters, an official one, and some others. I was to have three weeks’convalescent leave and then return to the front. I read it over carefully. Well, that was that. The convalescent leave started October fourth when my course was finished. Three weeks was twenty-one days. That made October twenty-fifth. I told them I would not be in and went to the restaurant a little way up the street from the hospital for supper and read my letters and the Corriere Della Sera at the table. There was a letter from my grandfather, containing family news, patriotic encouragement, a draft for two hundred dollars, and a few clippings; a dull letter from the priest at our mess, a letter from a man I knew who was flying with the French and had gotten in with a wild gang and was telling about it, and a note from Rinaldi asking me how long I was going to skulk in Milano and what was all the news? He wanted me to bring him phonograph records and enclosed a list. I drank a small bottle of chianti with the meal, had a coffee afterward with a glass of cognac, finished the paper, put my letters in my pocket, left the paper on the table with the tip and went out. In my room at the hospital I undressed, put on pajamas and a dressing-gown, pulled down the curtains on the door that opened onto the balcony and sitting up in bed read Boston papers from a pile Mrs. Meyers had left for her boys at the hospital. The Chicago White Sox were winning the American League pennant and the New York Giants were leading the National League. Babe Ruth was a pitcher then playing for Boston. The papers were dull, the news was local and stale, and the war news was all old. The American news was all training camps. I was glad I wasn’t in a training camp. The baseball news was all I could read and I did not have the slightest interest in it. A number of papers together made it impossible to read with interest. It was not very timely but I read at it for a while. I wondered if America really got into the war, if they would close down the major leagues. They probably wouldn’t. There was still racing in Milan and the war could not be much worse. They had stopped racing in France. That was where our horse Japalac came from. Catherine was not due on duty until nine o’clock. I heard her passing along the floor when she first came on duty and once saw her pass in the hall. She went to several other rooms and finally came into mine.
“I’m late, darling,” she said. “There was a lot to do. How are you?”
I told her about my papers and the leave.
“That’s lovely,” she said. “Where do you want to go?”
“Nowhere. I want to stay here.”
“That’s silly. You pick a place to go and I’ll come too.”
“How will you work it?”
“I don’t know. But I will.”
“You’re pretty wonderful.”
“No I’m not. But life isn’t hard to manage when you’ve nothing to lose.”
“How do you mean?”
“Nothing. I was only thinking how small obstacles seemed that once were so big.”
“I should think it might be hard to manage.”
“No it won’t, darling. If necessary I’ll simply leave. But it won’t come to that.”
“Where should we go?”
“I don’t care. Anywhere you want. Anywhere we don’t know people.”
“Don’t you care where we go?”
“No. I’ll like any place.”
She seemed upset and taut.
“What’s the matter, Catherine?”
“Nothing. Nothing’s the matter.”
“Yes there is.”
“No nothing. Really nothing.”
“I know there is. Tell me, darling. You can tell me.”
“I don’t want to. I’m afraid I’ll make you unhappy or worry you.”
“No it won’t.”
“You’re sure? It doesn’t worry me but I’m afraid to worry you.”
“It won’t if it doesn’t worry you.”
“I don’t want to tell.”
“Do I have to?”
“I’m going to have a baby, darling. It’s almost three months along. You’re not worried, are you? Please please don’t. You mustn’t worry.”
“Is it all right?”
“I did everything. I took everything but it didn’t make any difference.”
“I’m not worried.”
“I couldn’t help it, darling, and I haven’t worried about it. You mustn’t worry or feel badly.”
“I only worry about you.”
“That’s it. That’s what you mustn’t do. People have babies all the time. Everybody has babies. It’s a natural thing.”
“You’re pretty wonderful.”
“No I’m not. But you mustn’t mind, darling. I’ll try and not make trouble for you. I know I’ve made trouble now. But haven’t I been a good girl until now? You never knew it, did you?”
“It will all be like that. You simply mustn’t worry. I can see you’re worrying. Stop it. Stop it right away. Wouldn’t you like a drink, darling? I know a drink always makes you feel cheerful.”
“No. I feel cheerful. And you’re pretty wonderful.”
“No I’m not. But I’ll fix everything to be together if you pick out a place for us to go. It ought to be lovely in October. We’ll have a lovely time, darling, and I’ll write you every day while you’re at the front.”
“Where will you be?”
“I don’t know yet. But somewhere splendid. I’ll look after all that.”
We were quiet awhile and did not talk. Catherine was sitting on the bed and I was looking at her but we did not touch each other. We were apart as when some one comes into a room and people are self-conscious. She put out her hand and took mine.
“You aren’t angry are you, darling?”
“And you don’t feel trapped?”
“Maybe a little. But not by you.”
“I didn’t mean by me. You mustn’t be stupid. I meant trapped at all.”
“You always feel trapped biologically.”
She went away a long way without stirring or removing her hand.
“’Always’isn’t a pretty word.”
“It’s all right. But you see I’ve never had a baby and I’ve never even loved any one. And I’ve tried to be the way you wanted and then you talk about’always.”
“I could cut off my tongue,” I offered.
“Oh, darling!” she came back from wherever she had been. “You mustn’t mind me.” We were both together again and the self-consciousness was gone. “We really are the same one and we mustn’t misunderstand on purpose.”
“But people do. They love each other and they misunderstand on purpose and they fight and then suddenly they aren’t the same one.”
“We won’t fight.”
“We mustn’t. Because there’s only us two and in the world there’s all the rest of them. If anything comes between us we’re gone and then they have us.”
“They won’t get us,” I said. “Because you’re too brave. Nothing ever happens to the brave.”
“They die of course.”
“But only once.”
“I don’t know. Who said that?”
“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one?”
“Of course. Who said it?”
“I don’t know.”
“He was probably a coward,” she said. “He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he’s intelligent. He simply doesn’t mention them.”
“I don’t know. It’s hard to see inside the head of the brave.”
“Yes. That’s how they keep that way.”
“You’re an authority.”
“You’re right, darling. That was deserved.”
“No,” she said. “But I would like to be.”
“I’m not,” I said. “I know where I stand. I’ve been out long enough to know. I’m like a ball-player that bats two hundred and thirty and knows he’s no better.”
“What is a ball-player that bats two hundred and thirty? It’s awfully impressive.”
“It’s not. It means a mediocre hitter in baseball.”
“But still a hitter,” she prodded me.
“I guess we’re both conceited,” I said. “But you are brave.”
“No. But I hope to be.”
“We’re both brave,” I said. “And I’m very brave when I’ve had a drink.”
“We’re splendid people,” Catherine said. She went over to the armoire and brought me the cognac and a glass. “Have a drink, darling,” she said. “You’ve been awfully good.”
“I don’t really want one.”
“All right.” I poured the water glass a third full of cognac and drank it off.
“That was very big,” she said. “I know brandy is for heroes. But you shouldn’t exaggerate.”
“Where will we live after the war?”
“In an old people’s home probably,” she said. “For three years I looked forward very childishly to the war ending at Christmas. But now I look forward till when our son will be a lieutenant commander.”
“Maybe he’ll be a general.”
“If it’s an hundred years’war he’ll have time to try both of the services.”
“Don’t you want a drink?”
“No. It always makes you happy, darling, and it only makes me dizzy.”
“Didn’t you ever drink brandy?”
“No, darling. I’m a very old-fashioned wife.”
I reached down to the floor for the bottle and poured another drink.
“I’d better go to have a look at your compatriots,” Catherine said. “Perhaps you’ll read the papers until I come back.”
“Do you have to go?”
“Now or later.”
“All right. Now.”
“I’ll come back later.”
“I’ll have finished the papers,” I said.
It turned cold that night and the next day it was raining. Coming home from the Ospedale Maggiore it rained very hard and I was wet when I came in. Up in my room the rain was coming down heavily outside on the balcony, and the wind blew it against the glass doors. I changed my clothing and drank some brandy but the brandy did not taste good. I felt sick in the night and in the morning after breakfast I was nauseated.
“There is no doubt about it,” the house surgeon said. “Look at the whites of his eyes, Miss.”
Miss Gage looked. They had me look in a glass. The whites of the eyes were yellow and it was the jaundice. I was sick for two weeks with it. For that reason we did not spend a convalescent leave together. We had planned to go to Pallanza on Lago Maggiore. It is nice there in the fall when the leaves turn. There are walks you can take and you can troll for trout in the lake. It would have been better than Stresa because there are fewer people at Pallanza. Stresa is so easy to get to from Milan that there are always people you know. There is a nice village at Pallanza and you can row out to the islands where the fishermen live and there is a restaurant on the biggest island. But we did not go.
One day while I was in bed with jaundice Miss Van Campen came in the room, opened the door into the armoire and saw the empty bottles there. I had sent a load of them down by the porter and I believe she must have seen them going out and come up to find some more. They were mostly vermouth bottles, marsala bottles, capri bottles, empty chianti flasks and a few cognac bottles. The porter had carried out the large bottles, those that had held vermouth, and the straw-covered chianti flasks, and left the brandy bottles for the last. It was the brandy bottles and a bottle shaped like a bear, which had held kümmel, that Miss Van Campen found. The bear shaped bottle enraged her particularly. She held it up, the bear was sitting up on his haunches with his paws up, there was a cork in his glass head and a few sticky crystals at the bottom. I laughed.
“It is kümmel,” I said. “The best kümmel comes in those bearshaped bottles. It comes from Russia.”
“Those are all brandy bottles, aren’t they?” Miss Van Campen asked.
“I can’t see them all,” I said. “But they probably are.”
“How long has this been going on?”
“I bought them and brought them in myself,” I said. “I have had Italian officers visit me frequently and I have kept brandy to offer them.”
“You haven’t been drinking it yourself?” she said.
“I have also drunk it myself.”
“Brandy,” she said. “Eleven empty bottles of brandy and that bear liquid.”
“I will send for some one to take them away. Those are all the empty bottles you have?”
“For the moment.”
“And I was pitying you having jaundice. Pity is something that is wasted on you.”
“I suppose you can’t be blamed for not wanting to go back to the front. But I should think you would try something more intelligent than producing jaundice with alcoholism.”
“With alcoholism. You heard me say it.” I did not say anything. “Unless you find something else I’m afraid you will have to go back to the front when you are through with your jaundice. I don’t believe self-inflicted jaundice entitles you to a convalescent leave.”
“I do not.”
“Have you ever had jaundice, Miss Van Campen?”
“No, but I have seen a great deal of it.”
“You noticed how the patients enjoyed it?”
“I suppose it is better than the front.”
“Miss Van Campen,” I said, “did you ever know a man who tried to disable himself by kicking himself in the scrotum?”
Miss Van Campen ignored the actual question. She had to ignore it or leave the room. She was not ready to leave because she had disliked me for a long time and she was now cashing in.
“I have known many men to escape the front through self-inflicted wounds.”
“That wasn’t the question. I have seen self-inflicted wounds also. I asked you if you had ever known a man who had tried to disable himself by kicking himself in the scrotum. Because that is the nearest sensation to jaundice and it is a sensation that I believe few women have ever experienced. That was why I asked you if you had ever had the jaundice, Miss Van Campen, because—” Miss Van Campen left the room. Later Miss Gage came in.
“What did you say to Van Campen? She was furious.”
“We were comparing sensations. I was going to suggest that she had never experienced childbirth—”
“You’re a fool,” Gage said. “She’s after your scalp.”
“She has my scalp,” I said. “She’s lost me my leave and she might try and get me court-martialled. She’s mean enough.”
“She never liked you,” Gage said. “What’s it about?”
“She says I’ve drunk myself into jaundice so as not to go back to the front.”
“Pooh,” said Gage. “I’ll swear you’ve never taken a drink. Everybody will swear you’ve never taken a drink.”
“She found the bottles.”
“I’ve told you a hundred times to clear out those bottles. Where are they now?”
“In the armoire.”
“Have you a suitcase?”
“No. Put them in that rucksack.”
Miss Gage packed the bottles in the rucksack. “I’ll give them to the porter,” she said. She started for the door.
“Just a minute,” Miss Van Campen said. “I’ll take those bottles.” She had the porter with her. “Carry them, please,” she said. “I want to show them to the doctor when I make my report.”
She went down the hall. The porter carried the sack. He knew what was in it.
Nothing happened except that I lost my leave.
The night I was to return to the front I sent the porter down to hold a seat for me on the train when it came from Turin. The train was to leave at midnight. It was made up at Turin and reached Milan about half-past ten at night and lay in the station until time to leave. You had to be there when it came in, to get a seat. The porter took a friend with him, a machine-gunner on leave who worked in a tailor shop, and was sure that between them they could hold a place. I gave them money for platform tickets and had them take my baggage. There was a big rucksack and two musettes.
I said good-by at the hospital at about five o’clock and went out. The porter had my baggage in his lodge and I told him I would be at the station a little before midnight. His wife called me “Signorino” and cried. She wiped her eyes and shook hands and then cried again. I patted her on the back and she cried once more. She had done my mending and was a very short dumpy, happy-faced woman with white hair. When she cried her whole face went to pieces. I went down to the corner where there was a wine shop and waited inside looking out the window. It was dark outside and cold and misty. I paid for my coffee and grappa and I watched the people going by in the light from the window. I saw Catherine and knocked on the window. She looked, saw me and smiled, and I went out to meet her. She was wearing a dark blue cape and a soft felt hat. We walked along together, along the sidewalk past the wine shops, then across the market square and up the street and through the archway to the cathedral square. There were streetcar tracks and beyond them was the cathedral. It was white and wet in the mist. We crossed the tram tracks. On our left were the shops, their windows lighted, and the entrance to the galleria. There was a fog in the square and when we came close to the front of the cathedral it was very big and the stone was wet.
“Would you like to go in?”
“No,” Catherine said. We walked along. There was a soldier standing with his girl in the shadow of one of the stone buttresses ahead of us and we passed them. They were standing tight up against the stone and he had put his cape around her.
“They’re like us,” I said.
“Nobody is like us,” Catherine said. She did not mean it happily.
“I wish they had some place to go.”
“It mightn’t do them any good.”
“I don’t know. Everybody ought to have some place to go.”
“They have the cathedral,” Catherine said. We were past it now. We crossed the far end of the square and looked back at the cathedral. It was fine in the mist. We were standing in front of the leather goods shop. There were riding boots, a rucksack and ski boots in the window. Each article was set apart as an exhibit; the rucksack in the centre, the riding boots on one side and the ski boots on the other. The leather was dark and oiled smooth as a used saddle. The electric light made high lights on the dull oiled leather.
“We’ll ski some time.”
“In two months there will be ski-ing at Mflrren,” Catherine said.
“Let’s go there.”
“All right,” she said. We went on past other windows and turned down a side street.
“I’ve never been this way.”
“This is the way I go to the hospital,” I said. It was a narrow street and we kept on the right-hand side. There were many people passing in the fog. There were shops and all the windows were lighted. We looked in a window at a pile of cheeses. I stopped in front of an armorer’s shop.
“Come in a minute. I have to buy a gun.”
“What sort of gun?”
“A pistol.” We went in and I unbuttoned my belt and laid it with the emply holster on the counter. Two women were behind the counter. The women brought out several pistols.
“It must fit this,” I said, opening the holster. It was a gray leather holster and I had bought it second-hand to wear in the town.
“Have they good pistols?” Catherine asked.
“They’re all about the same. Can I try this one?” I asked the woman.
“I have no place now to shoot,” she said. “But it is very good. You will not make a mistake with it.”
I snapped it and pulled back the action. The spring was rather strong but it worked smoothly. I sighted it and snapped it again.
“It is used,” the woman said. “It belonged to an officer who was an excellent shot.”
“Did you sell it to him?”
“How did you get it back?”
“From his orderly.”
“Maybe you have mine,” I said. “How much is this?”
“Fifty lire. It is very cheap.”
“All right. I want two extra clips and a box of cartridges.”
She brought them from under the counter.
“Have you any need for a sword?” she asked. “I have some used swords very cheap.”
“I’m going to the front,” I said.
“Oh yes, then you won’t need a sword,” she said.
I paid for the cartridges and the pistol, filled the magazine and put it in place, put the pistol in my empty holster, filled the extra clips with cartridges and put them in the leather slots on the holster and then buckled on my belt. The pistol felt heavy on the belt. Still, I thought, it was better to have a regulation pistol. You could always get shells.
“Now we’re fully armed,” I said. “That was the one thing I had to remember to do. Some one got my other one going to the hospital.”
“I hope it’s a good pistol,” Catherine said.
“Was there anything else?” the woman asked.
“I don’t believe so.”
“The pistol has a lanyard,” she said.
“So I noticed.”
The woman wanted to sell something else.
“You don’t need a whistle?”
“I don’t believe so.”
The woman said good-by and we went out onto the sidewalk. Catherine looked in the window. The woman looked out and bowed to us.
“What are those little mirrors set in wood for?”
“They’re for attracting birds. They twirl them out in the field and larks see them and come out and the Italians shoot them.”
“They are an ingenious people,” Catherine said. “You don’t shoot larks do you, darling, in America?”
We crossed the street and started to walk up the other side.
“I feel better now,” Catherine said. “I felt terrible when we started.”
“We always feel good when we’re together.”
“We always will be together.”
“Yes, except that I’m going away at midnight.”
“Don’t think about it, darling.”
We walked on up the street. The fog made the lights yellow.
“Aren’t you tired?” Catherine asked.
“How about you?”
“I’m all right. It’s fun to walk.”
“But let’s not do it too long.”
We turned down a side street where there were no lights and walked in the street. I stopped and kissed Catherine. While I kissed her I felt her hand on my shoulder. She had pulled my cape around her so it covered both of us. We were standing in the street against a high wall.
“Let’s go some place,” I said.
“Good,” said Catherine. We walked on along the street until it came out onto a wider street that was beside a canal. On the other side was a brick wall and buildings. Ahead, down the street, I saw a streetcar cross a bridge.
“We can get a cab up at the bridge,” I said. We stood on the bridge in the fog waiting for a carriage. Several streetcars passed, full of people going home. Then a carriage came along but there was some one in it. The fog was turning to rain.
“We could walk or take a tram,” Catherine said.
“One will be along,” I said. “They go by here.”
“Here one comes,” she said.
The driver stopped his horse and lowered the metal sign on his meter. The top of the carriage was up and there were drops of water on the driver’s coat. His varnished hat was shining in the wet. We sat back in the seat together and the top of the carriage made it dark.
“Where did you tell him to go?”
“To the station. There’s a hotel across from the station where we can go.”
“We can go the way we are? Without luggage?”
“Yes,” I said.
It was a long ride to the station up side streets in the rain.
“Won’t we have dinner?” Catherine asked. “I’m afraid I’ll be hungry.”
“We’ll have it in our room.”
“I haven’t anything to wear. I haven’t even a night-gown.”
“We’ll get one,” I said and called to the driver.
“Go to the Via Manzoni and up that.” He nodded and turned off to the left at the next corner. On the big street Catherine watched for a shop.
“Here’s a place,” she said. I stopped the driver and Catherine got out, walked across the sidewalk and went inside. I sat back in the carriage and waited for her. It was raining and I could smell the wet street and the horse steaming in the rain. She came back with a package and got in and we drove on.
“I was very extravagant, darling,” she said, “but it’s a fine night-gown.”
At the hotel I asked Catherine to wait in the carriage while I went in and spoke to the manager. There were plenty of rooms. Then I went out to the carriage, paid the driver, and Catherine and I walked in together. The small boy in buttons carried the package.
The manager bowed us toward the elevator. There was much red plush and brass. The manager went up in the elevator with us.
“Monsieur and Madame wish dinner in their rooms?”
“Yes. Will you have the menu brought up?” I said.
“You wish something special for dinner. Some game or a soufflé?”
The elevator passed three floors with a click each time, then clicked and stopped.
“What have you as game?”
“I could get a pheasant, or a woodcock.”
“A woodcock,” I said. We walked down the corridor. The carpet was worn. There were many doors. The manager stopped and unlocked a door and opened it.
“Here you are. A lovely room.”
The small boy in buttons put the package on the table in the centre of the room. The manager opened the curtains.
“It is foggy outside,” he said. The room was furnished in red plush. There were many mirrors, two chairs and a large bed with a satin coverlet. A door led to the bathroom.
“I will send up the menu,” the manager said. He bowed and went out.
I went to the window and looked out, then pulled a cord that shut the thick plush curtains. Catherine was sitting on the bed, looking at the cut glass chandelier. She had taken her hat off and her hair shone under the light. She saw herself in one of the mirrors and put her hands to her hair. I saw her in three other mirrors. She did not look happy. She let her cape fall on the bed.
“What’s the matter, darling?”
“I never felt like a whore before,” she said. I went over to the window and pulled the curtain aside and looked out. I had not thought it would be like this.
“You’re not a whore.”
“I know it, darling. But it isn’t nice to feel like one.” Her voice was dry and flat.
“This was the best hotel we could get in,” I said. I looked out the window. Across the square were the lights of the station. There were carriages going by on the street and I saw the trees in the park. The lights from the hotel shone on the wet pavement. Oh, hell, I thought, do we have to argue now?
“Come over here please,” Catherine said. The flatness was all gone out of her voice. “Come over, please. I’m a good girl again.” I looked over at the bed. She was smiling.
I went over and sat on the bed beside her and kissed her.
“You’re my good girl.”
“I’m certainly yours,” she said.
After we had eaten we felt fine, and then after, we felt very happy and in a little time the room felt like our own home. My room at the hospital had been our own home and this room was our home too in the same way.
Catherine wore my tunic over her shoulders while we ate. We were very hungry and the meal was good and we drank a bottle of Capri and a bottle of St. Estephe. I drank most of it but Catherine drank some and it made her feel splendid. For dinner we had a woodcock with soufflé potatoes and purée de marron, a salad, and zabaione for dessert.
“It’s a fine room,” Catherine said. “It’s a lovely room. We should have stayed here all the time we’ve been in Milan.”
“It’s a funny room. But it’s nice.”
“Vice is a wonderful thing,” Catherine said. “The people who go in for it seem to have good taste about it. The red plush is really fine. It’s just the thing. And the mirrors are very attractive.”
“You’re a lovely girl.”
“I don’t know how a room like this would be for waking up in the morning. But it’s really a splendid room.” I poured another glass of St. Estephe.
“I wish we could do something really sinful,” Catherine said. “Everything we do seems so innocent and simple. I can’t believe we do anything wrong.”
“You’re a grand girl.”
“I only feel hungry. I get terribly hungry.”
“You’re a fine simple girl,” I said.
“I am a simple girl. No one ever understood it except you.”
“Once when I first met you I spent an afternoon thinking how we would go to the Hotel Cavour together and how it would be.”
“That was awfully cheeky of you. This isn’t the Cavour is it?”
“No. They wouldn’t have taken us in there.”
“They’ll take us in some time. But that’s how we differ, darling. I never thought about anything.”
“Didn’t you ever at all?”
“A little,” she said.
“Oh you’re a lovely girl.”
I poured another glass of wine.
“I’m a very simple girl,” Catherine said.
“I didn’t think so at first. I thought you were a crazy girl.”
“I was a little crazy. But I wasn’t crazy in any complicated manner. I didn’t confuse you did I, darling?”
“Wine is a grand thing,” I said. “It makes you forget all the bad.”
“It’s lovely,” said Catherine. “But it’s given my father gout very badly.”
“Have you a father?”
“Yes,” said Catherine. “He has gout. You won’t ever have to meet him. Haven’t you a father?”
“No,” I said. “A step-father.”
“Will I like him?”
“You won’t have to meet him.”
“We have such a fine time,” Catherine said. “I don’t take any interest in anything else any more. I’m so very happy married to you.”
The waiter came and took away the things. After a while we were very still and we could hear the rain. Down below on the street a motor car honked.
- “’But at my back I always hear
- Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,’”
“I know that poem,” Catherine said. “It’s by Marvell. But it’s about a girl who wouldn’t live with a man.”
My head felt very clear and cold and I wanted to talk facts.
“Where will you have the baby?”
“I don’t know. The best place I can find.”
“How will you arrange it?”
“The best way I can. Don’t worry, darling. We may have several babies before the war is over.”
“It’s nearly time to go.”
“I know. You can make it time if you want.”
“Then don’t worry, darling. You were fine until now and now you’re worrying.”
“I won’t. How often will you write?”
“Every day. Do they read your letters?”
“They can’t read English enough to hurt any.”
“I’ll make them very confusing,” Catherine said.
“But not too confusing.”
“I’ll just make them a little confusing.”
“I’m afraid we have to start to go.”
“All right, darling.”
“I hate to leave our fine house.”
“So do I.”
“But we have to go.”
“All right. But we’re never settled in our home very long.”
“We will be.”
“I’ll have a fine home for you when you come back.”
“Maybe I’ll be back right away.”
“Perhaps you’ll be hurt just a little in the foot.”
“Or the lobe of the ear.”
“No I want your ears the way they are.”
“And not my feet?”
“Your feet have been hit already.”
“We have to go, darling. Really.”
“All right. You go first.”
We walked down the stairs instead of taking the elevator. The carpet on the stairs was worn. I had paid for the dinner when it came up and the waiter, who had brought it, was sitting on a chair near the door. He jumped up and bowed and I went with him into the side room and paid the bill for the room. The manager had remembered me as a friend and refused payment in advance but when he retired he had remembered to have the waiter stationed at the door so that I should not get out without paying. I suppose that had happened; even with his friends. One had so many friends in a war.
I asked the waiter to get us a carriage and he took Catherine’s package that I was carrying and went out with an umbrella. Outside through the window we saw him crossing the street in the rain. We stood in the side room and looked out the window.
“How do you feel, Cat?”
“I feel hollow and hungry.”
“Have you anything to eat?”
“Yes, in my musette.”
I saw the carriage coming. It stopped, the horse’s head hanging in the rain, and the waiter stepped out, opened his umbrella, and came toward the hotel. We met him at the door and walked out under the umbrella down the wet walk to the carriage at the curb. Water was running in the gutter.
“There is your package on the seat,” the waiter said. He stood with the umbrella until we were in and I had tipped him.
“Many thanks. Pleasant journey,” he said. The coachman lifted the reins and the horse started. The waiter turned away under the umbrella and went toward the hotel. We drove down the street and turned to the left, then came around to the right in front of the station. There were two carabinieri standing under the light just out of the rain. The light shone on their hats. The rain was clear and transparent against the light from the station. A porter came out from under the shelter of the station, his shoulders up against the rain.
“No,” I said. “Thanks. I don’t need thee.”
He went back under the shelter of the archway. I turned to Catherine. Her face was in the shadow from the hood of the carriage.
“We might as well say good-by.”
“I can’t go in?”
“Will you tell him the hospital?”
I told the driver the address to drive to. He nodded.
“Good-by,” I said. “Take good care of yourself and young Catherine.”
“Good-by,” I said. I stepped out into the rain and the carriage started. Catherine leaned out and I saw her face in the light. She smiled and waved. The carriage went up the street, Catherine pointed in toward the archway. I looked, there were only the two carabinieri and the archway. I realized she meant for me to get in out of the rain. I went in and stood and watched the carriage turn the corner. Then I started through the station and down the runway to the train.
The porter was on the platform looking for me. I followed him into the train, crowding past people and along the aisle and in through a door to where the machine-gunner sat in the corner of a full compartment. My rucksack and musettes were above his head on the luggage rack. There were many men standing in the corridor and the men in the compartment all looked at us when we came in. There were not enough places in the train and every one was hostile. The machine-gunner stood up for me to sit down. Some one tapped me on the shoulder. I looked around. It was a very tall gaunt captain of artillery with a red scar along his jaw. He had looked through the glass on the corridor and then come in.
“What do you say?” I asked. I had turned and faced him. He was taller than I and his face was very thin under the shadow of his cap-visor and the scar was new and shiny. Every one in the compartment was looking at me.
“You can’t do that,” he said. “You can’t have a soldier save you a place.”
“I have done it.”
He swallowed and I saw his Adam’s apple go up and then down. The machine-gunner stood in front of the place. Other men looked in through the glass. No one in the compartment said anything.
“You have no right to do that. I was here two hours before you came.”
“What do you want?”
“So do I.”
I watched his face and could feel the whole compartment against me. I did not blame them. He was in the right. But I wanted the seat. Still no one said anything.
Oh, hell, I thought.
“Sit down, Signor Capitano,” I said. The machine-gunner moved out of the way and the tall captain sat down. He looked at me. His face seemed hurt. But he had the seat. “Get my things,” I said to the machine-gunner. We went out in the corridor. The train was full and I knew there was no chance of a place. I gave the porter and the machine-gunner ten lire apiece. They went down the corridor and outside on the platform looking in the windows but there were no places.
“Maybe some will get off at Brescia,” the porter said.
“More will get on at Brescia,” said the machine-gunner. I said good-by to them and we shook hands and they left. They both felt badly. Inside the train we were all standing in the corridor when the train started. I watched the lights of the station and the yards as we went out. It was still raining and soon the windows were wet and you could not see out. Later I slept on the floor of the corridor; first putting my pocket-book with my money and papers in it inside my shirt and trousers so that it was inside the leg of my breeches. I slept all night, waking at Brescia and Verona when more men got on the train, but going back to sleep at once. I had my head on one of the musettes and my arms around the other and I could feel the pack and they could all walk over me if they wouldn’t step on me. Men were sleeping on the floor all down the corridor. Others stood holding on to the window rods or leaning against the doors. That train was always crowded.