|◄ Book III|| A Farewell to Arms
written by Ernest Hemingway
|Book V ►|
|Jonathan Cape (pages 251-301)|
I dropped off the train in Milan as it slowed to come into the station early in the morning before it was light. I crossed the track and came out between some buildings and down onto the street. A wine shop was open and I went in for some coffee. It smelled of early morning, of swept dust, spoons in coffee-glasses and the wet circles left by wine-glasses. The proprietor was behind the bar. Two soldiers sat at a table. I stood at the bar and drank a glass of coffee and ate a piece of bread. The coffee was gray with milk, and I skimmed the milk scum off the top with a piece of bread. The proprietor looked at me.
“You want a glass of grappa?”
“On me,” he said and poured a small glass and pushed it toward me. “What’s happening at the front?”
“I would not know.”
“They are drunk,” he said, moving his hand toward the two soldiers. I could believe him. They looked drunk.
“Tell me,” he said, “what is happening at the front?”
“I would not know about the front.”
“I saw you come down the wall. You came off the train.”
“There is a big retreat.”
“I read the papers. What happens? Is it over?”
“I don’t think so.”
He filled the glass with grappa from a short bottle. “If you are in trouble,” he said, “I can keep you.”
“I am not in trouble.”
“If you are in trouble stay here with me.”
“Where does one stay?”
“In the building. Many stay here. Any who are in trouble stay here.”
“Are many in trouble?”
“It depends on the trouble. You are a South American?”
He wiped off the bar.
“It is hard now to leave the country but in no way impossible.”
“I have no wish to leave.”
“You can stay here as long as you want. You will see what sort of man I am.”
“I have to go this morning but I will remember the address to return.”
He shook his head. “You won’t come back if you talk like that. I thought you were in real trouble.”
“I am in no trouble. But I value the address of a friend.”
I put a ten-lira note on the bar to pay for the coffee.
“Have a grappa with me,” I said.
“It is not necessary.”
He poured the two glasses.
“Remember,” he said. “Come here. Do not let other people take you in. Here you are all right.”
“I am sure.”
“You are sure?”
He was serious. “Then let me tell you one thing. Do not go about with that coat.”
“On the sleeves it shows very plainly where the stars have been cut away. The cloth is a different color.”
I did not say anything.
“If you have no papers I can give you papers.”
“I have no need for papers. I have papers.”
“All right,” he said. “But if you need papers I can get what you wish.”
“How much are such papers?”
“It depends on what they are. The price is reasonable.”
“I don’t need any now.”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m all right,” I said.
When I went out he said, “Don’t forget that I am your friend.”
“I will see you again,” he said.
“Good,” I said.
Outside I kept away from the station, where there were military police, and picked up a cab at the edge of the little park. I gave the driver the address of the hospital. At the hospital I went to the porter’s lodge. His wife embraced me. He shook my hand.
“You are back. You are safe.”
“Have you had breakfast?”
“How are you, Tenente? How are you?” the wife asked.
“Won’t you have breakfast with us?”
“No, thank you. Tell me is Miss Barkley here at the hospital now?”
“The English lady nurse.”
“His girl,” the wife said. She patted my arm and smiled.
“No,” the porter said. “She is away.”
My heart went down. “You are sure? I mean the tall blonde English young lady.”
“I am sure. She is gone to Stresa.”
“When did she go?”
“She went two days ago with the other lady English.”
“Good,” I said. “I wish you to do something for me. Do not tell any one you have seen me. It is very important.”
“I won’t tell any one,” the porter said. I gave him a ten-lira note. He pushed it away.
“I promise you I will tell no one,” he said. “I don’t want any money.”
“What can we do for you, Signor Tenente?” his wife asked.
“Only that,” I said.
“We are dumb,” the porter said. “You will let me know anything I can do?”
“Yes,” I said. “Good-by. I will see you again.”
They stood in the door, looking after me.
I got into the cab and gave the driver the address of Simmons, one of the men I knew who was studying singing.
Simmons lived a long way out in the town toward the Porta Magenta. He was still in bed and sleepy when I went to see him.
“You get up awfully early, Henry,” he said.
“I came in on the early train.”
“What’s all this retreat? Were you at the front? Will you have a cigarette? They’re in that box on the table.” It was a big room with a bed beside the wall, a piano over on the far side and a dresser and table. I sat on a chair by the bed. Simmons sat propped up by the pillows and smoked.
“I’m in a jam, Sim,” I said.
“So am I,” he said. “I’m always in a jam. Won’t you smoke?”
“No,” I said. “What’s the procedure in going to Switzerland?”
“For you? The Italians wouldn’t let you out of the country.”
“Yes. I know that. But the Swiss. What will they do?”
“They intern you.”
“I know. But what’s the mechanics of it?”
“Nothing. It’s very simple. You can go anywhere. I think you just have to report or something. Why? Are you fleeing the police?”
“Nothing definite yet.”
“Don’t tell me if you don’t want. But it would be interesting to hear. Nothing happens here. I was a great flop at Piacenza.”
“I’m awfully sorry.”
“Oh yes—I went very badly. I sung well too. I’m going to try it again at the Lyrico here.”
“I’d like to be there.”
“You’re awfully polite. You aren’t in a bad mess, are you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t tell me if you don’t want. How do you happen to be away from the bloody front?”
“I think I’m through with it.”
“Good boy. I always knew you had sense. Can I help you any way?”
“You’re awfully busy.”
“Not a bit of it, my dear Henry. Not a bit of it. I’d be happy to do anything.”
“You’re about my size. Would you go out and buy me an outfit of civilian clothes? I’ve clothes but they’re all at Rome.”
“You did live there, didn’t you? It’s a filthy place. How did you ever live there?”
“I wanted to be an architect.”
“That’s no place for that. Don’t buy clothes. I’ll give you all the clothes you want. I’ll fit you out so you’ll be a great success. Go in that dressing room. There’s a closet. Take anything you want. My dear fellow, you don’t want to buy clothes.”
“I’d rather buy them, Sim.”
“My dear fellow, it’s easier for me to let you have them than go out and buy them. Have you got a passport? You won’t get far without a passport.”
“Yes. I’ve still got my passport.”
“Then get dressed, my dear fellow, and off to old Helvetia.”
“It’s not that simple. I have to go up to Stresa first.”
“Ideal, my dear fellow. You just row a boat across. If I wasn’t trying to sing, I’d go with you. I’ll go yet.”
“You could take up yodelling.”
“My dear fellow, I’ll take up yodelling yet. I really can sing though. That’s the strange part.”
“I’ll bet you can sing.”
He lay back in bed smoking a cigarette.
“Don’t bet too much. But I can sing though. It’s damned funny, but I can. I like to sing. Listen.” He roared into “Africana,” his neck swelling, the veins standing out. “I can sing,” he said. “Whether they like it or not.” I looked out of the window. “I’ll go down and let my cab go.”
“Come back up, my dear fellow, and we’ll have breakfast.” He stepped out of bed, stood straight, took a deep breath and commenced doing bending exercises. I went downstairs and paid off the cab.
In civilian clothes I felt a masquerader. I had been in uniform a long time and I missed the feeling of being held by your clothes. The trousers felt very floppy. I had bought a ticket at Milan for Stresa. I had also bought a new hat. I could not wear Sim’s hat but his clothes were fine. They smelled of tobacco and as I sat in the compartment and looked out the window the new hat felt very new and the clothes very old. I myself felt as sad as the wet Lombard country that was outside through the window. There were some aviators in the compartment who did not think much of me. They avoided looking at me and were very scornful of a civilian my age. I did not feel insulted. In the old days I would have insulted them and picked a fight. They got off at Gallarate and I was glad to be alone. I had the paper but I did not read it because I did not want to read about the war. I was going to forget the war. I had made a separate peace. I felt damned lonely and was glad when the train got to Stresa.
At the station I had expected to see the porters from the hotels but there was no one. The season had been over a long time and no one met the train. I got down from the train with my bag, it was Sim’s bag, and very light to carry, being empty except for two shirts, and stood under the roof of the station in the rain while the train went on. I found a man in the station and asked him if he knew what hotels were open. The Grand-Hôtel des Isles Borromées was open and several small hotels that stayed open all the year. I started in the rain for the Isles Borromées carrying my bag. I saw a carriage coming down the street and signalled to the driver. It was better to arrive in a carriage. We drove up to the carriage entrance of the big hotel and the concierge came out with an umbrella and was very polite.
I took a good room. It was very big and light and looked out on the lake. The clouds were down over the lake but it would be beautiful with the sunlight. I was expecting my wife, I said. There was a big double bed, a letto matrimoniale with a satin coverlet. The hotel was very luxurious. I went down the long halls, down the wide stairs, through the rooms to the bar. I knew the barman and sat on a high stool and ate salted almonds and potato chips. The martini felt cool and clean.
“What are you doing here in borghese?” the barman asked after he had mixed a second martini.
“I am on leave. Convalescing-leave.”
“There is no one here. I don’t know why they keep the hotel open.”
“Have you been fishing?”
“I’ve caught some beautiful pieces. Trolling this time of year you catch some beautiful pieces.”
“Did you ever get the tobacco I sent?”
“Yes. Didn’t you get my card?”
I laughed. I had not been able to get the tobacco. It was American pipe-tobacco that he wanted, but my relatives had stopped sending it or it was being held up. Anyway it never came.
“I’ll get some somewhere,” I said. “Tell me have you seen two English girls in the town? They came here day before yesterday.”
“They are not at the hotel.”
“They are nurses.”
“I have seen two nurses. Wait a minute, I will find out where they are.”
“One of them is my wife,” I said. “I have come here to meet her.”
“The other is my wife.”
“I am not joking.”
“Pardon my stupid joke,” he said. “I did not understand.” He went away and was gone quite a little while. I ate olives, salted almonds and potato chips and looked at myself in civilian clothes in the mirror behind the bar. The bartender came back. “They are at the little hotel near the station,” he said.
“How about some sandwiches?”
“I’ll ring for some. You understand there is nothing here, now there are no people.”
“Isn’t there really any one at all?”
“Yes. There are a few people.”
The sandwiches came and I ate three and drank a couple more martinis. I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized. I had had too much red wine, bread, cheese, bad coffee and grappa. I sat on the high stool before the pleasant mahogany, the brass and the mirrors and did not think at all. The barman asked me some question.
“Don’t talk about the war,” I said. The war was a long way away. Maybe there wasn’t any war. There was no war here. Then I realized it was over for me. But I did not have the feeling that it was really over. I had the feeling of a boy who thinks of what is happening at a certain hour at the schoolhouse from which he has played truant.
Catherine and Helen Ferguson were at supper when I came to their hotel. Standing in the hallway I saw them at table. Catherine’s face was away from me and I saw the line of her hair and her cheek and her lovely neck and shoulders. Ferguson was talking. She stopped when I came in.
“My God,” she said.
“Hello,” I said.
“Why it’s you!” Catherine said. Her face lighted up. She looked too happy to believe it. I kissed her. Catherine blushed and I sat down at the table.
“You’re a fine mess,” Ferguson said. “What are you doing here? Have you eaten?”
“No.” The girl who was serving the meal came in and I told her to bring a plate for me. Catherine looked at me all the time, her eyes happy.
“What are you doing in mufti?” Ferguson asked.
“I’m in the Cabinet.”
“You’re in some mess.”
“Cheer up, Fergy. Cheer up just a little.”
“I’m not cheered by seeing you. I know the mess you’ve gotten this girl into. You’re no cheerful sight to me.”
Catherine smiled at me and touched me with her foot under the table.
“No one got me in a mess, Fergy. I get in my own messes.”
“I can’t stand him,” Ferguson said. “He’s done nothing but ruin you with his sneaking Italian tricks. Americans are worse than Italians.”
“The Scotch are such a moral people,” Catherine said.
“I don’t mean that. I mean his Italian sneakiness.”
“Am I sneaky, Fergy?”
“You are. You’re worse than sneaky. You’re like a snake. A snake with an Italian uniform: with a cape around your neck.”
“I haven’t got an Italian uniform now.”
“That’s just another example of your sneakiness. You had a love affair all summer and got this girl with child and now I suppose you’ll sneak off.”
I smiled at Catherine and she smiled at me.
“We’ll both sneak off,” she said.
“You’re two of the same thing,” Ferguson said. “I’m ashamed of you, Catherine Barkley. You have no shame and no honor and you’re as sneaky as he is.”
“Don’t, Fergy,” Catherine said and patted her hand. “Don’t denounce me. You know we like each other.”
“Take your hand away,” Ferguson said. Her face was red. “If you had any shame it would be different. But you’re God knows how many months gone with child and you think it’s a joke and are all smiles because your seducer’s come back. You’ve no shame and no feelings.” She began to cry. Catherine went over and put her arm around her. As she stood comforting Ferguson, I could see no change in her figure.
“I don’t care,” Ferguson sobbed. “I think it’s dreadful.”
“There, there, Fergy,” Catherine comforted her. “I’ll be ashamed. Don’t cry, Fergy. Don’t cry, old Fergy.”
“I’m not crying,” Ferguson sobbed. “I’m not crying. Except for the awful thing you’ve gotten into.” She looked at me. “I hate you,” she said. “She can’t make me not hate you. You dirty sneaking American Italian.” Her eyes and nose were red with crying.
Catherine smiled at me.
“Don’t you smile at him with your arm around me.”
“You’re unreasonable, Fergy.”
“I know it,” Ferguson sobbed. “You mustn’t mind me, either of you. I’m so upset. I’m not reasonable. I know it. I want you both to be happy.”
“We’re happy,” Catherine said. “You’re a sweet Fergy.”
Ferguson cried again. “I don’t want you happy the way you are. Why don’t you get married? You haven’t got another wife have you?”
“No,” I said. Catherine laughed.
“It’s nothing to laugh about,” Ferguson said. “Plenty of them have other wives.”
“We’ll be married, Fergy,” Catherine said, “if it will please you.”
“Not to please me. You should want to be married.”
“We’ve been very busy.”
“Yes. I know. Busy making babies.” I thought she was going to cry again but she went into bitterness instead. “I suppose you’ll go off with him now to-night?”
“Yes,” said Catherine. “If he wants me.”
“What about me?”
“Are you afraid to stay here alone?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then I’ll stay with you.”
“No, go on with him. Go with him right away. I’m sick of seeing both of you.”
“We’d better finish dinner.”
“No. Go right away.”
“Fergy, be reasonable.”
“I say get out right away. Go away both of you.”
“Let’s go then,” I said. I was sick of Fergy.
“You do want to go. You see you want to leave me even to eat dinner alone. I’ve always wanted to go to the Italian lakes and this is how it is. Oh, Oh,” she sobbed, then looked at Catherine and choked.
“We’ll stay till after dinner,” Catherine said. “And I’ll not leave you alone if you want me to stay. I won’t leave you alone, Fergy.”
“No. No. I want you to go. I want you to go.” She wiped her eyes. “I’m so unreasonable. Please don’t mind me.”
The girl who served the meal had been upset by all the crying. Now as she brought in the next course she seemed relieved that things were better.
That night at the hotel, in our room with the long empty hall outside and our shoes outside the door, a thick carpet on the floor of the room, outside the windows the rain falling and in the room light and pleasant and cheerful, then the light out and it exciting with smooth sheets and the bed comfortable, feeling that we had come home, feeling no longer alone, waking in the night to find the other one there, and not gone away; all other things were unreal. We slept when we were tired and if we woke the other one woke too so one was not alone. Often a man wishes to be alone and a girl wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. It has only happened to me like that once. I have been alone while I was with many girls and that is the way that you can be most lonely. But we were never lonely and never afraid when we were together. I know that the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started. But with Catherine there was almost no difference in the night except that it was an even better time. If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
I remember waking in the morning. Catherine was asleep and the sunlight was coming in through the window. The rain had stopped and I stepped out of bed and across the floor to the window. Down below were the gardens, bare now but beautifully regular, the gravel paths, the trees, the stone wall by the lake and the lake in the sunlight with the mountains beyond. I stood at the window looking out and when I turned away I saw Catherine was awake and watching me.
“How are you, darling?” she said. “Isn’t it a lovely day?”
“How do you feel?”
“I feel very well. We had a lovely night.”
“Do you want breakfast?”
She wanted breakfast. So did I and we had it in bed, the November sunlight coming in the window, and the breakfast tray across my lap.
“Don’t you want the paper? You always wanted the paper in the hospital?”
“No,” I said. “I don’t want the paper now.”
“Was it so bad you don’t want even to read about it?”
“I don’t want to read about it.”
“I wish I had been with you so I would know about it too.”
“I’ll tell you about it if I ever get it straight in my head.”
“But won’t they arrest you if they catch you out of uniform?”
“They’ll probably shoot me.”
“Then we’ll not stay here. We’ll get out of the country.”
“I’d thought something of that.”
“We’ll get out. Darling, you shouldn’t take silly chances. Tell me how did you come from Mestre to Milan?”
“I came on the train. I was in uniform then.”
“Weren’t you in danger then?”
“Not much. I had an old order of movement. I fixed the dates on it in Mestre.”
“Darling, you’re liable to be arrested here any time. I won’t have it. It’s silly to do something like that. Where would we be if they took you off?”
“Let’s not think about it. I’m tired of thinking about it.”
“What would you do if they came to arrest you?”
“You see how silly you are, I won’t let you go out of the hotel until we leave here.”
“Where are we going to go?”
“Please don’t be that way, darling. We’ll go wherever you say. But please find some place to go right away.”
“Switzerland is down the lake, we can go there.”
“That will be lovely.”
It was clouding over outside and the lake was darkening.
“I wish we did not always have to live like criminals,” I said.
“Darling, don’t be that way. You haven’t lived like a criminal very long. And we never live like criminals. We’re going to have a fine time.”
“I feel like a criminal. I’ve deserted from the army.”
“Darling, please be sensible. It’s not deserting from the army. It’s only the Italian army.”
I laughed. “You’re a fine girl. Let’s get back into bed. I feel fine in bed.”
A little while later Catherine said, “You don’t feel like a criminal do you?”
“No,” I said. “Not when I’m with you.”
“You’re such a silly boy,” she said. “But I’ll look after you. Isn’t it splendid, darling, that I don’t have any morning-sickness?”
“You don’t appreciate what a fine wife you have. But I don’t care. I’ll get you some place where they can’t arrest you and then we’ll have a lovely time.”
“Let’s go there right away.”
“We will, darling. I’ll go any place any time you wish.”
“Let’s not think about anything.”
Catherine went along the lake to the little hotel to see Ferguson and I sat in the bar and read the papers. There were comfortable leather chairs in the bar and I sat in one of them and read until the barman came in. The army had not stood at the Tagliamento. They were falling back to the Piave. I remembered the Piave. The railroad crossed it near San Dona going up to the front. It was deep and slow there and quite narrow. Down below there were mosquito marshes and canals. There were some lovely villas. Once, before the war, going up to Cortina D’Ampezzo I had gone along it for several hours in the hills. Up there it looked like a trout stream, flowing swiftly with shallow stretches and pools under the shadow of the rocks. The road turned off from it at Cadore. I wondered how the army that was up there would come down. The barman came in.
“Count Greffi was asking for you,” he said.
“Count Greffi. You remember the old man who was here when you were here before.”
“Is he here?”
“Yes, he’s here with his niece. I told him you were here. He wants you to play billiards.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s taking a walk.”
“How is he?”
“He’s younger than ever. He drank three champagne cocktails last night before dinner.”
“How’s his billiard game?”
“Good. He beat me. When I told him you were here he was very pleased. There’s nobody here for him to play with.”
Count Greffi was ninety-four years old. He had been a contemporary of Metternich and was an old man with white hair and mustache and beautiful manners. He had been in the diplomatic service of both Austria and Italy and his birthday parties were the great social event of Milan. He was living to be one hundred years old and played a smoothly fluent game of billiards that contrasted with his own ninety-four-year-old brittleness. I had met him when I had been at Stresa once before out of season and while we played billiards we drank champagne. I thought it was a splendid custom and he gave me fifteen points in a hundred and beat me.
“Why didn’t you tell me he was here?”
“I forgot it.”
“Who else is here?”
“No one you know. There are only six people altogether.”
“What are you doing now?”
“Come on out fishing.”
“I could come for an hour.”
“Come on. Bring the trolling line.”
The barman put on a coat and we went out. We went down and got a boat and I rowed while the barman sat in the stern and let out the line with a spinner and a heavy sinker on the end to troll for lake trout. We rowed along the shore, the barman holding the line in his hand and giving it occasional jerks forward. Stresa looked very deserted from the lake. There were the long rows of bare trees, the big hotels and the closed villas. I rowed across to Isola Bella and went close to the walls, where the water deepened sharply, and you saw the rock wall slanting down in the clear water, and then up and along to the fisherman’s island. The sun was under a cloud and the water was dark and smooth and very cold. We did not have a strike though we saw some circles on the water from rising fish.
I rowed up opposite the fisherman’s island where there were boats drawn up and men were mending nets.
“Should we get a drink?”
I brought the boat up to the stone pier and the barman pulled in the line, coiling it on the bottom of the boat and hooking the spinner on the edge of the gunwale. I stepped out and tied the boat. We went into a little café, sat at a bare wooden table and ordered vermouth.
“Are you tired from rowing?”
“I’ll row back,” he said.
“I like to row.”
“Maybe if you hold the line it will change the luck.”
“Tell me how goes the war.”
“I don’t have to go. I’m too old, like Count Greffi.”
“Maybe you’ll have to go yet.”
“Next year they’ll call my class. But I won’t go.”
“What will you do?”
“Get out of the country. I wouldn’t go to war. I was at the war once in Abyssinia. Nix. Why do you go?”
“I don’t know. I was a fool.”
“Have another vermouth?”
The barman rowed back. We trolled up the lake beyond Stresa and then down not far from shore. I held the taut line and felt the faint pulsing of the spinner revolving while I looked at the dark November water of the lake and the deserted shore. The barman rowed with long strokes and on the forward thrust of the boat the line throbbed. Once I had a strike: the line hardened suddenly and jerked back. I pulled and felt the live weight of the trout and then the line throbbed again. I had missed him.
“Did he feel big?”
“Once when I was out trolling alone I had the line in my teeth and one struck and nearly took my mouth out.”
“The best way is to have it over your leg,” I said. “Then you feel it and don’t lose your teeth.”
I put my hand in the water. It was very cold. We were almost opposite the hotel now.
“I have to go in,” the barman said, “to be there for eleven o’clock. L’heure du cocktail.”
I pulled in the line and wrapped it on a stick notched at each end. The barman put the boat in a little slip in the stone wall and locked it with a chain and padlock.
“Any time you want it,” he said, “I’ll give you the key.”
We went up to the hotel and into the bar. I did not want another drink so early in the morning so I went up to our room. The maid had just finished doing the room and Catherine was not back yet. I lay down on the bed and tried to keep from thinking.
When Catherine came back it was all right again. Ferguson was downstairs, she said. She was coming to lunch.
“I knew you wouldn’t mind,” Catherine said.
“No,” I said.
“What’s the matter, darling?”
“I don’t know.”
“I know. You haven’t anything to do. All you have is me and I go away.”
“I’m sorry, darling. I know it must be a dreadful feeling to have nothing at all suddenly.”
“My life used to be full of everything,” I said. “Now if you aren’t with me I haven’t a thing in the world.”
“But I’ll be with you. I was only gone for two hours. Isn’t there anything you can do?”
“I went fishing with the barman.”
“Wasn’t it fun?”
“Don’t think about me when I’m not here.”
“That’s the way I worked it at the front. But there was something to do then.”
“Othello with his occupation gone,” she teased.
“Othello was a nigger,” I said. “Besides, I’m not jealous. I’m just so in love with you that there isn’t anything else.”
“Will you be a good boy and be nice to Ferguson?”
“I’m always nice to Ferguson unless she curses me.”
“Be nice to her. Think how much we have and she hasn’t anything.”
“I don’t think she wants what we have.”
“You don’t know much, darling, for such a wise boy.”
“I’ll be nice to her.”
“I know you will. You’re so sweet.”
“She won’t stay afterward, will she?”
“No. I’ll get rid of her.”
“And then we’ll come up here.”
“Of course. What do you think I want to do?”
We went downstairs to have lunch with Ferguson. She was very impressed by the hotel and the splendor of the dining-room. We had a good lunch with a couple of bottles of white capri. Count Greffi came into the dining-room and bowed to us. His niece, who looked a little like my grandmother, was with him. I told Catherine and Ferguson about him and Ferguson was very impressed. The hotel was very big and grand and empty but the food was good, the wine was very pleasant and finally the wine made us all feel very well. Catherine had no need to feel any better. She was very happy. Ferguson became quite cheerful. I felt very well myself. After lunch Ferguson went back to her hotel. She was going to lie down for a while after lunch she said.
Along late in the afternoon some one knocked on our door.
“Who is it?”
“The Count Greffi wishes to know if you will play billiards with him.”
I looked at my watch; I had taken it off and it was under the pillow.
“Do you have to go, darling?” Catherine whispered.
“I think I’d better.” The watch was a quarter-past four o’clock. Out loud I said, “Tell the Count Greffi I will be in the billiard-room at five o’clock.”
At a quarter to five I kissed Catherine good-by and went into the bathroom to dress. Knotting my tie and looking in the glass I looked strange to myself in the civilian clothes. I must remember to buy some more shirts and socks.
“Will you be away a long time?” Catherine asked. She looked lovely in the bed. “Would you hand me the brush?”
I watched her brushing her hair, holding her head so the weight of her hair all came on one side. It was dark outside and the light over the head of the bed shone on her hair and on her neck and shoulders. I went over and kissed her and held her hand with the brush and her head sunk back on the pillow. I kissed her neck and shoulders. I felt faint with loving her so much.
“I don’t want to go away.”
“I don’t want you to go away.”
“I won’t go then.”
“Yes. Go. It’s only for a little while and then you’ll come back.” “We’ll have dinner up here.”
“Hurry and come back.”
I found the Count Greffi in the billiard-room. He was practising strokes, looking very fragile under the light that came down above the billiard table. On a card table a little way beyond the light was a silver icing-bucket with the necks and corks of two champagne bottles showing above the ice. The Count Greffi straightened up when I came toward the table and walked toward me. He put out his hand, “It is such a great pleasure that you are here. You were very kind to come to play with me.”
“It was very nice of you to ask me.”
“Are you quite well? They told me you were wounded on the Isonzo. I hope you are well again.”
“I’m very well. Have you been well?”
“Oh, I am always well. But I am getting old. I detect signs of age now.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“Yes. Do you want to know one? It is easier for me to talk Italian. I discipline myself but I find when I am tired that it is so much easier to talk Italian. So I know I must be getting old.”
“We could talk Italian. I am a little tired, too.”
“Oh, but when you are tired it will be easier for you to talk English.”
“Yes. American. You will please talk American. It is a delightful language.”
“I hardly ever see Americans.”
“You must miss them. One misses one’s countrymen and especially one’s countrywomen. I know that experience. Should we play or are you too tired?”
“I’m not really tired. I said that for a joke. What handicap will you give me?”
“Have you been playing very much?”
“None at all.”
“You play very well. Ten points in a hundred?”
“You flatter me.”
“That would be fine but you will beat me.”
“Should we play for a stake? You always wished to play for a stake.”
“I think we’d better.”
“All right. I will give you eighteen points and we will play for a franc a point.”
He played a lovely game of billiards and with the handicap I was only four ahead at fifty. Count Greffi pushed a button on the wall to ring for the barman.
“Open one bottle please,” he said. Then to me, “We will take a little stimulant.” The wine was icy cold and very dry and good.
“Should we talk Italian? Would you mind very much? It is my weakness now.”
We went on playing, sipping the wine between shots, speaking in Italian, but talking little, concentrated on the game. Count Greffi made his one hundredth point and with the handicap I was only at ninety-four. He smiled and patted me on the shoulder.
“Now we will drink the other bottle and you will tell me about the war.” He waited for me to sit down.
“About anything else,” I said.
“You don’t want to talk about it? Good. What have you been reading?”
“Nothing,” I said. “I’m afraid I am very dull.”
“No. But you should read.”
“What is there written in war-time?”
“There is Le Feu by a Frenchman, Barbusse. There is Mr. Britling Sees Through It.”
“No, he doesn’t.”
“He doesn’t see through it. Those books were at the hospital.”
“Then you have been reading?”
“Yes, but nothing any good.”
“I thought Mr. Britling a very good study of the English middle-class soul.”
“I don’t know about the soul.”
“Poor boy. We none of us know about the soul. Are you Croyant?”
Count Greffi smiled and turned the glass with his fingers. “I had expected to become more devout as I grow older but somehow I haven’t,” he said. “It is a great pity.”
“Would you like to live after death?” I asked and instantly felt a fool to mention death. But he did not mind the word.
“It would depend on the life. This life is very pleasant. I would like to live forever,” he smiled. “I very nearly have.”
We were sitting in the deep leather chairs, the champagne in the ice-bucket and our glasses on the table between us.
“If you ever live to be as old as I am you will find many things strange.”
“You never seem old.”
“It is the body that is old. Sometimes I am afraid I will break off a finger as one breaks a stick of chalk. And the spirit is no older and not much wiser.”
“You are wise.”
“No, that is the great fallacy; the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.”
“Perhaps that is wisdom.”
“It is a very unattractive wisdom. What do you value most?”
“Some one I love.”
“With me it is the same. That is not wisdom. Do you value life?”
“So do I. Because it is all I have. And to give birthday parties,” he laughed. “You are probably wiser than I am. You do not give birthday parties.”
We both drank the wine.
“What do you think of the war really?” I asked.
“I think it is stupid.”
“Who will win it?”
“They are a younger nation.”
“Do younger nations always win wars?”
“They are apt to for a time.”
“Then what happens?”
“They become older nations.”
“You said you were not wise.”
“Dear boy, that is not wisdom. That is cynicism.”
“It sounds very wise to me.”
“It’s not particularly. I could quote you the examples on the other side. But it is not bad. Have we finished the champagne?”
“Should we drink some more? Then I must dress.”
“Perhaps we’d better not now.”
“You are sure you don’t want more?”
“Yes.” He stood up.
“I hope you will be very fortunate and very happy and very, very healthy.”
“Thank you. And I hope you will live forever.”
“Thank you. I have. And if you ever become devout pray for me if I am dead. I am asking several of my friends to do that. I had expected to become devout myself but it has not come.” I thought he smiled sadly but I could not tell. He was so old and his face was very wrinkled, so that a smile used so many lines that all gradations were lost.
“I might become very devout,” I said. “Anyway, I will pray for you.”
“I had always expected to become devout. All my family died very devout. But somehow it does not come.”
“It’s too early.”
“Maybe it is too late. Perhaps I have outlived my religious feeling.”
“My own comes only at night.”
“Then too you are in love. Do not forget that is a religious feeling.”
“You believe so?”
“Of course.” He took a step toward the table. “You were very kind to play.”
“It was a great pleasure.”
“We will walk up stairs together.”
That night there was a storm and I woke to hear the rain lashing the window-panes. It was coming in the open window. Some one had knocked on the door. I went to the door very softly, not to disturb Catherine, and opened it. The barman stood there. He wore his overcoat and carried his wet hat.
“Can I speak to you, Tenente?”
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s a very serious matter.”
I looked around. The room was dark. I saw the water on the floor from the window. “Come in,” I said. I took him by the arm into the bathroom; locked the door and put on the light. I sat down on the edge of the bathtub.
“What’s the matter, Emilio? Are you in trouble?”
“No. You are, Tenente.”
“They are going to arrest you in the morning.”
“I came to tell you. I was out in the town and I heard them talking in a café.”
He stood there, his coat wet, holding his wet hat and said nothing.
“Why are they going to arrest me?”
“For something about the war.”
“Do you know what?”
“No. But I know that they know you were here before as an officer and now you are here out of uniform. After this retreat they arrest everybody.”
I thought a minute.
“What time do they come to arrest me?”
“In the morning. I don’t know the time.”
“What do you say to do?”
He put his hat in the washbowl. It was very wet and had been dripping on the floor.
“If you have nothing to fear an arrest is nothing. But it is always bad to be arrested—especially now.”
“I don’t want to be arrested.”
“Then go to Switzerland.”
“In my boat.”
“There is a storm,” I said.
“The storm is over. It is rough but you will be all right.”
“When should we go?”
“Right away. They might come to arrest you early in the morning.”
“What about our bags?”
“Get them packed. Get your lady dressed. I will take care of them.”
“Where will you be?”
“I will wait here. I don’t want any one to see me outside in the hall.”
I opened the door, closed it, and went into the bedroom. Catherine was awake.
“What is it, darling?”
“It’s all right, Cat,” I said. “Would you like to get dressed right away and go in a boat to Switzerland?”
“No,” I said. “I’d like to go back to bed.”
“What is it about?”
“The barman says they are going to arrest me in the morning.”
“Is the barman crazy?”
“Then please hurry, darling, and get dressed so we can start.” She sat up on the side of the bed. She was still sleepy. “Is that the barman in the bathroom?”
“Then I won’t wash. Please look the other way, darling, and I’ll be dressed in just a minute.”
I saw her white back as she took off her night-gown and then I looked away because she wanted me to. She was beginning to be a little big with the child and she did not want me to see her. I dressed hearing the rain on the windows. I did not have much to put in my bag.
“There’s plenty of room in my bag, Cat, if you need any.”
“I’m almost packed,” she said. “Darling, I’m awfully stupid, but why is the barman in the bathroom?”
“Sh—he’s waiting to take our bags down.”
“He’s awfully nice.”
“He’s an old friend,” I said. “I nearly sent him some pipetobacco once.”
I looked out the open window at the dark night. I could not see the lake, only the dark and the rain but the wind was quieter.
“I’m ready, darling,” Catherine said.
“All right.” I went to the bathroom door. “Here are the bags, Emilio,” I said. The barman took the two bags.
“You’re very good to help us,” Catherine said.
“That’s nothing, lady,” the barman said. “I’m glad to help you just so I don’t get in trouble myself. Listen,” he said to me. “I’ll take these out the servants’stairs and to the boat. You just go out as though you were going for a walk.”
“It’s a lovely night for a walk,” Catherine said.
“It’s a bad night all right.”
“I’m glad I’ve an umbrella,” Catherine said.
We walked down the hall and down the wide thickly carpeted stairs. At the foot of the stairs by the door the porter sat behind his desk.
He looked surprised at seeing us.
“You’re not going out, sir?” he said.
“Yes,” I said. “We’re going to see the storm along the lake.”
“Haven’t you got an umbrella, sir?”
“No,” I said. “This coat sheds water.”
He looked at it doubtfully. “I’ll get you an umbrella, sir,” he said. He went away and came back with a big umbrella. “It is a little big, sir,” he said. I gave him a ten-lira note. “Oh you are too good, sir. Thank you very much,” he said. He held the door open and we went out into the rain. He smiled at Catherine and she smiled at him. “Don’t stay out in the storm,” he said. “You will get wet, sir and lady.” He was only the second porter, and his English was still literally translated.
“We’ll be back,” I said. We walked down the path under the giant umbrella and out through the dark wet gardens to the road and across the road to the trellised pathway along the lake. The wind was blowing offshore now. It was a cold, wet November wind and I knew it was snowing in the mountains. We came along past the chained boats in the slips along the quay to where the barman’s boat should be. The water was dark against the stone. The barman stepped out from beside the row of trees.
“The bags are in the boat,” he said.
“I want to pay you for the boat,” I said.
“How much money have you?”
“Not so much.”
“You send me the money later. That will be all right.”
“What you want.”
“Tell me how much.”
“If you get through send me five hundred francs. You won’t mind that if you get through.”
“Here are sandwiches.” He handed me a package. “Everything there was in the bar. It’s all here. This is a bottle of brandy and a bottle of wine.” I put them in my bag. “Let me pay you for those.”
“All right, give me fifty lire.”
I gave itto him. “The brandy is good,” he said. “You don’t need to be afraid to give itto your lady. She better get in the boat.” He held the boat, it rising and falling against the stone wall and I helped Catherine in. She sat in the stern and pulled her cape around her.
“You know where to go?”
“Up the lake.”
“You know how far?”
“Past Luino, Cannero, Cannobio, Tranzano. You aren’t in Switzerland until you come to Brissago. You have to pass Monte Tamara.”
“What time is it?” Catherine asked.
“It’s only eleven o’clock,” I said.
“If you row all the time you ought to be there by seven o’clock in the morning.”
“Is it that far?”
“It’s thirty-five kilometres.”
“How should we go? In this rain we need a compass.”
“No. Row to Isola Bella. Then on the other side of Isola Madre go with the wind. The wind will take you to Pallanza. You will see the lights. Then go up the shore.”
“Maybe the wind will change.”
“No,” he said. “This wind will blow like this for three days. It comes straight down from the Mattarone. There is a can to bail with.”
“Let me pay you something for the boat now.”
“No, I’d rather take a chance. If you get through you pay me all you can.”
“I don’t think you’ll get drowned.”
“Go with the wind up the lake.”
I stepped in the boat.
“Did you leave the money for the hotel?”
“Yes. In an envelope in the room.”
“All right. Good luck, Tenente.”
“Good luck. We thank you many times.”
“You won’t thank me if you get drowned.”
“What does he say?” Catherine asked.
“He says good luck.”
“Good luck,” Catherine said.
“Thank you very much.”
“Are you ready?”
He bent down and shoved us off. I dug at the water with the oars, then waved one hand. The barman waved back deprecatingly. I saw the lights of the hotel and rowed out, rowing straight out until they were out of sight. There was quite a sea running but we were going with the wind.
I rowed in the dark keeping the wind in my face. The rain had stopped and only came occasionally in gusts. It was very dark, and the wind was cold. I could see Catherine in the stern but I could not see the water where the blades of the oars dipped. The oars were long and there were no leathers to keep them from slipping out. I pulled, raised, leaned forward, found the water, dipped and pulled, rowing as easily as I could. I did not feather the oars because the wind was with us. I knew my hands would blister and I wanted to delay it as long as I could. The boat was light and rowed easily. I pulled it along in the dark water. I could not see, and hoped we would soon come opposite Pallanza.
We never saw Pallanza. The wind was blowing up the lake and we passed the point that hides Pallanza in the dark and never saw the lights. When we finally saw some lights much further up the lake and close to the shore it was Intra. But for a long time we did not see any lights, nor did we see the shore but rowed steadily in the dark riding with the waves. Sometimes I missed the water with the oars in the dark as a wave lifted the boat. It was quite rough; but I kept on rowing, until suddenly we were close ashore against a point of rock that rose beside us; the waves striking against it, rushing high up, then falling back. I pulled hard on the right oar and backed water with the other and we went out into the lake again; the point was out of sight and we were going on up the lake.
“We’re across the lake,” I said to Catherine.
“Weren’t we going to see Pallanza?”
“We’ve missed it.”
“How are you, darling?”
“I could take the oars awhile.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Poor Ferguson,” Catherine said. “In the morning she’ll come to the hotel and find we’re gone.”
“I’m not worrying so much about that,” I said, “as about getting into the Swiss part of the lake before it’s daylight and the custom guards see us.”
“Is it a long way?”
“It’s some thirty kilometres from here.”
I rowed all night. Finally my hands were so sore I could hardly close them over the oars. We were nearly smashed up on the shore several times. I kept fairly close to the shore because I was afraid of getting lost on the lake and losing time. Sometimes we were so close we could see a row of trees and the road along the shore with the mountains behind. The rain stopped and the wind drove the clouds so that the moon shone through and looking back I could see the long dark point of Castagnola and the lake with white-caps and beyond, the moon on the high snow mountains. Then the clouds came over the moon again and the mountains and the lake were gone, but it was much lighter than it had been before and we could see the shore. I could see it too clearly and pulled out where they would not see the boat if there were custom guards along the Pallanza road. When the moon came out again we could see white villas on the shore on the slopes of the mountain and thewhite road where it showed through the trees. All the time I was rowing.
The lake widened and across it on the shore at the foot of the mountains on the other side we saw a few lights that should be Luino. I saw a wedgelike gap between the mountains on the other shore and I thought that must be Luino. If it was we were making good time. I pulled in the oars and lay back on the seat. I was very, very tired of rowing. My arms and shoulders and back ached and my hands were sore.
“I could hold the umbrella,” Catherine said. “We could sail with that with the wind.”
“Can you steer?”
“I think so.”
“You take this oar and hold it under your arm close to the side of the boat and steer and I’ll hold the umbrella.” I went back to the stern and showed her how to hold the oar. I took the big umbrella the porter had given me and sat facing the bow and opened it. It opened with a clap. I held it on both sides, sitting astride the handle hooked over the seat. The wind was full in it and I felt the boat suck forward while I held as hard as I could to the two edges. It pulled hard. The boat was moving fast.
“We’re going beautifully,” Catherine said. All I could see was umbrella ribs. The umbrella strained and pulled and I felt us driving along with it. I braced my feet and held back on it, then suddenly, it buckled; I felt a rib snap on my forehead, I tried to grab the top that was bending with the wind and the whole thing buckled and went inside out and I was astride the handle of an inside-out, ripped umbrella, where I had been holding a wind-filled pulling sail. I unhooked the handle from the seat, laid the umbrella in the bow and went back to Catherine for the oar. She was laughing. She took my hand and kept on laughing.
“What’s the matter?” I took the oar.
“You looked so funny holding that thing.”
“I suppose so.”
“Don’t be cross, darling. It was awfully funny. You looked about twenty feet broad and very affectionate holding the umbrella by the edges—” she choked.
“Take a rest and a drink. It’s a grand night and we’ve come a long way.”
“I have to keep the boat out of the trough of the waves.”
“I’ll get you a drink. Then rest a little while, darling.”
I held the oars up and we sailed with them. Catherine was opening the bag. She handed me the brandy bottle. I pulled the cork with my pocket-knife and took a long drink. It was smooth and hot and the heat went all through me and I felt warmed and cheerful. “It’s lovely brandy,” I said. The moon was under again but I could see the shore. There seemed to be another point going out a long way ahead into the lake.
“Are you warm enough, Cat?”
“I’m splendid. I’m a little stiff.”
“Bail out that water and you can put your feet down.”
Then I rowed and listened to the oarlocks and the dip and scrape of the bailing tin under the stern seat.
“Would you give me the bailer?” I said. “I want a drink.”
“It’s awful dirty.”
“That’s all right. I’ll rinse it.”
I heard Catherine rinsing it over the side. Then she handed it to me dipped full of water. I was thirsty after the brandy and the water was icy cold, so cold it made my teeth ache. I looked toward the shore. We were closer to the long point. There were lights in the bay ahead.
“Thanks,” I said and handed back the tin pail.
“You’re ever so welcome,” Catherine said. “There’s much more if you want it.”
“Don’t you want to eat something?”
“No. I’ll be hungry in a little while. We’ll save it till then.”
What looked like a point ahead was a long high headland. I went further out in the lake to pass it. The lake was much narrower now. The moon was out again and the guardia di finanza could have seen our boat black on the water if they had been watching.
“How are you, Cat?” I asked.
“I’m all right. Where are we?”
“I don’t think we have more than about eight miles more.”
“That’s a long way to row, you poor sweet. Aren’t you dead?”
“No. I’m all right. My hands are sore is all.”
We went on up the lake. There was a break in the mountains on the right bank, a flattening-out with a low shore line that I thought must be Cannobio. I stayed a long way out because it was from now on that we ran the most danger of meeting guardia. There was a high dome-capped mountain on the other shore a way ahead. I was tired. It was no great distance to row but when you were out of condition it had been a long way. I knew I had to pass that mountain and go up the lake at least five miles further before we would be in Swiss water. The moon was almost down now but before it went down the sky clouded over again and it was very dark. I stayed well out in the lake, rowing awhile, then resting and holding the oars so that the wind struck the blades.
“Let me row awhile,” Catherine said.
“I don’t think you ought to.”
“Nonsense. It would be good for me. It would keep me from being too stiff.”
“I don’t think you should, Cat.”
“Nonsense. Rowing in moderation is very good for the pregnant lady.”
“All right, you row a little moderately. I’ll go back, then you come up. Hold on to both gunwales when you come up.”
I sat in the stern with my coat on and the collar turned up and watched Catherine row. She rowed very well but the oars were too long and bothered her. I opened the bag and ate a couple of sandwiches and took a drink of the brandy. It made everything much better and I took another drink.
“Tell me when you’re tired,” I said. Then a little later, “Watch out the oar doesn’t pop you in the tummy.”
“If it did”—Catherine said between strokes—“life might be much simpler.”
I took another drink of the brandy.
“How are you going?”
“Tell me when you want to stop.”
I took another drink of the brandy, then took hold of the two gunwales of the boat and moved forward.
“No. I’m going beautifully.”
“Go on back to the stern. I’ve had a grand rest.”
For a while, with the brandy, I rowed easily and steadily. Then I began to catch crabs and soon I was just chopping along again with a thin brown taste of bile from having rowed too hard after the brandy.
“Give me a drink of water, will you?” I said.
“That’s easy,” Catherine said.
Before daylight it started to drizzle. The wind was down or we were protected by mountains that bounded the curve the lake had made. When I knew daylight was coming I settled down and rowed hard. I did not know where we were and I wanted to get into the Swiss part of the lake. When it was beginning to be daylight we were quite close to the shore. I could see the rocky shore and the trees.
“What’s that?” Catherine said. I rested on the oars and listened. It was a motor boat chugging out on the lake. I pulled close up to the shore and lay quiet. The chugging came closer; then we saw the motor boat in the rain a little astern of us. There were four guardia di finanza in the stern, their alpini hats pulled down, their cape collars turned up and their carbines slung across their backs. They all looked sleepy so early in the morning. I could see the yellow on their hats and the yellow marks on their cape collars. The motor boat chugged on and out of sight in the rain.
I pulled out into the lake. If we were that close to the border I did not want to be hailed by a sentry along the road. I stayed out where I could just see the shore and rowed on for three quarters of an hour in the rain. We heard a motor boat once more but I kept quiet until the noise of the engine went away across the lake.
“I think we’re in Switzerland, Cat,” I said.
“There’s no way to know until we see Swiss troops.”
“Or the Swiss navy.”
“The Swiss navy’s no joke for us. That last motor boat we heard was probably the Swiss navy.”
“If we’re in Switzerland let’s have a big breakfast. They have wonderful rolls and butter and jam in Switzerland.”
It was clear daylight now and a fine rain was falling. The wind was still blowing outside up the lake and we could see the tops of the white-caps going away from us and up the lake. I was sure we were in Switzerland now. There were many houses back in the trees from the shore and up the shore a way was a village with stone houses, some villas on the hills and a church. I had been looking at the road that skirted the shore for guards but did not see any. The road came quite close to the lake now and I saw a soldier coming out of a café on the road. He wore a gray-green uniform and a helmet like the Germans. He had a healthy-looking face and a little toothbrush mustache. He looked at us.
“Wave to him,” I said to Catherine. She waved and the soldier smiled embarrassedly and gave a wave of his hand. I eased up rowing. We were passing the waterfront of the village.
“We must be well inside the border,” I said.
“We want to be sure, darling. We don’t want them to turn us back at the frontier.”
“The frontier is a long way back. I think this is the customs town. I’m pretty sure it’s Brissago.”
“Won’t there be Italians there? There are always both sides at a customs town.”
“Not in war-time. I don’t think they let the Italians cross the frontier.”
It was a nice-looking little town. There were many fishing boats along the quay and nets were spread on racks. There was a fine November rain falling but it looked cheerful and clean even with the rain.
“Should we land then and have breakfast?”
I pulled hard on the left oar and came in close, then straightened out when we were close to the quay and brought the boat alongside. I pulled in the oars, took hold of an iron ring, stepped up on the wet stone and was in Switzerland. I tied the boat and held my hand down to Catherine.
“Come on up, Cat. It’s a grand feeling.”
“What about the bags?”
“Leave them in the boat.”
Catherine stepped up and we were in Switzerland together.
“What a lovely country,” she said.
“Isn’t it grand?”
“Let’s go and have breakfast!”
“Isn’t it a grand country? I love the way it feels under my shoes.”
“I’m so stiff I can’t feel it very well. But it feels like a splendid country. Darling, do you realize we’re here and out of that bloody place?”
“I do. I really do. I’ve never realized anything before.”
“Look at the houses. Isn’t this a fine square? There’s a place we can get breakfast.”
“Isn’t the rain fine? They never had rain like this in Italy. It’s cheerful rain.”
“And we’re here, darling! Do you realize we’re here?”
We went inside the café and sat down at a clean wooden table. We were cockeyed excited. A splendid clean-looking woman with an apron came and asked us what we wanted.
“Rolls and jam and coffee,” Catherine said.
“I’m sorry, we haven’t any rolls in war-time.”
“I can make you some toast.”
“I want some eggs fried too.”
“How many eggs for the gentleman?”
“Take four, darling.”
The woman went away. I kissed Catherine and held her hand very tight. We looked at each other and at the café.
“Darling, darling, isn’t it lovely?”
“It’s grand,” I said.
“I don’t mind there not being rolls,” Catherine said. “I thought about them all night. But I don’t mind it. I don’t mind it at all.”
“I suppose pretty soon they will arrest us.”
“Never mind, darling. We’ll have breakfast first. You won’t mind being arrested after breakfast. And then there’s nothing they can do to us. We’re British and American citizens in good standing.”
“You have a passport, haven’t you?”
“Of course. Oh let’s not talk about it. Let’s be happy.”
“I couldn’t be any happiei” I said. A fat gray cat with a tail that lifted like a plume crossed the floor to our table and curved against my leg to purr each time she rubbed. I reached down and stroked her. Catherine smiled at me very happily. “Here comes the coffee,” she said.
They arrested us after breakfast. We took a little walk through the village then went down to the quay to get our bags. A soldier was standing guard over the boat.
“Is this your boat?”
“Where do you come from?”
“Up the lake.”
“Then I have to ask you to come with me.”
“How about the bags?”
“You can carry the bags.”
I carried the bags and Catherine walked beside me and the soldier walked along behind us to the old custom house. In the custom house a lieutenant, very thin and military, questioned us.
“What nationality are you?”
“American and British.”
“Let me see your passports.”
I gave him mine and Catherine got hers out of her handbag.
He examined them for a long time.
“Why do you enter Switzerland this way in a boat?”
“I am a sportsman,” I said. “Rowing is my great sport. I always row when I get a chance.”
“Why do you come here?”
“For the winter sport. We are tourists and we want to do the winter sport.”
“This is no place for winter sport.”
“We know it. We want to go where they have the winter sport.”
“What have you been doing in Italy?”
“I have been studying architecture. My cousin has been studying art.”
“Why do you leave there?”
“We want to do the winter sport. With the war going on you cannot study architecture.”
“You will please stay where you are,” the lieutenant said. He went back into the building with our passports.
“You’re splendid, darling,” Catherine said. “Keep on the same track. You want to do the winter sport.”
“Do you know anything about art?”
“Rubens,” said Catherine.
“Large and fat,” I said.
“Titian,” Catherine said.
“Titian-haired,” I said. “How about Mantegna?”
“Don’t ask hard ones,” Catherine said. “I know him though— very bitter.”
“Very bitter,” I said. “Lots of nail holes.”
“You see I’ll make you a fine wife,” Catherine said. “I’ll be able to talk art with your customers.”
“Here he comes,” I said. The thin lieutenant came down the length of the custom house, holding our passports.
“I will have to send you into Locarno,” he said. “You can get a carriage and a soldier will go in with you.”
“All right,” I said. “What about the boat?”
“The boat is confiscated. What have you in those bags?”
He went all through the two bags and held up the quarterbottle of brandy. “Would you join me in a drink?” I asked.
“No thank you.” He straightened up. “How much money have you?”
“Twenty-five hundred lire.”
He was favorably impressed. “How much has your cousin?”
Catherine had a little over twelve hundred lire. The lieutenant was pleased. His attitude toward us became less haughty.
“If you are going for winter sports,” he said, “Wengen is the place. My father has a very fine hotel at Wengen. It is open all the time.”
“That’s splendid,” I said. “Could you give me the name?”
“I will write it on a card.” He handed me the card very politely.
“The soldier will take you into Locarno. He will keep your passports. I regret this but it is necessary. I have good hopes they will give you a visa or a police permit at Locarno.”
He handed the two passports to the soldier and carrying the bags we started into the village to order a carriage. “Hi,” the lieutenant called to the soldier. He said something in a German dialect to him. The soldier slung his rifle on his back and picked up the bags.
“It’s a great country,” I said to Catherine.
“It’s so practical.”
“Thank you very much,” I said to the lieutenant. He waved his hand.
“Service!” he said. We followed our guard into the village.
We drove to Locarno in a carriage with the soldier sitting on the front seat with the driver. At Locarno we did not have a bad time. They questioned us but they were polite because we had passports and money. I do not think they believed a word of the story and I thought it was silly but it was like a law-court. You did not want something reasonable, you wanted something technical and then stuck to it without explanations. But we had passports and we would spend the money. So they gave us provisional visas.
At any time this visa might be withdrawn. We were to report to the police wherever we went.
Could we go wherever we wanted? Yes. Where did we want to go?
“Where do you want to go, Cat?”
“It is a very nice place,” the official said. “I think you will like that place.”
“Here at Locarno is a very nice place,” another official said. “I am sure you would like it here very much at Locarno. Locarno is a very attractive place.”
“We would like some place where there is winter sport.”
“There is no winter sport at Montreux.”
“I beg your pardon,” the other official said. "I come from Montreux. There is very certainly winter sport on the Montreux Oberland Bernois railway. It would be false for you to deny
“I do not deny it. I simply said there is no winter sport at Montreux.”
“I question that,” the other official said. “I question that statement.”
“I hold to that statement.”
“I question that statement. I myself have luge-ed into the streets of Montreux. I have done it not once but several times. Luge-ing is certainly winter sport.”
The other official turned to me.
“Is luge-ing your idea of winter sport, sir? I tell you you would be very comfortable here in Locarno. You would find the climate healthy, you would find the environs attractive. You would like it very much.”
“The gentleman has expressed a wish to go to Montreux.”
“What is luge-ing?” I asked.
“You see he has never even heard of luge-ing!”
That meant a great deal to the second official. He was pleased by that.
“Luge-ing,” said the first official, “is tobogganing.”
“I beg to differ,” the other official shook his head. “I must differ again. The toboggan is very different from the luge. The toboggan is constructed in Canada of flat laths. The luge is a common sled with runners. Accuracy means something.”
“Couldn’t we toboggan?” I asked.
“Of course you could toboggan,” the first official said. “You could toboggan very well. Excellent Canadian toboggans are sold in Montreux. Ochs Brothers sell toboggans. They import their own toboggans.”
The second official turned away. “Tobogganing,” he said, “requires a special piste. You could not toboggan into the streets of Montreux. Where are you stopping here?”
“We don’t know,” I said. “We just drove in from Brissago. The carriage is outside.”
“You make no mistake in going to Montreux,” the first official said. “You will find the climate delightful and beautiful. You will have no distance to go for winter sport.”
“If you really want winter sport,” the second official said, “you will go to the Engadine or to Mürren. I must protest against your being advised to go to Montreux for the winter sport.”
“At Les Avants above Montreux there is excellent winter sport of every sort.” The champion of Montreux glared at his colleague.
“Gentlemen,” I said, “I am afraid we must go. My cousin is very tired. We will go tentatively to Montreux.”
“I congratulate you,” the first official shook my hand.
“I believe that you will regret leaving Locarno,” the second official said. “At any rate you will report to the police at Montreux.”
“There will be no unpleasantness with the police,” the first official assured me. “You will find all the inhabitants extremely courteous and friendly.”
“Thank you both very much,” I said. “We appreciate your advice very much.”
“Good-by,” Catherine said. “Thank you both very much.”
They bowed us to the dooi the champion of Locarno a little coldly. We went down the steps and into the carriage.
“My God, darling,” Catherine said. “Couldn’t we have gotten away any sooner?” I gave the name of a hotel one of the officials had recommended to the driver. He picked up the reins.
“You’ve forgotten the army,” Catherine said. The soldier was standing by the carriage. I gave him a ten-lira note. “I have no Swiss money yet,” I said. He thanked me, saluted and went off. The carriage started and we drove to the hotel.
“How did you happen to pick out Montreux?” I asked Catherine. “Do you really want to go there?”
“It was the first place I could think of,” she said. “It’s not a bad place. We can find some place up in the mountains.”
“Are you sleepy?”
“I’m asleep right now.”
“We’ll get a good sleep. Poor Cat, you had a long bad night.”
“I had a lovely time,” Catherine said. “Especially when you sailed with the umbrella.”
“Can you realize we’re in Switzerland?”
“No, I’m afraid I’ll wake up and it won’t be true.”
“I am too.”
“It is true, isn’t it, darling? I’m not just driving down to the stazione in Milan to see you off.”
“I hope not.”
“Don’t say that. It frightens me. Maybe that’s where we’re going.”
“I’m so groggy I don’t know,” I said.
“Let me see your hands.”
I put them out. They were both blistered raw.
“There’s no hole in my side,” I said.
“Don’t be sacrilegious.”
I felt very tired and vague in the head. The exhilaration was all gone. The carriage was going along the Street.
“Poor hands,” Catherine said.
“Don’t touch them,” I said. “By God I don’t know where we are. Where are we going, driver?” The driver stopped his horse.
“To the Hotel Metropole. Don’t you want to go there?”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s all right, Cat.”
“It’s all right, darling. Don’t be upset. We’ll get a good sleep and you won’t feel groggy to-morrow.”
“I get pretty groggy,” I said. “It’s like a comic opera to-day. Maybe I’m hungry.”
“You’re just tired, darling. You’ll be fine.” The carriage pulled up before the hotel. Some one came out to take our bags.
“I feel all right,” I said. We were down on the pavement going into the hotel.
“I know you’ll be all right. You’re just tired. You’ve been up a long time.”
“Anyhow we’re here.”
“Yes, we’re really here.”
We followed the boy with the bags into thehotel.