A Farewell to Arms CHAPTER XXXVII

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’m fine.”

“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 thirty some 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 the white 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.

“I’ll row.”

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

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

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

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

“Are you warm enough, Cat?”

“I’m splendid. I’m a little stiff.”

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

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

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

“It’s awfully dirty.”

“That’s all right. I’ll rinse it.”

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

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

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

“Don’t you want to eat something?”

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

“All right.”

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

“How are you, Cat?” I asked.

“I’m all right. Where are we?”

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

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

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

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

“Let me row awhile,” Catherine said.

“I don’t think you ought to.”

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

“I don’t think you should, Cat.”

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

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

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

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

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

I took another drink of the brandy.

“How are you going?”

“All right.”

“Tell me when you want to stop.”

“All right.”

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

“No. I’m going beautifully.”

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

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

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

“That’s easy,” Catherine said.

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

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

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

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


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

“Or the Swiss navy.”

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?”

“All right.”

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.”

“Bread then.”

“I can make you some toast.”

“All right.”

“I want some eggs fried too.”

“How many eggs for the gentleman?”


“Take four, darling.”

“Four eggs.”

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 happier,” 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 quarter-bottle 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 in to 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 that.”

“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 door, 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 the hotel.