A Farewell to Arms CHAPTER XXXVIII

That fall the snow came very late. We lived in a brown wooden house in the pine trees on the side of the mountain and at night there was frost so that there was thin ice over the water in the two pitchers on the dresser in the morning. Mrs. Guttingen came into the room early in the morning to shut the windows and started a fire in the tall porcelain stove. The pine wood crackled and sparked and then the fire roared in the stove and the second time Mrs. Guttingen came into the room she brought big chunks of wood for the fire and a pitcher of hot water. When the room was warm she brought in breakfast. Sitting up in bed eating breakfast we could see the lake and the mountains across the lake on the French side. There was snow on the tops of the mountains and the lake was a gray steel-blue.

Outside, in front of the chalet a road went up the mountain. The wheel ruts and ridges were iron hard with the frost, and the road climbed steadily through the forest and up and around the mountain to where there were meadows, and barns and cabins in the meadows at the edge of the woods looking across the valley. The valley was deep and there was a stream at the bottom that flowed down into the lake and when the wind blew across the valley you could hear the stream in the rocks.

Sometimes we went off the road and on a path through the pine forest. The floor of the forest was soft to walk on; the frost did not harden it as it did the road. But we did not mind the hardness of the road because we had nails in the soles and heels of our boots and the heel nails bit on the frozen ruts and with nailed boots it was good walking on the road and invigorating. But it was lovely walking in the woods.

In front of the house where we lived the mountain went down steeply to the little plain along the lake and we sat on the porch of the house in the sun and saw the winding of the road down the mountain-side and the terraced vineyards on the side of the lower mountain, the vines all dead now for the winter and the fields divided by stone walls, and below the vineyards the houses of the town on the narrow plain along the lake shore. There was an island with two trees on the lake and the trees looked like the double sails of a fishing-boat. The mountains were sharp and steep on the other side of the lake and down at the end of the lake was the plain of the Rhone Valley flat between the two ranges of mountains; and up the valley where the mountains cut it off was the Dent du Midi. It was a high snowy mountain and it dominated the valley but it was so far away that it did not make a shadow.

When the sun was bright we ate lunch on the porch but the rest of the time we ate upstairs in a small room with plain wooden walls and a big stove in the corner. We bought books and magazines in the town and a copy of “Hoyle” and learned many two-handed card games. The small room with the stove was our living-room. There were two comfortable chairs and a table for books and magazines and we played cards on the dining-table when it was cleared away. Mr. and Mrs. Guttingen lived downstairs and we would hear them talking sometimes in the evening and they were very happy together too. He had been a headwaiter and she had worked as maid in the same hotel and they had saved their money to buy this place. They had a son who was studying to be a headwaiter. He was at a hotel in Zurich. Downstairs there was a parlor where they sold wine and beer, and sometimes in the evening we would hear carts stop outside on the road and men come up the steps to go in the parlor to drink wine.

There was a box of wood in the hall outside the living-room and I kept up the fire from it. But we did not stay up very late. We went to bed in the dark in the big bedroom and when I was undressed I opened the windows and saw the night and the cold stars and the pine trees below the window and then got into bed as fast as I could. It was lovely in bed with the air so cold and clear and the night outside the window. We slept well and if I woke in the night I knew it was from only one cause and I would shift the feather bed over, very softly so that Catherine would not be wakened and then go back to sleep again, warm and with the new lightness of thin covers. The war seemed as far away as the football games of some one else’s college. But I knew from the papers that they were still fighting in the mountains because the snow would not come.

* * *

Sometimes we walked down the mountain into Montreux. There was a path went down the mountain but it was steep and so usually we took the road and walked down on the wide hard road between fields and then below between the stone walls of the vineyards and on down between the houses of the villages along the way. There were three villages; Chernex, Fontanivent, and the other I forget. Then along the road we passed an old square-built stone château on a ledge on the side of the mountain-side with the terraced fields of vines, each vine tied to a stick to hold it up, the vines dry and brown and the earth ready for the snow and the lake down below flat and gray as steel. The road went down a long grade below the château and then turned to the right and went down very steeply and paved with cobbles, into Montreux.

We did not know any one in Montreux. We walked along beside the lake and saw the swans and the many gulls and terns that flew up when you came close and screamed while they looked down at the water. Out on the lake there were flocks of grebes, small and dark, and leaving trails in the water when they swam. In the town we walked along the main street and looked in the windows of the shops. There were many big hotels that were closed but most of the shops were open and the people were very glad to see us. There was a fine coiffeur’s place where Catherine went to have her hair done. The woman who ran it was very cheerful and the only person we knew in Montreux. While Catherine was there I went up to a beer place and drank dark Munich beer and read the papers. I read the Corriere Della Sera and the English and American papers from Paris. All the advertisements were blacked out, supposedly to prevent communication in that way with the enemy. The papers were bad reading. Everything was going very badly everywhere. I sat back in the corner with a heavy mug of dark beer and an opened glazed-paper package of pretzels and ate the pretzels for the salty flavor and the good way they made the beer taste and read about disaster. I thought Catherine would come by but she did not come, so I hung the papers back on the rack, paid for my beer and went up the street to look for her. The day was cold and dark and wintry and the stone of the houses looked cold. Catherine was still in the hair-dresser’s shop. The woman was waving her hair. I sat in the little booth and watched. It was exciting to watch and Catherine smiled and talked to me and my voice was a little thick from being excited. The tongs made a pleasant clicking sound and I could see Catherine in three mirrors and it was pleasant and warm in the booth. Then the woman put up Catherine’s hair, and Catherine looked in the mirror and changed it a little, taking out and putting in pins; then stood up. “I’m sorry to have taken such a long time.”

“Monsieur was very interested. Were you not, monsieur?” the woman smiled.

“Yes,” I said.

We went out and up the street. It was cold and wintry and the wind was blowing. “Oh, darling, I love you so,” I said.

“Don’t we have a fine time?” Catherine said. “Look. Let’s go some place and have beer instead of tea. It’s very good for young Catherine. It keeps her small.”

“Young Catherine,” I said. “That loafer.”

“She’s been very good,” Catherine said. “She makes very little trouble. The doctor says beer will be good for me and keep her small.”

“If you keep her small enough and she’s a boy, maybe he will be a jockey.”

“I suppose if we really have this child we ought to get married,” Catherine said. We were in the beer place at the corner table. It was getting dark outside. It was still early but the day was dark and the dusk was coming early.

“Let’s get married now,” I said.

“No,” Catherine said. “It’s too embarrassing now. I show too plainly. I won’t go before any one and be married in this state.”

“I wish we’d gotten married.”

“I suppose it would have been better. But when could we, darling?”

“I don’t know.”

“I know one thing. I’m not going to be married in this splendid matronly state.”

“You’re not matronly.”

“Oh yes, I am, darling. The hairdresser asked me if this was our first. I lied and said no, we had two boys and two girls.”

“When will we be married?”

“Any time after I’m thin again. We want to have a splendid wedding with every one thinking what a handsome young couple.”

“And you’re not worried?”

“Darling, why should I be worried? The only time I ever felt badly was when I felt like a whore in Milan and that only lasted seven minutes and besides it was the room furnishings. Don’t I make you a good wife?”

“You’re a lovely wife.”

“Then don’t be too technical, darling. I’ll marry you as soon as I’m thin again.”

“All right.”

“Do you think I ought to drink another beer? The doctor said I was rather narrow in the hips and it’s all for the best if we keep young Catherine small.”

“What else did he say?” I was worried.

“Nothing. I have a wonderful blood-pressure, darling. He admired my blood-pressure greatly.”

“What did he say about you being too narrow in the hips?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. He said I shouldn’t ski.”

“Quite right.”

“He said it was too late to start if I’d never done it before. He said I could ski if I wouldn’t fall down.”

“He’s just a big-hearted joker.”

“Really he was very nice. We’ll have him when the baby comes.”

“Did you ask him if you ought to get married?”

“No. I told him we’d been married four years. You see, darling, if I marry you I’ll be an American and any time we’re married under American law the child is legitimate.”

“Where did you find that out?”

“In the New York World Almanac in the library.”

“You’re a grand girl.”

“I’ll be very glad to be an American and we’ll go to America won’t we, darling? I want to see Niagara Falls.”

“You’re a fine girl.”

“There’s something else I want to see but I can’t remember it.”

“The stockyards?”

“No. I can’t remember it.”

“The Woolworth building?”


“The Grand Canyon?”

“No. But I’d like to see that.”

“What was it?”

“The Golden Gate! That’s what I want to see. Where is the Golden Gate?”

“San Francisco.”

“Then let’s go there. I want to see San Francisco anyway.”

“All right. We’ll go there.”

“Now let’s go up the mountain. Should we? Can we get the M. O. B.?”

“There’s a train a little after five.”

“Let’s get that.”

“All right. I’ll drink one more beer first.”

When we went out to go up the street and climb the stairs to the station it was very cold. A cold wind was coming down the Rhone valley. There were lights in the shop windows and we climbed the steep stone stairway to the upper street, then up another stairs to the station. The electric train was there waiting, all the lights on. There was a dial that showed when it left. The clock hands pointed to ten minutes after five. I looked at the station clock. It was five minutes after. As we got on board I saw the motorman and conductor coming out of the station wine shop. We sat down and opened the window. The train was electrically heated and stuffy but fresh cold air came in through the window.

“Are you tired, Cat?” I asked.

“No. I feel splendid.”

“It isn’t a long ride.”

“I like the ride,” she said. “Don’t worry about me, darling. I feel fine.”

* * *

Snow did not come until three days before Christmas. We woke one morning and it was snowing. We stayed in bed with the fire roaring in the stove and watched the snow fall. Mrs. Guttingen took away the breakfast trays and put more wood in the stove. It was a big snow storm. She said it had started about midnight. I went to the window and looked out but could not see across the road. It was blowing and snowing wildly. I went back to bed and we lay and talked.

“I wish I could ski,” Catherine said. “It’s rotten not to be able to ski.”

“We’ll get a bobsled and come down the road. That’s no worse for you than riding in a car.”

“Won’t it be rough?”

“We can see.”

“I hope it won’t be too rough.”

“After a while we’ll take a walk in the snow.”

“Before lunch,” Catherine said, “so we’ll have a good appetite.”

“I’m always hungry.”

“So am I.”

We went out in the snow but it was drifted so that we could not walk far. I went ahead and made a trail down to the station but when we reached there we had gone far enough. The snow was blowing so we could hardly see and we went into the little inn by the station and swept each other off with a broom and sat on a bench and had vermouths.

“It is a big storm,” the barmaid said.


“The snow is very late this year.”


“Could I eat a chocolate bar?” Catherine asked. “Or is it too close to lunch? I’m always hungry.”

“Go on and eat one,” I said.

“I’ll take one with filberts,” Catherine said.

“They are very good,” the girl said, “I like them the best.”

“I’ll have another vermouth,” I said.

When we came out to start back up the road our track was filled in by the snow. There were only faint indentations where the holes had been. The snow blew in our faces so we could hardly see. We brushed off and went in to have lunch. Mr. Guttingen served the lunch.

“To-morrow there will be skiing,” he said. “Do you ski, Mr. Henry?”

“No. But I want to learn.”

“You will learn very easily. My boy will be here for Christmas and he will teach you.”

“That’s fine. When does he come?”

“To-morrow night.”

When we were sitting by the stove in the little room after lunch looking out the window at the snow coming down Catherine said, “Wouldn’t you like to go on a trip somewhere by yourself, darling, and be with men and ski?”

“No. Why should I?”

“I should think sometimes you would want to see other people besides me.”

“Do you want to see other people?”


“Neither do I.”

“I know. But you’re different. I’m having a child and that makes me contented not to do anything. I know I’m awfully stupid now and I talk too much and I think you ought to get away so you won’t be tired of me.

“Do you want me to go away?”

“No. I want you to stay.”

“That’s what I’m going to do.”

“Come over here,” she said. “I want to feel the bump on your head. It’s a big bump.” She ran her finger over it. “Darling, would you like to grow a beard?”

“Would you like me to?”

“It might be fun. I’d like to see you with a beard.”

“All right. I’ll grow one. I’ll start now this minute. It’s a good idea. It will give me something to do.”

“Are you worried because you haven’t anything to do?”

“No. I like it. I have a fine life. Don’t you?”

“I have a lovely life. But I was afraid because I’m big now that maybe I was a bore to you.”

“Oh, Cat. You don’t know how crazy I am about you.”

“This way?”

“Just the way you are. I have a fine time. Don’t we have a good life?”

“I do, but I thought maybe you were restless.”

“No. Sometimes I wonder about the front and about people I know but I don’t worry. I don’t think about anything much.”

“Who do you wonder about?”

“About Rinaldi and the priest and lots of people I know. But I don’t think about them much. I don’t want to think about the war. I’m through with it.”

“What are you thinking about now?”


“Yes you were. Tell me.”

“I was wondering whether Rinaldi had the syphilis.”

“Was that all?”


“Has he the syphilis?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’m glad you haven’t. Did you ever have anything like that?”

“I had gonorrhea.”

“I don’t want to hear about it. Was it very painful, darling?”


“I wish I’d had it.”

“No you don’t.”

“I do. I wish I’d had it to be like you. I wish I’d stayed with all your girls so I could make fun of them to you.”

“That’s a pretty picture.”

“It’s not a pretty picture you having gonorrhea.”

“I know it. Look at it snow now.”

“I’d rather look at you. Darling, why don’t you let your hair grow?”

“How grow?”

“Just grow a little longer.”

“It’s long enough now.”

“No, let it grow a little longer and I could cut mine and we’d be just alike only one of us blonde and one of us dark.”

“I wouldn’t let you cut yours.”

“It would be fun. I’m tired of it. It’s an awful nuisance in the bed at night.”

“I like it.”

“Wouldn’t you like it short?”

“I might. I like it the way it is.”

“It might be nice short. Then we’d both be alike. Oh, darling, I want you so much I want to be you too.”

“You are. We’re the same one.”

“I know it. At night we are.”

“The nights are grand.”

“I want us to be all mixed up. I don’t want you to go away. I just said that. You go if you want to. But hurry right back. Why, darling, I don’t live at all when I’m not with you.”

“I won’t ever go away,” I said. “I’m no good when you’re not there. I haven’t any life at all any more.”

“I want you to have a life. I want you to have a fine life. But we’ll have it together, won’t we?”

“And now do you want me to stop growing my beard or let it go on?”

“Go on. Grow it. It will be exciting. Maybe it will be done for New Year’s.”

“Now do you want to play chess?”

“I’d rather play with you.”

“No. Let’s play chess.”

“And afterward we’ll play?”


“All right.”

I got out the chess-board and arranged the pieces. It was still snowing hard outside.

* * *

One time in the night I woke up and knew that Catherine was awake too. The moon was shining in the window and made shadows on the bed from the bars on the window-panes.

“Are you awake, sweetheart?”

“Yes. Can’t you sleep?”

“I just woke up thinking about how I was nearly crazy when I first met you. Do you remember?”

“You were just a little crazy.”

“I’m never that way any more. I’m grand now. You say grand so sweetly. Say grand.”


“Oh, you’re sweet. And I’m not crazy now. I’m just very, very, very happy.”

“Go on to sleep,” I said.

“All right. Let’s go to sleep at exactly the same moment.”

“All right.”

But we did not. I was awake for quite a long time thinking about things and watching Catherine sleeping, the moonlight on her face. Then I went to sleep, too.