A Farewell to Arms CHAPTER XXV

Now in the fall the trees were all bare and the roads were muddy. I rode to Gorizia from Udine on a camion. We passed other camions on the road and I looked at the country. The mulberry trees were bare and the fields were brown. There were wet dead leaves on the road from the rows of bare trees and men were working on the road, tamping stone in the ruts from piles of crushed stone along the side of the road between the trees. We saw the town with a mist over it that cut off the mountains. We crossed the river and I saw that it was running high. It had been raining in the mountains. We came into the town past the factories and then the houses and villas and I saw that many more houses had been hit. On a narrow street we passed a British Red Cross ambulance. The driver wore a cap and his face was thin and very tanned. I did not know him. I got down from the camion in the big square in front of the Town Major’s house, the driver handed down my rucksack and I put it on and swung on the two musettes and walked to our villa. It did not feel like a homecoming.

I walked down the damp gravel driveway looking at the villa through the trees. The windows were all shut but the door was open. I went in and found the major sitting at a table in the bare room with maps and typed sheets of paper on the wall.

“Hello,” he said. “How are you?” He looked older and drier.

“I’m good,” I said. “How is everything?”

“It’s all over,” he said. “Take off your kit and sit down.” I put my pack and the two musettes on the floor and my cap on the pack. I brought the other chair over from the wall and sat down by the desk.

“It’s been a bad summer,” the major said. “Are you strong now?”


“Did you ever get the decorations?”

“Yes. I got them fine. Thank you very much.”

“Let’s see them.”

I opened my cape so he could see the two ribbons.

“Did you get the boxes with the medals?”

“No. Just the papers.”

“The boxes will come later. That takes more time.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“The cars are all away. There are six up north at Caporetto. You know Caporetto?”

“Yes,” I said. I remembered it as a little white town with a campanile in a valley. It was a clean little town and there was a fine fountain in the square.

“They are working from there. There are many sick now. The fighting is over.”

“Where are the others?”

“There are two up in the mountains and four still on the Bainsizza. The other two ambulance sections are in the Carso with the third army.”

“What do you wish me to do?”

“You can go and take over the four cars on the Bainsizza if you like. Gino has been up there a long time. You haven’t seen it up there, have you?”


“It was very bad. We lost three cars.”

“I heard about it.”

“Yes, Rinaldi wrote you.”

“Where is Rinaldi?”

“He is here at the hospital. He has had a summer and fall of it.”

“I believe it.”

“It has been bad,” the major said. “You couldn’t believe how bad it’s been. I’ve often thought you were lucky to be hit when you were.”

“I know I was.”

“Next year will be worse,” the major said. “Perhaps they will attack now. They say they are to attack but I can’t believe it. It is too late. You saw the river?”

“Yes. It’s high already.”

“I don’t believe they will attack now that the rains have started. We will have the snow soon. What about your countrymen? Will there be other Americans besides yourself?”

“They are training an army of ten million.”

“I hope we get some of them. But the French will hog them all. We’ll never get any down here. All right. You stay here to-night and go out to-morrow with the little car and send Gino back. I’ll send somebody with you that knows the road. Gino will tell you everything. They are shelling quite a little still but it is all over. You will want to see the Bainsizza.”

“I’m glad to see it. I am glad to be back with you again, Signor Maggiore.”

He smiled. “You are very good to say so. I am very tired of this war. If I was away I do not believe I would come back.”

“Is it so bad?”

“Yes. It is so bad and worse. Go get cleaned up and find your friend Rinaldi.”

I went out and carried my bags up the stairs. Rinaldi was not in the room but his things were there and I sat down on the bed and unwrapped my puttees and took the shoe off my right foot. Then I lay back on the bed. I was tired and my right foot hurt. It seemed silly to lie on the bed with one shoe off, so I sat up and unlaced the other shoe and dropped it on the floor, then lay back on the blanket again. The room was stuffy with the window closed but I was too tired to get up and open it. I saw my things were all in one corner of the room. Outside it was getting dark. I lay on the bed and thought about Catherine and waited for Rinaldi. I was going to try not to think about Catherine except at night before I went to sleep. But now I was tired and there was nothing to do, so I lay and thought about her. I was thinking about her when Rinaldi came in. He looked just the same. Perhaps he was a little thinner.

“Well, baby,” he said. I sat up on the bed. He came over, sat down and put his arm around me. “Good old baby.” He whacked me on the back and I held both his arms.

“Old baby,” he said. “Let me see your knee.”

“I’ll have to take off my pants.”

“Take off your pants, baby. We’re all friends here. I want to see what kind of a job they did.” I stood up, took off the breeches and pulled off the knee-brace. Rinaldi sat on the floor and bent the knee gently back and forth. He ran his finger along the scar; put his thumbs together over the kneecap and rocked the knee gently with his fingers.

“Is that all the articulation you have?”


“It’s a crime to send you back. They ought to get complete articulation.”

“It’s a lot better than it was. It was stiff as a board.”

Rinaldi bent it more. I watched his hands. He had fine surgeon’s hands. I looked at the top of his head, his hair shiny and parted smoothly. He bent the knee too far.

“Ouch!” I said.

“You ought to have more treatment on it with the machines,” Rinaldi said.

“It’s better than it was.”

“I see that, baby. This is something I know more about than you.” He stood up and sat down on the bed. “The knee itself is a good job.” He was through with the knee. “Tell me all about everything.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” I said. “I’ve led a quiet life.”

“You act like a married man,” he said. “What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing,” I said. “What’s the matter with you?”

“This war is killing me,” Rinaldi said, “I am very depressed by it.” He folded his hands over his knee.

“Oh,” I said.

“What’s the matter? Can’t I even have human impulses?”

“No. I can see you’ve been having a fine time. Tell me.”

“All summer and all fall I’ve operated. I work all the time. I do everybody’s work. All the hard ones they leave to me. By God, baby, I am becoming a lovely surgeon.”

“That sounds better.”

“I never think. No, by God, I don’t think; I operate.”

“That’s right.”

“But now, baby, it’s all over. I don’t operate now and I feel like hell. This is a terrible war, baby. You believe me when I say it. Now you cheer me up. Did you bring the phonograph records?”


They were wrapped in paper in a cardboard box in my rucksack. I was too tired to get them out.

“Don’t you feel good yourself, baby?”

“I feel like hell.”

“This war is terrible,” Rinaldi said. “Come on. We’ll both get drunk and be cheerful. Then we’ll go get the ashes dragged. Then we’ll feel fine.”

“I’ve had the jaundice,” I said, “and I can’t get drunk.”

“Oh, baby, how you’ve come back to me. You come back serious and with a liver. I tell you this war is a bad thing. Why did we make it anyway?”

“We’ll have a drink. I don’t want to get drunk but we’ll have a drink.”

Rinaldi went across the room to the washstand and brought back two glasses and a bottle of cognac.

“It’s Austrian cognac,” he said. “Seven stars. It’s all they captured on San Gabriele.”

“Were you up there?”

“No. I haven’t been anywhere. I’ve been here all the time operating. Look, baby, this is your old toothbrushing glass. I kept it all the time to remind me of you.”

“To remind you to brush your teeth.”

“No. I have my own too. I kept this to remind me of you trying to brush away the Villa Rossa from your teeth in the morning, swearing and eating aspirin and cursing harlots. Every time I see that glass I think of you trying to clean your conscience with a toothbrush.” He came over to the bed. “Kiss me once and tell me you’re not serious.”

“I never kiss you. You’re an ape.”

“I know, you are the fine good Anglo-Saxon boy. I know. You are the remorse boy, I know. I will wait till I see the Anglo-Saxon brushing away harlotry with a toothbrush.”

“Put some cognac in the glass.”

We touched glasses and drank. Rinaldi laughed at me.

“I will get you drunk and take out your liver and put you in a good Italian liver and make you a man again.”

I held the glass for some more cognac. It was dark outside now. Holding the glass of cognac, I went over and opened the window. The rain had stopped falling. It was colder outside and there was a mist in the trees.

“Don’t throw the cognac out the window,” Rinaldi said. “If you can’t drink it give it to me.”

“Go something yourself,” I said. I was glad to see Rinaldi again. He had spent two years teasing me and I had always liked it. We understood each other very well.

“Are you married?” he asked from the bed. I was standing against the wall by the window.

“Not yet.”

“Are you in love?”


“With that English girl?”


“Poor baby. Is she good to you?”

“Of course.”

“I mean is she good to you practically speaking?”

“Shut up.”

“I will. You will see I am a man of extreme delicacy. Does she——?”

“Rinin,” I said. “Please shut up. If you want to be my friend, shut up.”

“I don’t want to be your friend, baby. I am your friend.”

“Then shut up.”

“All right.”

I went over to the bed and sat down beside Rinaldi. He was holding his glass and looking at the floor.

“You see how it is, Rinin?”

“Oh, yes. All my life I encounter sacred subjects. But very few with you. I suppose you must have them too.” He looked at the floor.

“You haven’t any?”


“Not any?”


“I can say this about your mother and that about your sister?”

“And that about your sister,” Rinaldi said swiftly. We both laughed.

“The old superman,” I said.

“I am jealous maybe,” Rinaldi said.

“No, you’re not.”

“I don’t mean like that. I mean something else. Have you any married friends?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I haven’t,” Rinaldi said. “Not if they love each other.”

“Why not?”

“They don’t like me.”

“Why not?”

“I am the snake. I am the snake of reason.”

“You’re getting it mixed. The apple was reason.”

“No, it was the snake.” He was more cheerful.

“You are better when you don’t think so deeply,” I said.

“I love you, baby,” he said. “You puncture me when I become a great Italian thinker. But I know many things I can’t say. I know more than you.”

“Yes. You do.”

“But you will have a better time. Even with remorse you will have a better time.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh, yes. That is true. Already I am only happy when I am working.” He looked at the floor again.

“You’ll get over that.”

“No. I only like two other things; one is bad for my work and the other is over in half an hour or fifteen minutes. Sometimes less.”

“Sometimes a good deal less.”

“Perhaps I have improved, baby. You do not know. But there are only the two things and my work.”

“You’ll get other things.”

“No. We never get anything. We are born with all we have and we never learn. We never get anything new. We all start complete. You should be glad not to be a Latin.”

“There’s no such thing as a Latin. That is ‘Latin’ thinking. You are so proud of your defects.” Rinaldi looked up and laughed.

“We’ll stop, baby. I am tired from thinking so much.” He had looked tired when he came in. “It’s nearly time to eat. I’m glad you’re back. You are my best friend and my war brother.”

“When do the war brothers eat?” I asked.

“Right away. We’ll drink once more for your liver’s sake.”

“Like Saint Paul.”

“You are inaccurate. That was wine and the stomach. Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake.”

“Whatever you have in the bottle,” I said. “For any sake you mention.”

“To your girl,” Rinaldi said. He held out his glass.

“All right.”

“I’ll never say a dirty thing about her.”

“Don’t strain yourself.”

He drank off the cognac. “I am pure,” he said. “I am like you, baby. I will get an English girl too. As a matter of fact I knew your girl first but she was a little tall for me. A tall girl for a sister,” he quoted.

“You have a lovely pure mind,” I said.

“Haven’t I? That’s why they call me Rinaldo Purissimo.”

“Rinaldo Sporchissimo.”

“Come on, baby, we’ll go down to eat while my mind is still pure.”

I washed, combed my hair and we went down the stairs. Rinaldi was a little drunk. In the room where we ate, the meal was not quite ready.

“I’ll go get the bottle,” Rinaldi said. He went off up the stairs. I sat at the table and he came back with the bottle and poured us each a half tumbler of cognac.

“Too much,” I said and held up the glass and sighted at the lamp on the table.

“Not for an empty stomach. It is a wonderful thing. It burns out the stomach completely. Nothing is worse for you.”

“All right.”

“Self-destruction day by day,” Rinaldi said. “It ruins the stomach and makes the hand shake. Just the thing for a surgeon.”

“You recommend it?”

“Heartily. I use no other. Drink it down, baby, and look forward to being sick.”

I drank half the glass. In the hall I could hear the orderly calling. “Soup! Soup is ready!”

The major came in, nodded to us and sat down. He seemed very small at table.

“Is this all we are?” he asked. The orderly put the soup bowl down and he ladled out a plate full.

“We are all,” Rinaldi said. “Unless the priest comes. If he knew Federico was here he would be here.”

“Where is he?” I asked.

“He’s at 307,” the major said. He was busy with his soup. He wiped his mouth, wiping his upturned gray mustache carefully. “He will come I think. I called them and left word to tell him you were here.”

“I miss the noise of the mess,” I said.

“Yes, it’s quiet,” the major said.

“I will be noisy,” said Rinaldi.

“Drink some wine, Enrico,” said the major. He filled my glass. The spaghetti came in and we were all busy. We were finishing the spaghetti when the priest came in. He was the same as ever, small and brown and compact looking. I stood up and we shook hands. He put his hand on my shoulder.

“I came as soon as I heard,” he said.

“Sit down,” the major said. “You’re late.”

“Good-evening, priest,” Rinaldi said, using the English word. They had taken that up from the priest-baiting captain, who spoke a little English. “Good-evening, Rinaldo,” the priest said. The orderly brought him soup but he said he would start with the spaghetti.

“How are you?” he asked me.

“Fine,” I said. “How have things been?”

“Drink some wine, priest,” Rinaldi said. “Take a little wine for your stomach’s sake. That’s Saint Paul, you know.”

“Yes I know,” said the priest politely. Rinaldi filled his glass.

“That Saint Paul,” said Rinaldi. “He’s the one who makes all the trouble.” The priest looked at me and smiled. I could see that the baiting did not touch him now.

“That Saint Paul,” Rinaldi said. “He was a rounder and a chaser and then when he was no longer hot he said it was no good. When he was finished he made the rules for us who are still hot. Isn’t it true, Federico?”

The major smiled. We were eating meat stew now.

“I never discuss a Saint after dark,” I said. The priest looked up from the stew and smiled at me.

“There he is, gone over with the priest,” Rinaldi said. “Where are all the good old priest-baiters? Where is Cavalcanti? Where is Brundi? Where is Cesare? Do I have to bait this priest alone without support?”

“He is a good priest,” said the major.

“He is a good priest,” said Rinaldi. “But still a priest. I try to make the mess like the old days. I want to make Federico happy. To hell with you, priest!”

I saw the major look at him and notice that he was drunk. His thin face was white. The line of his hair was very black against the white of his forehead.

“It’s all right, Rinaldo,” said the priest. “It’s all right.”

“To hell with you,” said Rinaldi. “To hell with the whole damn business.” He sat back in his chair.

“He’s been under a strain and he’s tired,” the major said to me. He finished his meat and wiped up the gravy with a piece of bread.

“I don’t give a damn,” Rinaldi said to the table. “To hell with the whole business.” He looked defiantly around the table, his eyes flat, his face pale.

“All right,” I said. “To hell with the whole damn business.”

“No, no,” said Rinaldi. “You can’t do it. You can’t do it. I say you can’t do it. You’re dry and you’re empty and there’s nothing else. There’s nothing else I tell you. Not a damned thing. I know, when I stop working.”

The priest shook his head. The orderly took away the stew dish.

“What are you eating meat for?” Rinaldi turned to the priest. “Don’ you know it’s Friday?”

“It’s Thursday,” the priest said.

“It’s a lie. It’s Friday. You’re eating the body of our Lord. It’s God-meat. I know. It’s dead Austrian. That’s what you’re eating.”

“The white meat is from officers,” I said, completing the old joke.

Rinaldi laughed. He filled his glass.

“Don’t mind me,” he said. “I’m just a little crazy.”

“You ought to have a leave,” the priest said.

The major shook his head at him. Rinaldi looked at the priest.

“You think I ought to have a leave?”

The major shook his head at the priest. Rinaldi was looking at the priest.

“Just as you like,” the priest said. “Not if you don’t want.”

“To hell with you,” Rinaldi said. “They try to get rid of me. Every night they try to get rid of me. I fight them off. What if I have it. Everybody has it. The whole world’s got it. First,” he went on, assuming the manner of a lecturer, “it’s a little pimple. Then we notice a rash between the shoulders. Then we notice nothing at all. We put our faith in mercury.”

“Or salvarsan,” the major interrupted quietly.

“A mercurial product,” Rinaldi said. He acted very elated now. “I know something worth two of that. Good old priest,” he said. “You’ll never get it. Baby will get it. It’s an industrial accident. It’s a simple industrial accident.”

The orderly brought in the sweet and coffee. The dessert was a sort of black bread pudding with hard sauce. The lamp was smoking; the black smoke going close up inside the chimney.

“Bring two candles and take away the lamp,” the major said. The orderly brought two lighted candles each in a saucer, and took out the lamp blowing it out. Rinaldi was quiet now. He seemed all right. We talked and after the coffee we all went out into the hall.

“You want to talk to the priest. I have to go in the town,” Rinaldi said. “Good-night, priest.”

“Good-night, Rinaldo,” the priest said.

“I’ll see you Fredi,” Rinaldi said.

“Yes,” I said. “Come in early.” He made a face and went out the door. The major was standing with us. “He’s very tired and overworked,” he said. “He thinks too he has syphilis. I don’t believe it but he may have. He is treating himself for it. Good-night. You will leave before daylight, Enrico?”


“Good-by then,” he said. “Good luck. Peduzzi will wake you and go with you.”

“Good-by, Signor Maggiore.”

“Good-by. They talk about an Austrian offensive but I don’t believe it. I hope not. But anyway it won’t be here. Gino will tell you everything. The telephone works well now.”

“I’ll call regularly.”

“Please do. Good-night. Don’t let Rinaldi drink so much brandy.”

“I’ll try not to.”

“Good-night, priest.”

“Good-night, Signor Maggiore.”

He went off into his office.