A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Copyright 1929 Charles Scribner's Sons;
renewal copyright 1957 Ernest Hemingway
In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that
looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed
of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the
sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the
channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the
dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of
the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and
we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising
and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching
and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.
The plain was rich with crops; there were many orchards of fruit trees
and beyond the plain the mountains were brown and bare. There was
fighting in the mountains and at night we could see the flashes from
the artillery. In the dark it was like summer lightning, but the nights
were cool and there was not the feeling of a storm coming.
Sometimes in the dark we heard the troops marching under the window
and guns going past pulled by motor-tractors. There was much traffic at
night and many mules on the roads with boxes of ammunition on each
side of their pack-saddles and gray motor trucks that carried men, and
other trucks with loads covered with canvas that moved slower in the
traffic. There were big guns too that passed in the day drawn by tractors,
the long barrels of the guns covered with green branches and green leafy branches and vines laid over the tractors. To the north we could look
across a valley and see a forest of chestnut trees and behind it another mountain on this side of the river. There was fighting for that mountain
too, but it was not successful, and in the fall when the rains came the
leaves all fell from the chestnut trees and the branches were bare and
the trunks black with rain. The vineyards were thin and bare-branched
too and all the country wet and brown and dead with the autumn. There
were mists over the river and clouds on the mountain and the trucks
splashed mud on the road and the troops were muddy and wet in their
capes; their rifles were wet and under their capes the two leather
cartridge-boxes on the front of the belts, gray leather boxes heavy with
the packs of clips of thin, long 6.5 mm. cartridges, bulged forward under
the capes so that the men, passing on the road, marched as though
they were six months gone with child.
There were small gray motor cars that passed going very fast; usually
there was an officer on the seat with the driver and more officers in the
back seat. They splashed more mud than the camions even and if one
of the officers in the back was very small and sitting between two
generals, he himself so small that you could not see his face but only
the top of his cap and his narrow back, and if the car went especially
fast it was probably the King. He lived in Udine and came out in this
way nearly every day to see how things were going, and things went
At the start of the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain
came the cholera. But it was checked and in the end only seven
thousand died of it in the army.
The next year there was many victories. The mountain that was beyond
the valley and the hillside where the chestnut forest grew was captured
and there were victories beyond the plain on the plateau to the south and
we crossed the river in August and lived in a house in Gorizia that had a fountain and many thick shady trees in a walled garden and a wistaria
vine purple on the side of the house. Now the fighting was in the next mountains beyond and was not a mile away. The town was very nice
and our house was very fine. The river ran behind us and the town had
been captured very handsomely but the mountains beyond it could not
be taken and I was very glad the Austrians seemed to want to come
back to the town some time, if the war should end, because they did
not bombard it to destroy it but only a little in a military artillery up side
streets and two bawdy houses, one for troops and one for officers, and
with the end of the summer, the cool nights, the fighting in the
mountains beyond the town, the shell-marked iron of the railway bridge,
the smashed tunnel by the river where the fighting had been, the trees
around the square and the long avenue of trees that led to the square;
these with there being girls in the town, the King passing in his motor
car, sometimes now seeing his face and little long necked body and
gray beard like a goat's chin tuft; all these with the sudden interiors of
houses that had lost a wall through shelling, with plaster and rubble in
their gardens and sometimes in the street, and the whole thing going
well on the Carso made the fall very different from the last fall when we
had been in the country. The war was changed too.
The forest of oak trees on the mountain beyond the town was gone.
The forest had been green in the summer when we had come into the
town but now there were the stumps and the broken trunks and the
ground torn up, and one day at the end of the fall when I was out
where the oak forest had been I saw a cloud coming over the
mountain. It came very fast and the sun went a dull yellow and then
everything was gray and the sky was covered and the cloud came on
down the mountain and suddenly we were in it and it was snow. The
snow slanted across the wind, the bare ground was covered, the
stumps of trees projected, there was snow on the guns and there
were paths in the snow going back to the latrines behind trenches.
Later, below in the town, I watched the snow falling, looking out of the
window of the bawdy house, the house for officers, where I sat with a
friend and two glasses drinking a bottle of Asti, and, looking out at
the snow falling slowly and heavily, we knew it was all over for that
year. Up the river the mountains had not been taken; none of the
mountains beyond the river had been taken. That was all left for next
year. My friend saw the priest from our mess going by in the street,
walking carefully in the slush, and pounded on the window to attract
his attention. The priest looked up. He saw us and smiled. My friend motioned for him to come in. The priest shook his head and went on.
That night in the mess after the spaghetti course, which every one ate
very quickly and seriously, lifting the spaghetti on the fork until the
loose strands hung clear then lowering it into the mouth, or else
using a continuous lift and sucking into the mouth, helping ourselves
to wine from the grass-covered gallon flask; it swung in a metal cradle
and you pulled the neck of the flask down with the forefinger and the
wine, clear red, tannic and lovely, poured out into the glass held with
the same hand; after this course, the captain commenced picking on
The priest was young and blushed easily and wore a uniform like the
rest of us but with a cross in dark red velvet above the left breast pocket
of his gray tunic. The captain spoke pidgin Italian for my doubtful
benefit, in order that I might understand perfectly, that nothing should
"Priest to-day with girls," the captain said looking at the priest and at
me. The priest smiled and blushed and shook his head. This captain
baited him often.
"Not true?" asked the captain. "To-day I see priest with girls."
"No," said the priest. The other officers were amused at the baiting.
"Priest not with girls," went on the captain. "Priest never with girls,"
he explained to me. He took my glass and filled it, looking at my eyes
all the time, but not losing sight of the priest.
"Priest every night five against one." Every one at the table laughed.
"You understand?" Priest every night five against one." He made a
gesture and laughed loudly. The priest accepted it as a joke.
"The Pope wants the Austrians to win the war," the major said. "He
loves Franz Joseph. That's where the money comes from. I am an
"Did you ever read the 'Black Pig'?" asked the lieutenant. "I will get
you a copy. It was that which shook my faith."
"It is a filthy and vile book," said the priest. "You do not really like it."
"It is very valuable," said the lieutenant. "It tells you about those priests.
You will like it," he said to me. I smiled at the priest and he smiled back across the candle-light. "Don't you read it," he said.
"I will get it for you," said the lieutenant.
"All thinking men are atheists," the major said. "I do not believe in the
Free Masons however."
"I believe in the Free Masons," the lieutenant said. "It is a noble
organization." Some one came in and as the door opened I could see
the snow falling.
"There will be no more offensive now that the snow has come," I said.
"Certainly not," said the major. "You should go on leave. You should
go to Rome, Naples, Sicily---"
"He should visit Amalfi," said the lieutenant. "I will write you cards to
my family in Amalfi. They will love you like a son."
"He should go to Palermo."
"He ought to go to Capri/"
"I would like you to see Abruzzi and visit my family at Capra-cotta,"
said the priest.
"Listen to him talk about the Abruzzi. There's more snow there than
here. He doesn't want to see peasants. Let him go to centres of
culture and civilization."
"He should have fine girls. I will give you the addresses of places in
Naples. Beautiful young girls--accompanied by their mothers. Ha!
Ha! Ha!" The captain spread his hand open, the thumb up and fingers outspread as when you make shadow pictures. There was a shadow
from his hand on the wall. He spoke again in pidgin Italian. "You go
away like this," he pointed to the thumb, "and come back like this,
" he touched the little finger. Every one laughed.
"Look," said the captain. He spread the hand again. Again the
candle-light made its shadows on the wall. He started with the
upright thumb and named in their order the thumb and four fingers,
"soto-tenente (the thumb), tenente (first finger), capitano
(next finger), maggiore (next to the little finger), and tenente-
colonello (the little finger). You go away soto-tenente! You come
back soto-colonello!" They all laughed. The captain was having a
great success with finger games. He looked at the priest and
shouted, "Every night priest five against one!" They all laughed
"You must go on leave at once," the major said.
"I would like to go with you and show you things," the lieutenant said.
"When you come back bring a phonograph."
"Bring good opera disks."
"Don't bring Caruso. He bellows."
"Don't you wish you could bellow like him?"
"He bellows. I say he bellows!"
"I would like you to go to Abruzzi," the priest said. The others were
shouting. "There is good hunting. You would like the people and
though it is cold it is clear and dry. You could stay with my family.
My father is a famous hunter."
"Come on," said the captain. "We go _house before it shuts."
"Good-night," I said to the priest.
"Good-night," he said.
We hope you enjoyed the brief 2 chapters of A Farewell to Arms by
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