Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Excerpt from Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway) - From Chapter 4

(From Chapter IV) 

It was hot walking through the town but the sun was starting to go down and it was very pleasant. The British hospital was a big villa built by Germans before the war. Miss Barkley was in the garden. Another nurse was with her. We saw their white uniforms through the trees and walked toward them. Rinaldi saluted. I saluted too but more moderately. 

"How do you do?" Miss Barkley said. " You' re not an Italian, are you?" 

"Oh, no."

Rinaldi was talking with the other nurse. They were laughing. 

"What an odd thing — to be in the Italian army."

"It's not really the army. It's only the ambulance." 

"It's very odd though. Why did you do it?" 

"I don't know," I said. "There isn't always an explanation for everything." 

"Oh, isn't there? I was brought up to think there was." 

"That's awfully nice." 

"Do we have to go on and talk this way?" 

"No," I said. 

"That's a relief. Isn't it?" 

"What is the stick?" I asked. Miss Barkley was quite tall. She wore what seemed to me to be a nurse's uniform, was blonde and had a tawny skin and gray eyes. I thought she was very beautiful. She was carrying a thin rattan stick like a toy riding-crop, bound in leather. 

"It belonged to a boy who was killed last year." 

"I'm awfully sorry." 

"He was a very nice boy. He was going to marry me and he was killed in the Somme." 

"It was a ghastly show." 

"Were you there?" 


"I've heard about it," she said. "There's not really any war of that sort down here. They sent me the little stick. His mother sent it to me. They returned it with his things." 

"Had you been engaged long?" 

"Eight years. We grew up together." 

"And why didn't you marry?" 

"I don't know," she said. "I was a fool not to. I could have given him that anyway. But I thought it 
would be bad for him." 

"I see." 

"Have you ever loved anyone?" 

"No," I said 

We sat down on a bench and I looked at her. 

"You have beautiful hair," I said. 

"Do you like it?" 

"Very much." 

"I was going to cut it all off when he died." 


"I wanted to do something for him. You see I didn't care about the other thing and he could have had it all. He could have had anything he wanted if I would have known. I would have married him or anything. I know all about it now. But then he wanted to go to war and I didn't know." 

I did not say anything. 

"I didn't know about anything then. I thought it would be worse for him. I thought perhaps he couldn't stand it and then of course he was killed and that was the end of it." 

"I don't know." 

"Oh, yes," she said. "That's the end of it." 

We looked at Rinaldi talking with the other nurse. 

"What is her name?" 

"Ferguson. Helen Ferguson. Your friend is a doctor, isn't he?" 

"Yes. He's very good." 

"That's splendid. You rarely find any one any good this close to the front. This is close to the front, isn't it?" 


"It's a silly front," she said. "But it's very beautiful. Are they going to have an offensive?" 


"Then we'll have to work. There's no work now." 

"Have you done nursing long?" 

"Since the end of 'fifteen. I started when he did. I remember having a silly idea he might come to the hospital where I was. With a sabre cut, I suppose, and a bandage around his head. Or shot through the shoulder. Something picturesque." 

"This is the picturesque front," I said. 

"Yes," she said. "People can't realize what France is like. If they did, it couldn't all go on. He didn't have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits." 

I didn't say anything. 

"Do you suppose it will always go on?" 


"What's to stop it?" 

"It will crack somewhere." 

"We'll crack. We'll crack in France. They can't go on doing things like the Somme and not crack." 

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