第二天下午，我们听说当天夜里将在河的上游发动进攻，我们得派四部救护车前往指定地点。关于进攻这事，大家什么都不知道，尽管人人讲来，口气极为肯 定，胡乱搬弄战略知识。我乘第一部车子，我们经过英国医院大门口时，我叫司机停一停。其余的车子也都跟着停下了。我下了车，叫后面三部车子继续朝前开，如 果我们追不上，请他们在通库孟斯去的大路的交叉点等待。我匆匆跑上车道，走进会客厅，说要找巴克莱小姐。
我们过了桥，把车子开得很快，不一会儿，就看见前面路上那三部救护车的滚滚黄尘。路拐了个弯，我们看到那三部车子，很小，车轮上冒起尘埃，洒落在树 木间。我们追上他们，越过他们，拐上一条上山的路。结队开车，只要你开的是带头的车子，倒也没有什么不愉快的；我安坐在车座上，观看田野风景。我们的车子 在挨近河这一边的丘陵地带行驶，路越爬越高，望得见北面的一些高山峻岭，峰巅还有积雪。我回头看，望见那三部车子都在爬山，每部车子间隔着一段尘埃。我们 越过一大队驮着东西的驴子，赶驴子的在旁边走，头上戴着红色的土耳其帽①。原来是意大利狙击兵。
赶过驴子的行列后，路上就空荡荡了。我们爬过一些小山，沿着一长道山冈的山肩，开进一个河谷。路的两边都有树木，从右边一排树木间，我望得见河，河 水又清又急又浅。河面很低，河里有一片片沙滩和圆石滩，中间窄窄的一泓清水，有时河水泛流在圆石子的河床上，晶莹发光。挨近了河岸，我看见有几个很深的水 潭，水蓝如天。河上有几座拱形的石桥，那儿也就是大路接连一些小径的起点；我们经过农家的石屋，几棵梨树的杈桠贴在屋子朝南的墙上，田野上砌有低矮的石 墙。大路在河谷里盘旋了好久，随后我们转了弯，又开始爬山而上。山路峻峭，一会儿上，一会儿下，穿过栗树林，进入平地，终于沿着一个山脊而行。穿过树木 间，我低头望见远处山下阳光照耀着的那条河流，它隔开了敌我二军。我们在崎岖的新军路上走，沿着山脊的巅峰，我朝北眺望，望见两道山脉，又青又黑，直到雪 线，雪线上则一片雪白，阳光下皎然可爱。接着，路沿着山脊上升蜿蜒，我看见第三道山脉，那是更高的雪山，看起来呈粉白色，上有皱褶，构成各种奇异的平面， 随后看到在这些高山后面还有不少山峰，望上去不知是真是假。这些高山峻岭都是奥地利人的，我们这边可没有。前面路上有个朝右的转弯，从那儿下望，我看见路 在树木间向下倾斜地延伸。这条路上有部队、卡车和驮着山炮的骡子，而当我们挨着路边往下开去时，我望见在下面很远地方的那条河、沿河的铁轨和枕木、铁道渡 到对岸去的古桥，还有对岸山脚下那一片断墙残壁的小镇——那就是要抢夺的地点。
The next afternoon we heard there was to be an attack up the river that night and that we were to take four cars there. Nobody knew anything about it although they all spoke with great positiveness and strategical knowledge. I was riding in the first car and as we passed the entry to the British hospital I told the driver to stop. The other cars pulled up. I got out and told the driver to go on and that if we had not caught up to them at the junction of the road to Cormons to wait there. I hurried up the driveway and inside the reception hall I asked for Miss Barkley.
"She's on duty."
"Could I see her just for a moment?"
They sent an orderly to see and she came back with him.
"I stopped to ask if you were better. They told me you were on duty, so I asked to see you."
"I'm quite well," she said, "I think the heat knocked me over yesterday."
"I have to go."
"I'll just step out the door a minute."
"And you're all right?" I asked outside.
"Yes, darling. Are you coming to-night?"
"No. I'm leaving now for a show up above Plava."
"I don't think it's anything."
"And you'll be back?"
She was unclasping something from her neck. She put it in my hand. "It's a Saint Anthony," she said. "And come to-morrow night."
"You're not a Catholic, are you?"
"No. But they say a Saint Anthony's very useful."
"I'll take care of him for you. Good-by."
"No," she said, "not good-by."
"Be a good boy and be careful. No, you can't kiss me here. You can't."
I looked back and saw her standing on the steps. She waved and I kissed my hand and held it out. She waved again and then I was out of the driveway and climbing up into the seat of the ambulance and we started. The Saint Anthony was in a little white metal capsule. I opened the capsule and spilled him out into my hand.
"Saint Anthony?" asked the driver.
"I have one." His right hand left the wheel and opened a button on his tunic and pulled it out from under his shirt.
I put my Saint Anthony back in the capsule, spilled the thin gold chain together and put it all in my breast pocket.
"You don't wear him?"
"It's better to wear him. That's what it's for."
"All right," I said. I undid the clasp of the gold chain and put it around my neck and clasped it. The saint hung down on the Outside of my uniform and I undid the throat of my tunic, unbuttoned the shirt collar and dropped him in under the shirt. I felt him in his metal box against my chest while we drove. Then I forgot about him. After I was wounded I never found him. Some one probably got it at one of the dressing stations.
We drove fast when we were over the bridge and soon we saw the dust of the other cars ahead down the road. The road curved and we saw the three cars looking quite small, the dust rising from the wheels and going off through the trees. We caught them and passed them and turned off on a road that climbed up into the hills. Driving in convoy is not unpleasant if you are the first car and I settled back in the seat and watched the country. We were in the foothills on the near side of the river and as the road mounted there were the high mountains off to the north with snow still on the tops. I looked back and saw the three cars all climbing, spaced by the interval of their dust. We passed a long column of loaded mules, the drivers walking along beside the mules wearing red fezzes. They were bersaglieri.
Beyond the mule train the road was empty and we climbed through the hills and then went down over the shoulder of a long hill into a river-valley. There were trees along both sides of the road and through the right line of trees I saw the river, the water clear, fast and shallow. The river was low and there were stretches of sand and pebbles with a narrow channel of water and sometimes the water spread like a sheen over the pebbly bed. Close to the bank I saw deep pools, the water blue like the sky. I saw arched stone bridges over the river where tracks turned off from the road and we passed stone farmhouses with pear trees candelabraed against their south walls and low stone walls in the fields. The road went up the valley a long way and then we turned off and commenced to climb into the hills again. The road climbed steeply going up and back and forth through chestnut woods to level finally along a ridge. I could look down through the woods and see, far below, with the sun on it, the line of the river that separated the two armies. We went along the rough new military road that followed the crest of the ridge and I looked to the north at the two ranges of mountains, green and dark to the snow-line and then white and lovely in the sun. Then, as the road mounted along the ridge, I saw a third range of mountains, higher snow mountains, that looked chalky white and furrowed, with strange planes, and then there were mountains far off beyond all these that you could hardly tell if you really saw. Those were all the Austrians' mountains and we had nothing like them. Ahead there was a rounded turn-off in the road to the right and looking down I could see the road dropping through the trees. There were troops on this road and motor trucks and mules with mountain guns and as we went down, keeping to the side, I could see the river far down below, the line of ties and rails running along it, the old bridge where the railway crossed to the other side and across, under a hill beyond the river, the broken houses of the little town that was to be taken.
It was nearly dark when we came down and turned onto the main road that ran beside the river.