大路上很拥挤，两边都 有玉蜀黍茎秆和草席编成的屏障，头顶也盖有席子，这一来，仿佛走进了马戏场或是一个土著的村子。我们的车子在这草席搭成的隧道里慢慢地行走，一走出来，却 是一块清除了草木的空地，那儿本来是个火车站。这儿的路比河岸还要低，在这一段下陷的路上，路边的整段河岸上都有些挖好的洞穴，步兵们就呆在那里边。太阳 正在下去，我抬头朝河岸上窥望，望得见奥军的侦察气球飘浮于对岸的小山上，在落日残照中呈黑色。我们把车子停在一个造砖场的外边。砖窑和一些深洞已改造为 包扎站。那里有三个医生我认得。我找少校军医谈话，他告诉我进攻一开始，我们的车子就装着伤员往后送，走的路线就是那条用草席遮蔽的路，然后转上沿着山脊 走的大路，到达一个救护站，那儿另有车辆转送伤号。他希望那条路不至于拥挤不通。所有的交通全靠这条道路。路上用草席掩蔽，因为不掩蔽的话，就将成为对岸 敌军清楚的目标。我们这个砖场有河岸掩护，不至于受到来复枪和机枪的射击。河上本有一条桥，现在已给炸坏了。炮攻一开始，意军准备再搭一条桥，有的部队则 打算在上游河湾水浅的地点渡河。少校是个小个子，长着向上翘的小胡子。他曾在利比亚①作战过，制服上佩着两条表明受过伤的条章。他说倘若战事顺利的话，他 要给我弄一个勋章。我说希望战事顺利，又说他待我太好了。我问他附近有没有大的掩蔽壕，可以安置司机们，他便派一名士兵领我去。那士兵领我到一个掩蔽壕， 地方很不错。司机们很满意，我就把他们安顿在那儿。少校请我同其他两名军官一同喝酒。我们喝的是朗姆酒，大家觉得很和谐。外面的天在黑下来了。我问他进攻 什么时候开始，他们说天黑就发动。我踅回去找司机们。他们正坐在掩蔽壕里聊天，我一进去，他们闷声不响了。我递给他们每人一包马其顿香烟，烟草装得松，抽 的时候得把烟卷的两头扭紧一下。马内拉打着了他的打火机，挨次递给大家。打火机的形状像是菲亚特牌汽车的引擎冷却器。我把听到的消息告诉了他们。“我们方 才下坡时怎么没看见那救护站？“帕西尼问。
“这些冲出去的，倒并没被人家从每十人中挑一人出来枪决啊。““我有个老乡也被宪兵枪决了，“帕西尼说。“在掷弹兵中他倒是个机灵鬼，长得又高又 大，常常呆在罗马。常常跟娘儿们混在一起。常常和宪兵来往。“他哈哈大笑。“现在他家门口经常有名卫兵持着上了刺刀的步枪把守着，不许人家去探望他的母 亲、父亲和姐妹，他父亲还给剥夺了公民权，甚至不许投票选举。现在他们都不受法律的保护。随便谁都可以抢夺他们的财产。“
“就像捷克人那样。①““你们大概是一点也不明白被征服的痛苦，所以以为不打紧。““中尉，“帕西尼说。“我们晓得你是让我们谈的。那么请听。世界 上再没有像战争这么坏的事了。我们呆在救护车队里，甚至连体会到战争的坏处都不可能。人家一觉悟到它的恶劣，也没法停止战争，因为觉悟的人发疯了。有些人 从来不会发觉战争的坏处。有些人怕军官。战争就是由这种人造成的。“
我们就是打下了卡索高原、蒙法尔科内和的里雅斯德，②又怎么样？你今天没看见那些遥远的山峰吗？你想我们能够把那些山都抢过来吗？这得奥军停战才 行。有一方面必须先停战。我们为什么不先停呢？敌军倘若开进意大利来，他们一呆腻就会走的。他们有他们自己的土地。现在彼此都不让步，于是战争就发生 了。“
在这条战线上，有装在大卡车上的大型探照灯，你有时夜间赶路看得见，就在近前线的后边，卡车停在路旁，有名军官在指挥灯的移动，他的部下则很惊慌。 我们穿过砖场，在包扎总站前停下。入口处上面有绿色树枝的小屏障，在黑暗中，夜风吹动太阳晒干的树枝，发出一片沙沙声。里边有灯光。少校坐在一只木箱上打 电话。一名上尉级的军医说，进攻的时间提前了一小时。他请我喝一杯科涅克白兰地。我望望那几张板桌、在灯光下发亮的手术器械、脸盆和拴好的药瓶子。高迪尼 站在我后边。少校打好电话，站起身来。“现在开始了，“他说。“并没有提前。“
一到外边，我们冲过砖场。一颗炮弹在河岸附近爆炸了。接着又是一颗，不过我们没有听见，直到猛然有一股气浪逼过来才知道。我们两人连忙扑倒在地上， 紧接着爆炸的闪光和撞击声，还有火药的味道，我们听见一阵弹片的呼啸声和砖石的倾落声。高迪尼跳起身朝掩蔽壕直跑。我跟在后边，手里拿着干酪，干酪光滑的 表皮上已蒙上了砖灰。掩蔽壕里的三名司机正靠壁而坐，抽着烟卷。
我吃完我那份干酪，灌了一口酒。在旁的声响中间我听见了一声咳嗽，接着是一阵乞—乞—乞—乞的响声——随后是一条闪光，好像熔炉门突然扭开似的，接 着是轰隆一声，先是白后是红，跟着一股疾风扑进来。我努力呼吸，可是没法子呼吸，只觉得灵魂冲出了躯体，往外飘，往外飘，一直在风中飘。我的灵魂一下子全 出了窍，我知道我已经死了，如果以为是刚刚死去，那就错了。随后我就飘浮起来，不是往前飘，反而是溜回来。我一呼吸，就溜回来了。地面已被炸裂，有一块炸 裂的木椽就在我头前。我头一颤动，听见有人在哭。我以为有人在哀叫。我想动，但是动不了。我听见对岸和沿河河岸上的机枪声和步枪声。有一声响亮的溅水声， 我看见一些照明弹在往上升，接着炸裂了，一片白光在天上飘浮着，火箭也射上去了，还听见炸弹声，这一切都是一刹间的事，随后我听见附近有人在说：“我的妈 啊！噢，我的妈啊！“我拼命拔，拼命扭，终于抽出了双腿，转过身去摸摸他。原来是帕西尼，我一碰他，他便死命叫痛。
他的两腿朝着我，我在暗中和光中看出他两条腿的膝盖以上全给炸烂了。有一条腿全没了，另一条腿还由腱和裤子的一部分勉强连着，炸剩的残肢在抖着扭 着，仿佛已经脱节似的。他咬咬胳臂，哼叫道：“噢，我的妈，我的妈啊，“接着是“天主保佑您，马利亚。保佑您，马利亚。噢耶稣开枪打死我吧基督打死我吧我 的妈我的妈噢最纯洁可爱的马利亚打死我吧。停住痛。停住痛。停住痛。噢耶稣可爱的马利亚停住痛。噢噢噢噢“，接着是一阵窒息声，“妈啊我的妈啊。“过后他 静了下来，咬着胳臂，腿的残端在颤抖着。
“担架兵！“我两手合拢在嘴边做成一个杯形，大声喊道。“担架兵！“我想贴近帕西尼，给他腿上缚上一条带子来止血，但是我无法动弹。我又试了一次， 我的腿稍为挪动了一点。我能用双臂和双肘支着身体往后拖。帕西尼现在安静了。我坐在他旁边，解开我的制服，想把我的衬衫的后摆撕下来。衬衫撕不下来，我只 好用嘴巴咬住布的边沿来撕。这时我才想起了他的绑腿布。我穿的是羊毛袜子，帕西尼却裹着绑腿布。司机们都用绑腿布，但是帕西尼现在可只剩一条腿了。我动手 解下绑腿布，在解的时候，发觉已不必再绑什么止血带，因为他已经死了。我摸了他一下，可真是死了。还有那三名司机得找一找。我坐直了身子，这一来才觉得我 脑袋里有什么东西在动，就像洋娃娃会转动的眼睛后面附着铁块，它在我眼珠后面冲撞了一下。我的双腿又暖又湿，鞋子里边也是又湿又暖。我知道我受了伤，就俯 下身子去摸摸膝盖。我的膝盖没了。我的手伸进去，才发觉膝盖原来在小腿上。我在衬衫上擦擦手，当时又有一道照明弹的光很慢很慢地往下落，我看看我的腿，心 里着实害怕。噢，上帝啊，我说，救我离开这里吧。不过我晓得还有三个司机。本来一共是四个。帕西尼死了。剩下了三个。有人从胁下抱起我来，又有一人抬起了 我的双腿。
在救护站外，我们这许多伤员躺在黑暗中的地面上。人家把伤员抬进抬出。包扎站的幔子打开，把伤员抬进抬出时，我看得见里边的灯光。死去的都搁在一 边。军医们把袖子卷到肩膀上，一身是血，活像屠夫一般。担架不够用。伤员中除了少数在哼叫外，大多数默然无声。在包扎站门上作为遮蔽物的树叶子给风刮得沙 沙响，黑夜越来越寒冷了。时时有担架员走进来，放下担架，卸下伤员，接着又走了。我一到包扎站，马内拉就找来一名中士军医，他给我两条腿都扎上绷带。他说 伤口上的污泥太多，所以血并不流得太厉害。他说等他们一有空就来医治我。他回到里边去了。马内拉说，高迪尼开不了车子。他的肩头中了弹片，头上也受了伤。 他本来不觉得怎么样，现在肩头可绷紧起来了。他正坐在附近一道砖墙边。马内拉同贾武齐各自开车运走了一批伤员。幸喜他们俩还能开车。英国救护队带来三部救 护车，每部车上配备有两个人。其中有一名司机由高迪尼领着向我走过来，高迪尼本人看去非常苍白，一副病容。那英国人弯下身来。“你伤得厉害吗？“他问。他 是个高个子，戴着钢框眼镜。“腿上受了伤。“
“我们一定十分当心，“他挺直了身子。“你的这位司机很焦急，一定要我来看你。“说着他拍拍高迪尼的肩头。高迪尼缩缩身子，笑笑。英国人突然讲起流 利纯正的意大利语来。“现在一切都安排好了。我见过了你们的中尉。你们的两部车子由我接管。你们现在不必操心了。“他又转而对我说：“我一定设法弄你出 去。我找医疗队的大亨去。我们把你一道运回去。“他朝包扎站走去，一步一步小心地走，怕踩在地上伤员的身上。我看见毛毯给揭开，灯光射出，他走了进去。
“我把他带来了，“那高个子英国人用意大利语说。“他是美国大使的独生子。我把他放在这儿，等你们一有空就医治他。治好就随我的第一批伤员运回 去。“他弯下身来对我说：“我现在找他们的副官去，先填好你的病历卡，省得耽误时间。“他弯着身走出包扎站的门。少校这时拉开钳子，把它丢进盆子里。我的 眼睛跟着他的手移动。现在他在扎绷带。过了一会儿，担架员把桌子上的人抬走了。
“美国中尉由我来，“有一名上尉级的军医说。人家把我抬上桌子。桌面又硬又滑。有许多种浓烈的气味，其中有化学药品味，也有甜滋滋的人血味。他们卸 下我的裤子，上尉军医一边工作，一边讲话，叫中士级副官记录下来：左右大腿、左右膝盖和右脚上多处肤伤。右膝和右脚有深伤。头皮炸伤（他用探针探了一下 ——痛吗？——啊唷，痛！）头盖可能有骨折。执勤时受伤。加上这一句，免得军法处说你是自伤，“他说。“来一口白兰地怎么样？你究竟怎么会碰上这一个的？ 你预备怎么啦？自杀？请打一针防破伤风的，两条腿都划上个十字记号。谢谢。我先把伤口弄弄干净，洗一洗，再用绷带包起来。你的血凝结得真好。“
上尉军医找到了一些什么东西，很感兴趣，说：“找到敌军迫击炮弹的碎片啦。你同意的话，我想多找出一些，不过现在没必要。我把伤口都涂上药，然后 ——这样疼不疼？好，这比起将来的疼痛，可算不上什么。真正的疼痛还没开始哪。给他倒杯白兰地来。一时的震惊叫疼痛暂时麻木下来；但是也没有什么，不要担 心，只要伤口不感染，目前情形下很少会感染。你的头怎么样？“
“我没什么，“我说。“非常感谢。“方才少校所说的疼痛现在开始了，我对眼前发生的一切事情都不感兴趣，觉得无关紧要了。过了一会儿，英国救护车开 到了，人家把我放在担架上，抬起担架，推进救护车。我旁边放有另外一张担架，那人整个脸都扎了绷带，只看得见鼻子，像蜡制的一般。他呼吸沉重极了。我上边 那些吊圈上也搁了一些担架。那个高个子英国司机绕过来，朝里望。“我一定稳稳当当地开车，“他说。“希望你舒服。“我感觉到引擎启动了，感觉到他爬上了车 子的前座，感觉到他拉开了刹车，扳上离合器杆，于是我们启程了。我躺着不动，任凭伤口的疼痛持续下去。
“我们离山顶不远了。我一个人没法抬出那张担架。“他又开车了。血流个不停。在黑暗中，我看不清血是从头顶上方的帆布上的什么地方流下来的。我竭力 把身体往旁边挪，免得血流在我身上。有些血已经流进我衬衫里面，我觉得又暖又粘。我身子冷，腿又疼得那么厉害，难过得想呕吐。过了一会儿，上边担架上的流 血缓和下来，又开始一滴一滴地掉了，我听到并感觉到上边的帆布在动，原来那人比较舒服地安定下来了。
The road was crowded and there were screens of corn-stalk and straw matting on both sides and matting over the top so that it was like the entrance at a circus or a native village. We drove slowly in this matting-covered tunnel and came out onto a bare cleared space where the railway station had been. The road here was below the level of the river bank and all along the side of the sunken road there were holes dug in the bank with infantry in them. The sun was going down and looking up along the bank as we drove I saw the Austrian observation balloons above the hills on the other side dark against the sunset. We parked the cars beyond a brickyard. The ovens and some deep holes had been equipped as dressing stations. There were three doctors that I knew. I talked with the major and learned that when it should start and our cars should be loaded we would drive them back along the screened road and up to the main road along the ridge where there would be a post and other cars to clear them. He hoped the road would not jam. It was a one-road show. The road was screened because it was in sight of the Austrians across the river. Here at the brickyard we were sheltered from rifle or machine-gun fire by the river bank. There was one smashed bridge across the river. They were going to put over another bridge when the bombardment started and some troops were to cross at the shallows up above at the bend of the river. The major was a little man with upturned mustaches. He had been in the war in Libya and wore two woundstripes. He said that if the thing went well he would see that I was decorated. I said I hoped it would go well but that he was too kind. I asked him if there was a big dugout where the drivers could stay and he sent a soldier to show me. I went with him and found the dugout, which was very good. The drivers were pleased with it and I left them there. The major asked me to have a drink with him and two other officers. We drank rum and it was very friendly. Outside it was getting dark. I asked what time the attack was to he and they said as soon as it was dark. I went back to the drivers. They were sitting in the dugout talking and when I came in they stopped. I gave them each a package of cigarettes, Macedonias, loosely packed cigarettes that spilled tobacco and needed to have the ends twisted before you smoked them. Manera lit his lighter and passed it around. The lighter was shaped like a Fiat radiator. I told them what I had heard.
"Why didn't we see the post when we came down?" Passini asked.
"It was just beyond where we turned off."
"That road will be a dirty mess," Manera said.
"They'll shell the ---- out of us."
"What about eating, lieutenant? We won't get a chance to eat after this thing starts."
"I'll go and see now," I said.
"You want us to stay here or can we look around?"
"Better stay here."
I went back to the major's dugout and he said the field kitchen would be along and the drivers could come and get their stew. He would loan them mess tins if they did not have them. I said I thought they had them. I went back and told the drivers I would get them as soon as the food came. Manera said he hoped it would come before the bombardment started. They were silent until I went out. They were all mechanics and hated the war.
I went out to look at the cars and see what was going on and then came back and sat down in the dugout with the four drivers. We sat on the ground with our backs against the wall and smoked. Outside it was nearly dark. The earth of the dugout was warm and dry and I let my shoulders back against the wall, sitting on the small of my back, and relaxed.
"Who goes to the attack?" asked Gavuzzi.
"I think so."
"There aren't enough troops here for a real attack."
"It is probably to draw attention from where the real attack will be."
"Do the men know that who attack?"
"I don't think so."
"Of course they don't," Manera said. "They wouldn't attack if they did."
"Yes, they would," Passini said. "Bersaglieri are fools."
"They are brave and have good discipline," I said.
"They are big through the chest by measurement, and healthy. But they are still fools."
"The granatieri are tall," Manera said. This was a joke. They all laughed.
"Were you there, Tenente, when they wouldn't attack and they shot every tenth man?"
"It is true. They lined them up afterward and took every tenth man. Carabinieri shot them."
"Carabinieri," said Passini and spat on the floor. "But those grenadiers; all over six feet. They wouldn't attack."
"If everybody would not attack the war would be over," Manera said.
"It wasn't that way with the granatieri. They were afraid. The officers all came from such good families."
"Some of the officers went alone."
"A sergeant shot two officers who would not get out."
"Some troops went out."
"Those that went out were not lined up when they took the tenth men."
"One of those shot by the carabinieri is from my town," Passini said. "He was a big smart tall boy to be in the granatieri. Always in Rome. Always with the girls. Always with the carabinieri." He laughed. "Now they have a guard outside his house with a bayonet and nobody can come to see his mother and father and sisters and his father loses his civil rights and cannot even vote. They are all without law to protect them. Anybody can take their property."
"If it wasn't that that happens to their families nobody would go to the attack."
"Yes. Alpini would. These V. E. soldiers would. Some bersaglieri."
"Bersaglieri have run too. Now they try to forget it."
"You should not let us talk this way, Tenente. Evviva l'esercito," Passini said sarcastically.
"I know how you talk," I said. "But as long as you drive the cars and behave--"
"--and don't talk so other officers can hear," Manera finished. "I believe we should get the war over," I said. "It would not finish it if one side stopped fighting. It would only be worse if we stopped fighting."
"It could not be worse," Passini said respectfully. "There is nothing worse than war."
"Defeat is worse."
"I do not believe it," Passini said still respectfully. "What is defeat? You go home."
"They come after you. They take your home. They take your sisters."
"I don't believe it," Passini said. "They can't do that to everybody. Let everybody defend his home. Let them keep their sisters in the house."
"They hang you. They come and make you be a soldier again. Not in the auto-ambulance, in the infantry."
"They can't hang every one."
"An outside nation can't make you be a soldier," Manera said. "At the first battle you all run."
"Like the Tchecos."
"I think you do not know anything about being conquered and so you think it is not bad."
"Tenente," Passini said. "We understand you let us talk. Listen. There is nothing as bad as war. We in the auto-ambulance cannot even realize at all how bad it is. When people realize how bad it is they cannot do anything to stop it because they go crazy. There are some people who never realize. There are people who are afraid of their officers. It is with them the war is made."
"I know it is bad but we must finish it."
"It doesn't finish. There is no finish to a war."
"Yes there is."
Passini shook his head.
"War is not won by victory. What if we take San Gabriele? What if we take the Carso and Monfalcone and Trieste? Where are we then? Did you see all the far mountains to-day? Do you think we could take all them too? Only if the Austrians stop fighting. One side must stop fighting. Why don't we stop fighting? If they come down into Italy they will get tired and go away. They have their own country. But no, instead there is a war."
"You're an orator."
"We think. We read. We are not peasants. We are mechanics. But even the peasants know better than to believe in a war. Everybody hates this war."
"There is a class that controls a country that is stupid and does not realize anything and never can. That is why we have this war."
"Also they make money out of it."
"Most of them don't," said Passini. "They are too stupid. They do it for nothing. For stupidity."
"We must shut up," said Manera. "We talk too much even for the Tenente."
"He likes it," said Passini. "We will convert him."
"But now we will shut up," Manera said.
"Do we eat yet, Tenente?" Gavuzzi asked.
"I will go and see," I said. Gordini stood up and went outside with me.
"Is there anything I can do, Tenente? Can I help in any way?" He was the quietest one of the four. "Come with me if you want," I said, "and we'll see."
It was dark outside and the long light from the search-lights was moving over the mountains. There were big search-lights on that front mounted on camions that you passed sometimes on the roads at night, close behind the lines, the camion stopped a little off the road, an officer directing the light and the crew scared. We crossed the brickyard, and stopped at the main dressing station. There was a little shelter of green branches outside over the entrance and in the dark the night wind rustled the leaves dried by the sun. Inside there was a light. The major was at the telephone sitting on a box. One of the medical captains said the attack had been put forward an hour. He offered me a glass of cognac. I looked at the board tables, the instruments shining in the light, the basins and the stoppered bottles. Gordini stood behind me. The major got up from the telephone.
"It starts now," he said. "It has been put back again."
I looked outside, it was dark and the Austrian search-lights were moving on the mountains behind us. It was quiet for a moment still, then from all the guns behind us the bombardment started.
"Savoia," said the major.
"About the soup, major," I said. He did not hear me. I repeated it.
"It hasn't come up."
A big shell came in and burst outside in the brickyard. Another burst and in the noise you could hear the smaller noise of the brick and dirt raining down.
"What is there to eat?"
"We have a little pasta asciutta," the major said.
"I'll take what you can give me."
The major spoke to an orderly who went out of sight in the back and came back with a metal basin of cold cooked macaroni. I handed it to Gordini.
"Have you any cheese?"
The major spoke grudgingly to the orderly who ducked back into the hole again and came out with a quarter of a white cheese.
"Thank you very much," I said.
"You'd better not go out."
Outside something was set down beside the entrance. One of the two men who had carried it looked in.
"Bring him in," said the major. "What's the matter with you? Do you want us to come outside and get him?"
The two stretcher-bearers picked up the man under the arms and by the legs and brought him in.
"Slit the tunic," the major said.
He held a forceps with some gauze in the end. The two captains took off their coats. "Get out of here," the major said to the two stretcher-bearers.
"Come on," I said to Gordini.
"You better wait until the shelling is over," the major said over his shoulder.
"They want to eat," I said.
"As you wish."
Outside we ran across the brickyard. A shell burst short near the river bank. Then there was one that we did not hear coming until the sudden rush. We both went flat and with the flash and bump of the burst and the smell heard the singing off of the fragments and the rattle of falling brick. Gordini got up and ran for the dugout. I was after him, holding the cheese, its smooth surface covered with brick dust. Inside the dugout were the three drivers sitting against the wall, smoking.
"Here, you patriots," I said.
"How are the cars?" Manera asked.
"Did they scare you, Tenente?"
"You're damned right," I said.
I took out my knife, opened it, wiped off the blade and pared off the dirty outside surface of the cheese. Gavuzzi handed me the basin of macaroni.
"Start in to eat, Tenente."
"No," I said. "Put it on the floor. We'll all eat."
"There are no forks."
"What the hell," I said in English.
I cut the cheese into pieces and laid them on the macaroni.
"Sit down to it," I said. They sat down and waited. I put thumb and fingers into the macaroni and lifted. A mass loosened.
"Lift it high, Tenente."
I lifted it to arm's length and the strands cleared. I lowered it into the mouth, sucked and snapped in the ends, and chewed, then took a bite of cheese, chewed, and then a drink of the wine. It tasted of rusty metal. I handed the canteen back to Passini.
"It's rotten," he said. "It's been in there too long. I had it in the car."
They were all eating, holding their chins close over the basin, tipping their heads back, sucking in the ends. I took another mouthful and some cheese and a rinse of wine. Something landed outside that shook the earth.
"Four hundred twenty or minnenwerfer," Gavuzzi said.
"There aren't any four hundred twenties in the mountains," I said.
"They have big Skoda guns. I've seen the holes."
"Three hundred fives."
We went on eating. There was a cough, a noise like a railway engine starting and then an explosion that shook the earth again.
"This isn't a deep dugout," Passini said.
"That was a big trench mortar."
I ate the end of my piece of cheese and took a swallow of wine. Through the other noise I heard a cough, then came the chuh-chuhchuh-chuh--then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red and on and on in a rushing wind. I tried to breathe but my breath would not come and I felt myself rush bodily out of myself and out and out and out and all the time bodily in the wind. I went out swiftly, all of myself, and I knew I was dead and that it had all been a mistake to think you just died. Then I floated, and instead of going on I felt myself slide back. I breathed and I was back. The ground was torn up and in front of my head there was a splintered beam of wood. In the jolt of my head I heard somebody crying. I thought somebody was screaming. I tried to move but I could not move. I heard the machine-guns and rifles firing across the river and all along the river. There was a great splashing and I saw the star-shells go up and burst and float whitely and rockets going up and heard the bombs, all this in a moment, and then I heard close to me some one saying "Mama Mia! Oh, mama Mia!" I pulled and twisted and got my legs loose finally and turned around and touched him. It was Passini and when I touched him he screamed. His legs were toward me and I saw in the dark and the light that they were both smashed above the knee. One leg was gone and the other was held by tendons and part of the trouser and the stump twitched and jerked as though it were not connected. He bit his arm and moaned, "Oh mama mia, mama Mia," then, "Dio te salve, Maria. Dio te salve, Maria. Oh Jesus shoot me Christ shoot me mama mia mama Mia oh purest lovely Mary shoot me. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Oh Jesus lovely Mary stop it. Oh oh oh oh," then choking, "Mama mama mia." Then he was quiet, biting his arm, the stump of his leg twitching.
"Porta feriti!" I shouted holding my hands cupped. "Porta feriti!" I tried to get closer to Passini to try to put a tourniquet on the legs but I could not move. I tried again and my legs moved a little. I could pull backward along with my arms and elbows. Passini was quiet now. I sat beside him, undid my tunic and tried to rip the tail of my shirt. It would not rip and I bit the edge of the cloth to start it. Then I thought of his puttees. I had on wool stockings but Passini wore puttees. All the drivers wore puttees but Passini had only one leg. I unwound the puttee and while I was doing it I saw there was no need to try and make a tourniquet because he was dead already. I made sure he was dead. There were three others to locate. I sat up straight and as I did so something inside my head moved like the weights on a doll's eyes and it hit me inside in back of my eyeballs. My legs felt warm and wet and my shoes were wet and warm inside. I knew that I was hit and leaned over and put my hand on my knee. My knee wasn't there. My hand went in and my knee was down on my shin. I wiped my hand on my shirt and another floating light came very slowly down and I looked at my leg and was very afraid. Oh, God, I said, get me out of here. I knew, however, that there had been three others. There were four drivers. Passini was dead. That left three. Some one took hold of me under the arms and somebody else lifted my legs.
"There are three others," I said. "One is dead."
"It's Manera. We went for a stretcher but there wasn't any. How are you, Tenente?"
"Where is Gordini and Gavuzzi?"
"Gordini's at the post getting bandaged. Gavuzzi has your legs. Hold on to my neck, Tenente. Are you badly hit?"
"In the leg. How is Gordini?"
"He's all right. It was a big trench mortar shell."
"Yes. He's dead."
A shell fell close and they both dropped to the ground and dropped me. "I'm sorry, Tenente," said Manera. "Hang onto my neck."
"If you drop me again."
"It was because we were scared."
"Are you unwounded?"
"We are both wounded a little."
"Can Gordini drive?"
"I don't think so."
They dropped me once more before we reached the post.
"You sons of bitches," I said.
"I am sorry, Tenente," Manera said. "We won't drop you again."
Outside the post a great many of us lay on the ground in the dark. They carried wounded in and brought them out. I could see the light come out from the dressing station when the curtain opened and they brought some one in or out. The dead were off to one side. The doctors were working with their sleeves up to their shoulders and were red as butchers. There were not enough stretchers. Some of the wounded were noisy but most were quiet. The wind blew the leaves in the bower over the door of the dressing station and the night was getting cold. Stretcher-bearers came in all the time, put their stretchers down, unloaded them and went away. As soon as I got to the dressing station Manera brought a medical sergeant out and he put bandages on both my legs. He said there was so much dirt blown into the wound that there had not been much hemorrhage. They would take me as soon as possible. He went back inside. Gordini could not drive, Manera said. His shoulder was smashed and his head was hurt. He had not felt bad but now the shoulder had stiffened. He was sitting up beside one of the brick walls. Manera and Gavuzzi each went off with a load of wounded. They could drive all right. The British had come with three ambulances and they had two men on each ambulance. One of their drivers came over to me, brought by Gordini who looked very white and sick. The Britisher leaned over.
"Are you hit badly?" he asked. He was a tall man and wore steel-rimmed spectacles.
"In the legs."
"It's not serious I hope. Will you have a cigarette?"
"They tell me you've lost two drivers."
"Yes. One killed and the fellow that brought you."
"What rotten luck. Would you like us to take the cars?"
"That's what I wanted to ask you."
"We'd take quite good care of them and return them to the villa. 206 aren't you?"
"It's a charming place. I've seen you about. They tell me you're an American."
"Yes, English. Did you think I was Italian? There were some Italians with one of our units."
"It would be fine if you would take the cars," I said.
"We'll be most careful of them," he straightened up. "This chap of yours was very anxious for me to see you." He patted Gordini on the shoulder. Gordini winced and smiled. The Englishman broke into voluble and perfect Italian. "Now everything is arranged. I've seen your Tenente. We will take over the two cars. You won't worry now." He broke off, "I must do something about getting you out of here. I'll see the medical wallahs. We'll take you back with us."
He walked across to the dressing station, stepping carefully among the wounded. I saw the blanket open, the light came out and he went in.
"He will look after you, Tenente," Gordini said.
"How are you, Franco?"
"I am all right." He sat down beside me. In a moment the blanket in front of the dressing station opened and two stretcherbearers came out followed by the tall Englishman. He brought them over to me.
"Here is the American Tenente," he said in Italian.
"I'd rather wait," I said. "There are much worse wounded than me. I'm all right."
"Come, come," he said. "Don't be a bloody hero." Then in Italian: "Lift him very carefully about the legs. His legs are very painful. He is the legitimate son of President Wilson." They picked me up and took me into the dressing room. Inside they were operating on all the tables. The little major looked at us furious. He recognized me and waved a forceps.
"Ca va bien?"
"I have brought him in," the tall Englishman said in Italian. "The only son of the American Ambassador. He can be here until you are ready to take him. Then I will take him with my first load." He bent over me. "I'll look up their adjutant to do your papers and it will all go much faster." He stooped to go under the doorway and went out. The major was unhooking the forceps now, dropping them in a basin. I followed his hands with my eyes. Now he was bandaging. Then the stretcher-bearers took the man off the table.
"I'll take the American Tenente," one of the captains said. They lifted me onto the table. It was hard and slippery. There were many strong smells, chemical smells and the sweet smell of blood. They took off my trousers and the medical captain commenced dictating to the sergeant-adjutant while he worked, "Multiple superficial wounds of the left and right thigh and left and right knee and right foot. Profound wounds of right knee and foot. Lacerations of the scalp (he probed--Does that hurt?--Christ, yes!) with possible fracture of the skull. Incurred in the line of duty. That's what keeps you from being court-martialled for self-inflicted wounds," he said. "Would you like a drink of brandy? How did you run into this thing anyway? What were you trying to do? Commit suicide? Antitetanus please, and mark a cross on both legs. Thank you. I'll clean this up a little, wash it out, and put on a dressing. Your blood coagulates beautifully."
The adjutant, looking up from the paper, "What inflicted the wounds?"
The medical captain, "What hit you?"
Me, with the eyes shut, "A trench mortar shell."
The captain, doing things that hurt sharply and severing tissue--"Are you sure?"
Me--trying to lie still and feeling my stomach flutter when the flesh was cut, "I think so."
Captain doctor--(interested in something he was finding), "Fragments of enemy trench-mortar shell. Now I'll probe for some of this if you like but it's not necessary. I'll paint all this and--Does that sting? Good, that's nothing to how it will feel later. The pain hasn't started yet. Bring him a glass of brandy. The shock dulls the pain; but this is all right, you have nothing to worry about if it doesn't infect and it rarely does now. How is your head?"
"Good Christ" I said.
"Better not drink too much brandy then. If you've got a fracture you don't want inflammation. How does that feel?"
Sweat ran all over me.
"Good Christ!" I said.
"I guess you've got a fracture all right. I'll wrap you up and don't bounce your head around." He bandaged, his hands moving very fast and the bandage coming taut and sure. "All right, good luck and Vive la France."
"He's an American," one of the other captains said.
"I thought you said he was a Frenchman. He talks French," the captain said. "I've known him before. I always thought he was French." He drank a half tumbler of cognac. "Bring on something serious. Get some more of that Antitetanus." The captain waved to me. They lifted me and the blanket-flap went across my face as we went out. Outside the sergeant-adjutant knelt down beside me where I lay, "Name?" he asked softly. "Middle name? First name? Rank? Where born? What class? What corps?" and so on. "I'm sorry for your head, Tenente. I hope you feel better. I'm sending you now with the English ambulance."
"I'm all right," I said. "Thank you very much." The pain that the major had spoken about had started and all that was happening was without interest or relation. After a while the English ambulance came up and they put me onto a stretcher and lifted the stretcher up to the ambulance level and shoved it in. There was another stretcher by the side with a man on it whose nose I could see, waxy-looking, out of the bandages. He breathed very heavily. There were stretchers lifted and slid into the slings above. The tall English driver came around and looked in, "I'll take it very easily," he said. "I hope you'll be comfy." I felt the engine start, felt him climb up into the front seat, felt the brake come off and the clutch go in, then we started. I lay still and let the pain ride.
As the ambulance climbed along the road, it was slow in the traffic, sometimes it stopped, sometimes it backed on a turn, then finally it climbed quite fast. I felt something dripping. At first it dropped slowly and regularly, then it pattered into a stream. I shouted to the driver. He stopped the car and looked in through the hole behind his seat.
"What is it?"
"The man on the stretcher over me has a hemorrhage."
"We're not far from the top. I wouldn't be able to get the stretcher out alone." He started the car. The stream kept on. In the dark I could not see where it came from the canvas overhead. I tried to move sideways so that it did not fall on me. Where it had run down under my shirt it was warm and sticky. I was cold and my leg hurt so that it made me sick. After a while the stream from the stretcher above lessened and started to drip again and I heard and felt the canvas above move as the man on the stretcher settled more comfortably.
"How is he?" the Englishman called back.
"We're almost up."
"He's dead I think," I said.
The drops fell very slowly, as they fall from an icicle after the sun has gone. It was cold in the car in the night as the road climbed. At the post on the top they took the stretcher out and put another in and we went on.