野战医院的病房里，有 人告诉我说，当天下午有人要来探望我。那天天热，房间里有许多苍蝇。我的护理员把纸裁成纸条，绑在一根小棍子上，做成一把蝇帚，飕飕地赶着苍蝇。我看着那 些苍蝇歇在天花板上。只要护理员一停止挥帚，打个瞌睡，苍蝇便往下飞扑，我先是张嘴把它们吹走，末了只好用双手遮住脸，也入睡了。那天很热，我一醒来，腿 上发痒。我喊醒护理员，他在我的绷带上倒了些矿泉水。这样一来，弄得床又湿又凉。病房里醒着的人，东一个西一个攀谈起来。午后安安静静。早上，人家来挨个 儿巡视病床，三名男护士和一个医生，把病人一个个抬到包扎室去换药，护士则利用这个机会铺床。每天上包扎室去换药，实在不愉快，直到后来我才知道，床上躺 有病人，照样可以铺床。护理员泼了水后，我觉得躺在床上又凉又痛快，我正吩咐他给我脚底上什么地方抓抓痒的时候，有一位医生带来了雷那蒂。他匆匆跑过来， 到床边弯下身来吻我。我注意到他手上戴着手套。
“好极了。大家都好极了。人人都夸赞你。把经过的情形切实告诉我。我相信你一定可以搞到银质勋章。说啊。把一切都告诉我。“他歇一歇，想了一想。 “也许你还可以得到一枚英国勋章。那儿有个英国人。我去问问他，看他愿不愿意推荐你。他总可以想个法子的。你吃了很多苦吧？喝杯酒。护理员，拿个开塞钻 来。哦，你该看我怎样给人拿掉三公尺小肠，我的功夫比从前更精了。正是投稿给《刺血针》①的材料。你替我译成英文后我就寄去。我现在日日有进步。可怜的好 乖乖，你现在觉得怎么样？妈的，开塞钻怎么还没拿来？你是这样勇敢沉静，我忘记你在吃苦了。“他拿手套拍拍床沿。
“开酒瓶。拿个杯子来。喝这个，乖乖。你那可怜的头怎么样？我看过你的病历卡。你哪里有什么骨折。急救站那个少校根本就是个杀猪的。要是我来动手的 话，担保你不吃苦头。我从来不叫任何人吃苦。这窍门我学会了。我天天学习，越来越顺手，功夫越来越精。原谅我说了这么多话，乖乖。我是因为看见你受了重 伤，心中未免激动。喂，喝这个。酒是好的。花了我十五个里拉呢。一定不错。五颗星的。我从这里出去，就去找那英国人，他会给你弄枚英国勋章的。“
“你愚昧无知。笨头笨脑。“我发觉他对这些字眼最受不了，因此便继续说下去。“没见识。没经验，因为没有经验而笨头笨脑。““真的？我告诉你一点关 于你们那些好女人的事吧。你们的那些女神。和一个一向贞节的姑娘或一个妇人搞起来只有一点不同。姑娘会痛。我只知道这一点。“他用手套拍打了一下床沿。 “至于姑娘本身是否果真喜欢，你就无从知道啦。“
In the ward at the field hospital they told me a visitor was coming to see me in the afternoon. It was a hot day and there were many flies in the room. My orderly had cut paper into strips and tied the strips to a stick to make a brush that swished the flies away. I watched them settle on the ceiling. When he stopped swishing and fell asleep they came down and I blew them away and finally covered my face with my hands and slept too. It was very hot and when I woke my legs itched. I waked the orderly and he poured mineral water on the dressings. That made the bed damp and cool. Those of us that were awake talked across the ward. The afternoon was a quiet time. In the morning they came to each bed in turn, three men nurses and a doctor and picked you up out of bed and carried you into the dressing room so that the beds could be made while we were having our wounds dressed. It was not a pleasant trip to the dressing room and I did not know until later that beds could be made with men in them. My orderly had finished pouring water and the bed felt cool and lovely and I was telling him where to scratch on the soles of my feet against the itching when one of the doctors brought in Rinaldi. He came in very fast and bent down over the bed and kissed me. I saw he wore gloves.
"How are you, baby? How do you feel? I bring you this--" It was a bottle of cognac. The orderly brought a chair and he sat down, "and good news. You will be decorated. They want to get you the medaglia d'argento but perhaps they can get only the bronze."
"Because you are gravely wounded. They say if you can prove you did any heroic act you can get the silver. Otherwise it will be the bronze. Tell me exactly what happened. Did you do any heroic act?"
"No," I said. "I was blown up while we were eating cheese."
"Be serious. You must have done something heroic either before or after. Remember carefully."
"I did not."
"Didn't you carry anybody on your back? Gordini says you carried several people on your back but the medical major at the first post declares it is impossible. He had to sign the proposition for the citation."
"I didn't carry anybody. I couldn't move."
"That doesn't matter," said Rinaldi.
He took off his gloves.
"I think we can get you the silver. Didn't you refuse to be medically aided before the others?"
"Not very firmly."
"That doesn't matter. Look how you are wounded. Look at your valorous conduct in asking to go always to the first line. Besides, the operation was successful."
"Did they cross the river all right?"
"Enormously. They take nearly a thousand prisoners. It's in the bulletin. Didn't you see it?"
"I'll bring it to you. It is a successful coup de main."
"How is everything?"
"Splendid. We are all splendid. Everybody is proud of you. Tell me just exactly how it happened. I am positive you will get the silver. Go on tell me. Tell me all about it." He paused and thought. "Maybe you will get an English medal too. There was an English there. I'll go and see him and ask if he will recommend you. He ought to be able to do something. Do you suffer much? Have a drink. Orderly, go get a corkscrew. Oh you should see what I did in the removal of three metres of small intestine and better now than ever. It is one for The Lancet. You do me a translation and I will send it to The Lancet. Every day I am better. Poor dear baby, how do you feel? Where is that damn corkscrew? You are so brave and quiet I forget you are suffering." He slapped his gloves on the edge of the bed.
"Here is the corkscrew, Signor Tenente," the orderly said.
"Open the bottle. Bring a glass. Drink that, baby. How is your poor head? I looked at your papers. You haven't any fracture. That major at the first post was a hog-butcher. I would take you and never hurt you. I never hurt anybody. I learn how to do it. Every day I learn to do things smoother and better. You must forgive me for talking so much, baby. I am very moved to see you badly wounded. There, drink that. It's good. It cost fifteen lire. It ought to be good. Five stars. After I leave here I'll go see that English and he'll get you an English medal."
"They don't give them like that."
"You are so modest. I will send the liaison officer. He can handle the English."
"Have you seen Miss Barkley?"
"I will bring her here. I will go now and bring her here."
"Don't go," I said. "Tell me about Gorizia. How are the girls?"
"There are no girls. For two weeks now they haven't changed them. I don't go there any more. It is disgraceful. They aren't girls; they are old war comrades."
"You don't go at all?"
"I just go to see if there is anything new. I stop by. They all ask for you. It is a disgrace that they should stay so long that they become friends."
"Maybe girls don't want to go to the front any more."
"Of course they do. They have plenty of girls. It is just bad administration. They are keeping them for the pleasure of dugout hiders in the rear."
"Poor Rinaldi," I said. "All alone at the war with no new girls."
Rinaldi poured himself another glass of the cognac.
"I don't think it will hurt you, baby. You take it."
I drank the cognac and felt it warm all the way down. Rinaldi poured another glass. He was quieter now. He held up the glass. "To your valorous wounds. To the silver medal. Tell me, baby, when you lie here all the time in the hot weather don't you get excited?"
"I can't imagine lying like that. I would go crazy."
"You are crazy."
"I wish you were back. No one to come in at night from adventures. No one to make fun of. No one to lend me money. No blood brother and roommate. Why do you get yourself wounded?"
"You can make fun of the priest."
"That priest. It isn't me that makes fun of him. It is the captain. I like him. If you must have a priest have that priest. He's coming to see you. He makes big preparations."
"I like him."
"Oh, I knew it. Sometimes I think you and he are a little that way. You know."
"No, you don't."
"Yes, I do sometimes. A little that way like the number of the first regiment of the Brigata Ancona."
"Oh, go to hell."
He stood up and put on his gloves.
"Oh I love to tease you, baby. With your priest and your English girl, and really you are just like me underneath."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, we are. You are really an Italian. All fire and smoke and nothing inside. You only pretend to be American. We are brothers and we love each other."
"Be good while I'm gone," I said.
"I will send Miss Barkley. You are better with her without me. You are purer and sweeter."
"Oh, go to hell."
"I will send her. Your lovely cool goddess. English goddess. My God what would a man do with a woman like that except worship her? What else is an Englishwoman good for?"
"You are an ignorant foul-mouthed dago."
"An ignorant wop."
"Wop. You are a frozen-faced . . . wop."
"You are ignorant. Stupid." I saw that word pricked him and kept on. "Uninformed. Inexperienced, stupid from inexperience."
"Truly? I tell you something about your good women. Your goddesses. There is only one difference between taking a girl who has always been good and a woman. With a girl it is painful. That's all I know." He slapped the bed with his glove. "And you never know if the girl will really like it."
"Don't get angry."
"I'm not angry. I just tell you, baby, for your own good. To save you trouble."
"That's the only difference?"
"Yes. But millions of fools like you don't know it."
"You were sweet to tell me."
"We won't quarrel, baby. I love you too much. But don't be a fool."
"No. I'll be wise like you."
"Don't be angry, baby. Laugh. Take a drink. I must go, really."
"You're a good old boy."
"Now you see. Underneath we are the same. We are war brothers. Kiss me good-by."
"No. I am just more affectionate."
I felt his breath come toward me. "Good-by. I come to see you again soon." His breath went away. "I won't kiss you if you don't want. I'll send your English girl. Good-by, baby. The cognac is under the bed. Get well soon."
He was gone.