中午时分，我们的车子陷在一条泥泞的道路上，再也开不动了。那地方据我们猜想，离开乌迪内约莫有十公里。上午雨停了，我们三次听见飞机飞近来，看着 飞机越过头上，飞到左边遥远的地方，我们听见轰炸公路的声响。我们在好些纵横交叉的小路上摸索了好久，走了许多冤枉路，但是经过屡次打倒车找到新路，居然 越走越逼近乌迪内了。这时艾莫的车子，从一条绝路上打倒车时，车身陷入路边的软泥，车轮越打转，就陷入泥土越深，到末了前轮入士，分速器箱碰到了地上。补 救的办法是把车轮前边的泥土挖掉，砍些树枝塞进去，以便车轮上的链条不致打滑，然后把车子推上路。我们都下到路面上，围在车子四周。那两位上士也望望车 子，仔细看看车轮。随即一声不响，拔脚就走。我追了上去。
“站住，“我说。他们管自在泥泞的路上走去。路的两边栽有树木作为篱笆。“我命令你们站住，“我喊道。他们反而走得更快了。我打开手枪套，拔出枪来 对准那个说话最多的就开枪。第一枪没打中，他们拔脚就跑。我连开三枪，一个中枪倒下。还有一个钻过树篱，看不见了。他越过田野时，我隔着篱笆向他开枪。想 不到只是答的一声空响，我赶快再装上一夹子弹。我发现第二个上士已经跑得太远，手枪打不到了。他在田野上跑得远远地，低着头。我开始在空弹夹里装上子弹。 博内罗走上前来。“我去结果他吧，“他说。我把手枪递给他，他走去找那扑倒在路上的上士。博内罗弯下身，把枪口对着那人的脑袋，扳了扳机。枪没打响。“你 得先往上扳，“我说。他往上一扳，连开了两次。他抓住上士的两条腿，把他拖到路旁篱笆边。他走回来，把手枪还给我。
“龟儿子，“他说。他望望那上士。“你看见我打死他的吧，中尉？““我们得赶快砍树枝，“我说。“那一个我完全没有打中吗？““大概没有吧，“艾莫 说。 “他已经跑得太远，手枪打不到。““王八蛋，“皮安尼说。我们大家都在砍枝条和树枝。车里所有的东西都搬了出来。博内罗在车轮前挖泥土。我们一准备好，艾 莫就开动车子。车轮直打转，枝条和泥土四下溅散。博内罗和我拚命推车，推到关节都快要折断了。车子还是不动。
“我们拿他的军装上衣和披肩来垫一垫，“我说。博内罗去拿了来。我砍树枝，艾莫和皮安尼挖掉车轮前和车轮间的泥土。我把披肩割成两半，铺在车轮底 下，然后又垫些枝条在下面，让车轮不致打滑。我们准备好了，艾莫爬上车去开车。车轮转了又转，我们推了又推。结果一点效力都没有。“他妈的，“我说。“巴 托，你车子上还有什么东西要拿没有？“艾莫拿了干酪、两瓶酒和他的披肩，跟博内罗一起上车。博内罗坐在驾驶盘后面，在检查上士军装的一只只口袋。
“来吧，“我说。“进去。“两位女郎爬了进去，坐在一个角落里。我们方才开枪的事，她们好像没有注意到。我回头望望来路。上士躺在那儿，只穿着一件 肮脏的长袖内衣。我上了皮安尼的车子，我们又出发了。我们要越过一块农田。到了大路穿进农田的地方，我下车在前头走。我们要是能穿过这块田地，田地的那一 边就有一条路。我们走不过去，田里的泥土太软太泥泞了，不能开车。最后车子完全困住了，车轮深深陷入烂泥中，一直陷到轮壳，我们只好丢下车子，步行往乌迪 内进发。
我们走上那条往后通到原来的公路的小道，我指给两个女孩子看。“到那边去吧，“我说。“会碰到人的。“她们望着我。我掏出皮夹子，给她们每人一张十 里拉的钞票。“到那边去吧，“我指着说。“朋友！亲戚！“她们听不懂，只是紧紧地捏着钞票，开始往路的另一头走去。她们回过头来看看，仿佛怕我要把钱要回 来似的。我看着她们由那条小道走去，把大围巾裹得紧紧的，恐惧地扭过头来望望我们。三位司机纵声大笑。“如果我也朝那方向走，你给我多少钱，中尉？“博内 罗问。“要是敌人追上来的话，她们还是混在人群里好一点，“我说。“你给我两百里拉，我就向奥地利一直走回去，“博内罗说。“人家会把你的钱夺去的，“皮 安尼说。
At noon we were stuck in a muddy road about, as nearly as we could figure, ten kilometres from Udine. The rain had stopped during the forenoon and three times we had heard planes coming, seen them pass overhead, watched them go far to the left and heard them bombing on the main highroad. We had worked through a network of secondary roads and had taken many roads that were blind, but had always, by backing up and finding another road, gotten closer to Udine. Now, Aymo's car, in backing so that we might get out of a blind road, had gotten into the soft earth at the side and the wheels, spinning, had dug deeper and deeper until the car rested on its differential. The thing to do now was to dig out in front of the wheels, put in brush so that the chains could grip, and then push until the car was on the road. We were all down on the road around the car. The two sergeants looked at the car and examined the wheels. Then they started off down the road without a word. I went after them.
"Come on," I said. "Cut some brush."
"We have to go," one said.
"Get busy," I said, "and cut brush."
"We have to go," one said. The other said nothing. They were in a hurry to start. They would not look at me.
"I order you to come back to the car and cut brush," I said. The one sergeant turned. "We have to go on. In a little while you will be cut off. You can't order us. You're not our officer."
"I order you to cut brush," I said. They turned and started down the road.
"Halt," I said. They kept on down the muddy road, the hedge on either side. "I order you to halt," I called. They went a little faster. I opened up my holster, took the pistol, aimed at the one who had talked the most, and fired. I missed and they both started to run. I shot three times and dropped one. The other went through the hedge and was out of sight. I fired at him through the hedge as he ran across the field. The pistol clicked empty and I put in another clip. I saw it was too far to shoot at the second sergeant. He was far across the field, running, his head held low. I commenced to reload the empty clip. Bonello came up.
"Let me go finish him," he said. I handed him the pistol and he walked down to where the sergeant of engineers lay face down across the road. Bonello leaned over, put the pistol against the man's head and pulled the trigger. The pistol did not fire.
"You have to cock it," I said. He cocked it and fired twice. He took hold of the sergeant's legs and pulled him to the side of the road so he lay beside the hedge. He came back and handed me the pistol.
"The son of a bitch," he said. He looked toward the sergeant. "You see me shoot him, Tenente?"
"We've got to get the brush quickly," I said. "Did I hit the other one at all?"
"I don't think so," Aymo said. "He was too far away to hit with a pistol."
"The dirty scum," Piani said. We were all cutting twigs and branches. Everything had been taken out of the car. Bonello was digging out in front of the wheels. When we were ready Aymo started the car and put it into gear. The wheels spun round throwing brush and mud. Bonello and I pushed until we could feel our joints crack. The car would not move.
"Rock her back and forth, Barto," I said.
He drove the engine in reverse, then forward. The wheels only dug in deeper. Then the car was resting on the differential again, and the wheels spun freely in the holes they had dug. I straightened up.
"We'll try her with a rope," I said.
"I don't think it's any use, Tenente. You can't get a straight pull."
"We have to try it," I said. "She won't come out any other way."
Piani's and Bonello's cars could only move straight ahead down the narrow road. We roped both cars together and pulled. The wheels only pulled sideways against the ruts.
"It's no good," I shouted. "Stop it."
Piani and Bonello got down from their cars and came back. Aymo got down. The girls were up the road about forty yards sitting on a stone wall.
"What do you say, Tenente?" Bonello asked.
"We'll dig out and try once more with the brush," I said. I looked down the road. It was my fault. I had led them up here. The sun was almost out from behind the clouds and the body of the sergeant lay beside the hedge.
"We'll put his coat and cape under," I said. Bonello went to get them. I cut brush and Aymo and Piani dug out in front and between the wheels. I cut the cape, then ripped it in two, and laid it under the wheel in the mud, then piled brush for the wheels to catch. We were ready to start and Aymo got up on the seat and started the car. The wheels spun and we pushed and pushed. But it wasn't any use.
"It's --ed," I said. "Is there anything you want in the car, Barto?"
Aymo climbed up with Bonello, carrying the cheese and two bottles of wine and his cape. Bonello, sitting behind the wheel, was looking through the pockets of the sergeant's coat.
"Better throw the coat away," I said. "What about Barto's virgins?"
"They can get in the back," Piani said. "I don't think we are going far."
I opened the back door of the ambulance.
"Come on," I said. "Get in." The two girls climbed in and sat in the corner. They seemed to have taken no notice of the shooting. I looked back up the road. The sergeant lay in his dirty long-sleeved underwear. I got up with Piani and we started. We were going to try to cross the field. When the road entered the field I got down and walked ahead. If we could get across, there was a road on the other side. We could not get across. It was too soft and muddy for the cars. When they were finally and completely stalled, the wheels dug in to the hubs, we left them in the field and started on foot for Udine.
When we came to the road which led back toward the main highway I pointed down it to the two girls.
"Go down there," I said. "You'll meet people." They looked at me. I took out my pocket-book and gave them each a ten-lira note. "Go down there," I said, pointing. "Friends! Family!"
They did not understand but they held the money tightly and started down the road. They looked back as though they were afraid I might take the money back. I watched them go down the road, their shawls close around them, looking back apprehensively at us. The three drivers were laughing.
"How much will you give me to go in that direction, Tenente?" Bonello asked.
"They're better off in a bunch of people than alone if they catch them," I said.
"Give me two hundred lire and I'll walk straight back toward Austria," Bonello said.
"They'd take it away from you," Piani said.
"Maybe the war will be over," Aymo said. We were going up the road as fast as we could. The sun was trying to come through. Beside the road were mulberry trees. Through the trees I could see our two big moving-vans of cars stuck in the field. Piani looked back too.
"They'll have to build a road to get them out," he said.
"I wish to Christ we had bicycles," Bonello said.
"Do they ride bicycles in America?" Aymo asked.
"They used to."
"Here it is a great thing," Aymo said. "A bicycle is a splendid thing."
"I wish to Christ we had bicycles," Bonello said. "I'm no walker."
"Is that firing?" I asked. I thought I could hear firing a long way away.
"I don't know," Aymo said. He listened.
"I think so," I said.
"The first thing we will see will be the cavalry," Piani said.
"I don't think they've got any cavalry."
"I hope to Christ not," Bonello said. "I don't want to be stuck on a lance by any--cavalry."
"You certainly shot that sergeant, Tenente," Piani said. We were walking fast.
"I killed him," Bonello said. "I never killed anybody in this war, and all my life I've wanted to kill a sergeant."
"You killed him on the sit all right," Piani said. "He wasn't flying very fast when you killed him."
"Never mind. That's one thing I can always remember. I killed that--of a sergeant."
"What will you say in confession?" Aymo asked.
"I'll say, 'Bless me, father, I killed a sergeant." They all laughed.
"He's an anarchist," Piani said. "He doesn't go to church."
"Piani's an anarchist too," Bonello said.
"Are you really anarchists?" I asked.
"No, Tenente. We're socialists. We come from Imola."
"Haven't you ever been there?"
"By Christ it's a fine place, Tenente. You come there after the war and we'll show you something."
"Are you all socialists?"
"Is it a fine town?"
"Wonderful. You never saw a town like that."
"How did you get to be socialists?"
"We're all socialists. Everybody is a socialist. We've always been socialists."
"You come, Tenente. We'll make you a socialist too."
Ahead the road turned off to the left and there was a little hill and, beyond a stone wall, an apple orchard. As the road went uphill they ceased talking. We walked along together all going fast against time.