我们离城的时候，除了 大街上几队开拔的部队和大炮以外，雨中的城镇显得空虚荒凉，一片黑暗。小街上也驶着许多卡车和马车，都在向大街集合。我们绕过硝皮厂开上大街时，部队、卡 车、马拉的车子和大炮已经汇合成为一个宽阔的、慢慢移动的行列。我们在雨中缓慢而稳定地往前走，车子的散热器盖几乎碰到了前面一部卡车的后挡板——那卡车 装满着东西，堆得高高，上边覆盖着一块已经打湿了的帆布。后来卡车停了。整个行列停顿了。等一等，又走了一会，又停了。我跳下车，跑到前面去看看，在卡车 和马车间穿行，从淋湿的马颈下钻过去。阻塞交通的地方还在前头。我拐下大路，从一块踏板上跨过水沟，在水沟另一边的田野上走。我在田野上抄前走时，看得见 大路上树木间的那个行列，在雨中停顿在那儿。我这样走了约莫一英里。行列没有动，虽则这些停滞的车辆的另一边的军队已在走动了。我踅回去找救护车。这个阻 塞的行列可能极长，说不定一直延伸到乌迪内。皮安尼正伏在驾驶盘上睡觉。我爬上去，坐在他旁边，也入睡了。几个钟头后，我听见前面那部卡车嘎嘎地推上排 挡。我叫醒了皮安尼，我们开车了，走了没几码，又停下来，过了一会儿又走了。雨还在落着。夜里，队伍又停住了。我下车跑回去看文莫和博内罗。博内罗的车子 座位上搭载着两名工兵队的上士。我上车时，上士们连忙坐正示敬。“他们奉命留下来修一条桥，“博内罗说。“他们找不到原来的部队，我就让他们搭搭车。“
“你跟她们谈谈，中尉，“他说。“我听不懂她们的话。喂！“他伸手放在女郎的大腿上，友好地拧了一下。那女郎赶快裹紧大围巾，推开他的手。“喂！“ 他说。“快告诉中尉你的名字，还有你在这里做什么。“女郎狠狠地盯着我。还有一个则低着头望着地下。那个瞪眼盯我的女郎用某种土语讲了几句，我一个字都听 不懂。她长得肥胖，皮肤黑黑的，看上去约莫十六岁。“索雷拉①？“我问，指着旁边那姑娘。她点点头，笑了一笑。
她把围巾裹得更紧一点。“车子全病了，“艾莫说。“没有××的危险。没有地方××。“他每次说起那粗话，她身子就更僵一些。随后她僵硬地坐着，眼睛 盯着他，开始哭起来了。我看见她嘴唇的抽动，接着眼泪从她那丰满的面颊上滚下来了。她的妹妹还是低着头，抓住她的手，两人紧紧偎在一起。那个本来恶狠狠的 姐姐开始啜泣了。
我撇下她们跟艾莫坐在一起，艾莫这时靠在一个角落里。我回到皮安尼的车子上。车马的队伍全不动弹，但是老是有部队从旁边开过。雨还是很大，我就想 起，车马行列的一次次停滞，可能是因为有的车子的线路给打湿了。更可能是因为马匹或者人睡着了。不过，有时在城市里，大家都清醒的时候，也还是有交通阻塞 的事情。糟的是马匹和机动车混杂在一起，彼此之间没有一点儿帮助。农夫的马车更增加了交通的困难。巴托车上有两个好姑娘。两个处女处在退兵的行伍中，那可 太危险了。真正的处女啊。大概是很虔诚信教的。要是没有战争的话，我们大概都在床上睡觉吧。我的头在床上安息。床与床板。睡得像床板那样平直。凯瑟琳现在 正睡在床上，拥衾而睡。她睡时靠在哪一侧呢？也许她还没有睡熟吧。也许她正躺着想念我呢。刮啊，刮啊，西风。嗯，风现在果真刮了，刮来的不只是小雨，还是 大雨哩。整个夜里下雨。你知道落雨的时候落下来的是什么。你看它。基督啊，愿我的爱人又在我的怀抱中，我又在我的床上。我的爱人凯瑟琳。我甜蜜的爱人凯瑟 琳当做雨落下来吧。把她刮回来给我。好，我们已在风中了。人人都给卷在风中了，小雨没法子叫风安静下来。“晚安，凯瑟琳，“我大声说道。“我希望你睡得 好。亲爱的，倘若你极不舒服的话，你就翻身靠在另外一侧睡吧，“我说。 “我给你倒点冷水来。过一会儿天就亮了，那时就不至于太难受了。他②叫你这么不好受，我很难过。设法睡去吧，亲爱的。“
夜间，许多从附近乡间小径上来的农民加入了这撤退大行列，于是行列间有了满载着家具杂物的马车；有些镜子从床垫间撅出着，车子上绑着鸡啊鸭啊。我们 前边，有一部车上装着一架缝纫机，在雨中走着。他们抢救下了最宝贵的东西。车子上有的坐有女人，挤做一团避雨，有的跟在车边走着，尽量挨近车子。我们的这 个行列中现在也有了狗，它们躲在马车底下行走。道路泥泞，路边的水沟满涨着水，路旁树木后边的田野，望去似乎太潮湿，没法开车穿过。我下了车沿着大路往前 走，找一个望得见前边的地方，看看有没有侧路旁道，以便越过田野前进。我原知道小道很多，不过总要找一条可以通到目的地的。这些小道我记不得了，因为过去 赶这里过，总是坐着车，顺着公路疾驰而过，看到的小道仿佛条条都是差不多的。现在我知道，倘若要越过这阻塞的行列，非找一条小道不可。没人知道奥军到了什 么地方，战况怎么样，但是我看得准只要雨一停，飞机就会前来扫射这个行列，大家就要完蛋。到了那时，只要几个司机丢下卡车跑了，或是几匹马给炸死了，公路 上的交通便会完全阻塞。
“好，“我说。我站在车子的踏板上朝前望，可望见皮安尼的车子正开上那条小路，顺着它开去，车子在路边界树的秃枝间透露出来。博内罗跟着转了弯，接 着皮安尼在小路上直朝前开，我们就跟着前边两部救护车在有树篱的窄路上走动。这条路通到一家农舍。我们发现皮安尼和博内罗已在农家的院子里停了车。房子又 矮又长，屋前有座棚子，支起葡萄藤垂在门上。院子里有口井，皮安尼正在打水装进他的散热器。开慢车开得这么长久，弄得散热器里的水都开了。农舍里没有人。 我回头一望，这农舍原来是盖在平原上一块稍微凸起的高地上，我们望得见乡野、小路、树篱、农田和大路边的那一排树，撤退的队伍就在这大路上。那两名上士在 屋子里东张西望。女郎们已经醒来，正在望着院落、井和农舍前的那两部大救护车，三名司机正聚在井边。上士中的一个手里拿着一座时钟走出屋来。“放回去，“ 我说。他看看我，走回屋子里，出来时手里没拿时钟。“你的同伴呢？“我问。
“我们走吧，“我说。“皮安尼和我领头。“那两位工兵上士已坐在博内罗的身边。女郎们则在吃干酪和苹果。艾莫在抽烟。我们沿着那条狭窄的小道出发 了。我回头望望那两部跟着来的救护车和那幢农舍。屋子是上好的石屋，矮矮的，很牢固，井边的铁栏也极好。我们前面的道路又狭窄又泥泞，两边尽是高高的树 篱。在后边，其余的车子紧紧地跟随着我们。
As we moved out through the town it was empty in the rain and the dark except for columns of troops and guns that were going through the main street. There were many trucks too and some carts going through on other streets and converging on the main road. When we were out past the tanneries onto the main road the troops, the motor trucks, the horse-drawn carts and the guns were in one wide slow-moving column. We moved slowly but steadily in the rain, the radiator cap of our car almost against the tailboard of a truck that was loaded high, the load covered with wet canvas. Then the truck stopped. The whole column was stopped. It started again and we went a little farther, then stopped. I got out and walked ahead, going between the trucks and carts and under the wet necks of the horses. The block was farther ahead. I left the road, crossed the ditch on a footboard and walked along the field beyond the ditch. I could see the stalled column between the trees in the rain as I went forward across from it in the field. I went about a mile. The column did not move, although, on the other side beyond the stalled vehicles I could see the troops moving. I went back to the cars. This block might extend as far as Udine. Piani was asleep over the wheel. I climbed up beside him and went to sleep too. Several hours later I heard the truck ahead of us grinding into gear. I woke Piani and we started, moving a few yards, then stopping, then going on again. It was still raining.
The column stalled again in the night and did not start. I got down and went back to see Aymo and Bonello. Bonello had two sergeants of engineers on the seat of his car with him. They stiffened when I came up.
"They were left to do something to a bridge," Bonello said. "They can't find their unit so I gave them a ride."
"With the Sir Lieutenant's permission."
"With permission," I said.
"The lieutenant is an American," Bonello said. "He'll give anybody a ride."
One of the sergeants smiled. The other asked Bonello if I was an Italian from North or South America.
"He's not an Italian. He's North American English."
The sergeants were polite but did not believe it. I left them and went back to Aymo. He had two girls on the seat with him and was sitting back in the corner and smoking.
"Barto, Barto," I said. He laughed.
"Talk to them, Tenente," he said. "I can't understand them. Hey!" He put his hand on the girl's thigh and squeezed it in a friendly way. The girl drew her shawl tight around her and pushed his hand away. "Hey!" he said. "Tell the Tenente your name and what you're doing here."
The girl looked at me fiercely. The other girl kept her eyes down. The girl who looked at me said something in a dialect I could not understand a word of. She was plump and dark and looked about sixteen.
"Sorella?" I asked and pointed at the other girl.
She nodded her head and smiled.
"All right," I said and patted her knee. I felt her stiffen away when I touched her. The sister never looked up. She looked perhaps a year younger. Aymo put his hand on the elder girl's thigh and she pushed it away. He laughed at her.
"Good man," he pointed at himself. "Good man," he pointed at me. "Don't you worry." The girl looked at him fiercely. The pair of them were like two wild birds.
"What does she ride with me for if she doesn't like me?" Aymo asked. "They got right up in the car the minute I motioned to them." He turned to the girl. "Don't worry," he said. "No danger of --," using the vulgar word. "No place for --." I could see she understood the word and that was all. Her eyes looked at him very scared. She pulled the shawl tight. "Car all full," Aymo said. "No danger of ---- . No place for --." Every time he said the word the girl stiffened a little. Then sitting stiffly and looking at him she began to cry. I saw her lips working and then tears came down her plump cheeks. Her sister, not looking up, took her hand and they sat there together. The older one, who had been so fierce, began to sob.
"I guess I scared her," Aymo said. "I didn't mean to scare her."
Bartolomeo brought out his knapsack and cut off two pieces of cheese. "Here," he said. "Stop crying."
The older girl shook her head and still cried, but the younger girl took the cheese and commenced to eat. After a while the younger girl gave her sister the second piece of cheese and they both ate. The older sister still sobbed a little.
"She'll be all right after a while," Aymo said.
An idea came to him. "Virgin?" he asked the girl next to him. She nodded her head vigorously. "Virgin too?" he pointed to the sister. Both the girls nodded their heads and the elder said something in dialect.
"That's all right," Bartolomeo said. "That's all right."
Both the girls seemed cheered.
I left them sitting together with Aymo sitting back in the corner and went back to Piani's car. The column of vehicles did not move but the troops kept passing alongside. It was still raining hard and I thought some of the stops in the movement of the column might be from cars with wet wiring. More likely they were from horses or men going to sleep. Still, traffic could tie up in cities when every one was awake. It was the combination of horse and motor vehicles. They did not help each other any. The peasants' carts did not help much either. Those were a couple of fine girls with Barto. A retreat was no place for two virgins. Real virgins. Probably very religious. If there were no war we would probably all be in bed. In bed I lay me down my head. Bed and board. Stiff as a board in bed. Catherine was in bed now between two sheets, over her and under her. Which side did she sleep on? Maybe she wasn't asleep. Maybe she was lying thinking about me. Blow, blow, ye western wind. Well, it blew and it wasn't the small rain but the big rain down that rained. It rained all night. You knew it rained down that rained. Look at it. Christ, that my love were in my arms and I in my bed again. That my love Catherine. That my sweet love Catherine down might rain. Blow her again to me. Well, we were in it. Every one was caught in it and the small rain would not quiet it. "Good-night, Catherine," I said out loud. "I hope you sleep well. If it's too uncomfortable, darling, lie on the other side," I said. "I'll get you some cold water. In a little while it will be morning and then it won't be so bad. I'm sorry he makes you so uncomfortable. Try and go to sleep, sweet."
I was asleep all the time, she said. You've been talking in your sleep. Are you all right?
Are you really there?
Of course I'm here. I wouldn't go away. This doesn't make any difference between us.
You're so lovely and sweet. You wouldn't go away in the night, would you?
Of course I wouldn't go away. I'm always here. I come whenever you want me.
"--," Piani said. "They've started again."
"I was dopey," I said. I looked at my watch. It was three o'clock in the morning. I reached back behind the seat for a bottle of the barbera.
"You talked out loud," Piani said.
"I was having a dream in English," I said.
The rain was slacking and we were moving along. Before daylight we were stalled again and when it was light we were at a little rise in the ground and I saw the road of the retreat stretched out far ahead, everything stationary except for the infantry filtering through. We started to move again but seeing the rate of progress in the daylight, I knew we were going to have to get off that main road some way and go across country if we ever hoped to reach Udine.
In the night many peasants had joined the column from the roads of the country and in the column there were carts loaded with household goods; there were mirrors projecting up between mattresses, and chickens and ducks tied to carts. There was a sewing machine on the cart ahead of us in the rain. They had saved the most valuable things. On some carts the women sat huddled from the rain and others walked beside the carts keeping as close to them as they could. There were dogs now in the column, keeping under the wagons as they moved along. The road was muddy, the ditches at the side were high with water and beyond the trees that lined the road the fields looked too wet and too soggy to try to cross. I got down from the car and worked up the road a way, looking for a place where I could see ahead to find a side-road we could take across country. I knew there were many side-roads but did not want one that would lead to nothing. I could not remember them because we had always passed them bowling along in the car on the main road and they all looked much alike. Now I knew we must find one if we hoped to get through. No one knew where the Austrians were nor how things were going but I was certain that if the rain should stop and planes come over and get to work on that column that it would be all over. All that was needed was for a few men to leave their trucks or a few horses be killed to tie up completely the movement on the road.
The rain was not falling so heavily now and I thought it might clear. I went ahead along the edge of the road and when there was a small road that led off to the north between two fields with a hedge of trees on both sides, I thought that we had better take it and hurried back to the cars. I told Piani to turn off and went back to tell Bonello and Aymo.
"If it leads nowhere we can turn around and cut back in," I said.
"What about these?" Bonello asked. His two sergeants were beside him on the seat. They were unshaven but still military looking in the early morning.
"They'll be good to push," I said. I went back to Aymo and told him we were going to try it across country.
"What about my virgin family?" Aymo asked. The two girls were asleep.
"They won't be very useful," I said. "You ought to have some one that could push."
"They could go back in the car," Aymo said. "There's room in the car."
"All right if you want them," I said. "Pick up somebody with a wide back to push."
"Bersaglieri," Aymo smiled. "They have the widest backs. They measure them. How do you feel, Tenente?"
"Fine. How are you?"
"Fine. But very hungry."
"There ought to be something up that road and we will stop and eat."
"How's your leg, Tenente?"
"Fine," I said. Standing on the step and looking up ahead I could see Piani's car pulling out onto the little side-road and starting up it, his car showing through the hedge of bare branches. Bonello turned off and followed him and then Piani worked his way out and we followed the two ambulances ahead along the narrow road between hedges. It led to a farmhouse. We found Piani and Bonello stopped in the farmyard. The house was low and long with a trellis with a grape-vine over the door. There was a well in the yard and Piani was getting up water to fill his radiator. So much going in low gear had boiled it out. The farmhouse was deserted. I looked back down the road, the farmhouse was on a slight elevation above the plain, and we could see over the country, and saw the road, the hedges, the fields and the line of trees along the main road where the retreat was passing. The two sergeants were looking through the house. The girls were awake and looking at the courtyard, the well and the two big ambulances in front of the farmhouse, with three drivers at the well. One of the sergeants came out with a clock in his hand.
"Put it back," I said. He looked at me, went in the house and came back without the clock.
"Where's your partner?" I asked.
"He's gone to the latrine." He got up on the seat of the ambulance. He was afraid we would leave him.
"What about breakfast, Tenente?" Bonello asked. "We could eat something. It wouldn't take very long."
"Do you think this road going down on the other side will lead to anything?"
"All right. Let's eat." Piani and Bonello went in the house.
"Come on," Aymo said to the girls. He held his hand to help them down. The older sister shook her head. They were not going into any deserted house. They looked after us.
"They are difficult," Aymo said. We went into the farmhouse together. It was large and dark, an abandoned feeling. Bonello and Piani were in the kitchen.
"There's not much to eat," Piani said. "They've cleaned it out." Bonello sliced a big cheese on the heavy kitchen table.
"Where was the cheese?"
"In the cellar. Piani found wine too and apples."
"That's a good breakfast."
Piani was taking the wooden cork out of a big wicker-covered wine jug. He tipped it and poured a copper pan full.
"It smells all right," he said. "Find some beakers, Barto."
The two sergeants came in.
"Have some cheese, sergeants," Bonello said.
"We should go," one of the sergeants said, eating his cheese and drinking a cup of wine.
"We'll go. Don't worry," Bonello said.
"An army travels on its stomach," I said.
"What?" asked the sergeant.
"It's better to eat."
"Yes. But time is precious."
"I believe the bastards have eaten already," Piani said. The sergeants looked at him. They hated the lot of us.
"You know the road?" one of them asked me.
"No," I said. They looked at each other.
"We would do best to start," the first one said.
"We are starting," I said. I drank another cup of the red wine. It tasted very good after the cheese and apple.
"Bring the cheese," I said and went out. Bonello came out carrying the great jug of wine.
"That's too big," I said. He looked at it regretfully.
"I guess it is," he said. "Give me the canteens to fill." He filled the canteens and some of the wine ran out on the stone paving of the courtyard. Then he picked up the wine jug and put it just inside the door.
"The Austrians can find it without breaking the door down," he said.
"We'll roll." I said. "Piani and I will go ahead." The two engineers were already on the seat beside Bonello. The girls were eating cheese and apples. Aymo was smoking. We started off down the narrow road. I looked back at the two cars coming and the farmhouse. It was a fine, low, solid stone house and the ironwork of the well was very good. Ahead of us the road was narrow and muddy and there was a high hedge on either side. Behind, the cars were following closely.