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The town of Gorizia looked deserted except for the long column of troops and guns moving through it. It was raining ceaselessly. Many trucks and carts were also moving along the main road. There was a block on the road and the traffic had stopped moving. Two engineers were sitting in the car beside Bovello. If Henry would let them, they could ride with them since they had been separated from their own unit. Henry gave his permission. In Aymo’s car were two girls who looked fiercely at anyone who came near them. They were crying and they said they were virgins. Aymo and the other men had to keep their distance from them because of it. A retreat was no place for two virgins who were probably very religious. He wondered what Catherine might be doing then. Probably she was asleep, even if she was uncomfortable with the advancing stage of pregnancy. Henry was extremely concerned for Catherine and he thought that he was going to have a son.
Their progress was often stalled because of more and more peasants joining the column of the retreat. The rate of progress in daylight was very slow, and Henry decided that they should find a side road or go cross-country if they ever hoped to reach Udine. The peasants had saved whatever they could--mirrors, sewing machines, chickens, and ducks--and had them piled up on the carts. Henry surveyed the place a little and found that a small road led off to the north between two fields with a hedge of trees on both sides. He informed Aymo, Piani, and Bonello of the plan. Aymo said that he couldn’t leave his “virgin family” behind. The virgins and the sergeants could come with them because, if the cars were stuck in the mud, they could push them. As they traveled on the side road, they saw a deserted farmhouse. They found some cheese, apples, and wine, which served as breakfast. Henry pointed out to the sergeant that an army traveled on its stomach, meaning they moved slowly. The sergeant countered that time was more precious. Then, they continued with their journey.
Henry does not consider the fact that the women may be lying about their virginity out of fear of being raped by him or the other soldiers because, as a soldier, rape is not a fear of his; it is not something he has to think about. Similarly, he assumes the Catherine is comfortable in her late pregnancy, not throwing up and miserable. Hemingway complained vehemently about Willa Cather writing about World War I in One of Ours, a novel which is much more graphic and anti-war than this, because she was a woman and did not know anything about war (her brother, who fought in the war, was the model for her protagonist); Cather responded to Hemingway that if he can write about pregnant women and childbirth, she can write about war.
The gloomy aspects of war are described nicely: a retreat is much better than advance. A note of pathos is struck when the peasants, leaving their homes behind, try to salvage, pathetically, little tidbits. War involves the displacement of normal people who are not directly connected to it.
Henry reveals a surprising side to his nature. He can make decisions, give orders, and see to it that they are implemented. He is an officer and a gentleman, and a friend to his subordinates. He is becoming the Hemingway hero, who is a gentleman among soldiers, but is also highly disrespectful of women.