Chapter 7 Summary
Lieutenant Henry makes a visit to the first mountain post, where the wounded are sorted by nationality and sent to their respective hospitals. He sees a regiment go by, hot and sweating, obviously fatigued from the march. The common soldiers are not as well outfitted as the officers are. There are stragglers who cannot keep up with their platoons. Henry approaches one soldier, whom he thinks has a wounded leg. Instead, the soldier has a hernia and says that he lost his truss. Henry offers to take him back to his regiment for medical attention, but the soldier states that the officers will say he lost his truss on purpose. Henry learns that the soldier has been in the United States, in Pittsburgh. He now thinks the war is “rotten.” He is afraid the captain doctor will discover that he did indeed lose the truss intentionally so that he would not be sent back to the front. If he is returned to his regiment, he will undergo an operation to fix his hernia and then be sent back, something he desperately does not want to happen. Henry offers to take him to a different hospital if he stays on the road, falls down, and pretends to bump his head. The soldier agrees as Henry goes on to deliver the wounded soldiers in his ambulance to hospitals. When he returns, he sees that the soldier with the hernia had done what he asked but is being picked up by another ambulance, most likely to be returned to his own outfit and thus, eventually, to the front.
When Henry returns to his rooms, he decides to send postcards back home to let them know that he is well. He does not feel like writing an entire letter, and he feels the postcards will serve the purpose. He wishes the war were over. He believes that the French army is about through. The Austrians keep holding out, and there seems to be no headway for either side. He fantasizes that Catherine Barkley would pretend that he is her dead fiancé, and the two would go up to a hotel room and make love.
He decides to eat at the mess hall first, but the others drag him into to more drinking that he had wanted. Rocca, one of the officers, tells a story of a corrupt priest. The company priest listens patiently with little comment. It is late, and Henry struggles to stand up to go see Catherine. Rinaldi warns him that he had better not see her in his semi-drunk condition, but he gives Henry some coffee beans to chew to cover the alcohol on his breath.
When Henry arrives at the British hospital, he learns from Miss Ferguson that Catherine is not well and that he cannot see her. He asks Miss Ferguson if he should bother trying to see her the next day. Miss Ferguson assures him that he may. Henry goes home feeling disappointed, lonely, and hollow.