During the fall in Milan, a group of young men, all recovering from war injuries, met every afternoon at a hospital. They used machines designed to help them regain the use of their limbs. Among them was an American, who had received medals for his service, and a major, who had been a great fencer before the war.
The major did not believe in the machines, but he attended the sessions regularly.
One day, the major asked the American about his plans after the war and advised him not to marry.
He cannot marry. He cannot marry, he said angrily. If he is to lose everything, he should not place himself in a position to lose that.
The major became very emotional and left the room to make a phone call. When he returned, he apologized to the American, explaining that his wife had just died.
I am so sorry, he said, and patted me on the shoulder with his good hand. My wife has just died. You must forgive me.
The major was unable to resign himself to her death and cried openly.
After a few days, the major returned to the hospital, now wearing a black band on his sleeve to signify mourning. The doctor had put up photographs of patients who had been successfully treated by the machines, but the major remained skeptical and continued to look out the window during his sessions.