When Henry arrives in Milan, he is taken to an American hospital. The ambulance drivers who carry him inside jostle his leg, causing him pain. Once inside the hospital, the harried nurse on duty, Mrs. Walker, can't give him a room because there is no doctor present to order it and she can't read the Italian note from Henry's doctor. Henry tells the drivers to bring him into a room. He falls asleep.
The American hospital is still getting its act together because America has just joined the war. Henry's experiences here with an incompetent military bureaucracy foreshadow the even more profound military incompetence he will experience through the rest of the novel.
The next day, he meets another of the nurses, the young Miss Gage, who comes to take his temperature. He also meets the hospital superintendent, Miss Van Campen, with whom he forms an immediate and mutual dislike. When Henry requests wine with his meals, she tells him he can't have any alcohol unless the doctor, who is on his way from Lake Como, prescribes it. Henry pays a porter to secretly bring him wine and the evening papers. That night, Miss Gage brings him eggnog with sherry in it, a gift from Miss Van Campen.
Miss Van Campen is the head of the military bureaucracy within the hospital. She dislikes Henry for being so independent. While sending Henry the eggnog is a gesture of kindness, it is also emasculating. Henry wants wine, not a creamy Christmas drink with a bit of alcohol. By denying him wine, she is, in a way, denying him his manhood.