Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
Henry was away for two days, attending his duty near the front. As soon as he returned, he went and met Catherine. He had to wait for her in the hospital. He had carried his gun as if it were mandatory to carry one. He kept it flopping against the small of his back and almost never had to use it. When Catherine came, they went out into the garden. She blamed him for going away without notice and staying away for a long time. He replied that it was the third day since their last meeting. Catherine asked him if he loved her and he lied that he did.
She asked him to repeat the line, “I’ve come back to Catherine in the night,” and promise her not to go away again. She expressed her own deep love for him. Henry kissed her twice. He wondered if she was a little crazy. He found that it was better, coming to Catherine, rather than going every evening to the brothel house for officers. He was quite sure that he did not love Catherine, nor could he say, at that moment, that he would love her in the future. For him, love was a game; a game of wits like chess and a game of bridge, which one plays for stakes. In this case, however, nobody mentioned what the stakes were, nor did Henry care.
Meanwhile, Catherine was immersed in her own thoughts and presently, she came back from where she had been. She startled him by saying that they are both playing a dirty game, a rotten game: she was truly in love and he was only pretending. Henry asked her if she was usually so perceptive and she replied no. He kissed her again and promised her that he would visit her often and he would be very good to her. Then, she went inside the hospital and he returned to his Villa, to be again teased by Rinaldi, who said that he was thankful that he did not get involved with the English.
As the story starts taking brisk steps, the reader is made aware of the protagonist’s dilemma. He has a casual, even lackadaisical, interest both in love and in war. At this stage in the novel, he is just an average man. And Catherine also makes the reader uneasy at this juncture; she is still a puzzle. Her sudden outbursts of weeping, followed by laughing, and her “crazy” way of talking make us wonder if she is mad. She is bordering on paranoid about her beloved leaving her. She often lapses into daydreams. Emotionally, she is a frail woman and when she suffers from a physical trauma (like pregnancy), she is sure not to recover from it.