Chapter 23 Summary

The day arrives on which Henry is to return to the front. His train leaves at midnight so he sends the porter down to the station to hold a seat for him. It is dark, cold, and misty. He goes to a wine shop and waits inside. He sees Catherine wearing a long cape and felt hat. They walk down to the cathedral square, where they see a soldier and woman huddled together with a cape wrapped around them. Henry makes note that they are just like Catherine and him, but Catherine disagrees, stating that no one is like them. She does not say this happily. They walk around the square, stopping by a leather goods shop and looking at ski gear. They talk of going skiing some time.

Henry stops at an armourer’s shop to buy a pistol to fit in the holster he is required to wear around town. He finds one that is adequate and buys extra clips and cartridges. He feels sufficiently armed now. He notices tiny mirrors set in wood. He asks the saleswoman what they are, and she tells him that they are used to attract larks by hunters. Catherine comments on the ingenuity of the Italians.

Continuing their walk, they huddle against a wall, with Catherine’s cape wrapped around them. Henry suggests they go someplace. They go to a hotel across from the train station. Catherine, uncomfortable about showing up at a hotel without any luggage, stops to buy a nightgown. At the hotel the manager shows them to a room decorated in red plush. Catherine says she never felt like a whore before. Henry tells her that she is not a whore. She knows that she is not, but it is not nice to feel like one. Soon she says that she feels like a “good girl” again. They have dinner brought up to their room. Catherine, looking at their sumptuous food and the luxuriant furnishings, says that vice is a wonderful thing; people who go in for it have good taste about it. Drinking wine, Catherine says that such drink gave her father gout, but Henry does not have to worry about ever meeting him. She asks Henry about his father. Henry says he has only a step-father, and Catherine doesn’t have to worry about meeting him either.

Henry asks Catherine where she will have the baby. She is not sure, but she will look for the best place she can find. She tells him not to worry, that they may have several babies before the war is over. She promises to write to him often, making her letters confusing enough that they will be private from the censors. Catherine promises Henry that they will have a fine home when he gets back from the front. She hopes he will not have a major injury. Henry tells her that they have to go. Catherine tells him to go first.