But we were never lonely and never afraid when we were together. I know that the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that the things of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not then exist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started. But with Catherine there was almost no difference in the night except that it was an even better time. If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.


These musings from Chapter XXXIV, when Henry lies in bed with Catherine after their reunion in Stresa, cast a long shadow from which the couple cannot escape. Henry’s thoughts here are initially positive, focusing on how Catherine’s presence alleviates his feelings of loneliness. He stresses an important aspect of their relationship: together, they manage to overcome the great sense of fear and loneliness that they feel in the presence of other people. Henry’s rapturous thinking about Catherine, however, disconcertingly switches to a dark philosophy that maintains that the world was designed to kill the good, the gentle, and the brave—all terms that Henry has used or will use to describe Catherine. This unforced glide from contentedness into pessimism seems to reflect the inevitable inability of such positive forces as love to neutralize the grim reality of life. Indeed, from this point on, Henry and Catherine seem to be running from a force that means them harm and that, soon enough, catches up with them.