Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
Captain Stanhope’s infantry company entered the front lines on Monday, March 18, 1918, at a time when the Allied Powers were expecting a strong German attack near St. Quentin. Lieutenant Osborne, a middle-aged officer who had been a schoolmaster in civilian life, met Lieutenant Raleigh, a new officer, when the latter arrived at the headquarters dugout. Discovering that Raleigh was an ardent hero worshiper of Captain Stanhope, who was absent at the time, Osborne tried to make the new officer realize that Stanhope’s’ three years in the lines had made a different man of him.
Raleigh could barely realize just how much his friend had changed. Stanhope had become a battle-hardened, cynical infantry officer who drank whiskey incessantly in order to keep his nerves together.
After supper that evening Stanhope confided to Osborne that he was fearful of young Raleigh’s opinion, and he declared that he meant to censor all the young officer’s mail, lest Raleigh reveal to his sister the kind of man Stanhope, her fiance, had become. Stanhope was bitter that Raleigh had landed in his company when there were so many others in France to which he might have been assigned. He was also concerned over Lieutenant Hibbert, another officer who was malingering in an effort to get sent home to England. Stanhope, who hated a quitter, resolved that Hibbert should be forced to stay.
The following morning the company prepared for the expected German attack. Stanhope sent out parties to put up a barbed wire enclosure in case neighboring units were forced to withdraw. Stanhope, having received orders to stand, meant to do so. During the morning Raleigh and Osborne had a long talk and became very friendly. After their talk Raleigh went to write a letter to his sister. When he finished, Stanhope made him hand it over for censoring. Raleigh, after some bitter words, did so. Stanhope, angry with himself for insisting, could not bring himself to read the letter. Osborne, anxious to keep harmony in the company, read it and reported to Stanhope that Raleigh had written only praise of the captain to his sister.
That afternoon word from regimental headquarters reported that the German attack was sure to occur on Thursday morning, and Stanhope hurried up preparations for the expected attack. As he finished a conference with his sergeant major, the colonel commanding the regiment stepped into...
(The entire section is 984 words.)
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