In order to relive and evaluate his experiences of the summer of 1942, Gene Forrester returns as an adult to Devon School. As he travels back in memory, he comes to realize that Phineas was truly the bon vivant and not possessive any of the pettiness common to others; the war between them was only one of Gene's mistaken perception.
Perhaps, the reader could create an alterate ending by taking Gene's statement of Chapter 1, "I must have made my escape from it," prove untrue. That is, instead of Gene's quiet and pensive passing through the years and reaching his conclusion in a meditative manner, Gene could encounter Brinker somewhere on the campus. Then Brinker, who still regrets that his mock trial did not succeed in convicting Gene and punishing him, takes advantage of the opportunity and strong-arms Gene to the infamous tree where some new students are on the limb talking of the legendary athlete Phineas. They join in with Brinker as a retrial; Gene is found guilty and forced to jump off the tree limb by the new recruits under the direction of Brinker. This time, the older Gene slips and injures himself. (Or he could die, also)