What picture of the deserter's life do you get from Eb after he returns to Illinois in "Across Five Aprils"?Chapter 9
The deserter's life as described by Eb after he returns to Illinois is extremely bleak, so bleak that Eb says that he'd "give jest about anythin' if (he) could walk back to (his) old outfit and pitch into the fightin' agin". He says that "at least you got a chancet in battle - maybe it's one in a hunderd, but it's a chancet". As a deserter, however, he has absolutely nowhere to go. He is a wanted man; if he returns to his regiment he will be caught and punished to the full extent of the law, and if he goes home, he will create a terrible situation for his family, who would be bound by law to turn him in.
Eb and many other deserters like him are "livin' scared like a wild animal that's bein' hunted". He is filthy and skeletal, eating only what little he can steal or scrounge off the ravaged land. Eb has no options other that to "freeze or starve - or be ketched". He says he was "an awful fool" for running away; after a terrible battle, with another one on the horizon, he just "all at oncet...knowed (he) couldn't stand it no longer, and...jest up and left", and once he had done that, he realized that he had nowhere to go and that he could not go back. When Jethro asks him if he would go back to the Army if he could, Eb unhesitatingly replies, "You're askin' a man if he had a chancet to live, would he take it". There is no question but that Eb would gladly go back, but he doesn't believe he will ever have that opportunity (Chapter 9).