There are four tones, each claiming one of the four sections of O'Connor's short story: contentment, disillusion, tension, and regret.
Section 1 finds Bonaparte, the Irish Rebel and narrator in a jovial mood with his "prisoners," two Englishmen named Belcher and Hawkins. So genial are the three, (as well as the other Irish Rebel, Noble), that Bonaparte wonders "what the hell we wanted guarding them at all for" and "What use are these fellows to us?"
He soon discovers that the Englishmen are not prisoners, but hostages. Donovan, the lead officer says, "The enemy have prisoners belonging to us and now they're talking of shooting them. If they shoot our prisoners, we'll shoot theirs...what else did you think we were keeping them for?" (Section II).
Despite his objections, Bonaparte leads his friends away. Now aware of their fate, the Englishmen beg, "What had he done to use? Weren't we all chums?" (Section III).
Donovan shoots Hawkins but he does not immediately die. Belcher ties a handkerchief around his own eyes; too small, he accepts another from Bonaparte, who shoots him.
Section IV closes with Bonaparte's nauseating sense of betrayal and guilt. "I was very small and very lost and lonely like a child astray in the snow. And anything that happened to me afterwards, I never felt the same about again."