Chapter 11 Summary
That evening the priest from Henry’s mess comes to visit. He brings some presents for Henry: a mosquito net, a bottle of vermouth, and some English newspapers. Henry invites the priest to share some of the vermouth with him. The priest breaks off the cork on trying to open it and must push the cork down into the bottle. He sees this as a personal disappointment.
Henry feels awkward talking with the priest at this point, though he had enjoyed their conversations back at the mess. He notices that the priest looks very tired, which bothers him. The priest admits that he feels very low. Henry says that it must be disgust from the war. The priest admits that he is disgusted by the war, but it is not that. Henry tells him that he and Passini were talking about the war when the shell hit. The priest says that he is like the Italian officers, but he sees and feels more. He does not know who is able to stop the war. Perhaps it is hopeless.
The priest tells Henry that after the war he hopes to return to his home in Abruzzi. He wants to live there and love and serve God. Henry adds that he should be respected as well. The priest admits that he would like that, but here it is impossible. In his home country it is understood that a man may truly love God and wish to serve Him. It is not considered a joke, as it is here with the captain and the other officers. The priest asks Henry if he loves God. Henry confesses that he does not, but he is afraid of Him sometimes in the night. He does not love anyone. The priest says that what Henry has told him about love is really simply passion and lust. To love means to sacrifice and serve someone. Someday he will find a person to sacrifice for and to serve. Henry asks the priest if he has always loved God, since he has never loved a woman except his mother. The priest says that he has loved Him since he was a little boy. Henry tells the priest that he is a “fine boy.” The priest points out that even though Henry calls him “boy,” he also calls him “father.” Henry says that is mere politeness. As the priest leaves, Henry asks him to come visit again.
Henry lies in the dark, thinking of how badly the priest is treated by the other officers even though he accepts it with good grace. He thinks about how the priest would be in his own country, where young men show respect and the hunting is good. Thinking of this, Henry goes to sleep.