Chapter 26 Summary
As Henry looks out the door, he notices the rain has been replaced by a mist. He suggests to the priest that they continue their conversation up in his room. The priest asks Henry how he really feels. Henry insists that he is all right, only tired. The priest confesses that he is also tired, but from no cause.
Henry asks the priest his opinion of the progress of the war. The priest says that he thinks it will be over soon. He has no evidence to base this on, but it is just a feeling. He sees that people, like the major, are becoming “gentle.” The summer has been terrible, as Henry knows from personal experience. Many people have “realized” the war this summer. They are aware of the true nature of the war. The priest insists that it cannot go on much longer.
The priest tells Henry that he believes that both sides will just stop fighting. Henry cannot see how either side, especially the Austrians, will stop fighting all at once. The priest, however, sees such a change in everyone that he believes that, though unlikely, it is possible. Henry points out that the Austrians have won some crucial battles, and no one stops fighting voluntarily when they are winning.
The priest recognizes that Henry is trying to discourage him, but Henry says that he is only saying what he thinks. He says that it is only in defeat that we become Christians. The priest misunderstands, saying that the Austrians are already Christians, except for the Bosnians in the region. Henry explains that he does not mean “technically Christian” but “Christlike.” The soldiers are gentler now because they are beaten. He asks the priest how Christ would have been if Peter had rescued him (as he tried to do by cutting off a Roman soldier’s ear) in the Garden of Gethsemane. The priest says that Christ would have been the same, but Henry disagrees.
The priest has become discouraged through his conversation with Henry. He says that he will pray that something will happen. Henry says that if anything happens, it will only happen to the side of the Allies. Everyone on this side was beaten the moment they were taken away from their homes. This is why peasants have such wisdom, because they are beaten from the start. Henry says that now he has depressed himself. The priest says that he had hoped for more, for a victory, but he does not believe in victory in more. Henry says that, at the moment, the only thing he believes in is sleep because he has to get up early in the morning to go to his post. The priest wishes him good night and leaves.