Chapter 10 Summary
By the time Gene was to have become a soldier, the war would be in its closing stages, and his "chief war memory" would be traveling back and forth "through unknown parts of America" in an endless "nighttime ricochet." The first of these excursions is his trip to Leper's home in the austere, frozen landscape of upstate Vermont. The Lepellier home is not far from the nearest town, but as there are no taxis or other means of transportation there, Gene must walk the last leg of his journey. When he arrives at his destination, he finds that Leper is waiting for him, standing in one of the "long and narrow windows" that adorn the front of the house. When Gene enters the doorway, Leper beckons him to the dining room which he says, without preamble, is the place where he spends most of his time. Leper finds the dining room to be comforting, as opposed to the living room, because "you never wonder what's going to happen" there.
Gene finds that Leper's demeanor is markedly changed; he no longer exhibits "the careful politeness" and innocence that characterized him at Devon. Leper's face has a "dull expression," and there is an involuntary tic on the left side. Leper is quickly reduced to tears as he bitterly confesses that he did not receive a "pass" to come home; he has instead deserted in a desperate attempt to avoid a Section Eight discharge, which would have declared him mentally unfit for duty and stigmatized him for life. With an attitude of complete despair, Leper tells Gene that his experiences during the past weeks have forced him to admit a lot of things to himself, including the fact that Gene, whom he had always thought of as "a swell guy," is really "a savage underneath...like that time (he) knocked Finny out of that tree."
Gene reacts violently to Leper's blunt accusation, knocking the hysterical boy's chair over while he continues spewing forth damning comments about the incident, simultaneously laughing and crying with wild incoherence. Leper's mother, alerted by the uproar, comes in at this point, and Gene apologizes, saying that he had better be going, but Leper, still chuckling, asks him to stay. Too ashamed now to leave, Gene stays for lunch and, to his further embarrassment, finds that he is famished, and consumes a great deal while Leper eats "almost nothing." Mrs. Lepellier, mollified because Gene apparently likes her cooking, suggests that the boys take a walk after their meal. As they tramp across the snow-covered fields, Leper, with a tone of bitter irony , relates to Gene how military life turned out to be...
(The entire section is 677 words.)