Chapter 1 Summary

The baby boy wriggles in Henry Bright’s arms. He holds a knife over a candle to sterilize it before cutting the umbilical cord and then wipes the baby clean with a damp shirt before laying him in a basket near the fire. He stands at the foot of the bed and stares at his wife’s face before leaning over and listening for the slightest breath from her lips. He finally straightens and the child begins to cry; Bright looks at the boy in the glow of slowly dying fire.

Bright paces the floor and bites his knuckle, finally picking the baby up from the basket and lifting the heavy flap from the doorway to go outside. It is twilight and, though he has spent nearly his entire life in the shadow of the ridge, he now sees it as if for the first time. Again he bites down on his scarred knuckle and then sits on the ground with his crying son. The newborn’s eyes are squinted shut but his hand is outstretched and searching until Bright places his finger there. The baby grasps it tightly, and they both sit in silence.

Soon the angel speaks from the shadow of the chestnut tree and says, “She’s gone,” and that is “how it had to be.” Bright is angry and accusatory. He did not know she was going to die; the angel said that if he did what it told him to do, they would be safe. There is nothing but silence in response, and Bright knows he will get no answer. Near them, several hens are fussing at one another and the lone goat stands on top of the hutch to be milked. He sets his son in a basket, washes his hands, and milks the goat.

When there is some milk in the bucket, Bright dips a finger and holds it to his son’s mouth, feeding him until it is dark and the boy sleeps. Inside, he takes a delicate heirloom comb and untangles his wife’s hair. He speaks to her softly before folding her hands in an attitude of prayer. He creates a crude ink and writes in the old family Bible: "Rachel Bright, 1900–1920, Wife of Harry Bright, Mother to...

(The entire section is 803 words.)

Chapter 2 Summary

The soldiers had been told that Argonne would remind them of home, but as they had moved closer to the front lines, everything green had disappeared. Now, as Henry Bright is squatting in the latrine, all he can see is one lone, white tree, stripped of its bark. He wipes himself as best as he can with a page of The Stars and Stripes before making his way back to his unit through the trenches.

One of the younger soldiers, Bert, publically chastises Bright for using the newspaper as toilet paper instead of for reading, but none of the others seem too distraught about it. The men finish burying two of their own in the wall of the trench and then wait for something—or nothing—to happen. Five hours after dark, they sit and listen to random shots fired for miles on either side of them. It begins to rain again, and the rain hits the soil in “weary, unwelcome applause.” Bright and several others finally move from the wall and put on the burlap they wear to blend in with the stark terrain around them. They climb out into the open and crawl on their bellies toward their goal.

Bright has the dynamite strapped to his back, and Sergeant Carlson has the spool of fuse strapped to his belt. They had blackened their trenching tools and bayonets over the fire so they would not shine in the darkness and reveal their position to the enemy. Their heads are bare for the same reason. They will crawl to the tree, dig some small holes at its base, unspool the fuse, and set fire to the fuse once they have safely returned to their trench.

The thirty yards takes them almost an hour to traverse. Bodies are everywhere, casualties of an earlier advance effort. After the maneuver had failed, stretcher bearers had gone into the field to collect the wounded and had been shot, leaving a jumble of bodies for the men to crawl over. Wire is everywhere and must be cut, and the terrain is covered with craters; but they finally reach the tree...

(The entire section is 573 words.)

Chapter 3 Summary

Bright saw many buildings in France burn during the War, but he is still surprised at the gust of heat which blows on him and his baby from the burning cabin. After the roof caves in, the relatively calm goat begins bleating in alarm. She tugs at her tether just as the horse rears up in fear, and Bright struggles to control both animals as he watches the flames rise into the sky. All of a sudden the fire catches on fire, and in just a moment the flames spread to the periphery of the farm, engulfing the hen hutch and moving toward his mother’s and wife’s graves.

He tries to stomp out the flames but is unable to reach them without releasing the animals. Trees begin to wither, chestnuts popping in the heat. Finally the entire tree howls into flames. Bright shouts at the angel, but the horse is twisting and pawing the ground and does not answer. Bright tugs hard on the lead and finally gets both animals into the safety of the woods to the east.

He stops at a small rise half a mile away, ties the animals up, and walks to the top. The fire has spread to surrounding trees and continues burning. Bright returns and untethers the animals, riding the acquiescent horse deep into the woods. As panicked as the horse was earlier, now it seems preternaturally calm given the alarm which is spreading through the forest. It even tries to stop and graze several times, but Bright jerks the reins sharply each time and, under his breath, curses the angel for making him start this fire.

The angel says it was Bright who started the fire, not him; he told him to set the cabin on fire, not the entire forest. Unfortunately the fire cannot be stopped now, but he tells Bright to “have heart.”Bright is concerned that the Colonel will see the smoke, and the angel assures Bright that he will see it. Bright stops in surprise and the angel says it knows everything. When the Colonel sees the smoke, he and his boys will come over the...

(The entire section is 668 words.)

Chapter 4 Summary

Once the tree is gone, the battle is rather aimless for the next few days. Random shots are taken at anything that shows above the trenches, but even those who were hit seem “bored by the tedium of the killings” and fall listlessly to the ground. At the beginning and end of each day there is still the punctual shooting, called “the hate,” but this is merely a ritual to which no one pays attention.

Bright’s company is relieved at the front and now sits in the soul basements of “eviscerated villages under the watchful eyes of old women.” They all have fleas. Finally they were moved from the basements to the reserve trenches, and Bert is now in the habit of staring blankly into space, even when shells are bursting all around him. Many soldiers have caught the flu and are coughing continually. Several men suffocate in the night due to the infection in their lungs. Going to the hospital tends to make them even sicker, and those men die of violent fevers in the cold. It is not unusual for a soldier to wake up and find the man next to him is dead. The war is now so powerful it is able to “kill without wounding.”

Bright smokes, but only occasionally. When he is moved back to the front lines, the hate is worse than usual one morning and Bright cleans and inspects his weapons in preparation for a fight. The rumors are that a nearby village was relinquished overnight, but they might be some kind of trap, a desperate attempt to change the course of the War. Many of the men believe this might be the final push and the German army is collapsing, but there has been no such word from anyone in command. The only thing that matters now is the village which is close enough that the men can see the white steeple of the church just above the hills.

Bright’s mother died in a windstorm; he buried her in the rain and then went to Fells Corner for nails to repair the cabin’s shingled roof. The hardware man had been appointed...

(The entire section is 568 words.)

Chapter 5 Summary

The next day, Bright follows the stream and hugs the range of foothills where he is not as likely to be seen. He only takes short breaks to water the horse and feed his son and does not stop until the sun is behind him. After tethering the animals, Bright unwraps his son and dunks the baby’s bottom in the stream as he had last night, and once again the boy makes a few fussy noises at the coldness of the water. When he walks out on a trunk to wash the diaper, Bright falls headfirst into the water and comes up spluttering. He reaches into his pocket to discover that the matches are ruined.

Bright just stares at them for a moment and then drops them, letting the current carry them away. He sloshes through the water and hauls himself up the steep bank until he is lying next to his son. The baby’s red wisps of hair have fallen over his forehead and his eyes are scrunched tightly, as if he is figuring a difficult math problem. His delicate features remind Bright of Rachel. Finally Bright drags himself to his feet and hangs his clothing up to dry.

When father and son return to camp, the horse snorts at seeing Bright’s pale, thin body. Ignoring the insult, Bright clears some ground on which to place his son’s blanket and lets the goat loose to forage for her dinner. He and the goat eat the same thing: berries and gnarled apples left by the birds. He has fishing line but without a fire the fish would be inedible. Perhaps another fire would have been too noticeable anyway, betraying their location to the Colonel and his sons.

Bright settles down to sleep and the horse’s humor turns to contempt. It stares out of the darkness at the naked man wrapping himself closely around his son and the son nuzzling his father’s bare chest. Though he notices the horse’s scorn, Bright says nothing and just stares at it with hate. Suddenly he sits up and asks what name the horse just called him. The horse feigns innocence, but Bright warns the horse that if it wants to call him names, it should speak loudly enough for Bright to hear them. The horse simply says Bright is mistaken.

Pulling his jacket over his child, Bright turns his back to the animal—after giving the horse a “final deathly stare.” The sounds around them are ordinary night sounds, but beneath them is the sound of a husband trying to hide his grief over the loss of his wife, the foolish destruction of his home, and the accidental wildfire he started. Bright is afraid of being discovered by the Colonel and his cruel sons during the night; as he again bites the knuckles of his fists, the bitterness of the crab apples he ate mixes with the shame of being “mocked by his own horse.”

Chapter 6 Summary

Rachel is sitting in front of Bright astride his horse as they leave the Colonel’s house behind them. It is dark, and she asks if they are really going to be married. Bright assures her they will. Hearing that, she begins to rip at the white dress she is wearing and hates; she cannot wait to get it off. He can tell by the motion of her arm that she is trying to rip the bodice of her dress, and he tries to stop her. He reminds her they are not married yet and he has nothing else for her to wear. She does not care, but he tells her she cannot get married wearing nothing and she giggles—as if Bright had not just ridden his horse right through the Colonel’s front door and stolen her from her own father. She is barely deterred,...

(The entire section is 639 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

A soldier is never supposed to run when he is advancing; instead he is to move forward at a slow, steady pace, allowing the artillery to clear the way. Unfortunately, when the ground below him is exploding, it is difficult to know just where the attacks are coming from and a soldier’s instinct is to run—sometime right into a gun barrel.

When the order is given, Bright and his fellow soldiers begin advancing, all of them screaming awful noises in fear. Bright never looks down, no matter what it feels like he is stepping on; the fields are full of dead bodies, and they can still bring a soldier to his knees. The dead are “hungry that way.” It is morning, and the white steeple is ahead of them, marking the location...

(The entire section is 491 words.)

Chapter 8 Summary

Bright is awake and tries to listen for the sounds of avenging boots; instead he is almost certain he can hear the whooshing of the forest fire, though it may just be the sound of the blood rushing in his own temples. Each time his son wakes up, Bright feeds him some goat’s milk from the tip of his finger. Bright sees the horse stir and the white goat shine in the dark; he does not fall back asleep until it is nearly dawn.

Later, Bright gathers his child and his animals and again follows the stream bubbling its enthusiastic way eastward, a stark contrast to Bright’s exhaustion and grief. Shortly after noon, in a great chasm located far below a railroad trestle, Bright discovers a group of young, naked boys who are...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Chapter 9 Summary

The Colonel looks down on Rachel’s grave. She was his only daughter, and he remains silent for a long time. Corwin, his fat son, says “that’s that” and is ready to move on; his father continues his silence. He looks at the charred remains of the cabin in which his daughter had died in childbirth, and he looks down again. Rachel’s body was untouched by the fire, and with the whiteness of her skin and the white slip she is wearing, she is luminous, especially against the charred ground around her.

Corwin repeats his statement, and finally his father speaks, He tells his son that “that is not that.” A year ago Rachel was stolen and impregnated, now she is dead and someone must pay for the insult....

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Chapter 10 Summary

It is a “mangy old horse,” but Rachel always doted on it. She brought it all kinds of treats from the forest, and when they got more difficult to find in the winter, she begged Bright to purchase corn from town so she could feed it from her hand. Sometimes he would see Rachel grooming the horse lovingly; despite her ministrations, however, the horse’s pelt grew greasy and shaggy. This, plus its malevolent stare and its protruding rib cage, made it look like a “moss-covered mule wandered in from a fairy tale.”

One morning, as he is riding the horse to town, Bright says he has no idea why Rachel spoils the horse—and the horse should not pretend that it cannot hear him because he knows it can. The horse says...

(The entire section is 786 words.)

Chapter 11 Summary

The boys get the goat off the rock, and soon Bright is riding toward town with his boy and his goat to buy some matches. Suddenly he hears the rumbling of an automobile racing toward him; it swerves to miss him and continues its journey. The gravel road changes to pavement and Bright can smell the delicious odors of food. It is a tidy town of white houses, American flags, and abundant flowers; the sounds of children playing mingle with the quiet sounds of women gossiping over their fences. It is a wonderful and prosperous town.

He tethers the horse and goat at the general merchandise store on Main Street and walks into the cool darkness of the store. As he looks for the matches, Bright hears the pleasant hum of women...

(The entire section is 633 words.)

Chapter 12 Summary

As they approach the church, the soldiers spread out and watch for any dangers which might be found in the rubble of the village buildings. Bright reaches the huge church doors first and the rest of his company gathers on either side of him. The door is old and worn and has undoubtedly been here for centuries. Sergeant Carlson gives the signal and the soldiers grab the rings and pull back on the giant doors until Bright can peer inside. It is a beautiful old church and it is empty.

Carlson gives the signal and Bright enters the sanctuary. In the brief moment before all the other soldiers join him, Bright looks up and is stunned to find himself looking directly into what seems like the glorious heavens. Under the...

(The entire section is 490 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary

The winter is hard without his mother’s rifle and with hardly any money to purchase provisions. Their food is scarce and Rachel is quite sick all winter; however, she does not miscarry. When the temperature drops low enough that the chickens stop laying eggs, Bright brings them inside where he and Rachel endure their constant clucking. The goats are able to forage a bit, but eventually they all grow thin. Bright kills the first kid and they eat every bit of the animal. Rachel improves a bit. Killing another kid allows Bright to make a hearty stew which Rachel eats for a week and gets even better. The hens are laying again now that they’re warm, and each morning the Brights find eggs all over the cabin. Rachel now gets up often...

(The entire section is 678 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary

As he reaches the top of the steeple staircase, Bright is shocked to find a horse which is hurling himself against the walls of the small chamber. Someone brought the animal up here and then cruelly tied the horse’s tail to one of the ropes connected to the bells. Bright stands still, allowing the horse to see him. When he hears others coming up the stairs, Bright waves them back down and they stop. The horse’s eyes are mad and fearful; its mouth is speckled with foam. Bright remains still and eventually the horse begins to calm. The horse stomps in a pile of dung and watches Bright to see what he will do.

Finally Bright crosses the room until he is close enough to touch the creature. The bells have ceased ringing...

(The entire section is 530 words.)

Chapter 15 Summary

Bright has a sack of rag diapers, a new box of matches, and his clean, dry son in his sling; he watches Margaret as she “glides down the street above her throng of children.” The horse says that the Future King of Heaven needs that woman. Bright says nothing. The horse speaks again, saying the Future King of Heaven needs a mother to suckle the boy or he will starve.

Finally Bright speaks, reminding the horse that he has been feeding his son faithfully since he was born. The angel insists that the boy cannot live on goat’s milk and is much too thin. Bright ignores the animal and begins walking horse and goat up Main Street. The sky is dark and sulfurous from the fire and the wind gets suddenly stronger....

(The entire section is 798 words.)

Chapter 16 Summary

The only shock Bright actually feels is the first one; after that there is a calmness, as if the entire world is under water. Finally his senses return and he begins to search through the rubble of the church for the others. The only two still alive are Bert and Carlson. Carlson has a gaping hole in his chest that has not yet begun to bleed. Bert is unhurt, though his eyes are glassy and his face is pocked with bits of plaster.

When Bright calls Bert over to help with Carlson, Bert ignores him and tells Carlson not to worry because he is doing “real good, real good,” laughing to himself as he surveys the dead bodies strewn everywhere. Bert is now convulsing in something between violent laughter and sobbing. Bright...

(The entire section is 1588 words.)

Chapter 17 Summary

Bright is left standing in the street. He knows the smile Margaret gave him was the same smile people give to children. The horse tells him he is a coward. This infuriates Bright and he demands to know why he was not given the words as the angel promised. When the horse again calls him a coward, Bright accuses it of being the coward for not staying in France. The angel did not find another church to be an angel in because it was afraid of being bombed.

Bright continues his rant, asking where the angel was when Bright was shot in the field. The horse calmly says Bright is so “blinded with fear” that he cannot see how the angel helped him then and is trying to help him now. Bright says he cannot see how the...

(The entire section is 794 words.)

Chapter 18 Summary

When Bright had to go to school in Fells Corners, his mother got a job in town; they walked to town together every day and she always carried her rifle slung across her shoulder. Bright knew to be silent as they came near the Colonel’s house. His mother would grip his hand hard, and he never got to see past the bend in the road. Bright knew that his mother used to live there until something bad happened.

When Corwin and Duncan, the Colonel’s sons, started school, all of them would often walk together, but it was not a friendly walk. His mother always placed herself between her son and these boys, and Bright could tell she did not like them. Sometimes the Colonel’s daughter, Rachel, waited for Bright and his mother...

(The entire section is 814 words.)

Chapter 19 Summary

The night Bright spends in a ditch underneath Bert’s dead body passes slowly, and Bright thinks for a long time about the girl he saw painted on the church ceiling. She seemed to be looking right at him as he walked through the doorway of the sanctuary, as if she wanted to go with him but already knew that she would not be able to do so. It was the same expression Rachel wore the last time she came to his house.

Almost two weeks after Rachel’s mother died, Rachel came to his house and he knew everything had changed. She was not the same girl with whom he walked to school every day or who had told him so confidently that they would one day be married. Now she looked as if “some giant from one of her own stories had...

(The entire section is 586 words.)

Chapter 20 Summary

Bright lies staring at the sky and at the hotel sitting in a pool of light in the middle of a dark lawn. The sounds of music, piano, and voices waft past him on the breeze. The horse finally sleeps, lying down to dream once but then getting up again. Bright feeds the baby when he cries and then rocks the boy back to sleep. Later Bright wakes up and there is only silence at the hotel as he changes his son’s diaper before feeding him once more.

On the morning Rachel’s water broke, she was doing what she always did on hot summer days—milking the goat wearing nothing, the skin on her swollen belly taut. Suddenly she was standing in the yard and calling her husband. Below her were a puddle of water and the goat; both...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Chapter 21 Summary

The Colonel and his sons are watching the boys splashing around and fishing in the water beneath the railroad trestle. As the sun begins to set, the three men come out of the trees and introduce themselves to the boys; they look at the Colonel in his tattered uniform as if he were “some kind of Confederate ghost.” While his sons stay on the bank behind him, the Colonel wades into the water up to his waist and salutes the boys who are on the far bank.

He calls to them, asking to speak to the eldest boy; the boy who had examined Bright’s uniform raises his hand. The Colonel talks conspiratorially to him, as if they are both soldiers, telling the boy that having a uniform does not make one a soldier. It is the...

(The entire section is 562 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary

After Bright is certain the Colonel’s sons have gone, he waits in the ditch with Bert’s body over him, hoping the angel will speak to him again. It does not, so Bright spends the rest of the night in stillness, Bert’s dead body stiffening above him, until it begins to grow light. He is sure he had not been dreaming when he heard the angel’s specific instructions. Perhaps it was somehow Bert’s voice, but that would not explain the voice he heard by the animal trough, warning him not to dip his canteen into the poisoned water.

Suddenly Bright hears American voices near him and cries out hoarsely that he is an American. The two soldiers roll Bert off him and ask whether Bright has been hurt; he tells them no as...

(The entire section is 666 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary

Bright falls asleep again on the hotel’s lawn, and his dreams are strange and feverish. In one of them, the Colonel’s son Duncan is still a young boy, and Bright rolls him around in a field full of muck. In dreams, all things are possible, and in this dream, the boy is weightless and Bright rolls him over and over again. It is as if Duncan is a log spinning along a river as it floats.

Each time Duncan’s face surfaces, it is frozen in a new expression. Sometimes Duncan is smirking mischievously, sometimes he is grinning widely, and sometimes his mouth is drawn into an elongated frown. Whatever the expression, though, his eyes are always “empty black holes” that bore fiercely into Bright.

Now Bright...

(The entire section is 490 words.)

Chapter 24 Summary

Henry Bright is digging a new latrine pit fifty yards away from the Red Cross tents when he hears a voice call him by name. The sound may have startled Bright, but if it did, he gives no indication of it and remains silent. The voice says his name again, and Bright sees a group of soldiers moving down the road as they change shifts. The incoming soldiers are tense and quiet; those being relieved of duty are tired but laughing loudly as they pass by.

The third time he hears his name, Bright finally responds. He says he knows who is speaking to him—the angel from the church. He continues digging as he speaks, but he stops when he hits the soggy wool of a uniform buried below. It is impossible to determine, with all the...

(The entire section is 452 words.)

Chapter 25 Summary

At the hotel fountain, Bright stands naked and screaming along with his child. Anyone looking out of the many windows of the estate would see what seemed to be a ghost as he stood in the halo of the fire burning behind him. Soon lights begin to come on, and then pajama-clad men with lanterns surround him. The men are making a lot of noise, and Bright is crying as he holds his baby toward the circle of men, as if seeking an altar of relief for his child’s pain.

A small, round woman in an apron parts the circle of men and steps slowly toward Bright and his baby. She speaks to Bright softly and slowly, as if he were a skittish horse in need of calming, before she asks him to give her the child. For an instant, Bright...

(The entire section is 481 words.)

Chapter 26 Summary

Bright is on burial patrol and the angel is nagging him to check all the pockets, seeming to know what Bright will find in them before he actually finds anything. He has found a lemon and a packet of cigarettes, and Bright asks the angel to please be quiet as he puts the lemon in his pocket and rolls a body into the giant grave he just helped dig. There is silence for a moment but then the angel speaks, telling Bright to give the cigarettes to Sergeant Matthews.

Matthews took the place of Carlson after he died in the village church explosion. When Bright finds him, Matthews is rifling through a dead man’s clothing and putting whatever he finds into his pockets before rolling the body into the mass grave. Bright offers...

(The entire section is 620 words.)

Chapter 27 Summary

Bright feels the cool, damp rags on his face and knows he is being carried in someone’s arms. Suddenly he is convinced that he is about to be thrown into a grave and begins kicking and twisting in protest. A young woman tries to calm him, telling him everything is all right and that they are taking him to a more comfortable place. The arms continue to hold him close and Bright grows still.

He is carried up some stairs and through a doorway, and realizes he is being carried across a stone walkway. The rags slip aside and he sees the man who is carrying him; above them both is a dome of beautiful blue sky. There is no mustard gas, no angel, no cherubs, no dying saints, no beautiful young girl, and no judge. It is simply...

(The entire section is 707 words.)

Chapter 28 Summary

The armistice ending the war is supposed to be signed at eleven o’clock that morning, and all fighting is supposed to stop after the signing; however, the artillery fire begins at dawn as usual and Bright finds himself running through a field filled with smoke one last time. It is then that a hand reaches up and grabs him as he runs by; it holds him tightly around the ankle and Bright does what he had promised himself he would never do: he looks down.

A man is looking up into his eyes, and the angel says his name, Henry Bright. Just then, a bullet hits Bright in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. Sometime later, the war ends, but none of the dead rises from the ground. Bright cannot get up either, and he...

(The entire section is 474 words.)

Chapter 29 Summary

Outside the general merchandise store, the Colonel sees a lady working alone. He runs his fingers through his thinning gray hair and straightens his uniform before entering and asking for some bullets. Now the half a box of bullets the lady counted out is sitting on the counter and he is explaining that he is just a bit short of the purchase price.

The Colonel has been standing in front of the counter and puzzling over the coins in his palm, and finally the woman says that he should probably just buy fewer bullets. He does not respond (though he does criticize her under his breath for using contractions) and the woman gets impatient, reasoning that his rifle can hold only a few bullets anyway. There is a bowl of sugar...

(The entire section is 793 words.)

Chapter 30 Summary

Bright lies on the battlefield with his wounded shoulder until he is eventually discovered and taken to a Red Cross tent. He hears the noisy marching bands on the camp roads at all hours, but the tent he is in is dreary and still. He sleeps but is occasionally awakened by the screams of others; then the nurse gives him something for the pain. He sleeps, eats the soup that is spooned to him, and sleeps some more. He hears voices and other commotion outside the tent at times; then it grows dark and Bright lies on his bed and cries out to the angel.

He is in the Red Cross tent so long that Bright thinks he might be one of the last to leave the war. He gets up but is forced to lie back down. When he gets up again, he is put...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

Chapter 31 Summary

In the morning, the Colonel’s sons are a “travesty to look upon.” They are bloody, bruised, and dirty. After untying them, the Colonel walks into the forest and stands on a small rise. He ignores the approaching fire and his eyes are drawn to the spectacular white hotel below him. It is at least four hundred feet long and has tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a large white barn.

The Colonel returns to his sons and announces he is going to the hotel to ask for Bright. Corwin is throwing small rocks at his brother’s back as Duncan stares fixedly at the sunlight glaring on the train rails. Their father tells them to look for Bright’s horse while he looks for Bright and the boy; they are not to harm the horse if...

(The entire section is 588 words.)

Chapter 32 Summary

For the next few days after arriving home from the war, Bright continues to make steady progress on repairing the cabin and land. He clears the garden of weeds and discovers a bushel of tiny carrots before covering the roof with the tar paper he bought in town. Next he repairs the bad shingles on the cabin’s roof. Bright takes everything out of the cabin and puts it all in the yard: an enameled wash basin, a clothes trunk, a mahogany credenza, a decaying family Bible, and a bed.

After sweeping out the interior of the small building, Bright scrubs the floorboards in an attempt to work the deepest dirt out of them. When he finishes his task, he strips off his clothes and washes in the stream. He shaves and then puts on...

(The entire section is 404 words.)

Chapter 33 Summary

When the Colonel arrives back at the train tracks near the coal depot where he and his sons spent the night, he finds Corwin and Duncan squatting in front of a fire and gnawing at an unplucked chicken carcass. He looks closely at his boys. Corwin simply glances blankly up at his father before returning to his chicken; Duncan accepts the Colonel’s stare into his “bottomless black eyes.” After a moment, the old man turns his gaze back to Corwin and demands a report.

His mouth full, Corwin tells his father that they found a chicken; the Colonel says that is obvious and wonders where they found it. Corwin explains that there are lots of chickens in the white barn if his father would like to go get one for himself. The...

(The entire section is 492 words.)

Chapter 34 Summary

Light is covering the room when Bright wakes up again. He is not alone. One of the young women who had talked with the Colonel earlier is sitting in a chair near him. She hops up cheerfully and introduces herself to Bright, telling him amusedly that he talks in his sleep but that his secrets are safe with her. Her name is Amelia and she asks his name. Bright tells her and asks for his son.

Amelia chats on about herself and the men in her life until she finally gets around to telling him about the boy. She will be leaving soon to avoid the fire, but part of her wishes she could stay here and help fight the flames. His son is being cared for by one of the cooks, she tells him, and the boy is likely to break some hearts...

(The entire section is 552 words.)

Chapter 35 Summary

The fire pushed everyone from the countryside into town. The refugees arrive with all their belongings in their arms or strapped to livestock; the infirm are riding horses and the mules and oxen are dragging carts behind them. A few arrive in cars. All of them arrive to find a prosperous town “coming apart at its seams.”

Frightened children peek out of their screen doors and men are soaking their lawns and roofs with water, hoping the fire will find nothing to burn. Women are piling their most precious belongings in the street; they are torn as they have to decide what can be taken and what will be left behind to burn.

The new arrivals are able to confirm the rumors that Fells Corners is gone, consumed...

(The entire section is 447 words.)

Chapter 36 Summary

Everyone in the auction hall gasps when the auctioneer holds up Bert’s stolen German pistol. The bidding is high but eventually a doctor from Lewisburg buys it. Bright buys a black horse with the money. It is about twenty years old with decent teeth, freshly shod hooves, and a slightly bowed back. That night Bright sleeps soundly in the old hardware store man’s barn. Bright has a full stomach and shares his lodgings with his four chickens, two goats, and horse.

Bright and his animal entourage leave the next morning in the rain. He ties the chicken crates to the horse’s back and ties the goats behind the horse as they head homeward. The goats are troublemakers, and the horse seems to be bored or stupid—or...

(The entire section is 789 words.)

Chapter 37 Summary

Along with an old man, two elderly women, some young couples, and some children and dogs, the Colonel and his two sons follow Dennis into the hotel. They walk along a basement hallway until they arrive at a large concrete room. Dennis flips a switch and light hums through the room in which are rows of mattresses lined up on the stone floor. One of the women begins coughing, and after Dennis leaves Duncan goes straight to a bed in the far corner of the room, putting a thin pillow over his head to block out the noise. The Colonel sinks to the floor against a wall and pulls his hat over his eyes so he can think.

The Colonel is disappointed that his uniform did not put him on better terms with the cook. He had assumed that...

(The entire section is 726 words.)

Chapter 38 Summary

It is roughly noon before Bright feels strong enough to get out of bed. His uniform is sitting on a chair, cleaned and pressed, ready for him to wear. On top of the pile of his clean underclothes is the ivory comb. The bullet hole in the shoulder of his jacket has been neatly repaired. Bright smells his sleeve as he puts his shirt on; he remembers the scent of lemons.

Bright dresses rather gingerly and examines the ancient comb for cracks. He hears a knock and, before he can answer the door, Amelia walks in and starts talking to him in her chatty way. Together they watch the approaching fire for a few moments; the sky is much too dark for this time of day and waves of heat ripple outside the window. Amelia tells him...

(The entire section is 645 words.)

Chapter 39 Summary

The Colonel finds Brigid in the cool, dark pantry full of food and cooking utensils and taps his rifle butt on the floor to get her attention. When she turns around, the Colonel sees the child in its sling, snuggled against her chest. He asks her about getting a room on the top floor, but the girl is mesmerized into silence by the rifle in his hand. She tries to walk out of the pantry, but the Colonel refuses to step aside. She gulps in fear and asks him to please let her leave. He apologizes for the trouble the fire has caused. He speaks softly, and as he speaks he enters the pantry and shuts the door behind him.

Brigid looks at the row of knives on the wall, knowing the old man saw her look. She could have reached out...

(The entire section is 797 words.)

Chapter 40 Summary

The night he retrieved his goat from the Colonel’s sons, Bright cooks the few eggs he had brought home with him from Fells Corner. The hens have settled into their hutch and the goats are nestled in a patch of bracken fern. Bright stands in the doorway of his cabin and looks off toward the ridge, trying to see Rachel once more. As he stoops to wash his dishes in the stream, he hears a voice call his name.

Bright does not move and the voice speaks his name again, telling him not to be afraid for it has found him. He feels the sigh on the back of his neck and senses the heat of the angel’s nearness but does not speak. He simply continues washing his dishes as if he were alone as always. Finally he looks up and into...

(The entire section is 775 words.)

Chapter 41 Summary

Bright stands alone at his window after Amelia leaves. He holds the antique comb up to the dim, smoky light once again and discovers the tiny crack running darkly up one of the finely carved white tines. There is a woman carved into the base of the comb, and she seems to be glaring accusingly at him for this flaw. He holds the woman’s face up closer to the window, but the fire has turned the sky the color of engraver’s ink. The only real illumination comes from the flaming treetops burning brightly at the edge of the lawn.

He brings the woman’s tiny face very close to his own and tries to read her expression. As he does so, the tines catch the image of a figure running jerkily toward the barn. The figure is...

(The entire section is 206 words.)

Chapter 42 Summary

The hotel is in chaos, and Bright weaves and jostles his way through the people, animals, and belongings which are everywhere before running toward the barn which is about to be devoured by the fire.

Outside it feels like the “outskirts of war.” He hears shouting and discovers it is him, screaming as he always did when he was charging into battle. Suddenly he is at the edge of the lawn and the heat and noise is almost unbearable. A man’s dead body is lying in the entryway of the barn, his neck a lattice of cuts and his eyes open wide in animal terror.

Even in the heat, a cold wave of fear rises in Bright’s chest; he turns quickly, sure Corwin and Duncan must be behind him. They are not. When he turns...

(The entire section is 934 words.)