Chapter 2 Summary
Colonel Lanser sets up his headquarters in the upstairs portion of the Mayor’s house. There are five men with him: Major Hunter, Captain Bentick, Captain Loft, Lieutenant Prackle, and Lieutenant Tonder.
Major Hunter is an engineer. "He was an arithmetician rather than a mathematician. None of the humor, the music, or the mysticism of higher mathematics ever entered his head."
Captain Bentick loves English culture. He vacationed in England before the war. He smokes English tobacco, reads English magazines, and keeps English dogs. He is older than most captains because he does not have the drive to move up the military ranks.
Captain Loft, on the other hand, “lived and breathed his captaincy. . . . A driving ambition forced him up through the grades.” He believes that being in the military and having a military career is the best thing a man can do, and he sees himself as a future general.
Lieutenants Prackle and Tonder were "trained in the politics of the day, believing the great new system invented by a genius [their country’s leader] so great that they never bothered to verify its results."
Prackle has a talent for drawing and dancing. Tonder is a “dark romantic,” a poet who imagines death on the battlefield.
Colonel Lanser has bitter memories of the “other war,” World War I (although it is not specifically named in the narrative), which his country lost. Because of this experience, he has a realistic idea of what war is—a violent, tragic, hateful undertaking. However, he tells himself that this time the war will be different. His men do not have this experience and therefore have an unrealistic expectation of what war is like.
Major Hunter sits at his drawing table designing a railroad siding. He orders Lieutenant Prackle to stop shaving and find the tripod for his drawing table. Captain Loft suggests that everyone should read Section X-12 in the manual because it deals with how to behave in occupied countries. He feels that the other men are not following proper occupation procedures.
When Lieutenant Prackle returns with the tripod, he sees Major Hunter’s drawing and asks him about it. Major Hunter says that it is not for the town but part of a design for his model railroad back home.
Lieutenant Prackle takes a folded picture of a girl, an actress, out his pocket. He attaches the picture to a curtain, but Captain Loft tells him to take it down because it might upset the local people.
Colonel Lanser comes into the room and tells Captain Loft to go and relieve Captain Bentick, who isn’t feeling well. Then he and the men briefly discuss Captain Loft. Colonel Lanser says he is a “born soldier” who would one day be on the General Staff.
Lieutenant Prackle tells Colonel Lanser that once the war is over, he might like to settle in the town.
Colonel Lanser tells Major Hunter that his steel will arrive tomorrow and that he...
(The entire section is 763 words.)