That night, Trotter, Stanhope, and Hibbert enjoy the fresh chicken, the bottles of champagne, and the cigars brought in by the higher-ups to celebrate the completed raid. They each get drunk and talk about women, telling jokes and even looking at suggestive pictures Hibbert carries at all times. Before long, Stanhope brings out a bottle of whiskey, pouring it out for his fellow officers. As he does this, Trotter says he’ll finish his whiskey and then go relieve Raleigh, wondering aloud why the boy never came down to eat with them. “That lad’s too keen on his ‘duty,’” Hibbert says. “He told me he liked being up there with the men better than down here with us.” Stanhope can’t believe his ears, seemingly indignant to hear such an insult. Trotter, for his part, says, “I reckon that raid shook ’im up more’n we thought.”
The fact that Stanhope parties in great excess on the very same night that his friend has died comes as no surprise, since the audience has seen that this is how he deals with hardship. Indeed, rather than facing his emotions, he drowns them with champagne and whiskey. However, he can’t quite stomach the idea that Raleigh doesn’t want to eat with them, perhaps because Raleigh’s refusal to indulge makes him feel guilty for not mourning Osborne in a more appropriate manner.
Talking about the raid works Stanhope into anger, so he tells his officers to go to bed. However, Hibbert is so drunk he doesn’t recognize Stanhope’s indignation, instead cheekily suggesting that Stanhope should go to bed. “Clear out of here!” Stanhope shouts, and Hibbert stumbles to the sleeping quarters, leaving Stanhope with Trotter, who is preparing to relieve Raleigh. Once alone, Stanhope tells Mason to bring Raleigh’s supper, but when Raleigh finally arrives, the young officer admits he has already eaten with the other soldiers. “You eat the men’s rations when there’s barely enough for each man?” Stanhope asks. “They asked me to share,” Raleigh says, and this comment sparks an argument about whether or not it’s appropriate for Raleigh to eat with his men.
The argument that Stanhope and Raleigh have in this scene calls upon the tension that has been lurking between them since Raleigh first arrived in the dugout. Although there have been several moments of friendliness between them, for the most part it’s clear that Stanhope has never gotten over his resentment of the fact that Raleigh found his way into his company. By finally allowing their tension to come to a head, Sherriff demonstrates the complex nature of friendship, confirming once more that relationships often undergo difficult transformations when they are brought into new contexts.
“You insulted Trotter and Hibbert by not coming,” Stanhope tells Raleigh. After a moment of silence, Raleigh says, “I’m awfully sorry, Dennis, if—if I annoyed you by coming to your company.” He then accuses Stanhope of resenting his presence. Stanhope brushes this off and tells Raleigh to eat his dinner before it goes cold. “Good God!” Raleigh finally erupts. “Don’t’ you understand? How can I sit down and eat that—when—when Osborne’s lying—out there—” Stanhope stands up when he hears this, and his next words are broken by labored breathing. “My God!” he shouts. “You bloody little swine! You think I don’t care—you think you’re the only soul that cares!” In response, Raleigh points out that Stanhope is down here drinking and feasting, but Stanhope interrupts him, saying, “To forget! You think there’s no limit to what a man can bear?”
Finally, Stanhope reveals to Raleigh why he acts the way he acts: to ignore his demons. Whereas Raleigh may have thought Stanhope is a callous man content to have a grand party the very night his friend has died, in this moment he learns that this is simply the only way Stanhope knows how to cope with hardship. Indeed, Stanhope admits that there is a “limit to what a man can bear,” and it’s clear that he himself has found that limit. In order to go on, it seems, he has to drink himself into oblivion.
Realizing the effect of his words on Stanhope, Raleigh apologizes, saying, “I’m awfully sorry, Dennis—I—I didn’t understand.” Stanhope makes no reply, so Raleigh tries again. “You don’t know how—I—” he says, but Stanhope cuts him off by asking him to go away. “Can’t I—” Raleigh begins. “Oh, get out!” shouts Stanhope. “For God’s sake, get out!”
In this moment, Raleigh clearly wants to have an open conversation with Stanhope. When he tries to talk, though, Stanhope cuts him off. Nonetheless, it’s evident that he wants to have a frank talk about the grief of losing Osborne. After all, both he and Stanhope feel this grief, so they should be able to commiserate. Unfortunately, though, Stanhope remains unable to do this, opting instead to numb himself to the pain. As such, he isolates himself from the last true friendship he has available to him.