Robert panics and becomes ill over the thought of shooting the wounded horse because he has never killed a living creature. He wonders why B.S.M. Joyce, who is a much more experienced soldier, cannot do it instead. Joyce is compassionate toward Robert and leads him down to the hold in the dark, telling Robert to grab onto his suspenders like reins.
Robert’s defense of Rowena’s rabbits in Chapter 9 proved that he is sensitive and empathetic toward animals. Now, the mere thought of killing the wounded horse is traumatizing. This is the first of many experiences during the war that will gradually erode Robert’s innocence. Again, the duties that he is faced with as an officer do not live up to the glorified image he had of military service before shipping off.