Robert and Levitt oversee the men who are fighting in trenches with mortars. The fighting has been continuous for the past week, devastating the trenches and leaving the troops exhausted. On a clear day, Robert and Levitt can see the German lines from the Observation Post, and Robert feels that being able to observe the enemy in greater detail gives the war more meaning and importance.
In addition to the new weaponry of World War I, the trench style of warfare also caused mass casualties, as many men caught diseases or drowned during long stints in these trenches. Despite the grim reality he is witnessing, Robert feels pride in his role as a soldier, experiencing a renewed sense of purpose as he is able to put a face to the elusive enemy forces.
Robert and Levitt relieve two other men, Devlin and Bonnycastle, from their position in the dugout. Devlin, who dreams of owning an antique shop, shows them the valuable pieces he has been collecting from houses along the warpath. Levitt points out a toad housed in a small cage in the corner of the dugout and Bonnycastle tells him that it belongs to a visiting soldier named Rodwell who saves injured animals like birds, rabbits, and hedgehogs and keeps them under his bed. Seeing these animals reminds Robert of Rowena and her rabbits.
Both Devlin’s antique collection and Rodwell’s makeshift menagerie of animals reflect a deeply-rooted desire among soldiers to preserve innocence and beauty of life in the midst of war. Rodwell’s compassion toward animals implies that he will likely be a kindred spirit of Robert, who has felt a deep connection with Rowena’s rabbits, the coyote on the prairie, and the injured horse on the S.S. Massanabie.
Changing the subject, Robert empties his knapsack full of food and cigarettes to share with the other men. Devlin and Bonnycastle are delighted. They ask Levitt what he has in his sack, teasing him when they find out it is full of books. Levitt tells them he brought Clausewitz on War because “someone has to know what he’s doing.”
While most soldiers are eager to find simple pleasures and distractions from the stress their duties, Levitt (much like Clifford Purchas) is unrelentingly serious about the war. His interest in Clausewitz on War parallels Findley’s reference to Clausewitz at the beginning of the novel and foreshadows that the other men’s mockery of his reading may come back to haunt them, just as the quote in the epigraph proved true for Robert.