The men find Robert, the horses, and the dog in the abandoned barns that he had first seen while walking to Bailleul. Major Mickle deploys his men around the barns and orders them to shoot to kill if Robert opens fire. Mickle tells Robert that he will be taken by force if he does not surrender willingly, and Robert retaliates by taking a shot at him.
Robert is clearly willing to risk his life in solidarity with the horses and dog. It is unclear at this point whether or not Robert has succumbed to madness or if he is acting out of genuine conviction. Regardless, he is committed to saving the lives of these animals, likely in an attempt to make up for the horrors that he has both witnessed and perpetuated during the war.
Mickle, believing that Robert has gone mad, decides to “dispense not only with mercy—but with reason.” Robert fires again and calls out that “we shall not be taken.” Mickle tells his men to set fire to the barn, intending to smoke Robert out. Robert, however, cannot open the doors in time, and is trapped in the inferno with the animals. He barely makes it out alive and is badly disfigured by the fire. Just before losing consciousness, he says “The dog. The dog.” The dog is never found.
This is a crucial moment in bringing the novel full-circle, as it fulfills Clausewitz’s prophetic warning in the epigraph in which he cautions against performing acts of kindness during war. Robert’s attempts to bring about justice do more harm than good, as the war crimes he has committed (killing Leather and Cassles and freeing the horses) have indirectly led to immense suffering for both him and the animals.