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As he approached his regiment, the young soldier worried that he was about to face hostility and ridicule. He thought briefly about trying to hide, but he was too hungry and tired. It turned out that he needn't have worried. The sentry-the loud soldier, Wilson-who had given Henry up for dead, was delighted to see him. The young soldier hurriedly concocted a story about where he had been. He said that he'd been separated from the regiment and had been fighting on the right, where he had been shot in the head.
Wilson called the corporal, Simpson, to take care of Henry. Simpson examined
his head in the firelight, running his fingers through Henry's hair until
"his fingers came in contact with the splashed blood and the rare
wound." He concluded that Henry had been grazed by a cannonball but
not seriously hurt. The wound was no longer bleeding, he found, and "It's
raised a queer lump jest as if some feller had lammed yeh on th' head
with a club." Simpson doesn't know how right he is!
When Simpson leaves him, promising to send Wilson over, Henry looks around. Soldiers are scattered all over, "lying deathlike in slumber." Across the fire, the young soldier notices an officer asleep with his back against a tree. The overhanging trees make the spot appear like a "low-arched hall," and through them Henry can see stars.
The description of the regiment's camp echoes the forest depicted in Chapter 7. There, hiding from his shame, the young soldier entered a cathedral-like space streaming with sunlight. In the forest cathedral he had seen the decaying soldier propped up against a tree. Here the description is similar, but the mood is very different. The forest where the regiment is camped resembles a "low-arched hall," and the light comes from the stars. Staring across at the young soldier is another man propped up against a tree, but he is only sleeping. And the other soldiers strewn around the fire, "lying deathlike," are similarly asleep. Does this suggest that the young soldier encountered horror when he was running away, but that when he returns to his responsibilities the scene is drained of horror?
The young soldier is welcomed warmly back into the fellowship of the regiment; Wilson treats him extremely kindly. (More kindly, in fact, than is consistent with his character as we have seen it in earlier chapters.) But what does it mean that the young soldier, as he falls asleep, is "like his comrades"? He is like them because he is sleeping wrapped in a blanket, but does Crane mean that he is now one of them again, as brave as they are? After all, we know, even if Wilson and Simpson don't, how Henry was separated from the regiment, and how he was wounded. Does that no longer matter? Or is Crane, in this sentence, being ironic?