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The next morning, when the narrator awoke, he heard the sounds of an artillery battery fired twice. He assumed that the enemy was firing directly over them, though he could not actually see the guns. He then decided to go out and attend to his duties. He saw ten ambulances lined up side-by-side and mechanics trying to repair one of them. He had imagined that the smooth functioning of removing the wounded and sick from the dressing stations, hauling them back from the mountains to the clearing station, and then sending them to hospitals, depended on him.
Evidently, it did not matter whether he was there or not; things were as they were before. His absence, the narrator felt, did not make any difference to the state of affairs. That day, he visited the posts in the mountains and was back in town late in the afternoon. He realized that a fresh attack was to be launched soon.
When he went up to the room, he found Rinaldi sitting on the bed with a copy of Hugo’s English grammar. He was dressed to go out and asked the narrator to accompany him on his visit to Miss Barkley. They had a drink and set out to the British hospital where she worked. When they reached the hospital, they saw Miss Barkley and another nurse in the garden. Miss Barkley thought it was odd for an American to be in the Italian army. He corrected her, saying that he was in the ambulance corps. He observed that she was quite tall in her nurse’s uniform, was blonde, and had a tawny skin and gray eyes; in short, she was very beautiful. She informed him, during the course of the conversation, that she had once been engaged to a man who had been killed on the Somme. Rinaldi meanwhile was talking to the other nurse, Miss Ferguson. Miss Barkley had started studying nursing, hoping that her fiancé would come into the hospital with a minor but romantic, “picturesque” wound, where she would nurse him back to health. Unfortunately, that was not to be, and he was torn to bits in the battle. She asked the narrator how long the war would last. He replied that it would end soon. When they walked back to the house, Rinaldi remarked that Miss Barkley seemed to prefer Henry to himself although he had found Miss Ferguson nice.
In this chapter, we are introduced to the heroine, Miss Barkley. Her reference to her dead fiancé strikes a pathetic note here. We come to know that she does not really understand the full extent and gruesome nature of battle.