Dunstan’s memories of the war were comprised of mostly chaos and destruction. Dunstan is very meticulous when it comes to documenting history, so it’s natural that he feels frustrated that he couldn’t properly describe his experiences during the war. From 1915 to 1917, his life was spent in the Great War. It was his first time to be away from his hometown of Deptford. Despite what others have experienced, Dunstan didn’t make any lasting friends in the Second Division. Nothing was of interest to him and he did all of his duties as required, but he still misses the things that provided him pleasure.
The army feeds them with propaganda against Germans. Dunstan notices that his fellow American comrades were also practicing some of the traits that were associated with the Germans such as “lascivious behavior”. His time in France was also boring, but filled with fear because of the fact that he watched some of his comrades get maimed and killed. The only book that he carried around with him in the trenches was a small Bible. His constant readings of the book earned him the nickname “Deacon”, even if he wasn’t really religious. He managed to get rid of the nickname by doing a vaudeville rendition of Charlie Chaplin.
Because of his cool-headedness and responsibility, he gets promoted to become a sergeant. One night, he is sent out to get rid of a German machine gun nest. He manages to kill all three snipers, however, his leg gets hit with a shrapnel while he was on his way out. Dunstan lied on the ruins of a church and was already bleeding to death. He recalls Mrs. Dempster’s parting words to him about never being afraid. He looks up to see an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus but sees Mrs. Dempster’s face in place of the Blessed Virgin’s before he passes out.
He wakes up in a hospital in England with one of his legs amputated. The nurse that took care of him was beautiful, named Diana Marfleet. He discovers that he is badly burned all over his torso, with one of his arms feeling weak. Diana’s fiancé was also in the war, a Navy lieutenant who got killed during the early parts of the war. Despite Diana being older than him, Dunstant becomes interested in her because of her wittiness being well read, unlike Leola. He begins his first sexual encounter with Diana. He later learns that he was awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross because of his bravery during battle. Dunstan also earns that his parents have perished during the flu epidemic that affected Deptford in 1918. They have died without knowing that Dunstan was actually alive.
Dunstan feels a sense of relief about his parents’ deaths, knowing that he won’t have to recall any of the nightmares that he experienced. Dunstan continued to pursue his relationship with Diana, even taking the time to bond with her parents. Diana is very eager to get married, but Dunstan still isn’t ready. He thinks that her affection for him is too motherly, as she was the one who nursed him back to health and he is afraid that she might end up suffocating him like his mother did. He was to be awarded with the Victoria Cross by the King himself, but he is reluctant because of the pageantry that goes along with it. However, he comes to term with it and eventually decides that it’s better to participate.
Dunstan and Diane want different things for their future, as Dunstan knows that if he settles down now, he won’t have a bright future with her. He learns how to walk with a prosthetic leg and becomes well enough to fly back to Canada. Prior to leaving, Diana conducts an impromptu ceremony, re-christening him from “Dunstable” to “Dunstan.”
Dunstan returns to Deptford with a hero’s welcome. A huge parade commenced, with people gathering at The Opera to honor their veterans. During the pageantry, he notices a ring around Leola’s finger, realizing that Percy finally claimed her as his own. Dunstan feels relieved that he doesn’t have to deal with Leola, but gets a bit annoyed at the fact that she failed to inform him about her engagement on one of the letters that she sent to him during the war. Dunstan gives the couple hi blessing and annoys Percy by flashing him his Victoria Cross.
Dunstan pays a visit to his empty childhood home to collect some of his belongings and an undisclosed item. He decides to get his hair cut by Milo, the town barber, and catches up with gossip that he missed while he was away. Apparently, people all over town thought that his mother was the one who sent him to visit Mrs. Dempster after the incident with the hobo. His mother survived the influenza epidemic, but his father did not. Paul Dempster ran away from home and joined the circus and Mrs. Dempster was made to live with an aunt of hers in Weston, near the Toronto area. Dunstan decides to auction off his parents’ house and leaves for Toronto. He attends university and occupies himself with history and literature.
Notes: Dunstan’s transition into manhood is chronicled in this part.