Weir came along the boards to meet them. He looked happier than usual. He was wearing boots and a tunic and a soft cap. As he came closer to them, Jack noticed that some of the sandbags on the parapet had not been properly replaced from the day when the infantry had gone over them. He tried to warn Weir that he was not properly covered. Weir climbed on to the firestep to let a ration party go past and a sniper's bullet entered his head above the eye, causing trails of his brain to loop out on to the sandbags of the parados behind him. His body seemed for a moment unaware of what had happened, as though it would carry on walking. Then it fell like a puppet, its limbs shooting out, and the face smashing unprotected into mud. Word reached Stephen the next night from an intelligence officer called Mountford. He was in his dugout in the reserve line, where he was acting as liaison between headquarters and the men who would be in the second wave in the morning. Mountford delivered the news briefly. "I believe he was a friend of yours," he said. He could see from Stephen's face that there was little to be gained from staying. Stephen sat still for a minute. The last time he had seen Weir had been to push him head first on to the floor of the trench. That had been his final gesture. For some minutes he could think of nothing but Weir's hurt, reproachful expression as he picked the mud from his face. Yet he had loved him. Weir alone had made the war bearable. Weir's terror under the guns had been a conductor for his own fear, and in his innocent character Stephen had been able to mock the qualities he himself had lost. Weir had been braver by far than he was: he had lived with horror, he had known it every day, and by his strange stubbornness he had defeated it. He had not conceded one day of his service; he had died in the line of battle. Stephen rested his elbows on the rough wooden table. He felt more lonely than ever in his life before. Only Weir had been with him into the edges of reality where he had lived; only Weir had heard the noise of the sky at Thiepval. He lay on the bed, dry-eyed. Soon after three in the morning the mines went up and shook the bed where he lay. "The explosion will be felt in London," Weir had boasted. The telephone rang, and Stephen went back to the chair at the desk. Throughout the small hours of the morning he relayed messages. By nine o'clock the Second Army was on the ridge. Elation edged the voices he spoke to: something, at last, had gone right. The mines had been colossal and the infantry, using methods copied from the Canadians, had stormed through. Celebration seeped into the wires. Stephen was relieved at noon. He lay down on the bed and tried to sleep. He could hear the unrelenting bombardment continue on the German lines. He cursed his fortune that he could not go in behind it. Now, to answer Gray's hypothetical question, now he would have taken life without compunction. He envied the men who could fire down on to the hopeless enemy, men with a chance to sink bayonets into unguarded flesh, men with the opportunity to pour machine-gun bullets into those who had killed his friend. Now he would have gone killing with a light heart. He tried to think that victory on the Ridge would bring pleasure or vindication to Weir, but he could not imagine it. He was merely an absence now. Stephen thought of his puzzled, open face, its chalky skin patched red with blood vessels broken up by drink; he thought of his balding skull and shocked eyes that could not contain his innocence. He thought of the pity of the flesh gone back underground without knowledge of another human body. All that night and the next day he lay unmoving on the bed. He did not speak when Mountford came back to try to rouse him. He turned away the food that was brought to him. He cursed himself for his last act of impatience toward Weir. He hated the selfishness of his feeling, because he felt more sorry for himself than for his dead friend. He could not help it. Like all the others, he had learned to dismiss death from his thoughts; but he could not shake off the loneliness. Now that Weir was gone there was no one who could understand. He tried to make himself cry, but no tears would come to express his desolation or his love for poor mad Weir.