Dubreiel slouched in the shade of a roadside tree, his despair and pain intolerable.
The wound in his foot ached horribly, and for a moment he regretted casting his pistol into the pond the previous night. I could have at least shot myself, he thought.
But the warm May breezes were heavy with the scent of apple blossoms. They combined with melodious birdsong to soothe him, and soon the young deserter was fast asleep, softly snoring with his chin against his tunic.
For years afterward, he would try to recapture his dream beneath the tree that day, the phenomenal sense of hope and curiosity it contained.
Even half-remembered, the force of it was such that when he awoke some hours later he was, for the first time in his life, certain of what he needed to do next.
He stood and dusted off his uniform, then set out limping up the road.