Meanwhile, Rivers invites Sassoon to visit the Conservative Club . At the lunch, Rivers realises it will be difficult to convince Sassoon to return to the war and does not want to force him. Later, Owen convinces Sassoon to publish his poetry in the hospital magazine The Hydra . During this time, Prior meets Sarah in town and explains why he missed their meetings. Reconciled, they take a train to the seaside and walk along the beach together, where he feels relieved, though he is distracted thinking about the plight of fellow soldiers. Caught in a storm, he and Sarah have sex while sheltering in a bush. Meanwhile, Rivers, exhausted by the taxing work of caring for the shell shocked soldiers, is ordered by his superiors to holiday for three weeks away from Craiglockhart. Rivers' departure resurrects Sassoon's feelings of abandonment when his father left him, and he realises that Rivers has taken the place of his father.
In the long passage quoted above, the reader should observe such words as “awkward,” “firm,” “unconscious,” which are recurrent adjectives connected with the quality of “maleness.” In the wonderful scene in which Jacob is seated in the railway carriage with an old woman who fears he will attack her (an erotic episode reflecting the mysteries of the sexes), we read: “She dwelt upon his mouth. The lips were shut. The eyes bent down, since he was reading. All was firm, yet youthful, indifferent, unconscious—as for knocking one down! No, no, no!” At first the woman is disturbed because Jacob is smoking (already established as an erotic act). But after she is drawn to his appearance—she seems a bit inflamed, in fact—he helps her out of the compartment: “. . . when the train drew into the station, Mr. Flanders burst open the door, and put the lady’s dressing-case out for her, saying, or rather mumbling, “Let me” very shyly: indeed he was rather clumsy about it.” Once again, awkwardness mixed with strength, clumsiness mixed with shyness, indifference and unconsciousness and eyes bent down in reading. It is this mixture of ruthlessness and unconsciousness with intelligence, of slovenliness combined with dignity, which appears in most of the “maleness” passages of the novel. Jacob’s rough hand holding the delicate dinnerware, to recall the passage quoted earlier, exemplifies a method both consistent and effective of conveying male sexuality. We see it again in the passage describing Cambridge undergraduates entering the chapel: