That night, Gene journeys to Leper's house. In retrospect, the narrator tells us that he would later in his life make this sort of journey repeatedly – in the military. He never actually got to the war, he said, since by the time he joined the enemy was retreating. The bomb would put an end to things rather quickly.
Gene knew that Leper was at home due to the not-so-cryptic "Christmas location" message in the telegram. On the way, he somehow convinces himself that Leper has escaped from spies, since he couldn't have "escaped" from the army.
When he arrives at Leper's place in Vermont, it's morning. Leper greets him and leads him into the dining room.
Leper is acting strangely, and Gene notes that the corner of his lip is curling involuntarily. He's also jumpy, quick to anger, and perpetually about to cry.
Trying for normal conversation, Gene asks how long Leper will be home on furlough before he has to go back. That's when Leper makes it clear that he's absent without leave – that he escaped from the army before they could give him a section eight, a dismissal for crazy people, in short.
Gene, thinking that this is a very different Leper than the boy who once went searching for a beaver dam, feels suddenly fearful. He lashes out (verbally) at Leper.
Then, when Leper accuses him of being "savage" and having caused Finny's accident, he lashes out physically, knocking over Leper's chair.
Leper, who we can officially consider as having a screw loose, sits on the floor laughing and crying and calling Gene a savage until his mother comes in from the other room.
Gene, horribly embarrassed, apologizes and tries to explain. When Leper invites him to stay for lunch, Gene is too shamed to leave. He stays, and eats enough of Mrs. Lepellier's food to make her happy with him, despite his having abused her mentally ill son.
After lunch, Leper and Gene take a walk together outside. Gene feels good about this, since naturalist Leper couldn't possibly be weird or psychotic outside.
Turns out, that line of reasoning isn't so correct. Leper soon starts breaking down, confessing to Gene the psychotic visions he used to have in the army. They all have to do with transformation – a man turning into a woman, a broom turning into an amputated leg, and so on.
Gene can't deal with this at all. He starts screaming at Leper to shut up, that he doesn't want to hear about it, that it has nothing to do with him. Then he runs away, back into town, away from Leper's house.