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Cold Mountain

Charles Frazier

the color of despair; verbs, all of them tiring

the ground beneath her hands

the color of despair; verbs, all of them tiring, page 2

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Summary: the color of despair

Inman has been marching for days but is still near the hospital. He has dealt with the perils of bad weather, vicious dogs, and the threat of the Home Guard. Three men set upon Inman when he stops at a crossroads settlement to buy provisions. Inman steals a smith’s scythe and beats all three before escaping into the woods. He chants the words of a spell Swimmer taught him. The words remind him of Monroe’s sermon on Emerson and his discussion of why man was born to die. Inman heard that sermon the day he met Ada.

Inman remembers how he saw Ada in church and how he longed to touch the groove of her neck exposed by her hairstyle. A group of bachelors hung around after the service daring each other to talk to her. Finally, Inman persuaded Sally Swanger to introduce him. Their conversation was brief and awkward, although Inman surprised Ada by correctly constructing a simile.

Inman moves out of the pinewoods and follows the river. He thinks about becoming a hermit and living with Ada in the mountains to ward off despair. Inman reaches a ferry crossing and shouts across. A figure appears and uses a canoe to reach Inman. The rower is a young dark-haired girl who identifies the river as the “mighty” Cape Fear. Inman agrees to pay her twenty dollars for his ride, although the sign says five, because she is saving up to buy a horse and saddle on which to ride away. While they are paddling upstream, the three townsmen appear with several other men and start shooting at Inman. Inman and the girl jump into the river and use the sinking canoe for shelter and flow downstream, avoiding the men, who cannot see them in the dark. When they reach the riverbank, Inman pays for the damaged canoe, and the girl gives him directions to roads heading west.

Summary: verbs, all of them tiring

Ruby goes home to gather her belongings. She returns to Black Cove and makes an inventory of what needs to be done. Ruby decides that she and Ada will raise pigs, sell cider, and grow tobacco, among other things. She is pleased that Ada has no money since she distrusts it and is used to bartering goods. Ruby instructs Ada to choose either a piano or a cabriolet as an inessential item to be sold in order to support them through the winter. Ada chooses to barter the piano. Ruby barters it to a townsperson, Old Jones, for a sow, sheep, cabbages, and other goods. Watching it leave, Ada is reminded of a party Monroe threw the last Christmas before the war.

Inman arrived late the night of the party. Ada was shocked to find him drying the rain off his clothes in the kitchen. She had drunk too much champagne and found herself sitting in his lap. They did not talk much, but Ada remembers his damp wool smell and her feeling of contentment before she returned to play the piano in the parlor.

Ada rouses herself to search the basement for champagne. Instead of wine, she finds a sack of green coffee beans. The women stay up all night drinking coffee and talking. The next day Ruby barters the beans for chickens, vegetables, and salt. Ruby reiterates that she does not want to be treated like a servant and encourages Ada to share the work. The women settle into a domestic routine. In the evenings, Ada reads Greek tales out loud to instruct Ruby, beginning with Homer.

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