Ada and Ruby lay fencerows with Ada’s horse, Ralph. The horse is nervous, so Ruby blows into his nose to calm him down. Ada and Ruby find an old trap and set it to catch whomever has been stealing corn from the crib. Ruby leaves to trade goods with Esco, while Ada makes a scarecrow. She fashions its clothing out of the mauve dress she wore at her last Charleston party and uses a hat from France that Monroe gave her. Ada recognizes a group of crows and nicknames their leader “Notchwing.” She eats lunch and sketches the scarecrow. Ruby returns with cabbages and hands a letter to Ada. The women bury the cabbages behind the smokehouse before they hold a contest to see who can braid the other’s hair most intricately. Ada wins the contest and reads A Midsummer Night’s Dream aloud before Ruby turns in for the night.
Ada reads the letter, which is from Inman. In it, he asks her not to look at his picture anymore because he has changed. Ada gets the photograph and decides it does not look like him anyway. She remembers nearly every soldier having his picture taken before he went off to war in 1861. Next, Ada thinks back on the last day she saw Inman, when they went walking by the creek. Inman told her an old Cherokee tale about an invisible world hidden in the mountains, a world free from pain that could only be entered on faith by those who had fasted for seven days.
Ada recollects the awkwardness of their goodbye and how she regretted not answering Inman’s questions about what would happen if he died. Ada remembers she went to bed troubled and took the “easement” of “lomalakne love.” She recalls how, the next day, she visited Inman in town and apologized for her behavior the previous day. The two kissed and parted at Inman’s doorway.
Inman follows the slave’s map through hills to the mountain range drawn at its edges. He passes through “Happy Valley,” which is actually miserable, and avoids patrols of the Home Guard. Inman follows a track through the forest and meets an old woman who offers him a meal. Inman follows her to her camp, realizing that he’s climbed a river gorge, and looks at the mountains spread out in the distance. The lady’s camp is a caravan surrounded by goats. The woman slaughters a goat and cooks the meat for Inman.
Over several days, Inman eats various meals made from goat meat and talks with the goat-woman. He pretends that he’s been “furloughed” from the army on account of his wound, although the lady does not believe him. She tells the story of how she came alive alone in the woods after leaving her cruel husband.
Inman and the goat-woman discuss the war. The woman argues that the Southern army is fighting a godless war to protect slavery. She describes it as a “curse laid on the land.” Inman talks further about his war experiences and states that men are drawn to fight by boredom rather than by an instinct of self-preservation. The woman gives Inman herbal remedies to heal his wounds. He and the goat-woman drink bowls of laudanum, and Inman surprises himself by talking about Ada. Inman considers living a hermetic existence like the goat-woman’s but concludes that it would be too lonely. The old woman explains that she keeps a record of her life by writing and painting but does not say who taught her to read and write. The characters talk about dying alone, and the woman explains that she does not want to after she cannot fend for herself.