Study Guide

Cold Mountain Chapter 4

By Charles Frazier

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Chapter 4

Verbs, All of Them Tiring

  • Back at the farm, Ada and Ruby start working together. They've agreed that Ruby will teach Ada how to run a farm. Ruby doesn't want to live in the same house as anyone else, so she moves into a hunting cabin on the property, though they do eat meals together.
  • Ada and Ruby make a list of things that must be done and decide which are most important.
  • Ruby says they need to put in a late season garden, and they start to work on it. Ada takes notes in the notebook she used to use for poetry and reflection.
  • Ruby has all sorts of ideas for farming, and is thrilled to find that the farm has apples and tobacco. She thinks they can trade the tobacco and cider made from the apples for other goods that they might need.
  • Ada is inexperienced in bartering, and is trying to learn how it works, especially now that she has almost no money coming in. Fortunately, Ruby knows all about it. In fact, she's pretty suspicious of money and thinks trading actual goods is better.
  • It's especially fortunate that Ruby is good at bartering, because at this stage of the war Confederate money is going through major inflation. The girls have to pay $15 for a pound of baking soda, for instance.
  • Ruby thinks it through and decides that if they trade away one of two objects, they can get pretty much everything they need for the winter. The choice comes down to the piano or the cabriolet, a light and fancy carriage that Ada's father had bought. Ada eventually chooses the piano, to her own surprise.
  • Ruby gets quite a haul by trading the piano–two pigs, a hundred pounds of corn grits, six sheep, a wagonload of cabbage, a ham, and ten pounds of bacon.
  • When the buyer comes to claim the piano, Ada doesn't have much regret. She does think back to a party her father gave the Christmas before the Civil War started, however. Romantic interlude time!
  • Inman came to that party, and Sally Swanger surreptitiously pulled Ada aside to say he was there. Sally also told Ada that she and Inman should get married, because they'd likely have pretty babies. Though the comment was kindly meant, Ada is thrown by it and runs away to the kitchen to compose herself.
  • It's a decent plan, except that Inman is in the kitchen—alone. He's trying to dry out his clothes by the stove, since he rode in through the rain.
  • Ada gets all flustered as she tries to talk to him, and Inman wonders if she's feeling well. Awkward.
  • Ada's had one glass of champagne too many, and Inman's looking at her like he might have a crush on her, and she gets unsteady. Inman reaches out a hand to help, and she takes it. She somehow she winds up sitting on his lap. Is this a first date?
  • Ada remembers feeling that she never wanted to leave the embrace with Inman. She didn't remember saying it aloud, but she must have, since he mentions it in the letter he writes in Chapter 1.
  • Inman seemed equally content to hold her. He doesn't ask for a kiss, just lets her rest there for half a minute, until she stands up. He gives her a puzzled smile when she leaves the room.
  • Neither of them mentions the incident later in the party, and their conversations are short and awkward. Inman leaves early. Maybe not so good for a first date.
  • Ada comes back to the present. Remembering the champagne she had at the party, she takes a look to see if she can find some in the cellar. No luck on champagne, but she does find a hundred pounds of coffee. That would keep even Starbucks going for a while, and it's worth a lot in barter, especially with the North blockading Southern ports so that it's hard to import goods like coffee.
  • Ada and Ruby roast up a bit of the coffee and enjoy their first cup in more than a year (the horror!). They stay up most of the night remembering the past and hanging out. That's what a little caffeine will do for you—instant sleepover party.
  • Soon they trade away most of the coffee for a great haul.
  • Ruby gets the farm working. She also gets Ada working. Ada is amazed by Ruby's energy and a bit tired out by all the work Ruby insists they do. But with Ruby around, Ada's finally eating real food, and she has some hope of surviving the winter.
  • Ada and Ruby work like crazy all day, and then enjoy stories briefly after dinner. Ada starts reading Homer to Ruby, who has little experience of books, and Ruby starts telling the story of her life in small pieces.
  • Ruby's backstory: She grew up with no mother and a father who was lazy and uninvolved. He gave her shelter, but that's about it. She had to get her own food not long after she could walk. About the only thing Ruby's father would put in effort for is a long walk to a party, even forty miles! Sounds like the stereotype of a frat boy, transported to the nineteenth century.
  • Ruby's father was so lazy that he quit in the middle of a job where a man had hired him to help burn up trees he had felled. The man who hired him tried to keep working alone, got trapped by some burning logs, and had to cut off his leg to escape. Unsurprisingly, the employer held a grudge.
  • Eventually Ruby's father did decide to fight in the war, though no one could see why. After the battle of Sharpsburg, no one knew what had happened to him, so he's probably dead or a deserter.
  • When he left, Ruby was in trouble, because he took the horse she used to plow. She survived by planting a small garden and shooting animals with an ancient gun her father left. She had to make a knife from a saw, since her father had taken the only one.
  • We also learn that Ruby can beat a man in a fight, for the unfortunate reason that she's had to do it to protect herself.
  • Ruby thinks she's twenty-one, but doesn't know, since her father didn't bother to notice the year or day or even the season it was when she was born.

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