Cold Mountain Chapter 5
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Like Any Other Thing, A Gift
- Inman's afraid the Home Guard will catch him and try to send him back to the fighting. He's walking alone, late at night.
- Here comes some action. Inman sees a man leading a horse, with something on it.
- The man is stopped and seems to be in despair, and he's also blocking Inman's path. Inman can't go back the way he came, and he doesn't have room to go around in the terrain he's in.
- He also can't stay there all night, waiting to be discovered by the Home Guard.
- Before Inman can do much, the man lifts the bundle off the horse, and Inman realizes it's a woman. The man is moving toward a drop-off by the edge of the road. Sure looks like he's going to throw her off or jump off holding her, likely a fatal move.
- Inman stops him, and the man hugs Inman's legs (wait, don't guys do that all the time in Homer?). Inman is getting ready to shoot his pistol, probably because he's afraid the man means to harm him, but the man is crying and seems genuinely to mean it when he says Inman is a message from God.
- Inman relents and doesn't shoot. He does strike the man across the cheek with the pistol.
- The man claims he is a preacher, and admits that the woman is pregnant, he's probably the father, and they aren't married. The man also admits that he's drugged the woman with some sort of sleeping powder he bought from a peddler.
- Inman tells the man to put the girl back on the horse, threatening him with the pistol. The man does it.
- Inman asks where the preacher came from. The man answers that there's a town nearby, and Inman tells him to lead the way to it.
- Inman keeps his pistol out, and also starts leading the horse as he follows the man toward the town. Inman thinks about what would have happened if he hadn't come: the man would have thrown the woman into the water to drown. He wonders what he should do. He didn't sign up for relationship counseling.
- By the way, the preacher is engaged to someone else. Dude. Inman really didn't sign up for that kind of relationship counseling.
- They get to the town, and Inman decides to put the girl back in her own house. He gags the preacher before they arrive and ties him to a tree when they get to the girl's house.
- As he carries the vulnerable girl, still sleeping, back into her house, Inman is tempted to kill the preacher.
- Inman makes sure the girl's grandmother, the only person in the cottage, is really asleep. He takes some food left on their table and puts it in his sack, then returns the girl to her bed.
- The girl wakes up briefly, still apparently hazy from the drug the preacher gave her. Inman tells her the preacher does not speak for God, and that no man does. He says to put the preacher behind her and warns her against him. She drifts back off to sleep.
- Though he wants to kill the preacher for what he's done to the girl, Inman leaves him tied to the tree instead. He writes down what he knows about the murder attempt on a piece of paper, then sticks it on a tree branch just out of the preacher's reach, so the community will know.
- The preacher thrashes around and tries to protest in spite of the gag, and Inman undoes it and talks with him. The preacher says Inman has ruined his life, and Inman replies that he didn't want to be part of this at all, but he also doesn't want to worry about whether the preacher will try to kill the girl again, and the only way he can see to stop that is to tell the town what happened.
- Inman re-gags the preacher and leaves. He walks the rest of the night to leave the place behind him. In the morning, he sleeps.
- We learn that Inman's pistol is a LeMat's, known as the fiercest sidearm anywhere. Awesome gear!
- We also learn that Inman didn't seek out fights before the war, but that he turned out to be a good fighter.
- Inman meets two slaves, and he isn't afraid they'll turn him in. Actually, they're nice to him.
- He starts to smell cooking, and follows the scent. He finds a camp of wandering gypsy horse traders. He enters the camp, and they seem to welcome him. They're making stew, and they share it with him. Yum!
- It's clear that this group of horse traders aren't entirely honest, because they're doing things to make old horses look younger than they are, like coloring whitened hair on an old mare. But they let Inman spend the day with them and eat their food.
- A young gypsy woman gets on a horse and rides away. Something about her dark hair and her beauty reminds Inman of Ada, and he finds the sight of her riding very moving. Cue soft romantic music here.
- Some gypsy boys make frog legs, and one of the gypsies sells Inman some Moet, a kind of champagne. He has some of each for dinner, but is still hungry from all his traveling.
- Inman goes to find other food elsewhere in the camp. He finds a medicine show, sort of like a circus with medicines for sale, and asks the man in charge if he can buy some dinner. The man says he reckons so but that they have to practice so they won't eat till later. He says Inman can watch them practice, though.
- The woman who rode the horse earlier is part of the show. Her job is to get knives thrown around her. Not your average job.
- After practice, they invite Inman to dinner and eat steak and potatoes fried in bacon grease. This is real food! Unless you're vegetarian. Oh yeah, there's a salad in there too.
- This is also the only place we've seen so far where people who aren't white are treated as equals. There's an Ethiopian musician in the medicine show and Native Americans from several tribes, and they're treated just the same as the other participants—finally.
- Everyone washes his or her own plates in the river. The fire is built up, and the medicine show participants tell their stories to Inman. Odyssey moment: everyone's always telling stories after dinner in the Odyssey and Cold Mountain.
- Very late at night, Inman goes a little way off and tries to sleep, but can't. He lights a candle and pours the rest of the wine he bought and reads a book by William Bartram about walking around and botany. You'd think that would help him sleep, but nope. He imagines the plant that Bartram is describing in a particular passage, even though he doesn't think he's ever seen it.
- He thinks of the dark-haired gypsy woman, and of the woman he carried back to her home earlier, and of Ada, remembering the Christmas four years ago when she sat briefly in his lap. There was champagne at that Christmas, as he remembers now when he drinks the Moet.
- Here comes the flashback scene, complete with the fade in and hazy lighting. Inman's memory of that Christmas is about the same as Ada's, but he remembers some details she hasn't mentioned. He remembers her saying "Well," and him kissing her wrist, which she didn't say in the previous chapter. But they both remember it fondly.
- Inman has a dream where he sees Ada in a white dress with a black cloth wrapped around her shoulders and head, and also the plants he imagined during his reading. 'Cause, you know, a little botany always makes things more romantic.
- He tries to reach out and hold her, but three times she flickers through his arms like a gray shadow. Total Odyssey reference (Odysseus tries to hug his mother three times in the underworld, and can't because she's dead and he's alive).
- Inman's luckier than Odysseus. On the fourth try, he's able to hold Ada in the dream. Talk about a date that starts slow. He says that he's been coming for her on a hard road, and that he's never letting her go.
- The dream-Ada takes the wrapping off her head, and her face seems to agree with the sentiment of him holding her forever, but she doesn't say anything. Oh, this dating-by-dream is tricky.
- Inman wakes up, both unable and unwilling to stop thinking of Ada. He walks back to the camp and finds that all the gypsies have left. He feels bad that he didn't say goodbye, but his mood is still brighter because of his dream.
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