Study Guide

Cold Mountain Chapter 6

By Charles Frazier

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Chapter 6

Ashes of Roses

  • Ada and Ruby are working in their late garden, hoping for a warm fall where the crops will grow strong. They like the idea of eating this winter.
  • A party of women and children, attended by two slaves who are caring for them, stop at Ada and Ruby's farm. The women and children are fleeing from the Federals who invaded Tennessee. They're trying to get to South Carolina, where one of the women has a sister who may be able to take care of them.
  • Ada and Ruby make them a large dinner, and they eat almost everything set before them. They've been eating dried cornbread and not much else for two weeks. No fun.
  • They tell their story after dinner. The Federals invaded and took all the food they had raised this year. The Federals strip-searched them and took every last piece of jewelry, then burned down the house before leaving. Dang.
  • The Federals are in the right about ending slavery, but their treatment of Southern women and children could sure improve.
  • The women talk about how the Federals are making the women and children pay for the deaths of soldiers, which is considered a new and terrible idea in warfare. (If you want to get down with some history, you can read up on Federal General Sherman's war strategies and the controversy that surrounds them to this day.)
  • Ada and Ruby cook the group a big breakfast the next morning and draw a map for them as they go on their way.
  • Ruby and Ada have lunch up in the orchard, and Ruby talks about what she's learned about nature, trying to educate Ada in it. Ada is willing to be educated, but still learning a lot. If Ruby's got a Ph.D. in nature, Ada's in maybe third grade? But she's trying.
  • Ada is still reading the Odyssey to Ruby. Ruby is impatient with Penelope, but finds Odysseus's wanderings very funny. She thinks Odysseus is more like her lazy and wandering father than Homer is willing to let on.
  • When they set the book down, something about the sunset reminds Ada of a party she went to the last time she visited Charleston, just before the war began.
  • The party was at the grand house of Ada's cousin. It went on for three days. Pretty swanky. It's like the ultimate sleepover. The guests only slept from daybreak till noon. At night they had music and dancing and then went boating on the Wando River, right next to Ada's cousin's house.
  • Because the war seemed likely to start soon, all the young men had a certain glamour and could attract the interest of some girl…whoever they were.
  • Ada remembers how a young man named Blount seemed interested in her at the party, and eventually she agreed to go out boating with him. She was a bit afraid that he'd want to have a romantic conversation, which she wasn't sure she wanted. But instead, he started to think about war, and then he told her that he was terrified of fighting and wasn't sure he could be brave enough for battle.
  • At the end of the boat ride, Blount walked Ada to the porch of her cousin's house and gave her a quick and brotherly kiss on the cheek.
  • As she walked upstairs, Ada remembers being struck by the figure of a woman reflected in a mirror. She envies the beauty of the woman, and then suddenly realized that it was her own reflection she was seeing.
  • The next day, Ada ran into Blount, who was terribly embarrassed by what he said the night before, but does not ask her to keep it a secret. Ada never saw Blount again, but heard in a letter from her cousin that he had died at Gettysburg. He was shot in the face during a retreat. He was walking backwards so that he would not be shot in the back.
  • After Ruby goes to finish her work for the night, Ada sits and thinks back to the past, particularly a time she sat in the same place with her father. As she thinks about her father and philosophy, Ruby comes by and says that the cow needs to be put away for the night. Good thing Ruby thinks of these things. Philosophy is awesome, but it doesn't feed you in the winter.
  • Ada does go to take care of the cow, thinking about nature and philosophy the whole time.

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