Cold Mountain Chapter 7
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Exile and Brute Wandering
- Meanwhile, Inman is still walking. The weather is getting cooler. He doesn't meet many people, and most of the ones he does meet are slaves, who are probably less likely to turn him in.
- Inman keeps walking, with not much happening to show the difference between one day and another.
- He really wants a solid meal and is trying to decide if it's worth the risk to find a way to get one. He sees some women doing laundry. He notices that they have their dinners along, like a laundry picnic.
- Sound familiar? It's a lot like the moment in the Odyssey where Odysseus asks Nausicaa, a princess doing laundry, for help. Long story, but you can read it here.
- Odysseus gets major-league help out of the deal, not to mention the love of a princess. Inman's not so lucky. He wants to ask if he can buy some food, but is afraid they'll react badly, so he stays hidden.
- He takes the heaviest sack of dinner and leaves much more than its worth in money behind for the women.
- What's in the sack is three chunks of poached fish, three boiled potatoes, and two undercooked biscuits. Inman is somewhat disappointed by this, but eats it anyway.
- While finishing lunch, Inman realizes there's someone behind him on the road. He hides and watches. Good move.
- The man is very thin and has a split lip and bruises on his face. Inman realizes it's the preacher who tried to kill the pregnant girl so he wouldn't get in trouble for sleeping with her.
- Inman greets him, and the preacher says he's just the man he was looking for.
- Inman doesn't like the sound of that. He says if the preacher tries to get revenge, Inman will kill him.
- The preacher says no, he wants to thank Inman for saving him from mortal sin.
- Inman asks if he walked all that way to say that, and the preacher says no, he was walking anyway because he's become a pilgrim.
- The preacher, named Veasey, wants to join Inman on the road. Inman is not excited because he thinks the preacher is a fool, but Veasey tags along anyway and Inman puts up with him.
- Veasey is planning what he'll do next, but it doesn't sound very clear, other than moving to Texas and doing something.
- Veasey wants to eat some honey from a wild bee's nest, but he says that he swells up with bee stings. Basically, he wants Inman to risk getting stung instead of him. Inman does extract some honey from the hives for them to eat, moving carefully and getting very few stings.
- This reminds us how smart Inman is. Kind of like Odysseus.
- Along the way, Veasey and Inman see a huge catfish in shallow water. Veasey desperately wants to catch and eat it, but Inman points out that they don't have any fishing tackle.
- Veasey keeps sulking as they keep walking, since he really wants to eat the fish. Finally he insists that he has to have it, turns around, and sets about trying to get a fish dinner. No Red Lobsters around.
- Veasey basically constructs a dam to keep the fish from swimming past it, chases the fish up against the dam, and then wrestles with it. Veasey and the fish fight desperately, until they're both exhausted, but Veasey cannot conquer it. He asks Inman to get in the water and try.
- Inman shoots the fish with his gun. Yep, he's smart.
- They cook the fish and eat it together. There's even extra to take with them in the morning.
- That evening, Inman tells Veasey, who was medically unfit to serve in the war, some of the horrible things that happened around Inman at the battle of Petersburg.
- As they continue on their journey, Inman and Veasey stop at a store to get food. Veasey tries to hold up the shopkeeper at gunpoint. Did we mention he's not that bright?
- Inman doesn't want to rob the shopkeeper and had no idea Veasey was planning to try, so he hits Veasey on the head with a wagon hub, the closest heavy object.
- Inman apologizes, hauls Veasey outside, and goes back in to try and buy some food again. The shopkeeper has his shotgun out to defend himself, but Inman makes an apologetic gesture and says Veasey is a fool.
- It's raining, so the two men are looking for shelter. They meet a woman who's a slave. She directs them toward an inn.
- When they get to the inn, an African-American woman comes into the room and starts to pour drinks, so apparently she works there. Her looks are striking. She is described as being as large as a large man, and also wearing a razor bundled into her hair.
- We find out that the woman goes by the name Tildy. She seems to be earning at least some of her money through prostitution, and she also seems to be a woman you don't want to argue with. Veasey is clearly taken with her looks, and they begin flirting and negotiating.
- One of the other men in the room then comes over to interfere. He wants Tildy to come over and talk to a different group of men, but she wants to keep talking with Veasey.
- The man and Veasey start to draw weapons on each other, but Inman interrupts and tells them to stop. While they're distracted, Tildy takes Veasey's weapon out of his hand. The other man is angry. He says Tildy has saved Veasey's life, because the man can't shoot Veasey unarmed without getting in trouble with the law.
- Things stay tense for a bit, with the man still threatening Veasey with the pistol. Finally, Inman pulls out his LeMat's, his powerful gun, and the other man backs down and leaves.
- Inman tells Tildy to give him Veasey's pistol, and she does.
- Inman tells Veasey that Veasey seems set on getting them both killed. Veasey disagrees and says it was two-to-one in their favor.
- Inman says he may not take Veasey's side in the future, but Veasey seems pretty hopeful that Inman will defend him again if necessary.
- Veasey and Tildy head out of the main room. Inman sits drinking bad bourbon until dinner.
- Inman has paid five dollars Confederate to stay in the hayloft for the night, and eventually he decides to go try to fall asleep there.
- Inman has a roommate in the hayloft, a peddler who has also been walking a lot, as the blisters on his feet show. The peddler shares some alcohol with Inman, and Inman thinks it's good stuff.
- The man's name is Odell, and he tells his story to Inman. He is the oldest son of a family with a huge estate in Georgia, and everyone would expect him to be rich. But not too long after his marriage to the daughter of another wealthy planter, he fell in love with a girl named Lucinda who was a slave in his father's kitchen.
- He tells a long story, but the upshot is that eventually Odell wins Lucinda's affections, and then she becomes pregnant with his child. Odell offers to buy Lucinda from his father in the hope of making her life better and caring for their child, but his father insults both Lucinda and his son.
- Odell and his father have a fight, and then his father and other men of the household lock Odell up for a while and sell Lucinda to someone in Mississippi.
- When Odell finally gets out, he leaves home and goes to look for Lucinda. At this point, he still hasn't found her, and he's gotten poorer and poorer. He doesn't seem to have much hope, but he is still traveling around, making a bit of money by tinkering and hoping vaguely that he might find her. Odell also tells Inman how he's seen slaves treated; the stories are truly horrible, as Odell says. Inman agrees that the world is feverish, not finding much else to say in response to these terrible stories.
- When Inman sets off in the morning, Veasey soon catches up. He has a razor cut under one eye, the result of haggling too firmly over what Tildy would be paid for spending the night with him. Inman says he hopes the night was worth the injury, and Veasey says quite enthusiastically that it was.
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