The chapter begins with Stobrod, Pangle, and another friend walking through the mountain. The other friend is a young boy from Georgia, who’s no more than seventeen years old. The trio is headed for Ada’s farm. Stobrod explains to the Georgia boy that Ada has finally convinced Ruby to take care of her father. Ruby has agreed to let Stobrod and his friends stay on the farm, provided that they work and don’t eat too much.
As the novel approaches an end, it seems that Ada and Ruby have built a little community at Ada’s farm: populated by Stobrod, the Georgia boy, and others. Even building this kind of unorthodox “family” is shown as a crucial aspect of a fulfilling life in this book full of isolated characters.
The trio comes to a fork in the road. They decide to rest there and eat and drink. They take swigs of whiskey they’ve stolen, and eat beans. The Georgia boy, whose stomach is very upset, stumbles off to vomit and take care of himself. While he’s away, the Home Guard—led by Teague—ambushes Stobrod and Pangle.
By a lucky coincidence the Georgia boy avoids being captured by the Home Guard because of an upset stomach.
Teague, grinning fiercely, tells Stobrod that he’s heard rumors of a gang of outliers hiding out in the mountains and robbing innocent people. He tells Stobrod that he and his Home Guard will be joining Stobrod around the fire. The horsemen dismount and begin cooking their food over the fire—sausage. Teague orders Stobrod to play his fiddle. Stobrod and Pangle begin playing a tune, largely improvised. They’re shaky at first, but gradually they settle into a pattern. The music is “direful and elegiac.” When the song is over, Birch, one of Teague’s followers (and a very young man), whispers to Teague that Stobrod and Pangle are “holy men.”
As the novel nears an end, we see more of Teague—he’s practically the main antagonist of this long, episodic novel (certainly, he’s the only villain who shows up repeatedly in the beginning, the middle, and the end of the book). It’s telling that even when Stobrod and Pangle play for Teague and his followers, some of the Guardsmen think that Stobrod is “holy”—Stobrod’s music is powerful enough to make the Guardsmen (except for Teague) forget their usual cruelty.
Teague pauses for a long time. Then he stands up and orders Stobrod and Pangle to stand against the tree. They do so, still clutching their instruments like weapons. Teague pulls out his rifle and points it at the two friends. He orders the musicians to take off their hats and cover their faces. When Stobrod and Pangle have both done so, Teague and his followers fire.
Teague’s cowardice is clear in this section. He’s clearly been touched by Stobrod’s playing—even if he won’t admit it, his long pause proves that the music has moved him. Teague can’t stand to look into the eyes of his two victims, so he orders them to hide their faces.