Inman draws closer to Cold Mountain every day. In the high altitude, it snows heavily. One day, Inman notices that the snow in front of him is stained with blood. He sees that a fire was lit in the area very recently, and he can also see what looks like a grave. He goes to a nearby creek to get some water. He’s extremely hungry, and hasn’t had any food since he finished eating the bear cub. Inman tries to distract himself from his hunger by thinking about reuniting with Ada.
Cold Mountain itself is becoming stronger as a symbol in the book, here an enormous physical reminder that Ada is nearby. Inman’s long “odyssey” is almost at an end.
The next day, Inman arrives on the outskirts of Black Cove. He has taken some time to make himself look more presentable before his arrival—he’s bathed in a creek and attempted to cut his hair and shave, but with little success. As he enters Black Cove, he sees a cabin, from which smoke is rising. He knocks on the door of the cabin and finds the Georgia boy inside. The boy invites Inman in, and Inman hears about the Georgia boy’s witnessing of Stobrod and Pangle’s deaths. Inman listens patiently to the boy’s story, then asks him if he knows who Ada Monroe is. He’s amazed to find that the Georgia boy has met Ada. The boy points Inman toward Ada’s farm and wishes him good luck.
The two halves of the novel are finally beginning to come together! Inman is so close to Ada that he’s meeting the people with whom Ada herself just brushed shoulders. This is a clever way for Frazier to build the suspense—we’ve been waiting hundreds of pages for Inman and Ada to reunite, and now that they’re in the same town, it’s still going to take a while before they do so. At the same time, we know that Teague and the Guard are on the prowl in the area, so Inman is still in constant danger.
Inman sets off for Ada. He imagines how his reunion with Ada might play out. He wants to believe that seeing Ada again will cure him of his nightmares and his horrible memories of Petersburg.
Here it’s confirmed: Inman returned to Cold Mountain in part so that Ada could cure him of his trauma. It’s as if Inman hasn’t fully accepted this fact until just now—now that the end of his quest is in sight, he’s starting to realize how high his hopes are.
The chapter cuts to Ada and Ruby, who are carrying Stobrod down from the mountain. They wake up one morning to the sound of Stobrod coughing up blood. Ruby tells Ada to shoot a turkey for them to eat, but Ada objects that she’s never fired a gun before. Ruby insists that Ada try while Ruby tends to her father. Ada goes off, awkwardly waving a rifle in front of her. She aims at a cluster of wild turkeys, fires, and is amazed when two of them fall, dead.
Ada takes a big step here by shooting and killing a flock of turkeys. This suggests a couple things. First, it shows Ada taking care of herself and assuming a traditionally masculine role: the hunter. Second, since turkeys are a kind of bird, it reminds us of Ada’s growing impatience with prophecy and superstition—all those flocks of crows.
Inman hears a gunshot in the distance. He draws his own weapon and moves toward the sound. As he approaches, he sees a figure: the figure of Ada Monroe. He calls her name, and Ada doesn’t answer. She sees a dirty beggar, with bloodshot eyes and old clothes. Yet as Inman stares into Ada’s eyes, he’s “overcome by love.” Ada doesn’t know what to do or say. Eventually, she tells Inman, “I do not know you.” Her gun is still pointed at him.
It’s tragic but understandable that when Inman and Ada finally do see one another, Ada barely recognizes Inman. Inman has been changed by his journey—not just in a physical sense, either. He’s become more savage and brutal, taking revenge into his own hands time and time again. The real question becomes—do Inman and Ada really have anything in common anymore, or was their attraction merely physical all along?
There’s a long pause, in which Ada stares deep into Inman’s eyes. Inman turns slightly, as if to move away. Somehow, when Inman turns his head, Ada remembers what he once looked like. She whispers his name, and Inman says, “Yes.” Ada can see that the dirty beggar before her really is Inman—hungry and cold, but still Inman. She lowers her gun and says, “Come with me.” They walk back to where Stobrod and Ruby are stationed.
For not the first time in the novel, a deep personal connection arises from a long, meaningful stare. For all his distrust of prophecies and signs, Frazier has a mystical—even magical—side: he believes that two humans can communicate with something as simple as a look. Here, Inman’s stare doesn’t just let Ada know who he is—it seems to communicate something of the trauma and pain he’s gone through in the last 300 pages of the book.