Ashley Crowther looks at his company of men as they rest on the side of the road on their way to the frontlines. Not long ago on their journey, they passed through a group of “blasted farms,” where Ashley saw an old man fixing a hoe. Ashley had wondered if the man thought “the coming battle was the end and that he might soon have need of the hoe,” but his company moved on before the old timer had even finished working on the old farming instrument. Ashley reflects that there are simultaneously “so many worlds,” all continuous with each other, that it’s impossible to know what’s happening in each.
Given that Jim has recently had a transformative experience after watching an old man plant a garden using a hoe, it’s reasonable to assume that Ashley is now observing the same old man. In this way, he is connected to his old friend, though he doesn’t know it. This, in turn, aligns with his idea about simultaneity, in which he conceives of each person’s life as “continuous with” everybody else’s, forging a sense of interconnectedness in a time of war and division.