فصل 01

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کتاب های متوسط

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فصل 01

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 13 دقیقه
  • سطح ساده

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Chapter one

The View from the Window

At the first light of dawn, flies began gathering around Inman’s eyes and the long wound in his neck. Their touch woke him immediately. He brushed them away and looked across to the big window that faced his bed. During the day, he could see to the red road and the low brick wall. And beyond them to the fields and woods that stretched away to the west. But it was too early still for such a view, and only a gray light showed.

Inman rose and dressed and sat in a straight-backed chair, putting the shadowy room of beds and broken men behind him. Once again he looked through the window. It was as tall as a door, and he had imagined many times that it would open onto some other place and let him walk through and be there. During his first weeks in the hospital, when he had hardly been able to move his head, he had at least been able to watch out the window and picture the old green places he remembered from home. Childhood places. The corner of a field where long grasses grew. The branch of a tree on which he had often sat, watching his father drive cows home in the evening.

By now he had stared at the window all through a late summer so hot and wet that tiny black mushrooms grew overnight from the pages of his book. Inman suspected that the gray window had finally said all it had to say. This morning, though, it surprised him, because it brought him a lost memory of sitting in school beside a similar tall window, looking out over fields and low green hills to the great height of Cold Mountain.

It was September. The teacher was a round little man, hairless and pink-faced. He talked through the morning about history, teaching the older students about grand wars fought in ancient England. After ignoring him for a time, the young Inman had taken his hat from under his desk and thrown it through the window. It flew high in the air and landed at the edge of a field. The teacher saw what Inman had done and told him to get it and to come back and be beaten. Inman never knew why he did what he did, but he stepped out the door, put the hat on his head, and walked away. He never returned.

The memory passed as the day grew lighter. Inman thought, as he often did, of how he had received his wound during fighting outside Petersburg, in the state of Virginia. When his two closest friends had pulled away his clothes and looked at his neck, they had said a sad goodbye. “We’ll meet again in a better world,” they said. The doctors at the local hospital had also expected him to die. After two days they had sent him on to a hospital in North Carolina, his own state. There, the doctors looked at him and said that there was not much they could do. He might live or he might not. But slowly, the wound had started to heal.

Inman thought of the battles he had fought in, in this terrible civil war-Malvern Hill, Sharpsburg, Petersburg. Fredericksburg was another battle he would never forget. He thought back to how the fog had lifted that morning to show a great army marching uphill toward a stone wall. Inman had joined the men who were already behind the wall. They were well-protected there, as you could stand up comfortably and still be in the shelter of the wall, while the Federals had to come uphill across open ground. It was a cold day, and the mud of the road was nearly frozen. The men let the Federals come very near before shooting them down. From behind the wall, Inman could hear the sound of bullets hitting meat. Thousands of Federals marched toward the wall all through the day, climbing the hill to be shot down. Inman started hating them for their stupid desire to die.

Late in the afternoon, the Federals had stopped attacking and the shooting slowly stopped. Thousands of men lay dead and dying on the hillside below the wall. The men on Inman’s side who had no boots had climbed over the wall to pull the boots off the dead. That night Inman, too, went out onto the battlefield. The Federals lay on the ground in bloody piles, body parts everywhere. Inman’s only thought, looking on the enemy, was, “Go home.” He saw a man killing a group of badly wounded Federals by striking them on the head with a hammer. The man did it without anger, just moving from one to another, whistling softly.

Now, in the hospital, Inman often dreamed that the bloody pieces-arms, heads, legs-slowly came together and formed bodies whose parts did not match. They waved bloody arms, speaking the names of their women or singing lines of a song again and again. One figure, whose wounds were so terrible that he looked more like a piece of meat than a man, tried to rise but could not. He lay still but turned his head to stare at Inman with dead eyes, and spoke Inman’s name in a low voice. Every morning after that dream, Inman woke in the blackest of moods.


Some days later, Inman walked from the hospital into town. His neck hurt very badly but his legs felt strong, and that worried him. As soon as he was strong enough to fight, they would send him back to Virginia. He decided that he must be careful not to look too fit in front of a doctor.

Money had come from home and he had also received his pay from the army, so he walked through the streets and bought various things that he needed-a black woolen suit that fitted him perfectly, a black hat, strong boots, two knives, a little pot and cup, bullets for his pistol. Tired, he stopped at a coffee house and slowly drank a cup of something that was supposed to be coffee. He sat with his back straight, looking stiff and uncomfortable in his black suit, with the white bandage on his neck.

Inman picked up the newspaper he had bought, hoping to find something to interest him. On the third page he found a notice from the state government stating that deserters would be hunted down by an organization called the Home Guard. In another part of the paper he read that the Cherokee Indians* had been fighting the Federals. Inman put the paper down and wondered if his Cherokee friend, Swimmer, was among the men who were fighting. He had met Swimmer the summer they were both sixteen. Inman had been given the job of looking after some cows on Balsam Mountain. He had joined a group of men camping there, and after a few days a band of Cherokee Indians had camped a short distance away.

The Indians spent a lot of time playing a fast and dangerous ball game, and Swimmer had come over and invited the white men to play. The two groups had camped side by side for two weeks, the younger men playing the ball game most of the day. They spent the night drinking and telling stories by the fireside, eating great piles of freshly caught fish.

There in the highlands, the weather was almost always clear, and the view stretched across rows of blue mountains. Once, Swimmer had looked out over the mountains and said he believed Cold Mountain to be the chief mountain of the world. Inman asked how he knew that to be true, and Swimmer had simply replied, “Do you see a bigger one?”

In the mornings, when fog lay low in the valleys, Inman used to walk down to a cove to fish with Swimmer for an hour or two. There, Swimmer talked in a low voice, telling stories of animals and how they became as they are. He told of ways to cause sickness or death, how to protect a traveler on the road at night, and how to make the road seem short. Swimmer saw man’s spirit as a weak thing, constantly under attack, always threatening to die inside you.

After many days, the weather turned wet and the two camps separated. Thinking of Swimmer now, Inman hoped that his friend was not out fighting Federals but living in a hut by a rushing stream.

He raised his coffee cup to his lips and found it cold and nearly empty. Inman guessed that Swimmer was right to say that a man’s spirit could die while his body continued living. Inman felt that his spirit had been burned out of him, but he was still walking. He felt as dead as a tree that had been hit by lightning.

As Inman sat thinking of his loss, one of Swimmer’s stories rushed into his memory. Swimmer claimed that above the blue sky there was a forest where a heavenly race lived. Men could not go there to stay and live, but in that high land a dead spirit could be reborn. Swimmer said that the tops of the highest mountains reached into this healing place. Now, as he sat in the coffee house, Cold Mountain came to Inman’s mind as a place where his spirit might be healed. He could not bear the idea that this world was all that there was. So he held to the idea of another world, a better world, and he thought that Cold Mountain was probably a good place for it.

Inman took off his new coat and started working on a letter. It was long, and as the afternoon passed he drank several more cups of coffee. This was part of what he wrote:

I am coming home and I do not know how things are between us. Do you remember that night before Christmas four years ago when you told me that you would like to sit there forever and rest your head on my shoulder? Now I am sure that if you knew what I have seen and done, it would make you fear to do the same again.

Inman stood up and folded the letter. He put his hand up to the wound in his neck. The doctors claimed he was healing quickly, but it still hurt to talk and to eat, and sometimes to breathe. But on the walk down the street to mail the letter and then back out to the hospital, his legs felt surprisingly strong and willing.

After supper, Inman checked the knapsack under his bed. There was a blanket already in the bag and to these he added the cup and little pot and the knives. The knapsack had for some time been filled with hardtack, salt pork, a little dried beef, and some cornmeal.

He got in bed and pulled up the covers. Tired from his day of walking about town, Inman read only for a short time before falling asleep. He woke sometime deep in the night. The room was black and the only sounds were of men breathing and moving about in their beds. He rose and dressed in his new clothes. Then he put on his knapsack and went to the tall open window and looked out. Fog moved low on the ground, though the sky was clear. He stepped out of the window.

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