فصل 04

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فصل 04

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  • زمان مطالعه 13 دقیقه
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Chapter four

Ruby

That first morning, Ada and Ruby agreed that Ruby would move to the cove and teach Ada how to manage a farm. There would be very little money involved in her pay. They would take most of their meals together, but Ruby did not want to live with anyone else and decided she would move into the old cabin near the house. After they had eaten their first dinner, Ruby went home and gathered her belongings. She came back to Black Cove with them, and seldom thought about the past again.

The two women spent their first days together listing the things that needed doing. They walked together around the farm, Ruby looking around a lot, talking constantly. She had ideas about everything. The most urgent matter, she said, was to start a good vegetable garden. She suggested that they clear the old cornfield. She wanted more chickens and thought of buying a pig. She was delighted by the number of apple trees, and said that they could sell the apples in October. She was also pleased with the tobacco field. The tobacco plants were tall and strong, and she thought they could sell them in exchange for seed and salt and other things they could not produce themselves.

When Ada told Ruby how little money she had, Ruby said, “I’ve never held a piece of money bigger than a dollar in my hand.” Ruby’s opinion was that they did not really need cash. Ruby had never felt comfortable with money, especially when she thought of how one could hunt, gather, and plant the things one needed. And it was true that now, with the war, money had lost so much value that it was hard to buy anything with it anyway. On their first trip together into town, they could not believe that they had paid five dollars for a small packet of needles. And the cloth that they wanted was priced at fifty dollars. Ruby said that if they had sheep they could make the cloth themselves. Ada could only think that it would take many days of hard work. Money made things so much easier.

But even if they had it, store owners really didn’t want money, since the value of it was likely to fall almost immediately. The general feeling was that paper money ought to be spent as soon as possible. It was wiser to exchange food and other goods. Ruby seemed to understand this.

Ruby’s plan was this: Ada should sell either the carriage or the piano. She believed she could exchange either one or the other for the things they would need to get through the winter. Ada thought about this for two days, and finally surprised herself by deciding to sell the piano. She did not play the piano particularly well, and it had been Monroe who had wanted her to learn. Also, she knew that she would have very little time for art in her future life and that she would spend most of the free time she had drawing and painting.

After Ada had taken her decision, Ruby wasted no time. She knew who had extra animals and food, and she decided on Old Jones who lived up on East Fork, and whose wife had wanted the piano for some time. Ruby was a hard bargainer, and Jones was finally made to give a fine pig, half a dozen sheep, and large quantities of cornmeal, green vegetables, and smoked meat.

In a few days, Ruby brought the pigs and the little sheep up into Black Cove. She took them to Cold Mountain to feed through the fall, and marked their ears with a knife to show who their owner was. Late one afternoon, Old Jones arrived with another man and took the piano away. Ada sat on the porch and watched it go. She did not feel much regret, but she thought about the party that Monroe had given four days before Christmas in the last winter before the war.


The chairs in the room had been pushed back against the wall to make space for dancing, and people who could play the piano each played for a short time. There were pretty lamps in glass bowls, a fashion that no one in the mountains had seen before. On the dining room table there were tiny cookies, cakes and brown bread, and sweet-smelling pots of tea.

In the early evening, people sat and talked in groups of the same sex. Ada sat with the women but looked interestedly around the room. Six old men sat in chairs near the fire and discussed the worsening political situation. The sons of the most valued members of the church sat in a corner of the room and talked loudly. Women of mixed ages sat in another corner. Sally Swanger wore a new pair of fine shoes, and sat waiting for comments on them, holding her legs stiffly out in front of her. Later the groups mixed, and some stood around the piano and sang, and then some of the younger people danced.

As the evening continued, Ada realized that she had had too much to drink. Her face felt hot and her neck was wet under her pretty green dress. Sally Swanger, who had also had too many glasses of wine, took Ada’s arm and in a whisper said, “That Inman boy’s just got here. I shouldn’t say this, but you ought to marry him. The two of you’d make pretty brown-eyed babies.”

Ada had been shocked by the comment, and her face had gone bright red, so that she had to go to the kitchen to calm herself. But there she was surprised to find Inman alone, sitting in the stove corner. He had arrived late, having ridden through a slow winter rain, and he was warming up and drying out before joining the party. He wore a black suit and sat with his legs crossed.

“Oh,” Ada said. “There you are. The ladies are already so pleased to know you’re here.”

“The old ladies?” Inman said.

“Well, everyone. Mrs. Swanger is especially pleased by your arrival.”

This comment reminded Ada of Mrs. Swanger’s words to her, and the blood rushed to her head.

“Are you all right?” Inman asked.

“Yes, but it’s hot in here.”

Ada went to the door and opened it for a breath of cool air. Out from the dark, over a great distance, came the high lonely call of a wild dog.

“That’s a sad sound,” Inman said.

Ada closed the door and turned to Inman, but when she did the heat of the room, and the alcohol, and the soft look on Inman’s face, made her feel faint. She took a few uncertain steps and when Inman half stood and put out a hand to steady her, she took it. And then, she didn’t know how, she found herself in his lap. He put his hands on her shoulders for a moment, and she lay back with her head beneath his chin. Ada remembered thinking that she never wanted to leave this place, but did not realize that she had said it aloud. He seemed as content as she was and he moved his hands to her shoulders and held her there.

She rested in his lap for half a minute, no more. Then she was up and away, and she remembered turning at the door to look back at him, where he sat with a puzzled smile on his face.

Ada went back to the piano, where she played for quite some time. Inman eventually came and stood leaning against the door, watching her for a while before moving away to talk to a friend. Through the rest of the evening, neither Ada nor Inman mentioned what had taken place in the kitchen. They talked once, rather uncomfortably, and Inman left early.

Ada sat on the porch for some minutes after the piano had gone. Then she and Ruby made and drank some real coffee. That morning Ada had discovered a large sack of green coffee beans in a dark corner of the barn. Over the next few days, they exchanged most of the coffee for sacks of salt, corn, potatoes and beans, and eight chickens. In these matters, Ruby was a ball of energy and she soon created a daily routine for herself and Ada. Each day before dawn she milked the cow, lit the fire in the kitchen, and made breakfast. Ada, who rarely got up before ten, started getting up at dawn, too, since Ruby obviously expected her to do so. The two young women ate breakfast together, while Ruby talked about her plans for the day.

After breakfast was done, they worked constantly. On days when there was not one big thing to do, they did many small ones. That first month, Ruby made Ada understand that she needed to get her hands dirty if she wanted food on the table. She made Ada work when she did not want to, made her wear dirty clothes while she dug in the earth. She taught Ada how to turn cream into butter and how to cut the head off a chicken. And Ada did these things, because somewhere inside her, she knew that another person might walk away and let her fail. Ruby would not let her fail.

The only moments of rest were after the supper dishes had been put away. Then Ada and Ruby sat on the porch and Ada read aloud. Then, when it became too dark to read, Ada closed the book and asked Ruby about herself. Over a period of weeks, she learned the story of Ruby’s life.


Ruby had never known her mother, and her father, a man called Stobrod Thewes, had never had a job for more than a week or two. They lived in a cabin that had a dirt floor and no ceiling. On many mornings, Ruby had found snow on top of her bed cover when she woke. Stobrod did not look after their home, and in Ruby’s opinion was little more than an animal.

Ruby had to find her own food soon after she learned to walk, and was forced to depend on the kindness of the women on neighboring farms. One night, when Ruby was four, she was returning from a farm when her dress got caught in a bush. Ruby spent the night by the bush, unable to get away. She never forgot those dark hours. It was cold near the river, and she remembered shaking with cold and crying for many hours, calling out for help, frightened of the wild animals that might come and eat her. But later she was spoken to by a voice in the dark. She felt that a gentle spirit had come to look after her. She remembered every star pattern that passed across the sky and every word spoken directly to her heart by the calm voice that comforted and protected her all through the night.

The next morning, a man found her and she walked home and never spoke a word to Stobrod about it. He did not ask where she had been. But she still heard the voice in her head, and after that night she seemed to know things that others had no idea about.

As she got older, she and Stobrod had lived off what Ruby grew on their little bit of land. Her father, who loved to drink, often disappeared for many days, walking fifty kilometers for a party, or going off into the woods. So everyone was surprised when, in the first days of the war, Stobrod joined the army. He rode off one morning, and Ruby had not heard from him since. As he had taken the horse, Ruby could not even plow the land. The first year of the war had been hard for her, but she had fed herself by using Stobrod’s gun to go hunting in the woods.

At present, Ruby believed she was twenty-one years old, although Stobrod was not certain of either the year of her birth or the day. He could not even remember what season it had been when she arrived.

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