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Chapter 15 a vow to bear Summary Inman is following the trails through the mountain country and sees an older woman crying over her dead daughter. Inman offers to help make a casket and bury the girl. To repay him, the woman cooks Inman a meal - corn grits, steak, eggs and butter. Inman is near tears as he searches his memory for an appropriate blessing to give thanks for the food, the likes of which he hasnít had since he began his journey. The woman also gives him provisions for the road.
For the next several days, Inman walks in the rain, taking shelter in bird homes. He reads Bartram and allows Bartramís vivid descriptions of the landscape to replace his own memories of the mountains. He continues southwest, passing the skeletons of three hanged men, then an old Cherokee rock cairn. He eventually climbs to the base of a cliff to make camp. At dawn a mother bear comes sniffing around near him. Recalling dreams from the past wherein Inman was a bear, happy and strong in the forest, and a final dream where he was slain by hunters, Inman remembers his vow to bear and will not kill the bear. He is trapped and speaks calmly to the bear. She charges him, but when Inman steps aside, the bear goes over the edge of the cliff. Inman feels bad, especially for the cub that will die of starvation or be attacked. Mercifully, Inman kills the cub and rather than have it be a waste, cooks and eats the meat.
As depressing as the situation is, Inman is cheered because he is nearing home. He recognizes the ridges before him. He surveys the landscape as he eats the bear meat with regret.
Inmanís encounters with human death in this chapter are not obstacles for him. He helps bury the dead girl and moves on. He sees the three hanging skeletons and the cairn, examines them and moves on. He takes comfort in Bartram and once again, the elevation of the terrain parallels the elevation of Inmanís spirit.
The chapter title has a double meaning. Inman has made a vow to bear, meaning a promise not to kill the animals. It becomes a vow to bear because he is driven to break the vow and must bear the regret, which to Inman, feels like sin.