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Chapter 18 footsteps in the snow Summary Inman is puzzling over the signs on the ground where Stobrod and Pangle were shot. He sees Pangleís grave and wonders where the second grave is. He looks at the remains of a fire and some roots that had been boiled. Then he sees tracks leading away. He had already made it to Adaís farm and found the Georgia boy making himself at home there. The boy told Inman where the women had gone. Now Inman finds himself back in the snowy woods, still trying to get to Ada. He had rehearsed their reunion in his mind over and over, now he is not sure it will ever come to pass. He has been fasting since the bear cub meat and plans on searching out the opening at Shining Rocks if Ada will not have him.
Both snow and darkness are falling so Inman builds a fire and makes camp. He is losing faith in his own future and fears he has become so bitter and angry in the past four years that he will not recover. But he knows there are still footsteps in the snow and if he perseveres he can find Ada. In the morning he follows the tracks but as the snow falls the tracks become faint. Finally he feels lost and ready to lie down and be buried in the snow to die.
Meanwhile Ada and Ruby are nursing Stobrod who has barely regained consciousness. Ada goes out to fetch water and notices wild turkeys on the hillside. She tells Ruby and Ruby instructs her briefly on how to use the shotgun to kill one. Ada hesitates then goes out to hunt and shoot for the first time in her life. She tracks the turkeys and with one shot kills two of them.
Inman hears the nearby shot and draws his own gun as he approaches. He sees the silhouette of a hunter with a shotgun aimed at him. He steps closer and recognizes Adaís face. He says her name but she does not respond. Inman thinks he may be so far gone that he is only imaging this is Ada. The two stand, weapons drawn against each other.
To Ada, Inman looks to be a beggar who is as likely as not to harm her. Even after Inman puts away his gun she does not recognize him. He is overwhelmed with love and though he cannot step forward without risking being shot, he says, ďIíve been coming to you on a hard road and Iím not letting you go.Ē She says she does not know him. He apologizes for his mistake and turns to leave.
Suddenly, at last, Ada recognizes him and says his name. She lowers her gun and tells him to come with her. She sees how ravaged and worn he is and speaks calmly and evenly as she leads him to the cabin. The tone of her voice tells Inman that everything will be fine.
This climactic chapter draws the reader into Inmanís confusion and pain. He had reached Adaís farm, which should have been the end of his journey. He does not stay there to wait for her but goes back into his odyssey to seek her once more. When they finally meet, it is nothing remotely like the scene Inman had played over in his mind - Ada in her fine clothes rushing out to embrace the weary hero. Instead, it is a tense, life- threatening situation where it is possible they will die by each otherís hand. Even after Ada recognizes him there is no embrace for at that moment Inman just needed to be taken care of. They have achieved a physical reunion of sorts but they are both very far away from their original selves.