Just as her father, Goodhue Coldfield, remained absolute in his conviction that the South should not divide from the Union, Miss Rosa remains steadfast in her attempts to uncover the secrets of Thomas Sutpen's progeny. Rosa enlists the aid of Quentin Compson to discover the secret of the Sutpen family that she believes Clytemnestra Sutpen to be hiding.
Like Ashley Wilkes and Gerald O'Hara from Gone With the Wind cannot reconcile themselves to fully abandoning the chivalric code of the South, Rosa Coldfield is unable to allow her past to reside fully in the past.
In the passage, Miss Rosa and Quentin prepare to enter Sutpen's deteriorated house. Miss Rosa provides Quentin with a hatchet, not just for protection but also as a weapon in her presumed assault upon the house's secrets.
(from chapter 9 of Absalom, Absalom!)
"She's going to try to stop me," Miss Coldfield whimpered. I know she is. Maybe this far from town, out here alone at midnight, she will even let that negro man--And you didn't even bring a pistol. Did you?"
"Nome," Quentin said. "What is it she's got hidden there? What could it be? And what difference does it make? Let's go back to town, Miss Rosa."
She didn't answer this at all. She just said, "That's what I have got to find out", sitting forward on the seat, trembling now and peering up the tree-arched drive toward where the rotting shell of the house would be. "And now I will have to find it out," she whimpered, in a kind of amazed self-pity. She moved suddenly. "Come," she whispered, beginning to get out of the buggy.
"Wait," Quentin said. "Let's drive up to the house. It's a half a mile."
"No, no," she whispered, a tense fierce hissing of words filled with that same curious terrified yet implacable determination, as though it were not she who bad to go and find out but she only the helpless agent of someone or something else who must know. "Hitch the horse here. Hurry." She got out, scrambled awkwardly down, before he could help her, clutching the umbrella. It seemed to him that be could still bear her whimpering panting where she waited close beside one of the posts while be led the mare from the road and tied one rein about a sapling in the weed-choked ditch. He could not see her at all, so close she stood against the post: she just stepped out and fell in beside him when he passed and turned into the gate, still breathing in those whimpering pants as they walked on up the rutted tree-arched drive. The darkness was intense; she stumbled; be caught her. She took his arm, clutching it in a dead rigid bard grip as if her fingers, her band, were a small mass of wire. "I will have to take your arm," she whispered, whimpered. "And you haven't even got a pistol--Wait," she said. She stopped. He turned; he could not see her but be could hear her hurried breathing and then a rustling of cloth. Then she was prodding something at him. "Here," she whispered. "Take it." It was a hatchet; not sight but touch told him--a hatchet with a heavy worn handle and a heavy gapped rust-dulled blade.
"What?" he said.
"Take it!" she whispered, hissed. "You didn't bring a pistol. It's something."
"Here," be said; "wait."
"Come," she whispered. "You will have to let me take your arm, I am trembling so bad." They went on again, she clinging to one of his arms, the hatchet in his other band. "We will probably need it to get into the house, anyway," she said, stumbling along beside him, almost dragging him. "I just know she is somewhere watching us," she whimpered. "I can feel her. But if we can just get to the house, get into the house--"