Study Guide

Across Five Aprils Chapter 5

By Irene Hunt

Chapter 5

  • It is now March of 1862, and coffee prices are on the rise. Ellen is determined go cold turkey and endure her headaches without her beloved cup, but seeing his wife in pain, Matt orders Jethro to ask Nancy (John's wife) if they could borrow some.
  • Despite a bit of awkwardness down at his sister-in-law's, Nancy mentions to Jethro that he and Jenny should come play with her little sons sometimes.
  • Nancy also goes on about how wonderful it would be if the war suddenly ended and everything went back to the way it was before.
  • All Jethro can do is nod with sympathy.
  • Back at the Creightons', the coffee does the trick and Ellen is relieved from her pain.
  • Matt asks Jethro if he would go into town tomorrow to do some job, which is a pretty big deal since taking a team into town is a manly man's job.
  • The next morning Jethro and Matt are up at 4:00AM to load the wagon. Good morning, sunshine… or moon, as the case may be.
  • After a hearty breakfast Jethro sets off for Newton.
  • He's thrilled to be in charge of his own team, and along the way people watch and wave; an older man even asks if Jeth can pick him up a newspaper.
  • They get talking about the war.
  • The man knows Matt and has heard that one son has enlisted with the South.
  • Nervously, Jethro says he isn't sure.
  • The old man continues talking to Jeth and gets a full run-down on a battle his grandson could have been in.
  • He's quite impressed with Jethro's knowledge of what's written in the papers and before letting Jethro go, he introduces himself as Jake Roscoe.
  • Back on track, Jethro keeps his cool while driving through two miles of woods—but loses it a little when passing by the Burdow's home, where he makes his horses "trot until they were well beyond it" (5.66).
  • Finally into town, Jethro goes about his business, carrying out all the errands as his father instructed.
  • In one store, Jeth notices the editor of the county paper, Ross Milton, talking among a group of men.
  • Another man chatting in that group is Travis Burdow's father.
  • Ruh-roh.
  • Jethro keeps to himself until he needs to approach the group for one of his items.
  • He introduces himself as Matt Creighton's son and a few men look to Dave Burdow for a reaction.
  • Dave just stares at Jeth.
  • Breaking an awkward silence, Jethro is asked if Matt is with him but he asserts that he made the trip alone.
  • One man takes this opportunity to ask Jethro about the rumor of Bill fighting with the rebels, but Jethro says that they haven't heard from Bill.
  • The same man starts brings up the touchy connection between the Creightons and the Burdows, and Dave leaves in silence.
  • Ross (nicknamed "Red") tells the man (we now learn is called Wortman) to pick on someone his own size, but instead he does the exact opposite, and asks Jethro if his father has taught him that Bill "is a skunk that deserves shootin' fer goin' against his country" (5.86).
  • Easy there, buster.
  • Jethro isn't going to take this and he tells Wortman that he thinks the world of Bill, no matter where he is.
  • Someone starts to clap but Wortman is enraged and, stepping toward Jethro, begins a tirade on how Matt isn't all that great if he isn't disowning one son and smearing his name to the others.
  • The guys in the shop tell Wortman that he's drunk and should leave.
  • Another man follows after Wortman and says aloud that at least Travis Burdow is a Union soldier.
  • After everything settles down, Ross Milton offers to help Jethro pack up his wagon.
  • Outside he tells Jeth that he wants to get better acquainted since he knew Bill and Shad a little bit.
  • Ross invites Jethro to dinner while his team gets watered and fed for the trip back home, and once they're in a fancy restaurant, the first question Ross asks Jethro is if he can read.
  • He can.
  • Ross is pleased to hear that Jeth likes to read about Tom Paine, and also that Shad has been such a great teacher.
  • Ross suggests getting Jethro a book on speaking proper English, and Jethro is thrilled.
  • After dinner, Ross tells Jethro to be careful on his way home.
  • It seems Jeth is going to pass by Wortman's place.
  • Getting on the road again, Jethro thinks about all the exciting things he'll tell his family when he gets home.
  • Jethro is happy when he finally arrives at the wooded portion of his trip, having successfully passing the Burdow's place.
  • But there's someone waiting for him.
  • Dave Burdow signals for Jethro to stop and hops on in to ride along for a bit.
  • Tension builds for a quarter mile and then Dave reassures Jethro that he isn't going to hurt him.
  • Finally it comes out that the reason Dave is riding along with Jethro is because he heard talk in town of someone planning to wait in the woods for Jeth to pass by—and in Dave's words, this is evil. (We agree, Dave.)
  • At this point, Dave takes the reins from Jethro.
  • They come to a bridge and Jethro can hardly see the silhouette of a horse.
  • Without warning, someone jumps up on the bridge and lays a whip across Jethro's team.
  • Naturally the horses go wild but only for a bit.
  • Dave has everything under control.
  • It's all silence in the wagon and Jethro realizes that he had clung to Dave's arm in all of the excitement.
  • Eventually they come to Jake Roscoe's gate and Jethro hands off the paper while silently dismissing questions from the old man.
  • Shortly after that, Dave says that Jethro should be safe now and leaves to return home.
  • Jeth gets a little emotional when he finally arrives home but his family doesn't want to "shame him by asking if the trip had been too hard for him" (5.191).
  • Instead Jethro retells his day's activities—leaving out any details of Wortman or Dave Burdow riding with him.
  • Ellen suggests that Jethro get ready for bed after his long day, but as the family all start to rise from their places, Jethro decides to tell the full truth and starts with the story of the confrontation in the store.