Study Guide

Across Five Aprils Chapter 6

By Irene Hunt

Chapter 6

  • Sleep doesn't come easy (or barely at all) for Matt and Ellen.
  • The next morning, Matt says he is going to ask his neighbor, Ed Turner, to ride into Newton with him to find out more information on this Wortman character.
  • Ellen asks if he plans on stopping by the Burdow's as well and Matt takes off on a tangent about all the sadness they've had.
  • As Matt heads out to walk over to his neighbor's, Ellen hears a noise and goes after her husband.
  • She finds Matt collapsed with his hand on his chest. Um, uh-oh…
  • Jenny runs to get Ed, and one of Ed's sons drives to get the doctor.
  • Matt eventually comes back but he's not the same.
  • At ten years old, Jethro becomes the man of the family and responsible for all of the day's work.
  • It is April of 1862, and Jethro is plowing the fields by himself.
  • Ed stops by to offer any help he can spare while also alerting Jeth to news of a bloody battle in Tennessee.
  • They're saying that the North won but Grant was taken by surprise by the rebels.
  • Ed informs Jeth that the battle killed over 20,000 men, and more than 12,000 of them were Union soldiers.
  • Jethro thinks it's better to keep this news from his parents until they receive word from Tom and Eb.
  • Before leaving, Ed tells Jethro to rest every once in a while and that he'll send over his sons and friends of Matt to help out.
  • Jenny also hurries through her chores so she can help Jeth out in the fields.
  • Meanwhile Ellen is by her husband's side. He cries readily now, both because of his situation and because he thinks about Tom and the boys—so Ellen tells him not to worry and they'll hear from them soon.
  • Out in the field, Jethro and Jenny are enjoying the April sunshine.
  • They get to talking about the recent battle and its supporting cast members, like Grant and Buell.
  • Apparently Jenny wants to name a future child Don Carlos after Buell, so Jethro teases her and says, "sometimes you air so foolish I'm su'prised that Shad ever took a likin' to you" (6.49).
  • In response, Jenny says that Jethro reminds her of Shad and that they both need a foolish girl around them.
  • After a short silence, Jenny admits to thinking about the battles, and the boys, and even Bill—she's not that foolish all the time.
  • Jethro understands.
  • Over the course of the week, Ed's sons and neighbors come by to help out in the field, sometimes putting in a full day's work, but Jethro likes it best when his sister is with him.
  • Slowly he is transforming from Jenny's baby brother to her peer, similar to Tom when he was still around.
  • But when a letter comes from Shad, Jeth reverts back to some child-like tendencies.
  • Here's how it goes down.
  • On a particularly good day, Israel Thomas delivers the letter to Jethro.
  • Even though it is addressed to Jenny, everyone gets a chance to read it.
  • It's not Shad's first letter to the Creightons, but the other four previous correspondences were addressed to the entire family.
  • Jenny runs off to read the letter in private but later returns "with flaming cheeks" (6.62)—someone definitely got a love letter.
  • And while letters were usually shared in full with the entire family, Jenny only read portions of this one aloud.
  • Jethro is all sorts of angry, but his parents do not share in his irritation.
  • Jethro is happy to leave Jenny behind as he goes to work in the field near John and Nancy's house.
  • After working down there for a while, Nancy comes to bring him a snack and the kids came out to visit.
  • He is getting along better with them and things aren't as awkward being around Nancy.
  • She asks if they have received any letters and Jethro reports the one from Shad that only Jenny got to read in full.
  • While finishing his snack, he watches the boys run in the spring fields.
  • Jethro asks Nancy if she ever thought on how nice the word April sounds.
  • She agrees and notes how she got married and gave birth in April so it's kind of like her lucky month.
  • Except now her husband is away. Which isn't very lucky.
  • Her thoughts naturally drift to the war and she asks Jethro if he wonders what it is like for the boys fighting; Jethro realizes how foolish he was in being jealous over not reading Shad's letter.
  • Before he heads back to work, Nancy stops him and says that he can't be angry at Jenny because letters are personal things especially when they come from someone you love. Someday Jeth will understand, she says, though he's not so sure she's right about that since girls are gross.
  • When all his work is done, Jethro heads back to his house.
  • Jenny offers to take care of his team while he gets his supper but he throws her some major shade and a cold shoulder.
  • Not being one to take it, Jenny tells him to ease up on the stubbornness.
  • As he washes up for supper, Jethro thinks about his brothers and hopes to receive a letter soon from Tennessee.
  • That night, Jethro wakes up from another nightmare. This time, Jenny is the sibling to come calm him down.
  • She picks up on the fact that he's mad at her (which he falsely denies), and explains that she didn't share the letter because Matt still thinks she's too young to marry.
  • However, alone now with Jethro, she offers to let him read it.
  • Jethro remembers what Nancy said about letters being personal though, and declines. Looks like someone's done a bit of growing up this afternoon.
  • Just as Jenny is leaving, she pauses and asks Jethro if he hears a team of horses off in the distance—he definitely does.
  • They hear their parents stirring below, and after a little bit the galloping stops.
  • Jenny and Jethro can see the outline of three men on horses, slowly coming to their gate.
  • In an instant there is a commotion and Jethro hears his father's name, Bill's name, and "Copperhead" (a negative word referring to sympathetic northeners).
  • Matt is now yelling out into the darkness at the cowards and Jethro runs outside to find a bundle of sticks tied together with a cord, which is a warning that something worse is to follow.
  • To make sure Jethro and family really get the message, there is a note attached to their gift: if they stand up for Bill, there's going to be trouble.
  • Jethro, Jenny, and their parents gather in the kitchen.
  • Ellen pulls a Rambo and gets the gun normally stored by the door and lays it by their side.
  • A watchman with a gun keeps guard every night for the next three weeks.
  • The cool thing, though, is that it's not just the Creightons pulling shifts—most people in the community are on the Creightons' side.
  • But there are also some people who are still on the fence about Bill fighting for the South.
  • After a month, nothing else happens and the men stop pulling all-nighters to keep watch.
  • Jethro is instructed to tie the dog, Shep, up outside instead, and ring a bell if there's any future trouble.
  • All the Creightons continue to be nervous that something might happen though—and this worry is only justified when someone steals Shep.
  • A few nights later an arsonist releases all of their animals from the barn before setting it on fire.
  • The neighbors all come out to lend support to Matt, who cries at the sight of his barn burning.
  • And when Jethro is instructed to fetch water from the well, he finds that someone filled it will coal oil. Jerks.