Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt

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Chapter 7 Summary

Friends and neighbors from all over the county come to the Creightons' aid in the wake of the vigilantes' destruction. Ross Milton and Sam Gardiner collect money to replace some of the lost farm implements, and others come by to clean up the well and work in the fields. Close neighbors promise to help rebuild the barn, and one of Ed Turner's sons brings a dog to provide a modicum of protection. All of these kind actions bring comfort to the family, but their fears are never completely allayed.

During the months of May and June of 1862, more stories of horror filter through from Shiloh, as local boys injured in the battle come home. One of these young soldiers, Dan Lawrence, brings dreaded news about Tom Creighton. Tom had been with Dan at Pittsburgh Landing, and both had stood up and cheered when they had spied reinforcements led by General Buell approaching from across the Tennessee River. A stray bullet had found Tom. Dan says, "He didn't suffer...he never knowed what happened."

News spreads quickly about this additional trial that has been visited upon the Creightons. Ross Milton prints an open letter in his paper, telling about Tom's death at Shiloh, and comparing the boy's courage to the cowardice of the men who have been terrorizing his family. Jenny cuts the article from the newspaper and places it in the family Bible. At her father's direction, she fills in the date and location of her brother's death next to his name and date of birth.

Jethro studies the long list of names on the page and finds his own at the very bottom: "Jethro Hallan Creighon, born January 13th, 1852." Directly above are the names of three brothers, all of whom had died in the summer of the year of Jethro's birth; none of them had been over the age of four. Jethro and Jenny, whose name is next on the list, muse about the strangeness of the fact that the illness that had killed their young siblings had passed right over them. They then spend a few moments noting the other names written in the Bible: Mary Ellen Creighton, killed in the accident caused by Travis Burdow; Tom, only nineteen when he had died; John and Bill, born a year apart and now fighting on opposite sides in the war; twin girls Lydia and Lucinda, who had long since married and moved away; and Benjamin, who had "left for Californy" before Jethro had even been born.

In an attempt to lighten the mood, Jethro teases his sister, telling her that soon her "weddin' date" to Shadrach Yale will be inscribed on the page. Jenny responds gravely, however, confiding that though she had used to dream about the bright future she and her beau would someday have. Now she makes no plans for the future for fear that she will one day hear that Shad, like Tom, will not be coming home.

An incident in town provides welcome comic relief around this time when Sam Gardiner, the owner of the general store in Newton, tricks Guy Wortman into believing that he will be out of town for a week and that the store will be closed and unguarded. Gardiner, who has been vociferous in his defense of the Creightons in regard to what they have endured...

(The entire section is 811 words.)