Chapters 19-21 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 671

Chapter 19

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Two days later, Attean invites Matt to come visit at his village. His grandmother had been very surprised that a white boy would put so much effort into saving an Indian dog, and she welcomes him now. When Attean shows him around the encampment, Matt is fascinated by the work the squaws are doing, and he watches carefully as they pound corn kernels and spread berries out on strips of bark to dry. Attean, who scorns "squaw work," humors Matt for a while, then takes him over to play a game, similar to dice, with a noisy cluster of boys.

Matt is soon the loser in the game of chance and must forfeit his shirt in payment. Afterwards, Attean initiates another game, which is played with a ball and sticks. The game is rough, and the Indian boys are "bewildering quick and skillful." Matt, however, holds his own, earning the respect of the others by showing surprising skill even as he uncomplainingly absorbs vicious blows and jabs. The boys end the day by swimming in the river, and before they leave, Attean's grandmother makes her grandson retrieve his guest's shirt.

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As they cross the river on the way back, the Indian dog sits close to Matt for the first time, and Attean notes that the creature remembers his kindness in saving him from the trap. At the opposite bank, Attean leaves Matt to find his way home alone. Matt is hesitant, but appreciates the vote of confidence. That night, as he lies in bed, Matt is content. He has gained the acceptance of Attean and the Indians, and for the first time since his father left, he does not feel alone.

Chapter 20

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Latest answer posted March 12, 2009, 12:25 pm (UTC)

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When Attean returns to Matt's cabin a week later, he is solemn and distracted. He tells Matt that he might not come again for a long time, because it is time for him to go out to find his manitou. The Indian boy likens a manitou to a spirit and explains that every man in his tribe must have one. After making special preparations, Attean will go out into the forest alone, where he will wait for many days, not eating or drinking, until his manitou comes to him. Matt recognizes sadness and an uncharacteristic fear in his friend's eyes; if he is not able to find his manitou, Attean will never be a hunter among his people.

Attean promises that he will come back when his quest is over, but Matt understands that no matter what happens, things will never be the same between them. Even so, Matt sincerely hopes that his friend finds his manitou.

Chapter 21

When Attean does return, he is accompanied by his grandfather, Saknis. Matt sees immediately that his friend has changed. Attean's unkempt black hair is shaved, except for a topknot fastened with a string, and he carries himself with a quiet pride: he has found his manitou.

Saknis addresses Matt gravely, observing that winter is coming, and telling him that the Indians are preparing to move north. He notes that Matt's father has not come back and invites the boy to accompany them. With a rare smile, Saknis says, "White boy and Attean be like brother," and Matt is filled with joy, but despite his intense longing to go with the Indians, he knows what he must do. Matt's father has trusted him to take care of things until his return, and he cannot let him down. Impressed with the young boy's integrity, Saknis extends his hand in friendship and respect before the two Indians make their way back through the forest.

When he is alone, Matt is overcome with panic. He cannot help but wonder if going with the Indians would have been the wise thing to do. After much soul-searching, he concludes that though he is proud and gratified that Saknis and Attean have found him worthy and want him to come live with them, he belongs with his own people and must keep his promise to his father.

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