Chapters 4-6 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 694

Chapter 4

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Without his rifle, Matt is unable to hunt. Fish, however, are plentiful, and he is able to supplement his diet with the provisions in the cabin. Things are going well, and Matt becomes complacent. One day, after a productive morning of fishing, he returns home to find the cabin door swinging open and a trail of flour dribbling off into the woods.

The inside of Matt's dwelling is a shambles. Somehow, he had neglected to bar the door securely, and a bear had gotten in, decimating his small store of food supplies and emptying his precious keg of molasses. Matt is furious at his own carelessness. He will not starve, but now he will have to rely solely on the creek to sustain himself.

Chapter 5

Before long, Matt feels that he simply cannot endure another meal of plain fish. There is a bee tree at the swampy edge of a nearby pond, and he decides to risk a few stings to secure a bit of honey. At first, the bees do not seem to mind the intrusion, but when Matt breaks off a large piece of honeycomb, they attack with fury.

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With angry bees swarming around his head and arms, Matt rushes blindly toward the water. His foot becomes entangled in the weeds covering the boggy ground, and when he tries to jerk free, a fierce pain shoots up his leg and he falls headlong into the pond. Thrashing desperately to get back to the surface, Matt feels strong arms around him. Half-conscious, he imagines that his father is carrying him. Through eyelids almost swollen shut from bee venom, he sees two dark-skinned Indians ministering to him—an old man and a boy.

Matt lies helplessly as the man gently removes stingers from his face, neck, and body. He then feels himself being lifted, and finds himself back in his own bed in the cabin. The Indian man makes him drink some bitter medicine from a wooden spoon, then he is gone, and Matt sleeps.

Chapter 6

A day later, Matt finally awakens and knows that he is well. The old Indian returns. Able to see clearly now, Matt observes that he is dressed in a brown coat and fringed leggings, and that his head is shaven, except for a long black topknot. The Indian introduces himself as "Saknis, family of beaver." When he asks if Matt is at the cabin alone, the boy is surprised to find that he feels no need to lie as he had with Ben, and he tells Saknis the truth about his situation.

Matt expresses his thanks to the Indian for taking care of him, and Saknis says that he has been watching over him, confirming Matt's suspicion that he had been observed. The next day, Saknis returns with his grandson, Attean, who is fourteen, has heavy black hair which falls straight to his shoulders, and is clothed only in a breechcloth. The young Indian's hostile demeanor communicates that he despises everything about the white man.

With an uncanny ability to anticipate Matt's needs, Saknis returns several times over the next few days, bringing food, a pair of moccasins, and a crutch so that the boy can get about on his injured ankle. Matt looks for something to give in return, but he has few possessions other than a Bible and a copy of Robinson Crusoe. Because he can think of nothing else with which to reciprocate, Matt offers Saknis the novel as a gift. Although the old Indian cannot read, he is intrigued by the book. Saknis asks Matt if he knows the "signs" that are contained within.

When Matt admits that he can indeed interpret the writing in the book, Saknis proposes a "treaty." Attean will bring the white boy meat, and in exchange, Matt will teach him the "white man's signs." Attean is furious at this suggestion, but his grandfather is unyielding. He wants his grandson to learn to read so that he will understand what is being agreed upon when the white man brings treaties for the Indians to sign. Attean will be able to prevent his people from being cheated in the future.

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