(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Worth Luckett was a woodsy with an itching foot. By the time he had five growing children and one left in its infant grave, he was ready to take off again. He had already been west when he was a boy with Colonel Bouquet. Jary, his wife, had never wanted to leave the settlements, but game was growing scarce in Pennsylvania; without food brought down by his gun, Worth could not see how he could feed his family. He was wary of telling Jary outright that he wanted to move on, but she knew what he wanted and was half resigned to it when she heard that the animals were clearing out of places where men lived.

Because Jary had the slow fever, the care of the younger children fell on Sayward’s shoulders. She was nearly fifteen, a strapping girl scared of neither man nor beast. It was not beyond her strength to drown a white-faced buck when Worth had neglected to bring meat home. The girls, Genny, Achsa, and baby Sulie, and the boy Wyitt knew they had to step when Sayward spoke.

Worth led his family across the Ohio River and on until they came to a wilderness of trees that reached as far as the eye could see. Near a spot covered with deer antlers, Worth laid out a place for a cabin. He was handy enough with tools to have the shell of a cabin up quickly, but the game in the woods drew him away so often that fall came before the cabin was finished. The darkness under the big trees had disheartened Jary so much that she did not even speak of the cabin, until one fall day when the leaves had fallen so that she could look up through the branches and see the sky again. Then she felt like a human being who wanted to live in a house. She sent Worth back to his job. The snow fell the day after they moved into their cabin.

A few Indians still followed the trace by the house. One came on a night when Worth was away. Sayward hid the ax under her bed to fell him if he made a move toward the children in the loft or came toward her bed. He got up at night to cook some of his own meat at the fire. Worth was disturbed when he came home and found the Indian still there, but he and the Indian roared with delight when Sayward showed them the hidden ax.

Jary had such a hankering after some bread that Worth walked six days to bring back some white flour, but she could not eat the bread after Sayward made it; the slow fever had nearly finished her. When she died, they buried her under one of the big trees outside the cabin. Worth went away for a while, leaving Sayward to take care of the others.

One day, for the first time since they had lived there, they heard another ax in the woods. The young ones investigated and found a cabin going up, a man and a boy working on it. The man was a tom thumb, Sayward thought, when he asked her father for Sayward as a wife. Sayward thought he might be the first around there to ask her to marry him but probably not the last.

Before long, a trading post was set up by the river. Wyitt could hardly wait to...

(The entire section is 1217 words.)