Chapter 26 Summary
Trixie’s calf is going to live and the Baxters are elated. Ora makes a dress out of the goods Baxter bought her, and Buck reports the Forresters lost a two hundred-plus pound hog to Old Slewfoot. The Christmas festivities are in three days, but the Forresters will not be going. Jody makes his father a pipe and Baxter does some mysterious building late at night. No one hears the bear that night, but in the morning the calf is gone.
Baxter is furious and intends to finally kill Old Slewfoot. Jody and Flag struggle to keep up with him. After an exhausting day, the Baxters see no sign of the bear, but they set out again the next morning. If they are not back, Ora will drive the wagon to town and they will do their best to join her. Baxter is unwilling to let a warm trail get cold. They find Old Slewfoot in a swamp and it is difficult to follow the crafty creature. Baxter manages to nick him, but the bear then gives them the slip. Jody is exhausted but has never seen his father “so cold and implacable.”
They spend the night in the widow Nellie Ginright’s empty house; she is shocked to find them when she arrives in the morning but helps the Baxters continue the chase, as the bear has killed a lot of her stock in the past year. Baxter and his two dogs finally kill Old Slewfoot on Christmas Eve day. Carrying the heavy carcass is difficult and they realize they need help. A boisterous, drunk group of Forresters appear and help the Baxters take the carcass bask to Baxter’s Island.
They go to the church and Buck drapes himself in the bear hide, scaring everyone in the service; Baxter makes sure Buck does not get accidentally shot. The men join the holiday celebration; in the midst of it, they receive word that Oliver and Twink Weatherby have arrived. Lem and the other Forresters hear first and go immediately to the Huttos’ house and set it on fire. Jody searches for Oliver and finds him and the girl; he tells them the Forresters burned down his mother’s house.
When they arrive at the conflagration, Oliver insists he is going to go kill the Forresters; however, Grandma Hutto insists she carelessly left something on the stove. Jody and Ora are incredulous, but Baxter supports her story because Oliver would have killed every one of the Forresters. He introduces Twink Weatherby as his wife. Grandma Hutto privately threatens Jody never to tell the truth; she insists that she does not want to rebuild this house but wants to move to Boston, where Oliver ships out frequently. Oliver is sure if he “turns her loose” on the Yankees there is likely to be another war between the states.