Across Five Aprils Chapter 5
Ellen is in her bed with a headache; she is in pain because she has not had any coffee. When coffee reached the highest price early in 1862, Ellen, shocked, had vowed to stop drinking it, but now she is suffers from not having had her usual dose of it. Unable to see his wife suffering, Matt tells Jethro to go to Nancy to get some. After drinking the hot coffee, Ellen is able to get up from her bed.
Matt calls Jethro to have him go to Newton to do some chores and pick up some goods for the family. Traveling the 15 miles to Newton to buy goods with money is a man's job, and Jethro is proud to have been entrusted with the task. Next morning, Jethro is up early. After loading the wagon and having breakfast, Jethro begins his trip.
On his way, Jethro passes by houses and barns until he meets an old man three miles south of Rose Hill. The man named Roscoe asks Jethro questions about the battle site and the generals who led the fights. He wants Jethro to get him a newspaper from Newton. His grandson, a Union soldier named Jake Roscoe, served during the Pea Ridge battle, and he wants to know what happened to him.
After promising the man, Jethro is back on the road. He reaches Newton a little before noon. Compared to the solitude of his cabin and farm, Newton is bustling with people and shops. The town is built around a square with a jail, feed stores, a harness hop, general stores, a newspaper office, saloons, and a restaurant. Jethro first goes to the mill to bargain with the grain. Later, he goes to Gardiner's general store to exchange the chickens he has brought from home with fabric and thread for Jenny and mittens for himself. He also makes some purchases that the family needs such as sugar and coffee.
In the general store are several men gathered around the fireplace. Ross Milton, the editor of the county paper and the father of Travis Burdow are among the crowd. None of the men pays any attention to Jethro until one of them asks Jethro his name. Another man who is slightly drunk hears that he is Matt Creighton's boy, and sneeringly asks him about Bill who has gone off to the South. The man who is named Wortman speaks scornfully about Bill who might be fighting for the Confederate army until Milton intervenes, reminding him that there are several Creighton boys fighting for the Union army as well. When Jethro speaks up on Bill's behalf, the man becomes angry, but Milton criticizes the man: "There isn't trouble enough in this country for you, is there, Guy? You'd better get out and do your patriotic duty--kick up some more mob violence. That's your forte, you know; get in on any killing you can drum up, so long as your own hide is safe." Chapter 5, pg. 76 The man bitterly leaves the store.
After Wortman leaves, Milton comforts Jethro, offering him to get his team of horses rested and to take him out to dinner at the town restaurant. At dinner, Milton asks Jethro about his interests--books, history, heroes, and newspapers. They also talk about correct speech, and Milton offers to give Jethro a book he has written on correct English usage. Jethro is pleased by the warm atmosphere of the restaurant as well as the good food. After they leave the restaurant, Milton warns him that Wortman lives near Rose Hill on Jethro's way home and that he must be careful when returning home. After giving Jethro the St. Louis papers to deliver to Mr. Roscoe and the book he has promised, Milton says good-bye.
Jethro is full of thoughts about the day as he drives the horses out of town. He is bothered by what has happened with Guy Wortman earlier that day. There have been murders and attacks on families suspected of supporting the Southern cause in other places. Although Jasper County is supportive of the Northern cause, there are many who secretly support the South. It is after sunset when he reaches the Burdow place which is "full of a sinister threat." He passes the house to begin the two-mile trip through the woods when he sees Dave Burdow standing at the end of the road with his horse. After saying that he would like to ride along, he gets into the wagon. Jethro is frightened by the big, silent man, but he is still childishly innocent: "He [is] still too much a child, still insufficiently acquainted with violence, to believe that bodily harm could possibly come to him. Ugly things happened, it was true, but to people who were distant, unknown people--not to someone named Jethro Creighton." Chapter 5, pg. 85
Seeing Jethro frightened, Burdow assures him that he is not going to hurt him. Telling Jethro that he overheard someone making plans to attack him on his way home, the man takes the reins to drive. When they reach a bridge at the end of the road, a man leaps out and whips the horses to frighten them, but Dave Burdow holds the reins tightly until the danger passes and the horses calm down. Both are silent until they reach Jake Roscoe's cabin. After handing the papers to Mr. Roscoe, Jethro is back on the wagon. Burdow and Jethro drive along until Burdow stops the wagon to ride off on his horse the other way.
On the rest of the journey home, Jethro is tired and frightened. When he reaches home, the family comes out to greet him. Inside, they talk about the purchases and the exchanges Jethro has made, and Jethro tells them parts of what happened during the day, carefully choosing what to tell. Before they all go to sleep, however, Jethro begins telling the story about Guy Wortman and Dave Burdow.