Twelve-year-old Matt and his father built a small cabin on their newly purchased land in Maine. Father left Matt at the cabin to guard it and tend the crops while he went back to get Mother, a sister and a new baby in Massachusetts. Without a calendar, his father told Matt to make a notch every day on a stick. Seven notches per stick on seven sticks and then Matt’s family would be back at the cabin. Matt suddenly feels isolated and alone when Father leaves.
Matt was beginning to enjoy being along to do his chores without parental advice. He did some chinking—filling in the spaces between the logs with clay from the creek bank. He also tended the crops, chopped wood, killed something for dinner and cooked.
A bold stranger comes to the cabin. He eats lots of food and, while Matt is sleeping, the stranger steals Matt’s rifle. What will Matt use to get his dinner and for protection?
Matt forgets to bar the door securely and a bear gets into the cabin, wasting food and making a mess.
Hungry for something sweet, Matt climbs up a tree and breaks into a beehive. Angry stinging bees chase him to the creek. Swollen and poisoned by the stings he is carried back to his cabin and cared for by two Indians.
Old grandfather Indian makes a “treaty” with Matt. Matt will teach the Indian’s grandson, Attean, how to read in exchange for food from the Indians. Grandfather thinks that, with the onset of more white men, Attean will need to know how to read.
Matt has a problem. How will he teach Attean how to read? Attean is very sullen about learning to read when he arrives at the cabin. He’ll start with the ABC’s. Apple,bone,candle,door…
Matt grabs Attean’s attention by reading Robinson Crusoe Attean compares the white man’s way of doing things to the Indian’s way.
Matt asks Attean to show him how to trap a rabbit. Then, when reading Robinson Crusoe, Attean becomes upset when he hears that the native becomes a slave to Crusoe.
Chapter 10: Fish
Matt smooths over the idea that the native was a slave to Crusoe and seems to calm Attean. Attean takes Matt fishing the Indian way.
Chapter 11: Sign of the Beaver
Attean led Matt into a new part of the forest and showed him a beaver dam. He pointed to a marking on a tree—the sign of the beaver. Attean was part of the Beaver tribe. The Indian taught Matt how to make his way in the forest so he would not get lost.
Chapter 12: Bow and Arrow
Attean shows Matt how to make a bow and arrow.