Tim meets his cousins, the Platts, for the first time. Four girls sleep in a tiny clapboard house and the two boys sleep in the barn. Tim feels grateful to have grown up in the tavern, which always had plenty of room for himself and Sam to sleep comfortably. In a cozy scene, the Platt family, Tim, and Father sit around a fireplace. Tim observes that he felt shy about meeting them, but they do not feel shy, because they are in their house. Mr. Platt and Father discuss the disintegration of law in many of the colonies, the threat of the cow-boys, and the open hostility between Tories and Rebels. Father defends Redding, saying that law and order still reign. Tim falls asleep and is soon taken up to bed by his cousin Ezekiel. The two boys speak of the war. Ezekiel criticizes Sam for joining the Rebel forces, and Tim stands up for Sam. Ezekiel asks Tim which side he would fight for if he had to, and Tim replies, "The loyalist, I guess." As he falls asleep, though, he imagines the horror of finding himself pitted in battle against Sam.
Father and Tim leave early the next morning and have no more trouble as they approach Verplancks Point, thanks to escorts along the way. Tim is impressed by the size and beauty of the Hudson River, and astounded when they arrive in Verplancks and see the widest part of the river and the fisherman in their skiffs. He watches the fishermen with interest but sees that they look dirty and exhausted by the end of the day. The trade is successful, and the Meekers spend the night in a tavern before continuing on their way home. They plan to take a long, safe way home, but snow begins coming down and they know they must get themselves and their oxen home as soon as possible. The oxen are already uncomfortable, slow and bawling from the snow, so Tim and Father stop finally to stay the icy night with the Platts.
When Tim and Father depart from the Platt house, the snow has covered the land and the ground is slippery and hard to travel. Their escort home has not met them, due to the heavy snowfall. They trek on, Tim behind with the cattle and Father riding ahead on his horse to check on the safety of the road. Tim feels frightened and lonely, but he keeps going. The Meekers make it through Ridgebury with no problems. But they do not feel entirely safe yet, and Father rides up again to scout the path ahead. He takes longer than usual, and Tim passes the time by naming all of the countries in the world, stumbling over whether to count America, finally deciding not to. Tim begins to worry and think of possible reasons why Father has not returned yet, but he knows that none of his excuses are true. Tim tries unsuccessfully to speed up the oxen, then leaves them next to the road and jogs along, following Father's horse's tracks.
Tim comes to a space where the horse's tracks are surrounded and intermingled with tracks of many other horses and then trail away on the road. Tim knows instantly that Father has been ambushed by the cowboys. Tim prays, then panics, and runs into the woods to hide, trying to decide what to do. He wonders what Sam would have done, and concludes that Sam would do the brave, daring thing, which would be to rescue Father. It dawns on Tim that the bravest thing is not always the smartest thing, and he wonders what Father would do. Father would take the goods back home so that their tavern could make it through the winter. Tim runs back to the oxen and thumped them into motion.
As he moves along with the cart, he knows that the cow-boys will return, and slowly forms a plan for dealing with them. Night falls, and soon Tim spies three tall figures blocking the road ahead of him. Tim cries out, "Are you the escort? Am I ever glad to see you." The cow-boys ask what he means by talking about an escort. Tim feigns fearlessness and trust in them, and explains that his father called an escort in case the cow-boys came to harass them. The cow-boys begin to argue about whether to stay or leave. They want his goods, but they do not want to get ambushed by the coming escort. A dog barks, spooking them, and they flee. Tim begins to laugh and cry with relief and triumph. He has saved his family's goods, he has acted bravely and smartly, and he has a great story to tell Sam. He continues traveling through the night until he arrives home in Redding.
Tim travels a significant distance away from his home territory for the first time when he goes on the trip with his father. This distance allows him to gain some perspective and appreciate his own life. He sees his cousins, who must sleep in crowded rooms, and sometimes in the barn, and he feels grateful for having grown up in the tavern, with warmth and room to sleep comfortably. Tim finds himself standing up for Sam when his cousin Ezekiel criticizes Sam for joining the Rebel forces, even though Tim himself generally wishes Sam had made different decisions. Away from his usual context, Tim is able to define himself and his opinions by consulting the information he has gathered through new experiences. He recognizes that with his family position, he would probably wind up fighting on the Loyalist side, but he also recognizes that his loyalty to Sam brother makes him uneasy about shooting any Rebel, knowing that it could be his own brother, or anyone's brother.