The best time of all was at night, when her father came home. He had been walking through the snowy forest with tiny icicles hanging on the ends of his moustache and beard. He would hang his gun on the wall over the door. Then he would throw off his fur cap and coat. He took the mittens off his hands and called: "Where's my little half-pint of sweet apple-juice half drunk-up
Laura and Mary would run to climb on his knees and sit there while he warmed himself by the fire. Then he would put on his coat and cap and mittens again and go out to do more work around the farm and bring inplenty of wood for the fire.
Her father had walked in the forest where he set his animal traps. Sometimes he finished quickly because the traps were empty. Sometimes he caught an animal sooner than usual. When that happened, he would come home early. Then he would have time to play with Laura and Mary.
One game they loved was called mad dog. Her father would run his fingers through his thick, brown hair, standing it all up on end. Then he dropped onto his hands and knees like a dog. He would start growling, like a dog. Then he chased Laura and Mary around the room, trying to get them cornered where they couldn't get away.
They were quick at dodging and running, but once he caught them against the wood-box, behind the cooker. They couldn't get past their father and there was no other way out.
Then father growled so terribly, his hair was so wild and his eyes so fierce that it all seemed real. Mary was so frightened that she could not move. But as father came nearer Laura screamed. Then with a wild leap and a fast climb she went over the wood-box, pulling Mary with her. And all at once there was no mad dog at all. There was only her father standing there with his playful eyes shining, looking at Laura.
"Well!" he said to her. "You're only a little half-pint of apple-juice half drunk-up, but you’re as strong as a little French horse!"
"You shouldn't frighten the children so, Charles," her mother said. "That was too scary. Look how big their eyes are."
Her father looked and then took down his fiddle. He began to play and sing.
The Little House in the Big Woods
Chapter 1 - Part 1: Introduction
Chapter 1 - Part 2: Wolves in the Night
Chapter 1 - Part 4: Smoked Meat
Chapter 1 - Part 5: Food for Winter
Chapter 1 - Part 6: Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 7: After Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 9: Winter Night
Chapter 1 - Part 10: About the Author & Where to Find the Book
Chapter 2 - Part 1: Winter Days and Winter Nights
Chapter 2 - Part 2: Jack Frost
Chapter 2 - Part 3: Laura and Mary Helped Mother with the Housework
Chapter 2 - Part 4: Churn on Thursday
Chapter 2 - Part 5: The Best Time of All
Chapter 2 - Part 6: Her Father Began to Play his Fiddle and Sing
Chapter 2 - Part 7: Father Told Stories
Chapter 2 - Part 8 - The Story of Grandfather and the Panther
by John Larrysson
A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.