One day Laura's father said that spring was coming. In the forest, the snow was beginning to melt. Bits of it dropped from the branches of the trees and made little holes in the softening snow below. At noon all the icicles hanging along the edge of the little house sparkled in the sunshine and drops of water hung shaking at their tips.
Laura's father said he must go to town to trade the skins and furs of the wild animals he had been catching all winter. So one evening he tied them up into a big bundle. There were so many furs that when they were packed tightly and tied together they made a bundle almost as big as Father himself.
Very early one morning her father strapped the bundle of furs on his shoulders and started to walk to town. There were so many furs to carry that he could not take his gun. Laura's mother was worried, but her father said that by starting before the sun came up and walking very fast all day he could get home again before dark. Laura's mother was worried because the bears in the spring were hungry. But her father knew how to deal with wild animals. Almost all wild animals will leave people alone.1
The nearest town was far away. Laura and Mary lived in the forest and had never seen a town. They had never seen a store. They had never seen even two houses standing together. But they knew that in a town there were many houses. There was a store full of candy, cloth and other wonderful things. It had gun powder, shot (bullets), salt and sugar.
They knew that her father would trade his furs to the storekeeper for beautiful things from town and all day they were expecting the presents he would bring them. When the sun sank low above the treetops and no more drops fell from the tips of the icicles they began to watch eagerly for Father.
The sun sank out of sight, the forest grew dark and he did not come home. Her mother started supper and set the bowls on the table, but he did not come home. It was time to do the chores and still he had not come home.
1 In Hong Kong's hills there are many poisonous snakes. I have stopped and watched them. None have ever been aggressive. Do not stand in the way of any snake you see, let it get away from you. I have seen idiots stand around a snake in a big circle to see what it would do. Snakes are easy to deal with, they do not outrun people.