Laura said: "Ours was really a bear. But we were not scared, because we thought it was Sukey."
Her father did not say anything, but hugged her tighter.
"Oo-oo! That bear might have eaten Mother and me all up!" Laura said, snuggling closer to him. "But Mother walked right up to him and slapped him. He didn't do anything at all. Why didn't he do anything?"
"I guess he was too surprised to do anything, Laura," her father said. "I guess he was afraid, when the lantern shone in his eyes. And when your mother walked up to him and slapped him, he knew she wasn't afraid."
"Well, you were brave, too," Laura said. "Even if it was only a stump, you thought it was a bear. You'd have hit him on the head with a club, if he had been a bear, wouldn't you, father?"
"Yes," said her father, "I would. You see, I had to."
Then her mother said it was bedtime. She helped Laura and Mary undress and button up their red flannel nightgowns. (Flannel is a soft cloth; it is good for making warm nightgowns and pyjamas.) They knelt down by the trundle bed and said their prayers.
Mother kissed them both and tucked the covers in around them. They lay there awhile, looking at Mother's smooth, parted hair and her hands busy with sewing in the lamplight. Her needle made little clicking sounds against her thimble and then the thread went softly through the pretty calico cloth that her father had traded the animal skins and furs for.
Laura looked at her father, who was greasing his boots. His moustache and his hair and his long brown beard were silky in the lamplight and the colours of his plaid jacket were happy. He whistled cheerfully while he worked and then he sang:
"The birds were singing in the morning,
And the myrtle and the ivy were in bloom,
And the sun over the hills was a-dawning,
It was then that I laid her in the tomb."
It was a warm night. The fire had gone out in the fireplace and her father did not build it up. All around the little house, in the forest, there were little sounds of falling snow and from the eaves there was the drip, drip of the melting icicles.
In just a little while the trees would be putting out their baby leaves, all rosy, yellow and pale green. There would be wild flowers and birds in the forest.
Then there would be no more stories by the fire at night, but all day long Laura and Mary would run and play among the trees, because it would be spring.