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SNOWSHOE FELICITY

Her mother Nancy had bought Felicity a little pair of snowshoes for a Christmas present, and after the very next snowfall, she went with her father John eagerly to the cabin in the bush to try them out. It was quite a task getting there at all in such wintry weather, but at last they arrived. By then Felicity already felt that (in walking with them in the snow) she had practised quite a lot.

The snowshoes had little tails behind them and, if she were not careful, sometimes she would put one over the other and nearly fall backwards or forwards, but generally she managed quite well. On the slopes, though, they tended to slide downwards into the snow and she had to learn how to straighten them without sinking deeply under the surface. She could not do her usual dancing and pirouetting about with snowshoes on, and John could scarcely help laughing once or twice at her involuntary antics up and down the slopes when she did not press the snowshoes down evenly.

When they arrived at the cabin, John started building a fire in the wood stove.

"Can I go exploring?" asked Felicity right away.

"Of course," said John, although he had some misgivings about it. "Don't go too far, and come back soon," he said.

"I will, I will," called Felicity, flip-flopping along as fast as her small legs would carry her.

She had not gone far from the cabin when she saw a trail in the snow.

"Good," she said, "I'll follow it, and if it's a racoon then I will know where he lives."

Whoever it was had gone just close enough to the cabin to see whether there was any food available on the doorstep, but seeing none from a distance had continued along without a diversion up to the door. Felicity plodded along beside the tracks and not over them so that she would not blot them out. She followed the tracks along and they went away from the clearing and in among the trees. Often she had to circle round a tree and then pick up the track the other side of it, and sometimes the bush became quite thick so that she had to make a considerable detour, but she always kept the tracks in sight and came back to plod along beside them as often as she could.

As she went along, the bush seemed to change, and the trees, which at first had seemed to be thick, became thinner and the ground sloped first upwards, then downwards and now there seemed to be less trees in front of her. As she realized this she began to say to herself,

"I should go back, I seem to be a very long way from the cabin now,

and I don't want to be lost or get into trouble when I do get back."

But just then she saw a long, fallen, tree near the tracks.

"This must be it," she thought, and went on that little bit further, but it was not, and the tracks went straight on by, a few feet away.

Then she saw a dead standing tree and thought, "This must be it,"and went on that far, but it was not, and the tracks still went on further.

Then she thought,"I must be getting close to that little lake ahead, where Weevil goes with his raft,"

But as she went along, the tracks seemed to veer around a little and then just next to a great double white pine tree, where half had fallen down, she found a circle of flattened snow, as though an animal had lain down, or walked around and rolled and smoothed the surface into a saucer-like shape. Then from that very spot she saw two more tracks went off in different directions.

"Oh dear," she thought, "What can I do now?"

She looked most carefully for signs of a hole in the ground nearby, but there were none, only the two tracks going off into the bush again. Finally, not wishing to give up yet, although she thought she must have walked at least half or three-quarters of an hour, she took the track to the right, saying to herself, "I can always find my way back because I can see where I have been and trace my own tracks backward. The sky is clear, so it can't snow, and how could I possibly get lost?"

Away she went then, following the right hand tracks and once more she came to a down slope and then another long fallen tree trunk, but again the tracks went right along beside it and did not stray or veer towards it at all. Now she was really becoming quite concerned, for she seemed to have been away from her father for so long. She had kept her eyes steadily on the ground and lower parts of the trees, looking for the tracks to follow, and possible holes in the ground. She noticed that the stand of trees having become thicker for a while were now thinning again, and suddenly looking up, to her amazement there was the back of the cabin, in front of her. She could hardly believe it, since she thought she was miles away at the little lake.

"Well," she said to herself, after having called out to assure her father that she was back safe and sound, "I will now follow the other tracks."

So away she went again, plodding along, and determined to follow the second track as far as it went. This then must surely be the one that would show her where the animal's home was. She went along in fine style now because she was treading over the snow that was hard-packed by her snowshoes once already, and so made much faster time. Before too long she was back again at the circular depression in the snow and the other tracks led off to the left.

Now she crossed over, and keeping to the left of the large white pine, walked away into the distance thinking to herself that she must be very careful not to go too far, and to turn back if there were no sign at the end of the tracks in a reasonable time. As before, she found the trail winding up over slopes and down the other side, skirting around large trees, going along by fallen trunks and close to standing dead trees. Gradually she began to realize that the animal had been going in this way because each place it went was a potential food place and it was in fact making a round trip to pass all the possible sources of food within its territory.

She followed along again past more stumps, and rocks with overhanging edges with no snow under them, which looked as though they might conceal holes, but if they did, the animal she was following had not stopped at any of them. The bush was changing once more from very thick to thin, and then from less wooded to more wooded.

"Probably," she thought, "the thin spindly trees were trying to grow on almost bare rock surfaces and so let in more light making it more cheerful in the snow. Poor things," she thought to herself, "they do look so skinny and underfed."

After walking again for what seemed at least as long or longer than before, she became once more rather anxious that it was time to be going back to her father John, and that she would soon have to break off her journey. But new objects of interest kept appearing in front of her, and Felicity was definitely a little girl who was full of curiosity.

Suddenly, after her long trek into the unknown once more, she thought she recognized some of the shapes of the trees and the landscape of the snow. Almost immediately afterwards she saw to her amazement that while passing a large rock she found a trail she had already walked and that she was approaching the double white pine again, and the circle on the snow. With a few more steps she had arrived, and there she was standing non-plussed looking at her own tracks -- none of which had led anywhere but back to where she had started.

"Now where can that animal be," she said to herself. "He must have gone somewhere. I didn't see where he left the trail."

Unhappily she stepped across the tracks and began in a very disgruntled manner to follow her first tracks to the right which she knew would lead back to the cabin. After a few steps she thought she heard a sound or sensed a movement behind her. Felicity turned around, and saw a very pretty little fox following her.



Its body had a beautiful red coat of fur, its ears were tipped with black, its forelegs were black, and its hind legs were blackish more than red, and so was its tail, which had a white spot at the end.

"Well?" said the little fox, "have you found out where I live?"

"No, I have not," said Felicity crossly, "and I have followed all your trails around and around. Where DO you live?" she added.

"You mean you've given up looking?" asked the fox tauntingly.

"It's these snowshoes," complained Felicity. "I waddle with them like a duck. Perhaps it waddles too because it has webbed feet like snowshoes," she mused.

"Come now," said the fox, "it's not difficult. Throw those great platforms away and bound through the snow just as I do. Look." And he demonstrated perfectly.

"It's all very well for you," said Felicity. "You've been practising."

"True," said the fox, "but I had to start to learn at the beginning."

"Just the same," said Felicity cautiously, "I think I'll keep plodding on with these snowshoes."

"Suit yourself," said the fox with a sly smile, "but you'll never find my home that way."

"Oh but I will," said Felicity stubbornly.

"No you won't," replied the little fox, "unless I show you."

"Please do," responded Felicity, almost jumping up and down in her snowshoes.

"But I can't move my home in the winter, and if you tell anyone I'm bound to be caught and that will be the end of me."

"No, no, I promise not to tell," said Felicity quickly. "Please show me."

"Very well, then," said the fox, and he circled to be in front of her and led her along, she plodding and waddling in her best duck-like fashion, and the little fox springing a few steps lithely, and then waiting for her to catch up. He led her back to the place where the trails met.

"Can't you see it?" he asked.

"No, I cannot," she replied.

"Well then," said the little fox, "I really will have to show you," and saying that he jumped up on to a low, long bough of the fallen part of the great white pine and running quickly along it, leapt a few feet to another branch. He ran out a short distance on this branch, jumped down to the ground behind an old tree stump and disappeared from sight.



"What do you think of that?" came a muffled voice which sounded as thought it must be underground. Felicity started to move in the direction of the old stump.

"Please don't do that," asked the fox. "If you do, your tracks in the snow will show people where I am."

"Oh, I'm sorry," said Felicity, "I didn't think of that. Thanks for showing me."

"My pleasure," came the muffled voice again.

As she turned to go, Felicity called, "Oh bye-the-bye, when you come to take the food I leave for you, you're not like raccoon who sits and chews and chews and chews. You just come running along, snatch the can of food in your jaws and rush away again."

"But of course," said the little red fox, now poking his head around the side of the old tree stump. "Have you never heard of the quick, red, fox? Goodbye." and he was gone in an instant.

There was nothing left for Felicity to do but to turn and trudge rather wearily back towards the cabin, wistfully lifting her snowshoes, one by one, and waddling just a little as she went.

But Felicity met the little red fox again in the early spring, and here's how he looked then:





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