The Baldwin Library
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f O O
T was five o'clock on a bleak raw afternoon
in Canada East; and the shadows were
beginning to fall fast over the figure of a
boy of about seven years old, who, sitting on a low
wooden stool in the outer room of a small cottage,
was gazing wistfully and longingly at a pair of snow-
shoes hanging just out of his reach on the opposite
wall. It was almost too dark even to see the snow-
shoes, in that imperfectly lighted room ; and in the
bed-room a candle was burning, and a woman's step
might have been heard pacing anxiously to and fro.
Harry had sat without moving for nearly an hour,
-quite a surprising thing in his active young life,-
looking sadly at the snow-shoes. They were his
most valued possession; the gift of Santa Klaus,"
his mother had told him. Certainly he had received
them on Christmas Day; but Harry had his own
suspicions that his father had bought them for him.
He had tried them for the first time that morning,
as the weather had been bad for snow-shoeing, the
snow being too soft and wet.
That day he had had famous fun, and not a few
tumbles; but at three o'clock, happening to run
in to tell his mother how well he was getting on,
she had forbidden any more snow-shoeing, and told
him to prepare his lessons for school the next
Harry was too well brought up to rebel openly;
but he sat down with a very bad grace to his books,
and having finished all he had to learn, sat still,
gazing at the snow-shoes on the wall, and thinking
it rather hard that he should have been called in so
early. He had been too much absorbed in these
thoughts to notice his mother's anxiety, or the
hoarse crying of the baby, whom she was rocking
to and fro. At last, however, Mrs. Talbot laid the
child in the cradle, and came into the kitchen. She
was a rather anxious-looking woman, but tidy and
pleasant featured, and her face brightened up with
a smile as she spied her boy sitting in the dusk.
"Why, Harry, boy, I thought you were asleep,
you've been so quiet!" She looked at the clock as
she spoke, and sighed. Only five o'clock, and
Talbot can't be in these three hours, and the baby
worse and worse !" she said to herself.
The sulks vanished, and Harry jumped up, and
"Let me go for the doctor, mother: it's but a
mile, and I'1l come back along with his team."
Mrs. Talbot went to the door and looked out.
The little wooden farm stood on the side of a hill,
and far away below she could see the lights of the
village already beginning to gleam. Had it been
summer, or even a moderate winter's day, she would
not have hesitated; but it seemed rather a risk
sending her boy along a track as yet uncertain ; for
early that day the snow had been drifting heavily,
and even now the sky was grey and lowering, and
seemed to threaten a further storm.
Talbot's been along with his sleigh pretty late,"
she murmured-she had a bad habit of talking to
herself-" there's sure to be some track."
"That's so, mother; and I can find my way by
the snake-fence!" exclaimed the boy, rejoiced at
the independence of going by himself on such a
His mother still hesitated ; but a hoarse, croupy
cough from the bed-room decided her.
"Very well, my boy; but mind you don't try the
real road: father says it's drifted up thirteen feet
high; the track's down along where John Tuck
had his corn this summer."
May I take my snow-shoes, mother?"
Mrs. Talbot hesitated again before answering.
"I'll get there in half the time-it is as quick
again walking in snow-shoes," said Harry.
Yes, when you are used to them, not else: how-
ever, that's as you please, so as you keep along the
track, but don't go trying the drifts."
Father says one can walk up the side of a drift
as high as the house in them," murmured Harry;
"and there's Robert Hall can jump ever so high
in them, and run, and do all sorts of thi-s."
"You never mind Robert Hall, or any one else,
but just do as I bid you," said Mrs. Talbot.
"Where's your coat? There! Pull the hood well
over your ears, and tie your comforter on, and
there's your mitts. Stay a bit: I must tie your
This was soon done; and then Harry tied his
snow-shoes on, as his father had showed him, as
nearly as he could remember, and prepared to start.
Good bye and God bless you, my boy," said his
mother, kissing him. "Mind and make haste home!"
She watched him scrambling along in his snow-
shoes until a rise in the ground hid him from her
sight, and then, with another anxious sigh, closed
the door, and returned to her baby in the close
Sitting by the cradle, she became more anxious
than ever: true, there had seemed no choice but to
send Harry for the doctor, as her husband was
certain not to be home from the nearest town, which
was thirteen miles off, till ten o'clock, and might pos-
sibly be away all night, and little Maggie had been
rapidly growing worse for some hours. Mrs. Talbot
had lost two children by croup, and naturally feared
for her only remaining girl.
Still it seemed a great risk sending Harry alone
on such an evening. The mother kept fancying all
sorts of dreadful possibilities. Why had she not re-
minded him to wait and return with the doctor?
Supposing he should try to come home alone, and
lose his way, or try crossing the great drift before
he reached the village, and lose his snow-shoes, and
She began to feel sick with nervousness, when
holier, because more faithful, thoughts came into
her heart : she remembered Him who notices even
the fall of a sparrow, whose arm is ever ready to
shield all who call on Him, and her whole heart
went forth to Him, as. kneeling by the cradle, she
prayed that He would mercifully guard her child,
and not allow her weak fondness to have been the
means of leading him into danger.
For the more she thought of it, the more she felt
sure that she ought to have been firm in refusing to
let him go in his snow-shoes. He could hot yet use
or put them on skilfully; and supposing he was
tempted by their possession out of the regular sleigh-
ing road, and fell, or lost his snow-shoes in the
middle of a drift, he might never be heard of more.
And then, to comfort her, came to her mind some
words which she had learnt many years before,
when at school in England (for she and her hus-
band had only emigrated about four years before):
"Mercifully grant that as Thy holy angels always
do Thee service in heaven, so, by Thy appointment.
they may succour and defend us on earth." And
even as she thought of the angels' protection, her
baby woke up, crying; so, in her efforts to soothe
it, her trouble about Harry was somewhat lessened.
Harry started very fairly on his errand; for the
first part of the way the snow lay nearly two feet
thick, and as it was tolerably firm, he managed very
well. About half a mile from the doctor's house
the snow had drifted off the track, which was almost
bare, and so many stones were scattered about, that
snow-shoeing became painful work; the rough bits
of rock ran into his feet, and the soft deer-skin mo-
cassins proved but a poor protection. At length the
long wooden tail of one snow-shoe got so nearly
caught under a boulder of rock, that Harry deter-
mined to take the snow-shoes off, and carry them
over his shoulder, making up his mind, if the doctor
should be out, he could walk about on them till his
A funny little figure he looked as he set off run-
ning down the hill: his frieze coat had a warm hood
fastened to it, which, when he had started, had been
drawn over his head, and fastened round his neck
with a long red worsted comforter; but Harry had
taken this comforter off, and fastened it round his
waist to keep his coat together, as his father did
when he went out; "it looked more like a man," he
thought. Under his coat appeared a pair of short
trousers, reaching to below the knee; and then
came a pair of warm home-made worsted stockings
(he had another pair underneath to keep him from
feeling the cold), and the yellow deer-skin mocassins.
The doctor was out when Harry reached his
house; but his wife promised he would go to see
the baby as soon as he came in; and Harry, for-
getting what he had said about waiting, strapped on
his snow-shoes, and started up the hill for home.
The track seemed rougher and rougher than ever,
and what was more vexatious, there was a distinct
view of the real road from it, and only a snake-fence
between. The snow was piled up almost to the top
cf the fence, although that stood on a high bank.
It must be higher than father's head," thought
the boy; what a lot of snow fell last night! It's
real good snow-shoeing there, I'm sure; none of
these nasty stones;" for whilst he was looking at the
snake-fence he had forgotten the rough road, and
was nearly tripped up. If father was here now,
he'd let me go by the drift, that's certain; but
women always make such fusses. I wonder whether
if mother knew how rough the track was, she'd say
I might go by the drift? If I could see a hole in
the fence, I'd just look over to see what it's like.
Mother told me to hurry back."
Harry knew very well all the time who it was
tempting him; he knew that there was really no good
reason why he should wear his snow-shoes at all;
that the snow was not deep enough on the part of
the hill where the sleigh-track was to make them
even useful. He knew that to leave the track would
be disobedience, and the best plan would have been
to take off his snow-shoes again and walk home.
But each time he looked at the drift the temptation
grew stronger: the snow looked so soft and white,
and lay piled in such tempting heaps.
At last came the long-wished-for gap. He thought
he would just go and look over it, to see how high
the snow lay on the other side; so he paddled across
and looked down the hill. There, as if to tempt him
further, stood the cottage; for, in order to escape the
drift, the sleigh-track had been made in a very round-
about way, and in going from the house you had to
mount the hill before descending to the village.
Now, if I don't call that real foolish," grumbled
Harry; "if I go down by here, I'll be home in less
than five minutes, and round by the sleigh-track it 'll
take a quarter of an hour. I wonder how the snow
feels ?" He stepped on to the drift as he spoke.
" This is what I call real good snow-shoeing. Mother
couldn't have known how firm the drift was. I don't
think it matters much which way I go."
He set off deliberately across the drift as he spoke,
disobedient though he knew it to be, giving a shout
of delight as he felt the snow crackling under his
feet. Certainly it was perfect snow-shoeing, the snow
neither too soft nor too hard, and by degrees he
began to wish he could run races in his snow-shoes,
like Robert Hall, and presently began to run down
Alas he found running in snow-shoes could not
be learnt at once: one shoe trod upon another, the
tails got entangled, and the next moment he found
himself on the ground, with his left snow-shoe a yard
behind him, his left foot doubled under him, and the
tail of his right snow-shoe firmly embedded in the
drift. He tried to get up, but found that in falling he
had hurt the foot which was under him, and his efforts
to get it out only made him feel quite faint with pain.
Poor boy! how he wished he had never disobeyed
his mother, but had gone home the proper way!
What would become of him, he wondered; should
he have to stay all night? He could see the top of
the roof of their house below him, but he knew he
could not be seen from it, and he began to picture
to himself being buried in the snow, and never found
till the spring, like one of their puppies the winter
As if to frighten him still more, the fir tree just
above shook some snow off its branches upon his
head. Harry made another effort to get up; but it
was no use; and, frightened and helpless, he nearly
burst into tears. The night had been clearer and
brighter when he left the doctor's, and even now the
moon was shining brightly, but clouds were rising
fast, and flitting again and again over her; and at
last, when her light was hidden, and the boy felt
utterly terrified by the silence and darkness and utter
loneliness, he did what he ought to have done at
first-he prayed to God to forgive his disobedience
and to keep him safe; and as in his trouble he called
for help, the help was being sent in a way he little
Even as it was, he felt comforted, and drawing his
hood well over his face, tried as much as possible to
keep from the drowsiness which was fast creeping
over him, for he knew how dangerous it was to sleep
out in the snow. Then he tried saying the Lord's
Prayer out aloud to rouse himself; but the words
grew fainter and fainter, his head sank on his chest,
and he began to dream that he and Maggie were out
in the clearing, gathering strawberries, and that their
young calf, Brindle, was jumping over the fence and
running at them.
As soon as ihe doctor reached home, his wife told
him of the message from Mrs. Talbot.
"Did Talbot come down himself?" asked the
doctor, as he drew on his gloves again, and pre-
pared to start.
No; it was Harry brought the message, and he
went back on the snow-shoes his father gave him.
Isn't he proud of them, that's all!" said the doctor's
eldest boy, who was about Harry's age. He's going
to be as clever as Robert Hall, he says."
"Well, I hope he's got safely home," said the
doctor; "but it's too late for such a child to be out
on that drift. What, Ponto! you want to go too, do
you, my man? Come along, then; I must be
The next moment the sleigh-bells were jingling
along the road, and the large black dog, half New-
foundland and half retriever, was rushing along,
barking and yelping with delight, at the side of the
The doctor forgot all about the little messenger in
a few minutes: the track was scarcely more pleasant
for sleighs than snow-shoes, and only very careful
driving kept him clear of the stones, although the
horse, like all Canadian horses, went very steadily
in the track. Ponto's wild gambols soon stopped,
and he trotted demurely behind the sleigh, till at
last they came in front of the gap in the fence. The
doctor never noticed that the dog left him at this
point; Ponto often had a scamper after the hares,
or even after the wily snow-birds, so there was no-
thing unusual in the dog's desertion.
But a higher Hand led the animal straight down,
over the small snow-shoe marks, to where little
Harry was already falling into what might be his
The baby was still dreadfully ill when the doctor
reached Mrs. Talbot's, and it was not until he had
done something to relieve it that the mother asked
Hasn't he yet come home?" asked the doctor;
"why, he started long since. Don't you fret about
him: I'll find him, or Ponto will!"
Mrs. Talbot tried in vain to believe him. Happily
she could not leave the sick child; but, as the doctor
started out on the search, whistling for his dog, she
was too miserable, too utterly hopeless, even to pray
at first. She felt so sure that the worst had hap-
pened to her darling Harry! What if the father
should return, and find the boy dead and the baby
And then, again, like an echo of the past, came the
words to her mind-" Thou wilt keep him in perfect
peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he
trusted in Thee." Where had her trust been, her
faith ? Bursting into tears, once more she knelt by
the baby's cradle, and prayed for Harry. It seemed to
her as if in answer to her prayer a happy smile passed
over little Maggie's face, her breathing too seemed
easier, and the tiny baby hands were moister and
less feverish than they had been all the day. A few
minutes ]a:er the eyelids were raised, and the soft
blue eyes looked up smilingly at the mother. Then
the tiny arms were lifted, as if Maggie wished to be
in her mother's arms; and Mrs. Talbot took her out
of the cradle, and walked up and down with her.
How she longed to look out of the window for any
signs of the doctor! but she feared taking Maggie
into the cold, and if she paused for a moment in the
low crooning song with which she was soothing the
child, or in the regular pacing up and down, the
feeble crying began again.
The doctor walked quickly up the hill, looking on
every side for some trace of Harry; he could see
none, however, nor could he see anything of Ponto.
After whistling for some time, and listening for the
sound of a voice or the bark of the dog, he heard, not
far to his left hand, the deep-toned baying of the
Newfoundland, and following the sound with great
toil through the heavy drifts of snow, he came in
sight of what for a moment made him stand still and
draw a deep breath, and then hurry more steadily
on. There before him lay the prostrate figure of the
little boy, almost buried in the snow, and over him
crouched the great black dog. "Was the child
dead ?" thought the doctor, as he struggled through
the snow, the remembrance of the mother's anxiety
fresh before him.
Harry! Harry !" he shouted, as he got near; and
Ponto, as if thankful to be relieved from guard,
sprang up, and jumping high in the air in his delight
at the sight of his master, barked for joy; and at
the noise Harry raised his head, and said sleepily,
"Where am I ?"
"That's right! that's right!" and in another
instant the doctor had reached his side. His face
grew graver, however, when he found, on trying to
help the boy up, that the left ankle was seriously
sprained. There was nothing for it but to take him
up on his back and carry him home.
But who can tell the joy of Mrs. Talbot when her
boy was brought in alive! True, he was ill and tired
with anxiety and pain, but the doctor soon dressed
the sprained ankle, and he was put into bed, and fell
asleep at once from very weariness; but not before
he had told his mother all and asked her forgiveness
for his disobedience, and returned his thanks to God
for having saved him.
The doctor did not leave the cottage till Harry
was asleep and the baby better. Mrs. Talbot
went with him to the door: already the snow-flakes
were falling fast, and she shuddered as she thought
what might have been Harry's fate if Ponto had not
found him when he did; for the doctor said plainly
that he thought if the dog had not lain over him he
would have been frozen to death.
"As it is, we '11 have him out snow-shoeing again
in a week's time," he said, as he wished her good
But poor Harry's snow-shoes were quite beyond
reach by the next morning: the snow lay several
feet over them, and he knew that he must wait for
them till the spring. Naturally at first he felt dis-
appointed, particularly when he saw Robert Hall
trotting about on his, and when the doctor's little
son, and others of his schoolfellows, teased him
"Well, Harry, when are you going to beat Bob
Hall on your grand snow-shoes?"
He said so one day to his mother, and she pointed
to the drift in which they lay hidden, and said,
gravely and solemnly,
"What would it have been, Harry, if you had
been in the snow-shoes' place?"
And how could he feel discontented or dissatisfied
after that ?
The spring came, and all the snow went away:
some melted and ran in swift little streams down the
hill-side, some soaked into the ground, some was
carried in clouds of mist into the sky, from which it
was to come back again at the proper time in rain;
but when Harry could get up into the snow-shoe
drift, as he called it, there lay his treasures safe and
How gladly he carried them home, and with what
pride he hung them up, need not be said. The next
winter he was able to use them again, and soon got
nearly as skilful on them as Robert Hall; but for
the rest of his life he could never look at them with-
out remembering his great lesson of the dangers of