The weather grew colder. Silver Lake was frozen. Snow fell, but always the wind blew the ice clean, drifting the snow into the tall grass of the sloughs and driving it into waves on the low shores.
On the whole white prairie nothing moved but blowing snow, and the only sound in the vast silence was the sound of the wind.
In the snug house Laura and Carrie helped Ma with the housework, and Grace played, running about the big room with toddling short steps. Whenever she was tired of play, she climbed into Mary’s lap, for that was the warmest place and Mary would always tell her a story. Listening to stories, Grace would fall asleep. Then Ma laid her in her trundle bed by the stove, and they all settled down for a cosy afternoon of knitting and sewing and crocheting.
Pa did the chores and walked the trap line he had set along the edge of Big Slough. In the lean- to he skinned foxes and coyotes and muskrats and stretched the furs on boards to dry.
The prairie was so desolate and the wind so cold that Mary did not go out at all. She loved to sit sewing in the pleasant, warm house, taking tiny, even stitches with the needle that Laura threaded for her.
At twilight Mary did not put away her sewing. She told Laura, “I can sew when you can’t see to, because I see with my fingers.”
“You sew more beautifully than I can, any- time,” Laura told her. “You always could.”
Even Laura liked the cosy afternoons of rocking and stitching and talking a little, though she never would truly enjoy sewing as Mary did. Often she was restless in the house. Then she would walk from window to window, looking in- to a whirl of snowflakes and listening to the wind, till Ma said gently, “I declare I don’t know what gets into you, Laura.”
When the sun shone, no matter how cold it was, Laura must go out. When Ma would let them go, she and Carrie, well wrapped up in coats and hoods, with shoes and mittens and mufflers on, went sliding on Silver Lake. Holding hands, they ran a little way and then slid on the dark, smooth ice. First on one foot, then on the other, with little runs between slides, they went back and forth, breathless and warm and laughing.
Those were glorious days when they were out in the glitter of the sharp cold. Then it was good to come into the warm, close house, and good to eat supper, and through the evening of music and singing and dancing, Laura was the merriest of all.
One stormy day Pa brought a wide, square board in by the stove, and with his pencil he marked it off in small squares inside a plain border.
“Whatever are you making, Pa?” Laura asked, and he answered, “Wait and see.”
He heated the tip of the poker red-hot in the stove, and carefully he burned black every altern- ate little square.
“Curiosity killed a cat, Pa,” Laura said.
“You look pretty healthy,” said Pa. Tantalizing, he sat there whittling until he had made twenty- four small squares of wood. Half of them he laid on the hot stove, turning them until they were burned black all over.
Then he ranged all these pieces in the squares on the board and set the board on his knees.
“Now, Laura!” he said. “Now what?” said Laura.
“These are checkers, and this is a checkerboard. Pull up your chair, and I’ll show you how to play checkers.”
She learned so well that before that storm ended, she had beaten Pa in one game. But after that, they did not play so immoderately. Ma did not care to play, nor Carrie, so after one game Pa always put the board away.
“Checkers is a selfish game,” he said, “for only two can play it. Bring me the fiddle, Flutter- budget.”[/sociallocker]