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At Josiah's cool praise, Mary stared at her simple accomplishment and then hung her head.

"Fetch my ax, Mary."

With a sigh, Mary returned her needle to Emma, and then located the ax behind the door. With both hands, Mary dragged the heavy object to Josiah.

"Here," she said quietly, her tone much more subdued than before.

"Thanks," grunted Josiah. Sitting cross-legged on his bed, he split a willow branch into thin sections to form the skeleton of his snowshoes. Then Josiah reached over to the kettle where strips of leather were soaking in water. While the leather was wet, he bound the ends of the two willow strips together, fastening small lengths of willow in the middle to support his foot. Josiah repeated this a second time, until he was ready to lace the snowshoes with leather, so that when he walked, the webbing of lacing would stop his foot from sinking into the snow.

Interested, Mary squatted down to watch him work. She remained silent, and smiled at Josiah when he looked up to see her still there.

"Ain't you got nothing else better to do?" asked Josiah.

"When will you work on your bear coat?" asked Mary.

"After I finish with these here snowshoes."

Mary wobbled a little on the balls of her feet, her ankles tiring. She shook her head as Josiah wove the leather webbing. "That is not how it is done," she said gravely.

"This is how I do it, so keep yer mouth shut."

With an audible sigh, Mary continued to watch.

When Josiah brought one end of the leather up around the edge of the snowshoe, Mary winced as though he were making a terrible mistake. In disgust, Josiah dropped what he was doing and glared at Emma. "Ain't you going to call her back to yer sewing?"

Folding her arms, Emma smiled firmly. "Right now, this is more important."

Grunting his protest, Josiah picked up the snowshoe to resume work.

"What is that for?" asked Mary, pointing to the eagle feather dangling in his hair. "You must be very brave to have a feather."

"What are you talking about?" Emma asked the girl.

"An eagle feather means he did something with much courage," said Mary.

"Really?" Emma looked at Josiah curiously. "What act of courage did you do?"
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