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Reading a story by A. Blackwood, I am not sure what to make of the following phrase:

The night was still as ice, bitterly cold. Breathlessly they ran, following the tracks. Halfway his steps diverged, and were plainly visible in the virgin snow by themselves.

I thought that the tracks in the snow must be logically made of steps - so how can these become visible only halfway?

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  • More than one set of tracks is present when the author is following the tracks. What becomes visible are his tracks/steps...by themselves (alone), which diverged/separated from the original tracks.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:43
  • @EllieK Not sure about that - tracks are used in plural when they mean "marks left". From the Cambridge dictionary: The hunters followed the tracks of the deer for hours
    – John V
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:47
  • The plural of deer is deer. If you choose to believe that there is one set of tracks and someone else's tracks suddenly appear out of nowhere, feel free to make that error but know that that error is why you find the passage confusing.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:51
  • @EllieK So one cannot follow tracks of a single deer? In the case of a bike tyre, would it be then "a track"? Thanks a lot
    – John V
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:53
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    @EllieK Thanks...so even a single tyre from a bike would leave tracks?
    – John V
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 15:10

2 Answers 2

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The tracks pre-exist the passage of the person in the story. His steps also make tracks, but when the two sets of tracks diverge, his are made visible because the snow is not disturbed by the previous set.

You are correct that steps make tracks.

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  • So basically he followed (perhaps) a path that was somehow visible in the snow, and then he went off it?
    – John V
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 9:59
  • Yes, that's what I understand from the quote.
    – E.Aigle
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 11:00
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    Note also that non-human animals make tracks although not usually steps so they could conceivably have been following such tracks.
    – mdewey
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:19
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    Nothing is know about the tracks other than there is more than one set and one particular set, his, diverges from the many,
    – EllieK
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 14:47
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This quote seems to imply that there are more than just someone's steps as the "tracks", as his steps are diverging from something else. Without seeing more of the context leading up to this quote it's hard to say.

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