track intersects with that of some previous passer; he has but just gone on, judging by the freshness of the trail, and we can study his character and purposes.
The large boots betoken a woodman or iceman; yet such a one would hardly have stepped so irresolutely where a little film of water has spread between the ice and snow and given a look of insecurity; and here again he has stopped to observe the wreaths on this pendent bough, and this snow-filled bird'snest.
And there the footsteps of the lover of beauty turn abruptly to the road again, and he vanishes from us forever.
As we wander on through the wood, all the labyrinths of summer are buried beneath one white inviting pathway, and the pledge of perfect loneliness is given by the unbroken surface of the all-revealing snow.
There appears nothing living except a downy woodpecker, whirling round and round upon a young beech-stem, and a few sparrows, plump with grass-seed
and hurrying with jerking flight down the sunny glade.
But the trees furnish society enough.
What a congress of ermined kings is this circle of hemlocks, which stand, white in their soft raiment, around the dais of this woodland pond!
Are they held here, like the sovereigns in the palace of the Sleeping Beauty
, till some mortal breaks their spell?
What sage counsels must be theirs, as they nod their weary heads and whisper ghostly memories and old men's tales to each other, while the red leaves dance on the snowy sward below, or a fox or squirrel steals hurriedly through the wild and wintry night!
Here and there is some discrowned Lear
, who has thrown off his regal mantle, and stands in faded russet, misplaced among the monarchs.
What a simple and stately hospitality is that of Nature in winter!
The season which the residents of cities think an obstruction gives in the country an extension of intercourse: it opens every forest from here to Labrador
, free of entrance; the most tangled thicket, the most treacherous marsh, becomes passable; and the lumberer or moose-hunter, mounted on his snow-shoes, has the world before him. He says ‘good snow-shoeing,’ as we say ‘good sleighing;’ and it gives a sensation like a first visit to the sea-side and the shipping, when one first sees exhibited for sale, in the streets of Bangor
, these delicate Indian conveyances.
It seems as if a new element were suddenly opened for travel, and all due facilities provided.
One expects to go a little farther, and see in the shop-windows, ‘Wings for sale,—gentlemen's and ladies' sizes.’
The snow-shoe and the birch canoe,—what other dying race ever left behind it two memorials so perfect and so graceful?
The shadows thrown by the trees upon the snow are blue and soft, sharply defined, and so contrasted with the gleaming white as to appear narrower than the boughs which cast them.
There is something subtle and fantastic about these shadows.
Here is a leafless larch-sapling, eight feet high.
The image of the lower boughs is traced upon the