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large rivers is an unusual circumstance, and the occurrence of a severe frost of many weeks' duration is by no means an invariable accompaniment of our winter. Yet for a period, brief or long as the case may be, we have our experience of the suspension of agricultural and other labours, owing to the frost-bound condition of fields, canals, and watercourses. Arable land becomes as firm beneath the feet as the high road, and not even the sharp bill of the rook can dig up the roots or worms that lie buried there. The berries of hawthorn and holly look bright in the hedges, and supply food to many birds, without which they would certainly perish : hence it is reckoned by country people as a sure sign of a hard winter, when these berries are abundant. As the frost gains strength, the woods and copses, as well as the open fields, become crusted with ice: no longer, therefore, can their fleet inhabitants find enough to support life. Timid hares and rabbits venture into gardens by night, and feed on vegetables and the bark of young trees. Small birds crowd to the rick-yard, and to the eaves of houses, and one, the familiar robin, taps at our windows, or enters our dwellings, to receive food at our hands.
The footpath is firm as a rock, and the highway rings to the tread of horses and men. All sounds come clearly through the frosty air: the baying of the village dog, the lowing of cattle, or the footsteps of travellers, can be heard to a great distance. The influence of a wintry sun has little
power over the frozen earth, and the day soon closing in, leaves the power of frost to strengthen itself during the night, and to bind in stronger chains the meadows, the forests, and the streams.
How beautifully does the hand of winter adorn our windows with frost-work! The moisture of the room, attracted and condensed by the cold, slowly and silently arranges itself into various feathery and leafy forms.
The heavens shine out through the cold, clear, frosty air, with a magnificence unseen at any other part of the year. The stars appear larger and more brilliant than usual ; the principal constellations seem to approach nearer to the earth; the milkyway stands out like a bright path in the sky, and now and then a shooting star, or other bright meteor, leaves a long trail of light to mark its track.
The icy hand of winter has now frozen the ponds, brooks, and smaller streams; and ere long, rivers and canals will be also frost-bound, leaving bargemen and watermen without employment, and tempting forth the crowd of skaters to their favourite diversion,
Such is our winter in its severest mood: the effects of frost are seen and heard in every direction. The borders of the river are fringed with icicles, and the overhanging boughs seem changed into stone.
The frame and constitution of man have been wonderfully constituted to bear every variety of climate, and to adapt themselves to the changes of food, clothing, and shelter, which extremes of heat
or cold render necessary. Cold has a dwarfing effect on human beings as well as on vegetable growth: it also renders necessary a large amount of carbonaceous food. The Esquimaux eats ten or twelve pounds of meat and fat every day, and this is no more than is absolutely necessary to
preserve his animal heat and strength under the rigours of his severe climate. In common with all the inhabitants of very high latitudes he subsists entirely on fish and animal food. Without this adaptation to circumstances, the human race would be confined to those regions of the earth where vegetable food can be obtained, and high latitudes would be utterly desolate and uninhabitable.
The Esquimaux, fortified as they are by their abundant diet, and by an unwieldy clothing of seal-skins in which they wrap their persons, do not appear to suffer from the cold; but are uniformly cheerful and contented, and on certain occasions, such as the capture of a walrus, they give way to extravagant shoutings and demonstrations of joy. The effects of a degree of cold amounting to -36', and even -48° Fahrenheit * have been described. At such times rocks are split asunder by the intense frost: the pillow of the sleeper is encrusted with ice an inch thick, from his frozen breath; ice penetrates down the chimney almost to the stove, and forms an arch over its mouth, with little holes through which the smoke issues; the surface of the sea coagulates into a thick crust; beer and other strong drinks are frozen; brandy and spirits of wine become thick and clammy like oil. A vapour, like smoke, rises from the sea, and wafted into the cold atmosphere, freezes into fine particles, which, when driven against the face and hands by the wind, enter the skin like needles. Meat, frozen into stony masses, has to be thawed in snow-water before it is cooked; and even when set over the fire and boiled for a long time, the outside only is fit to be eaten, the middle being too hard to be pierced with a knife. But a greater degree of cold than this has been endured without injury. The arctic voyagers, when exploring the northern coast of America, were enabled under ordinary precautions and in still weather to endure an amount of cold represented by 57° below zero (-57°). “During these intense colds," says Franklin, “the atmosphere was generally calm, and the wood-cutters and others went about their ordinary occupations without using any extraordinary precautions, yet without feeling any bad effects. They had their reindeer shirts on, leathern mittens lined with blankets, and furred caps; but none of them used any defence for the face, nor did they need to do so. Indeed we have already mentioned that the heat is abstracted most rapidly from the body during strong breezes; and most of those who have perished from cold in this country have fallen a sacrifice to their being over
* That is, 36° and 48° below the zero of Fabrenheit's scale. The reader will find the thermometer and many of the effects of heat described in the first chapter of a companion volume, entitled, “ The Dew Drop and the Mist."