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tion, slowly lost the animated brilliancy of winter, without obtaining the decided aspect of spring.
Several weeks were consumed in this cheerless manner, during which the inhabitants of the country gradually changed their pursuits from the social and bustling movements of the time of snow, to the laborious and domestic engagements of the coming season. The village was no longer thronged with visiters; the trade, that had enlivened the shops for several months, began to disappear; the highways lost their shining coats of beaten snow in impassable sloughs, and were deserted by the gay
and noisy travellers who, in sleighs, had, during the winter, glided along their windings; and, in short, every thing seemed indicative of a mighty change, not only in the earth itself, but in those also, who derived their sources of comfort and happiness from her bosom.
The younger members of the family in the Mansion-house, of which Louisa Grant was now habitually one, were by no means indifferent observers of these fluctuating and tardy changes. While the snow rendered the roads passable, they had partaken largely in the amusements of the winter, which included not only daily rides over the mountáins, and through every valley within twenty miles of them, but divers ingenious and varied sources of pleasure, on the bosom of their frozen lake. There had been rides in the equipage of Richard, when, with his four horses, he had outstripped the winds with its speed, as it flew over the glassy ice which invariably succeeded a thaw. Then the exciting and dangerous“whirligig” would be suffered to possess its moment of notice. Cutters, drawn by a single horse, and hand-sleds, impelled by the gentlemen, on skates, would each in their turn be used; and, in short, every source of
relief against the tediousness of a winter in the mountains was resorted to by the family. Elizabeth was compelled to acknowledge to her father, that the season, with the aid of his library, was much less irksome than she had anticipated.
As exercise in the open air was in some degree necessary to the habits of the family, when the constant recurrence of frosts and thaws rendered the roads, which were dangerous at the most favourable times, utterly impassable for wheels, saddle horses were used as substitutes for their other conveyances. Mounted on small and surefooted beasts, the ladies would again attempt the passages of the mountains, and penetrate into every retired glen, where the enterprise of a settler had induced him to establish himself. In these excursions they were attended by some one or all of the gentlemen of the family, as their different pursuits admitted. Young Edwards was hourly becoming more familiarized to his situation, and not unfrequently mingled in their parties, with an unconcern and gayety, that for a short time, would, apparently, expel all unpleasant recollections from his mind. Habit, and the buoyancy of youth, seemed to be getting the ascendency over the secret causes of his uneasiness; though there were moments, when the same remarkable expression of disgust would cross his intercourse with Marmaduke, that had distinguished their conversations in the first days of their acquaintance.
It was at the close of the month of March, that the Sheriff succeeded in persuading his cousin and her young friend to accompany him in a ride to a hill that was said to overhang the lake in a manner peculiar to itself.
“ Besides, cousin Bess, continued the indefatigable Richard, “ we will stop and see the ' sugar
bush' of Billy Kirby: he is on the east end of the Ransom lot, making sugar for Jared Ransom. There is not a better hand over a kettle in the county than that same Kirby. You remember, duke, that I had him his first season, in our own camp; and it is not a wonder that he knows something of his trade.”
“ He's a good chopper, is Billy," observed Benjamin, who held the bridle of the horse while the Sheriff mounted; "and he handles an axe much the same as a forecastle-man does his marling spike, or a tailor his goose. They say he'll lift a potash kettle off the arch with his own hands, thof I can't say that I've ever seen him do it with my own eyes ; but that is the say. And I've seen sugar of his making, which, maybe, was’nt as white as an old top-gallantsail, but which my friend Mistress Pretty-bones, within there, said had the true molasses smack to it; and you are not the one, Squire Dickens, to be told that Mistress Remarkable has a remarkable tooth for sweet things in her nut grinder.”
The loud laugh that succeeded the wit of Benjamin, and in which he participated, with no very harmonious sounds, himself, very fully illustrated the congenial temper which existed between the pair. Most of its point was, however, lost on the rest of the party, who were either mounting their horses, or assisting the ladies to do so, at the moment. When all were safely in their saddles, the whole moved through the village in great order. They paused for a moment, before the door of Monsieur Le Quoi, until he could bestride his steed, and then issuing from the little cluster of houses, they took one of the principal of those highways that centred in the village.
As each night brought with it a severe frost,
which the heat of the succeeding day served to dissipate, the equestrians were compelled to proceed singly along the margin of the road, where the turf, and firmness of the ground, gave their horses a secure footing. Very trifling indications of approaching vegetation were to be seen, the surface of the earth presenting a cold, wet, and cheerless aspect that almost chilled the blood of the spectator. The snow yet lay scattered over most of those distant clearings that were visible in different parts of the mountains; though here and there an opening might be seen, where, as the white covering yielded to the season, the bright and lively green of the wheat served to enkindle the hopes of the husbandman. Nothing could be more marked than the contrast between the earth and the heavens; for, while the former presented the dreary view that we have described, a warm and invigorating sun was dispensing his heats from a sky that contained but a solitary cloud that lingered near the mountain, and through an atmosphere that softened the colours of the sensible horizon until it shone like a sea of virgin blue.
Richard led the way, on this, as on all other occasions, that did not require the exercise of unusual abilities; and as he moved along, he essayed to enliven the party with the sounds of his experienced voice.
“ This is your true sugar weather, 'duke,” he cried; “A frosty night and a sunshiny day. I warrant me that the sap runs like a mill-tail up
the maples this warm morning. It is a pity, Judge, that
you do not introduce a little more science into the manufactory of sugar among your tenants. It might be done, sir, without knowing as much as Doctor Franklin-it might be done, Judge Temple.”
.“ The first object of my solicitude, friend Jones," returned Marmaduke," is to protect the sources of this great mine of comfort and wealth from the extravagance of the people themselves. When this important point shall be achieved, it will be in season to turn our attention to an improvement in the manufacture of the article. But thou knowest, Richard, that I have already subjected our sugar to the process of the refiner, and that the result has produced loaves as white as the snow on yon fields, and possessing the saccharine quality in its utmost purity.”
“ Saccharine, or turpentine, or any other 'ine, Judge Temple, you have never made a loaf larger than a good sized sugar-plum,” returned the Sheriff. “Now, sir, I assert that no experiment is fairly tried, until it be reduced to practical purposes. If, sir, I owned a hundred, or, for that matter, two hundred thousand acres of land, as you do, I would build a sugar-house in the village ; I would invite learned men to an investigation of the subject,--and such are easily to be found, sir; yes, sir, they are not difficult to find,-men who unite theory with practice ; and I would select a wood of young and thrifty trees; and instead of making loaves of the size of a lump of candy, dam'me, 'duke, but I'd have them as big as a haycock."
“ And purchase the cargo of one of those ships that, they say, are going to China,” cried Elizabeth; “turn your potash-kettles into tea-cups, the scows on the lake into saucers: bake your cake in yonder lime-kiln, and invite the county to a teaparty. How wonderful are the projects of genius! Really, sir, the world is of opinion that Judge Temple has tried the experiment fairly, though he did not cause his loaves to be cast in moulds of the