I was travelling merrily along, in a snug, green sleigh, wrapped in buffalo skins, rejoicing in the prospect of a comfortable night’s rest, in the still village which I saw peeping over the hill I was just ascending. It was a clear, cold, bracing winter’s day. The ground was covered with spotless, shining snow, that made the eyes ache from its intense whiteness, and the air had those little, bright, cutting particles of frost, that glance like a razor across the nose and chin.
‘How charmingly I shall sleep to-night,’ said I to myself, nodding in fancy, at the very thought, ‘ when I reach that hospitable looking inn, whose sign-post creaks so invitingly in the wind. How refreshing a hot cup of coffee, and light, smoking muffins will taste, after riding so far in the sharp, hungry air!’ Regaling myself with this vision of anticipated comfort, I suffered the reins to hang a little too loosely: my horse, who was probably indulging in his reveries of oats, and hay, and a warm crib, made a kind of off-hand, sliding step, and with a most involuntary jump, I vaulted at once into a bed of a very different nature from the one upon which my imagination was dwelling.
It was sometime before I recovered from the stunning effects of my extemporaneous agility; but when I rose and shook off the snow-flakes from my great coat, I heard the sound of my horse’s bells at a respectable distance; and I had to walk speedily, and limpingly too, to the next tavern, before whose door I intended to have made such a triumphant flourish. There, I arrived at the mortifying conviction, that my sleigh was broken, that my horse had run, head first, against the shaft of another sleigh, and wounded himself in such a manner, that I should probably be detained several days on my journey. I felt quite stiff and lame the next day, but my landlady — who was a good little bustling woman, walking about so briskly that the border of her cap blew back and lay flat on her head as she moved — gave me so many warm lotions and doses, that towards evening, I felt as if I had recovered my wonted activity. She advised me not to leave the room that day, ‘as it would be a thousand pities, if I cotched cold, after such a marciful deliverance.’
The scene from abroad was too tempting, however, for my philosophy. They may rave about the beauties of a moonlight night in summer — a night of shadows, bloom, and flowers; singing birds and singing rills — but it cannot be compared to the one I then gazed upon — it was so dazzlingly bright! — the virgin snow looked so calm and holy in the clear light that mantled it! The first idea it suggested, was a solemn one. It lay so cold and still, it reminded me of the windingsheet of nature, till the almost supernatural radiance that sparkled from its surface, recalled to the imagination those spotless robes of glory, which are described as the future garments of the righteous. I stood with my arms meditatingly folded, absorbed in these reflections, till the stars twinkled so kindly, with such sweet, beckoning lustre, I could not resist the temptation of going abroad. I rambled awhile down the street, when catching the echo of a gay laugh, and an occasional jovial shout, on the cold, still air, I turned in the direction of the sound, and soon found myself near a boisterous, busy little group, who were engaged in the delightful amusement of sliding down hill. I did not wish to disturb their gaiety, and stopping in the shade of a high stone wall, close to the spot, watched them as they stood on the brow of the slope, preparing to make the grand descent. There were girls and boys without hats, or bonnets, or cloaks — their cheeks looking so rosy and their eyes so bright, it made your own wink to look at them. About half a dozen little girls were wedged closely together on a hand-sled, the handle of which was turned back and held by one who sat in the middle, in the capacity of charioteersman, and one who sat on the right hand, held a stick, which she occasionally stuck in the snow to pilot them on their way. There was one girl, taller and larger than the rest, who seemed to take a kind of superintendence of the band. I never saw such a personification of health, bloom, and rustic beauty. Her hair, which was perfectly black, hung about her shoulders, as if she had just shaken out a confining comb; her face was lighted up with such a living glow of animation, it made one feel a sensation of warmth and comfort to gaze on her; and then her blithe voice rung so musically on the ear, it gave the heart a quicker, gladder bound to hear it. Just as they were about to start on their downward career, there came a dismal screeching from a neighboring farm-yard, that jarred most discordantly with the merriment of the scene. ‘Oh I 1 said one of the little girls, in a doleful tone, ‘the poor hens and chickens! What a dreadful, cruel thing it is, to kill ’em so for Thanksgiving — just, too, as they get nicely to roosting! I won’t touch a bit of chicken-pie to-morrow — you see if I do.’…
Thanksgiving morning dawned — clear, dazzling, and cold. The sun came forth like a bridegroom from the east, unconscious of the slaughtered victims, whose heads lay reeking in the poultry-yard unconscious of his unpitying beams. Thanksgiving day! What ‘volumes of meaning’ in that little phrase! A day when man makes a covenant of gratitude with his Maker for the free bounties of the year; when the fragrant incense of the heart rises up warm and fresh, above earth’s cold, wintry mantle, sweeter than the aroma of summer flowers, and mingles with the odors of Paradise! I went that morning to the village church — a plain, modest building, distinguished by a tall, white spire, that arrested the first and last glances of the magnificent eye of the universe.
If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.