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    Chapter 13

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    Chapter 13
    Previous Chapter
    HOUSE-WARMING

    In October I went a-graping to the river meadows, and loaded
    myself with clusters more precious for their beauty and fragrance
    than for food. There, too, I admired, though I did not gather, the
    cranberries, small waxen gems, pendants of the meadow grass, pearly
    and red, which the farmer plucks with an ugly rake, leaving the
    smooth meadow in a snarl, heedlessly measuring them by the bushel
    and the dollar only, and sells the spoils of the meads to Boston and
    New York; destined to be jammed, to satisfy the tastes of lovers of
    Nature there. So butchers rake the tongues of bison out of the
    prairie grass, regardless of the torn and drooping plant. The
    barberry's brilliant fruit was likewise food for my eyes merely; but
    I collected a small store of wild apples for coddling, which the
    proprietor and travellers had overlooked. When chestnuts were ripe
    I laid up half a bushel for winter. It was very exciting at that
    season to roam the then boundless chestnut woods of Lincoln -- they
    now sleep their long sleep under the railroad -- with a bag on my
    shoulder, and a stick to open burs with in my hand, for I did not
    always wait for the frost, amid the rustling of leaves and the loud
    reproofs of the red squirrels and the jays, whose half-consumed nuts
    I sometimes stole, for the burs which they had selected were sure to
    contain sound ones. Occasionally I climbed and shook the trees.
    They grew also behind my house, and one large tree, which almost
    overshadowed it, was, when in flower, a bouquet which scented the
    whole neighborhood, but the squirrels and the jays got most of its
    fruit; the last coming in flocks early in the morning and picking
    the nuts out of the burs before they fell, I relinquished these
    trees to them and visited the more distant woods composed wholly of
    chestnut. These nuts, as far as they went, were a good substitute
    for bread. Many other substitutes might, perhaps, be found.
    Digging one day for fishworms, I discovered the ground-nut (Apios
    tuberosa) on its string, the potato of the aborigines, a sort of
    fabulous fruit, which I had begun to doubt if I had ever dug and
    eaten in childhood, as I had told, and had not dreamed it. I had
    often since seen its crumpled red velvety blossom supported by the
    stems of other plants without knowing it to be the same.
    Cultivation has well-nigh exterminated it. It has a sweetish taste,
    much like that of a frost-bitten potato, and I found it better
    boiled than roasted. This tuber seemed like a faint promise of
    Nature to rear her own children and feed them simply here at some
    future period. In these days of fatted cattle and waving
    grain-fields this humble root, which was once the totem of an Indian
    tribe, is quite forgotten, or known only by its flowering vine; but
    let wild Nature reign here once more, and the tender and luxurious
    English grains will probably disappear before a myriad of foes, and
    without the care of man the crow may carry back even the last seed
    of corn to the great cornfield of the Indian's God in the southwest,
    whence he is said to have brought it; but the now almost
    exterminated ground-nut will perhaps revive and flourish in spite of
    frosts and wildness, prove itself indigenous, and resume its ancient
    importance and dignity as the diet of the hunter tribe. Some Indian
    Ceres or Minerva must have been the inventor and bestower of it; and
    when the reign of poetry commences here, its leaves and string of
    nuts may be represented on our works of art.
    Already, by the first of September, I had seen two or three
    small maples turned scarlet across the pond, beneath where the white
    stems of three aspens diverged, at the point of a promontory, next
    the water. Ah, many a tale their color told! And gradually from
    week to week the character of each tree came out, and it admired
    itself reflected in the smooth mirror of the lake. Each morning the
    manager of this gallery substituted some new picture, distinguished
    by more brilliant or harmonious coloring, for the old upon the
    walls.
    The wasps came by thousands to my lodge in October, as to winter
    quarters, and settled on my windows within and on the walls
    overhead, sometimes deterring visitors from entering. Each morning,
    when they were numbed with cold, I swept some of them out, but I did
    not trouble myself much to get rid of them; I even felt complimented
    by their regarding my house as a desirable shelter. They never
    molested me seriously, though they bedded with me; and they
    gradually disappeared, into what crevices I do not know, avoiding
    winter and unspeakable cold.
    Like the wasps, before I finally went into winter quarters in
    November, I used to resort to the northeast side of Walden, which
    the sun, reflected from the pitch pine woods and the stony shore,
    made the fireside of the pond; it is so much pleasanter and
    wholesomer to be warmed by the sun while you can be, than by an
    artificial fire. I thus warmed myself by the still glowing embers
    which the summer, like a departed hunter, had left.
    When I came to build my chimney I studied masonry. My bricks,
    being second-hand ones, required to be cleaned with a trowel, so
    that I learned more than usual of the qualities of bricks and
    trowels. The mortar on them was fifty years old, and was said to be
    still growing harder; but this is one of those sayings which men
    love to repeat whether they are true or not. Such sayings
    themselves grow harder and adhere more firmly with age, and it would
    take many blows with a trowel to clean an old wiseacre of them.
    Many of the villages of Mesopotamia are built of second-hand bricks
    of a very good quality, obtained from the ruins of Babylon, and the
    cement on them is older and probably harder still. However that may
    be, I was struck by the peculiar toughness of the steel which bore
    so many violent blows without being worn out. As my bricks had been
    in a chimney before, though I did not read the name of
    Nebuchadnezzar on them, I picked out its many fireplace bricks as I
    could find, to save work and waste, and I filled the spaces between
    the bricks about the fireplace with stones from the pond shore, and
    also made my mortar with the white sand from the same place. I
    lingered most about the fireplace, as the most vital part of the
    house. Indeed, I worked so deliberately, that though I commenced at
    the ground in the morning, a course of bricks raised a few inches
    above the floor served for my pillow at night; yet I did not get a
    stiff neck for it that I remember; my stiff neck is of older date.
    I took a poet to board for a fortnight about those times, which
    caused me to be put to it for room. He brought his own knife,
    though I had two, and we used to scour them by thrusting them into
    the earth. He shared with me the labors of cooking. I was pleased
    to see my work rising so square and solid by degrees, and reflected,
    that, if it proceeded slowly, it was calculated to endure a long
    time. The chimney is to some extent an independent structure,
    standing on the ground, and rising through the house to the heavens;
    even after the house is burned it still stands sometimes, and its
    importance and independence are apparent. This was toward the end
    of summer. It was now November.
    The north wind had already begun to cool the pond, though it
    took many weeks of steady blowing to accomplish it, it is so deep.
    When I began to have a fire at evening, before I plastered my house,
    the chimney carried smoke particularly well, because of the numerous
    chinks between the boards. Yet I passed some cheerful evenings in
    that cool and airy apartment, surrounded by the rough brown boards
    full of knots, and rafters with the bark on high overhead. My house
    never pleased my eye so much after it was plastered, though I was
    obliged to confess that it was more comfortable. Should not every
    apartment in which man dwells be lofty enough to create some
    obscurity overhead, where flickering shadows may play at evening
    about the rafters? These forms are more agreeable to the fancy and
    imagination than fresco paintings or other the most expensive
    furniture. I now first began to inhabit my house, I may say, when I
    began to use it for warmth as well as shelter. I had got a couple
    of old fire-dogs to keep the wood from the hearth, and it did me
    good to see the soot form on the back of the chimney which I had
    built, and I poked the fire with more right and more satisfaction
    than usual. My dwelling was small, and I could hardly entertain an
    echo in it; but it seemed larger for being a single apartment and
    remote from neighbors. All the attractions of a house were
    concentrated in one room; it was kitchen, chamber, parlor, and
    keeping-room; and whatever satisfaction parent or child, master or
    servant, derive from living in a house, I enjoyed it all. Cato
    says, the master of a family (patremfamilias) must have in his
    rustic villa "cellam oleariam, vinariam, dolia multa, uti lubeat
    caritatem expectare, et rei, et virtuti, et gloriae erit," that is,
    "an oil and wine cellar, many casks, so that it may be pleasant to
    expect hard times; it will be for his advantage, and virtue, and
    glory." I had in my cellar a firkin of potatoes, about two quarts
    of peas with the weevil in them, and on my shelf a little rice, a
    jug of molasses, and of rye and Indian meal a peck each.
    I sometimes dream of a larger and more populous house, standing
    in a golden age, of enduring materials, and without gingerbread
    work, which shall still consist of only one room, a vast, rude,
    substantial, primitive hall, without ceiling or plastering, with
    bare rafters and purlins supporting a sort of lower heaven over
    one's head -- useful to keep off rain and snow, where the king and
    queen posts stand out to receive your homage, when you have done
    reverence to the prostrate Saturn of an older dynasty on stepping
    over the sill; a cavernous house, wherein you must reach up a torch
    upon a pole to see the roof; where some may live in the fireplace,
    some in the recess of a window, and some on settles, some at one end
    of the hall, some at another, and some aloft on rafters with the
    spiders, if they choose; a house which you have got into when you
    have opened the outside door, and the ceremony is over; where the
    weary traveller may wash, and eat, and converse, and sleep, without
    further journey; such a shelter as you would be glad to reach in a
    tempestuous night, containing all the essentials of a house, and
    nothing for house-keeping; where you can see all the treasures of
    the house at one view, and everything hangs upon its peg, that a man
    should use; at once kitchen, pantry, parlor, chamber, storehouse,
    and garret; where you can see so necessary a thing, as a barrel or a
    ladder, so convenient a thing as a cupboard, and hear the pot boil,
    and pay your respects to the fire that cooks your dinner, and the
    oven that bakes your bread, and the necessary furniture and utensils
    are the chief ornaments; where the washing is not put out, nor the
    fire, nor the mistress, and perhaps you are sometimes requested to
    move from off the trap-door, when the cook would descend into the
    cellar, and so learn whether the ground is solid or hollow beneath
    you without stamping. A house whose inside is as open and manifest
    as a bird's nest, and you cannot go in at the front door and out at
    the back without seeing some of its inhabitants; where to be a guest
    is to be presented with the freedom of the house, and not to be
    carefully excluded from seven eighths of it, shut up in a particular
    cell, and told to make yourself at home there -- in solitary
    confinement. Nowadays the host does not admit you to his hearth,
    but has got the mason to build one for yourself somewhere in his
    alley, and hospitality is the art of keeping you at the greatest
    distance. There is as much secrecy about the cooking as if he had a
    design to poison you. I am aware that I have been on many a man's
    premises, and might have been legally ordered off, but I am not
    aware that I have been in many men's houses. I might visit in my
    old clothes a king and queen who lived simply in such a house as I
    have described, if I were going their way; but backing out of a
    modern palace will be all that I shall desire to learn, if ever I am
    caught in one.
    It would seem as if the very language of our parlors would lose
    all its nerve and degenerate into palaver wholly, our lives pass at
    such remoteness from its symbols, and its metaphors and tropes are
    necessarily so far fetched, through slides and dumb-waiters, as it
    were; in other words, the parlor is so far from the kitchen and
    workshop. The dinner even is only the parable of a dinner,
    commonly. As if only the savage dwelt near enough to Nature and
    Truth to borrow a trope from them. How can the scholar, who dwells
    away in the North West Territory or the Isle of Man, tell what is
    parliamentary in the kitchen?
    However, only one or two of my guests were ever bold enough to
    stay and eat a hasty-pudding with me; but when they saw that crisis
    approaching they beat a hasty retreat rather, as if it would shake
    the house to its foundations. Nevertheless, it stood through a
    great many hasty-puddings.
    I did not plaster till it was freezing weather. I brought over
    some whiter and cleaner sand for this purpose from the opposite
    shore of the pond in a boat, a sort of conveyance which would have
    tempted me to go much farther if necessary. My house had in the
    meanwhile been shingled down to the ground on every side. In
    lathing I was pleased to be able to send home each nail with a
    single blow of the hammer, and it was my ambition to transfer the
    plaster from the board to the wall neatly and rapidly. I remembered
    the story of a conceited fellow, who, in fine clothes, was wont to
    lounge about the village once, giving advice to workmen. Venturing
    one day to substitute deeds for words, he turned up his cuffs,
    seized a plasterer's board, and having loaded his trowel without
    mishap, with a complacent look toward the lathing overhead, made a
    bold gesture thitherward; and straightway, to his complete
    discomfiture, received the whole contents in his ruffled bosom. I
    admired anew the economy and convenience of plastering, which so
    effectually shuts out the cold and takes a handsome finish, and I
    learned the various casualties to which the plasterer is liable. I
    was surprised to see how thirsty the bricks were which drank up all
    the moisture in my plaster before I had smoothed it, and how many
    pailfuls of water it takes to christen a new hearth. I had the
    previous winter made a small quantity of lime by burning the shells
    of the Unio fluviatilis, which our river affords, for the sake of
    the experiment; so that I knew where my materials came from. I
    might have got good limestone within a mile or two and burned it
    myself, if I had cared to do so.
    The pond had in the meanwhile skimmed over in the shadiest and
    shallowest coves, some days or even weeks before the general
    freezing. The first ice is especially interesting and perfect,
    being hard, dark, and transparent, and affords the best opportunity
    that ever offers for examining the bottom where it is shallow; for
    you can lie at your length on ice only an inch thick, like a skater
    insect on the surface of the water, and study the bottom at your
    leisure, only two or three inches distant, like a picture behind a
    glass, and the water is necessarily always smooth then. There are
    many furrows in the sand where some creature has travelled about and
    doubled on its tracks; and, for wrecks, it is strewn with the cases
    of caddis-worms made of minute grains of white quartz. Perhaps
    these have creased it, for you find some of their cases in the
    furrows, though they are deep and broad for them to make. But the
    ice itself is the object of most interest, though you must improve
    the earliest opportunity to study it. If you examine it closely the
    morning after it freezes, you find that the greater part of the
    bubbles, which at first appeared to be within it, are against its
    under surface, and that more are continually rising from the bottom;
    while the ice is as yet comparatively solid and dark, that is, you
    see the water through it. These bubbles are from an eightieth to an
    eighth of an inch in diameter, very clear and beautiful, and you see
    your face reflected in them through the ice. There may be thirty or
    forty of them to a square inch. There are also already within the
    ice narrow oblong perpendicular bubbles about half an inch long,
    sharp cones with the apex upward; or oftener, if the ice is quite
    fresh, minute spherical bubbles one directly above another, like a
    string of beads. But these within the ice are not so numerous nor
    obvious as those beneath. I sometimes used to cast on stones to try
    the strength of the ice, and those which broke through carried in
    air with them, which formed very large and conspicuous white bubbles
    beneath. One day when I came to the same place forty-eight hours
    afterward, I found that those large bubbles were still perfect,
    though an inch more of ice had formed, as I could see distinctly by
    the seam in the edge of a cake. But as the last two days had been
    very warm, like an Indian summer, the ice was not now transparent,
    showing the dark green color of the water, and the bottom, but
    opaque and whitish or gray, and though twice as thick was hardly
    stronger than before, for the air bubbles had greatly expanded under
    this heat and run together, and lost their regularity; they were no
    longer one directly over another, but often like silvery coins
    poured from a bag, one overlapping another, or in thin flakes, as if
    occupying slight cleavages. The beauty of the ice was gone, and it
    was too late to study the bottom. Being curious to know what
    position my great bubbles occupied with regard to the new ice, I
    broke out a cake containing a middling sized one, and turned it
    bottom upward. The new ice had formed around and under the bubble,
    so that it was included between the two ices. It was wholly in the
    lower ice, but close against the upper, and was flattish, or perhaps
    slightly lenticular, with a rounded edge, a quarter of an inch deep
    by four inches in diameter; and I was surprised to find that
    directly under the bubble the ice was melted with great regularity
    in the form of a saucer reversed, to the height of five eighths of
    an inch in the middle, leaving a thin partition there between the
    water and the bubble, hardly an eighth of an inch thick; and in many
    places the small bubbles in this partition had burst out downward,
    and probably there was no ice at all under the largest bubbles,
    which were a foot in diameter. I inferred that the infinite number
    of minute bubbles which I had first seen against the under surface
    of the ice were now frozen in likewise, and that each, in its
    degree, had operated like a burning-glass on the ice beneath to melt
    and rot it. These are the little air-guns which contribute to make
    the ice crack and whoop.
    At length the winter set in good earnest, just as I had finished
    plastering, and the wind began to howl around the house as if it had
    not had permission to do so till then. Night after night the geese
    came lumbering in the dark with a clangor and a whistling of wings,
    even after the ground was covered with snow, some to alight in
    Walden, and some flying low over the woods toward Fair Haven, bound
    for Mexico. Several times, when returning from the village at ten
    or eleven o'clock at night, I heard the tread of a flock of geese,
    or else ducks, on the dry leaves in the woods by a pond-hole behind
    my dwelling, where they had come up to feed, and the faint honk or
    quack of their leader as they hurried off. In 1845 Walden froze
    entirely over for the first time on the night of the 22d of
    December, Flint's and other shallower ponds and the river having
    been frozen ten days or more; in '46, the 16th; in '49, about the
    31st; and in '50, about the 27th of December; in '52, the 5th of
    January; in '53, the 31st of December. The snow had already covered
    the ground since the 25th of November, and surrounded me suddenly
    with the scenery of winter. I withdrew yet farther into my shell,
    and endeavored to keep a bright fire both within my house and within
    my breast. My employment out of doors now was to collect the dead
    wood in the forest, bringing it in my hands or on my shoulders, or
    sometimes trailing a dead pine tree under each arm to my shed. An
    old forest fence which had seen its best days was a great haul for
    me. I sacrificed it to Vulcan, for it was past serving the god
    Terminus. How much more interesting an event is that man's supper
    who has just been forth in the snow to hunt, nay, you might say,
    steal, the fuel to cook it with! His bread and meat are sweet.
    There are enough fagots and waste wood of all kinds in the forests
    of most of our towns to support many fires, but which at present
    warm none, and, some think, hinder the growth of the young wood.
    There was also the driftwood of the pond. In the course of the
    summer I had discovered a raft of pitch pine logs with the bark on,
    pinned together by the Irish when the railroad was built. This I
    hauled up partly on the shore. After soaking two years and then
    lying high six months it was perfectly sound, though waterlogged
    past drying. I amused myself one winter day with sliding this
    piecemeal across the pond, nearly half a mile, skating behind with
    one end of a log fifteen feet long on my shoulder, and the other on
    the ice; or I tied several logs together with a birch withe, and
    then, with a longer birch or alder which had a book at the end,
    dragged them across. Though completely waterlogged and almost as
    heavy as lead, they not only burned long, but made a very hot fire;
    nay, I thought that they burned better for the soaking, as if the
    pitch, being confined by the water, burned longer, as in a lamp.
    Gilpin, in his account of the forest borderers of England, says
    that "the encroachments of trespassers, and the houses and fences
    thus raised on the borders of the forest," were "considered as great
    nuisances by the old forest law, and were severely punished under
    the name of purprestures, as tending ad terrorem ferarum -- ad
    nocumentum forestae, etc.," to the frightening of the game and the
    detriment of the forest. But I was interested in the preservation
    of the venison and the vert more than the hunters or woodchoppers,
    and as much as though I had been the Lord Warden himself; and if any
    part was burned, though I burned it myself by accident, I grieved
    with a grief that lasted longer and was more inconsolable than that
    of the proprietors; nay, I grieved when it was cut down by the
    proprietors themselves. I would that our farmers when they cut down
    a forest felt some of that awe which the old Romans did when they
    came to thin, or let in the light to, a consecrated grove (lucum
    conlucare), that is, would believe that it is sacred to some god.
    The Roman made an expiatory offering, and prayed, Whatever god or
    goddess thou art to whom this grove is sacred, be propitious to me,
    my family, and children, etc.
    It is remarkable what a value is still put upon wood even in
    this age and in this new country, a value more permanent and
    universal than that of gold. After all our discoveries and
    inventions no man will go by a pile of wood. It is as precious to
    us as it was to our Saxon and Norman ancestors. If they made their
    bows of it, we make our gun-stocks of it. Michaux, more than thirty
    years ago, says that the price of wood for fuel in New York and
    Philadelphia "nearly equals, and sometimes exceeds, that of the best
    wood in Paris, though this immense capital annually requires more
    than three hundred thousand cords, and is surrounded to the distance
    of three hundred miles by cultivated plains." In this town the
    price of wood rises almost steadily, and the only question is, how
    much higher it is to be this year than it was the last. Mechanics
    and tradesmen who come in person to the forest on no other errand,
    are sure to attend the wood auction, and even pay a high price for
    the privilege of gleaning after the woodchopper. It is now many
    years that men have resorted to the forest for fuel and the
    materials of the arts: the New Englander and the New Hollander, the
    Parisian and the Celt, the farmer and Robin Hood, Goody Blake and
    Harry Gill; in most parts of the world the prince and the peasant,
    the scholar and the savage, equally require still a few sticks from
    the forest to warm them and cook their food. Neither could I do
    without them.
    Every man looks at his wood-pile with a kind of affection. I
    love to have mine before my window, and the more chips the better to
    remind me of my pleasing work. I had an old axe which nobody
    claimed, with which by spells in winter days, on the sunny side of
    the house, I played about the stumps which I had got out of my
    bean-field. As my driver prophesied when I was plowing, they warmed
    me twice -- once while I was splitting them, and again when they
    were on the fire, so that no fuel could give out more heat. As for
    the axe, I was advised to get the village blacksmith to "jump" it;
    but I jumped him, and, putting a hickory helve from the woods into
    it, made it do. If it was dull, it was at least hung true.
    A few pieces of fat pine were a great treasure. It is
    interesting to remember how much of this food for fire is still
    concealed in the bowels of the earth. In previous years I had often
    gone prospecting over some bare hillside, where a pitch pine wood
    had formerly stood, and got out the fat pine roots. They are almost
    indestructible. Stumps thirty or forty years old, at least, will
    still be sound at the core, though the sapwood has all become
    vegetable mould, as appears by the scales of the thick bark forming
    a ring level with the earth four or five inches distant from the
    heart. With axe and shovel you explore this mine, and follow the
    marrowy store, yellow as beef tallow, or as if you had struck on a
    vein of gold, deep into the earth. But commonly I kindled my fire
    with the dry leaves of the forest, which I had stored up in my shed
    before the snow came. Green hickory finely split makes the
    woodchopper's kindlings, when he has a camp in the woods. Once in a
    while I got a little of this. When the villagers were lighting
    their fires beyond the horizon, I too gave notice to the various
    wild inhabitants of Walden vale, by a smoky streamer from my
    chimney, that I was awake.--

    Light-winged Smoke, Icarian bird,
    Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight,
    Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,
    Circling above the hamlets as thy nest;
    Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
    Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts;
    By night star-veiling, and by day
    Darkening the light and blotting out the sun;
    Go thou my incense upward from this hearth,
    And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.

    Hard green wood just cut, though I used but little of that,
    answered my purpose better than any other. I sometimes left a good
    fire when I went to take a walk in a winter afternoon; and when I
    returned, three or four hours afterward, it would be still alive and
    glowing. My house was not empty though I was gone. It was as if I
    had left a cheerful housekeeper behind. It was I and Fire that
    lived there; and commonly my housekeeper proved trustworthy. One
    day, however, as I was splitting wood, I thought that I would just
    look in at the window and see if the house was not on fire; it was
    the only time I remember to have been particularly anxious on this
    score; so I looked and saw that a spark had caught my bed, and I
    went in and extinguished it when it had burned a place as big as my
    hand. But my house occupied so sunny and sheltered a position, and
    its roof was so low, that I could afford to let the fire go out in
    the middle of almost any winter day.
    The moles nested in my cellar, nibbling every third potato, and
    making a snug bed even there of some hair left after plastering and
    of brown paper; for even the wildest animals love comfort and warmth
    as well as man, and they survive the winter only because they are so
    careful to secure them. Some of my friends spoke as if I was coming
    to the woods on purpose to freeze myself. The animal merely makes a
    bed, which he warms with his body, in a sheltered place; but man,
    having discovered fire, boxes up some air in a spacious apartment,
    and warms that, instead of robbing himself, makes that his bed, in
    which he can move about divested of more cumbrous clothing, maintain
    a kind of summer in the midst of winter, and by means of windows
    even admit the light, and with a lamp lengthen out the day. Thus he
    goes a step or two beyond instinct, and saves a little time for the
    fine arts. Though, when I had been exposed to the rudest blasts a
    long time, my whole body began to grow torpid, when I reached the
    genial atmosphere of my house I soon recovered my faculties and
    prolonged my life. But the most luxuriously housed has little to
    boast of in this respect, nor need we trouble ourselves to speculate
    how the human race may be at last destroyed. It would be easy to
    cut their threads any time with a little sharper blast from the
    north. We go on dating from Cold Fridays and Great Snows; but a
    little colder Friday, or greater snow would put a period to man's
    existence on the globe.
    The next winter I used a small cooking-stove for economy, since
    I did not own the forest; but it did not keep fire so well as the
    open fireplace. Cooking was then, for the most part, no longer a
    poetic, but merely a chemic process. It will soon be forgotten, in
    these days of stoves, that we used to roast potatoes in the ashes,
    after the Indian fashion. The stove not only took up room and
    scented the house, but it concealed the fire, and I felt as if I had
    lost a companion. You can always see a face in the fire. The
    laborer, looking into it at evening, purifies his thoughts of the
    dross and earthiness which they have accumulated during the day.
    But I could no longer sit and look into the fire, and the pertinent
    words of a poet recurred to me with new force.--

    "Never, bright flame, may be denied to me
    Thy dear, life imaging, close sympathy.
    What but my hopes shot upward e'er so bright?
    What but my fortunes sunk so low in night?
    Why art thou banished from our hearth and hall,
    Thou who art welcomed and beloved by all?
    Was thy existence then too fanciful
    For our life's common light, who are so dull?
    Did thy bright gleam mysterious converse hold
    With our congenial souls? secrets too bold?
    Well, we are safe and strong, for now we sit
    Beside a hearth where no dim shadows flit,
    Where nothing cheers nor saddens, but a fire
    Warms feet and hands -- nor does to more aspire;
    By whose compact utilitarian heap
    The present may sit down and go to sleep,
    Nor fear the ghosts who from the dim past walked,
    And with us by the unequal light of the old wood fire talked."
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