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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


gave up his animal heat, and was glad to take refuge in my house,
and acknowledged that there was some virtue in a stove; or
sometimes the frozen soil took a piece of steel out of a plowshare, or
a plow got set in the furrow and had to be cut out.

To speak literally, a hundred Irishmen, with Yankee overseers, came
from Cambridge every day to get out the ice. They divided it into
cakes by methods too well known to require description, and these,
being sledded to the shore, were rapidly hauled off on to an ice
platform, and raised by grappling irons and block and tackle, worked
by horses, on to a stack, as surely as so many barrels of flour, and
there placed evenly side by side, and row upon row, as if they
formed the solid base of an obelisk designed to pierce the clouds.
They told me that in a good day they could get out a thousand tons,
which was the yield of about one acre. Deep ruts and "cradle-holes"
were worn in the ice, as on terra firma, by the passage of the sleds
over the same track, and the horses invariably ate their oats out of
cakes of ice hollowed out like buckets. They stacked up the cakes
thus in the open air in a pile thirty-five feet high on one side and six
or seven rods square, putting hay between the outside layers to
exclude the air; for when the wind, though never so cold, finds a
passage through, it will wear large cavities, leaving slight supports or
studs only here and there, and finally topple it down. At first it
looked like a vast blue fort or Valhalla; but when they began to tuck
the coarse meadow hay into the crevices, and this became covered
with rime and icicles, it looked like a venerable moss-grown and
hoary ruin, built of azure-tinted marble, the abode of Winter, that old
man we see in the almanac-his shanty, as if he had a design to
estivate with us. They calculated that not twenty-five per cent of this
would reach its destination, and that two or three per cent would be
wasted in the cars. However, a still greater part of this heap had a
different destiny from what was intended; for, either because the ice
was found not to keep so well as was expected, containing more air
than usual, or for some other reason, it never got to market. This
heap, made in the winter of Ď46-7 and estimated to contain ten
thousand tons, was finally covered with hay and boards; and though
it was unroofed the following July, and a part of it carried off, the
rest remaining exposed to the sun, it stood over that summer and the
next winter, and was not quite melted till September, 1848. Thus the
pond recovered the greater part.

Like the water, the Walden ice, seen near at hand, has a green tint,
but at a distance is beautifully blue, and you can easily tell it from
the white ice of the river, or the merely greenish ice of some ponds, a
quarter of a mile off. Sometimes one of those great cakes slips from
the ice-manís sled into the village street, and lies there for a week
like a great emerald, an object of interest to all passers. I have
noticed that a portion of Walden which in the state of water was
green will often, when frozen, appear from the same point of view
blue. So the hollows about this pond will, sometimes, in the winter,
be filled with a greenish water somewhat like its own, but the next
day will have frozen blue. Perhaps the blue color of water and ice is
due to the light and air they contain, and the most transparent is the
bluest. Ice is an interesting subject for contemplation. They told me
that they had some in the ice-houses at Fresh Pond five years old
which was as good as ever. Why is it that a bucket of water soon
becomes putrid, but frozen remains sweet forever? It is commonly
said that this is the difference between the affections and the
intellect.

Thus for sixteen days I saw from my window a hundred men at work
like busy husbandmen, with teams and horses and apparently all the
implements of farming, such a picture as we see on the first page of
the almanac; and as often as I looked out I was reminded of the fable
of the lark and the reapers, or the parable of the sower, and the like;
and now they are all gone, and in thirty days more, probably, I shall
look from the same window on the pure sea-green Walden water
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