Instead of going to see Virginia before her school opened in the morning, I went to work banking up my house, fixing my sheds, and reefing things down for a gale as I learned to say on the Lakes. I made up my mind that I would go to the schoolhouse just before four and surprise Virginia, and hoped it would be a little stormy so I could have an excuse to take her home. I need not have worried about the storm. It came.
At noon the northwestern sky, a third of the way to a point overhead, was of an indigo-blue color; but it still seemed to be clear sky—though I looked at it with suspicion, it was such an unusual thing for January. As I stood gazing at it, Narcisse Lacroix, Pierre’s twelve-year-old boy, came by with his little sister. I asked him if school was out, and he said the teacher had sent them home because there was no more fuel for the stove; but it was so warm that the teacher was going to stay and sweep out, and write up her register.
As the children went out of sight, a strange and awful change came over the face of nature. The bright sun was blotted out as it touched the edge of that rising belt of indigo blue. This blanket of cloud, like a curtain with puckering strings to bring it together in the southeast, drew fast across the sky—very, very fast, considering that there was not a breath of wind stirring. It was a fearful thing to see, the blue-black cloud hurrying up the sky, over the sky, and far down until there was no bright spot except a narrowing oval near the southeastern horizon; and not a breath of wind. The storm was like a leaning wall, that bent far over us while its foot dragged along the ground, miles and miles behind its top. Everything had a tinge of strange, ghastly greenish blue like the face of a corpse, and it was growing suddenly dark as if the day had all at once shut down into dusk.
I knew what it meant, though I had never seen the change from calm warmth to cold wind come with such marked symptoms of suddenness and violence. It meant a blizzard—though we never heard or adopted the word until in the late ’seventies. I thought I had plenty of time, however, and I went into the house and changed my clothes; for I wanted to look my best when I saw my girl. I put on new and warm underwear, for I foresaw that it might be bad before I could get home. I put on an extra pair of drawers under my blue trousers, and a buckskin undervest under my shirt. I thanked God for this forethought before the night was over.
As I stood naked in making this change of clothes, suddenly the house staggered as if it had been cuffed by a great hand. I peeped out of the window, and against the dark sky I could see the young grove of trees bowing before the great gusts which had struck them from the northwest. The wall of wind and frost and death had moved against them.