He accordingly followed Jonas as he drove the oxen along to the sled. Jonas held up the tongue, while Josey backed the oxen, so that he could enter the end of the tongue into the ring attached to the lower side of the yoke. He then put the iron pin in, and all was ready.
Jonas drove the oxen along, till he came to the great gate in the back yard, and then he stopped to go and get some chains. The chains he fastened to the stakes, which were in the sides of the sled. Then he opened the great gate, and the oxen went through; after which he seated himself upon the sled by the side of Josey, and so they rode along up into the woods.
The storm increased, though very slowly. The road into the woods, which had become well worn, was now beginning to be covered, here and there, with little white patches, wherever new snow, driven along by the wind, found places where it could lodge. At length, however, they came to the woods; and there they were sheltered from the wind, and the snow fell more equally. Josey had found it quite cold riding in the open ground, for the wind was against them; but under the shelter of the trees he found it quite warm and comfortable.
The forest appeared very silent and solitary. It is true they could hear the moaning of the wind upon the tops of the trees, but there was no sound of life, and no motion but that of the fine flakes descending through the air in a gentle shower. The whole surface of the ground, and every thing lying upon it, was covered with the snow; for the branches, and the stumps, and the stems trimmed up for timber, and the places where the old snow had been trampled down by the oxen and by the woodcutters, were now all whitened over again and concealed.
“Who would think,” said Jonas, “that there could be any thing alive here?”
“Is there any thing?” said Josey.
“Yes, thousands of animals, all covered up in the snow,—mice in the ground, and squirrels in the hollow logs, and millions of insects, frozen up in the bark of the dead trees.”
“And they’ll be covered up deeper before morning,” said Josey.
“Yes,” said Jonas, “and so would our rafters, if we didn’t get them out. We could not have found half of them, if we had left them till after this storm.”
The rafters were lying around upon the old snow, wherever small trees, from which they had been formed, had fallen. They could be distinguished very plainly now, although covered with an inch of snow.
Jonas and Josey immediately went to work, getting them together, and placing them upon the sled. When they had been at work in this way for some time, Jonas said,—
“We shall not get half of them, at this load.”
“Then what shall you do?” said Josey.
“O, come up again, and get the rest.”
“But then it will be dark before you get home.”
“That will be no matter,” said Jonas.