dis solved’, melted; broken up.
a vid’i ty, eagerness.
re duced’, made smaller in quantity.
sen sa’tion, feeling.
crys’tal lize, change into hard particles of a regular shape.
* * * * *
In the great kettles the boiling of the sap goes on slowly, and the liquid, as it thickens, is dipped from one to another, until in the end kettle it is reduced to syrup, and is taken out to cool and settle, until enough is made to “sugar off.”
To “sugar off” is to boil the syrup until it is thick enough to crystallize into sugar. This is the grand event, and is only done once in two or three days.
But the boy’s desire is to “sugar off” all the time. He boils his kettle down as rapidly as possible; he is not particular about chips, scum, or ashes.
He is apt to burn his sugar; but if he can get enough to make a little wax on the snow, or to scrape from the bottom of the kettle with his wooden paddle, he is happy.
A great deal is wasted on his hands, and the outside of his face, and on his clothes, but he does not care; he is not stingy.
To watch the operations of the big fire gives him constant pleasure. Sometimes he is left to watch the boiling kettles, with a piece of pork tied on the end of a stick, which he dips into the boiling mass when it threatens to go over.
He is constantly tasting of it, however, to see if it is not almost syrup. He has a long, round stick, whittled smooth at one end, which he uses for this purpose, at the constant risk of burning his tongue.
The smoke blows in his face; he is grimy with ashes; he is altogether such a mass of dirt, stickiness, and sweetness, that his own mother wouldn’t know him.
He likes to boil eggs with the hired man in the hot sap; he likes to roast potatoes in the ashes, and he would live in the camp day and night if he were permitted.
To sleep there with the men, and awake in the night and hear the wind in the trees, and see the sparks fly up to the sky, is a perfect realization of all the stories of adventures he has ever read.
He tells the other boys afterward that he heard something in the night that sounded very much like a bear. The hired man says that he was very much scared by the hooting of an owl.
The great occasions for the boy, though, are the times of “sugaring off.” Sometimes this used to be done in the evening, and it was made the excuse for a frolic in the camp.
The neighbors were invited; sometimes even the pretty girls from the village, who filled all the woods with their sweet voices and merry laughter, were there, too.
The tree branches all show distinctly in the light of the fire, which lights up the bough shanty, the hogsheads, the buckets on the trees, and the group about the boiling kettles, until the scene is like something taken out of a fairy play.