I was bound for Brandelhow to meet the woodman to discuss the felling of certain timber, and through the ice pack, if it were possible, I must needs go.  Coasting along round the island, I soon found myself in a narrow inlet of water that stretched half across the lake; tiny spikules of ice that seemed like floating straws were right and left of me in the still water; here and there little delicate fans of ice were passed.  These miniature ice-islands were the nuclei round which the freezing mixture would crystallise.  Forward across towards Lingholme I steered, and suddenly should have been brought up sharp had not the boat, with good way upon it, crashed right into the ice-floe and shown me how unsubstantial a thing this first ice-covering of the lake was.  With every stroke of the oar the boat forged its way with marvellous sound of crash and gride, and one remembered how the Ancient Mariner had heard those ‘noises in a swound,’ and was able to summon up something of the roar with which the great ice-breakers or steam rams on the Neva crash their way up and won the river to keep the waterway clear for the Baltic shipping.  But in a short time the difficulty of rowing became doubled, and if it had not been that one saw clear water ahead one would hardly have ventured forward.  Meanwhile in the wake of one’s boat one saw how swiftly the little ice-elves repaired the damage one had done by bringing back to its own place and rest each fragment one had displaced, and piecing over with exquisite exactness the breach that one had made. (pp. 208-209)

Now the way was clear, for by some mysterious reason, known only to the water-gods, the shallower the water became as one went shoreward the freer it was of ice.  It may have been mere fantasy, but it seemed as if the water so near to freezing was semi-fluid, viscous; always right and left of one swam by the little ice spikules, and the ice fans, with iridescent beauty, floated and shone hard by.  Presently another crash was heard, and an ice-belt, only a yard wide, but stretching fifty or sixty yards along, was crashed through, another and another, and so, with alternate noise and silence, one made one’s way to Victoria Point, and ran the boast ashore at Brandelhow. (p. 210)

Beautiful as that woodland is in early spring, it seemed that to-day there were more beauties still.  The bracken was silver-dusted with frost and shone gold in the sunshine, and the green velvet of the mosses upon tree-trunk and ground only heightened by contrast the rich russet of the fern.  I climbed to the russet seat on the rocky knoll above; there, sitting, I watched the gambolling of five squirrels and listened to the crackling as their sharp teeth made short work of the cones and fir-tufts.  All these little merry feasters had put on their winter coat, and were much less red of hue than when I watched them last in August.  They had put on their winter tails also.  I saw none of that curious white flaxen colour which the squirrel in September seems so proud of, as, with a wave of his brush, he dashes out of sight.  There, as I watched these miracles of motion and alertness, I thought of Ruskin—how lovingly he had described them.  Here was one leaping on to a twig that bent with just enough of swing in it to allow the little fellow to fly through the air to the next bough.  Here was another, now running along the sturdier bough that bent not, now dropping five or six feet into a dark-green tuft, now sitting cosily in a forked branch to munch his midday meal, now racing for pure joy and mischief after his brother up a long tree-trunk, the tail sometimes bent in an arch above the tufted ears, again thrown out straight, and now bent and undulating—truly a balancing-pole, if ever one was needed by such expert gymnasts.  Children of perfect knowledge of the woodland boughs, fearless as birds and swift as monkeys, the happy family rejoiced in the winter sunshine, as free of care as the cloudless sky above their heads.  I moved, and the jay clanged and screamed from among the alders below me, and in a moment the happy family had vanished out of sight, and one saw what an intercommunion of alarm against strange comers birds and beasts must surely have. (pp. 210-212)

(Lake Country Sketches, pp. 207-217)