426 THE STORY OF THE YEAR
horses seemed frosted with sugar. The footmen stood with their backs against the carriages, so as to turn their faces from the wind. The foot passengers kept in the shelter of the carriages, which could only move slowly on in the deep snow ; and when the storm at last abated, and a narrow path was swept clean alongside the houses, the people stood still in this path when they met, for none liked to take the first step aside into the deep snow to let the other pass him. Thus they stood silent and motionless, till, as if by tacit consent, each sacrificed one leg, and, stepping aside, buried it in the deep snow-heap.
Towards evening it grew calm. The sky looked as if it had been swept, and had become more lofty and transparent. The stars looked as if they were quite new, and some of tbem were amazingly bright and pure. It froze so hard that the snow creaked, and the upper rind of snow might well have grown hard enough to bear the Sparrows in the morning dawn. These little birds hopped up and down where the sweeping had been done ; but they found very little food, and were not a little cold.
' Piep !' said one of them to another ; ' they call this a new year, and it is worse than the last! We might just as well have kept the old one. I'm dissatisfied, and I've reason to be so.5
' Yes ; and the people ran about and fired off shots to celebrate the New Year,' said a shivering little Sparrow ; * and they threw pans and pots against the doors, and were quite boisterous with joy because the Old Year was gone. I was glad of it too, because I hoped we should have had warm days ; but that has come to nothing—it freezes much harder than before. People have made a mistake in reckoning the time !'
' That they have !' a third put in, who was old, and had a white poll: ' they've something they call the calendar— it's an invention of their own—and everything is to be arranged according to that; but it won't do. When spring comes, then the year begins—that is the course of nature.'
1 But when will spring come ? ' the others inquired.
'It will come when the stork comes back. But his movements are very uncertain, and here in town no one