The Seasons: Winter  by Jane Marcet

The Snowball

When he got home, Willy was in a hurry to set down his snowball, which was very heavy: he was going to place it on the table, but Mamma cried out, "Oh no, not upon my table; it will make it all wet!" Then Willy offered to set it down on the floor—"No, that will spoil my carpet."

"Well, then, Mamma, what am I to do with it?"

Mamma got a soup plate, and Willy put it in, and it looked like a large pudding in a dish.

"Is it good to eat, Mamma?"

"It tastes like what it is, my dear, water,—which, you know, has not much taste."

"Then I think, Mamma, it is better to drink than to eat."

"You cannot drink it when it is frozen into snow," said Mamma; "but I will mix something with it, which will make it good to eat." So Mamma went to the closet where the sweetmeats were kept, and she took out a pot of currant jelly, and mixed some of it with a little of the snow from the snowball, and then bade Willy taste it. It was very cold, so that Willy began by making a wry face; but as soon as he had tasted the sweet jelly, he thought it very nice.

"How chilled your hands are, my dear," said his Mamma.

"Oh yes, indeed, my hands are almost frozen like the snowball; it was holding that ball, Mamma; it took all the warmth out of my hands. I am glad, however, it did not melt the snowball."

"It has melted some of the outside;" replied his mother; "for see, your little hands are quite wet, and your gloves, I fear, quite spoiled."

"Then you see, Mamma, the warmth of my hands got through the gloves to melt the snow, though the warmth of my feet could not get through my boots."

"Your boots are much thicker than your gloves, my love."

Willy could talk of nothing else all day long but the snow: he thought the trees looked beautiful, with the boughs laden with snow; and when the wind blew some of it off, he thought it looked like the powdered sugar that was strewed over his pudding. When he was sent into the nursery, he took his snowball with him, and begged Ann to take care that nobody meddled with it, for he meant to take it out with him to-morrow to play with. When he went to bed, he put the snowball in the plate on the chimney-piece, thinking it would be safer there than on the table, and he kept looking at it till his eyelids were so heavy that he could keep them open no longer; but his thoughts were so bent on his dear snowball, that I make no doubt but that he dreamt of it. When he awoke next morning, however, he had forgotten it; but the sight of the plate on the corner of the chimney-piece nearest his bed soon recalled it to his memory, and he jumped up in his bed, crying out, "Oh where is my snowball? who has taken away my snowball? The plate is empty." Ann declared no one had meddled with it. Willy was sure that since she had not, the dog or the cat, or some one or other, must have taken it. He began to be out of temper, and very near fell a crying. His mother, hearing the child speaking in an angry tone of voice, came into the nursery to know what was the matter. As soon as he saw her, he burst into tears, and said—"Oh, Mamma, my nice snowball, my great big snowball that you let me make yesterday, and I liked so much, is gone, and I cannot tell who has run away with it."

"I shall not let you make another," said his Mamma, looking very serious, "if, after amusing yourself with it one day, you cry about it the next. Come, dry up your tears, and I will show you what is become of your snowball."

Willy quickly dried his eyes, for he thought his Mamma had found the snowball; but that was not the case,—she could only explain to him how it had disappeared. She took the plate down from the chimney-piece, and showed him that it was full of water. "Where do you think this water comes from, Willy?"

He looked very blank, and after a little thought answered, "From my snowball. I suppose it is melted? but how came it to be melted? I dare say somebody has been holding it in his warm hands. Have not you, Ann?"

"Not I," replied Ann; "I am not so fond of handling cold wet snowballs."

Then who can have done it?"

"Nobody, my dear," said his Mamma. "Is there no warmth in any thing but hands that can melt a snowball? Look at that blazing fire, Willy, and tell me whether it is not hotter than anybody's hands."

"Oh, much hotter," cried Willy; "but then it does not lay hold of the snowball—I mean, it did not touch it."

"That is true, my dear; but tell me, when you warm yourself by the fire, do you touch it?"

"No, indeed," replied Willy; "for if I did I should burn myself; besides, you know, Mamma, you do not let me go close to the fire; and you say I shall get warm enough if I go no nearer than the border of the rug."

"Though you do not touch the fire that burns in the grate, heat comes out of the fire and touches you, and warms you, and every thing else that it touches."

"Oh yes, Mamma, it warms all the room; and when I go into the passage, where there is no fire, it feels so cold."

"Well, if the heat from the fire warms all the room, I suppose it warms every thing in the room; does not it, Willy?"

"Oh yes," said Willy; "only feel the chimney-piece, Mamma, how hot it is!"

"And what was it stood upon the chimney-piece, Willy?"

Willy blushed, for all at once he thought that it was the heated chimney-piece which had melted his snowball; and he thought he had been very foolish to put it so near the fire, and very wrong to complain so much of its being melted, when it was all his own fault. "Another time," said he, "I will place it at the furthest corner of the room, as far from the fire as possible."

"That will not do, Willy."

"Then; Mamma, I will hang my great coat on a chair before the fire for a screen, and the heat will never be able to get through that thick cloth."

"That will not do either, Willy," repeated his Mamma. "You said that the fire warmed the whole room, and there will be warmth enough in any part of the room to melt your snowball."

"Then, Mamma, I will put it out in the passage, where there is no fire at all, and it is so cold it cannot be melted there, I am sure;" and Willy began to jump about, quite pleased, and not a little proud, that he had at length found out a place where his ball would not melt. But when he was quiet, and looked at his Mamma for approbation, he saw her smile; but from the look of her eyes, he began to think that perhaps he might still be wrong. "Why, Mamma, it's quite cold in the passage—as cold as possible!"

"Do you remember, Willy, how much colder it was when you opened the street door? Out of doors it is so cold that water freezes and snow will not melt; but in doors it is warmer, so that water will not freeze, and snow will melt. Your snowball would not have melted so soon as it did on the chimney-piece, if you had placed it at the furthest corner of the room."

"And it would have been still longer in melting, if I had put it out in the passage," said Willy.

"Yet it would have melted," continued his mother, "unless——" there his Mamma stopped to let Willy finish the sentence.

"Unless," cried he, "I had put it out of doors."

"You are right now," said his Mamma.

"Oh then, dear Mamma, let us go out, and I will make another snowball, and bring it home, and keep it out of doors."

"In doors and out of doors at the same time, Willy?" asked Mamma.

"Not out of doors, then, but out at the window; will not that do as well?"

"Quite as well," Mamma replied, "for it will be in the open air. Whether you put it out by the door or out by the window can make no difference, so as it is out of the warm house."

This being settled, they went to breakfast.