« PreviousContinue »
going forward, particularly the assemblies and dancing parties; and, indeed, they are an acquisition, as many of the ladies want neither beauty nor the accomplishments necessary for their gracing an assembly.
One should naturally suppose that very bad consequences would be likely to arise from being heated by dancing in so cold a climate. This, however, is not the case: both the ladies and gentlemen in the coldest weather, are dressed in the assemblyroom as thinly as they are in England in summer; and the rooms are very comfortable, being kept moderately warm by a stove. Immediately after dancing, and while very warm, the company go into the open air in the middle of the night while the cold is extreme (from 20 to 30 degrees below the freezing point), without next day feeling the least inconvenience. It is true, they take every precaution necessary, by clothing themselves very warmly.
People are less liable to suffer from cold in Canada than they are in England, notwithstanding the greater severity of the weather. Many reasons are assigned for this fact. The Canadians take care not to expose themselves to the external air without being warmly clothed; particular attention is paid to keeping the feet, the hands, and the head warm.
The air is extremely dry in winter, being deprived of its moisture by congelation; the intense frost causes naturally a deposition of the aqueous particles, in the shape of hoar frost. Now, it has been accurately ascertained and proved by experiments, that cold dry air is not so good a conductor of heat from our bodies as cold moist air; it follows, therefore, that the thermometer may shew a very low temperature in cold dry air, such as we have here, without our being sensible of a great degree of cold; and, that in cold moist air, such as you have in England, the thermometer may not be under the freezing point, and yet the quantity of caloric br heat carried off from your body, be greater than if the thermometer shewed a temperature many degrees below freezing. Were the effect of the cold here on one's feelings, to increase in proportion as the thermometer falls, and go as far beyond what it is in England, as the real quantum of caloric in the. atmosphere is more there than here, it would be impossible to exist in this country; but the evil carries its cure along with it, the frost deprives the air of its moisture, and consequently decreases its power of carrying off from our body the heat it contains. If we wish to know how the weather is to affect us, we should consult a hygrometer as well as a thermometer.
When the cold dry air of this country enters your apartment, and is warmed by the heat of the stove, its drying power becomes very great. To be convinced that this is the case, it is only necessary to observe how much the furniture of the house suffers from it. The very pannels of the doors shrink so much as almost to fall out of the frame, and the frame itself shrinks to such a degree that the bolt loses its hold.
I recollect to have remarked the very same effects from the hot easterly wind, which blows occasionally, in the end of summer, in the southern countries of Europe. The Italians call it the siroc wind. It is equally known and dreaded, for your sensations are extremely disagreeable; the effect on furniture is the same as that of the air of this country, heated by the stove; but its effects on your body are much more severe. The skin, when the westerly wind blows, is covered with a gentle moisture, but as soon as the easterly or siroc wind blows, the skin becomes dry and parched, and your sensations are oppressive, and undescribable. When the air here is very much heated by the stoves, you feel in some degree the same sensations and effects; but you have a remedy at hand: you have only to open a door, and you get a fresh supply of cold air. There is no avoiding the siroc wind—let your doors and windows be ever so tight before it begins to blow, it soon makes a passage for itself through the crevices of the shrunk pannels.
An Englishman can with difficulty form an idea of the cold of Canada, or of its effects, till he feels and sees them. The coldest weather is generally during the month of January. The thermometer fell last January to 60 degrees below the freezing point, and it continued at that temperature for several days. The medium temperature in December and January is about 22 degrees below freezing.
About the beginning of December all the small rivers are frozen so completely, and covered with snow, that bridges for passing them, are no longer necessary, and very little attention is paid to keeping in the summer roads. Where they are hollow, or where there are fences, the roads are so completely filled up with snow, that they are on a level with the fields on each side.
The country people who first form the winter roads on the snow, direct their Carioles by the nearest course where the snow is most level; and they go in as straight a line as possible, to the place to which they are destined. They put up branches of trees on each side the new track, as a direction to others who wish to go that way. These they call des balises, or beacons. When they can conveniently follow the course or bed of a river it is generally done, because the surface is evener than over the fields, and there is less snow on them, as they do not freeze till after a considerable quantity of snow has fallen on the fields.
Even the great river St. Lawrence is