STRUGGLING homeward late one Sunday night from one of those mythical "Punches" that our friend in the Herald mentions, it was my lot to pass by "Norton's Woods." Hearing the sound of laughter in that quarter, I determined to investigate; so, sliding and slipping along the icy road, I came in sight of the coast.
The faces of the coasters seemed strangely familiar to me. A double-runner was about to start; in front was a man whom I recognized as one before whose eagle eye I had often trembled, but now that eye was firmly fixed on the North Star; in one hand he had a compass, in the other a cane. Behind, his arms fast locked about his leader's waist, sat another mathematical genius, one whose smooth boyish face has often caused the timid Freshman to wonder that "one small head could carry all he knew." Behind him, a large, comfortable-looking man; and last a dark-bearded, stem-looking man, whose looks belie his nature. And now they're off! Huzza! a brave start. With such science on board, they scarce can fail to reach the bottom safely. Alas! "the best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley," and this party ganged the same way. An unfortunate rock intervenes, and they separate, - the gallant leader measured the shortest distance between the sled and a neighboring tree; the youthful prodigy described the arc of a great circle and landed in a snow-bank; the large gentleman remained stationary, remarking, " This rock shall fly from its firm base as soon as I"; the last, describing a parabolical curve, an ellipse, two hyperbolas, and a conjugate diameter, landed gently in a neighboring bush.
Now, in rapid succession, fly by single sleds, managed by foreign-looking individuals, and murmurs of "Sapristi," "Corpo di Bacco," "Mein Gott in Himmel," float mistily in the air. One only comes to grief, - his course is peculiar, curve after curve; at last he curved too much an I made an excavation in a snow-bank.
But, now, a commotion at the top of the hill draws my attention that way; a huge, unwieldy double-runner is prepared, and various men skilled in Latin and Greek seat themselves upon it. At first they go swimmingly, the weight of the dead languages carrying them bravely down the hill, but unfortunately they are taking the course at sight; a hidden root - they know not whence it came - stumps them, and they are spilled out promiscuously.
One more sled remains at the top of the hill, a battered old hulk, handed down from time immemorial; inscribed on it in faded letters is, "Long live the ancient customs!" A gray-haired, venerable-looking person sits on it, and looks round for some friend to give him a shove. But the rest are gone, and, a kind impulse moving me, I rush out from behind the trees, saying, "I'll help you, thou guardian angel of the student." At the first word the sled and occupant vanish, I find myself alone, calmly resting in a snow-bank, my heels where my head ought to be, and the sun just rising over the trees.