Fuel too was more easily obtained in the winter than in the spring, and as roads were generally little more than passage-ways or cow-paths through the meadows or the woods, the depth of the mud was often such as to form a barrier to the locomotion of the heavy vehicles of the period or even to prevent travel on horseback or on foot.
And on, on, now through open fields, and now through dense forests, now through splashy pools, or rapid rivers, and now over sharp pitches or deep ravines, now in cross-roads or cow-paths, and now in trackless thickets, now over fenny moors, and now along the rocky declivities of mountains, on, on, did they pursue their toilsome and weary way through the seemingly interminable hours of all the first half of that eventful day.
Wonderful changes had been developed along the beautiful Hudson during these twelve years. People in the country said New York was getting to be a very big, and a very wicked city. Already her skirmishers, in a line of little houses, were pushed beyond the canal, and were obliterating the cow-paths.
"Yes, sir; cow-paths, cut by sheep-walks, and intersected with hen-tracks." "When did we fire the first gun?" "Well, sir, just as we were leaving Falmouth, ten months ago signal-gun, sir." "Where did we fire the first shotted gun, sir? and what was the name of the privateer we took upon that occasion?" "'Pears to me, sir, at that time I was on the sick list.
Here and there clumps of tall pines stand in the bare, brown sod as if to guard the young outshoots clustering about them in wanton dispersion. Cow-paths, marked only by the worn edges of the bushes, run in zigzags across the hillside and up to the plateau. The remnants of rail fences strew the ground here and there.
If Boston's streets followed the cow-paths, the streets of the cities of France followed cows with the St. Vitus dance. Around these streets one had to find his way by night with a flash-light, especially during an air-raid.
Of course, those who were stationed nearest to the head of the line, where they could most see and be seen, and have the first blow at him, paid the highest prices for their places; and the few straggling inhabitants in the outskirts, where long gaps in the line began to occur, and the traveller could get over walls or turn aside into cow-paths, and so escape, paid a very slight ground or window tax.
'We're goin' west an' we mustn't let the grass grow under us. Got t'be purty spry I can tell ye. It was quite dark and he felt his way carefully down the cow-paths into the broad pasture. With every step I kept a sharp lookout for swifts, and the moon shone after a while, making my work easier.
"Let's go that way and meet them;" and Nan wheeled about, and began to trot through the bushes, feeling a trifle anxious, for there were so many cow-paths all about she could not remember which way they came. On they went over stock and stone again, pausing now and then to listen for the horn, which did not blow any more, for it was only the moo of a cow on her way home.
The lone pine stood in Brower's pasture, just clear of the woods. When the sun rose, one could see its taper shadow stretching away to the foot of Woody Ledge, and at sunset it lay like a fallen mast athwart the cow-paths, its long top arm a flying pennant on the side of Bowman's Hill.