" Sit down between our outspread wings," sing the wild Swans ; " we
will carry you to the great lakes, to the ever-rushing, swift-flowing
mountain stream, where the oak no longer flourishes, and even the birch
is dwarfed. Sit down between our outspread wings we soar aloft upon
Sulitelma, the ' Eye of the Islands,' as they call the mountain ; we fly
from the valley green in the smile of spring, over the drifts of snow, up
to the mountains, from whose tall summits you may behold the North
Sea stretching out beyond Norway. We fly to Jamteland, with its
lofty blue mountains, where the waterfalls foam, where the beacon fires
blaze up as signals from shore to shore to tell that people are waiting
for the ferry. Up to the deep, cold, hurrying waters, which in the
height of summer see not the sun go down where the evening red is
the morning dawn."
Thus sing the birds. Shall we take their song to heart, and follow
them, at least for a space ? We will not seat ourselves on the wings
of the Swan or on the back of the Stork, we will win our way onwards
by the power of steam, and sometimes upon our own feet, and now and
In Sweden, 925
then look across the palings from the kingdom of reality into the realm
of imagination, which is always a neighbour country, and pluck flowers
or leaves, which are laid up in the book of remembrance, because they
blossomed as we passed on on our journey. We fly on, and we sing !
Sweden, thou glorious laud ! Sweden ! whither came heroes in the old
time, from the mountains of Asia ! thou land still irradiated with their
splendour ! It pours from the flowers, with the name of Linna>us ; it
beams before thy chivalrous people from the banner of Charles XII. ; it
sounds forth from the monumental stone erected on the field of Liitzen !
Sweden ! thou land of deep feeling, of glorious song ! where the wild
swans sing in the gleam of the Northern Lights ! Thou land on whose
deep calm lakes the fairy of the North builds her vaulted bridges, and
across whose frozen mirror the armies of spirits march to the combat !
To thee we will fly, with the Stork and the Swallow ; with the restless
Sea-Gull and the wild Swan ! Thy birch forest is so refreshing in its
fragrance, that the harp shall be hung under its waving boughs and on
its white stem, and the summer wind of the North shall whisper through
its strings !
THE BEGGAR BOY.
THE painter Callot and who does not know him, by name at least,
from Hoffmann's book " In Callot's Style " ? has given us a few re-
markable pictures of Italian beggars. One of these represents a lad
clad in a wonderful fringe of rags ; besides the bundle, he carries a great
flag, with the inscription " Capitano di Baroni." It can hardly be
imagined that such a wandering mass of rags is to be found in reality,
and we must acknowledge tha.t we never saw one, even in Italy ; for
the beggar boy there, whose whole costume frequently consists of a
waistcoat, has not space enough for such a display of rags in his primi-
But in the far North we found it: on the canal journey between
"Wenern and Wigen, up on the barren, unfruitful, elevated plain, there
stood, like " beauty-thistles in the landscape," two beggar boys, so tat-
tered and torn, so picturesquely dirty, that we recognized in them the
originals of Callot, unless their garb was an arrangement made by in-
dustrious parents, who wished to awaken sympathy and charity in the
breasts of travellers ; for nature could not have produced such a display :
there was something so especially bold in this drapery of rags, that each
boy at once became a " Capitano di Baroni"
The younger of the two had clinging round him something that had
certainly once been the jacket of a very corpulent man, and which hung
down to the ankles of its present wearer. The whole structure hung
upon one sleeve, and upon a kind of brace formed by the seam, which
now remained as the very last relic of the lining. It was a difficult
thing to define the line of demarcation between the coat and the trousers,
Stories for the Household.
for the rags were mingled together, and the whole costume seemed cal-
culated to produce an air bath ; there were ventilating valves in every
part and corner of it ; while a yellow cotton rag in the lower regions
seemed to be a delicate hint at the presence of body linen. A straw
THE T\VO BEGGAB BOYS.
hat of vast dimensions, that had evidently been crushed beneath more
than one cart wheel, was stuck all askew on the boy's head, and did
not in the least prevent the appearance of his crop of white flaxy hair,
that peered boldly forth from the cavity where a crown had once been.
The finest thing about it all was the way in which the naked bronzed
arm and shoulder looked forth from the jacket.
The other lad boasted only a pair of trousers. These also were tat-
tered, but they had been fastened to the boy's limbs with string ; one
piece was fastened round his ankles, another string went round under
his knees, a third above them, and a fourth round his body ; so the boy
held together, and what he wore looked sufficiently respectable.
" Away with you ! " called our captain from the ship.
And the boy with the tied-up rags turned round, and we why, we
saw nothing but string, one bow over the other ; and noble bows they
were. The boy was only dressed in front, and all the rest was string
nothing but the bare string !
THE PEISON ON THE SEPARATE SYSTEM.
BY separation from other men, by solitude and silence, the criminal is
io be improved, and accordingly prisons are built with separate cells.
In Sweden there are many of these, and new ones are being constructed.
In Sweden. 927
I visited one, the first I had seen, in Marienstadt. Like a great villa,
white and smiling, with window by window, this building stands in a fair
landscape, close to the town, beside a babbling stream. But soon we
notice that a stillness as of the grave broods over this place ; it is like
a deserted spot, or a plague-stricken building, from whence the inhabi-
tants have fled. The gates of these walls are locked ; but one of them
opens to us, and the gaoler receives us with his bunch of keys in his
hand. We enter the " reception-room," into which the prisoner is first
introduced ; then they show us the bath-room into which he is led.
Next we mount a stair, and find ourselves in a great hall occupying the
whole length and height of the building. Several galleries run round
the hall at different heights, and in the middle stands a pulpit ; on
Sundays the preacher ascends the pulpit, and preaches a sermon to an
invisible congregation. The doors of all the cells, which open upon the
gallery on the various storeys, are half opened, and the prisoners hear
the preacher, though they cannot see him, or he them. The whole
system is a well-arranged machine to weigh like an Alp upon the spirit.
In the door of each cell a bit of glass about an inch square is fastened ;
a valve covers it from without, and through this glass the warder can
see all that the prisoner does, unobserved by the latter; but he must come
silently and with noiseless steps, for the captive's sense of hearing is
marvellously sharpened by incarceration. I silently pushed back the
valve from one of the glasses, and looked into the confined space within,
but instantly the occupant's eye caught mine. The cell was airy, clean,
and light, but the window is so high that the prisoner cannot possibly
look out. The furniture consists of a high bench, fastened to a kind of
table, and a hammock, with a blanket, that can be fastened to the ceiling
by a hook.
Several cells were opened for us. In one of these I saw a young and
very pretty girl. She had lain down in her hammock, but when the
door opened she sprang out, and immediately fastened it up. On the
little table stood the water-jug, and near it lay the remains of a hard
piece of black bread, the Bible, and a few hymns. In another cell sat
a woman who had murdered her child : I only saw her through the
little pane of glass in the door. She had heard our footsteps and our
voices, but she sat still, crouched together in one corner by the door,
as if she wanted to hide herself as much as possible. She sat with her
back bent, her head bowed down, and her hands folded over it. They
told me the unhappy creature was quite young. In two separate cells
were two brothers, who were suffering punishment for horse stealing ;
one of them was quite a boy. In another cell sat a poor servant girl ;
they told me "she was without means of subsistence, and without friends
or kin, and therefore had been sent hither." I thought I must have
heard wrong, and repeated my question, only to receive the same reply.
But still I cling to the idea that there must be some mistake. Without,
in the bright sunshine, is the bustle and industry of the day ; within,
there rules always the stillness of midnight. The sun, which works its
way along the wall, the swallow at rare intervals sweeping close by the
928 Stories for the Household.
window-pane high up in the cell, even the step of a stranger in the gal-
lery passing by the door, is an event in the dumb, uniform life, in which
the thoughts of the prisoner are ever turned inwards. We must remem-
ber the cells of the Holy Inquisition, the wretched prisoners of the
Bor/nios chained one to another, the hot lead roofs, and the dark wet
abyss of the well-dungeons of Venice, before we can wander with a quiet
heart through the galleries of these cell-prisons. Here at any rate are
light and air ; here is more of humanity. And when the sun pours its
mild ray upon the prisoner, there may also a beaming ray of the Divine
essence sink into his heart.
YONDER in Sweden are to be seen, not only in the country, but even
in several of the smaller towns, houses built entirely of sods, or roofed
with them ; and some of these houses are so low that it is an easy matter
to climb on to the roof, and to repose there among the fresh turf. At
the beginning of spring, when the fields are still covered with snow, but
the white veil has melted from these roofs, they give the first promise
of the renewed year in the young sprouting grass, among whose blades
the sparrows hop to and fro, and twitter, " Spring is coming."
Between Motala and Wadstena, hard by the high road, lies a turf
house of this kind, and one of the most picturesque. It has but one
window, and that is broader than it is long; a wild rose bush forms a
sort of curtain over it from without. We see it in the spring. The roof
is of green turf, green velvety turf, and close by the low chimney, almost
out of its very side, a cherry tree springs up. This tree stands in full
blossom, and in the soft wind the blossoms shower down their petals
upon a little lamb that pastures up here, and is tethered to a cord
fastened to the chimney. This is the only lamb of the house : the old
mother who dwells here carries it up herself when the morning dawns,
and brings it down in the evening, to give it a place in her room. The
roof is just strong enough to bear the little lamb, but can carry nothing
more that is an ascertained fact. Last autumn and at that time of
the year these roofs are generally covered with blossoms, mostly yellow
and red, the Swedish colours last autumn there grew here a flower of
a strange kind ; it attracted the eye of the old professor who used to
pass the house botanizing. Immediately the professor was on the roof,
and immediately afterwards first one of his booted legs, and then the
other, and then half of the professor the half that does not include the
head broke through the roof; and, forasmuch as there was no ceiling
under the said roof, the legs of the professor were waving over the head
of the little old woman, and, in fact, in very close contact with her.
But now the roof has been set right again, the fresh grass grows over
the spot where so much learning was engulfed ; the little lamb is bleat-
ing aloft ; and the old woman stands beneath, with folded hands, wit I-
a smile on her lips, rich in possession of her one lambkin, on which the
cherry tree strews its petals in the warm sunshine.
The background of this picture is formed by the "VVettern, the lake
which popular belief declares to be fathomless, -with its transparent
waters, its waves large as those of the sea, and its Fata Morgana, seen
THE OLD WOMAN AND HEE LAMB.
when no wind ruffles its steel-like surface. "We saw the castle and the
town of "Wadstena, the " City of the Dead," as a Swedish author has
called it, " the Swedish Herculaneum," the city of remembrances. Let
the green house be our theatre-box, whence we shall see the rich remem-
brances pass before us recollections from the legends of saints, from
the King's Chronicle, and the love songs that still live in the mouth ot
the old dame who stands in her low doorway, while the lamb feeds on
the roof. We hear her tell her story, and we see what she sees. We
turn our steps to the little town, to the other green houses with fresh
930 Stones for the Household.
grass roofs, in and before which sit other poor women making lace
pursuing what was the celebrated employment of the noble nuns here,
in the old days when the convent was in its glory. How quiet and still
it is now in these grass-grown streets ! "We pause before an old wall
overgrown with the moss of centuries ; behind this wall lay the convent ;
there is now only one wing of it left ; there in the now neglected garden
still bloom the " St. Bridget's leek," and other once rare flowers. In this
garden the King John was walking one evening with the abbess Anna
Gylte. The King asked cunningly if love never attacked the maids of
the cloister. And the abbess answered, pointing to a bird which was
just flying past over their heads. " It may well happen : we cannot
answer for it that a bird shall not pass over the garden, but we can pre-
vent him from settling there."
The old lady will also sing you a song of the fair Agda and Olaf the
Dumb; and as you listen to her, the convent stands before you in all
its glory, and the bells toll, and stone houses rise up, even from the
waters of the "Wenern, and the town is resuscitated, with towers and
churches. The streets are thronged with grave, well-clad people ; and
down the steps leading to the old council-house that is still standing,
comes, with his sword girt around him and a silk cloak on his shoulders,
Michael Merchant, the most powerful citizen of AYadstena. At his side
walks his young, beautiful daughter Agda, clad in velvet and silk, and
passing fair in her cheerfulness and fullness ot'\outh. All eyes, at first
turned upon him, the rich man, quickly forget him for her, the fair
maiden. Life smiles upon her, her thoughts soar high, her mind soars
high, her future is to be happiness ! So thought the crowd ; and among
them was one who looked at her with the feeling of Borneo for Juliet,
of Adam for Eve in the Garden of Paradise. This was Olaf, the hand-
somest of youths, but as poor as Agda was rich, and therefore he must
conceal his love. But as he lived only in her, and knew only of her, he
became quiet and silent, and a few months afterwards all the city called
him Olaf the Dumb.
Day and night he wrestled with his love ; for many days and nights
he suffered tortures unspeakable ; but at last a single dew-drop, a
single sunbeam is sufficient to make the blooming rosebud unfold itself
he felt obliged to tell it to Agda.
And she heard his words, and was frightened, and sprang away with
hurried steps ; but her thoughts remained behind with him, and her
heart followed her thoughts, and went forth to him also. She loved
him deeply and faithfully, but in all modesty and honour. And then
the poor Olaf went to the rich merchant as a suitor for his daughter's
hand. But Michael barred his door and his heart, he would listen to
neither prayers nor tears, but only to his own will ; and when Agda
ventured to oppose her will to his, he shut her up in the Wadsteua
convent, and Olaf, as it says in the old song, was obliged to allow them
' Throw the black earth
All over fair As-'da's arm."
For him and for the world she was dead.
In Stveden. 931
But one night, when the weather was stormy and the rain poured
from the sky, Olaf stood beneath the convent wall, and threw a rope
ladder across ; and though the waves of the AVenern reared aloft their
foaming crests, Olaf and Agda flew in their bark over the fathomless
lake in that wild night.
Early next morning the nuns missed the fair Agda ; and there was a
great calling and crying, " The convent has been desecrated ! " The
abbess and Michael the Merchant vowed vengeance and death against
the fugitives. Linkjoping's severe bishop, Hans Brask, hurled the ban
after them. But they were already beyond the Wettern, they had
reached the shores of the "Wener, and were at Kinnekulle, at a friend
of Olaf 's, who possessed the fine estate of Hellekis.
Here their marriage was to be celebrated; the guests had been invited,
and a monk had been brought from the neighbouring Husaby to perform
the service, when a boat arrived, bearing the ban-curse of the bishop,
and this was pronounced over them instead of the Church's blessing.
All started back from them in horror: the master of the house, the friend
of their youth, pointed to the open door, and bade them begone. Olaf
begged only for a cart and horse, to carry off the fainting Agda ; but
they were both beaten with sticks and pelted with stones, and Olaf was
compelled to carry his unhappy bride in his arms far away into the forest.
It was a bitter wearisome journey ; but at last they found a shelter
in "West Gothland : an old couple took them in, and cherished and com-
forted them ; they remained there till Christmas, and on the holy eve
the feast was to be joyfully ushered in. Guests were invited, and the
table was spread with the delicacies of the North ; and now the clergy-
man of the parish entered to read the customary prayer ; but while he
read he recognized Olaf and Agda, and the prayer changed to a curse
upon them, and terror and amazement came upon all present. The out-
casts were driven from the house, out into the bitter frosty night, through
which the wolves prowled in packs, and where the bear was no unusual
guest. And Olaf felled wood in the forest, and kindled a great fire to
scare away the wild beasts, and to keep Agda alive, for he thought she
must die ; but, behold, she was stronger than ever.
" God is almighty and merciful. He will not forsake us ! " she said.
" He has one upon earth here, one who can save us, and who knows
what it is to wander alone in the forest among the wild beasts. It is
the King King Gustavus Yasa has also known want, and has wandered
among the deep snows of Dalecarlia; he has suffered, and has been
tempted. He knows what grief is he can and will help us ! "
The King was then in Wadstena, whither he had summoned the
deputies of the people. He was staying in the convent itself, where
the fair Agda, if the King did not receive her graciously, would have
to suffer the sentence the abbess would pass upon her, and this sentence
would be penance and a painful death.
And through the wild forest, over untrodden paths, in storm and
snow, Olaf and Agda reached "Wadstena. At their appearance some
were alarmed, and others jeered at them and threatened them. The
93 2 Stories for the Household.
guards at the convent gate crossed themselves when they saw the two
sinners, who dared to demand audience of the King.
" I will receive and hear each and all ! " was the royal command ; and
the two suppliants fell trembling at his feet.
And the King looked down upon them graciously : in his inmost heart
he had long wished for an occasion of humbling the proud Bishop of
Linkjoping, and this was not a disadvantage to them. The King heard
them out, and gave them his promise that the curse should be taken off
them; he laid their hands in one another, promising that the priest
would soon do the same, and assured them of his royal favour and pro-
tection. And old Michael the Merchant was so frightened at the King's
anger, with which he was threatened, that he opened his house and his
arms to Olaf and Agda, and even made a display of all his wealth on the
wedding-day of the youthful pair, in honour of them and of the King.
The marriage service was read in the convent church, whither the King
in person conducted the bride, and where, at his command, all the nuns
were present, that the celebration might have additional solemnity;
and, as all eyes were fixed upon Olaf, many a young heart may secretly
have muttered the words of the old ballad:
"Heaven grant that such an angel
May carry off rue and thee."
Xow the sun throws its rays through the convent gate, and we, the
children of the present, stand* at the open portal. Let us acknowledge
the trace of the divine that was to be found also in the convent ! Not
every cell was a prison, against whose windows the caged birds beat
their wings desparingly : here, even, a sunbeam from God penetrated
heart and bosom, and from hence went forth comfort and blessing ! If
the dead could rise from their graves, they would bear witness to it ; if
we could see them lifting the tombstones in the moonshine and marching
towards the cloister, we should hear them say, '' Blessed be these walls! "
if Ave could see them soaring in rainbow splendour in the sunshine,
they would say, " Blessed be these walls ! "
"What a change ! This is the wealthy powerful Wadstena convent,
where the daughters of the noblest of the land lived as nuns, where
young nobles wore the monk's gown, whither pilgrimages were made
from Italy and Spain ; from afar the pilgrims wandered barefoot through
the snow and ice to the threshold of the convent ; thither, from Rome,
holy men and women bore in their hands the corpse of St. Bridget, and
the bells of every chapel and church by which they passed on their
journey were tolled as they went along.
AVe turn our footsteps towards the old convent building, or, properly
speaking, towards the small portion of it that still remains. We step
into St. Bridget's cell, which stands deserted but unaltered. It is
small, loVr. and narrow : four little panes make up the window ; but
the eye can wacder over the garden, over the beautiful Lake Wettern.
The same glorious landscape which bounded the horizon of the pious
saint, the same fresh emiling nature which surrounded her while the
morning or evening prayer streamed from her lips, lies around us still
In the brick floor of the cell a rosary has been cut ; in front of this t-he
used to kneel, and pray & paternoster for every bead in the circle. Here
is no chimney and no place for fire ; cold and desolate it is and was here
where the most celebrated woman of the North dwelt Bridget, whom
her own genius and the spirit of the century raised to the saint's throne.
From this humble cell we step into another, yet colder and narrower
where the very daylight comes sparingly through a slit in the wall ; no
glass has ever covered this cleft, and the wind pours in unchecked.
Who was the pious woman, or the penitent, who here closed her days ?
Our time has arranged a whole row of light comfortable rooms beside
the broad corridor : from these come merry songs, but also a mingled
sound of laughter and weeping, and strange faces peer forth and nod at
us. Who are these ? St. Bridget's rich convmt, to which kings once
made pilgrimages, is now the madhouse of S <veden, and visitors write
their names upon it by scores. "We hurry past into the splendid con-
vent church, the " blue church " as it was called, from its walls of blue-
stone ; and here also, where the broad stones of the pavement cover the
ashes of powerful lords, of abbesses and queens, only one monument
appears. Before the altar rises a knightly figure of stone, the effigy of
the mad Duke Magnus. From the rows of the dead he alone steps
forth, as if to tell of the life that now reigns where once St. Bridget
Tread lightly on this earth! Thy foot is on the grave of a good
woman ; the smooth, plain stone in yonder corner covers the dust of
the noble Queen Philippa. She, the daughter of mighty England, the
immortal woman who wisely and bravely defended her husband's throne,
was repulsed by him with cruelty and violence. Wadstena offered her
its protection, and here in the grave she found peace.
We enter the sacristy. Here under the double lead of a coffin rested