the remains of the holiest person of a whole age of her who was the
glory and the crown of Wadstena St. Bridget. The legend tells us
that on the night she was born, there appeared in the heavens a beaming
cloud, and on the cloud sat a majestic virgin, who said,
" A daughter is born this night, whose voice shall resound throughout
the whole earth."
In the castle of her father, Brahe the knight, the strange, delicats
child grew up ; dreams and visions manifested themselves to her, and
became more and more numerous. When at the age of only thirteen
years, she married the rich Ulf G-udmundson, and afterwards she became
the mother of many children. " Thou shalt be my bride and my instru-
ment," she heard the Saviour speak, and every one of her actions was,
she said, but a fulfilment of His will. At His command she went to
Nidaros, and prayed by the coffin of St. Olaf ; at His command she wan-
dered to Germany, to France, Spain, and Rome. Sometimes honoured,
sometimes contemned, she travelled from place to place, visiting even
Cyprus and Palestine. Dying she returned to Rome, where her last
revelation was that she should rest in Wadstena, and that this convent
should in future enjoy in a marked degree the favour and blessing of
934 Stories for the Household.
Heaven. The Northern Light doth not throw its beams more widely
across the earth than extendeth the fame of this saint, who is herself
but a legend now. In serious silent meditation we bent over the decayed
remains in the shrine, the bones of St. Bridget and her daughter St.
Catherine ; but even from these the halo of remembrance is passed
away, for in the mouth of the people there is a story that the real bones
were carried away at the time of the Eeformation to a convent in Poland,
the name of which is unknown, and that AVadstena no longer holds the
dust of St. Bridget and of her daughter.
Gustavus, the first Yasa, was the sun of the monarchical power, before
whose lustre the convent star was compelled to pale. The stone walls
are still standing of the lordly castle he caused to be built, with cupolas
and towers, hard by the convent. From afar, on the waves of the
"VVettern, it seems as if the castle still stands in its old glory ; and even
seen quite close in moonlight nights it seems to stand unaltered, for the
massive walls are standing, the carved ornaments over doors and windows
stand sharply forth in the light and shade, the moats still encircle the
walls, only separated by a narrow road from the AVetteru, and the ve-
nerable pile is mirrored in its waters.
But let us stand before the building in the daylight. Xot one of the
windows has a pane left ; boards and old doors are nailed up against the
openings ; and only over the two gates are the cupola roofs still standing,
looking like two heavy broad mushrooms. The iron peak of one of the
towers still rears aloft its slender point, but that of the other is bent
like the hand of a sundial, and points to the time the time that has
passed away. The other two pinnacles have fallen down ; sheep wander
about among the fragments, and the space below is devoted to the pur-
pose of a cow-shed.
The coat of arms over the entrance has not a spot or a blemish, it
looks as if it had been carved yesterday ; the walls stand fast, and the
staircases look like new. Inside the courtyard, high over the portal,
open the large folding doors, from which the players came forth to give
a welcome to arriving guests from the balcony ; but the balcony itself
has been broken away. We pass through the great kitchen, on the walls
of which the eye is still attracted towards pictures of the Wadstena
castle, with its sheep, and the blooming nature around, portrayed in red
Here, where roasting and boiling used to go on, is now a great empty
space ; the chimney itself is broken down, and from the roof, where thick
heavy beams are ranged side by side, haug cobwebs heavy with dust,
making the whole roof look like heavy grey stalactites. We go from
hall to hall, and the wooden shuttered loopholes are opened to let in
the daylight. All is grand, lofty, roomy ; the old chimneys are magni-
ficent ; and from each window there is a beautiful view over the clear
deep lake. In this room sat through many days and nights the lunatic
jNlagnus, whose stone effigv we have just noticed by the altar in the
church : here he sat, pondering in horror over the deed he had com-
mitted, the condemnation of his own brother to death ; madly in love,
In Steed?)!. 935
moreover, with the picture of the Scottish Queen Mary Stuart, for whose
hand he was a suitor, and expecting the arrival of the ship that should
bring her to him from over the sea to Wadstena ; and he fancied that
she came at last in the guise of a mermaiden, rising up out of the waves,
and beckoning to him ; and the unhappy duke threw himself from the
window to meet her. From this window we look into the deep castle
moat in which he was drowned.
We now go into the pursuivants' hall, and into the imperial hall, on
whose walls warriors are depicted in strange costumes, half Dalecarlian,
half Roman. In this once magnificent hall knelt Swante Stensou Sture
before the Queen of Sweden, Margaret Lesonhufwnd ; she had been
Swante Sture's affianced bride before the will of Gustavus Vasa made
her a Queen. The lovers gave each other a meeting here ; the walls did
not betray what they said ; but the door opened, the King came in,
and seeing Sture kneeling, asked what was the meaning of this. Then
Queen Margaret answered hurriedly, with ready words,
" He is asking the hand of my sister Martha in marriage."
And the King gave to Swaiite Sture the bride whom the Queen had
asked for him.
Here we stand in the royal wedding-chamber, into which King Grus-
tavus led his third consort, Katharine Stenbock, who had likewise been
the affianced bride of another, the knight Gfustavus. It is a mournful
Only when the heavy wooden shutters are unfastened do the sun-
beams' penetrate those halls ; and then the dust circles in the air in
bright streaks. Here the whole place has been converted into a granary.
Great heavy rats lurk in these halls, and the spider weaves her mourn-
ing web among the rafters. Such is the castle of Wadstena.
Mournful thoughts come upon us. We turn aside to gaze at the
low hut with its turf-covered roof on which the little lamb is grazing,
under the cherry tree, whence the white petals rain down. And our
thoughts descend towards the turf, from the wealthy convent, from the
proud castle ; and the sun sinks, and its radiance is quenched upon the
grass , and the old mother goes to sleep beneath the turf, and with her
rest the mighty memories of AYadstena.
THE ZATHEE VALLEY.
EVERYTHING- was prepared. The carriage had been arranged, and
even a whip with a good lash had been provided : the dealer suggested
that two whips were better than one, as he sold us a specimen, and the
dealer was a man of experience, and that is more than the traveller can
always say of himself. A whole bag of " Slanter," or copper coins of
little value, stood before us in the carriage, for bridge money, for the
beggars, for the shepherd boys, or others, who would open for us the
Stories for the Household.
many barriers that are thrust across the high road at every enclosure ;
but we had to do it ourselves, for the rain poured from the sky, and
nobody thought it pleasant to turn out in such weather. The reeds on
the moor bent and bowed themselves ; there was a regular rain feast
among them, and there came a humming voice out from the summits of
the reeds :
" "We 're drinking with our feet, and with our heads, and with our
whole body, and yet we can stand all the time upon one leg. Hurrah !
here 's a feast ! it pours and pours, and we drink and sing our own song,
and to-morrow morning the frogs will quack it out to us and declare
that it 's quite new ! "
Till-; JOUESET IX THE K.U.V.
And the reeds swayed and staggered, and it poured down from the
sky, splash ! splash ! Yes, it was fine weather, indeed, in which to visit
the famous Ziither Valley, and behold its freshness and glory ! And
now the lash came off" the whip, though it was tied on again and again,
and it became shorter and shorter, till at last we had neither lash nor
handle, for the shaft flew after the lash, or, more properly speaking,
floated after it ; the road had become quite navigable, and presented a
perfect view of the commencement of the Deluge. Then one of the
poor jades pulled too much, and then the other pulled too little ; and
now one of the traces snapped a pretty state of things ! A fine journey
it was ! The apron in front of the carriage had a great pool in the midst
of it, with a channel leading into our lap. And now the rope bridles
got entangled, and the reins were disgusted at this, and refused to hold.
O thou glorious tavern in Ziither! how did I long far more to behold
thee than thy famous valley ! And the carriage went slower and slower,
and the rain poured down i'aster and faster ; and as for us, we were a
long way from Ziither yet.
In Sweden. 937
Patience, thou attenuated spider, that weavest thy web quietly in the
antechamber, over the foot of the waiting suitor, spin thou my eyelids
close, that I may sleep a sleep as quiet as the pace of the horses ! Pa-
tience but, no, there was nothing of the kind in the carriage that went
to Zather. But towards evening I reached the tavern by the road-side,
close to the famous valley.
And everything in the courtyard was swimming in a comfortable
chaos litter and agricultural implements, broken pails and tubs, straw
and hay ; the fowls sat there so thoroughly soaked that they looked
only shadows of themselves, or at best like feathered skeletons drawn
up in rank and file ; and even the ducks crowded against the damp wall,
tired of so much water. The waiter was idle, and the maid still more
idle, so that it was difficult to get anything from them ; and the stairs
were askew, and the floor was uneven, and had just been scoured and
strewn thickly with sand, and the air was damp and raw ; but without,
scarcely twenty paces off, on the opposite side of the way, lay the cele-
brated valley, a garden laid out by Nature herself, and whose charm,
consisted in forest and birds, and especially in purling brooks and rush-
ing fountains. There was a long opening : 1 could see the summits of
the trees peering forth ; but the rain had flung its misty veil over all
else. The whole long evening I sat looking towards the valley, during
this downpour of downpours ; I could have fancied the Wenern and
"Wettern and a few more lakes were pouring down from the clouds
through an immense sieve. I had ordered something to eat and drink,
but I got nothing ; they ran upstairs and they ran downstairs ; there
was a great clattering on the hearth ; the maids gossiped, and the men
drank brandy ; and strangers arrived, who were taken in and served
with roast and boiled. Several hours had thus passed away, and I read
an energetic lecture to the maid, whereupon the maid very coolly replied,
" But the gentleman can't eat anything, if he goes on sitting there
That was a long evening, but it passed away at length. In the inn
every sound had ceased ; all the travellers except myself had departed,
no doubt to seek better quarters in Hedemora or Briimbiick. I peeped
into the dirty parlour through the half-open door, and there sat two
labourers, playing with old greasy cards ; a big dog was lying under the
table, glaring with round red eyes ; the kitchen was empty, the floor
was wet, the wind howled, and the rain plashed.
" And now to bed," said I.
I had slept an hour, I might have slept two, when I was awakened by
a l-oud cry from the road. I started up : it was twilight, for the nights
do not become quite dark at this time of the year ; it was about one
o'clock. I heard a great knocking at the outer gate, a deep male voice
called aloud, and then there was a great beating against the panels with
a cudgel. AVas it a drunkard or a lunatic trying to force his way in ?
And now the gate was opened ; only a few words passed, and I heard a,
woman scream loudly. Then a great confusion began. Wooden shoes
clattered across the yard, the cattle roared, rough voices of men mingled
938 Stories for the 'H&isekold.
in the din. I jumped up, and sat wondering on the side of the bed. Go
or stay ? what was to be done ? I looked out of the window, but nothing
was to be seen on the road, and it rained still. All at once heavy steps
came tramping upstairs ; the door of the room next to mine was opened,
and now the intruder stood still. I listened : my door was fastened
inside with a great iron bolt. There was a tramping in the next room,
and then some one knocked at my door ; and all the while the rain was
beating against the window-panes, and the wind rattled them to and fro.
"Are there any travellers here ? " cried a voice. " The house is on
fire ! "
I huddled on my clothes, and ran out of the door towards the stair-
case. Ts r o smoke was to be seen ; but when I got out into the yard
the whole building was of wood, a long, straggling pile I encountered
smoke, clouds, and flame. The fire had broken out in a baking- oven,
which no one had cared to look after ; a traveller, who happened to pass
by on the road, saw what was occurring, and called and thundered an
alarm at the gate. And the women shrieked, and the cattle roared when
the flames stretched their red tongues towards them.
An engine now arrived, and the fire was put out. It was bright
morning. I stood on the high road, hardly a hundred paces from the
celebrated valley. One may just as well jump into the water as creep
in, and accordingly I jumped in ! The rain poured, and the water
streamed, and everything was one great pond. The trees seemed to
turn the wrong sides of their leaves to the rain, and they said, as the
reeds had said yesterday,
" We drink with our heads, and with our feet, and with our whole
bodies, and yet we can stand on one leg ! Hurrah ! It rains, it pours:
we drink and we sing, and this is our song, and it 's a bran new one ! "
Yes, but the reeds sang the same thing yesterday. I looked and
looked, and all that I could see of the beauty of the Za'ther Valley
seemed that it had been washed !
THE MIDSUMMER FEAST AT LECKSAXD.
Ox the farther bank of the Dal River, across which our way now led
us for the third or fourth time, lay Lecksand. The belfry tower, built of
red boards at a little distance from the church, rose over the high trees
of the clayey declivity ; old willow trees bent in picturesque fashion
over the strong stream. The " flying bridge " tottered beneath us ; yes,
once it even sank slightly, so that the water rippled about the horses'
hoofs ; but that is the nature of this kind of bridge ; the iron chains
that held it clattered and creaked, the planks groaned, the flooring was
splashed, the water gurgled and rippled, and at last we disembarked
where the road leads down to the town : there still stood the maypole
In Siccdcn. 939
of last year, with its faded flowers. How many of the hands that twined
those wreaths may now already lie cold in the graye !
Next morning was the St. John's Feast. It was Sunday the 24th of
June, a charming sunshiny day. The most picturesque feature of the
celebration is the arrival and disembarkation of the people from the
various parishes across the Siljan Lake.
We drove to the landing-place called Barkedalen, and before we had
left the town behind us, great crowds came flocking from thence, and
also from the mountains. Near Lecksand the way is skirted on both
sides by rows of low wooden booths, which receive light only through
the door. They form a complete street, and are used as stables by the
country strangers, and are also used as dressing-rooms. Nearly all
these booths were occupied by peasant women, who were arranging
their dresses in the most becoming folds, while at the same time they
glanced out at the open doors, that no one might pass by unobserved.
The number of arriving churchgoers increased men, women, and chil-
dren, old and young, even babies for at the Midsummer least no one
stays at home to take care of them, so that they must, perforce, go too.
All must go to church. What a blaze of colour! green aprons and
aprons fiery red gleam upon us ; the rest of the costume of the women
consists of a black petticoat, with a scarlet jacket and white sleeves.
Each one carried a hymn-book wrapped in a folded silk pocket-handker-
chief. The little girls were dressed all in yellow, with red aprons, the
youngest of all in gowns of turmeric colour. The men wore black coats
like our paletots, with embroidery of red wool ; a red ribbon with a
tassel hung down from the big black hat ; dark breeches, and blue
stockings with red garters, completed their costume. Thus there was
a great diversity of colour on the woodland path that sunny summer
morning. The path led directly down to the lake, which lay there bright
and blue : twelve or fourteen long boats, formed like gondolas, were
already drawn up by the flat shore, which is here covered with large
stones ; these served as stepping-stones for landing ; the boats drew up
to them, and the people scrambled, and carried and helped each other
ashore. A thousand persons must have been standing there ; and on
the surface of the lake in the distance ten or twelve more boats were
seen approaching, some with sixteen oars, others with twenty, and even
four and twenty, the rowers being persons of both sexes, and each boat
decorated with green boughs. This adornment, together with the
many-coloured costumes, gave a more lively appearance than one would
have expected to see in the sober North. The boats came nearer ; all
were crowded with passengers, but they approached quietly, without
noise or sound of talking, to the forest-crowned shore. The boats were
drawn up on the sand. It was a scene for a painter, especially one
spot, where the whole company were seen moving onwards between
trees and bushes. The most conspicuous objects were two ragged boys
clad in fiery yellow, each with bis bundle on his back : they belonged
to Gagnef, the poorest parish in the " Dalern." A lame man, too, with
his blind wife, came along. I thought of the verse in my ABC book :
940 Stories for the Household.
"The lame man with his crutch gets aid
From the blind man, marching on;
Thus by these two is the .journey made
That neither could compass alone."
We, too, managed to reach the town and the church, whither all were
wending. More than five thousand persons were said to be assembled
there. At nine o'clock the service began. Organ and pulpit were
decked with blooming elder ; the children also carried branches of the
birch and elder tree ; the very little ones were provided with a bit of
hard bread, which they amused themselves by gnawing. There was
communion service to-day for the young people who had been confirmed ;
there was organ music and psalm-singing; but, alas! there were also
ear-piercing shrieks from the children, and a continual clamping of
heavy iron-bound Dalecarlian shoes upon the stone pavement. All the
church chairs, the gallery, and the aisle were filled with people ; in the
side aisles groups of playing children were seen mingled with devout
elders ; close by the sacristy sat a young woman nursing her infant, and
looking like a living representation of an Italian Madonna.
The first effect produced by all this was impressive, but only the first
effect. There were too many distracting sounds, too much crying of
children piercing through the singing, too much noise of walking to and
fro ; and, to crown all, an unbearable smell of onions. Almost all pre-
sent had brought with them little bunches of onions, at which they were
continually biting. I could bear it no longer, and fled into the church-
yard. Here, as everywhere amid the scenes of Nature, it was calm and
holy. The church doors stood open, the sound of the organ and of the
hymns poured out into God's sunshine by the open lake, and many who
could find no room in the church stood here, and joined in the songs of
those within ; while round about on the tombs, which are nearly all of
iron, sat mothers nursing their children the beginning of life in contact
with death and the grave. A very young peasant stood by a grave de-
ciphering the inscription
" To have lived, how sweet it is!
To know how to die how glorious ! "
Beautiful maxims of Christianity, verses evidently selected from the
hymn-book, were to be read on the various tombs : there was time to
pore over them all, for the service lasted several hours, a circumstance
that could not have been favourable to devotion.
At last the congregation came pouring out of the church ; the red and
green aprons gleamed forth ; but gradually the throng became closer,
and, as it pressed forward, the black head-dresses and white linen sleeves
and stripes became the prevailing colours, recalling the appearance of a
procession in a Catholic country. Now the path became lively once
more ; the overcrowded boats pushed off, one waggon after another drove
away, but yet people were left behind. They stood in groups in the
broad street of Lecksand, from the church to the tavern. And I must
acknowledge that my Danish tongue sounded very strange to them all ;
so I began speaking broken Swedish, and the waitress in the hotel
declared to me that she understood me better than she could the French-
man who talked to her in French last year.
I was sitting in my room, when my hostess's little granddaughter, a
pretty child, comes tripping in, elate at the sight of my gay carpet-bag, my
THE GINGERBREAD MODELS.
Scotch plaid, and the red morocco lining of my travelling trunk. I took
up a sheet of paper, and cut out a mosque for the child, with minarets
and open windows, and she ran out of the room delighted. Soon after-
wards I heard loud talking in the yard, and gradually became aware
that my work was the subject : stepping qiiietly forward to the wooden
balcony, I beheld grandmamma standing below in the yard, holding up
my mosque, with a beaming countenance. Around her stood a crowd of
Dalecarlians, male and female, all in a state of high artistic appreciation;
but the dear little giii was crying and stretching out her hands towards
her lawful propertj^, which was being withheld from her because it was
942 Stories for the Household.
* so beautiful." Much gratified and flattered, I crept back into my
room, but presently there came a knock at the door: it was grandmamma,
and she carried a large plate of gingerbread cakes.
" I bake the best in all Dalecarlia," she said ; " but they are cut out
in the old forms of my grandmother's time. Now, as the gentleman
cuts out so beautifully, I thought perhaps he would cut me a few new
So all the evening of that midsummer day I sat cutting out designs
for gingerbread cakes : nutcrackers with soldiers' boots, windmills which
might have been mistaken for the miller in slippers and with a door in
his stomach, and dancing girls who pointed one foot at Charles's Wain.
The grandmother received them all, but she looked askance at the
dancers, whose legs went too high for her ; she thought they had three
arms, and only one leg.
" These are new fashions," she said, " but they are difficult to copy."
So I may hope that my memory lives in Dalecarlia, in the form of new
fashions for gingerbread.
THE POET'S SCUTCHEON.
IF a man wanted to paint a scutcheon for a poet, the most appropriate
thing would certainly be to paint Scheherazade out of the " Thousand
and One Nights," telling stories to the Sultan. Scheherazade is the
poet, and the Sultan is the public that wants to be agreeably entertained,
otherwise he will cut oft' his Scheherazade's head.
Powerful Sultan ! Poor Scheherazade !
In more than a thousand and one forms Sultan Public sits and listens.
Let us look at one or two of these forms.
Yonder sits a bilious, ill-tempered learned man. The leaves of his
tree of life are scribbled over with commentaries ; industry and perse-
verance crawl like snails over his pachydermatous skin, but his digestion
is moth-eaten, and in a bad, a very bad state. Forgive, O learned man,
the rich fulness of song, the untaught inspiration, the fresh young soul !
Don't cut Scheherazade's head off ! But he does.
Yonder sits a most experienced sempstress ; she has been in strange
families out of solitary rooir.s, whence she has derived all her knowledge