Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

Forest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman online

. (page 15 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

who were too well broke to disturb her, had they even beer
deceived by her antics, but no shot was fired to convert he]
pretence into reality. Now and then, it must be confessed
when an old, selfish, solitary cock, as black as a hat, and a:
glossy as a whole morning's dressing could make him
whirred off as if he cared for no one but himself and hac
not a wife or family in the world, he paid the penalty of hi
selfishness, and fell fluttering on the cranberries — deservedly
perhaps ; at all events, he left no one behind him to lamen
his fate, for the black-cock is a roving bird, and never pa:rs
but no exclamations of Torkel's could induce the Englisl
sportsmen to sever the loves of the smaller description o
grouse, and Birger, though a Swede — for very shame — wa
obliged to imitate their forbearance. But, every now am
then, a blue Alpine hare was knocked over without mercy
once an unlucky badger came to an untimely end, and, upoi
the whole, the bags were getting quite as heavy as the mei
approved of, when a light, graceful, elegant roe, for once n
its life was caught napping, though there had been nois«
enough, not only from shots, but from talking also, along th
whole line, to have awakened a far less watchful animal. I
sprang from a thicker piece of covering than common, whicl
probably had been the means of deluding it into staying, i]
the false hope that it could possibly escape the keen scent o
old Grog, whose flourishing tail said as plainly as tail coul<
speak (and dogs' tails are very eloquent), " look out, boys ;
have got something here for you, this time, that is wort]

Jacob was pretty well strung with hares, and remon
strated against the additional load, which was finally slunj
around Torkel's body like a shoulder-belt, and he was dis
missed at once with directions to follow the path to Soberud, !
place where he was well known, and to prepare, as well a
he could, for the reception of the party, and their pro


Torkel undertook the mission readily enough, and vreix
off gaily under a load of game that would have been quit<
enough for a pony, casting back a knowing look to Tom


, who seemed perfectly to understand him, implying that lie

i iuid some project in his head by which he intended to astonish

■ the strangers.

The day wore on in this pleasant exercise — perhaps the halt
? or Middagsmad might have been a long one, and the pipe
ifter luxurious; in fact, there is not so luxurious a couch in
;his sublunary world as a heap of heather, and no sensation
50 luxuriously happy as that of basking, half-tired, in the
trarm, pleasant sunshine, after a well-spent morning of honest
?xercise, with our gun beside us, and our dogs half sleeping,
ike ourselves, around us ; but the sun was not a very great
kvay from the horizon when the party gained the first view
)f the village which was to be their resting-place for the
The fjeld was not high, for it had been sloping away

gradually to the eastward ever since they left the high
nountains which surround the Lake of the "Woods, but, as

jit almost always does, it terminated abruptly in a sort of
;liff, portions of which were precipitous, and the rest
jxtremely steep. The path which Torkel had taken, {bl-
owing the course of a largish brook, had found an easy
iccess to the valley, practicable even for the carts of the
country ; but at the point at which they had struck the
valley, there was nothing for it but a stiff scramble down
;he face of the hill, a proceeding which their loads rendered
tnything but pleasant and easy. It was a beautiful scene
hat lay before them, and perfectly different from anything
hey had seen before, though they had been passing through
>cenery of wood and lake ever since they left the Torjedahl.
In the present instance the broad, still lake, broad as it
vas, filled up but half the amphitheatre of the wooded
nountains. There was an ample margin of cultivated land
*ound it, fields rich with the promise of autumn, and green
miet meadows ; here and there a wooded spur shot out
rom the frame of highlands, forming sometimes a cape or
promontory in the water, while, in return, narrow secluded
.'alleys would wind back into the recesses of the mountains,
;ach with its own little brook and its own secluded pas-
tures. Besides the village, there were several detached


farmsteadings and scattered cottages, all looking trim and
tidy and well to do in the world, and through the middle of
them ran a well-kept but very winding road, with a broad
margin of turf on each side. The fences might have been a
dissight a little nearer, for they were the post and slab fence
so common in the north, but, at the distance, they looked
like park paling ; and the swing poles for opening the
gates across the road, formed a picturesque feature in the

Close by the lake-side was the church, a grey and weather-
stained building, which looked like one solid mass of timber,
supporting on its steeply-pitched and shingled roof, three
round towers of different heights, each surmounted with its
cross. Dominating over the whole sat a huge golden cock,
which, newly gilded, glowed in the light of the setting sun
as if it were a supplementary sun itself. The houses of the
village were a good deal scattered, but, with the exception
of the Prsestgaard, or parsonage, did not hold out any very
magnificent hopes of accommodation for the night.

This, however, was of little importance to men whose last
night's abode had been the shelter of the thickest tree ; and
they proceeded, with very contented minds, to descend the
steep hill-side, in order to reach the path they ought to have
taken, which they now discovered, far below them, winding
along the edge of the cultivated ground.

" And now," said the Captain, as they reached it and
rallied their forces, which had been a good deal scattered
during the sharp descent, " where to bestow ourselves for
the night ? I should like to sleep in a bed, if it were only
for the novelty of the thing ; and here, in good time, comes
Torkel, who looks as if he had made himself pretty well at
home already."

Torkel, considerably smartened up — however he had con-
trived it — and sporting a clean white shirt-front, like a
pouter pigeon, with his silver shirt buttons newly polished,
came up the church path in close conversation with a
respectable, fatherly, well-to-do-in-the-world sort of farmer,
or lmusbonde as he was called, in whom, as he introduced
him by the name of Torgensen, the fishermen recognized the


father of the pretty hostess of the sceter. Not one word
of English could the good-man speak, though he looked as
like an honest rough-handed English farmer as one man
could look to another ; but he wrung their hands, as if, like
Holger, he meant to test their manhood by their powers of
endurance, and smiled, and looked pleasant, which Torkel
interpreted to mean that he heartily desired to see the
whole party under his hospitable roof that night, and would
be right glad to make them all drunk in honour of his roof-
tree. And poor Torkel looked so excessively happy, that
it was easy to see that, in spite of the Haabet and her
skipper, he had not only sped in his wooing at the sceter.
but had contrived to ingratiate himself with the elders c
the household.

A grand place was that homestead, which, hidden by a
projecting point, and occupying a secluded valley of its own,
had hitherto escaped their observation, — a good, snug, wealthy
farm it really was, even as compared to others in the country ;
but in Norway, so much cover is always wanted ; and build-
ing — at least timber building — is so cheap, that moderate-
sized farm-houses, with their appurtenances, are little vil-
lages ; and the house itself looks always larger than it is, as
an habitation, because the whole upper storey, frequently
called the rigging loft, is invariably used as a store-room for
their provisions, and hides, and wool, and fiax, and apples,
and sometimes corn, in the winter, and not unfrequently as
a ball-room, when they have eaten out sufficient space in it.

The house, like all the rest, a wooden building with a
planked roof and gabled ends, was unusually painted. Tor-
gensen, in his youth, had himself commanded the Haabet,
and had traded in her for provisions and corn along the
coast of Scania, and from it had imported Scanian fashions.
Instead of the deep, dull red, which harmonizes so well with
the tints of the country, he had painted his house in figures,
blue, and yellow, and white, and black, which had a singular,
but, upon the whole, a not unpleasant effect. Texts of
Scripture in rough black letter, and dates, and monograms of
himself, and wife, and children, were written under every
window and every gable ; and the barge-boards and ridge


timber-ends, were carved as elaborately and grotesquely as
those of the church.

There was but little delicacy in accepting Torgensen's
hospitality ; his house was large enough for a barrack, and
its doors were as wide open as those of an inn. A large
room, that could not exactly be called kitchen, hall, work-
shop, or dining-room, but served equally for any one of
these offices (and occasionally for a ball-room also, when the
store-room was too full to be used in that capacity), was .open
to all comers ; half-a-dozen boards, as thick almost as
baulks of timber, and placed upon trestles that might have
supported the house, formed the principal table ; two great
chairs, like thrones, elaborately carved, and looking as if
they required a steam-engine to move them, stood on a sort
of dais ; — these are not uncommon pieces of furniture in old
houses ; they are called grandfather and grandmother chairs,
and are the seats of honour, though very seldom occupied at
all, unless the master and mistress of the house are old enough
to have lost their active habits. The more ordinary seats
were substantial benches, with or without backs, and three-
legged stools. Here and there was a great chest, a sort of
expense magazine for stowing away the wool, and the flax,
and the skins, which were in process of being converted into
linen, wadmaal, or shoes, by the farm servants. Over
these a series of shelves, like an ancient buffet, containing
pewter drinking-vessels, large brass embossed plates with
the bunch of grapes from the promised land or the ex-
pulsion of Adam and Eve glittering upon them in all the
brightness of constant polish. Over these, again, were slung
a row of copper cauldrons and pots ; and on the opposite side
a chest of drawers, carved and painted with grotesque
iigures, was ornamented with heaps of blue and white dishes,
and pewter dinner-plates, and rows of brass candlesticks.

All this was beautifully clean and tidy, for the Norse men
and women keep all their cleanliness for their ships and
houses, and waste none of it on their persons.

A strong aromatic smell pervaded the whole room, from
the fresh sprigs of fir and juniper with which it was strewn
every morning, as old English halls were with rushes ; it


might indeed have well passed muster for an English hall in
the olden times, but for the absence of the great gaping fire-
place with its cozy chimney-corner and fire-side benches ;
the place of all this was ill supplied by the pride of Torgen-
sen's heart, which he pointed out before they had been in the
room for five minutes, and called his " pot-kakoluvne" — a
great pyramidal heap of glazed tiles, portraying Scripture
subjects in Dutch costumes, and doing duty as a stove. This
being an importation from foreign parts was of course of
additional value ; its pyramidal shape indicated Denmark as
the country of its manufacture, for in Sweden the corre-
sponding piece of furniture is cubical ; and both are great
improvements on the cast-iron stoves of Norway, which get
nearly red hot, dry and parch the skin, crack the furniture,
and fill the rooms with a description of gas, which, whatever
it may do to a native, ensures to the stranger a perpetual

It is rare to find in Norway a farm, and consequently an
establishment of the size of Torgen sen's, though in Sweden
it is common enough. The Odal law, which enforces equal
division of property among the children, prevents any accu-
mulation of territorial property, and will ultimately reduce
Norway to a population of agricultural peasants with a com-
mercial aristocracy. The homesteads of the old Norwegian no-
bility are deserted and decaying, like their families, but Tor-
gensen had been educated as a merchant and shipowner, as
elder sons frequently are, and having been fortunate in his specu-
lations, had been able to buy out his brothers, and to keep up
unimpaired the old hospitalities of his father's mansion ; and
thus fourteen or sixteen farm-servants, and as many girls,
with, it must be confessed, an indefinite number of children
that had found themselves by chance in the establishment
without any fathers at all, sat daily round that mass of
timber which was called the meal-board (mad bordenj, and
supped their daily grod and drank their daily brandy.

Although the head of so great an establishment, Frue *

* Frue is properly a title of nobility, and is of Danish origin. No
Norwegian titles date earlier than the Union of Kalmar. These, how-
ever, have been all abolished by a Storthing, which, consisting mostly


Kerstin — as Madame Torgensen was usually called, though in
truth she had no great right to the title — did not consider
herself exempt from household duties ; in fact she was but
the principal housekeeper of the establishment, and wore a
bunch of keys big enough for an ordinary jail as a badge of
this distinction. It was not a very easy matter to catch her
unprepared, for frugality was by no means the order of the
house ; but this day was really an exception to the general
rule, and she saw with some dismay the party which her
husband was bringing home with him. Lota was at the
sceter, and with her were most of the young girls and, of
course, their admirers. There had been hay-making at the
Prsestgaard during the past week, and, it being Saturday
night, two-thirds of the remainder were dancing and drink-
ing there, and thus the party at the homestead being a small
one, the supper was none of the best. Good humour and
real welcome, however, supplied all deficiencies, which after
all, were more in Frue Kerstin's imagination than in reality.
The evening passed off admirably in songs and conversation ;
Torkel was an. evident favourite, — and indeed his manly
character, his ready stories and songs, his fine voice and
constant and cheerful good humour well entitled him to the
distinction, to say nothing of a broad strath in the higher
Tellemark, and a lake, and a stream, and a saw- mill, and a
" hammer" as it was called, that is to say, a smelting furnace
for iron, to which, being the only son, he was undoubted
heir, a qualification which prudent parents are not apt to
overlook ; but he had evidently risen in their esteem from
the fact of his having brought such popular characters as
English gentlemen to the homestead, and from the con-
sideration with which those gentlemen treated him.

Torgensen might have been better pleased had more

of peasants, set itself strongly against aristocratical distinctions ; and,
taking advantage of that clause in the constitution which provides, that
if a bill be carried three times it overrides the king's veto, have suc-
ceeded in abolishing them. Habit and custom, however, are stronger
than parliaments ; and the mistress of a wealthy establishment is fre-
quently designated, not by her husband's name, but as Lady Marie,
Lady Brigetta, or, as in the present case, Lady Christina — for that is
the meaning of the title Frue.


justice been done to his brandy, which was real Cognac and
admirable, and might have been a little scandalized at the
admixture of water, but his broad, jolly face never lost that
glow of good humour which made his guests feel they were
doing him a pleasure by drinking his brandy and eating his
good cheer. A lively conversation was kept up through
Birger and Torkel till late at night, and when the fishermen,
having duly thanked their hostess, after the customs of the
country, retired to rest in the great square boxes of fragrant
poplar leaves, they sank into such a mass of eider down,
that told well for the ci-devant attractions of the Lady





"Mighty stands the cross of God,
Smiling homeward to the soul."


Oxe reason why the fishermen were so anxious to reach
Soberud was, that the next day was Sunday, and they wanted
a day of rest, and a church to go to ; and that was not to be
met with, on the Torjedahl, nearer than Christiansand itself.
Hitherto their church had been a remarkably tall fir-tree,
which had, somehow or other, been overlooked by the wood-
cutters, and stood some little way within the forest. It had
been chosen on account of its fancied resemblance to a church
spire, as it towered above the rest of the foliage ; and the
lower branches having been cut away, and the space round
its trunk enclosed and decorated with green boughs — as all
Swedish churches used to be decorated on high days before
a royal ordinance was passed which forbade it, — and the
ground strewed with fresh juniper and marsh-marigolds — as
church floors are to this day, — it did make a very fair forest
church for fine weather ; and as all the party could sing,
more or less, the service was performed a good deal more
ecclesiastically than it is in some of our English cathedrals.

Norway is not in communion with England ; indeed,
strictly speaking, neither Norway nor Denmark are churches
at all, — they are merely establishments. Sweden may, by
some stretch of imagination and a little implicit faith in its
history, be considered a church, and is so considered by the
Bishop of London, who has authorised the Bishop of Gothen-
borg to confirm for him. But though neither the English-
men, nor even the Swedes, considered themselves at liberty


to communicate in the church of Soberud, there was no reason
whatever against their joining in either the ottesang or the
aftensang (morning or evening service), or even against their
being present at the hogmasse, or communion itself. The
men, who had no very accurate ideas of theology, had joined
in the English service very readily, and, indeed, had taken a
good deal of pains in decorating the forest church, for both
Tom and Torkel could read English as well as they could
speak it ; and Jacob pretended to do so. They were, how-
ever, all of them, extremely pleased at having the opportunity
of goincr to a consecrated church.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable features of the country
is the respect and reverence which all classes pay to their
churches, combined with the very little effect which religion
has on their conduct. Norwegians will face all sorts of
weather, in order to be present at the hogmasse of Sunday.
Large sums of money — that is to say, large in comparison
with the wealth of the parishes — are spent upon their
churches, which are always in perfect repair, and always most
carefully swept, and trimmed with rushes or green sprigs.
A man would lose his character at once, and would be
shunned by his acquaintance as a hopeless reprobate, if he
neglected confirmation, or the Lord's supper. Nothing,
indeed, is more common than to see, as an advertisement —
" Wanted, a confirmed cook or housemaid ;" which advertise-
ment in no ways relates to the capacities of the servant, but
simply to her age, it being taken for granted that a person
of a certain age must have been confirmed. Indeed, the
legislature interferes with this : few offices can be held by
unconfirmed people, or by those who are not communicants ;
and the legislature is only the interpreter of public opinion.
No man is at present molested for any religious opinions he
may please to hold ; he simply loses his civil rights by
seceding from the national religion. In fact, Norway is the
most complete illustration of the establishment principle
which exists in the world.

At the same time, education, as it is popularly called —
that is to say, secular instruction — is almost universal. No
one ever meets with a Norwegian unable to read and write.


It may fairly be said that there is no country in the world
in which the standard of popular education is so high, and
the standard of popular morality so low, — where the respect lor
religion is so very great, and the ignorance of religion so very
profound, — as it is in Norway. Sweden may be second in this
paradox, but Norway is by far the first.

It is not difficult to account for both these phenomena.
Few countries suffered more extensive church spoliation h
the good old Reformation times than Norway and Sweden ;
and when, after that convulsion, men began to gather up the
fragments, they had to choose between an ill-paid clergy
whose social position would be inferior to that of almost all
their parishioners, and a sufficiently paid clergy with enor-
mous and unmanageable parishes. They chose the latter,
perhaps wisely, as more likely to preserve the character and
influence of the church till better times should come. They,
therefore, grouped the parishes into districts, few of which
were under ten or twelve miles long, and wide in proportion,
some very much larger, and one more than a hundred miles
in length. These districts are a collected group of parishes,
whose churches are still kept up under the name of Annex-
kyrker, and service is occasionally performed in them, as a
sort of protest of their right.

Over these districts they placed rectors (Pfarrherrer),
whose revenue, though not what we should call large in our
country, is, nevertheless, greater than that of most of their
parishioners ; they gave them good parsonage houses (prsest-
gaards), and, in almost every case, provided a dowager house
and farm for their widows. And, while they rendered their
position an object of competition, they provided that it
should be adequately filled, by establishing the most searching
examinations and the most careful provisions. The conse-
quence of this is, that the Norwegian clergy are almost in-
variably very superior people, and, in a country where the
election is absolutely free, they are very generally chosen
members of the Storthing ; while, in Sweden, they form an
integral estate of the realm, and possess their own indepen-
dent house of parliament.

In a country where there is so much ceremonial, so much


that speaks to the understanding of the uneducated by
speaking to their eye, it is impossible but that the externals
of religion should be respected — the position of its ministers
being such as is calculated to add to that respect, and not, as
is too frequently the case in Roman Catholic countries, such
as to diminish from it.

But, from the enormous size of the parishes, the externals
are all that can possibly come to the majority of the people.
The Scandinavian Church, learned as its individual ministers
may be, is not the teacher of the people, nor can it be — no
man can teach over fifty miles of country. Education, on
the other hand, there is plenty ofj such as it is ; for, not
only do the frost-bound winters give plenty of opportunity,
but the Church is the establishment, and the laws of the
land are such as to make reading and writing necessary to
all. At the same time, this education is absolutely secular,
it has nothing to do with the doctrines of religion, and,
consequently, nothing with the morals of the people, except
to increase their power of doing anything. Knowledge with
them, as with all others, is power : but, disjoined from reli-
gion, this is generally the power of doing wrong. Yv'hether
this be, or be not, a correct solution of the paradox, at all
events, the fact remains, and it has never been accounted for:
Norway is pre-eminent in the education of its people, and is
also pre-eminent in the statistics of crime.

But this is not the external view of the case : the mere
visitor in Norway would speak of the very religious habits
of the people. They certainly are a people of religious