Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

. (page 22 of 36)
Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 22 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

arrived by the canal steamer from the new fortress of Wanas,
on the Wetter.

This piece of information, which the artilleryman detailed
with great glee, was received by Birger with a wry counte-
nance, as certain to detain him within doors as long as the
General remained at Gotheborg, — for it will be remembered
he was at that very time unable to join his regiment on ac-
count of pressing family affairs.

This did not affect the others, so, leaving their friend tc
amuse himself as best he might, by improving his sketches
or watching the magpies from the window, they started
under the pilotage of their new ally, for a tour of obser

Whatever else Gotheborg is famous for, certainly th(
most remarkable thing in it is its flocks of magpies, — bird:
which, in our country, are extremely wild, and by no mean:
fond of town life. Gregarious, in the proper sense of th<
term, they are not, but they are as numerous as sparrows ii
London, very nearly as tame, and much more impudent
This by no means arises from any affection which the inha
bitants have for the bird — formagpies are ugly and mischievou
all the world over, and quite as mischievous in Gothebon
as anywhere else, — but from a popular superstition they ar«
under the especial protection of the devil — and truly the clevi
cares for his own : they build their nests and bring up thei
young under the very noses of the schoolboys ; they fee<
them with stolen goods, filched from every kitchen, — an<
often and often, among the delicacies of the season, the;
regale them with spring chicken of their own killing. But n<
one molests a magpie ; Heaven only knows what would b


the consequences of killing one ; and, though Government has
set a price on their heads, they sleep in saiety, under the
protection of their great master.

The town ought to be handsome, but it is not ; the de-
scription would look well on paper. A great broad canal
through the centre, with quays all the way on both sides, as
at Dublin, only twice as broad, forming a very wide street ;
and from this five or six similar canals, similarly furnished
with quays and streets, branch off at right angles. The banks
of all these canals are planted with trees, and arranged as
shaded footways. All this sounds as if the place ought to be
pretty, but, though every word of this is true, the reality falls
far short of the ideas it conveys. The houses are mean
and low, and, the windows being flush with the sides, the
whole appearance is pasteboard-like and unsubstantial, which
the reality is not. The Swedes build their wooden houses
in very good taste, and they harmonise very well with
the scenery, but they should stick to that — ne sutor ultra
crepidam : let not the carpenter aspire to be a mason.

. Every house, large or small, in town or in country, has very
large panes of glass, — the very cabins have them ; the glass

: is as bad as bad can be, full of flaws and waves, and very
thin besides ; even this produces a bad effect ; besides, it is
impossible to admire the finest of towns, when walking over
streets so roughly paved that eyes and thoughts must be con-
tinually directed towards the footing.

There is a capital market, and the canals bring the hay,
and the fuel, and all other heavy articles from the interior,
to the very doors of the houses. It was singular to see
floating haystacks and faggot piles — for so they looked, the
hulls of the boats being completely hidden by their freight, —
towed up in strings by the little steam-tugs, and moored to
the quays. If Gotheborg is not a prosperous town, Sweden
will not support one at all, for it is impossible for any
situation to be more favourable for trade. The river itself
forms a secure harbour, its only iault being that vessels of
heavy draught cannot anchor within a mile of the town.
The interior water communications comprehend all the mid-
land provinces, and the landing and shipping of goods is as


easy as art can make it ; besides, it is the outermost port of
the whole country.

The markets, certainly, are well supplied, especially
that of fish, both salt and fresh-water. Beef and mutton
are among its articles of export to the southern coasts
of Norway, and there is not a bad display of vegetables
for so northern a country. The quantities of spinach which
are seen everywhere, and which mingle with every dish,
rather surprise the traveller, till he finds out that the sand-
hills which he has seen on each side of him all the way up
the river, are covered with it, growing wild — wild as it is,
English garden spinach is not at all better flavoured. Singu-
larly enough, melons are plentiful ; one would almost as soon
expect to meet with pines in these latitudes, — but the short
summer of Sweden is peculiarly favourable for them.

The trade of the place does not look very lively, and the
bustle in the streets is nothing at all like that of Bristol or
Liverpool. What little stir there was just then, seemed to
be rather military than mercantile. Dirty, slovenly-looking
artillerymen, with ugly blue and yellow uniforms, putting
one disagreeably in mind of the Edinburgh Review; overalls
patched extensively with leather that terribly wanted the
blacking-brush ; and dingy steel scabbards, that did not
know what emery-stone was, were clanking about the streets,
followed by little crowds ; and groups of officers were standing
at the doors of the hotels and lodging-houses. Evidently a
review was not an everyday business.

The Parson and Captain were soon deserted by their mili-
tary cicerone, who left them, to prepare for his part in the
military display, having directed them into the street that
leads to the scene of action. This was a large meadow, or
small park, to the east of the town, rather a pretty pro-
menade, enclosed with trees, which was now crowded with
people. Towns, especially trading towns, are not remarkable
for costume. The people, seeing such a variety of foreigners,
get to be citizens of the world themselves, and so lose their
nationalities. But there were a few fancy dresses, too, from
the country round ; short round corduroy jackets, sometimes
a sort of tartan, too, but which invariably had rows of buttons


sewed as thick together as they could stand. Among the
women, a handkerchief was frequently tied round the head
instead of a bonnet ; but every one, almost, carried his or her
bunch of flowers, an article which abounded in the markets ;
these were very often carried in the hats, or stuck through
the knots of the kerchiefs.

And now the bugles of the artillery were heard, and the
rumbling of wheels, and the trampling of horses, as battery
after battery rolled into the park. The Swedes call them
horse artillery, but they are, in reality, only field batteries ;
for of horse artillery, properly so called, that most beautiful of
military toys, they have none. Their guns, twelve pounders,
are drawn by six horses, each of which carries a man. In
bringing the guns into action, the off-man of each pair dis-
mounted, and these were joined by three others, whose seat
was on the limbers. These are hardly men enough to work
so heavy a gun, allowing for the casualties of action, but on
emergencies the driver of the middle pair also lends his

There was nothing showv in the review, the manoeuvres
of which were confined to advancing and retreating in line,
and forming column, and deploying into line again ; but all
at a foot's pace, or at a very slow trot. They had no idea of
changing front, or retreating in echellon, or any of those
showy manoeuvres in which the prolong is used. In fact, so
far as display went, it was a very slow aftair indeed ; the
men, however, seemed to know their work pretty well, and
though individually dirty and slovenly and without the well
set up carriage of our own soldiers, they bore, as a body,
rather a soldier-like appearance. They ride very forward,
absolutely on the horse's withers — this is said to give the
horse greater facility of draught ; and it may, but at all
events, it gives a most awkward and unsoldier-like appear-
ance to the men, which is in no way improved by the
manner in which they carry their swords — the elbows stick-
ing out at right angles to the body, and their knuckles thrust
into their sides, as if they had a pain in their ribs.

The guns seemed to be very much under-horsed, but
perhaps this is more apparent than real; for the Swedish


horses, though small, are strong and wiry, and their enclosed
country is not only not calculated for horse artillery
manoeuvres, but does not admit of them. The chances are,
that a whole campaign might be fought in Sweden without
the artillery being required to move faster than at a foot-
pace. So far as numbers went, they mustered at least three
times as many guns as can be got together at Woolwich for
love or money at the best of times.

The army of Sweden is very curiously constituted, and it
is not easy to reckon up its effective strength. The regular
army does not consist of above 10,000 men; the guards —
than which no finer body of men is to be seen in Europe, —
the artillery, and three or four garrison regiments, who are
stationed at Wanas, in the interior, and Carlscrona, and one
or two other fortresses on the coast.

The militia, which is called Bevaring, consists of every
man in the country between the ages of twenty and twenty-
five ; these have regular days of exercise, generally Sunday
evenings in the summer, which is with them by no means a
popular arrangement, for those are the hours which the
ingenuous youths of Sweden devote to dancing, an amuse-
ment of which they are passionately fond. This really is a
much more effective force than it seems, for the Swedes are
natural soldiers ; besides which, it gives them all a habit of
drill, which might be rendered serviceable in case of invasion ;
ior, as every man in the country has been drilled in his
youth, they are all capable of immediately taking their
places in the ranks of the regular regiments. It would be a
very great improvement if they were drilled to ball practice,
like the Swiss and Tyrolese, for a Swede is terribly clumsy
with fire-arms, and on a skal, is just as likely to shoot him-
self or his comrade, as a bear or a wolf.

But the strength of the Swedish army lies in its Indelta,
a description of force peculiar to that country — unless the
military colonies of Russia be considered a parallel case.

The crown possesses large estates, and these are leased
out, like the knight's fees in old times, on man service, and
for that purpose are divided into hemmans, each hemman
furnishing a man, who has a portion of it by way of pay —


the hemman is not a measure of size, but of pirocluce. Fertile
hemmans are small, waste or barren hemmans are large; and
thus it often happens, when a crown estate has been cleared
and brought into cultivation, though quite as productive as
some other estate, it furnishes a much smaller quota.

The holder of such a property, is then bound to serve
himself, if capable, and to furnish a certain number of
efficient soldiers, horse or foot, according to the size of his
estate. The whole country is divided into military provinces,
under colonels ; these are subdivided into districts, under
captains, with their proper complement of subaltern and
non-commissioned officers, who are paid by the tenure of
certain reserved farms, which they hold in virtue of their

"Whenever the Indeita is called out — and a third of them
assemble in camp every summer, — the crown tenants of the
estates that furnished it are bound, at their own expense, to
cultivate the farms which the soldiers hold, and to return to
them their lands, when they are dismissed from active service,
in the same condition in which they took charge of them,
accounting for any sale of produce which they may have

The service of the Indeita is very popular, and for every
vacancy there are at least half a dozen candidates. No
application is ever received without written testimonials from
the clergyman of the applicant's parish, and no man is ever
admitted who has been convicted of any crime. Many of
these crown holdings have been purchased and re-purchased,
and transferred from hand to hand so often, that they are
regarded as a sort of private property, and their tenants very
often complain of being burthened to a greater extent than
their countrymen. This, however, is as unreasonable as that
a tenant should complain that in paying rent he is not on
an equality with the proprietor in fee. The sale of crown
lands is merely the transference of a beneficial lease.

So far as the morals of the people are concerned, the
patronage of the Indeita, and the reward it holds to good
conduct, act very beneficially ; as to the efficacy of the force,
the wars of Gustavus Adolphus and of Charles XII., may


form a pretty fair criterion. The strength of this contin-
gent to the Swedish army, may be reckoned at 20,000
infantry, and 5,000 cavalry, and has the advantage of being
always available.

" You may come out of your hole now, Birger," said his
friend, the artilleryman, who, arriving hot and dusty from
the barracks, was lounging down the streets, with his jacket
open and his stiff military stock in his hand, a free and easy
style of dress, in which an English officer would think it
just impossible to put his nose beyond the barrack gates.
" The General and all his staff are gone in a body to Arfwed-
sen's Villa, so you are safe for to-day."

"And for to-morrow, too," said Birger, " for the steamer
starts for Stockholm to-morrow morning early ; while you
were amusing yourselves, I have been doing business. As soon
as I heard from the sound of your guns that the General was
safe, I stepped down to the quay, went on board the Daniel
Thunberg, and engaged two cabins — we will toss up who is
to have the cabin to himself."

" Why, where's Moodie 1 "

" Moodie ! " said Birger, taking out his watch, " why, by
this time Moodie is at Agnesberg."

" And where is Agnesberg 1 "

" The first stasje to Trollh'attan. He had transacted his
business, and transferred his herd of deer to the Zoological
men before we came, so he said he would start at once for
Gaddeback, and prepare to receive us. I rather think there
is some bear hunting afoot, for the Stockholm post came in
while you were at the review, and I am sure I recognised
Bjornstjerna's great splash of a seal, and his scratchy hand.
At all events, off started Moodie."

" Why ! is it not necessary to lay a forebud."

" Not on the main road ; there is traffic enough between
this and Wenersburg to keep holl-horses (retained horses)
always at the stations. He will be at Gaddeback, I will
venture to say, before daybreak."

" And when do we sail 1 "

" At ten to-morrow ; we can see the falls and the canal
before nightfall, and sleep at Trollhaitan to-morrow night ;


arid on the following: morning: Moodie is to send his boat for
ns. And now for dinner, I have ordered it at the Prinds
Karl ; Todd's is a very good house to sleep at, and not bad
for breakfast, but I want to shew you what Swedish
cookery is, as far as you can get any worth eating in the

" Ah ! there spoke the guardsman."

" Well, it is very true, as you will confess, if ever I get you
to Stockholm ; is it not, Count Dahlgren 1" addressing the
artillery officer. " You dine with us, of course ; in with you,
and wash off the stains of war, which are pretty visible at
present. You have not more time than you know what to
do with. If we do sail to-morrow, we will make a night of it

" Like our first night at Mosse Enrd V

"No, hang it, no ; not so bad as that ; — that was all very
well for the men, but we do not make such beasts of our-
selves in this country. I have told them, though, to put
plenty of champagne in ice, and to provide the best claret
they have got ; we will be merry — and wise, if possible."

" And if not possible ?"

" Why, then, the merry without the wise."

Whether mirth, or wisdom, or a judicious mixture of the
two prevailed that evening at the Prinds Karl, need not be
related ; but the next morning saw the party on the clean
white deck of the elegant little river steamer Daniel Thunberg,
dashing along its broad, still stream, between rows of feather-
ing rushes, sometimes so tall as to eclipse the still flat and
uninteresting country beyond them. Ducks there were,
in such numbers, that the fishermen half repented their
engagement with Moodie ; and Jacob, to whom every spot
was familiar, kept up an incessant chorus of regrets, pointing
out here a spot where he had made a fortune with the
langref, having hauled up a three-pound eel on every hook, —
there a corner where he had caught a pike so big he could
not lift it into the boat, but was obliged to tow it astern all
the way to Gotheborg, — and there a bay in the rushes in
which he had bagged five swans, eight geese, and more ducks
than he could count, at a single shot, — with as many more


stories, equally veracious, as he could get people to listen to ;
and in fact, could be stopped by nothing short of that grand
event in a Swedish day, dinner, which, announced by
the steamer's bell, was served with great magnificence in the

These little steamers form as luxurious a conveyance as
can be imagined ; they are galley-built, that is to say, the
quarter deck is two or three feet higher than the waist ; the
after part is divided into ten or twelve little private cabins,
each possessing its own port, and each furnished with its
two solas and its table ; the fore part contains the saloon,
or common cabin. They do not carry very powerful engines,
but they burn wood, and are as clean and as free from dis-
agreeable smells as if they were sailing vessels.

At the locks of Lilla Edet, where a reef comes across the
river, forming a low but very picturesque fall, the fine
scenery commences. The fall itself is singular. The water
of the Gotha, fresh from the great lake of Wenern, which
acts as an enormous cesspool, is as clear and bright as
that of the Torjedahl, but with ten times its volume ; it
slips off the smooth ledge of rocks as if it were falling over a
step ; the ledge off which it slips is seen through it as dis-
tinctly as if it were enclosed in a glass case, for the water
preserves its unbroken transparency till it reaches the bottom,
and then spreads out into a broad border of foam, like a fan
with swansdown fringe.

From this point, a very perceptible difference was remark-
able in the run of the current, which retarded considerably
the way of the steamer through the belt of highlands which
separates the low tract bordering the sea-coast from the
higher level of Wenersborglan ; and it was not till past five,
that the low rumbling, earth-shaking sound of the great
falls be^an to tremble on the ear.




" Gefjon arew from Gylfi
Rich stored-up treasure, —
The land she joined to Denmark.
Four heads and eight eyes bearing,
While hot sweat trickled down them,
The oxen dragged the reft mass
Which forms this winsome island."

Skald Bragi the Old.

"It was a wondrous sight to see
Topmast and pennon glitter free,
High raised above the greenwood tree —
As on dry land the galley moves,
By cliff and copse and aider groves."

Lord of the Isles.

"Birger, what is the Swedish for 'Go to the devil V I
cannot make these little brutes of boys understand me,"
shouted the Captain, who was not in the best of humours,
having already made half a dozen slips on very dangerous
ground. In all Sweden, there is not a more slippery bit of
turf than that which clothes the cliffs and highlands of
Trollhatten. The bank along which he was scrambling to
get a good view of the falls rounded itself off gradually,
getting more and more out of the horizontal and into the
vertical at every step, till at last it plunged sheer into the
foaming turn-hole of the middle fall, in which the very best
of swimmers would have had no more advantage over the
very worst than that of keeping his head above water till
he went down the third leap, and got knocked to pieces on
the rocks below. There was not a root to hold on by
stronger than those of the dwarf cranberries, whose smooth


leaves only aided the natural slipperiness. Heather is not com-
mon anywhere in Sweden ; but here there was quite enough
not only to give a purple brown hue to the scenery, but also
to add to the difficulty of keeping one's feet, in a way which
any one who has walked the side of a highland hill in very
dry weather will fully be able to appreciate. It was very
irritating when one at last had attained a point of view —
after traversing what to a leather -shod stranger was really
a dangerous path — to have the current of one's thoughts in-
terrupted by a parcel of bare-footed urchins, who came
frolicking over the very same ground, and insisting that the
visitor should see everything, from the orthodox point of view
set down by Murray, and from no other whatever, and more-
over should pay for being tormented and unpoeticised, the
regulated number of skillings.

The rush of waters was certainly very grand and very
magnificent. Much has been written about it in books of
travels, and much more in the album kept at the inn for the
purpose of enshrining and transmitting to posterity the
extasies of successive generations of travellers ; but the
Parson, who ought to have been lost in admiration — to his
shame be it spoken — appeared chiefly solicitous to procure
bait, which he and Torkel had been diligently hunting for
in the shallows. It was not without considerable difficulty
that a trout sufficiently small to fit the snap-hooks of the
trolling-litch could be found, and when it was found, we are
happy to say, it met with no more success than it deserved ;
for though at very considerable personal risk he tried as
much of the rushing water as his longest trolling-rod would
command, he was not rewarded with a single run.

But for all that, there certainly are fish in all the pools
about these tremendous falls, and that he had the oppor-
tunity of satisfying himself about before he left off; for
just as he was giving it up for a bad job, Torkel, who had
an eye for a fish like that of a sea-eagle, caught sight of
something alive that had poked itself into one of the runs
from the saw-mills, a place not three feet across ; and un-
screwing the gatf which he was carrying, and substituting
for it the five-pronged spear, he plunged it into the water


and brought out a black trout (salmoferox) of ten pounds
weight at the end of it. From the nature of the water it
is impossible that trout can abound at Trollhatten in any
great numbers. The river has scarcely any tributaries below
the falls ; and as it is absolutely impossible for a fish to sur-
mount them, the breeding ground is very limited ; but, on
the other hand, the clearness of the water is precisely that
which best suits the constitution of a trout ; bleak and
gwinead, which form their principal food, are very plentiful,
and from the depth of the water, there is scarcely any limit
to the growth of the fish ; a man, who is satisfied to catch
now and then a monster, will do very well at Trollhattan,
and in the course of the season will have a lew stories to tell,
which in England will be set down as altogether fabulous, —
but it does not answer for a day's fishing. The traveller
may as well make up his mind to admire the scenery at his
leisure,' — it will not answer his purpose to wet a line there.

The Parson having convinced himself of this, and, more-
over, having had one or two very narrow escapes, reeled up
his line and contentedly sought out his friends, who, by
this time, had succeeded in explaining to the swarms of
guides that their services were not required, and were sitting
on a heathery bank feathered with birch, exactly in front of
the middle falls, comfortably eating gooseberries, which grow
there in such plenty that, though the place swarms with
children — a whole regiment of soldiers with their wives and
families being hutted in the vicinity,— the bushes were still
full of them.

" That is a curious cave," said the Captain, pointing to a
hole which seemed to enter the face of the precipitous rock

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 22 of 36)