Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

. (page 26 of 36)
Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 26 of 36)
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got themselves completely entangled. " Why, what is this ?
— it is ! no, it can't be ! yet it is "

" It is Luron," said Nils.

" Luron," said Moodie, " why, that is miles to the east-
ward of our course ! Where have you been steering to during
the night T

" You told me to ' keep her as she goes,' and so I did."

And so he had ; the fault lay with Moodie himself, who
from the first starting had steered two points to the eastward
of his course ; the fog and the current — for the Wener is big
enough for current — had done the rest.

It did not however signify, the breeze blew merrily and
promised to stand ; the fog now lay in light fleecy clouds far
above their heads ; the sun, not far from the horizon, began
to smile upon them and to chase away the dangers of the
night, and with them the ill-humour they had engendered ;
the fore-sheet was let draw, and as she gathered way she

u 2


tacked, fell off on the port-tack, and with a jolly breeze on
her quarter, buzzed away through the water to the north-

Soon a line of trees appeared on the horizon, as if they
were dancing in the air, or floating in the water ; then the
trunks began to form and unite with something below them ;
then the line of land, real firm land, began to manifest itself ;
then red, and white, and black, and brown, and striped cot-
tages began to show out ; and before ten the anchor was
let go before the little town of Amal.

The horses were still awaiting them, for the allotted three
hours, during which they are bound to remain, had not yet
elapsed and they escaped on payment of the regulated fine
for being after time. The men were sent on immediately in
the waggon which Moodie had spoken of, and which he had
written to his friend the farmer to borrow, sending his note
by the forebud. In half-an-hour the carioles were harnessed,
and as they plunged into the forests at the back of Amal,
the last thing they saw was the pretty cutter, close hauled,
lying as near to her course to Wenersborg as the wind would
let her look.

The trees of Western Carlstadtlan, which they were now
traversing, are said to be the finest in Sweden ; this is due
partly to the depth and goodness of the soil — a circumstance
which will eventually secure their destruction, by offering a
temptation to convert the fjeld into arable land ; that they
stood, even yet, was principally on account of the absence of
any great rivers, which afford the only means of conveying
timber to the coast. The land is quite as good on the banks
of the Klara and Swedish Glommen, the latter of which runs
into the lake a few miles eastward of Amal, but there is a
sensible difference in the growth of the timber. There was
fir, no doubt, in plenty — there is no Swedish forest without
fir, — but there were also huge beech trees, and a sprinkling
of not very happy-looking oak, that put one in mind of the
English in India : they lived in the country, but they did
not enjoy it.

The whole country looked like an enormous park — rather
too thickly planted, to be sure, — one kept looking, at every


turn of the road, for the mansion ; and the road, too, though
not one of very great traffic, was very good, winding along
with a great border of short turf on each side, comparatively
level on the whole, but occasionally interrupted, by a descent
so sharp that it seemed, as if the carioles were going to cut
a summerset over the horses' ears, — more particularly as
the horses invariably chose those portions of the road for
going as hard as they could lay legs to ground, a peculiarity
sufficiently trying to the nerves ; and as those portions of the
road were invariably cut to pieces by the rush of the water,
and were full of rocks besides, sufficiently trying to the
bodily feelings.

On the opposite sides of these ravines, the horses would
creep at the rate of about a mile an hour, the passenger being
so absolutely expected to walk up them, that many of the
horses came to a dead halt at the bottom, and refused to
proceed at all till disencumbered of their weight.

" It is not without reason," said Birger, as they sat on the
roadside, at the top of one of these descents, watching the
slow progress of their carioles, under the care of their respec-
tive schutzebonder — little boys or girls, as the case may be,
who sit on the foot-boards, and bring the horses back after
they have done their stage ; — " it is not without reason that
the ancient Swedes have invented the legend that in certain
places the elves and the trees are identical ; that these forest
elves are intensely patriotic, and that in times of invasion they
assemble their bands and fight by the side of their human
countrymen, in defence of their common country. Many of the
trees in Carlstadtlan, as well as in other places, are trees only
by day, but are armed soldiers by night. Of course the idea
is that the forests fight for the country in case of invasion,
and add to the numbers of its defenders ; and so they do.
Russia might pour her thousands upon us, and sweep us off
the face of the earth, by mere force of numbers, in an open
field ; but how would she ever force her passage through a
forest like this, filled with a few thousand riflemen 1 The
trees would fight for us even by day ; but by night our num-
bers, counting the elves, would be irresistible.

" The slight variety that there is in the legend in Denmark,


"bears this out there also ; where the deep Sound and fjords
intersect the kingdom, the stony promontories are its best
defence, and the elf kings are called Klintekonger, or Pro-
montory Kings. There are several stories about their
parading their elf soldiers, with fife and drum, on the break-
ing out of a war, and driving over the sea, with snorting
horses, in clouds and blackness, from one promontory to
another. The elf king of Bornholm will not allow any
earthly prince to sleep more than three nights within his
dominions, nor will King Tolv permit any king besides him-
self to pass the bridge of Skjelskor. This is all part of the
same allegory ; the elves are the spirits of the woods, and
the Grims of the cataracts, and the Haaf manner of the sea,
and the Stromkarls of the rivers. They all bear the same cha-
racter ; they are capricious as the elements are over which
they preside, and often injure most those who are most
accustomed to them, but in case of an invasion become rivers,
and lakes, and fjords, and forests, and unite to repel the in-
vader. Bother that little schutzebonde of mine ; I wish she
were a boy, that I might whip her instead of the horse ;"
and Birger strode down the hill to infuse fresh spirit into
the post-horse and post-girl.

Thus they travelled on, at the rate of five or six miles an
hour on the average, bowling along through the forest, but
interrupted, whenever they came near cultivation, by timber
fences and swing gates across the road, living mostly on their
own provisions, with the help of a little grod which they got
from the post-houses, sleeping when they would in the hay-
lofts, sometimes in the open air, and occasionally on pecu-
liarly dirty sheepskins in the post-houses. Oh those sheep-
skins —

"Ye gentlemen of England,
Who live at home at ease,
How little do you think upon
The dangers of the fleas ! "




ct A various scene the clansmen made —
Some sate, some stood, some slowly strayed, —
But most, with mantles folded round,
Were couched to rest upon the ground —
Scarce to be known by curious eye
From the deep heather where they lie ;
But when, advancing through the gloom,
They saw their chieftain's eagle plume,
Their shout of welcome, shrill and wide,
Shook the steep mountain's steady side, —
Thrice it arose, and lake and fell
Three times returned the martial yell.
It died upon Rochastle's plain,
And silence claimed her evening reign."

Lady of the Lake.

Evening had already begun to close in, and the dark
branches of the firs, which for the last five or six miles had
canopied the road, were begining to grow darker still, when
the carioles emerged from the great forest into a green park-
like glade, studded with feathering clumps of birch and
spruce ; and rattled up to the door of the little inn that stood
on the borders of it, which was the place appointed for the

The inn, which, after all, was little better than a post-
house, was evidently not large enough to contain a tenth
part of the crowd collected in front of it ; nor did the half
dozen wooden houses, which formed the village, afford much
more extensive accommodation.

Few, however, of those there assembled seemed to care
much about the matter ; the evening was warm, the sky was
clear, and the stars were beginning to twinkle merrily


through the calm blue sky ; the good green wood was shel-
ter enough for the hardy peasants and their equally hardy
landlords, and would have been shelter enough though the
ground had been white with snow.

Fires were begining to rise here and there, bringing into
view the gipsy-like groups collected round them, as they sat,
stood, or lay at full-length upon the turf — some busied about
the little tin kettles, in which they were mixing their rye
grodj some bringing in fuel, some returning from the inn and
the temporary stalls that had been established round it for
the sale of bread, cheese, butter, brandy, and other neces-
saries ; though most of the party had brought good store of
provision in their own bags. Some — and they mostly the
elders of the parish — were quietly smoking their pipes, and
discussing the events of former skals, and prophesying good
or bad of the present one, according as their dispositions
were sanguine or the reverse ; but all were talking, laugh-
ing, hand-shaking, imparting or listening to little pieces of
domestic news, or parish scandal — for, in the forest parishes,
(and in Sweden most parishes are of that character), a skal
brings together men who have but few other opportunities
of meeting.

A few old stagers, indeed, were trying to get one good
night's sleep, in order to prepare themselves for the fatigues of
which the morrow was but the beginning, and were stretch-
ing themselves on the turf, with their feet towards their
fires ; but new arrivals were continually rousing them up, and
some fresh Calle Jonsen, or Swen Larssen, or Nils Ericsen,
would be continually dropping in with fresh inquiries,* fresh
news, and fresh greetings.

From the windows of the inn, which were wide open, a
broad, bright glare of light was streaming across the glade,
obscured now and then by the shadow of some great head
and shoulders — for the room was fall of people, — but strong
enough, notwithstanding, to light up the boughs of the old
lime trees that shaded the porch, glittering among their soft
green leaves, as if they really were what the Swedes suppose
them to be, the roosting places of the Spirits of Light.

This was evidently the head quarters of the skal, where


the generals and field officers were holding high council,
receiving information, arranging plans, and issuing orders;
and Birger, spinging from his cariole and throwing the reins
of his horse to his schutzebond, or post-boy, and commit-
ting, with utter recklessness of consequences, the whole de-
partment of quartermaster-general, and commissary-general
to boot, into the hands of Jacob, rushed into the room,
followed by his three friends.

This opportune reinforcement was greeted with shouts of
welcome : Birger himself was an old friend of the Ofwer Jag-
mastere, and had, before this, signalized himself as a hunter.
Englishmen are invariably popular both in Norway and Swe-
den ; and besides, the value of English rifles, and English sports-
men to carry them, was universally acknowledged. Moodie,
however, was the great prize; he had been now, for four years
in the country, and had been there quite long enough to be
known and appreciated as the best shot and the most saga-
cious and inventive leader in the province. With a natural
turn for the chase in all its varieties, be had thrown himself,
heart and soul, into the business of bear hunting, had studied
it theoretically and had worked out his theories practically,
till he was universally acknowledged to be a fair match for
the " gentleman in the fur cloak, who has the wisdom of ten
and the strength of twenty," as the Swedes periphrastically
term their great enemy, the bear.

He had remained in the porch for a minute or two, giving
some directions to his followers, so that the greetings, and
introductions, and first inquiries had a little subsided when
he entered; but the moment his well-known green cap was
seen in the doorway, there arose such a shout of welcome,
that it made the flitches of bacon and strings of onions
tremble from the rafters.

" Modige ! Modige ! " * for so they had naturalized his
name into a word which, in their language, signifies courage-

* It must be remembered that the letter o, in Swedish, is pronounced
like our oo, and that the g before a e i b, as well as the final g, is pro-
nounced like the English y ; the word " Modige," therefore, will be
pronounced very like the English word " Moodie."


The well-known cry was caught up among the parties out
of doors, and echoed back again from tree to tree, while the
glare of the camp-fires shewed dark shadows of insane figures,
waving arms and hats, aye, and handkerchiefs, too, for every
woman who can possibly slip away from home, turns out on
a skal.

" Modige ! Modige ! " again came thundering and scream-
ing back in all sorts of voice, old and young, male and female ;
now dying away, then bursting forth, as some distant post
took it up again.

" Upon my word," said the Ofwer Jagm'astere Bjornstjerna,
speaking in French, out of compliment to the strangers — for
this language, though utterly despised in Norway, is pretty
generally spoken among the Swedish aristocracy; "upon my
word, the people have decided the matter for us ; I wanted
some one to take charge of the hallet, and was going to offer
you the command the moment I saw you, but the people seem
to have taken the matter into their own hands now ; you
cannot possibly refuse, you are elected by acclamation."

" I am delighted to be of any use," said Moodie, — in
fact, he did look delighted in good earnest, — " and will do my
best ; but you are aware that I am not very familiar with
the ground here."

" Never mind that," said Bjornstjerna ; " we will soon find
some one to be your quartermaster-general ; what we
want is, a man that the people look up to, who knows his
business, and is accustomed to command."

" How many shall I have under me in the hnllet ?

"We cannot spare you above five hundred," said Bjorn-
stjerna ; " but the ground is easy enough, at least so far
as the hallet is concerned. See here," and he produced a
rough but well-executed military sketch of the ground,
which he had surveyed and mapped that morning ; " this
plain is the country we mean to drive, — there is about three
miles of it in length, that is to say," he added, parenthetically,
nodding to the Englishmen, " what you would call in your
country, one or two-and-twenty. On the west, as you see,
it is bounded by the river which I have marked here in
blue j this, in its course, expands into these two lakes, and


just by the water- side the country is comparatively open,
with a few farm houses and hamlets about it ; the forest,
however, closes it all round, getting thicker as you approach
the mountains. On the east is this range of heights which,
as luck will have it, I find are scarped by nature into cliffs,
so that nothing but a bird can get up them — except at these
passes, which I have marked on the map with a cross.
These are mostly the dry or half-dry beds of torrents, and by
the side of almost all of them there is a passage into the
upper fjeld, practicable for men, and, consequently, for beasts
also, when they are frightened. At this point, where we
intend stationing our dref, the range of hills is about six of
your miles distant from the line of the river, but it gradually
approaches it ; and at this point, where there are some falls
and rapids, the distance is very trifling — not above a thou-
sand eller — somewhere about half an English mile ; and,
besides, there is a spur of rock here which causes the falls
of the river, and upon this the forest is very thin and open.
Here I propose placing you with the hallet. You will
establish yourself on the reverse slope of the spur, so that
our shot will pass over your heads ; you will then only have
to clear away sufficient of the under-stuff from the front of
your position to give you a fair shot at anything that
attempts to cross.

" About a thousand or fifteen hundred eller in front of
your position, and parallel to it, runs a cow-track to the
upper saters, which, upon the whole, is pretty open, and
upon which you may as well set a hundred or two of your
men, to improve to-morrow into a shooting line. Here we
shall take our stand after we have driven the country.
There is a thickish bit between this path and your position ;
the game will not object to enter it, and if they do, we
ought to get every one of them, for to the left the rock is
absolutely perpendicular, and on the right the rapids are
such that nothing can cross them."

" You have no skal-plats T said Moodie.

"Why this is a skal-plats," said Bjornstjerna, "rather a
large one, to be sure ; but we shall not run much risk of
getting our men shot in driving it, because you will be on


the reverse slope ; and, by the way, you must be very par-
ticular in cautioning all your skalfogdar to keep their men
from showing themselves on the crest of the hill. I did
at one time think of making a skal-plats here, on the banks
of this lower lake, and driving from both ends at the same
time ; but the ground is not favourable ; a good deal of it is
cleared, and every bear will make for the roots of the moun-
tains, where the under-stuff is thickest ; they cannot get up
the perpendicular cliffs, to be sure, but we should have them
creeping up a little way by the branches, and then stealing
back as soon as the dref has passed the place, — upon the whole,
though, I think my present plan is the best."

" I really think it is," said Moodie, " as far as I can judge
from seeing it on paper ; but you seem to have a pretty large
country to drive, not less than twenty miles English in
length. What number do you muster 1

" Not above fifteen hundred or two thousand at the most,"
said Bjornstjerna, "though I have called out five parishes ;
but look at the place, it seems cut out for a skal, — half-a-
dozen boats will guard the river, which is navigable in its
whole length till you come to the rapids which flank your
position, and not a bear will go near the houses, as you
know, or face the open ground, if he can possibly help it, —
so much for our right flank ; while for the other, a small
picket at each of the water-courses, will be quite sufficient to
guard them till the dref has passed, and then the picket can
either strengthen the other guards farther on, or reinforce
our line, or join you at the hallet, according as they are
wanted. Then, since the cliffs keep approaching the river, in
proportion as we drive forward so our line will be strengthened
by the men closing on each other, till, in the end, when the
beasts begin to break out, we shall be able to send you a rein-
forcement of two or three hundred men, for we shall have
more than we want."

" That will do," said Moodie ; " we shall have a glorious
skal, I see, and I give you great credit for making the most
of vour men."

" The truth is, I have quite as many men as I want — I
have never been at a loss for them ; what I have been at a


loss for, hitherto, is officers, for the Indelta has been unex-
pectedly summoned to Stockholm, and with them I have lost
almost every man who knows how to command."

" Why not wait till they come back % n said Birger ; " they
never keep the Indelta out for more than three weeks, and I
am sure the 'Fur-clothed Disturbers' would wait for you :" (no
Swede ever mentions the bear's name, if he can possibly
help it).

" Yes," said Bjornstjerna, " but after that the militia is
to be called out, and if I get my officers I should lose my
men — aye, and two-thirds of the women, too. How many
women do you think would turn out, if you took away all
the men between the ages of twenty and twenty-five % And
let me tell you that the women, though the law does not
allow us to press them into the service, are just as useful as
the men, — and in the dref, where all you want is to drive
the game forward, a great deal more so, for they talk twice
as much, and their screams, and squalls, and laughter, are
heard as far again as the men's shouts. O, by the Thousand !
I had rather lose my men than my women. But you gentle-
men are a perfect Godsend ; I shall do very well for officers
now. Herr Modige is kind enough to take the hallet,
and, whether you like it or no, Master Lieutenant, you
will have the charge of that skal-arm which furnishes the

" Well, I suppose I must obey my superior officer ;
I wish they treated us Lieutenants of the Guards as
well as they do those of England, and then I should be
Captain as well as you — commanding you, perhaps, if I hap-
pened to be senior."

" Would you, my boy 1 I would have you to know that
I rank a Colonel now, — I write 'Hof ' before my name."

" Upon my soul, old fellow, I congratulate you ; I do
not know any one who deserves it better."

" No more do I," said Bjornstjerna, " and I must say
that it is not often that the Forste Hof Jagmastere shows
such a specimen of discrimination. However, to business.
Along the left flank of the dref, you will see that in the
course of our beat there are some fifteen or twenty j>lacea


where game can escape by climbing up the water courses.
At each of these you will post a picket, strong or weak,
according to the nature of the ground. Herr Lansman, can
you iurnish the Lieutenant with a man who knows the
country 1 "

The Lansman, or tax-gatherer, who in these remote dis-
tricts acts as police officer, and is, in fact, the sole represen-
tative of majesty, offered his own services in that capacity.

" Very good," said the Ofwer Jagmastere, " then you will
point out the particulars; but, to help you, I have marked all
the more practicable passages with red crosses. Here, however,
is your principal danger — in fact, it is that which made me
hesitate about establishing the hallet where it is. You see
where this cow-path leads to the hills — the path, I mean,
which I have just pointed out to Herr Modige as the place
where I wish him to arrange the shooting line ; carry your
eye onward to where it ascends the hills ; that is an easy
pass, such as you can ride up, and it is so close to the hallet
that any beast that turns at the line, would naturally dash
at the opening. Here you must post a very strong force."

" I cannot do better than put my English friends there,"
said Birger, who saw at a glance that this was the very
crack post of the whole line ; " I will venture to say that
their rifles will not allow anything to pass alive through that
opening, from an elk to a rabbit."

" Hush, not a word about elks," said Bjornstjerna ;
"neither they nor stags must be touched — the new law is
very strict about that."

" It is very difficult to tell one beast from another, in the
thick juniper," said Birger ; " I never could myself."

The Ofwer Jagmastere laughed, but put on an official frown.

" Do you know, Birger," said the Parson, " I should like
to be your aide-de-camp better than to hold any definite
post ; I could carry your orders, you know."

" And deliver them in English or French," said Birger ;
" I shall have a very effective aide-de-camp indeed. How-
ever, if you like it, I will give you the post, and I think you
are right ; you will see more in that way than in any other,
and you can reinforce the post of danger whenever you are


tired. Indeed, you may as well consider it your home
during the skal. Would the Captain, then, take charge of
that point ?"

The Captain was quite willing, and promised to give a

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 26 of 36)