Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

. (page 27 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

good account of it.

" Well, then," said Birger, " I shall not want Piersen to-
morrow, so you may have him, and your own man Tom, and
Jacob for cook. The Parson will probably take Torkel, but
I dare say the Lansman can find you an intelligent Swede,
who knows the ground and can understand a few words oi
English, and three or four fellows for sentries : that will be
quite enough for you, for the Parson and Torkel will join you,
and be under your orders before there is anything serious."

Here the Ofwer Jagmastere spoke a few words in Swedish to
Birger, who laughed and replied — " No, no, certainly not ; I
am confident he would consider it an honour of no small
magnitude to bear a commission in our service. The fact
is," continued he, addressing the Captain, "everything in
these skaller is arranged according to military discipline,
and everyone here has military rank. And as you have to
command a picket, you would not object to hold a temporary
commission, not quite equal to your own in the English
service."

"Object !" said the Captain, "0, no — delighted, of course!"
" Then give me your cap," said Birger. " Hand me over
that chalk, Bjornstjerna ;" and he wrote upon its peak the
mystic letters, " S. F.," .being the initials of Skal Fogde ;
and accordingly the Captain took rank as full sergeant in the
Swedish army.

" Now, then," said the Jagmastere, " as I have arranged
matters so satisfactorily here, I will start at once for Lysvik,
where I have ordered the dref to assemble. I shall have
enough to do to-morrow morning, as you may imagine, —
what with numbering the men, and appointing their skal-
fogdar, and seeing them at their stations, the commander has
no easy life of it. As for you, Moodie, I need not tell you
your business — you know it as well as I do myself, — tut
begin appointing your skalfogdar the first thing to-morrow.
You need not wait for your full complement of men, they



304 THE EVE OF. THE CHASE.

will drop in in the course of the day ; but as your best men
are sure to be the first, appoint at once ; at twelve precisely
write the numbers in their hats, as they stand, and we will
fine all that come later than that. That, Mr. Liinsman,
must be your business ; but first of all look out for Lieutenant
Birger fifty of your best men. That," turning to Moodie,
" will leave you nearly five hundred, which is quite as much
as you can want, as the boats will be manned from my party.
You, Birger, will march at daybreak, for I must have every
picket posted by twelve, at which time we move forward
with the dref. Now, Lonner, my horse, as quick as you
please, for we have seven quarters to go before we sleep."

The Ofwer Jagmastere might almost be said to "exit speak-
ing," for he continued his speech into the porch, and the last
words were lost in the canter of his little hog-maned pony, as
he floundered off, followed by Lonner and a couple of orderlies,
together with the Lansmen of the two other parishes, who
had met him by appointment at Ostmarkand, and now
formed his personal staff.

Moodie, who was now in command, hesitated for a moment
whether he should exercise it by clearing the inn for the
sleeping accommodation of himself and friends, but, on turning
the matter over in his mind, the interior looked so dirty and
stuffy, and was withal so redolent of tobacco, brandy, and
aniseed, while the exterior was so fresh and green, and the
moon was shining down so softly, and the air was so still, and
the camp fires so bright and inviting, that, with universal con-
sent and approbation, he adjourned the divisional head-
quarters to a spreading fir-tree, whose branches were illumi-
nated by a fire worthy of a General ; while the provident
Jacob, who had tilted the carioles on end, to form a sort of
screen, spread out before them the contents of his ambulatory
larder.

This was soon discussed, and then a quiet pipe, a moderate
horn of brandy and water, a hopeful good night, a roll in
their cloaks, and before their heads were well on their knap-
sacks, the whole four were in the fairy land of sleep aud
forgetfulness.



THE EEVEILLER. 305



CHAPTER XXII.

THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE SKAL.

"When shaws beene sheene and shrads full fayre,
And leaves both large and long,
'Ti* merry walking in the fayre forest,
To hear the small birde's song."

Robin Hood.

" These mounds I yet may clamber,
And look on the rocks so grey, —
On these huge stones on the summits
I can lie, as oft I lay.

" And if it soughs in the forest,

In the beechwood's native land, — •
And if the wave roars deeply,
I nod to sea and strand.

"0, never my heart forgetteth

The cairn, the wood, and the strand, —
For my heart is only at home in
The warrior's fatherland."

Holger Danske-Ingemann.

The sun had not yet lighted up the spires of the fir-trees,
when a buzz of voices and a shuffling of feet broke the slum-
bers of the head-quarters party. Lansman Matthiesen, true
to his word, had not slept before he had picked out his fifty
mountaineers, chalking their hats at the back with the letters
: 'H. F.," standing for hog fjeld, or the high forest, indicating
the position they were to occupy.

While Birger was still rubbing his eyes and kicking up
Jacob to boil the morning's coffee, Matthiesen was number-
ing them from 1 to 50, with chalk, in the front of their hats,
ind selecting their skalfogdar, who were marked, as the Captain
aad been on the preceding evening, with the letters " S. F."
Ct is usual to appoint a skalfogde to every ten men ; but, as
ihese were to be divided into small parties, it was thought

x



306 THE MARCH OF THE PICQUETS.

expedient to appoint one to every five, it being understood
that, whenever any of these parties were united, the skal-
fogde whose number was lowest should reckon as senior, and
command the whole.

Fire-arms are not very nlentiful in any part of Sweden,
but Matthiesen had so picked his men, that about one-fifth
of them had something of the sort, — most of these weapons
looking very much more formidable to the sportsmen who
carried them than to the game at which they were pointed.
The rest were armed with poles, many of which had spikes
at the end. Here and there was an old sword or a pistol
that had seen service in the Thirty years' War ; but most of
the men carried very efficient axes, — an excellent weapon
against a tree, and not a bad one with a bear in close con-
fiict, if such a thing ever does take place in a skal ; but the
fact is, the beasts on these occasions are so completely cowed,
that they rarely, if ever, show fight.

The men had been searched that morning, and all their
brandy taken from them, and the rest of their provisions
examined, to see if there was enough to last out the number
of days for which they had been summoned. But, before
starting, Birger served out to each a horn of hot coffee from
Jacob's soup kettle, with a double allowance of sugar in it i
for if there is anything that comes near to brandy in the
estimation of a Swede, it is sugar, which he eats and drinks
whenever he can get it, like a very child.

Birger then, having first taken a careful survey of the whole
plan of the skal, a copy of which Matthiesen had placed in
his hand, summoned the Parson and Torkel, and, placing
himself at the head of his party, gave the word to march
This was obeyed in a very military fashion, — for every Swech
is or has been a militia-man, and is very proud of his soldier-
ing, — and the party was soon lost among the green shades o:
the forest.

Moodie watched them very composedly, and then quietl)
set himself down to breakfast, not a little to the discomposure
of the Captain, who, if he had had his will, would have beer
walking sentry on his post with his rifle in his hand, lookiiu
out fiercely for the bears, — a proceeding which, as the dre



THE HALLET. 307

or driving party was not to move till noon, and then would
be twenty miles from the scene of action, evinced, to say
the least of it, more zeal than discretion.

The Captain need not, however, have disquieted himself,
for the preparations all that time were going steadily forward.
Moodie, having selected six of the most experienced hunters
as Adjutanter or lieutenants, left them to nominate and chalk
off the fifty Skalfogdar which his party required, and to dis-
tribute the men into tens in such a way that every part of
the line should be equally provided with fire-arms. The
farmer who owned the land had offered his services as per-
sonal attendant, or what the Jagmiistere had called Quarter-
master-General ; and Moodie, quite aware that the authorities
of the place, who knew the characters and capabilities of the
men, would set in order these details much better than he
could, permitted them to manage things their own way, and
interfered but little with their arrangements.

It was not before ten that everything was put into proper
order, and the little flags prepared which were to mark out the
ground ; but then Moodie readily enough got his men into
marching order, and proceeded to take up the position. This
was distant about four miles (English) from the place of
meeting ; the road to it leading down the glade, and at right
angles to the direction taken by Birger and his party that
morning.

If Moodie had seemed apathetic and dilatory while others
were capable of doing the work, there was no want of energy
in him when the party had arrived at the ground. His
orders were given with that distinctness and decision which
evinces an intimate acquaintance with the business in hand,
and ensures the prompt obedience of all engaged in it.

Two of the Adjutanter, with three men from each skal-
fosfde's command were detached to establish the line which
the ballet was finally to occupy, and to mark out with little
flags of white calico, on which were painted their numbers,
the post of each subdivision. In the meanwhile the main
strength of his party were engaged in preparing the moun-
tain road which the Jagmastere had pointed out for what is
termed the shooting line, — that is to say, the line on which

x 2



308 THE SHOOTING LINE.

the dref or driving division was finally to halt, having thus
enclosed the game in the patch of wood between it and the
hallet, which is called the skalplats.

The shooting line was formed, by cutting down the juni-
pers and lower branches of the trees for about twenty yards
on each side of a mountain road which ran parellel to the
front of the position ; but the great labour was to remove
everything that had been cut, for, had such evident traces of j
man's work been left, not one single head of game would
have ventured across the clearing. For this reason, also,
Moodie began his work in this place, leaving the clearing of
his own line for future operations, in order that he might:
give time for the scent to clear away, — and therefore it is, |
that when the shooting line is once formed, no one is ever
permitted to cross till the dref arrives, driving the game
before them.

The peculiar kind of the ground had, in this instance,!
caused the skalplats to be made very much larger than is
usual ; in fact, it was nearly half a mile deep, and very much
more than half a mile in front width — and from this it would
be difficult to dislodge game which had been thoroughly!
frightened. But Moodie's English education had suggested!
a remedy : besides the main shooting line, the axe-men
were instructed to subdivide the skalplats by parallels
" rides," as they are called in an English cover, running from t
front to rear, so that a marksman placed at the end of any
of these would have a fair shot, as the game moved from one
block of forest to another.

All this, however, was a work of time as well as labour,
and though four hundred men were employed about it, and
though they worked as men work who combine pleasure with
duty, the day was far advanced, and the skal had begun for
some hours before Moodie took his final survey, and, dispatch-
ing the Captain and his party to their post in the mountains,
withdrew his workmen to their own position on the reverse
slope of the spur. Having posted his sentries on the crest of
the hill, he dismissed the remainder to procure their suppers,
and to make themselves as comfortable as was consistent
with extreme watchfulness.






THE SEAT OF WAR. 309

Long before any serious impression had been made by
Moodie, on the shooting line, Birger and the remains of his
party had reached his farthest post, having taken his route
along: the crest of the heights. Calculating his time with
military precision, he had visited the heads of all the
different passes, stationing at each a picket, the strength of
which was in proportion to its ascertained importance, or
blocking it up with an abattis of trees — a very easy thing to
do, for the bear, when his suspicions are fairly roused, turns
readily at the slightest appearance of a trap. And now, as
the minute hand of his watch indicated twelve, a fact which
he took care to point out to the Parson, Matthiesen was in
the act of displaying from the branch of a dead fir tree
which overhung the precipice, the long fluttering slip of
white calico, which not only marked out the position of the
pass to those below, but was the agreed signal that it was
occupied.

The day was bright and hot, as a northern summer's day
generally is, and within the cover of the woods not a breath of
wind had been felt ; but on the exposed cliff, where they
:hen stood, or rather lay — for the recumbent was decidedly
:he favourite position ; — a light and refreshing air was just
creeping up the sides of the cliffs, stirring the feathery leaves
)f the birches, but leaving the heavier foliage at rest.

It was a joyous scene, as the eye traversed the tops of the
*reat forest stretched out like a map below, and traced the
lifferent colours of the foliage — here was a thick, close array
)f firs, forming a solid column, of miles in extent — there were
;he serried ranks of the spiry spruce, — here, again, where the
ixe had been at work selecting the best trees and leaving
;he rest to succeed as chance had planted, there was a
)road, park-like expanse full of juniper underwood, bordered, it
nay be, by a belt of birch, the consequences of "some forgotten
ire, or a patch of white poplars, indicating a marshy bit, or
i dozen or so of restless aspens, balancing their leaves when
dl around was still ; — here, again, was a svedgefall, as they
>erm the places where the wind gets under the branches of
.he firs, and levels acres of them together. Sometimes these



310 THE SEAT OF WAR.

form parks of exceeding beauty, as the young trees grow Up
sparsely ; but here and there, where they are too small to be
worth removing, they lie, entangled with weeds and under-
growth, a mass of rottenness and a stronghold of Bruin, out of
which it will sometimes take hours to drive him.

Here and there, too, was a sceter,or, as we are now in Sweden,
a satterval, or mountain pasture farm, with its low roof of
pine-branches and its meadow of rough hay, which generally
stood in large cocks, ready to be removed as soon as the snow
should form a road ; round most of these, groups of cattle
might be seen ; but there was no smoke from their chimneys,
for every human being was at the skal.

Far in the distance, indeed too far to be seen, except
where the sun lighted up its waters and returned a dazzling
reflection, was the river, already guarded by its fleet of boats,
though these were entirely invisible from the cliffs.

To the southward, the range of heights sank gradually
into the plain, which here was traversed by the main road,
cutting both the ridge and the river at right angles.

Beyond this, all was one black, dreary, desolate wilderness,
without a shrub, or a bush, or a blade of grass ; nothing but
bare, grey, ghost-like trunks of dead trees, stretching forth
their charred and blackened branches, and looking as if a
curse was resting on them. Three years ago that blackened
track had been a flourishing pine forest, but the fire had
passed over it, and it was gone. According to a generally
received Swedish superstition, though the birch might sue
ceed it, no pine could grow there again for ever : the burnt
tree had been cursed in itself and in its seed.

This superstition is actually borne out by fact : cut a pine
forest, and a pine-forest succeeds it ; burn a pine -forest, and
the succeeding trees, when they do again clothe the ground
are invariably birch. In reality, this is not so strange as i1
seems at first sight ; the fir is the natural seed of the
country, and the young fir is the hardiest tree, — wherevei
that tree will grow no other can compete with it ; but it*
seed is heavy, and cannot fall far from the parent tree, wher
once vegetation is destroyed, — the fir-seed can never trave.



THE DREF. 311

into the wasted Land; but the birch-seed flies in the wind,
and its young seedlings are invariably the first green which
succeeds a fire.

This black wilderness was one cause among many which
had induced the Jagmastere to select this particular spot for
his skal ; no game would willingly break through his line
when they knew that miles of uncovered country must be
traversed before they could again find shelter. He had,
therefore, that morning marshalled his dref along the high
road, by placing them in position there, and numbering their
hats as they stood, from the centre to each flank ; but, true
to his word, no sooner had the white flag fluttered from
Birger's post, than his bugle sounded the advance along his
whole line, and the skal was already begun.

The Parson and Birger, whose work for that morning was
done, were seated on the outer ridge, with their feet fairly
overhanging the precipice, reconnoitring with their glasses the
progress of the dref, as here and there the men emerged into
a more open space, which the skalfogdar were taking ad-
vantage of, in order to reform or repair their line, and
re-establish their communications with the parties right and
left of them.

Every now and then a sudden shout, followed by half-a-
dozen shots, marking the place by a light puff of smoke,
(Swedish powder makes plenty of that), would point the
glasses to some particular spot, — but on no occasion was any
game visible from above.

According to law, all shouting is strictly forbidden in
skals,- and so is firing at small game, and so is the presence
of women or boys, upon the express count that they are too
noisy ; but these laws seem to have been made for no other
purpose except that the people might enjoy the pleasure of
hunting and breaking the law at the same time, for no one
ever thinks of keeping them ; shouting is incessant, women
are plentiful, and, as for shooting at small game, the best
chance a cock-robin stands of his life consists in the very
great probability of a Swedish piece missing fire, or a
Swedish marksman missing his aim.

And, indeed, it is universally admitted by the moderns



312 THE DREF.

that their forefathers were in error ; that not only shouts and
musketry are useful in keeping up the men's pluck and
pointing out to each other their whereabouts, but they are
positively of advantage in driving the game. When the ring
is once completed, either by artificial or natural means, and
the game is fairly surrounded, it is far better that it should
be aroused by distant shouts, and should be suffered to slink
off quietly and unseen, approaching by degrees the hallet,
where, after all, it must be brought up by the standing line,
than that it should be surprised by the dref advancing in
silence. A startled bear is just as likely to bolt backwards
as forwards, and, if he does, the chances are that he gets off
scot free. He must be an unlucky bear, indeed, who, at the
earlier part of a skal, and before the men have closed in,
charges the line and gets more than one shot at him ; and a
most particularly unlucky bear must he be if that shot takes
effect, whereas it is just as likely to take effect on some
Jan or Karl, who stands with his eyes and mouth open as
the " Disturber " rushes by, — and thus affords, in his own
person, the only chance of a sitting shot, which Swedes
delight in ; — indeed, this is almost the only way in which
accidents do happen in'skals ; the bear very seldom revenges
himself, but he now and then gets people to do it for
him.

The Parson sat reclining against a rock, very much at his
ease, sometimes watching the progress of the skal, sometimes
picking off the stalks from a quantity of ground-mulberries*
which he had gathered during that morning's march.
Indeed, the Parson, in the course of that march, had succeeded
in making a very pretty figure of himself : his knowledge
of botany amounted simply to a desire of appropriating to
himself every unusual flower he came across ; so that by the
end of the day his hat, which was of that description popu-
larly known as a wide-awake, was generally surrounded by a
garland fit for a May-queen.

In the present instance, the front of his hat exhibited a
purple plume of the " laf-reseda," which perfumed the air

* Rubies Cltamazmorus ; cr.lled in the country, Moltebar.



THE ORDNINGSMAN. 313

around him with an odour like that of the night-scented
stock. He had placed it there not so much for that or for
its beauty, as because, like the ground-mulberry, it is never
seen south of the latitude in which they then were — not even
in the south of Sweden. Twining round the hat-band was a
wreath of " Baldur's brow," a beautiful white flower, dedi-
cated in heathen times to the god of Innocence, and still
bearing his name, and retaining a portion of its ancient
sanctity.* The lily of the valley, which in Sweden signifies
much the same as it does in England, formed its appropriate
companion ; and so might the heart' s-ease, which fairly tinged
the hill sides with blue and yellow, had it retained any
equivalent to its English appellation ; but in Sweden it is
called " skart-blom," and is appropriated to the Devil. It is
the flower the witches decorate themselves with when they
ride by night to the Satanic rendezvous, and dance infernal
polkas in the wilds of Blaakulla.

" See !" said Birger, " look at that white flag ! there it is,
glancing against the corner of those firs in the svedgefall ;
now you see another in a line with it, — that is the Ordnings-
man and his party; he marks the centre of the advancing
line. Before they started, the Jagmastere will have given
him his precise bearing from the centre of the hallet, and
his business is to attend neither to the bears nor to the
beating, but to advance steadily on his own line ; for that
purpose he has those three flagsmen allotted to him. There,
you see that fellow on the farther edge of the svedge-
fall, showing his flag from that black-looking fir? — look
through your glass, and you will easily make out the
Ordningsman himself ; there he is, with his compass in his
hand, close by the farthest flag ; he is taking the bearings of
the first man that we made out ; and there is the third now
advancing to take up a new position. What he has to do is
to keep those flags always in the straight line, and all the
rest dress from him."

Just then, the Jagmastere rode, or rather clambered, into
the svedgefall on his little cream-coloured pony, which,

* Baldur's Eye-brow — Anthemis Cotula. — Linn.



814 THE ADVANCE.

accustomed to the work, scrambled about the fallen trees
more like a dog than a horse. He was attended by a large
party on foot ; one of these, who might be termed his
orderly, had to lead his horse round by the forest cattle tracks,
whenever it happened, as it very frequently did happen, that
the under-stufF was too thick for a horseman to traverse.

His right wing, which had been beating the easier and
more open country towards the river, had got some distance
in advance, and he was evidently directing the Ordningsman
to halt in the svedgefall till the left had time to come up.
Messengers were dispatched right and left ; the bugles began
to sound, some the " advance" and some the " halt," and those
parts of the line which had begun to emerge from the trees,
were seen collecting in little groups in different attitudes of
rest, lighting their pipes, or visiting their havresacs for their
mid-dag's mad of black bread and hard white cheese.

Before long the left wing, the advanced flank of which
was under their feet, made itself to be both heard and seen.
The ground here was much more difficult, because at the