Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

. (page 28 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

immediate foot of the cliff the debris of ages had formed
themselves into a very steep slope. This part, rugged and
uneven with fallen blocks of stone, was covered with a close
brake of underwood, not only of juniper, but of hazels and
rowan bushes, all matted together by brambles, — as well as
birch and ash, the last ot which, winding its long roots among
the stones, had in most places attained the dignity of timber

Well aware that every head of game disturbed along the
whole line would, if possible, seek refuge here, the Jagmiis-
tere had intended that his left wing should be thrown for-
ward, and had allotted a hundred men, under the most
experienced of his Adjutanter, to search the ground well,
keeping a mile or so in advance of the line. The eagerness
of the men on first starting had somewhat disturbed this
arrangement, for at the beginning the cover, along the greater
part of the line, had consisted of firs, which not only screened
the men from the eyes of their officers, but, by destroying the
under-stuff, permitted them to get forwards without any great
exertion. It was to rectify this that the halt had been called.


"What is that 1 ?" said the Parson, jumping up and scat-
tering half his mulberries down the precipice, as a rush of
wings came sharp round the corner of the rock, and a great
cock-tjader. as big as a turkey, came clo^e over his head, and
dashed into the firs that crested the bill.

" That," said Birger, unslinging his ride, " that is a hint
that we ought to keep a better look-out ; — not that we should
have had that fellow though, for, awkward and heavy as
they seem, they rush along like a round shot, when once they
get into their flight. But never mind, we shall have more
of them presently — mind where you shoot, though, if you use
your rifle, — there will be a peasant or two knocked over
before we have done, most likely. We do not think much
of that, but you would not like to be playing Archbishop
Abbott * yourself, would you 1 "

The Parson laughed, as he examined and poised his double-
barrelled gun — for the rifle was in the charge of Torkel, —
and made a successful right and left shot among a covey of
orre grouse that were skimming over the tree-tops at his

" Oh, if you stick to small shot," said Birger, who had
despatched a human retriever down the watercourse to pick
up the birds, " you may fire away in the men's faces if you
like ; there is not a Swede who would not stand the chance
of a peppered jacket, to be able to pick up an article of
game," — a sentiment fully confirmed by the grinning faces of
the picket, for whose benefit he had translated his words.

" But we are not likely to have bears coming up to us, if
we keep up such a popping as this/' said the Parson.

* The Puritan Abbott, Archbishop of Canterbury, got into great
trouble from his sporting propensities. One day, as he was shooting
with Lord de le Zouch, at Branshill Park, he shot a keeper. According
to canon law, a clergyman killing a man becomes, from that time forward,
incapable of performing any clerical function ; and three Bishops elect
refused consecration at his hand, — "Not," as they said, " out of en-
mity or superstition, but to be wary that they might not be attainted
with the contagion of his scandal and uncanonical condition." He was
re-instated by a committee of Bishops, appointed for the purpose, but
never entirely recovered his position.


" c A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush ;' if there
are bears within the skal, depend upon it we shall get them,
sooner or later. Fire away ! most of us like a broiled grouse
for supper."

" Here goes for the bird of Yggdrasil," as a magnificent
peregrine falcon came floating through the air, as if by the
the mere act of volition ; " he shall never sit again between
the eyes of the eagle."*

Birger had, however, miscalculated his distance, for the
bird, taking no more notice of his shot than if they had been
hailstones, sailed quietly on his course, without turning to
the right or left.

" The bird of the gods bears a charmed life," said the
Parson, " it is no use firing at him. Come, load away ! look
sharp, or you will lose your next chance."

Game, however, is nowhere very plentiful, either in Norway
or in Sweden ; and though every eye in the picket was on
the look-out, nothing more was seen, except a blue Alpine
hare, that came quietly lopping up the watercourse, and sat
on its hind legs, innocently looking Matthiesen in the face
during the minute and half in which he was taking aim ;
the shot, however, was successful at last, and puss was destined
to supply the evening kettle.

" If you want a chance at big game," said Birger, " I will
tell you what you should do; it is altogether against the
law, no doubt — and that is one of the few laws relating to
skals that ought to be observed ; — but if you were to slip
down one of these watercourses with Torkel, and take your
course quietly and silently through the fjeld, keeping four or
five miles a head of the dref, more unlikely things have hap-
pened than that you should set your eyes upon some beast
or other stealing off. You have got your compass, and you
cannot be lost in a little strip of a forest like this, not half a
dozen miles across. Besides, every stream you come to runs

* According to Scandinavian mythology, the sacred ash of Yggdrasil,
which typifies the Vital Principle of the world, has seated on its topmost
houghs an eagle, bearing perched between his eyes a falcon, — emblem-
atic of Energy and Activity.


from our pickets, which you may always reach by following
it. You can always distinguish them in the day-time by
their flags, and if you should be overtaken by night — "

" If I should," said the Parson, " there is nothing I should
like better. Torkel will soon get up a fire. I have plenty
of provisions in my havresac, and a little of the contraband,
too," he added, shaking his bottle ; " they forgot to search
me ; so that if we should be out at night, we will try if we
cannot make a night of it."

" So be it, then," said Birger ; " be early at the Captain's
post, that is all, for you may depend upon it, if I know any-
thing of the lie of the country, there will be sport there long
before the dref comes up. You will probably find me there
before you."

" Au revoir, then," said the Parson, as he swung himself
off the cliff on which he had been sitting, into the boughs of
an ash, and thus dropped into the watercourse ; down this
he disappeared, with Torkel after him, floundering, crashing,
and rolling the stones before him.




u 'Tis merry, 'tis merry, in good greenwood,
Though the birds have stilled their singing ;
The evening blaze doth Alice raise,
And Richard is faggots bringing."

Alice Brand.

Avoiding the advanced column of the dref, which had halted
just short of the watercourse, the Parson and his follower
took a line nearly parallel to that of the hills. It is no easy
thing to beat a Swedish forest, for there are every now and
then thick-tangled brakes, and grass-grown svedgefalls, and
occasionally, it may be, a little lake to break the line, causing
perpetual halts, since one part must necessarily wait for
another. But simply making a passage through a Swedish
forest is almost as easy as walking on plain turf : — here
there will be a wide patch of high pines, under which nothing
will grow, — then there will be actual green glades of consi-
derable length, with short mountain turf, broken only by tufts
of lilies of the valley, or, perhaps, whortleberry or cranberry
plants; and everywhere, when the trees are young, or have
been cut, and the understuff has been permitted to come
up thick, the whole space is intersected by cattle paths, — for
all the fjeld is divided into sceters belonging to the lowland
farms, forming the summer runs for their cattle.

The Parson and his follower, therefore, had no difficulty
in leaving the whole line behind them, so that first their
shouts and then the reports of their firearms were lost in the
distance, and the forest, soon to be so busy with life, looked
as quiet and lonely as if it never could echo sounds louder
than the coo of the wood-pigeon.


After five or six miles' walking, the closeness of the air
under the trees began to tell upon them — more especially as
this afternoon's excursion had been preceded by a morning's
walk of sixteen or seventeen miles, and neither of them felt
at all sorry when, in a natural opening of the forest, the
rough enclosures of a sceter came into view.

" Come," said Torkel, " we shall get some brandy here,
anyhow." He was mistaken, however, for no living thing
was to be found there, except a dog tied to a stump (for
dogs are strictly forbidden in skals), that at first made the
forest ring with its barking, but soon became reconciled to
the intruders by that sort of free-masonry, whatever be the
cause of it, which always exist between a dog and a sports-

" At all events, they must have milk here," he said, "and
I am not sure whether, just now, I had not rather find milk
than brandy."

The Parson laughed at Torkel's unusual feelings of so-
briety, but quite participated in his long'ng for milk. This
they found, and plenty of it, for the single room of the
cabin was full of vessels, shoved in anywhere, as if the
milkers had been in such a hurry to complete a task which
they could not have neglected without spoiling their cows,
that they had not given themselves time to put their milk

Torkel went down on his hands and knees, put his mouth
into a bucket that stood near the door, and drank away as if
— like Odin, when he wheedled Gunlauth into letting him
take a sip from the cup of poetic inspiration — he meant to
drain it to the very bottom, and then set to upon a sort of
cake that he found strung upon a cord between two of the
rafters, which looked something like a number of round,
thin discs, of semi-transparent paste, with holes punched out
of the centre to hang them up by,


* According to the Prose Edda, the gods had originally no poetry in
their souls. The mead of Poetic Inspiration was in the keeping of the
giant Suttung, who entrusted it to his daughter, Gunlauth. Odin made
love to her, — obtained possession of the mead, and deserted her. He
had, however, the grace to be ashamed of himself, for these are the


The Parson, who was not less thirsty and exhausted,
evinced a little more moderation than this " hog of the flock
of Epicurus /' he was content with filling his horn occasionally
at the milkpail, and floating in it a handful of cranberries,
bushels of which were growing wherever a glimpse of sun-
shine could penetrate the canopy of foliage, "incarnading"
with their red berries the turf of the whole forest, " and
making the green one red."

The refreshment was, as Torkel had observed, better than
brandy, and both felt quite sufficiently invigorated for a Iresh
journey ; but their present quarters looked very comfort-
able, — the shadows of the evening were fast lengthening,
and they had already advanced far beyond any point which
the skal could be expected to reach that day. They re-
mained, therefore, comfortably sitting on the rail fence, and
looking down the grassy glade, without any intention of going
farther that night. Since diving into the forest they had not
seen a head of game of any kind, except a flock (for it hardly
deserved a more sportsman-like appellation) of the smaller
description of grouse, which Torkel, whose eyes were every-
where, had detected on the higher branches of one of the
trees. Three of these the Parson had brought down in the
most pot-hunting and unsportsman-like fashion, by getting
them into a line as they sat, and bringing them down as
a boy massacres fieldfares. These Torkel was indolently

words of the Havamal, in which he evidently alludes to this not very
creditable passage in his life : —

"Gunlauth gave me,
On a golden chair seated,
A draught of mead delicious ;
But the return was evil
Which she experienced, —
With all her faithfulness —
With all her deep love !

"A holy ring oath
I mind me gave Odin, —
Now, who can trust him]
Suttung is cheated —
His mead is stolen —
Gunlautb is weeping!"


picking, and preparing for the frying-pan, an article which is
generally to be found in a sceter, while, at the same time, he
kept a professional eye on the glade. The Parson, sitting
beside him, was as indolently pulling off the fruit of the
hagg, a sort of wild cherry, a clump of which overshadowed
the fence on which they were sitting, and afforded them a
partial cover from any quick-sighted animal coming up from
the forest.

" I do not like these great summer skals," said he. "If you
really want to see sport you should come here in the winter,
when the snow is on the ground, — that is the time for a man to
set his wits against 'old Fur Jacket,' — to ring him in the snow
— to look out for his den — to turn him out — to dash after him
through the snow on our skier — to follow him day after day
— to camp on his track — and after him again as soon as
day breaks, and at last, after a week's hunting, perhaps, to
run in upon him and put a rifle-ball upon his head. All
this too is done quietly, — a party of two or three at the
most, — not mobbing the poor devil to death in this fashion,
— that is the thins: that tries a man's talents as a hunter.
In such a skal as this, one of those squalling women could
knock over a bear as well as the best of us, if she happened
to meet with him ; he very seldom shows fight, either, in the
summer time, — he sees he is overmatched, and gives it up as a
bad job ; but in the winter, you may as well have a firm
heart and a steady hand before you bring your rifle to bear,
and you would be none the worse for a stout comrade to
stand beside you, with pike and knife."

" The bear does charge them sometimes V said the

" Yes, if hit," said Torkel, " or if he thinks you have got
him into a corner, otherwise he would always rather run
than fight. I remember one journey I had with two young
Englishmen a few years ago ; we went to shoot in Nordre
Trondhjemsampt ; — ah ! you should go there if you want
shooting. I never saw such a place for grouse of all kinds,
— aye, and for deer too. Well, these Englishmen were
always wanting to find a bear, — they would not be satisfied
with the very best of sport, they kept saying that it would



never do to come from Norway without having a bearskin to
show their friends, — for all these Englishmen seem to think
that bears are the common game of the country."

" We shot deer and grouse as many as we pleased, but we
did not so nmch as hear of a bear till we had given up shoot- :
ing altogether, and were travelling home, which we did
by the road through Ostersund, Hernosand, and Gefle.
When we got to the post-house at Skalstuga, the first on the
Swedish side of the mountains ; early in the morning, long
before it was light, the cow-boy came in ciying, and said
that a bear had just killed one of the cows. Off goes one of -
our Englishmen, half naked, with his gun in his hand, just
as if he had nothing bigger to shoot than a hare. I caught •
up an axe that was lying there and ran after him. Up he
comes, and stands right in the bear's path, just as if he cared
no more for him than for a big dog, and fires away two barrel* i
right in his face. Lord 1 it was nothing but small shot, such
as he had been shooting grouse with, and the bear came at
Mm like Thor's hammer. Just in the way, as luck would
have it, stood a sapling fir-tree ; and I never could tell whe-
ther the bear was blinded by the smoke, or whether some of i
the small shot had taken him about the i eyes, but he seemed
to take the tree for that which had hurt him, and he reared
himself up against it, and shook it, and fixed his teeth,
in it, and shook it again, and seemed to mind nothing else,
till I stole up quietly behind him and drove the axe
into his skull. The Englishman never seemed to care a
bit about the danger he had escaped ; all he said was,
'•' Got him at last !" " That's the ticket !" and shoved into my
hand more yellow and green notes than ever I saw there
before or since ; and, for all he was so free with his money,
he went to the Lansman at Ostersund and got the bear's
nose sealed, and touched the Government reward for it, just
like one of us, and then he tossed the money to me, and told
me to get drunk upon it."

" Which you did, I'll be sworn," said the Parson.

" I believe I did !" said Torkel ; " I was not fairly sober
for a good three days after it."

" Hist ! what is that," said he, dropping, as he spoke, on


the inside of the fence, and motioning the Parson to do so

A wolf came lolloping along with the slovenly gallop in
which that disreputable beast usually travels, looking as if it
had sat up all night drinking and was not quite sober yet.
The Parson laid down his gun, and quietly taking his rifle from
Torkel, cocked it, and lodged it upon an opening between the
planks. The wolf had not seen them, but came shambling
on, when, either scenting his enemies, or knowing by expe-
rience the ineligibility of a path near fences, he edged away
towards the close covert, showing a portion of his ungainly
side at a long shot, and though looking as if he were lame of
all four legs at the same time, clearing the ground with his
immense and untiring strides faster than any dog could have
followed him.

Crack went the Parson's rifle ; but whether the wolf was
hit, or whether he knew what a rifle-shot meant, or whether
he so much as heard it, or saw the smoke, it was all the same ;
his course was not altered, his pace was neither relaxed nor
quickened, he went lolloping on, just as when he was first
seen, and, as much at his ease as ever, disappeared in the
forest not a hundred yards from them.

" Missed him, by all that is unlucky !" said the Parson,
jumping up.

" There is no knowing," said Torkel ; " if you had hit him
it would have been all the same. Unless the shot strikes a
part immediately vital they take no notice of it."

There was evidently nothing to be done ; and, indeed, the
probabilities were that the Parson really had missed, for
there was not a vestige of blood to be seen on the turf ; and
as the shades were closing in and the woods were getting too
dark to see anything, they returned to their comfortable
quarters, and, by bringing in one of the cocks of rushy hay,
they succeeded in making up on the floor of the hut two
couches, much more luxurious than anything they had en-
joyed since leaving Gaddeb ck.

" That will do," said Torkel ; " it is a great piece of luck
that we happened upon this sceter. We shall make a
much better cookery of our grouse here than we should have

y 2


done under a tree in the fjeld. There must be a frying-pan
here somewhere, if we had only light to find it by."

" Why do you not light the fire V said the Parson : " that
will give you light enough, for this fuel is as dry as tinder,
and good honest birch, too, with some heart in it. You
must have a fire for cooking, whether you want it for light
or not, so heap up the hearth-stone at once."

This was done as soon as said ; and to the cheerful
blaze of dry and crackling fir succeeded the steady, candle-like
; flame of the birch, lighting up the remotest corners, and
. glancing on that indispensable requisite of mountain life
which Torkel had been seeking. Fresh butter, just from the
churn, is not altogether uneatable even in Sweden, and be-
sides, hunger is not nice ; the Parson consumed, with con-
siderable relish, his own share of the grouse, and only wished
they had been as big as black game, or tjader. Brandy
there certainly must have been somewhere in the hut, for
there never was a Swedish hut without ; but so well was it
hidden, that all Torkel's experience failed to bring it to light,
and, very much to the Parson's delight, they were reduced to
milk, of which there was enough to supply the whole skal.

" Well," said the Parson, who had succeeded in twisting
up his hay into a sort of chaise-longue, with a well-formed
cushion for his back, " I did not expect to have a roof ov<
my head ; I must say this is a real piece of luxury. Why
are better off than the Captain with his tents ; everythii
we want to our hands, and no host to ask for a reckoning.'

" That would not be over safe in the Harclanger-fjeld," sai
Torkel ; "but I suppose Sweden is another thing : indeed, ii
Norway it is only on the Hardanger that the thing is per-

" What is permitted ?" said the Parson.

" Why the ghosts of the damned," said Torkel, " are per-
mitted to wander about the Hardanger as they please. Nc
great favour after all, as you would say if you had ever seer
the place ; and when they see travellers coming they buik
comfortable huts by the way- side, with fires burning, anc
dry clothes, and plenty of brandy and good provisions, anc
everything a man wants in order to make himself comfortable


It would be pretty much of a temptation anywhere, and you
may fancy what it is on that exposed and treeless waste, where,
whenever it is not raining it is snowing, and if it is not snow-
ing it is raining. But if a man once enters and accepts the
hospitality, he is lost, — the rushing wind carries away the
house and all that is in it, and the travellers are never heard
of more."

" You never happened upon a ghost-house yourself, did
you ?" said the Parson.

" I never did," said Torkel, " though I have been a good
deal on the Hardanger-fjeld in my day ; it is a capital place
for ripar. But the truth is, these things are not so frequent
as they used to be. My father, though, once passed a very
uncomfortable night on the fj eld, and he never could make
out, to his dying day, whether the ghosts had or had not any-
thing to do with it."

" How was that % n said the Parson, as he threw another
log on the fire, and stirred the embers into a good ghost-
story-telling blaze.

" In those days," said Torkel, " we lived near Bykle, on
the upper Torjedahl, and grew a good deal of barley which
we could not very well consume ourselves, and had no means
to transport to Christiansand, where generally there is a pretty
good market for it. So my father set up a still, and drove a
good thriving trade with the country about Jordbrakke and
Skore, exchanging our brandy for their salt fish, an article
which is scarce enough in the Tellemark. My father used
generally to meet a trader, of the name of Nilssen, at what
is called a post-house, situated on a ridge that divides the
Torjedahl from the waters that flow into Wester Hafvet (the
North Sea). Why they called it a post-house I am sure I
do not know, for there is not a horse within a day's journey
of it, nor a post-master neither, nor, indeed, any one else.
It was built by Government, no doubt, but you seldom saw
anything so bad at a common sceter. One miserable room
of ten feet square, the walls built of dry stones, with the
wind whistling in at one side and out at the other, which
was the only means of carrying off the smoke. Fuel there
was, and straw there was, for Government provides that,


and the post-master of the next station is responsible that
there shall always be a store of both ; but Government says
nothing about the quality, and we used generally to find the
green bog myrtle which grows there, bad as it is, better fuel
and better bedding than either of them.

" One evening, about eight o'clock, my father arrived at j
the usual place, having appointed a meeting with Nilssen,
but when he came there he could nowhere find the hut. He
recognised the place well enough, there was no missing that ; J
there was the deep still lake, the waters of which contained
no living thing, — there it was, as black as ever ; there, too,
was that old mass of whinstone, which used to form the back
of the hut, and always had a stream of moisture trickling
down it, but no house was to be seen, and, what made mat-
ters worse was, that a thick mountain mist had come on,
with driving rain, which felt as if every spiteful little drop
was a needle. My father looked disconsolately along the