Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

. (page 29 of 36)
Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 29 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

track, and fancied he saw, through the blinding fog, the
gleam of a fire ; he went on some fifty yards, and there, sure
enough, was a nice comfortable hut, water-tight and weather-
tight, with the door wide open, a bright fire on the hearth,
and two or three rounds of flad brocl and a Dutch cheese on
the great stone in the middle which did duty for a table, —
but not a soul was there.

" My father was not easily frightened ; he was an old
sailor, and had helped to catch many of your English traders
during the last war. He could have looked down the throat
of a cannon, and did pretty near, for he was on board the
Najaden when the Dictator sank her ; but he did not much
fancy being damned, for all that. So he looked and looked
at the merry blaze that smiled its welcome through the door,
and watched the cheese and the fladbrod which seemed to be
dancing in its light, but for all that he laid himself down
under the lee of a rock, and cold, and wet, and miserable,
wished for morning, for the wind blew, and the rain kept
pelting away all night, till he thought it would have floated
him, rock and all, into the Normand's Laagen ; and there, all
the time, was the fire blazing away, till it subsided into a
glowing heap of red-hot embers.


" Towards morning he fell into a miserable sleep, and when
he woke up the mist was gone, the sun was shining brightly,
and there was not a shred of cloud to be seen. The first
thing he put his eyes upon was Nilssen, coming up from the
shores of the lake, and looking as wet, and as cold, and as
wretched as he was.

" ' Ah,' said Nilssen, ' so you have been lost in the fog,
like me. My misfortune was all my own fault, too. I got here
yesterday in very good time, and lighted the fire, and made
all comfortable, and then I must needs be fool enough to
start after a covey of ripar, that I did not get a shot at after
all ; and then the mist came on, and I could not find my
•way back. A wretched night I have passed, I can tell you.'

" t What,' said my father, ' was it you who lighted that

" ' To be sure I did,' said Nilssen, ' who else should 1 Men
are not so plentiful in this cursed place.'

" ' And you are not damned, after all 1 '

" < Not that I know of,' said Nilssen.

" ' That is not the old hut, though, I will take my oath.'

" ' No,' said Nilssen, i it is not ; the other was very nearly
to pieces, as you may recollect, when we were last here. The
roof fell in not a month after that, and then the authorities
of the three Ampts contrived to settle their differences, and
do what they ought to have done years ago — build a new one
at their joint expense. They have not made a bad job of it.
Come in, you are cold enough.'

" ' And I have been lying out in this cursed rain and wind
all night,' said my father, ' with a good fire before my eyes,
and a warm roof within fifty yards of me, fancying all the
while that you were damned, and that you wanted to take
me off to the Devil along with you ! What a confounded
fool I have been f

" But I am not sure that my father was such a fool either,"
continued Torkel, " for Nilssen died very soon after that ; in
fact, he had caught a bad cold during that night, and as he
had sold us a lot of bad fish, I have no doubt he toas damned ;
at all events, it is quite true that from that day forward my
father was never entirely free from the rheumatism, and this


in his latter days, when lie began to get religious, he always
attributed to the sight of the fire in the post-house ; for he
never was without his misgivings that Nilssen had been
damned before he met him. He once went as far as Hardnses
to ask the priest about it, and he said that the idea was new
to him, certainly, but that he would not take upon himself
to pronounce it impossible. To the very end of his life, my
father used to congratulate himself upon the fortitude and
self-denial he had evinced during that terrible night, 'because/
said he, * if the bare sight of that fire through the mist was
visited so severely, no one can say what would have been the
consequence had I sat by it all night.' "

" No," said the Parson, solemnly, " no one can."

" You see," said Torkel, " the whole question hinges on the
fact whether Nilssen was damned or not ; now he certainly
did take us in about the fish — we were obliged to throw
away half of it. I should like very much to have your
opinion on the subject."

" Why," said the Parson, gravely, " will you take upon
yourself to say, on your conscience, as a Christian man, that
there was no potato-haulm in the wash from which your
brandy was distilled ? "

Torkel laughed, and rubbed his hands at the recollection.
" No," said he, " that I will not ; I do not think the old
scoundrel made much by us, after all."

" Well, if that is the case, I do not think, if I were you, I
would be too hard upon poor Nilssen about the next world.
But you ought to be able to judge for yourself whether the
laager was a ghost-house or not ; what became of it 1 "

" O, there it is still," said Torkel. " I have slept in ifc
often myself since, and no harm has happened from it. But
all that hill-country is a terrible place. Do you know, the
Evil One once leaped over the Tind So, where it is four miles
across 1 He did, indeed ; I have seen the prints of his foot-
steps with my own eyes — and a very curious thing it is, that
one foot is bigger than the other. Our Kyrkesonger says it
is to mark the difference between mortal and venial sins."

" I am afraid your Kyrkesonger will never rise to the rank
of Candidatus," said the Parson, " if he does not get up his


theology a little better. Is not this the place where your
witches meet 1 ?"

" It is not far from it ; and it is generally supposed that it
was in hurrying away from one of these meetings, which was
suddenly dispersed by some one having accidentally named a
holy name, that the Devil left the mark of his feet on the
shores of the Tind So ; but the actual place of meeting is the
top of Gousta Fjeld. The ridge of the mountain is so narrow
that you may sit astride on it, with a leg on each side in the
air, and no resting-place under either foot for a thousand
fathoms. On this ridge the Devil sits playing on the bag-
pipe, while the witches dance the polska round him in the
air. They come from all parts of the country, riding upon
the skyts-horse, which looks like a flying cow, and carrying
with them all the children they can catch, in order to enlist
them in the Devil's service ; for each witch has a needle, by
which she unlocks the sides of the houses, and makes an
opening, if she likes, big enough for a carriage and horses to
pass through \ and after she has passed, she locks them up so
that no one can know where she has been. When she
arrives at the convent — so the assembly is called, — she pre-
sents to the Devil all those children whom she has brought
with her : she cannot force the children to take service
with him, — some refuse, and the witches are obliged to carry
them back again. These are good and holy people ever
afterwards ; but most of them do enter the Devil's service,
for though he is bound down with a chain, which he has
always worn ever since our Lord came upon earth, yet he
can make himself look so fine and so glorious that very few
of them like to say 'no,' and to go back to their homes
through the dark night. If they once say ' yes,' he gives
them a silver dollar each, and marks them, by biting the
crown of their heads ; and then they are taught to curse all
that is holy — the Heaven, and the earth, and the fruits of
the field, and the birds of the air, — all except the magpie, for
that is the Devil's own peculiar favourite. And then the
witches make them a mess of ro-grod, with corn that has
been stolen. They have a way of their own for stealing corn :


they put a sack to the roof of the granary as they fly past,
and say " Corn draw corn, and straw draw straw," and then
all the corn flies up into their sacks, and the straw remains
behind. I know this to be true, for I have lost lispund after
lispund myself that way. I had a girl in my service once,
who was a witch, and I lost as much as three tonne of corn,
and a great many things besides, while she was with me.
But she vanished one night and has never been heard of
since, and with her a great scoundrel, who had lately come
into our parts, whom she called her lover, — but the people
said he was the Devil in disguise."

« Very likely," said the Parson, " lovers very often are ;
but what about your witch children V

" When they have done all this, the Devil gives notice of
the next convent, and the witches take the children, and
they grow up with their brothers and sisters just like any
of the others, only that they are cross-grained children from
that time forward, and are always getting into one mischief
or another, and quarrelling, and fighting, and stealing, and
lying, and doing the Devil's work on earth • for they have
all had new names given them at the convent, and whenever
the Devil calls them by those names, they must go and do
whatever work he sets them at, for they have taken his
wages, and, having once engaged to be his servants, they
cannot help themselves now."

The Parson felt by no means inclined to laugh at Torkel's
demonology, every bit of which may be found gravely and
solemnly recorded in the State papers of Sweden, for it once
formed the grounds of accusation upon which men and
women were executed by the dozen ; for with the exception
of the material and tangible facts, the cow-like horse, and
the silver dollar, and the ridge of Gousta, and the bagpipes,
the whole of Torkel's story was but an over-true allegory,
the antitype of which may be found everywhere in real life;
and the fact of the Superior Power compelling the restoration
of all who do not willingly engage in the Devil's service, is
a very sound piece of theology. So he very readily joined
in the prayer of the Evening Hymn, a very ancient compo-


sition, dating from centuries before the Reformation, which
Torkel sang as well and as heartily as if he had been kyrke-
songer himself. A portion of it has been thus translated : —

"Ere thy head, at close of day,
On thy lowly conch thou lay,
On thy forehead and thy breast
Be the Cross of Christ impressed.

"Sin and shame, like shades of night,
Fade before the Cross's light, —
Hallowed thus, the wavering will
And the troubled heart are still.

"Far, far hence, dark phantoms fly, —
Haunting demons come not nigh, —
Ever waiting to betray,
Arch Deceiver, hence ! — away !

" Serpent ! with thy thousand coils,
With thy many winding wiles,
With thy deep, meandering arts,
Ruffling calm and quiet hearts;

" Hence ! — for Christ, yea, Christ is here, —
At His token disappear ;

Lo ! the sign thou well hast known
Bids thy cursed crew begone ! "

It is a fact that the Gousta Fjeld and the Tind So, a very large and
lonely lake at its foot, are popularly supposed to be the resort of the
Devil and his adherents. The author, however, has not been able to
meet with any authentic accounts of the diabolical convents in Norway.
He has, therefore, substituted those of Sweden, the locality of which
is Blaakuila, in Dalecarlia. These are quoted by Frederika Bremer
from the manuscript of Kronigsward, which details the judicial murders
which took place under Councillor Lawrence Kreutz, in 1671, — were
continued for three years, and were suppressed at last by the exertions
of Countess Cathai'ine de la Gardie. But, though the executions for
witchcraft were put an end to, the belief in it is as rife as ever. The
same book contains a laughable story of a supposed witch residing in
the island of Sollezo, in the Silya Sjbn, and of her recovery ; which
proves that the clergy of Sweden have not lost their power as exorcists.
Not many years ago, a young girl of that island asserted positively that
she was conveyed every evening to Blaakuila. Her parents, who were
honest but simple folks, were much disturbed about it. They closely



watched their daughter by night, — bound her fast in bed with cords, —
but nothing would avail ; for, in the morning, weeping bitterly, she
still maintained she had been at Blaakulla. At last, her unhappy
parents took her to the clergyman upon the island, and begged him,
with earnest tears, to save their child from the claws of Satan. After
having had several interviews with the maiden, the clergyman one day
said to her, " 1 know a remedy, — a certain remedy to cure you ! but it
will give me much trouble. Yet, as nothing else appears to be of any
avail, we will have recourse to it." With much solemnity, he caused
the girl to seat herself upon a commodious chair in the centre of the
apartment, took up a " Cornelius Nepos," and began reading one of
the lives. Before he had finished, she fell fast asleep ; and when she-
awoke, the clergyman told her she was cured — and she was so !




"Unstable are autumn nights, —
The weather changes
Much in five clays —
Still more in a month."


" Praise the day at eventide,
The wife when she is dead,
The sword when thou hast proved it,
The maid when she is married,
Ice when thou hast crossed it,
Ale when thou hast di'unken it."


Probably their couches were softer than usual, — probably the
fact of their being under a roof where the sun could not
shine on their faces, might have prolonged their slumbers ;
but the fact is, the cock, had there been one at the sceter,
which there was not, would have "had his boots on"* a very
long while before either the Parson or his follower had opened
their eyes ; and when they did open them, it was some time
before either of them could recollect where they were,
Swedes are not over fond of open air, and though their
glazed windows in the towns are large enough and numerous
enough to prove that no ingenious chancellor of the ex-
chequer had ever devised a tax upon their light, yet in the
f j eld, where glass is scarce, windows are scarce too, and the
few that there are, are generally stuffed with hay. In the
present case, though the sun was well above the trees, there
was not light enough to see the smoky rafters over head, or
the scarcely less dirty strings of Had brod which were

* A Norwegian slang expression, for "early rising."


dangling from them : but all round the building there was
a perpetual ringing of bells, from the great cracked bass to
to the little tinkling treble ; the sheep, scared by the
noises and the fires, had wandered home during the night,
and the cows were collecting round the door of the sceter in
hopes of being milked, which hopes, for one or two of them,
at least, were speedily realized, — for Torkel, taking the
bucket that had been well-nigh drained over night, pro-
ceeded very composedly to milk them, just as if he were in
his own sceter in the Teilemark, observing quietly that new
milk was better than old.

In Sweden, as well as in Norway, every animal turned out
on a mountain pasture has a bell round its neck ; certain
esprits forts (all of whom do it, notwithstanding, as well as
their more credulous neighbours) assert stoutly that it is to
enable the girls to find them among the trees ; but as cows
generally keep together, and sheep do so, invariably, one bell
would be quite sufficient for the purpose. The more probable
solution is that given honestly in the Teilemark : that the
bells are tied on to prevent the Trolls from milking them in
the night, — for no Troll, as is well known, can abide a bell.

While Torkel was in the midst of his operations as deputy
dairyman, and the Parson was looking on, half doubting the
propriety of the thing, and half inclined to put a stop to it, a
sound of laughing and talking was heard behind the fence,
and three girls, none of them more than eighteen or twenty,
came clambering over it. Torkel did not seem the least in
the world disconcerted, nor did they on their part testify the
smallest surprise or displeasure, though one of them was the
proprietor's daughter, and temporary mistress of the hut,
and the others were her servants ; but after exchanging a
few joking observations relative to their respective modes of
passing the preceding night, and the young ladies' taste for
field sports, they all set to work milking in earnest, and pro-
vided for the sportsmen a better breakfast than they were
likely to have achieved by their own unassisted efforts ; nor
could they be prevailed upon to accept any payment, beyond
laughingly insisting upon the intruders carrying out every
bit of hay, rebuilding the hay-cock, sweeping out the room,


and putting everything tidily into its place ; till the Parson
detected Miss Lilla eyeing, with evident admiration, a pair of
Tellemarken shirt-buttons, — round hollow silver balls, about
the size oi a grape-shot, with which he had decorated his
broad-flapped hat. These, after a good deal of pressing, she
permitted the "Herr Englesk" to fasten on the red silk hand-
kerchief which formed her very becoming head-dress, and
they parted mutually pleased, Lilla remarking politely — as
the Parson, shouldering his gun and taking off his hat after
the manner of the natives, bade her farvel (for the word is
Swedish no less than English) — " Jeg er ret lykkelig ved at
kunne berede dem denne lille Tjeneste," which, as Lilla was
a pretty girl, Torkel condescended to understand and in-
terpret, — a thing which he had often professed himself
utterly unable to do when the speaker was a bearded man,
and informed the Parson that she was very happy in finding
such an opportunity of rendering this trifling service.

The Parson's Swedish was at an end with his " farvel ;"
all he could do in return was to bow and smile, and wave
his hand, as he vaulted over the rail and left the hospitable
sceter behind him.

Their journey through the forest was little more than a
counterpart of that of yesterday, — now traversing spaces
roofed with gloomy fir, and beech not less gloomy when you
see their undersides only and breathe nothing but the confined
air below them, — now breathing freely in a glade or svedge-
fall, and gathering a handful of whort3 or cranberries by the
way, — now pushing through a belt of under-stufF, thick enough
to conceal an elephant, but all the time meeting with very-
little game. Indeed, skals are not by any means the like-
liest times to find the smaller game, and even the larger
lurk unseen till the very end of them. Torkel had cracked
off the Parson's rifle at a Lo, as he called it — that is to say, a
lynx, — that jumped up from under his feet and dashed into
a thicket, but with very little effect beyond frightening it,
though the beast was twice as large as a fox and twice as
red. The parson had brought down a hen " capercailzie,"
— but that Avas the whole of their morning's sport.

For some time the under-stuff had been unusually thick,


and had formed a considerable impediment to their progress ;
they had persevered through it for about half a mile, and the
wood gave no signs of becoming more open, when Torkel
stopped, and looked right and left of him through the stuff,
as if to find an opening.

" We must be skirting the border of a svedgefall," said he,
" where the air comes in freely ; these hazels would never
grow in the close forest, — let us edge a little to the right, we
are taking the belt end- ways."

" The right !" said the Parson ; "that seems even thicker
than where we are now."

" That is the very reason," said Torkel ; " the nearer the
svedgefall, the more air, — the more air the closer the under-

The Parson thought this remarkably good reasoning, and
set himself boldly to face the difficulty, instead of shrinking
from it, — a proceeding which, were it generally followed in
our course through life, would seldom fail to meet with its

It did not on this occasion, at all events, for after a hun-
dred yards or so of hard struggle, they suddenly emerged
into an open plain of some miles in length, and a good half
mile across. It was not a svedgefall, as Torkel had imagined,
but the clearing formed by an old fire, the effects of which
nature had already, in a great measure, succeeded in repair-
ing ; for a coarse grass, gemmed with all manner of flowers,
covered the greater part of it, through which the spirrea raised
its feathery head ; large tracts were vividly green with young
birches, as yet hardly higher than the grass, but closely set,
as if planted in a nursery ; — here and there the cranberry
threw a gleam of crimson into nature's carpeting, while the
epilobium — an absolute tree compared to the dwarf plants
around it — showed, with its thickly set flowers, a mass of
lilac ; and the fox-glove (in Sweden a holy flower), bent its
head and rang its fairy bells, inaudible by mortal ears, when-
ever a good angel passed it by on his errand of mercy. A
few great mournful dead trees were still stretching out their
helpless and blackened branches, like the old and ruined
families after a revolution, sorrowful remembrances of the


glories which had passed away ; but most of these had
dropped where they had stood, and were already concealed by
the vigorous young undergrowth, which was springing up all
the more vigorously because the soil had been for ages fer-
tilized by the leaves of their predecessors.

The Parson sat down exhausted on one of these remains
of fallen majesty, and fanned himself with his broad-leafed
hat, while Torkel, standing on the highest point he could find,
cast a look up and down the opening, which seemed as silent
and as destitute of animal life as any part they had hitherto

" There is something," said he; "I see it move — I am sure
there is something alive there."

The Parson was up in an instant, with his telescope in his

" There it is," said Torkel, " on the farther edge, just under
the high trees — that tall dead trunk with a forked head is
exactly in the line ; look there, I see it move now as plainly
as possible."

" I have got it now," said the Parson, " and it is a bear,
too, if ever I saw one in the Zoological Gardens."

" Hush ! " said Torkel ; " do not say that, or we shall never
get a shot at it."

" Why 1 " said the Parson ; " it is almost out of sight, let
alone out of hearing."

" That does not signify," said Torkel, " that animal is
wiser than any of us ; whether it has a fylgia, or guardian *
spirit, like us, is more than I can say, but it is the truth, that
if ever you name its name you will get no shot at it, arid
fortunate for you if you do not meet with some piece of ill
luck into the bargain."

" Well, well," said the Parson, "I will take care in future;
but what am I to call him ?"

" Call him Old Fur Jacket ! or call him The Disturber ! or
call him The Wise One ! anything you like, only do not call

* There is a beautiful superstition — if it is not a real religious truth —
in Norway, that those we have loved best on earth become our unseen
guardians, and follow us always, to warn us of danger.



him what you have done just now. I hope no mischief will
come of it."

" There are two," said the Parson ; " there is a little one — I
see it plainly enough, now that they have got clear from that
patch of epilobium. What on earth is the old — pshaw ! —
the Old Wise One about 1 ? she seems to be administering a little
wholesome discipline to young Fur Jacket ;" — and he handed
the glass to Torkel.

" She has been frightened," said he, " she has been roused
out by the dref, and she is making her cub get up into the
tree ; they very frequently do that when they suspect they
will have to run or fight for it. Young Wilful does not seem
to know what is good for him, and must be flogged into it.
Just like our own younkers," said Torkel, philosophically,
taking another look through the glass.

" It is not very good for him just now," said the Parson,
" with our eyes upon him. If he once gets up he is a lost
Fur Jacket."

" And up he gets," said Torkel, " and receives a parting
benediction from his mother's paw across his stern, just to
freshen his way, as Tom says. And now how to get a crack
at the Old Lady? if we were on the other side we might do it

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 29 of 36)