Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

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of the party lending a hand, except, indeed, Jacob, who con-
sidered it his duty, having once said the rapids were dan-
gerous, to act as if he thought so, and who had, therefore,
been despatched by land to the head of the rapid, with orders
to light the fires and get the breakfast ready, as nothing else
could be done with him.

The principal difficulty arose from the uncertainty of the
footing among the crags, and the gnarled ash-trees that every
here and there shot almost horizontally from between the
fissures of the rock, dipping their branches into the stream.
These rendered it necessary, every now and then, to make
fast the boat to the tree itself, and then to float down a line
to v it from some point above the obstacle, for the river fortu-
nately ran in a curve at that place. Thus, by giving a
broad sheer into the stream, while the rest of the party
hauled upon the rope, the boat would swing clear of the

But all this was very hard work, and, as the sun was now
high in heaven, very hot work ; and, moreover, it had to
be repeated three times before all the boats were in safety.


Fully as much justice was done to Jacob's breakfast as had
been done to his supper on the preceding evening ; and most
luxurious was the hour's rest which succeeded it.

The remaining part of the voyage was easy : there was a
sharp current, no doubt, too sharp for anything to speak of
to be done with the flies ; but it was all plain travelling, and,
with an occasional help from the ropes, before noon their
destination had been reached. This was the foot of a low
fall, or something between a fall and a rapid, called " The
Aal Foss," in the middle of which was a picturesque rocky
island, covered with trees, and on the left bank an equally
picturesque peninsula, which was destined to be the head-
quarters of the expedition, and the basis of subsequent

" There," said the Parson, fixing his rod in the stern-rings,
and springing on shore as the boat's keel touched a sandy,
slaty beach in the isthmus of the peninsula —

" Thus far into the bowels of the land
Have we marched on without impediment."

Here is the limit of my survey. Thus far have I borne the
baton of command ; and I beg you to observe that we have
reached the appointed spot twenty minutes before the ap-
pointed time." And he held out his watch in proof of it.
" I have, as you see, performed my promise ; and thus I re-
sign the leadership of the expedition."

" With universal thanks and approbation," said the
Captain ; " and I propose that now the leadership devolve
upon Birger ; he is the man of camps and bivouacs, for he
has experienced what we have only read about."

" Well," said Birger, " I will not affect modesty. Like
others, I have passed my degrees, and it would be a great
shame if, bearing his Majesty's commission, I did not under-
stand what every soldier is taught." Then, suddenly recol-
lecting that the Captain was a military man as well as himself,
he steered adroitly out of his scrape, continuing, as if his
concluding paragraph had been part of his original speech —
"You have only to wait for a war, Captain, and you will be
in a situation to give us all a lesson. No one understood

G 2


tliese things better than your old Peninsula men ; but Sweden
thinks her soldiers ouo-ht to learn their business before we are
called out to fight, and not afterwards."

To pass the degrees — " gradar," or rather u gradarne," for
no one ever thinks of speaking of them without the definite
article u ne," as if there were no other degrees in the world
— is anything but a joke in Sweden. Military service, so
far, at least, as the Guards and the Indelta* are concerned,
is extremely popular. There is ample choice in candidates ;
and very good care is taken that the officers shall be men
who know their business, and shall not be at a loss in what
situation soever they may be placed. The " gradar " consists
of a series of lectures and extremely strict examinations, in
everything connected with the service, both intellectual or
physical, from the construction of an equilateral triangle up
to the sketch of a campaign, and from the musket drill to a
year of sea service. Passing out in seamanship is indispen-
sable ; for Sweden, reversing our principle of hatching duck-
lings under hens, hatches her young death-or-glory cornets
and ensigns on board her ships. Properly speaking, the
Swedish navy has no midshipmen. The cadets, who fill pretty
numerously the midshipman's berth, may possibly enter the
navy, if they are so inclined ; but nine-tenths of them are
candidates for commissions in the army, and are thus learning
a lesson which may be of use to them hereafter, when they
have troops of their own to embark or manage on ship-

Eirger had passed his degrees with credit, or he would
not have been selected as a travelling student ; and his com-
panions were now likely to profit by this circumstance, for
one of those degrees comprehends all these mysteries of
camping, and hunting, and cooking, and provisioning, and, if
scandal may be trusted, a sort of Spartan stealing, which

* The Indelta has very erroneously heen stated, by one or two tra-
vellers in Sweden, to be the militia of the country. Sweden has a
militia, and a very efficient force it is ; but the Indelta is a feudal army
raised and maintained by the holders of crown lands. The constitution
of this force will be explained more fully hereafter; it is exclusively a
Swedish institution, and does not exist in Norway,


goes under the euphemism of " availing one's self of the re-
sources of the country ;" these little matters being taught by
a three weeks' actual practice in the field every summer.

Birger was altogether in his element. " Now," said he,
" the first thing I must do is to borrow all your boatmen,
for I shall want every man I can lay my hands upon ; some
for the camps, and some for cutting and drawing fuel ; I can
find something to do for them all, and for more too if I had
them. And here, you Jacob, take a basket with you, and
see what you can forage out from the cottages and woods
about, in the way of milk, bread, butter, berries, and so
forth ; and hark you, Jacob, no brandy, if you please ;
that is the first thing those scamps always put their hands

" You have not reckoned us," said the Captain, " among
your effective strength ; we shall not be of much use in
foraging, as we cannot speak Norske, but we have hands and
heads too."

" Do not forget how scantily the camp is provisioned," said
Birger ; " we have not had time or opportunity to catch or
shoot anything since we left Oxea, where, I am sure, we ate
up most of our fresh fish. It will not do to be drawing too
largely from our supplies."

" I have no objection, I am sure," said the Parson ; " but
you must let us have one boat, Birger ; even if we are to fish
this river from the shore, there is half a mile of open space,
certainly, between this and the great falls of Wigeland ; but
best throws lie on the right bank, and we really must have
the power of crossing."

" Well," said Birger, " I cannot spare you Torkel, that is
certain — he is much too valuable ; take your own boatman ;
you may halloo out ' Kom ofver elven,'- ' if you want him,
and happen to be on the wrong side ; and if he cannot hear
you, say ' Skynda paa mid baaten s'aa skall du faa driks-
pengar,'+ and I will warrant he hears fast enough, deaf as
he may be to the first call. We must have one of the boats

* Come over the river.
+ " Quick, here, with the boat ! and so you shall have some money
for drink."


above this fall," he continued, musing ; " and we may as well
do it at once. We will set all hands to launch it over this
isthmus, before we do anything else, and then you can use it
for your passage-boat. And now for the camp. Tom,
Torkel, my own man Peter, my boatman and the Captain's
will be little enough for what I have to do, though there are
some good hands among them, as I saw last night and this
morning too at Oxea."

" We must fish, then," said the Captain ; " for there is
no use going about after grouse, in this thick forest,
without Torkel, or some one that knows the place ; we
should be but wasting our time, poking about these trees at

" And, I am half-afraid that we shall not do much in
fishing either," said the Parson, as they got a sight of the
upper reach of the river, which lay calm and shining be-
fore them. " The sun is as bright as if Odin * had got
his other eye out of pledge, and were shining on us with
both at once."

The Captain whistled a few bars of the Canadian Boat

" Yes," said the Parson, " it is very true, as you whistle,
but, though the sun be bright, and, though ' there be not a
breath the blue wave to curl,' we must try what we can do.
It adds considerably to the interest of fishing, when we know
that our supper depends upon it."

* One of the wild ideas of Scandinavian mythology is, that the sun
is the eye of Odin, and that he once had two like other people ; but,
that coming one day to the well of Mimivei', the waters of which are
pure wisdom, he bargained for a draught, and bought the horn gjoll
full at the price of one of his eyes ; no such great quantity either, if
gjoll be the original of our English gill. However, this fully accounts
for the fact that the moon is not now so bright as the sun, which it
probably once was. It must be confessed that the whole of this story
is entirely inconsistent with the theory of the sun and moon in the
prose "Edda," where these are represented as separate and indepen-
dent divinities, the son and daughter of the giant Mundilfari, — the sun
being feminine and the moon masculine ; a tradition contrary to the
notions of our poets, but fully borne out by our English peasants, who
invariably speak of the moon as " he," and the sun as "she."


" If this were the old Erne," said the Captain, " we might
whistle for our supper, in good earnest ; but, it must be con-
fessed, that the fish here are very innocent ; we may deceive
one ; it is not impossible ; for, as Pat Gallagher used to say,
' there are fools everywhere.' But — look here," he said, as
he cast across the stream, " positively, you may see the
shadow of the line on the bottom, deep as the water is."

" Let us cross," said the Parson. " ' Gaa ofver elven,' as
Birger says, for I see they have got the boat up : near the
great fall there are some strong streams that will defy the
sun and the calm together."

Thanks to the innocence of the salmon, which the Captain
had hinted at, their pot-fishing was not entirely without
success : the upper part of the reach, where the waters had
not yet recovered their serenity after undergoing the roar
and fury of the great fall, did actually furnish them with a
graul or two ; but the salmon that had arrived at years of
discretion were very much too cautious to be taken. They
had never, it is true, been fished for in their lives with any-
thing more delicate than a piece of whipcord and a bunch of
lobworms, as big as a cricket-ball ; but, for all that, they
were quite old enough to draw an inference, and were per-
fectly aware that natural grasshoppers w T ere not in the habit
of swimming about with lines tied to their noses.

Towards evening there sprang up a light air of wind, and
the rises began to be more frequent. The Captain, by
making use of Birger's prescribed form of words, had got the
boatman to land him on the rocky island which divides the
Aal Foss into two branches. There, concealed by a stubby
fir, not quite so high as himself, he was sending out twenty
yards of line that fell so lightly that it never seemed to touch
the water at all.

There is no doubt that, of all the Erne fishermen, it was the
Captain who threw the longest and the lightest line, and well
was the Captain aware of that fact : but there is an axiom
which "far and fine" fishers would do well to bear in mind, and
which, though apparently evident to the meanest capacity, is
very seldom borne in mind by any one ; and that is, that it
is of very little use to fish "far and fine," when the fish


themselves are lying, all the while, in the water close under
your feet. This was precisely the Captain's position ; the
waters, divided by the rock on which he was standing, were
naturally deepest close to the rock itself, and, as naturally,
the best fish lay in the deepest water. The Captain under-
stood this well, but he could not deny himself his length of
line, and, therefore, contrived to fish the water close to him
by raising his arms, bringing the point of his rod over his
right shoulder, and then whisking his flies out for a fresh
cast with a dextrous turn of the wrist which no man in
England but himself could have performed.

" I will tell you what," said the Parson — who, not having
met with much success, had stuck up his rod, and had got
himself ferried over to the island — " it is not very likely that
a fish of any size will rise this evening, but if such a thing
should happen I would not give much for your rod."

" I wish the biggest fish in the river "

The sentence was never finished, for, at the word, the wish
was granted ; and, if not the biggest fish in the river, cer-
tainly the biggest fish they had yet seen, rose at the fly when
it was not a foot from the rock.

The rod never stood a chance. Raised at a sharp angle
over the Captain's shoulder, the whole strain came upon the
top-piece, which, as he struck, snapped like a flower-stalk,
without effort or resistance ; and away rushed the fish forty
or fifty yards up-stream with the top-piece, which had run
down upon the fly, bobbing against his nose.

The Captain did all that man could do. Carefully did he
watch his fish, anticipating every movement ; instantly did
he dip his rod, as the salmon sprang madly into air — in-
stantly did he recover it ; promptly was the line reeled in
at the turn ; tenderly was it given out at the rush ; but it
was of no avail — the rod had lost its delicate spring ; and,
despite the Captain's care, every now and then the fish
would get a stiff pull against the stump, thus gradually en-
larsins: the hold which the hook had taken in the skin of the
jaw, till, at last, just as the Parson, who had been hoping
against hope, was taking the cork off the point of his
gaff and clearing away the brambles to get a good stand-


ing-place for using it, the line came up slack ; the hold had
given way.

The Parson had the generosity to be silent about his
warning that had received so immediate a fulfilment.

" Well," he said, " you have recovered your top ; that is
something, so many miles from Bell Yard ; and as for
the fish, depend upon it that there are more where he came

The Captain mused a little. With the exception of
Birger's chance-medley, they had not seen a full-grown
salmon''"'' since they had come upon the river, and the loss
was no light one. " I suppose," he said, interrogatively, " it
would be hardly worth while to fetch another top from the
camp V

" Not at all worth while," said the Parson ; "the wonder is,
that you rose one full-mouthed fish on such a day as this.
You are not going to rise another. Besides," he added,
" look at the sun ! It is time for us to think of cooking,
rather than catching. Birger will be wondering what is
become of us."

They were at no great distance from the camp, which, to
their surprise, they found tenanted by Jacob alone, who,
having got over his morning sulks, was busy in what he
called a Langref, a miniature variety of which is not
altogether unknown to our Hampshire poachers ; but
Jacob's was a tremendous affair, more like what in sea-fishing
is called a spillet or bolter, consisting of three or four hun-
dred yards of water cord, and half as many hooks.

" Halloo," said the Captain ; " what has become of them
all ? Why, Jacob, where is Lieutenant Birger V

" He is gone with the men to make an offering to Nyssen,"
said Jacob.

" Who the devil is Nyssen V said the Captain.

Jacob looked distressed. It is not lucky to mention the
mundane spirits and those of hell in the same sentence ; in

* Full-grown salmon have two or three ranges of very small teeth,
whereas grauls (Scotice, grilse) have only one. It is this distinction
which, on the Eme, is technically termed "the mask," and not the
size, which determines the difference between a graul and a salmon.


fact, the less people talk about either of them the better,
so, at least, the Swedes think, and therefore imprecate their
curses by saying, " The Thousand take you," leaving it for
your own conscience to determine whether they are consign-
ing you to saints or devils.

" There they are, you may see them yourself," replied he,
evading the question, and pointing to a bare rounded rock
which rose above the wooded summits about a mile down the

The Parson's telescope was in his hand in a moment ; but
all he could make out was, that they put something on the
ground which they left there, and immediately entered the
thick wood, which hid them from his sight. Jacob could
not, or at all events would not, satisfy their curiosity, and
they had nothing for it but to amuse themselves with
admiring Birger's handy-work, till that individual on his
return should make his own report of himself.

And really the Lieutenant would have extorted praise from
the head of the Kong's-ofver-commandant's-Expedition him-
self, so well and so orderly was the encampment made.

The sails were formed into three several tents, not very
large ones, certainly, and scarcely admitting of the inmates
sitting upright, except in the centre, but quite sufficient to
shelter a man lying at full length. At the back of these,
where the ground rose a little, a neat trench was cut, in
order to carry off the drainings of any unforeseen shower.
These were the sleeping tents ; and in front of them were
spread out a quantity of poplar leaves, which were even-
tually to form the beds, and which were then pretty rapidly
undergoing the process of desiccation in the hot and bright
sunshine which had hitherto been so unfriendly. A birch
trimmed in its weeping branches, and thickened above with
a few supplementary boughs of spruce-fir, was evidently
arranged for the dining-room, and several of the stores were
gathered round its trunk and thatched with fir-branches,
while at some distance below, and not far from the sandy
beach, stood three or four neat green huts, built with a frame-
work of fir-poles, and thatched closely, both in roof and walls,
with the upper branches of the trees that had been cut down


for the frame. Not fir from where Jacob was sitting over his
langref, there was an elaborate kitchen, built of rough stones
against a natural rock, with a cross-beam on the top to swing
the kettle from, and beside it rose a goodly pile of fuel, cut
into lengths, and stacked into what is called in the country
fathoms, that is to say, square piles, six feet long and three
high. This had evidently been their last work, for the axes
and saws were still lying on the unfinished pile. By the
river's bank at the edge of the peninsula was a curious erec-
tion, which Jacob called the smoking-house. It was a
pyramid constructed of outsides of deals, hundreds of which,
rejected from the saw-mills, were floating about unheeded in
the river, and drifting into every corner that was sheltered
from the current. This was by no means a place constructed
for the luxury of smoking tobacco, an amusement in which
every individual of the party indulged in every possible place
and in all places alike. It was erected for hanging up super-
fluous salmon wdiich had previously been slightly salted, in
order, with the help of smoke from the green juniper, to con-
vert them into what in London is called " kipper."

There was little use for it that evening, however, for the
grauls brought in by the fishermen would have been but
scanty allowance, even for the present supper, had they not
been helped out by other provisions. But Jacob had by no
means been idle in his vocation. On a shelf of rock not very
far from the kitchen, and shaded by a friendly tree, stood
gallons of milk and piles of flad brod, with a few raspberries,
which were just then ripening, and an actual little mountain
of strawberries, for the woods were carpetted with their
bright green leaves and scarlet berries.

Jacob, as was his duty, rolled up his langref as quickly as
such a combination of tackle could be stowed away, and com-
menced preparing the fish for dinner, while the fishermen
changed their clothes, and hung them to dry round a supple-
mentary fire which had been lighted for the purpose.




"Ale 's not so good
For the children of men
As people have boasted ;
For less and less,
As more he drinketh,
Knows man himself.

The kern of forgetfulness
Sits on the drunken
And steals the man's senses, —
By the bird's pinions
Fettered I lay-
In Gunlada's dwelling.

Drunken I lay,
Lay thoroughly drunken,
With Fjalar the wise.
This is the best of drink,
That every one afterwards
Comes to his senses."

High Song of Odin the Old.

Many minutes had not expired, during which brief space the
fishermen had been luxuriating in their dry clothes, when
the boats were seen working their way back across the tail
of the Aal Foss rapid, as they returned with the party from
the right bank, which, after bobbing about on the ripples
and cross currents, shot into their little harbour beneath the

Birger came up the bank, half-laughing, yet looking as if
he had been doing something he was ashamed of.

" Where the deuce have you been, Birger V said the Cap-
tain, as that worthy threw himself on the turf under the
birch-tree : " Jacob says you have been sacrificing to Nyssen,
whoever he is."


" So I have," said Birger ; " but don't speak so loud. I will
tell you all about it."

" Not speak so loud," said the Captain ; " why not V

" Well," said Birger, rather hesitatingly, " Nyssen does
not like to be spoken of. That is to say, the uien don't
exactly like to hear people speaking of him, at least by name,
if it is above the breath."

" Come, come, Birger, be honest," said the Parson.

" Well, if you must have it, I do not quite like it myself.
I do not believe in such things, of course ; but there is no
good in doing what everybody thinks unlucky."

" Well, well," said the Captain, " but tell us what you have
been about. I am quite in the dark as yet about this mys-
terious gentleman or lady."

" Why, the Nyss," said Birger, sinking his voice at the
word to a whisper, "is a spirit of the air, just as the Neck (a
similar whisper) is a spirit of the water."

" The very familiars of the Lady of Branksome," said the
Parson : —

It was the Spirit of the Flood,
And he spoke to the Spirit of the Fell.

"Very likely, but our spirits, like our people, are not
indifferent to the pleasures of eating and drinking ; and
therefore, whenever we start on an expedition, we propitiate
them with an offering."

" And the offering consists of V

" What we like best ourselves, cakes and ale."
" But what had you to do with it," said the Captain ; " I
suppose you do not believe in spirits V

" The men asked leave to go, when they had done their
work, and wanted me to go with them, to that high rock
you see down there, — for they always choose out some
bare and elevated locality, as best adapted to a spirit
of the air ; and so — well, I went with them ; don't laugh
at me."

" That will I not," said the Parson ; "you could not have
done a wiser thing. Always fall in with men's superstitions ;
there is nothing that attaches them so much as humouriug


their little illegitimate beliefs ; to say nothing," he added
slily, " of believing a little in them yourself."

" How is this offering made 1" said the Captain : "what are
the rites belonging to the worship of a spirit of the air ?"

" They are simple enough," said Birger, " and not at all
like those you would see on the stage of London, — no blue
fires or poetical incantations : they consist in simply
placing the cake on the most exposed pinnacle you can find,
pouring the ale into the nearest hollow that will hold it,
and then retreating in silence, and without looking behind

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 8 of 36)