NEW YORK: G. P. PUTNAM.
Summer and Winter Pictures
SWEDEN, DENMARK AND LAPLAND,
NEW YORK: G. P. PUTNAM, 115 NASSAU-STREET. 1859.
ENTERED according to Act of Congress, in the year 1857, by G. P. PUTNAM, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
This book requires no further words of introduction than those with which I have prefaced former volumes—that my object in travel is neither scientific, statistical, nor politico-economical; but simply artistic, pictorial,—if possible, panoramic. I have attempted to draw, with a hand which, I hope, has acquired a little steadiness from long practice, the people and the scenery of Northern Europe, to colour my sketches with the tints of the originals, and to invest each one with its native and characteristic atmosphere. In order to do this, I have adopted, as in other countries, a simple rule: to live, as near as possible, the life of the people among whom I travel. The history of Sweden and Norway, their forms of Government, commerce, productive industry, political condition, geology, botany, and agriculture, can be found in other works, and I have only touched upon such subjects where it was necessary to give completeness to my pictures. I have endeavoured to give photographs, instead of diagrams, or tables of figures; and desire only that the untravelled reader, who is interested in the countries I visit, may find that he is able to see them by the aid of my eyes.
LONDON: November, 1857.
A WINTER VOYAGE ON THE BALTIC.
Embarking at Lubeck—Put into a Hut—The Company on Board—Night on the Baltic—Ystad—A Life Lost—Stopped by Ice—A Gale—The Swedish Coast—Arrival at Dalaro—Conscientious Custom-House Officer 13
STOCKHOLM—PREPARATIONS FOR THE NORTH.
Departure in Sleds—A Meteor—Winter Scenery—Swedish Post- Stations—View of Stockholm—Arrival—Stockholm Weather—Swedish Ignorance of the North—Funds—Equipment 21
FIRST EXPERIENCES OF NORTHERN TRAVEL.
A Swedish Diligence—Aspect of the Country—Upsala—A Fellow- Passenger—The Northern Gods—Scenery—Churches—Peasant's Houses—Arrival at Gefle—Forbud Papers—Speaking Swedish —Daylight at Gefle—A Cold Italian—Experience of Skjuts and Forbud—We reach Snow—Night Travel—An Arabic Landlord —A Midnight Chase—Quarters at Bro—The Second Day—We reach Sundsvall 27
A SLEIGH RIDE THROUGH NORRLAND.
Sundsvall and the Norrlanders—Purchase Sleighs—Start again— Driving on the Ice—Breakfast at Fjal—Twilight Hymn—Angermannland —A Bleak Day—Scenery of Norrland—Postillions—Increase of Cold —Dark Travel—The Norrland People—The Country and its Products —Northern Thanks—Umea—The Inn at Innertafle 39
PROGRESS NORTHWARD—A STORM.
Christmas Temperature—First Experience of intense Cold—Phenomena thereof—Arctic Travel—Splendour of the Scenery—The Northern Nature—Gross Appetites—My Nose and the Mercury Frozen—Dreary Travel—Skelleftea and its Temple—A Winter Storm—The Landlady at Abyn—Ploughing out—Travelling in a Tempest—Reach Pitea. 50
JOURNEY FROM PITEA TO HAPARANDA.
Torment—Under the Aurora Borealis—A Dismal Night—Around the Bothnian Gulf—Forest Scenery—Mansbyn—The Suspicious Iron-Master —Brother Horton and the Cold—A Trial of Languages—Another Storm—New Year's Day—Entrance into Finland—The Finns—Haparanda. 62
CROSSING THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.
Medical Treatment—The Kind Fredrika—Morals in the North—Our Quarters at Haparanda—Vain Questions—Start for Lapland—Arctic Daylight—Campbell's Tornea—A Finnish Inn—Colours of the Arctic Sky—Approach to Avasaxa—Crossing the Arctic Circle—An Afternoon Sunset—Reception at Juoxengi 72
ADVENTURES AMONG THE FINNS.
Journey up the Tornea—Wonders of the Winter Woods—Lapps and Reindeer—My Finnish Vocabulary—A Night Journey—Reception at Kengis—Continue the Journey—Finnish Sleds—A Hard Day—The Inn at Jokijalka—Its Inmates—Life in a Finnish Hut—An Arctic Picture—A Frozen Country—Kihlangi—A Polar Night—Parkajoki—We reach Muoniovara. 83
LIFE IN LAPLAND.
Reception at Muoniovara—Mr. Wolley—Our Lapland Home—A Finnish Bath—Send for Reindeer—A Finnish House—Stables—The Reindeer Pulk—My first Attempt at driving Reindeer—Failure and Success —Muonioniska—View from the Hill—Fears of an old Finn—The Discovery of America—A Lapp Witch—Reindeer Accident. 98
A REINDEER JOURNEY ACROSS LAPLAND.
Preparations for the Journey—Departure—A lazy Deer—"Long Isaac"—An Auroral Spectacle—A Night at Palajoki—The Table-Land of Lapland—Sagacity of the Deer—Driving a wild Reindeer—Polar Poetry—Lippajarvi—Picture of a Lapp—The Night—A Phantom Journey—The Track lost—A Lapp Encampment—Two Hours in a Lapp Tent—We start again—Descent into Norway—Heavy Travel—Lapp Hut in Siepe—A Fractious Reindeer—Drive to Kautokeino. 101
KAUTOKEINO—A DAY WITHOUT A SUN.
Lapland Etiquette—The Inn—Quarters at the Lansman's—Situation of Kautokeino—Climate—Life—Habits of the Population—Approach of Sunrise—Church Service in Lapland—Cold Religion—Noonday without Sunrise—The North and the South—A Vision—Visits of the Lapps—Lars Kaino—A Field for Portrait-painting—Character of the Lapp Race—Their present Condition—The religious Outbreak at Kautokeino—Pastor Hvoslef—A Piano in Lapland—The Schools—Visit to a Gamme 126
THE RETURN TO MUONIOVARA.
Advantages of Lapp Costume—Turning Southward—Departure from Kautokeino—A Lapp Hut—Religion—The Reindeer—Their Qualities —Treatment by the Lapps—Annoyances of Reindeer Travel—Endurance of Northern Girls—The Table-Land—The "Roof of the World"—Journey to Lippajarvi—Descent to the Muonio—Female Curiosity—The Return to Muoniovara—Prosaic Life of the Lapps—Modern Prudery. 141
ABOUT THE FINNS.
Change of Plans—Winter in Lapland—The Finns—Their Physical Appearance—Character—Drunkenness—A Spiritual Epidemic— Morality—Contradictory Customs—Family Names and Traditions —Apathy of Northern Life—The Polar Zone—Good Qualities of the Race—An English Naturalist. 154
EXPERIENCES OF ARCTIC WEATHER.
Departure from Muoniovara—50 deg. below Zero—A terrible Day—An Arctic Night—Jokijalka again—Travelling down the Tornea—A Night at Kardis—Increase of Daylight—Juoxengi—A Struggle for Life—Difficulty of keeping awake—Frozen Noses—The Norseman's Hell—Freezing Travellers—Full Daylight again—Safe Arrival at Haparanda—Comfort—The Doctor's Welcome—Drive to Tornea—The Weather. 164
INCIDENTS OF THE RETURN JOURNEY.
Mild Weather!—Miraculous Scenery—Nasby—Swedish Honesty —Adventures at Lulea—Northern Sleds—Pitea—Accident at Skelleftea—The Norrland Climate—A damp Swede—Travelling in a Tempest—A Norrland Inn—Character of the People—Their Houses. 177
CONCLUSION OF THE ARCTIC TRIP.
Warmth and Daylight—Swedish Linen—The Northern Women—Progress Southward—Quarrel with a Postillion—A Model Village—Rough Roads—Scarcity of Snow—Arrival at Stockholm—Remarks on Arctic Travel—Scale of Temperature—Record of Cold. 187
LIFE IN STOCKHOLM.
Stockholm—Its Position and Appearance—The Streets and Houses— Manner of Living—Swedish Diet—Stockholm in Spring—Swedish Gymnastics—A Grotesque Spectacle—Results of Gymnastics—Ling's System—The Swedish Language—Character of the Prose and Poetry— Songs—Life in Stockholm. 197
MANNERS AND MORALS OF STOCKHOLM.
Hospitality of the Swedes—Northern Frenchmen—Stockholm Manners —Dress—Conventionalism—Taking off the Hat—Courtesy of the Swedish—An Anecdote—King Oscar—The Royal Family—Tendency to Detraction—The King's Illness—Morals of Stockholm—Illegitimate Births—Sham Morality—Causes of Immorality—Drunkenness—An Incident. 210
JOURNEY TO GOTTENBURG AND COPENHAGEN.
Appearance of Spring—Departure from Stockholm—The Gotha Canal —Vreta Kloster—Scenery of the Wener—European Ideas concerning America—A Democratic Nobleman—The Gotha River—Gottenburg—The Giant's Pots—The Cattegat—Elsinore—The Sound Dues—Copenhagen and its Inhabitants—Thorwaldsen—Interview with Hans Christian Andersen—Goldschmidt—Prof. Rafn. 222
RETURN TO THE NORTH.—CHRISTIANIA.
Visit to Germany and England—The Steamer at Hull—The North Sea —Fellow-Passengers—Christiansand—The Coast of Norway—Arrival at Christiania—Preparations for Travelling—The Carriole—Progress of Christiania—Beauty of its Environs. 235
INCIDENTS OF CARRIOLE TRAVEL.
Disinterested Advice—Departure—Alarm—Descending the Hills—The Skyds System—Krogkleven—The King's View—Country and Country People—Summer Scenery—The Randsfjord—A Cow-Whale—The Miosen Lake—More than we bargained for—Astonishing Kindness—The Lake from a Steamer. 242
GULDBRANDSDAL AND THE DOVRE FJELD.
Lillehammer—A Sabbath Morning—A Picture of Dahi—Guldbrandsdal —Annoyances of Norwegian Travel—The Lougen River—Cataracts—The Station at Viik—Sinclair's Defeat—Pass of the Rusten—The Upper Valley—Scenery of the Dovre Fjeld—Solitude of the Mountains— Jerkin—Summit of the Fjeld—Nature in the North—Defile of the Driv—A Silent Country—Valley of the Orkla—Park Scenery—A Cunning Hostess—Solidity of Norwegian Women. 254
DRONTHEIM.—VOYAGE UP THE COAST OF NORWAY.
Panorama of Drontheim—Its Streets and Houses—Quarters at the Hotel—Protestant High Mass—Norwegian Steamers—Parting View of —Drontheim—The Namsen Fjord—Settlements on the Coast—The Rock of Torghatten—The Seven Sisters—Singular Coast Scenery—The Horseman—Crossing the Arctic Circle—Coasting Craft—Bodo—An Arctic Sunset. 269
THE LOFODEN ISLES.
Habits of the Arctic Summer—The Lofoden Islands—Moskoe—The Myth of the Maelstrom—The Lofoden Fishermen—Improvement in the People—Lofoden Scenery—The Rasksund—Disappearance of Daylight—Character of the Scenery—Tromsoe at Midnight. 281
FINMARK AND HAMMERFEST.
Visit to the Lapps—Scenery of Tromsdal—Phenomena of the Arctic Summer—The Lapp Gammes—A Herd of Reindeer—The Midnight Sun and its Effect—Scenery of the Alten Fjord—Pastor Hvoslef—Mr. Thomas and his Home—Altengaard—A Polar Bishop—An Excited Discussion—Whales—Appearance of Hammerfest—Fishy Quarters. 289
THE MIDNIGHT SUN.
Plans of Travellers—Ship for the Varanger Fjord—Scenery of Mageroe—Miraculous Provision for human Life—Fisheries on the Coast—The Porsanger Fjord—Coast Scenery—Svaerholtklub—Rousing the Sea Gulls—Picture of the Midnight Sun—Loss of a Night—The Church of the Lapps—Wonderful Rock-painting—Nordkyn. 300
THE VARANGER FJORD—ARCTIC LIFE.
The Tana Fjord—Another Midnight—Desolation—Arctic Life—The Varanger Fjord—The Fort of Vardohuus—Arrival at Vadso—Summer there—More of the Lapps—Climate and Delights of Living—Rich Fishing—Jolly young Englishmen—Daylight Life—Its Effects, physical and Moral—Trees of Hammerfest—An astronomical Monument. 310
THE RETURN TO DARKNESS—NORWEGIAN CHARACTER.
Splendour of the Northern Coast Scenery—Growth of Vegetation —Government of the Lapps—Pastor Lamers and his Secession— Religion in the North—An intelligent Clergyman—Discussions on Board—Starlight and Lamp-light—Character of the Norwegians —Their national Vanity—Jealousy of Sweden. 321
DRONTHEIM AND BERGEN.
Trouble at Drontheim—Valley of the Nid—The Lierfoss—Picture of Christiansund—Molde and Romsdal—The Vikings and their Descendants—The Rock of Hornelen—Rainy Bergen—A Group of Lepers—Norwegian Filth—Licentiousness—Picture of Bergen—Its Streets—Drunkenness—Days of Sunshine—Home-sick for Hammerfest —The Museum—Delays and dear Charges. 330
A TRIP TO THE VORING-FOSS.
Parting View of Bergen—Lovely Scenery—Interested Kindness—The Roads of Norway—Uncomfortable Quarters—Voyage on the Osterfjord —Bolstadoren—Swindling Postillions—Arrival at Vossevangen— Morning Scenery—Agriculture in Norway—Destruction of the Forests —Descent to Vasenden—A Captain on Leave—Crossing the Fjeld—The Shores of Ulvik—Hardanger Scenery—Angling and Anglers—Pedar Halstensen—National Song of Norway—Saebo—A stupendous Defile —Ascent of the Fjeld—Plateau of the Hardanger—The Voring-Foss —Its Grandeur—A Saeter Hut—Wonderful Wine. 341
SKETCHES FROM THE BERGENSTIFT.
Peder's Embarrassment—His Drowning—The Landlady—Morning at Ulvik—A Norwegian Girl—Female Ugliness—Return to Vossevangen —Indolence—Detention at Stalheim—Scenery of the Naerodal— Postillions—On the Gudvangen Fjord—The Sogne Fjord—Transparency of the Water—The Boatmen. 359
HALLINGDAL—THE COUNTRY-PEOPLE OF NORWAY.
Roads to Christiania—Southern Sunshine—Saltenaaset—The Church of Borgund—Top of the Fille Fjeld—Natives on Sunday—Peculiar Female Costume—Scarcity of Milk and Water—The Peak of Saaten—A Breakfast at Ekre—Hallingdal—Wages of Labourers—Valley Scenery —How Forbuds are sent—General Swindling—Character of the Norwegians for Honesty—Illustrations—Immorality—A "Cutty Sark" —Charms of Green. 370
TELLEMARK AND THE RIUKAN-FOSS.
The Silver Mines of Kongsberg—Roads in Tellemark—Bargaining for Horses—The Inn at Bolkesjo—Sleeping Admonitions—Smashing Travel—Tinoset—The Tind Lake—A Norwegian Farm-House—The Westfjord-dal and its Scenery—Ole Torgensen's Daughter—The Valley—A Leper—Defile of the Maan Elv—Picture of the Riukan-Foss —Its Beauty—A Twilight View—Supper at Ole's—The Comprehension of Man—A singular Ravine—Hitterdal—How respectable People live —The old Church—Return to Christiania. 383
NORWAY AND SWEDEN.
Norwegian Honesty—The Country People—Illicit Connections—The Icelandic Language—Professor Munck—The Storthing—The Norwegian Constitution—The Farmer-State—Conversation between a German Author and a Swedish Statesman—Gottenburg—A Fire—Swedish Honesty and Courtesy—The Falls of Trollhatten. 398
A TRAMP THROUGH WERMELAND AND DALECARLIA.
Our Route—Leaving Carlstad—The Scenery—Valley of the Klar Elv —Ohlsater—Wedding Arches—Asplund—A Night Journey—Adventures in search of a Bed—Entrance into Dalecarlia—The Farmers at Tyngsjo—Journey through the Woods—The People at Westerdal—The Landlord at Ragsveden—The Landlady—Dalecarlian Morality—A Lasare—The Postillion—Poverty—A Dalecarlian Boy—Reception at Kettbo—Nocturnal Conversation—Little Pehr—The female Postillion —The Lasare in Dalecarlia—View of Mora Valley. 407
LAST DAYS IN THE NORTH.
Mora Scenery—"The Parsonage of Mora"—The Magister—Peasants from Upper Elfdal—Scenery of the Siljan—Hymns on Board—Opinions of the Lasare—Their Increase—Conversation with the Peasants— Leksand—The Domprost Hvasser—Walk in the Garden—Dalecarlian Songs—Rainy Travel—Fahlun—Journey to Upsala—The Cholera—The Mound of Odin—Skal to the Gods—The End of Summer in Stockholm —Farewell to the North. 425
NORTHERN TRAVEL, ETC.
A WINTER VOYAGE ON THE BALTIC.
We went on board the little iron Swedish propeller, Carl Johan, at Lubeck, on the morning of December 1, A.D. 1856, having previously taken our passage for Stockholm. What was our dismay, after climbing over hills of freight on deck, and creeping down a narrow companion-way, to find the cabin stowed full of bales of wool and barrels of butter. There was a little pantry adjoining it, with a friendly stewardess therein, who, in answer to my inquiries, assured us that we would probably be placed in a hut. After further search, I found the captain, who was superintending the loading of more freight, and who also stated that he would put us into a hut. "Let me see the hut, then," I demanded, and we were a little relieved when we found it to be a state-room, containing two of the narrowest of bunks. There was another hut opposite, occupied by two more passengers, all that the steamer could carry and all we had, except a short deck-passenger, who disappeared at the commencement of the voyage, and was not seen again until its close.
The day was clear and cold, the low hills around Lubeck were covered with snow, and the Trave was already frozen over. We left at noon, slowly breaking our way down the narrow and winding river, which gradually widened and became clearer of ice as we approached the Baltic. When we reached Travemunde it was snowing fast, and a murky chaos beyond the sandy bar concealed the Baltic. The town is a long row of houses fronting the water. There were few inhabitants to be seen, for the bathing guests had long since flown, and all watering places have a funereal air after the season is over. Our fellow-passenger, a jovial Pole, insisted on going ashore to drink a last glass of Bavarian beer before leaving Germany; but the beverage had been so rarely called for that it had grown sharp and sour, and we hurried back unsatisfied.
A space about six feet square had been cleared out among the butter-kegs in the cabin, and we sat down to dinner by candle-light, at three o'clock. Swedish customs already appeared, in a preliminary decanter of lemon-colored brandy, a thimbleful of which was taken with a piece of bread and sausage, before the soup appeared. The taste of the liquor was sweet, unctuous and not agreeable. Our party consisted of the captain, the chief officer, who was his brother-in-law, the Pole, who was a second-cousin of Kosciusko, and had a name consisting of eight consonants and two vowels, a grave young Swede with a fresh Norse complexion, and our two selves. The steward, Hildebrand, and the silent stewardess, Marie, were our attendants and purveyors. The ship's officers were rather slow and opaque, and the Swede sublimely self-possessed and indifferent; but the Pole, who had been condemned to death at Cracow, and afterwards invented cheap gas, was one of the jolliest fellows alive. His German was full of funny mistakes, but he rattled away with as much assurance as if it had been his native tongue. Before dinner was over, we were all perfectly well acquainted with each other.
Night had already set in on the Baltic; nothing was to be seen but snow; the deck was heaped with freight; the storm blew in our teeth; and the steamer, deeply laden, moved slowly and labouriously; so we stretched ourselves on the narrow bunks in our hut, and preserved a delicate regard for our equilibrium, even in sleep. In the morning the steep cliffs of Moen, a Danish island, were visible on our left. We looked for Rugen, the last stronghold of the worship of Odin in the Middle Ages, but a raw mist rolled down upon the sea, and left us advancing blindly as before. The wind was strong and cold, blowing the vapory water-smoke in long trails across the surface of the waves. It was not long, however, before some dim white gleams through the mist were pointed out as the shores of Sweden, and the Carl Johan slackened her speed to a snail's pace, snuffing at headland after headland, like a dog off the scent, in order to find her way into Ystad.
A lift of the fog favored us at last, and we ran into the little harbor. I walked the contracted hurricane deck at three o'clock, with the sunset already flushing the west, looked on the town and land, and thought of my friend Dr. Kane. The mercury had fallen to 16 deg., a foot of snow covered the house-roofs, the low, undulating hills all wore the same monotonous no-color, and the yellow-haired people on the pier were buttoned up close, mittened and fur-capped. The captain telegraphed to Calmar, our next port, and received an answer that the sound was full of ice and the harbor frozen up. A custom-house officer, who took supper with us on board, informed us of the loss of the steam-ship Umea, which was cut through by the ice near Sundsvall, and sunk, drowning fifteen persons—a pleasant prospect for our further voyage—and the Pole would have willingly landed at Ystad if he could have found a conveyance to get beyond it. We had twelve tons of coal to take on board, and the work proceeded so slowly that we caught another snow-storm so thick and blinding that we dared not venture out of the harbor.
On the third morning, nevertheless, we were again at sea, having passed Bornholm, and were heading for the southern end of the Island of Oland. About noon, as we were sitting huddled around the cabin stove, the steamer suddenly stopped. There was a hurried movement of feet overhead—a cry—and we rushed on deck. One of the sailors was in the act of throwing overboard a life buoy. "It is the Pole!" was our first exclamation. "No, no," said Hildebrand, with a distressed face, "it is the cabin-boy"—a sprightly, handsome fellow of fourteen. There he was struggling in the icy water, looking toward the steamer, which was every moment more distant. Two men were in the little boat, which had just been run down from the davits, but it seemed an eternity until their oars were shipped, and they pulled away on their errand of life or death. We urged the mate to put the steamer about, but he passively refused. The boy still swam, but the boat was not yet half-way, and headed too much to the left. There was no tiller, and the men could only guess at their course. We guided them by signs, watching the boy's head, now a mere speck, seen at intervals under the lowering sky. He struggled gallantly; the boat drew nearer, and one of the men stood up and looked around. We watched with breathless suspense for the reappearance of the brave young swimmer, but we watched in vain. Poor boy! who can know what was the agony of those ten minutes, while the icy waves gradually benumbed and dragged down the young life that struggled with such desperate energy to keep its place in the world! The men sat down and rowed back, bringing only his cap, which they had found floating on the sea. "Ah!" said Hildebrand, with tears in his eyes, "I did not want to take him this voyage, but his mother begged me so hard that I could not refuse, and this is the end!"
We had a melancholy party in the cabin that afternoon. The painful impression made by this catastrophe was heightened by the knowledge that it might have been prevented. The steamer amidships was filled up to her rail with coal, and the boy was thrown overboard by a sudden lurch while walking upon it. Immediately afterwards, lines were rove along the stanchions, to prevent the same thing happening again. The few feet of deck upon which we could walk were slippery with ice, and we kept below, smoking gloomily and saying little. Another violent snow-storm came on from the north, but in the afternoon we caught sight of some rocks off Carlscrona, and made the light on Oland in the evening. The wind had been blowing so freshly that our captain suspected Calmar Sound might be clear, and determined to try the passage. We felt our way slowly through the intricate sandbanks, in the midst of fog and snow, until after midnight, when only six miles from Calmar, we were stopped by fields of drift ice, and had to put back again.
The fourth morning dawned cold and splendidly clear. When I went on deck we were rounding the southern point of Oland, through long belts of floating ice. The low chalk cliffs were covered with snow, and looked bleak and desolate enough. The wind now came out of the west, enabling us to carry the foresail, so that we made eight or nine knots, in spite of our overloaded condition. Braisted and I walked the deck all day, enjoying the keen wind and clear, faint sunshine of the North. In the afternoon, however, it blew half a gale, with flurries of mingled rain and snow. The sea rose, and the steamer, lumbered as she was, could not be steered on her course, but had to be "conned," to keep off the strain. The hatches were closed, and an occasional sea broke over the bows. We sat below in the dark huts; the Pole, leaning against the bulkhead, silently awaiting his fate, as he afterwards confessed. I had faith enough in the timidity of our captain, not to feel the least alarm—and, true enough, two hours had not elapsed before we lay-to under the lee of the northern end of Oland. The Pole then sat down, bathed from head to foot in a cold sweat, and would have landed immediately, had it been possible. The Swede was as inexpressive as ever, with the same half-smile on his fair, serious face.
I was glad to find that our captain did not intend to lose the wind, but would start again in an hour or two. We had a quieter night than could have been anticipated, followed by a brilliant morning. Such good progress had been made that at sunrise the lighthouse on the rocks of Landsort was visible, and the jagged masses of that archipelago of cloven isles which extends all the way to Tornea, began to stud the sea. The water became smoother as we ran into the sound between Landsort and the outer isles. A long line of bleak, black rocks, crusted with snow, stretched before us. Beside the lighthouse, at their southern extremity, there were two red frame-houses, and a telegraph station. A boat, manned by eight hardy sailors, came off with a pilot, who informed us that Stockholm was closed with ice, and that the other steamers had been obliged to stop at the little port of Dalaro, thirty miles distant. So for Dalaro we headed, threading the channels of the scattering islands, which gradually became higher and more picturesque, with clumps of dark fir crowning their snowy slopes. The midday sun hung low on the horizon, throwing a pale yellow light over the wild northern scenery; but there was life in the cold air, and I did not ask for summer.
We passed the deserted fortress of Dalaro, a square stone structure, which has long since outlived its purpose, on the summit of a rock in the sound. Behind it, opened a quiet bay, held in a projecting arm of the mainland, near the extremity of which appeared our port—a village of about fifty houses, scattered along the abrupt shore. The dark-red buildings stood out distinctly against the white background; two steamers and half a dozen sailing crafts were moored below them; about as many individuals were moving quietly about, and for all the life and animation we could see, we might have been in Kamtchatka.
As our voyage terminated here, our first business was to find means of getting to Stockholm by land. Our fellow-passengers proposed that we should join company, and engage five horses and three sleds for ourselves and luggage. The Swede willingly undertook to negotiate for us, and set about the work with his usual impassive semi-cheerfulness. The landlord of the only inn in the place promised to have everything ready by six o'clock the next morning, and our captain, who was to go on the same evening, took notices of our wants, to be served at the two intervening post-stations on the road. We then visited the custom-house, a cabin about ten feet square, and asked to have our luggage examined. "No," answered the official, "we have no authority to examine anything; you must wait until we send to Stockholm." This was at least a new experience. We were greatly vexed and annoyed, but at length, by dint of explanations and entreaties, prevailed upon the man to attempt an examination. Our trunks were brought ashore, and if ever a man did his duty conscientiously, it was this same Swedish official. Every article was taken out and separately inspected, with an honest patience which I could not but admire. Nothing was found contraband, however; we had the pleasure of repacking, and were then pulled back to the Carl Johan in a profuse sweat, despite the intense cold.
STOCKHOLM.—PREPARATIONS FOR THE NORTH.
On the following morning we arose at five, went ashore in the darkness, and after waiting an hour, succeeded in getting our teams together. The horses were small, but spirited, the sleds rudely put together, but strong, and not uncomfortable, and the drivers, peasants of the neighborhood, patient, and good-humoured. Climbing the steep bank, we were out of the village in two minutes, crossed an open common, and entered the forests of fir and pine. The sleighing was superb, and our little nags carried us merrily along, at the usual travelling rate of one Swedish mile (nearly seven English) per hour. Enveloped from head to foot in our fur robes, we did not feel the sharp air, and in comparing our sensations, decided that the temperature was about 20 deg.. What was our surprise, on reaching the post-station, at learning that it was actually 2 deg. below zero!
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the darkness decreased, but the morning was cloudy, and there was little appearance of daybreak before nine o'clock. In the early twilight we were startled by the appearance of a ball of meteoric fire, nearly as large as the moon, and of a soft white lustre, which moved in a horizontal line from east to west, and disappeared without a sound. I was charmed by the forest scenery through which we passed. The pine, spruce, and fir trees, of the greatest variety of form, were completely coated with frozen snow, and stood as immovable as forests of bronze incrusted with silver. The delicate twigs of the weeping birch resembled sprays of crystal, of a thousand airy and exquisite patterns. There was no wind, except in the open glades between the woods, where the frozen lakes spread out like meadow intervals. As we approached the first station there were signs of cultivation—fields inclosed with stake fences, low red houses, low barns, and scanty patches of garden land. We occasionally met peasants with their sleds—hardy, red-faced fellows, and women solid enough to outweigh their bulk in pig-iron.
The post-station was a cottage in the little hamlet of Berga. We drove into the yard, and while sleds and horses were being changed, partook of some boiled milk and tough rye-bread, the only things to be had, but both good of their kind. The travellers' room was carpeted and comfortable, and the people seemed poor only because of their few wants. Our new sleds were worse than the former, and so were our horses, but we came to the second station in time, and found we must make still another arrangement. The luggage was sent ahead on a large sled, while each pair of us, seated in a one horse cutter, followed after it, driving ourselves. Swedish horses are stopped by a whistle, and encouraged by a smacking of the lips, which I found impossible to learn at once, and they considerately gave us no whips. We had now a broad, beaten road, and the many teams we met and passed gave evidence of our approach to Stockholm. The country, too, gently undulating all the way, was more thickly settled, and appeared to be under tolerable cultivation.
About one in the afternoon, we climbed a rising slope, and from its brow looked down upon Stockholm. The sky was dark-gray and lowering; the hills were covered with snow, and the roofs of the city resembled a multitude of tents, out of which rose half a dozen dark spires. On either side were arms of the Malar Lake—white, frozen plains. Snow was already in the air, and presently we looked through a screen of heavy flakes on the dark, weird, wintry picture. The impression was perfect of its kind, and I shall not soon forget it.
We had passed through the southern suburb, and were descending to the lake, when one of our shafts snapped off. Resigning the cutter to the charge of a stout maiden, who acted as postillion, Braisted and I climbed upon the luggage, and in this wise, shaggy with snowy fur, passed through the city, before the House of Nobles and the King's Palace, and over the Northern Bridge, and around the northern suburb, and I know not where else, to the great astonishment of everybody we met, until our stupid driver found out where he was to go. Then we took leave of the Pole, who had engaged horses to Norrkoping, and looked utterly disconsolate at parting; but the grave Swede showed his kind heart at last, for—neglecting his home, from which he had been absent seven years—he accompanied us to an hotel, engaged rooms, and saw us safely housed.
We remained in Stockholm a week, engaged in making preparations for our journey to the North. During this time we were very comfortably quartered in Kahn's Hotel, the only one in the capital where one can get both rooms and meals. The weather changed so entirely, as completely to destroy our first impressions, and make the North, which we were seeking, once more as distant as when we left Germany. The day after our arrival a thaw set in, which cleared away every particle of snow and ice, opened the harbor, freed the Malar Lake, and gave the white hills around the city their autumnal colors of brown and dark-green. A dense fog obscured the brief daylight, the air was close, damp, and oppressive, everybody coughed and snuffled, and the air-tight rooms, so comfortable in cold weather, became insufferable. My blood stagnated, my spirits descended as the mercury rose, and I grew all impatience to have zero and a beaten snow-track again.
We had more difficulty in preparing for this journey than I anticipated—not so much in the way of procuring the necessary articles, as the necessary information on the subject. I was not able to find a man who had made the journey in winter, or who could tell me what to expect, and what to do. The mention of my plan excited very general surprise, but the people were too polished and courteous to say outright that I was a fool, though I don't doubt that many of them thought so. Even the maps are only minute enough for the traveller as far as Tornea, and the only special maps of Lapland I could get dated from 1803. The Government, it is true, has commenced the publication of a very admirable map of the kingdom, in provinces, but these do not as yet extend beyond Jemteland, about Lat. 63 deg. north. Neither is there any work to be had, except some botanical and geological publications, which of course contain but little practical information. The English and German Handbooks for Sweden are next to useless, north of Stockholm. The principal assurances were, that we should suffer greatly from cold, that we should take along a supply of provisions, for nothing was to be had, and that we must expect to endure hardships and privations of all kinds. This prospect was not at all alarming, for I remembered that I had heard much worse accounts of Ethiopia while making similar preparations in Cairo, and have learned that all such bugbears cease to exist when they are boldly faced.
Our outfit, therefore, was restricted to some coffee, sugar, salt, gunpowder, lucifer-matches, lead, shot and slugs, four bottles of cognac for cases of extremity, a sword, a butcher-knife, hammer, screw-driver, nails, rope and twine, all contained in a box about eighteen inches square. A single valise held our stock of clothing, books, writing and drawing materials, and each of us carried, in addition, a double-barrelled musket. We made negotiations for the purchase of a handsome Norrland sleigh (numbers of which come to Stockholm, at this season, laden with wild-fowl), but the thaw prevented our making a bargain. The preparation of the requisite funds, however, was a work of some time. In this I was assisted by Mr. Mostrom, an excellent valet-de-place, whom I hereby recommend to all travellers. When, after three or four days' labour and diplomacy, he brought me the money, I thought I had suddenly come in possession of an immense fortune. There were hundreds of bank-notes, and thousands of silver pieces of all sizes—Swedish paper, silver and copper, Norwegian notes and dollars, Danish marks, and Russian gold, roubles and copecks. The value belied the quantity, and the vast pile melted away so fast that I was soon relieved of my pleasant delusion.
Our equipment should have been made in Germany, for, singularly enough, Stockholm is not half so well provided with furs and articles of winter clothing as Hamburg or Leipsic. Besides, everything is about fifty per cent dearer here. We were already provided with ample fur robes, I with one of gray bear-skin, and Braisted with yellow fox. To these we added caps of sea-otter, mittens of dog-skin, lined with the fur of the Arctic hare, knitted devil's caps, woollen sashes of great length for winding around the body, and, after long search, leather Russian boots lined with sheepskin and reaching half-way up the thigh. When rigged out in this costume, my diameter was about equal to half my height, and I found locomotion rather cumbrous; while Braisted, whose stature is some seven inches shorter, waddled along like an animated cotton-bale.
Everything being at last arranged, so far as our limited information made it possible, for a two months' journey, we engaged places in a diligence which runs as far as Gefle, 120 miles north of Stockholm. There we hoped to find snow and a colder climate. One of my first steps had been to engage a Swedish teacher, and by dint of taking double lessons every day, I flattered myself that I had made sufficient progress in the language to travel without an interpreter—the most inconvenient and expensive of persons. To be sure, a week is very little for a new language, but to one who speaks English and German, Swedish is already half acquired.
FIRST EXPERIENCES OF NORTHERN TRAVEL.
The diligence was a compact little vehicle, carrying four persons, but we two were so burdened with our guns, sword, money-bag, field-glass, over-boots and two-fathom-long sashes, that we found the space allotted to us small enough. We started at eight o'clock, and had not gone a hundred yards before we discovered that the most important part of our outfit—the maps—had been left behind. It was too late to return, and we were obliged to content ourselves with the hope of supplying them at Upsala or Gefle.
We rolled by twilight through the Northern suburb. The morning was sharp and cold, and the roads, which had been muddy and cut up the day before, were frozen terribly hard and rough. Our fellow-passengers were two Swedes, an unprepossessing young fellow who spoke a few words of English, and a silent old gentleman; we did not derive much advantage from their society, and I busied myself with observing the country through which we passed. A mile or two, past handsome country-seats and some cemeteries, brought us into the region of forests. The pines were tall and picturesque in their forms, and the grassy meadows between them, entirely clear of snow, were wonderfully green for the season. During the first stage we passed some inlets of the Baltic, highly picturesque with their irregular wooded shores. They had all been frozen over during the night. We were surprised to see, on a southern hill-side, four peasants at work ploughing. How they got their shares through the frozen sod, unless the soil was remarkably dry and sandy, was more than I could imagine. We noticed occasionally a large manor-house, with its dependent out-buildings, and its avenue of clipped beeches or lindens, looking grand and luxurious in the midst of the cold dark fields. Here and there were patches of wheat, which the early snow had kept green, and the grass in the damp hollows was still bright, yet it was the 15th of December, and we were almost in lat. 60 deg. N.
The houses were mostly one-story wooden cottages, of a dull red color, with red roofs. In connection with the black-green of the pine and fir woods they gave the country a singularly sombre aspect. There was little variation in the scenery all the way to Upsala. In some places, the soil appeared to be rich and under good cultivation; here the red villages were more frequent, and squat church-towers showed themselves in the distance. In other places, we had but the rough hills, or rather knobs of gray gneiss, whose masses were covered with yellow moss, and the straggling fir forests. We met but few country teams on the road; nobody was to be seen about the houses, and the land seemed to be asleep or desolated. Even at noon, when the sun came out fairly, he was low on the horizon, and gave but an eclipsed light, which was more cheerless than complete darkness.
The sun set about three o'clock, but we had a long, splendid twilight, a flush of orange, rose and amber-green, worthy of a Mediterranean heaven. Two hours afterwards, the lights of Upsala appeared, and we drove under the imposing front of the old palace, through clean streets, over the Upsala River, and finally stopped at the door of a courtyard. Here we were instantly hailed by some young fellows, who inquired if we did not want rooms. The place did not appear to be an inn, but as the silent old gentleman got out and went in, I judged it best to follow his example, and the diligence drove off with our baggage. We were right, after all: a rosy, handsome, good-humored landlady appeared, promised to furnish us with beds and a supper, to wake us betimes, and give us coffee before leaving.
The old gentleman kindly put on his coat and accompanied us to a bookstore on the public square, where I found Akrell's map of Northern Sweden, and thus partially replaced our loss. He sat awhile in our room trying to converse, but I made little headway. On learning that we were bound for Tornea, he asked: "Are you going to buy lumber?" "No," I answered; "we are merely going to see the country." He laughed long and heartily at such an absurd idea, got up in a hurry, and went to bed without saying another word. We had a supper of various kinds of sausage, tough rye bread, and a bowl of milk, followed by excellent beds—a thing which you are sure to find everywhere in Sweden.
We drove off again at half-past six in the morning moon light, with a temperature of zero. Two or three miles from the town we passed the mounds of old Upsala, the graves of Odin, Thor and Freja, rising boldly against the first glimmerings of daylight. The landscape was broad, dark and silent, the woods and fields confusedly blended together, and only the sepulchres of the ancient gods broke the level line of the horizon. I could readily have believed in them at that hour.
Passing over the broad rich plain of Upsala, we entered a gently undulating country, richer and better cultivated than the district we had traversed the previous day. It was splendidly wooded with thick fir forests, floored with bright green moss. Some of the views toward the north and west were really fine from their extent, though seen in the faded light and long shadows of the low northern sun. In the afternoon, we passed a large white church, with four little towers at the corners, standing in the midst of a village of low red stables, in which the country people shelter their horses while attending service. There must have been fifty or sixty of these buildings, arranged in regular streets. In most of the Swedish country churches, the belfry stands apart, a squat, square tower, painted red, with a black upper story, and is sometimes larger than the church itself. The houses of the peasants are veritable western shanties, except in color and compactness. No wind finds a cranny to enter, and the roofs of thick thatch, kept down by long, horizontal poles, have an air of warmth and comfort. The stables are banked with earth up to the hay-loft, and the cattle enter their subterranean stalls through sloping doorways like those of the Egyptian tombs.
Notwithstanding we made good progress through the day, it was dark long before we reached the bridge over the Dal Elv, and of the famous cascades we saw only a sloping white glimmer, between dark masses of forest, and heard the noise of the broken waters. At Elfkarleby we were allowed twenty minutes for dinner—boiled salmon and beefsteak, both bad. I slept after this, until aroused by the old Swede, as we entered Gefle. We drove across a broad bridge, looked over vessels frozen into the inlet of the Gulf, passed a large public square, and entered the yard of the diligence office. A boy in waiting conducted us to a private house, where furnished rooms were to be had, and here we obtained tea, comfortable beds, and the attendance of a rosy servant-girl, who spoke intelligible Swedish.
My first care the next morning, was to engage horses and send off my forbud papers. We were now to travel by "skjuts" (pronounced shoos), or post, taking new horses at each station on the road. The forbud tickets are simply orders for horses to be ready at an appointed time, and are sent in advance to all the stations on the road, either by mail or by a special messenger. Without this precaution, I was told, we might be subjected to considerable delay. This mode of travelling is peculiar to Sweden and Norway. It has been in existence for three or four centuries, and though gradually improved and systematized with the lapse of time, it is still sufficiently complex and inconvenient to a traveller coming from the railroad world.
Professor Retzius had referred me to the botanist Hartman, in case of need, but I determined to commence by helping myself. I had a little difficulty at first: the people are unused to speaking with foreigners, and if you ask them to talk slowly, they invariably rattle away twice as fast as before. I went into a variety shop on the public square, and asked where I could engage horses for Sundsvall. After making myself understood, as I supposed, the clerk handed me some new bridles. By dint of blundering, I gradually circumscribed the range of my inquiries, and finally came to a focus at the right place. Having ordered horses at six the next morning, and despatched the forbud tickets by the afternoon's mail, I felt that I had made a good beginning, and we set out to make the tour of Gefle.
This is a town of eight or ten thousand inhabitants, with a considerable shipping interest, and a naval school. It is a pretty place, well built, and with a neat, substantial air. The houses are mostly two stories high, white, and with spacious courts in the rear. The country around is low but rolling, and finely clothed with dark forests of fir and pine. It was a superb day—gloriously clear, with a south wind, bracing, and not too cold, and a soft, pale lustre from the cloudless sun. But such a day! Sunrise melting into sunset without a noon—a long morning twilight, a low, slant sun, shining on the housetops for an hour or so, and the evening twilight at three in the afternoon. Nothing seemed real in this strange, dying light—nothing but my ignorance of Swedish, whenever I tried to talk.
In the afternoon, we called on the Magister Hartman, whom we found poring over his plants. He spoke English tolerably, and having made a journey through Lapland from Tornea to the Lyngen Fjord, was able to give us some information about the country. He encouraged us in the belief that we should find the journey more rapid and easy in winter than in summer. He said the Swedes feared the North and few of them ever made a winter journey thither, but nothing could stop the Americans and the English from going anywhere. He also comforted us with the assurance that we should find snow only six Swedish (forty English) miles further north. Lat. 60 deg. 35' N., the 17th of December, and no snow yet! In the streets, we met an organ-grinder playing the Marseillaise. There was no mistaking the jet-black hair, the golden complexion and the brilliant eyes of the player, "Siete Italiano?" I asked. "Sicuro!" he answered, joyously: "e lei anche?" "Ah," he said, in answer to my questions, "io non amo questo paese; e freddo ed oscuro; non si gagna niente—ma in Italia si vive." My friend Ziegler had already assured me: "One should see the North, but not after the South." Well, we shall see; but I confess that twenty degrees below zero would have chilled me less than the sight of that Italian.
We were at the inn punctually at six in the morning, but our horses were not ready. The hallkarl, or ostler, after hearing my remonstrances, went on splitting wood, and, as I did not know enough of Swedish to scold with any profit, I was obliged to remain wrathful and silent. He insisted on my writing something (I could not understand what) in the post-book, so I copied the affidavit of a preceding traveller and signed my name to it, which seemed to answer the purpose. After more than half an hour, two rough two-wheeled carts were gotten ready, and the farmers to whom they belonged, packed themselves and our luggage into one, leaving us to drive the other. We mounted, rolled ourselves in our furs, thrust our feet into the hay, and rattled out of Gefle in the frosty moonlight. Such was our first experience of travelling by skjuts.
The road went northward, into dark forests, over the same undulating, yet monotonous country as before. The ground was rough and hard, and our progress slow, so that we did not reach the end of the first station (10 miles) until nine o'clock. As we drove into the post-house, three other travellers, who had the start of us, and consequently the first right to horses, drove away. I was dismayed to find that my forbud had not been received, but the ostler informed me that by paying twelve skillings extra I could have horses at once. While the new carts were getting ready, the postman, wrapped in wolf-skin, and with a face reddened by the wind, came up, and handed out my forbud ticket. Such was our first experience of forbud.
On the next station, the peasant who was ahead with our luggage left the main road and took a rough track through the woods. Presently we came to a large inlet of the Bothnian gulf, frozen solid from shore to shore, and upon this we boldly struck out. The ice was nearly a foot thick, and as solid as marble. So we drove for at least four miles, and finally came to land on the opposite side, near a sawmill. At the next post-house we found our predecessors just setting off again in sleds; the landlord informed us that he had only received my forbud an hour previous, and, according to law was allowed three hours to get ready his second instalment of horses, the first being exhausted. There was no help for it: we therefore comforted ourselves with breakfast. At one o'clock we set out again in low Norrland sleds, but there was little snow at first, and we were obliged to walk the first few miles. The station was a long one (twenty English miles), and our horses not the most promising. Coming upon solid snow at last, we travelled rather more swiftly, but with more risk. The sleds, although so low, rest upon narrow runners, and the shafts are attached by a hook, upon which they turn in all directions, so that the sled sways from side to side, entirely independent of them. In going off the main road to get a little more snow on a side track, I discovered this fact by overturning the sled, and pitching Braisted and myself out on our heads. There were lakes on either side, and we made many miles on the hard ice, which split with a dull sound under us. Long after dark, we reached the next station, Stratjara, and found our horses in readiness. We started again, by the gleam of a flashing aurora, going through forests and fields in the uncertain light, blindly following our leader, Braisted and I driving by turns, and already much fatigued. After a long time, we descended a steep hill, to the Ljusne River. The water foamed and thundered under the bridge, and I could barely see that it fell in a series of rapids over the rocks.
At Mo Myskie, which we reached at eight o'clock, our horses had been ready four hours, which gave us a dollar banco vantapenningar (waiting money) to pay. The landlord, a sturdy, jolly fellow, with grizzly hair and a prosperous abdomen, asked if we were French, and I addressed him in that language. He answered in English on finding that we were Americans. On his saying that he had learned English in Tripoli, I addressed him in Arabic. His eyes flashed, he burst into a roaring laugh of the profoundest delight, and at once answered in the majestic gutturals of the Orient. "Allah akhbar!" he cried; "I have been waiting twenty years for some one to speak to me in Arabic, and you are the first!" He afterwards changed to Italian, which he spoke perfectly well, and preferred to any foreign language. We were detained half an hour by his delight, and went off forgetting to pay for a bottle of beer, the price of which I sent back by the skjutsbonde, or postillion.
This skjutsbonde was a stupid fellow, who took us a long, circuitous road, in order to save time. We hurried along in the darkness, constantly crying out "Kor pa!" (Drive on!) and narrowly missing a hundred overturns. It was eleven at night before we reached the inn at Kungsgarden, where, fortunately, the people were awake, and the pleasant old landlady soon had our horses ready. We had yet sixteen English miles to Bro, our lodging-place, where we should have arrived by eight o'clock. I hardly know how to describe the journey. We were half asleep, tired out, nearly frozen, (mercury below zero) and dashed along at haphazard, through vast dark forests, up hill and down, following the sleepy boy who drove ahead with our baggage. A dozen times the sled, swaying from side to side like a pendulum, tilted, hung in suspense a second, and then righted itself again. The boy fell back on the hay and slept, until Braisted, creeping up behind, startled him with terrific yells in his ears. Away then dashed the horse, down steep declivities, across open, cultivated valleys, and into the woods again. After midnight the moon rose, and the cold was intenser than ever. The boy having fallen asleep again, the horse took advantage of it to run off at full speed, we following at the same rate, sometimes losing sight of him and uncertain of our way, until, after a chase of a few miles, we found the boy getting his reins out from under the runners. Finally, after two in the morning, we reached Bro.
Here we had ordered a warm room, beds and supper, by forbud, but found neither. A sleepy, stupid girl, who had just got up to wait on a captain who had arrived before us and was going on, told us there was nothing to be had. "We must eat, if we have to eat you," I said, savagely, for we were chilled through and fierce with hunger; but I might as well have tried to hurry the Venus de Medici. At last we got some cold sausage, a fire, and two couches, on which we lay down without undressing, and slept. I had scarcely closed my eyes, it seemed, when the girl, who was to call us at half-past five o'clock, came into the room. "Is it half-past five?" I asked. "Oh, yes," she coolly answered, "it's much more." We were obliged to hurry off at once to avoid paying so much waiting money.
At sunrise we passed Hudiksvall, a pretty town at the head of a deep bay, in which several vessels were frozen up for the winter. There were some handsome country houses in the vicinity, better cultivation, more taste in building, and a few apple and cherry orchards. The mercury was still at zero, but we suffered less from the cold than the day previous, and began to enjoy our mode of travel. The horses were ready at all the stations on our arrival, and we were not delayed in changing. There was now plenty of snow, and the roads were splendid—the country undulating, with beautiful, deep valleys, separated by high, wooded hills, and rising to bold ridges in the interior. The houses were larger and better than we had yet seen—so were the people—and there was a general air of progress and well-doing. In fact, both country and population improved in appearance as we went northward.
The night set in very dark and cold, threatening snow. We had an elephant of a horse, which kicked up his heels and frisked like an awkward bull-pup, dashed down the hills like an avalanche, and carried us forward at a rapid rate. We coiled ourselves up in the hay, kept warm, and trusted our safety to Providence, for it was impossible to see the road, and we could barely distinguish the other sled, a dark speck before us. The old horse soon exhausted his enthusiasm. Braisted lost the whip, and the zealous boy ahead stopped every now and then to hurry us on. The aurora gleamed but faintly through the clouds; we were nearly overcome with sleep and fatigue, but took turns in arousing and amusing each other. The sled vibrated continually from side to side, and finally went over, spilling ourselves and our guns into a snow-bank. The horse stopped and waited for us, and then went on until the shafts came off. Toward ten o'clock, the lights of Sundsvall appeared, and we soon afterwards drove into the yard of the inn, having made one hundred and fifty-five miles in two days. We were wretchedly tired, and hungry as bears, but found room in an adjoining house, and succeeded in getting a supper of reindeer steak. I fell asleep in my chair, before my pipe was half-finished, and awoke the next morning to a sense of real fatigue. I had had enough of travelling by forbud.
A SLEIGH RIDE THROUGH NORRLAND.
Sundsvall is a pretty little town of two or three thousand inhabitants, situated at the head of a broad and magnificent bay. It is the eastern terminus of the only post-road across the mountains to Trondhjem (Drontheim) in Norway, which passes through the extensive province of Jemteland. It is, consequently, a lively and bustling place, and has a considerable coasting trade. The day after our arrival was market-day, and hundreds of the Norrlanders thronged the streets and public square. They were all fresh, strong, coarse, honest, healthy people—the men with long yellow hair, large noses and blue eyes, the women with the rosiest of checks and the fullest development of body and limb. Many of the latter wore basques or jackets of sheepskin with the wool inside, striped petticoats and bright red stockings. The men were dressed in shaggy sheepskin coats, or garments of reindeer skin, with the hair outward. There was a vast collection of low Norrland sleds, laden with butter, cheese, hay, and wild game, and drawn by the rough and tough little horses of the country. Here was still plenty of life and animation, although we were already so far north that the sun did not shine upon Sundsvall the whole day, being hidden by a low hill to the south. The snowy ridges on the north, however, wore a bright roseate blush from his rays, from ten until two.
We called upon a merchant of the place, to whom I had a letter of introduction. He was almost the only man I met before undertaking the journey, who encouraged me to push on. "The people in Stockholm," said he, "know nothing about Northern Sweden." He advised me to give up travelling by forbud, to purchase a couple of sleds, and take our chance of finding horses: we would have no trouble in making from forty to fifty English miles per day. On returning to the inn, I made the landlord understand what we wanted, but could not understand him in return. At this juncture came in a handsome fellow; with a cosmopolitan air, whom Braisted recognised, by certain invisible signs, as the mate of a ship, and who explained the matter in very good English. I purchased two plain but light and strongly made sleds for 50 rigs (about $14), which seemed very cheap, but I afterwards learned that I paid much more than the current price.
On repacking our effects, we found that everything liquid was frozen—even a camphorated mixture, which had been carefully wrapped in flannel. The cold, therefore, must have been much more severe than we supposed. Our supplies, also, were considerably damaged—the lantern broken, a powder-flask cracked, and the salt, shot, nails, wadding, &c., mixed together in beautiful confusion. Everything was stowed in one of the sleds, which was driven by the postilion; the other contained only our two selves. We were off the next morning, as the first streaks of dawn appeared in the sky. The roads about Sundsvall were very much cut up, and even before getting out of the town we were pitched over head and ears into a snow-bank.
We climbed slowly up and darted headlong down the ridges which descend from the west toward the Bothnian Gulf, dividing its tributary rivers; and toward sunrise, came to a broad bay, completely frozen over and turned into a snowy plain. With some difficulty the skjutsbonde made me understand that a shorter road led across the ice to the second post-station, Fjal, avoiding one change of horses. The way was rough enough at first, over heaped blocks of ice, but became smoother where the wind had full sweep, and had cleared the water before it froze. Our road was marked out by a double row of young fir-trees, planted in the ice. The bay was completely land-locked, embraced by a bold sweep of wooded hills, with rich, populous valleys between. Before us, three or four miles across, lay the little port of Wifsta-warf, where several vessels—among them a ship of three or four hundred tuns—were frozen in for the winter. We crossed, ascended a long hill, and drove on through fir woods to Fjal, a little hamlet with a large inn. Here we got breakfast; and though it may be in bad taste to speak of what one eats, the breakfast was in such good taste that I cannot pass over it without lingering to enjoy, in memory, its wonderful aroma. Besides, if it be true, as some shockingly gross persons assert, that the belly is a more important district of the human economy than the brain, a good meal deserves chronicling no less than an exalted impression. Certain it is, that strong digestive are to be preferred to strong thinking powers—better live unknown than die of dyspepsia. This was our first country meal in Norrland, of whose fare the Stockholmers have a horror, yet that stately capital never furnished a better. We had beefsteak and onions, delicious blood-puddings, the tenderest of pancakes (no omelette soufflee could be more fragile), with ruby raspberry jam, and a bottle of genuine English porter. If you think the bill of fare too heavy and solid, take a drive of fifteen miles in the regions of Zero, and then let your delicate stomach decide.
In a picturesque dell near Fjal we crossed the rapid Indal River, which comes down from the mountains of Norway. The country was wild and broken, with occasional superb views over frozen arms of the Gulf, and the deep rich valleys stretching inland. Leaving Hernosand, the capital of the province, a few miles to our right, we kept the main northern road, slowly advancing from station to station with old and tired horses. There was a snow-storm in the afternoon, after which the sky came out splendidly clear, and gorgeous with the long northern twilight. In the silence of the hour and the deepening shadows of the forest through which we drove, it was startling to hear, all at once the sound of voices singing a solemn hymn. My first idea was, that some of those fanatical Dissenters of Norrland who meet, as once the Scotch Covenanters, among the hills, were having a refreshing winter meeting in the woods; but on proceeding further we found that the choristers were a company of peasants returning from market with their empty sleds.
It was already dark at four o'clock, and our last horses were so slow that the postilion, a handsome, lively boy, whose pride was a little touched by my remonstrances, failed, in spite of all his efforts, to bring us to the station before seven. We stopped at Weda, on the Angermann River, the largest stream in Northern Sweden. Angermannland, the country which it drains, is said to be a very wild and beautiful region, where some traces of the old, original Asiatic type which peopled Scandinavia are yet to be traced in the features of its secluded population. At Weda, we found excellent quarters. A neat, quiet, old-fashioned little servant-girl, of twelve or fourteen, took charge of us, and attended to all our wants with the greatest assiduity. We had a good supper, a small but neat room, clean beds, and coffee in the morning, beside a plentiful provision for breakfast on the way, for a sum equal to seventy-five cents.
We left at half-past seven, the waning moon hanging on the horizon, and the first almost imperceptible signs of the morning twilight in the east. The Angermann River which is here a mile broad, was frozen, and our road led directly across its surface. The wind blew down it, across the snow-covered ice, making our faces tingle with premonitory signs of freezing, as the mercury was a little below zero. My hands were chilled inside the fur mittens, and I was obliged to rub my nose frequently, to prevent it from being nipped. The day was raw and chilly, and the temperature rose very little, although the hills occasionally sheltered us from the wind. The scenery, also, grew darker and wilder as we advanced. The fir-trees were shorter and stunted, and of a dark greenish-brown, which at a little distance appeared completely black. Nothing could exceed the bleak, inhospitable character of these landscapes. The inlets of the Bothnian Gulf were hard, snow-covered plains, inclosed by bold, rugged headlands, covered with ink-black forests. The more distant ridges faded into a dull indigo hue, flecked with patches of ghastly white, under the lowering, sullen, short-lived daylight.
Our road was much rougher than hitherto. We climbed long ridges, only to descend by as steep declivities on the northern side, to cross the bed of an inland stream, and then ascend again. The valleys, however, were inhabited and apparently well cultivated, for the houses were large and comfortable, and the people had a thrifty, prosperous and satisfied air. Beside the farmhouses were immense racks, twenty feet high, for the purpose of drying flax and grain, and at the stations the people offered for sale very fine and beautiful linen of their own manufacture. This is the staple production of Norrland, where the short summers are frequently insufficient to mature the grain crops. The inns were all comfortable buildings, with very fair accommodations for travellers. We had bad luck with horses this day, however, two or three travellers having been in advance and had the pick. On one stage our baggage-sled was driven by a poike of not more than ten years old—a darling fellow, with a face as round, fresh and sweet as a damask rose, the bluest of eyes, and a cloud of silky golden hair. His successor was a tall, lazy lout, who stopped so frequently to talk with the drivers of sleds behind us, that we lost all patience, drove past and pushed ahead in the darkness, trusting our horse to find the way. His horse followed, leaving him in the lurch, and we gave him a long-winded chase astern before we allowed him to overtake us. This so exasperated him that we had no trouble the rest of the way. Mem.—If you wish to travel with speed, make your postilion angry.
At Hornas they gave us a supper of ale and cold pig's feet, admirable beds, and were only deficient in the matter of water for washing. We awoke with headaches, on account of gas from the tight Russian stove. The temperature, at starting, was 22 deg. below zero—colder than either of us had ever before known. We were a little curious, at first, to know how we should endure it, but, to our delight, found ourselves quite warm and comfortable. The air was still, dry, and delicious to inhale. My nose occasionally required friction, and my beard and moustache became a solid mass of ice, frozen together so that I could scarcely open my mouth, and firmly fastened to my fur collar. We travelled forty-nine miles, and were twelve hours on the way, yet felt no inconvenience from the temperature.
By this time it was almost wholly a journey by night, dawn and twilight, for full day there was none. The sun rose at ten and set at two. We skimmed along, over the black, fir-clothed hills, and across the pleasant little valleys, in the long, gray, slowly-gathering daybreak: then, heavy snow-clouds hid half the brief day, and the long, long, dusky evening glow settled into night. The sleighing was superb, the snow pure as ivory, hard as marble, and beautifully crisp and smooth. Our sleds glided over it without effort, the runners making music as they flew. With every day the country grew wilder, blacker and more rugged, with no change in the general character of the scenery. In the afternoon we passed the frontier of Norrland, and entered the province of West Bothnia. There are fewer horses at the stations, as we go north, but also fewer travellers, and we were not often detained. Thus far, we had no difficulty: my scanty stock of Swedish went a great way, and I began to understand with more facility, even the broad Norrland dialect.
The people of this region are noble specimens of the physical man—tall, broad-shouldered, large-limbed, ruddy and powerful; and they are mated with women who, I venture to say, do not even suspect the existence of a nervous system. The natural consequences of such health are: morality and honesty—to say nothing of the quantities of rosy and robust children which bless every household. If health and virtue cannot secure happiness, nothing can, and these Norrlanders appear to be a thoroughly happy and contented race. We had occasional reason to complain of their slowness; but, then, why should they be fast? It is rather we who should moderate our speed. Braisted, however, did not accept such a philosophy. "Charles XII. was the boy to manage the Swedes," said he to me one day; "he always kept them in a hurry."
We reached Lefwar, our resting-place for the night, in good condition, notwithstanding the 22 deg. below, and felt much colder in the house, after stripping off our furs, than out of doors with them on. They gave us a supper consisting of smorgas ("butter-goose"—the Swedish prelude to a meal, consisting usually of bread, butter, pickled anchovies, and caviar flavored with garlic), sausages, potatoes, and milk, and made for us sumptuous beds of the snowiest and sweetest linen. When we rose next morning it was snowing. About an inch had fallen during the night, and the mercury had risen to 6 deg. below zero. We drove along in the dusky half-twilight toward Angesjo, over low, broad hills, covered with forests of stunted birch and fir. The scenery continued the same, and there is no use in repeating the description, except to say that the land became more cold and barren, and there seemed to be few things cultivated except flax, barley and potatoes. Still the same ridges sweeping down to the Gulf, on one hand, the same frozen bays and inlets on the other, and villages at intervals of eight or ten miles, each with its great solid church, low red belfry and deserted encampment of red frame stables. Before reaching the second station, we looked from a wooded height over the open expanse of the Gulf,—a plain of snow-covered ice, stretching eastward as far as the eye could reach.
The day gradually became still and cold, until the temperature reached -22 deg. again, and we became comfortable in the same proportion. The afternoon twilight, splendid with its hues of amber, rose and saffron, died away so gradually, that it seemed scarcely to fade at all, lighting our path for at least three hours after sunset. Our postilions were all boys—ruddy, hardy young fellows of fourteen or fifteen, who drove well and sang incessantly, in spite of the cold. They talked much with us, but to little purpose, as I found it very difficult to understand the humming dialect they spoke. Each, as he received his drickpenningar (drink-money, or gratuity), at the end of the station, expressed his thanks by shaking hands with us. This is a universal custom throughout the north of Sweden: it is a part of the simple, natural habits of the people; and though it seemed rather odd at first to be shaking hands with everybody, from the landlord down to the cook and the ostler, we soon came to take it as a matter of course. The frank, unaffected way in which the hand was offered, oftener made the custom a pleasant one.
At Stocksjo we decided to push on to a station beyond Umea, called Innertafle, and took our horses accordingly. The direct road, however, was unused on account of the drifts, so we went around through Umea, after all. We had nearly a Swedish mile, and it was just dark when we descended to the Umea River, across whose solid surface we drove, and up a steep bank into the town. We stopped a few moments in the little public square, which was crowded with people, many of whom had already commenced their Christmas sprees. The shops were lighted, and the little town looked very gay and lively. Passing through, we kept down the left bank of the river for a little distance, and then struck into the woods. It was night by this time; all at once the boy stopped, mounted a snow-bank, whirled around three or four times, and said something to me which I could not understand. "What's the matter?" I asked; "is not this the road to Innertafle?" "I don't know—I think not," he said. "Don't you know the way, then?" I asked again. "No!" he yelled in reply, whirled around several times more, and then drove on. Presently we overtook a pedestrian, to whom he turned for advice, and who willingly acted as guide for the sake of a ride. Away we went again, but the snow was so spotless that it was impossible to see the track. Braisted and I ran upon a snow-bank, were overturned and dragged some little distance, but we righted ourselves again, and soon afterwards reached our destination.
In the little inn the guests' room lay behind the large family kitchen, through which we were obliged to pass. We were seized with a shivering fit on stripping off our furs, and it seemed scarcely possible to get warm again. This was followed by such intense drowsiness that we were obliged to lie down and sleep an hour before supper. After the cold weather set in, we were attacked with this drowsy fit every day, toward evening, and were obliged to take turns in arousing and stimulating each other. This we generally accomplished by singing "From Greenland's icy mountains," and other appropriate melodies. At Innertafle we were attended by a tall landlady, a staid, quiet, almost grim person, who paid most deliberate heed to our wants. After a delay of more than two hours, she furnished us with a supper consisting of some kind of fresh fish, with a sauce composed of milk, sugar and onions, followed by gryngrot, a warm mush of mixed rice and barley, eaten with milk. Such was our fare on Christmas eve; but hunger is the best sauce, and our dishes were plentifully seasoned with it.
PROGRESS NORTHWARDS.—A STORM.
We arose betimes on Christmas morn, but the grim and deliberate landlady detained us an hour in preparing our coffee. I was in the yard about five minutes, wearing only my cloth overcoat and no gloves, and found the air truly sharp and nipping, but not painfully severe. Presently, Braisted came running in with the thermometer, exclaiming, with a yell of triumph, "Thirty, by Jupiter!" (30 deg. of Reaumur, equal to 35-1/2 deg. below zero of Fahrenheit.) We were delighted with this sign of our approach to the Arctic circle.
The horses were at last ready; we muffled up carefully, and set out. The dawn was just streaking the East, the sky was crystal-clear, and not a breath of air stirring. My beard was soon a solid mass of ice, from the moisture of my breath, and my nose required constant friction. The day previous, the ice which had gathered on my fur collar lay against my face so long that the flesh began to freeze over my cheek-bones, and thereafter I was obliged to be particularly cautious. As it grew lighter, we were surprised to find that our postilion was a girl. She had a heavy sheepskin over her knees, a muff for her hands, and a shawl around her head, leaving only the eyes visible. Thus accoutred, she drove on merrily, and, except that the red of her cheeks became scarlet and purple, showed no signs of the weather. As we approached Sormjole, the first station, we again had a broad view of the frozen Bothnian Gulf, over which hovered a low cloud of white ice-smoke. Looking down into the snowy valley of Sormjole, we saw the straight pillars of smoke rising from the houses high into the air, not spreading, but gradually breaking off into solid masses which sank again and filled the hollow, almost concealing the houses. Only the white, handsome church, with its tall spire, seated on a mound, rose above this pale blue film and shone softly in the growing flush of day.
We ordered horses at once, after drinking a bowl of hot milk, flavored with cinnamon. This is the favourite winter drink of the people, sometimes with the addition of brandy. But the finkel, or common brandy of Sweden, is a detestable beverage, resembling a mixture of turpentine, train oil, and bad molasses, and we took the milk unmixed, which admirably assisted in keeping up the animal heat. The mercury by this time had fallen to 38 deg. below zero. We were surprised and delighted to find that we stood the cold so easily, and prided ourselves not a little on our powers of endurance. Our feet gradually became benumbed, but, by walking up the hills, we prevented the circulation from coming to a stand-still.
The cold, however, played some grotesque pranks with us. My beard, moustache, cap, and fur collar were soon one undivided lump of ice. Our eyelashes became snow-white and heavy with frost, and it required constant motion to keep them from freezing together. We saw everything through visors barred with ivory. Our eyebrows and hair were as hoary as those of an octogenarian, and our cheeks a mixture of crimson and orange, so that we were scarcely recognizable by each other. Every one we met had snow-white locks, no matter how youthful the face, and, whatever was the colour of our horses at starting, we always drove milk-white steeds at the close of the post. The irritation of our nostrils occasioned the greatest inconvenience, and as the handkerchiefs froze instantly, it soon became a matter of pain and difficulty to use them. You might as well attempt to blow your nose with a poplar chip. We could not bare our hands a minute, without feeling an iron grasp of cold which seemed to squeeze the flesh like a vice, and turn the very blood to ice. In other respects we were warm and jolly, and I have rarely been in higher spirits. The air was exquisitely sweet and pure, and I could open my mouth (as far as its icy grating permitted) and inhale full draughts into the lungs with a delicious sensation of refreshment and exhilaration. I had not expected to find such freedom of respiration in so low a temperature. Some descriptions of severe cold in Canada and Siberia, which I have read, state that at such times the air occasions a tingling, smarting sensation in the throat and lungs, but I experienced nothing of the kind.
This was arctic travel at last. By Odin, it was glorious! The smooth, firm road, crisp and pure as alabaster, over which our sleigh-runners talked with the rippling, musical murmur of summer brooks; the sparkling, breathless firmament; the gorgeous rosy flush of morning, slowly deepening until the orange disc of the sun cut the horizon; the golden blaze of the tops of the bronze firs; the glittering of the glassy birches; the long, dreary sweep of the landscape; the icy nectar of the perfect air; the tingling of the roused blood in every vein, all alert to guard the outposts of life against the besieging cold—it was superb! The natives themselves spoke of the cold as being unusually severe, and we congratulated ourselves all the more on our easy endurance of it. Had we judged only by our own sensations we should not have believed the temperature to be nearly so low.
The sun rose a little after ten, and I have never seen anything finer than the spectacle which we then saw for the first time, but which was afterwards almost daily repeated—the illumination of the forests and snow-fields in his level orange beams, for even at midday he was not more than eight degrees above the horizon. The tops of the trees, only, were touched: still and solid as iron, and covered with sparkling frost-crystals, their trunks were changed to blazing gold, and their foliage to a fiery orange-brown. The delicate purple sprays of the birch, coated with ice, glittered like wands of topaz and amethyst, and the slopes of virgin snow, stretching towards the sun, shone with the fairest saffron gleams. There is nothing equal to this in the South—nothing so transcendently rich, dazzling, and glorious. Italian dawns and twilights cannot surpass those we saw every day, not, like the former, fading rapidly into the ashen hues of dusk, but lingering for hour after hour with scarce a decrease of splendour. Strange that Nature should repeat these lovely aerial effects in such widely different zones and seasons. I thought to find in the winter landscapes of the far North a sublimity of death and desolation—a wild, dark, dreary, monotony of expression—but I had, in reality, the constant enjoyment of the rarest, the tenderest, the most enchanting beauty.
The people one meets along the road harmonise with these unexpected impressions. They are clear eyed and rosy as the morning, straight and strong as the fir saplings in their forests, and simple, honest, and unsophisticated beyond any class of men I have ever seen. They are no milksops either. Under the serenity of those blue eyes and smooth, fair faces, burns the old Berserker rage, not easily kindled, but terrible as the lightning when once loosed. "I would like to take all the young men north of Sundsvall," says Braisted, "put them into Kansas, tell them her history, and then let them act for themselves." "The cold in clime are cold in blood," sings Byron, but they are only cold through superior self-control and freedom from perverted passions. Better is the assertion of Tennyson:
"That bright, and fierce, and fickle is the South, And dark, and true, and tender is the North."
There are tender hearts in the breasts of these northern men and women, albeit they are as undemonstrative as the English—or we Americans, for that matter. It is exhilarating to see such people—whose digestion is sound, whose nerves are tough as whipcord, whose blood runs in a strong full stream, whose impulses are perfectly natural, who are good without knowing it, and who are happy without trying to be so. Where shall we find such among our restless communities at home?
We made two Swedish miles by noon, and then took a breakfast of fried reindeer meat and pancakes, of which we ate enormously, to keep up a good supply of fuel. Braisted and I consumed about a pound of butter between us. Shriek not, young ladies, at our vulgar appetites—you who sip a spoonful of ice-cream, or trifle with a diminutive meringue, in company, but make amends on cold ham and pickles in the pantry, after you go home—I shall tell the truth, though it disgust you. This intense cold begets a necessity for fat, and with the necessity comes the taste—a wise provision of Nature! The consciousness now dawned upon me that I might be able to relish train-oil and tallow-candles before we had done with Lapland.
I had tough work at each station to get my head out of my wrappings, which were united with my beard and hair in one solid lump. The cold increased instead of diminishing, and by the time we reached Gumboda, at dusk, it was 40 deg. below zero. Here we found a company of Finns travelling southward, who had engaged five horses, obliging us to wait a couple of hours. We had already made forty miles, and were satisfied with our performance, so we stopped for the night. When the thermometer was brought in, the mercury was frozen, and on unmuffling I found the end of my nose seared as if with a hot iron. The inn was capital; we had a warm carpeted room, beds of clean, lavendered linen, and all civilised appliances. In the evening we sat down to a Christmas dinner of sausages, potatoes, pancakes, raspberry jam, and a bottle of Barclay and Perkin's best porter, in which we drank the health of all dear relatives and friends in the two hemispheres. And this was in West Bothnia, where we had been told in Stockholm that we should starve! At bedtime, Braisted took out the thermometer again, and soon brought it in with the mercury frozen below all the numbers on the scale.
In the morning, the landlord came in and questioned us, in order to satisfy his curiosity. He took us for Norwegians, and was quite surprised to find out our real character. We had also been taken for Finns, Russians and Danes, since leaving Stockholm. "I suppose you intend to buy lumber?" said the landlord. "No," said I, "we travel merely for the pleasure of it." "Ja so-o-o!" he exclaimed, in a tone of the greatest surprise and incredulity. He asked if it was necessary that we should travel in such cold weather, and seemed reluctant to let us go. The mercury showed 25 deg. below zero when we started, but the sky was cloudy, with a raw wind from the north-west. We did not feel the same hard, griping cold as the day previous, but a more penetrating chill. The same character of scenery continued, but with a more bleak and barren aspect, and the population became more scanty. The cloudy sky took away what little green there was in the fir-trees, and they gloomed as black as Styx on either side of our road. The air was terribly raw and biting as it blew across the hollows and open plains. I did not cover my face, but kept up such a lively friction on my nose, to prevent it from freezing, that in the evening I found the skin quite worn away.
At Daglosten, the third station, we stopped an hour for breakfast. It was a poverty-stricken place, and we could only get some fish-roes and salt meat. The people were all half-idiots, even to the postilion who drove us. We had some daylight for the fourth station, did the fifth by twilight, and the sixth in darkness. The cold (-30 deg.) was so keen that our postilions made good time, and we reached Sunnana on the Skelleftea River, 52 miles, soon after six o'clock. Here we were lodged in a large, barn-like room, so cold that we were obliged to put on our overcoats and sit against the stove. I began to be troubled with a pain in my jaw, from an unsound tooth—the commencement of a martyrdom from which I suffered for many days afterwards. The existence of nerves in one's teeth has always seemed to me a superfluous provision of Nature, and I should have been well satisfied if she had omitted them in my case.
The handmaiden called us soon after five o'clock, and brought us coffee while we were still in bed. This is the general custom here in the North, and is another point of contact with the South. The sky was overcast, with raw violent wind—mercury 18 deg. below zero. We felt the cold very keenly; much more so than on Christmas day. The wind blew full in our teeth, and penetrated even beneath our furs. On setting out, we crossed the Skelleftea River by a wooden bridge, beyond which we saw, rising duskily in the uncertain twilight, a beautiful dome and lantern, crowning a white temple, built in the form of a Greek cross. It was the parish church of Skelleftea. Who could have expected to find such an edifice, here, on the borders of Lapland? The village about it contains many large and handsome houses. This is one of the principal points of trade and intercourse between the coast and the interior.
The weather became worse as we advanced, traversing the low, broad hills, through wastes of dark pine forests. The wind cut like a sharp sword in passing the hollows, and the drifting snow began to fill the tracks. We were full two hours in making the ten miles to Frostkage, and the day seemed scarcely nearer at hand. The leaden, lowering sky gave out no light, the forests were black and cold, the snow a dusky grey—such horribly dismal scenery I have rarely beheld. We warmed ourselves as well as we could, and started anew, having for postilions two rosy boys, who sang the whole way and played all sorts of mad antics with each other to keep from freezing. At the next station we drank large quantities of hot milk, flavored with butter, sugar and cinnamon, and then pushed on, with another chubby hop-o'-my-thumb as guide and driver. The storm grew worse and worse: the wind blew fiercely over the low hills, loaded with particles of snow, as fine as the point of a needle and as hard as crystal, which struck full on our eyeballs and stung them so that we could scarcely see. I had great difficulty in keeping my face from freezing, and my companion found his cheek touched.
By the time we reached Abyn, it blew a hurricane, and we were compelled to stop. It was already dusk, and our cosy little room was doubly pleasant by contrast with the wild weather outside. Our cheerful landlady, with her fresh complexion and splendid teeth, was very kind and attentive, and I got on very well in conversation, notwithstanding her broad dialect. She was much astonished at my asking for a bucket of cold water, for bathing. "Why," said she, "I always thought that if a person put his feet into cold water, in winter, he would die immediately." However, she supplied it, and was a little surprised to find me none the worse in the morning. I passed a terrible night from the pain in my face, and was little comforted, on rising, by the assurance that much snow had fallen. The mercury had risen to zero, and the wind still blew, although not so furiously as on the previous day. We therefore determined to set out, and try to reach Pitea. The landlady's son, a tall young Viking, with yellow locks hanging on his shoulders, acted as postilion, and took the lead. We started at nine, and found it heavy enough at first. It was barely light enough to see our way, and we floundered slowly along through deep drifts for a mile, when we met the snow-plows, after which our road became easier. These plows are wooden frames, shaped somewhat like the bow of a ship—in fact, I have seen very fair clipper models among them—about fifteen feet long by ten feet wide at the base, and so light that, if the snow is not too deep, one horse can manage them. The farmers along the road are obliged to turn out at six o'clock in the morning whenever the snow falls or drifts, and open a passage for travellers. Thus, in spite of the rigorous winter, communication is never interrupted, and the snow-road, at last, from frequent plowing, becomes the finest sleighing track in the world.
The wind blew so violently, however, that the furrows were soon filled up, and even the track of the baggage-sled, fifty yards in advance, was covered. There was one hollow where the drifts of loose snow were five or six feet deep, and here we were obliged to get out and struggle across, sinking to our loins at every step. It is astonishing how soon one becomes hardened to the cold. Although the mercury stood at zero, with a violent storm, we rode with our faces fully exposed, frost-bites and all, and even drove with bare hands, without the least discomfort. But of the scenery we saw this day, I can give no description. There was nothing but long drifts and waves of spotless snow, some dim, dark, spectral fir-trees on either hand, and beyond that a wild chaos of storm. The snow came fast and blinding, beating full in our teeth. It was impossible to see; the fine particles so stung our eyeballs, that we could not look ahead. My eyelashes were loaded with snow, which immediately turned to ice and froze the lids together, unless I kept them in constant motion. The storm hummed and buzzed through the black forests; we were all alone on the road, or even the pious Swedes would not turn out to church on such a day. It was terribly sublime and desolate, and I enjoyed it amazingly. We kept warm, although there was a crust of ice a quarter of an inch thick on our cheeks, and the ice in our beards prevented us from opening our mouths. At one o'clock, we reached the second station, Gefre, unrecognisable by our nearest friends. Our eyelashes were weighed down with heavy fringes of frozen snow, there were icicles an inch long hanging to the eaves of our moustaches, and the handkerchiefs which wrapped our faces were frozen fast to the flesh. The skin was rather improved by this treatment, but it took us a great while to thaw out.
At Gefre, we got some salt meat and hot milk, and then started on our long stage of fifteen miles to Pitea. The wind had moderated somewhat, but the snow still fell fast and thick. We were again blinded and frozen up more firmly than ever, cheeks and all, so that our eyes and lips were the only features to be seen. After plunging along for more than two hours through dreary woods, we came upon the estuary of the Pitea River, where our course was marked out by young fir-trees, planted in the ice. The world became a blank; there was snow around, above and below, and but for these marks a man might have driven at random until he froze. For three miles or more, we rode over the solid gulf, and then took the woods on the opposite shore. The way seemed almost endless. Our feet grew painfully cold, our eyes smarted from the beating of the fine snow, and my swollen jaw tortured me incessantly. Finally lights appeared ahead through the darkness, but another half hour elapsed before we saw houses on both sides of us. There was a street, at last, then a large mansion, and to our great joy the skjutsbonde turned into the courtyard of an inn.