Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

did, never again to chaperone a Swede in a white dress to an Exchange ball. More pleasant to me, I must confess, as I do not wear white dresses, was the solitary walk I took to revive myself the next day, after having been up from six o'clock on New-Year's morning to three o'clock on the morning after it. The Exchange ball was a curious spectacle, as a national institution of very ancient origin; but nature has ever been my friend-almost my best friend; and from artificial life how gladly the spirit rebounds to her who has blessed our childhood, cheered our youth, and consoles our age;

Then come forth, come forth with me,
And nature’s glorious landscape see.

173

CHAPTER IX.

And pleasant was that second day of January, 1852. Deep thanks can even the chilled and strife-worn heart render at that shrine whereon the Most High will permit its offering to be laidthe shrine of nature, which ever bears the tribute of praise to Him whose Eternal Power and Godhead are understood by the things that are made.

The favourite of my early childhood, Beattie's Minstrel, always recurs to memory amid the charming scenes of nature; it is perhaps because they both were loved together, and have grown old in the same ceaseless affection. To have

loved as a child, just as one loves in age, is very pleasant.

The day after the bitterly cold one of New Year's-day, was one of the sunniest and loveliest one could imagine at such a season, and in the far north. The young English dragoon and the white-robed Swede did me a service, after all; for the length of time I had spent in taking care of them, forced me to hasten out for a long solitary walk, as my restorative after the many stupid hours I had passed in the stifling heavy atmosphere of the Exchange ball-room. Thus my after-pleasure was enhanced by the feeling that it was the reward of self-denial-at least I wish to consider it so.

I walked over Skeppsholmen, or the Isle of Ships, where the Admiralty offices and naval institutions are situated; a pretty island and walk it is. The sun was warm and clear; the temperature, in the shade, was low; the snow was deep, and sparkled in the clear light. I crossed the bridge of boats, which, in winter, supplies the place of the movable ones that ply between the capital and Djurgorden; but I did not see the boats, or perceive that any bridge was there, or any water either. That branch of the Baltic was now

all ice, ice hard and immovable as any road, so that I did not know I walked on water.

And then I was in a beautiful place, where dark tall pines rose amid snow-covered rocks, that glittered in the sunshine; and I trod nearly kneedeep in snow, to avoid a beaten path; and I enjoyed myself exceedingly. Beautiful were those rocky heights and dark fir-trees, rising in snow and sunshine; beautiful, the wide-spread landscape round about; still, and calm, and bright was the whole scene; the frost-king and sun-king were each triumphant, and each seemed equally secure of his reign. Alas, for such expectations ! Talk of the instability of England if you will, Mr. Swede ; but what will you say to this ? “ 1st January, bitterly cold and dark; 2nd January, warm and bright, and very calm ; 4th January, blowing a hurricane, piercingly cold;" and so on, says my note-book.

It is curious to an English person to be made sensible of a storm only by hearing the reports of those who have been out of doors, or by seeing, not feeling, its violence. following my walk, the cold was again extreme; and the day after that, the wind rose to a gale, but without shaking the immensely thick

The day

walls and firm-set windows of my dwelling. Remembering the groaning, creaking, rattling of an English house in a storm, I feel amazed at seeing the effects of the wind from my window, without feeling the least movement, or breath of air around me. Certainly our English walls, doors, and windows, do us no credit; and I wish we could borrow a hint from a nation that is admitted to be a century behind us in the arts, and manufactures, and conveniences of life. This gale subsided, not into snow, but rain ; such rain as even this wet autumn had not produced; and for twenty-four hours it continued incessantly. Not a trace of snow remained on my favourite place, only patches of it lay still on the heights of Södor. The sledges were put up, the carts began to rattle; I lost my temper, and the Swedes lost their spirits. The snow had melted from the place, and its unbroken surface looked like a lake. But, to my no small perplexity, I saw boys sliding on what appeared to me to be merely a sheet of water, formed by the melted snow. They cut figures and capers, they threw parcels before them, slided after them, and took them up without stopping. What can it be? are they running over water ? Three o'clock came; it was dark; the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »