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quite another aspect in the far north. On the third day of April I walked over a part of Lake Mälar, but at one spot near the shore, the ice broke, or had been broken, and my foot went in almost to the top of the half boot, as it is called, which ladies wear here, of a tremendous length.
“Madame must be careful,” said my little attendant, Karin, “not to break the other leg now”_and with one as yet only partially restored, I fully felt the necessity of taking her advice.
“Ithink,” said the tall Swede, who accompanied me, and pulled me out, “I think you must not walk on the ice any more; it will be unsafe to do so soon; but-yes, you can go on for a week or so still if you like it; I see the ice broke near to the spot those washerwomen have opened to wash in.”
True enough, there were the poor creatures, and domestic servants have often to do the samestanding on the ice, through which they had cut a large opening, and there bathing the clothes they had to wash. What an occupation that must be in such a climate!
“This is the third of April,” I remarked, looking round on the icy lake.
“Yes, we shall have spring early this year, added my companion.
I thought this now appeared to be likely: so as I wanted to see the forests once more in their winter dress, I got a drosky, and drove out to Haga; and there was that beautiful park, which owes its charms to nature, lying still deep, deep in winter snow—so silent, so very silent it was that day. Rooks were cawing in England in busy conclave, settling the affairs of their nation ; birds were singing, leaves and blossoms opening,—but here, not the flap of a bird's wing, not the chirrup of an insect was heard. The lake was still an icy plain, with its hillocks of snow; the undulating grounds and dark rocks rose up, and sunk down, but all bore the same thick white burden. Not a blade of grass, not the most distant vestige of a bud, was to be seen. The enormous pines and great dark firs were all that seemed to triumph over winter.
Unloved in summer, they seemed while unloved still to bear stern witness to their own superiority, and to preach a silent homily over the dead and joyless things whose leaves had danced in the summer sunshine, and cheated us into admiration and love. Up they rose, so high and firm, with their roots in the
great rock, and their dark
heads towering in unchangeableness; looking as if they never had, nor could have, any sympathy with the Nature that lay subdued, withered, blighted, and oppressed around them.
I have often thought in England, that leafless trees possess a peculiar, but indescribable beauty, especially when their branches rise
in strong sunlight or bright moonshine. But this charm of leaflessness, whatever it may arise from, is unknown to the trees of Sweden. The intensity of desolation their aspect evinces is quite curious ; they are the colour of dry parched earth. It never struck me that England was always green until I had seen the winter aspect of Sweden, its spring aspect also. The trees wreathed with ivy, the hedgerows set with holly and privet, the evergreen things that grow by the waysides, and the bright green grass of the fields, say that England takes the winter as some good folks take this Lenten season, disguising its hardness with all the substitutes for gaieties that they can gracefully devise. A Swedish forest without firs, in winter, must be a miserable sight. The leaf trees, as all others are called here, when they have en
dured some winter months, look as if they never could bear a green leaf again; so earthy-coloured, so sapless, so dried-up do they seem. Spectres of trees, such as I this day saw in the forest of Haga, rising from the cold white ground, and contrasting with the sternly domineering firs, actually haunt my imagination.
And the 6th of April was a charming day; the heat of the sun was so great that ice and snow could no longer resist it. I returned from a long walk, over Skeppsholmen into the Djurgord, with my face painfully burned. My good hostess warned me not to go out again without a veil and parasol. I went over the bridge, where I had seen the boats so deeply imbedded in the thick ice on that arm of the Baltic; and on the ice some fishermen were then seated on stools; they had bored holes in it, and let down lines, and beguiled unwary little trouts and small red gurnet, and drew them up, and cast them to leap and twist and flutter upon it, and to suffer the penalty of having been led into temptation.
But now the water was free at one side, though still bound up at the other: the boats and the fishers were gone. As for the poor little fish,
they would re-appear no more. I saw a change, and I felt the spring was coming; but I did not see it coming
I walked on into Djurgorden, and there the trees were like those of Haga; the snow was melting; but where the grass was left bare, it was the colour of straw or withered hay. They were beginning to open some of the houses : in a court at the back of a restaurant, I heard a woman scream ; I ran forward, and saw a man nearly kill another with a great knife. Two women were at an opposite window eating their dinner, and they ate it on, and never stirred nor stopped, though the man, with his cheek laid
to chin, was full before them. A woman was trying to save him; I ran on, and held up my hands; and I think the brutal man was afraid of me, for he went away and shut up the door.
I related the circumstance when I came back, and expressed my astonishment at the two women in the restaurant, who continued to eat their dinner.
" That is quite the Swedish way,” said a clever native of that land, who had travelled a good deal elsewhere ; “ they do not like here to interfere with what does not belong to them,