Изображения страниц

dews at one of the most remarkable and agreeable of the striking scenes which Stockholm at this winter season presents; and hearing, without sharing in, the conversation that is going on in the large house of which myself and my apartments form an atom. To realize the sense of isolation, one should be, for once at least, a solitary stranger on such a day and in such a scene. Yet that feeling does not make me melancholy, as it would do in England; and I have resigned myself, with scarcely a sigh, to a stranger's lot, when a very tall figure, wrapped in a great furred mantle, appears in the half-opened folding doors, nearly filling up the space from top to bottom.

"The Church Service is already over," says this good Swede; "but if you will come and see the Yule-market now, I will come for you at halfpast six to-morrow morning to go to see the churches."

A thickly fur-lined cloak, an enormous pair of long boots, are put on directly, and we go out together. The white ground, the clear air, the still crimson horizon, and the house-lights sparkling here, there, everywhere, have a cheering influence. There is not yet any gas in the city of Stockholm; they will have it soon, as well as a railway; but that takes time. The go-a-head system has not travelled to Sweden yet. The streets are miserably lighted by oil-lamps, hung out in the ancient style, sometimes across the streets; but the numerous windows of the broad and high white houses are all in light, for each floor is inhabited, and they are shaded only by tall plants, or, at most, by a muslin drapery; so that Stockholm from my windows at night gives one the idea of a general illumination, rather than that of an ill-lighted city. We went on over Carl Tretons Torg; which gives a view that really affords me companionship in solitude, as I stand gazing at it from my windows, or pop up and down twenty times in the evening or night, to peep out at it. Its surface of frozen snow, which does not yield to the tread, is still only broken by the huge, ugly statue of King Carl XIII., the brother of the murdered Gustavus III., and the adopted father of Bernadotte. His statue, as well as his memory, is disliked here. The first is guarded by a sentinel; the latter—I know not by what.

The light of lanterns flitted curiously over the snow. They were carried by servants, escorting ladies; for it is one of the many rules of Swedish propriety, that no lady can walk out at night without a lantern. If the moon shines brighter than the sun at noonday, which in winter it often does—if the Northern-lights shoot their gloriously-coloured radiancy along the far-off and elevated horizon, the lantern must precede your steps, casting its blinding, bewildering glare upon your eyes—for the lantern is the Swedish lady's proof of propriety. I made my tall Swede a good substitute for the lantern; and on Jul-Afton enjoyed that curiously-interesting scene—a winter view of Stockholm at night.

We went over the great square, called that of Gustavus Adolphus, or Gustaf Adolfs Torg, joining the bridge of Norrbro, the great promenade of Stockholm, and the finest part of the town. The splendid palace is at its termination; the waters of Lake Malar, that most exquisite, and now—except where this current is—frozen up lake, still whirl beneath it to cast themselves into the Baltic Sea, mingling fresh waters with salt. At one side of the bridge these waters are dark as night, except where two solitary red lamps are reflected in deep glowing flames on their broken surface; at the other, innumerable lights, dancing in the flowing stream, look as if the bright sky of the north had dived down there, and bathed its myriads of great stars beneath the flood. And there, moored at the side of that water, in front of the noble palace, the tall, bare masts of ships, laid up for the winter, look like leafless trees in the snowy scene and clear starlight. Everything is so clear, so distinct; all looks so large, so open, so white; the space one sees around is so great. The heights of Sodor are studded with houses, climbing up them in a singular manner from the water's edge, till you mount, by a tremendous wooden staircase, a length that seems at all events equal to the height of St. Paul's, or wind round the carriage-way up that now unfashionable quarter of the capital. And the long rows of sparkling windows are all glittering in light; house above house, light above light; up from the dark grouping of ships, and tall, sailless masts, and the first row of lights beyond them, up, and up, till a brighter blaze streams out at the summit from Mosebacken, or the Hill of Moses, by which reverend term is designated one of the many places of amusement for the Stockholmers. And so we pass along the side of the palace, where the apartments of the Crown Prince seem in a blaze. The exotic plants in the windows are the only screen, and the sparkling chandeliers are for an instant intercepted from our sight by a passing figure. There is the handsome youth himself, full of fun and* frolic as usual; and his young wife, and the baby, and all the rest of them. The people of Sweden dearly love a glimpse of royalty, and they can have it very freely. We leave the water now, and the water is the charm of Stockholm. We enter close, horribly-paved and usually dark and dirty streets. Now they are frozen and they are bright; all shops busy, all streets thronged; all people seem hastening eagerly homeward, yet still the throng is the same. We get to the Yule-market; it consists of booths, erected for the occasion, and filled mostly with plain and useful articles for simple households, and with a vast stock of religious and royal prints. I bought the whole of the handsome, amiable, and pleasing royal family of Sweden for about threepence English; and with them there was exhibited, naturally, the scene of that wonderful birth that was to be commemorated on the morrow. A representation of "the holy child, Jesus "—as the beautiful expression of the little ones of Sweden usually is—laid in the manger, is a favourite part of the ceremonies of Christmas Eve, especially among those who wish to combine with its plea

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »