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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 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. The day 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 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 Sodor. 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 lamps in the streets and in the houses were lighted; the lights sparkled here, there, everywhere, up and down, and around my Place. I went to the window, and uttered a cry of delight; my whole Place was a sheet of glittering crystal, reflecting in its polished mirror a treble row of sparkling lights; no—words cannot tell how beautiful it looked! The snow had melted off, and left the ice wet underneath; in the day it looked like water, in the night it was hard, clear, shining glass. The only thing I ever saw at all resembling it, but on a smaller scale, was an underground lake in one of the Austrian salt mines, which was encircled with small lamps; the white heaps of salt around it might look in the gloom like the snows of Sweden.
In the day, and in the gloom of the afternoon, that is from after two o'clock, the aspect of this Place is curiously animated—no one walks over it, I believe, for no one can. Two women, one of them quite old, were trying to do so, but the men who accompanied them put their arms round their waists and set off in a sliding-walk, most comical to witness, but I should think, for the old one at least, not pleasant to share in. The whole space is traversed by gliding figures. I thought in the
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dusk I saw a monstrous animal running over it, and casting a strange shadow on its crystal mirror. It proved to be a man laden with a bundle of straw tied up in the curiously lengthy style in which they bind sheaves in Sweden; it was laid across his shoulders, and he was sliding with it over the throughfare.
Again came a party of soldiers carrying an invalid comrade from the hospital, which, with a sort of blundering arrangement not uncommon to this land, is placed at the farthest extremity of the capital from the barracks. The men who preceded and followed the bier did so in a slide, and I think the bearers must have been tempted to follow the example.
In Dalerne men travel vast distances on large wooden skates, crossing the frozen lakes and rivers. It was in this way that Gustaf Vasa was reclaimed and brought back, when the courteous Dalecarlians finally decided that it was better to accept than to reject him. The two skaters are still represented in effigy at the famoushouse whichhe escaped from.
And so my Torg continued for five or six days, an amusing and lively scene; and for as many