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Sledges are now flying about in all directions with a terrific velocity. Some of these vehicles are of a curiously primitive construction. I asked an Englishman who is visiting here to make me a sketch of one of the roughest; but that gentleman's axiom seems to be, to take all the agreeable things he can get, and give none; so I must do without my sketch.
These sledges range in all grades, from the lowest invention of necessity, to the refined ones of luxury. There, now, dashes by one formed of eight bars, or poles, of unpainted wood. Two rest on the ground, forming the slides, four are upright, and are crossed by one at each end: these sledges, when used for the carriage of timber, are generally bottomless; in other cases, there are upper horizontal poles which support the bottom. The two long poles that rest on the ground, and form the slides, project behind the body of the vehicle at the back: and on the projecting ends the driver often stands, as in the hired drosky sledges, with a foot on each; and thus, with the long cord reins and the whip in his hands, he dashes full speed along. Sometimes these sledges are without upper rails, and very low, the planks being laid fiat on the rests. In this case the drivers sit on the sides when empty; and, being very much lower than the horses, are unable, even if they wished it, to see before them. When they drive two or three horses at once, and seven or eight of the sledges are coming together, the chance of your getting over a slippery street or road appears precarious.
Still, to go out I feel to be a necessity; and the cold now realises my notion of a winter in the north. The air is so clear, so invigorating, but at times so intensely cold, that I felt one day when there was some wind, as if I must be cut in two. The views in Stockholm, and its beautiful environs, are now most charming. Everything looks so large, so distinct, and one sees so very far around. Hills, valleys, rocks, islands, streets, water—only a little bit of this, however—all as it were on a white ground.
And the twilights are so curiously long; the red light is on the west when the silver light brighteus the east. And the bridge called Norrbro looks at each side so beautiful, that I often stop on its fashionable walk to think which is the most so: the Baltic side with the distant banks of the Djurgord; and the nearer Skipsholm, or Ship Island, so called because the Marine and Admiralty Colleges and departments are there; and its neighbour, Castelholmen, or the Castle Island, with trees and rocks, barracks and castle; fantastic yellow and white buildings, tasteless anywhere else, but picturesque and in character there. This is what I cannot get some British pretenders to architectural knowledge and taste to admit; they look at these, and such like things, and cry out on them, because, I think, they have no eye for beauty as a whole, while they criticise it in parts. The thing itself may be as ugly as need be, yet I would not have it put out of my view for any other building.
And then there is the Malar, or that mouth of the Malar which is called Norstrom, the current by which it flows rapidly under Norrbro into the Baltic. This side of the bridge presents a more distant, but less diversified and, so to speak, populous view. There is one tiny islet close at hand, with one solitary house upon it, but its elevated banks are covered with villas, and under the bridge its stream rushes free and wild through an icy channel, the only bit of water to be seen; resisting by its own impetuosity the power of the ice-king.
And at one end of this bridge there is Gustaf Adolfs Torg, with a queer-looking dingy old palace at one side, the lower ground of which is used as a guard-house; and there, at the hour of changing guard, comes forth a soldier and sets up a yell that is unrivalled by any sound proceeding from human lungs. So horrible a thing I never heard; I trembled for five minutes after hearing it the first time; for the man bounced out and yelled as I passed, so that I started and clung to my companion's arm in the full beUef that he had been seized with madness. At the other side of this largo square, in the centre of which stands a statue of the hero of Protestantism, is the Opera House, built by Gustavus III., and in which he was shot by Ankerstrom. At the other end of the bridge is the Palace, and a view of part of Sodormaln.
This square, called Gustaf Adolfs Torg, presents a curious item in the wide-spread snowy landscape, when its broad space is traversed in all directions by flying sledges; their tinkling bells rather perplexing than pre-warning the footpassengers, for while I strain my eyes in one way at the sound, I perceive I ought first to have got out of danger in another. When the men see I am frightened, they sometimes laugh, sometimes pull off their hats and make me a bow. I think the young ones laugh, and the old ones bow; but I imagine if either killed me they would do just the same.
Those most difficult to avoid, and almost more dangerous, are the hand-sledges, with which boys are now everywhere careering about, especially where there is sloping ground; pushing the machine into a run, then throwing themselves flat upon it, and swimming over the frozen snow. Another mode is that of sitting upright with a foot on each pole, and conducting themselves; coming down a hill, however, very often with