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three nights that our unhappy propinquity lasted.
Every one, indeed, thought I had no business there; but where could I go? The deck is dirty, wet, cold ******
Well, there is a whole line of asterisks; for I always find them the next best resource to hysterics, in helping one out of explanations.
Now the sun is coming out; but you know what sunshine is to a miserable, awake-all-night traveller. Ah, if 1 could only get a good breakfast; there might then be a chance of my getting a good humour also. Spend as uncomfortable a night as you may on board French boats, and a French breakfast will put you into a pleasant temper, if any earthly thing can. But a cup of caffe au hit is unknown here, although you are served with a little cup of the coffee and thick cold cream, which is drank before breakfast and after dinner by most Swedes.
Even an English breakfast would be comforting now; but a Swedish one!—and on board these little boats!
In the first place, it is served in a sort of hold, to which ingress and egress are very difficult. Then you get all sorts of fish, fried, boiled, and raw, a quantity of strangely-cooked hard meat, vegetables, cheese, and various compounds; with ale, porter, and spirits for male drinkers, but nothing at all that gentler lips can be supposed capable of imbibing. There are some slices of white, soft bread, cut in a basket, and a quantity of the hard dry cake called knacken, which name a learned Swede tells me comes from the verb to crack. I found the derivation enough for me, and have not tried to make my teeth do that which the power of my hands could not effect.
This hard stuff, however, is so much relished by natives, that a piece of it is always laid beside them at dinner; and, I am told, I could meet it at the Swedish minister's in London, if I am ever happy enough to be there.
The Flikas would growl if I were to ask for a cup of tea; the obliging "MamselV who keeps the restauration departments would be utterly astonished; and every one of the good people here would, in their hearts, accuse me of a want of sobriety.
On this particular trip, however, we must all take what we can get and be thankful. The boat is in an awful state of over-population. What is to be done with the half of us would puzzle a better political economist than our poor captain, who has given up all theory on the subject, and is deaf to all the supplicating "Herr Kapten" which echo around him.
The Swedes are, in fact, returning from the baths; it is autumn, and the stream has set in towards the capital. They are coming from charming Stromstad, and Marlstrand, and such pleasant retreats for water lovers, where they associate as thickly as they now do on our deck. Every one who can leaves Stockholm in June, and most persons like to come back there for the winter; there are exceptions in this, especially among country gentlemen, and very domesticated ladies. The time for the baths is now over; some of our passengers are going to their country houses, from whence they may again migrate on the noted 1st of October, to winter quarters in Stockholm; others are now returning to their permanent location there; others—as myself, for instance—are travelling on business. And the result is that, all our objects taken together, there is no room to sit or stand, much less to walk or to recline, in this little over-crowded, screw-propeller steamer; which is busy screwing, thumping, roaring in a most unreasonably noisy manner, as it goes along its quiet path over the narrow jiver Gota, and between the granite lining of the canal. And thus, describing myself as neither sitting, standing, walking, nor reclining, while trying to write to you, I have only to add to the sum of my autumnal travelling enjoyments,- that a pertinacious fall of rain seems as if it meant to compensate for the illiberality of all our other supplies.
And is it thus that on the first day of September, 1851, I retrace the curious and interesting water-journey by the canals, lakes, rivers, that lie between the two chief towns of Sweden? And I made it once before—four long years ago, in a sweet midsummer tide.
How much of a traveller's impressions, and consequently of his descriptions, depend on the accidents of time, weather, companionship, or other accessories to personal enjoyment! Exaggerated descriptions, either in good or bad, are thus easily accounted for; though the blame that ought to be laid on the accidents that beset him, is generally cast upon his taste or information.
Thus, were I to go on describing what I saw, heard, or did, during these three days and a half, in an over-crowded boat, and under a continual pour of rain, certainly some one who came after me, or had gone before me, on a midsummer's day, would think me a very disagreeable person; and the Swedes, if they chanced to hear my description, would say—what they always do say when travellers give unfavourable accounts of themselves, or their country—"She knew nothing about
it, she was in Sweden six weeks, and" but I
will take the bright side, partly at least, and so there is no use in anticipating all that would be said of my ignorance if I were to do the reverse. I shall blend into one the descriptions of the Gottenburg Canal as seen in the brightness and beauty of Midsummer-tide, and seen in the gloom and dreariness of a rainy autumn.
It is called the Canal, but out of a length of three hundred and seventy miles English, only fifty consists of actual canal, and these in detached portions, partly cut through enormous granite hills, in order to string together, as it were, the splendid natural waters, lakes, bays, rivers, which render this Swedish, so-called canal, unlike any other that I have yet seen. It is really a most beautiful water highway; connecting the Baltic at the capital with the North Sea at the other chief port and commercial town of Sweden, the far more active and apparently flourishing border-town of Gottenburg,