Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE LITTLE POST-BOY.

PART I.

1

ac-com'-pan-ies gov'-ern-ment

for'-eign-ers

po-ta'-toes in-dus'-tri-ous im'-ple-ments Stock'-holm

thrif-ty com-fort-ab-ly con-ve'-ni-ent shel'-tered doub'-le VERY few foreigners travel in Sweden in the winter, on account of the intense cold. As you go northward from Stockholm, the capital, the country becomes ruder and wilder, and the climate more severe. In the sheltered valleys along the Gulf of Bothnia and the rivers which empty into it, there are farms and villages for a distance of seven or eight hundred miles, but beyond this fruit-trees disappear, and nothing will grow in the short, cold summers except potatoes and a little barley. Farther inland there are great forests and lakes, and ranges of mountains, where bears, wolves, and herds of wild reindeer make their home. No people could live in such a country unless they were very industrious and a thrifty.

I made my journey in the winter, because I was on my way to 3 Lapland, where it is easier to travel when the swamps and rivers are frozen, and the reindeer-sleds can fly along over the smooth snow. It was very cold indeed the greater part of the time ; the days were short and dark, and if I had not found the people so kind, so cheerful, and so honest, I should have felt inclined to turn back more than once. But I do not think there are better people in the world thau those who live in

2

4

Norrland, which is a Swedish province commencing

а about two hundred miles north of Stockholm.

They are a tall, strong race, with yellow hair and bright blue eyes, and very handsome teeth. They live plainly, but very comfortably, in snug wooden houses, with double windows and doors to keep out the cold ; and since they cannot do much out-door work, they spin and weave and mend their farming implements in the large family room, thus enjoying the winter in spite of its severity. They are very happy and contented, and few of them would be willing to leave that cold country and make their homes in a warmer climate.

Here there are neither railroads nor 4 stages, but the government has established post-stations at distances varying from ten to twenty miles. At each station a number of horses, and sometimes vehicles, are kept, but generally the traveller has his own sled, and simply hires the horses from one station to another. These horses are furnished either by the keeper of the station or by some of the neighbouring farmers, and when they are wanted a man or boy accompanies the traveller to bring them back. It would be quite an independent and convenient way of travelling, if the horses were always ready ; but sometimes you must wait an hour or more before they can be furnished.

Gulf of Bothnia, the northern part of the Baltic Sea. ? thrifty, sparing ; careful ; frugal; saving ; economical. 3 Lapland, a country to the north-east of Sweden. * stage, stage coach or stage waggon, a public vehicle running from station to station for the accommodation of travellers. 5 independent, not depending or relying upon others ; not subject to the control of others. V.-Moffatt's Ex. Reader.

3

1

3

5

[blocks in formation]

I HAD my own little sled, filled with hay and covered with reindeer-skins to keep me warm. So long as the weather was not too cold, it was very pleasant to speed along through the dark forests, over the frozen rivers, or past farm after farm in the sheltered valleys, up hill and down, antil long after the stars came out, and then to get a warm supper in some dark-red post cottage, while the cheerful people sang or told stories around the fire. The cold increased a little every day, to be sure, but I became gradually accustomed to it, and soon began to fancy that the Arctic climate was not so difficult to endure as I had supposed. At first the 1 thermometer fell to zero; then it went down ten degrees below; then twenty, and finally thirty. Being dressed in thick furs from head to foot, I did not suffer greatly ; but I was very glad when the people assured me that such extreme cold never lasted more than two or three days. Boys of twelve or fourteen very often went with me to bring back their father's horses, and so long as those lively, red-cheeked fellows could face the weather, it would not do for me to be afraid. One night there was a wonderful ? aurora in the

2

sky. The streamers of red and blue light darted hither and thither, chasing each other up to the 3 zenith and down again to the northern horizon, with a rapidity and a brilliance which I had never seen before.

« There will be a storm soon,” said

[ocr errors]
[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

my 'postboy : “one always comes, after these lights."

Next morning the sky was overcast, and the short day was as dark as our twilight. But it was not quite so cold, and I travelled onward as fast as possible. There was a long tract of wild and thinly settled country before me, and I wished to get through it before stopping for the night. Unfor

tunately it happened that two 5 lumber-merchants were travelling the same way, and had taken the horses ; so I was obliged to wait at the stations until other horses were brought from the neighbouring farms. This delayed me so much that at seven o'clock in the evening I had still one more station of three Swedish miles before reaching the village where I intended to spend the night. Now, a Swedish mile is nearly equal to seven of ours, so that this station was at least twenty English miles long.

I decided to take supper before I resumed my journey. They had not expected any more travellers at the station, and were not prepared. The keeper had gone with the two lumber-merchants ; but his wife—a friendly, rosy-faced woman-prepared me some excellent coffee, potatoes, and stewed reindeermeat, upon which I made an excellent meal. The house was on the border of a large, dark forest, and the roar of the icy northern wind in the trees seemed to increase while I waited in the warm room. I did not feel inclined to go forth into the wintry storm, but, having set my mind on reaching the village that night, I was reluctant to turn back.

“It is a bad night," said the woman, "and my husband will certainly stay at Umea until morning. His name is Neils Petersen, and I think you will find him at the post-house when you get there. Lars will take you, and they can come back together."

Just then the door opened, and in came Lars. He was about twelve years

of age:

but his face was so

« PreviousContinue »