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yellowed with poached eggs; it looks like a platter of gold when the meagre lamplight from the walls falls over it, and we gather, from his air of mingled content and commiseration, that he has devoured the best half-dozen on the dish. His record (unbroken) is ten.
The “Don " is the show piece of the party, he can wear the national deerstalker with effect; it makes the rest of us look like third-rate clowns. He is “in the City," strong in the arm, soft at heart, fond of a laugh and a lady, and means to kill his elk, if it comes to clubbing a baby asleep. We are all his friends, but he gets the start of us, when possible—with poached eggs and other things. The “Sunfish "resents it, but then he is fat and small.
Esther waits on us; she is the eldest daughter, not the fairest; they so seldom are. Kriemhilda is the other, at least, she is to be so while we are here. We have explained that to her through Charles, because she has cheeks like peach apples, and two thick braids of flaxen hair, as if just come forth from some old Saga ; she laughed, but answers to it. The "man in bed” makes jokes about our christening, because she has charge of the dairy. What he does while we are away, Heaven knows ! he cannot satisfactorily account (tous) for a tenth of his time; luckily he can only ask for beer in Swedish, and doesn't seem to be getting much further ; but then the eyes speak all tongues, and Kriemhilda's were proficient talkers.
At four we start; muster in the porch, sling arms, and defile in single rank through the orchard, down the spinny of flaunting maples, and across the grey soaking meadows to the lake.
It is still dark. Over the pine-spiked cliffs, pitch black, north of the lake, the faint white aurora of early winter sweeps in sheeted gusts to the zenith, blowing out the stars ; there is a pale mysterious beauty in its fitful pulse, unlike anything else in nature, and almost terribly enhanced by the silent unpeopled land. We are apt to make our eyes patrons of beauty, to fancy it made for us ; this waste of splendour on ice and polar bears reduces that theory, and us with it.
The air is clear and cool, the trees and fields are dripping with a week's rain, and the light above us is faintly reflected in the lake. At its edge two boats become suddenly visible as the water grows white about them with reflected light, silhouetting sharply their dark prows and the grim boatmen in them, waiting motionless for us as they might for doom. Gaunt hungry-looking men, with nothing on but what one sees, and that little thin and
torn; bare feet in their boots, and with arms hard as and welted like a hawser; they wear a uniform look of being uninterested in their own existence. They are here out of sheer land-loyalty to our host, to row three strong healthy Englishmen across five miles of water for nothing. If you give them money they will simply wonder what you wish to buy, not valuing their service in coin. It is not good for Englishmen to think that out in Sweden.
We are six, the additions being Charles, who, in his capacity of pack mule, carries the knapsack, and Lars Eric (called “Clusium ”), a tall grave-faced hunter, with a long tubular tow-coloured beard, and a dog. The dog's name is forgotten ; we called it Thor, in opposition to the "Sunfish's” angrily reiterated statement that it was a complete frost. That was one of his phrases ; if he meant by it an inability to hunt, it was correct. The pun was a poor one, but had a local flavour, and, if it had not suggested some still poorer to the "man in bed,” we would have been content. That was more than one could be with the dog ; it formed a distracting and wholly unnecessary feature in all our expeditions. I think it used to pull Herr Starsson along, but never after elk.
He was our host; Charles called him “Storrshon," and though Charles was a Dane, and probably wrong, we copied him---nearly as we could—sor in the Danish style Storrshon,” with many r's and s's, was as difficult a mouthful to negotiate as a piece of smoked "elk-beef.” In face and figure he was the typical British tradesman, the successful one ; but his appearance libelled him.
Half-way over, the "Don" pointed silently to a ball of grey mist floating on the water like the severed head of a ghost; but on the instant, like a ghost, it was gone. While discussing it, a dozen more appeared, as if through chinks in the surface, and in a minute the dozen were a hundred, all shapes, and soon all sizes, for they grew fast, some like distracted wraiths, all tangled angles, and others soft balls of down. The boat slides through one, and for a second we are in fog, thick wet fog, the next in clear air, with the fog ball breaking and eddying in our wake. It was curious, too, seeing the other boat suddenly wiped off the lake, and, before it emerged, to disappear ourselves; but stranger still—when these islands of fog joined, leaving here and there between them tortuous alleys-to row under the stars with a wall of mist on either hand; but soon these also were engulfed and the haze was supreme.
The rustle of crushed reeds and grating stones in front announces the arrival of the other boat, and an instant after blue rushes leap out of the mist around us, and a hill-side darkens the air; we have come
together through a mile and more of fog, straight hither, without even a sound to steer by. A word is snapped between the boatmen and our host, a nod from the hunter, and they go; cold, grim, sad figures; they drive their boats back slowly into the grey air and are gone.
Niels Petersen joins us here, a merry-eyed cousin of Lars, short, tough as a tiger, a clinking good shot with his long snider, and as sharp to see an English joke as to make a Norse one. He also has a dog, something in appearance between a Russian wolf-hound and a Bedlington ; not pretty, but good, though next to useless late in the day. His name is Klinga-in English, Clingya ; we adopt it out of respect for his qualities. The “man in bed” is fond of repeating it, it is about the high-water mark of his Swedish.
The trail goes uphill from the lake, a steep stony path, sometimes a gully noisy with water, always dark and slippery, and zigzagging in a fashion to please a snipe, but provoking to a man, and perfectly odious to the “Sunfish.” The “Don "offers him his pocket-book to swear into, silence being signalled ; and, considering that Charles is falling pretty steadily, and the “Sunfish” frequently in trouble, we make but little noise. It is single file all the way, and "thread ” file often, the whole line being extended ventrally to negotiate a tight place ; further, as we ascend, the mist thickens and quickens into rain.
I have a notion that the man who brings up the rear, and who seems to stumble naturally into trouble, is the most remarkable of the party. Poor Charles ! he wears always a startled look, as if a curse had greeted his birth, and he had never recovered the shock. He has the air of a hanger-on in Nature, of a limb that lingers though its use is gone; as the blind eyes of earth-born fish-there, though useless ; Nature does not show much of the sort, she cannot afford to. The “Sunfish” called him a parasite, but the "Sunfish” was wrong; parasites have distinct functions. One had only to look at Charles crossing a bog, stepping into every bog-hole he could reach and dumping the knapsack into the others, to see he was no parasite. The Sunfish” might have contrasted such behaviour with that of some true forms of the family which he tried to capture one night, and have become wiser, instead of swearing.
We picked him up in Göteburg, on our way up country, engaging him as he stood, at five minutes' warning, on his looks.
We were to see him at the station, and we saw him, and took his ticket. Had he a character ?
" You needn't ask the man that," said the “ Don' you can see he hasn't."
He also said, No, he had not, with a perplexed smile, as if
wondering whether he should apply for one to the cabin-boy he had served with as mate, or to the captain he had served as cabin-boy; for he seemed on his own showing to take his trades in any alternation, not progressively. He had been a valet, courier, sceneshifter, waiter, street scavenger, commercial traveller, and, between them all, a sailor, any sort of one; he had a mate's certificate, but he shipped last as a steward. He had been in perils more abundant than Paul the tent-maker, wrecked four times, lashed two days and a night to the mast of a sunken brig, washed ashore on three continents, picking up little from them but the speech of their peoples, and a certain placid endurance almost tragic.
One had only his word for these things, but that was pathetically sufficient; he had not even learnt from his travels how to lie. He took to us eagerly, as a child to a new toy, jumping out at every station to see if we were still in the train, perhaps from a keen experience of things transient; and we called him, from that and his general attitude of protection, the “ Body-guard.”
Drawbacks to "buying a man in his boots” became apparent later. The “ Body-guard” was soft, very soft ; and after a week's hard walking (rain and sun had the same effect), we began to grow anxious for the arrival of his trunk, and fitted his thin bent legs into a pair of gigantic waders at the village store, trusting their rich odour of tan and grease would have an absorbent effect.
Poor Charles ! sweeter he might have been in everything but temper, for his horse laugh never failed, and he neither tired nor sulked, wading with us through bog and burn, dropping naturally into the softest places as far as his pack could let him, and drawn out black with mire ; always soaking, sleeping in a seamy cloud before the stove, and waking with the same frightened suspense in his eyes, a horrible cough, and an insatiable keenness for month-old cowspoor.
He was a very faggot bundle of virtues of no value; a fool could have seen the pathos in him, yet he kept us in laughter for a month. I never asked him if he had been in love.
We were to meet Carl Petersen, the jäger hereabouts, this morning, and impossible though it seemed in this fog-filled tangle of birch-wood to meet anything but wet branches in one's face, Niels keeps confidently on, giving from time to time a low soft whistle, the inexact minor third of the cuckoo's call; one could drown it, close at hand, in a sneeze, and hear it through a mile of the thickest scrub. Once he turns, grins at our host, whose weight is beginning to tell, and points ahead, whence, five minutes later, his whistle is echoed,
apparently close at hand; but only after a half hour's steady plodding is it repeated, and then just overhead. We scramble up a rocky knoll, and find ourselves free of the mist and in front of five longlimbed hunters lying picturesquely round the summit.
There is no mistaking the leader, though there is nothing to distinguish him. Time and blood have darkened the dull greens of his dress, and soiled the red sash he wears ; he lies passively on the mossy slope, looking down into the fog, the leash of a great deer. hound knotted at his wrist.
One meets soldiers, merchants, lawyers—here was a man. The friction of their trades had worn and rounded his comrades' faces, but his was keen and sharp and hard with ceaseless pitting of himself against Nature and her beasts ; the cunning, the inveterate patience, the savageness even of the claw and the horn had consumed his features; the edge of his brows was like a broken flint.
The “Sunfish” has since spoken in disrespectful terms of Carl Pétersen's manners and hunting ; of the latter we saw very little, of manners one could see he had none.
He turned his head slowly round when we were introduced, and his eyes said, “Three fools !" It was worse than being rowed by those shivering boors; even the “ Sunfish” lost his ray.
Herr Starsson, evidently vexed, explains our prowess (so Charles, who was boiling with rage, informed us later), but the long grey eyes only look fixedly down into the fog, and a grunt explains with sufficient clearness that they know men and beasts at sight. The worst of it was, one felt they did.
Presently the mist floats down the billside, and the listless jägers become alert ; for this hump commands three narrow gulches which meet in a lake, and in any of them the deer may lie. Of the lake we can see now merely a fir-bound bay, shaped like a Moorish arch; its feet, buried in the fog, seeming to be the furthest limit of the world, only an open void beyond them.
Then suddenly the sky is coloured with the sun, the white veil opens, and the water, like a sheet of yellow glass, streaked and mottled witin rags of vapour, is stretched out slowly into the air.
Carl Petersen is on his feet, signs to Charles and the “Sunfish to remain where they are, and, fallen into single file, the rest of us descend the hill.
Then begins a dreary dislocated march through forests of fir ard larch, and over red and quaking bogs ; everything looks alike, ard when posted one has not the haziest notion where the game or the other guns are supposed to be. What is left of the line files on, and