Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/469

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453
NATURE AND LIFE IN LAPLAND.

is provided with an official residence and a salary of 12,000 Swedish crowns, or about £650 per annum.

On arriving at the inn, which is good and clean, and makes up some forty beds, one is struck with a peculiarity of all similar places in Sweden, namely, the apparent indifference to visitors exhibited by the proprietor. No head-waiter, with attendant circle of porters and chambermaids, awaits the arrival of the guest. The luggage is put down at the entrance, and the traveler must seek for himself his rooms and the information lie requires; while the landlord, with his hands in his pockets, regards his efforts from a window with languid curiosity. There is no intentional incivility, but it appears not to be the custom to welcome the coming guest, although to speed the parting guest there is abundance of hand-shaking and hearty good wishes. The curious custom of the Smörgos prevails at these inns, and indeed everywhere throughout Sweden; it consists in a standing refreshment provided at a side-table free of charge, and comprising bread and butter, cheese, caviare, dried fish and reindeer-flesh, sausages, and other similar delicacies, to be taken immediately before each regular meal, and washed down with branvin and other neat spirits. In connection with this performance the Swedes have an objectionable habit, which may be called the community of forks, as the same implement passes rapidly from mouth to mouth and from dish to dish; the rights of private property are flagrantly disregarded.

From Luleä a succession of three small steamers, each making its passage to the bottom of considerable rapids, carry the traveler some ninety miles up the Luleä, River to its junction with the Little Luleä at Storbachen, and across the frontier of Sweden into Lapland, which commences about ten miles below the confluence. The scenery is extremely striking, especially toward the end of the road. The river is a noble stream, never narrower than the Thames at Westminster, and expanding at intervals into broad stretches of water which, shut in by the windings of the river, present the appearance of considerable lakes. The banks are lined with the pine-forests for many miles, and the dark green of the firs and larches is varied by the brighter foliage and silver bark of the birches, which grow in considerable numbers among the other trees. At intervals, gradually getting longer as the distance from Luleä increases, the villages or settlements of the Swedish farmers break the uniformity of the scene, and the wooden houses and out-buildings, painted bright red, with the windows and doors picked out in white, and surrounded by small clearings with patches of yellow barley and green pasture, stand out brightly against the sombre background of the forests, and give animation and warmth to the landscape. It is difficult to convey the peculiar fascination of this scenery. It is due especially to the sharpness and contrast of color, the bright clear blue of the sky giving definiteness to the outlines of the trees and hills, and bringing