« ZurückWeiter »
of the kind to happen until towards the approach of spring, when in consequence it was almost in the course of nature. Indeed I never heard of but one well authenticated instance of the bear having passed his tappen in the depth of winter.
The inference drawn by the northern Chasseurs from this is, that the tappen, in conjunction with repose, is the cause of the bear retaining his condition, though without taking any kind of nourishment, for nearly onehalf of the year.
'Though the tappen has probably been known to the bear-hunters of the north for ages, Mr. Falk was, I believe, the first to bring the circumstance before the notice of the public. In Sweden, however, I do not think it has created any speculation, it being perhaps considered an idle story. If nevertheless the bear really does become excessively lean, in the event of losing his tappen, which Mr. Falk and others assert to be the fact, it would seem as if there was some bidden mystery connected with it, which it is for naturalists to unravel. Should this be the case, it is not improbable but that it may eventually be discovered that a process something similar in its kind takes place in all animals that pass the winter months in a torpid state.'vol. i. pp. 84-91.
This singular provision of nature, the tappen, was analysed by Mr. Lloyd, and a most diversified composition he found it to be. It consisted of brown resin, green essential (volatile) oil, smelling like turpentine, pale yellow fat (fixed) oil, smelling rancid, the colouring matter of leaves, starch, lignia, pectic acid, formic acid, sulphates, phosphates, and muriates, leaves of Scotch fir and juniper, and other materials. We need hardly laugh at the story of the bear sucking his paws for nourishment. That the animal does often suck his paws, is however certain, and the reason of his performing this operation with so much assiduity, has not yet been explained by natural philosophers. Mr. Lloyd conjectures that the bear obtains a new skin on the balls of his feet during the winter months, and that by sucking he assists in the change.
Having thus far made ourselves acquainted with the character of the Scandinavian bear, let us take a trip to the province of Dalecarlia, and amidst its magnificent forests, lakes, and mountains, join in what our author calls a-skall. Now, what is a skall ?--our English sportsman asks. Is it a hunt? Not exactly. A skall is, we believe, a legal term, meaning the destruction of a bear. It is performed in this way. Upon a given day, in pursuance of an order from the authorities, a certain number of persons from such parishes as are most interested in the removal of the noxious animal, assemble together, and dispose themselves in the best order they can devise, for the purpose of ultimately closing in upon the bear, or bears, which infest the neighbourhood. Sometimes as many as fifteen hundred men are employed upon such an occasion, and as they may not succeed in attaining the object for two or three days, they bivouac at night, and the whole proceeding has about it a military and warlike appearance. The formation of the lines, the anxiety of expectation, the possibility of danger, the unity of pur
pose, the firing which commences when the common enemy appears, the shouting of the assailants, re-echoed through the forests,-give great animation and interest to the scene. The number of peasants above stated, attended the first skall at which our author was present, in the neighbourhood of the beautiful lake of Wenjan, in Dalecarlia. It was in the month of June. The people had been already out two days and nights without success. At length, however, having converged from all points, a general halt took place in the afternoon of the third. The skall then became active and exciting
• Hitherto, during the battue, I had only heard a single shot; but in a minute or less, after we had reached the skall-plats, and before we had properly taken up our several positions, a discharge or two at a distant part of the line, announced that something was on foot: almost at the same instant, a bear dashed at the full gallop through a thick brake, parallel to, and at only some twenty paces from where I stood. At this time, however, owing to my attention being distracted by something that was going on, I had omitted to cock my gun, and, in consequence, I had no time to fire, before the animal had again disappeared. My view, however, was but transitory; yet, such as it was, as I am not a slow shot, I think if I had been ready, I could have put a ball through his body.
· Like the greater part of those with fire-arms, I now stationed myself a few
paces in front of the cordon; farther I was not allowed to advance : this, indeed, was a very necessary regulation, as if I had been any
distance within the skall-plats, my person would not only have been much exposed to the cross-fire, but there would have been great danger that the bears, or other wild beasts, finding themselves attacked at all points, and becoming desperate, would have been induced to dash at the people; in which case, there is always a great probability of the animals making their escape.
• For a while I remained in a part of the forest where there was little underwood, and where the trees were rather open; but, though the firing at different points was at intervals heavy, from which it was pretty evident the game we had enclosed was endeavouring to find an outlet to escape; nothing made its appearance near to where I stood.
Finding this to be the case, and thinking it was probably in consequence of there being so little underwood thereabouts,---for bears as well as other wild beasts will generally hold to the thickest cover,--I now moved some paces to my left, and placed myself opposite to a very thick brake: in the centre of this, however, was a small opening of a few feet in extent. In this new position I had not remained more than a minute or two, when the heavy firing to my left, evidently rapidly advancing towards me, together with the tremendous shouts of the people, gave me plainly to understand something was coming. In this I was not deceived; for, in a few seconds, a large and noble-looking bear, his head rather erect, and with the fire and spirit of a war-horse in his appearance, dashed at full speed into the small opening of which I have just made mention. His stay there however was but momentary; for, seeing probably that the people were too thick on the ground to give him a chance of escape, he wheeled about, and in another instant he was lost in the thicket. In the interim, however, I had time, though without taking any deliberate aim, to discharge both
my barrels, (a double gun made by John Manton, and a capital one of course,) when one or both of my balls, as it was very evident from the
gave, took the desired effect; he did not, however, fall at the instant, though, after he had proceeded a few paces, and in that while it was said no person fired at him, he fell to rise no more.
· I now commenced reloading; but I had only got a ball into one of my barrels, when another bear dashed into, and was almost as instantaneously out of my little opening: so that, by the time I had taken up my gun from the ground, and placed it to my shoulder, he was all but out of sight. I fired however at random; but, as he was in the thicket and went off, I had no means of ascertaining whether my bullet took effect or the contrary.
When one considers the apparently unwieldy shape of a bear, the pace that he goes at, if the snow be not very deep upon the ground, is really extraordinary. In this instance, these animals were galloping in every direction within the skall-plats, with the quickness and agility of so many rabbits. For the best of runners to escape from a bear in the open country is totally out of the question; and indeed, were the ground ever so favourable, a man, in the event of an attack, would have to thank his stars if he could manage to get out of his way.
It was laughable, all this while, to see the peasants, or rather those with fire-arms; for, on the slightest alarm being given, their guns were shouldered, and with their fingers on the triggers, pointed towards the place whence the enemy might be expected to make his appearance. In general, however, there was an expression depicted on their countenances, which looked to me something beyond that of extreme interest; indeed I am almost inclined to think their 16
over anxiety” in some instances converted hares, of which there were numbers running up and down, into bears, and that they fired at the former in consequence. Skalls, however, I should remark, were of rare occurrence in that part of Sweden; and the people were therefore less accustomed to the sight of bears than in some other districts in Scandinavia.
• After a while, and when the firing had ceased along the whole line, that part
of the cordon where I was stationed had orders to move forward. At first we had to force our way through an almost impenetrably thick brake, which formed, as it were, a belt within the skall-plats. Subsequently however, we came to some enclosures deeply intersected with ravines, immediately overhanging the Wan lake, from which we might then be at about two hundred and fifty paces distance. We now heard tremendous shouting, and presently afterwards we saw a bear, at some forty or fifty paces from the land, swimming for the opposite side of the lake. Its escape, however, was next to impossible, as, to guard against a circumstance of this kind happening, several boats had been previously stationed on the water; these went in immediate pursuit, when a shot or two through the head presently put the bear hors de combat ; and subsequently we observed its carcase towed to the land.
• The ground where we now stood was considerably elevated, and commanded a fine prospect of the boundless forest which surrounded us on every side, as well as of the beautiful lake Wan, which Jay immediately beneath us. Added to this, the chase by the boats, and the death of the bear in the water, together with the formidable appearance of the fifteen or
sixteen hundred armed men who composed the battue, and who, drawn up in the form of a crescent, and attired in as many various costumes as the number of parishes they belonged to, were now fully in view, formed a picture that was both highly interesting and animating, ' In the enclosures were still some small brakes, and these, it
be supposed, we took care to beat very closely, as nothing was more likely than that a wounded bear might have crept into them for shelter. We did not however meet with any of those animals; but, from a close thicket, a lynx, a fine long-legged fellow, nearly as red, and twice as large as a fox, went off at an awkward gallop. This animal, or at least one of the same species, I had previously seen when we were firing at the bears, but at that time I did not care to waste my powder and shot, when so much better game was on foot. When he first started, he was within about fifteen paces of me, and then I could probably have killed him; but at that time some of the people were in the line of my fire, and I was therefore obliged to let him go off unmolested. When he was at some sixty or seventy paces distance, I sent the contents of both my barrels after him, though, as far as I could judge, without any effect: his escape, however, was next to impossible, for the people at this time were eight or ten deep; so, after running the gauntlet of twenty shots at the least, he was at length slaughtered.'-vol. i. pp. 132—138.
In former days, when kings did not disdain to lead the skalls in Sweden, they must have afforded glorious sport. Frederick the First was a great patron of these meetings, and often was followed into the forests by “thousands" of people. Mr. Falk, a Swedish gentleman to whom our author is much indebted, has written a learned treatise on skalls, from which copious extracts are given in the first of the two volumes before us. Some of the anecdotes relating to skalls, told by Mr. Falk, are amusing. At one of the battues which he commanded, the same bear wounded no less than seven people.
“Upon another occasion,—and this was likewise at a skall,”—that gentleman observes, “a badly wounded bear rushed upright on his hind-legs on a peasant who had missed fire, and seized him by the shoulders with his forc-paws. The peasant, on his side, laid hold of the bear's ears and shaggy hair thereabouts. The bear and the hunter (a man of uncommon strength) were twice down, and got up again without loosening their holds ; during which time the bear had bitten through the sinews of both arms, from the wrists upwards, and was at last approaching the exhausted peasant's throat, when the author in lucky time arrived, and by one shot ended the conflict.” ’-vol. i.
195. The following anecdote,-though the circumstance did not happen at a skall, -is of a more laughable description.
• In the course of conversation, Abraham mentioned to me, that his father was one day walking in the forest, when he accidentally came close in upon a large she-bear, which, with several of her cubs, were lying basking on the ground. The old bear immediately dashed at him: when, being armed only with his axe, he was obliged to retreat to the top of a large stone that happened to be in the vicinity. Here, brandishing his axe
in one hand, and his knife in the other, he stood prepared to make the best defence he was able against his formidable opponent.
• The bear, however, did not altogether like his appearance ; for, though, she kept making continual demonstrations, by raising herself on her hindlegs, she did not care to come into contact with him. In this very unpleasant situation, Abraham assured me, his father was kept a prisoner for near half a day. At last the bear moved off to some little distance, which gave him an opportunity of leaping down from the stone, when, running in an opposite direction to that which she had taken, he fortunately succeeded in making his escape, without her farther molesting him.' ---vol. i. pp. 250, 251.
Our author having no expectation of a second skall during the same season, turned his hand to angling,
His chief abode was at Stjern, in the province of Wermeland. The fishing season there does not begin until late in the summer,—the lakes and rivers being rarely clear of ice until the month of May. They are full of a great variety of fish; among others, pike, perch, salmon, trout, grayling, charr, roach, bleak, and eel. We do not know the English names for the ruda, the nors or slom, the ströfling, and the sik. Owing to the same general licence which prevails with respect to game, our author saw few remarkably fine fish in the course of his rambles. He tells a story of the fondness of the eagle for the inhabitants of the water, which confirms what has been related on this subject by some naturalists.
Now that I am speaking of pike, I may observe that eagles, which were rather numerous hereabout, were not unfrequently seen to pounce upon those fish whilst basking near the surface. It was said, however, that when the pike was very large, he had been known to carry the eagle under the water; when, from the latter being unable to disengage his talons, he was of course drowned. Indeed, Dr. Mellerborg, a medical gentleman attached to the Uddeholm establishment, when I first visited Wermeland, vouched for this being the fact, he himself having once seen an enormous pike, with an eagle fastened to his back, lying dead on a piece of ground which had been overflown, but from which the water had then retreated.'
Captain Eurenius also informed me, that he himself was once an eyewitness to a similar occurrence. This was on the Götha river, and at no great distance from Wenersborg. In this instance, when the eagle first seized the pike, he was enabled to lift him a short distance into the air ; but the weight of the fish, together with its struggles, soon carried them back again to the water, under which for a while they both disappeared ; presently, however, the eagle again came to the surface, uttering at the same time the most piercing cries, and making apparently every endeavour to extricate his talons; but all was in vain, and, after a great deal of struggling, he was finally carried under the water.'—vol. i. pp. 216, 217.
Mr. Lloyd is not in general happy in describing scenery. We have often expected to meet in his pages a landscape that would bring before us the places which he angled, or followed game, but we have always been disappointed. The following is the only passage in which he attempts to convey his impressions on this subject.