Chasing the Sun, by R.M. Ballantyne.
Our Hero, Fred Temple, has risen to be a senior manager in the great Liverpool business founded by his father. But he was getting overworked and deeply tired, so one day he announced that he was taking leave for a while and was going to visit Norway in a small yacht.
Ballantyne had several holidays in Norway, so to write about it and describe it was a pleasure to him. This book is therefore an account of Norway seen through the eyes of an enthusiast for that country.
Fred takes some friends with him. Together, they have great adventures and great fun. They even venture so far north as Lapland, and the Land of the Midnight Sun.
A wonderful piece of vintage Victoriana at its best.
CHASING THE SUN, BY R.M. BALLANTYNE.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE CHASE.
Fred Temple was a tall, handsome young fellow of about five-and-twenty.
He had a romantic spirit, a quiet gentlemanly manner, a pleasant smile, and a passionate desire for violent exercise. To look at him you would have supposed that he was rather a lazy man, for all his motions were slow and deliberate. He was never in a hurry, and looked as if it would take a great deal to excite him. But those who knew Fred Temple well used to say that there was a great deal more in him than appeared at first sight. Sometimes a sudden flush of the brow, or a gleam of his eyes, told of hidden fires within.
Fred, when a small boy, was extremely fond of daring and dangerous expeditions. He had risked his life hundreds of times on tree-tops and precipices for birds' nests, and had fought more hand-to-hand battles than any of the old Greek or Roman heroes. After he became a man, he risked his life more than once in saving the lives of others, and it was a notable fact that many of the antagonists of his boyhood became, at last, his most intimate friends.
Fred Temple was fair and ruddy. At about the age of nineteen certain parts of his good-looking face became covered with a substance resembling floss-silk. At twenty-five this substance had changed into a pair of light whiskers and a lighter moustache. By means of that barbarous custom called shaving he kept his chin smooth.
Fred's father was a wealthy Liverpool merchant. At the period when our tale opens Fred himself had become chief manager of the business. People began, about this time, to say that the business could not get on without him. There were a great number of hands, both men and women, employed by Temple and Son, and there was not one on the establishment, male or female, who did not say and believe that Mr Frederick was the best master, not only in Liverpool, but in the whole world. He did not by any means overdose the people with attentions; but he had a hearty offhand way of addressing them that was very attractive. He was a firm ruler. No skulker had a chance of escape from his sharp eye, but, on the other hand, no hard-working servant was overlooked.
One day it was rumoured in the works that Mr Frederick was going to take a long holiday. Since his appointment to the chief charge, Fred had taken few holidays, and had worked so hard that he began to have a careworn aspect, so the people said they were "glad to hear it; no one in the works deserved a long holiday better than he." But the people were not a little puzzled when Bob Bowie, the office porter, told them that their young master was going away for three months to chase the sun!
"Chase the sun, Bob! what d'ye mean?" said one. "I don't know wot I mean; I can only tell ye wot I say," answered Bowie bluntly.
Bob Bowie was an old salt—a retired seaman—who had sailed long as steward of one of the ships belonging to the House of Temple and Son, and, in consequence of gallantry in saving the life of a comrade, had been pensioned off, and placed in an easy post about the office, with good pay. He was called Old Bob because he looked old, and was weather-worn, but he was stout and hale, and still fit for active service.
"Come, Bowie," cried another, "how d'ye know he's goin' to chase the sun?"
"Cause I heerd him say so," replied Bob.
"Was he in earnest?" inquired a third.
"In coorse he wos," said Bob.
"Then it's my opinion," replied the other, "that old Mr Temple'll have to chase his son, and clap him in a strait-jacket w'en he catches him—if he talks such stuff."
The porter could not understand a joke, and did not like one, so he turned on his heel, and, leaving his friends to laugh at their comrade's jest, proceeded to the counting-room.
There were two counting-rooms—a small outer and a large inner one. In the outer room sat a tall middle-aged man, lanky and worn in appearance and with a red nose. Opposite to him, at the same desk, sat a small fat boy with a round red face, and no chin to speak of. The man was writing busily—the boy was drawing a caricature of the man, also busily.
Passing these, Bob Bowie entered the inner office, where a dozen clerks were all busily employed, or pretending to be so. Going straight onward like a homeward-bound ship, keeping his eyes right ahead, Bob was stranded at last in front of a green door, at which he knocked, and was answered with a hearty "Come in."
The porter went in and found Fred Temple seated at a table which was covered with books and papers.
"Oh! I sent for you, Bowie, to say that I want you to go with me to Norway to-morrow morning."
"To Norway, sir!" said Bowie in surprise.
"Ay, surely you're not growing timid in your old age, Bob! It is but a short voyage of two or three days. My little schooner is a good sea-boat, and a first-rate sailor."
"Why, as for bein' timid," said the porter, rubbing the end of his nose, which was copper-coloured and knotty, "I don't think I ever knowed that there feelin', but it does take a feller aback to be told all of a suddent, after he's reg'larly laid up in port, to get ready to trip anchor in twelve hours and bear away over the North Sea—not that I cares a brass fardin' for that fish-pond, blow high, blow low, but it's raither suddent, d'ye see, and my rig ain't just seaworthy."
Bowie glanced uneasily at his garments, which were a cross between those of a railway-guard and a policeman.
"Never mind the rig, Bob," cried Fred, laughing. "Do you get ready to start, with all the underclothing you have, by six to-morrow morning. We shall go to Hull by rail, and I will see to it that your top-sails are made all right."
"Wery good, sir."
"You've not forgotten how to make lobscouse or plum-duff, I dare say?"
Bob's eyes brightened as he replied stoutly, "By no manner o' means."
"Then be off, and, remember, sharp six."
"Ay, ay, sir," cried the old seaman in a nautical tone that he had not used for many years, and the very sound of which stirred his heart with old memories. He was about to retire, but paused at the threshold of the green door.
"Beg parding, sir, but if I might make so bold as to ax—"
"Go on, Bob," said Fred encouragingly.
"I heerd ye say to our cashier, sir, that you wos goin' for to chase the sun. Wot sort of a chase may that be, sir?"
"Ha! Bowie, that's a curious chase, but not a wild goose one, as I hope to show you in a month or two. You know, of course, that in the regions of the earth north of the Arctic Circle the sun shines by night as well as by day for several weeks in summer?"
"In coorse I do," answered Bob; "every seaman knows that or ought for to know it; and that it's dark all day as well as all night in winter for some weeks, just to make up for it, so to speak."
"Well, Bob, I am very desirous to see this wonderful sight with my own eyes, but I fear I am almost too late of setting out. The season is so far advanced that the sun is setting farther and farther north every night, and if the winds baffle us I won't be able to catch him sitting up all night; but if the winds serve, and we have plenty of them we may yet be in time to see him draw an unbroken circle in the sky. You see it will be a regular chase, for the sun travels north at a rapid pace. D'you understand?"
Bob Bowie grinned, nodded his head significantly, retired, and shut the door.
Fred Temple, left alone, seized a quill and scribbled off two notes,— one to a friend in Scotland, the other to a friend in Wales. The note to Scotland ran as follows:—
"MY DEAR GRANT,—I have made up my mind to go to Norway for three months. Principal object to chase the sun. Secondary objects, health and amusement. Will you go? You will find my schooner comfortable, my society charming (if you make yourself agreeable), and no end of salmon-fishing and scenery. Reply by return of post. I go to Hull to-morrow, and will be there a week. This will give you ample time to get ready.
"Ever thine, FRED TEMPLE."
The note to Wales was addressed to Sam Sorrel, and was written in somewhat similar terms, but Sam being a painter by profession, the beauty of the scenery was enlarged on and held out as an inducement.
Both of Fred's friends had been prepared some time before for this proposal, and both of them at once agreed to assist him in "chasing the sun!"
That night Frederick Temple dreamed that the sun smiled on him in a peculiarly sweet manner; he dreamed, still further, that it beckoned him to follow it to the far north, whereupon Fred was suddenly transformed into a gigantic locomotive engine; the sun all at once became a green dragon with pink eyes and a blue tail; and he set off in chase of it into the Arctic regions with a noise like a long roar of the loudest thunder!
THE STORM AND THE FIRST ADVENTURE.
A storm raged on the bosom of the North Sea. The wind whistled as if all the spirits of Ocean were warring with each other furiously. The waves writhed and tossed on the surface as if in agony. White foam, greenish-grey water, and leaden-coloured sky were all that met the eyes of the men who stood on the deck of a little schooner that rose and sank and staggered helplessly before the tempest.
Truly, it was a grand sight—a terrible sight—to behold that little craft battling with the storm. It suggested the idea of God's might and forbearance,—of man's daring and helplessness.
The schooner was named the Snowflake. It seemed, indeed, little heavier than a flake of snow, or a scrap of foam, in the grasp of that angry sea. On her deck stood five men. Four were holding on to the weather-shrouds; the fifth stood at the helm. There was only a narrow rag of the top-sail and the jib shown to the wind, and even this small amount of canvas caused the schooner to lie over so much that it seemed a wonder she did not upset.
Fred Temple was one of the men who held on to the weather-rigging; two of the others were his friends Grant and Sam Sorrel. The fourth was one of the crew, and the man at the helm was the Captain; for, although Fred understood a good deal of seamanship, he did not choose to take on his own shoulders the responsibility of navigating the yacht. He employed for that purpose a regular seaman whom he styled Captain, and never interfered with him, except to tell him where he wished to go.
Captain McNab was a big, tough, raw-boned man of the Orkney Islands. He was born at sea, had lived all his life at sea, and meant (so he said) to die at sea. He was a grim, hard-featured old fellow, with a face that had been so long battered by storms that it looked more like the figure-head of a South-Sea whaler than the countenance of a living man. He seldom smiled, and when he did he smiled grimly; never laughed, and never spoke when he could avoid it. He was wonderfully slow both in speech and in action, but he was a first-rate and fearless seaman, in whom the owner of the schooner had perfect confidence.
As we have fallen into a descriptive vein it may be as well to describe the rest of our friends offhand. Norman Grant was a sturdy Highlander, about the same size as his friend Temple, but a great contrast to him; for while Temple was fair and ruddy, Grant was dark, with hair, beard, whiskers, and moustache bushy and black as night. Grant was a Highlander in heart as well as in name, for he wore a Glengarry bonnet and a kilt, and did not seem at all ashamed of exposing to view his brown hairy knees. He was a hearty fellow, with a rich deep-toned voice, and a pair of eyes so black and glittering that they seemed to pierce right through you and come out at your back when he looked at you! Temple, on the contrary, was clad in grey tweed from head to foot, wideawake included, and looked, as he was, a thorough Englishman. Grant was a doctor by profession; by taste a naturalist. He loved to shoot and stuff birds of every shape and size and hue, and to collect and squeeze flat plants of every form and name. His rooms at home were filled with strange specimens of birds, beasts, fishes, and plants from every part of Scotland, England, and Ireland—to the disgust of his old nurse, whose duty it was to dust them, and to the delight of his little brother, whose self-imposed duty it was to pull out their tails and pick out their eyes!
Grant's trip to Norway promised a rich harvest in a new field, so he went there with romantic anticipations.
Sam Sorrel was like neither of his companions. He was a little fellow— a mere spider of a man, and extremely thin; so thin that it seemed as if his skin had been drawn over the bones in a hurry and the flesh forgotten! The Captain once said to Bob Bowie in a moment of confidence that Mr Sorrel was a "mere spunk," whereupon Bob nodded his head, and added that he was no better than "half a fathom of pump water."
If there was little of Sam, however, that little was good stuff. It has been said that he was a painter by profession. Certainly there was not a more enthusiastic artist in the kingdom. Sam was a strange mixture of earnestness, enthusiasm, and fun. Although as thin as a walking-stick, and almost as flat as a pancake, he was tough like wire, could walk any distance, could leap farther than anybody, and could swim like a cork. His features were sharp, prominent and exceedingly handsome. His eyes were large, dark, and expressive, and were surmounted by delicate eyebrows which moved about continually with every changeful feeling that filled his breast. When excited his glance was magnificent, and the natural wildness of his whole aspect was increased by the luxuriance of his brown hair, which hung in long elf-locks over his shoulders. Among his intimates he was known by the name of "Mad Sam Sorrel."
When we have said that the crew of the schooner consisted of six picked men besides those described and our friend Bob Bowie, we have enumerated all the human beings who stood within the bulwarks of that trim little yacht on that stormy summer's day.
There was, however, one other being on board that deserves notice. It was Sam Sorrel's dog.
Like its master, this dog was a curious creature. It was little and thin, and without form of any distinct or positive kind. If we could suppose that this dog had been permitted to make itself, and that it had begun with the Skye-terrier, suddenly changed its mind and attempted to come the poodle, then midway in this effort had got itself very much dishevelled, and become so entangled that it was too late to do anything better than finish off with a wild attempt at a long-eared spaniel, one could understand how such a creature as "Titian" had come into existence.
Sam had meant to pay a tribute of respect to the great painter when he named his dog Titian. But having done his duty in this matter, he found it convenient to shorten the name into Tit—sometimes Tittles. Tittles had no face whatever, as far as could be seen by the naked eye. His whole misshapen body was covered with long shaggy hair of a light grey colour. Only the end of his black nose was visible in front and the extreme point of his tail in rear. But for these two landmarks it would have been utterly impossible to tell which end of the dog was which.
Somehow the end of his tail had been singed or skinned or burned, for it was quite naked, and not much thicker than a pipe-stem.
Tittles was extremely sensitive in regard to this, and could not bear to have his miserable projection touched.
How that storm did rage, to be sure! The whole sea was lashed into a boiling sheet of foam, and the schooner lay over so much that it was impossible for the men to stand on the deck. At times it seemed as if she were thrown on her beam-ends; but the good yacht was buoyant as a cork, and she rose again from every fresh blast like an unconquerable warrior.
"It seems to me that the masts will be torn out of her," said Temple to the Captain, as he grasped the brass rail that surrounded the quarterdeck, and gazed upward with some anxiety.
"No fear o' her," said the Captain, turning the quid of tobacco in his cheek; "she's a tight boat, an' could stand a heavier sea than this. I hope it'll blow a wee thing harder."
"Harder!" exclaimed Fred.
"You must be fond of wind, Captain," observed Grant with a laugh.
"Oo ay, I've no objection to wund."
The Captain said this, as he said everything else, more than half through his nose, and very slowly.
"But do you not think that more wind would be apt to carry away our top-masts, or split the sails?" said Temple.
"It's not unlikely," was the Captain's cool reply.
"Then why wish for it?" inquired the other in surprise.
"Because we're only thirty miles from the coast of Norway, and if the wund holds on as it's doin', we'll not make the land till dark. But if it blows harder we'll get under the shelter of the Islands in daylight."
"Dark!" exclaimed poor Sam Sorrel, who, being a bad sailor, was very sick, and clung to the lee bulwarks with a look of helpless misery; "I thought there was no dark in Nor—."
The unhappy painter stopped abruptly in consequence of a sensation in the pit of his stomach.
"There's not much darkness in Norway in summer," answered McNab, "but at the south end of it here there's a little—specially when the weather is thick. Ay, I see it's comin'."
The peculiar way in which the Captain said this caused the others to turn their eyes to windward, where it was very evident that something was coming, for the sky was black as ink, and the sea under it was ruffled with cold white foam.
"Stand by the clew-lines and halyards," roared the Captain.
The men, who were now all assembled on deck, sprang to obey. As they did so a squall came hissing down on the weather-quarter, and burst upon the vessel with such fury that for a moment she reeled under the shock like a drunken man, while the spray deluged her decks, and the wind shrieked through the rigging.
But this was too violent to last. It soon passed over and the gale blew more steadily, driving the Snowflake over the North Sea like a seamew.
That evening the mountains of Norway rose to view. About the time that this occurred the sky began to clear towards the north-west and soon after a white line of foam was seen on the horizon right ahead. This was the ocean beating on the great army of islands, or skerries, that line the west coast of Norway from north to south.
"Hurrah for old Norway!" shouted Fred Temple with delight, when he first observed the foam that leaped upon these bare rocky islets.
"It seems to me that we shall be wrecked," said Grant gravely. "I do not see an opening in these tremendous breakers, and if we can't get through them, even a landsman could tell that we shall be dashed to pieces."
"Why not put about the ship and sail away from them?" suggested Sorrel, looking round with a face so yellow and miserable that even the Captain was almost forced to smile.
"Because that is simply impossible," said Fred Temple.
Poor Sam groaned and looked down at his dog, which sat trembling on the deck between his feet, gazing up in its master's face sadly—at least so it is to be supposed; but the face of Tittles, as well as the expression thereof, was invisible owing to hair.
"Is there an opening, Captain?" inquired Fred in a low, serious tone.
"Oo ay, no fear o' that," replied the Captain.
There was, indeed, no fear of that, for as the schooner approached the islands, numerous openings were observed. It also became evident that the gentlemen had mistaken the distance from the broken water, for they were much longer of reaching the outer skerries than they had expected, and the foam, which at first appeared like a white line, soon grew into immense masses, which thundered on these weather-worn rocks with a deep, loud, continuous roar, and burst upwards in great spouts like white steam many yards into the air.
"Captain, are the islands as numerous everywhere along the coast as they are here?" said Fred.
"'Deed ay, an' more," answered the Captain, "some places ye'll sail for fifty or sixty miles after getting among the skerries before reachin' the main."
They were now within a hundred yards of the islands, towards a narrow channel, between two of which the Captain steered. Every one was silent, for there was something awful in the aspect of the great dark waves of the raging sea, as they rolled heavily forward and fell with crash after crash in terrific fury on the rocks, dashing themselves to pieces and churning the water into foam, so that the whole sea resembled milk.
To those who were unaccustomed to the coast, it seemed as if the schooner were leaping forward to certain destruction; but they knew that a sure hand was at the helm, and thought not of the danger but the sublimity of the scene.
"Stand by the weather-braces," cried McNab.
The schooner leaped as he spoke into the turmoil of roaring spray. In ten seconds she was through the passage, and there was a sudden and almost total cessation of heaving motion. The line of islands formed a perfect breakwater, and not a wave was formed, even by the roaring gale, bigger than those we find on such occasions in an ordinary harbour. As isle after isle was passed the sea became more and more smooth, and, although the surface was torn up and covered with foam, no great rollers heaved the vessel about. The tight little craft still bent over to the blast, but she cut through perfectly flat water now.
A delightful feeling of having come to the end of a rough voyage filled the hearts of all on board. Sam Sorrel raised his head, and began to look less yellow and more cheerful. Tittles began to wag the stump of his miserable tail, and, in short, every one began to look and to feel happy.
Thus did the Snowflake approach the coast of Norway.
Now, it is by no means an uncommon occurrence in this world that a calm should follow close on the heels of a storm. Soon after the Snowflake had entered the islands the storm began to abate, as if it felt that there was no chance of overwhelming the little yacht now. That night, and the greater part of the following day, a dead calm prevailed, and the schooner lay among the islands with her sails flapping idly from the yards.
A little after midnight all on board were asleep, save the man at the helm and Captain McNab, who seemed to be capable of existing without sleep for any length of time when occasion required. The schooner now lay in a latitude so far north that the light of the sun never quite left the sky in clear weather. A sweet soft twilight rested on the rocky islands and on the sea, and no sound disturbed the stillness except the creaking of the yards or the cries of seamews.
Yes, by the way, there was another sound. It proceeded from the cabin where our three friends lay sleeping on the sofas. The sound was that of snoring, and it issued from the wide-open mouth of Sam Sorrel, who lay sprawling on his back, with Tittles coiled up at his feet.
It is probable that Sam would have snored on for hours, but for a piece of carelessness on his part. Just before going to rest he had placed a tin can of water close to his head in such a way that it was balanced on the edge of a shelf. A slight roll of the schooner, caused by the entrance of a wave through an opening in the islands, toppled this can over and emptied its contents on the sleeper's face.
He leaped up with a roar, of course. Tittles jumped up with a yelp, while Grant and Temple turned round with a growl at having been awakened, and went off to sleep again.
But sleep was driven away from the eyes of Sam Sorrel. He made one or two efforts to woo it back in vain, so in despair he jumped up, put his sketch-book in his pocket, seized a double-barrelled fowling-piece, and went on deck, followed by Tittles. The little boat was floating under the quarter, and a great mountainous island lay close off the starboard bow. Getting into the boat, Sam rowed to the island, and was soon clambering up the heights with the activity of a squirrel.
Sam paused now and then to gaze with admiration on the magnificent scene that lay spread out far below him; the innumerable islands, the calm water bathed in the soft light of early morning, and the schooner floating just under his feet like a little speck or a sea-gull on the calm sea. Pulling out his book and pencil, he sat down on a rock and began to draw.
Suddenly the artist was startled by the sound of a heavy pair of wings overhead. Thousands of seagulls flew above him, filling the air with their wild cries, but Sam did not think it possible that they could cause the sound which he had, heard. While he was still in doubt an enormous eagle sailed majestically past him. It evidently had not seen him, and he sat quite still, scarce daring to draw his breath. In a moment the gigantic bird sailed round the edge of a precipitous cliff, and was gone.
Sam at once rose and hurried forward with his gun. He was much excited, for eagles are very difficult to approach—they are so shy and wary. Few men who go to Norway ever get the chance of a shot at the king of birds.
Judge, then, of the state of Sam Sorrel's mind when, on turning a corner of rock, he suddenly beheld the eagle standing on the edge of a great precipice about a hundred yards in advance of him.
But his hopes were much cast down when he observed that between him and the eagle there was a space of open ground, so that he could not creep farther forward without being seen. How was he to advance? What was he to do? Such a chance might not occur again during the whole voyage. No time was to be lost, so he resolved to make a rush forward and get as near as possible before the bird should take to flight.
No sooner thought than done. He rushed down the mountain-side like a madman. The eagle sprang up in alarm just as he reached the side of a rounded rock. Halting suddenly, he took aim, and fired both barrels. The eagle gave a toss of its head and a twirl of its tail, and, sailing slowly away round a neighbouring cliff, disappeared from view.
A deep groan burst from the poor artist as he exclaimed, "Oh dear, I've missed it!"
But Sam was wrong. He had not missed it. On climbing to the other side of the cliff he found the eagle stretched on the ground in a dying state. Its noble-looking eye scowled for a moment on him as he came up, then the head drooped forward and the bird died. It measured six feet four inches from tip to tip of its expanded wings, and was as magnificent a specimen of the golden eagle as one could wish to see.
With a triumphant step Sam carried it down to the yacht, where he found his comrades still sound asleep; so he quietly fastened the eagle up over Grant's bed, with the wings expanded and the hooked beak close to the sleeper's nose!
The day that followed this event continued calm, but towards evening a light breeze sprang up, and before midnight the Snowflake cast anchor in the harbour of Bergen.
BERGEN—TALKING, SUPPING, AND SLEEPING UNDER DIFFICULTIES.
The city of Bergen is a famous and a strange old place. In ancient days it was a stronghold of the Vikings—those notorious sea-warriors who were little better than pirates, and who issued from among the dark mountains of Norway in their great uncouth galleys and swept across the seas, landing on the coasts everywhere, to the terror of surrounding nations.
They were a bold, fearless set, the Norse Vikings of old. They voyaged far and wide in open boats round the coasts of Europe, and across the stormy sea, long before the mariner's compass was invented, and they discovered Iceland and America long before Christopher Columbus was born. They had free spirits, these fierce Norwegians of old, and there was much good as well as evil in them. They had good and wise laws when nearly all the rest of the world was lawless; and many of the laws and customs which prevailed among them a thousand years ago exist at the present day. The bold Vikings were great colonisers; among other parts of the world they overran and settled in a large portion of Great Britain, and much of their blood—more than many people are aware of— flows in our own veins.
But I am wandering from my subject. Let me return to it by repeating that Bergen, this ancient stronghold of the Vikings, is a famous and a strange old place.
It is built at the foot of a steep mountain-range which is so close to the margin of the sea that the city has barely room to stand. One might fancy that the houses were crowding and jostling each other and squeezing themselves together, in order to avoid on the one hand being pushed up the mountain-side, and, on the other hand, being thrust into the sea. Some of the smaller cottages and a few villas seem to have been beaten in this struggle for standing-room, for they appear to have been obliged to clamber up the mountain-side, and perch themselves on spots where there does not seem to be standing-room for a goat. From such elevated positions they look down complacently on their crowded brethren.
The houses near the sea have not fared so well. They are built in the water on piles, and are all of them warehouses with projections in front, from which hang blocks and hoisting tackle. These projections resemble heads; the piles look like legs; and it does not require a very strong effort of imagination to believe that the warehouses are great living creatures which have waded into the sea, and are looking earnestly down into the water to observe how the fish are getting on.
The houses are all built of wood; all are painted white, and all have red-tiled roofs. They are peaked and gable-ended to an extraordinary degree, so that the general aspect of the city is confused and irregular—all the more interesting and picturesque on this account.
A thought strikes me here, and when a thought strikes one, I think we ought always to pay that thought the compliment of jotting it down. It is this—regularity in small details is pleasing; regularity on a grand scale is disagreeable. For instance, a chair with one leg turned, another square, and a third ornamentally carved, would be a disagreeable object. The two front legs at least must be regular, and the two back legs regular. A chair is a small matter. But proceed to a grander subject—a city. If every house is similar to its neighbours, if every street is parallel to the rest, the effect is bad; regularity here is disagreeable. This is a deep subject requiring much study and philosophical inquiry. If I were to go farther into it, our friend Fred Temple's adventures would have to be cast overboard. I will, therefore, cut it short with the remark that the subject is well worthy the attention of even deeper-thinking men than are ever likely to read this book.
When the three friends, Temple, Grant, and Sorrel, found themselves in the quaint old city of Bergen their first thought was supper; their second thought bed.
Now this may seem to some minds a dreadfully low and contemptible state of things. "What!" a romantic reader may exclaim, "they had arrived in that celebrated city, from which in days of old the stalwart Vikings used to issue on their daring voyages, in which the descendants of these grand fellows still dwell, and in which are interesting memorials of the past and quaint evidences of the present. Did your heroes, Temple, Sorrel, and Grant, think of supper and of bed when their feet for the first time trod the soil of Old Norway?"
Even so! Romantic reader, I am bound to tell you that romance is all very well in its way, but it has no power whatever over an empty stomach or an exhausted brain.
When our three friends landed in Bergen it was past midnight. Their admiration of the scenery had induced them to neglect supper and to defy sleep, so that when they landed they felt more than half inclined to fall upon their boatman and eat him up alive, and then to fall down on the stone pier and go off to sleep at once.
In this frame of mind and body they entered the house of Madame Sontoom, and called for supper.
Madame Sontoom was the owner of a private hotel. Moreover, she was the owner of a plump body and a warm heart. Consequently, she at once became a mother to all who were fortunate enough to dwell under her roof.
Her hotel was by no means like to a hotel in this country. It was more like a private residence. There were no hired waiters. Her amiable daughters waited; and they did not look upon you as a customer, or conduct themselves like servants. No, they treated you as a visitor, and conducted themselves with the agreeable familiarity of friends! Of course they presented their bill when you were about to leave them, but in all other respects the idea of a hotel was banished from the mind.
"Supper," cried Temple, on entering the house.
"Ya, ya," (yes, yes), in cheerful tones from two of Madame Sontoom's daughters.
Then followed a violent conversation in the Norse language, in which there was much that was puzzling, and more that was amusing, for the Norwegian ladies were talkative and inquisitive.
Fred Temple had studied the Norse language for three months before setting out on this voyage, and, being a good linguist he understood a good deal of what was said, and could make his own wants known pretty well. Grant had studied the language also, but not for so long a time, and, being an indifferent linguist, he made little headway in conversation. As to Sam Sorrel, he had no talent for languages. He hated every language but his mother-tongue, had not studied Norse at all, and did not intend to do so. It may be supposed, therefore, that he was dumb. Far from it. He had picked up a few phrases by ear, and was so fond of making use of these, and of twisting them into all shapes and out of all shape, that he really appeared to be a great talker of Norse, although in reality he could scarcely talk at all!
Supper consisted of coffee, rolls, eggs, "gamleost" (old cheese), lobster, and smoked salmon. The viands were good, the appetites were also good, so the supper went off admirably.
"Ver so goot," said one of the young ladies, handing Mr Sorrel a plate of smoked salmon.
"Tak, tak," (thanks, thanks), said our artist, accepting the salmon, and beginning to devour it.
"I say, what d'ye mean by 'ver so goot'? You're never done saying it. What does it mean?"
The fair waitress laughed, and bowed politely, as much as to say, "I don't understand English."
"Can you explain it, Fred?" said Sam.
"Well, yes, I can give you a sort of explanation," replied Fred, "but it is not an easy sentence to translate. 'Ver so goot' (another claw of that lobster, please. Thanks),—'ver so goot' is an expression that seems to me capable of extension and distension. It is a comfortable, jovial, rollicking expression, if I may say so. I cannot think of a better way of conveying an idea of its meaning than saying that it is a compound of the phrases 'be so good,' 'by your leave,' 'good luck to you,' 'go it, ye cripples,' and 'that's your sort.' The first of these, 'be so good,' is the literal translation. The others are more or less mixed up with it. You may rely on it, Sam, that when a Norwegian offers you anything and says 'ver so goot,' he means you well, and hopes that you will make yourself comfortable."
"You don't say so, Fred; I'll adopt the phrase from this hour!"
Accordingly Sam Sorrel did adopt it, and used it on all and every occasion, without any regard to its appropriateness.
Little was said at supper. The whole party were too tired to converse.
"Now for bed," cried Sam, rising. "I say, Fred, what's the Norse for a bed?"
"Seng," replied Fred.
"Seng! what a remarkable name! Now, then, my good girl, ver so goot will you show me my seng? Good night, comrades, I'm off to—ha! ha! what a musical idea—to seng."
"More probably to snore," observed Grant.
"Oh, Grant," said Sam, looking back and shaking his head, "give up jesting. It's bad for your health; fie for shame! good night."
Norwegian beds are wooden boxes of about three feet wide, and five and a half long. I have never been able to discover why it is that Norwegians love to make their beds as uncomfortable as possible. Yet so it is.
Grant had a room to himself. Temple and our artist were shown into a double-bedded room.
"Is that a bed?" said Sam, pointing to a red-painted wooden box in a corner; "why, it's too short even for me, and you know I'm not a giant."
"Oh! then what must it be for me?" groaned Fred Temple.
On close examination it was found that each bed was too short for any man above five feet two, and, further, that there was a feather-bed below and a feather-bed above, instead of blankets. Thus they lay that night between two feather-beds, which made them so hot that it was impossible to sleep at first. Sorrel, being short, managed to lie diagonally across his box, but Fred, being long, was compelled to double himself up like a foot-rule. However, fatigue at last caused them to slumber in spite of all difficulties. In the morning they were visited by a ghost!
A GHOST AND A CUSTOM—A FISH-MARKET AND A NORSE LOVER.
There was no night in Bergen at this time. At the midnight hour there was light enough to see to read the smallest print, and at an early hour in the morning this sweet twilight brightened into dawn.
This being the case, Fred Temple was not a little surprised to see a ghost make its appearance about six o'clock—for ghosts are famous for their hatred of broad daylight. Nevertheless there it was, in the form of a woman. What else could it be but a ghost? for no woman would dare to enter his bedroom (so he thought) without knocking at the door.
The ghost had in her hand a tray with a cup of coffee on it. Fred watched her motions with intense curiosity, and kept perfectly still, pretending to be asleep. She went straight to the box in which Sam Sorrel slept, and going down on her knees, looked earnestly into his face. As our artist's mouth happened to be wide-open, it may be said that she looked down his throat. Presently she spoke to him in a soft whisper—"Will de have caffe?" (Will you have coffee?) A loud snore was the reply. Again she spoke, somewhat louder: "Vill de have caffe?"
A snort was the reply.
Once more, in a tone which would not be denied:
"Vill de have caffe?"
"Eh! hallo! what! dear me! yes—ah—thank you—ver so goot," replied Sam, as he awoke and gazed in wild surprise at the ghost who was none other than the female domestic servant of the house, who had brought the visitors a cup of coffee before breakfast.
Sam's exclamations were wild at first, and he stared like a maniac, but as consciousness returned he understood his position, and being naturally a modest man, he hastily drew on his nightcap and gathered the bedding round his shoulders. Accepting the coffee, he drank it, and the girl crossed the room to pay similar attentions to Fred Temple.
This presentation of a cup of coffee in bed before breakfast is a custom in Norway, and a very pleasant custom it is, too, especially when it breaks upon you unexpectedly for the first time.
"Now for the fish-market, Sam," cried Fred, leaping out of bed when the girl had left the room.
"Who cares for the fish-market?" said Sam testily, as he turned round in his bed, and prepared to slumber.
"I care for it," retorted Fred, "and so do you, old boy, only you are lazy this morning. Come, get up. I have resolved to spend only one day in this queer old city, so you must not let drowsiness rob you of your opportunities of seeing it. The fish-market, you know, is famous. Come, get up."
Temple enforced his advice by seizing his companion by the ankles and hauling him out of bed. Sam grumbled but submitted, and in a short time they were ready to start.
"Hallo! Grant," cried Fred, as they passed his door, "will you come with us to ramble over the town?"
"No," said Grant, in a deep bass voice.
"Because I won't."
"A most excellent reason; one much in use in this world," replied Temple, laughing. "By the way, will you remember to order two sheep to be killed for our voyage north?"
"Yes," in a sulky tone from Grant.
"Now mind, I trust this to you."
"Go away, and don't bother!"
Thus dismissed, Temple and Sorrel went out and sauntered towards the fish-market.
Now, fish-markets are famous all the world over for noise, riot, and confusion. The fish-market of Bergen is no exception to the rule; but there is this peculiarity about it, that the sellers of fish are all men, and the buyers all women; moreover, the noise is all on the side of the buyers! The scene of the market is the pier, alongside of which the fishermen's boats are ranged; and here the fish are sold direct from the boats by the men to all the servant-girls of the town, who assemble each morning to purchase the day's dinner.
The men, standing in the boats, are considerably below the level of the pier, so that they have to look up at the girls, who look down at them with eager, anxious faces. The men, sure that their fish will be sold in the long-run, are quiet sedate, silent. The women, anxious to get good bargains and impatient to get home, bend forward, shouting, screaming, and flourishing arms, fists, and umbrellas. Every one carries an umbrella in Bergen, for that city is said to be the rainiest in the world. Of gay colours are these umbrellas too. Pink and sky-blue are not uncommon. There is a stout iron rail round the pier, which prevents the eager females from tumbling headlong into the boats. Over this they lean and bargain.
Fierce were the pretty blue eyes of these Norse females, and flushed were their fair faces, and tremendous was the flourishing of their umbrellas and the shaking of their fists, at the time when Temple and Sorrel approached. The fishermen were used to it; they only smiled, or paid no attention whatever to the noise. And what was all the noise about? You shall hear.
Look at yonder flaxen-haired, pretty-faced, stoutish little girl, leaning so far over the iron rail that it seems her desire to tumble over it, and plunge into the arms of a rough old fisherman, who is gazing quietly up at her with a sarcastic smile. He has put up a lot of fish for which she has offered "sex (six) skillings." A skilling is about equal to a halfpenny.
He thinks this too little, but he won't condescend to say so. He merely pays no attention to the girl's violent entreaties. The language of the girl bears so strong a resemblance to our own that it scarcely requires translation.
"Fiskman," she cries, "vill du have otto skillings?" (will you have eight skillings?)
No, the fiskman won't have that; it is not enough, so he makes no reply, but pretends to be washing his boat.
"Fiskman, fiskman, vill du have ni?" (will you have nine?)
Still no reply. The fisherman turns his back on the market, gazes out to sea, and begins to whistle.
At this the girl becomes furious. She whirls her umbrella in the air desperately. If that umbrella were only a foot longer the fiskman's head would certainly feel its weight!
Presently the girl forces herself to become calm and deeply earnest; she has made up her mind to make a liberal offer.
"Fiskman, vill du have ti (ten) skillings?"
The fiskman, who wears a red nightcap, with a tall hat on the top of it, takes off his head-gear, exposes his bald pate to view, and wipes it with a fishy cotton handkerchief; but he takes no notice whatever of the girl, who now becomes mad—that is to say, she stamps, glares, shakes her pretty little fist at the hard-hearted man, and gasps.
Suddenly she becomes reckless, and makes a wild offer of "tolve (twelve) skillings."
Ha! the mark is hit at last! The fiskman can hold out no longer. Without saying a word, he turns quietly round and hands up the fish. The girl, without a word, stoops down and pays for them, and then goes off in triumph, for her energy has been successful; she has got the fish a little cheaper than she had expected.
Suppose twenty or thirty such scenes going on at once, and you have a faint idea of the Bergen fish-market.
It was just before the termination of the bargain which has been described that Fred Temple and Sam Sorrel arrived on the scene. The artist was busy with his sketch-book in one minute.
"Sam," said Fred, touching his friend's arm, "look here, sketch me yonder girl, like a good fellow."
"Which girl; the one with the nose?"
"If you see one without a nose," retorted Fred, "I'll be glad to have a portrait of her too."
"Nay, but really, I do see one with such a long red nose that—"
"Well, well," interrupted Fred impatiently, "it's not her. Do look to where I am pointing; see, the stout pretty little woman who is talking so fiercely to that fisherman."
"Oh, I see!" exclaimed Sam, who began to take her portrait without delay.
Meanwhile Fred was observant. At first he was much amused by the scene before him, and continued to gaze with interest at one group after another. In a short time his curiosity was awakened by a handsome Norwegian youth, whose gaze was fixed with intense earnestness on the maiden whom Sam was sketching. When the girl had concluded her bargain and gone away, he observed that the youth, who appeared to be a fisherman from his dress, went after her.
Without well knowing what he did, and without any very definite intentions, Fred Temple followed them, and left his friend busy with his pencil.
The Norwegian youth soon overtook the girl, who at once received him with a bright smile, and held out her hand. The two then went on together, turned to the left, and followed a winding road, which led up the side of the mountain. They appeared to converse earnestly as they went. Fred still followed them, but in a few minutes they paused in front of a small white house, with a green door, so he was now compelled to pass them. As he did so, it suddenly occurred to his mind that he was acting a mean, contemptible part in following them thus. He blushed as he thought of this, and passed quickly forward, intending to deny his curiosity and take a ramble. He could not help observing, however, that the girl was weeping, and that the youth did not look happy by any means.
Having gained the brow of an eminence which overlooked the city, Fred sat down behind a rock to admire the beautiful scenery and to ponder what he had seen.
While he was thus engaged, he heard the voices of two men who approached on the other side of the rock, and did not observe him. They talked loud, in the Norse language. Fred understood enough of it to make out their meaning pretty well.
"I tell you what it is, Hans," said one, "give her up. You have no chance of gaining the required sum for many years, and it's a hard case to keep a poor girl waiting. Give her up, man, and don't go on like a silly love-sick boy."
"Give her up!" cried he who was called Hans,—"give her up! Ah! my friend Ole, I did not expect such counsel from thee. But I tell thee flatly I will not give her up. She loves me; I love her! Sweet Raneilda! nothing but death shall separate us!"
"A very pretty sentiment," retorted Old, "but pray, what do you mean to do?"
"I have decided that," replied Hans; "I will fish all winter in the deep sea, and all summer I will—"
"Well, what will you?"
"Alas! I know not. Would that I were a pilot, but I am not."
"But you know the coast as well as any pilot," said 016.
"True, but who would trust me—an unknown boy?" replied Hans sadly.
There was silence for a few minutes; then Ole said: "How much money do you require to pay for your father's farm and set yourself up?"
"Two hundred dollars," [The dollar is equal to about 4 shillings and 6 pence sterling] answered Hans.
"A goodly sum," said Ole despondingly. "No, no, Hans, give her up, boy, give her up. It is the advice of an oldish man and a true friend."
"It is the advice of an ass," retorted Hans fiercely. "Go, my true friend,—when I want your advice I will ask it."
The youth flung off from his friend, and came suddenly on Fred Temple, who rose and saluted him.
"This is a splendid city of yours, Hans," said he. "You know my name, and you speak Norse," exclaimed the youth in surprise.
"I know your name, Hans, because I heard your friend mention it, and I can speak a little Norse because I have studied it. I have come to stay in Old Norway for a few months, and would like to get a little information about it from some one. Are you a busy man just now?"
"No, not very busy," said Hans, with a disconcerted look.
"Then, could you call on me this afternoon? I live in Madame Sontoom's house."
"I will come," said Hans, whose face beamed with good-humour.
"Good; I shall expect you. Farewell."
"Farvel," replied Hans.
Fred sauntered down the hill that morning with a very peculiar smile on his countenance. There was something quite sly about his aspect, and more than once his companions caught him chuckling at breakfast in a way that surprised them much, for Fred Temple was not given to secrets, or to act in an outrageous manner without any apparent reason. But Fred had his own peculiar thoughts that morning, and they tickled him to such an extent that more than once he burst into a fit of laughter.
"Come, Fred, you're meditating something. Out with it," said Grant. "It is selfish to keep all your good thoughts to yourself."
"Not yet, not yet," replied Fred, with a mysterious look. "You shall know before our excursion comes to an end."
Further conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Hans Ericsson, who was impatient to get employment of any kind in order to earn a few dollars, and lay them up with a view to the future. Fred took him aside, and said in a low tone—"Hans, are you very anxious to wed Raneilda?"
The young Norseman's face flushed, and he started as if he had received a blow.
"Don't be angry, Hans," continued Fred; "I ask the question because I think I can help you in the matter if you will allow me. I do not ask it out of idle curiosity. Come, tell me your troubles like a good fellow, and I'll put you in the way of getting out of them."
Hans was inclined to repel Fred's kind intentions at first, but the Englishman's open, honest manner won upon him so much that he related to him all his sorrows.
He was the son of Eric, who dwelt in a valley at the head of the Nord Fiord. His father was too old to manage his farm, and Hans wished to take it up and work it on his own account. But, in order to do so, he must buy up the shares of the other members of his family. This would require 500 dollars. He had worked hard for two years to make this sum, but there was still 200 dollars to pay. He could make this in the course of time, but he had been engaged to Raneilda long, and he wished now to make her his wife. In short, he was tired of waiting.
"So, then, you would be glad to get some sort of work with good pay," said Fred.
"Ya," said Hans, with a nod of his head.
"Can you pilot a schooner from this to the Nord Fiord?"
"Ya, I know every island on the coast."
"Good; then be ready to start this evening. I shall send my vessel there in your charge, and I myself with my friends will travel overland and meet you there. Farewell!"
Hans went off to tell Raneilda, his handsome face beaming with joy.
"Now," said Fred, returning to his friends, "I have made arrangements with a pilot to take the Snowflake round to the Nord Fiord, and we will travel overland to the same place and meet it. The journey will be a very charming one of several days, through wild magnificent scenery. By the way, Grant, did you order the two sheep to be killed and sent aboard immediately?"
"Of course I did. Have I not always proved myself a trustworthy messenger? I told the man, in my best Norse, to have two 'Kos' killed without delay."
"Two what?" exclaimed Fred, with a look of alarm.
"Two Kos," returned Grant; "did you not tell me that Ko is the Norse word for a sheep?"
"Why, as I live, you have ordered two cows to be killed. Quick, come with me to the butcher's!"
The two friends rushed out of the house, and reached the shop of the man of meat just in time, fortunately, to arrest the fatal blow. The order was of course countermanded, and they were thus saved the necessity of setting up a butcher's shop in Bergen to get rid of their superabundant beef!
That night the Snowflake set sail for the far north, and next morning our three adventurers were galloping through the wilds of Norway.
CARIOLE TRAVELLING—MISERABLE LODGING AND POOR FARE—NATIVE PECULIARITIES—A NIGHT BATTLE.
As I am now about to drag my reader through the wild interior of Norway, let me try to describe it. Don't be alarmed, dear reader, I do not mean to be tedious on this point, but I candidly confess that I am puzzled as to how I should begin! Norway is such a jumble of Nature's elements. Perhaps a jumbled description may answer the purpose better than any other. Here it is, then.
Mountains, and crags, and gorges, and rocks, and serried ridges; towering peaks and dark ravines; lakes, and fords, and glens, and valleys; pine-woods, and glaciers, [For a full description of glaciers, see "Fast in the Ice," page 86, volume 3 of this Miscellany] streamlets, rivulets, rivers, cascades, waterfalls, and cataracts. Add to this—in summer—sweltering heat in the valleys and everlasting snow and ice on the mountain-tops, with sunlight all night as well as all day—and the description of Norway is complete. No arrangement of these materials is necessary. Conceive them arranged as you will, and no matter how wild your fancy, your conception will be a pretty fair idea of Norway. Toes these elements into some chamber of your brain; shake them well up,—don't be timid about it,—then look at the result, and you will behold Norway!
Having said thus much, it is unnecessary to say more. Rugged grandeur is the main feature of Norway.
On a lovely summer's evening, not long after the departure of the Snowflake from Bergen, our three travellers found themselves trotting through a wild glen on each side of which rose a range of rugged mountains, and down the centre of which roared a small river. The glen was so steep, and the bed of the torrent so broken, that there was not a spot of clear water in its whole course. From the end of the lake out of which it flowed, to the head of the fiord or firth into which it ran, the river was one boiling, roaring mass of milk-white foam.
Fred Temple and his friends travelled in the ordinary vehicle of the country, which is called a cariole. The Norwegian cariole holds only one person, and the driver or attendant sits on a narrow board above the axle-tree.
Of course it follows that each traveller in Norway must have a cariole and a pony to himself. These are hired very cheaply, however. You can travel post there at the rate of about twopence a mile! Our friends had three carioles among them, three ponies, and three drivers or "shooscarles," [This word is spelt as it should be pronounced] besides a small native cart to carry the luggage.
Their drive that day, and indeed every day since starting, had been emphatically up hill and down dale. It was, therefore, impossible to cross such a country in the ordinary jog-trot manner. When not ascending a steep hill, they were necessarily descending one; for the level parts of the land are few and far between. In order, therefore, to get on at all, it was needful to descend the hills at a slapping pace, so as to make up for time lost in ascending them.
There was something delightfully wild in this mode of progressing, which gladdened the hearts of our travellers, each of whom had a strong dash of recklessness in his composition. There was a little danger, too, connected with it, which made it all the more attractive. Frequently the roads were narrow, and they wound along the top of precipices over which a false step might easily have hurled them. At the foot of many of the roads, too, there were sharp turns, and it was a matter of intense delight to Sam Sorrel to try how fast he could gallop down and take the turn without upsetting.
The Norwegian ponies are usually small and cream-coloured, with black manes and tails or white manes and tails; always, from some incomprehensible reason, with manes and tails different in colour from their bodies. They are hardy, active animals, and they seem to take positive pleasure in the rattling, neck-or-nothing scamper that succeeds each toilsome ascent.
The shooscarle is usually the owner of the pony. He may be a man or a boy, but whether man or boy he almost invariably wears a red worsted nightcap. He also wears coarse homespun trousers, immensely too long in the body, and a waistcoat monstrously too short. He will hold the reins and drive if you choose, but most travellers prefer to drive themselves.
During the journey Fred Temple usually led the way. Norman Grant, being a careless, easy-going, drowsy fellow, not to be trusted, was placed in the middle, and Sam Sorrel brought up the rear. Sam's duty was to prevent straggling, and pick up stray articles or baggage.
On the day of which I write the three friends had travelled far, and were very sleepy. It was near midnight when they came to a steep and broken part of the road, which ran alongside of the foaming river already mentioned, and, turning at a sharp angle, crossed it by means of a rude wooden bridge.
Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, the sky was almost as bright as at noon.
"Mind yourself here," shouted Fred, looking back at Grant, who was almost asleep.
"Hallo! oh, all right!" cried Grant, gathering up the reins and attempting to drive. Fortunately for him Norwegian ponies need no driving. They are trained to look after themselves. Fred went down the hill at a canter. Grant followed at a spanking trot, and both of them reached the bridge, and made the turn in safety.
Sam Sorrel was some distance behind. Both he and his shooscarle were sitting bolt-upright, more than half-asleep, with the reins hanging loose on the pony's back. The first thing that awakened Sam was the feeling of going down hill like a locomotive engine. Rousing himself, he seized the reins, and tried to check the pony. This only confused it, and made it run the cariole so near to the edge of the river, that they were almost upset into it.
When Sam became fully aware of his position, he opened his eyes, pursed his lips, and prepared for "squalls." Not being a practised driver, he did not make sufficient allowance for a large stone which had fallen from the cliffs, and lay on the road. He saw what was coming, and gathered himself up for a smash; but the tough little cariole took it as an Irish hunter takes a stone wall. There was a tremendous crash. Sam's teeth came together with a snap, and the shooscarle uttered a roar; no wonder, poor fellow, for his seat being over the axle, and having no spring to it, the shock which he received must have been absolutely shocking! However, they got over that without damage, and the river was crossed by all three in safety.
The next hill they came to was a still worse one. When they were half-way down the leader came to a sudden halt; Grant's cariole almost ran over it; Sam and the luggage-cart pulled up just in time, and so, from front to rear, they were jammed up into the smallest space they could occupy.
"Hallo! what's wrong?" shouted Grant.
"Oh! nothing, only a trace or something broken," replied Fred. "Mend it in a minute."
It was mended in a minute, and away they went again on their reckless course over hill and dale.
The mending of the trace was a simple affair. The harness of each pony consisted of nothing more than the reins, a wooden collar, and a wooden saddle. The shafts were fastened to the collar by means of an iron pin, and this pin was secured in its place by a green withe or birch-bough twisted in a peculiar manner, so as to resemble a piece of rope. This was the only part of the harness that could break, so that when an accident of the kind occurred the driver had only to step into the woods and cut a new one. It is a rough-and-ready style of thing, but well suited to the rough country and the simple people of Norway.
Fred, being anxious to see as much as possible, had compelled his guide to turn out of the usual high-road, the consequence of which was that he soon got into difficulties; for although each shooscarle knew the district through which they were passing, they could not quite understand to what part of the country this peculiar Englishman was going. This is not surprising, for the peculiar Englishman was not quite sure of that point himself!
On this particular night they seemed to have got quite lost among the hills. At every stage of ten or twelve English miles they changed horses and drivers. The drivers on this particular stage were more stupid than usual, or Fred Temple was not so bright. Be that as it may, about midnight they arrived at a gloomy, savage place, lying deep among the hills, with two or three wooden huts, so poor-looking and so dirty that a well-bred dog would have objected to go into them. Fred pulled up when he came to this place, and Grant's pony pulled up when his nose touched the back of Fred's cart. Grant himself and his man were sound asleep. In a few seconds Sam joined them.
There was a brilliant, rosy light on the mountain-tops, but this came down in a subdued form to the travellers in the valley. The place scarcely deserved the name of a valley. It was more of a gorge. The mountains rose up like broken walls on each side, until they seemed to pierce the sky. If you could fancy that a thunderbolt had split the mountain from top to bottom, and scattered great masses of rock all over the gorge thus formed, you would have an idea of the soft of place in which our belated travellers found themselves. Yet even here there were little patches of cultivated ground, behind rocks and in out-of-the-way corners, where the poor inhabitants cultivated a little barley and grass for their cattle.
It was a lovely calm night. Had you been there, reader, you would have said it was day, not night. There was no sound to break the deep stillness of all around except the murmur of many cataracts of melted snow-water, that poured down the mountainsides like threads of silver or streams of milk. But the rush of these was so mellowed by distance that the noise was soft and agreeable.
"I say, Grant, this will never do," said Fred gravely.
"I suppose not," returned Grant, with a yawn.
"What say you, Sam,—shall we go on?"
"I think so. They can have nothing to give us in such miserable huts as these except grod [barley-meal porridge], and sour milk, and dirty beds."
"Perhaps not even so much as that," said Fred, turning to his driver. "How far is it, my man, to the next station?"
"Ten miles, sir."
"Hum; shall we go on, comrades?"
"Go on; forward!" cried Grant and Sorrel.
So on they went as before, over hill and dale for ten miles, which poor Sam (who was very sleepy, but could not sleep in the cariole) declared were much more like twenty miles than ten.
The sun was up, and the birds were twittering, when they reached the next station. But what was their dismay when they found that it was poorer and more miserable than the last! It lay in a wilder gorge, and seemed a much more suitable residence for wolves and bears than for human beings. Indeed, it was evident that the savage creatures referred to did favour that region with their presence, for the skin of a wolf and the skull of a bear were found hanging on the walls of the first hut the travellers entered.
The people in this hamlet were extremely poor and uncommonly stupid. Living as they did in an unfrequented district, they seldom or never saw travellers, and when Fred asked for something to eat, the reply he got at first was a stare of astonishment.
"We must hunt up things for ourselves, I see," cried Sam Sorrel, beginning to search through the hut for victuals. Seeing this, the people assisted him; but all that they could produce was a box of barley meat and two large flat dishes of sour milk.
This sour milk is a favourite dish with the Norwegians. During summer the cattle are sent to the pastures high up in the mountains, in order to spare the small quantity of grass grown in the valleys, which is made into hay and stored for winter use. These mountain pastures are called saeters, and the milk required by each family for daily use is carried down from the saeter by the girls. The milk is put into round flat tubs, varying from one to two feet in diameter and four or five inches deep. It is then allowed to stand, not only until it is sour, but until it is thick throughout like curd, with a thick coat of cream on the top. In this form it is eaten with a spoon, and a very pleasant sight it is to behold three or four sturdy herdsmen, and, perchance, one or two boys, squatting round one of these large dishes, and supping away to their hearts' content.
Grant seized the first dish of milk he discovered, and at once sat down on a stool and began to devour it.
"Hold on, let us start fair!" cried Sam Sorrel, catching up a spoon, and sitting down opposite his comrade on another stool.
The hut was built of rough logs, and the only furniture in it was of the rudest description; a couple of box-beds, two or three stools, and a bench, a gaily-painted chest in one corner, and a misshapen table was all that it contained. There was a very small door at one side, a particularly small window at the other, and a raised stone fireplace at one end.
"Well, while you two are stuffing yourselves with sour milk, I'll go and search for better fare," said Fred, with a laugh as he left the hut.
"Good luck go with you," cried Grant; "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Now, then, old boy," he continued, turning to the owner of the hut, "could your goodwife make us a little porridge; I say, Sam, what's the Norse for porridge?"
"Grod, [Grod is pronounced groot] I believe," said Sam, who was still busy with the sour milk.
"Ah yes! grod, that's it," said Grant, turning again to the old man; "grod, grod, get us some grod, grod, grod,—d'ye understand?"
"Ya, ya," answered the man. It would have been very strange if he had not understood, for though Grant addressed him in English the word grod bawled so frequently into his ear was sufficiently comprehensible.
A fire was quickly kindled by the goodwife, a pleasant-looking elderly woman; and the black family-pot was soon smoking. The old man was smoking too, in less than five minutes, for Grant, in the fulness of his heart, gave him a pipe and a lump of tobacco.
This man was a fine specimen of a hale old Norseman. He wore a complete suit of brown homespun—excepting the jacket, which hung on a rusty nail in the wall. Knee-breeches and worsted stockings showed that even in declining years he had a good pair of legs. His grey hair hung in long straight locks over his shoulders, and on his head was the invariable red nightcap. The only weakness for finery displayed by this old hero was in the matter of buttons and braces. The buttons were polished brass of enormous size, and the braces were red. These were displayed to great advantage in consequence of a space of full four inches intervening between the bottom of his vest and the waist-band of his breeches.
While the grod was being made, Fred Temple put up his fishing-rod and rambled away in search of a stream. He had not to go far. In about five minutes he found one that looked tempting. At the very first cast a large fish rose so greedily that it leaped quite out of the water and missed the fly. The next cast the fish caught the fly and Fred caught the fish. It was a splendid yellow trout of about a pound weight. In quarter of an hour Fred had three such trout in the pockets of his shooting-coat; in half an hour more the three fish were consigned by the three friends to the region of digestion!
And now the question of bed had to be considered. Grant settled it as far as he was concerned by throwing himself down on a pile of brushwood that lay in a corner, pillowing his head on a three-legged stool, and going off to sleep at once. Fred and Sam looked at the two beds. They were extremely dirty, and it was evident that straw was the bedding.
"Come, travellers must not be particular," cried Fred, as he tumbled into his box.
"I couldn't hold my eyes open five minutes longer to save my life," muttered Sam, as he rolled over into the other.
In a minute the three friends began to breathe heavily. Two minutes more and they were snoring, a trio in happy forgetfulness of all their toils.
Now, it must be told that this pleasant state of things did not last long. Fred Temple and Sam Sorrel were not the only occupants of these beds. Truth, however disagreeable, must be revealed. There were living creatures which not only slept in those beds, but which dwelt there when perfectly wide awake; and these creatures waged unceasing war with every human being that lay down beside them. In a very short time the sleepers found this out. Fred began to grow restless and to groan. So did Sam. In the course of an hour or so Fred uttered a fierce exclamation, and rose on his hands and knees. So did Sam. Then Fred and Sam began to fight—not with each other, but—with the common enemy.
The battle raged for more than an hour, during which the foe, although frequently routed, returned again and again to the charge. Their courage and determination were tremendous. It cannot be said that Fred and Sam were actually put to flight, but a regard for truth compels me to state that they continued fleaing the greater part of that morning, and it was not until the sun was high in the heavens—pouring down a flood of light into that wild glen—that they gained the victory, and lay down to repose on their laurels and straw—not to mention the bodies of the dead and dying!
They hoped now to be rewarded for their exertions with a few hours' repose. Vain hope! Scarcely had they closed their eyes when the door opened, and an old woman, with nose and chin of the nutcracker type, entered the room. This was the grandmother of the family; she had come to look at the strangers.
Grant's face, with the eyes shut and the mouth wide-open, was the first object that met her view. She bent over him and looked into his mouth, as if anxious to examine his teeth. Having looked him over, and felt the quality of his clothes with her shrivelled fingers, she turned to the beds and stared at the other strangers.
Fred had gone off into a sort of doze, so he bore the inspection well, but Sam was only pretending to sleep, and when he peeped up at the old face that looked down on his with kindly interest and curiosity, he found it difficult to check a smile.
Having looked at them well, and touched everything belonging to them, to see what it could be made of, the old woman moved quietly towards the door. She shut it with a bang, however, and roused them up with a start—excepting Grant, who slept through everything, and in spite of everything.
They were just dropping off again when the old woman returned. She had forgotten something, and was moving across the floor, when she accidentally knocked over a bench, which upset a heavy stool. The crash was followed by a scream of alarm, and once more the sleepers were awakened—always excepting Grant. Scarcely had this happened when a strange sound was heard outside. It gradually became louder and more alarming.
"What can it be?" cried Fred, leaping out of bed, and rushing to the door. As he threw it open, there was a roar like the sudden discharge of artillery, and at the same moment a huge mass of rock, many tons in weight, bounded close past the door, went crashing through a wooden shed as if it had been a sheet of paper, and, carrying shrubs and small trees along with it, finally found a resting-place at the bottom of the glen. The huge mass had fallen from the cliffs above, and fortunately swept through the hamlet without doing further damage. It was followed by a shower of smaller stones, some of which struck and shook the house, and produced a commotion that caused even Grant to wake up and run out in alarm.
The whole valley was covered with rocks of every shape and size, which had at various times fallen from the cliffs on either side; and one could not look at them without wondering that the little cluster of huts had not long ago been destroyed. There are many such scenes in Norway, and accidents do sometimes occur, but not so frequently as one might expect.
It is needless to say that our travellers did not again court sleep in that wild spot. Before another hour had passed they were over the mountains and far away on their journey to the far north.
DECEPTIVE APPEARANCES—PERPETUAL DAY—PERPLEXITIES ABOUT BED-TIME— CONFUSION OF MIND.
The scene is changed. We are on board the Snowflake and out once more among the thousands of islands off the coast far beyond the Arctic Circle now.
This is the region where the sun does not set night or day for several weeks in summer, and where he never rises night or day during several weeks in winter. But Fred Temple has not gained his point yet. He is behind time. Had he arrived at this latitude a week sooner, he would have seen the sun sweep an entire circle in the sky. But calms have delayed him, and now the sun just dips below the horizon at midnight. A good stiff, southerly breeze of a few hours would take him far enough north; but he cannot command the winds to blow, although Bob Bowie, the steward, evidently thinks he can make it blow by whistling! The sea is like a sheet of glass. Meanwhile, Fred and his friends are enjoying all the delight of daylight which is perpetual. Every thoughtful reader will at once perceive that where the sun only sets for a few minutes there can be no diminution of the light worth speaking of—nothing approaching even to twilight. The night before the arrival of the yacht at this place the sun set a little after midnight, and in twenty minutes afterwards it rose again to pursue its brilliant course through the northern sky.
It is scarcely possible for a Christian to look on such a scene without recalling those striking passages in God's Word, which, in describing heaven, tell us that "there shall be no night there," and speaks of a "sea of glass like unto crystal," before the throne of God. Well may the heart of man in such a scene exclaim with the Psalmist, "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches."
The islands in this particular place were positively uncountable. They lay scattered over the calm sea in hundreds. Some were no bigger than a boat—others were towering jagged mountains of more than four thousand feet high. Most of them were barren, and over the smaller islets, as well as round the cliffs of the larger ones, myriads of gulls and other sea-birds flew with clamorous cries. But for this, the scene would have been one of deep solitude as well as intense calmness. The sea-birds, however, filled the air with life, ay, and with melody, for the plaintive cry of wild-fowl when mellowed by distance is inexpressibly sweet and agreeable.
One thing that puzzled our voyagers very much was the deceptive appearance of land, so that they found it extremely difficult to judge correctly of distance. On one occasion, when sailing towards one of the large islands, Fred went up to Bob Bowie, who was leaning over the side watching the ripples caused by the Snowflake, and meditating, as he himself said, "on things in gin'ral, and nothin' in particular." It may be remarked in passing that this was not an uncommon state of mind with Bob Bowie.
"Well, Bob," said Temple, "we're going along nicely with this breeze. I expect we shall pass that island before many hours go by."
"How far d'ye think it's off, sir?" inquired the steward.
"About three miles," said Fred.
"Three miles, sir, w'y, it's not more than one mile—if it's that."
"What say you, Captain?" asked Fred.
"Ye better try," suggested McNab, with a quiet grin.
"So I will, ho! stand by to heave the log there. Now, Captain, steer straight as the crow flies for the island."
The yacht's course was altered, the log was hove, and, observing the moment of starting, they awaited the result. Bob thought it was a smallish island with little bushes on it. The time they took in drawing near to it first led him to doubt the correctness of his own opinion. But when the bushes began to turn into trees, and the cliffs to tower into the sky above his head, and throw a dark shadow over the vessel, he was obliged to give in. The distance which he had imagined was not more than one mile turned out to be five.
On another occasion a similar case of the deceptive appearance of distance occurred. They were sailing up a certain fiord, which most of the people on board supposed was only about a mile broad. One of the sailors, Bill by name, insisted that it could not be more than three-quarters of a mile; and thereupon an animated discussion, amounting almost to a dispute, began. But Bill was not to be put down. "He was an old salt. He wasn't to be taken in by these molehills, not he!" He had sailed round the world, according to his own account had been shipwrecked half a dozen times, and drowned once or twice, besides being murdered occasionally; so he thought himself a weighty authority, and entitled to great respect!
Well, to settle this point the yacht was sailed straight across the fiord, and the breadth, measured by the log, was found, as in the former case, to be about five miles.
The calms, although frequent in this latitude, did not last long. Light breezes sprang up now and then, and for several days carried our travellers to the north. But not fast enough, for the sun still kept ahead of them. During this period, they saw great variety of wonderful scenery, had several small adventures, and enjoyed themselves extremely.
Fred Temple usually began each calm day by jumping out of bed, rushing upon deck and going over the side, head-foremost into the water. He was generally followed by Sam Sorrel; but Sam was inclined to be lazy, and did not always follow his friend's lead. Grant never followed it. He was inveterately lazy in the morning, although at all other times he was as active as a mountain goat.
Our Highlander was particularly successful about this time with his gun. The number of birds that he shot and stuffed was enormous. Whenever a calm prevailed, he took the light little Norse boat that had been purchased at Bergen, and went off to the nearest island with his gun. On these occasions he was usually accompanied by Sam, whose love for sketching was quite equal to that of his companion for bird-shooting and stuffing. Fred, of course went to keep them company, and was wont to carry with him a rod, as well as a gun, for he was passionately fond of fishing. On these occasions, too, they took Hans Ericsson with them, to assist in rowing, and to pilot them when they felt inclined to leave the yacht out of sight behind.
One day they were out on an excursion of this kind, and had rowed towards the mainland, and up a fiord. Fred and Sam were reclining in the stern of the boat; the former smoking a meerschaum pipe, the latter making a drawing of a range of hills which were so rugged that the tops appeared like the teeth of a saw. Grant and Hans were rowing.
"Do you know what o'clock it was when we left the yacht?" inquired Fred.
"What o'clock?" echoed Sam; "no; well, let me see. We went to bed last night at five o'clock this morning."
"You mean that we turned in for our night's rest at five this morning, I suppose," said Temple.
"My dear Fred," retorted Sam, "never mind what I mean; only attend to what I say. Don't be too particular. It's a bad habit being too particular. I once had a friend who was too particular in his attentions to a young lady, and the result was that he was obliged to marry her."
"Then, Sam," returned Temple, "I should say that the habit of being too particular is a good one, if it leads to such a good thing as marriage. But to return to the point, what time of day or night do you think it is now?"
"Have not the least idea," said Sam; "I think it's some time or other in the evening, but this perpetual daylight confuses me. You know that when you and Grant were away last week after the gulls, I went to bed on Thursday forenoon at ten o'clock by mistake, thinking it was ten at night. How I ever came to do it I can't tell, but I suppose that I had sat so long stuffing that great eagle for Grant that my brains had got obfuscated. It was cloudy, too (not unlike what it is just now), so that I could not see the sun. Whatever was the cause, there is no doubt of the fact that I lost a day somehow, and my ideas have got such a twist that I fear they will never recover it."
"A most unfortunate state of things, truly," said Fred, laughing. "Perhaps you'll recover when we return to low latitudes. If not, there are plenty lunatic asylums. But we must not spend more than a few hours longer on this excursion, for I've a notion that we are somewhere about Saturday just now, and you know it's against our rules to run the risk of shooting or fishing into Sunday."
"Very true," replied Sam, as he continued his sketch. "I say, Grant, do you happen to have your watch with you?"
"Not I," cried Grant from the bow of the boat. "Since day and night took to being the same I let it run down. I have no regard for time now."
"D'ye know what day it is?"
"Humph, it's lucky that we can depend upon the Captain for keeping us right in regard to Sunday. Well, let's go ashore and try the mouth of yonder stream. I'll warrant me there are sea-trout there, perhaps salmon, and the ground hereabouts seems a likely place for grouse and ptarmigan. Pull hard, Hans, thou son of Eric, and shove the boat into yonder creek."
Hans Ericsson bent his strong back, and a bright smile crossed his sunburnt face as the head of the boat flew round.
"Hallo, Hans! steady, my lad!" cried Grant, giving his oar a pull that sent the head of the boat spinning round in the opposite direction. Then the sturdy Norseman and the stalwart Scot gave a pull together with all their might, and sent the boat like an arrow into the creek, where, in a few seconds, her keel grated on the shore.
For several hours after that the three friends were busy with their favourite pursuits. Grant soon bagged several brace of grouse. Fred caught a basket of splendid sea-trout, some of which were over three pounds' weight, and a small salmon of about ten pounds; while Sam Sorrel sat down on a rock and painted an elaborate picture of the scenery. Of course their different occupations separated them from each other, but Hans kept close to Fred's elbow—for he had not only conceived a strong friendship for the young Englishman, but he was immensely delighted with fly-fishing, which he had never before witnessed. The astonishment of Hans was great when he beheld heavy trout landed by means of a slender rod and an almost invisible line. But when Fred hooked the salmon the excitement of the Norseman knew no bounds. After nearly half an hour's playing of the fish, Fred drew it close to the bank, and told Hans to strike the gaff-hook into it, and lift it out of the water. Hans in his excitement missed his aim, and the terrified fish darted away. But Fred was prepared for this, and let out line. Soon he brought his fish once more to the side, exhausted and rolling over. Hans made a second attempt and was successful in landing the silvery salmon on the bank.
When they returned to the schooner after that excursion, Captain McNab was leaning over the side with a grim smile on his wooden countenance. Bob Bowie was beside him with a beaming smile on his jolly red face.
"Good-day, Captain," cried Fred, as the boat drew near. "Well, Bowie, we're desperately hungry, I hope you've got supper ready for us."
"I've got breakfast, sir," replied the steward.
"Eh? ah! well, call it what you like, only let us have it soon." (They clambered up the side.) "Why, Captain, what day is it, and what time of day?"
"It's Friday mornin', sir, and eight o'clock."
Fred opened his eyes in astonishment.
"Why, then, comrades, it seems that we have been shooting, sketching, and fishing all night by daylight, and the sun has set and risen again without our being aware of the fact! So much for perpetual day and a cloudy sky. Come, Bob Bowie, look alive with break—, ah! supper, I mean, for whatever it may be to you, it is supper to us. Meanwhile, I'll have a bathe to refresh me."
So our hardy adventurers bathed that morning, over the side, then they supped, after which they turned in and slept all day, and rose again at six o'clock in the evening to breakfast!
A SUNDAY ON SHORE.
Only once during their voyage along the rugged coast of Norway did our three friends go to church! It must not be supposed, however, that therefore they were heathens. Far from it. Fred and his companions were truly Christian men. That is to say, they not only called themselves Christians, but they made it their earnest aim to walk after the example of Christ, and to exhibit their Christianity by their deeds. But only once during their trip had they the opportunity of visiting a church on a Sunday forenoon when service was going on.
It happened to be on a bright calm Sunday. There was just enough of wind to urge the Snowflake through the water at the rate of two miles an hour. Fred's usual custom was to get to a secure anchorage on Saturdays, so as to be able to spend the Sabbath as a day of rest. But this was not always practicable, because the water was so deep close inshore that no bottom could be found in many places, and often they were obliged to continue their voyage on Sunday. This, however, was a matter of small importance, because the working of the yacht required so little attention—especially in fine weather—that it did not interfere with the services or the rest of the day. Fred made a point of assembling the crew and reading the Church of England service every Sunday forenoon, and a chapter or two from the Bible in the evening.
On the present occasion they were all assembled on the quarterdeck joining in the morning service. The breeze was steady, and the steersman was the only man on duty, but he was not thereby prevented from attending to what was being read. The vessel was gliding along close under a precipice which towered high above the mast, and, at a short distance ahead, extended out in a bold promontory or headland. Elsewhere mountainous islands hemmed them in.
When they reached the promontory Fred was reading that beautiful Psalm, the 95th,—which appeared somewhat appropriate to the occasion.
"O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
"Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and shew ourselves glad in Him with psalms.
"For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
"In His hand are all the corners of the earth: and the strength of the hills is His also.
"The sea is His, and He made it: and His hands prepared the dry land.
"O come, let us worship and fall down: and kneel before the Lord our Maker."
Fred happened to look up at the last words, and an exclamation of wonder broke from him as he pointed towards the shore. The schooner had just doubled the towering promontory, and a new scene had been suddenly opened up to view.
Just beyond the promontory the coast-line took an abrupt bend to the right, at the end of which was a sequestered little bay, with a beach of yellow sand, and a cluster of grassy mounds behind, of the brightest emerald green. The bay and the green mounds and the strip of yellow sand were all exceedingly small, and were surrounded by a mass of rugged rocks of a cold, whitish-grey colour. Beyond these were the great purple mountains of the mainland. Ahead and in front towered the islands of the coast. The whole of the surrounding scenery was wild, rugged, and barren. This one little spot alone was soft and lovely; it shone out like a bright jewel from its dark setting. All round the bay were clustering cottages, with white walls and red roofs,—some on the sides of the mounds, others perched on rocks that projected out into the sea. On the highest of these mounds stood a church, and in the bay floated a large Norwegian vessel and numerous small boats.
The promontory round which the Snowflake had just passed completely sheltered this bay, so that the water was like a sheet of glass, in which everything—boats, rocks, mounds, cottages, and church—was clearly reflected.
The church-bell was ringing. It was a small bell, and its sweet sound came floating softly over the sea to the ears of our voyagers like an old familiar hymn. The interest of this scene was further enhanced by the assembling of the people to church. Boats were seen pushing off from every island, issuing from every creek, rowing over the calm water, and all converging towards the little bay with the yellow strand. Each boat was crowded with men, women, and children; and as the men wore red caps, and the women white kerchiefs on their heads, their appearance was quite brilliant. In other respects, their clothes being all homespun and of one dark colour, their aspect was sombre enough. So numerous were the boats, and so suddenly did they make their appearance, that it seemed as if the land were being invaded by a foreign host.
All this was taken in at a glance by the yacht party as they doubled the promontory, and glided slowly into the bay.
"This is our anchorage," said the Captain.
"Very well, let go the anchor, and we will finish the service after it is down," said Temple, rising and taking up the telescope to examine the groups of people on shore.
As each boat discharged its load on the little stone pier, the males and females separated into two distinct bands and walked slowly and sedately towards the church, at the door of which the whole congregation assembled, still keeping in two separate bands, to await the arrival of the clergyman.
In a few minutes the rattle of the chain announced that the anchor was down. The sails were dewed up, and service was continued.
"Now," said Fred, when he had concluded, "lower the boat, Captain—I will go to church. Will any one of you join me?"