Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

Forest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman online

. (page 18 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

was your principal reason for coming here at all."



■:»



Id






LETTERS. 197

" Well, but Moodie says there is capital fishing on the
Gotha j the salmo ferox, my boy ! what do you think of
that ? and you know the fish are beginning to run small
here, there was not a full-mouthed salmon caught the last
day we fished here, nothing but miserable grauls."

"Grauls give very pretty sport, though, and as for the
salmo ferox, it is nothing but an ill-conditioned, over-grown
trout, that has got a cross of the pike in it, and consequently
will take nothing but the spinning bait. But I must say
I should like to see old Moodie again."

" Will you go then 1 "

" Ask Birger."

" Hey ! what ?" said Birger, looking up from his letters,
which, after all, seemed to be more interesting than he had
expected. " Moodie 1 ah ! yes ! that's the fellow my friend.
Bjornstjerna mentions ; a terrible fellow he says, a very
Hercules against the wild beasts — there is never a skal
without him; Bjornstjerna says he had rather have him than
a hundred men, any day."

" And who is Bjornstjerna 1 "

" One of the Ofwer Jagmasterer, the officers, that is, whose
business it is to call out the peasantry to keep down the
wild beasts ; he is very good authority on such matters, and
I vote we accept your friend Moodie's invitation, it is much
the best chance we have of seeing sport."

The Captain looked a little puzzled ; he was anxious
enough to go, but the invitation had been to him and the
Parson, and of course had not included Birger, whose exis-
tence was necessarily unknown to Moodie ; in fact, the
Captain had not thought of that difficulty. Birger, who had
spent a good part of his leave in England, where he had some
friends, burst out laughing.

" Ah, that is just your English way, you think you cannot
take me, because your friend has not sent me a written
invitation in due form — that is not the way we go on here ;
my friend's friend is my friend, and if your countryman has
aot learnt that in the four years during which, Bjornstjerna
tells me, he has been living in the country, it is high time he



198 NEW PLANS.

should learn. "When does he drive his flocks and herds to
GotheborgP

" Why, if we would meet him, we must start directly, for
he comes next week."

" Well, why not start directly ? come Parson ! one river is
as good as another."

" Scarcely that," said the Parson, laughing ; " but I do
want to see how Moodie carries on the war in your bar-
barous country ; so let us go — Tom," raising his voice so as
to be heard from below, " when does the next steamer sail ior
Valo 1 "

" The day after to-morrow, at day-break," said Tom, whose
head was a perfect register of naval events.

" That will never do," said the Parson, who contemplated
a farewell visit to the Torjedahl salmon.

" Not do !" said Birger, " why it is the very thing. Strike
the tents to-morrow, early, — down the river without stopping
at Christiansand Bridge, — run alongside the steamer, — take
our berths, — stow our goods, — and then we shall have half the
day to land and visit our stores at Ullitz's, kiss Marie, and
make what changes we want in the baggage department. I
must take my uniform for Gotheborg ; we are not ashamed
of our uniform in our country," he added, significantly nodding
at the Captain, who, like most English soldiers, was rather
addicted to mufti ; " and you too will want more baggage,
now that you are going into a civilized country."

" Do not let Torkel hear you say that. He considers
Christiansand the emporium of fashion and the centre of
civilization. By-the-bye, what are we to do with our men?
I will not leave Torkel behind, — I have quite an affection for
the fellow."

" Leave Torkel behind ! " said Birger ; " why should you 1
you do not think the Swedes will eat him, do you ? I mean
to take Piersen myself; these Norwegians, rascals as they
are, all of them, are a great deal smarter and handier in
forest work than our Swedes ; their education fits them for
J acks-of -all-trades ; they get kicked out of doors, with a
pack on their back, at ten years of age, to earn their liveli-



THE DEPARTURE. 199

hood, and learn smartness and knowledge of the world, — and
they do learn it, and precious scoundrels they grow up : —
however, they answer our purpose, for they can turn their
hands to anything."

At that moment Torkel came up, looking a little con-
fused and ashamed of himself, and not the less so that the
Parson asked significantly for the latest news from the
soeter of Aalfjer.

His love, however, did not prevent him from being wild
to go, as soon as he heard of the change of plans — a sentiment
in which the rest fully participated ; indeed there was not a
dissentient voice in the camp, except that of the boatmen,
who were to be discharged at Christiansand, and whose fun
was thus prematurely cut short. A small pecuniary grati-
fication set matters right in that quarter also, and when the
evening closed on the last day of the encampment, the hopes
and eager anticipations of a brilliant future had already
effaced all regrets for a happy past.

The sun was hardly above the horizon, when the whole
camp was astir, and active j:>reparations for departure were
begun. These did not occupy any very great deal of time ;
they had not come up the river in very heavy marching
order, and there were a good many hands at the work. The
principal part of it was securing the smoked salmon, of which
they had now a very fair cargo. This is a very acceptable
present everywhere ; for though salmon are plenty in
Norway, the means of catching them are very imperfectly
understood. There was also a goodly array of forest pre-
serves, which, being too heavy for transport, and subject to a
heavy duty into the bargain from jealous Sweden, were des-
tined to swell the ample stores of Madame Ullitz.

While all this was going on, the Parson, rod in hand, took
a melancholy farewell of his favourite throws, in the course of
which he caught two fish — both grauls, though, as the
Captain took care to remark. By ten o'clock everything
was ready, and the boats shoved off on their downward
voyage.

"Well, certainly it is much pleasanter to go with the
stream than against it, in all the affairs of this life," said the



200 A DISAPPOINTMENT.

Captain, as the boats closed again, after racing down the
upper rapids which had cost them so much time and so
much trouble to ascend. " Here we have undone in half an
hour and at our ease, what it took us half a day to do, and
with harder work than I wish to meet with very often."

" Not an uncommon thing in this wicked world of ours,"
said the Parson. " Facilis descensus; — you know the rest.
However, that which is pleasant is not always safe, — so look
out. Here we are, at the head of the Oxea rapid, and a
touch of these rocks, going down stream, you will find a very
different thing from a touch going up. Give way, boys !
let me have good steerage-way through the water."

And he dashed into the very midst of the racing current —
rocks, trees, and banks flying past him, till, before they
seemed to be well in it, the three boats were floating side
by side in the broad flat below, at the lower end of which
the encampment had been made on the first night of the
expedition. A short halt here, which they made, more for
the pot than for sport, secured them a good catch of trout
and a graul or two ; and their rapid course down the deep,
full -flowing stream was resumed, leisurely indeed — but so
swift was the current under the deceitful show of its calm
and quiet surface, that notwithstanding a little difficulty at
the lower rapids, where there was not water enough in the
boat canal to float them, the sun was still high when they
rounded the dockyard point, and opened the harbour of
Christiansand.

" Hullo, Tom, where is the steamer V

Tom rubbed his eyes, for he could not believe them, but
no amount of rubbing will produce a vision of that which is
not, and the fact became indisputable as they pulled on —
there was no steamer in the harbour. The Parson, who
after all, had left very unwillingly, and rather in compliance
with the wishes of his companions than in accordance with
his own fancy or judgment, began to feel sulky; the Captain,
who had proposed the change, began to feel anxious, and to
labour under the weight of his responsibility ; and even
Birger, who had nothing to reproach himself for, was not
entirely at his ease.



PEOJECTS. 201

Things however, were not so bad as they had anticipated ;
there was no steamer certainly, but Ullitz, who was lounging
on the quay — where indeed the good man spent the greater
part of his summer hours, looking out for travellers and
seeking whom he might entertain, and who certainly did not
approve of a change of plans which deprived him of a very
profitable commissariat, — informed them that the day had
been changed, and that the steamer would not arrive till the
following evening, nor sail till the day after.

" Never mind," said Birger, " let us have one good supper,
and one comfortable night's rest more than we expected ; I
will be bound we strike out something for to morrow, and
after all we shall lose nothing, we may as well be at Chris-
tiansand as at Gotheborg."

Ullitz did not say, but looked as if he thought they had
much better.

" The sea is as calm as glass," said Torkel to Tom.
" Would not this do for eider duck-hunting."

" It is a great pity that Froken Lota has to make up her
stores of eider down now," said Tom, " and she to be mar-
ried in the autumn."

Torkel could afford to laugh, for he knew very well —
indeed, none had cause to know it better, he having sup-
plied a good half of them — the extent of Miss Lota's eider
stores. All this was an aside, and Tom resumed aloud, " To
be sure, there could not be better weather, we shall not have
ripple out in the haaf* anymore than in the fjord; and
besides, we can take some cod-lines, and when we have
killed or driven off the ducks we can fill our boats with rock
cod."

" What is all that ?" said the Captain

Tom explained.

" Upon my word I think it will do very well ; what say
you, Birger V*

" Nothing better, I have never been duck-hunting myself,
but they say it is capital fun ; there are three cr four fellows
of " ours " who always get leave in the duck season, and pass

* Deep water.



202 EIDER DOWN.

a month or two on the islands of the Baltic ; they say it is
first-rate sport — I vote we go."

And so it was settled, and the details of the expedition
were arranged as they walked up those sandy deserts of
streets which they had traversed on the first night of their
landing.

Marie received them with smiles, and when she learnt
the object of their sport, so worked on the Captain's suscep-
tible heart, that he vowed she should have every feather that
fell to his gun. The Parson was rather affected to Lota, but
Torkel, who had been a little stung by Tom's joke, magnani-
mously transferred the ofter to Marie, who, "poor thing,
might perhaps want the down, and Lota would not know
what to do with it, she had a great deal more than she
could make up already ;" which, considering his own fame as
a hunter, as well as that of young Svensen, between whom
Miss Lota had been coquetting (so Tom averred) till she
ought to have been ashamed of herself, was not unlikely to
be literally true.



It must be remarked that this is the sporting way of collecting eider
down. The business way is robbing the nests, which is done in spring,
and is very slow work — though sufficiently dangerous.



BRIBERY. 203



CHAPTER XV.

"eiDER duck hukting.

" For now in our trim boats of Norroway deal
We must dance on the waves with the porpoise and seal ; —
The breeze it shall pipe, so it pipe not too high,
And the gull be our songstress whene'er she flics by ; —
We'll sing while we bait, and we'll sing while we haul,
For the deeps of the Haat have enough for us all."

Aorway Fishing Song.

The dawn was yet grey upon the mountains, and the light
steaming mist was still resting on the glassy surlace of the
harbour, when the three boats slipped off noiselessly from the
dockyard point. The fishing rods, now useless, had been
landed, and the guns and rifles had taken their places, while
the after-lockers were stored with cod lines and their gear,
to say nothing of the langref that had done such good service
at Mosse Eurd, and which was now converted into a spillet.
The boats were well provisioned — that is almost an in-
variable rule in Norway, so far as quantity goes, but on this
occasion, they were provisioned with all the delicacies the
fair Marie could lay her hands upon ; nay, so interested was
she in the subject, that she came down with the party, in
the grey of the morning, to superintend the packing herself :
and, after carrying on a lively conversation with Birger, on
the road, endeavoured, in vain, to make the Captain under-
stand something or other; her anxiety to convey her meaning
brought her cheek very much closer to his li]js than j>erhaps
she intended — how close it was impossible to say, for the
morning light was still very faint, — in all probability, Birger
might have come in for a share of the secret, whatever it
was, but he was rude enough to burst out laughing, and to
add something in Swedish, about bribery and corruption,
which put the young lady to immediate flight.



204 THE SEAL.

" You need not look so conceited," said he, (possibly the
grapes were sour) ; " it was not you, it was the eider down
she was thinking of."

No one knows what silence is, who has not been in the
North — what we call silence, is a perpetual recurrence of a
thousand familiar sounds, so familiar that the ear does not
notice them ; the chirp of hundreds of birds, and millions of
insects go to make up English silence ; — perhaps within the
Arctic circle it may be deeper than that which, at that early
hour, brooded over the harbour of Christiansand ; but even
that was a silence which made itself to be felt ; and the
regular and steady roll of the oars in the rowlocks, as the
boats shot out into the fjord, fairly echoed among the cliffs
like grumbling thunder. Nothing could be more calm and
unbroken than the water, which seemed to be hot, for a
slight steam kept slowly rising from the whole surface, and
hung upon it like a veil which now began to whiten in the
increasing light ; every here and there a seal would put up
his head, like a black oily bead, take a steady view of the
boats, and then dip under, without a ripple to show where
the surface had been broken.

" Oars ! " said the Captain, in a whisper, as one of
these sheep of Proteus evinced a little more indiscreet
curiosity than his neighbours, and as his boat, which had
been leading, lost her way, he rose quietly, and his rifle
thundered through the still air of the morning, as if it had
been a six-pounder, while its echoes were caught and
repeated, crack after crack, by a dozen sharp cliffs and
wooded islands.

The surface was sufficiently disturbed this time — for the
Captain's rifle seldom spoke in vain, — and the seal was strug-
gling in the agonies of death ; the men stretched out on their
oars as if they were racing, but before the boat could reach
the spot, all was quiet again, and a slight red stain in the
water was all that remained to tell of the Captain's accuracy
of aim. The Captain gazed on the deep blue below.

" It is of no use," said the Parson, " they always sink, and
it is a great shame to be firing at that which you cannot
get when you have killed it."



THE CAUSE OF THE EBB TIDE. 205

" You used to shoot them, yourself, in Sligo Bay."

" Yes, I did, but there was a tide there, and we shot them
at high water, and picked them up when the sands were
bare — even then, though, we lost a good many, but here
there is not a chance ; that fellow is food for lobsters."

" Well, I hope the cockneys will profit by it when the
next batch goes to the London market," said the Captain,
loading his rifle, " but have we no tide here ?"

"We have no sands that we can make available; but a
tide there is, though a faint one. Did you ever hear how
there came to be a tide in Norway — for originally there cer-
tainly was nothing of the kind 1 Thor was on a visit to
Loki Uttgard, who, in all love, challenged him to drink his
great horn out, and to turn it over to show there were no
heeltaps, as is the custom in Norway. Thor had never been
conquered yet in drinking, or in anything else ; in fact, he
had the hardest head, inside and out, of any god in Norway.
He drank, and he drank, but there was no bottom to be
found to the horn, and Thor put it down with shame, and
acknowledged himself at last vanquished ; but the Uttgard-
ers, who were all giants of a very ferocious stamp, stood
round, in speechless admiration. Loki had made a com-
munication between the bottom of the horn and the sea
itself, and what Thor had drunk was the ebb."

" H'm ! Hence the fine of a glass of salt and water," said
the Captain, " I have often inflicted it, but I never knew
the high authority I had for so doing. Come, boys, give way
for the Haaf."

But before so doing they had to stop at a shoal, well
known to Tom, who now began to take the command, while
Torkel sank into comparative insignificance. It was neces-
sary to lay in a supply of cod-bait, which was not to be had
in deep water. This was a species of large limpet, that clung
to the rocks by thousands, and was dislodged by the boat-
hooks, and stowed away in the balers. At length the swell
of the open sea made itself to be felt, for ever heaving and
setting and rolling along in vast mountains, and flashing in
spray against the black rocks, though the surface was as
glassy and unbroken as that of the harbour. The whole



208 SAIL, HO!

swell of the North Sea, and of the Atlantic beyond it heaves
against these coasts, and is never quiet in the calmest
weather. The sun, which had now risen, gleamed against
the white tower of the light-house, and flashed back in
blinding rays from its lantern, as the boats pulled past it
into the Haaf.

They had now formed line abreast, at five or six hundred
yards distance, and were pulling leisurely along, keeping a
bright look out on every side. Calm as it was, the swells
were quite heavy enough to conceal the boats entirely from
each other as, from time to time, the huge mountains rolled
between them.

They had proceeded in this manner for about half an hour,
without seeing anything, except gulls and cormorants — which
latter, sitting in the water, and rising and falling on the
swells, had more than once deceived them, — when, suddenly,
Birger, who was on the extreme right, pointed with his
hand to the westward of their course : all eyes were turned
in that direction, and the line wheeled on Birger, as a pivot,
when a dozen or so, of black spots were seen on the side of
the swell, in the rare intervals when the boats and they
were both rising.

The centre boat, which was the Parson's, pulled right on
the objects, while the flankers having increased their distance
to half a mile, pulled on some hundred yards in advance of
her.

Onward as they came, the black spots grew larger and
larger, and the distinct outlines of the ducks began to be dis-
tinguishable ; still they sat on the water, rising and falling
to the swell as unconcernedly as ever.

The flanking boats were already ahead of them, and the
Parson, with his long gun in his hand, had begun to calculate
his distance — which, out at sea, is particularly deceptive, —
when, with one accord, the dozen tails began to wriggle, and
at once the whole flock were under water, disappearing simul-
taneously, and as if by signal.

The men, who, much to the Parson's impatience, had been
pulling very leisurely indeed, now • stretched out with all
their might, and as they shot across the spot lately occujned



luij'



II



lio'i!

if
1



mtM



ii'i?



: ,' i.'iW'



I




THE CHASE. 207

by the ducks, marked tlie chain of air-bubbles, which tended
out to seaward. A signal conveyed this information to the
Captain's boat, which pulled into the line to intercept them ;
.Birger, who was thus thrown out, closing in with all his
I might, and the Parson following up the track — each stood
| up as well as he could in the roll of the sea, and looked out
with all his eyes. Six, eight, ten minutes elapsed, and nothing
to be seen : it was impossible that the birds could be under
1 so long. At last, iar to the rear of even Birger's boat, twelve
black spots were seen rising and lulling on the swell as un-
concernedly as they were at first. The ducks had headed
back under water, and the boats had pulled over them.

The same manoeuvre was repeated, and with the same
result ; the centre boat approached almost within firing
distance, when the twelve ta: Is again wriggled simultaneously,
and the twelve bodies went under at once. This time, how-
ever, they rose within shot of Birger's boat, but before he
could get his gun to bear on them, they were under again.

This was precisely what was wanted ; the only chance of
getting a shot, at this season of the year, is to make the birds
dive till they are exhausted : they are said not to duck the
flash like the divers — perhaps they do not, but, at all events,
they are generally under water long before the quickest
gunner can get a shot at them, and that, practically, comes to
the same thing.

The dive this time was a short one, though it carried them
out of shot, for the Captain, catching the line of their chain,
had pulled on their track, and headed them back to his
friends. This time they rose among the boats, and one or
two attempted a heavy lumbering flight, which was speedily
put a stop to by the fowling-pieces. The rest dispersed,
diving each his own way, and pursued by the boats inde-
pendently.

The object of approaching in a crescent, is to prevent the
birds from doing this before they are too much exhausted to
dive far. A separated flock can seldom be marked, inasmuch
as it is more difficult to catch sight of one black spot than a
dozen ; and besides, under such circumstances, the boats can
no longer act in concert. If a flock disperses early in the



203 THE CAPTURE.

chase, the chances are that not above one or two birds will
be secured ; if kept pretty well together, not above as many
will escape.

It is a singular thing that eider ducks should be so un-
willing to take the wing in summer, for, though they rise
heavily, they are by no means bad flyers ; but so long as they
have breath to dive, nothing will get them into the air ; and
this peculiarity, which in ordinary weather is their preserva-
tion, during the calms is their destruction.

The chase was now an ordinary affair, very like rat hunt-
ing : the birds, confused and dispersed, kept poking their
heads up in all sorts of unexpected directions, and, as their
dives were now short, one or other of the quick and experi-
enced eyes was sure to detect them. As for missing, when
they were once within shot, it was impossible to miss a bird
nearly as big as a goose, and almost as heavy on the wing.
Ten out of the twelve were bagged, and two only were unac-
counted for, they having slipped away during the heat of the
chase. The boats then formed line-of-battle as;am, and
cruised on in search of other adventures.

Various little episodes occurred, in which one or two rare
sea-gulls and other birds were brought down, as they hovered
round the boats or crossed their course. Most gulls, indeed,
evince a great deal of curiosity in their disposition, and a
very dangerous quality this sometimes proves; but in this case
the murders were committed exclusivelvfor the sake of Science

■r

(who, by the way, must be a very cruel goddess), for the
fishermen were a great deal too much of sportsmen to indulge
in the vulgar gull-murder without object, which is called
sport by maritime cockneys. Three or four other flocks of
eider duck were sighted, and chased with various success ;
some, taking the alarm in time, contrived to dive and swim
ahead of the boats, so as to elude them altogether ; some,
startled by too rapid approach, dived before they had time
to draw together, and, breaking their order, appeared so many
scattered black spots in different directions, most of which
were necessarily lost while pursuing the others. But these
mishaps were not of frequent occurrence, and a good heap of
great ugly birds had already been collected, when, about