Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

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massacre at Stockholm, generally spoken of by the name of the " Blood-
bath." Both families derive their names from their armorial bearings,
as at that time there were no surnames in Sweden. These signify
Lion-head and Boar-head, or Pig-head, respectively. Hence the Par-
son's sarcasm.


had fallen in with him at the Swedish ambassador's, and,
being himself something of an artist, had struck up on the.
spot a sort of professional friendship with him. The pleasant
little subaltern was thus, from that time forward, enrolled
among their party; and though their acquaintance was not
yet of twenty-four hours' standing, was at that moment
talking and chatting with all the familiarity of old and tried

" Here come those precious rascals at last," said he,
breaking off the conversation, as a train of at least half-a-
dozen carriages rattled down to the landing-place, and counts,
countesses, tutors, barons, children, dogs, governesses, port-
manteaus, bags, boxes, and trunks were tumbled out indis-
criminately on the landing-place. " Heaven and earth ! if
they have not impedimenta enough for an army ! and this is
only their light marching baggage either. All their heavy
articles came on board yesterday, and are stowed under
hatches. I'll be bound we draw an additional foot of w T ater
for them. Hang the fellows ! they are as bad as Junot, they
are carrying off the plunder of half the country."

" Like the Swedes under Oxenstjerna," said the Parson ;
" but what need 3 7 ou care for that? The plunder — if it is
plunder — comes from England, not Sweden."

" It will lumber up the whole cabin, whether it comes
from the one or the other," said Birger ; " we shall not have
room to swing a cat."

" We don't want to swing a cat," said the Parson ; " that
is a Russian amusement rather than an English or a Swedish
one, if all tales be true ; and you may depend upon it we shall
fare all the better for their presence : our skipper could never
think of setting anything short of turtle and venison before
such very magnificent three-tailed bashaws."

" Yes," said Birger, " they are going to Petersburgh, too,
where the chances are, the bashaws will find some good op-
portunity of squaring accounts with the skipper for any ill-
treatment, before the steamer is permitted to sail."

All the while this conversation was going on, the illus-
trious passengers were rapidly accomplishing the short
passage from the shore to the steamer, a whole flotilla of


boats being employed in the service, while the hurried
click of the pauls, and the quick revolutions of the windlass,
as the chain-cable was hove short, showed that in the Cap-
tain's opinion, as well as that of the Mate, quite time enough
had been wasted already.

But the golden opportunity had been lost. English tides
respect no man, not even Russian ambassadors, and old
Father Thames was yet to read them a lesson on the text —

If you will not, when you may,
When you will, you shall have Nay.

While the vessel was riding to the ebb tide, as she had done
all the morning, a warp which had been laid out from her port
quarter would have canted her head well into the stream ;
and the tide, acting on her starboard bow while the after-
part was in comparatively still water, would have winded
her downwards, almost before her paddles were in motion, or
her rudder could be brought to act. But the turn of the
tide had reversed all this. The vessel had indeed swung to
the flood, which by this time was rattling up at the rate of
five or six miles an hour, and thus her bowsprit was looking
the way she wanted to go ; but a strong eddy was now bub-
bling up under her starboard bow, and pressing it towards
the left bank, while a great lumbering Indiaman lay just
ahead of her, and a Hamburgh steamer, which had anchored
a little higher up on her starboard quarter, forbade all
reversing of the engine and thus getting out of the mess
stern foremost.

The moment the anchor broke ground the helm was put
hard a-port, and the paddles were set in motion ; but though
from the tide alone the rudder had some effect^ the
strength of the eddy was too much for her ; round came
her head to port, as if she were going to take a leap at the

" Hard a-port ! — harda-starboard ! — ease her ! — stop her ! —
turn her a-headl" were the contradictory orders bawled out
almost simultaneously. If noise and shouting could have got
the steamer out of the scrape, there was no lack of it ; but
all these cries, energetic as they were, produced no effect
whatever, beyond exciting a little suspicion in the mind of

OFF. 25

our travellers (some of whom having been at sea before,
knew the stem of a ship from the stern) that the skipper was
not altogether a " deacon in his craft ;" and thus giving a point
to the Mate's silent but expressive shrug when the Parson
had alluded to the shoals at the river's mouth. At last, an
indescribable sensation of grating, and a simultaneous volley
of heterogeneous oaths, such as sailors shot their guns with
on grand occasions, announced the fact that she had taken the
ground abaft.

This, however, as it turned out, was about the best thing
that could have happened, for it gave the skipper time to
collect his senses ; or, what was more to the purpose, gave
the Mate time to whisper in his ear ; and the rising tide was
sure to float her again in ten minutes. By this time a warp
had been got out to a ship anchored upon the Surrey side,
an expedient which any sailor would have thought of before
tripping his anchor in the first instance. The end of it was
passed round the windlass and hove taut, and as the rising
water slowly lifted the unlucky vessel from her sludgy bed
and a few turns brought a strain, upon her, she gradually
slewed her head outwards. The steam was turned on, the
paddles went round ; the black water began to fizz under her
counter, as if a million of bottles of stout had been poured
into it — she was at last a-weigh and fairly on her course, only
about six hours after her proper time.

" I tell you what," said the Parson, as he dived down the
companion to inspect the submarine arrangements of the
cabin, "I leave this vessel at Christiansand, and I wish we
were fairly out of her. This fellow knows no more of sea-
craft than a tailor. Kind Providence shield us, or we shall
come to grief yet !"




" Our ship,
"Which but three glasses since we gave out split,
Is tight and rare and bravely rigged, as when
We first put out to sea."


Oxe by one the travellers crept down to the cabin. It was
as uncomfortable as cabins usually are, perhaps more so, as
being more lumbered and more crowded ; and the ordinary
space for locomotion had been miserably curtailed by a large
supplementary table, which the steward was lashing athwart
ship for the dinner accommodation of the supernumerary
passengers. These were standing about here and there, as
helpless and uncomfortable as people always are on first
starting, and were regarding one another with looks of sus-
picion and distrust, as people who start by a public convey-
ance always do regard one another.

In this the English part of the community was prominently
conspicuous. Denizens of a free land, it would seem as if
they considered it as their bounden duty to be continually ex-
hibiting their Magna Charta in the eyes of foreigners, and
to maintain their just rights to the very death against all

Xo rights, however, were invaded — there was no opportu-
nity of asserting the Magna Charta ; all were equally shy
and equally miserable ; till, by degrees, as the steamer crept
slowly down the river against the tide, they shook into their
places, and the ladies began to smile, and the ladies' maids to
look gracious.

The Parson was an old stager. Knowing full well the
value of light and air in the present crowded state of the


cabin, he had very willingly assented to the apologetic invi-
tation of the steward, and had established himself comfortably
enough on the transom itself, upon which was spread for his
accommodation a horsehair mattress. There was no great
deal to spare in the height of his domicile, for it was as much
as he could conveniently manage to sit upright in it ; but
it was, at all events, retired, airy, and not subject to be sud-
denly evacuated by its occupant under the overpowering
influence of a lee lurch or a weather roll.

Totally disregarding the bustle and confusion in the cabin
below him, he was occupied in arranging and beautifying his
temporary home. The sill of one window formed his travel-
ling library, the books of which he had been unpacking from
his stores, and securing by a piece of sjDun yarn from the
disagreeable consequences of any sudden send of the ship in
a rolling sea. The next formed his toilet-table and workshop,
exhibiting his reels and fly-books, and the huge and well-
known " material book," the replenishing of which had occu-
pied so much of his attention. The third was left empty, so
as to be opened and shut at pleasure.

Stretched on his mattress, with a guide-book in his hand,
and the map of Norway and Sweden at his side, he looked
from his high abode on the turmoil of the cabin deck,
with all the calmess and complacency with which the gods of
the Epicureans are said to regard the troubles and distresses
of mortals below.

And thus wore on the day. Dinner, tea, had been dis-
cussed — some little portion of constraint and shyness had
been rubbed off — small knots of men were formed here and
there, discussing nothings and making conversation. ]S ight
sank down upon the steamer as she ploughed her way across
the Nore, and the last of the talkers rolled himself up in his
bedclothes, and tried, though for a long while in vain, to
accustom himself to public sleeping.

It was still dark — for the time was hardly three in the
morning — when the Parson — who, accustomed to all the
vicissitudes of travel, had been making the most of the
hours of darkness, and had been for some time fast asleep
— was suddenly startled from his dreams by a furious con-


cussion on the rudder-case against which his head -was
pillowed. The vessel became stationary, and the fresh
breezey hissing of the water in her wake and the tremulous
motion everywhere suddenly ceased.

" By George, she's hard and fast !" said the Captain ; who,
taking hint from the comfortable appearance which the
Parson had given to his own berth, had occupied the same
position on the starboard side, and was now invading the
Parson's territories from abaft the rudder-case.

" What the devil is to be done now ?"

" Nothing at all," said the Parson ; " it is no business of
ours ; and I am sure it is not time to get up yet."

"Well, but she has certainly struck on a sand."

" I know that as well as you," said the Parson ; " but you
can't get her off. Besides, there is not a bit of danger yet,
at all events, for the sea is as smooth as a mill pond. There
they go, reversing their engine : much good that will do.
If there was any truth in that bump I felt, she is much too
fast aground for that. And the tide falling too !" — he con-
tinued, striking a lucifer and looking at his watch. " Yes, it
is falling now, it has turned this hour or more."

By this time the hurried trampling and stamping on deck
had roused up the passengers, few of whom could compre-
hend what had happened, for there was no appearance of
danger, and the ship was as steady and firm as a house.
But there is nothing more startling or suggestive of alarm
than that rushing to and fro of men, so close to the ear,
which sounds to the uninitiated as if the very decks were
breaking up.

" Is it houraccan storrm ?" shouted Professor Bosenschall,
a fat greasy-looking Dane, whom Birger had been hoaxing
and tormenting all the day before, partly for fun, and
partly because he "considered it the bounden duty of a
true Swede to plague a Dane — paying off the Bloodbath by

" Steward !" shouted the Professor, above all the din and
confusion of the cabin, " Steward, vinden er stserkere ? is it
houraccan storrm ?"

(i Yes, Professor, I am sorry to say it is," said Birger, who


had rolled himself up in a couple of blankets under the
table, upon which was reposing the weight of the Professor's
learning. "It is what we call an Irish hurricane — all up
and down."

" All up ! O what will become of me — and down ! O,
my poor wife. Hvilken skrsekelig storrm," he screamed out,
as half-a-dozen men clapped on to the tackle falls over his
head, with the very innocent purpose of lowering the quarter-
boat, and began clattering and dashing down the coils of rope
upon the deck. " Troer de at der er fore paa Fasrde 1 — do
you think there is any danger 1"

What with the Professor's shouting, and what with the real
uncertainty of the case, and the natural desire that every one,
even the most helpless, has to see their peril and to do some-
thing for themselves, every passenger was by this time astir,
and the whole cabin was buzzing like a swarm of bees.

The Parson's idea of sleeping was altogether out of the
question , and, the Captain having gone on deck, he very
soon followed him ; for, notwithstanding his assumed cool-
ness, he was by no means so easy in his mind as he would
have his friends to understand. He had been at sea before
this, and was, at least, as well aware as they, that grounding
out of sight of land, is a very different thing from grounding
in the Thames.

The scene on deck was desolate enough. The steamer had
struck on the Ship wash, a dangerous shoal on the Essex
coast, distant about twenty miles from land ; and a single
glance was sufficient to tell that there was not a chance of
getting her off for the next twelve hours, though the Skipper
was persisting in trying a variety of absurd expedients.
The crew were looking anxious — the passengers were looking
frightened ; while the Skipper himself, who ought to have
been keeping up every one's spirits, was looking more
wretched and more frightened than any one.

The day was just breaking, but a fog was coming on, and
the wind showed every symptom of freshening. The vessel,
indeed, had begun to bump, but the tide leaving her, that
motion left her also, and she began now to lie over on her
bilge. From some unfortunate list she had got in her stow-


ing (Birger declared it was the weight of the ambassador's
despatch boxes), she fell over to windward instead of to
leeward, thus leaving her decks perfectly exposed to the run
of the sea, if the wind should freshen seriously.

When the Parson came on deck, the boats had just re-
turned from sounding. The Skipper had, indeed, endea-
voured to lay out an anchor with them — an object in which
he might possibly have succeeded, had he tried it at first and
before there was any great rush of tide, for the steamer had
struck at the very turn of the flood ; but he had wasted his
time in reversing his engines and in backing and taking in
sails which there was no wind to fill ; and thus, before he
had got his anchor lashed to the boat, which, like all passage
steamers' boats, was utterly inadequate for the work, the
stream was strong enough to swamp boat, anchor, and all,
and it was fortunate indeed that no lives were lost.

It appeared from the soundings that the ship had not
struck on the main shoal, but on a sort of spit or ridge, the
neck of a submarine peninsula projecting from the S.W.
corner of it. Almost under her bows was a deep turnhole
or bay in the sand about two cables across, communicating
with the open water, beyond which, right athwart her hawse,
lay the main body of the shoal, so that the beacon which
marked its northern extremity, and which was now beginning
to show in the increasing light of the morning, lay broad on
her port bow, while the other end of the shoal was well on
her starboard beam ; at half a cable length astern, and on her
port quarter and beam was the deep water with which the
turnhole communicated, — this being, in fact, the channel she
ought to have kept.

It was perfectly evident that nothing could be done till
the top of the next tide, and whether anything could be done
then was extremely problematical with the wind rising and
the sea getting up ; experience having already shown that
there was not a boat in the steamer fit for laying out an

However, for the present the water was smooth enough ;
they were for the time perfectly safe and comfortable, lying,
as they did, under the lee of the shoal, patches of which


were now beginning to show just awash ; while the seas
were breaking heavily enough certainly, but a full half-mile
to windward of them. The passengers, seeing nothing to
alarm them, and feeling their appetites well sharpened by
their early rising, began to lose their fears and to be clamor-
ous for breakfast ; and the meal was served with a prompt-
ness which, under the circumstances, was perfectly astonishing.

Those who know nothing fear nothing, and the jokes which
were flying about and the general hilarity which pervaded the
whole meeting, conveyed anything rather than the idea of
shipwrecked mariners ; though, truth to say, this feeling did
not seem to be fully participated in by the Skipper, who pre-
sided at what might very fairly be called the head of the table,
for it was many feet higher than the foot ; he looked all the
while as if he was seated on a cushion stuffed with bramble

The Parson, by way, he said, of utilising his moments, was
preparing for fishing — calculating, and rightly too, that the
whiting would congregate under the lee of the stranded ship.

He had made his preparations with characteristic attention
to his own comfort and convenience. The dingy, which was
hano-imr at the stern davits, formed at once his seat and his
fishing-basket ; and as he had eased off as much of the lee
tackle fall as brought the boat to an even keel, the taffrail
itself afforded him a shelter from the wind, which was now
getting high enough to be unpleasant.

There he sat, hour after hour, busily and very profitably
employed, heeding the gradual advance and strengthening of
the tide only so far as its increasing current required the use
of heavier leads.

The Captain and Birger had been trying to walk the
sloping deck, a pursuit of pedestrianism under difficulties,
for it w r as very much as if they had been trying to walk
along the roof of a house. Time hangs heavily on the hands
of those who have nothing to do, and there was nothing to
do by the most active of sailors beyond hoisting the ensign
union downwards, and that might just as well have been left
undone too, for all the notice that was taken of it. Ship
after ship passed by — the foreign traders to windward, the


English through the shorter but more dangerous channel that
lay between them and the main land. Many oi them were
quite near enough for anxious passengers to make out the
people in them reconnoitring the position of the unfor-
tunate Walrus through their telescopes. But if they did look
on her, certainly they passed by on the other side ; it never
seemed to enter into the heads oi' one of them to afford assist-

" Pleasant," said Birger, u very. Is this the way your
sailors help one another in distress V

" I am afraid so," said the Captain.

" Gayer insects fluttering by
Ne'er droop the wing o'er those that die ;
And English tars have pity shown
For every failure but their own."

" You do not mean to say that they will not help us if
there really is danger ?" said the Swede.

" Upon my word, I hope there will not be anj* real dan-
ger ; for if you expect any help from them, I can tell you
that you will not get it."

"NTot get it!" said Birger, who did not at all seem to
relish the prospect before him.

" That you will not. Sink or swim, we sink or swim
by our own exertions. Those scoundrels could not help
us without losing a whole tide up the river, a whole
clay's pay of the men, and so much per cent, on the cargo,
besides the chance of being forestalled in the market : do
you think they would do that to save the lives of half-a-
hundred such as you and me 1 Why, you have not learned
your interest tables ; you do not seem to understand how
much twenty per cent, in a year comes to for a day. A
precious deal more than our lives are worth, I can tell


Birger looked graver still ; drowning for a soldier was
not a professional death, and he did not relish the idea
of it.

The Captain continued his words of comfort. " I was
very nearly losing a brother this way myself," he said. " He
was invalided from the coast of Africa, and had taken his


passage home in a merchant vessel. They had met with a
gale of wind off the Scillies ; the ship had sprung a leak, and
when the gale had subsided to a gentle easterly breeze dead
against them, there were they within twenty miles of the
Longships, water-logged, with all their boats stove, and their
bulwarks gone. Timber ships do not sink very readily, and
incessant pumping had kept them afloat, but it was touch
and go with that — their decks awash, and the seas rolling in
at one side and out at the other. While they were in this
state, the whole outward-bound fleet of English ships passed
them, some almost within hailing distance, and all without
taking more notice of them than those scoundrels are taking
of us. They would, all hands, have gone to the bottom
together, in the very midst of their countrymen, if a French
brig had not picked them off and caried them into Falmouth.
It was so near a thing, that the vessel sank almost before
the last boat had shoved off from her side.

" "Well," said Birger, " if there is a selfish brute upon
earth, it is an English sailor."

" Natural enough that you should say so, just at present,"
said the Captain ; " though, as a Swede, you might have re-
collected the superstition that prevails in your own country
against helping a drowning man. But the fact is, the fault
lies not so much with the sailors as with the insurance regu-
lations at Lloyds'. Likely enough, every one of these fellows
has a desire to help us ; but if they go one cable's length
from their course to do so, or if they stay one half-hour by
us when they might have been making their way to their
port, they vitiate their insurance. Man is a selfish animal,
no doubt — sea-^oinof man as well as shore-groins' man — and it
is very possible that some of them would rather see their
neighbours perish than lose the first of the market ; but laws
such as these render selfishness imperatively necessary to
self-preservation, and banish humanity from the maritime

" I wish all Lloyds' were on the Shipwash," said Birger,
" and had to wait there till I picked them off."

" Yes," said the Captain ; " or that the House of Com-
mons were compelled to take a winter's voyage every year



in some of these company's vessels. I think, then, they
might possibly find out the advantage of certain laws and
certain officers to see them put in force, in order to prevent
their going to sea so wretchedly found. There is nothing
like personal experience for these legislators. This vessel
has not a boat bigger than a cockle-shell belonging to her.
Did you not hear how nearly the Mate was lost last night,
— and he is the only real sailor in the ship — when they were
trying to lay out an anchor — a manoeuvre which, I see, they
have not accomplished yet ?"

" Hallo ! this is serious," said Birger, as a heavy sea struck
the weather paddle-box, and broke over them in spray : for
the tide had been gradually rising, without, as yet, raising
the ship ; and, as she lay over to windward, the seas that now
began to break upon her starboard bow and side, deluged her
from stem to stern.

" Upon my soul," said the Captain, " I don't like this,
myself ; and there sits the Parson, fishing away, as quietly as
if he were on the pier at Boveysand. By Jove, Nero fiddling
while Home was burning, is a fool to him ! Why, Parson,
don't you think there is some danger in all this 1 "

" £ Er det noget Fserde V 7 as your friend the professor
would say," said the Parson, laughing. " I do not think it
improbable that the Walrus will leave her bones here, if you
mean that. — Stop, I've got another bite ! "

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 3 of 36)