Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

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" Confound your bite ! If she leaves her bones here, we
shall leave ours too ; for she has not boats for the fourth of
us, the devil take them ! and as for expecting help from
these rascally colliers "

" You may just as well fiddle to the dolphins," said the
Parson. " I know that ; but do you see that little cutter, —
that fellow, I mean, on our quarter, that has just tacked %
and there beyond her is another, that is now letting fly her
jib-sheet. I have been watching those fellows all the morn-
ing, beating out from Harwich. They are having a race, and
a beautiful race they make of it : you cannot tell yet which
has the best of it. If those cutters were going over to the
Dutch coast, you may depend upon it they would not make
such short boards. There — look — the leading one is in stays


again. Those fellows are racing for us, and with our ensign
Union down, as we have it, we shall make a pretty good
prize for the one that gets first to us. Those two are piiot-
boats. You may depend upon it, we are not going to lay
our bones here, whatever comes of the Walrus."

The Parson's anticipations were realised sooner than he
expected, for a long low life-boat, that nobody had seen till
she was close alongside, came up, carrying off the prize from
both competitors — and preparations were begun, which
ought to have been completed hours before, for laying out
■an anchor.

Before long, the cutters also had worked up and anchored
on the lee edge of the shoal, to the great relief of every one
on board ; for the seas were by tins time making such a
breach over her, that no one could be ignorant of the

Suddenly, and without preparation, she righted, throwing
half the passengers off their legs, and very nearly precipi-
tating the Parson into the sea ; who took that as a hint to
leave his seat in the dingy. Soon afterwards she began to
bump, first lightly, and then more heavily, and the paddles
were set in motion. The windlass was manned and worked ;
but the shifting sand afforded no good holding-ground for
the anchor, which had not been backed — nor, indeed, had
any precautions been taken whatever — and as soon as there
was any strain upon it, it came home and was perfectly

The ship now was hanging a little abaft the chess-tree, on
the very top of the spit ; but the stern was free, and the
bows were actually in the deep water of the turnhole, while
at every bump she gaiued an inch or two : just then, the
anchor coming home, and the tide taking her under the port
bow, she ran up in the wind, and pointed for the very centre
of the shoal.

"Why the devil don't you set your jib?" bellowed out
the Captain, who had begun to get excited. " Where the
deuce is that know-nothing Skipper of yours 1 "

" Upon my soul, sir, I do not know," said the Mate, who

d 2


was standing at the wheel, and was looking very anxiously

" Then why don't you go forward and set it yourself? We
shall be on the main shoal in two minutes, if she floats."

" I know it, sir," said the Mate ; " but I dare not leave
my post. We shall all have to answer for this ; and if I am
not where the Skipper has placed me, he will throw the
blame upon me."

" Then, by George, I don't care that for your Skipper.
Come along, boys, we'll run up the jib ourselves."

And away he rushed, pushing and shouldering his way
along the crowded decks, among idlers, and horses, and car-
riages, followed by his own party, and a good many of the
foreigners also ; till he emerged on the forecastle, when,
throwing down the jib and fore-staysail hallyards from the
bitts and clattering them on the deck, while the Parson
went forward to see all clear, he called out to the Russian
servants, who, wet and frightened, were cowering under the
carriages —

" Here, you slaveys, come out of that — clappez-vous sur
ceci — clap on here, you rascals — rousez-vous dehors de ces
bulvmrhs. What the devil is Greek for ' skulking 1 ?'"

Whether the Russians understood one word of the Captain's
French, or whether they would have understood one word
of it had they been Frenchmen, may be doubted ; but his
actions were significant enough ; and the men, who only
wanted to be told what to do, clapped on to the jib and fore-
staysail hallyards as well and as eagerly as if they had known
what was to be done with them ; here and there, too, was
seen a blue-jacket, for the seamen had no wish to skulk, if
there had been any one to command them.

" Gib mig ropes enden !" shouted Professor Rosenschal, who
had caught the enthusiasm, and was panting after them,
though a long way astern.

" Birger will do that for you," said the Parson, laughing,
but without pausing for one moment from his work —
" Birger ! the Professor wants a rope's-end."

" Vaer saa artig ! " said Birger, tendering hira the signal


hallyards, the bight of which he had hitched round a spare
capstan bar on which he was standing. For Birger, like most
Swedish soldiers, had passed a twelvemonth in a midship-
man's berth, where, whatever seamanship he had picked up,
he had, at all events, learned plenty of mischief.

" Away with you ! " roared the Captain. " Up with the
sails — both of them."

" Skynda ! Professor, Skynda ! " echoed Birger, leaping off
the capstan-bar as he spoke, and thus causing the Professor
to pitch headlong among the trampling men.

" Up with it ! up with it, cheerily ! look there, she pays
off already !" as the two sails flew out ; the jib, which was
not confined by any stay, bagging away to leeward and hang-
ing there, but still drawing and doing good service. " Up
with it, boys — round she comes, like a top ! Hurrah, that's
elegant !" as a sea struck her full on the quarter, which, by
her paying off, had now become exposed to it. On it came,
breaking over the taffrail and deluging the idlers on the
poop, but at the same time giving her the final shove off the
ridge. " Off she goes ! Shout, boys, shout ! and wake up
that Skipper, wherever he is ! "

And amid the most discordant yells that ever proceeded
from heterogeneous voices — Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Ger-
man, and Puss, above which, distinct and ringing, rose the
heart-stirring English cheer — the steamer, once more under
command of her rudder, buzzed, and dashed her way into the
open sea.




" Bewilderedly gaze3
On the wild sea, the eagle
When he reaches the strand :
So is it with the man ;
In the crowd he standeth
And hath but few friends there."


" Nothing gives one so lively an idea of eternal, irresistible
progress — of steady, inexorable, unalterable fate, as the
ceaseless grinding of these enormous engines." Thus moral-
ised Birger, as, two days after the events recorded in the last
chapter, he stood with his brother officer, the Captain, on the
grating that gave air into the engine-room. " In joy or in
sorrow, in hope or in fear, on they go — grinding — grinding,
never stopping, never varying, never hurrying themselves : —
the same quiet, irresistible round over and over again : we
go to bed — we leave them grinding ; we get up — there they
are, grinding still ; we are full of hope, and joy, and expect-
ancy, looking out for land and its pleasures — they go no
faster ; they would go no faster if we went to grief and
misery. If you or I were to fall dead at this moment, the
whole ship would be in an uproar, every man of them all
showing his interest, or his curiosity, one way or other — but
still would go on, through it all, that eternal, everlasting

" Everlasting it is," said the Captain, who was not at all
poetical, and who was anxious to be at his journey's end.
" This steamer is the very slowest top I have ever had the
misfortune to sail in. By every calculation we should have
made the coast of Norway ages ago ; I have been on the look


out for it ever since daylight ; but six, seven, eight, nine, and
no coast yet. Breakfast over, and here are your everlasting
wheels of fate grinding away, and not one bit nearer land, as
far as I can see, than they were before. I'll be hanged if the
wind is not getting northerly too," he said, looking up, as the
fore and aft foresail over their head gave a flap, as if it would
shake the canvas out of the bolt-ropes. " I thought so.
Look at them brailing up the mainsail ! wind and steam
together, we never got seven knots out of this tub ; I wonder
what we shall get now — and the sea getting up too ?"

Several consecutive pitches, which set the horses kicking,
and prostrated one-half of the miserable, worn-out, dirty -
iooking deck passengers, seemed fully to warrant the Captain's
grumbling assertion, and they scrambled back to the poop ;
upon which most of the passengers were by this time congre-
gated, for the sun was shining out brightly, and the wind,
though there was plenty of it, was fresh and bracing.

They had evidently by this time opened the north of
Scotland, for the slow, heaving swell of the Northern Ocean
was rolling in upon them ; and this, meeting the windwash
knocked up by the last night's south-easterly breeze, was
making a terrible commotion in the ship, and everything and
everybody belonging to it.

" Land ! land !" shouted the Parson, who had climbed upon
the weather bulwarks, and was holding on by the vang to
steady his footing. " Land, I see it now ; where could our
eyes have been 1 There it is, like blue clouds rising out 01
the water."

There was a general move and a general crowding towards
the spot to which he was pointing, but just then the ship
pitched bowsprit and bows under, jerking the Parson off his
legs ; upsetting every passenger who had nothing to hold on
by, and submerging half-a-dozen men on the jib-boom, who
were occupied in stowing the now useless jib. They rose
from their involuntary bath puffing and blowing, and shaking
the water from their jackets, but continuing their work as
if nothing had happened.

There, however, was the land, beyond a doubt. No Cape
Flyaway, but land — bold, decided, and substantial. Whether


it was that people had not looked for it in the right direction,
or had not known what to look for; or whether, as was most
likely, a haze had hung over the morning sea, which the sun
had now risen high enough to dispel ; whatever was the
cause, there stood the hitherto invisible land, speaking of
hope and joy, and quiet dinners, and clean beds, and creating
a soul under the ribs of sea-sickness.

Long, however, it was before they neared it, — hour after
hour; and Birger's everlasting wheels went grinding on, and
the mountains seemed no higher and no plainer than they
were when the Parson had first descried them. But the day
had become much more enjoyable, the wind had moderated,
and the swell was less felt, as the land began to afford some

The Captain and his friend Birger had by this time esta-
blished themselves on the break of the poop, with their
sketch-books in their hands, nominally to sketch the outline
of the land, really to caricature the Russian magnates during
their hours of marine weakness. While Monsieur Simonet,
one of the numerous tutors, a venturesome Frenchman,
climbed warily up the main shrouds to get a better view,
creeping up step by step, ascertaining the strength of each
rattlin before he ventured his weight upon it, and holding on
to the shrouds like grim Death. Quietly and warily stole
after him the Mate, with a couple of stout foxes hitched
round his left arm.

" Faith," said Birger, " they are going to make a spread-
eagle of him. Well, that is kind ; it will prepare him for
his new country ; it is in compliment to Russia, I suppose,
that they turn him into the national device."

But the Mate had reckoned without his host. The French-
man made a capital fight for it, and in the energy of his
resistance, entirely forgot his precarious position ; he kicked,
he cuffed, he fought gallantly, and finally succeeded in seiz-
ing his adversary's cap, a particularly jaunty affair with gold
lace round it, in imitation of her Majesty's navy, of which
the Mate was especially proud. This, the Frenchman swore
by every saint the Revolution had left in his calendar, he
would heave overboard; and before the Captain had com-


p]eted the little sketch he was taking of the transaction, a
capitulation was entered into by the belligerents upon the
principle of the statu quo, and the discomfited Mate de-
scended, leaving his adversary to enjoy at once his position
and his victory.

By this time sails, unseen before, had begun to dot the
space which still intervened between the steamer and the
iron-bound coast before it, which now rose stern and rugged,
and desolately beautiful, clothed everywhere with a sort of
rifle-green, from the dark hues of the fir and juniper, for
none but the hardy evergreens could bear the severe blasts
of even its southern aspect ; few and far between were these
sails at first, and insignificant did they seem under the
abrupt and lofty mountains which rose immediately out of
the sea, without any beach or coast-line, or low-land what-
ever ; but, as they neared the land, the moving objects
assumed a more conspicuous place in the landscape.

There was the great heavy galliasse with pigs from Bre-
men or colonial produce from Hamburg — a sort of parallelo-
gram with the corners rounded, such as one sees in the
pictures of the old Dutch school two hundred years ago —
not an atom of alteration or improvement in its build since
the days of old Van Tromp ; the same flat floor and light
draft of water — the same lumbering lee-boards — the same
great, stiff, substantial, square-rigged foremast, with a little
lore and aft mizen, which looked like an after- thought ; she
might be said to be harrowing the main instead of ploughing
it, according to our more familiar metaphor, with a great
white ridge of foam heaped up under her bows, and a broad,
ragged wake like that of a steamer.

And there was the Norwegian brig returning from Copen-
hagen with a cargo of corn for Christiansand ; rough and
ill-found, nine times in ten not boasting so much as a foretop-
gallant sail, yet tight and seaworthy, and far better than she
looked ; built after the model of a whale's body, full forward
and lean aft, with a stern so narrow that she looked as if she
had been sailing through the Symplegades, and had got
pinched in the transit.

Then came a fleet of a dozen jagts from the north, the


tainted breezes advertising their fishy cargo, as they came
along. These were the originals of the English yacht, which
unspellable word is merely the Norwegian jagt, written as it
is pronounced in the country, for Norway is the only nation
besides England that takes its pleasure, on the deep sea.
"With their single great unwieldy sails, their tea-tray-shaped
hulls, and towering sterns, they looked like a boy's first essays
in the art of ship-building.

But Bergen furnishes a far more ship-shape description of
craft — sharp fore and aft vessels are the Bergeners, looking
as if they had all been built on the same lines, with little, low
bulwarks, and knife-like cutwaters, as if they were intended
to cut through the seas rather than to ride over them, sailing
almost in the wind's eye, and, when very close hauled indeed,
a point on the other side of it — at least, so their skippers
unanimously assert, and they ought to know best, — at all
events, ensuring a wet jacket to every one on board, be the
weather as fine as it may, from the time they leave the port
to the time they return to it.

Then came, crowding all sail and looking as if they were
rigged for a regatta, with their butterfly summer gear and
tapering spars, the lobster smacks from Lyngor, and Osteriso,
and Arendahl, and Hellesund : and a regatta it was on a
large scale, with the wide North Sea for a race-course, om-
niverous London for the goal, and its ever-fluctuating markets
for a prize. These were sharp, trim-looking vessels, admir-
ably handled, and not unworthy of a place in the lists of any
Boyal Yacht Club for beauty or for speed ; somewhat less
sharp, perhaps, than the Bergeners, but scarcely less
weatherly or sitting less lightly on the seas.

The near approach to the land, which had been for so
many hours looked for in vain, seemed to bring no great
comfort to the unfortunate Skipper, who kept fidgetting
about the decks with a perplexed and anxious countenance.
Glasses were brought on deck, and rubbed and polished over
and over again, and directed in succession to every mountain
peak that showed itself, and every inlet that opened before
them. Then, little mysterious consultations were held
between the Skipper and his First Mate ; then, one man was


sent for, then another ; then more whispering, and more
mystery, more shaking of the heads and examination of
charts ; then an adjournment to the bridge, on which the
Parson was then standing, taking his survey of the craft in
sight, and enjoying the sunshine. At last, the whispering
took a more objurgatory tone ; more in the way of a growl,
with now and then a short, emphatic sentence of eternal
condemnation on somebody's eyes, or blood, or other per-
sonalities, — as is the custom of those who "go down to the sea
in ships."

The first distinct words which met the Parson's ear, came
jxoni the lips of the Skipper, pronounced in a sharp, acid,
querulous sort of tone ; such as superiors sometimes indulge
in, when they are fixing on the shoulders of an inferior the
blame they shrewdly suspect all the while, ought, if justice
had its due, to rest on their own.

" You are not worth your salt, sir," he said ; " you are not
worth your salt — you ought to be ashamed of wearing a
blue jacket, you know-nothing, lubberly . and so

forth ; expressions by no means unusual at sea, certainly,
but sounding somewhat misplaced in the present instance,
inasmuch as if there was any one in the whole ship not
worth his salt, the speaker certainly was the man, in his own
proper person.

"Upon my soul, sir," said the man addressed, "if I tried
to tell you anything about it, I should be only deceiving you.
I know the coast about Christiansand as well as any man. I
have traded to that port for years, and taken the old brig in
and out twenty times ; but the land before us is all strange
to me. I never saw those three hummocky hills before in
my life. This is not Christiansand."

" Well, but if it is not, does Christiansand lie east or west
of us — which way am I to steer T

The man raised his glass again, and took a long and
anxious survey, but apparently with no better result.

" Really, sir, I cannot say. I cannot make it out at all ;
there is not one single sea-mark that I know."

" Then what the devil did you ship for as a pilot, if you
knew nothing of your business T' Here followed another
strong detachment of marine expletives.


" I shipped as a pilot for Christiansand, sir • and, for the
Sound, and for Copenhagen ; and can take the steamer into
any one of them, if she drew as much as a first-rate ; but this
place is neither one nor the other of them, and I never called
myself a coasting pilot."

" Well," said the Parson, " this seems to me sad waste of
breath and temper ; if you are a couple of lost babes, why
do you not ask your way ? There lies a pilot-boat, as you
may see with your own eyes," pointing to a little cutter ex-
hibiting in the bright sunshine a single dark cloth in a very
white mainsail, which, with her foresheet to windward, lay
bobbing about in the swell right ahead of them. " That is a
pilot-boat, and I suppose she knows the way, if you do not —
why do you not hail her ?"

The Skipper looked askance at the Parson, as if he medi-
tated some not very complimentary reply about minding
one's own business ; for, conscious of the estimation in which
he was himself held by the fishing party, who were in no
way chary of their remarks, he regarded them with anything
but friendly feelings. But the advice was too obviously
sound to be neglected, and the Skipper was not by any means
anxious that the magnates on the poop should become
acquainted with the fact that he was at sea in more senses
than one.

In a few minutes the steamer was alongside -f-he little
shrimp of a cutter, taking the wind out of her sails by her
huge unwieldy hull.

A short conversation passed between them, which as one-
half was sworn down the wind in very loud English, and the
other half came struggling up in broad ISTorske, was not
attended with any very satisfactory results.

Birger offered his services.

" You may as well ask them what they will take us into
Christiansand for," said the Skipper ; " that will soon make
them find their English."

A few more unintelligible words were exchanged, and
Birger burst out laughing.

" They cannot do it," he said : " they cannot take us into
Christiansand : not only they are not able, but they are not
licensed to ply so far."


" Why ! where are we, then ?" said the astonished Skipper.

" Oft* Arendahl !" said Birger.

" Arendahl !" broke in the Parson, " why, that is fifty miles
to the westward of your course."

" Well, I cannot conceive how that can be," said the
Skipper. " Something wrong, I am afraid, with the com-
passes. We ought not to be so far out ; we steered a straight
course, and — "

" That did you not," said Birger, " whatever else you did ;
the Captain and I have been studying the theory of tran-
scendental curves from your wake."

" I can tell you how it is," said the Parson ; " you have
steered your course as you say, and have not allowed for the
easterly set of the current, and you imagine how this must
have acted upon us under the influence of these rolling swells
which we have had on our port bow ever since daylight,
every one of which must have set us down a tathom or two
to leeward. Don't you recollect that we lost three line-of-
battle ships coming home from the Baltic by this very
blunder. Compasses !" he continued, sotto voce, "a pretty
lot of blunders are thrown on those unfortunate compasses,
in every court-martial. However," he continued, aloud,
" there is no help for it, — thankful ought we to be it is no
worse ; there is but one thing to be done now, and what that
one thing is, you know as well as I."

This the Skipper did know. A close survey of the re-
maining coals took place, and it was decided that notwith-
standing the expenditure that took place on the day on the
Shipwash, there might, with economy, be enough for six
hours' consumption, Birger inquiring innocently, " whether
the Skipper had not anything that would burn in his own
private stores V

The steamer's course was accordingly altered nine or ten
points, for the coast from Arendahl to Christiansand trends
southerly, and she had actually overshot her mark, and gone
to the northward as well as to the eastward of her port, so
that land which had hitherto lain before them, was thus
brought abaft the starboard beam.

To those who, like our fishermen, were not exactly making


a passage, but exploring the country, and to whom it was a
matter of indifference whether they dined at five or supped
at eleven, the Skipper's blunder was anything but an annoy-
ance. It afforded them an opportunity, not often enjoyed,
of seeing the outside coast of Norway ; for in general, almost
all the coasting trade, and all the passenger traffic, is carried
on within the fringe of islands that guard the shores. An
absolute failure in the article of fuel, and a week or so of
calm within a few miles of their port, might have been a
trial to their tempers ; but there was no such temptation to
grumbling on the present occasion ; and, besides, the after-
noon and evening were bright and warm, the wind had sunk
to a calm, and though the ever restless sea was heaving and
setting, the swells had become glassy, soft, and regular.

Cape after cape, island after island of that inhospitable
coast was passed, and not a sign of habitation, not a town,
not a village, not even a fisherman's cottage, or a solitary
wreath of smoke was to be seen. The land seemed utterly •
uninhabited, and, as they drew out from the stream of trade,
the very sea seemed tenantless also.

The fact is, that the whole coast of Norway, and of Sweden
also, is fringed with islands, in some places two or three deep,

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 4 of 36)