Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

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which are separated from the main and from each other by
channels more or less broad, but always deep. Of these
islands, the outer range is seldom inhabited at all, never on
the seaward sides, which, exposed to the first sweep of the
southwester, are either bare, bold rocks, or else nourish on
their barren crags a scanty clothing of stunted fir or ragged
juniper, but afford neither food nor shelter, and where that
necessary of life, fresh water, is very rarely to be met with.

The whole of the coasting trade passes within this barrier,
and the houses and villages, of which there are many, lie
hidden on the sheltered shores of the numerous channels ; so
tli at, however well peopled the coast may be — and in some
places population is by no means scanty — neither house, nor
boat, nor ship, except the foreign trade as it approaches or
leaves the coast, is ever seen by the outside coaster.

The shades of evening were already falling, and that at
midsummer in Norway indicates a very late hour indeed,


when the glimmer of a light was seen through the scrubby
firs of a cape-land island, occasioning a general rush oi expec-
tant passengers to the bridge, for some had began to doubt
the very possibility of discovering this continually retreating
port, and to class it with the fairy territories of Cloudland
and Cape Flyaway ; while others, with more practical views
and less poetical imaginations, had been contemplating with
anxiety the rapidly decreasing coals in the bunkers. Both
parties, poets and utilitarians alike, had their fears set at rest
when, on rounding the point, the long-lost lighthouse of
Christiansand hove in sight — tall, white, pillar-like, looking
shadowy and ghost-like, against the dark background behind
it. The poets might have thought of the guardian spirit of
some ancient sea king, permitted to watch over the safety of
his former dwelling-place, for Christiansand is renowned in
story. To the utilitarians it might, and probably did, sug-
gest visions of fresh vegetables, and salmon, and cod, and
lobsters, for all of which that town is famous.

A bare, low, treeless slab of rock forms its site, a mere
ledge, about a quarter-of-a-mile long, and sufficiently low, and
sufficiently in advance of the higher islands, to form in itself
a danger of no small magnitude during the long winter
nights. It maintains on its withered wiry grass half-a-dozen
sheep and a pig or two, the property of the lighthouse-
keeper, which being the first signs of life and vestiges of
habitation which had greeted the travellers during the after-
noon's steaming, were regarded with an interest of which
they were not intrinsically deserving.

In a very few minutes, the heaving of the outside sea was
exchanged for the perfect calm and deep stillness of the
harbour, with its overhanging woods, its long dusky reaches,
its quiet inlets, and mysterious labyrinthine passages, among
its dark, shadowy islands. These became higher and more
wooded as the steamer wound her way among them, deepen-
ing the gloom, and bringing on more rapidly the evening
darkness. All, however, looked deserted and uninhabited,
till suddenly, on opening a point of land, high and wooded
like all the rest, the town of Christiansand lay close before
them, dark and indistinct in the midnight twilight, without


the twinkle of a solitary lamp to enliven it, or to indicate tho
low houses from the rocks which surrounded and were con-
fused with them.

" Hurrah !" said the Parson, as the plunge of the anchor
and the rattle of the chain cable broke the stillness of
the night. " Some of us are not born to be drowned, that
is certain."




" Dark it is without,
And time for our going."

Sklrnis Far.

At the time the Walrus dropped her anchor, all seemed as
still and lonely as if no sound had ever awakened the silence
of the harbour. The chain cable, as it rattled through the
hawse-hole, had even a startling effect, so solitary, so unusual
was the sound. The place seemed as if it had been unin-
habited since creation ; for though the town lay close before
it, the houses, low and lightless, looked like a collection of
fantastic rocks ; but scarcely had she felt the strain of her
cable, when her stern swung into the middle of a group of
boats, which seemed as if they had risen from the depths of
the sea, so sudden and unexpected was their appearance, and
crowds of earnest, business-like, trafficing Norsemen were
clambering up her sides at every practical point. Norway
has no inns, and Norway is said to be a place of universal
hospitality, where every one is delighted to receive the wan-
dering guest — and so every one is, and delighted to receive
the wandering guest's money also, with two or three hundred
per cent, profit on the outlay. The real fact is. every house
in Norway is an inn, to all intents and purposes, except the
license ; and in places like Ghristiansand, every man is his
own touter. Whatever is the noise and confusion of a vessel
arriving at a French or Flemish port, on this occasion it was
doubled, not only from the number and assiduity of hospita-
ble hosts, but also from the unusual quantity and quality of
the passengers. It was not every day that a Russian am-
bassador graced with his august presence, and his distin-



guished suite, an obscure trading town of Norway ; and its
citizens, interior to no nation in the world in the art of
turning an honest penny, were in two moments as well aware
oi the fact, and as fully determined to profit by it, as the
Dutch landlady, who, having charged our second George the
value of ten pounds sterling English for his two eggs and his
bit ot toast, informed him that though eggs were plentiful in
her country, king'J were not.

The contusion which pervaded the Walrus s decks and
cabins, the cries, the calls, the screams that were flying
about unheeded ; the extraordinary oaths that jostled one
another, out of every language of Saxon, Russsian, or
Scandinavian origin ; the obtrusive civilities of the touters ;
the ofliciousness of volunteering porters ; the mistakes
about luggage ; the anxieties, the rushings to and fro, in
which everybody is seeking for everybody, may easily be
imagined ; and none the less was the confusion of tongues;
that night had thrown her veil over this floating Babel of
the North.

But through it all the three friends sat on their carpet
bags of patience, smoking the cigar of peace, now and then
making a joke among themselves, as the steward's lantern
flashed upon some face 01 unusual solicitude, but totally
unconcerned amid the fluctuating hubbub that surrounded

" Well," said the Captain, " I have had enough of this fun,
and am hungry besides ; I vote we go on shore. I suppose
your man is here T

The Parson got up, and, putting his head over the side,
shouted in a stentorian voice, through his hand, which he
used as a speaking trumpet — " Ullitz ! Ullitz !"

" Hulloh !" returned a voice from the dark waters, in the
unmistakably English man-of-war's fashion — " Hulloh !" re-
peated the voice.

" Shove alongside here, under the quarter," said the Par-
son. " Who have you got in the boat along with you 1 Tom
Engelsk for one, I am sure."

" Only Tom and Torkel ; I thought that would be enough,"
said a voice from the waters below, in remarkably good


English, in wliicli the foreign accent was scarcely per-

" Quite enough," said the Parson ; " look out there !" as
he hove the slack of the quarter-boat's after-tackle fall,
which he had been making up into coils as he was speaking.
" Tell English Tom to shin up that, and come on board : it is
nothing for an English man-of-war's man to do, and one of
you hold on by the rope."

Tom, active as a cat, and delighted at being spoken of as
an English man-of-war's man before so many English people,
scrambled up the side and stood before them, with his shal-
low tarpaulin hat in hand, as perfectly an English sailor, so
far as his habiliments were concerned, as if he had dressed
after the model of T. P. Cooke.

The man's real name was Thorsen, and his birthplace the
extreme wilds of the Tellemark ; but having served for five
years on board an English man-of-war, he had dropped his
patronymic, and delighted in the name of English Tom ; by
which, indeed, he was generally known.

" Tom," said the Parson, " you see to this luggage ; count
all the parcels j see that you have it all safe ; pass it through
the custom-house, and let us see you and it to-morrow
morning. And now, he who is for a good supper, a
smiling hostess, a capital bottle of wine, and clean sheets,
follow me."

As he spoke, he dnrpped his carpet bag over the side
which Ullitz caught, and disappeared down the rope by
which Tom had ascended, followed implicitly by his two

"Shove off, Ullitz," said he, as the Captain sat himself
down and poised Tom's oar in his hands, pointing it man-of-
war fashion as Tom himself would have done, and when Ul-
litz had got clear of the steamer, seconding ably the sturdy
strokes of Torkel. In a few moments the boat touched the
quay of the fish market, and the party sprang on shore with
all the glee that shore-going people feel when released from
the thraldom of a crowded vessel.

Ullitz and Torkel remained behind, in order to secure the
boat in some dark nook best known to themselves ; for there

e 2


were several idlers on the fish-market quay, who, except
for want of conveyance, would have been at that moment
unnecessarily adding to the crowd on board, and were
not very likely to be over-scrupulous about Torkel's private

The three friends, in the meanwhile, in order to extricate
themselves from two or three groups of drunken men
(drunkenness, the Parson remarked, was the normal state of
Norway, at that time of night), pressed forward, and walked
ankle-deep through the sandy desert, which, in Christian-
sand, is called a street, the Captain stuffing the little
black pipe which, as was his wont, he carried in his waistcoat

" Well," said Birger, " no one can appreciate a blessing
until he has been deprived of it. I declare, it is a luxury in
itself to be able to go where one pleases, after having been
cribbed and cabined and confined as we have been, and to
plant one's feet on the solid earth once more, instead of
balancing our steps on a dancing plank."

" Pretty well, to call this solid earth," said the Captain ;
" I should call it decidedly marine."

" Something like the Christiansanders themselves," said
Birger, " who, as all the world knows, are neither fish nor
flesh, nor good red-herring ; but I dare say Purgatory
would be Paradise to those who arrived at it from the
other way. Well, what is the matter? what are you
stopping about ?"

These last words were addressed to the Parson, who having
been sent forward on the previous summer to spy out this
Land of Promise, had volunteered to act as guide.

" If there is one thing more puzzling than another," said
he, " it is this rectangular arrangement of streets. I wish
those utilitarian Yankees, who claim the invention, had it all
to themselves. It is fit only for them."

" The English of that is, you have lost your way," said the

" No, not lost my way," said the Parson, who piqued him-
self on his organ of locality ; " but the fact is, I cannot
remember, in the dark, which of all these rectangular cross-


ings is the right one. I wish I could see that great lump of
a church they are so proud of. I say, Birger, knock up some
one, and ask ' if Monsieur Tonson lodges there.' !

" Not I," said Birger. " You are the guide ; besides, they
must be coming ashore, some ot them, from the steamer by
this time ; and, in good truth, here are a couple oi them."

This couple, much to their relief, turned out to be TJllitz
and Torkel, who pointed out the road at once, but looked
rather grave at the Captain's pipe, which was now sending
forth a bright red glow through the darkness, and occasion-
ally illuminating a budding moustache which he was culti-
vating on the strength of being a military man.

Had the acquaintance been of longer standing, they possibly
would have spoken out ; as it was, they contented themselves
with a muttered dialogue in their own language, in which the
Parson soon made out the words, " Tobacco" and " Police,"
both of which being modern inventions, bear nearly the same
name in every language in Europe.

" By the by, I had forgotten that," said he. " Captain, I
am sorry to put your pipe out ; but the tact is, you must not

" Not smoke ! why not ?"

" Por fear you should set fire to the town," said the Parson,
— " that is all. You need not laugh ; the law is very strict
about it, I can tell you."

The Captain did burst out laughing ; and, in truth, where
they were standing, it seemed a ridiculous law enough, though
it is pretty general both in Norway and Sweden. The street
was one of unusual width, being one expanse of sand from
side to side, and the houses, none of which boasted a storey
above the ground floor, seemed absurdly distant, — almost
indistinct in the darkness.

The Captain, however, obediently put his pipe into its re-
ceptacle, and resumed his route, muttering something about
Warner and the long range — his estimate of the Norwegian
legislative capacity being in no way raised by the sight of
certain small tubs of very dirty water standing by the side of
every house door, which the Parson informed him was
another precaution against fire.

54 FIKE.

" Whether there really is to be found any one, well authen-
ticated instance of a town being set on fire by a pipe of
tobacco," said Birger, " I will not take it upon myself to say,
nor whether legislating upon pipes and leaving kitchen fires
to take care of themselves, be not like guarding the spigot
and forgetting the bung ; but the fires here, when they do
occur, are really awful. You talk in your country of twenty
or thirty houses as something; we burn a town at a time.
Everything here is of deal, every bit of this deal is painted,
and in a season like this, everything you meet with is as dry
as tinder, and heated half-way to the point of combustion
already. Hark to that !" as a sharp, startling crack sounded
close by them ; " that is the wood strained and expanded by
the roasting heat of a long summer's day, yielding now to
the change of temperature ; we shall have plenty of these
towards morning. Light up but one of these little bonfires
of houses in a moderate breeze, and see how every house in
the town will be burning within half-an-hour. Six months
ago, the capital of my own province, Wenersborg, contained
10,000 inhabitants, and I believe now the church and the
post-house are the only two buildings left in it."

Here Ullitz, who was leading, came to a dead halt before
a substantial porch containing wood enough to build a ship,
from the open door of which a bright light was streaming
across the street. Taking off his hat — every Norwegian
is continually taking off his hat to everybody and every-
thing—he made a profound bow to the party in general,
and with the words, " Veer saa artig," ushered them into the

The room into whicli tliey entered was long and low, the
ceiling supported by a mass of timbers like the decks of a
ship ; every part of it was planked with bright deal, — floor,
walls, and roof alike, — putting one something in mind of the
inside of a deal box. It was, however, well furnished with
birchen tables, birchen sofas chairs and cabinets (for birch
is a wood that takes a high polish), the whole having rather
a French look. The floor was uncarpeted, as is the case in
almost all Norwegian houses, for they have no carpet manu-
factory of their own, and the duty upon English woollens is


so enormous that it Is impossible to import them ; but it was
strewed with sprigs of green juniper, which diffused a plea-
sant fragrance ; and these, in token that the family were
keeping holiday, were spangled with the yellow heads of the
trollius europceus, which the pretty Marie, the daughter of the
house, had been gathering all the morning, and had scattered
over them in honour of the expected guests.

Neither Marie nor her mother could speak one word of
English — few of their women can — but their deeds spoke for
them ; for the hospitable board — and in this case it was
literally a board, placed upon trestles, and removed when the
supper w^as over — groaned under the weight of the good
cheer. There were fish, not only in every variety, but in
every variety of cookery ; there was lobster-son p, and plok
fiske, and whiting cakes, and long strips of bright red
salmon, highly dried in juniper smoke and served up raw ;
enormous bowls of grod, — a name which signifies everything
semi-liquid, from rye-stirabout to gooseberry- fool : — witli
cream, as if the whole dairy was paraded at once, — some of it
pure, some tinged with crimson streaks, from the masses of
cranberry jelly that floated about it.

ISTor were the liquors forgotten, which, in Norway, at least,
are considered indispensable to qualify such delicacies. There
was the corn brandy of the country, diffusing round it a
powerful flavour of aniseed, without which no meal of any
kind takes place ; there, too, was French brandy, freely par-
taken of, but so light both in colour and taste, that it sug-
gested ideas of a large qualification of water ; there was
English beer, and a light sort of clarety wine, that was
drunk in tumblers. Madame Ullitz, indeed, presided over a
marshalled array of tea-cups, of which she was not a little
proud, for it is not every house that can boast of its tea
equipage ; but this was as an especial compliment to the
English strangers. The tea-cups and saucers might be
Staffordshire, — they had a most English look about them ;
but the tea was unquestionably of native growth, being
little else than a decoction of dried strawberry leaves, not
at all unpleasant, but by no means coming up to English
ideas of tea.


" Veer saa artig," said the lady of the house, with an in-
viting smile and a general bow, intimating that supper was
ready ; and the whole household and guests oi various de-
grees, including Torkel the hunter, and Jacob the courier,
and two or three stout serving-girls, and half-a-dozen
hangers-on of one sort or other, placed themselves round the
table, as indiscriminately as the viands upon it.

The house of Ullitz made a feast that day.

" Ycev saa artig," said Marie, handing to the Captain
a plate heaped up with brown, crisp, crackling whiting

The Captain did his best to look his thanks as he took
the plate. " What on earth do they all mean by that eternal
1 Vaer saa artig?'" said he to the Parson, aside. "I have
heard nothing else ever since we dropped our anchor. First,
I thought it meant c Get out of the boat,' or ' Go up the
street,' or 'Come in-doors,' or ' Sit down to supper,' or some-
thing of that sort ; but then those drunken porters on
board were shoving and elbowing one another about with
the very same words in their mouths ; and, now I recollect,
this was the very speech Birger made to the Professor on
the day of the wreck, when he gave him that slippery

"In that case," said the Parson, laughing, "'vser saa artig'
must mean two black eyes and a bloody nose, for that, as you
know, is what the Professor got by it. But the fact is, ' Vser
saa artig,' with variations, is the general passport throughout
all Scandinavia. Some writers ascribe a mystic force to the
words, 'Vackere lilla fl}'cka' — pretty little girl; and I am
sure I am not going to -leny the force of flattery. But among
the natives, certainly, no one ever thinks of telling you what
they want you to do. 'Have another slice of beef V 'Come
in 1 ' ' Take off your hat V ' Take a seat V or whatever it
is ; all that is dumb show, preceded by the universal formula,
' Vser saa artig,' ' Be so polite.' All the rest is understood."

" Va;r saa artig," said Ullitz, unconsciously, from the other
end of the table, holding up a bottle of claret, from which he
had j ust extracted the cork.

" Jag har aran drikka er till," replied the Parson, who had


picked up some of the formularies during his former visit.
" There," he said, " that is another instance : an Englishman
would have said, ' Take a glass of wine,' in plain English.
He holds me a bottle, and tells me to ' be polite.' My belief
is, that when Jack Ketch goes to hang a man in Norway, he
is not such a brute as to tell him to put his head into the
halter ; he merely holds it up to him, and, with a bow, re-
quests him ' Att vaere saa artig.' "

" Yes," said Birger, breaking in, " that is very true ; it
used to be the case ; but the Storthing has abolished that
piece of politeness, and capital punishment along with it.
The fact is, the Norwegians are so virtuous now, as every-
body knows, that they never want hanging."

This sarcasm, which was spoken in a little louder tone
than the conversation which preceded it, threatened rather
to interfere with the harmony of the evening, which it pro-
bably would have done had the language been generally
understood. But the Parson acted as peace-maker.

" Now, Ullitz," said he, not giving that worthy time to
reply, " tell us what arrangements you have been making for
us. Shall we be able to start to-morrow ] "

" I have done everything according to the instructions
transmitted to me," said Ullitz, speaking like a secretary of
state, and with the solemnity warranted by the importance
of his subject. " There are two boats now lying at the
bridge quay, with their oars and sails in my porch, and we
can easily get another for the foreign gentleman" (so Ullitz
designated his Swedish fellow-countryman — a little trait of
Norske nationality at which Birger laughed heartily). " As
for boat furniture, we have everything you can possibly want,
in the shop; you have but to choose. And as for provisions,
we may trust Madame Ullitz for that."

" Yes," said the Parson, " I know Madame Ullitz and her
provision-baskets of old."

Madame smiled, and looked pleased ; making a guess that
something was said about her, and that that something must
be complimentary.

" Then, as for attendants, I made bold to detain this most
excellent and well-born Gothenburger, Herr Jacob Carlbloni"


— (with a polite bow to Mr. Jacob, returned by a still more
polite bow from that illustrious and well-born individual).
" Herr Jacob is a traveller of some celebrity by sea and land"
— (the Parson afterwards found out that he was a Gothen-
borg smuggler) — " and would be happy to attend the gentle-
men in the capacity of courier, cook, interpreter, and com-
missary, for the remuneration of a sj3ecie-daler per diem, with
his food and travelling expenses."

« Yery well," said the Parson ; " I suppose we must have
a cook, so we will try your friend Mr. Jacob in our expedi-
tion up the Torjedahl, and see how we like him. And what
says Torkel ? are we to have the benefit of his experience ?"

Torkel looked as if earth could afford no higher pleasure,
for, in his way, he was a mighty hunter — he was not only
great at the Lansref '* and skilled in circumventing the
Tjaderf in his lek, but he had followed the Fjeld Pipa^ to
the very tops of the snowy mountains, had prepared many a -
pitfall for the wolf and fox, and had been more than once in
personal conflict with the great Bruin himself.

" Torkel shall be my man, then," said the Parson, who had
a pretty good eye to his own interest.

" And English Tom, who speaks the language so well, will
be just the man for the highborn Captain," said Ullitz.

" Very good," said the Parson, " so be it ; and whenever
we have to do with lakes and sailing, Tom shall be our ad-
miral, and shall put in practice all the science he has learned
in the British navy."

" Tom is as proud of belonging to the English navy, as if
it were the Legion of Honour," said Ullitz, whose father had
belonged to the French faction, and who was rather suspected
of holding French politics himself.

'•' It is the Legion of Honour," said Birger, " and I give

* Langref — a poaching method of catching fish.

f Tjader — the capercailzie. Taking him in his lek — that is to say,

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 5 of 36)