Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

. (page 7 of 36)
Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 7 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Vidar, the God of Silence, in the form of a seal, cruised about
at the river's mouth.

" Loki had thought to go to sea and take refuge with his
daughter, Jijrmungard the Serpent, but, in assuming the form
of a salmon, he had assumed also, of necessity, the natural
antipathies and fears of the fish. He turned at a sight so
terrible to a salmon, and again sprang over the net. But
Thor was ready for him, and while he was in the air, caught
him in his hand, just above the insertion of the tail; and you
may observe that salmon have never yet recovered from that
tremendous squeeze, but are finer and thinner at the root Oi
the tail than any fish that swims."

" Well," said the Captain, " that is quite true ; it is a fact
that every salmon-fisher knows ; and he knows also that the
root of the tail is the only part of the salmon by which it is
possible to hold him, and that it is possible to hold him by
that the Parson showed you just now practically. But it is
very satisfactory to find out the reason of such things, parti-
cularly when the reason is such a very good one. What did
the gods do with Mr. Loki when they had got him ; crimp
him, and eat him ?"

"They could not kill him," said Birger, "because of the
oath of brotherhood which Odin had one day incautiously
sworn with him (I presume, wdien they were both drunk) ;
so they laid him on his back on three pointed rocks in a
cave, and bound him with three cords which they after-
wards transformed into iron bars ; and there he will lie,
shifting himself, every now and then, from side to side, and
producing what mortals call earthquakes, until that day,
known only to the Nornir, when the twilight shall
fall upon Asgard, and the conflagration of the world is at


" Serve liim right, too," said the Captain ; " I am delighted
to hear that the inventor of salmon-nets perished — like Pe-
rillus and other rascals — by his own invention. I hope the
gods will keep him purgatory, or whatever they call it, as
long as rivers run toward the sea. However, here is our
Loki (holding up, by the tail, the scored salmon), and, as we
have not been sreese enough to swear brotherhood with him,
he will do for our dinner. What shall we do, in the
meanwhile, to crimp him V

" Make him last to the boat, and tow him a-stern for ten
minutes," said the Parson ; " the water of the Torjedahl is
cold enough to crimp a live fish, let alone a dead one. And,
I will tell you what : let Torkel go with the praam for the
other boats, and meet us on the left bank, just above the
bridge. I want to show you a view of our route to-day that
is worth seeing."

So saying, he led the way up a steep, rugged path, just
discernible among the rocks of the rugged ridge which
divides the ampitheatre in which Christiansand is situated
from the wild coasts of the Fjord ; and, passing through a
sort of natural opening cut in the summit ridge, pointed to
the scene before them. " There," said he, " what do you
think of that f

Birger was an artist ; and, anxious as he was to begin his
career as a fisherman, his ever-ready sketchbook was drawn
out of his pocket ; nor did he express a wish to move till
the rugged foreground upon which they stood, the luxuriant
park-like middle distance, with its clumps of trees, and
dark-red houses, and neat English-looking church, and the
background of fir-clad mountains, range beyond range, and
the deep narrow gorge through which their journey lay,
which the blue lake-like river seemed to fill from side to side,
were transferred to the paper.

A few minutes' walk brought them to where the boats
were waiting, with the whole house of Ullitz, handmaidens
and all, who had come to see them off. Hand-shaking
all round — the fishermen took their places — the boats
shoved off — Marie threw after them her kid slipper, for
luck, (for that custom is of Scandinavian origin) — English



Tom gave three cheers, after the manner of her Britannic
Majesty's navy — and the expedition started on its voyage up
the Torjedahl.

The Parson, who was anxious to reach the proposed
encampment at Oxea, while there was yet light to pitch the
tents, would suffer no harling, notwithstanding Birger's re-
monstrances, until the first rapids had been safely passed ;
and, indeed, with the exception of the single throw where
the Lieutenant had hooked his fish that morning, that part
of the river was scarcely worth the trouble.

The rapids, however, which had been surveyed before-
hand by the Captain, were passed, under his skilful pilotage,
in much less time than had been allotted for the operation,
and then, with one consent, the flies were thrown upon
the water.

Above the rapids, the river forms what is technically
called a " flat ;" a spot carefully to be sought out by the ex-
ploring fisherman, as the likeliest to reward his search. A
flat is where the water rolls on with its acquired velocity and
the pressure of that which is behind it, rather than on
account of any declivity in the bed through which it flows.
In the present instance, indeed, the bed of the river actually
rose instead of sinking, for the ridge of rocks which form the
head of the rapids, had retained the stones and loose earth
washed down in the winter floods. This gradually shallowed
the whole river, spreading it out, at the same time, like a
lake, so as to fill the level of the valley from mountain to
mountain. These rose abruptly on either hand, in bare, in-
accessible cliffs, as if they had been forced asunder by some
convulsion of Nature, to make room for the rush of waters,
and exhibited a bare splintered face of rock.

At the end of an hour — for the Parson would allow no
more — all fears were at an end for that night's supper ;
no other salmon, indeed, had risen, but trout after trout
had been handed into the boats, some of them, too, of a very
respectable size : even Birger had not been without his share
of success.

But the stream was strong, the day' was waning, many
miles intervened between them and their camping-ground,


the Parson was inexorable ; so the casting-lines were ex-
changed for har ling-tackle, and the squadron formed in order
of sailing.

The difference between a common casting-line and the
harling-tackle which one rod in each boat should carry in
every exploring expedition, consists principally in the length
of the gut. The harling-line carries five or six flies, in order
to show, at once, as great a variety as possible of size and
colour, and is joined to the reel- line by a swivel, in order to
prevent it from kinking — while two, or, at the most, three,
flies will be found quite sufficient for casting.

The order of march was this : — Birger led, with his gun
in his hand, ready for a stray duck or teal, many of which
would whistle over their heads, as evening drew on. He was
directed to keep, as near as possible, to the middle of the
stream ; while, on either flank, and about twenty yards be-
hind him, came his two friends, with one rod in each boat
for har] in g, while, with the other, they whipped into the
likely ripples. Shooting and fishing, however, were made
altogether a secondary condition to progress : they might
catch what they could, and shoot what they could, but the
rowers were to pull steadily forward.

And thus they opened reach afler reach of the beautiful
river, for the most part pent in by inaccessible cliffs, on
which the birch trees seemed to grow on each other's heads,
and to support above them all a serrated crest of spruce and
fir. But, now and then, they would come to little semicir-
cular coombs, where the mountain wall would recede for a
space, leaving flats of twenty or thirty acres, which were
carefully cultivated to the very water's brink, and planted at
the roots of the mountains with white poplar, the dried
leaves of which were to serve for beds in the summer and
hay in the winter. Here would be dark-red wooden houses
with overhanging eaves, and tidy, compact, little farm-stead-
ings, with their granaries, and store-rooms, and cattle-sheds,
all complete in themselves : and they had need be, for they
were completely isolated from the rest of the world. There
was no road, not even a footpath ; no possibility of ingress
or egress, except that which the river afforded. The moun-


tains, except here and there, were inaccessible ; and at every
turn of the river, seemed to beetle over it, shutting out each
little amphitheatre from its neighbour. The winter is the
Torjedahler's time of liberty : then it is that their vehicles
are put into requisition ; then it is that their corn and cattle,
if they produce any beyond their own consumption, are
brought to market ; for the river, which has hitherto been
their boundary, forms now their railroad and frost-constructed
channel of communication.

The shadows were darkening on the clear river, and the
arms of even Norwegian rowers were beginning to ache,
when the last point was rounded ; and the Parson's joyous
shout gave notice that their camping-ground was at last
leached ; and at the welcome signal, the lines were reeled
up with alacrity, and the boats' heads were directed to the

The spot had been selected by him and Ullitz the year
before, partly as lying conveniently near to Mosse Eurd, their
proposed head-quarters, which it was considered expedient to
reach before noon on the morrow, in order to afford time for
their men hutting themselves and foraging out the resources
of the place ; but principally from its own beauty and con-

So precious is level land by the banks of the river, that it
is rare to find any portion of it uncultivated of sufficient
extent for such an encampment as they required. But here,
at the foot of a winter torrent, whose dry bed gave access to
the uplands in summer, and brought down rocks and up-
rooted trees in the winter, was a rough plain, formed, no
doubt, originally from the debris brought down by the torrent,
but now covered with short turf and cranberry-bushes, with
a few thick, bushy, white poplars, the leaves of which had
not yet been stripped for hay ; while here and there a
graceful birch-tree formed a natural tent with its weeping

" Tom, bring the sails with you," said the Captain, who
had leaped ashore to reconnoitre the ground ; " we will have
our tent under this rock."

" Capital place !" said Birger ; " and bring the axe with


yon, Toui, as well : that fir will make a first-rate ridge-pole,
and it blocks up the place where it stands."

The Captain, not accustomed yet to the trifling value put
upon timber, hesitated to chop up a very promising young-
tree, — which, indeed, was unnecessarily large for the purpose,
and which stood but very little in the way, after all.

" Why," said Birger, " the very best fir-tree that ever
grew is not worth a specie daler here ; and as for that

stick " substituting the action for the word, he struck

deep into its side, and in a dozen strokes or so it came crash-
ing down among; the under-stuff.

There was no lack of fuel : there never is in Norway,
where outsides of timber float down the rivers unheeded ;
and trees, uprooted by the winter storms and land-slips, rot
where they fall. Before half the things were out of the
boats, three or four fires were throwing round their cheerful
light, some for cooking, some for wantonness, for the evening
was anything but cold. Birger, however, who, as a Swedish
soldier, had had a good deal of experience in bivouacking, —
an exercise to which they are all regularly drilled, — set his
own two men to gather and pile fuel enough to last through
the night ; observing that thev would all find it cold enough
before morning, when those scamps had burned up the fuel
at hand.

The Captain and the Parson were occupied in collecting
and weighing the fish, and apportioning them and the other
provisions among the men, while Jacob, the courier, seated
on a stone, apart, was plucking and preparing half-a-dozen
teal that Birger had shot during the passage. These, to the
Parson's surprise, he deliberately cut in pieces, and consigned
to the great soup-kettle, along with a piece of salt-beef from
the harness cask, and various condiments which he made a
great secret of.

It may be observed that in Norway fresh meat is seldom
eaten, unless it be on grand occasions, or bv those who are
well to do in the world. October is called in the north the
Slaughtering Month, and every family there is occupied in
salting, not only for winter, but for the rest of the year. A
harness cask, therefore, — that is to say, a small cask with a


moveable head, containing salt-beef or pork in pickle, — is a
very common thing to meet with, and in fact had formed the
piece de resistance of Madame Ullitz's stores.

" Look here, Jacob, my man," said the Captain ; " I will
show yon a trick in cookery that has never reached Gotten-
borg yet, nor London neither, for that matter ; it is worth a
hogshead of your teal- soup."

He called to Tom, who had been preparing under his
superintendence certain square sods of turf, and some long
white skewers ; which, in the absence of arbutus — in Ireland
considered indispensable on such occasions, — he had been
directed to cut from the juniper.

Birger's salmon, the flakes of which had actually curled
under the cold of the waters, preserving all their curd be-
tween them, was cut into what he technically termed fids ;
each one of these was spread open by the skewers and fixed
upon the turfs. These the Captain ranged round a great
heap of hot embers, which he had raked from the fire, and
set English Tom to turn as they required, basting them
pretty freely with salt and water.

The remaining fish had been given to the men, by whom
they were subjected to a variety of culinary operations ; one
of which was making soup of them ; and the fires began to
grow bright and cheery in the increasing darkness, when
Jacob paraded his kettle of teal-soup, and Tom set before
each of the fishermen a turf of toasted salmon.

In return, they received the men's rations of brandy, the
only part of the provisions on which any limitation was
affixed. This in Norway, perhaps, was considered but a
small modicum : it would have been, however, quite enough
to make twice the number of Englishmen roaring drunk.

The men collected round their fires, looking like so many
gipsies ; provisions were dispatched in enormous quantities,
pipes were lighted, horns produced and filled with pure
brandy, in which each man drank "du" with his neighbour, —
an ancient Scandinavian ceremony, which entitles the drinkers
henceforward to address one another in the second person
singular, and to consider themselves on terms of intimacy.

In the meanwhile, the principal personages of the expedi-


tion sat at the door of their tent, for which the Captain
received his due meed of praise, he having brought the
canvas. They tempered their brandy with a little water,
after the custom of their country, and they smoked some-
what better tobacco than the Norwegians ; but after their
kind, they indulged in very nearly the same relaxations as
their attendants.

And thus fell the shades of night upon the first day of
the expedition.




" Our good house is there,
Though it be humble :
Each man is master at home."


i: House out, Birger, my boy," said the Captain ; " recollect
we have got the Rapids of Oxea to pass before we get any
breakfast, and that we have our breakfast to catch into the
bargain. Come, come," continued he, as Birger stretched
himself on his Astrakan cloak, as if he was thinking of
another spell of sleep, " ' shake off dull sloth, and early rise/
as Dr. Watts says — see me rouse out those lazy hounds clown
there !" And that he did, in good earnest, by firing off both
barrels within a foot of their ears ; a salutation responded to
by a chorus of yelping from the dogs, who imagined, of
course, that shooting was begun already.

This had the effect of speedily setting the whole party in
motion ; and Jacob, who, with provident care, had prepared,
over-night, a kettle of cofiee, raked together the embers
of the still burning fires, presented each with a lull
horn of it, a very welcome introduction to the day's labour ;
and then, as wood was plentiful, threw on some logs for a
parting blaze.

The river itself formed the fishermen's washing-basin, and
the boat's thwarts their toilet-tables. Bitter cold, indeed,
was the water ; whatever the air may be, there is seldom
much caloric to spare in the water till autumn is pretty well
advanced ; but, at least, it had the effect of thoroughly
waking them, and causing them fully to appreciate the luxury
of the now blazing fires to dress by.


No one who has any regard for his health should think of
going on a fishing expedition, however short, without a com-
plete change of clothes, — one set for work, and one for dining
and sleeping in. No man has any business, indeed, on such
an expedition at all, who is afraid of water ; but whether he
is afraid or not, he will be sure to be wet, at one time or
other, during the day. This, while the limbs are in exercise
and the sun above the horizon, is all well enough ; but let no
man, however hardy he may think himself, sleep habitually in
wet clothes, or in clothes hastily and imperfectly dried by the
camp fire. The very bracing of the nerves during the clay,
which prevents the fisherman from taking injury by what
would be called imprudence by his stay-at-home friends,
makes the relaxation and reaction during the night more
complete ; and during that time he is exposed to a host of
dangers which vanish before the face of the sun. "With all
his precautions, no man gets up from his night's sleep in the
open air without a little stiffness in the limbs for the first
minute or so, though it may vanish at the first plunge into
the water of his morning's ablutions. But without these
f>recautions, he is not unlikely to cut short his own expedi-
tion by any one of a dozen diseases which no amount of
animal courage will enable him to bear up against, and thus
he will be defeating his own object. It is very well to bear
hardships cheerily when they are unavoidable — cheerfulness
itself is a preservative. But it is only very young sportsmen
indeed, who will seek out hardships for the pleasure oi under-
going them.

Our fishermen were not young sportsmen, they were men
of experience. The Parson and the Captain had both of
them learned their lesson in Ireland, where people soon begin
to understand what wet means ; and Birger was a Swedish
soldier, and had learnt these matters professionally. Before
they started, they had settled the invariable rule of a com-
plete dress for dinner, under any circumstances whatever,
which implied, of course, as complete a dress in the morning :
it is necessary almost to bind oneself to some such vow, there
are so many temptations to break it ; in Norway especially,
where, though the summer days are hot — hotter by muny


degrees than they are in England, and the evenings in the
highest degree enjoyable, the morning air is generally sharp
and bracinof, and the water which comes down from the
snowy ranges bitterly cold.

Jacob, in the meanwhile, whose toilet did not take verv
long, and who rarely occupied himself in any work which did
not especially belong to his own department, had been par-
leying with a young fellow, who, roused by the Captain's gun,
had pulled across in his boat from the opposite side, while
the rest of the men were occupied in preparing the boats and
re-arranging the articles that had been taken on shore the
preceding evening.

They came up together to where the Parson was standing
by the fire, busily engaged in exchanging his salmon casting-
line for one better adapted for trout.

" The young man says that the river is dangy," said he ;
for though he spoke English well enough, he has his own
particular words, which it was necessary to make out.

" Dingy," said the Parson, without any very clear compre-
hension of what was meant, but rather reverting in his mind
to the azure transparency of the waters ; which, in truth, he
would gladly have seen a little stained by mud. " Well,
that is a good job. But I fear he will find himself a little

Jacob evidently had not conveyed his meaning : he looked
round for Tom or Torkel to assist him, but they were both
in the boats, working busily under the Captain's orders ; so
Jacob tried his hand again.

" The young man says that there is a great deal of water
in the river from the snow. He says that boats are very
often sunk at Oxea."

" Humph !" said the Parson, who began to suspect some-
thin sr.

Here the young man himself broke in with a long story in

" He says," interpreted Jacob, " only last week, one boat
was upset, and two men were drowned."

" Aye 1 aye ?" said the Parson ; " what ! sober men ?"

Jacob did not see the inference, or would not. " This


young man is a river-pilot," said he ; " he will take you up
for two mark each boat."

" I tell you what it is, Mr. Jacob," said the Parson : " I
will teach you a lesson. When you engaged as our courier,
you meant to fleece us all pretty handsomely. Well, I have
nothing to say against this. As courier, it is your undoubted
privilege so to do. But remember this, it is equally your
duty, as courier, to prevent any one else from fleecing us.
And if I find you only once again failing in that respect, off
you go at a minute's notice. Now send your friend home

Without looking behind him, the Parson, who had now
finished fitting his flies, took his place in his own boat, and,
directing Torkel to shove off to the other bank, threw his
line across the mouth of a small tributary to the great river,
which he had marked the year before as abounding with
trout. Jacob looked for a moment inclined to rebel, but no
man was more alive to his own interests than the ex-smus:-
gler. He had engaged in the trip, not like Tom and Torkel,
from sheer love of sport and adventure, but as a profitable
speculation. So, pocketing the affront, much as "ancient
Pistol" did his leek, he crept down to Birger's boat, which
was his place in the line of march, where he sat sulky, but
utterly wasting his sulkiness ; for Birger, anxious to keep up
his yesterday's character of a fisherman, was much too intent
upon the — to him — difficult manoeuvre of keeping his flies clear
of the oars, to observe whether he was pleased or not.

The Captain took the inner line skirting the shore on the
right bank, for it had been agreed that the flat below the
Oxea rapids should be well tried, in hopes of getting some
fresh fish for breakfast.

Though last in the field, he drew the first blood, hooking
and, in a few minutes, landing a, small salmon, and thus
securing a breakfast. And by the time the boats came
together again, the Parson had brought to bag a very fair
supply of fjeld oret, or brook trout, from the little streamlet
he had been trying. And now began the serious business of
the day.

Notwithstanding Mr. Jacob's information, the rapids of



Oxea are perfectly safe to sober men. It is impossible that
an accident can happen in them, except from carelessness ;
for the water, though swift, is everywhere deep. The stream
falls with some force over a slanting ledge of smooth, slaty
rock, some three or four hundred yards long or perhaps more,
and acquires in its slide considerable velocity ; but the bottom
is smooth, and the surface nowhere broken by sunken rocks.
The stream, therefore, is a steady current, surging up against
the numerous islands which dot the river, as if they had been
pieces of a ruined bridge. Each of these was crested with
its half-dozen or so of ash or birch, which looked as if it was
they that were in motion, and not the clear stream that was
racing past them.

The passage was a sheer trial of strength, requiring no
great amount of pilotage, or local experience, or even skill.
The ropes were got out and made fast to two or three thwarts,
to take off the strain ; the boats were lightened of their living
incumbrances — except so far as the steersmen were concerned, —
and were then. tracked by main force one by one, every one

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 7 of 36)