Hubert Smith.

Tent life with English Gipsies in Norway online

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noticed that most of the windows were shut ; the inha-
bitants were enjoying their morning sleep. We felt
thankful that we carried our home with us. Lillehammer -
is not without its associations ; its former cathedral and

* "Journal of a Residence in Norway during tlie years 1834, 1835,
1836." By Samuel Laing, E?,(\. Published by Longman, Orme, Browne, &
Co., in 1837.


monastery were originally fonndecl by an Englishman,
Nicholas Breakspear, in 11 GO. He was afterwards Pope
Hadrian IV. As we passed down the long street, one
man was on the look-out ; with hot haste he rushed to
the back of the house, as if to apprise some one else of
our coming ; he returned as we~ were going by, and said
" Ya, ya ! " when we asked if we were in the right road for
Holmen ; then standing in the street, he gazed after us
until we were out of sight.

With feelings of bright anticipation we had entered the
long and fertile valley of the Gudbrandsdalen.* Com-
mencing at Lillehammer, the valley of Gudbransdalen
extends 168 miles to the foot of Dovre Fjeld. Our route
is on tlie riglit bank of the Logen. Many cultivated
farms occupy the lower portions of the often narrow
valley on each side of the main road, while hills and pine
woods rise above them on either side.

AYe all felt particularly hungry as we pushed on for
some distance along a good road on the right of the
river Logen. Coming to a small stream of water on the
road-side, we partly unloaded our donkeys ; on a small
space of rough ground the gipsies lighted a fire, and
prepared our breakfast of tea, sardines, and college
biscuits. One large carriage and pair passed us en route
for Lillehammer ; a pon}'- with carriole was tied behind it,
and all were jogging along at a comfortable pace, with
the occupants fast asleep. Noah commenced repack-
ing our donkeys, when a timber cart passed with two
men upon it ; one wore a red cap. They stopped and
scanned our donkeys with curious eyes ; then they
wished to know why we did not use the donkeys to draw

* Sometimes spelt Guldbransdaleu, meauibig the " Golden Valley."


a carriage. The man in tlie red cap offered Esmeralda a
seat on liis timber, which, though kindly meant, was not
accepted. They went on before us, and evidently made
known onr coming, for from time to time men and
women rushed up to the fences on the road-side to look
at our cavalcade; — it was a very picturesque one, includ-
ing Zachariah almost fast asleep on one of the loaded
donkeys. As we proceeded we Avere overtaken by a
carriage, in which we recognised the inn porter who had
assisted us with our case from the steamer. The two
travellers in the carriage had been our fellow-passengers
by the steamer on the Mjosen ; they took off their hats.
Another carriage afterwards followed, and another steam-
boat passenger took off his hat and recognised us again.
AVe were now some miles from Lillehammer, and Noah
was sent to try a roadside house for bread ; the woman,
who spoke a little Enghsh, recommended a house beyond.
Coming soon after to an old road leading below the new
main route — along the edge a deep declivity covered with
trees and bushes, which formed the lofty bank of the
rapid foaming river Logen — we halted. AYe were in
sight of the falls called the Hunnefos. The river is
broad and rapid ; and the falls, although not of great
height, are nevertheless picturesque. Above the old
road an embankment of loose stones sloped up to the
main route, which was not very for above us, although
overlooked from the road ; the spot now overgrown with
short turf was sufficiently level and out of the way for
our camp. "\Ye were all rather sleepy, and wanted rest ;
the day had become very hot. Esmeralda had not felt very
well ; a very small quantity of quinine helped her on the
journey. Having decided to remain here, the donkeys


were driven down the old road for a short distance.
From tliis spot we had a beautiful view of the falls ; our
camp was probably not for from the station of Aronsveen.
It was delightful to lounge among our baggage after we
had unpacked. The road being a sort of cul-de-sac, we
left the donkeys to ramble below. Noah went in search
of bread and butter to a farm-house, and procured a small
loaf and half a pound of butter, for one mark and a half;
the loaf was black bread and small. Several very heavy
showers came on, but our light siphonia waterproof from
Edmiston's kept all our things perfectly dry. Dinner
was prepared at about one o'clock ; a case of the
Australian cooked mutton was opened : with some hesita-
tion we had added Australian meat to our commissariat ;
we had ventured to take it, like the skater who tries the
ice for the first time. Our sardine-opener in the form of
a fish, which cost 6(7., soon gave us access to the tin of
meat. All pronounced the Australian preserved mutton
excellent. Esmeralda, who had been very sleepy and not
very well, though revived by the quinine, did not entirely
recover until after dinner. A bottle of claret was shared
amongst us. It was our first day in camp, and our rule
of no stimulants or smoking allowed was not rigidly en-
forced. Two songs with the guitar enlivened the party ;
then a duet, violin and guitar ; afterwards a duet, violin
and tambourine ; finale, all the instruments together.
Noah was chaffed as usual. The sun became so hot after
dinner, that we could scarcely bear our terrace, placed as
we Avere at the foot of an embankment of loose bare
rocks. The donkeys escaped and went towards Lille-
hammer. Noah had fallen asleep, but starting up in a

sort of stupor, at length succeeded in bringing them back,



Some of the people passing along the main route stopped
to gaze at Noah. Some few came down, and a small
glass of brandy was lianded to them to drink Gamle
Norge. It was after all very convenient not to be able
to answer all the questions asked ; much trouble w^as
yaved. AVe had provisions, and it was not of much con-
sequence to us, in the way we had chosen to travel, if w^e
did not understand many words, and could not satisfy all
curiosity. The trout from the ]\Ijosen, it is said, cannot
ascend the falls of the Honnefos ; they are exceedingly
good, and some are stated to have weighed 36 lbs.
Gipsies being a restless people, Noah and Zacliariah were
sent to fish with two rods and some small trout flies ; we
had no hope of their catching anything, but it employed
their time, and was an occupation for them. The water
was a light snowy blue, with a strong and rapid stream.
Esmeralda felt sleepy, and was threatened with the loss
of a pair of gloves ; yet we felt that we could not play
with her, or approach her on any other terms than w^ere
honourable to both. We worked at our notes and maps
uhile the gipsy maiden slept, and her brothers slashed
the water in the rapids below ; about seven o'clock
Noah and Zacliariah returned, as I expected, without
any matchee (fish).* A number of people came down the
embankment occasionally to look with curious interest on
the donkeys. The animals were carefully examined, and
another page was added to the natural history of
Aronsveen. One interesting young person came and
looked from the road above at Noah with much interest ;
she afterwards came a second time, and lingered ere she

* Norwegian gipsy mattjo, sometimes in Englisli gipsy pronoimced


left. We decided that, as we liad started so early, we
sliould rest wliere we were for tlie night, and start early
the next morning, about four o'clock.

Noah, after a coaching in Norwegian words, went to
seek bread-and-butter (smor og brod) at the farm-house.
He was to display some money in his open hand as an
additional inducement. No result being reported on his
return, w^e sent him a second time to the charge for
fladbrod, but they had not got any to part with. AVe
lighted our fire ; tea was made, and a pleasant meal o
fried bacon, college biscuits and butter, was soon con-
cluded. Bread was bought, when we had the chance, in
order to save our biscuits.

It was now decided to have our tents pitched for the
night. Noah had just made the holes with the kettle-
prop, and was putting in the tent rods, when a number
of people suddenly appeared at the edge of the embank-
ment above. Down came a tall gentleman, apparently
between fifty and sixty, followed by probably his son
and a short stout gentleman. He said something in a
tone of authority to Noah, who, not understanding what
was said, went on calmly with his tent-pitching. We
were at a short distance from Noah with Esmeralda,
arranging some of our baggage. It appeared to us that
somethino; about illeo-al was said : breakers ahead crossed
our mind ; we must port helm. We advanced to Noah's
assistance, and said in Norsk — "Good evening ;" then we
quietly reached out our silver-mounted flask, and pouring
out a small glass of brandy, handed it to the senior of
the party. He handed it back politely for us to drink
first. We just tasted it, and said, Gamle Norgc.* He

* Old Norway.

}i 2


took a small sip and then emptied tlie glass. AVc poured
out another and handed It to the younger visitor, whom
we took to be the son, a well-dressed, nice-looking,
gentlemanly young fellow, who drank some of it. His
father seemed one Avliose views of the world were stern
and not on the lively side of the picture. His son had
a pleasant twinkle in the eye, and seemed rather amused
at the scene. The father then began apparently asking
questions. We did not understand much of what he
said, and Noah and Zachariah continued putting in the
tent-rods, without troubling themselves about the matter.
It was necessary to say something, and we informed
them we were going at four o'clock next morning, pointing^
to our watch ; and thinking it best to clench the affair, we
quietly opened our courier-bag, and handed the document
kindly given us by the Presten Eilert Sundt. We felt
much in the position of the Harlequin and Columbine,
who are suddenly brought to a dead lock in a Christmas
representation, and have to invoke for their safety some
good genius of extraordinary power. We quickly ob-
served the countenance of the senior gentleman who
commenced reading. " Herr Hubert Smith from England,
with Tater (Rommanes gipsies), three donkeys, and two
tents, &c., travelling from Chrlstiania to Romsdal,
Voringfos, &c., to Christiansand, to see the country and
study the Norwegian gipsies, etc. ; with a final request
that we should have help and assistance from his
countrymen," &c.* When our visitors came to the sig-
nature, "Eilert Sundt! ! !" said the senior gentleman in a
deep whisper to his son ; the son, who was also looking
over the paper, seemed equally astonished. They ex-

* The original document is written in the Norwegian language.


amined the seal for a few moments, and lianded the
document back. Without saymg more, they watched
tlie tents which were put up soon after. They seemed
rather surprised at our tent with all its paraphernalia
and fittings, and then politely lifting their hats and bow-
ing, without another word they suddenly left the scene.
The people who were collected on the top of the embank-
ment as spectators evidently did not seem to understand
how it was. Perhaps some terrific example was expected
to be made of our tall gipsy, Noah, as a warning to all
the gipsies in Norway. It is impossible to say, and pro-
bably it will remain one of the links in the history of our
wanderings which can never be supplied, nor is it of
much consequence.


EwTi law law, cymin'rwn lili,
A'li blodau'n rhanau i ni,
A bysecld rhwym\vii bosi,
Ffel yw hyn nid ifol wjt ti,
Eboet yn glos, fel ar rosyu,
Gwlwm da ar galon dyn.

Let's Land in hand pursue our way,

And pluck the lily as we stray,

Its flowers pretty we will take, —

Our fingers can a posy make.

This, and with a fragrant rose,

Place on man's heart, whence goodness flows.

Welsh PennilHon, hy Leathart.


Our tents were pitched Avitli a balk towards the
embankment, made with onr blue rug embellished with
foxes' heads. The rng was stretched along our Alpine
stocks driven in the ground. At the top of the embank-
ment, some of the people still remained w^atching. Our
large si]jlioma waterproof was stretched, and fastened
over the intervening space between the tents. Only an
opening was left close to the edge of the steep and
almost perpendicular declivity.


The sound of tlie river was music to us, as it foamed
in the stilhiess of the night. We retired within the
parasceniiim or partition of our tent, and were soon
asleep. Soundly we slept, lulled by the roar of the
falls of the Honnefos ; we did not even hear the noise
of a small stone afterwards thrown against the tent from
above, or the rush of Noah and Zachariah outside with
nothing on but their shirts, nor their shouts to the
people above, who only laughed, and had no doubt done
it merely to take a last fond look of our tall gipsy, Noah.
They must have been profoundly impressed by their
very picturesque attire.

We awoke at 12.20 ; it was rather too early for our
start, so we turned, missed the time, and awoke at half-
past five instead of four o'clock. The word w^as given.
All were soon stui'ing. It had rained heavily in the
night. Tents were struck, donkeys packed ; at a quarter
past seven o'clock we were en route. Esmeralda was
as lively as possible. We were all in excellent spirits,
our donkeys stepping out bravely with their loads. Our
beautiful Puru Rawnee leads the way, the hawk bells
jingling on its light collar of scarlet booking. At every
place we passed, we had a rush of the country peasants
to see us. It was amusing to observe their eagerness
to be in time, as they left their occupations in hot haste
to gaze upon our donkeys. At some places we had been
expected. Some mysterious intimation had been given,
and the peasants were ready drawn up waiting with
great expectations our approach. As we journeyed
onwards, it was desirable to buy bread to save our stock
of biscuits. Noah tried at one or two houses. The
first was a large house where they were evidently waiting


our arrival. The windows wore cialjcUislicd by many
heads : tlie female sex predominated ; most of the males
appeared in a courtyard opening to the road. " Try
here," we said to Noah, giving him some money to
take in his hand, " and say, ' smor og brod.' " He was
not successful, for he was shown into a large room, with
coffee, bread, &c., on the table. Probably he could not
make any one understand, or they had no bread to sell,
for he returned empty-handed. One man we noticed
soon afterwards running in the distance across the fields.
It was amusing to see the wild struggles he made to
be in time. With much sympathy for his unwonted
efforts to accomplish so much speed, we had regulated
the pace of our donkeys to give him a chance.

At last we came to a quiet part of the road between
two fir woods, with a narrow space of green sward on
each side ; a rippling stream crossed the road in its
course to the River Logan. The sun gleamed pleasantly
forth. Our fire was soon lighted, and our meal consisted
of biscuit, Australian preserved meat, and tea. The
Australian meat was much appreciated as an edible :
we were all agreeably surprised to find it so good. In
a country like Norway, it is indispensable to those who
seek the freedom of camp-life. As we concluded our
meal down came the rain, but we were prepared, and all
our things were immediately under our large waterproof.
Then we sheltered ourselves with the waterproof rugs,
and quietly waited for the heavy shower to cease. Several
carrioles were driven by, and some carts passed. Noah
had to lead one pony who shied at our donkeys ; another
pony had to be taken out and coaxed by them. The
Norwegian ponies, who are the most docile animals in


tlie world, were often suspicious of our harmless donkeys,
who, quietl}^ browsing, looked as unlike dangerous
ferocity as could possibly be imagined. Tlie rain ceased.
It was eleven. Esmeralda and ourselves pushed on
along the road with two donkeys already loaded, whilst
Noah and Zachariah were putting the remaining baggage
on the third. When they came in sight shortly after-
wards, Esmeralda said we must pretend to be strange
gipsies, and ask them where they were gelling to.

" Shawshon baugh ? " (liow do you do), said Esmeralda,
drawing herself up with an assumed look of contempt, as
her brothers came up with their donkey and baggage.

"Shawshon baugh?" said they; "where be you a
gelling (going) to ? I suppose you Roman3^'s have been
married some time."

" Howah," (yes) said Esmeralda, " we've been married
about a year."

We must confess to a queer sensation that by some
gipsy incantation we were no longer free.

"Which is your merle?" (gip., donkey), demanded
Noah, stalking up to the front.

"That's mandys" (mine), said Esmeralda, pointing to
the Puru Rawnee, which she claimed for her own.
Gipsy wives have evidently separate rights of property,
thought we, whicli we Avere not before aware of. " The
other is my husband's," said Esmeralda, looking at us
with her dark eyes, which made us feel as if we were
merged into another individuality.

"Will you gipsies chaffer with us?" said Noah and

But we remarked, " Your merle's got no tail" This
was said in disparagement of tJie one supposed to be


theirs, for our donkeys were by no means wanting in
this respect. The tail of one was perhaps rather smaller
than the other's.

" Why," said Esmeralda, " that's yom- donkey. You
don't know one merle from another."

They had got mixed, and we had mistaken the one
just come up. The serious earnestness of the gipsy girl
gave us a hearty laugh. So they w^ent on rockering
(talking) in their Romany mous (gipsy language). As we
journeyed onwards, how fragrant the wild flowers. Those
wild flowers of Norway can never be forgotten. Gipsies
like flowers, it is part of their nature. Esmeralda would
pluck them, and, forming a charming bouquet inter-
spersed with beautiful wild roses, her first thought was
to pin them in the button-hole of the Romany Rye
(gipsy gentleman). We were not the only party with
tents and baggage ; for we had noticed, as we passed
along the road from Lillehammer, a number of white
military tents pitched in the valley below us, on a
pleasant flat of turf land on the opposite side the River
Logan. We were informed afterwards, it was an en-
campment of the Norwegian militia for military training.

Shortly afterwards we passed a large house near the-
roadside, which appeared to be a gjoestgiver gaard.
The people came out to look at us. Noticing some
articles for sale in the window, we sent Noah back with
some money, and he soon after returned with ten loaves
of bread, and a pound and a half of butter, for which he
paid four marks and a half. Noah said he bought all
the bread they had. We w^ere so well pleased with the
acquisition, that, finding it was a general shop, Zachariah
was sent back to replace his dilapidated hat with a


new wlde-a-wake, wliicli cost us one dollar. When
we examined the hat on his return, we read within it
the well-known English name of Christy. Noah and
Zachariah had each invested in a handkerchief; Noah's
consisted of four pictures of the loudest pattern. Noah's
commercial transactions had also extended to a pipe
and tobacco, and he appeared smoking it to the disgust
of the rest of the party. Indications of coming rain
caused us to arrange the waterproofs over our baggage.
Several people came up to look at our donkeys.

The bread being packed safely away, we again pushed
on, and entered a wild, thick forest at the foot of some
steep rocky hills. The River Logan was not far to our
left. Taking the first opportunity, we now told Noah
that it was contrary to the rules of our camp to smoke,
and that he must at once give up his pipe and tobacco.

" No, no, sir," said Noah, in a melancholy tone, " I
must have some tobacco."

"Well, Noah,'' we reiDlied, "we must have our wish,
we have always done what we could for you, and we
expect some sacrifice in return."

Esmeralda and Zachariah joined in the request.

A slight cloud passed over Noah's look as he dropped
behind. We must, however, do him the justice to say
that his temper was excellent. Noah was ever cheerful
under the greatest difficulties.

As we quietly journeyed through the forest, how de-
lightful its scenes. Free from all care, we enjoy the
anticipation of a long and pleasant ramble in Norway's
happy land. We felt contented with all things, and
thankful that we should be so permitted to roam, with
our tents and wild children of nature in keeping with


the solitudes we souglit. So we travelled onwards to-
wards Holmen. The rain had soon ceased. Tinkle,
tinkle M'ent the hawk-bells on the collar of our Puru
Rawnee, as she led the way along the romantic
Norwegian road.

" Give the snakes and toads a t^Yist,
And Lanisli them for ever,"

sang Zachariah, ever and anon giving similar wild
snatches. Then Esmeralda would rocker about being the
wife of the Romany Rj'e, and as she proudly paced along
in her heavy boots, she pictured, in painful imagery, the
pleasant life we should lead as her Romany mouche. She
was full of fun : yet there was nothing in her fenciful de-
lineations which could offend us. They were but the foam
of the crested wave, soon dissipated in air. They were the
evanescent creations of a livel}", open-hearted girl. Wild
notes trilled by the bird of the forest. AYe came again
into the open valley. Down a meadow gushed a small
streamlet, which splashed from a wooden spout on to the
road-side below. From a log cottage in the meadow
above, a man quickly crawled down the steep bank, like
a spider along in his web. He took his station on the
bank near the streamlet's falling water. The man was
pale and wan, and begged for alms. He seemed to have
no use in his legs. Could we refuse ? We who roamed
free as the birds of the air. We gave him some shillings.
The man seemed very thankful, and we soon after saw
him crawling slowly up to his small wooden cottage,
from wh.ence he commanded a view of the road. Now
we came near the river-side, and pushed along to find a
camping ground. We had again forest on either side.
The river was near, and on the hills of the narrow valley


we could see many farms. At last we decided to camp
on a rise of ground above the road : an open woodland,
on the edge of the thick forest, which covered the hill
above. The road wall was broken down in one place,
giving passage for the donkeys, after we had unloaded
them. Om- things were hoisted up, and soon carried to
a pleasant slope, partly secluded with scattered brush-
wood and trees, having a view of the road, river, and
lofty hills on the opposite side of the valley. The rain
commenced as we were pitching our tents. The first
losses we discovered were our two caps and guard, with
a carved fish at the end of it, and the green veil in which
they were wrapped. It was provoking. They must have
been left on the roadside when we halted near the house
where we bought the ten loaves of bread ; probably near
Gillebo or Skardsmoen. They were of black felt, and
we were now left with only the straw hat we then wore.
Our tents had not been long pitched, and our fire made,
when a tall, pale man came to us from the road. He
carried a wallet ; had a walking-stick in his hand, and we
understood him to say he was going to Romsdalen. He
seemed much interested with our tents, and accepted
some brandy and tobacco. The spot where our tents
were pitched was near a sort of small natural terrace, at
the summit of a steep slope above the road, backed by a
mossy bank, shaded by brushwood, and skirting the dense
foliage of the dark forest of pine and fir rising above our

Online LibraryHubert SmithTent life with English Gipsies in Norway → online text (page 8 of 37)