Read CHAPTER I - A WAIF ON THE NORTH SEA of Up The Baltic Young America in Norway‚ Sweden‚ and Denmark , free online book, by Oliver Optic, on

“Boat on the weather bow, sir!” shouted the lookout on the top-gallant forecastle of the Young America.

“Starboard!” replied Judson, the officer of the deck, as he discovered the boat, which was drifting into the track of the ship.

“Starboard, sir!” responded the quartermaster in charge of the wheel.

“Steady!” added the officer.

“Steady, sir,” repeated the quartermaster.

By this time a crowd of young officers and seamen had leaped upon the top-gallant forecastle, and into the weather rigging, to obtain a view of the little boat, which, like a waif on the ocean, was drifting down towards the coast of Norway.  It contained only a single person, who was either a dwarf or a boy, for he was small in stature.  He lay upon a seat near the stern of the boat, with his feet on the gunwale.  He was either asleep or dead, for though the ship had approached within hail, he neither moved nor made any sign.  The wind was light from the southward, and the sea was quite calm.

“What do you make of it, Ryder?” called the officer of the deck to the second master, who was on duty forward.

“It is a flat-bottomed boat, half full of water, with a boy in it,” answered Ryder.

“Hail him,” added the officer of the deck.

“Boat, ahoy!” shouted Ryder, at the top of his lungs.

The person in the boat, boy or man, made no reply.  Ryder repeated the hail, but with no better success.  The officers and seamen held their breath with interest and excitement, for most of them had already come to the conclusion that the occupant of the boat was dead.  A feeling akin to horror crept through the minds of the more timid, as they gazed upon the immovable body in the dilapidated craft; for they felt that they were in the presence of death, and to young people this is always an impressive season.  By this time the ship was within a short distance of the water-logged bateau.  As the waif on the ocean exhibited no signs of life, the first lieutenant, in charge of the vessel, was in doubt as to what he should do.

Though he knew that it was the first duty of a sailor to assist a human being in distress, he was not sure that the same effort was required in behalf of one who had already ceased to live.  Captain Cumberland, in command of the ship, who had been in the cabin when the excitement commenced, now appeared upon the quarter-deck, and relieved the officer of the responsibility of the moment.  Judson reported the cause of the unwonted scene on deck, and as the captain discovered the little boat, just on the weather bow, he promptly directed the ship to be hove to.

“Man the main clew-garnets and buntlines!” shouted the first lieutenant; and the hands sprang to their several stations.  “Stand by tack and sheet.”

“All ready, sir,” reported the first midshipman, who was on duty in the waist.

“Let go tack and sheet!  Up mainsail!” continued Ryder.

The well-trained crew promptly obeyed the several orders, and the mainsail was hauled up in much less time than it takes to describe the manoeuvre.

“Man the main braces!” proceeded the officer of the deck.

“Ready, sir,” reported the first midshipman.

“Let go and haul.”

As the hands executed the last order; all the yards on the mainmast swung round towards the wind till the light breeze caught the sails aback, and brought them against the mast.  The effect was to deaden the headway of the ship.

“Avast bracing!” shouted the first lieutenant, when the yards on the mainmast were about square.

In a few moments the onward progress of the Young America was entirely checked, and she lay motionless on the sea.  There were four other vessels in the squadron, following the flag-ship, and each of them, in its turn, hove to, or came up into the wind.

“Fourth cutters, clear away their boat!” continued the first lieutenant, after he had received his order from the captain.  “Mr. Messenger will take charge of the boat.”

The young officer indicated was the first midshipman, whose quarter watch was then on duty.

“All the fourth cutters!” piped the boatswain’s mate, as Messenger crossed the deck to perform the duty assigned to him.

“He’s alive!” shouted a dozen of the idlers on the rail, who had not removed their gaze from the waif in the small boat.

“He isn’t dead any more than I am!” added a juvenile tar, springing into the main rigging, as if to demonstrate the amount of his own vitality.

The waif in the bateau had produced this sudden change of sentiment, and given this welcome relief to the crew of the Young America, by rising from his reclining posture, and standing up in the water at the bottom of his frail craft.  He gazed with astonishment at the ship and the other vessels of the squadron, and did not seem to realize where he was.

“Avast, fourth cutters!” interposed the first lieutenant.  “Belay, all!”

If the waif was not dead, it was hardly necessary to lower a boat to send to his relief; at least not till it appeared that he needed assistance.

“Boat, ahoy!” shouted Ryder.

“On board the ship,” replied the waif, in tones not at all sepulchral.

“What are you doing out here?” demanded the first lieutenant.

“Nothing,” replied the waif.

“Will you come on board the ship?”

“Yes, if you will let me,” added the stranger, as he picked up a broken oar, which was floating in the water on the bottom of his boat.

“Yes, come on board,” answered the first lieutenant, prompted by Captain Cumberland, who was quite as much interested in the adventure as any of his shipmates.

The waif, using the broken oar as a paddle, worked his water-logged craft slowly towards the ship.  The accommodation ladder was lowered for his use, and in a few moments, with rather a heavy movement, as though he was lame, or much exhausted, he climbed up the ladder, and stepped down upon the ship deck.

“Fill away again!” said the captain to the first lieutenant, as a curious crowd began to gather around the stranger.  Ryder gave the necessary orders to brace up the main yards, and set the mainsail again, and the ship was soon moving on her course towards the Naze of Norway, as though nothing had occurred to interrupt her voyage.

“What are you doing out here, in an open boat, out of sight of land?” asked Captain Cumberland, while the watch on deck were bracing up the yards.

The waif looked at the commander of the Young America, and carefully examined him from head to foot.  The elegant uniform of the captain seemed to produce a strong impression upon his mind, and he evidently regarded him as a person of no small consequence.  He did not answer the question put to him, seeming to be in doubt whether it was safe and proper for him to do so.  Captain Cumberland was an exceedingly comely-looking young gentleman, tall and well formed in person, graceful and dignified in his manners; and if he had been fifty years old, the stranger before him could not have been more awed and impressed by his bearing.  So far as his personal appearance was concerned, the waif appeared to have escaped from the rag-bag, and to have been out long enough to soil his tatters with oil, tar, pitch, and dirt.  Though his face and hands, as well as other parts of his body, were very dirty, his eye was bright, and, even seen through the disguise of filth and rags that covered him, he was rather prepossessing.

“What is your name?” asked Captain Cumberland, finding his first question was not likely to be answered.

“Ole Amundsen,” replied the stranger, pronouncing his first name in two syllables.

“Then you are not English.”

“No, sir.  Be you?”

“I am not; we are all Americans in this ship.”

“Americans!” exclaimed Ole, opening his eyes, while a smile beamed through the dirt on his face.  “Are you going to America now?”

“No; we are going up the Baltic now,” replied Captain Cumberland; “but we shall return to America in the course of a year or two.”

“Take me to America with you ­will you?” continued Ole, earnestly.  “I am a sailor, and I will work for you all the time.”

“I don’t know about that.  You must speak to the principal.”

“Who’s he?”

“Mr. Lowington.  He is in the cabin now.  Where do you belong, Ole?”

“I don’t belong anywhere,” answered the waif, looking doubtfully about him.

“Where were you born?”

“In Norway, sir.”

“Then you are a Norwegian.”

“I reckon I am.”

“In what part of Norway were you born?”

“In Bratsberg.”

“That’s where all the brats come from,” suggested Sheridan.

“This one came from there, at any rate,” added Mayley.  “But where is Bratsberg, and what is it?”

“It is an amt, or province, in the south-eastern part of Norway.”

“I came from the town of Laurdal,” said Ole.

“Do the people there speak English as well as you do?” asked the captain.

“No, sir.  I used to be a skydskarl, and ­”

“A what?” demanded the crowd.

“A skydskarl ­a boy that goes on a cariole to take back the horses.  I learned a little English from the Englishmen I rode with; and then I was in England almost a year.”

“But how came you out here, alone in an open boat?” asked the captain, returning to his first inquiry.

Ole put one of his dirty fingers in his mouth, and looked stupid and uncommunicative.  He glanced at the young officers around him, and then over the rail at the sea.

“Were you wrecked?” inquired the captain.

“No, sir; not wrecked,” replied Ole.  “I never was wrecked in my life.”

“What are you doing out here, out of sight of land, in a boat half full of water?” persisted the captain.

“Doing nothing.”

“Did you get blown off from the shore?”

“No, sir; a southerly wind wouldn’t blow anybody off from the south coast of Norway,” answered Ole, with a smile which showed that he had some perception of things absurd in themselves.

“You are no fool.”

“No, sir, I am not; and I don’t think you are,” added Ole, again glancing at Captain Cumberland from head to foot.

The young tars all laughed at the waif’s retort, and the captain was not a little nettled by the remark.  He pressed Ole rather sharply for further information in regard to his antecedents; but the youth was silent on this point.  While the crowd were anxiously waiting for the stranger to declare himself more definitely, eight bells sounded at the wheel, and were repeated on the large bell forward by the lookout.  From each vessel of the fleet the bells struck at nearly the same moment, and were followed by the pipe of the boatswain’s whistle, which was the signal for changing the watch.  As the officers of the ship were obliged to attend to their various duties, Ole Amundsen was left alone with the captain.  The waif still obstinately refused to explain how he happened to be alone in a water-logged boat, asleep, and out of sight of land, though he promptly answered all other questions which were put to him.

Mr. Lowington, the principal of the Academy Squadron, was in the main cabin, though he had been fully informed in regard to the events which had transpired on deck.  The young commander despaired of his own ability to extort an explanation from the waif, and he concluded to refer the matter to the principal.

“How long have you been in that boat?” asked Captain Cumberland, as he led the way towards the companion ladder.

“Eighteen hours,” answered Ole, after some hesitation, which, perhaps, was only to enable him to count up the hours.

“Did you have anything to eat?”

“No, sir.”


“Not a thing.”

“Then you are hungry?”

“I had a little supper last night ­not much,” continued Ole, apparently counting the seams in the deck, ashamed to acknowledge his human weakness.

“You shall have something to eat at once.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Captain Cumberland therefore conducted the stranger to the steerage, instead of the main cabin, and directed one of the stewards to give him his supper.  The man set half a cold boiled ham on one of the mess tables, with an abundant supply of bread and butter.  Cutting off a large slice of the ham, he placed it on the plate before Ole, whose eyes opened wide with astonishment, and gleamed with pleasure.  Without paying much attention to the forms of civilization, the boy began to devour it, with the zeal of one who had not tasted food for twenty-four hours.  Captain Cumberland smiled, but with becoming dignity, at the greediness of the guest, before whom the whole slice of ham and half a brick loaf disappeared almost in a twinkling.  The steward appeared with a pot of coffee, in time to cut off another slice of ham, which the waif attacked with the same voracity as before.  When it was consumed, and the young Norwegian glanced wistfully at the leg before him, as though his capacity for cold ham was not yet exhausted, the captain began to consider whether he ought not to consult the surgeon of the ship before he permitted the waif to eat any more.  But the steward, like a generous host, seemed to regard the quantity eaten as complimentary testimony to the quality of the viands, and helped him to a third slice of the ham.  He swallowed a pint mug of coffee without stopping to breathe.

As the third slice of ham began to wax small before the voracious Norwegian, Captain Cumberland became really alarmed, and determined to report at once to the principal and the surgeon for instructions.  Knocking at the door of the main cabin, he was admitted.  Dr. Winstock assured him there was no danger to the guest; he had not been without food long enough to render it dangerous for him fully to satisfy himself.  The quantity eaten might make him uncomfortable, and even slightly sick, but it would do the gourmand no real injury.  The captain returned to the steerage, where Ole had broken down on his fourth slice of ham; but he regarded it wistfully, and seemed to regret his inability to eat any more.

“That’s good,” said he, with emphasis.  “It’s the best supper I ever ate in my life.  I like this ship; I like the grub; and I mean to go to America in her.”

“We will see about that some other time; but if you don’t tell us how you happened to be off here, I am afraid we can do nothing for you,” replied the captain.  “If you feel better now, we will go and see the principal.”

“Who’s he?” asked Ole.

“Mr. Lowington.  You must tell him how you happened to be in that leaky boat.”

“Perhaps I will.  I don’t know,” added Ole, doubtfully, as he followed the commander into the main cabin.

Captain Cumberland explained to the principal the circumstances under which Ole had come on board, and that he declined to say anything in regard to the strange situation in which he had been discovered.

“Is the captain here?” asked the midshipman of the watch, at the steerage door.

“Yes,” replied Captain Cumberland.

“Mr. Lincoln sent me down to report a light on the lee bow, sir.”

“Very well.  Where is Mr. Beckwith?”

“In the cabin, sir.”

The captain left the main cabin, and entered the after cabin, where he found Beckwith, the first master, attended by the second and third, examining the large chart of the North Sea.

“Light on the lee bow, sir,” said the first master.

“Do you make it out?”

“Yes; we are all right to the breadth of a hair,” added the master, delighted to find that his calculations had proved to be entirely correct.  “It is Egero Light, and we are about fifty miles from the Naze of Norway.  We are making about four knots, and if the breeze holds, we ought to see Gunnarshoug Light by one o’clock.”

Captain Cumberland went on deck to see the light reported.  Though it was half past eight, the sun had but just set, and the light, eighteen miles distant, could be distinctly seen.  It created a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm among the young officers and seamen, who had read enough about Norway to be desirous of seeing it.  For weeks the young gentlemen on board the ship had been talking of Norway, and reading up all the books in the library relating to the country and its people.  They had read with interest the accounts of the various travellers who had visited it, including Ross Brown, in Harper’s Monthly, and Bayard Taylor, and had studied Harper, Murray, Bradshaw, and other Guides on the subject.  The more inquiring students had read the history of Norway, and were well prepared to appreciate a short visit to this interesting region.

They had just come from the United States, having sailed in the latter part of March.  The squadron had had a fair passage, and the students hoped to be in Christiansand by the first day of May; and now nothing less than a dead calm for forty-eight hours could disappoint their hopes.  Five years before, the Young America and the Josephine, her consort, had cruised in the waters of Europe, and returned to America in the autumn.  It had been the intention of the principal to make another voyage the next year, go up the Baltic, and winter in the Mediterranean; but the war of 1866 induced him to change his plans.  Various circumstances had postponed the cruise until 1870, when it was actually commenced.

The Young America was the first, and for more than a year the only, vessel belonging to the Academy.  The Josephine, a topsail schooner, had been added the second year; and now the Tritonia, a vessel of the same size and rig, was on her first voyage.  The three vessels of the squadron were officered and manned by the students of the Academy.  As on the first cruise, the offices were the rewards of merit bestowed upon the faithful and energetic pupils.  The highest number of merits gave the highest office, and so on through the several grades in the cabin, and the petty offices in the steerage.  The routine and discipline of the squadron were substantially the same as described in the first series of these volumes, though some changes had been made, as further experience suggested.  Instead of quarterly, as before, the offices were given out every month.  Captains were not retired after a single term, as formerly, but were obliged to accept whatever rank and position they earned, like other students.

There was no change from one vessel to another, except at the end of a school year, or with the permission of the principal.  The ship had six instructors, three of whom, however, lectured to all the students in the squadron, and each of the smaller vessels had two teachers.  Mr. Lowington was still the principal.  He was the founder of the institution; and his high moral and religious principles, his love of justice, as well as his skill, firmness, and prudence, had made it a success in spite of the many obstacles which continually confronted it.  As a considerable portion of the students in the squadron were the spoiled sons of rich men, who had set at defiance the rules of colleges and academies on shore, it required a remarkable combination of attributes to fit a gentleman for the difficult and trying position he occupied.

Mr. Fluxion was the first vice-principal in charge of the Josephine.  He was a thorough seaman, a good disciplinarian, and a capital teacher; but he lacked some of the high attributes of character which distinguished the principal.  If any man was fit to succeed Mr. Lowington in his responsible position, it was Mr. Fluxion; but it was doubtful whether, under his sole administration, the institution could be an entire success.  His love of discipline, and his energetic manner of dealing with delinquents, would probably have increased the number of “rows,” mutinies, and runaways.

The second vice-principal, in charge of the Tritonia, was Mr. Tompion, who, like his two superiors in rank, had formerly been an officer of the navy.  Though he was a good sailor, and a good disciplinarian, he lacked that which a teacher needs most ­a hearty sympathy with young people.

The principal and the two vice-principals were instructors in mathematics and navigation in their respective vessels.  Mr. Lowington had undertaken this task himself, because he felt the necessity of coming more in contact with the student than his position as mere principal required.  It tended to promote friendly relations between the governor and the governed, by creating a greater sympathy between them.

The Rev. Mr. Agneau still served as chaplain.  In port, and at sea when the weather would permit, two services were held in the steerage every Sunday, which were attended, at anchor, by the crew of all the vessels.  Prayers were said morning and evening, in the ship by the chaplain, in the schooners by the vice-principal or one of the instructors.

Dr. Winstock was the instructor in natural philosophy and chemistry, as well as surgeon and sanitary director.  He was a good and true man, and generally popular among the students.  Each vessel had an adult boatswain and a carpenter, and the ship a sailmaker, to perform such work as the students could not do, and to instruct them in the details of practical seamanship.

After the lapse of five years, hardly a student remained of those who had cruised in the ship or her consort during the first voyage.  But in addition to the three vessels which properly constituted the squadron, there were two yachts, each of one hundred and twenty tons.  They were fore-and-aft schooners, of beautiful model, and entirely new.  The one on the weather wing of the fleet was the Grace, Captain Paul Kendall, whose lady and two friends were in the cabin.  Abreast of her sailed the Feodora, Captain Robert Shuffles, whose wife was also with him.  Each of these yachts had a first and second officer, and a crew of twenty men, with the necessary complement of cooks and stewards.  They were part of the fleet, but not of the Academy Squadron.