Read CHAPTER II - OFF THE NAZE OF NORWAY of Up The Baltic Young America in Norway‚ Sweden‚ and Denmark , free online book, by Oliver Optic, on ReadCentral.com.

Mr. Lowington examined Ole Amundsen very carefully, in order to ascertain what disposition should be made of him.  He told where he was born, how he had learned English, and where he had passed the greater portion of his life, just as he had related these particulars to Captain Cumberland.

“But how came you out here in an open boat?” asked the principal.

Ole examined the carpet on the floor of the cabin, and made no reply.

“Won’t you answer me?” added Mr. Lowington.

The waif was still silent.

“You have been to sea?”

“Yes, sir; I was six months in a steamer, and over two years in sailing vessels,” answered Ole, readily.

“What steamer were you in?”

“I was in the Drammen steamer a while; and I have been three trips down to Copenhagen and Gottenburg, one to Luebeck, one to Stettin, and one to Stockholm.”

“Have you been in a steamer this season?”

“No, sir.”

“Then you were in a sailing vessel.”

Ole would not say that he had been in any vessel the present season.

“Where is your home now?” asked the principal, breaking the silence again.

“Haven’t any.”

“Have you a father and mother?”

“Both dead, sir.”

“Have you any friends?”

“Friends?  I don’t believe I have.”

“Any one that takes care of you?”

“Takes care of me?  No, sir; I’m quite certain I haven’t any one that takes care of me.  I take care of myself, and it’s heavy work I find it, sometimes, I can tell you.”

“Do you ever go fishing?”

“Yes, sir, sometimes.”

“Have you been lately?”

Ole was silent again.

“I wish to be your friend, Ole.”

“Thank you, sir,” added Ole, bowing low.

“But in order to know what to do for you, I must know something about your circumstances.”

“I haven’t any circumstances, sir.  I lost ’em all,” replied Ole, gravely and sadly, as though he had met with a very serious loss.

Dr. Winstock could not help laughing, but it was impossible to decide whether the boy was ignorant of the meaning of the word, or was trying to perpetrate a joke.

“How did you happen to lose your circumstances, Ole?” asked Mr. Lowington.

“When my mother died, Captain Olaf took ’em.”

“Indeed; and who is Captain Olaf?”

Ole looked at the principal, and then returned his gaze to the cabin floor, evidently not deeming it prudent to answer the question.

“Is he your brother?”

“No, sir.”

“Your uncle?”

“No, sir.”

Ole could not be induced to say anything more about Captain Olaf, and doubtless regretted that he had even mentioned his name.  The waif plainly confounded “circumstances” and property.  Mr. Lowington several times returned to the main inquiry, but the young man would not even hint at the explanation of the manner in which he had come to be a waif on the North Sea, in an open boat, half full of water.  He had told the captain that he was not wrecked, and had not been blown off from the coast.  He would make no answer of any kind to any direct question relating to the subject.

“Well, Ole, as you will not tell me how you came in the situation in which we found you, I do not see that I can do anything for you,” continued Mr. Lowington.  “The ship is bound to Christiansand, and when we arrive we must leave you there.”

“Don’t leave me in Christiansand, sir.  I don’t want to be left there.”

“Why not?”

Ole was silent again.  Both the principal and the surgeon pitied him, for he appeared to be a friendless orphan; certainly he had no friends to whom he wished to go, and was only anxious to remain in the ship, and go to America in her.

“You may go into the steerage now, Ole,” said the principal, despairing of any further solution of the mystery.

“Thank you, sir,” replied Ole, bowing low, and backing out of the cabin as a courtier retires from the presence of a sovereign.

“What do you make of him, doctor?” added Mr. Lowington, as the door closed upon the waif.

“I don’t make anything of him,” replied Dr. Winstock.  “The young rascal evidently don’t intend that we should make anything of him.  He’s a young Norwegian, about fifteen years old, with neither father nor mother; for I think we may believe what he has said.  If he had no regard to the truth, it was just as easy for him to lie as it was to keep silent, and it would have been more plausible.”

“I am inclined to believe that he is a runaway, either from the shore or from some vessel,” said the principal.  “He certainly cannot have been well treated, for his filthy rags scarcely cover his body; and he says that the supper he had to-night was the best he ever ate in his life.  It was only coffee, cold ham, and bread and butter; so he cannot have been a high liver.  He seems to be honest, and I pity him.”

“But he is too filthy to remain on board a single hour.  I will attend to his sanitary condition at once,” laughed the doctor.  “He will breed a leprosy among the boys, if he is not taken care of.”

“Let the purser give you a suit of clothes for him, for we can’t do less than this for him.”

The doctor left the cabin, and Ole was taken to the bath-room by one of the stewards, and compelled to scrub himself with a brush and soap, till he was made into a new creature.  He was inclined to rebel at first, for he had his national and inborn prejudice against soap and water in combination; but the sight of the suit of new clothes overcame his constitutional scruples.  The steward was faithful to his mission, and Ole left dirt enough in the bath-tub to plant half a dozen hills of potatoes.  He looked like a new being, even before he had donned the new clothes.  His light hair, cut square across his forehead, was three shades lighter when it had been scrubbed, and deprived of the black earth, grease, and tar, with which it had been matted.

The steward was interested in his work, for it is a pleasure to any decent person to transform such a leper of filth into a clean and wholesome individual.  Ole put on the heavy flannel shirt and the blue frock which were handed to him, and smiled with pleasure as he observed the effect.  He was fitted to a pair of seaman’s blue trousers, and provided with socks and shoes.  Then he actually danced with delight, and evidently regarded himself as a finished dandy; for never before had he been clothed in a suit half so good.  It was the regular uniform of the crew of the ship.

“Hold on a moment, my lad,” said Muggs, the steward, as he produced a pair of barber’s shears.  “Your barber did not do justice to your figure-head, the last time he cut your hair.”

“I cut it myself,” replied Ole.

“I should think you did, and with a bush scythe.”

“I only hacked off a little, to keep it out of my eyes.  Captain Olaf always used to cut it.”

“Who’s Captain Olaf?” asked Muggs.

Ole was silent, but permitted the steward to remove at will the long, snarly white locks, which covered his head.  The operator had been a barber once, and received extra pay for his services on board the ship in this capacity.  He did his work in an artistic manner, parting and combing the waif’s hair as though he were dressing him for a fashionable party.  He put a sailor’s knot in the black handkerchief under the boy’s collar, and then placed the blue cap on his head, a little on one side, so that he looked as jaunty as a dandy man-of-war’s-man.

“Now put on this jacket, my lad, and you will be all right,” continued the steward, as he gazed with pride and pleasure upon the work of his hands.

“More clothes!” exclaimed Ole.  “I shall be baked.  I sweat now with what I have on.”

“It’s hot in here; you will be cool enough when you go on deck.  Here’s a pea-jacket for you, besides the other.”

“But that’s for winter.  I never had so much clothes on before in my life.”

“You needn’t put the pea-jacket on, if you don’t want it.  Now you look like a decent man, and you can go on deck and show yourself.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“But you must wash yourself clean every morning.”

“Do it every day!” exclaimed Ole, opening his eyes with astonishment.

“Why, yes, you heathen,” laughed Muggs.  “A man isn’t fit to live who don’t keep himself clean.  Why, you could have planted potatoes anywhere on your hide, before you went into that tub.”

“I haven’t been washed before since last summer,” added Ole.

“You ought to be hung for it.”

“You spend half your time washing yourselves ­don’t you?”

“We spend time enough at it to keep clean.  No wonder you Norwegians have the leprosy, and the flesh rots off the bones!”

“But I always go into the water every summer,” pleaded Ole.

“And don’t wash yourself at any other time?”

“I always wash myself once a year, and sometimes more, when I get a good chance.”

“Don’t you wash your face and hands every morning.”

“Every morning?  No!  I haven’t done such a thing since last summer.”

“Then you are not fit to live.  If you stay in this ship, you must wash every day, and more than that when you do dirty work.”

“Can I stay in the ship if I do that?” asked Ole, earnestly.

“I don’t know anything about it.”

“I will wash all the time if they will only let me stay in the ship,” pleaded the waif.

“You must talk with the principal on that subject.  I have nothing to do with it.  Now, go on deck.  Hold up your head, and walk like a man.”

Ole left the bath-room, and made his way up the forward ladder.  The second part of the starboard watch were on duty, but nearly every person belonging to the ship was on deck, watching the distant light, which assured them they were on the coast of Norway.  The waif stepped upon deck as lightly as a mountain sylph.  The influence of his new clothes pervaded his mind, and he was inclined to be a little “swellish” in his manner.

“How are you, Norway!” shouted Sanford, one of the crew.

“How are you, America,” replied Ole, imitating the slang of the speaker.

“What have you done with your dirt?” added Rodman.

“Here is some of it,” answered Muggs, the steward, as he came up the ladder, with Ole’s rags on a dust-pan, and threw them overboard.

“If you throw all his dirt overboard here, we shall get aground, sure,” added Stockwell, as Ole danced up to the group of students.

“No wonder you feel light after getting rid of such a load of dirt,” said Sanford.

“O, I’m all right,” laughed Ole, good-naturedly; for he did not seem to think that dirt was any disgrace or dishonor to him.

“How came you in that leaky boat, Norway?” demanded Rodman; and the entire party gathered around the waif, anxious to hear the story of his adventure.

“I went into it.”

“Is that so?” added Wilde.

“Yes, sir.”

“I say, Norway, you are smart,” replied Rodman.

“Smart?  Where?”

“All over.”

“I don’t feel it.”

“But, Norway, how came you in that old tub, out of sight of land?” persisted Rodman, returning to the charge again.

“I went into it just the same as one of you Americans would have got into it,” laughed Ole, who did not think it necessary to resort to the tactics he had used with the principal and the captain.  “You could have done it if you had tried as hard as I did.”

“After you got in, then, how came the boat out here, so far from land?”

“The wind, the tide, and the broken oar brought it out here.”

“Indeed!  But won’t you tell us your story, Ole?”

“A story?  O, yes.  Once there was a king of Norway whose name was Olaf, and half the men of his country were named after him, because ­”

“Never mind that story, Ole.  We want to hear the story about yourself.”

“About myself?  Well, last year things didn’t go very well with me; the crop of potatoes was rather short on my farm, and my vessels caught but few fish; so I decided to make a voyage up the Mediterranean, to spend the winter.”

“What did you go in, Norway?” asked Wilde.

“In my boat.  We don’t make voyages on foot here in Norway.”

“What boat?”

“You won’t let me tell my story; so I had better finish it at once.  I got back as far as the North Sea, and almost into the Sleeve, when a gale came down upon me, and strained my boat so that she leaked badly.  I was worn out with fatigue, and dropped asleep one afternoon.  I was dreaming that the King of Sweden and Norway came off in a big man-of-war, to welcome me home again.  He hailed me himself, with, “Boat, ahoy!” which waked me; and then I saw this ship.  You know all the rest of it.”

“Do you mean to say you went up the Mediterranean in that old craft?”

“I’ve told my story, and if you don’t believe it, you can look in the almanac, and see whether it is true or not,” laughed Ole.  “But I must go and show myself to the captain and the big gentleman.”

“He’s smart ­isn’t he?” said Sanford, as the young Norwegian went aft to exhibit himself to the officers on the quarter deck.

“Yes; but what’s the reason he won’t tell how he happened out here in that leaky tub?” added Rodman.

“I don’t know; he wouldn’t tell the captain, nor the principal.”

“I don’t understand it.”

“No one understands it.  Perhaps he has done something wrong, and is afraid of being found out.”

“Very likely.”

“He’s just the fellow for us,” said Stockwell, in a low tone, after he had glanced around him, to see that no listeners were near.  “He speaks the lingo of this country.  We must buy him up.”

“Good!” exclaimed Boyden.  “We ought not to have let him go till we had fixed his flint.”

“I didn’t think of it before; but there is time enough.  If we can get hold of his story we can manage him without any trouble.”

“But he won’t tell his story.  He wouldn’t even let on to the principal.”

“No matter; we must have him, somehow or other.  Sanford can handle him.”

“I don’t exactly believe in the scrape,” said Burchmore, shaking his head dubiously.  “We’ve heard all about the fellows that used to try to run away from the ship and from the Josephine.  They always got caught, and always had the worst of it.”

“We are not going to run away, and we are not going to make ourselves liable to any punishment,” interposed Sanford, rather petulantly.  “We can have a good time on shore without running away, or anything of that sort.”

“What’s the use?” replied Burchmore.

“The principal isn’t going to let us see anything at all of Norway.  We are going to put in at Christiansand, and then go to Christiania.  We want to see the interior of Norway, for there’s glorious fishing in the lakes and rivers ­salmon as big as whales.”

“I like fishing as well as any fellow, but I don’t want to get into a scrape, and have to stay on board when the whole crowd go ashore afterwards.  It won’t pay.”

“But I tell you again, we are not going to run away.”

“I don’t see how you can manage it without running away.  You are going into the interior of Norway on your own hook, without the consent or knowledge of the principal.  If you don’t call this running away, I don’t know what you can call it.”

“No matter what we call it, so long as the principal don’t call it running away,” argued Sanford.

“How can you manage it?” inquired Burchmore.

“I don’t know yet; and if I did, I wouldn’t tell a fellow who has so many doubts.”

“I shall not go into anything till I understand it.”

“We don’t ask you to do so.  As soon as we come to anchor, and see the lay of the land, we can tell exactly what and how to do it.  We have plenty of money, and we can have a first-rate time if you only think so.  Leave it all to me, and I will bring it out right,” continued the confident Sanford, who appeared to be the leader of the little squad.

The traditions of the various runaways who had, at one time and another, attempted to escape from the wholesome discipline and restraint of the Academy, were current on board all the vessels of the squadron.  The capture of the Josephine, and her cruise in the English Channel, had been repeated to every new student who joined the fleet, till the story was as familiar to the present students as to those of five years before.  There were just as many wild and reckless boys on board now as in the earlier days of the institution, and they were as sorely chafed by the necessary restraints of good order as their predecessors had been.  Perhaps it was natural that, visiting a foreign country, they should desire to see all they could of its wonders, and even to look upon some things which it was the policy of the principal to prevent them from seeing.

Whenever any of the various stories of the runaways were related, Sanford, Rodman, Stockwell, and others of similar tendencies, were always ready to point out the defects in the plan of the operators.  They could tell precisely where Wilton, Pelham, and Little had been weak, as they termed it, and precisely what they should have done to render the enterprise a success.  Still, running away, in the abstract, was not a popular idea in the squadron at the present time; but Sanford believed that he and his companions could enjoy all the benefits of an independent excursion without incurring any of its perils and penalties.  Let him demonstrate his own proposition.

Ole Amundsen walked aft, and was kindly greeted by the officers on the quarter-deck, who commented freely upon his improved personal appearance, though they did it in more refined terms than their shipmates on the forecastle had done.  Some of them tried to draw from him the explanation of his situation in the leaky boat, but without any better success than had attended the efforts of others.  He yielded an extravagant deference to the gold lace on the uniforms of the officers, treating them with the utmost respect.

“Well, Ole, you look better than when I saw you last,” said Mr. Lowington.

“Yes, sir; and I feel better,” replied Ole, bowing low to the “big gentleman.”

“And you speak English very well, indeed.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Can you speak Norwegian as well?”

“Yes, sir; better, I hope.”

“Monsieur Badois, will you ask him a question or two in Norwegian,” added the principal, turning to the professor of modern languages, who prided himself on being able to speak fourteen different tongues; “I begin to doubt whether he is a Norwegian.”

“I will, sir,” replied monsieur, who was always glad of an opportunity to exhibit his linguistic powers. “Hvor staae det til?” (How do you do?)

Jeg takker, meget vel.” (Very well, I thank you), replied Ole.

Forstaaer De mig?” (Do you understand me?)

Ja, jeg forstaaer Dem meget vel.” (Yes, I understand you very well.)

“That will do,” interposed Mr. Lowington.

“He speaks Norsk very well,” added the professor.

“So do you, sir,” said Ole, with a low bow to Monsieur Badois.

Meget vel,” laughed the professor.

“I am satisfied, Ole.  Now, have you concluded to tell me how you happened to be in that boat, so far from the land.”

The waif counted the seams in the quarter-deck, but nothing could induce him to answer the question.

“I have given you a suit of clothes, and I desire to be of service to you.”

“I thank you, sir; and a good supper, the best I ever had, though I have often fished with English gentlemen, even with lords and sirs.”

“If you will tell me who your friends are ­”

“I have no friends, sir.”

“You lived on shore, or sailed on the sea, with somebody, I suppose.”

Ole looked down, and did not deny the proposition.

“Now, if you will tell me whom you lived with, I may be able to do something for you.”

Still the waif was silent.

“Berth N in the steerage is vacant, and I will give it to you, if I can be sure it is right for me to do so.”

But Ole could not, or would not, give any information on this point, though he was earnest in his desire to remain in the ship.

“Very well, Ole; as you will not tell me your story, I shall be obliged to leave you on shore at Christiansand,” said the principal, as he walked away.

Dr. Winstock also tried to induce the youth to reveal what he plainly regarded as a secret, but with no different result.  Ole passed from the officers to the crew again, and with the latter his answers were like those given to Sanford and his companions.  He invented strange explanations, and told wild stories, but not a soul on board was the wiser for anything he said.  The waif was permitted to occupy berth N, but was distinctly assured that he must leave the ship when she arrived at Christiansand.

The wind continued light during the night, but at four o’clock in the morning the squadron was off Gunnarshoug Point, and not more than four miles from the land.  The shore was fringed with innumerable islands, which made the coast very picturesque, though it was exceedingly barren and desolate.  Most of the islands were only bare rocks, the long swells rolling completely over some of the smaller ones.  The students on deck watched the early sunrise, and studied the contour of the coast with deep interest, till it became an old story, and then whistled for a breeze to take them along more rapidly towards their port of destination.  The fleet was now fully in the Skager Rack, or Sleeve, as it is also called on the British nautical charts.

At eight bells, when, with the forenoon watch, commenced the regular routine of study in the steerage, all the students had seen the Naze, or Lindersnaes, as the Norwegians call it ­the southern cape of Norway.  It is a reddish headland, beyond which were some hills covered with snow in the spring time.  Ole Amundsen remained on deck all day, and had a name for every island and cliff on the coast.  He declared that he was competent to pilot the ship into the harbor, for he had often been there.  But when the fleet was off Ox-Oe, at the entrance to the port, a regular pilot was taken, at three o’clock in the afternoon.  The Josephine and the Tritonia also obtained pilots soon after.  The recitations were suspended in order to enable the students to see the harbor.

Ole was wanted to explain the various objects which were presented to the view of the young mariners, but no one had seen him since the pilot came on board.  All the habitable parts of the vessel were searched, and the stewards even examined the hold; but he could not be found.  Mr. Lowington was anxious to see him, to ascertain whether he had changed his mind in regard to his secret; but Ole had disappeared as strangely as he had come on board of the ship.