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

Scott and Laybold, after imbibing a single glass of “finkel” each, which proved to be more than they could carry, retreated into a narrow lane, to escape the observation of a party of officers who were on their way to the landing.  Neither of them had any inclination for intoxicating drinks, and had taken the stuff without knowing what it was.  But they were conscious that everything was not right with them.  They found it quite impossible to walk in a straight line, and even the problem of standing up was not demonstrated to the entire satisfaction of either of them.  Talking was not without its difficulties, for their tongues seemed to be double their ordinary thickness, and their lips and other organs of speech were not as manageable as usual.  For a time the effects of the potent liquor increased upon them, and as they had taken it in a hungry condition, they realized its full power.

They staggered up the lane, conscious that they were making a ridiculous figure, though the solemn Swedes hardly smiled as they observed the effects of the national beverage.  They dreaded an encounter with any of the officers, or others connected with the squadron; but in this unfrequented lane they were not likely to meet any of their shipmates.  As there is more power in four legs than in two, however weak in detail they may be, the tipsy students locked arms, and leaned on each other, one attempting to counteract the obliquities of the other.  They wandered along without knowing whither they were going, till they came to a small public house, which had a bench in front of it for the accommodation of the topers who frequented the bar-room.  By mutual consent, and without argument, the unfortunate couple aimed for this seat as soon as they saw it, for it promised a grateful respite from the perils of locomotion.  The “finkel” was now doing its utmost upon them.  Their heads were dizzy, and everything was wofully uncertain; still they knew what they were about, and had sense enough left to dread the consequences of their indiscretion.  After they had seated themselves, they glanced at each other, as if to ascertain the condition one of the other.

“Lay ­bold,” said Scott.

“Well, old fellow,” replied the other, with a desperate attempt to stiffen his muscles.

“We’re zrunk,” added Scott, trying to laugh.

“I know that.”

“We’re very zrunk.”

“I’m not zbad zyou.”

“I don’t zknow.”

The conversation extended no further then, for speech required an effort they were incapable of making.  Scott gaped violently, and seemed to be sick; but his contortions ended in his falling asleep, with his head tipped back against the wall.  Laybold, more nice in the disposition of his helpless body, stretched himself on the bench, and was soon lost to all consciousness of the outer world.  The publican who kept the house came out and looked at the juvenile tipplers.  Doubtless he had seen too many drunken sailors to misapprehend their condition.  He understood the matter perfectly, and being a thrifty Swede, he was disposed to turn their condition to his own emolument.  He had sundry vacant chambers in his hotel, whose revenues swelled the sum total of his annual profits, and it hurt his feelings to have them remain unoccupied.  Besides, the air was chilly, and the young strangers might take cold, and contract a severe illness by such exposure.  But whether he was a publican or a Samaritan in his intentions, he decided to remove the strangers to the rooms beneath his hospitable roof.  Summoning the porter to his aid, they jointly bore Laybold to his apartment, and laid him on the bed, which, in spite of the low character of the house, was a model of Swedish neatness.  When Scott’s turn came, he offered some resistance to the good intentions of the publican; but his head was too thoroughly muddled for successful opposition.  Between the effects of sleep and “finkel” he could not obtain a very clear idea of what was going on.  He was placed on another bed in the room with his shipmate.  They were both comfortably disposed on their clean couches, the pillows nicely adjusted beneath their heads, and their bodies covered with blankets.

The two students were very tired as well as very tipsy, and their slumbers were deep and heavy.  It was after nine o’clock, though it was still light in the chamber, and the young tars usually retired, when not on watch, before this seemly hour.  “Finkel” and fatigue did the rest, and they slept, without rocking, till long after the early sun broke into the windows of their apartment.  We have seen the effect of “finkel” upon one unaccustomed to the use of liquor, and upon boys of fifteen or sixteen it could not but be entirely overpowering.  It is a dangerous fluid, and is taken by the Swedes at all times, being the first thing at meals, and especially at the inevitable “snack” that precedes a regular dinner.  There is, doubtless, good ground for the fear which has been expressed that the people of Sweden are in danger of becoming “a nation of drunkards.”

Scott was the first to open his eyes and come to his senses.  He raised himself in the bed, shook off the blanket, and then jumped out upon the floor.  He did not comprehend the situation, and was unable, in his own words, to “figure up how he happened to be in that room.”

“Laybold, ahoy!” shouted he, after he had examined the apartment, and mentally confessed his inability to solve the problem.  “Laybold!  All hands on deck!”

“What is the matter?” cried Laybold, springing up, only half awake.

“I’ll be muzzled if I know what the matter is, but I believe that the Norway god ­what’s his name? ­Odin, came aboard the ship last night, and turned her into a country tavern,” replied Scott, going to the window, and looking down into the lane below.

“How came we here?” asked Laybold, rubbing his eyes.

“That’s more than I know; but I think we have been transplanted by the spirits.”

“The spirits?” gaped Laybold.

“Yes; I believe they call them ‘finkel.’  We were tight last night, my boy.”

“I remember all about it now.  I dreamed that somebody lugged me in here.”

“You didn’t exactly dream it, for here we are.  We are in a pretty scrape.”

“That’s so,” added Laybold, shaking his head.  “We didn’t mean to run away, but that’s just what we have done.”

“We didn’t run a great way; for, if I remember rightly, running wasn’t our forte last evening.  Who runs may reel, if he can’t read, and I reckon we did more reeling than running.  But what’s to be done?”

“I don’t know.”

“In the first place, where are we?  It’s no use to lay out a course till we know the ship’s position.”

They were utterly unable to determine this question.  Each of them had a tolerably vivid recollection of their unfortunate condition on the preceding evening, and even that he had been carried by a couple of men; but they had no idea of time or locality.  They washed themselves at the sink in the room, combed their hair with their pocket-combs, and looked then as though nothing had happened.  Their heads were a little light, but they did not absolutely ache, and they realized but a small portion of the after effects of a regular “spree.”  Having made their simple toilet, they decided to explore the premises, and make their way back to the ship.  Leaving the chamber, they descended a flight of steps, and, in the hall below, encountered the Samaritan landlord.

God morgon,” said the latter, with a jolly smile on his face; and it was probable that he had taken his morning dose of “finkel.” “Hur star det till?” (How are you?)

“Nix,” replied Scott, shrugging his shoulders.

“You are English,” added the landlord, a large portion of whose customers were foreign sailors.

“No; Americans.”

“I’m glad to see you.”

“I’m glad to see you, too, if you can tell us how we happen to be here.”

“Too much ‘finkel,’” laughed the publican, as he proceeded to explain the situation, and to enlarge upon the fatherly interest which had induced him to take them in for the night.

“All right, my hearty.  I see you can keep a hotel,” added Scott.  “How much have we to pay?”

“Two rigsdalers; but you want some breakfast.”

“I do, for one,” replied Scott.

“So do I,” said Laybold.  “We only had a little lunch last night, and that ‘finkel’ spoiled my appetite ­or the fish spawn.  I don’t know which.”

About five o’clock they sat down to breakfast, which consisted of a great variety of little things, such as the small fishes, herrings, smoked salmon, sausages.  The coffee was magnificent, as it generally is in Sweden, even on board of steamers, where, in our own country, it is least expected to be good.

“What is this?” said Scott, taking up half a great brown biscuit.

“That’s Swedish bread.  We bake it once in six months,” replied the landlord.

“Not bad,” added Scott, as he tasted the article.

“This is Graham bread, I suppose,” said Laybold, as he took a slice of the coarse brown bread.  “Bah! it’s sour.”

It always is; and both the students rejected it, though they ate a hearty meal of white bread, herring, salmon, and sausage.

“Now, how much?” asked Scott, when they were ready to go.

“One rigsdaler and fifty oere each ­three rigsdalers in all.”

“Cheap enough,” said Scott.  “Two lodgings and two breakfasts for eighty-one cents.”

The students walked through the lane in which they had made their devious way the night before, to the main street on the canal.  At the landing-place there were no boats belonging to the squadron, and everything looked exceedingly quiet on board of the ship.  Seating themselves on the pier, with their legs hanging over the water, they decided to wait till a boat came to the shore.

“We shall catch it for this,” said Laybold.

“No more liberty for a month at least,” said Scott, shrugging his shoulders after his fashion.

“I don’t think it’s fair.  We didn’t mean to get drunk, and didn’t know what ‘finkel’ was,” added Laybold.  “I don’t half like to go on board again.”

“Nor I; but I suppose we must face the music,” answered Scott, dubiously.  “I’m glad we didn’t go on board while we were boozy.  The fellows would have laughed at us for a year, if we had.”

“That’s so; and Lowington would have put us in the brig.”

“I don’t exactly like to explain the reason why we didn’t go on board last night; I always was a bashful fellow.”

“You didn’t go with the others,” said a man, coming up to them at this moment, and speaking in broken English.

“What others?  Where?” replied Scott.

“The other students.  They took the steamer up the canal at two o’clock this morning.”

“Whew!” whistled Scott.  “We have lost Goeta Canal and the falls.”

“They will return to-night by the railroad from Wenersberg,” added the man, who was an agent of the canal steamers.

“That’s too bad!” exclaimed Laybold, as the man walked away.

“I don’t know that it is too bad.  Our leave would have been stopped if we had gone on board,” laughed Scott, who generally took the most cheerful view of any disagreeable subject.  “Why can’t we go on our own hook?”

“I like that idea,” added Laybold.

But inquiring of the agent, they learned that the canal steamers left only at two o’clock in the morning.

“There’s a railroad, or the fellows couldn’t come back that way,” suggested Laybold.

“That’s so; you have more wisdom than a Duxbury clam.”

They ascertained that a train left Gottenburg at noon, by which they could reach Wenersberg the same day.  They knew nothing of the plan of the principal, which included a special train from the canal to the main line of railway; but they desired to see more of the interior of Sweden, and they were confident they should see the excursionists either at Wenersberg or on the way.  It suited them better to make a trip even for a few hours, than to wander about a city which they had already exhausted.  But they were obliged to wait some time for the train, and, after a couple of hours of “heavy loafing” about the streets, they returned to the pier.  An English steamer had just arrived, and a boat was landing her passengers.

“Who are those fellows?” said Laybold, pointing to the steamer’s boat.  “They wear the ship’s uniform.”

“Right; they do, and they came from that steamer,” replied Scott.

“There’s Sanford!  I should know him a mile off.  They are the second cutters, or I am a Dutchman.”

“Right again,” added Scott, as the passengers landed.

The steamer was the one in which Sanford and his companions had taken passage at Christiania the evening before.  The absentees, “on a cruise without running away,” were sorry to see the ship at anchor in the harbor, for some of them had hoped to be too late for her.  When they landed, the first persons they encountered were Scott and Laybold, who gave them a very cordial greeting.  Each party had a story to tell of its own adventures, and Scott knew Sanford and his associates too well to think it necessary to conceal from them the fact that he and Laybold had been the sad victims of “finkel.”

“But why don’t you go on board?” asked Burchmore.

“What’s the use?  All the fellows have gone up to Wobblewopkins, or some other place, to see the falls, and take an inside view of Sweden,” replied Scott.  “We intend to go and do likewise.”

“Won’t you go with us?” added Laybold.

The intentions of the two were explained to the others, and they all decided to join the party.  Sanford was not without a hope that something would occur to prolong the “independent trip without running away.”

“How are you off for stamps?” asked Burchmore of the two who were by this arrangement added to his party, for which he had thus far done the financiering.

“We have a little Swedish money, and some sovereigns,” replied Scott.

“But how many sovereigns?  We may be prevented from joining the ship for a few days, and we want to know where we are in money matters,” interposed Sanford.

“We have enough to buy out one or two of these one-horse kingdoms, like Denmark and Sweden.  I have twenty sovereigns, and Laybold has about a thousand,” answered Scott.

“No I haven’t,” protested Laybold, laughing at the extravagance of his friend.  “I have only twenty-five sovereigns.”

“And a letter of credit for a thousand more; so it’s the same thing.”

“No, no; knock off one cipher, Scott.”

“Well, seeing it’s you, I’ll knock off just one; but not another to please any fellow, even if he were my grandmother’s first cousin,” added Scott.

“There’s some difference between a hundred and a thousand pounds,” suggested Sanford.

“A slight difference,” said Laybold.

“I don’t expect any of us will live long enough to spend a hundred pounds in this country, which is about eighteen hundred of these tricks-bunker dollars, to say nothing of a thousand.  Why, we paid only three bunkers for two lodgings and two breakfasts.  How’s a fellow ever to spend eighteen hundred bunkers?  For my part, I think I’m lucky in having less than four hundred of the things to get rid of.”

“But you needn’t feel under the necessity of spending all your money in this country,” laughed the cashier.

“My father promised to send me some more; but I hope he won’t do it till I get out of Sweden.  If he does I shall be ruined.  Here’s poor Laybold, with a letter of credit for a hundred pounds, besides twenty-five in cash.  I pity the poor fellow.  It wouldn’t be so bad in London, where it costs a fellow from ten to twenty shillings a day to breathe.”

“I think I shall be able to survive,” added Laybold.

“I hope so; but you ought to hear him talk about his bankers.  Topsails and topping-lifts!  His bankers!  Messrs. Pitchers Brothers & Co.”

“No!  Bowles Brothers & Co,” interposed Laybold.

“It’s all the same thing; there isn’t much difference between bowls and pitchers.  One breaks as easy as the other.”

“But my bankers don’t break.”

“His bankers!  Do you hear that?  Well, I don’t believe they’ll break, for all my folks, when they travel in Europe, carry the same letter of credit in their trousers pocket.  I had to write to my paternal parent all last year, care of Bowles Brothers & Co., 449 Strand, Charing Cross, W. C. London, England.  You see I’ve learned my lesson.”

“My letters from home come through the same house,” said Laybold, “and so do those of fifty other fellows.”

“About the money matters,” interposed Burchmore.  “Shall I act for the crowd, as I did in Norway?”

“For me, yes; and I hope you’ll help Laybold out on the big financial job he has on his hands,” said Scott.

“All right,” added Laybold.

“I have settled up for the fellows on the Norway trip.  Now, each of you give me a couple of sovereigns, which I will change into Swedish money.”

This arrangement was made to the satisfaction of all, and the cashier went to an exchange office, where he procured Swedish paper for the gold.

“Scott, I shouldn’t wonder if the principal saved you the trouble of spending your twenty pounds before we go much farther,” said Sanford.

“I shall thank him with tears in my eyes if he does,” replied Scott, with a solemn look.

“I don’t believe you will.  When the ship came over before, every fellow had to give up his money, and the purser doled it out to the fellows in shillings or sixpences when they went ashore.”

“I’m sure it was very kind of him to take so much trouble.”

“You don’t think so.”

“Of course I do.  Only think of poor Laybold, with a letter of credit for a hundred pounds on his hands!  I’m thankful I haven’t the responsibility of spending so much money on my conscience.  I should apply for admission to the first lunatic asylum, if I had to spend so much.”

“Nonsense!  I made up my mind not to give up my money,” said the coxswain.  “That rule made plenty of rows on the other cruise, and I expect the fellows on this cruise will be called upon to give up their stamps very soon.”

“I was going to say we could get even with the principal by spending it all before we go on board again; but we are in Sweden, and it is quite impossible.  They won’t let you pay more than seventy-five cents or a dollar for a day’s board in this country.”

“You went to a sailor’s boarding-house, Scott.  When you are at a first-class hotel, you will find that they bleed you enough.”

“I hope they do better than the landlord where we staid last night; if they don’t I shall make money in Sweden.  Why, they wouldn’t even pick our pockets when we were boozy on ‘finkel.’  I’m sure they are a great deal more accommodating at sailors’ boarding-houses in Boston and New York.”

“Come, be serious, Scott.  Shall you give up your money when you return to the ship?”

“Cheerfully, for there is no chance to get rid of it in this country.”

“But you will want some in Russia, where everything is dear.”

“I’m afraid my letter of credit will arrive by that time, and I shall be burdened with new trials.”

“Poor fellow!”

The old rule of the ship had not been enforced on the present cruise, and the principal did not intend to renew it until it was absolutely necessary.  It had caused much complaint among the wealthy parents of the former students, while it had wonderfully improved the discipline; but Mr. Lowington consented to make the experiment of permitting every boy to manage his own finances.

At noon the party took their places in a second-class compartment of the carriage on the railway, and started for Wenersberg.  Ole spoke Swedish as well as Norwegian, and acted as interpreter.  Sanford had made peace with the waif, who was now as popular as ever with all the party.  Each of them, in turn, had tried to induce Ole to tell how he happened to be in that boat at sea; but he still refused to explain.

The train moved off, and the tourists observed the country through which it passed; but Scott could not help grumbling because the fare was only about a dollar and a quarter for fifty miles, declaring that he should never be able to get rid of his twenty sovereigns at this rate, and that he was threatened with a letter of credit for a hundred more at St. Petersburg.  At Herrljunga, the junction of the branch to Wenersberg and the main line, the guard insisted that the tourists should leave the carriage.

“How’s this, Ole?” asked Sanford.

“Change for Wenersberg; but the train don’t start till five o’clock.  We must wait two hours.”

“But what time does it get to Wenersberg?”

“About half past eight.”

“That’s a pretty go!” exclaimed the coxswain.  “You made a beautiful arrangement for this trip, Scott.”

“What’s the matter now?”

“We cannot get to Wenersberg till half past eight; and of course that will be too late to join the ship’s company there.”

“It isn’t necessary to join them there.  We shall meet them on the way, and go back with them.  They will be at this place some time this afternoon.”

“What did we come up here for?” asked Sanford.

“In the first place, to get rid of four or five rix-bunkers; and in the second, to see something of this part of Sweden.  We have done both, and ought to be satisfied.”

“O, I’m satisfied!”

“You ought to be; you have four and a half bunkers less to spend.  We will loaf about this place till the principal comes with the crowd, and when he sees what good boys we have been to look him up, and see that he didn’t get lost, he’ll forgive Laybold and me for drinking ‘finkel.’”

“All right.  What time does the train leave for Gottenburg, Ole?” added the coxswain, turning to the interpreter.

“Half past five,” replied the waif.

No one took the trouble to examine the time-table in the station-house, which, though in Swedish, was perfectly intelligible so far as it related to hours and towns.

The tourists decided to improve the time they were obliged to wait by taking a walk about the country, examining Swedish houses and investigating Swedish agriculture.  Doubtless this was a very interesting amusement; but at quarter past five, the party returned to the station.  A long train was just departing in the direction of Gottenburg.

“What train’s that?” demanded Sanford.

“I don’t know,” replied Ole, with a look of alarm.

“Inquire, then,” added the excited coxswain.

The party hastened into the little station.  It was the regular train for Gottenburg.

“But how’s that?” cried Sanford.  “You said it left at half past five.”

“Yes; I looked at the time-table in Gottenburg, and it said half past five,” replied Ole.  “Here is one, and I will look again.”

“Better wait till morning before you look again,” said Scott.

“Here it is; five ­”

“That’s all, Norway.”

“I’m sure it was half past five in Gottenburg,” pleaded Ole, whom the coxswain had privately requested to make this blunder.

“What sort of chowder do you call this, son of Odin?” demanded Scott.

“He has made a blunder; that’s all,” laughed Burchmore, who, though not in the confidence of the coxswain, at once suspected the trick, and, to tell the truth, was not sorry for the mistake.

The mishap was discussed for an hour, and poor Ole was severely blamed, especially by Sanford, for his carelessness; but he bore the censure with becoming meekness.

“What’s to be done?” inquired Scott, at last.

“Here’s another train at 8.56,” replied Ole, pointing to the time-table.  “We can return to Gottenburg in that.”

“Right, Norway,” added Scott.

They found a small hotel in the place, where they obtained a supper, and at the time indicated returned to Gottenburg, where they arrived at about one in the morning.  It was too late to go on board of the ship, and they went directly to the little hotel in the lane, where Scott and Laybold had passed the preceding night.  It was closed, but they easily roused the landlord.

“So you have again come,” said the good-natured host.

“Yes; we have again come.  It is too late to go on board of the ship,” replied Scott.

“Your ship have sail to-night to Copenhagen.”

“No!  Impossible!”

“I have seen her sail,” persisted the landlord.  “I have make no mistake.”

“We are dished!” exclaimed Sanford.

“The young gentleman come down at seven o’clock, and the ship have sail at nine o’clock.  I know it so well as I know how to speak the English.”

“It must be so, then,” laughed Scott; “for you have spoke the English more better as nice.”

“What shall we do?” continued Sanford, who seemed to be positively distressed at the unfortunate circumstance.

“Do?  Go to bed, and go to sleep.  What else can we do?  You are too big a boy to cry over your misfortunes,” replied Scott.

“I don’t intend to cry; but I feel very bad about it.”

“Dry your tears,” said Burchmore.  “We may as well take a biscuit, turn in, and call it half a day.”

“But when will there be a steamer to Copenhagen?” asked Sanford.

“The Najaden must go Monday afternoon,” answered the landlord, who, for some reason best known to himself, did not deem it prudent to mention the fact that the Kronprindsesse Louise would sail within half an hour.

“This will never do,” interposed Rodman.  “We have been chasing the ship now for a week, and by the time we get to Copenhagen she will be gone.  I move we go to Stockholm.  We shall be sure to catch her there.”

“Good!” exclaimed Wilde.

The proposition was fully discussed, and when a majority favored the movement, the others, among whom was Sanford, yielded an apparently reluctant assent.  The Wadstena would start at two o’clock, and there was not a moment to lose.  The landlord was astonished at the decision, and his hotel was not filled that night, as he intended it should be.  Just as the canal steamer was starting, the young tourists hurried on board, and were soon on their way to Stockholm.

Not a quarter of a mile distant at this moment were Peaks and his prisoner, and Blaine, the head steward, who was on the lookout for them.