Read CHAPTER NINE of Chasing the Sun , free online book, by R.M. Ballantyne, on ReadCentral.com.

MISCELLANEOUS ADVENTURES-THE VALUE OF LANGUAGE-SALMON-FISHIN

The main object of the voyage having now been gained, Fred Temple did not care to push northward with the earnest haste that he had hitherto exhibited.  He did, indeed, avail himself of a fine southerly breeze which sprang up, and succeeded in reaching latitude 67 and a half degrees, where he saw the sun all night from the deck of his little yacht; but he devoted himself henceforth to enjoying the country fully.

He no longer sailed against baffling winds, but went quite contentedly in any direction in which the wind chose to blow him.  The consequence was that he visited many curious out-of-the-way places, and saw many strange sights; besides having a considerable number of peculiar adventures.  The week following that in which he first saw the sun all night was particularly full of small adventures.  Let me briefly relate a few.

One day, having left the schooner becalmed close to the mainland, they took the boat and rowed towards the land.  While they were pulling along-shore under a tremendous cliff that rose out of the sea like a wall, they heard voices on the top of the cliff.  The top was lined with bushes, so that they could see no one, but the sounds led them to suppose that some persons were disputing there.  Presently a crash was heard, and, looking up, they beheld a dark object in the air.  They had just time to observe that this object was a pony and cariole, which had evidently fallen from the top of the cliff, when they were drenched with spray, and a mass of foam indicated the spot not three yards off, where the whole affair had disappeared beneath the waves!  In a few seconds the pony came kicking to the surface.  It had broken loose from the cariole, and, strange to say, reached the shore unhurt and in safety.

Another day they saw a whale.  It may not, perhaps, have occurred to many people that, although a whale is a very well-known fish, and his picture extremely familiar to us, the sight of a live whale about six or eight yards under one’s feet is an uncommonly startling and impressive vision.  Such a sight our voyagers saw while sailing up the Skars Fiord.

It was a calm day, and a pleasant day withal; and I think it right to state that, although they did at times grumble at prolonged calms, their grumbling was more than half feigned; while their gratitude for good weather, bright days, not to mention nights, and pleasant scenes, was sincere.  But, to return to the point, it was a calm day, and they were doing nothing ­that is, nothing worthy of mention.  The waters of the fiord were deep and blue and clear, so that, looking over the side of the yacht, they could see very far down in reality ­countless fathoms in imagination ­into the mysterious abyss.

Presently some one cried, “Hullo! look there!”

“Hullo! look where?” inquired all the rest.

“There, close astern, it’s a ­a ­”

“Whale!” shouted the whole ship’s company.

That it really was a whale, and a big one too, became very apparent three minutes later, for it thrust a great blunt nose, like the end of a large boat, out of the water, and gave a prolonged puff.  A few minutes later, and the nose appeared close off the starboard bow, then it came up not far from the larboard quarter; so they were convinced that the creature was taking a survey of the yacht.  Perhaps it took it for another whale, and felt inclined to be social.  After one or two circuits it drew nearer, and at last the huge fish could be seen as if in the depths of a bad looking-glass, swimming round and round the yacht, ever and anon coming to the surface, and showing the whole length and depth of its bulky body.

They were considerably excited, as may be supposed, at such an unexpected visit, and the near approach of such a visitant.  As they gazed at him with eager eyes, he suddenly turned his head straight towards the side of the vessel, and, sinking down sufficiently to clear the keel, dived right under it, and came up on the other side.

So clear was the water, and so near was the fish to the surface, that they saw its great fins driving it along, and observed its comparatively little eyes looking inquisitively up at them.  On clearing the yacht he came to the surface not more that thirty yards from the side.  In fact he had shaved it as near as possible without actually touching.  “Familiarity breeds contempt,” saith the proverb.  The longer this whale played round them, the more did he exhibit a growing tendency to play with them, and as there was no saying what fancies he might take into his great head, Fred resolved to give him a shot.

Accordingly, the rifle ­a double-barrel ­was brought up, and, watching his opportunity, Fred put two leaden balls into the back of his head.  The insulted monster wisely took the hint, gave a final flourish of his tail, and disappeared for ever!

On another occasion they landed at the head of a remote fiord, where the natives seldom had the chance of seeing strangers, and were, therefore, overjoyed to receive them.  Here Sam Sorrel had a small adventure.  His companions had left him to sketch.  While thus engaged, a fat, hearty, good-natured fellow found him and insisted on him paying a visit to his cottage.  The houses of the people in Norway, generally, are built of wood, and are roofed with red tiles.  Floors, walls, ceilings, tables, chairs, beds, etcetera, all are of wood, and usually unpainted.  All have iron stoves for winter use; no carpets cover the floors, and no ornaments grace the walls, save one or two prints, and a number of large tobacco-pipes, for the Norsemen are great smokers and chewers of tobacco.

The language here perplexed our artist not a little.  Being a lazy student, he had left Fred to do all the talking, but now he found himself for the first time alone with a Norwegian! fairly left to his own resources.  Well, he accompanied his fat friend, and began by stringing together all the Norse he knew (which wasn’t much), and endeavoured to look as if he knew a great deal more; but his speech quickly degenerated into sounds which were quite unintelligible either to his new friend or himself; at last he terminated in a mixture of bad Norse and broad Scotch!  Having dwelt many years in Scotland, Sam found his knowledge of Lowland Scotch to be of use, for there is great similarity between it and the Norwegian tongue.

For instance, they call a cow a ko or a coo. Bring me meen skoe (I spell as pronounced) is, Bring me my shoes. Gae til land is, Go ashore. Tak place is, Take place, or sit down.  If you talk of bathing, they will advise you to dook oonder; and should a mother present her baby to you she will call it her smook barn, her pretty bairn or child, smook being the Norse word for pretty.  And it is a curious fact, worthy of particular note, that all the mothers in Norway think their bairns smook, very smook! and they never hesitate to tell you so; why, I cannot imagine, unless it be that if you were not told, you would not be likely to find it out for yourself.

Well, Sam and his fat friend soon became very amicable on this system.  The Norseman told him no end of stories, of which he did not comprehend a sentence, but, nevertheless, looked as if he did; smiled, nodded his head, and said “Ya, ya,” (yes, yes), to which the other replied “Ya, ya,” waving his arms, slapping his breast, and rolling his eyes as he bustled along towards his dwelling.

The house was perched on a rock, close to the water’s edge.  It was very small, quite like a bandbox with windows in it.  Here the man found another subject to rave about and dance round, in the shape of his own baby, a soft, smooth copy of himself, which lay sleeping like a cupid in its cradle.  The man was evidently very fond ­perhaps even proud ­of this infant.  He went quite into ecstasies about it; now gazing into its chubby face with looks of pensive admiration; anon starting and looking at Sam with eager glance, as if to say, “Did you ever, in all your life, see such a magnificent cherub?” His enthusiasm was quite catching.  Sam afterwards confessed that he actually began to feel quite a fatherly interest in the cherub.

“Oh!” cried the father in rapture, “dat er smook barn” (that’s a pretty baby).

Ya, ya,” said Sam, “smook barn,” though it must be confessed that if he had called it a smoked bairn he would have been nearer the mark, for it was as brown as a red herring.

In proof of his admiration of this baby our artist made a sketch of it on the spot, and presented it to the delighted father, after which he was introduced to the Norseman’s wife, and treated to a cup of coffee.  When Sam returned from this visit, he told his companions that he was quite amazed at having got on so well with the language, and was warm in praise of his host, who, he said, laughed more heartily than any man he had ever met with.  It is just possible that the Norseman may have had more occasion afforded him for laughter than usual, for Sam had waxed very talkative, and had been particularly profuse in the use and abuse of his pet phrase, ver so goot.

Soon after this the yacht’s head was turned into the Nord Fiord, at the head of which dwelt the father and mother of Hans Ericsson.  Here Hans, to his unutterable delight, found the fair Raneilda on a visit to her mother; for Raneilda was a native of that remote valley, and had gone to Bergen only a year before this time.

Here, too, Sam Sorrel found splendid scenery to paint, and Grant obtained numerous specimens of birds for his museum.

This reminds me, by the way, that our naturalist, who was amiable and eccentric, on one occasion nearly drove his comrades out of the yacht.  One day he shot a young unfledged gull or puffin, or some such creature, whose brief existence had only conducted it the length of a down coat, a little round body, and a pair of tremendously long legs.  Well, this object was laid carefully past [sic] in a spare berth of the yacht, in which they used to stow away all manner of useless articles ­chairs and stools that had broken their legs, etcetera ­and which went by the name of the infirmary in consequence.  About a week after, there was a most unaccountable smell in the infirmary.  Several stuffed birds hanging there were suspected and smelt, but were found to be quite fresh.  One or two of them were put out to air, but still the smell grew worse and worse, until the most obtuse nose did not dare to go near the infirmary.  At last they became desperate.  A general and thorough investigation was instituted, and there, in a dark corner, under a hair mattress, and flat as a pancake, lay the poor puffin, alive! ­but not with the life wherewith it had lived before it was shot ­and emitting an odour that is indescribable, a description of which, therefore, would be quite unprofitable.  The puffin was pitched overboard, and it was half insinuated that they ought to pitch the naturalist overboard along with it!

At the head of this fiord, also, Fred Temple, to his inexpressible joy, found a mighty river in which were hundreds of salmon that had never yet been tempted by the angler with gaudy fly, though they had been sometimes wooed by the natives with a bunch of worms on a clumsy cod-hook.  Thus both Fred and Hans found themselves in an earthly paradise.  The number of splendid salmon that were caught here in a couple of weeks was wonderful; not to mention the risks run, and the adventures.  Space will only permit of one or two examples being given.

On the day of their arrival, Fred seized his rod, and taking Hans to gaff the fish and show him the river, sallied forth, accompanied by about a score of natives, chiefly men and boys, who were eager to see the new style of fishing.  They soon came to a fine-looking part of the stream, and Fred put together his rod.  He was much amused at the looks of the men when they saw the thin supple point of the rod.  They shook their heads gravely, and said, “He cannot hold a big fish with that.”  They were right so far, but they did not understand the use of the reel and the running line.  Presently Fred cast, and almost immediately a large salmon took his fly, the rod bent like a hoop, and the reel whizzed furiously as the line ran out.

Sam Sorrel, who was there at the time, afterwards said that he was divided between interest in the movements of the fish, and amusement at the open mouths and staring eyes of the natives.

This fish was a very active one; it dashed up, down, and across the river several times, running out nearly the whole of the line more than once, and compelling Fred to take to the water as deep as his waist.  At last, after a fight of half an hour, it was brought close to the bank, and Hans put the gaff-hook cleverly into its side, and hauled it ashore, amid the shouts of the astonished people, for the salmon weighed eighteen pounds.

After a time the natives began to understand the principles of fly-fishing with a rod, and regarded Fred Temple with deep respect.  On all his fishing excursions in that fiord, he was attended by a band of eager admirers, to whom he gave most of the fish; for he caught so many of all sizes that his friends and his crew were not able to eat the quarter of them.  The catching of his largest salmon was a stirring incident.

It happened on the evening of a very bright day.  He had been unfortunate.  The sun being too bright, the fish would not rise.  This annoyed him much, because on that particular day he had been accompanied by the Captain and Bob Bowie, as well as his two companions, all of whom were anxious to see him catch fish, and learn a lesson in the art.  Fred was up to his middle in a rough part of the river.  It was all he could do to retain his foothold, the water was so strong.

“It won’t do,” said he, “the sun is too bright.”

His friends on shore looked grave and disappointed.

“I sees a cloud a-comin’,” said Bob Bowie glancing upwards.

“Hallo! hey!” shouted Grant, who observed that at that moment Fred’s legs had been swept from under him, and he was gone!

Before any one could speak or act, Fred reappeared a little farther down the river, holding tight to the rod, and staggering into shallower water.

“None the worse of it,” cried Fred, bursting into a laugh.

Just as he said this, and while he was paying no attention to his rod, a salmon rose and seized the fly.  In an instant Fred and his comrades utterly forgot all about the ducking, and were filled with the excitement of the sport.

Fred’s rod bent like a willow wand.  His eyes seemed to flash, and his lips were tightly pressed together, for he felt that he had on a very large fish.  Suddenly it darted up stream, and did what the large fish seldom do ­leaped quite out of the water.

“A whale! stand by!” roared Bob Bowie.

There was a cry from the others, for at that moment the salmon set off down stream, ­a most dangerous proceeding at all times.  Fred made for the bank, and let out line as fast as possible.  When he gained the bank he ran down the stream, leaping over bushes and stones like a wild goat.  The places he went over in that run were terribly rugged.  It seemed a miracle that he escaped without broken bones.  Presently he came to a steep rock that projected into the water.  There was no getting round it, so in he dashed.  It took him only up to the knees.  This passed, he came to another place of the same sort.  Here he put a strain on the fish, and tried to stop it.  But it was not to be stopped.  It had clearly made up its mind to go right down to the sea.  Fred looked at the pool, hesitated one moment, and then leaped in.  It took him up to the neck, and he was carried down by the current fifty yards or so, when his feet caught bottom again, and he managed to raise his rod, fully expecting to find that the salmon had broken off.  But it was still on, and lively.  Meanwhile, his comrades on the bank were keeping pace with him, shouting and yelling with excitement as they ran.

“The rapid, mind the rapid!” roared Grant.

Fred saw a foaming rapid before him.  He became anxious.  It was dangerous to venture down this.  If he should touch a rock on the way down, the chances were that he would get a limb broken.  The banks here were so thickly covered with bushes that it was impossible to pass.  The fish still held on its headlong course.  “What shall I do?” thought Fred.  “If I stop he will break all to pieces, and I shall lose him.  Lose him! no, never!”

“Don’t venture in, Fred,” shrieked Sam Sorrel.

But the advice came too late.  Fred was already in the foaming current.  In a moment he was swept down into the comparatively still water below the rapid.  His friends lost sight of him, for they had to run round through the bushes.  When they got to the foot of the rapid, they found Fred on the bank, panting violently, and holding tight to the rod, for the salmon had stopped there, and was now “sulking” at the bottom of a deep hole.  For a full hour did the fisher labour to pull him out of that hole in vain; for in this kind of fishing nothing can be done by main force.  The great beauty of the art consists in getting the salmon to move, and in humouring his movements, so that you tire him out, and get him gradually close to your side.

At last the fish came out of the deep pool.  Then there was another short struggle of quarter of an hour, and the fisher’s perseverance and skill were rewarded.  The salmon at last turned up its silvery side.  Fred drew it slowly to the bank (in breathless anxiety, for many a fish is lost at this point).  Hans struck the gaff in neatly, and with a huge effort flung it floundering on the bank, amid the hearty cheers of all present.

This salmon weighed 34 pounds, and was about four feet long!  It was a magnificent fish, and it may well be believed that Fred Temple did not grudge the two hours’ battle, and the risk that he had run in the catching of it.