Read CHAPTER IX of A Yacht Voyage to Norway‚ Denmark‚ and Sweden 2nd edition , free online book, by W. A. Ross, on ReadCentral.com.

AEolus seems to be the same good-natured deity Virgil represents him to have been in the days of AEneas, and open to any supplication which may be preferred to his rocky throne, whether it be by mythological Juno, or material Jack; nor does that royal soother of waves and raiser of wind pay more attention to such poetic prayer and soft promises of a Goddess, as,

“Eole,
Incute vim ventis.
Sunt mihi bis septem praestanti corpore Nymphae:
Quarum, quae forma pulcherrima, Deiopeiam
Connubio jungam stabilí, propriamque dicabo:
Omnes ut tecum meritis pro talibus annos
Exigat, et pulchra faciat te prole parentem,”

than he listens to the reflections of two British tars.

“I think, from the scud, we shall have wind from the south’ard, Bill.”

“So I think,” replies Bill; “and we shall have enough of it, too. There’s a bank of black clouds over the Castle, I don’t like.”

“Ay, I’ll be d if it does anything else but blow; but better a good deal than none at all.”

“Don’t swear,” Bill piously answers, “but take what you can catch. We ain’t got a black cat aboard; and, so, trust to Providence.”

About an hour afterwards the observations of the two sailors were verified; for a strong wind sprung up from the south, and blew without intermission till nine o’clock, when we found ourselves abreast of Falkenborg. The sky, being covered by dark masses of flying clouds, made the night, now beginning to set in, more obscure than this season of the year admitted. The coast, though bold, was dangerous and unknown; and we had been told that Falkenborg, though famous for its salmon streams, had no harbour where the yacht might lie with safety, unless, by sailing through a very intricate and narrow channel, we anchored within a reef of rocks stretching three miles from the land. The nearer, therefore, we approached the shore, the more requisite was it to get a pilot on board; but ten o’clock being now near at hand, and the Swedes being notoriously negligent in the performance of their duty as pilots, the chance of speedy relief from our anxious condition was slight indeed.

Hauling our fore-sheet to windward, and tricing up the main-tack, we now shot rocket after rocket with a sharp report high into the darkness, and, the roar of our guns booming above the loud storm, must have reached the shore. For upwards of an hour we lay to, dreading to put the cutter about, lest, in doing so, she should strike; for the reef of rocks I have mentioned was nigh, we knew by the chart; but could not, in the obscurity of night, ascertain the exact position of the vessel. Again, the rockets rose into the air, and threw a blaze of light around, as they hissed and flew with the velocity of lightning from the main shrouds, and then burst, a hundred feet above our heads, into myriads of blue, and green, and red sparks, which, curving like a feather, descended towards us, their gently-floating appearance mocking the turbulence of the elements, and our own inquietude. The guns, too, bellowing, an instant after, with the loud tongue of distress, seemed, when their echoes struck with angry force against the elevated points of land, to upbraid the quick exhaustion and placid beauty of the rockets.

With this land on our lee the wind still continued to blow with unabated fury, and, seeing that no assistance could be obtained without resorting to other means, King, with two men, offered to put off in a boat, and seek the aid we desired. These gallant fellows, in the teeth of a tremendous sea, jumped into a small boat, and, taking several red and blue lights to show, at intervals, their position, rowed, as well as they could calculate, in the direction of the town of Falkenborg.

For two hours, the fate of King and his two companions, was unknown to us, until the whisper passed from man to man on board, that a light was imagined to have been seen. An answering signal was immediately ordered to be made, and a man, running half up the shrouds, burned a blue light; and, instantly, another blue light shone brightly about three miles to windward, on our starboard quarter, then a second followed, and a third; and, to satisfy all doubt, a fourth gleamed steadily through the night. It had been arranged, that King should show a light for every man he might have in the boat, so that if he should chance to find a pilot, a fourth light would immediately convey the intelligence to us.

It was impossible for us to do anything more than lay to as long as we could, and, to meet the boat, was utterly impracticable. In a shorter time, however, than could be imagined, from the heavy sea running, the little boat, taken, like a cork, on the top of a wave half way up our mast, then carried down again so near our keel, that, a rope could hardly reach her, jumped, and sank, and tumbled by some agency or other, for the men did not pull, to the lee-gangway, and our three men leaped on board with a Swedish fisherman. To our questions the Swede replied, through King, that he was not a pilot, and would not attempt to take the cutter within the reef until daylight, and that we must weather out the gale where we were. These were no gratifying tidings to hear on such a dark and boisterous night; but, in this part of Europe, Aurora soon shows her rosy face; and, before I was up the following morning, the yacht was safely at anchor in comparatively smooth water.

The reef of rocks, which forms the only roadstead at Falkenborg, circles in the shape of a horse-shoe, having but one inlet. It is sunk half a foot under water, so that a heavy surf is always broken before it reaches a vessel lying in the centre of this curious bay. The channel into it is not more than twenty or thirty feet in breadth.

After breakfast, we rowed ashore in the gig. In compensation for the abatement of wind, the rain fell determinately, and in such big drops, that, not all the coats and cloaks we put on, could keep us dry. Phowever, had gone by daylight into the town, and hired a carriole, which was to take us some distance into the neighbouring country, where, it was said, a celebrated salmon-stream ran.

On our arrival in the town of Falkenborg, a guard of several men, with drawn swords, received us; but what their motive was in honouring us with their protection, we could not conceive. Wherever we went, these men kept close to our heels, nor faltered in the strictest observance of every military evolution. This seeming honour amounted, at length, to extreme pertinacity, and became offensive to our freedom; for, it not only excited the curiosity of numberless dogs, that barked, and the admiration of ragged children, who pointed at us as we passed; but, if R, or P, or I, walked into a fisherman’s hut, or any humbler dwelling, to inquire the way, a man, with unsheathed sword, and scowling brow, would step from this redoubted phalanx, and place himself on the threshold, watching minutely every action. Tormented at length to anger, by the pursuit of this file of armed men, Pasked them what they meant; but receiving, of course, no reply to his common, yet, to them, incomprehensible question, he determined to seek out the Mayor, and represent to that functionary the nuisance to which we were subject.

On reaching the Mayor’s residence, our complaint was laid very forcibly by P, who was not a little nettled before that old gentleman, who, shaking his grey hairs, replied, as well as he could, in French, that the anticipated arrival of an English yacht at Falkenborg had been communicated to him some days ago, and it was, at the same time, hinted the object of the Englishman on board that yacht, was to fish. An order was therefore issued by the owner of the salmon-streams near Falkenborg to prevent any foreigners from angling on his property, and, in pursuance of that order, the Mayor, fancying us to be the real Simon Pures, which, by the bye, we were, had directed much attention should be paid us, and no latitude given to our movements.

A short remonstrance being made to the inconveniences we felt by the obstinate attendance of this body guard; and on our simple assertion, without pledging our honour, that we would not molest, by fly or net, two or three rivers which were mentioned, it was promulgated by the Mayor himself, from his library window, to the populace below, consisting of four women, the man who was to drive our carriole, forty half naked urchins, and twice as many curs, that, the battalion of six men was dismissed, and the rear of the three Englishmen should be annoyed no longer.

This misunderstanding being set at rest, we got into our carriole, and started to perform a journey of ten miles into the interior of the country. The harness, which attached the two horses to our vehicle, had not an inch of leather from one end of it to the other. The collar was a plain, flat piece of wood; the traces were wood; the bit was wood; the shafts, of course, were wood; and the reins alone relieved the monotony of appointment by being of rope. Small wooden pegs supplied, by some ingenuity I could not fathom, the absence of buckles. The carriole itself had not even a piece of iron to act in any way as a spring, and the agony we suffered when this wretched machine creaked, and squeaked, and jolted over the stones, is indescribable; and, to the eye, it was one of the clumsiest pieces of carpentry I ever met with; nor do I hesitate in saying, that an approximation to a civilized condition was more evident among savages I have seen, than in this first glimpse of Sweden. I could hardly persuade myself I was not more than six hundred miles from London; and when the driver began to talk to me about the result of the war in China, and ask if George the Third was dead, I was not at all astonished that the Baron Munchausen could write such travels as he did.

We arrived about three o’clock at the river where salmon were said to abound; but when the evening brought the labour of an entire day to its close, neither Rnor Pwere able to speak to the truth of that abundance, for they had not even a bite between them. It was our original intention to sleep at a cottage on the banks of this river; but it seemed to be inhabited by a patriarch, the father of so many suspicious-looking sons, grown in want to maturity, that we thought the most prudent plan was to return and rest for the night at Falkenborg. Resuming our place of purgatory in the carriole, we were soon galloping on our way home; for the Swedes, like the Norwegians, drive at a tremendous pace, and it is astounding how these carrioles, so barbarously joined together, scouring over ruts and stones, do not tumble to pieces.

At every river we had to cross, a large boat, like a coal barge, without stem or stern, is to be found, and stowing carriole, horses, and everything else connected with them into this huge ferry boat, the driver, by means of a rope made fast and extending from one bank to the opposite one, draws boat and cargo across, and, reaching the shore he desires, remounts his box, and, heeding not from which quarter the next traveller may come, drives off, and leaves the barge where he did not meet with it. I do not know how a wayfarer, following in our track, contrives to reach our side of the water; but I fancy some person, unseen, must be left in charge of these ferries, and rows across in a skiff, or other smaller boat when necessity requires.

Passing along we saw several horses dying on the roadside from hunger; and one poor brute, that we observed, in the morning, lying in a ditch, was quite dead when we reached the same spot in the evening. Our driver, who was an intelligent man, and, having been a volunteer in the English service, spoke our language fluently, said, that all the oats and corn which could be spared had been shipped within a few months to England, to allay the threatened famine there; and the animals in the country were starving from the deficiency of all kinds of grain. The pastures, we could ourselves see, were dry, and in many parts burnt to chaff, while the present summer beginning with oppressive heat, and the preceding one having been equally unfavourable to the pasturage, the scarcity of food was severely and fatally felt by all cattle.

“Every thing, Sir,” said the man, “would have gone on well, had the king forbidden corn to be sent to England, for Sweden can feed its inhabitants; but when we send away any part of the crop, we feel the loss very much.”

“Have you ever suffered so much before?” one of us asked.

“No, Sir,” he replied; “the Swedes are poor, and very little satisfies them. We feel not famine ourselves, but the animals do; and if they die now, at the beginning of summer, for want of food, what will they do when the long winter comes? There there’s another,” he said, as we drove past another horse stretched near a hedge on the road, and struggling faintly for life.

“Your horses will be exterminated,” I said, “if they are neglected in this wholesale fashion.”

“Why, Sir,” answered the Swede, “horses are not of much use in Sweden, for the agriculture of the country is carried on so differently to what it is in England, that a family, with their own hands, can plough and sow a sufficient quantity of land to supply their wants through the winter; and we don’t buy and sell corn here, for we all have our few acres. The farmers, therefore, allow the horses to starve, in order to apply the food they would consume to the preservation of cows and sheep.”

The country through which we travelled appeared dreary in the extreme: its level, sandy surface being nowhere varied by the pleasing undulation of hill and dale. This is not the general aspect of Sweden, I know; but, perhaps, I perceive this deficiency the more, being so lately arrived from Denmark, where the landscapes are soft and beautiful, while the natural gloom of its forests is relieved by the calmness of its lakes.

We reached Falkenborg at twelve, and, by dint of much loud knocking, awoke the people at an inn, or cabaret, where we slept. The following morning, as soon as it was light, we went to fish in a river near the town, but encountered the same good fortune of which we had hitherto made no complaint, considering that the mere sport of angling for salmon had brought us to Scandinavia; and up to the present moment we had not seen the scaly snout of a single fish. We murmured not; but could not resist the doubt, that the existence of salmon in Northern Europe was a reality; nor could we conceal from ourselves the absurd light in which we appeared to the simple people who each day, with mute astonishment, beheld us, late and early, in storm and calm, deliberately and untiringly flog with a long line of cat-gut their legendary streams, in the vain hope of capturing a creature not to be caught in them; and which effort on our part was, in their opinion, a striking proof of the aberration of human intelligence.

We had now travelled over a space of more than a thousand miles, and were as far removed from the object of which we came in pursuit, as the first hour when we left Greenwich; and yet our diligence had been exemplary, our inquiries most minute, and our measures, in carrying out the information we received, most prompt.

Rand Pwent on board perfectly disgusted, and ready to start on the morrow for Kongsbacka, or Gottenborg, or anywhere else. I sympathised with their disappointment, for the desire to catch salmon had amounted to a passion; and I do not think any other feeling, even of love or hatred, sat more paramount in their breasts; and when I called to mind how,

Patiens pulveris atque solis,”

each of them had endured all inconveniences without any remuneration, I could not help thinking of those truthful lines of Anacreon, which he applied, to be sure, to softer emotions of the heart than those now depressing the hilarity of my companions, but the spirit of which was, nevertheless, identified with the tone of their minds:

“[Greek: Chalepon to me philesai, Chalepon de kai philesai, Chalepotaton de panton, Apotynchanein philounta.]”

The period when I left school is gone so far with the past, that I can no longer bring back its lore, and, taking up my lexicon, translate; but, if some old Etonian will receive the signification of these four lines as I do, and allow their collective meaning to huddle in one confused lump round the base of some shattered classic column, and there remain, I shall feel thankful for the task I am spared in cracking each word into English.

The coast of Falkenborg is the most uninteresting I have yet seen; and, wherever I turn, the same low shore, with its solitary lighthouse, and thousands of gulls, meets the eye.

On Thursday morning we left melancholy Falkenborg for Gottenborg; but, having understood that at Kongsbacka some salmon-fishing might be obtained, we made up our minds to stop there for a few hours, and ascertain the truth of our information; for once deceived at Falkenborg, Rand Phad no fancy for being deceived at Kongsbacka also. A fine breeze favouring us, every stitch of canvass the Iris could carry was crowded on her, and at three o’clock the same afternoon we found ourselves off Kongsbacka, and threatened with a calm. A solitary boat put off from a solitary shore, and, rowing alongside, a man tendered his services as a pilot; but replying to our inquiries for “lax,” that there were not any, we thanked him for his ingenuousness, and declined his assistance.

The appearance of the sky, and the quarter whence the wind came, promising a clear night and a good run, the helm was put hard up, and we stretched away from the land to get a wide offing before sunset, and to stand in a fairer course to Gottenborg. At six o’clock, however, the wind died away, and before the sun bade us “good night,” not a ripple, far as the eye could roam, curled the ocean, on which, like a pool of quicksilver, the vessel appeared to stick. So smooth, so bright, so still, was the sea, that, when the sun’s lower limb dipped in the west, his dilated disc, drawn out longitudinally, seemed like a blazing column, inlaid in the water, and extending from the horizon to the yacht’s channels.

Either a gentle current of air or tide, which was imperceptible to us, drifted the yacht into the bay again; but, beyond the inconvenience of being land-locked, no danger threatened us; for the coast in the neighbourhood of Kongsbacka is bold, and the water unfathomable within a few feet of the rocks. The bay itself, not enlivened by a house, or sign of human habitation anywhere, was grand, surrounded on three sides by rocky mountains, and studded here and there with islands, perfectly white from the multitude of gulls which were perched on them.

The bay was so calm that we could see a great way along the water. A black speck, like a hat, caught our attention; and, having nothing else to do, Pand I rowed in the jolly-boat to it; and, when we reached it, were as much puzzled to make out its purpose as we were at a distance to conjecture its form. It turned out to be a small keg attached to a long line; and we imagined, at the first glance, it was the component part of a salmon-net; but salmon, we knew on the other hand, though of the sea, were not to be caught in it. Pseized hold of the keg; and, both together, we commenced hauling in the line as fast as we could. The lapse of a little time brought us to the end of it, and some dozen lobsters began flapping their goose-like tails in our faces. We took two out of the trap for our trouble, and let down the rest to wait the coming of their rightful owner.

The stars now came forth, one by one, to gaze about them, but slunk back slyly when their Queen, still youthful with increasing horns, peeped over the eastern wave at us; and when, in her first glance of splendour, she cast a strong white light on the rocky shore encircling the bay, its calm, clear water, taking a greener tint from the wooded sides of the mountains, looked like an emerald set in silver. The scene was still, and purely beautiful. The cutter lay like a log on the water, the reef-points rattling on the main-sail like a shower of small shot; and, every time he heard the sound, the man at the helm would raise his eyes aloft, and, fixing them steadily on the gaff-topsail for a minute or two, turn round and scan the horizon; and then, walking to the quarter, moisten his forefinger in his mouth, and hold it above his head.

“There’s a breeze coming, Sir,” he said aloud, but in an under-tone, to the mate, the officer of the watch; who, coming aft, stood looking, far and near, on the water, to observe the ripple of a coming wind.

“I see,” he said; “it’s springing up from the south’ard;” and, pacing the deck to and fro, he would also turn his eyes to the topmast-head every time he reached the quarter-deck of the vessel, to mark if the night-flag moved. Standing, at last, close to the helmsman,

“How’s her head?” he asked.

“North, a quarter east, Sir,” replied the man. After a short pause, the mate, taking another glimpse aloft, said,

“Slack off the main-sheet.”

“Ay, ay, Sir,” several men replied, and hurried, with a kind of trot, to comply with the command.

“How are the head-sheets?” again said the mate.

“All taut, Sir,” answered a voice.

“Ease them off,” was the mate’s command.

“Ay, ay, Sir,” the same voice answered.

“So; belay there,” the mate called out to the men who were slackening the main-sail. Going up to the binnacle, he observed the compass, and addressing the helmsman, said,

“Let her break off three points.”

“Very good, Sir,” replied the sailor; while the mate, still keeping his eyes on the compass, watched the needle till it reached the desired point, and exclaimed quickly, when he saw the vessel fast obeying her helm,

“Now; take her up; don’t let her break off any more.”

“Ay, ay, Sir.”

“How’s that lee runner?” the mate asked, hearing the main-sail chafe against the runner block. “Slack it off, and take a turn or two at the weather one.”

“Ay, ay, Sir.”

The officer then walking the deck again, all was silent as before, with the exception only of a rippling sound as the cutter began to feel a breath of air, and move through the water.

The wind fairly sprung up at midnight, and at eight o’clock in the morning, the pilot came on board. About ten miles from Gottenborg, this pilot contrived to run the yacht aground at eleven A.M., and there she stuck until half-past two P.M.; but the mishap occurred not so much through his ignorance, as through the importunity of some custom-house officers, and the lightness of the wind. We reached Gottenborg in the course of the afternoon, and, after a great deal of shouting, swearing, hauling, and entangling of rigging, the yacht was moored very pleasantly alongside the quay. We were indebted to the courtesy of the Harbour-Master for the berth we obtained, since he compelled two large American ships to alter their position, and make room for us.