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

At eight o’clock on Tuesday morning, the 6th, we started for Larvig. About sixty miles from Christiania, at the mouth of the Fiord, a fine, light air sprung up, and, delighted with the expectation that we should reach Larvig before set of sun on Wednesday, we amused ourselves by firing at bottles thrown into the sea, and afterwards by watching the gambols of Sailor and Jacko. Sailor, stretched at full length on his back, allowed Jacko to pull his ears, and bite his claws; and mindless of the monkey’s antics, seemed rather to encourage, than object to his vagaries. Wearied, at last, with his pulling, and jumping, and biting, Jacko sought a variation to his amusements, by springing on the weather runner-block, and thence depending by his tail. When Sailor perceived that Jacko had removed his gymnastics from himself, and transferred them to the block, he rose from his recumbent attitude on the deck, and, squatting on his haunches, observed, for some little time, with singular attention and silence, the extraordinary flexibility of Jacko’s limbs; but at the moment when Jacko suspended his little carcase by his smaller tail from the runner-block, whether it was the manner in which Sailor expressed a roar of laughter, or whether it was a shout of applause at the comical likeness of Jacko’s body, swinging in the air, to a bunch of black grapes, certain it is, that, at that instant, Sailor gave one, but one, tremendous bark, and, in the twinkling of an eye, Jacko fell souse into the water. He sank like a boiled plum-pudding to the vessel’s keel; for when he rose again, his little round head could just be seen a hundred feet astern. Never was there such dismay on board the Iris before.

“Jacko’s overboard!” shouted each man; and echo taking up the cry, “Jacko’s overboard!” must have alarmed Jacko himself by its forlorn expression. Struggling with the waves, and striking out manfully with his hands, and not like a monkey, Jacko kept his head above water, and his eyes turned towards the cap of the top-mast.

“Hard a-port the helm!” bellowed D, rushing to the tiller himself; and soon as the cutter shot up in the wind, he added,

“Now, then, two of you, my sons, jump into the dingy.”

The command was obeyed quickly as it was given; and Jacko has to thank his star, whichever it may be, that the boat had not been hoisted on the davits, but towing in the vessel’s wake; or he might, many months ago, have been a source of entertainment at the Court of Neptune.

If a drowned rat looks sleekly wretched, Jacko looked ten times worse when taken out of the water. The brightness of his eye had fled, his tail, which curled usually like a sucking-pig’s, hung now straight down behind him, relaxed from its ringlet, like a piece of tarred rope, and his stomach, vying once with the symmetry of the greyhound’s, was distended and globular as a small barrel of oysters. Half a spoonful of brandy was poured down his throat, and having been wrapped up in some odd pieces of flannel, he was put in a soup-plate, and set down before the fire. This was all that human art could do, and the rest was left to the control of time, or Jacko’s robust constitution.

At twelve o’clock we were off Fredricksvaern, the Norwegian Portsmouth, which is a small town at the entrance of the Larvig Fiord. Here Jacko came on deck buoyant as a ball, and with a coat made more glossy by the chemical action of the salt water.

Looking towards Larvig, we saw, an unusual sight in this country, the Union-jack flying on a little rock; and were puzzled for some time to know whether it was a compliment that had reference to us. After a tedious contention with dead water, light puffs of wind that came down the gulleys on our starboard beam, and shifted to our bows, and then veering right aft, jibed the main-sheet, we cast anchor about twenty yards from the rock on whose summit the Union-jack waved.

The Consul sent on board to say, that his house was at our service, as well as any other kindness he could show us. We understood afterwards, that the Consul had mistaken the Iris for the Fairy schooner, belonging to Sir Hyde Parker; and had hoisted the jack in compliment to his old friend the baronet.

It was not possible for us to fish to-day; but Phired a carriole, and drove about six miles into the country, to obtain leave from the proprietors on the banks of the Larvig River, to fish on the following morning. The task of gaining permission to fish for salmon in Norway is sometimes a tedious one; for every man is his own landlord, and possesses a few acres of land that he tills himself. All lands on the banks make the portion of the river flowing by them, the property of the landowner; and the angler may have to secure the good-will and assent of fifty persons, before he can fish in any part of a river, which is more difficult to do, as the Norwegians are jealous of their little privileges. They rarely deny courtesy to a stranger; but they like to have it in their power to do so if they please. This, however, was not P’s case; for through the hearty assistance and recommendation of the Consul, no obstruction was made to the attainment of everything we desired.

As all fishermen are aware, it is necessary to angle for salmon, and indeed many fish, either very early in the morning, or in the cool of the afternoon, the heat of noon being perfectly inimical to the sport. At two o’clock, therefore, on Friday morning, the memorable 9th of June, we started in the gig, stored with abundant provision, for the first foss, or fall, of the Larvig River.

The scenery of this river was the most beautiful we had yet seen, though not the grandest, the banks being thickly wooded, and the diversity of the foliage more striking than at Krokleven, or in the Christiania Fiord. Nearly four hours elapsed before we reached the spot selected for fishing; but our passage up the river had been obstructed occasionally by bars across the water. These bars are large stakes or piles driven, about twenty feet apart, into the bed of the river, and carried from one bank to the other, to which the trunks of trees are chained to prevent the timber from escaping to the sea; and it is no uncommon thing to meet with an immense field of timber, covering the whole surface of the river as far as the eye can see. A passage is kept between two of these stakes, distinguished from the others by a mark, for the ordinary traffic of the river; and is defended by a huge bar of timber, secured by a chain, on removing which, the boats are, after a good deal of bumping, pulled through. The interior of the country being so inaccessible, the Norwegians have no other alternative but to roll the timber from the tops of the mountains, and casting it on the rivers, allow it to float to these artificial havens, where it is collected, and then, being made into immense rafts, guided by some half dozen men to the town, whence it is shipped to France or Holland.

Phad made such excellent arrangements, that two prams were in readiness to receive Rand himself when we arrived at our destination. In some of the salmon rivers it is quite impossible to fish from the banks, but the sportsman hires a boat, and angles in the centre of the stream, which is generally interrupted by large stones, or pieces of rock, in the eddy of which the salmon delight to sport.

Pwas the first to get his rod together, and selecting a particular fly that he had considered as “a certain killer,” jumped into his pram. The men who row these prams are generally Norwegians, born on the banks of the river, and knowing pretty well under what rocks, or in what eddy, the salmon abound. The Norwegian who rowed P’s pram was a fine young fellow, but as unable to understand the English language as he was athletic. Rand Pdivided the river in two parts, so that neither sportsman should interfere with the amusement of the other. Ptook the upper part of the stream, and Rthe lower; or, in other words, or other ideas, Pwas the wolf who came to drink of the limpid tide, and Rwas the lamb who had to put up with the muddy water.

Broiling my back in the rising sun, I took my seat on a high rock from which I had a commanding view of both my friends, and could note the praiseworthy tact and labour with which they angled. Time flew on; a quarter of an hour elapsed, and then another quarter; and to these thirty minutes, twice thirty more were added, when the heat at my back was relieved by the furious and rapid clicking of P’s reel. I started from my seat, and lo! P’s rod had assumed quite a new appearance; for instead of its taper, arrowy form, it looked more like a note of interrogation, and seemed to ask as loudly and plainly as it could,

“What in heavens, master, has hold of my other end?”

P, too, no longer retained that upright, soldierly attitude for which I had always admired him, but leaned so much backwards, that, should the good rod, I thought, give way, nothing on earth can save him from falling on the hinder part of his head. Rwound up his line, and sat down in his pram to watch P.

It is the custom, the instant the salmon takes the fly, for the rower to pull towards the shore with as much celerity and judgment as possible, neither to drive the boat too swiftly through the water, or loiter too slowly, both extremes endangering the chance of capturing your salmon. That part of the stream where Pfished, was about forty yards below a rapid, and, indeed, ran with the current of a sluice; and the reader may imagine, that, a very little impetus given to the pram against this current, would increase the pressure of a large salmon on a small gut line. Directly the boatman discovered that Phad a bite, towards the bank he commenced to row; but not with that degree of expedition Pdesired. Although I was some distance from them, I could perceive the energetic signals of P’s left hand to the Norwegian to pull ashore more briskly. Every now and then the rattling of the reel would keep P’s excitement alive, and as he gradually wound up the line, the salmon, making another start, would threaten to run away with every inch of tackle. Warily the Norwegian rowed, scarcely dipping his sculls in the water, lest their splash should startle the most timid of fish; but his cautious conduct made no impression on P, for I could still see him motion angrily to the Norwegian to be more speedy.

The bank of the river at last was reached, and stumbling over sculls and baling ladles, for these prams leak like sponges, and getting his foot entangled in a landing net, Pcontrived to step on shore; but barely had he stood on land again, than the line snapped, and the rod flew to the perpendicular with a short, sharp hiss. Imagination cannot sympathise with P’s feelings, when, after travelling over a thousand miles, or more, for the sake of entrapping salmon, he should break, through the stupidity or slothfulness of a Norwegian boatman, his best gut line, and lose the finest salmon in the whole Larvig river. P’s eyes wandered to the summit of his rod as it shot, like a poplar, straight into the air, and saw the remnant of his tackle, not half a yard long, flowing in every direction to the varying puffs of wind; and turning his head slowly round towards the astounded Norwegian, gave him a mingled look of inexpressible contempt and anger; and then, casting his rod violently to the ground, stamped his foot, and vowed he would never fish again.

“You stupid ass!” I heard him shout to the Norwegian, perfectly ignorant whether Pwas addressing him with excess of passion, or a tornado of praise; “didn’t I tell you, as well as I could, to pull faster? Do you think cat-gut is made of iron?”

“Ja,” said the gaping Norwegian, catching a very vague idea of his meaning.

“But it isn’t, you dd fool!” exclaimed Pangrily. “Why don’t you do what you’re told?”

“Ja,” again began the unhappy boatman.

“But you didn’t,” shouted P, cutting him off in the midst of his reply.

Ja, ja,” interposed the Norwegian, “I pool pram.”

“Yes, you did ‘pool pram,’ and a pretty mess you have made of it;” and Pput his hands in his trowsers’ pockets, and began to walk up and down on the bank.

“What’s the row?” called out Rfrom his pram, floating in the middle of the river; “Have you lost your fish?”

He had witnessed the whole transaction, as well as I.

“It’s hardly credible,” answered P, stopping in his walk, “that these Norwegian fools can live in a country all their days, and have salmon under their noses, and not know how to catch them. Curse the fools! the sooner one leaves them the better.”

“So I think,” acceded R, sitting down quietly in the after part of his pram, and dangling his crossed leg. “For my part, I don’t think there are any salmon at all. I can’t get a rise. I wouldn’t mind betting an even crown you had hold of a weed!”

“Pooh! stuff!” ejaculated P, starting off in his see-saw ambulation again. “I saw the fish; ’twas fifteen pound weight at least.”

“Oh! if you saw him, that’s another thing,” said R; and taking his pipe out of his pocket, began to soothe his nerves by blowing off his disappointment in the substantial form of pure Oronoco tobacco-smoke.

Half an hour afterwards, Pwas hard at work as ever, perfectly regardless of the solemn attestation he had volunteered to Jupiter.

The four sailors who had rowed the gig from Larvig, had, with the ingenuity of their class, constructed a tent, lighted a fire, and were preparing breakfast, both for us and themselves. This was the first time I had breakfasted in the open air, and it is not so unpleasant as might be imagined, particularly should the morning be so calm, and clear, and warm as this one was. Shaded by a high mountain, fresh with the foliage of fir, birch, and filbert trees, the morning sun reached not our encampment. The balmy air, the dew and early vapour upon the grass, the humming sound of the bee, the low of cattle, the lusty salutation of peasants as they met each other, proceeding to their labour, and, above all, the murmuring river, were sounds and things as pleasant to hear and see as always to remember.

Rand Pwere unwearied; nor did they yield to fatigue until the sun had risen so high, that its heat sent the fish to respire at the bottom of the river, and the animals under shelter of the trees. After we had breakfasted, Rand Pexchanged a few remarks on the art of angling, felt the fatigue of rising at two in the morning, and fell fast asleep. I possessed the wakefulness of a second Cerberus, and allowed not Morpheus to approach my eyelids; but loitering, up and down, under the shady boughs of the trees, listened to the sweet silvery rippling of the river, as it crept between the rocks, or bubbled over its shingly bed. Overpowered at last by the fury of the vertical sun, I entered the tent that had been formed by raising the gig’s sail on the four oars.

Rand Pwere still slumbering, and I was lying under the tent, on the ground, reading the Adventures of Peregrine Pickle. The sailors who had formed the boat’s crew were sauntering about along the banks of the river; and the cockswain, who generally on such excursions as the present performed the part of cook, was seated on a piece of rock which projected into the bubbling stream, busily occupied in the preparation of dinner. Whistling, and humming, by fits, one of the sea-songs of his country, he wore the time away while peeling some potatoes, which, one by one, as his large knife, slung from his belt by a piece of yarn, deprived of their jackets, he threw into an iron pot, having rinsed them previously in the flowing river. Within his sight, lay, on a white towel, a leg of lamb, bewitchingly sprinkled with salt, all prepared to be cooked, but only waiting for the potatoes to bear it company to the fire. Absorbed in my book, I paid little attention to what was passing around me, except by an occasional glance, until I heard a loud, shrill scream, and then a louder rustling of feathers, as if this was the noon of the last day, and Gabriel having blown his trumpet without my hearing it, had actually reached the earth. I jumped up, and running out of the tent, saw the cockswain standing like a nautical statue, motionless, gazing upwards, and with a stick grasped firmly in his hand. Following his example, I turned my eyes reverentially to the skies, and distinguished, from the blaze of day, a most lusty eagle, making the best of his way towards the residence of Jove with the leg of lamb in his beak; and, as if conscious of the superiority his position had given him over us, waving the white towel, grasped with his talons, hither and thither in the air, like a flag moved exultingly by conquerors after victory.

“It’s gone, sir,” said the sailor, lowering the uplifted club, “and, blow me, if I ever heerd him coming.”

I shall not forget the utter disgust of Rand P, when, like a couple of Samsons they awoke, and found that their hair was certainly untouched, but that the most positive support of their strength had been cut off irretrievably, and their dinner of lamb gone where all innocence should go. Some bread and cheese, together with a few eggs which the boatmen purchased for us at a neighbouring cottage, supplied the loss of our lamb. The coolness of the afternoon gave Rand P, an opportunity to renew their ardour, and at six o’clock they both might have been found encouraging the habit of patience in the art of angling.

The rattling of their reels, gave, at almost every half hour, the announcement of a bite, and hurrying in their prams to the shore, my friends, after the torture of another half hour, would, with the assistance of a gaff, place the unhappy salmon among the long grass growing on the river’s brink.

The Norwegians, and I believe, all persons who have the sense of taste developed to a most extraordinary nicety, say that the fish which are caught with the hook, are not to be compared in flavour to those taken in the net. Though I cannot account for the exquisiteness of taste, that can distinguish between one and the other plan of catching the salmon, I can very easily suppose that the pain, more or less, given in the destruction of an animal, may increase or decrease the flavour of the flesh, when used as food. A fish drawn backwards and forwards through the water with a hook piercing its gills, or the more tender fibres of the stomach, till it is almost jaded to death, and then lacerated with such an instrument as the gaff, must endure such an accumulation of the most intense pain, that the sweeter juices of the flesh escape during the throes of a protracted death, and render its taste more stale and flat. But the fish, taken in the net, suffers no injury; and free from pain is instantaneously deprived of life, while the muscular parts retain all the rigour and nutriment requisite for human food.

Rand Pcaught eight fish between them, varying from fifteen to twenty-five pounds’ weight each; and, striking our tent, we returned in the twilight of evening to the yacht at Larvig.

Nothing daunted, Rand Prose again the following morning at two, and collecting their fishing apparatus, began to prepare for another jaunt up the river. They were very desirous that I should accompany them; but having had insight enough into the stratagem of salmon-fishing for the next three days, I declined.

“Well! ain’t you going to get up? It’s past two,” I heard some one say; but not quite certain whether I was dreaming, or really awake.

“Hollo! sleepy-head!” another voice shouted, and a strong arm shook me.

“Eh? what is it?” I asked, rubbing my eyes, entirely bewildered as to the cause of such rough usage.

“Come! look alive, if you’re coming. The sun’s up, and we must be off,” the last speaker continued. I could not conceive where I had promised to go; nor could I make out what the sun had to do with my movements. A second violent shake roused me.

“I am awake!” I said pettishly. “What do you want; who are you?”

“Get up, you great muff!” the loud voice again exclaimed from the centre of the cabin. I sat up in my bed. From my berth I could see into the main cabin. Rand Pin their short fishing coats, and jack-boots, were standing round the cabin table, and drinking some preparation of milk, rum, and egg.

“It’s capital, isn’t it?” I heard Psay.

“Splendid!” Rreplied. “Let’s have it every morning.”

“Ha! many a time,” Pcontinued, “I have swallowed this just before going to morning parade. It’s the best thing in the world on an empty stomach. Here’s a little more.” And he filled R’s glass.

“Where are you going so early?” I asked, quite forgetful that we were even in Norway.

“Why, to fish, of course,” replied R.

“What else do you suppose we are going to do? Come along.”

“No; not this morning,” I said, falling back on my pillow. “I am tired.”

“Pooh! what humbug! you’ve been in bed ever since twelve. What more do you want?” replied one of them.

“A little more,” I answered, making myself as snug as I could; for I had really not slept an hour.

“That’s just like you, always pulling another way,” Robserved. “What’s the good of remaining here all alone, when you might gaff for me? It’s so unsociable!”

“Hang the gaffing!” I answered.

“If you don’t like to gaff,” suggested R, “take the little rifle and shoot an eagle or two. That’s better than remaining behind; and we can go to bed early to-night.”

“Why can’t you go without me?” I said. “I don’t care about fishing, and I do about comfort; for I feel now as if I had not been to bed at all.”

This indifference to a sport, they both deemed the most exciting, caused them to upbraid me, till half-past two, with such epithets as, “an old woman,” “a shocking cockney,” “a fellow only fit to wear white kid gloves,” “a Regent Street swell,” “a land lubber,” “a milk sop,” and a multitude of other curious idioms, that rather made me merry than clashed with my pride.

About ten o’clock, I received a note from the Consul, intimating that a party of ladies desired to see the yacht, and requested he might bring them on board. I replied that I could, in the absence of R, undertake to say how cordially he would have granted his permission, and flatteringly he would have felt the compliment, had he been present, and I begged that the Consul would act as if the vessel were his own. Three hours afterwards, I saw several boats, filled with ladies, shoot out from a little bay, on the starboard bow of the yacht, and gliding as swiftly through the smooth water as the two rowers to each boat could force them, soon clustered round the gangway. Thirteen young ladies, the Consul being the only gentleman among them, jumped lightly on board; and as they followed, interminably, one after the other, I never felt the responsibility of any position so impressively, as I did the present one. The young ladies, however, were all Norwegian, except one; so that I had not much trouble in talking to them, their native tongue, or the German, being the only two languages they could understand, and of both of which I was almost ignorant.

Although I could not enter into conversation with them, I felt it was my bounden duty to contribute by some device, or the other, to the entertainment of these young ladies. Knowing the partiality of my own countrywomen to music, I hazarded the idea, that the Norwegian ladies were filled with an equal admiration for waltzes and polkas; and being fortunately possessed of two very large musical boxes, I wound them up. When these boxes began to play, my fair visitors were much delighted with their ingenious mechanism, and for some short time listened to them with wonder and delight; but at last, in harmonious movement to their sweet notes, these children put their little arms round each other’s waists and began to dance. The elder girls, catching the mood, clasped their companions by the hand, and begged them to join the merry group. In ten minutes not one girl was sitting still; and she who could not get a partner, placed her arms a-kimbo, and whirled up and down the deck alone.

A Norwegian gentleman had asked me to dine with him, and as Rand Pwould not return much before midnight, I did not decline an invitation that was not only hospitable, but would give me an opportunity of seeing more of the habits and character of his countrymen. The dinner was prepared at an early hour, one, or two, o’clock. The style of cookery was the same as in England; except the manner in which the salmon is dressed, for it is cut up into small junks and fried; but the most ordinary, and esteemed way of eating the salmon is to smoke it, which is nothing more or less than an excuse for swallowing the fish raw.

After dinner, the host filled two glasses of wine, one for himself, and one for me; and sidling close up to my chair, placed himself arm and arm with me. I could not understand his meaning, and watched with no little anxiety the next act of familiarity he would commit. My eyes glanced round the table; but the gravity of every man’s face was ecclesiastical in the extreme. Without unlocking his arm from mine, the Norwegian raised his glass in the air, and motioned with his hand to me to do the same. I did so. He then drank off the wine, and bade me drink in like manner. I did that likewise. I had thus followed my friend’s injunctions, and had scarcely, with a smile, replaced on the table the glass I had drained, when I received a box on the ear. Starting from my chair at the unprovoked assault, I was about to break the decanter over the Norwegian’s head, when a gentleman seized hold of my right hand, and begged me to be pacified, for that it was merely the usage of the country in pledging to the health of a friend. He said my host would be highly gratified by my retaliation.

“We have simply then been drinking each other’s health?” I asked.

“No more, sir,” my mediator replied.

Ashamed of my hasty and most unmannerly conduct, I gave the amicable cuff, and all was merriment again.

When we rose from table, the whole company commenced shaking hands with each other, and coming up to me, one after the other, each guest took my hand, and

“Tak for maden,” he said.

This was another mysterious usage I could not unravel. A few days afterwards, amid the general din of the same ceremony, I asked a young lady, who spoke French, what it all meant; and she then told me it was an ancient habit of returning thanks for a good dinner.

“But I have given them no dinner,” I said.

“That is true,” replied my fair informant; “but they thank you all the same.”

While she spoke, a Norwegian gentleman took possession of her hand, and exclaimed,

“Tak for maden!” while a second did the same with my hand, and repeating similar words, passed on all round the table.