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I Found the second cabin empty last night, the 'first well filled. I took solitary possession of the second; slept, arose, dressed, thanked God for exemption from the miseries of social life at sea, went on deck, saw nothing but grey sky and grey sea; came below again, breakfasted; sat on the nice sofa, and placed my writing apparatus on the table before me. Nota bene: Such second cabins as the English vessels treat second-class passengers to, are rarely to be found in those of other countries; a fact for which, on this occasion, I am truly thankful.
But, now, up rises the storm spirit from its favourite bed in the Skaggerack, and— .
Where was I? Away in one moment went the water-decanter and glasses from my table; away went pen, ink, and papers; away went the writer rolling after all. Down rushed the wave from the open fan-light, and in rushed the staggering mate, pulls down the fan-light, and staggers after the rolling-about articles. He got up the glass ones first; I suppose because they were the most brittle, not the most valuable; lastly he
secured me. Pah! there is another wave * # * # # # # # #
I place a whole row of asterisks, which some excellent recent examples prove to be an admirable way of propitiating public favour where there happens to be a corresponding blank in a writer's brain. There is a mysterious intelligibility in asterisks, a silent expression which meets the reader's imagination half-way.
Supposing that they have eked out my deficient narrative, I begin again with the sudden lull which has just now begun. The storm cannot surely have dropped down in a moment? No, there is a roar in the funnel; they are letting off the steam, and letting down the anchor.
What a change! and what a scene! There is peace around, above, beneath. We are in a rockencircled harbour; pine-clad rocks sprinkle the quiet water; a clear, calm moon shines in a rather disturbed sky—shines over the dark rocks, the tall firs, the stilly sea. Quarter of an hour ago we were tossing miserably on the angry Skaggerack. It is like relief from pain; it is like the repose of the spirit that enters into rest after the storms of life and death,—the rest and the refreshing which we are told follow the life and death struggle of those whom the Lord of Life holds throughout them, safe in the hollow of his hand.
This harbour is called Sandaesund; we are about to enter the famed Christiania Fiord, which, the Captain tells me, properly speaking, only begins at Frederickstadt, much higher up. We stop for the night in Sandaesund; a boat is despatched with the mails, and nearly all our passengers leave us also; some go to land, others to the steamer, which is now getting up her steam, and will go on her voyage round the coast of Norway as soon as she receives the quota she expects from ours. I should like to go with her, but one cannot be everywhere, and I long to see Christiania. My ideas are high, but I am sure they will not be lowered when they cease to be based on description and imagination.
The post has gone, and the passengers have gone; there is scarcely a sound of human life to be heard now. The sailors are quite silent; I hardly think English ones could be so silent and still. Moonlight and water, and great high rocks lifting up to the chequered sky their peaked crown of towering pines—there is nothing else seen.
At last there is a sound. It is a quiet Norse song. A sailor is sitting at the bow, with his arm round the neck of one much older, who seems to listen to the words more than to the music, for he sometimes interposes a word. What may that song speak to those good rough hearts, more than
"Linked notes of sweetness long drawn out,"
may speak to more refined ones. It is a pleasant sound; but I must be on deck at four o'clock to-morrow morning, to watch our exit from Sandsesund, and our entrance into the Fiord. And how we are to get out of the rocks, which appear to form a fir-covered barrier across our passage, I cannot imagine; but the Norse captain smiles knowingly, and says they will open a passage for us.
To-morrow! what a to-morrow is this! The gun is fired, the steam roars, the sailors sing, and I am on deck; but the sun will not get up. Voyager! c'est un Men triste plaisir.' O yes, Madame de Stael, you are quite right. To travel is a very tiresome pleasure, but we cannot make English out of triste. Rain, mist, cold, dreariness. Land of the North, after all my visions, is it thus that with waking eyes I behold you! Is my temper as murky as the sky? We have got beyond Frederickstadt, Horton and Moss are passed, we have been for some time fairly in Christiania Fiord, yet I am not in ecstacies. What is the reason? Every one who has seen Christiania Fiord has been in ecstasies. I know it is singular, I am sure it is beautiful; but it is not grand, and grandeur looks mystified when dimly seen through mist and vapour, whereas loveliness is only hidden. This Fiord is in aspect an immense lake, studded with rocky islets, fir-crested and pretty, and with wooded shores, on which, when you approach them near enough, you see a great many small, and a few large towns, some of each