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Rumgudgeon, it is positively clear that we are all right.”
18. “ Dear me! Well, well, Kate!” said uncle ; “ well, well, Bob! this is a judgment upon me, as you say. But I am a man of my word, — mark that! You shall have her, boy, when you please. Three Sundays in a week! Three Sundays in a week!”
EDGAR ALLAN POE.
XLIV. – THE FIORDS OF NORWAY.
1. Every one who has looked at the map of Norway must have been struck with the singular character of its coast. It appears such a strange mixture of land and sea, as if there must be perpetual struggle between the two.
On the spot, this coast is very sublime. The long straggling promontories are mountainous, towering ridges of rock, springing up in precipices from the water; while the bays between them, instead of being rounded with shelving, sandy shores, are, in fact, long, narrow valleys filled with sea, instead of being laid out in fields and meadows.
2. The high rocky banks shelter these deep bays (called fiords) from almost every wind so that their waters are usually as still as those of a lake. For days and weeks together, they reflect each separate tree-top of the pine forests, the mirror being broken only by the
leap of some sportive fish, or the oars of the boatman as he goes from islet to islet to inspect the sea-fowl, or carries out his nets or his rod to catch the sea-trout, or char, or cod, or herrings which abound in their seasons on the coast of Norway.
3. It is difficult to say whether these fiords are most beautiful in summer or in winter. In summer they glisten with golden sunshine; and purple and green shadows from the mountain and forest lie on them; and these may be more lovely than the faint lights of the winter noons of those latitudes and the snowy pictures of frozen peaks which then show themselves on the surface; but before the day is half over, out come the stars, — the glorious stars which shine like nothing that we have ever seen.
4. There the planets cast a faint shadow, as the young moon does with us; and these planets and the constellations of the sky, as they silently glide over from peak to peak of these rocky passes, are imaged on the waters so clearly that the fisherman, as he unmoors his boat for his evening task, feels as if he were about to shoot forth his vessel into another heaven, and to cleave his way among the stars.
5. Still as is everything to the eye, there is rarely silence. The ear is kept awake by a thousand voices. In summer there are cataracts leaping from ledge to ledge of the rocks; and there is the bleating of the kids that browse there, and the flap of the great eagle's wings, as it dashes abroad from its eyrie, and the cries of whole clouds of sea-birds which inhabit these isles;
and all these sounds are mingled and multiplied by the strong echoes till they become a din as loud as that of a city.
6. Every breath of summer wind that steals through the pine forests makes this music as it goes. The stiff, spiny leaves of the fir and pine yibrate with the breeze, like the strings of a musical instrument, so that every breath of the night-wind in a Norwegian forest wakens myriads of tiny harps; and this gentle and mournful music may be heard in gushes the whole night through.
7. This music ceases, of course, when there is snow; but yet there is the sound of avalanches as after a drifting storm a mass of snow, too heavy to keep its place, slides and tumbles from the mountain peak. There is also, now and then, a loud crack of the ice in the nearest glacier; and, as many declare, there is a crackling to be heard by those who listen when the northern lights are shooting and blazing across the sky.
8. Nor is this all. Wherever there is a nook between the fiords, where a man may build a house, and clear a field or two wherever there is a platform beside the cataract where the sawyer may build his mill, and make a path from it to some great road, there is a human habitation, and the sounds that belong to it. Thence in winter nights come music and laughter, and the tread of dancers, and the hum of many voices. . The Norwegians are a social and hospitable people, and they hold their gay meetings in defiance of their arctic climate, through every season of the year.
1. Farmer Erlingsen had fixed his abode within the Arctic circle, not far from the foot of Sulitelma, the highest mountain in Norway.
This dwelling, with its few fields about it, was in a recess between the rocks, on the shore of the fiord. It was but little that Erlingsen's fields would produce, though they were sheltered from the coldest winds, and the summer sunshine was reflected from the rocks so as to make this little farm more productive than any which were in a more exposed situation.
2. A patch of rye was grown, and some beans and oats; and there was a strip of pasture and a garden in which might be seen turnips, potatoes, lettuce, and herbs, and even some fruits, — a few raspberries and a great many cherries.
There were three or four horses on the farm, five cows, and a small flock of goats. In summer, the cattle and flock were driven up the mountain, to feed on the pasture there, and during seven months of the year they were fed on hay grown at home, and that which was brought from the mountain, and a food of which, strange to us, cows are very fond -fish heads boiled into a thick soup.
3. At one extremity of the little beach of white sand before the farmer's door was his boat-house; and on his boat he and his family depended, no less than his cows, for a principal part of their winter subsistence.
Except a kid or calf now and then, no meat was
killed on the farm. Cod in winter, herrings in spring, trout and salmon in summer, always abounded. Reindeer meat was regularly purchased from the Lapps who traveled among the settlements for orders, or drove their fattened herds from farm to farm.
4. Besides this there was the resource of game. Erlingsen and his housemen brought home sometimes a young bear, sometimes wild ducks, or the noble cockof-the-woods, as big as a turkey, or a string of snipes, or golden plovers, or ptarmigan. The
eggs of sea-birds might be found in every crevice of the islets of the fiord in the right season; and they are excellent food.
5. Once a year, too, Erlingsen wrapped himself in fur, and drove in his sledge, followed by one of his housemen in another and larger, to the great winter fair at Trondhjem where the Lapps repaired to sell their frozen reindeer meat, their skins, a few articles of manufacture, and where Russian merchants came with the productions of other climates.
6. Here in exchange for the salt-fish, feathers, and eider-down, which had been prepared by the industry of the family, Erlingsen obtained flax and wool wherewith to make clothing for the household, and those luxuries which no Norwegian thinks of going without
corn, brandy, coffee, tobacco, sugar, and spices.
7. It was Madame Erlingsen's business to calculate how much of all these foreign articles would be required for the use of her household for a whole year; and trusting to her calculations, which were never found