« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
made—even in the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained?
Amid the vast and splendid scenery of this northern clime, looking over the diversified beauties of the singular Fiord, the effect of this total eclipse of the sun, in its progress, its duration, its passing away, was such as to stamp the scene of a few minutes in an indelible picture on the canvas of memory—a picture which can never be transferred to other canvas, or expressed on paper, or in words; but when that shifting kaleidoscope of mind reproduces to myself the scene, I bless God for having permitted me to see it.
I thanked Herr Hanson for making me stay to see the sun when there would be no sun, and asked if he had seen it to advantage. "I saw it in the yard," he said, "it grew very dark there." Something darker than usual was all that the persons who sat sipping coffee in that always dark yard saw of the same wonderful sight.
I have now been a fortnight in Norway, and I am anxious to get off again; but there were two or three things to be seen or done after having seen the sun. One was to look in at its Storthing, its "Great Thing," or Parliament, which is now holding its sittings. Our word, Parliament, means, I am told, "much speaking;" I suppose the Norse term is as significant in its own way; but from the gallery, to which our kind Vice-Consul accompanied me, I must say the Storthing seemed a very dirty thing in outer appearance; the closeness, the tobacco-smoke, and the hateful practice in which even women as well as men indulge in the North, the very mention of which is scandalous in English (that of spitting about), rendered half-a-minute in the gallery of the Great Thing of Norway more desirable to me than half-anhour.
The next thing I had to do was, rather to my surprise, to act as a reporter, or as a penny-a-liner, without the penny. That very evening a gentleman called on me and asked me if I could not write. I replied that I could, and read also. He meant, however, if I could write for the press! I said I would try. And then I was requested to put on paper an account of the speech made by "the distinguished foreigner" at Herr Y.'s dinner.
I did try; but I did not quite succeed.
"Was there not something more?" said my employer. "Did he not say something about
vox. I. o
Herr T. being the greatest man of his time in Norway, and about his being a hero? Did he not say that the man who had the courage, in the face of such opposition, to bring a steam-boat in pieces overland from Christiania, a space of forty-six English miles, and put it up on the lake, was, in his estimation, a hero?"
"He did; he did!" I cried. "I remember it well, and he wept, too, when he sat down. Shall I put that in also?''
But I am sure my reported speech was published in the Norway papers, so there is no need to give it wider circulation.
The last thing I saw in Norway was the "turning of the sod" for the first railroad in that country. It is to run from the capital—the word ought to be in great letters—to Lake Miosen: think of the blessing of a railroad instead of that most abominable highway; and through a district where neither beauty nor interest make the traveller amends for the dislocation of his frame!
This first sod was turned with a great deal of pomp. There were a great many wheelbarrows displayed on the ground, which I believe had never before been seen on Norwegian ground, and were brought from England purposely. I heard,
also, that the silver spade was likewise an importation. The Crown Prince of Sweden—that is a mistake; as I am speaking in Norway, I should say, of Norway—was to have performed the labour of turning the sod—a labour he would have made very light of indeed; but we are informed that domestic affairs confined him at present to his home. The Chief Engineer, our engineer, Mr. Stevenson, was there, and looked so stately and noble, all decorated with foreign orders, and seemed so truly the gentleman, that I pointed him out with pride to some who formed ignorant ideas of our national character, and said to them, "That is our nobility!"
In Norway they are so inclined to judge of us by the specimen of a yachting excursion, or a fishing trip; and they seem just to have the poorest opinions of those who spend the most money.
This ceremony was well arranged, and the firing of the guns, when the sod was turned, was meant to be impressive. Processions were formed, and the clergy were led by the Bishop in a black satin gown and the most comical round beaver hat. He delivered a long address at the end; but no one could tell me whether he preached or prayed. A hymn was composed and sung on the occasion.
The same day an enormous dinner was given in honour of Mr. Stevenson; it was a public one, and the tickets were high—I think as much as a sovereign in English. Nevertheless, it was well attended. I went to the gallery, where some ladies were engaged in watching the operations carried on below. I looked on as long as I could at dishes handing, and knives, forks, and glasses moving, and then I went away in company with an agreeable young Norse lad, who had been wiling away the time by telling me a legend of his country, while others were trying to eat something like the worth of their money. I wanted to hear the end of it, but he wanted to return to the scene of the dinner. "I must hear the end," I said.
"I will tell it when I see you again," was his reply.
"But that may not be for fifty years. I am going away."
"Well, in fifty years I will tell it. I promise that."
"I shall be dead before then."
"Well, no matter."
"What! do you mean that I should come to you some time—in your old age, it would be—and demand the fulfilment of your promise? Think