A Characteristic Landscape.
A Viking Ship.
" If you escape, . . . give my love ... to my children, . . . William and Henry!"
At last I saw, some little way ahead, a cart half-blocking the road. "Great heavens!' I thought, "here comes a collision! Well, it might as well end this way as any other. No more lectures for me!" But, lo! there issued from the small boy's lips the sound, "Purr-r-r!" The effect was instantaneous. The horse at once relaxed his speed, and in a moment came to a full stop. For "purring" is to a Norwegian pony what the Westinghouse air-brake is to an express train. This secret learned, we had no further trouble. For "purr," when uttered by American lips, proved always as effectual as by Norwegian.
A few hours after that eventful ride, we found ourselves upon the great Hardangerfjord, which, with its branches, has a length of one hundred and forty miles.
These ocean avenues possess not merely natural beauty: they also have historic interest.
A Lonely Point.
Eidfjord In Hardanger-Excursion Boat.
This part of Norway, for example, is old Viking ground. Not far from here lived Rollo, conqueror of Normandy; and from these fjords a thousand years ago went forth those dauntless warriors of the north, who for two hundred years not only ravaged England, France, and Ireland, but even crossed the Atlantic to America hundreds of years before Columbus sailed from Spain.
An Ancient Boat Of Norway.
In this connection, therefore, let me say that, to me, the most interesting object in Christiania was its Viking ship. This most impressive relic of the past was found some fourteen years ago within an ancient mound beside the sea. It had reposed there for ten centuries, owing its preservation to the hard, blue clay in which it was entombed. It was made entirely of oak, and was propelled sometimes by oars, sometimes by a sail. Within it was discovered a well-carved wooden chair, in which, no doubt, the chieftain sat. Some kettles, too, were here, and plates and drinking-cups, used by the Vikings when they landed to prepare a meal. But, more remarkable still, this boat contained some human bones. For in those early days such boats were often used as funeral barges for their brave commanders. The vessel, even when buried, was always headed toward the sea, so that when called by Odin once more into life, the chief whose body was thus sepulchered might be ready to start at once and sail again the ocean he had loved so well.
Occasionally, however, a Viking had a grander form of burial. Sometimes, when an old Norwegian chieftain felt that he was dying, he ordered that his body, when lifeless, should be placed within his boat, which was then filled with light materials and set on fire. The large sail was then spread, and the dead warrior drifted out before the wind, his gallant vessel for a funeral pyre, and for his liturgy the chanting of the waves. As for the Viking himself, he doubtless had faced death, sustained by an unfaltering belief which, had he been more cultivated, might have thus expressed itself:
"If my bark sink, 't is to another sea".
The Land Of The Vikings.
At the extremity of one of the branches of the Hardanger-fjord is the little town of Odde. This was the only place in Norway where we had any difficulty in securing rooms. As the boat neared the wharf, I heard a dozen ladies whisper to their husbands: "Now, dear, you stay and look after the luggage, and I'l1 run on and get the rooms." Accordingly, I used the same words to my friend, with the exception of the endearing epithet. I was afraid that might make him homesick. Then I took my position near the gang-plank.
A Street In Bergen.
When we arrived, I was the first to step ashore, and I started at a brisk walk toward the hotel. Behind me I could hear the rustling of many skirts, but, hardening my heart like Pharaoh, I kept on. At last, forgetting drapery and dignity, the ladies passed me on the run. This time I gallantly gave way, and when, a moment later, I reached the hotel office, I could have fancied myself on the floor of the Stock Exchange, since every lady there was fighting nobly for her children and her absent lord.