An Open-Air Boudoir.
Seltunsaasen In Laerdal.
A Landing Place.
"I somehow feel to-day a great anxiety about my boys, William and Henry. I am not superstitious, but I have a presentiment that they need me. Hark!" he said suddenly, "what's that?"
We stopped the vehicle and listened. It was the music of an English hand-organ; and I am speaking only the literal truth when I say that the tune which we then heard it play was that of "Father, dear father, come home with me now".
Waiting For Tourists.
Early next morning we left our good hotel and hastened to the steamer which awaited us upon the fjord. "What, precisely, is a fjord?" some may inquire. In briefest terms, it is a mountain gorge connected with the ocean, a narrow arm of the sea extending inland, sometimes for one hundred miles. Moreover, to carry out the simile, at the extremity of every such long arm are "fingers;" that is, still narrower extensions, which wind about the bases of the mountains till they seem like glittering serpents lying in the shadow of tremendous cliffs.
Thus in one sense, here at Laerdalsoren, we had reached the sea, but in another, it was still eighty-five miles away. Yet we were now to embark on a large ocean steamer, lying but a few yards from the shore, for these mysterious fjords are sometimes quite as deep as the mountains over them are high. They open thus the very heart of Norway to the commerce of the world. And as our steamer glided from one mountain-girdled basin into another, I realized why this western coast of Norway is one of the most remarkable land-formations on the globe. If we were able to look down upon it from an elevation, we should perceive that from the mountain chain, which forms, as it were, the backbone of the country, a multitude of grooves stretch downward to the shore between the elevations, like spaces between the teeth of a comb. Into these mountain crevices, formed in the misty ages of the past, the sea now makes its way, continually growing narrower, until at last it winds between frowning cliffs of fearful height, down which stream numerous waterfalls, the spray from which at times sweeps over the steamer as it glides along. Traveling, therefore, on these ocean avenues is like sailing through Switzerland.
An Arm Of The Sea.
Delighted beyond measure with this new experience, some two or three hours after leaving Laerdalsoren, we gradually approached the most sublime of all these ocean highways, - the Naerofjord. No general view can possibly portray its grandeur. The only way to appreciate the vastness of its well-nigh perpendicular cliffs is to compare them with some objects on the banks. In many places, for example, cattle grazing on the shore, compared with their giant environment, seemed like mice, and a church steeple appeared no larger than a pine-cone.
As we sailed further up this beautiful expanse, it was difficult to realize that we were floating on an arm of the Atlantic. It had the appearance rather of a gloomy lake shut in by mountains never trodden by the foot of man. On either side was a solemn array of stupendous precipices - sheer, awful cliffs - refusing even the companionship of pines and hemlocks, and frequently resembling a long chain of icebergs turned to stone. The silence, too, was most impressive. There was, at times, no sign of life on sea or shore. The influence of this was felt upon the boat, for if any of us spoke, it was in a tone subdued by the solemnity of our surroundings.
As we pursued our way, sometimes we could discern no outlet whatever; then, suddenly, our course would turn, and another glorious vista would appear before us. We sat at the prow of the boat; and there, with nothing but the awe-inspiring prospect to contemplate, we sailed along in silence through this liquid labyrinth. So close together were the cliffs, that when, for the sake of the experiment, I lay down on the deck and looked directly upward, I could at the same instant see both sides of the fjord cutting their outlines sharply on the sky! Mile after mile, these grim, divided mountains stood gazing into each other's scowling faces, yet kept apart by this enchanting barrier of the sea, as some fair woman intervenes between two opposing rivals, each thirsting for the other's blood. It is such scenery as Dante might describe and Dore illustrate. We wondered what such ravines would look like without water. They would be ter-rible to gaze upon. They would resemble gashes in a dead man's face, or chasms on the surface of the moon, devoid of atmosphere and life. But water gives to them vitality, and lights up all their gloomy gorges with a silvery flood, much as a smile illumines, while it softens, a furrowed face.