Page images
[blocks in formation]

Ratty's Picture.

T was a bright June morning; the grass was still wet with the dew in the thick undergrowth that bordered a little rippling stream. But Ronald Gower took no heed of that as he pushed his way through it on his way home to breakfast.

He had been sketching, and had not noticed how fast time was flying, and now he feared he should be late, and there was no greater fault than unpunctuality in the eyes of his host.

A splashing noise made Ronald look round, and he saw a little girl, who might be nine or ten years old, making her way across the stream, carrying a basket of fresh-gathered and still dripping water-cresses. She had wavy golden hair, that fell over her bare neck without any attempt at arrangement, and in the clean white pinafore, that almost concealed her brown frock, she made a very pretty picture. So Ronald thought. Could he not sketch her? But he imagined he heard the gong that summoned the inhabitants of the Manor to their morning meal. He fancied he could see Miss Martyn sitting patiently behind the urn, while her brother, the Squire, walked hastily up and down the room comparing his watch with the clock on the mantelpiece, and chafing at the delay.

But he must not lose the chance of so promising a subject. So he stopped a moment till the little girl reached land, and then, hardly noticing the curtsey she made when she saw him, he began, “Where are you going, my dear?”

“I be going home, sir, first, with the cresses, and then I be going to school.”

Must you go to school all day?” ‘Oh, aye, sir," said the little girl, “ I be always at school all day but Saturdays.

“ To-morrow is Saturday,” said Ronald, hastily ; can you come to the Manor to-morrow morning ? I want to make a picture of you, and if you sit very still I'll give you half-a-crown. You know where the Manor is?”

The little girl smiled, partly at the idea of anybody not knowing where the Manor was, and partly at the prospect of such riches.

“ You will be sure and come?” said Ronald. “ Don't be later than half-past nine," and as

the vision of the breakfast-room came once more before him, he hardly stopped to hear her “Oh, aye, I'll come,” but hastened away.

Patty looked after him a minute, then hurried home with her water-cresses, and told her mother her morning's adventure. Only think of half-acrown, Mother! And me to have my picture taken!” and Patty tried to get a view of her face in the little cracked mirror on the wall, but it was too high, and she could see nothing but the Aitch of bacon that hung from the ceiling.

Patty paid very little attention to her lessons that day; but long before it was time to go home all the girls in the school, and the boys too, knew that she was going to have her picture taken by the young gentleman at the Manor—and Patty felt herself a person of no little importance.

When she got home from school, she was surprised to find her mother dressed in her best, with a basket on her arm.

“Oh, here you are,” she said. “I have been waiting for you. Your grandmother's took with a stroke, and I must go and see to her. If she isn't very bad I shall maybe come home to-morrow, but perhaps I shall have to stay over Sunday, so you must make Father as comfortable as you can. I can't wait any longer.” And with a few parting directions she left.

Patty was sorry her grandmother was ill, and her mother away, but her thoughts soon went back to the important subject of her picture.

Of course she must look her very best. When Matilda White carne back from London she had her hair cut short and curled on her forehead. That would look very nice, and Patty, mounted on a stool before the glass, tried to form some idea of the effect by holding a handful of her hair in the right position. She was not sure her mother would like her to cut her hair, but it was too late to ask her, and she would certainly wish her daughter to look nice on such an important occasion.

Then there was her frock. There was a very bright violet one in the drawer, made in a much grander fashion than Patty's frocks usually were. It had been sent by an aunt in London for the little girl, and her mother had put it by, intending to have it altered. Such an occasion as this might never occur again. Surely her mother would wish her to wear it this once. She opened the drawer and took it out. Oh, yes, she must wear the frock.

“My hat is so shabby,” said the little girl to herself, as she mentally reviewed the white straw hat with a blue ribbon round it that she wore on Sundays. But a happy thought occurred to her.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



[merged small][merged small][graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]



Whe Home of the Sea Kings.

By Robert W. DIBDIN.




her hair. Her hand trembled a little, and the tallow dip, that was her only light, did not allow her to see very clearly what she was doing.

However, at length it was completed, and the little head looked strange enough with its many white knobs as it lay on the pillow.

Patty was up early the next morning. She did not want to take off the curl-papers till the last moment, neither did she wish her father to see them, so she put on her sun-bonnet before she went down to light the fire and get her father's breakfast.

“Got the ear-ache, that you keep on your bonnet, child?” said he, when he appeared.

“I had a touch of it last night, Father,” said Patty, but she got very red, for she felt, though her words were true, that she had deceived her father.

It took Patty a long time to array herself. It was a pity the violet frock was so long and large for her, and she did not feel quite satisfied with the red roses in her hat, but her hair she felt was really successful. It looked even more like the wax doll in the shop window in the town, than Matilda White's, and she felt that the gentleman must be pleased with it.

When she reached the Manor, the servant looked curiously at her, but bade her follow him into a sitting-room, where, a moment afterwards, Ronald Gower appeared.

He looked at her, then said, “You aren't the little girl I told to come here?

“ Please, sir, I be,” said Patty.

“But you look quite different. Take off your hat; perhaps it is that."

Patty felt sure the moment of success was coming, and quickly took off her hat, displaying a head surrounded by tight little curls, while a mass of the same hid her white forehead.

“Why, what has your mother been doing to you?" asked Ronald in no gratified tone.

“ Please, sir, it was not Mother, it was me,” said poor Patty. “Well, I can't make a picture of you

like that,” said Ronald; “and I am going away on Monday, so I can't do it at all. There's a shilling for you, as you've had so much trouble; but next time don't try and improve upon nature.” And he rang for a servant to let her out.

Patty had not the least idea what "improving upon nature” meant, but she saw that she was not going to have her picture taken, nor yet get her halfcrown, and she wished she had not cut her hair. She wished it still more when her mother came home.


HE last part of the “Home of

the Sea Kings” that we can look at is far up north within the Arctic Circle.

We started from Christiania by railway to Eidsvold, then took the steamer

the Miosen Lake, and at Hamar

again found ourselves in the train bound for the ancient city of Trondhjem. We went on, stopping at many stations, till the day began to close, though it was still quite light, and then we stopped in the middle of a forest at Koppang. Here we found a regular Norwegian supper all ready for us and beds for the whole party.

Early next morning we rejoined our train, which had been quietly waiting for us, and jogged on all day,

rather slowly, I must confess, till we came to Trondhjem late in the evening.

We made our way at once to the harbour, and found the steamer which was bound for the North would not start till about midnight. Under these circumstances we took a walk and had supper on shore, as, even in the middle of August, it is quite light all night. At last we started, but it was long after midnight. For a time the strangeness of the scene kept us on deck watching the fading lights of the city and the deep colours of the sky. There seemed always a bright light about the North, as if to invite us onward, and we were by no means unwilling to accept the invitation.

When we went below we discovered that all the sleeping cabins were taken, and we were to sleep in the “saloon,” which was as usual the general dining and sitting room of the steamer. One peculiarity of this arrangement was that we had to go to bed last and get up first; but notwithstanding this we were much better off than the unfortunate passengers who slept in the cabins. It was quite a little exhibition in itself to see them all packed into their berths. They looked like sardines in a box. There was also a ladies' cabin, which I can only speak of from information which I received. It was believed

[ocr errors]






to be the battle-field on which different national customs contended for the mastery. A very energetic English lady liked to have the port-holes open, and plenty of air ; then, on the other hand, some Norwegian ladies thought they could not be too warm, and, apparently to keep up the temperature, sat in the little room all day with the port-holes closed, eating provisions out of their private stores. Happily their ignorance of each others' language prevented all these good ladies said about each other being understood, or who knows what might have happened!

I cannot describe at any length all we saw during our four days' sail. There were some wonderful and beautiful sights which can never be forgotten. Among them let me mention the curious islandmountain of Torghatten, which looks like a great hat sailing out to sea. It has a hole right through it, as if some giant gun had fired a shot there, and we saw the light from the opposite side shining through. Then there were the Seven Sisters, as seven snow-streaked mountains which rise out of the sea are called, and the Hestmand, a huge island resembling a horseman with a cloak thrown round him. These were all to the left, and to the right there was always the wonderful mountainous coast, where sometimes as we got far North we saw snow-fields and icy peaks stretching away towards the east, and seeming the perfection of wild and desolate scenery.

We stopped sometimes at places on the coast, and at last reached Bodo, which is quite a considerable town about a hundred miles within the Arctic Circle. Here we left our steamer, which continued on the direct course to the North Cape, and embarked on the pretty little steamer which makes the tour of the Lofoden Islands.

It was midnight, and the two boats were anchored side by side in the harbour, looking like a cow with its calf, the one was so much larger than the other. The sun was not actually shining, because it does not appear at Bodo at midnight after July 12th, but it was quite light, and as the larger boat steamed slowly away after the last farewells were said to those remaining behind, we could see, till it turned a distant corner, the waving handkerchiefs and hats of our departing friends. We felt rather lonely for a few moments, when suddenly a beam of light seemed to rise out of the sea, which was followed by many more, and the Northern sky was covered with a fan of tremulous brightness. This was the famous Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. They generally appear in winter, and supply in great measure the place of the sun during the long

night of many months which falls


the Arctic regions. It was very early in the year for so fine an appearance to be visible, and we .heard of it afterwards all over Norway, and even as far away as Wales !

Next morning on getting out of our berths we found that a great deal of movement was going on, and the sea was in a very lively state, so we thought it prudent to retire again. At last we stopped, and a very curious scene met our gaze. Sharp mountain peaks were all round, and we were among the Lofoden Islands. We sailed among these all day, stopping at quaint little places, mostly fishing stations. Sometimes we saw whole villages of wooden houses without a single inhabitant, and we learnt that these were the homes of the fishermen whom the cod fishery attracts by thousands in the early spring. There were some very odd-looking stacks, which we could not make out at all at first. They turned out to be made of cods' heads. I don't know how many thousands it takes to make a stack, but it must be a great many. At last we drew near to a place called Svolvaer, where the steamer stopped for the night. We went on shore in a boat. The boatman took his money, and left us on the rocks in broad daylight, though it was eleven o'clock P.M.

The silence of death was upon the place. Houses, some of which were large and comfortable-looking, were built on the rocky shore, but not a soul was visible. We wandered about for a little time, hoping some one would appear, but the only sign of life was a sociable tabby cat who hopped from rock tu rock after us, and seemed not altogether displeased, though somewhat surprised, at our sudden apparition. We expected to meet some one here to take us to the island where we proposed to make a short stay, but as no one seemed disposed to come, we got into a boat again, and were pulling back to the steamer, when suddenly a little puff of steam showed itself rising out of the land, then we heard a whistle, and a tiny steamer turned a corner and bore down upon us. We were soon on board, and grasping the hand of our old friend the captain. The boy who formed the crew got up steam again, and half an hour's sail among rocky islands brought us to our home for the next week or ten days. The sun was just rising when we went to bed, under mountains of eider down, at two o'clock in the morning. Our time here glided by very pleasantly. Sometimes we wandered, with our guns, over the island, trying to shoot the wily foxes and the ptarmigan and other birds. Sometimes we took a boat and explored all sorts of little bays




[blocks in formation]


and creeks in search of wild fowl, which were very plentiful. Sometimes we went to the fabrik connected with the cod fishery, which was not far off. One day eight whales, which had been caught farther north, arrived in the bay, and great was the commotion among the birds of prey, who assembled in troops.

On Sunday the tiny steamer started off to take us to church on an island ten miles off. It towed a great barge behind it full of peasants in their picturesque costumes, with their Bibles and Psalmbooks in their hands. We were sorry when we were obliged to leave, but our playtime was over, and we had to think of getting home. As we steamed away from the Lofoden Islands we saw a terrible battle between a hawk and a gull. The gull was screaming loudly as we passed them, and seemed in great distress; but we could not manage to shoot the hawk, and I am afraid she ate that gull for her supper.

It was evening when we reached Trondhjem again, and the fjord was bathed in one of those marvellous sunsets which can only be seen in the North. Each splash of the oars, as we rowed to the shore seemed to cast up blood or crimson wine.

The northern province of Norway is called Nordland, and in the seventeenth century there flourished a famous poet there named Peter Dass. Even at the present day, when a Nordland sailor comes into a book-shop at Bergen, he asks for Dass's poems; and if they are not to be had, but some modern literature is offered to him instead, “ All dirt,” he says, and turns away in disgust.

The following is a translation of one of Peter Dass's poems, by Mr. Andrew Johnstone, who has kindly given permission to print it here :

The peasants in Nordland who're up to the dodge
By an excellent system the puffins dislodge

With little dogs broken with care,
And so wiry and thin that they easily creep
Into crevices ever so narrow and deep,

And draw out the birds from their lair.
Now when the first bird feels this underground ranger
Have him tight by the neck, and his life is in danger

(For the dog begins pulling amain),
The bird next behind gets him fast by the tail,
And the third, and so on-not a puffin will fail

As long as there's one in the train.
And so from some chink in the rocks on the shore
Twelve, thirteen, aye fourteen, and frequently more,

Will this little dog easily tear away:
He does all the work, and the peasant himself
Has only to stand by and collar the pelf,

As much as he's able to bear away.


VIII.-THE SALT-WATER AQUARIUM. mong HE salt-water aquarium may be

the same shape and size as the fresh, only you have another thing to consider, and that is evaporation. You know that if you place a bowl of water in the open air, exposed to the heat of the sun, at the end of a few days the bowl will be empty, the water having evaporated, or passed into the air in the form of va

pour. If you put salt-water in the bowl, you will find that as the water gets less, it becomes salter, for though the water passes into the air, the salt remains behind. Now fish cannot live in water that has more than a certain amount of salt in it, and as evaporation is always going on, you must be careful to add a little fresh water occasionally to your aquarium.

Instead of fresh-water weed you will want seaweed, and here an endless variety is open to you. Stop! Do not gather that red Delesseria with its delicate fronds, it will fade and wither in a day or two, and so will the brighter feathery weed beside it. You had better keep to the green weeds, for, however tempting the red ones may be, they will not live. Both Green and Purple Laver will do very

well in your aquarium, indeed, you could not have anything better, for those tiny bubbles you see covering the weed, and now and again floating up to the surface, are full of oxygen, the very thing that is wanted in the water. Laver is good to eat, and is considered by some people a great delicacy.

Now for the fish. With a small net you may easily catch-in the rock pools-Blennies, dark green spotted with blue above and white below, and little slippery Gobies, whose fins form a sucker with which they attach themselves to stones. large net, or by angling from the end of a pier, you may get the Basse or Sea-Dace, which is so like the Perch that you might easily mistake the one for the other; and with a shrimping net you may obtain plenty of small flat fish, such as Dabs and Flounders. You should always keep a few Periwinkles and Limpets in your aquarium, as the former will keep the sides free from the green alga


With a

« PreviousContinue »