A Hardy Norseman
The Project Gutenberg eBook, A Hardy Norseman, by Edna Lyall
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Title: A Hardy Norseman
Author: Edna Lyall
Release Date: October 27, 2017 [eBook #55825]
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A Hardy Norseman
“You say your things are all ready, Cecil? Then I’ll justgo below and do up my Gladstone, and put it in your cabin.We shall be at Bergen before long, they say.”
The speaker was a young Englishman of three-or-four-and-twenty,and the sister addressed by him was still in the firstflush of girlhood, having but a few days before celebrated hernineteenth birthday.
“Let me see to your bag, Roy,” she exclaimed. “It is ashame that you should miss this lovely bit of the fjord, and Ishall do it in half the time.”
“The conceit of women!” he exclaimed, with a smile inwhich brotherly love and the spirit of teasing were aboutequally blended. “No, no, Cis, I’m not going to let youspoil me. I shall be up again in ten minutes. Have you notmade any friends here? Is there no one on deck you cantalk to?”
“I don’t want to talk,” said Cecil. “Truth to tell, I amlonging to get away from all these English people. Very unsociableof me, isn’t it?”
Roy Boniface turned away with a smile, understanding herfeeling well enough, and Cecil, with her back to the chatteringtourist throng, let her eyes roam over the shining waters of thefjord to the craggy mountains on the further shore, whose ever-varyingforms had been delighting her since the early morning.
She herself made a fair picture, though her beauty was notof the order which quickly draws attention. There was nothingvery striking in her regular features, fair complexion, andlight-brown hair; to a casual observer she would have seemedmerely an average English girl, gentle, well-mannered, and nice-looking.It was only to those who took pains to study her thather true nature was revealed; only at times that her quiet grayeyes would flash into sudden beauty with the pleasure of meeting4with some rare and unexpected sympathy; only in somespecial need that the force of her naturally retiring naturemade itself felt as a great influence.
Cecil had passed a year of emancipated girlhood, she had fora whole year been her own mistress, had had time and moneyat her disposal and no special duties to take the place of herschool-work. It was the time she had been looking forwardto all her life, the blissful time of grown-up freedom, andnow that it had come it had proved a disappointing illusion.Whether the fault was in herself or in her circumstances shedid not know; but like so many girls of her age she was lookingout on life with puzzled eyes, hardly knowing what it wasthat had gone amiss, yet conscious of a great want, of a greatunrest, of a vague dissatisfaction which would not be reasoneddown.
“Cecil is looking poorly,” had been the home verdict; andthe mother, not fully understanding the cause, but with a trueinstinct as to the remedy, had suggested that the brother andsister should spend a month abroad, grieving to lose Cecil fromthe usual family visit to the seaside, but perceiving with amother’s wisdom and unselfishness that it was time, as sheexpressed it, for her young one to try its wings.
So the big steamer plied its way up the fjord bearing CecilBoniface and her small troubles and perplexities to healthy oldNorway, to gain there fresh physical strength, and fresh insightsinto that puzzling thing called life; to make friendships, spiteof her avowed unsociableness, to learn something more of thebeauty of beauty, the joy of joy, and the pain of pain.
She was no student of human nature; at present with girlishimpatience she turned away from the tourists, frankly avowingher conviction that they were a bore. She was willing tolet her fancy roam to the fortunes of some imaginary Rolf andErica living, perhaps, in some one or other of the solitary red-roofedcottages to be seen now and then on the mountain-side;but the average English life displayed on the deck did not inthe least awaken her sympathies, she merely classified the passengersinto rough groups and dismissed them from her mind.There was the photographic group, fraternizing over the camerasset up all in a little encampment at the forecastle end.There was the clerical group, which had for its center no fewerthan five gaitered bishops. There was the sporting group, distinguishedby light-brown checked suits, and comfortable traveling-caps.There was the usual sprinkling of pale, weary,overworked men and women come for a much-needed rest.5And there was the flirting group—a notably small one, however,for Norwegian traveling is rough work and is ill-suitedto this genus.
“Look, here, Blanche,” exclaimed a gray-bearded Englishman,approaching a pretty little brunette who had a most sweetand winsome expression, and who was standing so near to thecamp-stool on which Cecil had ensconced herself that the conversationwas quite audible to her. “Just see if you can’tmake out this writing; your eyes are better than mine. It isfrom Herr Falck, the Norwegian agent for our firm. I daresay your father told you about him.”
“Yes, papa said he was one of the leading merchants outhere and would advise us what to see, and where to go.”
“Quite so. This letter reached me just as I was leaving home,and is to say that Herr Falck has taken rooms for us at somehotel. I can read it all well enough except the names, but thefellow makes such outrageous flourishes. What do you makeof this sentence, beginning with ‘My son Frithiof’?”
“Uncle! uncle! what shocking pronunciation! You mustnot put in an English ‘th.’ Did you never hear of the FrithiofSaga? You must say it quickly like this—Freet-Yoff.”
“A most romantic name,” said Mr. Morgan. “Now I seewhy you have been so industrious over your Norwegian lessons.You mean to carry on a desperate flirtation withHerr Frithiof. Oh! that is quite clear—I shall be on thelookout!”
Blanche laughed, not at all resenting the remark, though shebent her pretty face over the letter, and pretended to havegreat difficulty in reading Herr Falck’s very excellent English.
“Do you want to hear this sentence?” she said, “because ifyou do I’ll read it.”
“‘My son Frithiof will do himself the honor to await yourarrival at Bergen on the landing-quay, and will drive you toHoldt’s Hotel, where we have procured the rooms you desired.My daughter Sigrid (See-gree) is eager to make the acquaintanceof your daughter and your niece, and if you will all dinewith us at two o’clock on Friday at my villa in Kalvedalen weshall esteem it a great pleasure.’”
“Two-o’clock dinner!” exclaimed Florence Morgan, for thefirst time joining in the general conversation. “What an unheard-ofhour!”
“Oh! everything is primitive simplicity out here,” said Mr.Morgan. “You needn’t expect London fashions.”
“I suppose Frithiof Falck will be a sort of young Viking,6large-boned and dignified, with a kind of good-natured fiercenessabout him,” said Blanche, folding the letter.
“No, no,” said Florence, “he’ll be a shy, stupid countrybumpkin, afraid of airing his bad English, and you will stepvaliantly into the breach with your fluent Norwegian, and yourkindness will win his heart. Then presently he will come upin his artless and primitive way with a Vaer saa god (if youplease) and will take your hand. You will reply Mange tak(many thanks), and we shall all joyfully dance at yourwedding.”
There was general laughter, and some trifling bets weremade upon the vexed question of Frithiof Falck’s appearance.
“Well,” said Mr. Morgan, “it’s all very well to laugh now,but I hope you’ll be civil to the Falcks when we really meet.And as to you, Cyril,” he continued, turning to his nephew, alimp-looking young man of one-and-twenty, “get all the informationyou can out of young Falck, but on no account allowhim to know that your father is seriously thinking of settingyou at the head of the proposed branch at Stavanger. Whenthat does come about, of course Herr Falck will lose our custom,and no doubt it will be a blow to him; so