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UNDER the greenwood tree
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather.
Who doth ambition shun
And pleased with what he gets,
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather.
From As you like it.
VOGEL ISLET.* Who was ever happier than Rolf, when abroad in his skiff, on one of the most glorious days of the year? He found his angling tolerably successful near home; but the further he went, the more the herrings abounded, and he therefore dropped down the fiord 1 with the tide, fishing as he receded, till all home objects had disappeared. First, the farmhouse, with its surrounding buildings, its green paddock and shining white beach, was hidden behind the projecting rocks. Then Thor Islet appeared to join with the nearest shore, from which its bushes of stunted birch seemed to spring. Then, as the skiff dropped lower and lower down, the interior mountains appeared to rise above the rocks which closed in the head of the fiord, and the snowy peak of Sulitelma stood up clear amidst the pale blue sky; the glaciers on its sides catching the sunlight on different points, and glittering so that the eye could scarcely endure to rest upon the mountain. When he came to the narrow part of the fiord, near the creek which had been the scene of Erica's exploit, Rolf laid aside his rod, with the bright hook that herrings so much admire, to guide his canoe through the currents caused by the approach of the rocks, and contraction of the passage; and he then wished he had brought Erica with him, so lovely was the scene. Every crevice of the rocks, even where there seemed to be no soil, was tufted with bushes, every twig of which was bursting into the greenest leaf, while, here and there, a clump of dark pines overhung some busy cataract, which itself over-shadowed, sent forth its little clouds of spray, dancing and glittering in the sunlight. A pair of fishing-eagles were perched on a high ledge of rock, screaming to the echoes, so that the dash of the currents was lost in the din. Rolf did wish that Erica was here, when he thought how the colour would have mounted into her cheeks, and how her eyes would have sparkled at such a scene.
* From Feats on the Fiord (by kind permission of Messrs. George Routledge & Sons).
Lower down, it was scarcely less beautiful. The waters spread out again to a double width. The rocks were, or appeared to be, lower; and now and then, in some space between rock and rock, a strip of brilliant green meadow lay open to the sunshine; and there were large flocks of fieldfares, flying round and round, to exercise the newlyfledged young.
a few habitations scattered along the margin of the fiord; and two or three boats might be seen far off, with diminutive figures of men drawing their nets.
"I am glad I brought my net too,” thought Rolf. “My rod has done good duty ; but if I am coming upon a shoal, I will cast my net, and be home, laden with fish, before they think of looking for me."
Happy would it have been if Rolf had cast his net where others were content to fish, and had given up all idea of going further than was necessary; but his boat was still dropping down towards the islet which he had fixed in his own mind as the limit of his trip; and the long, solitary reach of the fiord which now lay between him and it was tempting both to the eye and the mind. It is difficult to turn back from the first summer-day trip, in countries where summer is less beautiful than in Nordland; and on went Rolf, beyond the bounds of prudence, as many have done before him. He soon found himself in a still and somewhat dreary region, where there was no motion but of the sea-birds which were leading their broods down the shores of the fiords, and of the air which appeared to quiver before the eye, from the evaporation caused by the heat of the sun. More slowly went the canoe here, as if to suit the quietness of the scene, and leisurely and softly did Rolf cast his net: and then steadily did he draw it in, so rich in fish that when they lay in the bottom of the boat, they at once sank it deeper in the water, and checked its speed by their weight.
Rolf then rested awhile, and looked ahead for Vogel islet, thinking that he could not now be very far from it. There it lay looming in the heated atmosphere, spreading as if in the air, just above the surface of the water, to which it appeared joined in the middle by a dark stem, as if it grew like a huge sea-flower. There is no end to the strange appearances presented in northern climates by an atmosphere so different from our own. Rolf gazed and gazed as the island grew more like itself on his approach; and he was so occupied with it as not to look about him as he ought to have done at such a distance from home. He was roused at length by a shout, and looked towards the point from which it came; and there, in a little harbour of the fiord, a recess which now actually lay behind him-between him and home-lay a vessel ; and that vessel, he knew by a second glance, was the pirate schooner.
Of the schooner itself he had no fear, for there was so little wind that it could not have come out in time to annoy him ; but there was the schooner's boat, with five men in it-four rowing and one steering-already in full pursuit of hin. He knew by the general air and native dress of the man at the helm, that it was Hund; and he fancied he heard Hund's malicious voice in the shout which came rushing over the water from their boat to his. How fast they seemed to be coming! How the spray from their oars glittered in the sun, and how their wake lengthened with every stroke! No spectator from the shore (if there had been any) could have doubted that the boat was in pursuit of the skiff, and would snap it up presently. Rolf saw that he had five determined foes gaining upon him every instant; and yet he was not alarmed. He had had his reasons for thinking himself safe near Vogel Islet; and calculating for a moment the time of the tide, he was quite at his ease. As he took his oars he smiled at the hot haste of his pursuers, and at the thought of the amazement they would feel when he slipped through their fingers ; and then he began to row.
Rolf did not overheat himself with too much exertion. He permitted his foes to gain a little 'upon him, though he might have preserved the distance for as long as his strength could have held out against that of the four in the other boat. They ceased their shouting when they saw how quietly he took his danger. They really believed that he was not aware of being their object, and hoped to seize him suddenly, before he had time to resist.
When very near the islet, however, Rolf became more active, and his skiff disappeared behind its southern point while the enemy's boat was still two furlongs off. The steersman looked for the re