Sometimes, to take up my oar once more, when the sea was calm, I was amused by disturbing the innumerable young star fish which floated just below the surface; I had never observed them before, for they have not a hard shell like those which I have seen on the seashore. They look like thickened water with a white edge, and four purple circles, of different forms, were in the middle, over an incredible number of fibres or white lines. Touching them, the cloudy substance would turn or close, first on one side, then on the other, very gracefully, but when I took one of them up in the ladle, with which I heaved the water out of the boat, it appeared only a colourless jelly.
I did not see any of the seals, numbers of which followed our boat when we landed in Sweden; but though I like to sport in the water I should have had no desire to join in their gambols.
Enough, you will say, of inanimate nature and of brutes, to use the lordly phrase of man; let me hear something of the inhabitants.
The gentleman with whom I had business is the Mayor of Tonsberg. He speaks English intelligibly, and, having a sound understanding, I was sorry that his numerous occupations prevented my gaining as much information from him as I could have drawn forth had we frequently conversed. The people of the town, as far as I had an opportunity of knowing their sentiments, are extremely well satisfied with his manner of discharging his office. He has a degree of information and good sense which excites respect, whilst a cheerfulness, almost amounting to gaiety, enables him to reconcile differences and keep his neighbours in good humour. "I lost my horse," said a woman to me, "but ever since, when I want to send to the mill, or go out, the Mayor lends me one. He scolds if I do not come for it."
A criminal was branded, during my stay here, for the third offence; but the relief he received made him declare that the judge was one of the best men in the world.
I sent this wretch a trifle, at different times, to take with him into slavery. As it was more than he expected, he wished very much to see me, and this wish brought to my remembrance an anecdote I heard when I was in Lisbon.
A wretch who had been imprisoned several years, during which period lamps had been put up, was at last condemned to a cruel death, yet, in his way to execution, he only wished for one night's respite to see the city lighted.
Having dined in company at the mayor's I was invited with his family to spend the day at one of the richest merchant's houses. Though I could not speak Danish I knew that I could see a great deal; yes, I am persuaded that I have formed a very just opinion of the character of the Norwegians, without being able to hold converse with them.