On entering I was still better pleased to find a clean house, with some degree of rural elegance. The beds were of muslin, coarse it is true, but dazzlingly white; and the floor was strewed over with little sprigs of juniper (the custom, as I afterwards found, of the country), which formed a contrast with the curtains, and produced an agreeable sensation of freshness, to soften the ardour of noon. Still nothing was so pleasing as the alacrity of hospitality--all that the house afforded was quickly spread on the whitest linen. Remember, I had just left the vessel, where, without being fastidious, I had continually been disgusted. Fish, milk, butter, and cheese, and, I am sorry to add, brandy, the bane of this country, were spread on the board. After we had dined hospitality made them, with some degree of mystery, bring us some excellent coffee. I did not then know that it was prohibited.
The good man of the house apologised for coming in continually, but declared that he was so glad to speak English he could not stay out. He need not have apologised; I was equally glad of his company. With the wife I could only exchange smiles, and she was employed observing the make of our clothes. My hands, I found, had first led her to discover that I was the lady. I had, of course, my quantum of reverences; for the politeness of the north seems to partake of the coldness of the climate and the rigidity of its iron-sinewed rocks. Amongst the peasantry there is, however, so much of the simplicity of the golden age in this land of flint--so much overflowing of heart and fellow-feeling, that only benevolence and the honest sympathy of nature diffused smiles over my countenance when they kept me standing, regardless of my fatigue, whilst they dropped courtesy after courtesy.
The situation of this house was beautiful, though chosen for convenience. The master being the officer who commanded all the pilots on the coast, and the person appointed to guard wrecks, it was necessary for him to fix on a spot that would overlook the whole bay. As he had seen some service, he wore, not without a pride I thought becoming, a badge to prove that he had merited well of his country. It was happy, I thought, that he had been paid in honour, for the stipend he received was little more than twelve pounds a year. I do not trouble myself or you with the calculation of Swedish ducats. Thus, my friend, you perceive the necessity of perquisites. This same narrow policy runs through everything. I shall have occasion further to animadvert on it.
Though my host amused me with an account of himself, which gave me aim idea of the manners of the people I was about to visit, I was eager to climb the rocks to view the country, and see whether the honest tars had regained their ship. With the help of the lieutenant's telescope, I saw the vessel under way with a fair though gentle gale. The sea was calm, playful even as the most shallow stream, and on the vast basin I did not see a dark speck to indicate the boat. My conductors were consequently arrived.
Straying further, my eye was attracted by the sight of some heartsease that peeped through the rocks. I caught at it as a good omen, and going to preserve it in a letter that had not conveyed balm to my heart, a cruel remembrance suffused my eyes; but it passed away like an April shower. If you are deep read in Shakespeare, you will recollect that this was the little western flower tinged by love's dart, which "maidens call love in idleness." The gaiety of my babe was unmixed; regardless of omens or sentiments, she found a few wild strawberries more grateful than flowers or fancies.
The lieutenant informed me that this was a commodious bay. Of that I could not judge, though I felt its picturesque beauty. Rocks were piled on rocks, forming a suitable bulwark to the ocean. "Come no further," they emphatically said, turning their dark sides to the waves to augment the idle roar. The view was sterile; still little patches of earth of the most exquisite verdure, enamelled with the sweetest wild flowers, seemed to promise the goats and a few straggling cows luxurious herbage. How silent and peaceful was the scene! I gazed around with rapture, and felt more of that spontaneous pleasure which gives credibility to our expectation of happiness than I had for a long, long time before. I forgot the horrors I had witnessed in France, which had cast a gloom over all nature, and suffering the enthusiasm of my character--too often, gracious God! damped by the tears of disappointed affection--to be lighted up afresh, care took wing while simple fellow-feeling expanded my heart.
To prolong this enjoyment, I readily assented to the proposal of our host to pay a visit to a family, the master of which spoke English, who was the drollest dog in the country, he added, repeating some of his stories with a hearty laugh.
I walked on, still delighted with the rude beauties of the scene; for the sublime often gave place imperceptibly to the beautiful, dilating the emotions which were painfully concentrated.