Dave Porter in the Far North/Chapter 25
TO THE NORTHWARD ONCE MORE
"What's the trouble about?" asked Dave, coming forward.
"That brute doesn't want us to stay here," explained Granbury Lapham. "He forbids the landlord renting us rooms."
"Are there any rooms vacant?" questioned Roger.
"We'll take them!" cried Dave. "He can't stop us."
"I've already said I'd take them. But the burgomaster won't listen to it."
"The landlord has got to let us have the rooms," said Dave. "If his place is a public road-house we are entitled to accommodations, and at the legal rate——"
"By Jove, you're right! How stupid of me to forget!" cried the Englishman. He turned to the landlord. "I demand those rooms," he said, in Norwegian. "That man shall not keep us out of your place. It is a public house. I demand my rights."
"Yes! yes!" replied the landlord. "But, sir——"
"Ha! Do not listen to him, Voshof," said the burgomaster. "Who is more important here, he or I? Out with the lot of them! I will take the rooms, and if every apartment is occupied, why you cannot accommodate them, can you?"
"Here is my money," said Granbury Lapham. He placed several silver thalers on the table. "I believe you know the law. If you do not, my friends and I do."
The landlord was in a quandary. Ordinarily he would have sided with the burgomaster of Masolga, but there were several considerations which made him pause. In the first place, he did not like the burgomaster, for he was very dictatorial and few things at the inn suited him and his party; in the second place, the foreigners usually paid liberally for what they got, generous "tips" were not withheld; and lastly, and this was equally important, the landlord had once refused a man a room when he was by law entitled to accommodations and he had been fined for the offense. He did not want to be dragged into court again, for his license might possibly be taken from him.
"He pays for the rooms, I am helpless," said the landlord, taking up the thalers. "I will see to it that you are not molested by any one," he added, gravely.
At this the burgomaster stormed and raved, calling Granbury Lapham a number of hard names. The Englishman would not stand such insults, and rushing up he caught the Norwegian official by the arm.
"Stop!" he cried. "Any more such words, and I will knock you down. My friends and I did not come here to be insulted. We are gentlemen, and we expect to be treated as such. Landlord, I look to you for protection while under your roof."
"There must be no quarreling here," said the landlord. "The law does not allow it." He paused for an instant. "I will show you gentlemen to your rooms." He turned to the burgomaster of Masolga. "Your fire shall be attended to immediately."
"I shall remember this!" cried the burgomaster, quivering with rage. "I shall remember it! I shall never come here again!" And he stormed from the room.
"He is a very passionate man," said the landlord, when he was alone with our friends. "I do not care if he stays away. He is poor pay and he wants too much for his money."
"We shall pay you well if you treat us fairly," answered Granbury Lapham, and slipped an extra thaler into the inn-keeper's ready hand.
"Depend upon me to do my best, sir," was the quick answer, and then the travelers were shown to two connecting rooms, plainly but comfortably furnished. One had a broad fireplace, and in this a roaring fire was soon blazing. That there might be no further trouble they were served with supper in a private dining-room; so they saw practically nothing more of the hot-headed and unreasonable burgomaster of Masolga.
"We have to thank you for getting through in this instance," said Dave, warmly, to Granbury Lapham. "I realize now we should have been at a tremendous disadvantage had Roger and I undertaken this trip alone—neither of us being able to speak more than a few words of the language."
"I am glad I fell in with you," was the Englishman's reply. "'Twould have been mighty lonely without you, don't you know."
Despite the adventures through which they had passed, the young Americans slept soundly that night and did not awaken until eight in the morning. It was cold and cheerless, no sun showing in the sky, and there was a promise of more snow in the air.
A good breakfast was procured, and they settled with the landlord and "tipped" him in a fashion that made him bow almost to the ground.
"Come again, and welcome, sirs," he said. "And do not mind what the burgomaster said. More than likely he will soon lose his position, for many people are dissatisfied with him, and he is exceedingly slow in settling his debts."
They were soon on horseback, the sleigh having been put away under one of the sheds. Hendrik led the way, past the village and then to what was little better than a mountain trail, winding in and out through several patches of firs and then across some rough rocks. At the latter spot there was a good deal of ice, and once Roger's horse went down, carrying his rider with him.
"Are you hurt, Roger?" asked Dave, leaping down to his chum's assistance.
"I don't think so," was the reply of the senator's son. But when he arose he drew in a sharp breath. "He caught my left ankle and I reckon he twisted it a little."
The horse was gotten up and Dave assisted Roger to mount. It was painful to stand on the injured ankle, but Roger said it was all right when he was in the saddle.
"Be careful after this," said Dave, and they were cautious at every spot where the ice showed itself.
The scenery around them was magnificent, but it was such a gray day this was practically lost upon them. They were going steadily upward and to the north of Norway, and they could feel the air growing colder. Only the firs stood out against the sky; all else was snow and ice.
"This is winter weather, and no mistake," remarked Roger. "I don't know that I want to go much further north."
"How desolate it is!" said Dave. "Not a sign of a house or hut anywhere! It's as bad as being in the far West of our country in mid-winter."
"Hark! I hear bells!" cried Granbury Lapham. "Can another sleigh be coming?"
They looked in the direction from whence the sound came, and presently made out something moving below them, on a road In the valley.
"I really believe it is a sled with a reindeer attached!" cried Dave. And such proved to be the case. But before they could get a good look at the novel turnout, sled and reindeer flashed out of sight.
"I shouldn't mind having a ride behind a reindeer myself," said Dave, as they resumed their journey.
"Nor I," added his chum.
At the end of three hours of hard traveling they came in sight of the sheep-station for which they were bound. It was composed of a log cabin and half a dozen large sheds, surrounded by a high fence. Nobody was in sight, and they had to call several times before the care-taker of the place put in an appearance.
"Have you a party of strangers here?" questioned Granbury Lapham.
"Yes," was the answer, "but they are not here just now."
"A scientific exploring party?"
"Where have they gone?"
"They started this morning for the top of old Thundercap," said the sheep raiser. "They will be back by to-morrow night."
"Found at last," said the Englishman, joyfully, and translated what had been said to Dave and Roger.
"Back to-morrow night," murmured Dave. His heart began to beat rapidly. "I wish they'd come to-night. I can hardly wait."
The sheep raiser was questioned further, and told them the party was made up of Mr. Porter, Mr. Lapham, and five others, including a Norwegian guide named Bjornhof. He said they had a number of scientific instruments with them, and talked of gold and silver and other precious metals.
"Maybe they are trying to locate a mine," suggested Roger.
"If they are, I fancy they will be disappointed," answered Granbury Lapham. "Norway has been pretty well explored for minerals and the best of the mines have been located."
"This region doesn't look as if it had been explored very much," returned Dave. "It's about as wild and primitive as could be."
The sheep-station afforded but meager accommodations, and they were glad that they had brought along some supplies. There was, to be sure, plenty of mutton, but who wanted to eat that all the time?
"I don't mind lamb," said the senator's son. "But mutton, especially when it is strong, is another matter."
"Which puts me in mind of a story, as Shadow Hamilton would say," said Dave, with a smile. "A young housewife was going to have a number of her husband's friends to dinner, and her husband told her to get a big leg of lamb for roasting. So she went to the butcher. 'Give me a leg of lamb,' she said. 'I want a very large one. I think you had better give it to me from a lamb four or five years old.'"
"And that puts me In mind of another," answered the senator's son. "A country boy went to town and there saw a circus parade including two camels. When he got back home he told his folks that the parade was all right, but he thought it was a shame to drive around such long-necked, hump-backed cows!"
The sheep raiser told them that all the members of the exploring party were in excellent health. He said one of the men resembled Dave very much, and smiled broadly when told the man was the lad's father. When Granbury Lapham added that the two had not met since Dave was a little fellow, the sheep raiser opened his eyes wide in astonishment.
"'Tis like a fairy tale," said he, and then told them several fairy tales he had heard when a boy. He was an uneducated man and his life was exceedingly simple, and the fairy tales were, consequently, very wonderful to him.
"Imagine such a man set down in the heart of New York or Chicago," observed Roger. "How his eyes would open and how he would stare!"
"If you told him of all the wonders of the big cities he wouldn't believe you," answered Dave. "I once started to tell one of those natives of the South Sea Islands about the Brooklyn Bridge and when I pointed out how long it was, and said it hung in mid-air, he shook his head and walked away, and I know he thought I was either telling a lie or was crazy."
The day passed slowly, especially to Dave, who could scarcely wait for the hour to arrive when his father should come back. What a meeting that would be! It made the tears stand in his eyes to think about it.
"Dear, dear father!" he murmured to himself. "I know we are going to love each other very, very much!"