I need scarcely inform you, after telling you of my walks, that my constitution has been renovated here, and that I have recovered my activity even whilst attaining a little embonpoint. My imprudence last winter, and some untoward accidents just at the time I was weaning my child, had reduced me to a state of weakness which I never before experienced. A slow fever preyed on me every night during my residence in Sweden, and after I arrived at Tonsberg. By chance I found a fine rivulet filtered through the rocks, and confined in a basin for the cattle. It tasted to me like a chalybeate; at any rate, it was pure; and the good effect of the various waters which invalids are sent to drink depends, I believe, more on the air, exercise, and change of scene, than on their medicinal qualities. I therefore determined to turn my morning walks towards it, and seek for health from the nymph of the fountain, partaking of the beverage offered to the tenants of the shade.
Chance likewise led me to discover a new pleasure equally beneficial to my health. I wished to avail myself of my vicinity to the sea and bathe; but it was not possible near the town; there was no convenience. The young woman whom I mentioned to you proposed rowing me across the water amongst the rocks; but as she was pregnant, I insisted on taking one of the oars, and learning to row. It was not difficult, and I do not know a pleasanter exercise. I soon became expert, and my train of thinking kept time, as it were, with the oars, or I suffered the boat to be carried along by the current, indulging a pleasing forgetfulness or fallacious hopes. How fallacious! yet, without hope, what is to sustain life, but the fear of annihilation--the only thing of which I have ever felt a dread. I cannot bear to think of being no more--of losing myself-- though existence is often but a painful consciousness of misery; nay, it appears to me impossible that I should cease to exist, or that this active, restless spirit, equally alive to joy and sorrow, should only be organised dust--ready to fly abroad the moment the spring snaps, or the spark goes out which kept it together. Surely something resides in this heart that is not perishable, and life is more than a dream.
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.