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I Date now from one of the most lovely parts of Norway. How I came to get into the fair valley called Gulbrandsdal, I can tell you; but how I am to leave it, is becoming enigmatical.
Notwithstanding our break-down, my little excursion with the good old Professor gave me one cause of regret only—it was too short. I had still more than a week to spend in the Hotel de Scandinavie before I saw the sun of the twenty-eight. However, I had another good friend in Christiania as well as the Professor. And the very day we got back there, this kind gentleman sent me a note which gave me the unlooked-for and gratifying intelligence, that I was invited to the countryhouse of a celebrated personage who resided at the place I so much wished to see, and who, being led to expect the visit of some "distinguished foreigner," would be happy to convey me down there in his carriage if I consented to go.
I read over the note, which was a short and legible one, two or three times; but still I could only understand from it that I was the "distinguished foreigner," as well as the invited guest.
However, in the evening, there walked into No. 13, a little old gentleman, who announced himself as Herr T., who was to have the honour of giving me a place in his carriage to his country-house. I asked the hour of departure on the morrow.
"I must go before him," said Herr Y., musingly. "We shall start at nine o'clock."
At nine o'clock I was ready. The word "him" made no impression on me the first time I heard it, for I thought the observation was merely the utterance of Herr Y.'s own thoughts, such as are very convenient on paper, but very insignificant when they take place in reality; and related only to some personal or domestic arrangement.
Punctuality is a failing; I have often found it so, for one loses time in practising it. I was ready at nine o'clock, forgetful that an hour or two of Norwegian time counts for not more than a minute or two of English. As I was not summoned to the carriage, I began to tremble lest Herr Y. should depart without the "distinguished foreigner;" and I went out on the wooden gallery, and saw him sitting before the small table in the dirty yard below, which bore a coffee-cup at all hours of the day, save that particular one of the afternoon when most persons were asleep. I called over the balcony to ask when we should set out, and was answered — O yes, there was no danger, we should go in half-an-hour.
In half-an-hour I looked again, and saw the carriage drawn out and left in the yard. Herr Y. was standing by it, and asking for all my paraphernalia. I therefore descended to see how these could be arranged, for the aspect of affairs seemed to be singular. The carriage was standing there, and the post-horses, at a little distance from it, were eyeing it rather shyly; three or four men, with hands in their pockets, and pipes hanging from their mouths, were gazing at it less expressively. The only creatures in movement were an immense number of huge purple lobsters, and enormous live crabs, and a vast quantity of horrible, wriggling eels,— crawling, twisting, working, in the midst of the circle formed by the spectators. Outside the spot occupied by the living creatures lay many slaughtered fowls, having their bones more visible than their flesh; some large cucumbers, a basket of small cherries, and a sack full of green peas. The rest of the items may be summed up in the word with which ladies usually conclude their accounts—sundries. Herr Y. politely informed me that now we should set out as soon as the carriage was packed. "Will they pack it with these creatures?" I thought. The doubt was resolved by one of the many lookers-on seizing a handful of great eels and cramming them, notwithstanding their violent contortions and frantic resistance, into a basket of hay.
"Hay, of all things, to put live eels into!" I exclaimed.»
"That is the best for them," said Herr Y., with the air of a prescribing doctor.
Curiosity was certainly stimulated in me by the Northern air; no native could have yielded to it more readily than I did, in asking my good host—that was going to be, what on earth he could do with all these creatures. A natural fear of being fed upon them perhaps beset me. But Herr Y. gravely and briefly replied, "He will eat them."
That there was some sort of animal which the personal pronoun masculine was intended to represent, I now began to suspect; but as the eels, &c, were not for me, I inquired no further. And Herr Y., looking at his auditory with an air of superior knowledge, added, "That is nothing to the English; I know that they eat well." A cordial assent was given.
"And fish," said one of the men; "yes, they like that. Do they not come over here and risk their lives, and spend heaps of gold, for nothing else but to catch a fish? Englishmen do nothing more. To eat, to drink, to fish; that is all the life of Englishmen."
My country! I heard this said, truly, and word for word spoken, in Norway! And yet the persons who give rise to an idea so preposterous imagine they are admired or envied by the simple people whom they astonish.
"Your judgment is not a fair one," I remarked to Herr Y, as he assisted me in placing