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A tall, dignified girl received me at the threshold of her father's door, with anything but the reputed heartiness of Norwegian manner. In fact, I suspect that her prejudices ran rather against, than in favour of English visitors. She had got a dozen at least of them now, and was obliged to make the best she could of them.
But as I am very tired, and going to dress, I will bid you good-bye for the present.
Punctuality in Norway, perhaps throughout Scandinavia, is chiefly maintained with respect to meals; the dinner-hour keeps time, whatever else does not. The latest, that is to say, the company hour, for that meal is four o'clock. At four o'clock, therefore, I descended to what may be termed the reception-rooms of this really comfortable and spacious Norwegian house. It was the first time I had been the inmate of such a one, and although I found I was not the person whom the hospitable proprietor delighted to honour, I was very thankful for the attention paid to an wra-distinguished foreigner.
In the first of the three rooms a number of men, in uniform and out of uniform, were congregated; in the second, or ladies' room, I was presented formally to my young hostess and her friend. We were then almost immediately conducted into the third, or I think the fourth of the communicating rooms, where an immensely long table, laid as in France and Germany, and adorned only with flowers, bore in its centre a mysterious looking object, something like a large epergne, completely covered up and hidden in an envelope of thick muslin. Various conjectures were hazarded as to what this drapery might conceal.
The subject of my late mystification—the being who had only been spoken of as an emphatic pronoun—sat now at the head of the table; on his right hand sat his second in greatness, myself came third, and our host fourth. The two young hostesses stood at a side-table, and gave the various and abundant dishes to two nice servant-maids—with most curious caps of thick white muslin, worn like a sun-bonnet, not very unlike the veils of the Beguines, but not so large,—who handed the viands round to the company.
"I like to see young women wait on their company as they do here," observed one of the English party, whose opinions are worthy of preservation; "it teaches them subjection, it is one of the best customs of Norway."
But our good host, what was he sitting on ?— Thorns; or something that made him equally restless. "What will he eat first?" he whispered to me; "what do they begin with?"
"In England, generally with soup."
"Soup! soup!" he cried, to the young lady and the attendants; "he will have soup first. Yes, he likes it. Well!" A sigh of satisfaction was heaved when he saw the Englishmen eating their soup. "Now, what will he eat next?"
"Fish," I said.
"Ah! I knew that, I said so. Fish; yes, he eats fish next." And in answer to the order the most splendid trout of the Logan, weighing as much, I believe, as forty pounds, was presented to the party.
"He likes it," I whispered, to my host, being sincerely anxious that his benevolent feelings and intentions should be appreciated and gratified.
"He likes it!" he echoed. "Ah !—nay, there is nothing he can like; I have got everything certainly." Some words were here uttered to the Piga, or waiting-maid (I may here remark that the phrase implying, in Norwegian, "pretty girl," sounds very like "smoked pig" in English), but in obedience to this mandate, she presented, to eat with the trout which the great men were enjoying—what do you think?—the very eels that had travelled with me! Now we have all said until we are weary of saying it, "where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise;" it is one of those household words of which we have had something too much. Yet is it still my ever recurring folly to remove such blissful ignorance. The great unknown was going to help himself to the dish. "What is this?" he said, in too plain English for the Piga to understand. "Sauce?" he inquired again, looking at me, as I believed.
"Eels !" I cried, with an expression of horror.
The spoon dropped—dropped into his plate with some of the mutilated forms of my late travelling companions upon it, "Eels! they eat eels with salmon!"
"Take it away, away!" cried our host, waving his arm in dismissal, "there is nothing he can eat, no, nothing! I knew that!"
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