« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
among the quiet, good-natured, and wondering natives on the fore-deck, who seemed to look on us as some sort of creatures from another world, I mused on the suggestive words spoken to me by "the distinguished foreigner."
A sailor ended my musings by asking me to get out of his way. In doing so, I turned round, and beheld a sight which, until this lengthened hour of my life, had been a legendary one to me— the saga, as they might call it here, of skinning live eels.
Although not given to screaming, I think I did scream as I flew to Herr Y., begging him to interfere.
"That must go on," said Herr Y., calmly. "They are for His dinner."
"Why, supper was not over at midnight; breakfast has but just ended; and we are to dine on land at four o'clock."
"Yes, that is all true; but it is well to have some of the cookery done here. I wrote down ten days ago that that should go on; but it is well to make sure. He may not, after all, find what he likes."
u Oh!" I exclaimed, "how can people who are not English entertain such notions of our noble race! A mere eating, drinking, money-making, and money-spending nation! This great man— this truly great man—must he be placed in the same category?" My patriotism caused, me to forget my benevolence on behalf of the eels. It was as well that it did so. I should have wasted my own sensibilities without saving their skins. The only ans wer that Herr Y. gave to my eloquent denial of my countrymen's propensities was couched in the sceptical words, "We shall see."
Here we are at land, and I am as glad to land as if our voyage had lasted for as many days as it has actually lasted hours.
A gig was waiting for me; I was put into it and drawn up a great hill, leaving all the party to follow on foot. At the top of the hill I found a line of eager and friendly faces ranged almost across the road. Some of these rose above the uniforms worn by engineering officers; others were those of men in plain clothes; and one or two I perceived, by the easy, comfortable look that appertains to the profession here, to be clerical. All hats were taken off to me; all faces looked a salutation, which mine, I know, did not respond to; for I was once more quite mystified, and fearful of taking honours that did not belong to me.
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 ww-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