IN the midst of the mountains, far away from the farms, by the shores of lonely lakes and rivers, or on the slopes of ridges beyond the limit of the growth of grain, are the saeters. These are mountain houses or huts, built of logs or of rough stones, where, during the summer months, the people of a farm come to pasture their cattle, for in the midst of this great wilderness of rocks there are many spots covered with aromatic grass, which gives a rich flavor to the milk of these places. Many of these saeters are very difficult of access ; high mountain ranges and snow-patches have to be crossed, and rivers forded by man and beast. Solitary, indeed, is the life in these mountains, for only once or twice during the summer does the farmer go up there to see how those who have been left are getting on, to hear about the herds, and if the season has been good. Should the summer be cold or wet there is less milk obtained; it should be remembered that to many a farmer an abundance of butter and cheese is necessary, in order from their sale to obtain the supplies needed for household use. On these visits they bring provisions and take back the produce of the dairy. The sæter life is also a hard one; the pastures are far away from the huts, and during the whole day the maidens have to follow the herd, rain or shine, and return in the evening, cold, hungry, and often wet.
In some mountains pastures are very abundant, and sorters numerous; in others they are few and far apart. Almost every farmer possesses one, but some, who have more mountain land than they require, rent part of them to those less fortunate. Though the family owning a saeter may be very poor, and have only three or four cows, they show the same generous impulses which characterize the nation, and from them I always received as kindly a welcome as from their richer neighbors.
The people start for the saeter, in many districts, towards the middle of June, the time varying somewhat, but generally not after midsummer (St. Hans’s Day), according to the distance and mountain heights that are to be crossed. They return between the middle and end of September, and, if high mountains are to be passed, about the first week in September.
Two young maidens, the pride of their family, or of a neighborhood, will remain in the mountains all alone, feeling as safe as in their father’s home ; they have no fear of being molested, for they trust to the honor and manhood of the bonde blood. Very few things in Norway have impressed me more than this simple faith.
The young lover comes once or twice to cheer the hours of his sweetheart, but only for a day : if engaged to him he is the more welcome, for in the autumn, after the labors of the harvest are over, the wedding will probably take place. Many a courtship has been commenced at these places, where the heart of the young maiden is more susceptible on account of the loneliness of her life.
A few days before the departure for the saeter a great stir takes place on the farm ; milk-pails, churns, and wooden vessels, the great iron pot, the mould for the cheese, two or three plates, and a cup or two, a frying-pan, and, above all, the coffee-kettle, are made ready for packing. Salt for the cattle; flour, to be mixed with skim-milk, for the calves; bread, a piece of bacon for Sunday, coffee and sugar, and covering for the beds must not be forgotten. The girls take their Sunday clothes and prayer-books, and old garments for every-day wear; a good stock of spun wool, to make stockings, mittens, or gloves in their leisure hours, and pieces of cloth upon which they can embroider. The old horse which carries the load is often let loose to pasture in the mountains for several weeks, for the ploughing is over, and the grass or hay left from the year before is carefully saved.
On the morning of departure the cows, sheep, goats, and a pig or two are watched by the children, to keep them from straying far away. If the farm is small, and the people poor, all the family go to the sæter till harvesting takes place. The mother is often seen carrying on her back the last baby. Be-fore starting, the mother prepares an extra good meal for the farm-hands, or that part of the family who are to accompany the sæter girlsthe daughters, or girls hired for the season. Those who take the lead often carry long horns, by whose shrill tones the animals are called to follow, salt being given to them now and then to coax them on, and the children keep them in line.
During the summer the farms and hamlets are deserted ; sweet milk is not to be procured, except at the relay station, and the home-life is wanting. At that season I avoided the great routes crowded by sight-seeing tourists, and went into the mountains, each year exploring a different group; I always lived at the sæter, to which I will now lead the reader.
In the beginning of July I left the old city of Stavanger. The sail on the fjord was very interesting, on account of the sea-marks engraved on the rocky sides of Stensö by the sea, at a height of 150 to 175 feet; and at the narrow valley of Aardal four distinct terraces, one above the other, were in sight at one time.
After a trip of twelve hours we came to the end of Sands fjord, a branch of the Stavanger here I landed with my guide, Samson Fiskekjon, who had been recommended to tine as trusty and well acquainted with the mountains. Samson was a bachelor, about forty-five years of age, honest, though not brilliant, and of whom I still retain most pleasant recollections ; he was chatty and amusing, and knew well the ways of city people from frequent visits to Stavanger. Samson was heir to a well-stocked farm that would be his at the death of his father, then eighty years old, and of which he-was now the manager, and, to all intents and purposes, the owner; his mother was nearly as old as his father. Before arriving at his home the began to apologize for its simplicity, which he thought would not be agreeable to an American all of whom he imagined to be millionnaires, living in the most luxurious style. He had heard of California, and of America as the land of gold, and, of course, everybody had gone and helped himself to the precious metal. So he commenced by saying that only the old folks were at home ;; that there was no milk, as the cattle had gone to the saeter; that the food would be too simple for me; that his mother would not know how to cook; that he was afraid there were many fleas; and finally suggested that we should drive to the parsonage. I mildly said that it would be better first to drive to his place, and then take a walk to the parsonage, and wait for an invitation from the pastor. After a drive of two hours through the picturesque valley of Suledal, along the clear river, we reached his farm, where we found his father splitting wood with a strength which augured well for a life of twenty years at least. The old couple received me with great kindness.
A number of farms were scattered about, and in sight was the church. A short walk brought me to the parsonage, where the pastor, a bachelor of about fifty-five, received me in a very cool and un-Norwegian manner, though there was nothing impolite in his demeanor. I was somewhat surprised at this unusual reception. All my efforts to get acquainted with him seemed useless ; I gave him my card, but that, of course, did not help me, for he had never heard of my name, and had never seen any of my translated works: to my inquiry if he ever read the Skilling Magazine (which had from time to time given accounts of my journeying in Africa), his answer was, in a sonorous voice, “I never read the Skilling Magazine The hope of an invitation to the parsonage began to vanish, and visions of being tormented by fleas during the night came up before me; I had passed through that ordeal a few days before, and I did not care to experience another so soon; I knew that if Samson complained of them there must be a prodigious number, for the people do not mind fifty or sixty of them in a bed.
I was about to retire, when another venerable clergyman, with his wife, on a visit from the North, entered the parlor. I commenced a conversation with him; but when I told him that in one summer I had crossed the land from the Baltic to North Cape, and from Bodo to Lulea, he flatly contradicted me, saying it could not be donein short, the reverend gentleman gave me the lie. I came to the conclusion that these two worthies probably mistook me for some scamp, or an emigrant agent from America. If this were the ease, I do not wonder that they did not receive me well, for such persons are not popular. There must have been some reason of the kind, for this was the only instance during my travels where I failed to receive a warm Norwegian welcome. When I told the story to Samson, on my return, he had a good laugh over it. I said, in a rather exulting tone, ” Did I not tell you that it was better to go to the parsonage without luggage?” During my absence a complete metamorphosis had taken place in the farm-house, and everything was tidy and clean ; bread, butter, cheese, and sour milk were on the table, and the good people excused themselves for having no sweet milk, as the cows were far away in the mountains. I slept with my door wide open, for the night was very warm ; I do not think they slept at all, as coffee was ready for me at four in the morning : they pressed me to eat, as the journey before me was a long one.
I left with two boatmen, having besides a woman with an infant in her arms. We had not sailed far before we came abreast of a comfortable white-painted house, the pleasant home of a Storthingsmand, where we went ashore. The host was not at home, but his amiable wife, who had heard of my coming this way, had been expecting me, and seemed quite disappointed when she heard I had spent the night at the farm of Samson. Though I assured her that I had break-fasted, she insisted that I should partake of another.
The Suledal valley, near the lower extremity of the lake, is exceedingly interesting to the antiquarian, on account of the numerous tumuli or tombs of heathen times, some of which are hollow, of circular shape, and surrounded by stones, while others are square. As we ascended the lake we could see the paths leading to the sæters, and patches of snow on the mountains. After a pull of fourteen miles we landed at Naes, on the right shore, near the upper extremity of the lake, from which there is a horse-path leading to the numerous saeters met between the Suledal and Roldal lakes.
The road over the mountains to Roldal is at first along a torrent spanned by a bridge; it passes numerous saeters, where milk was offered to us. Towards the close of the day the sun came out, gilding with its last rays the hills and snow-topped mountains, till night overtook us in the dark ravines, as we descended by a natural gigantic-like flight of stones to Botten, where we found only the daughter at home, her father and mother having gone to the saeter.
From Roldal a bridle – path leads to the Valdal valley, through wild scenery. I intended to pass the whole summer, or until the appearance of snow, in going from saeter to saeter over the table-lands of the Hardanger mountains. The beginning of August is the best time to cross the mountains, as then most of the snow has disappeared, the streams are shallow and easily forded, and the swamps are passable. I procured a good guide, who was to take his horse, not that I wanted to ride, but to carry our provisions: a horse is no trouble in this Roldal region ; you can generally climb the hills faster than the pony does; but in difficult places a mountain horse, accustomed to go to the saeter, will be surer-footed than yourself, and make fewer slips on the stones; if riding him, you must not at-tempt to guide him, but let the bridle lie loose on his neck. The horses pick up their food as they go along, here and there in some green spot, and can endure great hardship, hunger, and cold. I carried a gun with me, not for protection, but for possible use in obtaining food.
The path, after leaving Roldal, ascended gradually along the Valdal River, in view, on the left bank, of the white column of the Risp-foss ; descending again, and crossing the stream on a bridge, we saw, on the opposite shore, the bridle-path going to Lake Staa and upper Thelemarken.
On the right bank of the Valdal are seen many sæters, and paths branching in every direction. The river flows for some distance through a flat country dotted with fine pastures and small farms. Another stream throws itself into the Valdal, and forms a magnificent cascade of 1000 feet, below which the cur-rent was so strong that even the horse could hardly keep his footing while fording it. Twelve miles from Röldal we came in sight of the Valdal lake, the mountains sloping gently to the shore, near which were several saeters. Herds of cattle, which had come from the mountains to be milked, grazed on the green banks, and on our left, high up, was the Bakken sæter; while at the head of the lake the smoke curled upwards from the Valdal s ter, and we heard the loud cries of the girls calling the cattle that wended slowly on their way, browsing as they went. On the right bank of the lake a magnificent cataract fell from a very great height. We followed the shore till we came to the upper extremity of the lake. The people were watching us, wondering who we could be, for they expected no one from their home.
On our arrival they bade us enter the house, which was as comfortable as that of a farm, and the usual salutations took place; the milk was passed around in the large flat pail in which it is kept for the cream to rise; taking the customary sip, we handed it back, with thanks, and the usual pressing invitations to drink more (dricke mer) were responded to by drinking as much as we could, with many thanks (mange tak). When they learned that I was from America they looked at me with astonishment, saying, ” Fra Amerika, fra Amerika.” I was then made the more welcome, as Nels, the farmer, had a married daughter in the States. He had corne the day be-fore from the farm to carry back the butter and cheese that had been made; he lived far away, on the Sôr fjord, one of the branches of the Hardanger. He was the father of a large family of grown-up childrena type of the Norseman (north man), hospitable but undemonstrative, with a tall and spare figure, and a kind face.
Three of the daughters were at the sæter for the summer, Synvor, Marthe, and Anneall pictures of health, and blondes of the type of the descendants of the fair-haired Vikings. Synvor, the eldest, rather short in stature, was nineteen years old; Anne was seventeen, tall, muscular, with piercing blue eyes, and fully able to take care of herself ; she would have made a good model for a Valkyrie ; Marthe was sixteen, with golden hair, soft blue eyes, and delicate complexion. All three were celebrated on the Hardanger for their beauty, and young farmers without number were trying to win their hearts. I could not but admire these northern girls, trained up in fresh air, simple food, with abundant exercise, and free from the trammels of fashionable dress.
In July and August I do not know of a more healthy climate than that of the saeters, especially when they are situated from three to four thousand feet above the level of the sea. The atmosphere at that elevation is most invigorating and beneficial, even to the Norwegians who live on the shores of the fjords or in the lower valleys. The air passing over the vast undulating and barren mountain plateau is peculiarly dry and exhilarating. Any person, a few days after his arrival, feels its effects ; the appetite becomes good, and he who came ill often returns home with his health restored.
The mountain life is an active one, and the girls are busy from sunrise to twilight. The pastures belonging to this saeters were extensive in the neighboring mountains, and sufficed for fifty-two milch cows, with eight others, and four horses. The cattle belonged to three different farms, including that of Nels, some coming from Sor fjord, fifty miles distant; two of his daughters had charge of those not belonging to him, for which they were paid. The milk of each herd was put in the vessels belonging to the place from which the cows came, and the but-ter and cheese were set apart in like manner. The people are so honest that no farmer fears that the girls will favor one at the expense of the other, or put any of the butter or cheese in vessels belonging to any but the rightful owners.
A large enclosure, surrounded by a stone wall, contained a fine meadow, the grass of which was carefully cut and dried, to be taken away. by sleighs in the winter. There were upwards of 250 milch cows at the Valdal saeters, besides large numbers of heifers, calves, and horses. The calves were kept at home; every morning and evening they were fed on a mixture of churned milk and flour, with salt ; or, if no milk was to be had, on hot water, in which juniper shrubs had’ been kept for awhile.
At four o’clock in the morning we were awakened by the ringing of the bells which some of the cows wore around their necks; they had come by themselves from the mountains to be milked, and this was the signal for the girls to rise. This they did at once, and were soon on duty–each buckling on her waist a belt from which hung a horn filled with salt; this is given to the cows as well as to the horses and sheep, generally in the morning and evening, when they go to or from the mountains.
After the milking the girls drove the cows up another path in the mountains to new pastures, from which they would go and come by themselves after knowing the way. On their re-turn the maidens went into the milk-room, the door of which was always carefully closed, skimmed off the cream which had been formed on the milk of previous days,, and putting it in the churn, they began to make the butter. Others took the empty vessels to the river and rubbed them inside and outside with fine sand from the shore, and afterwards with juniper branches, finishing by a thorough rinsing in the stream. The pails are generally made of white pine, and are clean and spot-less. Cheese-day also proves a busy time, and its work is done in the same thorough manner. The room where the milk is kept was marvellously neat ; about 150 pails filled with it were on the shelves, each being about twenty inches in diameter and five inches deep, made of white pine, with wooden hoops ; the milking pails stood on the floor ready to be used. Several barrels for the churned milk and buttermilk, and vessels for the butter, were also arranged in order.
On Sunday, after the morning milking, every one commenced his or her toilet as if getting ready to go to church, putting on clean linen, and all their holiday clothes and shoes. The girls and their mother wore dresses of thick dark-bluish woollen materialhomespunwith corsages of the same color.
The bottom of the skirt was ornamented with a wide green band: all around. The corsage was open, and showed a hand-kerchief embroidered with gold. Each girl wore a close-fitting little cap, which seemed to be made only to hide the ends of her thick luxuriant hair. No work was done except what was absolutely necessary ; some of the family read the Bible and sung a few hymns of praise. After dinner visiting took place from saeter to saeter, and the afternoon was spent in the social fashion customary to the country.
I crossed the stream to visit friends from Roldal, who had their saeter on the other sideonly a little stone hut. The fording was difficult, as the current was strong and the water deep. I had to ride ; Anne was with me on the same horse, riding astride in front of me, like a man, I holding fast to her, as we had no saddle : the animal had evidently crossed many times, as he made his way with great sagacity.
We had a fine time in the evening after the milking was over. One of the girls wanted to trip me “for fun,” and in the attempt I lost a small locket from my watch-chain, and we could not find it, though we looked for it everywhere ; it was a Christmas present from home, and I prized it very highly. The place was thoroughly searched the next morning, but in vain ; the following year it was found, forwarded to Samson, who took it to Consul Rosenkilde, in Stavanger; he forwarded it to Christiania, from which city it was sent to my friend Herr Christian Bors, the much esteemed Swedish and Norwegian consul in New York, with the request to find me, and to de-liver the article to me personally.
Early Monday morning everybody was up ; the horses were ready for the return of Nels to the farm ; the pack-saddles were put on over, two thicknesses of woollen blanket; the but ter, cheese, and milk for the working-people on the farm were not forgotten; the father in a quiet way, without kissing, said good-bye to all his family, and soon was lost to sight in the windings of the path beyond the lake.
The family would not let me start till I had taken a substantial breakfast, in eating which I almost incapacitated my-self for the journey : my experience has taught me that a traveller will do best, especially in the mountains, when his stomach is not oppressed with food. At last, as I was ready to say good-bye, Synvor suddenly disappeared, to return with a big cheese, which she placed in my arms. ” Take that,” said she, “and eat it on your journey, for you will sometimes be hungry ; there are not many places in the mountains where you will meet a saeter.”
Though I had no horse, and the cheese was heavy, I accepted it, not desiring to. give offence. I shook hands with the family, and put a little money into the hand of Synvor, and a little gold dollar besides, but she exclaimed, “No, no!” “Yes, yes !” I replied. ” When you come again to Odde, come to see us,” they called out ; ” do not forget usdo not. fail to come.” “I will come,” I shouted back, as I hurried away.
From Lake Valdal the path northward, over the mountains, is wild and dreary, even in the beginning large patches of snow having to be crossed.
After leaving the lake, we ascended over a rugged country above the birch region, where juniper and arctic berries were abundant. An hour’s walk brought us to the shores of the lakelet Visadal Vaud, not far from which was an isolated poor-looking saeter, built of loose- stones. The inside was far from clean; on one side were the beds, placed on the rough slab-floor; on the other, the fireplace; in a corner lay a heap of juniper bushes, five or six pails, a copper kettle for making cheese and boiling milk, a coffee-pot, and a churn. The occupant of the saeter and his wife welcomed me; the man was apparently more than eighty years of age, but hale and hearty; he had travelled about eighty miles to spend his summer here, and well exemplified the hardiness of these mountaineers. This saeter had one hundred and twenty dry cows, belonging to many farmers, who had sent them here to pasture. A hired woman and three men had the charge of them, having also five mild’ cows for their special use, besides their food. We skirted the hill-side of the Visadal, over bare rocks and patches of snow, passing many cascades and water-falls. Continuing our ascentthe horse went one way and we anotherwe climbed a rugged hill, crossing several large snow-patches sometimes tunnelled by streams. Almost directly north was Haarteigen, 5390 feet high, dotted with snow, which shone in the rays of the sun; Nups Eggen stood on our leftthe mica here resting on the primary rocks. There was no appearance of a path other than the dry beds of streams full in the spring. We passed the Steige Vaud, a weird and lonely little lake at the top of the mountain : here even the dwarf birch had ceased to grow. Though the sun shone brightly the wind was cold, the thermometer standing at 48°. Large patches of snow came down to the edge of the lake, often overhanging the shores, and the gray lichen again appeared. We were still ascending, and our pass was more than 4000 feet above the sea. The fields of snow, which were deep and soft, increased in size, and we had to cross one, horse and all, almost one and a half miles long : now and then we saw the tracks of wild reindeer. Suddenly we found a tract of red snow in the midst of the white, the first I had ever seen. I imagined a reindeer had been killed there, and that the snow had been stained by its blood. ” This is gammel sno” (old snow), said my guide. As we advanced these rose-colored patches became more numerous, some of them being fifteen feet long: the effect was very striking. This red snow is always found in the large melting patches, and its color is due chiefly to the presence of minute vegetable organisms, enclosing au oily-like red liquid, the algæ, known as Haematococeus (protococcus) nivalis; according to Ehrenberg there are also animalcules, which he calls Philodina roseola. We then passed on the border of Vasdals Eggen, where the mountains, largely covered with snow, range in the direction of north-north-west. After we had traversed this plateau for about three hours it sloped downward to the east, and a toil-some tramp through wet snow brought Lake Bjorne into view on its shores I saw cattle grazing, and not far off the smoke curling from a solitary pige saeter (girl saeter),in this mountain home of the wild reindeer.
Every year, towards the latter part of June, from the liar-danger fjord or from Roldal, a farmer, accompanied by two girls, with a drove of milch cows, crosses these mountains.
During the summer the girls are left to take care of the cattle and attend to the dairy.
It was late in the day when we arrived at this lonely place; the girls came out to see who the strangers were, suddenly disappearing at our approach to put on their best clothes to receive lis. They wore the costume of the girls at Roldal, and their caps were set very coquettishly on their heads; one had red stockings, the other blue.
Three small houses of rough stones stood near each other, the walls being about thirty inches in thickness, and the rear resting on a hillock of earth ; the roofs were formed of large slabs, supported by planks placed lengthwise, wide apart, with beams across ; upon these earth had been laid to prevent the ad-mission of wind, and on this the grass was green; the floor was laid with large, uneven tiles of slate. The chimney, built out-side, was covered at the top by a flat stone; to prevent the en-trance of rain, and the door was made of heavy rough wood.
We were invited to enter, and I was struck by the extreme cleanliness and order of the room, the only ornament of which was a small looking-glass upon the wall ; a single window, high up, twenty inches by fourteen, with four small panes, admitted light; near the fireplace, in the corner, was a frying-pan and coffee-kettle; and a copper kettle, with the inside as bright as gold, partly filled with water, hung over the fire. On one side were shelves, upon which stood rows of pails filled with milk to furnish cream for the butter; in the middle of the room, on the floor, was a simple couch of hay, which was kept from spreading by pieces of wood ; home-spun woollen blankets and sheepskins were used as coverings, for the nights are always cold in the mountains: behind hung the garments on a cord strung across. In one corner was a store, of juniper and willow for fuel, used with great economy, for wood was very scarce.
Only once during the summer are the girls visited from the farm, for the road over the mountains is tiresome, and the distance ninety miles. Near to their house was another, which could have been used by’ another family, of about the same site, but with a much smaller window ; in this the barrels of sour milk, and the cheese and butter were kept, and juniper-bushes in large quantity ; close by, much more roughly built, was, the third building of the seater. It must have been no easy work’ to erect these on such a spot, for the wood, the beams, the doors, the planks, had been brought from a. long distance, and the collecting of the stone and the making of the walls was also a work of patience.
The girls were delighted with our visit, and, although they did not know us, they were not in the least afraid ; Ambjor, the younger, was eighteen years of age, and Marthe about twenty-six ; both were farmers’ daughtersone living on Har danger fjord, the other on the shores of the Roldal lake. Immediately after our arrival they began to prepare a meal for us; a small chest was converted into a table, on which a white towel served as a cloth ; slices of bacon were fried, and cold potatoes (how good they tasted), the remains of their Sun-day meal, with cheese, butter, and flat bread, were spread be-fore us. A large pail of milk, with rich solid cream on top, was placed where we could help ourselves. When everything was ready, they said, “Be so good as to eat our simple seater fare. You know we are not on our farm, and we cannot offer you a better meal.” Everything tasted better to me than the dishes of a banquet, for I was very hungry. Coffee was roasted,and freely served to us during the meal.
We had hardly ceased eating when the ringing of the cow-bells warned Ambjor and Marthe that milking-time had come. They dropped their fine skirts, replaced them by their working garb, filled their horns with salt, and, taking their pails, were soon busy with their twenty-two milch cows, which had come of their own accord from the pasture; the creatures got some salt, and rested for awhile on the ground around the huts. Samson, the guide, took my horse to a man saeter, some three miles distant, for it had been agreed that Paul must not stop there, it being dirty, uncomfortable, and infested with fleas.
When evening came, preparations were made for sleep. The girls moved the wooden barriers of the bed and spread out the dry grass, placing upon it the woollen blankets; we all went to bed with our clothes on, except that we took off our shoes and stockings, and Samson and I removed our coats : there was only that one bed for us all. Samson snored so loudly that there was no possibility of sleeping, and we voted him a nuisance, who ought to have gone to the man sorter he kept us laughing all night. At four o’clock we were awakened by the bells of the cows, which called the girls to the milking.
The country surrounding the saeter was beautiful; on the other side of the lake was Sauerflot, a vast undulating plateau. The aspect of nature was severe, for there was no green to give color and variety to the landscape ; the lakes lay hidden in the depth below, and the valleys through which coursed the tributary streams appeared from a distance like ravines, crawling, dark and snake-like, over those immense rocky plateaus. A grand view was that to the west, where the Vasdals Eggen and Nups Eggen ranges, 5530 feet high, rose into view; their peaks and some of the plateaus were covered with snow, and the ravines seemed filled with it.
I remained at Bjorn Vand sorter for a few days, while Samson went to another mountain home. I spent the time in hunting and roaming alone over the wild tract; Marthe and Ambjôr never ceased to wonder that I had crossed the great ocean. They took excellent care of me, though I could never eat or drink enough to satisfy them : before starting in_ the morning there was always a dispute about the provisions for the day, as they wished to load me with more than I wanted. When I was ready to start for the day’s excursion, they would say, “Be careful to come before dark, for it would be very difficult for you to find your way at night ;” and the last words I would hear were, “Velkomnen til bage” (welcome back). Like all saeter girls, they were busy all day. When I returned in the evening I generally found them mending nets, which they were going to stretch across the mouth of a little stream emptying into the lake, in order to catch trout for my breakfast the next morning. These were fried in delicious butter.
On the 8th of August the weather suddenly changed in the evening, and the chilly north wind blew through the crevices of the hut. It was so cold on the higher mountains that the cows came to the saeter, which was lower, and where it was much milder; their bells awoke us. The girls went out to see what was the matter, and counted the cows, to see if any bears had disturbed them. In the morning the ground was covered with hoar-frost.
When the day of parting came a substantial breakfast was served, with two cups of coffee, for I had to drink an extra one. Marthe, who had noticed that I wore only thin cotton socks, insisted upon giving me the thick woollen stockings she made me wear on going to bed. Ambjor gave me a pair of thick gloves, and I had to take a cheese with me. They insisted upon accompanying me as far as the outlet of the lake, which I had forded every day in my rambles. We parted there, and as I got into the water I put a little money into their hands, and thanked them for their kindness, hospitality, and trust. “Don’t forget to come and see us. Our fathers, and mothers, and families will be glad to see you. Happy journey, Paul, and God be with you,” were the last words I heard. I have since been to their farms, and we have written to each other; but I have not heard from Marthe for sometime; perhaps she is dead, or I am forgotten. Several times I have been to Ambjor’s farm, as it was more on my way. The last news I had was that she was married. That she may be happy, is the sincere wish of her friend Paul.
I close the chapter by giving to the reader the translation of a letter received from her, and another from my guide over the mountains :
HERR PAUL Du CHAILLU,I received yesterday thy welcome letter of December 24th, with the enclosed present to me, for which accept my heartfelt thanks. I also saw by thy letter that thou art well, and that made me very glad ; and I can also tell thee that I and my folks live in our usual health. I was afraid, when such a long time passed without news from thee, that thou hadst entirely forgotten me, until I got thy former letter of November 9th, for which I also heartily thank thee, as these letters and the enclosed present show the reverse; but thou wilt excuse my remissness in answering the first one.
I see by thy letters that thou intendest to come here next spring, and I assure thee that I look forward longingly to that time, and thou wilt allow me to ask thee to give me nearer information as to what time thou mayst be expected.
Thou art hereby most kindly greeted by thy affectionate friend,
HERR PAUL Du CHAILLU,Thou art sincerely reminded of Niels O. Overland, in Sonde, and for that reason I take the pen in my hand and inform thee about my health. I can never forget how much enjoyment we had when we were together at Haukelid saeteren, near Roldal. The little tin-pot thou gayest me I have preserved as a reminiscence of that time. Now I can tell thee the news that I was married, June 20th, 1875, to a sister of Ambjor’s, a little older than Ambjor’s, and who was not home the time thou (wast there. She was servant to my parents in Sonde. Her name is Bette 0. Eight days ago I was with my father-in-law, Ole Vraalsèn, and then I saw the present thou hadst sent to Ambjor, and read the letter. I read that thou intendest to visit Roldal next summer, and that thou hadst intended to come the past one, but hadst been prevented ; and therefore we expect to see thee next summer, and I will then go to Roldal and talk with thee. In case thou thinkest of coming over Christiania, and shouldst want a guide on the road, I will meet thee there, and accompany thee to Roldal ; but then thou must tell me what time thou wilt come. Ole Vraalsen’s family asked me to send their hearty greetings ; and, first and last, Ambjor sends many thanks for the present thou hast sent her, and will preserve it as a dear remembrance of thee. My /cone (wife) wishes it was possible to see and speak to thee, as thou hast been so uncommonly kind (snild) to her sister Ambjor and her whole family. Ambjor feels very sorry that she did not re-turn from Odde to Rôldal, so that she could have gone with thee on an excursion to Bergen. I can also greet thee from Helge H. Rabbe, Niels II. Heggen, and lensmand If. H. Juvet, and all wish to meet thee when thou comest to Roldal. For this time I must end, with a dear and friendly greeting from me and my wife. Thou must write to me, and thereby do me a great favor. Respectfully, etc.,
NIELS O. OVERLAND.