"The knife hangs loose in the sheath."—Old Norsk Proverb.
I spent a month of the summer of 188- in Norway—"Old Norway"—and a friend of mine, Dr. John Robson, who is as great a fisherman as he is a physician, and knows that I love a stream where the trout and I can meet each other alone, and have it out face to face, uninterrupted by any interlopers, did me a favor to which I was indebted for the experience related below. He had been to Norway two years before, and he let me into the secret of an unexplored region between the Nord Fiord and the Romsdal. I cannot give the name of the place, because even now it has not been fully explored, and he bound me by a solemn promise that I would not divulge it to a single soul, actually going to the length of insisting on my adding a formal oath to my affirmation. This I consented to because I knew that my friend was a humorous man, and also because otherwise he positively refused to inform me where the streams were about which he had been telling such fabulous fish stories. "No," he said, "some of those ——— cattle who think they own the earth and have a right to fool women at will and know how to fish, will be poking in there, worrying Olaf and Elsket, and ruining the fishing, and I'll be ——— if I tell you unless you make oath." My friend is a swearing man, though he says he swears for emphasis, not blasphemy, and on this occasion he swore with extreme solemnity. I saw that he was in earnest, so made affidavit and was rewarded.
"Now," he said, after inquiring about my climbing capacity in a way which piqued me, and giving me the routes with a particularity which somewhat mystified me, "Now I will write a letter to Olaf of the Mountain and to Elsket. I once was enabled to do them a slight service, and they will receive you. It will take him two or three weeks to get it, so you may have to wait a little. You must wait at L—— until Olaf comes down to take you over the mountain. You may be there when he gets the letter, or you may have to wait for a couple of weeks, as he does not come over the mountain often. However, you can amuse yourself around L——; only you must always be on hand every night in case Olaf comes."
Although this appeared natural enough to the doctor, it sounded rather curious to me, and it seemed yet more so when he added, "By the way, one piece of advice: don't talk about England to Elsket, and don't ask any questions."
"Who is Elsket?" I asked.
"A daughter of the Vikings, poor thing," he said.
My curiosity was aroused, but I could get nothing further out of him, and set it down to his unreasonable dislike of travelling Englishmen, against whom, for some reason, he had a violent antipathy, declaring that they did not know how to treat women nor how to fish. My friend has a custom of speaking very strongly, and I used to wonder at the violence of his language, which contrasted strangely with his character; for he was the kindest-hearted man I ever knew, being a true follower of his patron saint, old Isaac, giving his sympathy to all the unfortunate, and even handling his frogs as if he loved them....