Upon the summit of the wooded cliff toward which this driveway leads, is a speck which at a distance resembles a white flag outlined on the forest background. It is the Hotel Stalheim. As we approached it, a man stepped up to us and exclaimed:
"Hullo, strang-ers; are you Americans?"
"I am glad to say that we are," was my reply.
He instantly stretched out his hand and said "Shake!" - "What kind of business are you in?" he presently inquired.
The View From Stalheim.
The Kaiser At Stalheim.
We told him. "Well," he remarked, "I'm a manufacturer of barrel hoops. Norway's all right. I took an order for forty thousand yesterday." At the dinner table, where he had greatly amused every one by his stories, he suddenly called out:
"Waiter, is there anything worth seeing on that 'ere road down there?"
"It is one of the finest drives in Norway, sir," replied the waiter.
"Well, I reckon I'll have to do it, then," he ejaculated; and soon after dinner he departed in a cariole. An hour later, as I was sitting on the piazza gazing on the glorious prospect, I saw him coming back. "How is this?" I exclaimed; "I thought you were going to Gudvangen".
A Scene Near Stalheim.
A Lovely Cascade.
"No," he replied; "I got down here a piece, and met a boy. 'Bub,' says I, 'what is there to see down here, anyway?'
" 'Waterfalls,' said he.
" ' Waterfalls!' says I, 'I don't want any more waterfalls. I've seen ten thousand of them already. Why, our Niagara would n't roar one mite louder, if the whole lot of these Norwegian falls were chucked right into it.' "
I must not fail to add that there was an extremely pretty girl at the hotel, to whom our eccentric compatriot paid much attention. Some English travelers, therefore, looked greatly puzzled when they heard him say to her on taking leave: "Good-by! I hope I'll strike you again somewhere on the road!"
After supper that evening we took an extended walk. It was eleven o'clock, and yet the snow-capped mountains which surrounded us were radiant with the sunset glow. We presently encountered two young peasants returning from their work. To them we spoke a few Norsk words that we had learned since coming to Norway, whereupon one of the lads drew from his pocket a pamphlet and presented it to me with a polite bow. It proved to be a book of phrases, half-English and half-Norsk, designed to help Norwegian emigrants on landing in America. Not knowing, however, what it was at first, I opened it and could hardly believe my eyes, when, in this lonely valley in the heart of Norway, and by the light of a midnight sun I read these words: "Wake up! Here we are in Chicago!" "Change cars for Omaha and the West!" "Don't lean out of the window, or you'l1 have your head knocked off!"
Both of these bright boys hoped the next summer to "wake up in Chicago." It is, in fact, the great desire of Norwegian youths to go to America, and some are brave enough to do so with a capital of only twenty-five dollars. Their knowledge of the United States is, of course, limited, but one place there is known to all of them. Again and again we were subjected to the following questions: "Are you English?" "No." "Americans?"
All Ready TO "Shake Hands".
That was the place for them, evidently. New York is better than nothing, but Chicago is the El Dorado of the Scandinavians, for to that place they usually buy through-tickets, as to the doorway of the great Northwest.
Leaving the Hotel Stalheim, after a short stay, a glorious drive awaited us down to the Hardanger Fjord. At frequent intervals along this route we encountered gates designed to keep the cattle within certain limits. Women and children usually stood near-by to open them, expecting in return a trifling payment. Yet when I offered them a coin, I was sometimes surprised to see their hands still lingering near my own. At first I thought that they, like Oliver Twist, were asking for more, but presently I discovered that they merely wished to shake hands and say good-by, for hand-shaking in Norway is universal. If you bestow a fee upon your cariole-boy, your boot-black, or your chambermaid, each will offer his or her hand to you and wish you a happy journey. A pleasant custom, truly, but, on the whole, it is advisable for travelers in Norway to wear gloves. I usually responded cheerfully to this mode of salutation, though sometimes, when I saw what kind of a hand the peasant "held," - I "passed!"