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eircle looking on, and clapped their hands, when the Fastmö (betrothed) looked innocently confused at such an apropos accident.
When the bridal crown was off, I thought the play was over; but now came the struggle. The matrons made a dancing attack on the ranks of the single sisters, who enclosed the bride. The former were to take, the latter to retain her, if possible. For my part, knowing we formed a forlorn hợpe, and believing that the object of our defence was a traitor in the camp, I should, perhaps, had I thought about it, have done just as I did; but I did not think, for in the confusion I mistook one party for the other, and getting my arm round the passive bride, fairly drew her into the circle of matrons ; and I dare
the captured one thanked me for putting an end to the contest.
Then the same thing was acted with the bridegroom, who had stood calmly looking on at his young wife's troubles, only his treatment was rougherand sooner over. The married men having got him, the single brethren seized him in their arms, and gave him a farewell fling towards the ceiling, which the interposition of the chandelier prevented his reaching.
The horror of our poor hostess on this occasion formed the most laugh
able part of the scene.
Her fears were for the chandelier ; but unable either to make herself heard or seen, and equally unable, I suppose, to resist the influence of the wild rattling music, she capered round the group who were tossing the recreant, her arms and hands stretched out towards the chandelier, as if she fain would shelter it within them; her mouth wide open,
eyes as full of terror as if she saw the royal ghost rattling the glass pendants, that shook and jingled at every heave of the bridegroom. At last, having fairly turned the soles of his feet to the ceiling, they turned them downward again, and set him on them, looking just as equable and pleasant as
It was now three o'clock in the morning; the covered sledge was waiting. The great man of the party—there is a great man to all parties was to leave me at home. I endeavoured to express my thanks, but was met with expressions of great thankfulness for the honour I had conferred. And so I came away.
I do not think that anything could give me a more favourable idea of the manners of the Swedish people than the conduct I saw on this occasion.
The company, with the exception of the one great man in a civil uniform, were all of the lower rank of the trading classes. The handsome young bridegroom was, I think, foreman to a distiller ; but, so far as a foreigner could judge, their manners were as unexceptionable as any I have met in the highest circles of their country; no word, look, or movement could offend the most delicate taste. Together with the absence of all awkward restraint, there was an evidently unassumed and all-pervading observance of the strictest decorum and politeness; and with the exception of that abominable practice of spitting-in which the priest was most proficient–in the corners of the room, there was not the least appearance of coarseness or vulgarity to be observed. Their politeness and good will to myself I shall not readily forget.
At three o'clock precisely on that December morning, we walked down the snow-covered hill to meet the sledge which waited at its foot. The poor
horses would have been the better for a share in the wild dance. The driver was a powerful man, so swathed in grey fur that
fur that not even a bit of his nose was visible; an English sportsman might have shot him in mistake for a bear. But the moon was now up; and such a moon as the
Swedish one is ! hanging between heaven and earth, distinct in the clear atmosphere, so large, so bright, and shedding that pale white light by which I have read a psalm in my Prayer-book without spectacles.
The great man of the party insisted on leaving me at home, although he passed his own house, and I had my friend still with me; and as he unhappily heard me express my dislike to cigars, he insisted, also, on sitting beside the driver, leaving the whole of the inside of his sledge to us. These things are of not the least consequence in themselves, but they are of consequence in indicating the manners of a people.
The streets of Stockholm are not lighted when the almanac says the moon ought to shine. There is no gas, and oil is better spared than spent. The windows of the Queen-dowager's apartments were still lighted as we passed the palace; shutters are not used in Stockholm, nor blinds commonly. They say her majesty sits up all night, but does not lie in bed all day, so that her old maids-of-honour have rather a waking life; they tell you she breakfasts at six in the evening and dines at eleven at night.
I had brought a wax taper in my pocket, and
the key of the court door. I lighted my taper at the judge's lantern, locked the court door when he had ended his farewell bows, and having dismissed both him and the Swedish friend who had taken me to see the wedding, I mounted the hideous, dark stone stairs, and applied the key to the house-door where I lived; but, alas ! it had been St. Stephen’s-day, and some of the other dwellers there having come home long before me, had bolted the door inside!
The idea of finishing the night of St. Stephen'sday sitting on the cold, dark, terrible-looking stone stairs, set me, I suppose, into a state of desperation; and the violent bodily exercise to which I had been subjected, stimulated my powers, so that I applied to the door in a manner that caused no little terror to my ancient hostess. Not even my voice would persuade her it was I, until she examined my rooms, and found them empty.
Why, Madame," said she, when she let me in, “how could I think you were not sleeping, when I knew that in England no one goes out on St. Stephen’s-day?"
As the good lady knows so much more of my country than I do, and as I was very sleepy, I let the question go by default. She renewed it, however, the next day.