« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
lamps in the streets and in the houses were lighted; the lights sparkled here, there, everywhere, up and down, and around my Place. I went to the window, and uttered a cry of delight; my whole Place was a sheet of glittering crystal, reflecting in its polished mirror a treble row of sparkling lights; no—words cannot tell how beautiful it looked! The snow had melted off, and left the ice wet underneath; in the day it looked like water, in the night it was hard, clear, shining glass. The only thing I ever saw at all resembling it, but on a smaller scale, was an underground lake in one of the Austrian salt mines, which was encircled with small lamps; the white heaps of salt around it might look in the gloom like the snows of Sweden.
In the day, and in the gloom of the afternoon, that is from after two o'clock, the aspect of this Place is curiously animated—no one walks over it, I believe, for no one can. Two women, one of them quite old, were trying to do so, but the men who accompanied them put their arms round their waists and set off in a sliding-walk, most comical to witness, but I should think, for the old one at least, not pleasant to share in. The whole space is traversed by gliding figures. I thought in the
dusk I saw a monstrous animal running over it, and casting a strange shadow on its crystal mirror. It proved to be a man laden with a bundle of straw tied up in the curiously lengthy style in which they bind sheaves in Sweden; it was laid across his shoulders, and he was sliding with it over the throughfare.
Again came a party of soldiers carrying an invalid comrade from the hospital, which, with a sort of blundering arrangement not uncommon to this land, is placed at the farthest extremity of the capital from the barracks. The men who preceded and followed the bier did so in a slide, and I think the bearers must have been tempted to follow the example.
In Dalerne men travel vast distances on large wooden skates, crossing the frozen lakes and rivers. It was in this way that Gustaf Vasa was reclaimed and brought back, when the courteous Dalecarlians finally decided that it was better to accept than to reject him. The two skaters are still represented in effigy at the famoushouse which he escaped from.
And so my Torg continued for five or six days, an amusing and lively scene; and for as many
nights a source of never-tiring delight. In the day it was grey, watery-looking, and animated; at night it was solitary, but clear and bright as crystal ; glittering in the reflected light of lamps and windows; a most imaginative and exquisite sight, which memory cannot forget, nor description at all represent.
And now Stockholm life is beginning, that is to say gay life, the life of the world. I came to Sweden, it must be remembered, by express invitation to make acquaintance with its social life, and with the H. family, &c. I have not met the latter yet, and I am doing all I can to effect the former. For this purpose I must go into society, I must go everywhere, and surely I shall meet that family somewhere.
At the beginning of the new year, the houses of the Ministers of State are opened; and, at the same time, all sorts and conditions of people in Stockholm rush into an excess of gaiety that is short in proportion to its violence. It is a fever-fit, like one of our religious or political ones, which burns itself out, and leaves a degree of lassitude equal to its vivaciousness.
This season is well expressed by the term the ball season; it only lasts for about two months,
and for that time a whirl of ceaseless gaiety exhausts all animal powers, that are not of the most enduring texture; so that the results of violent dancing at night, and enclosure in airless rooms through the day, are plainly seen in the blanched and spiritless aspects of the fair Stockholmers, who, at the end of that time, represent, according to years or nature, the white, or the lemon lily in a faded and storm-spent state.
“Madame shall be in the Foreign Minister's ball this evening," said Karin, whose words I translate.
Nay; does not Karin know that the Minister for Foreign Affairs cannot receive to-night because the Russian Minister is dead ? So Karin need not go for my dress, and I shall not ask Karin to put a light in the lamp on the stairs to-night; that will be so much saved for one night."
"Yes, but the Russian Minister is not dead," said Karin. “I am going to see him.'
“I know not what Karin means."
“I am to see him, Madame; yes, I will tell that too, Madame," said Karin, coming nearer, and speaking distinctly, with her hands and head in
movement, as she always does when she thinks it is her words, and not her meaning, I do not understand.
“The Russian Minister was at a ball on Saturday, and ate something at supper. Well, on Sunday he was dead—that is, they said he was dead. Some say he was poisoned, some say he is not dead, for the doctors did not bleed him; and when they tried to bleed him, long after they had said he was dead, the blood came. So the people will not believe he is dead, and he is exhibited; and Madame can see him, if Madame will, for every one will see him."
Will Karin see him ?"
Yes, but I shall go; the ground is hard now; Madame can go also, if Madame will.”
“Go,” in Swedish, implies walking only. When I used to say, in our fashion, “I shall go on foot,” Karin gravely asked if in England people go on their heads. “Because,” she said, “Madame says she shall go on her feet here in Sweden.”
When I told a Dalecarlian I should go to Dalerne, she shook her head, and said, “Frun cannot go to Dalerne, that is too far.” And when I explained that I could "go" in a carriage, she shook her head again, and looked a little mystified.