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my own reception as a stranger-convoys me to the hostess.
Now, before coming out, I have applied to my own good old Countess-housekeeper at home as to how I ought to demean myself, and the dear soul was delighted to instruct me. She said to me
“Her Excellence will ask you to sit in the sofa."
“ Yes," I replied, “but what shall I do when I have sat on it ?"
“You will speak; you will look round the room, and see something you can talk about; there will be a picture, or an ornament, or an instrument you can say something about. And then, when you have once begun to speak, that will go on. They will come to ask you then how long you have been in Sweden, and you will say that; and then they will ask, how you like Sweden, and how you amuse yourself in Stockholm.”
“And will they ask how old I am ?" I cried. “Well—that also they may do,” she answered. - Now all this foretelling comes to pass. I am placed on the sofa, and the sequence is just what the experience of the old lady predicted; and very often when I have come home, after some hours' absence, I have just been able to tell her that all the little part she had told me to act had been acted, and all the interesting questions she told me would be put to me had been answered.
But I must go on in order. I am seated on the sofa, and presented to a great many persons, to whom I answer these questions over in succession. I am becoming very tired, and longing for a change-of any kind. I see a glimpse of two other rooms, one of which is full of men, and the other of young ladies, with a slight sprinkling of the other sex.
"I should like to go in there,” I say.
“That is the young people's apartment,” replies the elderly lady who is conversing with me.
“And is no one who is not young allowed to
“Certainly; if you wish to go there, you may do so.'
“I do wish it, for I want to see some beauty; I-"
“Ah! you must go far to see that even to England.”
I bow, smile, look much pleased : and, stupidly enough, instead of deprecating the compliment, or flinging it back from England to Sweden,—I answer, “Yes; the women of England are beautiful,-I have not seen much of the beauty of Stockholm yet, but certainly I have seen more beauty in London than I have seen in any other country.'
Well! we all know what the tongue is : we all rail against it; there is no manner of use in making my pen its substitute in perhaps bearing false witness against my neighbour, for really I am not sure that it was from an incorrect report of this awkward and indiscreet speech that many a fair face came to look very black at me for a long time afterwards. What was the cause I knew not, but I saw that the young ladies of Stockholm regarded me as—in short, as a sort of monster it was quite as well to avoid.
At last, at a ball at the house of Grefye P., a fair girl got into conversation with me; and by degrees her heart expanded, and she told me the source of the repulsiveness that seemed to me so unnatural and so unusual.
They have heard here that you say there is no beauty in Sweden ; and that
have never yet seen any beauty out of England,” she said.
“ Could I say so," I cried, “when I had seen Fröken S?"
Fröken S. was the charming young lady to
whom I was speaking; and truly my answer was unpremeditated, and the natural expression of my mind. The most studied and artful compliment, however, would not have answered a purpose better; for thenceforth the countenances of the fair maids of Sweden looked upon me as sweetly as if my unfortunate, but misrepresented, speech had been unuttered.
The avoidance of an old lady, who, if not the beauty, was the presiding wit of the Court, was quite unknown to me, because in fact I had never thought of the good lady at all, until I was told that she was so resolved to prevent me from getting any of her witty sayings to put into my book, that she had said she made it a rule when I addressed her to reply, “Madame, I am quite of your opinion." Certainly, this is the only one of her witty sayings I ever heard; and if it had been unsaid, there would have been no chance of her having been put into my book. But let me go back to where I was.
While I am thus making my acquaintance with social life, in about as unsocial a state as it is easy to imagine, a young couple whirl out of the dancing-room, whirl over the floor of our apartment, and sink exhausted—at least the lady does—in a
seat in the ante-room. It is empty, and she must not stay there with her partner alone; but in comes a husband, who has taken his little bit of a wife, so fair and fragile-looking, away from that vehement, mad-like dance. She sits on the sofa like a child, with her feet dangling above the floor, and the tips of her little fingers pressed upon her dizzy eyes. She has left her child at home, and here she is herself the child abroad. The husband looks very grave_but no matter about that; the wife is very gay, gay enough for both. Both ladies are nearly exhausted ; refreshments are being handed; and a large tumbler of porter-real stout—is poured off by delicate creatures, who would be shocked at our drinking wine and water.
Except on festive occasions wine is not used at the suppers which are inseparable from Swedish parties. A number of glasses of milk are quaffed by both men and women ; cups of soup, or broth, porter, punch, and, for ladies, a weak sort of negus called bishop, are the chief restoratives; but I limit myself to ices, which I find answer all purposes.
At eleven supper is announced; the crowd flock off; the men congregate at the door; the ladies slowly, but surely, advance to the tables ; ;