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each takes a plate, and standing with it in her hand, or wherever it can be rested, eats all sorts of things, substantial and unsubstantial; beginning always with the last, and ending with the first in a larger proportion.
If “the kingly family” be there, a return is made to the ball-room after this
supper; for their Majesties, I suppose, consider that the more dancing they look at, the more is their royal duty fulfilled. The Queen retires from this duty on the first day of Lent; but I have seen King Oscar make his withdrawing bows at two o'clock in the morning, leaving his mother, the indefatigable, dear little Dowager, still nodding the plume of her turban at his dancing subjects. The Queen Dowager is of the same religion as her devout daughter-in-law; but the religion of her country, in the time of her youth, certainly involved no ceremonial strictness.
So now I am coming away; and, to tell truth, I am not altogether sorry to do so, even on paper.
Some nice, polite gentleman, making it a point of honour to be polite to the stranger, offers his arm, conducts her through a suite of handsome rooms, to the door of the cold, bare, crowded
tambour, where stand a host of men and lanternis. “Linquist ! Linquist ! Linquist !" is shouted, and perhaps shouted for long. Sometimes Linquist and his adjunct are near at hand, sometimes intercepted by a mass of other attendants. The responsive "Ja !” is heard, however; and Linquist is admitted to robe me, put on my fur boots, and, holding his lantern very low, to guide me down the bitterly cold and ice-strewn stone stairs; where you have generally to guard your steps against what is more offensive than the half-dissolved ice, snow, and dirt, brought in by many Linquists—that most disgusting faculty of Swedish throats being allowed full exercise on the stairs of all houses.
Thus guarded by Linquist, I reached the court-yard, and here the scene pleases me even more than what I have left. It is knee-deep in snow, but the snow is hard; it is full of sledges, with something like a bear sitting up on the boxes, and a pair of lamps in the fronts; and footmen with lanterns standing, or moving about them, casting a glaring reflection, or throwing into light and shadow a winter picture that is delightful to a stranger.
Then Linquist calls for my sledge; and, while
a host of tinkling bells are shaking out from time to time, as each poor patient steed rather impatiently shakes its head-one set tinkles more briskly; my sledge wheels up; Linquist carefully leads me over a door-step that is one large icicle; streams the light of his lantern over the snowy ground, which is a slippery sheet of ice, and lifts me, in a peculiarly national fashion, into the vehicle, saving me, by his experience, from the dangers of a slip from the bare iron step. Now the calls of strange voices are heard, but I am provided for; Linquist mounts beside the bear on the driving box, not a bit of whose countenance is visible from the shaggy hide; we glide away. A view of the midnight winter scenery of Stockholm is charming, even when it is moonless but if moonlight—then all looks so large, so white, so wide-spread, so distinct! The moon is such a great moon then ! it hangs so low, so unsupported, and disunited from the stay to which it always appears attached in England.
The noise of the orchestra fades from my ears, the whirling waltzers disappear from my giddy sight; on I go, surveying the calm, strange scenery, and I
suppose, from a natural propensity to like best what I enjoy last, thinking that the
pleasantest part of the Stockholm winter balls is the coming away from them.
So I descend, or rather am descended by Linquist's arms; he unlocks the court-door, guides me up the stairs, and opens the house-door; I go in, get my lamp, and light it at his lantern; say Gud Natt; and himself and his adjunct disappear.
Nor is this winter gaiety confined to any particular orders of society; all people partake in it in one way or other. Here comes Karin, with a face that tells me something is going on, in which Madame can assist, if Madame will.
“What is it, Karin ?”
She wants Madame to lend her a pair of white gloves. She and Beata are to be on a ball.
Some time passes, and Karin is with me again, and her face says the same thing; but she only inquires if Madame was ever at a costume ball.
“I have the honour of being invited to a masquerade ball, Karin, at His Royal Highness's, the Crown Prince."
“Ack! how that will be amusing for Madame; -but that may be unlucky too, they say; for there never was a masquerade ball since King Gustafa king who lived in the old time in Sweden, was shot at one."
“Yes, that is a painful memory; but there is no fear now."
“Nay, that there certainly is not. A costume ball is very amusing—if people could go."
"Was Karin invited to one ?"
“Yes, and Beata too; and, yes—if Madame would lend a white skirt, and that red worsted braid ? -"
“Oh! I understand ; you want to make up a dress." “That is precisely so.
How well Madame guesses! And Beata would make up one also, if she could.”
Two or three evenings afterwards, when I was sitting engaged in grave discourse with a serious Englishman, there came a tap to my door. I called,Come in. In walked two little figures, attired in costume, by the help of a pair of white skirts, round which they had laid the red worsted braid in stripes; a couple of old boddices, and sundry bits of velvet and gold lace, twisted into their hair: the drollest, yet really neat and tidy little personages, they certainly were, though what exact characters they were to represent was as unknown to me as to themselves.
“We shall be Dahlkuller," said they, smiling