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walked side by side, the stout fair-faced one seeming to say,—it is a very good joke; and the tall solemn-looking one appearing to answer,-it is a very serious affair.
Behind them walked the bride, attired in white watered silk-for she was rich-with a crown of the natural narrow-leaved myrtle on her head; it is formed as a crown, with bars across the top, and always worn by the middle and higher ranks. Behind her again walked three maidens, in coloured tarletine muslins.
The marshals led the bride to the salong, in the centre of which she took her stand, just before the crowds who gathered round the open door. The marshals stood one at each side; and kept raising and lowering the great branch candlesticks they held, so as to show her off to the best advantage.
She was pale as the robe she wore, and played nervously with her large bouquet, while her fingers trembled amidst its flowers. Having stood sometime facing the gazers, she turned her back; and the lights were raised and lowered again.
The people looked quietly, almost reverently, at her; the women always seem to look pityingly. A little boy stepped forward and offered her a flower, which she accepted with thanks. Thus
did she stand for an hour and a half; stood until no more gazers came.
Misconduct on these occasions is very rare. I have been told that men—that is, what are falsely called gentlemen—used sometimes to go in masks to these bridal exhibitions, in order to avenge themselves by insulting the object; but the use of masks is now greatly prohibited in Stockholm. Indeed the Swedes, while the most indefatigable and patient, are the best behaved of sight-seers.
“And so,” said I to my hostess, when we had re-ascended, “ to go to church to be married is considered in Sweden as too public. They go to church in England, and do not show themselves.”
“Ack! those droll English! they are so different from us.”
“Quite different,” I rejoined.
“Yes, Madame, I thought you would see that at last. Our brides are very modest.”
“Therefore this exhibition must be rather painful,” I responded.
“Yes—that may, perhaps, be—but it is our custom. The people will have it so, they like to see everything. To-morrow the young couple will give a great dinner party: they must do that,
because their acquaintances will wish to see how they manage their housekeeping when they first begin.”
"O!" I said: and I said no more.
WHEN the snow first came, my sagacious Countess-housekeeper nodded her head, and said, “That is not good; that will not hold; it ought to freeze first."
I have got so into the habit of not attending to predictions, that I did not mind this : it was true nevertheless, for here is December month now, and the ground is bare again. It is dark, dreary, rainy, and mild enough for any land. The Swedes talk much of the variableness of the English clime; but I do not desire a constancy in such weather as I have, with the exception of one fortnight's ice and snow, as yet seen in their own land.
But December has come, and now one word meets me everywhere—the word which some Swedish writer calls a magic one-Jul-Afton.
Do you know the meaning of that word ? Jul is Christmas, and is pronounced precisely as Yule in English. Afton means evening, and also the meal that is taken at that time—supper. And so Jul-Afton implies Christmas-Eve, and Christmas supper too.
Every land, I believe, makes eating and drinking a component part, more or less, of its national festivals. In connection with Jul-Afton, I always hear Gröt mentioned.
“What do you do on Jul-Afton," I asked a Swede.
“We eat gröt,” he answered.
I went to see a nice and kind lady, who speaks English perfectly, and I asked her the same question.
“We eat gruel,” she answered, in English.
“Yes, but not at Christmas suppers; we take gruel when the doctors or law-makers order it; when we are sick, or in prisons and workhouses."