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One week in the end of this month is given up to servants, who are hired each six months; and if they do not leave their places at this time, and in April, they are usually allowed extra liberty, to amuse themselves, visit their relatives, or refit their wardrobes. It is an admirable practice.
The streets are almost covered with heaps of wood; the sound of the saw and the chopper, the noise of falling logs, are all around. At every door there is a store of fuel entering. Never did I see so much wood for firing carried through a town. The sight adds to my fears for the “good winter” of which they speak. The narrow streets, in some parts, are impassable; the wood carts stand, or drive, five, six, seven, eight deep; passing at any side they like, and often forming a line quite across the street. If the foot passengers endeavour to thread their way, or creep as close as possible—not to the flags, for, with few exceptions, there is only an open drain and the walls of the houses by which to creepbut if they do warily try to creep along, up goes a tilted cart—the horse, in the old style, being taken out, and allowed to wander from it--and down pour the great logs of wood, rolling at their own free will. If they do not fall on your head or your
feet, or if—as the men saw and chop them, and fling them from the hands of one into the arms of another, who tosses them to a third on the steps of a cellar—they chance to intercept your person, and break an arm, or a leg, or head, why, one can only think that industry must go on, and the numerous surgeons of Stockholm ought to share in its results.
I am too restless to do anything. I do not know what is before me, yet fancy I too should prepare for the winter, as I see every one else is doing
Now comes in my ever-bustling, never-resting hostess, whose voice exceeds all voices in brainpenetrating power, who wishes me to do everything but what I want to do, and desires me to have everything but what I wish her to give me; who contends it is ridiculous to think I should require a carpet under my feet, and asserts it is impossible I can do without a muff for my hands. She has come now to have the double windows put in.
“ Will they keep out the noise?" I ask.
“Certainly; but it is not for that we use them, it is to keep out the cold."
“The rooms are too warm already ; I have but
very little fire. But there is so little air, they are quite stifling."
“A pane in both sashes may be left to open, if you
will?" “ Certainly, I cannot do without air for six or eight months.”
“But you must not open it!” cries my hostess; no, Madame, that must not be. If
If you open it now, you will let in the flies; and if you open it when winter comes, you will let in the cold and let out the heat. The cold will get into the walls and destroy them, and we must pay for that; and if you
let out the heat it will cost us too much in wood. The walls would get so cold, we should never be able to get them warm again; but when the cold is not let in, then much firing is not used.”
While the old lady ran on at far greater length than my pen follows her, the double windows were put in; a large roll of white cotton wool laid in the space between each, and thin stripes of white paper pasted all round the openings and crevices, with the exception of one pane that was left to open; so that the room, being without a fire-place like ours, was rendered almost air-tight.
“How am I to breathe here ?" I inquired.
“When the stove is opened in the morning while the fire burns, a good half hour at least, there comes in plenty of air,” said my hostess. “Yes, Madame, you must not keep the flue open
too long; nor yet shut it too soon. If you keep it long open, the room will not warm; and if you shut it too soon, you will get the head-ache. You do not know that, I suppose ? No, in England, they know nothing of our stoves. They have the sides of their houses open; a wide opening down one side of the wall in each room; and the air blows down—ugh !” and raising up her shoulders, the good dame left me to myself.
In each Swedish room is an immense porcelain stove, usually pure white; it is lined with bricks, and so contrived that a very few logs of wood are sufficient to heat a room for the day. When the embers are burnt quite red, the stove is shut up both at top and bottom, so that there is no escape for the heat, or the remnant of smoke; it must not be closed until the latter has almost evaporated : the bricks become soon intensely hot, so that the stove outside is too warm to touch ; and the heavy, airless warmth of the rooms is then to me most oppressive.
Rejoicing in the knowledge that I could slily
open my pane of glass, I saw, almost with horror, the double windows of my neighbours adorned between the sashes with rolls of painted velvet, or little pots—the tiniest possible of artificial flowers, which plainly showed that, once hermetically closed, they were to remain unopened from October till April or May. Some windows have quantities of plants placed between them.
Notwithstanding the idea of my noble old hostess that the English ladies knew nothing of housekeeping, I do think that the life of a Swedish housekeeper in Stockholm is not nearly so important a thing as that of a well-educated and careful English one. The fact is that there is, in general, a high opinion entertained here of female education in England; and the good lady thinking that, by taking from the merits of England, she adds to those of Sweden, wants to prove that an Englishwoman attends to her education at the expense of her domestic duties; not being in the least aware that the latter form the chief part of a really well-educated Englishwoman's training.
In the country, Swedish housekeeping is certainly a ponderous affair, taken in all its ramifications—the care of farm produce, the spinning, weaving, working of all kinds, included; together