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long enough in Sweden to be able to go into society chiefly for the dinner or supper I shall get.
“And what for, then, do you go, Madame ?" asks Grefyinnan, raising up her spectacles with a broad smile to my face. “It cannot be amusing to you to go among strangers."
I was tempted to answer the dear lady as a poor half-pay Irish Lieutenant, whom I met at a foreign table d'hôte, once answered me, when I asked him a similar question as to his motive in frequenting such places,
“I come here,” he replied, “to see the physiognomies."
The other day I dined in a much humbler way, with persons who are quite out of either high or rich life. I enjoy this diversity very much, and the lowlier the rank of the persons who invite me, the more pleased I am to go.
The private family dinner hour is usually three o'clock. In all Swedish houses, there is a side table in the eating room, laid with slices of bread, butter, cheese, salt, pickled, or smoked fish, otherwise undressed; sausages, horse-radish, and invariably a decanter of corn brandy. All the party are bidden to this table before sitting down to the dinner table. The ladies take a great piece of
bread, and perhaps a little raw fish upon it, and the men pour down a glass of brandvin in one stream.
Midway in this family meal, to which I alluded, the hostess, who brought in the dishes herself, handed us plates of soup; we had eaten pudding previously, and beef; and afterwards we had roast, or rather baked, rein-deer, for roasting is of course unknown.
The men withdrew after dinner to smoke their cigars on the frozen lake that lay before the windows. My hostess left me to repose, as is the usual fashion after this meal; and said, she was going to take her “lur” also; but I rather think she was still
"On hospitable thoughts intent.” In about an hour, coffee, cakes, and the smokers, came in. In another hour, came another tray with more cakes, wine, and that sweet, strong liqueur the men of Sweden are so fond of, and which is occasionally very nice and good for even more delicate creatures, called Swedish Ponsch.
At eight o'clock there was the usual repast, which, when you are invited to spend a homely evening, you may reckon upon-tea, which is served after the meal-cold meat, eggs, fried and
pickled fish, confectionary, preserves, &c. &c., to which ale and punch are generally added, being handed about with glasses of milk. At nine o'clock I came away, and had a long walk home, with a piercing wind driving a cloud of snow in my face; and having Jenny Lind for my companion; not the famous songstress, but a pretty girl of the same name, which is a common one here.
Another mode of hospitality here is coffee-drinking; a curiously universal one in the country. This supposes a visit after dinner, but by no means includes one for a whole evening.
A sort of double entendre, that much perplexes a stranger here, is the term Middag, which any English ear can at once perceive means mid-day, but which is also the term for dinner. Certainly, when the hour of noon simply is meant, the term “klockan tolf," or twelve o'clock, is generally used; but there are many exceptions to this; and, above all, embarrassment arises from French-speaking Swedes insisting on putting literally into French their own Swedish phrases. Thus a lady told me to expect a literary native apres midi. I took that to signify any time after noon; and consequently waited in the house, though he had intended to come at seven o'clock in the evening. She wished
to signify by "apres midi,” apres diner, but put the Swedish literally into French.
This literalization is sometimes rather provoking here. For instance, when in speaking to a foreigner, they will be so polite as to call Drottninggatan “ la rue de la reine,” or “ Queenstreet,” one may find oneself quite at a loss in inquiring for the place one wants. Only think if we were to turn the names of our streets and squares into the respective languages of the foreigners who come to London !
Soon after I came to Stockholm, I met a young man in a shop who told me he spoke English. I inquired my way to a place I wanted to find, and he told me to go over “Water-street." I never was more puzzled; but found, to my amusement, that he meant to put into English Norrbro, which literally is “North Bridge.” Norrbro I could have found in Stockholm without difficulty, but under its translated name of Waterstreet, it was as unknown to the English stranger as to the Swedish natives.
But the term mid-day is liable to a double signification; and, having once mistaken it, I took care afterwards to be sure that it did not mean klockan tolf, instead of dinner.
A Swede brought me an invitation, as he said, to dinner, from a clergyman; I told Karin I should not be at home, and she told me she would go out to enjoy herself in consequence. The Swede took me to the Priest's. Soon after we came in, we were presented with chocolate, which I thought a rather heavy preparative for dinner. This was served twice with cakes. So something whispered to me that the dinner had been an illusion. And so it proved; for at the hour of middag — three o'clock - the clergyman informed me he had an office in the church; and I much fear I deprived the good man of his middag, while he lost me my dinner.
We went off to a restaurant. Karin was gone out, and the Swede who had brought me could not take me to his house; for it was, in fact, washing week; and when a Swede tells you it is washing week, you see a dim perspective of a thousand Mrs. Caudles; for such a thing as a Swedish washing week is, Mr. Caudle himself could hardly imagine.
The fact is, that washing week or not, there are not many plain Swedish housekeepers who would, to use a horrid vulgarism, ask a stranger in under such circumstances to take “pot-luck,”