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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 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 with the enormous number of creatures to be seen after. But in such a household as this, one of those most useful beings called, by the common torturing of French words into Swedish, Mamzel, (and in its more barbarised plural, Mamzeller,) comes to the aid of the mistress, and on her devolves the real labour and responsibility. These young women are generally the daughters of the clergy, or of officers.
The art of cookery is a good deal talked of, and forms an important item of occupation in Sweden. The mysteries of that art are yet impenetrated by me. I asked for some soup the other day; it was sent from the table of my hostess, and on the surface of some light brown fluid floated a round of preserved pear, and at the bottom lay two fine French plums ; the never-absent basin of pounded white sugar was handed to use with the compound, which, tasting like warm water, vinegar, and sugar, I only shook my head at. My Swedish companion, however, added my plate to her own, and putting more sugar to it, seemed to relish the dose amazingly.
Another time, when I asked for soup, I got barley water with one solitary looking French plum swimming in it. What we term soup is, however, called here by the barbarised French term of Bouljong.
The sugar-basin always holds the place of honour on the family dinner table; it is used almost with all things; vegetables, such as spinach, salad, &c., are dressed with it. Meat is horribly bad, and but little used. The art of feeding and fattening cattle, by any artificial means, appears unknown to Sweden; and the look of the wretched creatures, in a living state, which are to form beef and mutton in a dead one, is quite enough to make one prefer another diet. Vegetables, however, are very unattainable; fish and game are the best articles of food; and the first is the chief one. Game, when in season, is excellent and cheap; the flesh of the reindeer is also very good, and may often be had here.
I ought to prepare for a good winter by buying some warm clothing. Alas! for my English wardrobe, which I foolishly left at home. It would be at a premium here. All articles, especially of warm clothing, are dear, bad, and hard to be got. The Swedes make all they can make at home. Woollen goods are dear in proportion to their necessity; and curious are the contrivances made to supply their places. The protective duty system appears to me to be a mistake, and, in most