Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

and over this charmingly clear and snowy prospect, one might fancy that the whole of Stockholm was moving out to a great funeral. Festivities at Sweden are solemn-looking things. Black is the state costume in every sense, and black is still the state dress of the plain and lower ranks. Formerly it was used at every ceremonial and visit of importance; and to-day the crowds of black figures moving in the bright sunshine, together with the always grave and quiet demeanour of the Swedes when out of doors, give one the idea of anything rather than the festive meetings to which all are hastening.

But are there no mourners left behind, no sick, no sorrowing? Are there no hidden mourners moving among them? Is the festivity of St. Stephen's-day undarkened by a memory, unalloyed by a gnawing heart-pang? Why ask the questions? They look happy, speak happily, walk along contentedly, looking as if the world were satisfied with them, and they were satisfied with the world. They are not thinking whether I, perched at the double window above their heads, make an atom of that world or not. But instead of pursuing reflections which might make the good, tender heart of my kind friend, Frederika

Vol. n. K

Bremer, to ache, I will put on my cloak—and a bonnet, to show I am not going to dinner—and then I will take a walk, and distract myself, as my French friends would say, in the only way I can.

The winter air of Sweden is very exhilarating out of doors; within, it is quite the contrary; the rooms are so warm, the walls and windows so thick, the closed-up stoves so oppressively hot, that they make me stupid, heavy, and as indolent as a native. Now I am on Norrbro, gazing at a scene that never tires. Here, looking at this beautiful Malar, in its unfrozen part, sweeping between snowy boundaries to cast itself into the Baltic, and at the widely-extended and brilliantly-white scene on either side, I get into a better humour than I was in my air-tight rooms, and forget to feel spiteful when I see fur-clad men pulling off their hats, and perhaps exposing a bald crown to the biting air, while they bow and bow and bow —three times is the mode—as if they were presented for the first time to the friends they salute, and then grasp them by the hand, clap them on the shoulder, or, perhaps, on occasions, hug them in the arms with all the warmth of brotherhood. And I forbear to envy the hooded women, who are constantly stopping on their way, to curtsey, and pull a hand from the inevitable muff, and extend it with a certain formal heartiness to meet another hand. I never have to pull out my hand from the wide sleeves of my furred cloak, which I try to persuade the Swedes answer for the muff, into which all classes, even those without bonnets on their heads, must insert their hands. Voices are buzzing round me in congratulation or hopeful wishes. Perhaps even now some airy voice may syllable my name, but it does not reach me. Well, what matter? If I had to shake many hands, mine would be frozen; and if I had to say, "Hur star det till?" or, "How do you do?" my breath would be congealed, as it is on the countless moustaches and beards around me.

I returned alone, as I had gone out, and alone I was to be. There was no dinner dressed in the house this day; every creature had left the immense building, servants and all; a poor old woman was, I believe, in some remote corner, sent in just to see that no one ran away with it. I was alone, and I had to make the best of my solitude. I have said my respected and kind friends at the British Embassy had illness in their family, and no one else thought of the solitary stranger on this day of re-unions; but there was good in this, too, for it taught me just to do the contrary if ever it lay in my way. Well, darkness came on, the people were all housed; within some doors, all were jocund, hearty—I dare say sufficiently noisy, for within and without makes a vast difference in Swedish manners; but everything outside was still, and having nothing to look at but the snow, with the lights here and there glittering over it, and nothing to hear, for all traffic and even motion were at an end, save the chance tingle of a stray sledge-bell,—I found it was necessary to open the mental safety-valve, and therefore I took up my pen, when, as if to reward a good child, there came a ring to our door-bell, and I heard a voice outside asking the portress if the English Fruntimmer had gone out.

I ran out on the bitterly cold stone passage, and called out "Nay!" a word which is as good in Swedish as in English ; and then I had the pleasure of at last saying, "How do you do?" on St. Stephen's-day of visiting in Sweden.

"I have come, Madame," said this good Swede, with the usual number of bows, "to bring you to a wedding. You said you would like to see a wedding, in the old style—a real Swedish wedding. It is to be in the country, about four miles off. The house was once a pleasure-house of Queen Christina; it is thought she walks there still. The sledge is at the door, if you will come."

A Swedish wedding, and Queen Christina's ghost! I threw my pen away, ran into the next room, changed my dress, put on my cloak, pulled its hood over my head, and said, "lam ready," before my Swede had had time enough to finish his bows.

The sledge was waiting, and this was to be my first night-sledging. The horse was very large for a Swedish one, the carriage small and low; tbe driver stood on the board behind, holding the long reins, like a Hansom cabman, only the Swede never sits. In the clear twihght of that northern evening he looked strikingly picturesque, and quite in keeping with the white background of the coup oVwil we had in descending. A huge cape of black wolf or dog fur descended almost to his knees; a very high cap of the same, a sort of shako, surmounted his head, and was pulled down to his eyebrows; the fur collar rose over his mouth, so that the vacant space left by the black fur revealed only the projection of a long turned

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »