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gets to do when there is too much for others. Such a life, until beyond middle age, one trembles to think of!
Poor Grefyen ! he is one of those who never has time to do anything. I often feel sorry for him; but-man kan inte hjelpe det! Grefven was sitting with me the evening of the day I speak of, when the solemn toll of a bell struck my ear-the first toll I had heard, for the bells in the north ring rather cheerfully for funerals. He instantly started, and began to count the strokes.
“It is in the north ! It is here, beside us,” he exclaimed.
“What !" I cried, looking about the room.
" The fire ! that is the fire bell; it sounds so many strokes for whatever quarter the fire is in ;'' and Grefven hastened away.
Then went the drum along under my window; and presently out came the Royal Guards, and down marched the soldiers, and the whole of the north quarter was alive.
Every householder is by law obliged to contribute one person to help in extinguishing a fire in his own quarter. And by the same law the King of Sweden is bound to act as chief fireman on such occasions; at least as their commander-in-chief. They say the Crown Prince is exceedingly active at such times. And the late King Carl Johan, though he was subject in his later years to long sedentary fits, during which he would not leave his room, at the news of a fire would feel his warrior spirit re-kindle, mount his horse and gallop to the scene of action, and to the combat with the fire-king.
During another fire that occurred since I have been here, the Queen and the Princesses stood on the pedestal of the statue in the great square to watch the progress of the flames.
Fires are not by any means frequent in Stockholm; there are but few wooden houses; and though they do not appear to be rapid in extinguishing the flames, they certainly succeed in preventing them spreading.
This fire was in the next angle of my square, and though it went no further than the small timber-yard where it originated, the bells tolled, the soldiers tramped, the sailors sang, and the people talked the whole night through; so that sleep being impossible, I had abundant opportunity for observing new effects produced by the
shadows cast from the dark smoke and fiery flame on the snowy scenery around.
It was not till about ten o'clock the next day that the soldiers retired and the bells ceased.
And now comes the first real snow-storm I have seen in the north. It drove along in a white moving cloud. The ever-changing aspect of my Place is now most singular. My crystal lake, indeed, is gone; but through the white driving mist, rapidly-driven sledges are seen traversing the road that lay between it and the water where the vessels are laid up; and all is seen as if through a white veil. The tall bare masts of the ships, and the formal lines of trees, are curiously mystified. The wild and angry storm has something so strong and cruel in its breath; it lifts the snow, and whirls it round and round, and up like a spray-cloud to the dark sky; but still the snow comes again, and deep and deeper; and rests there still when the storm-fit is over, like Patience beneath the assaults of a tyrant.
“Now, then,” said my old Countess-housekeeper, smiling widely, and rubbing her hands"now, then, you begin to see our winter; you never
saw anything like that before. You have no snow in England. I know that: no sun eithernothing but fog!”
As I never contradict the good woman's assertions, knowing it would be impossible when they are once made to change their character, I let judgment go by default; and her verdict against English snow and sunshine was unquestioned by her hearers. I only looked from the window of her great salong, and said —
“Frightful !—not at all; we shall have it good now : that is beginning. The snow will rest on the ice now, and then it will freeze and become hard ; and so we shall have a good winter, and the industry will go on. Yes, Madame, that is better than the fog of England. We can travel on sledges here; and we have warm stoves, which you never could learn to make or to use in England; so that one of our ministers who went to London was all roasted—yes, roasted—on one side, and frozen on the other. Yes, that is true; he never recovered it, and has the liver-complaint to this day !”
"Was that the overdone, or underdone side ? " I inquired, very gravely.