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189

CHAPTER X.

"KARiNlKarmlKarin!"

"Hvadvill, Madame?"

"Ack ! Hvad skall jag gora?"

"That can I not right well say to Madame."

Such was Karin's reply to my question—what shall I do?

"I am to be presented at the Court of Sweden at precisely two o'clock this afternoon, Karin! I have nothing ready—-just ingenting!"

The girl looked at me with a grave expression that said plainly enough—" Yes; what, indeed, can be done with you?" and then she turned and walked out of the room in silence.

Presently came GrefVinnan, whose unusually calm exterior looked as if it were put on to meet the emergency of the moment, and to allay my state of fermentation.

"Madame, Karin has without doubt mistaken you. It is not so certain, perhaps, that you are to be presented this very day at our Court?"

"This note says so," I answered, looking down at a very small billet which had just been brought to me by the charming old Swede, who calls himself Courier to the British Embassy. It was then eleven o'clock, and as I glanced hastily over it, I saw that I was to be presented at Court, and must be ready at two o'clock to attend Sir E. L. to the Palace.

Alas! I murmured to myself, how very unintelligible to great people are the difficulties of the little!

My hostess stood in the centre of the floor, with her eyes fixed upon it, and her chin in her hand.

"You have a black dress."

"Yes."

"You have no train."

"No."

"A train you must have. A wide train is very beautiful, but some cannot so well afford that. You must carry it over your arm—so (and she shows me the fashion, with an apron drawn over her arm); and when their Majesties come you must let it fall—so; and it should spread out well—so; and then you must make your reverences. And every time the King, or Queen, or the Princes come to speak to you, you must let your train fall, and your long shawl should drop from your shoulders also."

"But, Madame, I have got no train !" I almost screamed; for to be told what you must do with the all-important article which you do not possess, is very provoking.

The chin moved in the hand again. Swedish brains are fertile in expedients when what is vulgarly termed with us "making shifts" is necessary. I fancy the good lady would soon have devised a means of supplying the deficient adjunct of my robe, either by hire or loan; for to go without it she knew was impossible; to decline so high an honour was a thing that could not enter into human calculations.

But in the midst of her rumination, a second glance at the billet I held in my hand, relieved my anxious breast. It was not to the Queen, it was to the Mistress of the Bobes I was to be presented that afternoon.

"Madame, in that case you will not wear the train; you will go in a black dress and a shawl."

"I may wear any dress I like; see, here is a postscript—my usual visiting-dress."

"Well, that is black. Certainly none of our ladies would pay a first visit, especially to a lady of the Court—in any dress but a black one."

"Well, but I am not one of your ladies. I will, however, wear my black velvet mantle with fur—"

"Madame, a shawl is necessary."

"Allons! I have got no shawl, and very little time," I cried, and ran away.

Presently after came my old hostess to my apartments, with a thick black crape shawl in her hand.

"Madame, if you will take my advice, you will not go to the Palace without a shawl. This is one I can lend you. I used to wear it when I went into the world."

To save her from talking on, and giving me all her experience of the world, and knowledge of its customs and fashions as they were forty years ago, I took the shawl, and listened to her directions how I was to wear my black velvet till I came to the tambour, or entrance-hall of the ladies' apartments in the palace: how I was there to take off and leave my velvet mantle and outer shoes, and to arrange the black shawl on my shoulders previous to coming into the presence of the Mistress of the Eobes; how I should take my white gloves in my pocket, and put them on at the same time—that saved them.

This being all arranged, I took the black crape shawl, and put it up carefully in my drawer; where it remained till I came back from my visit. Punctually at two o'clock came his Excellency's equipage, and myself and my velvet mantle got into it. Bapidly did the sledge drive over beautiful Norrbro, or North Bridge, and up the snow-covered Palace Hill, and then we entered the wide cold vaults, or under-ground region, of that fine edifice. The passage leading under the palace, or rather right through it, and across the inner quadrangle, is considered public property. It is one of the chief thoroughfares. There is no policeman there to interdict the right of way. We went through the long, chilly vaults, or arched passages, which support the building, passed the royal kitchens, and peeped at the cook and his white-jacketed helpers; did not know at all where to go, but at

VOL. II. o

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