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in the good Swede's room, and rushing there in fear that the floor would give way, she found all the chairs laid down in a row on the ground, and her lover leaping over them in rapid succession. That he had lost his senses the Frenchwoman was sure, but in answer to her terrified exclamation, he replied,
"I am making myself lively."
The story, however, tells better in French.
I do not know whether a facility in obtaining divorce renders married life more generally tranquil or not; it does not seem to render matrimony a less serious affair than it is with us. Men usually marry late in life, chiefly because they have not the means of marrying early; it is by no means uncommon to hear a man of forty, or even more, speak of marriage as of what he might, some bright day, begin to think about. Women, on the contrary, marry young; that is to say, when they do marry, for unless they have money, or some other equally great attraction, they, like women elsewhere, often do not marry at all. The number of elderly Frokens—that is, noble old maids, is quite endless.
Divorce can be obtained on mutual agreement, but the king must sanction it. If tempers do not agree; if one of a couple becomes mad, or commits a crime, a divorce is given without hesitation; if one half chooses to go away, and not let the other half know where it is for a whole year—provided it is not known to have gone to sea—the two who were made one can be made two again. In fact it would be almost worth while to be married in Sweden to prove how very easily one can be divorced. The rage for titles, which pervades all classes, and is one of the most ludicrous features of Swedish society, has some influence in matrimonial alliances. To marry a man with any sort of title is something; and the merchants and shopkeepers of the capital have not unfrequently injured themselves by giving their money with their daughters to some penniless officer or impoverished noble, whose debts have been confessed to, and paid by the much honoured father-in-law; to deceive whom by concealing debts would be deemed very bad.
The Swedish nobility is a strange sort of thing. I was talking of it the other day with a singular sort of being, a man of literature, who is, I believe, a favourite at Court. I remarked that the aristocracy of England was the first in the world.
"It is not the first" he said; "it is the only nobility in the world."
I bowed, of course, well pleased, but said, "What, then, do you call the nobility of Sweden?"
"The nobility of Sweden," said ho, "is a Lik."
As he spoke a sort of English, only introducing the last word, I repeated this Swedish term, "lik," which is pronounced leek.
"A leek?" I said.
"Yes; cadavre, francjais," he rejoined.
"Corpse, English!" I added.
And so in three languages we seemed to reduce the nobility of Sweden to a dead body—a skeleton!
That it should be so large a class in so scanty a population is not surprising, when every son in a family takes the title, and transmits it again. With a few striking exceptions, it is the poorest class here; too proud to work, and too poor to live without working.
Nothing seems to astonish the good people about me so much as the notion of my not having a title. It is always the first thing to be ascertained before you can venture to address any one. A good lady who had looked into an old English Peerage thought she had discovered mine, and called me instantly "The Eight Honourable Miss." But when I petitioned to be addressed only as Madame, my little waiting-maid, after almost staring her eyes out, precipitately left the room to give vent to her laughter in another. "A Madam," is the title given here to charwomen and the lower order of working women. The pronoun you is never used in conversation; it is an offence to say it to a servant. To all classes you must either speak in the third person, addressing them by name or or title, or use the familiar pronoun—the sign of love, friendship, or familiarity—thou. General acquaintances must always be addressed by the title, whatever title it be, whether of rank, or office, or employment, or even of trade. I was once seriously embarrassed by not knowing the name of a coachmaker from whom I hired a carriage, because I had only heard him called Mr. Coachmaker. Wives take their husbands' titles, and are quite as tenacious of them. Thus, you address a clergyman as Priest, and his wife as Priestess; a major's wife is Majorskan; a colonel's, Ofverstinnan; and one lady has sent me her card in French, "Madame le General." And every time you speak you must use the title, "Will Generalskan be so good as to give me Generalskan's company," &c. I asked my grefve if I ought to say Kammerjunkerskan—which title, I believe, would signify "femaleyoung-gentleman of the chamber;" but he told me one could not use the feminine of Kammerjunker.
All lawyers, a tribe almost as numerous as nobles, are styled Eoyal Secretaries; and one of these, when leaving me his address, modestly said it would be too troublesome to me to write the Swedish title on the letter, and therefore he only left me the initials, H. A., to put before his name.
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"It is when we do not know the full title," he replied; "it means the Highly Noble."
I have still a letter of introduction to a country doctor in Sweden, which bears on the envelope just fourteen titles.
The pay of a Lieutenant in the Eoyal Guards is, I think, less than that of our foot soldiers J but the army is the grand depot for the young offshoots of that old tree of the Swedish nobility which my literary friend would persuade me has lost all its sap, and is decayed to its roots.
There is an interruption; and I am glad of it, for I am tired of titles.