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I Am now startled, sometimes thrice a day, always each morning at an early hour, by some strange man throwing open the door, and calling out my name, or something that has a remote affinity to my name, in a short and rather authoritative style. He has only come to deliver an invitation, but he appears like an officer of justice delivering a summons.
One seldom or never receives a written note, or card of invitation, here. A man comes in, and, if he has got many such orders to deliver, hastily says—
"Madame B— is invited to dinner on Thursday, clock four, at the house of so and so."
To which you reply, "I thank them, I shall come."
An invitation with a fortnight's notice is delivered in the same way: ladies are not fond of writing in Sweden, and certainly this fashion saves a deal of trouble. The first time this occurred I was really alarmed, for the messenger happened to be a royal one, bearing a long paper in his hand on which my name was inscribed; and I fled to my hostess dreading that I had become implicated in a political conspiracy.
She uttered the all-significant Ja-so ! went to the tambour, and came back to me in a roar of laughter, to explain the cause of my alarm. The fact is, the gay season is now commenced, and an impetus is given to social life in Stockholm, which is so marvellous to me that I seem to stand and look at its flight, just as, a short time ago, I stood waiting for it to approach my ideas of progression.
But what is called the gay season in Stockholm, is also more definitely termed the ball season; and truly this is the appropriate name for that short time during which all the fashionable Life of the capital is in a whirl that renders young heads giddy, and old heads, I am sure, very stupid; for dancing is the piece de resistance of all Swedish
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entertainments, and almost the sum total of Swedish gaiety.
This gay season commences with the new year, and is as violent in its nature as it is short in its duration. The state balls, and "receptions" at the ministers' houses, are over in about two months, and a decided relaxation then takes place in the almost frantic dancing which goes on everywhere, and in all places, throughout that period.
To many kind friends am I indebted for the invitations I receive to gaieties which might be as unsuitable to me as I am to them, if it were not that I make it a point of conscience to recollect that I was invited to come here to make acquaintance with the social life of Sweden; therefore, I go to as many parties as I can manage to go to, and I am very thankful to those who ask me: and, if I say that I find the gaieties of Stockholm rather dull to me, the cause is easily seen to exist in a term of years and a state of life, which have, unhappily, no immediate sympathy or interest in them. The truth is, that words can scarcely give an idea of anything more tiresome, in general, than are those great Stockholm balls, to a person like myself, who neither dances, nor has a daughter to make dance. The tender anxieties connected with the last business are fully an equivalent for the excitement of the first. But, alas! there is no provision made here for the poor ladies who are not in either category; they have nothing to do but to look on at this energetic dancing, till the eyes ache and the head grows dizzy. The amusement is not varied, and is exclusively for the benefit of the younger and gayer members of society. There is no resource. The noisy music of the orchestra is all you can hear; the whirling dancers, surrounded by papas and mammas and other lookers-on, are all you can see. You may sit in other rooms, certainly, and talk, if you can find any one to talk to; but the old men are at cards in an unapproachable apartment; the others, who do not dance, congregate by themselves in another. There is no promenade, no music, no conversation—nothing, literally nothing, you can do but follow the excellent example of their Majesties of Sweden, who, knowing doubtless that this dancing tends much to the stability and strength of their kingdom, by contributing to unions among their subjects, sit with admirable patience and fortitude in their royal chairs, often looking at the dancers from nine in the evening till two or three in the morning, excepting only from that period the time devoted to the work of supper-eating; for I think the Swedes may, with quite as much precision, be described as a nation of suppereaters, as the English were as one of shopkeepers.
The notion of coming away before supper appears to my hostess so semi-barbaric, that she is only assisted to a reason for my entertaining it by her son, who says the English do not eat suppers because they dine at night. This meal is always at eleven o'clock, and when there is a dull party, or nothing to follow it,. the rush that is made from the house as soon as the supper is eaten, is really something like a significant hint to the entertainers.
The society being not only small, but also divided arbitrarily into classes, it follows that there is a great sameness in the company one meets, and the faces one sees, in each class; but by persons who, like myself, visit among all classes who will invite me—the King or any of his respectable subjects—a little more variety is attainable; although here, as well as at home, the tiresome custom prevails of just asking to meet you the