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24

CHAPTER II.

And what was the interruption? A card, the first look of which told me it was English, an English lady's—and a titled one too; but so brief, so simple as our proud titles are!

Lady L. had come to take me out; and so in a nice English carriage I went round the elite of Stockholm, and dropped a card all round the diplomatic circle; and I assure you that I began to feel very glad that it had been the native Swede and not the English stranger who had called the aristocracy of Sweden a Lik. I very soon found that there was a strong life in the body he pronounced defunct; a warm, kindly, and generous life, which will enliven my own winter in Stockholm, and cause me to look back with friendly gratitude to many a pleasant hour spent within its influence. Yes, there are nobles in Sweden who would do honour to the aristocracy of any land; and those who speak or write without knowing them, would make as great a mistake as I should have done if I only took my old Countess-housekeeper for an example, or my literary Swede for a rule of information.

Now, then, I begin to see the way opening to my acquaintance with the social life of Sweden— an acquaintance I might have been long in making had I depended on the intervention of my complimentary co-respondent. Up to this day I had felt both lonely and restless, for I was in an intermediate state between summer and winter, society and solitude; looking forward to a six or eight months' blockade in Stockholm, and not seeing how I was either to prepare for that time, or to contrive to employ it. I was in the latter days of October, and the whole of this busy month had been as yet a dreary one to me. Had I left Stockholm then, I should have left it without taking with me many pleasant recollections.

When I returned from my visits I expressed to my hostess the pleasure I felt at making acquaintances, and hinted at the fact that I had come to her with a view to being brought into the social life of Sweden.

"And how, Madame, have you expected to make acquaintances?" she asked. "Do you think to do that by remaining in your room? do you think you are like the Queen, and should wait here, and have people come to seek you?''

"I have expected, certainly, to receive visits from those persons who, you told me, wished to make my acquaintance."

"But you did not go to visit them; you would not expect them to come first to you?"

"I did expect them to do so," I answered.

The good woman lifted up her hands, and head, and eyes, and burst out laughing.

"Madame, you know nothing. I advise you never to say that again in our country; they would laugh at that here; they would see you had not been in renowned society. 0, no! Madame, if you go into the great world here, you must learn our customs. In England, you see, they do not care; they stay shut up in their rooms, and think every one must come and seek them."

"Be so good as to tell me," I cried, "is it the custom in Sweden for the stranger to pay the first visit T1

'' Without doubt. Who ever heard of anything else?" Another laugh. "The English!—they are so—yes, I know that I"

I applied to another person for information, and was told that such was the case. Cards must be sent by the last comer, and if this be neglected on coming to a country residence, the neighbours understand that society is not desired. Previous to this time, when told that any persons wished to make my acquaintance, I merely expressed my thanks, and expected a visit. The acquaintance consequently was not made, as the visit was expected from me.

The Swedes are generally desirous of making the acquaintance of foreigners, but in many cases the mere fact of a presentation is enough. Two faults in the national character are apparent, even to a stranger—vanity and fickleness.

Lady L. has taken me to drive in my favourite Djurgord. The constant rain, the horrible pavement, and gloomy streets of Stockholm at this season, had rendered me captious and discontented. In such circumstances I believe many visitors have set forth to the world the result of impressions which were the result of accidents merely; without waiting to see if such impressions would ever bear the stamp of time, or be effaced or modified by changes in their individual positions, or in the circumstances that tended to produce them.

It is wonderful to myself now to observe what a good effect was produced on my temper by this drive, and how much more amicably I was disposed towards Swedish titles, Swedish diet, and Swedish ways in general.

The day was the brightest and loveliest which any October month could produce. The carriage stopped to let me admire the charming view on the bridge leading to the royal park. But when we entered on the beautifully kept broad avenue in that park, a cry of irrepressible delight burst from my lips. I was to see my favourite Djurgord in a-new aspect. I had often admired it when dressed in the rich livery of summer, with its varied shades of green—the birch and beech and oak and pines and never-changing fir—but now I saw it in a gorgeous costume, and one most singularly beautiful.

The broad leaves of the immense chestnut trees, that on each side bordered the long carriage drive, seemed wrought in gold; there was no

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