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now common in England also: the table is ornamented with flowers, real or artificial. I was invited to a grand dinner given at a hotel, used sometimes for the purpose by persons who come to Stockholm occasionally, without forming an establishment there. The company was very large, the table naturally very long, and down the centre was a whole row of plants in pots : of course these served for many occasions of the kind. The dinner was splendid, with a vast profusion of the finest wines; it was given by' a Scotch merchant resident, I think, in Gottenburg, and married to a Swede. There were few English present, for there are few in Stockholm; but English was so generally spoken, that one might forget the fact.
As soon as the dinner was ended, each lady was, as usual, conducted by her cavalier to the handsome suite of rooms allotted to us. On relinquishing his arm, the pair on these occasions face each other, the lady makes a deep curtsey, and the man a deep bow, and then he generally retreats to the outer room, where, in all societies, the men in Sweden get together.
In Norway I have seen them smoke in this outer apartment. I have not seen this barbarism in any society I have yet been in here. My tall friendinsists that Professor Longfellow is altogether wrong in saying the Swedes smoke in the sittingrooms, and even at table: but that they do the former I can aver, for often in the country have I practised the polite deceit of saying—or at least appearing to say—that it was not objectionable to me. Smoking is, indeed, a truly detestable nuisance in Sweden. They tell me some of the ladies are guilty of committing it, even in high places: this is incredible; and the Swedes do dearly love to tell stories. I wonder will they ever get up any about me: if not, I shall be the only English person I believe who escaped that honour. One good man here is called Min hustrus bund— or my wife's dog—because the lady, as an excuse for living at home, declares that it is her duty to follow her husband, while the husband asserts that he is obliged to trot after her.
The domestic economy, and dealings of all English residents, seem to be a never-ending subject for these little tales ; which become so current that you cannot mention a person's name who has resided here any time, without being asked if you have heard such or such a story.
A general one is told of a gentleman who always went to market himself— a thing no Swedish one would do—and having met the king on his return, he was obliged to pull off his hat, out of which fell, or flew—I forget what—to the astonishment of Swedish Majesty, and to the infinite confusion of the Briton.
In fact I shall consider it a decided slight if they do not get up a story about me. But I hope it will not be such a stupid one as this.
I have strangely rambled away from meals to stories, with an incidental reflection on smoking in passing.
I meant to have told you that the whole time occupied in these great dinners is three hours: a dinner party here is quite a bond fide affair. You are asked to eat your dinner, and you get a most liberal one; but if the invitation does not include a special one for the evening also, you are expected to leave immediately after it. Coffee is usually served soon after leaving the table, and then the party breaks up; so that you go at four and come back at seven; having devoted the intermediate time chiefly to the work of eating. Of course, as in England, your pleasure or profit during it depends on the person you sit beside; therefore the moment of the distribution of partners is a very nervous one to me, for I have not yet lived long enough in Sweden to be able to go into society chiefly for the dinner or supper I shall get.
"And what for, then, do you go, Madame?" asks Grefvinnan, raising up her spectacles with a broad smile to my face. "It cannot be amusing to you to go among strangers."
I was tempted to answer the dear lady as a poor half-pay Irish Lieutenant, whom I met at a foreign table (Phote, once answered me, when I asked him a similar question as to his motive in frequenting such places,
"I come here," he replied, "to see the physiognomies."
The other day I dined in a much humbler way, with persons who are quite out of either high or rich life. I enjoy this diversity very much, and the lowlier the rank of the persons who invite me, the more pleased I am to go.
The private family dinner hour is usually three o'clock. In all Swedish houses, there is a side table in the eating room, laid with slices of bread, butter, cheese, salt, pickled, or smoked fish, otherwise undressed; sausages, horse-radish, and invariably a decanter of corn brandy. All the party are bidden to this table before sitting down to the dinner table. The ladies take a great piece of bread, and perhaps a little raw fish, upon it, and the men pour down a glass of brandvin in one stream.
Midway in this family meal, to which I alluded, the hostess, who brought in the dishes herself, handed us plates of soup; we had eaten pudding previously, and beef; and afterwards we had roast, or rather baked, rein-deer, for roasting is of course unknown.
The men withdrew after dinner to smoke their cigars on the frozen lake that lay before the windows. My hostess left me to repose, as is the usual fashion after this meal; and said, she was going to take her "lur" also; but I rather think she was still
"On hospitable thoughts intent."
In about an hour, coffee, cakes, and the smokers, came in. In another hour, came another tray with more cakes, wine, and that sweet, strong liqueur the men of Sweden are so fond of, and which is occasionally very nice and good for even more delicate creatures, called Swedish Ponsch.
At eight o'clock there was the usual repast, which, when you are invited to spend a homely evening, you may reckon upon—tea, which is served after the meal—cold meat, eggs, fried and