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To confess the truth—if it be whispered only —I thought the famous Gottenburg Canal the most wearisome mode of travelling that ever was invented; and I thought Stockholm a dirty, disagreeable, uncomfortable place, when I travelled by the one in company with many natives thronging to winter quarters, and landed at the other in the rainy, stormy, and cold autumn of 1851.
Now I must tell you that I had sustained my courage by the thought that all my miseries would end by the touching of our crowded little boat at the pier of Stockholm; that there I should see a face looking out for me, that there I should hear a word of welcome, and there I should meet that grand indemnity for out-of-doors discomforts—the comfort of finding "all ready" for you within them.
The reason of my indulging in such a delusion I set before you by transcribing a note, which was, indeed, a chief cause of bringing me back to Sweden. You will see how easily I am beguiled by the voice of the charmers of this world.
Thus wrote a learned Swede:—" Nothing can be more agreeable to me than to read a true description" (i. e. a good one) "of my country; as it has been to the English either a terra incognita, or represented in a light in which the had part only has been made -visible.
u I shall therefore be very glad to receive yon here, when you, as you have promised, come to make acquaintance with our social life; with 'The H. Family,' 'The President's Daughters,' &c, &c, and then to portray it all with the style of your literary relative, as you have begun to do already.
"Let me know when you intend to come, and I shall fulfil my promise, to give you the best advice as to your journey, and to prepare for you here."
Now, having written to say I was very near at hand, and should soon come to make acquaintance with the social life of Sweden, I naturally expected to find it presented to me in the best light on my arrival; that so, as I am a firm believer in the truth of first impressions, I might be able to represent it in such a way as that the bad part only should be invisible. But alas! if the learned Swede's country had been hitherto a terra incognita to the ignorant world, so did I think it was likely to remain to me, when ***** I leave the asterisks to tell the rest.
Now, then, fancy you see me commencing my acquaintance with the social life of Sweden, standing alone on the pier of Stockholm, drenched by rain, half buried in mud, and quite resigned to misery.
Alone now in Stockholm! quite alone, and tranquil !—put away somewhere among the "sundries" of a labyrinthine hotel—which word, in Stockholm, signifies a great lodging-house, where coffee is served to you morn and eve; and dinner, if the inmates desire one, is carried from an eatinghouse at one common hour. Hotels, as we and other half-civilized people understand the term, are yet unknown to the capital of Sweden.
And have I been here before? or is it, indeed, but the vision of a fever-troubled night? Thoughts of the past! angels on wings of light, coming to fill the heart with yearning love or hallowing grief! spectres haunting the memory with visions of days of darkness! let me but reach beyond the gulf ye would interpose, and regain the fair spirit that knew ye not.
Come back to me, thou happy untried spirit of a blessed youth! Let me forget the wide gulf that parts us, and feel and enjoy as we did when standing on its further side! Come, with wings of hope and eyes of love, that saw beauty in all things, and good in all mankind! Come, dwell with me, While I sojourn as a stranger in a land that is not mine, and let me find thee sufficient for my contentment. Let us rove together through a foreign land, and abide together in a foreign town; let us think we sometimes see nature in her fairest form, and life in its mildest aspect. If I can do no good, thou wilt forbid me from saying any evil; if I make no friend, thou wilt keep any one from being my enemy. Come, let us spend out the lingering days of a northern autumn as we spent the brighter ones long, long ago; and when the white winter of the icy north shall wrap us in its frozen mantle, be thou still my comrade, my sole and sufficient joy!
Come back to me as thou once wast, un