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tiful views in Stockholm; it is decidedly the finest, so far as the city itself is concerned; there we look over the bridge called Norrbro, under which the Malar rushes to mingle with the Baltic, and we see the most animated part of the capital, and the water and island scenery, which give it its greatest charm.
An open archway admits us to the basement of the Palace, a miserably cold place on a winter's day; and here we take our post near to the foot of the staircase, in order to have a view of his gracious Majesty when he descends it.
How we managed I know not; but a crowd of persons, still more anxious—though it is probable many of them had seen their King hundreds of times before—quietly got between us and our view; and so, after more delay and bustle, and coming and going of aides-de-camp, and nobles and messengers than our good Queen might have had, we could at last only see a tall plume of yellow feathers, which nodded down the stairs, and nodded away under a plumed canopy, very like that which covers the Papal head on sundry occasions. King Oscar walked away under this canopy, which was borne something like a sedanchair. Now it is provoking only to see a feather when one wants to see a king; and so we rushed after the plumed canopy: but in the Palacecourt we found an avenue formed for it to pass through, and lined thickly by his Majesty's loving subjects, who, in profound stillness, immovahly, intently, I could almost say, devoutly, gazed on his royal countenance.
The ever-eager, never cloyed, but always quietly expressed anxiety of the good Swedes for a sight of royalty, is something quite curious to witness. Often do I repeat to myself the words of the good King Henri IV., when the Parisians, who had so long kept him at bay, at last crowded to see and bless him: "Let them alone," he said to his officers, "the poor souls are hungry to see a king."
The Swedish appetite in all things is excellent, but this royal hunger is really voracious. I experienced it almost as much as themselves; but a tall man in a freke dress completely deprived me of all hope of satisfying it.
Not for one instant did that head before me move. Occasionally, through the interstices of the ranks before me, I could see the nodding plumes advancing down the open space, and I knew that the tall man must have had for a long time an excellent view, and thought that he might cede his place for one instant to me. The plumes came opposite to him; and in despair, or by accident, I pushed against his arm. He turned his head—and the man was blind! It is a fact; the zealous king-gazer had no eyes; literally none, for only the sockets were there—a frightful sight.
I suppose the poor fellow believed he saw his king, and was as happy as others. The King of Sweden is truly beloved. It was only the other day that the British attache, riding in the Djurgord, was stopped by a working man, who, pointing to a military uniform, said,—
"Pardon me, dear, noble sir, but tell me, is that our Oscar?"
As native zeal did not allow me a glimpse of "our Oscar," I hastened back to the house to prepare for the Swede who was to escort me to the Eiks Sal, or States' Chamber, in the Palace, where his Majesty was to receive and dismiss the Parliamentary deputies.
I had just time to dress, as I fancied, very suitably to a public scene, to which we were admitted by tickets, and to a very warm day. I thought myself, in fact, quite comme il faut in a thin lilac dress, black lace mantilla, and light silk bonnet. But just at the moment when we ought to go, in rushed my Swedish escort in full uniform, of a lightish blue, with steely-looking lace, very like a footman in livery, only with a long, thin sword by his side. He looked confounded at seeing me.
"It is time to be there, Madam, and you have not made your toilet." "Pardon, I am ready."
"Keady! Ono! that will not go on. Madam, you must be in black." "In black!"
"Yes; the King and Queen will be there. Wherever they are, there must be black. I see you do not know our customs; and at first, when I was in England, I assure you I did not know yours; but I know them now perfectly—yes, quite; and so it will give me a pleasure to make your know ours as well. I do not know what is your State dress, but black is the State dress of our ladies. It is worn on all grand occasions, and you must be in black when you go to pay a first visit at a house. Yes, some of our ladies, when they are invited to a first party, go to pay a visit before it, in order not to have to go to a ball in black."
"Dear! But I have only a thick, warm, old, black dress.
"No matter, so it is black. Yes, our ladies always make it a point to have a black dress, and I assure you that goes on; they want very little more."
With a deep sigh I went away, put on the old, warm, black dress, and set off with the uniform Swede, who paused to think if I might go in a bonnet; but as I affirmed I could not walk through the streets without one, he agreed, saying, that I could take it off and carry it in my hand if I must not wear it. On taking our seats, however, in the crowded Eiks Sal, I found the kind controller of my toilet was one of the old school of his country, and had told me rather what had been the fashion, but was not the existing practice. The first-visit costume, for instance, is quite exploded; and though black is the State dress in all senses, yet, on such an occasion as this, I might have gone just as I was before he made me change. After the church service—a very long one—the royal party went to take luncheon; and the people, who had been seeing all they could at the church, came pouring to the Eiks Sal and were in despair at not getting in there also.