Read PART II: CHAPTER I of The Home , free online book, by Fredrika Bremer, on ReadCentral.com.

THE NEW HOUSE.

“Farewell, oh house of my childhood! Farewell, you walls, insensible witnesses of my first tears, my first smiles, and my first false steps on the slippery path of life of my first acquaintance with water-gruel and A B C! Thou corner, in which I stood with lessons difficult to be learned; and thou, in which I in vain endeavoured to tame the most thankless of all created things, a fly and a caterpillar! you floors, which have sustained me sporting and quarrelling with my beloved brother and sisters! you papers, which I have torn in my search after imagined treasures; you, the theatre of my battles with carafts and drinking-glasses of my heroic actions in manifold ways, I bid you a long farewell, and go to live in new scenes of action to have new adventures and new fate!”

Thus spake Petrea Frank, whilst, with dignified gestures, she took a tragic-comic farewell of the home which she and her family were now about to leave.

It was a rainy day, in the middle of April. A black silk cloak, called merrily the “Court-preacher,” a piece of property held in common by the Frank family, and a large red umbrella, called likewise the “Family-roof,” which was common property too, were on this day seen in active promenade on the streets of the city of X . What all this passing to and fro denoted might probably be conjectured if one had seen them accompanied by a tall, fair, blue-eyed maid-servant, and a little brown, active, servant-man, carrying bandboxes, baskets, packages, etc., etc.

Towards twilight might have been seen, likewise, the tall thin figure of Jeremias Munter, holding the “family-roof” over the heads of himself and Petrea Frank. Petrea seemed to be carrying something under her cloak, laughed and talked, and she and the Assessor seemed to be very much pleased with each other. Alas! this satisfaction did not endure long; on the steps of the front-door Petrea accidentally trod on the dangling lace of her boot, made a false step, and fell. A large paper case of confectionery suddenly proceeded from under the “court-preacher,” and almond-wreaths, “brown sugar-candy, and iced fruits rolled in all directions. Even amid the shock and the confusion of the first moment it was with difficulty that Petrea restrained a loud laugh from bursting forth when she saw the amazement of the Assessor, and the leaps which he made, as he saw the confections hopping down the steps towards the gutter. It was the Assessor’s own tribute to the festival of the day which was thus unluckily dispersed abroad.

“Yes, indeed, if there were no ladies,” said the Assessor, vexed, “one should be able to accomplish something in this world. But now they must be coming and helping, and on that account things always go topsy-turvy. ‘Let me only do it let me only manage it,’ say they; and they manage and make it, so that ’Did one ever see anything so foolish! To fall over your foot-lace!’ but women have order in nothing; and yet people set up such to govern kingdoms! To govern kingdoms!!! I would ask nothing more from them than that they should govern their feet, and keep their boot and shoe strings tied. But from the queen down to the charwoman, there is not a woman in this world who knows how to fasten her boot-lace!”

Such was the philippic of Jeremias Munter, as he came into the room with Petrea, and saw, after the great shipwreck, that which remained of the confectionery. Petrea’s excuses, and her prayers for forgiveness, could not soften his anger. True it is, that an unfortunate disposition to laugh, which overcame her, gave to all her professions of distress a very doubtful appearance. Her distress, however, for all that, was real; and when Eva came, and said, with a beseeching, flattering voice, “Dear uncle, do not be angry any longer; poor Petrea is really quite cast down besides which she really has hurt her knee,” the good man replied with a very different voice:

“But has she, indeed? But why are people so clumsy so given to tripping and stumbling, that one ”

“One can get some more confections at any time,” said Eva.

“Can one!” exclaimed Jeremias; “do they grow on trees, then? How? Shall one then throw away one’s money for confectionery, in order to see it lie about the streets? Pretty management that would be, methinks!”

“Yet just say one kind word to Petrea,” besought Eva.

“A kind word!” repeated Jeremias: “I would just tell her that another time she should be so good as to fasten her shoestrings. Nay, I will go now after some more confectionery; but only on your account, little Miss Eva. Yes, yes; say I I will now go: I can dance also, if it be for But how it rains! lend me the ‘family-roof,’ and the cloak there I need also. Give it here handsomely! Well then, what is there to gape at? How! will the people gape at me? all very good; if it gives them any pleasure, they may laugh at me, I shall not find myself any the worse for it. Health and comfort are above all things, and one dress is just as good as another.”

The young girls laughed, and threw the “court-preacher,” which hardly reached to his knees, over the shoulders of the Assessor; and thus apparelled he went forth with long strides.

The family had this day removed into a new house. Judge Frank had bought it, together with a small garden, for the lifetime of himself and his wife, and for the last two years he had been pulling down, building up, repairing, and arranging: some doors he had built up, others he had opened, till all was as convenient and as comfortable as he wished. His wife, in full confidence, had left all to his good judgment, well pleased for her own part to be spared the noise of bricklayers and carpenters, which she escaped not without difficulty; to be spared from going among shavings and under scaffoldings, and from clambering over troughs full of mortar, etc. Papers for the walls and other ornamental things had been left to the choice of herself and her daughters.

And now he went, full of pleasure, with his wife’s arm in his, from one story to another, and from one room into another, greatly pleased with the convenient, spacious, and cheerful-looking habitation, and yet even more so with his wife’s lively gratification in all his work. And thus she was obliged to promenade through the whole house, from the cellar up to the roof; into the mangling-room, the wood-chamber, etc.

We will not weary the reader by following them in this promenade, but merely make him acquainted with some of the rooms in which he will often meet the family. We merely pass through the saloon and best parlour; they were handsome, but resembled all such apartments; but the room which the Judge had arranged with the most especial love, which was designed for daily use, and as the daily assembling place of the family, and which deserves our most intimate acquaintance, was the library, so called. It was a large, very lively room, with three windows on one side looking into a spacious market-place. Louise rejoiced especially over this, for thus they could look out of the windows on market-days, and see at once what they wished to buy; directly opposite lay the church, with its beautiful churchyard well planted with trees; these objects pleased Elise greatly. The side of the room opposite to the windows was entirely covered with books; the shelves consisted of several divisions, each one of which contained the literature of a different country. In niches between the several divisions stood, on simple but tasteful pedestals, busts of distinguished men, great for their heroic and peaceful actions standing there, said the Judge, not because they separated the different nations of the earth, but because they united them. Ernst Frank’s library was truly a select one; it had been the pleasure of his life, and still it was his delight to be increasing his collection of book’s. Now, for the first time, they were collected and arranged all in one place. He rejoiced over these treasures, and besought his daughters freely to make use of them (on this one express condition, that every book should be restored again to its right place). To Louise was consigned the office of librarian; to Petrea that of amanuensis. Both mother and daughters were delighted with this room, and began to consider where the work-table, the flower-table, and the bird-cage should stand, and when all were arranged, they were found to suit their places admirably. Against one of the short walls stood the green sofa, the appointed place for the mother; and against the opposite one the piano, and the harp, which was Sara’s favourite instrument, together with a guitar, whose strings were touched by Eva, as she sang “Mamma mia.”

An agreeable surprise awaited Elise as she was led through a curtained door which conducted from the library into a sort of boudoir, whose one window had the same prospect as the library this was solely and entirely her own consecrated room. She saw with emotion that the tasteful furniture of the room was the work of her daughters; her writing-table stood by the window; several beautiful pictures and a quantity of very pretty china adorned the room. Elise saw, with thankful delight, that all her favourite tastes, and all her little fancies, had been studied and gratified both by husband and children.

A small curtained door, likewise, on the other side, conducted Elise into her sleeping-room; and her husband made her observe how smoothly these doors turned on their hinges, and how easily she, from either side, could lock herself in and remain in quiet.

After this room, nothing gave Elise greater delight than the arrangements for bathing, which the Judge had made particularly convenient and comfortable; and he now turned the white taps with remarkable pleasure, to exhibit how freely the warm water came out of this, and the cold no, out of this came the warm water, and out of the other the cold. The cheerfulness and comfort of the whole arrangement were intended to give to the bathing-day which was almost as religiously observed in this family as the Sunday a double charm. In a room adjoining that which was appropriated to dressing, the old cleanly Brigitta had already her fixed residence. Here was she and the great linen-press to grow old together. Here ticked her clock, and purred her cat; here blossomed her geraniums and balsams, with the Bible and Prayer-book lying between them.

The three light and pleasant rooms intended for the daughters lay in the story above, and were simply but prettily furnished.

“Here they will feel themselves quite at home,” said the father, as he looked round with beaming eyes; “don’t you think so, Elise? We will make home so pleasant to our children that they shall not wish to leave it without a really important and deserving cause. No disquiet, no discontent with home and the world within it, shall drive them from the paternal roof. Here they can have leisure and quiet, and be often alone, which is a good thing. Such moments are needed by every one in order to strengthen and collect themselves, and are good for young girls as well as for any one else.”

The mother gave her applause fully and cordially; but immediately afterwards she was a little absent, for she had something of importance to say to her eldest daughter; and as at that very moment Louise came in, an animated conversation commenced between them, of which the following reached the father’s ear:

“And after them, pancakes; and, my good girl, take care that six of them are excellently thick and savoury; you know, indeed, how Henrik likes them.”

“And should we not,” suggested Louise, “have whipped cream and raspberry jam with the pancakes?”

“Yes, with pleasure,” returned the mother, “Jacobi would unquestionably recommend that.”

Louise blushed, and the Judge besought with animation that there might be something a little more substantial than “angels’ food” for supper, which was promised him.

The Assessor shook out the “family-roof” in the hall in indignation. “The most miserable roof in all Christendom,” said he; “it defends neither from wind nor rain, and is as heavy as the ark! and ”

But at the very moment when he was shaking and scolding his worst, he perceived a sound exclamations and welcomes, in every possible variety of joyous and cordial tones. The “court-preacher” was thrown head and shoulders over the “family-roof,” and with great leaps hastened Jeremias forward to shake hands with the son and the friend of the house, who were just now returned home from the University.

Tokens of condolement mingled themselves with welcomes and félicitations.

“How wet, and pale, and cold you are!”

“Oh, we have had a magnificent shower!” said Henrik, shaking himself, and casting a side glance on Jacobi, who looked both downcast and doleful in his wet apparel. “Such weather as this is quite an affair of my own. In wind and rain one becomes so I don’t know rightly how do you, mon cher?”

“A jelly, a perfect jelly!” said Jacobi, in a mournful voice; “how can one be otherwise, knocked about in the most infamous of peasant-cars, and storm, and pouring rain, so that one is perfectly battered and melted! Hu, hu, u, u, u, uh!”

“Oh, according to my opinion,” said Henrik, laughing heartily at the gestures of his travelling companion, “it is a hardening sort of weather; there is a proud exalting feeling in it, sitting there quite calm under the raging of the elements; especially when one looks down from one’s elevation on other fellow-mortals, who go lamenting, and full of anxiety, under their umbrellas. Thus one sits on one’s car as on a throne; nay, indeed, one gets quite a flattering idea of oneself, as if one were a little, tiny philosopher. Apropos! I bethink myself now, as if we had seen, as we came this way, a philosopher in a lady’s cloak walking hither. But, how are you all, sweet, sweet sisters? How long it is since I saw you!” and he pressed their hands between his cold and wet ones.

This scene, which took place in twilight, was quickly brought to an end by the ladies resolutely driving the gentlemen out to their own chamber to change their clothes. Jacobi, it is true, on his own account, did not require much driving, and Louise found Henrik’s philosophy on this occasion not so fully adopted. Louise had already taken care that a good blazing fire should welcome the travellers in their chamber.

In the mean time, the ladies quartered themselves in the library; lights were kindled, the table spread; the Judge helped all, and was highly delighted if people only called to him. The Assessor looked enraptured, as Eva arranged his confections on little plates. Petrea did not venture to look at them, much less to touch them.

“By Jove, my dear girls, how comfortable it is here!” exclaimed the Judge in the joy of his heart, as he saw the library thus peopled, and in its for-the-future every-day state. “Are you comfortable there, on the sofa, Elise? Let me get you a footstool. No; sit still, my friend! what are men for in the world?”

The Candidate we beg his pardon, the Master of Arts, Jacobi appeared no longer to be the same person who had an hour before stood there in his wet dress, as he made his appearance, handsomely apparelled, with his young friend, before the ladies, and his countenance actually beamed with delight at the joyful scene which he there witnessed.

People now examined one another nearer. They discovered that Henrik had become considerably paler as well as thinner, which Henrik received as a compliment to his studies. Jacobi wished also a compliment on his studies, but it was unanimously refused to him on account of his blooming appearance. He protested that he was flushed with the weather, but that availed nothing. Louise thought privately to herself that Jacobi had decidedly gained in manly bearing; that he had a simpler and more vigorous demeanour; he was become, she thought, a little more like her father. Her father was Louise’s ideal of manly perfection.

Little Gabriele blushed deeply, and half hid herself behind her mother, as her brother addressed her.

“How is your highness, my most gracious Princess Turandotte!” said he; “has your highness no little riddle at hand with which to confuse weak heads?”

Her little highness looked in the highest degree confused, and tried to withdraw the hand which her brother kissed again and again. Gabriele was quite bashful before the tall student.

Henrik had a little tete-a-tete with every sister, but it was somewhat short and cold with Sara; after which he seated himself by his mother, took her hand in his, and a lively and general conversation began, whilst Eva handed about the confectionery.

“But what is amiss now?” asked Henrik, suddenly. “Why have the sisters all left us to take council together there, with such important judge-like faces? Is the nation in danger? May not I go, in order to save the native land? If one could only first of all have eaten one’s supper in peace,” added he, speaking aside, after the manner of the stage.

But it was precisely about the supper that they were talking. There was a great danger that the pancakes would not succeed; and Louise could not prevent Henrik and Jacobi running down into the kitchen, where, to the greatest amusement of the young ladies, and to the tragi-comic despair of the cook, they acted their parts as cooks so ridiculously that Louise was obliged at length, with an imposing air, to put an end to the laughter, to the joking, and to the burnt pancakes, in order that she herself might put her hand to the work. Under her eye all went well; the pancakes turned out excellently. Jacobi besought one from her own hand, as wages for his work; graciously obtained it, and then swallowed the hot gift with such rapture that it certainly must have burnt him inwardly, had it not been for another species of warmth (which we consider very probable) a certain well-known spiritual fire, which counteracted the material burning, and made it harmless. Have we not here, in all simplicity, suggested something of a homoeopathic nature?

But we will leave the kitchen, that we may seat ourselves with the family at the supper-table, where the mother’s savoury, white pancakes, and the thick ones for Henrik, were found to be most excellent, and where the “angels’ food” was devoured with the greatest earthly enjoyment.

After this, they drank the health of the travellers, and sang a merry little song, made by Petrea. The father was quite pleased with his Petrea, who, quite electrified, sang too with all her might, although not with a most harmonious voice, which, however, did not annoy her father’s somewhat unmusical ear.

“She sings louder than they all,” said he to his wife, who was considerably less charmed than he with Petrea’s musical accompaniment.

Although every one in the company had had an exciting and fatiguing day, the young people began immediately after supper, as if according to a natural law, to arrange themselves for the dance.

Jacobi, who appeared to be captivated by Sara’s appearance, led her in the magic circle of the waltz.

“Our sensible little Queen-bee,” a rather broad-set, but very well-grown blonde of eighteen, distinguished herself in the dance by her beautiful steps, and her pleasing though rather too grave carriage. Everybody, however, looked with greater admiration on Eva, because she danced with heart and soul. Gabriele, with her golden curls, flew round like a butterfly. But who did not dance this evening? Everybody was actually enthusiastic for all were infected with the joyous animal spirits of Henrik. Even Jeremias Munter, to the amazement of everybody, led Eva, with most remarkable skill, through the Polska, the most artificial and perplexing of dances.

It was only at midnight that the dance was discontinued, at the suggestion of Elise. But before they separated, the Judge begged his wife to sing the well-known little song “The First Evening in the New House.” She sang it in her simple, soul-touching manner, and the joy full of peace which this song breathed penetrated every heart; even the grave countenance of the Judge gleamed with an affectionate emotion. A quiet glory appeared to rest on the family, and beautified all countenances; for it is given to song, like the sun, to throw its glorifying light upon all human circumstances, and to lend them beauty, at least for a moment. “The spinner,” and “the aged man by the road-side,” are led by song into the kingdom of beauty, even as they are by the Gospel into the kingdom of heaven.

On taking leave for the night, all agreed upon a rendezvous the next morning after breakfast in the orchard, in order to see what was to be made of it.

The father conducted the daughters up into their chambers. He wanted to see yet once more how they looked, and inquired from them again and again “Are you satisfied, my girls? Do they please you? Would you wish anything besides? If you wish anything, speak out right Swedishly.”

As now his daughters, assuring him of their contentment, gratefully and affectionately hung about him, there was not a happier man on the face of the earth than Judge Frank.

The mother, on her part, had taken her first-born with her into her little boudoir. She had as yet not been able to speak one word to him alone. Now she questioned him on everything, small and great, which concerned him, and how freely and entirely he opened his whole heart to her!

They talked of the circumstances of the family; of the purchase of this new property; of the debt which they had thereby contracted; of the means through which, by degrees, it would be paid off, and of the necessity there was for greater economy on all sides. They talked, too, of the daughters of the house.

“Louise is superb,” said Henrik, “but her complexion is rather muddy; could she not use some kind of wash for it? She would be so much handsomer if she had a fresher complexion; and then she looks, the least in the world, cathedral-like. What a solemn air she had to-night, as Jacobi made some polite speech to her! Do you know, mother, I think the sisters sit too much; it is in that way that people get such grave cathedral-like looks. We must make them take more exercise; we must find out some lively exhilarative exercise for them. And Eva! how she is grown, and how kind and happy she looks! It is a real delight to see her one can actually fall in love with her! But what in all the world is to be done with Petrea’s nose? It does, indeed, get so large and long, that I cannot tell what is to be done! It is a pity, though, for she is so good-hearted and merry. And Leonore! How sickly and unhappy she looks at times! We must endeavour to cheer her up.”

“Yes, that we will,” said the mother; “if she were but healthy, we could soon manage that; but how does little Gabriele please you?”

“Ah! she is very lovely, with her high-bred little airs quite fascinating,” said Henrik.

“And Sara!” asked she.

“Yes,” said he, “she is lovely very lovely, I think; but still there is something, at least to my taste, very unpleasant in her. She is not like my sisters; there is something about her so cold, so almost repulsive.”

“Yes,” said the mother, sighing; “there is at times something very extraordinary about her, more particularly of late. I fear that a certain person has too great, and that not a happy, influence over her. But Sara is a richly gifted and truly interesting girl, out of whom something very good may be made, if if She gives us, indeed, anxiety at times, for we are as much attached to her as if she were our own child. She has a most extraordinary talent for music you must hear her. There really is much that is very distinguished and truly amiable in her; you will see it, as you remain so much longer time with us.”

“Yes, thank God!” said Henrik, “I can now reckon on that, on remaining some months at home.”

The conversation now turned on Henrik’s future prospects. His father wished him to devote himself to mining, and with this end in view he had studied, but he felt ever, more and more, a growing inclination to another profession, and this had become a ground of dissatisfaction in the family. The mother now besought her first-born to prove himself carefully and seriously before he deserted the path to which his father was attached, and which Henrik himself had selected in common council with his father. Henrik promised this solemnly. His soul was warm and noble. His young heart possessed every fine sentiment, a pure enthusiasm for virtue and for his country, a glowing desire to live for them, this belonged to his heart in the richest measure. The wish to be useful to the community generally, united itself with all his views of self-advantage, and he only saw his own prosperity in connexion with that of his family. These thoughts and sentiments poured themselves forth in that sweet confidential hour freely and fully to his mother the happy mother, whose heart beat with joy and with proudest hope of her first-born, the favourite of her soul, her summer child!

“And when I have made my own way in the world,” added Henrik, joyfully kissing the hand of his mother, “and have a house of my own, then, mother, you shall come to me, and live with me, will you not?”

“And what would your father say to that?” said she, in a tone like his own.

“Oh! he has all the sisters who can keep house for him,” said Henrik, “and ”

“Do you intend to sit up here the whole night?” asked a voice at the door. It was the voice of the Judge, and both mother and son rose up as if they had been caught in the fact of conspiracy. The conspiracy, however, was immediately imparted to the Judge, whereupon he declared that all this would lead to such fearful consequences that they had better say no more about it.

Both mother and son laughed, and said “Good night” to each other. But as Henrik conveyed the hand of his mother towards his lips, he fell into a sort of ecstasy over it.

“Heavens! what a white hand! and what small fingers! nay, how can people have such small fingers?” And with a sort of comic devotion he kissed the little finger of that beautiful hand.

“I see I must carry you off forcibly, if I would have you to myself,” said the Judge merrily, and taking his wife’s arm in his, led her out.

But her thoughts still hovered around her first-born, her handsome and richly endowed son. She uttered a glowing prayer for his perfecting in all good, whilst all were sleeping sweetly the first night in the new house.