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

THE DAY OF THE JOURNEY.

On the morning of the important day all was in lively motion. The Assessor sent Eva a large bouquet of most remarkably beautiful natural flowers, which she immediately divided among her sisters. The Judge himself, in a frenzy of activity, packed the things of his wife and daughters, and protested that nobody could do it better than he, and that nobody could make so many things go into one box as he could. The last was willingly conceded to him, but a little demur arose as to the excellency of the packing. The ladies asserted that he rumpled their dresses; the Judge asserted that there was no danger on that account, that everything would be found remarkably smooth, and stood zealous and warm in his shirt-sleeves beside the travelling-case, grumbling a little at every fresh dress that was handed to him, and then exclaiming immediately afterwards, “Have you more yet, girls? I have more room. Do give me more! See now! that? and that? and that? and now, in the name of all weathers, is there no end of your articles? Give them here, my girls! Let that alone, child! I shall soon lay it straight! What? rumple them, shall I? Well, they can be unrumpled again, that’s all! Are there no smoothing-irons in the world? What? so, so, my girls! Have you any more? I can yet put something more in.”

They were to set off immediately after dinner, in order to be at Axelholm, which lay about two miles from the city, ready for the ball in the evening. By dinner-time all boxes were packed, and all tempers cleared, more especially that of the Judge, who was so contented with his morning’s work that he almost imparted his delight to those who at first were not altogether satisfied with it.

Petrea ate nothing but a pancake, with a little snow milk to it, in order that she might dance all the lighter.

“Above all things, my friends,” prayed the Judge, “be precise, and be ready at half-past three; the carriages come then to the door, do not let me have to wait for you.”

Precisely at half-past three the Judge went to the doors of his wife and daughters.

“Mamma! girls! it is time to go!” said he. “The clock has struck half-past three! The carriages are here!”

“Directly, directly!” was answered from all sides. The Judge waited; he knew from experience what this “directly” meant.

In the fever of his punctuality his blood began to boil, and he walked up and down the hall with great steps, talking with himself: “It is shocking, though,” argued he, “that they never are ready! but I won’t be angry! Even if they make me angry, I will not spoil their pleasure. But patience is necessary, more than Job had!”

Whilst he was thus moralising with himself, he heard the voice of his wife saying, with decision, in the library, “Come now, dear girls! In heaven’s name, don’t keep the father waiting! I know, indeed, how it annoys him !”

“But he said nothing the day before yesterday,” Petrea’s voice was heard to return, “though he had then to wait for us. (I can’t think what I have done with my gloves!)”

“And precisely on that account he shall not wait a moment longer for us,” said the mother; “and never again, if I can help it; so, if you are not ready girls, I shall run away without you!”

The mother ran, and all the daughters ran merrily after her.

The father remarked with pleasure, that love has a far more effectual power than fear, and all were soon seated in the carriage.

We will allow them to roll away, and will now pay a little visit to

LEONORE’S CHAMBER.

Leonore sate solitary. She supported her sick head on her hand. She had impelled herself to answer kindly the leave-taking kiss of her mother and sisters; she had seen how they sought to repress their joy before her; and she had particularly remarked a sort of half-concealed roguish joy in the glance which was exchanged between Eva and her mother, which had pained her. She had heard their happy voices on the stairs, and then the driving away of the carriages. Now they were gone; now all was still and desolate in the house, and large tears traced their way down Leonore’s cheeks. She seemed to herself so forlorn, so uncared for, so solitary in the world!

At that moment the door was softly opened, a smiling face looked in, and a light fascinating figure sprang forward through the chamber towards her, kissed her, laughed, and glanced with roguish and ardent affection into her astonished face.

“Eva!” exclaimed Leonore, scarcely trusting her eyes; “Eva, are you here? How! whither came you? Are you not gone with the others?”

“No, as you see,” returned Eva, embracing her, laughing, and looking quite happy; “I am here, and mean to stay here.”

“But why? What is the meaning of it?” asked Leonore.

“Because I would much rather remain here with you than go anywhere else,” said Eva. “I have bid Axelholm with all its splendours good day.”

“Ah! why have you done so? I would much rather you had not!” said Leonore.

“See you! I knew that,” returned her sister, “and therefore I put on a travelling dress, like the rest, and took leave of you with them. I wanted to take you by surprise, you see. You are not angry with me, are you? You must now be contented with it you can’t get rid of me! Look a little happy on me, Leonore!”

“I cannot Eva,” said Leonore, “because you have robbed yourself of a great pleasure on my account, and I know that it must have been difficult for you. I know that I am neither agreeable nor pleasing, and that you cannot love me, nor yet have pleasure with me, and on that account I cannot have pleasure in your sacrifice. It becomes you to be with the joyful and the happy. Ah! that you had but gone with them!”

“Do not talk so, unless you would make me weep,” said Eva; “you do not know how the thought of giving up all these festivities in order to remain alone with you has given me pleasure for many days, and this precisely because I love you, Leonore! yes, because I feel that I could love you better than all the rest! Nay, do not shake your head it is so. One cannot help one’s feelings.”

“But why should you love me?” argued the poor girl; “I am, indeed, so little amiable, nobody can endure me, nobody has pleasure in me; I would willingly die. Ah! I often think it would be so beautiful to die!”

“How can you talk so, Leonore?” said her sister; “it is not right! Would you wish such horrible grief to papa and mamma, and me, and all of us?”

“Ah!” said Leonore, “you and the sisters would soon comfort yourselves. Mamma does not love me as much as any of you others; nor papa either. Ottil R. said the other day that everybody talked of it that I was beloved neither by father nor mother.”

“Fie!” exclaimed Eva, “that was wicked and unjust of Ottil. I am quite certain that our parents love us all alike. Have you ever observed that they unjustly make any difference between us?”

“That I never have,” said Leonore; “they are too good and perfect for that. But, do you think I have not observed with how different an expression my father regards me to that with which he looks on you or Louise? Do you think that I do not feel how cold, and at times constrained, is the kiss which my mother gives me, to the two, the three, yes, the many, which, out of the fulness of her heart, she gives to you or to Gabriele? But I do not complain of injustice. I see very well that it cannot be otherwise. Nature has made me so disagreeable, that it is not possible people can bear me. Ah! fortunate indeed are they who possess an agreeable exterior! They win the good-will of people if they only show themselves. It is so easy for them to be amiable, and to be beloved! But difficult, very difficult is it for those who are ill-favoured as I!”

“But, dear Leonore, I assure you, you are unjust towards yourself. Your figure, for example, is very good; your eyes have something so expressive, something at the same time so soft and so earnest; your hair is fine, and is of a beautiful brown; it would become you so if it were better dressed; but wait awhile, when you are better I will help you to do it, and then you shall see.”

“And my mouth,” said poor Leonore, “that goes from ear to ear, and my nose is so flat and so long how can you mend that?”

“Your mouth?” replied Eva, “why yes, it is a little large; but your teeth are regular, and with a little more care, would be quite white. And your nose? let me see yes, if there were a little elevation, a little ridge in it, it would be quite good, too! Let me see, I really believe it begins to elevate itself! yes, actually, I see plainly enough the beginning of a ridge! and do you know, if it come, and when you are well, and have naturally a fresh colour, I think that you will be really pretty!”

“Ah! if I can ever believe that!” said Leonore, sighing, at the same time that an involuntary smile lit up her countenance.

“And even if you are not so very lovely,” continued Eva, “you know that yet you can be infinitely agreeable; you have something peculiarly so in your demeanour. I heard papa say so this very day to mamma.”

“Did he really say so?” said Leonore, her countenance growing brighter and brighter.

“Yes, indeed he did!” replied her sister. “But, ah! Leonore, after all, what is beauty? It fades away, and at last is laid in the black earth, and becomes dust; and even whilst it is blooming, it is not all-sufficient to make us either beloved or happy! It certainly has not an intrinsic value.”

Never was the power of beauty depreciated by more beautiful lips! Leonore looked at her and sighed.

“No, Leonore,” continued she, “do not trouble yourself to be beautiful. This, it is true, may at times be very pleasant, but it certainly is not necessary to make us either beloved or happy. I am convinced that if you were not in the least prettier than you are, yet that you might if you would, in your own peculiar way, be as much in favour and as much beloved as the prettiest girls in the world.”

“Ah!” said Leonore, “if I were only beloved by my nearest connexions! What a divine thing it must be to be beloved by one’s own family!”

“But that you can be that you will be, if you only will! Ah! if you only were always as you are sometimes and you are more and more so and I love you more and more infinitely I love you!”

“Oh, beloved Eva,” said Leonore, deeply affected, whilst she leaned herself quietly on her sister, “I have very little deserved this from you; but, for the future, I will be different I will be such as you would have me. I will endeavour to be good and amiable.”

“And then you will be so lovely, so beloved, and so happy!” said Eva, “that it would be a real delight. But now you must come down into Louise’s and my room. There is something there for you; you must change the air a little. Come, come!”

“Ah, how charming!” was Leonore’s exclamation as she entered Eva’s chamber; and in fact nothing could be imagined more charming than that little abode of peace, adorned as it now was by the coquetry of affection. The most delicious odour of fruit and flowers filled the air, and the sun threw his friendly beams on a table near the sofa, on which a basket filled with beautiful fruit stood enticingly in the midst of many pretty and tastefully arranged trifles.

“Here, dear Leonore,” said Eva, “you will remain during this time. It will do you good to leave your room a little. And look, they have all left you an offering! This gothic church of bronze is from Jacobi. It is a lamp! do you see? Light comes through the church window; how beautiful! We will light it this evening. And this fruit here do you see the beautiful grapes? All these are a plot between Henrik and Petrea. The copperplate engravings are from my father; Louise has worked you the slippers; and the little lady, she ”

Leonore clasped her hands. “Is it possible,” said she, “that you all have thought so much about me! How good you are ah, too good!”

“Nay, do not weep, sweet Leonore,” said Eva; “you should not weep, you should be joyful. But the best part of the entertainment remains yet behind. Do you see this new novel of Miss Edgeworth’s? Mamma has given us this, for us to read together. I will read to you aloud till midnight, if you will. A delicate little supper has been prepared for us by Louise, and we shall sup up here. We’ll have a banquet in our own way. Take now one of those big grapes which grow two on one stem, and I will take the other. The king’s health! Oh, glorious!”

Whilst the two sisters are banqueting at their own innocent feast, we will see how it goes on in the great company at

AXELHOLM.

Things are not carried on in so enviably easy and unconstrained a manner at every ball as at that of the citizens in the good little city of ping, where one saw the baker’s wife and the confectioner’s wife waltzing together, but altogether in a wrong fashion, to which the rest only said, “It does not signify, if they only go on!” Oh, no! such simplicity as that is very rarely met with, and least of all among those of whom we write.

At Axelholm, as at other great balls, the rocky shores of conventionality made it impossible to move without a thousand ceremonies, proprieties, dubiosities, formalities, and all the rest, which, taken together, make up a vast sum of difficulties. The great ball at Axelholm was not without pretension, and on that account not without its stiff difficulties. Among these may be reckoned that several of the young gentlemen considered themselves too old, or too to dance at all, and that, in consequence, many of the dance-loving ladies could not dance at all either, because, on account of the threatening eye-glasses of the gentlemen, they had not courage to dance with one another. Nevertheless the scene looked like one of pure delight. The great saloon so splendidly lighted, and a vast assembly collected there!

It is now the moment just before the dancing begins; the gentlemen stand in a great group in the middle of the room, spreading themselves out in direct or wavy lines towards the circle of ladies. These sit, like flowers in the garden beds, on the benches round the room, mostly in bashful stillness; whilst a few, in the consciousness of zephyr-like lightness, float about the room like butterflies. All look happy; all talk one with another, with all that animation, that reciprocal good-will, which the sight of so much beauty, united to the consciousness that they themselves are wearing their best looks, as well as the expectation of pleasure, infuses.

Now the music begins to sound; now young hearts beat with more or less disquiet; now go the engaged ones, amid the jostlings of the servants, who are perpetually soliciting the young ladies to partake of the now disdained tea. There one saw several young girls numerously surrounded, who were studying the promised dances which were inscribed on the ivory of their fans, declining fervent solicitations for the third, fourth, fifth nay, even up to the twelfth dance; but, fascinatingly-gracious, promising themselves for the thirteenth, which perhaps may never be danced; whilst others in their neighbourhood sit quiet and undisturbed, waiting for the first invitation, in order thereto to say a willing and thankful yes. Among the many-surrounded and the much-solicited, we may see Sara and even Louise. With these emulated the three Misses Aftonstjerna Isabella, Stella, and Aurora who stood constantly round the chair of the Countess Solenstrale, which was placed before the great mirror at the far end of the saloon. Among those who sat expectantly, in the most beautiful repose, we shall discover our Petrea, who nevertheless, with her bandeau of pearls in her hair, and a certain bloom of innocence and goodness in her youthful countenance, looked uncommonly well. Her heart beat with an indescribable desire to be engaged.

“Ah!” sighed she, as she saw two most elegant young men, the two brothers B , walking round the circle of ladies, with their eye-glasses in their hands. Their eye-glasses rested for a moment on Petrea; the one whispered something in the ear of the other; both smiled, and went on. Petrea felt humiliated, she knew not why.

“Now!” thought she, as Lieutenant S approached her quickly. But Lieutenant S came to engage Miss T , and Petrea remained sitting. The music played the liveliest anglaise, and Petrea’s feet were all in agitation to be moving.

“Ah!” thought she, “if I were but a man I would engage Petrea.”

The anglaise streamed past Petrea’s nose.

“Where is Eva?” asked Jeremias Munter, in a hasty and displeased tone, from Louise, in the pause between the anglaise and the waltz.

“She has remained at home with Leonore,” said Louise; “she was determined upon it.”

“How stupid!” exclaimed he; “why did I come here then.”

“Nay, that I really cannot tell!” returned Louise, smiling.

“Not!” retorted the Assessor. “Now then I will tell you, sister Louise, I came here entirely to see Eva dance solely and altogether on that account, and for nothing else. What a stupid affair it was that she should stop at home! You had a great deal better, all the rest of you, have stopped at home together; you yourself, dear sister, reckoned into the bargain! Petrea, there! what has she to do here? She was always a vexation to me, but now I cannot endure her, since she has not understanding enough to stay at home in Eva’s place; and this little curly-pate, which must dance with grown people just as if she were a regular person; could not she find a piece of sugar to keep her at home, instead of coming here to be in a flurry! You are all wearisome together; and such entertainments as these are the most horrible things I know.”

Louise floated away in the waltz with Jacobi, laughing over this sally; and the Countess Solenstrale, the sun of the ball, said as she passed her chair, “Charmant, charmant!”

Besides this couple, who distinguished themselves by their easy harmonious motion, there was another, which whirled past in wild circles, and drew all eyes upon them likewise: this was Sara and the boisterous Schwartz. Her truly beaming beauty, her dress, her haughty bearing, her flashing eyes, called forth a universal ah! of astonishment and admiration. Petrea forgot that she was sitting while she looked upon her. She thought that she had never seen anything so transporting as Sara in the whirl of the dance. But the Countess Solenstrale, as she sate in her chair, said of this couple nothing; nay, people even imagined that they read an expression of displeasure in her countenance. The Misses Aftonstjerna sailed round with much dignity.

“My dear girl,” said Elise kindly, but seriously, to Sara after the waltz, “you must not dance thus; your chest will not allow it. How warm you are! You really burn!”

“It is my climate,” answered Sara; “it agrees with me excellently.”

“I beseech you sit this dance. It is positively injurious to you to heat yourself thus,” said Elise.

“This dance?” returned Sara; “impossible! I am engaged for it to Colonel H .”

“Then, do not dance the next,” besought Elise; “if you would do me a pleasure, do not dance it with Schwartz. He dances in such a wild manner as is prejudicial to the health; besides which, it is hardly becoming.”

“It gives me pleasure to dance with him,” answered Sara, both with pride and insolence, as she withdrew; and the mother, wounded and displeased, returned to her seat.

The Countess Solenstrale lavished compliments on Elise on account of her children. “They are positively the ornament of the room,” said she; “charmant! and your son a most prepossessing young man so handsome and comme il faut! A charming ball!”

Isabella Aftonstjerna threw beaming glances on the handsome Henrik.

“What madness this dancing is!” said Mr. Munter, as with a strong expression of weariness and melancholy he seated himself beside Evelina. “Nay, look how they hop about and exert themselves, as if without this they could not get thin enough; then, good heavens! how difficult it seems, and how ugly it is! As if this could give them any pleasure! For some of them it seems as if it were day-labour, and as if it were a frenzy to others; and for a third, a kind of affectation; nay, I must go my ways, for I shall become mad or splenetic if I look any longer on this super-extra folly!”

“If Eva Frank were dancing too, you would not think it so,” said Evelina, with a well-bred smile.

“Eva!” repeated he, whilst a light seemed to diffuse itself over his countenance, and his eyes suddenly beamed with pleasure “Eva! no! I believe so too. To see her dance is to see living harmony. Ah! it enlivens my mind if I only see her figure, her gait, her slightest movement; and then to know that all this harmony, all this beauty, is not mere paint not mere outside; but that it is the true expression of the soul! I find myself actually better when I am near her; and I have often a real desire to thank her for the sentiments which she instils into me. In fact, she is my benefactress; and I can assure you that it reconciles me to mankind and to myself, that I can feel thus to a fellow-creature. I cannot describe how agreeable it is, because commonly there is so much to vex oneself about in this so-called masterpiece of the Creator!”

“But, best friend,” said Evelina, “why are you so vexed? Most people have still ”

“Ah, don’t go and make yourself an ange de clemence for mankind,” said he, “in order to exalt secretly yourself over me, otherwise I shall be vexed with you; and you belong to the class that I can best endure. Why do I vex myself? What a stupid question! Why are people stupid and wearisome, and yet make themselves important with their stupidity? And wherefore am I myself such a melancholy personage, worse than anybody else, and should have withal such a pair of quick eyes, as if only on purpose to see the infirmities and perversions of the world? There may, however, in my case be sufficient reason for all this. When one has had the fancy to come into the world against all order and Christian usage; has seen neither father nor mother beside one’s cradle; heard nothing, seen nothing, learned nothing, which is in the least either beautiful or instructive one has not entered upon life very merrily. And then, after all, to be called Munter! Good heavens! Munter! Had I been called Blannius, or Skarnius, or Brummerius, or Grubblerius, or Rhabarberius, there might have been some sense in the joke; but Munter! I ask you now, is it not enough to make a man splenetic and melancholy all the days of his life? And then, to have been born into the world with a continual cold, and since then never to have been able to look up to heaven without sneezing do you find that merry or edifying. Well, and then! after I had worked my way successfully through the schools, the dust of books, and the hall of anatomy, and had come to hate them all thoroughly, and to love that which was beautiful in nature and in art, am I to thank my stars that I must win my daily bread by studying and caring for all that is miserable and revolting in the world, and hourly to go about among jaundice, and colic, and disease of the lungs? On this account I never can be anything but a melancholy creature! Yes, indeed, if there were not the lilies on the earth, the stars in heaven, and beyond all these some one Being who must be glorious and were there not among mankind the human-rose Eva the beautiful, fascinating Eva, then ”

He paused; a tear stood in his eye; but the expression of his countenance soon was changed when he perceived no less than five young girls they danced now the “free choice” and among them the three enchanting Miss Aftonstjernas, who, all locked together, came dancing towards him with a roguish expression. He cast towards them the very grimmest of his glances, rose up suddenly, and hastened away.

Sara danced the second waltz with Schwartz, yet wilder than the first. Elise turned her eyes away from her with inward displeasure; but Petrea’s heart beat with secret desire for a dance as wild, and she followed their whirlings with sparkling eyes.

“Oh,” thought she, “if one could only fly through life in a joyful whirl like that!”

It was the sixth dance, and Petrea was sitting yet. She felt her nose red and swollen. “See now!” thought she, “farewell to all hopes of dancing! It must be that I am ugly, and nobody will look at me!” At the same moment she was aware of the eye of her mother fixed upon her with a certain expression of discomfort, and that glance was to her like a stab at the heart; but the next moment her heart raised itself in opposition to that depressing feeling which seemed about to overcome her. “It is unpleasant,” thought she, “but it cannot be altered, and it is no fault of mine! And as nobody will give me any pleasure, I will even find some for myself.”

Scarcely had Petrea made this determination, than she felt herself quite cheered; a spring of independence and freedom bubbled up within her; she felt as if she were able even to take down the chandelier from the ceiling, and all the more so when she saw so many life-enjoying people skipping around her.

At this moment an old gentleman rose up from a bench opposite Petrea, with a tea-cup in his hand. In a mania of officiousness she rushed forward in order to assist him in setting it aside. He drew himself back, and held the cup firmly, whilst Petrea, with the most firm and unwearying “Permit me, sir,” seemed determined to take it. The strife about the cup continued amid the unending bows of the gentleman, and the equally unending curtseys of Petrea, until a passing waltzing couple gave a jostle, without the least ceremony whatever to the compliment-makers, which occasioned a shake of the tea-cup, and revealed to Petrea the last thing in the world which she had imagined, that the cup was not empty! Shocked and embarrassed, she let go her hold, and allowed the old gentleman, with what remained of his cup of tea, to go and find out for himself a securer place. Petrea seated herself, she hardly knew how, on a bench near an elderly lady, who looked at her very good-naturedly, and who helped very kindly to wipe off the ablution of tea which she had received. Petrea felt herself quite confidential with this excellent person, and inquired from her what was her opinion of Swedenborg, beginning also to give her own thoughts on spectral visions, ghosts, etc. The lady looked at her, as if she thought she might be a little deranged, and then hastened to change her place.

A stout military gentleman sat himself down ponderously, with a deep sigh, on the seat which the old lady had left, as if he were saying to himself, “Ah, thank God! here I can sit in peace!” But, no! he had not sate there three minutes and a half when he found himself called upon by Petrea to avow his political faith, and invited by her to unite in the wish of speedy war with Russia. Lieutenant-Colonel Uh turned rather a deaf ear to the battery by which his neighbour assailed him, but for all that he probably felt it not the less heavy, because after several little sham coughs he rose up, and left our Petrea alone with her warlike thoughts.

She also rose, from the necessity she felt of looking elsewhere for more sympathy and interest.

“In heaven’s name, dear Petrea, keep your seat!” whispered Louise, who encountered her on her search for adventures.

Petrea now cast her eyes on a young girl who seemed to have had no better dancing fortune than herself, but who seemed to bear it much worse, appeared weary of sitting, and could hardly refrain from tears. Petrea, in whose disposition it lay to impart to others whatever she herself possessed sometimes overlooking the trifling fact that what she possessed was very little desired by others and feeling herself now in possession of a considerable degree of prowess, wished to impart some of the same to her companion in misfortune, and seated herself by her for that purpose.

“I know not a soul here, and I find it so horribly wearisome,” was the unasked outpouring of soul which greeted Petrea, and which went directly to her sympathising heart.

Petrea named every person she knew in the company to the young unfortunate, and then, in order to escape from the weight of the present, began to unfold great plans and undertakings for the future. She endeavoured to induce her new acquaintance to give her her parole d’honneur that she would sometime conduct a social theatre with her, which would assist greatly to make social life more interesting; and further than that, that they should establish together a society of Sisters of Charity in Sweden, and make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; furthermore, that they would write novels together; and that on the following day, or more properly in the night, they would rise at half-past two o’clock, and climb to the top of a high mountain in order to see the sun rise; and finally, after all these, and sundry other propositions, Petrea suggested to her new acquaintance a thee-and-thou friendship between them! But, ah! neither Petrea’s great prowess, nor her great plans; neither the social theatre, nor the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, least of all the thee-and-thou friendship, availed anything towards enlivening the churlish young girl. Petrea saw plainly that an invitation to dance would avail more than all her propositions, so, sighing deeply because she was not a man to offer so great a pleasure, she rose up, and left the object of her vain endeavours.

She looked round for a new subject, and her eye fell on the Countess Solenstrale. Petrea was dazzled, and became possessed of the frenzied desire to become acquainted with her, to be noticed by her; in short, in some kind of way to approach the sun of the ball, fancying thereby that a little glory would be reflected upon herself. But how was she to manage it? If the Countess would but let fall her handkerchief, or her fan, she might dart forward and pick it up, and then deliver it to her with a compliment in verse. Petrea, hereupon, began to improvise to herself; there was something, of course, about the sun in it. Undoubtedly this would delight the Countess, and give occasion to more acquaintance, and perhaps but, ah! she dropped neither handkerchief nor fan, and no opportunity seemed likely to occur in which she could make use of her poem with effect. In the mean time she felt drawn as by a secret influence (like the planet to the sun) ever nearer and nearer to the queen of the saloon. The Aftonstjernas were now standing, beaming around her, bending their white and pearl-ornamented necks to listen to her jesting observations, and between whiles replying with smiles to the politeness and solicitations of elegant gentlemen. It looked magnificent and beautiful, and Petrea sighed from the ardent longing to ascend to the haute volee.

At this moment Jacobi, quite warm, came hastening towards her to engage her for the following quadrille.

Petrea joyfully thanked him; but suddenly reddening to the resemblance of a peony with her mania of participation, she added, “Might I accept your invitation for another person? Do me the great pleasure to ask that young girl that sits there in the window at our left.”

“But why?” asked Jacobi; “why will not you?”

“I earnestly beseech you to do it!” said Petrea. “It would give me greater pleasure to see her dancing than if I danced myself.”

Jacobi made some friendly objections, but did in the end as she requested.

It was a great pleasure to Petrea to perceive the influence of this engagement on her young friend. But Fate and the Candidate seemed determined to make Petrea dance this quadrille; and a young officer presented himself before her in splendid uniform, with dark eyes, dark hair, large dark moustache, martial size, and very martial mien. Petrea had no occasion, and no disposition either, to return anything but a “yes” to this son of Mars. In fact, she never expected to receive a more honourable invitation; and a few minutes later she found herself standing close beside the chair of the Countess Solenstrale, dancing in the same quadrille with the Aftonstjernas, and vis-a-vis with the Candidate. Petrea felt herself highly exalted, and would have been perfectly prosperous had it not been for her restless demon, which incessantly spurred her with the desire of coming in closer contact with the beautiful, magnificent lady to whom she stood so near. To tread upon her foot or her dress, might, it is true, have furnished an easy occasion for many fine and reverential excuses; but, at the same time, this would be neither polite nor agreeable. To fall in some kind of way before her feet, and then, when graciously raised by the Countess, to thank her in a verse, in which the sun played a conspicuous part, would have been incontestibly better; but now Petrea must dance on!

Was it that our Petrea really was so addled (if people will graciously allow us such an expression) that she had no right power over her limbs, or did it happen from want of ballast, in consequence of the slender dinner she had eaten, or was it the result of her usual distraction we know not; but this much is certain, that she in chassee-ing on the right hand, on which she had to pass her vis-a-vis, made an error, and came directly up to him. He withdrew to the other side, but Petrea was already there: and as the Candidate again withdrew to the right, there was she again; and amid all this chassee-ing her feet got so entangled with his, that as he made a despairing attempt to pass her, it so happened that both fell down in the middle of the quadrille!

When Petrea, with tears in her eyes, again stood upright, she saw before her the eye-glass gentlemen, the two brothers B., who were nearly dying with laughter. A hasty glance convinced Petrea that her mother saw nothing of it; and a second glance, that she had now attracted the attention of the Countess Solenstrale, who was smiling behind her fan. The first observation consoled her for the last; and she fervently assured Jacobi, who was heartily distressed on her account, that she had not hurt herself; that it signified nothing; that it was her fault, etc., etc.; cast a tranquil glance on the yet laughing gentlemen, and chasseed boldly back again. But what, however, made the deepest impression on Petrea, was the conduct of her partner, and his suddenly altered behaviour. He brought the continued and unbecoming merriment of the brothers B. to an end by one determined glance; and he who hitherto had been parsimonious of words, and who had only answered all her attempts at being entertaining by a yes or a no, now became quite conversable, polite, and agreeable, and endeavoured in every possible way to divert her attention from the unpleasant accident which had just occurred, engaging her moreover for the anglaise after supper.

Petrea understood his kindness; tears came into her eyes, and her heart beat for joy at the thought of hastening to her mother after the quadrille, and saying, “Mamma, I am engaged for the anglaise after supper.”

But no thought, no feeling, could remain in tranquillity with the poor little “Chaos;” so many others came rushing in, that the first were quite effaced. Her first impression of the kindness of Lieutenant Y. was, “how good he is!” the second was, “perhaps he may endure me!” And hereupon a flood of imagined courtesy and courtship poured in, which almost turned her head. But she would not marry, heaven forbid! yet still it would be a divine thing to have a lover, and to be oneself “an object” of passion, like Sara and Louise. Perhaps the young Lieutenant Y. might be related to the Countess Solenstrale, and, oh heavens! how well it would sound when it was said, “A nephew of the Countess Solenstrale is a passionate admirer of Petrea Frank!” What a coming forth that would be! A less thing than that might make one dizzy. Petrea was highly excited by these imaginings, and was suddenly changed by them into an actual coquette, who set herself at work by all possible means to enslave “her object;” in which a little, and for the moment very white, hand (for even hands have their moments), figuring about the head, played a conspicuous part. Petrea’s amazing animation and talkativeness directed the eye-glass of her mother for her mother was somewhat short-sighted often in this direction, and called forth glances besides from Louise, which positively would have operated with a very subduing effect, had not Petrea been too much excited to remark them. The observations and smiles of her neighbours Petrea mistook for tokens of applause; but she deceived herself, for they only amused themselves with the little coquetting, but not very dangerous lady. Lieutenant Y., nevertheless, seemed to find pleasure in her liveliness, for when the quadrille was ended, he continued a dispute which had commenced during it, and for this purpose conducted her into one of the little side rooms, which strengthened her in the idea of having made a conquest. Isabella Aftonstjerna was singing there a little French song, the refrain of which was

Hommage a la plus belle,
Honneur au plus vaillant!

The world was all brightness to Petrea: the song carried her back to the beautiful days of knighthood: Lieutenant Y. appeared to her as the ideal of knightly honour, and the glass opposite showed her own face and nose in such an advantageous light, that she, meeting herself there all beaming with joy, fancied herself almost handsome. A beautiful rose-tree was blossoming in the window, and Petrea, breaking off a flower, presented it to the Lieutenant, with the words

Honneur au plus vaillant.

Petrea thought that this was remarkably striking and apropos, and secretly expected that her knight would lay the myrtle-spray with which he was playing at her feet, adding very appropriately

Hommage a la plus belle.

“Most humble thanks!” said Lieutenant Y., taking the rose with misfortune-promising indifference. But Fate delivered Petrea from the unpleasantness of waiting in vain for a politeness she desired, for suddenly there arose a disturbance in the ball-room, and voices were heard which said, “She is fainting! Gracious heaven! Sara!”

Myrtle-spray, knight, conquest, all vanished now from Petrea’s mind, and with a cry of horror she rushed from Lieutenant Y. into the ball-room at the very moment when Sara was carried out fainting. The violent dancing had produced dizziness; but taken into a cool room, and sprinkled with eau de Cologne and water, she soon recovered, and complained only of horrible headache. This was a common ailment of Sara’s, but was quickly removed when a certain remedy was at hand.

“My drops!” prayed Sara, in a faint voice.

“Where? where?” asked Petrea, with a feeling as if she would run to China.

“In the little box in our chamber,” said Sara.

Quick as thought sped the kind Petrea across the court to the east wing. She sought through the chamber where their things were, but the box was not to be found. It must have been left in the carriage. But where was the carriage? It was locked up in the coach-house. And where was the key of the coach-house?

Great was Petrea’s fatigue before she obtained this; before she reached the coach-house; and then before, with a lantern in her hand, she had found the missing box. Great also, on the other hand, was her joy, as breathless, but triumphant, she hastened up to Sara with the little bottle of medicine in her hand, and for reward she received the not less agreeable commission of dropping out sixty drops for Sara. Scarcely, however, was the medicine swallowed, when Sara exclaimed with violence:

“You have killed me, Petrea! You have given me poison! It is unquestionably Louise’s elixir!”

It was so! The wrong bottle had been brought, and great was the perplexity.

“You do everything so left-handedly, Petrea!” exclaimed Sara, in ill-humour; “you are like the ass in the fable, that would break the head of his friend in driving away a fly!”

These were hard words for poor Petrea, who was just about to run off again in order to redeem her error. This, added to other agitation of mind, brought tears to her eyes, and blood to her head. Her nose began violently to bleed. Louise, excited against Sara by her severity to Petrea, and some little also by her calling her elixir poison, threw upon her a look of great displeasure, and devoted herself to the weeping and bleeding Petrea.

Whether it was the spirit of anger that dispersed Sara’s headache, or actually Louise’s elixir (Louise was firmly persuaded that it was the latter), we know not; but certain it was that Sara very soon recovered and returned to the company, without saying one consoling word to Petrea.

Petrea was in no condition to appear at the supper-table, and Louise kindly remained with her. Aunt Evelina, Laura, Karin, and even the lady of the War-Councillor herself, brought them delicacies. Amid so much kindness, Petrea could not do otherwise than become again tranquil and lively. She should, she thought, after all, dance the anglaise after supper with “ plus vaillant,” as she called the Lieutenant, who had truly captivated her evidently not steeled heart.

The anglaise had already begun as the sisters entered the ball-room. The Candidate hastened to meet them quite in an uneasy state of mind; he had engaged Louise for this dance, and they now stood up together in the crowd of dancers. Petrea expected, likewise, that “ plus vaillant” would rush up to her and seize her hand; but as she cast a hasty glance around, she perceived him, not rushing towards her, but dancing with Sara, who was looking more beautiful and brilliant than ever. The rose which Petrea had given him faithless knight! together with the myrtle-sprig on which she had speculated, were both of them placed in Sara’s bosom. The eyes of “ plus vaillaut” were incessantly riveted upon “la plus belle,” as Sara was then unanimously declared to be. The glory of the Aftonstjernas paled in the night, as they were too much heated by dancing, but Sara’s star burned brighter and brighter. She was introduced to the Countess Solenstrale, who paid her charming compliments, and called her “la reine du bal,” at which the Aftonstjernas looked displeased.

“Thousand devils, how handsome she is!” exclaimed the old gentleman who had striven with Petrea about the tea-cup, and who now, without being aware of it, trod upon her foot as he thrust himself before her to get a better view of “la reine du bal.”

Overlooked, humiliated, silent, and dejected, Petrea withdrew into another room. The scenes of the evening passed in review before her soul, and appeared now quite in an altered light. The mirror which a few hours before had flattered her with the notion that she might be called la plus belle, now showed her her face red and unsightly; she thought herself the most ridiculous and unfortunate of human beings. She felt at this moment a kind of hostility against herself. She thought on something which she was preparing for Sara, and which was to be an agreeable surprise to her, and which was to be made known to her in a few days she thought of this, and in that moment of trouble the thought of it, like a sunbeam on dark clouds, brightened the night in her soul. The thought of gratifying one, who on this evening had so deeply wounded her, gave a mild and beneficial turn to her mind.

After supper, a balcony in the saloon adjoining the ball-room was opened, in order somewhat to cool the heated atmosphere of the room.

Two persons, a lady and gentleman, stepped into the balcony; a light white shawl was thrown over the lady’s shoulders; stars garlanded her dark hair; stars flashed in her black eyes, which glanced fiercely around into free space.

There lay over the landscape the deliciously mysterious half-darkness of a May-night, a magical veil which half hides and half reveals its beauty, and which calls forth mysterious forebodings. A mighty and entrancing revelation of the gloriousness of life seemed to sing in the wind, which passed tranquilly murmuring through space, shone in the stars, and wandered high above earth.

“Ah, life! life!” exclaimed she, and stretched forth her arms towards space, as if she would embrace it.

“Enchanting girl!” said he, while he seized her hand, “my life belongs to you!”

“Conduct me forth into free, fresh life,” said she, without withdrawing her hand, and looking haughtily at him all the while, “and my hand belongs to you! But remember you this, that I will be free free as the wind which now kisses your forehead, and lifts those topmost branches of the tree! I love freedom, power, and honour! Conduct me to these, help me to obtain these, and my gratitude will secure to you my love; will fetter me to you with stronger bonds than those of ceremony and prejudice, to which I only submit out of regard to those who otherwise would weep over me, and whom I would not willingly distress more than there is need for. It shall not bind us more than we ourselves wish. Freedom shall be the knitting and the loosening of our bond!”

“Beautiful woman!” answered he, “raised above the hypocrisy of weakness above the darkness of prejudice I admire you and obey you! Only to such a woman can my will submit! My beautiful scholar is become my teacher! Well, then, let the hand of the priest unite us; my hand shall conduct you up to that brilliant throne which your beauty and your talents deserve! I will only elevate you in order, as now, to fall before your feet the most devoted of your servants!”

He dropped upon one knee before her; and she, bending herself towards him, let her lips touch his forehead. He threw his arms round her, and held her for one moment bent towards him. A supercilious, scornful expression, unobserved by her, played upon his lips.

“Release me, Hermann! some one comes,” said she; he did so, and as she raised her proud neck against his will, a dark flash of indignation burned in her eyes.

They withdrew, and another couple stepped out into the balcony.

He. Wait, let me wrap my cloak better round you; the wind is cool.

She. Ah, how beautiful to feel how it wraps us both! Do you see how we are here standing between heaven and earth, separated from all the world?

He. I do not see it I see my lovely world in my arms! I have you, Laura! Laura, tell me, are you happy?

She. Ah, no!

He. How?

She. Ah, I am not happy because I am too happy! I fancy I never can have deserved this happiness. I cannot conceive how it came to my share. Ah, Arvid! to live thus with you, with my mother, my sister, all that I most love and then to be yours ever, ever!

He. Say eternally, my Laura! Our union belongs as much to heaven as to earth, here as there; to all eternity I am yours, and you are mine!

She. Hush, my Arvid! I hear my mother’s voice she calls me. Let us go to her.

They returned into the room, and presently another couple stepped on the balcony.

He. Cousin Louise, do you like evening air? Cousin Louise, I fancy, is rather romantic. Cousin, do you like the stars? I am a great friend of the stars too; I think on what the poet sings:

silently as Egypt’s priests
They move.

Look, Cousin Louise, towards the corner, in the west there lies Oestanvik. If it would give you any pleasure to make a little tour there, I would beg that I might drive you there in my new landau. I really think, Cousin Louise, that Oestanvik would please you: the peaches and the vines are just now in full bloom; it is a beautiful sight.

A deep sigh is heard.

She. Who sighs so?

A Voice. Somebody who is poor, and who now, for the first time, envies the rich.

He. Oh rich! rich! God forbid! rich I am not exactly. One has one’s competency, thank God! One has wherewith to live. I can honestly maintain myself and a family. I sow two hundred bushels of wheat; and what do you think, Cousin Louise but where is Cousin Louise?

A Voice. It seemed to her, no doubt, as if a cold wind came over here from Oestanvik.

At the moment when the gentlemen returned to the room, a girl came into the balcony. She was alone. The misfortunes of the evening depressed her heart, and were felt to be so much more humiliating because they were of such a mean kind. Some burning tears stole quickly and silently over her cheeks. The evening wind kissed them gently away. She looked up to heaven; never had it seemed to her so high and glorious. Her soul raised itself, mounted even higher than her glance, up to the mighty friend of human hearts; and He gave to hers a presentiment that a time would come, when, in his love, she would be reconciled to and forget all adversities of earth.

The days at Axelholm wore on merrily amid ever-varying delights. Petrea wrote long letters, in prose and in verse, to her sisters at home, and imparted to them all that occurred here. Her own misfortunes, which she even exaggerated, she described in such a comic manner that those very things which were at first distressing to her, were made a spring of hearty merriment both to herself and to her family.

She received one day a letter from her father, which contained the following words:

“My good Child,

“Your letters, my dear child, give me and your sisters great pleasure; not merely on account of the lively things which they contain, but more especially on account of your way of bearing that which is anything but lively. Continue to do thus, my child, and you my heart rejoices in the thought will advance on the way to wisdom and happiness, and you will have joyfully to acknowledge the blessed truth which the history of great things, as well as of small, establishes, that there is nothing evil which may not be made conducive to good; and thus our own errors may be made steps on our way to improvement.

“Greet your sisters cordially from their and your tenderly devoted

“Father.”

Petrea kissed these lines with tears of grateful joy. She wore them for several days near her heart; she preserved them through her whole life as one of the endeared means by which she had gone happily through the chromatic scale of existence.

Louise was joked much about Cousin Thure; Cousin Thure was joked much about Louise; it pleased him very much to be joked about her, to be told that Oestanvik wanted a mistress, that he himself wanted a pretty wife, and that without doubt Louise Frank was one of the most sensible as well as one of the prettiest girls in the country; and more than this, was besides of such a respectable family! The Landed-proprietor received already félicitations on his betrothal.

What the bride-elect, however, thought on the matter was more difficult to fathom. She was certainly always polite to Cousin Thure; still this politeness seemed expressive rather of indifference than friendship; and she declined, with a decision amazing to many people, his pressing and often repeated solicitations to make an excursion to Oestanvik in his new landau, drawn by what he styled “his foxes his four horses in one rein.” Many people asserted that the agreeable and cordial Jacobi was much nearer to Louise’s heart than the rich Landed-proprietor! but even towards Jacobi her conduct was so equal, so tranquil, so unconstrained, that nobody could exactly tell how it might be. Nobody knew so well as we do, that Louise considered it consistent with the dignity of woman to show only perfect indifference to the attentions or doux-propos of men, until they had been openly and fully declared. Louise despised coquetry so far as to dread anything which bordered on the very limits of it. Her young female friends joked with her upon her strict notions on this head, and fancied that she would remain unmarried.

“That may be,” said Louise, calmly.

They told her one day of a gentleman who said “I will not stand up before any girl who is not some little of a coquette.”

“Then he may remain sitting,” answered Louise, with much dignity.

Louise’s views of the dignity of woman, her grave and decided principles, and her manner of expressing them, amused her young friends, whilst at the same time they inspired for her a true esteem, and gave occasion for many little contentions and discussions, in which Louise intrepidly, though not without some little warmth, maintained the rights of the cause. These contentions, however, which began in merriment, did not always terminate so.

A young and rather coquettish lady was one day wounded by the severity with which Louise spoke of the coquetry of her sex, and particularly of married ladies, and in revenge she used an expression which excited Louise’s astonishment and anger. An explanation followed between the two, the result of which was not only their perfect estrangement, but an altered state of mind in Louise which she in vain endeavoured to conceal.

During the first days of her stay at Axelholm she had been uncommonly joyous and lively; now she was quiet, thoughtful, often absent, and towards the Candidate, as it seemed, less friendly than formerly, whilst she lent a more willing ear to the Landed-proprietor, although she still resolutely withstood his proposal of a drive to Oestanvik.

On the evening of the day after this explanation, Elise was engaged in a lively conversation with Jacobi on the balcony.

“And if,” said he, “I endeavour to win her heart, would her parents would her mother see it without displeasure? Ah, speak candidly with me; the well-being of my life depends upon it.”

“You have my accordance, my good wishes, Jacobi,” returned Elise. “I say to you what I have already said to my husband, that I should willingly call you son.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Jacobi, deeply moved, and falling on one knee, whilst he pressed her hand to his lips “oh that my whole life might evidence to you my gratitude and my love !”

At this very moment, Louise, who had been seeking her mother, approached the balcony; she saw Jacobi’s action, and heard his words: she withdrew quickly, as if she had been stung by a snake.

From this time a great change was more and more perceptible in her. Still, reserved, and very pale, she moved about like one in a dream, amid the lively circles of Axelholm, and agreed willingly to the proposition which her mother, who was uneasy on her account, made of their stay being shortened. Jacobi, as much astonished as distressed by the sudden unfriendliness of Louise towards him, began to think that the place must in some kind of way be bewitched, and desired more than anybody else to get away from it.