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small town as follows:-"One day is so terribly like another that people don't know how to distinguish one from another." For this reason many an inhabitant of a little town, that he may not drop fast asleep from sheer weariness, endeavours to keep himself awake by drinking punch, playing at cards, and many other such pastimes, which have the result of making the purse light, and the heart heavy. The ladies again, when they do not partake of the gentlemen's pastime-which sometimes happens-generally endeavour to amuse themselves with coffee-parties, novel-reading, and petty scandal, by way of a little spice to the thin, spiritual soup of daily life. And this especially during our long northern winters. But this winter in Kungsköping formed a brilliant exception to ordinary winters. The railroad, which was being laid down just outside the town, had brought to its social circles a number of young engineers, for the most part lively and intelligent men, who had given a new spring to every pleasure, and people had especially afforded them opportunities for cheerful exercise at their balls, and their suppers, which had taken the character of balls. In short, nobody could remember there ever having been so gay a winter before at Kungsköping.
People talked also about three marriage engagements which were on foot, besides one which was a settled thing. This last was between the eldest daughter of the house where the company were now assembled, and the rich ironmaster, Tackjern, "a very good match," said every body, because Eva Dufva would have her own house, her own carriage-to say nothing of having a very respectable man for her husband.
Eva Dufva, however, looked pale, and not very happy. But she was one of many sisters of a family not rich, though tolerably well to do-and they all, parents and sisters, had been delighted with this wealthy offer. She
would be able to make them all happy; could invite her parents to dinner, and her sisters out into the country, to visit her at her country-house. Eva Dufva said yes to the iron-master Tackjern, who offered her all this. The wedding was therefore to take place in May, upon the silver wedding-day of her parents, and the golden wedding day of the old grand-parents; and in preparation for this great occasion Mr. Alderman Dufva repaired, added to, and put in order his house, and the approaching three-fold marriage festival cheered the house and the minds of all with every kind of happy preparation. Mrs. Dufva herself, a handsome woman, who loved to do everything on a magnificent scale, appeared to be the moving soul in everything, arranging and determining all with the utmost pleasure; only now and then she cast a stolen and troubled glance at the pale and grave bride elect, her daughter. But thought she to herself, "when she is married, and sees herself possessed of everything so splendid and good, then
And so thinks many a mother.
Now whilst tea and other refreshments are carried round, and the gods and goddesses, good fairies and goblins seat themselves in window-nooks and at little tables, and enjoy themselves and talk together, we will avail ourselves of the opportunity to become more intimately acquainted with some persons and groups of the party, and listen to the conversation which is going on amongst them.
We will first approach a married couple, who look particularly comfortable, because we love comfortable people and married couples, and we can see plainly enough that they are such; that little clergyman, with his somewhat undersized figure; his broad chest, his almost child-like, round, and open countenance, and that little lady whose appearance gives us a foreknowledge that she unites in her own person both Mary and Martha, and
who now, laying her hand so confidentially on the pastor's shoulder, says in a low voice:
"Now, my little old man! Now I think it is a good opportunity for you to bring forward your proposal."
"Now? How so?" sighed the little pastor with a comic expression of terror, "my dear little old woman, let me strengthen myself first; let me get a little power and courage by the help of this good tea, and these good biscuits, and-and-a little glass of rum! Do you see-this is a subject which it is not so easy to introduce. Do you see-here comes Mimmi Svanberg; only don't talk about that proposal. Sit down and drink tea with us. What would you like? what would you have? A pair of old boots? I would very willingly keep them for myself. Mother, don't you forget that Mimmi is to have my old boots-nota bene-only I must wear them out first."
"Ah, what is it that you good people are laughing at?" asked a lady with a singularly dark and mournful physiog nomy, as she advanced towards the trio. This was the widow Ulrika Uggla.
Mrs. Uggla and Mimmi Svanberg are the greatest contrasts in the world. The latter smiles, and is always endeavouring to make life more easy for herself and others; the former sighs over everything, and sees everywhere only that which is painful and unsightly.
"I do not know," continued she, "how people can be so merry when there is so much sorrow and vexation in the world."
"For that very reason," replied Mimmi Svanberg, 66 one must endeavour to make it more cheerful. Besides, there is also a great deal which is very good, and which makes one very happy."
"Yes, so it seems to you; but to those who think a little more seriously on things in general-in this very
house, for instance, it seems to me that all this joy is
really sorrow in disguise."
"In this house!
But where, in all the world, can one find a more comfortable home,-a more agreeable family, -a more beautiful understanding between parents and children,―more amiable young girls?
"Yes, those seven Miss Dufvas!-it is really a cheerful prospect to have so many girls; poor girls to be got rid of; what is to become of them all?"
Oh, time enough for that yet; such nice girls as they are. Besides, one of them is already engaged."
"Yes, but how does she look ? As if she were ready to make away with herself. Nothing but sorrow will come out of that marriage, that I can foresee; and all the other girls-they will, all of them, be like superfluous cards."
"There are no longer any such cards in the world," said Mimmi Svanberg, laughing; "now-a-days all people are needed for the well-being of the public, and may each one take his proper place and help the others in private or public societies."
"Psha! with your public societies; they are the most troublesome things that I know, and, if I have my will, Ingeborg shall have nothing to do with them. They are
all downright nonsense, and good-for-nothing schemes. Girls can make fools enough of themselves in the world without adding these public societies to their folly!"
Mrs. Uggla's doleful countenance, and mode of expressing herself, seemed so absurd to Mimmi Svanberg, that she burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter: the clergyman, however, took up the subject more seriously, and replied:
"I do not think so. If girls make fools of themselves in the world, it is their own fault and the fault of their mothers. Would to God that I had twice as many daughters as Mrs. Dufva; I should find ways and means
and employment for them all, partly at home and partly from home, precisely in some of these excellent societies for the well-being of the community, which offer to all and every one an opportunity of being useful, and serving our Lord, each one according to his several talents and turn of mind."
"It is all talk!" said Mrs. Uggla, with an angry expression; "a girl ought to get married and have her own family and domestic affairs to look after. And that Ingeborg might have had, if she had not in her youth been a romantic simpleton, and refused a good offer, merely because she was not in love with the man. For that reason she now sits there like a piece of furniture, and is red-nosed, and old, and never will be anything but an old maid. It is altogether nothing but stupidity and vexation."
She, of whom these hard words were spoken, was a young woman of about thirty, or somewhat more, and whose appearance and manner betrayed a painful consciousness of a youth which was passed, and a restless endeavour still to retain it. She had handsome teeth, and therefore she oftentimes smiled, although her smile was deficient in gladness, while her dress was more youthful than became her age and her appearance. When her mother's restless and gloomy eye was fixed upon her, she might especially be seen to assume a gaiety and liveliness which evidently did not proceed from the heart. Hence it followed that she appeared affected and was considered to be so.
Mimmi Svanberg, who understood and valued Ingeborg Uggla better than her splenetic mother did, said: 'Ingeborg is not a common character, and may yet marry well if she likes. In the meantime I think that she showed her good taste, and her noble, right feeling, by remaining rather in her mother's house than marry a man whom she could not like."