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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Home-Coming
By Fredrika Bremer (1801–1865)
 
From ‘The Neighbors’

LETTER I.—FRANCISCA W. TO MARIA M.

ROSENVIK, 1st June, 18–.    
HERE I am now, dear Maria, in my own house and home, at my own writing-table, and with my own Bear. And who then is Bear? no doubt you ask. Who else should he be but my own husband? I call him Bear because—it so happens. I am seated at the window. The sun is setting. Two swans are swimming in the lake, and furrow its clear mirror. Three cows—my cows—are standing on the verdant margin, quiet, fat, and pensive, and certainly think of nothing. What excellent cows they are! Now the maid is coming up with the milk-pail. Delicious milk in the country! But what is not good in the country? Air and people, food and feelings, earth and sky, everything there is fresh and cheering.
  1
  Now I must introduce you to my place of abode—no! I must begin farther off. Upon yonder hill, from which I first beheld the valley in which Rosenvik lies (the hill is some miles in the interior of Smaaland) do you descry a carriage covered with dust? In it are seated Bear and his wedded wife. The wife is looking out with curiosity, for before her lies a valley so beautiful in the tranquillity of evening! Below are green groves which fringe mirror-clear lakes, fields of standing corn bend in silken undulations round gray mountains, and white buildings glance amid the trees. Round about, pillars of smoke are shooting up vertically from the wood-covered hills to the serene evening sky. This seems to indicate the presence of volcanoes, but in point of fact it is merely the peaceful labor of the husbandmen burning the vegetation, in order to fertilize the soil. At all events, it is an excellent thing, and I am delighted, bend forward, and am just thinking about a happy family in nature,—Paradise, and Adam and Eve,—when suddenly Bear puts his great paws around me, and presses me so that I am near giving up the ghost, while, kissing me, he entreats me to “be comfortable here.” I was a little provoked; but when I perceived the heartfelt intention of the embrace, I could not but be satisfied.  2
  In this valley, then, was my permanent home: here my new family was living; here lay Rosenvik; here I was to live with my Bear. We descended the hill, and the carriage rolled rapidly along the level way. Bear told me the names of every estate, both in the neighborhood and at a distance. I listened as if I were dreaming, but was roused from my reverie when he said with a certain stress, “Here is the residence of ma chère mère,” and the carriage drove into a courtyard, and stopped before a large and fine stone house.  3
  “What, are we going to alight here?” “Yes, my love.” This was by no means an agreeable surprise to me. I would gladly have first driven to my own home, there to prepare myself a little for meeting my husband’s stepmother, of whom I was a little afraid, from the accounts I had heard of that lady, and the respect Bear entertained for her. This visit appeared entirely mal àpropos to me, but Bear has his own ideas, and I perceived from his manner that it was not expedient then to offer any resistance.  4
  It was Sunday, and on the carriage drawing up, the tones of a violin became audible to me. “Aha!” said Bear, “so much the better;” made a ponderous leap from the carriage, and lifted me out. Of hat-cases and packages, no manner of account was to be taken. Bear took my hand, ushered me up the steps into the magnificent hall, and dragged me toward the door from whence the sounds of music and dancing were heard. “See,” thought I, “now I am to dance in this costume forsooth!” I wished to go into some place where I could shake the dust from my nose and my bonnet; where I could at least view myself in a mirror. Impossible! Bear, leading me by the arm, assured me that I looked “most charming,” and entreated me to mirror myself in his eyes. I then needs must be so discourteous as to reply that they were “too small.” He protested that they were only the clearer, and opened the door to the ball-room. “Well, since you lead me to the ball, you shall also dance with me, you Bear!” I exclaimed in the gayety of despair, so to speak. “With delight!” cried Bear, and at the same moment we found ourselves in the salon.  5
  My alarm diminished considerably when I perceived in the spacious room only a crowd of cleanly attired maids and serving-men, who were sweeping merrily about with one another. They were so busied with dancing as scarcely to observe us. Bear then conducted me to the upper end of the apartment; and there, on a high seat, I saw a tall and strong lady of about fifty, who was playing on a violin with zealous earnestness, and beating time with her foot, which she stamped with energy. On her head she wore a remarkable and high-projecting cap of black velvet, which I will call a helmet, because that word occurred to my mind at the very first view I had of her, and I know no one more appropriate. She looked well, but singular. It was the lady of General Mansfelt, my husband’s stepmother, ma chère mère!  6
  She speedily cast her large dark-brown eyes on me, instantly ceased playing, laid aside the violin, and drew herself up with a proud bearing, but an air of gladness and frankness. Bear led me towards her. I trembled a little, bowed profoundly, and kissed ma chère mère’s hand. She kissed my forehead, and for a while regarded me with such a keen glance, that I was compelled to abase my eyes, on which she again kissed me most cordially on lips and forehead, and embraced me almost as lustily as Bear had. Now it was Bear’s turn; he kissed the hand of ma chère mère right respectfully; she however offered him her cheek, and they appeared very friendly. “Be welcome, my dear friends!” said ma chère mère, with a loud, masculine voice. “It was handsome in you to come to me before driving to your own home. I thank you for it. I would indeed have given you a better reception had I been prepared; at all events, I know that ‘Welcome is the best cheer.’ I hope, my friends, you stay the evening here?” Bear excused us, said that we desired to get home soon, that I was fatigued from the journey, but that we would not drive by Carlsfors without paying our respects to ma chère mère.  7
  “Well, very good, well, very good!” said ma chère mère, with satisfaction; “we will shortly talk further about that in the chamber there; but first I must say a few words to the people here. Hark ye, good friends!” and ma chère mère knocked with the bow on the back of the violin, till a general silence ensued in the salon. “My children,” she pursued in a solemn manner, “I have to tell you—a plague upon you! will you not be still there, at the lower end?—I have to inform you that my dear son, Lars Anders Werner, has now led home, as his wedded wife, this Francisca Burén whom you see at his side. Marriages are made in heaven, my children, and we will supplicate heaven to complete its work in blessing this conjugal pair. We will this evening together drink a bumper to their prosperity. That will do! Now you can continue your dancing, my children. Olof, come you here, and do your best in playing.”  8
  While a murmur of exultation and congratulations went through the assembly, ma chère mère took me by the hand, and led me, together with Bear, into another room. Here she ordered punch and glasses to be brought in. In the interim she thrust her two elbows on the table, placed her clenched hands under her chin, and gazed steadfastly at me, but with a look which was rather gloomy than friendly. Bear, perceiving that ma chère mère’s review embarrassed me, broached the subject of the harvest or rural affairs. Ma chère mère vented a few sighs, so deep that they rather resembled groans, appeared to make a violent effort to command herself, answered Bear’s questions, and on the arrival of the punch, drank to us, saying, with a serious look and voice, “Son and son’s wife, your health!” On this she grew more friendly, and said in a tone of pleasantry, which beseemed her very well, “Lars Anders, I don’t think people can say you have bought the calf in the sack. Your wife does not by any means look in bad case, and has a pair of eyes to buy fish with. Little she is, it is true; but ‘Little and bold is often more than a match for the great.’”  9
  I laughed, so did ma chère mère also; I began to understand her character and manner. We gossiped a little while together in a lively manner, and I recounted some little adventures of travel, which amused her exceedingly. After the lapse of an hour, we arose to take leave, and ma chère mère said, with a really charming smile, “I will not detain you this evening, delighted as I am to see you. I can well imagine that home is attractive. Stay at home to-morrow, if you will; but the day after to-morrow come and dine with me. As to the rest, you know well that you are at all times welcome. Fill now your glasses, and come and drink the folks’ health. Sorrow we should keep to ourselves, but share joy in common.”  10
  We went into the dancing-room with full glasses, ma chère mère leading the way as herald. They were awaiting us with bumpers, and ma chère mère addressed the people something in this strain:—“We must not indeed laugh until we get over the brook; but when we set out on the voyage of matrimony with piety and good sense, then may be applied the adage that ‘Well begun is half won’; and on that, my friends, we will drink a skoal to this wedded pair you see before you, and wish that both they and their posterity may ever ‘sit in the vineyard of our Lord.’ Skoal!”  11
  “Skoal! skoal!” resounded from every side. Bear and I emptied our glasses, and went about and shook a multitude of people by the hand, till my head was all confusion. When this was over, and we were preparing to prosecute our journey, ma chère mère came after us on the steps with a packet or bundle in her hand, and said in a friendly manner, “Take this cold roast veal with you, children, for breakfast to-morrow morning. After that, you must fatten and consume your own calves. But forget not, daughter-in-law, that I get back my napkin. No, you shan’t carry it, dear child, you have enough to do with your bag and mantle. Lars Anders shall carry the roast veal.” And as if Lars Anders had been still a little boy, she charged him with the bundle, showed him how he was to carry it, and Bear did as she said. Her last words were, “Forget not that I get my napkin again!” I looked with some degree of wonder at Bear; but he smiled, and lifted me into the carriage.  12
 
 
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