“How delightful, uncle, to have you back again! Have you had a pleasant journey?” she cried, clasping the doctor around the neck. She hardly deigned to cast a glance at Erik, who stood modestly aside.
The doctor returned her caresses, and shook hands with his housekeeper, then he made a sign for Erik to advance.
“Kajsa, and Dame Greta, I ask your friendship for Erik Hersebom, whom I have brought from Norway with me!” he said, “and you, my boy, do not be afraid,” he said kindly. “Dame Greta is not as severe as she looks, and you and my niece Kajsa, will soon be the best of friends, is it not so, little girl?” he added, pinching gently the cheek of the little fairy.
Kajsa only responded by making a disdainful face.
As for the housekeeper, she did not appear very enthusiastic over the new recruit thus presented to her notice.
“If you please, doctor,” she said, with a severe air, as they ascended the staircase, “may I ask who this child is?”
“Certainly, Dame Greta; I will tell you all about it before long. Do not be afraid; but now, if you please, give us something to eat.”
In the “matsal,” or dining-room, the table was beautifully laid with damask and crystal, and the “snorgas” was ready.
Poor Erik had never seen a table covered with a white cloth, for they are unknown to the peasants of Norway, who hardly use plates, as they have only recently been introduced, and many of them still eat their fish on rounds of black bread, and find it very good. Therefore the doctor had to repeat his invitation several times before the boy took his seat at the table, and the awkwardness of his movements caused “Froken,” or Miss Kajsa, to cast upon him more than one ironical glance during the repast. However, his journey had sharpened his appetite, and this was of great assistance to him.
The “snorgas” was followed by a dinner that would have frightened a Frenchman by its massive solidity, and would have sufficed to appease the appetites of a battalion of infantry after a long march. Soup, fish, home-made bread, goose stuffed with chestnuts, boiled beef, flanked with a mountain of vegetables, a pyramid of potatoes, hard-boiled eggs by the dozen, and a raisin pudding; all these were gallantly attacked and dismantled.
This plentiful repast being ended, almost without a word having been spoken, they passed into the parlor, a large wainscoted room, with six windows draped with heavy curtains, large enough to have sufficed a Parisian artist with hangings for the whole apartment. The doctor seated himself in a corner by the fire, in a large leather arm-chair, Kajsa took her place at his feet upon a footstool, whilst Erik, intimidated and ill at ease, approached one of the windows, and would have gladly hidden himself in its deep embrasure.
But the doctor did not leave him alone long.
“Come and warm yourself, my boy!” he said, in his sonorous voice; “and tell us what you think of Stockholm.”