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Jenny Lind: The Swedish Nightingale
by [?]

IN the City of Stockholm there is one street leading up to the Church of St. Jacob, on which in years gone by there was a constant succession of pedestrians and vehicles. In fact in 1830, it was one of the most lively streets in the city, and often a passer would stop to look up at a window where every day a little girl sat, holding a big cat decorated with a blue ribbon. To this pet the child sang constantly, sang bits of operas or popular airs which she had heard, and the childish voice was so clear and sweet and true even in very high notes, that it attracted quite a crowd of listeners, and it became a regular habit with many persons to pause for a moment and listen to the song poured out for the benefit of pussy with the blue bow!

Among those who saw the pretty picture and heard the song was the maid of a Mademoiselle Lundberg, a dancer at the Royal Opera House. She was told such an ecstatic story of the child’s beautiful voice, that she became deeply interested, and having found out that the little singer’s name was Jenny Lind wrote a note asking the child’s mother, Fru Lind, to bring Jenny to her home that she might hear her sing.

Fru Lind acceded to the request and when she took Jenny to pay the promised visit, and the child’s voice had been tried, Mademoiselle Lundberg clasped her hands in rapture, exclaiming:

“She is a genius. You must have her educated for the stage.”

The words meant nothing to Jenny, but they struck terror to the heart of the mother, to whose old-fashioned notions the stage was another name for ruin. In vain the actress pleaded that it would be a sin to allow such talent to be wasted,–still Fru Lind shook her head, and the actress diplomatically argued no more, but by eager questions learned the history of Jenny’s family.

Being the wife of an amiable and good-natured man who was unable to support his family, Fru Lind was obliged to keep a small school in Stockholm to eke out expenses, and as she had not time to take care of Jenny as well as teach, the child had for three years been boarded out with a church organist’s family not far from the city, but had finally been brought back, to become a pupil in her mother’s school, being cared for mainly by her grandmother, to whom Jenny was devotedly attached. All this Mademoiselle Lundberg learned from answers to her questions, and seeing her keen interest, the mother continued her narrative, “It was my mother who first noticed Jenny’s voice,” she said. “Some street musicians had been playing in front of the house and the child must have heard them and listened closely, for as soon as they were gone, she went to the piano and played and sang the air she had heard. My mother in the next room, hearing the music, thought Jenny’s half sister was at the piano, and called out, ‘Amalia, is that you?’ Jenny, evidently fearing she had done something to be punished for, crept under the piano, where my mother found her and pulling her out, exclaimed, ‘Why, child, was that you ?'” Jenny said that it was, and as soon as Fru Lind came in, the grandmother gleefully told her daughter the incident, adding, “Mark my words, that child will bring you help,” and the mother, struggling so hard to make ends meet, devoutly hoped that the prediction might come true.

Soon after that as her school did not pay, Fru Lind became a governess, and the grandmother went to the Widows’ Home, taking Jenny with her. The child, who was too young to realise what such a step meant, was as happy as could be there; as she said afterwards, “I sang with every step I took, and with every jump my feet made,” and when she was not jumping or stepping, she sat in the window singing to her big pet pussy cat. All this the mother told Mademoiselle Lundberg, who again begged that Jenny at least be taught to sing correctly, to which Fru Lind agreed, and the actress at once wrote a letter of introduction to Herr Croelius, the court Secretary, and singing master at the Royal Theatre, and gave it to Fru Lind. Off went mother and daughter to present it, but when they reached the Opera House and were about to mount its steps, Fru Lind shook her head, and turned back–she could not launch her child on any such career.