Selma Lagerl"of talks of Aline's gifts

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Selma Lagerl"of, part of Sweden's literary renaissance of the 1890s, was the first Swedish writer and the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature (1909) -- for ``lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception.'' She was also known for her feminism and her depiction of Swedish customs to readers far and wide. A hint of the former element may appear with the latter in this passage from ``Memories of My Childhood'' (English translation, 1934). A man in love has arrived osten sibly on a commercial errand. It seems strange that Engineer Frykberg, who is a man of powerful build with long black throat whiskers plentifully sprinkled with gray, should take it so hard because Aunt Lovisa and Aline Laurell have gone to Gardsj"o. He blinks his eyes rapidly several times, then takes out a large red bandanna and mops his face. When he holds out his cup so that Mamma can pour coffee for him, the spoon clinks against the saucer.

Mamma looks up, not in the least disturbed by Engineer Frykberg's singular behavior. She says with a smile:

``They are not going to stay at Gardsj"o the whole evening. I think they will be back by six o'clock.''

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When Mamma says that, Engineer Frykberg brightens up; he puts his handkerchief back into his pocket, and the spoon suddenly stops jingling against the saucer.

While they drink their coffee, Mamma talks to Engineer Frykberg about Aline Laurell. She is very fortunate, she says, in having such an excellent governess for her children, and one who is so orderly, so modest, and so pleasant to have in one's home. In addition, she has such capable hands! She can make the prettiest things out of nothing at all.

Mamma begs that the engineer will look at a couple of lambrequins we have in the dining room, which Aline gave Papa last Christmas. ``Just see how beautiful these lambrequins are embroidered! Would you think that these roses and fuchsias and lilies-of-the-valley were made of nothing but fish scales? And this pretty border is made of pine cones which she has varnished. I tell you, that girl has a fortune in her hands.''

Mamma bids me fetch Papa's pen rest to show to Engineer Frykberg. Aline made it out of a few thin pieces of wood, glued together. Papa likes it so well that he will have no other pen rest on his writing table. ``So you see that this didn't cost us anything, either.''

Then she shows him the fine bookshelves in the parlour which Aline made from three board ends hung on brown woollen cords. The shelves have a border of black velvet on which Aline has worked flowers and leaves of fish scales, white silk, and beads of straw. ``This she gave me for Christmas, last year,'' says Mamma. ``Don't you think it is pretty?''

``Yes.'' Although Engineer Frykberg admires everything Mamma shows him, he is not so enthusiastic as she had expected. He thinks it a great pity that so capable a girl as Aline should have to embroider with fish scales and spruce cones.

``The loose-leaf library'' is a Tuesday feature bringing together writings by authors from all ages -- Homer's to Hemingway's. Thanks to Sally Elsen from Findlay, Ohio, for requesting today's author.

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