In late springtime, when the birch trees are in bloom, the Ringstettens get a visit from a van der Heide friend, a lecturer at Uppsala University itself. He doesn't hesitate to take after Kristian (in an innocent way, that is), though the young boy is paying attention to a frog until startled with a pat in the back. They discover passions they have in common, and soon they are showing each other plants and bugs. The next day, the Count and Countess do not hesitate to accept an offer without any equal: Kristian will study at Uppsala and live with one Lindelius, a colleague of the Walloon's, as a son in the Lindelius household.
The next day, Kristian leaves the estate in the scientist's carriage.
There's a little estate on the outskirts of Uppsala, and it can be easily recognized by its winter garden, or greenhouse. Confident freshman Kristian von Ringstetten arrives to meet his lecturer and guardian, Karl Johan Lindelius (who looks slightly like a bespectacled Elrond in eighteenth-century bourgeois clothes), and his reserved only daughter Erika, a violet-eyed, spirited brunette, three years younger than Kristian, who loves reading and natural science. The young girl, who has learned everything she knows through reading, is as shy as her new companion, who has to share a bedroom with her, in spite of the guest-room, which already houses a couple of students.
It takes a couple of weeks, being bullied at university, and picking flowers with Erika for the drawing of her late mother Astrid in the living room to break the ice between her and Kristian. And discuss life forms and myths, and find friends or surrogate siblings in each other.
At this point, one may recognize Erika as an intellectual and auburn-haired Liselotte.
The Lindeliuses support the pacifist and Enlightened Cap Party, one of two factions at the Swedish Parliament, their opponents being the warlike and jingoist Hats.
For a while, every Sunday afternoon, the Lindeliuses and their ward treat each other to buttered scones and Ceylon tea on the flower-studded meadows, following the English tradition, instead of going to church.
Soon, after the Midsummer celebrations, Herr Lindelius has a pair of secrets to tell his ward at the dinner table:
- One: Kristian is betrothed to Erika, to unite the wealth of both families. They merely see each other as good friends and surrogate siblings, neither of them has ever fallen in love, and they are both reluctant towards marriage. They will marry within six years in Uppsala Cathedral, also to make up for Karl Johan's habit of not going to church, because...
- Two: The Lindeliuses are freethinkers, id est, Enlightened atheists. Karl Johan, once a reverend's son and student, fell for his widowed landlady's daughter Astrid and married her... but Astrid died of a fever when Erika was five years old, and this event plunged Herr Lindelius into a faith crisis. The fact that they're freethinkers must never be revealed in public, or they would be arrested by the military itself and subsequently imprisoned: in mid-eighteenth-century Sweden, freethought is a crime that leads to persecution and prosecution by state authorities.
But this issue is soon solved, as Gustavus III's coup d'état and storming of a subsequently dissolved Parliament, one year later, signals the dawn of a new regime that tolerates freethought as well as other banned religions (Catholicism, Judaism, Saami animism) within the Kingdom of Sweden.
Kristian has even been "converted" to freethought, and he starts to open up and "preach this religion" at class.
The tradition of having afternoon tea outdoors or in the winter garden depending on the season, and that of celebrating a pagan Yule feast in the winter garden, behind frosty panes and among colourful flowers, have become a staple of the Lindelius clan's everyday life. Erika and Kristian start to fall in love, though they are both too shy to admit the truth about their feelings. They have gradually developed an intellectual relationship, not unlike that of the Clever Princess and her equal in the Fourth Story of "The Snow Queen".
In mid-summer, a week after the modest wedding, and five years before an unexpected war between Sweden and Russia, Karl Johan Lindelius and his son-in-law set sail for the warm latitudes of the vast oceans, to discover the wonders of the New World, while Erika waits at home and tends to the few servants (and winter garden). Pretty soon, she realizes that she is with child. And she receives a letter from the other side of the world, from her father and husband.
Meanwhile, Herr Lindelius and Kristian have entered a British outpost where native villagers act as servants to the landowners and the fort's garrison. They are staying within the white-washed fort, in the Governor's residence, in a spacious apartment with a view of Coral Bay. The Governor, Lord Anson, is a kindly and merry old bachelor not unlike the gentlemen in Dickens's novels (Fezziwig, for instance).
The colony is covered with interminable plantations of sugar cane and coffee, in which a considerate number of dark-skinned "indentured servants" are busily employed, and magnificent Neoclassical estates here and there. The rich and highly cultivated plains are encircled with rocks and rainforests which reach almost to the clouds.
When the rainy season sets in, the Governor being engaged on duty from dawn to dusk, the Swedes have to sit for whole days in their apartment, through the window of which they can see nothing but heavy clouds and a stormy ocean. To beguile tedium, they play chess against each other, and read books in English: Gulliver, Tom Jones, and the complete works of Shakespeare from the Governor's library.
When the mild and clear weather of the dry season returns, Lord Anson usually comes home at dusk, and he usually brings the Swedes with him to explore the woods, all three spending much time, while they range through fields and forests, over hill and valley, searching for endemic plants. And, whenever the Governor discovers some hitherto unknown new plant, he bursts out into exclamations of wonder.
Thus, the Swedes' studies and collection of plants increase gradually. Sometimes, they play croquet with Lord Anson in lush estate gardens. Their letter exchange with Erika increases, and soon she has even better news to tell: her healthy twin girls have been christened Linnéa and Tradescantia. They are not being breastfed by any nanny, but by Erika herself.
After three years of field studies abroad, Kristian and his father-in-law return to Sweden, to their usual routine and to make up for the effect of their absence on the children. As soon as they have reached their hometown and the Lindelius estate, Karl Johan and Kristian receive a warm welcome from all of their acquaintances, but most notably, from the female half of their family. The war is finally over, and the King and Czarina have luckily made peace after a draw.
However, three years after their reunion, tragedy strikes the Lindelius household.
One autumn day, while giving his first lecture on the orchids he has discovered, Kristian collapses before the class. Soon he starts to feel increasingly dizzy and thirsty, finally compelled to stay at home. His wife and children, friends and father-in-law, even Lord Anson himself, are all consternated. By November, Kristian has come down with a blazing fever, and he is finally bedridden due to his weakness. Karl Johan and Erika are soon compelled to watch him write his own will.
On Gustavus Adolphus's death day, the struggle for life Kristian is fighting comes finally to a close. He says farewell to the loved ones by his bed, then mentions there is no better life beyond this one, because the afterlife is still uncharted, wishes his wife, daughters, and father-in-law good luck while kissing them... and falls unconscious, ceasing to breathe.
A grief-stricken Erika is soon reading the will: her husband wishes to be buried in the Ringstetten estate garden in Värmland, he has appointed his twin brother Krister (who survived the war, as he has stated in a letter sent to Kristian) his heir, consoled his own parents in another previous letter, and there is even an arrangement of a levirate marriage between the widowed Erika and the still unmarried Krister. Yet the young mother is somewhat stirred by the idea of marrying a stranger so unlike, yet so like, her late husband!
The promise has nevertheless to be fulfilled. A modest gentleman, his daughter, and her twin children soon arrive at Vänersvik, all dressed in black and having travelled in a black-draped carriage with the lifeless form of a young scholar across a cold, snowy landscape. At the funeral, in a French garden covered in a blanket of snow, they encounter a young man with Kristian's exact appearance, dressed in an officer's uniform. The next day, as Karl Johan returns to Uppsala, Erika and the twins stay on the estate and prepare a second wedding while getting to know Krister. He has become a reserved and cold veteran, at first indifferent to Erika yet compelled to marry her, but soon he feels sorry for her and opens up to his new relatives, though he is at first reluctant to make love and produce an heir, as Linnéa and Tradescantia gradually start to accept him.