JOURNEY FROM PITEA TO HAPARANDA.
My jaw was so painful on reaching Pitea, that I tossed about in torment the whole night, utterly unable to sleep. The long northern night seemed as if it would never come to an end, and I arose in the morning much more fatigued and exhausted than when I lay down. It was 6 deg. below zero, and the storm still blowing, but the cold seemed to relieve my face a little, and so we set out. The roads were heavy, but a little broken, and still led over hills and through interminable forests of mingled fir and pine, in the dark, imperfect day. I took but little note of the scenery, but was so drowsy and overcome, that Braisted at last filled the long baggage-sled with hay, and sat at the rear, so that I could lie stretched out, with my head upon his lap. Here, in spite of the cold and wind, I lay in a warm, stupid half-sleep.
It was dark when we reached Ersnas, whence we had twelve miles to Old Lulea, with tired horses, heavy roads, and a lazy driver. I lay down again, dozed as usual, and tried to forget my torments. So passed three hours; the night had long set in, with a clear sky, 13 deg. below zero, and a sharp wind blowing. All at once an exclamation from Braisted aroused me. I opened my eyes, as I lay in his lap, looked upward, and saw a narrow belt or scarf of silver fire stretching directly across the zenith, with its loose, frayed ends slowly swaying to and fro down the slopes of the sky. Presently it began to waver, bending back and forth, sometimes slowly, sometimes with a quick, springing motion, as if testing its elasticity. Now it took the shape of a bow, now undulated into Hogarth's line of beauty, brightening and fading in its sinuous motion, and finally formed a shepherd's crook, the end of which suddenly began to separate and fall off, as if driven by a strong wind, until the whole belt shot away in long, drifting lines of fiery snow. It then gathered again into a dozen dancing fragments, which alternately advanced and retreated, shot hither and thither, against and across each other, blazed out in yellow and rosy gleams or paled again, playing a thousand fantastic pranks, as if guided by some wild whim.
We lay silent, with upturned faces, watching this wonderful spectacle. Suddenly, the scattered lights ran together, as by a common impulse, joined their bright ends, twisted them through each other, and fell in a broad, luminous curtain straight downward through the air until its fringed hem swung apparently but a few yards over our heads. This phenomenon was so unexpected and startling, that for a moment I thought our faces would be touched by the skirts of the glorious auroral drapery. It did not follow the spheric curve of the firmament, but hung plumb from the zenith, falling, apparently, millions of leagues through the air, its folds gathered together among the stars and its embroidery of flame sweeping the earth and shedding a pale, unearthly radiance over the wastes of snow. A moment afterwards and it was again drawn up, parted, waved its flambeaux and shot its lances hither and thither, advancing and retreating as before. Anything so strange, so capricious, so wonderful, so gloriously beautiful, I scarcely hope to see again.
By this time we came upon the broad Lulea River, and were half an hour traversing its frozen surface, still watching the snow above us, which gradually became fainter and less active. Finally we reached the opposite shore, drove up a long slope, through a large village of stables, and past the imposing church of Old Lulea to the inn. It was now nearly eight o'clock, very cold, and I was thoroughly exhausted. But the inn was already full of travellers, and there was no place to lay our heads. The landlord, a sublimely indifferent Swede, coolly advised us to go on to Perso, ten miles distant. I told him I had not slept for two nights, but he merely shrugged his shoulders, repeated his advice, and offered to furnish horses at once, to get us off. It was a long, cold, dreary ride, and I was in a state of semi-consciousness the whole time. We reached Perso about eleven, found the house full of travellers, but procured two small beds in a small room with another man in it, and went to sleep without supper. I was so thoroughly worn out that I got about three hours' rest, in spite of my pain.
We took coffee in bed at seven, and started for Ranbyn, on the Ranea River. The day was lowering, temperature 8-1/2 deg. below zero. The country was low, slightly undulating with occasional wide views to the north, over the inlets of the gulf, and vast wide tracts of forest. The settlements were still as frequent as ever, but there was little apparent cultivation, except flax. Ranbyn is a large village, with a stately church. The people were putting up booths for a fair (a fair in the open air, in lat. 65 deg. N., with the mercury freezing!), which explained the increased travel on the road. We kept on to Hvita for breakfast, thus getting north of the latitude of Tornea; thence our road turned eastward at right angles around the head of the Bothnian Gulf. Much snow had fallen, but the road had been ploughed, and we had a tolerable track, except when passing sleds, which sometimes gave us an overturn.
We now had uninterrupted forest scenery between the stations—and such scenery! It is almost impossible to paint the glory of those winter forests. Every tree, laden with the purest snow, resembles a Gothic fountain of bronze, covered with frozen spray, through which only suggestive glimpses of its delicate tracery can be obtained. From every rise we looked over thousands of such mimic fountains, shooting, low or high, from their pavements of ivory and alabaster. It was an enchanted wilderness—white, silent, gleaming, and filled with inexhaustible forms of beauty. To what shall I liken those glimpses under the boughs, into the depths of the forest, where the snow destroyed all perspective, and brought the remotest fairy nooks and coverts, too lovely and fragile to seem cold, into the glittering foreground? "Wonderful! Glorious!" I could only exclaim, in breathless admiration. Once, by the roadside, we saw an Arctic ptarmigan, as white as the snow, with ruby eyes that sparkled like jewels as he moved slowly and silently along, not frightened in the least.
The sun set a little after one o'clock, and we pushed on to reach the Kalix River the same evening. At the last station we got a boy postilion and two lazy horses, and were three hours and a half on the road, with a temperature of 20 deg. below zero. My feet became like ice, which increased the pain in my face, and I began to feel faint and sick with so much suffering and loss of rest. The boy aggravated us so much by his laziness, that Braisted ran ahead and cuffed his ears, after which he made better speed. After a drive through interminable woods, we came upon the banks of the Kalix, which were steep and fringed with splendid firs. Then came the village of Mansbyn, where, thank Heaven, we got something to eat, a warm room, and a bed.
While we were at supper, two travellers arrived, one of whom, a well-made, richly-dressed young fellow, was ushered into our room. He was a bruk-patron (iron-master), so the servant informed us, and from his superfine broad-cloth, rings, and the immense anchor-chain which attached him to his watch, appeared to be doing a thriving business. He had the Norse bloom on his face, a dignified nose, and English whiskers flanking his smoothly-shaven chin. His air was flushed and happy; he was not exactly drunk, but comfortably within that gay and cheerful vestibule beyond which lies the chamber of horrors. He listened to our conversation for some time, and finally addressed me in imperfect English. This led to mutual communications, and a declaration of our character, and object in travel—nothing of which would he believe. "Nobody can possibly come here for pleasure," said he; "I know better; you have a secret political mission." Our amusement at this only strengthened him in his suspicions. Nevertheless he called for a bottle of port wine, which, when it came, turned out to be bad Malaga, and insisted on drinking a welcome. "You are in latitude 66 deg. north," said he; "on the Kalix, where no American has ever been before, and I shall call my friend to give a skal to your country. We have been to the church, where my friend is stationed."
With that he went out, and soon returned with a short, stout, broad faced, large-headed man of forty or thereabouts. His manner was perfectly well-bred and self-possessed, and I took him to be a clergyman, especially as the iron-master addressed him as "Brother Horton." "Now," said he, "welcome to 66 deg. north, and prosperity to free America! Are you for Buchanan or Fremont?" Brother Horton kept a watchful eye upon his young friend, but cheerfully joined in the sentiment. I gave in return: "Skal to Sweden and the Swedish people," and hoped to get rid of our jolly acquaintance; but he was not to be shaken off. "You don't know me," he said; "and I don't know you—but you are something more than you seem to be: you are a political character." Just then Braisted came in with the thermometer, and announced 24 deg. of cold (Reaumur). "Thousand devils!" exclaimed Brother Horton (and now I was convinced that he was not a clergyman), "what a thermometer! How cold it makes the weather! Would you part with it if I were to give you money in return?" I declined, stating that it was impossible for us to procure so cold a thermometer in the north, and we wanted to have as low a temperature as could be obtained.
This seemed to puzzle the iron-master, who studied awhile upon it, and then returned to the subject of my political mission. "I suppose you speak French," said he; "it is necessary in diplomacy. I can speak it also"—which he began to do, in a bungling way. I answered in the same language, but he soon gave up the attempt and tried German. I changed also, and, finding that he had exhausted his philology, of which he was rather proud, especially as Brother Horton knew nothing but Swedish, determined to have a little fun. "Of course you know Italian," said I; "it is more musical than German," and forthwith addressed him in that language. He reluctantly confessed his ignorance. "Oh, well," I continued, "Spanish is equally agreeable to me;" and took up that tongue before he could reply. His face grew more and more blank and bewildered. "The Oriental languages are doubtless familiar to you;" I persisted, "I have had no practice in Arabic for some time," and overwhelmed him with Egyptian salutations. I then tried him with Hindustanee, which exhausted my stock, but concluded by giving him the choice of Malay, Tartar, or Thibetan. "Come, come," said Brother Horton, taking his arm as he stood staring and perplexed—"the horses are ready." With some difficulty he was persuaded to leave, after shaking hands with us, and exclaiming, many times, "You are a very seldom man!"
When we awoke, the temperature had risen to 2 deg. above zero, with a tremendous snow-storm blowing. As we were preparing to set out, a covered sled drove in from the north, with two Swedish naval officers, whose vessel had been frozen in at Cronstadt, and who had been obliged to return home through Finland, up the eastern coast of the Bothnian Gulf. The captain, who spoke excellent English, informed me that they were in about the same latitude as we, on Christmas day, on the opposite side of the gulf, and had experienced the same degree of cold. Both of them had their noses severely frozen. We were two hours and a half in travelling to the first station, seven miles, as the snow was falling in blinding quantities, and the road was not yet ploughed out. All the pedestrians we met were on runners, but even with their snow skates, five feet long, they sank deep enough to make their progress very slow and toilsome.
By the time we reached Nasby my face was very much swollen and inflamed, and as it was impossible to make the next stage by daylight, we wisely determined to stop there. The wind blew a hurricane, the hard snow-crystals lashed the windows and made a gray chaos of all out-of-doors, but we had a warm, cosy, carpeted room within, a capital dinner in the afternoon, and a bottle of genuine London porter with our evening pipe. So we passed the last day of A. D. 1856, grateful to God for all the blessings which the year had brought us, and for the comfort and shelter we enjoyed, in that Polar wilderness of storm and snow.
On New Year's morning it blew less, and the temperature was comparatively mild, so, although the road was very heavy, we started again. Nasby is the last Swedish station, the Finnish frontier, which is an abrupt separation of races and tongues, being at the north-western corner of the Bothnian Gulf. In spite of the constant intercourse which now exists between Norrland and the narrow strip of Finnish soil which remains to Sweden, there has been no perceptible assimilation of the two races. At Nasby, all is pure Swedish; at Sangis, twelve miles distant, everything is Finnish. The blue eyes and fair hair, the lengthened oval of the face, and slim, straight form disappear. You see, instead, square faces, dark eyes, low foreheads, and something of an Oriental fire and warmth in the movements. The language is totally dissimilar, and even the costume, though of the same general fashion, presents many noticeable points of difference. The women wear handkerchiefs of some bright color bound over the forehead and under the chin, very similar to those worn by the Armenian women in Asia Minor. On first coming among them, the Finns impressed me as a less frank and open hearted, but more original and picturesque, race than the Swedes. It is exceedingly curious and interesting to find such a flavour of the Orient on the borders of the Frigid Zone.
The roads were very bad, and our drivers and horses provokingly slow, but we determined to push on to Haparanda the same night. I needed rest and medical aid, my jaw by this time being so swollen that I had great difficulty in eating—a state of things which threatened to diminish my supply of fuel, and render me sensitive to the cold. We reached Nickala, the last station, at seven o'clock. Beyond this, the road was frightfully deep in places. We could scarcely make any headway, and were frequently overturned headlong into the drifts. The driver was a Finn, who did not understand a word of Swedish, and all our urging was of no avail. We went on and on, in the moonlight, over arms of the gulf, through forests, and then over ice again—a flat, monotonous country, with the same dull features repeated again and again. At half-past nine, a large white church announced our approach to Haparanda, and soon afterwards we drove up to the inn, which was full of New-Year carousers. The landlord gave us quarters in the same room with an old Norrlander, who was very drunk, and annoyed us not a little until we got into bed and pretended to sleep. It was pretence nearly the whole night, on my part, for my torture was still kept up. The next morning I called upon Dr. Wretholm, the physician of the place,—not without some misgivings,—but his prescription of a poultice of mallow leaves, a sudorific and an opiate, restored my confidence, and I cheerfully resigned myself to a rest of two or three days, before proceeding further northward.
CROSSING THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.
I was obliged to remain three days in Haparanda, applying poultices, gargles, and liniments, according to the doctor's instructions. As my Swedish was scarcely sufficient for the comprehension of prescriptions, or medical technicalities in general, a written programme of my treatment was furnished to Fredrika, the servant-maid, who was properly impressed with the responsibility thereby devolving upon her. Fredrika, no doubt, thought that my life was in her hands, and nothing could exceed the energy with which she undertook its preservation. Punctually to the minute appeared the prescribed application, and, if she perceived or suspected any dereliction on my part, it was sure to be reported to the doctor at his next visit. I had the taste of camomile and mallows in my mouth from morning till night; the skin of my jaw blistered under the scorching of ammonia; but the final result was, that I was cured, as the doctor and Fredrika had determined.
This good-hearted girl was a genuine specimen of the Northern Swedish female. Of medium height, plump, but not stout, with a rather slender waist and expansive hips, and a foot which stepped firmly and nimbly at the same time, she was as cheerful a body as one could wish to see. Her hair was of that silky blonde so common in Sweden; her eyes a clear, pale blue, her nose straight and well formed, her cheeks of the delicate pink of a wild-rose leaf, and her teeth so white, regular and perfect that I am sure they would make her fortune in America. Always cheerful, kind and active, she had, nevertheless, a hard life of it: she was alike cook, chambermaid, and hostler, and had a cross mistress to boot. She made our fires in the morning darkness, and brought us our early coffee while we yet lay in bed, in accordance with the luxurious habits of the Arctic zone. Then, until the last drunken guest was silent, towards midnight, there was no respite from labour. Although suffering from a distressing cough, she had the out-door as well as the in-door duties to discharge, and we saw her in a sheepskin jacket harnessing horses, in a temperature 30 deg. below zero. The reward of such a service was possibly about eight American dollars a year. When, on leaving, I gave her about as much as one of our hotel servants would expect for answering a question, the poor girl was overwhelmed with gratitude, and even the stern landlady was so impressed by my generosity that she insisted on lending us a sheepskin for our feet, saying we were "good men."
There is something exceedingly primitive and unsophisticated in the manners of these Northern people—a straight-forward honesty, which takes the honesty of others for granted—a latent kindness and good-will which may at first be overlooked, because it is not demonstrative, and a total unconsciousness of what is called, in highly civilised circles, "propriety." The very freedom of manners which, in some countries, might denote laxity of morals, is here the evident stamp of their purity. The thought has often recurred to me—which is the most truly pure and virginal nature, the fastidious American girl, who blushes at the sight of a pair of boots outside a gentleman's bedroom door, and who requires that certain unoffending parts of the body and articles of clothing should be designated by delicately circumlocutious terms, or the simple-minded Swedish women, who come into our bedrooms with coffee, and make our fires while we get up and dress, coming and going during all the various stages of the toilet, with the frankest unconsciousness of impropriety? This is modesty in its healthy and natural development, not in those morbid forms which suggest an imagination ever on the alert for prurient images. Nothing has confirmed my impression of the virtue of the Northern Swedes more than this fact, and I have rarely felt more respect for woman or more faith in the inherent purity of her nature.
We had snug quarters in Haparanda, and our detention was therefore by no means irksome. A large room, carpeted, protected from the outer cold by double windows, and heated by an immense Russian stove, was allotted to us. We had two beds, one of which became a broad sofa during the day, a backgammon table, the ordinary appliances for washing, and, besides a number of engravings on the walls, our window commanded a full view of Tornea, and the ice-track across the river, where hundreds of persons daily passed to and fro. The eastern window showed us the Arctic dawn, growing and brightening through its wonderful gradations of color, for four hours, when the pale orange sun appeared above the distant houses, to slide along their roofs for two hours, and then dip again. We had plentiful meals, consisting mostly of reindeer meat, with a sauce of Swedish cranberries, potatoes, which had been frozen, but were still palatable, salmon roes, soft bread in addition to the black shingles of fladbrod, English porter, and excellent Umea beer. In fact, in no country inn of the United States could we have been more comfortable. For the best which the place afforded, during four days, with a small provision for the journey, we paid about seven dollars.
The day before our departure, I endeavored to obtain some information concerning the road to Lapland, but was disappointed. The landlord ascertained that there were skjuts, or relays of post-horses, as far as Muonioniska, 210 English miles, but beyond this I could only learn that the people were all Finnish, spoke no Swedish, were miserably poor, and could give us nothing to eat. I was told that a certain official personage at the apothecary's shop spoke German, and hastened thither; but the official, a dark-eyed, olive-faced Finn, could not understand my first question. The people even seemed entirely ignorant of the geography of the country beyond Upper Tornea, or Matarengi, forty miles off. The doctor's wife, a buxom, motherly lady, who seemed to feel quite an interest in our undertaking, and was as kind and obliging as such women always are, procured for us a supply of fladbrod made of rye, and delightfully crisp and hard—and this was the substance of our preparations. Reindeer mittens were not to be found, nor a reindeer skin to cover our feet, so we relied, as before, on plenty of hay and my Scotch plaid. We might, perhaps, have had better success in Tornea, but I knew no one there who would be likely to assist us, and we did not even visit the old place. We had taken the precaution of getting the Russian vise, together with a small stock of roubles, at Stockholm, but found that it was quite unnecessary. No passport is required for entering Tornea, or travelling on the Russian side of the frontier.
Trusting to luck, which is about the best plan after all, we started from Haparanda at noon, on the 5th of January. The day was magnificent, the sky cloudless, and resplendent as polished steel, and the mercury 31 deg. below zero. The sun, scarcely more than the breadth of his disc above the horizon, shed a faint orange light over the broad, level snow-plains, and the bluish-white hemisphere of the Bothnian Gulf, visible beyond Tornea. The air was perfectly still, and exquisitely cold and bracing, despite the sharp grip it took upon my nose and ears. These Arctic days, short as they are, have a majesty of their own—a splendor, subdued though it be; a breadth and permanence of hue, imparted alike to the sky and to the snowy earth, as if tinted glass was held before your eyes. I find myself at a loss how to describe these effects, or the impression they produce upon the traveller's mood. Certainly, it is the very reverse of that depression which accompanies the Polar night, and which even the absence of any real daylight might be considered sufficient to produce.
Our road was well beaten, but narrow, and we had great difficulty in passing the many hay and wood teams which met us, on account of the depth of the loose snow on either side. We had several violent overturns at such times, one of which occasioned us the loss of our beloved pipe—a loss which rendered Braisted disconsolate for the rest of the day. We had but one between us, and the bereavement was not slight. Soon after leaving Haparanda, we passed a small white obelisk, with the words "Russian Frontier" upon it. The town of Tornea, across the frozen river, looked really imposing, with the sharp roof and tall spire of its old church rising above the line of low red buildings. Campbell, I remember, says,
"Cold as the rocks on Torneo's hoary brow,"
with the same disregard of geography which makes him grow palm trees along the Susquehanna River. There was Tornea; but I looked in vain for the "hoary brow." Not a hill within sight, nor a rock within a circuit of ten miles, but one unvarying level, like the western shore of the Adriatic, formed by the deposits of the rivers and the retrocession of the sea.
Our road led up the left bank of the river, both sides of which were studded with neat little villages. The country was well cleared and cultivated, and appeared so populous and flourishing that I could scarcely realise in what part of the world we were. The sun set at a quarter past one, but for two hours the whole southern heaven was superb in its hues of rose and orange. The sheepskin lent us by our landlady kept our feet warm, and we only felt the cold in our faces; my nose, especially, which, having lost a coat of skin, was very fresh and tender, requiring unusual care At three o'clock, when we reached Kuckula, the first station, the northern sky was one broad flush of the purest violet, melting into lilac at the zenith, where it met the fiery skirts of sunset.
We refreshed ourselves with hot milk, and pushed ahead, with better horses. At four o'clock it was bright moonlight, with the stillest air. We got on bravely over the level, beaten road, and in two hours reached Korpikyla, a large new inn, where we found very tolerable accommodations. Our beds were heaps of reindeer skins; a frightfully ugly Finnish girl, who knew a few words of Swedish, prepared us a supper of tough meat, potatoes, and ale. Everything was now pure Finnish, and the first question of the girl, "Hvarifran kommar du?" (Where dost thou come from?) showed an ignorance of the commonest Swedish form of address. She awoke us with a cup of coffee in the morning, and negotiated for us the purchase of a reindeer skin, which we procured for something less than a dollar. The hus-bonde (house-peasant, as the landlord is called here) made no charge for our entertainment, but said we might give what we pleased. I offered, at a venture, a sum equal to about fifty cents, whereupon he sent the girl to say that he thanked us most heartily.
The next day was a day to be remembered: such a glory of twilight splendors for six full hours was beyond all the charms of daylight in any zone. We started at seven, with a temperature of 20 deg. below zero, still keeping up the left bank of the Tornea. The country now rose into bold hills, and the features of the scenery became broad and majestic. The northern sky was again pure violet, and a pale red tinge from the dawn rested on the tops of the snowy hills. The prevailing color of the sky slowly brightened into lilac, then into pink, then rose color, which again gave way to a flood of splendid orange when the sun appeared. Every change of color affected the tone of the landscape. The woods, so wrapped in snow that not a single green needle was to be seen, took by turns the hues of the sky, and seemed to give out, rather than to reflect, the opalescent lustre of the morning. The sunshine brightened instead of dispelling these effects. At noon the sun's disc was not more than 1 deg. above the horizon, throwing a level golden light on the hills. The north, before us, was as blue as the Mediterranean, and the vault of heaven, overhead, canopied us with pink. Every object was glorified and transfigured in the magic glow.
At the first station we got some hot milk, with raw salmon, shingle bread and frozen butter. Our horses were good, and we drove merrily along, up the frozen Tornea. The roads were filled with people going to church, probably to celebrate some religious anniversary. Fresh ruddy faces had they, firm features, strong frames and resolute carriage, but the most of them were positively ugly, and, by contrast with the frank Swedes, their expression was furtive and sinister. Near Packila we passed a fine old church of red brick, with a very handsome belfry. At Niemis we changed horses in ten minutes, and hastened on up the bed of the Tornea to Matarengi, where we should reach the Arctic Circle. The hills rose higher, with fine sweeping outlines, and the river was still half a mile broad—a plain of solid snow, with the track marked out by bushes. We kept a sharp look-out for the mountain of Avasaxa, one of the stations of Celsius, Maupertius, and the French Academicians, who came here in 1736, to make observations determining the exact form of the earth. Through this mountain, it is said, the Arctic Circle passes, though our maps were neither sufficiently minute nor correct to determine the point. We took it for granted, however, as a mile one way or the other could make but little difference; and as Matarengi lies due west of Avasaxa, across the river, we decided to stop there and take dinner on the Arctic Circle.
The increase of villages on both banks, with the appearance of a large church, denoted our approach to Matarengi, and we saw at once that the tall, gently-rounded, isolated hill opposite, now blazing with golden snow, could be none other than Avasaxa. Here we were, at last, entering the Arctic Zone, in the dead of winter—the realization of a dream which had often flashed across my mind, when lounging under the tropical palms; so natural is it for one extreme to suggest the opposite. I took our bearings with a compass-ring, as we drove forward, and as the summit of Avasaxa bore due east we both gave a shout which startled our postilion and notably quickened the gait of our horses. It was impossible to toss our caps, for they were not only tied upon our heads, but frozen fast to our beards. So here we were at last, in the true dominions of Winter. A mild ruler he had been to us, thus far, but he proved a despot before we were done with him.
Soon afterwards, we drove into the inn at Matarengi, which was full of country people, who had come to attend church. The landlord, a sallow, watery-eyed Finn, who knew a few words of Swedish, gave us a room in an adjoining house, and furnished a dinner of boiled fish and barley mush, to which was added a bottle labelled "Dry Madeira," brought from Haparanda for the occasion. At a shop adjoining, Braisted found a serviceable pipe, so that nothing was wanting to complete our jubilee. We swallowed the memory of all who were dear to us, in the dubious beverage, inaugurated our Arctic pipe, which we proposed to take home as a souvenir of the place, and set forward in the most cheery mood.
Our road now crossed the river and kept up the Russian side to a place with the charming name of Torakankorwa. The afternoon twilight was even more wonderful than that of the forenoon. There were broad bands of purple, pure crimson, and intense yellow, all fusing together into fiery orange at the south, while the north became a semi-vault of pink, then lilac, and then the softest violet. The dazzling Arctic hills participated in this play of colors, which did not fade, as in the South, but stayed, and stayed, as if God wished to compensate by this twilight glory for the loss of the day. Nothing in Italy, nothing in the Tropics, equals the magnificence of the Polar skies. The twilight gave place to a moonlight scarcely less brilliant. Our road was hardly broken, leading through deep snow, sometimes on the river, sometimes through close little glens, hedged in with firs drooping with snow—fairy Arctic solitudes, white, silent and mysterious.
By seven o'clock we reached a station called Juoxengi. The place was wholly Finnish, and the landlord, who did not understand a word of Swedish, endeavoured to make us go on to the next station. We pointed to the beds and quietly carried in our baggage. I made the usual signs for eating, which speedily procured us a pail of sour milk, bread and butter, and two immense tin drinking horns of sweet milk. The people seemed a little afraid of us, and kept away. Our postilion was a silly fellow, who could not understand whether his money was correct. In the course of our stenographic conversation, I learned that "cax" signified two. When I gave him his drink-money he said "ketox!" and on going out the door, "huweste!"—so that I at least discovered the Finnish for "Thank you!" and "Good-bye!" This, however, was not sufficient to order horses the next morning. We were likewise in a state of delightful uncertainty as to our future progress, but this very uncertainty gave a zest to our situation, and it would have been difficult to find two jollier men with frozen noses.
ADVENTURES AMONG THE FINNS.
We drank so much milk (for want of more solid food) at Juoxengi, that in spite of sound sleep under our sheepskin blankets, we both awoke with headaches in the morning. The Finnish landlord gave me to understand, by holding up his fore-finger, and pronouncing the word "ux," that I was to pay one rigsdaler (about 26 cents), for our entertainment, and was overcome with grateful surprise when I added a trifle more. We got underway by six o'clock, when the night was just at its darkest, and it was next to impossible to discern any track on the spotless snow. Trusting to good luck to escape overturning, we followed in the wake of the skjutsbonde, who had mounted our baggage sled upon one of the country sledges, and rode perched upon his lofty seat. Our horses were tolerable, but we had eighteen miles to Pello, the next station, which we reached about ten o'clock.
Our road was mostly upon the Tornea River, sometimes taking to the woods on either side, to cut off bends. The morn was hours in dawning, with the same splendid transitions of colour. The forests were indescribable in their silence, whiteness, and wonderful variety of snowy adornment. The weeping birches leaned over the road, and formed white fringed arches; the firs wore mantles of ermine, and ruffs and tippets of the softest swan's down. Snow, wind, and frost had worked the most marvellous transformations in the forms of the forest. Here were kneeling nuns, with their arms hanging listlessly by their sides, and the white cowls falling over their faces; there lay a warrior's helmet; lace curtains, torn and ragged, hung from the points of little Gothic spires; caverns, lined with sparry incrustations, silver palm-leaves, doors, loop-holes, arches and arcades were thrown together in a fantastic confusion and mingled with the more decided forms of the larger trees, which, even, were trees but in form, so completely were they wrapped in their dazzling disguise. It was an enchanted land, where you hardly dared to breathe, lest a breath might break the spell.
There was still little change in the features of the country, except that it became wilder and more rugged, and the settlements poorer and further apart. There were low hills on either side, wildernesses of birch and fir, and floors of level snow over the rivers and marshes. On approaching Pello, we saw our first reindeer, standing beside a hut. He was a large, handsome animal; his master, who wore a fur dress, we of course set down for a Lapp. At the inn a skinny old hag, who knew a dozen words of Swedish, got us some bread, milk, and raw frozen salmon, which, with the aid of a great deal of butter, sufficed us for a meal. Our next stage was to Kardis, sixteen miles, which we made in four hours. While in the midst of a forest on the Swedish side, we fell in with a herd of reindeer, attended by half-a-dozen Lapps. They came tramping along through the snow, about fifty in number, including a dozen which ran loose. The others were harnessed to pulks, the canoe-shaped reindeer sledges, many of which were filled with stores and baggage. The Lapps were rather good-looking young fellows, with a bright, coppery, orange complexion, and were by no means so ill-favoured, short, and stunted as I had imagined. One of them was, indeed, really handsome, with his laughing eyes, sparkling teeth, and a slender, black moustache.
We were obliged to wait a quarter-of-an-hour while the herd passed, and then took to the river again. The effect of sunset on the snow was marvellous—the spotless mounds and drifts, far and near, being stained with soft rose colour, until they resembled nothing so much as heaps of strawberry ice. At Kardis the people sent for an interpreter, who was a young man, entirely blind. He helped us to get our horses, although we were detained an hour, as only one horse is kept in readiness at these stations, and the neighbourhood must be scoured to procure another. I employed the time in learning a few Finnish words—the whole travelling-stock, in fact, on which I made the journey to Muonioniska. That the reader may see how few words of a strange language will enable him to travel, as well as to give a sample of Finnish, I herewith copy my whole vocabulary:
one ux two cax three kolma four nelia five viis six oos seven settima eight kahexa nine ohexa ten kiumene a half puoli horses hevorste immediately varsin ready walmis drive on! ayo perli! how much? guinga palia a mile peligorma bread leba meat liha milk maito butter voy fire valkar a bed sangu (Swedish) good huva bad paha
We kept on our way up the river, in the brilliant afternoon moonlight. The horses were slow; so were the two skjutsbonder, to whom I cried in vain: "Ayo perli!" Braisted with difficulty restrained his inclination to cuff their ears. Hour after hour went by, and we grew more and more hungry, wrathful and impatient. About eight o'clock they stopped below a house on the Russian side, pitched some hay to the horses, climbed the bank, and summoned us to follow. We made our way with some difficulty through the snow, and entered the hut, which proved to be the abode of a cooper—at least the occupant, a rough, shaggy, dirty Orson of a fellow, was seated upon the floor, making a tub, by the light of the fire. The joists overhead were piled with seasoned wood, and long bundles of thin, dry fir, which is used for torches during the winter darkness. There was neither chair nor table in the hut; but a low bench ran around the walls, and a rough bedstead was built against one corner. Two buckets of sour milk, with a wooden ladle, stood beside the door. This beverage appears to be generally used by the Finns for quenching thirst, instead of water. Our postilions were sitting silently upon the bench, and we followed their example, lit our pipes, and puffed away, while the cooper, after the first glance, went on with his work; and the other members of his family, clustered together in the dusky corner behind the fireplace, were equally silent. Half an hour passed, and the spirit moved no one to open his mouth. I judged at last that the horses had been baited sufficiently, silently showed my watch to the postilions, who, with ourselves, got up and went away without a word having been said to mar the quaint drollery of the incident.
While at Haparanda, we had been recommended to stop at Kingis Bruk, at the junction of the Tornea and Muonio. "There," we were told, "you can get everything you want: there is a fine house, good beds, and plenty to eat and drink." Our blind interpreter at Kardis repeated this advice. "Don't go on to Kexisvara;" (the next station) said he, "stop at Kengis, where everything is good." Toward Kengis, then, this oasis in the arctic desolation, our souls yearned. We drove on until ten o'clock in the brilliant moonlight and mild, delicious air—for the temperature had actually risen to 25 deg. above zero!—before a break in the hills announced the junction of the two rivers. There was a large house on the top of a hill on our left, and, to our great joy, the postilions drove directly up to it. "Is this Kengis?" I asked, but their answers I could not understand, and they had already unharnessed their horses.
There was a light in the house, and we caught a glimpse of a woman's face at the window, as we drove up. But the light was immediately extinguished, and everything became silent. I knocked at the door, which was partly open, but no one came. I then pushed: a heavy log of wood, which was leaning against it from the inside, fell with a noise which reverberated through the house. I waited awhile, and then, groping my way along a passage to the door of the room which had been lighted, knocked loudly. After a little delay, the door was opened by a young man, who ushered me into a warm, comfortable room, and then quietly stared at me, as if to ask what I wanted. "We are travellers and strangers," said I, "and wish to stop for the night." "This is not an inn," he answered; "it is the residence of the patron of the iron works." I may here remark that it is the general custom in Sweden, in remote districts, for travellers to call without ceremony upon the parson, magistrate, or any other prominent man in a village, and claim his hospitality. In spite of this doubtful reception, considering that our horses were already stabled and the station three or four miles further, I remarked again: "But perhaps we may be allowed to remain here until morning?" "I will ask," he replied, left the room, and soon returned with an affirmative answer.
We had a large, handsomely furnished room, with a sofa and curtained bed, into which we tumbled as soon as the servant-girl, in compliance with a hint of mine, had brought up some bread, milk, and cheese. We had a cup of coffee in the morning, and were preparing to leave when the patron appeared. He was a short, stout, intelligent Swede, who greeted us courteously, and after a little conversation, urged us to stay until after breakfast. We were too hungry to need much persuasion, and indeed the table set with tjade, or capercailie (one of the finest game birds in the world), potatoes, cranberries, and whipped cream, accompanied with excellent Umea ale, and concluded with coffee, surpassed anything we had sat down to for many a day. The patron gave me considerable information about the country, and quieted a little anxiety I was beginning to feel, by assuring me that we should find post-horses all the way to Muonioniska, still ninety-five miles distant. He informed me that we had already got beyond the daylight, as the sun had not yet risen at Kengis. This, however, was in consequence of a hill to the southward, as we afterwards found that the sun was again above the horizon.
We laid in fuel enough to last us through the day, and then took leave of our host, who invited us to visit him on our return. Crossing the Tornea, an hour's drive over the hills brought us to the village of Kexisvara, where we were obliged to wait some time for our horses. At the inn there was a well forty feet deep, with the longest sweep-pole I ever saw. The landlady and her two sisters were pleasant bodies, and sociably inclined, if we could have talked to them. They were all spinning tow, their wheels purring like pleased lionesses. The sun's disc came in sight at a quarter past eleven, and at noon his lower limb just touched the horizon. The sky was of a splendid saffron hue, which changed into a burning brassy yellow.
Our horses promised little for speed when we set out, and their harness being ill adapted to our sleds increased the difficulty. Instead of hames there were wide wooden yokes, the ends of which passed through mortices in the ends of the shafts, and were fastened with pins, while, as there was no belly-bands, the yokes rose on going down hill, bringing our sleds upon the horses' heels. The Finnish sleds have excessively long shafts, in order to prevent this. Our road all day was upon the Muonio River, the main branch of the Tornea, and the boundary between Sweden and Russia, above the junction. There had been a violent wind during the night, and the track was completely filled up. The Tornea and Muonio are both very swift rivers, abounding in dangerous rapids, but during the winter, rapids and all, they are solid as granite from their sources to the Bothnian Gulf. We plunged along slowly, hour after hour, more than half the time clinging to one side or the other, to prevent our sled from overturning—and yet it upset at least a dozen times during the day. The scenery was without change: low, black fir forests on either hand, with the decorative snow blown off them; no villages, or signs of life, except the deserted huts of the wood-cutters, nor did we meet but one sled during the whole day. Here and there, on the banks, were sharp, canoe-like boats, twenty or thirty feet long, turned bottom upward. The sky was overcast, shutting out the glorious coloring of the past days. The sun set before one o'clock, and the dull twilight deepened apace into night. Nothing could be more cheerless and dismal: we smoked and talked a little, with much silence between, and I began to think that one more such day would disgust me with the Arctic Zone.
It was four o'clock, and our horses were beginning to stagger, when we reached a little village called Jokijalka, on the Russian side. The postilion stopped at a house, or rather a quadrangle of huts, which he made me comprehend was an inn, adding that it was 4 polan and 3 belikor (a fearfully unintelligible distance!) to the next one. We entered, and found promise enough in the thin, sallow, sandy-haired, and most obsequious landlord, and a whole herd of rosy children, to decide us to stop. We were ushered into the milk-room, which was warm and carpeted, and had a single narrow bed. I employed my vocabulary with good effect, the quick-witted children helping me out, and in due time we got a supper of fried mutton, bread, butter, and hot milk. The children came in every few minutes to stare at our writing, an operation which they probably never saw before. They would stand in silent curiosity for half an hour at a time, then suddenly rush out, and enjoy a relief of shouts and laughter on the outside. Since leaving Matarengi we had been regarded at all the stations with much wonder, not always unmixed with mistrust. Whether this was simply a manifestation of the dislike which the Finns have for the Swedes, for whom they probably took us, or of other suspicions on their part, we could not decide.
After a time one of the neighbors, who had been sent for on account of his knowing a very few words of Swedish, was ushered into the room. Through him I ordered horses, and ascertained that the next station, Kihlangi, was three and a half Swedish miles distant, but there was a place on the Russian side, one mile off, where we could change horses. We had finished writing, and were sitting by the stove, consulting how we should arrange the bed so as to avoid contact with the dirty coverlet, when the man returned and told us we must go into another house. We crossed the yard to the opposite building, where, to our great surprise, we were ushered into a warm room, with two good beds, which had clean though coarse sheets, a table, looking-glass, and a bit of carpet on the floor. The whole male household congregated to see us take possession and ascertain whether our wants were supplied. I slept luxuriously until awakened by the sound of our landlord bringing in wood to light the fire. He no sooner saw that my eyes were open than he snatched off his cap and threw it upon the floor, moving about with as much awe and silence as if it were the Emperor's bedroom. His daughter brought us excellent coffee betimes. We washed our faces with our tumblers of drinking water, and got under way by half-past six.
The temperature had changed again in the night, being 28 deg. below zero, but the sky was clear and the morning moonlight superb. By this time we were so far north that the moon did not set at all, but wheeled around the sky, sinking to within eight degrees of the horizon at noonday. Our road led across the river, past the church of Kolare, and through a stretch of the Swedish forests back to the river again. To our great surprise, the wind had not blown here, the snow still hung heavy on the trees, and the road was well beaten. At the Russian post-house we found only a woman with the usual troop of children, the eldest of whom, a boy of sixteen, was splitting fir to make torches. I called out "hevorste!" (horses), to which he made a deliberate answer, and went on with his work. After some consultation with the old woman, a younger boy was sent off somewhere, and we sat down to await the result. I called for meat, milk, bread, and butter, which procured us in course of time a pitcher of cold milk, some bread made of ground barley straw, horribly hard and tough, and a lump of sour frozen butter. There was some putrid fish in a wooden bowl, on which the family had breakfasted, while an immense pot of sour milk, butter, broken bread, and straw meal, hanging over the fire, contained their dinner. This was testimony enough to the accounts we had heard in Stockholm, of the year's famine in Finland; and we seemed likely to participate in it.
I chewed the straw bread vigorously for an hour, and succeeded in swallowing enough to fill my stomach, though not enough to satisfy my hunger. The younger children occupied themselves in peeling off the soft inner bark of the fir, which they ate ravenously. They were handsome, fair-skinned youngsters, but not so rosy and beautiful as those of the Norrland Swedes. We were obliged to wait more than two hours before the horses arrived, thus losing a large part of our daylight. The postilions fastened our sleds behind their own large sledges, with flat runners, which got through the snow more easily than ours. We lay down in the sledge, stretched ourselves at full length upon a bed of hay, covered our feet with the deerskin, and set off. We had gone about a Swedish mile when the postilions stopped to feed the horses before a house on the Russian side. There was nobody within, but some coals among the ashes on the hearth showed that it had been used, apparently, as a place of rest and shelter. A tall, powerful Finn, who was travelling alone, was there, smoking his pipe. We all sat down and did likewise, in the bare, dark hut. There were the three Finns, in complete dresses of reindeer skin, and ourselves, swaddled from head to foot, with only a small segment of scarlet face visible between our frosted furs and icy beards. It was a true Arctic picture, as seen by the pale dawn which glimmered on the wastes of snow outside.
We had a poor horse, which soon showed signs of breaking down, especially when we again entered a belt of country where the wind had blown, the trees were clear, and the track filled up. At half-past eleven we saw the light of the sun on the tops of the hills, and at noon about half his disc was visible. The cold was intense; my hands became so stiff and benumbed that I had great difficulty in preventing them from freezing, and my companion's feet almost lost all feeling. It was well for us that we were frequently obliged to walk, to aid the horse. The country was a wilderness of mournful and dismal scenery—low hills and woods, stripped bare of snow, the dark firs hung with black, crape-like moss, alternating with morasses. Our Finnish postilions were pleasant, cheerful fellows, who insisted on our riding when there was the least prospect of a road. Near a solitary hut (the only one on the road) we met a man driving a reindeer. After this we lost all signs of our way, except the almost obliterated track of his pulk. The snow was deeper than ever, and our horses were ready to drop at every step. We had been five hours on the road; the driver said Kihlangi was "ux verst" distant, and at three, finally, we arrived. We appreciated rather better what we had endured when we found that the temperature was 44 deg. below zero.
I at once ordered horses, and a strapping young fellow was sent off in a bad humor to get them. We found it impossible, however, to procure milk or anything to eat, and as the cold was not to be borne else, we were obliged to resort to a bottle of cognac and our Haparanda bread. The old woman sat by the fire smoking, and gave not the least attention to our demands. I paid our postilions in Norwegian orts, which they laid upon a chair and counted, with the assistance of the whole family. After the reckoning was finished they asked me what the value of each piece was, which gave rise to a second general computation. There was, apparently, more than they had expected, for they both made me a formal address of thanks, and took my hand. Seeing that I had produced a good effect I repeated my demand for milk. The old woman refused, but the men interfered in my behalf; she went out and presently returned with a bowl full, which she heated for us. By this time our horses had arrived, and one of our new postilions prepared himself for the journey, by stripping to the loins and putting on a clean shirt. He was splendidly built, with clean, firm muscle, a white glossy skin, and no superfluity of flesh. He then donned a reindeer of posk, leggings and boots, and we started again.
It was nearly five o'clock, and superb moonlight. This time they mounted our sleds upon their own sledges, so that we rode much higher than usual. Our way lay up the Muonio River: the track was entirely snowed up, and we had to break a new one, guided by the fir-trees stuck in the ice. The snow was full three feet deep, and whenever the sledge got a little off the old road, the runners cut in so that we could scarcely move. The milk and cognac had warmed us tolerably, and we did not suffer much from the intense cold. My nose, however, had been rubbed raw, and I was obliged to tie a handkerchief across my face to protect it.
While journeying along in this way, the sledge suddenly tilted over, and we were flung head foremost into the snow. Our drivers righted the sledge, we shook ourselves and got in again, but had not gone ten yards before the same thing happened again. This was no joke on such a night, but we took it good-humouredly, to the relief of the Finns, who seemed to expect a scolding. Very soon we went over a third time, and then a fourth, after which they kept near us and held on when there was any danger. I became very drowsy, and struggled with all my force to keep awake, for sleeping was too hazardous. Braisted kept his senses about him by singing, for our encouragement, the mariner's hymn:—
"Fear not, but trust in Providence, Wherever thou may'st be."
Thus hour after hour passed away. Fortunately we had good, strong horses, which walked fast and steadily. The scenery was always the same—low, wooded hills on either side of the winding, snowy plain of the river. We had made up our minds not to reach Parkajoki before midnight, but at half-past ten our track left the river, mounted the Swedish bank, and very soon brought us to a quadrangle of low huts, having the appearance of an inn. I could scarcely believe my eyes when we stopped before the door. "Is this Parkajoki?" I asked. "Ja!" answered the postilion. Braisted and I sprang out instantly, hugged each other in delight, and rushed into the warm inn. The thermometer still showed -44 deg., and we prided ourselves a little on having travelled for seventeen hours in such a cold with so little food to keep up our animal heat. The landlord, a young man, with a bristly beard of three weeks' growth, showed us into the milk room, where there was a bed of reindeer skins. His wife brought us some fresh hay, a quilt and a sheepskin coverlet, and we soon forgot both our hunger and our frozen blood.
In the morning coffee was brought to us, and as nothing else was to be had, we drank four cups apiece. The landlord asked half a rigs (13 cents) for our entertainment, and was overcome with gratitude when I gave him double the sum. We had the same sledges as the previous night, but new postilions and excellent horses. The temperature had risen to 5 deg. below zero, with a cloudy sky and a light snow falling. We got off at eight o'clock, found a track partly broken, and went on at a merry trot up the river. We took sometimes one bank and sometimes the other, until, after passing the rapid of Eyanpaika (which was frozen solid, although large masses of transparent ice lay piled like rocks on either side), we kept the Swedish bank. We were in excellent spirits, in the hope of reaching Muonioniska before dark, but the steady trot of our horses brought us out of the woods by noon, and we saw before us the long, scattering village, a mile or two distant, across the river. To our left, on a gentle slope, stood a red, two-story building, surrounded by out-houses, with a few humbler habitations in its vicinity. This was Muoniovara, on the Swedish side—the end of our Finnish journey.
LIFE IN LAPLAND.
As we drove up to the red two-story house, a short man with dark whiskers and a commercial air came forward to meet us. I accosted him in Swedish, asking him whether the house was an inn. He replied in the negative, adding that the only inn was in Muonioniska, on the Russian side, a mile or more distant. I then asked for the residence of Mr. Wolley, the English naturalist, whose name had been mentioned to me by Prof. Retzius and the botanist Hartman. He thereupon called to some one across the court, and presently appeared a tall, slender man dressed in the universal gray suit which travelling Englishmen wear, from the Equator to the Poles. He came up with extended hand, on hearing his own language; a few words sufficed for explanation, and he devoted himself to our interests with the cordiality of an old acquaintance. He lived with the Swede, Herr Forstrom, who was the merchant of the place; but the wife of the latter had just been confined, and there was no room in his house. Mr. Wolley proposed at first to send to the inn in Muonioniska, and engage a room, but afterwards arranged with a Norsk carpenter, who lived on the hill above, to give us quarters in his house, so that we might be near enough to take our meals together. Nothing could have suited us better. We took possession at once, and then descended the hill to a dinner—I had ventured to hint at our famished condition—of capercailie, cranberries, soft bread, whipped cream, and a glass of genuine port.
Warmed and comforted by such luxurious fare, we climbed the hill to the carpenter's house, in the dreary Arctic twilight, in the most cheerful and contented frame of mind. Was this, indeed, Lapland? Did we, indeed, stand already in the dark heart of the polar Winter? Yes; there was no doubt of it. The imagination could scarcely conceive a more desolate picture than that upon which we gazed—the plain of sombre snow, beyond which the black huts of the village were faintly discernible, the stunted woods and bleak hills, which night and the raw snow clouds had half obscured, and yonder fur-clad figure gliding silently along beside his reindeer. Yet, even here, where Man seemed to have settled out of pure spite against Nature, were comfort and hospitality and kindness. We entered the carpenter's house, lit our candles and pipes, and sat down to enjoy at ease the unusual feeling of shelter and of home. The building was of squared fir-logs, with black moss stuffed in the crevices, making it very warm and substantial. Our room contained a loom, two tables, two beds with linen of voluptuous softness and cleanness, an iron stove (the first we had seen in Sweden), and the usual washing apparatus, besides a piece of carpet on the floor. What more could any man desire? The carpenter, Herr Knoblock, spoke some German; his son, Ludwig, Mr. Wolley's servant, also looked after our needs; and the daughter, a fair, blooming girl of about nineteen, brought us coffee before we were out of bed, and kept our fire in order. Why, Lapland was a very Sybaris in comparison with what I had expected.
Mr. Wolley proposed to us another luxury, in the shape of a vapour-bath, as Herr Forstrom had one of those bathing-houses which are universal in Finland. It was a little wooden building without windows. A Finnish servant-girl who had been for some time engaged in getting it in readiness, opened the door for us. The interior was very hot and moist, like an Oriental bathing-hall. In the centre was a pile of hot stones, covered with birch boughs, the leaves of which gave out an agreeable smell, and a large tub of water. The floor was strewn with straw, and under the roof was a platform extending across one end of the building. This was covered with soft hay, and reached by means of a ladder, for the purpose of getting the full effect of the steam. Some stools, and a bench for our clothes, completed the arrangements. There was also in one corner a pitcher of water, standing in a little heap of snow to keep it cool.
The servant-girl came in after us, and Mr. W. quietly proceeded to undress, informing us that the girl was bathing-master, and would do the usual scrubbing and shampooing. This, it seems, is the general practice in Finland, and is but another example of the unembarrassed habits of the people in this part of the world. The poorer families go into their bathing-rooms together—father, mother, and children—and take turns in polishing each other's backs. It would have been ridiculous to have shown any hesitation under the circumstances—in fact, an indignity to the honest simple-hearted, virtuous girl—and so we deliberately undressed also. When at last we stood, like our first parents in Paradise, "naked and not ashamed," she handed us bunches of birch-twigs with the leaves on, the use of which was suggested by the leaf of sculpture. We mounted to the platform and lay down upon our backs, whereupon she increased the temperature by throwing water upon the hot stones, until the heat was rather oppressive, and we began to sweat profusely. She then took up a bunch of birch-twigs which had been dipped in hot water, and switched us smartly from head to foot. When we had become thoroughly parboiled and lax, we descended to the floor, seated ourselves upon the stools, and were scrubbed with soap as thoroughly as propriety permitted. The girl was an admirable bather, the result of long practice in the business. She finished by pouring hot water over us, and then drying us with warm towels. The Finns frequently go out and roll in the snow during the progress of the bath. I ventured so far as to go out and stand a few seconds in the open air. The mercury was at zero, and the effect of the cold on my heated skin was delightfully refreshing.
I dressed in a violent perspiration, and then ran across to Herr Forstrom's house, where tea was already waiting for us. Here we found the lansman or magistrate of the Russian district opposite, a Herr Braxen, who was decorated with the order of Stanislaus for his services in Finland during the recent war. He was a tall, dark-haired man, with a restless light in his deep-set eyes, and a gentleman in his demeanor. He entered into our plans with interest, and the evening was spent in consultation concerning them. Finally, it was decided that Herr Forstrom should send a messenger up the river to Palajoki (forty miles off), to engage Lapps and reindeer to take us across the mountains to Kautokeino, in Norway. As the messenger would be absent three or four days, we had a comfortable prospect of rest before us, and I went to bed with a light heart, to wake to the sixth birthday I have passed in strange lands.
In the morning, I went with Mr. Wolley to call upon a Finn, one of whose children was suffering from inflamed eyes, or snowthalmia, as it might be called. The family were prolific, as usual—children of all sizes, with a regular gradation of a year between. The father, a short, shock-headed fellow, sat in one corner; the mother, who, like nine-tenths of all the matrons we had seen between Lapland and Stockholm, gave promise of additional humanity, greeted us with a comical, dipping courtesy—a sudden relaxing and stiffening again of the muscles of the knees—which might be introduced as a novelty into our fashionable circles. The boy's eyes were terribly blood-shot, and the lids swollen, but a solution of nitrate of silver, which Mr. W. applied, relieved him greatly in the course of a day or two. We took occasion to visit the stable, where half a dozen cows lay in darkness, in their warm stalls, on one side, with two bulls and some sheep on the other. There was a fire in one corner, over which hung a great kettle filled with a mixture of boiled hay and reindeer moss. Upon this they are fed, while the sheep must content themselves with bunches of birch, willow and aspen twigs, gathered with the leaves on. The hay is strong and coarse, but nourishing, and the reindeer moss, a delicate white lichen, contains a glutinous ingredient, which probably increases the secretion of milk. The stable, as well as Forstrom's, which we afterwards inspected, was kept in good order. It was floored, with a gutter past each row of stalls, to carry off the manure. The cows were handsome white animals, in very good condition.
Mr. Wolley sent for his reindeer in the course of the morning, in order to give us a lesson in driving. After lunch, accordingly, we prepared ourselves for the new sensation. I put on a poesk of reindeer skin, and my fur-lined Russian boots. Ludwig took a pulk also, to assist us in case of need. These pulks are shaped very much like a canoe; they are about five feet long, one foot deep, and eighteen inches wide, with a sharp bow and a square stern. You sit upright against the stern-board, with your legs stretched out in the bottom. The deer's harness consists only of a collar of reindeer skin around the neck, with a rope at the bottom, which passes under the belly, between the legs, and is fastened to the bow of the pulk. He is driven by a single rein, attached to the base of the left horn, and passing over the back to the right hand of the driver, who thrusts his thumb into a loop at the end, and takes several turns around his wrist. The rein is held rather slack, in order that it may be thrown over to the right side when it slips to the left, which it is very apt to do.
I seated myself, took proper hold of the rein, and awaited the signal to start. My deer was a strong, swift animal, who had just shed his horns. Ludwig set off first; my deer gave a startling leap, dashed around the corner of the house, and made down the hill. I tried to catch the breath which had been jerked out of me, and to keep my balance, as the pulk, swaying from side to side, bounced over the snow. It was too late; a swift presentiment of the catastrophe flashed across my mind, but I was powerless to avert it. In another second I found myself rolling in the loose snow, with the pulk bottom upward beside me. The deer, who was attached to my arm, was standing still, facing me, with an expression of stupid surprise (but no sympathy) on his face. I got up, shook myself, righted the pulk, and commenced again. Off we went, like the wind, down the hill, the snow flying in my face and blinding me. My pulk made tremendous leaps, bounding from side to side, until, the whirlwind suddenly subsiding, I found myself off the road, deep overhead in the snow, choked and blinded, and with small snow-drifts in my pockets, sleeves and bosom. My beard and eyebrows became instantly a white, solid mass, and my face began to tingle from its snow-bath; but, on looking back, I saw as white a beard suddenly emerge from a drift, followed by the stout body of Braisted, who was gathering himself up after his third shipwreck.
We took a fresh start, I narrowly missing another overturn, as we descended the slope below the house, but on reaching the level of the Muonio, I found no difficulty in keeping my balance, and began to enjoy the exercise. My deer struck out, passed the others, and soon I was alone on the track. In the grey Arctic twilight, gliding noiselessly and swiftly over the snow, with the low huts of Muonioniska dimly seen in the distance before me, I had my first true experience of Lapland travelling. It was delightfully novel and exhilarating; I thought of "Afraja," and the song of "Kulnasatz, my reindeer!" and Bryant's "Arctic Lover," and whatever else there is of Polar poetry, urged my deer with shouts, and never once looked behind me until I had climbed the opposite shore and reached the village. My companions were then nowhere to be seen. I waited some time before they arrived, Braisted's deer having become fractious and run back with him to the house. His crimson face shone out from its white frame of icy hair as he shouted to me, "There is nothing equal to this, except riding behind a right whale when he drives to windward, with every man trimming the boat, and the spray flying over your bows!"
We now turned northward through the village, flying around many sharp corners, but this I found comparatively easy work. But for the snow I had taken in, which now began to melt, I got on finely in spite of the falling flakes, which beat in our faces. Von Buch, in his journey through Lapland in 1807, speaks of Muonioniska as "a village with an inn where they have silver spoons." We stopped at a house which Mr. Wolley stated was the very building, but it proved to be a more recent structure on the site of the old inn. The people looked at us with curiosity on hearing we were Americans. They had heard the name of America, but did not seem to know exactly where it was. On leaving the house, we had to descend the steep bank of the river. I put out my feet to steady the pulk, and thereby ploughed a cataract of fine snow into my face, completely blinding me. The pulk gave a flying leap from the steepest pitch, flung me out, and the deer, eager to make for home, dragged me by the arm for about twenty yards before I could arrest him. This was the worst upset of all, and far from pleasant, although the temperature was only zero. I reached home again without further mishap, flushed, excited, soaked with melted snow, and confident of my ability to drive reindeer with a little more practice.
During the first three days, the weather was raw, dark, and lowering, with a temperature varying from 9 deg. above to 13 deg. below zero. On the morning of the 14th, however, the sky finally cleared, with a cold south wind, and we saw, for the first time, the range of snowy mountains in the east. The view from our hill, before so dismally bleak and dark, became broad and beautiful, now that there was a little light to see it by. Beyond the snowy floor of the lake and the river Muonio stretched the scattering huts of Muonioniska, with the church overlooking them, and the round, white peak of Ollastyntre rising above his belt of black woods to the south. Further to the east extended alternate streaks of dark forest and frozen marsh for eighteen miles, to the foot of the mountain range of Palastyntre, which stood like a line of colossal snow-drifts against the soft violet sky, their sides touched by the rosily-golden beams of the invisible sun. This and the valley of the Tornea, at Avasaxa, are two of the finest views in Lapland.
I employed part of my time in making some sketches of characteristic faces. Mr. Wolley, finding that I wished to procure good types of the Finns and Lapps, kindly assisted me—his residence of three years in Muoniovara enabling him to know who were the most marked and peculiar personages. Ludwig was despatched to procure an old fellow by the name of Niemi, a Finn, who promised to comply with my wishes; but his ignorance made him suspicious, and it was necessary to send again. "I know what travellers are," said he, "and what a habit they have of getting people's skulls to carry home with them. Even if they are arrested for it, they are so rich, they always buy over the judges. Who knows but they might try to kill me for the sake of my skull?" After much persuasion, he was finally induced to come, and, seeing that Ludwig supposed he was still afraid, he said, with great energy: "I have made up my mind to go, even if a shower of knives should fall from heaven!" He was seventy-three years old, though he did not appear to be over sixty—his hair being thick and black, his frame erect and sturdy, and his colour crimson rather than pale. His eyebrows were jet-black and bushy, his eyes large and deep set, his nose strong and prominent, and the corners of his long mouth drawn down in a settled curve, expressing a melancholy grimness. The high cheek-bones, square brow, and muscular jaw belonged to the true Finnish type. He held perfectly still while I drew, scarcely moving a muscle of his face, and I succeeded in getting a portrait which everybody recognised.
I gave him a piece of money, with which he was greatly delighted; and, after a cup of coffee, in Herr Knoblock's kitchen, he went home quite proud and satisfied. "They do not at all look like dangerous persons," said he to the carpenter; "perhaps they do not collect skulls. I wish they spoke our language, that I might ask them how people live in their country. America is a very large, wild place. I know all about it, and the discovery of it. I was not there myself at the time, but Jenis Lampi, who lives in Kittila, was one of the crew of the ship, and he told me how it happened. Jenis Lampi said they were going to throw the captain overboard, but he persuaded them to give him three days, and on the third day they found it. Now I should like to know whether these people, who come from that country, have laws as we have, and whether they live as comfortably." So saying, Isaaki Anderinpoika Niemi departed.
No sooner had he gone than the old Lapp woman, Elsa, who had been sent for, drove up in her pulk, behind a fast reindeer. She was in complete Lapp costume—a blue cloth gown with wide sleeves, trimmed with scarlet, and a curious pear-shaped cap of the same material, upon her head. She sat upon the floor, on a deerskin, and employed herself in twisting reindeer sinews, which she rolled upon her cheek with the palm of her hand, while I was sketching her. It was already dark, and I was obliged to work by candle light, but I succeeded in catching the half-insane, witch-like expression of her face. When I took the candle to examine her features more closely, she cried out, "Look at me, O son of man!" She said that I had great powers, and was capable of doing everything, since I had come so far, and could make an image of her upon paper. She asked whether we were married, saying we could hardly travel so much if we were; yet she thought it much better to be married and stay at home. I gave her a rigsdaler, which she took with joyful surprise, saying, "What! am I to get my coffee and tobacco, and be paid too? Thanks, O son of man, for your great goodness!" She chuckled very much over the drawing, saying that the dress was exactly right.
In the afternoon we took another reindeer drive to Muonioniska, paying a visit to Pastor Fali, the clergyman whom we had met at Forstrom's. This time I succeeded very well, making the trip without a single overturn, though with several mishaps. Mr. Wolley lost the way, and we drove about at random for some time. My deer became restive, and whirled me around in the snow, filling my pulk. It was so dark that we could scarcely see, and, without knowing the ground, one could not tell where the ups and down were. The pastor received us courteously, treated us to coffee and pipes, and conversed with us for some time. He had not, as he said, a Swedish tongue, and I found it difficult to understand him. On our way back, Braisted's and Ludwig's deers ran together with mine, and, while going at full speed, B.'s jumped into my pulk. I tried in vain either to stop or drive on faster; he trampled me so violently that I was obliged to throw myself out to escape his hoofs. Fortunately the animals are not heavy enough to do any serious harm. We reached Forstrom's in season for a dinner of fat reindeer steak, cranberries, and a confect of the Arctic raspberry.
After an absence of three days Salomon, the messenger who had been sent up the river to engage reindeer for us, returned, having gone sixty miles before he could procure them. He engaged seven, which arrived the next evening, in the charge of a tall, handsome Finn, who was to be our conductor. We had, in the meantime, supplied ourselves with reindeer poesks, such as the Lapps wear,—our own furs being impracticable for pulk travelling—reindeer mittens, and boas of squirrel tails strung on reindeer sinews. The carpenter's second son, Anton, a lad of fifteen, was engaged to accompany us as an interpreter.
A REINDEER JOURNEY ACROSS LAPLAND.
We left Muoniovara at noon on the 15th, fully prepared for a three days' journey across the wilds of Lapland. We were about to traverse the barren, elevated table-land, which divides the waters of the Bothnian Gulf from those of the Northern Ocean,—a dreary, unfriendly region, inhabited only by a few wandering Lapps. Even without the prevalence of famine, we should have had difficulty in procuring food from them, so we supplied ourselves with a saddle of reindeer, six loaves of rye bread, sugar, and a can of coffee. The carpenter lent us a cup and saucer, and Anton, who felt all the responsibility of a boy who is employed for the first time, stowed everything away nicely in the broad baggage pulk. We found it impossible to procure Lapp leggings and shoes at Muoniovara, but our Russian boots proved an admirable substitute. The poesk of reindeer skin is the warmest covering for the body which could be devised. It is drawn over the head like a shirt, fitting closely around the neck and wrists, where it is generally trimmed with ermine, and reaching half-way below the knee. A thick woollen sash, wrapped first around the neck, the ends then twisted together down to the waist, where they are passed tightly around the body and tied in front, not only increases the warmth and convenience of the garment, but gives it a highly picturesque air. Our sea-otter caps, turned down so as to cover the ears and forehead, were fastened upon our heads with crimson handkerchiefs, and our boas, of black and red squirrel tails, passed thrice around the neck, reached to the tips of our noses. Over our dog-skin mittens we drew gauntlets of reindeer skin, with which it was difficult to pick up or take hold of anything; but as the deer's rein is twisted around one's wrist, their clumsiness does not interfere with the facility of driving. It would seem impossible for even Arctic cold to penetrate through such defences—and yet it did.
Herr Forstrom prepared us for the journey by a good breakfast of reindeer's marrow, a justly celebrated Lapland delicacy, and we set out with a splendidly clear sky and a cold of 12 deg. below zero. The Muonio valley was superb, towards sunrise, with a pale, creamy, saffron light on the snow, the forests on the tops of the hills burning like jagged masses of rough opal, and the distant range of Palastyntre bathed in pink light, with pure sapphire shadows on its northern slopes. These Arctic illuminations are transcendent; nothing can equal them, and neither pen nor pencil can describe them. We passed through Muonioniska, and kept up the Russian side, over an undulating, wooded country. The road was quite good, but my deer, in spite of his size and apparent strength, was a lazy beast, and gave me much trouble. I was obliged to get out of the pulk frequently and punch him in the flanks, taking my chance to tumble in headlong as he sprang forward again. I soon became disgusted with reindeer travelling, especially when, after we had been on the road two hours and it was nearly dark, we reached Upper Muonioniska, only eight miles. We there took the river again, and made better progress to Kyrkessuando, the first station, where we stopped an hour to feed the deer. Here there was a very good little inn, with a bed for travellers.
We had seven reindeer, two of which ran loose, so that we could change occasionally on the road. I insisted on changing mine at once, and received in return a smaller animal, which made up in spirit what he lacked in strength. Our conductor was a tall, handsome Finn, with blue eyes and a bright, rosy complexion. His name was Isaac, but he was better known by his nickname of Pitka Isaaki, or Long Isaac. He was a slow, good-humoured, prudent, careful fellow, and probably served our purpose as well as anybody we could have found. Anton, however, who made his first journey with us, was invaluable. His father had some misgivings on account of his timidity, but he was so ambitious to give satisfaction that we found him forward enough.
I have already described the country through which we passed, as it was merely a continuation of the scenery below Muonioniska—low, wooded hills, white plains, and everywhere snow, snow, snow, silence and death. The cold increased to 33 deg. below zero, obliging me to bury my nose in my boa and to keep up a vigorous exercise of my toes to prevent them from freezing, as it is impossible to cover one's boots in a pulk. The night was calm, clear, and starry; but after an hour a bank of auroral light gradually arose in the north, and formed a broad arch, which threw its lustre over the snow and lighted up our path. Almost stationary at first, a restless motion after a time agitated the gleaming bow; it shot out broad streamers of yellow fire, gathered them in and launched them forth again, like the hammer of Thor, which always returned to his hand, after striking the blow for which it had been hurled. The most wonderful appearance, however, was an immense square curtain, which fell from all the central part of the arch. The celestial scene-shifters were rather clumsy, for they allowed one end to fall lower than the other, so that it over-lapped and doubled back upon itself in a broad fold. Here it hung for probably half an hour, slowly swinging to and fro, as if moved by a gentle wind. What new spectacle was in secret preparation behind it we did not learn, for it was hauled up so bunglingly that the whole arch broke and fell in, leaving merely a pile of luminous ruins under the Polar Star.
Hungry and nearly frozen, we reached Palajoki at half-past nine, and were at once ushered into the guests' room, a little hut separated from the main building. Here, barring an inch of ice on the windows and numerous windy cracks in the floor, we felt a little comfort before an immense fire kindled in the open chimney. Our provisions were already adamantine; the meat was transformed into red Finland granite, and the bread into mica-slate. Anton and the old Finnish landlady, the mother of many sons, immediately commenced the work of thawing and cooking, while I, by the light of fir torches, took the portrait of a dark-haired, black-eyed, olive-skinned, big-nosed, thick-lipped youth, who gave his name as Eric Johan Sombasi. When our meal of meat, bread, and coffee had been despatched, the old woman made a bed of reindeer skins for us in one corner, covered with a coarse sheet, a quilt, and a sheepskin blanket. She then took her station near the door, where several of the sons were already standing, and all appeared to be waiting in silent curiosity to see us retire. We undressed with genuine Finnish freedom of manner, deliberately enough for them to understand the peculiarities of our apparel, and they never took their eyes from us until we were stowed away for the night in our warm nest.
It was snowing and blowing when we arose. Long Isaac had gone to the woods after the reindeer, and we employed the delay in making a breakfast off the leavings of our supper. Crossing the Muonio at starting, we entered the Russian territory and drove up the bed of the Palajok, a tributary stream which comes down from the north. The sky became clearer as the dawn increased; the road was tolerably broken, and we sped merrily along the windings of the river, under its tall banks fringed with fir trees, which, loaded with snow, shone brilliantly white against the rosy sky. The temperature was 8 deg. below zero, which felt unpleasantly warm, by contrast with the previous evening.
After a time we left the river and entered a rolling upland—alternate thickets of fir and birch, and wastes of frozen marsh, where our path was almost obliterated. After more than two hours' travel we came upon a large lake, at the further end of which, on the southern side of a hill, was the little hamlet of Suontajarvi. Here we stopped to bait the deer, Braisted's and mine being nearly fagged out. We entered one of the huts, where a pleasant woman was taking charge of a year-old baby. There was no fire on the hearth, and the wind whistled through the open cracks of the floor. Long Isaac and the woman saluted each other by placing their right arms around each other's waists, which is the universal manner of greeting in Finland. They only shake hands as a token of thanks for a favour.
We started again at noon, taking our way across a wilderness of lakes and snow-covered marshes, dotted with stunted birch-thickets. The road had entirely disappeared, but Eric of Palajoki, who accompanied us as an extra guide, went ahead with a strong reindeer and piloted us. The sagacity with which these animals find the track under a smooth covering of loose snow, is wonderful. They follow it by the feet, of course, but with the utmost ease and rapidity, often while going at full speed. I was struck by the sinuous, mazy character of our course, even where the ground was level, and could only account for it by the supposition that the first track over the light snow had followed the smoothest and firmest ridges of the marshes. Our progress was now slow and toilsome, and it was not long before my deer gave up entirely. Long Isaac, seeing that a change must be made, finally decided to give me a wild, powerful animal, which he had not yet ventured to intrust to either of us.
The deer was harnessed to my pulk, the rein carefully secured around my wrist, and Long Isaac let go his hold. A wicked toss of the antlers and a prodigious jump followed, and the animal rushed full tilt upon Braisted, who was next before me, striking him violently upon the back. The more I endeavored to rein him in, the more he plunged and tore, now dashing against the led deer, now hurling me over the baggage pulk, and now leaping off the track into bottomless beds of loose snow. Long Isaac at last shouted to me to go ahead and follow Eric, who was about half a mile in advance. A few furious plunges carried me past our little caravan, with my pulk full of snow, and my face likewise. Now, lowering his neck and thrusting out his head, with open mouth and glaring eyes, the deer set off at the top of his speed.
Away I went, like a lance shot out from the auroral armoury; the pulk slid over the snow with the swiftness of a fish through the water; a torrent of snow-spray poured into my lap and showered against my face, until I was completely blinded. Eric was overtaken so quickly that he had no time to give me the track, and as I was not in a condition to see or hear anything, the deer, with the stupidity of his race, sprang directly upon him, trampled him down, and dragged me and my pulk over him. We came to a stand in the deep snow, while Eric shook himself and started again. My deer now turned and made for the caravan, but I succeeded in pulling his head around, when he charged a second time upon Eric, who threw himself out of his pulk to escape. My strength was fast giving way, when we came to a ridge of deep, loose snow, in which the animals sank above their bellies, and up which they could hardly drag us. My deer was so exhausted when we reached the top, that I had no further difficulty in controlling him.
Before us stretched a trackless plain, bounded by a low mountain ridge. Eric set off at a fast trot, winding hither and thither, as his deer followed the invisible path. I kept close behind him, white as a Polar bear, but glowing like a volcano under my furs. The temperature was 10 deg. below zero, and I could have wished it ten degrees colder. My deer, although his first savage strength was spent, was still full of spirit, and I began to enjoy this mode of travel. We soon entered the hills, which were covered with thickets of frozen birch, with here and there a tall Scotch fir, completely robed in snow. The sun, which had showed about half his disc at noon, was now dipping under the horizon, and a pure orange glow lighted up the dazzling masses of the crystal woods. All was silver-clear, far and near, shining, as if by its own light, with an indescribable radiance. We had struck upon a well-beaten track on entering the hills, and flew swiftly along through this silent splendour, this jewelled solitude, under the crimson and violet mode of the sky. Here was true Northern romance; here was poetry beyond all the Sagas and Eddas that ever were written.