After this story the Lapps lighted their pipes and puffed away. Then one passed his snuffbox round, each taking a pinch of snuff. I took one, and I had immediately a fit of sneezing that lasted quite a while, to the great amusement of my Lapp friends. One of the latter then told the following story:
"Some winters ago, while a number of us were on skees on our way to church, which was about one hundred miles away, we saw in the distance quite a number of wolves, following the Chief of the Pack. He was easily recognized, not only because he seemed larger than the others, but because he was always in the lead, and when he stopped they did likewise. It was fortunate that we were on skees instead of in sleighs, for the reindeer would have become unmanageable in their fright and would certainly have been attacked by the wolves. We were armed with our bludgeons, and three of us had guns. The wolves, which had seen us, came in our direction and when at about a quarter of a mile from us stopped and suddenly held a consultation, then advanced again towards us. When they had come within shooting distance I aimed with my gun at the Chief of the Pack, who stood by himself, and killed him. Immediately the other wolves precipitated themselves upon him and fought over his body and devoured him. In the mean time we shot two others. Those likewise were devoured by their comrades. It did not take the wolves much time to devour their three companions. It was done in the twinkling of an eye. The wolves were so voracious because they had not eaten for several days. This is the time when they follow men and sometimes attack them when they are a large pack together.
"The other wolves made off, cowed by the death of their three comrades, but soon stopped and held a consultation among themselves again, and soon we saw one among them take the lead. This was the new Chief of the Pack that had been chosen by them. Then they walked towards us again, and we were ready to meet them on our skees. Our object was to kill this new Chief of the Pack. I aimed at him and succeeded in killing him also. He had hardly fallen when he was set upon and devoured. Now the appetite of the wolves was more or less satisfied, and after we had killed another they fled as they saw him fall; once in a while they looked back towards us, but having no chief they did not know what to do until they had chosen another—and they disappeared in the distance."
IN SEARCH OF WOLVES.—A LARGE PACK.—THEY HOLD A CONSULTATION.—THEIR FIERCE ATTACK ON THE REINDEER.—PURSUING THEM ON SKEES.—KILLING THE CHIEF OF THE PACK.
The following day a great snowstorm swept over the land, and during that time the Lapps were much in fear that prowling wolves would get into the midst of their herds and that we should be unable to see them on account of the storm.
When the snowstorm was over, the Lapps said to me: "We are going to scour the country for miles around and look out for wolves, for now is a good time to hunt them because the snow is soft. They sink into it as they run, and we can go much faster than they do on our skees, and so overtake them and fell them with our bludgeons." And they asked if I would accompany them.
"Yes," I replied, without hesitation, and added, "I hope we shall meet wolves."
The Lapps left by twos and threes and went in different directions. One of them and myself took our way directly east.
After travelling a few miles I espied a black speck very far away, for I am long-sighted. This at first I thought to be the top of birch trees above the snow, as before; but I was not quite sure, and as I walked along on my skees I kept a sharp lookout. Suddenly I thought the black spot was moving. I stopped and watched. There was no mistake, the spot was moving. It was a large pack of wolves. And they were apparently coming towards us. I called to my companion, and pointing to the spot said to him: "Look there. I think I see wolves." He looked for a while, then with glittering eyes he said, "Paulus, you are right; they are wolves."
We stood still to watch them. The spot was getting bigger and bigger as the wolves came nearer. They made a large pack; but they were still too far away for us to be able to guess how many there were. I wondered if they were coming to attack us. They certainly would if they had had no food for several days, for hunger makes them very bold and fierce.
I looked at my gun. It was all right. My pouch was filled with buckshot cartridges. My hunting knife hung by my side. My Lapp held his bludgeon tightly in his hands. No wolf could run as fast as he could when he was on his skees, and he could run away from them if he was not equal to the contest and if there were too many after him.
"The wolves have perhaps scented the reindeer," said he; "they have to come in our direction to reach the herds."
Not far from where we stood was a big boulder that was not entirely buried in the snow. "Let us hide behind it, and watch," said my companion.
After we had come to the boulder, the Lapp hid at one end of it, I at the other. From our hiding-place we could peep out and keep a sharp lookout on the wolves.
The wolves were coming nearer and nearer. I tried to count them, and I thought there were about thirty. I soon recognized the Chief of the Pack. He was bigger and appeared darker than the rest. He was walking quite ahead of all the pack. They seemed to become more cautious as they neared us. What was the reason? We held a consultation. The Lapp said, "The wind has shifted and is blowing from the wolves towards us, so they cannot scent us, and it is by mere chance they are coming in this direction. They have evidently come from the great Finland forest east of us."
Suddenly the Chief of the Pack stopped, and all the wolves stopped also. Then he advanced alone slowly while the remainder of the pack stood still. Then the wolves came to join him. They were now evidently holding a consultation, talking wolf fashion among themselves, or listening to their Chief, who had something to say. "What are the wolves up to?" I inquired of the Lapp.
"They are planning some mischief," he replied.
Then they divided themselves into two packs, the old Chief having the greater number of wolves with him. The new pack with its Chief turned to the right, the ones with the old Chief remaining at the same place. I said to the Lapp, "How strange is the wolves' behavior! Apparently the long conversation they had among themselves was to arrange a plan of campaign and to divide themselves into two packs."
"That is so," replied he. "Wolves are very knowing, and by their tactics fool us very often."
I replied, "We will try to fool them this time, and kill many of them. The reindeer must be protected."
"I believe," continued the Lapp, "that the new pack that has left is going to take our reindeer in the rear and attack them, and those which remain here are going to wait for this attack. The reindeer in their fright will run in the opposite direction and fall into the midst of these wolves that we see, and which are waiting for them. The cunning of wolves is wonderful. When a pack attacks a herd of reindeer there are always some of them lying in wait somewhere else.
"You stay here and watch. I must go and warn our people that the wolves have come among us. We have been expecting them every hour. It is very seldom when their tracks are seen that they do not attack our reindeer. I will return very soon."
"All right," I said. I had plenty of buckshot, and with my back to the boulder I was not afraid of being attacked in the rear, and I could face them without fear, fire at them, and kill a number of them.
After the Lapp had gone I watched the pack carefully. The wolves stood still for a long time. They were looking in a certain direction. I tried to find what they were looking at, but saw nothing. Suddenly they advanced, turning away slightly from the boulder, then walked faster, headed by the Chief of the Pack. There seemed to be great excitement among them. I looked in the direction whither they were moving, when I saw a lot of reindeer coming towards them, pursued by wolves from behind and Lapps and dogs following them. What the Lapp had said had come to pass; the wolves had attacked the reindeer in the rear, and the pack that had stood still was ready for the fray and to attack them in front. I was also prepared for the fight—ready to kill all the wolves I could.
Now I saw reindeer in every direction—wolves among them, and the Lapps everywhere, moving at great speed on their skees. They seemed to fly over the snow. Suddenly I saw one coming near a wolf which was running after a reindeer, and passing by his side give with his bludgeon a blow that broke the back of the beast, which gave a fearful howl. In the mean time the Lapp wheeled round, came back, and finished him by a blow on the head.
I saw further on a poor reindeer in his death struggle with two wolves that had fastened upon his neck. Two Lapps had seen this also, and armed with their bludgeons they came at full speed, and as quick as the flight of an arrow they passed on each side of the poor reindeer and broke the fore legs of the wolves, which fell on their backs howling. The Lapps wheeled round, returned and gave them two terrific blows on their heads, which stunned them; then they killed them. I had heard the sound of the blows.
The wolves had become very fierce in their attacks. I wanted to pursue them on my skees, but unfortunately I was not skilful enough to do so. The reindeer were fleeing, pursued by the wolves which were in their midst. It was a fight for life. I saw four wolves attacking a bull while he was charging one of them and had almost pierced him with his antlers. The three other wolves sprang upon him, their big teeth in his flesh. He ran with them for a while, then the noble animal fell.
Another wolf came near me and succeeded in bringing down a young reindeer that was running away with all his might. I sent a lot of buckshot through him and killed him on the spot, but I was too late to save the life of the poor reindeer; and in an instant the dying wolf was attacked by his voracious comrades, which precipitated themselves upon him and tore him to pieces and devoured him. I looked at this scene with so much astonishment that I forgot to fire another shot at the wolves.
Several wolves were killed, and at last all were put to flight. Our victory was complete. I recognized the Chief of the Pack among the slain. What a big fellow he was! What ugly-looking teeth he had! The wolves after this attack were completely disorganized, and fled in different directions.
In the mean time my Lapp, true to his word, had rejoined me. He said: "These wolves understand each other, and have agreed among themselves to meet somewhere in the great forest east of us. They will visit us again in small packs, so we must be on the watch constantly." Then with a sigh he said: "Now we are going to have a hard time to bring the reindeer of each owner together."
The day after the slaying of the wolves, I bade good-bye to the Lapps and once more started to wander over the great snowy waste of "The Land of the Long Night."
GREAT SKILL OF THE LAPPS WITH THEIR SKEES.—LEAPING OVER WIDE GULLIES AND RIVERS.—PRODIGIOUS LENGTH OF THEIR LEAPS.—ACCURACY OF THEIR COASTING.—I START THEM BY WAVING THE AMERICAN FLAG.
I was once more travelling westward, and two days afterward fell in with another company of nomadic Lapps. We became, as usual, good friends.
One day they said to me: "Paulus, the snow is in a very fine condition for skeeing, and we are going to have some fun among ourselves, and run down steep hills on our skees and try our skill in making leaps in the air across a chasm there is over yonder, with a river beyond, and find out who can make the longest leap and be the champion. We want you to come with us, for there will be great fun."
I replied, "I am certainly coming, for I have never seen such a game before, and I like fun. Yes, boys, I like fun." They laughed heartily when they heard me say this.
We made ready, and started on our skees, and after a run of about four miles the Lapps stopped near the edge of a long and very steep hill, at the foot of which was a plain.
There they said to me: "There is a wide gully, which you cannot see, before reaching the bottom of the hill, and further down is a river. We will go down this hill and leap over both the gully and the river on our skees. Of course, the greater our speed, the longer the leap we make. The danger is in not being able to reach the ledge on the other side; but this makes the fun more exciting. It is very seldom, however, that accidents happen, for no one undertakes these dangerous leaps unless he is very sure of himself."
"What happens then," I asked, "if the leap falls short?"
"Then," he answered, "you may break your leg, or arm, or your neck; but I do not know of any such misfortunes happening, though we hear once in a great while in the mountains of an accident which results in death. One of the great dangers in skeeing is that of striking a boulder hidden under the crust of snow, or of falling over an unseen precipice. When we are small children we learn to leap forward in the air and come down on our skees, beginning by making small leaps from insignificant heights, increasing the leap gradually as we have more practice, and so becoming stronger and more agile and skilful in going down a hill."
Thereupon the Lapps took up their position along the brink of the hill and stood in a straight line about ten or fifteen yards from each other. It was a fine sight. At a given signal they started on their skees, holding in one hand their sticks to be used as rudders to guide them. They slid down at tremendous speed; suddenly I saw them fly through the air, and then land below on their skees. They had leaped over the gully. Then they continued their course faster than before, on account of the momentum of the leap, and as they reached the bottom of the hill they made another leap in the air, which took them over the river to the plain beyond. After going a little further, for they could not stop at once, they came to a halt. Then returning they examined the leaps, to see who among them had made the longest one.
After they had ascertained who was the champion in the first contest, they continued to ascend the hill in zigzags on their skees, and after this tiresome task they came to where they had left me.
I said to them, "Friends, I am going down the hill, for I shall then be able to see better your great leaping feats, and how wide and deep is the space you leap over, for from the top of the hill it cannot be seen. Wonderful, indeed, are your skill and daring! Such tremendous leaps as you made can never be accomplished by man except on skees. I wish I could have been brought up to go on skees like yourselves, from my childhood, then I should enjoy this greatly, and compete for the championship. It is far better fun than skating." "Certainly," they shouted with one voice, "there is ten times more fun in skeeing than in skating. It is like all sports, the more danger there is in them the greater are the excitement and the interest."
"But," said I, "I must go down this hill in a roundabout way, for I do not want to fall into the hollow over which you leaped."
"It would not hurt you," they cried; "you would find plenty of snow at the bottom if you should fall in." It was agreed that one of the Lapps should go with me and show me the way through a less steep descent to the chasm. We made the descent successfully, and came to a good position from which I could see the men make the great leap.
Looking up, I saw all the Lapps in position ready for the descent and waiting for the raising of the little American flag I always carried with me,—a custom which dates from the time of my travels in Africa—as the signal to start. As I unfolded it, I kissed it with great affection. How beautiful the stars and stripes looked as they waved in the breeze and over the snow!
At this signal the Lapps started. Suddenly I noticed that one of them—the last one in the row—bore down directly upon me. "Goodness!" I said to my companion, pointing out to him the Lapp above, "suppose this man as he comes down should happen to strike me."
The Lapp heard me with a smile, and replied: "Paulus, do not be afraid; he will guide his skees as skilfully as a skilful boatman steers his boat. I think perhaps he intends to touch you with his hands as he passes by you, so do not be frightened; do not move an inch; he is one of the most skilful among us."
He had hardly finished these words when the Lapp with railroad speed and dangerously close bore down upon me, and before I could realize it passed in front of me within three feet, without however touching me, as my companion had predicted. Still it took my breath away; my heart beat so quickly. Down he went. Before I had time to recover I saw the Lapps in the air, over the chasm, then in the twinkling of an eye they had alighted on the other side. Their momentum was very great, and in less than a minute they had leaped over the river, and continued their forward course, which they could not stop, on the plain below; then lessened their speed gradually with the help of their sticks, the ends of which were thrust deep in the snow.
It was a grand sight. As they leaped over their legs were somewhat bent, and as they struck the snow they righted themselves. While in the air they maintained their skees parallel, as if they had been on the snow, and when they alighted the skees were on a perfect level with each other; no man seemed to be more than two or three feet ahead of another.
I had followed their motions with great curiosity. They seemed to give a spring as they came near the brink of the chasm, bending their bodies forward, straightening themselves as they struck the snow, and continuing their way as if nothing had happened.
On their way back, as they neared me I shouted, "Good for you, boys! Good for you! It was splendid." I shook hands with every one of them. They were very much excited over the sport.
The hollow over which they leaped seemed to be about ninety-five feet wide, and the place from which they sprang was about twelve or fifteen feet above the bank on the other side. They told me that some of the great leaps in the country had been over one hundred and twenty-five feet.
"Is it possible!" I exclaimed; "it seems incredible."
Then the Lapp who had passed so near me said to me, "You were afraid I would strike you on my way down. We can pass an object far below us within a few inches when we like. We will show you how we do by and by."
The Lapps once more ascended the hill, and I took a new position by the river and waited for them to come down. They started in the same way as before and came down with very great speed, leaped over the gully, and in an instant, seemingly, they were in the air over the river—a leap of about sixty or seventy feet.
I shouted again, "Well done, boys! Well done!" I was terribly excited myself.
Then they came to me and said: "Now we are going to have a new game." They planted several sticks in the snow in different positions on the declivity of the hill, and said, "Paulus, we are going to show you how near we can come to those sticks; we will almost touch them with our skees."
When they were ready I raised my flag. They came down the hill almost with the same rapidity as before, but pushed their guiding sticks deeper into the snow; and most of them came within a few inches of the sticks.
After passing one they would change their direction and move to another, either on the left or right, further down.
This terminated the day's sport. We returned to our encampment. I had had a day of great delight.
WE ENCOUNTER MORE WOLVES.—MY GUIDE KILLS TWO WITH HIS BLUDGEON.—A VISITING TRIP WITH A LAPP FAMILY.—EXTRAORDINARY SPEED OF REINDEER.—WE STRIKE A BOULDER.—LAKE GIVIJAeRVI.—EASTWARD AGAIN.
Now I kept a sharp lookout over the horizon as we drove along, for I thought wolves might make their appearance again at any moment. My Lapp guide was also apprehensive.
When we stopped for our meals he said to me, "If our reindeer scent or see wolves, they will become uncontrollable. It will be impossible for us to stop them, and if we try to keep in our sleighs we shall be surely upset, for the animals will be so wild from fright. We had better have our skees handy, so that we can throw them out of our sleighs and then jump out ourselves."
Then, brandishing his bludgeon, he said fiercely, "I will make short work of some of them. They will never run after any more reindeer."
I brandished my gun, and cried, "Woe to the wolves if they come near us. I will give them enough buckshot to make them jump."
We continued our journey, the Lapp keeping close to me. Suddenly he stopped and said, "Paulus, I am going to tie your sleigh behind mine and fasten your reindeer to it. I do not know why, but I have an idea, somehow, that there are wolves around, and I expect to see them at any moment. At any rate it is better to be prepared for them."
After my sleigh was attached as he had said, we resumed our journey, I, quietly seated in my sleigh, having no reindeer to drive, only using my stick as a rudder. About two hours afterwards as we skirted a forest of fir trees we suddenly saw two wolves skulking in the distance. Fortunately we discovered them before the reindeer did. We threw out our skees, and then the Lapp with his bludgeon and I with my gun jumped out. We were hardly out when our reindeer scented the wolves and plunged wildly in their efforts to escape, and we had to let them go, for we could not hold them.
The Lapp in an instant was on his skees armed with his bludgeon. He made directly for the wolves at tremendous speed. He seemed to fly over the snow, and before I knew it he had slain a wolf by giving him a mighty blow on his skull. Then like a bird of prey he made for the other wolf. The animal stood still, ready to bite him, but the Lapp passed by him like a flash and gave him a terrible blow on his mouth which broke his teeth. Then after he had stopped the speed of his skees, he turned back and gave him his deathblow.
After he had taken breath, he said to me, "Paulus, wait here, for you cannot 'skee' fast enough. I must go after our runaway reindeer and our sleighs," and off he went. He followed the tracks they had left behind them.
I waited one hour, two hours,—I thought he would never come back. Finally I saw a little black speck over the snow. It was my Lapp, and soon he was by my side with reindeer and sleighs.
In the afternoon we came to a tent, where we were kindly received, and there we slept. The next morning the owner of the tent said to me, "The snow is very fine for sleighing, for it is crisp and well packed. The weather is cold and travelling with reindeer could not be better, for the animals will feel fine. Some of my people and I want to go and visit my brother and his family. Will you come with us?"
"Yes," I replied, "I shall be very glad to go with you."
A short time after this five reindeer made their appearance; they were all males, and splendid animals,—Samoyeds, the finest and largest I had thus far seen. Their antlers were superb.
"These reindeer," said their owner, "are the fastest I have, and are in their prime for driving, for they are between six and eight years old, the age when they are the strongest. They have not been used for two weeks, so they feel very frisky; and it being so cold they will run at a rate that will perhaps scare you, and I am sure they will go as fast as they ever did. No reindeer that I know of can keep pace with them. I have taken great care in training them."
I was delighted at the thought of travelling with such fast animals, and I replied, "I am sure I shall enjoy the drive."
Then everybody got ready for the start. My host, pointing to one of the biggest reindeer, said to me, "This one will be yours, and you will follow me."
We were hardly ready when the reindeer started at a furious rate and in the wildest way. The Lapps held their reins as hard as they could and threw themselves across their sleighs and were carried in that way for a little distance. It was a most ludicrous sight, the like of which I had never seen! But they all succeeded in getting in—they were masters of the situation.
How they succeeded in getting in I could not tell, it was certainly a great feat of gymnastics. My reindeer had started with the rest and was ahead of them all, but soon the Lapps overtook me.
We went on at a tremendous rate. These were indeed the fastest reindeer I had ever travelled with. It was a good thing that I had learned how to balance myself in those little Lapp sleighs. I did not mind any more their swinging to and fro. I rather liked the excitement. And it was exciting enough! We went so fast that things appeared and disappeared almost before I had time to look at them.
We sped with such rapidity that I fancied I was travelling on the Pennsylvania railroad, as I often had done on the Limited to Chicago on the way to see my Scandinavian friends and others. I was thinking of that splendid train with its luxurious cars—of the observation cars with their comfortable chairs, sofas, library; of the bath room, stenographer, and barber, and polite employees, and all the comforts travellers had. Suddenly I thought of its fine dining-room cars, and as I was hungry I imagined I was seated before one of its tables, with snowy-white linen, and enjoying a glorious meal,—oysters, capon, roast beef, vegetables of several kinds, and puddings and fruits; the ice cream I dismissed, for I did not feel like having any, it was so cold. Then I thought of its comfortable beds—when suddenly a tremendous bumping, which almost threw me out, reminded me that I was not on that luxurious train. I had struck a snag or boulder. This made it clear at once that I was dreaming and was not on the Chicago Limited, but that I was travelling in "The Land of the Long Night."
The air was so rarefied, the drive so exciting, that I shouted with all my might, "Go on, reindeer, go on. This is fine, I never had such a drive in my life."
After two hours, and a drive of nearly fifty miles, we alighted before a Lapp tent. The dogs, and there were many, announced our arrival by fierce barking, and the inmates of the tent came out to see who the strangers were. They recognized my friends and received them with demonstrations of joy, which was the more remarkable as the Lapps are far from being demonstrative.
The next day in the afternoon we returned to our tent, the reindeer as frisky as the day before and running as fast. I have never forgotten those two glorious rides, and I shall remember them as long as I live.
Bidding my Lapp friends good-bye I came one day to Lake Givijaervi and further on to Lake Aitijaervi. There I saw a lonely farm with a comfortable dwelling-house of logs. How pleasant this habitation seemed in that snow land. The smoke curling over the chimney told that there were people there, and soon after we were in front of the house, and I entered a large room, and saw a man with long black shaggy hair tinged with grey. His name was Adam Triump. Then a woman, his wife, came in, also with loose shaggy black hair falling over her shoulders. My guide and I were made welcome.
From there I travelled once more eastward, driving over the Ivalajoki, which falls into the Enarejaervi. If I had been travelling alone I should certainly have perished, for I did not know where to find the people of the thinly inhabited country.
THE LAPP HAMLET OF KAUTOKEINO.—A BATH IN A BIG IRON POT.—AN ARCTIC WAY OF WASHING CLOTHES.—DRESS AND ORNAMENTS OF THE LAPPS.—APPEARANCE AND HEIGHT OF THE LAPPS.—GIVIJAeRVI.—KARASJOK.
A few days after the events I have just related to you, I found myself in the Lapp hamlet of Kautokeino, with its Lutheran church, near latitude 69 degrees. Here and there were queer-looking storehouses which belonged to the nomadic Lapps. I alighted before the post station, and entered the house and was welcomed by the station master. The dwelling was composed of two rooms, one for the use of the family, the other for guests or travellers. The place was full of Lapp men and women who had come to rest, go to church on the following Sunday, or see their children who were at school; or to get coffee, sugar, and other provisions stored in their own houses.
On the opposite side of the post station was the cow house, and between it and the house was the old-fashioned wooden-bucket well with its long, swinging pole, surrounded by a thick mass of ice made of the dripping water from the bucket. I did not wonder when I saw the ice, for it was 43 degrees below zero that day, and sometimes it is colder still.
I went into the cow-house. It was, as usual, a very low building, lower than most of those I had seen before. The two long windows admitted a dim light. At the further end was the usual big iron pot seen in almost every cow-house, for soaking the grass in boiling water, as the coarse marsh grass is so hard to chew that it has to be thus prepared. The daughter of the house, a girl about twenty years old, said to me, "I am going to prepare a meal for the cows and the sheep."
The huge iron pot was filled with reindeer moss and grass and warm water. "This food is for the cows and sheep," she said. "The horse is fed on fine fragrant hay, gathered during the short summer; horses will not eat the food we give to the cows and sheep; they are very particular."
I was very much in need of a good wash and of a warm bath, for I had only used snow to wash my hands and face for many days. As I looked at the big iron pot I said to myself, "This pot will make a good wash-tub."
I went to the mistress of the house and asked her if I could take a warm bath in the big iron pot. "Certainly," she replied. Then she called her daughter, and both went to the cow-house. They cleaned the iron pot thoroughly; then filled it about two thirds full with water from the trough communicating with the well, which the old station master drew for them. They lighted a fire under the pot, and cleaned the surroundings, and laid down a reindeer skin for my feet, and a chair for me to sit on.
When the water was warm, and the fire under it extinguished, the wife said that my bath was ready.
How good I felt when I was in the big iron pot filled with warm water. I gave grunts of satisfaction. I put my head under water and thought "How good; how good the water feels."
Suddenly one of the family appeared, and before I had time to say "What do you want?" had jumped into the water all dressed and got hold of one of my legs and rubbed it with soap. Then came the turn of the other leg, then the body, head and all. I was rubbed with a brush as hard as if I had been a piece of wood that had no feelings, and as if my skin had been the bark of a tree. Two or three times I screamed out, but my attendant only laughed. After the rubbing I was switched with birch twigs till I fairly glowed, and then I was left alone. When I looked at my body my skin was as red as a tomato. The blood was in full circulation and I felt fine, for it was such a long time since I had taken a real bath that I had almost forgotten that there was such a thing.
How nice it was to put clean underwear on. How comfortable it felt. I put on a new pair of reindeer trousers, that were lent to me and that had never been worn before, and a new "kapta." Here was a good occasion to have my underwear washed, and my fur garments cleansed of everything, for it was over 40 degrees below zero. This wearing of the same clothes for a long time is the greatest hardship of travelling in winter in the Arctic regions; for in the course of time obnoxious things swarm in the fur and also in the woollen underwear. When these become unendurable the following way of washing has to be performed without soap or water.
After a person has changed his fur garments and underwear, he hangs them outside when the temperature is from 20 to 50 degrees below zero. The colder it is, the better for the clothes that are to be cleansed. These are left hanging for several days, during which time all the noxious things are killed by the intense cold. After this the underwear and the fur garments are well shaken and beaten, and then they return from this kind of laundry clean, according to the views of the Arctic regions, and are ready to be worn again. I often had my clothing washed in that manner, and also my sleeping-bags.
On Sunday many Lapps attended the Lutheran church from different parts of the country, coming either on skees or with their sleighs; those who lived far away starting the day before. Some had come even so far as one hundred and fifty miles. I was present at the religious services; the church was crowded. The clergyman was not in his clerical robes, but dressed in furs—like the rest of the congregation, for the churches are not heated.
On my return from church, the Lapps asked me where I was going. I replied I wanted to go as far as the land went north of me, as far as Nordkyn. They all wondered why I wanted to go there. They asked me if I was a merchant and bought fish. I told them I was not, but that I travelled to see the country and its people. They thought I was a very strange man, and they wondered at my ways.
This hamlet was composed of about twelve homesteads. The dwelling-houses were built of logs, those for beasts of turf or stones. By the church was the schoolhouse, and there was a large store very much like our country stores at home.
The inhabitants owned about sixty cows,—such small cows! they were about three feet in height—one hundred and seventy sheep and a few oxen as small as the cows.
Kautokeino was full of nomadic Lapps, and we had a good time together, for the Lapps are very friendly and I had learned to love them. "We come here," they said, "to meet our friends, to see our children who are in school, to get some of the provisions kept in our storehouses and other things we want; and we bring with us skins of reindeer and the garments and shoes that have been made in our tents."
In this church hamlet were a number of very old Lapps, men and women who could no longer follow their reindeer and endure a hard, wandering life. Thither also the sick or the lame come, to stay until they get well or die. Two Lapps were pointed out to me who were nearly one hundred years old.
The inhabitants of these Lapp hamlets are not nomadic; they live on the produce of their farms, the increase of their reindeer, by catching salmon, and in employing themselves as sailors on the fishing-boats of the Arctic Sea, which they reach by descending the rivers.
The Lapp women wore queer-fitting little caps of bright colors, and when in holiday dress wore a number of large showy silk handkerchiefs. Sometimes they had as many as four, on the top of one another, over their fur dresses; they wore necklaces of large glass beads, round their waists were silver belts, and their fingers were ornamented with rings. They wore trousers of reindeer skin, as the Lapp women do universally. The men wore peaked caps.
These people were short of stature, compactly but slightly built, with strong limbs, their light weight allowing them to climb, jump, and run quickly. There are no heavy men with big stomachs among them. Quite a number of Lapps have fair hair and blue eyes. They are unlike the Esquimaux, and in a crowd at home, dressed like ourselves, would pass unnoticed. There are a number of Lapps in the North-west of our own county. The tallest woman that I saw was 5 feet 1/2 inch, the tallest man 5 feet 4-1/2 inches; the smallest woman 4 feet 4-1/4 inches, the smallest man 4 feet 7 inches. There were more women averaging 4 feet 10 inches than men of that size, men averaging generally above five feet.
I left Kautokeino, and that same day I came to Lake Givijaervi. I had to be told that it was a lake, for it was a continuous snow-land. Here was a farm, the owner of which kept a small store and sold sugar, coffee, salt, flour, tobacco, matches, some woollen underwear, etc., to the Lapps; and bought from them skins, shoes, and gloves, in summer smoked tongue and reindeer meat, reindeer cheese, etc., and every year went with these to some of the Norwegian towns on the Arctic Sea to sell them and buy groceries and other goods.
Here I had a clean room and bed. The place was a great rendezvous for nomadic Lapps, and I found many of them. The farmer extended to them unbounded hospitality, and spread as many reindeer skins on the floor at night as the room could hold, for them to sleep on.
The Lapps liked the place very much, and came there to rest for a few days, bringing their food with them. Their wives and children would also come, and were sure to be welcome at the farm. I could not drink sufficient milk or coffee, or eat enough reindeer meat, cheese, or butter that had been churned in summer, to please the good-hearted farmer. He wanted no pay. He even insisted on accompanying me to Karasjok.
The sleighing was fine, and the snow was six and seven feet deep on a level. Our arrival at Karasjok, after a hundred miles' journey from Givijaervi, was announced by the fierce barking of the dogs of the place, and twice I was almost overtaken by one more fierce than the others. "They only bark," shouted my guide. I was now in latitude 69 deg. 35', and within a few miles of the longitude of Nordkyn. The hamlet was situated on the shores of the Karasjoki river. Some of the fir trees of the forests near Karasjok measured twenty inches in diameter; but once cut they do not grow again. I saw very few young trees.
The hamlet was composed of eighteen or twenty homesteads, with about one hundred and thirty inhabitants. There were over twenty horses, besides cows, sheep, and reindeer. The horses were so plentiful because they are used to haul timber. I reflected that the horse is a wonderful animal, and can live like man in many kinds of climate.
All the houses at Karasjok were built of logs. The finest residence was that of the merchant of the place. The Karasjok Lapps, and others in the neighborhood, were very unlike those I had seen before. They were tall; some of them six feet in height. The women were also tall, most of them having dark hair. The fair complexion and blue eyes were uncommon. Men and women wore strange-looking head-dresses. The men wore square caps of red or blue flannel, filled up with eider down. The women put on a wooden framework of very peculiar shape, appearing more or less like a casque or the helmet of a dragoon.
I only stopped the night in Karasjok, and after getting new reindeer at the post station and a new guide, started north.
LEAVE KARASJOK STILL TRAVELLING NORTHWARD.—THE RIVER TANA.—RIVER LAPPS.—FILTHY DWELLINGS.—ON THE WAY TO NORDKYN.—THE MOST NORTHERN LAND IN EUROPE.
On leaving Karasjok I travelled northward, over the frozen Karasjoki, until I came to a broad stream called the Tana. As we drove on the river I saw here and there solitary farms and strange little hamlets inhabited by river Lapps.
The occupation of the river Lapps is largely salmon catching in summer. These fish are very abundant in the rivers. Many, during the codfish season, engage themselves as sailors on the Arctic Sea. Almost every family has a small farm, stocked with diminutive cows; besides they have sheep and goats. During the summer their reindeer are taken care of by the nomadic Lapps. These reindeer have to go to the mountains near the Arctic Sea, on account of the mosquitoes.
Now travelling was becoming very hard,—not on account of the snow, but because the inhabitants and their dwellings were so dirty.
But I had one comfort. All over that far northern land I felt so safe; it never came into my head that these people would rob me, though they knew I had plenty of money with me, according to their ways of thinking, to pay for reindeer and other travelling expenses; but the Finns and the Lapps are a God-fearing people.
The first day, I came to a place occupied by a single man. The house was so filthy, and vermin apparently so plentiful, that I whispered to my Lapp guide, "Let us go on." The Lapp was so tired that he looked at me with astonishment, and seemed to say: "Are not these comfortable quarters?"
We got into our sleighs, however, and further on we stopped and tied our reindeer together. The Lapp slept in his sleigh covered with a reindeer skin, and I in my bag.
The next day we halted before a farm. It was dark. There we intended to spend the night. The people do not lock their doors, neither do they knock to obtain admittance. So we entered. The family were all in bed. A man lighted a light. Such filth I thought I had never seen. The beds were filled with dirty hay that had been there all winter. The sheepskin blankets with the wool on were almost as black as soot. The people who slept between them were without a particle of clothes. "What a place for vermin!" I whispered to myself.
At this sight, I again said in a low voice to my Lapp, "Let us go on." He replied, "The reindeer are hungry, and we have had no food ourselves for long hours. Let us remain overnight and breakfast here to-morrow."
In the mean time the owner of the place got up, put on a long dirty woolen shirt, and went with us into the next room, which was clean. I gave a sigh of relief. The wooden bed had no hay, no sheepskin blankets. The man got for me a clean reindeer skin which he said had just come out of the open air, where it had been for several days.
To my consternation my Lapp guide offered to sleep alongside of me, and added, "We shall be warmer if we sleep together." I was in a dilemma. I did not want to offend him, but I told him that I always slept by myself. Then the owner of the place spread another reindeer skin on the floor, and my guide slept upon it.
The next morning we breakfasted on dried reindeer meat, hard bread, and milk. After bidding our host good-bye, and thanking him for his hospitality, we continued our journey, arriving towards noon at a farm owned by a river Lapp. The farm had three buildings; only the wife and daughter were at home. The husband was cod fishing in the Arctic Sea. The wife told me she had been a sailor before she was married, and engaged in cod fishing.
There were on this farm three diminutive cows, an ox of the size of the cows, nine sheep, and they owned besides quite a number of reindeer. The cows were getting smaller and smaller as I went north. In the little dwelling-house was a small room for a stranger; reindeer skins made the mattress. My guide and I ate together. We had excellent coffee, smoked reindeer meat, and milk.
Further on we stopped awhile at a little farm owned by a woman and her daughter. The mother and daughter worked as if they were men; they fished for salmon in the river in summer, mowed hay, collected reindeer moss to feed their cows, went after wood. A faithful dog was their companion. At some seasons the daughter descended the river, and engaged herself as one of the crew on board of a fishing boat on the Arctic Ocean.
Resuming our journey we passed the church hamlet of Utsjoki. Near Utsjoki I met some nomadic Lapps, who had a large herd of reindeer with them, and were willing to take me to Nordkyn. That night I slept in their tent. Early the next morning they lassoed some very fine reindeer, which had superb horns and had not been used for quite a while. I did not care now how fast the reindeer went, for I could keep inside of my sleigh. The men said: "We will meet on the promontory Lapps with their reindeer herds, and if it is very stormy we can go into their tent."
Soon after we started.
They were not mistaken in regard to the speed of their beasts. They set off at a furious pace, and it was all I could do to keep inside of my sleigh. My pride was up, and I was bound to do my utmost not to upset.
We finally reached the high promontory which divides the Laxe from the Tana fjord, at the extremity of which is Nordkyn. It was blowing a gale right from the north, and we had to protect our faces with our masks. Fortunately we came to a Lapp encampment, and were received with great kindness and hospitality; enjoyed a good meal of reindeer meat, and a good sleep afterwards.
The next morning the weather was fine, and I drove on to Kjorgosk Njarg—hard name to pronounce—the most northern land in Europe.
The land's end was nearing, and erelong I stood on the edge of Cape Nordkyn, 71 deg. 6' 50"—the most northern end of the continent of Europe, and rising majestically over seven hundred feet above the level of the sea. Before me was the Arctic Ocean, and beyond, a long way off and unseen by me, was the impenetrable wall of ice which the Long Night had built to guard the Pole.
From there I could see North Cape.
LEAVE NORDKYN.—FRANTIC EFFORTS OF THE REINDEER TO KEEP THEIR FOOTING ON THE ICE.—THE BEAR'S NIGHT.—FOXES AND ERMINES.—WEIRD CRIES OF FOXES.—BUILDING SNOW HOUSES.—SHOOTING-BOXES.—KILLING FOXES.—TRAPS FOR ERMINES.—A SNOW OWL.
Nordkyn being the land's end, I could not go further north, so I retraced my steps southward. That afternoon we saw on the other side of a frozen lakelet the tent of some nomadic Lapps, and we made preparations to cross the lake to go and see them.
While we were in the midst of the lake the wind rose, and before we knew it the ice was left bare around us, and our reindeer could not run or walk over it, it was so slippery. They would fall at every step they made, making all kinds of contortions to try to stand on their legs; their hoofs could not possibly hold on fast to the ice. We got out of our sleighs to help them. I said to myself that reindeer ought to be shod, especially to go over the ice.
It was awful—the poor beasts made frantic efforts to get on, but could not. I thought we should never be able to cross the lake, and that we should be obliged to abandon the reindeer, or try to put them into our sleighs, and drag these ourselves to the shore. But we watched our opportunity, and when a layer of snow was blown in our way, we succeeded in making some headway. At last we reached the shore, after three or four hours of hard work.
The Lapps received us very kindly.
That night I heard the weird and dismal howls of foxes. They sounded so strange in the stillness of darkness. In the morning I asked the Lapps how many kinds of foxes were found in the country. "There are red, blue, and black foxes," they answered. "During the Bear's Night or winter months the blue foxes and the gray hares turn white; the fur of the black fox is tipped with white, and he is known as the silver-gray fox, the fur thus tipped being very valuable. The ptarmigan also, a species of grouse, turns white during the Bear's Night."
I asked the Lapps, "Why do you call the winter months the 'Bear's Night'?"
"Because," one replied, "in this land the bears sleep all through the winter months."
"Goodness!" I exclaimed; "then the bear has a sleep that lasts five or six months, and even more?"
"Yes," the Lapp replied.
"Are there any bears here," I asked, "that are sleeping in the neighborhood?—for I should like immensely to stir one up."
"There are none this year," he replied.
Then I said to him, "Let us go fox hunting, for I should like to get some white and silver-gray fox-skins. We will build a snow house for our camp to shelter ourselves." One of the Lapps, called Jakob, agreed to go with me.
Besides hunting foxes, we were to trap ermines and kill white hares, for I wanted to have a rug of their skins. I remembered that I had slept between two rugs of white hare skins, and how beautiful, soft, and warm they were.
After this talk Jakob went off after reindeer, and returned with three of them. In a short time our preparations for camping were made. We took with us our sleeping-bags, some reindeer meat, a little salt, some hard bread, a coffee kettle, coffee, a small iron pot to cook our food in, two wooden shovels to help us in building a snow house and clearing the ground of snow, our skees, guns, and ammunition. I did not forget a couple of wax candles, for I always carried some with me, and plenty of matches, besides a steel and flints in case some accident should happen to our matches. We took also a few slender poles, upon which we intended to hang our meat to keep it out of reach of prowling carnivorous animals. These carefully packed and made secure in a special sleigh, we started. Our sleighs glided along as if they were going on smooth ice.
After a journey of four hours, having travelled about sixty miles, we came to the shores of a lake, and at one end were two conical dwellings belonging to fishing or river Lapps. The smoke curling above their tops showed us the people were at home.
"Here," said Jakob, "we will build our snow houses. I think we shall find plenty of foxes in the neighborhood, for the country is full of ptarmigans, and the foxes prey upon them."
We tied our reindeer with long ropes, so that they should have plenty of room to dig for moss. Then we began to build our snow house. It was so cold that the snow did not hold well together, so we concluded to make two instead of one, just big enough for each of us to sleep in and be protected from the great cold. It was hard work. When finished they were a little over five feet and a half long and some three feet wide inside.
"I like this much better than going in and sleeping in the dwellings of the river or fishing Lapps yonder," I said to Jakob.
Clearing a space for our fire in front, we put up three long poles we had carried with us, and hung our meat high up upon them, so that wolves and foxes could not get at it. Then we put our sleighs containing our outfit on the top of each other and made them fast with cords. When this was done Jakob said: "Foxes are often very bold, and they come and rummage around the tents; and when famished they bite everything they get hold of. We shall be able to hear them from our snow houses if they try to get into our sleighs."
We had carried with us a few sticks of dry wood to be used as firewood, but Jakob knew the country well and that near us were some junipers, the branches of which appeared above the snow, and he went and gathered some of them. The wood of the juniper, though green, burns well, for it is full of resinous matter.
Our camp was now ready. The day's work being done we lighted a fire, cooked a piece of reindeer meat for our supper, and made coffee. Jakob, as usual, had some dried fish skin with him to clarify the coffee. After our meal we went into our snow houses, and taking off my Lapp grass and stockings, I laid them inside of my kapta on my chest to dry the dampness out of them during the night. Then I got into my bag. Jakob did likewise, and after bidding each other good-night we fell asleep. Our houses were warm and comfortable.
During the night we were startled by the piercing howls of foxes, and these kept us awake for a time. How dismal those howls sounded. We had evidently come to a good place to find foxes! Jakob evidently knew what he was about, and had brought me to the right place.
When we awoke the weather had become colder, the thermometer marking 45 degrees below zero. After a breakfast of reindeer meat and a cup of coffee we went to reconnoitre on our skees and saw many tracks of foxes. I was delighted at the discovery, and said to myself, "Paul, do not leave this place till you have a few fox skins." I wished all the time that these tracks might be those of the white and silver-gray foxes, for they were the ones I particularly wanted.
On our return the fishing Lapps from the other side of the lake came on their skees to pay us a visit, and invited us to come and see them. Looking at their faces I thought they had not been washed for months, for a coat of dirt covered their skins. I looked at their fur garments with great suspicion, and kept away from them without appearing to do so. I found it necessary to use all the tact I possessed to avoid wounding their susceptibilities.
After their departure Jakob said: "I am going to take the reindeer to some friends of mine who have their camp within two hours from this place, and they will take care of them until we go back." Then he bade me good-bye, saying, "I will not be long."
I watched him until I lost sight of him and of the reindeer. Then I put on my skees, took my gun, and went to look for foxes, and soon came upon fresh tracks of them. Once or twice I thought I saw white foxes, but they are difficult to see at a long distance, being of the color of the snow, and I could not be sure. Being satisfied of their presence in our neighborhood, I returned to the camp.
As I came within sight of our shelter I thought I saw on the snow, near one of the poles where the reindeer meat was hung, something that was not there when I had left. It was possible that it was only the snow that had been piled up in heaps by us. "Strange," I said to myself, "that I did not notice that this morning." I advanced cautiously, when suddenly I discovered that what I thought so strange was three foxes, white ones, seated and looking up intently at the reindeer meat, probably thinking how they might reach it. I watched them while they stood still and kept their heads up, looking at the meat. I was glad the meat was out of their reach, otherwise we should have had no supper. I stood perfectly still and kept watching them. The three foxes did not move. Suddenly one turned round, and when he saw me he gave the alarm to his companions and off they ran at a great rate, and soon were out of sight.
When I came to the camp I saw that the foxes had gone round and round the pole, in the hope of finding a way to reach the meat. It was lucky that they had not intelligence enough to dig the snow with their paws at the foot of the pole to make it come down.
After this, looking over the snow, I saw in the distance a little black spot, which grew bigger and bigger as it came nearer. I recognized Jakob on his skees.
Soon after he arrived in our camp I told him about the foxes. "They will come again," he replied, "for they are hungry. Other foxes will also come, for they will surely scent our meat."
After a while we began to work, and built two little round enclosures of snow, the walls about three feet high, with openings here and there to fire from, and went inside and waited for the foxes, having previously put within a short shooting distance some reindeer meat. We waited for quite a while—no foxes—when suddenly I thought I saw something moving over the snow. Looking carefully I found that they were white foxes. They had evidently scented the meat and were approaching in that direction, and when within shooting distance we fired and two of them fell. They were fine creatures, with soft long hair almost as white as the snow upon which they walked. We skinned them at once, and stretched their skins on frames we made from branches of juniper.
The next day we built two new snow entrenchments, in the opposite direction to the others, and when it was dark we went into them, putting reindeer meat near.
We had not to wait long. I saw something black on the snow. Certainly the animal was not a white fox. It could not be the cub of a bear, for it was the Bear's Night and they were all asleep. When the animal was near enough I fired and it fell. I ran towards it, and saw that it was a splendid silver-gray fox. How carefully we skinned the animal!
The next day Jakob made a lot of traps for ermines. These traps are made in the following manner: A string is attached to a loop long enough for the head of the animal to pass through. The string is fastened to a branch, which is bent down above the place where meat is deposited, some distance back of the loop. The ermine approaches, and in trying to reach the meat pushes his head through the loop and pulls the string up, and the loop tightens round the neck and strangles the animal in the air.
We scattered these traps in every direction, and caught many ermines. How pretty is the ermine, with its short legs, white fur, and tail tipped with black! The ermine feeds much on the ptarmigans.
That day I saw perched on the low branch of a tree a beautiful snowy owl, motionless, evidently watching for something. Jakob said to me, "The owl is watching for ermines. There are plenty of these, I am sure, round here, or the owl would not be on this tree. We will set some of our traps here." The owl was big and beautiful, and I said to myself, "The ermine feeds on the ptarmigans, and the owl on the ermine." I did not like the idea of the harmless ptarmigans being eaten by ermines and owls, so I raised my gun and knocked him over.
The foxes, after being hunted for two or three days, became very shy and it was impossible to get near them. There were a great number of ptarmigans, and they were so tame that we had no difficulty in getting many for food.
Strange to say, when we fired our guns they made hardly any noise, for the air was so rarefied. We feasted well at our camp, for we also killed a number of white hares.
The white fox had become so scarce that we concluded to leave our camp for good, and Jakob went to get our reindeer. After packing we retraced our steps towards his home, his tent on the snow.
In one place where we stopped to rest I suddenly noticed that our reindeer had got loose. I shouted to Jakob, who was quietly taking a little snooze on the snow, "Our reindeer are loose!"
Without saying a word, he went to his sleigh and took a lasso. The Lapps never travel without a lasso. This reassured me. "I must be very wary, for our reindeer are somewhat wild," Jakob said; "Paulus, follow me." So I took to my skees. As we approached the animals moved off from us. Then he came near enough to one of them, and threw his lasso and caught him. After making the animal fast, he went carefully after the others and succeeded in lassoing them.
"Well done," I said to him. Then we lay on the snow, with our masks to protect our faces, and went to sleep. After a short nap we continued our way, and finally reached Jakob's tent just in time for supper, and were warmly welcomed by the family.
JAKOB TALKS TO ME ABOUT BEARS.—THE BEAR'S NIGHT.—WATCHING A BEAR SEEKING FOR WINTER QUARTERS.—THEY ARE VERY SUSPICIOUS.—I TELL A BEAR STORY IN MY TURN.
Since I had heard of the Bear's Night, I wanted to know more about these animals and their habits. After our supper, I said to Jakob, "Talk about bears to me—tell me about them." "All right," he replied. "I will tell you all I know about them."
"At the end of the summer and before the first fall of snow," he began, "the bears are very fat, for they have had plenty of berries and roots to eat. They are so fat that they can stand the long fast during the Bear's Night; but when they go out in the spring from their snow cover, they are very lean. We dread the bear more in the spring than during any part of the summer, for he is voraciously hungry all the time and goes after cattle, horses, sheep, or reindeer."
"I do not wonder at their being hungry, for the poor bear has to make up for his long fast," I said.
Jakob continued: "The bear chooses a place in which he can lie comfortably, such as under boulders or fallen trees, where he can be protected from the snow. He becomes suspicious after he has chosen the place for his Winter's Night, and for days he walks round and round to see that there is no danger and to make sure that no enemy can see him. He wants to feel perfectly safe before he goes into winter quarters. By walking round wherever the wind blows, he is sure to scent danger, and if he does he moves away and goes to seek some other place. The bear is very wary; it is almost impossible in summer to pursue him without dogs, for he is so quick of foot and always on the alert, that when a hunter sees one he has to be more wary than the bear to approach within shooting distance of him. When badly wounded he attacks his enemy suddenly."
After Jakob had done speaking, I said to him, in my turn: "Let me tell you a bear story. One autumn day when I had crossed the mountains by the great Sulitelma glacier and was descending the eastern slope on my way to the Gulf of Bothnia, my Lapp guide and I saw a big brown bear in the distance, but as it was almost dark we decided not to go after him, for the country was very stony. We camped that day in a forest of pines, in order to be sheltered from the wind, for we were to sleep without a fire so as not to make the bear suspicious. After taking our frugal meal of hard bread and butter, my Lapp said to me, 'To-morrow we shall see the bear; it is late in the season, and I am sure that he is looking for his winter quarters in the neighborhood, and at the first indication of a big snowstorm he will make ready for his long sleep, for the bears know when a snowstorm is coming.'
"'How can they know?' I inquired.
"'I cannot tell you, for I do not know,' he replied, 'for I am not a bear; but they do know. Do not the swallows and other migrating birds know the approach of winter and then fly southward?'
"'They do,' I replied.
"That day we were very tired, for we had been tramping all day, down and up hills and leaping over boulders which covered the country in many places, and the wonder to me was that we did not break our necks.
"The place we had chosen for the night was by a big boulder almost as large as a small house. There we could be sheltered against the cold wind of the night that came through the trees. I picked out a stone for a pillow, then stretched myself by the side of the boulder on thick lichen that grew over the barren soil, and made a comfortable bed. My guide did likewise. Then we bade each other good-night and soon fell asleep.
"The next morning we wandered in the neighborhood where we had seen the bear, but that day we did not find him; then we moved in the direction whither we thought he had gone. That evening we saw another boulder some twelve or fifteen feet high. 'This will be a fine place of shelter for the night,' I said to the Lapp. He replied, 'It is just the place we want. If the wind shifts we will shift also, so as to be protected.'
"I lay flat along the boulder on the thick reindeer moss, the Lapp did likewise, and soon after we fell asleep with the pure bracing wind of the mountains blowing over our faces.
"The next morning we saw the bear; he was a long way from us. The Lapp said to me, 'I think the bear expects to winter round here; we must watch him and follow him.' Soon after the bear disappeared.
"'Do you think he has scented us?' I asked. 'I do not see how he could,' my guide replied, 'the wind is in the wrong direction for that. He has gone for some reason of his own, you may be sure. There may have been people on the other side of the hill and he has scented them.'
"We moved all round our boulder to scan the country, but there was no bear in sight as far as our eyes could reach. After a while I noticed a small black spot on the top of a hill. It was the bear; he was looking all round. He then walked away and disappeared. Soon he appeared again, and we saw him walk round and round a cluster of pines. The Lapp said: 'The bear is walking, making a ring in that manner. He tries to find out if there is any danger for him, and by walking round he is sure to get the wind, no matter from what direction it comes. Sometimes the bear will try a number of places for several days before he selects one.'
"'How clever the bears are to walk around in that manner,' I said.
"Suddenly the bear disappeared. 'He has scented us,' said the Lapp, 'and I think he will never come back here. We have eaten all the food we have with us. We shall have to feed on berries the rest of our way. This bear will probably remain in this region and take up his winter quarters around here somewhere. I will find out where he will lie. Come to me early in the spring, before the snow melts, and we will kill him.'
"'All right,' I replied; but the following spring, I regret to say, I was travelling in another part of the country, but I heard that Bruin met his fate at the hands of my Lapp when he aroused himself from his long sleep and came out from under the snow."
The bears in Sweden, Norway, and Finland are very fine animals and attain great size. They vary in the color of their fur, some being almost black, but generally they are of different shades of brown. I think they rank in size next to the grizzly bear of the Rocky Mountains. They are sometimes dangerous, but not so much so as the grizzly.
PREPARATIONS FOR CROSSING THE MOUNTAINS TO THE ARCTIC OCEAN.—DECIDE TO TAKE THE TRAIL TO THE ULF FJORD.—HOUSES OF REFUGE.—A SERIES OF TERRIFIC WINDSTORMS IN THE MOUNTAINS.—LOST.—GLOOMY REFLECTIONS.—A HAPPY REUNION.
The next day I said to Jakob and to the Lapps, "I wish some of you to go with me across the mountains to the shore of the Arctic Ocean. I will pay you well."
We were then between the 69th and 70th degrees, north latitude, and we had to cross the mountains at an elevation of about 5,000 feet on our way to the sea. I wanted to find out the kind of weather they had in these high altitudes in the Arctic regions.
"Some of us will go with you," they replied; and added: "There are several trails leading to the Arctic Ocean. We can reach the sea by going to the Ofoden, the Ulf, the Lyngen, the Quananger, or the Alten fjords." I took my map out. After a conference it was agreed that we should go to the Ulf fjord.
Norway is the country of fjords. A fjord is an arm of the sea, winding its way far inland in the midst of mountains. The sea is very deep, often of greater depth than the towering heights which rise abruptly from the shore, though these are often several thousand feet in altitude. No road can be built along many of these fjords, and boats are the conveyances that are used to go from one place to another.
"There are houses of refuge in the mountains, where we shall find shelter in case of heavy storms," said the Lapps. "If it were not for those places of refuge people would often perish when overtaken by these storms. Paulus, you have met great windstorms on your way here, but they are nothing to compare with the terrific winds to be met in the high mountains. Remember that we are in the month of March—the month of storms."
As I was listening to what the Lapps said, I thought I heard, from across the Atlantic, my young folks and friends encouraging me, crying: "Be not afraid, Paul. Go on! Go on! No harm will befall you!" I shouted back, "I am not afraid!"
So we started. First we came to a Finn hamlet, where we met a good many Finlanders and Laplanders who had arrived with their goods and a great many sleighs and reindeer on their way to the Ulf fjord. All the animals had been trained to eat reindeer moss gathered and stored for that purpose. We had come just in time.
Here it was agreed that Jakob and the Lapps who had taken me to this place should not go further, but that I should be taken care of by Finlanders, whose destination was the same as mine and who were on their way to the Arctic Sea. I was to go with John Puranen. John was a powerfully built man, with a very kind expression.
We were soon good friends. John and a party of friends were going with a large number of sleighs loaded with reindeer meat, butter, reindeer cheese, smoked tongues, skins, garments, shoes, and thousands of frozen ptarmigans, to sell to the people living on the coast.
The day after our coming parties of Finlanders and Laplanders began to leave, with forty or fifty sleighs and a number of spare reindeer in case any gave out.
As I looked over the snow, I could see the caravans following each other, in single file, and a number of dogs following their masters.
The next day we started with a large party. We all hoped for good weather. We took a good supply of reindeer moss with us.
Late at night we came to the first farm of refuge found in our track. Hundreds of sleighs and reindeer were outside, and when I entered the house more than a hundred men were sleeping on the floor. The snoring was something terrific, and the heat and the closeness of the room were unbearable. A lighted lamp shone dimly on the slumberers.
So I thought that I would be far more comfortable sleeping outside in my two bags. John said that he would sleep in his bags by me—and in fact we slept very comfortably.
When I awoke in the morning it was 42 degrees below zero. Then we went into the house and had some coffee and reindeer meat for breakfast. As at all the post stations, there is a tariff for everything printed on the walls, so no overcharge is practised.
Many of the people had already left; we hurried on to overtake them, and as usual went in single file.
The weather had become windy, and the wind blew stronger and stronger as we went on, until there was hardly any snow left on the ground. It flew to a great height, and the mist was so thick that I could not see ahead. My reindeer was going of its own accord. I trusted him to scent and follow the other reindeer ahead of me. I hurried him on by striking slightly his right flank with my rein, hoping to overtake the people of our party.
The wind kept increasing, and seeing no one ahead or behind I became alarmed.
Where were John and the other fellows? I had no provisions with me. Where was I? Once in a while, when there was a lull that lasted about a minute, I saw nothing but huge mountains ahead of me. At sight of them I became more anxious than ever. I could only hear the shrieking of the wind, which at times threatened to upset me. Occasionally it blew so hard that my reindeer had to stop.
My head was entirely hidden by my mask and my hood, which had been made so secure that I felt it would stay with my head till both were blown away. Only my eyes could be seen; but the snow which kept flying in the air became as fine as flour and penetrated everywhere. It got through the open space for my eyes, then gathered on my hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, and mustache, and on my cheeks and nose; in fact, everywhere on my face, and made a mask of ice.
I wished I had no mustache, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, no hair—for it was very painful every time I broke this mask of ice. It was hardly broken when it would form again from the particles of new snow adhering to each other. When I broke it, I thought every hair would be torn from my face. If I had not cleared it away the mask of ice would have become so thick that I would have been unable to see. I began to think that there was no fun crossing the mountains after all, if this was the weather we were going to get all the way.
As I could not overtake the people ahead, and John was not in sight, gloomy thoughts came over me. Suppose I can find nobody, nor even a house of refuge, I repeated: what then? What will become of me in this terrific windstorm, in the midst of these great towering mountains that surround me on every side? An answer to my question, as dark as my thought, said: "Starvation! Starvation! Death! Death!"
Suddenly I thought I heard, through the storm, the same voice from the friends at home shouting to me, "Be of good cheer, Paul; go on; go on! No harm will befall you!"
These imaginary words had hardly been uttered when I said to myself, "If the worst comes to the worst, and when I am on the point of starving, I will kill my reindeer, drink its warm blood to sustain my life, abandon my sleigh, and depend on my skees. By that time the storm may be over, and I may meet some of the people who were with me, or other parties who are going to the Arctic Sea."
Soon after I had reached this decision, however, I saw through the mist something black. Was it a pack of hungry wolves? It was moving towards me. I seized my gun; but how could I shoot in such weather and be sure to kill? I did not fancy the idea of being attacked by a pack of hungry and starving wolves. At any rate, I would make a desperate effort to kill some; these would be eaten by the pack, and after they were satisfied they would perhaps not follow me but let me alone. Perhaps I might kill a wolf and suck his warm blood; this would avoid the need of killing my reindeer.
No, they were not wolves, but people! I was in the midst of my friends; they had stopped and were waiting for me.
Now I felt happy. John's dog also felt happy for he wagged his tail and looked at me, and John said, "Paulus, if you had been lost, my dog would have found you."
Then they exclaimed: "We would never have gone to the sea without you. We would have wandered all over the mountains with our reindeer or on our skees to find you. But we thought your reindeer would follow our track, for he could scent ours, as the wind was in the right direction; and here we were waiting for you." I could hardly hear their voices, though they surrounded me, for they were drowned in the hissing of the wind.
We continued our way and came to another house of refuge, where we took shelter. There we could wait until the storm was over.
It was so nice to stretch one's legs and to stand up and pace the floor and bring the blood into circulation.
What would the people do while travelling in such a climate without houses of refuge? The place of refuge was a mountain farm; they had cows, goats, and sheep, for there were pastures near by in summer.
When the time to sleep came I stretched myself at full length upon a reindeer skin on the floor, and fell asleep hearing the wind howling fiercely round the house.
When I awoke in the morning the storm had ceased. I washed my face and hands in water and dried them with a clean towel which the wife handed me. What a luxury!
After breakfast we bade the kind people of the house of refuge good-bye, and once more we were on our way to the Arctic Sea. We had not been two hours on the way, however, when the sky began to grow gray and apparently a storm was coming; the wind increased, and flakes of snow began to fall; the squalls increased in force and frequency. Little did I know that these were the forerunners of a series of great windstorms that were to take place nearly five thousand feet above the sea. In a word, I was to encounter the greatest windstorms I have ever met in my life. The dark clouds kept flying very fast high over our heads, then at times seemed to be hardly above the top of the mountains. The sky became wild and peculiar. John was hurrying his reindeer as fast as he could by striking his flanks. He evidently knew what was coming, for he was a child of the stormy regions of the North, and knew what such a threatening sky meant in March. The wind was increasing in force every minute, the snow flew thicker in the air. At last, when we reached the station of refuge, John gave a great shout of satisfaction. We had come just in time. The snow was driven in thick clouds, the hills and mountains were hidden from view, and all around was nothing but a thick haze. The fur of our garments was entirely filled with particles of snow; we looked as if we had been rolled in a barrel of flour.
I gave a great sigh of relief when we came in front of the house of refuge. It was well that we hurried with all our might, for we would never have reached the place at a slower speed. Then what would have become of John and me, and of the others!
At bedtime reindeer skins were strewn on the floor, for many had come to get shelter against the furious windstorm. Before going to sleep, we took off our shoes, and carefully hung them with our stockings and Lapp grass on the poles that were suspended near the ceiling. Then we bade each other good-night and thanked the farmer and his wife for their kindness.
That night I dreamed that the same voices that I had heard before were saying to me, "Go on! Go on! Friend Paul, no harm will befall you. Do not be afraid, be valiant, as you were in Africa. Then come back and tell us what you have seen in 'The Land of the Long Night.'" Thereupon I saw all their faces smiling at me. I felt so happy during that sleep. But it was nothing but a sweet dream. When I awoke there was nothing round me to remind me of my far-away friends, of the girls and boys I loved so dearly. "What makes you, Paul, so fond of a wandering life," I said to myself, "and of encountering such perils and hardships as you have done all through your life, when you have so many warm friends at home?"
In the morning, one by one, the people awoke and got up. The weather was calm, but John said: "The weather is not to be trusted at this time of the year on these high mountains." I had great faith in John, as a weather prophet.
Most people had their provisions with them. I was to drink my coffee in the finest cup owned by the owners of the house of refuge. "Taste some of my butter," a Finlander would say. "Taste my smoked reindeer meat," urged a Laplander. "Help yourself to some of my cheese," said a third. If I had eaten a little of all that was offered, I should not have been able to travel. People must not eat too much when they have plenty of exercise to perform, or hard work to do.
After breakfast John said to me: "It is wise in these mountains to prepare for all kinds of weather. It has been bad enough already, but it may be a great deal worse, for to-day the mountains we are to cross are very high."
"Goodness gracious!" I exclaimed. "Is it possible that we can have worse weather than we have seen, John?" "Certainly," he replied. I wondered what sort of weather it could be!
John attended himself to my toilet; he would not trust me. He put my stockings on, put an extra quantity of Lapp grass round them, and saw that every part of my foot to my ankle was well protected, tied the shoes over my ankles and my reindeer-skin trousers most carefully, saw that my belt was well fastened, that my "pesh" or fur blouse was carefully made fast round my neck, and that my gloves were well secured to my wrists with bands used for that purpose and my hood tied tightly. When he had finished, he said, with a smile:
"Paulus, you are ready to stand the strongest windstorm that can blow; everything on your body is made as secure as it can be!"
Our reindeer being harnessed we bade good-bye to the people of the house of refuge, and a number of parties left together for self-protection.
John was not mistaken about the weather. Three or four hours after our departure the wind increased, and terrific squalls followed each other and threatened to upset our sleighs. The blinding snow dust prevented my seeing my reindeer, and at times I could not even see the head of my sleigh. Night seemed to have taken the place of daylight,—a thick fog could not have been worse. Then, to add to my discomfort, I had continually to break through the mask of ice, which formed again quickly after being broken. It was of no use to look for the furrows of the sleighs that had preceded us, for their tracks were filled at once with snow.
Once more I thought I was lost, when I saw John standing still; he was waiting for me, and attached my sleigh to his, so that the mishap of being parted again could not occur. When he had tied the two sleighs, he said: "If we are lost we will be together." Dear John, what a glorious fellow he was!
I thought of what I imagined the "Long Night" had said to me after the disappearance of the sun: "I send terrific gales and mighty snowstorms upon ocean and lands." It seemed to me that I could hear her sardonic laugh after telling me of her power. The storm continued to increase, and swept down upon us from the higher mountain sides with a force which I had never witnessed before, though I have crossed the Atlantic more than twenty times in winter and met with furious gales.
When I thought that it was impossible for the wind to blow stronger, the next squall proved that it could. Then we fell in with a number of men of the party. They had stopped; they did not dare to go further, travelling had become impossible; before we knew it we might fall over a precipice, or go in the wrong direction. I managed to look at my thermometer. It was 17 degrees below zero. I wished it had been forty or forty-five, for instead of a windstorm we should then have had glorious still weather.
The wind had risen to such a pitch that no snow was left on the ground, though in many places it must have been twenty or thirty feet deep or more. It was all flying in the air, and though it was noon it was quite dark. We remained seated on the ground, back to back, in order to support each other, with our heads bent, to prevent as far as possible the snow getting under our masks. It was a weird sight, as once in a while I could see dimly through the flying snow our bent, immovable bodies, with heads down. Not a man said a word; it seemed as if we were frozen to death.
The snow was carried hither and thither, and all at once in a lull of a few seconds fell, forming hillocks, which were in an instant destroyed and sent flying in the air. One of these hillocks settled dangerously near us and scared us.
Then one of the men suggested that we had better divide into two parties, so that in case one should be buried in the snow, the other party could help to extricate those who were buried. This suggestion was accepted at once. As we got up several of the men were taken off their feet, and rolled over against some sleighs, which stopped them. I was raised bodily and thrown on the ground, and carried away; but some of the men came to my rescue and caught me. Finally we succeeded in making two parties; we were about fifty yards from each other and ready to help one another in case of emergency.
The wind became so terrific that we had to crouch against the rocks. I thought we must be in the heart of "The Land of the Wind," and that this was the worst country I had ever come to. I almost believed that the wind had obtained the mastery over the world, and chaos was coming again. But after a few hours these north-west squalls gradually diminished in intensity, and for a time the windstorm seemed to be over. Then we made preparations to continue our journey.
A DANGEROUS DESCENT.—HOW TO DESCEND THE MOUNTAINS.—THE MOST PERILOUS PORTION OF THE JOURNEY.—EXHAUSTION OF THE REINDEER.—ALL SAFE AT THE BOTTOM.—ARRIVAL AT THE SHORE OF THE ARCTIC SEA.
As we were ready to start, John said to me: "Paulus, we are soon to come to the most dangerous part of the journey; we are to descend the western slopes of the mountains, which at times are very abrupt, to the sea. We will go over mountain tops and descend their steep declivities. We shall have to drive twice along the sides of deep ravines; all that are here are going together, so that we may help each other. Get into your sleigh and follow us closely. I will lead, and my brother will be behind you."
We set forth, and soon afterwards I noticed that our reindeer went much faster than at the start. I knew by this that we were approaching the slope of a mountain. I was right. Next we came to the brink of a hill, and descended with a rapidity of at least twenty-five miles an hour. The animals simply flew.
When my reindeer reached the bottom of the hill he made the usual sudden curve to the left to keep the sleigh, which had a tremendous momentum, from striking against his legs. I had prepared myself for the sudden motion; I had been there before! I bent my body almost out of the sleigh in the opposite direction, and succeeded in keeping in. It was a fine sight to see sleigh after sleigh coming down the hill, but no man followed exactly in the track of the others, so that in case of accident the one behind would not pitch headlong into the sleigh ahead.
I thought this was lots of fun. But ascending the hill on the opposite side was no fun at all. It was indeed hard work for the reindeer and for the men. The snow had drifted on one side of the hill and was very deep, and in many places very soft. The poor reindeer spread their hoofs as wide as they could, so as not to sink too deeply. But in many places it was of no avail; they would sink to their flanks and even deeper; but it was wonderful to see how quickly they sprang out.