"Let me get away from here," she murmurs to her mother, "let me get away," and a very sad and touching scene ensues.
The little sister bounds in straight from church, and says how lovely it was to hear the banns read, and to think the wedding was so near. She decorates the room with wreaths of pine branches, and festoons of the birch-tree, such festoons as we make into trails with holly and ivy for Christmas decorations. She jumps for joy as the guests begin to arrive, and in this strange play the father actually thinks it right for his daughter to marry Mikko, her seducer, whom he welcomes, and they arrange affairs comfortably between them.
This is very remarkable. In most countries it would be considered right for the father to expel his daughter's lover from his house; but in this play of Minna Canth's she draws a very Finnish characteristic.
"Se oli niin sallittu" ("It is so ordained") is a sort of motto amongst this Northern people. Whether it is that they are phlegmatic, wanting in energy, fatalists, or what, one cannot say, but certain it is that they sit down and accept the inevitable as calmly as the Mohammedan does when he remarks: "It is the will of Allah."
The festivities proceed. An old fiddler and more peasants appear. The men sit down on one side of the room, the women on the other, and the former lover, Mikko, thinking himself the bridegroom-elect, cheerfully invites every one to dance. The old fiddler strikes up a merry air, and they dance the jenka, a sort of schottische, joyously. Gaiety prevails, the girl's father being apparently as happy as his guests, when the door opens and the rector of the parish and other distinguished guests enter.
"Where is the bride?" it is asked.
No one knew exactly how to answer; Johannes no longer wishes to marry her, and she refuses to marry her former lover, Mikko.
Again the priest asks: "Where is the bride?"
After waiting some time the door opens slowly. Anna Liisa enters and is greeted—as is usual on such occasions—by cries of Elkn, elkn (let her live!) in chorus. Answering with the unusual words: "Let God's Holy Spirit live in us!" the girl advanced into the room and stood before them, robed in the black gown which it is the fashion for peasant brides in Finland to wear. The clergyman addressed her as a bride.
"I am not a bride," she replies, as she stands sadly alone in her black robe.
"What do you mean? the banns have just been read," he asks.
"All is broken off between Johannes and me," she tragically replies, and then, turning to the clergyman, she says: "My conscience won't keep it any longer; for four years long I have——"
Mikko and his mother try all they can to prevent her speaking.
But the clergyman, seeing the girl wishes to say something, thrusts them aside and exhorts her to proceed.
"I am a great sinner," says the girl tremulously. A breathless silence seizes every one present as Anna continues, "Four years ago I had a child, in the forest yonder, and, I, poor creature, I killed it."
At this juncture a bailiff, who chanced to be of the company, rises and inquires if her parents knew this at the time.
"No," she answers in her clear and dulcet tones, "they knew nothing."
Turning to her heartbroken parents with great earnestness, she says:
"Father and mother, do not grieve for me! Do not sorrow! I am not in trouble any more. You see how glad I am. Never in my life have I felt so happy."
Johannes (touched). "Anna Liisa——!"
The Father. "Don't you then consider the disgrace you have brought over our gray hair?"
Anna Liisa. "I repent. Forgive me! Oh, that I could once make good what I have done wrong!"
The Mistress of Ristola and other guests express their sympathy with the parents.
Mikko (aside to Husso). "There's nothing more to be done. Things must have their course. Let us be off!"
The Father. "Oh, that I could get into my grave! That's my only hope."
Rector. "Not so, dear friends, not so! You have no reason for sorrow at this moment, but gladness and joy. The Spirit of God has been working in your daughter and has gained the victory. Do not look upon this matter as the world does, but from a higher standpoint. Until to-day Anna Liisa has erred. Now she has found the right way. Let us thank and praise the Lord of Heaven!"
Mistress of Ristola. "Yes, it is truly so. It is a chastisement for the flesh, but not to the spirit."
The Father. "We are shortsighted, we human beings. We do not always comprehend the purposes of the Almighty."
The Mother. "And the earthly mind always seeks to govern."
Rector. "Let us strive the more to progress in the life of the Spirit, and by God's help we can win like Anna Liisa (grasping Anna Liisa's hand). Yes, go in peace, my child. Go where your conscience compels you to go, and the Heavenly Father strengthen you that you may hold out to the end. We did congratulate you on a less important change in external life, but a thousand times more warmly do we congratulate you on the change in your inner life."
Doctor. "I agree with the Rector. Good-bye!"
Anna Liisa (embracing first her father and then her mother). "Good-bye, father! good-bye, mother! good-bye! Good-bye all!"
Chorus. "Good-bye, we wish you happiness."
Johannes. "Anna Liisa, won't you bid me farewell?"
Anna Liisa. "Certainly! Good-bye, Johannes."
Johannes. "The Lord keep you, Anna Liisa. But one word more—you are as pure and good in heart as I thought you from the first."
Anna Liisa. "Thank you for your kindness.... I have found everlasting life and happiness. Now, Mr. Bailiff, I am ready, give me the severest punishment you can. I am ready to meet it all."
Rector. "She is following the everlasting road. Blessed is she."
The idea of this very strange play has been undoubtedly taken from one of Tolstoi's well-known books, but Minna Canth herself is a great writer. She seizes the subtleties of life, draws character with a strong hand, and appreciates the value of dramatic situations. No wonder the Finlanders admire a woman who writes in their own tongue, and feel proud of her as one of themselves.
Never have I seen an audience weep so much as the audience wept that night at the Suomalainen Teaatteri (Finnish Theatre): they positively sobbed. Was it that they seldom saw a play, or was it that the generally phlegmatic Finn once roused is really intensely emotional?
Possibly if the fact were known, the minds of those spectators were not so actively engaged in criticism, that they could not appreciate healthy enjoyment. But as much cannot be said for a fashionable blas audience, which is too bored to care to be entertained.
"KALEVALA," AN EPIC POEM
Many strange customs still linger in East Finland, probably because the inhabitants, far removed from civilisation, cling tenaciously to the traditions and usages of their forefathers. As a fitting ending therefore to the Sordavala Festival, an accurate representation of a native wedding of a hundred years ago was given, perhaps for the reason that the performers were thus naturally enabled to introduce many of the bridal songs contained in their great epic poem, Kalevala, and their collection of lyric poems called Kanteletar.
The open-air stage was cleverly arranged, and the performance proved really a dramatic representation of music we had heard the delightful Runo singers chanting for days. They were old Runo bards, however, and as it was feared their voices would not reach the eight or ten thousand people assembled in the open-air arena, younger and stronger folk had been taught the different roles by them.
The wedding festivities were unlike anything to which we are accustomed. They began with a formal betrothal. In a log hut sat the bride's family, the mother spinning at one of the wooden erections so closely resembling an oar. The father and his friends were meantime gathered round a table drinking small beer (Kalja) from large wooden pots, or rather buckets, called haarikka. Each man helped himself out of the haarikka by dipping into that vessel the usual wooden spoon and sipping its contents, after which performance he replaced the spoon in the bucket.
Thus happily occupied sat the family till the bridegroom and his friends arrived.
It is not considered proper for an intending bridegroom ever to propose in person, consequently a spokesman has always to be employed, who expatiates on the many excellent qualities possessed by the modest lover.
Even the spokesman, however, deems it strict etiquette at first to prevaricate concerning the real nature of his errand, and consequently the actor told a cock-and-bull story about the purchase of a horse; rather a transparent bit of make-believe considering the matter had been quietly arranged previously.
At last, after some ridiculous talk about that imaginary horse, a formal request was made for the daughter's hand, and finally the bride herself appeared, solemnly led in as if a prisoner.
Silent and alone, with head bent sadly down, she stood in the middle of the room till asked if she were willing "To marry this man?" when, without looking up, she answered "Yes."
Then the "weeping woman" who is hired for such occasions—just as in days, happily gone by, English families used to hire mutes for funerals—put her arm round the bride's waist, and, with bowed head, swinging her body to and fro the while, began in a most melancholy voice to sing "The Bride's Lament to her Home." The paid professional chants the words of the Kalevala, which are supposed to embody every bride's sentiments, implores her parents not to hurry her away. She begs her brother to keep her, not to let the breach between them be so large as the Ladoga lake; might she remain even so long in her father's house as it will take to catch the fish and cook them.
After that she was placed in a chair, and her mother, with pomp and gravity, undid her "maiden plait," her loosened hair denoting that she could no longer be regarded as a maiden. All her relations came and pulled at her hair, which fell over her shoulders, to assure themselves the plait was really undone. Then the weeping woman, swaying to and fro as before, sang another dirge over her—a most melancholy form of betrothal, we thought—and finally put a white linen cap on the bride's head, trimmed with lace, which completely concealed her face. Thus covered, the bride and the weeping woman sat side by side on chairs, when, still swaying their bodies as if in unutterable grief, they recited more bridal songs, all of the same dreary character. Finally, the bride had a verse sung for her by the weeping woman addressed to her parents, to each of whom she clung in turn. Her father, mother, brothers, sisters, etc., were singly poetically addressed after the following doleful but remarkable fashion:—
O the anguish of the parting, O the pain of separation, From these walls renowned and ancient, From this village of the Northland, From these scenes of peace and plenty, Where my faithful mother taught me, Where my father gave instruction To me in my happy childhood, When my years were few and tender! As a child I did not fancy, Never thought of separation From the confines of this cottage, From these dear old hills and mountains; But, alas! I now must journey, Since I now cannot escape it; Empty is the bowl of parting, All the fare-well beer is taken, And my husband's sledge is waiting, With the break-board looking southward, Looking from my father's dwelling.
How shall I give compensation, How repay, on my departure, All the kindness of my mother, All the counsel of my father, All the friendship of my brother, All my sister's warm affection? Gratitude to thee, dear father, For my father life and blessings, For the comforts of thy table, For the pleasures of my childhood! Gratitude to thee, dear mother, For thy tender care and guidance, For my birth and for my culture, Nurtured by thy purest life-blood! Gratitude to thee, dear brother, Gratitude to thee, sweet sister, To the servants of my childhood, To my many friends and playmates!
Never, never, aged father, Never, thou, beloved mother, Never, ye, my kindred spirits, Never harbour care nor sorrow, Never fall to bitter weeping, Since thy child has gone to strangers, To the meadows of Winl, From her father's fields and firesides. Shines the Sun of the Creator, Shines the golden Moon of Ukko, Glitter all the stars of heaven, In the firmament of ether, Full as bright on other homesteads; Not upon my father's uplands, Not upon my home in childhood, Shines the Star of Joyance only.
Now the time has come for parting From my father's golden firesides, From my brother's welcome hearth-stone, From the chambers of my sister, From my mother's happy dwelling; Now I leave the swamps and lowlands, Leave the grassy vales and mountains, Leave the crystal lakes and rivers, Leave the shores and sandy shallows, Leave the white-capped surging billows, Where the maidens swim and linger, Where the mermaids sing and frolic; Leave the swamps to those that wander, Leave the cornfields to the plowman, Leave the forests to the weary, Leave the heather to the rover, Leave the copses to the stranger, Leave the alleys to the beggar, Leave the courtyards to the rambler, Leave the portals to the servant, Leave the matting to the sweeper, Leave the highways to the roebuck, Leave the woodland-glens to lynxes, Leave the lowlands to the wild-geese, And the birch-tree to the cuckoo. Now I leave these friends of childhood, Journey southward with my husband, To the arms of Night and Winter, O'er the ice-grown seas of Northland.
All this must have seemed very sad to the bridegroom, who sat dumb in a corner, a perfect nonentity.
Moral for all young men—Never get married in Finland.
The second scene represented the wedding. It was the bridegroom's house. They had been to the church, and he was bringing her home. The guests were assembled to receive her, some were baking cakes in great haste, others arranging the pots of Kalja, all excited and joyful.
At last some one rushed in to say "They are coming, they are coming," and immediately appeared a procession of peasants with the bride and bridegroom hand in hand. She wore a dark-red cashmere gown with a handsomely embroidered white apron, and large round silver brooch, such as the Highlanders of Scotland use to fasten their kilt; but she was still covered by the linen cap with its lace adornments, which hung over her face. She was solemnly escorted to a seat by the table, and only raised this veil when the meal began. After "the breakfast" was over, four young men and four girls danced a sort of lancers, with grand variations, and executed gymnastic feats—frog dancing and a sort of Highland-reel step—very pretty and very quaint. The bride and bridegroom did not join in the measure—both sat solemn as judges; indeed, a Karjalan wedding is a monstrously sad affair for the bridegroom, at all events, for he plays a rle of no importance, while it must be a melancholy business for the bride.
The men's dresses were of ordinary cloth with bright-coloured linen shirts, and leather boots turned up at the toe, the soft leather legs reaching nearly to the knees, the last two or three inches being laced behind, so as to enable the wearer to pull them on. The sisters of the bride wore crowns composed of plain bands of various-coloured ribbons—nearly a quarter of a yard high in front, but diminishing towards the back, where the ends of the ribbons hung below the waist.
The words of the bride's lament are so strange, that we give some of them from Kalevala, thinking every man who reads the lines will sympathise with the wretched bridegroom, and every woman wish to have as devoted a husband as the young man is exhorted to make.
But alas! there comes a day of reckoning, when he may "instruct her with a willow," and even "use the birch-rod from the mountains."
THE BRIDE'S FAREWELL
Bridegroom, thou beloved hero, Brave descendant of thy fathers, When thou goest on a journey, When thou drivest on the highway, Driving with the Rainbow-daughter, Fairest bride of Sariola, Do not lead her as a titmouse, As a cuckoo of the forest, Into unfrequented places, Into copses of the borders, Into brier-fields and brambles, Into unproductive marshes; Let her wander not, nor stumble On opposing rocks and rubbish. Never in her father's dwelling, Never in her mother's courtyard, Has she fallen into ditches, Stumbled hard against the fences, Run through brier-fields, nor brambles, Fallen over rocks, nor rubbish.
Magic bridegroom of Winl, Wise descendant of the heroes, Never let thy young wife suffer, Never let her be neglected, Never let her sit in darkness, Never leave her unattended. Never in her father's mansion, In the chambers of her mother, Has she sat alone in darkness, Has she suffered for attention; Sat she by the crystal window, Sat and rocked, in peace and plenty, Evenings for her father's pleasure, Mornings for her mother's sunshine. Never mayest thou, O bridegroom, Lead the Maiden of the Rainbow To the mortar filled with sea-grass, There to grind the bark for cooking, There to bake her bread from stubble, There to knead her dough from tan-bark. Never in her father's dwelling, Never in her mother's mansion, Was she taken to the mortar, There to bake her bread from sea-grass. Thou should'st lead the Bride of Beauty To the garner's rich abundance, There to draw the till of barley, Grind the flower and knead for baking, There to brew the beer for drinking, Wheaten flour for honey-biscuits.
Hero-bridegroom of Winl, Never cause thy Bride of Beauty To regret her day of marriage; Never make her shed a tear-drop, Never fill her cup with sorrow. Should there ever come an evening When thy wife shall feel unhappy, Put the harness on thy racer, Hitch the fleet-foot to the snow-sledge, Take her to her father's dwelling, To the household of her mother; Never in thy hero-lifetime, Never while the moonbeams glimmer, Give thy fair spouse evil treatment, Never treat her as thy servant; Do not bar her from the cellar, Do not lock thy best provisions. Never in her father's mansion, Never by her faithful mother Was she treated as a hireling.
Honoured bridegroom of the Northland, Proud descendant of the fathers, If thou treatest well thy young wife, Worthily wilt thou be treated; When thou goest to her homestead, When thou visitest her father, Thou shalt meet a cordial welcome.
Censure not the Bride of Beauty, Never grieve thy Rainbow-maiden, Never say in tones reproachful, She was born in lowly station, That her father was unworthy; Honoured are thy bride's relations, From an old-time tribe her kindred; When of corn they sowed a measure, Each one's portion was a kernel; When they sowed a cask of flax-seed, Each received a thread of linen. Never, never, magic husband, Treat thy beauty-bride unkindly, Teach her not with lash of servants, Strike her not with thongs of leather; Never has she wept in anguish, From the birch-whip of her mother. Stand before her like a rampart, Be to her a strong protection, Do not let thy mother chide her, Let thy father not upbraid her, Never let thy guests offend her; Should thy servants bring annoyance, They may need the master's censure; Do not harm the Bride of Beauty, Never injure her thou lovest; Three long years hast thou been wooing, Hoping every month to win her.
Counsel with the bride of heaven, To thy young wife give instruction, Kindly teach thy bride in secret, In the long and dreary evenings, When thou sittest at the fireside; Teach one year, in words of kindness, Teach with eyes of love a second, In the third year teach with firmness. If she should not heed thy teaching, Should not hear thy kindly counsel, After three long years of effort, Cut a reed upon the lowlands, Cut a nettle from the border, Teach thy wife with harder measures. In the fourth year, if she heed not, Threaten her with sterner treatment, With the stalks of rougher edges, Use not yet the thongs of leather, Do not touch her with the birch-whip. If she should not heed this warning, Should she pay thee no attention, Cut a rod upon the mountains, Or a willow in the valleys, Hide it underneath thy mantle, That the stranger may not see it, Show it to thy wife in secret, Shame her thus to do her duty, Strike not yet, though disobeying. Should she disregard this warning, Still refuse to heed thy wishes, Then instruct her with the willow, Use the birch-rod from the mountains, In the closet of thy dwelling, In the attic of thy mansion; Strike her not upon the common, Do not conquer her in public, Lest the villagers should see thee, Lest the neighbours hear her weeping, And the forests learn thy troubles. Touch thy wife upon the shoulders, Let her stiffened back be softened; Do not touch her on the forehead, Nor upon the ears, nor visage; If a ridge be on her forehead, Or a blue mark on her eyelids, Then her mother would perceive it, And her father would take notice, All the village-workmen see it, And the village-women ask her: "Hast thou been in heat of battle, Hast thou struggled in a conflict, Or perchance the wolves have torn thee, Or the forest bears embraced thee, Or the black-wolf be thy husband, And the bear be thy protector?"
* * * * *
By the fireplace lay a gray-beard, On the hearth-stone lay a beggar, And the old man spake as follows:— "Never, never, hero-husband, Follow thou thy young wife's wishes, Follow not her inclinations, As, alas! I did, regretful; Bought my bride the bread of barley, Veal, and beer, and best of butter, Fish and fowl of all descriptions, Beer I bought, home-brewed and sparkling, Wheat from all the distant nations, All the dainties of the Northland; But this all was unavailing, Gave my wife no satisfaction, Often came she to my chamber, Tore my sable locks in frenzy, With a visage fierce and frightful, With her eyeballs flashing anger, Scolding on and scolding ever, Ever speaking words of evil, Using epithets the vilest, Thought me but a block for chopping. Then I sought for other measures, Used on her my last resources, Cut a birch-whip in the forest, And she spake in terms endearing; Cut a juniper or willow, And she called me 'hero-darling'; When with lash my wife I threatened, Hung she on my neck with kisses." Thus the bridegroom was instructed, Thus the last advices given.
* * * * *
Then the Maiden of the Rainbow, Beauteous bride of Ilmarinen, Sighing heavily and moaning, Fell to weeping, heavy-hearted, Spake these words from depths of sorrow: "Near, indeed, the separation, Near, alas! the time for parting, Near the time of my departure; Fare thee well, my dear old homestead, Fare ye well, my native bowers; It would give me joy unceasing Could I linger here for ever. Now farewell, ye halls and portals Leading to my father's mansion; It would give me joy unceasing Could I linger here for ever."
What a delightful representation! A beautiful scene of peasant life a hundred years ago. The charm of the singing in the open air, the people dressed in the old costumes, the scene really correct, old spinning wheels, etc., having been borrowed from the museum for the purpose.
It was a charming picture, one well worth retaining on the retina of memory.
It was the last day; the Karjalan wedding was over, and all the choirs, numbering altogether nearly a thousand voices, sang chants and hymns most beautifully, their combined voices being heard far through the woods and across the lakes.
It was really a grand spectacle, those thousand men and women on the platform, comprising peasants, farmers, students, professors, all brought together merely to sing, while below and on the opposite hill three thousand seats were filled by a mixed audience, behind whom again, among the pine-trees, sat several thousand more. As a final effort the conductor called upon every one to join in the National Anthem. Up rose ten thousand or twelve thousand persons, and, as one man, they sang their patriotic verses beneath the blue canopy of heaven. It was wonderful; to a stranger the harmony of the whole was amazing; indeed, so successful did it prove, that national song after national song was sung by that musical audience. We looked on and marvelled. Music attracts in Finland, for from end to end of the land the people are imbued with its spirit and feel its power.
The sun blazed, the pine cones scented the air, the birds sang, and we felt transported back to old Druidical days when people met in the open for song and prayer. It was all very simple, but very delightful, and the people seemed to most thoroughly enjoy hearing their national airs; the whole scene again reminded us of Ober Ammergau, or of a Highland out-of-door Communion Service.
Alas! the Finnish national dress has almost disappeared, but at the Sordavala Festival a great attempt was made to revive it at the enormous open-air concerts in the public park, where some of the girls, lying or sitting under the pine-trees on the hill opposite listening to the choir singing, wore the dress of Suomi.
The national colours are red and yellow, or white and bright blue, and much dispute arises as to which is really right, for while the heraldry book says red and yellow, the country folk maintain blue and white. White loose blouses of fine Finnish flannel seemed most in favour, with a short full underskirt of the same material; geometrical embroidery about two inches wide in all colours and patterns being put round the hem of the short dress as well as brace fashion over the bodice; in some cases a very vivid shade of green, a sort of pinafore bodice with a large apron of the same colour falling in front, was noticeable; the embroidery in claret and dark green running round all the border lines; at the neck this embroidery was put on more thickly, and also at the waist belt. Round the apron hung a deep and handsome fringe; altogether the dress with its striking colours and tin or silver hangings was very pleasing. Unfortunately the girls seemed to think that even when they wore their national dress they ought to wear also a hat and gloves; although even the simplest hat spoils the effect.
At the back of the wood, where we wandered for a little shade and quiet rest, we found our dear friends the "Runo singers." The name originated from the ancient songs having been written down on sticks, the Runo writing being cut or burnt in, this was the bards' only form of music. Now these strange musical memoranda can only be found in museums. Our Runo singers, delighted with the success of the marriage-play they had coached, welcomed us warmly, and at once rose to shake hands as we paused to listen to their kantele playing and quaint chanting.
It may be well to mention that the Finnish language is very remarkable. Like Gaelic, it is musical, soft and dulcet, expressive and poetical, comes from a very old root, and is, in fact, one of the most interesting languages we possess. But some of the Finnish words are extremely long, in which respect they excel even the German. As a specimen of what a Finnish word can be, we may give Oppimattomuudessansakin, meaning, "Even in his ignorance."
The language is intensely difficult to learn, for it has sixteen cases, a fact sufficient to appal the stoutest heart. However, there is one good thing about Finnish, namely, that it is spoken absolutely phonetically, emphasis being invariably laid on the first syllable. For instance, the above word is pronounced (the "i" being spoken as "e") Oppi-ma-tto-muu-des-san-sa-kin.
Finnish possesses a you and a thou, which fact, though it cannot lighten the difficulties, does away with the terrible third person invariably in use in Swedish, where people say calmly:
"Has the Herr Professor enjoyed his breakfast?"
"Yes, thanks, and I hope the Mrs. Authoress has done the same."
By the Swedish-speaking Finns it is considered the worst of ill-breeding for a younger person to address an elder as "you," or for strangers to speak to one another except in the manner above indicated.
Finnish is one of the softest of tongues, and of all European languages most closely resembles the Magyar or Hungarian. Both of these come from the Ugrian stock of Agglutinative languages, and therefore they always stick to the roots of the word and make grammatical changes by suffixes. Vowels are employed so incessantly that the words are round and soft, and lend themselves easily to song. There are only twenty-two letters in the Finnish alphabet, and as F is very seldom employed, even that number is decreased. The use of vowels is endless; the dotted , equivalent to the French eu, being often followed by an e or i, and thereby rendered doubly soft.
Finns freely employ thou and thee, and add to these forms of endearment numerous suffixes. Human names, all animals, plants, metals, stones, trees—anything, in fact—can be used in the diminutive form.
Finnish is almost as difficult to learn as Chinese. Every noun has sixteen cases, and the suffixes alter so much, one hardly recognises the more complicated as the outcome of the original nominative. It takes, therefore, almost a lifetime to learn Finnish thoroughly, although the structure of their sentences is simple, and, being a nation little given to gush, adverbs and adjectives are seldom used.
As an example of Finnish, we give the following table made out at our request, so that we might learn a few sentences likely to prove useful when travelling in the less-frequented parts of the country—every letter is pronounced as written.
Hyv huomenta. Good morning. Hyv iltaa. Good evening. Hyv piv. Good day. Hyv yt. Good night. Hyvsti. Adieu. Jumalan haltuun. God be with you. Kuinka voitte? How are you? Olkaa niin hyv. Be so kind. Pyydn, or olkaa niin hyv. Please; yes, please. Kiitoksia. Thank you. Kiitn. I thank you. Saisinko min vuoteen. I want a bed. Saisinko min ysijaa? Can I stay the night? Saisinko luvan tiet mitruokaa May I know what there is to teill on? eat? Saisiko tll ruokaa? Can we get anything to eat? Saisiko tll juomaa? Can we get anything to drink? Paljoko se maksaa?} What does it cost? Mit se maksaa? } Mit olen velkaa? What do I owe you? Mit olemme velkaa? What do we owe you? Me tahdomme lhte We would like to leave at one (or matkustaa) kello yksi. o'clock. Mill tunnilla saavumme perille? At what time will we arrive? Kuinka kaukana se on? How far is it? Onko sinne pitklt? Is it far from here? Olkaa hyv tuokaa viel lihaa. Please bring some more meat. Kuulkaa? Do you hear? Heti. Quick.
FINNISH. ENGLISH. FINNISH. ENGLISH.
Maitoa. Milk. Leip. Bread. Voita. Butter. Kahvia. Coffee. Sokeria. Sugar. Kaloja. Fish. Munia. Eggs. Olutta. Beer.
The foregoing are all in the objective case; in the nominative they would be:—
Liha, Maito, Leip, Voi, Kahvi, Sokeri, Kala, Muna, Olut.
The numeration table is as follows:—
Yksi. 1. Kaksi. 2. Kolme. 3. Nelj. 4. Viisi. 5. Kuusi. 6. Seitsemn. 7. Kahdeksan. 8. Yhdeksn. 9. Kymmene. 10. Kaksikymment. 20. Kaksikymment yksi. 21. Kaksikymment kaksi. 22. Kolme kymment. 30. Nelj kymment. 40. Viisi kymment. 50. Sata. 100. Kaksisataa. 200. Kolme sataa. 300. Tuhat. 1000. Kaksi tuhatta. 2000. Kolme tuhatta. 3000. Miljoona. 1,000,000. Tuhat kahdeksansataa yhdeksnkymment kuusi. 1896.
To show the difficulties of the declensions, we take, as an example, the ordinary word land.
Declensions of the word Maa=Land.
Nominativus. maa. maa-t. Genetivus. maa-n. mai-den. Ackusativus. maa-n. maa-t. Instructivus. maa-n. mai-n. Essivus. maa-na. mai-na. Partitivus. maa-ta. mai-ta. Translativus. maa-ksi. mai-ksi.
Inner local cases.
Inessivus. maa-ssa. mai-ssa. Elativus. maa-sta. mai-sta. Illativus. maa-han. mai-hin.
Outer local cases.
Adessivus. maa-lla. mai-lla. Ablativus. maa-lta. mai-lta. Allativus. maa-lle. mai-lle. Abessivus. maa-tta. mai-tta. Komitalivus. mai-ne.
Is such a declension not enough to strike terror to the stoutest heart?
But now to return to the Kalevala itself, which is said to be one of the grandest epic poems in existence. The word Kalevala means "Land of heroes," and it is undoubtedly a poem of nature-worship. It points to a contest between Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, and in this case the Light and Good are represented by the Finns, the Darkness and Evil by the Laps. Although it is a poem of nature-worship, full of most wonderful descriptions—some of the lines in praise of the moon and sun, the sea and water-ways, the rivers and hills, and the wondrous pine forests of Finland, are full of marvellous charm—it also tells the story of love, and many touching scenes are represented in its verses.
"It is unlike other epics," says Edward Clodd, "in the absence of any apotheosis of clique or clan or dynasty, and in the theatre of action being in no ideal world where the gods sit lonely on Olympus, apart from men. Its songs have a common author, the whole Finnish people; the light of common day, more than that of the supernatural, illumines them."
Before going further, it may be well to mention how the Kalevala came into existence. Finland is thinly peopled, but every Finn is at heart musical and poetical; therefore, far removed from the civilised world, they made songs among themselves—fantastic descriptions of their own country. By word of mouth these poems were handed on from generation to generation, and generally sung to the accompaniment of the kantele in a weird sort of chant. By such means the wonderful Sagas of Iceland were preserved to us until the year 1270, when they first began to be written down on sheepskins, in Runic writing, for Iceland at that date shone as a glorious literary light when all was gloom around. By means of tales, and poems, and chanted songs, the Arabian Nights stories, so dearly loved by the Arabs, which as yet have not been collected as they should have been, are related even to-day by the professional story-tellers we have seen in the market-places of Morocco.
Professor Elias Lnnrot, as mentioned in the last chapter, realising the value to scholars and antiquaries of the wonderful poems of Finland, so descriptive of the manners and customs of the Finns, set to work in the middle of the nineteenth century to collect and bring them out in book form before they were totally forgotten. This was a tremendous undertaking; he travelled through the wildest parts of Finland; disguised as a peasant, he walked from village to village, from homestead to homestead, living the life of the people, and collecting, bit by bit, the poems of his country. As in all mythological or gipsy tales, he found many versions of the same subject, for naturally verses handed on orally change a little in different districts from generation to generation. But he was not to be beaten by this extra amount of work, and finally wove into a connected whole the substance of the wondrous tales he had heard from the peasantry. This whole he called Kalevala, the name of the district where the heroes of the poem once existed. Gramophones will in future collect such treasures for posterity.
In 1835 the first edition appeared. It contained thirty-two runos or cantos of about twelve thousand lines, and the second, which was published in 1849, contained fifty runos or about twenty-two thousand eight hundred lines (seven thousand more than the Iliad).
There is no doubt about it, experts declare, that the poems or verses were written at different times, but it is nearly all of pre-Christian origin, for, with the exception of a few prayers in the last pages, there are few signs of Christian influence.
No one knows exactly how these poems originated. Indeed, the Kalevala is unique among epics, although distinct traces of foreign influence may occasionally be found, the Christian influence being only noticeable in the last runos when the Virgin's Son, the Child Christ, appears, after which advent Winminen disappears for unknown lands. With this exception the entire poem is of much earlier date.
The last runo is truly remarkable.
"Mariatta, child of beauty," becomes wedded to a berry—
Like a cranberry in feature, Like a strawberry in flavour.
* * * * *
Wedded to the mountain berry
* * * * *
Wedded only to his honour.
* * * * *
I shall bear a noble hero, I shall bear a son immortal, Who will rule among the mighty, Rule the ancient Winminen.
* * * * *
In the stable is a manger, Fitting birth-place for the hero.
* * * * *
Thereupon the horse, in pity, Breathed the moisture of his nostrils, On the body of the Virgin, Wrapped her in a cloud of vapour, Gave her warmth and needed comforts, Gave his aid to the afflicted To the virgin Mariatta. There the babe was born and cradled, Cradled in a woodland manger.
This shows Christian origin!
Winminen's place is gradually usurped by the "Wonder-babe," and the former departs in this stanza—
Thus the ancient Winminen, In his copper-banded vessel Left his tribe in Kalevala, Sailing o'er the rolling billows, Sailing through the azure vapours, Sailing through the dusk of evening, Sailing to the fiery sunset, To the higher landed regions, To the lower verge of heaven; Quickly gained the far horizon, Gained the purple-coloured harbour, There his bark he firmly anchored, Rested in his boat of copper; But he left his harp of magic, Left his songs and wisdom sayings To the lasting joy of Suomi.
Thus old Winminen sails away into unfathomable depths.
The Kalevala has, up to the present time, been a much-neglected poem, but there is now an excellent English translation by Martin Crawford, an American by birth, from which we have taken the liberty of quoting. Mr. Andrew Lang has charmingly discoursed on the great national poem of the Finns, and Mr. Edward Clodd, who wrote a delightful series of articles in Knowledge on the same subject, has kindly placed his notes in my hands.
There is no doubt about it that the fantastic mythology of the Finns has not received as much attention as it deserves. "Although mythology and theology are one," says Mr. Clodd, "we find among the ancient Finns the worship of natural objects, all living things being credited with life, and all their relations being regarded as the actions of the mighty powers."
Naturally in a country so undisturbed and isolated as Finland, fantastic mythology took firm root, and we certainly find the most romantic and weird verses in connection with the chief heroes of the Kalevala, namely, Winminen and Ilmarinen, who broadly resemble the Norse demigods Odin and Thor.
After any one has been to Finland, he reads the Kalevala with amazement. What pen could describe more faithfully the ways of the people? Every line is pregnant with life. Their food, their clothing, their manners and customs, their thoughts and characteristics are all vividly drawn, as they were hundreds of years ago, and as they remain to-day.
When we peep into the mysteries of the Kalevala and see how trees are sacred, how animals are mythological, as, for instance, in the forty-sixth rune, which speaks of the bear who "was born in lands between sun and moon, and died not by man's deeds, but by his own will," we understand the Finnish people. Indeed the wolf, the horse, the duck, and all animals find their place in this wondrous Kalevala; and dream stories are woven round each creature till the whole life of Finland has become impregnated by a fantastic sort of romance.
The Kalevala opens with a creation myth of the earth, sea, and sky from an egg, but instead of the heroes living in some supernatural home of their own, they come down from heaven, distribute gifts among men, and work their wonders by aid of magic, at the same time living with the people, and entering into their daily toils.
It is strange that the self-developing egg should occur in the Kalevala of Northern Europe, for it also appears among the Hindoos and other Eastern peoples, pointing, maybe, to the Mongolian origin of the Finnish people.
The way the life of the people is depicted seems simply marvellous, and the description holds good even at the present time. For instance, these lines taken at hazard speak of spinning, etc.—
Many beauteous things the maiden, With the spindle has accomplished, Spun and woven with her fingers; Dresses of the finest texture She in winter has upfolded, Bleached them in the days of spring-time, Dried them at the hour of noonday, For our couches finest linen, For our heads the softest pillows, For our comfort woollen blankets.
Or, again, speaking of the bride's home, it likens the father-in-law to her father, and describes the way they all live together in Finland even to-day, and bids her accept the new family as her own—
Learn to labour with thy kindred; Good the home for thee to dwell in, Good enough for bride and daughter. At thy hand will rest the milk-pail, And the churn awaits thine order; It is well here for the maiden, Happy will the young bride labour, Easy are the resting branches; Here the host is like thy father, Like thy mother is the hostess, All the sons are like thy brothers, Like thy sisters are the daughters.
Here is another touch—the shoes made from the plaited birch bark, so commonly in use even at the present time; and, again, the bread made from bark in times of famine has ever been the Finnish peasant's food—
Even sing the lads of Lapland In their straw-shoes filled with joyance, Drinking but a cup of water, Eating but the bitter tan bark.
These my dear old father sang me When at work with knife or hatchet; These my tender mother taught me When she twirled the flying spindle, When a child upon the matting By her feet I rolled and tumbled.
To-day, Finnish women still wash in the streams, and they beat their clothes upon the rocks just as they did hundreds, one might say thousands, of years ago and more—for the greater part of Kalevala was most undoubtedly written long before the Christian era in Finland.
Northlands fair and slender maiden Washing on the shore a head-dress, Beating on the rocks her garments, Rinsing there her silken raiment.
In the following rune we find an excellent description of the land, and even a line showing that in those remote days trees were burned down to clear the land, the ashes remaining for manure—a common practice now.
Groves arose in varied beauty, Beautifully grew the forests, And again, the vines and flowers. Birds again sang in the tree-tops, Noisily the merry thrushes, And the cuckoos in the birch-trees; On the mountains grew the berries, Golden flowers in the meadows, And the herbs of many colours, Many lands of vegetation; But the barley is not growing.
Osma's barley will not flourish, Not the barley of Winl, If the soil be not made ready, If the forest be not levelled, And the branches burned to ashes. Only left the birch-tree standing For the birds a place of resting, Where might sing the sweet-voiced cuckoo, Sacred bird in sacred branches.
One could go on quoting passages from this strange epic—but suffice it to say that in the forty-sixth rune Winminen speaks to Otso, the bear—
Otso, thou my well beloved, Honey eater of the woodlands, Let not anger swell thy bosom.
Otso was not born a beggar, Was not born among the rushes, Was not cradled in a manger; Honey-paw was born in ether In the regions of the Moonland.
With the chains of gold she bound it To the pine-tree's topmost branches. There she rocked the thing of magic, Rocked to life the tender baby, 'Mid the blossoms of the pine-tree, On the fir-top set with needles; Thus the young bear well was nurtured.
Sacred Otso grew and flourished, Quickly grew with graceful movements, Short of feet, with crooked ankles, Wide of mouth and broad of forehead, Short his nose, his fur robe velvet; But his claws were not well fashioned, Neither were his teeth implanted.
Swore the bear a sacred promise That he would not harm the worthy, Never do a deed of evil. Then Mielikki, woodland hostess, Wisest maid of Tapiola, Sought for teeth and claws to give him, From the stoutest mountain-ashes, From the juniper and oak-tree, From the dry knots of the alder. Teeth and claws of these were worthless, Would not render goodly service. Grew a fir-tree on the mountain, Grew a stately pine in Northland, And the fir had silver branches, Bearing golden cones abundant; These the sylvan maiden gathered, Teeth and claws of these she fashioned, In the jaws and feet of Otso Set them for the best of uses.
Taught him how to walk a hero.
He freely gave his life to others.
These are only a few stanzas taken haphazard from Kalevala, but they give some idea of its power.
At the Festival we met, among the Runo performers, a delightful woman. About forty, fat and broad, she had a cheerful countenance and kindly eyes, and she sang—if such dirges could be called singing—old Finnish songs, all of which seemingly lacked an end. She was absolutely charming, however, perfectly natural and unaffected, and when we got her in a corner, away from the audience, proved even more captivating than before the public.
First she sang a cradle song, and, as she moaned out the strange music, she patted her foot up and down and swayed her body to and fro, as though she were nursing a baby. She was simply frank too, and when asked to sing one particular song exclaimed—
"Oh yes, I can sing that beautifully; I sing it better than any one on the East Coast of Finland."
Abundant tears shed for no sufficient cause—for no cause at all, indeed—would seem to be a characteristic of these lady vocalists.
The singer of the bear legend wore a beautiful red-brocaded cap. In fact, her attire was altogether remarkable; her skirt, a pretty shade of purple shot with gold silk, was cut in such a way as to form a sort of corset bodice with braces across the shoulders, under which she wore a white chemisette. A beautiful, rich, red silk apron, and a set of well-chosen coloured scarves drawn across the breast completed her costume and added to the fantastic colouring and picturesqueness of the whole. She was very friendly; again and again she shook hands with us all in turn, and, during one of the most mournful of her songs, she sat so close to me that her elbow rested in my lap, while real tears coursed down her cheeks. It was quite touching to witness the true emotion of the woman; she rocked herself to and fro, and mopped her eyes with a neatly folded white cotton handkerchief, the while she seemed totally oblivious of our presence and enwrapped in her music. When she had finished she wiped away her tears, and then, as if suddenly recalled from another world, she appeared to realise the fact that we were present, and, overcome with grief, she apologised most abjectly for having forgotten herself so far as to cry before the strange ladies! This was no affectation; the woman was downrightly sorry, and it was not until we had patted her fondly and smiled our best thanks that she could be pacified at all and believe we were not offended.
In her calmer moments she drew, as we thought, a wonderful purse from under her apron—a cloth embroidered thing with beads upon it. Great was our surprise to discover that it contained snuff, from which she helped herself at intervals during the entertainment, never omitting to offer us some before she took her own pinch.
This unexpected generosity reminded us of an incident that occurred while crossing the Grosser Glockner mountain in the Tyrol, when we were overtaken by a violent snowstorm. Being above the snow line the cold and wind were intense. One of the guides, feeling sorry for us and evidently thinking we looked blue with cold, produced from his rucksack a large flask which contained his dearly loved schnapps. He unscrewed the cork and gravely offered it to us each in turn. There was no glass, nor did he even attempt to wipe the rim, although but an hour before we had seen all the guides drinking from the same bottle.
This equality of class is always to be found in lands where civilisation has not stepped in. "Each man is as good as his neighbour" is a motto in the remote parts of Finland, as it is in the Bavarian Highlands and other less-known parts. What the peasants have, they give freely; their goodness of heart and thoughtfulness are remarkable.
The Runo woman, who wept so unrestrainedly, had most beautiful teeth, and her smile added a particular charm to her face. When she was not singing she busied herself with spinning flax on the usual wooden oar, about five feet long and much carved and ornamented at one end. On the top, at the opposite end, was a small flat piece like another oar blade, only broader and shorter, fixed at such an angle that when she sat down upon it the carved piece stood up slant-wise beside her. Halfway up the blade some coloured cotton bands secured a bundle of flax, while in her hand she held a bobbin on to which she wove the thread.
She was never idle, for, when not occupied in singing to us, she spent her time spinning, always repeating, however, the second line of the other performers.
Another woman danced with her head bent low, a very strange slow shuffle round and round, something like an Arab measure, but after a while she broke into a sort of waltz. The dancing, like the Runo music, was primitive.
These Runo singers could but be regarded as a connecting link between the present and the past.
Here were people, the representatives of generations gone before, who had handed down by word of mouth the runes of that wonderful epic, the Kalevala. Just such folk as these had sat during long winters in their small wooden huts, practically windowless; besides, it was generally too cold to put back the wooden shutter, used for economy instead of glass, for more than a few moments at a time; they had sat in the dusk chanting the songs of their land, the mystic lines of which they had sucked in almost with their mother's milk, until music and verse filled their very souls. The weird, the wild, the fantastic, had become their nature. The mind loves to dwell on the supernatural, the unreal; and in those lonely, dreary, darkened lives mythological legends flourished as mushrooms in a cellar. The population literally feasted on the mythical, just as the twentieth century society revels in Christian Science, Theosophy, or New Thought.
As the women applied the scrutcher to the flax, or carded the wool, they dreamed wild dreams of ghosts and goblins, and repeated to themselves, in queer chant, the stories of the sacred bear, or those beautiful lines to the sun and the moon to be found in Kalevala. They lived again with Ahti, the Finnish sea god, otherwise called Lemminkinen; or the husband invoked the aid of charms, as at his work he recited how Lemminkinen reached Pohjola but to quarrel and fight, and related verses showing how he finally cut off the head of the representative champion of the beautiful Louhi. Or wild stories of an ox with a thousand heads engrossed their fancy, and they lingered fondly over the tales of the hundred horns to plough up the land. Or, again, the old wife would chime in with the weird rune where Winminen's harp blew into the sea, when a boat was manned with a thousand oars to fetch it back, but Winminen destroyed that boat by means of magic.
Louhi then changed herself into an eagle, with claws and scythes of iron, and wondrous breastplate, while on her wings she bore aloft a thousand armed men, and upon her tail sat a hundred archers, and ten upon every feather.
With one wing she sweeps the heavens, With the other sweeps the waters.
This is cleverly represented in a picture by Galln, a well-known Finnish artist.
In another stirring verse, the poem goes on to tell how Louhi swooped down upon the heroes, when desperate battle ensued for the treasure under dispute.
Wounded and exhausted, Louhi threw the treasure into the sea rather than surrender it, emblematic still in the tenacity of the Finnish race.
MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
Such are the manners and customs of the past; now let us take a look at the Suomi of to-day, that we may better understand the life of the people before we start on our trip in carts through the interior of that enchanting but far-away land.
For some hundreds of years Finland belonged to Sweden, and the stamp of Sweden is to be found on its inhabitants; especially among the aristocracy, who still speak that language in their homes. But in 1808 Russia stepped across the frontier, seized Finland, annexed it as her own, and a year later the King of Sweden renounced all his claims.
Since Finland was ceded to Russia, the Russian sovereigns, as Grand Dukes of Finland, have on the whole faithfully observed the pledges given to the Grand Duchy by Alexander I., though, especially in recent years, they have been frequently broken.
It was because the Finlanders behaved so well that the Tzar conceded much, and left them their independent constitution and their Lutheran Church. The Tzar is really the Grand Duke of Finland. The Governor-General is President of the Senate, which is the real Executive Body in Finland. The Diet has no executive power; only legislative authority. It is composed of four Houses—the Nobles, the Clergy, the Burghers, and the Peasants. The members of Parliament meet every third year, and have the power of voting money, altering the constitutional laws of the country, and regulating commercial enterprise.
Since 1863 has come the renaissance of Finland. Art, literature, industry, commerce, and politics have revived. The people saw themselves once more a nation conscious of its own gigantic tenacity of soul, prompted with a knowledge of its destiny, though sneered at, and threatened on all sides by famine, contempt, and absorption. Finland is like a man who has slept long and suddenly wakes up refreshed, with renewed vigour to work. That is why he has come so much forward in the last quarter of the century, and is now prepared to make gigantic strides. Learned, artistic, commercial, and athletic societies sprang up, each imbued with a fresh and sincere national enthusiasm. Tournaments were held for ski, rifle-shooting, yachting, and other sports. Attention was called to the ancient songs and national music, and the great musical festivals, such as was held at Sordavala, were reinstated.
Parliament began meeting regularly, and hope beamed brightly. Nevertheless danger is lurking within and without, for the Finlanders speak three languages; the Finlanders themselves only speak Finnish, the more educated people speak Swedish, and in official circles they must know Russian, a language which has been forced upon them; while the great Russian people are ready to overwhelm and absorb, and march over them to new fields. Still, as a Finlander truly said to the writer, "The destiny of a people is in the hands of the Lord, and Finland has courage in God;" and therefore it is possible a great future may be in store for that beautiful country, beautiful whether we peep at Tavasland, Karelen, or sterbotten.
The people in Tavasland are fair-haired, slow, but exceedingly tenacious, and also somewhat boorish. Here the principal towns, manufactures, etc., are to be found. Many of the inhabitants speak Swedish, and all have been influenced by Sweden.
The following little anecdote gives some idea of the character of the natives of Tavasland:—
A fortress was besieged by the Russians in 1808. After a severe struggle it was at last taken by assault, when the Russians discovered that fifty-five out of the sixty defenders were dead. But none had yielded!
The people are determined and persevering, and it is no uncommon thing for a lad to follow the plough until he is thirteen years of age, reading for his school and his university, and finally taking his M.A. degree, and even becoming a Professor.
The people of the Karelen district are quicker and of lighter heart. They are nearer to Russia, and the Russian influence is distinctly seen. They are not so cleanly or so highly educated as the rest of the country, but they are musical and artistic.
One must remember the word Finn implies native peasant; the upper classes are called Finlanders. Until lately the two spoken languages of Finland represented two parties. The Finns were the native peasants who only spoke Finnish, the Radical party practically—the upper classes who spoke Swedish among themselves were known as Svecomans, and roughly represented the Conservatives. But since the serious troubles early in the twentieth century, these two parties have been more closely drawn together against Russia, and Finlander is the common name for both Finnish-speaking and Swedish-speaking people. Finn is often used as synonymous with Finlander. There are Swedish peasants as well as Finnish; and while the Finn speaks only Finnish, the Finlander only knew Swedish until quite lately, except what he was pleased to call "Kitchen Finnish," for use amongst his servants; but every year the Finlander is learning more and more of his native language, and Swedish bids fair to be relegated to the classics as far as Finland is concerned.
The Fennomans take interest in, and work for the Finnish language, literature, and culture; while the Svecomans, who are principally composed of the old Swedish families, try to maintain the old Swedish culture in Finland.
Since 1899 Finland's relations with Russia and the defence of the Finnish Constitution is the principal question in politics.
Party strife is terrible. It would be far better if the Fennomans and Svecomans tried to remember that their real object is the same, namely, the welfare of their own country, and turned their attention only in that direction instead of to petty and often ridiculous political squabblings.
It is wonderful to note how democratic the people are in Finland. Each peasant is a gentleman at heart, brave, hasty, independent, and he expects every one to treat him as his equal.
Few persons are rich in Finland according to English lights, but many are comfortably off. It would be almost impossible there to live beyond one's income, or to pretend to have more than is really the case, for when the returns are sent in for the income tax, the income of each individual is published. In January every year, in the Helsingfors newspapers, rows and rows of names appear, and opposite them the exact income of the owner. This does not apply if the returns are less than 200 a year; but, otherwise, every one knows and openly discusses what every one else has.
Very amusing to a stranger, but horrible for the persons concerned. Fancy Jones saying to Brown, "Well, old chap, as you have 800 a year, I think you could afford a better house and occasionally a new suit of clothes;" and even if Jones didn't make such a remark, his friend feeling he thought it!
It is the fashion for each town to select a committee in December for the purpose of taxing the people. Every one is taxed. The tax is called a skatt-re, the word originating from the small coin of that name, and each town decides whether the re shall be charged on two hundred or four hundred marks. Let us take as an example a 400-mark re (tax). The first four hundred marks are free; but payment is required on every further four hundred, and so on. For instance, if a man has 16,000 marks, he pays nothing on the first four hundred, and has therefore thirty-nine sets of four hundred to pay for, which is called thirty-nine skatt-re. If overtaxed, the aggrieved person can complain to a second committee; and this sometimes happens. The tax varies very much; in some of the seaport towns, which receive heavy dues, the re, which includes parochial rates, is very low. In Wiborg they have had to pay as much as fifteen marks on every four hundred; but as a rule it is less.
The habit of publishing the returns of all the incomes began about 1890, and is now a subject of much annoyance—as much annoyance to a Finlander as the habit of never knocking at the door to a stranger. No one ever thinks of knocking at a door in Finland. People simply march in, and as few doors possess bolts, the consequences are sometimes appalling, especially to English people, who go through more daily ablutions than most nations, and prefer to do them in private. During our visit to Sordavala, for the Musical Festival, we had some curious experiences in connection with boltless doors. We were located at the brewer's. Now this was a great favour, as he was a private individual who cheerfully gave up his beautiful salon upholstered in red velvet "to the English ladies," but, unfortunately, this sumptuous apartment was reached by a smaller chamber where a man had to sleep. Not only that, but the sleeping apartment of the man was really a passage which conducted directly into the Konttoori or office of the brewery. As far as the man was concerned, this did not so much matter; eventually he became quite accustomed to hearing his door suddenly opened and seeing a stranger with an empty basket on his arm standing before him and demanding the way to the Konttoori (which is pronounced, by the bye, exactly in the same manner as an Irishman says country), when with a wave of the hand he indicated the office. But for us it was different. One morning, when the gentleman occupant of the passage was away and we were in the early stage of dressing, our door opened, and a fat burly man dashed into the middle of our room, where he stood transfixed, as well he might.
"Go away," we exclaimed. He heeded not. We waved and indicated, with the help of a brandished stocking, our desire that he should leave our apartment. But the stolidity of a Finn is always remarkable, and the appearance of strange Englishwomen in somewhat unusual attire appeared really to fascinate the gentleman, who neither moved nor spoke, only simply stared. "Go away," we repeated, gesticulating more violently than before. The situation was intensely awkward, and it seemed to us as though hours instead of moments had passed since the entrance of our burly friend, and we were just wondering how on earth we were to get rid of him, when slowly, as though rolling the letters round his mouth, he pronounced the word Konttoori.
"Yes, go into the country," we answered, pointing vehemently in the direction of that oft-inquired-for office. Very solemnly and quietly he turned round and marched out of the door—let us hope much impressed and less disconcerted by the interview than we had been. Once we were rid of him, we sat down and laughed so immoderately over the scene that the bed, one of those wooden collapsable affairs, peculiar to the country, on which my sister was sitting, completely gave way, and she was deposited upon the floor. The peals of merriment that followed this second misadventure apparently aroused the interest of some other visitor outside, for again the door opened and a youth of about seventeen stood before us. This was really getting too much of a good thing, for what may be considered a joke once becomes distressing if repeated a second time, and absolutely appalling on a third occasion.
However, as we could not understand him, and he could not understand us, we wished him good-morning, and gently waved him away. Eleven times in the course of five days did odd men and women thus rush like avalanches into our room, all having mistaken the way to the Konttoori.
Another peculiarity of the Finlander is that he never shakes hands. He seizes one's digits as though they were a pump handle, and warmly holds them, wrestles with them, waggles them, until the unsuspecting Britisher wonders if he will ever again be able to claim his hand as his own. In this way the gentleman from the Grand Duchy is demonstrative with his acquaintances; he is very publicly devoted also to his wife, fondling her before his friends. On the other hand, he seldom kisses his mother, and never his sisters. Indeed, all the outward affection seems reserved for husbands and wives; daughters seldom kiss their parents, and brothers and sisters rarely even shake hands. This struck us as particularly strange, because the members of an English family generally greet one another warmly when meeting for breakfast, especially parents and children; yet in Finland, as a rule, they hardly take any notice of one another. A certain son we knew kissed his mother's hand on the occasion of leaving her for some weeks, while he merely nodded to his brothers and sisters standing around.
Another strange freak, in a land where there is no night for two or three months, is that the better houses never have shutters, and seldom blinds, at the windows; therefore the sun streams in undisturbed; and when a room has four windows, as happened to us at Sordavala, the light of day becomes a positive nuisance, and a few green calico blinds an absolute godsend; indeed, almost as essential as the oil of cloves or lavender or the ammonia bottle for gnat bites, or the mosquito head-nets, if one sleeps with open windows. Mosquitoes have fed upon me in tropical lands, but they are gentlemen in comparison with the rough brutality of the mosquitoes of the far North; there their innings is short and violent.
It is indeed a strange experience to sleep with one's head in a sort of meat safe, for that is what these unsightly green muslin bags called mosquito nets resemble. They are flat on the top, with a sort of curtain hanging down all round, which one ties neatly under one's chin before retiring to rest. Behold a beautiful lady—for all ladies are as certain to be beautiful when they write about themselves, as that authoresses are all old and ugly, which seems to be a universal idea in the eyes of the public generally—behold then a beautiful lady enveloped in a large unwieldy and very wobbly net head-covering, of such a vivid green hue that the unfortunate wearer looks jaundiced beneath! Well, they had one advantage, they saved some bites, and they afforded us much amusement; but becoming they were not.
In our strange chamber, with its four windows only protected by white muslin blinds from the fierce glare of that inquisitive sun, that seemed to peer in upon our movements all day and all night, we endured a small martyrdom, till we begged the maid to make our beds the reverse way; that is, to put the pillows where one's feet are usually to be found, as by this means the wooden bedstead kept a little of the light out of our weary eyes. No one can realise the weariness of eternal light until he has experienced it, any more than he can appreciate the glaring effects of everlasting day. We stayed with our kind friends at Sordavala for some days, and were a great source of interest to the servant, who, one day screwing up her courage, curiosity having got the better of her shyness, thus addressed a person she thought could furnish the required information—
"Is it part of the English ladies' religion to sleep the wrong way round?"
"No," was the reply; "what do you mean?"
"Is it in their worship that they should sleep with their heads towards the sun?"
"Certainly not; how did such an idea get into your head?"
"Every night the English ladies have made me make their beds the wrong way round, and I thought perhaps it was one of their religious customs."
We were much amused when this conversation was repeated to us. Such a notion as keeping the sun out of one's eyes had never entered the girl's head. Apparently Finlanders cannot have too much sunlight; probably by way of contrast to the darkness they live in during the long winter, for be it remembered that in the far North, where we travelled later, the sun disappears altogether in December and January, and winter every year lasts for eight or nine months.
We were surprised to find that every basin is left by the housemaid with cold water in it, and there it stands waiting at all seasons; but such a thing as warm water is considered positively indecent, and the servant generally looks as if she would fall down with amazement at the mention of such a strange thing being wanted.
In quite a large hotel at which we were once staying, the landlord being the only person who could speak anything except Finnish, we asked him at night if he would be so kind as to explain to the housemaid that we wished to be called at half-past seven the following morning, when we should like her to bring us hot water.
"Certainement, Madame," he replied, and bowing low took his leave.
After a few minutes we heard a knock at the door (the door actually possessed a bolt or he would not have knocked), and on opening it we found the landlord.
"Pardon, Madame, but how much hot water do you want for grog?"
"No, no," we answered; "to wash with."
He looked amazed; evidently he was more accustomed to people drinking tumblers of hot water—for grog—than he was to our requiring it for washing purposes.
Finland has much to learn in the way of sanitation, and yet more as to the advisability of a daily bath, for while even in hotels they give one an enormous carafe, which might be called a giraffe, its neck is so long, filled with drinking water surrounded by endless tumblers, the basin is scarcely bigger than a sugar bowl, while the jug is about the size of a cream ewer.
Very, very tired one night we arrived at a little inn. The beds were not made, and, knowing how long it took a Finn to accomplish anything of the kind, we begged her to be as quick as possible, as we were dead beat. She pulled out the wooden bed, she thumped the mattress, and at last she went away, we hoped and believed to fetch the sheets. She remained absent for some time, but when she returned it was not with the sheets; it was with what to her mind was far more important, viz., a tin tray on which were arranged four glass tumblers and a huge glass bottle full of fresh water, which she had been to the bottom of the garden to pump from a deep well!
We often pondered over that water subject, and wondered whether Finns had nightly carousals with the innocent bottle, or whether drinking aqua pura is a part of their religion, as the housemaid had thought sleeping with our heads the wrong way was a part of ours!
Our minds were greatly exercised also as to why the pillows were so hard and often gave forth such a strange smell, but that mystery was one day solved. When driving along a pretty road, we saw masses of soft white cotton flower waving in the wind, the silvery sheen catching the sunlight and making it look like fluffy snow. This we were told was luikku, the Latin name of which is Eriophorum angustifolium. Women were gathering it and packing it into a sack.
"That," explained our Finnish friend, "is used for stuffing the pillows and sometimes even beds."
"Really?" we returned; "then that is why they are so hard and lumpy."
"Oh, but there is another plant even less soft than the luikku, which is employed for the same purpose. It grows at the water's edge and is a kind of rush."
This plant turned out to be ruoko (Phragmites communis), a common species of water shrub in Finland; after its dark red flowers have turned silvery gray, they look beautiful swaying with the wind, the long reed-like leaves making a pretty swish at the water's edge as they bend. Going up the canals it is quite strange to notice how, when the steamer sucks the water from the sides to her screw, the ruoko sways and bows its head down to her, and, as she passes on, it lifts its majestic head again, and gently sways down the other side as though to bid the ship farewell.
In the summer months, when things often have to be done in a hurry, getting in the hay or reaping the harvest, for instance, since the moment the weather is propitious and the crop ripe no time must be lost, or a night's frost may prove destructive to all the crops, it is very common to have a talkko.
A talkko is a sort of popular amusement at which a great deal of work is done. The farmer invites all his friends to help him clear a rye field, for example. They all come in eager haste, and generally have a sort of picnic. Work proceeds much quicker in company than alone, and while they reap with old-fashioned sickles, they chat and laugh and sing their national songs, eat and make merry on small beer, that terrible concoction which we explained before is called Kalja, which they drink out of the same spoon, regardless of disease germs.
The corn and rye when cut are put on pine-tree trunks to dry. They saw down the small pines, chop off the branch a foot from the trunk, plant them in a line along the field, and loosely throw their crop over these stumps exposed to the sun and wind; then, after binding by hand, carry them on sledges—summer sledges—to the farmstead, where thrashing, also by hand, completes the business of harvesting.
Farm work is very primitive still in parts of Finland; the small plough, behind which the native plods, guiding it in and out of the stones, which his small sturdy pony drags, is a long and tedious business.
A talkko relieves labour much; and thus it comes to pass that, after Jones and party have helped Smith on Monday, Smith and party help Jones on Tuesday; a very socialistic arrangement, like many others in Suomi.
From the poor the rich have taken a hint, and where, in England, we have work parties for bazaars, or to make garments for the village clubs, in Finland they have a talkko. Especially is this the custom just before Christmas time, when many presents have to be got ready, and all the girl friends assemble and prepare their little gifts for distribution on Christmas Eve. On this night there is much festivity. A tree is lighted even in the poorest homes, and presents are exchanged amid much feasting and merriment.
Christmas comes in the winter, when snow and ice are everywhere; therefore the richer folk drive to their balls and parties in sledges, rolled up in furs, and big skating-parties are the order of the day.
It is amusing at these gatherings to hear the young people all calling one another by their Christian names, and as some of the real Finnish names are musical and pretty, we give a few of the most usual—
Onni Ilmari Yrj (George) Vin Armas Aarne Arvo Reijo Esko Heikki (Henry) Urpo Eero (Eric) Mauno (Magnus) Lauri (Laurence) Vilho (William) Toivo Pekka (Peter) Ahti (Kalevala) Sampsa " Antero " Youko " Kullervo " Kalervo " Untamo " Kammo " Nyyrikki " Osmo " Valio Ensi
Aino Saima Helmi Aili Kyllikki Eine Aura Sirkka Lempi Sivi Rauha (Friede, Irene) Hellin Ainikki (Kalevala) Ilpotar " Inkeri " Louhi " Lyyli, or Lyylikki Mielikki (Kalevala) Tellervo " Tuulikki " Hilja Tyyne Suoma Alli Impi Laina Ilma Iri
Aaltola Vuorio Lallukka Ritola Aitamurto Haapaoja Hkli Sutinen Ps Matikainen Koskinen Piispanen Pilvi (a cloud) Vitikka Vipunen (Kalevala) Korhonen Lyytikinen Pivrinta Pivi Makkonen Porkka Rahkonen Ojanen Reijonen Alkio Teittinen
Winter in the South of Finland generally sets in about the last week of November, and when it comes is usually very severe, while the nights are long and the days short. As a rule the air is dry, and therefore that delightful fresh crispness, which is so invigorating, prevails, as it does in Norway, where, one day when we were with Dr. Nansen at Lysaker, the thermometer registered 9 below zero Fahr., yet we found it far less cold than England on a mild damp day.
The mean temperature of the North of Finland is 27 Fahr., and round Helsingfors in the South, 38 Fahr.
As November advances every one in the Southern districts looks forward eagerly to black ice; that is to say, that the ice should form before the first fall of snow covers the land. This often happens, and then the lakes, the rivers, and all round the coast, rapidly freeze some inches thick, the surface being as flat as a looking-glass, unless the wind has seriously disturbed the ice much while forming, and Finland becomes one enormous skating-rink from end to end. Every one throughout the country skates—men, women, and children. Out they come in the early morning, and, with some refreshments in their pockets, they accomplish visits and journeys which, to the uninitiated, seem impossible. Fifty or sixty miles a day can be managed on skates, and even the peasantry avail themselves of this opportunity of enjoying sport, and, at the same time, accomplishing a vast amount of friendly visiting and work. It is during this black ice that the ice-boats are most in requisition; for the bumpiness so often experienced when snow has settled on the frozen surface does not exist, and the ice-boats' speed, which is tremendous at all times, becomes absolutely terrific and wildly exciting, as we know from our experiences in Holland.
However, Finland is not always so fortunate, and sometimes the frost and snow come together; and then, although the peasantry, as in Holland, skate over the waterways to market and on business, the better-class folk, who skate for amusement, betake them to rinks.
Roadways are marked out on the ice in Finland the same as in Norway; that is to say, little holes are dug along the would-be path into which small fir-trees are stuck, and therefore these impromptu roads look like little avenues.
In the case of an ice-rink, fir-trees are planted all round the edge in a veritable wall, to keep out the non-paying public. Bands play in the afternoon and evening, and when it becomes too dark to see by nature's light, electric lamps are kindled, and the place becomes a regular rendezvous, not only for skaters, but for onlookers, who walk about on those bright starlight evenings, chatting to their friends, sipping their coffee, and listening to the music.
As a rule, in Finland they go in more for distance than figure-skating, as is also the case in Holland, Norway, etc., where long distances have to be traversed, and speed is of more importance than style. Still, in the Finnish towns, where people skate on rinks merely for amusement, some beautiful figure-skating may be seen.
Once a Finnish lady went over to Paris and received the sum of 120 a month for giving entertainments in figure-skating. All Paris was charmed, and Finland naturally felt proud.
Sledging, of course, is everywhere necessary in Finland in the winter, and only those who have enjoyed the delights of a drive, with a good horse briskly passing through the crisp air to the tingling of sleigh bells, can realise its delights.
Skidkning is also much in vogue, but in Finland it is not so dangerous as in more mountainous countries. In Norway ski are absolutely essential. There the snow lies so deep on the mountains and in the valleys that the peasantry could never get about at all were it not for their ski. But in Finland the country is so much flatter, and the lakes so much more numerous, that people can walk on the hard-frozen surface readily. Therefore the peasantry—except in certain districts—do not use ski so much as a necessity, as for pleasure and sport. The upper classes go on skidor as constantly as they skate. They get up competitions; they go for whole days' expeditions into the country, and, on their "wooden shoon," enjoy themselves thoroughly in the winter months.
In a Winter Jaunt to Norway, I described a jump of eighty-eight feet made on these strange snow-shoes, and the ski themselves, as follows:—
It is perhaps a bold statement to call ski-racing one of the finest sports of the world, but to our mind it undoubtedly is, and one which requires wondrous pluck and skill, and for a man to jump eighty-eight feet from a height, with a pair of ski securely fixed on his feet, requires some courage!
They are utterly unlike Canadian snow-shoes, because they are required for a very hilly country, and over a great depth of snow. An ordinary-sized man's ski are eight or nine feet long. They are only about 4 inches wide, and an inch at the thickest part, that is to say, immediately under the foot, but towards either end they taper to half this thickness. As a rule they are both the same length, and pointed upwards at the toes; but in some of the Norwegian valleys and in Finland, one ski is much longer than the other, and that one is usually quite flat.
In the middle of this plank-like piece of wood, which is split with the grain to stand the great strain often imposed upon it, and never sawn at all, the toes are fastened by a leather strap. Another strap goes round the heel in a sort of loop fashion, securing the foot, but at the same time giving the heel full play. A special ski boot is worn over enormously thick horsehair stockings. This boot has no hard sole at all, and, instead of being sewn at the sides, the large piece of thick leather which goes under the foot is brought well over the top and secured to what might ordinarily be called a leather tongue. At the back of the boot is a small strap, which is used to fasten the ski heel-strap securely to the boot. Once fixed on the ski, the foot is so secure no fall can loosen it, and the only way to extricate the foot is to undo the three straps. Outside these huge ungainly hair stockings and strangely comfortable boots very thick gaiters are worn. It is very necessary to keep the feet and legs warm in such a cold land as Norway, where the mercury freezes oft-times in the thermometers, and snow six or seven feet deep covers the land sometimes for months. Such cold sounds appalling, but it is quite the reverse. The air is absolutely dry, and there is seldom any wind.
At the given word, No. 1 rushed from the plateau on the hilltop, down the hill itself. The pace, in consequence of the steepness, was tremendous. On he came; on to the little platform built out from the mountain-side he rushed; then, with a huge spring, his legs doubled up, and whirling his arms like a windmill to keep his balance, he jumped.
Oh, what a moment of profound excitement! Would he regain his footing all that distance below? Balancing himself for a moment in the air after his jump, he regained his footing, and sped away down the hillside, stopping himself by a sharp turn of the ski as he was nearing the loudly applauding spectators. One after another they came, and at least 50 per cent, succeeded in landing on their feet and speeding away.
The longest jump of all was 26 metres, that is to say, nearly 88 feet, and this was done by Ustvedt; but he did not regain his footing. Ingemann Sverre, who jumped 22 metres, and landed on his feet to continue his course, won the king's cup and the ladies' purse.
We looked on and marvelled.
Since then a hundred and twenty feet is the record jump. Strange as it may seem, ski was a word practically unknown in England.
Such competitions are now held in Finland, where ski soon promise to be as fashionable as in Norway. Ski are called—
In Swedish Skida, plural Skidor. In Finnish Suksi, " Sukset.
They are almost the same as the Norwegian shoes, excepting that they always have an inward curve under the foot, and seldom have a heel-strap. The heel-strap is only necessary for jumping or for going uphill, and as there is little jumping and no hills to speak of in Finland, the shoe, being curved up at the toe like a Chinaman's, is sufficient to keep the Sukset on the feet.
Bears, as said before, do not walk hourly in the streets of Finland. Nevertheless, bears do exist, and in the Northern and Easterly districts in considerable numbers. It is in winter that the bear-hunts take place, and, having discovered the whereabouts of the monarch of the forest, the Finlander disturbs him from his winter sleep, either by smoke or by the aid of dogs, and then for days follows him over the snow. The bear is an adept at walking through snow, but man on sukset is his match. After circling bruin in parties, or chasing him alone, the bear generally falls in the end to some sportsman's gun. It is a great day when the dead bear is brought back to the village, and one usually celebrated by a triumphal procession, merry-making, and a grand feast, followed by much singing of the national songs, handed down from father to son, and thrilling tales of wondrous acts of daring at bear-hunts, for, as we have seen, in the Kalevala the bear is a great subject for the poet's verse. The man who fired the fatal shot is, on the occasion of the bear-feast, naturally the hero, and for him it is an occasion to be gratefully remembered. Every Finn speaks with profound admiration and bated breath of Mrten Kitunen, who during his life killed a hundred and ninety-eight fully-grown bears, besides innumerable young ones. It must not be imagined from this that bear-killing is an easy sport; on the contrary, it is extremely dangerous, for the fatigue and perils of skidkning the wild forests, with a very low temperature, for hours and hours is in itself a perilous pastime. Frost-bite is by no means uncommon, and, of course, in such cold, it is impossible to sit down and rest, lest that drowsy sleep, so dreaded in northern climates, should take hold of the weary man and gradually lull him into his last slumber. Nevertheless, women, who in Finland are particularly enterprising, sometimes take part in bear-hunts, and it is on record that several have themselves shot fully-grown animals. No mean achievement for a woman; but Finnish women are go-ahead, and have given the world a lead by gaining admittance to Parliament.
Many women stalk the deer in Scotland, and some have made wonderful bags, but then, although stalking often necessitates many weary hours' walking, there is not in Scotland such severe and perilous cold to deal with. In Finland many ladies shoot, and when a hare is killed the cry of All's Tod rings through the forest, and sounds almost as inspiriting as the cry of the hounds at home.
Tobogganing is another great institution in Finland, and as the hills in the South are not steep enough for a really good spin, the Finlanders put up a Klkbacke or Skrinnbacke, in imitation of their Russian friends, and enjoy rattling spins, and moments of intense excitement, gliding down these dangerous routes. They are really switchbacks made of ice and snow, and as they are steep, the pace is terrific.
In summer yachting is one of the great institutions of Finland, and we were lucky enough to be in Wiborg at the time of the great race between Wiborg and Helsingfors for the Yacht Cup.
It was a delightful day, and a large steamer having been chartered by our host, whose son was the President of the Wiborg Yacht Club, he invited his friends to see the race. We were a very merry party of forty or fifty, as we steamed away from the Wiborg pier to where the two yachts were to meet.
The Menelik belongs to Wiborg; the Thelma to Helsingfors. The Menelik is a lugger, built in Wiborg at the yard of Hackman Company, although designed by Arthur E. Payne of Southampton. She is a two and a half rater.
The Helsingfors boat was designed by Charles Sibbick in Cowes, England.
The Yacht Club in Helsingfors began its existence in 1876, and is certainly in a very flourishing condition. The course was a long one, and the two best days' sailing out of three secures the Cup. The first day was a trial to the patience of the steersmen. It was a dead calm; such a calm as one seldom meets with, and not until the afternoon did the faintest breeze spring up, while even then the sailing so far exceeded the seven hours' time allowed that the day was drawn as a blank.
But, as onlookers, we enjoyed ourselves immensely; there were numbers of steamers like ourselves on pleasure bent, the umpire's boat, and several rowing boats which had managed to come out so far to sea, the day being calm. The end was all that our kind host could wish, for the Menelik won by three minutes. Yachting and canoeing are fine pastimes in this land of waterways.
Dancing is a very popular form of entertainment in Finland, and often indulged in by old and young. It is quite a custom on Saturday evening for the young folk from various villages to meet together at some workmen's recreation room, or at one of the larger farms, and have a ball. One of the best specimens of such an entertainment we chanced to see was at the old-world city of bo. About a mile from the town a new park has been opened, in the arrangements of which our friend, the Chief of the Police, took the greatest interest, and to it, after a charming little dinner, he escorted us to see the peasant ball in full swing.
Every Saturday at six o'clock it begins; and, as some sort of restraint is necessary, the sum of one penny is charged to each would-be dancer.
In the middle of the park is a large kiosk, big enough for a couple of hundred folk to pirouette at a time. It has a roof supported by pillars, but there are no side walls. A couple of fiddlers were playing hard when we entered, and a cornet coming in at odd minutes composed the band, and, until midnight, the couples twirled and whisked round and round the wooden floor. Why should not something of the kind be allowed in our parks from seven to twelve in the evening at a charge of a few pence?
The great national dance of the country is called the jenka. It is more like a schottische perhaps than anything else; and really it was extraordinary to see how well these peasants danced, and how they beat time. Thoroughly they entered into the spirit of the thing, the polka, waltz, and jenka being all danced in turn, until the park closed.
Writing letters in Finland is an expensive amusement. Every epistle, not delivered by private hand, costs twopence for transmission; rather a high rate for home postage, considering that foreign letters only cost a fourth more. Postcards cost one penny, whether for home or foreign use.
This high rate of postage seems very remarkable, considering the almost universal adoption of my father's old friend's (Sir Rowland Hill) enlightened suggestion that a penny would pay.
We learn that during the year 1896 our English post-office passed 1,834,200,000 letters and 314,500,000 postcards; and, writing on the same subject, the Duke of Norfolk said, "The penny letter has long been known to be the sheet anchor of the post-office, and it is interesting to record that no less than 95 per cent. of the total number of inland letters passed for a penny each." Fifteen years later every English-speaking land could be reached by a penny stamp.
Finland might take the hint and institute a penny post; but we hope she will not send some fifty thousand letters unaddressed, as we English did, their valuable contents amounting to several thousands of pounds!
The quickest postal route to Finland is vi St. Petersburg; but letters are often delayed to be searched, and they are not unfrequently lost, so that all important epistles are best registered; and one Finnish family, some of whose relations live in Germany, told us they never thought of sending letters either way without registering them first.
Finland has her own stamps, but all letters passing direct from Russia to Finland, or Finland to Russia, must have special stamps upon them, the Tzar having forbidden the Finnish stamps to be used on letters going out of Finland, which is contrary to Finnish laws.
Telegrams from or to Finland are ruinous. Even in Suomi itself they cost a small fortune, and outside they are even worse; but then no one telegraphs to any one in the territory, for almost every person has a telephone, which can be annexed from town to town, and those who have not telephones can go to a public office in every village and expend a penny on their message, therefore in that respect the Finns are in advance of us.
We were amused to find the Finlanders very inquisitive. This is as much a trait in their character as their stubborn obstinacy, their intense truthfulness, or their wondrous honesty. And a Finn runs a Scotchman very hard in evading a straightforward answer.
"Does the train leave at two?"
The question is replied to by the Scot, "Maybe it does;" but the Finlander says, "It is advertised to do so;" thus getting out of a direct answer, for where the Englishman would say "Yes" or "No" if he knew, the other two nations would never dream of doing such a thing. The inhabitants of this Grand Duchy are, as has been stated, wondrously inquisitive. The peasant asks where you come from the moment he sees you are a stranger, and the better-class folk soon turn the traveller in their midst inside out with questions. They ask not only "Where do you come from?" but, "Where are you going?" "What is your business?" "Have you a husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sisters," and so on. One inquiry is piled upon another, just as is the custom in the United States, where a railway journey is like a query and answer column.