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Through Finland in Carts
by Ethel Brilliana Alec-Tweedie
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What an unromantic ending to a most weird story, with every surrounding at hand, every element ready except the actual ghost himself! A happy ending. Stay, now it is over, I almost wish the ending had been less happy and more romantic.

Woman is seldom satisfied, and man never! One woman, however, I am not ashamed to say, was never in all her previous life so frightened as during that midnight hour at Nyslott.

Happy days followed after this terrifying episode. We explored dark chambers with a candle and matches, we cooked coffee on the stove for breakfast, and boiled eggs in an enormous tea-kettle, aided in our pleasant toil by two smiling much-interested watchmen, and afterwards ate our meal among tangled shrubs in a courtyard shaded from the sun's heat by a linden tree.

We idled generally; wrote letters, scribbled up our diaries, chatted or made sketches in the Bastion Dick with its eight windows, each of which are at the narrow end of a wall measuring fifteen feet thick, thus forming the deep recesses of a large octagonal chamber with long benches stretching down the side of each of the fifteen feet walls. A wondrous and remarkable hall, always cool even on a hot day with its windowless look-outs over that beautiful lake.

Up the centre of this huge hall was a column of solid masonry coming from the chamber below, and rising some thirty feet to support the arched roof.

We enjoyed it all; but, be it owned, the life was very primitive, and to many people would have seemed ghastly.

For dinner (which is always between two and four in Finland), we were obliged to cross to the Kasino or Societetzhuset (Hotel), our commissariat and chef de cuisine not rising to the requirements of such a meal.

We learnt how ugly ordinary small Finnish towns are, with their one-storey wooden houses, ill-paved roads, totally devoid of side paths—how very like cheap wooden Noah's arks, such as children have; all straight and plain with glaring windows painted round with white paint, no gardens of any kind, while every casement is blocked with a big indiarubber plant. Generally they possess a huge stone or brick school-house, large enough to contain all the thousand inhabitants in the district, instead of the town's two hundred children, but then it is built ready for contingencies.

All this hideous inartistic modernity contrasted sadly with the massive beauty and vast strength of our castellated home.

Nyslott, as already said, is famous for its baths, which are a great institution, and charmingly arranged—douche baths, steam, mud, swimming, etc., and about forty or fifty little private rooms, some containing sofas—and at least a dozen women to attend to the comfort of visitors. They are regular Finnish bathing-women, wearing the ordinary uniform of their calling, viz. a thick blue serge skirt, red flannel outside stays, opening at the lacing in front and showing the white cotton chemise that is de rigueur, cut low at the neck and with quite short sleeves, a very pretty simple dress that allows great freedom to the arms when massaging, one of the important items of every Finnish bath.

We always returned to our castellated home for our evening meal, and, armed with a basket containing sardines, bread, butter, cold tongue, or ham, delicious cakes or fruit for dessert, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Our table in the courtyard was gray with age, and notched with the initials of young Philistines of former generations. We had no cloth, why should we; our forefathers ate without cloths and were happy nevertheless. We had a large brown earthenware pot, such as is used as a bread pan in England, at the head of the table filled with milk, which we served by dipping a cup into its depths. A mat of birch bark was our bread trencher, a cabbage leaf our butter dish, for although we had plates and knives and forks, cups and tumblers, there were not enough to accommodate the many articles displayed upon our liberal board.

The pigeons generally joined us at our meal, and seemed to know when we sallied forth in solemn procession, each with a black tin tray, what coming event was casting its shadow before, for they began to arrive whenever they heard the first rattle of cups and saucers. Our feathered friends guessed intuitively that scraps would immediately follow the pleasant music, more delectable than any the Castle had hitherto furnished. If our bedroom was quaint, our youthful Grandpapa's was quainter.

Never was there a more strange sleeping-chamber than the old church where Grandpapa reposed on a mattress on the floor. It was a long narrow room with windows on both sides, the only place which boasted real windows except our own room, and the wee kitchen in that rambling old Olavin Linna.

Although this church had been Catholic, Lutheran, and Greek, and then Lutheran again, all that remained of decoration were the remnants of an altar, at the far end, above which hung a large picture of the Crucifixion, and below a representation of the Lord's Supper; both badly painted, if one might judge from the scant colour remaining on the canvas. On one side stood a pulpit with a top like an extinguisher, much the worse for wear; formerly it had been painted all over with bright colours, the panels of the saints being surrounded by garish festoons and queer designs. In the opposite corner of the room was a very remarkable representation of Our Lord, with the five foolish virgins on one side, and the five wise ones on the other. It was a truly wonderful picture, for all the arms were out of drawing and all the heads too big for the bodies, and every one of the faces hideous. But even more wonderful than all the rest was the dado painted on a wooden panelling which ran round the church. The background was pale green, and the persons represented were prophets, apostles, and saints in the most rude form of art. Finnish art about a hundred and fifty years ago closely resembled the very earliest examples known of the Italian, only it was yet a hundredfold more primitive. But then, we presume, the village artist had never really seen a good picture in his life, and had nothing to go by.

On the panels were the following:—

P. Isak (P. standing for Pylia = saint), dressed in a blue kilt, with black top boots, a red cape, and a black billycock hat!

P. Jacob, who was next to him, wore brown knickerbockers and long stockings, a red and blue plaid, and a red felt hat.

P. Samuel had a hat like a Jewish Rabbi and a long black cloak.

Judas Iskariot a most wonderful red head and beard, and carried in his hand a Finnish peasant's tobacco pouch.

But the most wonderful was Noak or Noah in blue and white tartan knickerbockers with a short kilt above them, carrying a red cloak and black slouch hat over his arm.

At the end of the room, opposite the altar, was a sort of wide wooden stair, on which prisoners used to sit during service at the commencement of the nineteenth century.

We bathed in that hot weather from the rock on which Nyslott is built, and enjoyed the cool water amazingly. To find a safe spot, however, from which to make our plunge proved a difficulty, and one we had to solve for ourselves.

Leaving the main and only entrance of the Castle, and descending some wide steps leading to the water edge, bathing dresses and towels in hand, we found a little ledge of stone-work barely twelve inches broad, just above the level of the lake. Literally only a foothold. Any nervous person inclined to turn giddy would hardly have dared to venture along such a path at all. But it led to the only spot where we could stand on solid earth outside the Castle walls, so completely did the edifice cover the rock on which it was built. A gust of wind at the turn of the tower almost blew us over, it was so sudden and unexpected.

After climbing on in this way for a short while we came to a little cove between two towers, with enough land for three or four trees to find soil to grow on, and beneath them a perfect bed of wild strawberries. It was a very small and very primitive bath chamber, but trees afforded shade from the sun's powerful rays, and two massive walls shut us in from curious eyes.

Near the Castle gate the water was smooth, but the current round other parts of the battlements was great, and almost baffled the wonderful swimming powers of Grandpapa and his friend, the delightful student who joined us at Nyslott, fresh from his newly-won honours at the University. They swam round it—but they had a struggle to accomplish their feat.

Our student was a great acquisition to the party, though many scenes we lived together were not altogether devoid of embarrassment. We spoke English, French, and German, but he knew no language that we knew. For his University work he had learned book-German, and could read it well, but he had never heard it spoken, and his tongue had never framed the words. Still, with this solid foundation, we soon taught him, and at the end of the three weeks that he spent with us, we flatter ourselves his German was excellent! Many a laugh we had over his deliciously amusing struggles, and, in spite of being a Finlander, he laughed too.

We also had many quaint linguistic adventures with our "hotel keeper."

That custodian was a poet—a real live poet. He used to disappear for hours; and we wondered where he was, until one fine day, as we rowed home to our enchanted Castle, we saw a man on the top of the watch tower waving his arms and gesticulating with dramatic gestures into space. This was our Vahtimestari. From his exalted position, with one of the most beautiful panoramas eye could wish lying at his feet—resting on a famous battlement, that had withstood the ravages of love and war—he evolved his magic verse. Truly no scene could be more inspiring, no motive more sublime, for even we humble humdrum matter-of-fact Englishwomen felt almost inspired to tempt the poet's muse. But happily no—our friends are spared—the passion was but fleeting.

One day our Vahtimestari met us all smiles. We could not quite understand what he meant, but Grandpapa and our student told us some strange news as soon as the Vahtimestari had imparted it to them.

It seemed that a party of people had rung the bell on the shore for the Castle boat to go to fetch them, so, accordingly, our nocturnal host had gone across to earn his penny per head for ferrying them over. A papa, mamma, son, and daughters, with a couple of acquaintances, comprised the party. They calmly owned they had not come to see the Castle—they had seen it before. They had come to see the English ladies. Was it really true that two Englishwomen were staying there as the papers stated? Had they actually come from London? What were they like? What did they do? And why on earth did they sleep among the ghosts and hobgoblins?

Then, in a hushed voice and with subdued breath they asked—

"Are they mad?"

"No," the man answered, "he didn't think they were, they seemed much like other folk."

"Could they talk."

"Not Finnish; but they understand a little Swedish, and talk French and German with their friends."

"Did they do anything very remarkable or strange?"

"No. They cook their breakfast, and afterwards eat it; write, work, sketch, and bathe; in fact, they are ordinary people and seem quite sane."

"Could they see the strange ladies?"

"He was afraid not, as they were on shore."

"Might they see where they slept?"

"Certainly," replied the Vahtimestari.

And on reaching the room they exclaimed—

"Why, this is an ordinary room with windows, how very disappointing," whereupon, much distressed and disillusioned, they turned and departed.

At this very time we were walking on the promenade in front of the bath-houses, where a nice fat comfortable-looking old gentleman stood before me, and cap in hand asked in English—

"Excuse me, do you like Finland?"

"Very much," I replied, smiling at the question; "but why do you ask?"

"I am a Finn—we all are Finns, and we are very proud of our country, about which most of Europe knows nothing, or at least next to nothing, and I am desirous to hear what you think of it all?"

"I am delighted with it. But again I must ask why you inquire?"

"Because we all know about you from the newspapers (not one word of which we could read ourselves), and we are very anxious you should like us and our land, and tell the people in England we are not barbarians as they suppose. Please excuse my speaking to you, but I am the spokesman of many, who will be delighted to hear you are satisfied, and wish you a pleasant journey. If a stranger may be so bold—I thank you for coming."

"Finland certainly deserves to be better known," I replied.

"You think so? oh, I am glad;" and after a few minutes more conversation he said, "I hope you will enjoy Punkaharju."

"How do you know I am going to Punkaharju?"

"I heard so, and that you are actually living in our Castle, and that you are going through the country to Uleborg."

I almost collapsed; but he was so nice and so smiling I dared not be angry at his somewhat inquisitive interest in my movements.

On another occasion it was an elderly general who calmly sat down and addressed me in German, in order to inquire what I was going to write, how I was going to write it, and when it would appear.

These are only three instances of several, all showing the keen interest of the people that the land may be known and the Finlander a little better understood than he is by half the world to-day, who seem to imagine him to be a cross between a Laplander and an Esquimo—instead of what he really is, a very cultured gentleman.

My sister eased the troubles of life for me by kindly doing the packing; but once, so she says, virtue seized me in a rigid grip—and I packed.

It was at Olavin Linna—at our Castle. We were leaving next day, and one Gladstone had to be filled with things we did not want for a short time, and the other to be packed with everything we required immediately.

I worked hard. Sorted everything; filled the Gladstone with clean linen, guide books, foods, papers, etc., strapped it, and then, feeling the incarnation of industry and pride, threw myself on that precious deck-chair to rest and read.

Presently my sister danced into the room. I told her of my virtue, received her congratulations and thanks, beamed with delight at my success, and answered her question as to the whereabouts of her bathing cap that "I had never seen it."

"Strange," she said, "I feel sure I left it on the window-sill to dry last night as usual, and it has gone, and I want a swim."

We both looked. We went down into the courtyard and scrambled among the lilac bushes immediately below the window. Finally, we decided it had been left on the tree at the bathing ground the night before. So off she went round that dangerous edge to find the cap. It was not there.

We called Grandpapa—Grandpapa called the Vahtimestari—the Vahtimestari called his under man; every one explained to every one else what was missing. At last the custodian remarked—

"Oh, now I understand what you mean; that sponge bag which lies beside the bathing dresses to dry; I didn't know what you meant by 'cap to bathe.'"

"Yes, yes, that is it," replied Grandpapa; "where is it?"

"I don't know."

"But it must be found. This lady dives and swims under water, and her long hair would get wet without it."

And so we looked, and looked, and all looked again.

"Let us go and buy another," remarked my sister in desperation.

"Impossible," replied our student, who had now joined in the search, "you might get one in Helsingfors, but nowhere else."

We were in despair. Before evening the whole town had heard of the English ladies' strange loss, and the bathing cap was as much commented upon as though it had been a dynamite bomb.

Confession, they say, is good for the soul. Then let me own my sin. The next day that bathing cap was found—I had packed it up!

Wherefore my sister on all inconvenient occasions says—

"Yes, she packed once; she put away everything we wanted, and left out everything we had no use for."

How cruelly frank one's relations are!

* * * * *

Alas! my haunted Castle is restored, and the revels of the ghosts and the goblins are now disturbed by the shrieks and snorts of the modern locomotive.

FOOTNOTES:

[C] A Girl's Ride in Iceland.

[D] Gtstaff is old Finnish for Gustavus.



CHAPTER XII

PUNKAHARJU

Every one we met in Finland told us to make a point of seeing Punkaharju, just as strangers in London might be advised to visit the Tower, though in this case the great show was not a historical place, the work of men's hands, but a freak of Nature in one of her most charming moods.

Punkaharju being only a short distance from Nyslott, we proceeded thither in a small steamer supposed to start at noon.

By one of those lucky chances that sometimes occur in life, we happened to arrive at the steamer half an hour before the time she was advertised to sail, and were, to say the least of it, barely on board before a whistle sounded, when away we went. We were amazed at this proceeding, and, taking out our watches, discovered it still wanted twenty minutes to the time printed in the newspapers and on the advertisement at the bath-house.

It was only another instance showing that punctuality is absolutely considered of no value in Finland, for the steamer actually did start twenty minutes before its appointed hour, and no one then or after made the slightest complaint.

Imagine our Flying Scotchman speeding North even one minute before the advertised hour!

Having been told that Punkaharju was very full during the summer holiday season, we had therefore asked our charming student friend, who preceded us by a day, to kindly engage rooms to await our arrival. What was our surprise when we arrived at the little pier, not only to meet him beaming with smiles as he hurried to say he had secured rooms, but to find a lady who had travelled with us some days before from Wiborg and spoke English well, warmly welcoming us, the while she exclaimed—

"I found the Hotel was so full when I came that I told the landlord rooms would be required to-night, for I did not wish you to be disappointed."

She was a stranger, and her thoughtfulness was very kind. The plot thickened, however, a moment afterwards, when the Russian General, who had also travelled for a whole day on a steamer with us, arrived in his scarlet-lined uniform, and, saluting profoundly, begged to inform Madame he had taken the liberty of bespeaking rooms "as the Hotel was very full."

This was somewhat alarming, and it actually turned out that three suites of rooms had been engaged for us by three different people, each out of the goodness of his heart trying to avoid the dreadful possibility of our being sent away roofless. No wonder our host, thinking such a number of Englishwomen were arriving, had procured the only carriage in the neighbourhood and ordered it and a cart to come down to the pier and await this vast influx of folk. Although the Hotel was not a hundred yards actually from where we stood, everybody insisted on our getting into the little carriage for the honour of the thing, and my sister and I drove off in triumph by a somewhat circuitous route to the Hotel, only to find all our friends and acquaintances there before us, as they had come up the short way by the steps.

Even more strange was the fact that each one of our kind friends had told a certain Judge and his wife of our probable arrival, and promised to introduce the strange English women to them, while, funnily enough, we ourselves bore an introduction from the lady's brother, so, before any of our compagnons de voyage had time to introduce us, we had already made the acquaintance of the Judge and his wife through that gentleman's card. They were all exceedingly kind to us, and we thoroughly enjoyed our short stay among them. Such friendliness is very marked in Finland.

Punkaharju is certainly a strange freak of Nature. Imagine a series of the most queerly-shaped islands all joined together by a natural roadway, for, strange to say, there is a ridge of land sometimes absolutely only the width of the road joining these islands in a connective chain. For about five miles these four or five islands are bound together in this very mysterious manner, so mysterious, in fact, that it seems impossible, as one walks along the roadway, to believe it is nature's freak and not man's hand that has made this extraordinary thoroughfare. It is most beautiful in the wider parts, where, there being more land, the traveller comes upon lovely dells, while the most marvellous mosses and ferns lie under the pine trees, and the flowers are beautiful.

No wonder Runeberg the poet loved to linger here—a veritable enchanted spot.

The morning after our arrival we had a delightful expedition in a boat to the end of the islands; but as a sudden storm got up, in the way that storms sometimes do in Finland, we experienced great difficulty in landing, and were ultimately carried from the boat to the beach in somewhat undignified fashion. However, we landed somehow, and most of us escaped without even wet feet. Just above us was a woodman's house, where our kind Judge had ordered coffee to be in readiness, and thither we started, a little cold and somewhat wet from the waves that had entered our bark and sprinkled us. On the way we paused to eat wild strawberries and to look at the ancient Russian bakeries buried in the earth. These primitive ovens of stone are of great size, for a whole regiment had been stationed here at the time of the war early in the last century when Russia conquered Finland. And then we all sat on the balcony of the woodman's cottage and enjoyed our coffee, poured from a dear little copper pot, together with the black bread and excellent butter, which were served with it.

On that balcony some six or eight languages were spoken by our Finnish friends, such wonderful linguists are they as a nation. At the end of our meal the wind subsided and out came the most brilliant sunshine, changing the whole scene from storm to calm, like a fairy transformation at the pantomime.

We walked back to the Hotel, and the Finlanders proved to be right. As a beautiful bit of quaint nature, Punkaharju equals some of the finest passes in Scotland, while its formation is really most remarkable.

A ridiculous incident happened that day at dinner. Grandpapa, like a great many other persons in Finland, being a vegetarian, had gone to the rubicund and comfortable landlord that morning and explained that he wanted vegetables and fruit for his dinner. At four o'clock, the time for our mid-day meal, we all seated ourselves at table with excellent appetites, the Judge being on my left hand and his wife on my right.

We had all fetched our trifles from the Smrgsbord, and there ensued a pause before the arrival of the soup. Solemnly a servant, bearing a large dish, came up to our table, and in front of our youthful Grandpapa deposited her burden. His title naturally gave him precedence of us all—an honour his years scarcely warranted. The dish was covered with a white serviette, and when he lifted the cloth, lo! some two dozen eggs were lying within its folds.

"How extraordinary," he said; "I told the landlord I was a vegetarian, and should like some suitable food; surely he does not think I am going to eat this tremendous supply of eggs."

We laughed.

"Where is our dinner?" we asked, a question which interested us much more than his too liberal supply.

"Oh! it will come in a moment," he replied cheerfully.

"But did you order it?" we ventured to inquire.

"No, I cannot say I did. There is a table d'hte."

Unmercifully we chaffed him. Fancy his daring to order his own dinner, and never inquiring whether we were to have anything to eat or not; he, who had catered for our wants in the mysteries of that castle home, so basely to desert us now.

He really looked quite distressed.

"I'm extremely sorry," he said, "but I thought, being in a hotel, you were sure to have everything you wanted. Of course there is a table d'hte meal."

At this juncture the servant returned, bearing another large dish. Our dinner, of course, we hoped. Not a bit of it. A large white china basin, full of slices of cucumber, cut, about a quarter of an inch thick, as cucumber is generally served in Finnish houses, again solemnly paused in front of Grandpapa. He looked a little uneasy as he inquired for our dinner.

"This is for the gentleman," she solemnly remarked; and so dish number two, containing at least three entire cucumbers for the vegetarian's dinner, was left before him. Another pause, and still our soup did not come; but the girl returned, this time bearing a glass dish on a long spiral stand filled with red stewed fruit, which, with all solemnity, she deposited in front of Grandpapa.

His countenance fell. Twenty-four eggs, three cucumbers, and about three quarts of stewed fruit, besides an enormous jug of milk and an entire loaf of bread, surrounded his plate, while we hungry mortals were waiting for even crumbs.

Fact was, the good housewife, unaccustomed to vegetarians, could not rightly gauge their appetites, and as the gentleman had ordered his own dinner she thought, and rightly, he was somebody very great, and accordingly gave him the best of what she had, and that in large quantities.

After dinner, which, let us own, was excellent, we had to leave our kind friends and drive back in the soft light of the night to Nyslott, for which purpose we had ordered two krra (Swedish for cart), karryts (Finnish name), a proceeding which filled the Judge and his wife with horror.

"It is impossible," they said, "that you can drive such a distance in one of our ordinary Finnish krra. You do not know what you are undertaking. You will be shaken to death. Do wait and return to-morrow by the steamer."

We laughed at their fears, for had we not made up our minds to travel a couple of hundred miles through Finland at a not much later date by means of these very krra? Certainly, however, when we reached the door our hearts failed us a little.

The most primitive of market carts in England could not approach the discomfort of this strange Finnish conveyance. There were two wheels, undoubtedly, placed across which a sort of rough-and-ready box formed the cart; on this a seat without a back was "reserved" for us. The body of the krra was strewn with hay, and behind us and below us, and before us our luggage was stacked, a small boy of twelve sitting on our feet with his legs dangling out at the side while he drove the little vehicle.

Grandpapa and I got into one, our student friend and my sister into the other, and away we went amid the kindly farewells of all the occupants of the hostelry, who seemed to think we were little short of mad to undertake a long tiring journey in native carts, and to elect to sleep at our haunted castle on an island, instead of in a proper hotel.

We survived our drive—nay more, we enjoyed it thoroughly, although so shaken we feared to lose every tooth in our heads. It was a lovely evening, and we munched wild strawberries by the way, which we bought for twopence in a birch-bark basket from a shoeless little urchin on the road. We had no spoon of course; but we had been long enough in Finland to know the correct way to eat wild strawberries was with a pin. The pin reminds us of pricks, and pricks somehow remind of soap, and soap reminds us of a little incident which may here be mentioned.

An old traveller never leaves home without a supply of soap; so, naturally, being very old travellers, we started with many cakes among our treasured possessions. But in the interior of Suomi, quite suddenly, one of our travelling companions confided to us the fact that he had finished his soap, and could not get another piece. My sister's heart melted, and she gave away our last bit but one, our soap having likewise taken unto itself wings. He was overjoyed, for English soap is a much-appreciated luxury in all foreign lands. Some days went by and the solitary piece we had preserved grew beautifully less and less; but we hoped to get some more at each little village we came to. We did not like to confide our want to our friend, lest he should feel that he had deprived us of a luxury—we might say a necessity.

Every morning my sister grumbled that our soap was getting smaller and smaller, which indeed it was, while the chance of replacing it grew more and more remote. Her grief was so real, her distress so great, that I could not help laughing at her discomfiture, and, whenever possible, informed her that I was about to wash my hands for the sake of enjoying the last lather of our rapidly dwindling treasure. At last she became desperate.

"I don't care what it costs," she said; "I don't care how long it takes, but I am going out to get a piece of soap, if I die for it."

So out she went, and verily she was gone for hours. I began to think she had either "died for it," or got into difficulties with the language, or been locked up in a Finnish prison!

I was sitting writing my notes, when suddenly the door was thrown open, and my sister, her face aflame with heat and excitement, appeared with a large bright orange parcel under her arm.

"I've got it, I've got it," she exclaimed.

"Got what—the measles or scarlet fever?"

"Soap," she replied with a tragic air, waving the bright orange bag over her head.

"You don't mean to say that enormous parcel contains soap?"

"I do," she replied. "I never intend to be without soap again, and so I bought all I could get. At least," with a merry twinkle and in an undertone, she added, "I brought away as little as I could, after explaining to the man for half an hour I did not want the enormous quantity he wished to press upon me."

Dear readers, it was not beautiful pink scented soap, it was not made in Paris or London; heaven only knows the place of its birth; it gave forth no delicious perfume; it was neither green, nor yellow, nor pink, to look upon. It was a hideous brown brick made in Lapland, I should think, and so hard it had probably been frozen at the North Pole itself.

But that was not all; when we began to wash, this wondrous soap which had cost so much trouble to procure—such hours in its pursuit—was evidently some preparation for scrubbing floors and rough household utensils, for there was a sandy grit about it which made us clean, certainly, but only at the expense of parting with our skin.

My poor sister! Her comedy ended in tragedy.



CHAPTER XIII

THE LIFE OF A TREE

What different things are prized in different lands!

When walking round a beautiful park on an island in Suomi, the whole of which and a lovely mansion belonged to our host, he pointed with great pride to three oak trees, and said—

"Look at our oaks, are they not wonderful?"

We almost smiled. They were oaks, certainly, perhaps as big in circumference as a soup plate, which to an English mind was nothing; but the oak, called in Finnish Jumalan Puu, or God's tree, is a great rarity in Suomi, and much prized, whereas the splendid silver birches and glorious pines, which call forth such praise and admiration from strangers, count for nothing, in spite of the magnificent luxuriance of their growth.

The pine is one of the most majestic of all trees. It is so superbly stately—so unbending to the breeze. It raises its royal head aloft—soaring heavenwards, heedless of all around; while the silvery floating clouds gently kiss its lofty boughs, as they fleet rapidly hither and thither in their endless chase round this world. Deep and dark are the leaves, strong and unresisting; but even they have their tender points, and the young shoots are deliciously green and sweet scented. Look at its solid stem—so straight that every maiden passing by sighs as she attempts to imitate its superb carriage, and those very stems are coloured by a wondrous pinky hue oft-times; so pink, in fact, we pause to wonder if it be painted by Nature's brush, or is merely a whim of sunset playing upon the sturdy bark.

Look beneath the pine; its dark and solid grandeur protects and fosters the tenderest of green carpets. See the moss of palest green, its long fronds appearing like ferns, or note those real ferns and coarser bracken fighting the brambles for supremacy or trying to flout that little wild rose daring to assert its individuality.

Pines and silver birches flourish on all sides.

Everything or anything can apparently be made of birch bark in Finland—shoes, baskets, huge or small, salt bottles, flower vases—even an entire suit of clothing is hanging up in Helsingfors Museum, manufactured from the bark of the silver birch.

The bark thus used, however, is often cut from the growing tree, but this requires to be carefully done so as not to destroy the sap. As one drives through the forests, one notices that many of the trees have dark-brown rings a foot or more wide round their trunks, showing where the bark has been stripped away. The ribband for plaiting is made, as a rule, about an inch wide, although narrower necessarily for fine work, and then it is plaited in and out, each article being made double, so that the shiny silvery surface may show on either side. Even baby children manipulate the birch bark, and one may pass a cluster of such small fry by the roadside, shoeless and stockingless, all busily plaiting baskets with their nimble little fingers. We often marvelled at their dexterity.

What were those packets of brown paper securely fixed to the top of long poles all over that field, we wondered?

"Why, sheets of birch bark," answered our friend, "put out to dry in the sun for the peasants to plait baskets and boxes, shoes and satchels, such as you have just seen; they peeled those trees before cutting them down."

On another of our drives we noticed bunches of dried leaves tied at the top of some of the wooden poles which support the strangely tumbledown looking wooden fences which are found everywhere in Finland, and serve not only as boundaries to fields but also to keep up the snow.

"What are those dead leaves?" we asked the lad who drove our krra.

"They are there to dry in the sun, for the sheep to eat in the winter," was his reply, with which we ought to have rested satisfied; but thinking that was not quite correct, as they were in patches round some fields and not in others, we asked the boy of the second springless vehicle the same question.

"Those," he said, "are put up to dry in the sun round the rye fields, and in the autumn, when the first frost comes and might destroy the whole crop in a single night, they are lighted, and the warmth and the wind from them protect the crops till they can be hastily gathered the next day."

This sounded much more probable, and subsequently proved perfectly correct. These sudden autumn frosts are the farmer's terror, for his crops being left out one day too long may mean ruin, and that he will have to mix birch bark or Iceland moss with his winter's bread to eke it out, poor soul!

The export of timber from Finland is really its chief trade.

+ -+ + + + Export of Wood, Wood Pulp. Paper, chiefly made Cubic Metres Kilograms. from Wood Pulp. (about 36 Cubic Kilograms. Feet). + -+ + + + 1874 843,031 3,116,139 1,317,021 1884 1,229,008 9,326,288 8,464,841 1894 1,722,322 33,802,916 17,675,856 1895 2,704,126 35,548,000 .. 1896 2,136,888 39,096,000 .. + -+ + + +

In 1909, 5,073,513 cubic metres of wood were exported, and 192,373,500 kilograms of pulp and paper.

From this table it will be seen that a large quantity of pulp is exported, likewise a great deal of paper, and chiefly to our own country.

England exports to Finland somewhat, but very little, of her own produce, unfortunately; tea, coffee, sugar, and such foreign wares being transhipped from England and Germany—principally from the latter to Finland. The foreign inland trade of Suomi is chiefly in the hands of the Germans. "Made in Germany" is as often found on articles of commerce, as it is in England. Well done, Germany!

We gained some idea of the magnitude of the Finnish wood trade when passing Kotka, a town in the Gulf of Finland, lying between Helsingfors and Wiborg.

Immense stacks of sawn wood were piled up at Kotka, and in the bay lay at least a dozen large ships and steamers, with barges lying on either side filling them with freight as quickly as possible for export to other lands.

The trees of Finland are Finland. They are the gold mines of the country, the props of the people, the products of the earth; the money bags that feed most of its two million and a half of inhabitants. The life of a Finnish tree is worth retailing from the day of its birth until it forms the floor or walls of a prince's palace or a peasant's hut. To say that Finland is one huge forest is not true, for the lakes—of which there are five or six thousand—play an important part, and cover about one-sixth of the country, but these lakes, rivers, and waterways all take their share in the wood trade. Some of the lakes are really inland seas, and very rough seas too. Tradition says they are bottomless—anyway, many of them are of enormous depth. Tradition might well say the forests are boundless, for what is not water in Finland is one vast and wonderful expanse of wood.

Now let us look at the life of a tree. Like Topsy "it growed;" it was not planted by man. Those vast pine forests, extending for miles and miles, actual mines of wealth, are a mere veneer to granite rocks. That is the wonderful part of it all, granite is the basis, granite distinctly showing the progress of glaciers of a former period.

Such is the foundation, and above that a foot or two of soil, sometimes less, for the rocks themselves often appear through the slight covering; but yet out of this scant earth and stone the trees are multiplied.

Standing on the top of the tower of the old castle—alas! so hideously restored—at Wiborg, one can see for miles and miles nothing but lakes and trees, and as we lingered and wondered at the flatness of the land our attention was arrested by patches of smoke.

"Forest fires, one of the curses of the land," we learned. "In hot weather there are often awful fires; look, there are five to be seen from this tower at one moment, all doing much damage and causing great anxiety, because the resin in the pines makes them burn furiously."

"How do they put them out?" we asked.

"Every one is summoned from far and near; indeed, the people come themselves when they see smoke, and all hands set to work felling trees towards the fire in order to make an open space round the flaming woods, or beating with long poles the dry burning mass which spreads the fire. It is no light labour; sometimes miles of trenching have to be dug as the only means whereby a fire can be extinguished; all are willing to help, for, directly or indirectly, all are connected with the wood trade."

Here and there where we travelled, the forests were on fire—fires luckily not caused by those chance conflagrations, which do so much harm in Finland, but duly organised to clear a certain district. Matters are arranged in this wise: when a man wants to plough more land, he selects a nice stretch of wood, saws down all the big trees, which he sledges away, the next set (in point of size) he also hews down, but leaves where they fall, with all their boughs and leaves on, till the sun dries them. Then he makes a fire in their midst, the dried leaves soon catch, and in a few hours the whole acreage is bare except for the tree trunks, which are only charred and serve later for firewood. All the farm hands, often augmented by neighbours, assist at these fires, for although a man may wish to clear two or three acres, if the flames were not watched, they would soon lay twenty or thirty bare, and perhaps destroy an entire forest. The ashes lie on the ground and become manure, so that when, during the following summer, he begins to plough, the sandy soil is fairly well-fed, and ultimately mildly prolific. He is very ingenious this peasant, and takes the greatest care not to let the flames spread beyond his appointed boundary, beating them with huge sticks, as required, and keeping the flames well in hand. The disastrous forest fires, caused by accidental circumstances, spoil the finest timber, and can only be stayed in their wild career, as we remarked elsewhere, by digging trenches, over which the roaring flames cannot pass. Such fires are one of the curses of Finland, and do almost as much harm as a flight of locusts in Morocco.

"How old are those trees we see, twenty or thirty years?"

Our friend the Kommerserdet smiled.

"Far, far more," he replied; "speaking roughly, every tree eight inches in diameter twenty feet from the ground is eighty years old, nine inches ninety years, ten inches a hundred years old, and so on."

We were amazed to think that these vast forests should be so old, for if it took so long for a tree to grow, and so many millions were felled every year, it seemed to us that the land would soon be barren.

"Not at all," our friend replied; "a forest is never cleared. Only trees which have reached a proper girth are felled. In every forest but a certain number of trees are cut each year, so that fresh ones are in a continuous stream taking their places."

Rich merchants possess their own forests, their own saw-mills, their own store houses, and even their own ships; but the bulk of exporters pay for cut timber. In hiring a forest the tenant takes it on lease for so many years with the right to fell all trees so soon as they reach certain dimensions. The doomed trees are marked, and now we must follow their after course.

In the autumn and winter they are felled and left for the first fall of snow, when they are dragged, sometimes two or three logs one behind the other fixed together with iron chains, to the nearest open road for further conveyance by sledge when the snow permits.

No single horse could move such a weight in summer, but by the aid of sledges and snow all is changed, and away gallop the little steeds down the mountain side, pushed forward at times by the weight behind. By this means the trees are conveyed to the nearest waterway.

Then the logs are stamped with the owner's registered mark and rolled upon the ice of lake or river, to await the natural transport of spring. Once the ice thaws the forests begin to move, for as "Birnam Wood marched to Dunsinane," the Finnish forests float to other lands.

Imagine the helter-skelter of those thousands of trees over the roaring, rushing waterfalls, or along the rapidly flowing cataracts and flooded rivers. To prevent these wooden horses getting caught-up on the banks along their watery course, men with long poles "personally conduct" huge batches to the coast, or, where they are likely to get fixed, a sort of wooden fencing is built in the river to direct their course. On, on they voyage, those soldiers of the forest, for hundreds of miles to the coast, till, finally arriving at such an enormous wood export town as Kotka, they meet their doom.

Wherever the chain of waterways is composed of large lakes, the logs are conveyed to the coast by means of enormous rafts. It is really most ingenious; head and tail into a ring half-a-mile or more in circumference float the pine trees, coupled together by iron clamps. Inside these the newly-cut logs, which look like a rope of sausages, are thrust end on end, until they make a perfectly solid floor floating on the surface of the water. Now, as a raft of this kind contains many thousand logs, which means a considerable amount of money value, it is conveyed to the coast with the greatest care. At one end a small house is built on the raft itself, on which live the two or three men who have to escort this floating island across the lakes, attend to the logs that get out of place, or secure the fastenings of the outside wood which binds the whole together.

Naturally it takes some weeks for such a vast island to reach the coast, and as it is sometimes necessary for various reasons to stop on the journey, a horse goes on the raft so as to let down or pull up the anchor when necessary. It is truly wonderful to think that on a floating mass of tree trunks, merely bound together by a primitive barrier or outside ring, men should live for weeks, and a horse should have its stabling. Yet such is the case, and many times during our three months' summer sojourn in Finland we passed these floating islands wending their way to the coast.

Of course, it is understood rafts can only travel over the vast lakes, and that on rivers the wood must go separately in the manner before described. But in such a river as the Ule, where the salmon fishing is of as great importance, if not greater than wood, the latter are only allowed to pass down until the day when salmon fishing commences. On the completion of the floating season the stock logs at Kotka often amount to a million pieces. That alone gives some idea of this wonderful industry. About a mile above Kotka the logs are received by the floating inspector and his trained sorters, who separate and distribute, according to the marks thereon, the logs to their respective owners.

Large floating houses await their arrival, and as the back part of these sheds are divided by half a dozen or so openings leading into the water pens, the men at work quickly turn the timber over, see the owners' names, and by means of a pole steer it into the space belonging to that owner, so that in time each water pen becomes filled with the trees belonging to its proprietor.

All this time the steam saw-mills are waiting for their prey, and, like the pigs at Chicago who come out smoked and cooked hams, according to tradition, the trees that go in have half a dozen saws run into them at once, and out come boards and planks of various thicknesses and widths. The middle bit—the plum of the cake—is the worst in this instance, for it contains the heart, which is bad wood for working as it splits and twists on drying; the rest is converted into deals, battens, and boards. The outside slab pieces are made into staves for barrels, while the general odds and ends that remain behind are used as fuel for engines, steamboats, or private house consumption in Finland, where coal being practically unknown, wood takes its place.

The sawn wood is stacked up for miles and miles along the waterside to season ready for export, and, as a rule, the Finnish owners sell their timber with the clause that it should be ready to be shipped at "first open water," when away go the pines, cargo after cargo, the best being sent to England, and other qualities to France, Germany, etc. Thus from Finland comes much of the wood that makes our floors, our window frames, our railings, and our doors, and lights our daily fires—it enters the peasant hut, and it finds a place in the royal palace.

Another big trade is birch—a class of wood cut up into reels and bobbins for England; and yet another is aspen, which wood is supplied to Sweden in large quantities to make matches. Not only are matches pure and simple made enormously in Sweden; but when leaving Gothenburg on our homeward journey we saw hundreds of large cases being put on board our steamer. Although very big, one man carried a case with ease, much to our surprise, for anything so enormous in the way of cargo was generally hoisted on board with a crane. What a revelation! These cases contained match boxes, which are sent by thousands every week to England.

There is an enormous export of wood spirit made from sawdust; yet even then, until lately, it was difficult to get rid of the superfluous sawdust, a great deal of which was burned away in large furnaces. Sawdust now plays an important rle in the trade of Finland, and silk factories have been started, for pulp; for our French friends have found that beautiful fabrics can be made from wood, which takes dye almost better than silk woven by a painstaking little worm, only costs a fraction of the money, and sells almost equally well.

So that wood for building purposes, for matches or fuel, pulp for paper, sawdust for spirit and silk, are the outcome of the life of a Finnish tree. People can be clothed in wood, get drunk on wood, read print on wood, and get warmed and their food cooked by wood.



CHAPTER XIV

THROUGH SAVOLAX IN CARTS

We were in despair!

By the kindness of the Governor of the district everything had been arranged for a drive of a couple hundred miles through some of the prettiest parts of the country from Kuopio to Iisalmi. We were to have a carriage with a hood (a rare honour) and two horses, to dawdle as we liked by the way, and just order our vehicle when and as we wanted it, so that we might really peep into the homes of the people, as well as avail ourselves of the Baron's many kind introductions. But late on the afternoon before that named for leaving, our cicerone Grandpapa found it was imperative for him to remain a couple of days longer in Kuopio to receive his sisters who were to join our party, therefore we found ourselves stranded so far as his escort was concerned.

"How were we two Englishwomen to travel alone through the very centre of Finland, where no one spoke a word except his own language?" asked the Governor.

"Perfectly," we replied; "we can travel anywhere, so far as that goes, by signs and with a map; but, of course, we shall learn nothing more than what we can see with our eyes, for we shall not know how to ask for information, and therefore half the pleasure and interest of the journey will be lost."



"Were I not compelled to go on an official journey to-morrow," replied the fine, tall, and charming Governor, "I should come myself—as it is, will you accept the escort of my son?"

"Willingly, thankfully," we replied.

Baron George spoke French, German, and Swedish, and was a good Finnish scholar besides. He was to have gone on a bicycle tour that very afternoon, but kindly altered all his plans to pass a couple of days as our guide, cicerone, and friend, and a third on his return journey alone.

Accordingly we started at nine A.M. on the next morning, and drove over sixty miles through Finland during the two following days, by a route soon to be followed by railway engines, for it had already been surveyed for that purpose, and little posts here and there denoted the projected route.

Seen off by the Governor's family, who had shown us the greatest hospitality and kindness during our stay in Kuopio, we were peeped at by half the town as we started; for English people, and a hooded vehicle driving through Savolax was no mean event, especially when these same visitors had been entertained by the Governor of the district.

After a spin of five kilometres, or about two and a half English miles, we reached the lossi, and our adventures began. A mile and a half of water had to be crossed; naturally there was no bridge, nor was there any friendly ice on those hot days, therefore a lossi or boat, rather like a river barge, conveys passengers—a rara avis—horses, and carriage right over that wide expanse of lake. Our hearts sank when we saw the boat. It was simply a shell, without seats or even a platform for the carriage. The old boat was big, but our equipage appeared even bigger, and we looked on in dismay, wondering how on earth we were ever to get across unless we took half a dozen journeys, in bits, to and fro.

Afterwards our dismay turned to admiration at the skill with which the whole thing was accomplished. First, our pair of mustard-coloured ponies, with long tails, big bodies and small legs—who, by the bye, went splendidly for two long days—were unharnessed, their primitive trappings, much mended with string and rope, being thrown into our carriage; then two planks of wood were laid from the empty boat to the top step of the landing-stage on which we stood, men, seizing each of the four wheels, slowly trundled the heavy carriage along those planks to the barge's side. So far so good; but the boat was in the water, and the carriage some feet higher up on the pier; more planks being speedily arranged, however, it was most cleverly slipped down the pier's side on them, and after others had been placed the right distance apart for the wheels to stand on, into the boat itself. So there our victoria—if we may call our vehicle by so grand a name—stood right across the boat, its pole and bar being reflected in the lake, over which they hung on the one side, the luggage and hood of the vehicle projecting over the water on the other.

As though accustomed to such strange feats, those "mustard pots" walked down the steps of the primitive pier, lifted their feet over the boat's side most dexterously—as a lady in fine shoes might daintily cross some muddy road—and stood head and tail next the carriage.

A Finnish pony is a marvel. He has no chest, is so narrow, one almost wonders, when standing before his head, where his body can really be. He has fine legs with good hoofs and fetlocks; he looks ill-groomed and ill-cared for, his tail is long and bushy, and his mane unkempt. Yet he goes up hill or down dale at a good pace (averaging six miles an hour), and he will do thirty miles easily in a day and not turn a hair. They are wonderful little animals these mustard-coloured steeds of Finland, and as agile and sure-footed as a cat, although not so famous as the fast trotters of Suomi.

Then we three got in and sat down, in what little space remained, finding room on planks placed between the wheels. We certainly made a boat full, and a queer cargo we were.

Two women "ferrymen" found room to row in front, the coachman attended to his horses, one of which was inclined to be restive, while a man, whose flaxen hair was so light it looked positively white against his red burnt neck, stood rowing behind us; and thus in three-quarters of an hour we reached the other side, in as wonderful a transport as the trains we had seen put on steamers in Denmark, Sicily, or the States, but much more exciting and primitive.

Gaily and cheerfully, meantime, we discussed the prospects of our visit to Lapland; for the Northern part of Finland is the country of reindeer and Laps, and thither we had made up our minds to go as a fitting finish to our summer jaunt. From Uleborg we were to take the steamer to Tornea, and there to commence a drive which promised to be most interesting, if a little cold and perhaps not quite so pretty as our long journey through Savolax in krra or carts.

We drove on through lovely scenery till twelve o'clock, when we arrived at a post-house for luncheon.

What a scene met our eyes! An enormous kitchen, a wooden-floored, ceilinged and walled room about thirty feet square, boasting five windows—large and airy, I was about to say, but it just missed being airy because no fresh breeze was ever allowed to enter except by the door. At one end was the usual enormous fireplace, with its large chimney and small cooking stove, into which wood had continually to be piled, coal being as unknown to the inland Finn as the sea-serpent itself. At the other end of the room, opposite the fireplace, was a large wooden table with benches arranged along two sides, at which the labourers were feeding, for the one o'clock bell hanging above the roof had just been rung by the farmer, and they had all come in for their mid-day meal. It was really a wonderful scene; five men wearing coloured shirts, and four women, with white handkerchiefs over their heads, were sitting round the table, and between each couple was a small wooden, long-handled pail, from which the pair, each duly provided with a wooden spoon, were helping themselves. Finnish peasants—and until lately even Finnish town servants—all feed from one pot and drink from one bowl in truly Eastern fashion. The small wooden receptacle, which really served as a basin, contained piim or skimmed milk that had gone sour, a composition somewhat allied to skyr, on which peasants live in Iceland, only that skyr is sheep's milk often months old, and piim is cow's milk fairly fresh. This piim with sour black bread and salted but uncooked small fish (suolo-kala) is the peasant's fare, yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, almost always the same! These people never taste meat, unless it be for a treat salted, while fresh vegetables are unknown, cabbage even being a luxury. Each labourer pulled his puukko (knife) from its sheath at his waist—alas, too frequently pulled in anger—and cutting hunks of brown bread, dragged a fish like a sardine (only it was dry and salt) from another wooden tub, and cutting off bits ate them together, after the fashion of a sandwich, helping himself every now and then with a wooden spoon to a lump of the sour milk, or, when his companion was not doing the same, raising the pail—the wooden walls of which were half an inch thick—to his lips and drinking the more watery part of his harmless liquor.

Haili also haunted us in every peasant home. It is another species of small fish which the peasants eat raw, a little salt being its only preparation. They seem to buy or catch haili by the ton, and then keep them for months in the cellar. We were always seeing them eat these haili, which looked something like sprats, and tasted ineffably nasty. On high days and holidays they partake of them accompanied with baked potatoes; but potatoes are somewhat rare, and therefore the fish on black bread alone constitutes the usual meal. Sometimes better-class folk eat haili, but then they have them grilled on charcoal; these are rich people, for coal is as great a luxury to them even as potatoes to the poor.

They seemed very happy, those men and women who had been up and hard at work in the fields since three or four in the morning, and would not have finished their day's labour till between eight and nine P.M., for the summer is short, and while it lasts the peasant gets little or no sleep, his entire livelihood depending upon almost incessant work during the light warm days. I believe many people only sleep for a couple of hours during the summer light, and make up for it in the provinces in winter when it is dark. It was the 10th of July; the hay was cut everywhere, and thrown up on the wooden palings erected for that purpose, or the old pine trees stuck here and there, to dry before being piled up on little sledges that were to convey it to the nearest wooden shanty, to be stacked for winter use.

Sledges convey the hay crop in the summer along the roadways, where wheels would be dragged from their axles by the stones and rocks.

A year or two ago, when hay was very scarce in England, quantities were sent over from Finland, and excellent it was, full of clover and sweet flowers, for although only grown in patches—sometimes even scraps by the roadside—the quality of the crop repays the enormous patience and labour necessary to produce it.

Finland's wild flowers are renowned, and the hay is full of sweet-scented blossoms.

The peasant farmer at whose majatalo we halted was a rich man, and had let out some of his farms to people in a smaller way, who in return had to give him fourteen days' labour in the year whenever he demanded them, also many bags of rye—in regular old feudal style—for money did not pass between them. Just as well, perhaps, considering that Finnish money a couple of hundred years ago weighed several pounds—indeed its unwieldiness may have been the origin of this exchange of labour for land. We actually saw an old coin over two feet long and one foot wide in the Sordavala Museum. It is made of copper about one-eighth of an inch thick, with uneven edges as though it had been rolled out like a piece of pastry, and bears the name Kristina 1624-1654, with one coin stamped in the middle about the size of a florin, and one at each of the corners. How delightfully easy travelling must have been in those days with a hundred such useful little coins in one's possession. Paper money now takes their place.

There were many more coins half that size, the earliest being a Carl XI.

All through the year the peasant farmer recently referred to employed six hands, and he told us that the men earned a hundred and twenty marks a year (5), and a woman fifty or sixty (2), with clothes, board, and lodging. It did not seem to be very grand pay; but then the labourers had no expenses, and were, judging from their appearance, well cared for.

Later, when wandering round the homestead, we found a shed full of sledges, filled with hay and covered by coarse woven sheets, made by the family (for every decent house spins and weaves for itself), and in these the hired labourers slept. It was all very primitive, but wondrously clean.

In truly Finnish fashion the family was varied. First we saw an aged mother, a delightful old soul, whose husband was dead and whose eldest son therefore worked the farm. He had a wife and five children, the latter being all much of an age. He also had a sister with her invalid husband, and his younger brother and one child—so that there were several relationships under the same roof, let us hope proving "Union is Strength," although we hardly think the English temperament would care for such family gatherings.

In the kitchen-dining-room was a baby in a cradle, and another sort of crib was hanging from the ceiling by cords, the infant lying in a kind of linen pocket on a pillow.

We were much amazed to see a patent process by which the infant in the cradle was being fed. It was a wooden bed, in shape like an old German one, and at one side of it projected an arm of wood curved round in such a way that it came up from the side of the cradle and bent almost over the child's face. Great was our amazement to find that a cow horn was fixed into this wooden arm, so that the thin part of the horn reached the baby's mouth, while the thick part stood up three or four inches above the hole in the wood in which it was resting. Was it a toy, we marvelled, because, if so, it seemed remarkably dangerous to have anything so hard in such near proximity to a baby's face, but great was our surprise on closer examination to find it was a feeding-bottle.

The horn was hollow, and on the thin end was a primitive teat of linen, through which the baby was drawing the milk poured in at the top of this novel feeding-bottle.

In a corner of the same room was a wonderful frame on rollers to teach a child to walk. There was a small round hole through which the infant was pulled, so that the polished ring supported it under the armpits, from that rim four wooden pillars slanted outwards, being bound together at the bottom by other pieces of wood securely fixed to four rolling castors. In this the child could move; and the little brat rolled about from side to side of the uneven flooring, securely held up in its wooden cage. A small child of five was peeling potatoes, specially dug up in our honour, beside a wooden bucket, while a cat played with a kitten, and a servant girl—for well-to-do farmers have servants—made black bread in a huge tub, the dough being so heavy and solid that she could not turn it over at all, and only managed to knead it by doubling her fists and regularly plunging them to the bottom with all her strength. Her sunburnt arms disappeared far above her elbow, and judging by the way the meal stuck to her she found bread-making very hard work. Finlanders only bake every few weeks, so the bread is often made with a hole and hung up in rows from the ceiling, or, if not, is placed on the kitchen rafters till wanted. This bread is invariably sour—the natives like it so—and to get it rightly flavoured they always leave a little in the tub, that it may taste the next batch, as sour cream turns the new cream for butter. She was not a bad-looking girl; Dame Nature had been kinder to her than to most of her sex in Finland.

Somehow that scene did not look real—it had a kind of theatrical effect. The surroundings were too like a museum; the entry of the labourers after the chiming of the bell closely resembled a stage effect—the old grandmother, the children, the bright cotton shirts and skirts, the wondrous fireplace, the spinning-wheel and weaving-frame—yes, it all seemed too picturesque, too full of colour, and too well grouped to be an event in our commonplace every-day life. Yet this was merely a peep at a Finnish home, in which just such a scene is enacted every day—a home but little off the beaten tracks, and only a short distance from steamboats and trains. The way to understand anything of a land or its people is to leave the tourist route and peep into its homes for one's self.

In Finland there are always post-stations about every eight or twelve miles, according to requirements or capabilities of the peasantry, where horses and beds can be procured. They are called majatalo in Finnish, or gstgivferi in Swedish. Well-to-do farmers are chosen for the post, because they can afford better accommodation to strangers, and generally there are one or two who apply for the honour, more than for the hundred (or two hundred marks in some instances) subsidy they get for keeping up the majatalo.

The Governor of the Province then has to choose the most suitable applicant, settles the charge for food and beds, according to the class of accommodation, and writes them out officially (in three languages) on cards, to be hung up in the rooms, provides the farmer with a Pivkirja, or Daybook, in which it says: "Two horses must always be ready, and two carts, or if an extra turnout be required, double fare may be charged." Fourteen penni the kilometre (or about twopence halfpenny a mile) is the ordinary charge for a horse and trap, a room and a bed are sixty penni, an ordinary meal sixty, coffee ten, and so on; so that the prices are not ruinous. Indeed, travelling in the interior of Finland is altogether moderate, when done as the Finns do it by posting, but a private carriage is an enormous expense, and, on the whole, it is just as dear to travel in Suomi as in Normandy, Brittany, or the Tyrol. Of course it is not so expensive as London, Paris, or Vienna. How could it be, where there are none of the luxuries of these vast cities? Every one has to sign the Pivkirja, stating from whence he came, whither he goes, and how many horses he had. Complaints are also entered, and the book has to go periodically to the Governor for inspection. So the whole posting arrangement is well looked after.

We fared very well at our first majatalo, but of course we had to wait over an hour before we got anything to eat. One always must in Finland, and, although a trial to the temper at first, it is a good lesson in restraint, and by degrees we grew accustomed to it. One can get accustomed to anything—man is as adaptable as the trees.

We had black bread—nothing else can be got in peasant homes—and any one who cannot accept its sourness, and one might add hardness, must provide himself with white bread from the towns. We got excellent butter of course—the smallest home has good butter and milk in Finland, where the little native cows can be bought for sixty or a hundred marks. They live on what they can find in the summer, and dried birch leaves, moss, or an occasional "delikatess" of hay in the winter. We had also deliciously cold fresh milk, that and coffee being the only drinks procurable, as a rule, and a small fish with a pink skin like a mullet, fresh out of the water, was served nicely fried in butter, the farmer having sent a man to catch it on our arrival.

There was cold bacon, too poisonous in appearance to touch, and hot eggs, but no egg-cups, of course. We bumped the round heavy end of the eggs, and stood them up on our plates, native fashion, and felt we had learnt a trick that might be useful when egg-cups fell short in England. In fact, before we left our peasant homes, we had begun to look upon an egg-cup as a totally unnecessary luxury, and to find ourselves so capable of managing without one, that the egg no longer ran out at the wrong end, as it did at first in our inexperienced hands, but behaved as every well-behaved egg ought to do—that is to say, sit up on its end and appear as if it liked it.

One terrible-looking dish adorned our table on this and many occasions. It was pike—caught, cleaned, opened, salted, and kept till wanted; a piece, being laid flat on a plate to be served, is cut in thin slices and spread on bread and butter by those who care to eat the luxury. At the bone it was red, and gradually tapered away to a white gelatinous-looking stuff. We never dared venture upon this choice raw dish. It had a particularly distasteful appearance. As there was no filbunke, made of sour unskimmed milk, which we had learnt to enjoy, we had to content ourselves with piim, the skimmed milk curdled; but as we were visitors, and not peasants, tumblers of fresh cream had been poured over it, and with sugar it tasted really excellent. It was a primitive dinner, but with fresh fish and eggs, milk and cream, no one need starve, and we only paid fivepence each for our mid-day meal, such a sum being fixed on the tariff. Our dear comfortable old hostess was fascinated by our presence, and sat smiling and blinking beside us all the time, her hands, folded over her portly form below the short straight cotton jacket she wore, were raised occasionally to retie her black silk head-covering. Again and again she murmured—"Englantilaiset" (Englishwoman), and nodded approval.

Poor Baron George, our kindly cicerone, had to answer all her questions about England, our age, size, weight, height, the price of our clothing, why our hair was so dark—an endless subject of inquiry among the peasantry—and to ply her with questions from us in return.

It was with real regret we left these folk, they were so honest and simple, so far removed from civilisation and its corrupting influences on their thoughts, that they and their life seemed to take us back a couple of centuries at least.

The family came out and shook hands with us on leaving; but not before they had one and all sat down in our grand carriage, just to see what it was like. Individually, we thought it a ramshackle old chaise, but further acquaintance with the springless native carts made us look back at that victoria as if it were the Lord Mayor's Coach!

It is no uncommon thing for the roofs of the houses in Savolax to be thatched with thin strips of wood an inch or so wide, similar to our old shingle roofs in the west of England. At Wiborg we were shown, among the curiosities of the town, a red-tiled roof, which Finlanders thought as wonderful as we thought their wooden thatch. These were quite common formerly, but are now condemned by the Insurance Companies.

Such is life. What we eat, others despise; what we think beautiful, others find hideous; what we call virtue, other lands consider vice; what to us is novel and interesting is to others mere commonplace; the more we travel, and the more we read, the less we find we know; except that there may be good and use in all things, and that other men and women, with whom we have not one idea in common, are quite as clever or good as ourselves—more so, perhaps.

"Why, what is that? Three stone chimneys without any house," we exclaimed, seeing three brick erections standing bleak and alone in the midst of a dreary waste.

"Ah," replied Baron George, "that is one of the sad sides of Finnish life. Those three stone chimneys are the only remains of what was once a three-roomed house. All the dwellings, as you know, are entirely built of wood, except for the brick chimneys. These three great gaunt towers mean fire, and perhaps starvation. One of those little houses will burn to the ground in an hour, on a dry windy night, and all the toil of years, all the wealth of its proprietor, the home of his family, be reduced to the few ashes you see on the ground, while the clock marks one short hour."

It seemed horrible. Those three chimneys looked so gaunt and sad. Where were the folk who had lived beside them, cooked beneath them, and spent their lives of grief or joy?

Outside every house in Finland stands a large wooden ladder, tall enough to reach to the top of the roof, for fire is very common, and generally ends in everything being demolished by the flames. Buckets of water, passed on by hand, can do little to avert disaster, when the old wooden home is dry as tinder and often rotten to the core.

Again our attention was arrested as we jogged along by the earth mounds; those queer green mounds that look like graves in a country church-yard, which are so common in Iceland, where they grow so close together, there is often hardly room for a pony's feet to pass between, but on the origin of which scientists disagree. The grass-grown sand—sand as beautiful and silvery as the sand of Iona, but here was no sea, although it had left its deposits in ages long gone by—was beautifully fresh and green.

Iceland moss, too, grows in profusion—a very useful commodity for the peasants, who plug out the draughts between the wooden walls of their houses with it, or make it into a kind of medicinal drink, as the Buckinghamshire peasant makes her nettle tea from the wondrous stinging nettles that grow five feet high in some of the lovely lanes of wooded Bucks.

Iceland moss, indeed, has taken the place of bread in times of famine, for that or the bark of the pine tree has been ground down many times into flour and mixed with a little rye for the half-starved peasants' only sustenance.

With all their sufferings and their hardships, can one be surprised that they take life seriously?

That evening at ten o'clock—but it might have been seven judging by the brilliancy of the sunset—we rowed on the lake, accompanied by a grandson of Finland's greatest poet, Runeberg.

It really was a wonderful night; we English have no idea of the gorgeousness of long July sunsets in Finland, just as we little dream of the heat of the day, or the length and beauty of the evenings. It is in these wondrous sunny glows, which spread themselves like a mantle, that the hundreds of miles of lakes and thousands and thousands of islands look their best. And there are many such evenings. Evenings when one feels at peace with all the world, and one's thoughts soar higher than the busy turmoil of the crowded city.

It is these wonderful nights that impress the stranger most of all in Finland. There is something to make even the most prosaic feel poetical. There is a dull dreariness, a sombre sadness in the scene, and at the same time a rich warmth of colouring, a strength of Nature that makes even the least artistic feel the wonders of the picture spread out before them, and, withal, a peacefulness, for these vast tracts of uninhabited land mean repose. Those numerous pine forests, denoting quiet, and the wide, wide canopy of Heaven, unbroken by mountain or hill, give one an idea of vast extent and wild expanse.

Finland is reposeful; and has a charm about it which is particularly its own.

It was on such an evening as this that we rowed over the wide deep waters of Maaninka, as still as a mirror, to the little white church, with its tower soaring out of the pines, on the other side. We had been joined by several new friends, all anxious to show us their church; but, individually, our happiness was a little spoilt by the fact that the boat was leaking badly, and we could positively see the water rising in her bottom. Up—up—up—the water crept.

We had been in many curious boats before, and had become quite accustomed to folding our petticoats neatly up on our laps, but this boat filled more rapidly than usual, and we did not run for the bank till six or eight inches of water actually covered her bottom. It rose apace, and before we reached the shore our feet and our skirts were well up on our seats for safety, and, verily, we were well-nigh swamped.

Out we scrambled; the men immediately beached the frail bark, and as they did so the water all ran away. "What an extraordinary thing," we thought, and when they pulled her right on to shore we saw the last drops disappearing from the boat.

"Why, the plug is out," one of them exclaimed, and, sure enough, the plug was out! In the bottom of every Finnish boat they have a round hole, and this round hole contains a large cork or plug, so that when the craft fills with water, as she invariably does from a leak, or spray, or other causes, they merely pull her up on to the shore, take out the plug, and let the water run away. But in this particular case the plug had never been put in, or had somehow got lost, and we actually rowed across a lake with the water rising at the rate of about half an inch a minute.

We scrambled up over the slippery pine needles to the crest of the little eminence on which the church stood, and found ourselves in the most primitive of churchyards. There was no attempt at law or order, for the graves had just been put down between the trees wherever there was room for them. We noticed a painted clock on several of the wooden tombstones, evidently intended to indicate the exact hour at which the person lying under the sod had died. For instance, it would stand at twenty-two minutes to four o'clock, which was the precise moment the dead man expired, carefully noted by the exactitude of the Finns, who are very particular about such matters. In the newspapers, for example, it is stated, "Johanson died, aged 46 years 11 months and 4 days," and this record of the number of days is by no means uncommon. They are a most exact nation.

The Maaninka church, like so many others in Finland, has its important-looking bell-tower standing quite a distance away from the main building. We climbed to the top after some persuasion, and certainly our trouble was repaid by a glorious view.

But, alas! every Finlander has a hobby, and that hobby is that at every point where there is a view of any sort or description, in fact, one might say where there is no view at all, he erects an Aussichtsturm. These outlook towers are a bane of existence to a stranger. One goes out to dinner and is taken for a walk round the island. At every conceivable point is an outlook tower, generally only a summer-house, but, alas, there are usually some steps leading to the top which one toils up, and has the fatigue of doing so without any reward, as they are not high enough to afford any better view at the summit than one has at the base.

To go to the top of St. Peter's in Rome, St. Paul's in London, the Isaak Church in Petersburg, the Citadel at Quebec, or the Castle of Chapultepec in Mexico, is worth the fatigue, but to toil up twenty steps on a hot summer's day and clamber down again, to repeat the operation a quarter of a mile farther on, and so ad lib., becomes somewhat monotonous, and one begins to wish that every outlook tower in Finland might be banished from the country. Stop, once we ascended an outlook tower that more than rewarded our labour. It was at Kuopio, which town we had just left—perhaps the most beautifully situated in all Finland—and as the night when we arrived chanced to be particularly brilliant, the view from the top of that outlook tower will be long treasured in remembrance.

To many of us the recollection of the past is a storehouse of precious gems; the realisation of the present is often without sparkle; yet the anticipation of the future is fraught with glitter, and the crown of happiness is ever before our eyes.



CHAPTER XV

ON WE JOG

It is difficult for strangers to travel through the heart of Finland, for every person may not be so lucky as to be passed on from one charming friend to another equally delightful, as we were; and, therefore, we would like to suggest the formation of a guides' bureau at Helsingfors, where men and women teachers from the schools—who are thoroughly well educated and always hold excellent social positions in Finland—could be engaged as couriers. These teachers speak English, French, and German, and would probably be glad to improve that knowledge for a few weeks by acting as friendly guides for a trifling sum in return for their expenses.

It is only a suggestion, but the schools being closed in June, July, and August, the teachers are then free, and voyageurs are willing to explore, though their imperfect knowledge of Finnish prevents their penetrating far from steamers and trains.

As we drove towards Lapinlahti we were surprised by many things: the smallness of the sheep, generally black, and very like those of Astrakhan; the hairiness of the pigs, often piebald; the politeness of the natives, all of whom curtsied or took off their hats; the delicious smell the sun was drawing out of the pine trees, and, perhaps more wonderful still, the luxuriance of gorgeously coloured wild-flowers, which are often as beautiful as in spring-time in Switzerland or Morocco; the numbers of singing birds, and, above all, the many delicious wild berries. The wild strawberries of Finland in July are surprising, great dishes of them appear at every meal. Paris has learnt to appreciate them, and at all the grand restaurants of Paris cultivated "wild strawberries" appear. In Finland, the peasant children slice a foot square of bark from a birch tree, bend it into the shape of a box without a lid, then sew the sides together with a twig by the aid of their long native knives, and, having filled the basket, eagerly accept a penny for its contents. Every one eats strawberries. The peasants themselves half live on them, and, certainly, the wild berries of Switzerland are far less numerous, and not more sweet than those of Finland.

As evening drew on smoke rose from the proximity of the homesteads, and we wondered what it could be, for there are never any trees near the houses.

These are the cow-fires, lighted when the animals come to be milked. The poor creatures are so pestered and tormented by gnats and flies—of which Finland has more than her share—that fires are kindled towards evening, a dozen in one field sometimes, where they are to be milked, to keep the torments away. The cows are wonderfully clever, they know the value of the fires, and all huddle close up to them, glad of the restful reprieve, after the worry they have endured all day. Poor patient beasts, there they stand, chewing the cud, first with one side of their body turned towards the flames and then the other, the filmy smoke, the glow of the fire and the rays of the sunlight, hiding and showing distinctly by turns the girls and their kine. The dairymaids come with their stools to milk their soft-eyed friends, and on blazing hot summer evenings they all sit closely huddled round the fires together.

These milkmaids have some strange superstitions still lurking in their breasts, and the juice of the big birch tree is sometimes given to cows to make them yield better butter.

Lapinlahti is a typical Finnish village, and had at least one newspaper of its own, so advanced were the folk, even at the time of my first visit.

Outside the little post-station we were much amused to read on a board "528 kilos. to St. Petersburg, 470 kilos. to Uleborg." But we were more amazed on our return from a ramble, prepared to grumble that the meal ordered an hour before was not ready, when the host walked into the room, and, making a most polite bow, said in excellent English—

"Good day, ladies."

"Do you speak English?" we asked.

"Certainly. I think I ought to after doing so for sixteen years."

We were immensely surprised. Who could have expected to find in the interior of Finland a peasant landlord who was also an English linguist? He seemed even more delighted to see us, than we were to have an opportunity of learning something concerning the country from one speaking our own tongue so perfectly, for it is a little difficult to unravel intricate matters when the intermediary is a Swedish-speaking Finlander, who has to translate what the peasant says into French or German for your information, you again retranslating it into English for your own purposes.

Our host spoke English fluently, and it turned out that, having been a sailor like so many of the Finns, he had spent sixteen years of his life on board English vessels. He preferred them, he said, as the pay was twice as good as on the Finnish boats.

He told us that many of his countrymen went away to sea for a few years and saved money, the wise ones bringing it home and investing it in a plot of land; "but," he added, "they do not all succeed, for many of them have become so accustomed to a roving life, and know so little of farming, that they cannot manage to make it pay. I have worked very hard myself, and am getting along all right;" and, looking at his surroundings, we certainly thought he must be doing very well indeed.

The most remarkable rocking-chair we had ever seen in our lives stood in his sitting-room. The Finlanders love rocking-chairs as dearly as the Americans do, but it is not often that they are double; our host's, however, was more than double—it was big enough for two fat Finlanders, or three ordinary persons to sit in a row at the same time, and it afforded us some amusement.

As there is hardly a house in Finland without its rocking-chair, so there is seldom a house which is not decorated somewhere or other with elk horns. The elk, like deer, shed their horns every year, and as Finland is crowded with these Arctic beasts, the horns are picked up in large quantities. They are handsome, but heavy, for the ordinary elk horn is far more ponderous in shape and weight and equal in width to a Scotch Royal. The ingenuity of the Finlander is great in making these handsome horns into hat-stands, umbrella-holders, stools, newspaper-racks, and portfolio-stands, or interlacing them in such a manner as to form a frieze round the top of the entrance hall in their homes. A really good pair will cost as much as twenty-five shillings, but when less well-grown, or in any way chipped or damaged, they can be bought for a couple of shillings.

A Finnish hall, besides its elk-horn decorations, is somewhat of a curiosity. For instance, at one of the Governor's houses where we chanced to dine, we saw for the first time with surprise what we repeatedly saw again in Finland. Along either wall was a wooden stand with rows and rows of pegs upon it for holding hats and coats. There were two pegs, one below the other, so that the coat might go beneath, while the hat resting over it did not get hurt. But below each of these pegs, a few inches from the floor, was a little wooden box with an open side. They really looked like forty or fifty small nests for hens to lay their eggs in, and we were very much interested to know what they could be for. What was our surprise to learn they were for goloshes.

In winter the younger guests arrive on snow-shoes (skidor), but during wet weather or when the road is muddy, during the thaws of spring, they always wear goloshes, and as it is considered the worst of taste to enter a room with dirty boots, the goloshes are left behind with the coat in the hall. This reminded us of Henrik Ibsen's home in Christiania, where the hall was strewn with goloshes. So much is this the fashion that we actually saw people walking about in indiarubber "gummies," as our American friends call them, during almost tropical weather. Habit becomes second nature.

Whether that meal at Lapinlahti, with its English-speaking landlord, was specially prepared for our honour or whether it was always excellent at that majatalo we cannot say, but it lingers in remembrance as one of the most luxurious feasts we had in the wilds of Suomi.

The heat was so great that afternoon as we drove towards Iisalmi—two or three inches of dust covering the roadways—that we determined to drive no more in the daytime, and that our future expeditions should be at night; a plan which we carried out most successfully. On future occasions we started at six in the afternoon, drove till midnight, and perhaps did a couple or three hours more at four or five in the morning; think of it!

After peeping into some well-arranged Free Schools, looking at a college for technical education, being invited with true Finnish hospitality to stay and sleep at every house we entered, we drew up at the next majatalo to Lapinlahti. It was the post-house, and at the same time a farm; but the first thing that arrested our attention was the smoke—it really seemed as if we were never to get away from smoke for forest-burning or cow-milking. This time volumes were ascending from the sauna or bath-house, for it was Saturday night, and it appeared as if the population were about to have their weekly cleansing. The sauna door was very small, and the person about to enter had to step up over a foot of boarding to effect his object, just as we were compelled to do on Fridtjof Nansen's ship the Fram,[E] when she lay in Christiania dock a week or two before leaving for her ice-drift. In the case of the Fram the doors were high up and small, to keep out the snow, as they are likewise in the Finnish peasants' homes, excepting when they arrange a snow-guard or sort of fore-chamber of loose pine trees, laid wigwam fashion on the top of one another, to keep back the drifts. We had hardly settled down to our evening meal—in the bedroom of course, everything is done in bedrooms in Finland, visitors received, etc.—before we saw a number of men and women hurrying to the sauna, where, in true native fashion, after undressing outside, all disappeared en masse into that tremendous hot vapour room, where they beat one another with birch branches dipped in hot water, as described in the chapter on Finnish baths. In Kalevala we read of these mixed baths thus—

So he hastened to the bath-house, Found therein a group of maidens Working each upon a birch broom.

When this performance was over they redressed outside, which is a custom even when the ground is deeply covered with snow.

Our host, a finely-made young fellow, fondly nursing a baby of about two years old, seeing our interest in everything, was very anxious we should join the bath party, and begged Baron George to tell us of its charms, an invitation we politely but firmly refused. He showed his home. When we reached a room upstairs—for the house actually possessed two storeys—we stood back amazed. Long poles suspended from ropes hung from the ceiling, and there in rows, and rows, and rows, we beheld clothing, mostly under-linen. Some were as coarse as sacking; others were finer; but there seemed enough for a regiment—something like the linen we once saw in a harem in Tangier, but Tangier is a hot country where change of raiment is often necessary, and the owner was a rich man, while Finland is for most part of the year cold, and our landlord only a farmer. The mystery was soon explained; the farmer had to provide clothing for all his labourers—a strange custom of the country—and these garments were intended for eight or nine servants, as well as a large family. Moreover, as washing in the winter with ice-covered lakes is a serious matter, two or three big washes a year are all Finns can manage, the spring wash being one of the great events in their lives. The finer linen belonged to the master's family, the coarser to the labourers, and there must have been hundreds of articles in that loft.

When we left the room he locked the door carefully, and hung up the key beside it. This is truly Finnish. One arrives at a church; the door is locked, but one need not turn away, merely glance at the woodwork round the door, where the key is probably hanging. It is the same everywhere—in private houses, baths, churches, hotels; even in more primitive parts one finds the door locked for safety—from what peril we know not, as honesty is proverbial in Finland—and the key hung up beside it for convenience.

Why are the northern peoples so honest, the southern peoples such thieves?

Our night's lodging disclosed another peculiarity;—nothing is more mysterious than a Finnish bed. In the daytime every bed is shut up. The two wooden ends are pushed together within three feet of one another, kaleidoscope fashion, the mattress, pillows, and bedclothes being doubled between; but more than that, many of the little beds pull also out into double ones from the sides—altogether the capacities of a Suomi couch are wondrous and remarkable. Yet, again, the peasants' homes contain awfully hard straight wooden sofas, terrible-looking things, and out of the box part comes the bedding, the boards of the seat forming the soft couch on which weary travellers seek repose, and often do not find it.

Finnish beds are truly terrible; for wood attracts unpleasant things, and beds which are not only never aired, but actually packed up, are scarcely to be recommended in hot weather. One should have the skin of a rhinoceros and no sense of smell to rest in the peasant homes of Suomi during the hot weather. Seaweed was formerly used for stuffing mattresses on the coast in England; indeed some such bedding still remains at Walmer Castle; but the plant in use for that purpose in the peasant homes of Finland gives off a particularly stuffy odour.

The country and its people are most captivating and well worth studying, even though the towns are nearly all ugly and uninteresting. Hospitality is rife; but the peasants must keep their beds in better order and learn something of sanitation if they hope to attract strangers. As matters are, everything is painfully primitive, spite of the rooms—beds excepted—being beautifully clean.

In winter, sportsmen hunt the wild bear of Finland; at all seasons elk are to be seen, but elk-hunting was legally forbidden until quite recently. There are long-haired wild-looking pigs roving about that might do for an impromptu pig-stick. There are feathered fowl in abundance, and fish for the asking, many kinds of sport and many kinds of hunts, but, alas, there is a very important one we would all gladly do without—that provided by the zoological gardens in the peasant's bed. Possibly the straw mattresses or luikko may be the cause, or the shut-up wooden frames of the bedstead, or the moss used to keep the rooms warm and exclude draughts, still the fact remains that, while the people themselves bathe often and keep their homes clean, their beds are apt to shock an unhappy traveller who, though he have to part with all his comforts and luggage on a krra ride, should, if he value his life, stick fast to insect powder and ammonia, and the joyful preventive of lavender oil.

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