We set sail in a packet for the shores of Russia. Our voyage was a prosperous one upon the whole, and we sailed with rapidity to Bomarsund and that cluster of islands, the navigation of which is often attended with so much danger. These islands are barren and for the most part uninhabited. A pole with a red flag was the pilot from the hidden rocks, which are so numerous as to render sailing through the islands by night impossible. We accordingly passed our second night under the lee of the shore, and the following morning ran into Abo in good time. Being the bearer of despatches for our Ambassador at St. Petersburg, I found no difficulty in getting the carriage through the Custom House. Abo is a dirty, uninviting place, only famous for the treaty signed there between Russia and Sweden in 1743. There is no country on the Continent where the posts are so well served as in Finland, and, provided you have a coachman who understands putting on the harness, you never experience a moment's delay. It was our intention to have reached Bjorsby the same night, but at a wretched village two posts from that town the rain descended in torrents. Notwithstanding this, we determined to carry our intentions into effect; but scarcely had we left the post when the peasant ran us off the road, with the wheels of the carriage in such a position against a rock that the least movement from within or without would infallibly have overturned it. We fortunately succeeded in taking the horses off, and, being guided by a light glimmering in a window, we waded through mud and water until we arrived at the door of a Finland hut, the interior of which baffles all description : those, in fact, who have had no experience of these unfrequented countries would never believe that Christians could live in so swinelike a manner.'
Apparently things have not much improved, as my modern tourist before referred to gives the following description of a hut he arrived at while on a bear-shooting expedition in Finland : - ' I am writing now in the peasant's hut. It consists of one room, of wood, and contains the family (ten in number), selves (two), and drivers (two). In one corner is the huge stove, in another twelve chickens in a cage. There is a table and a bench. 1 don't mention the other animals, though, I am sorry to say, I have already made their acquaintance, and am bitten from head to foot. There is a baby in a cradle that creaks horribly (the cradle, not the baby) and is curiously constructed. The baby is put in a basket hung on the end of a long sapling which is attached to the rafters. Then somebody crosses his legs and kicksit up with his foot, and the spring in the sapling rocks the baby to sleep. I hope there is not a cock among the chickens in the corner! . . . We turned in at 8.30 last night, and as there was no room on the floor I spread my shouba on the bench, and with my tobacco-pouch as pillow was soon asleep. Of course nobody undressed, and everybody snored wonderfully; and there was a cock in the corner!'
The journal continues: 'The Finlander's habitation consists of three houses; one for the summer, one for the winter, and the third for a kitchen. These houses are joined together; they are of wood and resemble a Swedish cottage. On entering the one in question we found a large family assembled in the room, a part of whom were in bed, and the others preparing for a wedding that was to take place the next day. We in vain entreated them to let us have one of the blackcock then roasting for our supper. The good lady of the house, however, promised us something to eat, showed us into the adjoining room, and lighted a fire. The supper then arrived, but, in spite of a faim de loup, I could not touch it. The Finland peasant, though small in stature, is well made, and, being constantly employed in fishing or hunting, is more active than his neighbour the Russian. Their language is peculiar to the country, though many of them speak Swedish. They use the Gothic character in writing ; the sound of the language is indescribably harsh. The Finns are still governed by Swedish laws ; there are no nobles. In seasons of plenty they eat five times a day; yet, from the severity of their climate and the sterility of their soil, there are no people so often reduced to want. So great, indeed, is the scarcity during long and rigorous winters that they are often obliged to mix the bark of the fir-tree with their meal. In spite of all these disadvantagesthey areremarkable for their longevity.
The circumstance of the necessaries of life being only-procured by great and constant labour, which conduces so to health, may be the cause of their attaining so great an age. The costume of the women is singular enough; they rejoice in immense earrings, usually made of glass, as also their necklaces, though the latter are often composed of pieces of money strung together. The men adopt the dress of the Swedes. Whilst the marriage feast was preparing I was in vain endeavouring to sleep on the table, awaiting the first ray of light, which we agreed should be the signal for our departure. I had not the good fortune to see the bride during our short stay under her mother's hospitable roof, but before we started we heard a bustle which ushered in a day of no small importance. A large party was already assembled, and their clean and smiling faces proclaimed the occasion no common one. The bride in Finland is obliged to present each guest with three yards of cloth and a pair of stockings ; the guest immediately gives their value in money, which belongs to the bride.