Thursday, February 24, 2011

The police came down upon them, took away all their badges

The very beginning of the Work was due entirely to one of his most daring decisions, for it may well be doubted whether any attempt, under the leadership of a foreigner, would have been tolerated at that time. But when a young lady, who had become acquainted with The Army in
Stockholm, devoted herself to its service, and after passing some time in Training in London, was sent back with two or three subordinates to begin work in Helsingfors, who could look upon her with suspicion?

The moment she succeeded, however, in inducing a few of her first Converts to put on our uniform or insignia, the police came down upon them, took away all their badges, and declared that the formation of a Corps there must be regarded as for ever prohibited. Even when the Converts were provided with a second supply of badges, they were called to the police-station, and again deprived of them. But the leader had learnt from The General too well the lessons of patient endurance and continuance to give way. And when the police saw her followers supplied a third time with the signs of union with us, having in the meantime had so many opportunities to learn more both of the leader and of her people, they concluded that it would be, after all, the best for the public interest to let them alone.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

He muffled himself in wolfskins to his neck

January of 1787 saw him in Sweden seeking passage across the Baltic. Usually the trip to St. Petersburg was made by dog sleighs across the ice. This year the season had been so open, neither boats nor dog trains could be hired to make the trip. Ledyard was now thirty-six years old, and the sum of his efforts totalled to a zero. The first twenty-five years of his life he had wasted trying to fit his life to other men's patterns. The last five years he had wasted waiting for other men to act, men in New York, in Philadelphia, in Paris, in London, to give him a ship. He had done with waiting, with dependence on others. When boats and dog trains failed him now, he muffled himself in wolfskins to his neck, flung a knapsack on his back, and set out in midwinter to tramp overland six hundred miles north to Tornea at the head of the Baltic, six hundred miles south from Tornea, through Finland to St. Petersburg. Snow fell continually. Storms raged in from the sea. The little villages of northern Sweden and Finland were buried in snow to the chimney-tops. Wherever he happened to be at nightfall, he knocked at the door of a fisherman's hut. Wherever he was taken in, he slept, whether on the bare floor before the hearth, or among the dogs of the outhouses, or in the hay-lofts of the cattle sheds. No more waiting for Ledyard! Storm or shine, early and late, he tramped two hundred miles a week for seven weeks from the time he left Stockholm. When he marched into St. Petersburg on the 19th of March, men hardly knew whether to regard him as a madman or a wonder.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A little Finlander sharp-shooter

"Oh, then," said M. Struve, after hearing a portion of the above, "a pretty mistake your British inventor, and the officer too, would have made upon some of our Russian soldiers, according as they had seen in the distance either one of the Brèo-brèjenski Guard, who stands with his bear-skin shako, above seven feet hig ; or a little Finlander sharp-shooter, who, with his flat blue-cloth cap and short stature, is under four and a half feet. Yes indeed, a pretty mistake; for the real distance might have been almost double, or only half, of whatever the telescope and its micrometer wires had caused it to appear."

Charles Piazzi Smyth: Three cities in Russia, Volume 1

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Arrowheads regarded as thunderbolts

Flint arrowheads of the stone age are less often taken for thunderbolts, no doubt because they are so much smaller that they look quite too insignificant for the weapons of an angry god. They are more frequently described as fairy-darts or fairy-bolts. Still, I have known even arrowheads regarded as thunderbolts, and preserved superstitiously under that belief. In Finland, stone arrows are universally so viewed; and the rainbow is looked upon as the bow of Tiermes, the thunder-god, who shoots with it the guilty sorcerers.

Frozen Lapland, rude and churlish Finland

 I never addressed myself, in the language of decency and friendship, to a woman, whether civilized or savage, without receiving a decent an...