The first thing that strikes a stranger on entering a Finnish country-house is the mats, placed at the foot of every staircase and outside every door. They are made of the loose branches of the pine-tree neatly laid on the top of one another to form an even round mat, these branches being so constantly renewed that they always give off a delicious fresh smell. The next surprise is the enormous white porcelain stove or oven found in every room; so enormous are these kakelugn that they reach the ceiling, and are sometimes four feet long and three or four feet deep. The floors of all the rooms are painted raw-sienna colour, and very brightly polished. To our mind it seems a pity not to stain the natural wood instead of thus spoiling its beauty, but yellow paint is at present the fashion, and fashion is always beautiful, some folk say. In winter carpets and rugs are put down, but during summer the rooms are swept daily (at all events in the country) with a broom made of a bundle of fresh, green birch leaves—somewhat primitive, but very efficacious, for when the leaves are a little damp they lick up dust in a wonderful manner. These little brooms are constantly renewed, being literally nothing more than a bundle of birch boughs tied tightly together. They cost nothing in a land where trees grow so fast that it is difficult for a peasant to keep the ground near his house free from their encroachments.

In truth, Finland is utterly charming. Its lakes, its canals, its rivers, its forests, are beautiful, and its customs are interesting. It is primitive and picturesque, and its people are most kind and hospitable, but—and oh! it is a very big but indeed, there exists a Finnish pest.

Strolling through those beautiful dark pines and silver birch woods, he is ever by one’s side; sailing or rowing over the lakes, that Finnish demon intrudes himself. Sitting quietly at meals, we know the fiend is under the table, while, as we rest on the balcony in the evening, watching a glorious sun sinking to rest an hour before midnight, he whispers in our ears or peeps into our eyes. He is here, there, and everywhere; he is omnipresent—this curse of Finland. He is very small, his colour is such that he is hardly visible, and he is sly and crafty, so that the unwary stranger little guesses that his constant and almost unseen companion will speedily bring havoc to his comfort and dismay into his life. The little wretch is called Mygga in Swedish or Itikainen in Finnish, the Finnish words being pronounced exactly as they are written, in the German style of calling i, e, etc.

Mrs. Alec Tweedie.

London, Easter 1913.

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