Red Dusk and the Morrow by Sir Paul Dukes

Red Dusk and the Morrow by Sir Paul Dukes

Author:Sir Paul Dukes [Dukes, Sir Paul]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Crónica, Historia, Memorias
Publisher: ePubLibre
Published: 1921-12-31T16:00:00+00:00


CHAPTER VII

Finland

STÁRAYA DERÉVNYA, WHICH MEANS “The Old Village,” is a remote suburb of Petrograd, situated at the mouth of the most northerly branch of the River Neva, overlooking the Gulf of Finland. It is a poor and shabby locality, consisting of second-rate summer villas and a few small timber-yards and logmen’s huts. In winter when the gulf is frozen it is the bleakest of bleak places, swept by winds carrying the snow in the blizzard-like clouds across the dreary desert of ice. You cannot tell then where land ends and seas begins, for the flats, the shores, the marshes, and the sea lie hidden under a common blanket of soft and sand-like snowdrifts. In olden times I loved to don my skis and glide gently from the world into that vast expanse of frozen water, and there, miles out, lie down and listen to the silence.

A few days after I had parted from Stepanovna in the Kazan Cathedral, I sat in one of the smallest and remotest huts of Stáraya Derévnya. It was eleven o’clock of a dark and windless night. Except for the champing of a horse outside, the silence was broken only by the grunting and snoring of a Finnish contrabandist lying at full length on the dirty couch. Once, when the horse neighed, the Finn rose hurriedly with a curse. Lifting the latch cautiously, he stole out and led the animal round to the seaward side of the cottage, where it would be less audible from the road. Having recently smuggled a sleigh-load of butter into the city, he was now returning to Finland—with me.

It was after midnight when we drove out, and, conditions being good, the drive over the sea to a point well along the Finnish coast, a distance of some forty-odd miles, was to take us between four and five hours. The sledge was of the type known as drovny, a wooden one, broad and low, filled with hay. The drovny, used mostly for farm haulage, is my favourite kind of sledge, and nestling comfortably at full length under the hay I thought of long night-drives in the interior in days gone by, when someone used to ride ahead on horseback with a torch to keep away the wolves.

In a moment we were out, flying at breakneck speed across the ice, windswept after recent storms. The half-inch of frozen snow just gave grip to the horse’s hoofs. Twice, suddenly bumping into snow ridges, we capsized completely. When we got going again the runners sang just like a saw-mill. The driver noticed this too, and was alive to the danger of being heard from shore a couple of miles away; but his sturdy pony, exhilarated by the keen frosty air, was hard to restrain.

Some miles out of Petrograd there lies on an island in the Finnish Gulf the famous fortress of Cronstadt, one of the most impregnable in the world. Searchlights from the fortress played from time to time across the belt of ice, separating the fortress from the northern shore.



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