Guide The Lutheran Ladies Circle: Through the Knothole (The Lutheran Ladies Circle Book 2)

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He had already served a short time as cadet in the artillery, but had been compelled to resign on account of poor health. Now he had recovered and entered service again as a volunteer in the infantry. The events of my life are so closely interwoven with this man and his life, that the reader will often hear of him in these pages. Right here I wish to state, that a more faithful friend and a more noble character cannot be found; he has always been a help and a comfort to me in the many and strange vicissitudes which we have shared together.

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The first Danish-German war broke out about this time, and I, with many other youths, felt a hearty sympathy for the Danes. The Swedish government resolved to send troops to help their neighbors, and a few regiments marching through - 12 - our city fanned our youthful enthusiasm into flame.

Finally, a detachment of the artillery, quartered in the city, was ordered to leave for the seat of war, and now I could no longer restrain myself, but besieged my parents to let me join that part of the army which was going to the battlefield, and to clinch the argument I was cruel enough to send word to my distressed mother that if she would not consent I would run away from home and join the army anyway.

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This last argument made her yield, and in the fall of I became an artillery cadet, being then in my seventeenth year. But although I won this victory over my mother, whose greatest desire was that I should become a clergyman, she in turn gained a victory over me by persuading the surgeon of the batallion, who was also our family physician, to declare me sick and send me to the hospital, although I had only a slight cold; thus my plan to go with the army to Schleswig-Holstein was frustrated.

This did not make much difference, however, as the war was virtually closed before our troops arrived at the place of destination, and my time could now be more profitably employed in learning the duties of a soldier, and in taking a course of mathematics and other practical branches at the regimental school.

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I remained in the army a year and a-half, during which time I received excellent instruction in gymnastics, fencing and riding, besides the regular military drill. Two winters were thus devoted to conscientious and thorough work at the military school. Knowing that the chances for advancement in the Swedish army during times of peace were at this time very slim for young men not favored with titles of nobility, and being also tired of the monotonous garrison life, my friend Eustrom and myself soon resolved to leave the service and try our luck in a country where inherited names and titles were not the necessary conditions of success.

At that time America was little known in our part of the country, only a few persons having emigrated from the whole district.

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But we knew that it was a new country, inhabited by a free and independent people, that it had a liberal government and great natural resources, and these inducements were sufficient for us. My parents readily consented to my emigration, and, having made the necessary preparations, my father took my friend Eustrom and myself down to the coast with his own horses, in the first part of May, At that time there were no ocean steamers and no emigrant agents; but we soon found a sailing vessel bound for America on which we embarked as passengers, furnishing our own bedding, provisions and other necessaries, which our mothers had supplied in great abundance.

About one hundred and fifty emigrants from different parts of Sweden were on board the brig Ambrosius. In the middle of May she weighed anchor and glided out of the harbor on her long voyage across the ocean to distant Boston.

The Lutheran Ladies Circle: Through the Knothole

We gazed back at the vanishing shores of the dear fatherland with feelings of affection, but did not regret the step we had taken, and our bosoms heaved with boundless hope. At the age of eighteen, the strong, healthy youth takes a bright and hopeful view of life, and so did we. Many and beautiful were the air-castles we built as we stood on deck, with our eyes turned towards the promised land of the nineteenth century. To some of these castles our lives have given reality, others are still floating before us. The good brig Ambrosius landed us in Boston on June 29, , but during the voyage about one-half of the passengers were attacked by small-pox and had to be quarantined outside the harbor.

My good friend and I were fortunate enough to escape this plague; but instead of this I was taken sick with the ague on our arrival at Boston. Now, then, we were in America! The new, unknown country lay before us, and it seemed the more strange as we did not understand a word of the English language.

For at that time the schools of Sweden paid no attention to English, so that although I had studied four languages, English, the most important of all tongues, was entirely unknown to me. The first few weeks of our stay in Boston passed quietly and quickly, but the ague grew worse and my purse was getting empty. My friend, however, had more money than I, and as long as he had a dollar left he divided it equally between us. I cannot resist the temptation to relate a serio-comical escapade of this period, one that to many will recall similar occurences in their own experience as immigrants ignorant of the language of the country.

When we met him he had already - 15 - bought a ticket on a sailing vessel bound for New York, so that we could not make the voyage together. But we agreed to hunt each other up after our arrival in America. We left Sweden about the same time with the understanding that if we arrived first we should meet him in New York, and if he arrived first he should go to Boston to meet us there. About a week after our arrival in Boston, we heard that the vessel on which he had embarked had arrived, and I immediately left for New York to fulfill our promise.

But, unfortunately, I found he had already gone west, so I bought a return ticket to Boston the same day. The journey was by steamboat to Fall River, thence by rail to Boston. We left New York in the evening. Striking no depot, however, I returned to the harbor, only to find the steamer gone, and everybody but myself had vanished from the pier. There I stood, in the middle of the night, without money, ignorant of the language, and not even knowing where I was! Tired and discouraged I finally threw myself down on a wooden box on the sidewalk, and went to sleep.

This respectable incarnation of social order evidently took me for a tramp or a madman, and as he could not obtain any intelligible information from me in any language known to him, he took me to a small shoe store kept by a German. Fortunately, my acquaintance with the German language was sufficient to enable me to explain myself, and I soon found that I had left the steamer several hours too early; that the name of this place was New London, that another - 16 - steamer would come past at the same time the next night, so that all I had to do was to wait for that steamer and go to Boston on the same ticket.

I spent the day in seeing the city and chatting with my friend, the shoe maker, and in the evening returned to the wharf to watch for the Boston steamer. This being my ague day, I had violent attacks of ague and fever, so that I was again forced to lie down to rest on the same wooden box, and again went to sleep. After a while I was aroused by the noise of the approaching steamer; rushed on board in company with some other passengers, and considered myself very fortunate when reflecting that I would surely be in Boston the next morning.

I had made myself familiar with the surroundings during the day, and when the steamer started, I noticed that it directed its course towards New York, instead of Boston. I had no money to pay my fare to New York, could neither borrow nor beg, and so I crawled down in a little hole in the fore part of the steamer, where the tackles and ropes were kept, thus, fortunately, escaping the notice of the ticket collector.

We stayed in Boston several weeks, and during that time my ague caused a heavy drain on our small treasury. We had no definite plan, did not know what to do, and as we had never been used to any kind of hard work, matters began to assume a serious aspect, especially in regard to myself. But then, as now, the hope of many a young man was the Great West which, at that time, was comparatively little known even in Boston.

Toward the close of the month of July we, therefore, went to Buffalo, which was as far as our money would carry us. Here we put up at a cheap boarding house kept by a Norwegian by name of Larson, with whom we stopped while trying to get work.

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But having learned - 17 - no trade and being unused to manual labor, we soon found that it was impossible to get a job in the city; so we left our baggage at the boarding house and started on foot for a country place named Hamburg, some ten miles distant, where we learned that two of our late companions across the ocean had found employment. On the road to Hamburg, about dusk, we reached a small house by the wayside, where we asked for food and shelter. I was so exhausted that my friend had to support me in order to reach the house. We found it occupied by a Swedish family, which had just sat down to a bountiful supper.

Telling them our condition, we were roughly told to clear out; in Sweden, they said, they had had enough of gentlemen and would have nothing to do with them here. We retraced our steps with sad hearts until a short distance beyond the house we found an isolated barn partly filled with hay. There was no one to object, so we took possession and made it our temporary home.

I am glad to say that during a long life among all classes of people, from the rudest barbarians to the rulers of nations, that family of my own countrymen were the only people who made me nearly lose faith in the nobler attributes of man. I have an excuse, however, for this conduct in the fact that in the mother-country, which they had left a year before, they had probably been abused and exasperated on account of the foolish class distinction then existing there.

They evidently belonged to that class of tenants who were treated almost like slaves. They were older men and accustomed to hard labor, so that their situation was comparatively easy. They received us kindly and procured work for Eustrom with the same farmer, while I, still suffering with the ague, could not then attempt to work, - 18 - and therefore returned to my castle in the meadow, the hay-barn.

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There I remained about a week living on berries which I found in the neighboring woods and a slice of bread and butter, which Eustrom brought me in the evening, when with blistered hands and sore back, he called to comfort me and help build better air castles for the future.

A council was finally held among us four, and it was decided to send me back to Buffalo with a farmer who was going there the following morning. One of the men Mr. Abraham Sandberg on parting gave me a silver dollar, with the injunction to give it to someone who might need it worse than I, whenever I could do so.

I have never met Abraham since; but I have regarded it as a sacred duty to comply with his request, and, in case these lines should come before his eyes I wish to let him know that my debt has been honestly paid. On reaching the old boarding house in Buffalo the landlord promised that he would send me to a hospital where I could receive proper treatment and care.

I made up a little bundle of necessary underwear, and in an hour a driver appeared at the door; I was lifted into the cart and off we went through the muddy streets to the outskirts of the city, where I was duly delivered at a large building which I supposed to be the hospital.

It was near evening, and I was brought into a large dining-room, with a hundred others or more, served with supper, corn mush and molasses water, after which I was shown to a bed in a large room among many others. I suffered with fever, and for the first time in my life with loneliness.

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Exhausted nature finally took out its due, and I slept soundly until awakened in the morning by a loud sound of a gong. As soon as dressed I walked out in the yard, or lawn, back of the building. On one side was a high plank fence, behind which I heard some strange sounds. I found a knot-hole, and, peeping through this, I observed - 19 - another lawn, on which were many people. They were strange looking; I never saw any like them before. Some were swinging, some dancing, others shouting, singing and weeping and behaving in a most out-of-the-way manner.

I wondered and wondered, and finally it dawned upon me that it must be a lunatic asylum.