Page images
PDF
EPUB

anchor in the harbor, exhibited a more favorable exterior. A long line of buildings, principally warehouses, and all made of wood, fronted the sea. The church was distinguished by its being of stone, and covered with tiles, and by having a small steeple, or little square wooden tower, for its two bells. On each side of these buildings, among the rocks, which on every side surround the town, were scattered miserable huts, but little raised above the level of the ground^ although none of them are really formed under ground, nor, indeed, are any in the island so, as has been generally supposed. About three in the afternoon, we came to an anchor at a short distance from the town, close by the Orion, and, at four, we went on shore, landing upon a beach wholly formed of decomposed lava, of a black color, and, in some places, almost as fine as sand: here> a sort of moveable jetty 4 made of fir planks, was pushed a little way into the sea, that we might not wet ourselves, and, at least, a hund- \ red natives, principally womenj welcomed us to their island, and shouted on our landing. These good folks did not gaze on us with Vol. 1. c

more pleasure, than we did upon them. It was now the season for drying fish, and they were employed in this operation at the time of our arrival. Some were turning those that were laid out to dry upon the shore; another groupe was carrying, in hand-barrows, the fish from the drying place to a spot higher up the beach, where other persons were employed in packing them in great stacks, and pressing them down with stones, to make them flat. Most of this business was performed by women, some of whom were very stout and lusty, but excessively filthy, and, as we passed the crowd, a strong and very rancid smell assailed our noses. The first peculiarity about the women, which strikes the attention of a stranger, is the remarkable tightness of their dress about the breast, where the jacket is, from their early infancy, always kept so closely laced, as to be quite flat, a practice which, while it must be a great inconvenience to themselves, entirely ruins their figure in the eyes of those who come from a more civilized part of the world. Their dress is not otherwise unbecoming, except that the waist is too long, and, from its warmth, it must be welt suited to the coldness of this climate. Upon their heads, in their working, or common, dress, they wear a blue woollen 6ap, with a long point, which hangs down by the side of the head, and is terminated by a tassel, nearly resembling such as is worn by many of our horse-soldiers, in their undress uniform, and this tassel is often ornamented with silver wire. When they have this head-dress, their long and dirty hair is suffered to hang over their shoulders to a great length; but not so, when the Faldur, or dress-cap, is worn: then the hair is carefully tucked upj so that none of it is seen. As, however, I shall confine myself at present to the dress of those females whom I saw at work when I landed, I shall reserve my description of the turban, and of the costume of the richer people, till another opportunity. Over a great number of coarse woollen petticoats, which make them look of a most unnatural size, and a shirt of the same materials, they wear a thick petticoat, or rather gown without sleeves, (for there are two apertures for the arms,) made of blue or black cloth, and fastened down the breast, either by lacing, or, as is more common^ with silver clasps*. A short jacket of the same, which has sometimes a little skirt, goes over this, and is fastened, likewise, about the breast with brass or silver clasps, or by lacing. Their stockings are of coarse wool, knitted and dyed black; and their shoes made of the skins of sheep or seals. Over the shoulders of many of them, on each side, were hanging thick ropes of horse-hair, coarsely braided, with a noose at the end, by which they carried the hand-barrows with fish. The dress of the men was pretty nearly the same as that of our pilots, except that their clothes were generally black, and their stockings, also. In laborious employments, both they and the women frequently threw off their jacket, and worked with nothing but their worsted shirt-sleeves over their arms. As to the features of this groupe of ladies, the generality of them were, assuredly, not cast

* This gown (Upphlutur, in Icelandic), however, is not, any more than the petticoats are, so long as to conceal much of their ill-shaped legs: otherwise, it would be a great hindrance to their walking among the rocks. I recollect one old lady, a constant laborer on the beach, who never had her dress come lower than her knees.

in nature's happiest mould, and some of the old women were the very ugliest mortals I had ever seen; but, among the younger ones, there were a few who would be reckoned pretty, even in England; and, in point of fairness of complexion, an Iceland girl, who has not been too much exposed to the inclemencies of the weather, will stand the comparison with ladies of any country. They are generally of a shorter stature than our women, but have a good deportment, and, to judge from their appearance, enjoy an excellent state of health. After having attentively surveyed this interesting assemblage, we repaired to Mr. Savigniac's house; but, as this was built in Norway, and not different from what a wooden house would be in our own country, it had no charms for me. I therefore hastened to take a ramble by the sea shore, A little rude bridge, formed of planks, across a streamlet, led me out of the town; and, passing two or three peasant's houses,*

* Close by these houses, and by all in the immediate vicinity of the sea, are contrivances for drying the fishing-dresses, which are made of untanned sheep skin, with the hair inwards, or rudely scraped off, and comprise the jacket and trowsers all in one piece.

« PreviousContinue »