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around it, which consequently is free from them, and able to produce a scanty crop of grass. The cairn may be fifteen feet high, and is bell-shaped : to the north, a coating of hoary moss has spread itself over it, and choked the interstices with its felty roots. A small tarn to the east, with cat-ice about the rim, is fed by patches of dirty snow, which seems hardly inclined to thaw this summer. As I stand by the cairn, the wind soughs up from the north, lashing the viscous pool into ripples, rustling among the reeds, humming with a strange mournful note through the crevices of the dead man's home, then rolls onward, to furrow the snows on Eiriks jökull. A falcon wheeling overhead, with a harsh scream swerves in the blast, his wings flicker, and he soars aloft, to appear, but as a speck, against the whirling vapours. Not a plover nor curlew to be seen or heard. I draw my cloak closer about me, and pull my hood farther over my head. My companions shout, and, nothing loth to rejoin them, I spring upon my pony, and scramble back to the road. “Pray, Padre, what have you to say about this Glâmr, whose grave is in such an accursed spot ?” “You shall hear, but if you get the blue devils by listening to my story, blame your own inquisitiveness.” “If they come on,” replied Mr. Briggs, “I have a sovereign remedy; the blue devils shall be expelled by ardent spirits.” So I began the story of
NEAR our halting place to-night, opens a glen, which, from its overhanging crags and generally sombre aspect, has, from time immemorial, been hight the Wale of Shadows. To-morrow we shall visit it.
* Gretla, chaps. 82–85. I give this story as a specimen of a very remarkable form of Icelandic superstition. It is so horrible, that I forewarn all those who have weak nerves, to skip it.
In the beginning of the eleventh century, there stood, a little way up this valley, a small farm, occupied by a worthy bonder, named Thorhall, and his wife. The farmer was not exactly a chieftain, but he was well enough connected to be considered respectable: to back up his gentility, he possessed numerous flocks of sheep, and a goodly drove of oxen. Thorhall would have been a happy man, but for one circumstance —his sheepwalks were haunted. Not a herdsman would remain with him; he bribed, threatened, entreated, all to no purpose; one shepherd after another left his service; and things came to such a pass, that he determined on asking advice at the next annual council. Thorhall saddled his horses, adjusted his packs, provided himself with hobbles, cracked his long Icelandic whip, and cantered along this identical road; and in less time than we. have taken over it, he reached Thingvellir. Skapti Thorodd's son was lawgiver at that time, and, as every one considered him a man of the utmost prudence and able to give the best advice, our friend from the Wale of Shadows made straight for his booth. “An awkward predicament certainly,–to have large droves of sheep, and no one to look after them,” said Skapti, nibbling the nail of his thumb, and shaking his wise head, a head as stuffed with law, as a ptarmigan's crop is stuffed with blaeberries. “Now, I'll tell you what—as you have asked my advice, I will help you to a shepherd; a character in his way, a man of dull intellect, to be sure, but strong as a bull.” “I do not care about his wits, so long as he can look after sheep,” answered Thorhall. “You may rely on his being able to do that,” said Skapti. “He is a stout, plucky follow; a Swede from Sylgsdale, if you know where that is.” Towards the break-up of the council, “Thing” they call it in Iceland, two greyish-white horses belonging to Thorhall slipped their hobbles, and strayed; so the good man had to hunt after them himself, which shows how short of servants he was. He crossed Sletha-ási–you remember the place, Mr.
Briggs; I made a sketch of Sülur from it, and close by is the Grettis-tak—well, thence he bent his way to Armanns-fell, and just by the Priest's-wood he met a strange-looking man driving before him a horse laden with faggots. The fellow was tall and stalwart: his face involuntarily attracted Thorhall's attention, for the eyes of an ashen grey were large and staring, the powerful jaw was furnished with very white protruding teeth, and around the low forehead hung bunches of coarse wolf-grey hair. “Pray what is your name, my man 2 ” asked the farmer, pulling up. “Glâmr, an please you!” replied the wood-cutter. Thorhall stared ; then, with a preliminary cough, he asked how Glâmr liked faggot-picking. “Not much,” was the answer; “I prefer shepherd life.” “Will you come with me?” asked Thorhall; “Skapti has handed you over to me, and I want a shepherd this winter uncommonly.” “If I serve you it is on the understanding that I come or go as pleases me. I tell you I'm a bit truculent if things do not go just to my thinking.” “I shall not object to this,” answered the bonder; “so I may count on your services !” “Wait a moment You have not told me whether there be any drawback.” “I must acknowledge that there is one,” said Thorhall; “in fact, the sheepwalks have got a bad name for bogies.” “Pshaw I'm not the man to be scared at shadows,” laughed Glåmr; “so here's my hand to it; I'll be with you at the beginning of the winter night.” Well! after this, they parted, and presently the farmer found his ponies. Having thanked Skapti for his advice and assistance, he got his horses together and trotted home. Summer, and then autumn, passed, but not a word about the new shepherd reached the Walley of Shadows. The winter storms began to bluster up the glen, driving the flying snowflakes and massing them in white drifts at every winding of the vale. Ice formed in the shallows of the river, and the streams, which in summer trickled down the ribbed scarps, were now transmuted into icicles. One gusty night, a violent blow at the door startled all in the farm ; in another moment, Glâmr, tall as a troll, stood in the hall glowering out of his wild eyes, his grey hair matted with frost, his teeth rattling and snapping with cold, his face bloodred in the glare of the fire which smouldered in the centre of the hall. Thorhall jumped up and greeted him warmly, but the housewife was too frightened to be very cordial. Weeks passed, and the new shepherd was daily on the moors with his flock; his loud and deep-toned voice was often borne down on the blast, as he shouted to the sheep, driving them into fold. His presence always produced gloom, and if he spoke, it sent a thrill through the women, who openly proclaimed their aversion for him. There was a church near the byre, but Glâmr never crossed the threshold; he hated psalmody, which shows what a bad man he was. On the Vigil of the Nativity, Glâmr rose early and shouted for meat. “Meat l” exclaimed the housewife; “no man calling himself a Christian touches flesh to-day. To-morrow is the Holy Christmas-day, and this is a fast.” “All superstition l’ roared Glåmr. “As far as I can see, men are no better now than they were in the bonny heathen time. Now bring me meat, and make no more ado about it.” “You may be quite certain,” protested the good wife, “if church rule be not kept, ill-luck will follow.” Glâmr ground his teeth, and clenched his hands: “Meat I will have meat, or—l ” In fear and trembling the poor woman obeyed. The day was raw and windy; masses of grey vapour rolled up from the Arctic Ocean, and hung in piles about the mountain tops. Now and then a scud of frozen fog, composed of minute spicula of ice, swept along the glen, covering bar and beam with feathery hoarfrost. As the day declined, snow began to fall in large flakes, like the down of the eider-duck. One moment there was a lull in the wind, and then the deeptoned shout of Glâmr, high up the moor slopes, was heard distinctly by the congregation assembling for the first vespers of Christmas-day. Darkness came on, deep as that in the rayless abysses of Surtshellir, and still the Snow fell thicker. The lights from the church-windows sent a yellow haze far out into the night, and every flake burned golden as it swept within the ray. The bell in the lych-gate clanged for even-song, and the wind puffed the sound far up the glen; perhaps it reached the herdsman's ear. Hark! some one caught a distant shout or shriek, which it was he could not tell, for the wind muttered and mumbled about the church eaves, and then, with a fierce whistle, Scudded over the grave-yard fence. Glâmr had not returned when the service was over. Thorhall suggested a search, but no man would accompany him ; and no wonder l it was not a night for a dog to be out in ; besides, the tracks were a foot deep in snow. The family sat up all night, waiting, listening, trembling; but no Glâmr came home. Dawn broke at last, wan and blear in the south. The clouds hung down like great sheets, full of snow, almost to bursting. A party was soon formed to search for the missing man. A sharp scramble brought them to high land, and the ridge between the two rivers which join in Watnsdalr was thoroughly examined. Here and there were found the scattered sheep, shuddering under an icicled rock, or half-buried in a snowdrift. No trace yet of the keeper. A dead ewe lay at the bottom of a crag, it had staggered over it in the gloom, and had been dashed to pieces. Presently the whole party were called together about a trampled spot in the heithi, where evidently a death-struggle had taken place, for earth and stone were tossed about, and the snow was blotched with large splashes of blood. A gory track led up the mountain, and the farm-servants were following it, when a cry, almost of agony, from one of the lads