Page images

in the sky. It was midnight, and the sun was down, but the heavens were still lighted with his rays, which turned their blue to the tenderest ice-green. An eagle (Falco albicilla), perched on a crag, watched our cavalcade, and then plunged down through the mist, disappearing in it like a stone dropped into water. The air was intensely cold, and the line of demarcation between mist and mountain was extraordinarily sharp. The snow was soft, so that we sank to our knees at every step. We were obliged to walk, as the horses had as much to do as they could well manage to pull themselves along. Sometimes the poor brutes refused to advance, and stood up to their bellies with their desponding heads bent to the white surface. Ponies will, at times, make up their minds to go no farther, and then there is no stirring them; they will stand in the same position till they are frozen, and then fall over on their sides to die. Happily none of my train became quite in this condition, though they were very near it, and we had the greatest difficulty in getting the baggage horses to move on. My pony floundered into a hole, and sank over the saddle, so that he could not get out without assistance. The snow is very cavernous in the neighbourhood of protruding rocks, and, as the horses invariably make for the least black speck in the white waste, as a drowning man would strike out for a skerry, the consequence is, that they are continually sinking into holes which are perfectly concealed beneath a smooth surface. We had now a steep incline to overcome; up this we were obliged to crawl in a zigzag course, dislodging masses of snow, which slid down and vanished in the mist below, forming miniature avalanches. As we reached the top, the sun broke over a marquee-shaped mountain opposite, and cut off from us by another lake of fog. We rested for half an hour on the summit of the pass, lying thoroughly exhausted on the snow, beside our fagged horses, which stood before us in a line rapt in a brown study, without moving a muscle. The descent was through dense fog, and was so precipitous that we were obliged to leave a considerable space between each horse, lest one should slip down upon the other. When we reached the bottom of the mountain we had to pass a torrent, which descended in a noble waterfall, and then rolled angrily away under an arch of snow. This bridge was so rotten, that Jón hesitated for some time whether we could venture upon it, and at last sent over a horse as an experiment. The snow bore, and we drove the baggage pony across; cakes of snow fell off the bridge into the gorge, but the arch remained unbroken, so we all passed without accident. We had taken between five and six hours in crossing this heithi, and had been on our legs for a great part of the time. It was seventeen hours since leaving Akureyri, when we drew up at the door of the archdeacon's farm at Hólar. The old man received us very kindly. It was morning, and he with his wife and servant were already up, brisk as bees, and ready for a long talk. I was tired out and longed for bed, but hardly liked to get in before them, yet Grímr had just begun the Grimsey story, and that with all his grievances would last an hour at least. I fairly fell asleep with my head on the table, and was roused by Grimr, who recommended me to go to bed. “But,” said I; “these good people are in the room.” “Oh, don't mind us!” said the priest. “Pray go to bed ' " said his wife. “Do let me pull your breeches off l’’ volunteered the maid. - I started up at the proposal, fully roused, and, with a flying leap, buried myself under the feather bed, then pulled off coat and waistcoat and curled myself up. “Don’t English people undress more than that when they go to rest ?” asked the priest, who had been watching me gravely. “He has got his breeches on,” said the wife. “I’ll pull them off, if he likes,” chimed in the maid with alacrity. “Never, never!” I cried in desperation; “Grimr, save me!” Poor Ebenezer Henderson, the Bible Society delegate the Icelanders still have a good laugh over his dismay, when first the ladies of the house insisted on dismantling his legs. This was according to etiquette in his time, though now happily falling into disuse. In his book he tells the story of his wild struggle to preserve his nether garments, but he neglects to mention the compromise which was effected, he coiling himself up in the coverlet, and letting the ladies pull at the strap-buttons. Henderson was a very good fellow, but he had no notion of a joke, and he only mentions the incident to found on it moral and pious reflections. Among themselves it is still a common practice for the women to peel the men after their day's work, but the Icelanders have learned that strangers do not particularly relish this sort of attention, and they now seldom offer it.

After my first nap, Grímr came to bed; he was to share mine, so a pillow was put at the bottom of the bed for his head to rest upon, whilst his feet lay on the pillow by my head.

“Oh, Grímr l’” said I; “this is dreadfully cramped !”

“Bless you!” he answered; “we sometimes sleep five in a bed of this size, head to foot, lying on one side and not stirring all night long.”

It is not pleasant to have a calm dream of home interrupted in the middle of the night by the descent of a cold foot on one's face. Readers may you never experience it!

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

HóLAR is situated in a noble valley between mountains covered with snow. The soil is peculiarly fertile, and Hjaltadal is regarded as the garden of the north. There are two houses near the church, one the residence of the archdeacon, the other of a farmer. At the time that I was at Hólar, all hands were engaged in the hay harvest, reaping down the grass with sickles, and raking it into little heaps. Although the tün is considered to produce some of the finest hay in Iceland, I believe that few blades of grass were longer than my fingers. The church, dedicated to S. Mary the Virgin, is a stone building sixty-four feet eight inches long, by twenty-nine feet four inches broad, and twenty-seven feet high. Its plan is a parallelogram, without either constructional tower or chancel. A bell chamber and porch are formed by partitioning off the west end of the church, and the ritual choir is separated from the nave by a screen. On either side of the building are seven windows: there is no opening at the east end, and the western gable is pierced by two windows, in which are hung the bells. Within the porch lies the largest bell of Hólar— cracked. It is said to have tolled of itself when Jón Arnason, the last real bishop of Hólar, suffered martyrdom. The building was raised in the last century, and is devoid of all architectural merit; it is wonderfully like the railway station at Grangemouth, but the fittings within are full of interest. To begin with the altar. This is the old stone altar belonging to the ancient cathedral, and measures five feet nine inches by three feet one inch high. It is enclosed within faded curtains of chequered blue silk and lace. The altar is vested : first, in a green leather frontal stamped with gold flowers, and a super-frontal to match, both falling to pieces, but very handsome; secondly, in an admirably preserved embroidered cloth, with five full-length figures on it, worked in colours on a buff ground. These represent—First, an angel with censer; second, Bishop Gūthmundr, in white alb with red apparel, red stole, dalmatic striped blue and yellow, red chasuble flowered with gold, and blue orphrey, blue mitre and crozier particoloured red and blue ; third, S. John of Hólar, vested in white alb with blue apparel, red and yellow striped dalmatic, blue stole with brown fringe, blue chasuble with red orphrey, and violet mitre ; fourth, S. Thorlak, vested like Bishop Güthmundr; fifth, an angel with censer and book. All the bishops have episcopal rings, pink gloves, red boots, puce fillets to their mitres, and brown maniples. They are represented as closely shaven; their hair, as well as that of the angels, is red. The angels are vested in blue and red, with hoods or tippets, and have bare feet; the chasuble is very full, almost circular. The altar is also covered with white linen, embroidered in red and blue thread, with a representation of the animals entering the ark. On the holy table stand two brass candlesticks, one branch candlestick, also of brass, for three lights, dated 1679, and another similar stand, somewhat smaller. The priests' westments hang over the curtain rods, and consist of an alb plain, a gold-coloured chasuble, and two of velvet, one crimson, the other green. Above the altar is an immense triptych. The doors are painted on the outside, with Christ appearing as the gardener to the Magdalen, and with the martyrdom of S. Sebastian.

« PreviousContinue »