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Autumn approached, and Thorgils looked out for a sheltered spot where they might winter. Finding a bay facing the south, he ran the boat in, and his heart danced at the sight of a boat-house near the water's edge, and a line of blue smoke curling from a birch-grown dell, hard by. You may well imagine that the poor battered Smack was soon run ashore, and that the travel-worn men hastened in the direction of the smoke, with all the speed that hope could give. They found a snug farm pitched on a grassy slope, with the cows gathered around the door for milking. A red-faced, good-tempered man came forward and greeted the strangers. On hearing their story, he begged them to winter with him, and they were only too thankful to accept his offer. Thorfin was given into women's keeping to be properly weaned. A pleasant winter slipped by, and in spring, Rolf, as the farmer was called, offered his guests a ship if they wished to depart. Thorgils accepted the vessel, but before leaving Greenland, he visited Eric the Red, at whose invitation he had come. Eric received him very coldly, as he had calculated on Thorgils arriving in a well-laden ship, and was not prepared to receive him when he was destitute of everything. Thorgils accordingly returned to Rolf. From him he learned that Snoekoll and the other thralls were in the country; so he went after them, captured them, recovered his stolen property, and then sold the wretches into bondage in Greenland. Thorgils, his sons, Starkathr and Kolr, then left Greenland on their return to Iceland. They again encountered storms, and, on nearing their native isle, were beaten about for twelve days, after which they sighted Iceland. The wind now changed, and rolled up from the south laden with rain; it blew a gale for two days, 80 that they could not venture to run the vessel ashore. For these two days, Thorgils had been labouring almost incessantly in baling, up to his middle in water, as eight enormous waves had rolled over the ship.
Starkathr came up, and begged him to leave the hold, and let him take his place. Thorgils did so, and seated himself near the opening to the hold, with Thorfin on his knee. At that moment, a huge green billow rolled over the vessel, threw Thorgils from his seat, and washed the little boy overboard. Then Thorgils exclaimed: “Such a surge has swept over us that baling avails us no more ! ” At the recoil of the wave, the child was brought back into the ship alive. The little fellow cried out— “That is well over, papal" Up sprang Thorgils, shouting, “Bale he who can now !” The men worked with might and main, and cleared the ship of water. Thorgils took the boy to bed as he had been completely drenched in the brine. He spat blood that evening, and, after lingering two days, died on a golden morning as the vessel sighted Hjörleif's Head. The vessel ran into harbour and dropped anchor at Arnarboeli, the “Eagles’ haunt.” The men wished to remove the body and bury it, but Thorgils would not suffer it to be taken from his lap. “We have been constant companions in hardship, night and day,” said he ; “and now we shall not be parted.” His friends consulted together what should be done, and at last hit upon a plan. They went ashore and picked up a quarrel with a farmer named Sigmundr. Kolr then hastened to the vessel, and told Thorgils that there was a fight ashore, and that his son, Thorleif, wanted help. The bonder started up, girded on his sword, laid the dead child gently on a bed, slung himself over the ship's side, and hastened to the scene of conflict. He soon succeeded in patching up the quarrel, which was only a fictitious one; and then he returned to the vessel. In the meantime Kolr had taken the corpse to a church and buried it. Thorgils was furious at what had been done, and was hardly restrained from slaying the faithful, Kolr on the spot. When, however, the first burst of passion was over, the poor father regretted his violence, and going up to Kolr, he shook hands with him. For four days and nights he lay without eating or sleeping, and said that he could not blame women for so dearly loving the bairns which they have suckled themselves.
Thorgils then went home to Tratharholt, and wondered how he could ever have left it, so rich and fertile did the farm look after the icy terraces of Greenland.
He married a young wife soon after his return, and before his death saw seven children growing up around his knees. From him is descended the blessed Thorlack—Iceland's greatest saint. This is what was signified by the golden flower in the bonder's dream.
I may inform those who are curious about the discovery of Greenland and America by the Icelanders, that there is a very accessible account of it in Mr. Blackwell's edition of Mallet's Northern Antiquities, published by Bohn, price five shillings.
Mallet's book is valueless, but the additions and notes of the editor are excellent.
For those who understand Danish, there is the work, Grönlands Historiske Mindesmaerker, 3 vols. 8vo. 1838-45, containing extracts of the Sagas relating to Greenland, and consisting of 2,538 pages.
CHAPTE R XXIII.
Leave Geysir—Last View of Heckla—The rumoured Eruption of Skapta— Return to Thingvöllum—Latin Conversation—Seljadalr—The Plague of Flies—Halt at a Farm—A fair Haymaker—The Spell broken—Return to Reykjavik—Sale of Horses—Icelandic Ponies—Their strong and weak Points—Leave Iceland—The Captain's Joke—Reach England— Advice to Travellers.
WE were sorry enough to leave Geysir where we had spent some joyous days, but the steamer waits for no man, and we were obliged to be back in Reykjavík some days before she sailed, so as to dispose of our horses by a public auction. Farewell, Geysirl We took one last look into the calm steaming basin, tossed one final load of turf into Strokr and galloped off. We stopped at Uthlith to shake hands with the farmer and his wife. Really, their clean cheerful faces did one good They seemed to be quite pleased to see us again, and offered us bowls of milk which we emptied thirstily. In Iceland one learns to live and fatten upon milk. We took a parting glance over the tün wall at the glorious panorama of Snow peaks beyond the plain of green morass. Heckla was Snow-clad still, its ridge starting into three teeth, one of which is perfectly black. Far away to the south were the twin peaks of Tindfjalla, the tops sunlit, and the bases lost in swimming blue. More distant still rose Eyjafjalla, like a golden cloud on the horizon. Heckla is distant from Uthlith, as the crow flies, about thirty-six miles; Tindfjalla, forty-five; and Eyjafjalla, fifty-six miles.
My intention had been to have gone on to the Skaptár Jökull, but I found now that the rumours of its being in eruption were without foundation. At Haukadalr, a farm near Geysir, we were told that the eruption was supposed to be taking place at Krafla, near Myvatn, whence we had come ! On further inquiry it proved that only one man pretended to have seen any signs of it, and he had come from the Lómargnupr, in the south. He did not, however, assert that he had noticed anything except rising columns like Smoke—in fact, the sand clouds which we had observed. At Thingvöllum we hoped to obtain further information, but we were disappointed. The people said that there might be an eruption somewhere, as there was so much sand in the air, but they could give us no account of the outbreak. One thing they all were agreed in, that Skapta was quiescent; so that there was no advantage in my journeying thither.
On my arrival at Reykjavik I made further inquiries, and learned that the postman from Eyrarbakki declared that he had seen flames in the direction of Trôlladyngja. This mountain is just 140 miles from Eyrarbakki, as the crow flies, and the lofty Tungnafells Jökull intervenes. I think, therefore, that the statement of the postman is questionable. It is possible that Trôlladyngja may have erupted, but, if so, the outburst must have been very slight, or we should have heard Some account of it from the Möthrudalr men, whom we met at Myvatn.
The Jökulsá has two sources; one of these is at the foot of Trôlladyngja, and if the volcano had been active it would have melted the snows on its head, and the river would have been very full and discoloured. This was not the case; I found the Jökulsá lower than it is in general, on account of the coldness of the summer; and the water was milky, with partially dissolved snow, like all rivers rising among Jökulls.
At Thingvalla parsonage we again pitched our tents near