Page images

guide in 1860, but whom he dismissed for bad conduct. I was ushered up a broad flight of steps and along a passage with dormitories on one side, into which I looked through square window-panes inserted in the doors, and saw that they were clean and airy. The rector's apartments were at the end of the corridor; I was shown into a well-furnished room, with fauteuils, sofas, curtained windows, and French engravings on the walls. On the table was a wreath of immortelles, surrounding a China Cupid seated on his haunches, and drawing his bow at a venture. s In a corner was a large highly-polished stove, the pomegranate at the top, crowned by a delicately poised life-sized bust of a fine intellectual head, modelled in plaster from life, and painted flesh-colour, with hale rosy cheeks. The eyes were closed; eyebrows and lashes, hair, whiskers, were all of a light brown tint. This singular cast was taken from the rector's head when he was younger, and it is to be hoped that it will always remain with the college, of which he has been such a distinguished ornament, as a remembrance of one who has done more than most men for the advancement of learning in his native isle. The rector can speak fluently English, French, German, Danish and Latin; his knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is also considerable. “He has but a single fault l” said my guide, one day. “Having spent a great part of his life in France and Germany, he does not think Iceland the most glorious locality in the universe!” And small blame to him ' I thought. I brought my visit to a speedy termination, as I found that examinations were in progress, and that the rector could ill spare time to be with me. On descending the street, Mr. Briggs rushed up to me with an exclamation of “Oh, Padre There is not the slightest use in coming to Iceland l’’ “How SO 2'' . “Why, it is just like everywhere else! I have been looking in at one of the stores, and what do you think I saw 2 Crinolines, real crinolines, man l hanging up for sale. Crinolines l is it not horrible ! we are not beyond the range of fashion yet ! Oh, for Jan Meyen l’” Another horrible circumstance which distressed Mr. Briggs and made him despair of getting beyond the reach of modern civilization, was the fact that there was a photographer in Reykjavik; yet I think he became quite reconciled to the idea, when he heard the story of the man's career, which was peculiar enough in its way. The photographer had been so unsuccessful in his line at Copenhagen, that, in a fit of despondency, he had cut his throat, then rushed to his landlady to show her what he had done, and fallen a bleeding victim at the feet of one who had relentlessly dunned him for arrears. She, with great presence of mind, tied her apron round his neck and called a policeman, who in turn called a cab, and conveyed the would-be suicide to the hospital, where his throat was promptly sewed up, and he soon recovered. The circumstance had, however, sent such a thrill of commiseration through the benevolent hearts of the Copenhageners, that a subscription was raised in his behalf, and with the proceeds he was shipped to Reykjavík, where, it was presumed, he would drive a flourishing trade, there being no competition. I should not say that he was by any means a first-rate artist. I saw a photograph which he took in 1861 of Messrs. Shepherd and Holland, with their guides; one of the party having moved his eyes, it became necessary that they should be painted in. This was effected with a little brown and white paint, quite en régle. But the curious part of the circumstance was, that, by the middle of the summer of 1862, every portion of the photograph had vanished except those eyes, which held their ground and stared out of a blank surface. I spent the rest of the day in purchasing horses and securing guides. I bought five nice little ponies at prices varying from 24 to 38 dollars (21.15s.-4l. 7s.) A good horse which has been fed on hay during the winter always sells at a comparatively high figure, whilst those which have fished for themselves, subsisting on sea-weed, moss, and anything they can pick up, are fit for very little work during the summer, and are worthless for a long journey. I proposed buying three more horses farther up the country, one to serve as a riding pony, to make up a complement of four riding and four baggage horses—eight in all. It is necessary for a traveller, who wishes to get over much ground in the short summer, to be provided with an extra set of horses, so that he, his guide, and each of the baggage loads, may change ponies twice or thrice in the day. Guides were more difficult to procure, as the only good one, Olavur Steingrímsson, was absent with Messrs. Shepherd, Upcher, and Fowler, who had left Reykjavik in May. Another guide, Zöga, who speaks English, goes no farther than to the Geysir, or at farthest to Hekla. However, at last, my companions and myself were suited with three. Güthmundr and Magnús were to be the servants of Mr. Briggs, the Yankee and Martin, whilst a theological student, with a licence to preach in his pocket, was to accompany and attend on me, at two dollars and a half per diem, and I had to find him horses, lodging and food. All three guides proved to be worthy, honest fellows, but I made a mistake in hiring a student, who, as I might have expected, would not do the rough work which an ordinary guide would accomplish. He has his failings, as we all have, but his are, I believe, on the surface, and overlay a true and upright heart. His faults will appear prominently enough in the following pages, as they afforded me some amusement, though they also, at times, caused considerable irritation, which I found a difficulty in suppressing; his name shall be, through my book, Grímr Arnason. We drew up an agreement with our guides, as well as we could, none of the party being lawyers, and I have no doubt that it is full of flaws. I give it as a guide to tourists; it is quite sufficient for all practical purposes in Iceland. “It is hereby agreed upon between A B and CD, that in consideration of the sum of per diem, paid to the said CD, he will honestly and faithfully serve A B to the best of his ability, as guide and general servant, during his journey in Iceland; such service to be from the 18th day of June. But if at any time CD shall misconduct himself, or in case of his inability or incompetence to perform his duties, A B shall have power to dismiss C D from his service, upon paying him six days' wages from the day of discharge.” It is of essential importance that some such agreement should be made, as the Reykjavik guides are, many of them, very incompetent, and sad drunkards. Before leaving Reykjavík I paid a visit to the Catholic Mission, and found it a snug farm; it was once surrounded by a tän or home-meadow, which has been spoiled by the priest in his endeavours to introduce French husbandry. I found the missioner walking up and down to the leeward of his house, wrapped in a warm cloak. He invited me indoors, and I had a long conversation with him relative to the ecclesiastical condition of the island. After this I asked for a few practical hints for my journey. “First and foremost,” said the priest, “take with you plenty of small change, you can get none in the country, and there is no reason why you should give a dollar when half will do. You will have to pay for everything you want, and rightly too. The Icelander has a hard struggle to keep himself and family alive; and food is expensive. He has often to take a journey of many days to the capital, that he may provide himself with a year's stock of the necessaries of life—perhaps he loses some of his horses on the way, and, as likely as not, the goods he has purchased are damaged in crossing the rivers. It would be a wrong thing for a visitor, who comes to the country for pleasure, to prey upon the scanty supplies of these poor people without sufficiently remunerating them—yet this has been done ! The Icelanders are inclined to be hospitable, but they cannot afford to follow their inclinations.” “Is no reliance to be placed on the statement of travellers respecting the Icelanders, that they decline to receive pay“The farmers will always make a charge, but the priests will now and then refuse money. They will, however, often allow themselves to be persuaded to accept a present, such as an illustrated book, a Latin author, or a silk handkerchief for their wives. You will find, also, that where their amour propre would be hurt by accepting dollars, yet they will take an English half-sovereign to make into a ring for a favourite daughter.” “What must I reckon upon as my daily expenditure?” “A guinea, exclusive of what you pay your guide. It may not always amount to so much, but it will sometimes exceed. Of course it is not to be expected that your Reykjavik guide can know every corner of the island, and, in crossing passes with which he is unacquainted, you must hire an extra man, who, knowing that you cannot do without him, will demand a fancy price.” “I suppose,' most magnificent.” “Magnificent indeed!” answered the abbé; “there is the magnificence of Satan imprinted deep in the face of this land. Did you ever hear the Danish account of the origin of Iceland 2’’ “Never,” I replied. “Well, then ; after the creation, Satan was rather taken aback, and he thought within himself, “I’ll see now what I can do !” So he toiled at creation, and lo! he turned out Iceland. This myth gives you a notion of the place: all is horrible and gloomy. You are reminded again and again of the scenes in Dante's Inferno. This land is magnificent too ! for there still lingers majesty about the handiwork of the fallen angel.”

ment 2"

said I, “that the country and scenery are

« PreviousContinue »