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tains. The water was perfectly green, a colour it acquired by the rays of light that broke against the ice. After many turnings and windings we found a path by which we could descend with our horses into the valley. On arriving there, we met with another embarrassment, as well in crossing a rivulet discharged from the lake as in passing the muddy soil, in which our horses often sank up to the chest. In some parts this soil is very dangerous to travellers, many of whom have been engulphed and perished in it. “Our object was so far attained, that we were now on Geitland, but we found it a very disagreeable place. We discovered a mountain peak rising above the ice, and which, as well as the other mountains, had been formed by subterranean fires. We led our horses over the masses of ice, after which we left them, and travelled the remainder of the way on foot. We had taken the precaution of providing ourselves with sticks armed with strong iron points, and with a strong rope in case of any of the party falling into a crevass, or sinking in the snow. We had also a compass which we regarded as indispensable, as well for guiding us, as to observe whether at so considerable a height there was any perceptible deflection of the needle. Thus prepared, we began to escalade the glacier at two o'clock in the afternoon; the air was loaded with a thick fog which covered the whole mountain ; but, hoping that it would disperse, we continued our dangerous and troublesome route, though at every instant we had to pass deep crevasses, one of which was an ell and a half in width, and the greatest precaution was required in crossing it. “As we mounted higher, the wind blew much stronger, and drove larger and more abundant flakes of snow before it : fortunately we had the wind in our backs, which facilitated our ascent; but we met at the same time with heaps of Snow, which rendered our progress difficult. Hoping, however, that the weather would change, we agreed not to return till we had gained the summit, from which arose a black rock that we could perceive at intervals.
“At length, after travelling for two hours longer, we found that we had made no additional observations, since we could discover nothing in the distance. A rampart of burnt rock of no considerable height rose above the ice, and at this we paused to rest. The snow-flakes now obscured the air so much that we hardly knew how we should get back: we examined the compass, but without observing any change ; and we were prevented by our guides from going towards the north-west, where the mountain is highest and least accessible. The weather continued the same on the Geitland, so that we found it impossible to resist the cold much longer, and deemed it prudent to return.
“Although the sky was very heavy and dark, we discovered, on our return, the entrance to a valley; if the weather had been more favourable, we should doubtless have had the pleasure of investigating it; but we doubt whether we should have found Thorir's dale. As we descended, we found the wind in our face, which threw the snow so much against us, that we could not discover the traces of our ascent, and it therefore only remained for us to take the road which was least steep.
“By this means we again met with ravines and crevasses, which rendered our descent very dangerous, because they were from three to three ells and a half wide, whilst the soil that separated them was very uneven; insomuch that we were obliged often to go out of our way, or to run the risk of being precipitated to the bottom.”
Of the existence of Thorir's dale I can have no doubt. The words of the Gretla are simple and explicit; the stone which Grettir set up to mark the entrance of the vale still stands, the Icelanders who live anywhere near are unanimous in their opinion that a vale does lie among the Jökulls in the direction indicated by the Saga, and, indeed, an opening which may lead to it is visible from Skjaldbreith. That the valley produces grass now and is full of hot springs, I do not pretend to assert, as there took place an eruption from Ball Jökull, of which Geitland's is a spur, in 1716, which may have altered the character of the dale, destroyed its grass, and choked its springs. I unfortunately missed seeing M. Gunnlaugson, the compiler of the great Icelandic map, who could have given me some information on the subject; but, if it please God to spare me, on my next visit to Iceland, I shall thoroughly explore Thorisdalr. Skirting a desert of new lava which has gushed from that treacherous Skjaldbreith, we reached a high lake-district, where Martin shot three northern-divers, and missed several Swans. Mr. Briggs was lucky this day, and my saddle-bags were filled with the results of his and the Yankee's shooting. I had been suffering for the last two days from a feverish attack with cramps, so that I could hardly walk; and, as we pitched our tents amidst a drizzle, under a snow-patch, with two cold springs near us, trickling into a tarn thronged with wild duck and swans, I felt so giddy and ill, that I would willingly have coiled myself in my rugs and gone to sleep. But this was impossible: wood had to be got, and the birds to be cooked. The only fuel which can be procured is willowroot dug from the soil. No willow grows on this spot now, but the roots remain for the use of the traveller, and, as this is the only grass spot between Kalmanstünga and Meyjar-skarth, it is a favourite camping-place. Grimr told me that, however much of the roots was dug up, the store never failed. It would have failed us, however, had I not collected a provision during the day, and carried it in a bundle before me on my saddle, tightly strapped together: besides, we had to send Gūthmundr back some way to a spot where we had noticed a considerable amount of root which had been laid bare by the wind. My companions started in pursuit of swans, whilst I cooked the supper, and boiled the water for tea and toddy. I strove hard to make oatmeal cakes, but they were failures; the dog even would not touch them ; the tea also was spoiled by Grimr having put the pepper into the teapot for safety.
When all was ready, my guide made signals to the sportsmen, and we finished the evening with a capital supper within the tent, seated on Mr. Briggs' great and comfortable bed, with boxes for our table, and my hammock for the sideboard, into which the dirty knives, forks, tin plates, and mugs, were flung, notwithstanding my earnest remonstrances. On the following morning I should really have been driven to ask my companions to halt a day, as my fever had increased, but that I knew that there was not grass for the horses' sustenance during another twenty-four hours; moreover, I have a theory that the more one gives way to sickness, the worse it becomes. By ten o'clock we were en route, my companions walking, gun in hand, on the look-out for game. I rode on ahead at a fast trot, that I might make a sketch of the waste district at the entrance to the dale, but found that I could not steady or direct my pencil; I was consequently obliged to postpone it till my return. Plate XIV., which represents this scene, was taken then; the rising columns of red sand were not visible at this time, and the phenomenon shall be explained in the chapter detailing my return journey over Ok. To the left is Ok, or the yoke, a mountain shaped like a dish-cover, snow-draped, with Fantofell guarding the entrance to Kaldidalr. This Jökull is not included in the drawing. Fantofell obtains its name from the tradition that two rogues, one from the north, the other from the south, met on its top, and fought till they had mutually slain each other, like the Kilkenny cats. An ugly gap—the Kaldidalr — apparently blocked by a low ridge of saw-like hills, barren and precipitous, separates Ok from Geitland's Jökull, an outstanding portion of the great Ball Jökull, from which it is parted by the mysterious Thorisdalr. In the distance, to the right, is Hlothufell, or the Stack, with abrupt flanks; more to the right is another snow point, very distant, and then the symmetrical Skjaldbreith. The foreground is sand and shale, quite destitute of vegetation. We turn the flank of the iron-black saw, and the wind moans up Kaldidalr in my face, fierce and biting. The scene of desolation is quite indescribable: a vast trench between walls of rock and heaps of snow; the crags of great height and flat-topped, with bare precipices of green ice and Snow resting on them, ready to topple over in avalanches with the least disturbing cause, and bury us under their ruins; here and there a cone of snow, which has thus shot to the bottom and has not yet begun to melt; now a smooth sweep of undinted whiteness rising to the Jökull top, or barred with black steps of rock glazed with frozen streams. Not a bird, nor insect, not a sound. I stood—
“Alone, for other creature in this place,
In the foreground a cairn of rib and leg bones of horses, which have died of starvation in the pass, with a patch of turf about it as large as a horse-walk in a threshing-mill, the grass grey not green, and that the last sign of vegetation, we are to See for many hours. The bed of the vale has not even the flash or tinkle of a rivulet to relieve its hushed monotony. The snow melts, and is absorbed into the spongy ground. Shoulder on shoulder of snow, buttress on buttress of rock, swell on swell of avalanche rubble for us to toil over; here and there the skeleton of a poor horse which has fallen lame and died before it could reach herbage. It was indeed an awe-inspiring scene among these Jokulls locked in everlasting stillness, folded in a white veil never to be raised till the crack of doom.
“The palaces of Nature, whose vast walls
The avalanche—the thunderbolt of snow !”
Two parties had traversed the dale this year before us, and one had left his best horse hopelessly lamed; and the otherthe postman—had lost his way, and had been nearly driven to