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cut the throats of some of his horses to spare them a lingering death by famine.
I waited at the cairn, wrapped in my Franciscan cloak, till the rest came up.
“This is the Beinakerling (pronounced Bayna-kedling), or old woman of bones,” said Grimr. “Every traveller is bound to write a message of ‘God speed' for the next person who traverses this pass, and secure it in one of the bones of the heap.”
We complied with the custom, and, after drinking a bumper to the Queen and to the “Old Folks at Home,” dashed into the scene of desolation before us, in pursuit of the sumpter horses now crawling over a neck of rubble a mile ahead. Half way through this wilderness is a dark headland of tufa, the Hădoegrafell, pronounced How-daigra-fedtl, or Half-day mountain; it flanks a noble and picturesque trachyte Jökull, whose pale ashen hue contrasts with the blackness of the tufa around. This is Thorishöfthi, and is believed to mask the mysterious glen.
The sky gradually became overcast, and we were afraid of the clouds descending upon the snow and enveloping us, but we were fortunate. A wildly beautiful scene opened on us now—the glorious heap of Eireks Jökull, an isolated rounded head of snow supported on abrupt scarps, and looking something like a bride-cake; beyond this a blue horizon with water-specks flashing on it, the Arnarvatn-heithi with its network of countless lakes, over which our course was to lie in a few days. Still onward we pushed over soft earth, and through sludgy snow, whose crust had broken through in several places, and disclosed ugly pits ready to engulph us should the snow not support our weight; up a desperate stair of rock with blocks of glistening obsidian and cakes of amygdaloid, strewn on either side and under foot. Still more snow as we scrambled over a spur of Ok glacier, and then with a shout of joy we hail a wintry flake of turf; our horses break into a canter, the dog leaps about us joyously barking, and the pipe of the plover relieves the ear which has tired
with a stillness so oppressive, that few of us had been in spirits to speak, during the many hours in the cold dale. But we were not at the end of our journey yet; we had two hours more fast riding and two rivers to cross, one of the hue of milk and water from the amount of unmelted Snow it swept along with it. This was separated from the other river by a monotonous tract of volcanic sand and cinder, sprinkled with a minute rhododendron. At eleven o'clock we reached Kalmanstånga, and partook of an excellent supper off rice-milk, stirred with the instrument used in poking the fire, and lake trout. I was in especial glee, as my fever had left me suddenly in Kaldidalr. The next day was so rainy that we were obliged to remain at Kalmanstünga. Mr. Martin was glad of the opportunity for skinning his birds and preparing them for the taxidermist. On the second day, June 15th, we started for Little Arnarvatn, intending to visit Surtshellir on the way. This cavern has been so frequently visited and described, that I have no heart for writing a fresh account of it. It has been investigated by Olafsen and Povelsen, by Henderson, by Capt. Forbes, by M. Preyer and Dr. Zirkel, and by Mr. Holland. Suffice it to say, that its interest has been much overrated. It consists of a chain of air bubbles in the lava, the top of two of which have fallen in; out of these branch tunnels, one of which served long ago as hall and cubicle for a robber gang, another as a receptacle for the bones of cattle stolen from neighbouring farmers. These bones still remain in great numbers. .The band was destroyed through the treachery of a young man of the party, who led the armed bonders upon the robbers as they lay asleep in the Sun on the side of a turfy split in the lava, some way off. All the rogues were killed except Eirek, who, having had one foot cut off, escaped by running like a wheel with hands and foot, just in the manner of street urchins, till he reached
the jökull, which he climbed, and then vanished among its
Snows. Many years after, a ship came into the nearest fjord, commanded by a one-footed merchant. The cheap rate at which the goods were sold attracted the young man, among others, to the vessel. Scarcely was he on board, than the one-footed merchant shouted for the anchor to be raised and the sails to be set. The ship rolled out to sea, and neither youth nor merchant were seen or heard of again.
WE were now approaching that desert tract which Captain Forbes says is only to be traversed if a sufficient supply of hay is taken for the horses. This is not quite correct; but grass is certainly scarce, and we were warned that it would be impossible for us to halt at the Great Eagle tarn (Arnarvatn, pronounced Atnarvat), as there was no herbage there for the horses. We were, therefore, now bound for the Lesser Eagle lake, where the farmer of Kalmanstünga assured us we should find enough for our poor brutes to crop. But as no one knew the way thither through the labyrinth of lakes, except himself, we were obliged to engage him as guide for a couple of dollars per diem. Messrs. Shepherd, Upcher and Fowler, had attempted to traverse the road by the great lake earlier in the year, but had been compelled to give it up, and cross to Efrinupr by the Wolf lake. The road, a mere track, ascended continuously; we had to scramble over old curdled and plaited lava, Sprinkled with the pale lemon-coloured stars of the Dryas octopetala. In many places the molten stone seemed to have been poured as treacle
from a spoon, and then to have suddenly congealed.
The day is very lovely; to the right are the snow heaps of Geitland and Ball jökulls, and the mighty dome of Eiriks jökull, an undinted tract of eternal ice and snow, heaved up on strange ribbed and buttressed flanks, down the gullies of which slip wreaths of silver, hardly beginning to melt in a sun without warmth. One purple crag stands forth as a headland, gashed at the top, snow-powdered; it is Eiriks gnypa, which the brave robber scaled though one of his feet was amputated, and at the summit checked the flow of blood by freezing the stump in ice. The wind is from the north, its moisture condenses on the cold head of the glacier mountains, and a thin veil of mist forms and is puffed away, forms again to be again blown aside, and as the vapour curls away from the snow, it is absorbed and vanishes. Behind us rises the slim cone of Strútr, with a white cap on, for yesterday's rain in the vales was snow on the mountains. Far away in the west I can discern a similar cone, but grey and snowless—it is Baula, whose sides are too precipitous for the snow to lie on. To our right the Northlinga fljot tumbles between lava walls. There is a red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator), floating on yon pool. Bang! Martin's gun goes off. Bob dashes into the water, and the bird is thrust into my saddle-bag. The farmer calls the duck “Lilla Töpond.” Whimbrel and golden-plover pipe and wail in all directions; as we have to find our own provision for the next few days, the Yankee and Martin blaze away, and the saddlebags are soon as full as they can well be stuffed. “Pray, to whom does this waste belong?” I asked, as my pony scrambled alongside of the farmer's grey. “Can it possibly be worth anything to anybody?” “I farm it,” he replied; “but it belongs to an old lady near Reykjavík. I rent near upon twenty square miles.” “And what do you pay for it?” “Seventy-eight dollars (about 91. 10s.)” “Dear at the money !” I exclaimed. “Not so dear,” the farmer answered: “for I get good