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the man galloping towards us, he having caught sight of us at the same time that we had noticed him.
He was in a great state of excitement: "You should not have left me!" he exclaimed; "there is no track where we are going; no one knows these lakes except myself; you might easily be lost here, and I should never find you again. It was fortunate for you that you kept to the road!"
"Where are all the rest of the party?"
"Miles away to the north; by this time we might have been at little Arnarvatn, if I had not been obliged to return for you."
When we reached the caravan, Guthmundr in distress assured the farmer that notwithstanding his entreaties both Martin and the Yankee had strayed, having started in search of swans. The poor fellow, with an Icelandic recommendation to the troll to fetch them, started in pursuit, but this time he was not long in finding the runaways, as the sound of their guns directed him to the lake over the next hill, where they were wasting shot on swans which kept out of range.
It was seven o'clock when we reached the lake, a beautiful sheet of water surrounded by boggy hills covered with ashgrey moss, and with here and there a patch of snow, the tricklings of which burned up the scanty vegetation. I could see no grass anywhere, but our guide assured us that there was some a mile and a half up the lake, enough at least with willow sprouts and angelica shoots to last the horses for a couple of days. We fixed on a little tongue of land projecting into the lake as our camping spot; a nodule of rock on it, built round with turf, served for a fireplace to the fishermen when sent there by the farmer. As we arrived, a man and boy who had been ordered thither yesterday, drew their nets, and we secured enough char to last us for supper and breakfast. As the fishermen had collected willow roots sufficient for a fire, we soon kindled one and made the kettle boil. We drank a cup of tea all round, and then Magnus, Guthmundr, and the farmer started with the horses for the lake head, my companions took their rods and guns, and Grimr alone remained with me, preferring to lounge about with his hands in his pockets whilst I put up the tents and cooked the supper. The first of these undertakings was not particularly easy, as the ground was nowhere even; like the surface of every heithi, if moss grows on it at all, it was covered with heaps of grey moss so large as effectually to prevent one from sleeping on it. In one spot, and one only, was there a level patch, and that was barely large enough for both tents to stand upon, and was moreover the bottom of a hollow into which water would be sure to flow with the first storm.
"When it rains this shall be bog," quoth Grimr, eyeing me as I heaved up the poles, and strained the canvas; "it look as though it rain to-night." Then thinking it incumbent on him to do something, he volunteered to put up the little pennant which adorned the tent top.
"That," said I, "takes no trouble. Will you, however, kindly drive the pegs home, and stretch the guys?"
"I see no of the hammer!"
"Not unless you look for it certainly." I had to hunt for the mallet, and then he leisurely drove in the pins where the moss was softest and where the hammering would cost him least trouble. I had to pull them all up again and drive them in anew.
"Now, Grimr," I called; "please to unroll the great bed."
"I see no of it!"
"Because it is behind you; turn round and you will see it."
The theological student stooping for a moment unlaced the tarpaulin case, and then sauntered off to light his pipe at the fire. I spread the waterproof floor, slung my hammock, made the beds in the bigger tent, dragged the boxes under cover into the lesser, and when this was done it was high time to prepare our supper.
The night was glorious. The desert was hushed into a death-like stillness, broken only by the note of the snipe as it whirred by. Far off the great snow cupola of Eiriks jokull was flushed the tenderest rose-tint by the setting sun—it was eleven o'clock, and overhead a few barred clouds burned against the green sky. Striitr was enveloped in a fog which stole up towards the jokull, touched the plum-coloured crags of Eiriks gnypa, clung to them, pushed farther, threw a gauzy sash athwart the glacier mountain, and began stealthily to veil its sides. Not a moment was to be lost; I caught up brushes and colours, and running to a spot which commanded our camp, as well as the mountain, I made a hasty sketch before the cloud obliterated all. Grimr pointed to the fog, and said, "It shall be bad weather to-night!"
"Prophet of woe!" I exclaimed; "find some other spot for the tents."
"There shall be none other," he answered, and I believe he was right.
"Now for the cooking!" I turned up my cuffs, drew out my long hunting-knife, and ranged the birds before me—four ptarmigan, three whimbrel, and six golden plover. A dish for a king, indeed! I skinned the whimbrel, most of the plover, and three ptarmigan ; disemboweled them, washed them in the lake, broke the backs of the big birds, and tossed them into the pot. Meanwhile the preacher guide, at my particular request, had undertaken to skin and clean the remaining ptarmigan and plover. I heard his dejected sighs drawn frequently and heavily over the work, but I took no notice of them. Presently he brought the ptarmigan, and flung it in with the rest of the birds.
"Come, Grimr!" I said, "you must give me some sticks, and blow the fire; I will stir the pot, and make a savoury mess."
The dry willow-roots blazed up merrily, and then died out, so that the work of keeping a brisk fire about the pot absorbed my attention so completely, that I did not examine Grimr's handiwork before consigning his ptarmigan to the pot. A capital mess it promised to be: I put in a tin of preserved vegetables, a few slices of portable soup, salt, pepper, some Brighton sauce, and sprinkled the whole with garlic powder; the meal-bag stood temptingly by; I ventured on a bold stroke, and poured into the saucepan several spoonfuls of oatmeal.
"Grimr!" I cried sharply, as a horrible suspicion flashed across me; "what is the matter with that ptarmigan at the top of the stew ?—the fellow you skinned—it is swollen out and looks so fat, that Why, Grimr! you never"
"No, I did not take the insides out. I do not know how."
"So you have let me boil it thus, and never said a word, though you saw what I was about. The soup is spoiled."
"I will take of the ptarmigan out and clean him now."
So the matter was settled. But for this untoward accident the stew would have been perfect.
"Fire off a shot as a signal to Mr. Briggs and the others that all is ready," said I.
"I will," answered Grimr. "But wait, there is of a skua, a rare one, I think."
I saw a dark bird with sharp-pointed wings wheeling near. Grimr lifted his gun, pulled the trigger, and the skua fell fluttering at his feet.
"I have only once seen this kjoi before," said he. "It is a beautiful bird."
It was so indeed. At the time I did not know of its extreme rarity, and I was ignorant of its name; but on reference to M. Preyer's index I find that he saw the skin of a similar skua, and named it Lestris Thuliaca; his account of it tallies so closely with the notes I made, that I cannot doubt that the specimens are identical, and that the bird is a variety of the Lestris parasitica. The beak, legs, and webbed feet are perfectly black, the plumage grey, with the exception of these spots: 1st, many of the lesser wing coverts plumes are white, so also are the scapulars; on the underside of the wings are white flecks, and the whole wing edge of the greater wing coverts are speckled with white. 2nd, on the belly, between the legs, is a V in white feathers, the angle pointing towards the head. 3rd, the throat beneath the beak is white. The quills of the primaries are of a yellowish white; of the tail feathers, white below and black above; the extremities, however, are black; the quills of the other feathers, excepting those on the white flecks, are grey. The plumage of the specimen shot by M. Preyer was brownish grey, in that shot by Grimr the colour was more of an iron grey.
Length of beak .... 1 1
I now proceeded to cook the lake char (Salmo alpinus), which the natives call silungur; their delicate salmoncoloured flesh is delicious. Having split and stewed them with a little meal, all was ready by the time that my comrades returned.
"Mr. Briggs—what luck?"
"Not much. I have been trying the fly for trout, but they will not rise. I believe that they are so unaccustomed to such things as flies here, that the only chance of catching them is with minnow or spoon."
"Have you shot anything?"
"No," from Martin; "but we came upon a northern diver's nest. Here are the two eggs I took from it—nest it can hardly be called though, for the bird seems to have laid haphazard on mud and stone."
He held out to me two olive-brown eggs sprinkled with grey and brown spots—length, 3 in. 6£ lines; width, 2 in. 2£ lines. The bird had escaped, but we could see it now and then sailing on the water out of range.
The diver is a noble bird; its dark plumage has a metallic lustre; the head and neck are black or green, according to the light in which they are seen; one broad white collar surrounds the neck, beneath the chin is a thread of white like the commencement of a second collar; the black of the body is flecked with white, as though the bird were dressed in magnificent black lace over white. The eye is of a blood-red colour. The bird swims with great celerity, and it is hopeless attempting to come up with it in a boat; it rarely lands, as its short legs thrown beyond the point of equilibrium in the body almost preclude its walking, yet are calculated to give great propelling force in the water. It can remain below