« PreviousContinue »
a ship had arrived with goods. These he was conveying to Akureyri, the capital of the north. We all started together in the morning, and I found the Dane very agreeable, as he spoke a little English. I mentioned my regrets at having deprived him of the guest bed at Steinstathr.
"Dank you!" he answered; "but I never slip in an Island bed."
"Did you lie on the bench in the sitting-room?"
"Yes, I not like a bed in a native byre. It is so dirty, and so full of insect." Then after a pause he said, "You should come to Husavik, and see of the fair; it will be dare in dree veek."
"I wish that I could, but I shall not be in the neighbourhood then. What trade is carried on at the fair, may I ask?"
"Oh, de merchants sells of crockery, of corn-brandy, and of clodes."
"How do the natives pay? They have no money!"
"No," answered the merchant; "but dey have fleas."
"I am well aware of that, but how comes that to alter the case?"
"Why!" replied the Dane; "dey takes of de vares, and dey gives us de fleas. De people of Denmark likes of de Island fleas very much."
"A singular taste!" I remarked. "Indeed, I may say, very singular. What can there be in them so attractive?"
"Oh!" with enthusiasm; "dey is more big and more long dan in any odder country."
"Woe's me!" I exclaimed; "your statement is corroborated by my experience."
"De colder de vinter, de bigger de fleas!" remarked my companion.
"And they bring these abominations to the merchant stations for barter!"
"When dey have washed and dried de fleas. Dare!"
exclaimed the merchant pointing; "dare is a lot, lying in de sun to be dried."
My eye followed the direction of my companion's finger, and I saw a quantity of sheep's-wool—fleece—lying in the tun of a small farm.
At the time that I was in Iceland, the engagement of the Prince of Wales to the Princess Alexandra had not taken place, but the possibility of such an event had been mooted. I mentioned it to my friend, the Dane.
"Well!" said he; "ye should be very sorry to lose her for any odder nation dan England. We all love her in Denmark, very, very much; and, if ever she become Princess of Wales and Queen of England, you will learn to love her as we have, for her own merits."
Now," said I, "let us have the rights of the Holstein squabbles."
The discussion of these rights occupied the Dane some hours. I will spare the reader. I never did understand them, and fear that I do not comprehend them a bit better now.
Eyja-fjord broke on us in all the glory of a breezy noon, the bright quivering blue frith skirted by jokulls, and furrowed by white-sailed fishing smacks.
To our left we saw the stone mansion Fredriksgave, which is the residence of the Governor of the North—a sort of railway shed, undoubtedly much colder than the turf houses of the natives. This stone house occupies the site of the ancient monastery of Mothruvellir, founded in 1295 by Bishop Jorundr of Holar, and burned down in 1316, but rebuilt by Bishop John of Hular in 1328. Not a trace of the ancient buildings remains. Our horses snuffed the wind, and set off at a scamper for the beach, where they paused to drink the seawater and nibble the weed.
We rattled along a shingly shore, and entered Akureyri, whilst the Danish flag was flying half-mast high from all the stores, and from some of the craft in the bay.
"Who is dead?" I breathlessly asked, with forebodings of death in the Danish royal family. "Who is dead?"
"The baby daughter of a priest, ten miles up the fjordhead, has died, poor little thing, of croup!" was the reply.