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gentleman will accept: old shield scrapings, and broken bits of rings, any rubbishy silver will do, to make up the weight."
"Egill," hissed Hermund, through his teeth; "you have deceived us."
"One may well deceive a man who trusts no one," retorted Egill.
"You are a liar!" shouted Hermund, furiously. "And that every one shall know. Here's my proof! Last winter I invited you to my home, as your own is a crazy tumbledown sort of place, letting in wind and weather. You jumped at my invitation. Shortly after Yule you began to grow terribly down-in-the-mouth at the prospect of returning to starvation in your old shanty; so I begged you to remain through the spring with me;—you were only too glad, of course. Well; after Easter, you returned home to Borg, and told every one that I had fed my guests on thirty old baggage horses."
Egill answered: "There might have been a little exaggeration, perhaps, for we couldn't eat the horses, they were too tough for that! My family and visitors never lack food, I beg to tell you! though I am a poor man, compared with you. At all events, we have never been driven to picking the bones of old broken-down mares!"
"On my word, I hope that we shall not meet here next summer or I"
"I hope not, with all my heart!" interrupted Eg\ll, with a laugh; "for it has been foretold of me that I should die of old age. May the devil take you long before then!"
Styrmir rose and said: "Egill, the best that can be said of you is, that you are an intriguer."
"You had better not call me names," answered Egill; "for in your drinking bouts, when you have been pretty well boozy, you have often said that we two are a pair. By the way, I understand that you have got a blot on your fair fame, which none are supposed to know of but yourself. Some one is said to have taken to his heels when an axe was lifted, some one to have starved his servant; but I won't mention names." Styrmir was silent, then up stood Thorariim.
"You had better hold your tongue, Thorarinn," said Egill, " or you will get into such disgrace that you will be thankful to escape. It must be an odd sight to behold you squatting over the fire, with your legs curled up, and all the maid-servants giggling at you behind your back."
Thorarinn said: "One must take advice, from whatever quarter it may come," and sat down.
"Thirteen ounces of silver!" growled Thorgeir.
"Ay," cast in Egill; "thirteen is a capital number; it will remind you of the thirteen bruises which you had, when a country clod banged you about the head at Kangarhlith."
Thorgeir was quiet, and neither Skeggbroddi nor Jamskeggi would exchange a word with Egill.
"Well," quoth Egill, turning to Ofeigr; "there's not another man but you in Iceland who could have weathered a gale like this, and sailed in the teeth of such a storm!"
After this the Thing broke up, and all returned to their homes. Oddr married the daughter of Gellir and gave presents to Egill.
Leave Melr—Icelandic Etiquette—A beautiful Frith—Mr. Briggs' Story— Thorodds-stathr —Row across the Fjord—Merchant Vessels—Hospitality •—Mr. Briggs recovers his Heart—Trouble with the Pack-saddle — Holtavb'rthu Heithi—Sclavonian Grebe—Arctic Foxes—Icelandic Traditions concerning the Fox—Icelandic Mice—Travellers' Tales—Swans— Teens— Difficult Pass—Baula—MSS.—Church of Hvammr.
On Monday, July 21, we started tolerably early, after having drunk the bride's health, in what the archdeacon called port, but which seemed to me to be a composition of black currant jam, treacle, and water. We paid the pastor in English gold, with the request that he would hammer it into a keeper for his daughter's bridal ring.
The son of the archdeacon accompanied us over the heithi, past Burfell, to the scene of the fight which took place between Grettir and Kormak. The hill-top is strewn with stones, deposited during the glacial period, but nowhere did I see any traces of morraines.
One large block, a Grettis-tak, mentioned in the Saga, marks the scene of conflict. Below it is a little pool, on which floated a diver. Here we parted with our young guide; and Mr. Briggs, our guides, and I struck over the hill, S. by S.W.
In a little dell, filled with bog, stood half a dozen shaggy ponies, leisurely cropping the rank grass, whilst the men to whom they belonged lay on their backs fast asleep in the sun, with their caps drawn over their eyes. Grimr stopped his horse, jumped off, stepped up to the men, lifted their caps, and awoke each with a kiss.
"May you be blessed!" said the men, starting up and scratching.
"And may you be blessed!" replied Grimr. Then he remounted his horse, the men lay down for another nap, and we rode on.
"Could you not leave those poor wretches to sleep in peace?" asked I.
"Certainly not," replied Grimr. "It would have been against all laws of etiquette, to pass men on a journey without saluting them."
We descended suddenly upon the wildly beautiful Hrutafjord, a narrow strip of water extending twenty-three miles inland, and only a mile and a quarter broad at the point where we descended upon it. The frith is hemmed in between stony wastes, and the only grass visible is at its head, and in the swamps which fill indentations of the hills on either side.
Anchored near the farther shore, in front of the wooden store of Bortheyri, were two merchant vessels. On the map of Iceland, Bortheyri is marked in large type, as though it were a capital town, and I had expected to find that it consisted of at least half a dozen cottages, and not of a wooden shed only, which is locked up all the year round, except during the fortnight in the summer when the merchant ships lie off it.
"Thank goodness!" exclaimed Mr. Briggs, when he heard that these vessels were floating shops. "Now I may chance to get what I have been wanting for many a day,—a bottle of strong essential oil, by means of which I hope to keep my tormentors at bay."
"My dear fellow!" said I; "I provided myself with camphor and oil of lavender, before leaving England. But Icelandic vermin have no noses, and set at defiance all precautions taken against them."
"These creatures always out-manoeuvre me," said Mr. Briggs. "Once, when I was in Wales, I was just as unsuccessful in keeping them off. Shall I tell you what I did? I was stopping at a little inn, and had not been in bed five minutes, before I became sensible that it was alive. I lit a candle, but the light only served to show me the whole room was swarming. I rang the bell. Up came a servant. 'Mary! a pot of treacle!' The treacle was produced. I made a ring of it round each leg of a chair, then folded myself up in my rug, and sat complacently on the seat, thinking that I had defeated my inveterate foes at last. But no! they were too clever for me! What do you think they did? They crept up the walls, and dropped on me from the ceiling."
We reached the base of the hill at Thorodds-stathr, the farm which had belonged once to Thorbjorn Strong-as-a-bull, the murderer of Grettir's elder brother. It is a neat farm, with a large turn, enclosed within high turf walls, with a gate, a rare sight in Iceland!
Between this and Reykir is a swamp, in which, according to the Saga, Grettir lost his spear-head. This was found about two hundred years afterwards, and the marsh is called "Spear-swamp " to this day.
The farmer of Thorodds-stathr was absent at the ships, so that we had to ride to the next farm before we could obtain a boat in which to row across to the vessels. The object I had in visiting the ships was to procure small change, as I was unprovided with any smaller coin than dollars, and I could get none exchanged at the farms, as the people live by barter, and use money only in occasional transactions.
The larger of the vessels belonged to M. Sandhop, a merchant, who, if I remember right, was a Dane by extraction, though he had been born in Iceland. He received us with every civility and insisted on our dining with him.
He had come from the I'safjord, and was going to visit two or three other stations, and then sail for England.
The hold of his vessel was fitted up like a shop, with counter and desk. Round the sides were ranged sacks of rye