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before him is as good as a living bird. No, no! Life and beauty are inseparable; the beauty of the bird has returned with its feeble spirit to the Father who gave them both, and who is the author of life and perfection, and the enemy of death and decay.
Look at the stuffed specimen; at its dull eyes which see not, sparkle not; its feet, which run not now among sweet heather; its wings which quiver not now in the blue expanse of heaven: and can you do otherwise than regret that the happiness of that little being is over, and that what its Maker has pronounced very good, should be marred and destroyed. How wanton and irreparable an injury it is to rob the simple creature of the life which is its all! In one moment to change the active, restless, sturdy little frame into a senseless, soulless heap; and then, having spoiled, to remould and vainly attempt to restore to it a semblance of that life which it once possessed in full perfection.
Of all orders of living beings, that of the birds is the most beautiful; perhaps it may have been less affected by the Fall, in that the curse fell on the earth and its inhabitants, rather than on the air and its denizens.
Among quadrupeds there is often something to be found which is offensive, and the imagination can picture them in a higher state, when that which is uncomely shall be done away; but among birds there is little that displeases—their form, their colour, their order, their intelligence, are all exquisite. Birds are never alluded to reproachfully in Scripture; beasts get an occasional word of rebuke, but birds never. Birds, beasts, and fishes, were faithful to their Master when man deserted Him; turtle doves redeemed Him, a bird woke Him on Easter morning; * fish came into the net obedient to His call; a fish brought Him tribute by the lake; ox and ass knew Him in the stable of Bethlehem,f wild beasts were His companions in the desert; the ass and colt bore Him to His Passion; and, in return for their obedience, when Christ refers to these subtle creatores, is is tenderness and lore.
* Eecl. xii. 4. t Isa. i. 8. I take these texts to refer to Christ on Patristic authority.
The animals hare been hatdTy dealt with by man, cannot bnt believe that j^istice will be done them hereafter, and that aa they scfered by man's fall, so his restoration will be their restoration also: when also I hear of a covenant being made, after the resurrection, with the beasts of the field and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground; when I Eear, too, that in the renovated earth the beasts will lie down in peace together, and that an angel will gummon to high feasting all the fowls of the air, and that man will be but the first fruit of all creatures, I cannot but consider that these words are to be taken in their plain and literal signification. But to return to the ptarmigan.
There can be no doubt that the Icelandic ptarmigan is a distinct species from that found in Scotland and Norway, and Faber has accordingly named it Tetrao Islandorum. It is an interesting bird of a hardy nature, frequenting the highest and bleakest heithies, and only descending to lower ground to lay its eggs and educate its young. The probable reason is that there is more shelter from the rapacity of the hawk and falcon among the willow and blaeberry twigs than on the exposed moorland; besides, the tender buds and flowers are the food with which the little ones are nourished. The ptarmigan gits motionless till one almost treads on it, and, from its nmbreous brown plumage, it is scarcely distinguishable from the soil. When alarmed it runs, but does not fly, and that with great rapidity; a horse cannot keep up with it over the broken hassocky ground. In autumn the bird becomes grey, and in winter perfectly white. This is an example of the care of Providence for the brave bird, which is exposed more than any other to the cold; for, as the plumage becomes a bad conductor of heat, there is less evaporation and waste from the body, and the bird fattens upon a far smaller quantity of food than it requires in summer when in its rich brown costume. In all probability, moreover, the ptarmigan feels as warm whilst burrowing in the snow as it does when basking in the sun.*
I have passed through a whole flock of these birds, crouching down and hardly distinguishable from the ground, without their attempting to escape, for they are not shy birds, and seem to have little dread of man. The ptarmigan cannot bear to be long silent, and it discovers itself by its peculiar cry "Rj6-rj6-rj6-rj6!" whence it has obtained its Icelandic name of rjupa.
The ptarmigan either builds no nest at all or constructs one in the rudest manner of a few littered twigs, on which she lays sixteen or seventeen eggs-; Icelanders assert positively that they meet with as many as twenty sometimes: these are of a reddish yellow colour spotted with rich brown, but less marked than those of the red grouse.
The male bird remains constantly on the watch beside the hen during incubation, only leaving her to bring her blueberry flowers.
The Icelanders tell that when a falcon has slain a ptarmigan and torn her open, he utters bitter piercing cries, as he finds then that he has slain his sister, whom he did not recognize till he reached her heart.
Another bird which is found in great plenty on the heithies is the golden plover (Charadrius pluvialis), always in company with the whimbrel (Numenius phceopus). Almost any number of these birds may be shot by a sportsman on the moors, so that he is always certain there of finding his dinner. We lived for many days on nothing but these three kinds of birds: the ptarmigan far surpasses the other two in flavour, and there is very little eating on the plover for hungry men; the whimbrel is a tasteless bird as we cooked it, and there was always a scramble amongst us to bring up a bit of ptarmigan out of the pot in preference to the stringy whimbrel.
I can scarcely imagine a more drearily wild situation than an Icelandic heithi towards evening, the ground broken into huge humps of ash-grey moss; a little dwarf willow here and there cowering on the ground, apparently clinging to it as a stronghold against the wind, its white roots straggling out of the soil, or completely laid bare by the fury of the gales, looking much like blanched bones; the grey sky is mirrored in little patches of stagnant water; a wan glare is in the north; contorted blocks of lava, or splintered fragments of trap cut sharply the cloud-covered horizon; and through the solitude ring from all sides the weird mournful call of the whimbrel and sad pipe of the plover—high pitched, clear, inexpressibly melancholy, whilst, from a distance, out of the sky, comes the dreary, ghost-like laugh of a wandering gull.
* Mudie'a British Birds.
We reached the little farm of Sithumuli, where the people were making hay—the women without their bodies, the men in their drawers. These poor bodies considered the weather pleasantly hot; I wore a fur coat and a pea-jacket over that, as some protection against the piercing wind. In summer Icelandic men present the most ludicrous appearance, as they step out of their outer clothing and appear in very tight-fitting jersey and drawers, both white once upon a time; as the men are all thin, they look like skinned rabbits skipping about in the hay. When I arrived late at a farm, and had to rouse the people from sleep to take me in, a man invariably stalked out to the door in this costume, so that I fancied at first that it was the usual night gear. I was soon undeceived, however, for on passing through the long sleeping apartment, the bathetofa, where the whole household roost, great and small, male and female, old and young, I found that the locker beds along the walls were filled with people in no night gear at all, tightly packed together, lying two, three, and even four in a bed, the head of one at the feet of the other. The ordinary custom is for an individual to get into bed with his clothes on, and undress beneath the feather bed. Towards midnight the chamber becomes intolerably close and stifling, so that the eider-down coverlets and feather beds are kicked aside; and the appearance of the room with twenty or thirty sleeping bodies in ranges along the walls is sufficiently overwhelming to a bashful intruder.
As we rode into the fun of the farm, a man stepped forward and asked my guide's name. He told it. The man nodded, and then turned to me.
"Hvat heitith ther?" (What is your name ?)
"Sabine Jatvartharson" (Sabine Edward's son), I replied, for Icelanders have no surnames, and are called So-andso's son, after their father. My guide was named Grimr, his father Arni; consequently he went by the name of Grimr Arnason, but his son would be Grimsson.
"Ok hvat heitir mother thin?" (What is your mother's name ?)
"Sophia," I replied. This was a name new to him, so he exclaimed "Svoinna! Ok fathir hennar?" (Indeed! and what was her father's name ?) This he asked, because a wife in Iceland does not take her husband's name, but is called So-and-so's daughter. Thus if Grimr had a daughter, married or single, to the end of her days she would be Grimsdottir.
We had no time to waste, so Grimr called the farmer, and asked him whether it were possible to cross the Hvita, or White river, a rapid and deep stream a quarter of a mile below the farm.
"No!" said the farmer. "You will want the ferry-boat. I will row you across for a dollar."
"That is not true," said one of the farmer's maids, who was making hay. "There is a ford, only it is not very safe."
The man now acknowledged that there was a ford, but said that it was dangerous, and he undertook to show it us. We crossed the river, and then scampered over a hill till we came out above the Valley of Smoke. Immediately below us there rose a dense white cloud, and we trotted towards it. This we found to arise from Tunguhver, the spring which Sir G. Mackenzie calls the alternating Geysir. From the hill-side starts up a mound about fourteen feet high, composed of brick-red clay. From the side of this, jet more than sixteen springs of water, all boiling furiously, fizzing, and puffing off steam, pouring down the side of the hillock in scalding rills, forming