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said to have written once to an Italian prince of blood royal, who owed him for a statue, and had kept him waiting for his money a considerable time: "May it please your royal highness—I must have my money."
Another story told of him is as follows:—King Christian VIII. visited him in his studio one day, and invited him to dinner on the following day. Thorwaldsen looked towards his servant, and asked whether he had any previous engagement. "Yes," replied the man, "to Oersted." "Sire," said Thorwaldsen, "I must decline your invitation, for I have promised to be with Oersted to-morrow, and it is his birthday, so I cannot disappoint him."
After this digression I must return to the cathedral. I asked for the vestments, and was shown the chasubles of crimson and violet velvet, with gold crosses on the backs. The mediseval vesica shape probably never prevailed in Iceland; still the ancient form must have been very different from that now in vogue throughout the island, which is quite as hideous as the modern Roman shape. Both have been curtailed over the shoulders, and end in an ungainly curve, but these northern vestments have been clipped in front, so that they fall no lower than the breast, their width in front being sometimes as little as six inches; a singularly uncouth mutilation.
A magnificent ancient cope, presented by Julius II. to the last Catholic bishop of Holar, and thence removed at the suppression of that ancient see, attracted my notice. The embroidery has been remounted on crimson velvet; at the back is a delicately worked representation of our Lord enthroned in glory, between SS. Mary and John Baptist; below are angels gathering the dead from their graves. The Orphreys are worked with equal tenderness; they consist of a series of tabernacles enclosing saints, of whom I could distinguish the four evangelists, and SS. Margaret and Barbara.
On one side of the choir is a monstrous pulpit, on the other the pews of the governor and bishop. The prelate, it seems, takes but little part in the church service; the deaa
celebrates and preaches, whilst the bishop is seated in a comfortable pew, amongst his female relatives, not even in his cathedral church parted for one moment from the society of his cherished spouse and accomplished daughters.
Between the ceiling and the roof of the church is the public library, consisting of 8,000 volumes, chiefly in Danish and Icelandic. It was founded in 1821, and for a subscription of a dollar per annum, the inhabitants of Reykjavik may take advantage of its privileges.
Running my eye along the shelves, I noticed a great preponderance of Lutheran divinity, with dust thick on the volumes, and all the Sagas very much thumbed. The library contains most of the Latin and Greek authors, though not the best editions. No manuscripts of any age are to be found there, but I believe that the school library contains transcripts of the last century from some of the unpublished Sagas.
Leaving the cathedral, I made my way to the silversmith's, ascended the hill south of the town, climbed a wall, and came upon the house, without discovering any path leading to or from it. The silver bracelets and brooches of Icelandic manufacture are strikingly like Maltese work, and are, for the most part, very beautiful. There is no great variety in design, and they are modelled from old examples in the national style of art.
A right principle prevents them from becoming vulgar. A firm outline is sought, and within its restraints tendrils of twisted wire gracefully wheel and curl. It is only when the outline is broken and frittered away, in conformity with foreign bad taste, that its beauty evaporates. Dispersed through the island, there is a large amount of old silver worked into filigree buttons, clasps and pins, selling by weight, the ornaments being flung into one scale, and dollars into the other, till the scale turns.
These silver decorations consist mainly of buttons and belts, the buttons being balls, from the size of a marble to that of a crab-apple, wrought with pierced flower-work, and made to jingle by a leaf or a letter A being suspended from them. Why this same letter should be repeated over the whole country as a pendant to the silver balls, I cannot understand, and I could find no native who had any explanation to give of the fact. Some of these buttons are of great age; the late priest of Mosfell had some with figures of the Madonna on them, indicating a date prior to the Reformation. Many families have silver spoons; I have seen a spoon with the date 1520 engraved on it; but none are remarkable for their beauty, and they are less carefully wrought than the horn ladles common to every byre.
Having made a few purchases at the silversmith's, I returned to the strand, which is lined by merchants' stores, each surmounted by the Danish flag,—red charged with a white cross—the only bit of bright colour in Reykjavik.
Phaugh! a whiff of fish comes down with the blast: there is a heap of stock-fish before the door of each shop, with a tarpaulin flung over it.
The town is full of idle men, who follow the stranger whithersoever he goes—provided he does not walk too fast for them. They hang about the stores as thickly and stupidly as flies round a sugar-barrel; they stream into the shops after me, throng so closely round me that I can hardly move, listen to what I say, eye me from head to foot, ask the price of every article of clothing I have on; bid for my knickerbockers, which, of course, I cannot spare; feel my stockings, and laugh to scorn their loose texture ; criticize my purchases, want to examine my purse, but I object, and by so doing, hurt the feelings of half-a-dozen; they pull out of my hand the comforter and sou'-wester I have just bought, and would proceed to try the latter on their own heads, only I snatch it from them. Then they tell the merchant that he has charged too high for the muffler, and put too low a figure on the sou'wester. They make advances towards familiarity, shaking hands, asking my name, then my father's name, then they inquire who was my mother; they offer me a pinch of snuff, or rather a pull at their snuff-horns, which are like powderflasks, and are applied to the nostril, the head thrown back, and the snuff poured in, till the nose is pretty well choked. One man, very dirty and very drunk, insists on having a kiss —the national salutation; and, when the merchant explains that such is not the English custom, he kisses all the natives in the shop, and embraces the merchant across the counter.
Finding that the store is suddenly emptied of these loiterers, and hearing an unusual hubbub on the beach, I suspect that the boat containing my companions has arrived, so I rush down to the jetty.
I found the Yankee and Mr. Briggs in a high state of excitement, charging up the landing-place with fishing-rods fixed, discomfiting shoals of men and boys, who had laid hands on boxes, bags, bundles, tent-cases, and shouldered them with the purpose of conveying them to the inn.
"This will never do!" gasped Mr. Briggs, who was thoroughly exasperated; "these ugly scoundrels will not leave me alone. I will not pay five-and-twenty men, where one will suffice. Confound the fellows! they will not keep their hands off. Padre! you speak a little Icelandic, just say something strong and stinging to them, will you!"
I vainly protested in broken Icelandic, and with the most frightful pronunciation: I very much doubt whether I made myself understood at all, as my knowledge of the language was entirely from books.
"I've been cursing them in French, German, and English; but it is just throwing so many naughty words away, they roll off them like drops of water from a duck's back, or dust shot from a gull's feathers. Martin there! Bless the man if he has not become perfectly bewildered and useless, instead of holding hard to a tent-case, and clinging to a whisky bottle!"
Whilst Mr. Briggs was speaking, all the luggage was whipped up, and there was no help for it, but to surround the company of porters, and prevent any from decamping with some of the traps. Mr. Briggs disposed his forces well, he sent Martin on ahead with the thermometer tubes, he placed the Yankee on one side, made me take the other, he himself brought up the rear of this human drove.
"Look sharp after them, Padre !" he vociferated; "there are some ugly rabbit-burrows to your left. Yankee! that fellow by you looks as though he would bolt with my dressingcase. You've a corkscrew in your hand—drive it into a fleshy part, if the rogue attempts to dodge. Martin ! straight along, don't turn to your left. Ah, ha! Yankee! leave the spirit-flask alone now, and keep your eye on the luggage!"
On reaching the inn, the five-and-twenty men, not to mention the boys, clamoured for payment.
"Which was the bell-ewe, Padre!" asked Mr. Briggs; "the fellow with the green box, ay? Well, I secured him on the wharf; him I shall pay—not another rogue of them."
My portly friend singled out his man and demanded the charge. "And, whilst I'm paying him, run in to the landlord, and find out what 'Good-by,' and 'Don't you wish you may get it?' are in Icelandic."
"Voer-thu seel!" I learned from the landlord, Jorgensen, served all sorts of purposes. Literally it means; "May you be blessed!" I explained to Mr. Briggs.
"But!" he burst forth; "I don't want these thieves to be blessed, in any way; I want, I particularly desiderate, their being just the very other thing." Then, standing on
the doorstep, he met all claims with "Voer-thu "pointing
with vehement jerks of the forefinger towards the centre of the globe.
Having at last escaped from his tormentors, Mr. Briggs adjourned, much exhausted, to the large room where dinner was laid.
We commenced with the favourite Danish soup of raisins floating in sago, sweetened, and coloured with claret. Eiderduck's eggs followed, hard boiled; then came stewed mutton, with the gravy in a butter-boat by itself; and we wound up with suur-kryder, a jelly of cloves and fruit, something like damson-cheese.
Having had coffee, we were in condition to pay visits in the town. I went first to the Latin school, where I inquired for the rector from the porter Olavur, who was Mr. Metcalfe's