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of his life, in the cares which grew as his business increased,

Nature Difficult to Move Networklove2023-11-30 18:45:32 484 7828

From these handsome houses I betook myself to the cottages of the peasants, which have a more indigenous, Icelandic appearance. Small and low, built of lava, with the interstices filled with earth, and the whole covered with large pieces of turf, they would present rather the appearance of natural mounds of earth than of human dwellings, were it not that the projecting wooden chimneys, the low- browed entrances, and the almost imperceptible windows, cause the spectator to conclude that they are inhabited. A dark narrow passage, about four feet high, leads on one side into the common room, and on the other to a few compartments, some of which are used as storehouses for provisions, and the rest as winter stables for the cows and sheep. At the end of this passage, which is purposely built so low, as an additional defence against the cold, the fireplace is generally situated. The rooms of the poorer class have neither wooden walls nor floors, and are just large enough to admit of the inhabitants sleeping, and perhaps turning round in them. The whole interior accommodation is comprised in bedsteads with very little covering, a small table, and a few drawers. Beds and chests of drawers answer the purpose of benches and chairs. Above the beds are fixed rods, from which depend clothes, shoes, stockings, &c. A small board, on which are arranged a few books, is generally to be observed. Stoves are considered unnecessary; for as the space is very confined, and the house densely populated, the atmosphere is naturally warm.

of his life, in the cares which grew as his business increased,

Rods are also placed round the fireplace, and on these the wet clothes and fishes are hung up in company to dry. The smoke completely fills the room, and slowly finds its way through a few breathing-holes into the open air.

of his life, in the cares which grew as his business increased,

Fire-wood there is none throughout the whole island. The rich inhabitants have it brought from Norway or Denmark; the poor burn turf, to which they frequently add bones and other offal of fish, which naturally engender a most disagreeable smoke.

of his life, in the cares which grew as his business increased,

On entering one of these cottages, the visitor is at a loss to determine which of the two is the more obnoxious--the suffocating smoke in the passage or the poisoned air of the dwelling-room, rendered almost insufferable by the crowding together of so many persons. I could almost venture to assert, that the dreadful eruption called Lepra, which is universal throughout Iceland, owes its existence rather to the total want of cleanliness than to the climate of the country or to the food.

Throughout my subsequent journeys into the interior, I found the cottages of the peasants every where alike squalid and filthy. Of course I speak of the majority, and not of the exceptions; for here I found a few rich peasants, whose dwellings looked cleaner and more habitable, in proportion to the superior wealth or sense of decency of the owners. My idea is, that the traveller's estimate of a country should be formed according to the habits and customs of the generality of its inhabitants, and not according to the doings of a few individuals, as is often the case. Alas, how seldom did I meet with these creditable exceptions!

The neighbourhood of Havenfiord is formed by a most beautiful and picturesque field of lava, at first rising in hills, then sinking into hollows, and at length terminating in a great plain which extends to the base of the neighbouring mountains. Masses of the most varied forms, often black and naked, rise to the height of ten or fifteen feet, forming walls, ruined pillars, small grottoes, and hollow spaces. Over these latter large slabs often extend, and form bridges. Every thing around consists of suddenly cooled heaped-up masses of lava, in some instances covered to their summits with grass and moss; this circumstance gives them, as already stated, the appearance of groups of stunted trees. Horses, sheep, and cows were clambering about, diligently seeking out every green place. I also clambered about diligently; I could not tire of gazing and wondering at this terribly beautiful picture of destruction.

After a few hours I had so completely forgotten the hardships of my passage, and felt myself so much strengthened, that I began my journey to Reikjavik at five o'clock on the evening of the same day. Herr Knudson seemed much concerned for me; he warned me that the roads were bad, and particularly emphasised the dangerous abysses I should be compelled to pass. I comforted him with the assurance that I was a good horsewoman, and could hardly have to encounter worse roads than those with which I had had the honour to become acquainted in Syria. I therefore took leave of the kind gentleman, who intended to stay a week or ten days in Havenfiord, and mounting a small horse, set out in company of a female guide.

In my guide I made the acquaintance of a remarkable antiquity of Iceland, who is well worthy that I should devote a few words to her description. She is above seventy years of age, but looks scarcely fifty; her head is surrounded by tresses of rich fair hair. She is dressed like a man; undertakes, in the capacity of messenger, the longest and most fatiguing journeys; rows a boat as skilfully as the most practised fisherman; and fulfils all her missions quicker and more exactly than a man, for she does not keep up so good an understanding with the brandy-bottle. She marched on so sturdily before me, that I was obliged to incite my little horse to greater speed with my riding-whip.

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