as they set the standard of efficiency for the others.

Nature Difficult to Move Networkart2023-11-30 19:50:13 4475 4

My hostess, the widow of a wealthy peasant, introduced to me her four children, who were very handsome, and very neatly dressed. I begged the good mother to tell me the names of the young ones, so that I might at least know a few Icelandic names. She appeared much flattered at my request, and gave me the names as follows: Sigrudur, Gudrun, Ingebor, and Lars.

as they set the standard of efficiency for the others.

I should have felt tolerably comfortable in my present quarters, accustomed as I am to bear privations of all kinds with indifference, if they would but have left me in peace. But the reader may fancy my horror when the whole population, not only of the cottage itself, but also of the neighbouring dwellings, made their appearance, and, planting themselves partly in my chamber and partly at the door, held me in a far closer state of siege than even at Krisuvik. I was, it appeared, quite a novel phenomenon in the eyes of these good people, and so they came one and all and stared at me; the women and children were, in particular, most unpleasantly familiar; they felt my dress, and the little ones laid their dirty little countenances in my lap. Added to this, the confined atmosphere from the number of persons present, their lamentable want of cleanliness, and their filthy habit of spitting, &c., all combined to form a most dreadful whole. During these visits I did more penance than by the longest fasts; and fasting, too, was an exercise I seldom escaped, as I could touch few Icelandic dishes. The cookery of the Icelandic peasants is wholly confined to the preparation of dried fish, with which they eat fermented milk that has often been kept for months; on very rare occasions they have a preparation of barley-meal, which is eaten with flat bread baked from Icelandic moss ground fine.

as they set the standard of efficiency for the others.

I could not but wonder at the fact that most of these people expected to find me acquainted with a number of things generally studied only by men; they seemed to have a notion that in foreign parts women should be as learned as men. So, for instance, the priests always inquired if I spoke Latin, and seemed much surprised on finding that I was unacquainted with the language. The common people requested my advice as to the mode of treating divers complaints; and once, in the course of one of my solitary wanderings about Reikjavik, on my entering a cottage, they brought before me a being whom I should scarcely have recognised as belonging to the same species as myself, so fearfully was he disfigured by the eruption called "lepra." Not only the face, but the whole body also was covered with it; the patient was quite emaciated, and some parts of his body were covered with sores. For a surgeon this might have been an interesting sight, but I turned away in disgust.

as they set the standard of efficiency for the others.

But let us turn from this picture. I would rather tell of the angel's face I saw in Kalmannstunga. It was a girl, ten or twelve years of age, beautiful and lovely beyond description, so that I wished I had been a painter. How gladly would I have taken home with me to my own land, if only on canvass, the delicate face, with its roguish dimples and speaking eyes! But perhaps it is better as it is; the picture might by some unlucky chance have fallen into the hands of some too-susceptible youth, who, like Don Sylvio de Rosalva, in Wieland's Comical Romance, would immediately have proceeded to travel through half the world to find the original of this enchanting portrait. His spirit of inquiry would scarcely have carried him to Iceland, as such an apparition would never be suspected to exist in such a country, and thus the unhappy youth would be doomed to endless wandering.

The distance from Kalmannstunga to Thingvalla is fifty-two miles, and the journey is certainly one of the most dreary and fatiguing of all that can be made in Iceland. The traveller passes from one desert valley into another; he is always surrounded by high mountains and still higher glaciers, and wherever he turns his eyes, nature seems torpid and dead. A feeling of anxious discomfort seizes upon the wanderer, he hastens with redoubled speed through the far-stretched deserts, and eagerly ascends the mountains piled up before him, in the hope that better things lie beyond. It is in vain; he only sees the same solitudes, the same deserts, the same mountains.

On the elevated plateaux several places were still covered with snow; these we were obliged to cross, though we could frequently hear the rushing of the water beneath its snowy covering. We were compelled also to pass over coatings of ice spread lightly over rivers, and presenting that blue colour which is a certain sign of danger.

Our poor horses were sometimes very restive; but it was of no use; they were beaten without mercy until they carried us over the dangerous places. The pack-horse was always driven on in front with many blows; it had to serve as pioneer, and try if the road was practicable. Next came my guide, and I brought up the rear. Our poor horses frequently sank up to their knees in the snow, and twice up to the saddle-girths. This was one of the most dangerous rides I have ever had. I could not help continually thinking what I should do if my guide were to sink in so deeply that he could not extricate himself; my strength would not have been sufficient to rescue him, and whither should I turn to seek for help? All around us was nothing but a desert and snow. Perhaps my lot might have been to die of hunger. I should have wandered about seeking dwellings and human beings, and have entangled myself so completely among these wastes that I could never have found my way.

When at a distance I descried a new field of snow (and unfortunately we came upon them but too frequently), I felt very uncomfortable; those alone who have themselves been in a similar situation can estimate the whole extent of my anxiety.



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