They moved about in the twilight with their hands stretched

Nature Difficult to Move Networkperson2023-11-30 19:46:17 7717 5

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.

They moved about in the twilight with their hands stretched

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.

They moved about in the twilight with their hands stretched

If I had been travelling in company with others, these fears would not have disturbed me; for there reciprocal assistance can be rendered, and the consciousness of this fact seems materially to diminish the danger.

They moved about in the twilight with their hands stretched

During the season in which the snow ceases to form a secure covering, this road is but little travelled. We saw nowhere a trace of footsteps, either of men or animals; we were the only living beings in this dreadful region. I certainly scolded my guide roundly for bringing me by such a road. But what did I gain by this? It would have been as dangerous to turn back as to go on.

A change in the weather, which till now had been rather favourable, increased the difficulties of this journey. Already when we left Kalmannstunga, the sky began to be overcast, and the sun enlivened us with its rays only for a few minutes at a time. On our reaching the higher mountains the weather became worse; for here we encountered clouds and fog, which wreaked their vengeance upon us, and which only careered by to make room for others. An icy storm from the neighbouring glaciers was their constant companion, and made me shiver so much that I could scarcely keep my saddle. We had now ridden above thirteen hours. The rain poured down incessantly, and we were half dead with cold and wet; so I at length determined to halt for the night at the first cottage: at last we found one between two or three miles from Thingvalla. I had now a roof above my head; but beyond this I had gained nothing. The cottage consisted of a single room, and was almost completely filled by four broad bedsteads. I counted seven adults and three children, who had all to be accommodated in these four beds. In addition to this, the kvef, a kind of croup, prevailed this spring to such an extent that scarcely any one escaped it. Wherever I went, I found the people afflicted with this complaint; and here this was also the case; the noise of groaning and coughing on all sides was quite deplorable. The floor, moreover, was revoltingly dirty.

The good people were so kind as immediately to place one of their beds at my disposal; but I would rather have passed the night on the threshold of the door than in this disgusting hole. I chose for my lodging-place the narrow passage which separated the kitchen from the room; I found there a couple of blocks, across which a few boards had been laid, and this constituted the milk-room: it might have been more properly called the smoke-room; for in the roof were a few air-holes, through which the smoke escaped. In this smoke or milk-room--whichever it may be called--I prepared to pass the night as best I could. My cloak being wet through, I had been compelled to hang it on a stick to dry; and thus found myself under the necessity of borrowing a mattress from these unhealthy people. I laid myself down boldly, and pretended sleepiness, in order to deliver myself from the curiosity of my entertainers. They retired to their room, and so I was alone and undisturbed. But yet I could not sleep; the cold wind, blowing in upon me through the air-holes, chilled and wetted as I already was, kept me awake against my will. I had also another misfortune to endure. As often as I attempted to sit upright on my luxurious couch, my head would receive a severe concussion. I had forgotten the poles which are fixed across each of these antechambers, for the purpose of hanging up fish to dry, &c. Unfortunately I could not bear this arrangement in mind until after I had received half a dozen salutations of this description.

At length the morning so long sighed for came; the rain had indeed ceased; but the clouds still hung about the mountains, and promised a speedy fall; I nevertheless resolved rather to submit myself to the fury of the elements than to remain longer in my present quarters, and so ordered the horses to be saddled.

Before my departure roast lamb and butter were offered me. I thanked my entertainers; but refrained from tasting any thing, excusing myself on the plea of not feeling hungry, which was in reality the case; for if I only looked at the dirty people who surrounded me, my appetite vanished instantly. So long as my stock of bread and cheese lasted, I kept to it, and ate nothing else.



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