all the farms. We had wiry old reapers who had been coming
The magical illumination produced by the sun's rays shining through one of these craters into the cavern produced a splendid effect. The sun shone perpendicularly through the opening, spread a dazzling radiance over the snow, and diffused a pale delicate light around us. The effect of this point of dazzling light was the more remarkable from its contrasting strongly with the two dark chasms, from the first of which we had emerged to continue our journey through the obscurity of the second.
This subterranean labyrinth is said to extend in different directions for many miles. We explored a portion of the chief path and several by-paths, and after a march of two hours returned heartily tired to the upper world. We then rested a quarter of an hour, and afterwards returned at a good round pace to Kalmannstunga.
Unfortunately I do not possess sufficient geognostic knowledge to be able to set this cavern down as an extinct volcano. But in travelling in a country where every hill and mountain, every thing around, in fact, consists of lava, even the uninitiated in science seeks to discover the openings whence these immense masses have poured. The stranger curiously regards the top of each mountain, thinking every where to behold a crater, but both hill and dale appear smooth and closed. With what joy then does he hail the thought of having discovered, in this cavern, something to throw light upon the sources of these things! I, at least, fancied myself walking on the hearth of an extinct volcano; for all I saw, from the masses of stone piled beneath my feet and the immense basin above my head, were both of lava. If I am right in my conjecture, I do not know; I only speak according to my notions and my views.
I was obliged to pass this night in a cottage. Kalmannstunga contains three such cottages, but no chapel. Luckily I found one of these houses somewhat larger and more cleanly than its neighbours; it could almost come under the denomination of a farm. The occupants, too, had been employed during my ride to the cavern in cleansing the best chamber, and preparing it, as far as possible, for my reception. The room in question was eleven feet long by seven broad; the window was so small and so covered with dirt that, although the sun was shining in its full glory, I could scarcely see to write. The walls, and even the floor, were boarded--a great piece of luxury in a country where wood is so scarce. The furniture consisted of a broad bedstead, two chests of drawers, and a small table. Chairs and benches are a kind of terra incognita in the dwellings of the Icelandic peasantry; besides, I do not know where such articles could be stowed in a room of such dimensions as that which I occupied.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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