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´╗┐Title: Letters from High Latitudes
 - Being Some Account of a Voyage in 1856 of the Schooner Yacht "Foam" to Iceland, Jan Meyen, and Spitzbergen
Author: Dufferin and Ava, Frederick Temple Blackwood, Marquis of
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letters from High Latitudes
 - Being Some Account of a Voyage in 1856 of the Schooner Yacht "Foam" to Iceland, Jan Meyen, and Spitzbergen" ***

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Being some account of a voyage in 1856 of the schooner yacht "Foam"
to Iceland, Jan Meyen, and Spitzbergen.

By the Marquess of Dufferin Sometime Governor-General of the Dominion
of Canada and afterwards Viceroy of India.



Glasgow, Monday, June 2, 1856.

Our start has not been prosperous. Yesterday evening, on
passing Carlisle, a telegraphic message was put into my
hand, announcing the fact of the "Foam" having been
obliged to put into Holyhead, in consequence of the sudden
illness of my Master. As the success of our expedition
entirely depends on our getting off before the season is
further advanced, you can understand how disagreeable it
is to have received this check at its very outset. As
yet, of course, I know nothing of the nature of the
illness with which he has been seized. However, I have
ordered the schooner to proceed at once to Oban, and I
have sent back the Doctor to Holyhead to overhaul the
sick man. It is rather early in the day for him to enter
upon the exercise of his functions.



Greenock, Tuesday, June 3, 1856

I found the Icelander awaiting my arrival here,--pacing
up and down the coffee-room like a Polar bear.

At first he was a little shy, and, not having yet had
much opportunity of practising his English, it was some
time before I could set him perfectly at his ease. He
has something so frank and honest in his face and bearing,
that I am certain he will turn out a pleasant companion.
There being no hatred so intense as that which you feel
towards a disagreeable shipmate, this assurance has
relieved me of a great anxiety, and I already feel I
shall hereafter reckon Sigurdr (pronounced Segurthur),
the son of Jonas, among the number of my best friends.

As most educated English people firmly believe the
Icelanders to be a "Squawmuck," blubber-eating,
seal-skin-clad race, I think it right to tell you that
Sigurdr is apparelled in good broadcloth, and all the
inconveniences of civilization, his costume culminating
in the orthodox chimney-pot of the nineteenth century.
He is about twenty-seven, very intelligent-looking,
and--all women would think--lovely to behold.  A high
forehead, straight, delicate features, dark blue eyes,
auburn hair and beard, and the complexion of--Lady S--d!
His early life was passed in Iceland; but he is now
residing at Copenhagen as a law student. Through the
introduction of a mutual friend, he has been induced to
come with me, and do us the honours of his native land.

   "O whar will I get a skeely skipper,
    To sail this gude ship o' mine?'

Such, alas! has been the burden of my song for these last
four-and-twenty hours, as I have sat in the Tontine Tower,
drinking the bad port wine, for, after spending a fortune
in telegraphic messages to Holyhead, it has been decided
that B-- cannot come on, and I have been forced to rig up
a Glasgow merchant skipper into a jury sailing-master.

Any such arrangement is, at the best, unsatisfactory,
but to abandon the cruise is the only alternative. However,
considering I had but a few hours to look about me, I
have been more fortunate than might have been expected.
I have had the luck to stumble on a young fellow, very
highly recommended by the Captain of the Port. He returned
just a fortnight ago from a trip to Australia, and having
since married a wife, is naturally anxious not to lose
this opportunity of going to sea again for a few months.

I start to-morrow for Oban, via Inverary, which I wish
to show to my Icelander. At Oban I join the schooner,
and proceed to Stornaway, in the Hebrides, whither the
undomestic Mr. Ebenezer Wyse (a descendant, probably, of
some Westland Covenanter) is to follow me by the steamer.



Oban, June 5, 1856

I have seldom enjoyed anything so much as our journey
yesterday. Getting clear at last of the smells, smoke,
noise, and squalor of Greenock, to plunge into the very
heart of the Highland hills, robed as they were in the
sunshine of a beautiful summer day, was enough to make
one beside oneself with delight, and the Icelander enjoyed
it as much as I did.  Having crossed the Clyde, alive
with innumerable vessels, its waves dancing and sparkling
in the sunlight, we suddenly shot into the still and
solemn Loch Goil, whose waters, dark with mountain shadows,
seemed almost to belong to a different element from that
of the yellow, rushing, ship-laden river we had left. In
fact, in the space of ten minutes we had got into another
world, centuries remote from the steaming, weaving,
delving Britain, south of Clyde.

After a sail of about three hours, we reached the head
of the loch, and then took coach along the worst mountain
road in Europe, towards the country of the world-invading
Campbells. A steady pull of three hours more, up a wild
bare glen, brought us to the top of the mica-slate ridge
which pens up Loch Fyne, on its western side, and disclosed
what I have always thought the loveliest scene in Scotland.

Far below at our feet, and stretching away on either hand
among the mountains, lay the blue waters of the lake.

On its other side, encompassed by a level belt of
pasture-land and corn-fields, the white little town of
Inverary glittered like a gem on the sea-shore, while to
the right, amid lawns and gardens, and gleaming banks of
wood, that hung down into the water, rose the dark towers
of the Castle, the whole environed by an amphitheatre of
tumbled porphyry hills, beyond whose fir-crowned crags
rose the bare blue mountain-tops of Lorn.

It was a perfect picture of peace and seclusion, and I
confess I had great pride in being able to show my
companion so fair a specimen of one of our lordly island
homes--the birthplace of a race of nobles whose names
sparkle down the page of their country's history as
conspicuously as the golden letters in an illuminated

While descending towards the strand, I tried to amuse
Sigurdr with a sketch of the fortunes of the great house
of Argyll.

I told him how in ancient days three warriors came from
Green Ierne, to dwell in the wild glens of Cowal and
Lochow,--how one of them, the swart Breachdan, all for
the love of blue-eyed Eila, swam the Gulf, once with a
clew of thread, then with a hempen rope, last with an
iron chain, but this time, alas! the returning tide sucks
down the over-tasked hero into its swirling vortex,--how
Diarmid O' Duin, i.e.  son of "the Brown," slew with his
own hand the mighty boar, whose head still scowls over
the escutcheon of the Campbells,--how in later times,
while the murdered Duncan's son, afterwards the great
Malcolm Canmore, was yet an exile at the court of his
Northumbrian uncle, ere Birnam wood had marched to
Dunsinane, the first Campbell i.e.  Campus-bellus,
Beau-champ, a Norman knight and nephew of the Conqueror,
having won the hand of the lady Eva, sole heiress of the
race of Diarmid, became master of the lands and lordships
of Argyll,--how six generations later--each of them
notable in their day--the valiant Sir Colin created for
his posterity a title prouder than any within a sovereign's
power to bestow, which no forfeiture could attaint, no
act of parliament recall; for though he cease to be Duke
or Earl, the head of the Clan Campbell will still remain
Mac Calan More,--and how at last the same Sir Colin fell
at the String of Cowal, beneath the sword of that fierce
lord, whose granddaughter was destined to bind the honours
of his own heirless house round the coronet of his slain
foeman's descendant;--how Sir Neill at Bannockburn fought
side by side with the Bruce whose sister he had married;
how Colin, the first Earl, wooed and won the Lady Isabel,
sprung from the race of Somerled, Lord of the Isles, thus
adding the galleys of Lorn to the blazonry of Argyll;--
how the next Earl died at Flodden, and his successor
fought not less disastrously at Pinkie;--how Archibald,
fifth Earl, whose wife was at supper with the Queen, her
half-sister, when Rizzio was murdered, fell on the field
of Langside, smitten not by the hand of the enemy, but
by the finger of God; how Colin, Earl and boy-General at
fifteen, was dragged away by force, with tears in his
eyes, from the unhappy skirmish at Glenlivit, where his
brave Highlanders were being swept down by the artillery
of Huntley and Errol,--destined to regild his spurs in
future years on the soil of Spain.

Then I told him of the Great Rebellion, and how, amid
the tumult of the next fifty years, the Grim Marquis--
Gillespie Grumach, as his squint caused him to be called--
Montrose's fatal foe, staked life and fortunes in the
deadly game engaged in by the fierce spirits of that
generation, and losing, paid the forfeit with his head,
as calmly as became a brave and noble gentleman, leaving
an example, which his son--already twice rescued from
the scaffold, once by a daughter of the ever-gallant
house of Lindsay, again a prisoner, and a rebel, because
four years too soon to be a patriot--as nobly imitated;--
how, at last, the clouds of misfortune cleared away, and
honours clustered where only merit had been before; the
martyr's aureole, almost become hereditary, being replaced
in the next generation by a ducal coronet, itself to be
regilt in its turn with a less sinister lustre by him--

    "The State's whole thunder born to wield,
     And shake alike the senate and the field;"

who baffled Walpole in the cabinet, and conquered with
Marlborough at Ramilies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet;--
and, last,--how at that present moment, even while we
were speaking, the heir to all these noble reminiscences,
the young chief of this princely line, had already won,
at the age of twenty-nine, by the manly vigour of his
intellect and his hereditary independence of character,
the confidence of his fellow-countrymen, and a seat at
the council board of his sovereign.

Having thus duly indoctrinated Sigurdr with the Sagas of
the family, as soon as we had crossed the lake I took
him up to the Castle, and acted cicerone to its pictures
and heirlooms,--the gleaming stands of muskets, whose
fire wrought such fatal ruin at Culloden;--the portrait
of the beautiful Irish girl, twice a Duchess, whom the
cunning artist has painted with a sunflower that turns
FROM the sun to look at her;--Gillespie Grumach himself,
as grim and sinister-looking as in life.--the trumpets
to carry the voice from the hall door to Dunnaquaich;--the
fair beech avenues, planted by the old Marquis, now
looking with their smooth grey boles, and overhanging
branches, like the cloisters of an abbey the vale of
Esechasan, to which, on the evening before his execution,
the Earl wrote such touching verses; the quaint old
kitchen-garden; the ruins of the ancient Castle, where
worthy Major Dalgetty is said to have passed such uncom-
fortable moments;--the Celtic cross from lone Iona:--all
and everything I showed off with as much pride and
pleasure, I think, as if they had been my own possessions;
and the more so as the Icelander himself evidently
sympathised with such Scald-like gossip.

Having thoroughly overrun the woods and lawns of Inverary,
we had a game of chess, and went to bed pretty well tired.

The next morning, before breakfast, I went off in a boat
to Ardkinglass to see my little cousins; and then returning
about twelve, we got a post-chaise, and crossing the
boastful Loch Awe in a ferry-boat, reached Oban at
nightfall. Here I had the satisfaction of finding the
schooner already arrived, and of being joined by the
Doctor, just returned from his fruitless expedition to



Stornaway, Island of Lewis, Hebrides, June 9, 1856.

We reached these Islands of the West the day before
yesterday, after a fine run from Oban.

I had intended taking Staffa and Iona on my way, but it
came on so thick with heavy weather from the south-west,
that to have landed on either island would have been out
of the question. So we bore up under Mull at one in the
morning, tore through the Sound at daylight, rounded
Ardnamurchan under a double-reefed mainsail at two P.M.,
and shot into the Sound of Skye the same evening, leaving
the hills of Moidart (one of whose "seven naen" was an
ancestor of your own), and the jaws of the hospitable
Loch Hourn, reddening in the stormy sunset.

At Kylakin we were obliged to bring up for the night;
but getting under weigh again at daylight, we took a fair
wind with us along the east coast of Skye, passed Raasa
and Rona, and so across the Minch to Stornaway.

Stornaway is a little fishing-town with a beautiful
harbour, from out of which was sailing, as we entered,
a fleet of herring-boats, their brown sails gleaming like
gold against the dark angry water as they fluttered out
to sea, unmindful of the leaden clouds banked up along
the west, and all the symptoms of an approaching gale.
The next morning it was upon us; but brought up as we
were under the lea of a high rock, the tempest tore
harmlessly over our heads, and left us at liberty to make
the final preparations for departure.

Fitz, whose talents for discerning where the vegetables,
fowls, and pretty ladies of a place were to be found, I
had already had occasion to admire, went ashore to forage;
while I remained on board to superintend the fixing of
our sacred figure-head--executed in bronze by Marochetti--
and brought along with me by rail, still warm from the

For the performance of this solemnity I luckily possessed
a functionary equal to the occasion, in the shape of the
second cook. Originally a guardsman, he had beaten his
sword into a chisel, and become carpenter; subsequently
conceiving a passion for the sea, he turned his attention
to the mysteries of the kitchen, and now sails with me
in the alternate exercise of his two last professions.
This individual, thus happily combining the chivalry
inherent in the profession of arms with the skill of the
craftsman and the refinement of the artist--to whose
person, moreover, a paper cap, white vestments, and the
sacrificial knife at his girdle, gave something of a
sacerdotal character--I did not consider unfit to raise
the ship's guardian image to its appointed place; and
after two hours' reverential handiwork, I had the
satisfaction of seeing the well-known lovely face, with
its golden hair, and smile that might charm all malice
from the elements, beaming like a happy omen above our

Shortly afterwards Fitz came alongside, after a most
successful foray among the fish-wives. He was sitting in
the stern-sheets, up to his knees in vegetables, with
seven elderly hens beside him, and a dissipated-looking
cock under his arm, with regard to whose qualifications
its late proprietor had volunteered the most satisfactory
assurances.  I am also bound to mention, that protruding
from his coat-pocket were certain sheets of music, with
the name of "Alice Louisa," written therein in a remarkably
pretty hand, which led me to believe that the Doctor had
not entirely confined his energies to the acquisition of
hens and vegetables.  The rest of the day was spent in
packing away our newly-purchased stores, and making the
ship as tidy as circumstances would admit. I am afraid,
however, many a smart yachtsman would have been scandalized
at our decks, lumbered up with hen-coops, sacks of coal,
and other necessaries, which, like the Queen of Spain's
legs, not only ought never to be seen, but must not be
supposed even to exist, on board a tip-top craft.

By the evening, the gale, which had been blowing all day,
had increased to a perfect hurricane. At nine o'clock we
let go a second anchor; and I confess, as we sat comfortably
round the fire in the bright cheerful little cabin, and
listened to the wind whistling and shrieking through the
cordage, that none of us were sorry to find ourselves in
port on such a night, instead of tossing on the wild
Atlantic--though we little knew that even then the
destroying angel was busy with the fleet of fishing-boats
which had put to sea so gallantly on the evening of our
arrival. By morning the neck of the gale was broken, and
the sun shone brightly on the white rollers as they chased
each other to the shore; but a Queen's ship was steaming
into the bay, with sad news of ruin out to seaward;--towing
behind her, boats, water-logged, or bottom upwards,--while
a silent crowd of women on the quay were waiting to learn
on what homes among them the bolt had fallen.

About twelve o'clock the Glasgow packet came in, and a
few minutes afterwards I had the honour of receiving on
my quarter-deck a gentleman who seemed a cross between
the German student and swell commercial gent. On his head
he wore a queer kind of smoking-cap, with the peak cocked
over his left ear; then came a green shooting-jacket,
and flashy silk tartan waistcoat, set off by a gold chain,
hung about in innumerable festoons,--while light trousers
and knotty Wellington boots completed his costume, and
made the wearer look as little like a seaman as need be.
It appeared, nevertheless, that the individual in question
was Mr. Ebenezer Wyse, my new sailing-master; so I accepted
Captain C.'s strong recommendation as a set-off against
the silk tartan; explained to the new comer the position
he was to occupy on board, and gave orders for sailing
in an hour.  The multitudinous chain, moreover, so lavishly
displayed, turned out to be an ornament of which Mr. Wyse
might well be proud; and the following history of its
acquisition reconciled me more than anything else to my
Master's unnautical appearance.

Some time ago there was a great demand in Australia for
small river steamers, which certain Scotch companies
undertook to supply. The difficulty, however, was to get
such fragile tea-kettles across the ocean; five started
one after another in murderous succession, and each came
to grief before it got half-way to the equator; the sixth
alone remained with which to try a last experiment. Should
she arrive, her price would more than compensate the
pecuniary loss already sustained, though it could not
bring to life the hands sacrificed in the mad speculation;
by this time, however, even the proverbial recklessness
of the seamen of the port was daunted, and the hearts of
two crews had already failed them at the last moment of
starting, when my friend of the chain volunteered to take
the command. At the outset of his voyage everything went
well; a fair wind (her machinery was stowed away, and
she sailed under canvas) carried the little craft in an
incredibly short time a thousand miles to the southward
of the Cape, when one day, as she was running before the
gale, the man at the wheel--startled at a sea which he
thought was going to poop her--let go the helm; the vessel
broached to, and tons of water tumbled in on the top of
the deck. As soon as the confusion of the moment had
subsided, it became evident that the shock had broken
some of the iron plates, and that the ship was in a fair
way of foundering. So frightened were the crew, that,
after consultation with each other, they determined to
take to the boats, and all hands came aft, to know whether
there was anything the skipper would wish to carry off
with him.  Comprehending the madness of attempting to
reach land in open boats at the distance of a thousand
miles from any shore, Wyse pretended to go into the cabin
to get his compass, chronometer, etc., but returning
immediately with a revolver in each hand, swore he would
shoot the first man who attempted to touch the boats.
This timely exhibition of spirit saved their lives: soon
after the weather moderated; by undergirding the ship
with chains, St. Paul fashion, the leaks were partially
stopped, the steamer reached her destination, and was
sold for 7,000 pounds a few days after her arrival.  In
token of their gratitude for the good service he had done
them, the Company presented Mr. Wyse on his return with
a gold watch, and the chain he wears so gloriously outside
the silk tartan waistcoat.

And now, good-bye. I hear the click-click of the chain
as they heave the anchor; I am rather tired and exhausted
with all the worry of the last two months, and shall be
heartily glad to get to sea, where fresh air will set me
up again, I hope, in a few days. My next letter will be
from Iceland; and, please God, before I see English land
again, I hope to have many a story to tell you of the
islands that are washed by the chill waters of the Arctic



Reykjavik, Iceland, June 21, 1856.

We have landed in Thule! When, in parting, you moaned so
at the thought of not being able to hear of our safe
arrival, I knew there would be an opportunity of writing
to you almost immediately after reaching Iceland; but I
said nothing about it at the time, lest something should
delay this letter, and you be left to imagine all kinds
of doleful reasons for its non-appearance. We anchored
in Reykjavik harbour this afternoon (Saturday). H.M.S.
"Coquette" sails for England on Monday; so that within
a week you will get this.

For the last ten days we have been leading the life of
the "Flying Dutchman." Never do I remember to have had
such a dusting: foul winds, gales, and calms--or rather
breathing spaces, which the gale took occasionally to
muster up fresh energies for a blow--with a heavy head
sea, that prevented our sailing even when we got aslant.
On the afternoon of the day we quitted Stornaway, I got
a notion how it was going to be; the sun went angrily
down behind a bank of solid grey cloud, and by the time
we were up with the Butt of Lewis, the whole sky was in
tatters, and the mercury nowhere, with a heavy swell from
the north-west.

As, two years before, I had spent a week in trying to
beat through the Roost of Sumburgh under double-reefed
trysails, I was at home in the weather; and guessing we
were in for it, sent down the topmasts, stowed the boats
on board, handed the foresail, rove the ridge-ropes, and
reefed all down. By midnight it blew a gale, which
continued without intermission until the day we sighted
Iceland; sometimes increasing to a hurricane, but broken
now and then by sudden lulls, which used to leave us for
a couple of hours at a time tumbling about on the top of
the great Atlantic rollers--or Spanish waves, as they
are called--until I thought the ship would roll the masts
out of her. Why they should be called Spanish waves, no
one seems to know; but I had always heard the seas were
heavier here than in any other part of the world, and
certainly they did not belie their character.  The little
ship behaved beautifully, and many a vessel twice her
size would have been less comfortable. Indeed, few people
can have any notion of the cosiness of a yacht's cabin
under such circumstances. After having remained for
several hours on deck, in the presence of the tempest,--
peering through the darkness at those black liquid walls
of water, mounting above you in ceaseless agitation, or
tumbling over in cataracts of gleaming foam,--the wind
roaring through the rigging,--timbers creaking as if the
ship would break its heart,--the spray and rain beating
in your face,--everything around in tumult,--suddenly
to descend into the quiet of a snug, well-lighted little
cabin, with the firelight dancing on the white rosebud
chintz, the well-furnished book-shelves, and all the
innumerable nick-nacks that decorate its walls,--little
Edith's portrait looking so serene,--everything about
you as bright and fresh as a lady's boudoir in May
Fair,--the certainty of being a good three hundred miles
from any troublesome shore,--all combine to inspire a
feeling of comfort and security difficult to describe.

These pleasures, indeed, for the first days of our voyage,
the Icelander had pretty much to himself. I was laid up
with a severe bout of illness I had long felt coming on,
and Fitz was sea-sick. I must say, however, I never saw
any one behave with more pluck and resolution; and when
we return, the first thing you do must be to thank him
for his kindness to me on that occasion. Though himself
almost prostrate, he looked after me as indefatigably as
if he had already found his sea legs; and, sitting down
on the cabin floor, with a basin on one side of him, and
a pestle and mortar on the other, used to manufacture my
pills, between the paroxysms of his malady, with a decorous
pertinacity that could not be too much admired.

Strangely enough, too, his state of unhappiness lasted
a few days longer than the eight-and-forty hours which
are generally sufficient to set people on their feet
again. I tried to console him by representing what an
occasion it was for observing the phenomena of sea-sickness
from a scientific point of view; and I must say he set
to work most conscientiously to discover some remedy.
Brandy, prussic acid, opium, champagne, ginger, mutton-
chops, and tumblers of salt-water, were successively
exhibited; but, I regret to say, after a few minutes,
each in turn re-exhibited itself with monotonous
punctuality. Indeed, at one time we thought he would
never get over it; and the following conversation, which
I overheard one morning between him and my servant, did
not brighten his hopes of recovery.

This person's name is Wilson, and of all men I ever met
he is the most desponding. Whatever is to be done, he is
sure to see a lion in the path. Life in his eyes is a
perpetual filling of leaky buckets, and a rolling of
stones up hill. He is amazed when the bucket holds water,
or the stone perches on the summit. He professes but a
limited belief in his star,--and success with him is
almost a disappointment.  His countenance corresponds
with the prevailing character of his thoughts, always
hopelessly chapfallen; his voice is as of the tomb. He
brushes my clothes, lays the cloth, opens the champagne,
with the air of one advancing to his execution.  I have
never seen him smile but once, when he came to report to
me that a sea had nearly swept his colleague, the steward,
overboard. The son of a gardener at Chiswick, he first
took to horticulture; then emigrated as a settler to the
Cape, where he acquired his present complexion, which is
of a grass-green; and finally served as a steward on
board an Australian steam-packet.

Thinking to draw consolation from his professional
experiences, I heard Fitz's voice, now very weak, say in
a tone of coaxing cheerfulness,--

"Well, Wilson, I suppose this kind of thing does not last

The Voice, as of the tomb. "I don't know, Sir."

Fitz.--"But you must have often seen passengers sick."

The Voice.--"Often, Sir; very sick."

Fitz.--"Well; and on an average, how soon did they

The Voice.--"Some of them didn't recover, Sir."

Fitz.--"Well, but those that did?"

The Voice.--"I know'd a clergyman and his wife as were,
ill all the voyage; five months, Sir."

Fitz.--(Quite silent.)

The Voice; now become sepulchral.--"They sometimes dies,


Before the end of the voyage, however, this Job's comforter
himself fell ill, and the Doctor amply revenged himself
by prescribing for him.

Shortly after this, a very melancholy occurrence took
place. I had observed for some days past, as we proceeded
north, and the nights became shorter, that the cock we
shipped at Stornaway had become quite bewildered on the
subject of that meteorological phenomenon called the Dawn
of Day. In fact, I doubt whether he ever slept for more
than five minutes at a stretch, without waking up in a
state of nervous agitation, lest it should be cock-crow.
At last, when night ceased altogether, his constitution
could no longer stand the shock. He crowed once or twice
sarcastically, then went melancholy mad: finally, taking
a calenture, he cackled lowly (probably of green fields),
and leaping overboard, drowned himself. The mysterious
manner in which every day a fresh member of his harem
used to disappear, may also have preyed upon his spirits.

At last, on the morning of the eighth day, we began to
look out for land. The weather had greatly improved during
the night; and, for the first time since leaving the
Hebrides, the sun had got the better of the clouds, and
driven them in confusion before his face. The sea, losing
its dead leaden colour, had become quite crisp and
burnished, darkling into a deep sapphire blue against
the horizon; beyond which, at about nine o'clock, there
suddenly shot up towards the zenith, a pale, gold aureole,
such as precedes the appearance of the good fairy at a
pantomime farce; then, gradually lifting its huge back
above the water, rose a silver pyramid of snow, which I
knew must be the cone of an ice mountain, miles away in
the interior of the island.  From the moment we got hold
of the land, our cruise, as you may suppose, doubled in
interest. Unfortunately, however, the fair morning did
not keep its promise; about one o'clock, the glittering
mountain vanished in mist; the sky again became like an
inverted pewter cup, and we had to return for two more
days to our old practice of threshing to windward. So
provoked was I at this relapse of the weather, that,
perceiving a whale blowing convenient, I could not help
suggesting to Sigurdr, son of Jonas, that it was an
occasion for observing the traditions of his family; but
he excused himself on the plea of their having become

The mountain we had seen in the morning was the south-east
extremity of the island, the very landfall made by one
of its first discoverers. [Footnote: There is in Strabo
an account of a voyage made by a citizen of the Greek
colony of Marseilles, in the time of Alexander the Great,
through the Pillars of Hercules, along the coasts of
France and Spain, up the English Channel, and so across
the North Sea, past an island he calls Thule; his further
progress, he asserted, was hindered by a barrier of a
peculiar nature,--neither earth, air, nor sky, but a
compound of all three, forming a thick viscid substance
which it was impossible to penetrate. Now, whether this
same Thule was one of the Shetland Islands, and the
impassable substance merely a fog,--or Iceland, and the
barricade beyond, a wall of ice, it is impossible to say.
Probably Pythias did not get beyond the Shetlands.] This
gentleman not having a compass, (he lived about A.D.
864,) nor knowing exactly where the land lay, took on
board with him, at starting, three consecrated ravens--as
an M.P. would take three well-trained pointers to his
moor. Having sailed a certain distance, he let loose one,
which flew back: by this he judged he had not got half-way.
Proceeding onwards, he loosed the second, which, after
circling in the air for some minutes in apparent
uncertainty, also made off home, as though it still
remained a nice point which were the shorter course toward
terra firma. But the third, on obtaining his liberty a
few days later, flew forward, and by following the
direction in which he had disappeared, Rabna Floki, or
Floki of the Ravens, as he came to be called, triumphantly
made the land.

The real colonists did not arrive till some years later,
for I do not much believe a story they tell of Christian
relics, supposed to have been left by Irish fishermen,
found on the Westmann islands. A Scandinavian king, named
Harold Haarfager (a contemporary of our own King Alfred's),
having murdered, burnt, and otherwise exterminated all
his brother kings who at that time grew as thick as
blackberries in Norway, first consolidated their dominions
into one realm, as Edgar did the Heptarchy, and then
proceeded to invade the Udal rights of the landholders.
Some of them, animated with that love of liberty innate
in the race of the noble Northmen, rather than submit to
his oppressions, determined to look for a new home amid
the desolate regions of the icy sea. Freighting a
dragon-shaped galley--the "Mayflower" of the period--with
their wives and children, and all the household monuments
that were dear to them, they saw the blue peaks of their
dear Norway hills sink down into the sea behind, and
manfully set their faces towards the west, where--some
vague report had whispered--a new land might be found.
Arrived in sight of Iceland, the leader of the expedition
threw the sacred pillars belonging to his former dwelling
into the water, in order that the gods might determine
the site of his new home: carried by the tide, no one
could say in what direction, they were at last discovered,
at the end of three years, in a sheltered bay on the west
side of the island, and Ingolf [Footnote: It was in
consequence of a domestic feud that Ingolf himself was
forced to emigrate.] came and abode there, and the place
became in the course of years Reykjavik, the capital of
the country.

Sigurdr having scouted the idea of acting Iphigenia,
there was nothing for it but steadily to beat over the
remaining hundred and fifty miles, which still separated
us from Cape Reikianess. After going for two days hard
at it, and sighting the Westmann islands, we ran plump
into a fog, and lay to. In a few hours, however, it
cleared up into a lovely sunny day, with a warm summer
breeze just rippling up the water.  Before us lay the
long wished-for Cape, with the Meal-sack,--a queer stump
of basalt, that flops up out of the sea, fifteen miles
south-west of Cape Reikianess, its flat top white with
guano, like the mouth of a bag of flour,--five miles on
our port bow; and seldom have I remembered a pleasanter
four-and-twenty hours than those spent stealing up along
the gnarled and crumpled lava flat that forms the western
coast of Guldbrand Syssel. Such fishing, shooting, looking
through telescopes, and talking of what was to be done
on our arrival! Like Antaeus, Sigurdr seemed twice the
man he was before, at sight of his native land; and the
Doctor grew nearly lunatic when after stalking a solent
goose asleep on the water, the bird flew away at the
moment the schooner hove within shot.

The panorama of the bay of Faxa Fiord is magnificent,
--with a width of fifty miles from horn to horn, the one
running down into a rocky ridge of pumice, the other
towering to the height of five thousand feet in a pyramid
of eternal snow, while round the intervening semicircle
crowd the peaks of a hundred noble mountains. As you
approach the shore, you are very much reminded of the
west coast of Scotland, except that everything is more
INTENSE--the atmosphere clearer, the light more vivid,
the air more bracing, the hills steeper, loftier, more
tormented, as the French say, and more gaunt; while
between their base and the sea stretches a dirty greenish
slope, patched with houses which themselves, both roof
and walls, are of a mouldy green, as if some long-since
inhabited country had been fished up out of the bottom
of the sea.

The effects of light and shadow are the purest I ever
saw, the contrasts of colour most astonishing,--one square
front of a mountain jutting out in a blaze of gold against
the flank of another, dyed of the darkest purple, while
up against the azure sky beyond, rise peaks of glittering
snow and ice. The snow, however, beyond serving as an
ornamental fringe to the distance, plays but a very poor
part at this season of the year in Iceland. While I write,
the thermometer is above 70. Last night we remained
playing at chess on deck till bedtime, without thinking
of calling for coats, and my people live in their
shirt-sleeves, and--astonishment at the climate.

And now, good-bye. I cannot tell you how I am enjoying
myself, body and soul. Already I feel much stronger, and
before I return I trust to have laid in a stock of health
sufficient to last the family for several generations.

Remember me to --, and tell her she looks too lovely;
her face has become of a beautiful bright green--a
complexion which her golden crown sets off to the greatest
advantage. I wish she could have seen, as we sped across,
how passionately the waves of the Atlantic flung their
liquid arms about her neck, and how proudly she broke
through their embraces, leaving them far behind, moaning
and lamenting.



Reykjavik, June 28, 1856.

Notwithstanding that its site, as I mentioned in my last
letter, was determined by auspices not less divine than
those of Rome or Athens, Reykjavik is not so fine a city
as either, though its public buildings may be thought to
be in better repair. In fact, the town consists of a
collection of wooden sheds, one story high--rising here
and there into a gable end of greater pretentions--built
along the lava beach, and flanked at either end by a
suburb of turf huts.

On every side of it extends a desolate plain of lava that
once must have boiled up red-hot from some distant gateway
of hell, and fallen hissing into the sea. No tree or bush
relieves the dreariness of the landscape, and the mountains
are too distant to serve as a background to the buildings;
but before the door of each merchant's house facing the
sea, there flies a gay little pennon; and as you walk
along the silent streets, whose dust no carriage-wheel
has ever desecrated, the rows of flower-pots that peep
out of the windows, between curtains of white muslin, at
once convince you that notwithstanding their unpretending
appearance, within each dwelling reign the elegance and
comfort of a woman-tended home.

Thanks to Sigurdr's popularity among his countrymen, by
the second day after our arrival we found ourselves no
longer in a strange land. With a frank energetic cordiality
that quite took one by surprise, the gentlemen of the
place at once welcomed us to their firesides, and made
us feel that we could give them no greater pleasure than
by claiming their hospitality. As, however, it is necessary,
if we are to reach Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen this summer,
that our stay in Iceland should not be prolonged above
a certain date, I determined at once to make preparations
for our expedition to the Geysirs and the interior of
the country. Our plan at present, after visiting the hot
springs, is to return to Reykjavik, and stretch right
across the middle of the island to the north coast--scarcely
ever visited by strangers.  Thence we shall sail straight
away to Jan Mayen.

In pursuance of this arrangement, the first thing to do
was to buy some horses. Away, accordingly, we went in
the gig to the little pier leading up to the merchant's
house who had kindly promised Sigurdr to provide them.
Everything in the country that is not made of wood is
made of lava.  The pier was constructed out of huge
boulders of lava, the shingle is lava, the sea-sand is
pounded lava, the mud on the roads is lava paste, the
foundations of the houses are lava blocks, and in dry
weather you are blinded with lava dust. Immediately upon
landing I was presented to a fine, burly gentleman, who,
I was informed, could let me have a steppe-ful of horses
if I desired, and a few minutes afterwards I picked myself
up in the middle of a Latin oration on the subject of
the weather. Having suddenly lost my nominative case, I
concluded abruptly with the figure syncope, and a bow,
to which my interlocutor politely replied "Ita." Many of
the inhabitants speak English, and one or two French,
but in default of either of these, your only chance is
Latin. At first I found great difficulty in brushing up
anything sufficiently conversational, more especially as
it was necessary to broaden out the vowels in the high
Roman fashion; but a little practice soon made me more
fluent, and I got at last to brandish my "Pergratum est,"
etc. in the face of a new acquaintance, without any
misgivings. On this occasion I thought it more prudent
to let Sigurdr make the necessary arrangements for our
journey, and in a few minutes I had the satisfaction of
learning that I had become the proprietor of twenty-six
horses, as many bridles and pack-saddles, and three

There being no roads in Iceland, all the traffic of the
country is conducted by means of horses, along the bridle-
tracks which centuries of travel have worn in the lava
plains.  As but little hay is to be had, the winter is
a season of fasting for all cattle, and it is not until
spring is well advanced, and the horses have had time to
grow a little fat on the young grass, that you can go a
journey. I was a good deal taken aback when the number
of my stud was announced to me, but it appears that what
with the photographic apparatus, which I am anxious to
take, and our tent, it would be impossible to do with
fewer animals. The price of each pony is very moderate,
and I am told I shall have no difficulty in disposing of
all of them, at the conclusion of our expedition.

These preliminaries happily concluded, Mr. J-- invited
us into his house, where his wife and daughter--a sunshiny
young lady of eighteen--were waiting to receive us. As
Latin here was quite useless, we had to entrust Sigurdr
with all the pretty things we desired to convey to our
entertainers, but it is my firm opinion that that gentleman
took a dirty advantage of us, and intercepting the choicest
flowers of our eloquence, appropriated them to the
advancement of his own interests. However, such expressions
of respectful admiration as he suffered to reach their
destination were received very graciously, and rewarded
with a shower of smiles.

The next few days were spent in making short expeditions
in the neighbourhood, in preparing our baggage-train,
and in paying visits. It would be too long for me to
enumerate all the marks of kindness and hospitality I
received during this short period. Suffice it to say,
that I had the satisfaction of making many very interesting
acquaintances, of beholding a great number of very pretty
faces, and of partaking of an innumerable quantity of
luncheons. In fact, to break bread, or, more correctly
speaking, to crack a bottle with the master of the house,
is as essential an element of a morning call as the making
a bow or shaking hands, and to refuse to take off your
glass would be as great an incivility as to decline taking
off your hat. From earliest times, as the grand old ballad
of the King of Thule tells us, a beaker was considered
the fittest token a lady could present to her true-love--

  Dem fterbend feine Buble
  Einen goldnen Becher gab.

And in one of the most ancient Eddaic songs it is written,
"Drink, Runes, must thou know, if thou wilt maintain thy
power over the maiden thou lovest. Thou shalt score them
on the drinking-horn, on the back of thy hand, and the
word NAUD" (NEED--necessity) "on thy nail." Moreover,
when it is remembered that the ladies of the house
themselves minister on these occasions, it will be easily
understood that all flinching is out of the question.
What is a man to do, when a wicked little golden-haired
maiden insists on pouring him out a bumper, and dumb show
is his only means of remonstrance? Why, of course, if
death were in the cup, he must make her a leg, and drain
it to the bottom, as I did.  In conclusion, I am bound
to add that, notwithstanding the bacchanalian character
prevailing in these visits, I derived from them much
interesting and useful information, and I have invariably
found the gentlemen to whom I have been presented persons
of education and refinement, combined with a happy,
healthy, jovial temperament, that invests their conversation
with a peculiar charm.

At this moment people are in a great state of excitement
at the expected arrival of H.I.H. Prince Napoleon, and
two days ago a large full-rigged ship came in laden with
coal for his use. The day after we left Stornaway, we
had seen her scudding away before the gale on a due west
course, and guessed she was bound for Iceland, and running
down the longitude, but as we arrived here four days
before her, our course seems to have been a better one.
The only other ship here is the French frigate "Artemise,"
Commodore Dumas, by whom I have been treated with the
greatest kindness and civility.

On Saturday we went to Vedey, a beautiful little green
island where the eider ducks breed, and build nests with
the soft under-down plucked from their own bosoms. After
the little ones are hatched, and their birthplaces
deserted, the nests are gathered, cleaned, and stuffed
into pillow-cases, for pretty ladies in Europe to lay
their soft, warm cheeks upon, and sleep the sleep of the
innocent, while long-legged, broad-shouldered Englishmen
protrude from between them at German inns, like the ham
from a sandwich, and cannot sleep, however innocent.

The next day, being Sunday, I read prayers on board,
and then went for a short time to the cathedral church,--
the only stone building in Reykjavik. It is a moderate-sized,
unpretending place, capable of holding three or four
hundred persons, erected in very ancient times, but lately
restored. The Icelanders are of the Lutheran religion,
and a Lutheran clergyman, in a black gown, etc., with a ruff
round his neck, such as our bishops are painted in about
the time of James the First, was preaching a sermon. It
was the first time I had heard Icelandic spoken continuously,
and it struck me as a singularly sweet caressing language,
although I disliked the particular cadence, amounting almost
to a chant, with which each sentence ended.

As in every church where prayers have been offered up
since the world began, the majority of the congregation
were women, some few dressed in bonnets, and the rest in
the national black silk skull-cap, set jauntily on one
side of the head, with a long black tassel hanging down
to the shoulder, or else in a quaint mitre of white linen,
of which a drawing alone could give you an idea, the
remainder of an Icelandic lady's costume, when not
superseded by Paris fashions, consists of a black bodice
fastened in front with silver clasps, over which is drawn
a cloth jacket, ornamented with a multitude of silver
buttons; round the neck goes a stiff ruff of velvet,
figured with silver lace, and a silver belt, often
beautifully chased, binds the long dark wadmal petticoat
round the waist. Sometimes the ornaments are of gold
instead of silver, and very costly.

Before dismissing his people, the preacher descended from
the pulpit, and putting on a splendid cope of crimson
velvet (in which some bishop had in ages past been
murdered), turned his back to the congregation, and
chanted some Latin sentences in good round Roman style.
Though still retaining in their ceremonies a few vestiges
of the old religion, though altars, candles, pictures,
and crucifixes yet remain in many of their churches, the
Icelanders are staunch Protestants, and, by all accounts,
the most devout, innocent pure-hearted people in the
world. Crime, theft, debauchery, cruelty, are unknown
amongst them; they have neither prison, gallows, soldiers,
nor police; and in the manner of the lives they lead
among their secluded valleys, there is something of a
patriarchal simplicity, that reminds one of the Old World
princes, of whom it has been said, that they were "upright
and perfect, eschewing evil, and in their hearts no

The law with regard to marriage, however, is sufficiently
peculiar. When, from some unhappy incompatibility of
temper, a married couple live so miserably together as
to render life insupportable, it is competent for them
to apply to the Danish Governor of the island for a
divorce. If, after the lapse of three years from the date
of the application, both are still of the same mind, and
equally eager to be free, the divorce is granted, and
each is at liberty to marry again.

The next day it had been arranged that we were to take
an experimental trip on our new ponies, under the guidance
of the learned and jovial Rector of the College.
Unfortunately the weather was dull and rainy, but we were
determined to enioy ourselves in spite of everything,
and a pleasanter ride I have seldom had. The steed Sigurdr
had purchased for me was a long-tailed, hog-maned, shaggy,
cow-houghed creature, thirteen hands high, of a bright
yellow colour, with admirable action, and sure-footed
enough to walk downstairs backwards. The Doctor was not
less well mounted; in fact, the Icelandic pony is quite
a peculiar race, much stronger, faster, and better bred
than the Highland shelty, and descended probably from
pure-blooded sires that scoured the steppes of Asia, long
before Odin and his paladins had peopled the valleys of

The first few miles of our ride lay across an undulating
plain of dolorite, to a farm situated at the head of an
inlet of the sea. At a distance, the farm-steading looked
like a little oasis of green, amid the grey stony slopes
that surrounded it, and on a nearer approach not unlike
the vestiges of a Celtic earthwork, with the tumulus of
a hero or two in the centre, but the mounds turned out
to be nothing more than the grass roofs of the house and
offices, and the banks and dykes but circumvallations
round the plot of most carefully cleaned meadow, called
the "tun," which always surrounds every Icelandic farm.
This word "tun" is evidently identical with our own Irish
"TOWN-LAND," the Cornish "TOWN," and the Scotch
"TOON,"--terms which, in their local signification, do
not mean a congregation of streets and buildings, but
the yard, and spaces of grass immediately adjoining a
single house, just as in German we have "tzaun," and in
the Dutch "tuyn," a garden.

Turning to the right, round the head of a little bay, we
passed within forty yards of an enormous eagle, seated
on a crag; but we had no rifle, and all he did was to
rise heavily into the air, flap his wings like a barn-door
fowl, and plump lazily down twenty yards farther off.
Soon after, the district we traversed became more igneous,
wrinkled, cracked, and ropy than anything we had yet
seen, and another two hours' scamper over such a track
as till then I would not have believed horses could have
traversed, even at a foot's pace, brought us to the
solitary farm-house of Bessestad. Fresh from the neat
homesteads of England that we had left sparkling in the
bright spring weather, and sheltered by immemorial
elms,--the scene before us looked inexpressibly desolate.
In front rose a cluster of weather-beaten wooden buildings,
and huts like ice-houses, surrounded by a scanty plot of
grass, reclaimed from the craggy plain of broken lava
that stretched--the home of ravens and foxes--on either
side to the horizon. Beyond, lay a low black breadth of
moorland, intersected by patches of what was neither land
nor water, and last, the sullen sea; while above our
heads a wind, saturated with the damps of the Atlantic,
went moaning over the landscape. Yet this was Bessestad,
the ancient home of Snorro Sturleson!

On dismounting from our horses and entering the house
things began to look more cheery; a dear old lady, to
whom we were successively presented by the Rector, received
us, with the air of a princess, ushered us into her best
room, made us sit down on the sofa--the place of honour--and
assisted by her niece, a pale lily-like maiden, named
after Jarl Hakon's Thora, proceeded to serve us with hot
coffee, rusks, and sweetmeats. At first it used to give
me a very disagreeable feeling to be waited upon by the
woman-kind of the household, and I was always starting
up, and attempting to take the dishes out of their hands,
to their infinite surprise; but now I have succeeded in
learning to accept their ministrations with the same
unembarrassed dignity as my neighbours. In the end,
indeed, I have rather got to like it, especially when
they are as pretty as Miss Thora. To add, moreover, to
our content, it appeared that that young lady spoke a
little French; so that we had no longer any need to pay
our court by proxy, which many persons besides ourselves
have found to be unsatisfactory.  Our hostess lives quite
alone. Her son, whom I have the pleasure of knowing, is
far away, pursuing a career of honour and usefulness at
Copenhagen, and it seems quite enough for his mother to
know that he is holding his head high among the princes
of literature, and the statesmen of Europe, provided only
news of his success and advancing reputation shall
occasionally reach her across the ocean.

Of the rooms and the interior arrangement of the house,
I do not know that I have anything particular to tell
you; they seemed to me like those of a good old-fashioned
farmhouse, the walls wainscoted with deal, and the doors
and staircase of the same material. A few prints, a
photograph, some book-shelves, one or two little pictures,
decorated the parlour, and a neat iron stove, and massive
chests of drawers, served to furnish it very completely.
But you must not, I fear, take the drawing-room of
Bessestad as an average specimen of the comfort of an
Icelandic interieur. The greater proportion of the
inhabitants of the island live much more rudely. The
walls of only the more substantial farmsteads are wainscoted
with deal, or even partially screened with drift-wood.
In most houses the bare blocks of lava, pointed with
moss, are left in all their natural ruggedness. Instead
of wood, the rafters are made of the ribs of whales. The
same room but too often serves as the dining, sitting,
and sleeping place for the whole family; a hole in the
roof is the only chimney, and a horse's skull the most
luxurious fauteuil into which it is possible for them to
induct a stranger.  The parquet is that originally laid
down by Nature,--the beds are merely boxes filled with
feathers or sea-weed,--and by all accounts the nightly
packing is pretty close, and very indiscriminate.

After drinking several cups of coffee, and consuming at
least a barrel of rusks, we rose to go, in spite of Miss
Thora's intimation that a fresh jorum of coffee was being
brewed. The horses were resaddled; and with an eloquent
exchange of bows, curtseys, and kindly smiles, we took
leave of our courteous entertainers, and sallied forth
into the wind and rain. It was a regular race home, single
file, the Rector leading; but as we sped along in silence,
amid the unchangeable features of this strange land, I
could not help thinking of him whose shrewd observing
eye must have rested, six hundred and fifty years ago,
on the selfsame crags, and tarns, and distant mountain-tops;
perhaps on the very day he rode out in the pride of his
wealth, talent, and political influence, to meet his
murderers at Reikholt. And mingling with his memory would
rise the pale face of Thora,--not the little lady of
the coffee and buscuits we had just left, but that other
Thora, so tender and true, who turned back King Olaf's
hell-hounds from the hiding-place of the great Jarl of

In order that you may understand why the forlorn barrack
we had just left, and its solitary inmates, should have
set me thinking of the men and women "of a thousand
summers back," it is necessary I should tell you a little
about this same Snorro Sturleson, whose memory so haunted

Colonized as Iceland had been,--not, as is generally the
case, when a new land is brought into occupation, by the
poverty-stricken dregs of a redundant population, nor by
a gang of outcasts and ruffians, expelled from the bosom
of a society which they contaminated,--but by men who in
their own land had been both rich and noble,--with
possessions to be taxed, and a spirit too haughty to
endure taxation,--already acquainted with whatever of
refinement and learning the age they lived in was capable
of supplying, it is not surprising that we should find
its inhabitants, even from the first infancy of the
republic, endowed with an amount of intellectual energy
hardly to be expected in so secluded a community.

Perhaps it was this very seclusion which stimulated into
almost miraculous exuberance the mental powers already
innate in the people. Undistracted during several successive
centuries by the bloody wars, and still more bloody
political convulsions, which for too long a period rendered
the sword of the warrior so much more important to European
society than the pen of the scholar, the Icelandic
settlers, devoting the long leisure of their winter nights
to intellectual occupations, became the first of any
European nation to create for themselves a native
literature. Indeed, so much more accustomed did they get
to use their heads than their hands, than if an Icelander
were injured he often avenged himself, not by cutting
the throat of his antagonist, but by ridiculing him in
some pasquinade,--sometimes, indeed, he did both; and
when the King of Denmark maltreats the crew of an Icelandic
vessel shipwrecked on his coast, their indignant countrymen
send the barbarous monarch word, that by way of reprisal,
they intend making as many lampoons on him as there are
promontories in his dominions. Almost all the ancient
Scandinavian manuscripts are Icelandic; the negotiations
between the Courts of the North were conducted by Icelandic
diplomatists; the earliest topographical survey with
which we are acquainted was Icelandic; the cosmogony of
the Odin religion was formulated, and its doctrinal
traditions and ritual reduced to a system, by Icelandic
archaeologists; and the first historical composition ever
written by any European in the vernacular, was the product
of Icelandic genius. The title of this important work is
"The Heimskringla," or world-circle, [Footnote: So called
because Heimskringla (world-circle) is the first word in
the opening sentence of the manuscript which catches the
eye.] and its author was--Snorro Sturleson! It consists
of an account of the reigns of the Norwegian kings from
mythic times down to about A.D.  1150, that is to say,
a few years before the death of our own Henry II.; but
detailed by the old Sagaman with so much art and cleverness
as almost to combine the dramatic power of Macaulay with
Clarendon's delicate delineation of character, and the
charming loquacity of Mr. Pepys. His stirring sea-fights,
his tender love-stories, and delightful bits of domestic
gossip, are really inimitable;--you actually live with
the people he brings upon the stage, as intimately as
you do with Falstaff, Percy, or Prince Hal; and there is
something in the bearing of those old heroic figures who
form his dramatis person, so grand and noble, that it is
impossible to read the story of their earnest stirring
lives without a feeling of almost passionate interest--an
effect which no tale frozen up in the monkish Latin of
the Saxon annalists has ever produced upon me.

As for Snorro's own life, it was eventful and tragic
enough.  Unscrupulous, turbulent, greedy of money, he
married two heiresses--the one, however, becoming the
COLLEAGUE, not the successor of the other. This arrangement
naturally led to embarrassment. His wealth created envy,
his excessive haughtiness disgusted his sturdy
fellow-countrymen. He was suspected of desiring to make
the republic an appanage of the Norwegian crown, in the
hope of himself becoming viceroy; and at last, on a dark
September night, of the year 1241, he was murdered in
his house at Reikholt by his three sons-in-law.

The same century which produced the Herodotean work of
Sturleson also gave birth to a whole body of miscellaneous
Icelandic literature,--though in Britain and elsewhere
bookmaking was entirely confined to the monks, and merely
consisted in the compilation of a series of bald annals
locked up in bad Latin. It is true, Thomas of Ercildoune
was a contemporary of Snorro's; but he is known to us
more as a magician than as a man of letters; whereas
histories, memoirs, romances, biographies, poetry,
statistics, novels, calendars, specimens of almost every
kind of composition, are to be found even among the meagre
relics which have survived the literary decadence that
supervened on the extinction of the republic.

It is to these same spirited chroniclers that we are
indebted for the preservation of two of the most remarkable
facts in the history of the world: the colonization of
Greenland by Europeans in the 10th century, and the
discovery of America by the Icelanders at the commencement
of the 11th.

The story is rather curious.

Shortly after the arrival of the first settlers in Iceland,
a mariner of the name of Eric the Red discovers a country
away to the west, which, in consequence of its fruitful
appearance, he calls Greenland. In the course of a few
years the new land has become so thickly inhabited that
it is necessary to erect the district into an episcopal
see; and at last, in 1448, we have a brief of Pope Nicolas
"granting to his beloved children of Greenland, in
consideration of their having erected many sacred buildings
and a splendid cathedral,"--a new bishop and a fresh
supply of priests.  At the commencement, however, of the
next century, this colony of Greenland, with its bishops,
priests and people, its one hundred and ninety townships,
its cathedral, its churches, its monasteries, suddenly
fades into oblivion, like the fabric of a dream. The
memory of its existence perishes, and the allusions made
to it in the old Scandinavian Sagas gradually come to be
considered poetical inventions or pious frauds. At last,
after a lapse of four hundred years, some Danish
missionaries set out to convert the Esquimaux; and there,
far within Davis' Straits, are discovered vestiges of
the ancient settlement,--remains of houses, paths, walls,
churches, tombstones, and inscriptions. [Footnote: On
one tombstone there was written in Runic, "Vigdis M. D.
Hvilir Her; Glwde Gude Sal Hennar." "Vigdessa rests here;
God gladden her soul." But the most interesting of these
inscriptions is one discovered, in 1824, in an island in
Baffin's Bay, in latitude 72 degrees 55', as it shows
how boldly these Northmen must have penetrated into
regions supposed to have been unvisited by man before
the voyages of our modern navigators:--"Erling Sighvatson
and Biomo Thordarson, and Eindrid Oddson, on Saturday
before Ascension-week, raised these marks and cleared
ground, 1135:" This date of Ascension-week implies that
these three men wintered here, which must lead us to
imagine that at that time, seven hundred years ago, the
climate was less inclement than it is now.]

What could have been the calamity which suddenly annihilated
this Christian people, it is impossible to say; whether
they were massacred by some warlike tribe of natives, or
swept off to the last man by the terrible pestilence of
1349, called "The Black Death," or,--most horrible
conjecture of all,--beleaguered by vast masses of ice
setting down from the Polar Sea along the eastern coast
of Greenland, and thus miserably frozen, we are never
likely to know--so utterly did they perish, so mysterious
has been their doom.

On the other hand, certain traditions, with regard to
the discovery of a vast continent by their forefathers
away in the south-west, seems never entirely to have died
out of the memory of the Icelanders; and in the month of
February, 1477, there arrives at Reykjavik, in a barque
belonging to the port of Bristol, a certain long-visaged,
grey-eyed Genoese mariner, who was observed to take an
amazing interest in hunting up whatever was known on the
subject.  Whether Columbus--for it was no less a personage
than he--really learned anything to confirm him in his
noble resolutions, is uncertain; but we have still extant
an historical manuscript, written at all events before
the year 1395, that is to say, one hundred years prior
to Columbus' voyage, which contains a minute account of
how a certain person named Lief, while sailing over to
Greenland, was driven out of his course by contrary winds,
until he found himself off an extensive and unknown coast,
which increased in beauty and fertility as he descended
south, and how, in consequence of the representation Lief
made on his return, successive expeditions were undertaken
in the same direction. On two occasions their wives seem
to have accompanied the adventurers; of one ship's company
the skipper was a lady:  while two parties even wintered
in the new land, built houses, and prepared to colonize.
For some reason, however, the intention was abandoned;
and in process of time these early voyages came to be
considered as aprocryphal as the Phoenician
circumnavigation of Africa in the time of Pharaoh Necho.

It is quite uncertain how low a latitude in America the
Northmen ever reached; but from the description given of
the scenery, products, and inhabitants,--from the mildness
of the weather,--and from the length of the day on the
21st of December,--it is conjectured they could not have
descended much farther than Newfoundland, Nova Scotia,
or, at most, the coast of Massachusetts. [Footnote: There
is a certain piece of rock on the Taunton river, in
Massachusetts, called the Deighton Stone, on which are
to be seen rude configurations, for a long time supposed
to be a Runic inscription executed by these Scandinavian
voyagers; but there can be now no longer any doubt of
this inscription, such as it is, being of Indian execution.]

But to return to more material matters.

Yesterday--no--the day before--in fact I forget the date
of the day--I don't believe it had one--all I know is,
I have not been in bed since,--we dined at the Governor's;--
though dinner is too modest a term to apply to the

The invitation was for four o'clock, and at half-past
three we pulled ashore in the gig; I, innocent that I
was, in a well-fitting white waistcoat.

The Government House, like all the others, is built of
wood, on the top of a hillock; the only accession of
dignity it can boast being a little bit of mangy
kitchen-garden that hangs down in front to the road, like
a soiled apron. There was no lock, handle, bell, or
knocker to the door, but immediately on our approach, a
servant presented himself, and ushered us into the room
where Count Trampe was waiting to welcome us. After having
been presented to his wife, we proceeded to shake hands
with the other guests, most of whom I already knew; and
I was glad to find that, at all events in Iceland, people
do not consider it necessary to pass the ten minutes
which precede the announcement of dinner, as if they had
assembled to assist at the opening of their entertainer's
will, instead of his oysters. The company consisted of
the chief dignitaries of the island, including the Bishop,
the Chief justice, etc. etc., some of them in uniform,
and all with holiday faces. As soon as the door was
opened, Count Trampe tucked me under his arm--two other
gentlemen did the same to my two companions--and we
streamed into the dining-room. The table was very prettily
arranged with flowers, plate, and a forest of glasses.
Fitzgerald and I were placed on either side of our host,
the other guests, in due order, beyond. On my left sat
the Rector, and opposite, next to Fitz, the chief physician
of the island.  Then began a series of transactions of
which I have no distinct recollection; in fact, the events
of the next five hours recur to me in as great disarray
as reappear the vestiges of a country that has been
disfigured by some deluge. If I give you anything like
a connected account of what passed, you must thank
Sigurdr's more solid temperament; for the Doctor looked
quite foolish when I asked him--tried to feel my
pulse--could not find it--and then wrote the following
prescription, which I believe to be nothing more than an
invoice of the number of bottles he himself disposed of.

[Footnote: Copy of Dr. F.'s prescription :--
   vin: claret:    iii btls.
   vin: champ:     iv btls.
   vin: sherr:     1/2 btl.
   vin: Rheni:     ii btls.
   aqua vitae      viii gls.
   trigint: poc: aegrot: cap: quotid:
        C. E. F.
Reik: die Martis, Junii 27.]

I gather, then, from evidence--internal and otherwise--
that the dinner was excellent, and that we were helped
in Benjamite proportions; but as before the soup was
finished I was already hard at work hob-nobbing with my
two neighbours, it is not to be expected I should remember
the bill of fare.

With the peculiar manners used in Scandinavian skoal-
drinking I was already well acquainted. In the nice
conduct of a wine-glass I knew that I excelled, and having
an hereditary horror of heel-taps, I prepared with a firm
heart to respond to the friendly provocations of my host.
I only wish you could have seen how his kind face beamed
with approval when I chinked my first bumper against his,
and having emptied it at a draught, turned it towards
him bottom upwards, with the orthodox twist. Soon, however,
things began to look more serious even than I had expected.
I knew well that to refuse a toast, or to half empty your
glass, was considered churlish. I had come determined to
accept my host's hospitality as cordially as it was
offered. I was willing, at a pinch, to payer de ma
personne; should he not be content with seeing me at his
table, I was ready, if need were, to remain UNDER it!
but at the rate we were then going it seemed probable
this consummation would take place before the second
course: so, after having exchanged a dozen rounds of
sherry and champagne with my two neighbours, I pretended
not to observe that my glass had been refilled; and, like
the sea-captain, who, slipping from between his two
opponents, left them to blaze away at each other the long
night through,--withdrew from the combat. But it would
not do; with untasted bumpers, and dejected faces, they
politely waited until I should give the signal for a
renewal of HOSTilities, as they well deserved to be
called.  Then there came over me a horrid, wicked feeling.
What if I should endeavour to floor the Governor, and so
literally turn the tables on him! It is true I had lived
for five-and-twenty years without touching wine,--but
was not I my great-grandfather's great-grandson, and an
Irish peer to boot? Were there not traditions, too, on
the other side of the house, of casks of claret brought
up into the dining-room, the door locked, and the key
thrown out of the window? With such antecedents to sustain
me, I ought to be able to hold my own against the staunchest
toper in Iceland! So, with a devil glittering in my left
eye, I winked defiance right and left, and away we went
at it again for another five-and-forty minutes. At last
their fire slackened: I had partially quelled both the
Governor and the Rector, and still survived.  It is true
I did not feel comfortable; but it was in the neighbourhood
of my waistcoat, not my head, I suffered. "I am not well,
but I will not out," I soliloquized, with Lepidus [footnote:
Antony and Cleopatra.]-- (Greek) "Sos moi ro prepov," I
would have added, had I dared.  Still the neck of the
banquet was broken--Fitzgerald's chair was not yet
empty,--could we hold out perhaps a quarter of an hour
longer, our reputation was established; guess then my
horror, when the Icelandic Doctor, shouting his favourite
dogma, by way of battle cry, "Si trigintis guttis, morbum
curare velis, erras," gave the signal for an unexpected
onslaught, and the twenty guests poured down on me in
succession. I really thought I should have run away from
the house; but the true family blood, I suppose, began
to show itself, and with a calmness almost frightful, I
received them one by one.

After this began the public toasts.

Although up to this time I had kept a certain portion of
my wits about me, the subsequent hours of the entertainment
became henceforth developed in a dreamy mystery. I can
perfectly recall the look of the sheaf of glasses that
stood before me, six in number; I could draw the pattern
of each remember feeling a lazy wonder they should always
be full, though I did nothing but empty them,--and at
last solved the phenomenon by concluding I had become a
kind of Danaid, whose punishment, not whose sentence,
had been reversed: then suddenly I felt as if I were
disembodied,--a distant spectator of my own performances,
and of the feast at which my person remained seated. The
voices of my host, of the "Rector, of the Chief Justice,
became thin and low, as though they reached me through
a whispering tube; and when I rose to speak, it was as
to an audience in another sphere, and in a language of
another state of being: yet, however unintelligible to
myself, I must have been in some sort understood, for at
the end of each sentence, cheers, faint as the roar of
waters on a far-off strand, floated towards me; and if
I am to believe a report of the proceedings subsequently
shown us, I must have become polyglot in my cups. According
to that report it seems the Governor threw off (I wonder
he did not do something else), with the Queen's health
in French: to which I responded in the same language.
Then the Rector, in English, proposed my health, under
the circumstances a cruel mockery,--but to which, ill as
I was, I responded very gallantly by drinking to the
beaux yeux of the Countess. Then somebody else drank
success to Great Britain, and I see it was followed by
really a very learned discourse by Lord D., in honour of
the ancient Icelanders; during which he alluded to their
discovery of America, and Columbus' visit. Then came a
couple of speeches in Icelandic, after which the Bishop,
in a magnificent Latin oration of some twenty minutes,
a second time proposes my health; to which, utterly at
my wits' end, I had the audacity to reply in the same
language. As it is fit so great an effort of oratory
should not perish, I send you some of its choicest

"Viri illustres," I began, "insolitus ut sum ad publicum
loquendum, ego propero respondere ad complimentum quod
recte reverendus prelaticus mihi fecit, in proponendo
meam salutem: et supplico vos credere quod multum
gratificatus et flattificatus sum honore tam distincto.

"Bibere, viri illustres, res est, quae in omnibus terris,
'domum venit ad hominum negotia et pectora:'

[Footnote: As the happiness of these quotations seemed
to produce a very pleasing effect on my auditors, I
subjoin a translation of them for the benefit of the

1. "Comes home to men's business and bosoms."
    --Paterfamilias, Times.

2. "A long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all
    together."--Nelson at the Nile.

3. "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin."
    --Jeremy Bentham.

4. Apothegm by the late Lord Mountcoffeehouse.

5. "Love rules the court, the camp, the grove."
   --Venerable Bede.]

(1) requirit 'haustum longum, haustum fortem, et haustum
omnes simul:' (2) ut canit Poeta, 'unum tactum Naturae
totum orben facit consanguineum,' (3) et hominis Natura
est--bibere (4).

"Viri illustres, alterum est sentimentum equaliter
universale:  terra communis super quam septentrionales
et meridionales, eadem enthusiasma convenire possunt:
est necesse quod id nominarem? Ad pulchrum sexum devotio!

"Amor regit palatium, castra, lucum: (5) Dubito sub quo
capite vestram jucundam civitatem numerare debeam.
Palatium? non Regem! Castra? non milites! lucum? non
ullam arborem habetis! Tamen Cupido vos dominat haud
aliter quam alios,--et virginum Islandarum pulchritudo,
per omnes regiones cognita est.

"Bibamus salutem earum, et confusionem ad omnes bacularios:
speramus quod eae carae et benedictae creaturae invenient
tot maritos quot velint,--quod geminos quottanis habeant,
et quod earum filiae, maternum exemplum sequentes, gentem
Islandicam perpetuent in saecula saeculorum."

The last words mechanically rolled out, in the same "ore
rotundo" with which the poor old Dean of Christchurch
used to finish his Gloria, etc. in the Cathedral.

Then followed more speeches,--a great chinking of glasses,
--a Babel of conversation,--a kind of dance round the
table, where we successively gave each alternate hand,
as in the last figure of the Lancers,--a hearty embrace
from the Governor,--and finally,--silence, daylight, and
fresh air, as we stumbled forth into the street.

Now what was to be done? To go to bed was impossible.
It was eleven o'clock by our watches, and as bright as
noon.  Fitz said it was twenty-two o'clock; but by this
time he had reached that point of enlargement of the
mind, and development of the visual organs, which is
expressed by the term "seeing double,"--though he now
pretends he was only reckoning time in the Venetian
manner. We were in the position of three fast young men
about Reykjavik, determined to make a night of it, but
without the wherewithal.  There were neither knockers to
steal, nor watchmen to bonnet.  At last we remembered
that the apothecary's wife had a conversazione, to which
she had kindly invited us; and accordingly, off we went
to her house. Here we found a number of French officers,
a piano, and a young lady; in consequence of which the
drum soon became a ball. Finally, it was proposed we
should dance a reel; the second lieutenant of the "Artemise"
had once seen one when his ship was riding out a gale in
the Clyde;--the little lady had frequently studied a
picture of the Highland fling on the outside of a copy
of Scotch music;--I could dance a jig--the set was
complete, all we wanted was the music. Luckily the lady
of the house knew the song of "Annie Laurie,"--played
fast it made an excellent reel tune. As you may suppose,
all succeeded admirably; we nearly died of laughing, and
I only wish Lord Breadalbane had been by to see.

At one in the morning, our danseuse retiring to rest,
the ball necessarily terminated; but the Governor's dinner
still forbidding bed, we determined on a sail in the
cutter to some islands about three-quarters of a mile
out to sea; and I do not think I shall ever forget the
delicious sensation of lying down lazily in the
stern-sheets, and listening to the rippling of the water
against the bows of the boat, as she glided away towards
them. The dreamy, misty landscape,--each headland silently
sleeping in the unearthly light,--Snoefell, from whose
far-off peaks the midnight sun, though lost to us, had
never faded,--the Plutonic crags that stood around, so
gaunt and weird,--the quaint fresh life I had been lately
leading,--all combined to promise such an existence of
novelty and excitement in that strange Arctic region on
the threshold of which we were now pausing, that I could
not sufficiently congratulate myself on our good fortune.
Soon, however, the grating of our keel upon the strand
disturbed my reflections, and by the time I had
unaccountably stepped up to my knees in the water, I was
thoroughly awake, and in a condition to explore the
island. It seemed to be about three-quarters of a mile
long, not very broad, and a complete rabbit-warren; in
fact, I could not walk a dozen yards without tripping up
in the numerous burrows by which the ground was honeycombed:
at last, on turning a corner, we suddenly came on a dozen
rabbits, gravely sitting at the mouths of their holes.
They were quite white, without ears, and with scarlet
noses. I made several desperate attempts to catch some
of these singular animals, but though one or two allowed
me to come pretty near, just as I thought my prize was
secure, in some unaccountable manner--it made unto itself
wings, and literally flew away! Moreover, if my eyesight
did not share the peculiar development which affected
that of the Doctor's, I should say that these rabbits
flew in PAIRS. Red-nosed, winged rabbits! I had never
heard or read of the species; and I naturally grew
enthusiastic in the chase, hoping to bring home a choice
specimen to astonish our English naturalists. With some
difficulty we managed to catch one or two, which had run
into their holes instead of flying away.  They bit and
scratched like tiger-cats, and screamed like parrots;
indeed, on a nearer inspection, I am obliged to confess
that they assumed the appearance of birds, [Footnote:
The Puffin (Alca arctica). In Icelandic, Soe papagoie;
In Scotland, Priest; and in Cornwall, Pope.] which may
perhaps account for their powers of flight. A slight
confusion still remains in my mind as to the real nature
of the creatures.

At about nine o'clock we returned to breakfast; and the
rest of the day was spent in taking leave of our friends,
and organizing the baggage-train, which was to start at
midnight, under the command of the cook. The cavalcade
consisted of eighteen horses, but of these only one-half
were laden, two animals being told off to each burthen,
which is shifted from the back of the one to that of the
other every four hours.  The pack-saddles were rude, but
serviceable articles, with hooks on either side, on which
a pair of oblong little chests were slung; strips of turf
being stuffed beneath to prevent the creature's back
being galled. Such of our goods as could not be conveniently
stowed away in the chests were fitted on to the top, in
whatever manner their size and weight admitted, each pony
carrying about 140 lbs. The photographic apparatus caused
us the greatest trouble, and had to be distributed between
two beasts. As was to be expected, the guides who assisted
us packed the nitrate of silver bath upside down; an
outrage the nature of which you cannot appreciate.  At
last everything was pretty well arranged,--guns, powder,
shot, tea-kettles, rice, tents, beds, portable soups,
etc. all stowed away,--when the desponding Wilson came
to me, his chin sweeping the ground, to say--that he very
much feared the cook would die of the ride,--that he had
never been on horseback in his life,--that as an experiment
he had hired a pony that very morning at his own
charges,--had been run away with, but having been caught
and brought home by an honest Icelander, was now lying
down--that position being the one he found most convenient.

As the first day's journey was two-and-thirty miles, and
would probably necessitate his being twelve or thirteen
hours in the saddle, I began to be really alarmed for my
poor chef; but finding on inquiry that these gloomy
prognostics were entirely voluntary on the part of Mr.
Wilson, that the officer in question was full of zeal,
and only too anxious to add horsemanship to his other
accomplishments, I did not interfere.  As for Wilson
himself, it is not a marvel if he should see things a
little askew; for some unaccountable reason, he chose to
sleep last night in the open air, on the top of a hen-
coop, and naturally awoke this morning with a crick in
his neck, and his face so immovably fixed over his left
shoulder, that the efforts of all the ship's company have
not been able to twist it back: with the help of a tackle,
however, I think we shall eventually brace it square

At two we went to lunch with the Rector. The entertainment
bore a strong family likeness to our last night's dinner;
but as I wanted afterwards to exhibit my magic lantern
to his little daughter Raghnilder, and a select party of
her young friends, we contrived to elude doing full
justice to it. During the remainder of the evening, like
Job's children, we went about feasting from house to
house, taking leave of friends who could not have been
kinder had they known us all our lives, and interchanging
little gifts and souvenirs. With the Governor I have left
a print from the Princess Royal's drawing of the dead
soldier in the Crimea.  From the Rector of the cathedral
church I have received some very curious books--almost
the first printed in the island; I have been very anxious
to obtain some specimens of ancient Icelandic manuscripts,
but the island has long since been ransacked of its
literary treasures; and to the kindness of the French
consul I am indebted for a charming little white fox,
the drollest and prettiest little beast I ever saw.

Having dined on board the "Artemise," we adjourned at
eleven o'clock to the beach to witness the departure of
the baggage. The ponies were all drawn up in one long
file, the head of each being tied to the tail of the one
immediately before him. Additional articles were stowed
away here and there among the boxes. The last instructions
were given by Sigurdr to the guides, and everything was
declared ready for a start. With the air of an equestrian
star, descending into the arena of Astley's Amphitheatre,
the cook then stepped forward, made me a superb bow, and
was assisted into the saddle. My little cabin-boy
accompanied him as aide-de-camp.

The jovial Wilson rides with us tomorrow. Unless we get
his head round during the night, he will have to sit
facing his horse's tail, in order to see before him.

We do not seem to run any danger of falling short of
provisions, as by all accounts there are birds enough in
the interior of the country to feed an Israelitish



Reykjavik, July 7, 1856.

At last I have seen the famous Geysirs, of which every
one has heard so much; but I have also seen Thingvalla,
of which no one has heard anything. The Geysirs are
certainly wonderful marvels of nature, but more wonderful,
more marvellous is Thingvalla; and if the one repay you
for crossing the Spanish Sea, it would be worth while to
go round the world to reach the other.

Of the boiling fountains I think I can give you a good
idea, but whether I can contrive to draw for you anything
like a comprehensible picture of the shape and nature of
the Almannagja, the Hrafnagja, and the lava vale, called
Thingvalla, that lies between them, I am doubtful. Before
coming to Iceland I had read every account that had been
written of Thingvalla by any former traveller, and when
I saw it, it appeared to me a place of which I had never
heard; so I suppose I shall come to grief in as melancholy
a manner as my predecessors, whose ineffectual pages
whiten the entrance to the valley they have failed to

Having superintended--as I think I mentioned to you in
my last letter--the midnight departure of the cook,
guides, and luggage, we returned on board for a good
night's rest, which we all needed. The start was settled
for the next morning at eleven o'clock, and you may
suppose we were not sorry to find, on waking, the bright
joyous sunshine pouring down through the cabin skylight,
and illuminating the white-robed, well-furnished
breakfast-table with more than usual splendour. At the
appointed hour we rowed ashore to where our eight
ponies--two being assigned to each of us, to be ridden
alternately--were standing ready bridled and saddled, at
the house of one of our kindest friends. Of course, though
but just risen from breakfast, the inevitable invitation
to eat and drink awaited us; and another half-hour was
spent in sipping cups of coffee poured out for us with
much laughter by our hostess and her pretty daughter. At
last, the necessary libations accomplished, we rose to
go. Turning round to Fitz, I whispered, how I had always
understood it was the proper thing in Iceland for travellers
departing on a journey to kiss the ladies who had been
good enough to entertain them,--little imagining he would
take me at my word. Guess then my horror, when I suddenly
saw him, with an intrepidity I envied but dared not
imitate, first embrace the mamma, by way of prelude, and
then proceed, in the most natural manner possible, to
make the same tender advances to the daughter. I confess
I remained dumb with consternation; the room swam round
before me; I expected the next minute we should be packed
neck and crop into the street, and that the young lady
would have gone off into hysterics. It turned out, however,
that such was the very last thing she was thinking of
doing. With a simple frankness that became her more than
all the boarding-school graces in the world, her eyes
dancing with mischief and good humour, she met him half
way, and pouting out two rosy lips, gave him as hearty
a kiss as it might ever be the good fortune of one of us
he-creatures to receive. From that moment I determined
to conform for the future to the customs of the inhabitants.

Fresh from favours such as these, it was not surprising
we should start in the highest spirits. With a courtesy
peculiar to Iceland, Dr. Hjaltelin, the most jovial of
doctors,--and another gentleman, insisted on conveying
us the first dozen miles of our journey; and as we
clattered away through the wooden streets, I think a
merrier party never set out from Reykjavik. In front
scampered the three spare ponies, without bridles, saddles,
or any sense of moral responsibility, flinging up their
heels, biting and neighing like mad things; then came
Sigurdr, now become our chief, surrounded by the rest of
the cavalcade; and finally, at a little distance, plunged
in profound melancholy, rode Wilson. Never shall I forget
his appearance. During the night his head had come
partially straight, but by way of precaution, I suppose,
he had conceived the idea of burying it down to the chin
in a huge seal-skin helmet I had given him against the
inclemencies of the Polar Sea. As on this occasion the
thermometer was at 81 degrees, and a coup-de-soleil was
the chief thing to be feared, a ton of fur round his
skull was scarcely necessary. Seamen's trousers, a bright
scarlet jersey, and jack-boots fringed with cat-skin,
completed his costume; and as he proceeded along in his
usual state of chronic consternation, with my rifle slung
at his back and a couple of telescopes over his shoulder,
he looked the image of Robinson Crusoe, fresh from having
seen the foot-print.

A couple of hours' ride across the lava plain we had
previously traversed brought us to a river, where our
Reykjavik friends, after showing us a salmon weir, finally
took their leave, with many kind wishes for our prosperity.
On looking through the clear water that hissed and bubbled
through the wooden sluice, the Doctor had caught sight
of an apparently dead salmon, jammed up against its wooden
bars; but on pulling him out, he proved to be still
breathing, though his tail was immovably twisted into
his mouth. A consultation taking place, the Doctors both
agreed that it was a case of pleurosthotonos, brought on
by mechanical injury to the spine (we had just been
talking of Palmer's trial), and that he was perfectly
fit for food. In accordance with this verdict, he was
knocked on the head, and slung at Wilson's saddle-bow.
Left to ourselves, we now pushed on as rapidly as we
could, though the track across the lava was so uneven,
that every moment I expected Snorro (for thus have I
christened my pony) would be on his nose. In another hour
we were among the hills. The scenery of this part of the
journey was not very beautiful, the mountains not being
remarkable either for their size or shape; but here and
there we came upon pretty bits, not unlike some of the
barren parts of Scotland, with quiet blue lakes sleeping
in the solitude.

After wandering along for some time in a broad open
valley, that gradually narrowed to a glen, we reached a
grassy patch. As it was past three o'clock, Sigurdr
proposed a halt.

Unbridling and unsaddling our steeds, we turned them
loose upon the pasture, and sat ourselves down on a sunny
knoll to lunch. For the first time since landing in
Iceland I felt hungry; as, for the first time, four
successive hours had elapsed without our having been
compelled to take a snack.  The appetites of the ponies
seemed equally good, though probably with them hunger
was no such novelty. Wilson alone looked sad. He confided
to me privately that he feared his trousers would not
last such jolting many days; but his dolefulness, like
a bit of minor in a sparkling melody, only made our
jollity more radiant. In about half an hour Sigurdr gave
the signal for a start; and having caught, saddled, and
bridled three unridden ponies, we drove Snorro and his
companions to the front, and proceeded on our way rejoicing.
After an hour's gradual ascent through a picturesque
ravine, we emerged upon an immense desolate plateau of
lava, that stretched away for miles and miles like a
great stony sea. A more barren desert you cannot conceive.
Innumerable boulders, relics of the glacial period,
encumbered the track. We could only go at a foot-pace.
Not a blade of grass, not a strip of green, enlivened
the prospect, and the only sound we heard was the croak
of the curlew and the wail of the plover. Hour after hour
we plodded on, but the grey waste seemed interminable,
boundless; and the only consolation Sigurdr would vouchsafe
was, that our journey's end lay on this side of some
purple mountains that peeped like the tents of a demon
leaguer above the stony horizon.

As it was already eight o'clock, and we had been told
the entire distance from Reykjavik to Thingvalla was only
five-and-thirty miles, I could not comprehend how so
great a space should still separate us from our destination.
Concluding more time had been lost in shooting, lunching,
etc., by the way than we had supposed, I put my pony into
a canter, and determined to make short work of the dozen
miles which seemed still to lie between us and the hills,
on this side of which I understood from Sigurdr our
encampment for the night was to be pitched.

Judge then of my astonishment when, a few minutes
afterwards, I was arrested in full career by a tremendous
precipice, or rather chasm, which suddenly gaped beneath
my feet, and completely separated the barren plateau we
had been so painfully traversing from a lovely, gay,
sunlit flat, ten miles broad, that lay--sunk at a level
lower by a hundred feet--between us and the opposite
mountains. I was never so completely taken by surprise;
Sigurdr's purposely vague description of our halting-place
was accounted for.

We had reached the famous Almanna Gja. Like a black
rampart in the distance, the corresponding chasm of the
Hrafna Gja cut across the lower slope of the distant
hills, and between them now slept in beauty and sunshine
the broad verdant [Footnote: The plain of Thingvalla is
in a great measure clothed with birch brushwood.] plain
of Thingvalla.

Ages ago,--who shall say how long?--some vast commotion
shook the foundations of the island, and bubbling up from
sources far away amid the inland hills, a fiery deluge
must have rushed down between their ridges, until, escaping
from the narrower gorges, it found space to spread itself
into one broad sheet of molten stone over an entire
district of country, reducing its varied surface to one
vast blackened level.

One of two things then occurred: either the vitrified
mass contracting as it cooled,--the centre area of fifty
square miles burst asunder at either side from the
adjoining plateau, and sinking down to its present level,
left the two parallel Gjas, or chasms, which form its
lateral boundaries, to mark the limits of the disruption;
or else, while the pith or marrow of the lava was still
in a fluid state, its upper surface became solid, and
formed a roof beneath which the molten stream flowed on
to lower levels, leaving a vast cavern into which the
upper crust subsequently plumped down. [Footnote: I feel
it is very presumptuous in me to hazard a conjecture on
a subject with which my want of geological knowledge
renders me quite incompetent to deal; but however incorrect
either of the above suppositions may be justly considered
by the philosophers, they will perhaps serve to convey
to the unlearned reader, for whose amusement (not
instruction) these letters are intended, the impression
conveyed to my mind by what I saw, and so help out the
picture I am trying to fill in for him.]

[Figure: fig-p050a.gif]

The enclosed section will perhaps help you a little to
comprehend what I am afraid my description will have
failed to bring before you.

[Figure: fig-p050.gif with following caption:
   1  Gjas.
   2  Lava deluge.
   3  Original surface.
   4  Thingvalla sunk to a lower level.
   5  Astonished traveller.]

1. Are the two chasms called respectively Almanna Gja,
[Footnote:  Almanna may be translated main; it means
literally all men's; when applied to a road, it would
mean the road along which all the world travel.] or Main
Gja, and Hrafna Gja, or Raven's Gja. In the act of
disruption the sinking mass fell in, as it were, upon
itself, so that one side of the Gja slopes a good deal
back as it ascends; the other side is perfectly
perpendicular, and at the spot I saw it upwards of one
hundred feet high. In the lapse of years the bottom of
the Almanna Gja has become gradually filled up to an even
surface, covered with the most beautiful turf, except
where a river, leaping from the higher plateau over the
precipice, has chosen it for a bed. You must not suppose,
however, that the disruption and land-slip of Thingvalla
took place quite in the spick and span manner the section
might lead you to imagine; in some places the rock has
split asunder very unevenly, and the Hrafna Gja is
altogether a very untidy rent, the sides having fallen
in in many places, and almost filled up the ravine with
ruins. On the other hand, in the Almanna Gja, you can
easily distinguish on the one face marks and formations
exactly corresponding, though at a different level, with
those on the face opposite, so cleanly were they separated.

[Figure: fig-p051.gif with the following caption:
   1  Plain of Thingvalla.
   2  Lake.
   3  Lava plateau.
   4  Almanna Gja.
   5  Rabna Gja.]

2. Is the sea of lava now lying on the top of the original
surface. Its depth I had no means of ascertaining.

3. Is the level of the surface first formed when the lava
was still hot.

4. Is the plain of Thingvalla, eight miles broad, its
surface shattered into a network of innumerable crevices
and fissures fifty or sixty feet deep, and each wide
enough to have swallowed the entire company of Korah. At
the foot of the plain lies a vast lake, into which,
indeed, it may be said to slope, with a gradual inclination
from the north, the imprisoned waters having burst up
through the lava strata, as it subsided beneath them.
Gazing down through their emerald depths, you can still
follow the pattern traced on the surface of the bottom,
by cracks and chasms similar to those into which the dry
portion of Thingvalla has been shivered.

The accompanying ground plan will, I trust, complete what
is wanting to fill up the picture I so long to conjure
up before the mind's eye. It is the last card I have to
play, and, if unsuccessful, I must give up the task in
despair.  But to return to where I left myself, on the
edge of the cliff, gazing down with astonished eyes over
the panorama of land and water embedded at my feet. I
could scarcely speak for pleasure and surprise; Fitz was
equally taken aback, and as for Wilson, he looked as if
he thought we had arrived at the end of the world. After
having allowed us sufficient time to admire the prospect
Sigurdr turned to the left, along the edge of the precipice,
until we reached a narrow pathway accidentally formed
down a longitudinal niche in the splintered face of the
cliff, which led across the bottom, and up the opposite
side of the Gja, into the plain of Thingvalla.  By rights
our tents ought to have arrived before us, but when we
reached the little glebe where we expected to find them
pitched, no signs of servants, guides, or horses were to
be seen.  As we had not overtaken them ourselves, their
non-appearance was inexplicable. Wilson suggested that,
the cook having died on the road, the rest of the party
must have turned aside to bury him; and that we had passed
unperceived during the interesting ceremony. Be the cause
what it might, the result was not agreeable. We were very
tired, very hungry, and it had just begun to rain.

It is true there was a clergyman's house and a church,
both built of stones covered with turf sods, close by;
at the one, perhaps, we could get milk, and in the other
we could sleep, as our betters--including Madame
Pfeiffer--had done before us; but its inside looked so
dark, and damp, and cold, and charnel-like, that one
really doubted whether lying in the churchyard would not
be snugger. You may guess, then, how great was my relief
when our belated baggage-train was descried against the
sky-line, as it slowly wended its way along the purple
edge of the precipice towards the staircase by which we
had already descended.

Half an hour afterwards the little plot of grass selected
for the site of our encampment was covered over with
poles, boxes, cauldrons, tea-kettles, and all the
paraphernalia of a gipsy settlement. Wilson's Kaffir
experience came at once into play, and under his solemn
but effective superintendence, in less than twenty minutes
the horn-headed tent rose, dry and taut, upon the sward.
Having carpeted the floor with oil-skin rugs, and arranged
our three beds with their clean crisp sheets, blankets,
and coverlets complete, at the back, he proceeded to lay
out the dinner-table at the tent door with as much decorum
as if we were expecting the Archbishop of Canterbury.
All this time the cook, who looked a little pale, and
moved, I observed with difficulty, was mysteriously
closeted with a spirit-lamp inside a diminutive tent of
his own, through the door of which the most delicious
whiffs occasionally permeated. Olaf and his comrades had
driven off the horses to their pastures; and Sigurdr and
I were deep in a game of chess. Luckily, the shower,
which threatened us a moment, had blown over. Though now
almost nine o'clock P.M., it was as bright as mid-day;
the sky burned like a dome of gold, and silence and deep
peace brooded over the fair grass-robed plain, that once
had been so fearfully convulsed.

You may be quite sure our dinner went off merrily; the
tetanus-afflicted salmon proved excellent, the plover
and ptarmigan were done to a turn, the mulligatawny beyond
all praise; but, alas! I regret to add, that he--the
artist, by whose skill these triumphs had been achieved--his
task accomplished,--no longer sustained by the factitious
energy resulting from his professional enthusiasm,--at
last succumbed, and, retiring to the recesses of his
tent, like Psyche in the "Princess," lay down, "and
neither spoke nor stirred."

After another game or two of chess, a pleasant chat, a
gentle stroll, we also turned in; and for the next eight
hours perfect silence reigned throughout our little
encampment, except when Wilson's sob-like snores shook
to their foundation the canvas walls that sheltered him.

When I awoke--I do not know at what hour, for from this
time we kept no account of day or night--the white sunlight
was streaming into the tent, and the whole landscape was
gleaming and glowing in the beauty of one of the hottest
summer-days I ever remember. We breakfasted in our
shirt-sleeves, and I was forced to wrap my head in a
white handkerchief for fear of the sun. As we were all
a little stiff after our ride, I could not resist the
temptation of spending the day where we were, and examining
more leisurely the wonderful features of the neighbourhood.
Independently of its natural curiosities, Thingvalla was
most interesting to me on account of the historical
associations connected with it. Here, long ago, at a
period when feudal despotism was the only government
known throughout Europe, free parliaments used to sit in
peace, and regulate the affairs of the young Republic;
and to this hour the precincts of its Commons House of
Parliament are as distinct and unchanged as on the day
when the high-hearted fathers of the emigration first
consecrated them to the service of a free nation. By a
freak of nature, as the subsiding plain cracked and
shivered into twenty thousand fissures, an irregular oval
area, of about two hundred feet by fifty, was left almost
entirely surrounded by a crevice so deep and broad as to
be utterly impassable;--at one extremity alone a scanty
causeway connected it with the adjoining level, and
allowed of access to its interior.  It is true, just at
one point the encircling chasm grows so narrow as to be
within the possibility of a jump; and an ancient worthy,
named Flosi, pursued by his enemies, did actually take
it at a fly; but as leaping an inch short would have
entailed certain drowning in the bright green waters that
sleep forty feet below, you can conceive there was never
much danger of this entrance becoming a thoroughfare. I
confess that for one moment, while contemplating the
scene of Flosi's exploit, I felt,--like a true Briton,--an
idiotic desire to be able to say that I had done the
same; that I survive to write this letter is a proof of
my having come subsequently to my senses.

[Figure: fig-p055.gif with caption as follows:
   A  The Althing.
   B  The Hill of Laws.
   C  The place where Flosi jumped.
   D  Adjacent Chasms.]

This spot then, erected by nature almost into a fortress,
the founders of the Icelandic constitution chose for the
meetings of their Thing, [Footnote:  From thing, to speak.
We have a vestige of the same word in Dingwall, a town
of Ross-shire.] or Parliament, armed guards defended the
entrance, while the grave bonders deliberated in security
within: to this day, at the upper end of the place of
meeting, may be seen the three hammocks, where sat in
state the chiefs and judges of the land.

But those grand old times have long since passed away.
Along the banks of the Oxeraa no longer glisten the tents
and booths of the assembled lieges; no longer stalwart
berserks guard the narrow entrance to the Althing; ravens
alone sit on the sacred Logberg; and the floor of the
old Icelandic House of Commons is ignominiously cropped
by the sheep of the parson. For three hundred years did
the gallant little Republic maintain its independence--three
hundred years of unequalled literary and political vigour.
At last its day of doom drew near. Like the Scotch nobles
in the time of Elizabeth, their own chieftains intrigued
against the liberties of the Icelandic people; and in
1261 the island became an appanage of the Norwegian crown.
Yet even then the deed embodying the concession of their
independence was drawn up in such haughty terms as to
resemble rather the offer of an equal alliance than the
renunciation of imperial rights. Soon, however, the apathy
which invariably benumbs the faculties of a people too
entirely relieved from the discipline and obligation of
self-government, lapped in complete inactivity, moral,
political, and intellectual,--these once stirring islanders.
On the amalgamation of the three Scandinavian monarchies,
at the union of Calmar, the allegiance of the people of
Iceland was passively transferred to the Danish crown.
Ever since that time, Danish proconsuls have administered
their government, and Danish restrictions have regulated
their trade.  The traditions of their ancient autonomy
have become as unsubstantial and obsolete as those which
record the vanished fame of their poets and historians,
and the exploits of their mariners. It is true, the
adoption of the Lutheran religion galvanized for a moment
into the semblance of activity the old literary spirit.
A printing-press was introduced as early as 1530, and
ever since the sixteenth century many works of merit have
been produced from time to time by Icelandic genius.
Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope have been translated into
the native tongue; one of the best printed newspapers I
have ever seen is now published at Reykjavik; and the
Colleges of Copenhagen are adorned by many an illustrious
Icelandic scholar; but the glory of the old days is
departed, and it is across a wide desolate flat of ignoble
annals, as dull and arid as their own lava plains, that
the student has to look back upon the glorious drama of
Iceland's early history. As I gazed around on the silent,
deserted plain, and paced to and fro along the untrodden
grass that now clothed the Althing, I could scarcely
believe it had ever been the battle-field where such keen
and energetic wits encountered,--that the fire-scathed
rocks I saw before me were the very same that had once
inspired one of the most successful rhetorical appeals
ever hazarded in a public assembly.

As an account of the debate to which I allude has been
carefully preserved, I may as well give you an abstract
of it.  A more characteristic leaf out of the Parliamentary
Annals of Iceland you could scarcely have.

In the summer of the year 1000, when Ethelred the Unready
ruled in England, and fourteen years after Hugh Capet
had succeeded the last Carlovingian on the throne of
France,--the Icelandic legislature was convened for the
consideration of a very important subject--no less
important, indeed, than an inquiry into the merits of a
new religion lately brought into the country by certain
emissaries of Olaf Tryggveson,--the first Christian king
of Norway,--and the same who pulled down London bridge.

The assembly met. The Norse missionaries were called upon
to enunciate to the House the tenets of the faith they
were commissioned to disclose; and the debate began.
Great and fierce was the difference of opinion. The good
old Tory party, supported by all the authority of the
Odin establishment, were violent in opposition. The Whigs
advocated the new arrangement, and, as the king supported
their own views, insisted strongly on the Divine right.
Several liberal members permitted themselves to speak
sarcastically of the Valhalla tap, and the ankles of
Freya. The discussion was at its height, when suddenly
a fearful peal of subterranean thunder roared around the
Althing. "Listen!" cried an orator of the Pagan party;
"how angry is Odin that we should even consider the
subject of a new religion. His fires will consume us."
To which a ready debater on the other side replied, by
"begging leave to ask the honourable gentleman,--with
whom were the gods angry when these rocks were
melted?"--pointing to the devastated plain around him.
Taking advantage of so good a hit, the Treasury "whips"
immediately called for a division; and the Christian
religion was adopted by a large majority.

The first Christian missionaries who came to Iceland seem
to have had a rather peculiar manner of enforcing the
truths of the Gospel. Their leader was a person of the
name of Thangbrand. Like the Protestant clergymen Queen
Elizabeth despatched to convert Ireland, he was bundled
over to Iceland principally because he was too disreputable
to be allowed to live in Norway. The old Chronicler gives
a very quaint description of him. "Thangbrand," he says,
"was a passionate, ungovernable person, and a great
man-slayer; but a good scholar, and clever. Thorvald,
and Veterlid the Scald, composed a lampoon against him;
but he killed them both outright. Thangbrand was two
years in Iceland, and was the death of three men before
he left it."

From the Althing we strolled over to the Almanna Gja,
visiting the Pool of Execution on our way. As I have
already mentioned, a river from the plateau above leaps
over the precipice into the bottom of the Gja, and flows
for a certain distance between its walls. At the foot of
the fall the waters linger for a moment in a dark, deep,
brimming pool, hemmed in by a circle of ruined rocks; to
this pool, in ancient times, all women convicted of
capital crimes were immediately taken, and drowned.
Witchcraft seems to have been the principal weakness of
ladies in those days, throughout the Scandinavian countries.
For a long period no disgrace was attached to its
profession. Odin himself, we are expressly told, was a
great adept, and always found himself very much exhausted
at the end of his performance; which leads me to think
that perhaps he dabbled in electro-biology. At last the
advent of Christianity threw discredit on the practice;
severe punishments were denounced against all who indulged
in it; and, in the end, its mysteries became the monopoly
of the Laplanders.

All criminals, men and women, were tried by juries; and
that the accused had the power of challenging the jurymen
empannelled to try them, appears from the following
extract from the Book of Laws:--"The judges shall go out
on Washday, i.e., Saturday, and continue out for challenges,
until the sun comes on Thingvalla on the Lord's-day."
And again, "The power of challenging shall cease as soon
as the sun can no longer be seen above the western brink
of the chasm, from the Logberg."

Turning aside from what, I dare say, was the scene of
many an unrecorded tragedy, we descended the gorge of
the Almanna Gja, towards the lake; and I took advantage
of the opportunity again to examine its marvellous
construction.  The perpendicular walls of rock rose on
either hand from the flat greensward that carpeted its
bottom, pretty much as the waters of the Red Sea must
have risen on each side of the fugitive Israelites. A
blaze of light smote the face of one cliff, while the
other lay in the deepest shadow; and on the rugged surface
of each might still be traced corresponding articulations,
that once had dovetailed into each other, ere the igneous
mass was rent asunder. So unchanged, so recent seemed
the vestiges of this convulsion, that I felt as if I had
been admitted to witness one of nature's grandest and
most violent operations, almost in the very act of its
execution. A walk of about twenty minutes brought us to
the borders of the lake--a glorious expanse of water,
fifteen miles long, by eight miles broad, occupying a
basin formed by the same hills, which must also, I imagine,
have arrested the further progress of the lava torrent.
A lovelier scene I have seldom witnessed. In the foreground
lay huge masses of rock and lava, tossed about like the
ruins of a world; and washed by waters as bright and
green as polished malachite.  Beyond, a bevy of distant
mountains, robed by the transparent atmosphere in tints
unknown to Europe, peeped over each other's shoulders
into the silver mirror at their feet, while here and
there from among their purple ridges columns of white
vapour rose like altar smoke toward the tranquil heaven.

On returning home we found dinner waiting for us. I had
invited the clergyman, and a German gentleman who was
lodging with him, to give us the pleasure of their company;
and in ten minutes we had all become the best of friends.
It is true the conversation was carried on in rather a
wild jargon, made up of six different languages--Icelandic,
English, German, Latin, Danish, French--but in spite of
the difficulty with which he expressed himself, it was
impossible not to be struck with the simple earnest
character of my German convive. He was about
five-and-twenty, a "doctor philosophiae," and had come to
Iceland to catch gnats. After having caught gnats in
Iceland, he intended, he said, to spend some years in
catching gnats in Spain.--the privacy of Spanish gnats,
as it appears, not having been hitherto invaded. The
truth is, my guest was an entomologist, and in the pursuit
of the objects of his study was evidently prepared to
approach hardships and danger with a serenity that would
not have been unworthy of the apostle of a new religion.
It was almost touching to hear him describe the intensity
of his joy when perhaps days and nights of fruitless
labours were at last rewarded by the discovery of some
hitherto unknown little fly; and it was with my whole
heart that, at parting, I wished him success in his
career, and the fame that so much conscientious labour
merited. From my allusion to this last reward, however,
he seemed almost to shrink, and, with a sincerity it was
impossible to doubt, disclaimed as ignoble so poor a
motive as a thirst for fame.  His was one of those calm
laborious minds, seldom found but among the Teutonic
race, that--pursuing day by day with single-minded energy
some special object--live in a noble obscurity, and die
at last content with the consciousness of having added
one other stone to that tower of knowledge men are building
up toward heaven, even though the world should never
learn what strong and patient hands have placed it there.

The next morning we started for the Geysirs: this time
dividing the baggage-train, and sending on the cook in
light marching order, with the materials for dinner. The
weather still remained unclouded, and each mile we advanced
disclosed some new wonder in the unearthly landscape. A
three hours' ride brought us to the Rabna Gja, the eastern
boundary of Thingvalla, and, winding up its rugged face,
we took our last look over the lovely plain beneath us,
and then manfully set forward across the same kind of
arid lava plateau as that which we had already traversed
before arriving at the Almanna Gja. But instead of the
boundless immensity which had then so much disheartened
us, the present prospect was terminated by a range of
quaint parti-coloured hills, which rose before us in such
fantastic shapes that I could not take my eyes off them.
I do not know whether it was the strong coffee or the
invigorating air that stimulated my imagination; but I
certainly felt convinced I was coming to some mystical
spot--out of space, out of time--where I should suddenly
light upon a green-scaled griffin, or golden-haired
princess, or other bonnie fortune of the olden days.
Certainly a more appropriate scene for such an encounter
could not be conceived, than that which displayed itself,
when we wheeled at last round the flank of the scorched
ridge we had been approaching. A perfectly smooth grassy
plain, about a league square, and shaped like a horse-shoe,
opened before us, encompassed by bare cinder-like hills,
that rose round--red, black, and yellow--in a hundred
uncouth peaks of ash and slag. Not a vestige of vegetation
relieved the aridity of their vitrified sides, while the
verdant carpet at their feet only made the fire-moulded
circle seem more weird and impassable. Had I had a trumpet
and a lance, I should have blown a blast of defiance on
the one, and having shaken the other toward the foul
corners of the world, would have calmly waited to see
what next might betide. Three arrows shot bravely forward
would have probably resulted in the discovery of a
trap-door with an iron ring; but having neither trumpet,
lance, nor arrow, we simply alighted and lunched: yet
even then I could not help thinking how lucky it was
that, not eating dates, we could not inadvertently fling
their stones into the eye of any inquisitive genie who
might be in the neighbourhood.

After the usual hour's rest and change of horses, we
galloped away to the other side of the plain, and, doubling
the further horn of the semicircle, suddenly found
ourselves in a district as unlike the cinder mountains
we had quitted as they had differed from the volcanic
scenery of the day before. On the left lay a long rampart
of green hills, opening up every now and then into Scottish
glens and gorges, while from their roots to the horizon
stretched a vast breadth of meadowland, watered by two
or three rivers, that wound, and twisted, and coiled
about, like blue serpents. Here and there, white volumes
of vapour, that rose in endless wreaths from the ground,
told of mighty cauldrons at work beneath that moist cool
verdant carpet; while large silvery lakes, and flat-topped
isolated hills, relieved the monotony of the level land,
and carried on the eye to where the three snowy peaks of
Mount Hecla shone cold and clear against the sky.

Of course it was rather tantalizing to pass so near this
famous burning mountain without having an opportunity of
ascending it; but the expedition would have taken up too
much time. In appearance Hecla differs very little from
the innumerable other volcanic hills with which the island
is studded. Its cone consists of a pyramid of stone and
scoriae, rising to the height of about five thousand feet,
and welded together by bands of molten matter which have
issued from its sides. From A.D. 1004 to 1766 there have
been twenty-three eruptions, occurring at intervals which
have varied in duration, from six to seventy-six years.
The one of 1766 was remarkably violent. It commenced on
the 5th of April by the appearance of a huge pillar of
black sand mounting slowly into the heavens, accompanied
by subterranean thunders, and all the other symptoms
which precede volcanic disturbances. Then a coronet of
flame encircled the crater; masses of red rock, pumice,
and magnetic stones were flung out with tremendous violence
to an incredible distance, and in such continuous multitudes
as to resemble a swarm of bees clustering over the
mountain. One boulder of pumice six feet in circumference
was pitched twenty miies away; another of magnetic iron
fell at a distance of fifteen. The surface of the earth
was covered, for a circuit of one hundred and fifty miles,
with a layer of sand four inches deep; the air was so
darkened by it, that at a place one hundred and forty
miles off, white paper held up at a little distance could
not be distinguished from black. The fishermen could not
put to sea on account of the darkness, and the inhabitants
of the Orkney islands were frightened out of their senses
by showers of what they thought must be black snow. On
the 9th of April, the lava began to overflow, and ran
for five miles in a southwesterly direction, whilst, some
days later,--in order that no element might be wanting
to mingle in this devil's charivari,--a vast column of
water, like Robin Hood's second arrow, split up through
the cinder pillar to the height of several hundred feet;
the horror of the spectacle being further enhanced by an
accompaniment of subterranean cannonading and dire reports,
heard at a distance of fifty miles.

Striking as all this must have been, it sinks into
comparative tameness and insignificance, beside the
infinitely more terrible phenomena which attended the
eruption of another volcano, called Skapta jokul.

Of all countries in Europe, Iceland is the one which has
been the most minutely mapped, not even excepting the
ordnance survey of Ireland. The Danish Government seem
to have had a hobby about it, and the result has been a
chart so beautifully executed, that every little crevice,
each mountain torrent, each flood of lava, is laid down
with an accuracy perfectly astonishing. One huge blank,
however, in the south-west corner of this map of Iceland,
mars the integrity of its almost microscopic delineations.
To every other part of the island the engineer has
succeeded in penetrating; one vast space alone of about
four hundred square miles has defied his investigation.
Over the area occupied by the Skapta Jokul, amid its
mountain-cradled fields of snow and icy ridges, no human
foot has ever wandered. Yet it is from the bosom of this
desert district that has descended the most frightful
visitation ever known to have desolated the island.

This event occurred in the year 1783. The preceding winter
and spring had been unusually mild. Toward the end of
May, a light bluish fog began to float along the confines
of the untrodden tracts of Skapta, accompanied in the
beginning of June by a great trembling of the earth. On
the 8th of that month, immense pillars of smoke collected
over the hill country towards the north, and coming down
against the wind in a southerly direction, enveloped the
whole district of Sida in darkness. A whirlwind of ashes
then swept over the face of the country, and on the 10th,
innumerable fire spouts were seen leaping and flaring
amid the icy hollows of the mountain, while the river
Skapta, one of the largest in the island, having first
rolled down to the plain a vast volume of fetid waters
mixed with sand, suddenly disappeared.

Two days afterwards a stream of lava, issuing from sources
to which no one has ever been able to penetrate, came
sliding down the bed of the dried-up river, and in a
little time,--though the channel was six hundred feet
deep and two hundred broad,--the glowing deluge overflowed
its banks, crossed the low country of Medalland, ripping
the turf up before it like a table-cloth, and poured into
a great lake whose affrighted waters flew hissing and
screaming into the air at the approach of the fiery
intruder. Within a few more days the basin of the lake
itself was completely filled, and having separated into
two streams, the unexhausted torrent again recommenced
its march; in one direction overflowing soiree ancient
lava fields,--in the other, re-entering the channel of
the Skapta, and leaping down the lofty cataract of
Stapafoss.  But this was not all; while one lava flood
had chosen the Skapta for its bed, another, descending
in a different direction, was working like ruin within
and on either side the banks of the Hverfisfliot, rushing
into the plain, by all accounts, with even greater fury
and velocity. Whether the two issued from the same crater
it is impossible to say, as the sources of both were far
away within the heart of the unapproachable desert, and
even the extent of the lava flow can only be measured
from the spot where it entered the inhabited districts.
The stream which flowed down Skapta is calculated to be
about fifty miles in length by twelve or fifteen at its
greatest breadth; that which rolled down the Hverfisfliot,
at forty miles in length by seven in breadth.  Where it
was imprisoned, between the high banks of Skapta, the
lava is five or six hundred feet thick; but as soon as
it spread out into the plain its depth never exceeded
one hundred feet. The eruption of sand, ashes, pumice,
and lava, continued till the end of August, when the
Plutonic drama concluded with a violent earthquake.

For a whole year a canopy of cinder-laden cloud hung over
the island. Sand and ashes irretrievably overwhelmed
thousands of acres of fertile pasturage. The Faroe islands,
the Shetlands, and the Orkneys were deluged with volcanic
dust, which perceptibly contaminated even the pure skies
of England and Holland. Mephitic vapours tainted the
atmosphere of the entire island;--even the grass, which
no cinder rain had stifled, completely withered up; the
fish perished in the poisoned sea. A murrain broke out
among the cattle, and a disease resembling scurvy attacked
the inhabitants themselves. Stephenson has calculated
that 9,000 men, 28,000 horses, 11,000 cattle, 190,000
sheep, died from the effects of this one eruption. The
most moderate calculation puts the number of human deaths
at upwards of 1,300; and of cattle, etc. at about 156,000.

The whole of this century had proved most fatal to the
unfortunate people of Iceland. At its commencement smallpox
destroyed more than 16,000 persons; nearly 20,000 more
perished by a famine consequent on a succession of
inclement seasons; while from time to time the southern
coasts were considerably depopulated by the incursions
of English and even Algerine pirates.

The rest of our day's journey lay through a country less
interesting than the district we had traversed before
luncheon.  For the most part we kept on along the foot
of the hills, stopping now and then for a drink of milk
at the occasional farms perched upon their slopes.
Sometimes turning up a green and even bushy glen, (there
are no trees in Iceland, the nearest approach to anything
of the kind being a low dwarf birch, hardly worthy of
being called a shrub,) we would cut across the shoulder
of some projecting spur, and obtain a wider prospect of
the level land upon our right; or else keeping more down
in the flat, we had to flounder for half an hour up to
the horses' shoulders in an Irish bog.  After about five
hours of this work we reached the banks of a broad and
rather singular river, called the Bruara.  Halfway across
it was perfectly fordable; but exactly in the middle was
a deep cleft, into which the waters from either side
spilt themselves, and then in a collected volume roared
over a precipice a little lower down. Across this cleft
some wooden planks were thrown, giving the traveller an
opportunity of boasting that he had crossed a river on
a bridge which itself was under water. By this time we
had all begun to be very tired, and very hungry;--it was
11 o'clock P.M.  We had been twelve or thirteen hours on
horseback, not to mention occasional half-hours of pretty
severe walking after the ptarmigan and plover. Many were
the questions we addressed to Sigurdr on the distance
yet remaining, and many the conjectures we hazarded as
to whether the cook would have arrived in time to get
dinner ready for us.  At last, after another two hours'
weary jogging, we descried, straight in front, a low
steep brown rugged hill, standing entirely detached from
the range at the foot of which we had been riding; and
in a few minutes more, wheeling round its outer end, we
found ourselves in the presence of the steaming Geysirs.

I do not know that I can give you a better notion of the
appearance of the place than by saying that it looked as
if--for about a quarter of a mile--the ground had been
honey-combed by disease into numerous sores and orifices;
not a blade of grass grew on its hot, inflamed surface,
which consisted of unwholesome-looking red livid clay,
or crumpled shreds and shards of slough-like incrustations.
Naturally enough, our first impulse on dismounting was
to scamper off at once to the Great Geysir. As it lay at
the furthest end of the congeries of hot springs, in
order to reach it we had to run the gauntlet of all the
pools of boiling water and scalding quagmires of soft
clay that intervened, and consequently arrived on the
spot with our ankles nicely poulticed.  But the occasion
justified our eagerness. A smooth silicious basin,
seventy-two feet in diameter and four feet deep, with a
hole at the bottom as in a washing-basin on board a
steamer, stood before us brimful of water just upon the
simmer; while up into the air above our heads rose a
great column of vapour, looking as if it was going to
turn into the Fisherman's Genie. The ground about the
brim was composed of layers of incrusted silica, like
the outside of an oyster, sloping gently down on all
sides from the edge of the basin.

[Figure: fig-p067.gif with caption
   A  Basin.
   B  Funnel.]

Having satisfied our curiosity with this cursory inspection
of what we had come so far to see, hunger compelled us
to look about with great anxiety for the cook; and you
may fancy our delight at seeing that functionary in the
very act of dishing up dinner on a neighbouring hillock.
Sent forward at an early hour, under the chaperonage of
a guide, he had arrived about two hours before us, and
seizing with a general's eye the key of the position, at
once turned an idle babbling little Geysir into a
camp-kettle, dug a bake-house in the hot soft clay, and
improvising a kitchen-range at a neighbouring vent, had
made himself completely master of the situation. It was
about one o'clock in the morning when we sat down to
dinner, and as light as day.

As the baggage-train with our tents and beds had not yet
arrived, we fully appreciated our luck in being treated
to so dry a night; and having eaten everything we could
lay hands on, were sat quietly down to chess, and coffee
brewed in Geysir water; when suddenly it seemed as if
beneath our very feet a quantity of subterraneous cannon
were going off; the whole earth shook, and Sigurdr,
starting to his feet, upset the chess-board (I was just
beginning to get the best of the game), and flung off
full speed towards the great basin.  By the time we
reached its brim, however, the noise had ceased, and all
we could see was a slight movement in the centre, as if
an angel had passed by and troubled the water.  Irritated
at this false alarm, we determined to revenge ourselves
by going and tormenting the Strokr. Strokr--or the
churn--you must know, is an unfortunate Geysir, with so
little command over his temper and his stomach, that you
can get a rise out of him whenever you like. All that is
necessary is to collect a quantity of sods, and throw
them down his funnel. As he has no basin to protect him
from these liberties, you can approach to the very edge
of the pipe, about five feet in diameter, and look down
at the boiling water which is perpetually seething at
the bottom. In a few minutes the dose of turf you have
just administered begins to disagree with him; he works
himself up into an awful passion--tormented by the qualms
of incipient sickness, he groans and hisses, and boils
up, and spits at you with malicious vehemence, until at
last, with a roar of mingled pain and rage, he throws up
into the air a column of water forty feet high, which
carries with it all the sods that have been chucked in,
and scatters them scalded and half-digested at your feet.
So irritated has the poor thing's stomach become by the
discipline it has undergone, that even long after all
the foreign matter has been thrown off, it goes on retching
and sputtering, until at last nature is exhausted, when,
sobbing and sighing to itself, it sinks back into the
bottom of its den.

Put into the highest spirits by the success of this
performance, we turned away to examine the remaining
springs. I do not know, however, that any of the rest
are worthy of particular mention. They all resemble in
character the two I have described, the only difference
being that they are infinitely smaller, and of much less
power and importance.  One other remarkable formation in
the neighbourhood must not be passed unnoticed. Imagine
a large irregular opening in the surface of the soft
white clay, filled to the very brim with scalding water,
perfectly still, and of as bright a blue as that of the
Grotto Azzuro at Capri, through whose transparent depths
you can see down into the mouth of a vast subaqueous
cavern, which runs, Heaven knows how far, in a horizontal
direction beneath your feet. Its walls and varied cavities
really looked as if they were built of the purest lupis
lazuli--and so thin seemed the crust that roofed it in,
we almost fancied it might break through, and tumble us
all into the fearful beautiful bath.

Having by this time taken a pretty good look at the
principal features of our new domain, I wrapped myself
up in a cloak and went to sleep; leaving orders that I
should not be called until after the tent had arrived,
and our beds were ready. Sigurdr followed my example,
but the Doctor went out shooting.

As our principal object in coming so far was to see an
eruption of the Great Geysir, it was of course necessary
we should wait his pleasure; in fact, our movements
entirely depended upon his. For the next two or three
days, therefore, like pilgrims round some ancient shrine,
we patiently kept watch; but he scarcely deigned to
vouchsafe us the slightest manifestation of his latent
energies. Two or three times the cannonading we had heard
immediately after our arrival recommenced,--and once an
eruption to the height of about ten feet occurred; but
so brief was its duration, that by the time we were on
the spot, although the tent was not eighty yards distant,
all was over. As after every effort of the fountain the
water in the basin mysteriously ebbs back into the funnel,
this performance, though unsatisfactory in itself, gave
us an opportunity of approaching the mouth of the pipe,
and looking down into its scalded gullet.  In an hour
afterwards, the basin was brimful as ever.

Tethered down by our curiosity to a particular spot for
an indefinite period, we had to while away the hours as
best we could. We played chess, collected specimens,
photographed the encampment, the guides, the ponies, and
one or two astonished natives. Every now and then we went
out shooting over the neighbouring flats, and once I
ventured on a longer expedition among the mountains to
our left.  The views I got were beautiful,--ridge rising
beyond ridge in eternal silence, like gigantic ocean
waves, whose tumult has been suddenly frozen into
stone;--but the dread of the Geysir going off during my
absence made me almost too fidgety to enjoy them. The
weather luckily remained beautiful, with the exception
of one little spell of rain, which came to make us all
the more grateful for the sunshine,--and we fed like
princes. Independently of the game, duck, plover, ptarmigan,
and bittern, with which our own guns supplied us, a young
lamb was always in the larder,--not to mention reindeer
tongues, skier,--a kind of sour curds, excellent when
well made,--milk, cheese whose taste and nature baffles
description, biscuit and bread, sent us as a free gift
by the lady of a neighbouring farm. In fact, so noble is
Icelandic hospitality, that I really believe there was
nothing within fifty miles round we might not have obtained
for the asking, had we desired it. As for Fitz, he became
quite the enfant gate of a neighbouring family.

Having unluckily caught cold, instead of sleeping in the
tent, he determined to seek shelter under a solid roof-tree,
and, conducted by our guide Olaf, set off on his pony at
bed-time in search of a habitation. The next morning he
reappeared so unusually radiant that I could not help
inquiring what good fortune had in the meantime befallen
him: upon which he gave me such an account of his last
night's reception at the farm, that I was almost tempted
to bundle tent and beds down the throat of our irritable
friend Strokr, and throw myself for the future upon the
hospitality of the inhabitants. It is true, I had read
in Van Troil of something of the kind, but until now I
never fully believed it. The Doctor shall tell his own

"No sooner," said he, "had I presented myself at the
door, and made known my errand, than I was immediately
welcomed by the whole family, and triumphantly inducted
into the guest quarters: everything the house could
produce was set before me, and the whole society stood
by to see that I enjoyed myself. As I had but just dined
an additional repast was no longer essential to my
happiness; but all explanation was useless, and I did my
best to give them satisfaction. Immediately on rising
from the table, the young lady of the house--(old Van
Troil says it is either the mother or the daughter of
the house, if she be grown up, who performs this
office)--proposed by signs to conduct me to my apartment;
taking in one hand a large plate of skier, and in the
other a bottle of brandy, she led the way through a
passage built of turf and stones to the place where I
was to sleep. Having watched her deposit--not without
misgivings, for I knew it was expected both should be
disposed of before morning--the skier by my bedside, and
the brandy-bottle under the pillow, I was preparing to
make her a polite bow, and to wish her a very good night,
when she advanced towards me, and with a winning grace
difcult to resist, insisted upon helping me off with my
coat, and then,--proceeding to extremities,--with my
shoes and stockings. At this most critical part of the
proceedings, I naturally imagined her share of the
performance would conclude, and that I should at last be
restored to that privacy which at such seasons is generally
considered appropriate.  Not a bit of it. Before I knew
where I was, I found myself sitting in a chair, in my
shirt, trouserless, while my fair tire-woman was engaged
in neatly folding up the ravished garments on a neighbouring
chair. She then in the most simple manner in the world,
helped me into bed, tucked me up, and having said a
quantity of pretty things in Icelandic, gave me a hearty
kiss and departed. If," he added, "you see anything
remarkable in my appearance, it is probably because--

   'This very morn I've felt the sweet surprise
    Of unexpected lips on sealed eyes;'"

by which he poetically intimated the pleasing ceremony
which had awaked him to the duties of the day. I think
it needless to subjoin that the Doctor's cold did not
get better as long as we remained in the neighbourhood,
and that, had it not been for the daily increasing fire
of his looks, I should have begun to be alarmed at so
protracted an indisposition.

We had now been keeping watch for three days over the
Geysir, in languid expectation of the eruption which was
to set us free. All the morning of the fourth day I had
been playing chess with Sigurdr; Fitzgerald was
photographing, Wilson was in the act of announcing
luncheon, when a cry from the guides made us start to
our feet, and with one common impulse rush towards the
basin. The usual subterranean thunders had already
commenced. A violent agitation was disturbing the centre
of the pool. Suddenly a dome of water lifted itself up
to the height of eight or ten feet,--then burst, and
fell; immediately after which a shining liquid column,
or rather a sheaf of columns wreathed in robes of vapour,
sprung into the air, and in a succession of jerking leaps,
each higher than the last, flung their silver crests
against the sky. For a few minutes the fountain held its
own, then all at once appeared to lose its ascending
energy.  The unstable waters faltered, drooped, fell,
"like a broken purpose," back upon themselves, and were
immediately sucked down into the recesses of their pipe.

The spectacle was certainly magnificent; but no description
can give any idea of its most striking features. The
enormous wealth of water, its vitality, its hidden
power,--the illimitable breadth of sunlit vapour, rolling
out in exhaustless profusion,--all combined to make one
feel the stupendous energy of nature's slightest movements.

And yet I do not believe the exhibition was so fine as
some that have been seen: from the first burst upwards
to the moment the last jet retreated into the pipe, was
no more than a space of seven or eight minutes, and at
no moment did the crown of the column reach higher than
sixty or seventy feet above the surface of the basin.
Now, early travellers talk of three hundred feet, which
must, of course, be fabulous; but many trustworthy persons
have judged the eruptions at two hundred feet, while
well-authenticated accounts--when the elevation of the
jet has been actually measured--make it to have attained
a height of upwards of one hundred feet.

With regard to the internal machinery by which these
waterworks are set in motion, I will only say that the
most received theory seems to be that which supposes the
existence of a chamber in the heated earth, almost, but
not quite, filled with water, and communicating with the
upper air by means of a pipe, whose lower orifice, instead
of being in the roof, is at the side of the cavern, and
BELOW the surface of the subterranean pond. The water
kept by the surrounding furnaces at boiling point,
generates of course a continuous supply of steam, for
which some vent must be obtained; as it cannot escape by
the funnel, the lower mouth of which is under water, it
squeezes itself up within the arching roof, until at
last, compressed beyond all endurance, it strains against
the rock, and pushing down the intervening waters with
its broad, strong back, forces them below the level of
the funnel, and dispersing part, and driving part before
it, rushes forth in triumph to the upper air. The fountains,
therefore, that we see mounting to the sky during an
eruption, are nothing but the superincumbent mass of
waters in the pipe driven up in confusion before the
steam at the moment it obtains its liberation. [Footnote:
Professor Bunsen has lately announced a chemical theory,
which I believe has been received with favour by the
scientific world. He points to the fact that water, after
being long subjected to heat, loses much of the air
contained in it, has the cohesion of its molecules much
increased, and requires a higher temperature to bring it
to boil; at which moment the production of vapour becomes
so great, and so instantaneous, as to cause explosion.
The bursting of furnace boilers is often attributable to
this cause. Now, the water at the bottom of the well of
the Great Geysir is found to be of constantly increasing
temperature up to the moment of an eruption, when on one
occasion it was as high as 261 degrees.  Fahrenheit.
Professor Bunsen's idea is, that on reaching some unknown
point above that temperature, ebullition takes place,
vapour is suddenly generated in enormous quantity, and
an eruption of the superior column of water is the

The accompanying sketch may perhaps help you to understand
my meaning.

[Figure: fig-p074.gif]

The last gulp of water had disappeared down the funnel.
We were standing at the bottom of the now empty basin,
gazing into each other's faces with joyous astonishment,
when suddenly we perceived a horseman come frantically
galloping round the base of the neighbouring hill towards
us.  The state of the case was only too evident. He had
seen the masses of vapour rising round the fountain, and
guessing "what was UP", had strained every nerve to arrive
in time.  As there was no mutual friend present to
introduce us to each other,--of course under ordinary
circumstances I should have wrapped myself in that reserve
which is the birthright of every Briton, and pretended
never even to have noticed his arrival; but the sight we
had just seen had quite upset my nerves,--and I confess,
with shame, that I so far compromised myself, as to
inaugurate a conversation with the stranger. In extenuation
of my conduct, I must be allowed to add, that the newcomer
was not a fellow-countryman, but of the French tongue,
and of the naval profession.

Occupying then the door of my tent--by way of vantage
ground, as soon as the stranger was come within earshot,
I lifted up my voice, and cried in a style of Arabian
familiarity, "O thou that ridest so furiously,--weary
and disappointed one,--turn in, I pray thee, into the
tent of thy servant, and eat bread, and drink wine, that
thy soul may becomforted." To which he answered and said,
"Man,--dweller in sulphureous places,--I will not eat
bread, nor drink wine, neither will I enter into thy
tent, until I have measured out a resting-place for my
Lord the Prince."

At this interesting moment our acquaintance was interrupted
by the appearance of two other horsemen--the one a painter,
the other a geologist--attached to the expedition of
Prince Napoleon. They informed us that His Imperial
Highness had reached Reykjavik two days after we had
left, that he had encamped last night at Thingvalla, and
might be expected here in about four hours: they themselves
having come on in advance to prepare for his arrival. My
first care was to order coffee for the tired Frenchmen;
and then--feeling that long residence having given us
a kind of proprietorship in the Geysirs, we were bound
to do the honours of the place to the approaching band
of travellers,--I summoned the cook, and enlarging in a
long speech on the gravity of the occasion, gave orders
that he should make a holocaust of all the remaining
game, and get under way a plum-pudding, whose dimensions
should do himself and England credit. A long table having
been erected within the tent, Sigurdr started on a
plundering expedition to the neighbouring farm, Fitzgerald
undertook the ordering of the feast, while I rode on my
pony across the morass, in hopes of being able to shoot
a few additional plover. In a couple of hours afterwards,
just as I was stalking a duck that lay innocently basking
on the bosom of the river, a cloud of horsemen swept
round the base of the distant mountain, and returning
home, I found the encampment I had left so deserted--alive
and populous with as merry a group of Frenchmen as it
might ever be one's fortune to fall in with.  Of course
they were dressed in every variety of costumes, long
boots, picturesque brigand-looking hats, with here and
there a sprinkling of Scotch caps from Aberdeen; but--
whatever might be the head-dress, underneath you might
be sure to find a kindly, cheery face. My old friend
Count Trampe, who had accompanied the expedition, at once
presented me to the Prince, who was engaged in sounding
the depth of the pipe of the Great Geysir,--and encouraged
by the gracious reception which His Imperial Highness
accorded me, I ventured to inform him that "there was a
poor banquet toward," of which I trusted he--and as many
of his officers as the table could hold--would condescend
to partake. After a little hesitation,--caused, I presume,
by fear of our being put to inconvenience,--he was kind
enough to signify his acceptance of my proposal, and in
a few minutes afterwards with a cordial frankness I fully
appreciated, allowed me to have the satisfaction of
receiving him as a guest within my tent.

Although I never had the pleasure of seeing Prince Napoleon
before, I should have known him among a thousand, from
his remarkable likeness to his uncle, the first Emperor.
A stronger resemblance, I conceive, could scarcely exist
between two persons. The same delicate, sharply cut
features, thin refined mouth, and firm determined jaw.
The Prince's frame, however, is built altogether on a
larger scale, and his eyes, instead of being of a cold
piercing blue--are soft and brown, with quite a different

Though of course a little Barmicidal, the dinner went
off very well, as every dinner must do where such merry
companions are the convives. We had some difficulty about
stowing away the legs of a tall philosopher, and to each
knife three individuals were told off; but the birds were
not badly cooked, and the plum-pudding arrived in time
to convert a questionable success into an undoubted

On rising from table, each one strolled away in whatever
direction his particular taste suggested. The painter to
sketch; the geologist to break stones; the philosopher
to moralize, I presume,--at least, he lighted a cigar,--and
the rest to superintend the erection of the tents which
had just arrived.

In an hour afterwards, sleep--though not altogether
silence--for loud and strong rose the choral service
intoned to Morpheus from every side--reigned supreme over
the encampment, whose canvas habitations, huddled together
on the desolated plateau, looked almost Crimean. This
last notion, I suppose, must have mingled with my dreams,
for not long afterwards I found myself in full swing
towards a Russian battery, that banged and bellowed, and
cannonaded about my ears in a fashion frightful to hear.
Apparently I was serving in the French attack, for clear
and shrill above the tempest rose the cry, "Alerte!
alerte! aux armes, Monseigneur! aux armes!" The ground
shook, volumes of smoke rose before my eyes, and completely
hid the defences of Sebastopol; which fact, on reflection,
I perceived to be the less extraordinary, as I was standing
in my shirt at the door of a tent in Iceland. The
premonitory symptoms of an eruption, which I had taken
for a Russian cannonading, had awakened the French
sleepers,--a universal cry was pervading the
encampment,--and the entire settlement had turned
out--chiefly in bare legs--to witness the event which
the reverberating earth and steaming water seemed to
prognosticate. Old Geysir, however, proved less courteous
than we had begun to hope, for after labouring uneasily
in his basin for a few minutes, he roused himself on his
hind-legs--fell--made one more effort,--and then giving
it up as a bad job, sank back into his accustomed inaction,
and left the disappointed assembly to disperse to their
respective dormitories.

The next morning, the whole encampment was stirring at
an early hour with preparations for departure; for
unsatisfactory as it had been, the French considered
themselves absolved by the partial performance they had
witnessed from any longer "making antechamber," as they
said, to so capricious a functionary. Being very anxious
to have one more trial at photographing Strokr, I ventured
to suggest that the necessary bolus of sods should be
administered to him. In a few minutes two or three
cart-loads of turf were seething and wallowing within
him. In the meantime, Fitz seized the opportunity of the
Prince being at breakfast to do a picture of him seated
on a chair, with his staff standing around him, and
looking the image of Napoleon before the battle of
Austerlitz. A good twenty minutes had now elapsed since
the emetic had been given,--no symptoms of any result
had as yet appeared,--and the French began to get impatient;
inuendoes were hazarded to the disadvantage of Strokr's
reputation for consistency,--inuendoes which I confess
touched me nearly, and made me feel like a show-man
whose dog has misbehaved. At last the whole party rode
off; but the rear horseman had not disappeared round the
neighbouring hill before--splash! bang!--fifty feet up
into the air drove the dilatory fountain, with a fury
which amply avenged the affront put upon it, and more
than vindicated my good opinion. All our endeavours,
however, to photograph the eruption proved abortive. We
had already attempted both Strokr and the Great Geysir,
but in the case of the latter the exhibition was always
concluded before the plate could be got ready; and
although, as far as Strokr is concerned, you can tell
within a certain period when the performance will take
place, yet the interval occurring between the dose and
the explosion varies so capriciously, that unless you
are content to spend many days upon the spot, it would
be almost impossible to hit it off exactly.  On this last
occasion,--although we did not prepare the plate until
a good twenty minutes after the turf was thrown in,--the
spring remained inactive so much longer than is usual
that the collodion became quite insensitive, and the
eruption left no impression whatever upon it.

Of our return journey to Reykjavik I think I have no very
interesting particulars to give you. During the early
part of the morning there had been a slight threatening
of rain; but by twelve o'clock it had settled down into
one of those still dark days, which wrap even the most
familiar landscape in a mantle of mystery. A heavy,
low-hung, steel-coloured pall was stretched almost entirely
across the heavens, except where along the flat horizon
a broad stripe of opal atmosphere let the eye wander into
space, in search of the pearly gateways of Paradise. On
the other side rose the contorted lava mountains, their
bleak heads knocking against the solid sky and stained
of an inky blackness, which changed into a still more
lurid tint where the local reds struggled up through the
shadow that lay brooding over the desolate scene. If
within the domain of nature such another region is to be
found, it can only be in the heart of those awful solitudes
which science has unveiled to us amid the untrodden
fastnesses of the lunar mountains. An hour before reaching
our old camping-ground at Thingvalla, as if summoned by
enchantment, a dull grey mist closed around us, and
suddenly confounded in undistinguishable ruin the glory
and the terror of the panorama we had traversed; sky,
mountains, horizon, all had disappeared; and as we strained
our eyes from the edge of the Rabna Gja across the
monotonous grey level at our feet, it was almost difficult
to believe that there lay the same magical plain, the
first sight of which had become almost an epoch in our

I had sent on cook, baggage, and guides, some hours before
we ourselves started, so that on our arrival we found a
dry, cosy tent, and a warm dinner awaiting us. The rapid
transformation of the aspect of the country, which I had
just witnessed, made me quite understand how completely
the success of an expedition in Iceland must depend on
the weather, and fully accounted for the difference I
had observed in the amount of enjoyment different travellers
seemed to have derived from it. It is one thing to ride
forty miles a day through the most singular scenery in
the world, when a radiant sun brings out every feature
of the country into startling distinctness, transmuting
the dull tormented earth into towers, domes, and pinnacles
of gleaming metal,--and weaves for every distant summit
a robe of variegated light, such as the "Delectable
Mountains" must have worn for the rapt gaze of weary
"Christian;"--and another to plod over the same forty
miles, drenched to the skin, seeing nothing but the dim,
grey roots of hills, that rise you know not how, and you
care not where,--with no better employment than to look
at your watch, and wonder when you shall reach your
journey's end. If, in addition to this, you have to wait,
as very often must be the case, for many hours after your
own arrival, wet, tired, hungry, until the baggage-train,
with the tents and food, shall have come up, with no
alternative in the meantime but to lie shivering inside
a grass-roofed church, or to share the quarters of some
farmer's family, whose domestic arrangements resemble in
every particular those which Macaulay describes as
prevailing among the Scottish Highlanders a hundred years
ago; and, if finally--after vainly waiting for some days
to see an eruption which never takes place--you journey
back to Reykjavik under the same melancholy conditions,--it
will not be unnatural that, on returning to your native
land, you should proclaim Iceland, with her Geysirs, to
be a sham, a delusion, and a snare!

Fortune, however, seemed determined that of these
bitternesses we should not taste; for the next morning,
bright and joyous overhead bent the blue unclouded heaven;
while the plain lay gleaming at our feet in all the
brilliancy of enamel.  I was sorely tempted to linger
another day in the neighbourhood; but we have already
spent more time upon the Geysirs than I had counted upon,
and it will not do to remain in Iceland longer than the
15th, or Winter will have begun to barricade the passes
into his Arctic dominions. My plan, on returning to
Reykjavik, is to send the schooner round to wait for us
in a harbour on the north coast of the island, while we
ourselves strike straight across the interior on horseback.

The scenery, I am told, is magnificent. On the way we
shall pass many a little nook, shut up among the hills,
that has been consecrated by some touching old-world
story; and the manner of life among the northern inhabitants
is, I believe, more unchanged and characteristic than
that of any other of the islanders. Moreover, scarcely
any stranger has ever penetrated to any distance in this
direction; and we shall have an opportunity of traversing
a slice of that tremendous desert--piled up for thirty
thousand square miles in disordered pyramids of ice and
lava over the centre of the country, and periodically
devastated by deluges of molten stone and boiling mud,
or overwhelmed with whirlwinds of intermingled snow and
cinders,--an unfinished corner of the universe, where
the elements of chaos are still allowed to rage with
unbridled fury.

Our last stage from Thingvalla back to Reykjavik was got
over very quickly, and seemed an infinitely shorter
distance than when we first performed it. We met a number
of farmers returning to their homes from a kind of fair
that is annually held in the little metropolis; and as
I watched the long caravan-like line of pack-horses and
horsemen, wearily plodding over the stony waste in single
file, I found it less difficult to believe that these
remote islanders should be descended from Oriental
forefathers. In fact, one is constantly reminded of the
East in Iceland. From the earliest ages the Icelanders
have been a people dwelling in tents.  In the time of
the ancient Parliament, the legislators, during the entire
session, lay encamped in movable booths around the place
of meeting. Their domestic polity is naturally patriarchal,
and the flight of their ancestors from Norway was a
protest against the antagonistic principle of feudalism.
No Arab could be prouder of his courser than they are of
their little ponies, or reverence more deeply the sacred
rights of hospitality; while the solemn salutation
exchanged between two companies of travellers, passing
each other in the DESERT--as they invariably call the
uninhabited part of the country--would not have misbecome
the stately courtesy of the most ancient worshippers of
the sun.

Anything more multifarious than the landing of these
caravans we met returning to the inland districts--cannot
well be conceived; deal boards, rope, kegs of brandy,
sacks of rye or wheaten flour, salt, soap, sugar, snuff,
tobacco, coffee; everything, in fact, which was necessary
to their domestic consumption during the ensuing winter.
In exchange for these commodities, which of course they
are obliged to get from Europe, the Icelanders export
raw wool, knitted stockings, mittens, cured cod, and fish
oil, whale blubber, fox skins, eider-down, feathers, and
Icelandic moss.  During the last few years the exports
of the island have amounted to about 1,200,000 lbs. of
wool and 500,000 pairs of stockings and mittens. Although
Iceland is one-fifth larger than Ireland, its population
consists of only about 60,000 persons, scattered along
the habitable ring which runs round between the central
desert and the sea; of the whole area of 38,000 square
miles it is calculated that not more than one-eighth part
is occupied, the remaining 33,000 square miles consisting
of naked mountains of ice, or valleys desolated by lava
or volcanic ashes. Even Reykjavik itself cannot boast of
more than 700 or 800 inhabitants.

During winter time the men are chiefly employed in tending
cattle, picking wool, manufacturing ropes, bridles,
saddles, and building boats. The fishing season commences
in spring; in 1853 there were as many as 3,500 boats
engaged upon the water. As summer advances--turf-cutting
and hay-making begins; while the autumn months are
principally devoted to the repairing of their houses,
manuring the grass lands, and killing and curing of sheep
for exportation, as well as for their own use during the
winter. The woman-kind of a family occupy themselves
throughout the year in washing, carding, and spinning
wool, in knitting gloves and stockings, and in weaving
frieze and flannel for their own wear.

The ordinary food of a well-to-do Icelandic family consists
of dried fish, butter, sour whey kept till fermentation
takes place, curds, and skier--a very peculiar cheese
unlike any I ever tasted,--a little mutton, and rye bread.
As might be expected, this meagre fare is not very
conducive to health; scurvy, leprosy, elephantiasis, and
all cutaneous disorders, are very common, while the
practice of mothers to leave off nursing their children
at the end of three days, feeding them with cows' milk
instead, results in a frightful mortality among the

Land is held either in fee-simple, or let by the Crown
to tenants on what may almost be considered perpetual
leases.  The rent is calculated partly on the number of
acres occupied, partly on the head of cattle the farm is
fit to support, and is paid in kind, either in fish or
farm produce. Tenants in easy circumstances generally
employ two or three labourers, who--in addition to their
board and lodging--receive from ten to twelve dollars a
year of wages. No property can be entailed, and if any
one dies intestate, what he leaves is distributed among
his children--in equal shares to the sons, in half shares
to the daughters.

The public revenue arising from Crown lands, commercial
charges, and a small tax on the transference of property,
amounts to about 3,000 pounds; the expenditure for
education, officers' salaries (the Governor has about
400 pounds a year), ecclesiastical establishments, etc.,
exceeds 6,000 pounds a year; so that the island is
certainly not a self-supporting institution.

The clergy are paid by tithes; their stipends are
exceedingly small, generally not averaging more than six
or seven pounds sterling per annum; their chief dependence
being upon their farms. Like St. Dunstan, they are
invariably excellent blacksmiths.

As we approached Reykjavik, for the first time during
the whole journey we began to have some little trouble
with the relay of ponies in front. Whether it was that
they were tired, or that they had arrived in a district
where they had been accustomed to roam at large, I cannot
tell; but every ten minutes, during the last six or seven
miles, one or other of them kept starting aside into the
rocky plain, across which the narrow bridle-road was
carried, and cost us many a weary chase before we could
drive them into the track again.  At last, though not
till I had been violently hugged, kissed, and nearly
pulled off my horse by an enthusiastic and rather tipsy
farmer, who mistook me for the Prince, we galloped, about
five o'clock, triumphantly into the town, without an
accident having occurred to man or horse during the whole
course of the expedition--always excepting one tremendous
fall sustained by Wilson. It was on the evening of the
day we left the Geysirs. We were all galloping in single
file down the lava pathway, when suddenly I heard a cry
behind me, and then the noise as of a descending avalanche.
On turning round, behold! both Wilson and his pony lay
stretched upon the ground, the first some yards in advance
of the other. The poor fellow evidently thought he was
killed; for he neither spoke nor stirred, but lay looking
up at me, with blank, beady eyes as I approached to his
assistance. On further investigation, neither of the
sufferers proved to be a bit the worse.

The cook, and the rest of the party, did not arrive till
about midnight; but I make no doubt that when that able
and spirited individual did at length reascend the side
of the schooner, his cheek must have burned with pride
at the reflection, that during the short period of his
absence on shore he had added to his other accomplishments
that of becoming a most finished cavalier. I do not mean
by that to imply that he was at all DONE. Although we
had enjoyed our trip so much, I was not sorry to find
myself on board. The descent again, after our gipsy life,
into the coquettish little cabin, with its books and dear
home faces, quite penetrated me with that feeling of snug
content of which I believe Englishmen alone are susceptible.

I have now to relate to you a most painful occurrence
which has taken place during my absence at the Geysirs;--
no less a catastrophe, in fact, than a mutiny among my
hitherto most exemplary ship's company. I suppose they,
too, had occasion to bear witness to the proverbial
hospitality of Iceland; salt junk, and the innocuous
cates which generally compose ship-board rations, could
never have produced such an emergency. Suffice it to say,
that "Dyspepsia and her fatal train" having taken hold
of them, in a desperate hour they determined on a desperate
deed,--and rushing aft in a body, demanded of my faithful
steward, not only access to the penetralia of the absent
Doctor's cupboard, but that he himself should administer
to them whatever medicaments he could come by. In vain
Mr. Grant threw himself across the cabin-door. Remonstrance
was useless; my horny-handed lambs were inexorable--unless
he acceded to their demands, they threatened to report
him when I returned! The Doctor's sanctuary was thrown
open, and all its sweets--if such they may be called--were
rifled. A huge box of pills, the first that came to
hand--they happened to be calomel--was served out, share
and share alike, with concomitant vials of wrath, of
rhubarb and senna; and it was not until the last drop of
castor oil had been carefully licked up that the marauders
suffered their unwilling accomplice to retire to the
fastnesses of his pantry.

An avenging Nemesis, however, hovered over the violated
shrine of Esculapius. By the time I returned the exigencies
of justice had been more than satisfied, and the outrage
already atoned for. The rebellious HANDS were become most
penitent STOMACHS; and fresh from the Oriental associations
suggested by our last day's ride, I involuntarily dismissed
the disconsolate culprits, with the Asiatic form of
condonation: "Mashallah, you have made your faces white!
Go in peace!"

During our expedition to the interior, the harbour of
Reykjavik had become populous with new arrivals. First
of all, there was my old friend, the "Reine Hortense,"
the Emperor's yacht, a magnificent screw corvette of
1,100 tons.  I had last parted with her three years ago
in the Baltic, after she had towed me for eighty miles
on our way from Bomarsund to Stockholm. Then there were
two English screw steamers, of about 700 tons each, taken
up by the French Government as tenders to the yacht; not
to mention a Spanish brig, and one or two other foreigners,
which, together with the frigate, the barque, and the
vessels we had found here on our first arrival, made the
usually deserted bay look quite lively. Until this year
no steamers had ever cockneyfied its secluded waters.

This morning, directly after breakfast, I went on board
the "Reine Hortense" to pay my respects to Prince Napoleon;
and H.I.H. has just done me the honour of coming to
inspect the "Foam." When I was first presented to him at
the Geysirs, he asked me what my plans might be; and on
my mentioning my resolution of sailing to the North, he
most kindly proposed that I should come with him West to
Greenland instead. My anxiety, however, to reach, if it
were possible, Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen, prevented my
accepting this most tempting offer; but in the meantime,
H.I.H. has, it seems, himself determined to come to Jan
Mayen, and he is kind enough to say that if I can get
ready for a start by six o'clock to-morrow morning, the
"Reine Hortense" shall take me in tow. To profit by this
proposal would of course entail the giving up my plan of
riding across the interior of Iceland, which I should be
very loth to do; at the same time, the season is so far
advanced, the mischances of our first start from England
have thrown us so far behind in our programme, that it
would seem almost a pity to neglect such an opportunity
of overrunning the time that has been lost; and after
all, these Polar islands, which so few have visited, are
what I am chiefly bent on seeing. Before I close this
letter the thing will have been settled one way or another;
for I am to have the honour of dining with the Prince
this evening, and between this and then I shall have made
up my mind. After dinner there is to be a ball on board
the frigate, to which all the rank, fashion, and beauty
of Reykjavik have been invited.

   3 A.M.

I give up seeing the rest of Iceland, and go North at
once. It has cost me a struggle to come to this conclusion,
but on the whole I think it will be better. Ten or fifteen
days of summer-time become very precious in these latitudes,
and are worth a sacrifice. At this moment we have just
brought up astern of the "Reine Hortense," and are getting
our hawsers bent, ready for a start in half an hour's
time. My next letter, please God, will be dated from
Hammerfest. I suppose I shall be about fifteen or twenty
days getting there, but this will depend on the state of
the ice about Jan Mayen. If the anchorage is clear, I
shall spend a few days in examining the island, which by
all accounts would appear to be most curious.

I happened first to hear of its existence from a very
intelligent whaling Captain I fell in with among the
Shetlands four years ago. He was sailing home to Hull,
after fishing the Spitzbergen waters, and had sighted
the huge mountain which forms the northern extremity of
Jan Mayen, on his way south. Luckily, the weather was
fine while he was passing, and the sketch he made of it
at the time so filled me with amazement, that I then
determined, if ever I got the chance, to go and see with
my own eyes so great a marvel. Imagine a spike of igneous
rock (the whole island is volcanic), shooting straight
up out of the sea to the height of 6,870 feet, not
broad-based like a pyramid, nor round-topped like a
sugar-loaf, but needle-shaped, pointed like the spire of
a church. If only my Hull skipper were as good a draughtsman
as he seemed to be a seaman, we should now be on our way
to one of the wonders of the world. Most people here hold
out rather a doleful prospect, and say that, in the first
place, it is probable the whole island will be imprisoned
within the eternal fields of ice, that lie out for upwards
of a hundred and fifty miles along the eastern coast of
Greenland; and next, that if even the sea should be clear
in its vicinity, the fogs up there are so dense and
constant that the chances are very much against our
hitting the land.  But the fact of the last French
man-of-war which sailed in that direction never having
returned, has made those seas needlessly unpopular at

It was during one of these fogs that Captain Fotherby,
the original discoverer of Jan Mayen, stumbled upon it
in 1614. While sailing southwards in a mist too thick to
see a ship's length off, he. suddenly heard the noise of
waters breaking on a great shore; and when the gigantic
bases of Mount Beerenberg gradually disclosed themselves,
he thought he had discovered some new continent. Since
then it has been often sighted by homeward-bound whalers,
but rarely landed upon. About the year 1633 the Dutch
Government, wishing to establish a settlement in the
actual neighbourhood of the fishing-grounds, where the
blubber might be boiled down, and the spoils of each
season transported home in the smallest bulk,--actually
induced seven seamen to volunteer remaining the whole
winter on the island. [Footnote:  The names of the seven
Dutch seamen who attempted to winter in Jan Mayen's Island
were: Outgert Jacobson, of Grootenbrook, their commander;
Adrian Martin Carman, of Schiedam, clerk; Thauniss
Thaunissen, of Schermehem, cook; Dick Peterson, of
Veenhuyse; Peter Peterson, of Harlem; Sebastian Gyse, of
Defts-Haven; Gerard Beautin, of Bruges.] Huts were built
for them, and having been furnished with an ample supply
of salt provisions, they were left to resolve the problem,
as to whether or no human beings could support the
severities of the climate. Standing on the shore, these
seven men saw their comrades' parting sails sink down
beneath the sun,--then watched the sun sink, as had sunk
the sails;--but extracts from their own simple narrative
are the most touching record I can give you of their

"The 26th of August, our fleet set sail for Holland with
a strong north-east wind, and a hollow sea, which continued
all that night. The 28th, the wind the same; it began to
snow very hard; we then shared half a pound of tobacco
betwixt us, which was to be our allowance for a week.
Towards evening we went about together, to see whether
we could discover anything worth our observation; but
met with nothing." And so on for many a weary day of
sleet and storm.

On the 8th of September they "were frightened by a noise
of something falling to the ground,"--probably some
volcanic disturbance. A month later, it becomes so cold
that their linen, after a moment's exposure to the air,
becomes frozen like a board. [Footnote: The climate,
however, does not appear to have been then so inclement
in these latitudes as it has since become. A similar
deterioration in the temperature, both of Spitzbergen
and Greenland, has also been observed. In Iceland we have
undoubted evidence of corn having been formerly grown,
as well as of the existence of timber of considerable
size, though now it can scarcely produce a cabbage, or
a stunted shrub of birch. M. Babinet, of the French
Institute, goes a little too far when he says, in the
Journal des Debats of the 30th December, 1856, that for
many years Jan Mayen has been inaccessible.] Huge fleets
of ice beleaguered the island, the sun disappears, and
they spend most of their time in "rehearsing to one
another the adventures that had befallen them both by
sea and land." On the 12th of December they kill a bear,
having already begun to feel the effects of a salt diet.
At last comes New Year's Day, 1636.  "After having wished
each other a happy new year, and success in our enterprise,
we went to prayers, to disburthen our hearts before God."
On the 25th of February (the very day on which Wallenstein
was murdered) the sun reappeared.  By the 22nd of March
scurvy had already declared itself:  "For want of
refreshments we began to be very heartless, and so
afflicted that our legs are scarce able to bear us." On
the 3rd of April, "there being no more than two of us in
health, we killed for them the only two pullets we had
left; and they fed pretty heartily upon them, in hopes
it might prove a means to recover part of their strength.
We were sorry we had not a dozen more for their sake."
On Easter Day, Adrian Carman, of Schiedam, their clerk,
dies. "The Lord have mercy upon his soul, and upon us
all, we being very sick." During the next few days they
seem all to have got rapidly worse; one only is strong
enough to move about.  He has learnt writing from his
comrades since coming to the island; and it is he who
concludes the melancholy story.  "The 23rd (April), the
wind blew from the same corner, with small rain. We were
by this time reduced to a very deplorable state, there
being none of them all, except myself, that were able to
help themselves, much less one another, so that the whole
burden lay upon my shoulders,--and I perform my duty as
well as I am able, as long as God pleases to give me
strength. I am just now a-going to help our commander
out of his cabin, at his request, because he imagined by
this change to ease his pain, he then struggling with
death." For seven days this gallant fellow goes on
"striving to do his duty;" that is to say, making entries
in the journal as to the state of the weather, that being
the principal object their employers had in view when
they left them on the island; but on the 30th of April
his strength too gave way, and his failing hand could do
no more than trace an incompleted sentence on the page.

[Figure: fig-p090.gif]

Meanwhile succour and reward are on their way toward the
forlorn garrison. On the 4th of June, up again above the
horizon rise the sails of the Zealand fleet; but no glad
faces come forth to greet the boats as they pull towards
the shore; and when their comrades search for those they
had hoped to find alive and well,--lo! each lies dead in
his own hut,--one with an open Prayer-book by his side;
another with his hand stretched out towards the ointment
he had used for his stiffened joints; and the last
survivor, with the unfinished journal still lying by his

The most recent recorded landing on the island was effected
twenty-two years ago, by the brave and pious Captain,
now Dr. Scoresby,[Footnote: I regret to be obliged to
subjoin that Dr. Scoresby has died since the above was
written.] on his return from a whaling cruise. He had
seen the mountain of Beerenberg one hundred miles off,
and, on approaching, found the coast quite clear of ice.
According to his survey and observations, Jan Mayen is
about sixteen miles long, by four wide; but I hope soon,
on my own authority, to be able to tell you more about

Certainly, this our last evening spent in Iceland will
not have been the least joyous of our stay. The dinner
on board the "Reine Hortense" was very pleasant. I renewed
acquaintance with some of my old Baltic friends, and was
presented to two or three of the Prince's staff who did
not accompany the expedition to the Geysirs; among others,
to the Duc d'Abrantes, Marshal Junot's son. On sitting
down to table, I found myself between H.I.H. and Monsieur
de Saulcy, member of the French Institute, who made that
famous expedition to the Dead Sea, and is one of the
gayest, pleasantest persons I have ever met. Of course
there was a great deal of laughing and talking, as well
as much speculation with regard to the costume of the
Icelandic ladies we were to see at the ball. It appears
that the dove-cots of Reykjavik have been a good deal
fluttered by an announcement emanating from the gallant
Captain of the "Artemise" that his fair guests would be
expected to come in low dresses; for it would seem that
the practice of showing their ivory shoulders is, as yet,
an idea as shocking to the pretty ladies of this country
as waltzes were to our grandmothers. Nay, there was not
even to be found a native milliner equal to the task of
marking out that mysterious line which divides the prudish
from the improper; so that the Collet-monte faction have
been in despair. As it turned out, their anxiety on this
head was unnecessary; for we found, on entering the
ball-room, that, with the natural refinement which
characterises this noble people, our bright-eyed partners,
as if by inspiration, had hit off the exact sweep from
shoulder to shoulder, at which--after those many
oscillations, up and down, which the female corsage has
undergone since the time of the first Director--good
taste has finally arrested it.

I happened to be particularly interested in the above
important question; for up to that moment I had always
been haunted by a horrid paragraph I had met with somewhere
in an Icelandic book of travels, to the effect that it
was the practice of Icelandic women, from early childhood,
to flatten down their bosoms as much as possible. This
fact, for the honour of the island, I am now in a position
to deny; and I here declare that, as far as I had the
indiscretion to observe, those maligned ladies appeared
to me as buxom in form as any rosy English girl I have
ever seen.

It was nearly nine o'clock before we adjourned from the
"Reine Hortense," to the ball. Already, for some time
past, boats full of gay dresses had been passing under
the corvette's stern on their way to the "Artemise,"
looking like flower-beds that had put to sea,--though
they certainly could no longer be called a parterre;--and
by the time we ourselves mounted her lofty sides, a
mingled stream of music, light, and silver laughter, was
pouring out of every port-hole.  The ball-room was very
prettily arranged. The upper deck had been closed in with
a lofty roof of canvas, from which hung suspended glittering
lustres, formed by bayonets with their points collected
into an inverted pyramid, and the butt-ends serving as
sockets for the tapers. Every wall was gay with flags,--the
frigate's frowning armament all hid or turned to ladies'
uses: 82 pounders became sofas--boarding-pikes,
balustrades--pistols, candlesticks--the brass carronades
set on end, pillarwise, their brawling mouths stopped
with nose-gays; while portraits of the Emperor and the
Empress, busts, colours draped with Parisian cunning,
gave to the scene an appearance of festivity that looked
quite fairy-like in so sombre a region. As for our gallant
host, I never saw such spirits; he is a fine old grey-headed
blow-hard of fifty odd, talking English like a native,
and combining the frank open-hearted cordiality of a
sailor with that graceful winning gaiety peculiar to
Frenchmen. I never saw anything more perfect than the
kind, almost fatherly, courtesy with which he welcomed
each blooming bevy of maidens that trooped up his ship's
side. About two o'clock we had supper on the main-deck.
I had the honour of taking down Miss Thora, of Bessestad;
and somehow--this time, I no longer found myself wandering
back in search of the pale face of the old-world Thora,
being, I suppose, sufficiently occupied by the soft,
gentle eyes of the one beside me. With the other young
ladies I did not make much acquaintance, as I experienced
a difficulty in finding befitting remarks on the occasion
of being presented to them. Once or twice, indeed, I
hazarded, through their fathers, some little complimentary
observations in Latin; but I cannot say that I found that
language lend itself readily to the gallantries of the
ball-room. After supper dancing recommenced, and the
hilarity of the evening reached its highest pitch when
half a dozen sailors, dressed in turbans made of flags
(one of them a lady with the face of the tragic muse),
came forward and danced the cancan, with a gravity and
decorum that would have greatly edified what Gavarni
calls "la pudeur municipale."

At 3 o'clock A.M. I returned on board the schooner, and
we are all now very busy in making final preparations
for departure. Fitz is rearranging his apothecary's shop.
Sigurdr is writing letters. The last strains of music
have ceased on board the "Artemise"; the sun is already
high in the heavens; the flower beds are returning on
shore,--a little draggled perhaps, as if just pelted by
a thunder-storm; the "Reine Hortense" has got her steam
up and the real, serious part of our voyage is about to

I feel that my description has not half done justice to
the wonders of this interesting island; but I can refer
you to your friend Sir Henry Holland for further details;
he paid a visit to Iceland in 1810, with Sir G. Mackenzie,
and made himself thoroughly acquainted with its historical
and scientific associations.


SCENE. R. Y. S: "Foam": astern of the "Reine Hortense"




LORD D--.--"All ready, Sir!"

WILSON TO DOCTOR (sotto voce).--"Sir!"


WILSON.--"Do you know, Sir?"


WILSON.--"Oh, nothing, Sir;--only we're going to the
hicy regions, Sir, ain't we? Well, I've just seen that
ere brig as is come from there, Sir, and they say there's
a precious lot of ice this year! (Pause.) Do you know,
Sir, the skipper showed me the bows of his vessel, Sir?
She's got seven feet of solid timber in her for'ard:
WE'VE only two inches, Sir!"


you ready?"

Lord D--.-"Ay, ay, Sir! Up anchor!"



Hammerfest, July.

Back in Europe again,--within reach of posts! The glad
sun shining, the soft winds blowing, and roses on the
cabin table,--as if the region of fog and ice we have
just fled forth from were indeed the dream-land these
summer sights would make it seem. I cannot tell you how
gay and joyous it all appears to us, fresh from a climate
that would not have been unworthy of Dante's Inferno.
And yet--had it been twice as bad, what we have seen
would have more than repaid us, though it has been no
child's play to get to see it.

But I must begin where I left off in my last letter,--just,
I think, as we were getting under way, to be towed by
the "Reine Hortense" out of Reykjavik Harbour. Having
been up all night,--as soon as we were well clear of the
land, and that it was evident the towing business was
doing well--I turned in for a few hours. When I came on
deck again we had crossed the Faxe Fiord on our way north,
and were sweeping round the base of Snaefell--an extinct
volcano which rises from the sea in an icy cone to the
height of 5,000 feet, and grimly looks across to Greenland.
The day was beautiful; the mountain's summit beamed down
upon us in unclouded splendour, and everything seemed to
promise an uninterrupted view of the west coast of Iceland,
along whose rugged cliffs few mariners have ever sailed.
Indeed, until within these last few years, the passage,
I believe, was altogether impracticable, in consequence
of the continuous fields of ice which used to drift down
the narrow channel between the frozen continent and the
northern extremity of the island. Lately, some great
change seems to have taken place in the lie of the
Greenland ice; and during the summer-time you can pass
through, though late in the year a solid belt binds the
two shores together.

But in a historical and scientific point of view, the
whole country lying about the basanite roots of Snaefell
is most interesting. At the feet of its southern slopes
are to be seen wonderful ranges of columnar basalt,
prismatic caverns, ancient craters, and specimens of
almost every formation that can result from the agency
of subterranean fires; while each glen, and bay, and
headland, in the neighbourhood, teems with traditionary
lore. On the north-western side of the mountain stretches
the famous Eyrbiggja district, the most classic ground
in Iceland, with the towns, or rather farmsteads, of
Froda, Helgafell, and Biarnarhaf.

This last place was the scene of one of the most curious
and characteristic Sagas to be found in the whole catalogue
of Icelandic chronicles.

In the days when the same Jarl Hakon I have already
mentioned lorded it over Norway, an Icelander of the name
of Vermund, who had come to pay his court to the lord of
Lade, took a violent wish to engage in his own service
a couple of gigantic Berserks, [Footnote: Berserk, i.e.,
bare sark. The berserks seem to have been a description
of athletes, who were in the habit of stimulating their
nervous energies by the use of some intoxicating drug,
which rendered them capable of feats of extraordinary
strength and daring. The Berserker gang must have been
something very like the Malay custom of running a muck.
Their moments of excitement were followed by periods of
great exhaustion.] named Halli and Leikner, whom the Jarl
had retained about his person,--fancying that two champions
of such great strength and prowess would much acid to
his consequence on returning home. In vain.  the Jarl
warned him that personages of that description were wont
to give trouble and become unruly,--nothing would serve
but he must needs carry them away with him; nay, if they
would but come, they might ask as wages any boon which
might be in his power to grant. The bargain accordingly
was made; but, on arriving in Iceland, the first thing
Halli took it into his head to require was a wife, who
should be rich, nobly born, and beautiful. As such a
request was difficult to comply with, Vermund, who was
noted for being a man of gentle disposition, determined
to turn his troublesome retainers over to his brother,
Arngrim Styr, i.e., the Stirring or Tumultuous One,--as
being a likelier man than himself to know how to keep
them in order.

Arngrim happened to have a beautiful daughter, named
Asdisa, with whom the inflammable Berserk of course fell
in love. Not daring openly to refuse him, Arngrim told
his would-be son-in-law, that before complying with his
suit, he must consult his friends, and posted off to
Helgafell, where dwelt the Pagan Pontiff Snorre. The
result of this conference was an agreement on the part'
of Styr to give his daughter to the Berserk, provided he
and his brother would CUT a road through the lava rocks
of Biarnarhaf. Halli and Leikner immediately set about
executing this prodigious task; while the scornful Asdisa,
arrayed in her most splendid attire, came sweeping past
in silence, as if to mock their toil.  The poetical
reproaches addressed to the young lady on this occasion
by her sturdy admirer and his mate are still extant.  In
the meantime, the other servants of the crafty Arngrim
had constructed a subterranean bath, so contrived that
at a moment's notice it could be flooded with boiling
water.  Their task at last concluded, the two Berserks
returned home to claim their reward; but Arngrim Styr,
as if in the exuberance of his affection, proposed that
they should first refresh themselves in the new bath. No
sooner had they descended into it, than Arngrim shut down
the trap-door, and having ordered a newly-stripped
bullock's hide to be stretched before the entrance, gave
the signal for the boiling water to be turned on. Fearful
were the struggles of the scalded giants: Halli, indeed,
succeeded in bursting up the door; but his foot slipped
on the bloody bull's hide, and Amgrim stabbed him to the
heart. His brother was then easily forced back into the
seething water.

The effusion composed by the Tumultuous One on the occasion
of this exploit is also extant, and does not yield in
poetical merit to those which I have already mentioned
as having emanated from his victims.

As soon as the Pontiff Snorre heard of the result of
Arngrim Styr's stratagem, he came over and married the
Lady Asdisa. Traces of the road made by the unhappy
champions can yet be detected at Biarnarhaf, and tradition
still identifies the grave of the Berserks.

Connected with this same Pontiff Snorre is another of
those mysterious notices of a great land in the western
ocean which we find in the ancient chronicles, so interwoven
with narrative we know to be true, as to make it impossible
not to attach a certain amount of credit to them. This
particular story is the more interesting as its denouement,
abruptly left in the blankest mystery by one Saga, is
incidentally revealed to us in the course of another,
relating to events with which the first had no connection.
[Footnote: From internal evidence it is certain that the
chronicle which contains these Sagas must have been
written about the beginning of the thirteenth century.]

It seems that Snorre had a beautiful sister, named Thured
of Froda, with whom a certain gallant gentleman--called
Bjorn, the son of Astrand--fell head and ears in love.
Unfortunately, a rich rival appears in the field; and
though she had given her heart to Bjorn, Snorre--who, we
have already seen, was a prudent man--insisted upon her
giving her hand to his rival. Disgusted by such treatment,
Bjorn sails away to the coasts of the Baltic, and joins
a famous company of sea-rovers, called the Jomsburg
Vikings. In this worthy society he so distinguishes
himself by his valour and daring that he obtains the
title of the Champion of Breidavik. After many doughty
deeds, done by sea and land, he at last returns, loaded
with wealth and honours, to his native country.

In the summer-time of the year 999, soon after his arrival,
was held a great fair at Froda, whither all the merchants,
"clad in coloured garments," congregated from the adjacent
country. Thither came also Bjorn's old love, the Lady of
Froda; "and Bjorn went up and spoke to her, and it was
thought likely their talk would last long, since they
for such a length of time had not seen each other." But
to this renewal of old acquaintance both the lady's
husband and her brother very much objected; and "it seemed
to Snorre that it would be a good plan to kill Bjorn."
So, about the time of hay-making, off he rides, with
some retainers, to his victim's home, having fully
instructed one of them how to deal the first blow.  Bjorn
was in the home-field (tun), mending his sledge, when
the cavalcade appeared in sight; and, guessing what motive
had inspired the visit, went straight up to Snorre, who
rode in front, "in a blue cloak," and held the knife with
which he had been working in such a position as to be
able to stab the Pontiff to the heart, should his followers
attempt to lift their hands against himself. Comprehending
the position of affairs, Snorre's friends kept quiet.
"Bjorn then asked the news." Snorre confesses that he
had intended to kill him; but adds, "Thou tookest such
a lucky grip of me at our meeting, that thou must have
peace this time, however it may have been determined
before." The conversation is concluded by an agreement
on the part of Bjorn to leave the country, as he feels
it impossible to abstain from paying visits to Thured as
long as he remains in the neighbourhood.  Having manned
a ship, Bjorn put to sea in the summer-time "When they
sailed away, a north-east wind was blowing, which wind
lasted long during that summer; but of this ship was
nothing heard since this long time." And so we conclude
it is all over with the poor Champion of Breidavik! Not
a bit of it. He turns up, thirty years afterwards, safe
and sound, in the uttermost parts of the earth.

In the year 1029, a certain Icelander, named Gudlief,
undertakes a voyage to Limerick, in Ireland. On his return
home, he is driven out of his course by north-east winds,
Heaven knows where. After drifting for many days to the
westward, he at last falls in with land. On approaching
the beach, a great crowd of people came down to meet the
strangers, apparently with no friendly intentions. Shortly
afterwards, a tall and venerable chieftain makes his
appearance, and, to Gudlief's great astonishment, addresses
him in Icelandic. Having entertained the weary mariners
very honourably, and supplied them with provisions, the
old man bids them speed back to Iceland, as it would be
unsafe for them to remain where they were. His own name
he refused to tell; but having learnt that Gudlief comes
from the neighbourhood of Snaefell, he puts into his
hands a sword and a ring. The ring is to be given to
Thured of Froda; the sword to her son Kjartan. When
Gudlief asks by whom he is to say the gifts are sent,
the ancient chieftain answers, "Say they come from one
who was a better friend of the Lady of Froda than of her
brother Snorre of Helgafell." Wherefore it is conjectured
that this man was Bjorn, the son of Astrand, Champion of

After this, Madam, I hope I shall never hear you depreciate
the constancy of men. Thured had better have married
Bjorn after all!

I forgot to mention that when Gudlief landed on the
strange coast, it seemed to him that the inhabitants
spoke Irish. Now, there are many antiquaries inclined to
believe in the former existence of an Irish colony to
the southward of the Vinland of the Northmen. Scattered
through the Sagas are several notices of a distant country
in the West, which is called Ireland ed Mekla--Great
Ireland, or the White Man's land. When Pizarro penetrated
into the heart of Mexico, a tradition already existed of
the previous arrival of white men from the East. Among
the Shawnasee Indians a story is still preserved of
Florida having been once inhabited by white men, who used
iron instruments. In 1658, Sir Erland the Priest had in
his possession a chart, even then thought ancient, of
"The Land of the White Men, or Hibernia Major, situated
opposite Vinland the Good," and Gaelic philologists
pretend to trace a remarkable affinity between many of
the American-Indian dialects and the ancient Celtic.

But to return to the "Foam." After passing the cape, away
we went across the spacious Brieda Fiord, at the rate of
nine or ten knots an hour, reeling and bounding at the
heels of the steamer, which seemed scarcely to feel how
uneven was the surface across which we were speeding.
Down dropped Snaefell beneath the sea, and dim before
us, clad in evening haze, rose the shadowy steeps of
Bardestrand.  The north-west division of Iceland consists
of one huge peninsula, spread out upon the sea like a
human hand, the fingers just reaching over the Arctic
circle; while up between them run the gloomy fiords,
sometimes to the length of twenty, thirty, and even forty
miles. Anything more grand and mysterious than the
appearance of their solemn portals, as we passed across
from bluff to bluff, it is impossible to conceive. Each
might have served as a separate entrance to some poet's
hell--so drear and fatal seemed the vista one's eye just
caught receding between the endless ranks of precipice
and pyramid.

There is something, moreover, particularly mystical in
the effect of the grey, dreamy atmosphere of an arctic
night, through whose uncertain medium mountain and headland
loom as impalpable as the frontiers of a demon world,
and as I kept gazing at the glimmering peaks, and monstrous
crags, and shattered stratifications, heaped up along
the coast in cyclopean disorder, I understood how natural
it was that the Scandinavian mythology, of whose mysteries
the Icelanders were ever the natural guardians and
interpreters, should have assumed that broad, massive
simplicity which is its most beautiful characteristic.
Amid the rugged features of such a country the refinements
of Paganism would have been dwarfed into insignificance.
How out of place would seem a Jove with his beard in
ringlets--a trim Apollo--a sleek Bacchus--an ambrosial
Venus--a slim Diana, and all their attendant groups of
Oreads and Cupids--amid the ocean mists, and icebound
torrents, the flame-scarred mountains, and four months'
night--of a land which the opposing forces of heat and
cold have selected for a battle-field!

The undeveloped reasoning faculty is prone to attach an
undue value and meaning to the forms of things, and the
infancy of a nation's mind is always more ready to worship
the MANIFESTATIONS of a Power, than to look beyond them
for a cause. Was it not natural then that these northerns,
dwelling in daily communion with this grand Nature, should
fancy they could perceive a mysterious and independent
energy in her operations, and at last come to confound
the moral contest man feels within him, with the physical
strife he finds around him, to see in the returning
sun--fostering into renewed existence the winter-stifled
world--even more than a TYPE of that spiritual consciousness
which alone can make the dead heart stir; to discover
even more than an ANALOGY between the reign of cold,
darkness, and desolation, and the still blanker ruin of
a sin-perverted soul? But in that iron clime, amid such
awful associations, the conflict going on was too
terrible--the contending powers too visibly in presence
of each other, for the practical, conscientious Norse
mind to be content with the puny godships of a Roman
Olympus. Nectar, Sensuality, and Inextinguishable Laughter
were elements of felicity too mean for the nobler atmosphere
of their Walhalla; and to those active temperaments and
healthy minds,--invigorated and solemnized by the massive
mould of the scenery around them,--Strength, Courage,
Endurance, and above all Self-sacrifice--naturally seemed
more essential attributes of divinity than mere elegance
and beauty. And we must remember that whilst the vigorous
imagination of the north was delighting itself in creating
a stately dreamland, where it strove to blend, in a grand
world-picture--always harmonious, though not always
consistent--the influences which sustain both the physical
and moral system of its universe, an undercurrent of
sober Gothic common sense induced it--as a kind of protest
against the too material interpretation of the symbolism
it had employed--to wind up its religious scheme by
sweeping into the chaos of oblivion all the glorious
fabric it had evoked, and proclaiming--in the place of
the transient gods and perishable heaven of its
Asgaard--that One undivided Deity, at whose approach the
pillars of Walhalla were to fall, and Odin and his peers
to perish, with all the subtle machinery of their existence;
while man--himself immortal--was summoned to receive at
the hands of the Eternal All-Father the sentence that
waited upon his deeds. It is true this purer system
belonged only to the early ages. As in the case of every
false religion, the symbolism of the Scandinavian mythology
lost with each succeeding generation something of its
transparency, and at last degenerated into a gross
superstition.  But traces still remained, even down to
the times of Christian ascendency, of the deep,
philosophical spirit in which it had been originally
conceived; and through its homely imagery there ran a
vein of tender humour, such as still characterises the
warm-hearted, laughter-loving northern races. Of this
mixture of philosophy and fun, the following story is no
bad specimen.  [Footnote: The story of Thor's journey
has been translated from the Edda both by the Howitts
and Mr. Thorpe.]

Once on a time the two OEsir, Thor, the Thunder god, and
his brother Lopt, attended by a servant, determined to
go eastward to Jotunheim, the land of the giants, in
search of adventures. Crossing over a great water, they
came to a desolate plain, at whose further end, tossing
and waving in the wind, rose the tree tops of a great
forest. After journeying for many hours along its dusty
labyrinths, they began to be anxious about a resting-place
for the night. "At last, Lopt perceived a very spacious
house, on one side of which was an entrance as wide as
the house itself, and there they took up their
night-quarters. At midnight they perceived a great
earthquake; the ground reeled under them and the house

"Then up rose Thor and called to his companions.  They
sought about, and found a side building to the right,
into which they went. Thor placed himself at the door;
the rest went and sat down further in, and were very much

"Thor kept his hammer in his hand, ready to defend them.
Then they heard a terrible noise and roaring.  As it
began to dawn, Thor went out, and saw a man lying in the
wood not far from them; he was by no means small, and he
slept and snored loudly. Then Thor understood what the
noise was which they heard in the night. He buckled on
his belt of power, by which he increased his divine
strength. At the same instant the man awoke, and rose
up. It is said that Thor was so much astonished that he
did not dare to slay him with his hammer, but inquired
his name. He called himself Skrymer. 'Thy name,' said
he, 'I need not ask, for I know that thou art Asar-Thor.
But what hast thou done with my glove?'

"Skrymer stooped and took up his glove, and Thor saw that
it was the house in which they had passed the night, and
that the out-building was the thumb."

Here follow incidents which do not differ widely from
certain passages in the history of Jack the Giant Killer.
Thor makes three several attempts to knock out the easy-
going giant's brains during a slumber, in which he is
represented as "snoring outrageously,"--and after each
blow of the Thunder god's hammer, Skrymer merely wakes
up--strokes his beard--and complains of feeling some
trifling inconvenience, such as a dropped acorn on his
head, a fallen leaf, or a little moss shaken from the
boughs.  Finally, he takes leave of them,--points out
the way to Utgard Loke's palace, advises them not to give
themselves airs at his court,--as unbecoming "such little
fellows" as they were, and disappears in the wood;
"and"--as the old chronicler slyly adds--"it is not said
whether the OEsir wished ever to see him again."

They then journey on till noon, till they come to a vast
palace, where a multitude of men, of whom the greater
number were immensely large, sat on two benches. "After
this they advanced into the presence of the king, Utgard
Loke, and saluted him. He scarcely deigned to give a
look, and said smiling: 'It is late to inquire after true
tidings from a great distance, but is it not Thor that
I see? Yet you are really bigger than I imagined. What
are the exploits that you can perform? For no one is
tolerated amongst us who cannot distinguish himself by
some art or accomplishment.'

"'Then,' said Lopt, 'I understand an art of which I am
prepared to give proof, and that is, that no one here
can dispose of his food as I can.' Then answered Utgard
Loke: 'Truly this IS an art, if thou canst achieve it;
which we will now see.' He called from the bench a man
named Loge to contend with Lopt. They set a trough in
the middle of the hall, filled with meat. Lopt placed
himself at one end and Loge at the other. Both ate the
best they could, and they met in the middle of the trough.
Lopt had picked the meat from the bones, but Loge had
eaten meat, bones, and trough altogether. All agreed Lopt
was beaten. Then asked Utgard Loke what art the young
man (Thor's attendant) understood? Thjalfe answered, that
he would run a race with any one that Utgard Loke would
appoint. There was a very good race ground on a level
field. Utgard Loke called a young man named Huge, and
bade him run with Thjalfe. Thjalfe runs his best, at
three several attempts--according to received Saga
customs,--but is of course beaten in the race.

"Then asked Utgard Loke of Thor, what were the feats that
he would attempt corresponding to the fame that went
abroad of him? Thor answered that he thought he could
beat any one at drinking. Utgard Loke said, 'Very good,'
and bade his cup-bearer bring out the horn from which
his courtiers were accustomed to drink. Immediately
appeared the cup-bearer, and placed the horn in Thor's
hand.  Utgard Loke then said, 'that to empty that horn
at one pull was well done; some drained it at twice; but
that he was a wretched drinker who could not finish it
at the third draught.' Thor looked at the horn, and
thought that it was not large, though it was tolerably
long. He was very thirsty, lifted it to his mouth, and
was very happy at the thought of so good a draught. When
he could drink no more, he took the horn from his mouth,
and saw, to his astonishment, that there was little less
in it than before.  Utgard Loke said: 'Well hast thou
drunk, yet not much.  I should never have believed but
that Asar-Thor could have drunk more; however, of this
I am confident, thou wilt empty it at the second time.'
He drank again; but when he took away the horn from his
mouth, it seemed to him that it had sunk less this time
than the first; yet the horn might now be carried without

"Then said Utgard Loke: 'How is this, Thor? If thou dost
not reserve thyself purposely for the third draught,
thine honour must be lost; how canst thou be regarded as
a great man, as the Aesir look upon thee, if thou dost
not distinguish thyself in other ways more than thou hast
done in this?'

"Then was Thor angry, put the horn to his mouth, drank
with all his might, and strained himself to the utmost;
and when he looked into the horn it was now somewhat
lessened. He gave up the horn, and would not drink any
more. 'Now,' said Utgard Loke, 'now is it clear that thy
strength is not so great as we supposed. Wilt thou try
some other game, for we see that thou canst not succeed
in this?' Thor answered: 'I will now try something else,
but I wonder who, amongst the Aesir, would call that a
little drink! What play will you propose?'

"Utgard Loke answered: 'Young men think it mere play to
lift my cat from the ground; and I would never have
proposed this to Aesir Thor, if I did not perceive that
thou art a much less man than I had thought thee.'
Thereupon sprang an uncommonly great grey cat upon the
floor.  Thor advanced, took the cat round the body, and
lifted it up. The cat bent its back in the same degree
as Thor lifted, and when Thor had lifted one of its feet
from the ground, and was not able to lift it any higher,
said Utgard Loke: 'The game has terminated just as I
expected.  The cat is very great, and Thor is low and
small, compared with the great men who are here with us.'

"Then said Thor: 'Little as you call me, I challenge any
one to wrestle with me, for now I am angry.' Utgard Loke
answered, looking round upon the benches: 'I see no one
here who would not deem it play to wrestle with thee:
but let us call hither the old Ella, my nurse; with her
shall Thor prove his strength, if he will. She has given
many one a fall who appeared far stronger than Thor is.
On this there entered the hall an old woman, and Utgard
Loke said she would wrestle with Thor. In short, the
contest went so, that the more Thor exerted himself, the
firmer she stood, and now began the old woman to exert
herself, and Thor to give way, and severe struggles
followed. It was not long before Thor was brought down
on one knee.  Then Utgard Loke stepped forward, bade them
cease the struggle, and said that Thor should attempt
nothing more at his court. It was now drawing towards
night; Utgard Loke showed Thor and his companions their
lodging, where they were well accommodated.

"As soon as it was light the next morning, up rose Thor
and his companions, dressed themselves, and prepared to
set out. Then came Utgard Loke, and ordered the table to
be set, where there wanted no good provisions, either
meat or drink. When they had breakfasted, they set out
on their way. Utgard Loke accompanied them out of the
castle, but at parting he asked Thor how the journey had
gone off, whether he had found any man more mighty than
himself? Thor answered, that the enterprise had brought
him much dishonour, it was not to be denied, and that he
must esteem himself a man of no account, which much
mortified him.

"Utgard Loke replied: 'Now will I tell thee the truth,
since thou art out of my castle, where, so long as I live
and reign, thou shalt never re-enter; and whither, believe
me, thou hadst never come if I had known before what
might thou possessest, and that thou wouldst so nearly
plunge us into great trouble. False appearances have I
created for thee, so that the first time when thou mettest
the man in the wood it was I; and when thou wouldst open
the provision-sack, I had laced it together with an iron
band, so that thou couldst not find the means to undo
it. After that thou struckest at me three times with the
hammer. The first stroke was the weakest, and it had been
my death had it hit me. Thou sawest by my castle a rock,
with three deep square holes, of which one was very deep:
those were the marks of thy hammer. The rock I placed in
the way of the blow, without thy perceiving it.

"'So also in the games, when thou contendedst with my
courtiers. When Lopt made his essay, the fact was this:
he was very hungry, and ate voraciously; but he who was
called Loge, was FIRE, which consumed the trough as well
as the meat. And Huge (mind) was my THOUGHT with which
Thjalfe ran a race, and it was impossible for him to
match it in speed. When thou drankest from the horn, and
thoughtest that its contents grew no less, it was,
notwithstanding, a great marvel, such as I never believed
could have taken place. The one end of the horn stood in
the sea, which thou didst not perceive; and when thou
comest to the shore thou wilt see how much the ocean has
diminished by what thou hast drunk. MEN WILL CALL IT THE

"'Further,' said he, 'most remarkable did it seem to me
that thou liftedst the cat, and in truth all became
terrified when they saw that thou liftedst one of its
feet from the ground. For it was no cat, as it seemed
unto thee, but the great serpent that lies coiled round
the world. Scarcely had he length that his tail and head
might reach the earth, and thou liftedst him so high up
that it was but a little way to heaven. That was a
marvellous wrestling that thou wrestledst with Ella (old
age), for never has there been any one, nor shall there
ever be, let him approach what great age he will, that
Ella shall not overcome.

"'Now we must part, and it is best for us on both sides
that you do not often come to me; but if it should so
happen, I shall defend my castle with such other arts
that you shall not be able to effect anything against

"When Thor heard this discourse he grasped his hammer
and lifted it into the air, but as he was about to strike
he saw Utgard Loke nowhere. Then he turned back to the
castle to destroy it, and he saw only a beautiful and
wide plain, but no castle."

So ends the story of Thor's journey to Jotunheim.

It was now just upon the stroke of midnight. Ever since
leaving England, as each four-and-twenty hours we climbed
up nearer to the pole, the belt of dusk dividing day from
day had been growing narrower and narrower, until having
nearly reached the Arctic circle, this,--the last night
we were to traverse,--had dwindled to a thread of shadow.
Only another half-dozen leagues more, and we would stand
on the threshold of a four months' day! For the few
preceding hours clouds had completely covered the heavens,
except where a clear interval of sky, that lay along the
northern horizon, promised a glowing stage for the sun's
last obsequies. But like the heroes of old he had veiled
his face to die, and it was not until he dropped down to
the sea that the whole hemisphere overflowed with glory
and the gilded pageant concerted for his funeral gathered
in slow procession round his grave; reminding one of
those tardy honours paid to some great prince of song,
who--left during life to languish in a garret--is buried
by nobles in Westminster Abbey. A few minutes more the
last fiery segment had disappeared beneath the purple
horizon, and all was over.

"The king is dead--the king is dead--the king is dead!
Long live the king!" And up from the sea that had just
entombed his sire, rose the young monarch of a new day;
while the courtier clouds, in their ruby robes, turned
faces still aglow with the favours of their dead lord,
to borrow brighter blazonry from the smile of a new

A fairer or a stranger spectacle than the last Arctic
sunset cannot well be conceived: Evening and Morning--like
kinsmen whose hearts some baseless feud has kept asunder
--clasping hands across the shadow of the vanished night.

You must forgive me if sometimes I become a little
magniloquent;--for really, amid the grandeur of that
fresh primaeval world, it was almost impossible to prevent
one's imagination from absorbing a dash of the local
colouring.  We seemed to have suddenly waked up among
the colossal scenery of Keats' Hyperion. The pulses of
young Titans beat within our veins. Time itself,--no
longer frittered down into paltry divisions,--had assumed
a more majestic aspect. We had the appetite of giants--was
it unnatural we should also adopt "the large utterance
of the early gods?"

As the "Reine Hortense" could not carry coals sufficient
for the entire voyage we had set out upon, it had been
arranged that the steamer "Saxon" should accompany her
as a tender, and the Onunder Fiord, on the north-west
coast of the island, had been appointed as the place of
rendezvous. Suddenly wheeling round therefore to the
right we quitted the open sea, and dived down a long grey
lane of water that ran on as far as the eye could reach
between two lofty ranges of porphyry and amygdaloid. The
conformation of these mountains was most curious: it
looked as if the whole district was the effect of some
prodigious crystallization, so geometrical was the outline
of each particular hill, sometimes rising cube-like, or
pentagonal, but more generally built up into a perfect
pyramid, with stairs mounting in equal gradations to the
summit. Here and there the cone of the pyramid would be
shaven off, leaving it flat-topped like a Babylonian
altar or Mexican teocalli; and as the sun's level
rays,--shooting across above our heads in golden rafters
from ridge to ridge,--smote brighter on some loftier peak
behind, you might almost fancy you beheld the blaze of
sacrificial fires. The peculiar symmetrical appearance
of these rocks arises from the fact of their being built
up in layers of trap, alternating with Neptunian beds;
the disintegrating action of snow and frost on the more
exposed strata having gradually carved their sides into
flights of terraces.

It is in these Neptunian beds that the famous surturbrand
is found, a species of bituminous timber, black and
shining like pitch coal; but whether belonging to the
common carboniferous system, or formed from ancient
drift-wood, is still a point of dispute among the learned.
In this neighbourhood considerable quantities both of
zerlite and chabasite are also found, but, generally
speaking, Iceland is less rich in minerals than one would
suppose; opal, calcedony, amethyst, malachite, obsidian,
agate, and feldspar, being the principal. Of sulphur the
supply is inexhaustible.

After steaming down for several hours between these
terraced hills, we at last reached the extremity of the
fiord, where we found the "Saxon" looking like a black
sea-dragon coiled up at the bottom of his den. Up fluttered
a signal to the mast-head of the corvette, and blowing
off her steam, she wore round upon her heel, to watch
the effects of her summons. As if roused by the challenge
of an intruder, the sleepy monster seemed suddenly to
bestir itself, and then pouring out volumes of sulphureous
breath, set out with many an angry snort in pursuit of
the rash troubler of its solitude. At least, such I am
sure might have been the notion of the poor peasant
inhabitants of two or three cottages I saw scattered here
and there along the loch, as, startled from their sleep,
they listened to the stertorous breathing of the long
snake-like ships, and watched them glide past with magic
motion along the glassy surface of the water. Of course
the novelty and excitement of all we had been witnessing
had put sleep and bedtime quite out of our thoughts: but
it was already six o'clock in the morning; it would
require a considerable time to get out of the fiord, and
in a few hours after we should be within the Arctic
circle, so that if we were to have any sleep at all--now
was the time. Acting on these considerations, we all
three turned in; and for the next half-dozen hours I lay
dreaming of a great funeral among barren mountains, where
white bears in peers' robes were the pall-bearers, and
a sea-dragon chief-mourner. When we came on deck again,
the northern extremity of Iceland lay leagues away on
our starboard quarter, faintly swimming through the haze;
up overhead blazed the white sun, and below glittered
the level sea, like a pale blue disc netted in silver
lace. I seldom remember a brighter day; the thermometer
was at 72 degrees, and it really felt more as if we were
crossing the line than entering the frigid zone.

Animated by that joyous inspiration which induces them
to make a fete of everything, the French officers, it
appeared, wished to organize a kind of carnival to
inaugurate their arrival in Arctic waters, and by means
of a piece of chalk and a huge black board displayed from
the hurricane-deck of the "Reine Hortense," an inquiry
was made as to what suggestion I might have to offer in
furtherance of this laudable object. With that poverty
of invention and love of spirits which characterise my
nation, I am obliged to confess that, after deep reflection,
I was only able to answer, "Grog." But seeing an extra
flag or two was being run up at each masthead of the
Frenchman, the lucky idea occurred to me to dress the
"Foam" in all her colours.  The schooner's toilette
accomplished, I went on board the "Reine Hortense," and
you cannot imagine anything more fragile, graceful, or
coquettish, than her appearance from the deck of the
corvette,--as she curtsied and swayed herself on the
bosom of the almost imperceptible swell, or flirted up
the water with her curving bows. She really looked like
a living little lady.

But from all such complacent reveries I was soon awakened
by the sound of a deep voice, proceeding apparently from
the very bottom of the sea, which hailed the ship in the
most authoritative manner, and imperiously demanded her
name, where she was going, whom she carried, and whence
she came: to all which questions, a young lieutenant,
standing with his hat off at the gangway, politely
responded.  Apparently satisfied on these points, our
invisible interlocutor then announced his intention of
coming on board. All the officers of the ship collected
on the poop to receive him.

In a few seconds more, amid the din of the most unearthly
music, and surrounded by a bevy of hideous monsters, a
white-bearded, spectacled personage-clad in bear-skin,
with a cocked hat over his left ear-presented himself in
the gangway, and handing to the officers of the watch an
enormous board, on which was written


by way of visiting card, proceeded to walk aft, and take
the sun's altitude with what, as far as I could make out,
seemed to be a plumber's wooden triangle. This preliminary
operation having been completed, there then began a
regular riot all over the ship. The yards were suddenly
manned with red devils, black monkeys, and every kind of
grotesque monster, while the whole ship's company, officers
and men promiscuously mingled, danced the cancan upon
deck. In order that the warmth of the day should not make
us forget that we had arrived in his dominions, the Arctic
father had stationed certain of his familiars in the
tops, who at stated intervals flung down showers of hard
peas, as typical of hail, while the powdering of each
other's faces with handfuls of flour could not fail to
remind everybody on board that we had reached the latitude
of snow.  At the commencement of this noisy festival I
found myself standing on the hurricane deck, next to,
one of the grave savants attached to the expedition, who
seemed to contem-plate the antics that were being played
at his feet with that sad smile of indulgence with which
Wisdom sometimes deigns to commiserate the gaiety of
Folly. Suddenly he disappeared from beside me, and the
next that I saw or heard of him--he was hard at work
pirouetting on the deck below with a red-tailed demon,
and exhibiting in his steps a "verve" and a graceful
audacity which at Paris would have certainly obtained
for him the honours of expulsion at the hands of the
municipal authorities. The entertainment of the day
concluded with a discourse delivered out of a wind-sail
by the chaplain attached to the person of the Pere
Arctique, which was afterwards washed down by a cauldron
full of grog, served out in bumpers to the several actors
in this unwonted ceremonial. As the Prince had been good
enough to invite us to dinner, instead of returning to
the schooner I spent the intermediate hour in pacing the
quarter-deck with Baron de la Ronciere,--the naval
commander entrusted with the charge of the expedition.
Like all the smartest officers in the French navy, he
speaks English beautifully, and I shall ever remember
with gratitude the cordiality with which he welcomed me
on board his ship, and the thoughtful consideration of
his arrangements for the little schooner which he had
taken in tow. At five o'clock dinner was announced, and
I question if so sumptuous a banquet has ever been served
up before in that outlandish part of the world, embellished
as it was by selections from the best operas played by
the corps d'orchestre which had accompanied the Prince
from Paris. During the pauses of the music the conversation
naturally turned on the strange lands we were about to
visit, and the best mode of spifflicating the white bears
who were probably already shaking in their snow shoes:
but alas! while we were in the very act of exulting in
our supremacy over these new domains, the stiffened finger
of the Ice king was tracing in frozen characters a "Mene,
mene, tekel upharsin" on the plate glass of the cabin
windows. During the last half-hour the thermometer had
been gradually falling, until it was nearly down to 32
degrees; a dense penetrating fog enveloped both the
vessels--(the "Saxon" had long since dropped out of
sight), flakes of snow began floating slowly down, and
a gelid breeze from the north-west told too plainly that
we had reached the frontiers of the solid ice, though we
were still a good hundred miles distant from the American
shore.  Although at any other time the terrible climate
we had dived into would have been very depressing, under
present circumstances I think the change rather tended
to raise our spirits, perhaps because the idea of fog
and ice in the month of June seemed so completely to
uncockneyfy us. At all events there was no doubt now we
had got into les mers glaciales, as our French friends
called them, and, whatever else might be in store for
us, there was sure henceforth to be no lack of novelty
and excitement.

By this time it was already well on in the evening, so
having agreed with Monsieur de la Ronciere on a code of
signals in case of fogs, and that a jack hoisted at the
mizen of the "Reine Hortense," or at the fore of the
schooner, should be an intimation of a desire of one or
other to cast off, we got into the boat and were dropped
down alongside our own ship. Ever since leaving Iceland
the steamer had been heading east-north-east by compass,
but during the whole of the ensuing night she shaped a
south-east course; the thick mist rendering it unwise to
stand on any longer in the direction of the banquise, as
they call the outer edge of the belt that hems in Eastern
Greenland. About three A.M.  it cleared up a little. By
breakfast time the sun re-appeared, and we could see five
or six miles ahead of the vessel. It was shortly after
this, that as I was standing in the main rigging peering
out over the smooth blue surface of the sea, a white
twinkling point of light suddenly caught my eye about a
couple of miles off on the port bow, which a telescope
soon resolved into a solitary isle of ice, dancing and
dipping in the sunlight. As you may suppose, the news
brought everybody upon deck, and when almost immediately
afterwards a string of other pieces, glittering like a
diamond necklace, hove in sight, the excitement was

Here at all events was honest blue saltwater frozen solid,
and when, as we proceeded, the scattered fragments
thickened, and passed like silver argosies on either
hand, until at last we found oumelves enveloped in an
innumerable fleet of bergs,--it seemed as if we could
never be weary of admiring a sight so strange and beautiful.
It was rather in form and colour than in size that these
ice islets were remarkable; anything approaching to a
real iceberg we neither saw, nor are we likely to see.
In fact, the lofty ice mountains that wander like vagrant
islands along the coast of America, seldom or never come
to the eastward or northward of Cape Farewell. They
consist of land ice, and are all generated among bays
and straits within Baffin's Bay, and first enter the
Atlantic a good deal to the southward of Iceland; whereas
the Polar ice, among which we have been knocking about,
is field ice, and--except when packed one ledge above
the other, by great pressure--is comparatively flat. I
do not think I saw any pieces that were piled up higher
than thirty or thirty-five feet above the sea-level,
although at a little distance through the mist they may
have loomed much loftier.

In quaintness of form, and in brilliancy of colours,
these wonderful masses surpassed everything I had imagined;
and we found endless amusement in watching their fantastic

At one time it was a knight on horseback, clad in sapphire
mail, a white plume above his casque. Or a cathedral
window with shafts of chrysophras, new powdered by a
snow-storm. Or a smooth sheer cliff of lapis lazuli; or
a Banyan tree, with roots descending from its branches,
and a foliage as delicate as the efflorescence of molten
metal; or a fairy dragon, that breasted the water in
scales of emerald; or anything else that your fancy chose
to conjure up. After a little time, the mist again
descended on the scene, and dulled each glittering form
to a shapeless mass of white; while in spite of all our
endeavours to keep upon our northerly course, we were
constantly compelled to turn and wind about in every
direction--sometimes standing on for several hours at a
stretch to the southward and eastward.  These perpetual
embarrassments became at length very wearying, and in
order to relieve the tedium of our progress I requested
the Doctor to remove one of my teeth. This he did with
the greatest ability--a wrench to starboard,--another
to port, and up it flew through the cabin sky-light.

During the whole of that afternoon and the following
night we made but little Northing at all, and the next
day the ice seemed more pertinaciously in our way than
ever; neither could we relieve the monotony of the hours
by conversing with each other on the black boards, as
the mist was too thick for us too distinguish from on
board one ship anything that was passing on the deck of
the other.  Notwithstanding the great care and skill with
which the steamer threaded her way among the loose floes,
it was impossible sometimes to prevent fragments of ice
striking us with considerable violence on the bows; and
as we lay in bed at night, I confess that until we got
accustomed to the noise, it was by no means a pleasant
thing to hear the pieces angrily scraping along the ship's
sides--within two inches of our ears. On the evening of
the fourth day it came on to blow pretty hard, and at
midnight it had freshened to half a gale; but by dint of
standing well away to the eastward we had succeeded in
reaching comparatively open water, and I had gone to bed
in great hopes that at all events the breeze would brush
off the fog, and enable us to see our way a little more
clearly the next morning.

At five o'clock A.M. the officer of the watch jumped down
into my cabin, and awoke me with the news--"That the
Frenchman was a-saying summat on his black board!" Feeling
by the motion that a very heavy sea must have been knocked
up during the night, I began to be afraid that something
must have gone wrong with the towing-gear, or that a
hawser might have become entangled in the corvette's
screw--which was the catastrophe of which I had always
been most apprehensive; so slipping on a pair of fur
boots, which I carefully kept by the bedside in case of
an emergency, and throwing a cloak over--

      "Le simple appareil
   D'une beaute qu'on vient d'arracher au sommeil,"

I caught hold of a telescope, and tumbled up on deck.
Anything more bitter and disagreeable than the icy blast,
which caught me round the waist as I emerged from the
companion I never remember. With both hands occupied in
levelling the telescope, I could not keep the wind from
blowing the loose wrap quite off my shoulders, and except
for the name of the thing, I might just as well have been
standing in my shirt. Indeed, I was so irresistibly struck
with my own resemblance to a coloured print I remember
in youthful days,--representing that celebrated character
"Puss in Boots," with a purple robe of honour streaming
far behind him on the wind, to express the velocity of
his magical progress--that I laughed aloud while I shivered
in the blast. What with the spray and mist, moreover, it
was a good ten minutes before I could make out the writing,
and when at last I did spell out the letters, their
meaning was not very inspiriting: "Nous retournons a
Reykjavik!" So evidently they had given it up as a bad
job, and had come to the conclusion that the island was
inaccessible.  Yet it seemed very hard to have to turn
back, after coming so far! We had already made upwards
of three hundred miles since leaving Iceland: it could
not be much above one hundred and twenty or one hundred
and thirty more to Jan Mayen; and although things looked
unpromising, there still seemed such a chance of success,
that I could not find it in my heart to give in; so,
having run up a jack at the fore--all writing on our
board was out of the question, we were so deluged with
spray--I jumped down to wake Fitzgerald and Sigurdr, and
tell them we were going to cast off, in case they had
any letters to send home. In the meantime, I scribbled
a line of thanks and good wishes to M. de la Ronciere,
and another to you, and guyed it with our mails on board
the corvette--in a milk can.

In the meantime all was bustle on board our decks, and
I think every one was heartily pleased at the thoughts
of getting the little schooner again under canvas. A
couple of reefs were hauled down in the mainsail and
staysail, and everything got ready for making sail.

"Is all clear for'ard for slipping, Mr. Wyse?"

"Ay, ay, Sir; all clear!"

"Let go the tow-ropes!"

"All gone, Sir!"

And down went the heavy hawsers into the sea, up fluttered
the staysail,--then--poising for a moment on the waves
with the startled hesitation of a bird suddenly set
free,--the little creature spread her wings, thrice dipped
her ensign in token of adieu--receiving in return a hearty
cheer from the French crew--and glided like a phantom
into the North, while the "Reine Hortense" puffed back
to Iceland.  [Footnote: It subsequently appeared that
the "Saxon," on the second day after leaving Onunder
Fiord, had unfortunately knocked a hole in her bottom
against the ice, and was obliged to run ashore in a
sinking state. In consequence of never having been rejoined
by her tender, the "Reine Hortense" found herself short
of coals; and as the encumbered state of the sea rendered
it already very unlikely that any access would be found
open to the island, M. de la Ronciere very properly judged
it advisable to turn back. He re-entered the Reykjavik
harbour without so much as a shovelful of coals left on

Ten minutes more, and we were the only denizens of that
misty sea. I confess I felt excessively sorry to have
lost the society of such joyous companions; they had
received us always with such merry good nature; the Prince
had shown himself so gracious and considerate, and he
was surrounded by a staff of such clever, well-informed
persons, that it was with the deepest regret I watched
the fog close round the magnificent corvette, and bury
her--and all whom she contained--within its bosom. Our
own situation, too, was not altogether without causing
me a little anxiety. We had not seen the sun for two
days; it was very thick, with a heavy sea, and dodging
about as we had been among the ice, at the heels of the
steamer, our dead reckoning was not very much to be
depended upon. The best plan I thought would be to stretch
away at once clear of the ice, then run up into the
latitude of Jan Mayen, and--as soon as we should have
reached the parallel of its northern extremity--bear down
on the land. If there was any access at all to the island,
it was very evident it would be on its northern or eastern
side; and now that we were alone, to keep on knocking up
through a hundred miles or so of ice in a thick fog, in
our fragile schooner, would have been out of the question.

The ship's course, therefore, having been shaped in
accordance with this view, I stole back into bed and
resumed my violated slumbers. Towards mid-day the weather
began to moderate, and by four o'clock we were skimming
along on a smooth sea, with all sails set. This state of
prosperity continued for the next twenty-four hours; we
had made about eighty knots since parting company with
the Frenchman, and it was now time to run down West and
pick up the land. Luckily the sky was pretty clear, and
as we sailed on through open water I really began to
think our prospects very brilliant. But about three
o'clock on the second day, specks of ice began to flicker
here and there on the horizon, then larger bulks came
floating by in forms as picturesque as ever--(one, I
particularly remember, a human hand thrust up out of the
water with outstretched forefinger, as if to warn us
against proceeding farther), until at last the whole sea
became clouded with hummocks that seemed to gather on
our path in magical multiplicity.

Up to this time we had seen nothing of the island, yet
I knew we must be within a very few miles of it; and now,
to make things quite pleasant, there descended upon us
a thicker fog than I should have thought the atmosphere
capable of sustaining; it seemed to hang in solid festoons
from the masts and spars. To say that you could not see
your hand, ceased almost to be any longer figurative;
even the ice was hid--except those fragments immediately
adjacent, whose ghastly brilliancy the mist itself could
not quite extinguish, as they glimmered round the vessel
like a circle of luminous phantoms. The perfect stillness
of the sea and sky added very much to the solemnity of
the scene; almost every breath of wind had fallen, scarcely
a ripple tinkled against the copper sheathing, as the
solitary little schooner glided along at the rate of half
a knot or so an hour, and the only sound we heard was
the distant wash of waters, but whether on a great shore,
or along a belt of solid ice, it was impossible to say.
In such weather, as the original discoverers of Jan Mayen
said under similar circumstances,--"it was easier to hear
land than to see it." Thus, hour after hour passed by
and brought no change.  Fitz and Sigurdr--who had begun
quite to disbelieve in the existence of the island--went
to bed, while I remained pacing up and down the deck,
anxiously questioning each quarter of the grey canopy
that enveloped us. At last, about four in the morning,
I fancied some change was going to take place; the heavy
wreaths of vapour seemed to be imperceptibly separating,
and in a few minutes more the solid roof of grey suddenly
split asunder, and I beheld through the gap--thousands
of feet over--head, as if suspended in the crystal sky--a
cone of illuminated snow.

[Figure: fig-p121.gif]

You can imagine my delight. It was really that of an
anchorite catching a glimpse of the seventh heaven. There
at last was the long-sought-for mountain actually tumbling
down upon our heads. Columbus could not have been more
pleased when, after nights of watching, he saw the first
fires of a new hemisphere dance upon the water; nor,
indeed, scarcely less disappointed at their sudden
disappearance than I was, when, after having gone below
to wake Sigurdr, and tell him we had seen bona fide
terra-firma, I found, on returning upon deck, that the
roof of mist had closed again, and shut out all trace of
the transient vision. However, I had got a clutch of the
island, and no slight matter should make me let go my
hold. In the meantime there was nothing for it but to
wait patiently until the curtain lifted; and no child
ever stared more eagerly at a green drop-scene in
expectation of "the realm of dazzling splendour" promised
in the bill, than I did at the motionless grey folds that
hung round us. At last the hour of liberation came: a
purer light seemed gradually to penetrate the atmosphere,
brown turned to grey, and grey to white, and white to
transparent blue, until the lost horizon entirely
reappeared, except where in one direction an impenetrable
veil of haze still hung suspended from the zenith to the
sea. Behind that veil I knew must lie Jan Mayen.

A few minutes more, and slowly, silently, in a manner
you could take no count of, its dusky hem first deepened
to a violet tinge, then gradually lifting, displayed a
long line of coast--in reality but the roots of
Beerenberg--dyed of the darkest purple; while, obedient
to a common impulse, the clouds that wrapped its summit
gently disengaged themselves, and left the mountain
standing in all the magnificence of his 6,870 feet,
girdled by a single zone of pearly vapour, from underneath
whose floating folds seven enormous glaciers rolled down
into the sea! Nature seemed to have turned scene-shifter,
so artfully were the phases of this glorious spectacle
successively developed.

Although--by reason of our having hit upon its side
instead of its narrow end--the outline of Mount Beerenberg
appeared to us more like a sugar-loaf than a spire--broader
at the base and rounder at the top than I had imagined,--
in size, colour, and effect, it far surpassed anything
I had anticipated. The glaciers were quite an unexpected
element of beauty. Imagine a mighty river of as great a
volume as the Thames--started down the side of a mountain,--
bursting over every impediment,--whirled into a thousand
eddies,--tumbling and raging on from ledge to ledge in
quivering cataracts of foam,--then suddenly struck rigid
by a power so instantaneous in its action, that even the
froth and fleeting wreaths of spray have stiffened into
the immutability of sculpture. Unless you had seen it,
it would be almost impossible to conceive the strangeness
of the contrast between the actual tranquillity of these
silent crystal rivers and the violent descending energy
impressed upon their exterior. You must remember, too,
all this is upon a scale of such prodigious magnitude,
that when we succeeded subsequently in approaching the
spot--where with a leap like that of Niagara one of these
glaciers plunges down into the sea--the eye, no longer
able to take in its fluvial character, was content to
rest in simple astonishment at what then appeared a lucent
precipice of grey-green ice, rising to the height of
several hundred feet above the masts of the vessel.

As soon as we had got a little over our first feelings
of astonishment at the panorama thus suddenly revealed
to us by the lifting of the fog, I began to consider what
would be the best way of getting to the anchorage on the
west--or Greenland side of the island. We were still
seven or eight miles from the shore, and the northern
extremity of the island, round which we should have to
pass, lay about five leagues off, bearing West by North,
while between us and the land stretched a continuous
breadth of floating ice.  The hummocks, however, seemed
to be pretty loose with openings here and there, so that
with careful sailing I thought we might pass through,
and perhaps on the farther side of the island come into
a freer sea. Alas! after having with some difficulty
wound along until we were almost abreast of the cape, we
were stopped dead short by a solid rampart of fixed ice,
which in one direction leant upon the land, and in the
other ran away as far as the eye could reach into the
dusky North. Thus hopelessly cut off from all access to
the western and better anchorage, it only remained to
put about, and--running down along the land--attempt to
reach a kind of open roadstead on the eastern side, a
little to the south of the volcano described by Dr.
Scoresby but in this endeavour also we were doomed to be
disappointed; for after sailing some considerable distance
through a field of ice, which kept getting more closely
packed as we pushed further into it, we came upon another
barrier equally impenetrable, that stretched away from
the island toward the Southward and Eastward. Under these
circumstances, the only thing to be done was to get back
to where the ice was looser, and attempt a landing wherever
a favourable opening presented itself. But even to
extricate ourselves from our present position, was now
no longer of such easy performance. Within the last hour
the wind had shifted into the North-West; that is to say,
it was now blowing right down the path along which we
had picked our way; in order to return, therefore, it
would be necessary to work the ship to windward through
a sea as thickly crammed with ice as a lady's boudoir is
with furniture. Moreover, it had become evident, from
the obvious closing of the open spaces, that some
considerable pressure was acting upon the outside of the
field; but whether originating in a current or the change
of wind, or another field being driven down upon it, I
could not tell: Be that as it might, out we must
get,--unless we wanted to be cracked like a walnut-shell
between the drifting ice and trio solid belt to leeward;
so sending a steady hand to the helm,--for these unusual
phenomena had begun to make some of my people lose their
heads a little, no one on board having ever seen a bit
of ice before,--I stationed myself in the bows, while
Mr.  Wyse conned the vessel from the square yard. Then
there began one of the prettiest and most exciting pieces
of nautical manoeuvring that can be imagined. Every single
soul on board was summoned upon deck; to all, their
several stations and duties were assigned--always excepting
the cook, who was merely directed to make himself generally
useful. As soon as everybody was ready, down went the
helm,--about came the ship,--and the critical part of
the business commenced. Of course, in order to wind and
twist the schooner in and out among the devious channels
left between the hummocks, it was necessary she should
have considerable way on her; at the same time so narrow
were some of the passages, and so sharp their turnings,
that unless she had been the most handy vessel in the
world, she would have had a very narrow squeak for it.
I never saw anything so beautiful as her behaviour. Had
she been a living creature, she could not have dodged,
and wound, and doubled, with more conscious cunning and
dexterity; and it was quite amusing to hear the endearing
way in which the people spoke to her, each time the nimble
creature contrived to elude some more than usually
threatening tongue of ice.  Once or twice, in spite of
all our exertions, it was impossible to save her from a
collision; all that remained to be done, as soon as it
became evident she could not clear some particular floe,
or go about in time to avoid it, was to haul the staysail
sheet a-weather in order to deaden her way as much as
possible, and--putting the helm down--let her go right
at it, so that she should receive the blow on her stem,
and not on the bluff of the bow; while all hands, armed
with spars and fenders, rushed forward to ease off the
shock.  And here I feel it just to pay a tribute of
admiration to the cook, who on these occasions never
failed to exhibit an immense amount of misdirected energy,
breaking--I remember--at the same moment, both the cabin
sky-light, and an oar, in single combat with a large berg
that was doing no particular harm to us, but against
which he seemed suddenly to have conceived a violent
spite. Luckily a considerable quantity of snow overlaid
the ice, which, acting as a buffer, in some measure
mitigated the violence of the concussion; while the very
fragility of her build diminishing the momentum, proved
in the end the little schooner's greatest security.
Nevertheless, I must confess that more than once, while
leaning forward in expectation of the scrunch I knew must
come, I have caught myself half murmuring to the fair
face that seemed to gaze so serenely at the cold white
mass we were approaching: "O Lady, is it not now fit thou
shouldest befriend the good ship of which thou art the

At last, after having received two or three pretty severe
bumps,--though the loss of a little copper was the only
damage they entailed,--we made our way back to the northern
end of the island, where the pack was looser, and we had
at all events a little more breathing room.

It had become very cold--so cold, indeed, that Mr. Wyse
--no longer able to keep a clutch of the rigging--had a
severe tumble from the yard on which he was standing.
The wind was freshening, and the ice was evidently still
in motion; but although very anxious to get back again
into open water, we thought it would not do to go away
without landing, even if it were only for an hour. So
having laid the schooner right under the cliff, and
putting into the gig our own discarded figure-head, a
white ensign, a flag-staff; and a tin biscuit-box,
containing a paper on which I had hastily written the
schooner's name, the date of her arrival, and the names
of all those who sailed on board,--we pulled ashore. A
ribbon of beach not more than fifteen yards wide, composed
of iron-sand, augite, and pyroxene, running along under
the basaltic precipice--upwards of a thousand feet
high--which serves as a kind of plinth to the mountain,
was the only standing room this part of the coast afforded.
With considerable difficulty, and after a good hour's
climb, we succeeded in dragging the figure-head we had
brought ashore with us, up a sloping patch of snow, which
lay in a crevice of the cliff, and thence a little higher,
to a natural pedestal formed by a broken shaft of rock;
where--after having tied the tin box round her neck,
and duly planted the white ensign of St. George beside
her,--we left the superseded damsel, somewhat grimly
smiling across the frozen ocean at her feet, until some
Bacchus of a bear should come to relieve the loneliness
of my wooden Ariadne.

On descending to the water's edge, we walked some little
distance along the beach without observing anything very
remarkable, unless it were the network of vertical and
horizontal dikes of basalt which shot in every direction
through the scoriae and conglomerate of which the cliff
seemed to be composed. Innumerable sea-birds sat in the
crevices and ledges of the uneven surface, or flew about
us with such confiding curiosity, that by reaching out
my hand I could touch their wings as they poised themselves
in the air alongside. There was one old sober-sides with
whom I passed a good ten minutes tete-a-tete, trying who
could stare the other out of countenance.

It was now high time to be off. As soon then as we had
collected some geological specimens, and duly christened
the little cove, at the bottom of which we had landed,
"Clandeboye Creek,"--we walked back to the gig. But--so
rapidly was the ice drifting down upon the island,--we
found it had already become doubtful whether we should
not have to carry the boat over the patch which--during
the couple of hours we had spent on shore--had almost
cut her off from access to the water. If this was the
case with the gig, it was very evident the quicker we
got the schooner out to sea again the better. So immediately
we returned on board, having first fired a gun in token
of adieu to the desolate land we should never again set
foot on, the ship was put about, and our task of working
out towards the open water recommenced. As this operation
was likely to require some time, directly breakfast was
over, (it was now about eleven o'clock A.M.,) and after
a vain attempt had been made to take a photograph of the
mountain, which the mist was again beginning to envelope,
I turned in to take a nap, which I rather needed,--fully
expecting that by the time I awoke we should be beginning
to get pretty clear of the pack. On coming on deck,
however, four hours later, although we had reached away
a considerable distance from the land, and had even passed
the spot, where, the day before, the sea was almost
free,--the floes seemed closer than ever; and, what was
worse, from the mast-head not a vestige of open water
was to be discovered. On every side, as far as the eye
could reach, there stretched over the sea one cold white
canopy of ice.

The prospect of being beset, in so slightly built a craft,
was--to say the least--unpleasant; it looked very much
as if fresh packs were driving down upon us from the very
direction in which we were trying to push out, yet it
had become a matter of doubt which course it would be
best to steer. To remain stationary was out of the
question; the pace at which the fields drift is sometimes
very rapid, [Footnote: Dr. Scoresby states that the
invariable tendency of fields of ice is to drift
south-westward, and that the strange effects produced by
their occasional rapid motions, is one of the most striking
objects the Polar Seas present, and certainly the most
terrific. They frequently acquire a rotary motion, whereby
their circumference attains a velocity of several miles
an hour; and it is scarcely possible to conceive the
consequences produced by a body, exceeding ten thousand
million tons in weight, coming in contact with another
under such circumstances. The strongest ship is but an
insignificant impediment between two fields in motion.
Numbers of whale vessels have thus been destroyed; some
have been thrown upon the ice; some have had their hulls
completely torn open, or divided in two, and others have
been overrun by the ice, and buried beneath its heaped
fragments.] and the first nip would settle the poor little
schooner's business for ever. At the same time, it was
quite possible that any progress we succeeded in making,
instead of tending towards her liberation, might perhaps
be only getting her deeper into the scrape. One thing
was very certain,--Northing or Southing might be an even
chance, but whatever EASTING we could make must be to
the good; so I determined to choose whichever vein seemed
to have most Easterly direction in it. Two or three
openings of this sort from time to time presented
themselves; but in every case, after following them a
certain distance, they proved to be but CUL-DE-SACS, and
we had to return discomfited. My great hope was in a
change of wind. It was already blowing very fresh from
the northward and eastward; and if it would but shift a
few points, in all probability the ice would loosen as
rapidly as it had collected. In the meantime, the only
thing to do was to keep a sharp look-out, sail the vessel
carefully, and take advantage of every chance of getting
to the eastward.

It now grew colder than ever,--the distant land was almost
hid with fog,--tattered dingy clouds came crowding over
the heavens,--while Wilson moved uneasily about the deck,
with the air of Cassandra at the conflagration of Troy.
It was Sunday, the 14th of July, and I had a momentary
fancy that I could hear the sweet church bells in England
pealing across the cold white flats which surrounded us.
At last, about five o'clock P.M., the wind shifted a
point or two, then flew round into the south-east. Not
long after, just as I had expected, the ice evidently
began to loosen,--a promising opening was reported from
the mast-head a mile or so away on the port-bow, and by
nine o'clock we were spanking along, at the rate of eight
knots an hour, under a double-reefed mainsail and
staysail--down a continually widening channel, between
two wave-lashed ridges of drift ice. Before midnight, we
had regained the open sea, and were standing away

      "to Norroway,
   To Norroway, over the faem."

In the forenoon I had been too busy to have our usual
Sunday church; but as soon as we were pretty clear of
the ice I managed to have a short service in the cabin.

Of our run to Hammerfest I have nothing particular to
say. The distance is eight hundred miles, and we did it
in eight days. On the whole, the weather was pretty fair,
though cold, and often foggy. One day indeed was perfectly
lovely,--the one before we made the coast of Lapland,
--without a cloud to be seen for the space of twenty-four
hours; giving me an opportunity of watching the sun
performing his complete circle overhead, and taking a
meridian altitude at midnight. We were then in 70 degrees
25' North latitude; i.e., almost as far north as the
North Cape; yet the thermometer had been up to 80 degrees
during the afternoon.

Shortly afterwards the fog came on again, and next morning
it was blowing very hard from the eastward. This was the
more disagreeable, as it is always very difficult, under
the most favourable circumstances, to find one's way into
any harbour along this coast, fenced off, as it is, from
the ocean by a complicated outwork of lofty islands,
which, in their turn, are hemmed in by nests of sunken
rock, sown as thick as peas, for miles to seaward. There
are no pilots until you are within the islands, and no
longer want them,--no lighthouses or beacons of any sort;
and all that you have to go by is the shape of the
hill-tops; but as, on the clearest day, the outlines of
the mountains have about as much variety as the teeth of
a saw, and as on a cloudy day, which happens about seven
times a week, you see nothing but the line of their dark
roots,--the unfortunate mariner, who goes poking about
for the narrow passage which is to lead him between the
islands,--at the BACK of one of which a pilot is waiting
for him,--will, in all probability, have already placed
his vessel in a position to render that functionary's
further attendance a work of supererogation. At least,
I know it was as much surprise as pleasure that I
experienced, when, after having with many misgivings
ventured to slip through an opening in the monotonous
barricade of mountains, we found it was the right channel
to our port. If the king of all the Goths would only
stick up a lighthouse here and there along the edge of
his Arctic seaboard, he would save many an honest fellow
a heart-ache.

[Figure: fig-p130.gif]

I must now finish this long letter.

Hammerfest is scarcely worthy of my wasting paper on it.
When I tell you that it is the most northerly town in
Europe, I think I have mentioned its only remarkable
characteristic.  It stands on the edge of an enormous
sheet of water, completely landlocked by three islands,
and consists of a congregation of wooden houses, plastered
up against a steep mountain; some of which being built
on piles, give the notion of the place having slipped
down off the hill half-way into the sea. Its population
is so and so,--its chief exports this and that; for all
which, see Mr. Murray's "Handbook," where you will find
all such matters much more clearly and correctly set down
than I am likely to state them. At all events, it produces
milk, cream--NOT butter--salad, and bad potatoes; which
is what we are most interested in at present. To think
that you should be all revelling this very moment in
green-peas and cauliflowers! I hope you don't forget your
grace before dinner.  I will write to you again before
setting sail for Spitzbergen.



I have received a copy of the "Moniteur" of the 31st
July, containing so graphic an account of the voyage of
the "Reine Hortense" towards Jan Mayen, and of the
catastrophe to her tender the "Saxon,"--in consequence
of which the corvette was compelled to abandon her voyage
to the Northward,--that I must forward it to you.


   "Voyage of Discovery along the Banquise, north of Iceland,

"It fell to the lot of an officer of the French navy, M.
Jules de Blosseville, to attempt to explore those distant
parts, and to shed an interest over them, both by his
discoveries and by his tragical and premature end.

In the spring of 1833, on the breaking up of a frost,
'La Lilloise,' under the command of that brave officer,
succeeded in passing through the Banquise, nearly up to
latitude 69 degrees, and in surveying about thirty leagues
of coast to the south of that latitude. After having
returned to her anchorage off the coast of Iceland, he
sailed again in July for a second attempt. From that time
nothing has been heard of 'La Lillouse.'

The following year the 'Bordelaise' was sent to look for
the 'Lilloise,' but found the whole north of Iceland
blocked up by ice-fields; and returned, having been
stopped in the latitude of the North Cape.

As a voyage to the Danish colonies on the western coast
of Greenland formed part of the scheme of our arctic
navigation, we were aware at our departure from Paris,
that it was our business to make ourselves well acquainted
with the southern part of the ice-field, from Reykjavik
to Cape Farewell. But while we were touching at Peterhead,
the principal port for the fitting of vessels destined
for the seal fishery, the Prince, and M. de la Ronciere,
Commander of 'La Reine Hortense,' gathered--from
conversations with the fishermen just returned from their
spring expedition--some important information on the
actual state of the ice.  They learnt from them that
navigation was completely free this year round the whole
of Iceland; that the ice-field resting on Jan Mayen
Island, and surrounding it to a distance of about twenty
leagues, extended down the south-west along the coast of
Greenland, but without blocking up the channel which
separates that coast from that of Iceland. These unhoped-for
circumstances opened a new field to our explorations, by
allowing us to survey all that part of the Banquise which
extends to the north of Iceland, thus forming a continuation
to the observations made by the 'Recherche,' and to those
which we ourselves intended to make during our voyage to
Greenland. The temptation was too great for the Prince;
and Commander de la Ronciere was not a man to allow an
opportunity to escape for executing a project which
presented itself to him with the character of daring and

But the difficulties of the enterprise were serious, and
of such a nature that no one but a sailor experienced in
navigation is capable of appreciating. The 'Reine Hortense'
is a charming pleasure-boat, but she offers very few of
the requisites for a long voyage, and she was destitute
of all the special equipment indispensable for a long
sojourn in the ice. There was room but for six days'
coals, and for three weeks' water: As to the sails, one
may say the masts of the corvette are merely for show,
and that without steam it would be impossible to reckon
on her making any way regularly and uninterruptedly. Add
to this, that she is built of iron,--that is to say, an
iron sheet of about two centimbtres thick constitutes
all her planking,--and that her deck--divided into twelve
great panels, is so weak that it has been thought incapable
of carrying guns proportioned to her tonnage. Those who
have seen the massive vessels of the fishermen of Peterhead,
their enormous outside planking, their bracings and
fastenings in wood and in iron, and their internal knees
and stancheons, may form an idea from such
precautions--imposed by long experience of the nature of
the dangers that the shock--or even the pressure of the
ice--may cause to a ship in the latitudes that we were
going to explore.

The 'Cocyte' had also been placed at the disposal of
H.I.H.  Prince Napoleon. This vessel which arrived at
Reykjavik the same day that we did, the 30th of June--is
a steam schooner, with paddles, standing the sea well,
carying coals for twelve days, but with a deplorably slow
rate of speed.

We found besides at Reykjavik the war transport 'La
Perdrix' and two English merchant steamers, the 'Tasmania
and the 'Saxon,' freighted by the Admiralty to take to
Iceland coals necessary for our voyage to Greenland.
These five vessels, with the frigate 'Artemise,' which
performed he duties of guardship, formed the largest
squadron which had ever assembled in the harbour of the
capital of Iceland.

Unfortunately, these varied and numerous elements had
nothing in common, and Commodore de la Ronciere soon saw
that extraneous help would afford us no additional
security; and, in short, that the 'Refine Bortense'--
obliged to go fast--as her short supplies would not allow
long voyages, had to reckon on herself alone. However,
the [English] captain of the 'Saxon' expressing a great
desire to visit these northern parts, and displaying on
this subject a sort of national vanity, besides promising
an average speed of seven knots an hour, it was decided
that--at all events, that vessel should start alone with
the 'Refine Hortense,' whose supply of coals it would be
able to replenish, in the event--a doubtful one, it is
true--of our making the coast of Jan Mayen's Island, and
finding a good anchorage. The 'Reine Hortense' had--by
the help of a supplementary load on deck--a supply of
coals for eight days; and immediately on starting, the
crew as well as the passengers, were to be put on a
measured allowance of water.

A few hours before getting under way, the expedition was
completed by the junction of a new companion, quite
unexpected. We found in Reykjavik harbour a yacht belonging
to Lord Dufferin. The Prince, seeing his great desire to
visit the neighbourhood of Jan Mayen, offered to take
his schooner in tow of the 'Reine Hortense.' It was a
fortunate accident for a seeker of maritime adventures;
and an hour afterwards, the proposition having been
eagerly accepted, the Englishman was attached by two long
cables to the stern of our corvette.

On the 7th of July, 1856, at two o'clock in the morning,
after a ball given by Commander de Mas on board the
'Artemise,'--the 'Reine Hortense,' with the English
schooner in tow, left Reykjavik harbour, directing her
course along the west coast of Iceland, towards
Onundarfiord, where we were to join the 'Saxon' which
had left a few hours before us. At nine o'clock, the
three vessels, steering east-north-east, doubled the
point of Cape North. At noon our observation of the
latitude placed us about 67 degrees. We had just crossed
the Arctic circle. The temperature was that of a fine
spring day, 10 degrees centigrade (50 degrees Farenh.).

The 'Reine Hortense' diminished her speed. A rope thrown
across one of the towing-ropes enabled Lord Dufferin to
haul one of his boats to our corvette. He himself came
to dine with us, and to be present at the ceremony of
crossing the polar circle. As to the 'Saxon,' M. de la
Ronciere perceived by this time that the worthy Englishman
had presumed too much on his power. The 'Saxon' was
evidently incapable of following us. The captain, therefore,
made her a signal that she was to take her own course,
to try and reach Jan Mayen; and if she could not succeed,
to direct her course on Onundarfiord, and there to wait
for us. The English vessel fell rapidly astern, her hull
disappeared, then her sails, and in the evening every
trace of her smoke had faded from the horizon.

In the evening, the temperature grew gradually colder;
that of the water underwent a more rapid and significant
change. At twelve at night it was only three degrees
centig.  (about 37 degrees Fahr.). At that moment the
vessel plunged into a bank of fog, the intensity of which
we were enabled to ascertain, from the continuance of
daylight in these latitudes at this time of the year.
There are tokens that leave no room to doubt that we are
approaching the solid ice. True enough:--at two o'clock
in the morning the officer on watch sees close to the
ship a herd of seals, inhabitants of the field ice. A
few minutes later the fog clears up suddenly; a ray of
sunshine gilds the surface of the sea; lighting up millions
of patches of sparkling white, extending to the farthest
limit of the horizon. These are the detached hummocks
which precede and announce the field ice; they increase
in size and in number as we proceed. At three o'clock in
the afternoon we find ourselves in front of a large pack
which blocks up the sea before us. We are obliged to
change our course to extricate ourselves from the ice
that surrounds us.  This is an evolution requiring on
the part of the commander the greatest precision of eye,
and a perfect knowledge of his ship. The 'Reine Hortense,'
going half speed, with all the officers and the crew on
deck, glides along between the blocks of ice, some of
which she seems almost to touch, and the smallest of
which would sink her instantly if a collision took place.
Another danger, which it is almost impossible to guard
against, threatens a vessel in those trying moments. If
a piece of ice gets under the screw, it will be inevitably
smashed like glass, and the consequences of such an
accident might be fatal.

The little English schooner follows us bravely; bounding
in our track, and avoiding only by a constant watchfulness
and incessant attention to the helm the icebergs that we
have cleared.

But the difficulties of this navigation are nothing in
clear weather, as compared to what they are in a fog.
Then, notwithstanding the slowness of the speed, it
requires as much luck as skill to avoid collisions. Thus
it happened that after having escaped the ice a first
time, and having steered E.N.E., we found ourselves
suddenly, towards two o'clock of that same day (the 9th),
not further than a quarter of a mile from the field ice
which the fog had hidden from us. Generally speaking,
the Banquise that we coasted along for three days, and
that we traced with the greatest care for nearly a hundred
leagues, presented to us an irregular line of margin,
running from W.S.W. to E.N.E., and thrusting forward
toward the south-capes and promontories of various sizes,
and serrated like the teeth of a saw. Every time that we
bore up for E.N.E., we soon found ourselves in one of
the gulfs of ice formed by the indentations of the
Banquise. It was only by steering to the S.W.  that we
got free from the floating icebergs, to resume our former
course as soon as the sea was clear.

The further we advanced to the northward, the thicker
became the fog and more intense the cold (two degrees
centig, below zero); and snow whirled round in squalls
of wind, and fell in large flakes on the deck. The ice
began to present a new aspect, and to assume those
fantastic and terrible forms and colours, which painters
have made familiar to us. At one time it assumed the
appearance of mountain-peaks covered with snow, furrowed
with valleys of green and blue; more frequently they
appeared like a wide flat plateau, as high as the ship's
deck, against which the sea rolled with fury, hollowing
its edges into gulfs, or breaking them into perpendicular
cliffs or caverns, into which the sea rushed in clouds
of foam.

We often passed close by a herd of seals, which-stretched
on these floating islands, followed the ship with a stupid
and puzzled look. We were forcibly struck with the contrast
between the fictitious world in which we lived on board
the ship, and the terrible realities of nature that
surrounded us.  Lounging in an elegant saloon, at the
corner of a clear and sparkling fire, amidst a thousand
objects of the arts and luxuries of home, we might have
believed that we had not changed our residence, or our
habits, or our enjoyments.  One of Strauss's waltzes, or
Schubert's melodies--played on the piano by the
band-master--completed the illusion; and yet we had only
to rub off the thin incrustation of frozen vapour that
covered the panes of the windows, to look out upon the
gigantic and terrible forms of the icebergs dashed against
each other by a black and broken sea, and the whole
panorama of Polar nature, its awful risks, and its sinister

Meanwhile, we progressed but very slowly. On the 10th of
July we were still far from the meridian of Jan Mayen,
when we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a fog,
and at the bottom of one of the bays formed by the field
ice.  We tacked immediately, and put the ship about, but
the wind had accumulated the ice behind us. At a distance
the circle that enclosed us seemed compact and without
egress.  We considered this as the most critical moment
of our expedition. Having tried this icy barrier at
several points, we found a narrow and tortuous channel,
into which we ventured; and it was not till after an hour
of anxieties that we got a view of the open sea, and of
a passage into it.  From this moment we were able to
coast along the Banquise without interruption.

On the 11th of July at 6 A.M. we reached, at last, the
meridian of Jan Mayen, at about eighteen leagues' distance
[Footnote:  I think there must be some mistake here; when
we parted company with the "Reine Hortense," we were
still upwards of 100 miles distant from the southern
extremity of Jan Mayen.] from the southern part of that
island, but we saw the ice-field stretching out before
us as far as the eye could reach; hence it became evident
that Jan Mayen was blocked up by the ice, at least along
its south coast. To ascertain whether it might still be
accessible from the north, it would have been necessary
to have attempted a circuit to the eastward, the possible
extent of which could not be estimated; moreover, we had
consumed half our coals, and had lost all hope of being
rejoined by the 'Saxon.' Thus forced to give up any
further attempts in that direction, Commodore de la
Ronciere, having got the ship clear of the floating ice,
took a W.S.W. course, in the direction of Reykjavik.

The instant the 'Reine Hortense' assumed this new course,
a telegraphic signal--as had been previously arranged--
acquainted Lord Dufferin with our determinations. Almost
immediately, the young Lord sent on board us a tin box,
with two letters, one for his mother, and one for our
commander. In the latter he stated that--finding himself
clear of the ice, and master of his own movements--he
preferred continuing his voyage alone, uncertain whether
he should at once push for Norway, or return to Scotland.
[Footnote: I was purposely vague as to my plans, lest
you might learn we still intended to go on.] The two
ropes that united the vessels were then cast off, a
farewell hurrah was given, and in a moment the English
schooner was lost in the fog.

Our return to Reykjavik afforded no incident worth notice;
the 'Reine Hortense,' keeping her course outside the ice,
encountered no impediment, except from the intense fogs,
which forced her--from the impossibility of ascertaining
her position--to lie to, and anchor off the cape during
part of the day and night of the 13th.

On the morning of the 14th, as we were getting out at
the Dyre Fiord, where we had anchored, we met--to our
great astonishment--the 'Cocyte' proceeding northward.
Her commander, Sonnart, informed us that on the evening
of the 12th, the 'Saxon'--in consequence of the injuries
she had received, had been forced back to Reykjavik. She
had hardly reached the ice on the 9th, when she came into
collision with it; five of her timbers had been stove
in, and an enormous leak had followed. Becoming
water-logged, she was run ashore, the first tine at
Onundarfiord, and again in Reykjavik roads, whither she
had been brought with the greatest difficulty."



July 27th, Alten.

This letter ought to be an Eclogue, so pastoral a life
have we been leading lately among these pleasant Nordland
valleys. Perhaps it is only the unusual sight of meadows,
trees and flowers, after the barren sea, and still more
barren lands we have been accustomed to, that invests
this neighbourhood with such a smiling character. Be that
as it may, the change has been too grateful not to have
made us seriously reflect on our condition; and we have
at last determined that not even the envious ocean shall
for the future cut us off from the pleasures of a shepherd
life.  Henceforth, the boatswain is no longer to be the
only swain on board! We have purchased an ancient goat--a
nanny-goat--so we may be able to go a-milking upon
occasion. Mr.  Webster, late of her Majesty's Foot-guards,
carpenter, etc., takes brevet-rank as dairy-maid; and
our venerable passenger is at this moment being inducted
into a sumptuous barrel [Footnote: The cask in question
was bought in order to be rigged up eventually into a
crow's-nest, as soon as we should again find ourselves
among the ice.] which I have had fitted up for her
reception abaft the binnacle. A spacious meadow of
sweet-scented hay has been laid down in a neighbouring
corner for her further accommodation; and the Doctor is
tuning up his flageolet, in order to complete the bucolic
character of the scene. The only personage amongst us at
all disconcerted by these arrangements is the little
white fox which has come with us from Iceland. Whether
he considers the admission on board of so domestic an
animal to be a reflection on his own wild Viking habits,
I cannot say; but there is no impertinence--even to the
nibbling of her beard when she is asleep--of which he is
not guilty towards the poor old thing, who passes the
greater part of her mornings in gravely butting at her
irreverent tormentor.

[Figure: fig-p142.gif]

But I must relate our last week's proceedings in a more
orderly manner.

As soon as the anchor was let go in Hammerfest harbour,
we went ashore; and having first ascertained that the
existence of a post does not necessarily imply letters,
we turned away, a little disappointed, to examine the
metropolis of Finmark. A nearer inspection did not improve
the impression its first appearance had made upon us;
and the odour of rancid cod-liver oil, which seemed
indiscriminately to proceed from every building in the
town, including the church, has irretrievably confirmed
us in our prejudices.  Nevertheless, henceforth the place
will have one redeeming association connected with it,
which I am bound to mention.  It was in the streets of
Hammerfest that I first set eyes on a Laplander. Turning
round the corner of one of the ill-built houses, we
suddenly ran over a diminutive little personage in a
white woollen tunic, bordered with red and yellow stripes,
green trousers, fastened round the ankles, and reindeer
boots, curving up at the toes like Turkish slippers. On
her head--for notwithstanding the trousers, she turned
out to be a lady--was perched a gay parti-coloured cap,
fitting close round the face, and running up at the back
into an overarching peak of red cloth. Within this peak
was crammed--as I afterwards learnt--a piece of hollow
wood, weighing about a quarter of a pound, into which is
fitted the wearer's back hair; so that perhaps, after
all, there does exist a more in, convenient coiffure than
a Paris bonnet.

Hardly had we taken off our hats, and bowed a thousand
apologies for our unintentional rudeness to the fair
inhabitant of the green trousers, before a couple of Lapp
gentlemen hove in sight. They were dressed pretty much
like their companion, except that an ordinary red night-cap
replaced the queer helmet worn by the lady; and the knife
and sporran fastened to their belts, instead of being
suspended in front as hers were, hung down against their
hips. Their tunics, too, may have been a trifle shorter.
None of the three were beautiful. High cheek-bones, short
noses, oblique Mongol eyes, no eyelashes, and enormous
mouths, composed a cast of features which their burnt-sienna
complexion, and hair like ill-got-in hay did not much
enhance. The expression of their countenances was not
unintelligent; and there was a merry, half-timid,
half-cunning twinkle in their eyes, which reminded me a
little of faces I had met with in the more neglected
districts of Ireland. Some ethnologists, indeed, are
inclined to reckon the Laplanders as a branch of the
Celtic family. Others, again, maintain them to be Ugrians;
while a few pretend to discover a relationship between
the Lapp language and the dialects of the Australian
savages, and similar outsiders of the human family;
alleging that as successive stocks bubbled up from the
central birthplace of mankind in Asia, the earlier and
inferior races were gradually driven outwards in concentric
circles, like the rings produced by the throwing of a
stone into a pond; and that consequently, those who dwell
in the uttermost ends of the earth are, ipso facto, first

This relationship with the Polynesian Niggers, the native
genealogists would probably scout with indignation, being
perfectly persuaded of the extreme gentility of their
descent.  Their only knowledge of the patriarch Noah is
as a personage who derives his principal claim to notoriety
from having been the first Lapp. Their acquaintance with
any sacred history--nay, with Christianity at all--is
very limited. It was not until after the thirteenth
century that an attempt was made to convert them; and
although Charles the Fourth and Gustavus ordered portions
of Scripture to be translated in Lappish, to this very
day a great proportion of the race are pagans; and even
the most illuminated amongst them remain slaves to the
grossest superstition.  When a couple is to be married,
if a priest happens to be in the way, they will send for
him perhaps out of complaisance; but otherwise, the young
lady's papa merely strikes a flint and steel together,
and the ceremony is not less irrevocably completed. When
they die, a hatchet and a flint and steel are invariably
buried with the defunct, in case he should find himself
chilly on his long journey--an unnecessary precaution,
many of the orthodox would consider, on the part of such
lax religionists. When they go boar-hunting--the most
important business in their lives--it is a sorcerer, with
no other defence than his incantations, who marches at
the head of the procession. In the internal arrangements
of their tents, it is not a room to themselves, but a
door to themselves, that they assign to their womankind;
for woe betide the hunter if a woman has crossed the
threshold over which he sallies to the chase; and for
three days after the slaughter of his prey he must live
apart from the female portion of his family in order to
appease the evil deity whose familiar he is supposed to
have destroyed. It would be endless to recount the
innumerable occasions upon which the ancient rites of
Jumala are still interpolated among the Christian
observances they profess to have adopted.

Their manner of life I had scarcely any opportunities of
observing. Our Consul kindly undertook to take us to one
of their encampments; but they flit so often from place
to place, it is very difficult to light upon them. Here
and there, as we cruised about among the fiords, blue
wreaths of smoke rising from some little green nook among
the rocks would betray their temporary place of abode;
but I never got a near view of a regular settlement.

In the summer-time they live in canvas tents: during
winter, when the snow is on the ground, the forest Lapps
build huts in the branches of trees, and so roost like
birds.  The principal tent is of an hexagonal form, with
a fire in the centre, whose smoke rises through a hole
in the roof.  The gentlemen and ladies occupy different
sides of the same apartment; but a long pole laid along
the ground midway between them symbolizes an ideal
partition, which I dare say is in the end as effectual
a defence as lath and plaster prove in more civilized
countries. At all events, the ladies have a doorway quite
to themselves, which, doubtless, they consider a far
greater privilege than the seclusion of a separate boudoir.
Hunting and fishing are the principal employments of the
Lapp tribes; and to slay a bear is the most honourable
exploit a Lapp hero can achieve. The flesh of the
slaughtered beast becomes the property--not of the man
who killed him, but of him who discovered his trail, and
the skin is hung up on a pole, for the wives of all who
took part in the expedition to shoot at with their eyes
bandaged. Fortunate is she whose arrow pierces the
trophy,--not only does it become her prize, but, in the
eyes of the whole settlement, her husband is looked upon
thence forth as the most fortunate of men. As long as
the chase is going on, the women are not allowed to stir
abroad; but as soon as the party have safely brought home
their booty, the whole female population issue from the
tents, and having deliberately chewed some bark of a
species of alder, they spit the red juice into their
husband's faces, typifying thereby the bear's blood which
has been shed in the honourable encounter.

Although the forests, the rivers, and the sea supply them
in a great measure with their food, it is upon the reindeer
that the Laplander is dependent for every other comfort
in life. The reindeer is his estate, his horse, his cow,
his companion, and friend. He has twenty-two different
names for him. His coat, trousers, and shoes are made of
reindeer's skin, stitched with thread manufactured from
the nerves and sinews of the reindeer. Reindeer milk is
the most important item in his diet. Out of reindeer
horns are made almost all the utensils used in his domestic
economy; and it is the reindeer that carries his baggage,
and drags his sledge. But the beauty of this animal is
by no means on a par with his various moral and physical
endowments. His antlers, indeed, are magnificent, branching
back to the length of three or four feet; but his body
is poor, and his limbs thick and ungainly; neither is
his pace quite so rapid as is generally supposed. The
Laplanders count distances by the number of horizons they
have traversed; and if a reindeer changes the horizon
three times during the twenty-four hours, it is thought
a good day's work. Moreover, so just an appreciation has
the creature of what is due to his own great merit, that
if his owner seeks to tax him beyond his strength, he
not only becomes restive, but sometimes actually turns
upon the inconsiderate Jehu who has over-driven him.
When, therefore, a Lapp is in a great hurry, instead of
taking to his sledge, he puts on a pair of skates exactly
twice as long as his own body, and so flies on the wings
of the wind.

Every Laplander, however poor, has his dozen or two dozen
deer; and the flocks of a Lapp Croesus amount sometimes
to two thousand head. As soon as a young lady is born--after
having been duly rolled in the snow--she is dowered by
her father with a certain number of deer, which are
immediately branded with her initials, and thenceforth
kept apart as her especial property. In proportion as
they increase and multiply does her chance improve of
making a good match. Lapp courtships are conducted pretty
much in the same fashion as in other parts of the world.
The aspirant, as soon as he discovers that he has lost
his heart, goes off in search of a friend and a bottle
of brandy. The friend enters the tent, and opens
simultaneously--the brandy--and his business; while the
lover remains outside, engaged in hewing wood, or some
other menial employment. If, after the brandy and the
proposal have been duly discussed, the eloquence of his
friend prevails, he is himself called into the conclave,
and the young people are allowed to rub noses. The bride
then accepts from her suitor a present of a reindeer's
tongue, and the espousals are considered concluded. The
marriage does not take place for two or three years
afterwards; and during the interval the intended is
obliged to labour in the service of his father-in-law,
as diligently as Jacob served Laban for the sake of his
long-loved Rachel.

I cannot better conclude this summary of what I have been
able to learn about the honest Lapps, than by sending
you the tourist's stock specimen of a Lapp love-ditty.
The author is supposed to be hastening in his sledge
towards the home of his adored one:--

"Hasten, Kulnasatz! my little reindeer! long is the way,
and boundless are the marshes. Swift are we, and light
of foot, and soon we shall have come to whither we are
speeding. There shall I behold my fair one pacing.
Kulnasatz, my reindeer, look forth! look around! Dost
thou not see her somewhere--BATHING?"

As soon as we had thoroughly looked over the Lapp lady
and her companions, a process to which they submitted
with the greatest complacency, we proceeded to inspect
the other lions of the town; the church, the lazar-house,--
principally occupied by Lapps,--the stock fish
establishment, and the hotel. But a very few hours were
sufficient to exhaust the pleasures of Hammerfest; so
having bought an extra suit of jerseys for my people,
and laid in a supply of other necessaries, likely to be
useful in our cruise to Spitzbergen, we exchanged dinners
with the Consul, a transaction by which, I fear, he got
the worst of the bargain, and then got under way for this

The very day we left Hammerfest our hopes of being able
to get to Spitzbergen at all--received a tremendous shock.
We had just sat down to dinner, and I was helping the
Consul to fish, when in comes Wilson, his face, as usual,
upside down, and hisses something into the Doctor's ear.
Ever since the famous dialogue which had taken place
between them on the subject of sea-sickness, Wilson had
got to look upon Fitz as in some sort his legitimate
prey; and whenever the burden of his own misgivings became
greater than he could bear, it was to the Doctor that he
unbosomed himself. On this occasion, I guessed, by the
look of gloomy triumph in his eyes, that some great
calamity had occurred, and it turned out that the following
was the agreeable announcement he had been in such haste
to make: "Do you know, Sir?"--This was always the preface
to tidings unusually doleful.  "No--what?" said the
Doctor, breathless. "Oh nothing, Sir; only two sloops
have just arrived, Sir, from Spitzbergen, Sir--where they
couldn't get, Sir;--such a precious lot of ice--two
hundred miles from the land-and, oh, Sir--they've come
back with all their bows stove in!" Now, immediately on
arriving at Hammerfest, my first care had been to inquire
how the ice was lying this year to the northward, and I
had certainly been told that the season was a very bad
one, and that most of the sloops that go every summer to
kill sea-horses (i.e., walrus) at Spitzbergen, being
unable to reach the land., had returned empty-handed;
but as three weeks of better weather had intervened since
their discomfiture, I had quite reassured myself with
the hope, that in the meantime the advance of the season
might have opened for us a passage to the island.

This news of Wilson's quite threw me on my back again.
The only consolation was, that probably it was not true;
so immediately after dinner we boarded the honest
Sea-horseman who was reported to have brought the dismal
intelligence.  He turned out to be a very cheery intelligent
fellow of about five-and-thirty, six feet high, with a
dashing "devil-may-care" manner that completely imposed
upon me. Charts were got out, and the whole state of the
case laid before me in the clearest manner. Nothing could
be more unpromising. The sloop had quitted the ice but
eight-and-forty hours before making the Norway coast;
she had not been able even to reach Bear Island. Two
hundred miles of ice lay off the southern and western
coast of Spitzbergen--(the eastern side is always blocked
up with ice)--and then bent round in a continuous semicircle
towards Jan Mayen. That they had not failed for want of
exertion--the bows of his ships sufficiently testified.
As to OUR getting there it was out of the question. So
spake the Sea-horseman. On returning on board the "Foam"
I gave myself up to the most gloomy reflections. This,
then, was to be the result of all my preparations and
long-meditated schemes. What likelihood was there of
success, after so unfavourable a verdict? Ipse dixit,
equus marinus.  It is true the horse-marines have hitherto
been considered a mythic corps, but my friend was too
substantial-looking for me to doubt his existence: and
unless I was to ride off on the proverbial credulity of
the other branch of that amphibious profession, I had no
reason to question his veracity. Nevertheless, I felt it
would not become a gentleman to turn back at the first
blush of discouragement.  If it were possible to reach
Spitzbergen, I was determined to do so. I reflected that
every day that passed was telling in our favour. It was
not yet the end of July; even in these latitudes winter
does not commence much before September, and in the
meantime the tail of the Gulf Stream would still be
wearing a channel in the ice towards the pole; so, however
unpromising might be the prospect, I determined, at all
events, that we should go and see for ourselves how
matters really stood.

But I must explain to you why I so counted upon the
assistance of the Gulf Stream to help us through.

The entire configuration of the Arctic ice is determined
by the action of that mysterious current on its edges.
Several theories have been advanced to account for its
influence in so remote a region. I give you one which
appears to me reasonable. It is supposed, that in obedience
to that great law of Nature which seeks to establish
equilibrium in the temperature of fluids,--a vast body
of gelid water is continually mounting from the Antarctic,
to displace and regenerate the over-heated oceans of the
torrid zone. Bounding up against the west side of South
America, the ascending stream skirts the coasts of Chili
and Peru, and is then deflected in a westerly direction
across the Pacific Ocean, where it takes the name of the
Equatorial Current. Having completely encircled Australia,
it enters the Indian Sea, sweeps up round the Cape of
Good Hope, and, crossing the Atlantic, twists into the
Gulf of Mexico. Here its flagging energies are suddenly
accelerated in consequence of the narrow limits within
which it finds itself compressed.  So marvellous does
the velocity of the current now become, so complete its
isolation from the deep sea bed it traverses, that by
the time it issues again into the Atlantic, its hitherto
diffused and loitering waters are suddenly concentrated
into what Lieutenant Maury has happily called--"a river
in the ocean," swifter and of greater volume than either
the Mississippi or the Amazon. Surging forth between the
interstices of the Bahamas, that stretch like a weir
across its mouth, it cleaves asunder the Atlantic. So
distinct is its individuality, that one side of a vessel
will be scoured by its warm indigo-coloured water, while
the other is floating in the pale, stagnant, weed-encumbered
brine of the Mar de Sargasso of the Spaniards. It is not
only by colour, by its temperature, by its motion, that
this (Greek) "ron Okeanuio" is distinguished; its very
surface is arched upwards some way above the ordinary
sea-level toward the centre, by the lateral pressure of
the elastic liquid banks between which it flows. Impregnated
with the warmth of tropic climes, the Gulf Stream-as it
has now come to be called,--then pours its genial floods
across the North Atlantic, laving the western coasts of
Britain, Ireland, and Norway, and investing each shore
it strikes upon, with a climate far milder than that
enjoyed by other lands situated in the same latitudes.
Arrived abreast of the North Cape, the impetus of the
current is in a great measure exhausted.

From causes similar (though of less efficacy, in consequence
of the smaller area occupied by water) to those which
originally gave birth to the ascending energy of the
Antarctic waters, a gelid current is also generated in
the Arctic Ocean, which, descending in a south-westerly
direction, encounters the already faltering Gulf Stream
in the space between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. A
contest for the mastery ensues, which is eventually
terminated by a compromise. The warmer stream, no longer
quite able to hold its own, splits into two branches,
the one squeezing itself round the North Cape, as far as
that Varangar Fiord which Russia is supposed so much to
covet, while the other is pushed up in a more northerly
direction along the west coast of Spitzbergen. But although
it has power to split up the Gulf Stream for a certain
distance, the Arctic current is ultimately unable to cut
across it, and the result is an accumulation of ice to
the south of Spitzbergen in the angle formed by the
bifurcation, as Mr. Grote would call it, of the warmer

It is quite possible, therefore, that the north-west
extremity of Spitzbergen may be comparatively clear,
while the whole of its southern coasts are enveloped in
belts of ice of enormous extent. It was on this contingency
that we built our hopes, and determined to prosecute our
voyage, in spite of the discouraging report of the Norse

About eight o'clock in the evening we got under way from
Hammerfest; unfortunately the wind almost immediately
after fell dead calm, and during the whole night we lay
"like a painted ship upon a painted ocean." At six o'clock
a little breeze sprang up, and when we came on deck at
breakfast time, the schooner was skimming at the rate of
five knots an hour over the level lanes of water, which
lie between the silver-grey ridges of gneiss and mica
slate that hem in the Nordland shore. The distance from
Hammerfest to Alten is about forty miles, along a zigzag
chain of fiords. It was six o'clock in the evening, and
we had already sailed two-and-thirty miles, when it again
fell almost calm. Impatient at the unexpected delay, and
tempted by the beauty of the evening,--which was indeed
most lovely, the moon hanging on one side right opposite
to the sun on the other, as in the picture of Joshua's
miracle,--Sigurdr, in an evil hour, proposed that we
should take a row in the dingy, until the midnight breeze
should spring up, and bring the schooner along with it.
Away we went, and so occupied did we become with admiring
the rocky precipices beneath which we were gliding, that
it was not until the white sails of the motionless schooner
had dwindled to a speck, that we became aware of the
distance we had come.

Our attention had been further diverted by the spectacle
of a tribe of fishes, whose habit it appeared to be--instead
of swimming like Christian fishes in a horizontal position
beneath the water--to walk upon their hind-legs along
its surface. Perceiving a little boat floating on the
loch not far from the spot where we had observed this
phenomenon, we pulled towards it, and ascertained that
the Lapp officer in charge was actually intent on stalking
the peripatetic school--to use a technical expression--whose
evolutions had so much astonished us. The great object
of the sportsman is to judge by their last appearance
what part of the water the fish are likely to select for
the scene of their next promenade. Directly he has
determined this in his own mind, he rows noiselessly to
the spot, and, as soon as they show themselves, hooks
them with a landing-net into his boat.

By this time it had become a doubtful point whether it
would not be as little trouble to row on to Alten as to
return to the schooner, so we determined to go on.
Unfortunately we turned down a wrong fiord, and after a
long pull, about two o'clock in the morning had the
satisfaction of finding ourselves in a cul-de-sac. To
add to our discomfort, clouds of mosquitoes with the
bodies of behemoths and the stings of dragons, had
collected from all quarters of the heavens to make a prey
of us. In vain we struggled--strove to knock them down
with the oars,--plunged our heads under the water,--smacked
our faces with frantic violence; on they came in myriads,
until I thought our bleaching bones would alone remain
to indicate our fate.  At last Sigurdr espied a log but
on the shore, where we might at least find some one to
put us into the right road again; but on looking in at
the open door, we only saw a Lapland gentleman fast
asleep. Awaking at our approach he started to his feet,
and though nothing could be more gracefully conciliatory
than the bow with which I opened the conversation, I
regret to say that after staring wildly round for a few
minutes, the aboriginal bolted straight away in the most
unpolite manner and left us to our fate. There was nothing
for it but patiently to turn back, and try some other
opening. This time we were more successful, and about
three o'clock A.M. had the satisfaction of landing at
one of the wharves attached to the copper mines of
Kaafiord. We came upon a lovely scene. It was as light
and warm as a summer's noon in England; upon a broad
plateau, carved by nature out of the side of the grey
limestone, stood a bright shining house in the middle of
a plot of rich English-looking garden. On one side lay
the narrow fiord, on every other rose an amphitheatre of
fir-clad mountains. The door of the house was open, so
were many of the windows--even those on the ground-floor,
and from the road where we stood we could see the books
on the library shelves. A swing and some gymnastic
appliances on the lawn told us that there were children.
Altogether, I thought I had never seen such a charming
picture of silent comfort and security. Perhaps the barren
prospects we had been accustomed to made the little oasis
before us look more cheerful than we might otherwise have
thought it.

The question now arose, what was to be done? My principal
reason for coming to Alten was to buy some salt provisions
and Lapland dresses; but dolls and junk were scarcely a
sufficient pretext for knocking up a quiet family at
three o'clock in the morning. It is true, I happened to
have a letter for Mr. T--, written by a mutual friend,
who had expressly told me that--arrive when I might at
Alten,--the more unceremoniously I walked in and took
possession of the first unoccupied bed I stumbled on,
the better Mr. T-- would be pleased; but British punctilio
would not allow me to act on the recommendation, though
we were sorely tried. In the meantime the mosquitoes had
become more intolerable than ever. At last, half mad with
irritation, I set off straight up the side of the nearest
mountain, in hopes of attaining a zone too high for them
to inhabit; and, poising myself upon its topmost pinnacle,
I drew my handkerchief over my head--I was already without
coat and waistcoat--and remained the rest of the morning
"mopping and mowing" at the world beneath my feet.

About six o'clock, like a phantom in a dream, the little
schooner came stealing round the misty headland, and
anchored at the foot of the rocks below. Returning
immediately on board, we bathed, dressed, and found repose
from all our troubles. Not long after, a message from
Mr.  T--, in answer to a card I had sent up to the
house as soon as the household gave signs of being
astir--invited us to breakfast; and about half-past nine
we presented ourselves at his hospitable door. The
reception I met with was exactly what the gentlemen who
had given me the letter of introduction had led me to
expect; and so eager did Mr. T-- seem to make us
comfortable, that I did not dare to tell him how we had
been prowling about his house the greater part of the
previous night, lest he should knock me down on the spot
for not having knocked him up. The appearance of the
inside of the house quite corresponded with what we had
anticipated from the soigne air of everything about its
exterior. Books, maps, pictures, a number of astronomical
instruments, geological specimens, and a magnificent
assortment of fishing-rods, betrayed the habits of the
practical, well-educated, business-loving English gentlemen
who inhabited it; and as he showed me the various articles
of interest in his study, most heartily did I congratulate
myself on the lucky chance which had brought me into
contact with so desirable an acquaintance.

All this time we had seen nothing of the lady of the
house; and I was just beginning to speculate as to whether
that crowning ornament could be wanting to this pleasant
home, when the door at the further end of the room suddenly
opened, and there glided out into the sunshine--"The
White Lady of Avenel." A fairer apparition I have seldom
seen,--stately, pale, and fragile as a lily--blond hair,
that rippled round a forehead of ivory--a cheek of waxen
purity on which the fitful colour went and came--not
with the flush of southern blood, or flower-bloom of
English beauty,--but rather with a cool radiance, as of
"northern streamers" on the snows of her native hills,--
eyes of a dusky blue, and lips of that rare tint which
lines the conch-shell. Such was the Chatelaine of
Kaafiord,--as perfect a type of Norse beauty as ever my
Saga lore had conjured up! Frithiof's Ingeborg herself
seemed to stand before me. A few minutes afterwards, two
little fair-haired maidens, like twin snowdrops, stole
into the room; and the sweet home picture was complete.

The rest of the day has been a continued fete. In vain
after having transacted my business, I pleaded the turning
of the tide, and our anxiety to get away to sea; nothing
would serve our kind entertainer but that we should stay
to dinner; and his was one of those strong energetic
wills it is difficult to resist.

In the afternoon, the Hammerfest steamer called in from
the southward, and by her came two fair sisters of our
hostess from their father's home in one of the Loffodens
which overlook the famous Maelstrom. The stories about
the violence of the whirlpool Mr. T-- assures me are
ridiculously exaggerated. On ordinary occasions the site
of the supposed vortex is perfectly unruffled, and it is
only when a strong weather tide is running that any
unusual movements in the water can be observed; even then
the disturbance does not amount to much more than a rather
troublesome race. "Often and often, when she was a girl,
had his wife and her sisters sailed over its fabulous
crater in an open boat." But in this wild romantic country,
with its sparse population, rugged mountains, and gloomy
fiords, very ordinary matters become invested with a
character of awe and mystery quite foreign to the atmosphere
of our own matter-of-fact world; and many of the Norwegians
are as prone to superstition as the poor little Lapp
pagans who dwell among them.

No later than a few years ago, in the very fiord we had
passed on our way to Alten, when an unfortunate boat got
cast away during the night on some rocks at a little
distance from the shore, the inhabitants, startled by
the cries of distress which reached them in the morning
twilight, hurried down in a body to the sea-side,--not
to afford assistance,--but to open a volley of musketry
on the drowning mariners; being fully persuaded that the
stranded boat, with its torn sails, was no other than
the Kracken or Great Sea-Serpent flapping its dusky wings:
and when, at last, one of the crew succeeded in swimming
ashore in spite of waves and bullets,--the whole society
turned and fled!

And now, again good-bye. We are just going up to dine
with Mr. T--; and after dinner, or at least as soon as
the tide turns, we get under way--Northward Ho! (as Mr.
Kingsley would say) in right good earnest this time!



Throndhjem, Aug. 22nd, 1856.

We have won our laurels, after all! We have landed in
Spitzbergen--almost at its most northern extremity; and
the little "Foam" has sailed to within 630 miles of the
Pole; that is to say, within 100 miles as far north as
any ship has ever succeeded in getting.

I think my last letter left us enjoying the pleasant
hospitalities of Kaafiord.

The genial quiet of that last evening in Norway was
certainly a strange preface to the scenes we have since
witnessed. So warm was it, that when dinner was over, we
all went out into the garden, and had tea in the open
air; the ladies without either bonnets or shawls, merely
plucking a little branch of willow to brush away the
mosquitoes; and so the evening wore away in alternate
intervals of chat and song. At midnight, seawards again
began to swirl the tide, and we rose to go,--not without
having first paid a visit to the room where the little
daughters of the house lay folded in sleep. Then descending
to the beach, laden with flowers and kind wishes waved
to us by white handkerchiefs held in still whiter hands,
we rowed on board; up went the napping sails, and dipping
her ensign in token of adieu--the schooner glided swiftly
on between the walls of rock, until an intervening crag
shut out from our sight the friendly group that had come
forth to bid us "Good speed." In another twenty-four
hours we had threaded our way back through the intricate
fiords; and leaving Hammerfest three or four miles on
the starboard hand, on the evening of the 28th of July,
we passed out between the islands of Soroe and Bolsvoe
into the open sea.

My intention was to go first to Bear Island, and ascertain
for myself in what direction the ice was lying to the
southward of Spitzbergen.

Bear--or Cherie Island, is a diamond-shaped island, about
ten miles long, composed of secondary rocks--principally
sandstone and limestone-lying about 280 miles due north
of the North Cape. It was originally discovered by Barentz,
the 9th of June, 1596, on the occasion of his last and
fatal voyage. Already had he commanded two expeditions
sent forth by the United Provinces to discover a north-east
passage to that dream-land--Cathay; and each time, after
penetrating to the eastward of Nova Zembla, he had been
foiled by the impenetrable line of ice. On this occasion
he adopted the bolder and more northerly courses which
brought him to Bear Island. Thence, plunging into the
mists of the frozen sea, he ultimately sighted the western
mountains of Spitzbergen. Unable to proceed further in
that direction, Barentz retraced his steps, and again
passing in sight of Bear Island, proceeded in a south-east
direction to Nova Zembla, where his ships got entangled
in the ice, and he subsequently perished.

Towards the close of the sixteenth century, in spite of
repeated failures, one endeavour after another was made
to penetrate to India across these fatal waters.

The first English vessel that sailed on the disastrous
quest was the "Bona Esperanza." in the last year of King
Edward VI. Her commander was Sir Hugh Willoughby, and we
have still extant a copy of the instructions drawn up by
Sebastian Cabot--the Grand Pilot of England, for his
guidance. Nothing can be more pious than the spirit in
which this ancient document is conceived; expressly
enjoining that morning and evening prayers should be
offered on board every ship attached to the expedition,
and that neither dicing, carding, tabling, nor other
devilish devices--were to be permitted. Here and there
were clauses of a more questionable morality,--recommending
that natives of strange lands be "enticed on board, and
made drunk with your beer and wine; for then you shall
know the secrets of their hearts." The whole concluding
with an exhortation to all on board to take especial heed
to the devices of "certain creatures, with men's heads,
and the tails of fishes, who swim with bows and arrows
about the fiords and bays, and live on human flesh."

On the 11th of May the ill-starred expedition got under
way from Deptford, and saluting the king, who was then
lying sick at Greenwich, put to sea. By the 30th of July
the little fleet--three vessels in all--had come up
abreast of the Loffoden islands, but a gale coming on,
the "Esperanza" was separated from the consorts.
Ward-huus--a little harbour to the east of the North
Cape-had been appointed as the place of rendezvous in
case of such an event, but unfortunately, Sir Hugh overshot
the mark, and wasted all the precious autumn time in
blundering amid the ice to the eastward. At last, winter
set in, and they were obliged to run for a port in Lapland.
Here, removed from all human aid, they were frozen to
death. A year afterwards, the ill-fated ships were
discovered by some Russian sailors, and an unfinished
journal proved that Sir Hugh and many of his companions
were still alive in January, 1554.

The next voyage of discovery in a north-east direction
was sent out by Sir Francis Cherie, alderman of London,
in 1603. After proceeding as far east as Ward-huus and
Kela, the "Godspeed" pushed north into the ocean, and on
the 16th of August fell in with Bear Island. Unaware of
its previous discovery by Barentz, Stephen Bennet--who
commanded the expedition--christened the island Cherie
Island, in honour of his patron, and to this day the two
names are used almost indiscriminately.

In 1607, Henry Hudson was despatched by the Muscovy
Company, with orders to sail, if possible, right across
the pole. Although perpetually baffled by the ice, Hudson
at last succeeded in reaching the north-west extremity
of Spitzbergen, but finding his further progress arrested
by an impenetrable barrier of fixed ice, he was forced
to return.  A few years later, Jonas Poole--having been
sent in the same direction, instead of prosecuting any
discoveries, wisely set himself to killing the sea-horses
that frequent the Arctic ice-fields, and in lieu of
tidings of new lands--brought back a valuable cargo of
walrus tusks. In 1615, Fotherby started with the intention
of renewing the attempt to sail across the north pole,
but after encountering many dangers he also was forced
to return. It was during the course of his homeward voyage
that he fell in with the island of Jan Mayen. Soon
afterwards, the discovery by Hudson and Davis, of the
seas and straits to which they have given their names,
diverted the attention of the public from all thoughts
of a north-east passage, and the Spitzbergen waters were
only frequented by ships engaged in the fisheries. The
gradual disappearance of the whale, and the discovery of
more profitable fishing stations on the west coast of
Greenland, subsequently abolished the sole attraction
for human being which this inhospitable region ever
possessed, and of late years, I understand, the Spitzbergen
seas have remained as lonely and unvisited as they were
before the first adventurer invaded their solitude.

Twice only, since the time of Fotherby, has any attempt
been made to reach the pole on a north-east course. In
1773, Captain Phipps, afterwards Lord Mulgrave, sailed
in the "Carcass" towards Spitzbergen, but he never reached
a higher latitude than 81 degrees. It was in this expedition
that Nelson made his first voyage, and had that famous
encounter with the bear. The next and last endeavour was
undertaken by Parry, in 1827. Unable to get his ship even
as far north as Phipps had gone, he determined to leave
her in a harbour in Spitzbergen, and push across the sea
in boats and sledges.  The uneven nature of the surface
over which they had to travel, caused their progress
northward to be very slow, and very laborious. The ice
too, beneath their feet, was not itself immovable, and
at last they perceived they were making the kind of
progress a criminal makes upon the treadmill,--the floes
over which they were journeying drifting to the southward
faster than they walked north; so that at the end of a
long day's march of ten miles, they found themselves four
miles further from their destination than at its
commencement. Disgusted with so Irish a manoeuvre, Parry
determined to return, though not until he had almost
reached the 83rd parallel, a higher latitude than any to
which man is known to have penetrated. Arctic authorities
are still of opinion, that Parry's plan for reaching the
pole might prove successful, if the expedition were to
set out earlier in the season, ere the intervening field
of ice is cast adrift by the approach of summer.

Our own run to Bear Island was very rapid. On getting
outside the islands, a fair fresh wind sprung up, and we
went spinning along for two nights and two days as merrily
as possible, under a double-reefed mainsail and staysail,
on a due north course. On the third day we began to see
some land birds, and a few hours afterwards, the loom of
the island itself; but it had already begun to get
fearfully cold, and our thermometer, which I consulted
every two hours, plainly indicated that we were approaching
ice. My only hope was that, at all events, the southern
extremity of the island might be disengaged; for I was
very anxious to land, in order to examine some coal-beds
which are said to exist in the upper strata of the
sandstone formation. This expectation was doomed to
complete disappointment. Before we had got within six
miles of the shore, it became evident that the report of
the Hammerfest Sea-horseman was too true.

Between us and the land there extended an impenetrable
barrier of packed ice, running due east and west, as far
as the eye could reach.

[Figure: fig-p162.gif]

What was now to be done? If a continuous field of ice
lay 150 miles off the southern coast of Spitzbergen, what
would be the chance of getting to the land by going
further north? Now that we had received ocular proof of
the veracity of the Hammerfest skipper in this first
particular, was it likely that we should have the luck
to find the remainder of his story untrue? According to
the track he had jotted down for me on the chart, the
ice in front stretched right away west in an unbroken
line, to the wall of ice which we had seen running to
the north, from the upper end of Jan Mayen. Only a week
had elapsed since he had actually ascertained the
impracticability of reaching a higher latitude,--what
likelihood could there be of a channel having been opened
up to the northward during so short an interval? Such
was the series of insoluble problems by which I posed
myself, as we stood vainly smacking our lips at the
island, which lay so tantalizingly beyond our reach.

Still, unpromising as the aspect of things might appear,
it would not do to throw a chance away; so I determined
to put the schooner round on the other tack, and run
westwards along the edge of the ice, until we found
ourselves again in the Greenland sea. Bidding, therefore,
a last adieu to Mount Misery, as its first discoverers
very appropriately christened one of the higher hills in
Bear Island, we suffered it to melt back into a fog,--out
of which, indeed, no part of the land had ever more than
partially emerged,--and with no very sanguine expectations
as to the result, sailed west away towards Greenland.
During the next four-and-twenty hours we ran along the
edge of the ice, in nearly a due westerly direction,
without observing the slightest indication of anything
approaching to an opening towards the North. It was weary
work, scanning that seemingly interminable barrier, and
listening to the melancholy roar of waters on its icy

At last, after having come about 140 miles since leaving
Bear Island,--the long, white, wave-lashed line suddenly
ran down into a low point, and then trended back with a
decided inclination to the North. Here, at all events,
was an improvement; instead of our continuing to steer
W. by S., or at most W. by N., the schooner would often
lay as high up as N.W., and even N.W. by N. Evidently
the action of the Gulf Stream was beginning to tell, and
our spirits rose in proportion. In a few more hours,
however, this cheering prospect was interrupted by a
fresh line of ice being reported, not only ahead, but as
far as the eye could reach on the port bow; so again the
schooner's head was put to the westward, and the old
story recommenced. And now the flank of the second barrier
was turned, and we were able to edge up a few hours to
the northward; but only to be again confronted by another
line, more interminable, apparently, than the last. But
why should I weary you with the detail of our various
manoeuvres during the ensuing days? They were too tedious
and disheartening at the time, for me to look back upon
them with any pleasure. Suffice it to say, that by dint
of sailing north whenever the ice would permit us, and
sailing west when we could not sail north, we found
ourselves on the 2nd of August, in the latitude of the
southern extremity of Spitzbergen, though divided from
the land by about fifty miles of ice. All this while the
weather had been pretty good, foggy and cold enough, but
with a fine stiff breeze that rattled us along at a good
rate whenever we did get a chance of making any Northing.
But lately it had come on to blow very hard, the cold
became quite piercing, and what was worse--in every
direction round the whole circuit of the horizon, except
along its southern segment,--a blaze of iceblink illuminated
the sky.  A more discouraging spectacle could not have
met our eyes. The iceblink is a luminous appearance,
reflected on the heavens from the fields of ice that
still lie sunk beneath the horizon; it was, therefore on
this occasion an unmistakable indication of the encumbered
state of the sea in front of us.

I had turned in for a few hours of rest, and release from
the monotonous sense of disappointment, and was already
lost in a dream of deep bewildering bays of ice, and
gulfs whose shifting shores offered to the eye every
possible combination of uncomfortable scenery, without
possible issue,--when "a voice in my dreaming ear"
shouted "LAND!" and I awoke to its reality. I need not
tell you in what double quick time I tumbled up the
companion, or with what greediness I feasted my eyes on
that longed-for view,--the only sight--as I then thought--we
were ever destined to enjoy of the mountains of Spitzbergen!

The whole heaven was overcast with a dark mantle of
tempestuous clouds, that stretched down in umbrella-like
points towards the horizon, leaving a clear space between
their edge and the sea, illuminated by the sinister
brilliancy of the iceblink. In an easterly direction,
this belt of unclouded atmosphere was etherealized to an
indescribable transparency, and up into it there gradually
grew--above the dingy line of starboard ice--a forest of
thin lilac peaks, so faint, so pale, that had it not been
for the gem-like distinctness of their outline, one could
have deemed them as unsubstantial as the spires of
fairy-land. The beautiful vision proved only too transient;
in one short half hour mist and cloud had blotted it all
out, while a fresh barrier of ice compelled us to turn
our backs on the very land we were striving to reach.

Although we were certainly upwards of sixty miles distant
from the land when the Spitzbergen hills were first
observed, the intervening space seemed infinitely less;
but in these high latitudes the eye is constantly liable
to be deceived in the estimate it forms of distances.
Often, from some change suddenly taking place in the
state of the atmosphere, the land you approach will appear
even to RECEDE; and on one occasion, an honest skipper--one
of the most valiant and enterprising mariners of his
day--actually turned back, because, after sailing for
several hours with a fair wind towards the land, and
finding himself no nearer to it than at first, he concluded
that some loadstone rock beneath the sea must have
attracted the keel of his ship, and kept her stationary.

The next five days were spent in a continual struggle
with the ice. On referring to our log, I see nothing but
a repetition of the same monotonous observations.

"July 31st.--Wind W. by S.--Courses sundry to clear ice."

"Ice very thick."

"These twenty-four hours picking our way through ice."

"August 1st.--Wind W.--courses variable--foggy--continually
among ice these twenty-four hours."

And in Fitz's diary, the discouraging state of the weather
is still more pithily expressed:--

"August 2nd.--Head wind--sailing westward--large hummocks
of ice ahead, and on port bow, i.e. to the westward--hope
we may be able to push through. In evening, ice gets
thicker; we still hold on--fog comes on--ice getting
thicker--wind freshens--we can get no farther--ice impass-
able, no room to tack--struck the ice several times--
obliged to sail S. and W.--things look very shady."

Sometimes we were on the point of despairing altogether,
then a plausible opening would show itself as if leading
towards the land, and we would be tempted to run down it
until we found the field become so closely packed, that
it was with great difficulty we could get the vessel
round,--and only then at the expense of collisions, which
made the little craft shiver from stem to stern. Then a
fog would come on--so thick, you could almost cut it
like a cheese, and thus render the sailing among the
loose ice very critical indeed then it would fall dead
calm, and leave us, hours together, muffled in mist, with
no other employment than chess or hopscotch. It was during
one of those intervals of quiet that I executed the
annexed work of art, which is intended to represent
Sigurdr, in the act of meditating a complicated gambit
for the Doctor's benefit.

About this period Wilson culminated. Ever since leaving
Bear Island he had been keeping a carnival of grief in
the pantry, until the cook became almost half-witted by
reason of his Jeremiads. Yet I must not give you the
impression that the poor fellow was the least wanting in
PLUCK--far from it.  Surely it requires the highest order
of courage to anticipate every species of disaster every
moment of the day, and yet to meet the impending fate
like a man--as he did. Was it his fault that fate was
not equally ready to meet him? HIS share of the business
was always done: he was ever prepared for the worst; but
the most critical circumstances never disturbed the
gravity of his carriage, and the fact of our being destined
to go to the bottom before tea-time would not have caused
him to lay out the dinner-table a whit less symmetrically.
Still, I own, the style of his service was slightly
depressing. He laid out my clean shirt of a morning as
if it had been a shroud; and cleaned my boots as though
for a man ON HIS LAST LEGS. The fact is, he was imaginative
and atrabilious,--contemplating life through a medium of
the colour of his own complexion.

This was the cheerful kind of report he used invariably
to bring me of a morning. Coming to the side of my cot
with the air of a man announcing the stroke of doomsday,
he used to say, or rather, TOLL--

"Seven o'clock, my Lord!"

"Very well; how's the wind?"

"Dead ahead, my Lord--DEAD!"

"How many points is she off her course?"

"Four points, my Lord--full four points!" (Four points
being as much as she could be.)

"Is it pretty clear? eh! Wilson?"

"--Can't see your hand, my Lord!--can't see your hand!"

"Much ice in sight?"

"--Ice all round, my Lord--ice a-all ro-ound!"--and so
exit, sighing deeply over my trousers.

Yet it was immediately after one of these unpromising
announcements, that for the first time matters began to
look a little brighter. The preceding four-and-twenty
hours we had remained enveloped in a cold and dismal fog.
But on coming on deck, I found the sky had already begun
to clear; and although there was ice as far as the eye
could see on either side of us, in front a narrow passage
showed itself across a patch of loose ice into what seemed
a freer sea beyond. The only consideration was--whether
we could be certain of finding our way out again, should
it turn out that the open water we saw was only a basin
without any exit in any other direction. The chance was
too tempting to throw away; so the little schooner
gallantly pushed her way through the intervening neck of
ice where the floes seemed to be least huddled up together,
and in half an hour afterwards found herself running up
along the edge of the starboard ice, almost in a due
northerly direction. And here I must take occasion to
say that, during the whole of this rather anxious time,
my master--Mr. Wyse--conducted himself in a most admirable
manner. Vigilant, cool, and attentive, he handled the
vessel most skilfully, and never seemed to lose his
presence of mind in any emergency. It is true the silk
tartan still coruscated on Sabbaths, but its brilliant
hues were quite a relief to the colourless scenes which
surrounded us, and the dangling chain now only served to
remind me of what firm dependence I could place upon its

Soon after, the sun came out, the mist entirely disappeared,
and again on the starboard hand shone a vision of the
land; this time not in the sharp peaks and spires we had
first seen, but in a chain of pale blue egg-shaped islands,
floating in the air a long way above the horizon. This
peculiar appearance was the result of extreme refraction,
for, later in the day, we had an opportunity of watching
the oval cloud-like forms gradually harden into the same
pink tapering spikes which originally caused the island
to be called Spitzbergen:  nay, so clear did it become,
that even the shadows on the hills became quite distinct,
and we could easily trace the outlines of the enormous
glaciers--sometimes ten or fifteen miles broad--that fill
up every valley along the shore.  Towards evening the
line of coast again vanished into the distance, and our
rising hopes received an almost intolerable disappointment
by the appearance of a long line of ice right ahead,
running to the westward, apparently, as far as the eye
could reach. To add to our disgust, the wind flew right
round into the North, and increasing to a gale, brought
down upon us--not one of the usual thick arctic mists to
which we were accustomed, but a dark, yellowish brown
fog, that rolled along the surface of the water in twisted
columns, and irregular masses of vapour, as dense as coal
smoke.  We had now almost reached the eightieth parallel
of north latitude, and still an impenetrable sheet of
ice, extending fifty or sixty miles westward from the
shore, rendered all hopes of reaching the land out of
the question. Our expectation of finding the north-west
extremity of the island disengaged from ice by the action
of the currents was--at all events for this
season--evidently doomed to disappointment.  We were
already almost in the latitude of Amsterdam Island--which
is actually its north-west point--and the coast seemed
more encumbered than ever. No whaler had ever succeeded
in getting more than about 120 miles further north than
we ourselves had already come; and to entangle ourselves
any further in the ice--unless it were with the certainty
of reaching land--would be sheer folly. The only thing
to be done was to turn back. Accordingly, to this course
I determined at last to resign myself, if, after standing
on for twelve hours longer, nothing should turn up to
improve the present aspect of affairs. It was now eleven
o'clock; P. M. Fitz and Sigurdr went to bed, while I
remained on deck to see what the night might bring forth.
It blew great guns, and the cold was perfectly intolerable;
billow upon billow of black fog came sweeping down between
the sea and sky, as if it were going to swallow up the
whole universe; while the midnight sun--now completely
blotted out--now faintly struggling through the ragged
breaches of the mist--threw down from time to time an
unearthly red-brown glare on the waste of roaring waters.

For the whole of that night did we continue beating up
along the edge of the ice, in the teeth of a whole gale
of wind; at last, about nine o'clock in the morning,--but
two short hours before the moment at which it had been
agreed we should bear up, and abandon the attempt,--we
came up with a long low point of ice, that had stretched
further to the Westward than any we had yet doubled; and
there, beyond, lay an open sea!--open not only to the
Northward and Westward, but also to the Eastward! You
can imagine my excitement." Turn the hands up, Mr. Wyse!"
"'Bout ship!" "Down with the helm!" "Helm a-lee!" Up
comes the schooner's head to the wind, the sails flapping
with the noise of thunder--blocks rattling against the
deck, as if they wanted to knock their brains out--ropes
dancing about in galvanised coils, like mad serpents--and
everything to an inexperienced eye in inextricable
confusion; till gradually she pays off on the other
tack--the sails stiffen into deal-boards--the staysail
sheet is let go--and heeling over on the opposite side.
Again she darts forward over the sea like an arrow from
the bow. "Stand by to make sail!" "Out all reefs!" I
could have carried sail to sink a man-of-war!--and away
the little ship went, playing leapfrog over the heavy
seas, and staggering under her canvas, as if giddy with
the same joyful excitement which made my own heart thump
so loudly.

In another hour the sun came out, the fog cleared away,
and about noon--up again, above the horizon, grow the
pale lilac peaks, warming into a rosier tint as we
approach.  Ice still stretches toward the land on the
starboard side; but we don't care for it now--the schooner's
head is pointing E. and by S. At one o'clock we sight
Amsterdam Island, about thirty miles on the port bow;
then came the "seven ice-hills"--as seven enormous glaciers
are called--that roll into the sea between lofty ridges
of gneiss and mica slate, a little to the northward of
Prince Charles's Foreland. Clearer and more defined grows
the outline of the mountains, some coming forward while
others recede; their rosy tints appear less even, fading
here and there into pale yellows and greys; veins of
shadow score the steep sides of the hills; the articulations
of the rocks become visible; and now, at last, we glide
under the limestone peaks of Mitre Cape, past the marble
arches of King's Bay on the one side, and the pinnacle
of the Vogel Hook on the other, into the quiet channel
that separates the Foreland from the main.

[Figure: fig-p170.gif]

It was at one o'clock in the morning of the 6th of August,
1856, that after having been eleven days at sea, we came
to an anchor in the silent haven of English Bay,

And now, how shall I give you an idea of the wonderful
panorama in the midst of which we found ourselves? I
think, perhaps, its most striking feature was the stillness,
and deadness, and impassibility of this new world: ice,
and rock, and water surrounded us; not a sound of any
kind interrupted the silence; the sea did not break upon
the shore; no bird or any living thing was visible; the
midnight sun, by this time muffled in a transparent mist,
shed an awful, mysterious lustre on glacier and mountain;
no atom of vegetation gave token of the earth's vitality:
an universal numbness and dumbness seemed to pervade the
solitude.  I suppose in scarcely any other part of the
world is this appearance of deadness so strikingly
exhibited. On the stillest summer day in England, there
is always perceptible an under-tone of life thrilling
through the atmosphere; and though no breeze should stir
a single leaf, yet--in default of motion--there is always
a sense of growth; but here not so much as a blade of
grass was to be seen on the sides of the bald excoriated
hills. Primeval rocks and eternal ice constitute the

The anchorage where we had brought up is the best to be
found, with the exception perhaps of Magdalena Bay, along
the whole west coast of Spitzbergen; indeed it is almost
the only one where you are not liable to have the ice
set in upon you at a moment's notice. Ice Sound, Bell
Sound, Horn Sound--the other harbours along the west
coast--are all liable to be beset by drift-ice during
the course of a single night, even though no vestige of
it may have been in sight four-and-twenty hours before;
and many a good ship has been inextricably imprisoned in
the very harbour to which she had fled for refuge. This
bay is completely landlocked, being protected on its open
side by Prince Charles's Foreland, a long island lying
parallel with the mainland.  Down towards either horn
run two ranges of schistose rocks, about 1,500 feet high,
their sides almost precipitous, and the topmost ridge as
sharp as a knife, and jagged as a saw; the intervening
space is entirely filled up by an enormous glacier,
which,--descending with one continuous incline from the
head of a valley on the right, and sweeping like a torrent
round the roots of an isolated clump of hills in the
centre--rolls at last into the sea. The length of the
glacial river from the spot where it apparently first
originated, could not have been less than thirty, or
thirty-five miles, or its greatest breadth less than nine
or ten; but so completely did it fill up the higher end
of the valley, that it was as much as you could do to
distinguish the further mountains peeping up above its
surface. The height of the precipice where it fell into
the sea, I should judge to have been about 120 feet.

On the left a still more extraordinary sight presented
itself. A kind of baby glacier actually hung suspended
half way on the hill side, like a tear in the act of
rolling down the furrowed cheek of the mountain.

I have tried to convey to you a notion of the falling
impetus impressed on the surface of the Jan Mayen ice
rivers; but in this case so unaccountable did it seem
that the over-hanging mass of ice should not continue to
thunder down upon its course, that one's natural impulse
was to shrink from crossing the path along which a
breath--a sound--might precipitate the suspended avalanche
into the valley. Though, perhaps, pretty exact in outline
and general effect, the sketch I have made of this
wonderful scene, will never convey to you a correct notion
of the enormous scale of the distances, and size of its
various features.  These glaciers are the principal
characteristic of the scenery in Spitzbergen; the bottom
of every valley in every part of the island, is occupied
and generally completely filled by them, enabling one in
some measure to realize the look of England during her
glacial period, when Snowdon was still being slowly lifted
towards the clouds, and every valley in Wales was brimful
of ice. But the glaciers in English Bay are by no means
the largest in the island. We ourselves got a view--though
a very distant one--of ice rivers which must have been
more extensive; and Dr.  Scoresby mentions several which
actually measured forty or fifty miles in length, and
nine or ten in breadth; while the precipice formed by
their fall into the sea, was sometimes upwards of 400 or
500 feet high. Nothing is more dangerous than to approach
these cliffs of ice. Every now and then huge masses detach
themselves from the face of the crystal steep, and topple
over into the water; and woe be to the unfortunate ship
which might happen to be passing below.  Scoresby himself
actually witnessed a mass of ice, the size of a cathedral,
thunder down into the sea from a height of 400 feet;
frequently during our stay at Spitzbergen we ourselves
observed specimens of these ice avalanches; and scarcely
an hour passed without the solemn silence of the bay
being disturbed by the thunderous boom resulting from
similar catastrophes occurring in adjacent valleys.

As soon as we had thoroughly taken in the strange features
of the scene around us, we all turned in for a night's
rest. I was dog tired, as much with anxiety as want of
sleep; for in continuing to push on to the northward in
spite of the ice, I naturally could not help feeling that
if any accident occurred, the responsibility would rest
with me; and although I do not believe that we were at
any time in any real danger, yet from our inexperience
in the peculiarities of arctic navigation, I think the
coolest judgment would have been liable to occasional
misgivings as to what might arise from possible
contingencies. Now, however, all was right; the result
had justified our anticipations; we had reached the so
longed-for goal; and as I stowed myself snugly away in
the hollow of my cot, I could not help heartily
congratulating myself that--for that night at all events--
there was no danger of the ship knocking a hole in her
bottom against some hummock which the lookout had been
too sleepy to observe; and that Wilson could not come in
the next morning and announce "ice all round, a-all
ro-ound!" In a quarter of an hour afterwards, all was
still on board the "Foam;" and the lonely little ship
lay floating on the glassy bosom of the sea, apparently
as inanimate as the landscape.

My feelings on awakening next morning were very pleasant;
something like what one used to feel the first morning
after one's return from school, on seeing pink curtains
glistening round one's head, instead of the dirty-white
boards of a turned-up bedstead. When Wilson came in with
my hot water, I could not help triumphantly remarking to
him,--"Well, Wilson, you see we've got to Spitzbergen,
after all!" But Wilson was not a man to be driven from
his convictions by facts; he only smiled grimly, with a
look which meant--"Would we were safe back again!" Poor
Wilson! he would have gone only half way with Bacon in
his famous Apothegm; he would willingly "commit the
Beginnings of all actions to Argus with his hundred eyes,
and the Ends"--to Centipede, with his hundred legs.
"First to watch, and then to speed"--away! would have
been his pithy emendation.

Immediately after breakfast we pulled to the shore,
carrying in the gig with us the photographic apparatus,
tents, guns, ammunition, and the goat. Poor old thing!
she had suffered dreadfully from sea-sickness, and I
thought a run ashore might do her good. On the left-hand
side of the bay, between the foot of the mountain and
the sea, there ran a low flat belt of black moss, about
half a mile broad; and as this appeared the only point
in the neighbourhood likely to offer any attraction to
reindeer, it was on this side that I determined to land.
My chief reason for having run into English Bay rather
than Magdalena Bay was because we had been told at
Hammerfest that it was the more likely place of the two
for deer; and as we were sadly in want of fresh meat this
advantage quite decided us in our choice. As soon,
therefore, as we had superintended the erection of the
tent, and set Wilson hard at work cleaning the glasses
for the photographs, we slung our rifles on our backs,
and set off in search of deer. But in vain did I peer
through my telescope across the dingy flat in front; not
a vestige of a horn was to be seen, although in several
places we came upon impressions of their track. At last
our confidence in the reports of their great plenty became
considerably diminished.  Still the walk was very refreshing
after our confinement on board; and although the thermometer
was below freezing, the cold only made the exercise more
pleasant. A little to the northward I observed, lying on
the sea-shore, innumerable logs of driftwood. This wood
is floated all the way from America by the Gulf Stream,
and as I walked from one huge bole to another, I could
not help wondering in what primeval forest each had grown,
what chance had originally cast them on the waters, and
piloted them to this desert shore. Mingled with this
fringe of unhewn timber that lined the beach lay waifs
and strays of a more sinister kind; pieces of broken
spars, an oar, a boat's flagstaff, and a few shattered
fragments of some long-lost vessel's planking.  Here and
there, too, we would come upon skulls of walrus, ribs
and shoulder-blades of bears, brought possibly by the
ice in winter. Turning again from the sea, we resumed
our search for deer; but two or three hours' more very
stiff walking produced no better luck. Suddenly a cry
from Fitz, who had wandered a little to the right, brought
us helter-skelter to the spot where was standing. But it
was not a stag he had called us to come and look upon.
Half imbedded in the black moss at his feet, there lay
a grey deal coffin falling almost to pieces with age;
the lid was gone--blown off probably by the wind--and
within were stretched the bleaching bones of a human
skeleton. A rude cross at the head of the grave still
stood partially upright, and a half obliterated Dutch
inscription preserved a record of the dead man's name
and age.

   OB 2 JUNE 1758 AET 44.

[Figure: fig-p174.gif]

It was evidently some poor whaler of the last century to
whom his companions had given the only burial possible
in this frost-hardened earth, which even the summer sun
has no force to penetrate beyond a couple of inches, and
which will not afford to man the shallowest grave. A
bleak resting-place for that hundred years' slumber, I
thought, as I gazed on the dead mariner's remains!--

   "I was snowed over with snow,
    And beaten with rains,
    And drenched with the dews;
    Dead have I long been,"--

--murmured the Vala to Odin in Nifelheim,--and whispers
of a similar import seemed to rise up from the lidless
coffin before us. It was no brother mortal that lay at
our feet, softly folded in the embraces of "Mother Earth,"
but a poor scarecrow, gibbeted for ages on this bare
rock, like a dead Prometheus; the vulture, frost, gnawing
for ever on his bleaching relics, and yet eternally
preserving them!

On another part of the coast we found two other corpses
yet more scantily sepulchred, without so much as a cross
to mark their resting-place. Even in the palmy days of
the whale-fisheries, it was the practice of the Dutch
and English sailors to leave the wooden coffins in which
they had placed their comrades' remains, exposed upon
the shore; and I have been told by an eye-witness, that
in Magdalena Bay there are to be seen, even to this day,
the bodies of men who died upwards of 250 years ago, in
such complete preservation that, when you pour hot water
on the icy coating which encases them, you can actually
see the unchanged features of the dead, through the
transparent incrustation.

As soon as Fitz had gathered a few of the little flowering
mosses that grew inside the coffin, we proceeded on our
way, leaving poor Jacob Moor--like his great namesake--alone
in his glory.

Turning to the right, we scrambled up the spur of one of
the mountains on the eastern side of the plain, and thence
dived down among the lateral valleys that run up between
them. Although by this means we opened up quite a new
system of hills, and basins, and gullies, the general
scenery did not change its characteristics. All
vegetation--if the black moss deserves such a name--ceases
when you ascend twenty feet above the level of the sea,
and the sides of the mountains become nothing but steep
slopes of schist, split and crumbled into an even surface
by the frost. Every step we took unfolded a fresh succession
of these jagged spikes and break-neck acclivities, in an
unending variety of quaint configuration. Mountain climbing
has never been a hobby of mine, so I was not tempted to
play the part of Excelsior on any of these hill sides;
but for those who love such exercise a fairer or a more
dangerous opportunity of distinguishing themselves could
not be imagined. The supercargo or owner of the very
first Dutch ship that ever came to Spitzbergen, broke
his neck in attempting to climb a hill in Prince Charles's
Foreland. Barentz very nearly lost several of his men
under similar circumstances; and when Scoresby succeeded
in making the ascent of another hill near Horn Sound, it
was owing to his having taken the precaution of marking
each upward step in chalk, that he was ever able to get
down again. The prospect from the summit, the approach
to which was by a ridge so narrow that he sat astride
upon its edge, seems amply to have repaid the exertion;
and I do not think I can give you a better idea of the
general effect of Spitzbergen scenery, than by quoting
his striking description of the panorama he beheld:--

"The prospect was most extensive and grand. A fine
sheltered bay was seen to the east of us, an arm of the
same on the north-east, and the sea, whose glassy surface
was unruffled by a breeze, formed an immense expanse on
the west; the icebergs rearing their proud crests almost
to the tops of mountains between which they were lodged,
and defying the power of the solar beams, were scattered
in various directions about the sea-coast and in the
adjoining bays. Beds of snow and ice filling extensive
hollows, and giving an enamelled coat to adjoining valleys,
one of which commencing at the foot of the mountain where
we stood extended in a continued line towards the north,
as far as the eye could reach--mountain rising above
mountain, until by distance they dwindled into
insignificancy--the whole contrasted by a cloudless canopy
of deepest azure, and enlightened by the rays of a blazing
sun, and the effect aided by a feeling of danger, seated
as we were on the pinnacle of a rock almost surrounded
by tremendous precipices,--all united to constitute a
picture singularly sublime.

"Our descent we found really a very hazardous, and in
some instances a painful undertaking. Every movement
was a work of deliberation. Having by much care, and
with some anxiety, made good our descent to the top of
the secondary hills, we took our way down one of the
steepest banks, and slid forward with great facility in a
sitting posture. Towards the foot of the hill, an expanse
of snow stretched across the line of descent. This being
loose and soft, we entered upon it without fear; but on
reaching the middle of it, we came to a surface of solid
ice, perhaps a hundred yards across, over which we launched
with astonishing velocity, but happily escaped without
injury. The men whom we left below, viewed this latter
movement with astonishment and fear."

So universally does this strange land bristle with peaks
and needles of stone, that the views we ourselves obtained
--though perhaps from a lower elevation, and certainly
without the risk--scarcely yielded either in extent or
picturesque grandeur to the scene described by Dr.

Having pretty well overrun the country to the northward,
without coming on any more satisfactory signs of deer
than their hoof-prints in the moss, we returned on board.
The next day--but I need not weary you with a journal of
our daily proceedings, for, however interesting each
moment of our stay in Spitzbergen was to ourselves--as
much perhaps from a vague expectation of what we might
see, as from anything we actually did see--a minute
account of every walk we took, and every bone we picked
up, or every human skeleton we came upon, would probably
only make you wonder why on earth we should have wished
to come so far to see so little. Suffice it to say that
we explored the neighbourhood in the three directions
left open to us by the mountains, that we climbed the
two most accessible of the adjacent hills, wandered along
the margin of the glaciers, rowed across to the opposite
side of the bay, descended a certain distance along the
sea-coast, and in fact exhausted all the lions of the

During the whole period of our stay in Spitzbergen, we
had enjoyed unclouded sunshine. The nights were even
brighter than the days, and afforded Fitz an opportunity
of taking some photographic views by the light of a
MIDNIGHT sun. The cold was never very intense, though
the thermometer remained below freezing, but about four
o'clock every evening, the salt-water bay in which the
schooner lay was veneered over with a pellicle of ice
one-eighth of an inch in thickness, and so elastic, that
even when the sea beneath was considerably agitated, its
surface remained unbroken, the smooth, round waves taking
the appearance of billows of oil. If such is the effect
produced by the slightest modification of the sun's power,
in the month of August,--you can imagine what must be
the result of his total disappearance beneath the horizon.
The winter is, in fact, unendurable. Even in the height
of summer, the moisture inherent in the atmosphere is
often frozen into innumerable particles, so minute as to
assume the appearance of an impalpable mist. Occasionally
persons have wintered on the island, but unless the
greatest precautions have been taken for their preservation,
the consequences have been almost invariably fatal. About
the same period as when the party of Dutch sailors were
left at Jan Mayen, a similar experiment was tried in
Spitzbergen. At the former place it was scurvy, rather
than cold, which destroyed the poor wretches left there
to fight it out with winter; at Spitzbergen, as well as
could be gathered from their journal, it appeared that
they had perished from the intolerable severity of the
climate,--and the contorted attitudes in which their
bodies were found lying, too plainly indicated the amount
of agony they had suffered. No description can give an
adequate idea of the intense rigour of the six months'
winter in this part of the world. Stones crack with the
noise of thunder; in a crowded hut the breath of its
occupants will fall in flakes of snow; wine and spirits
turn to ice; the snow burns like caustic; if iron touches
the flesh, it brings the skin away with it; the soles of
your stockings may be burnt off your feet, before you
feel the slightest warmth from the fire; linen taken out
of boiling water, instantly stiffens to the consistency
of a wooden board; and heated stones will not prevent
the sheets of the bed from freezing. If these are the
effects of the climate within an air-tight, fire-warmed,
crowded hut--what must they be among the dark, storm-lashed
mountain-peaks outside?

It was now time to think of going south again; we had
spent many more days on the voyage to Spitzbergen than
I had expected, and I was continually haunted by the
dread of your becoming anxious at not hearing from us.
It was a great disappointment to be obliged to return
without having got any deer; but your peace of mind was
of more consequence to me than a ship-load of horns, and
accordingly we decided on not remaining more than another
day in our present berth leaving it still an open question
whether we should not run up to Magdalena Bay, if the
weather proved very inviting, the last thing before
quitting for ever the Spitzbergen shores.

We had killed nothing as yet, except a few eider ducks,
and one or two ice-birds--the most graceful winged
creatures I have ever seen, with immensely long pinions,
and plumage of spotless white. Although enormous seals
from time to time used to lift their wise, grave faces
above the water, with the dignity of sea-gods, none of
us had any very great inclination to slay such rational
human-looking creatures, and--with the exception of
these and a white fish, a species of whale--no other
living thing had been visible. On the very morning,
however, of the day settled for our departure, Fitz came
down from a solitary expedition up a hill with the news
of his having seen some ptarmigan. Having taken a rifle
with him instead of a gun, he had not been able to shoot
more than one, which he had brought back in triumph as
proof of the authenticity of his report, but the extreme
juvenility of his victim hardly permitted us to identify
the species; the hole made by the bullet being about the
same size as the bird. Nevertheless, the slightest prospect
of obtaining a supply of fresh meat was enough to reconcile
us to any amount of exertion; therefore, on the strength
of the pinch of feathers which Fitz kept gravely assuring
us was the game he had bagged, we seized our guns--I took
a rifle in case of a possible bear--and set our faces
toward the hill.  After a good hour's pull we reached
the shoulder which Fitz had indicated as the scene of
his exploit, but a patch of snow was the only thing
visible. Suddenly I saw Sigurdr, who was remarkably
sharp-sighted, run rapidly in the direction of the snow,
and bringing his gun up to his shoulder, point it--as
well as I could distinguish--at his own toes. When the
smoke of the shot had cleared away, I fully expected to
see the Icelander prostrate; but he was already reloading
with the greatest expedition. Determined to prevent the
repetition of so dreadful an attempt at self-destruction,
I rushed to the spot. Guess then my relief when the bloody
body of a ptarmigan--driven by so point blank a discharge
a couple of feet into the snow--was triumphantly dragged
forth by instalments from the sepulchre which it had
received contemporaneously with its death wound, and thus
happily accounted for Sigurdr's extraordinary proceeding.
At the same moment I perceived two or three dozen other
birds, brothers and sisters of the defunct, calmly
strutting about under our very noses. By this time Sigurdr
had reloaded, Fitz had also come up, and a regular massacre
began. Retiring to a distance--for it was the case of
Mahomet and the mountain reversed--the two sportsmen
opened fire upon the innocent community, and in a few
seconds sixteen corpses strewed the ground.

Scarcely had they finished off the last survivor of this
Niobean family, when we were startled by the distant
report of a volley of musketry, fired in the direction
of the schooner. I could not conceive what had happened.
Had a mutiny taken place? Was Mr. Wyse re-enacting, with
a less docile ship's company, the pistol scene on board
the Glasgow steamer? Again resounded the rattle of the
firing.  At all events, there was no time to be lost in
getting back, so, tying up the birds in three bundles,
we flung ourselves down into the gully by which we had
ascended, and leaping on from stone to stone, to the
infinite danger of our limbs and necks, rolled rather
than ran down the hill. On rounding the lower wall of
the curve which hitherto had hid what was passing from
our eyes, the first I observed was Wilson breasting up
the hill, evidently in a state of the greatest agitation.
As soon as he thought himself within earshot, he stopped
dead short, and, making a speaking-trumpet with his
hands, shrieked, rather than shouted, "If you please, my
Lord!"--(as I have already said, Wilson never forgot les
convenances)--"If you please, my Lord, there's a
b-e-a-a-a-a-r!" prolonging the last word into a polysyllable
of fearful import. Concluding by the enthusiasm he was
exhibiting, that the animal in question was at his
heels,--hidden from us probably by the inequality of the
ground,--I cocked my rifle, and prepared to roll him over
the moment he should appear in sight. But what was my
disappointment, when, on looking towards the schooner,
my eye caught sight of our three boats fastened in a row,
and towing behind them a white floating object, which my
glass only too surely resolved the next minute into the
dead bear!

On descending to the shore, I learned the whole story.
As Mr. Wyse was pacing the deck, his attention was suddenly
attracted by a white speck in the water, swimming across
from Prince Charles's Foreland,--the long island which
lies over against English Bay. When first observed, the
creature, whatever it might be, was about a mile and a
half off,--the width of the channel between the island
and the main being about five miles. Some said it was a
bird, others a whale, and the cook suggested a mermaid.
When the fact was ascertained that it was a BONA FIDE
bear, a gun was fired as a signal for us to return; but
it was evident that unless at once intercepted, Bruin
would get ashore. Mr. Wyse, therefore, very properly
determined to make sure of him. This was a matter of no
difficulty: the poor beast showed very little fight. His
first impulse was to swim away from the boat; and even
after he had been wounded, he only turned round once or
twice upon his pursuers. The honour of having given him
his death wound rests between the steward and Mr. Wyse;
both contend for it. The evidence is conflicting, as at
least half-a-dozen mortal wounds were found in the animal's
body; each maybe considered to have had a share in his
death. Mr. Grant rests his claim principally upon the
fact of his having put two bullets in my new rifle--
which must have greatly improved the bore of that
instrument.  On the strength of this precaution, he now
wears as an ornament about his person one of the bullets
extracted from the gizzard of our prize.

All this time, Wilson was at the tent, busily occupied
in taking photographs. As soon as the bear was observed,
a signal was made to him from the ship, to warn him of
the visitor he might shortly expect on shore. Naturally
concluding that the bear would in all probability make
for the tent as soon as he reached land, it became a
subject of consideration with him what course he should
pursue. Weapons he had none, unless the chemicals he was
using might be so regarded. Should he try the influence
of chloroform on his enemy; or launch the whole photographic
apparatus at his grisly head, and take to his heels?
Thought is rapid, but the bear's progress seemed equally
expeditious; it was necessary to arrive at some speedy
conclusion. To fly--was to desert his post and leave
the camp in possession of the spoiler; life and honour
were equally dear to him.  Suddenly a bright idea struck

At the time the goat had been disembarked to take her
pleasure on TERRA FIRMA, our crow's-nest barrel had been
landed with her. At this moment it was standing unoccupied
by the side of the tent. By creeping into it, and turning
its mouth downward on the ground, Wilson perceived that
he should convert it into a tower of strength for himself
against the enemy, while its legitimate occupant, becoming
at once a victim to the bear's voracity, would probably
prevent the monster from investigating too curiously its
contents. It was quite a pity that the interposition of
the boats prevented his putting this ingenious plan into
execution. He had been regularly done out of a situation,
in which the most poignant agony of mind and dreary
anticipations would have been absolutely required of him.
He pictured the scene to himself; he lying fermenting in
the barrel, like a curious vintage; the bear sniffing
querulously round it, perhaps cracking it like a cocoa-nut,
or extracting him like a periwinkle! Of these chances he
had been deprived by the interference of the crew. Friends
are often injudiciously meddling.

Although I felt a little vexation that one of us should
not have had the honour of slaying the bear in single
combat, which would certainly have been for the benefit
of his skin, the unexpected luck of having got one at
all, made us quite forget our personal disappointment.
As for my people, they were beside themselves with delight.
To have killed a polar bear was a great thing, but to
eat him would be a greater.  If artistically dealt with,
his carcase would probably cut up into a supply of fresh
meat for many days. One of the hands appened to be a
butcher. Whenever I wanted anything a little out of the
way to be done on board, I was sure to find that it
happened to be the specialite of some one of the ship's
company. In the course of a few hours, the late bear was
converted into a row of the most tempting morsels of
beef, hung about the rigging. Instead of in flags, the
ship was dressed in joints. In the meantime it so happened
that the fox, having stolen a piece of offal, was in a
few minutes afterwards seized with convulsions. I had
already given orders that the bear's liver should be
thrown overboard, as being, if not poisonous, at all
events very unwholesome.  The seizure of the fox, coupled
with this injunction, brought about a complete revolution
in the men's minds, with regard to the delicacies they
had been so daintily preparing for themselves. Silently,
one by one, the pieces were untied and thrown into the
sea: I do not think a mouthful of bear was eaten on board
the "Foam." I never heard whether it was in consequence
of any prognostics of Wilson's that this act of self-denial
was put into practice. I observed, however, that for some
days after the slaughter and dismemberment of the bear,
my ship's company presented an unaccountably sleek
appearance. As for the steward, his head and whiskers
seemed carved out of black marble: a varnished boot would
not have looked half so bright: I could have seen to
shave myself in his black hair. I conclude, therefore,
that the ingenious cook must, at all events, have succeeded
in manufacturing a supply of genuine bear's grease, of
which they had largely availed themselves.

The bagging of the bear had so gloriously crowned our
visit to Spitzbergen, that our disappointment about the
deer was no longer thought of; it was therefore with
light hearts, and most complete satisfaction, that we
prepared for departure.

Maid Marian had already carved on a flat stone an
inscription, in Roman letters, recording the visit of
the "Foam" to English Bay, and a cairn having been erected
to receive it, the tablet was solemnly lifted to its
resting-place. Underneath I placed a tin box, containing
a memorandum similar to that left at Jan Mayen, as well
as a printed dinner invitation from Lady --, which I
happened to have on board. Having planted a boat's flag
beside the rude monument, and brought on board with us
a load of driftwood, to serve hereafter as Christmas
yule-logs, we bade an eternal adieu to the silent hills
around us; and weighing anchor, stood out to sea. For
some hours a lack of wind still left us hanging about
the shore, in the midst of a grave society of seals; but
soon after, a gentle breeze sprang up in the south, and
about three o'clock on Friday, the 11th of August, we
again found ourselves spanking along before a six-knot
breeze, over the pale green sea.

In considering the course on which I should take the
vessel home, it appeared to me that in all probability
we should have been much less pestered by the ice on our
way to Spitzbergen, if, instead of hugging the easterly
ice, we had kept more away to the westward; I determined
therefore--as soon as we got clear of the land--to stand
right over to the Greenland shore, on a due west course,
and not to attempt to make any southing, until we should
have struck the Greenland ice. The length of our tether
in that direction being ascertained, we could then judge
of the width of the channel down which we were to beat,
for it was still blowing pretty fresh from the southward.

Up to the evening of the day on which we quitted English
Bay, the weather had been most beautiful; calm, sunshiny,
dry, and pleasant. Within a few hours of our getting
under weigh, a great change had taken place, and by
midnight it had become as foggy and disagreeable as ever.
The sea was pretty clear. During the few days we had been
on shore, the northerly current had brushed away the
great angular field of ice which had lain off the shore,
in a northwest direction; so that instead of being obliged
to run up very nearly to the 80th parallel, in order to
round it, we were enabled to sail to the westward at
once. During the course of the night, we came upon one
or two wandering patches of drift ice, but so loosely
packed that we had no difficulty in pushing through them.
About four o'clock in the morning, a long line of close
ice was reported right a-head, stretching south as far
as the eye could reach.  We had come about eighty miles
since leaving Spitzbergen.  The usual boundary of the
Greenland ice in summer runs, according to Scoresby,
along the second parallel of west longitude. This we had
already crossed, so that it was to be presumed the
barricade we saw before us was a frontier of the fixed
ice. In accordance, therefore, with my predetermined
plan, we now began working to the southward, and the
result fully justified my expectations.

The sea became comparatively clear, as far as could be
seen from the deck of the vessel, although small vagrant
patches of ice that we came up with occasionally--as well
as the temperature of the air and the sea--continued to
indicate the proximity of larger bodies on either side
of us.

It was a curious sensation with which we had gradually
learnt to contemplate this inseparable companion: it had
become a part of our daily existence, an element, a thing
without which the general aspect of the universe would
be irregular and incomplete. It was the first thing we
thought of in the morning, the last thing we spoke of at
night. It glittered and grinned maliciously at us in the
sunshine; it winked mysteriously through the stifling
fog; it stretched itself like a prostrate giant, with
huge, portentous shoulders and shadowy limbs, right across
our course; or danced gleefully in broken groups in the
little schooner's wake.  There was no getting rid of it,
or forgetting it, and if at night we sometimes returned
in dreams to the green summer world--to the fervent
harvest fields of England, and heard "the murmurs of
innumerous bees," or the song of larks on thymy
uplands--thump! bump! splash! gra-a-ate!--came the sudden
reminder of our friend on the starboard bow; and then
sometimes a scurry on deck, and a general "scrimmage" of
the whole society, in endeavours to prevent more serious
collisions. Moreover, I could not say, with your old
French friend, that "Familiar'ty breeds despise." The
more we saw of it, the less we liked it; its cold presence
sent a chilly sense of discouragement to the heart, and
I had daily to struggle with an ardent desire to throw
a boot at Wilson's head, every time his sepulchral voice
announced the "Ice ALL ROUND!"

It was not until the 14th of August, five days after
quitting Spitzbergen, that we lost sight of it altogether.
From that moment the temperature of the sea steadily
rose, and we felt that we were sailing back again into
the pleasant summer.

A sad event which occurred soon after, in some measure
marred our enjoyment of the change. Ever since she had
left Hammerfest, it had become too evident that a sea-going
life did not agree with the goat. Even the run on shore
at Spitzbergen had not sufficed to repair her shattered
constitution, and the bad weather we had had ever since
completed its ruin. It was certain that the butcher was
the only doctor who could now cure her. In spite, therefore,
of the distress it occasioned Maid Marian, I was compelled
to issue orders for her execution. Sigurdr was the only
person who regarded the TRAGICAL event with indifference,
nay, almost with delight.  Ever since we had commenced
sailing in a southerly direction, we had been obliged to
beat, but during the last four-and-twenty hours the wind
kept dodging us every time we tacked, as a nervous
pedestrian sets to you sometimes on a narrow trottoir.
This spell of ill-luck the Icelander heathenishly thought
would only be removed by a sacrifice to Rhin, the goddess
of the sea, in which light he trusted she would look upon
the goat's body when it came to be thrown overboard.

Whether the change which followed upon the consignment
of her remains to the deep really resulted from such an
influence, I am not prepared to say. The weather immediately
thereafter certainly DID change. First the wind dropped
altogether, but though the calm lasted several hours,
the sea strangely enough appeared to become all the
rougher, tossing and tumbling restlessly UP AND DOWN--(not
over and over as in a gale)--like a sick man on a fever
bed; the impulse to the waves seeming to proceed from
all four quarters of the world at once. Then, like jurymen
with a verdict of death upon their lips, the heavy,
ominous clouds slowly passed into the north-west.

A dead stillness followed--a breathless pause--until, at
some mysterious signal, the solemn voice of the storm
hurtled over the deep. Luckily we were quite ready for
it; the gale came from the right quarter, and the fiercer
it blew the better. For the next three days and three
nights it was a scurry over the sea such as I never had
before; nine or ten knots an hour was the very least we
ever went, and 240 miles was the average distance we made
every four-and-twenty hours.

Anything grander and more exciting than the sight of the
sea under these circumstances you cannot imagine. The
vessel herself remains very steady; when you are below
you scarcely know you are not in port. But on raising
your head above the companion the first sight which meets
your eye is an upright wall of black water, towering,
you hardly know how many feet, into the air over the
stern. Like a lion walking on its hind legs, it comes
straight at you, roaring and shaking its white mane with
fury-it overtakes the vessel--the upright shiny face
curves inwards--the white mane seems to hang above your
very head; but ere it topples over, the nimble little
ship has already slipped from underneath.  You hear the
disappointed jaws of the sea-monster snap angrily
together,--the schooner disdainfully kicks up her heel--and
raging and bubbling up on either side the quarter, the
unpausing wave sweeps on, and you see its round back far
ahead, gradually swelling upwards, as it gathers strength
and volume for a new effort.

We had now got considerably to the southward of North
Cape. We had already seen several ships, and you would
hardly imagine with what childish delight my people hailed
these symptoms of having again reached more "Christian
latitudes," as they called them.

I had always intended, ever since my conversation with
Mr. T. about the Malstrom, to have called in at Loffoden
Islands on our way south, and ascertain for myself the
real truth about this famous vortex. To have blotted such
a bugbear out of the map of Europe, if its existence
really was a myth, would at all events have rendered our
cruise not altogether fruitless. But, since leaving
Spitzbergen, we had never once seen the sun, and to
attempt to make so dangerous a coast in a gale of wind
and a thick mist, with no more certain knowledge of the
ship's position than our dead reckoning afforded, was
out of the question, so about one o'clock in the morning,
the weather giving no signs of improvement, the course
I had shaped in the direction of the island was altered,
and we stood away again to the southward.  This manoeuvre
was not unobserved by Wilson, but he mistook its meaning.
Having, I suppose, overheard us talking at dinner about
the Malstrom, he now concluded the supreme hour had
arrived. He did not exactly comprehend the terms we used,
but had gathered that the spot was one fraught with
danger. Concluding from the change made in the vessel's
course that we were proceeding towards the dreadful
locality, he gave himself up to despair, and lay tossing
in his hammock in sleepless anxiety. At last the load of
his forebodings was greater than he could bear, he gets
up, steals into the Doctor's cabin, wakes him up, and
standing over him--as the messenger of ill tidings once
stood over Priam--whispers, "SIR!" "What is it?" says
Fitz, thinking, perhaps, some one was ill. "Do you know
where we are going?" "Why, to Throndhjem," answered Fitz.
"We were going to Throndhjem," rejoins Wilson, "but we
ain't now--the vessel's course was altered two hours ago.
Oh, Sir! we are going to Whirlpool-to WHIRL-RL-POOO-L!
Sir!" in a quaver of consternation,--and so glides back
to bed like a phantom, leaving the Doctor utterly unable
to divine the occasion of his visit.

The whole of the next day the gale continued. We had now
sailed back into night; it became therefore a question
how far it would be advisable to carry on during the
ensuing hours of darkness, considering how uncertain we
were as to our real position. As I think I have already
described to you, the west coast of Norway is very
dangerous; a continuous sheet of sunken rocks lies out
along its entire edge for eight or ten miles to sea.
There are no lighthouses to warn the mariner off; and if
we were wrong in our reckoning, as we might very well
be, it was possible we might stumble on the land sooner
than we expected. I knew the proper course would be to
lie to quietly until we could take an observation; but
time was so valuable, and I was so fearful you would be
getting anxious. The night was pretty clear. High mountains,
such as we were expecting to make, would be seen, even
at night, several miles off.  According to our log we
were still 150 miles off the land, and, however inaccurate
our calculation might be, the error could not be of such
magnitude as that amounted to. To throw away so fair a
wind seemed such a pity, especially as it might be days
before the sun appeared; we had already been at sea about
a fortnight without a sight of him, and his appearance
at all during the summer is not an act DE RIGUEUR in this
part of the world; we might spend yet another fortnight
in lying to, and then after all have to poke our way
blindfold to the coast; at all events it would be soon
enough to lie to the next night. Such were the
considerations, which--after an anxious consultation with
Mr. Wyse in the cabin, and much fingering of the
charts,--determined me to carry on during the night.

Nevertheless, I confess I was very uneasy, Though I went
to bed and fell asleep--for at sea nothing prevents that
process--my slumbers were constantly agitated by the most
vivid dreams that I ever remember to have had.  Dreams
of an arrival in England, and your coming down to meet
us, and all the pleasure I had in recounting our adventures
to you; then suddenly your face seemed to fade away
beneath a veil of angry grey surge that broke over low,
sharp-pointed rocks; and the next moment there resounded
over the ship that cry which has been the preface to so
many a disaster--the ring of which, none who have ever
heard it are likely to forget--"Breakers ahead!"

In a moment I was on deck, dressed--for it is always best
to dress,--and there, sure enough, right ahead, about a
mile and a half off, through the mist, which had come on
very thick, I could distinguish the upward shooting fluff
of seas shattering against rocks. No land was to be seen,
but the line of breakers every instant became more evident;
at the pace we were going, in seven or eight minutes we
should be upon them. Now, thought I to myself, we shall
see whether a stout heart beats beneath the silk tartan!
The result covered that brilliant garment with glory and
salt water. To tack was impossible, we could only wear,--and
to wear in such a sea was no very pleasant operation.
But the little ship seemed to know what she was about,
as well as any of us: up went the helm, round came the
schooner into the trough of the sea,--high over her
quarter toppled an enormous sea, built up of I know not
how many tons of water, and hung over the deck,--by some
unaccountable wriggle, an instant ere it thundered down
she had twisted her stern on one side, and the waves
passed underneath.  In another minute her head was to
the sea, the mainsail was eased over, and all danger was

What was now to be done? That the land we had seen was
the coast of Norway I could not believe. Wrong as our
dead reckoning evidently was, it could not be so wrong
as that. Yet only one other supposition was possible,
viz., that we had not come so far south as we imagined,
and that we had stumbled upon Roost--a little rocky island
that lies about twenty miles to the southward of the
Loffoden Islands.  Whether this conjecture was correct
or not, did not much matter; to go straight away to sea,
and lie to until we could get an observation, was the
only thing to be done.  Away then we went, struggling
against a tremendous sea for a good nine hours, until we
judged ourselves to be seventy or eighty miles from where
we had sighted the breakers,--when we lay to, not in
the best of tempers. The next morning, not only was it
blowing as hard as ever, but all chance of getting a
sight that day seemed also out of the question.  I could
have eaten my head with impatience. However, as it is
best never to throw a chance away, about half-past eleven
o'clock, though the sky resembled an even sheet of lead,
I got my sextant ready, and told Mr. Wyse to do the same.

Now, out of tenderness for your feminine ignorance I must
state, that in order to take an observation, it is
necessary to get a sight of the sun at a particular moment
of the day: this moment is noon. When, therefore, twelve
o'clock came, and one could not so much as guess in what
quarter of the heavens he might be lying perdu, you may
suppose I almost despaired. Ten minutes passed. It was
evident we were doomed to remain, kicking our heels for
another four-and-twenty hours where we were. No!--yes!--no!
By Phoebus! there he is! A faint spongy spot of brightness
gleamed through the grey roof overhead. The indistinct
outline grew a little clearer; one-half of him, though
still behind a cloud, hardened into a sharp edge. Up went
the sextant. "52.43!" (or whatever it was) I shouted to
Mr.  Wyse. "52.41, my Lord!" cried he, in return; there
was only the discrepancy of a mile between us. We had
got the altitude; the sun might go to bed for good and
all now, we did not care,--we knew our position to an
inch. There had been an error of something like forty
miles in our dead reckoning, in consequence--as I afterwards
found--of a current that sets to the northward, along
the west coast of Norway, with a velocity varying from
one to three miles an hour. The island upon which we had
so nearly run WAS Roost. We were still nearly 200 miles
from our port.  "Turn the hands up! Make sail!" and away
we went again in the same course as before, at the rate
of ten knots an hour.

"The girls at home have got hold of the tow-rope, I think,
my Lord," said Mr. Wyse, as we bounded along over the
thundering seas.

[Figure: fig-p192.gif]

By three o'clock next day we were up with Vigten, and
now a very nasty piece of navigation began. In order to
make the northern entrance of the Throndhjem Fiord, you
have first to find your way into what is called the Froh
Havet,--a kind of oblong basin about sixteen miles long,
formed by a ledge of low rocks running parallel with the
mainland, at a distance of ten miles to seaward. Though
the space between this outer boundary and the coast is
so wide, in consequence of the network of sunken rocks
which stuffs it up, the passage by which a vessel can
enter is very narrow, and the only landmark to enable
you to find the channel is the head one of the string of
outer islets. As this rock is about the size of a
dining-table, perfectly flat, and rising only a few feet
above the level of the sea, to attempt to make it is like
looking for a needle in a bottle of hay. It was already
beginning to grow very late and dark by the time we had
come up with the spot where it ought to have been, but
not a vestige of such a thing had turned up.  Should we
not sight it in a quarter of an hour, we must go to sea
again, and lie to for the night,--a very unpleasant
alternative for any one so impatient as I was to reach
a port.  Just as I was going to give the order, Fitz--who
was certainly the Lynceus of the ship's company--espied
its black back just peeping up above the tumbling water
on our starboard bow. We had hit it off to a yard!

In another half-hour we were stealing down in quiet water
towards the entrance of the fiord. All this time not a
rag of a pilot had appeared, and it was without any such
functionary that the schooner swept up next morning
between the wooded, grain-laden slopes of the beautiful
loch, to Throndhjem--the capital of the ancient sea-kings
of Norway.



Off Munkholm, Aug. 27, 1856.

Throndhjem (pronounced Tronyem) looked very pretty and
picturesque, with its red-roofed wooden houses sparkling
in the sunshine, its many windows filled with flowers,
its bright fiord covered with vessels gaily dressed in
flags, in honour of the Crown Prince's first visit to
the ancient capital of the Norwegian realm. Tall,
pretentious warehouses crowded down to the water's edge,
like bullies at a public show elbowing to the foremost
rank, orderly streets stretched in quiet rows at right
angles with each other, and pretty villas with green
cinctures sloped away towards the hills. In the midst
rose the king's palace, the largest wooden edifice in
Europe, while the old grey cathedral--stately and grand,
in spite of the slow destruction of the elements, the
mutilations of man's hands, or his yet more degrading
rough-cast and stucco reparations--still towered above
the perishable wooden buildings at his feet, with the
solemn pride which befits the shrine of a royal saint.

I cannot tell you with what eagerness I drank in all the
features of this lovely scene; at least, such features
as Time can hardly alter--the glancing river, from whence
the city's ancient name of Nidaros, or "mouth of the
Nid," is derived,--the rocky island of Munkholm, the
bluff of Lade,--the land-locked fiord and its pleasant
hills, beyond whose grey stony ridges I knew must lie
the fatal battle-field of Sticklestad. Every spot to me
was full of interest,--but an interest noways connected
with the neat green villas, the rectangular streets, and
the obtrusive warehouses. These signs of a modern humdrum
prosperity seemed to melt away before my eyes as I gazed
from the schooner's deck, and the accessories of an elder
time came to furnish the landscape,--the clumsy merchantmen
lazily swaying with the tide, darkened into armed galleys
with their rows of glittering shields,--the snug,
bourgeois-looking town shrank into the quaint proportions
of the huddled ancient Nidaros,--and the old marauding
days, with their shadowy line of grand old pirate kings,
rose up with welcome vividness before my mind.

What picture shall I try to conjure from the past, to
live in your fancy, as it does in mine?

Let the setting be these very hills,--flooded by this
same cold, steely sunshine. In the midst stands a stalwart
form, in quaint but regal attire. Hot blood deepens the
colour of his sun-bronzed cheek; an iron purpose gleams
in his earnest eyes, like the flash of a drawn sword; a
circlet of gold binds the massive brow, and from beneath
it stream to below his waist thick masses of hair, of
that dusky red which glows like the heart of a furnace
in the sunlight, but deepens earth-brown in the shadow.
By his side stands a fair woman; her demure and heavy-lidded
eyes are seldom lifted from the earth, which yet they
seem to scorn, but the king's eyes rest on her, and many
looks are turned towards him. A multitude is present,
moved by one great event, swayed by a thousand
passions,--some with garrulous throats full of base
adulation and an unworthy joy,--some pale, self-scorning,
with averted looks, and hands that twitch instinctively
at their idle daggers, then drop hopeless, harmless at
their sides.

The king is Harald Haarfager, "of the fair hair," the
woman is proud and beautiful Gyda, whose former scorn
for him, in the days when he was nothing but the petty
chief of a few barren mountains, provoked that strange
wild vow of his, "That he would never clip or comb his
locks till he could woo her as sole king of Norway."

Among the crowd are those who have bartered, for ease,
and wealth, and empty titles born of the king's
breath--their ancient Udal rights, their Bonder privileges;
others have sunk their proud hearts to bear the yoke of
the stronger hand, yet gaze with yearning looks on the
misty horizon that opens between the hills. A dark speck
mars that shadowy line. Thought follows across the space.
It is a ship. Its sides are long, and black, and low;
but high in front rises the prow, fashioned into the
semblance of a gigantic golden dragon, against whose
gleaming breast the divided waters angrily flash and
gurgle. Along the top sides of the deck are hung a row
of shining shields, in alternate breadths of red and
white, like the variegated scales of a sea-monster, whilst
its gilded tail curls aft over the head of the steersman.
From either flank projects a bank of some thirty oars,
that look, as they smite the ocean with even beat, like
the legs on which the reptile crawls over its surface.
One stately mast of pine serves to carry a square sail
made of cloth, brilliant with stripes of red, white, and

And who are they who navigate this strange, barbaric
vessel?--why leave they the sheltering fiords of their
beloved Norway? They are the noblest hearts of that noble
land--freemen, who value freedom,--who have abandoned
all rather than call Harald master, and now seek a new
home even among the desolate crags of Iceland, rather
than submit to the tyranny of a usurper.

   "Rorb--ober Gud! wenn nur bie Geelen gluben!"

Another picture, and a sadder story; but the scene is
now a wide dun moor, on the slope of a seaward hill; the
autumn evening is closing in, but a shadow darker than
that of evening broods over the desolate plain,--the
shadow of DEATH. Groups of armed men, with stern sorrow
in their looks, are standing round a rude couch, hastily
formed of fir branches. An old man lies there--dying.
His ear is dulled even to the shout of victory; the mists
of an endless night are gathering in his eyes; but there
is passion yet in the quivering lip, and triumph on the
high-resolved brow; and the gesture of his hand has kingly
power still. Let me tell his saga, like the bards of that
old time.



   All was over: day was ending
   As the foeman turned and fled.
   Gloomy red
   Glowed the angry sun descending;
   While round Hacon's dying bed,
   Tears and songs of triumph blending,
   Told how fast the conqueror bled


   "Raise me," said the King. We raised him--
   Not to ease his desperate pain;
   That were vain!
   "Strong our foe was--but we faced him
   Show me that red field again."
   Then, with reverent hands, we placed him
   High above the bloody plain.


   Silent gazed he; mute we waited,
   Kneeling round-a faithful few,
   Staunch and true,--
   Whilst above, with thunder freighted,
   Wild the boisterous north wind blew,
   And the carrion-bird, unsated,
   On slant wing around us flew.


   Sudden, on our startled hearing,
   Came the low-breathed, stern command--
   "Lo! ye stand?
   Linger not, the night is nearing;
   Bear me downwards to the strand,
   Where my ships are idly steering
   Off and on, in sight of land."


   Every whispered word obeying,
   Swift we bore him down the steep,
   O'er the deep,
   Up the tall ship's side, low swaying
   To the storm-wind's powerful sweep,
   And--his dead companions laying
   Round him,--we had time to weep.


   But the King said--"Peace! bring hither
   Spoil and weapons--battle-strown,
   Make no moan;
   Leave me and my dead together,
   Light my torch, and then--begone."
   But we murmured, each to other,
   "Can we leave him thus alone?"


   Angrily the King replieth;
   Flash the awful eyes again,
   With disdain--
   "Call him not alone who lieth
   Low amidst such noble slain;
   Call him not alone who dieth
   Side by side with gallant men."


   Slowly, sadly, we departed:
   Reached again that desolate shore,
   Trod by him, the brave true-hearted--
   Dying in that dark ship's core!
   Sadder keel from land ne'er parted,
   Nobler freight none ever bore!


   There we lingered, seaward gazing,
   Watching o'er that living tomb,
   Through the gloom--
   Gloom! which awful light is chasing--
   Blood-red flames the surge illume!
   Lo! King Hacon's ship is blazing;
   'Tis the hero's self-sought doom.


   Right before the wild wind driving,
   Madly plunging--stung by fire--
   No help nigh her--
   Lo! the ship has ceased her striving!
   Mount the red flames higher--higher!
   Till--on ocean's verge arriving,
   Sudden sinks the Viking's pyre--
      Hacon's gone!

Let me call one more heroic phantom from Norway's romantic

A kingly presence, stately and tall; his shield held high
above his head--a broken sword in his right hand. Olaf
Tryggvesson! Founder of Nidaros;--that cold Northern Sea
has rolled for many centuries above your noble head, and
yet not chilled the battle heat upon your brow, nor
staunched the blood that trickles down your iron glove,
from hidden, untold wounds, which the tender hand of
Thyri shall never heal!

To such ardent souls it is indeed given "to live for
ever" (the for ever of this world); for is it not "Life"
to keep a hold on OUR affections, when their own passions
are at rest,--to influence our actions (however
indirectly)--when action is at an end for them? Who shall
say how much of modern heroism may owe its laurels to
that first throb of fiery sympathy which young hearts
feel at the relation of deeds such as Olaf Tryggvesson's?

The forms of those old Greeks and Romans whom we are
taught to reverence, may project taller shadows on the
world's stage; but though the scene be narrow here, and
light be wanting, the interest is not less intense, nor
are the passions less awful that inspired these ruder

There is an individuality in the Icelandic historian's
description of King Olaf that wins one's interest--at
first as in an acquaintance--and rivets it at last as in
a personal friend. The old Chronicle lingers with such
loving minuteness over his attaching qualities, his
social, generous nature, his gaiety and "frolicsomeness;"
even his finical taste in dress, and his evident proneness
to fall too hastily in love, have a value in the portrait,
as contrasting with the gloomy colours in which the story
sinks at last. The warm, impulsive spirit speaks in every
action of his life, from the hour when--a young child,
in exile--he strikes his axe into the skull of his
foster-father's murderer, to the last grand scene near
Svalderoe. You trace it in his absorbing grief for the
death of Geyra, the wife of his youth; the saga says,
"he had no pleasure in Vinland after it," and then naively
observes, "he therefore provided himself with war-ships,
and went a-plundering," one of his first achievements
being to go and pull down London Bridge. This peculiar
kind of "distraction" (as the French call it) seems to
have had the desired effect, as is evident in the romantic
incident of his second marriage, when the Irish Princess
Gyda chooses him--apparently an obscure stranger--to be
her husband, out of a hundred wealthy and well-born
aspirants to her hand. But neither Gyda's love, nor the
rude splendours of her father's court, can make Olaf
forgetful of his claims upon the throne of Norway--the
inheritance of his father; and when that object of his
just ambition is attained, and he is proclaimed King by
general election of the Bonders, as his ancestor Harald
Haarfager had been, his character deepens in earnestness
as the sphere of his duties is enlarged.  All the energies
of his ardent nature are put forth in the endeavour to
convert his subjects to the true Faith.  As he himself
expresses it, "he would bring it to this,--that all
Norway should be Christian or die!" In the same spirit
he meets his heretic and rebellious subjects at the Thing
of Lade, and boldly replies, when they require him to
sacrifice to the false gods, "If I turn with you to offer
sacrifice, then shall it be the greatest sacrifice that
can be made; I will not offer slaves, nor malefactors to
your gods,--I will sacrifice men;--and they shall be the
noblest men among you!" It was soon after this that he
despatched the exemplary Thangbrand to Iceland.

With a front not less determined does he face his country's
foes. The king of Sweden, and Svend "of the forked beard,"
king of Denmark, have combined against him.  With them
is joined the Norse jarl, Eric, the son of Hacon.  Olaf
Tryggvesson is sailing homewards with a fleet of seventy
ships,--himself commanding the famous "Long Serpent,"
the largest ship built in Norway. His enemies are lying
in wait for him behind the islands.

Nothing can be more dramatic than the description of
the sailing of this gallant fleet--(piloted by the treacherous
Earl Sigwald)--within sight of the ambushed Danes and
Swedes, who watch from their hiding-place the beautiful
procession of hostile vessels, mistaking each in turn for the
"Long Serpent," and as often undeceived by a new and yet
more stately apparition. She appears at length, her dragon
prow glittering in the sunshine, all canvas spread, her
sides bristling with armed men; "and when they saw her,
none spoke, all knew it to be indeed the 'Serpent,'--and
they went to their ships to arm for the fight." As soon as
Olaf and his forces had been enticed into the narrow
passage, the united fleets of the three allies pour out of the
Sound; his people beg Olaf to hold on his way and not
risk battle with such a superior force; but the King replied,
high on the quarter-deck where he stood, "Strike the
sails! I never fled from battle: let God dispose of my life,
but flight I will never take!" He then orders the warhorns
to sound, for all his ships to close up to each other.
"Then," says Ulf the Red, captain of the forecastle, "if
the 'Long Serpent' is to lie so much a-head of the other
vessels, we shall have hot work of it here on the forecastle."

The King replies, "I did not think I had a forecastle
man afraid, as well as red." [Footnote: There is a play
on these two words in the Icelandic, "Raudau oc Ragan."]

Says Ulf, "Defend thou the quarter-deck, as _I_ shall
the forecastle."

The King had a bow in his hands; he laid an arrow on the
string, and made as if he aimed at Ulf.

Ulf said, "Shoot another way, King, where it is more
needful,--my work is thy gain."

Then the King asks, "Who is the chief of the force right
opposite to us?" He is answered, "Svend of Denmark, with
his army."

Olaf replies, "We are not afraid of these soft Danes!
Who are the troops on the right?"

They answer, "Olaf of Sweden, and his forces."

"Better it were," replies the King, "for these Swedes to
be sitting at home, killing their sacrifices, than
venturing under the weapons of the 'Long Serpent.' But
who owns the large ships on the larboard side of the

"That is Jarl Eric, son of Hacon," say they.

The King says, "He has reason for meeting us; we may
expect hard blows from these men; they are Norsemen like

The fierce conflict raged for many hours. It went hard
with the "soft Danes," and idolatrous Swedes, as Olaf
had foreseen: after a short struggle they turn and fly.
But Jarl Eric in his large ship the "Iron Beard" is more
than a match for Olafs lighter vessels. One by one their
decks are deluged with blood, their brave defenders swept
into the sea; one by one they are cut adrift and sent
loose with the tide. And now at last the "Iron Beard"
lies side by side with the "Long Serpent," and it is
indeed "hot work" both on forecastle and quarter-deck.

"Einar Tambarskelvar, one of the sharpest of bowmen,
stood by the mast, and shot with his bow." His arrow hits
the tiller-end, just over the Earl's head, and buries
itself up to the shaft in the wood. "Who shot that bolt?"
says the Jarl. Another flies between his hand and side,
and enters the stuffing of the chief's stool. Then said
the Jarl to a man named Fin, "Shoot that tall archer by
the mast!" Fin shoots; the arrow hits the middle of
Einar's bow as he is in the act of drawing it, and the
bow is split in two.

"What is that," cried King Olaf, "that broke with such
a noise?"

"NORWAY, King, from thy hands!" cried Einar.

"No! not so much as that," says the King; "take my bow,
and shoot,"--flinging the bow to him.

Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the
arrow. "Too weak, too weak," said he, "for the bow of a
mighty King!" and throwing the bow aside, "he took sword
and buckler, and fought valiantly."

But Olaf's hour is come. Many slain lie around him, many
that have fallen by his hand, more that have fallen at
his side. The thinned ranks on board the "Iron Beard"
are constantly replenished by fresh combatants from other
vessels, even by the Swedes and soft Danes, now "strong,
upon the stronger side,"--while Olaf, cut off from succour,
stands almost alone upon the "Serpent's" deck, made
slippery by his people's blood. The jarl had laid out
boats to intercept all who might escape from the ship;
but escape is not in the King's thoughts. He casts one
look around him, glances at his sword--broken like Einar's
bow--draws a deep breath, and, holding his shield above
his head, springs overboard. A shout--a rush! who shall
first grasp that noble prisoner? Back, slaves! the shield
that has brought him scathless through a hundred fights,
shall yet shelter him from dishonour.

Countless hands are stretched to snatch him back to
worthless life, but the shield alone floats on the swirl
of the wave;--King Olaf has sunk beneath it.

Perhaps you have already had enough of my Saga lore; but
with that grey cathedral full in sight, I cannot but
dedicate a few lines to another Olaf, king and warrior
like the last, but to whom after times have accorded a
yet higher title.

Saint Olaf's--Saint Olave, as we call him--early history
savours little of the odour of sanctity, but has rather
that "ancient and fish-like smell" which characterised
the doings of the Vikings, his ancestors. But those were
days when honour rather than disgrace attached to the
ideas of booty and plunder, especially in an enemy's
country; it was a "spoiling of the Egyptians" sanctioned
by custom, and even permitted by the Church, which did
not disdain occasionally to share in the profits of a
successful cruise, when presented in the decent form of
silver candlesticks and other ecclesiastical gauds. As
to the ancient historian, he mentions these matters as
a thing of course. "Here the King landed, burnt, and
ravaged;" "there the Jarl gained much booty;" "this
summer, they took a cruise in the Baltic, to gather
property," etc., much as a modern biographer would speak
of a gentleman's successful railroad speculations, his
taking shares in a coal mine, or coming into a "nice
little thing in the Long Annuities." Nevertheless, there
is something significant of his future vocation, in a
speech which Olaf makes to his assembled friends and
relations, imparting to them his design of endeavouring
to regain possession of the throne: "I and my men have
nothing for our support save what we captured in war,
an innocent man have we deprived of his property, and
some of their lives, and foreigners are now sitting in
the possessions of my fathers." One sees here a faint
glimmer of the Saint's nimbus, over the helmet of the
Viking, a dawning perception of the "rights of property,"
which, no doubt, must have startled his hearers into the
most ardent conservative zeal for the good old marauding

But though years elapsed, and fortunes changed, before
this dim light of the early Church became that scorching
and devouring flame which, later, spread terror and
confusion among the haunts of the still lingering ancient
gods, an earnest sense of duty seems to have been ever
present with him. If it cannot be denied that he shared
the errors of other proselytizing monarchs, and put down
Paganism with a stern and bloody hand, no merely personal
injury ever weighed with him. How grand is his reply to
those who advise him to ravage with fire and sword the
rebellious district of Throndhjem, as he had formerly
punished numbers of his subjects who had rejected
Christianity:--"We had then GOD'S honour to defend; but
this treason against their sovereign is a much less
grievous crime; it is more in my power to spare those
who have dealt ill with me, than those whom God hated."
The same hard measure which he meted to others he applied
to his own actions:  witness that curiously characteristic
scene, when, sitting in his high seat, at table, lost in
thought, he begins unconsciously to cut splinters from
a piece of fir-wood which he held in his hand. The table
servant, seeing what the King was about, says to him,
(mark the respectful periphrasis!) "IT IS MONDAY, SIRE,
TO-MORROW." The King looks at him, and it came into his
mind what he was doing on a Sunday.  He sweeps up the
shavings he had made, sets fire to them, and lets them
burn on his naked hand; "showing thereby that he would
hold fast by God's law, and not trespass without

But whatever human weaknesses may have mingled with the
pure ore of this noble character, whatever barbarities
may have stained his career, they are forgotten in the
pathetic close of his martial story.

His subjects,--alienated by the sternness with which he
administers his own severely religious laws, or corrupted
by the bribes of Canute, king of Denmark and England,
are fallen from their allegiance. The brave, single-hearted
monarch is marching against the rebellious Bonders, at
the head of a handful of foreign troops, and such as
remained faithful among his own people. On the eve of
that last battle, on which he stakes throne and life, he
intrusts a large sum of money to a Bonder, to be laid
out "on churches, priests, and alms-men, as gifts for
the souls of such as may fall in battle AGAINST
HIMSELF,"--strong in the conviction of the righteousness
of his cause, and the assured salvation of such as upheld

He makes a glorious end. Forsaken by many whom he had
loved and served,--yet forgiving and excusing them;
rejecting the aid of all who denied that holy Faith which
had become the absorbing interest of his life,--but
surrounded by a faithful few, who share his fate; "in
the lost battle, borne down by the flying"--he falls,
transpierced by many wounds, and the last words on his
fervent lips are prayer to God. [Footnote: The exact date
of the battle of Sticklestad is known: an eclipse of the
sun occurred while it was going on.]

Surely there was a gallant saint and soldier. Yet he was
not the only one who bore himself nobly on that day.
Here is another episode of that same fatal fight.

A certain Thormod is one of the Scalds (or Poets) in King
Olaf's army. The night before the battle he sings a
spirited song at the King's request, who gives him a gold
ring from his finger in token of his approval. Thormod
thanks him for the gift, and says, "It is my prayer,
Sire, that we shall never part, either in life or death."
When the King receives his death-wound Thormod is near
him,--but, wounded himself, and so weak and weary that
in a desperate onslaught by the King's men,--nicknamed

The noise of the battle has ceased; the King is lying
dead where he fell. The very man who had dealt him his
death-wound has laid the body straight out on the ground,
and spread a cloak over it. "And when he wiped the blood
from the face it was very beautiful, and there was red
in the cheeks, as if he only slept."

Thormod, who had received a second wound as he stood in
the ranks--(an arrow in his side, which he breaks off at
the shaft),--wanders away towards a large barn, where
other wounded men have taken refuge. Entering with his
drawn sword in his hand, he meets one of the Bonders
coming out, who says, "It is very bad there, with howling
and screaming; and a great shame it is, that brisk young
fellows cannot bear their wounds. The King's men may have
done bravely to-day, but truly they bear their wounds

Thormod asks what his name is, and if he was in the
battle. Kimbe was his name, and he had been "with the
Bonders, which was the best side." "And hast thou been
in the battle too?" asks he of Thormod.

Thormod replies, "I was with them that had the best."

"Art thou wounded?" says Kimbe.

"Not much to signify," says Thormod.

Kimbe sees the gold ring, and says, "Thou art a King's
man: give me thy gold ring, and I will hide thee."

Thormod replies, "Take the ring if thou canst get it;

Kimbe stretches out his hand to seize the ring; but
Thormod, swinging his sword, cuts off his hand; "and it
is related, that Kimbe behaved no better under his wound
than those he had just been blaming."

Thormod then enters the house where the wounded men are
lying, and seats himself in silence by the door.

As the people go in and out, one of them casts a look at
Thormod, and says, "Why art thou so dead pale? Art thou
wounded?" He answers carelessly, with a half-jesting
rhyme; then rises and stands awhile by the fire. A woman,
who is attending on those who are hurt, bids him "go out,
and bring in firewood from the door." He returns with
the wood, and the girl then looking him in the face,
says, "Dreadfully pale is this man;" and asks to see his
wounds. She examines his wound in his side, and feels
that the iron of the arrow is still there; she then takes
a pair of tongs and tries to pull it out, "but it sat
too fast, and as the wound was swelled, little of it
stood out to lay hold of." Thormod bids her "cut deep
enough to reach the iron, and then to give him the tongs,
and let him pull." She did as he bade. He takes the ring
from his hand, and gives it to the girl, saying, "It is
a good man's gift! King Olaf gave it to me this morning."
Then Thormod took the tongs and pulled the iron out. The
arrow-head was barbed, and on it there hung some morsels
of flesh. When he saw that he said, "THE KING HAS FED US
WELL! I am fat, even at the heart-roots!" And so saying,
he leant back, and died. [Footnote: When a man was wounded
in the abdomen, it was the habit of the Norse leeches to
give him an onion to eat; by this means they learnt
whether the weapon had perforated the viscera.]

Stout, faithful heart! if they gave you no place in your
master's stately tomb, there is room for you by his side
in heaven!

I have at last received--I need not say how joyfully--two
letters from you; one addressed to Hammerfest. I had
begun to think that some Norwegian warlock had bewitched
the post-bags, in the approved old ballad fashion, to
prevent their rendering up my dues; for when the packet
of letters addressed to the "Foam" was brought on board,
immediately after our arrival, I alone got nothing. From
Sigurdr and the Doctor to the cabin-boy, every face was
beaming over "news from home!" while I was left to walk
the deck, with my hands in my pockets, pretending not to
care. But the spell is broken now, and I retract my evil
thoughts of the warlock and you.

Yesterday, we made an excursion as far as Lade, saw a
waterfall, which is one of the lions of this neighbourhood
(but a very mitigated lion, which "roars you as soft as
any sucking dove"), and returned in the evening to attend
a ball given to celebrate the visit of the Crown Prince.

At Lade, I confess I could think of nothing but "the
great Jarl" Hacon, the counsellor, and maker of kings,
king himself in all but the name, for he ruled over the
western sea-board of Norway, while Olaf Tryggvesson was
yet a wanderer and exile. He is certainly one of the most
picturesque figures of these Norwegian dramas; what with
his rude wit, his personal bravery, and that hereditary
beauty of his race for which he was conspicuous above
the rest. His very errors, great as they were, have a
dash and prestige about them, which in that rude time
must have dazzled men's eyes, and especially WOMEN'S, as
his story proves. It was his sudden passion for the
beautiful Gudrun Lyrgia (the "Sun of Lunde," as she was
called), which precipitated the avenging fate which years
of heart-burnings and discontent among his subjects had
been preparing. Gudrun's husband incites the Bonders to
throw off the yoke of the licentious despot,--Olaf
Tryggvesson is proclaimed king,--and the "great Jarl of
Lade" is now a fugitive in the land he so lately ruled,
accompanied by a single thrall, named Karker.

In this extremity, Jarl Hacon applies for aid to Thora
of Rimmol, a lady whom he had once dearly loved; she is
faithful in adversity to the friend of happier days, and
conceals the Jarl and his companion in a hole dug for
this purpose, in the swine-stye, and covered over with
wood and litter; as the only spot likely to elude the
hot search of his enemies. Olaf and the Bonders seek for
him in Thora's house, but in vain; and finally, Olaf,
standing on the very stone against which the swine-stye
is built, promises wealth and honours to him who shall
bring him the Jarl of Lade's head. The scene which follows
is related by the Icelandic historian with Dante's tragic

There was a little daylight in their hiding-place, and
the Jarl and Karker both hear the words of Olaf.

"Why art thou so pale?" says the Jarl," and now again as
black as earth? Thou dost not mean to betray me?"

"By no means," said Karker.

"We were born on the same night," said the Jarl, "and
the time will not be long between our deaths."

When night came, the Jarl kept himself awake,--but Karker
slept;--a troubled sleep. The Jarl awoke him, and asked
of what he was dreaming. He answered, "I was at Lade,
and Olaf was laying a gold ring about my neck."

The Jarl said, "It will be a RED ring about thy neck, if
he catches thee: from me thou shalt enjoy all that is
good,--therefore, betray me not!"

Then they both kept themselves awake; "THE ONE, AS IT
WERE, WATCHING UPON THE OTHER." But towards day, the Jarl
dropped asleep, and in his unquiet slumber he drew his
heels under him, and raised his neck as if going to rise,
"and shrieked fearfully." On this, Karker, "dreadfully
alarmed," drew a knife from his belt, stuck it into the
Jarl's throat, and cut off his head. Late in the day he
came to Lade, brought the Jarl's head to Olaf, and told
his story.

It is a comfort to know that "the red ring" was laid
round the traitor's neck: Olaf caused him to be beheaded.

What a picture that is, in the swine-stye, those two
haggard faces, travel-stained and worn with want of rest,
watching each other with hot, sleepless eyes through the
half darkness, and how true to nature is the nightmare
of the miserable Jarl!

It was on my return from Lade, that I found your letters;
and that I might enjoy them without interruption, I
carried them off to the churchyard--(such a beautiful
place!)--to read in peace and quiet. The churchyard was
NOT "populous with young men, striving to be alone," as
Tom Hood describes it to have been in a certain sentimental
parish; so I enjoyed the seclusion I anticipated.

I was much struck by the loving care and ornament bestowed
on the graves; some were literally loaded with flowers,
and even those which bore the date of a long past sorrow
had each its own blooming crown, or fresh nosegay.  These
good Throndhjemers must have much of what the French call
la religion des souvenirs, a religion in which we English
(as a nation) are singularly deficient. I suppose no
people in Europe are so little addicted to the keeping
of sentimental anniversaries as we are; I make an exception
with regard to our living friends' birthdays, which we
are ever tenderly ready to cultivate, when called on;
turtle, venison, and champagne, being pleasant investments
for the affections. But time and business do not admit
of a faithful adherence to more sombre reminiscences; a
busy gentleman "on 'Change" cannot conveniently shut
himself up, on his "lost Araminta's natal-day," nor will
a railroad committee allow of his running down by the
10.25 A.M., to shed a tear over that neat tablet in the
new Willow-cum-Hatband Cemetery. He is necessarily content
to regret his Araminta in the gross, and to omit the
petty details of a too pedantic sorrow.

The fact is, we are an eminently practical people, and
are easily taught to accept "the irrevocable," if not
without regret, at least with a philosophy which repudiates
all superfluous methods of showing it. DECENT is the
usual and appropriate term applied to our churchyard
solemnities, and we are not only "content to dwell in
decencies for ever," but to die, and be buried in them.

The cathedral loses a little of its poetical physiognomy
on a near approach. Modern restoration has done something
to spoil the outside, and modern refinement a good deal
to degrade the interior with pews and partitions; but it
is a very fine building, and worthy of its metropolitan
dignity.  I am told that the very church built by Magnus
the Good,--son of Saint Olave--over his father's remains,
and finished by his uncle Harald Hardrada, is, or rather
was, included in the walls of the cathedral; and though
successive catastrophes by fire have perhaps left but
little of the original building standing, I like to think
that some of these huge stones were lifted to their place
under the eyes of Harald The Stern. It was on the eve of
his last fatal expedition against our own Harold of
England that the shrine of St. Olave was opened by the
king, who, having clipped the hair and nails of the dead
saint (most probably as relics, efficacious for the
protection of himself and followers), then locked the
shrine, and threw the keys into the Nid. Its secrets from
that day were respected until the profane hands of Lutheran
Danes carried it bodily away, with all the gold and silver
chalices, and jewelled pyxes, which, by kingly gifts and
piratical offerings, had accumulated for centuries in
its treasury.

He must have been a fine, resolute fellow, that Harald
the Stern, although, in spite of much church-building
and a certain amount of Pagan-persecuting, his character
did not in any way emulate that of his saintly brother.
The early part of his history reads like a fairy tale,
and is a favourite subject for Scald songs; more especially
his romantic adventures in the East,--

   "Well worthy of the golden prime
    Of good Haroun Alraschid."

where Saracens flee like chaff upon the wind before him,
and impregnable Sicilian castles fall into his power by
impossible feats of arms, or incredible stratagems. A
Greek empress, "the mature Zoe," as Gibbon calls her,
falls in love with him, and her husband, Constantine
Monomachus, puts him in prison; but Saint Olaf still
protects his mauvais sujet of a brother, and inspires "a
lady of distinction" with the successful idea of helping
Harald out of his inaccessible tower by the prosaic
expedient of a ladder of ropes.  A boom, however, across
the harbour's mouth still prevents the escape of his
vessel. The Sea-king is not to be so easily baffled.
Moving all his ballast, arms, and men, into the afterpart
of the ship, until her stem slants up out of the sea, he
rows straight at the iron chain. The ship leaps almost
half-way over. The weight being then immediately transferred
to the fore-part, she slips down into the water on the
other side,--having topped the fence like an Irish hunter.
A second galley breaks her back in the attempt.  After
some questionable acts of vengeance on the Greek court,
Harald and his bold Vaeringers go fighting and plundering
their way through the Bosphorus and Black Sea back to
Novogorod, where the first part of the romance terminates,
as it should, by his marriage with the object of his
secret attachment, Elisof, the daughter of the Russian

Hardrada's story darkens towards the end, as most of the
tales of that stirring time are apt to do. His death on
English ground is so striking, that you must have patience
with one other short Saga; it will give you the battle
of Stanford Bridge from the Norse point of view.

The expedition against Harold of England commences ill;
dreams and omens affright the fleet; one man dreams he
sees a raven sitting on the stern of each vessel; another
sees the fair English coast;

   "But glancing shields
    Hide the green fields;"

and other fearful phenomena mar the beautiful vision.
Harald himself dreams that he is back again at Nidaros,
and that his brother Olaf meets him with a prophecy of
ruin and death. The bold Norsemen are not to be daunted
by these auguries, and their first successes on the
English coast seem to justify their persistence. But on
a certain beautiful Monday in September (A.D. 1066,
according to the Saxon Chronicle), part of his army being
encamped at Stanford Bridge, "Hardrada, HAVING TAKEN
BREAKFAST, ordered the trumpets to sound for going on
shore;" but he left half his force behind, to guard the
ships: and his men, anticipating no resistance from the
castle, which had already surrendered, "went on shore
(the weather being hot), with only their helmets, shields,
and spears, and girt with swords; some had bows and
arrows,--and all were very merry." On nearing the castle,
they see "a cloud of dust as from horses' feet, and under
it shining shields and bright armour." English Harold's
army is before them. Hardrada sends back to his ship for
succour, and sets up his banner, "Land Ravager," undismayed
by the inequality of his force, and their comparatively
unarmed condition. The men on each side are drawn up in
battle array, and the two kings in presence; each gazes
eagerly to discover his noble foe among the multitude.
Harald Hardrada's black horse stumbles and falls; "the
King got up in haste, and said, 'A fall is lucky for a

The English King said to the Northmen who were with
him, "Do you know the stout man who fell from his horse,
with the blue kirtle, and beautiful helmet?"

"That is the Norwegian King," said they.

English Harold replied, "A great man, and of stately
appearance is he; but I think his luck has left him."

And now twenty gallant English knights ride out of their
ranks to parley with the Northmen. One advances beyond
the rest and asks if Earl Toste, the brother of English
Harold (who has banded with his enemy against him), is
with the army.

The Earl himself proudly answers, "It is not to be denied
that you will find him here."

The Saxon says, "Thy brother, Harold, sends his salutation,
and offers thee the third part of his kingdom, if thou
wilt be reconciled and submit to him."

The Earl replies, at the suggestion of the Norse King,
"What will my brother the King give to Harald Hardrada
for his trouble?"

"He will give him," says the Knight, "SEVEN FEET OF

"Then," says the Earl, "let the English King, my brother,
make ready for battle, for it never shall be said that
Earl Toste broke faith with his friends when they came
with him to fight west here in England."

When the knights rode off, King Harald Hardrada asked
the Earl, "Who was the man who spoke so well?"

The Earl replied, "That knight was Harold of England."

The stern Norwegian King regrets that his enemy had
escaped from his hands, owing to his ignorance of this
fact; but even in his first burst of disappointment, the
noble Norse nature speaks in generous admiration of his
foe, saying to the people about him, "That was but a
little man, yet he sat firmly in his stirrups."

The fierce, but unequal combat is soon at an end, and
when tardy succour arrives from the ships, Harald Hardrada
is lying on his face, with the deadly arrow in his throat,
never to see Nidaros again. Seven feet of English earth,
and no more, has the strong arm and fiery spirit conquered.

But enough of these gallant fellows; I must carry you
off to a much pleasanter scene of action. After a very
agreeable dinner with Mr. K--, who has been most kind to
us, we adjourned to the ball. The room was large and well
lighted--plenty of pretty faces adorned it;--the floor
was smooth, and the scrape of the fiddles had a festive
accent so extremely inspiriting, that I besought Mr. K--
to present me to one of the fair personages whose tiny
feet were already tapping the floor with impatience at
their own inactivity.

I was led up in due form to a very pretty lady, and heard
my own name, followed by a singular sound purporting to
be that of my charming partner, Madame Hghelghghagllaghem.
For the pronunciation of this polysyllabic cognomen, I
can only give you a few plain instructions; commence it
with a slight cough, continue with a gurgling in the
throat, and finish with the first convulsive movement of
a sneeze, imparting to the whole operation a delicate
nasal twang.  If the result is not something approaching
to the sound required, you must relinquish all hope of
achieving it, as I did. Luckily, my business was to dance,
and not to apostrophize the lady; and accordingly, when
the waltz struck up, I hastened to claim, in the dumbest
show, the honour of her hand. Although my dancing
qualifications have rather rusted during the last two or
three years, I remembered that the time was not so very
far distant when even the fair Mademoiselle E-- had
graciously pronounced me to be a very tolerable waltzer,
"for an Englishman," and I led my partner to the circle
already formed with the "air capable" which the object
of such praise is entitled to assume.  There was a certain
languid rhythm in the air they were playing which rather
offended my ears, but I suspected nothing until, observing
the few couples who had already descended into the arena,
I became aware that they were twirling about with all
the antiquated grace of "la valse a trois temps." Of
course my partner would be no exception to the general
rule! nobody had ever danced anything else at Throndhjem
from the days of Odin downwards; and I had never so much
as attempted it. What was to be done? I could not explain
the state of the case to Madame Hghelghghagllaghem; she
could not understand English, nor I speak Norse. My brain
reeled with anxiety to find some solution of the difficulty,
or some excuse for rushing from her presence. What if I
were taken with a sudden bleeding at the nose, or had an
apoplectic fit on the spot? Either case would necessitate
my being carried decently out, and consigned to oblivion,
which would have been a comfort under the circumstances.
There was nothing for it but the courage of despair; so,
casting reflection to the winds and my arm round her
waist, I suddenly whisked her off her legs, and dashed
madly down the room, "a deux temps." At the first perception
that something unusual was going on, she gave such an
eldritch scream, that the whole society suddenly came to
a standstill. I thought it best to assume an aspect of
innocent composure and conscious rectitude; which had
its effect, for though the lady began with a certain
degree of hysterical animation to describe her wrongs,
she finished with a hearty laugh, in which the company
cordially joined, and I delicately chimed in. For the
rest of the dance she seemed to resign herself to her
fate, and floated through space, under my guidance, with
all the ABANDON of Francesca di Rimini, in Scheffer's
famous picture.

The Crown Prince is a tall, fine-looking person; he was
very gracious, and asked many questions about my voyage.

At night there was a general illumination, to which the
"Foam" contributed some blue lights.

We got under way early this morning, and without a
pilot--as we had entered--made our way out to sea again.
I left Throndhjem with regret, not for its own sake, for
in spite of balls and illuminations I should think the
pleasures of a stay there would not be deliriously
exciting; but this whole district is so intimately
associated in my mind with all the brilliant episodes of
ancient Norwegian History, that I feel as if I were taking
leave of all those noble Haralds, and Olafs, and Hacons,
among whom I have been living in such pleasant intimacy
for some time past.

While we are dropping down the coast, I may as well employ
the time in giving you a rapid sketch of the commencement
of this fine Norse people, though the story "remonte
jusqu'a la nuit des temps," and has something of the
vague magnificence of your own M'Donnell genealogy, ending
a long list of great potentates, with "somebody, who was
the son of somebody else, who was the son of Scotha, who
was the daughter of Pharaoh!"

In bygone ages, beyond the Scythian plains and the fens
of the Tanais, in that land of the morning, to which
neither Grecian letters nor Roman arms had ever penetrated,
there was a great city called Asgaard. Of its founder,
of its history, we know nothing; but looming through the
mists of antiquity we can discern an heroic figure, whose
superior attainments won for him the lordship of his own
generation, and divine honours from those that succeeded.
Whether moved by an irresistible impulse, or impelled by
more powerful neighbours, it is impossible to say; but
certain it is that at some period, not perhaps very long
before the Christian era, under the guidance of this
personage, a sun-nurtured people moved across the face
of Europe, in a north-westerly direction, and after
leaving settlements along the southern shores of the
Baltic, finally established themselves in the forests
and valleys of what has come to be called the Scandinavian
Peninsula. That children of the South should have sought
out so inclement a habitation may excite surprise; but
it must always be remembered that they were, probably,
a comparatively scanty congregation, and that the unoccupied
valleys of Norway and Sweden, teeming with fish and game,
and rich in iron, were a preferable region to lands only
to be colonised after they had been conquered.

Thus, under the leadership of Odin and his twelve Paladins,
--to whom a grateful posterity afterwards conceded thrones
in the halls of their chief's Valhalla,--the new emigrants
spread themselves along the margin of the out-ocean, and
round about the gloomy fiords, and up and down the deep
valleys that fall away at right angles from the backbone,
or keel, as the seafaring population soon learnt to call
the flat, snow-capped ridge that runs down the centre of

Amid the rude but not ungenial influences of its bracing
climate, was gradually fostered that gallant race which
was destined to give an imperial dynasty to Russia, a
nobility to England, and conquerors to every sea-board
in Europe.

Upon the occupation of their new home, the ascendency of
that mysterious hero, under whose auspices the settlement
was conducted, appears to have remained more firmly
established than ever, not only over the mass of the
people, but also over the twelve subordinate chiefs who
accompanied him; there never seems to have been the
slightest attempt to question his authority, and, though
afterwards themselves elevated into an order of celestial
beings, every tradition which has descended is careful
to maintain his human and divine supremacy. Through the
obscurity, the exaggeration, and the ridiculous fables,
with which his real existence has been overloaded, we
can still see that this man evidently possessed a genius
as superior to his contemporaries, as has ever given to
any child of man the ascendency over his generation. In
the simple language of the old chronicler, we are told,
"that his countenance was so beautiful that, when sitting
among his friends, the spirits of all were exhilarated
by it; that when he spoke, all were persuaded; that when
he went forth to meet his enemies, none could withstand
him." Though subsequently made a god by the superstitious
people he had benefited, his death seems to have been
noble and religious. He summoned his friends around his
pillow, intimated a belief in the immortality of his
soul, and his hope that hereafter they should meet again
in Paradise. "Then," we are told, "began the belief in
Odin, and their calling upon him."

On the settlement of the country, the land was divided
and subdivided into lots--some as small as fifty acres--and
each proprietor held his share--as their descendants do
to this day--by udal right; that is, not as a fief of
the Crown, or of any superior lord, but in absolute,
inalienable possession, by the same udal right as the
kings wore their crowns, to be transmitted, under the
same title, to their descendants unto all generations.

These landed proprietors were called the Bonders, and
formed the chief strength of the realm. It was they,
their friends and servants, or thralls, who constituted
the army.  Without their consent the king could do nothing.
On stated occasions they met together, in solemn assembly,
or Thing, (i.e. Parliament,) as it was called, for the
transaction of public business, the administration of
justice, the allotment of the scatt, or taxes.

Without a solemn induction at the Ore or Great Thing,
even the most legitimately-descended sovereign could not
mount the throne, and to that august assembly an appeal
might ever lie against his authority.

To these Things, and to the Norse invasion that implanted
them, and not to the Wittenagemotts of the Latinised
Saxons, must be referred the existence of those Parliaments
which are the boast of Englishmen.

Noiselessly and gradually did a belief in liberty, and
an unconquerable love of independence, grow up among that
simple people. No feudal despots oppressed the unprotected,
for all were noble and udal born; no standing armies
enabled the Crown to set popular opinion at defiance,
for the swords of the Bonders sufficed to guard the realm;
no military barons usurped an illegitimate authority,
for the nature of the soil forbade the erection of feudal
fortresses.  Over the rest of Europe despotism rose up
rank under the tutelage of a corrupt religion; while,
year after year, amid the savage scenery of its Scandinavian
nursery, that great race was maturing whose genial
heartiness was destined to invigorate the sickly
civilization of the Saxon with inexhaustible energy, and
preserve to the world, even in the nineteenth century,
one glorious example of a free European people.



Copenhagen, Sept. 12th, 1856.

Our adventures since the date of my last letter have not
been of an exciting character. We had fine weather and
prosperous winds down the coast, and stayed a day at
Christiansund, and another at Bergen. But though the
novelty of the cruise had ceased since our arrival in
lower latitudes, there was always a certain raciness and
oddity in the incidents of our coasting voyage; such
as--waking in the morning, and finding the schooner
brought up under the lee of a wooden house, or--riding
out a foul wind with your hawser rove through an iron
ring in the sheer side of a mountain,--which took from
the comparative flatness of daily life on board.

Perhaps the queerest incident was a visit paid us at
Christiansund. As I was walking the deck I saw a boat
coming off, with a gentleman on board; she was soon
alongside the schooner, and as I was gazing down on this
individual, and wondering what he wanted, I saw him
suddenly lift his feet lightly over the gunwale and plunge
them into the water, boots and all. After cooling his
heels in this way for a minute or so, he laid hold of
the side ropes and gracefully swung himself on deck. Upon
this, Sigurdr, who always acted interpreter on such
occasions, advanced towards him, and a colloquy followed,
which terminated rather abruptly in Sigurdr walking aft,
and the web-footed stranger ducking down into his boat
again. It was not till some hours later that the indignant
Sigurdr explained the meaning of the visit. Although not
a naval character, this gentleman certainly came into
the category of men "who do business in great waters,"
his BUSINESS being to negotiate a loan; in short, to ask
me to lend him 100 pounds. There must have been something
very innocent and confiding in "the cut of our jib" to
encourage his boarding us on such an errand; or perhaps
it was the old marauding, toll-taking spirit coming out
strong in him: the politer influences of the nineteenth
century toning down the ancient Viking into a sort of a
cross between Paul Jones and Jeremy Diddler. The seas
which his ancestors once swept with their galleys, he
now sweeps with his telescope, and with as keen an eye
to the MAIN chance as any of his predecessors displayed.
The feet-washing ceremony was evidently a propitiatory
homage to the purity of my quarter-deck.

Bergen, with its pale-faced houses grouped on the brink
of the fiord, like invalids at a German Spa, though
picturesque in its way, with a cathedral of its own, and
plenty of churches, looked rather tame and spiritless
after the warmer colouring of Throndhjem; moreover it
wanted novelty to me, as I called in there two years ago
on my return from the Baltic. It was on that occasion
that I became possessed of my ever-to-be-lamented infant

No one, personally unacquainted with that "most delicate
monster," can have any idea of his attaching qualities.
I own that his figure was not strictly symmetrical, that
he had a roll in his gait, suggestive of heavy seas, that
he would not have looked well in your boudoir; but he
never seemed out of place on my quarter-deck, and every
man on board loved him as a brother. With what a languid
grace he would wallow and roll in the water, when we
chucked him overboard; and paddle and splash, and make
himself thoroughly cool and comfortable, and then come
and "beg to be taken up," like a fat baby, and allow the
rope to be slipped round his extensive waist, and come
up--sleek and dripping--among us again with a contented
grunt, as much as to say, "Well, after all, there's no
place like HOME!" How he would compose himself to placid
slumber in every possible inconvenient place, with his
head on the binnacle (especially when careful steering
was a matter of moment), or across the companion entrance,
or the cabin skylight, or on the shaggy back of "Sailor,"
the Newfoundland, who positively abhorred him. But how
touching it was to see him waddle up and down the deck
after Mr. Wyse, whom he evidently regarded in a maternal
point of view--begging for milk with the most expressive
snorts and grunts, and embarrassing my good-natured master
by demonstrative appeals to his fostering offices!

I shall never forget Mr. Wyse's countenance that day in
Ullapool Bay, when he tried to command his feelings
sufficiently to acquaint me with the creature's death,
which he announced in this graphic sentence, "Ah, my
Lord!--the poor thing!--TOES UP AT LAST!"

Bergen is not as neat and orderly in its architectural
arrangements as Drontheim; a great part of the city is
a confused network of narrow streets and alleys, much
resembling, I should think, its early inconveniences, in
the days of Olaf Kyrre. This close and stifling system
of street building must have ensured fatal odds against
the chances of life in some of those world-devastating
plagues that characterised past ages. Bergen was, in
fact, nearly depopulated by that terrible pestilence
which, in 1349, ravaged the North of Europe, and whose
memory is still preserved under the name of "The Black

I have been tempted to enclose you a sort of ballad,
which was composed while looking on the very scene of
this disastrous event; its only merit consists in its
local inspiration, and in its conveying a true relation
of the manner in which the plague entered the doomed



   What can ail the Bergen Burghers
      That they leave their stoups of wine?
   Flinging up the hill like jagers,
      At the hour they're wont to dine!
   See, the shifting groups are fringing
      Rock and ridge with gay attire,
   Bright as Northern streamers tinging
      Peak and crag with fitful fire!


   Towards the cliff their steps are bending,
      Westward turns their eager gaze,
   Whence a stately ship ascending,
      Slowly cleaves the golden haze.
   Landward floats the apparition--
      "Is it, CAN it be the same?"
   Frantic cries of recognition
      Shout a long-lost vessel's name!


   Years ago had she departed--
      Castled poop and gilded stern;
   Weeping women, broken-hearted,
      Long had waited her return.
   When the midnight sun wheeled downwards,
      But to kiss the ocean's verge--
   When the noonday sun, a moment
      Peeped above the Wintry surge,


   Childless mothers, orphaned daughters,
      From the seaward-facing crag,
   Vainly searched the vacant waters
      For that unreturning flag!
   But, suspense and tears are ended,
      Lo! it floats upon the breeze!
   Ne'er from eager hearts ascended
      Thankful prayers as warm as these.


   See the good ship proudly rounding
      That last point that blocks the view;
   "Strange! no answering cheer resounding
      From the long home-parted crew!"
   Past the harbour's stony gateway,
      Onwards borne by sucking tides,
   Tho' the light wind faileth--straightway
      Into port she safely glides.


   Swift, as by good angels carried,
      Right and left the news has spread.
   Wives long widowed-yet scarce married--
      Brides that never hoped to wed,
   From a hundred pathways meeting
      Crowd along the narrow quay,
   Maddened by the hope of meeting
      Those long counted cast away.


   Soon a crowd of small boats flutter
      O'er the intervening space,
   Bearing hearts too full to utter
      Thoughts that flush the eager face!
   See young Eric foremost gaining--
      (For a father's love athirst!)
   Every nerve and muscle straining,
      But to touch the dear hand FIRST.


   In the ship's green shadow rocking
      Lies his little boat at last,
   Wherefore is the warm heart knocking
      At his side, so loud and fast?
   "What strange aspect is she wearing,
      Vessel once so taut and trim?
   Shout!--MY heart has lost its daring;
      Comrades, search!--MY eyes are dim."


   Sad the search, and fearful finding!
      On the deck lay parched and dry
   Men--who in some burning, blinding
      Clime--had laid them down to die!
   Hands--prayer--clenched--that would not sever,
      Eyes that stared against the sun,
   Sights that haunt the soul for ever,
      Poisoning life--till life is done!


   Strength from fear doth Eric gather,
      Wide the cabin door he threw--
   Lo! the face of his dead father,
      Stern and still, confronts his view!
   Stately as in life he bore him,
      Seated--motionless and grand,
   On the blotted page before him
      Lingers still the livid hand!


   What sad entry was he making,
      When the death-stroke fell at last?
   "Is it then God's will, in taking
      All, that I am left the last?
   I have closed the cabin doorway,
      That I may not see them die:--
   Would our bones might rest in Norway,--
      'Neath our own cool Northern sky!"


   Then the ghastly log-book told them
      How-in some accursed clime,
   Where the breathless land-swell rolled them,
      For an endless age of time--
   Sudden broke the plague among them,
      'Neath that sullen Tropic sun;
   As if fiery scorpions stung them--
      Died they raving, one by one!


   --Told the vain and painful striving,
      By shot-weighted shrouds to hide
   (Last fond care), from those surviving,
      What good comrade last had died;
   Yet the ghastly things kept showing,
      Waist deep in the unquiet grave--
   To each other gravely bowing
      On the slow swing of the wave!


   Eric's boat is near the landing--
      From that dark ship bring they aught?
   In the stern sheets ONE is standing,
      Though their eyes perceive him not;
   But a curdling horror creepeth
      Thro' their veins, with icy darts,
   And each hurried oar-stroke keepeth
      Time with their o'er-labouring hearts!


   Heavy seems their boat returning,
      Weighted with a world of care!
   Oh, ye blind ones--none discerning
      WHAT the spectral freight ye bear.
   Glad they hear the sea-beach grating
      Harsh beneath the small boat's stem--
   Forth they leap, for no man waiting--


   Viewless--soundless--stalks the spectre
      Thro' the city chill and pale,
   Which like bride, this morn, had decked her
      For the advent of that sail.
   Oft by Bergen women, mourning,
      Shall the dismal tale be told,
   Of that lost ship home returning,
      With "THE BLACK DEATH" in her hold!

I would gladly dwell on the pleasures of my second visit
to Christiansund, which has a charm of its own, independent
of its interest as the spot from whence we really "start
for home." But though strange lands, and unknown or
indifferent people, are legitimate subjects for travellers'
tales, our FRIENDS and their pleasant homes are NOT; so
I shall keep all I have to say of gratitude to our
excellent and hospitable Consul, Mr. Morch, and of
admiration for his charming wife, until I can tell you
viva voce how much I wish that you also knew them.

And now, though fairly off from Norway, and on our homeward
way, it was a tedious business--what with fogs, calms,
and headwinds--working towards Copenhagen. We rounded
the Scaw in a thick mist, saw the remains of four ships
that had run aground upon it, and were nearly run into
ourselves by a clumsy merchantman, whom we had the relief
of being able to abuse in our native vernacular, and the
most racy sea-slang.

Those five last days were certainly the only tedious
period of the whole cruise. I suppose there is something
magnetic in the soil of one's own country, which may
account for that impatient desire to see it again, which
always grows, as the distance from it diminishes; if so,
London clay,--and its superstratum of foul, greasy,
gas-discoloured mud--began about this time to exercise
a tender influence upon me, which has been increasing
every hour since: it is just possible that the thoughts
of seeing you again may have some share in the matter.

Somebody (I think Fuller) says somewhere, that "every
one with whom you converse, and every place wherein you
tarry awhile, giveth somewhat to you, and taketh somewhat
away, either for evil or for good;" a startling
consideration for circumnavigators, and such like restless
spirits, but a comfortable thought, in some respects,
for voyagers to Polar regions, as (except seals and bears)
few things could suffer evil from us there; though for
our own parts, there were solemn and wholesome influences
enough "to be taken away" from those icy solitudes, if
one were but ready and willing to "stow" them.

To-morrow I leave Copenhagen, and my good Sigurdr, whose
companionship has been a constant source of enjoyment,
both to Fitz and myself, during the whole voyage; I trust
that I leave with him a friendly remembrance of our too
short connexion, and pleasant thoughts of the strange
places and things we have seen together; as I take away
with me a most affectionate memory of his frank and kindly
nature, his ready sympathy, and his imperturbable good
humour.  From the day on which I shipped him--an entire
stranger--until this eve of our separation--as friends,
through scenes of occasional discomfort, and circumstances
which might sometimes have tried both temper and
spirits--shut up as we were for four months in the
necessarily close communion of life on board a vessel of
eighty tons,--there has never been the shadow of a cloud
between us; henceforth, the words "an Icelander" can
convey no cold or ungenial associations to my ears, and
however much my imagination has hitherto delighted in
the past history of that singular island, its Present
will always claim a deeper and warmer interest from me,
for Sigurdr's sake.

To-morrow Fitz and I start for Hamburg, and very soon
after--at least as soon as railroad and steamer can bring
me--I look for the joy of seeing your face again.

By the time this reaches Portsmouth, the "Foam" will have
perfomed a voyage of six thousand miles.

I have had a most happy time of it, but I fear my amusement
will have cost you many a weary hour of anxiety and suspense.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letters from High Latitudes
 - Being Some Account of a Voyage in 1856 of the Schooner Yacht "Foam" to Iceland, Jan Meyen, and Spitzbergen" ***

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