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List Of Contents | Contents of Letters From High Latitudes, by Lord Dufferin
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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
again.

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
emigration.


LETTER VII.

KISSES--WILSON ON HORSEBACK--A LAVA PLATEAU--THINGVALLA--
ALMANNAGIA--RABNAGIA--OUR TENT--THE SHIVERED PLAIN--
WITCH-DROWNING--A PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE, A. D. 1000--
THANGBRAND THE MISSIONARY--A GERMAN GNAT-CATCHER--THE
MYSTICAL MOUNTAINS--SIR OLAF--HECKLA--SKAPTA JOKUL--THE
FIRE DELUGE OF 1783--WE REACH THE GEYSIR--STROKR--FITZ'S
BONNE FORTUNE--MORE KISSES--AN ERUPTION--PRINCE NAPOLEON
--RETURN--TRADE--POPULATION--A MUTINY--THE REINE
HORTENSE--THE SEVEN DUTCHMEN--A BALL--LOW DRESSES--
NORTHWARD HO!

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
describe.

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

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