Web Text-ures Logo
Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio

(Return to Web Text-ures)
Click Here to return to
Off to the Geysers
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter
Kellscraft Studio Logo


Iceland, ho!  —  First Glimpse of the Snæfel.  —  The Faxa Fiord.  — The "Smoking Cape."  —  The "Meal-sack."  — Reykjavik.  —  " Excuses moi. Monsieur" —  The Early Discovery of America.  — A Long Day.  — A Stroll about Town.  —  The Governor, the Windmill, and the University.  — Squalor. — Hiring a Guide. — Some Queer Nags.

ON the morning of the 9th we were in latitude 63° 43', longitude 26° 7' west of Greenwich; wind north-west; weather murky, cold, with dark driving clouds. It seemed as if we were indeed approaching that grim boreal region whence the storm-winds come.

"We ought to sight land by noon," remarked the captain.

We got our glasses, and looked off to the north-east. A dark bank of clouds rested down on the ocean. Between us and them the black waves with their foaming white crests heaved and tossed restlessly. Scattered here and there, patches of ice flecked the sea. Off to the north-west, toward Greenland, a long white ice-field lay along the horizon, extending far off under the dark cloud-masses.

By eleven o'clock the sky cleared, exposing a cold deep-blue horizon, with one white knob low in the ocean, just east-north-east by the compass.

"Is that an iceberg?" Kit queried.

"That's either an iceberg or Iceland," replied the captain: "I can't tell which, yet."

"Do you suppose their mountains are snow-clad at this time of year?" Wash asked.

"The high peaks are all the year round, save when the volcanic heat melts it off," said Raed.

We went down to dinner, and after that spread out our maps and charts, and compared them with our present position at sea, to make out what peak the snowy knob we had discovered could be.

"For it is certainly a mountain," said Kit, who had gone up after dinner to take another look at it with his glass. "It begins to loom up considerably; yet I can see that it is still a long way off. No iceberg would loom so high at so great a distance. Farther south, too, there are several other white points. It's Iceland: no doubt about it."

"Then that peak must be the Snæfels Jokul," Used remarked.

"Why do they call it Snæfels Jokul?" Wash asked. "Snae means 'snow;' fell means 'mountain:' together they mean 'snow-mountain.' But jokul means 'mountain' too."

"But there is a difference in the meaning of the words fell and jokul," said Raed. "Fell is a mountain which is not covered with snow in the summer, while jokul is a high peak or ridge clad with eternal ice."

"The proper name of this peak is Snæfel alone, I think," Kit remarked. "On some of the maps it is called Snæfel simply."

We went on deck for another look at it.

"If that is really the Snæfel," said Wash, "Reykjavik, oar port, must be east, or perhaps a point or two south of east. But we are heading direct for the mountain now, captain."

"Yes, sir: in an hour we will change our course,  —  as soon as we are sure it is the Snæfel."

As the afternoon passed, the snowy peak rose higher and higher: we were sailing fully eight knots per hour. To the north-east of it, several other peaks began to show; while to the south a long line of purple summits rose gradually out of the ocean. The Snæfel now seemed to stand far out towards us. This circumstance left no doubt that we were really approaching the entrance of the Faxa Fiord, and that the long purple arm extending out to the south-east was Reykjaines,  —  the "Smoking Cape."

At four o'clock we changed our course to east-southeast, and stood down toward Reykjavik. We had brought our map on deck. To the south-east a high peak rose far inland.

"That must be the fiery Heckla," observed Kit. "Wish it would take a notion to erupt while we are up here!"

"And there are three other peaks inland just about east from us," remarked Raed. "Judging from their position, as compared with our map, they are the Eyrik Jokul, the Ok, and the Long Jokul."

At eight o'clock the sun was still high in the north. Snæfel was almost in line with it from the deck. To the south-east, a huge rock, many miles (ten) from the black lava cape, rose abruptly from the ocean. Its top was white as snow; its perpendicular sides were cark as obsidian.

"That must be the famous Meal-sack," said Wash.

We had read of it. With a glass we could see the waves breaking at its base, sending the foam far up its sides. No one has ever landed on it. No boat dares to come up near it. Its height has been estimated at two hundred feet, and its diameter at a hundred and fifty feet. Its white cap is doubtless from the excrement of hundreds of sea-fowl which nest on it. Formerly it was thought to be a breeding-place of that rare bird, the great auk.

The wind held strong from the north-west. "The Curlew" flew on. By ten o'clock we had got far up the fiord. The coast about the head of it was now in plain sight,  —  a rough, black shore, distant ten or a dozen miles. The nearer we came, the rougher and blacker it looked. The point to the south of us seemed to be a bare black lava-ridge, rent and shattered in the most frightful manner. Not many years since, there was an irruption in the sea here, during which these dark lavas were cast out. The entire head of the fiord in front of us seemed serrated with jagged headlands and points, between which narrow inlets ran back as far as we could see. There were numerous small islands, — so many dark, dangerous-looking ledges. In fact, it was, as Capt. Mazard expressed it, about the "wickedest-looking coast" he was ever on.

But where was Reykjavik? We began to ask the question; for we were now within four or five miles of the shore, and had not yet espied the port. From the general correspondence of the coast, the peak of Snæfel, and the Meal-sack, with our chart and map, we felt sure we were in the Faxa Fiord; and somewhere in the southern part of this great fiord, or bay, was Reykjavik The chart indicated a passage between a point and an island as the entrance to the harbor; but so many friths between islands and points showed themselves all along, that we were in considerable doubt. Presently we espied a fishing-smack dart out of an inlet a mile to the northward, and come running down along the coast. As we came up, the smack passed across our bows at the distance of half a mile or more, and, bearing southward, went in between two small islets, and disappeared.

"Going into port, most likely, at this time o' day," said the captain. "Guess we'll make bold to follow."

The helm was set a-starboard, and the schooner headed for the passage. Just outside the islands, we met a brig coming out. This confirmed us in our previous opinion; and, on passing in between the islands, lo! the harbor, with some half a dozen craft of various sizes, disclosed itself a couple of miles to the south-east. Half an hour more, and we were in the roadstead, and had dropped our anchor some two hundred yards below a little black jetty, which was the only approach to a wharf anywhere in sight along the water-frontage. A hundred yards to the left of us lay a small ship-of-war with the French flag flying. We could see her officers looking at us rather curiously, and immediately ran up our bonny new flag. It's not often that they see the stars and stripes here, I fancy. It was now past eleven; but the sun was still shining, and showed a fair hand-breadth above the snowy mountain-tops to the north. we looked off to the town. Every thing was quiet. Three or four men were getting ashore from the smack in their boat: otherwise there was no stir, no noise, save the dismal howls of a couple of dogs that seemed to be practising a rancorous duet.

"Folks are probably abed," Kit remarked. "I suppose they have to sleep, if the sun doesn't set"

"But is it possible that this is really Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland,  —  this contemptible-looking little collection of paddy shanties!" exclaimed Wash. "Why, the meanest fishing-village on the New-England coast is a gay metropolis beside this. I do believe we must be mistaken. Haven't we got into the wrong port?"

"Oh! this is Reykjavik fast enough, isn't it, captain? Raed inquired.

I don't think there can be any doubt of it," said Capt. Mazard.

"But I can't believe it  —  hardly!" Wash cried.

"Those Frenchmen seem to be eying us quite curiously," remarked Kit. "Might try your bad French on them, Wash."

"Yes. Ask them what place this is," said Raed. Wash cleared his throat.

"Excusez moi, messieurs: cette ville, est elle Reyk javik?" he shouted.

There was a moment of doubtful hesitancy, then a very politely modulated  — 

"Excusez moi, monsieur: seriez-vous assez bon pour repeter ce que vous avez dit?"

"He means, say it over again," said Kit. "He didn't understand you."

"Cette ville, est elle Reykjavik!" repeated Wash.

"Oui, oui, monsieur  —  cette ville est Reekjahveek," was the reply.

We heard them laughing, whether at Wash's queer French, or at our having got to a place we didn't know the name of, was uncertain.

"Bet you they are jolly fellows!" Kit exclaimed. "Should like to get acquainted with them a little."

"Well, this settles the point then," Raed remarked. "Yonder little hamlet is the largest town of Iceland. Why, there can't be over a hundred shanties. There aren't half a dozen buildings that really deserve the name of 'house:' the rest are mere hovels. This, then, is the capital of an island larger a good deal than the State of Maine."

"Maine has thirty-one thousand seven hundred and sixty square miles, and Iceland has thirty-seven thousand," remarked Kit.

"But the population of Iceland is not over seventy thousand in all," said Wash. "Maine has nearly ten times that number."

"And yet this is the country, and yonder hovel-dwellers are the descendants, of the men who first discovered America," said Raed musingly. "As early as the tenth century, long before ever Columbus was born, or dreamed of crossing the Atlantic, these hardy Icelanders had followed down the North-American coast as far as Massachusetts, and established colonies. The famous 'round-tower' at Newport is thought to be the work of these early navigators."

"But Longfellow, in his poem, 'The Skeleton in Armor,' fancies that it is the work of a Norwegian viking," I observed.

"Oh, that's a mere poetic license!" cried Kit. "It's for more likely to have been the Icelanders."

"But the Iceland people are the descendants of the Norwegians, are they not?" Wash asked.

"Partly," said Raed; "though the Irish are said to have had a hand in settling Iceland, and also the English. I have no doubt that the Norse vikings were tho first to set foot in Iceland. One of the sagas says Naddothr, a Norwegian pirate, first discovered Iceland,  —  in the year 860: At that time the island was uninhabited. So dreary did it look even to his northern eyes, that he called it Snja-land, and forthwith sailed away."

"It is said that Columbus had made a voyage to Iceland before he discovered America," remarked Kit. "Many think he heard of the Western continent from the Iceland folks."

"Yet he thought it was the other shore of the Eastern continent all the while," Raed observed "No doubt be heard traditions of these Norse discoveries; though it is doubtful if he got any very definite information, else he never would have set out to cross the Atlantic at its very widest point, as he did."

"I have no doubt he did get a great many ideas of the 'Western land' from this people," said Kit; "for, at that time, the Icelanders had colonies on Greenland and on Labrador."

The sun was just touching the mountain-peaks of this strange land of ice and fire.

"Let's turn in, and get rested for to-morrow," Raed advised.

The watch was assigned to Smith and Trevers. We went to our bunks, and slept soundly till after four, when the shouting and heave-ho-ing of our French neighbors aroused us. They were weighing anchor,  —  making great din about it too. Strange what a difference there is between an English and a French ship in this respect! An Englishman will weigh anchor and leave port without a sound save the noise of her blocks, capstan, and the officers' commands. On a Frenchman there is always a great to-do and jabbering. Monsieur must exclaim, or he couldn't do a thing. This difference is, I presume, due partly to the more excitable temperament of the French, and partly to the stricter discipline on an English ship.

"Sorry they are going off," Kit muttered. "I hoped they would stay a while."

"They are going up the west coast, I think it likely," said Capt. Mazard. "The French have a great many fishing-vessels about this island in the summer time. This brig-of-war is up here to protect them, probably, and look out for their interests."

After breakfast we let down our boat; and we four boys, with the captain and Weymouth and Hobbs, rowed up to the little rickety jetty, and landed for the first time on Icelandic soil. Hobbs and Weymouth remained with the boat. Several fishermen with pipes in their mouths were lounging about; but, as they said nothing to us, we did not accost them. A little up from the shore, at the beginning of a motley street, we espied a board house, which from a notice in Danish, of which we could make out a word or two, and the picture of a steamship in rapid career, we concluded to be the office of the Copenhagen steamer.

"Let's call and inquire for the governor's house," proposed Raed. "There's a Danish governor resident at Reykjavik, you know. He's the man we want to see."

But the steamer-office was closed.

"Too early, perhaps," said Wash.

We strolled along up the street, between a row of one-story board houses on one side, and an irregular collection of hovels, some of them built of rough stones, with turf roofs, on the other. Turning off to the right, we at length came out beside a plain little church with a queer, box-shaped steeple. A muddy street led off past it to the left. Leaning against a hovel on the corner was a man, with his fur cap over his eyes.

"Hollo, friend!" exclaimed Capt. Mazard, walking up to him. "Can you tell us where the governor lives?"

The man stared.

"Nicker forstay," he muttered,  —  something which sounded like that,  — he didn't understand.

"Try him with the word amtman," said Raed. "That means 'governor' in Danish, I believe."

"Amtman?" cried the captain, swinging his arm over the place.

"Yawh!" (a sentence perfectly unintelligible,)  —  pointing to a large squat stone house two or three hundred yards farther on.

We thanked the fellow with bows, and went on.

The residence of the governor is one-story house of stone and mortar, originally designed for the State-prison of the island, it is said; but either from the number of convicts getting too small, or the State too poor to support a prison, it was metamorphosed into a governor's house. It enjoys the reputation of being the most splendid mansion in the country; and, from what we afterwards saw, I dare say it is. A stone wall separates it from the street on one end. In front is a lawn sloping down to a sort of common, or square, from which it is set off by a wooden fence. Such a fence is, I dare say, something of a luxury in Iceland. The wood is imported from Denmark. Raed and the captain went up to call on his Excellency. The rest of us continued our ramble about town.

Off to the north-east of the governor's house, and standing a little apart, is a high (for Iceland) building,  —  a Latin school, we learned. The Reykjaviks call it a "university." Here it is that their clergy and other professional great men are run through the Latin and Greek mill. A four-years' course of dead languages is absurd enough in America; but somehow it seems doubly so amid the squalor and poverty of Iceland.

"When will the world get enough of this monkish study of Latin and Greek?" Kit exclaimed as we stood looking at the university.

"That is one of the legacies the Catholic religion hat bequeathed us," laughed Wash,  — "that every son of Christian mother born must have two big lexicons slung about his neck from his tenth till his twentieth year."

"Thank our stars we have broken loose from them!" cried Kit. "I wish every boy in the United States had the courage to do so. Six months of Latin is enough. We Americans have got to give the world a model in educational matters as well as in many other things. The old idea of cramping a boy down in some little stived-up town to spend four and eight years in getting his 'education' is monstrous. Why, the whole world is the book for him to study and learn from. He must go about it, studying as he goes."

On the hill a little back of the governor's house is a windmill, where the daily bread-corn of the town is ground; though just what this bread-corn consists of we have yet to learn. A few watery potatoes, with straggling patches of oats and wild corn (not maize), constitute the agricultural products of the country. The climate is far too severe, and the season too short, for wheat or Indian corn.

On going past the church to the left, we came out on the shore of a pond, the outlet of which, a small brook, runs through the common in front of the governor's house, and thence down into the sea. A reedy, boggy, bleak-looking tarn, it seemed to us. Several grebes and a fine merganser started up as we came out to the water's edge. The water gave an icy chill to our fingers. We saw ice on the farther side. Coming back past the church, we heard a great shouting and hallooing in the direction of the jetty.

"Some sort of a row!" cried Wash. "Our boat with the sailors is down there too!"

We hurried forward, and, passing the steamer-officer, caught sight of a crowd about the jetty. Over their heads could be seen a couple of blur caps, with now and then a brawny arm flashing up.

"It's Hobbs and Weymouth!" muttered Kit. "Fighting the whole crowd. I wonder what the row's about."

"Push in!" cried Wash. "We must stand by them."

The frowzy, broad-faced mob stared in our faces as we hustled them aside. Arriving on the jetty, we found the two sailors "squared off," with sleeves rolled up, warding off the grabs of two men, whom, from the badges on their coats, we took to be policemen. They fell back as we pushed past them, talking very loud and authoritatively.

"What's the matter?" Kit demanded. "What's the fuss about?"

Hobbs grinned.

"You see, sir," explained Weymouth, a good deal out of breath, "we were sitting here on the wharf, when along came as pretty a lass as ever I set eyes on. She went to one of those boats out there on the shingle, and began to take out an armful of fish. Well, Hobbs he watches her a while, and then strolls along where she was, and told her she was much too pretty a girl to be handling them slimy fellows, and asked her if he shouldn't lug 'em for her. I don't know as she understood him; but she let him take the fish, and then piled more of them on his arms. When they had got an armful, she led off, and Hobbs started to follow with the fish. I had noticed a chap standing up there by that shanty yonder. The minute they started away from the bout, this chap he came along and stepped in front of them, and began to swing his lip, and by and by gave the girl a slap on the mug. At that Hobbs dropped the armful of fish, and gave the chap a mate to his slap, right across the eyes. Then the chap went for him; and Hobbs knocked him over into the mud. He got up and ran off a bit, and began to jaw, and shake his fist. Upon that Hobbs puts his thumb to his nose, and twinkled his fingers at him (illustrating it). Just then one of these fellows (pointing to the men with the badges) comes along. The chap entered complaint to him, and then went off after the other fellow here; and together they tried to fasten on to Hobbs. But he backed on to the jetty with me, and we've kept 'em off."

"In other words," exclaimed Kit, "you are resisting the officers, the police!"

"The police!" cried Weymouth, considerably sobered by the thought, and looking them over with serious attention. "Well, I'll be blamed if they aren't the rummest-looking policemen I ever clapped eyes on. I don't believe they amount to much."

Kit turned to the officers, who did seem remarkably patient under the contumely with which the Reykjavik law had been treated in their persons, and, pointing off in the direction of the governor's house, said, "Amtman," at the same time taping a handful of gold dollars from his waistcoat-pocket. The worthy guardians of the Icelandic peace hesitated a little, not understanding, probably, on what terms we stood with the amtman. Seeing this, Wash gave the sailors the nod to get into the boat. They did so in a twinkling, and shoved off. Making our way off the jetty through the crowd, we caught sight of a fellow with a bloody nose, which he was mopping with a very dirty handkerchief. Near him stood a young woman of a fresh, rosy complexion, looking demurely downcast.

"There's the fair casus belli," laughed Kit.

"And there's the chap wot got hit in the mug," added Wash.

We approached him, and, by sundry serious shakes and nods, tried to give him to know that we regretted the injuries he had suffered. When be had checked the "claret" from his nose, Kit, with many pitying shakes, slipped into his hand three or four dollars; seeing which, the crowd began to nod approvingly to each other. We walked off. Truly money will heal most wounds. Thus ended Hobbs's adventure. Going back toward the church, we met Raed and the captain coming away from the "stone house."

"Well, what said his Honor?" Wash asked.

"He gives us a hearty welcome to Iceland!" cried Raed. "Pledged us health in a glass of port and no end of corn-brandy. Nearly upset the captain!"

"And no wonder!" cried Capt. Mazard; "for I had to drink for both of us. Was afraid his Excellency would take offence if I refused. That comes of being out with a temperance man."

"He gave us lots of information about travelling in land," Raed went on. "No roads, no carriages: every body travels on horseback. We have got to buy our horses too. Don't let horses here, it seems. Must have two apiece."

"Whew!" exclaimed Kit: "that will cost us some-thing."

"But he says one can purchase a good horse here for twenty-five dollars," replied Raed.

"How about a guide?" Wash inquired.

"For a guide, he directed us to apply at the hotel. Didn't see the hotel, did you? Well, they have one. It's that two-story wooden building up beyond the church. We've been up there. The landlord speaks English,  —  after a fashion. So does the governor, for that matter. Landlord promised us to notify half a dozen men who sometimes act as guides. They are to come to the hotel at three o'clock this afternoon. We must be there then to take our pick of them. So let's go aboard and have dinner, and get rested."

"Raed is vastly taken with the governor's daughter," observed the captain.

"Of course I am!" exclaimed Raed. "So would anybody be. She is a very pretty young lady (anybody can see that); and she is really refined and accomplished, to say nothing of her beauty. She does the honors of the house with an ease and grace that I didn't much expect to see in Iceland."

"Bravo, Raed!" cried Kit. "Sounds as it he might be son-in-law to an amtman, yet; doesn't it?"

"I am not so presuming as that, I assure you!" replied Raed.

We went down to the jetty, and signalled the schooner to send the boat; for Hobbs and Weymouth bad discreetly betaken themselves aboard.

After dinner we read a while; then, going ashore again, went up to the hotel. It at least resembled hotels in this respect, that it had a bar whence corn-brandy, beer, and other liquors, were being dispensed to a whole roomful of smokers and men holding horns of snuff, which they from time to time applied to their noses. These snuff-horns  — which, by the by, are a sort of national institution in Iceland — are much like a small powder-horn. When the Icelander wants to take a pinch,  —  which is pretty often,  —  be sticks the little end in his nose, and snuffs. Such a whiff would split the nose of any ordinary American with a paroxysm of sneezing; but an Icelander's nose is of less sensitive make. When an Icelander does sneeze, however, he does it with a vengeance, sending a cloud of snuff in all directions.

Only three of the professional guides whom the landlord was to notify had made their appearance. They were sitting in a row on a bench, waiting our pleasure. One was a little thick-set fellow, with a broad, flat face. The landlord introduced him as Guthmundr Gissurson; that is, Guthmundr, the son of Gissur. He had been all over Iceland several times, save the regions to the south-east, where no one ever goes. All he asked for his services was one dollar (Danish money) per day. The second was a large, plainly-dressed man, with a frank, honest face, named Zöga. His price was a dollar and a half per day; but he would furnish his own horse,  — quite an item where all the horses had to be bought. The third was a young fellow, quite tall, and rather sprightly for an Icelander, who is generally just the reverse of sprightly. His name was Halgrim Arnarson. He was the son of a farmer, living two miles (Icelandic miles, each of which is equal to five or six English miles) out of Reykjavik. He had already escorted two English tourists to the geysers. From them, and from divers Englishmen he had met in Reykjavik, he had gained enough of the language to understand us, and answer in brief Zöga, on the contrary, had quite a command of English. He had taken many parties to the geysers, and always given satisfaction,  —  so the landlord told us confidentially. Young Arnarson, however, suited us best. He could, moreover, furnish us with six horses from his father's farm; and, if they were returned sound, we were to pay him but six dollars apiece for their services. His price was one dollar per day and board. We engaged him.

For carrying our tent, kettle, &c., together with what provisions we should need to take along from the schooner, we learned that six horses would be necessary,  — a statement that startled us not a little, till we came to see the horses. Then, for our own riding, each of us was obliged to have two, in order to shift our saddles once in every three or four hours. We had intended to take Palmleaf along to do the cooking for the party; but this great expenditure for horses staggered us not a little. At this rate, we should have to pay five or six hundred dollars for horse-flesh at the very outset. Kit at once proposed that we should leave Palmleaf on board, and thus save at least two horses. Capt. Mazard could not go: he did not deem it prudent to leave "The Curlew" with the sailors. There was no knowing what scrape half a dozen young tars might get into if left to

themselves. We at length concluded to take Weymouth only. With the guide, there would then be six of us. The baggage was finally argued down to what five horses could carry. There would now be needed seventeen horses. Eleven of these must be bought outright. Halgrim agreed to notify the horse-dealing portion of the little town of our wants. We set seven o'clock that evening as the hour for them to bring on their nags, and went back on board the schooner. Had supper at half-past six, and shortly after went off to the jetty again. On nearing the hotel, we beheld not less than a hundred persons, nearly every one of whom held a horse, and some bad two,  —  quite a chance for an extended choice certainly.

"But do look at the brutes!" Wash exclaimed. "Why, they are shaggy as lions, and nearer the size of billy-goats than horses."

"I've read that the Icelanders feed their horses on dried fish," cried Kit: "now I believe it."

What amazed us most, next to their extreme littleness, was their shagginess. Such manes and tails! Why, one of those tails would stuff a mattress! In a moment we were surrounded by the whole crowd, each man hanging to his halter, and crowding up to add his own voice to the din of unintelligible lingo which was raised at our approach.

"Well, of all the vicious-looking little monsters, these beat every thing!" Raed exclaimed. "Look as if they would make nothing of snapping off a fellow's arms or his feet; mistake 'em for a dry fish. Let's get out of this. I'm half afraid of 'em."

By dint of pushing and sharp dodging, we gained the door, where our guide stood coolly surveying the assemblage.

"Ready  —  buy  —  my sirs?" he remarked.

"It's no use for us to try to buy of them," groaned Raed. "Halgrim, you buy. Buy good ones, Halgrim,  —  good ones."

"Yas, sirs," said Halgrim.

We got into the bar-room, and, going to the window, stood by to see the trading go on. Well, I suppose it didn't differ so very much from horse-traffic in other parts of the world; but together with the droll sound of their language, the twitching of halters, the biting, shrill squealing, and occasional wheeing-up, of the absurd little ponies, it amused us vastly. Halgrim examined the horses with great care and judgment. At first we were a little suspicious he might act with the jockeys, and either pay just what they had a mind to ask, or perhaps buy poor animals at regular prices to accommodate his friends; but he was honorable. It took him toward an hour to purchase the eleven. As fast as he bought one, he would hitch it to the fence to the right of the building. When the eleven were at last tied in a row, it was, to say the least, a singular spectacle. All the colors were represented,  —  brown, black, gray, calico, piebald! The bill was four hundred and forty dollars, Danish currency. And here a difficulty arose. When we came to produce our American gold in payment,  — we had brought along three hundred dollars from "The Curlew," — the Reykjavikers shook their heads. They didn't know any thing about such money. Fortunately, however, there is a Danish exchange-broker in the town. Thither the landlord directed us. For our three hundred dollars American currency we got from this gentleman five hundred and twenty-five rix-dollars. He took a heavy percentage, as we saw on looking up the regular exchange value. The rix-dollar is worth only fifty-two cents of our money fifty-two cents five mills, I believe it is.

Leaving the horses in Halgrim's care, with orders to have them fed and stabled, and also directions to hire or buy six riding-saddles and five pack-saddles for our provisions, tent, &c., we went on board for the night. Thus closed our first day's experience at Reykavik.

Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.