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sively between California and Iceland. Crossing the bog where it was not very wet, we soon came to a group of huts at the turning-point of the hill, where we were met
by a shepherd and his family. All turned out, big and little, to see the strangers. The man and his wife were fair specimens of Icelandic peasantry—broad-faced, blue
eyed, and good-natured, with yellowish bair, and a sort of mixed costume, between the civilized and the barbarous. The children, of which there must have been over a dozen, were of the usual cotton-head species found in all Northern countries, and wore any thing apparently they could get, from the cast-off rags of their parents to sheepskins and raw hide. Nothing could surpass the friendly interest of the old shepherd. He asked Zöega a thousand questions about the “gentleman,” and begged that we would dismount and do him the honor to take a cup of coffee, which his wife would prepare for us in five minutes. Knowing by experience that five minutes in Iceland means any time within five hours, I was reluctantly obliged to decline the invitation. The poor fellow seemed much disappointed, and evidently was sincere in bis offers of hospitality. To compromise the matter, we borrowed a spade from him, and requested him to send some milk down to our camp as soon as the cows were milked.
Although these worthy people lived not over half a mile from the Geysers, they could not tell us when the last eruption had taken place a most important thing for us to know, as the success of the trip depended almost entirely upon the length of time which had elapsed since that event. The man said he never took notice of the eruptions. He saw the water shooting up every few days, but paid no particular attention to it. There might have been an eruption yesterday, or this morning, for all he knew; it was impossible for him to say positively. “In truth, good friend,” said he to Zöega,“ my head is filled with sheep, and they give me trouble enough,” It was evidently filled with something, for he kept scratching it all the time he was talking.
Many travelers have been compelled to wait a week for an eruption of the Great Geyser, though the interval between the eruptions is not usually more than three days. A good deal depends upon the previous state of the weather, whether it has been wet or dry. Sometimes
the eruptions take place within twenty-four hours, but not often. The Great Geyser is a very capricious old gentleman, take him as you will. He goes up or keeps quiet just to suit himself, and will not put himself the least ont of the way to oblige any body. Even the Prince Napoleon, who visited this region a few years ago, spent two days trying to coax the grumbling old fellow to favor bin with a performance, but all to no purpose. The prince was no more to a Great Geyser than the commonest shepherd-not so much, in fact, for his finest displays are said to be made when nobody but some poor shepherd of the neighborhood is about. In former times the eruptions were much more frequent than they are now, occurring at least every six hours, and often at periods of only three or four. Gradually they have been diminishing in force and frequency, and it is not improbable they will cease altogether before the lapse of another century. According to the measurements given by vari. ous travelers, among whom may be mentioned Dr. Henderson, Sir George Mackenzie, Forbes, Metcalfe, and Lord Dufferin, the height to which the water is ejected varies from eighty to two hundred feet. It is stated that these Geysers did not exist prior to the fifteenth century; and one eruption—that of 1772—is estimated by Olsen and Paulsen to have reached the extraordinary height of three hundred and sixty feet. All these measurements appear to me to be exaggerated. · Ascending a slope of dry incrusted earth of a red and yellowish color, we first came upon the Little Geyser, a small orifice in the ground, from which a column of steam arose. A bubbling sound as of boiling water issued from the depths below, but otherwise it presented no remarkable phenomena. In a few minutes more we stood in the middle of a sloping plateau of some half a mile in circuit, which declines into an extensive valley on the right. Within the limits of this area there are some forty springs and fissures which emit hot water and vapors. None of them are of any considerable size, except the Great Gey
ser, the Strokhr, and the Little Geyser. The earth seems to be a mere crust of sulphurous deposits, and burnt clay, and rotten trap-rock, and is destitute of vegetation except in a few spots, where patches of grass and moss present a beautiful contrast to the surrounding barrenness. In its quiescent state the scene was not so striking as I had expected, though the whirling volumes of smoke that filled the air, and the strange sounds that issued from the ground in every direction, filled my mind with strong premonitions of what might take place at any moment. I did not yet relinquish my views in reference to the superiority of the California Geysers; still, I began to feel some misgiving about it when I looked around and saw the vastness of the scale upon which the fixtures were arranged here for hydraulic entertainments. If we could beat Iceland in the beauty of our scenery, it was quite apparent that the advantage lay here in the breadth and extent of the surrounding desolation—the great lavafields, the snow-capped Jokuls, and the distant peaks of Mount Hecla.
We rode directly toward the Great Geyser, which we approached within about fifty yards. Here was the camping-ground—a pleasant little patch of green sod, where the various travelers who had preceded us had pitched their tents. Zoega knew every spot. He had accompanied most of the distinguished gentlemen who had honored the place with their presence, and had something to say in his grave, simple way about each of them. Here stood Lord Dufferin's tent. A lively young gentleman he was; a very nice young man; told some queer stories about the Icelanders; didn't see much of the country, but made a very nice book about what he saw; had a great time at the governor's, and drank every body drunk under the table, etc. Here, close by, the Prince Napoleon pitched his tent–a large tent, very handsomely decorated; room for all his officers; very fine gentleman the prince; had lots of money; drank plenty of Champagne; a fat gentleman, not very tall; had black
ish hair, and talked French; didn't see the Great Geyser go up, but saw the Strokbr, etc. Here was Mr. Metcalfe's tent; a queer gentleman, Mr. Metcalfe; rather rough in his dress; wrote a funny book about Iceland; told some hard things on the priests; they didn't like it at all; didn't know what to make of Mr. Metcalfe, etc. Here was Mr. Chambers's camp—a Scotch gentleman; very nice man, plain and sensible; wrote a pamphlet, etc. And here was an old tent-mark, almost rubbed out, where an American gentleman camped about ten years ago; thought his name was Mr. Miles. This traveler also wrote a book, and told some funny stories.
“Was it Pliny Miles ?” I asked.
“Yes, sir, that was his name. I was with him all the time.”
“Have you his book ?”
“Yes, sir, I have his book at home. A very queer gentleman, Mr. Miles; saw a great many things that I didn't see; says he came near getting drowned in a riv
“ And didn't he ?”
“ Well, sir, I don't know. I didn't see him when he was near being drowned. You crossed the river, sir, yourself, and know whether it is dangerous."
“ Was it the Brúará ?”
“No, sir; one of the other little rivers, about kneedeep."
Here was food for reflection. Zöega, with his matterof-fact eyes, evidently saw things in an entirely different light from that in which they presented themselves to the enthusiastic tourists who accompanied him. Perhaps he would some time or other be pointing out my tent to some inquisitive visitor, and giving him a running criticism upon my journal of experiences in Iceland. I deemed it judicious, therefore, to explain to him that gentlemen who traveled all the way to Iceland were bound to see something and meet with some thrilling adventures. If they didn't tell of very remarkable things,