A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
In three hours I had seen not only the town but its environs. The general aspect was
wonderfully dull. No trees, and scarcely any vegetation. Everywhere bare rocks, signs of
volcanic action. The Icelandic buts are made of earth and turf, and the walls slope
inward; they rather resemble roofs placed on the ground. But then these roofs are
meadows of comparative fertility. Thanks to the internal heat, the grass grows on them to
some degree of perfection. It is carefully mown in the hay season; if it were not, the
horses would come to pasture on these green abodes.
In my excursion I met but few people. On returning to the main street I found the greater
part of the population busied in drying, salting, and putting on board codfish, their chief
export. The men looked like robust but heavy, blond Germans with pensive eyes,
conscious of being far removed from their fellow creatures, poor exiles relegated to this
land of ice, poor creatures who should have been Esquimaux, since nature had
condemned them to live only just outside the arctic circle! In vain did I try to detect a
smile upon their lips; sometimes by a spasmodic and involuntary contraction of the
muscles they seemed to laugh, but they never smiled.
Their costume consisted of a coarse jacket of black woollen cloth called in Scandinavian
lands a 'vadmel,' a hat with a very broad brim, trousers with a narrow edge of red, and a
bit of leather rolled round the foot for shoes.
The women looked as sad and as resigned as the men; their faces were agreeable but
expressionless, and they wore gowns and petticoats of dark 'vadmel'; as maidens, they
wore over their braided hair a little knitted brown cap; when married, they put around
their heads a coloured handkerchief, crowned with a peak of white linen.
After a good walk I returned to M. Fridrikssen's house, where I found my uncle already
in his host's company.