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selfishness, of what are called love and friendship in civilised society, as they term it. In this remote region alone I have seen that such a thing as disinterested affection can really exist; I have witnessed contentment, happiness, sincere, influential piety, which, careless as I may seem, I know how to appreciate; and I wish to secure a share of them for myself. As soon as my last link to home is broken, which will be the case when I return from my unsuccessful journey, I think of coming back here, adopting your habits and customs, and, if I can, your virtues—if, Marfreda, you will only bestow upon me that love which Semund certainly cannot value as I do, or he would not leave you ! Oh, forgive me! The flush of that cheek and the fire of that eye tell me I have offended.'
'I believe you did not mean to do so,' she replied with resumed composure; but never again allude to such a subject, or I cannot but be offended. Suffice it for me to say, that I never will be the bride of any one but of Semund Erlandson; nor his unless he proves worthy of my regard : so there the subject ends for ever. But I will always be your friend, Mr O'More, and as such let me say that I think you come to very hasty conclusions, and judge both your own people and ours on slight grounds. Ah,' she continued smiling, you forget your own arguments with poor Semund on an equal distribution of real happiness; and, believe me, if you turn Icelander, you will discover that evil as well as good may be found here. Before the first winter is over you will wish yourself an Irish gentleman again.
• But that is what I can be no longer, Marfreda: the days are gone by when we might found a claim to gentility upon a long pedigree, or even education and conduct. Gold now is the requisite, without which birth, mind, morals, are little worth, and without which even love and friendship are denied us. You look incredulous, but I can advance my own experience to illustrate the truth of my assertion. I was not long in possession of my patrimonial inheritance when a young lady, lovely and beloved, consented to share it with me. Her father was my friend. The time for our union approached when my relative's pretensions to my property were first heard of. Her father, my friend as I deemed him, became less anxious about what he had heretofore done his utmost to promote. He waxed colder and colder as my adversary's title seemed more likely to be the stronger. I grew angry, and concealed not my contempt for this mean creature, and a breach ensued. True, I cannot upbraid Ellen with anything more than pusillanimously yielding to his wishes, but she did that: she gave me up because I was likely to be poor. Now, Marfreda, can you wonder that I long to cast in my lot with those whose affections are, I am certain, irrespective of the changes of fortune ?'
The young counsellor again warned him against too hasty a decision, and gave him some sage advice; but it was evident that though she felt for his distress, her thoughts were occupied by other subjects; and after saying, with a gravity of manner which, notwithstanding O’More's dejection, amused him: 'Beware, my friend, how you allow pique against this fair Ellen to lead you into such declarations as you just now made to me. Other ladies may take advantage of your doing so, which you would afterwards regret'—they returned to the house. Morning came, and then the parting hour; but we are not about to describe it. Who has not felt the misery of saying farewell to some beloved individual, and the desolation of beholding the vacant chair by the hearth when one is gone whose voice and whose smile gave tenfold sweetness to all the social charities of home? We will not delineate the monotonous days and weeks as they passed over the inmates of Grimsted Farm after O'More and Semund had departed; neither is it our intention to accompany the travellers across the ocean to the British isles, nor to attempt an account of the wonder and delight attending the young Icelander's introduction into scenes so different from everything with which he had been familiar. Our readers are already in some measure acquainted with the utopian visions which his imagination had formed of these southern lands, and at first he, like the Queen of Sheba, was often led to exclaim: “The half was not told me;' and deemed that the brightest of his golden dreams came short of the reality, not only in favoured England, but also in O'More's native land; for Erin, unhappy Erin, had not yet been devastated by famine and pestilence, and whatever may have been her internal disorders, they were not yet perceptible to the eye of a stranger. Traits of her ancient national character were yet visible, and warm hearts and bright intellects everywhere greeted him. Alas! he did not at first discover to how little account they were turned for the benefit of their possessors, who resembled the scenery of their native land: the exterior beautiful and attractive, with mines of wealth, incalculable treasure within, unprized, almost unknown, because there was no encouragement to develop them!
As the communications between Iceland and the more southern regions are 'few and far between,' many months elapsed before any news from the travellers reached Grimsted. At length the long wished-for packet arrived, containing letters from both. O'More wrote with gratitude and affection. He touched briefly on his own concerns : the lawsuit had terminated according to his anticipations, and he was now resolved on seeking his fortune in other lands, but had not decided where. Semund's letters were more diffuse. The glowing charms with which novelty had invested every scene around him had not yet quite subsided, and his account of all he enjoyed was of course enthusiastic. Still he acknowledged that much which came under his observation was to him inexplicable. After a vivid description of what the book-loving Icelander deemed one of the most interesting sights he had witnessed--the college libraries and booksellers' shops in Dublin, and of the facility with which the process of printing is carried on-he added : 'But can you believe it? Notwithstanding all this, there are thousands of the lower orders in this country who can neither read nor write, and who are consequently ignorant even of the Book of God. This proceeds not of course from want of books and schools, nor from want of abilities, for they are an intelligent and imaginative people; but whatever is the cause of this ignorance, dreadful immorality arises from it; and I often compare them with our own virtuous, studious peasantry, and wonder how it is that the Irish, possessing at least equal capability and superior facilities for acquiring knowledge, should be so deficient. His accounts of the higher classes were more in accordance with the expectations he had formed, and he praised them much, though acknowledging he had there also observed some incongruities which were
puzzling. To Marfreda he wrote with much affection, but not so as to remove her painful impression that his love was not equal to her own. He spoke indefinitely of his future prospects, as if too much occupied by present enjoyment to give them much consideration.
Another interval of months elapsed, and again the messenger to Reikiavik returned bearing dispatches from Ireland. A change had evidently taken place in Semund's mind: he seemed to have unravelled some of the mysteries which formerly perplexed him. The ignorance and immorality which, he said, in spite of much to be admired in them, degraded the lower ranks of the country where he sojourned, he had now discovered could be imputed to the paralysing influence of extreme poverty and the want of education ; but as many persons possessing ampler means of discovering the master-key to the idiosyncrasy of the Irish character ' than our Icelandic traveller enjoyed, have still failed in doing so, we shall not record his observations on that subject. His animadversions on other orders of society, now that he no longer viewed them through the variegating prism of novelty, though few, we shall spare our readers ; but all was summed up in the declaration, that he supposed on the whole no country on earth was equal to his own.' 'My dear father was right,' said the young man, 'when he assured me that even if I could realise the glowing hopes which led me to this land, and attain the climax of fame and fortune-of which there seems little probability yet like one of old, who had full capacity to try everything under the sun, I should be obliged to own that all was vanity and vexation of spirit.' This was addressed to Marfreda Vidalin, and with it an acknowledgment that the joys of domestic life were far the best this world afforded, and Iceland the part of it where only he could find them, feelingly imploring her forgiveness for ever having seemed to doubt either. He announced his intention of returning home by the first opportunity.
The delight which this communication afforded to the family at Grimsted may be imagined—everything was said, everything done with reference to Semund's return, and various were the conjectures and calculations as to when that desired event might be expected to take place.
It was about midsummer when two travellers were riding across a plain not many miles distant from Grimsted. It was a sandy desert, strewed occasionally with rocks and stones, which exhibited proofs of having been exposed to the action both of fire and water. Even in this frigid clime heat and thirst are at such a season experienced; and as the day had been one of uncommon warmth, our travellers hailed, late in the evening, with much pleasure the sight of a small river with some vegetation on its bank, where they stopped to refresh both themselves and their horses.
O'More,' said Semund Erlandson—for such they were—' you see that mountain--our way lies over it; and when we reach the summit in a few hours more, you may behold a novel sight—the sun at midnight; while from the same point I shall be able to contemplate what most my
heart yearns for-home! We shall have a distant view of Grimsted, and may reach it early in the morning. When sufficiently rested they pursued
The weather was beautiful; and as they proceeded up the side of the mountain, they found it clothed with dwarf willows and blue-berry
bushes, the fruit of which yielded delicious refreshment. They were in high spirits, and conversed as they rode along.
How surprised and glad every one will be to see you, O'More,' said Semund.
'I doubt not their kindness,' replied his friend; "and as my cousin in Norway writes me word that my presence in that country to take possession of the situation he has procured for me will not be required for some time, I may perhaps, before settling there, if such be my destiny, have the pleasure of witnessing your union with the fair Marfreda Vidalin.'
Ah, dear O'More, do you really believe that she can forgive my coldness, my unkindness in leaving her ?'
* Fear not, Semund—the virtue of forgiveness is one in which young ladies are seldom deficient on such occasions.'
* There is somewhat more of bitterness than of compliment to the sex in your words, O'More. You were always a little severe on them, and formerly you might be pardoned, for you thought you had cause, judging by your own experience; but that has been proved a mistake, and you should speak of them as they deserve.'
'I was mistaken,' replied the Irishman in a graver tone, 'when I thought that the woman I had chosen gave me up because I was likely to become poor; and the bitterness of my feelings towards her extended towards the whole sex, always excepting your beautiful Marfreda, Semund, who seemed to be what learned people call a rara avis in terris —a solitary instance of a woman capable of disinterested affection. But I wronged Ellen, as is fully proved by her noble conduct when her father's death removed the obstacle to our union which his mean parsimony had created — her proposal to renew our engagement and bestow her fortune on one who had just become penniless.'
And I never could understand your reasons for declining what was so desirable, observed Semund.
* Have you not had sufficient opportunities of observing the ways of civilised society, as it is called,' responded his friend, to know that a man who derives his importance from his wife's money-one whom the world is apt to designate with the title of fortune-hunter-subjects himself to opprobrium such as I at least have not philosophy to encounter ? No, Semund! Though I love Ellen more than ever since discovering how I wronged her, no one shall accuse me of seeking her hand again because she was rich and I a beggar. If in afterlife poor O’More, now, like many another O, an impoverished exile, seeking in other lands what his owe denied—if
, to speak less sentimentally, I should grow rich—an event seldom exemplified in our family history-oh how joyfully will I return and claim her hand if she keep her promise of still remembering me!'
It was just midnight when they attained the height from which Semund had promised his friend the novel sight of the sun at that hour, and there they halted, while the Irishman with delight and wonder gazed upon the king of day, divested indeed of his splendour, but still stretching his sceptre over the realms of night. As if resting in his career, he remained for about half an hour a little above the horizon, communicating a golden tinge to the atmosphere and to the surrounding scenery—an immense plain studded with lakes and bounded by ice-mountains, whose glassy sides reflected the
rays of the midnight sun, which again commenced his ascent to pursue in undeviating course his circle through the northern hemisphere.
O'More gazed with awe and admiration upon this sublime scene. His fellow-traveller seemed to watch the upward movement of the crimson orb with somewhat of impatience. “How slowly it ascends,' he said; 'and till it gets higher the shadow of that gigantic Herdubried will not pass off from the plain where it now hides the view I might else have of my
dear home. But is not this magnificent ? You are right, O'More, when you used to assure me I should find nothing excelling such scenes in tamer regions. No land on earth can be compared to Iceland !'
Except Ireland !' O'More replied laughing. “You forget that the drift of all my wise observations was to convince you that there was a tolerably equal distribution of good and evil over the face of the earth. For instance, if your Herdubried is so much higher and grander than my own blue mountains, remember that the elements of destruction are nourished within its bosom, and we know not the moment they may break forth.'
Semund, who still continued gazing intently in the same direction, answered: : 'My friend, may your words not prove ominous, but I never before saw such a volume of black smoke ascending from that crater. See, the shadow has passed, and the slanting rays of the sun rest upon the place I wanted to behold; but where-oh where is the Yokul ?-the ice-mountain which time immemorial had raised its glittering brow beside Herdubried. It has doubtless melted in the heat of a volcanic eruption; and oh, my friend, it has buried my home, my parents, my love, in one mass of ruin !'
O’More looked with intense anxiety towards the place, and tried to soothe Semund's agony by suggesting that he might be mistaken; but as the ascending sun still farther removed the mountain shadow, it was but too evident that a fearful change had passed over that once happy spot. The ice-mountain had in truth disappeared, or rather removed, from its former site, and, broken into
huge glittering fragments, lay piled over the very place where Grimsted Farm had once smiled, like a little oasis in the desert. Poor Semund's agony was great, and his companion fully sympathised in his feelings.
They rode towards the scene of the disaster as fast as they could make their horses go; and as they drew near, with what intense anxiety did they look for some one who could inform them of the fate of the family at Grimsted! Often was a stunted tree or a reindeer mistaken for the form of a human being. At last they saw a flock of sheep grazing in a small green valley, which seemed to have escaped the general devastation by being situated between two very high hills, which had probably obstructed the progress of the ice-torrent, and prevented its entering the valley.
On reaching this place they found, as they expected, a shepherd, who instantly recognised Semund. Young master, are you come back ? Welcome, welcome! But how shall I ever tell you
all ?' Poor Semund, who was utterly unable to speak, stood with a blenched cheek and quivering limbs, leaning against his horse for support. O'More said: “We have seen from the top of yonder mountain what has happened house, trees, fields, all gone; but oh tell us at once where are the Sira and Madam Hialte, Marfreda--all, all ?'