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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/84

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80
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

and coffee. Still the hospitality was sincere and appreciated, though for the honor of its recipients it may be stated that it was paid for. The guide and myself bunked in the room where the above banquet was displayed, each on a feather bed with another one on top of that as covering.

After leaving Thingvallir we followed a rude trail over stony ground in the rifted country. The ground rose, until we dominated the broad expanse of the Thingvallir vatn, the superb and enormous expanse of water lying between hills and mountains, with some steeply slanting wedge-formed mountains shooting out of its placid waters, as if partially submerged by the eastward tipping of its basin. The view backward in the clear air, in which no trace of contamination lingered, was indeed beautiful, and the little red-roofed church as a spot of color in the scene brought with it the needed suggestion of some sort of human occupancy.

We stumbled along up natural steps of rock, near the edge of the lake, sharply rising, and later crossed the dry and contorted lineaments of the Hrafnagja (raven's wing); another rift, companion to the mighty Almannaja, less august, and more rudely formed. We were now in the "lava beds," a tangled barren region strewn with fragments of rock and thinly invaded by soil and flowers. It seemed almost as if we were on the back of the land, and looking off to its dispersed members below us. The rocks about us were vesicular, slaggy and scoriaceous. Some blistered pieces might have come from a shaft furnace. This region was most desolate, marked also by low shafts or irregular prominences of rock, while with festive hopefulness cow-berry and plantain, grass of Parnassus, ground pinks and other flowers decorated the niches or clung charmingly to the ledges and interstices of the rocks.

All the while the superb pictures north and south changed and developed. We were now approaching a most congruously strange and sterile cinder range; crater-like peaks deeply disintegrated, with long absolutely bare slopes of black and red palagonitic fragments, piled up at the limital angle of rest like the slack from a mine, or the slag from a furnace. We seemed to be in a burnt-out world, as if we might be traversing the surface of the moon. The original palisaded structure of these mountains was destroyed, until they had become heaped-up cones of rubble with very dark cavities. They were the Kalfstindar in which Thoroddsen found intrusive basalts.

We descended from the "lava beds" by a steep path to a broad grassy flat meadow that skirted the very foot of the sinister Kalfstindar. The coloring, in brown, black and purple was extremely fine, and the sharp points of some hills falling away in long slopes of debris, with, here and there, remaining bulwarks of the parallel inter-