An Iceland Woman and a British Tar.
Hall Came in the "London Figaro" writes: —On the Eastern coast of Iceland there is a great fiord called Seydisfiord, where the Danish mail boats and the Scotch cattle boats put in for cargoes of horses and sheep from the interior. Near to Seydisfiord there lived a man whom I shall call Grimsson. He was a farmer of middle age, a hard, selfish, cruel-hearted fellow. But he was rich as such men go, and it came about that the sole trouble of his life was the circum- j stance that he had no one that he could leave his land and money to when his time came to go under the grass. So, just that he might have an heir, he resolved to marry. There are not matiy people near Seydisfiord, and there are few women to choose from, but he lit on a maid servant of somebody's, named Helda, and married her, as I understand it, and took her to his home. It may be that without other ceremony he took her as Jacob took Rachel—l cannot say with certainty. In due' course she bore a child to him, and suckled it, and then, at the end of three years from the day that he received her into his house, he bundled her out of it. He kept the child, and told her to shift for herself. Now, I was assured that the law of Iceland allowed the man thus to divorce the woman who stood to him in the relation of wife, without word or wink from legal functionary. It seems incredible, but my authority was a sea captain, who had sailed 20 years to Iceland, and seemed toknoweveryman and woman atevery port of call. I should say that Helda was "not the man's married wife at all, and that in turning her adrift the worthy Grimsson was but abandoning his mistress.
Poor Helda was in despair, but not so much for her necessities, which were great, as because she was cut off from all intercourse with her child. Again and again she crept up to the house to see her little one, and kiss and fondle it, and again and again she was caught and driven away. She did no work ; she became an outcast; she seemed to be going mad; but her husband did not relent. These were the days when America was holding out her hand to Iceland, and asking all Icelanders who could not live on their cruel rock of the frozen seas to come out and found a new Iceland on the shores of the Pacific. And the ship that my friend the captain sailed lay at the time off the jetty at Seydisfiord, . . • One day Helda watched her Opportunity, crept up to her- former home, - stole .her own baby, hastened down to the fiord, went aboard the ship amid the crowd of a hundred emigrants, and stowed away in some dark corner below decks. The ship in due time weighed her anchor, and steamed down towards the sea. Then there was a hue and cry, and an Iceland boat came scurrying after her. Grimsson was in it, with the Sheriff and half a dozen other men. The steamer slacked off for them, they came aboard, and the captain asked what they wanted. ■ "There is a woman on your ship who has stolen a child," said the sheriff.
" Whose child ?" said the captain. "Mine," said Grimsson. ' " We'll have her up," said the captain. Every woman aboard who had a child with her was then brought on deck, and among them was Helda. Grimsson singled her out, and then began the inquiry. ■ ( "That's my child," said Grimsson, " and she has stolen it." The captain asked the woman if that was true, but Helda could not speak or understand a word English. The captain on his part could not speak or understand a word of Icelandic. So things seemed to go hard with Helda. But she knew what was going on before her, and clung closer to the child and shed tears. At that the captain began to suspect, and, turning to Grimsson, he said, " Where is the child's mother ?" Grimsson made no answer, and then an Icelander who stood by repeated the question to Helda in Icelandic, and she answered in her own tongue, "I am his mother. It is true I took him, but he is my own child." When this was translated to the captain he asked if it was true, and the sheriff had to admit that it was so ; but Grimsson protested that by the law of his country the father, not the mother, was the guardian of the child, and as the father of this child he demanded it. " It's the law of Iceland," cried Grimsson, in great wrath. But the captain's blood was boiling by this time. . Like a true, illogical, pigheaded, right-hearted British tar, he said— " The law of Iceland be ! The womajn is under the British flag now, and she shajl stick to her child ; and just you get off my ship, the lot of you or, ~ me ! I'll throw you into the sea !" It is needless to add that the visitors cleared out accordingly, and that, thanks to the British flag and the British captain, Helda kept her child.
Permanent link to this item
Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume xii, Issue 3402, 16 April 1890
An Iceland Woman and a British Tar. Ashburton Guardian, Volume xii, Issue 3402, 16 April 1890
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.