Read CHAPTER IV of A Yacht Voyage to Norway‚ Denmark‚ and Sweden 2nd edition , free online book, by W. A. Ross, on

At twelve o’clock the pilot stepped on board, and, in a few minutes, with a freshening wind from the westward, we were on our way to the Danish capital. To a warm, unclouded morning, a wet dark day succeeded; and, except between the chasms of flying clouds, the sun wholly withheld its light. The rain fell, at intervals, in torrents; and, concealing myself under the lee of the gig, which was hoisted on the davits, I endeavoured to enter into conversation with the pilot. The silvery hand of time, or heavier one of toil, had tinged his hair; and though (to judge from his sad and thoughtful mien,) life seemed protracted longer than he wished, his career, I learned by hints, had not been without excitement to himself, and could not be recited without interest and instruction to others. The old man was short and stout, and little gray eyes twinkled beneath an intellectual forehead, scarred by a sabre wound. After I had watched him with attention for some time, his firmly-compressed lips and sombre countenance showed the solidity of his character, and no weak point at which I might attack him with an observation. Sailor, who had been reclining in his hutch, disliking to wet his hide, and who was still labouring from the ill effects of the Danish brown bread, now came forth to stretch himself; and, seeing a man, unknown, standing by the compass-box, approached, and, with all the diffidence of his tribe, determined to form no friendship, without previously ascertaining whence he came, and what his business was. Sailor therefore walked with resolution up to the man, and smelt his coat. The dog also applied his nose to a little bundle tied with a dark silk handkerchief stowed unintrusively away between the pumps; and then, turning round, he looked up at me, and wagged his tail. I could almost see a smile upon his face. The old man laughed, and said, half nettled by Sailor’s contemptuous way of smelling his whole wardrobe, “Dat is von vine dog.”

Though the allusion to the dog’s well-proportioned form, or extreme sagacity, was one which answered itself, I replied,

“Yes; and that is the way he makes friends.”

“I know, I know,” he answered, “if von maan’s schmell vosh as goot, ve shoult schmell de tief vary shoon.”

“True; but if we are fond of sweet scents, and had to judge virtue and vice by smell, we should very soon leave off smelling, or leave the world.”

He did not seem to comprehend my meaning, for a vague expression of neither assent nor dissent passed over his countenance. He now, however, became talkative, and told me he commenced life by entering the Danish navy, and had been present in many engagements. Travelling from one end of the world to the other, though seated together under the gig’s keel, and wrapped in tarpaulin, we contrived to meet in the West Indies; and the old sailor’s heart opened towards me as I spoke of scenes and things familiar to him in his youth. I told him how I had been going “up and down on the earth,” and “walking to and fro on it;” and he took my hand in his and shook it, because I, like him, had been a wanderer. And so we whiled away the time, and heard and felt neither wind nor rain.

Phad gone below to arrange his flies; and I could occasionally hear R’s voice, above the whistling of the wind through the shrouds, modulating “Buffalo Gals,” “The Great Plenipotentiary,” and other favourite ballads. We were now half way between Elsineur and Copenhagen, and rising above a cape of level land on our starboard bow, the high buildings and steeples of Copenhagen could be distinguished. I formed, from this view, a grand idea of the Northern Capital, and, had I not done so, I might have been less disappointed, beautiful though the city is, when I found myself the following day walking through its streets. But the same event happens to man’s works as to man himself. The nearer I view a picture, the harsher become those lines which, at a distance, seemed so soft; and had I seen Cæsar, I should not now worship the deity I have raised on the pedestal of Imagination. I desire to foster the poetic feeling which, like a mountain mist, surrounds the ordinary habits and character of great men, and so I stand aloof and look on them. I exist on the Pagan creed,

Omne ignotum pro magnifico.”

The pilot, pointing with his finger, showed the spot where Nelson landed some of his men the day before his action in 1801; and, as the Dane reminded me of the crafty manner in which the officers of the English fleet imposed on the credulity of the good folks at Elsineur, the sound of distant thunder was heard. He ceased to speak, and listened to the low, rumbling peals, as they swelled, now loudly on the tops of the far mountains of Sweden, then sank faintly in the valleys. The old man went on to say, he remembered the action well; and, with bitterness, regretted that it ever occurred. This was the first time I had heard England spoken of discreditably, and the arrow pierced deep, and deeper, as familiar intercourse told, that the Danes, a brave and noble people themselves, always remember this battle with a sorrowful resignation, and grieving, feel, without vindictiveness, that, though Time may heal the outward wound, the moral pain remains for ever.

The scenery all along this coast of Denmark is very beautiful, the royal forests, extending nearly from Elsineur to Copenhagen, contributing with their masses of trees, and their rich green tints, to relieve the occasional gloomy aspect of the Swedish shore. These forests are strictly preserved, and are full of game; and, reared above the loftiest trees, the roof of one of the king’s hunting-palaces may be seen. With its usual bounty, the wind increased to a gale, and we entered Copenhagen harbour at three o’clock, with a reef in the mainsail, and ploughing up the water in furious fashion.

The Harbour-Master came on board as soon as we had anchored, and requested, with much civility, that we would move from the berth we had taken, since we obstructed the free passage between the docks and the harbour; and the cutter, he hinted, might be injured by merchant-vessels being warped from one to the other place. Rmade no demur; but turned round, and rated in good English the old pilot for his stupidity; while the old pilot, in unintelligible Danish, roared at his countryman for not coming off before the anchor had gone. When the little stout pilot was pacified, and unanimity restored, the Harbour-Master, a man of immense stature, and great personal beauty, came up to me, and said, with an excellent dialect, in the English language,

“I could perceive, Sir, your vessel was an English one, the moment she weathered that point; for none but a British vessel could dash along in such style as yours did.”

I bowed, and thanked him for the compliment.

“I only hope, Sir,” he continued, “that the Crown Prince will return before you leave Copenhagen; for this yacht would soon disgust him with his own.”

“Is the Prince then away from Copenhagen?” I asked.

“Yes, Sir; he is gone for a cruise towards the Baltic, and that is the reason you have not met him on the passage here. He is partial to the English; and so are we. He would have chased you; but, Sir, his yacht is no better than a fisherman’s smack.”

After a multitude of other aspirations, that we might encounter the Crown Prince, now, by the way, king, to disgust him with his property, the Dane took his leave; and, although his bland, Saxon face, with his seemingly open disposition, drew me towards him, I was not sorry to be alone.

The sun seemed at last to have gained its desire, by lulling the wind, and, instead of bursting, fretfully, through squally clouds, now shone forth with warmth and unblemished splendour. Many ladies and gentlemen walked up and down on a promenade, evidently a favourite and fashionable lounge, within the ramparts of a citadel, bristling with guns of tremendous calibre, not a cable’s length from the Iris; so, that, I could see, without being much observed, the gaiety which was in vogue, and could almost hear, did I understand the language, the anxiety expressed to know what and whence we were. The ladies in their French pink bonnets, and English dresses, pointed, gathering in knots, to the white Ensign and red cross of St. George, which drooping, dipped, like a swallow, to the water’s surface, then floated lazily in the air, and concluded at once in their sweet minds from what part of the sunny South we came, and what the errand was which had brought us so far from home to Denmark. I could almost tell, by the fervour of their manner, how the men viewed with admiration the slight downward curve of the cutter’s bowsprit, her burnished copper, and low, raking hull. Boats of all sizes and shapes, each containing a cargo, varying from four to thirteen persons, put off from the shore, and each individual whispering one to the other, that we were English, paddled round the cutter. Removed at a short distance from the little fleet, like the leading drake of a flock of ducks, a boat, rowed by a sailor and carrying two gentlemen, one with spectacles, standing, and the other quietly seated, steering, described continuously an elliptical circle round and round the vessel. Now and then, the gentleman, who stood, would make an exclamation to his companion, but whether of admiration or dislike, I had no other means of conjecturing than from the frequency with which he arranged, disarranged, and re-arranged his spectacles, first, fixing them tightly to the bridge of his nose, then, unfixing them, with a pettish jerk, to wipe them with his handkerchief, and, at last, refixing them with much precision, by removing the hat from his head and clasping it between his knees, till the yielding pasteboard crackled again. This circumnavigation continued for some time, much to my amusement, but more to the annoyance of Sailor, who leaped from stern to bow, following the motion of the boat, and barked, till the echo of his voice struck sharply against the bastions of Fredrikshavn, then flew, bounding, back again.

At last, the boat was pulled boldly to the gangway, and the excitable gentleman in spectacles, seizing hold of the after-braces, bowed and handed me a card, and begged, in bad French, that he might be permitted to come on board. Permission was soon obtained from R, and, with hat in hand, on board the Dane, as I fancied, jumped, accompanied, of course, by the other gentleman. The whiteness of the deck attracted his attention, and turning to me he made, smiling, an observation in a language which I did not understand, but could not help desiring to hear its silvery sounds again.

Vous n’etes pas Francais?” he then asked.

Non, je ne suis pas.”

Mais la langue, ne la comprenez-vous pas?”

Pas beaucoup,” I replied.

“Dat is pitty; for I have been for shome toime past in Ingerlaand, but I not learn ze langwage. Ze Ingerleesh varry difficolt.”

“You seemed,” I replied, “to have overcome that difficulty, and you speak it with a pretty good accent.”

“No, Zare, you varry goot to say so; but I feel I can at all not at all not, qu’est que veut dire, ’exprimer?’ ach! ach!” he exclaimed, putting his finger in his mouth, and pressing it, meditatively, between his front teeth, “I can at all not speak moin feeling in ze vay I shoult vish.”

“How long were you in England?” I said.

“En fjor une annee,” he replied.

“If then, Sir,” I went on, “after being one year in Denmark, I can speak the language so correctly as you do the English, I should think myself no deficient scholar.”

“Oh! Zare, you too goot. I am not Dane, zough; I am from Sweden ffr[=a]n Svenska landet; but I come to Kjobenhagen for ze painting. Zare,” he said, turning round, and looking from stem to stern, and from the burgee at the top-mast head to the brass belaying pins, “dish Engelskt skepp varry ach! ach!” again he exclaimed, stamping his foot and thrusting his finger in his mouth, “fy! vat you call ’skoent’?”

“Fine, beautiful,” I said, assistingly.

“Ja; jag tackar. Det aer skoent!” he exclaimed to his companion, who bowed in assent, and observed in the Swedish tongue,

“Det ser ut som en fregatt;” which, being interpreted, meant that the yacht was like a frigate.

“Ja,” answered my friend; and, after allowing time that they might admire everything, which they did, walking to and fro the deck, looking down the pumps and up the rigging, I requested that they would follow me, and I would show them below. The compactness of the cabin, the comfort of the berths, the height between decks, the combination of ease and elegance in the furniture, the copper-plate drawings, the swinging table, the pantry with every drawer and cupboard exactly where they ought to be, and nowhere else, the forecastle, and, wonder upon wonder! the cooking apparatus with its moveable jack, and its particular copper for hot water, all these things, and a thousand others too minute to tell, acted so impressively on their minds, that I could hear them extolling, in barbarous grammar, to the cook the singular sagacity of an English mechanic, and the collective greatness of the English nation. They remained on board nearly three hours; and, after conversing with R, P, and myself as well as they could, they presented each of us with their cards, and, begging that we would honour them with a visit, took their leave. I returned on deck with them; and the gentleman, whom I have distinguished from his fellow visitor by his spectacles, before he stepped into his boat, said to me,

“Zare, I can at all not say how mooch dish skepp delight me to look at. I am von artiste, and I should like varry mooch to draw dish skepp.”

“I am sure,” I replied, “Lord Rwill make no objection, for you compliment him in expressing such a wish.”

“I tank you, Zare; I can at all not help eet, but I look at dish skepp like von like von­ach! ach! ” and again the top of the forefinger was lodged in his mouth, “vat is ’skoent’? bootifool? jag tacker; like von bootifool flicka, gal, and ze odare skepps like old vomans.”

So saying, he raised his hat and gravely wished me good day.

“Good dag,” he exclaimed again, standing upright in the boat “Farvael!”

“Good dag. Farvael!” repeated his companion. And still, in an erect position, the gentleman in spectacles kept his eyes fixed on the vessel until a projecting portion of the quay hid the Iris from his sight. I then joined Rand Pin the cabin. We were endeavouring to settle what could be done in the evening, and at what point we should commence to see all the lions in Copenhagen, and regretting that we were unacquainted with an Englishman resident in the capital, when the steward gave a very small card, having a very large inscription on it, to R, and said that a gentleman wished to speak to us. Rdesired that the stranger would walk below.

“Gentlemen,” said a stout man about fifty-five years of age, who, with a red face, was standing uncovered at the threshold of the cabin door, “I hope you will forgive the liberty I have taken in boarding your yacht.”

“Oh! yes, certainly,” said R, “I am happy to see a countryman.”

“That is just my case,” replied the stout man, advancing farther into the cabin. “I have been driven from my own country by adversity, and whenever I see an Englishman I cannot resist forming his acquaintance, that I might speak to some one who has come from the land where I was born. Have you seen my card? My name is A l r C.”

“Won’t you sit down?” said P, offering him a chair.

“I thank you,” answered Mr. C, and sate down. “I suppose you are come to fish.”

“We are,” Preplied, “and should like to learn something about the art, and the places where it may be applied.”

“You can’t fish so far to the south as Copenhagen,” said Mr. C. “There are no fish here. I suppose you know that?”

“Yes, we know that,” interposed R, “we are from Christiansand, and there we heard of fish, but caught none.”

“That’s very likely; the rivers are yet too cold, and will continue so for a month or more. I am an old fisherman,” exclaimed Mr. Cchallengingly. “I have caught my sixty in a week;” and he slapped his thigh.

Prubbed his hands with satisfaction, and Rrose from the sofa on which he was reclining, and looked at Mr. Cwith curiosity.

“Well, now,” proceeded Mr. A l r C, “I would suggest, that, you three gentlemen, being in search of pleasure or sport, should remain a few days where you are. After having worn out the enjoyments, and there are many, of Copenhagen, coast it up to Gottenborg, Falkenborg, and so on till you reach Christiania; and at Falkenborg, or Kongsbacka, you may get a few fish. Have you brought any tackle, or flies?”

“Lots of both,” said P, rising at the same moment, and taking from the bookcase behind him his whole fishing apparatus. The fly-book was soon opened, and Mr. Cscrutinized tackle and flies with the attention of an angler.

“This is too yellow,” he said of one fly, removing it from the book, and placing it on the table for observation. “Here here’s too much red and blue,” of another; “there are no flies of that colour in Sweden, or Norway; and all this green on the belly is rubbish, no fish will take that. What’s this? Ha! The dragon-fly, ’t won’t do.” After rummaging for a little while, he said, “By the Lord Harry! come out!” seizing by the wings a fourth fly about the size of a humming bird. “This’ll do for the coast of Greenland where whales are caught. Shall I tell you what?” asked Mr. C, putting an end to his criticism, and looking round at us all. “Make your own flies. It’s impossible for a fellow in the Strand to put a fly together which would suit fishermen like you. Observe the flies and insects of the country as they flutter under your nose, and imitate them the best way you can.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” was the simultaneous answer of Rand P; but they liked not their London-made goods rated so lowly.

“Now,” exclaimed Mr. C, glancing steadfastly all round the cabin at each of us, “I hear this yacht belongs to an English nobleman, and the name is familiar to me. Which one of you is Lord R?”

Pand I made no reply; and R, quite taken a-back, resumed instantly, with a comic air, his declining attitude sideways on the sofa, with his face turned next to the bulk-head.

You are Lord R,” continued Mr. C, pointing to me.

“As much as you have exalted me in the grade of society, so much has it pleased Fate at last to depress me,” I replied. “That is Lord R,” I continued, pointing to R, or, at least, towards the centre seam in the back of his pilot-jacket.

“I hope your Lordship,” said old C, addressing R’s back front view, “will forgive the robbery of your due; but, had I observed your face, I could not have mistaken you.”

Rrose laughing, and told him no apology was requisite.

“You are very like the pictures I have seen, when I was in England, of the Admiral.” Then, after a pause, “What can I do for you, gentlemen?” said Mr. C. “How can I serve you? To-day is Saturday. Nothing is going on to-night; but if, after dinner, you will allow me to wait on you, I will do my best to amuse in a stroll about the town.”

“But won’t you dine on board?” asked P.

“I thank you; I have already ordered my own chop,” Mr. Creplied, “and I would in that case beg you to permit my meeting you after I have demolished it. Say half-past seven.”

“As you like,” said R; “but I can give you a good bottle of claret.”

“Thank you, my Lord; but not to-day.” And Mr. C. commenced a retrograde motion towards the companion.

“Have you a boat?” inquired R; “because you can have one of mine, if you like.”

“If you will, I shall feel obliged,” replied Mr. C.

“Alfred!” shouted R, at the top of his lungs.

“Yes, my Lord,” echoed from the recesses of the pantry, and then the cause of the echo became visible at the door of the pantry.

“Man the gig!” said R.

“Yes, my Lord,” and Alfred again disappeared as quickly as a falling star. A few minutes more, and Mr. Cwas over the gangway, in the gig, and ashore.