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

I rose early on the following morning, and went ashore with R, who desired to purchase some cherry cordial, rum and brandy, since this was the last city of any importance we should visit, before our arrival at Christiania, or Bergen.

The first object which attracted our attention when we returned on board, was a large nosegay, of sweet colour and perfume, in a jar of water, standing in the centre of the cabin table; and a small note directed, to us, lay by its side. When opened, the note read thus:

“A poor, but proud countryman, begs that you will accept this trifling present, as it is the only one within his means of offering; and, when you are again in England, think sometimes of an outcast.”

It had no signature; but the hand-writing was Mr. C’s. A large boat was seen putting off from the shore, and we hoped that it was Mr. C; for Rwas always happy to see him on board his vessel, however much he might have objected to his companionship in the streets. As the boat approached, we saw that it was not Mr. C, but our old friend the gentleman in spectacles, who had, unhappily, selected this morning to sketch the yacht; and in ignorance of our intended departure, had evidently hired a good-sized boat for the day, and brought all the necessary appendages of his art. In a few seconds we slipped our moorings, and jib, foresail, and gaff-topsail were hauled out to the wind, and the main tack dropped, sooner than I have written it.

“Vare de skepp go?” I heard the artist exclaim to the boatman; “det blaser hardt de vind blow hard moin Gud! vare de skepp go?”

We were soon out of hearing; but we could still see the mute astonishment of the disappointed Swede, as he stood bolt upright, a pencil in one hand, and a large drawing-book in the other.

Like a wild horse, startled, would fly over the plains of Pampas, and hurl with sounding hooves the turf behind him, our little bark darted through the water, and, envious of her freedom, crushed and tossed each resisting wave into foam, and a thousand bubbles. As we hauled closer to the wind, and hugged the tongue of land which forms the most easterly point of the citadel of Fredrikshavn, we discerned, leaning against the flag-staff, poor old C. He held a handkerchief in his hand, but waved it not; yet it would be raised slowly to his face, and fall heavily to his side again; and, after we had proceeded two miles out to sea, with the aid of a telescope, we could still trace his form resting in the same place and position, and his eyes still turned towards us.

When we drew further from the shore, the wind increased, and the gaff-topsail was unbent, and a reef taken in the mainsail. We were soon a second time anchored off Elsineur; and, as the sun declined from the meridian, the wind almost lulled to a calm. We went ashore; and although, on our arrival at the pier-head, the sentinels and police did not speak to us, or demand our passports, they walked round and viewed us, as a man would observe the points of a horse before he purchased it.

Elsineur appeared to me a more bustling town than Copenhagen itself; and I suppose that arises from the number of sailors connected with the vessels in the roadstead, who are to be met in the narrow lanes and alleys of the town; and here all the pilots in Denmark mostly wait for ships bound up the Baltic.

Over the door of every third house, generally swings a sign-board, villainously painted, and exhibiting, in emblematical form to the stranger’s eye, the proprietor’s name, and the nature of the goods which may be bought of him. The streets are very long and confined; and herds of fishwomen, dogs, and children, get in your way and under your feet. Elsineur is the Wapping of Denmark, or comparable to the worst parts of Portsmouth.

We walked through the town to the Castle of Cronenborg. After wandering over drawbridges, through archways, and dark tunnels, we found ourselves in the middle of a courtyard, surrounded on all sides by the solitary walls of the seemingly deserted castle. We rang a bell several times, and could just hear its noisy clatter, stealing through narrow, longitudinal slits of windows at the top of an old tower; and, after repeating the summons several times, without waiting, we walked away as we had entered this famous citadel. From the ramparts we enjoyed a magnificent view of the Sound, and the coast of Sweden.

In Hamlet’s garden, about a mile from the castle, across a dreary common, the willow-sheltered tomb is still to be seen, where, it is said, sleeps that Spirit “the potent poison quite” o’ercrew. A house stands, tenantless, in the centre of this garden, protected at the back from the north wind by a bank, on which spring here and there flowers and weeds entwined; while its front, turned to the south’s warm breath, is enlivened by a few statues, round the pedestals of which creep the vine and honey-suckle. Though the footfall of time is scarcely heard on the soft moss, which oozes in patches from the broad terrace where princes trod, the hand of desolation seemed to be busy here; and as I looked around me, and observed how each relic of antiquity was crumbling into dust, the oblivion of every thing connected with man, except the monuments of his intellect, crawled coldly, like a slug, over my senses, and apart from all visible objects, I felt, and saw with the mind’s eye, the immortality of poetry only in the air which I breathed.

Not far from Elsineur is Esrom. Near the Castle of Fredensborg, a boat-house, on Esrom Lake, may be seen by the traveller; and there it was, on this calm summer evening, I lay down upon the grass, looking on hill, wood, dale, and water. The still air, the unrippled surface of the lake, the tops of the trees, which form the vast and majestic avenues leading to the castle, appearing to melt into the blue sky, were so imposing, that the spirit of melancholy, not unpleasing, descended on me; and leaping from scene to scene, and from one epoch of my life to another, I found myself a boy again, and the heart, like a bended bow, returning to its full length, sprung swifter to the thoughts of home; and I could not help muttering aloud these verses to myself:

“There was a time, and I recall it well,
When my whole frame was but an ell in height;
Oh! when I think of that, my warm tears swell,
And therefore in the mem’ry I delight.

“I sported in my mother’s kind embraces,
And climb’d my grandsire’s venerable knee;
Unknown were care, and rage, and sorrow’s traces:
To me the world was blest as blest could be.

“I mark’d no frowns the world’s smooth surface wrinkle,
Its mighty space seemed little to my eye;
I saw the stars, like sparks, at distance twinkle,
And wished myself a bird to soar so high.

“I saw the moon behind the hills retiring,
And thought the while ’Oh! would I were but there!’
Then could my eye examine, without tiring,
That radiant thing, how large, how round, how fair.

“Wond’ring, I saw the Sun of God depart,
To slumber in the golden lap of Even;
And, from the East again in beauty dart,
To bathe in crimson all the field of heaven.

“I thought on Him, the Father all-bestowing,
Who made me, and that silver orb, on high,
And all the little stars, that, nightly glowing,
Deck’d, like a row of pearls, the azure sky.

“To Him, with infant piety, I faltered
The prayer my tender mother taught me:
’Oh! gracious God! be it my aim unalter’d
Still to be wise and good, and follow Thee!’

“For her I pray’d, and for my father, too,
My sisters dear, and the community;
The king, whom yet by name alone I knew,
And mendicant that, sighing, totter’d by.

“Those days were matchless sweet; but they are perish’d,
And life is thorny now, and dim, and flat;
Yet rests their memory deeply fondly cherish’d;
God! in thy mercy, take not take not that."

That the placid and serious beauty of Esrom Lake might be enjoyed, undisturbed, in intimate union and rare purity, some monks of the Cistercian order built, in days of yore, a monastery in the island, the ruins of which now alone remain; and it would do the eye good to see the beautiful spot where these monks raised their dwelling.

On such an evening as the one of which I am now almost a part, a light might have been seen dancing strangely round the trunk of a beech, the oak of Denmark. It was no will-o’-the-wisp produced by exhalations of the earth; for, now it would shine brightly, and at the next moment vanish, as if it had mingled with the old tree’s leaves. Reappearing, the light would assume an oscillating motion for a short time; then revolve with such rapidity, that it would seem a continuous circle of fire; and, at last, as if wearied with its gyrations, burn with the upward quivering glare of a candle. Suddenly, a slight puffing noise, like the ignition of a small quantity of gunpowder, stole on the night, and the beech, without noise, fell withered to the ground. In its stead stood the figure of a man hid in the travelling hood and mantle worn by the peasants of those days. Folding the mantle close to his form, the man moved with quick steps towards the monastery of Esrom; and, arriving, knocked gently, at the gates. He sought admission, and said that his name was Ruus, and that the abbot had engaged him to be cook’s apprentice. The lateness of the hour pleading in his favour, a monk, doubting not the truth of his assertion, admitted the stranger, who entered without further question on the duties of his humble office.

Being one day alone with the master-cook, Ruus showed so much disobedience, and raised the anger of his superior to such a pitch, that he received chastisement severely for his contumely. At this Ruus felt wroth; and, having previously placed a cauldron of water on the fire, and perceiving the water boiled, he seized, in the apparent frenzy of the moment, the master-cook by his ankle and the nape of his neck, and thrust him head foremost into the hissing liquid. Tearing his hair, and putting on the hypocritical garb of innocence, Ruus ran hither and thither screaming, and lamenting in the face of all his saints the irretrievable misfortune which had happened to his master. By such deception, leading the friars by the nose, Ruus caused them to see combined in him tenderness of heart and guilelessness of conduct, and to make him straightway their master-cook. This was precisely the elevated point of trust to which Ruus had aspired, since his entrance into the monastery was urged by the resolution to work out its destruction. The victuals of the friars, made savoury by every herb and spice Ruus could take from the abundant hand of Nature, or steal from the art of man, were luscious to the extreme of taste; and, delivering themselves up to the enjoyment of all earth’s good things, the friars allowed fasting and prayer to slip from their memories. Nay, the legend even tends to the utmost limit of delight, and asserts, that Ruus introduced the most beautiful women to the caresses of this holy fraternity; and so ingratiated himself highly with the abbot, that the old man desired nothing more than that Ruus should become one of their order, and remain for ever master-cook of Esrom monastery. Ruus consented; and, from that moment, quarrels and wickednesses marred the unanimity, and crept stealthily through all the cloisters of the monastery; and the little, childish, coaxing form of sin, by daily toleration and soft endearments, grew to such rapid maturity, that the walls of the monastery would have fallen asunder by the pressure of its bulk, and come under the sway of the Evil One, had not the Father Abbot expostulated with his children, and seasonably persuaded them to avoid their vicious ways.

Now, it so happened, that in the cool of one summer’s afternoon, Ruus went forth to walk in a wood; and though the air which he breathed was pure, and the generous sun, mindless of good or bad, poured around an equal distribution of his tempered warmth, Ruus, throwing aside, nevertheless, the harsher trammels of honesty, relaxed to his genial depravity; for, observing at a little distance a fine fat cow, he approached and slew her; and, taking on his shoulders a quarter to the monastery, left the remaining three-quarters hanging on a tree.

Merry and content of heart, and chanting a native ditty to some young girl he loved, a peasant, to whom the cow belonged, came soon afterwards to seek her; and, when he saw the three-quarters hanging on the tree, his mirth soon ceased, and with wringing hands, uttering sigh after sigh, he knew no bounds of grief, since his wealth exceeded not the cow’s possession; but, his sorrow softening at length into moderation, he became lost in the opposite intensity of feeling; and, stung by anger, resolved to climb another tree, and, watching till the thief should come to take the rest of the animal, beat him to death.

The sun began to sink, the cool breath of evening prevailing over the warmer atmosphere of the day; and, ever and anon, the soft sighing of the air brought to the peasant’s ear the faint murmur of voices. While sitting on a lofty tree concealed among the branches, and looking down through the foliage he observed, assembled round the trunk, a vast number of devil’s imps playing their pranks, whispering of Ruus, and telling each other how Ruus designed to invite the old Abbot and his monks to partake of an entertainment in hell. The peasant, terrified at all he heard and saw, and, watching his opportunity, descended furtively from his hiding-place, and, repairing on the morrow to Esrom, told his story to the Abbot.

When the Abbot heard the peasant’s tale, in wonder and alarm, he ordered the monks to the church, and, amid the solemn tolling of the bell, throwing himself prostrate on the cold pavement, began to read and sing. Ruus, who had ever shown himself a wayward convert, liked not the lamentable voice of devotional services; and strove to sneak out from the mumbling group, but the Abbot, with resolute horror, seized him by the cloak, and exorcised him, quickly as his tongue would speak, into a red horse; and, by the sanctity of invested power, constrained him, by way of punishment for his wicked designs, to pass through the air day after day to England, and without intermission, in blistering summer, or biting winter, to return bearing on his back 320,000 pounds weight of lead for the roof of Esrom Monastery. This Ruus is supposed in the legends of Zealand, to have been the Devil, who, envious of the piety and virtue of the monks of Esrom, assumed the human form, and gained access to the monastery in the manner, and suffered punishment with the certainty, I have stated.

During the night the wind had been soothed to a mere zephyr; but its object was only to take breath, for this morning, Sunday, it blew a perfect gale, and the sea was lashed, in a short time, to such anger, that no communication whatever could be held with the shore. There were many hundred vessels in the roadstead; and, packed closely together as they were, it was amusing to observe the effect of their masts rising and sinking, and tumbling from right to left, as wave after wave approached and receded from each vessel. At noon, all our cable was veered on the starboard anchor, and got ready for slipping, in consequence of a large brig driving in our way. It became doubtful for some hours, as she drew her anchors slowly home, whether the brig would not come athwart our bows, and, if she had, one of us must have gone to the bottom; and since the brig had so much more bulk, and consequently, weight in her favour, than the Iris could muster, the chances are, that my fleshless skull would have been long ago a resort for cockles under the rocks of Cronenborg; but, a friendly wave, full of feeling as of water, struck the brig to windward, and, heeling under the blow, she took a broad sheer on our starboard bow, and dropped clear of us.

At six o’clock in the morning, we got under weigh, and went up the Cattegat, with no particular plan in view, but desirous, if possible, to reach Falkenborg, or some other harbour in Sweden, before night set in. As the sun rose, however, the wind began gradually to fail, and before noon, a calm prevailed so entirely, that all hope of leaving Cronenborg out of sight to day was dissipated. This being the 24th of May and the Queen’s birthday; to commemorate the event and keep our loyalty in good trim, we fired, even under the ramparts of Cronenborg Castle, which is not always liked, a royal salute; and, when we had accomplished about one-half of our Lilliputian cannonade, a large French war-steamer passed within thirty yards of us, and, not heeding the approximation of such a terrible and sensitive neighbour, we continued our firing, and sent a broadside right into the Frenchman’s larboard ports, much to his astonishment; for anticipating more deference to the French flag, the engines were immediately stopped, and a Lieutenant in gold banded cap, and thick moustache, started into sight, showing his chin just elevated above the bulwarks, and eying us with great ferocity over the lee-quarter; but repeating our salute with all the precision of an hour glass, which Rheld, and the apparently sublime ignorance of land-lubbers, Monsieur le Lieutenant seemed to feel some consolation for our breach of etiquette, and paddled away again as hard as ever.

Not a breath of air was abroad, and the Sound lay silent as a lake. In answer to the booming of our guns, from the town of Helsingborg, five miles off, on the opposite coast of Sweden, we could hear the sound of human tongues, and the bay of dogs, come echoing over the sea, so calm was the day. A thousand vessels of all nations, some going up, others returning from the Baltic, the deep blue sky, and the hot sun, reminded me more of the Mediterranean than of the northern climate in which I was wandering.

After we had concluded our salute, Rordered a swivel to be charged, and, loading it with a handful of rifle balls, fired it towards the coast of Sweden. The experiment was tried in order to satisfy our speculations as to the distance our guns would carry. An immense flock of wild ducks, rather more than a mile from us, rose as we fired; but whether the report, or the bullets interfered with their fishing amusements, I know not, for we did not see the smooth surface of the water disturbed anywhere. Some of the sailors, however, were fanciful enough to assert that they heard the balls strike the rocks on the Swedish shore.

Every other object, except the high land of Sweden, lost to the eye, Cronenborg was still, for a long way, visible; and, as the sun began to descend, the old Castle, throwing its dark shadows almost across the Sound, seemed to stand forth the gigantic symbol of national protection, and type of times gone by.