COPENHAGEN AND HOME
ON August the 11th the glass had not yet commenced to rise, and the sky looked as wild as ever, but there was a lull in the storm; the north-wester had subsided for a time into a moderate breeze with stiff squalls only now and then. So I decided to be off, and after bidding good-bye to all my friends shoved out of the haven at 9 a.m., and was soon scudding fast before the wind over the heaving seas, which, though still high, were no longer steep and dangerous.
After following the coast for twelve miles we came to the narrow entrance to the Sound, where the shores of Denmark and Sweden are little more than two miles apart. Here the spectacle before us was most impressive. On our right, at the foot of a well-wooded promontory, the massive castle of Kronborg, with its four graceful towers, rose high above the town of Elsinore; on our left was the Swedish port of Helsingborg surrounded by green hills; and the whole of the Sound between the two countries was crowded with vessels lying at anchor, the same that I had seen from Nakke Head running in for shelter from the Kattegat. None of these had yet been able to put to sea again; for the north-west wind and the strong current that sets into the Sound after a gale from that quarter rendered it impossible for anything but a steamer to get out. This vast weather-bound fleet, which was being ever increased by fresh arrivals, now stretched from land to land; so dense a forest of masts that from a distance it seemed as if even a little craft like the Falcon would not find room to work her way between.
As the proud rights of Denmark over the Sound have been abolished, and vessels have no longer to strike their topsails off Elsinore and pay toll to the king, we sailed on, still keeping close to the Danish shore, for twenty-two miles farther, passing delightful scenery of the usual Danish character — a succession of beech-woods, lawns, and fishing-villages, and, as we approached Copenhagen, of bright-looking watering places and pretty villas. We sailed by Hveen, Tycho Brahe's island, by — but the Sound deserves a volume to itself, and, no doubt, many solid tomes have been devoted to it, so I will say nothing more concerning it; and at last we let go our anchor, at 5 p.m., off the Lange Linie.
This is the Bois de Boulogne, the Hyde Park of Copenhagen, a very pleasant promenade, having the sea on one side, lakes, gardens, and groves of fine trees on the other.
It was the fashionable hour for "doing" the Lange Linie when we arrived, and, as the weather was now quite fine, and the sun shining, the view from the yacht was an animated one. The walks were crowded with a well-dressed crowd, in which the bright colours of the ladies' dresses and the officers' uniforms predominated over the sober black of the male civilians. Among the trees a military band was "discoursing most excellent music" — quotations from Hamlet are de rigueur from all British tourists when writing of these classic shores, so I suppose I must not be an exception.
It seemed strange to burst thus suddenly from stormy seas and little fishing-hamlets upon what looked like Hyde Park in the middle of the season, and Wright, after gazing shoreward with amazement for some time, said very justly, "Well, sir, we've got to something like a town this time."
Our cruise had now come to an end, and all that remained was to find a suitable place in which to lay up the Falcon. This I soon discovered in a boat builder's yard, about a mile from the city.
But we had one last sail in the old boat, and a very pleasant one it was. I took some Danish friends out for a day's picnic. We landed at the village of Tirsbaek, and strolled through the fashionable watering place of Klampenborg to the royal deer-park, and as far as the King's shooting-box, known as the Hermitage. The environs of Copenhagen are all beautiful, but no other excursion can come up to a walk through this splendid forest with its great beeches, lovely glades, and great herds of stags, affording, too, as it does, frequent magnificent views over the Sound.
Then Wright and myself set to work for two days, and completely dismantled the yacht, taking everything, including masts and ballast, up to a shed that had been placed at our disposal. This done, the Falcon was hauled up on to dry land, and with a rough sloping wooden roof built over her deck, to prevent the snow from accumulating, she will remain there for the winter.
The laying up of the boat, the hospitality of my friends, and one thing and the other detained me in Copenhagen for a week. In that time I saw most of the sights of the Capital, even religiously "doing'' all the museums — Thorvaldsen's being, of course, anything but a penance. Tivoli, that huge but respectable Cremorne, which attracts great crowds every night with its open-air theatres, fireworks, dancing, and all manner of amusements, was my favourite resort after dinner. Copenhagen is proud of its Tivoli; and here even as at the fishermen's fête at Gillelie, all classes rub shoulders. Even Royalty, and English Royalty on occasion, patronizes these gardens without risk of being insulted or mobbed by roughs, swell or otherwise. I also visited a wonderful collection of horrors — a gallery of war pictures, painted by the Russian artist Wereschagin, clever, but full of anachronisms and other inaccuracies; for instance, the British soldiers blowing Sepoy mutineers from guns are attired in the helmets and uniforms of 1887. I was told that this collection was to be taken to London in the winter, and I have no doubt it will astonish some of the critics.
The police of Copenhagen, I understood, were very anxious during our stay, not on our account, but on that of the Czar of Russia, who was expected to arrive shortly. It was supposed that several determined Nihilists had preceded him, and the city was full of detectives, both Danish and Russian, who were closely shadowing all strangers. A very intelligent Russian who passed himself off as a commercial traveller came down to the boatyard while we were laying up the yacht, and took a keen interest in our cruise. He conversed with me in a pleasant manner, but quietly, without appearing inquisitive, contrived to pump me very thoroughly as to my movements and antecedents. I was afterwards told that this was supposed to be one of the Russian secret police. I think he left me quite satisfied that I was only one of the ordinary English lunatics who like to travel in strange and uncomfortable ways, and not a dangerous villain cruising about with a cargo of dynamite and infernal machines.
On Thursday the 18th we embarked on the Danish steamship Tala, and, after a remarkably smooth voyage round the Skaw and down the North Sea, arrived in Millwall docks on the morning of the 21st. My travelling companions were some young Danish naval officers, who, with a crew of blue-jackets, were bound for Hammersmith, whence they were to take two of Thornycroft's torpedo boats back to Copenhagen for the Danish Government.
So the old Falcon lies buried under the northern snow for the winter, but I hope to return to her next summer, and resume my exploration of the Baltic, of which I have as yet had only enough experience to whet my appetite for much more. It is pleasant sometimes on a winter's evening to look over the charts, and plan the coming campaign. So far, I have not decided between the many routes that are open to me. I might sail home by the south of Siaelland, Lubeck, and the Eider canal; but for the greater portion of this journey I should be revisiting familiar coasts, and working my way along tedious Dutch canals. To see much of the Baltic, and return to England with a small boat in one short summer's holiday is no easy task; so the scheme that commends itself most to me is the following: to put aside all idea of returning home in the yacht, and to sail away from Copenhagen for a couple of months or so to the less-known portions of the Inland Sea, and when I have reached my farthest point to take everything of any value out of the yacht, then sell her for what she will fetch, and take passage home with my belongings in a sailing vessel. Old life-boats are to be picked up cheap enough in the London docks, and it is not worth while to spoil a really good cruise for the sake of bringing such a craft home.
If I made up my mind to do this I could cruise among the Danish and Swedish islands, and ascend I the Vistula to Warsaw. The river journey through Poland must be very interesting; but there seems to be a good chance of war breaking out shortly in these regions, and, if such be the case, the Russians will not look with favour on English yachtsmen. I have, in my time, been taken for a Russian spy, and I nearly lost my head in consequence; I do not wish to renew such unpleasant experiences. If there is a war I shall certainly have to avoid the Russian shores; but I might undertake a long cruise up the Golf of Bothnia to Lapland and the verge of the Arctic regions; or, if that be too ambitious a scheme, I might sail to Gotenborg, thence, by the Gota canal, lakes Wener and Wetter, to Stockholm, and back to Copenhagen by the south Swedish coast, visiting the islands of Gothland, Oeland, and Bornholm on the way. In all probability this last will be the route I shall adopt. Wright, who is now before the mast on the Indian Ocean or South Atlantic, or some other distant sea, will be back in England ready to start with me on the first of June. A friend of mine, who is an artist, is also coming; so the Falcon will be well manned this year, and I am looking forward to making a very jolly cruise of it.