TO BELGIUM

AT 6 a. M. we, too, were passing disdainfully the still-hoisted cone.
Rain descended in sheets, in blankets, and in curtains, and when we
did not happen to be in the rain, we could see rain-squalls of the most
theatrical appearance in every quarter of the horizon. The gale had
somewhat moderated, but not the sea; the wind, behind us, was against
the tide, and considerably quarreling therewith. Now we were inclosed in
walls of water, and now we were balanced on the summit of a mountain of
water, and had a momentary view of many leagues of tempest. I
personally had never been out in such weather in anything smaller than a
mail-steamer.

Here I must deal with a distressing subject, which it would be
pleasanter to ignore, but which my training in realism will not allow
me to ignore. A certain shameful crime is often committed on yachts,
merchantmen, and even men-of-war. It is notorious that Nelson committed
this crime again and again, and that other admirals have copied his
iniquity. Sailors, and particularly amateur sailors, would sooner be
accused of any wickedness rather than this. Charge them with cheating at
cards, ruining innocent women, defrauding the Government, and they will
not blench; but charge them with this offense, and they will blush, they
will recriminate, and they will lie disgracefully against all evidence;
they cannot sit still under the mere suspicion of it.

As we slipped out of the harbor that morning the secret preoccupation
of the owner and his friend was that circumstances might tempt them to
perpetrate the sin of sins. Well, I am able to say that they withstood
the awful temptation; but only just! If out of bravado they had
attempted to eat their meals in the saloon, the crime would assuredly
have been committed, but they had the sense to order the meals to be
served in the cockpit, in the rain, in the blast, in the cold. No matter
the conditions! They were saved from turpitude, and they ate heartily
thrice during the day. And possibly nobody was more astonished than
themselves at their success in virtue. I have known a yachtsman, an
expert, a member of an exceedingly crack club, suddenly shift his course
shoreward in circumstances not devoid of danger.

“What are you about?” was the affrighted question. He replied:

“I’m going to beach her. If I don’t, I shall be sick, and I won’t be
sick aboard this yacht.”

Such is the astounding influence of convention, which has transformed
into a crime a misfortune over which the victim has no control whatever.
We did not beach the _Velsa_, nor were our appetites impaired. We were
lucky, and merely lucky; and yet we felt as proud as though we had,
by our own skill and fortitude, done something to be proud of. This is
human nature.

As we rounded Cape Gris-Nez, amid one of the most majestic natural
scenes I have ever witnessed, not a gale, but about half of a gale, was
blowing. The wind continued to moderate. Off Calais the tide was slack,
and between Calais and Dunkirk we had it under our feet, and were able
to dispense with the engine and still do six and a half knots an hour.
Thenceforward the weather grew calm with extraordinary rapidity, while
the barometer continuously fell. At four o’clock the wind had entirely
expired, and we restarted the engine, and crawled past Westend and
Nieuport, resorts very ugly in themselves, but seemingly beautiful from
the sea. By the time we sighted the whiteness of the kursaal at Ostend
the water was as flat as an Inland lake.

[Illustration: 0246]

The sea took on the most delicate purple tints, and the pallor of the
architecture of Belgian hotels became ethereal. While we were yet a mile
and a half from the harbor-mouth, flies with stings wandered out from
the city to meet us.

We passed between the pierheads at Ostend at 6:10 p. m., and the skipper
was free to speak again. When he had done manouvering in the basin, he
leaned over the engine-hatch and said to me:

“I ‘ve had a bit o’ luck this week.”

“With the engine?” I suggested, for the engine had been behaving itself
lately.

“No, sir. My wife presented me with a little boy last Tuesday. I had the
letter last night. I’ve been expecting it.” But he had said nothing to
me before. He blushed, adding, “I should like you to do me a very great
favor, sir–give me two days off soon, so that I can go to the baptism.”
Strange, somehow, that a man should have to ask a favor to be present
at the baptism of his own son! The skipper now has two sons. Both, I was
immediately given to understand, are destined for the sea. He has six
brothers-in-law, and they all follow the sea. On a voyage he will never
willingly leave the wheel, even if he is not steering. He will rush down
to the forecastle for his dinner, swallow it in two minutes and a half,
and rush back. I said to him once:

“I believe you must be fond of this wheel.”

“I am, sir,” he said, and grinned.

We lay nearly opposite the railway station, and our rudder was within
a foot of the street. Next to us lay the _Velsa’s_ sister (occasion for
the historic remark that “the world is very small”), a yacht well known
to the skipper, of exactly the same lines as the _Velsa_, nearly the
same size, and built within four miles of her in the same year! The
next morning, which was a Sunday, the sisters were equally drenched in
tremendous downpours of rain, but made no complaint to each other. I
had the awning rigged, which enabled us, at any rate, to keep the saloon
skylights open.

The rain had no effect on the traditional noisiness of Ostend. Like
sundry other cities, Ostend has two individualities, two souls. All
that fronts the sea and claims kinship with the kursaal is grandiose,
cosmopolitan, insincere, taciturn, blatant, and sterile. It calls
itself the finest sea-promenade in Europe, and it may he, but it is
as factitious as a meringue. All that faces the docks and canals is
Belgian, more than Belgian–Flemish, picturesque, irregular, strident,
simple, unaffected, and swarming with children. Narrow streets are
full of little cafés that are full of little men and fat women. All the
little streets are cobbled, and everything in them produces the maximum
quantity of sound. Even the postmen carry horns, and all the dogs
drawing little carts hark loudly. Add to this the din of the tram-cars
and the whistling of railway engines.

On this Sunday morning there was a band festival of some kind, upon
which the pitiless rain had no effect whatever. Band after band swung
past our rudder, blaring its uttermost. We had some marketing to do, as
the cook declared that he could market neither in French nor Flemish,
and we waited impatiently under umbrellas for the procession of bands
to finish. It would not finish, and we therefore had to join it. All the
way up the Rue de la Chapelle we could not hear ourselves speak in the
brazen uproar; and all the brass instruments and all the dark uniforms
of the puffy instrumentalists were glittering and melting in the rain.
Occasionally at the end of the street, over the sea, lightning feebly
flickered against a dark cloud. At last I could turn off into a
butcher’s shop, where under the eyes of a score of shopping matrons I
purchased a lovely piece of beef for the nominal price of three francs
seventy-five centimes, and bore it off with pride into the rain.

When we got back to the yacht with well-baptized beef and vegetal
des and tarts, we met the deck-hand, who was going alone into the
interesting and romantic city. Asked what he was about, he replied:

“I’m going to buy a curio, sir; that’s all.” He knew the city. He had
been to Ostend before in a cargo-steamer, and he considered it neither
interesting nor romantic. He pointed over the canal toward the
country. “There’s a pretty walk over there,” he said; “but there’s
nothing here,” pointing to the town. I had been coming to Ostend for
twenty years, and enjoying it like a child, but the deck-hand, with one
soft-voiced sentence, took it off the map.

In the afternoon, winding about among the soaked cosmopolitanism of
the promenade, I was ready to agree with him. Nothing will destroy
fashionable affectations more surely than a wet Sunday, and the
promenade seemed to rank first in the forlorn tragedies of the world.
I returned yet again to the yacht, and was met by the skipper with a
disturbed face.

“We can’t get any fresh water, sir. Horse is n’t allowed to work on
Sundays. _Everything’s changed in Belgium._” The skipper was too Dutch
to be fond of Flanders. His mightiest passion was rising in him–the
passion to go somewhere else.

“All right,” I said; “we ‘ll manage with mineral water, and then we ‘ll
move on to Bruges.” In rain it is, after all, better to be moving than
to be standing still.

But to leave Ostend was not easy, because the railway bridge would not
swing for us, nor would it yield, for over an hour, to the song of our
siren. Further, the bridge-man deeply insulted the skipper. He said that
he was not supposed to swing for _canal-boats_.

“Canal-boat!” the skipper cried. “By what canal do you think I brought
this ship across the North Sea?” He was coldly sarcastic, and his
sarcasm forced the bridge open. We passed through, set our sails, and
were presently heeling over and washing a wave of water up the banks of
the canal. I steered, and, as we overtook an enormous barge, I shaved
it as close as I could for the fun of the thing. Whereupon the skipper
became excited, and said that for a yacht to touch a barge was fatal,
because the barges were no stronger than cigar-boxes, having sides
only an inch thick, and would crumble at a touch; and the whole
barge-population of Belgium and Holland, but especially Belgium, was in
a conspiracy to extract damages out of yachts on the slightest pretext.
It seemed to me that the skipper’s alarm was exaggerated. I understood
it a few days later, when he related to me that he had once quite
innocently assisted at the cracking of a cigar-box, for which his
employer had had to pay five thousand francs.

[Illustration: 0251]

The barge which I had failed to sink had two insignificant square-sails
set, like pocket-handkerchiefs, but was depending for most of its motion
on a family of children who were harnessed to its tow-rope in good
order.

Now the barometer began to fall still lower, and simultaneously the
weather improved and brightened. It was a strange summer, was that
summer! The wind fell, the lee-board ceased to hum pleasantly through
the water, and we had to start the engine, which is much less amusing
than the sails. And the towers of Bruges would not appear on the horizon
of the monotonous tree-lined canal, upon whose banks every little
village resembles every other little village. We had to invent something
to pass the time, and we were unwise enough to measure the speed of
the engine on this smooth water in this unusual calm. A speed trial
is nearly always an error of tact, for the reason that it shatters
beautiful illusions. I had the beautiful illusion that under favorable
conditions the engine would drive the yacht at the rate of twelve
kilometers an hour. The canal-bank had small posts at every hundred
meters and large posts at every thousand. The first test gave seven and
a half kilometers an hour. It was unthinkable. The distances must be
wrong. My excellent watch must have become capricious. The next test
gave eight kilometers. The skipper administered a tonic to the engine,
and we rose to nine, only to fall again to eight. Allowing even that the
dinghy took a kilometer an hour off the speed, the result of the test
was very humiliating. We crawled. We scarcely moved.

Then, feeling the need of exercise, I said I would go ashore and walk
along the bank against the yacht until we could see Bruges. I swore it,
and I kept the oath, not with exactitude, but to a few hundred meters;
and by the time my bloodshot eyes sighted the memorable belfry of Bruges
in the distance, I had decided that the engine was perhaps a better
engine than I had fancied. I returned on board, and had to seek my berth
in a collapse. Nevertheless the _Velsa_ had been a most pleasing object
as seen from the bank.

Continue Reading

FOLKESTONE TO BOULOGNE

WE waited for the weather a day and a night at Folkestone, which,
though one of the gateways of England, is a poor and primitive place to
lie in. Most of the time we were on the mud, and to get up into England
we had to climb a craggy precipice called the quay-wall. Nevertheless,
the harbor (so styled) is picturesque, and in the less respectable
part of the town, between the big hotels and band-stands and the
mail-steamers; there are agreeable second-hand book shops, in one of
which I bought an early edition of Gray’s poems bound in ancient vellum.

The newspapers were very pessimistic about the weather, and smacks
occasionally crept in for shelter, with wild reports of what was going
on in the channel. At four o’clock in the morning, however, we started,
adventurous, for the far coasts of Brittany, via Boulogne. The channel
was a gray and desolate sight, weary and uneasy after the gale. And I
also was weary and uneasy, for it is impossible for a civilized person
of regular habits to arise at four a. m. without both physical and
psychical suffering, and the pleasure derived from the experience,
though real, is perverse. The last gleams of the Gris-Nez and the Varne
lights were visible across the heaving waste, feebly illuminating the
intense melancholy of the dawn. There was nothing to do except steer
and keep your eyes open, because a favorable and moderate southwest wind
rendered the engine unnecessary. The ship, and the dinghy after her,
pitched and rolled over the heavy swell. The skipper said naught. I said
naught. The lights expired. The dark gray of the sea turned to steel.
The breeze was icy. Vitality was at its lowest. Brittany seemed
exceedingly remote, even unattainable. Great, vital questions presented
themselves to the enfeebled mind, cutting at the very root of all
conduct and all ambitions. What was the use of yachting? What was the
use of anything? Why struggle? Why exist? The universe was too vast, and
the soul homeless therein.

And then the cook, imperfectly attired, came aft, bearing a brass tray,
and on the tray an electro-teapot, sugar-basin, and milk-jug, and a
white cup and saucer with a spoon. Magic paraphernalia! Exquisite and
potent draft, far surpassing champagne drunk amid the bright glances
of beauty! Only the finest China tea is employed aboard the _Velsa_.
I drank, and was healed; and I gave also to the shipper. Earth was
transformed. We began to talk. The wind freshened. The ship, heeling
over, spurted. It was a grand life. We descried the French coast. The
hours flew. Before breakfast-time we were becalmed, in sunshine, between
the piers at Boulogne, and had to go in on the engine. At 8:15 we ran
her on the mud, on a rising tide, next to a pilot-boat, the _Jean et
Marie_, inhabited by three jolly French sailors. We carried a warp to
the Quai Chanzy, and another to a buoy, and considered ourselves fairly
in France.

[Illustration: 0228]

The officials of the French republic on the quay had been driven by
the spectacle of our peculiar Dutch lines and rig to adopt strange,
emotional attitudes; and as soon as we were afloat, the French republic
came aboard in a dinghy manned by two acolytes. The skipper usually
receives the representatives of foreign powers, but as the skipper
speaks no French, and as this was the first time I had entered France
in this style, I thought I would be my own ambassador. I received the
French republic in my saloon; we were ravishingly polite to each other;
we murmured sweet compliments to each other. He gave me a clean bill of
health, and went off with four francs and one half-penny. There is no
nation like the French. A French milliner will make a hat out of a
piece of felt and nothing; and a French official will make a diplomatic
episode out of nothing at all, putting into five minutes of futility all
the Gallic civilization of centuries.

Boulogne Harbor is a very bustling spot, and as its area is narrowly
limited, and its entrance difficult, the amount of signaling that goes
on is extraordinary. A single ship will fill the entrance; hence a flag
flies to warn the surrounding seas when the entrance is occupied or
about to be occupied. The state of the tide is also indicated, and the
expert can read from hieroglyphics slung in the air the exact depth of
water at a particular moment between the piers. In addition, of course,
there is the weather signaling. We had scarcely been in port a couple
of hours before the weather signaling shocked us; nay, we took it as
an affront to ourselves. The south cone went up. We had come in at the
tail-end of one south gale, and now another was predicted! How could
small people like us hope to work our way down to Brittany in the teeth
of the gale! And I had an appointment in the harbor of Carantec, a tiny
village near Morlaix, in a week’s time! The thing was monstrous. But the
south cone was hoisted, and it remained hoisted. And the cone is
never displayed except for a real gale,–not a yachtsman’s gale, but a
sailor’s gale, which is serious.

A tender went forth to meet a Dutch American liner in the roads. We
followed her along the jetty. At the end of the jetty the gale was
already blowing; and rain-squalls were all round the horizon. Soon we
were in the midst of a squall ourselves. The rain hid everything for a
minute. It cleared. The vast stretch of sands glistened wet, with the
variegated bathing-tents, from which even then beautiful creatures were
bathing in a shallow surf. Beyond was the casino, and all the complex
roofs of Boulogne, and to the north a road climbing up to the cliff-top,
and the illimitable dunes that are a feature of this part of the
country. Above all floated thunder-clouds, white in steely blue. The
skipper did not like those thunder-clouds; he said they were the most
dangerous of all clouds, “because anything might come out of them.” He
spoke as if they already contained in their bosoms every conceivable
sort of weather, which they would let loose according to their caprice.

The rain resumed heavily. The wind compelled us to hold tight to the
rail of the pier. A poster announced that in the casino behind the
rain, Suppé’s “Boccaccio” was to be performed that night, and Massenet’s
“Thaïs” the next night. And opera seemed a very artificial and
unnecessary form of activity as we stood out there in the reality of
the storm. The Atlantic liner had now bid good-by to the tender, and was
hugely moving. She found sea-room, and then turned with the solemnity of
her bigness, and headed straight into the gale, pitching like a toy. The
rain soon veiled her, and she was gone. I could not picture the _Velsa_
in such a situation, at any rate with the owner on board. We went back,
rather pensive, to the Quai Chanzy.

[Illustration: 0234]

The men in the pilot-boat alongside the _Velsa_ were not in the least
reassuring as to the chances of the _Velsa_ ever getting to Brittany;
but they were uplifted because the weather was too rough for them to go
out. When the cone is on view, the pilot-service is accomplished by a
powerful steam-vessel. Our friends, in their apparently happy idleness,
sculled forth in a dinghy about fifty yards from where we lay, and
almost immediately rejoined us with three eels that they had caught.
I bought the three eels for two shillings, and the cook cooked them
perfectly, and I ate one of them with ecstasy a few hours later; but
eels are excessively antipathetic to the digestive organs, and may
jaundice the true bright color of the world for days.

The transaction of the eels, strengthened our intimacy with the pilot’s
crew, who imparted to us many secrets; as, for example, that they were
the selfsame men who act as porters at the quay for the transfer of
luggage when the cross-channel steamers arrive and depart. On one day
they are the pilot’s crew, and on the next they are porters to carry
your handbags through the customs. This was a blow to me, because on
the innumerable occasions when I had employed those porters I had always
regarded them as unfortunate beings who could earn money only during
about an hour each day, victims of the unjust social system, etc., and
who were therefore specially deserving of compassion and tips. I now
divined that their activities were multiple, and no doubt dovetailed
together like a Chinese puzzle, and all reasonably remunerative. The
which was very French and admirable. Herein was a valuable lesson to me,
and a clear saving in future of that precious commodity, compassion.

In a day or two the horrid fact emerged that we were imprisoned in
Boulogne. The south cone did not budge. Neither could we. The tide
ebbed; the tide flowed; we sank softly into the mud; we floated again.
A sailor cut our warp because it was in his way, and therefore incurred
our anger and the comminations of the harbor-master. But we were
not released. An aeroplane meeting was announced, and postponed. We
witnessed the preparations for the ceremonial opening of a grand new
dock. We went to the casino and listened to Russian music, which in
other circumstances would have enchanted us.

But none of these high matters could hold our attention. Even when the
cook criticized our water-colors with faint praise, and stated calmly
that he, too, was a water-colorist, and brought proofs of his genius cut
of the forecastle, even then we were not truly interested. We thirsted
to depart, and could not. Our sole solace was to walk round and round
the basini in the rain-squalls, and observe their tremendous vitality,
which, indeed, never ceased, day or night save at low water, when most
craft were aground.

At such periods of tranquillity the trucks of the fishing-smacks were
nearly level with the quay, and we noticed that every masthead was
elaborately finished with gilded sculpture–a cross, a star, or a small
figure of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or an angel. The names, too, of these
smacks were significant: _Resurrection, Jesus-Marie_, and so on. The
ornamentation of the deck-houses and companions of these vessels showed
a great deal of fantasy and brilliant color, though little taste. And
the general effect was not only gay, but agreeable, demonstrating, as it
did, that the boats were beloved. English fishing-boats are beloved by
their owners, but English affection does not disclose itself in the same
way, if it discloses itself at all. On the third afternoon we assisted
at the departure of an important boat for the herring fisheries. It had
a crew of seventeen men, all dressed in brown, young and old, and
an enormous quantity of gear. It bore the air of a noble cooperative
enterprise, and went off on the tide, disdainfully passing the
still-hoisted cone.

Perhaps it was this event that gave us to think. If a herring-boat could
face the gale, why not we? Our ship was very seaworthy, and the coast
was dotted with sheltering ports. Only it was impossible to go south,
since we could not have made headway. Then why not boldly cancel the
rendezvous in Brittany, and run northward before the gale? The skipper
saluted the idea with enthusiasm. He spoke of Ostend. He said that if
the wind held we could easily run to Ostend in a day. He did not care
for Ostend, but it would be a change. I, however, did care for Ostend.
And so it was decided that, unless the wind went right round in the
night, we would clear out of Boulogne at the earliest tidal hour the
next morning. The joy of expectancy filled the ship, and I went into
the town to buy some of the beautiful meat-pies that are offered in its
shops.

Continue Reading

THE RETURN

WE left Copenhagen with regrets, for the entity of the town was very
romantic and attractive. Even the humble New Haven, where we sheltered
from the eye of the harbor-master, had its charm for us. It was the real
sailors’ quarter, thoroughly ungentlemanly and downright. The shops on
each side of the creek were below the level of the street and even of
the water, and every one of them was either a café, with mysterious
music heating behind glazed doors, or an emporium of some sort for
sailors. Revelries began in the afternoon. You might see a nice neat
Danish wife guiding an obstreperously intoxicated Danish sailor down the
steps leading to a cigar shop. Not a pleasant situation for a nice wife!
But, then, you reflected that he was a sailor, and that he had doubtless
been sober and agreeable a short while before, and would soon be sober
and agreeable again; and that perhaps there were great compensations
in his character. At night Bacchus and Pan were the true gods of that
quarter, and the worship of them was loud and yet harmonious.

We prepared reluctantly to depart; the engine also. The engine would not
depart, and it was a new engine. Two hours were spent in wheedling and
conciliating its magneto. After that the boat traveled faster than it
had ever traveled. We passed out of Copenhagen into the sound, leaving
a noble array of yachts behind, and so up the sound. Soon Copenhagen
was naught but a bouquet of copper domes, and its beautiful women became
legendary with us, and our memory heightened their beauty. And then the
engine developed a “knock.” Now, in a small internal-combustion engine
a “knock” may be due to bad petrol or to a misplacement of the magneto
or to a hundred other schisms in the secret economy of the affair.
We slowed to half-speed and sought eagerly the origin of the “knock,”
which, however, remained inexplicable. We were engloomed; we were in
despair.

We had just decided to stop the engine when it stopped of itself, with a
fearful crash of broken metal One side of the casing was shattered. The
skipper’s smile was tragical. The manliness of all of us trembled under
the severity of the ordeal which fate had administered. To open out
the engine-box and glance at the wreck in the depths thereof was
heart-rending. We could not closely examine the chaos of steel and brass
because it was too hot, but we knew that the irremediable had occurred
in the bowels of the _Velsa_. We made sail, and crawled back to the
sound, and mournfully anchored with our unseen woe among the other
yachts.

The engine was duly inspected bit by bit; and it appeared that only the
bearing of the forward piston was broken, certainly owing to careless
mounting of the engine in the shops. It was an enormous catastrophe, but
perhaps not irremediable.

Indeed, within a short time the skipper was calculating that he could
get a new bearing made in Copenhagen in twenty-four hours. Anyhow,
we had to reconcile ourselves to a second visit to Copenhagen. And
Copenhagen, a few hours earlier so sweet a name in our ears, was now
hateful to us, a kind of purgatory to which we were condemned for the
sins of others.

[Illustration: 0216]

The making and fitting of the new bearing occupied just seventy hours.
During this interminable period we enjoyed the scenery of the sound and
grew acquainted with its diverse phenomena. The weather, if wet, was
calm, and the surface of the water smooth; but every steamer that passed
would set up a roll that flung hooks, if not crockery, about the saloon.
And the procession of steamers in both directions was constant from
five a. m. to midnight. They came from and went to every part of
the archipelago and of Sweden and of northern Germany. We gradually
understood that at Copenhagen railways are a trifle, and the sea a
matter of the highest importance. Nearly all traffic is seaborne.

We discovered, too, that the immediate shore of the sound, and of the
yacht-basin scooped out of it, was a sort of toy seaside resort for
the city. Part of the building in which the Royal Danish Yacht Club
is housed was used as a public restaurant, with a fine terrace that
commanded the yacht-club landing-stage and all the traffic of the sound.
Moreover, it was a good restaurant, except that the waiters seemed to be
always eating some titbit on the sly.

Here we sat and watched the business and pleasure of the sound. The
czar’s yacht came to anchor, huge and old-fashioned and ungraceful, with
a blue-and-white standard large enough to make a suit of sails for a
schooner–the biggest yacht afloat, I think, but not a pleasing object,
though better than the antique ship of the Danish king. The unwieldy
ceremoniousness of Russian courts seemed to surround this pompous
vessel, and the solitary tragedy of imperial existence was made manifest
in her. Ah, the savage and hollow futility of saluting guns! The two
English royal yachts, both of which we saw in the neighborhood, were in
every way strikingly superior to the Russian.

Impossible to tire of the spectacle offered by that restaurant terrace.
At night the steamers would slip down out of Copenhagen one after the
other to the ends of the Baltic, and each was a moving parterre of
electricity on the darkness. And then we would walk along the nocturnal
shore and find it peopled with couples and larger groups, whose bicycles
were often stacked in groups, too. And the little yachts in the little
yacht-basin were each an illuminated household! A woman would emerge
from a cabin and ask a question of a man on the dark bank, and he would
flash a lantern-light in her face like a missile, and “Oh!” she would
cry. And farther on the great hulk which is the home of the Copenhagen
Amateur Sailing Club would be lit with festoons of lamps, and from
within it would come the sounds of song and the laughter of two sexes.
And then we would yell, “_Velsa_, ahoy!” and keep on yelling until all
the lightly clad couples were drawn out of the chilly night like moths
by the strange English signaling. And at last the _Velsa_ would wake
up, and the dinghy would detach itself from her side, and we would go
aboard. But not until two o’clock or so would the hilarity and music of
the Amateur Sailing Club cease, and merge into a frantic whistling for
taxicabs from the stand beyond the restaurant.

Then a few hours’ slumber, broken by nightmares of the impossibility of
ever quitting Copenhagen, and we would get up and gaze at the sadness
of the dismantled engine, and over the water at the yachts dozing
and rocking in the dawn. And on a near yacht, out of the maw of a
forecastle-hatch left open for air, a half-dressed sailor would appear,
and yawn, and stretch his arms, and then begin to use a bucket on the
yacht’s deck.

[Illustration: 0221]

The day was born. A green tug would hurry northward, splashing; and the
first of the morning steamers would arrive from some mystical distant
island, a vessel, like most of the rest, of about six hundred tons, red
and black funnels, the captain looking down at us from the bridge; a
nice handful of passengers, including a few young women in bright
hats; everything damp and fresh, and everybody expectant and braced
for Copenhagen. A cheerful, ordinary sight! And then our skipper would
emerge, and the cook with my morning apple on a white plate. And the
skipper would say, “We ought to be able to make a start to-day, sir.”
And on the third day we did make a start, the engine having been
miraculously recreated; and we left Copenhagen, hating it no more.

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ARISTOCRACY AND ART

THE harbor-master would not allow us to remain for more than three
days in our original berth, which served us very well as a sort of grand
stand for viewing the life of Copenhagen. His theory was that we were
in the way of honest laboring folk, and that we ought to be up in the
“sound,” on the northeastern edge of the city, where the yachts lie. We
contested his theory, but we went, because it is unwise to quarrel with
a bureaucracy of whose language you are ignorant.

The sound did not suit us. The anchorage was opposite a coaling station,
and also opposite a shipbuilding yard, and from the west came a strong
odor out of a manufactory of something unpleasant. We could have
tolerated the dust, the noise, and the smell, but what we could not
tolerate was the heavy rolling, for the north wind was blowing and the
anchorage exposed to it. Indeed, the Royal Danish Yacht Club might
have chosen more comfortable quarters for itself. We therefore
unostentatiously weighed anchor again, and reëntered the town, and hid
ourselves among many businesslike tugs in a little creek called the New
Haven, whose extremity was conveniently close to the Café d’Angleterre.
We hoped that the prowling harbor-master would not catch sight of us,
and he did not.

[Illustration: 0204]

The aristocratic and governing quarter of the town lay about us,
including the Bregade, a street full of antiquaries, marble churches,
and baroque houses, and the Amalienborg Palace, which is really four
separate similar palaces (in an octagonal _place_) thrown into one. Here
all the prospects and vistas were dignified, magnificent, and proudly
exclusive. The eighteenth century had nobly survived, when the populace
was honestly regarded as a horde created by divine providence in order
that the ruling classes might practise upon it the art of ruling. There
was no Tivoli when those beautiful pavements were made, and as you stand
on those pavements and gaze around at the royal grandiosity, speckless
and complete, you can almost imagine that even the French Revolution has
not yet occurred. The tiny, colored sentry at the vast, gray gates is
still living in the eighteenth century. The architecture is not very
distinguished, but it has style. It shames the ——– Hotel. The
Frederiks Church, whose copper dome overtops the other copper domes, is
a fair example of the quarter. Without being in the least a masterpiece,
it imposes by its sincerity and its sense of its own importance. And the
interior is kept as scrupulously as a boudoir. The impeccability of the
marble flooring is wondrous, and each of the crimson cushions in the
polished pews is like a lady’s pillow. Nothing rude can invade this
marmoreal fane.

The Rosenborg Palace, not far off, is open to the public, so that all
may judge what was the life of sovereigns in a small country, and what
probably still is. The royal villas outside Florence are very ugly, but
there is a light grace about their furnishing which lifts them far above
the heavy, stuffy, tasteless mediocrity of such homes as the Rosenborg.
Badly planned, dark, unhygienic, crammed with the miscellaneous ugliness
of generations of royal buying, the Rosenborg is rather a sad sight to
people of taste; and the few very lovely tilings that have slipped in
here and there by inadvertence only intensify its mournfulness. The
phantoms of stupid courtiers seem to pervade, strictly according to
etiquette, its gloomy salons. And yet occasionally, in the disposition
of an arm-chair or a screen, one realizes that it must, after all, have
been a home, inhabited by human beings worthy of sympathy. It is the
most bourgeois home I ever entered. In a glass case, with certain
uniforms, were hung the modern overcoat (a little frayed) and the hat
of a late monarch. They touched the heart of the sardonic visitor, their
exposure was so naive.

Even more depressing than this mausoleum of nineteenth-century maimers
was the museum of art. As a colossal negation of art, this institution
ranks with the museum of Lausanne. It is an enormous and ugly building,
full of enormous ugliness in painting and sculpture. It contained a fine
Rembrandt–“Christ at Emmaus”–and one good modern picture, a plowing
scene by Wilhelmson. We carefully searched the immense rooms for another
good modern picture, and found it not. Even the specimens of Gauguin,
Van Gogh, and Bonnard were mediocre.

The sculpture was simply indescribable. The eye roamed like a bird
over the waters of the deluge, and saw absolutely nothing upon which
to alight with safety. Utter desolation reigned. The directors of this
museum had never, save in the case of Wilhelmson, been guilty of an
inadvertence. Their instinct against beauty in any form was unerring.
Imagine the stony desert of rooms and corridors and giant staircases
on a wet Sunday morning, echoing to the footsteps of the simple holiday
crowd engaged patriotically in the admiration of Danish art; imagine
ingenuous, mackintoshed figures against the vast flanks of stiff and
terrific marble Venuses and other gods; imagine the whispering in front
of anecdotes in paint; imagine the Inferno of an artist–and you have
the art museum, the abode and lurking-place of everlasting tedium.

Quite different is the Glyptothek, a museum whose existence is due
to private enterprise and munificence. It is housed in an ugly and
ill-planned building, but the contents are beautiful, very well
arranged, and admirably exposed. The Glyptothek has an entrancing
small picture by Tiepolo, of Antony and Cleopatra meeting, which I was
informed must be a study for a larger picture in Venice It alone should
raise the museum to a shrine of pilgrimage, and it is not even mentioned
in Baedeker! But the Glyptothek triumphs chiefly by its sculpture. Apart
from its classical side, it has a superb collection of Meuniers, which
impressed, without greatly pleasing, me; a roomful of Rodin busts which
are so honest and lifelike and jolly that when you look at them you want
to laugh–you must laugh from joy. And the Carpeaux busts of beautiful
women–what a profound and tranquil satisfaction n gazing at them!

[Illustration: 0209]

Some of the rooms at the Glyptothek are magical in their effect on
the sensibility. They would make you forget wife and children, yachts,
income tax, and even the Monroe Doctrine. Living Danish women were
apposite enough to wander about the sculpture rooms for our delectation,
making delicious contrasts against the background of marble groups.

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CAFÉS AND RESTAURANTS

THE most interesting thing, to the complete stranger, in a large
foreign city that does not live on its own past is not the museums, but
the restaurants and cafés, even in the dead season. We were told that
August was the dead season in Copenhagen, and that all the world was at
the seaside resorts. We had, however, visited a number of Danish seaside
resorts, and they were without exception far more dead than Copenhagen.
In particular Marienlyst, reputed to be the haunt of fashion and
elegance, proved to be a very sad, deserted strand. Copenhagen was not
dead.

We went for our first dinner to Wivels Restaurant, signalized to us by
authority as the finest in Denmark, a large, rambling, crimson-and-gold
place, full of waiters who had learned English in America, of
hors-d’ouvre, and of music. The hand was much better than the food, but
it has to be said that we arrived at half-past seven, when Danish dinner
is over and Danish supper not begun. Still, many middle-class people
were unceremoniously and expensively eating–in the main hors-d’ouvre.
The metropolitanism of Copenhagen was at once apparent in this great
restaurant. The people had little style, but they had the assurance and
the incuriousness of metropolitans, and they were accustomed to throwing
money about, and to glare, and to stridency, and to the idiosyncrasies
of waiters, and to being in the swim. Wivels might show itself on
Fifth Avenue or in the Strand without blushing. And its food had the
wholesale, crude quality of the food offered in these renowned streets
to persons in the swim.

Next we went to the Hôtel d’Angleterre, which was just the restaurant
of the standardized international hotel. Once within its walls, and
you might as well be at Paris, Aix-les-Bains, Harrogate, Rome, Algiers,
Brussels, as at Copenhagen. The same menu, the same cooking, the
same waiters, the same furniture, the same toothpicks, and the same
detestable, self-restrained English travelers, with their excruciating
Englishness. The café on the ground floor of this hotel, overlooking a
large and busy circular _place_, with the opera and other necessaries of
metropolitan life close by, was more amusing than the restaurant. It was
a genuine resort in the afternoon. The existence of Copenhagen rolled to
and fro in front of its canopied terrace, and one might sit next to an
English yachting party of astounding correctness and complacency (from
one of those conceited three-hundred-ton boats, enameled white,
and jeweled in many holes, like a watch), or to a couple of Danish
commercials, or to a dandy and his love. Here we one night singled out
for observation a very characteristic Danish young man and young woman
with the complexions, the quiet, persuasive voices, and the soothing
gestures of the North. It was an agreeable sight; but when we had
carried our observation somewhat further, we discovered that they were
an English pair on their honeymoon.

[Illustration: 0186]

In a day or two, feeling more expert in things Danish, we wanted a truly
Danish restaurant, unspoiled by cosmopolitanism. We hit on it in the
Wiener Café, appanage of the Hotel King of Denmark. A long, narrow room,
anciently and curiously furnished, with mid-Victorian engravings on the
somber walls. The waiters had the austerity of priests presiding at
a rite. Their silent countenances said impassively: “This is the most
select resort in our great and historic country. It has been frequented
by the flower of Danish aristocracy, art, and letters for a thousand
years. It has not changed. It never will. No upstart cosmopolitanism can
enter here. Submit yourselves. Speak in hushed tones. Conform to all the
niceties of our ceremonial, for we have consented to receive you.”

In brief, it was rather like an English bank, or a historic hotel in an
English cathedral town, though its food was better, I admit. The menu
was in strict Danish. We understood naught of it, but it had the air
of a saga. At the close of the repast, the waiter told us that, for the
_prix fixe_, we had the choice between cake and cheese. I said, “Will
you let me have a look at the cake, and then I ‘ll decide.” He replied
that he could not; that the cake could not be produced unless it was
definitively ordered. The strange thing was that he persisted in this
attitude. Cake never had been shown on approval at the Wiener Café
of the Hotel King of Denmark, and it never would he. I bowed the head
before an august tradition, and ordered cheese. The Wiener Café ought
to open a branch in London; it was the most English affair I have ever
encountered out of England.

Indeed, Copenhagen is often exquisitely English. That very night we
chose the restaurant of the Hotel——–for dinner. The room was darkly
gorgeous, silent, and nearly full. We were curtly shown to an empty
table, and a menu was dung at us. The head waiter and three inefficient
under waiters then totally ignored us and our signals for fifteen
minutes; they had their habitués to serve. At the end of fifteen minutes
we softly and apologetically rose and departed, without causing any
apparent regret save perhaps to the hat-and-coat boy, whom we basely
omitted to tip.

[Illustration: 0191]

We roved in the wet, busy Sunday streets, searching hungrily for a
restaurant that seemed receptive, that seemed assimilative, and luck
guided us into the Café de l’Industrie, near the Tivoli. The managers
of this industrious café had that peculiar air, both independent and
amicable, which sits so well on the directors of an organism that
is firmly established in the good-will of the flourishing mass. No
selectness, no tradition, no formality, no fashion, no preposterous
manners about the Café de l’Industrie, but an aspect of solid, rather
vulgar, all-embracing, all-forgiving prosperity. It was not cheap,
neither was it dear. It was gaudy, but not too gaudy. The waiters were
men of the world, experienced in human nature, occupied, hasty, both
curt and expansive, not servile, not autocratic. Their faces said: “Look
here, I know the difficulties of running a popular restaurant, and you
know them, too. This is not heaven, especially on a Sunday night; but we
do our best, and you get value for your money.”

The customers were samples of all Copenhagen. They had money to spend,
but not too much. There were limits to their recklessness in the pursuit
of joy. They were fairly noisy, quite without affectation, fundamentally
decent, the average Danish. Elegance was rarer than beauty, and
spirituality than common sense, in that restaurant. We ate moderately in
the din and clash of hors d’ouvre, mural decorations, mirrors, and music,
and thanked our destiny that we had had the superlative courage to leave
the Hotel ——–, with its extreme correctitude.

Finally, among our excursions ‘n restaurants, must be mentioned a crazy
hour in the restaurant of the Hotel ——–, supreme example of what
the enterprising spirit of modern Denmark can accomplish when it sets
about to imitate the German _art nouveau_. The ——– is a grand hotel
in which everything, with the most marvelous and terrifying ingenuity,
has been designed in defiance of artistic tradition. A fork at the
——– resembles no other fork on earth, and obviously the designer’s
first and last thought was to be unique. It did not matter to him what
kind of fork he produced so long as it was different from any previous
fork in human history. The same with the table-cloth, the flower-vase,
the mustard-pot, the chair, the carpet, the dado, the frieze, the
tessellated pavement, the stair-rail, the wash-basin, the bedstead, the
quilt, the very door-knobs. The proprietors of the place had ordered a
new hotel in the extreme sense, and their order had been fulfilled. It
was a prodigious undertaking, and must certainly have been costly. It
was impressive proof of real initiative. It intimidated the beholder,
who had the illusion of being on another planet. Its ultimate effect was
to outrival all other collections of ugliness. I doubt whether in Berlin
itself such ingenious and complete ugliness could be equaled in the
same cubic space. My idea is that the creators of the Hotel ——– may
lawfully boast of standing alone on a pinnacle.

It was an inspiration on the part of the creators, when the hotel
was finished to the last salt-spoon, to order a number of large and
particularly bad copies of old masters, in inexpensive gilt frames, and
to hang them higgledy-piggledy on the walls. The resulting effect of
grotesquery is overwhelming. Nevertheless, the ——– justly ranks as
one of the leading European hotels. It is a mercy that the architect
and the other designers were forbidden to meddle with the cooking, which
sins not by any originality.

The summary and summit of the restaurants and cafes of Copenhagen is the
Tivoli. New York has nothing like the Tivoli, and the Londoner can only
say with regret that the Tivoli is what Earl’s Court ought to be, and is
not. The Tivoli comprises, within the compass of a garden in the midst
of the city, restaurants, cafés, theater, concert-hall, outdoor
theater, bands, pantomime, vaudeville, dancing-halls, and very numerous
side-shows on both land and water. The strangest combinations of
pleasure are possible at the Tivoli. You can, for instance, as we
did, eat a French dinner while watching a performance of monkeys on a
tightrope. The opportunities for weirdness in felicity are endless. We
happened to arrive at Copenhagen just in time for the fêtes celebrating
the seventieth anniversary of the Tivoli, which is as ancient as it is
modern. On the great night the Tivoli reveled until morning. It must
be the pride of the populace of Copenhagen, and one of the city’s
dominating institutions. It cannot be ignored. It probably uses more
electric light than any other ten institutions put together. And however
keenly you may resent its commonplace attraction, that attraction will
one day magnetize you to enter its gates–at the usual fee.

I estimate that I have seen twenty thousand people at once in the
Tivoli, not a bad total for one resort in a town of only half a million
inhabitants. And the twenty thousand were a pleasant sight to the
foreign observer, not merely for the pervading beauty and grace cf the
women, which was remarkable, but also for the evident fact that as a
race the Danish know how to enjoy themselves with gaiety, dignity, and
simplicity. Their demeanor was a lesson to Anglo-Saxons, who have yet to
discover how to enjoy themselves freely without being either ridiculous
or vulgar or brutish. The twenty thousand represented in chief the
unassuming middle-class of Copenhagen.

[Illustration: 0197]

There were no doubt millionaires, aristocrats, “nuts,” rascals,
obelisks, and mere artisans among the lot, but the solid bulk was
the middle-class, getting value for its money in an agreeable and
unexceptionable manner. The memory of those thousands wandering lightly
clad in the cold Northern night, under domes and festoons and pillars
of electric light, amid the altercations of conflicting orchestras, or
dancing in vast, stuffy inclosures, or drinking and laughing and eating
hors-d’ouvre under rustling trees, or submitting gracefully to
Wagnerian overtures in a theater whose glazed aisles were two
restaurants, or floating on icy lakes, or just beatifically sitting
on al-fresco seats in couples–this memory remains important in the
yachtsman’s experiences of the Baltic.

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