AN EXCITING ICE-BOAT ADVENTURE.
DUBING six delightful weeks of travel and sightseeing through the wonderfully
picturesque scenery of Sweden and Norway, Percy was again the comrade and
escort of Dolores.
Day by day a thousand nameless acts of kindness and respectful
unobtrusive attentions, as thoughtful as they were delicate, endeared him
to the heart, at whose portal love, clothed in his most ancient and most
successful disguise of friendship, was effecting an entrance.
It was late in November when the party returned to Copenhagen.
"My business matters will detain me here a week, possibly
ten days," Percy said. "You will need that time to thoroughly enjoy the
Thorvaldsen and the Ethnological Museums--which are in their way the finest
in the world. Then I shall be ready to escort you to Paris, before I report
myself at London."
Madame Volkenburg returned to Christiania the day previous
to the intended departure of her friends. But at the expiration of the
week, just as Percy was planning to make an exit from the cold bleak Island,
Dolores sprained her ankle, and was unable to leave her room during four
weeks. Percy found business enough to employ a few hours of each day in
the interest of the London and American houses, and the remainder of the
time he passed agreeably in entertaining the ladies. He read aloud, told
interesting stories of adventure and travel, and made himself so thoroughly
charming that Dolores forgot her misfortune in view of the happy hours
it brought her.
When she at length declared herself able to proceed upon
her journey another obstacle presented itself. The weather became unusually
cold; and the Sounds, surrounding the island on which Copenhagen is situated,
were packed with jagged blocks of ice, too thick to be broken by a steamer,
but not sufficiently connected to make it safe for men or teams to venture
on them. Our friends were prisoners, consequently, upon an almost inaccessible
"The blockade cannot last forever," Percy said, when he
had informed the ladies of the condition of matters. "That is all the consolation
I can give you at present. It may last a week, or a month, I am led to
understand. In the meantime, we must enjoy ourselves as best we can. I
am very sorry Madame Volkenburg did not remain with us, to share a little
jaunt to Kaskilde--the ancient Capital of Denmark, which we will make to-morrow."
"What is there to see at Kaskilde?" inquired Dolores.
"A cathedral, of course," Percy answered. "No doubt you
are tired of cathedrals, but this is a famous one : a relic of the ancient
grandeur of the city when it numbered 100,000 souls. Its population is
less than 5,000 now. You will find much to interest you there, as this
building has been the burial-place of nearly all the Danish kings."
Kaskilde was not more than twenty miles from Copenhagen,
and accessible by rail.
Dolores was surprised to find many of the tombs exquisitely
carved with marble and alabaster. One of the most interesting bore the
life-sized figure of Queen Margaret, who died in 1412. The beautifully-portrayed
features, full of expression, were declared to be a correct likeness of
the fair queen.
In the centre of the church upon a large iron slab set
into the floor, it was recorded that "This spot is purchased by Nils Jurgersen,
of the Church, as a resting place for his posterity for all time to come
: in order that his family need not change their burial-place every twenty
years, as other people do." But in spite of this sarcastic reference
to other people, the royal mandate went forth, that no more people not
of royal blood should be buried in the church. And Nils Jurgersen's decendants
are obliged to sleep out of doors, like "other people," after all.
High up in the nave of the church stood a huge clock.
Before it two half-sized figures carved in wood. At the end of each hour,
the man struck the time with a hammer upon the face of the clock : while
the quarter-hours were struck by the woman against a small bell.
"This little old couple have been faithful to each other
during four hundred years," said Percy, as he stood beside Dolores watching
the figures. "Is not that a wonderful illustration of constancy?"
"Yes," Dolores answered, laughing. "Such illustrations
are readily found, in wood. But how presumptive of man--to produce such
an example, when the Creator gave him no human precedent!"
"I must tell you about the clock," continued Percy. "Originally,
there were figures of St. George upon a horse, fighting the Dragon. Every
time the clock struck, the Dragon sprang upon the horse, and the latter
gave a wild scream. But there was an old priest who complained that the
noise of this battle disturbed him in his preaching : so the Knight and
the Dragon--wonderful pieces of mechanism--were destroyed to please one
conceited old egotist. And, furthermore, he commanded that the faithful
old couple should be compelled to keep the Sabbath like other people. The
machinery of the clock was so arranged, in accordance with his wishes,
that no hours have been struck on the Sabbath since that time."
Hanging in a prominent part of the church, Mrs. Butler
discovered a painting which amused her greatly. It represented the devil,
well horned and hoofed, gazing sharply at the pews, in his hand a pencil
and a scroll. On the latter was inscribed : "I make a note of all those
who come late or go around and tattle."
"I wish I were able to purchase this painting and send
it over to America," Mrs. Butler remarked. "We need it there, I am sure."
At the expiration of two weeks, the blockade still continued.
The whole Baltic, as well as the North Sea, was one mass of floating ice,
which the powerful currents and tides in the connecting channels kept in
If the reader has not visited this portion of Europe,
by glancing at any map he will see that the Northwestern part of Denmark
consists of two islands. The Western is known as Funem, the Eastern as
The "Great Belt," as the channel between them is called,
is from fifteen to twenty miles wide in the narrowest portion, and is so
called to distinguish it from the channel between Funem and the mainland,
known as the "Little Belt."
In ordinary years, these straits remain sufficiently open,
so that steamers can cross regularly; or else they freeze solidly, allowing
sleighs to transfer freight and passengers.
But now, Copenhagen was entirely cut off from all communication
with the outside world.
Percy was told, however, that an effort was being made
to carry the mails across the Sound in a sort of ice-boat.
On investigation, he discovered that these ice-boats were
in fact large, strongly-built fishing-smacks, with iron runners on the
bottom. Each boat carried a crew of eight or ten weather-beaten old fishermen.
"If you can convey the mails across the Channel in those
boats, why can't you carry passengers?" Percy asked as he stood inspecting
the smacks the day before their intended venture.
The men laughed, and gave him to understand in broken
German--the language he had used--that any man could go who had the courage
to make the attempt.
As he related this to Mrs. Butler and Dolores a little
later, he said : "If I had the least idea when navigation would open and
permit you to make your escape, I would go on the ice-boat to-morrow. Business
cares begin to weigh upon me heavily. But I do not like to leave you imprisoned
here for an indefinite time."
"Why could not we, too, go by the iceboat?" suggested
"Impossible!" cried Percy, aghast.
"By no means. We are experienced travelers, and the adventure
would be exhilarating after our long imprisonment here. If the crew, are
opposed, I will go myself and talk them into consenting."
"Although they could not understand a word you speak,
I know you would win their consent to anything," laughed Percy. " But I
will see if the plan is practicable."
An hour later, he returned from a second interview with
the ice-boat crew.
"You can go," he said, "if your courage will sustain you.
Reduce your hand luggage to the smallest possible compass, and be prepared
to start for Korsor this P. M. at five o'clock. We remain there over night.
We take passage in the boat early in the morning. Two other gentlemen are
to accompany us, so we shall not die alone."
In the chilly dawn of the following morning our little
party stood wondering where they were to be stored in those queer-looking
smacks--one loaded with the heavier baggage, the other half-filled with
mail bags. The ladies were soon told to take seats in the rear boat, among
the mail bags; while the men were instructed to run alongside, and to be
prepared to spring into it at a moment's notice. The crew pulled on a long
rope attached to the prow of the boat, and it gave a lurch forward.
For thirty or forty rods from shore, the ice was solid,
and slanted down toward the water. The boats glided along easily and rapidly.
The ladies laughed gleefully and enjoyed the novel mode of locomotion.
All the crew, and the three gentlemen passengers, were
provided with huge straw overshoes, the soles fully two inches thick. These
served to protect their feet from the cold, and prevented slipping on the
"What rare good sport!" cried Dolores, looking like a
Russian princess in her furs, as she smiled up into Percy's face, while
he ran lightly along beside her.
"It is like the coasting days of childhood on a large
Just then there came an ominous cracking sound, and suddenly
the forward boat crashed through the ice, which gave way for rods in every
direction. The rear boat went shooting down an inclined plane into the
water. The ladies shrieked, the crew shouted, the boat turned over on its
side, but was speedily righted.
Percy succeeded in springing into the boat before it reached
the open sea, but the other two passengers clung to its side, their legs
dangling in the icy water.
The forward crew threw out a long rope and a plank, and,
getting out on the ice, pulled the boat along a few lengths. The rear boat
was pushed along in its wake through the broken ice. As they proceeded
farther from the shore, the ice became more uneven. Where it was strong,
the crew propelled the boats by means of the ropes; but where it was shaky
or broken, the oars and boards were brought into requisition. The old seamen
found constant amusement in the terrified screams of Mrs. Butler, every
time they crashed through the ice, while Dolores seemed to enjoy the excitement
with an almost childish delight.
Upon a sort of sand-bar in one place, which marked the
boundary between the fixed or land-ice, and the loose cakes floating in
the Sound, immense blocks had been crowded into all sorts of fantastic
shapes, forming an irregular rampart thirty or forty feet high.
Beyond this, the crew was able to keep the boat in the
water most of the time, winding in and out among the islands of ice.
Once, they were caught in a narrow strip of water between
Then the crew became excited, and hurriedly ran the boat
up on the ice out of harm's way. A few minutes later, the edges of the
ice-floes began to grind together and double up, impelled by the tremendous
Dolores, who had grown very pale, while they were in this
perilous situation, shivered slightly, as she heard the grinding of the
icefloes, and suddenly swayed back unconscious.
Percy reached out his arm just in time to receive her
The swoon lasted but a moment : yet during that moment
Percy experienced the delicious pleasure of holding her fair head upon
his shoulder, of clasping her lovely shape against his heart. All his well-controlled
emotions seemed to cry out against their long constraint; and a sudden
desire to seize her in his arms and cover her beautiful face with kisses
might have overruled his reason, his sense of propriety and his good breeding,
had she not opened her eyes and drawn herself out of his arms.
"How foolish I am," she said. "But I really thought we
were to be crushed between those great ice jaws. I will not be so weak
"Please do," whispered Percy. "It was the happiest moment
of my life." His warm audible breath fanned her cheek; his eyes were full
of a fire she had never before seen in them; her blood tingled through
her veins, producing a slight intoxication. Her lids drooped, her cheek
crimsoned, but she did not rebuke him for his speech or his glance.
A strange, sweet languor filled her heart, and rendered
any commonplace remark impossible. For the first time in her life she was
conscious of a vague pleasure in the close proximity of a human being.
Out in the middle of the Sound they could see the black
smoke of the steamer "Absolem" awaiting them in a long strip of open sea.
By noon they were within a mile of her : and here the crew stopped their
boats in the middle of an ice-floe, and served a sort of Arctic dinner.
An hour later, they reached the steamer; the mails and
passengers were transferred and the ice-boats returned to Korsor.
The "Absolem " had been two days and two nights in the
ice, and had narrowly escaped destruction among the sunken rocks, whither
it had been carried by the powerful ice currents.
But now, with an open sea before them, they approached
the western shore. As they neared Nyborg, Percy called the attention of
the ladies to the remarkable thickness of the land ice. And to their surprise
a few moments later, they saw the ship make fast to this clearly-defined
and solid ice pier, and unload its freight and passengers as readily as
if it had been in harbor.
Here they were huddled into Russian sleighs, and driven
rapidly to the station at Nyborg, where they took the train for Hamburg.