The magical five-shillings affidavit of the consul at Hull was reverted to. We had paid our money for being certified clear of infection, and clear of infection we must be: otherwise, what were we to think of that transaction? Our chafing was of course unavailing. The Danish government is unusually tenacious and pedantic about quarantine regulations, to which it sapiently attributes the remarkable fact, that Denmark has never yet had a visit of the Asiatic scourge. There was no chance that it would relent on the present occasion. Slowly, and with a bad grace, did we address ourselves to the formerly-despised breakfast. Our friend the steward no doubt viewed the case in a light peculiar to himself.
Two days were spent in perfect inaction, and consequently with much tedium and dissatisfaction. For my part there is something which makes me placid under such troubles. It is perhaps a negative satisfaction in considering that I cannot be blamed for this evil, as I must be for most others which befall me. I grieved to think that there must be two days of tame, unvaried life, before I could step into the new city before me; but meanwhile the circumstances were not positively uncomfortable in any great degree; the company was not marred by any bad element in itself; there were books to read and memoranda to arrange: finally, it could not be helped. I therefore submitted with tolerable cheerfulness.
After all, we were comparatively well dealt with, for we heard of many persons who were obliged to lie for longer periods in quarantine, and to spend their time of durance at a station arranged for the purpose on a part of the coast a few miles off, where life was very much that of a prison. Persons coming from Germany would have to stay there five days. If I am not mistaken, travellers from England by the continental route had at this time to pass a previous quarantine at Hamburg, so that a journey to Denmark by that route could not occupy less than a fortnight. I have since heard of a Scottish merchant having lost a vessel on the south coast of Sweden, and going out there, by way of Copenhagen, to see after his property. From the exigencies of business at home, he had only twelve days in all to give to the excursion. On reaching Copenhagen, he would not be allowed to land till that time had nearly expired, and he would consequently be obliged to return to Scotland without accomplishing his object.
By way of a favour, a party of our passengers (in which I was included) was allowed to go in a boat to bathe at a place in front of one of the batteries, an emissary of the quarantine station hovering near us as a watch, lest we should break rules. Two boys, returning from an English school to St Petersburg for the holidays, were full of frolic. We soon had a riotous scene of ducking and splashing, accompanied by shouts of (I must say) very foolish merriment, and thus would probably help in no small degree to confirm our guard in an impression which is said to be very prevalent in Denmark regarding the English—that they are all a little mad. A companion remarked to me, that certainly men will condescend in some circumstances to a surprising degree of puerility, or rather childishness of conduct: here, for instance, said he, there is scarcely the least difference to be observed between the conduct of the schoolboys and their seniors. Take away the pressure of our ordinary immediate circumstances, and how all our usual habits are dissolved! But this is a theme as trite as it is tempting, and I must cut it short. A lunch after the bath was attended by jocularity nearly as outrageous, and we did not return to the ship till near the dinner hour.
Our company was small, but it was sufficiently various. There were two specimens of the idle English gentleman, if such a term may be applied to the character. They were men in the prime of life, unmarried, handsome, moustached, with an air of high society, yet perfectly affable, and even agreeable, in their intercourse with their fellow-travellers. I hesitate in applying the term idle to these men, as they appear to be far from exemplifying true inactivity. They speak of having travelled and sported in many parts of the world. One is as familiar with the granitic wilds of Finland as with Donegal and Inverness. He spends whole summers of wild hardy life in the deserts near the head of the Gulf of Bothnia, shooting bears and hunting deer, lost to wheaten bread and every luxury for weeks at a time. His frame is sinewy and firmly knit; his habits in eating and drinking are as simple as possible. The other gentleman has been with his ship through every sea in the East and West. He has left England at the height of the gay season, to perform a journey of four months, commencing with Copenhagen, St Petersburg, and Stockholm, to terminate on the coasts of the Levant. Another of our party is a New Englander, with an air of quiet confidence as remarkable as that of the Englishmen, yet of a totally different character. He is a little of a humorist, and not at all offensive. A fourth is an elderly Lincolnshire farmer, homely, simple, good-natured, full of quaint remark, and not unwilling to be smiled at by his companions on account of his little peculiarities of manners and discourse. We have also a young English student, evidently not of the university caste, delicate in figure, of gentle manners, and possessed of considerable intelligence. Of females we have few, only one being of the genus lady, the sister of our bear-hunting friend; the rest are more practical in their character. One is a mother with a charge of young children, whom she is sadly ill-qualified for regulating or keeping in order. Incessantly these juveniles are chattering about something, or else crying and squalling. The mother goes about with a broken-hearted air, and a voice worn down to its lowest and saddest tones, either taking her children's querulousness resignedly, or chiding them crossly for what is chiefly her own blame. To attend even thus imperfectly to the group of little ones, takes the whole time and energy of this poor mother, and of an equally broken-spirited maid; for never does a minute pass when there is not something to be done for them, either in the way of attending to their personal necessities, or preventing them from clapperclawing each other, and saving them from the effects of their own recklessness. The thought occurred to me twenty times a day—verily the storge is a most marvellous endowment of the mother's heart, enabling her, as it does, to submit placidly to what every other person would feel to be intolerable misery.
We received a great alarm on the second day of our enforced leisure. A party had gone off in a boat to row about and bathe, without the attendance of a quarantine officer. No harm was meant, but it was imprudent. By and by it was whispered that word had come that, owing to this breach of regulations, we should all be detained a week longer, or else have to pay a heavy fine—perhaps both. This was dire intelligence to our good-natured captain, and not less so to a mercantile person, who had sixteen first-class English horses on board, which he was taking out on speculation to Russia. These animals had to stand in cribs on deck during the whole voyage from Hull to St Petersburg. While the vessel was sailing, it was comparatively well with them, for the motion gave them a certain amount of exercise: but the unexpected stoppage of two days told sorely upon them: it was already remarked that their legs were beginning to swell. The owner declared that a week more of inaction would utterly ruin them. While we were gloomily speculating on all the evils we had to dread, the peccant boat-party returned, and relieved us so far, by declaring that they had scrupulously abstained from approaching the shore or any other vessel. They immediately despatched an assurance to this effect to the quarantine station. Notwithstanding a defying tone on the part of some of the defaulters, we passed the evening in a state