Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

Forest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman online

. (page 36 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

seated very composedly on the quarter of the top-gallant
yard close to the mast, where he was pleasantly occupied in
preparing his breakfast off one of the swallows, who had
risen earlier than his companions, and who did not exactly
realise the proverb about the " early bird finding the worm,"
— on the contrary, he had been found himself, and was thus
ministering to the wants of the hungry, while his brethren,
having now recovered their strength by their night's rest,
were Hitting unconcernedly about the masts and yards, just
as on shore they had flitted round the church steeple, and
were wondering, no doubt, what had become of all the flies./
" As this is only the middle of September," said the Parson,
looking up at the birds, " it is evident that the migration of
swallows must begin in the North first, and that previous to
their leaving our shores, the English swallows must receive
a large addition to their numbers ; a fact which, so far as I
know, naturalists have not noticed."

" Or else," said the Captain, "that they shift their quarters,


like a regiment that has got its route, and march by detach-
ments — one relieving the other. Ah ! " — with a long sigh —
" I wish. I had wings like a swallow ! "

"Pooh ! nonsense !" said the Parson ; "we shall get on
shore some time or other; everyone does, except the ' ancient
mariner.' ' Good times, bad times, all times pass over.' :

" So they do ; but all this is so much waste of life. Here
am I, sitting dangling my legs over the sides of this cursed
brig, knowing all the time that my friends are knocking the
partridges about. Who can give me back my 1st of Sep-
tember ? Besides," he added, in a grumbling tone, " I want
a clean dinner, if it is only by way of a novelty ; I can rough
it as well as anyone for the time, as you know, but a course
of such living as this will poison a man."

The Parson laughed.

"It does, I assure you ! I have often seen it in the West
Indies ; when a nigger takes to eating dirt, he always dies,
and I should think a little of that would go a great way with
a white man."

" Well, you know it is said that ' every man must eat his
peck of dirt in the course of his life.' "

" That's exactly the thing ; we are allowed a peck of dirt,
as you say, to last our lives, but you see if we stay here much
longer, we shall soon get to the end of our allowance. What
do you think I saw yesterday % When I went below, I could
smell the cook had been there ; you say yourself that you are
always obliged to open the skylight whenever he conies near
the cabin. You know what a beastly miserable day it was,
and as I had nothing to do, I thought I would turn in and
try to sleep away a little time, and get a little warm. I felt
the pillow rather too high, and, putting my hand under it, I
found the dish of plok fiske we were to have for dinner
stowed away there to keep it warm ! Bother that skipper,
he is going about again," as the Norwegian equivalent for
" raise tacks and sheets " came grumbling on his ear, and the
men lounged lazily to their stations ; " he's as frightened at
the shore as if it was Scylla and Charybdis, and the Mael-
strom into the bargain. If he would only hold on three or
four hours more, we might sight Flamborough Head, and


get on board an English collier and enjoy a little cleanli-


" All ! you will not enjoy that luxury for this voyage,"
said the Parson ; " the English ships always keep inside the
line of sandbanks on the Norfolk coast ; almost all we have
met outside, as you may have remarked, are foreigners."

"Outside barbarians !" said the Captain, who was not in
a cood humour.

By this time the clue-garnets had been leisurely manned,
one at a time, and the mainsail was hanging in festoons from
its yard ; Torgensen himself steering, as, indeed, he had done
for the last hour, and also giving the word of command.
The wind was as light as could be, so that it really did not
signify, except for fidgettiness, on which tack she was.

The helm had been a-lee for about a minute, and the men
were at their stations for " mainsail haul," while the brig
went creeping and creeping into the wind. The men
began sniggering and joking to one another, but their
jokes being Norwegian, were for the most part lost on the

"What is that young fool about ?" said the Parson, who
had not risen from his recumbent posture ; " he will have the
brig in irons before he can look round. Jump up and see
what is the matter."

The Captain scrambled on to the forebitts, so as to look
over the hurricane-house, and burst out laughing. "Bother
the fellow ! if he is not reading ' Peter Simple,'* and jamming
his helm hard a-lee with his hinder end. Why, Torgensen !
Torgensen ! what the Devil are you about 1 the brig has been
in the wind this half-hour !"

Torgensen started up, flinging his book on the deck,
righted his helm, and bellowed out his next command. It
was loud enough to startle the mermaids in their coral caves ;
but noise will not compensate for slackness ; the brig was
already nearly head to wind, and there she hung — she would
not go an inch farther for any one, and at last fell off again.
Torgensen was obliged to wear her, after all.

He swore, however, he did it on purpose, in order to get

* There is no book so popular in Sweden as what they call " Peter
Simpel aff Kapten Marrjatt. "


a cast of the lead, as he had not got one for the whole watch.
This did not seem to the Parson so very indispensable,
seeing that in the whole of that forenoon watch they had
not shifted their position four miles ; nevertheless, to suit
the action to the word, Torgensen did lay his main top-
sail aback, and armed his lead with as much gravity as if he
really expected that the sand and shells brought up by this
cast would be different from the sand and shells brought up
by the last.

" I tell you what, though, ' it is an ill wind that blows
nobody good,' — we may get a cod while Torgensen is sending
his note to the mermaids ; jump below and get up the lines.
The rind of that ham we had for breakfast will be a dainty
such as Tom Cod is not likely to meet with often in the
haaf, and it will be a pleasing variety to that eternal plok
fiske, if we can get one. By the way, that salt fish has got
desperately hard ; I saw the carpenter pounding our dinner
with the back of his axe yesterday, before the cook could do
anything with it."

Whether Tom Cod would have been duly sensible of the
honour that was done him, and would have accepted the
line of invitation which the Captain had sent him for the
next day's dinner, it is impossible to say, for, unfortunately,
he never received it. The whole bank abounded with hungry
dog fish, and the bait never got a dozen fathoms over the
side before it was seized by them. However, it was all fish
that came to net ; dog fish are not esteemed on shore, but
place the diner on board ship, give him three weeks of
calms and foul winds, short provisions, and those provisions
principally dried fish, with a piece of salt horse for a luxury
on Sunday, and even dog fish will come to be appreciated at
their just value.

It was about the middle of the dog watch in the same day
— when, according to the theory of the Norwegian marine,
everybody is supposed to be on deck for his own pleasure,
and, according to matter of fact, everybody is below, sleeping,
or talking, or cooking, or mending his clothes, — when the
Parson, whose time began to hang a little weary on his
hands, was yawning about the Ilaabet's quarter-deck, with his
hands in his pockets.


The Norwegian dog watch must not be confounded with
the English watches of the same name. In the Swedish or
Norwegian navy, the twenty-four hours are divided into five
watches instead of seven, as with us. These, beginning at
8 p.m., are called the first watch, the night watch, the
morning watch, the forenoon watch, and the dog watch, re-
spectively, of which the first four consist of four hours each,
and the last of eight. The dog watch comprehends the time
from noon to 8 p.m. It is, of course, impossible for human
strength and human endurance to keep it properly, but it is
permitted to be kept in a slack sort of way by the whole
ship's company conjointly, one watch being indeed responsible
for the duty, but not being forbidden to go below, provided
their place, for the time, be taken by amateurs.* The natural
effect of this is, that the whole watch is kept very slackly
indeed, even in men-of-war ; in fact, at the particular time
specified, there was no one whatever on the deck of the
Haalet, except Torgensen, who, as before, was steering, and
the Parson, who had come on deck because the Captain was
snoring so loud, and who, as luck would have it, was looking
over the bulwarks to windward.

The day had continued calm and hot, as September days
often are, and the ship was not many miles from the place
in which she had missed stays in the morning. She was
close hauled, but carrying everything that would draw.

" Torgensen," said he, " I think you had better look out ;
there is something coming down upon us, that looks very

* In Preadamite times — that is to say, the times of Drake and
Raleigh — this was the custom of the English service also ; but it having
been discovered that "what is everybody's business is nobody's business,"
and that accidents and negligences were continually happening during
the dog watch, a regular afternoon watch was established, and the
dog watch reduced to four hours, and divided into two ; so that the
whole ship's company could relieve one another systematically, and not,
as before, by private arrangement ; and that the whole could have two
uninterrupted hours below, between four and eight in the evening, for
their evening meal, or any other occupation. The whole afternoon
watch was called the dog watch, because in the full light, — and Nor-
wegian ships did not go to sea in the winter because they were frozen
up, — the work was supposed to be so easy that the dogs were sufficient
to keep it.

414 THE "FOK."

like an invitation from your friends the mermaids.* I should
like to send an excuse."

" O, The Thousand !" said Torgensen : " God forgive me for
swearing, at such a time ;" and shoving the helm, into the
Parson's hands, he seized a handspike, and began to belabour
the deck.

On all ordinary occasions there had been a good deal of
republican slackness on board the Haabet, the men doing
what they were told, but doing it leisurely, and in a noncha-
lant sort of way. It did not much signify, for in blue water
and calm weather, it makes little difference whether the
manoeuvres are performed smartly or not.t But assuming
the handspike was like taking up the dictatorship ; there
was no want of smartness now ; the men buzzed out from
their hurricane-house, like bees out of a hive, some half
dressed, some stuffing a handful of plok fiske into their
mouths, but all rushing to their stations, as if the very
tautest-handed boatswain in the British service was at their

It so happened that Torgensen had been fitting up a fore-
sail of his own, which he called a fok ; a stoutish spar held
the place of foot rope, which, though it diminished the area
of the sail, certainly had the effect of making it stand better
when close hauled ; but that which he prided himself most
upon, was his substitute for clue-garnets, which consisted of
two ropes, which, rove through blocks at the quarter of the
yard, led before the sail through a block at the clue, then to
the yard-arm, and then along the yard ; thus, embracing the
sail, acting as spilling-lines and clue-garnets at once, and
hauling it up, as it were, like a curtain in a theatre.

The square main-sail was by this time clewed up, and, had

* Those drowned at sea, whose bodies are never found, are supposed
to have been invited by the mermaids to their caves, and to have been
fascinated by the beauty of their entertainers. Homer's story of the
Syrens enticing the comrades of Ulysses, has some such foundation.

+ The words "smart" and "smartly," which, at sea, have a sig-
nification very different from their shore-going meaning, are pieces of
mis-spelling. They are evidently derived from the Norwegian words
"snart" and " snartlig," which bear precisely the same nautical mean-
ing as our English woid3.


not Torgensen's head been full of this invention, he probably
would have seen the necessity of casting off the sheet of the
fore and aft main-sail, as he passed, supposing he had not
time or hands to man the brails ; as it was, the fore-sail came in
most sweetly, and Torgenseu, forgetting his captainship,
skipped up the rigging, and was out at the weather earring,
like a monkey up a cocoa-nut tree.

Just then the squall struck her. Naturally the brig
carried a lee helm, but at this moment, relieved of her fore-
sail, and at the same time pressed upon by the whole force of
the squall in her main -sail, she griped obstinately, — a propen-
sity which the Parson had originated by steering as near as
he could, in order to shake the wind out of the top-sails while
the men were reefing. Things began to look serious ; not a soul
was on deck, every man being out on the yards, which, so soon
as the sails began thrashing in the wind, jumped and jerked so
furiously, that it was as much as any of them could do to hold
on ; the brig lay over, so that the water not only bubbled
through her scuppers, but came pouring in over her bulwarks,
and the Parson, with both hands clutching the bulwarks,
was driving the helm a-weather with his stomach, while his
feet were slipping one after the other on the wet and slant-
ing deck.

Just at that moment the Captain — his coat and shoes off,
his head tied up in a pocket handkerchief, and his eyes scarce
opened, just as he had roused up from his slumbers, — showed
an astonished face above the hatchway.

" Hallo ! what's the matter now 1 who spilt the milk V

" Jump ! and let go that main-sheet ! cut it if you can't get
at it any other way ! but take the sail off her at any rate,
or in two minutes we shall be at Fiddler's Green."

The Captain was wide enough awake to see that things
were rather too serious for a joke, and scrambled up to
windward as well as he could. Pound rattled the sheaves, as if
they would set fire to their blocks; away flew the sheet through
them, the slack of it whipping the deck right and left, and
barely missing the Captain, while the end of the main boom
plunged into the water, wetting the sail half way up. The
brig, eased cf the strain, slowly and reluctantly paid off,


while Torgensen, still seated at the weather yard-arm, with
his legs twisted round it, holding on by the earring with
both hands, with his breast straining against the lift to
which he seemed to be holding on with his chin, and his
hat, the while, which had been secured round his neck by a
lanyard, fluttering and dancing to leeward, just nodded
down on deck, as if to say, " all right my boys, I knew you
would do the needful," and then went on with his work as it
nothing particular had happened.

The squall, however, was only the prelude to a change
of wind; in less than an hours time she was able, not only to
shake out her reefs again, but to lie her course, and to jog
along it merrily.

Towards the close of the next day they were looking out
sharp for the Outer Garboard Buoy, which, out of sight of
land, marks the mouth of the Thames, and, strange to say,
after a cruise of three weeks' traverse sailing, hit it to a
nicety,* and on the following morning, when the fishermen
came on deck, they had the satisfaction of seeing, for the
first time since the Naze had sunk in the horizon, not only
land, but land on both sides of them, of which that on their
starboard beam bore a very strong resemblance to the old
South Foreland.

u England again !" said the Captain. " Hurrah for England
and partridges ! — what the deuce are you squinting at on the
French coast, Parson 1 ?"

"A very interesting sight for us," said the Parson,
putting the telescope into his hands, " though not on the

* This is a literal fact. Three weeks after sailing from Christiansand,
and seventeen days after losing sight of land of any kind, — during which
time there had been but two days in which the brig could lie her course,
— the author was in the fore-rigging, on the look-out for the Outer
Garboard buoy. He had but small hopes of seeing it, he admits, for
the brig had been navigated by log, lead, and compass alone ; never-
theless it is true, that within half-an-hour of his taking up his look-out
place, and precisely in the direction in which he was looking, there
was the buoy, — a little black speck, like a dancing boat. This, consider-
ing that the steamer in which he had gone out — a vessel commanded by
a lieutenant in her Majesty's navy — was fifty miles out of her reckoning,
after a straight course of four days, seemed, to say the least, remarkable.


French coast; look at that sail, and tell me what you make
of her."

The Captain took a long view. " A lugger I think, coming
down before the wind, wing-and-wing.

" The very thing, and of course bound for England : if
all goes right, we shall nearly cross her, and that in less than
an hour."

" Then hurrah for a leg of mutton ! " — for it should be said
the Haabet was bound for Bordeaux, to exchange her timber
for the light St. Julien's claret, of which so much is drunk in
the north, and the fishermen had taken their passage in her
on the chance, which amounted to almost a certainty, of
meeting with an English coaster that would put them on
shore somewhere. This they had not been able to meet
with on the east coast, for foreigners are too much afraid
of the shoals to allow themselves to go near a track
which, by English vessels, is as well beaten as a turnpike

" A leg of mutton ! " said the Parson ; " you are as bad
as a Swede, — always thinking of your dinner."

"Upon my word, I have eaten such a lot of trash in
that country that it is very excusable to long for the sweet
simplicity of English roast and boiled ; we have not had one
single wholesome, unsophisticated meal since we got there ;
it was all grease, and sugar, and gravy, and preserves, except,
indeed, where we boiled our own salmon on the Torjedahl,
or toasted our own 'mutton,' as Moodie calls it, at the

" Ah, poor Moodie ! I wonder whether he has found out
yet that mutton is not made out of elk's meat % But that
lugger is nearing us fast ; T think we had better talk to Tor-
gensen about it, and get our traps on deck."

Torgensen was sorry to part with his passengers, and they,
though to a certain extent reciprocating his grief, were much
more sorry to part from Torgensen than from the Haabet. But,
sorry or glad, it was all the same, the brig and the lugger, on
their respective courses, rapidly approached each other ; a
weft hoisted by the former was answered by the latter, and,

2 E


in a few minutes, her mast-heads were seen bobbing about
over the brig's lee quarter.

Less than half a minute sufficed to transfer the fishermen
and theh\ belongings from one deck to the other, and then,
hands shaking, — caps waving, — hoist away the lugs, — and up-
helm for merry England.

Away flew the lugger, " her white wings flying," — it could
not be added " never from her foes," for she turned out after-
wards to be a noted smuggler that no revenue cutter could
ever catch. Up rose the white cliffs, — plainer and plainer
ffrew the obiects on shore : now the white houses of Dover
came in view, — then the sheep on the downs, and the men
on the piers, — then the rising sunbeams flashed back a merry
welcome from the windows, — then the pier-heads opened,
with the tide bubbling up against them like a river in flood,
which, taking the lugger under the counter, gave her a final
slew, as she rushed between them, — then through the inner
harbour, and down sails, carrying on with the way already
acquired, — then run up alongside the Custom-house quay.

" Home at last !" said the Captain, as he leaped on shore.
-Hie longce finis chartceque viceque.



on the date to ,^ immedia te recall.
Renewed boc^re^jec^ . _



L ?J4ofslO)476B

General Library .
UoiSSiry of Calif orma