Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Skipper and Old Erik

Once upon a time there was a skipper who was inordinately fortunate in every endeavour he undertook. There was none other who won such cargoes; and no one else who earned such money, for it veritably tumbled in to him; and there was no one who would undertake the voyages he did; for wherever he sailed, the wind was ever with him; yes, they said that if he even so much as turned his hat, then the wind would also change to where he desired.

Thus he travelled for many years, in lumber transport and voyages to China; and the money he earned like grass. But there was once he sailed homewards across the North Sea with full sails, as if he had stolen both the cargo and the boat. But the one who would catch him, he sailed even more swiftly. It was Old Erik, for he was in contract with him, don’t you know, and that was the day his time was up; he could expect that he would take him at any moment.

Well, the skipper came out from his cabin and went up in the rigging; then he hailed the carpenter and a couple of the other folk, and said that they should go down into the hold, and chop two holes in the hull of the boat; and when they had done so, they should take the pumps from the bilges, and fasten them to the holes, so tightly that the sea would stand far up the pump columns.

The men wondered at this, and thought it curious work, but they did as the skipper had said. They chopped two holes in the hull, and drove in the pumps so tightly that not one drop of water could come into the cargo; but up in the pumps, the North Sea stood seven feet high.

They had hardly thrown the waste overboard from the work, before Old Erik came in a cast of wind, and caught hold of the skipper by his collar.

“Stop, father, you are not in such a hurry,” said the skipper, trying to protect himself against the claws that had fastened on him with a marlin spike. “Have you not entered into a contract to keep this boat dry and watertight?” said the skipper. “You’re a good boy; measure in the pumps. The water stands seven feet up in the pipes. Pump, then! Pump the boat dry; then you may take me, and have me for as long as you will,” he said.

Old Erik was no wiser than that he was tricked. He strove and sweated, and the sweat ran in brooks down him, so they might well have driven a water wheel at the small of his back; but he pumped up from the North Sea, and out into the North Sea. This work he finally tired of; and when he could manage no more, he went home, full of rage, to his great-grandmother, and would rest. The skipper he let remain a skipper for as long as he would; and if he not be dead, then he is travelling yet, and sailing where he will, changing the wind according to how he turns his hat.

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