Archibald Hughson, the Young Shetlander—An Arctic Story, by W.H.G. Kingston.
Archibald is a teenager living in Shetland, that group of islands to the north of Scotland. His father is dead, and his mother not very well. He longs to go to sea, and a seaman he knows aids him to stow away in a whaling ship, the "Kate", just parting for Greenland, where there is an abundance of whales.
The Captain is very kind, and accepts the situation. But one day when the boats are sent out in search of whales Archy stows away again, to see the fun. This does not work out too well, as the boat they are in is stove in, and its occupants have to jump helpless onto the ice. They are rescued by another whaling ship, the "Laplander", but this in turn is beset by the ice and broken to splinters.
Some of the people, including Archy, after walking a long way over the ice, make it back to the "Kate", now herself beset by ice. However, in spite of illness among the crew, they eventually get free, and manage to get the vessel, in a not very seaworthy condition, back to Shetland.
ARCHIBALD HUGHSON, THE YOUNG SHETLANDER—AN ARCTIC STORY, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
ARCHIBALD HUGHSON, A YOUNG SHETLAND LAD, HAVING A STRONG DESIRE TO GO TO SEA, AND HIS MOTHER WITHHOLDING HER CONSENT, DETERMINES TO RUN FROM HOME.—HE IS TREACHEROUSLY ASSISTED BY MAX INKSTER, A WICKED SAILOR, WHO SUCCEEDS IN GETTING HIM STOWED AWAY ON BOARD THE "KATE," A GREENLAND WHALER.
"Where are you going, Archy?" asked Maggie Hughson, as she ran after her brother, who was stealing away from the house, evidently not wishing to be intercepted.
The young Hughson's home stood high up on the slope of a hill on the small island of Bressay, one of the Shetland group. Hence the eye ranged over the northern ocean, while to the eastward appeared the isle of Noss, with the rocky Holm of Noss beyond, the abode of numberless sea-fowl, and to be reached by a rope-way cradle over a broad chasm of fearful depth. The house, roofed with stone, and strongly-built, as it needed to be to withstand the fierce gales blowing over that wild sea, was surrounded by patches of cultivated ground, without trench or bank, or a tree to be seen far or near.
Archy stopped when he heard his sister's voice; for, though headstrong and obstinate, he loved her more than any other human being.
"I am going over to Lerwick to see Max Inkster," he answered, looking back at her. "The 'Kate' sails to-morrow, and I promised him a visit before he goes."
"Oh, surely you don't forget that our mother told you she wished you would not have anything to say to that man!" exclaimed Maggie. "He is bad in many ways, and he can only do you harm."
"I am not going to be led by any one," answered Archy. "I like to hear his tales of the sea, and his adventures when chasing the whale, or hunting white bears, and those sort of things away in Greenland, and perhaps some day I may go to sea myself, and I want to know what sort of a life I am likely to lead. I am not going to be kept digging potatoes, and tending cattle and sheep all my life."
"Oh Archy! don't think of it," said Maggie. "It would break our mother's heart to have you go. You know that our father was lost at sea, and so was uncle Magnus, and many other relations and friends. God will bless you, and you will be far happier, if, in obedience to her, you give up your wild notions and stay at home."
"I am not going to be dictated to, Maggie, by mother or you," exclaimed Archy. "Max is a fine fellow, notwithstanding what you say. He is expecting me, and I am not going to break my engagement; so, good-bye, Maggie. Go back home, and look after mother—that's your duty, which you are so fond of talking about."
Maggie, finding that her arguments were of no avail, returned home, as she could not venture longer to leave her mother, who was ill in bed.
Archy took his way till he was out of sight of the house, and then from beneath a large stone, he pulled out a bundle, which he slung at the end of a stick over his shoulder, and proceeded across the island till he came to the shore of the sound which divides it from the mainland. Several large black high-sided ships lay at anchor, with numerous boats hanging to the davits, and mostly barque-rigged. They were whalers, belonging to Hull and other English and Scotch ports, on their way to Baffin Bay, or the shores of Greenland.
Archy found a boat just about to cross the sound to Lerwick, and, asking for a passage, he jumped in. On landing, he made his way to the house where Max Inkster lodged. The door was open. Archy walked in. Max was alone in a little room on one side of the passage; he was smoking, and a bottle and glass were on the table.
"Glad to see you, lad," he said. "Sit down. I doubted that you would come."
"Why?" asked Archy.
"I thought your mother and sister would advise you to keep away from a fellow like me," answered Max, looking hard at his young guest. He was a strongly-built broad-shouldered man, with an unpleasant expression in his weather-beaten countenance.
"My mother is ill, and did not know I was coming, and I am not going to be dictated to by Maggie," said Archy.
"That's the right spirit, boy," said Max. "If they suspect what you intend doing, they will take good care to prevent you."
"I don't intend to let them know," replied Archy. "But I wish mother was not ill. I am half inclined to stop at home till next season, and then I'll do what I choose, whatever they may say."
"I see how it is," observed Max, with a sneer on his lips. "You are beginning to think we lead too hard a life for you, and you would rather be looking after the cows, and being at the beck and call of mistress Maggie. I thought you had more spirit. You are afraid—that's the truth of it."
"No one shall say I am afraid," exclaimed Archy. "I have asked several captains to take me, but they refused without my mother's leave, and that she won't give, just because my father and uncle Magnus were lost at sea, and so she has taken it into her head that I shall be lost also. If you can help me to go in the 'Kate,' I am ready. There's my bundle of clothes."
"No great stock for a voyage to the Arctic Seas; but we must rig you out when you get on board," observed Max, taking up Archy's bundle, and stowing it away in a large seaman's bag which stood in the corner of the room. "You will have to keep pretty close till we are well clear of the land, or the captain will be for putting you on shore again. Here, take a glass of grog, it will help to keep up your courage." Max mixed a strong glass of whisky and water, and pushed it across the table to Archy.
Archy's scruples soon vanished. He now only thought of the adventures he hoped to meet with among the icebergs.
Max had gained his object. From a quarrel which had occurred years before, he had long harboured an ill-feeling towards the Hughson's; and, for the purpose of thwarting and annoying Mrs Hughson, he was ready to encourage Archy in his disobedience to her. When once a person yields to the suggestions of Satan, he knows not into what crimes he may be hurried. Those who associate with unprincipled people run a fearful risk of being led astray by them. Archy, notwithstanding his mother's warnings, had persisted in visiting Max Inkster, for the sake of hearing his long yarns of nautical adventure, and he would at first have been excessively indignant had he been told that he was likely, in consequence, to be led into any further act of disobedience.
"Did any one see you come in here?" asked Max. "No; Nanny Clousta was out, and no one was passing at the time," answered Archy.
"Well, then, stay quiet here till dark, and I'll take you on board, and stow you away in the hold," said Max. "You must remain there till I give you a signal to come out; but, remember, that you are not to tell the captain or any one else that I had a hand in helping you. Just say that you slipped on board in a shore boat, and hid yourself of your own accord. You will promise me that?"
Archy had not been in the habit of telling falsehoods; but he had already made one step in the downward course, and though he hesitated, he at last said, "I promise. I needn't tell that I knew who took me on board, and I can find my own way below, so there's no necessity to mention your name."
"That's it," said Max. "You will want some food, though. Here, just fill your pockets with this bread and cheese." He took some from a cupboard. "And here is a flask of whisky and water. You may have to lie hid for a couple of days, or more, may be; so you must manage your provisions accordingly."
Max went out, and Archy fell asleep, with his head on the table. It was late at night before his evil councillor returned.
"Rouse up, boy," he whispered. "It's time we were aboard. I have got a man to take us off, and he will think you belong to the ship. Here, shoulder my bag, and come along."
Max placed his heavy sea-bag on his young companion's shoulder. Archy staggered on under it till he reached the boat. The boatman, who had been paid before, pulled away, and they were soon alongside the whaler. Max clambered up the side, and hoisted his bag by a rope after him. Archy followed. The officer of the watch was aft, and as the crew and their friends were constantly coming and going, no notice was taken of them. Max took up his bag, and as he passed up the main hatchway, which was open, having ascertained that there was no one below, he made a sign to Archy to slip down the ladder.
"I'll be with you in a few minutes," he whispered. "No one is likely to go there at this hour."
Archy did as he was bid, and felt his way in the dark, till he found himself among the empty casks in the hold, which were stowed ready for use. There were certain spaces between the tiers which would afford him room to hide himself away. Into one of these he crept, and lay down waiting for Max. He fancied that where he was he should not be seen by anyone moving about the hold, unless expressly looking for him. He thought that Max was a long time in coming, and perhaps would not come at all. On the return of daylight, which would stream down through the open hatchway, should he not be discovered? he thought. The crew would certainly be at work at an early hour, and he might not have time to find a more secure hiding-place. Then he would have to undergo the annoyance and disgrace of being put on shore, and severely reprimanded by the captain, a very severe man, he had been told. At last he heard some one moving, and presently a light fell on his eyes. He was afraid to stir, almost to breathe, lest he should be discovered.
"Well, if I had not come you would have been hauled out to a certainty in the morning," said Max, who had only just then been able to pay him his promised visit. "You must come down lower than this. Here, keep after me. Now crawl in there, and don't come out till you hear three blows, which I'll give on the casks above your head. You will know by the movement of the ship when we have been at sea a couple of days or so. There; now you have got your will. Here's your bundle; it will serve as a pillow, and, remember, don't take any notice of me. I am your friend, but I am not a man who chooses to be trifled with." Saying this, Max, putting out the lantern, crept away, and Archy was left in solitude and total darkness. The liquor his evil councillor had given him made him sleepy, so he could not think. Otherwise his conscience might have been aroused, and he might have recollected his poor mother lying on a bed of sickness, and his affectionate sister watching for his return. Satan knows that he has his victims secure when they are in that condition.
Archy Hughson was at length awakened by the loud tramp of the crew on deck, the boats being hoisted in, the anchor hove up. He could hear the ripple of the water against the sides of the ship. The "Kate" was under way, but she was not yet even out of Bressay Sound. The hours passed by. He began to grow very weary of his imprisonment, and to long for the expected signal from Max, even though he should soon afterwards have to face the captain, and perhaps be punished for having concealed himself on board. As he thought of this, he began to wish he had waited till he had overcome his mother's objections, and been able to go sea, like other lads, with a proper outfit. Now and then a better feeling, akin to remorse, stole over him, when he thought of the sorrow and anxiety his absence must cause his mother, who, though over-indulgent, had ever been affectionate and kind to him. Still he did not perceive the wickedness of his own heart, or the cruel ingratitude of which he had been guilty. "She should have let me go, it's her own fault," he repeated, hardening himself. "It's too late now to draw back. I should look very foolish if I was to be set on shore on Unst, and have to find my way home by myself."
Unst is the most northern of the Shetland Islands, and Archy guessed that by that time the "Kate" was not far off it.
He had little appetite to eat the food he had brought, but he soon drank up the contents of the flask. The mixture was somewhat strong, and sent him off to sleep again. Once more Satan had him at an advantage, for even then, had he gone to the captain, he would have been sent on shore, and retrieved his fault by returning home and relieving his mother's anxiety. Undo it he could not; for a sin, once committed, can never by man's power be undone, never forgiven. All sin is committed against God—the slightest evil thought, the slightest departure from truth, is sin against God's pure and holy law, and He alone can forgive sin. He forgives it only according to the one way He has appointed. He blots it out altogether from remembrance. That way is through faith in the perfect and complete atonement of Jesus Christ, whose blood, shed for man, "cleanseth from all sin." There is no other way. He accepts no other recompense for sin. There is no undoing a sin, no making amends. All sins, from such as those which men call the smallest to the greatest, are registered, to be brought up in judgment against the sinner, and the all-cleansing blood of Jesus can alone blot them out. Man, as a proof of his living faith in Christ's atonement,—of his sorrow for sins committed,—of his hatred of sin, of his repentance,— will, of necessity, do all he can to make amends to his fellow-man for the wrong he has done him; he will restore what he has taken; he will explain the truth where he has spoken falsely; he will be kind and gentle to those he has treated harshly; he will give to those of his substance, or forward their interests whom he has injured in any way. But all this cannot blot out one letter in the eternal register of accusations to be brought against him at the day of judgment. Oh! that people did but know this, and would remember that when they sin they sin not only against their fellow-man, but against the all-pure, all-holy God, who can by no means overlook iniquity; in whose sight even the heavens are unclean, without whose knowledge not a sparrow falls to the ground, and by whom the very hairs of our head are numbered.
APPEARING ON DECK, ARCHY IS SEVERELY REPRIMANDED BY THE CAPTAIN, A STRICT, YET A KIND AND RELIGIOUS MAN—HIS FIRST SUNDAY AT SEA—AMONG THE ICEBERGS AND ICE—CAPTURE OF A WHALE.
Archy Hughson felt very weak and very wretched. The ship had for some hours been tumbling fearfully about, so it seemed to him, now pitching into the seas, which struck her stout bows with heavy blows, now rolling from side to side. He knew that a strong gale was blowing, and he could not help dreading that the casks might break loose, and come down upon him. He longed to escape from his prison, and began to think that Max must have forgotten him altogether. At length he again fell asleep. He was awakened by three heavy knocks above his head, Max's promised signal. He waited the time agreed on, and then began to crawl out, and grope his way upwards. At last he saw daylight above him, and scrambling along, he reached the foot of a ladder. Climbing up with uncomfortable feelings at his heart as to the reception he might meet with, he gained the upper deck.
The first person he encountered was an old man with weather-beaten features, but a kind expression of countenance, Andrew Scollay by name, a boat-steerer, who was at that moment about to descend.
"Why, lad, where do you come from?" asked old Andrew, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"I wanted to come to sea; so I hid myself away," answered Archy. "I hope I have not done wrong."
"You have not done right, boy, or you would not have needed to hide yourself away," said Andrew, scanning his features. "I think I have seen you before. What is your name?"
Archy told him.
"What, widow Hughson's son? Oh, boy, boy, you have acted a cruel part towards your poor mother. Anyhow, I would we had found you out two days ago. However, come along with me to the captain—you'll hear what he has to say."
Andrew led Archy aft, where Captain Irvine was standing, and explained in a few words what he knew of him. Captain Irvine, looking sternly at him, inquired how he had managed to conceal himself so long on board? On that point Archy gave a truthful reply.
"How did you know you could find a place where you could hide yourself?" asked the captain.
"I have often before been on board whalers, and knew how the casks were stowed," answered Archy, hoping that he should avoid further questions which might implicate Max Inkster.
"You are deserving of severe punishment for coming on board without my leave," said the captain. "I must consider how I shall treat you. If we fall in with a homeward-bound ship, I shall put you on board. If not, see how you behave yourself. Had your mother asked me to take you I would have done so, and you would have come in for a share of profits; but you have done more wrong to her than you have to me; and though I might flog you, as you deserve, I shall let your own conscience punish you. I hope you have got one, which will make you mourn for your fault. Now go for'ard. You must not eat the bread of idleness, and Mr Scollay will put you to some work or other. I must speak to you again about this, and let me see, as you have chosen to come on board, that you do your best to learn your duty."
Archy's conscience was not aroused. He went forward, well pleased at having, as he thought, got off so cheaply; yet he did not feel at his ease. He looked, indeed, very pale and sick, and miserable. Old Andrew's kind heart was touched, as he remarked his woe-begone appearance. He took him below, and got the steward to give him some food. He then sent him to wash himself.
"I must see about rigging you out," he said. "The clothes you have on are not fit for the work you will have to do."
Archy felt grateful to old Andrew, and thanked him warmly.
"Don't speak about that, boy," remarked Andrew. "It's not that you deserve what I may do for you; but you are poor, and helpless, and wretched, and that's just the state man was in when Christ came down from heaven to help him; and so I have a notion that it becomes His disciples, who desire to be like Him, to assist the helpless and miserable."
The crew generally did not treat Archy as kindly as old Andrew had done. They attacked him, as soon as he got among them, with all sorts of questions, laughing and jeering at his folly. No one laughed at him more than Max Inkster. Archy felt inclined to retort, but he remembered his promise to Max, and gave him no sign of recognition, he was treated as one of the ship's boys, and was put to do all sorts of drudgery and dirty work. Often and often he wished that he had remained at home, to look after his mother's farm, and help Maggie in attending to her.
Several days passed by—Archy was beginning to find himself at home among the crew—Max at length spoke to him as if to a stranger.
"We must make a sailor of you, boy, as you have chosen to come to sea," he said, when the order had just been given to reef topsails. "Lay out on the yard with me, and I'll show you what to do."
Archy had several times been aloft, but had never assisted in reefing. He now followed Max up the rigging. There was a heavy sea running, and the ship was pitching violently.
"Now, don't be afraid—come out on the yard," said Max. "There—lean over, and catch hold of those reef points. Cling tight though, with your knees and elbows, or you will pitch down on deck, and have your brains dashed out."
Archy did as he was bid. He felt very nervous, though, and was thankful when he was safe off the yard. It was coming on to blow harder and harder, and the canvas was still further reduced. Max did not again invite him to go aloft—none but practised seamen could have ventured on the yards. At length, all the canvas was taken off the ship, except a close-reefed main-topsail, when the helm was put down, and she was hove-to. The wind whistled shrilly through the bare poles and rigging. It was blowing a perfect hurricane. All around appeared mountains of heaving water, each succeeding sea threatening to swallow up the labouring ship. Archy was surprised at the calmness of the officers and crew, when he expected every moment that one of those tremendous seas would come on board, and send the ship to the bottom. He wished that he could pray, as his mother had taught him to do, but he dared not; yet he trembled at the thought of what would happen.
Night came on—the gale seemed to increase. He, with all except the watch on deck, had gone below.
"What, lad, art afraid?" asked Max, who observed his pale countenance. "You thought a life at sea was all sunshine and calm."
"I have found out what it is, and I wish that I had not been fool enough to come," answered Archy, with some bitterness.
Max laughed. "Many a lad thinks like you," he said. "They get accustomed to it, and so must you, though the training is not pleasant, I'll allow."
While Max was speaking, a tremendous blow was felt, as if the ship had struck a rock, and then came a sound of rending and crashing timbers, while the water rushed down the hatchway.
"The ship's on her beam ends," cried several voices, and all hands sprang on deck. Archy followed. A scene of wreck and destruction met his sight. The sea had swept over the ship, carrying away the staunchions, bulwarks, and rails, the binnacle, and the chief portion of the wheel. A fearful shriek reached his ears, and he caught sight for an instant of a man clinging to the binnacle. No help could be afforded him—the poor fellow knew that too well; still he clung to life; but in a few seconds a sea washed over him and he disappeared.
The captain was on deck, calmly issuing his orders,—the crew flew to obey them, while Archy clung to the main-mast, expecting every moment to be his last. Things were at length put to rights; spare spars were lashed to the remaining staunchions—life lines were stretched along the deck, fore and aft. The names of the crew were then called over—two did not answer, another, it was found, had unseen been carried to his dread account.
The next day was the Sabbath. The gale had moderated, and the ship was again put on her course. On that day the captain invariably invited all not on duty to assemble for service in his cabin; Max and a few others generally made excuses for not attending. The captain took this occasion to speak of the uncertainty of human life.
"The fate of our shipmates may be that of any one of us, my lads," he observed. "I do not ask how they were prepared to meet their God, but how are you prepared? Even if you are living pure and blameless lives, have you made peace with Tim according to the only way He has offered to reconcile you to Himself? Have you a living faith in the atoning blood of Jesus shed for you? He wishes you to be reconciled to Him, and He has offered to you the easiest and simplest way, the only way by which you can be so. Remember, 'now is the accepted time,' 'now is the day of salvation.' It is God tells you this. If you put off that day it may be too late—for He says nothing about to-morrow. Some of you may say that you lead hard lives, have little enjoyment, and much suffering, and that that must satisfy God and give you a right to heaven. God does not tell you that; but He says, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. He that believeth not is condemned.' Oh lads, if you knew of the love of Jesus for you, and how He longs for you all to be saved, you could not stand aloof from Him as you do, and try to keep Him out of your thoughts, and do nothing to please or serve Him. I speak to young and old, for He loves the youngest boy on board here as well as the oldest, and His blood, which cleanseth from all sin, will wash away the sins of the greatest criminal as completely as it will cleanse the most harmless youngster, though he, too, needs to be washed as much as the other." Such was the substance of Captain Irvine's discourse on the Sunday after the storm. Archy had attended, and the words were continually haunting him. Max, as usual, had kept away.
"I wonder you can stand that sort of thing," he said to Archy, when he next met him. "I have no fancy for those discourses of the skipper; but if you want to curry favour with him, by all means go, just as old Andrew and Dr Sinclair, and some others do. They have prayers with him every morning in his cabin. You will not turn psalm-singer, I hope, lad."
"I don't suppose I shall," answered Archy. "But still I should not like to be washed overboard, as Bill and Ned were the other night."
"As to that, you must run your chance as others do," answered Max. "I don't let such things trouble me."
Archy could not help letting them trouble him, though.
The next day the whole crew were busily employed in getting the whale boats ready and the gear fitted. There were seven boats in all—three slung to the davits on each side, and one over the stern, with a harpooner to each. The whale lines were spliced and coiled away in the stern of the boats; the harpoons were spanned, that is, fastened to the ends of the lines, and various articles were stowed away in the boats, so that they were all ready to be lowered, and to shove off at a moment's notice, should a whale appear. The crow's-nest was also got up to the main topgallant mast-head. It is like a tall cask with a seat in it, where the officer can take his station and look out far and wide over the ocean to watch for the spouting of the monsters of the deep.
Next morning, when Archy went on deck, he saw at no great distance from the ship a vast white towering mass, glittering like alabaster in the rays of the sun. At the lower part were projecting points and curious arches, and a deep cavern, with numberless columns and long icicles hanging from the roof, while the summit was crowned with pinnacles and towers of every possible shape. From the higher points, as the ice melted under the rays of the hot sun, came down two or three tiny cascades of bright water, leaping from ledge to ledge till they fell with a splash into the calm ocean.
Archy had often heard of icebergs, but he had formed little conception of what they really were. He stood gazing at it for some minutes, lost in wonder.
"Well, boy, what do you think of it?" asked Andrew Scollay, who was passing at the time.
"It's very wonderful," said Archy.
"All God's works are wonderful," observed old Andrew. "You will see thousands of such bergs as this where we are going, all formed by God's will, just as He forms everything else in the world; and yet if all the kings of the earth and their people were to try and build up one like them, they could not succeed. Now, Archy, I put it to you, whether it is not wise to try and be friends with such a God—to know that you are under His care and protection, instead of disobeying Him and daring His power? The time may come before long when you will feel how helpless you are to take care of yourself, boy. I have seen stout ships crushed in a moment between masses of ice, as if they had been made of paper, and once I saw one of those large bergs come down and overwhelm a passing ship, not a soul on board escaping. Ay, and I have known numbers of poor fellows, when their ships have gone done, wandering over the ice till they have been frozen or starved to death. I don't tell you these things to frighten you, but that you may learn to put your trust in God. The person who truly trusts Him is never frightened. It is a blessed thing to know that He cares for us."
Archy was unable to make any reply; but the old man's words were not forgotten.
The next day many more icebergs were seen, and as the ship passed near some of them, Archy could not help dreading that they might topple over and carry her and all on board to the bottom.
In a short time the ship made the ice. As far as the eye could reach, the whole ocean was covered with broken sheets of ice,—some several miles in extent, others of smaller size, which the seamen called floes,—huge icebergs towering up among them. The ship sailed along the edge of a large floe for some distance, till an opening appearing, her head was pointed towards it. She entered and sailed onwards for a considerable distance, the water being as smooth as in the most sheltered harbour. The captain, or an officer, was continually stationed in the crow's-nest to look out for the widest openings. Into these she forced her way, now and then being impeded by pieces of ice, against which her bow was driven to turn them aside. At length, after running through a narrow passage, her further progress was stopped by a sheet of ice through which she could not force her way, while beyond the water appeared perfectly open. The sails were furled; the ice-saws got out, and the crew commenced sawing out large blocks, so as to form a passage towards the open water. The work was very laborious; for, in addition to the operation of sawing, each block had to be towed out into the wider channel. At length a canal was formed, and the ship glided through it. Once more the sails were set and she steered to the northward. Again, however, she had to encounter similar obstructions. Still the captain pushed on, eager to get to a part of the bay where whales were plentiful. Generally there was a breeze, and she made good progress through the open water, but sometimes she lay becalmed, with her sails hanging against the masts. All the time a sharp look out was kept for whales, but hitherto, although a few had been seen, the wary monsters had escaped the harpoons of their pursuers.
At that season, in those northern regions, when the sun but just sinks below the horizon ere it rises again, night and day are much alike.
Archy, with the watch below, had turned in. He was awakened by a loud stamping on the deck, and the cry of "a fall, a fall." The men rushed up on deck, carrying their clothes with them, and dressing as they went. Instantly running to the boats, they began to lower them. In the distance was a boat with a flag flying, a signal that a whale had been struck, and was fast. The boats shoved off, and away they went at a rapid rate to the assistance of their friends. The monster soon appeared on the surface. The boats pulled towards it, and numberless lances were darted at its body. Again it sounded, to reappear shortly still closer to the ship. Once more the boats dashed on—the water around the animal was dyed red with blood, mixed with oil, which issued from its wounds and blow-holes. The boats again drew near, and more lances were hurled at it. Suddenly the creature reared its tail high in the air, whirling it round with a loud noise, which reached the ship. At the same moment the nearest boat was thrown upwards several feet, while the crew were sent flying on every side into the water, the boat itself being reduced to a mass of wreck. Their companions went forward to rescue the drowning men, who were seen to be hauled into the boats; but whether any had perished could not be discovered by those who, with Archy, were eagerly watching what was taking place, from the deck of the ship. Directly afterwards the whale rolled over on its side, and remained perfectly quiet. The flag was lowered, and the men, standing up in the boats, gave three loud huzzas, which were echoed by those on board. Two holes being made in the tail of the whale, ropes were passed through them, which being made fast to the boats, they towed their prize in triumph to the ship. The animal now being secured alongside, the process of flensing or cutting off the blubber commenced. Tackles were rigged with hooks, which were fixed in the blubber. This was cut by means of spades, and the tackle being worked by a windlass, as the blubber was cut off in long strips, it was hoisted on board. Here it was cut into pieces, and stowed in casks in the hold. Thus, as the whale was turned round and round, the blubber was stripped off, till the whole coat was removed. The whalebone, of which the gills are formed, being then extracted, the carcase was cast adrift, when it was seen to be surrounded by vast numbers of fish and wild sea-birds, coming from all directions to banquet on the remaining flesh. The operation, which lasted five hours, being concluded, the crew were piped to supper.
"There, Archy, you have seen our first whale killed," observed Max. "I hope we shall have many more before long, and soon be back home again; and if you are tired of the life, you can go on shore and look after your mother's farm."
THE "KATE" ENCOUNTERS A FEARFUL GALE AMID ICEBERGS, AND NARROWLY ESCAPES A FALLING BERG.—CALM AFTER STORM.—THOUGH SCOFFED AT BY HIS SHIPMATES, ARCHY TRIES, UNSUCCESSFULLY, TO FOLLOW THE ADVICE GIVEN HIM BY CAPTAIN IRVINE.
Captain Irvine was anxious to reach the northern point of Baffin Bay, where whales were said to abound. He used, therefore, every exertion to force the ship through the ice. Sometimes she threaded her way through narrow passages, at the risk of being caught and nipped by the floes pressing together; at others, to avoid this catastrophe, she had to take shelter in a dock, cut out as rapidly as the crew could use their saws, in one side of a floe. Scarcely had she been thus secured when another floe, with a sullen roar, pressed on by an unseen power, would come grinding and crashing against the first with irresistible force, and the before level surface, rent and broken asunder, would appear heaved up into large hillocks, and huge masses, many hundred tons in weight, would be lifted on to the opposing barrier, threatening to overwhelm the ship. Suddenly the whole field of ice would be again in motion, the broken fragments would be thrown back on each other or pressed down beneath the surface, and a lane of water would appear, edged on each side by a wall of ice. The boats would then be lowered to tow the ship along, or, should the wind be favourable, the sails were set, and in spite of the blows she might receive from the floating fragments, she would force her way onwards towards the open water.
Often and often as Archy watched what was taking place, he fully expected to find the ship crushed to fragments, and wondered that Captain Irvine could venture into so fearfully dangerous a position. Still the ship, escaping all dangers, made her way to the north, and by degrees Archy grew accustomed to the scenes he witnessed, and viewed them with the same indifference as the rest of the crew.
For a whole day she had made her way through open water, with a strong breeze. The weather began to lour—the wind blew stronger and stronger—numerous icebergs appeared ahead—in a short time the ship was surrounded by them. Now one was passed by, now another. It seemed often as if no power could save her from being dashed against their precipitous sides. Perhaps the captain expected the gale to moderate, if so, he was mistaken. It soon blew fiercer than ever. At length the ship got under the lee of a large berg, which towered up a hundred feet or more above the mast-heads. The sails were furled—the boats carried out ice anchors and made them fast to the foot of the berg. There the ship rode, sheltered from the gale, in smooth water, while the wind howled and roared, and the sea, hissing and foaming, dashed with fury against the bergs, which were observed at a distance on either side.
Archy recollected the account Max had given him some time before of icebergs suddenly overturning, and as he looked up at the frozen mountain above him, he could not help thinking what their fate might be, should the gale, which blew on the other side, force the berg over. Still he had not learned to put his trust in God. Fear made his heart sink within him, but he dared not contemplate the future. All he could say to himself was, "I hope it will not. How dreadful it would be. What would become of us!" He had no one to whom he could go for consolation. Max, he knew, would only laugh at him and call him a coward. He wished that Old Andrew would speak to him, but he was on duty on deck, and had the ship to attend to.
Several hours passed by, still the gale did not abate. Archy thought the captain and officers looked more serious than usual. Several of them turned their eyes ever and anon towards the summit of the berg. At length the chief mate came forward. He had just reached the forecastle, when a small piece of ice, the size of a bullet it seemed, fell splashing into the water just ahead of the ship. Another and another followed. With a startling cry, the captain shouted, "Cut the hawser, loose the jib and fore-staysail, hands aloft for your lives lads." The head sails were hoisted, the fore-topsail sheeted home. The ship, coming round, shot away from the berg. The after sails were speedily loosed. In another instant, with a crashing thundering noise, down came vast masses of ice, falling into the water, with loud splashes, close astern, while numerous smaller pieces fell with fearful force on deck. Happily no one was struck, but a piece went right through one of the quarter boats. The ship, as if aware of her danger, flew on. Downwards came the vast mountain of ice with a crashing roar, louder than any thunder, directly on the spot where she had just before floated, sending the spray in thick sheets flying over her poop. Had she remained a moment longer she must have been overwhelmed. Many a cheek of the hardy crew was blanched with horror. Even now it seemed that they had scarcely escaped the fearful danger, for the berg astern of them rocked to and fro as if still intent on their destruction. The first mate and one of the best hands were at the helm; the wind whistled loudly, the sails appeared as if about to fly from the bolt ropes, as the ship heeled over to the gale. Numerous other bergs appeared ahead, and as she rushed onwards, it seemed impossible that she could avoid them. No sooner was one weathered than another appeared in her course. The yards were braced sharp up. She dashed by a huge berg, her masts, as she heeled over, almost touching its sides. Now an opening appeared between two large ice mountains. The only way to escape was by passing between them. The ship dashed into the passage, now she glided onward in comparatively smooth water. The bergs were moving. Nearer and nearer they drew to each other. In a short time they might meet and crush the hapless vessel into a thousand fragments. To escape by the way she had entered the passage was impossible. The wind came aft. The yards were squared, more sail was set, faster and faster she flew onwards, yet fast as she went, it seemed as if the masses of ice would catch her ere she could escape them in their deadly embrace. Every man and boy was at his station, ready to clew up and haul down directly the ship should be free, and again exposed to the fury of the gale. No one could tell but that other bergs might be ahead, or in what direction it might be necessary to steer. Archy, as he held on to a rope he had been ordered to tend, looked up at the vast ice-cliffs with horror in his eyes, expecting every moment to see them falling over upon the ship. He glanced aft, and saw the captain standing calm and undismayed, ready to issue whatever orders might be necessary. The channel seemed interminable, for, fast as the vessel glided on, still those terrible cliffs frowned down upon her. At length the open water appeared ahead, with fewer bergs than had before been seen floating on it. The ship glided out into the heaving ocean; and as she heeled over, Archy thought the masts would go over the side; but sail (though not without difficulty) was rapidly shortened, and the masts stood firm. Onwards, as before, she flew in her course; several other bergs were weathered, till at length all present dangers were passed, and she was now hove-to to await the termination of the storm. In a few hours the gale ceased, and once more she proceeded on her course.
A calm succeeded the storm. The ship floated on the smooth water. It was the Sabbath-day; the captain as usual had summoned the crew to prayers, the greater number went willingly, for they were well aware of the imminent danger they had escaped, and were glad to express their gratitude to Him who had preserved them. Max Inkster, with a few others, made excuses for staying away.
"What, lad, are you going to hear the old man preach?" he asked, with a sneer, as he saw Archy making his way aft. "For my part, I think we have too much of that sort of thing aboard here. I have made up my mind to cut and run from the ship if I could find a few brave fellows to accompany me. We should have more liberty and a larger allowance of grog, with less psalm-singing, on board other vessels I know of, and reach home sooner again into the bargain. But don't you go and tell others what I say; I only ask you, if we go, will you join us?"
"I'll think about it, Max," answered Archy, "but I promised old Andrew that I would attend prayers."
"Much good may your prayers do you," sneered Max. "You are the fellow who sneaked off from his dying mother, and now you talk of praying."
"I did, I did," groaned Archy, "and I feel how wicked I was to do so."
As all the other men had by this time collected in the cabin, Archy could stay no longer, and hurried off, the words last spoken by Max ringing in his ears. He thought of them all the time the captain was offering up prayer, and returning thanks to God for having mercifully preserved him and his crew from the danger to which they had been exposed, and humbly petitioning for protection for the future.
When the service was over, as Archy was leaving the cabin, Captain Irvine called him back.
The old captain had been ill for some days. Archy was struck with his peculiarly grave and solemn manner. He kindly took the young boy's hand.
"I have a few words to say to you, lad," he said. "I knew your father; he was a God-fearing man, and I believe he is in heaven. Your mother, too, is a Christian woman, and she, when she leaves this world, will join him there. Now lad, I have to ask you what is your hope? There is but one way to go there, remember that. Have you sought that way?"
Archy hung down his head. "I know I was very wicked to leave my mother as I did," he answered, "and I could not help thinking the other day, when the iceberg was about to come down upon us, where I should go to."
"Ah, lad, it's a great thing to see your sin, but God wants you to do more than that. You must acknowledge it to Him and seek His way for blotting it out. Do you know that way, laddie, which only a God of infinite love and mercy could have devised for saving weak fallen man from the consequences of sin? Have you sought the Saviour? Sorrow will not wash away sin. The blood of the Saviour, which He shed when He suffered instead of man on Calvary, can alone do it. Only those who seek Him and trust in Him can benefit by that blood. Have you earnestly sought him, laddie? I am sure if you do seek Him, desiring to turn away from your sins, that you will find Him."
Archy could only repeat, "I am very sorry I ran away from mother and hid myself aboard the ship, and I thought when we were so near being destroyed the other day, what would become of me."
Archy exactly described his state, and the captain knew he spoke truly. There are too many like him, who only think of their sins at the approach of danger.
"Ah, laddie! I should be thankful if you could honestly tell me that you mourn for your sins, because you have grievously offended our loving Father in heaven, and that you have sought forgiveness from Him, through the all-cleansing blood of His dear Son, shed for you on Calvary," said Captain Irvine. "Do you ever pray?"
"Not since I came aboard here," answered Archy.
"And I am afraid not for some time before, either," observed the captain. "For if you had prayed that God's Holy Spirit would guide and direct you, and keep you out of temptation, you would not have ran away from home as you did. Now, laddie, what I want you to understand is, that you are weak and helpless in yourself, that you can neither walk aright nor do any good thing by yourself; but that if you seek the aid of the Holy Spirit you will walk aright, you will be able to withstand temptation, and to do God's will. If you do not pray and seek His aid, you cannot expect to find it; yet if you do seek it, you will assuredly find it, for He hath said, 'Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.'"
Archy listened attentively to what the captain said, and tried to understand it, but the danger which had alarmed his conscience had passed away, and when he went forward and mixed again with his careless shipmates, he forgot much that had been said. Still, when he turned into his bunk, he did try to pray; but he dared not bravely kneel down in the sight of others lest they should laugh at him, and he had been so long unaccustomed to offer up prayer, that he could not even think of what words to say. Captain Irvine, however, did not forget him, and day after day he called him into the cabin, or spoke to him on deck. He gave him a Bible also, and marked many passages in it, which Archy promised to read. The captain had also a library of books on board, which were lent to the men, and two or three of these he put into Archy's hands as likely to be useful to him. Old Andrew also frequently took an opportunity of speaking to him, but his work occupied most of the day, and when he went below he was generally too sleepy to sit long over a book. Max and others also did their utmost to interrupt him, and he made but little progress either in reading the Bible or any other of the books which had been lent him. Still, in some respects, he was trying to follow the good advice which the captain had given him. Weak, however, are all our efforts when we trust to our own strength. Archy did not seek assistance from the only source which can give it, and, consequently, his good resolutions were soon scattered to the wind.
ARCHY WISHING TO BE PRESENT WHEN A WHALE IS STRUCK, AGAINST ORDERS GOES OFF IN ONE OF THE BOATS.—ATTACK A WHALE AND HER CALF, BUT LOSE BOTH, AND THE BOAT'S BOWS ARE STOVE AGAINST A FLOE.—THE CREW ESCAPE BY LANDING ON IT, AND DRAGGING THE BOAT AFTER THEM. PREPARATIONS MADE TO WAIT FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE SHIP IN SEARCH OF THEM.
The ship had for some time been off the western shore of the bay, and several whales had been taken—every one was actively engaged, for when the operation of flensing was not going on, the boats were generally away in chase of their prey.
Archy had hitherto always remained on board. He had long wished, however, to be present at one of the exciting scenes he had only witnessed from a distance. How to manage it was the difficulty. He knew that it would be of no use asking leave from the captain, or any of the boat-steerers, for idlers were not allowed in the boats. He had thought that he should at once engage in all the adventures described by Max, and was one day expressing his disappointment in his presence.
"They will come time enough," observed Max. "But if you have a fancy to see some sport, and may be to get tossed in the air, or drowned, or have to spend a night on a floe, and be well nigh frozen, as I have more than once, I'll give you a chance. You know that I am your friend, or I would not do it. Now, the next time a fall is called, do you tumble into my boat; I'll rail away if old Andrew sees you, but pretend you have hurt your leg and lie still, and depend upon it he will be in too great a hurry to shove off to put you on board again, and as the captain did not punish you for hiding away, he will not say much to you on that account."
Archy knew very well that he ought to have suspected Max's advice, but he was so eager to see a whale struck, that he forgot all other considerations. Hoping therefore that he might soon have the opportunity he desired, he turned into his bunk with his clothes on, ready to slip into the boat at a moment's notice. The ship was standing some distance off the land, and though the sea was generally open, here and there masses of ice were to be seen floating about from enormous icebergs down to small pieces of a few feet in diameter. Archy hoped that before long the boats would be lowered to go in chase of a whale. He tried to keep awake, but sleep soon overpowered him. He was aroused by hearing the sound of stamping overhead, and the looked for cry of "a fall, a fall." He sprang on deck, and without waiting to see whether he was observed, slipped into old Andrew's boat, in which Max pulled one of the oars, and throwing himself down in the bottom, remained perfectly still. The rest of the crew followed. Old Andrew was the last, having been detained longer than usual. The boat shoved off, and only then Max pretended to have discovered him. Andrew, on seeing the lad, was about to put back, but at that moment the spout of another whale was observed at no great distance. The crew, bending to their oars, pulled towards it; and Andrew, in the excitement of the moment, forgot all about Archy. The boat dashed on. A sucking whale was seen playing near the old one.
"We shall have her boys, we shall have her," shouted Andrew.
The whale discerned the approach of her foes, and diving down with her calf, disappeared.
"Give way lads, give way," cried Andrew, "she will not desert the young one."
He was right, though had the old whale been alone, she would soon have been miles away. The boat continued in the direction the whale had been seen to take, and in a short time the small animal again came to the surface to breathe. The boat was soon up to the animal, when its faithful mother rose also to afford it protection. The boat dashed up to it, and Andrew, going forward, plunged his unerring harpoon deep into its side. No sooner did the monster feel the wound than away she darted, towing the boat, the young whale keeping up with her. The crew pulled with might and main, hoping to get up alongside again in order to fix another harpoon, and to pierce her with their lances. They had nearly succeeded, when up went her tail in the air, and down she dived into the depths of ocean, her calf following her example. Immediately the whale line was allowed to run out; and, as the end was approached, another was fastened on. That too had nearly been drawn out, when the crew, lifting up their oars, made a signal for assistance from their companions, but they were already too far off to be seen, indeed the other boats were engaged with the whale first attacked.
"Hold on," shouted Andrew. "Though she might not come up by herself, the young one will, and she will follow."
He was right; for at the moment that the bow of the boat seemed about to be drawn under water, and the knife was lifted to cut the line, it slackened, and the young whale came to the surface some way ahead, followed immediately afterwards by its mother. Remaining stationary a short time to breathe, during which a portion of the line was hauled in, the monster again began to make her way along the surface.
"Rare fun!" exclaimed Archy, who was sitting near Max. "I would not have missed this on any account."
"We shall not be merry long if that bank of clouds to the north brings a gale with it," growled out Max.
Archy looked around; the sea, hitherto calm, was already ruffled with waves, and an icy breeze swept over the surface. Still no whaler, with a fish fast, would have thought of giving up the pursuit. Already the monster, wearied by its exertions, was slackening its speed; the crew began to haul in the line, the first was got in. They were already in the hopes of again wounding the animal mortally before she could once more sound, when inspired with a mother's instinct to do her utmost for the preservation of her young one, she again darted forward. A large floe appeared ahead, out of which arose several hummocks. The whale made rapid way towards it. The crew pulled with might and main, still hoping to reach her before she could dive below the ice. In vain were all their efforts. Still she went on. She reached the edge of the floe. It was possible she might turn or make her way along it, rather than venture with her young one below its surface, where they might be unable to find an opening for breathing. Again she stopped; as Andrew had expected. The crew continued to haul in the line, when once more she moved on, and it was necessary to secure it round the bollard.
"She is ours," cried Andrew; "she will not venture under the ice." The crew bent to their oars, hoping in another instant to be up with her, when, with a sudden start, she dashed forward. With great presence of mind Andrew cut the line, just in time to prevent the boat from being dragged under the floe, but not sufficiently soon to save her bows from being stove. The water came rushing in through the fearful rent that had been made. The crew leaped out on the ice, old Andrew seizing Archy, who, bewildered at the occurrence, had sat still. Already the boat was half full of water, and not without great difficulty she was hauled up on the ice, against which the sea was beating violently, and several articles were washed out of her. Archy had instinctively clutched a bucket by his side, to which he held when he was dragged out. It contained a tinder-box and powder flask.
There the whole party stood on the exposed floe by the side of their shattered boat. They looked around. Neither the ship nor the boats were to be seen, while the thick mist, which came driving over the ocean, concealed even some of the nearest icebergs from view. Two or three of the men loudly expressed their anxiety. Max's countenance exhibited the alarm he felt. Old Andrew alone preserved his usual equanimity.
"My lads," he said, "I'll allow we are in bad case, but don't let us give way to despair. We must do our best to repair the boat; and if the ship does not come to look for us, we must set out to look for her."
The injuries, however, that the boat had received were very severe, and it was evident that no means they had at their disposal were sufficient to repair her. Even a piece of canvas would have been of value, but they had no canvas and no nails. The sea, too, which had rapidly got up, now dashed furiously against the sides of the floe, threatening to sweep over it, and break it to pieces beneath their feet. Andrew looked around, and observing a large hummock at some distance, urged his companions to drag the boat towards it.
"Yonder ice hill will afford us some shelter," he said. "And if we make a signal from the top, it will be more readily seen than one down on the level."
The men exerting all their strength dragged the boat along, Archy helping, till they reached the hummock, she was then turned bottom uppermost under its lee. An axe having been saved, one of the oars was cut into lengths, which served to prop her up and afford them some shelter from the freezing wind. Two oars were also lashed together to serve as a flagstaff, and all the handkerchiefs that could be mustered were joined to form a flag. A hole, after much labour, was dug with the axe in the top of the hummock, and the flagstaff was planted, but the furious wind threatened every moment to blow it down again. The gale was increasing, and already they felt almost perished, but their great want was food. They had come away without breakfast, and no provisions had been put in the boat. Even should they be able to resist the gale, and should the floe continue together, they ran a fearful risk of perishing of hunger. The snow falling heavily formed a bank round the boat, and assisted to keep out the wind,—here they all collected, crouching down as close together as possible, for the sake of obtaining warmth from each other.
"If we had but a fire we might do pretty well till the ship comes to take us off," observed Max. "We have got some wood, at all events, and when that's gone we must burn the boat and form a roof of snow over our heads instead, after Esquimaux fashion."
No sooner was the proposal made than the remaining oars, boat-stretchers, and every piece of wood that could be found was cut up. Archy produced the tinder-box from the bucket, and in a short time a fire was blazing up, which served to warm their chilled limbs, and slightly to raise their spirits. Few of them, however, were disposed to talk much.
ANDREW SCOLLAY, A RELIGIOUS OLD MAN, ENCOURAGES HIS SHIPMATES IN THEIR FEARFUL POSITION, WITHOUT FOOD, FIRE, OR SHELTER.—ARCHY DISTINGUISHES BETWEEN HIS FALSE AND REAL FRIEND.—HE TAKES A RUN OVER THE ICE WITH ANDREW, WHEN A SAIL IS SEEN, AND AT LAST A BOAT APPROACHES.
Hour after hour passed by, and still there was no abatement of the storm. Loud noises meantime were heard around, denoting the breaking up of the floe on which they floated, and they could not tell how soon the portion on which they had taken refuge might be rent from the main body and floated away. Often did Archy wish that he had remained on board, and not exposed himself to the fearful danger in which he was placed. At length old Andrew spoke to him.
"Are you happy, boy?" he asked. "But you need not tell me—I know you are not. I am sorry to find you placed in this fearful position, but it was through your own fault—you chose to come against orders. It is bad for us, but then we came because it was our duty."
"I am sure I am very sorry I did come," answered Archy. "But I didn't think this would happen."
"People never know what will happen when they do what is wrong," said Andrew. "Satan tempts them to sin, and then leaves them to take the consequences. Lads, I speak to you all as I speak to this boy. Are you prepared to meet your God?"
"Why do you say that?" said Max, in a husky voice.
"Because I think, before many hours are over our heads, the summons will come," said Andrew, solemnly. "Any moment the ice may break up, and the sea may wash over us, or we may sit here till we die of cold and hunger."
"You are croaking," said Max. "Our captain is not the man to desert us."
"I am speaking the solemn truth," said Andrew. "The captain will do his best to search for us, but the gale will have driven the ship miles away by this time, and before she can get up to us we may be dead. I don't speak thus to frighten you, lads, but because I wish to see your souls saved. You may say that you are such sinners that there is no hope of that. I wish you did know that you are sinners. You heard the captain read to you the other day the account of the thief on the cross. He knew that he was a sinner, but he found the Saviour even at the last moment of his life. He trusted to Jesus, who saved him; and he had the assurance from the lips of that loving One, that he was saved. Jesus will say to you what He said to the thief on the cross, if you will even now turn to Him: 'Now is the day of grace, now is the day of salvation.' Oh, lads, I pray you to throw yourselves on His mercy, to trust to Him. His blood cleanseth from all sin."
The seamen listened attentively to what Andrew said: they had often heard similar words from the lips of the captain, but they were in safety then on board their stout ship, and they had allowed them to pass away unheeded. Now, although they still hoped to escape, they could not help acknowledging that they were in a fearfully perilous position. Still no one replied. What was passing in their minds Andrew could not tell. He continued, addressing them in the same strain for some time. Again and again he told them of the Saviour's love, and how earnestly He desired them to come to Him and be saved.
Archy, however, had drunk in every word Andrew had said.
"But would Jesus pardon me, who has so grievously offended Him?" he asked at last—"me, who have so often been told of His loving kindness and mercy?"
"Yes, lad, that He will," said Andrew, taking Archy's hand, "He has promised it, and His word is sure. He has sent us this blessed message:—'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.' He does not say from some sins, or from only slight sins, but from all sins."
"Oh, then, I'll try and give Him my heart," exclaimed Archy. "I'll trust to Him."
"Yes, do that, Archy; but give him your heart now—trust to Him now," said Andrew, earnestly. "We will pray, lad, that the Holy Spirit will help you, for He alone can carry out the work in your heart;" and the pious old man, kneeling down on the ice, lifted up his voice in prayer; and surely that prayer was not uttered in vain. Still, although the rest of the party made no response to his exhortations, he persevered; and from the loud crashing roar of the ice, as the broken fragments were dashed together, it seemed too likely that the day of grace for all would ere long be past. Hour after hour went by, and yet the portion of the floe on which they had taken refuge kept together. The storm continued to rage, and the snow still fell heavily. Piece after piece of the boat had been cut away its place being supplied with a wall and roof of snow, which the seamen gradually built up. They were beginning to feel the pangs of hunger, and they could scarcely get sufficient warmth from the small fire they were able to maintain to keep themselves from being frozen. It was near mid-summer. Had it been the winter they could not thus have existed many hours. Every now and then one of the party ran to the summit of the hillock in the hopes of seeing the ship. Still the falling snow shut out all but the nearest objects from view, and here and there alone a tall iceberg could be seen rising dimly amid the foaming seas. "No hope, no hope," was the mournful cry of one after the other, as they returned to the hut.
"Don't say there's no hope," observed old Andrew. "God can send us help, though we can't help ourselves. Oh, lads, I again say, and it may be for the last time, put your trust in Him. I don't tell you that He will send us relief. It may be His will that our bodies should perish on the spot where we are sitting; but I do tell you, that He offers to rescue your souls, and will certainly, if you put your trust in Him, not allow them to perish."
Archy sat close to old Andrew, listening attentively to what he said, he had now learned to distinguish between his real and false friend. How earnestly he wished that he had not been led astray by the evil counsel of the latter. The rest of the party sat silent, their countenances exhibiting the despair which had taken possession of their hearts. Their fuel was well nigh exhausted, and suffering from hunger they knew that they could not hold out long against the cold. Andrew proposed that they should let the fire out for a time, and warm themselves by exercise.
"We will then light it again, and it will enable us to lie down and rest without fear of being frozen," he observed.
To this wise advice the men would not agree.
"If die we must, we will keep warm while we can," growled out Max.
"Then, Archy, you and I will try and keep our blood flowing by using our limbs," said Andrew. "See, the snow has ceased falling, and there's less wind than there was."
This was said after they had spent many hours on the ice. How many they could scarcely tell, for no sun appeared to mark the progress of the day.
Andrew, taking his young companion's hand, rose, and together they went to the top of the hummock, and gazed around for a minute, though they could now see much further than before. No sail appeared to cheer their sight. They quickly descended, and Andrew, with the activity of a young man, ran backwards and forwards under the lee of the hummock. Archy felt the benefit of the exercise; but though his hunger had increased, his blood circulating freely, made him feel better able to endure the cold than before.
When at length they returned to the hut, they found the remaining pieces of wood burning, and that in a short time they would be left without any fire.
"If you had followed my advice it would have been better for us all," observed Andrew.
The men made no reply; they all appeared to have fallen into a state of stupor, and to have become indifferent to their fate. Andrew and Archy sat down to rest, and to enjoy the warmth of the fire, anxiously watching the last few pieces of wood as they were gradually consumed. The embers which they scraped together afforded them heat for some time longer—then, by degrees, those died out.
"It is our duty to hold out while we can, boy," said Andrew, when the last spark of the fire was extinguished. "Come and take another run."
Archy felt very weak and faint from want of food, still he endeavoured to exert himself. Again they visited the top of the hummock, but still no sail was to be seen. The sea tumbled and foamed, and the surrounding masses of ice ground and crashed against each other, and the floe on which they were appeared to have decreased in size, while huge blocks, thrown up by the waves, rested on its weather side. Even Andrew was unable to run backwards and forwards as fast as before, and again they sought shelter within the hut. No questions were asked them; indeed most of their companions appeared to be asleep. Andrew in vain tried to arouse them. Archy felt that he, too, should like to lie down and go to sleep; but from doing this Andrew used every effort to prevent him, and in a short time proposed that they should take another ran to the top of the hummock. With difficulty Archy followed him.
For some time the old man stood looking round in every direction, then his eyes rested on a particular spot to the northward, and Archy saw him raise his hands as if in prayer.
"Lad," he said suddenly, "look between those two icebergs. What do you see?"
Archy gazed with beating heart. "A sail! a sail!" he exclaimed.
"Yes—of that there's no doubt," said Andrew, calmly, "and may God direct her course towards us. She is at present standing this way; but should a whale be seen, she may steer in a different direction." They anxiously watched the approaching ship for some minutes.
"We will tell our companions," said Andrew—"the news will rouse them if they are not too far gone."
Archy forgetting his hunger, and no longer feeling his weakness, rushed back to the hut, shouting, "a sail! a sail!" Max, and two of the other men, started as the sound reached their ears, but before they had gained their feet they again sank down on the ice. After making several efforts, they were at length able to walk, having in the meantime aroused their companions, who, sitting up, looked around with bewildered glances, as if not comprehending the news they heard. Archy again ran back, Max and the rest, with tottering steps, trying to follow him. They succeeded at length, and as they saw the ship, almost frantic with joy, they shook each other's hands, and shouted and danced like mad people, their sufferings, their fears of death, were in a moment forgotten, and so probably also were any good resolutions they might have formed. How different was their behaviour to that of Andrew. Archy remarked it.
The ship came on with a strong breeze, threading her way amid the masses of ice in her course. She had got within a couple of miles. Still, unless the eyes of those on board were directed in their direction, the flag flying from the hummock might not be seen. She came nearer and nearer.
"She will not pass us now," cried Max.
"We will pray to God that she may not," said Andrew; but at that moment the vessel was seen to haul her wind, and to stand to the westward. A loud groan of bitter disappointment was uttered by Max and the other men.
"God's will be done," said Andrew. "See, mates, she has hove-to, she is lowering her boat. They are after a fish."
With what eagerness did the eyes of the starving seamen watch the ship. It was impossible to say in what direction she might next steer. They no longer felt cold or hunger.
"See, see, what is that?" cried one of the men, as a dark object was discovered darting out from behind the nearest iceberg.
Directly afterwards a boat was seen fast to a whale, and following in its wake. The whale approached the floe, but while still at some distance its flukes were seen to rise in the air, and down it shot into the ocean. Although those on the ice knew that they were too far off to be heard, they shouted again and again, their voices sounding strangely hollow in each other's ears. The first line had apparently been run out from the boat; a second had been bent on; that, too, came to an end. They could see the four oars lifted up as a signal for assistance from the ship. Once more the boat approached them at a rapid rate, dragged on by the whale. It was evident she was in great distress, and that her crew dreaded the fate they themselves had suffered. Suddenly she stopped—the line had been cut. Would they turn away? No, the crew bend to their oars—the boat-steerer stands up and waves. They are seen—help will come to them. Again the cheer.
"Let us thank God, for He has sent yonder boat to our assistance," said Andrew.
RESCUED!—ON BOARD THE "LAPLANDER" WHALER, WHICH IS NEARLY FULL, AND EXPECTS SOON TO RETURN HOME.—MAX INKSTER TRIES TO UNDERMINE ARCHY'S GOOD RESOLUTIONS, BUT THE LATTER REMEMBERS THAT "A FRIEND IN NEED IS A FRIEND INDEED."—SAIL FOR HOME.—A TEMPTING CHANNEL APPEARING, IT IS ENTERED, BUT THE SHIP IS NIPPED, AND THE "LAPLANDER" IS ABANDONED.— ESCAPE TO THE FLOE WITH ONLY A FEW CLOTHES AND PROVISIONS, WHEN A PLAN IS FORMED FOR REACHING THE COAST OF GREENLAND.
The boat had some distance to pull before a spot could be found where she could safely approach the ice on the lee side of the floe.
Max and the two other men, regardless of their almost dead companions in the hut, were hurrying down towards her, when Andrew called them back. "Shame on you," he exclaimed. "Would you leave the poor fellows to perish for the sake of sooner putting food into your own mouths? Come, help them along, they want it more than we do."
The men thus summoned, returned and assisted Andrew and Archy, who were dragging their nearly insensible shipmates over the ice. At length they reached the edge, and were cordially welcomed by the crew of the boat, who made all speed to return to their ship the "Laplander." She was almost full, they said, and they hoped soon to return home.
The rescued men, on being lifted on board, were at once put under the doctor's care,—for even Andrew and Archy, who had hitherto held out so bravely, felt all their strength leave them directly they reached the boat. They, however, in a couple of days were sufficiently recovered to go on deck and mix with the crew.
Archy found the "Laplander" a very different vessel to the "Kate." The captain was a bold brave seaman, but he was nothing else. There were no Sunday services, no prayer-meetings, no lending library of religious books, but there was much swearing and ungodliness among the crew.
Max, who quickly forgot the fearful danger in which he had been placed, and his providential preservation, did his utmost to laugh Archy out of his good resolutions.
"I wonder a lad of spirit like you can listen to the long sermons of old Andrew," he said to him one day while Andrew was out of hearing. "I never could stand those preaching fellows."
"But Andrew kept his courage up, and did his best to preserve my life, while you and the rest gave way to despair," answered Archy. "You cannot say that he is not a brave man, though he does preach long sermons."
"Yes, he is brave, I'll allow," said Max.
"Then tell me, what do you think makes him brave?" asked Archy.
"He is naturally brave, I suppose," replied Max.
"Now, I think that it is because he trusts in God, and believes that God will take care of him," said Archy firmly. "And he knows that if he should lose his life that he will go to heaven. That's my opinion of the matter."
"Your opinion, indeed," exclaimed Max scornfully. "I should like to know what business a fellow like you has to form an opinion," and Max turned away, unable further to answer the boy, whom he had hitherto so easily led. He took every opportunity after this of annoying Archy, and incited his godless companions to do the same.
Archy often wished that he was on board the "Kate" again, and anxiously looked out in the hopes of falling in with her. The captain had been much put out by the loss of the whale and two lines when they had been rescued, and seemed to associate them in some way with the circumstance. A few days afterwards the watch below were aroused with the welcome cry of "a fall! a fall!" a whale was fast. The remaining boats pulled away, and in a few hours the captain's good humour was restored by having the whale alongside. All hands were now in high spirits. "One fish more, and hurrah for old England," was the cry.
Several days passed away without any further success. In vain Andrew and Archy looked out for the "Kate." The season was advancing, still the captain of the "Laplander," anxious to get a full ship, cruised backwards and forwards in the hopes of killing one fish more. At length that object was attained, but one of the boats was knocked to pieces, and two of her crew drowned. The huge monster was secured alongside with all haste, the blubber was got on board, and the instant the carcase was cut adrift, the crew giving three shouts of joy at being full, sail was made, and the ship stood to the southward.
The ice, as she proceeded, gathered thickly around her. Boldly, however, she pushed on through the passages which appeared between the floes. Now she was threading a narrow lane of water, now sailing across an open lake, but still on every side appeared those threatening fields of ice, which might at any moment enclose her in their deadly embrace. The captain, or one of the mates, was constantly in the crow's-nest, looking out for the most open passages ahead, through which the ship might be steered.
They had sailed on for some distance, when the ice on either side was seen to be moving. A tempting channel, however, appeared before them. The "Laplander" sailed into it. She had scarcely entered when the opposite floes began to approach each other. Still the breeze was strong and fair, and the captain hoped that he might be able to push through into an open space beyond before they could close. Nearer and nearer they came to each other, till the broad passage assumed the appearance of a narrow canal. It was at length seen that escape was impossible. The sails were furled, the ship was secured to the floe on one side, and an attempt was made to cut a dock in which she might remain while the inevitable concussion took place. Almost before the ice-saws could be got out and set to work, a loud crashing roaring sound was heard. The floes meeting with terrific force, vast masses rose up in the air, huge fragments being thrown upon each other, till in one instant a ridge, reaching almost to the height of the ship's tops, was formed. The seamen, not waiting for the captain's orders, seized their bags and bedding, and whatever they could lay hands on, and leaped out on the ice.
"Follow me, Archy," cried Andrew, seizing a bag of biscuits, and throwing a couple of blankets over his shoulder. "In another minute the ship may be crushed to fragments."
Archy lowered himself down with Andrew on to the ice, and with the rest of the crew they hurried away from the ship. Scarcely had they left her when the floes closed in, and vast masses of ice were seen rising up around her, the rending and crashing sound of her stout timbers telling them too plainly of her fate. Not till they had got some distance did the fugitives venture to stop and watch what was going forward. The masts were seen to totter, and large fragments of wreck were thrown on either side over the surface. The captain, as he saw the destruction of his vessel, wrung his hands with despair, while dismay was depicted on the countenances of his crew. So sudden had been the nip, that except the clothes on their backs and the bedding they carried under their arms, nothing had been saved. As yet too, the danger of approaching the wreck was too great to allow of the attempt being made, for the ice, pressing closer and closer, continued to throw up vast slabs, beneath which any one going near the spot might in an instant have been crushed. Suddenly the tall masts fell with a crash, and the whole upper part of the ship was cast in fragments on to the ice. For several minutes the seamen stood aghast, till the floes having accomplished their work, remained at rest. Andrew was the first to speak.
"Lads," he said, "I have seen this sort of thing occur before, and I and all with me reached home in safety, so may we now if we exert ourselves; may be the boats have escaped, and the provisions and stores may have been thrown up on the ice. I for one am ready to go back to the wreck and see what has been saved."
Several of the men agreed to accompany Andrew, and they made their way among the masses of ice which strewed the surface. Their search was in part satisfactory. Two of the boats had escaped injury, while their chests and a large portion of the provisions and stores which had been on the upper deck, were found scattered about. The officers, arousing themselves, now followed the example which Andrew had set. While one party were employed in collecting provisions, another cut the sails from the yards, which had been thrown on the ice, and erected tents in which they might shelter themselves from the piercing wind. Others chopped up wood, and fires were lighted. Some time was thus occupied, and at length an encampment was formed, with all the stores and provisions which had been collected piled up around, and the weary seamen were able to rest from their labours. A consultation was now held as to the means to be taken for preserving their lives. The boats could only carry a portion of their number, even should the ice again open and allow them to escape. As far as could be seen, it had closed in on every side, and probably they would have to drag them many long leagues before the open water could be gained. The land, by the captain's calculation, was upwards of fifty miles away, but the Danish settlements, where they could obtain assistance, were much further off. At the same time, it was possible that they might find another vessel fast in the ice nearer at hand, which might afford them shelter. One thing only was certain, that they must lose no time in making preparations for their journey. Unhappily, the captain, disheartened by the destruction of his ship, was incapable of exerting himself. Although a good seaman, he was destitute of that higher courage which a confidence in God's superintending care can alone give. He sat in his tent, with his head resting on his hands, for many hours, gazing toward the wreck, without issuing any orders. The officers differed from each other as to what was best to be done, while many of the crew exhibited a mutinous disposition, and assembled altogether in a tent which they had erected for themselves. Collecting a quantity of the smaller fragments of the wreck, they made up a large fire within, around which they sat, cooking some of the provisions which they had appropriated from the common store.
Archy, from the time of leaving the ship, had kept close to Andrew, and assisted him in whatever work he was engaged on. While, however, he was collecting wood at a short distance from the camp, Max came up to him.
"Well, Archy," he said, "I see old Andrew intends to make you work for him; that's his reason for keeping you by his side. Now, boy, if I were you I would not be led by the nose. Come and join us. I'll own I had a hand in getting you into this scrape, and I wish to help you out of it. I and some of the other men have formed a plan to make our escape, and it's my opinion that those who remain here will lose their lives. That can't be helped, you see, for it's impossible that all should be saved, and as I am your friend I don't wish to leave you behind. Come along now, we have got a roaring fire inside there, and the fellows will let you join them if I ask them." Max pointed to the tent of the mutineers.
"I promised to stay by Andrew," said Archy. "Unless he goes I can't join you."
"I'll see about asking him by-and-bye," said Max.
"What do you propose doing, then?" asked Archy.
"Making off with the boats," answered Max. "It's the only chance we have of saving our lives, and we shall be sure to reach one of the Danish places on the coast."
"What, you would not desert old Andrew?" exclaimed Archy.
"Oh, of course not," answered Max, in a tone which made Archy suspect him, especially when he added, "Mark me, my lad, if you let old Andrew or any of the rest know of what I have been saying to you, there are some among us who would not scruple a moment to knock you on the head. Remember my words. I ask you again, will you come with us?"
"No," answered Archy firmly. "I promised to stick by Andrew, and I am not going to desert him."
"Then take the consequences," exclaimed Max angrily, "and remember, hold your tongue, or it will be the worse for you."
Archy saw him return to the tent; but the men who crowded round the fire seemed very unwilling to allow him a place among them, and Archy suspected that had he listened to Max he should have had very little chance of getting near it either.
On rejoining Andrew, Archy refrained from mentioning what Max had said, as there were several other persons within hearing, and, indeed, not till some time afterwards did he find his friend alone. Andrew, with some of the better disposed men, and a few of the officers, had taken up their quarters in a tent, and were now collected round a fire in the centre of it, though a much smaller one than that formed by the men. Andrew made room for Archy by his side. While they were discussing their supper, they agreed that they would form a number of sledges with runners for the boats, and placing the provisions and tents, with guns and ammunition on them, and such other stores as they might require, set off without further delay for the land. No one seemed to suspect the treachery meditated by Max and his party. The carpenter's chest had fortunately been saved, and while one party assisted him in collecting wood and forming the sledges and runners, others were engaged in doing up the provisions and stores in packages of a size suitable for being carried on the sledges. The mutineers even assisted, and were especially busy in fitting runners to the boats.
Some progress had been made in the work, when night coming on compelled them to desist from their labours, and take shelter in their respective tents. Archy, as he lay down to sleep, began to think that in spite of the threats of Max he ought to have told Andrew what he had said.
"To-morrow morning will be time enough," he thought, and he was soon asleep.
MUTINY! MOST OF THE CREW CARRYING THE GREATER PART OF THE PROVISIONS, SET OFF WITHOUT THE OTHERS.—PROPOSALS FOR PURSUIT, BUT NOT CARRIED OUT, AND AT LAST THE REMAINDER COMMENCE THEIR JOURNEY ACROSS THE ICE, MEETING WITH GREAT DIFFICULTIES.—THE CAPTAIN BECOMES ILL, BUT IS CHEERED BY ANDREW.—HE AT LENGTH DIES, AFTER ANDREW HAS PLACED BEFORE HIM THE TRUTH, WHICH HE ACCEPTS.—HE IS BURIED IN A SNOW TOMB.
Archy was awakened by hearing one of the officers, who had gone out of the tent, exclaim, "Why, what have become of the boats?" The rest of the inmates of the tents were quickly on foot. They looked around. Far away in the distance two dark spots could be seen on the ice. Andrew and several others ran to the tent of the mutineers—it was empty. The fire had burnt a hole in the ice and disappeared. Had it not been for those objects far off they might have supposed that the sleepers had gone in with it and been drowned. The provisions were next examined— the packages prepared for travelling had greatly diminished. Several, indignant at being thus deserted, proposed setting off in pursuit of the fugitives.
"They have fire-arms with them, and you will not get them to come back, lads," said the captain, who had come out of his tent.
In spite of his warnings, and the advice of Andrew, who urged that it was better to let them go, a number of men, and two of the officers, started away, vowing that they would bring back the mutineers, and punish them for their treachery.
At first, the party thus deserted seemed inclined to give way to despair, and Archy more than ever regretted that he had not warned his friends of the intended treachery.
"Come along, lads, to the wreck," exclaimed Andrew. "Perhaps we may find another boat, which we may be able to repair, and some more provisions to replace those carried off."
Thus appealed to, the carpenter, with several men, set off with Andrew to the wreck, Archy accompanying his friend. After climbing over a number of huge masses of ice, they made their way to the opposite floe, which was now firmly united to the one it had struck. Here they found a quantity of the wreck scattered about, as well as several casks of meat and biscuits, and wedged between two slabs, the smallest boat, which had hung at the stern. The carpenter, on examining her, expressed his hopes that by fastening canvas round her, he could make her float sufficiently to enable them to pass from one floe to another, should they meet any open channels in their course. This discovery raised their spirits. The party immediately hastened back to their companions with the news. It was agreed that they should at once move across to the floe, with the tents and provisions, and forming a new encampment, go on with the work of preparing the sledges. Frequently as they went backwards and forwards, they looked out for the return of the party who had gone in pursuit of the mutineers. The latter had got far out of sight before they could have been overtaken. What had become of the pursuers no one could say. Some supposed that the two parties had united and gone on together, while others fancied that they had fought, and that those who had been defeated had been left alone on the ice, while the victors had pushed on with the boats.
The whole day was occupied in moving to the new encampment, and it was nearly dark before their tents were erected and other preparations made for passing the night. The wind had latterly increased greatly, and clouds had been collecting to the north. Scarcely had they got under shelter when the snow began to fall heavily, and the sharp wind swept across the icy plain with terrific force.
"Archy, we may be thankful that we are not with those poor fellows who deserted us," observed Andrew as they sat together round the fire in their tent. "It will be a mercy if any of them escape even if they reached the open water before nightfall, and it's my opinion that they will not have done that."
"They deserve their fate, whatever it may be," growled out one of the men.
"Ah, friend, we all deserve far more than we receive," said Andrew. "If God was to treat us according to our merits, the best of us could only look for punishment. Let us pray that He will have mercy on them as well as on us. Oh, mates, I wish you could all understand the great love which God has for us poor sinners. We exposed ourselves of our own free choice to the danger and hardship we have to endure, but He in His mercy offers us free salvation and eternal happiness for our souls. He gave Jesus Christ to suffer instead of us, and it's our own fault if we do not accept His precious gift. All He asks us to do is to trust to His love, and believe that Jesus died for us and that His blood washes away all our sins."
Several of Andrew's companions listened with deep earnestness to his words, and on that bleak floe, and amid those arctic snows, believed to the salvation of their souls.
All night long the wind swept by them, the snow fell faster and faster, but they heeded not the tempest. A bright light had burst upon them, and they could look forward with hope to the future, trusting to that God of love and mercy whom they had hitherto only known as a stern and severe judge.
When morning broke all hands set to work to clear away the snow, which had covered up the boat and everything left outside the tents. The wind, however, had ceased, and they were able to go on with their labours, and by the evening the sledges were completed and the boat prepared and placed on runners. They were then loaded, that the party might be ready to start the following morning on their journey. Twice during the day, Andrew with several of the other men had gone over to the old encampment to ascertain if any of those who had deserted them had come back. They cast their eyes in vain over the wide snow-covered plain,—not a trace of a human being could be seen. It was too probable that all had perished. More than half the ship's company had thus been lost.
The night was passed in comparative comfort. They had well-formed tents, abundance of bedding, and ample fires. All knew that in future the case would be very different. The sledges were chiefly loaded with provisions. They were obliged to reduce their tents to the smallest possible size, and they could carry but a limited supply of fuel. There were five sledges in all, each drawn by four men, while six men were harnessed to the boat, in which the old captain, who was unable to walk, was placed. Andrew joined the latter party, and Archy, on account of his youth, was excused from dragging a sledge,—he, however, carried his blankets and some provisions on his back, each man being also loaded in the same way. The snow having partially melted under the still hot rays of the sun, had again frozen, and had filled up all inequalities in the ice. This enabled the party to drag the sledges along during the first day without difficulty. They had, however, to make frequent circuits to avoid the hummocks, which in some places were very numerous. They calculated by nightfall that they had advanced nearly twelve miles on their journey towards the coast. The uneven appearance of the ice beyond them, interspersed in many places with huge icebergs, warned them that in future they could not hope to advance so rapidly.