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Archibald Hughson: An Arctic Story

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  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 thenorth 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 awhaling ship, the "Kate", just parting for Greenland, where there is anabundance of whales.

  The Captain is very kind, and accepts the situation. But one day whenthe boats are sent out in search of whales Archy stows away again, tosee the fun. This does not work out too well, as the boat they are inis stove in, and its occupants have to jump helpless onto the ice. Theyare rescued by another whaling ship, the "Laplander", but this in turnis beset by the ice and broken to splinters.

  Some of the people, including Archy, after walking a long way over theice, make it back to the "Kate", now herself beset by ice. However, inspite of illness among the crew, they eventually get free, and manage toget the vessel, in a not very seaworthy condition, back to Shetland.

  ________________________________________________________________________ARCHIBALD HUGHSON, THE YOUNG SHETLANDER--AN ARCTIC STORY, BY W.H.G.KINGSTON.



  "Where are you going, Archy?" asked Maggie Hughson, as she ran after herbrother, who was stealing away from the house, evidently not wishing tobe intercepted.

  The young Hughson's home stood high up on the slope of a hill on thesmall island of Bressay, one of the Shetland group. Hence the eyeranged over the northern ocean, while to the eastward appeared the isleof Noss, with the rocky Holm of Noss beyond, the abode of numberlesssea-fowl, and to be reached by a rope-way cradle over a broad chasm offearful depth. The house, roofed with stone, and strongly-built, as itneeded 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 headstrongand obstinate, he loved her more than any other human being.

  "I am going over to Lerwick to see Max Inkster," he answered, lookingback at her. "The `Kate' sails to-morrow, and I promised him a visitbefore he goes."

  "Oh, surely you don't forget that our mother told you she wished youwould not have anything to say to that man!" exclaimed Maggie. "He isbad 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 hearhis tales of the sea, and his adventures when chasing the whale, orhunting white bears, and those sort of things away in Greenland, andperhaps some day I may go to sea myself, and I want to know what sort ofa 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 ourmother's heart to have you go. You know that our father was lost atsea, and so was uncle Magnus, and many other relations and friends. Godwill 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," exclaimedArchy. "Max is a fine fellow, notwithstanding what you say. He isexpecting 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, whichyou are so fond of talking about."

  Maggie, finding that her arguments were of no avail, returned home, asshe 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 frombeneath a large stone, he pulled out a bundle, which he slung at the endof a stick over his shoulder, and proceeded across the island till hecame to the shore of the sound which divides it from the mainland.Several large black high-sided ships lay at anchor, with numerous boatshanging to the davits, and mostly barque-rigged. They were whalers,belonging to Hull and other English and Scotch ports, on their way toBaffin Bay, or the shores of Greenland.

  Archy found a boat just about to cross the sound to Lerwick, and, askingfor a passage, he jumped in. On landing, he made his way to the housewhere Max Inkster lodged. The door was open. Archy walked in. Max wasalone in a little room on one side of the passage; he was smoking, and abottle and glass were on the table.

  "Glad to see you, lad," he said. "Sit down. I doubted that you wouldcome."

  "Why?" asked Archy.

  "I thought your mother and sister would advise you to keep away from afellow like me," answered Max, looking hard at his young guest. He wasa strongly-built broad-shouldered man, with an unpleasant expression inhis weather-beaten countenance.

  "My mother is ill, and did not know I was coming, and I am not going tobe dictated to by Maggie," said Archy.

  "That's the right spirit, boy," said Max. "If they suspect what youintend doing, they will take good care to prevent you."

  "I don't intend to let them know," replied Archy. "But I wish motherwas not ill. I am half inclined to stop at home till next season, andthen I'll do what I choose, whatever they may say."

  "I see how it is," observed Max, with a sneer on his lips. "You arebeginning to think we lead too hard a life for you, and you would ratherbe looking after the cows, and being at the beck and call of mistressMaggie. I thought you had more spirit. You are afraid--that's thetruth of it."

  "No one shall say I am afraid," exclaimed Archy. "I have asked severalcaptains to take me, but they refused without my mother's leave, andthat she won't give, just because my father and uncle Magnus were lostat 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 bundleof clothes."

  "No great stock for a voyage to the Arctic Seas; but we must rig you outwhen you get on board," observed Max, taking up Archy's bundle, andstowing it away in a large seaman's bag which stood in the corner of theroom. "You will have to keep pretty close till we are well clear of theland, or the captain will be for putting you on shore again. Here, takea glass of grog, it will help to keep up your courage." Max mixed astrong glass of whisky and water, and pushed it across the table toArchy.

  Archy's scruples soon vanished. He now only thought of the adventureshe hoped to meet with among the icebergs.

  Max had gained his object. From a quarrel which had occurred yearsbefore, he had long harboured an ill-feeling towards the Hughson's; and,for the purpose of thwarting and annoying Mrs Hughson, he was ready toencourage Archy in his disobedience to her. When once a person yieldsto the suggestions of Satan, he knows not into what crimes he may behurried. Those who associate with unprincipled people run a fearfulrisk of being led astray by them. Archy, notwithstanding his mother'swarnings, had persisted in visiting Max Inkster, for the sake of hearinghis long yarns of nautical adventure, and he would at first have beenexcessively indignant had he been told that he was likely, inconsequence, to be led into any further act of disobedience.

  "Did any one see you come in here?" asked Max. "No; Nanny Clousta wasout, and no one was passing at the time," answered Archy.

  "Well, then, stay quiet here till dark, and I'll take you on board, andstow you away in the hold," said Max. "You must remain there till Igive you a signal to come out; but, remember, that you are not to tellthe captain or any one else that I had a hand in helping you. Just saythat you sli
pped on board in a shore boat, and hid yourself of your ownaccord. You will promise me that?"

  Archy had not been in the habit of telling falsehoods; but he hadalready 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 onboard, and I can find my own way below, so there's no necessity tomention your name."

  "That's it," said Max. "You will want some food, though. Here, justfill your pockets with this bread and cheese." He took some from acupboard. "And here is a flask of whisky and water. You may have tolie hid for a couple of days, or more, may be; so you must manage yourprovisions accordingly."

  Max went out, and Archy fell asleep, with his head on the table. It waslate at night before his evil councillor returned.

  "Rouse up, boy," he whispered. "It's time we were aboard. I have got aman 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. Archystaggered on under it till he reached the boat. The boatman, who hadbeen 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 andtheir friends were constantly coming and going, no notice was taken ofthem. Max took up his bag, and as he passed up the main hatchway, whichwas open, having ascertained that there was no one below, he made a signto Archy to slip down the ladder.

  "I'll be with you in a few minutes," he whispered. "No one is likely togo there at this hour."

  Archy did as he was bid, and felt his way in the dark, till he foundhimself among the empty casks in the hold, which were stowed ready foruse. There were certain spaces between the tiers which would afford himroom to hide himself away. Into one of these he crept, and lay downwaiting for Max. He fancied that where he was he should not be seen byanyone moving about the hold, unless expressly looking for him. Hethought that Max was a long time in coming, and perhaps would not comeat all. On the return of daylight, which would stream down through theopen hatchway, should he not be discovered? he thought. The crew wouldcertainly be at work at an early hour, and he might not have time tofind a more secure hiding-place. Then he would have to undergo theannoyance and disgrace of being put on shore, and severely reprimandedby the captain, a very severe man, he had been told. At last he heardsome one moving, and presently a light fell on his eyes. He was afraidto stir, almost to breathe, lest he should be discovered.

  "Well, if I had not come you would have been hauled out to a certaintyin the morning," said Max, who had only just then been able to pay himhis promised visit. "You must come down lower than this. Here, keepafter me. Now crawl in there, and don't come out till you hear threeblows, which I'll give on the casks above your head. You will know bythe movement of the ship when we have been at sea a couple of days orso. There; now you have got your will. Here's your bundle; it willserve as a pillow, and, remember, don't take any notice of me. I amyour friend, but I am not a man who chooses to be trifled with." Sayingthis, Max, putting out the lantern, crept away, and Archy was left insolitude and total darkness. The liquor his evil councillor had givenhim made him sleepy, so he could not think. Otherwise his consciencemight have been aroused, and he might have recollected his poor motherlying on a bed of sickness, and his affectionate sister watching for hisreturn. Satan knows that he has his victims secure when they are inthat condition.

  Archy Hughson was at length awakened by the loud tramp of the crew ondeck, the boats being hoisted in, the anchor hove up. He could hear theripple of the water against the sides of the ship. The "Kate" was underway, but she was not yet even out of Bressay Sound. The hours passedby. He began to grow very weary of his imprisonment, and to long forthe expected signal from Max, even though he should soon afterwards haveto face the captain, and perhaps be punished for having concealedhimself on board. As he thought of this, he began to wish he had waitedtill 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 andanxiety his absence must cause his mother, who, though over-indulgent,had ever been affectionate and kind to him. Still he did not perceivethe wickedness of his own heart, or the cruel ingratitude of which hehad been guilty. "She should have let me go, it's her own fault," herepeated, hardening himself. "It's too late now to draw back. I shouldlook very foolish if I was to be set on shore on Unst, and have to findmy way home by myself."

  Unst is the most northern of the Shetland Islands, and Archy guessedthat by that time the "Kate" was not far off it.

  He had little appetite to eat the food he had brought, but he soon drankup the contents of the flask. The mixture was somewhat strong, and senthim off to sleep again. Once more Satan had him at an advantage, foreven 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'sanxiety. Undo it he could not; for a sin, once committed, can never byman's power be undone, never forgiven. All sin is committed againstGod--the slightest evil thought, the slightest departure from truth, issin against God's pure and holy law, and He alone can forgive sin. Heforgives it only according to the one way He has appointed. He blots itout altogether from remembrance. That way is through faith in theperfect and complete atonement of Jesus Christ, whose blood, shed forman, "cleanseth from all sin." There is no other way. He accepts noother recompense for sin. There is no undoing a sin, no making amends.All sins, from such as those which men call the smallest to thegreatest, are registered, to be brought up in judgment against thesinner, 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 hissorrow 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 forthe wrong he has done him; he will restore what he has taken; he willexplain the truth where he has spoken falsely; he will be kind andgentle to those he has treated harshly; he will give to those of hissubstance, or forward their interests whom he has injured in any way.But all this cannot blot out one letter in the eternal register ofaccusations to be brought against him at the day of judgment. Oh! thatpeople did but know this, and would remember that when they sin they sinnot only against their fellow-man, but against the all-pure, all-holyGod, who can by no means overlook iniquity; in whose sight even theheavens are unclean, without whose knowledge not a sparrow falls to theground, and by whom the very hairs of our head are numbered.