"Ay, that's true enough," replied the sailor, with an easy smile of patronage; "we call it writing."
A look of grave perplexity rested on the visage of the Eskimo.
"It's quite easy when you understand it, and know how to do it," continued Rooney; "nothing easier."
A humorous look chased away the Eskimo's perplexity as he replied—
"Everything is easy when you understand it."
"Ha! you have me there, Angut," laughed the sailor; "you're a 'cute fellow, as the Yankees say. But come, I'll try to show you how easy it is. See here." He pulled a small note-book from his pocket, and drew thereon the picture of a walrus. "Now, you understand that, don't you?"
"Yes; we draw like that, and understand each other."
"Well, then, we put down for that w-a-l-r-u-s; and there you have it— walrus; nothing simpler!"
The perplexed look returned, and Angut said—
"That is not very easy to understand. Yet I see something—always the same marks for the same beast; other marks for other beasts?"
"Just so. You've hit it!" exclaimed Rooney, quite pleased with the intelligence of his pupil.
"But how if it is not a beast?" asked the Eskimo. "How if you cannot see him at all, yet want to tell of him in—in—what did you say— writing? I want to send marks to my mother to say that I have talked with my torngak. How do you mark torngak? I never saw him. No man ever saw a torngak. And how do you make marks for cold, for wind, for all our thoughts, and for the light?"
It was now Red Rooney's turn to look perplexed. He knew that writing was easy enough to him who understands it, and he felt that there must be some method of explaining the matter, but how to go about the explanation to one so utterly ignorant did not at once occur to him. We have seen, however, that Rooney was a resolute man, not to be easily baffled. After a few moments' thought he said—
"Look here now, Angut. Your people can count?"
"Yes; they can go up to twenty. I can go a little further, but most of the Innuits get confused in mind beyond twenty, because they have only ten fingers and ten toes to look at."
"Well now," continued Rooney, holding up his left hand, with the fingers extended, "that's five."
Yes, Angut understood that well.
"Well, then," resumed Rooney, jotting down the figure 5, "there you have it—five. Any boy at school could tell you what that is."
The Eskimo pondered deeply and stared. The other Eskimos did the same.
"But what," asked Okiok, "if a boy should say that it was six, and not five?"
"Why, then we'd whack him, and he'd never say that again."
There was an explosion of laughter at this, for Eskimos are tender and indulgent to their children, and seldom or never whack them.
It would be tedious to go further into this subject, or to describe the ingenious methods by which the seaman sought to break up the fallow ground of Angut's eminently receptive mind. Suffice it to say that Rooney made the discovery that the possession of knowledge is one thing, and the power to communicate it another and a very different thing. Angut also came to the conclusion that, ignorant as he had thought himself to be, his first talk with the Kablunet had proved him to be immeasurably more ignorant than he had supposed.
The sailor marked the depression which was caused by this piece of knowledge, and set himself good-naturedly to counteract the evil by displaying his watch, at sight of which there was a wild exclamation of surprise and delight from all except Angut, who, however deep his feelings might be, always kept them bridled. The expansion of his nostrils and glitter of his eyes, however, told their tale, though no exclamation passed his lips.
Once or twice, when Rooney attempted to explain the use of the instrument, the inquisitive man was almost irresistibly led to put some leading questions as to the nature of Time; but whenever he observed this tendency, the sailor, thinking that he had given him quite enough of philosophy for one evening, adroitly turned him off the scent by drawing particular attention to some other portion of the timepiece.
The watch and the knife, to which they reverted later on, kept the lecturer and audience going till late in the evening, by which time our sailor had completely won the hearts of the Eskimos, and they had all become again so hungry that Okiok gave a hint to his wife to stir up the lamp and prepare supper. Then, with a sigh of relief, they all allowed their strained minds to relax, and the conversation took a more general turn. It is but fair to add that, as the sailor had won the hearts of the natives, so his heart had been effectually enthralled by them. For Angut, in particular, Rooney felt that powerful attraction which is the result of similar tastes, mutual sympathies, and diversity of character. Rooney had a strong tendency to explain and teach; Angut a stronger tendency to listen and learn. The former was impulsive and hasty; the latter meditative and patient. Rooney was humorously disposed and jovial, while his Eskimo friend, though by no means devoid of humour, was naturally grave and sedate. Thus their dispositions formed a pleasing contrast, and their tastes an agreeable harmony.
"What did you say was the name of your country?" asked Angut, during a brief pause in the consumption of the meal.
"England," said Rooney.
"That was not the name you told me before."
"True; I suppose I said Ireland before, but the fact is, I can scarcely claim it as my own, for you see my father was Irish and my mother was Scotch. I was born in Wales, an' I've lived a good bit o' my life in England. So you see I can't claim to be anything in particular."
As this was utterly incomprehensible to the Eskimo, he resumed his bit of blubber without saying a word. After a brief silence, he looked at the Kablunet again, and said—
"Have they houses in your land?"
"Houses? O yes; plenty of 'em—made of stone."
"Like the summer-houses of the Innuit, I suppose?" said Angut. "Are they as big?"
Rooney laughed at this, and said, Yes; they were much bigger—as big as the cliffs alongside.
"Huk!" exclaimed the Eskimos in various tones. Okiok's tone, indeed, was one of doubt; but Angut did not doubt his new friend for a moment, though his credulity was severely tested when the seaman told him that one of the villages of his countrymen covered a space as big as they could see—away to the very horizon, and beyond it.
"But, Angut," said Rooney, growing somewhat weary at last, "you've asked me many questions; will you answer a few now?"
"I will answer."
"I have heard it said," began the sailor, "that Angut is a wise man—an angekok—among his people, but that he denies the fact. Why does he deny it?"
The Eskimo exchanged solemn glances with his host, then looked round the circle, and said that some things could not be explained easily. He would think first, and afterwards he would talk.
"That is well said," returned Rooney. "'Think well before you speak' is a saying among my own people."
He remained silent for a few moments after that, and observed that Okiok made a signal to his two boys. They rose immediately, and left the hut.
"Now," said Okiok, "Angut may speak. There are none but safe tongues here. My boys are good, but their tongues wag too freely."
"Yes, they wag too freely," echoed Mrs Okiok, with a nod.
Thus freed from the danger of being misreported, Angut turned to the seaman, and said—
"I deny that I am an angekok, because angekoks are deceivers. They deceive foolish men and women. Some of them are wicked, and only people-deceivers. They do not believe what they teach. Some of them are self-deceivers. They are good enough men, and believe what they teach, though it is false. These men puzzle me. I cannot understand them."
The Eskimo became meditative at this point, as if his mind were running on the abstract idea of self-delusion. Indeed he said as much. Rooney admitted that it was somewhat puzzling.
"I suppose," resumed the Eskimo, "that Kablunets never deceive themselves or others; they are too wise. Is it so?"
"Well, now you put the question," said Rooney, "I rather fear that some of us do, occasionally; an' there's not a few who have a decided tendency to deceive others. And so that is the reason you won't be an angekok, is it? Well, it does you credit. But what sort o' things do they believe, in these northern regions, that you can't go in with? Much the same, I fancy, that the southern Eskimos believe?"
"I know not what the southern Eskimos believe, for I have met them seldom. But our angekoks believe in torngaks, familiar spirits, which they say meet and talk with them. There is no torngak. It is a lie."
"But you believe in one great and good Spirit, don't you?" asked the seaman, with a serious look.
"Yes; I believe in One," returned the Eskimo in a low voice, "One who made me, and all things, and who must be good."
"There are people in my land who deny that there is One, because they never saw, or felt, or heard Him—so they say they cannot know," said Rooney. Angut looked surprised.
"They must be fools," he said. "I see a sledge, and I know that some man made it—for who ever heard of a sledge making itself? I see a world, and I know that the Great Spirit made it, because a world cannot make itself. The greatest Spirit must be One, because two greatests are impossible, and He is good—because good is better than evil, and the Greatest includes the Best."
The seaman stared, as well he might, while the Eskimo spoke these words, gazing dreamily at the lamp-flame, as if he were communing with his own spirit rather than with his companion. Evidently Okiok had a glimmering of what he meant, for he looked pleased as well as solemn.
It might be tedious to continue the conversation. Leaving them therefore to their profound discussions, we will turn to another and very different social group.
TREATS OF CROSS-PURPOSES AND DIFFICULTIES.
Partially concealed in a cavern at the base of a stupendous, almost perpendicular, cliff, stood the wizard Ujarak and his pupil Ippegoo. The former silently watched the latter as he fitted a slender spear, or rather giant arrow, to a short handle, and prepared to discharge it at a flock of sea-birds which were flying about in front of them within what we would call easy gunshot.
The handle referred to acted as a short lever, by means of which the spear could be launched not only with more precision but with much greater force than if thrown simply by hand like a javelin.
"There, dart it now!" cried Ujarak, as a bird swept close to the cave's mouth. "Boh! you are too slow. Here is another; quick! dart!"
Ippegoo let fly hastily, and missed.
"Poo! you are of no more use than the rotten ice of spring. There; try again," said Ujarak, pointing to a flock of birds which came sweeping towards them.
The crestfallen youth fitted another spear to the handle—for he carried several—and launched it in desperation into the middle of the flock. It ruffled the wings of one bird, and sent it screaming up the cliffs, but brought down none.
"Boo!" exclaimed the wizard, varying the expression of his contempt. "It is well that your mother has only a small family."
Ippegoo was accustomed to severe backhanders from his patron; he was not offended, but smiled in a pathetic manner as he went out in silence to pick up his weapons.
Just as he was returning, Arbalik, nephew to the jovial Simek, appeared upon the scene, and joined them. The wizard appeared to be slightly annoyed, but had completely dissembled his feelings when the young man walked up.
"Have the hunters found no seals?" asked Ujarak.
"Yes, plenty," answered Arbalik cheerily, for he had a good deal of his old uncle's spirit in him, "but you know variety is agreeable. Birds are good at a feast. They enable you to go on eating when you can hold no more seal or walrus blubber."
"That is true," returned the wizard, with a grave nod of appreciation. "Show Ippegoo how to dart the spear. He is yet a baby!"
Arbalik laughed lightly as he let fly a spear with a jaunty, almost careless, air, and transfixed a bird on the wing.
"Well done!" cried the wizard, with a burst of genuine admiration; "your wife will never know hunger."
"Not after I get her," returned the youth, with a laugh, as he flung another spear, and transfixed a second bird.
Ippegoo looked on with slightly envious but not malevolent feelings, for he was a harmless lad.
"Try again," cried Arbalik, turning to him with a broad grin, as he offered him one of his own spears.
Ippegoo took the weapon, launched it, and, to his own great surprise and delight, sent it straight through the heart of a bird, which fell like a stone.
A shout of pleasure burst from Arbalik, who was far too good a shot to entertain mean feelings of jealousy at the success of others.
"It is the luck of the spear," said Ujarak, "not the skill of the hunter."
This would have been an unkind cut to ordinary mortals, but it fell as harmless on Ippegoo as water on the back of the eider-duck. A snub from the wizard he took almost as a compliment, and the mere success of his shot afforded him unbounded pleasure.
The good-natured Arbalik offered him another spear, but Ujarak interposed.
"No; Ippegoo must come with me," he said. "I have work for him to do. One who would be an angekok must leave bird-spearing to boys." Then turning to Arbalik—"Did you not say that the hunters have found plenty of game?"
"I told you so," said the wizard, using a phrase not unfamiliar to civilised ears. "Remain here, and spear plenty of birds; or go where you will."
Having thus graciously given the youth free permission to do as he pleased—which Arbalik received with inward scorn, though outward respect—he left the cave, followed meekly by his satellite.
After walking in silence till well out of earshot of the expert young hunter, the wizard said in solemn tones—
"Ippegoo, I have work of more importance for you to do than spearing birds—work that requires the wisdom of a young angekok."
All Ujarak's backhanders vanished before this confidential remark, and the poor tool began to feel as if he were growing taller and broader even as he walked.
"You know the hut of Okiok?" continued the wizard.
"Yes; under the ice-topped cliff."
"Well, Angut is there. I hate Angut!"
"So do I," said Ippegoo, with emphasis quite equal to that of his master.
"And Nunaga is there," continued Ujarak. "I—I love Nunaga!"
"So do I," exclaimed Ippegoo fervently, but seeing by the wizard's majestic frown that he had been precipitate, he took refuge in the hasty explanation—"Of course I mean that—that—I love her because you love her. I do not love her for herself. If you did not love her, I would hate her. To me she is not of so much value as the snout of a seal."
The wizard seemed pacified, for his frown relaxed, and after a few moments' thought he went on savagely—
"Angut also loves Nunaga."
"The madman! the insolent! the fool!" exclaimed Ippegoo; "what can he expect but death?"
"Nothing else, and nothing less," growled the wizard, clenching his teeth—"if he gets her! But he shall never get her! I will stop that; and that is why I ask you to listen—for you must be ready to act, and in haste."
As Ippegoo began to entertain uncomfortable suspicions that the wizard was about to use him as an instrument of vengeance, he made no response whatever to the last remark.
"Now," continued his master, "you will go to the hut of Okiok. Enter it hurriedly, and say to Nunaga that her father's grandmother, Kannoa, is ill—ill in her mind—and will not rest till she comes to see her. Take a small sledge that will only hold her and yourself; and if Okiok or Angut offer to go with you, say that old Kannoa wants to see the girl alone, that there is a spell upon her, that she is bewitched, and will see no one else. They will trust you, for they know that your mind is weak and your heart good."
"If my mind is weak," said Ippegoo somewhat sadly, "how can I ever become an angekok?"
With much affectation of confidence, the wizard replied that there were two kinds of men who were fit to be angekoks—men with weak minds and warm hearts, or men with strong minds and cold hearts.
"And have you the strong mind?" asked Ippegoo.
"Yes, of course, very strong—and also the cold heart," replied Ujarak.
"But how can that be," returned the pupil, with a puzzled look, "when your heart is warmed by Nunaga?"
"Because—because," rejoined the wizard slowly, with some hesitation and a look of profound wisdom, "because men of strong mind do not love as other men. They are quite different—so different that you cannot understand them."
Ippegoo felt the reproof, and was silent.
"So, when you have got Nunaga on the sledge," resumed Ujarak, "you will drive her towards the village; but you will turn off at the Cliff of Seals, and drive at full speed to the spot where I speared the white bear last moon. You know it?"
"Yes; near Walrus Bay?"
"Just so. There you will find me with two sledges. On one I will drive Nunaga away to the far-south, where the Innuit who have much iron dwell. On the other you will follow. We will live there for ever. They will be glad to receive us."
"But—but—" said Ippegoo hesitatingly, and with some anxiety, for he did not like to differ on any point from his master—"I cannot leave my—my mother!"
"I suppose it is because I love her. You know you told me that the weak minds have warm hearts—and my mind must be very, very weak indeed, for my heart is very warm—quite hot—for my mother."
The wizard perceived that incipient rebellion was in the air, so, like a wise man, a true angekok, he trimmed his sails accordingly.
"Bring your mother with you," he said abruptly.
"But she won't come."
"Command her to come."
"Command my mother!" exclaimed Ippegoo, in amazement.
Again the wizard was obliged to have recourse to his wisdom in order to subdue this weak mind.
"Yes, of course," he replied; "tell your mother that your torngak—no, you haven't got one yet—that Ujarak's torngak—told him in a vision that a visit to the lands of the far-south would do her good, would remove the pains that sometimes stiffen her joints, and the cough that has troubled her so much. So you will incline her to obey. Go, tell her to prepare for a journey; but say nothing more, except that I will call for her soon, and take her on my sledge. Away!"
The peremptory tone of the last word decided the poor youth's wavering mind. Without a word more he ran to the place where his dogs were fastened, harnessed them to his sledge, and was soon driving furiously back to the Eskimo village over the frozen sea, while the wizard returned to the place where the hunters of his tribe were still busy hauling in the carcases of seals and other game, which they had succeeded in killing in considerable numbers.
Approaching one of the band of hunters, which was headed by the jovial Simek, and had halted for the purpose of refreshment, Ujarak accosted them with—
"Have the young men become impatient women, that they cannot wait to have their food cooked?"
"Ha! ha!" laughed Simek, holding up a strip of raw and bloody seal's flesh, with which he had already besmeared the region of his mouth and nose; "Yes, we have become like women; we know what is good for us, and take it when we need it, not caring much about the cooking. My young men are hungry. Must they wait till the lamps are lighted before they eat? Come, Ujarak, join us. Even an angekok may find a bit of good fat seal worth swallowing. Did you not set them free? You deserve a bit!"
There was a spice of chaff as well as jollity in the big Eskimo's tone and manner; but he was such a gushing fellow, and withal so powerful, that the wizard deemed it wise not to take offence.
"It is not long since I fed," he replied, with a grim smile; "I have other work on hand just now."
"I also have work—plenty of it; and I work best when stuffed full."
So saying, Simek put a full stop, as it were, to the sentence with a mass of blubber, while the wizard went off, as he said, to consult his torngak as to state affairs of importance.
Meanwhile Ippegoo went careering over the ice, plying his long-lashed whip with the energy of a man who had pressing business on hand.
Arrived at the village, he sought his mother's hut. Kunelik, as his mother was named, was seated therein, not exactly darning his socks, but engaged in the Eskimo equivalent—mending his waterproof boots. These were made of undressed sealskin, with soles of walrus hide; and the pleasant-faced little woman was stitching together the sides of a rent in the upper leather, using a fine sharp fish-bone as a needle and a delicate shred of sinew as a thread, when her son entered.
"Mother," he said in a somewhat excited tone, as he sat down beside his maternal parent, "I go to the hut of Okiok."
Kunelik bestowed an inquiring glance upon her boy.
"Ippe," she said, (for Eskimos sometimes use endearing abbreviations), "has Nunaga turned you upside down?"
The lad protested fervently that his head was yet in its proper position. "But," he added, "the mother of Oki—no, the grandmother of Okiok—is sick—very sick—and I am to go and fetch the mother of—no, I mean the daughter of—of Okiok, to see her, because—because—"
"Take time, Ippe," interrupted Kunelik; "I see that your head is down, and your boots are in the air."
Again Ippegoo protested earnestly that he was in the reverse position, and that Nunaga was no more to him than the snout of a seal; but he protested in vain, for his pleasant little mother believed that she understood the language of symptoms, and nodded her disbelief smilingly.
"But why do you say that Kannoa is very ill, Ippe?" she asked; "I have just come from her hut where she was seemingly quite well. Moreover, she has agreed to sup this very night with the mother of Arbalik, and she could not do that if she was ill, for that means much stuffing, because the mother of Arbalik has plenty of food and cooks it very fast."
"Oh, but it is not Kannoa's body that is ill," said Ippegoo quickly; "it is her mind that is ill—very ill; and nothing will make it better but a sight of Nunaga. It was Ujarak that told me so; and you know, mother, that whatever he says must be true somehow, whether it be true or not."
"Ujarak is a fool," said Kunelik quietly; "and you are another, my son."
We must again remind the reader here that the Eskimos are a simple as well as straightforward folk. They say what they mean and mean what they say, without the smallest intention of hurting each other's feelings.
"And, mother," continued the son, scarce noticing her remark, "I want you to prepare for a journey."
Kunelik looked surprised.
"Where to, my son?"
"It matters not just now. You shall know in time. Will you get ready?"
"No, my son, I won't."
"But Ujarak says you are to get ready."
"Still, my son, I won't."
"Mother!" exclaimed Ippegoo, with that look and tone which usually follows the saying of something very wicked; but the pleasant little woman went on with her work with an air of such calm good-natured resolution that her son felt helpless.
"Then, mother, I know not what to do."
"What did he tell you to do?" asked Kunelik abruptly.
The youth gave as much of his conversation with the wizard as sufficed to utterly perplex his mother's mind without enlightening it much. When he had finished, or rather had come to an abrupt stop, she looked at him calmly, and said—
"My son, whatever he told you to do, go and do it. Leave the rest to me."
From infancy Ippegoo had rejoiced in his wise little mother's decisions. To be saved the trouble of thinking; to have a straight and simple course clearly pointed out to him, so that he should have nothing to do but shut his eyes and walk therein—or, if need be, run—was the height of Ippegoo's ambition—next to solid feeding. But be not hard on him, good reader. Remember that he was an ignorant savage, and that you could not expect him to be as absolutely and entirely free from this low type of spirit as civilised people are!
Without another word, therefore, the youth leaped on to his sledge, cracked his whip, and set off on his delicate mission. Poor lad! disappointment was in store for him. But compensation was in store also.
While he was galloping along under the ice-cliffs on the east side of a great berg, not far from the end of his journey, Okiok, with his wife and daughter on a sledge, chanced to be galloping with equal speed in the opposite direction on the west side of the same berg. It was a mighty berg—an ice-mountain of nearly half a mile in length—so that no sound of cracking lash or yelping dogs passed from the one party to the other. Thus when Ippegoo arrived at his destination he found his fair bird flown. But he found a much more interesting personage in the Kablunet, who had been left under the care of Angut and Ermigit. This great sight effectually banished disappointment and every other feeling from his breast.
He first caught a glimpse of the wonderful man when half-way through the tunnel-lobby, and the sight rooted him to the spot, for Red Rooney had just finished making a full-dress suit of clothes for little Tumbler, and was in the act of fitting them on when the young Eskimo arrived.
That day Ermigit had managed to spear a huge raven. Rooney, being something of a naturalist, had skinned it, and it was while little Tumbler was gazing at him in open-eyed admiration that the thought struck him—Tumbler being very small and the raven very large.
"Come," said he, seizing the child—with whom he was by that time on the most intimate terms of affection—"Come, I'll dress you up."
Tumbler was naked at the moment, and willingly consented. A few stitches with needle and thread, which the sailor always carried in his pocket, soon converted the wings of the bird into sleeves, a button at the chest formed the skin into a rude cut-away coat, the head, with the beak in front, formed a convenient cap, and the tail hung most naturally down behind. A better full-dress coat was never more quickly manufactured.
Ermigit went into convulsions of laughter over it, and the sailor, charmed with his work, kept up a running commentary in mingled English and Eskimo.
"Splendid!" he cried; "the best slop-shop in Portsmouth couldn't match it! Cap and coat all in one! The fit perfect—and what a magnificent tail!"
At this point Ermigit caught sight of the gaping and glaring Ippegoo in the passage. With a bound he fell upon him, caught him by the hair, and dragged him in.
Of course there followed a deal of questioning, which the hapless youth tried to answer; but the fascination of the Kablunet was too much for him. He could do nothing but give random replies and stare; seeing which, Rooney suggested that the best way to revive him would be to give him something to eat.
MRS. OKIOK'S LITTLE EVENING PARTY.
In Eskimo land, as in England, power and industry result in the elevation and enrichment of individuals, though they have not yet resulted there, as here, in vast accumulations of wealth, or in class distinctions. The elevating tendency of superior power and practice is seen in the fact that while some hunters are nearly always pretty well off—"well-to-do," as we would express it—others are often in a state of poverty and semi-starvation. A few of them possess two establishments, and some even go the length of possessing two wives. It is but just to add, however, that these last are rare. Most Eskimo men deem one wife quite as much as they can manage to feed.
Our friend Okiok was what we may style one of the aristocracy of the land. He did not, indeed, derive his position from inheritance, but from the circumstance of his being a successful hunter, a splendid canoe-man, and a tremendous fighter.
When it is added that his fights were often single-handed against the Polar bear, it may be understood that both his activity and courage were great. He was not an angekok, for, like his friend Angut, he did not believe in wizards; nevertheless he was very truly an angekok, in the sense of being an uncommonly wise man, and his countrymen, recognising the fact, paid him suitable respect.
Okiok possessed a town and a country mansion. That is to say, besides the solitary residence already mentioned, close to the great glacier, he owned the largest hut in the Eskimo village. It was indeed quite a palatial residence, capable of holding several families, and having several holes in it—or windows—which were glazed, if we may say so, with the scraped intestines of animals.
It was to this residence that Okiok drove on the afternoon of the day that he missed Ippegoo's visit.
On finding that most of the men had gone southward to hunt, he resolved to follow them, for his purpose was to consult about the Kablunet, who had so recently fallen like a meteor from the sky into their midst.
"But you will stop here, Nuna, with Nunaga, and tell the women all about the Kablunet, while I go south alone. Make a feast; you have plenty to give them. Here, help me to carry the things inside."
Okiok had brought quite a sledge-load of provisions with him, for it had been his intention to give a feast to as many of the community as could be got inside his hut. The carrying in of the supplies, therefore, involving as it did creeping on hands and knees through a low tunnel with each article, was not a trifling duty.
"Now," said he, when at last ready to start, "be sure that you ask the liars and the stupid ones to the feast, as well as the wise; and make them sit near you, for if these don't hear all about it from your own mouth they will be sure to carry away nonsense, and spread it. Don't give them the chance to invent."
While her husband was rattling away south over the hummocky sea in his empty sledge, Nuna lighted her lamps, opened her stores, and began to cook.
"Go now, Nunaga," she said, "and tell the women who are to feed with us to-night."
"Who shall I invite, mother?" asked pretty little Nunaga, preparing to set forth on her mission.
"Invite old Kannoa, of course. She is good."
"Yes, mother, and she is also griggy."
We may remark in passing that it is impossible to convey the exact meaning of the Eskimo word which we have rendered "griggy." Enough to say, once for all, that in difficult words and phrases we give as nearly as possible our English equivalents.
"And Kunelik," said Nuna, continuing to enumerate her guests; "I like the mother of Ippegoo. She is a pleasant little woman."
"But father said we were to ask liars," remarked Nunaga, with a sweet look.
"I'm coming to them, child," said Mrs Okiok, with a touch of petulance—the result of a gulp of lamp-smoke; "yes, you may ask Pussimek also. The wife of Simek is always full of wise talk, and her baby does not squall, which is lucky, for she cannot be forced to leave Pussi behind."
"But name the liars and stupid ones, mother," urged Nunaga, who, being a dutiful child, and anxious to carry out her father's wishes to the letter, stuck to her point.
"Tell Issek, then, the mother of Arbalik, to come," returned Nuna, making a wry face. "If she is not stupid, she is wicked enough, and dreadful at lies. And the sisters Kabelaw and Sigokow; they are the worst liars in all the village, besides being stupider than puffins. There, that will be enough for our first feed. When these have stuffed, we can have more. Too many at once makes much cooking and little talk. Go, my child."
An hour later, and the gossips of the Eskimo village were assembled round Mrs Okiok's hospitable lamp—she had no "board,"—the raised floor at the further end of the hut serving both for seat and table in the daytime and for bed at night. Of course they were all bursting with curiosity, and eager to talk.
But food at first claimed too much attention to permit of free conversation. Yet it must not be supposed that the company was gluttonous or greedy. Whatever Eskimos may feel at a feast, it is a point of etiquette that guests should not appear anxious about what is set before them. Indeed, they require a little pressing on the part of the host at first, but they always contrive to make amends for such self-restraint before the feast is over.
And it was by no means a simple feast to which that party sat down. There were dried herrings and dried seal's flesh, and the same boiled; also boiled auks, dried salmon, dried reindeer venison, and a much-esteemed dish consisting of half raw and slightly putrid seal's flesh, called mikiak—something similar in these respects to our own game. But the principal dish was part of a whale's tail in a high or gamey condition. Besides these delicacies, there was a pudding, or dessert, of preserved crowberries, mixed with "chyle" from the maw of the reindeer, with train oil for sauce.
Gradually, as appetite was satisfied, tongues were loosened, and information about the wonderful foreigner, which had been fragmentary at first, flowed in a copious stream. Then commentary and question began in right earnest.
"Have some more mikiak?" said Mrs Okiok to Pussimek.
"No," replied Mrs P, with a sigh.
These northern Eskimos did not, at least at the time of which we write, say "thank you"—not that there was any want of good feeling or civility among them, but simply because it was not customary to do so.
Mrs Okiok then offered some more of the delicacy mentioned to the mother of Ippegoo.
"No," said Kunelik, leaning back with a contented air against the wall; "I am pleasantly stuffed already."
"But tell me," cried Issek, the stern mother of Arbalik, "what does the Kablunet say the people eat in his own land?"
"They eat no whales," said Nuna; "they have no whales."
"No whales!" exclaimed Pussimek, with a 'huk' of surprise!
"No; no whales," said Nuna—"and no bears," she added impressively. "Ridroonee, (that's his name), says they eat a thing called bread, which grows out of the ground like grass."
"Eat grass!" exclaimed the mother of Arbalik.
"So he says, and also beasts that have horns—"
"Reindeer?" suggested Kunelik.
"No; the horns are short, with only one point to each; and the beasts are much heavier than reindeer. They have also great beasts, with no name in our language—hurses or hosses he calls them,—but they don't eat these; they make them haul sledges on little round things called weels—"
"I know," cried Sigokow; "they must be big dogs!"
"Huk!" exclaimed old Kannoa, who confined her observations chiefly to that monosyllable and a quiet chuckle.
"No," returned Nuna, becoming a little impatient under these frequent interruptions; "they are not dogs at all, but hurses—hosses—with hard feet like stones, and iron boots on them."
A general exclamation of incredulous surprise broke forth at this point, and the mother of Arbalik silently came to the conclusion that Nuna had at last joined the liars of the community, and was making the most of her opportunities, and coming out strong.
"Let there be no talk, and I will speak," said Nuna somewhat indignantly; "if you interrupt me again, I will send you all away to your huts!"
This threat produced silence, and a sniff from Arbalik's mother. Mrs Okiok went on:—
"The land, Ridroonee says, is very rich. They have all that they wish— and more!" ("Huk!" from the company)—"except a great many people, called poo-oor, who have not all that they wish—and who sometimes want a little more." (A groan of remonstrative pity from the audience.) "But they have not many seals, and they never eat them."
"Poo! I would not care to live there," said Pussimek.
"And no walruses at all," added Mrs Okiok.
"Boo! a miserable country!" exclaimed Ippegoo's mother.
"Then they have villages—so big!—oh!" Nuna paused from incapacity to describe, for Eskimos, being unable to comprehend large numbers, are often obliged to have recourse to illustration. "Listen," continued Nuna, holding up a finger; "if all the whales we catch in a year were to be cooked, they would not feed the people of their largest village for one day!"
The mother of Arbalik now felt that she had sufficient ground for the belief that Mrs Okiok was utterly demoralised and lost, in the matter of veracity. Mrs Okiok, looking at her, perceived this in her countenance, and dropped that subject with a soft smile of conscious innocence.
Thereupon curiosity broke forth again with redoubled violence.
"But what is the Kablunet like?" cried Kabelaw, as eagerly as if it were the first time of asking.
"I have told you six times," replied Nuna.
"Tell her again," cried the mother of Arbalik, with a sniff; "she's so used to lies that she finds it hard to take in the truth."
There was a sort of double hit intended here, which immensely tickled the Eskimos, who laughed heartily, for they are fond of a touch of sarcastic humour.
"Yes, tell her again," they cried unanimously—"for," added Pussimek, "we're not tired of it yet. Are we, Pussi?"
The query was addressed to her stark naked baby, which broke from a tremendous stare into a benignant laugh, that had the effect of shutting up its eyes at the same time that it opened its little mouth.
It must be remarked here that although we have called Pussi a baby, she was not exactly an infant. She could walk, and understand, and even talk. She did not, however, (desirable child!) use her tongue freely. In fact, Eskimo children seldom do so in the company of their elders. They are prone to listen, and gaze, and swallow, (mentally), and to reply only when questioned. But they seem to consider themselves free to laugh at will—hence Pussi's explosion.
"Well, then," continued Mrs Okiok good-naturedly, "I will tell you again. The Kablunet is a fine man. He must be very much finer when he is fat, for he is broad and tall, and looks strong; but he is thin just now—oh, so thin!—as thin almost as Ippegoo!"
Ippegoo's mother took this in good part, as, indeed, it was intended.
"But that will soon mend with stuffing," continued Nuna. "And his hair is brown—not black—and is in little rings; and there is nearly as much below his nose as above it, so that his mouth can only be seen when open. He carries needles and soft sinews, too, in his bag; but his needles are not fish-bones—they are iron; and the sinews are not like our sinews. They are—I know not what! He has a round thing also, made of white iron, in his pocket, and it is alive. He says, 'No, it is a dead thing,' but he lies, for one day when he was out I heard it speaking to itself in a low soft little voice, but I was afraid to touch it for fear it should bite."
("Lies again!" muttered Issek, the mother of Arbalik, to herself.)
"He says that it tells him about time," continued Nuna; "but how can it tell him about anything if it is dead? Alive and dead at the same time!"
"Impossible!" cried Pussimek.
"Ridiculous!" cried every one else.
"Huk!" ejaculated old Kannoa, wrinkling up her mild face and exposing her toothless gums in a stupendous chuckle.
"Yes, impossible! But I think he does not tell many lies," said Nuna apologetically. "I think he only does it a little. Then he goes on his knees every night before lying down, and every morning when he rises, and speaks to himself."
"Why?" cried every one in blazing astonishment.
"I know not," replied Nuna, "and he does not tell."
"He must be a fool," suggested Kunelik.
"I suppose so," returned Nuna, "yet he does not look like a fool."
At this point the description of Rooney's person and characteristics was interrupted by a tremendous splash. It was poor Pussi, who, having grown wearied of the conversation, had slipped from her mother's side, and while wandering in the background had tumbled into the oil-tub, from which she quickly emerged gasping, gazing, and glittering.
A mild remonstrance, with a good wipe down, soon put her to rights, and Nuna was about to resume her discourse, when the sound of rushing footsteps outside arrested her. Next moment a wild scrambling was heard in the tunnel—as of a giant rat in a hurry—and Ippegoo tumbled into the hut in a state of wild excitement, which irresistibly affected the women.
"What has happened?" demanded Nuna.
"Mother," gasped the youth, turning to the natural repository of all his cares and troubles, "he is coming!"
"Who is coming, my son?" asked Kunelik, in a quiet, soothing tone, for the pleasant little woman, unlike most of the others, was not easily thrown into a state of agitation.
"The Kablunet," cried Ippegoo.
"Where, when, who, how, which, what?" burst simultaneously from the gaping crowd.
But for some minutes the evidently exhausted youth could not answer. He could only glare and pant. By degrees, however, and with much patience, his mother extracted his news from him, piecemeal, to the following effect.
After having sat and gazed in mute surprise at the Kablunet for a considerable time, as already mentioned, and having devoured a good meal at the same time, Ippegoo had been closely questioned by Angut as to the reason of his unexpected visit. He had done his best to conceal matters, with which Angut, he said, had nothing to do; but somehow that wonderfully wise man had seen, as it were, into his brain, and at once became suspicious. Then he looked so fierce, and demanded the truth so sternly, that he, (Ippegoo), had fled in terror from the hut of Okiok, and did not stop till he had reached the top of a hummock, where he paused to recover breath. Looking back, he saw that Angut had already harnessed the dogs to his sledge, and was packing the Kablunet upon it—"All lies," interrupted Arbalik's mother, Issek, at this point. "If this is true, how comes it that Ippegoo is here first? No doubt the legs of the simple one are the best part of him, but every one knows that they could not beat the dogs of Angut."
"Issek is wise," said Kunelik pleasantly, "almost too wise!—but no doubt the simple one can explain."
"Speak, my son."
"Yes, mother, I can explain. You must know that Angut was in such a fierce hurry that he made his whip crack like the splitting of an iceberg, and the dogs gave such a yell and bound that they dashed the sledge against a hummock, and broke some part of it. What part of it I did not stop to see. Only I saw that they had to unload, and the Kablunet helped to mend it. Then I turned and ran. So I am here first."
There was a huk of approval at this explanation, which was given in a slightly exulting tone, and with a glance of mild defiance at Arbalik's mother.
But Issek was not a woman to be put down easily by a simpleton. She at once returned to the charge.
"No doubt Ippegoo is right," she said, with forced calmness, "but he has talked of a message to Okiok. I dare say the wife of Okiok would like to hear what that message is."
"Huk! That is true," said Nuna quickly.
"And," continued Issek, "Ippegoo speaks of the suspicions of Angut. What does he suspect? We would all like to know that."
"Huk! huk! That is also true," exclaimed every one.
"My son," whispered Kunelik, "silence is the only hope of a fool. Speak not at all."
Ippegoo was so accustomed to render blind and willing obedience to his mother that he instantly brought his teeth together with a snap, and thereafter not one word, good, bad, or indifferent, was to be extracted from the simple one.
From what he had revealed, however, it was evident that a speedy visit from the wonderful foreigner was to be looked for. The little party therefore broke up in much excitement, each member of it going off in bursting importance to spread the news in her particular circle, with exaggerations suitable to her special nature and disposition.
While they are thus engaged, we will return to the object of all their interest.
When Ippegoo fled from Angut, as already told, the latter worthy turned quickly to Rooney, and said—
"There is danger somewhere—I know not where or what; but I must leave you. Ermigit will take good care of Ridroonee till I come again."
"Nay, if there is danger anywhere I will share it," returned Rooney, rising and stretching himself; "I am already twice the man I was with all this resting and feeding."
The Eskimo looked at the sailor doubtfully for a moment; but when action was necessary, he was a man of few words. Merely uttering the word "Come," he went out and harnessed his dog-team in a few minutes. Then, after wrapping the Kablunet carefully up in furs, he leaped on the fore-part of the sledge, cracked his whip, and went off at full speed.
"What is the danger that threatens, think you?" asked Rooney; "you must have some notion about it."
"I know not, but I guess," answered Angut, with a sternness that surprised his companion. "Ippegoo is a poor tool in the hands of a bad man. He comes from Ujarak, and he asks too earnestly for Nunaga. Ujarak is fond of Nunaga."
Rooney looked pointedly and gravely at Angut. That Eskimo returned the look even more pointedly and with deeper gravity. Then what we may term a grave smile flitted across the features of the Eskimo. A similar smile enlivened the features of the seaman. He spoke no word, but from that moment Rooney knew that Angut was also fond of Nunaga; and he made up his mind to aid him to the utmost of his capacity both in love and war—for sympathy is not confined to races, creeds, or classes, but gloriously permeates the whole human family.
It was at this point that the crash described by Ippegoo occurred. Fortunately no damage was done to the occupants of the sledge, though the vehicle itself had suffered fractures which it took them several hours to repair.
Having finished the repairs, they set off again at greater speed than ever in the direction of the Eskimo village, accompanied by Ermigit and Tumbler, who, not caring to be left behind, had followed on a smaller sledge, and overtaken them.
Note: For further light on this interesting subject see History of Greenland and the Moravian Brethren, volume one, page 159. Longman, 1820.
SHOWS THAT THE WISE ARE A MATCH FOR THE WICKED, AND EXHIBITS TUMBLER AND PUSSI IN DANGER.
When Red Rooney and his friend reached the village, and found that most of the men had gone south to hunt, and that Nunaga was living in peace with her mother in her father's town mansion, their fears were greatly relieved, although Angut was still rendered somewhat anxious by the suspicion that mischief of some sort was brewing. Being resolved if possible to discover and counteract it, he told Rooney that he meant to continue his journey southward, and join the hunters.
"Good. I will rest here till you return," said the seaman, "for I feel that I'm not strong enough yet for much exertion."
"But Ridroonee promised to dwell with me," returned Angut, somewhat anxiously.
"So I did, and so I will, friend, when you come back. At present you tell me your hut is closed because you have no wife—no kinswoman."
"That is true," returned the Eskimo; "my mother is dead; my father was killed; I have no brothers, no sisters. But when I am at home old Kannoa cooks for me. She is a good woman, and can make us comfortable."
"Just so, Angut. I'll be content to have the old woman for a nurse as long as I need one. Good luck to you; and, I say, keep a sharp look-out on Ujarak. He's not to be trusted, if I am any judge of men's faces."
Angut said no word in reply, but he smiled a grim smile as he turned and went his way.
Being much fatigued with his recent exertions, Red Rooney turned into Okiok's hut, to the great sorrow of the women and children, who had gathered from all parts of the village to gaze at and admire him.
"He is real—and alive!" remarked Kunelik in a low voice.
"And Nuna is not a liar," said the mother of Arbalik.
"Yes; he is tall," said one.
"And broad," observed another.
"But very thin," said Pussimek.
"No matter; he can stuff," said Kabelaw, with a nod to her sister Sigokow, who was remarkably stout, and doubtless understood the virtue of the process.
While this commentary was going on, the object of it was making himself comfortable on a couch of skins which Nuna had spread for him on the raised floor at the upper end of her hut. In a few minutes the wearied man was sound asleep, as was indicated by his nose.
No sooner did Mrs Okiok note the peculiar sound than she went out and said to her assembled friends—"Now you may come in; but—forget not— no word is to be spoken. Use your eyes and bite your tongues. The one who speaks shall be put out."
Under these conditions the multitude filed into the mansion, where they sat down in rows to gaze their fill in profound silence; and there they sat for more than an hour, rapt in contemplation of the wonderful sight.
"He snorts," was on the lips of Pussimek, but a warning glance from Nuna checked the sentence in the bud.
"He dreams!" had almost slipped from the lips of Kunelik, but she caught it in time.
Certainly these primitive people availed themselves of the permission to use their eyes; nay, more, they also used their eyebrows—and indeed their entire faces, for, the lips being sealed, they not only drank in Rooney, so to speak, with their eyes, but tried to comment upon him with the same organs.
Finding them very imperfect in this respect, they ventured to use their lips without sound—to speak, as it were, in dumb show—and the contortions of visage thus produced were indescribable.
This state of things was at its height when Rooney chanced to awake. As he lay with his face to the foe, the tableau vivant met his gaze the instant he opened his eyes. Rooney was quick-witted, and had great power of self-command. He reclosed the eyes at once, and then, through the merest chink between the lids, continued to watch the scene. But the wink had been observed. It caused an abrupt stoppage of the pantomime, and an intense glare of expectancy.
This was too much for Rooney. He threw up his arms, and gave way to a violent explosion of loud and hearty laughter.
If a bomb-shell had burst among the spectators, it could scarcely have caused greater consternation. A panic ensued. Incontinently the mother of Ippegoo plunged head first into the tunnel. The mother of Arbalik followed, overtook her friend, tried to pass, and stuck fast. The others, dashing in, sought to force them through, but only rammed them tighter. Seeing that egress was impossible, those in rear crouched against the furthest wall and turned looks of horror on the Kablunet, who they thought had suddenly gone mad. But observing that Nuna and her daughter did not share their alarm, they soon recovered, and when Rooney at last sat up and began to look grave, they evidently felt somewhat ashamed of themselves. Pussimek at last seized the mother of Ippegoo by the legs, and with a strong pull extracted her from the tunnel. Issek, being thus set free, quickly made her exit. The rest followed by degrees, until Rooney was left with Nuna and her daughter.
"Your friends have had a fright," remarked the sailor.
"They are easily frightened. Are you hungry?"
"Yes; I feel as if I could eat a white bear raw."
"So I expected," returned the little woman, with a laugh, as she placed a platter of broiled meat before her guest, who at once set to work.
Let us now return to Ippegoo. Having borrowed a sledge, he had driven off to the appointed place of rendezvous, before the arrival of Rooney and Angut, as fast as the team could take him. Arrived there, he found Ujarak awaiting him.
"You have failed," said the wizard gravely.
"Yes, because Nunaga had left with her father and mother, and is now in the village. So is the Kablunet."
Whatever Ujarak might have felt, he took good care that his countenance should not betray him. Indeed this capacity to conceal his feelings under a calm exterior constituted a large element of the power which he had obtained over his fellows. Without deigning a reply of any kind to his humble and humbled follower, he stepped quietly into the sledge, and drove away to the southward, intending to rejoin the hunters.
Arrived at the ground, he set off on foot over the ice until he found a seal's breathing-hole. Here he arranged his spears, erected a screen of snow-blocks, and sat down to watch.
"Ippegoo," he said, at last breaking silence, "we must not be beaten."
"No, that must not be," replied his pupil firmly.
"This time we have failed," continued the wizard, "because I did not think that Okiok would leave his guest."
"I thought," said Ippegoo, somewhat timidly, "that your torngak told you everything."
"You are a fool, Ippegoo."
"I know it, master; but can you not make me more wise by teaching me?"
"Some people are hard to teach," said Ujarak.
"That is also true," returned the youth mournfully. "I know that you can never make me an angekok. Perhaps it would be better not to try."
"No. You are mistaken," said the wizard in a more cheerful tone, for he felt that he had gone too far. "You will make a good enough angekok in time, if you will only attend to what I say, and be obedient. Come, I will explain to you. Torngaks, you must understand, do not always tell all that they know. Sometimes they leave the angekok dark, for a purpose that is best known to themselves. But they always tell enough for the guidance of a wise man—"
"But—but—I am not a wise man, you know," Ippegoo ventured to remark.
"True; but when I have made you an angekok then you will become a wise man—don't you see?"
As the word angekok signifies "wise man," Ippegoo would have been a fool indeed had he failed to see the truism. The sight raised his spirits, and made him look hopeful.
"Well, then, stupid one, speak not, but listen. As I have before told you, I love Nunaga and Nunaga loves me—"
"I—I thought she loved Angut," said Ippegoo.
"O idiot," exclaimed the wizard; "did I not tell you that you cannot understand? The loves of angekoks are not as the loves of ordinary men. Sometimes one's torngak makes the girl seem uncertain which man she likes best—"
"Ye-yes; but in this case there seems no uncertainty, for she and Angut—"
"Silence! you worse than baby walrus!"
Ippegoo shut his mouth, and humbly drooped his eyelids.
After a few minutes, Ujarak, having swallowed his wrath, continued in a calm tone—
"This time we have failed. Next time we will be sure to succeed, and—"
"I suppose your torngak told—"
"Silence! weak-minded puffin!" thundered the wizard, to the great astonishment of a seal which came up at that moment to breathe, and prudently retired in time to save its life.
Once again the angekok with a mighty effort restrained his wrath, and after a time resumed—
"Now, Ippegoo, we dare not venture again to try till after the feast, for the suspicion which you have roused in Angut by the foolish wagging of your tongue must be allowed to die out. But in the meantime—though you cannot, must not, speak—you can listen, and you can get your mother to listen, and, when you hear anything that you think I ought to know, you will tell me."
"But if," said the pupil timidly, "I should only find out things that your torngak has already told you, what—"
He stopped short, for Ujarak, springing up, walked smartly away, leaving his follower behind to finish the question, and gather up the spears.
"Yes; he is right. I am a fool," murmured Ippegoo. "Yet his conduct does seem strange. But he is an angekok. That must be the reason."
Consoling himself with this reflection, the puzzled youth, putting the spears and hunting tackle on his shoulders, followed after his irate master towards the bay where the other hunters were encamped.
We turn now to two other actors in our tale, who, although not very important characters, deserve passing notice.
When Nuna's youngest son, little Tumbler, was brought to the Eskimo village, he made his appearance in the new black dress suit with which Rooney had clothed him—much to the surprise and delight of the whole community. Not long after arriving, he waddled away through the village in search of some piece of amusing mischief to do. On his ramble he fell in with a companion of about his own size, whose costume was that of a woman in miniature—namely, a short coat with a fully developed tail, which trailed on the ground with the approved fashionable swing. This was none other than Pussi, the little daughter of Simek, the great hunter. Now it chanced that there was a mutual liking—a strong bond of sympathy—between Tumbler and Pussi, which induced them always to play together when possible.
No sooner, therefore, did Tumbler catch sight of his friend than he ran after her, grasped her greasy little hand, and waddled away to do, in company with her, what mischief might chance to be possible at the time.
Immediately behind the village there stood a small iceberg, which had grounded there some years before, and was so little reduced in size or shape by the action of each brief summer's sun that it had become to the people almost as familiar a landmark as the solid rocks. In this berg there was a beautiful sea-green cavern whose depths had never yet been fathomed. It was supposed to be haunted, and was therefore visited only by the more daring and courageous among the children of the tribe. Tumbler and Pussi were unquestionably the most daring among these— partly owing to native bravery in both, and partly to profound ignorance and inexperience of danger.
"Let's go to ze g'een cave," suggested Tumbler.
Pussi returned that most familiar of replies—a nod.
We cannot, of course, convey the slightest idea of the infantine Eskimo lisp. As before said, we must be content with the nearest English equivalent.
The green cave was not more than half a mile distant from the village. To reach it the children had to get upon the sea-ice, and this involved crossing what has been termed the ice-foot—namely, that belt of broken up and shattered ice caused by the daily tides—at the point where the grounded ice meets that which is afloat. It is a chaotic belt, varying in character and width according to position and depth of water, and always more or less dangerous to the tender limbs of childhood.
Encountering thus an opportunity for mischievous daring at the very beginning of their ramble, our jovial hero and heroine proceeded to cross, with all the breathless, silent, and awesome delight that surrounds half-suspected wickedness—for they were quite old enough to know that they were on forbidden ground.
"Come, you's not frighted?" said Tumbler, holding out his hand, as he stood on the top of a block, encouraging his companion to advance.
She caught the extended hand, slipped her little foot, and slid violently downward, dragging the boy along with her.
Scrambling to their feet, Pussi looked inclined to whimper, but as Tumbler laughed heartily, she thought better of it, and joined him.
Few of the riven masses by which they were surrounded were much above five or six feet thick; but as the children were short of stature, the place seemed to the poor creatures an illimitable world of icy confusion, and many were the slips, glissades, and semi-falls which they experienced before reaching the other side. Reach it they did, however, in a very panting and dishevelled condition, and it said much for Red Rooney's tailoring capacity that the black dress coat was not riven to pieces in the process.
"Look; help me. Shove me here," said Tumbler, as he laid hold of a block which formed the last difficulty.
Pussi helped and shoved to the best of her small ability, so that Tumbler soon found himself on a ledge which communicated with the sea-ice. Seizing Pussi by her top-knot of hair, he hauled while she scrambled, until he caught a hand, then an arm, then her tail, finally one of her legs, and at last deposited her, flushed and panting, at his side. After a few minutes' rest they began to run—perhaps it were more correct to say waddle—in the direction of "ze g'een cave."
Now it chanced that the said cave was haunted at that time, not by torngaks or other ghosts, but by two men, one of whom at least was filled with an evil spirit.
Ujarak, having ascertained that Okiok had joined the hunting party, and that the Kablunet had reached the village, resolved to make a daring attempt to carry off the fair Nunaga from the very midst of her female friends, and for this purpose sought and found his dupe Ippegoo, whom he sent off to the green cave to await his arrival.
"We must not go together," he said, "for we might be suspected; but you will go off to hunt seals to the south, and I will go out on the floes to consult my torngak."
"But, master, if I go to the south after seals, how can we ever meet at the green cave?"
"O stupid one! Do you not understand that you are only to pretend to go south? When you are well out of sight, then turn north, and make for the berg. You will find me there."
Without further remark the stupid one went off, and in process of time the master and pupil met at the appointed rendezvous.
The entrance to the cavern was light, owing to the transparency of the ice, and farther in it assumed that lovely bluish-green colour from which it derived its name; but the profound depths, which had never yet been fathomed, were as black as ebony—forming a splendid background, against which the icicles and crystal edges of the entrance were beautifully and sharply defined.
Retiring sufficiently far within this natural grotto to be safe from observation in the event of any one chancing to pass by, the wizard looked earnestly into the anxious countenance of the young man.
"Ippegoo," he said, with an air of unwonted solemnity, for, having made up his mind to a desperate venture, the wizard wished to subdue his tool entirely as well as promptly to his will; "Ippegoo, my torngak says the thing must be done to-night, if it is to be done at all. Putting off, he says, will perhaps produce failure."
"'Perhaps'!" echoed the youth, with that perplexed look which so frequently crossed his features when the wizard's words puzzled him. "I thought that torngaks knew everything, and never needed to say 'perhaps.'"
"You think too much," said Ujarak testily.
"Was it not yesterday," returned the pupil humbly, "that you told me to think well before speaking?"
"True, O simple one! but there are times to think and times not to think. Your misfortune is that you always do both at the wrong time, and never do either at the right time."
"I wish," returned Ippegoo, with a sigh, "that it were always the time not to think. How much pleasanter it would be!"
"Well, it is time to listen just now," said the wizard, "so give me your attention. I shall this night harness my dogs, and carry off Nunaga by force. And you must harness your dogs in another sledge, and follow me."
"But—but—my mother!" murmured the youth.
"Must be left behind," said the wizard, with tremendous decision and a dark frown; but he had under-estimated his tool, who replied with decision quite equal to his own—
"That must not be."
Although taken much by surprise, Ujarak managed to dissemble.
"Well, then," he said, "you must carry her away by force."
"That is impossible," returned Ippegoo, with a faint smile and shake of the head.
For the first time in his life the wizard lost all patience with his poor worshipper, and was on the point of giving way to wrath, when the sound of approaching footsteps outside the cave arrested him. Not caring to be interrupted at that moment, and without waiting to see who approached, Ujarak suddenly gave vent to a fearful intermittent yell, which was well understood by all Eskimos to be the laughter of a torngak or fiend, and, therefore, calculated to scare away any one who approached.
In the present instance it did so most effectually, for poor little Pussi and Tumbler were already rather awed by the grandeur and mysterious appearance of the sea-green cave. Turning instantly, they fled—or toddled—on the wings of terror, and with so little regard to personal safety, that Pussi found herself suddenly on the edge of an ice-cliff, without the power to stop. Tumbler, however, had himself more under command. He pulled up in time, and caught hold of his companion by the tail, but she, being already on a steep gradient, dragged her champion on, and it is certain that both would have gone over the ice precipice and been killed, if Tumbler had not got both heels against an opportune lump of ice. Holding on to the tail with heroic resolution, while Pussi was already swinging in mid-air, the poor boy opened wide his eyes and mouth, and gave vent to a series of yells so tremendous that the hearts of Ujarak and Ippegoo leaped into their throats, as they rushed out of the cavern and hastened to the rescue.
But another ear had been assailed by those cries. Just as Ippegoo—who was fleeter than his master—caught Tumbler with one hand, and Pussi's tail with the other, and lifted both children out of danger, Reginald Rooney, who chanced to be wandering in the vicinity, appeared, in a state of great anxiety, on the scene.
"Glad am I you were in time, Ippegoo," said the seaman, shouldering the little girl, while the young Eskimo put the boy on his back, "but I thought that you and Ujarak were away south with the hunters. What has brought you back so soon? Nothing wrong, I trust?"
"No; all goes well," returned Ippegoo, as they went towards the village. "We have only come back to—to—"
"To make preparation for the feast when they return," said the wizard, coming quickly to the rescue of his unready follower.
"Then they will be back immediately, I suppose?" said Rooney, looking pointedly at the wizard.
"Yes, immediately," answered Ujarak, without appearing to observe the pointed look, "unless something happens to detain them."
Suspecting that there was something behind this reply, the sailor said no more. Ujarak, feeling that he was suspected, and that his plan, therefore, must be given up for the time being, determined to set himself to work to allay suspicion by making himself generally useful, and giving himself up entirely to the festivities that were about to take place on the return of the men from their successful hunt.
RED ROONEY BECOMES A SPECTACLE AND THEN A PRESIDENT.
Late on the evening of the following day the fur-clad hunters arrived at their village with shouts of rejoicing—hairy and happy—for they brought with them many a carcass of walrus and seal wherewith to replenish their wardrobes and larders, and banish hunger and care from their dwellings for a considerable time to come.
Be not too ready, most refined reader, to condemn those people for their somewhat gross and low ideas of enjoyment. Remember that they were "to the manner born." Consider, also, that "things are not what they seem," and that the difference between you and savages is, in some very important respects at least, not so great as would at first sight appear. You rejoice in literature, music, fine art, etcetera; but how about one or two o'clock? Would these afford you much satisfaction at such a time?
"Bah!" you exclaim, "what a question! The animal wants must of course be supplied." True, most refined one, but a hunk of bread and a plate of soup would fully suffice for animal needs. Would your refined pleasures have as keen a relish for you if you had only to look forward to bread and water between six and nine? Answer, ye sportsmen, how would you get through your day's work if there were not a glorious dinner at the end of it? Speak, ye ballroom frequenters, how would you skip, even with the light of brilliant eyes to encourage you, if there were not what you call a jolly good supper somewhere in the background? Be honest, all of you, and confess—what you tacitly and obviously admit by your actions every day—that our mere animal wants are of vast importance, and that in our ministering to these the only difference between ourselves and the Eskimos is, a somewhat greater variety of viands, a little less of toil in obtaining them, a little more of refinement and cleanliness in the consumption of them, and, perchance, a little less of appetite.
We feel impelled thus to claim for our northern brothers some forbearance and a little genuine sympathy, because we have to record that their first act on arriving was to fly to the cooking-lamps, and commence a feast which extended far into the night, and finally terminated in lethargic repose.
But this was not the feast to which we have more than once referred. It was merely a mild preliminary whet. The hunters were hungry and tired after their recent exertions, as might have been expected, and went in for refreshment with a will. They did not, however, forget the Kablunet. Eager expectation was on tip-toe, and even hunger was forgotten for a short time in the desire to see the foreigner; but Okiok had made up his mind to give them only one glimpse—a sort of moral appetiser—and reserve the full display of his lion until the following day. Just before arriving at the village, therefore, he called a halt, and explained to the hunters that the Kablunet had been very much wearied by his recent journey, that he would not permit him to be disturbed that night; but as he was to dwell with Angut, and was at that time in his, (Okiok's), hut, they would have an opportunity of seeing him during his brief passage from the one hut to the other. They were, however, to be very careful not to crowd upon him or question him, and not to speak at all—in short, only to look!
This having been settled and agreed to, Okiok pushed on alone in advance, to prevent Rooney from showing himself too soon.
Arriving at his town residence, the Eskimo found his guest asleep, as usual, for the poor seaman found that alternate food and repose were the best means for the recovery of lost vigour.
Nuna was quietly cooking the seaman's next meal, and Nunaga was mending one of his garments, when Okiok entered. Both held up a warning finger when he appeared.
"Where is Tumbler?" he asked softly, looking round.
"Gone to the hut of Pussimek to play with Pussi," replied the wife; "we could not keep him quiet, so we—"
She stopped and looked solemn, for Rooney moved. The talking had roused him. Sitting up, he looked gravely first at Nunaga, then at her mother, then at her father, after which he smiled mildly and yawned.
"So you've got back, Okiok?"
"Yes, Ridroonee. And all the hunters are coming, with plenty to eat— great plenty!"
The women's eyes seemed to sparkle at these words, but they said nothing.
"That's a good job, old boy," said the seaman, rising. "I think I'll go out and meet them. It will be dark in a short time."
Here Okiok interposed with an earnest petition that he would not go out to the people that night, explaining that if he were to sit with them during supper none except the gluttons would be able to eat. The rest would only wonder and stare.
Of course our seaman was amenable to reason.
"But," he said, with a humorous glance, "would it not be good for them— especially for the gluttons—to be prevented from eating too much?"
It was evident from the blank look of his visage that Okiok did not understand his guest. The idea of an Eskimo eating too much had never before entered his imagination.
"How can a man eat too much?" he asked. "Until a man is quite full he is not satisfied. When he is quite full, he wants no more; he can hold no more!"
"That says a good deal for Eskimo digestion," thought our hero, but as he knew no native word for digestion, he only laughed and expressed his readiness to act as his host wished.
Just then the noise of cracking whips and yelping dogs was heard outside.
"Remain here," said Okiok; "I will come again."
Not long after the hospitable man's exit all the noise ceased, but the seaman could hear murmuring voices and stealthy footsteps gathering round the hut. In a few minutes Okiok returned.
"Angut is now ready," he said, "to receive you. The people will look at you as you pass, but they will not disturb you."
"I'm ready to go—though sorry to leave Nuna and Nunaga," said the gallant Rooney, rising.
The sounds outside and Okiok's words had prepared him for some display of curiosity, but he was quite taken aback by the sight that met his eyes on emerging from the tunnel, for there, in absolute silence, with wide expectant eyes and mouths a-gape, stood every man, woman, and child capable of motion in the Eskimo village!
They did not stand in a confused group, but in two long lines, with a space of four or five feet between, thus forming a living lane, extending from the door of Okiok's hut to that of Angut, which stood not far distant.
At first our seaman felt an almost irresistible inclination to burst into a hearty fit of laughter, there seemed something so absurdly solemn in this cumulative stare, but good feeling fortunately checked him; yet he walked with his host along the lane with such a genuine expression of glee and good-will on his manly face that a softly uttered but universal and emphatic "Huk!" assured him he had made a good first impression.
When he had entered the abode of Angut a deep sigh of relief escaped from the multitude, and they made up for their enforced silence by breaking into a gush of noisy conversation.
In his new abode Red Rooney found Angut and old Kannoa, with a blazing lamp and steaming stove-kettle, ready to receive him.
Few were the words of welcome uttered by Angut, for Eskimos are not addicted to ceremonial; nevertheless, with the promptitude of one ever ready to learn, he seized his visitor's hand, and shook it heartily in the manner which Rooney had taught him—with the slight mistake that he shook it from side to side instead of up and down. At the same time he pointed to a deerskin seat on the raised floor of the hut, where Kannoa had already placed a stone dish of smoking viands.
The smile which had overspread Rooney's face at the handshaking faded away as he laid his hand on the old woman's shoulder, and, stooping down, gazed at her with an expression of great tenderness.
Ah! Rooney, what is there in that old wrinkled visage, so scarred by the rude assaults of Time, yet with such a strong touch of pathos in the expression, that causes thy broad bosom to swell and thine eagle eyes to moisten? Does it remind thee of something very different, yet wonderfully like, in the old country?
Rooney never distinctly told what it was, but as he had left a much— loved grandmother at home, we may be permitted to guess. From that hour he took a tender interest in that little old woman, and somehow—from the expression of his eye, perhaps, or the touch of his strong hand—the old creature seemed to know it, and chuckled, in her own peculiar style, immensely. For old Kannoa had not been overburdened with demonstrative affection by the members of her tribe, some of whom had even called her an old witch—a name which had sent a thrill of great terror through her trembling old heart, for the doom of witches in Eskimo land in those days was very terrible.
Next day, being that of the great feast, the entire village bestirred itself with the first light of morning. Men and women put on their best garments, the lamps were kindled, the cooking-kettles put on, and preparations generally commenced on a grand scale.
Awaking and stretching himself, with his arms above his head and his mouth open, young Ermigit yawned vociferously.
"Hah! how strong I feel," he said, "a white bear would be but a baby in my hands!"
Going through a similar stretch-yawny process, his brother Norrak said that he felt as if he had strength to turn a walrus inside out.
"Come, boys, turn yourselves out o' the house, and help to cut up the meat. It is not wise to boast in the morning," said Okiok.
"True, father," returned Norrak quietly, "but if we don't boast in the morning, the men do it so much all the rest of the day that we'll have no chance."
"These two will be a match for you in talk before long," remarked Nuna, after her sons had left.
"Ay, and also in body," returned the father, who was rather proud of his well-grown boys. "Huk! what is Tumbler putting on?" he asked in astonishment.
"The dress that the Kablunet made for him," said Nunaga, with a merry laugh. "Doesn't it fit well? My only fear is that if Arbalik sees him, he will pierce him with a dart before discovering his mistake."
"What are you going to begin the day with?" asked Nuna, as she stirred her kettle.
"With a feed," replied Okiok, glancing slyly at his better half.
"As if I didn't know that!" returned the wife. "When did Okiok ever do anything before having his morning feed?"
"When he was starving," retorted the husband promptly.
This pleasantry was received with a giggle by the women.
"Well, father, and what comes after the morning feed?" asked Nunaga.
"Kick-ball," answered Okiok.
"That is a hard game," said the wife; "it makes even the young men blow like walruses."
"Ay, and eat like whales," added the husband.
"And sleep like seals," remarked Nunaga.
"And snore like—like Okioks," said Nuna.
This was a hard hit, being founded on some degree of truth, and set Okiok off in a roar of laughter.
Becoming suddenly serious, he asked if anything had been seen the day before of Ujarak the angekok.
"Yes, he was in the village in the evening," replied Nuna as she arranged the food on platters. "He and Ippegoo were found in the green cave yesterday by the Kablunet. He was out about the ice-heaps, and came on them just as Tumbler saved Pussi, and Ippegoo saved them both."
"Tumbler saved Pussi!" exclaimed the Eskimo, looking first at his daughter and then at his wife.
"Yes; Pussi was tumbling over an ice-cliff," said Nunaga, "and Tumbler held on to her."
"By the tail," said Nuna. "So Ippegoo rushed out of the cave, and saved them both. Ujarak would have been too late. It seems strange to me that his torngak did not warn him in time."
"Torngaks must be very hard-hearted," said Okiok, with a look and tone of contempt that he did not care to conceal. "But what were they doing in the cave?"
"Who knows?" replied Nuna. "These two are always plotting. Ridroonee says they looked as if worried at having been discovered. Come, fall-to. You must be strong to-day if you would play kick-ball well."
Okiok glanced with a look of care upon his brow at Nunaga, shook his head gravely once or twice in silence, and began breakfast.
After the meal was over he sallied forth to join in the sports, which were soon to begin. Going first to the hut of Angut, he found the most of his countrymen and women surrounding Red Rooney, who, having finished breakfast, was seated on a sledge conversing with Angut and Simek, and others of the chief men of the tribe. All the rest were gazing and listening with greedy eyes and ears.
"Hi! Okiok," exclaimed the sailor heartily, as he rose and held out his hand, which his former host shook heartily, to the great surprise and delight of the crowd; "have you joined the gluttons, that you take so long to your morning feed? or have you slept longer than usual, to make you a better match for the young men?"
"No; I was in dreamland," answered the Eskimo, with profound gravity, which his countrymen knew quite well was pretended; "and I met a torngak there, who told me that the Kablunet needed much sleep as well as food, and must not be roused by me, although other fools might disturb him."
"How kind of the torngak!" returned Rooney. "But he was not polite, for if he spoke to you of 'other' fools, he must have thought of you as one fool. Was he your own torngak?"
"No; I have no torngak. He was my grandmother's. And he told me that the Kablunet was a great angekok, and would have a torngak of his own soon. Moreover, he said the games must begin at once—so come along, Ippegoo."
As he spoke, Okiok caught the slender youth in his powerful arms, laid him gently on his back, flung some snow in his face, and then ran away.
Ippegoo, entering at once into the spirit of the fun, arose and gave chase. Excelling in speed as much as his opponent did in strength, the youth soon overtook him, managed to trip him up, and fell on the top of him. He was wildly cheered by the delighted crowd, and tried to punish Okiok; but his efforts were not very successful, for that worthy put both his mittened hands over his head, and, curling himself up like a hedgehog, lay invulnerable on the ice. Poor Ippegoo had not strength either to uncoil, or lift, or even move his foe, and failed to find a crevice in his hairy dress into which he might stuff snow.
After a few minutes Okiok straightened himself out, jumped up, and scurried off again over the ice, in the direction of the berg of the green cave, followed by the entire village.
It was on a level field of ice close to the berg referred to that the game of kick-ball was to be played. As Rooney was not yet strong enough to engage in rough play, a pile of deerskins was placed on a point of the berg, slightly higher than the heads of the people, and he was requested to mount thereon. There, as on a throne, he presided over the games, and became the gazing-stock of the tribe during the intervals of play. But these intervals were not numerous or prolonged, for most of the players were powerful men and boys, so thoroughly inured, by the nature of their lives, to hardship and vigorous action in every possible position of body that their muscles were always in the condition of those of a well-trained athlete. Even Ippegoo, with all his natural defects of mind and body, was by no means contemptible as a player, in those games, especially, which required agility and powers of endurance.
First they had a game of hand-ball. It was very simple. The players, who were not selected, but entered the lists at their own pleasure, divided themselves into two parties, which stood a little apart from each other. Then an ordinary hand-ball was tossed into the air by Okiok, who led one of the parties. Simek, the mighty hunter, led the other. These men, although approaching middle age, were still at the height of their strength and activity, and therefore fitting leaders of the younger men in this as well as the more serious affairs of life.
It seemed to Rooney at first as if Okiok and his band were bent on having all the fun to themselves, for they began to toss the ball to each other, without any regard to their opponents. But suddenly Simek and some of his best men made a rush into the midst of the other party with shouts and amazing bounds. Their object was to catch or wrest the ball from Okiok's party, and throw it into the midst of their own friends, who would then begin to amuse themselves with it until their opponents succeeded in wresting it from them.
Of course this led to scenes of violent action and wild but good-humoured excitement. Wrestling and grasping each other were forbidden in this game, but hustling, tripping up, pushing, and charging were allowed, so that the victory did not always incline either to the strong or the agile. And the difficulty of taking the ball from either party was much greater than one might suppose.
For full half an hour they played with the utmost energy, insomuch that they had to pause for a few seconds to recover breath. Then, with one accord, eyes were turned to the president, to see how he took it.
Delight filled every bosom, for they saw that he was powerfully sympathetic. Indeed Rooney had become so excited as well as interested in the game, that it was all he could do to restrain himself from leaping into the midst of the struggling mass and taking a part. He greeted the pause and the inquiring gaze with a true British cheer, which additionally charmed as well as surprised the natives. But their period of rest was brief.
Simek had the ball at the time. He suddenly sent it with a wild "Huk! hoo-o-o!" whirling into the air. The Kablunet was instantly forgotten. The ball came straight down towards a clumsy young man, who extended his hands, claw-like, to receive it. At that moment lppegoo launched himself like a thunderbolt into the small of the clumsy youth's back, and sent him sprawling on the snow amid shouts of laughter, while Norrak leaped neatly in, and, catching the ball as it rebounded, sent it up again on the same side. As it went up straight and came down perpendicularly, there was a concentric rush from all sides. Ujarak chanced to be the buffer who received the shock, and his big body was well able to sustain it. At the same moment he deftly caught the ball.
"Ho! his torngak helps him!" shouted Okiok ironically.
"So he does," cried the wizard, with a scoffing laugh, as he hurled the ball aloft; "why does not your torngak help you?"
There was a loud titter at this, but the laugh was turned in favour of the other side when Ermigit caught the ball, and sent it over to the Okiok band, while their leader echoed the words, "So he does," and spun the ball from him with such force that it flew over all heads, and chanced to alight in the lap of Red Rooney. It could not have landed better, for that worthy returned it as a point-blank shot which took full effect on the unexpectant nose of Ermigit.
The spirited lad was equal to the occasion. Although water rose unbidden to his eyes, he caught the ball, and with a shout of laughter flung it into the midst of his own side. Thus the play went on fast and furious, until both sides were gasping. Then with one consent they stopped for a more prolonged rest—for there was no winning or losing at this game. Their only aim was to see which side could get hold of the ball oftenest and keep it longest until all were exhausted.
But the fun did not cease although the game did, for another and quieter game of strength was instituted. The whole party drew closer round their president, and many of them mounted to points of vantage on the berg, on the sides of which groups of the women and children had already taken up positions.
It may be remarked here that the snow-covered ice on which the game of ball had been played was like a sheet of white marble, but not so hard, for a heavy stamp with a heel could produce an indentation, though no mark was left by the ordinary pressure of a foot.
The competitors in the game of strength, or rather, of endurance, were only two in number. One was Okiok's eldest son, Norrak, the other the clumsy young man to whom reference has been already made. The former, although the smaller and much the younger of the two, was remarkably strong for his age.
These two engaged in a singular style of boxing, in which, strange to say, the combatants did not face each other, nor did they guard or jump about. Stripped to the waist, like real heroes of the ring, they walked up to each other, and the clumsy youth turned his naked back to Norrak, who doubled his fist, and gave him a sounding thump thereon. Then Norrak wheeled about and submitted to a blow, which was delivered with such good-will that he almost tumbled forward. Again he turned about, and the clumsy one presented his back a second time; and thus they continued to pommel each other's backs until they began to pant vehemently. At last Norrak hit his adversary such a whack on the right shoulder that he absolutely spun him round, and caused him to roll over on his back, amid the plaudits of the assembly.
The clumsy one rose with a somewhat confused look, but was not allowed to continue the battle. There was no such thing as fighting it out "to the bitter end" among these hilarious Eskimos. In fact, they were playing, not fighting.
At this point Simek approached Rooney with a smiling countenance, and said—
"There is another game of strength which we sometimes play, and it is the custom to appoint a man to choose the players. Will the Kablunet act this part to-day?"
Of course our seaman was quite ready to comply. After a few moments' consideration, he looked round, with a spice of mischief in his heart, but a smile on his countenance, and said—
"What could be more agreeable than to see the striving of two such good friends as Angut my host and Ujarak the angekok?"
There was a sudden silence and opening of eyes at this, for every one was well aware that a latent feeling of enmity existed between these two, and their personal strength and courage being equally well-known, no one up to that time had ventured to pit these two against each other. There was no help for it now, however. They were bound in honour, as well as by the laws of the community, to enter into conflict. Indeed they showed no inclination to avoid the trial, for Angut at once stepped quietly into the space in front of the president, and began to strip off his upper garments, while Ujarak leaped forward with something of a bounce, and did the same.
They were splendid specimens of physical manhood, both of them, for their well-trained muscles lay bulging on their limbs in a way that would have gladdened the sculptors of Hercules to behold. But there was a vast difference in the aspect of the two men. Both were about equal in height and breadth of shoulder, but Angut was much the slimmer and more elegant about the waist, as well as considerably lighter than his adversary. It was in the bearing of Angut, however, that the chief difference lay. There was a refinement of physiognomy and a grace of motion about him of which the other was utterly destitute; and it was plain that while the wizard was burning to come off victorious, the other was only willing, in a good-humoured way, to comply with the demands of custom. There was neither daring, defiance, contempt, nor fear in his countenance, which wore its wonted aspect of thoughtful serenity.
After this description of the champions, we feel almost unwilling to disappoint the reader by saying that the game or trial was the reverse of martial or noble. Sitting down on the hard snow, they linked their legs and arms together in a most indescribable manner, and strove to out-pull each other. There was, indeed, much more of the comic than the grand in this display, yet, as the struggle went on, a feeling of breathless interest arose, for it was not often that two such stalwart frames were seen in what appeared to be a mortal effort. The great muscles seemed to leap up from arm and thigh, as each made sudden and desperate efforts—right and left—sometimes pulling and sometimes pushing back, in order to throw each other off guard, while perspiration burst forth and stood in beads upon their foreheads.
At last Ujarak thrust his opponent back to the utmost extent of his long arms, and, with a sudden pull, raised him almost to his feet.
There was a gasp of excitement, almost of regret, among the onlookers, for Angut was a decided favourite.
But the pull was not quite powerful enough. Angut began to sink back to his old position. He seemed to feel that now or never was his chance. Taking advantage of his descending weight, he added to it a wrench which seemed to sink his ten fingers into the flesh of Ujarak's shoulders; a momentary check threw the latter off his guard, and next instant Angut not only pulled him over, but hurled him over his own head, and rolled him like a porpoise on the snow!
A mighty shout hailed the victory as the wizard arose and retired crestfallen from the scene, while the victor gravely resumed his coat and mingled with the crowd.
Ujarak chanced, in retiring, to pass close to Okiok. Although naturally amiable, that worthy, feeling certain that the wizard was playing a double part, and was actuated by sinister motives in some of his recent proceedings, could not resist the temptation to whisper—
"Was your torngak asleep, that he failed to help you just now?"
The whisper was overheard by some of the women near, who could not suppress a subdued laugh.
The wizard, who was not at that moment in a condition to take a jest with equanimity, turned a fierce look upon Okiok.
"I challenge you," he said, "to a singing combat."
"With all my heart," replied Okiok; "when shall it be?"
"To-morrow," said the wizard sternly.
"To-morrow let it be," returned Okiok, with the cool indifference of an Arctic hunter, to the immense delight of the women and others who heard the challenge, and anticipated rare sport from the impending duel.
THE HAIRY ONES FEAST AND ARE HAPPY.
Lest the reader should anticipate, from the conclusion of the last chapter, that we are about to describe a scene of bloodshed and savagery, we may as well explain in passing that the custom of duelling, as practised among some tribes of the Eskimos, is entirely intellectual, and well worthy of recommendation to those civilised nations which still cling fondly and foolishly to the rapier and pistol.
If an Eskimo of the region about which we write thinks himself aggrieved by another, he challenges him to a singing and dancing combat. The idea of taking their revenge, or "satisfying their honour," by risking their lives and proving their courage in mortal combat, does not seem to have occurred to them—probably because the act would be without significance among men whose whole existence is passed in the daily risk of life and limb and proof of courage.
Certainly the singing combat has this advantage, that intellect triumphs over mere brute force, and the physically weak may prove to be more than a match for the strong.
But as this duel was postponed to the following day, for the very good reason that a hearty supper and night of social enjoyment had first to be disposed of, we will turn again to the players on the ice-floe.
"Come, Angut," said Rooney, descending from his throne or presidential chair, and taking the arm of his host; "I'm getting cold sitting up there. Let us have a walk together, and explain to me the meaning of this challenge."
They went off in the direction of the sea-green cave, while Simek organised a game of kick-ball.
"Okiok tells me," continued Rooney, "that there is to be no fighting or bloodshed in the matter. How is that?"