"Ootah! Ootah!" he called. "Attalaq! Attalaq!" The two tribesmen responded. With harpoons and lances they followed the trail of the bear. Less than a mile from shore they found it sitting near a seal blow hole in the ice. At the sight of the men it fled. A close inspection resulted in the discovery of a half dozen blow holes—or open places to which the seal rise under the ice and come to the surface to breathe. For a long while the men waited. Standing near the holes, their weapons ready to strike, they imitated the call of seals. Finally there was a snorting noise beneath one of the holes. Ootah detected a slight rise of vapor. Attalaq's harpoon descended. A joyous cry arose. Breaking open the ice about the hole a seal was drawn to the surface. Daily visits were thereafter made to the vicinity and the hunters, patiently watching near the holes, succeeded in catching several seals. Other blow holes were later detected along the ice, then they disappeared and for a period no seal rewarded the hunters.
The weather continued to moderate, and these excursions on the sea ice became more and more dangerous. One day Attalaq and Ootah, while walking along the shore, heard a familiar call in the far distance, out toward the open sea.
"Walrus," said Ootah, the zest of the hunt tingling in his veins.
"But the danger is great—the ice splits," said Attalaq.
"But we need food." Ootah thought of Annadoah. She had not been well, she needed food—that was sufficient. Moreover, he thought of the children; three were dying of lack of food. So he called the tribesmen and gave the signal for preparations to depart. A selection had to be made of the best dogs for the dangerous trip. Few dogs remained in the village; many had been frozen by the bitter cold; others had to be killed as food for their companions; some had occasionally been devoured by the famished natives. And this the desperate people had done with reluctance and great sorrow—for, as I have said, a native loves his dog but little less than his child.
Ootah in the lead, with five others, started on the hunt, with three sledges, each of which was drawn by a team of five lean, hungry dogs. After some urging Maisanguaq had sullenly consented to accompany the party.
Joy flushed the natives' skin, for a thin film of sunlight trembled low over the eastern horizon. As they sped northward past great promontories they saw several auks. Later two ptarmigan were spotted, and still later an eider duck. They began chanting songs of the race.
Quickly, however, the brief sunlight faded, heavy grey clouds piled along the sky-line, the atmosphere became perceptibly warmer, and intermittent gusts of wind blew downward from the inland mountains.
They directed their steps over the ice to a distant black spot, somewhat more than a mile distant, which they knew to be open water. There, if there were any, the walrus would be found. As they were marching, a very faint crackling noise vibrated through the ice under their feet. They ceased singing. Four of the party paused and would have turned back. Ootah urged them onward. They paced off half a mile. The wind increased in volume and whined dolefully. Their steps lagged. Suddenly they heard the harsh nasal bellow they knew so well. The hearts of all expanded with the joy of the hunt.
The dogs howled hungrily and, with tails swishing savagely, tore ahead. As they approached the edge of the sea ice they passed great lakes of open water. The twilight still continued to thicken, the wind came in increasingly furious blasts. Nearer and nearer came the low call of walrus bulls.
In a lake of lapping black water, about five hundred feet from the open sea, a small herd rose to the surface intermittently for breath. In the deep gloom the hunters saw fountains of spray ascending as they breathed. Hitching their dogs to harpoon stakes driven in the ice, they separated and quietly took positions about the open water.
"Wu-r-r!" The low walrus call rose over the ice. Ootah leaned over the edge of the ice and imitated the animal cry. "Woor-r," Maisanguaq, near him, replied. The water seethed, and two glistening white tusks appeared. Ootah raised his harpoon—it hissingly cut the air. A terrific bellow followed. The little lake seethed. A dozen fiery eyes, of a phosphorescent green, appeared above the water. Maisanguaq struck, so did Arnaluk. They let out their harpoon lines—the savage beasts dove downward, then rose for breath. In their frantic struggle their heads beat against the ice about the edge of the space of open water. The natives fled backward—the ice broke into thousands of fragments. Each time the animals came up the hunters delivered more harpoons so as to pinion securely and at the same time despatch the prey. In the gathering gloom they had to aim by instinct. For an hour the struggle between the alert men and the enraged beasts continued. Several times Ootah and Arnaluk fired their guns as the green eyes appeared so as to finish the task of killing.
Meanwhile the grey reflection of the descending sun entirely faded along the horizon; a bluish gloom blotted out the landscape. The wind swept over the ice with fiendish hisses. With a quick change the air became colder and snow flakes fell. The natives became alarmed. As they were drawing the first walrus to the ice a sound, like the discharge of a gun beneath the sea, startled them. Seizing their knives they dexterously fell upon the animal and lifted the meat and blubber in long slices from the bones. A great quantity was cast to the ravenous dogs. Two more walrus were lumberingly drawn to the ice; the first sledge load and two hunters started shoreward; soon the second sledge was loaded. Ootah and Maisanguaq remained to dress the third beast.
Like scorpions in the hands of the mighty tornarssuit the wind now steadily beat upon the ice. The two men were almost lifted from their feet. Not far away they heard the tumultuous crash of the rising waves. As they were lashing the blubber to Ootah's sledge, a resounding detonation vibrated through the ice under him—the field on which they stood slowly but unmistakably began to move!
Maisanguaq spoke. The wind drowned his voice. Above its clamor they heard the ice separating with the splitting sound of artillery. Whipped by the terrific gale the snow cut their faces like bits of steel. In the darkness, which steadily thickened, they heard the appalling boom of bergs and the grind of floes colliding on the sea.
Ootah leaped to the team of dogs and interrupted their feast. He knew they had not a single moment to lose—the field had surely parted from the land ice and it was now a dreadful question as to whether a return was possible. As he was hitching the dogs to the loaded sledge he suddenly gave a start. Was he dreaming? Was he hearing the disembodied speak, as men did in dreams? He listened intently—surely he heard a soft sweet voice calling piteously through the wind. His heart gave a great thud.
Through the gathering gloom he saw something . . . a blur of blackness . . . gathering substance as it approached over the ice. It moved uncertainly . . . and seemed to be driven toward him by the furious wind.
"Look—who is it?" he called to Maisanguaq.
For answer, through the din of the elements, a voice called brokenly, sobbingly:
"Ootah! . . . Ootah!"
Ootah leaped to his feet. Out of the snow-driven blackness a frail figure staggered toward him.
"Annadoah," Ootah murmured, seizing the trembling woman in his arms. She seemed about to faint.
"Why hast thou come hither?" He hugged her fiercely to his bosom. He felt a throb of ecstatic delight; for the first time she had surrendered to his arms; for the first time he held her close to him; death—for the moment—lost its terrors—he felt that he would be willing to die, in that storming darkness, with her heart beating, so that he felt its every pulse, close, close to his.
The wild winds almost drowned Annadoah's words.
"The women came to me," she panted with difficulty, and Ootah had to bend his ear to her mouth so as to hear. "They were angry. They said 'She stealeth souls! Annadoah stealeth souls!' They said, 'Annadoah hath caused the death of many children!' Ootah! Ootah! They came, as they do when thou art absent. They threatened me—they called upon the spirits, as they once called to them beneath the sea. And the curse of the long night—of darkness—hunger—death . . . they invoked . . . of the dead . . . upon me . . . I was afraid." Ootah felt her shuddering in his arms. "The women came unto my igloo," she repeated wildly—"they desired that ravens peck my eyes—that I rest without a grave—that my body lie unburied and that my spirit never rest. And the curse of darkness—io-o-h-h!—they called the curse of darkness upon me. They trampled upon me with their feet, and they tore at my hair . . . They came unto my igloo as the storm came and called upon the spirits of the skins to strike me; for they said I had again driven thee to thy death, that I had sent the others to their death. Thou knowest I lay ill when thou didst depart. But they fell on me one by one and hurt me—I feared they would kill me. They were angry and they called upon the dead. The storm strikes; the spirits of the winds are angry; the ice breaks, and it is the fault of Annadoah. So they said."
Her eyes were wild, her hair dishevelled. Ootah felt her forehead—it burned with fever.
"How didst thou come hither—and why?" he asked, his heart bounding in the thought that she had followed him, that of him she sought protection.
"I know not—methinks I called upon the spirits. I knew thou didst come this way—I knew thou wouldst save me from the women. And I followed. The way was dark. The wind held me back. But I knew thou wert here—my heart led me; my heart found thee as birds find grass in the mountains. Ootah! Ootah! I fear I shall die!" She collapsed in his arms. The wind shrieked! In the distance two icebergs exploded—there was a flash of phosphorus on the sea as the arctic dinosaurs collided.
"Come! Or we perish in the sea!" Maisanguaq, his head bent near so as to hear, now yelled into Ootah's ear.
Annadoah cowered at the sound of his voice. Ootah felt her trembling, in his arms.
"And he . . . is here?" she whispered. "I am afraid."
They felt the great ice field rocking on the waves imprisoned beneath them. It trembled whenever it touched a passing berg.
Maisanguaq prodded the terror-stricken dogs. Their howls shrilled through the storm,
"Huk! Huk! Huk!" he urged.
Supporting Annadoah with one arm Ootah pushed forward after the moving team. He knew they were being carried steadily and slowly seaward, but he had hopes that the ice field would swerve landward toward the south where an armlike glacier jutted, elbow-fashion, into the sea and caught the current.
Snapping their whips and frantically urging the dogs, they fought through the snow-driven darkness and over the moving field of ice. Annadoah murmured wild and incoherent things in her delirium. They paced off half a mile.
"Aulate!" Ootah suddenly called, panic-stricken. "Halt! halt!" Maisanguaq stopped the dogs. Before them a snaky space of water, blacker than the darkness about them, and capped with faintly phosphorescent crests of tossing waves, separated them—Ootah knew not how far—from the land.
"To the right!" Ootah called. "Let us go onward!"
"Huk! Huk!" Maisanguaq encouraged the dogs.
"The floe may land near the glacier," Ootah cried.
He spoke to Annadoah. She made an irrelevant reply about the women who called upon the spirits—and their terrible maledictions.
With Maisanguaq ahead driving the dogs, they turned to the south. Annadoah sank helpless in Ootah's arms—she could no longer walk. Ootah supported her. At times his feet slipped. He felt himself becoming dizzy. The beloved burden in his arms became unsupportably heavy. They travelled in utter darkness, near them the desirous clamor of the waves. Seaward, at times, where the splitting floes crashed against one another, there ran zigzag lines of phosphorescence. The winds howled in the ears of Ootah like the voices of the unhappy dead. Occasionally he heard the voice of Maisanguaq ahead urging the team.
Ice froze on their faces, frigid water swept the floe. Their garments became saturated and froze to the skin. Finally the dogs refused to move. "We can go no further," said Maisanguaq, in terror. "I am resigned to die." Ootah stubbornly invoked the spirits of his ancestors for succor. He called to the dogs.
Thereupon a terrific shock caused both men to reel. The ice field trembled under them—then stopped.
Ootah realized that a section of it had swept against one of the many land-adhering glaciers. There was hope—and greater danger.
With a rumbling crash that reverberated above the storm the field separated into countless tossing fragments. The cake on which the terror-stricken party cowered swirled dizzily in an eddy of the released foaming waters. On all sides the inky waves seethed up among the crevices of the sundering floes. To the south Ootah heard the breakers booming against the ice cliffs, which perilously barred the currents of the angry sea. The caps of the curling waves took on a pale white and appalling luminesence.
"The faces of the dead!" cried Maisanguaq in superstitious terror. "From the bosom of Nerrvik they come to greet us."
Ootah, however, felt no fear. For once he felt unheedful of those in the other world. His mind was occupied with a more immediate interest—that of saving the life of the woman he loved.
With quick presence of mind, Ootah grasped the rear upstander of the sled, which had begun to slide to and fro, and planted his harpoon in the ice.
"Thy axe!" he shouted. Maisanguaq passed the axe. Ootah grappled for it in the darkness. "Hold the harpoon," he directed. Mechanically Maisanguaq groped for the harpoon and held it while Ootah, with his one free hand, lifted the axe and drove it into the ice. With the other hand he still gripped the unconscious woman. Her hair swished about his legs in the howling wind. Maisanguaq planted his own weapon in the ice on the opposite side of the sledge, and Ootah, with unerring strokes, hardly able to see it in the darkness, pounded it firmly into the ice.
"Thy lashings," he called. Maisanguaq passed a coil of skin rope.
About the improvised stakes which secured the sled Ootah whipped the lashings, then he passed them under and over the sled until it was securely pinioned. Very gently he placed Annadoah upon the mass of walrus meat and lashed her body in turn to the sled and about the stakes. With Maisanguaq's assistance he tied the cowering dogs to the harpoons. This done, the two men, benumbed and dazed, clung to the anchor for support.
As the severed ice cakes dispersed, a curling wave lifted the floe on which they clung high on its crest and tossed it southward. As it rose on the surging breakers Ootah felt the dread presence of Perdlugssuaq ready to strike. Each time they made swift, sickening descents in the seething troughs he felt all consciousness pass away. On all sides the waves hissed. Torrents of water swept over the floe. Ootah felt his limbs freezing; he felt his arms becoming numb. He feared that at any moment he should lose his grip and be swept into the raging sea. Then he thought of Annadoah and conjured new courage. For a while the dogs whined—then they became silent. One already was drowned. Ootah bent over Annadoah to protect her from the mountainous onslaughts of icy water. His teeth chattered—he suffered agonies. For a long black hour of horror they were driven over the thundering seas and through a frigid whirlwind of snow, sharp as flakes of steel.
The recoiling impetus of the waters gradually increased under them. Ootah knew this indicated an approach to land. The waves came in shorter, but quicker swells. The floe bumped into others. Ootah roused himself and hopefully turned toward Maisanguaq.
"We approach the land," he called. "We must bide our time—then jump."
The waves washed the floe toward the distant shore. Land ice steadily thickened about them. Maisanguaq realized that they were actually being carried to the sheltering harbor of the arm-like glacier south of the village. Ootah quickly began unlashing Annadoah so as to be prepared to seize her and spring, when the opportunity came, from cake to cake, to safety.
Impelled by a warning instinct, Ootah suddenly looked up from his task, and felt rather than saw Maisanguaq near and about to leap upon him. Maisanguaq's eyes dimly glowered in the dark. Ootah rose quickly. Maisanguaq drew back and uttered an exclamation of chagrin. Ootah understood. With rescue possible, Maisanguaq had quickly come to a desperate resolution.
The girl lay between them.
Ootah braced himself.
"I hate thee, Ootah," Maisanguaq shouted, no longer able to suppress the baffled jealousy and seething envy endured quietly for many seasons. He moved about, parleying for time and a chance to spring upon Ootah when he was unguarded.
"I hate thee not, Maisanguaq," Ootah replied.
He steeled himself, for he knew Maisanguaq was strong, he knew the ice was treacherous; he waited for the man to strike.
"My heart warms for Annadoah; so doth thine: therefore, thou or I must die." Maisanguaq's deep voice sounded hoarse through the storm.
"As thou sayest," Ootah replied, "but why?"
"Annadoah must be thine or mine; dead, she cannot choose thee, and with thee dead, my strength shall cow her. As men did of old I shall carry her away by force. She shall be mine."
"Annadoah hath already chosen—her heart is in the south," Ootah replied, sadly.
"Fool!" the other man shrieked. "Didst thou not go to the mountains to get her food; didst thou not thieve from thine own self to give oil to her; didst thou not fawn upon her and perform the services of a woman? Thou liest if thou sayest thou wilt not have her for thy wife. No man doeth this unseeking of reward."
"I love Annadoah," Ootah said, bitterly.
"Yea, and thou hast hope."
"Perchance—perchance I have hope."
"And Annadoah looks with favor upon thee—I have seen it in her eyes. Did she not greet thee as women greet their lovers when thou camest from the mountains, and did she not bind thy wounds with strange ointment?"
"She thought of another—her heart was in the south."
"Hath she not sought thee hither—upon the ice—when the women fell upon her with their curses? Her heart wings to thee, did she not say, as birds to green grasses in the mountains?"
"Her heart is in the south," Ootah sadly moaned.
"The heart of woman changes always," cried Maisanguaq. "The heart of woman always yields to force. Pst?"
Seeing Ootah turn slightly toward Annadoah, Maisanguaq sprang at his throat. Their arms closed about one another. Maisanguaq breathed the wrath of the spirits upon Ootah. He fought with the fierce strength of one insane with jealous, murderous rage. The icy floe rocked beneath them. They slipped to and fro on the treacherous ice. The sharp snow beat their faces. Water washed under their feet. At times they reached, in their frightful struggle, the very edge of the floe, and seemed about to tumble into the seething sea. Ootah felt Maisanguaq trying to force him into the watery abyss—but he fought backward . . . time and time again . . . They constantly fell over the unconscious woman on the sledge. About them the darkness roared; they felt the heaving sea beneath them. And while they struggled, in their brief terrible death-to-the-death fight, the floe was tossed steadily onward. Ootah felt his breath giving out. Maisanguaq felt Ootah's hands closing about his throat. He felt the blood pound in his temples. Desperation filled him—he determined to kill Ootah by any means. A grim suggestion came to him. He endeavored to release himself.
In a lull of the wind both heard something that made them start. Aroused from her feverish coma by the two men falling against her, Annadoah suddenly cried aloud. The two men stood stone-still, locked in a deadly grip. At that moment Annadoah felt the warmth of their panting breath as they paused near her. Where she was at first she did not realize. She heard a clamor of wind and breaking waters. She imagined herself being tossed through the air in the arms of the tornarssuit. At the same time she became vividly aware of the desperate struggle nearby. Subconsciously she realized Maisanguaq and Ootah were engaged in a fight to the death. In the darkness she sensed them moving away from her. Straining her eyes she began, very dimly—as Eskimos can even in pitch darkness—to descry the black outlines of the two men wrestling as they shifted nearer and nearer the edge of the ice. Then it dawned upon Annadoah's mind that they were being carried, in the jeopardy of an awful storm, on a floe that was tossed hither and thither in a maelstrom of angry waters. A frantic desire to save Ootah surged up within her. Behind him she saw the swimming blackness of the heaving waves. She attempted to rise. Her head swam; there was loud ringing in her ears. Her hands were not free, her ankles were bound—she struggled to release herself. Twisting her wrists and ankles in the tight lashings until they bled, it suddenly flashed upon her that she was lashed to the sled. She knew that at any moment the floe might crash into a glacier and be crushed to atoms. She knew that Maisanguaq and Ootah were fighting for the possession of her—that both might perish, or, what was worse, that Maisanguaq might win. Chaotic terror filled her. Struggling frantically but ineffectually, she uttered a maniacal scream.
Ootah did not reply.
The storm howled. The wind lashed the floe—it fell like a whip on her face. Annadoah felt the surging impetus of the angry sea under them. She felt herself rising on the crests of mighty waves and being swiftly hurled into foaming troughs of water. Frigid spray bathed her face. Still the two vague shadows, darker than the night, slowly and laboriously moved about her. At times they brushed her lashed body—then she felt the quick gasps of their breath; she sensed the strain of Ootah's limbs twisting in the struggle.
Again she perceived the two shifting away and being merged into the swimming blackness. Presently she saw only the phosphorescent crest of a mountainous wave . . . rising in the distance . . . She became cold with white fear—she felt her blood turn to ice . . . She screamed and struggled vainly with the lashings . . . She felt the floe rise, felt herself being steadily lifted into the sheer air, and of paralyzed fright again swooned.
Maisanguaq, by a fierce wrench, managed to release one hand, struck Ootah a heavy blow and broke away. Leaping to the opposite side of the sledge, with a terrific pull, he drew one of the harpoons out of the ice and with his knife speedily cut it loose from the lashings. Ootah, stunned for a moment, turned upon him. Maisanguaq desperately raised the weapon. Ootah heard it hiss through the air. He reeled backward—the harpoon grazed his arm and struck the ice.
At that very instant the oncoming breaker descended with a rush from behind—a torrent of water washed the floe. Ootah was lifted from his feet and dashed against the sled. When he rose he waited in silence for an attack. There was none. He moved over the floe cautiously, feeling the darkness. Creeping to the edge he saw something dimly white and blurred on the receding wave. "Maisanguaq," he called, softly. There was a pang at his heart, for he was truly gentle. He strained his ears to hear through the din of the elements. The floe suddenly jolted him as it was carried, with a thud, against shore-clinging ice. Ootah peered seaward, and called again, loudly—
Only the waves replied.
Hurriedly he cut the leather lashings and, leaping from floe to floe, carried Annadoah to the shelter of the shore. Returning he loosened the dogs. Only three lived. Biding his time until the floe was ground securely among others, he then dragged his load of meat ashore. Sinking to the earth he rubbed Annadoah's hands and breathed with eager and enraptured transport into her face.
He called her name. Presently she stirred.
"Ootah," she murmured. "It is very dark—very dark—I wonder . . . whether . . . it will soon . . . be spring."
He chafed her hands. For a lucid moment she nestled to him and in a terrified voice whispered——
"Maisanguaq—where is he?" She heard Ootah's reply.
"He hath gone the long journey of the dead."
Annadoah breathed a sigh of relief and again floated into the coma of fever and exhaustion.
The journey before Ootah was desperately difficult in the storm and darkness. In his way of reckoning he knew they had floated about two miles south of the village. The return lay along the sea and over crushed, blocked ice. Much as he regretted it, he was compelled to leave the precious load of walrus blubber behind, so as to carry Annadoah, who was unable to walk, on the sledge. He covered the blubber with cakes of ice, hopeful that it might by chance escape the ravaging bears. His companions might come for it after his return. He knew the probabilities were, however, that the keen noses of bears or wolves would detect it.
After lashing Annadoah to the sledge, so she might not be jolted from it, Ootah, with a brave heart, started in the teeth of the biting wind. The half-frozen dogs rose to their task nobly and pulled at the traces. Ootah pushed the sledge from behind. He trusted to the sure instinct of the animals to find a safe way. Progress was necessarily slow. Fortunately the snow stopped falling and one agony was removed.
In lulls of the storm Ootah heard Annadoah moaning in her delirium.
When they reached the village, a half dozen men were assembled outside their houses. They rejoicingly hailed Ootah, whom they had counted among the dead. He learned that two of his companions had gone to join Maisanguaq. The first party had safely reached the shore before the breaking away of the ice. The news of Ootah's arrival brought out the women. When they saw Annadoah they crowded about her, scolding. Ootah silenced the garrulous throng with a fierce command. They shrank away.
"She came to me on the ice," he said. "Knew ye not that the spirits fared not well within her, that she was ill, ye she-wolves? She sees things that are not so and raves of the curses ye invoked, barking she-dogs! Aga! Aga! Go—go!"
Assisted by several of the men, Ootah conveyed Annadoah into her igloo and laid her upon her couch. Her face was flushed, and as she lay there Ootah thought she was very beautiful. She had become much emaciated—Ootah did not like that. But when she opened her eyes Ootah saw in them a soft, new light.
"Thou art brave, Ootah," she said, essaying a smile of gratitude. "Thou art brave of heart . . . and kind."
Ootah's heart stirred. Once she had said that his heart was as soft as that of a woman; this was, indeed, to him reward for all the frightful terrors he had endured on the storming sea.
"And do the wings of thy heart not stir, Annadoah?" he asked softly, a world of pleading in his voice. "Wilt thou not be mine in the spring?"
"In the spring," she said, dreamily, and her voice quavered . . . "in the spring . . ."
A far-away look came into her eyes, and Ootah felt an infinite ache at his heart.
"I am afraid, Ootah," she said presently, in a trembling voice . . . "Afraid . . . my head burns—the igloo is black . . . Dost thou remember what the women told their dead? . . . They invoked the dead to curse me . . . as I stood by the open sea . . . when the moon rose . . . Ootah! Ootah! I cannot see thee . . . It is very . . . dark." Ootah laid his hand upon Annadoah's head.
"The spirits do not fare well within thee," he said. "But I will care for thee."
For nearly a moon Annadoah lay ill with a strange fever. And in her disturbed dreams, as Ootah watched through the long hours, she murmured vaguely, but longingly, for the spring.
"Turning softly, she found a tiny naked baby . . . Annadoah leaned forward, gazing at it intently, wildly—then uttered a scream as though she had been stabbed to the heart . . ."
The sun rose above the horizon and flooded the earth with liquid gold; again the sea ran with running light; the melting glaciers shimmered with burning amethystine hues; the snow-covered mountains took fire and glowed with burning bars of chrysoberyl and sapphire, while on the limpid sea the moving bergs glittered like monstrous diamonds electrically white. On the sequestered slopes of the low mountain valleys green mosses once more carpeted the earth, buttercups and dandelions peeped pale golden eyes from the ground, in the teeming crevices of the high promontories delicate green and crimson lichens wove a marvellous lacery, and wherever the sun poured its encouraging springtime light beauteous small star- and bell-shaped flowers burst into an effulgence of pale rose and glistening white bloom. The suggestion of a very faint, sweet aroma pervaded the air.
Above the promontories millions of auks again made black clouds against the sky,—eider ducks floated on the molten waters of sheltering fjords,—along the icy shores puffins, with white swelling breasts, sat in military line,—guillemots cooed their spring love songs and fulmar gulls uttered amorous calls,—on the green slopes the white hare of the arctic gambolled, and tiny bears, soft and silken flossed, played at the entrances of moss-ensconced caves. Out on the sea unexpected herds of walrus lay sleeping on floating ice; harp seals sported joyously in the waves; a white whale spouted shafts of blue water high into the air. From the interior mountains came the howl of wolves and foxes, the sound of rushing waters and the roar of released glaciers. Nature was vocal with awakening life.
In her igloo Annadoah lay alone—for with spring the time of her trial had come.
In the customary preparations for the coming of Annadoah's unborn child Ootah had entered with rare tenderness and solicitude. When a little one is expected among these northern people, new clothing, of the rarest skins of animals and the feathers of birds, must be made for both mother and child; a new igloo is built for the event by the happy father, for the little one they believe should come in a house unspotted and white as the driven snow. Annadoah was deserted, husbandless; the women of the tribe remained aloof from her; Ootah alone stood by her. And Ootah helped her with unselfish, eager gladness.
For several summers, in anticipation of the day when he might be a father, Ootah had gathered exquisite and delicate skins. These he now brought to Annadoah. There were silken young caribou hides, soft, fluffy white and blue fox pelts, as well as the skins of hares and the young of bears. Of these, Annadoah, in the last week of fading winter, made, according to custom, new garments for herself. Then, as the sun rose in early spring and the birds mated, Ootah went away to the high cliffs, where the auks nested, and jumping from crag to crag, hundreds of feet above the sea, gathered a thousand tiny baby auks, with crests of wondrous down, of which the hood for the unborn child was made. In these high crevices, from which at any moment he might be plunged to death, Ootah gathered mosses of ineffable softness, which were placed in the hood as a cushion for the little one.
Near her winter home, Ootah built a new igloo for Annadoah, and never was one made with more infinite patience and greater care. Inside it was immaculately white, and when he lighted the new lamp the walls glistened like silver; over the light he placed a new pot of soap stone, for everything in that place in which a new life was to come into being must by an unwritten law be freshly made and never used before. He built a bed of ice, laid it thick with moss, and over this tenderly placed, in turn, first walrus hides, then thick reindeer and warm fox skins. He brought to the igloo a supply of walrus meat, and then, fearful to be present at an event in which he had no right of participation, prepared to depart to the mountains to hunt game.
Before leaving he crept half fearfully into Annadoah's old igloo and told her all was ready. She smiled fondly and reached forth her little hands. "Thou art very kind, Ootah," she said, "thou art brave and kind." Ootah was at a loss for words, but his heart beat high, and he was very glad.
The natives watched Annadoah, as, arrayed in her immaculate garments, she made her way, with bowed head, to her new home; they whispered among themselves as they saw the ilisitok (wise woman) follow later.
When she sank on the new and wonderful couch, gratitude filled Annadoah's heart, and she murmured over and over again: "Thou art very kind, Ootah: thou art brave and kind." Somehow the bright igloo became black and she seemed to be floating on clouds. She remembered the Eskimo women wailing in the moonlight . . . by the open sea . . . and the curse they invoked upon her through the dead. She trembled and felt inordinately cold. But she knew it was spring, for outside the igloo, with blithesome and silvery sweetness, a bunting was singing.
When Annadoah awoke from her delirium of agony she saw that the wise woman had left her. The walls of the igloo sparkled as the flames of the lamp flickered. Over it a pot sizzled with walrus meat frying in fat. In her half-waking condition Annadoah realized that something lay by her, and turning, softly, she found a tiny, naked baby. Its skin was pale golden, its hair, unlike that of other babies, was of the color of the rays of the sun. With half-fearful gentleness she turned it over and over. Speechless with wonder, an inexplicable stirring in her bosom, she regarded its face—she observed its nose, the contour of its cheeks, the arrogance of its little chin; she noted in her child that curious and often brief resemblance of the new-born to the father—and this immediately recalled vividly and achingly the face of Olafaksoah. This was her child, and his. Surely, surely, with great joy she understood! With this thought, an impetuous longing for the father filled her. Passionately pressing the little creature to her breast she gave vent to the homesickness and ache of her heart in wild, convulsed sobs. The touch of the little one, the resemblance of its tiny face to that of the blond man—these brought back the old passion and longing in all their bitterness. Yet at the same time the child brought a new satisfying solace to her; it filled an immeasurable void in her heart. Now and again she held it from her, and suppressing her violent sobs, solemnly regarded its face. She could not get over the wonder and half-surprise that possessed her. With utter abandon she finally fiercely clutched it to her. The infant began to cry. Annadoah, with slow, cautious gentleness laid it down by her side, scared, amazed. Thereupon the baby for the first time opened its eyes. Annadoah leaned forward, gazing at it intently, wildly—then uttered a scream as though she had been stabbed to the heart.
When the wise woman—who had left Annadoah alone for a long sleep—returned to prepare food and to seek of the spirits the destined name of the child, she saw Annadoah lying still, her face upturned, tear drops glistening beneath her eyes. The wise woman placed some of the fried walrus meat, or seralatoq—the prescribed food for a mother the day her child is born—into a stone plate and put it on the floor within reach of Annadoah. Then she melted some snow and placed it by the couch. Slowly approaching the bed she lifted the naked infant.
"When thy mother wakes," she muttered, "I shall call upon the spirits. I shall give thee the name they gave thee in the great dark ere thou earnest hither—the name which was born with thee and which shall be as thy shadow."
As she laid the little creature by the unconscious mother she saw a strange and frightful thing. The curse! And thereupon she knew she would not be called upon to learn of the spirits any name for this unhappy child. It had, indeed, been named by the dead and with it the unuttered name must soon return to the great dark. With set lips, and the grim determination of duty on her face, she crept softly from the igloo.
Annadoah awoke. At first she gazed about dazedly. Then she realized that the ilisitok had been with her—she observed the meat and warm water by her couch. She realized also that the wise woman must have seen the horror which had gripped her heart like the teeth of wolves. Beneath lids scarred as by the claws of a hawk, the baby's eyes had been blasted by some unknown prenatal disease—the terrible dead, with their talon-hands, had smitten! The child was organically blind, and, being defective and fatherless, Annadoah knew that, by the law of her people, it was doomed to immediate death. While she shook with terror, withal a grim determination rose within her. All the tremendous urge of that mighty mother-love which has beautified and ennobled the world clamored in the heart of this simple woman that her child must not die.
As she touched the infant with a sacred tenderness, her very hands warmed with the impassioned affection that throbbed through her with every heart-beat. As she gazed upon the features, faintly suggestive of its father's, she felt that she could never part from this familiar and intimate link with the spontaneous and powerful passion of her girlhood. When she peered into those piteous, blighted eyes, mighty sobs of pity shook her, but she felt that she must be silent, and she forced back the tears. Outside, a spring bunting was still singing, sweetly, ineffably.
As she caressed it, the child's face twisted as if in pain.
"Well do I know, little one, thou dost desire thy name—ategarumadlune," she said. "Thou dost desire it as that which is as precious as thy shadow. But the ilisitok has gone and never will she breathe o'er thee the name I know . . . the name I felt stirring within me since the night . . . when the women addressed the dead . . . Sweetly didst thou sing within my heart—but thy song came from the darkness. Yea . . . from the darkness. Ioh-iooh!"
Very gently, very softly, she pressed her fingers upon the baby's sightless eyes.
"I shall call thee little Blind Spring Bunting," she softly murmured, lifting the baby and pressing its tender face to her own. "Poor Little Blind Spring Bunting." She soothed its face, infinite pity in her eyes. "Thou wilt never see Sukh-eh-nukh, nor the ahmingmah, nor the birds that fly in the air, Spring Bunting. All thy days shall be as the long night, and thy whole life shall be without any light of moon. But thy heart is warm and bright as the sun in the south, whence Olafaksoah came, and it makes the heart of Annadoah very warm. Poor . . . Little . . . Blind Spring Bunting!"
Murmuring softly she rocked the little baby gently in her arms. Then she heard the ominous sound of a native rushing by the igloo and voices upraised. What were they saying? That Annadoah's child was blind?
A frantic determination to escape filled her. The danger was immediate—she must act at once. But what should she do? Where should she go?
She rose and moved bewilderedly about the igloo. She felt weak and dazed. At any moment they might break into her immaculate new home and seize the child from her arms. At any instant they might come with wicked ropes to wrap about the baby's tender neck. That she must flee she knew—but where? Where? She thought of Ootah. But Ootah was in the mountains. And not a moment could be lost. In these matters the natives lose little time. Moreover, she knew the women hated her; and that they had succeeded in making the men gradually bitter.
"Olafaksoah! Olafaksoah!" she called tragically. Then she recalled with a start that Olafaksoah had summer headquarters some twenty miles to the south. It was a boxhouse, built on a promontory of the Greenland coast. She remembered it, as she had seen it on a journey south some summers before; the way thither, dangerous at this season of the year when the ice was breaking, she well knew. Yes, she would seek refuge there.
"Perchance Olafaksoah hath returned—did he not say he would return in the spring? When the buntings sing?" She laughed spontaneously. "Yea, yea! We will go there, Little Blind Spring Bunting."
Quickly she adjusted her own new garments, and then she took the little golden baby and over its head and shoulders laced a tight-fitting hood of soft young fox skin. This done she gently placed the child into the hood on her back. Inside this was lined with the breasts of baby auks and made downy with fibrous moss. She hurriedly secured the child to herself by means of a sinew thread which passed about its body as it reposed in the hood, and which in turn, passing under her arms, she tied about the upper portion of her waist. The voices outside had ceased.
Suppressing her very breath, she crept through the long tunnel leading from the igloo and peeped cautiously from the entrance. She could hear her heart throb. She feared the natives might detect it.
Five hundred feet to the north a group were engaged in excited conversation. Annadoah's brain whirled with the fragments of what they said. She knew the moment had come to depart. She emerged and on all fours crept to the protecting lee of her igloo where she was hidden from their view.
An open space of six hundred feet lay between her and the cliff around which the trail to the southern shelter lay. Annadoah summoned all her strength of will, and then proceeded to walk slowly, with her head bent and her face concealed, so as to avoid arousing suspicion, over the dangerous area. Her heart trembled within her—at any moment she expected to hear the savage cries. When she reached the cliff she felt as if she were about to faint.
Looking fearfully backward, with a sigh of immeasurable relief, she saw that she was unobserved. Raising her head heavenward she breathed her thanks to the dead father and mother who were undoubtedly watching. She turned about the cliff, her heart bounding tumultuously, and, panting the words of the magic spell, asked that her legs be given the swiftness of the wind spirits. She was very faint, she had scarcely any feeling whatever in her limbs; but summoning all her courage, bringing to bear all the love of this child she sought to save, she turned and ran.
It was not long before she heard—or imagined—the angry cries of pursuing natives behind her.
"A frail, pitiful figure Annadoah stood on the cliff, wringing her hands toward the declining sun . . . 'I-o-h-h-h,' she moaned, and her voice sobbed its pathos over the seas. 'I-o-h-h-h! I-o-h-h-h, Sukh-eh-nukh! Unhappy sun—unhappy sun! I-o-h-h-h, Annadoah—unhappy, unhappy Annadoah!'"
Twenty miles to the south, on a great cliff which stepped stridently into the polar sea, stood a house built of stray timber and boxes which, for a half decade, had been the summer headquarters of parties of Danish and Newfoundland traders who came north annually and scoured Greenland for ivories and furs. The hulk of a house was weather-beaten, dilapidated, and scarred black by the burning cold. A more desolate habitation could not be imagined in all the world, a more devastated land could nowhere else on all the globe be found. For leagues and leagues to the north and south, the scrofulous promontories lay barren under the blight of the merciless northern blasts. Over the corroded iron rocks strata of red earth and deeper crimson ore ran like the streaky stains of monstrous and unhuman murders committed in aeons past. Not a particle of vegetation was visible; there were no lichens nor starry flowers. There was no life save that of the black birds which winged restlessly about the sky and squawked in grotesque mockery at the region and its doom. In strange contrast, the sky was as blue as the limpid skies of Umbria,—and nearly two hundred feet below the gnarled gashed cliff the ocean broke in terrific cascades of diamonded foam.
The top of the cliff on which the house stood overleaped the sea, so that, looking below, one saw only the recoiling waters of a rich, deep gold, capped with silver crescents of broken spray. From the sheer precipitous receding face of the cliff, knife-like granite spars projected, and in the crevices and nooks of these countless birds nested. Hungry, desirous, insatiate—the voice of that fearful and balefully luring world—there sounded eternally the roar and crash of the breaking golden waves.
Over the uneven scraggy promontory, blinded by the fierce sunlight, Annadoah staggered. The world reeled about her; the sky above her had become black. Before her—a small speck in the distance—she saw the black wooden house silhouetted against the molten sea. She could scarcely move her legs; she ached in every limb; every moment she felt as if she would swoon, but the frenzied fear in her heart urged her on. She suffered intolerably.
Of that long, tortuous journey Annadoah had no clear remembrance—with each step her one urging, predominant thought had been to forge ahead, to keep from swooning,—to escape those who were angrily calling far behind.
Leaving her village, along the difficult broken coast her trail lay; it crept painfully up over the slippery sides of melting glaciers, some of them a thousand feet high, and made sheer descents over places where the ice was splitting; it writhed about hundreds of irregular sounds and twisted fjords.
In her desperation to escape, Annadoah, without a thought of the danger, essayed to cross fjords where the ice was breaking. As she sped over deceptive unbroken areas the ice often split under her feet. In one of the sounds jammed ice was moving. To go around it she knew would mean a loss of three miles. She leaped upon the heaving ice. It rocked dangerously beneath her feet. As she left the shore the current increased, the ice moved more swiftly. From cake to cake she leaped with the agility of an arctic deer. The ice floes swirled under her and tilted as her feet alighted. Half way across, her foot slipped—the ice fragment eluded her wild grasp and she sank into the frigid water. She felt herself sinking; for a moment she seemed unable to continue the struggle—then she recalled the dear burden upon her back. She fought the swift current and grappled madly with the jamming ice. It gathered about her—she feared she would be buried by the force of the impact. But with a mighty struggle she finally grasped hold of a fortunate ridge on a cake and clambered to its surface. The baby was unscathed. It was crying loudly in its hood. Although her hands were almost frozen, the cold water had not entered her garments. She leaped into the air and fled. She next scaled the rocky face of a precipice to gain time—the rocks cut her face and hands. Swarms of birds, frightened from their nests, surrounded her. Their cries filled her with terror. Reaching, on the farther side, shallow streams over which thin ice lay, she bravely forged ahead—the ice broke—her feet sank into the mud. Her breath gave out—she felt paralyzing pangs in her lungs. Yet the cries behind—which had become somewhat more distant—urged her on. Again and again, in crossing water moving with broken ice her feet slipped into black, treacherous streams, and, swimming with native skill, she saved the child from the least harm. By degrees its cries ceased and it fell into slumber. Occasionally Annadoah was compelled to rest, to regain her breath. Her reserve strength—as is that of her people—was tremendous. Staggering slowly ahead, she often sank into engulfing morasses where the earth had melted and willows were sprouting. Panting, trembling in every limb, she fought her way out. For the better part of the journey her legs moved mechanically—she was only half conscious. Urged by her superhuman determination, the little woman struggled over twenty miles, and when she reached the great promontory where the house stood, her kamiks were torn, her clothing was soaked with frigid water, and her hands were bleeding from wounds inflicted by the sharp rocks.
Behind her, in her delirious flight, Annadoah ever heard the threatening cries of pursuing tribesmen.
As she approached the wooden house she staggered to and fro, and at one time was perilously near the edge of the cliff.
Upon her back the infant slept peacefully.
"Olafaksoah! Olafaksoah!" she struggled to call, but her voice fell to a whisper.
The windows of the grim house were as black as burnt holes; they glared at her unseeingly, without welcome—like blind eyes.
Desperately she raised her voice. Only a panting, breathless plaint quavered over the dumb, unreplying rocks. The sea licked its yellow, hungry tongues below.
At the door of the frame house Annadoah paused and still without losing hope again essayed to call. Her voice broke. The house was undoubtedly vacant. There was no reply.
She bent her head to listen. She could hardly hear because of the pound of blood in her ears.
Surely he had come—did he not say he would come in the spring?
She tried the door. It was locked.
She beat it frenziedly with her fists. She beat it until her fingers bled.
Then she threw her body against it like a mad thing. With crooked fingers she clawed savagely at the wood. At last she quelled the tumult in her bosom and found voice.
"Olafaksoah—Olafaksoah—Olafaksoah—ioh-h-h! Ioh-h-h!" she screamed. She sank to her knees and pounded at the door-sill with her fists.
When the native tribesmen, furious at her flight, at her temerity in trying to evade their inviolable law, clambered up the cliff, they saw a dark, stark figure lying still before the door of the box-house. Their voices rose in a raucous clamor.
Like wolves descending eagerly upon their prey they bore down upon the unconscious woman. Some of the women of the tribe had accompanied them. Their voices rose with eager, glad calls to vengeance; they demanded the life of Annadoah's child without delay. The shrill howl of their dogs was mingled in that vindictive, savage chorus.
"Little Blind Spring Bunting," Annadoah murmured, awakened from her trance by the approaching calls.
Opening her eyes she saw the troop descending. Staggering to her feet she stood with her back against the door, facing the clamoring crowd defiantly. In their veins the savage blood of fierce centuries was aroused, in Annadoah's heart all the primitive ferocity of maternal protection.
They surrounded her. The struggle was brief. In a moment—while strong hands held her—they cut the sinew lashing and rudely tore the baby from its hood. Annadoah fell back, half-stunned, against the floor; in their midst the merciless howling natives had the helpless infant.
As they bore it over the promontory Annadoah uttered a savage, snarling cry, as of a mountain wolf robbed of its youngling, and furiously rushed after them.
Grasping hold of two of the men, she piteously begged them to give her the child. She made frantic promises. She pleaded, she sobbed, she raved incoherently. Holding to the men with a fierce grip she was dragged along on her knees. Then letting go, she cursed the tribe; she called upon them the malediction of all the spirits. Her voice broke—she could only scream. She tore her hair and fell prostrate, her body throbbing on the rocks.
Above the clamor Annadoah suddenly heard a strangely familiar voice shouting from the distance. Raising herself slightly, she saw a well-known figure bounding over the promontory toward the murderous natives. Her heart bounded—she recognized Ootah.
Having returned from the mountains Ootah had learned of Annadoah's flight and the pursuit; and with an unselfish determination to save the child he had immediately followed.
At the very edge of the cliff the natives paused. In his hands, Attalaq, the leader of the pursuit, held the crying babe. Their voices were raised to an uproar; the women were chattering fiercely. With quick dexterity Attalaq loosely twisted a leather thong about the baby's neck, and in haste to finish the tragic task began swaying it in his hands so as to give the helpless creature momentum in its plunge to death. Ootah bounded toward them.
"Aulate! Aulate! Halt!" Ootah cried. "I will be father to Annadoah's child."
The crowd turned—for a moment they gazed with mingled feelings of awed surprise, half-incredulous wonder and speechless admiration upon this man who offered to make the greatest sacrifice possible to one of the tribe; to become the father, protector and supporter of another man's helpless, defective infant. For, according to their custom, they just as spontaneously grant life to a defective child when a member offers to assume sole responsibility for its keeping as they are implacably determined upon its death if its mother is husbandless. But seldom does any man make this sacrifice; in this land of rigorous hardship and starvation it means much.
Ootah fought his way among them. They gave way, and a low groan arose—his noble offer had come too late!
On the crest of a golden wave a tiny white speck of a baby face gazed in open-eyed, frightened astonishment skyward, and in a lull of the intermittent rush of waters a thin, piercing baby cry arose from the golden sea.
Awe-stricken, abashed, suddenly overwhelmed with regret and shame, the natives silently drew back . . . Ootah paused at the very edge of the cliff . . . he saw Annadoah's pleading white face . . . he extended his arms as a bird opens its wings for flight and brought the finger tips of his hands together above his head. For a moment his body slightly swayed, then poising to secure unerring aim, he leaped into the dashing sea . . .
Still and statuesque as a figure of stone, but wild-eyed, Annadoah stood alone on the extreme edge of the precipitous cliff and watched the struggle in the dizzy depths below . . .
Awed by the splendor of a heroism so dauntless, a love so overwhelming, unselfish and great, the natives retreated to a far distance and waited in fearful silence.
The prolonged infinity of suspense and horror of many long arctic nights seemed concentrated in the brief spell that Annadoah tensely, breathlessly, watched the struggle of the man to save her child.
Annadoah saw Ootah disappear in the waters after his desperate dive from the cliff and rise with unerring precision on the surface near the sinking babe. The sea came thundering against the jagged rocks in long, terrific swells, and was hurled back in a torrential tumult of breaking foam. Ootah fought the seething waves in his effort to grapple the living thing which was to Annadoah as the heart of her bosom. The tiny speck had begun to sink—Ootah made a dive under the water—and rose with the infant clasped in his left arm. With only one hand free, he made a desperate struggle against the onslaught of the terrible watery catapults as they hurled him, nearer and nearer, toward the rocks beneath the cliff. Annadoah saw his white hand, glistening with water, shine in the sunlight as he tried to climb against the impetus of the sea. Sometimes his head sank—then only the struggling hand was seen. She crept dangerously closer to the edge of the cliff . . . Slowly, but steadily, Ootah and the child were being swept backward . . . By degrees the steady strokes of Ootah's arm began to waver. Annadoah saw him being carried further and further under the cliff by the irresistible momentum of the waves . . . To be dashed against the jagged rocks beneath she knew meant death. Her heart seemed to stop . . . but presently, swirling helplessly in the foaming cauldron of a receding breaker, she saw Ootah, still clasping the baby, emerge from under the rocks. He still lived. He still fought. Annadoah watched each desperate, failing stroke. She saw his strength giving out in that unequal struggle, saw his arm frenziedly but ineffectually beating the water, saw his head disappear . . . for longer and still longer periods . . . She caught a last vision of his white upturned face, of his eyes, filled with importunate devotion, gazing directly at her from out the blinding waters . . .
Then she fell to her knees, and lowering her body, gazed wildly, for a long, long time, into the sea . . .
Suddenly she uttered a low, sharp, involuntary cry—and the waiting tribesmen, recoiling as though stunned, understood. They all loved Ootah—none dared, none could speak. Silent, grief-stricken, they turned away their faces—even their dogs were still. Annadoah still peered, searchingly, for a long time, into the sea.
No, there was nothing there—nothing. On the aureate waves was no speck of life.
Rising, Annadoah gazed with wide-open, solemn eyes seaward; for the moment she felt in her heart only a dull ache.
Along the horizon to the east the sun, irradiant and magnified, lay low over the heaving seas. Over its face, like a veil of gold, translucent vapors—the breath of Kokoyah, the god of waters—rose from the melting floes. A strange spell seemed suddenly to have fallen over the earth. Out on the ocean the great bergs, which had majestically moved southward like the phantoms of perished ships, seemed to pause. The little birds which had clustered about the rocks disappeared. High in the sky above her, a sinister black bird poised motionless in the air.
At her feet the roaring clamor of the waves seemed resolved into the solemn sobbing measure of some chant for the dead.
Slowly and by degrees the utter realization of her loss dawned upon the soul of Annadoah. And to her in that magical spell the spirits of nature and the souls of the dead began to manifest themselves.
Out of the crimson-shot vapors mystical forms took shape. Annadoah saw the beautiful face of Nerrvik, and in the mists saw her watery green and wondrous tresses of uncombed hair. She saw the nebulous shadow of the dreaded Kokoyah, the pitiless god of the waters, to whose cold, compassionless bosom had been gathered Ootah and Little Blind Spring Bunting.
Along the horizon Annadoah saw the clouds moving to the south. Higher up they moved to the west, and toward the zenith stray flecks moved to the north. The spirits of the air were not at peace among themselves. And dire things were brooding. From the inland highlands of Greenland now came a series of swift explosions, and in the brief succeeding interval there was an unearthly silence. Then a grinding crash rent the air. The spirits of the mountains had engaged in combat. And in the swift downward surge of the glacial avalanches Annadoah saw tribes wiped from existence and villages swept into the sun-litten sea. But Annadoah knew that the sun-litten sea was a treacherous sea; she knew that Koyokah, whose face in the mist was wan, whose lips were golden, had no love for men, and she knew that the spirits of the air, who moved in the diversely soaring clouds, were engaged in some fell conspiracy against her helpless race.
A vague realization of the impotence of humanity against fate, against the forces that weave the loom of life within and without one's heart, weighed crushingly upon her.
Radiant indeed was the sky and softly molten golden the glorious sea, but yet, grim and grisly, behind this smiling face of nature, Annadoah, primitive child of the human race, shudderingly felt the malevolent and evil eyes of Perdlugssuaq, the spirit of great evil, he who brings sickness and death. Annadoah felt that instinctive fear which humanity has felt from the beginning—the superstitious terror of tribes who confront extinction, in the face of famine; the quiet white tremor of the hard working hordes of modern cities in the face of poverty and starvation; the dread of savage and civilized races alike of the incomprehensible factor in the universe which wreaks destruction, that original and ultimate evil which all the world's religions recognize, interpret, and offer to placate—the force that is hostile to man and the happiness of man.
On the smooth tossing waters, reflecting the glory of the sky, there was no sign of those who had perished.
Then, after the first crushing sense of helplessness, an instinctive, insurgent hope that would not be defeated asserted itself. Annadoah called upon Nerrvik, for surely Nerrvik was kind to men. She pleaded with Kokoyah. She importuned the spirits of the sea and air to return her beloved ones to her.
"Nerrvik! Nerrvik!" Annadoah supplicated persuasively, "gentle spirit of the sea, lift Ootah unto me! Thou who art kind to man and givest him fishes from the deep for food, give unto Annadoah's arms Little Blind Spring Bunting."
She swayed her frail body to and fro, and in a tremulous, plaintive chant told unto the gentle and gracious spirit of the waters all that Ootah had been, all that he had done for the tribe; of his prowess, of his love for her, of her own hardness, and how she had turned a deaf ear to his pleading. Incident after incident she recalled. She told of the long night, when Ootah went by moonlight into the mountains, how he had braved the hill spirits, how they struck him in the frigid highlands, and how the beneficent quilanialequisut had brought him home. Her exquisite voice rose to a splendid crescendo as she described that valorous adventure, and in the chant ran the motifs of the hill spirit's anger, the brave leaping steps of Ootah, the tremor of the mountains as they were struck, and the deep tenderness of Ootah's love. In that customary chanting address to the spirits, Annadoah told of Ootah's return from the mountains, of the suffering he endured, and how, when she soothed him, she thought of the great trader from the south. She recalled how he had staggered from the igloo, the agony in his eyes, and how she heard him sobbing his heart-break in the auroral silence without her igloo through the long sleep.
Extending her arms over the sea, Annadoah reiterated, after each statement of Ootah's bravery, her plea to Nerrvik that Ootah be given back to her.
"Nerrvik! Nerrvik!" she called, "surely thou art kind! O thou whom, when the great petrel raised a storm, wast cast into the depths by those thou didst love, thou whose heart achest for affection—hear me, hear me, and Annadoah will surely come to thee very soon and comb thy hair in the depths of the cold, cold sea." 
Tears fell from her eyes. With self-reproach she told of her old longing for Olafaksoah, the blond man from the south, whose grim, fierce face had cowed her, yet whose brutality had thrilled her, to whose beast-strength and to whose beast-passion all that was feminine in her had surrendered itself. But he had left her—he said that he would come back in the spring. Now, she knew he would not come back—and she did not care. As if to convince the spirit of this, she compared Olafaksoah with Ootah; she knew now that he had used her to rob her people, that his heart was as stone. Ootah, she had once said, had the heart of a woman; but now she realized the difference between them. She knew the arms of Ootah were strong, that the words of Ootah were true, that the heart of Ootah was kind. And she felt stirring in her bosom things she could not express; a vague comprehension of the pure spirituality of the man who had died to save her child, a response to the love that had stirred in the bosom now cold beneath the sea. All the primitive deep profundity of the devotion of that wild-hearted man who had brought a wealth of food to her from over the mountains, who had faced death for her on the frozen seas, who had tended her in her time of trial with the gentleness of a woman, his indomitable heroism, the splendor, the dauntless unselfishness and bravery of his offering to father her sightless child—all this—all this, and more—welled up in the heart of Annadoah.
"Nerrvik! Nerrvik! To him who loved her Annadoah lied. Dead, she told him, was her heart as a frozen bird in wintertime—but her heart was only sleeping! And now the wings are beating—beating within her breast! Ootah! Ootah! Ioh-h, ioh-h!"
Her voice broke. She beat her little breasts. She bent over the sea and listened. For a long while she watched.
Then, from the shadows in the clouds, the answer came. Truly Ootah was brave, and his heart was marvellously kind; unsurpassed was his skill on the hunt and of every animal did he kill; and great was his love for Annadoah. Even the spirits had marvelled and spoken of it among themselves; but Annadoah had chosen her fate; she had denied the love that had unfalteringly pursued her, and now that she desired it, even so to her was that love to be denied. That was fate.
Then in a clamorous outbreak did Annadoah plead with Kokoyah. She grovelled on the ground. She called upon all the spirits of the winds and air. In a tremulous, heart-broken plaint she finally called upon the spirits of her father, her mother, and those who had gone before them.
But unrelenting, passionless, the answer came—from the shadows in the clouds, from the winds, from the moaning sea. To warm the wild heart under the water was beyond the power of all the spirits. They repeated to her, as in mockery, all that she had told them that Ootah had done, of his mighty love for her; but nevermore might she soothe his injured limbs, nevermore might she touch his gentle hands, nevermore might she look into his tender and adoring eyes. His hands were cold, his eyes were closed, his heart was still. It throbbed with the thought of her no more—and that would be forever. That was fate.
A frail, pitiful figure, Annadoah stood on the cliff, wringing her hands toward the declining sun. In the midst of that wild golden-burning desolation, Annadoah felt her utter loneliness, her tragic helplessness. In all the universe she felt herself utterly alone.
Far away, awed by the heroism, the very splendor of the bravery of the man who had perished, the tribe stood murmuring. In their hearts was no little unkindness toward Annadoah. But, forsaken, outcast, she did not care.
Over the aureate shimmering seas she wrung her little hands and into the waves lapping at her feet her tears fell like rain. For the heart of Annadoah ached. Nothing in the world any more mattered. All that she had loved had perished in the sea. And she loved too late.
Gazing at the low-lying sun, veiled as in a vapor of tears, remote, and sadly golden in its self-destined isolation, an instinctive wild-world-understanding of that tragedy of all life, of all the universe perchance—of that unselfish love that is too often denied and the unhappy love that accents only too late—vaguely filled her primitive heart.
Sinking to her knees, convulsed sobs shaking her, she wrung her hands toward the sun, the eternal maiden Sukh-eh-nukh, the beautiful, the all-desired.
"I-o-h-h-h!" she moaned, and her voice sobbed its pathos over the seas. "I-o-h-h-h! I-o-h-h-h! I-o-h-h-h, Sukh-eh-nukh! I-o-o-h-h, Sukh-eh-nukh! Unhappy sun—unhappy sun! I-o-o-h-h-h-h, Annadoah! I-o-o-o-h-h-h-h, Annadoah! Unhappy, unhappy Annadoah!"
Annadoah's head sank lower and lower. Her weeping voice melted in the melancholy sobbing of the aureate sea. One by one the natives departed. She was left alone. To the north the sky darkened with one of those sudden arctic storms which come, as in a moment's space, and blast the tender flowers of spring. A cold wind moaned a pitiless lament from the interior mountains. Yellow vapors gathered about the dimming sun. Ominous shadows took form on the shimmering sea.
"I-o-h-h-h—iooh! Unhappy sun—unhappy, unhappy Annadoah!"
Taking fire in the subdued sunlight—and descending from heaven like a gentle benediction of feathery flakes of gold—over and about the dark, crouched figure, softly . . . very softly . . . the snow began to fall.
 Annadoah's flight, extraordinary as it is, is not without even more remarkable precedents. In one case a woman who had been rejected by her husband made a forty-mile journey during winter to a spot south of her village where a child, some years before, had been buried. There the woman wept and thus consoled herself. Having exhausted her grief, she returned to her people. On the trip she had no food whatever.
 Nerrvik, a beautiful maiden, according to the legend, married a storm-petrel who had disguised himself as a man. When she discovered the deception she was filled with horror, so that later, when her relatives visited her, she determined to escape with them. When the petrel returned from a hunting trip and discovered that his wife had gone, he followed, and flapping his great wings raised a terrible storm at sea. Water filled the boat in which Nerrvik was escaping. When they realized that Nerrvik was the cause of the storm her brothers cast her into the sea. With one hand she clung to the boat; her grandfather lifted his knife and struck. Nerrvik descended into the ocean and became the queen of the fishes. Possessing only one hand she cannot plait her hair. A magician who can go to Nerrvik in a trance and arrange her tresses wins her gratitude and can secure from her for the hunters quantities of fish. It is interesting to note the similarity of the legend of Nerrvik to that of Jonah. But just as the Eskimos have changed the masculine sun of southern mythologies to the feminine, so the victim of the mythological sea storm in the arctic becomes a woman.
According to the legends of the tribes, not for many long and aching ages shall the melancholy moon win the radiant but desolate Sukh-eh-nukh. For having refused love she is compelled to flee in her elected lot from the love she now desires but which she once denied, and this by a fate more relentless than the power of Perdlugssuaq, a fate which they do not comprehend, but which is, perchance, the Will of Him Whose Voice sometimes comes as a strange whistling singing in the boreal lights, and Who, to the creatures of His making, teaches the lessons of life through the sorrows which result from the acts of their own choosing . . . Sometime—when, they do not know—the sun and moon will meet. They will then, having endured loneliness and long yearning, be immeasurably happy, and in the consummation of their desire all mankind will share . . . For as ultimate darkness closes, all who have been true to the highest ideals of the chase will be lifted into celestial hunting grounds, where no one is ever hungry nor where is it ever cold; all who have done noble deeds will be hailed as celestial heroes. He who died to save another will attain immortal life; he who gave of his substance to feed the starving will find ineffable food and in abundance; he who loved greatly, who suffered rejection uncomplainingly, and who sought untiringly—even as the moon pursued Sukh-eh-nukh for ages—will, in that land where the heart never aches and where there are no tears, see the very fair face of his beloved smiling a divine welcome, and her eyes filled with a radiant response, gazing into his own. The end of the world will come, and with it will cease the suffering struggles of all the world's races. And then all the highest hopes of men will find their realisation in an undreamed-of heaven to which all who have lived without cowardice, ingratitude or taint of selfishness in their hearts, will be translated as the world's last aurora closes its mystic veils in the northern skies.