The White Czar
A Story of a Polar Bear
Author of “Pep, the Story of a Brave Dog“
CHARLES LIVINGSTON BULL
MILTON BRADLEY COMPANY
By MILTON BRADLEY COMPANY
All Rights Reserved
Bradley Quality Books
Printed in United States of America
the memory of that dauntless American
who first planted the stars and stripes
at the north pole, Rear Admiral Peary.
THE LASH OF THE NORTHLAND
Where the rafters of the world-roof fade beneath the Northern Light,
And the icy air smites shivering o’er the floes;
Where the bleak half-year of sun flees the black half-year of night,
And the stars eternal stab the lifeless snows:
There lies the land that’s God’s own land—the land of frozen sea,
The land that lures the heart that brooks no sway
And the lubber has no portion in its heritage with me;
For it’s men, red-blooded men, that tread the way.
And it’s, Lash your team of huskies!
And it’s, Lift the sled along!
And it’s, Climb the frozen hummocks where the wind is biting strong!
And it’s, Fight your way through blizzard
With the cold a-grip your gizzard!
And it’s, Push for the top of the world, boys!
Oh, the cliffs frown bleak and sullen on the tide of Melville Sound,
Where the glaciers topple roaring to the deep;
And the stately castled bergs in procession sail around,
And the howling wind swings wider in its sweep.
And the dogs’ heads now are drooping at the telling, killing pace,
And our breath comes hard and frozen on the gale.
Lord! it’s never stop or listen but it’s buckle to the race!
For we’re men, red-blooded men, who break the trail.
There’s a white bear at the headland; there’s a walrus on the floe;
And the seals lie shining sleek beneath the sun.
There’s a monster blubber whale—God! you see him slosh and blow!—
And there’s hunger at the trigger of your gun.
And the death-bolt, through the silence of the still, ghost-sheeted air,
Leaps forth in sudden burst of lurid flame.
Ho! there’s meat for them that take it—for dog and you a share.
Ye are men, red-blooded men, who play the game.
And it’s, Lash your team of huskies!
And it’s, Lift the sled along!
And it’s, Climb the frozen hummocks where the wind is biting strong!
And it’s, Fight your way through blizzard
With the cold a-grip your gizzard!
And it’s, Push for the top of the world, boys!
Andrew F. Underhill. By permission of the Outing Magazine.
|II||A Wild Musk Ox Hunt||29|
|III||Eiseeyou Meets the White Czar||48|
|IV||Return of the Hunting Party||58|
|V||I-Wok, the Mighty||69|
|VIII||Whitie and Little Oumauk||96|
|IX||The White Czar||112|
|XIII||The Flight Northward||177|
|XIV||The Last Meeting||192|
The land of the Eskimo is the most inhospitable desolate portion of Mother Earth, inhabited by man. Well has the Eskimo need of his cheerful watch word, or salutation, of Aksuse, which means be strong.
The wind, the cold, the ice, the snow, the sterility of the land, and a hundred other forbidding conditions under which he lives, all call for strength. And strength he has both of body and soul and he fights the battle of life against the elements where any other race placed in his environment would surely perish. In one of Harry Whitney’s hunting stories he tells of a hunting party of Eskimos who set out on a reindeer hunt. They encountered a blizzard of great intensity and all of the party but one grizzled hunter turned back. The white hunter was much worried about the missing man, who happened to be one of his particular friends, but when he mentioned his fears to the Eskimos they only laughed. “He is all right,” they said. “He take care of himself.”
The hunter found later that his fears were groundless.
When the Eskimo found himself overtaken by the blizzard, he simply dug a good-sized house in a snow bank and the dogs also dug in and he slept as comfortably as he would have at home in his own igloo.
The Eskimos are nominally Christian, those on the East coast of North America having come under the influence of the Moravian church in 1771. The Eskimos of the Alaskan peninsula probably felt the influence of the Greek church at about the same time as some of the most beautiful bells used upon the Greek churches in Asia were cast in Alaska, one hundred and fifty years ago.
The heathen conception that the Eskimo had of creation was much like that of most other primitive people. They believed that the earth was flat and supported by four pillars. But we believed that it was flat until about four hundred years ago. They believed that the sky was the floor of another world where some of the good people went after death. They also thought that there was another world under our world where some of the spirits of the dead went. They were fatalists and believed they were ruled by external powers and these powers were usually bad. Much of this fatalism still clings to them.
A missionary who was working among them tried to keep them from visiting among themselves during an epidemic. But they laughed at him, saying that if God intended that they would catch the disease they would get it. If he wanted them to die they would die, so what was the use of being careful.
Eskimo Land extends from lower Labrador along the coast to Greenland, most of that cold island being inhabited by this strange people. In the north of Greenland is found the only pagan tribe of Eskimos. These savage men never mingle with the civilized Eskimo and are very hardy and skillful hunters.
Along the northern coast of British America this desolate land extends to the Alaskan peninsula and down on the west coast to the Aleutian Islands, the Eskimo being closely related to the Aleutian Indians in customs and habits.
The Eskimo is a Mongol and some time came across the Behring Straits, just as many of the species of large game did. Then he gradually worked along the northern coast of British America until he came as far south as Labrador.
He is of medium height averaging about five feet five or six inches. He is rather stocky in build and often fat. His face is moon shaped and flat; his hair, black. Sometimes he has a small mustache, but never a beard. His eyes are small, black, and very keen. His habitual expression is a pleasant grin, by which you will know that he is usually good natured. His hands and feet are small, and his arms retain the roundness of the child until he is fully grown. In fact the Eskimos look very much like grown up children. Their mental equipment is also that of the child.
They have no chiefs as do other half civilized races, but the tribe is ruled over by a wise man called the Headman.
Their laws relate largely to hunting and to the possession of their utensils, but real estate they do not possess as they are constantly on the move following the good hunting and fishing.
The regulation Eskimo house is called an Igloo and it is usually made by using plank and small timbers for a frame which are obtained as drift wood and then covering the whole with sods and stone. This house is usually built on a side hill and is approached by a tunnel, perhaps fifty feet in length. So if you wish to enter an Eskimo house you must get down on all fours and crawl along a dark dirty hole. When you enter the house you pop up through the floor like a jack-in-the-box.
What light there is comes in through a window made of seal membrane. The sleeping bench usually occupies the side of the room opposite the entrance. This is covered with musk ox robes on which the hair is a foot in length. These robes together with many kinds of furs and skins insure a warm bed. This bed and the lamp are about the only furniture in the room. The lamp is a stone bowl from six to fifteen inches in diameter which is filled with seal oil. It is called Nan-uh. A moss wick is laid along one of the sloping sides of the bowl. The flame is white and, if properly tended, the light is even and fairly bright. All the cooking that the family do is done on this lamp and this accounts for the fact that the Eskimo eats most of his food raw.
The floor of the Eskimo house is strewn with pieces of raw meat, skins, garments and sometimes hunting utensils, although these are usually hung on the walls.
The families are large, consisting of eight and ten children, but the great mortality among the children keeps their numbers down. The adults also succumb easily to contagious diseases and die off like flies. That is why the entire Eskimo population of both North America and Asia is probably not more than forty thousand souls.
In the igloo the children are supreme. They are never punished and, considering that fact, are models of behavior. The parents seem almost to reverence the children just as the Chinese do their ancestors.
The ambition of the boy is to grow up and become a great hunter, and the girl to make good reindeer skin boots and bird skin shirts.
The young man seeks a mate when he arrives at the age of twenty. In the olden days before most of the Eskimos became Christian the young man bought his wife, but now he is more civilized. If he is very bashful, his parents will interview the parents of the girl upon whom his heart is set. If there is acquiescence all around, they at once set off to find a missionary or some teacher who is a notary public to marry them. If such officials are not available, the marriage is celebrated according to Eskimo customs, or not at all. As soon as they are married, the man marches away to his igloo if he is lucky enough to have one. His new wife follows obediently behind, walking in his footsteps. He never looks back until they reach the house.
The principal accomplishment that the Eskimo wants in his wife is that she be a good boot maker. The reindeer boots are a most important article of apparel with this strange people and a good boot maker is a prize. The wife also will be expected to skin most of the small animals such as foxes, martins and wolverines and to prepare their skins for market. In fact, this and sewing make up almost her entire life.
As soon as the baby comes, there will be a new idol in the igloo for the Eskimos are very fond of their children. This little snow baby will be tucked away in the mother’s hood whenever she goes outside. When in the house, the baby will occupy a small bag made of reindeer skin and warmly lined. No white man will make more sacrifices for his family than will the untutored Eskimo. It really takes a deal of labor on his part to provide for the wants of a large family and a team of dogs, for every well-to-do Eskimo supports a dog team.
It would astonish a white man to know how much this Eskimo family will eat. An adult Eskimo will eat ten pounds of raw meat per day. So a family of twelve with ten dogs would want about a hundred pounds of meat and fish each day. It is quite important to feed the dogs enough so that they will not tear down the reindeer skin tent and eat that, or chew up the traces of their own harnesses. They often try to do this when in harness. To cure them the driver pounds a dog’s teeth until they are so sore he cannot chew the leather. They are very cruel with their dogs and never pet them or show them any extra kindness. The Eskimo says that kindness spoils the dogs and makes them soft.
The Eskimo medicine man is still somewhat in evidence, but for the most part they rely on the medicine furnished by the missionaries, or by the government teachers. Eskimo musicians who play loudly on drums furnish the music for the crude dances of this simple people. About the only relaxation of the Eskimo is visiting. He is very sociable and as the tribes intermarry, every one is every one else’s cousin.
The women are beautiful garment makers. Their stitches are so even that one would think they had been made by machinery. The garments always fit well, although no patterns are used. Nearly all the garments are made from skins sewed together with sinews from the reindeer or the narwal.
The Eskimo shirt is especially beautiful, being made of about a hundred skins of the auk, one of the most useful birds in the arctic. The coat made of reindeer skin is called a parka and is very warm. Not even the arctic weather can penetrate this wonderful clothing.
The Eskimo men are skillful sledge makers and also carve ivory ornaments from the walrus and the narwal tusks. In making the sledge no nails are used, but the crosspieces are lashed to the runners by means of thongs. The Eskimo despises nails and screws which he says break too soon.
The Eskimo is a hunter and a fisherman. His skill in each of these professions will discount that of any white man who tries to hunt in his territory. Hunting the walrus is perhaps his most exciting and dangerous sport. He harpoons this huge beast and then the handle of the harpoon comes out and the walrus is allowed to drag the line with a float attached. Finally the hunter creeps up and drives more harpoons into the wounded beast or dispatches him with a rifle. They are very successful in lifting these great carcasses upon the ice. Two men by means of a rude pulley will walk a walrus out of the water on to the ice, although his weight is about a ton. This is a feat that would severely tax the resources of a white man.
The narwal, which is also called the unicorn of the sea, likewise affords lively sea fishing. This creature is also harpooned and dispatched as is the walrus.
The seal is also indispensable to the Eskimo. He gets oil for his lamp, and food and clothing from that much-hunted creature.
The Eskimo hunts the musk ox and the reindeer, as well as bears. The musk ox is hunted by the help of the dog teams. The dogs are cut loose when the game is finally sighted and they soon bring it to bay. Reindeer are hunted by means of the still hunt and they often lead the hunter many miles before he gets a shot.
All of this hunting is of the most strenuous kind. It is done on the ice, or in the open sea, and over the roughest country imaginable. Cold that would freeze the white man’s blood in his veins is cheerfully endured. Large and dangerous animals are encountered. The Eskimo’s only desire is that he may make a good kill for the woman and the little ones at home in the igloo.
The Eskimo’s fishing is not as strenuous as the hunting, so the women often help about that. A painted float or colored hooks are used, but no bait. Dried fish is the chief article of food for the dogs on long hunting trips. The eider ducks also furnish good eating, while thousands of eggs are cached each summer by the provident families. It will not matter if they are half rotten when eaten.
The Eskimo’s igloo is always very untidy. Vermin abound and the white man stopping for a day in an Eskimo village is infected.
The Eskimos count to twenty on their fingers and toes, but this is the limit of their figuring. After that they shake their heads.
One cannot become acquainted with these simple children of the snow, for they are really but grown up children and not admire their pluck, their skill, and their good nature. Hardship they expect as much as the white man expects good fortune. Cold they laugh at, and they make Mother Nature give up for their daily needs where she is most niggardly in some particulars. But birds abound in these cold regions as they do not in warmer climes.
So here is wishing you luck, Mr. and Mrs. Eskimo and all the little Eskimos, be there ten or twenty. You certainly make a good fight against hard conditions. You always grin, even when things go hard, and by that token we know your heart is all right. You never swear, and, although you are rather quick-tempered, you soon forgive, and that also is commendable.
You love your children and you have many of them, both of which are virtues the white man might emulate.
You live up to all the good you know, and that is more than the rest of us do. If your lives are cramped and narrow and your lot hard, you cannot help that. You make the best of your lives where fate has placed you, and we take off our hats to you and wish you longer summers and shorter winters, and plenty of good hunting and fishing, so there will be joy in the igloo and happiness in your brave hearts.
Eskimo Town nestled under the lea of a jagged rockstrewn hillside. This was to escape the winds as much as possible. But there is no nook nor cranny in these northern latitudes where the biting wind will not penetrate in certain times of the year. The Eskimo huts called igloos were partly buried by the drifting snow since they were built partially underground. These facts helped to keep them warm.
When the thermometer creeps down to fifty and sixty below zero and finally refuses to register the cold, there is need of every possible protection.
The Eskimo Village contained only about a score of igloos and perhaps two hundred souls. This was about twenty families, for the Eskimo has many children.
The frames of these strange houses were made of drift wood or trunks of small trees, filled in with sod and dirt. The whole was finally covered with a thick layer of sods. The front door of the igloo was a very strange one, consisting of an underground tunnel perhaps fifty feet in length. This is to keep out the wind and the cold. The dogs sleep in the tunnel during very cold nights so it is usually rather filthy, but that does not trouble an Eskimo. Dirt and vermin are his usual daily companions. The chief thing with him is to keep warm.
There was much excitement on this dark cold winter morning in Eskimo town. Men might be seen running about from igloo to igloo. Occasionally they stopped and pointed to the north and cried, “Omingmong,” excitedly. This is the Eskimo name for the musk ox. A musk ox hunting party was to set out that morning and many of the men and women were going to see them off.
In the igloo of Eiseeyou there was much excitement. But excitement probably ran higher in other igloos, for Eiseeyou’s family was a small one and he was a young man. But he was a great hunter although still in his twenties. When he was thirty-five, he would have a family of ten children like the other older men, if he was lucky.
In Eiseeyou’s igloo his kooner (wife) was bustling about laying out his clothing and selecting some of the best meat for the journey. This consisted of walrus meat and hide—the latter so tough that a white man never could have chewed it, also reindeer meat and a couple of eider ducks left over from the cache of last summer. There must also be a generous supply of dried fish for the dog teams.
On this morning Eiseeyou dressed even more warmly than usual. His garments were made of skins; bear, reindeer, wolverine, and seal skin being the favorites.
First Eiseeyou donned two auk-skin shirts. These shirts were close-fitting. Over that he put his parka made of reindeer skin and lined with a fine warm fur. Then he pulled on some reindeer skin pants, also lined, and lastly his famous reindeer boots. These were as soft and pliable as though they had been oiled that very morning.
Finally Eiseeyou slipped on a heavy pair of reindeer skin gloves and he was dressed and ready for the trip as far as warm furs could make him. His rifle, his hunting knife, his matches, and all such things that he might need on the hunt were carefully inspected.
Outside the igloo eight half starved Eskimo dogs were fighting and snarling over their dried fish. They were but one generation removed from the wolf and wolfish in looks and disposition. The Eskimo drives them relentlessly with his short-handled whip, on which is a long black sinister lash. This lash is often inadequate to express his displeasure, so he sometimes gets off the sledge, called a Komatik, and clubs a dog to death with the bone handle of his whip. Life in this wild, fierce country matches the clime, so it is often very brutal.
Although the snow blew and the wind howled outside, yet inside the igloo it was fairly warm. The body heat of Eiseeyou’s little family together with the heat of the nanuk or stone lamp tempered the Arctic cold.
The young hunter ate ravenously on this cold morning. He must have much raw meat inside him to keep out the cold. So he devoured over three pounds before he was satisfied. This he occasionally seasoned with seal oil, which is the Eskimos’ only salt and pepper.
Little Oumauk, a boy of three, watched these preparations with eager black eyes. Even at that age he had begun to dream of the day when he might also be a hunter.
His sister, who was only ten months old, was sleeping peacefully in her queer little reindeer pouch or pocket, which looked like a large watch pocket. It was resting against the wall and also on the sleeping bench.
Finally when Eiseeyou was ready, he crawled with his rifle through the long tunnel to the outside world. The dogs had finished their fish and were leaping and whining, eager to be off. They had sensed the long hard trip and were as eager as the men. Eiseeyou dragged out his Komatik. It was long and narrow, perhaps fourteen feet long and two and a half feet wide. The runners flared out slightly so that they would not skid. This sledge was Eskimo-made and a wonderful piece of work. Not a nail or a screw had been used in its construction. The cross pieces were lashed to the runners by means of thongs. These thongs were as tough as steel.
The Eskimo dog team is harnessed quite differently from that of the white man. The white man’s team travels tandem, each dog behind his fellow and all strung out in a long line. The Eskimo’s team is fan-shaped, and each dog has his separate set of traces running back to the sledge.
The dogs were so eager that Eiseeyou experienced some difficulty in harnessing, but soon other men came running to help and the team was made ready. His weapons and supplies were firmly lashed to the sledge. Then two other teams came creaking up to Eiseeyou’s igloo. These sledges were also drawn by eager, yelping, straining dogs, their eyes gleaming like wolves’. Often they showed their fangs and snapped savagely at each other. Then the long black lash would come hissing about their faces and they would subside.
At last everything was in readiness. Nearly half the inhabitants of Eskimo Town were there to see them off. The three sledges led the way to the top of the hill, the drivers restraining their teams with difficulty that those on foot might be at the top of the hill to see them off. Finally the crest was reached. Here the wind and the cold smote them like a scourge from the very pole, but they did not mind. The waiting men and women huddled together for warmth while the sledges made the start. Then the drivers unloosed their ugly whips and cried, “Hoo, hoo!” which means mush, and the straining teams sprang into their traces. The Komatiks creaked and groaned, and the ghostly little caravan passed rapidly down the hillside and over the frozen barrens. Faster and faster they went. Eagerly the inhabitants of Eskimo Town strained after them until finally the snow hid them from sight. Then they went quickly back to their warm igloos to wait for the return of the hunting party.
It was that same old story of the women, the old men, and the children, waiting for the return of the hunter or the fisherman. The head of the house gone upon a hard and dangerous expedition to wrest a meagre living from the treasury of Mother Nature. Many cold dark days would pass before they saw the three komatiks and the brave hunters again.
It was a wild and desolate land towards which the three komatiks or sledges, had pointed their noses. Such a trip as only the hardiest white men ever take. Even then they have an escort of Eskimos and go well equipped. But to the hardy Child of the Snow, it was just another exciting adventure in his adventurous life. There were few landmarks that would have helped a white man. But the Eskimo has a wonderful bump of location, and this is almost as good as a compass. It also enables him to draw very accurate maps of any country he has visited. But strangely enough he has little idea of distance.
In this desolate land there was almost no timber just a few creeping willows and reindeer moss. This was interspersed with a wild medley of rocks, large boulders and small stones. Cliffs and ledges intersected the trail and made the going about as hard as travelling upon Mother Earth could well be. The country had a wild unfinished look where the face of the earth showed at all. This was upon high precipitous hills where the arctic winds had full sweep.
Eiseeyou and his sledge led the way. Although a young man, Eiseeyou was the most skillful and successful hunter in Eskimo town. He was also a famous guide. He could go and come over these frozen barren lands in the arctic night almost as well as any of the other Eskimos could in the full glare of day.
So this was why he led the little caravan. He was closely followed by his friend, Tukshu, while Tunkine, whose dog team was not so fast, usually trailed a score of rods behind.
For hours the three komatiks lurched and slid after the straining dogs, their three drivers ever on the alert, sometimes swinging the team this way or that with a crack of the long whiplash. The winds howled and the snow beat in their faces, which were white with frost, and the dogs’ muzzles were white with the frost from their own breath.
The three Eskimos usually ran beside the komatiks. This was partly to keep their feet from freezing, and also to lighten the load. When they were tired, they would jump on and ride for a mile or two; but for the better part of the way they ran.
The pace at first was seven or eight miles an hour, but it soon slowed down to four or five, which was maintained for the greater part of the day. But it took nerve and strength and many lashes from the long sinister whip to keep up this pace.
The Eskimo is merciless as far as his dog team is concerned. He drives with both the lash and the butt of his whip. He never pets his dogs or shows them any kindness. The slightest misbehavior on the part of the team brings terrible punishment.
It is no strange occurrence, when a dog gets vicious in the traces, for his driver to club him to death with the butt of his whip. But they usually obey implicitly. They have learned in this hard school that it pays. Wild hard conditions such as those under which the Eskimo lives breed brutality, but this brutality never extends to the Eskimo’s family which he treats most tenderly.
Once they stopped in the lea of a cliff to eat some raw meat which was partly frozen and to rest the dog teams. But it was not for long. The dogs when in harness are always restless. If left too long, they get to fighting and tangle up the traces. So after a quarter of an hour the procession plunged on through the white silence.
There were few signs of life. They had seen some foxtracks, also some snowshoe rabbit tracks. A few ptarmigan had been flushed. But for the greater part it was just a mere waste of snow and jagged rocks, desolate beyond the power of words to paint.
Occasionally they scanned the landscape for Omingmong.
When they came to a high hill, some one of the party would climb to its very top and look in every direction for signs of Omingmong. But nothing was seen of him that day.
Toward the middle of the afternoon a terrible blizzard struck the little party. The snow blew so that the drivers could scarcely see the dog teams. It came so suddenly that they had no time to get to cover. For a few minutes they struggled blindly, Eiseeyou’s bump of locality standing them in good stead. With great generalship he led the three sledges into a sheltered valley where the storm did not beat so badly. But even here it was difficult to see fifty feet away. The cold also increased, and the party decided that they could go no further that day.
So they tunneled into a hard snowbank and made a very comfortable snow house. That is, they thought it comfortable, for it sheltered them from the wind and kept out some of the cold.
The dogs also were quick to burrow in, and half an hour after they had decided to stop for the night only the three komatiks showed that a hunting party was hidden somewhere in the snow drifts.
The men soon satisfied their appetites, which were like wolves, with raw meat while the dogs were fed their allowance of dried fish. They talked for a while and inquired of each other as to what the kooners and the children in the igloos in Eskimo town might be doing. But this was not for long. They had travelled over forty miles that day. Much of the way the going had been very bad, and they were tired.
Soon sleep claimed them. They slept just as peacefully in the heart of a snow bank as they would have in the igloo at home. Meanwhile Omingmong the musk ox the one who had caused all this trouble was peacefully munching reindeer moss a few miles away to the north west.
The Musk Ox is the least known of all the large North American animals. This is because he ranges so far northward and it is only since 1900 that specimens have been taken captive and brought to civilization to be studied. His range is around the arctic circle, from sixty-nine degrees to seventy-five.
Commander Peary shot a musk ox within half a mile of the northern point of Greenland, the most northerly land in the world.
Although Omingmong has the name of musk ox yet he possesses some sheep characteristics. His hair is so long that his outline is quite hidden. The outer hair is nearly a foot in length and brushes on the snow when he walks. It also nearly hides his rather slight spindle legs. Imagine, if you can, an animal about four and a half feet tall and six and a half long, covered with a thick long coat which hides all but the face and the strange horns and you have a fairly good picture of Omingmong. His horns are really quite as characteristic as the rest of his queer makeup. On the forehead they are very much flattened, so that they form a sort of helmet for the head.
In the middle line of the forehead they meet, but flare out again lower down, and finally flare out still more and upward.
At the point, they are very sharp and deadly when Omingmong is enraged. The Eskimo dog teams who bring him to bay have discovered this to their sorrow.
The color of Omingmong’s coat is a dirty yellow brown and one of the two species has a gray band across the forehead.
On the back he has a saddle mark of darker hair. His tail which is only three inches long is hidden in the long hair.
These wonderful hides with the outer hair a foot long upon them, and a thick fine under coat at the skin, make a robe unsurpassed in the animal kingdom. It is with such robes as these that the Eskimo sleeping benches are spread in midwinter. The flesh of Omingmong is also very good eating. It is only when the meat is allowed to stand too long before dressing that it has the musky quality the name indicates.
So it was both for food and raiment that Eiseeyou and his hunting party had come.
Omingmong usually goes in herds of from twenty to fifty head, although smaller herds are often encountered. So if the Eskimo sights the coveted prize he usually finds more than one.
How this strange animal subsists in this frozen snow-covered barren land is one of the mysteries of nature. After allowing him all the creeping willow and saxifrage and dried grass that he can paw out from under the snow, yet it is strange how he keeps in good flesh where any other cloven-hoofed animal would starve. Mother Nature has given him the secret and he guards it well.
Promptly on the following day, although there was little to indicate where one day began and another left off, Eiseeyou and his party dug out of their snowbank, ate some raw meat themselves, fed the dog teams their frozen fish, and were off, much refreshed by their night’s sleep in the snowbank with the thermometer from thirty to forty degrees below zero.
They travelled as they had the day before, Eiseeyou going ahead and the other teams following his lead. Every half mile or so they stopped to reconnoiter, for they were now approaching the land of Omingmong and must go cautiously. For six weary hours they scoured the country, Eiseeyou making several detours to explore likely musk ox feeding ground.
At last their patience was rewarded just as such patient plodding always is. The two Eskimos travelling behind noticed that Eiseeyou had brought his komatik to a stand. So they stopped and watched his motions. He stood for several seconds shading his eyes with his hand and looking intently to the north west. Finally he motioned them to come forward. When the two other komatiks were alongside, Eiseeyou informed his companions that he had discovered Omingmong—only two head feeding half a mile away but there were probably more near by. He would go to the top of the hill and reconnoiter while the others minded the dog teams.
It seemed to his companions that Eiseeyou would never return. They had travelled so far and endured so much hardship to reach Omingmong that they were eager to get at him.
Finally Eiseeyou returned his face wreathed with smiles.
He had discovered the entire herd, a dozen strong. They were not over three quarters of a mile away.
So the excited hunting party got out their rifles and made ready while Eiseeyou led the way with his fleet dog team.
They proceeded by stealth as far as possible but finally they came out in the open and the herd sighted them and were off.
Then they lashed their dog teams to their best pace and the chase was on.
At first the sledges did not seem to gain, no matter how hard the teams ran, but finally after about five miles they drew up to within a quarter of a mile of the herd. Then Eiseeyou gave the word to cut loose the dogs, and the exciting part of the chase began.
The worst enemy that Omingmong has to fear in his frozen north, next to man, is the great white wolf. This terrible wolf is closely related to the gray timber wolf found further south. He is the corsair of the north and woe betide the quarry that this blood thirsty wolf trails. He hunts in packs of from five to twelve members and can run to earth or bring to bay almost anything that runs upon four legs. He hunts the musk ox, the reindeer and even the fleet snowshoe rabbit, while many a ptarmigan he noses out of the new snow and kills with a single crunch of his powerful jaws.
So when Omingmong first notices the pack of Eskimo dogs trailing him, he probably concludes that it is a wolf pack, gone foolish. For the white wolf always pursues silently, while the Eskimo pack often yelps with savage glee, especially when the musk ox has at last been brought to bay.
As soon as the traces were cut, the Eskimo sledge dogs were off at a wild pace. One never would have thought they had been on the trail for the better part of the last thirty six hours.
They spread out like the wolf pack to keep Omingmong’s little herd from spreading. This likewise enabled them to cut across at either end, if the quarry turned sharply, and thus gain ground. For two miles the trail led across open country, although it was very rocky and rough. Eiseeyou, Tukshu, and Tunkine followed on foot. Finally the hotly pursued little herd came to a mountain with very steep sides. The winds had blown the loose snow from it and it was covered with a glare crust nearly as slippery as ice. Up the sides of this shining steep the musk ox herd scrambled, running like mountain goats or bighorn sheep. Nor did the yelping pack stop at the ascent. Up they scrambled, slipping and sliding, but holding on in some way and keeping close to the terrified musk ox herd.
Nor did the three Eskimos pause when they reached the bottom of the hill and looked up its shining slippery slopes. It was a climb for which a white man would have needed creepers and an Alpine staff, but not so the hardy Eskimo. He had come seventy-five miles through the snow and the storm, and now he was not going to be held up at the very hour of victory by any ascent, no matter how hard or dangerous. Up the three intrepid hunters went, Eiseeyou leading the way. How they found foothold was a mystery. They clung where there was seemingly nothing to cling to. Like flies their feet and hands seemed to cling to the slippery slopes. Higher and higher they went as the musk ox herd fled.
Once Eiseeyou stopped for a moment and looked down. It made a shiver run through even his steely nerves. What if he should slip or ever get started down the mountain. There would certainly be mourning in his igloo. After that he kept his face resolutely looking upward towards the fleeing omingmongs.
Finally at the top of the mountain with their shaggy backs to a cliff the musk ox herd came to bay.
Many hard battles with the white wolves had taught both the musk ox and the reindeer herds that their only safety when brought to bay in this manner was in presenting a solid front of horns to the enemy. If it had been merely a question of the yelping snapping Eskimo dogs, they would have beaten them off easily.
This was plainly evidenced by the fact that when Eiseeyou arrived on the scene one of the younger dogs who had never seen Omingmong before had paid the price of too much valor with his life. He lay in the snow beneath the hoofs of a mighty bull gored to death, while another limped towards Eiseeyou fatally wounded.
Eiseeyou did not at once begin firing into the herd. They were all bunched against the wall and the dogs held them safely so he waited for Tukshu and Tunkine, The Eskimo is very fair in his division of the kill. They often give a portion of the kill to those present, even though they take no active part. When his two companions at last arrived, the three formed in a half circle perhaps a hundred feet from the herd. It was not sportsmanlike, but simply a killing for meat. It was meat and hides that they were after, so they did their work with their high power modern rifles as quickly as possible. In almost as short a time as it takes to tell it the herd of Omingmongs were kicking in the snow all dead or mortally wounded.
But one tragic thing occurred which was not on the hunter’s program. The herd had come to bay very close to the further side of the mountain, so that when the firing was nearly over the last three musk ox managed to struggle to the edge of the mountain and when shot toppled over the side and went sliding like woolly toboggans down the mountainside.
The half starved Eskimo dogs, who had been driven frantic by the smell of blood were quick to notice the three Omingmong sliding down the mountain far from the reach of the hunters. So without waiting to see if they were to share in the kill near at hand, they all started slipping and sliding after the dead musk ox which were now a score of rods out on the plain.
With a groan Eiseeyou noted their intent. These three Omingmongs were the very largest of the herd. Their beautiful robes would be torn to shreds. The best of the meat would be eaten before they could arrive on the scene. He should have guarded against it.
Then a wild thought came into the mind of the intrepid hunter.
This side of the mountain was not as steep as the one they had climbed. It was a hair-raising slide. There might be obstacles in the way that he could not see, but these robes at the bottom of the mountain must be saved.
So he cried to his companions, “The dogs! They spoil robes and meat. I will go to stop them.”
With these words he tightened his belt and took the cartridges from his rifle.
His companions remonstrated with him. They told him he would surely be killed. They reminded him of his kooner and his children in the igloo in Eskimo Town. But Eiseeyou was firm.
He had made up his mind. He would go. So he gripped his rifle that he might use it as an Alpine staff to guide his downward plunge, shook off his companions, and squatting down slipped over the icy slope.
The way in which he gained speed amazed and terrified him. Almost before he knew it, he was slipping down the mountain side like a streak. A shower of ice and snow came rattling down behind him, but he left these smaller bits far behind.
Out and in among the rocks he guided his perilous flight by thrusting his rifle muzzle against the icy crust. Several times he barely missed jagged boulders that suddenly flashed in his path. Once he plunged over a sheer drop of fifteen feet and thought he was lost. If he failed to keep his erect position and started to travel head first, or sideways, he would surely be dashed upon some rock. It was only by guiding his course with the greatest skill and dexterity that he had thus far gone safely. But with a great effort he gained his feet again and went plunging on to the bottom of the hill.
The frightful slide down the mountainside had been nearly half a mile, but in about fifteen seconds after Eiseeyou had slipped over the crest, he stood up and waved his rifle to his two companions. At the sight they crossed themselves and gave a deep sigh of relief.
He reached the three musk ox which had taken the plunge ahead of him just in time to beat off the dogs and save the robes for his igloo. He then sat down upon one of the carcasses to rest. It had been a frightful experience, but he was glad he had taken it. His children and his good kooner would be warm and comfortable because he had been brave. Besides it would be a great story to tell on wild nights when the winds howled outside and the snow blew in white sheets. Yes, he would be a hero in Eskimo Town. At the thought a pleasant grin overspread the face of Eiseeyou and his brave heart was very glad.
He had added one more laurel to his reputation as a mighty hunter.
After sliding the rest of the musk ox kill down the mountainside, the three successful hunters gorged themselves upon raw meat and also fed the dogs as much as they could hold. Then they made camp and were soon peacefully sleeping. But this night they slept by turns, one keeping watch over their great supply of fresh meat. The whole of the next day was spent in skinning and cutting up the thirteen carcasses. Even so they had to work hard before darkness set in. So they again camped in the lea of the slippery mountain.
Early the next day they packed the meat and robes upon the three sledges. When they had loaded each komatik to its capacity, they cached the rest of the meat, covering it with boulders, and marked the spot, in case they came that way again.
The meat would at once freeze and there was a good chance of finding it still eatable according to Eskimo appetites even six months hence.
When everything had been made ready on the third morning after sighting the Omingmongs, it was decided that Tukshu and Tunkine should proceed on the journey towards Eskimo town while Eiseeyou prospected about for the balance of the day for more Omingmongs. He could easily overtake the party as the komatiks were loaded very heavily and would travel slow.
So Eiseeyou took fresh meat enough with him for a day’s rations, filled his belt with a new supply of cartridges, and set off.
They had come northward parallel with the sea, not going more than twenty miles inland at any time. So Eiseeyou turned back towards the sea, wishing to explore that part of the country. If he was looking for an adventure he certainly found it, but not in just the form that he would have selected had he had anything to say about it. But when one goes prospecting in a wilderness like this, he must expect to meet almost any sort of a wild stranger. So if Eiseeyou was astonished, he may also have surprised the Czar.
The polar bear, whom I call the Czar of the Frozen North, is in a class quite by himself. He is not nearly as large as his cousin the Kadiak bear, but that huge beast inhabits a comparatively small area and is little known, while the white Czar ranges along the shores of the Arctic sea round the entire world. His scientific name, Thalarctos Maritimus, means Bear of the Sea.
He is also called the water bear. By this you will know that he is very much at home in the water. In fact cold baths are his specialty. With the thermometer registering twenty below zero, this hardy fellow will plunge into the Arctic sea and swim for hours among the floating ice cakes. He also dives with great ease, but rarely goes further than a day’s journey inland.
His home is on the icefloe and he travels with it, going northward in the summer and coming back southward in the winter.
Like the walrus, the seal, the narwal, and some of the foxes, he follows the icefloe because it gives him such good eating.
He lives upon seals both small and large, walrus calves, and dead whales, and goes ashore for roots and plants to vary his diet.
The Eskimos sometimes hunt him on the icefloes with their dogs and it makes exciting sport, in which the dogs often come to grief. When cornered or wounded, the white Czar is a terrible fighter.
This bear, who is sometimes seen in zoos is a tall lank fellow and always snow white. His coat never changes its color. Many of the arctic animals and birds are snow white to correspond with the snowfields.
The specimen of Thalarctos Maritimus which Eiseeyou met on that cold arctic morning, afterwards measured fifty inches at the shoulders and seven feet in length. His weight was probably about six hundred pounds. When we add to this the fact that he is as quick as a cat, and can strike a blow that will crush a man’s skull, it will readily be seen that he is no mean adversary.
White Ursus is longlegged and slab sided, tall at the shoulders and with a rather snaky head. His jaws are very powerful and his claws long and terrible. His feet are covered with hair on the bottom, so his track is very large.
For three hours after leaving his friends all went well with Eiseeyou. He located two small herds of musk ox and was well pleased with his observations.
Presently Eiseeyou spied another of those strange rocky mountains rising abruptly from the barrens. It was just such a hill as that upon which they had made their kill.
As it afforded a good lookout, he began slowly ascending. Once at the top he would be able to see all the Omingmongs in five miles.
Midway on the mountainside was a large boulder perhaps twenty feet in height. As it was immediately in his path Eiseeyou clambered carelessly around it. He did not expect to meet any game either large or small so was not taking his usual precautions. As he rounded the boulder on the upper side his black hair fairly stood up and his usually steady nerves began quivering strangely as he encountered a mighty polar bear who was standing on his hindlegs, his fore paws resting upon the body of a dead musk ox. The bear, much incensed that his meal had been so unceremoniously interrupted, greeted Eiseeyou with an angry snarl.
It would have been the better part of valor on Eiseeyou’s part to have retreated a little before opening fire on the monster. Then if his shots were not effective, he might at least get in some more or run for it. But Eiseeyou was so paralyzed with fright that his usually keen wits forsook him.
He obeyed the hunter’s first instinct and that was to shoot.
Quick as a flash he raised his rifle to his shoulder and fired.
But his hands were cold, and his gloves were bungling, and the bullet which had been intended for the great bear’s brain glanced off his skull merely stunning him for an instant. Seeing that his first shot had not killed the monster, Eiseeyou fired again—this time at the heart and broke a shoulder instead.
By this time Bruin probably thought it was his turn, and with a blow quicker than lightning he struck the rifle from Eiseeyou’s hand with his still undisabled arm and at the same time caught the intrepid hunter to his shaggy breast.
Eiseeyou had just presence of mind enough left as the bear seized him to draw his hunting knife and sink it deep into the bear’s sides. Luckily for him it found the heart.
But one of these mighty bears will put forth great exertions even after being shot through the heart.
Tighter and tighter the mighty arm gripped him while Eiseeyou struggled with all his might to free himself. If the bear had possessed both arms, he could have crushed the hunter in a very few seconds.
But even as it was Eiseeyou felt his ribs cracking. His eyes fairly bulged from his head. His breath was entirely squeezed out of him and with a snap like the report of a pistol, his right arm with which he was holding his own body away from that of the bear snapped.
Finally it grew dark about Eiseeyou. He had a queer faint feeling and his ears rang strangely.
But just as he reached the point of his last ounce of resistance the strength of the Czar gave out and they collapsed together and rolled on the snow beside the dead musk ox.
Five minutes later Eiseeyou raised himself painfully on his elbow and looked about him. He had fainted with the pain from his broken arm, but the bear was motionless and apparently dead. Eiseeyou reached over cautiously and touched his nose. It was already growing cold.
Yes, he had won the fight, but at a terrible price. One of his ribs was broken and he was so sore that he could scarcely draw a long breath. His right arm was broken. It was thirty below zero and night was coming on in a few hours. He was so weak he could not stand and his companions and the three komatiks were hourly going further from him. They would not expect him to overtake them until towards night. Then it would be too late for them to turn back and look for him. Besides, they could not find him in a day’s search unless they should be very successful in tracking him. In the meantime he must keep from freezing.
Eiseeyou’s plight looked desperate, but he was not discouraged.
A white man under those circumstances would have frozen, but not so the hardy Eskimo. For several minutes he sat upon the body of the dead bear whose white coat had cost him such a price. Then a grin overspread his pleasant countenance. No, he was not beaten.
He would win out yet, and what a hero he would be in Eskimo Town!
First he fortified himself against the cold of the coming night by eating as much raw Omingmong as he could hold. Then he ate some snow to slake his thirst. So far so good, but how would he protect himself against the cold arctic night?
He got down on his knees and carefully examined the ground on which the white bear lay. Then he began digging the snow away from under him on the lee side with his hunting knife.
In half an hour he had excavated a hole large enough to admit his body. Then he crawled in, and with the same trusty knife scraped the snow over him, first pulling the long white pelage of the bear about him. Finally the friendly wind blew the snow over the place, entirely covering him and soon he was fairly warm. His broken arm pained him so he could not sleep soundly but he dozed the arctic night away in safety where his white brother would have died merely from the cold.
Tunkine and Tukshu were not much worried about the absence of Eiseeyou until several hours after the vanishing of the arctic day. But when the hours dragged by until ten of them had passed and still he did not overtake them, they became anxious.
In the meantime they had camped and built a snow igloo and had made the three heavily loaded komatiks and the dog teams secure. It would be almost hopeless to return and try to find Eiseeyou in the darkness of the arctic night, although these Eskimos have a sort of cat eyesight and can see to hunt and kill game in the darkness where a white man cannot even find his way.
So after having fed the dog teams and eaten large quantities of frozen meat themselves, the two Eskimos crawled into their sleeping bags and were soon asleep notwithstanding the fact that their companion was absent. They had no means of knowing what had befallen him. He might even be dead.
But the Eskimos are fatalists. If they had been questioned about their seeming indifference they would have replied, “If he is dead, he is dead. We cannot help it. If God wants him to die, we can’t stop it.”
But very promptly with the first faint indication of the return of the arctic day, Tunkine set off on the back track to find their companion, while Tukshu remained to guard the three komatiks and the dog teams.
Tunkine had no difficulty in finding the tracks where Eiseeyou had started towards the coast on his explorations.
The wind had blown but slightly the night before, but even so the tracks were blown in in places and he had to follow partly by instinct, picking up the trail for a few hundred feet and then losing it. At last, after about three hours, he came to the precipitate mountain that Eiseeyou had climbed the day before. Here the trail was very plain as it had been made in a rather icy crust and the wind had kept it clear. So Tunkine followed without difficulty to the great boulder where Eiseeyou had met with his desperate adventure. If Eiseeyou had been astonished by meeting the Czar over the body of the dead musk ox, Tunkine was equally astonished to find both the dead Omingmong and the great white bear lying beside it. His astonishment gave way to a sickening fear when he discovered the tracks of Eiseeyou’s deerskin boots beside the carcass of the bear. The great hunter had certainly been there, and yet he was nowhere to be seen. Had the huge bear killed and eaten him?
With much excitement, Tunkine examined the snow about. Yes, there were signs of a desperate struggle. Then his foot struck something hard and, kicking away the snow, he stooped and picked up Eiseeyou’s rifle which he had neglected to take with him when he crawled under the bear.
While Tunkine was still standing pondering, with a great fear at his heart, the snow under the bear began wriggling about strangely.
The Eskimo is rather superstitious and for a moment Tunkine nearly yielded to the impulse to flee. Perhaps this mountain was bewitched. But before he could flee, a hand was thrust through the snow. In it was a large hunting knife which Tunkine had no difficulty in recognizing.
With a glad cry he fell upon his knees and began digging frantically to free his friend. After a very few minutes’ work Eiseeyou staggered to his feet, stiff, pale, and weak. His right arm hung limp by his side, but that would mend in time and he was still the intrepid hunter with many a good fight against the wind and the cold left in him.
Briefly he told the story of his meeting with the White Czar.
The Eskimos decided that they could not take anything but the bear’s great white coat with them. So Tunkine at once set to work divesting him of it. Eiseeyou helped what he could with his left hand.
In an incredibly short time, the white robe was stripped from the dead bear and rolled up ready for the march back to the waiting komatiks. Although by this time the arctic night was again upon them, yet they set off to find the camp where Tukshu waited patiently for them.
About midnight the faithful Tukshu was awakened by a great commotion among the dogs and, crawling hastily from the snow igloo, rifle in hand, he found Tunkine and Eiseeyou in the midst of the yelping pack.
Truly it was a happy meeting of these three hardy hunters.
Men who without the civilized ways of thinking and with little religion, undergo cheerfully every week of the year desperate hardships and dangers, all for the love of those in the igloo in Eskimo Town.
The following night at about the same hour that the two hunters returned to camp, the three sleepers were aroused by a strange noise from the dog teams. Most of the arctic noises they knew at once, but this sound puzzled them for a few minutes. The dog teams seemed to have gone loony, for they were howling intermittently, not in the usual hoarse howl of an Eskimo dog, but in a thin unearthly howl which had a strange bloodcurdling sound. They did not all howl at once, but first one would howl and then another.
The three hunters listened in perfect silence until, during a lull in the howling of the dogs, they distinctly heard another howl. This too was thin and bloodcurdling, sounding more like the shrieking of the wind than like a cry from the throat of an animal.
At this sound the three Eskimos reached for their rifles and crawled cautiously out into the open. The sound that they had just heard was the howl of the great white arctic wolf. These dread hunters were abroad and probably trying to lure away some of the dogs that they might devour them.
The dogs seemed to recognize in the white wolves their own kin of a few generations back and the weird howling drew them strangely. For several minutes all was quiet and then the distant howling was repeated as before and the dogs answered. The Eskimos soon silenced them with their whips.
After a quarter of an hour Tunkine, whose night eyes were better than those of his companions, pointed out two gleaming yellow eyes watching them from behind a clump of creeping willow.
The three raised their rifles and fired in unison, and a white wolf sprang into the air and fell kicking on the snow, while in the distance the sound of scurrying feet could be distinctly heard. This ended their troubles from the white pack, although Tukshu remained up watching for the rest of the night.
Meanwhile life went on its humdrum way in Eskimo Town.
The men went on short seal hunts while the women busied themselves with making reindeer skin boots. There were the traps also to mind. These often yielded valuable fox skins which the women attended to stretching and curing. They also boiled the fox meat over their strange stone lamps, thus giving variety to their usual diet of raw meat.
But after about ten days, the old men and the women and also the children would be seen often watching from the top of the high hill for some signs of the returning hunting party.
If they were anxious, yet they gave no sign. The allotted time had already been consumed and their return was confidently looked for.
On the eleventh day after the hunting party had disappeared over the frozen barrens, just as the arctic dusk was about to descend, one of the watchers at the top of the hill described three small specks away on the distant horizon. They were so small that they had no seeming shape, but to the trained eyes of the Eskimo they had both shape and meaning. Without waiting further than to satisfy himself, he ran wildly through Eskimo Town shouting at the entrance of each igloo and hailing every one that he met joyously.
In less time almost than it takes to tell, half the inhabitants of Eskimo Town were watching at the top of the hill. The winds were blowing briskly and the thermometer was probably thirty below zero, but they did not mind. Their loved ones were coming home.
The hunters were returning. Fresh omingmong meat was coming on those slowly crawling sledges.
No one in the excited crowd was more excited than was Eiseeyou’s kooner. This hunting party had been a great strain on her. For eleven long days she had waited, almost alone in the igloo with little Oumauk and his sister, also with the thought that before Eiseeyou should return there might be another snow baby in his igloo.
Finally the komatiks came into plain sight and there was no mistaking what the eyes of the old man had seen half an hour before. This was more than Eiseeyou’s kooner could bear.
Without the slightest warning she went problokto. This is a sudden madness which often seizes the Eskimos. The women are especially liable to this strange derangement. The young woman shrieked and tore at her hair. Finally she rolled in the snow and tried to tear off her garments, although the air was biting cold.
A frightened little group gathered around her, yet could do nothing. But when she finally sprang to her feet and ran away into the gathering darkness, two strong men followed and brought her back by force.
This derangement probably arises from the fact that the Eskimos dwell in this strange desolate land, under unearthly conditions. Their lives are hard and have not much joy in them. It is a constant struggle to keep the wolf of hunger from the igloo, so they sometimes go mad. The great silence, the ghastly moonlight, and the long night probably all add to this tendency.
Thus it happened that when poor Eiseeyou, nearly spent with the trip, finally struggled to the top of the hill, with his right arm in a sling, the first object that met his eyes was the sight of two men carrying his kooner to the igloo.
Notwithstanding his own discomfort, he was all compassion and tenderness. Once in the igloo where other women ministered to her, the dusky little woman whose life was one long struggle against the cold and hunger revived and was soon herself, resting her head on the well arm of her mighty hunter.
But it was many a day before the women and children and the old men tired of talking of these latest achievements of Eiseeyou, the bravest of the brave among the children of the snow.
Probably the most diabolical monster that travels upon sea or land in the western hemisphere, is the walrus, called by the Eskimo, I-wok. He lives upon the icefloe, so he travels northward in the summer and southward in the winter, following the movements of the arctic ice.
He is found along the northeast coast of British America including Labrador and Greenland, along the shores of Behring sea, and in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska in the summertime. There are two species, the Pacific and the Atlantic walrus. The only difference being that the Atlantic walrus possesses a slimmer neck; aside from that they are identical.
Imagine, if you can, a mighty creature weighing two thousand pounds covered with a coarse, heavy, seamed and wattled skin, of a dirty yellowish brown, a skin so thick that it often weighs two hundred pounds when removed. To the Eskimo, who has as good teeth as a husky dog, this skin is considered a great delicacy, but a white man would as soon eat saddle leather.
Imagine this monster with a massive head, like the sea lion, only much larger, a head surmounted by two large tusks two feet in length. A head so large that it would be as high as a man’s head if he were standing beside this satyr. Such a head supported upon a neck of ten feet girth. Imagine this monstrosity equipped with huge flippers about two feet in length instead of legs and a ridiculous tail which scarcely shows.
If you can imagine all this, you have in your mind a good picture of I-wok, the mighty, the animal who furnishes more food and raw material to the Eskimo than does any other creature.
Another animal that also follows the icefloe and is almost as much of a favorite with the Eskimo is Nik-Suk, the seal, the most common species being the little-ringed seal, which is found adjacent to the whole of Eskimo Land. In fact it is the presence of these two animals that makes Eskimo Land inhabitable.
There are several species of seals. The common harbor seal which is seen in many of the Atlantic harbors is a type of all the rest. He has a cousin called the harp seal, with stripes upon his coat resembling the strings of the harp. The ribbon seal has a beautiful and even ribbon around his neck and another along his sides and shoulders which meet underside. The strangest of all the seals is the hooded seal. The male of this species has a grotesque skin hood upon the top of his head which he can puff out at will.
Both the walrus and the seal breed and feed upon the icefloe.
But they are not the only inhabitants of that strange movable world; for the white Czar, the great polar bear, also follows the floe, that he may prey upon the young seals and the walrus calves. A dead whale is also to his liking. Some of the foxes, too, frequent the floe in certain times of the year.
The day following the return of the hunting party to Eskimo Town, Tunkine took his friend Eiseeyou to a larger Eskimo Town farther south where the local missionary, who was also a sort of doctor, put his arm in splints and he recovered very rapidly. In less than a month’s time he had taken off the splints and declared that he was ready for another polar bear.
By this time the sun had returned so far northward that it shone feebly for several hours each day. This was keenly enjoyed by the Snow People, who appreciate the sun as no other people in the world do. The icefloe had started southward and the walrus and seal hunting were good, even within a day’s journey from Eskimo Town.
The three hunters, tired of the unexciting work of attending the traps and shooting ptarmigan, were glad that the hunting of larger game was at hand. So they planned a hunt of I-wok, that should be long remembered in Eskimo Town.
Now it happened that the same morning the three hunters set forth from Eskimo town to hunt I-wok, the mighty, another hunter had started upon the same quest.
The day following that in which Tunkine found his friend Eiseeyou lying wounded under the carcass of the great polar bear, another white bear, perhaps not quite as large as the Czar, appeared at the foot of the mountain. This was the Czarina, the mate of the White Czar who had been called from hibernation in some strange way by her mate’s death. She easily found the trail of her comrade leading up the mountainside and finally followed it to the place where the dead bear lay. Although he was divested of his white coat, yet she had no difficulty in recognizing him.
First she spent a day and a night in seeming deep grief, lying in the snow by his side. Then she yielded to the urge of hunger, and, sad to relate, made a good meal upon him. Having satisfied the gnawing at her vitals, she turned back towards the seashore where the white bears had been spending the last two months.
But hunting was poor in the land of Omingmong. The seals and walrus were all further south, where they were slowly following the first movements of the ice northward. So, as the hunting was poor and she was restless, being heavy with young, the Czarina started southward following upon the ice almost parallel with the three heavily loaded komatiks, upon one of which was the white coat of her mate. She did not go as far southward as they did, however, but stopped about ten miles north of Eskimo Town, and took up her abode in a cave in the side of a cliff which fringed the sea. Here she gave birth to two white cubs, blind and almost hairless.
Ordinarily while she was nursing the small bears, her mate would have hunted for her, but he was dead; so the responsibility for her own food and the sustenance of the two cubs fell upon the mother bear. Thus it happened that this white hunter came forth to hunt along the icefloe on the same morning that the Eskimo party started out.
But she was up much earlier than they. For two hours before the tardy arctic sun finally appeared, she had been lying upon the ice, partly shielded by an upturned cake, watching a pair of walrus which were disporting themselves in the open water nearby.
She would have much preferred hunting seal, as walrus hunting is dangerous sport.
Just across from where she lay a point of land jutted far out into the open water, and the cow and the bull walrus finally climbed upon some rocks to sun. The sun’s rays were still very feeble, but this was better than nothing.
After watching them closely for a long time, the white bear saw another cow walrus climb upon a rock nearby. Her calf stayed in the water disporting himself and occasionally popping up his round head, which was not shaped like anything in particular. The calf himself was a fat rotund bundle of flesh, weighing perhaps a hundred pounds. Anyhow he looked good to the hungry mother bear as she lay on the ice watching.
Finally she decided that the bull was asleep. The cow also seemed to be dozing. This was her chance, so she silently slipped into the water and swam slowly towards them, keeping just the tip of her nose in sight.
In this manner she proceeded until she was within a hundred feet of them. Then she inflated her great lungs and silently sank from sight. It was to be a sort of submarine attack.
For an instant, twenty-five feet nearer, the white nose again appeared. Then all was still about the walrus family.
In the meantime, the calf had decided it was time to feed and was at the water’s edge calling for the cow to come down to him.
The walrus calf suckles under water, just as the young hippopotamus does. It was not until a hippopotamus in captivity gave birth to a youngster, that this fact was known. Then the care takers in the circus killed the calf by trying to make it suckle above water.
Although the walrus mother is a great fat mountain without shape or beauty, yet her love for her calf is very beautiful. She guards and mothers it as faithfully as the most fastidious heifer. So she slipped down into the water and the calf began feeding. This was not just as the white hunter had planned, but she was almost upon them and could not turn back.
Presently, as the calf came to the surface to breathe, it uttered a plaintive bleat and struggling sank from sight.
With an agonized cry the mother walrus turned just in time to see the white coat of the dread hunter sink in the dark water carrying the struggling calf with it.
Her cry of distress and appeal was like a call to battle to the sleeping bull. It is an unwritten law in the chivalric code of the male walrus that he defend his mate and his young with his life. So, with a roar of rage that echoed along the frozen ice field, the bull splashed into the water.
But the great walrus fought at a disadvantage, for the white hunter came up to breathe only when it was necessary.
They would charge at her as soon as the white head appeared above the water, but immediately she sank from sight.
But the walrus calf was a bulky weight to carry and it had a tendency to rise to the surface. The bear several times narrowly missed being struck by the mighty swimmers as they charged at her. They churned up the water until it was covered with foam and the small cakes of floating ice danced like corks. But all the time the cunning bear was working her way to the solid ice. Finally, when she had become nearly winded, she climbed out on the solid ice, just as the enraged bull came bellowing to its edge.
Once on the firm ice, she struck the helpless calf a crushing blow on its head and it lay still.
It would have been a simple matter to have trotted back to the cave with the calf had not the unexpected happened.
Just as the mother bear had taken a good hold on the calf and started on the homeward journey, the three komatiks from Eskimo Town came upon the ice. The hunters at once spied the great white bear, and the walrus hunt was immediately changed into a bear hunt. They cut the traces and let the dogs loose, and in five minutes the yelping pack had overtaken the white hunter.
But she did not abandon the calf which had cost her so much trouble without a struggle. She laid it on the ice and waited for the pack. The first dog that ventured too near was sent to the happy hunting ground with a single blow.
This cooled the ardor of the pack and the Eskimos could only get them to follow at a distance. As the men themselves had only their harpoons with them, they could not come to very close grips with the bear. So a running fight was kept up for two miles. Finally the bear decided to abandon her kill and leave the calf behind on the ice. After that, she loped away to the north with such a long stride that she soon left the hunters behind. But this was not until they had noted that she was a female bear, probably with young.
The three hunters held a counsel of war and finally decided to return to the walrus hunt and go after the white bear another day. She never would be hunting in these waters, they reasoned, unless she was staying in the region permanently. So, although they finally let her go, yet they felt sure they would find her again some other day when they should have their high power rifles along.
When the three hunters returned to the water’s edge where the Czarina had clambered out with the walrus calf ten minutes before, they found the old walrus bull still splashing up and down in the water looking for the white destroyer. He was so enraged and so bent on venting his fury on the slayer of his offspring that he was not as wary as usual; so they had a good chance to steal upon him. Eiseeyou went first, creeping along on his belly. In his right hand he carried a harpoon to which was attached a long rawhide rope.
Usually when the Eskimo harpoons a walrus he pulls out the handle of the harpoon and leaves the walrus free to swim away with the head sticking in him. This is because the head is attached to a cord, and that in turn is attached to a float. When the walrus has dragged the float about on the water until he is tired, the Eskimo will creep up on him in a kayak, one of their small skin boats, and shoot him or spear him to death. But today they planned to hold the walrus fast as soon as they had harpooned him.
Tunkine followed fifty feet behind Eiseeyou, with the end of the rope, and a sharp spear, to which it was attached.
Finally when Eiseeyou reached the edge of the ice, he signed to Tunkine that he was ready and to look out. Then he raised himself cautiously on one elbow. Just at that moment the bull reared his head high above the water and Eiseeyou flung his harpoon like lightning.
It sank deep in the bull’s neck and he at once whirled and started for the open sea. But Tunkine was ready for him. At the moment Eiseeyou had flung the harpoon, he had driven the sharp pointed spear to which the rope was fastened, deep into the ice.
Eiseeyou sprang to his assistance and together they held the upper end of the spear. The rawhide tightened until one would have thought it would snap. But it is very tough, much stronger than rope of an equal size. For a few seconds the bull strained at it with all his might, while the two Eskimos held their breath with suspense, but the rope and the spear held. Then the infuriated bull came splashing and bellowing back to the edge of the ice. The water was dyed crimson with his blood.
He lashed it into white foam. Back and forth he raced, first trying to get at his captors and then trying vainly to break away.
But the rope was like a deadly thing, slowly but surely reeling him in. The two Eskimos wound the rope up gradually about the spear, until they had the bull held fast close to the ice.
By this time he was too tired out and exhausted from loss of blood to struggle. So while Tunkine held the rope, Eiseeyou crept up carefully and delivered Several deadly thrusts with another harpoon. Finally the mighty monster of the Arctic ceased his struggling and the Eskimos knew he was dead.
Then they rigged a double pulley of their own make, which they had brought along on one of the komatiks and slowly walked the great two thousand pound walrus on to the ice.
They then set to work with their sharp knives to skin him and to cut him up. In an incredibly short time the great bull was skinned, cut up, and loaded upon the three sledges, and the successful hunters set off for Eskimo Town. They had not only killed the walrus and there would be plenty of meat for all, but they had also discovered the white bear, and that promised another exciting hunt for another day. So they were well content.
For several days after the walrus hunt described in the last chapter, very bad weather prevailed in Eskimo Land. The mighty north winds, with an edge that cut like a knife, smote the half buried igloos with a demon’s strength. The snow blew in white clouds until one could see scarcely a rod in any direction, and the cold was intense. So the three mighty hunters contented themselves by staying in their warm igloos and listening to the tales of the old men, some of them stories of famous bear hunts. They were not quite sure whether these old wrinkled hunters had really seen all the white bears they said they had, or whether they simply drew upon their imaginations; but their stories were pleasant to listen to when the winds howled outside and swept across the frozen plains and the icefloe. But like all bad things stormy weather finally gave way to days of sunshine, and the three hunters planned their bear hunt.
On the morning in question, they set forth just as they had for the walrus hunt, with three komatiks and a supply of food.
But this time they were armed differently. Most of their harpoons they left behind, and instead they carried their high power rifles. In rare cases the white bear can be driven into the open water and harpooned from a kayak, but this is not the usual mode of hunting him.
The travelling on the icefloe was rather rough. Often they would come to a mighty berg which had been ended up and had frozen into the floe in that position; then they would have to go around it.
They had travelled perhaps five miles northward along the floe, when the dog team of Eiseeyou set up a yelping and rushed forward. They came almost immediately to an open hole in the ice between a couple of cakes. The hole showed evidence of artificial thawing about the edge.
Eiseeyou got off his komatik and after examining the hole carefully, motioned to his comrades on the other komatiks to come forward. They also examined the hole with care. Then all three looked wise, and said in one breath, “Nik-suk.”
It was a breathing hole of Nik-suk the seal that they had discovered; so like children that they were, they for the time being forgot all about the White Czar and were all excitement about Nik-suk.
If there is one animal in the north country that the Eskimo knows better than any other it is Nik-Suk, for he is the most valuable of all the arctic animals to the Eskimo. The three hunters now knew that every twenty minutes, as regularly as the clock could have told it, the seal would come to this hole to breathe, provided he had no other breathing hole. So the three komatiks were withdrawn for a distance from the breathing hole, and Tucksu was given the task of tending the dog teams, while Eiseeyou and Tunkine made ready for the seal.
Eiseeyou lay down on the ice about fifteen feet from the breathing hole, resting partly on his left elbow so that he could watch the hole, while in his right hand he held a trusty harpoon. His companion Tunkine lay upon the ice farther away, with the rawhide cord attached to the harpoon firmly wound around his waist. They might have been blocks of ice themselves, so still they lay. Five minutes passed, ten, and fifteen, and still the seal did not come to the surface to breathe. Perhaps it was an old hole, but they would wait a while longer. Patience is a quality that the Eskimo has learned to perfection, just as have all primitive people. Finally, when Eiseeyou had about concluded that it must be an old hole, in spite of the excitement of the dogs, the beautiful head with the very human eyes of the little-ringed seal popped up in the air hole to breathe.
Lightning was not quicker than the flash of Eiseeyou’s strong right arm as he sank the harpoon deep in the seal’s neck. Then both Eskimos sprang to their feet and braced themselves. Away went the rawhide line singing through their mittened hands, and whistling against the edge of the ice. At last it came taut with a mighty jerk. Both men braced themselves. The rope cut into Tunkine’s waist until he thought it would cut him in two, but it held and the seal came racing back, but was soon off in another direction.
Again the rope tightened, and the two hunters strained with all their strength. Again and again this happened, but each time they braced and the rope held. Five, ten, fifteen minutes went by. The fight was nearly over. Poor nik-suk must soon come to his airhole to breathe again. Then they would finish him.
So Eiseeyou gradually drew him in while Tunkine waited with the spear. Finally the beautiful head again appeared. This time Tunkine finished poor nik-suk with his spear and together they hauled him out on to the ice.
They loaded the seal, which was of the little-ringed species, on to one of the komatiks, and they went forward rapidly.
They were reminded that they had wasted valuable time, for this was really a bear hunt, and not a seal hunt.
So for hours the three dog teams ranged back and forth over the icefloe. Some of the way the going was smooth, but often they had to turn this way and that to avoid small bergs which had been frozen into the floe. There were many fox tracks on the ice, but no signs of Bruin. Finally, when they had travelled about ten miles to the Northward, and had traversed the ice field in every direction and were becoming discouraged, they came upon the fresh trail of the great bear. Every few feet there were blood-spots, which indicated that she had been successful in her hunting. The Czarina had probably found a seal pup, or perhaps a walrus calf.
The dogs, all eagerness, yelped to be off; but Eiseeyou did not think it wise to cut them loose until they located the bear.
At last they came in sight of the mighty hunter making for the shore, and Eiseeyou gave word to cut loose the dogs.
The pack at once set off at a wild pace yelping with excitement. But when they came near enough to see who the quarry was, they experienced a sudden chill of their ardor. The White Czarina merely turned to snarl angrily at them, and then fled towards the land. She was too far away for the hunters to risk a shot, which might merely anger her; but they followed as fast as possible. Finally the trail led up a steep bank, ending at the mouth of a natural cave. So the three hunters and the dozen dogs finally came up, and all gathered about the entrance.
It was very dark and forbidding inside. It looked specially so as they had plainly seen the great bear enter. Eiseeyou tried to get the dogs to go in and rout out the bear but they slunk back, the hair standing erect on their backs. The taste that they had had of the white fury the week before had satisfied them.
The hunters fired several shots into the cave, but with no apparent effect. They had certainly found the temporary den of the great bear but this did not help them much. Night was coming on; so they seemed balked in their hunting for that day.
Eiseeyou then proposed to Tunkine that he go in and stir up the bear, but the latter said he had too many children to risk it. Tukshu said that he hadn’t lost any bear and that his hide was worth more to him than several bearskins. There seemed nothing to do but to camp there for the night or return home. If they went back to Eskimo Town, the prize might escape. She might escape in the night, even if they watched.
Finally Eiseeyou, in a fit of daring for which he was celebrated, said he would go in. His friends tried to dissuade him, but his mind was made up. He posted his companions in readiness to shoot if he should be driven out and, rifle in hand, began crawling slowly into the dark cave.
At first he could see little, but finally he got his night eyes and could see that the cave led back underground for several rods. Just ahead of him was a narrow place which he did not like the looks of.
If Eiseeyou could have known that the great bear was standing behind one of the pillars of rock, waiting with upraised paw for him, he would have been even more fearful.
At the narrow place Eiseeyou stopped and listened for several minutes, but all was as still as death. Then he stuck the barrel of his rifle through and felt about on either side.
This precaution probably saved his life. With a blow like lightning, the great bear struck the rifle from his hand and sent it crashing on the floor of the cave, breaking the stock. Then with a roar that made Eiseeyou’s two companions outside grip their rifles fearfully, she sprang through the narrow space and reached for the venturesome Eskimo.
But Eiseeyou was not taken wholly unawares. He had been looking for trouble all the way, and now he had found it. So stooping down in order not to hit his head, he ran for the streak of light which he knew was the opening of the cave.
It seemed to him that he would never reach it. He could hear the mighty bear almost upon him. He even fancied that she struck at him occasionally with her great paw as she pursued. Finally he burst into the daylight with the Czarina an arm’s length behind.
Eiseeyou had just presence of mind enough left to spring to one side and give his companions a chance to shoot. But as he sprang, his foot caught in a crevice and he went full length on the ground. At the same instant two shots rang out from his companions’ rifles.
The great bear turned upon them with a thunderous snarl, but fortunately for Eiseeyou, they stood their ground and gave her two more bullets, one in the head and the other near the heart.
She struck out at them savagely, then reeled and fell upon the ground almost over the prostrate Eiseeyou.
That mighty hunter extricated his foot from the crevice with all alacrity and got to a safe distance as the white Czarina struggled. Two more shots finished her, and the second white bear robe was assured for Eskimo Town.
After making sure that the great bear was dead, the three hunters lighted some torches which they had not thought of before and explored the cave. They felt quite sure that the mate of this bear was the one that Eiseeyou had killed on the musk ox hunt.
What they found in the cave confirmed this view. The cave was not quite empty, but it was a safe place for three well-armed men. At the farther end of the cave they found the bear’s bed and a white cub lying dead in it, one of the stray bullets which they had fired before entering the cave having struck him.
A bear family nearly always consists of two cubs. For several minutes they could not find the cub’s brother. But they finally heard a pitiful whimpering in a dark corner of the cave and discovered him hiding there. He was trembling and whimpering and very fearful.
So Eiseeyou went outside and brought in his sleeping bag and put the cub in it. That night he slept in the same bag with the mighty hunter, although it cramped him some.
The following day they took him back to Eskimo Town, where he became the friend and pet of all the children, and as much a part of the life of the village as any person in the community. Not only that, but he finally became famous all along the coast.
It was a very jubilant hunting party that returned to Eskimo Town that night. The komatiks were loaded with five hundred pounds of bear meat, which makes a fine variation in the menu of the poor Eskimo. Besides that, the great, white robe of the Czarina was an important part of the kill; not to mention the fat Nik-Suk, who is always welcomed with joy in the igloo.
But the most astonishing thing that the three hunters brought was Whitie, the little polar bear. And the most excited person in all Eskimo Town was little Oumauk, who at once appropriated the small bear.
Although it was well on in the evening when the hunting party returned, yet half of the people in the village flocked to Eiseeyou’s igloo to see the small bear. But little Oumauk was very jealous of them all, and would hardly take his hands off the cub long enough for the rest to admire it.
The first question which at once arose was what and how to feed the cub. Meat was out of the question, and there was no milk in the village. The life of the cub might have ended then and there by slow starvation had not Eiseeyou remembered a case of evaporated milk which had been brought to the village the winter before, during an epidemic among the children. They had brought several cases, but only one was still unused. So Eiseeyou at once went to a deserted igloo where the milk had been cached and dug it out. A can was quickly opened, and some of the milk diluted with water to what Eiseeyou thought would be the proper bear thickness.
This was placed in a small pewter dish which the igloo boasted.
Eiseeyou then took the small bear on his lap and by putting his nose partly in the milk, and also by putting the tip of his little finger in the bear’s mouth, the ingenious Eskimo had Whitie drinking in a very few minutes.
When he had drunk all the milk that he would, little Oumauk claimed him. So he was wrapped in the lightest warmest fur that the igloo contained and placed on the sleeping bench beside little Oumauk, and the musk ox robe was covered over both of them.
Eiseeyou cautioned his son to be careful not to roll on Whitie, and not to handle him too much until he should get stronger.
Five minutes later when Eiseeyou’s kooner lifted up the edge of the robe to see them, both were sleeping soundly and the head of the child rested against that of the small bear.
Eiseeyou was awakened very early the following morning by Oumauk, who wanted all the family to arouse themselves in order that they might attend to the cub. But Eiseeyou, who was very tired, for once asserted his parental authority and made Oumauk keep still while the rest slept.
When they did at last arise, the cub was the first of the family to get his breakfast. And from that very day he became one of the family as well as a very important inhabitant of Eskimo Town.
For the first few days Eiseeyou had to admonish frequently to keep his small son from loving the bear to death, for he hugged and squeezed him continually. Finally Eiseeyou explained very tragically that if they did not let the cub sleep a lot just as sister did, he would die and they would have to bury him, just as they had Oumauk’s favorite puppy the summer before. It had the desired effect and after this Oumauk was very careful.
It was hard, though, when the winds howled outside, and the snows blew and all the children in the village had to stay inside, for Oumauk to keep his hands off his small bear companion.
On pleasant days, Oumauk would go forth having wrapped Whitie up in a warm fur, although really there was no need of that as the cub had a very warm fur of his own. But Oumauk would wrap him up nicely and then, putting him on his small komatik which his father had made for him, would go about the village exhibiting his pet to all the children.
There was great rivalry among the boys to be allowed to help draw the komatik, but Oumauk would suffer only his best friends to help.
When Whitie grew steady on his legs, and larger and stronger, he was allowed to shuffle about for himself with the children. But Oumauk never allowed him to get more than ten feet away, and he was quite jealous of the other children who wanted to pet Whitie.
When the spring finally came and the sunbeams were warm, great rejoicing filled Eskimo Town. Although they bear the long dark winter stoically and do not grumble at their hard lot, yet it is probable that no people on earth so rejoice at the coming of Spring as do the Eskimos.
The children swarmed forth from the igloos to romp with the puppies, which had also made their appearance with the coming of Spring. These puppies were legion in number and of all sizes and colors.
But these little snow children loved them just as much as they would have the most pedigreed dogs. So the children, the puppies, and the small white bear all rioted and rejoiced in the glad Springtime.
With the coming of Spring, the traps were all brought in and put away until another season. Walrus hunting and seal hunting was also temporarily given up; as the seals, the walrus, and the foxes would follow the icefloe northward.
Perhaps next to the enjoyment of the warm sunshine and the coming of certain spring flowers, which abound in surprising profusion even in these north latitudes, the return of the birds was the most wonderful thing enjoyed in Eskimo Town. Of all the feathered friends that returned in the spring the Eskimo most joyously welcomed the little auk, which is to him the most useful of all the Arctic birds. It also rejoiced their hearts to see great flocks of eider ducks, and Brant’s geese go by. Full well they knew that when they had gone to their summer quarters in Eskimo Village they would find good eating from these great birds. But first of all the auk claimed their attention.
These birds are about the size of the screech owl, or a little larger than the robin. They are gay of plumage and very pleasing to the eye when they come in large flocks. They are so tame that if one goes to the top of a high hill and sits down on the ground perfectly still, they will light upon one’s head and shoulders. They seem to be entirely fearless.
So when the auk had come back in great numbers, Eiseeyou, Oumauk, and Whitie went to the top of a high hill near by Eskimo Town to catch them in the nets.
Whitie was almost as much interested as the rest. Little Oumauk was all eagerness, as helping with the net was a sort of initiation into becoming a great hunter.
The net was something like a fish net. The two ends were secured on the tops of two tall poles about twelve feet apart.
The net was held open slightly on the south side by a spreader. When the auk had once flown into the net, he either got entangled in its meshes, or did not seem to understand that he could fly out in the way he had come. So by setting up the net every few minutes and by taking it down and killing the entangled birds, the work of catching the poor auk went merrily on.
It would have been cruel sport had not these bright skins been most useful to the Eskimo; but as it was, he was merely killing the auk as a farmer would his chickens.
He brought along a large gunny sack in which to carry back the catch. If he was lucky and the birds were flying freely, in an afternoon he would net from three to five hundred birds.
When we remember that the skins of these birds are made into the Eskimos’ winter shirt, and also that the meat is very fine eating, even for a white man, the usefulness of the auk is at once appreciated.
When Eiseeyou, and Oumauk and Whitie finally trudged back to Eskimo Town with their sack full of dead birds, Oumauk was the proudest boy in the village.
There was one menace from which little Oumauk had a hard time defending his pet, and that was the wolfish sledge dogs. These savage canines are very little removed from wolves and are always quarreling and fighting among themselves.
The first time they attacked Whitie, it might have gone hard with him had not his young master happened along at just the right time.
Whitie was then only four or five months old and not large enough to defend himself. When Oumauk found him, he was backed up against a komatik, and several dogs were snapping at him. He was striking out with his cub paws and defending himself the best that he could but one of the dogs had already gashed his face and the red blood was streaming down his white cheek.
Little Oumauk was fairly wild with rage and, although he was but a small boy himself, yet he went at the dogs like a whirlwind. He snatched up a club and rushed into the fight with such ferocity that he sent the pack of mongrels yelping in every direction. After that, he always kept a sharp watch on Whitie when he was outside. But as time passed and the cub grew, this danger lessened.
Late in the summer, however, Oumauk discovered that his companion was growing rapidly and could defend himself. Again he came upon the dogs who had cornered his pet and were worrying him. Whitie had backed up against a boulder and was striking out so vigorously that the dogs did not dare to venture too near to him. Finally he landed a blow upon the face of a venturesome pup and sent him sprawling on the ground. Then little Oumauk knew that Whitie was fully able to take care of himself as far as the dogs were concerned.
It was a most important day in Eskimo Town when the belongings of the town were packed upon the komatiks and the inhabitants started on their annual migration to Eskimo Village, about a hundred miles to the northward. Of course they only took such of their belongings as they knew they would need during the summer.
The snow was nearly gone, and the komatiks scratched and bumped along, so the dogs had all they could do to pull the load.
The reason for this move was that the walrus and the seals had all gone northward with the icefloe. Also, many of the ducks and the wild geese nested on islands further north, and all the best cod fishing grounds were there also.
So the Eskimo followed the walrus, the seals, and the icefloe along the rather bleak coast of Eskimo Land.
Little Oumauk and Whitie trudged after Eiseeyou’s komatik. Oumauk was much excited about the trip, for he saw many new things. His father pointed out to him all the interesting sights, and told him the names of the birds that they saw. Finally after about ten days, they arrived in sight of Eskimo Village.
It was on the side of a gently sloping hill, with a fine view of the sea. As soon as the komatiks halted, the dogs were let loose, and the men set up the cloth tents in which they would live during the summer.
It was surprising how rapidly pale flowers and grass sprang into being, under the rays of the eighteen hours a day sunlight. When they came to the season of continuous day in July and August, then these plants would grow even more rapidly.
As soon as the summer quarters were put in order, the Eskimos turned their attention to fishing.
Each day both the men and the women would go forth in the large square-ended boats to fish. These boats are very steady and so are especially good for fishing. The Eskimo name means women’s boat and it is used derisively. But they are much better for fishing than is the unstable kayak, which carries only one person.
The fishing is done in rather shallow water corresponding to the Newfoundland Banks, only it is several hundred miles further north. The best fish that they take is the cod. They use two brightly painted hooks which are kept rapidly moving up and down just above the floor of the ocean. This kind of fishing is called jigging.
If the cod fishing is good, it will not be many days before all through Eskimo Village the fish will be seen drying on poles which keep them well up out of the way of the ravenous dogs.
Little Oumauk and Whitie were left very much to themselves during these long, warm days and they had the finest kind of a summer. They played upon the rocks or in the sand along the seashore, or even went half a mile inland; but Oumauk did not like to go very far out of sight of Eskimo Village.
Whitie was always doing strange things which both interested Oumauk and piqued his curiosity. He discovered that the young bear was very fond of ants and grubs and Oumauk soon learned to turn over the stones for him and to help him dig in the likely places. Whitie also liked certain roots and whenever he came to such as pleased his taste, Oumauk would have to wait until he had satisfied his appetite for that particular day.
Whitie was also very fond of certain wild berries which grew upon the marshes. These were a sort of wild cranberry.
The first time that Oumauk saw his companion jump from a shelving rock into the sea and start to swim out from shore, he was much frightened and ran to his father crying that Whitie would be drowned.
But Eiseeyou hastened to inform his young son that Whitie’s ancestors had all been good swimmers and that Whitie could swim in the water almost as well as Oumauk could walk on the land.
He did not have to be taught to swim either, as a boy would. He simply kept his head up and his feet paddling. He was not afraid, and that was more than half the battle.
Whitie was very fond of fish, but he did not like them dried.
When they cleaned the great cod, he would lie nearby watching for the heads which Oumauk would throw to him.
Finally in July the sun came northward and stayed with them for about two months. So then they had to go inside the cloth tents and sleep for a certain part of each twenty-four hours, even though the sun was shining. But they did not need as much sleep then as they did when the days and nights were more apparent.
One day Eiseeyou took Oumauk and Whitie with him in his large boat to the fishing ground. Oumauk was all excitement to see how the fish were caught. But Whitie finally concluded it was very dull sport and lay down on the bottom of the boat and went to sleep. Or at least they thought he was sleeping soundly, but he finally aroused himself enough to spoil one of the best cod by gnawing into it.
At last the long day ceased and the short nights came for an hour or two each day. Then there came a chill in the air and frosts during the nights. So since they had laid in a good supply of dried fish and eider ducks’ down, not to mention eggs and dead birds, the inhabitants of Eskimo Village began to think of returning to Eskimo Town which was always their winter quarters. But they usually waited until the first slight snowstorm made the komatiks pull easier. This generally came late in September.
Finally one cold morning when Oumauk arose and looked out of doors, he saw that the ground was white with snow. There was but two or three inches, yet it would serve the purpose for the sledges. So after breakfast the cloth tents and the Eskimos’ belongings were packed. The supply of fish and eider ducks’ meat and eggs was made safe and in two or three hours the entire village was on the march.
When they had come northward, Whitie had been a timid, playful cub, but now he was several times larger than he had been then, and rather boisterous. He could hold his own with any of the dogs in battle, and he had acquired much independence. But little Oumauk could do anything with him. A month or so before they left Eskimo Village Oumauk had learned to ride on Whitie’s back, so the bear now carried his little master for the better part of the long one hundred-mile march.
But once they were back in the igloo, Oumauk’s mother protested against having so large a bear as Whitie had become in the igloo all the time; so he slept much of the time in a deserted igloo nearby. Even now he was beginning to suggest what a monster he would be when he should attain the stature and weight of a full grown polar bear.
The transition of Whitie to the White Czar took several years, and it was a most interesting period for both little Oumauk and the young bear. That first winter after their return from Eskimo Village there was continual friction between Oumauk and his mother as to how much the bear should be allowed in the igloo. When he had been a small cub weighing only eight or ten pounds, that was one thing; but when he had become a rather mischievous and boisterous yearling as large as a good-sized dog, that was quite another.
Besides, Whitie was destructive. The things that he did not get into were much fewer than those he did. But little Oumauk defended him in all his mischief and was nearly heartbroken if any one so much as hinted that Whitie was not perfect. Even when he tore Oumauk’s new parka to ribbons, his young master was for excusing him.
The men who came to the igloo used to play rough-and-tumble with Whitie and wrestle and box with him. This made him so boisterous that Eiseeyou finally forbade their engaging him in these rough plays, for fear he would injure his small master. But with Oumauk the bear was always most gentle. He seemed to understand in a dim way that the small Eskimo boy was his master and that he should protect and be gentle with him. Oumauk’s little sister was very much afraid of Whitie for a long time, and Oumauk used to tease her by telling her that bears often ate small girls, if they didn’t mind their brothers.
With the inactivity of winter it was surprising how rapidly Whitie grew. But he was not so inactive as were the humans; for he often wandered far from Eskimo Town, even when he was a yearling.
With the return of Spring, Eiseeyou, Oumauk and Whitie were again seen on the hilltop setting up their net for the auk, and this spring Oumauk could help more than he had the year before. When they finally packed up their belongings and again started for Eskimo Village, Oumauk and Whitie were the most excited members of the party. This time Oumauk rode all of the way on Whitie’s back. He could do anything with the shaggy white beast, although his mother was by this time afraid of the bear.
Arrived at Eskimo Village, the tents were again set up and the women and men got busy fishing and drying fish. Whitie now evinced a desire to roam and often was gone for half a day. The first time that he failed to appear at night Oumauk was heartbroken and thought he had lost him forever, but very early in the morning he was awakened by something soft passing over his face and opened his eyes to see the white bear standing over him.
One eventful day Eiseeyou took Oumauk on an expedition to a nearby island where he and several other Eskimos went for eider ducks’ down and eggs. They took several sacks in which to bring home the eggs and the down. They went in one of the large square-ended boats, called women’s boats.
The island was about two miles from the main land and Oumauk was much troubled when Whitie, who had watched their start from the shore, started to swim after them. Oumauk cried out to his father that Whitie could not swim so far and that he would be drowned. But Eiseeyou said that he was a famous swimmer and would be all right. Oumauk, however, was not so sure, and he kept his beady, black eyes glued upon the white spot which he knew was Whitie’s head until they reached the island. He was elated, however, when the bear arrived on the island a few minutes behind them.
Although Whitie was dripping with water, Oumauk threw himself upon his friend and hugged him generously. But to the surprise of all, Whitie seemed perfectly at home on the island and at once went to the place where there were the most eider duck nests. Here he began sucking the eggs in a very greedy manner. Eiseeyou laughed at the sight, and Oumauk was delighted to see his pet was so clever.
The men at once set to work to gather the down from the nests and also the large, rich eggs. It was surprising how plenty the nests and eggs were. One could hardly move without stepping on the nests. The ducks flew up in scores.
Finally, when all the bags had been filled with either eggs or down, and the men had shot several dozen ducks for their larder, to vary their fish diet, the hunting party returned to Eskimo Village. Whitie again swam the distance to the mainland, although Oumauk wanted him taken into the boat.
Another still more wonderful day was when Eiseeyou took Oumauk to some more distant islands to see the seal rookeries. These were their summer breeding places, called hauling grounds.
This time they went in Eiseeyou’s kayak and Oumauk was stowed away under the deck of the canoe, his head merely peeping out under his father’s arm.
It was a beautiful trip. The sea was like glass. The late May sunshine thrilled them like old wine, and both father and son were very glad.
Arrived at the breeding grounds which were on several islands, Oumauk was amazed, as many a grown man has been by the numbers of the seals and also with their fearlessness.
Hundreds and even thousands of them were disporting themselves in the sunlight. Some were lying asleep while others were flopping about on their flippers, much like boys playing leap frog.
Oumauk was wild with delight when his father showed him a seal pup. It was snow white to match the snow and hide it from its enemies, and about a foot long. It would have weighed about seven pounds. It was not shaped like much of anything in particular, but was a soft slippery mass of fat, covered with a wonderfully soft fur. When Eiseeyou took it up and placed it in little Oumauk’s arms, it bleated like a small lamb and squirmed about to get away. The bleating of the mothers also sounded much like the lowing of young heifers.
Eiseeyou pointed out several sly foxes that scampered away at their approach. He told Oumauk that the foxes and the polar bears, like Whitie, followed the seals to these breeding grounds, killing the seal pups and eating them. At this, Oumauk was very indignant.
Presently the mother of the seal pup which they were fondling came bleating up out of the water, and Eiseeyou hastily placed it on the ground and took Oumauk to a little distance to watch the meeting between the pup and the mother.
The mother greeted the pup with several queer sounds all low and tender and nosed it over from head to tail to see if it had been injured. When she had satisfied herself that it was all right, both lay down in the sunshine and slept.
Further on in the island Eiseeyou pointed out several old bull seals sleeping in a warm place. He set Oumauk on a nearby rock while he himself went to awaken a large bull so that the Eskimo boy might get a better idea of him.
This old chap seemed to be the grandfather of the whole herd. He was about seven feet in length and would have weighed about seven hundred pounds. This was an extreme size for the seal.
When Eiseeyou went up to him and prodded him in the side with his paddle, he lifted his large head and bellowed mightily, but made no move to attack the Eskimo. Finally he aroused himself enough to look at Eiseeyou sideways. He seemed much perplexed by this creature which stood erect instead of on four flippers. Finally he got up and started slowly towards Eiseeyou, who then retreated to the rock where Oumauk watched. The Eskimo boy was much terrified at the approach of so mighty a creature, but Eiseeyou assured him that the seal was very clumsy on the land and it would be easy to elude him.
After reconnoitering the rock on which the two stood and peering at them from every angle, the old bull went back to his warm bed in the sand and was soon sleeping peacefully again.
One day several weeks later when Eiseeyou and Oumauk had occasion to visit an island nearer the mainland, where there were also young seals. They were much surprised to discover Whitie there ahead of them. He was lying in the lee of a rock and was eating something. As they came near, they discovered that it was a seal pup. So even this early he was plying the trade of a full grown polar bear, and killing the young seals.
Oumauk was very indignant and scolded Whitie severely, but Eiseeyou explained to him that this was the way of nature, that the larger fish ate the smaller, all the way down the scale.
The inhabitants of Eskimo Village always saw a great deal of the seals during their summers, so little Oumauk learned all about them. Some of this information he gleaned from watching them himself, but much of it was told him by his father.
He learned that the seals came to the rookeries to breed in May, when for a few weeks it was unlawful to kill them. But in June they were mating again, and each bull seal would select a dozen lady seals for the summer. During this season of courting, the male seals do not partake of any food, so when they finally swim away in October for the Southern seas the bulls are much emaciated and hardly to be recognized for the sleek fellows they were in June.
The seals were always watching the Eskimo fishing boats, and Eiseeyou told his son that they bothered the fisherman further south by taking their fish from the trollers, and also from the nets.
Although the seal is a bulky chap and swims clumsily in comparison to a fish, yet he will catch fish with ease when they could easily swim away from him if they only knew it.
The approach of such a monster seems to strike terror to the heart of the fish, and he falls an easy prey.
The most unpleasant thing about life in Eskimo Village is the mosquitoes which swarm in dark clouds in the Arctic regions during the long summer days. It is only by making a great smudge about the tents that the Eskimos can escape them. They drive the caribou nearly desperate, but Omingmong does not mind them as his coat is so long, and they do not much inhabit his cold latitude.
Whitie had a very novel way of escaping them, which greatly pleased Oumauk. When the mosquitoes had stung his eyes so that he could hardly see out of them, he would take to the water. There he would submerge himself and lie for hours with just the tip of his nose showing. If the mosquitoes swarmed on the end of his nose he would get even with them by drawing it under quickly and wetting them.
Thus the summer went with the Eskimo fishing and drying fish, gathering birds’ eggs, and killing enough ducks and geese for their immediate need, and also gathering down for the market. They likewise tried out considerable seal oil for use in the stonelamp during the long night when they would need all the light they could get.
Then in the autumn came the annual migration back to Eskimo Town.
It was not a varied or exciting life, as a white boy would look at it. But to Oumauk it was full of wonder and mystery, for he was constantly learning of the wild life about him and of the ways of nature. As for Whitie, he grew and grew until he was finally forbidden to enter the igloo. But that was unnecessary, for when he was three years old he had grown so large that he could not crawl through the tunnel leading to Eiseeyou’s igloo.
As he gained his full stature and weight, all the women in Eskimo Town became afraid of him. Many of the men were afraid of him as well. Some of them even counseled Eiseeyou to shoot him, but he would not hear of it. He knew that it would break Oumauk’s heart. The Eskimo boy could do anything with the great shaggy beast. He was no more afraid of him than he was of the wolfish dogs. Probably no white boy ever loved a dog as Oumauk did Whitie.
Whitie by this time had acquired all the wisdom of a wild polar bear. He knew where to find the seal pups and kill them on the icefloe. He could even attack a full grown seal and kill that as well. He had several times performed that dangerous stunt of swimming upon the walrus herd when the adults were asleep and snatching a calf before they knew what was up. He knew where to find the ducks and geese eggs on the islands along the coast and he grew fat upon the delicious eggs. He knew all the berries and roots that a polar bear likes. He also knew how to drive the fish into the shallows along the shore and then strike them from the water with his big paw.
He had stalked and killed a caribou calf when he was only two years old and it had nearly cost him his life. The bull had surprised him in the act and had charged the murderer and gored him badly in the shoulder.
Once while in pursuit of a walrus calf, he had been attacked by a killer whale and had escaped miraculously with a mighty gash along his entire side. This had laid him up for nearly a month, but he had been carefully attended by his master, Oumauk, during this sorry time. So it will be seen that even the life of the polar bear is not all roses. If he hunts the other polar creatures, yet he is often hunted himself.
Nor did Whitie entirely escape the rifles of the hunters. Eiseeyou had warned all the Eskimos along Eskimo land coast not to shoot at him; but how was he to be told from any other white bear? So he was once badly wounded by a rifle ball which, luckily for the happiness of Eiseeyou’s igloo, did not hit a vital spot.
Finally, to prevent his being shot and killed by some lawless Eskimo, Eiseeyou made a broad, strong leather collar for Whitie and covered it with bright red flannel. This could be plainly seen a hundred yards away, almost as far away as any one would naturally shoot at him. So it became known all through Eskimo Land that the great white bear with the red collar belonged to Eiseeyou and little Oumauk, and was not to be shot.
By this time Whitie, or the White Czar as I shall henceforth call him, lived almost as much away from Eskimo town as he did at home. He was half wild and half domesticated. But the only person in Eskimo Town who could lay a hand on him was Oumauk, and the only man who was not afraid of him was Eiseeyou. But he came and went a much privileged bear, still as much beloved by his small master as ever.
So life with the people of the snow went by until the White Czar was six years old. He had then come to his full stature and weight, which was about six hundred pounds. He had mated three times and often been away from Eskimo Town for months.
Oumauk himself was nine years old and a stalwart lad. There were now several other children in Eiseeyou’s igloo, but Oumauk was his favorite.
In the autumn of the year when Oumauk was nine and the White Czar was six years old, a terrible plague visited Eskimo Town. It would not have been serious among white people, but the Eskimo is very dirty and he easily falls a prey to contagious diseases. The disease swept through the little community like wild fire. The Eskimos did what they could. They applied some simple remedies which they secured from the mission farther south, and the local medicine man pounded on his large drum and entreated all the gods of health that he knew of, but all to no avail. Hardly an hour of a day passed but some Eskimo mother ran shrieking from her igloo, wringing her hands and calling to her friends that death had claimed one of her children.
In the igloo of Eiseeyou, little sister was the first to go. Then two of the smaller children followed her. Finally Eiseeyou’s favorite, Oumauk, was stricken. He did not die although he was very sick for several days. When he finally got better, there was great rejoicing in the igloo. But this was cut short one night by a terrible discovery.
Oumauk ran crying to his mother, complaining that the stone lamp gave no light. It was all night in the igloo. His mother assured him that it was burning brightly, but he said no, and went groping about for the light. This filled the hearts of his parents with foreboding. On the morrow when the sun finally appeared for two or three hours, Eiseeyou took him out of doors, but he said the same thing of the sun. The sun had gone out. It gave no light.
Then Eiseeyou and his good kooner knew a terrible thing had happened. The measles had struck to Oumauk’s eyes and left him blind.
The next day Eiseeyou took his stricken son to the settlement further south, where the missionary examined him carefully.
He shook his head after the examination. Only the great doctor at Quebec could help him, and that would take lots of money and a long journey. At these words Eiseeyou turned his steps sorrowfully homeward and despair reigned all that winter in his igloo.
The winter following the epidemic which had taken so many of the children from them was a gloomy winter for Eskimo Town.
In Eiseeyou’s igloo gloom rested even more darkly than elsewhere.
Not only had he lost three of his children, but the long night of blindness had settled upon his favorite Oumauk, and the shadow also rested upon him. This was a double tragedy for Oumauk, as his sister who had been his playmate ever since he could remember had also been taken. The whole circle of sad events seemed to Oumauk like a bad dream from which he must presently awake and see his sister by his side and the stonelamp shining brightly. The joy seemed to have all gone out of the Eskimo boy. He would sit for hours with his head in his hands thinking and wondering what it all meant. He was very silent and would answer only when questioned. Before this tragedy he had been a great chatterbox, so this made him seem doubly strange. The rest of the family tried to interest him. Eiseeyou sought to invent new games in which he could participate. But he could no longer throw the tiny harpoon at the swinging target, the favorite pastime of Eskimo boys, so he did nothing.
Sometimes Eiseeyou or some of the children would dress him up warm in his best clothes and lead him about outside, but he seemed to feel the cold more than ever before and soon pleaded to be taken inside.
Eiseeyou himself was greatly troubled and he planned day and night how to raise the large sum of money so that he might take little Oumauk to Quebec, where the great doctor might restore his eyesight.
He went upon several hard musk ox hunts but ill luck crowned each venture. Although he scoured the old hunting grounds for days, yet Omingmong was not to be found. Eiseeyou’s skill and luck as a hunter seemed to have deserted him.
Then he doubled the number of his foxtraps, but several deep snows fell so that he had no luck trapping. At last hope had nearly left him, although he was still on the lookout for the chance to earn the great sum of money, which looked like a mountain of gold to the poor Eskimo.
So it was that the weary winter wore away and spring again came. When Eiseeyou proposed to Oumauk that he again go with him to set up the net for the auks, the boy said that the long night was still with them, and that the auk would not come back until the sun shone again. So he would not go. When he finally ventured from the igloo and felt the warm air of springtime, he was much puzzled. Spring had really come, but the long night was still there.
It was just after the return of the auk and other spring birds which meant so much to the Eskimo that Eskimo Town was visited by two white men. They came upon small ponies and were a great curiosity to the simple Snow People.
They were the agents of several large cities to the south, both in Canada and the States. They were in search of wild animals and birds for the zoos of these cities and they needed the services of some clever Eskimo hunter to help them in capturing the birds and animals they wanted. At the settlement to the south Eiseeyou had been recommended to them by the missionaries and government teachers. Would he go with them on a cruise to the north and help them in securing the animals?
They offered him as wages a sum of money which would be half enough to take Oumauk to see the great doctor. They would be gone only two months.
Eiseeyou consulted with his good kooner and they agreed that it was a great chance. The good God had sent the white men in order that they might have the money. Little Oumauk should not always stay in the long dark night.
So Eiseeyou arranged that some of the other men would take charge of his family during the northern migration to Eskimo Village, in order that he might go with the white men.
He said goodbye to his family and to little Oumauk, whom he told that he would soon bring the sun back to him. Then he set off with the strangers with a lighter heart than he had known for months.
Eiseeyou was much surprised on arriving at the small seaport which the strangers made their head quarters to find that they had a large steam launch fifty or sixty feet in length, named The Spray all fitted up in a manner that looked luxuriant to the simple Eskimo. They at once started northward and finally stopped among the islands adjacent to the site of Eskimo Village, where Eiseeyou was much at home. They secured during the first week eider duck, Brant geese, gulls of several species, and auks, all of which Eiseeyou helped them to net. Then they turned their attention to seals. Soon they had a fine assortment of pups and yearlings, and several pairs of two year olds.
They also secured two walrus calves and two litters of foxes, the burrows of which Eiseeyou had located.
It was while prospecting about on the islands one day that they came across The White Czar, who had preceded the inhabitants of Eskimo Town to their summer quarters at Eskimo Village.
At the sight of the great white bear tears filled the eyes of Eiseeyou for it brought to his remembrance the sad picture of poor little Oumauk groping helplessly about in the igloo and declaring that the light in the stone lamp had gone out.
The white men saw the great white bear almost as soon as Eiseeyou did, and were much excited. For in the orders that they had brought north with them was a special recommendation that they capture a polar bear, alive, for the zoo at Quebec.
They at once communicated their hopes of securing a polar bear to Eiseeyou, and asked his assistance.
Then it was that the famous Eskimo hunter sat down upon a rock with the two white men and told them the strange story of Whitie and little Oumauk. He told it with tears streaming down his cheeks and with such earnestness and feeling that the white men were amazed.
“You see,” he concluded, “little Oumauk loves the bear more than anything else in the world; and if he knew I had helped to capture him, it would kill him. His heart is almost broken now. I cannot make him sad any more, but I must have the money so he can see the great doctor. I must.”
“Yes, that is so,” agreed the white men. “You must.”
“It is a sort of providence,” they argued, “that you know about this white bear, which you say is partly tame. He would be easier to capture than a wild bear. And you must have the money. Think of what it means to little Oumauk.
“The sun would come back again for him. The moon and the stars would shine for him once more. It must be very hard for him, a little boy alone in the dark.”
They were white men, and they knew how to argue and to make bad things look good. Eiseeyou was only a simple Eskimo and he needed the money desperately. So he finally agreed. He would help; he would help them capture the White Czar. But little Oumauk must never know for it would break his heart. It already ached enough.
So the ship’s carpenter set to work the following day making a cage for the White Czar. The frame was made of three by six timbers and the rest of the cage was two inch plank. Eiseeyou shook his head and said it was rather frail to hold him, for he knew the great bear’s strength better than the white men. So they bolted it at all the corners and bound it with iron straps, which would stiffen it without making it too heavy. Finally it was all ready, and with a heavy heart Eiseeyou set forth with four white men in a motor boat to betray the White Czar into the clutch of civilization—that great strong hand which reaches forth to the ends of the earth and grasps so many beautiful and wonderful things, only to kill both their beauty and life at last.
They found the white bear upon a small island eating a seal pup. But when one of their number landed he at once took to the water in an attempt to swim to another island nearer the mainland. That was just what the men wanted.
Now the White Czar is the very best swimmer of all quadrupeds. He can swim for hours in the icy water. Miles in the water are nothing to him, if he has the time in which to do them.
But the poor white monster had never heard of a motor boat. All of the modern engines for annihilating distance were unknown to him. He was amazed and rather frightened at the speed with which this strange thing came after him. But he was not really afraid, for he was the White Czar. He was the Czar of the frozen north; and why should he be afraid? But he could not understand this strange chugging thing. It had neither head nor legs, yet it swam like a great fish.
Before he had covered half the distance to the other island, it was almost upon him. Then he turned with an angry snarl to fight. He raised his head up out of the water and showed his shining set of teeth and snarled at the white hunters in a way that made their blood run cold. If their plans should miscarry—if he got at them, it would be a fight to the finish.
But the White Czar had also never heard of a lasso, and when he reared his head above the water, a rawhide rope fell fairly over his head. In another second it had tightened upon his neck with a strangling grip.
He clutched at it with his great paws and tried to loosen it, but could not. So he swam straight at his assailants, his long tongue lolling out, and his mighty jaw open ready for the fatal bite.
But the strange fish was not slower than the white bear, for the man at the helm saw their danger and pulled the throttle wide open. His action was not a second too quick, for the great bear was almost upon the boat before it had gained headway.
Yet it just eluded him and in a very few seconds had put the length of the rawhide rope between him and his tormentors.
Then began a series of tiring-out manœuvers that made Eiseeyou’s heart ache. More than once he brushed away the tears and set his thoughts firmly upon little Oumauk who was living in the long night. They must all make sacrifices for him. It was just and right that the White Czar should be sacrificed.
They did not give the great bear a moment in which to rest. For hours they dragged him about mercilessly at the end of the rawhide. If he stopped swimming after them, they came close and prodded him with a harpoon and aroused his anger. Soon they had two rawhide ropes about his great neck, and this spelled his doom.
He lashed the water into foam. He roared and struck with his paws. He bit at and fought the ropes about his neck which were slowly choking him, with his great strength, but it was a foe he could not get at. It always ran away, it taunted and mocked him.
It prodded and choked him and gradually it wore him down to a helpless mass of quivering muscles, with the heart and the fight all gone out of him.
It seemed to poor Eiseeyou during this terrible ordeal that the bear kept his eyes constantly fixed on him. It seemed to him that the great brute was accusing him, was imploring him, was appealing to him to save him. But he had given his word to help, and he could do nothing.
Finally the motor boat towed the nearly lifeless Czar along side The Spray, and the men quickly lifted him to the deck. This was after several ropes had been passed about his great, almost lifeless bulk. Then he was lifted by a fearful and wondering crew into the cage that had been prepared for him. There for hours he lay in the bottom of his cage with his great head between his paws, moaning and groaning, his spirit broken and seemingly near to death.
Meanwhile Eiseeyou walked the deck of the great boat, his simple soul wracked in devilish torment. Occasionally he would come and stand by the cage and look at The White Czar. Then he would remember what a lovable little chap he had been as a cub, and how little Oumauk had loved him. Then he would go away to pace the deck again.
Thus the first night of the White Czar’s captivity wore away; but whether it was longer for the great beast or for the agonized man, who shall say?
The day following the capture of the White Czar the Eskimos arrived at their summer quarters and again set up their cloth tents. Eiseeyou at once went ashore to see that all was well with his little family. That afternoon when he returned to the ship, Mr. Adams, the head of the expedition surprised Eiseeyou very much by telling him that they were to start on the return trip on the morrow, and that if he wished, Eiseeyou and little Oumauk might go with them as far as Quebec. This would save them passage money and also save time.
Eiseeyou was overjoyed at this news. He thanked the white man in his broken English and then hastened away to tell his kooner and to get Oumauk.
When he undertook to explain to Oumauk the nature of their trip, the boy was much surprised. He could not understand that his eyes were sick, and that was what made the long night. He had thought all the time that the light in the stone lamp and the light in the sun and moon had gone out, while he was all right. This had been his first fancy, and Eiseeyou had let him keep it, thinking it would be easier to bear in that way.
When he was told that the great doctor at Quebec might again make his eyes see, he became happy for the first time in many months. When in addition to that he was told that he was to go on a great ship far away over the ocean, he was much excited.
“I wish I knew one thing before I go,” he said when they were helping him dress for the journey. “I had a bad dream last night. I dreamed that Whitie was in trouble. I saw him in my dream just as I used to. He was on an island eating a seal pup. Then a man came upon the island and scared him away. Then Whitie started to swim but some bad men chased him in a boat that didn’t have any sail and they did not paddle it, but it just went and went by itself. Poor Whitie swam and swam just as fast as he could, but they caught up to him and threw a rope and caught him by the neck. Then Whitie fighted and fighted, but they pulled on the rope and choked him. They choked and choked until Whitie was almost dead. Then they pulled him up into another ship as large as a mountain and put him in a great box and he laid down and cried and cried and cried. Then I woke up and I was crying too.”
“Have you seen Whitie?” asked the Eskimo boy with tears in his eyes, pulling at Eiseeyou’s sleeve.
The Eskimo was dumfounded at this account of Oumauk’s dream, for it corresponded almost perfectly to what had happened the day before. Like all Eskimos he was very superstitious, and this had a sort of supernatural appearance to him. So he crossed himself before replying. Then he answered warily.
“Yes, I saw Whitie. He was eating a seal pup. He was all right.”
“Is he all right now?” insisted Oumauk, his voice trembling with excitement.
“Yes,” replied poor Eiseeyou, “Whitie is all right.”
Oumauk sighed contentedly. “O I am so glad. Now we will go to the city and see the great doctor and he will make my eyes well, and the light will come back to the sun.” He laughed gleefully, something that he had not done for a long time, and Eiseeyou was much relieved.
Toward night Oumauk and Eiseeyou said goodbye to the rest of the family, and two other Eskimo men rowed them out to the ship in one of the Eskimo boats.
As Eiseeyou climbed up the steps with little Oumauk in his arms and finally set his foot upon the firm deck, the boy cried out excitedly, and what he said made Eiseeyou go pale beneath his swarthy skin.
“Oh, oh,” cried Oumauk, sniffing the air again and again, “I smell Whitie. I smell Whitie. Has he been on this ship?”
Eiseeyou knew that his race have a very keen sense of smell almost akin to that possessed by many Indians, but that Oumauk would have noted the musty smell of the great bear so soon amazed him.
“Whitie was on the island eating a seal pup, when I saw him,” he said.
“You must not get so excited about him. Just think about the doctor and your eyes being made well.”
Eiseeyou hastened with Oumauk to the cabin where he put him in his bunk and told him that night was coming on and he must rest.
After the Eskimo boy had eaten a supper of the white man’s food, he asked his father to take him out upon the deck; but Eiseeyou refused, fearing that he would hear the great bear who was still moaning and sighing in his cage at one end of the ship.
The following morning Mr. Adams informed Eiseeyou that the White Czar refused all food, and that he was afraid he would die.
“In that case,” continued Mr. Adams, “we will not get the large sum of money that we had expected for him alive, so we could not pay you so much.”
At these words Eiseeyou’s heart sank. Perhaps there would not be money enough for them to see the doctor after all. Maybe their trip would be for nothing. He could not take the little Oumauk back unless he had brought the joy of living again to his face. He must see the doctor. The White Czar must live.
“You say your son can do anything with him,” continued Mr. Adams. “Perhaps he could coax him to eat. I would try it if I were you. We must keep him alive for both our sakes.”
So Eiseeyou set himself the hard task of telling Oumauk.
He had never lied to his son before, and he did not know how to account for his untruth. But love makes us all strong, so Eiseeyou went bravely through it.
He explained to Oumauk at length how necessary it was for them to see the doctor, and how much money it took. He told him that Mr. Adams had offered a large sum of money if he would help him catch the bear, and that all their happiness depended on it. Oumauk listened stoically as is the way with his people, then asked simply:
“Must Whitie be shut up all his life so that I can see the sun again?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” returned Eiseeyou.
“Is Whitie happy? Does he like to be shut up?”
“No,” said Eiseeyou truthfully. “He is very unhappy and he does not like to be shut up. He is so unhappy that he will not eat.”
“Then I will let him out. I do not want to see if Whitie is to be sorry all the time.”
Eiseeyou then explained very patiently that this was impossible, as he had told the white man he would help him. He also said that many white children would love Whitie once he arrived at Quebec, and that he would be happy when he got used to the white men’s ways. But he must eat now. Do you want to feed him a fish?
Oumauk’s mind was diverted by this thought so they at once proceeded to the cage where the great white bear still lay with his head between his paws groaning and sighing.
“Oh, Whitie, Whitie, Oumauk is here. He has come,” cried the child. At the sound of the childish voice the White Czar raised his mighty head and looked at the boy.
“Oumauk is here. He will give you a fine fish,” repeated the boy.
To the amazement and horror of Mr. Adams, who stood by watching the proceedings curiously, the boy thrust his small hand through the planks towards the mighty jaw of the bear.
“Stop, stop,” cried the white man. “For God’s sake, don’t let him put his hands in there. That brute will bite them off.”
“O no,” said Eiseeyou. “I am not afraid. They are old friends.”
To the astonishment of every one, the mighty bear arose and stood on all fours; then, reaching out his head, he licked the hands of Oumauk with his long, supple red tongue.
Then Oumauk passed his hands over the bear’s face and he seemed as delighted as a dog.
When Oumauk had petted and talked to Whitie for a while, a fish was brought and to the surprise of every one but Eiseeyou, the bear took the fish and ate it greedily.
After this Oumauk spent most of his time by the side of the White Czar’s cage, petting him and talking to him.
All went well with the little expedition for about a week, and then the unexpected happened. The course they were pursuing was entirely out of any steamship lane. Only sealing and whaling vessels and an occasional revenue cutter ever traversed this dangerous portion of the Seven Seas. Their course lay in almost the same direction as that of the icebergs that had been breaking away from the northern icefloe for several weeks and drifting away southward to mingle and melt in the great Atlantic. The floe of the bergs had nearly ceased, but hardly a day passed but that they saw many small cakes of ice. So for the past week they had kept a sharp lookout for these hidden dangers to unsuspecting ships.
It was about twelve o’clock on the eighth day from Eskimo Village and The Spray was off the Newfoundland banks.
It was a rather dark night, and the lookout at his post could see little, but he kept up an intense listening. Icebergs are often detected by sound, and also by a chilliness in the air. But no such sign was observed.
Suddenly, without the slightest warning, the ship experienced a shock that shook her from stem to stern. She quivered and shuddered, and then there was a grinding, grating sound along her side. Then she seemed to sheer off from the berg and continue on her way. She had been going at half speed, and the engineer immediately stopped his engine in order to take an inventory of damages. But old Neptune almost immediately informed them, as the water began flowing freely into the small engine room. Every one in the cabin reached for as many clothes as he could get in both hands, without taking too much time, and started for the deck.
Eiseeyou caught little Oumauk in his arms and hurried with him after the white men.
On deck all was excitement. The crew were already preparing to lower the motor boat. Luckily it was a large one and could easily accommodate the dozen men of the crew. The ship had already listed badly, and in twenty minutes she had begun to sink rapidly. There seemed nothing to do but to trust to the motor boat. The sea was not very rough, but no one could tell what it would be like in a few hours. There was one thing however on which the captain pinned much hope. His boat “The Spray” was rigged with wireless and they at once sent out their S.O.S. cry for help, giving the latitude and longitude of the stricken ship as well as they could.
Little Oumauk was rather sleepy and did not at first appreciate what had happened. But when Eiseeyou went down the ladder to the motor boat with him, his suspicions were aroused.
“Where are we going?” he asked. “Are we leaving the ship?
“Yes,” replied Eiseeyou. “The ship is leaking. We are going to travel in the small boat for a while.”
“Are we going to take Whitie with us?” asked Oumauk excitedly.
Eiseeyou had foreseen the question and had his answer ready.
“O no, we can’t,” he returned. “Our boat is too small. If the ship sinks, Whitie will float away in his cage all right. By and by he will reach the shore, and then he will strike off one of the planks and get out. Perhaps he will get back to Eskimo Land before we do.”
“Do you think Whitie wants to go back to Eskimo Land?” asked Oumauk, diverted by this idea.
“Yes, I guess he does. He is all right, so don’t bother.”
Secretly, however, Eiseeyou felt certain that the white czar would sleep at the bottom of the ocean. If it had been day and Oumauk had been fully awake, he would probably have asked many more perplexing questions and might have gotten at the truth. But he was very tired and sleepy, and soon his head lay back against Eiseeyou’s shoulder and he slept.
But Eiseeyou himself was far from sleepy. In his own mind he was much troubled. Like all the rest of his race he was very superstitious. Ever since the capture of the great bear he had brooded over the event. Secretly he felt certain that this wreck had been caused by his treachery to The White Czar.
Perhaps even the bear himself had brought it about, but more probably the god that controlled the wild creatures had brought it upon them. So marked is the Eskimo’s superstition that when he kills the first narwal of the season, he makes an offering to the god of hunting and especially that of the narwal, in order that he may have good luck for the rest of the season.
The motor boat had barely gotten out of sight when the ship listed sharply on the port side and to the front. This caused the White Czar’s cage, which had been propped up on some timbers, to start sliding down the deck. Just as the ship ended up and the bow started to sink, the cage struck the rail and, due partly to the frantic effort of the bear turned a complete somersault and landed right side up on the water. Then a great wave swept it fifty feet away from the ship. This was very fortunate for the Czar, for otherwise the cage might have been drawn down by the suction of the sinking ship. But another wave caught the cage before the ship finally floundered and carried it still further away. Then the ship sank and the only object of the entire expedition that was left in sight was the great bear, floating knee deep in the cold water in his wooden cage.
When the Czar first felt the icy water on his shaggy legs he was glad. A sense of life and freedom thrilled him.
This freezing water was his native element. True he was still surrounded by this hateful cage, which narrowed his world down to twelve feet in one direction and eight in the other, but he felt certain that it would float away. The waters which had always befriended him would help him. Then he remembered with a shudder his last experience in the water—the men and the motor boat and the rope that had nearly strangled him, and the courage in his great stout heart wavered. Perhaps he was not going to escape after all.
The bottom of his cage had been made perfectly tight, so that it now acted as a raft. The water was two feet deep in the cage due to the weight of the bear and the top of the cage, but that was no hardship to him. But the clumsy cage did not keep facing the seas as did the motor boat a mile away, so when it came into the trough, the water was four feet deep instead of two. Even so it would have gone rolling over and over but that the great shaggy beast inside trimmed it and steadied it just as cleverly as a man would have a fractious canoe.
The art of balancing he was master of. He had learned it by sailing for miles upon rocking cakes of ice. What brute cunning could do to keep the cage right side up and from swamping, he could be trusted to do. But gradually it water soaked and came up from the wettings in the trough of the sea less and less buoyantly. Finally the water in the cruel cage was up to the bear’s sides. Truly his plight was getting desperate. At last when the water came up to his shoulders and he even had to swim a few strokes occasionally in the cruel cage, Eiseeyou’s prophecy seemed about to be fulfilled. It certainly looked as though he would sleep in the Atlantic. Meanwhile the motor boat was having her troubles. The man at the wheel did not try to make any particular direction, but simply kept her headed towards the regularly rolling waves. He knew if she once got in the trough she might be capsized. So all the power was used to keep her facing the sea. Every time she rose on the top of a high wave, the propeller would be out of water and would spin like a top.
Then she would come down into the water again and the engine would resume its labored panting.
The men talked but little. No one knew what the outcome of this disaster might be. Eiseeyou sat in the stern of the boat with Oumauk in his arms, listening for the regular resounding slap of each succeeding wave on the bows of the little craft.
As the hours wore wearily on, he noted that the swells were getting higher and higher and the sound when they struck the boat louder. Their plight was certainly desperate.
It was just a gamble whether they would be picked up before the seas engulfed them.
Finally a grey streak appeared in the east and they hailed it with joy. Eagerly the eyes of the little party watched the grey streak widen and take on color, until finally the golden rim of the sun came up out of the sea and it was daylight. Then to their great joy they discovered a three masted gasoline-driven fishing vessel coming towards them. She had evidently not seen them, so they at once set their signal of distress. Soon she answered and in twenty minutes was alongside.
“Ship Ahoy!” called a nasal voice from the fishing vessel, as soon as they came in hailing distance of the motor boat. “What shall I do for you? Haul you aboard?”
“Ay, ay, that’s just what we are looking for. But perhaps you had better take some of our passengers off first. We are pretty heavily loaded and have shipped a lot of water.”
So The Three Bells, from Marble Head, owned and handled by Silas Perkins, Esq., manœuvered until she was in position and then threw the motor boat a line. Finally she was made fast to the schooner and her passengers successfully transferred to the fishing boat, which reeked with the smell of salt fish.
“Well, well,” cried Captain Silas Perkins, as he viewed the sorry-looking men, “you are a rather watersoaked-looking lot. But I guess some hot coffee will make a difference.”
“But say captain,” he asked, grinning broadly, “you hain’t lost a bear, have you? A gol-durned big one.”
“A bear!” cried Mr. Adams in astonishment, “I, I,——”
“Oh, oh,” cried little Oumauk, who had been listening intently, “where is Whitie? I know Whitie is lost.”
“Why, yes, I am reminded,” replied Mr. Adams. “I had entirely forgotten our prize passenger. Yes, Mr. Captain, perhaps we have lost a bear. What’s your item?”
“Fust,” said Captain Perkins, “let me ax you a question or two. Did your ship strike another ship, or a berg, or something, and flounder in latitude fifty degrees, eighteen minutes and forty seconds, and longitude fifty degrees and ten minutes or thereabouts?”
“That was just about where we were when we struck,” said the captain of the unfortunate Spray, “I believe that was the S.O.S. I sent out.”
“Good!” cried Captain Perkins. “For once my Eben’s plaything has done some one some good.
“You see my boy Eben is a dabster at wireless an’ when we came off on this here voyage, he said as how he wanted to rig up a wireless. So I said, ‘Go ahead. I guess it won’t do any harm.’ Well, last night he said as how the stuff was aflyin’ around pretty thick an’ as how he wanted to set up for a spell an’ see what he could hear. So he happened to be a listinin’ in, as he calls it, when you hollered for help. An’ by jimmerny crickets! he managed to get your position just right. We was only a few miles to the south, so we headed straight for your call. When we got there, as near as we could calculate, we didn’t see a durn thing, but just a great sort of pig pen cage floating about with a gol-darned great polar bear aswimmin’ about inside it. It had only sunk about two feet in the water, and he was standin’ inside the cage as prompt as you please, headed directly for the United States.”
“O, O,” cried Oumauk. “Whitie is drowned. I know he is; Whitie is drowned.”
“Ef Whitie is what you call that great brute, he ain’t drowned by a jugful. But he did get a good wetting. You see, men, it came about this way.”
“My mate, Hank Jones, is allus a-dasting me to do suthing out of the ordinary. He is allus makin’ fun of my mechanics. You see, I am a mechanical genius. So when Hank saw this bear, he dasted me to rig a pulley and pull him on board, cage and all. An’ I tuck Hank’s dast and had him aboard in about fifteen minutes. He is as high and dry as a salt codfish this very minute, there in the stern of the Three Bells.”
“Oh, oh,” cried Oumauk. “I am so glad Whitie is not drowned, and we can all go to Quebec just as we planned.”
So it all turned out just as Oumauk had prophesied, Captain Perkins was intending to stop at Quebec with a portion of his catch of cod. But even if he had not been, he would gladly have gone out of his way to take them all to their destination, especially after he had heard the story of Little Oumauk and the great white bear.
“Queerest story I ever heard,” he said, spitting reflectively over the rail when Mr. Adams had finished relating it. “It is almost as good as a story book and true to boot, which most books ain’t.”
So finally the Three Bells touched at Quebec, that Canadian city so famous in history, and the twelve passengers from the expedition, and Eiseeyou and Oumauk, not to mention the White Czar, were all safely landed. Then after much handshaking on the part of Captain Perkins and very cordial invitations to one and all to call on him at Marble Head, The Three Bells went on her way.
A great dray soon appeared and the large cage containing the White Czar was loaded upon it, while the white men with Eiseeyou and Oumauk went to their destination in a taxi.
To Eiseeyou the great city was like fairyland, and he and Oumauk were destined to have many wonderful and wondering days exploring it.
Mr. Adams at once took them to the great doctor whose address had been given them by the missionary. He received them graciously and was much interested in the small boy from the Arctic, once Mr. Adams had told his story. After examining Oumauk’s eyes carefully, the doctor advised that he go to the hospital, which he said was a fine place where they would make Oumauk’s eyes as good as new. But he said it would take time.
So Eiseeyou and Oumauk, accompanied by Mr. Adams went to the hospital. This first day Eiseeyou was too much amazed at the wonders of the city to describe them to Oumauk, but later on he made up for all this remissness.
Arrived at the hospital, Oumauk had to say goodbye to Eiseeyou for that day, but the father promised to see him again on the morrow. They also comforted Oumauk by telling him that he could go out each day with his father and explore the city. They simply wanted him for treatment and he was free to come and go during certain hours, but he must sleep and eat at the hospital.
Although Oumauk was rather frightened at being left alone, yet he was much comforted with this arrangement, and finally became very philosophical, as is the way with his race.
They first stripped the Eskimo boy and took his clothes all away from him. He thought this a great hardship as the garments were his very best furs, although he did find them rather warm in this strange new country. They then put the wondering boy in a bath tub and gave him a good scrubbing. This was to get rid of the body lice, but they told him it was to make him ready to get his sight. They then put him in a clean, wonderful bed, which seemed to him like fairyland, although he had gotten used to the bunks in the two ships on which he had travelled.
But everything about him was strange these days, so he was not much amazed at anything.
The nurse had to show him how to put on his nightdress, which was quite different from his auk-skin shirt. She also had to tell him how to get into bed and cover himself up with the clothes.
Finally the lights were all put out and little Oumauk, the child of the snow, was sleeping peacefully in the land of the white man.
Meanwhile his friend, whom he always called Whitie, even up to the very last time that he saw him just as he had when he had been a fuzzy cub, was also experiencing changes. He was driven away to the very heart of the city where a man who knew all about bears, or at least thought he did, came and inspected him. He was delighted with the huge, white beast and set to work at once to make a den for him. This was completed in two or three days, so when Eiseeyou and Oumauk finally visited the park where they were told that their friend was to live, they found him in fine quarters. That is, the men who had built them thought them fine. Whether the White Czar thought them fine or not, who shall say? But I am inclined to think that he simply made the best of them and bided his time, just as do most wild animals which are captured when full grown and taken into captivity.
His den was made in the side of a hill. The foundation was concrete. The entire den was twenty-five feet by twelve. The den was equally divided between a swimming pool and a platform of rocks, upon which the Czar could stretch himself when he was tired of the water.
He at once recognized Eiseeyou and Oumauk, and came out of the pool to greet the boy. The keeper of the park was amazed to see the small, dark boy stick his fingers through the bars to the great brute. He cried out for him to stop. But Eiseeyou told him in his quaint English that they were old friends.
Finally the keeper himself became convinced that Oumauk was master of the situation and he was persuaded to open the small door where the bear’s food was pushed in to him, in order that Oumauk might pet Whitie more freely.
A curious crowd of white children had gathered about the outer fence of the cage to view, with awe in their hearts and their eyes, this strange scene of the small boy fondling the great head of the white bear as fearlessly as he would have a large dog. The keeper took special pains to explain to them that the bear had been the boy’s pet when he was small, and so knew him. But he warned all the white children to keep well away from the den.
So each day Eiseeyou came to the hospital to visit Oumauk.
Later on the two went to the park to see the White Czar. This was always the first place that they visited.
After that Oumauk was willing that they should see other things of interest, but he never neglected Whitie.
“Whitie and I are both of us prisoners,” he said sadly one day when he was stroking the shaggy head of the Czar. “Whitie is a prisoner in his great cage and I am a prisoner in the dark.”
“He don’t like the cage and I don’t like the dark. I hope some day we will both be free.”
“When the doctor makes the light come again in the sun so I can see, I want to come here the very first thing and see Whitie. Then we must sell everything we have, and we will buy Whitie and go back to Eskimo Land. That is where we all belong.”
Eiseeyou bit his lip and looked troubled, but he thought the same as Oumauk did. Eskimo Land was their home. They were out of place in the great city of the white man. Every one had been good to them, but they were out of place.
Thus three weeks went by. Each day Eiseeyou went to the hospital to get Oumauk, after this the two went to the park to see the White Czar, and then about the city sight-seeing. They visited the parks, the museum, and even went into several theaters where Eiseeyou was much amazed by the strange pictures. He was most impressed when he saw a film of Eskimo Land, perhaps not his own particular country, but other arctic country. The fur-clad people, the dog teams and the komatiks, the seals, the walrus and the igloos were all there. How the white men could have gotten it so faithfully was a mystery to him. Then the automobiles, those strange machines that seemed almost to run themselves, amazed him, as did the telephone and the phonograph, both of which he saw men using. The phonograph he deemed a machine bewitched, full of devils, and he always crossed himself and hurried little Oumauk away whenever he heard one playing in a store.
The hand organ seemed more harmless, and he and Oumauk liked to listen to it, Eiseeyou was also much amused by the monkey who held out his cap for small coins.
Whenever the two went abroad, they were usually followed by curious children, who were much interested in Oumauk. They seemed friendly, and often gave the Eskimo boy candy or fruit, neither of which he had ever tasted before.
Finally the crucial day in both their lives came around. It was the day when little Oumauk was to go under the knife in an attempt of the great doctor to bring back the light in the sun and the stone lamp. Eiseeyou was allowed to be with them in the operating room. He sat by the bedside, holding Oumauk’s hand all through the operation.
Before the operation several doctors made a thorough examination of Oumauk’s eyes, and then talked for a time about the case. Finally the surgeon came along and, patting the Eskimo boy on the cheek, told him they were ready.
A rubber blanket was put under his head and shoulders, and one doctor stood with a basin of water and sponges to wash away the blood. First they put a strange instrument with six claws upon Oumauk’s eye. Each one of these six claws gripped the eye between the muscle and kept it from moving during the operation. Then a local anesthetic was administered, and the operation began.
Although the surgeon worked as carefully as he could, yet it hurt poor Oumauk severely and great tears streamed down his swarthy cheeks. Yet he did not even whimper. His own hard life in the rigorous north, where men and even small children endure hardship without complaining, stood him in good stead. When the right eye had been operated upon, the left eye was treated in the same manner.
The doctors were generous in their praise of Oumauk’s pluck and this helped a little. When the operation was over, Oumauk asked if he might open his eyes and see if the light had come back to the sun. He was much troubled when they told him that he must wait several days before the bandages could be removed.
This disappointment was so great that he did cry a little. But they all told him that crying would hurt his chance of again seeing the sun, so he soon stopped.
After that whenever he and Eiseeyou went forth, Oumauk had to keep the bandage on his eyes, and it was darker than ever.
It seemed to Oumauk and Eiseeyou that the day when they would take off the bandage would never come. But the clocks kept ticking steadily on, and the hours going by, so at last the day arrived.
Oumauk himself was so excited that he shook like a leaf when the doctors came into his ward. He had waited so patiently. The long night had been so very long. He had groped about in the dark, it seemed to him, for the whole of his life. At last the doctor gently removed the bandage and told Oumauk that he might open his eyes.
“Oh, oh,” cried Oumauk as his eyelids flew open, “I can see, I can see, but not as I used to. Only a part of the light has come back to the sun.”
“That is all right, my boy. That is fine,” cried the doctor, clapping him on the shoulder. “I did not expect you would see very much without glasses. You will always have to wear glasses.”
Then he brought out some strange shiny things which went over Oumauk’s nose and behind his ears, and tried several glasses of differing strength in them. Finally he found the right one and Oumauk could see almost perfectly.
“That is fine. The operation is a great success,” said the doctor. “It is only a question of time when he will be all right.”
The doctor rigged a shade for Oumauk’s eyes, to wear above the glasses. He advised him to keep out of the strong sun light for several days and to get used to it gradually, and Eiseeyou promised to look out for him.
Oumauk was all excitement to go and see Whitie at once, but the doctor told them to wait until the morrow then to go towards dusk when the sunlight was not so trying, so the Eskimo boy had to possess his soul with patience till the morrow.
Eiseeyou confided to his son as they walked towards the park the good news that the doctor had given his services for the operation free; and that had cost them nothing. The charge at the hospital was only going to be slight, so they had quite a sum of money left.
“Oh, good,” cried Oumauk. “I feel so happy. Everything is coming out all right. We will have almost enough money to buy Whitie. Perhaps we can pay what we have and they will let us earn the rest and send it to them. Maybe we can take Whitie back with us.”
But Eiseeyou himself had many misgivings about the matter, although he did not confide them to his son. He simply grunted and smiled and said nothing.
Arrived at the park, they made their way hurriedly to the White Czar’s den, where they found that a large crowd of men, women, and children were gathered around the den. All were talking and much excited, especially the children with whom the White Czar had become a great favorite. Eiseeyou could not tell what they were saying, so he worked his way close up to the bear’s den.
To his great astonishment, he found the door of the den open and the White Czar gone. Oumauk was almost as quick to perceive what had happened as he.
At the sight, a cry of pain escaped Oumauk. He put his hand to his glasses and rubbed them to make sure. Then he turned eagerly to his father.
“Oh, oh,” he cried, “is Whitie really gone?”
“Yes,” returned Eiseeyou. “He seems to be. Perhaps they have put him in another den.”
“No,” said the superintendent of the park, who happened to be standing near. He had made the acquaintance of Eiseeyou and his son one day by the cage and learned from them much of the bear’s history, so was interested in them.
“No, we have not put him in another den. He is gone, and I guess for good. We found the door open this morning just as you see it now, and the White Czar had disappeared.
“We have searched all day for him in the city, but he has disappeared as though the earth had opened and swallowed him. There has been foul play. He was let out, and I know who did it too. I doubt very much if we ever see him again alive. He will turn up in the province of Quebec sooner or later, then there will be a great bear hunt and he will be shot.”
Then seeing the terrified look upon Oumauk’s face he hurried to add, “Perhaps he will escape though. He was a clever bear. They will often make their way through thickly settled country without being seen. The province of Quebec is not very thickly settled to the north. Perhaps he will escape.”
“I know he will,” said Eiseeyou, more to console Oumauk than because he really believed so. Like the superintendent of the park, he also believed that the White Czar would fall before some rifle bullet before he had travelled far in this strange country, even if he had gotten safely out of the city.
“It is strange,” said the superintendent, patting Oumauk on the shoulder, “that no one saw him here in the city. But it is only a short distance to the river, down three streets and then along the broad street leading to the docks. Perhaps he found the short cut.”
“They are very clever,” said Eiseeyou. “I guess he has escaped.” Then to Oumauk he said, “I know we will find him in Eskimo Land when we get home. Come, let’s go.”
When the White Czar found himself transferred from the plank cage in which he had lived upon shipboard to the permanent den at the park, he was better suited than he had been in the cage.
The den was much more commodious, and it had the additional advantage of containing a swimming pool. After three or four days he enjoyed the pool greatly. But his attitude towards it at first had been very strange. He would lie upon his rock platform and look at the water for hours. Finally he reached down very carefully with his great white paw and touched it. Then he thrust his arm in to the shoulder. Even then he did not venture into the water until he had tested it by degrees. The truth was he was thinking of his last terrible experience in the water when the rope had been thrown about his neck, and he had been dragged so mercilessly after the motor boat. Also his experience floating about in the cage on the Atlantic had tended to make him suspicious of water. Water in which he had always so revelled.
Finally however he was playing about in his pool and disporting himself on the rocky shelf in his den with a playfulness that was almost grotesque in so large an animal.
But it must not be imagined that the White Czar was satisfied with his lot, or that he was contented to settle down for the rest of his life in this twenty-five by twelve den. Not he.
He remembered too well the freedom of the broad icefloe and the low lying barrens along the coast. He had seen too much of the sparkling, tingling Arctic Ocean to ever rest in a stifling prison like this.
He simply made the best of his hard conditions and bided his time. Few wild animals which have been captured when full grown, as was the White Czar, ever become used to confinement. They may look very tame and well content. But behind this seeming content and docility is a terrible rage and hidden fire that will some day break out and cost some one his life, or else the escape of the wild creature at the first possible moment.
The White Czar was a great favorite with the children who swarmed each day about his den to watch him playing in his pool or stretching his great muscles on the rocks. No matter how small the cage of a wild animal is, he always takes the proper amount of exercise each day by stretching himself. So it was with the Czar. If he ever got a chance to run for his life and his freedom, his muscles must not be stiff.
The visit of Oumauk and Eiseeyou to the den each day was a great comfort to the bear. He learned to time their coming, so that he would always be standing at the bars watching for them when they arrived. But his affection was all for Oumauk. Eiseeyou he had viewed with a suspicion ever since the day when he had sat in the stern of the motor boat and watched the cruel rope almost choke the life out of him. He did not fully connect his capture with the Eskimo, but in a dim sort of way he imagined that he was a party to it.
The White Czar might have lived the rest of his life in the den, admired by the children and with plenty to eat and comfortable quarters; with everything but that priceless thing he most prized, his freedom, had not a strange event intervened in his behalf.
The man who cared for the bear’s den, including another den in which were two large black bears, and also for the wolf and fox dens, as well as the deer park, was a Scotchman named McAndrews.
He had general charge, but he was assisted by an Italian of hot temper and treacherous disposition, named Tony Garibaldi—a good name for a bad man.
It was during the second year of the great war, and wages in all departments of labor were very high. But Tony was seemingly not satisfied, although he was getting a large wage. So he went to the superintendent and asked for more pay.
The superintendent told him that he was not earning what he was then receiving and if his wages were changed in any way, it would be to scale them down. At this Tony became insolent and the superintendent fired him.
Tony, who had really been well pleased with his present wage, was furious and vowed vengeance. The form that his revenge took quite amazed the officials of the park the next morning.
The night following Tony’s discharge, the White Czar lay upon his stone platform peacefully sleeping. The day had been very hot and he was tired, not with any exercise, but with the confinement and the heat. Presently he was aroused by hearing a noise near his den. He opened his eyes and raised his great head. The dark, little man who cleaned out his den each morning was at the bars.
Had he come to clean out the den? He had never done that at night.
The White Czar was not sure. But he stretched himself and plunged into his pool. If the den was to be cleaned, he would be clean also.
When he climbed back on to his platform, he was much amazed to discover that the large door through which the men always entered his den was open. It was wide open, and the man who he had supposed was to clean the den was standing several rods away.
At first the White Czar thought his eyes must be deceiving him, so he went over and poked the door with his nose and smelled of it. It certainly was open. But more than that. A breath of freedom, the wind from the out of doors, free and untrammeled was blowing through it. It was a north wind and it smelled of water.
A thrill went through the great beast. Very cautiously he thrust his head through the door. It did not catch him as he had half expected. So he thrust his shoulders through and then passed outside. He stretched himself and then reared on his hind legs and looked over the fence that surrounded his den. The Italian was watching him. But when a second later the great bear vaulted lightly over the fence, the Italian took to his heels and ran as though his life depended on his flight. He ran so far and so fast that he was never seen in the city again.
But the White Czar paid no attention to him. He was looking up at the starry heavens and smelling the free, fresh wind. He looked this way and that, and finally decided. He would go towards the wind. This was a very wise course on his part for it would lead him through three deserted streets to the great river.
It was two o’clock in the morning. The early traffic had not yet begun. At the entrance to the first street the great bear looked warily down its strange, straight pavements and saw it was deserted. So, with a shambling trot, his great claws rattling strangely on the stones, he trotted to the end of the street. The second street also was deserted, so down that he fled. The third street brought him in sight of the river. The wharf at the end of this street was also deserted, although the wharf next to it was quite busy where some men were loading a steamer. But the White Czar was not looking for men. He had seen enough of them to last him for the rest of his life, so he glided silently along, keeping in the shadows whenever he could. Finally, after considerable slinking and skulking on his part, he reached the end of the wharf.
There he slipped almost as silently into the water as an otter might have done, and sank from sight. When he next appeared, it was only his head that showed and it was a hundred feet from the wharf. After that his head might occasionally have been seen popping up until he reached the middle of the channel. Then he struck out boldly and swam for the northern shore.
It was a five mile swim, for the great river that drains five of the largest fresh water lakes in the world was broad here.
But the White Czar who is best of all swimmers among quadrupeds made the distance in about half an hour. When he finally struggled up on the bank, he shook himself and looking again at the heavens tested the wind. It was a strange country to him. The cities and towns of men, with their strange inventions were all about him. Yet the wind and the sky were just the same everywhere. Man could not change them. So the great bear was guided by them.
Of course he did not know the north star. Yet who shall say but that this bright luminary had a message for him? There seemed to be no affinity in the great bear’s nose for the magnetic pole, yet that also pulled him strangely. But most of all he felt the lure of the great wilderness of the province of Quebec that primæval wilderness that lies just beyond the boundaries of civilization. Few Americans appreciate the fact that the province of Quebec stretches away to the north of the great river for twelve hundred miles, before the boundary of Labrador is reached.
It was the lure of this great wilderness, so much akin to his own wild northland that the White Czar felt and he did not waste any time in answering the call. For two hours he trotted steadily forward, keeping away from the smooth, broad trails which smelled so strongly of men. Henceforth this scent of man he would flee from with all his strength.
So he guided his way in open fields and woods and kept out of the sight and smell of everything that pertained to man. When the stars began to pale, he crept into the very heart of a dense swamp which the ingenuity of the Canadian farmers had not yet conquered, and slept through the day. When darkness came, he crept forth again and once more took up his steady untiring gallop northward.
He did not stop that night for anything to eat, he was too much obsessed with the idea of flight. He must gallop and gallop and gallop. So that night he covered over fifty miles. Again at the approach of dawn he hid in the densest wood that he could discover. There he once more slept away the daylight.
When the friendly night again appeared, he crawled out and fled northward, and fifty more good English miles were put between him and the great city from which he had escaped.
Just at dawn as he was thinking of finding a hiding place for the day, he came out into an open pasture and smelled a scent which was new to him; it was a strong animal scent.
Then the White Czar remembered that he was ravenously hungry.
He had come a hundred and twenty miles without food. So he crept cautiously forward. Then a score of small white animals jumped up almost in front of him and began running wildly about.
The sound they made was like the bleating of the seal pups.
At the thought of seal pups the White Czar’s mouth fairly watered.
He had never even heard of sheep, but these small white creatures looked and smelled good. So he made after them.
In a few seconds he was along side a large ewe, for the Czar had surprised a flock of Canadian sheep. One blow from the great bear’s paw broke the sheep’s back. The mighty hunter soon dispatched it and then, seizing the dead sheep in his powerful jaws made for the deep woods. That day he alternately slept and feasted upon mutton. This was the first of many good meals that he made from sheep.
Two days later, at twilight, just as he was starting for his long night gallop, he surprised his cousin, the black bear, feasting upon something at the edge of the woods.
The White Czar was much surprised at the sight of this black bear. All the bears he had ever seen had been white. But this bear was much smaller than he, so he charged and put him to flight. He was rewarded by finding the black bear had been feasting on a fawn which he had just killed. So the white marauder finished the fawn and went on his way rejoicing.
On another occasion the White Czar also profited by the example of the Black Cousin. This was when he discovered a black bear fishing. He was sitting on a rock at the edge of the stream watching the water intently. For some time the White Czar watched the black bear but could not discover what he was doing.
But finally the paw of the black fisherman shot out, and a great fish went flapping on to the low bank. The White Czar was much surprised, but when the black bear fisherman caught the next fish, the Czar rushed out and drove him away with such ferocity that he forgot his fish and the Czar feasted upon it. After that he often fished himself in the streams which ran into the sea.
The White Czar always travelled about ten miles inland. He did not want to follow the sea coast, for he had discovered that men lived along the coast. He would keep as far away from them as he could and still keep in touch with the sea.
Then this wonderful country abounded in strange berries which were delicious to the taste. This was another thing that the white bear learned of his black cousin. There were also many roots which were good eating. Altogether it was a wonderful country through which the White Czar fled. But it was not his country. His home was by the wild Arctic sea, upon the icefloe, amid the ice and snow. This country was too tame, too warm, too comfortable.
He wanted something more boisterous, more difficult, something against which he might pit his great strength.
Finally after about a month he came to a good-sized stream where there were several beaver dams. He had also seen many caribou signs that day, so he was beginning to feel at home.
The ptarmigan likewise were plenty. Surely he was coming into his own.
This river did not look like the rivers he had crossed in his flight through the province of Quebec. It was more rugged, more rocky. The water ran more swiftly. It was more turbulent, like the racing blood in the veins of the White Czar. With an exultance that he had not felt since his capture two months before, the white bear plunged into the river and swam it. The water swirled about him and he battled with the current. It made him glad. Here was something to fight. He reached the further bank and shook himself, then raised his great head and sniffed the wind. There was a tang about it that he had not smelled in many a week. It was fairly cold. It made him distend his nostrils and take in great breaths. Did it smell of salt water? Was it the open sea that he smelled? The great bear could not tell. But one thing he did know. He was at home in Labrador at last. The fell clutch of civilization would never again grip him. He was back in his native wilds. He would come and go as he wished. No mere man creature should ever again fling a rope over his great head and drag him to that cramped cage. He would fight to the death before that should happen again.
He was free, free, and would remain so, until the wild arctic winds and the cold finally conquered him and he lay down to sleep with his sires.
Eiseeyou and Oumauk stood on the slippery sides of Omingmong Mountain, as the Eskimos called that dark sinister mountain on which Eiseeyou, Tunkine, and Tucksu had made their famous kill of musk ox.
Eiseeyou had promised his son that he would take him to the spot and show him where he had killed the first White Czar, the sire of Whitie, as Oumauk still called his own particular white bear.
They were in the very heart of the frozen snowclad windswept tundra. That frozen desolate belt that stretches entirely around the globe, between the timber line and the arctic ice. A region where only reindeer moss and creeping willows flourish perennially, and where the caribou, the reindeer, and the musk ox alone thrive, although certain foxes and also the dread white wolf eke out a scant living in this desolate region.
Eiseeyou and Oumauk stood by the very boulder where the former had killed the first White Czar in the desperate encounter that so nearly cost him his own life.
He was describing with all of a boy’s ardor just how he had rounded the boulder and come upon the monster. He then told of how he had fired quickly and merely wounded the great bear in the head. This had so enraged the Czar that he had struck the rifle from his hand, and then the two had clenched. Eiseeyou dwelt with special relish on the awful moment when the mighty fighter had slowly crushed him in his deadly embrace, and then told of how he had sunk his knife into the monster’s heart. He did not fail to point out his cleverness in digging under the dead bear to protect himself from the deadly cold of the winter’s night.
To all of this Oumauk listened with wide open eyes, and with his mouth agape in wonder, all of which pleased his father.
Two years had now elapsed since Eiseeyou and Oumauk had returned to Eskimo Land after their eventful visit to the great city. Oumauk had grown to a stalwart lad of eleven years. He was tall and muscular for a boy of that age, and was destined to be a mighty hunter like his father. In the hollow of his arm he easily carried a small rifle as he stood erect and alert, listening to the story of this adventure.
“I do wish I could see Whitie again, and know he was all right,” said Oumauk, with a deep sigh when the tale had been concluded. The desire to see Whitie once more was almost an obsession with the lad. Although so much time had elapsed, and although Eiseeyou had told him again and again that the White Czar had probably fallen before some rifle bullet in the Canadian wilderness, yet Oumauk never gave up hope. He was always watching and waiting for one more glimpse of Whitie.
“Well, perhaps you will,” said Eiseeyou. Secretly he did not expect it, but for once he would humor Oumauk’s great desire.
The two stood looking over the place of the deadly encounter for several minutes in silence, then Eiseeyou turned and gazed across the tundra towards the frozen Arctic Ocean which he knew was about ten miles to the East. As he gazed, his expression became fixed, and his keen eyes seemed to take on an even more penetrating expression. Finally he shaded his face with his hand and his expression became even more intent.
Oumauk, who had noted his absorption, also gazed far across the frozen tundra. But his eyesight was not as good as his father’s, so he could make out nothing. At last Eiseeyou spoke.
“There is something out there that I can’t make out. It is white like the snow, but it moves. It is coming this way. Take the glass and see if you can make it out.” He handed Oumauk the small field glass which he always carried.
The boy took the glass excitedly and placed it to his eyes, first removing his glasses which he still had to wear. For a long time he gazed eagerly, but was silent.
At last he dropped the glasses in the snow in his excitement and fairly shouted. “It’s Whitie, it’s Whitie! He is coming to the mountain.”
Eiseeyou smiled at him indulgently. “Yes,” he said. “I see that is a white bear, but what makes you think it is Whitie? All white bears are Whitie to you.”
“Oh no,” cried Oumauk, fairly dancing up and down in his delight.
“It is Whitie. I can tell his trot and I know his face.
“No other white bear looks like Whitie. I know it is him.
“I am going down to meet him.”
“Stop,” cried Eiseeyou sternly. “You do not know that it is Whitie and even if it was, you could not get near him after this long time. Besides if you did, he would probably bite your head off.”
Oumauk looked reproachfully at his father.
“Whitie not know me? Whitie bite me? You wait and see.”
“You must not go Oumauk,” said Eiseeyou again, but Oumauk paid no attention to his sire. Instead he stood his rifle up against the boulder and tightened his belt just as his father had done upon that momentous occasion several years before when he had slid down the mountain side to save the dead musk ox from the wolfish sledge dogs.
Secretly Eiseeyou was much pleased with this venturesome spirit of Oumauk’s, but he still remonstrated feebly.
“Well,” he said, “if you must go, be careful. I will keep him covered with my rifle so I can shoot if he attacks you. Look out and do not get to sliding too fast.”
But Oumauk did not hear this last admonition, for he was sliding rapidly down the slippery slope.
In a few seconds he stood up at the bottom of the mountain and waved his hand to his father and Eiseeyou waved back.
Then the watching Eskimo on the mountainside was treated to the most amazing sight that he had ever witnessed, although he was widely versed in the ways of the wild.
The great bear by this time was about two hundred yards from the foot of the mountain. As the bear’s eyesight is rather poor, he probably had not seen Oumauk.
Although he was entirely unarmed, with the exception of the hunting knife in his belt, yet the boy began walking rapidly towards the great beast, occasionally stopping to whistle shrilly by blowing between his fingers. This was the way he had called Whitie when he was a cub.
At the first sound of the whistle, the great, shaggy beast stopped to look and listen. He had heard, but could not locate the sound.
Then Oumauk whistled again and followed up that experiment by giving a loud hoo, hoo, hoo, the cry which the Eskimo uses to his dog team. This had also been one of the calls that he had used with Whitie when he had been a cub.
For several seconds the White Czar stood perfectly still, during which time Eiseeyou covered him with his rifle. Oumauk, chancing to look back at his father, saw that the rifle was raised and hastily moved over a few paces to the left in order to bring his own body directly in range.
Eiseeyou saw the movement and lowered his rifle. The nerve of the lad pleased him greatly and he did not raise the gun again, although his heart fairly stood in his mouth at what he saw.
Once more Oumauk whistled, then the clear, ringing voice of the boy floated up to Eiseeyou.
“Whitie, Whitie, come it is Oumauk. He used to feed you the seal pup. He used to feed you nik-suk. He used to feed you the walrus, I-wok. He is your friend. You know Oumauk, Whitie, Whitie, come. Hoo, hoo, hoo.”
Then the great bear seemed to make up his mind and he trotted slowly forward until he was about fifty feet from the boy. Here he again stopped uncertain. Once more the clear voice of the boy floated up to Eiseeyou.
“Whitie, Whitie come. It is Oumauk, Oumauk your friend.
Then the White Czar, magnificent in all his seven hundred pounds, trotted up until he could smell the outstretched hand of Oumauk.
But the boy himself made no move. He just stood still and waited for his huge friend to make the advances.
Twice the White Czar walked slowly about him and finally even sniffed his leather pants. Still Oumauk made no move on his part.
Finally the great beast walked slowly by him twice, rubbing his sides against the boy’s body as he moved, first on one side and then on the other. Then he turned and walked slowly away for a few yards. There he stood looking back over his shoulder at the boy.
“Whitie, Whitie,” cried the boy, “stay with Oumauk. Oumauk wants you Whitie. Stay with Oumauk.”
The bear seemed to listen intently as though he sought to catch the meaning in the sounds. Then he turned his head towards the frozen Arctic Ocean and trotted silently away. Several times he stopped to look back, but each time the stop was shorter than the last.
Smaller and smaller he grew, and whiter and whiter against the snow. The blue shadows of the coming night were fast falling.
The sun had shown only an hour that day and they had seen the White Czar at full noonday. Finally even the keen sight of Eiseeyou could no longer discern the white vibrating object far across the fading snow, so he put up the glass and looked for Oumauk.
He was climbing laboriously back up the mountainside.
“Wait, I will come down,” cried Eiseeyou. “There is nothing more to see up here.” So he slid down the mountain, and a few seconds later stood by the side of the excited boy.
“Did you see Whitie? Did you see him good? Did you see what a mountain he is? He looks as large as a bull walrus.”
“Yes,” said Eiseeyou with a strange thrill in his voice. “I saw all I wanted to of him. It made me much afraid. My blood was as cold as snow water. My heart was like ice. Here is your rifle Oumauk. We must start for the komatiks and the dog teams. Tunkine and Tucksu will be wondering if we are lost.”
For many minutes they trudged over the snow in silence. Then Oumauk spoke, “Will Whitie ever come back? Shall I ever see him again?
“I thought he seemed to be saying goodbye. That is what the white men say. I thought Whitie was saying it.”
Eiseeyou patted the boy’s shoulder and looked lovingly down at him.
“I was just thinking that myself,” he said. “Yes, I am certain.
“The God of the wild creatures has called The White Czar and he has answered the call. It is well. His place is on the icefloe among the seal and the walrus. You must not wish him back.
“The winds and the snow and the cold have called him.
“They are what the white man calls Nature, and when they call the animals obey. Even man has to obey her voice. Yes, the winds the cold and the snow have called him, and he has answered. It is well.”#ENGLISH