Puslapio vaizdai

flavor. She sucked and chewed. The trace parted.

A step sounded near her, a crushing blow fell upon her head, and she lost consciousness for a moment. She She found herself in Obloyah's grip. He knotted the trace, and went to his sledge for a camp-ax. He seized the cowering bitch, threw her upon her back, and stood upon her ears. She opened her mouth to scream with pain and terror. This gave the man his chance. With a practised hand he struck one sharp blow and broke off her thick back teeth. He repeated this dreadful operation three times, until only the front and eye-teeth remained.

Pouak stumbled away, stunned and bleeding. She did not know that every other dog was maimed in the same way; she did not realize the dreadful necessity of it. Never again would she chew her trace; she could n't.

The storm continued. Though the dogs lay curled up and let the snow drift over them for slight protection, they felt tired and ill. They shivered and whined.

The man shivered. He lay unspeaking beneath two pieces of old caribouskin in the lee of a low wind-break he had made of snow-blocks. At last he crawled out to the team. They bayed and whined in his face, trying to show their gnawing hunger and the strange uneasiness they felt. He untangled their traces slowly, as though he were weary after a long march. One dog he led behind the snow-shelter. A little later he reappeared with blood smeared on his cheeks, and he smiled at the sensation of warm meat in his empty belly. He fed the team the bones of their comrade.

In the night Pouak gave birth to a small hairless, squirming puppy, just

as she had been a year before. The king dog ate it. Before morning every dog had so eaten. Pouak crawled to the end of her trace and lay down. She felt weak and sick, and her torn spirit gave her no courage to face the others.

The man ate another dog, and fed the team one of the caribou-skins he had been sleeping on. In the fight over the tufts of hair that fell out of it Pouak was nearly killed. Obloyah saved her life. Without dogs he could never reach home again or hunt. Also hungry bears in the springtime are dangerous.

At last the wind abated. A wall of black water smoke rose out of the white ice-sheet where the storm had torn the floes apart. Obloyah tried to harpoon a walrus in this lead. He was very weak and missed. He ate more dog-meat, which gave him strength.

A little later he killed several walruses and returned home. After a full meal, and listening to the youngest baby sing a little song she had learned since he left, he felt very comfortable; so much so, indeed, that he talked more than usual to his wife.

"There are few walruses this year," he said.

"Yes," replied his wife in a low tone. "I was hungry for a while." "Yes. We, the babies and I, were very hungry, too."

"I met the men from Quieteq.' "Yes. Where is the white bitch?" "She's gone. I think I ate her." The woman trimmed her seal-oil lamp and then lay her warm brown body against the hunter's sleek skin, under which she could feel the strong muscles of him who brought her meat, which, in the North, means life as well as death.

[merged small][graphic]

HERE are three kinds of love in the arouses him at last to realize her worth.

Tworld. For the want of better ad. It is her secret tunnusement at his

jectives let us call them free love, rough attempts to help that opens her platonic love, and affection. eyes to a heart she had begun to doubt he had.

Refrigerated environment has made the Eskimo physically incapable of the first, at least to any degree of enthusiasm. Naturally, he lacks the culture for the second. The third, affection, the man learns after he has become a father, or the woman a mother.

Friends and relatives are objects of attention and consideration. Old people are tolerated as if they ought to die rather than hang around and clutter up the igloo, eating meat and giving no return. The immediate family demands a tribal moiety of loyalty and duty, no matter how ephemeral the wife may be or how unrelated the boys and girls attached. But babies and children are truly loved the love of deep-seated attachment.

It is the arrival of a baby that seals the vowless Eskimo marriage. It is the choking, helpless plaint in the igloo's shadows that first gives the hunter his sense of home. It is his amazement at his woman's unsuspected depths of tenderness that

There is no cradle in Eskimo Land, no baby-carriages. Indoors a corner of the sleeping-platform's bearskins suffices. Without, the mother's shirt, enlarged behind to a pouch, provides all transportation.

A woman thinks nothing of a threehundred-mile sledge-trip in the dead of winter with a baby on her back. Over glaciers, through blizzards, tumbling into tide-cracks, scaling precipitous mountains, the morsel of humanity snuggled against her shoulders becomes an integral part of herself.

The infant wears one garment, a miniature shirt four inches long. When it becomes necessary to remove him, the mother reaches around, grips him by the scuff of his shirt, and holds him out like a steaming brown potato in the cold.

The child's play is the grown-up's work. No brown boy knows the dread agony of learning as you or I have learned or the torture of being taught.

The first is his play; the second, indulgent entertainment, he feels fortunate to receive from his elder brothers or father.

See them on the ice; a hunk of sod or a snow-block serves as a walrus. Warily, the embryo harpooners approach, creeping on all fours, crawling sidewise until within a few yards of the sleeping animal. With characteristic caution they gratify their boyish craving for reality. They have the sun in the eyes of the game, and the wind does not carry their scent to the hunted. In range, they half rise and brace. The same instant flashes the spinning iron, plunges to its heft into the quivering-no, not skin and blubber this time, only sod.

In the dim light of the igloo sits Mamowna. He is ten years old, the pride of the great Sipsu. With grave dignity the tusk-scarred old hunter scrutinizes his son's work.

"A little more on the edge," says he, speaking of the toy harpoon the lad is puffing over. Then, "A sharp shaft goes deep. Into the lungs, boy, with your iron. Always into the lungs, where life lies."

No answer comes from the lad, but every word seeps into his very soul.

"No, back a little with the lashing,' continues Sipsu. "Dost thou not remember how I showed thee? And why? Much have I myself endured to learn that which thou art here in comfort to find out." And thereupon follows a tale in detail illustrating the vital necessity of true methods.

With the girls, their babies, real or imitation, fill most of the day, except when they can watch their adored men. For to each soft-voiced creature the days will come that are endless, weary ordeals of waiting. Watching for her

hunter, she will stand, peering through the window-hole, straining sad eyes across the wind-swept ice, anxious and afraid, dreading the day of return, yet yearning for it; craving strong arms, hoarse voices, growling dogs, the komotiks, and at the same time fearful of the count that shall reveal her loss.

Puppies are babies in the little mothers' hoods, or young hares or birds. She sews boots and shirts for them; she cooks for them and feeds them. And-the pathos of it!-she croons over them long tales of what the "father" is doing out on the ice to collect their meat and skins; how he is suffering; and how bravely he is daring what none other will dare; how quickly he is urging his team to return with sweet tidbits of food.

With all the wonders of the polar regions, there is nothing more singular north of the arctic circle than the fact that an Eskimo child is never punished. It is n't that there is too much love to make them suffer; we love our own imps just as much. Nor is it that they are always good; Satan himself would shy at some of the pranks of a native hunter of seven years. The secret is this:

Assume I am an Eskimo, and you are an inquiring scientist. Since my Aunt Jane, let us say, died some years ago, no one had mentioned her name, as is the custom, until my youngest daughter was born, and I named her Jane. The daughter is now four. I address her as Aunt Jane. I discuss her with my wife as Aunt Jane.

You chance to pass my igloo and see "Aunt Jane," aged four, puncturing a puppy's eye with a sliver of bone. You dash to my door.

"Your baby is putting a poor dog's eye out!" you cry.

"It is all right," I calmly reply. And, turning to my wife, I add: “There, Aunt Jane is bored again. Poor thing! she is also probably angry at something we have said about her, and she is taking her wrath out on the dog."

It matters not how fiendish the behavior of my child may be, I must accept it as an outward manifestation of the spirit of Aunt Jane, which took its abode in the baby when her name was bestowed upon it.

Later, possibly around twelve or thirteen years, the child's own spirit has grown to such substance that Aunt Jane's is crowded out. The young rascal is now supposed to be subject to discipline. But subordination is by no means even then a matter of compulsion; some shreds of the departed aunt may still be lingering.

Another mystery has to do with the Eskimo childhood. One wonders in that white and treeless desert, broken only by a scant ribbon of rocky debris between the ice-cap and the sea, how the native hunter ever relocates his caches. No mark is made. No guiding beacon is erected. "How do you find them?" is always answered by the one word, “Ig-min-ney," which freely translated means, "we just do it."

Yet the process is simply explained. Since a toddling boy the hunter has roamed strange, rocky lands. As an infant he explored the igloo's mysterious neighborhood. Farther and farther away he ventured, often lost, always fascinated. Each time he

returned. How? Here's the answer:

Each diminutive expedition served to educate the lad, to instil bit by bit the natural hieroglyphics of the weathered outcrop. The healthy young

savage was learning to read, and the symbols he met and mastered were tremendously distinct.

The handwriting of time is sublimely adequate and clear. The frost-fretted fault-lines never change direction. Windrows in the arctic meadows probably do not vary one degree a century. Ragged sastrugi are no less permanent. Precipitous tide-cracks and creeping glaciers cry aloud their testimony to meteorological orientation.

The boy grows. Year by year the process of assimilation and fixation goes on, until, finally, there is required no conscious effort for him to note certain prominent features of the terrain. So far as he can tell you, his mind is a blank when he travels. Yet when again he sees the distinguishing rock or ridge that he has seen but once before, and that in the darkness a year ago, his memory clicks re-registration, and he knows the cache lies there.

Behold the finished product. Call him instinctive, if you will; but he is more highly specialized than the keenest factory worker in our own progressive land, for he has received more thorough training, and he can meet the average emergency without the least expenditure of reasoning. Yet so happy are they with so little!

Why is it, I wonder? Their play, I think All is play.


[merged small][graphic]

AKE war. It is man who retro

But the woman-ah, the pity of her

T grades. Bankers, farmers, clerks, silence, her hopelessness, her despair,

engineers, professors, barbers, stevedores, and pastors slip without effort into the maelstrom of barbarism. The woman suffers untold agonies, is tortured mentally more than man; yet she alone consistently bears her cross with unchanging soul.

So it is in the Arctic. Man's primal lust for action is instantly aroused by the challenge of environment. Every drop of red blood in him warms and races as he fills his office-shrunken lungs and feels he 's

Off to the end of the World,

To the edge of the day and the night, Where a man may live as the first man lived,

And just to live is a fight!

He takes to skin garment and raw meat and passioned combat with the cold and wind as if his civilized life had been only a pale vacation from his true existence. His mind dulls to common thoughts and emotions. His senses grow keen to trail and mark and scent. Give him a scant year under punishment, and the odds are great he'll be on the road to better the Eskimo himself.


as she sees her man slipping and slipping away from what she knew him to be! Nor can he ever understand; for even as the Maker protects His creatures with their winter fur, so does He numb and atrophy a man's hypersensitive nerves to compensate for nature's violence against them.

Thus it is the woman who can give the truest picture of the arctic wilderness. She alone has the total perspective that can include the old as well as the new. And, at least as far as the colonies go, one must consider that coast as an Englishman might think of Canada or India, rather than an icebound desert half the size of the States and inhabited by a dozen or so ingrowing European families.

Don't ask the pastor's wife or the doctor's or the carpenter's. They cannot talk if only for the inhibition of half a lifetime's loneliness. Try the trader's sister, who is with him for the year, or his young Danish sweetheart, come out unchaperoned from Copenhagen.

"How do you like it?" you ask.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »