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Nevvu something about Christmas Day, and why it was kept. Then I described to her a Christmas tree. She did not even know there were such things as Christmas trees. And when I spoke of their growing higher than her husband and her cousin's husband would reach, standing one on top of the other, and then described the forests and the fruit trees, she shook her head and looked at me in an unbelieving way, as much as to say I had better hold my breath.
But the idea of something which should be a few feet high, something with branches and lights, and hung all over with pretty things for the children— that she understood. Because she was a mother, I suppose.
I began at once to make my preparations, while there was some little sunlight left to work by. The days grew shorter and shorter- four hours long, three hours long, two hours long, one hour long, half an hour long, till at last the sun only showed himself, and then set, to rise no more until the next spring.
In setting about this funny undertaking the first thing to be thought of was the tree. That I made by taking a bear's backbone and fastening to it for branches the spines and ribs of foxes. For strings I used tendons of these animals, and narrow strips of seal skin. These last were better for tying the branches to the trunk. Bunches of moss soaked in oil I thought would do for candles very well.
Next, presents. And here it must be confessed that I was, at first, really puzzled. For there were Petnetu's five boys, besides Kapaniah and Myugna, and the babies and Signa's grown-up girl Sennuh; and nowhere to go to buy anything.
But, Joe," said I to myself (I liked to talk English sometimes), "Joe, there must be presents!" "Yes," said myself, answering back, "I know that, and there shall be presents. Let's begin with the girls." "Of course," said I.
Now, in thinking what present to give a small girl, a doll comes first to mind. So I made a doll; made it of seal skin, stuffed with moss, and dressed it exactly as Kapaniah herself was dressed, trousers, jumper, hood, and all.
My needle was a sharp bone, and my thread the tendons of animals. I tore off a quarter of my pocket handkerchief to cover its head with, and to give them some idea of a white child's face. I burned the point of a very slender bone and drew as delicate features as my skill allowed.
There being plenty of time in that country, I didn't hurry much, and the face when finished was quite pretty. But it was rather a sad piece of work, for, without meaning to, I found myself trying to draw the features of my little sister; and oh, it was bad for a poor homesick sailor to have his little sister's face so much in his mind!
When the doll was finished, I hid it away in a hole I had scraped out in the snow under the "breck." For everything must be kept private from the children. Of course Nevvu had to see, but I charged her not to tell.
Sometimes I had to go off by myself and work in one of the little "haycocks," as I used to call them. Our hut was made of snow, and was shaped like a haycock. The bottom measured between three and four yards across, and in the center you could stand up straight. There were two smaller "haycocks which let out of this, and into one of these I used to go and work; though sometimes we sent Kapaniah and Myugna to see their cousins.
The doll was for Kapaniah. For Myugna I made of another quarter of my pocket handkerchief a rag baby, and dressed it in long clothes, like babies at home. In Eskimo land they wrap them up in fox skins. My under jacket was lined with red flannel, and I took some of that for the rag baby's long clothes. When she was finished I laid her in a beautiful cradle, which I carved out of clear, transparent ice. In carving ice I found a heated bone a very handy tool.
Next I made some bone beads and strung up a necklace and bracelets for Sennuh. I also made for her a very pretty model of a church, with steeple and towers all cut in ice. I missed my jackknife
dreadfully. Most of the work had to be done with a piece of rusty iron hoop sharpened. Some years before, a cask had drifted ashore, and Nevvu's husband managed to get a couple of the hoops.
What could be contrived for the boys was the next question. Of course some noisy thing or other. After thinking it over awhile I made up my mind that Mellek should have a drum, Anato a trumpet, Luk a fife, and Oolooni a fiddle. For Osingo, the dumpling of a boy, I rigged a jumping jack.
The trumpet and the fife were made of hollow bones. The drum was made of seal skin, first wet, then shaped, then frozen. The ends, however, were of beaten fox skin. For drumsticks, walrus ribs.
The fiddle was easily managed. I took the shoulder blade of a walrus, which was quite hollow, and stretched over it part of a bear's bladder. The bridge was the breastbone of a snowbird. The strings were the intestines of a fox, and I made a fiddlestick with a lock of Nevvu's hair, fastened to a strip of whalebone.
But my greatest piece of work was the jumping jack. For its head I took the head of a frozen auk; for its hands and feet, fox paws. I never saw a funnier jumping jack in my life. When Nevvu first saw it, she screamed right out loud for joy! I hid it under the "breck" and charged her to keep away
from there; but if left alone in the hut, she was sure to get hold of it and go to jerking the string.
I didn't know but I should have to go to making playthings for the fathers and mothers too! And as it occurred to me that they never saw a horse, or a cow, or a cart, or furniture of any kind, I went to work and put together some little chairs and tables. I made them of bones of birds. And afterward I modeled a small horse in snow. When he was finished, I passed a heated iron over the surface, then gave it a covering of fox hairs and froze them on.
I also did the cow in the same way. And after trying my hand over and over and over again, I made something which would give them an idea of a carriage. The horse and the cow looked more natural than any one would suppose.
Besides all these things, I made a lot of marbles for the boys. I even made alleys, some with red rings round them, and some quartered with red. The coloring matter was liver juice.
I was puzzled to know what to do for confectionery, but soon thought of the plan of making sugarplums, hearts, and kisses, of frozen tallow, as they have nothing that is any more like sugar. Then for sticks of candy I used frozen liver, cut in narrow strips. Hanging on the tree, these looked like sticks of hoarhound candy. I made for each