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   Chapter 2 2

The Eternal Maiden By T. Everett Harre Characters: 33490

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


"The thought of Annadoah in the embrace of the big blond man, of her face pressed to his in the white men's strange kiss of abomination, aroused in Ootah a sense of violation. . . . He heard Annadoah murmur tenderly, 'Thou art a great man, thou art strong; thy arms hurt me, thy hands make me ache.'"

Slowly, with silent paddles, the hunters moved over the limpid waters to the north of the floe. On the far side they saw a horde of walrus bulls dozing in the sunlight. Behind a ridge of ice they landed, drawing their kayaks after them. With skin lassos, harpoons and floats, the party crouched low and crept toward the prey. Thus they would be mistaken for other walrus by the unsuspecting animals. Ootah was ahead. Softly they all muttered the magic formulas to prevent themselves from being seen:

"Nunavdlo sermitdlo-akorngakut-tamarnuga!" In the rear, his eyes evilly alight, Maisanguaq followed.

As they approached the herd they scattered. Along the edge of the floe lay about twenty monstrous animals, steam rising from their nostrils as they snorted in their slumber. There were a half dozen mother walrus with half-grown young about them. Now and then they sleepily opened their eyes and made low maternal noises.

Before the others realized what had happened, Ootah sprang toward a bull and delivered his harpoon. It rose in the air and roared deafeningly. Ootah struck a second time. The animal floundered in a pool of blood, whipping the floe furiously with its huge tail.

With a thunderous roar all the others leaped with one glide into the sea. The floe rocked, the water churned like a boiling cauldron. In a few minutes Ootah had despatched the beast. Standing erect, he gazed in defiance at the clouds, at the distant gulls. He forgot the omens, and laughed with joy.

Not a moment was to be lost, however. Springing into their kayaks, the Eskimos put to sea. Now the battle began in earnest. Attacking enraged walrus in these frail skin boats is probably the most dangerous form of hunting in the world. At any moment an infuriated animal is liable to rise from the sea immediately beneath a kayak and upturn it.

Forming a semi-circle on the water about the swimming herd, the fearless hunters sat in their tossing boats, each with one arm upraised ready to strike, and with the other manipulating the paddle. Whenever a whiskered head rose above the water one of the hunters let a harpoon descend. After each attack they waited breathlessly.

Tateraq suddenly let his arm descend-his harpoon point struck home. He shouted with joy-for he, too, sought Annadoah. Roaring with rage the lanced sea-horse dived into the deep. The foaming water became red with blood, and a few snorting, bellowing heads appeared. All about glared enraged, fiery eyes. The animals plunged and tossed furiously in the water-the savor of blood maddened them. They began a series of attacks upon the kayaks.

Alive to their danger the men kept an alert watch. As they saw a seething streak described on the surface of the water, as an animal raged toward them, they would skillfully shift their positions. The animal would rush snortingly by.

With dexterous movements of the paddle, Ootah playfully moved his kayak among the herd, in one hand his harpoon ready to strike. A feverish desire to make the greatest kill possessed him. Each time a hunter made an attack he felt a pang of anxiety. Tense rivalry spurred the young hunters.

In the midst of the battle Arnaluk struck a beast. Ootah summoned all his skill, and dashed in succession after a number of appearing heads-he forgot his danger. Before the others realized it, he had killed two. Maisanguaq's harpoon went wild. He jealously watched Ootah and struck without skill, carried away by chagrin and rage. Eré made valiant attacks for he, too, thought of Annadoah, but the walrus invariably went skimming from under his blows. Papik's harpoon glanced the backs of half a dozen. Finally it landed. He shouted with glee. The inflated floats attached to the harpoon lines bobbed crazily on the surface of the ensanguined waters as the animals tossed in their death struggles below.

Two white tusks appeared near Ootah's kayak. His arm cut the air-his harpoon sped into the water-an enraged bellow followed. He withdrew the handle, free of its line and the attached metal point-the point, with the sinew, descended into the water. It had struck home.

Suddenly a cry went up. One of the natives waved his arms frantically. A great monster had risen by his kayak and fastened one of its tusks in the skin covering the boat from gunwale to gunwale. To strike it with the harpoon meant that it would plunge and capsize the frail craft. Crazy with excitement, the native began hissing and spitting in the beast's face.

"Lift his head!" cried Ootah, paddling near. "Lift-tugaq!-lift his tusk!"

"Lift his head!" echoed the others.

"Aureti! Aureti! Behave! Behave!" the panic stricken man ludicrously shrieked at the animal.

Ootah paddled his kayak to the side of his companion's and, leaning forward, with a quick movement, threw a lasso over the animal's nose and under one tusk. With a terrific jerk of the body, he gave a backward pull-the walrus rose on the water, the kayak was freed of the tusk and slipped away. With a roar the animal sank into the sea. A number now rose angrily about Ootah's kayak. They were bent upon a combined assault.

Ootah warded off the attacking bulls on all sides with his harpoon. The air trembled with infuriated calls, the animals were insane with brute rage. The other natives, alarmed, paddled to a safe distance and watched the unequal conflict. While Ootah manipulated his harpoons, Maisanguaq, in the shelter of the floe, watched him with eager eyes.

He saw Ootah, with almost superhuman dexterity, striking constantly. Repeatedly he had to renew the metal points on his weapon-handle. One by one the animals gave up the attack and dispersed, until only an obdurate bull remained. The battle between man and beast continued, finally Ootah let the harpoon fly with full strength. It struck the animal near the heart. Ootah uncoiled the free line attached to the harpoon point quickly-and the walrus, weighing probably three thousand pounds, plunged with the impetus of a bulk of iron into the sea. Then a strange thing happened.

The pan-shaped drag, attached to the extreme end of the long line securing the harpoon which Ootah had driven into the animal, became entangled in the lashings on the forepart of Ootah's kayak. Leaning forward, Ootah tried to disentangle it. He feared that the beast, in its struggle, might drag all his weapons and paraphernalia into the sea. He felt it tugging at the line while he unknotted the tangle. While he was doing this Maisanguaq saw the beast rise to the surface of the water not far from Ootah and describe a quick circle about his kayak. Before he realized it, the leather line had wrapped itself about his chest and under his arms. It took but a minute for the animal to circle the boat-then it plunged. Maisanguaq saw Ootah struggle to release himself; then he saw the kayak tilt as the hunter was drawn, by the mighty impetus of the plunging sea-horse, into the water. He heard Ootah's cry-saw the blood red waters seethe as they closed over him. In a brief interval the kayak righted itself-it was empty.

A murmur of dismay rose from the others. "The tupilak! the tupilak!" Maisanguaq exultantly murmured, his eyes alight. "Happy angakoq! Thou shalt have much of Ootah's meat!"

Over the spot where Ootah sank the sun flamed. The water seethed with the threshing of the animals beneath the sea. Ootah's float finally rose. The natives watched breathlessly for the reappearance of Ootah. The float bobbed up and down as the animal's death struggles beneath the water subsided.

Maisanguaq, looking at the floats which marked the dead animals, called out:

"Ootah hath won Annadoah-hah-hah-hah! Hah! Ootah hath won Annadoah only to lose her! We shall take Ootah's catch to Annadoah, but Ootah sleeps. Ootah hath gone to taste the water in the country of the dead! Hah-hah!"

At that moment Maisanguaq nearly fell from his kayak.

"Methinks thou wilt perhaps join the fishes first, friend Maisanguaq," a familiar voice laughed joyously behind him.

Maisanguaq's face became livid with dismay. Had the angakoq failed?

And why?

Turning, he saw Ootah, not far away, clambering from the water onto the floe. He was unscathed by the mishap-the water even had not penetrated his skin garments. A joyous cry arose from the hunters as they saw him running to and fro, working his arms to get up circulation. Noting Maisanguaq's scowling face, Ootah twitted him:

"Laugh, friend Maisanguaq," he said, "for winter comes and then thy teeth will chatter." Maisanguaq scowled deeply-Ootah's blithesome remarks filled him with rancor.

"Peace, Maisanguaq. Methinks thou, too, lovest Annadoah," continued

Ootah kindly. "Therefor, I hear thee no spite! For who cannot love

Annadoah. Ka-ka! Come-come!" Shaking the water from him, he bade

the others tow his kayak to the floe.

Ootah entered his kayak. The struggles of the walrus had subsided, and only two skin floats bobbed feebly on top of the waves. The hunters now strung series of kayaks together with strong leather ropes, three skin boats being attached in a catamaran. Taking up the leather floats one by one, to the rear kayak of each series the hunters fastened the harpoon lines which secured the prey. Thus the animals were to be towed slowly ashore.

Altogether eight walrus had been secured; four of these had fallen to the skill of Ootah. Ootah sang for joy. Again he had achieved distinction on the hunt, and so, with all the better chances of success, he believed he might pursue his suit for the hand of Annadoah. With powerful, steady strokes of their paddles the hunters, in their processions of kayaks, towed the walrus through the sea shoreward. They joined unrestrainedly in Ootah's hunting chant. Only Maisanguaq was silent.

Now and then, unable to restrain his exuberant joy, Ootah sang his love to the clouds, the waves, the winds.

"O winds, O happy winds, speed my message to Annadoah!" he called. "Tell her that I return with the food of the sea! O spirits of the air, breathe to her that Ootah's heart hungers for her as starving ahmingmah desire green grass in winter time. O happy, happy waters, I return to Annadoah with food and fuel for winter-say Ootah meuilacto-would wed-Annadoah. Tell her Ootah calls her Mamacadosa!"

The others, although disappointed in being outwon, in spontaneous recognition of his superior feat, chimed a chorus of congratulations. Suddenly Maisanguaq gleefully pointed a significant finger to the sky.

"Pst!" he said.

A black guillemot, like an omen of evil, passed over Ootah's head.

By all the immemorial customs of their people, because of the established pre-eminence of his prowess, Ootah should now find favor in the eyes of Annadoah. Scarce seventeen summers had passed over Annadoah's head and of wooers she had a score. The young hunters, not only of her own tribe, but of others far south, sought her hand. The fame of her beauty and skill had travelled far. None, it was said, equalled her dexterity in plaiting sinew thread; none cut and sewed garments as this maid with tender child's hands. She made weapons, she brewed marvellous broths. Since the death of her mother she had served the tribe with her skill. Yet, as the summers passed, she remained carefree and to all suitors shook her head. "Become a great chief," she would say. "Win in the games, bring back the musk oxen, then perhaps Annadoah will listen." Each summer the young men pursued the hunt with the hope of becoming chief hunter among the tribesmen. But for three summers Ootah had won signally above them all. To the remote regions of their world the name of Ootah was whispered with awe. Ootah carried off honors in the muscle-tapping and finger-pulling matches; he out-distanced all rivals in kayak races on the sea; he left everyone behind on perilous journeys to the inland mountains. Of every living animal on land and sea he had killed, and in quantity of game he excelled them all. Only of late had Annadoah listened with some degree of favor to his pleadings. In the days of want he brought blubber to her for fuel, and provided her with meat. And she was grateful. Perhaps her heart stirred, but she feared the quiet passion of Ootah, and by a perverse feminine instinct she resented a tenderness so gentle that it seemed almost womanly. With winter approaching, and food scarce, it was inevitable that Annadoah should wed. And now that Ootah in the quest of the walrus had made the greatest kill, none doubted that he should be chosen.

As the kayaks approached the village an unexpected sight greeted the eyes of the hunters.

Along the shore, the women of the tribe and strange men were dancing.

Before the village tents they were gathered in groups. While the elder women of the tribe beat a savage dance on membrane drums, the chubby-bodied maidens, dressed in fur trousers, swayed in the arms of the foreigners.

As the boats approached the shore, the natives recognized the visitors. They were one of a half dozen parties of Danish traders who came north yearly from Uppernavik to gather the results of the season's hunt. Their visit meant an untold distribution of wealth among the tribe, for they brought needles, knives, axes, guns, ammunition, and in return secured a fortune in furs and ivory tusks. They also doled out tea, biscuits, matches, tobacco, thread, and gaudy handkerchiefs beloved by the women. Their coming had not been expected this season because of the dearth of game.

The men in the boats shouted to one another joyously. Only Ootah felt a heavy sinking at his heart. He saw the big blond-bearded men chucking the little women under their chins. Their method of kissing was strange and repugnant to him. Accustomed only to the chaste touching of a maiden's face, the kiss of the white men he instinctively regarded as unnameably unclean. He resented their freedom with the women. But, children of the heart and brain, primitive, innocent, the women did not understand the white men's strange behavior. And the husbands, not comprehending, did not care. A gun, ammunition, a few boxes of matches-these constituted wealth in value exceeding a wife.

Now and then Ootah saw some of the visitors raising flasks to their lips. Then their hilarity rang out more boisterously.

When they saw the kayaks approaching the shore the strangers shouted. The hunters replied. Only Ootah remained silent. Disapproving of the spectacle, his thoughts were busier elsewhere; his heart glowed.

"Ho, ho, what there?" some called.

"Aveq soah," Maisanguaq replied.

"Jolly for you!" shouted a Newfoundland sailor, whom Ootah recognized as having been in the region with some sportsmen from far away America several years before.

As they danced the visitors broke into the fragments of a wild sailor's chorus.

When they had finished, the Newfoundlander, a tall, tough, red-faced whaler, drank again from his flask and strode to the shore. His bulky body reeled unsteadily.

"Come on up-bring 'er in-hurry up! Gawd, but you'r' blazin' slow!"

Ootah and his companions landed. Tugging at the leather lines they drew the walrus one by one from the water to the ice. In these monstrous palpitating black bodies were tons of food and fuel. Without wasting time, they fell to their task and dressed the animals. Meanwhile sleds were brought from the tents and the masses of steaming meat and blubber were loaded. While the natives were thus busily engaged, the half-drunken Newfoundlander strode about uttering great oaths. The strangers' dogs, attracted by the meat, with shrill howling descended to the ice and surrounded the sled-loads of blubber. Ootah seized an oar and beat them away.

"What the hell d'ye mean," the Newfoundlander demanded. "Youh'd beat our dogs? Eh? Get away, damn youh!" He lifted his fist above Ootah. His face purpled, Ootah raised his lithe body, his muscles quivered like drawn rubber. His black eyes flashed proud defiance.

"Youh'd fight me, eh?-youh defy me, youh damn candle-suckin' heathen!"

His hand descended. Beyond, the drum beaters ceased, the dancers turned-a surprised cry went up.

Ootah drew hack, his face flushed. There was a red spot on his cheek where the white man's fist had struck. He felt a sense of momentary terror. The white men's methods of fighting were unfamiliar to the natives. A blow from the fist is a thing unknown

among them. Ootah drew away-the bullying Newfoundlander followed.

"Youh'd beat our dogs, eh? Well, I'll show youh, youh oily, tallow-eatin' husky!"

He called the dogs, and stooping to the treasured mass of blubber threw a great mass to the howling animals.

"Ha! ha! ha! guess youh thought youh were smart, eh?" A second team of dogs, released from their tethering, came wildly dashing shoreward. The whaler seized another mass of meat and flung it to the animals.

Ootah felt a flush of fierce indignation rise within him. His food for the winter, whereby he hoped to win Annadoah, that which might keep away the wolves of starvation, was being wantonly wasted. He saw his companions cowering at the sight of the white man-he drew himself erect. He saw the Newfoundlander turn and shout to his companions on the shore. Ootah thought of the saying, "Strike thy enemy when his back is turned." He seized a heavy harpoon handle, made of a great narwhal tusk, and swinging it high struck the Newfoundlander a terrific blow on the head. He fell senseless to the earth, his face bleeding. Half stunned he tried to struggle to his feet, but Ootah leaped upon him, and, as was ethical in the native method of fighting, trampled him into insensibility. The man lay unconscious, his face bleeding effusively.

Without a word Ootah continued loading his share of the game onto his sleds. Attracted by the attack, the other members of the trading party descended and surrounded the fallen man.

"Nice trick, eh?" laughed one. "Sam got his all right. 'Minds him right for being so damned fresh." They surveyed Ootah. "Slick little devil," one said, handing Ootah his gun.

"Take it, son," he said, with maudlin magnanimity. "You've got nerve!"

Ootah smiled bashfully, and shook his head in quiet refusal.

The half-drunken traders, laughing at what they considered a clever trick, carried their companion into one of the tents and poured brandy into his mouth. Then they left him lying alone, half sodden, and returned to the shore. Some watched the natives working, while others clasped the native maidens in their arms and danced. Half afraid of the whites, flattered by their attentions, and extremely embarrassed, the little women jumped and danced in the visitors' arms.

Papik finally drew his single sledge load of walrus toward his tent. He had been rejected repeatedly, but now-with a load of blubber-he knew he could not afford to miss the opportunity of seeking a wife.

"Ahningnetty! Ahningnetty!" he hailed a chubby maiden who, breaking from the arms of one of the white men, was seen running toward her shelter.

"What wouldst thou, Papik?" she called.

"Papik would speak with thee. Ookiah (winter) comes, and his teeth are sharp. They will bite thee with pangs of hunger, and the meat Papik brings will make joyful Papik's wife."

Ahningnetty, summoning some of the other maidens, surveyed Papik's load of blubber.

"Truly, as he saith, there is little food, and happy will be Papik's wife," said one.

"But when thy blubber is gone with what shalt thou provide her?" asked

Ahningnetty.

"Perchance the bears will come," Papik said. "And skillful is Papik's hand with the lance."

"But thy hand is long, Papik, and long fingers soon lose their skill."

Ahningnetty dubiously shook her head.

"But thou art chubby-yea," said Papik admiringly-"thou art fat as the mother bears after a fat summer, and thy body is warm; it giveth heat; Papik would give thee food, and thou shalt keep him warm during the long winter."

The maiden smiled delightedly. For, as Papik indicated, whereas a man may admire a slimmer beauty during the summer, when the long night comes a maiden fat and chubby is a wife to be prized.

"But alas, thy nose is long, Papik," she said, shaking her head.

And the others chorused:

"Long nose, short life! Long nose-short life! Long nose-short life!" In anger Papik struck the offending member, and drawing his sledge after him proceeded toward his tent.

Assisted by a number of the natives, Ootah, smiling, exultant, drew five sled-loads of blubber up over the ice toward Annadoah's tent. With their comparatively meagre portions the others followed. To Annadoah Ootah meant to show the spoils of his quest. To her he desired to present the greater portion of the riches he had by his prowess secured. Here was meat to serve them during the long winter, and in that region the catch was a priceless fortune. Surely Annadoah could not refuse him now. He had proved himself beyond question the chief hunter of the tribe. His eyes filled, his temples excitedly throbbed. He felt a greater joy than that the natives feel when the sun dawns after the long night. In his heart pulsed the sweet song of spring's first ineffable bird.

Not far from Annadoah's tent he paused. About him the natives, wondering, admiring, had gathered. He turned to them; he felt a strength, a dignity, an assertion he had never experienced before. His voice rose in a happy, ingenuously proud chant of exultation:

"From the bosom of Nerrvik, queen of the sea, have I not brought food for the long winter; yea, have I not for many moons sought to win in the chase that I might claim Annadoah? Annadoah! Annadoah!"

"Yea, that thou mightest claim Annadoah! Thou art the strongest hunter of the tribe," the natives rejoicingly chorused.

"Did I not win in the muscle-tapping games?" he sang. "Did I not speed the arrow as none other-did I not speed the arrows as the birds fly?"

"Yea," they replied, "thou didst speed the arrow with the skill of the happy dead playing in the aurora-over the earth as the birds fly didst thou send the arrows. Strong is thy arm, Ootah."

Not far away some of the natives, joining in the chorus, began beating drums. The white men hilariously drank from bottles and joined in the merry dances.

"Did I not call the walrus and seal from the sea-as none other? Have I not lured the caribou from their hidden lair? Have I not enticed the birds, the foxes, and the bear by my calls-as none other of the tribes?"

In succession Ootah uttered imitations of the calls of the walrus bulls, the female caribou, and cries of the various birds.

"Have I not held converse with the animals of the land, the birds of the air, and shall I not one day perchance comb the hair of Nerrvik in the sea!"

The drums beat more loudly; the dancers hopped and leaped. The chorus replied:

"Thou lurest the walrus and seal from the sea, thou enticest the caribou, ahmingmah and birds unto thee! Thou hast learned the language of nature, and the happy spirits are kind to thee! Marvellous is thy power, Ootah."

And in the chorus, deep, hoarse, sneeringly ironical rang the words of

Maisanguaq:

"Marvellous is thy power, Ootah," and his low bitter laughter followed.

The white men began to sing as they danced with the chubby women. In couples they rocked to and fro.

"Have I not killed of all the birds of the air, the animals of the land and sea! Have I not observed the customs of the august dead? Have I done aught to bring misfortune to the tribe?"

In spontaneous recognition of his pre-eminence the young men freely yielded Annadoah. Only Maisanguaq felt bitter.

Ootah summoned his helpers and the sleds of blubber were drawn to the immediate entrance of Annadoah's tent. He seemed to step upon air. His heart bounded.

"Annadoah! Annadoah!" he called. "Ootah waits thee. Ootah hath brought thee treasure from the depths of the sea. Strong is the arm and brave is the heart of Ootah when the arm strikes and the heart beats with the thought of thee."

Seeing him there, the natives ceased dancing. The white men, curious, drew near the tent.

As he stood there, his head erect, proud, expectant, he became conscious of a sudden ominous silence on the part of his companions. Some distance away the women were whispering to one another, and above, in the sky, circled a black guillemot.

"Annadoah," he softly called.

Only the hawk replied.

"Annadoah, I bring thee my love, as constant as my shadow! I bring thee riches! Ootah would give thy couch new furs and caress thee."

From the brown, weather worn sealskin tent came the murmurous sound of voices. Ootah heard the voice of Annadoah-and that of another.

The black bird in the sky screamed.

Not far distant in the tent of the angakoq Ootah heard the low disquieting sound of a drum beaten in some malevolent incantation.

His heart sank as heavily as a dead walrus sinks in the sea.

Something stifled him. Then the flap of the tent parted and Annadoah stepped forth, her head tossed haughtily, her beautiful eyes flashing.

"Get hence," she said. "Thou art a boy, thy tongue is that of a boy.

Thou art soft-thou hast the heart of a woman."

"Annadoah . . ." Ootah's voice wailed. The stretch of shore seemed to heave and writhe. He put out his hands as if to ward off a blow.

Behind Annadoah, at the door of the tent, the form of a man stooped. As he emerged, Ootah saw he was taller than Annadoah's tent. His shoulders were broad and massive. His face, bronzed by the burning sun, was like tanned leather, hard, wrinkled; his expression was as grim as graven stone. His large blue eyes glittered with the coldness of flint. His hair and long curling moustache were blond. Ootah recognized "Olafaksoah"-Olaf, the great white trader-whom he had seen two seasons before at a southern village. He was noted for his brutality and hard bargaining.

"What's all the noise about?" he growled. His voice was deep and gruff.

Ootah staggered back.

"Annadoah, Annadoah," he moaned softly, supporting himself on the upstander of his loaded sled.

Olafaksoah strode forward with great steps, scowling. He critically surveyed the loads of blubber and gleaming walrus tusks.

"Good haul, boy-good haul! Game's been pretty scarce all along the coast. It's lucky we got here in time, eh, comrades? What'll you take"-he turned to Ootah-"I don't know your name." He spoke in broken Eskimo.

"Ootah," Annadoah whispered, "that is his name. Ha-ha, thou callest him a boy."

Ootah winced.

Olafaksoah, with heavy strides, passed down the line of sledges.

Turning to his men, he called:

"Bring the junk."

A sled of matches, needles, tea, biscuits, knives, tin cups, a few hatchets, and several guns and cases of ammunition were brought. While these were unloaded a half-dozen eager natives hastened into their tents and hurriedly brought out their portions of the preciously preserved skins and ivories of the meagre summer hunt. Clamorous, insistent, they presented these to Olafaksoah. They clustered around him so that he could not walk. Ootah watched as the bargaining began. He saw Annadoah clinging near the white trader. A number of the white men began dickering down the line with Arnaluk.

"Load blubber-one tin cup-box black powder."

Arnaluk shook his head. Olafaksoah cuffed him with his fist. The timid native did not have the courage to resent this brutality.

"What d'ye want, you greedy savage-two boxes matches!"

"Two boxes matches-one box shooting fire-one tin cup."

Still he could not be persuaded to part with the precious meat. Olafaksoah swore and shook his fists. Fearful of offending the stranger, the women joined in and shrieked at Arnaluk, urging him to consent.

Unprotesting, he let them draw away his sled of blubber and tusks. He had a tin cup, matches and cartridges-which he could not eat.

"Rotten lot," Olafaksoah said to Papik, surveying his single catch of a young walrus. Papik winced at this reproach.

"Two boxes fire powder," said Olafaksoah. Papik refused. Olafaksoah browbeat him in a high voice. Finally he kicked him. "One case needles." He called Papik's mother and chucked her under the chin. She smiled at him, awed, flattered, half afraid. Papik parted with his load for a box of ammunition and a few needles. Meanwhile the bartering went on for the hoarded wealth of the tribe. Eager to precede one another, the natives rushed to and fro, bringing armfuls of ivories and furs from their tents. In exchange for stuff of trifling value the white men secured, by their method of threatening bargaining, loads of blue and white fox skins, caribou hides, and walrus and narwhal tusks which the natives had previously preserved. One man parted with five tusks, worth as many hundred dollars, for two gaudy handkerchiefs for his wife. Another gave several exquisite fox skins for a plug of tobacco. When they demanded more biscuits, tobacco or matches than were offered, Olafaksoah bullied them with threats. Yet they hung about him, eager for the almost worthless barter, for the time being valuing a box of crackers and allotments of tea more than their substantial supply of walrus meat. Finally the leader paused before Ootah's loaded sledges.

"What'll you take-a gun, fire-powder?"

Ootah shook his head.

Olafaksoah had recourse to his stock-in-trade of oaths, and told his men to bring a gun, two hatchets, ammunition.

Ootah was still obdurate. The natives' voices arose murmurously, for they felt it was not well to offend the strangers. During future seasons they might not come again, as they threatened, with ammunition and guns. This the natives feared as a calamity.

"Bring some crackers-tea," Olafaksoah paused. Ootah watched Annadoah nestling near the "white trader." He had forgotten all about the sledges of meat. He did not hear Olafaksoah. He still continued shaking his head.

"I'll be liberal with you, son," Olafaksoah indulgently increased his offer.

Six more boxes of ammunition, more tea and crackers were added to the pile.

Ootah again mechanically shook his head. Amid all of those about him, he saw only the face of Annadoah, golden as sunlight and pink as the lichen blossoms of spring. Through her open ahttee, or fur garment, he saw her breasts as tender as those of eider-feathered birds. The sight of her melted his heart, the streams of spring were loosened within him. Yet, with an agonized pang, he observed her gaze adoringly and eagerly at the tall stranger's hard face; he saw her quiver at the sound of his harsh, gruff voice. Olafaksoah's brutal masculinity for the time dominated the shrinking femininity of the girl. Ootah saw Annadoah beseechingly, almost fawningly, touch the white chief's horny hand and nestle it close against her cheek.

Olaf, the trader, was oblivious to this.

"Greedy, eh? Well, we need the meat! If we're goin' to stay here to chance hunting our dogs got to be fed!" More supplies were brought. Still Ootah did not speak.

The white chief presently gazed hard at Ootah. Then his eyes brightened with amused mirth. He saw the despairing, yearning gaze of the youth toward the girl he had selected to favor.

"Ha, ha, ha!" he laughed good-naturedly. "I see. I've keel-hauled your Romeo stunt, eh? Want the stuff?" He kicked the supplies interrogatively.

Ootah sadly shook his head. He dully heard the vulgar gibes of the white men and the mocking laughter of Maisanguaq.

One of the natives began beating a drum. Ootah giddily caught an evanescent vision of women dancing with reeling traders. He heard Olafaksoah as he entered Annadoah's tent laughing heartily.

The thought of Annadoah in the embrace of the big blond man, of her face pressed to his in the white men's strange kiss of abomination, aroused in Ootah a sense of violation, an instinctive repugnance akin to the horror a native feels for the dead. All the ardent hopes of his life for many moons had centered upon his bringing the results of a successful hunt to Annadoah and asking her to share his igloo, to become his wife. And now, in his hour of high victory, after everyone had acclaimed him, he was crushed.

A fervid fever seemed to take fire in his forehead and flush his veins, yet his heart was colder than ice, his hands and feet were cold. He felt as though someone were strangling him; he felt giddy, suddenly sick. At that moment he was too stunned to realize fully the blighting tragedy which had annihilated his hopes.

Nearby in her tent he heard Annadoah's voice, sweet as the song of buntings.

"Olafaksoah, Olafaksoah," he heard her murmur tenderly, "thou art a great man. Thou art strong. Thy arms hurt me, thy hands make me ache." Then Ootah heard the man's hard voice and Annadoah's repressed murmurs of mingled pain and delight. The day became black about him. He felt that he must get away; a wild madness to run seized him. He felt the impetus of the winds in his feet. Turning on his heel, his face to the northwest, he fled.

In the sky overhead the black guillemot screamed.

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