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   Chapter 5 5

The Eternal Maiden By T. Everett Harre Characters: 36524

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02


"What they heard was, to them all, the Voice of the Great Unknown, . . . He who made the world, created the Eternal Maiden Sukh-eh-nukh, and placed all the stars in the skies . . . Whose voice, far, far away, itself comes as the faintly remembered music of long bygone dreams preceding birth . . . And now, out of the blue-black sky, great globes of swimming liquid fire floated constantly, and dispersing into feathery flakes of opal light, melted softly . . ."

Ootah began work on an igloo for Annadoah. None of the tribesmen had offered to do this for her, and, as only the men develop the architectural skill required to construct a snow shelter, Annadoah, until Ootah's return, was forced to continue to live in her seal-skin tent, where she suffered bitterly from the cold. His back aching, scarcely pausing to rest, Ootah constructed an icy dome of more than usual solidity. This completed, he went many miles, through the darkness, to the south, where, in the shelter of certain rocks, he knew there was much soft moss. Digging through the frozen blanket of ice he secured a quantity, and returning, made with it a soft bed for Annadoah over a tier of stones. This he covered in turn with the soft skin of caribou. Inside the immaculate house of snow he fashioned an interior tent of heavy skins to retain the heat of the oil lamps. Of his own supplies of blubber and walrus meat, which he had secretly buried early in the hunting season and which had thus escaped the rapacity of the white men, he gave more than half to Annadoah. He fixed her lamps with oil, and arranged them solicitously in positions where they would give most heat. He placed supplies in the house, and buried the rest outside so that Annadoah might readily reach them. Meanwhile Annadoah sat alone in her tent, her sad face buried in her hands, "her shadow yearning toward the south." Many of the tribe, emerging from their igloos, had paused to taunt Ootah at his labors.

"A-ha-a-ha!" they laughed. "Thinkest thou that Annadoah will let thee share her igloo when the snow closes in?" They laughed again. Ootah seriously shook his head.

"I would that Annadoah be protected from the storm," he said simply.

"A-ha-ha! No man buildeth a house wherein he may not have shelter; no man layeth a bed of soft moss whereon he doth not expect to lie. Idiot Ootah, as well mayest thou expect the willows to sprout in the long night-Annadoah thinketh naught of thee. Why seekest thou not a sensible maiden?"

"He hath given Annadoah half of his meat and fuel," the women murmured complainingly among themselves.

"He hath given her his skins; he hath thieved upon himself."

"Why hath he not taken another to wife? Verily men are few; women are many. And all gaze favorably upon Ootah."

"Yea, his arm is strong."

"There is courage in his heart."

"He feareth not the night."

"He should press his face upon the face of one who is fair; his wife should bear children."

When Annadoah passed from her tent into her new home the women scolded her bitterly. The men goodnaturedly jeered Ootah. Annadoah huddled near Ootah and gazed gratefully into his eyes. In the thought that he was there to protect her the heart of Ootah pulsed with joy. Annadoah's heart was cold. Annadoah sat inside the new little house of snow, the oil lights flickering fitfully. In the dancing shadows Annadoah saw the semblance of the form of the blond chief. Joylessly Ootah built his own home.

And in their houses, in celebration of the fall of night, the natives continued their grotesque dances. Beating membrane drums, and singing jerky chants, they danced frenziedly, forcing a false hilarity. They felt the overwhelming approach of the dread spectre of famine. In their dances some sobbed, others passed into uncontrollable hysteria.

Ootah alone did not indulge in the fierce ceremonies. His own igloo built, day after day, night after night, he sat alone. His heart ached with the unrequited and eternal desire of all the loveless and lonely things of the world. Outside, the moon increased in fulness and soared in a low circle about the sky. The dogs crouched low on the ground, howling dismally.

During the first days of the long night the natives held a series of dog fights inside the snow and stone houses. Ordinarily Ootah would have attended these, for a dog fight is of keenest interest to a tribesman, and the Eskimos' most exciting form of sport.

To a hunter with healthy blood in his veins the dog encounter affords the same thrills as other men, in more southern lands, find in bull fights, horse racing, card playing and other games of chance. Two lovers, both desirous of a maiden, may hold a fight between their king dogs, each hoping that success may determine the girl's favor. Pieces of blubber, animal skins, ivory carvings and less valuable objects are often bet by the contestants and the onlookers.

By all logical assumptions, one might naturally suppose that the Eskimos-whose night is many months long-through many dark and rigorous ages, would have developed into a taciturn and moody people, just as the denizens of sunny climes are joyful, effervescent and pleasure loving. However, this is not so. Troublous as is their existence, they preserve until old age that playful joy of life, that carefree ignoring of danger, which we find in our children-which, alas, we lose too soon. Each day brings to them its novel delights; in their monotonous foods they find a constant variety of pleasure; in their simple games of muscle-tapping, throwing of carved ivories, and fighting of dogs they experience the exultant and exuberant fun of our schoolboys. Constant experience with jeopardous tasks has eliminated the human fear of danger, and even death, in its most tragic shapes, by long association has lost its terrors. When the long night falls, and an ominous depression makes heavy the heart of the lover or fills with anxiety the heart of the father, they turn, with a delightful spontaneity, to play.

Now great interest was aroused by the news that Papik was to fight his king dog with the magnificent brute owned by Attalaq. Both Papik and Attalaq were paying evident attentions to Ahningnetty, the chubby and ever smiling maiden, who, while she showed a certain leaning toward Papik, had misgivings as to his eligibility as a husband because of his long fingers.

Born of noted fighters, a dog attains the position of "king" or chief dog of a team by whipping all the dogs in the team of his particular master. When he has asserted his supremacy over the dogs of his own team, he is successively set before the rulers of other teams. And by a process of elimination of those which lose, the two final victors in a village are finally aligned against one another.

In the series of fights held between the king dogs of the various teams, both Papik's and Attalaq's had come off with final honors. The immediate contest between the two most distinguished canines in the village was an event of exciting importance, and to the women there was a romantic zest in it, for all believed that victory would determine Ahningnetty's favor.

At the time of the event all who could do so crowded into Attalaq's stone house. In the centre of a tense group of onlookers the two dogs were placed before each other. They were handsome animals, with long keen noses, denoting an aristocracy of canine birth, and long shaggy coats, mottled brown and white, as soft as silk. A long line of victories lay to the credit of each.

A sharp howl announced the fight-the two lithe bodies leaped together-the air within the little circle became electric. The dogs snapped, tumbled over each other. Their sharp teeth sank into each other's shanks. The natives cheered whenever a favorite secured an advantage. Bets were made. Papik's eyes gleamed as he alternately watched his dog and the face of Ahningnetty as she peered interestedly over the onlookers' shoulders. Attalaq's countenance was grim-not a muscle moved.

Finally Attalaq's dog, with a chagrined growl, unexpectedly rushed from the enclosure and crouched in a corner of the igloo.

The natives effusively gathered about Papik, who bent over his dog with proud affection. In the excitement Ahningnetty quickly left the igloo, and standing outside gazed meditatively at the stars. They hung in the sky above like great pendulous jewels, palpitant with interior name-there were purple stars, and blue stars, and orange-colored stars; some resembled monstrous amethysts, some emeralds fierily green, some rubies spitting sparks vindictively red; others globular sheeny pearls, creamy of lustre but shot with faint gleams of rose; and fugitively sprinkling the firmament here and there were orbs that glistened like diamonds, wonderfully and purely white. Saturn, distinct among all the heavenly bodies, throbbed with a van-colored changing glow like a bulbous opal, and about it, with a strange shimmer, visibly swirled its iridescent rings.

"Thou standest alone-thou wouldst leave me?" Papik, eager, triumphant, questioning, emerged from the stone entrance to the house and approached the girl. The other natives, homeward bent, followed.

The girl was silent.

"Methought thou wouldst be glad--"

"Thy dog is strong," the girl replied.

"Dost thou love that dotard Attalaq?"

"No," the maid replied. "He is clumsy as the musk ox."

They turned, walking toward the igloo occupied by Ahningnetty and her aged father.

"Wilt thou not be Papik's wife?" Papik pleaded. "My shelter is cold-little meat have I. The white men robbed the tribe. But perchance the bears come-then I shall kill them; valiant is my dog." He patted the animal's shaggy head.

"But thy fingers, Papik-Papik! No-no!"

"But Papik loves thee," he protested; "his skin flushes with the thought of thee."

"That thou didst also say to Annadoah, whom thou didst seek before me."

Papik was silent; it was true that Ahningnetty was only a second choice.

At that moment an ominous noise was heard on the sea. The tide, in moving, caused the massive floe-ice to grate against that adhering to the shore. To the simple natives, the noise indicated something more sinister.

"Hearest that?" Ahningnetty asked.

"Yea," replied Papik, "Qulutaligssuaq, the monster who lives in the sea, cometh with his hammers."

"He cometh to steal the children. In winter he is very hungry."

"They say he frightens people to death when a baby which is fatherless screams."

"And after he heats his ladles, the babies often die."

Again the grating noise shuddered along the shore, and Ahningnetty, frightened, fled to her house. Papik, pursuing his way, accosted Ootah.

As they were speaking they saw Otaq and his wife emerge from their house. Between them they carried a small stark body. The woman was weeping piteously. It was their child, which a brief while before had died. The sea monster had again claimed its human toll.

Papik and Ootah disappeared-Papik to his shelter, Ootah to Annadoah's igloo. The parents, left alone, dug up stones and ice and buried the child. Then beneath the stars they stood in silent grief. Other natives, emerging from their houses and seeing them, understood and disappeared, for while relatives weep over their dead none dare disturb their mourning. For five days, in commemoration of the death, the parents would visit the grave of their child, During this time no native dare cross the path leading from their igloo to the silent resting place, and while they stood beneath the stars all alien to their sorrow must remain within their houses. Only the Great Spirit, who lives beyond the golden veils of the boreal lights, may hear the sobbing of a stricken human creature over the thing of which it has been bereft.

In the course of ten sleeps-as days are called-the first moon of the long night sank below the horizon and the colorful stars fierily glittered over a world of black silence. The cold increased to an intolerable bitterness. Ootah, venturing from his igloo to dig up walrus meat, found the earth frozen so solid that it split his steel axe.

It was not long before many white mounds appeared beneath the liquid stars. The old and the very young, unable to endure the rigorous cold and dearth of food, passed into the mysterious unknown of which the long dark of earth is only the portal. After the passing of the first moon the storms came; the sky blackened; the winds voiced the desolate woe of millions of aerial creatures. Terrific snow storms kept the tribe within their shelters for days. Often the winds tore away the membrane windows of their snow houses, and blasts of frigid cold dissipated the precious warmth within. In the lee of circular walls of ice, right at the immediate entrance of the houses, the natives kept their dogs. Inside they had only room for the mother dogs, which at this period brought into being litters of beautiful little puppies with which the Eskimo children played. Outside, scores of splendid animals, which could not be sheltered, were frozen to death in great drifts. These, during the following days, were dug out and used as food both for men and the living animals.

During a quiet period between storms, Ootah, venturing from his shelter, heard a shuffling noise near his igloo. In the northern sky a creamy light palpitated, and in one of the quick flares he saw a bear nosing about the village. He called his dogs and they soon surrounded the animal. Fortunately the incandescent light of the aurora increased-now and then a ribbon of light, palpitant with every color of the rainbow, was flung across the sky. Ootah lifted his harpoon lance-the sky was momentarily flooded with light-he struck. In the next flare he saw the bear lying on the ice-his lance had pierced the brute's heart. Attracted by the barking of Ootah's dogs, several tribesmen soon joined him in dressing the animal. During their task, one suddenly beckoned silence, and whispered softly:

"The Voice . . . the Voice . . ." And they paused.

A weird whistling sound sang eerily through the skies. The air, electrified, seemed to snap and crackle. It was the voice that comes with the aurora.

The knives fell from the natives' hands. The howling of the hungry dogs was stilled. In hushed awe, in reverence, with vague wondering, they listened. Ootah was on his knees. An inspired light transfigured his face. His pulses thrilled. For what they heard was, to them all, the Voice of the Great Unknown, He whose power is greater than that of Perdlugssuaq, He who made the world, created the Eternal Maiden Sukh-eh-nukh, and placed all the stars in the skies, who, never coming Himself earthward, instead sends in the aurora His spirits with messages of hope and encouragement to men, and Whose Voice sometimes, far, far away, itself comes as the faintly remembered music of long by-gone dreams preceding birth . . . Yea, it was the Voice . . . the Voice . . .

And now, out of the black-blue sky, as if released from invisible hands, great globes of swimming liquid fire floated constantly, and dispersing into millions of feathery flakes of opal light, melted softly . . . Along the lower heavens there was a fugitive flickering of a rich creamy light, as of the reflection of celestial fires far beyond the horizon.

Speechless, Ootah viewed the flameous wonder, and, although he knew no prayer, he felt in his soul an instinctive love, a profound awe . . . In the silent sanctity of that auroral-shot and frigidly glorious region he seemed to feel the pulsing of an Unseen Presence-a presence of which he was a part, of which, with a glow, he felt the soul of her he loved was a part, to which all nature, everything that lives and breathes, was vitally linked . . . He felt the drawing urge, the thrilling tingling impetus, as it were, of the terrific currents of vital spirit force that sweep vastly through the universe, keeping the earth and all the planets in their orbits . . . He felt, what possibly the primitive and pure of heart feel most keenly . . . the presence of the Great Unknown, He who is the fountain source of love, and whose hands on the sable parchment of the northern skies perchance write, in irid traceries of fire, mystic messages of hope which none, of all humanity, during all the centuries, has ever learned entirely to understand.

Not until the wonder lights were fading did the tribesmen take up the precious bear meat, and according to Ootah's instructions divide portions among the community. His arm full of meat, Ootah joyously entered Annadoah's igloo.

Annadoah, sad and lonely, sat by her lamp. Her igloo was like that of all the others. Inside, so as to retain the heat and carry off the water which dripped from the melting dome of snow, there was an interior tent of seal skin. In a great pan of soapstone was a line of moss, which absorbed the walrus fat, and served as a wick for the lamp. This emitted a line of thin, reddish blue flame. Over the light, and supported by a framework, was a large soapstone pot in which bits of walrus meat were simmering. By the side of the pot a large piece of walrus blubber hung over a rod. In the heat of the lamp this slowly exuded a thick oil which, falling into the pan below and saturating the moss wick, gave a constant and steady supply of fuel.

Like the other women, Annadoah sat by her lamp day after day. When she could endure hunger no longer she would eat ravenously of the meagre food in the pot. Regular meals are unknown in the arctic-a native abstains from food as long as he can in days of famine, but when he eats he eats unstintedly.

As Ootah entered the low enclosure Annadoah's eyes lighted.

Ootah told her of the bear encounter, and, with the joy of children, they placed bits of the meat in the pot and sat by, delightedly inhaling the odor as it cooked.

Several days later, while they were eating the last remainder of the meat, both heard an uproar outside. They crept from the igloo and discovered most of the village assembled without.

"Attalaq hath carried off Ahningnetty," one told them.

"He broke into her father's house and seized her with violence!"

Not far away they

heard Ahningnetty's screams.

"Attalaq is strong," said one.

"Yea, as a boy did he not kill his brother?" All remembered the brutal encounter of the two brothers years before, when, throwing him to the ground, Attalaq jumped on his brother's body and striking his head with stones beat him to death. Attalaq was a type of the older warriors; unlike his more gentle tribesmen he possessed the atavistic savagery of his forebears of centuries ago when it was customary to abduct brides.

An excited crowd gathered outside of Attalaq's house. Soon Attalaq himself appeared. He was exultant.

"Ha! Ha!" he laughed. "Methinks that is the way to treat a woman!" Then with swollen-up gusto he told them all about it. Tiring of being alone he determined to carry off Ahningnetty. "A woman's mind is as the wind-it constantly changeth," he said. "Women should be driven as the dogs." Ahningnetty, still weeping, still protesting, came to the door. Attalaq turned fiercely upon her and struck her in the face. Then he laughed again. The girl screamed.

"Well," he said, turning to her. "I carried thee here-if thou wouldst return thou canst walk back. Eh?" The girl cowered away, but on her face there was the semblance of a pleased expression. The other women regarded her with a tinge of envy.

"'Tis not often in these days a lover careth sufficiently to carry a maid away," said an aged crone.

"In the days of old there were men like Attalaq," said a younger woman, admiringly.

"Where is Papik?" one asked. He was not to be seen.

"Dost thou not wish to return to thy father?" Annadoah asked

Ahningnetty, approaching her.

The girl shook her head. Much as she had protested, she was unquestionably pleased by the forcible abduction.

One of the gossips, desiring to impart the unpleasant news to Papik, had gone to his house.

"Papik sits alone," she called, on her return. "And when I told him

Ahningnetty hath been carried away by Attalaq, he replied, ''Tis well!

'Tis well!' And then he showed me his hands-they were frozen-frozen!

Verily, he would now be a sorry husband to provide for a wife."

"Papik's fingers frozen!" took up the others. "Unhappy Papik."

"He sobs and weeps-he sobs and weeps," said the old woman. "He saith the dreaded misfortune hath come, and the days of his skill on the hunt are over!"

"Long fingers, short hunt; long nose-short life," remarked Maisanguaq, sententiously.

Attalaq, happy in his conquest, was broad enough to be generous. He declared that Papik should never want as long as he could shoot the arrow. Generous-hearted, many of the others joined in and bits of blubber were soon offered the lonely Papik, as he sat, nursing his frozen members, in his house. The mishap was tragic, for, his hands injured, he had lost not only his skill in the hunt but his ability to protect himself in case of accidents. And from the experience of ages all knew that, sooner or later, he was doomed to a comparatively early death.

During the first period of the night, and after Ootah's first capture, several prowling bears were shot. The howl of occasional wolves was heard in the mountains; then all the bears disappeared, the hunger of the wolves was stilled.

When the third moon rose not a thing stirred outside the igloos. A glacial silence gripped the northern world. In their shelters the natives clustered together, warming one another with their breathing and the heat of their bodies. They lacked the courage even to speak.

Day by day their supply of food had run low. Day by day they decreased their portions; their cheeks sunk, hunger burned in their eyes. To save the precious fuel they burned only one lamp in their houses; they were unable to sleep because of the intense cold. Finally their food gave out. From his store Ootah silently doled out allotments until starvation confronted him. One by one the dogs were eaten. And this caused a dull ache, for the men loved their dogs only a little less than they did their wives and children. The quaking fear of the long hours slowly gave way to a dull lethargy. In their igloos, where single lamps smoked, they sat, and to keep up their circulation and to prevent themselves from falling into a coma, they rocked their bodies like things only half alive.

The black days and black nights slowly, tediously, achingly passed. One day was like another-one night seemed to mark no progress of time. Only the children, to whom parents gave the last bits of food, showed some animation. They played listlessly with one another. For toys they had crude carvings of soapstone-tiny soapstone lamps and pots with which they made pitiful mimicry of cooking. The little girls played with crude dolls just as do little girls in more southern lands-but they were grotesque effigies, made of skin roughly sewn together. The boys found brief zest in a game which was played by sticking ivory points in a piece of bone, hanging from the roof of the igloo, and which was perforated with holes. Finally, as the night wore on, the children lost interest in their games, and with aching stomachs, lay silent by the fires. Starvation steadily claimed its toll. Death, slowly, surely, laid its grim and terrible hands upon that pitiful fringe of earth's humanity on the desolate star-litten roof of the world. One by one a stark body would be carried from an igloo into the black, bitter cold silence without and buried under blocks of snow. And above, intense and incandescent, the Pole Star-that unerring time mark of God's inevitable and unerring laws-burned like an all-seeing, sentient and pitiless eye of fire in the heavens.

Annadoah lay upon her couch of furs. Her face was thin, and white as the snows without. The flame in her stone lamp was about to flicker into extinction.

Ootah, entering the igloo, sprang quickly to her side. Her breath came very faintly. He seized her hands. He breathed on her face. He opened her ahttee and rubbed her little breasts. He felt something very strange, and wonderful, stirring within him. And with it a ghastly fear that the thing he loved was dying.

Into the lamp he placed the last meagre bits of remaining blubber. Then he again set to chafing the tender little hands. Cold and hunger had wrought havoc upon Annadoah. Ootah's heart ached.

Finally her eyelids stirred. Her lips parted. A smile brightened her face. Ootah leaned forward, breathlessly. Her lips framed an inaudible word:

"Olafaksoah . . . Olafaksoah . . ." She opened her eyes. The smile faded. "Thou . . . ?" she said.

"Yea, Annadoah, I have brought thee food," Ootah said. It was his last.

"I hunger," she breathed. "It is very cold . . . I was in the south . . . where the sun is warm . . . it is very cold here."

Eagerly he pressed her hands. She drifted again into a stupor and for a long while was silent. Ootah's warm panting breath finally brought blood to her cheeks.

"Thou art so big . . . and strong . . ." she smiled again. "Thy arms hurt me . . . as the embrace of nannook (the bear). . . ." Her smile deepened . . . her breath came more quickly. "Oh, oh, it is pleasant . . . here . . . in . . . the south."

"Annadoah!" Ootah's wail of hurt recalled her.

Her eyes sought the igloo wonderingly.

"Thou?" she repeated, dully. "Yea, it is cold here. I am hungry . . . Are there not ahmingmah in the mountains, Ootah? Didst thou not tell me there were ahmingmah in the mountains . . . why do not the men of the tribe seek the musk oxen in the mountains?"

With a sudden start Ootah remembered having told Annadoah of the herd he had found in the inland valley-it was strange, he thought, he had not remembered the herd before. And it was stranger still that now she should remind him. But the improbability of ever reaching the game, the obvious impossibility of such a journey at this time of winter, had prevented any such suggestion.

"Many musk oxen are there in the mountains," he said, soothing her hands. She drew them away. "And thou art hungry . . ."

"I am hungry," she replied, faintly.

After he had given her the last bit of meat he left her igloo. Above him the stars burned, the air was clear and still. Not a thing moved, not a sound was heard-the earth was gripped in that unrelenting spell of wintry silence. Above the imprisoned sea the January moon was rising and for ten sleeps-ten twenty-four hour days-it would circle about the horizon of the entire sky. Already the sky above the sea was bright as a frosted globe of glass, and pearly fingers of light were stealing upward over the interior mountains.

"She is hungry," Ootah repeated over and over again. "And the tribe starves . . . and there may be ahmingmah in the mountains." Behind him they loomed, gigantic and precipitous. That such a journey meant almost certain death he knew; but that did not deter him in the resolve to essay a feat no native had ever dared in many hundreds of years.

The face of Sipsu, the angakoq, as I have said, resembled dried and wrinkled leather. He had been an old man when the eldest of the tribe were children. He had seen hard times, he had suffered from starvation during many winters; yet never even in his experience had the lashes of ookiah struck so blastingly upon the tribe. Yea, they had even lost their fear of the tornarssuit and no longer brought propitiatory offerings of blubber to him. Yet being wise with age, early in the summer he had buried sufficient supplies beneath the floor of his house to keep him from starving. He scowled maliciously as he heard someone creeping through the underground entrance of his igloo. Presently the cadaverous face of Maisanguaq appeared.

The interior was heavy with the stench of oil. The room hung with soot from the lamp. A thin spiral thread of black smoke rose from the taper. In the dim light the leering face of Sipsu appeared like the face of the great demon himself. His small half-closed eyes blazed through their slits.

"The spirits are wrathful. The tribe is forgetful. What wilt thou have?"

Maisanguaq, with unconcealed hesitation, placed a bit of blubber before the magician.

"The last I have," he mumbled. Sipsu seized it avidly.

"Ootah goeth to the mountains," Maisanguaq said, panting for breath.

The old man sneered bitterly:

"He cannot brave the spirits. No man can live in the mountains. The breath of the spirits is death."

"Yea, he goeth. He says that he knows where the ahmingmah abound. The air is still; the moon rises for ten sleeps. By then, so he saith, he can return with meat."

"No man hath ever ventured there. The shadow of Perdlugssuaq is very dark."

"Yea, may he smite Ootah!" exclaimed Maisanguaq.

Sipsu laughed harshly.

"Couldst thou cause the hill spirits to strike?" Maisanguaq asked eagerly.

Sipsu faced Maisanguaq fiercely.

"In my youth I went unto the mountains and I heard the hill spirits sing. Thereupon I became a great magician. They spoke to me; I was silent; thereafter, when I called they answered. What wouldst thou?"

Maisanguaq indicated the blubber.

"I would thou call them now; that they release the glaciers, that Ootah may be carried to his death. I hate Ootah, I would that he die." He shook his fist.

Sipsu's body quivered from head to foot. "Ootah hath never consulted my familiar spirits," he rejoined bitterly. "He despiseth them."

Rising from his sitting posture Sipsu seized his drum and began moving his body. He groaned with extreme pain. By degrees his dance increased. He improvised a monotonous spirit song. His face grimaced demoniacally. As his conjuration approached the climax, his voice rose to a series of shrieks. He shuddered violently; he seemed to suffer agonies in his limbs. Finally he fell to the floor in a writhing paroxysm.

"Pst!" Maisanguaq's eyes lighted.

Outside he heard the sharp barking of dogs. "Huk! Huk!" Ootah's voice called. Others joined in the clamor. The entire tribe seemed to wake as from a sleep of the dead.

"He starts for the mountains," said Maisanguaq. "Thinkest thou the spirits will strike?"

Sipsu opened his eyes-and glared wildly at Maisanguaq.

"Speak," Maisanguaq demanded. "Hast thou not the power?"

"Did I not once go to the bottom of the sea to Nerrvik, she who rules over the sea creatures? Hath she not only one hand, and is she not powerless to plait her hair? Doth she not obey me? For did I not plait her hair? Did I not carry wood for weapons to the spirits of the mountains? And have they not answered for nigh a thousand moons?"

"Yet there is doubt in thy voice, Sipsu!"

"Yea, to be truthful with thee, Maisanguaq, there is dispute among the spirits. I cannot determine what they say." He bent his head as if listening. Then he asked:

"Doth Ootah not go that Annadoah may have food?"

Maisanguaq nodded assent.

"And the tribe?"

Maisanguaq again nodded.

As though he suddenly heard some terrifying converse among his familiars the necromancer's face blanched. He struggled to his feet.

"Take thy food," he flung the blubber to Maisanguaq. "I dare not take thy gift. I am afraid."

Maisanguaq sprang at the old man. "Revoke not thy curse," he breathed, his fingers sinking into the angakoq's throat. "Will the hill spirits strike?"

"Yea," the old man gasped, "but they say--"

Maisanguaq's fingers loosened. "What?" he demanded.

"That there is . . . some other power . . . which is very strange-which--"

"Yea, yea--"

"Protecteth Ootah . . . It concerneth . . . Annadoah. I do not wish thy gift. I fear the spirits. The magic of Ootah-what it is . . . I cannot tell thee . . . But the spirits say . . . it . . . concerneth . . . Annadoah. And against it none of the tornarssuit can prevail." Maisanguaq threw the old man fiercely to the floor and, disgusted, left the igloo.

Outside, the entire tribe, with the exception of those dying of hunger, had gathered in groups. Ootah lifted his whip. His team of eight lean dogs howled.

"Tugto! Tugto!" he called. The dogs leaped into the air-his sled shot forward. Ootah strode forward.

In his desperate adventure Ootah was joined by one of the younger members of the tribe, Koolotah by name, a lad barely eighteen years of age. All the others had hung back. Koolotah's mother was dying; a desperate desire to save her stirred in his heart as he lifted his whip in the signal to start. The tribe cheered.

"Huk! Huk!" he shouted, and his lean dogs followed Ootah's team.

"Au-oo-au-oo!" called the natives.

"Auoo-auoo!" the voices of Ootah and Koolotah returned.

Over the snow-covered stretch of level shoreland the moon poured a flood of silver incandescence. In this magical light the forms of Ootah and his companion were magnified into the likeness of those of the giants that the old men said once lived in the highlands. Their dogs were distended into creatures of the size of musk oxen. Their whips exploded as they dashed past the straggling line of snow and stone houses; the snow crisply cracked and splintered under their feet.

Then the village disappeared behind them. The voices of their tribesmen trailed shudderingly into silence.

The assembled tribe watched the teams diminishing in the distance.

Presently someone whispered a terrible thing.

"Sipsu hath cursed Ootah."

A low ominous murmur passed from lip to lip among the gathered men and women. In the distance a black speck in the moonlight marked the departing hunters.

"Yea, he hath called upon the spirit of the mountains to destroy Ootah."

A low groan followed this.

"Methinks he hath prophesied too many deaths," said Arnaluk.

"He hath declared that Koolotah's mother will die."

"And Koolotah-did he not say two moons ago that Koolotah would depart on a long journey from which he should never return?"

"And the wife of Kyutah-did she not perish after his evil prophesy? And Piuaitsoq-did not the spirit of the skin tents strike him when he lay asleep? And did not yon evil wretch tell of it long before?"

A dozen voices angrily rose in assent.

"Verily he hath found hatred in his heart for Ootah. For Ootah hath had no need of his powers. Did not Ootah's mother sew into his cap the skin from the roof of a bear's mouth? And hath he not become as strong as the bear? Did not his father place in his ahttee the feet of a hawk-and have not his own feet the swiftness of the wings of a bird? And doth not Sipsu hate him for his strength? Yea, as he hateth all who are young, who are brave, and who find joy in their shadow."

Their voices rose threateningly. Maisanguaq, chagrined and bitter at the old man, leered among the crowd.

"Hath he not lived too long," he whispered softly. And the others suddenly shouted:

"Let Sipsu die!"

In a wild rush they bore down upon the angakoq's igloo. Screaming with rage they kicked in the sides. The icy dome shattered about the startled old man. They leaped upon him as hungry dogs upon a dying bear. A dozen hands ferociously gripped his throat. They moved to and fro in a mad struggle over the uneven ice. They seized hold of one another in the blood-thirsty desire to lay their hands upon the old man. He made no struggle. Finally all drew away. Amid the wreck of his igloo Sipsu lay, motionless, his face sneering evilly in the moonlight. His dead lips seemed to frame a curse.

They secured a rope of leather lashings and placed a noose about the old man's neck. Then they dragged his body from the wrecked igloo. Weak from lack of food, they still forced themselves to dig up the frozen snow at a spot where they knew there were stones, for according to their belief they had to bury the old man-otherwise, his spirit would haunt them. To this spot they brought the rotted skins of his bed, and on them placed the body, fearful lest they touch it. By the body they placed the old man's lamp, stone dishes, membrane-drum and instruments of incantation. Over the corpse they piled the ice encrusted stones, and over these in turn weighty masses of frozen snow. Then they turned in silence and entered their respective shelters. Thenceforth, until a child should be born to whom it could be given, the name of Sipsu might not pass their lips.

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