MoboReader> Literature > The Eternal Maiden

   Chapter 8 8

The Eternal Maiden By T. Everett Harre Characters: 31325

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:02

"_For a long black hour of horror they were driven over the thundering seas and through a frigid whirlwind of snow sharp as flakes of steel . . .

"Seeing Ootah turn slightly toward Annadoah, Maisanguaq sprang at his throat. Their arms closed about one another . . . The floe rocked beneath them-they slipped to and fro on the ice . . . About them the frightful darkness roared; they felt the heaving sea under them. And while they struggled in their brief death-to-death fight, the floe was tossed steadily onward._"

The long night began to lift its sable pall, and at midday, for a brief period, a pale glow appeared above the eastern horizon. In this brief spell of daily increasing twilight the desolate region took on a grey-blue hue; the natives, as they appeared outside their shelters, looked like greyish spectres. Ootah felt the grim grey desolation color his soul.

He had regained his strength, and his wounds had healed with the remarkable rapidity that nature effects in people who lead a primitive life; only the hurt in his heart remained. Annadoah had often visited him, and while he lay on his bed of furs she had boiled ahmingmah meat and made hot water over the lamp very solicitously. Once, half-hesitating, she looked into his eyes, and as though she had a confession to make, said quietly:

"Thou art very brave, Ootah."

This pleased him-once she had said he had the heart of a woman.

He had thrilled when she soothed him, and now he was half sorry that the injuries no longer needed attention. He loved Annadoah more deeply than ever, and his greatest concern was for her. He might win her-yes, perhaps some day, but he could not forget that, whenever she had touched him with tenderness, she thought of Olafaksoah.

Standing before his igloo, musing upon these things, Ootah espied in the semi-light a dark speck moving on the ice.

"Nannook! (Bear)" he called, and the men rushed from their houses. Without pausing to get his gun Ootah ran down to the ice-sheeted shore. Nature, as if repenting of her bitterness, had sent milder weather, and the bear, emerging from its winter retreat, made its way over the ice in search of seal. Lifting his harpoon, Ootah attacked the bear. It rose on its haunches and parried the thrusts. A half-dozen lean dogs came dashing from the shelters and jumped about the creature. The bear grunted viciously-the dogs howled. The bear was lean and faint from hunger, and its fight was brief-the lances of four natives pierced the gaunt body. The bear meat was divided after the communal custom of the tribe, and the gnawing of their stomachs was again somewhat appeased. Some days later three bears were killed near the village. The hearts of the tribe arose, for spring was surely dawning.

Early in March Arnaluk, skirmishing along the shore, saw a bear disappearing in the distance. The animal was making its direction seaward, and this indicated to the astute native that its quick senses had detected the presence of seal.

"Ootah! Ootah!" he called. "Attalaq! Attalaq!" The two tribesmen responded. With harpoons and lances they followed the trail of the bear. Less than a mile from shore they found it sitting near a seal blow hole in the ice. At the sight of the men it fled. A close inspection resulted in the discovery of a half dozen blow holes-or open places to which the seal rise under the ice and come to the surface to breathe. For a long while the men waited. Standing near the holes, their weapons ready to strike, they imitated the call of seals. Finally there was a snorting noise beneath one of the holes. Ootah detected a slight rise of vapor. Attalaq's harpoon descended. A joyous cry arose. Breaking open the ice about the hole a seal was drawn to the surface. Daily visits were thereafter made to the vicinity and the hunters, patiently watching near the holes, succeeded in catching several seals. Other blow holes were later detected along the ice, then they disappeared and for a period no seal rewarded the hunters.

The weather continued to moderate, and these excursions on the sea ice became more and more dangerous. One day Attalaq and Ootah, while walking along the shore, heard a familiar call in the far distance, out toward the open sea.

"Walrus," said Ootah, the zest of the hunt tingling in his veins.

"But the danger is great-the ice splits," said Attalaq.

"But we need food." Ootah thought of Annadoah. She had not been well, she needed food-that was sufficient. Moreover, he thought of the children; three were dying of lack of food. So he called the tribesmen and gave the signal for preparations to depart. A selection had to be made of the best dogs for the dangerous trip. Few dogs remained in the village; many had been frozen by the bitter cold; others had to be killed as food for their companions; some had occasionally been devoured by the famished natives. And this the desperate people had done with reluctance and great sorrow-for, as I have said, a native loves his dog but little less than his child.

Ootah in the lead, with five others, started on the hunt, with three sledges, each of which was drawn by a team of five lean, hungry dogs. After some urging Maisanguaq had sullenly consented to accompany the party.

Joy flushed the natives' skin, for a thin film of sunlight trembled low over the eastern horizon. As they sped northward past great promontories they saw several auks. Later two ptarmigan were spotted, and still later an eider duck. They began chanting songs of the race.

Quickly, however, the brief sunlight faded, heavy grey clouds piled along the sky-line, the atmosphere became perceptibly warmer, and intermittent gusts of wind blew downward from the inland mountains.

They directed their steps over the ice to a distant black spot, somewhat more than a mile distant, which they knew to be open water. There, if there were any, the walrus would be found. As they were marching, a very faint crackling noise vibrated through the ice under their feet. They ceased singing. Four of the party paused and would have turned back. Ootah urged them onward. They paced off half a mile. The wind increased in volume and whined dolefully. Their steps lagged. Suddenly they heard the harsh nasal bellow they knew so well. The hearts of all expanded with the joy of the hunt.

The dogs howled hungrily and, with tails swishing savagely, tore ahead. As they approached the edge of the sea ice they passed great lakes of open water. The twilight still continued to thicken, the wind came in increasingly furious blasts. Nearer and nearer came the low call of walrus bulls.

In a lake of lapping black water, about five hundred feet from the open sea, a small herd rose to the surface intermittently for breath. In the deep gloom the hunters saw fountains of spray ascending as they breathed. Hitching their dogs to harpoon stakes driven in the ice, they separated and quietly took positions about the open water.

"Wu-r-r!" The low walrus call rose over the ice. Ootah leaned over the edge of the ice and imitated the animal cry. "Woor-r," Maisanguaq, near him, replied. The water seethed, and two glistening white tusks appeared. Ootah raised his harpoon-it hissingly cut the air. A terrific bellow followed. The little lake seethed. A dozen fiery eyes, of a phosphorescent green, appeared above the water. Maisanguaq struck, so did Arnaluk. They let out their harpoon lines-the savage beasts dove downward, then rose for breath. In their frantic struggle their heads beat against the ice about the edge of the space of open water. The natives fled backward-the ice broke into thousands of fragments. Each time the animals came up the hunters delivered more harpoons so as to pinion securely and at the same time despatch the prey. In the gathering gloom they had to aim by instinct. For an hour the struggle between the alert men and the enraged beasts continued. Several times Ootah and Arnaluk fired their guns as the green eyes appeared so as to finish the task of killing.

Meanwhile the grey reflection of the descending sun entirely faded along the horizon; a bluish gloom blotted out the landscape. The wind swept over the ice with fiendish hisses. With a quick change the air became colder and snow flakes fell. The natives became alarmed. As they were drawing the first walrus to the ice a sound, like the discharge of a gun beneath the sea, startled them. Seizing their knives they dexterously fell upon the animal and lifted the meat and blubber in long slices from the bones. A great quantity was cast to the ravenous dogs. Two more walrus were lumberingly drawn to the ice; the first sledge load and two hunters started shoreward; soon the second sledge was loaded. Ootah and Maisanguaq remained to dress the third beast.

Like scorpions in the hands of the mighty tornarssuit the wind now steadily beat upon the ice. The two men were almost lifted from their feet. Not far away they heard the tumultuous crash of the rising waves. As they were lashing the blubber to Ootah's sledge, a resounding detonation vibrated through the ice under him-the field on which they stood slowly but unmistakably began to move!

Maisanguaq spoke. The wind drowned his voice. Above its clamor they heard the ice separating with the splitting sound of artillery. Whipped by the terrific gale the snow cut their faces like bits of steel. In the darkness, which steadily thickened, they heard the appalling boom of bergs and the grind of floes colliding on the sea.

Ootah leaped to the team of dogs and interrupted their feast. He knew they had not a single moment to lose-the field had surely parted from the land ice and it was now a dreadful question as to whether a return was possible. As he was hitching the dogs to the loaded sledge he suddenly gave a start. Was he dreaming? Was he hearing the disembodied speak, as men did in dreams? He listened intently-surely he heard a soft sweet voice calling piteously through the wind. His heart gave a great thud.

Through the gathering gloom he saw something . . . a blur of blackness . . . gathering substance as it approached over the ice. It moved uncertainly . . . and seemed to be driven toward him by the furious wind.

"Look-who is it?" he called to Maisanguaq.

For answer, through the din of the elements, a voice called brokenly, sobbingly:

"Ootah! . . . Ootah!"

Ootah leaped to his feet. Out of the snow-driven blackness a frail figure staggered toward him.

"Annadoah," Ootah murmured, seizing the trembling woman in his arms.

She seemed about to faint.

"Why hast thou come hither?" He hugged her fiercely to his bosom. He felt a throb of ecstatic delight; for the first time she had surrendered to his arms; for the first time he held her close to him; death-for the moment-lost its terrors-he felt that he would be willing to die, in that storming darkness, with her heart beating, so that he felt its every pulse, close, close to his.

The wild winds almost drowned Annadoah's words.

"The women came to me," she panted with difficulty, and Ootah had to bend his ear to her mouth so as to hear. "They were angry. They said 'She stealeth souls! Annadoah stealeth souls!' They said, 'Annadoah hath caused the death of many children!' Ootah! Ootah! They came, as they do when thou art absent. They threatened me-they called upon the spirits, as they once called to them beneath the sea. And the curse of the long night-of darkness-hunger-death . . . they invoked . . . of the dead . . . upon me . . . I was afraid." Ootah felt her shuddering in his arms. "The women came unto my igloo," she repeated wildly-"they desired that ravens peck my eyes-that I rest without a grave-that my body lie unburied and that my spirit never rest. And the curse of darkness-io-o-h-h!-they called the curse of darkness upon me. They trampled upon me with their feet, and they tore at my hair . . . They came unto my igloo as the storm came and called upon the spirits of the skins to strike me; for they said I had again driven thee to thy death, that I had sent the others to their death. Thou knowest I lay ill when thou didst depart. But they fell on me one by one and hurt me-I feared they would kill me. They were angry and they called upon the dead. The storm strikes; the spirits of the winds are angry; the ice breaks, and it is the fault of Annadoah. So they said."

Her eyes were wild, her hair dishevelled. Ootah felt her forehead-it burned with fever.

"How didst thou come hither-and why?" he asked, his heart bounding in the thought that she had followed him, that of him she sought protection.

"I know not-methinks I called upon the spirits. I knew thou didst come this way-I knew thou wouldst save me from the women. And I followed. The way was dark. The wind held me back. But I knew thou wert here-my heart led me; my heart found thee as birds find grass in the mountains. Ootah! Ootah! I fear I shall die!" She collapsed in his arms. The wind shrieked! In the distance two icebergs exploded-there was a flash of phosphorus on the sea as the arctic dinosaurs collided.

"Come! Or we perish in the sea!" Maisanguaq, his head bent near so as to hear, now yelled into Ootah's ear.

Annadoah cowered at the sound of his voice. Ootah felt her trembling, in his arms.

"And he . . . is here?" she whispered. "I am afraid."

They felt the great ice field rocking on the waves imprisoned beneath them. It trembled whenever it touched a passing berg.

Maisanguaq prodded the terror-stricken dogs. Their howls shrilled through the storm,

"Huk! Huk! Huk!" he urged.

Supporting Annadoah with one arm Ootah pushed forward after the moving team. He knew they were being carried steadily and slowly seaward, but he had hopes that the ice field would swerve landward toward the south where an armlike glacier jutted, elbow-fashion, into the sea and caught the current.

Snapping their whips and frantically urging the dogs, they fought through the snow-driven darkness and over the moving field of ice. Annadoah murmured wild and incoherent things in her delirium. They paced off half a mile.

"Aulate!" Ootah suddenly called, panic-stricken. "Halt! halt!" Maisanguaq stopped the dogs. Before them a snaky space of water, blacker than the darkness about them, and capped with faintly phosphorescent crests of tossing waves, separated them-Ootah knew not how far-from the land.

"To the right!" Ootah called. "Let us go onward!"

"Huk! Huk!" Maisanguaq encouraged the dogs.

"The floe may land near the glacier," Ootah cried.

He spoke to Annadoah. She made an irrelevant reply about the women who called upon the spirits-and their terrible maledictions.

With Maisanguaq ahead driving the dogs, they turned to the south. Annadoah sank helpless in Ootah's arms-she could no longer walk. Ootah supported her. At times his feet slipped. He felt himself becoming dizzy. The beloved burden in his arms became unsupportably heavy. They travelled in utter darkness, near them the desirous clamor of the waves. Seaward, at times, where the splitting floes crashed against one another, there ran zigzag lines of phosphorescence. The winds howled in the ears of Ootah like the voices of the unhappy dead. Occasionally he heard the voice of Maisanguaq ahead urging the team.

Ice froze on their faces, frigid water swept the floe. Their garments became saturated and froze to the skin. Finally the dogs refused to move. "We can go no further," said Maisanguaq, in terror. "I am resigned to die." Ootah stubbornly invoked the spirits of his ancestors for succor. He called to the dogs.


hereupon a terrific shock caused both men to reel. The ice field trembled under them-then stopped.

Ootah realized that a section of it had swept against one of the many land-adhering glaciers. There was hope-and greater danger.

With a rumbling crash that reverberated above the storm the field separated into countless tossing fragments. The cake on which the terror-stricken party cowered swirled dizzily in an eddy of the released foaming waters. On all sides the inky waves seethed up among the crevices of the sundering floes. To the south Ootah heard the breakers booming against the ice cliffs, which perilously barred the currents of the angry sea. The caps of the curling waves took on a pale white and appalling luminesence.

"The faces of the dead!" cried Maisanguaq in superstitious terror.

"From the bosom of Nerrvik they come to greet us."

Ootah, however, felt no fear. For once he felt unheedful of those in the other world. His mind was occupied with a more immediate interest-that of saving the life of the woman he loved.

With quick presence of mind, Ootah grasped the rear upstander of the sled, which had begun to slide to and fro, and planted his harpoon in the ice.

"Thy axe!" he shouted. Maisanguaq passed the axe. Ootah grappled for it in the darkness. "Hold the harpoon," he directed. Mechanically Maisanguaq groped for the harpoon and held it while Ootah, with his one free hand, lifted the axe and drove it into the ice. With the other hand he still gripped the unconscious woman. Her hair swished about his legs in the howling wind. Maisanguaq planted his own weapon in the ice on the opposite side of the sledge, and Ootah, with unerring strokes, hardly able to see it in the darkness, pounded it firmly into the ice.

"Thy lashings," he called. Maisanguaq passed a coil of skin rope.

About the improvised stakes which secured the sled Ootah whipped the lashings, then he passed them under and over the sled until it was securely pinioned. Very gently he placed Annadoah upon the mass of walrus meat and lashed her body in turn to the sled and about the stakes. With Maisanguaq's assistance he tied the cowering dogs to the harpoons. This done, the two men, benumbed and dazed, clung to the anchor for support.

As the severed ice cakes dispersed, a curling wave lifted the floe on which they clung high on its crest and tossed it southward. As it rose on the surging breakers Ootah felt the dread presence of Perdlugssuaq ready to strike. Each time they made swift, sickening descents in the seething troughs he felt all consciousness pass away. On all sides the waves hissed. Torrents of water swept over the floe. Ootah felt his limbs freezing; he felt his arms becoming numb. He feared that at any moment he should lose his grip and be swept into the raging sea. Then he thought of Annadoah and conjured new courage. For a while the dogs whined-then they became silent. One already was drowned. Ootah bent over Annadoah to protect her from the mountainous onslaughts of icy water. His teeth chattered-he suffered agonies. For a long black hour of horror they were driven over the thundering seas and through a frigid whirlwind of snow, sharp as flakes of steel.

The recoiling impetus of the waters gradually increased under them. Ootah knew this indicated an approach to land. The waves came in shorter, but quicker swells. The floe bumped into others. Ootah roused himself and hopefully turned toward Maisanguaq.

"We approach the land," he called. "We must bide our time-then jump."

The waves washed the floe toward the distant shore. Land ice steadily thickened about them. Maisanguaq realized that they were actually being carried to the sheltering harbor of the arm-like glacier south of the village. Ootah quickly began unlashing Annadoah so as to be prepared to seize her and spring, when the opportunity came, from cake to cake, to safety.

Impelled by a warning instinct, Ootah suddenly looked up from his task, and felt rather than saw Maisanguaq near and about to leap upon him. Maisanguaq's eyes dimly glowered in the dark. Ootah rose quickly. Maisanguaq drew back and uttered an exclamation of chagrin. Ootah understood. With rescue possible, Maisanguaq had quickly come to a desperate resolution.

The girl lay between them.

Ootah braced himself.

"I hate thee, Ootah," Maisanguaq shouted, no longer able to suppress the baffled jealousy and seething envy endured quietly for many seasons. He moved about, parleying for time and a chance to spring upon Ootah when he was unguarded.

"I hate thee not, Maisanguaq," Ootah replied.

He steeled himself, for he knew Maisanguaq was strong, he knew the ice was treacherous; he waited for the man to strike.

"My heart warms for Annadoah; so doth thine: therefore, thou or I must die." Maisanguaq's deep voice sounded hoarse through the storm.

"As thou sayest," Ootah replied, "but why?"

"Annadoah must be thine or mine; dead, she cannot choose thee, and with thee dead, my strength shall cow her. As men did of old I shall carry her away by force. She shall be mine."

"Annadoah hath already chosen-her heart is in the south," Ootah replied, sadly.

"Fool!" the other man shrieked. "Didst thou not go to the mountains to get her food; didst thou not thieve from thine own self to give oil to her; didst thou not fawn upon her and perform the services of a woman? Thou liest if thou sayest thou wilt not have her for thy wife. No man doeth this unseeking of reward."

"I love Annadoah," Ootah said, bitterly.

"Yea, and thou hast hope."

"Perchance-perchance I have hope."

"And Annadoah looks with favor upon thee-I have seen it in her eyes. Did she not greet thee as women greet their lovers when thou camest from the mountains, and did she not bind thy wounds with strange ointment?"

"She thought of another-her heart was in the south."

"Hath she not sought thee hither-upon the ice-when the women fell upon her with their curses? Her heart wings to thee, did she not say, as birds to green grasses in the mountains?"

"Her heart is in the south," Ootah sadly moaned.

"The heart of woman changes always," cried Maisanguaq. "The heart of woman always yields to force. Pst?"

Seeing Ootah turn slightly toward Annadoah, Maisanguaq sprang at his throat. Their arms closed about one another. Maisanguaq breathed the wrath of the spirits upon Ootah. He fought with the fierce strength of one insane with jealous, murderous rage. The icy floe rocked beneath them. They slipped to and fro on the treacherous ice. The sharp snow beat their faces. Water washed under their feet. At times they reached, in their frightful struggle, the very edge of the floe, and seemed about to tumble into the seething sea. Ootah felt Maisanguaq trying to force him into the watery abyss-but he fought backward . . . time and time again . . . They constantly fell over the unconscious woman on the sledge. About them the darkness roared; they felt the heaving sea beneath them. And while they struggled, in their brief terrible death-to-the-death fight, the floe was tossed steadily onward. Ootah felt his breath giving out. Maisanguaq felt Ootah's hands closing about his throat. He felt the blood pound in his temples. Desperation filled him-he determined to kill Ootah by any means. A grim suggestion came to him. He endeavored to release himself.

In a lull of the wind both heard something that made them start. Aroused from her feverish coma by the two men falling against her, Annadoah suddenly cried aloud. The two men stood stone-still, locked in a deadly grip. At that moment Annadoah felt the warmth of their panting breath as they paused near her. Where she was at first she did not realize. She heard a clamor of wind and breaking waters. She imagined herself being tossed through the air in the arms of the tornarssuit. At the same time she became vividly aware of the desperate struggle nearby. Subconsciously she realized Maisanguaq and Ootah were engaged in a fight to the death. In the darkness she sensed them moving away from her. Straining her eyes she began, very dimly-as Eskimos can even in pitch darkness-to descry the black outlines of the two men wrestling as they shifted nearer and nearer the edge of the ice. Then it dawned upon Annadoah's mind that they were being carried, in the jeopardy of an awful storm, on a floe that was tossed hither and thither in a maelstrom of angry waters. A frantic desire to save Ootah surged up within her. Behind him she saw the swimming blackness of the heaving waves. She attempted to rise. Her head swam; there was loud ringing in her ears. Her hands were not free, her ankles were bound-she struggled to release herself. Twisting her wrists and ankles in the tight lashings until they bled, it suddenly flashed upon her that she was lashed to the sled. She knew that at any moment the floe might crash into a glacier and be crushed to atoms. She knew that Maisanguaq and Ootah were fighting for the possession of her-that both might perish, or, what was worse, that Maisanguaq might win. Chaotic terror filled her. Struggling frantically but ineffectually, she uttered a maniacal scream.

"Ootah! Ootah!"

Ootah did not reply.

The storm howled. The wind lashed the floe-it fell like a whip on her face. Annadoah felt the surging impetus of the angry sea under them. She felt herself rising on the crests of mighty waves and being swiftly hurled into foaming troughs of water. Frigid spray bathed her face. Still the two vague shadows, darker than the night, slowly and laboriously moved about her. At times they brushed her lashed body-then she felt the quick gasps of their breath; she sensed the strain of Ootah's limbs twisting in the struggle.

Again she perceived the two shifting away and being merged into the swimming blackness. Presently she saw only the phosphorescent crest of a mountainous wave . . . rising in the distance . . . She became cold with white fear-she felt her blood turn to ice . . . She screamed and struggled vainly with the lashings . . . She felt the floe rise, felt herself being steadily lifted into the sheer air, and of paralyzed fright again swooned.

Maisanguaq, by a fierce wrench, managed to release one hand, struck Ootah a heavy blow and broke away. Leaping to the opposite side of the sledge, with a terrific pull, he drew one of the harpoons out of the ice and with his knife speedily cut it loose from the lashings. Ootah, stunned for a moment, turned upon him. Maisanguaq desperately raised the weapon. Ootah heard it hiss through the air. He reeled backward-the harpoon grazed his arm and struck the ice.

At that very instant the oncoming breaker descended with a rush from behind-a torrent of water washed the floe. Ootah was lifted from his feet and dashed against the sled. When he rose he waited in silence for an attack. There was none. He moved over the floe cautiously, feeling the darkness. Creeping to the edge he saw something dimly white and blurred on the receding wave. "Maisanguaq," he called, softly. There was a pang at his heart, for he was truly gentle. He strained his ears to hear through the din of the elements. The floe suddenly jolted him as it was carried, with a thud, against shore-clinging ice. Ootah peered seaward, and called again, loudly-


Only the waves replied.

Hurriedly he cut the leather lashings and, leaping from floe to floe, carried Annadoah to the shelter of the shore. Returning he loosened the dogs. Only three lived. Biding his time until the floe was ground securely among others, he then dragged his load of meat ashore. Sinking to the earth he rubbed Annadoah's hands and breathed with eager and enraptured transport into her face.

He called her name. Presently she stirred.

"Ootah," she murmured. "It is very dark-very dark-I wonder . . . whether . . . it will soon . . . be spring."

He chafed her hands. For a lucid moment she nestled to him and in a terrified voice whispered--

"Maisanguaq-where is he?" She heard Ootah's reply.

"He hath gone the long journey of the dead."

Annadoah breathed a sigh of relief and again floated into the coma of fever and exhaustion.

The journey before Ootah was desperately difficult in the storm and darkness. In his way of reckoning he knew they had floated about two miles south of the village. The return lay along the sea and over crushed, blocked ice. Much as he regretted it, he was compelled to leave the precious load of walrus blubber behind, so as to carry Annadoah, who was unable to walk, on the sledge. He covered the blubber with cakes of ice, hopeful that it might by chance escape the ravaging bears. His companions might come for it after his return. He knew the probabilities were, however, that the keen noses of bears or wolves would detect it.

After lashing Annadoah to the sledge, so she might not be jolted from it, Ootah, with a brave heart, started in the teeth of the biting wind. The half-frozen dogs rose to their task nobly and pulled at the traces. Ootah pushed the sledge from behind. He trusted to the sure instinct of the animals to find a safe way. Progress was necessarily slow. Fortunately the snow stopped falling and one agony was removed.

In lulls of the storm Ootah heard Annadoah moaning in her delirium.

When they reached the village, a half dozen men were assembled outside their houses. They rejoicingly hailed Ootah, whom they had counted among the dead. He learned that two of his companions had gone to join Maisanguaq. The first party had safely reached the shore before the breaking away of the ice. The news of Ootah's arrival brought out the women. When they saw Annadoah they crowded about her, scolding. Ootah silenced the garrulous throng with a fierce command. They shrank away.

"She came to me on the ice," he said. "Knew ye not that the spirits fared not well within her, that she was ill, ye she-wolves? She sees things that are not so and raves of the curses ye invoked, barking she-dogs! Aga! Aga! Go-go!"

Assisted by several of the men, Ootah conveyed Annadoah into her igloo and laid her upon her couch. Her face was flushed, and as she lay there Ootah thought she was very beautiful. She had become much emaciated-Ootah did not like that. But when she opened her eyes Ootah saw in them a soft, new light.

"Thou art brave, Ootah," she said, essaying a smile of gratitude.

"Thou art brave of heart . . . and kind."

Ootah's heart stirred. Once she had said that his heart was as soft as that of a woman; this was, indeed, to him reward for all the frightful terrors he had endured on the storming sea.

"And do the wings of thy heart not stir, Annadoah?" he asked softly, a world of pleading in his voice. "Wilt thou not be mine in the spring?"

"In the spring," she said, dreamily, and her voice quavered . . . "in the spring . . ."

A far-away look came into her eyes, and Ootah felt an infinite ache at his heart.

"I am afraid, Ootah," she said presently, in a trembling voice . . . "Afraid . . . my head burns-the igloo is black . . . Dost thou remember what the women told their dead? . . . They invoked the dead to curse me . . . as I stood by the open sea . . . when the moon rose . . . Ootah! Ootah! I cannot see thee . . . It is very . . . dark." Ootah laid his hand upon Annadoah's head.

"The spirits do not fare well within thee," he said. "But I will care for thee."

For nearly a moon Annadoah lay ill with a strange fever. And in her disturbed dreams, as Ootah watched through the long hours, she murmured vaguely, but longingly, for the spring.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top