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   Chapter 18 A NEW EXPEDITION

Among the Esquimaux; or, Adventures under the Arctic Circle By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 8425

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Docak had no children, the single son born to him ten years before having died in infancy. His wife was about his age, and had noticeably lighter skin and bright brown eyes. It was evident that she had more white blood in her veins than her husband, who was of mixed breed.

Docak did not knock before entering. His wife was trimming the lamp at the moment, and looked around to see whom he had brought with him. She must have felt surprised, but, if so, she concealed all evidence of it. She smiled in her pleasant way, showing her fine white teeth, and said in a low, soft voice, "Con-ji-meet," which is the native word for welcome.

Her first curiosity was concerning the boys, with whom she shook hands, but, when she turned to the grinning Jack, she made no effort to hide her astonishment, for he had addressed her by name.

"Crestana, I guess you haven't forgot Jack Cosgrove?"

"Oh! oh! oh! dat you-much glad! much glad!" she said, laughing more heartily than her husband had done.

She was very vivacious, and, though she could not speak the English tongue as well as he, she made it up by her earnestness.

"So glad-much glad-whale kill vessel ag'in? Docak bring no ice? Where capen? How you be? Crestana glad to see you-yes, heap much glad."

"By the great horned spoon," said Jack, holding the small hand of Crestana in his hearty grasp, and looking around at the others with one of his broadest grins; "the women are the same the world over; they can talk faster than a Greenland harrycane, and when they're glad they're glad all over, and clean through. Docak, you're a purty good chap, but you aint half good enough for such a wife as Crestana, and that reminds me we're as hungry as git out."

The wife evidently thought the sailor was a funny fellow, for she broke into merry laughter again, and, disengaging her hand, hurried into the kitchen, where she had been busying herself with her husband's supper.

The visitors, knowing how heartily welcome they were, seated themselves on the benches, doffed their heavy outer clothing, and made themselves as much at home as if in the cabin of the "Nautilus." They leaned their rifles in the corner near the table, alongside of the long muzzle-loader and several spears belonging to Docak.

A large supply of dry driftwood was piled near the window, and from this the native kept such a glow in the stove that the whole interior was filled with grateful warmth.

In the course of a few moments Crestana bustled in, her pretty teeth showing between her lips as she chatted with Jack and her husband. She drew the table out near the middle of the room, and quickly brought in some fish, "done to a turn." She furnished coffee, too, and the three guests who partook of her hospitality insist to this day that never in the wide world will they ever taste such fragrant coffee and such delicately-flavored fish as they feasted upon that night in Docak's hut. But we must not forget that they had the best sauce ever known-hunger.

The meal was enlivened by lively conversation, in which Jack managed to tell the story of the mishap that had befallen himself and companions. She showed less interest in the boys than in the sailor, though, as may be supposed, Rob and Fred were charmed with her simplicity and good-nature. She placed spoons, knives and forks, cups, saucers, and plates before them, and there was a neatness about herself and the room which added doubly to its attractiveness, and did much to enlighten the youths about these people, whom they supposed to be barely half civilized.

When the meal was finished, and the wife occupied herself in clearing away things, Docak brought out a couple of pipes, filled with tobacco, and offered one each to Rob and Fred. They, declining with thanks, he did the same to Jack, who accepted one, and a minute later the two were puffing away like a couple of veteran devotees of the weed.

The boys felt some curiosity to learn how it was that Docak, whose manner of living proved that he knew the ways of the more civilized people among the settlements, made his home in this lonely place, far removed from all neighbors. They could not learn everything that evening but the

y ascertained it afterward.

Docak had lived awhile in Invernik, and then took up his residence at Ivigtut, where he lived until four or five years before Rob and Fred met him. It was in the latter place he married Crestana, and it was there that his only child died.

The loss of the little one made him morose for awhile, and he got into a difficulty with one of his people, in which, in the eyes of the law, Docak was wholly to blame. He was punished, and, in resentment, he withdrew to a place on the west coast, about sixty miles north of the famous cryolite mines. There he lived, alone with his wife, as serenely contented as he could be anywhere. He made occasional visits to Ivigtut, to Invernik, Julianshaab, and other settlements, but it was only for the purpose of getting ammunition and other supplies which could be obtained in no other way.

Docak was not only a skilled fisherman, but, what is rare among his class of people, he was a great hunter. He was sometimes absent for days at a time in the interior, traveling many miles on snow-shoes, forcing his way over the icy mountains and braving the Arctic blasts that had driven back many a hardy European from his search for the North Pole.

While he was absent his wife went about her duties with calm contentment, where a more sensitive person would have gone out of her mind from very loneliness and desolation.

Our friends having effected their escape from the iceberg, it was time to decide what next should be done.

The most obvious course was to go to Ivigtut, where they could obtain the means of returning to England, most likely by way of Denmark, and possibly might hear something of the "Nautilus," if she had survived the gale which caused her to part company with Jack and the boys.

The kayak was strong enough to carry them, and Docak could make the voyage in a couple of days. This Rob and Fred supposed would be the plan adopted, but the native put another idea into their heads which caused in a twinkling a radical change of programme, and brought an experience to the two of which neither dreamed.

While Docak and Jack sat beside each other on the longer bench, smoking and talking, the native frequently cast admiring glances at the rifles leaning against the wall in the corner. Finally he rose, and, walking over, examined the three weapons, taking up each in turn and holding it so the light from the lamp fell upon it. He was most struck with Rob's, which had more ornamentation than the others. It was a modern loader, but not a repeater.

"He berry good," he remarked, setting it down again in the corner and resuming his place on the bench beside his friend; "why you not go hunting with me 'fore go to Ivigtut?"

Jack saw the eyes of the boys sparkle at the suggestion. Why not, indeed, go on a hunting excursion into the interior before they returned to the settlement? What was to prevent? It would take but a few days, and there is royal game to be found in Greenland.

Docak explained that this was the time of the year when he was accustomed to indulge in a long hunt. Twelve months before he had brought down some animals rarely ever encountered in that portion of the country, and he was hopeful of doing the same again, when he could have his friends to help.

So the matter needed only to be broached to be settled. The whole party would go on a hunt, and they would start the following morning, returning whenever they deemed best, and then making their way to Ivigtut at a leisurely rate, set about their return home, if that should be deemed the best course.

The warmth and smoke in the room led the boys to decide to step outside a brief while, to inhale the crisp air, and, inviting Fred to follow, Rob sprang up and hurried in a stooping posture through the long entry-way. Fred stopped a minute in the road to peep through the opening into the kitchen, where the thrifty housewife was busy.

She smiled pleasantly at him, and he might have lingered had he not heard the voice of his friend.

"Hurry out, Fred! Here's the most wonderful sight you ever saw. Quick, or you will lose it!"

Fred lost no time in rushing after Rob, whose excitement was fully justified.

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