A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Twins Go Coasting" by Lucy Fitch Perkins (1865-1937)
From: The Eskimo Twins by by Lucy Fitch Perkins (1865-1937) Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom



I
THE TWINS GO COASTING

I

ONE spring morning, very early, while the moon still shone and every one else in the village was asleep, Menie and Monnie crept out of the dark entrance of their little stone house by the sea.

The entrance to their little stone house was long and low like a tunnel. The Twins were short and fat. But even if they were short they could not stand up straight in the tunnel.

So they crawled out on all fours. Nip and Tup came with them. Nip and Tup were on all fours, too, but they had run that way all their lives, so they could go much faster than the twins. They got out first.

Then they ran round in circles in the snow and barked at the moon. When Menie and Monnie came out of the hole, Tup jumped up to lick Monnie's face. He bumped her so hard that she fell right into the snowbank by the entrance.

Monnie didn't mind a bit. She just put her two fat arms around Tup, and they rolled over together in the snow.

Monnie had on her fur suit, with fur hood and mittens, and it was hard to tell which was Monnie and which was Tup as they tumbled in the snow together.

Pretty soon Monnie picked herself up and shook off the snow. Then Tup shook himself, too. Menie was rolling over and over down the slope in front of the little stone house. His head was between his knees and his hands held his ankles, so he rolled just like a ball.

Nip was running round and round him and barking with all his might. They made strange shadows on the snow in the moonlight.

Monnie called to Menie. Menie straightened himself out at the bottom of the slope, picked himself up and ran back to her.

"What shall we play?" said Monnie.

"Let's get Koko, and go to the Big Rock and slide downhill," said Menie.

"All right," said Monnie. "You run and get your sled."

Menie had a little sled which his father had made for him out of driftwood. No other boy in the village had one. Menie's father had searched the beach for many miles to find driftwood to make this sled.

The Eskimos have no wood but driftwood, and it is so precious that it is hardly ever used for anything but big dog sledges or spears, or other things which the men must have.

Most of the boys had sleds cut from blocks of ice. Menie's sled was behind the igloo. He ran to get it, and then the twins and the pups – all four – started for Koko's house.

Koko's house was clear at the other end of the village. But that was not far away, for there were only five igloos in the whole town.

First there was the igloo where the twins lived. Next was the home of Akla, the Angakok, and his two wives. Then there were two igloos where several families lived together. Last of all was the one where Koko and his father and mother and baby brother lived.

Koko was six. He was the twins' best friend.

II

The air was very still. There was not a sound anywhere except the barking of the pups, the voices of Menie and Monnie, and the creaking sound of the snow under their feet as they ran.

The round moon was sailing through the deep blue sky and shining so bright it seemed almost as light as day.

There was one window in each igloo right over the tunnel entrance, and these windows shone with a dull yellow light.

In front of the village lay the sea. It was covered with ice far out from shore. Beyond the ice was the dark water out of which the sun would rise by and by.

There was nothing else to be seen in all the twins' world. There were no trees, no bushes even; – nothing but the white earth, the shadows of the rocks and the snow-covered igloos, the bright windows, and the moon shining over all.

III

Menie and Monnie soon reached Koko's igloo. Menie and Nip got there first. Monnie came puffing along with Tup just a moment after.

Then the twins dropped on their hands and knees in front of Koko's hut, and stuck their heads into the tunnel. Nip and Tup stuck their heads in, too.

They all four listened. There was not a sound to be heard except loud snores! The snores came rattling through the tunnel with such a frightful noise that the twins were almost scared.

"They sleep out loud, don't they?" whispered Monnie.

"Let's wake them up," Menie whispered back.

Then the twins began to bark. "Ki-yi, ki-yi, ki-yi, ki-yi," just like little dogs!

Nip and Tup began to yelp, too. The snores and the yelps met in the middle of the tunnel and the two together made such a dreadful sound that Koko woke up at once.

When he heard four barks he knew right away that it must be the twins and the little dogs.

So he stuck his head into the other end of the tunnel and called, "Keep still. You'll wake the baby! I'll be there in a minute."

Very soon Koko popped out of the black hole. He was dressed in a fur suit and mittens just like the twins.

IV

The three children went along together toward the Big Rock. Monnie rode on the sled, and Menie and Koko pulled it. The Big Rock was very straight up and down on one side, and long and slanting on the other. The twins were going to coast down the slanting side.

They climbed to the top, and Menie had the first ride. He coasted down on his stomach with his little reindeer-skin kamiks (shoes) waving in the air.

Next Koko had a turn. What do you think he did? He stood straight up on the sled with the leather cord in his hand, and slid down that way! But then, you see, he was six.

When Monnie's turn came she wanted to go down that way, too. But Menie said, "No. You'd fall off and bump your nose! You have hardly any nose as it is, and you'd better save it!"

"I have as much nose as you have, anyway," said Monnie.

"Mine is bigger! I'm a boy!" said Menie.

Koko measured their noses with his finger.

"They are just exactly alike," he said.

Monnie turned hers up at Menie and said, "What did I tell you?"

Menie never said another word about noses. He just changed the subject. He said, "Let's all slide down at once."

Koko and Menie sat down on the sled. Monnie sat on Menie. Then they gave a few hitches to the sled and off they went.

Whiz! How they flew!

The pups came running after them. In some places where it was very slippery the pups coasted, too! But they did not mean to. They did not like it. The sled was almost at the end of the slide when it struck a piece of ice. It flew around sideways and spilled all the children in the snow.

Just then Nip and Tup came sliding along behind them. They couldn't stop, so there they all were in a heap together, with the dogs on top!

Menie rolled over and sat up in the snow. He was holding on to the end of his nose. "Iyi, iyi!" he howled, "I bumped my nose on a piece of ice!"

Monnie sat up in the snow, too. She pointed her fur mitten at Menie's nose and laughed. "Don't you know you haven't much nose?" she said. "You ought to be more careful of it!"

Koko kicked his feet in the air and laughed at Menie, and the little dogs barked. Menie thought he'd better laugh, too. He had just let go of his nose to begin when all of a sudden the little dogs stopped barking and stood very still!

Their hair stood up on their necks and they began to growl!

"Hark, the dogs see something," said Menie.

Monnie and Koko stopped laughing and listened. They could not hear anything. They could not see anything. Still Nip and Tup growled. The twins and Koko were children of brave hunters, so, although they were scared, they crept very quietly to the side of the Big Rock and peeped over.

Just that minute there was a dreadful growl! "Woof!" It was very loud, and very near, and down on the beach a shadow was moving! It was the shadow of a great white BEAR!

He was looking for fish and was cross because everything was frozen, and he could not find any on the beach.

The moment they saw him, the twins and Koko turned and ran for home as fast as ever their short legs could go! They did not even stop to get the precious sled. They just ran and ran.

Nip and Tup ran, too, with their ears back and their little tails stuck straight out behind them!

If they had looked back, they would have seen the bear stand up on his hind legs and look after them, then get down on all fours and start toward the Big Rock on a run.

But neither the children nor the little dogs looked back! They just ran with all their might until they reached the twins' igloo. Then they all dived into the tunnel like frightened rabbits.

V

When they came up in the one little room of the igloo at the other end of the tunnel, Kesshoo and Koolee were just crawling out of the warm fur covers of their bed. Menie and Monnie and Koko and the little dogs all began to talk at once.

The moment the twins' father and mother heard the word bear they jumped off the sleeping-bench and began to put on their clothes.

They both wore fur trousers and long kamiks, with coats of fur, so they looked almost as much alike in their clothes as the twins did in theirs.

The mother always wore her hair in a topknot on top of her head, tied with a leather thong. But now she wanted to make the bear think she was a man, too, so she pulled it down and let it hang about her face, just as her husband did.

In two minutes they were ready. Then the father reached for his lance, the mother took her knife, and they all crawled out of the tunnel.

The father went first, then the mother, then the three children and the pups. At the opening of the tunnel the father stopped, and looked all around to see if the bear were near.

The dogs in the village knew by this time that some strange animal was about, and the moment Kesshoo came out into the moonlight and started for the Big Rock, all the dogs ran, too, howling like a pack of wolves.

Kesshoo shouted back to his wife, "There really is a bear! I see him by the Big Rock; call the others."

So she sent Monnie into the igloo of the Angakok, and Menie and Koko into the next huts. She herself screamed, "A bear! A bear!" into the tunnel of Koko's hut.

The people in the houses had heard the dogs bark and were already awake. Soon they came pouring out of their tunnels armed with knives and lances. The women had all let down their hair, just as the twins' mother did. Each one carried her knife.

They all ran toward the Big Rock, too. Far ahead they could see the bear, and the dogs bounding along, and Kesshoo running with his lance in his hand.

Then they saw the dogs spring upon the bear. The bear stood up on his hind legs and tried to catch the dogs and crush them in his arms. But the dogs were too nimble. The bear could not catch them.

When Kesshoo came near, the bear gave a great roar, and started for him. The brave Kesshoo stood still with his lance in his hand, until the bear got quite near. Then he ran at the bear and plunged the lance into his side. The lance pierced the bear's heart. He groaned, fell to the ground, rolled over, and was still.

Then how everybody ran! Koko's mother had her baby in her hood, where Eskimo mothers always carry their babies. She could not run so fast as the others. The Angakok was fat, so he could not keep up, – but he waddled along as fast as he could.

"Hurry, hurry," he called to his wives. "Bespeak one of his hind legs for me."

Menie and Monnie and Koko had such short legs they could not go very fast either, so they ran along with the Angakok, and Koko's mother, and Nip and Tup.

When they reached the bear they found all the other people crowded around it. Each one stuck his fingers in the bear's blood and then sucked his fingers. This was because they wanted all bears to know how they longed to kill them. As each one tasted the blood he called out the part of the bear he would like to have.

The wives of the Angakok cried, "Give a hind leg to the Angakok."

"The kidneys for Koko," cried Koko's mother when she stuck in her finger. "That will make him a great bear-hunter when he is big."

"And I will have the skin for the twins' bed," said their mother.

Kesshoo promised each one the part he asked for. An Eskimo never keeps the game he kills for himself alone. Every one in the village has a share.

The bear was very large. He was so large that though all the women pulled together they could not drag the body back to the village. The men laughed at them, but they did not help them.

So Koolee ran back for their sledge and harnesses for the dogs. Koko and Menie helped her catch the dogs and hitch them to the sledge.

It took some time to catch them for the dogs did not want to work. They all ran away, and Tooky, the leader of the team, pretended to be sick! Tooky was the mother of Nip and Tup, and she was a very clever dog. While Koolee and Koko and Menie were getting the sledge and dog-team ready, the rest of the women set to work with their queer crooked knives to take off the bear's skin. The moon set, and the sky was red with the colors of the dawn before this was done.

At last the meat was cut in pieces and Kesshoo and Koko's father held the dogs while the women heaped it on the sledge. The dogs wanted the meat. They jumped and howled and tried to get away.

When everything was ready, Koolee cracked the whip at the dogs. Tooky ran ahead to her place as leader, the other dogs began to pull, and the whole procession started back to the village, leaving a great red stain on the clean white snow where the bear had been killed.

Last of all came the twins and Koko. They had loaded the bear's skin on Menie's sled.

"It's a woman's work to pull the meat home. We men just do the hunting and fishing," Menie said to Koko. They had heard the men say that.

"Yes, we found the bear," Koko answered. "Monnie can pull the skin home."

And though Monnie had found the bear just as much as they had, she didn't say a word. She just pulled away on the sled, and they all reached the igloo together just as the round red sun came up out of the sea, and threw long blue shadows far across the fields of snow.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom