"The Summer Day" by Lucy Fitch Perkins (1865-1937)
THE summer days flew by – only one really shouldn't say days at all – but summer day. For three whole bright months it was just one daylight picnic all the time!
The people ate when they were hungry and slept when they were sleepy. The men caught hundreds of salmon, and the women split them open and dried them on the rocks for winter use. The children played all day long.
The men hunted deer and musk-ox and bears up in the hills and brought them back to camp. They hunted game both by land and by sea. There was so much to eat that everybody grew fatter, and as for the Angakok, he got so very fat that Koko said to Menie, "I don't believe we can ever get the Angakok home in the woman boat! He's so heavy he'll sink it! I think it would be a good plan to tie a string to him and tow him back like a walrus!"
"Yes," said Menie. "Maybe he would shrink some if we soaked him well. Don't you know how water shrinks the walrus-hide cords that we tie around things when we want them to hold tight together?"
It was lucky for Menie and Koko that nobody heard them say that about the Angakok. It would have been thought very disrespectful.
When the game grew scarce, or they got tired of camping in one spot everything was piled into their boats again, and away they went up the coast until they found another place they liked better. Then they would set up their tents again.
Sometimes they came to other camps and had a good time meeting new people and making new friends.
At last, late in August, the sun slipped down below the edge of the World again. It stayed just long enough to fill the sky with wonderful red and gold sunset clouds, then it came up again. The next night there was a little time between the sunset sky and the lovely colors of the sunrise.
The next night was longer still. Each day grew colder and colder. Still the people lingered in their tents. They did not like to think the pleasant summer was over, and the long night near.
But at last Kesshoo said, "I think it is time to go back to winter quarters. The nights are fast growing longer. The snow may be upon us any day now. I don't know of a better place to settle than the village where we spent last winter. The igloos are all built there ready to use again. What do you say? Shall we go back there?"
"Yes, let us go back," they all said.
The very next day they started. The boats were heavily loaded with dried fish, there were great piles of new skins heaped in the woman-boats, and every kyak towed a seal.
For days they traveled along the coast, stopping only for rest and food. The twins and Koko sat in the bottom of the boat with the dogs, and listened to the regular dip of the paddles, to the cries of the sea birds as they flew away toward the south, and to the chatter of the women. These were almost the only sounds they heard, for the silence of the Great White World was all about them. They talked together in low voices and planned all the things they would do when the long night was really upon them once more.
When at last they came in sight of the Big Rock, they felt as if they had reached home after a very long journey.
Koko stood up in the boat and pointed to it. "See," he cried, "there's the Big Rock where we found the bear!"
"Yes," Monnie said, "and where we slid downhill."
"And I see where I got caught on the ice raft," Menie shouted.
"Sit down," said Koko's mother. "You'll tip the boat and spill us all into the water."
Koko sat down; the boat glided along through the water, nearer and nearer, until at last they came round the Big Rock, and there, just as if they had not been away at all, lay the whole village of five igloos, looking as if it had gone to sleep in the sunshine.
The big boats waited until the men had all paddled to the shore and beached their kyaks, then they were drawn carefully up on to the sand, and every one got out. The beach at once became a very busy place. The men pulled the walruses and seals out of the water and took care of the boats, while the women set up the tents, cut the meat into big pieces for storage, and carried all their belongings to the tents.
Although the village looked just the same, other things looked quite different. Nip and Tup were big dogs by this time. They ran away up the beach with Tooky and the other dogs the moment they were out of the boats. They did not stay with the twins all the time now, as they used to do. The twins were much bigger, too. Koolee looked at them as they helped her carry the tent-skins up from the beach, and said to them, "My goodness, I must make my needles fly! winter is upon us and your clothes are getting too small for you! You must have new things right away." The twins thought this was a very good idea. They liked new clothes as well as any one in the world.
Koolee set up the tent beside their old igloo, and there they lived while the men of the village went out every day in their kyaks for seal and walrus, or back into the hills after other game to store away for food during the long winter. The women scraped and cured the skins and cut up the meat and packed it away as fast as the men could kill the game and bring it home.
Each day it grew colder, and each night was longer than the last, until one short September day there came a great snow storm! It snowed all day long, and that night the wind blew so hard that Koolee and the twins nearly froze even among the fur covers of their bed, and when morning came they found themselves nearly buried under a great drift.
That very day Koolee put the stones over the roof of the igloo once more, and the twins helped her fill in the chinks with moss and earth, and cover it with a heavy layer of snow, patted down with the snow-shovel, until everything was snug and tight again.
Then they moved in. By the next day all the igloos in the village were in use, and when night came their windows shone with the light of the lamps, just as they had so many months before.
Nip and Tup slept outside with Tooky now, in a snow house which Kesshoo had built for them. Menie and Monnie missed them, but Koolee said, "You are getting so big now you must begin to do something besides play with puppies. Monnie must learn to sew, and Menie must help Father with feeding the dogs and looking after their harnesses, and driving the sledge.
"Maybe Father will teach you both to carve fine things out of ivory this winter! Monnie will soon need her own thimble and needles. They must be made. And she can help me clean the skins and suck out the blubber, and prepare them for being made into clothes!
"Dear me! what a lot there is to do to keep clothes on our backs and food in our mouths! The Giants are always waiting before the igloo and we must work very hard to keep them outside!"
She did not mean real giants. She meant that Hunger and Want are always waiting to seize the Eskimo who does not work all the time to supply food for himself and his family. She meant that Menie must learn to be a brave strong hunter, afraid of nothing on sea or land, and that Monnie must learn to do a woman's work well, or else the time would come when they would be without food or shelter or clothing, and the fierce cold would soon make an end of them.
It was lucky they got into the warm igloo just when they did, for the winter had come to stay. The bay froze over far out from shore, and the white snow covered the igloos so completely that if it had not been for the windows, and for people moving about out of doors, no one could have told that there was any village there.
The Last Day of all was so short that Menie and Monnie and Koko saw the whole of it from the top of the Big Rock! They had gone up there in the gray twilight that comes before the sunrise to build a snow house to play in. They had been there only a little while when the sky grew all rosy just over the Edge of the World. The color grew stronger and stronger until the little stars were all drowned in it and then up came the great round red face of the sun itself! The children watched it as it peered over the horizon, threw long blue shadows behind them across the snow, and then sank slowly, slowly down again, leaving only the flaming colors in the sky to mark the place where it had been. They waved their hands as it slipped out of sight. "Good-bye, old Sun," they shouted, "and good-bye, Shadow, too! We shall be glad to see you both when you come back again."
Then, because the wind blew very cold and they could see a snow cloud coming toward them from the Great White World where the Giants lived, the children ran together down the snowy slope toward the bright windows of their homes.