"The Reindeer Hunt" by Lucy Fitch Perkins (1865-1937)
THE day after the feast it was still very cold, but there were signs of spring in the air. When Menie went out to feed the dogs, he saw a flock of ravens flying north, and Koko saw some sea-birds on the same day.
Two days after that, when the twins and Koko were all three playing together on the Big Rock, they saw a huge iceberg float lazily by.
It had broken away from a glacier, farther north, and was drifting slowly toward the Southern Sea. It gleamed in the sun like a great ice palace.
One morning the air was thick with fog. When Kesshoo saw the fog he said, "This would be a great day to hunt reindeer."
"Oh, let me go with you!" cried Menie.
Monnie knew better than to ask. She knew very well she would never be allowed to go.
Kesshoo thought a little before he answered. Then he said, "If Koko's father will go, too, you and Koko may both go with us. You are pretty small to go hunting, but boys cannot begin too early to learn."
Menie was wild with joy. He rushed to Koko's house and told him and his father what Kesshoo had said.
When he had finished, Koko's father said at once, "Tell Kesshoo we will go."
It was not long before they were ready to start. Kesshoo had his great bow, and arrows, and a spear. He also had his bird-dart. Koko's father had his bow and spear and dart, too. Menie had his little bow and arrows.
Kesshoo put a harness on Tooky and tied the end of Tooky's harness trace around Menie's waist. Koko's father had brought his best dog, too, and Koko was fastened to the end of that dog's harness in the same way.
Then the four hunters started on their journey – Menie and Koko driving the dogs in front of them.
Monnie stood on the Big Rock and watched them until they were out of sight in the fog. Nip and Tup were with her. They wanted to go as much as Monnie did and she had hard work to keep them from following after the hunters.
Kesshoo knew very well where to look for the reindeer. He led the way up a steep gorge where the first green moss appeared in the spring. They all four walked quietly along for several miles.
When they got nearly to the head of the gorge, Kesshoo stopped. He said to the boys, "You must not make any noise yourselves, and you must not let the dogs bark. If you do there will be no reindeer to-day."
The boys kept very still, indeed. The dogs were good hunting dogs. They knew better than to bark.
They walked on a little farther. Then Kesshoo came very near the others and spoke in a low voice. He said, "We are coming to a spot where there are likely to be reindeer. The wind is from the south. If we keep on in this direction, the reindeer will smell us. We must go round in such a way that the wind will carry the scent from them to us, not from us to them."
They turned to the right and went round to the north. They had gone only a short distance in this direction, when they found fresh reindeer-tracks in the snow. The dogs began to sniff and strain at their harnesses.
"They smell the game," whispered Kesshoo. "Hold on tight! Don't let them run."
Menie and Koko held the dogs back as hard as they could. Kesshoo and Koko's father crept forward with their bows in their hands. The fog was so thick they could not see very far before them.
They had gone only a short distance, when out of the fog loomed two great gray shadows. Instantly the two men dropped on their knees and took careful aim.
The reindeer did not see them. They did not know that anything was near until they felt the sting of the hunters' arrows. One reindeer dropped to the earth. The other was not killed. He flung his head in the air and galloped away, and they could hear the thud, thud, of his hoofs long after he had disappeared in the fog.
The moment the dogs heard the singing sound of the arrows, they bounded forward. Koko and Menie were not strong enough to hold them back, and they could not run fast enough to keep up with them. So they just bumped along behind the dogs! Some of the time they slid through the snow.
The snow was rough and hard, and it hurt a good deal to be dragged through it as if they were sledges, but Eskimo boys are used to bumps, and they knew if they cried they might scare the game, so they never even whimpered.
It was lucky for them that they had not far to go. When they came bumping along, Kesshoo and Koko's father laughed at them.
"Don't be in such a hurry," they called. "There's plenty of time!"
They unbound the traces from Menie and Koko and hitched the dogs to the body of the reindeer. Then they all started back to the village with Koko's father driving the dogs.
Soon the fog lifted and the sky grew clear.
Monnie was playing with her doll in the igloo, when she heard Tooky bark. She knew it was Tooky at once. She and Koolee both plunged into the tunnel like mice down a mouse-hole. Nip and Tup were ahead of them.
Outside they found Koko's mother and the baby. Koolee called to her, and she called to the wives of the Angakok, who were scraping a bear's skin in the snow.
The Angakok's wives, and Koko's mother and her baby, and Koolee, and Monnie, and Nip and Tup all ran to meet the hunters, and you never saw two prouder boys than Koko and Menie when they showed the reindeer to their mothers.
The mothers were proud of their young hunters, too. Koolee said, "Soon we shall have another man in our family."
When they were quite near the village again, they met the Angakok. He had been trying to catch up with them and he was out of breath from running. He looked at them sternly.
"Why didn't you call me?" he panted.
His wives looked frightened and didn't say a word. Nobody else said anything. The Angakok glared at them all for a moment. Then he poked the reindeer with his fingers to see if it was fat and said to the men, "Which portion am I to have?"
"Would you like the liver?" asked Kesshoo. He remembered about the bear's liver, you see.
But the Angakok looked offended. "Who will have the stomach?" he said. "You know very well that the stomach is the best part of a reindeer."
"Take the stomach, by all means, then," said Kesshoo, politely.
Koolee and Monnie looked very much disappointed. They wanted the stomach dreadfully.
But the Angakok answered, "Since you urge me, I will take the stomach. I had a dream last night, and in the dream I was told by my Tornak that to-day I should feed upon a reindeer's stomach, given me by one of my grateful children. When you think how I suffered to bring food to you, I am sure you will wish to provide me with whatever it seems best that I should have."
He stood by while Kesshoo and Koko's father skinned the reindeer and cut it in pieces. Then he took the stomach and disappeared into his igloo – with his face all wreathed in smiles.