A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Voyage" 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



IX
THE VOYAGE



IX
THE VOYAGE

I

WHEN the twins awoke, the sun was shining as brightly as ever, and Nip and Tup were barking at them through the hole in the roof.

Kesshoo and Koolee were gone!

Menie and Monnie were frightened. They were afraid they were left behind. They sat up in bed and howled!

In a moment Koolee's face looked down at them through the roof.

"What's the matter?" she said.

"We thought we were left," wailed Monnie!

"As if I could leave you behind!" cried Koolee.

She laughed at them. "Hand up the skins to me," she said. She reached her arm down the hole and pulled out all the skins from the bed as fast as the twins gave them to her.

Then she put her head down into the opening and looked all around. "We haven't left a thing," she said; "come along."

The twins couldn't climb out through the roof, though they wanted to, so they went out by the tunnel, and helped their mother carry the skins to the beach.

All the people in the village and all the dogs were there before them. The great woman-boats were packed, the kyaks of the men waited beside them in a row on the beach, with their noses in the water.

The dogs barked and raced up and down the beach, the babies crowed, and the children shouted for joy. Even the grown people were gay. They talked in loud tones and laughed and made jokes.

II

At last Kesshoo shouted, "All ready! In you go!" He told each person where to sit. He put the Angakok in one boat to steer. He put Koko's father in the other.

In Koko's father's boat he placed Koko and his mother and the baby, Koolee and the twins, the pups, all three dogs, and four of the women who lived in the other igloos. So you see it was quite a large boat.

In the Angakok's boat he placed his two wives, and all the rest of the women and children and dogs. The women took up the paddles. One end of the boat was partly in the water when they got in. The men gently pushed it farther out until it floated.

Then the men got into their kyaks at the water's edge, fastened their skin coats over the rims, and paddled out into deep water.

At last, when all the boats, big and little, were afloat, Kesshoo called out, "We are going north. Follow me."

The women obeyed the signal of Koko's father and the Angakok. The paddles dipped together into the water. The great boats moved! They were off!

The children all sat together in the bottom of the boat, but the twins and Koko were big enough to see over the sides. While the babies played with the dogs, they were busy watching the things that passed on the shores. Soon they passed the Big Rock with little auks and puffins flying about it. They could see the red feet of the puffins, and a blue fox sitting on the top of the rock, waiting for a chance to catch a bird.

Then the Big Rock hid the village from sight.

III

Beyond the Big Rock the country was all new to the twins and Koko. They looked into narrow bays and inlets as the boat moved along, and saw green moss carpeting the sunny slopes in sheltered places.

They could even see bright flowers growing in the warm spots which faced the sun. The sky was blue overhead. The water was blue below.

Beyond the green slopes they could see the bare hillsides crowned with the white ice-cap which never melts, and streams of water dashing down the hillsides and pouring themselves into the waters of the bay.

When they had gone a good many miles up the coast, Kesshoo waved his hand and pointed to a strange sight on the shore.

There was a great river of ice! They could see where it came out of a hollow place between two hills. It looked just like a river, only it was frozen solid, and the end of it, where it came into the sea, was broken off like a great wall of ice, and there were cakes of ice floating about in the water.

Suddenly there was a cracking sound. Menie had heard that sound before. It was the same sound that he had heard when he went seal-hole hunting and got carried away on the ice raft. Menie didn't like the sound anymore. It scared him!

Right after the cracking noise Kesshoo's voice shouted, "Row farther out! Follow me!"

He turned his kyak straight out to sea. All the other boats followed.

They had gone only about half a mile when suddenly. there was a loud crick-crick-CRACK – as if a piece of the world had broken off, and then there was a splash that could be heard for miles, – if there had been any one to hear it.

The end of the glacier, or ice-river, had broken off and fallen down into the water! It had made an iceberg!

The splash was so great that in a moment the waves it made reached the boats. The boats rocked up and down on the water and bounced about like corks.

The twins and Koko thought this was great fun, but the Angakok didn't like it a bit. One wave splashed over him, and some of the water went down his neck.

All the grown people knew that if they hadn't rowed quickly away from shore when Kesshoo called they might have been upset and drowned.

IV

When the waves made by the iceberg had calmed down again, Kesshoo paddled round among the boats.

He said, "I think we'd better land about a mile above here. There's a stream there, and perhaps we can get some salmon for our dinner."

He led the way in his kyak, and all the other boats followed. They kept out of the path of the iceberg, which had already floated some distance from the shore, and it was not long before they came to a little inlet.

Kesshoo paddled into it and up to the very end of it, where a beautiful stream of clear water came dashing down over the rocks into the sea.

The hills sloped suddenly down to the shore. The sun shone brightly on the green slopes, and the high cliffs behind shut off the cold north winds. It was a little piece of summer set right down in the valley.

"Oh, how beautiful!" everybody cried.

The boats were soon drawn up on the beach, the women and children tumbled out, and then began preparations for dinner.

The women got out their cooking-pots, and Koolee set to work to make a fireplace out of three stones.

They had blubber and moss with them, but how could they get a fire? They had no matches. They had never even heard of a match.

The Angakok sat down on the beach. He had some little pieces of dry driftwood and some dried moss.

He held one end of a piece of driftwood in a sort of handle which he pressed against his lips. The other end was in a hollow spot in another piece of wood.

The Angakok rolled one driftwood stick round and round in the hollow spot of the other. He did this by means of a bow which he pulled from one side to the other. This made the stick whirl first one way, then back again. Soon a little smoke came curling up round the stick.

Koolee dropped some dried moss on the smoking spot. Suddenly there was a little blaze!

She fed the little flame with more moss, and then lighted the moss on the stones of the fireplace. She put a soapstone kettle filled with water over the fire, and soon the kettle was boiling.

While all this was going on down on the beach, the men took their salmon-spears and went up the river, and Koko and the twins went with them.

The wives of the Angakok went to find moss to feed the fire. They brought back great armfuls of it, and put it beside the fireplace.

Koolee was the cook. She stayed on the beach and looked after the babies and the dogs, and the fire. Everything was ready for dinner – except the food!

Meanwhile the men had found a good place where there were big stones in the river. They stood on these stones with their spears in their hands. There were hundreds of salmon in the little stream. The salmon were going up to the little lake from which the river flowed.

When the fish leaped in the water, the men struck at them with their fish-spears. There were so many fish, and the men were so skillful that they soon had plenty for dinner.

They strung them all on a walrus-line and went back to the beach. Koolee popped as many as she could into her pot to cook, but the men were so hungry they ate theirs raw, and the twins and Koko had as many fishes' eyes to eat as they wanted, for once in their lives.

When everybody had eaten as much as he could possibly hold, the babies were rolled up in furs in the sand and went to sleep. The Angakok lay down on the sand in the sunshine with his hands over his stomach and was soon asleep, too.

The men sat in a little group near by, and Menie and Koko lay on their stomachs beside Kesshoo.

The women had gone a little farther up the beach. The air was still, except for the rippling sound of the water, the distant chatter of the women, the snores of the Angakok, and the buzzing of mosquitoes!

For quite a long time everybody rested. Menie and Koko didn't go to sleep. They were having too much fun. They played with shells and pebbles and watched the mosquitoes buzzing over the Angakok's face. There were a great many mosquitoes, and they seemed to like the Angakok. At last one settled on his nose, and bit and bit. Menie and Koko wanted to slap it, but, of course, they didn't dare. They just had to let it bite!

All of a sudden the Angakok woke up and slapped it himself. He slapped it harder than he intended to. He looked very much surprised and quite offended about it. He sat up and looked round for his wives – as if he thought perhaps they had something to do with it. But they were at the other end of the beach. The Angakok yawned and rubbed his nose, which was a good deal swollen.

Just then Kesshoo spoke, "I think we shall look a long time before we find a better spot than this to camp," he said. "Here are plenty of salmon. We can catch all we need to dry for winter use, right here. There must be deer farther up the fiord. What do you say to setting up the tents right here?"

When Kesshoo said anything, the others were pretty sure to agree, because Kesshoo was such a brave and skillful man that they trusted his judgment.

All the men said, "Yes, let us stay."

Then the Angakok said, "Yes, my children, let us stay! While you thought I was asleep here on the sand I was really in a trance. I thought it best to ask my Tornak about this spot, and whether we should be threatened here by any hidden danger. My Tornak says to stay!"

This settled the matter.

"Tell the women," said Kesshoo. Koko's father went over to the place where the women and children were.

"Get out the tent-poles," he called to them. "Here's where we stay."

V

The women jumped up and ran to the woman-boats. They got out the long narwhal tusks, and the skins, and set them down on the beach.

"Come with me," Koolee called to the twins. She gave them each a long tent-pole to carry. She herself carried the longest pole of all, and a pile of skins.

Koolee led the way up the green slope to a level spot overlooking the stream and the bay. It was beside some high rocks, and there were smaller stones all about.

There was a flat stone that she used for the sleeping-bench. When the poles were set up and securely fastened, she got the tent-skins and covered the poles.

She put on one layer of skin with the hair inside and over that another covering of skin with the fur side out. She sewed the skins together over the entrance with leather thongs and left a flap for a door.

Then she placed stones around the edge of the tent-covering to keep the wind from blowing it away. She piled the bed-skins on the rock, and their summer house was ready.

The twins brought the musk-ox hides, with all their treasures in them, and the cooking-pots and knives and household things from the beach, while Koolee made the fireplace in the tent.

She made the fireplace by driving four sticks into the ground and lashing them together to make a framework.

She hung the cooking-kettle by straps from the four corners. Under the kettle on a flat stone she placed the lamp. Then the stove was ready.

"We shall cook out of doors most of the time," she said to the twins, "but in rainy weather we shall need the lamp."

It was only a little while before there was a whole new village ready to live in, with plenty of fish and good fresh water right at hand.

VI

Menie and Monnie were happy in their new home. They climbed about on the rock and found a beautiful cave to play in. They gathered flowers and shells and colored stones and brought them to their mother.

Then later they went for more fish with the men, and Kesshoo let them stand on the stones and try to spear the fish just the way the men did.

Menie caught one, and Koko caught one, but Monnie had no luck at all. "Anyway, I caught a codfish once," Monnie said, to comfort herself.

In two hours everything was as settled about the camp as if they had lived there a week, and every one was hungry again. Hungriness and sleepiness came just as regularly as if they had had nights and clocks both, to measure time by.

When the food was ready, Kesshoo called "Ujo, ujo," which meant "boiled meat," and everybody came running to the beach.

The men sat in one circle, the women and children in another. Pots of boiled fish were set in the middle of the circles, and they all dipped in with their fingers and took what they wanted.

When everybody had eaten, the children played on the beach. They skipped stones and danced and played ball, and their mothers played with them.

The men had their fun, too. They sat in their circle, told stories, and played games which weren't children's games, and the Angakok sang a song, beating time on a little drum. All the men sang the chorus.

By and by, Koolee saw Monnie's head nodding. So she said to the twins, "Come, children, let's go up to the tent."

She took their hands and led them up the slope.

"We're not sleepy," the twins declared.

"I am," said Koolee, "and I want you with me."

They went into the tent, which was not so light as it was out of doors in the bright sunlight. Then they undressed, crawled in among the deerskins, and were soon sound asleep – all three of them. After a while Kesshoo came up from the beach and went to sleep too.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom