Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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p. 302


SALIK went off to the north; and during his journey the frost set in, and cut off his passage home, and he established himself for the winter at a very solitary place. The following spring he drew still farther north. After some hours travelling, he remembered that they had left their axe fixed in one of the cross-beams of their deserted house. He at once returned and entered the dark house through the open window. Just as he was going to take hold of the axe, he heard something moving about beside the ledge, down on the floor, and on looking more closely, he caught sight of a man. The stranger began to whistle aloud; but soon after he spoke thus: "Though I am always aware of what is going to happen, thou hast for once chanced to take me by surprise. This is the way in which I manage: being very quick, it is my wont to go about from one place to another, picking up odd scraps and leavings after people move away to other parts." Having delivered himself of this speech, he added, "I think it is the custom when meeting a man for the first time to ask him his name." The former rejoined, "My name is Salik;" and the stranger said, "Why, so is mine; and since thou hast, to a certain degree, outdone me, who have never before been taken aback, I shall relate the history of my life to thee: In former times, when we were still children, we used to leave the house every morning with our father; and while he was away we used to spend the day joyfully, practising bow-shooting and making ourselves expert at flinging stones, and never thought of entering the house till he returned. Then he would say to our mother, 'Have not they had anything to eat as yet?' Upon p. 303 which she used to put a large plate with meat before us. This was always our first meal each day, and we swallowed it greedily. But we were ten children, and therefore the plate had to be filled thrice before we were quite satisfied. One evening, when our father had come back and gone into the house, we also went inside as usual, but on entering found the manners of our parents altered. Though it was after twilight, the lamps were not lighted, but lay tumbled down on the floor, bottom up. At this sight we seated ourselves silently on the main-ledge. After a while my father turned round and said to our mother, 'These will probably be hungry: I am not going to do like my mother's brothers, who fled from mankind because he had been scolded by his wife.' Our mother at first remained silent, but then bestirred herself, and in her turn replied, 'If he had any sense at all, he would not speak in that way.' She now put the usual dish before us. Our father partook of the meal with us; and then they began to talk to each other as if nothing had passed: my brothers and sisters were also soon quite at their ease, but I was not able to forget my mother's harsh words, though they had not been addressed to me. I could only take one little morsel; and when the dish was filled the second time, I had not yet swallowed that. Winter passed by, and I still wondered over my mother's speech. In spring father took us all away to the firth for angmagsat-fishing; and all were happy, and helped mother in drawing the fishes up on the beach. She used to say, 'Now we had better stop: we might be getting too many, and have a difficulty in carrying them away before the tide sets in;' and then we helped her in spreading them out to dry. When father brought his catch in the evening, we likewise assisted her in cutting the flesh into strips for drying. About that time the mountain-brooks burst through their ice-coverings, and father taught us to build a dyke at the outlet of the brooks, in order to stop and catch p. 304 the salmon. At full tide he used to catch them in his kayak, and we from land by throwing stones at them; and when the tide was out we could easily take the fish that were stopped behind the dykes with our spears. We had all work enough in helping to carry them up to our mother and assisting her in cutting them up for drying. My brothers enjoyed that busy time; but I had not yet learned to forget those words of my mother's, and my spirits grew more and more depressed. One day a great many salmon had been caught behind the dam we had made for them; but as father had left, and we had to lance them and bring them up to mother, I asked my brothers to do my part of the business. However,

they all agreed that I was to do it myself; but on seeing my youngest brother drawing his fish on a cord, I turned to him saying, 'I think I see a partridge yonder: pray take my lot of salmons along with thee while I pursue the bird.' He willingly obeyed me, and I darted off; p. 305 and running straight on for the interior, I never stopped my flight till nightfall. I lay down to sleep as best I might. All the summer-time I roamed about snaring partridges, and in the autumn I set to build myself a suitable house for the winter: the birds, however, were now getting scarcer. One morning there was a terrible snow-fall, on account of which I stayed at home. Now and then I looked out of the window, and once saw something brown moving about in the snow. As the storm was going down, and the sky clearing a little, I recognised a large male reindeer seeking for food beneath the snow. I was dreadfully hungry at the time; and, although it was very unwise, I could not suppress a loud cry on seeing it. The knife I have got here"—showing a stump of a knife hardly a finger's-length—"was then considerably longer: I took hold of it, and crept up to the animal very cautiously, not to frighten it. When the snow fell thicker I took to running; but when it cleared off a little, I lay down flat on the ground to hide. Once I entirely lost sight of it concealed in a cloud of snow, when all of a sudden I rushed at it, thrusting my knife several times into its flanks. It ran on, nevertheless, but I followed up its bloody tracks, and soon managed to get it killed. I brought it quickly to my house, and found it to be a fat buck; and thus I was provided sufficiently for the winter. Next summer I travelled to a place abounding in those animals, and I soon became well skilled in hunting them. But I was constantly getting very low-spirited: I did not much care for that sort of thing, but went in search of more daring excitement. However, I only happened to meet with some poor old kivigtut (plural of ĸivigtoĸ). I had got to be very nimble-footed, and could run a race with any animal that ever was. Once I ascended the highlands, and got to the verge of the large glacier; and from thence I climbed my way on to an ice-bound land. My boots having got poor and soaked through, I proceeded p. 306 to take out the skin-stockings in order to have them dried in the sun. Meantime, surveying the immense plain stretching out before me, at some distance I perceived a tiny black spot; moving on, I took it to be a raven, but presently it grew to be more like a fox, and this set me wondering in what manner a fox could possibly have got on to the glacier. When I again examined it, it had become the size of a reindeer; then it appeared like an amarok, or something like that. As I had all the time been in search of something appalling enough to rouse my dejected spirits, I resolved to front and attack the animal: on its approach, however, I found myself turning somewhat irresolute. As I stood mending my boots, I saw the beast bending down, and the ice flying about it on every side. Inwardly I wished it would keep to windward that it might not get the scent of me. I hastened to get on my boots, and fastened all my clothes about me to keep out the wind. Meantime the beast stood sniffing the ground; but all at once it bounded right towards me, and seeing this, I took to my heels, trying to gain the ice, where it was less smooth and slippery. The animal followed close at my heels, and I was thinking that all my diversion would likely end in being devoured by a monster. I now reached some large clefts in the ice, but soon noticed that, when I was obliged to leap, the monster merely took a long stride over, and I therefore looked out for a very wide crevice, thinking it would be quite as well for me to fall down the precipice as to be swallowed up by the beast. I barely managed to cross it: and no sooner had I gained the other side than I heard a fearful yell, and turning round, beheld the monster hanging perched on the edge of the icy rocks, unable to get up again. I sprang towards it; but before I had time to kill it, it was tumbling down the precipice—and thus I lost my prize. At the beginning of every winter I filled two storehouses with victuals, remembering the terrible want of the first winter. p. 307 One evening, seated at my work in the house, I suddenly heard somebody passing through the entry, and two little women presently appeared before me: both were light-haired, and had a cleft in their upper lips. They each carried a bag with berries; and when they had sat down, no room was left in my little house. I treated them civilly, however, because they were my very first visitors. Both now poured out their berries, and begged me to eat with them; and I in my turn brought in grease and meat: but of this they would take nothing. I partook of the meal with them, and was much amused at their lively talking all the evening through. One of them jestingly said, 'When people don't keep an eye upon their stores, the wicked little foxes will come and carry them off; and then, when they happen to take them by surprise, they will run away, the tails turned right out;' and they went on laughing till they were quite out of breath. I joined their merry laughter, and felt very happy indeed. At length, however, they left me, taking their bags with them; and I now perceived for the first time that my guests had been hares disguised in the shape of women. Another evening, when I again sat working, two other little women entered the house; but these had a darker complexion and larger tufts of hair: they were still more amiable than the former ones, and likewise poured out their berries before me, and I brought forth tallow and dried meat as before. They ate of this with great pleasure; and having done, they said, 'These silly little hares, whenever they happen to meet folks, they sit down staring at them—they look so very funny with their cloven lips; and when they take to run, and people only say itek, they sit down on the spot.' In such wise we chattered away, and spent the evening very pleasantly together. Now I have got practised in running, and skip about from place to place whenever I know that people have newly left. Accordingly I came here. Thou alone hast taken me p. 308 by surprise; otherwise I seem to hear everything. When the partridges sit down yonder behind the high mountain-ridges, I shall be sure to hear them as if they were quite close by: but thy steps I have not heard." From the upper part of his boot the first Salik procluced a knife, and handed it to the narrator with these words, "I have got nothing else wherewith to pay thee back the pleasure thou hast given me." When both were leaving, the story-teller said, "I feel a little indisposed immediately after the meal, but just follow me with a look;" and off he ran. Beyond the house was a high sloping hill: this he went up as swiftly as a flying raven that soars smoothly along, barely touching the earth, and thus he went quickly out of sight. But Salik often repeated the interesting tale of his namesake.