Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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A WOMAN, who had no brothers or sisters, lived with a little foster-daughter at the house of a great seal-hunter. The daughter was very docile, and always obeyed at the least word. Once, during spring, all the people belonging to the place went away fishing. The chief hunter only lingered behind, harbouring wicked intentions. One calm morning he went outside the house and re-entered, saying, "Pack up your things; we must be ready to start." They now made all speed, and the lonely woman was not the least busy among them—she worked away as she never did before. When she had put her own poor bundles into the boat p. 421 she hurried up for her ledge-cover; but when she came outside again, she observed the foster-daughter still standing on shore watching their master closely; and when she herself came down he leaped into the boat, and shoving off, called out to them, "Ye only eat our food; we won't take you along." So saying, their housemates turned their backs upon them, and got under way. The poor creatures, whose scanty belongings had all been put into the boat excepting the ledge-cover, on seeing the boat depart, faced each other in blank despair, and then burst into tears. However, when the boat was out of sight, the widow wiped her eyes, and said, "Never mind, my dear; we must just do without them." But the child was not so easily consoled. When at length she stopped crying, her mother said, "Let us go and find out a house to make our home." They went through all the deserted huts, but everywhere the walls were bare and the hangings removed, till at length they came into one without windows, where the skins still hung on the walls, and the old one said, "Here, in the southern corner, we'll take up our quarters." She at once proceeded to make a room of suitable size, dividing it from the rest of the house with the skins. This done, she continued, "Let us now go outside and try to find something to eat at the flensing-place." She took the child by her hand, and they soon found some small bits of blubber and skin, which they greedily devoured, having had no food the whole day. After this meal they lay down to rest, but were unable to sleep because of the cold. The next day, after a similar search, they found the entrails of an entire seal. After this, however, they found nothing more, and had only the entrails to live upon.

It was just when the herds of seals are passing along the coast that their stock of entrails was exhausted. One morning, having taken a small morsel, they noticed that there was only a bit left for their supper at night. p. 422 Then the widow said to her daughter, "Child, thou art more strong and active than I: thou must go and dig a hole over yonder beneath the window-ledge." The daughter obeyed at once, and began to dig up the loose earth. When she had finished, the mother repeated, "Thou art more brisk and active than I: run away and fill the hole with water." The daughter continued fetching water from the sea, and before evening the hole was filled. That evening they took their last bit of food, and went to rest, but without being able to sleep. In the early morning the mother said, "I shall probably not succeed; still I think I will try to procure something (by magic)." The daughter did not like the idea, nor did she believe in it; but the mother rejoined, "When I commence my incantation, as I repeat it again and again, thou must listen attentively." She soon began, and as she went through it, warned her daughter to attend well. The child listened, and presently heard a splash: on which she exclaimed, "Mother dear, there is something moving in the water." When the old woman told her to see what it was, she ran off to look, and seeing a little frog-fish, called out, "Ah, mother, it is a frog-fish!" The mother told her to kill it with the old grindstone (probably an amulet). The little girl obeyed, and the fish was boiled and cut in two, putting aside one-half for their evening meal. Next morning the mother repeated her incantation, and they got a nepisak-fish (Cyclopterus lumpus); the next day, in the same way, an eider-duck—and so on the following days, a firth-seal, a saddleback-seal, a small dolphin, a white whale, and at last a narwal. When she had done flensing the captured animals, the following day large quantities of different kinds of provisions were heaped up outside the house. Towards evening they went to the top of a rock sloping south to cut the flesh in thin slices for drying. While there engaged the daughter exclaimed, "I almost think I see a kayak coming in;" and in this she was quite p. 423 right. The lonely woman had one relative, a very aged man; and this poor fellow, having lately heard of the manner in which she had been abandoned and left in an empty house, now came to see if she had not starved to death, bringing with him a frog-fish as a gift in case she was still alive. When he saw the flensing-place all red with blood he could not believe his own eyes, but thought it all a delusion. And when he observed the two women standing on the rock and slicing large pieces of flesh for drying, and when they afterwards came running down to receive him, he accosted them, "Here am I, expecting to find you starved to death: I actually came to bury you." She answered him, "Silly old thing thou art! just get thee out of thy kayak, and partake of our good fare here." The poor old man went ashore, but tasted nothing till he had pulled his kayak properly up on the beach. The women had meanwhile boiled him a nice dish. He took his fill for once; and when he wanted to start they stuffed his kayak with such a supply that it was almost ready to sink. On leaving he said, "As it is, there is no fear of your starving to death; when all your provisions are ready prepared I shall come to fetch you off." When he was gone they went to rest, and the morning after she again made ready to practise her art. However, she chanted and invoked, and chanted again, and the daughter watched and listened as usual, but neither breathing nor splashing was heard. The reason was that they had taken offence at her having made the gifts over to other people; and from that time upwards she never succeeded in calling forth anything. When her magic spell had wholly lost its effect, and she had finished drying her stock of flesh, her poor old relative came and fetched her off to his own homestead, and there she remained the rest of her days with him.