Here to return to
“THE VILLAGE WHERE NO ONE LIVES”
THE sudden summer was upon the Arctic, and in the days that followed the boys, in spite of their homesickness and anxiety in regard to the future, reveled in it. The tundra grew green, and seemed almost in a night to be spangled with countless flowers. Once, at camp, Joe wandered back into a grassy meadow, and found Harry there before him. Tears were running down his cheeks, but they were happy tears.
“Look, Joe!” he cried. “Come and see our old friend here. Oh, how good it is!”
The meadow was blue in patches with myosotis, — forget-me-nots, — and among them a yellow bumble-bee was buzzing and bustling in busy way, just as contentedly fussy and self-important as he would have been among the buttercups two thousand miles south. Down on his knees beside this messenger went Joe, with tears in his own eyes and thoughts of the Nantucket meadows of his childhood.
“And oh!” cried Joe. “Here’s another one. See!” This other one was a little brown butterfly that flitted gayly along in the warm breeze. Thus the two worshiped these spirits of sunshine, translated to their desolate northern wilderness for its brief summer festival. The snow-buntings and Arctic sparrows, already happy with nests and eggs, sang rapturously, and the ground squirrels sat at the mouths of their burrows and wrinkled their rat-like noses at the voyagers. It was a happy season, coming so soon after struggle, death, and disaster. The Eskimo boys and girls had lost that look of stolid misery which their life under the rule of the highbinders had given them, and blossomed into joyous, playful children. Even the river seemed to dance and dimple along its shallows.
Perhaps the daintiest spirit, the most chastely exquisite creature of the whole Arctic summer, is the little bird known to the naturalists as the hyperborean snowflake. Verily, a snowflake it is as it flits through the rosy glow of misty mornings over the tundra bog so richly carpeted with purple, yellow, and white. Here, in a fairy garden, grow the purple primrose, the golden cowslip, and the white-cupped dryas, and here flits and sings its dainty song the snowflake bird. Its plumage is as pure as a newly opened lily, the spotless white showing more perfectly by contrast with the jet-black bill and wing tips. At the edge of its snowy tail are two black dots. All else is a fluttering flake of purest snow, and it seemed to the boys as if in it summer had transformed the frost-flakes into a living, breathing spirit of melody.
Thus for many days they glided along the placid shallows of this winding river, content in freedom, sunshine, and bits of summer, that reminded them of home. Yet by and by Harry became uneasy.
“Joe,” he said one clay, “it seems to me we have traveled far enough to reach the sea. Where do you suppose this river empties? Its course winds so that it is hard to say just which way it carries us, though, to be sure, the general direction is northerly, but don’t you think it is pretty well to the east of north?”
“That’s what is worrying me,” confessed Joe. “In the nature of things we must come out north of our old camp at Icy Cape, but I had hoped for no great distance north of that. Yet no man knows what river’s headwaters we struck. I hope it is not the Colville. That would land us a couple of hundred miles to the east of Point Barrow, and unless we had phenomenal luck we’d have to winter up here again.”
“I wouldn’t do it,” cried Harry hotly. “I’d sooner turn and tramp south across the tundra. We’d at least be headed toward home, and every mile we made would be sure gain.
Thus anxiety came to them again, and they began to watch with care the general direction in which they were floating. It proved to be, as near as they could guess, northeast.
“This won’t do,” said Joe, “northeast is the trend of the coast up here; we’re not getting much nearer the sea. However, we’ll hold on a few days longer.”
Neither Harluk nor the other Eskimos could help their knowledge of the river. The Eskimo knows the coast well and the streams for a few miles back of it. Beyond that, except in particular instances, the land is unknown to him. After another week, and just as they were about decided to camp and make a land reconnoissance to the westward, their stream took a turn to the northwest and they paddled on merrily. The course lay through low bluffs that bordered the river on either hand, and in these bluffs, one day, Harry noted strata of dark stone. They landed, out of curiosity, and examined these black veins.
“Why, it’s coal!” exclaimed Harry in astonishment; and so it was, — a sort of semi-bituminous coal that is not so very different from cannel coal. The low bluffs were full of it in veins varying from a few inches wide to eight or ten feet. There was enough coal in sight to supply a city, with the promise of countless thousand tons in the veins beneath the surface. “Coal,” he explained to Harluk and the other Eskimos who had gathered about them, much interested by their enthusiasm, “to burn, makes fire, like wood.”
At this the men of the ice shook their heads incredulously. It was time for the midday meal, and Harry essayed to show them that he was right. He built a good fire of willow wood and piled bits of the black stones on it, but it would not ignite that way, and his Eskimo friends wagged their heads and murmured “Kuko willow,” which is an Eskimo word which may be freely translated “big fool.” Here Joe came to his rescue. He carefully built a cylindrical oven of the larger blocks that had fallen from the bluff, and started a snapping wood fire in it. Little by little he added fine coal to this, and was soon gratified to find it ignited. The Eskimos looked on, with smiling incredulity at first, then with wonder, but as the fire grew and began to consume the oven itself, they calmly withdrew from the burning black stones. It was magic, and the stones did not really burn. Joe had only made them think so. Harluk knew he was a great wizard. He had seen his performances at Icy Cape, and this was another one. It was all very well for wizards to burn stones, but the Eskimos knew better than to try it.
This was the Eskimo solution of the matter. The coal measures of northern Alaska extend from the coast near Cape Lisburne eastward far into the interior. The rivers that run to the sea cut through them and expose vast quantities of the precious fuel. On the seashore at Cape Sabine the coal falls from the bluffs under the action of the frost, and may be picked up by the ton. With a little ingenuity this coal may be made to burn and give heat even by very primitive methods, yet the tribes freeze, and eat uncooked food, with these vast reservoirs of warmth untouched beneath their feet. They have seen it burn in the stoves and under the boilers of the whaleships, yet they take no advantage of it. Some have tried to burn it in the open, and failing, were convinced that only the white man’s magic could make use of it. Others have found heat enough in blubber and driftwood or willow twigs, and do not care to try to utilize the more difficult fuel.
Some days later, they found their little river flowing gently into an arm of the sea which Joe, climbing a bluff and taking a survey, declared to be Wainwright Inlet. Harluk, too, recognized the place, and said that the river which they had traversed was the Koo of the tribes. Just north of them was Point Belcher, and Harluk pointed out, on the other side of the inlet, a place which he called “Nunaria,” otherwise “The Village where No One Lives.”
The story of this “Village where No One Lives,” of the events which led up to its settlement and abandonment, is one of the most extraordinary which the Arctic has yet revealed. The annals of New Bedford whaling contain the first part of it. The traditions of the coast tribes reveal the latter part, the wild and tragic sequel. These last Harluk knew well, for the tale has come to be an epic, related about the blubber lamp during the winter night, when the bitter wind blows without, and the Nunatak people are abroad and shout down the smoke-hole.
This is the story compiled from both sources: —
In the summer of 1871, forty or more splendid ships, the pick of the New Bedford fleet, were following the whales along this icebound coast. The pursuit had been one of more than common difficulty. The ice was everywhere, and again and again, even in midsummer, the ships had been in great danger from it. Boats were crushed by the shifting floes, and before September was fairly in, three staunch ships, the brig Comet, the barks Roman and Ashawonks, had been wrecked and their crews transferred to other vessels. The season was at an end, and the situation of the remaining ships one of grave peril, for the ice was closing rapidly around them and it seemed impossible to work out of it. There were not provisions enough to winter the crews, and frequent and serious consultations were held by the captains. By way of precaution, men were set to work building up the gunwales of the boats that they might better resist the waves, and they were sheathed with copper to keep the ice from harming them. An expedition of three boats was now sent down the coast to see how far the ice extended. This returned and reported that it was utterly impracticable to get any of the main fleet out; that the Arctic and another vessel were in clear water below the fields which extended to the south of Blossom Shoals, eighty miles below the imprisoned crafts; and that five more vessels, now fast in this lower ice, were likely to get out soon. The leader also reported, what every man knew, that these free vessels would lie by and wait to aid their imprisoned comrades. It is a part of the whaleman’s creed to stand by his mates. To remain with the imprisoned ships was to perish with them, and they decided to abandon them.
It was a sad day. The signals for departure, — flags at the masthead, union down, — were set, and with heavy hearts they entered their boats and pulled away, a mournful flotilla. Women and children, families of the captains, were there, and the keen north wind blew over the frozen sea, chilling the unfortunate fugitives to the marrow. At night they camped on the beach, turning the boats bottom upward and covering them with sails, making a comfortable refuge for the women and children. The rest found shelter as best they might.
“On the second day out,” says one who took part in the expedition, “the boats reached Blossom Shoals, and there spied the rescue vessels lying five miles out from the shore and behind a long tongue of ice that stretched like a great peninsula ten miles farther down the coast. Around this point they were obliged to pull before they could get aboard. The wind blew a gale, the sea threatened the little crafts with instant annihilation, but still the hazardous journey must be performed, and there was no time to be lost in setting about it. The boats started on their almost hopeless voyage, the women and children stifling their fears as best they could. On rounding this tongue of ice, they encountered the full force of the southwest gale, and a sea that would have made the stoutest ship tremble. In this fearful sea the whaleboats were tossed about like corks. They shipped quantities of water from every wave that struck them, and all hands bailing could hardly keep them afloat. Everybody was soaked with freezing brine, and all the bread and flour aboard was spoiled. The strength of the gale was such that the Arctic, after getting her portion of the refugees aboard, parted her cable and lost her port anchor, but brought up again with the starboard one, which held until the little fleet was ready to sail. By the second day all were distributed among the seven vessels, from two to three hundred souls each, — a total of 1219 refugees. They set sail, and reached Honolulu in safety.”
Thirty-four staunch vessels were thus abandoned to their fate, and only one, The Minerva, was released in safety the next summer from the grip of the frost king. More than a million dollars was abandoned to the ice and the Eskimos, and ruin brought home to many a fine old New Bedford shipping concern.
The sullen winter set in. The ice closed rigidly about the doomed ships scattered along the coast from Point Belcher to Blossom Shoals, and a wild carnival of loot began for the natives of the north coast. News seems to spread in strange ways in the Arctic. The Eskimo tells much, yet he learns more by the observation of his fellows. Most of all, however, he seems to have an instinct which is more subtle still; and the tribes learned the news in all these ways. To the place of great riches traveled all who had the means of travel. From the bleak coast east to the mouth of the Mackenzie, from the sandy peninsula of Point Hope and from points between, each community saw another pack up and move, and hitched up their dogs and followed, knowing well that the prize for such a journey at such a time of year must be great, else it would not be attempted. By the time the winter sun ceases to rise in the southward, but merely lights the southern sky with a rosy glow at what should be noon, three thousand Eskimos had assembled and begun to build the greatest Eskimo village known to history.
The skin topeks were set up. Caves in the bluff became dwellings. Where the wind had swept the ledges bare, they quarried rough stone and built igloos of these, chinked with reindeer moss and banked with snow for warmth. Many of them, too, began to dismantle the ships and build rude cabins of the wood and sails. Such were the nondescript abodes of the new village, and here they settled down in the darkness and terrible cold of the Arctic midnight, content, for near at hand were provisions and loot such as had never been dreamed of in the wildest flights of Eskimo imagination. The looting went on continuously and peacefully, at first, for there was more than enough for all. The village became crowded with cabin fittings, wrecked deck houses, spars, ropes, sails, and all the metallic paraphernalia of a full-rigged ship. In the holds they broke into the flour barrels and scattered the contents about in willful play, for they knew nothing of the value of flour. Hard bread they prized, but flour was then to them a thing of no meaning, and there are aged Eskimos alive to this day who will tell with sorrow how they wasted the precious stuff, throwing it at one another and setting it adrift down the wind in glee.
The ivory, they prized, the oil, and especially the whalebone, which they eagerly appropriated and took ashore, hiding much of it as well as they could from one another. Later, when all had been taken from the ships and trouble and distrust had come, the villagers began looting from each other.
But at first all went well. With plenty of the prized hard-tack, with meat in barrels, with oil in great profusion, and wood and iron galore, it seemed as if the Eskimo millennium was at hand, and that the tribes might live in peace and plenty here for a long time to come and — who knows? — out of their prosperity found a permanent city and develop a higher scheme of Eskimo civilization than they had hitherto known. Yet it was not to be, and the very plenty that might have been their upbuilding became their undoing. The serpent of envy entered their below-zero Eden, and set tribe against tribe and family against family. Men began to quarrel over articles of loot aboard ship. There was not room to stow their wealth in the igloos, and the women and children fought over what was outside.
The supply of liquor had been in the main destroyed, but on one or two ships this had been overlooked in the haste of leaving, and after a time it was discovered. It was not very much among three thousand Eskimos, but a little liquor goes a long way among these hardy men of the north, and once this began to get in its work among them, no man can describe the extraordinary scenes which ensued. Tribal animosity which had been dulled by plenty and a common object grew keen again, and the men of one village fought with those of another until sometimes a whole tribe was wiped out. As the wild orgy increased and the supply of liquor gave out, they broke into the ships’ medicine chests, and tinctures and solutions of deadly drugs were used with fatal effect.
The horror lasted until the spring sun was well above the southern horizon, and scarcely half the people of the new city were left to see him rise. These were half-clad, and emaciated by the terrible deeds and mishaps of the winter. The dogs, neglected and unfed, had gone “molokully” — crazy — with the cold and hunger, and were roaming the waste of snow, or were mercifully dead. The remnant of the people had no means and were in no condition to travel, yet travel they must. The daze of their orgy was over, and the place was become a place of horrors to them. Dead lay in every igloo, and in Eskimo land an igloo in which some one has died is henceforth a place of evil, and no man must take shelter there.
There were no doubt stores and material enough left in and about the vessels that were unburned to support the people remaining in comfort for a long time to come, and could they have had a chance to recuperate, they still might have made a village unique in size and prosperity, but they would have none of it.
Silently and in terror the remnant of the tribes scattered and hastened to their former homes, but only a part ever reached them. Sick and emaciated, their dogs dead or scattered, the journey was one of hardship long to be remembered, and the miles were marked with the bones of those that fell by the way.
This is the story of “Nunaria,” a place of ghosts and of the dead. To this day no Eskimo will willingly enter its precincts. The ice and gales of winter, the frosts and thaws of spring, the deluges of rain and the grass of summer, work hard to obliterate it, yet still it may be found, and its ruin tells the tale of one brief winter of too much plenty, and the evil effect of a sudden plethora of the good things of civilization and city life on the Innuit. With him, as with the rest of us, self-control is not easily learned where abstemiousness is continually forced. It takes a far greater man to stand sudden great prosperity than it does to survive lean years and narrow opportunities. Harluk expressed this in one brief Eskimo phrase. “Amalucktu amalucktu, peluk,” he said. “Too much plenty is no good.”
There is a brief sequel to the story. The next spring an enterprising trader brought up in his ship a three-holed bidarka from Unalaska. When the ship was stopped by the ice, he manned the bidarka, and went on, paddled by two men. He reached the village of death through the narrow leads opening in the pack. Here he found no living thing save the foxes and crows making revel among the bodies of the dead. But he found much store of whalebone and ivory, — so much that he reaped a harvest and was able to visit the capitals of Europe in the style of a bonanza king. Yet, after all, what he got was not the half of the store the ships had accumulated during their summer cruise. What had become of the balance? Let us see.
Harluk would not join Harry and Joe in their exploration of Nunaria. It sufficed for him to point it out from the bluff opposite. They set out alone. Strange sights met their eyes in this village. Traces of former topeks could be found here and there by the white bones, which showed in the grass. Others built of stone had partly fallen in, but still in part retained their shape. From one of these a white fox bounded, and, on looking within, they found a litter of young foxes snuggled within the remnants of some ancient fur garments, among the bones of the man that had worn them. Here an arm bone was stretched out through the tundra grass, as if reaching up for aid. There a white skull grinned at them from the dark corner of a tumbled heap of rocks which had been a home of the ancient village. They found the brass cover of a ship’s binnacle over the ashes of a long-abandoned fire. The dark and mouldy remnants of an uneaten meal were in this strange pot, showing to what base uses the tribes had put the ship’s instruments. Scattered about in inconceivable confusion that time could not obliterate were the useless fragments of the loot of the ships, — rotten ropes, decayed canvas, rusty iron, blocks, and wooden wreckage of all sorts, grown with tundra moss, half buried in waving grass, yet visible still in dismal disorder. There were many spots, very many, where this grass was longer and greener than the rest, and they knew that underneath were the bones of the dead of that dread winter of too much plenty.
In one of the igloos they found a couple of splendid walrus tusks, half hidden in a corner, and in two others single slabs of whalebone, still but little harmed by the weather and the passage of time.
“Queer there isn’t more of this stuff,” said Harry, as he kicked out the slab of whalebone from the dark and grewsome hole.
“I don’t think so,” replied Joe. “Of course the traders and whalemen knew of the place and carried off all they could find. They never got half that was on the ships, though. I imagine the natives never brought it off, but that it was burned or sunk with the vessels.”
“Hum,” said Harry. “But it might pay us to look pretty closely.”
Joe looked at him with a new thought in his eye. “Do you think so?” he said, meditatively.
“Why not?” asked Harry in reply, and they continued their search. Yet they found nothing more of value among the igloos or on the tundra. It was after they had given up the search and were on their way back along the low bluff that they made a further discovery.
“Harluk told about part of the village that lived in what he called a ‘kitekook.’ What sort of an igloo is that?”
“That’s so,” replied Joe; “I had forgotten. Why, ‘kitekook’ is the Point Hope word for cave. We have n ‘t seen any caves yet. They would be in the bluff, seems to me.”
For a long time they searched the bluff without finding anything. The disintegrating forces of frost and thaw each spring change the face of all Arctic cliffs. Crumbled by the frost and torn off by the water, the warm weather often brings the fronts down in little landslides. The streams gully through them and cut them away so that the face of nature often changes greatly in a single year. The low bluffs along the inlet showed many marks of this violence. By and by Joe, scrambling along the débris at the foot of the bluff, gave a shout to Harry, farther on. “Here’s a wolf’s den, or a cave, or something,” he said. “Come and see it.”
The wolf’s den was a hole in the bluff, half smothered in the débris which had fallen and obscured it. There was hardly room to crawl in, but Joe managed it, while Harry waited outside in some excitement. In a moment Joe called out: -”Here,” he said in a smothered voice; “take this.”
A splendid slab of whalebone was passed up through the hole. After a time Joe followed it, much besmeared with dirt, but with a radiant face.
“I think we’ve made a find, this time,” he said excitedly. “That is one of the ‘kitekooks,’ and it is chock-a-block with the finest bone you ever saw.”
The slab which he had passed out was, indeed, a beauty, and was worth many dollars.
They proceeded with the hunt with great enthusiasm and found several other “kitekooks” well stored with bone. Joe’s eyes snapped with excitement.
“There’s fifty thousand dollars’ worth of splendid bone stowed right in this cliff,” he said, “and it has been waiting for us for twenty-five years. The people who came here that summer after cleaned up what was in the other igloos, but they never found this. Probably there had been a landslide that spring and blocked the caves. The Eskimos could not be hired to come here, and only they knew about it. It’s a bonanza! Hurrah! this will pay for the loss of the Bowhead, twice over.”
Harry examined the five caves that they found, and decided that Joe’s estimate of the value of their find was a very conservative one. To him it seemed nearly double that, and after excitedly figuring the probable value, Joe was inclined to agree with him. It was certain that they had found a fortune, and the only question was as to how they might realize on it. The bone was worth that in San Francisco, to be sure, but they were a long way from San Francisco, and the problem of getting there themselves was still a great one.
Their great hope was that Captain Nickerson would be on the coast again with a vessel and would find them that summer. They decided to keep the presence of the bone a profound secret even from Harluk and his fellows. They returned to the camp and said very little about what they had seen. Harluk thought this reasonable.
“None but wizards,” he declared solemnly, “might unharmed visit a place of ghosts, and he saw that they even were wise enough not to talk about it.”
This find in the Village where No One Lives kept the boys chained to the locality, much to the sorrow of the Eskimos, who wished to get farther away from it. There were plenty of fish in the inlet, and wild ducks were tame and present in great flocks. They lived well, but they did not like to be so near the place of ghosts. But the boys were firm. It was midsummer, and just about the right time of year for ships to be off that coast, and they did not wish to leave their find. They decided that the bone must stay where it was until they could take it out and place it on a ship of their own, and they would better wait right there on the chance of such a ship. Thus they lingered on, week after week, in a vain hope. No ship came. As a matter of fact, it was one of those seasons that Harluk and Kroo had predicted, when the Arctic pack hugs the coast and it is difficult and often impossible for ships to get beyond Blossom Shoals.
All too soon the brief summer waned, and their hopes waned with it. While they hesitated, the heavy sea ice pressed in nearer the coast and cut off any possible chance of a ship. The ducks flew away, the river froze over, and there was mush ice all along the coast where the pack had not frozen to the shore. The cold was coming on exceptionally early, and they were much dejected over the prospect. The wind blew keen from the north, and snow whitened the once blooming tundra. The winter was upon them before they knew it, so rapidly does it come in that land of ice.
In the midst of this trouble Harluk came to them with a face of good news.
“My brothers,” he said, “good luck is surely coming to us. The dogs have come back.”
Eight or ten gaunt dogs were eagerly snatching at food that the Eskimos threw to them; then, their hunger satisfied, they allowed themselves to be tied up, and lay down by the topek doors in contentment.
The Eskimo dog grows very fond of the people with whom he is brought up, and never forgets them, no matter how long separated. Thus, though he runs away and sometimes roams wild over the tundra for months, he is almost sure finally to find his way back to the friends of his puppyhood. It was what had now happened.
Some hours afterward Joe found Harry gazing moodily at the icy sea with tears in his eyes. It was not the cutting wind that had put them there and Joe knew it. He laid his hand gently on his friend’s shoulder.
“Cheer up, old fellow,” he said, trying to smile and making hard work of it. “Cheer up, the worst is yet to come.”
“I should say the worst was here,” replied Harry dejectedly. “It’s almost winter again and we are farther from home than ever. We haven’t any ship for a refuge this time, either.”
“I know it,” said Joe, “and we’ve got to get out of this right now. We’ll have to leave our bone behind, but that has been safe there a good many years, and I guess it will stay one more. At any rate, we’ll risk it. What do you say, old chap, if we go south?”
“What do you say if we have a little excursion to the moon?” said Harry bitterly; “the one seems as likely as the other.”
“I don’t think you ought to feel that way,” replied Joe. “The tundra and the rivers are frozen, the dogs have come back, and I have a plan. We will not attempt to find a ship. I doubt if one is up as far as this this year. Nor will we try to meet one at Lisburne, the chances are too slim. We will pack up and start straight south. The traveling is good. The north wind will be at our backs, and we are used to the cold. It seems a bold scheme, but it has been done before. Funston made the trip north and back to the relief of shipwrecked whalers in the dead of winter, some years ago. He was no better fitted than we to endure the cold and the hardships. Come into the topek a minute and I’ll show you something.”
In the topek Joe unfolded the chart of northern Alaska, which was among the papers saved from the wreck of the Bowhead. He showed Harry the distance almost due south to the Yukon River, not five hundred miles. There they should strike the well-traveled Yukon winter trail from St. Michael to Dawson City and find civilized men. The very thought of it made them both wild, so weary were they grown of barbarism and the frozen wilderness.
“Strong and well as we are, with a good dog team,” said Joe, “we ought to be good for fifteen miles a day, even in poor traveling. Let us call it a hundred miles a week. It should take us not over five weeks to reach the Yukon. Then with a good trail we can go either to Dawson City or St. Michael. In any case, it means that we get out and get home. It is now September. If we could reach St. Michael before the last of November, we might catch a late steamer for San Francisco or Seattle. At any rate, we would be among white men. It is better than staying on this coast for another winter, which is just what we’ll have to do unless we start.”
It was rather a desperate venture, but neither was willing to live Eskimo fashion on Eskimo food for another eight months of terrible cold. It made their hearts sick to think of it. On the other hand, the thought of heading toward home, with a chance of reaching it, set the blood leaping in their veins again, and they went about preparation with feverish haste. Fortune favored them, as it does the brave. The very next day a school of belated beluga came puffing and plunging alongshore headed south through the mush ice, looking like a foam-crested wave as they rolled along.
The Eskimos seized this opportunity with keen delight, and Harry and Joe joined in the hunting. The beluga is the stupid little white whale of the Arctic, fifteen or twenty feet long and white as milk. The whole community hastened out on the floes and in the umiaks on the seaward side of the school. Here, suddenly, they attacked them with shouting and shooting, with beating of paddles and thrusts of lances. A part of the school got away, but a dozen or more were shot, lanced, or driven ashore, where they stranded in shallow water and were easily killed. It was a feast in store for the natives and provision laid up for the winter, but it meant much more for the boys. The flesh of the beluga is not bad eating for man or beast, and it furnished supplies for themselves and dogs, sufficient to undertake the trip.
They were not long in getting away. The gratitude of the natives still held good, and they could have anything they wished. They took five of the strongest dogs and a good sled. They loaded this with beluga meat, furs, a slab or two of whalebone slipped slyly in, “for a sample,” as Joe said, ammunition, their papers, and the two repeating rifles. They did not ask Harluk to accompany them. Such a trip meant taking him from his wife and children for a long time, and he was perhaps needed for their support. He and his Eskimo friends would work down the coast to Icy Cape and join the little village there.
Good-bys were said with genuine sorrow on both sides, and the boys set their faces to the south, toward new and stranger adventures.