Paul B. (Paul Belloni) Du Chaillu.

The Land of the Long Night online

. (page 15 of 16)
Online LibraryPaul B. (Paul Belloni) Du ChailluThe Land of the Long Night → online text (page 15 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

have gained knowledge about the people and 'The Land of the Long

One of the Sea Lapps held my reindeer, and after I was seated another
drew my bearskin round me, and made it secure with the cord belonging to
my sleigh.

When Mikel saw that I was ready he jumped into his sleigh and we

"Good-bye, good-bye, Paulus!" shouted all the Lapps.

"Good-bye, good-bye, dear Sea Lapps!" - I shouted back to them, and the
last words I heard were: "Lucky journey, Paulus, come to see us again,
come to see us again."



We entered the birch forest soon after our departure. We had great
difficulty in driving among the trees. I was glad our reindeer were not
as frisky as in the earlier part of the winter. I could hardly follow
the track of Mikel, and sometimes I could not do so at all. I drove
sometimes against one tree and then against another, then the boughs of
the birch would strike against my face. I had not been five minutes
among the birches when I was upset.

At last, losing patience, I shouted to Mikel, "When are we to get out of
these birch trees into the open country?" He replied: "We shall reach
the river soon."

The snow was not more than three or four or five inches deep at first,
but grew gradually deeper as we moved further south. Along the coast of
Finmarken the heat of the Gulf Stream prevents it from lying deep on the

That afternoon we reached the Tana river, at a place called Polmak, and
sped on over its snow-covered ice.

Seven or eight miles was all that our reindeer could do in an hour, and
during the day we had to stop several times to give them rest.

About eleven o'clock we stopped for the night. We spread our bags upon
the snow, but we got into one only, for two would have been too warm at
this time of the year; and as Mikel and I were ready to disappear in
them, I said "Good-night, Mikel," and he replied "Good-night, Paulus."

It snowed during the night, and when we awoke in the morning our bags
were covered with it. I did not wonder when I saw this that I had felt
so warm during the night.

I was the first to be up. I shook Mikel's bag and shouted to him, "Get
up, Mikel," and as his head peeped out of his bag, I said
"Good-morning," and he cried "Good-morning, Paulus." Then we took our
breakfast. The reindeer, while we were asleep, had dug through the snow
to the lichen and fed, and now were quietly resting.

We were soon on the way. As the sun rose higher and higher and its rays
grew more powerful, the snow became soft, and the travelling so hard for
our reindeer that we had to stop; the thermometer marked 44 degrees in
the shade and 80 degrees in the sun. There were sometimes twenty or
thirty degrees' difference of temperature during the twenty-four hours,
but the change came so slowly, hour after hour, that I did not notice

So we had to stop travelling, and while the reindeer rested we took to
our skees and went in search of game, but no foxes or wolves were to be
seen. Towards four o'clock in the afternoon the snow began to freeze
again, and we again took up our journey. Now the nights have to be
turned into days, for we can only travel during the time when the sun is
not shining or has not great power.

We travelled without interruption the following day, as the sky was
cloudy and the snow was hard. Towards midnight Mikel said: "Our reindeer
are tired, we must rest; but we will not sleep more than three or four
hours, for we must reach a station where we can procure fresh reindeer."

We unharnessed our reindeer, and tied them with long ropes. When this
was done we got into our bags and soon were fast asleep.

At about three o'clock Mikel awoke me, saying, "Paulus, it is about time
to go."

"Oh, Mikel," I replied, "let me sleep one hour more, for I need more
sleep. I want another snooze."

"There is no time to be lost," he replied; "you will have a snooze later
in the day."

So I rubbed my eyes to get fully awake, and washed my face with snow,
and felt ready for another start.

That morning the sky was very clear, and after a while the sun shone
brightly and the glare on the snow was so great that it would have been
impossible to travel without green or blue goggles. I had two pairs
with me, in case I should lose or break one by some accident.

On account of the strength of the sun's rays, which melted the snow, we
had to stop our travelling by eleven o'clock. Our reindeer were

I took my short pair of skees, covered with sealskin, and went ptarmigan
hunting. I killed four. The birds had already dropped many of their
white feathers, which had been replaced by gray ones. They were getting
their summer coats, and would soon be entirely gray.

After killing these I went further, and saw something in the distance
moving on the snow. Soon I discovered it was a fox of a peculiar color
which I had not seen before. I lay flat on the snow, as the animal was
coming in my direction. He was evidently hungry, and was hunting
ptarmigans himself. When he came within shooting distance I fired and
killed him. He was a white fox, but much of his snowy-white fur had
dropped, and was replaced by bluish. I wondered if the change took place
for his own protection and advantage. When white he could not be seen so
easily by the creatures upon which he preyed, and when bluish he could
not be so easily seen as if he had remained white.

When I returned Mikel was stretched on his back on the snow with his
arms spread out, and was snoring like a good fellow. Oh, what a noise he
made! He had succeeded in frightening our reindeer, which had moved
away as far as the rope would allow them. I did not wonder that they did
not like Mikel's snoring.

After looking at Mikel I stretched myself on the snow, but quite a
distance from him, not to be disturbed by his snoring. Now we did not
require any masks on our faces, and during the day slept without being
obliged to get into our bags.

Soon I fell asleep, and dreamed that I was attacked by a big pack of
wolves - I jumped up and looked round, but there were no wolves. I had
had the nightmare from sleeping on my back. Mikel was still snoring, and
I looked at him and thought I would let him snore a little more.

Towards four o'clock in the afternoon, as it was beginning to freeze
again and the snow was fit for travelling, I awoke him. Soon after we
started, and we had not driven an hour when we saw a tent in the
distance and made for it. The Lapp family who owned it received us with
great hospitality. Coffee was made and we were invited to spend the
night. I looked forward with great pleasure to the prospect of a good
warm meal of reindeer meat and good reindeer broth.

These people were great friends of Mikel, and they agreed to give us
some of their reindeer that were not as fagged out as ours. I was

How I enjoyed the warm reindeer meat and the reindeer broth! It was
fine! I was so hungry. After this meal we were presented with a lot of
cooked reindeer meat for our journey, and one of the Lapps was to go
with us, for he wanted to see some of his friends further south.

Towards three o'clock in the morning we started. We saw many herds of
reindeer - they were moving westward towards the mountains that stretched
to the Arctic Sea. It was a grand sight. I saw more than thirty thousand
reindeer that day, in herds from one thousand to two or three thousand.
The Lapps on their skees, with their dogs, urged the animals onward, and
the dogs brought those which were trying to go astray, or lagged behind,
into the ranks.

Many of the reindeer had already dropped their horns, and the calving
season had begun. How pretty were the tiny baby reindeer; they were put
on special sleighs and driven in them, their mothers following, uttering
a queer kind of grunt.

The baggage of the family and tents went with them, led by women who
carried their young children in their cradles slung on their backs.

Late that day I saw a splendid sight, two herds were approaching each
other in opposite directions. The bulls of each herd advanced to charge
the others with great fury and began a terrible fight, advancing and
retreating, then charging again, butting furiously. The horns of two
combatants sometimes became entangled, and it took a long time for them
to disengage themselves. Mikel said: "Sometimes they cannot be separated
and have to be killed." In the mean time, the Lapps and dogs went after
them, and with great trouble they were parted and made to go to their
respective herds. I noticed, as I went further south, that the twilight
was not so bright as it was in the North - for in that northern land, the
daylight comes from the direction of the pole.

The darkest part of the day or night was somewhat after eleven o'clock
P.M., but even then I could read, and as we travelled only Jupiter and
Venus looked at us - no other stars were visible, and towards half-past
one these two disappeared, for daylight was so strong; and when the
weather was clear after that time only the pale blue sky of the North
and its fleecy white clouds were to be seen above our heads. How
beautiful it was!



Onward we went, sleeping one day in the tent of a nomadic Lapp, another
day in our bags, at other times in the _gamme_ of a river Lapp. The
weather was very changeable; one day it was clear, the next day the sky
was gray. Snowy days were not uncommon.

Midway between Nordkyn and Haparanda the snow was of great depth. Only
the tops of the birch trees could be seen, and strange to say the
branches were in bloom, for the trees felt the heat of the sun, and the
snow had prevented the freezing of the ground to a great depth. The snow
must have been eight or ten feet deep in some regions.

When we reached the summit of the plateau, the watershed that divided
the rivers falling into the Arctic Sea and the Baltic, the weather was
very stormy. Though it was the 13th of May, we met a furious snowstorm.
This was dangerous for us, and Mikel attached my sleigh to his by a long
rope, so that we might not become separated. The snowstorm seemed,
however, to give new strength to the reindeer, and they went faster than
usual, and besides the cold weather we had had the two previous
days - the thermometer marking 15 to 18 degrees of frost - had evidently
invigorated them. For a while there was a lull in the storm, and we were
glad when we came to a house of refuge.

The house was small and uninhabited, but clean inside. Some food was
hanging from the ceiling, belonging to some Lapp or some wanderer like
ourselves, who had left it to have it on his return journey. The food
was sacred and safe. No one would have dared to touch it, no matter how
hungry he was, for it did not belong to him, and the one who had left it
perhaps depended upon it to sustain his life on his return. We peeped
into the parcel - there was some hard bread, reindeer cheese, and a
smoked reindeer tongue, a coffee kettle and some coffee, and a few small
pieces of wood tied together, to make a fire to cook the coffee with.
This was one of those houses of refuge used only for shelter, without
people to keep them, built especially by the government for that
purpose, in case of sudden storm.

After a while I went out for a walk on my skees, to stretch my legs, for
I had been more than ten hours seated in my sleigh. I took my gun with
me. Soon I spied some hares, and succeeded in killing two. These were
also changing their fur coats; much of their fur was gray, and mixed
with white; the hares were to be gray during the summer months. As white
was their protection in winter against big white owls, foxes, and other
animals, so their gray color would protect them against their enemies in

"Strange indeed is nature," I said to myself. "In some cases the animals
change their fur so that they can approach their prey without being
seen; in other cases nature changes their fur to protect them against
their enemies."

When I returned I saw that Mikel had prepared our supper. He had fetched
some firewood he had in his sleigh, and a bright fire was burning under
our coffee kettle. Reindeer meat, tongue, and reindeer cheese had been
put on a wooden dish, and two tin cups were ready for the coffee to be
poured into them. We seated ourselves cross-legged on the floor, and
began our meal. What a nice cup of coffee we had! How deliciously it
tasted! How good was our coarse hard black bread and our reindeer
cheese, and smoked reindeer tongue!

After we had drunk our coffee and eaten our supper I noticed that Mikel
was very silent and thoughtful. I wondered if he was thinking of dangers
ahead - of the sudden stopping of our journey, - and just as I was on the
point of asking him why he was so thoughtful he broke the silence
himself and said: "Paulus, I know where there is a big brown bear - a
real big fellow. The Bear's Night is not over with him yet, and he must
be still sleeping under the snow at the place where I saw him last
autumn getting ready to go into his winter quarters."

"You don't say so, Mikel!" I exclaimed. "Is the bear sleeping near where
we are?"

"Not so very near," he replied with a twinkle in his eye. "A few hours
will bring us to his place."

He saw by my looks that I was ready to go after the bear. It was just
what he wished. So he continued: "Paulus, shall we go and kill the bear,
before he awakes and goes into the mountains and forests to commit his
depredations, - for after his long fast he will be very hungry - and are
you willing to lose two or three days and run the risk of having our
journey come to an end?"

When I heard this, I forgot all about the ice cracking over the streams
and lakes, about the snow melting and preventing people from travelling.
"Yes, Mikel," I replied, "let us go after the bear. Afterwards we will
travel as fast as we can and take very little sleep; perhaps we shall
have luck and the weather may be colder than usual for a while."

"All right," replied Mikel; "we will go after the bear."

"Mikel," said I "before we stretch ourselves on the floor and go to
sleep, tell me how you know that the bear is at the spot you suppose and
that he is spending his winter night there."

Mikel took a big pinch of snuff and replied: "Paulus, I think I am the
only one, that knows where this bear is sleeping, for I have kept it a
secret. I hope no other person knows where he is, for I want his skin.
Besides I shall get a premium in money if we kill him."

Then he added: "One day last fall as I was hunting for ptarmigans I saw
in the distance a huge brown bear walking about and getting ready for
his winter quarters. I knew that he was seeking his winter lodgings,
because he was going round and round a big cluster of pines before
entering it. I watched! After a a while he disappeared among the pines
and I saw no more of him. I knew that if he were not disturbed or
frightened away he would stay there. The bear assuredly had seen the
place during the summer and thought it was a good one for his long
sleep. This bear knew that a big snowstorm was coming, and he was not
mistaken, for that night snow fell very heavily and the storm lasted two

"The Bear's Night will soon be over in this region," Mikel continued,
"and at any moment this bear may awaken, break through the snow that is
over him, and go away. Perhaps he is already gone. At this time of the
year the slightest noise will arouse a bear, for by this time he has
ceased to sleep soundly."

Then he added: "We have had very little sleep since we left the coast,
Paulus; we need a good rest before we go after the bear."

"Yes," said I, "my eyes ache for want of a good long sleep."

We stretched ourselves on the earth floor, and soon after I heard the
snoring of Mikel. He was an inveterate snorer, - I thought the champion
snorer of all those I ever had met.

I could not go to sleep, though I was so tired. I turned first on one
side, then on the other, then lay on my back. I was much excited, for I
thought of the big brown bear and of the hunt that was before us. At
last I fell asleep. Suddenly I was awakened by a shaking of Mikel, and
as I opened my eyes he said, "Paulus, what is the matter? You have been

I was in a profuse perspiration. I had again had nightmare from lying on
my back. I was fighting with a big bear which had seized me, and we were
wrestling and I was getting the worst of it, and when ready to fall down
in his grasp I had given a big scream.

After our breakfast that morning, Mikel said: "We must go and tell some
of the folks who live in a little hamlet not far from here to come with

"What do you call not far from here?" I asked.

I had begun to know what "not far" meant with the Lapps. "Two hours'
travel, or about fifteen miles," he replied. "I have friends there."

Before leaving the little house of refuge Mikel swept the floor, and
made it as clean as we had found it - for it is the custom of the people
to do this before they leave.

We then started eastward, and after two hours' travelling we came to a
few farms and entered a house. Mikel told the people about the bear. The
news soon spread and there was much excitement. During the day
preparations were made for the hunt.

The next morning men gathered, taking their guns and big long sticks,
with pikes at the ends to prod the bear with; and all the dogs of the
place followed us. Many men started on their skees, others in their
sleighs. According to Mikel the bear was about thirty miles away.

I was full of enthusiasm, and longed to come face to face with the big
brown bear of northern Europe.

About three hours after, we stopped. All the people took counsel
together and spoke in low voices. Then Mikel, pointing out to me a big
cluster of trees, said, "Paulus, the bear is there."

Slowly we made for the spot, and then entered the grove, and went in
different directions seeking for the bear's winter quarters. Soon after
we saw a heap of snow, or little hillock, that covered evidently some
boulders piled on the top of each other or a cluster of fallen broken
pine trees.

We looked at each other and pointed towards the spot - we knew that the
bear was under the snow there. Mikel whispered to me, "The bear sleeps
under that hillock of snow."

We surrounded the place, then on a sudden we shouted and made a terrific
noise. Two or three of the men fired their guns, the dogs barked

[Illustration: "He sat on his haunches and looked at us, uttering a
tremendous growl."]

Then we saw the centre of the heap or hillock of snow tremble, as if
some live creature were moving slowly under it. Then the snow moved a
little quicker. There was no mistake, the bear was awakened, had
moved, and was on the point of rising; he was listening, and getting
ready to come out. The noise had frightened him. The snow trembled more
and more and rose higher and higher. Suddenly there was a great
upheaval, and great cracks appeared in the crusted snow. Then we saw
peeping out the head and back of a huge brown bear, then two legs, and
finally the whole animal.

He looked round him with amazement. He seemed to be dazed at the strange
and sudden sight before him. He sat on his haunches and looked at us,
uttering a tremendous growl. We could not tell whether he meant to fight
or to run. The dogs barked angrily around the huge beast, but did not
dare to approach near enough to attack him. In the meantime we had all
drawn together so that we could fire without danger of hitting any of
our party. The bear was getting ugly, gave a series of fierce growls,
and rose on his hind legs. At this moment Mikel and I fired. A grunt of
pain showed that the animal was hit. He ran a few steps towards us and
as we got ready to fire again the big beast fell, his blood reddening
the snow.

We gathered round and looked at him. He was a huge beast, but very thin
from his long fast, for he had been six months or more without food.

After the killing of the bear there was no time to be lost, for we had
deviated from our course and had gone eastward into Finland. So now we
had to go westward, and after two days' travelling we came to the river
Muonio, to a Finnish hamlet called Kuttainen, not far from Karesuando.

Now travelling became really dangerous. The frozen river was full of
treacherous cracks, and others were appearing all the time. Once in a
while we came to small open spaces, where we could see the swift water
of the stream rushing with great rapidity; this made me shudder. In some
places there were large pools of water.

It was getting really warm. Some days my "pesh" was comfortable, at
other times it was much too warm, the thermometer reaching 48 to 50
degrees in the shade and 86 to 88 degrees in the sun. The dripping from
the melted snow came into the river from the hills, and had succeeded in
many places in melting the ice on the banks. This travelling was no
joke. I followed Mikel, and watched him constantly, fearing that his
reindeer and sleigh would disappear under the ice. Travelling appeared
to become more and more perilous as we followed the Muonio southward. At
times I could hear the angry water under the ice striking against
boulders, and this became quite common.

At last I shouted to Mikel, "Let us travel on the land, for surely if we
do not we shall fall through the ice and be engulfed."

"We cannot," he shouted back, "the snow is too soft. Our reindeer could
not pull our sleighs. We can get along much better on the river, though
the ice is very bad. Trust in me, Paulus. I have made this journey over
the Muonio River many times before, but you must follow me very closely,
for sometimes I shall have to pass near rotten ice or open spots."

"I will follow you carefully, dear Mikel. Go on! Go on!" I said.

So I followed Mikel closely, as he had bade me, but what thumps our
sleighs would sometimes get on the now uneven ice of the river!
Fortunately they were very strongly built.

We slept at a place called Songamuodka. In the morning it snowed, but
the flakes were big and soft and melted as they fell on the old snow. I
met no more herds of reindeer, but since I had left on my journey
southward I had seen between sixty-five and seventy thousand of them.

Two days after I saw the church spire of Pajala, rested there, and on
the 24th of May, as I was travelling on the Torne River, I passed once
more the Arctic Circle. It was raining. I was told that it was the first
rain that had fallen for over seven months.

Here I said good-bye to the good Mikel and thanked him cordially for the
care he had taken of me.

I had now left the kingdom of the "Long Night," and the "Long Day" was
to rule over the land through which we have travelled together.

Now, my dear Young Folks, Friend Paul has come back, as you bade him,
and I hope you have enjoyed our travelling together in "The Land of the
Long Night." Good-bye. Do not forget your Friend Paul, who loves you
dearly, for once he was one of the Young Folks himself.

Paul Du Chaillu's Great Work



2 vols., 8vo, $7.50


* * * * *

New York Tribune.

"These luxuriously printed and profusely illustrated volumes embody the
fullest account of our Norse ancestors extant. Mr. Du Chaillu has gone
very fully and very carefully over the whole of his ground. This
extensive and important work must be of high interest to all
English-speaking people."

Newark Advertiser.

"Their weapons, ornaments, ships, domestic manners and customs, art and
industries, are all reconstructed with a minuteness that is remarkable,
if we consider (as we must) that all this comes to us after centuries of

London Athenæum.

"What is really valuable in these volumes is the exhaustive digest which
they contain of the extant information respecting the manners and
character of the ancient people of Scandinavia. The work deals with the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15

Online LibraryPaul B. (Paul Belloni) Du ChailluThe Land of the Long Night → online text (page 15 of 16)