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Paul B. (Paul Belloni) Du Chaillu.

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packages; the frozen reindeer milk, all the provisions, meat, garments,
robes, skins, - in a word, everything they had was loaded on different
sleighs and secured.

The babies were carefully fixed in their queer-looking cradles, and made
quite safe against blustering winds.

Everything being ready, the reindeer were harnessed and we started. Soon
after, we came to the herd which had been bunched by the Lapps, the
dogs keeping them together. Then we began our march.

The herd moved in advance, in a body. Men, women and children on their
skees moved after them with great rapidity, with their dogs to help them
in the work of keeping the herd together. They all shouted and urged the
dogs to look out, but this required, I thought, no urging, for the dogs
were on the alert and knew what to do. In the rear were three Lapps with
their dogs driving the reindeer forward; the dogs barked behind the
heels of the animals, and once in a while would bite the legs of those
that did not move fast enough.

The women worked just as hard as the men, and those who had babies
carried them in their cradles, slung on their backs, and went as fast on
their skees as if they had been free from burdens. The babies were
evidently very comfortable, for they were very quiet.

It was a fine sight to see the herd of over three thousand reindeer on
the move over the vast plain of snow. After two hours we arrived at the
place of our encampment.

The Lapps hurried the putting up of the tent. The snow had been
shovelled from the place where it was to stand. They were laying the
birch twigs for a floor, and skins were put on the top of these;
alongside of the tent inside boxes and firewood were placed, and outside
snow was piled along the sides, also. This was to prevent the wind
coming in. In the mean time the reindeer had been unharnessed and some
of the sleighs unloaded.

Just then Pehr Wasara exclaimed: "Paulus, we are going to have a great
windstorm very soon. That is the reason we are in so much of a hurry."

He was right. Soon after the wind began to rise and blew stronger and
stronger, hissing and striking against the tent. In another moment we
were in the midst of a hurricane. I thought every instant that our tent
would be blown away and the woollen canvas torn to pieces.

The snow was flying thickly in the air. I said to myself: "If our tent
is blown away I will get into my reindeer bags." I was astonished to see
that the tent could withstand the storm, but the frame was well knit
together, and the woollen vadmal being porous allowed the wind to pass
through and did not give the resistance that canvas would have done. If
the tent had been made of canvas I am sure the frame could not have
withstood the pressure and fury of the blast. The door was protected
from the violence of the wind, which struck against the tent on the
other side.

The reindeer had huddled close together and stood still, except that now
and then those which were outside wanted to go inside and let some of
the other animals bear the brunt of the storm. I noticed that many of
the bulls formed the outer ring, thus protecting the female reindeer.
The poor fellows on the outside had a hard time of it. All the herd
faced the wind.

Inside the tent, when everybody was in, we were packed close together,
including the dogs. In spite of all the drawbacks the tent was
comfortable compared with the weather outside. A blazing fire, over
which hung a kettle full of reindeer meat, sent the smoke into our
faces; but we were thinking of the warm broth and of the good meal we
were going to have, and we laughed merrily and did not care for the
storm. The Lapps knew that the tent would stand the hurricane. The dogs
were in the way of everybody; the Lapps continually drove them out, but
soon after they were in again.

How nice the broth was when we drank it! How good the meat tasted! This
was a splendid meal.

When it was time to go to sleep I took off my shoes and stockings, and
carefully put the Lapp grass with the stockings on my breast to dry the
moisture, for the fine snow came through the smoke hole. Then I got into
my two bags and said good-night to the family.

I was bothered by the dogs during the night. They were no sooner driven
out than they would come in to huddle with the people. One tried to come
into my bag and awoke me. I did not blame the poor dogs, for it was far
more comfortable inside than outside. When I awoke in the morning the
weather was fine, there was no wind, and some of the Lapps took the
reindeer to their new pasture.

After breakfast, my host and I drove to see some of his friends who had
pitched their tent some forty or fifty miles from us. On our way we
entered a large forest of fir trees, and soon after found ourselves in
the midst of a number of deep holes dug by reindeer in order to reach
the moss. We also saw furrows made by Lapp sleighs and tracks of skees.
The holes increased in number as we got deeper into the forest, and
driving instead of being a pleasure became a hard task. There was no
mistake about that. Our little sleighs pitched forward, then side-wise,
and rolled on one side or the other. I had the hardest work to keep
inside. At last I was pitched into one of the holes with my sleigh
almost on top of me. This was no joke. Fortunately I had undone the
twist of my rein round my wrist, for I did not wish to be dragged
against a tree in case I did upset. I was soon in my sleigh again,
however, and before long Pehr Wasara said: "We shall come to the tent of
my friend very soon." He had hardly uttered these words when we heard
the fierce barking of dogs announcing our arrival. Soon after we found
ourselves before a tent.

These dogs were strange looking, a breed I had never seen; they had the
dark color of the brown bear, and were without tails. A man came out to
silence them. He was the owner of the tent, the friend of Pehr Wasara.
He bade us in, we were made welcome, and the snuffbox was passed around.
Coffee was made and served to us with true Lapp hospitality, but to my
taste it was seasoned with a little too much salt.

We had a grand time. A big kettle filled with reindeer meat was cooked,
and Pehr Wasara told his friend all the news, and how his son had come
with me to see him. The place of honor was given to us in the tent; we
slept well, under a lot of skins, and the next morning after breakfast
we bade our host and his family good-bye.

We had not been gone long when I saw something very strange ahead. An
exclamation escaped from me. I stopped. I thought I saw the ground
covered with hares. I could see them moving. "What are such great
numbers of hares doing here?" I said to myself. They moved in such a
strange manner; they seemed to jump, or rather leap. Suddenly I saw my
mistake. "These are not hares," I exclaimed; "but the tails of reindeer
just above the snow. That is all I see of their bodies. The rest is
hidden. They have dug the snow and are eating the moss, and their tails
are in motion." I had never seen such a sight before. It was a queer
landscape; over two thousand tails shaking above the snow at about the
same time. This herd also belonged to Pehr Wasara, who was smiling all
over when he saw how amazed I was at this sight.

[Illustration: "They were really working hard for their living."]

Then we continued our journey, and soon found ourselves in the midst of
hundreds and hundreds of reindeer of all sizes. They were just beginning
to dig the snow with their fore legs. How strange was the sight! As we
passed among them they were not in the least afraid of us. They were
left to themselves. There were no dogs with them, and no people to
watch.

Every reindeer was working as hard as he could, busily digging in the
snow. They were evidently hungry. I said to Pehr Wasara: "Let us stay
here a while; I want to watch the reindeer working." Pehr, who had been
accustomed to see reindeer all his life, wondered at my curiosity, which
seemed rather to amuse him. They dug with the right fore foot, then with
the left, rested at times, then worked again. It was hard work indeed,
but the holes got larger and larger. The bodies gradually disappeared in
the holes they made, and were partly hidden by the little mounds of snow
coming from these holes, until only the tails of many could be seen.
They had reached the moss of which they were so fond. They were really
working hard for their living.

Some of the female reindeer were working with a will, while the young
does were looking on, and when the moss had been reached the mothers
called the calves by a peculiar grunt and let them feed by their side.

After looking at the reindeer for a while, we continued our journey and
were completely lost in the midst of deep holes made by the thousands of
reindeer. Wherever we turned we discovered holes and mounds, until we
came to fresh furrows of sleighs and knew that these led to an
encampment. We had succeeded in getting out of the honeycombed track
into a smooth and open region.

All at once I noticed that Pehr Wasara was going much faster than I did.
I was losing ground. His reindeer seemed now to fly over the snow.
Suddenly he disappeared; he was going down a hill. Now it was the turn
of my reindeer to go fast. I prepared myself for the occasion, for I did
not know how steep was the descent. I said to myself, "Paul, you must
not upset; bend your body on the opposite side when the sleigh makes the
curve, and be quick when the time arrives. Do this in the nick of time."

Down I went. The animal reached the bottom, and before I knew it made a
sharp curve to prevent the sleigh striking his legs. I gave a shout of
joy. I had not upset. I felt quite proud.

At the next hill I was more proud than ever, for Pehr Wasara upset and I
did not, but I had never seen a Lapp get quicker into a sleigh than he
did. Further on Pehr stopped and waited for me. When I came to him I
found myself on the edge of a long and very abrupt hill, and he said:
"This hill is too steep, we must descend it in long zigzags, so that the
sleighs may not strike the legs of our reindeer, for if we do not do
this the sleigh will go faster than the reindeer. Follow in my track,
and use your stick with skill to guide the sleigh. Your reindeer will
follow mine without trouble."

Hill after hill was ascended and descended. Now I had got the knack. At
every sharp curve I managed to bend my body out on the other side in
time, and thus avoided being thrown out. Then we came to a forest of
large fir trees, which surprised me, for we were in 69 degrees latitude.

The trees were very thick. Pehr Wasara alighted and led his reindeer,
for fear of striking against them, and I did likewise. It was a relief
to move one's legs, for it is very tiresome to sit for hours with legs
stretched out. Afterwards we got again into our sleighs, and at the end
of a pleasant drive we reached our own tent and I was received with a
hearty welcome by the family.

The next day Pehr said to me, "We are going to kill some reindeer this
morning, for the skins of the animals are at their best now and their
fur is very thick. We want clothing, shoes, and gloves. With their
sinews we will make our thread. We want also new reins, new traces, new
lassos."

In the afternoon eight reindeer were brought before the tent. These were
to be slaughtered. My host said to me: "Paulus, we are going to show you
how we slaughter our reindeer." An old bull was brought forward and one
of the Lapps seized the animal by the antlers, and by a peculiar twist,
without apparently great effort, threw him on his back. Then he thrust a
long, sharp, narrow knife deeply between his forelegs until it pierced
the heart, where he let it remain. The poor creature rose dazed, turned
round upon himself twice, then tottered and fell dead.

I did not like the sight, but I was studying the life of the Laplanders
and I had to see everything for myself. After the blood had accumulated
in the cavity of the chest it was removed and put into a bladder. The
intestines were taken out and washed. The skin belonging to the forehead
between the eyes, and from the knees to the hoofs, was cut off from the
rest of the hide.

"This," said Pehr Wasara, "will be for shoes and gloves;" and each piece
was stretched on wooden frames, likewise the skin of the carcass. The
tongues were set aside, the host saying to me, "If it were summer we
would smoke them." The sinews were collected for thread.

The other reindeer were then butchered, and the meat placed on the racks
outside of the tent.




CHAPTER XV

WATCHING FOR THE REAPPEARANCE OF THE SUN. - THE UPPER RIM FIRST
VISIBLE. - THE WHOLE ORB SEEN FROM A HILL. - DAYS OF SUNSHINE AHEAD.


I watched the horizon every day towards noon, hoping to see the sun, for
the light was getting brighter and brighter. The glow of the hidden sun
was so great at noon that it looked as if sunrise were going to take
place. How disappointed I felt when the glow became less and less, as
the unseen sun sank lower without showing itself. Then came to my mind
the coast of New Jersey, where in the early morning I had often watched
for the appearance of the sun above the horizon, in the long glow that
preceded sunrise.

One day I saw a golden thread above the snowy horizon. It was the upper
rim of the sun. I watched, hoping to see the whole sun. But it was at
its meridian, and in a very short time the golden thread had disappeared
and the sun was on its downward course. I shouted, "Dear Sun, how much I
should like to see you. I am so tired of beholding only the stars and
the moon. I am longing for sunshine."

Near by was a hill. A sudden thought came into my mind. I said to
myself, "If I ascend this hill I shall see the whole sun, as the
greater height will make up for the curvature of the earth."

I ran, and soon was ascending the hill. After a while I stopped, turned
round, and looked where I had seen the golden thread. I saw about half
the sun. I climbed higher as fast as I could, and when I reached the top
of the hill I saw the whole sun. I shouted, "Dear Sun, I love you. I
love sunshine. Come and reign once more on this part of the earth. Come
and cheer me, and drive away the 'Long Night.'"

I watched the sun until it disappeared. Oh! I wished the hill had been
higher so that I could have ascended it and kept seeing the sun.

When I came to the bottom of the hill I said, "I do not wonder that in
ancient times there were people who worshipped the sun, for without the
sun we could not exist on the earth, for nothing would grow."

I felt like a new being, for I had seen the sun and its sight had filled
me with joy. Days of sunshine were coming, and I gave three cheers with
a tiger for the sun.

I had had enough of the "Long Night." I wanted to see a sky without
stars and also the pale moon during the day.

The following day the glow above the horizon became more brilliant, and
towards noon the sun rose slowly above the snow; but only about half of
its body made its appearance. It was of a fiery red. Then it gradually
sank. The third day the whole of the sun appeared above the horizon,
then in a short time sank below. As it disappeared I imagined the sun
saying to me: "Day after day I will rise higher and higher in the sky
and shine a longer time. I bring with me joy and happiness. I will
gradually transform 'The Land of the Long Night' into a land of sunshine
and brightness. I will bring the spring; with me flowers will appear,
the trees will be adorned with leaves, grass will grow, the land will be
green; I will make gentle winds to blow, the rivers will be free and
roll their crystal waters, the birds will come and sing. Man will be
happy and gather the harvest that grows under my rays and husband it for
the days of winter."




CHAPTER XVI

WOLVES THE GREAT FOE OF THE LAPPS. - HOW THE REINDEER ARE PROTECTED
AGAINST THEM. - WATCHING FOR THE TREACHEROUS BRUTES. - STORIES OF
THEIR SAGACITY.


After the reappearance of the sun I came to a region where the Lapps
among whom I lived were in great fear of wolves, for three packs of them
had made their appearance in the forests about one hundred and fifty
miles away to the eastward, and the news had come to the people.

One day as I was in the tent watching the meal that was being cooked,
one of the Lapps said to me, "We dread the wolves. No animal is as
cunning as a wolf when he is hungry, and the Chief of the Pack is chosen
by them as their leader because he is the most cunning of them all."

"What do you mean," I asked, "by the Chief of the Pack being chosen?"

He replied, "The wolves are very intelligent, and they choose their
leader just as people do. They select the one among them that can lead
them where there is prey."

Then he added, with a tone of sadness in his voice: "Our life is one of
constant vigilance, and old and young are continually on the lookout for
wolves. We have not suffered from them for three years, but they may
appear suddenly at any moment when we think they are far away. When
wolves attack our herds the reindeer scatter in great fright in every
direction to long distances, and we have very hard work in bringing them
together again. When they have once been attacked by the wolves they
become very suspicious, and take fright easily, and at the least alarm
run away. After their flight they roam in small bodies without any one
to watch over them, or dogs to look out for their enemies, and they
become an easy prey to the wolves. Sometimes the herd is destroyed, and
the rich Lapp becomes suddenly poor. Yes," he added with flashing eyes,
and in a loud tone, "the wolves are our greatest enemies. We kill them
whenever we can."

He remained thoughtful for a little while and then proceeded: "Reindeer
bulls have more fight in them than the females, and sometimes fight
successfully one wolf; but what can they do against a pack of them? Our
life is a hard one indeed when wolves are around, for we have to be
constantly on the watch night and day. The wolves are so wary that they
always approach a reindeer or a herd of them when the wind blows from
the herd towards them, so that neither dogs nor reindeer can scent
them."

"I hope," I said to myself, "that I shall see bull reindeer fight some
of these treacherous wolves and get the better of them; besides I will
make them taste my buckshot, and kill them before the poor reindeer is
overpowered."

After this conversation we went on our skees to scour the country for
wolves, but there were none to be seen, and we returned in time for our
dinner.

The following day, as we stood in front of our tent watching the sun
above the horizon, we saw in the distance a black speck coming over the
snow. We watched! What could it be? The speck came nearer, and we
recognized a woman with a bludgeon coming towards us as fast as her
skees could carry her. As soon as she was within hearing distance she
shouted, "Wolves! Wolves!" The dreaded news had come; the wolves had
made their appearance in our district.

She stopped when she reached us, and with one voice the Lapps asked her
when the wolves had been seen, and if they had attacked any herd. "No,"
she answered, "but they will soon do so, for the tracks of three packs
have been seen." She had hardly spoken these words when she bade us
good-bye, and was on her way to some of her family who had pitched their
tent about four miles from where we were. The bludgeon she carried for
defence against the wolves.

Soon every man, woman, and child of our tent were on their skees. The
men armed themselves with heavy bludgeons and guns and, followed by all
the dogs, we started for the herd, taking a lot of reindeer meat with
us. Now there was to be an increased watch day and night.

I followed the Lapps on my skees, and though I lagged behind, as I could
not go as fast as they did, one of the girls remained with me to show me
the way, and now and then she would stop and scan the country for
wolves.

I was armed with my double-barrelled shotgun loaded with buckshot. "Oh,
if I could encounter the wolves," I said to myself, "what havoc I would
make amongst them."

When we came to the herd we told those who were on the watch the news of
the appearance of wolves. Immediately preparations were made to discover
their whereabouts.

Some of the people went in different directions to reconnoitre, all
armed with their heavy bludgeons. They shouted as they left: "We will
show the wolves if we meet and chase them on our skees what our
bludgeons can do. We will smash their heads and break their legs."

Towards dark, when they returned, they had seen no wolves nor their
tracks. "The wolves are so cunning and their ways are so unknown to us
that we must be on the lookout all night," said the Lapps to me.

Then we partook of our reindeer meat, which had been kept between our
clothing and our chests to prevent it from freezing. It is not pleasant
to eat a frozen piece of meat as hard as a rock. But I had learned not
to be so very particular. Otherwise I should never have been able to
travel in the country.

The moon was on the wane. When it rose it cast its dim light upon the
snow. It was a very busy night for the Lapps, for the reindeer had to be
kept together and required constant watching.

The dogs acted with great intelligence; they seemed to know that their
masters dreaded the wolves; they barked continually, and looked once in
a while into the distance, moving away, as if to see if they could scent
the wolves afar off.

I walked with my skees slowly, looking off into the distance! Suddenly I
thought I saw far away a pack of them. I drew the attention of the Lapp
who was with me to the spot; but his eyes, accustomed to scan the snow,
soon discovered what it was. He said to me: "There are no wolves there;
only the top of some branches of birch trees above the snow."

All the Laplanders, men, women, and big boys and girls, remained on
their skees all night. The men were outside and made a circle round the
herd. The second circle was made by the women; the third circle, the
nearest to the reindeer, by the children. All shouted and yelled. I
yelled also - I thought it was great fun! The dogs barked as they
followed their masters or mistresses, going outside of the ring to look
for wolves. They were constantly urged; but little urging was required,
for almost all of them knew from past experience that it meant that the
herd had to be protected from wolves, for they had seen them come when
their masters were acting precisely as we were doing, and they were
ready for the fray.

If it had been a dark night, or if it had been snowing, we should have
been in a bad plight; but the moon was our friend. The night passed away
and the wolves had not made their appearance. When daylight came we
were all pretty tired, and we moved the reindeer nearer to the tent.
Then after the coffee was made and drunk, and some reindeer meat had
been eaten, we all huddled the best way we could into the tent, covered
ourselves with skins, and soon after fell asleep, leaving the care of
the reindeer to those who were on the watch and to the dogs - their
untiring and faithful friends.

When I awoke, three dogs were fast asleep near me - the dear dogs
required rest as well as ourselves; they had worked hard for their
masters all night. I remembered the time we had had during the night,
and said to myself, "Hard, indeed, is the life of the Laplander." The
reindeer lay on the snow. After breakfast they were taken a short
distance to pasture, and those who had slept watched them, ready to
fight the wolves if they came.

The news had spread quickly among the Lapps in the district that wolves
might make their appearance at any moment, and several families with
their tents came to camp near us and their herds were kept near ours for
mutual protection. We were numerous enough to fight a great number of
hungry wolves, and the country was scoured in every direction.

Numbers of juniper-brush fires were lighted at night where we had
cleared away the snow to scare off the wolves.

That evening the Lapps told wolf stories. One began thus:

"When wolves have lost the Chief of the Pack, they hold a council and
name another Chief, who they expect will lead them safely through their
wanderings and direct them when an attack is to be made. The wolves
understand each other perfectly well, and they obey the Chief of the
Pack. They often speak to each other with their eyes. This appears
wonderful, but it is so. But woe to the Chief when the wolves become


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Online LibraryPaul B. (Paul Belloni) Du ChailluThe Land of the Long Night → online text (page 7 of 16)