Paul B. (Paul Belloni) Du Chaillu.

The Land of the Long Night online

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dissatisfied with him. When they find that under his leadership they are
constantly starving, they agree among themselves to destroy him. They
then pounce upon him, kill him, and devour him. They have a way of
agreeing to do this without their Chief knowing what is to happen to
him. They pass judgment upon him and sentence him to die."

"Wonderful indeed," I said, "is the intelligence of the wolves, if what
you say is true."

"It is true," said the narrator, and the rest with one voice confirmed
him. "Wolves are as knowing as people, and we know some of their cunning
ways. The Chief of the Pack must often lead the wolves on long marches,
through forests and unbeaten tracks, over the snow to some place where
he supposes they will find prey. Besides he must not lead them into
ambush where they may be destroyed. The Chief must be not only cunning,
but brave also. We see them often, after they have discovered us, going
away or taking another direction than the one in which they were going.
It is simply to deceive us, to make us believe that they are going
away. Then they make a long detour and take our reindeer in our rear.
People say foxes are cunning, but the cunning of a fox is nothing to
compare to the cunning of a wolf."

"That is so," repeated all the Lapps.

Another man said: "When the Chief of the Pack becomes old, and is not
able to lead the wolves any more, the wolves kill him and eat him. When
two packs meet there is often a great fight between the two chiefs for
the mastery, and the defeated one runs away. Then his own pack over
which he ruled runs after him and kills him. Then they proclaim the
victor the new Chief and the two packs join forces. Often, when the
wolves make an attack, the Chief looks on with a few of his followers as
a reserve to see how things are going, and then rushes in with them to
insure victory."

After this story the Lapps lighted their pipes and puffed away. Then one
passed his snuffbox round, each taking a pinch of snuff. I took one, and
I had immediately a fit of sneezing that lasted quite a while, to the
great amusement of my Lapp friends. One of the latter then told the
following story:

"Some winters ago, while a number of us were on skees on our way to
church, which was about one hundred miles away, we saw in the distance
quite a number of wolves, following the Chief of the Pack. He was easily
recognized, not only because he seemed larger than the others, but
because he was always in the lead, and when he stopped they did
likewise. It was fortunate that we were on skees instead of in sleighs,
for the reindeer would have become unmanageable in their fright and
would certainly have been attacked by the wolves. We were armed with our
bludgeons, and three of us had guns. The wolves, which had seen us, came
in our direction and when at about a quarter of a mile from us stopped
and suddenly held a consultation, then advanced again towards us. When
they had come within shooting distance I aimed with my gun at the Chief
of the Pack, who stood by himself, and killed him. Immediately the other
wolves precipitated themselves upon him and fought over his body and
devoured him. In the mean time we shot two others. Those likewise were
devoured by their comrades. It did not take the wolves much time to
devour their three companions. It was done in the twinkling of an eye.
The wolves were so voracious because they had not eaten for several
days. This is the time when they follow men and sometimes attack them
when they are a large pack together.

"The other wolves made off, cowed by the death of their three comrades,
but soon stopped and held a consultation among themselves again, and
soon we saw one among them take the lead. This was the new Chief of the
Pack that had been chosen by them. Then they walked towards us again,
and we were ready to meet them on our skees. Our object was to kill this
new Chief of the Pack. I aimed at him and succeeded in killing him also.
He had hardly fallen when he was set upon and devoured. Now the
appetite of the wolves was more or less satisfied, and after we had
killed another they fled as they saw him fall; once in a while they
looked back towards us, but having no chief they did not know what to do
until they had chosen another - and they disappeared in the distance."



The following day a great snowstorm swept over the land, and during that
time the Lapps were much in fear that prowling wolves would get into the
midst of their herds and that we should be unable to see them on account
of the storm.

When the snowstorm was over, the Lapps said to me: "We are going to
scour the country for miles around and look out for wolves, for now is a
good time to hunt them because the snow is soft. They sink into it as
they run, and we can go much faster than they do on our skees, and so
overtake them and fell them with our bludgeons." And they asked if I
would accompany them.

"Yes," I replied, without hesitation, and added, "I hope we shall meet

The Lapps left by twos and threes and went in different directions. One
of them and myself took our way directly east.

After travelling a few miles I espied a black speck very far away, for I
am long-sighted. This at first I thought to be the top of birch trees
above the snow, as before; but I was not quite sure, and as I walked
along on my skees I kept a sharp lookout. Suddenly I thought the black
spot was moving. I stopped and watched. There was no mistake, the spot
was moving. It was a large pack of wolves. And they were apparently
coming towards us. I called to my companion, and pointing to the spot
said to him: "Look there. I think I see wolves." He looked for a while,
then with glittering eyes he said, "Paulus, you are right; they are

We stood still to watch them. The spot was getting bigger and bigger as
the wolves came nearer. They made a large pack; but they were still too
far away for us to be able to guess how many there were. I wondered if
they were coming to attack us. They certainly would if they had had no
food for several days, for hunger makes them very bold and fierce.

I looked at my gun. It was all right. My pouch was filled with buckshot
cartridges. My hunting knife hung by my side. My Lapp held his bludgeon
tightly in his hands. No wolf could run as fast as he could when he was
on his skees, and he could run away from them if he was not equal to the
contest and if there were too many after him.

"The wolves have perhaps scented the reindeer," said he; "they have to
come in our direction to reach the herds."

Not far from where we stood was a big boulder that was not entirely
buried in the snow. "Let us hide behind it, and watch," said my

After we had come to the boulder, the Lapp hid at one end of it, I at
the other. From our hiding-place we could peep out and keep a sharp
lookout on the wolves.

The wolves were coming nearer and nearer. I tried to count them, and I
thought there were about thirty. I soon recognized the Chief of the
Pack. He was bigger and appeared darker than the rest. He was walking
quite ahead of all the pack. They seemed to become more cautious as they
neared us. What was the reason? We held a consultation. The Lapp said,
"The wind has shifted and is blowing from the wolves towards us, so they
cannot scent us, and it is by mere chance they are coming in this
direction. They have evidently come from the great Finland forest east
of us."

Suddenly the Chief of the Pack stopped, and all the wolves stopped also.
Then he advanced alone slowly while the remainder of the pack stood
still. Then the wolves came to join him. They were now evidently holding
a consultation, talking wolf fashion among themselves, or listening to
their Chief, who had something to say. "What are the wolves up to?" I
inquired of the Lapp.

"They are planning some mischief," he replied.

[Illustration: "The Lapp passed him like a flash and gave him a terrible

Then they divided themselves into two packs, the old Chief having the
greater number of wolves with him. The new pack with its Chief turned to
the right, the ones with the old Chief remaining at the same place. I
said to the Lapp, "How strange is the wolves' behavior! Apparently the
long conversation they had among themselves was to arrange a plan of
campaign and to divide themselves into two packs."

"That is so," replied he. "Wolves are very knowing, and by their tactics
fool us very often."

I replied, "We will try to fool them this time, and kill many of them.
The reindeer must be protected."

"I believe," continued the Lapp, "that the new pack that has left is
going to take our reindeer in the rear and attack them, and those which
remain here are going to wait for this attack. The reindeer in their
fright will run in the opposite direction and fall into the midst of
these wolves that we see, and which are waiting for them. The cunning of
wolves is wonderful. When a pack attacks a herd of reindeer there are
always some of them lying in wait somewhere else.

"You stay here and watch. I must go and warn our people that the wolves
have come among us. We have been expecting them every hour. It is very
seldom when their tracks are seen that they do not attack our reindeer.
I will return very soon."

"All right," I said. I had plenty of buckshot, and with my back to the
boulder I was not afraid of being attacked in the rear, and I could face
them without fear, fire at them, and kill a number of them.

After the Lapp had gone I watched the pack carefully. The wolves stood
still for a long time. They were looking in a certain direction. I tried
to find what they were looking at, but saw nothing. Suddenly they
advanced, turning away slightly from the boulder, then walked faster,
headed by the Chief of the Pack. There seemed to be great excitement
among them. I looked in the direction whither they were moving, when I
saw a lot of reindeer coming towards them, pursued by wolves from behind
and Lapps and dogs following them. What the Lapp had said had come to
pass; the wolves had attacked the reindeer in the rear, and the pack
that had stood still was ready for the fray and to attack them in front.
I was also prepared for the fight - ready to kill all the wolves I could.

Now I saw reindeer in every direction - wolves among them, and the Lapps
everywhere, moving at great speed on their skees. They seemed to fly
over the snow. Suddenly I saw one coming near a wolf which was running
after a reindeer, and passing by his side give with his bludgeon a blow
that broke the back of the beast, which gave a fearful howl. In the mean
time the Lapp wheeled round, came back, and finished him by a blow on
the head.

I saw further on a poor reindeer in his death struggle with two wolves
that had fastened upon his neck. Two Lapps had seen this also, and armed
with their bludgeons they came at full speed, and as quick as the flight
of an arrow they passed on each side of the poor reindeer and broke the
fore legs of the wolves, which fell on their backs howling. The Lapps
wheeled round, returned and gave them two terrific blows on their heads,
which stunned them; then they killed them. I had heard the sound of the

The wolves had become very fierce in their attacks. I wanted to pursue
them on my skees, but unfortunately I was not skilful enough to do so.
The reindeer were fleeing, pursued by the wolves which were in their
midst. It was a fight for life. I saw four wolves attacking a bull while
he was charging one of them and had almost pierced him with his antlers.
The three other wolves sprang upon him, their big teeth in his flesh. He
ran with them for a while, then the noble animal fell.

Another wolf came near me and succeeded in bringing down a young
reindeer that was running away with all his might. I sent a lot of
buckshot through him and killed him on the spot, but I was too late to
save the life of the poor reindeer; and in an instant the dying wolf was
attacked by his voracious comrades, which precipitated themselves upon
him and tore him to pieces and devoured him. I looked at this scene with
so much astonishment that I forgot to fire another shot at the wolves.

Several wolves were killed, and at last all were put to flight. Our
victory was complete. I recognized the Chief of the Pack among the
slain. What a big fellow he was! What ugly-looking teeth he had! The
wolves after this attack were completely disorganized, and fled in
different directions.

In the mean time my Lapp, true to his word, had rejoined me. He said:
"These wolves understand each other, and have agreed among themselves to
meet somewhere in the great forest east of us. They will visit us again
in small packs, so we must be on the watch constantly." Then with a sigh
he said: "Now we are going to have a hard time to bring the reindeer of
each owner together."

The day after the slaying of the wolves, I bade good-bye to the Lapps
and once more started to wander over the great snowy waste of "The Land
of the Long Night."

[Illustration: "It was a fight for life!"]



I was once more travelling westward, and two days afterward fell in with
another company of nomadic Lapps. We became, as usual, good friends.

One day they said to me: "Paulus, the snow is in a very fine condition
for skeeing, and we are going to have some fun among ourselves, and run
down steep hills on our skees and try our skill in making leaps in the
air across a chasm there is over yonder, with a river beyond, and find
out who can make the longest leap and be the champion. We want you to
come with us, for there will be great fun."

I replied, "I am certainly coming, for I have never seen such a game
before, and I like fun. Yes, boys, I like fun." They laughed heartily
when they heard me say this.

We made ready, and started on our skees, and after a run of about four
miles the Lapps stopped near the edge of a long and very steep hill, at
the foot of which was a plain.

There they said to me: "There is a wide gully, which you cannot see,
before reaching the bottom of the hill, and further down is a river. We
will go down this hill and leap over both the gully and the river on our
skees. Of course, the greater our speed, the longer the leap we make.
The danger is in not being able to reach the ledge on the other side;
but this makes the fun more exciting. It is very seldom, however, that
accidents happen, for no one undertakes these dangerous leaps unless he
is very sure of himself."

"What happens then," I asked, "if the leap falls short?"

"Then," he answered, "you may break your leg, or arm, or your neck; but
I do not know of any such misfortunes happening, though we hear once in
a great while in the mountains of an accident which results in death.
One of the great dangers in skeeing is that of striking a boulder hidden
under the crust of snow, or of falling over an unseen precipice. When we
are small children we learn to leap forward in the air and come down on
our skees, beginning by making small leaps from insignificant heights,
increasing the leap gradually as we have more practice, and so becoming
stronger and more agile and skilful in going down a hill."

Thereupon the Lapps took up their position along the brink of the hill
and stood in a straight line about ten or fifteen yards from each other.
It was a fine sight. At a given signal they started on their skees,
holding in one hand their sticks to be used as rudders to guide them.
They slid down at tremendous speed; suddenly I saw them fly through the
air, and then land below on their skees. They had leaped over the gully.
Then they continued their course faster than before, on account of the
momentum of the leap, and as they reached the bottom of the hill they
made another leap in the air, which took them over the river to the
plain beyond. After going a little further, for they could not stop at
once, they came to a halt. Then returning they examined the leaps, to
see who among them had made the longest one.

After they had ascertained who was the champion in the first contest,
they continued to ascend the hill in zigzags on their skees, and after
this tiresome task they came to where they had left me.

I said to them, "Friends, I am going down the hill, for I shall then be
able to see better your great leaping feats, and how wide and deep is
the space you leap over, for from the top of the hill it cannot be seen.
Wonderful, indeed, are your skill and daring! Such tremendous leaps as
you made can never be accomplished by man except on skees. I wish I
could have been brought up to go on skees like yourselves, from my
childhood, then I should enjoy this greatly, and compete for the
championship. It is far better fun than skating." "Certainly," they
shouted with one voice, "there is ten times more fun in skeeing than in
skating. It is like all sports, the more danger there is in them the
greater are the excitement and the interest."

"But," said I, "I must go down this hill in a roundabout way, for I do
not want to fall into the hollow over which you leaped."

"It would not hurt you," they cried; "you would find plenty of snow at
the bottom if you should fall in." It was agreed that one of the Lapps
should go with me and show me the way through a less steep descent to
the chasm. We made the descent successfully, and came to a good position
from which I could see the men make the great leap.

Looking up, I saw all the Lapps in position ready for the descent and
waiting for the raising of the little American flag I always carried
with me, - a custom which dates from the time of my travels in Africa - as
the signal to start. As I unfolded it, I kissed it with great affection.
How beautiful the stars and stripes looked as they waved in the breeze
and over the snow!

At this signal the Lapps started. Suddenly I noticed that one of
them - the last one in the row - bore down directly upon me. "Goodness!" I
said to my companion, pointing out to him the Lapp above, "suppose this
man as he comes down should happen to strike me."

The Lapp heard me with a smile, and replied: "Paulus, do not be afraid;
he will guide his skees as skilfully as a skilful boatman steers his
boat. I think perhaps he intends to touch you with his hands as he
passes by you, so do not be frightened; do not move an inch; he is one
of the most skilful among us."

[Illustration: "Suddenly I saw them fly through the air."]

He had hardly finished these words when the Lapp with railroad speed
and dangerously close bore down upon me, and before I could realize it
passed in front of me within three feet, without however touching me, as
my companion had predicted. Still it took my breath away; my heart beat
so quickly. Down he went. Before I had time to recover I saw the Lapps
in the air, over the chasm, then in the twinkling of an eye they had
alighted on the other side. Their momentum was very great, and in less
than a minute they had leaped over the river, and continued their
forward course, which they could not stop, on the plain below; then
lessened their speed gradually with the help of their sticks, the ends
of which were thrust deep in the snow.

It was a grand sight. As they leaped over their legs were somewhat bent,
and as they struck the snow they righted themselves. While in the air
they maintained their skees parallel, as if they had been on the snow,
and when they alighted the skees were on a perfect level with each
other; no man seemed to be more than two or three feet ahead of another.

I had followed their motions with great curiosity. They seemed to give a
spring as they came near the brink of the chasm, bending their bodies
forward, straightening themselves as they struck the snow, and
continuing their way as if nothing had happened.

On their way back, as they neared me I shouted, "Good for you, boys!
Good for you! It was splendid." I shook hands with every one of them.
They were very much excited over the sport.

The hollow over which they leaped seemed to be about ninety-five feet
wide, and the place from which they sprang was about twelve or fifteen
feet above the bank on the other side. They told me that some of the
great leaps in the country had been over one hundred and twenty-five

"Is it possible!" I exclaimed; "it seems incredible."

Then the Lapp who had passed so near me said to me, "You were afraid I
would strike you on my way down. We can pass an object far below us
within a few inches when we like. We will show you how we do by and by."

The Lapps once more ascended the hill, and I took a new position by the
river and waited for them to come down. They started in the same way as
before and came down with very great speed, leaped over the gully, and
in an instant, seemingly, they were in the air over the river - a leap of
about sixty or seventy feet.

I shouted again, "Well done, boys! Well done!" I was terribly excited

Then they came to me and said: "Now we are going to have a new game."
They planted several sticks in the snow in different positions on the
declivity of the hill, and said, "Paulus, we are going to show you how
near we can come to those sticks; we will almost touch them with our

When they were ready I raised my flag. They came down the hill almost
with the same rapidity as before, but pushed their guiding sticks deeper
into the snow; and most of them came within a few inches of the sticks.

After passing one they would change their direction and move to another,
either on the left or right, further down.

This terminated the day's sport. We returned to our encampment. I had
had a day of great delight.



Now I kept a sharp lookout over the horizon as we drove along, for I
thought wolves might make their appearance again at any moment. My Lapp
guide was also apprehensive.

When we stopped for our meals he said to me, "If our reindeer scent or
see wolves, they will become uncontrollable. It will be impossible for
us to stop them, and if we try to keep in our sleighs we shall be surely
upset, for the animals will be so wild from fright. We had better have
our skees handy, so that we can throw them out of our sleighs and then
jump out ourselves."

Then, brandishing his bludgeon, he said fiercely, "I will make short
work of some of them. They will never run after any more reindeer."

I brandished my gun, and cried, "Woe to the wolves if they come near us.
I will give them enough buckshot to make them jump."

We continued our journey, the Lapp keeping close to me. Suddenly he
stopped and said, "Paulus, I am going to tie your sleigh behind mine
and fasten your reindeer to it. I do not know why, but I have an idea,
somehow, that there are wolves around, and I expect to see them at any
moment. At any rate it is better to be prepared for them."

After my sleigh was attached as he had said, we resumed our journey, I,
quietly seated in my sleigh, having no reindeer to drive, only using my
stick as a rudder. About two hours afterwards as we skirted a forest of
fir trees we suddenly saw two wolves skulking in the distance.
Fortunately we discovered them before the reindeer did. We threw out our
skees, and then the Lapp with his bludgeon and I with my gun jumped out.
We were hardly out when our reindeer scented the wolves and plunged
wildly in their efforts to escape, and we had to let them go, for we
could not hold them.

The Lapp in an instant was on his skees armed with his bludgeon. He made
directly for the wolves at tremendous speed. He seemed to fly over the
snow, and before I knew it he had slain a wolf by giving him a mighty
blow on his skull. Then like a bird of prey he made for the other wolf.
The animal stood still, ready to bite him, but the Lapp passed by him
like a flash and gave him a terrible blow on his mouth which broke his
teeth. Then after he had stopped the speed of his skees, he turned back
and gave him his deathblow.

After he had taken breath, he said to me, "Paulus, wait here, for you

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Online LibraryPaul B. (Paul Belloni) Du ChailluThe Land of the Long Night → online text (page 8 of 16)