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THE ETERNAL MAIDEN

A Novel

by

T. EVERETT HARRÉ

Published by
Mitchell Kennerley
New York

Press of J. J. Little & Ives Company
East Twenty-fourth Street
New York

1913







TO

EDGAR WILSON RIDDELL

JANUARY 31, 1892 - JULY 2, 1912


IN MEMORY OF

A LIFE'S SUPREME FRIENDSHIP




THE ETERNAL MAIDEN

PRELUDE

_Long ages ago, darkness brooded over the frozen world and held in its
thrall the unreleased waters of the glacial seas. There was no animal
life upon the land, and in the depth of the waters no living thing
stirred. Kokoyah, the water god, breathed not; Tornahhuchsuah, the
earth spirit, who rules above the spirits of the wind and air, was
veiled in slumber. Men had risen like willows from the frozen earth;
but, although they lived, they were as the dead. They spake not,
neither did they hunt, nor eat, nor did they die. Then the Great
Spirit, whose name is not known, placed upon earth a man, in his arms
the strength to kill, in his heart the primal urge of love. And in
that flowerless arctic Eden, out of its bounteous compassion, the Great
Spirit placed also a maiden, her face beautiful with the young
virginity of the world, in her bosom implanted a yearning, not unmixed
with fear, for love. Gazing upon her, the youth's heart stirred, with
desire, the maiden's with virginal terror. The maiden fled, the youth
followed. Over the desolate icy mountains the fleet feet of the youth
sped with the swiftness of the wind gods, over the silent white seas
the maiden with the elusiveness of the air spirits. In the heart of
the youth throbbed the passion of love, indomitable, eternal, which the
blasting breath of time should never kill. In the maiden's bosom
quaked a reasonless shame, an unconquerable terror. Surrounded by her
whirling cloud of hair, the maiden sprang, untiring, across the wild
white world. His strength failing, the youth pantingly followed.
Thousands of years passed; the breathless pursuit continued; the
maiden's nebulous hair became shot with streaks of golden fire, from
her eyes beams of light streamed across the expanses over which she
exultantly, fearfully bounded; the tremulous faltering youth's face
paled until it shone silvery in the darkness, and the beads of
perspiration on his forehead glowed with a strange lustre. Reaching,
in their mad race, the very edge of the earth, the maiden leaped,
fiery, into space, and her hair becoming suddenly molten, she became
the sun - the eternal maiden Sukh-eh-nukh, the beautiful, the
all-desired. Utterly exhausted, his wan arms yearningly outstretched,
the youth swooned after her into the heavens, and was transformed into
the moon - the ever-desiring, ever-sorrowing moon. In the smile of
Sukh-eh-nukh the seas melted. Walrus and narwhals, seals and whales
came into being on the bosom of Kokoyah; on the earth the snows
disappeared, and the brow of Tornahhuchsuah was crowned with green
grasses and starry flowers. Men hunted game, women laughed for joy;
they beat drums, they danced, they sang. By the eternal, unrequited
passion of the lovers in the skies, happiness and plenty came upon the
earth. But, with Light, came also Death. Jealous of men's happiness,
Perdlugssuaq, the Great Evil, brought sickness; he struck men on the
hunt, on the seas, in the mountains. He was ever feared. He made the
Great Dark terrible. But when the night became bright with the
love-lorn glamour of the moon, Perdlugssuaq was for the time forgotten;
in their hearts men felt a vague, tender, and ineffable stirring - the
lure of a passion stronger and stranger even than death. They gazed
upon the moon with instinctive, undefined pity. So, as the years
passed, and ages melted and remade the snows, the long day was golden
with the Beauty that is ever desired, the Ideal never attained; the
night was softly silver with the melancholy and eternal hope of the
deathless love that eternally desires, eternally pursues, and is
eternally denied._

Thus runs the Eskimo legend.




I

"_Her cheeks were flushed delicately with the soft pink of the lichen
flowers that bloom in the rare days of early summer. Her eyes played
with a light as elusive, as quick as the golden radiance on the seas._"


Great excitement prevailed among the members of the tribe. Along a
mottled green-and-brown stretch of shore, which rolled undulatingly
toward the icy fringe of the polar sea, more than twoscore hunters were
engaged in unusual activity. Some were lacing tight over the framework
the taut skin of their kayaks. Others sharpened harpoon points with
bits of flint. Tateraq busily cut long lashings from tanned walrus
hides. Maisanguaq deftly took these and pieced them together into long
lines, which were rolled in coils lasso-fashion. Arnaluk and a half
dozen others sat on their haunches, between their knees great balls
made of the entire hides of seals. With cheeks extended they blew into
these with gusto. Filled with air, the hides became floats, which were
attached to the leather lasso lines. The lines in turn were fastened
by Attalaq and Papik to harpoons, which were to be driven into the
walrus, the natives' chief prey of the arctic sea.

A babel of conversation swayed to and fro among this northernmost
fringe of the human race. Now and then it was drowned in the raucous,
deafening shriek of auks which swarmed from nearby cliffs and soared in
clouds over the shore.

"_Aveq soah_! Walrus! Walrus!" shouted Papik, tossing up his arms and
dancing, his brown face twisting with grotesque grimaces of joy.

"_Aveq soah! Aveq soah_!" He leaped in frenzy. He seized his harpoon
in mimicry of striking, and darted it up and down in the air. "Walrus!
Walrus!" he cried, and his feverish contagion spread through the crowd.

"_Aveq tedicksoah_! A great many walrus," echoed Arnaluk. "_Aveq
tedicksoah_! Walrus too many to count!"

They stopped their work and gathered in a group, Papik before them, his
arms pointing toward the sea. His eyes glistened.

To the south, _Im-nag-i-na_, the entrance to the polar sea, was hidden
by grayish mists which, as they shifted across the sun, palpitated with
running streaks of gold. From the veiled distance the sound of a
glacier exploding pealed over the waters like the muffled roar of
artillery. The sun, magnified into a great swimming disc by the rising
vapors, poured a rich and colorful light over the sea - it was a light
without warmth. In the turquoise sky overhead, the moving clouds
changed in hue from crimson to silver, and straggling flecks, like
diaphanous ribbons, became stained with mottled dyes. Against the
horizon, the arctic armada of eternally moving icebergs drifted slowly
southward and, like the spectral ships of the long dead Norsemen who
had braved these regions, flaunted the semblance of silver-gleaming
sails. The sea rose in great green emerald swells, the wave crests
broke in seething curls of silver foam, and in the troughs of
descending waters glittered cascades of celestial jewels. It was late
summer - the hour, midnight.

The keen eyes of the natives searched the seas.

To the south of where the watchers were gathered, the glacial heels of
the inland mountains step precipitously into the sea and rise to a
height of several thousand feet. At the base of these iron rocks,
corroded with the rust of interminable ages, the fragments of great
floes, like catapults, are tossed by the inrushing sea. Above, in
summertime, rises and falls constantly a black mist resembling shifting
cloud smoke. Millions of auks swarm from their moss-ensconced grottos;
an oppressive clamor beats the air. Along the ocean, where crevices of
the descending iron-chiselled cliffs are fugitively green with ribbons
of pale grass, downy-winged ducks purr, mating guillemots coo
incessantly, and tremulous oogzooks chirrup joyously to their young.

As the natives listened, a deep nasal bellowing from the far ocean
trembled in the air.

Not a man stirred. The sound vibrated into silence. The auks
screamed. Hawks shrilled. From the far interior valleys came the
echoed wolf-howling of Eskimo dogs. There the mountain tops,
perpetually covered with ice and snow, gleamed through the clouds with
running colors of amaranth, green and mottled gold. The air swam with
frigid fire. As the tribe stood in silence along the shore, a roar as
of gatling guns pealed from the mist-hidden heights. After a taut
moment of silence, a frightened scream rose from every living thing on
land and sea. Yet the group of men only bent their heads. Then, like
an undertone in the chorus of animate life, their quick ears detected
the long-drawn, hoarse call of walrus bulls. The howls of the dogs
from the distant mountain passes came nearer. More distant receded the
stertorous nasal bellow on the sea.

The natives feverishly leaped to their tasks. There was a note of
anxiety in their voices. Onto the forepart of the kayaks they placed
their weapons, leather lines, floats and drags. More than twoscore
boats were drawn over the land-adhering ice to the edge of the sea. A
fierce chatter brought all the women to the doors of their seal-skin
tents. They looked seaward and shook their heads with dismay.

"Many walrus - far away," the men shouted.

"No, no," the timid women returned. "Walrus too far
away - _Perdlugssuaq will strike you there_!"

Against the distant horizon mighty bergs loomed. In swift eddies of
water great floes swirled. The walrus were too far away to be seen.
Yet the opportunity of securing walrus was too rare to be missed; for
unless food and fuel were soon secured, starvation during the coming
winter confronted the tribe. The previous winter had been one of
unprecedented severity and had wiped out bears, and herds of caribou
and musk oxen. The summer season, which was now drawing to a close,
had been destitute of every kind of game. Musk oxen had been seldom
found and then only in the far inland valleys. Some blight of nature
seemed to have exterminated even the animals of the sea. The natives
had lived mainly on the teeming bird life. From the scrawny bodies of
the arctic birds, however, neither food that could be preserved nor
fuel to be burned in the lamps could be secured. On musk oxen the
tribes depend chiefly for hides and meat, and on walrus for both food
and fuel. The ammunition, brought by Danish traders the summer before,
was exhausted, so in the hunt they had for many sleeps to rely solely
upon their skill with their own primitive weapons. For months the
doughty hunters had gathered but few supplies. The prospect of the
coming winter was ominous indeed. Wandering up and down the coast in
their migrating excursions the tribes had scoured land and sea with but
meagre results. At the village from which they now heard the inspiring
walrus calls, a dozen visiting tribesmen - most of them in search for
wives as well as game - had gathered. Joy filled them in the prospect
of securing supplies - and possible success in love - at last.

As they launched their kayaks, in impatient haste lest the walrus drift
too far seaward, some one called:

"Ootah! Ootah!"

They gazed anxiously about. Ootah, the bravest and most distinguished
of the hunters, was missing. All the young men would gladly have
started without Ootah, but the elders, who knew his skill and the might
of his arm, were not willing.

To the younger men there was an added zest in the hunt; each felt in
the other a rival, and Ootah the one most to be feared. A feverish
anxiety, a burning desire to distinguish himself flushed the heart of
each brave hunter. For whoever brought back the most game, so they
believed, stood the best chance of winning the hand of Annadoah. Of
all the unmarried maidens of the tribes, none cooked so well, none
could sew so well as Annadoah, none was so skilled in the art of making
_ahttees_ and _kamiks_ as Annadoah. And, moreover, Annadoah was very
fair.

"Ootah! _aveq soah_! Hasten thou! The walrus are drifting to sea."

Attalaq rushed up to the village and paused at the tent of Annadoah.

"Ootah!" he called.

A voice from within replied.

"We start - the wind drifts - the walrus are carried to sea."

"I come!" replied Ootah.

The flap of the tent opened. The sunlight poured upon the face of the
young hunter. He smiled radiantly, with the self-assertion of youth,
the joy of life.

Ootah was graced with unwonted beauty. He was slight and agile of
limb; his body was supple and lithe; his face was immobile, beardless,
and with curving lips vividly red, a nose, small, with nostrils
dilating sensitively, and eyebrows heavily lashed, it possessed
something of the softness of a woman. His glistening black hair, bound
about his forehead by a narrow fillet of skins, fell riotously over his
shoulders. His eyes were large and dark and swam with an ardent light.

He turned.

"Thou wilt not place thy face to mine, Annadoah? Yet I love thee,
Annadoah. My heart melts as streams in springtime, Annadoah. My arms
grow strong as the wind, and my hand swift as an arrow for love of
thee, Annadoah. The joy the sight of thee gives me is greater than
that of food after starving in the long winter! Yea, thou wilt be
mine? Surely for my heart bursts for love of thee, Annadoah."

He leaned back, stretching his arms, but Annadoah shyly drew further
inside her shelter.

With a sigh he flung his leather line over his shoulder, seized his
harpoons, and stepped from the tent. His step was resilient and
buoyant, his slim body moved with the grace of an arctic deer. He
looked back as he reached the icy shore. Annadoah stood at the door of
her tent. Her parting laughter rang after him with the sweetness of
buntings singing in spring.

Ootah's heart leaped within him. Annadoah possessed a beauty rare
among her people. From her father, one of the brave white men who had
died with the Greely party years before at Cape Sabine, Annadoah had
inherited a delicacy and beauty more common indeed with the unknown
peoples of the south. Her face was fresh and smooth, and of a pale
golden hue. Her cheeks were flushed delicately with the soft pink of
the lichen flowers that bloom in the rare days of early summer. Her
eyes played with a light as elusive, as quick as the golden radiance on
the seas. Her dark silken hair straggled luxuriantly from under the
loose hood of immaculate white fox fur which had fallen back from her
head. The soft skins of blue foxes and of young birds clothed her.
From her sleeves her hands peeped; they were small, dainty, childlike.
Almost childlike, too, was her face, so palely golden, so fresh, so
lovely, so petite. There were mingled in her the coyness of a child
and the irresistible coquetry of a woman.

She waved her hands joyously to the hunters leaving the shore. They
called back to her. Some of the women frowned. One shook her fist at
Annadoah.

Papik, lingering behind, approached Annadoah timidly.

"Thou art beautiful, Annadoah; thou canst sew with great skill. With
the needles the white men brought thee, thou hast made garments such as
no other maiden. Papik would wed thee, Annadoah."

"Thou art a good lad, Papik," Annadoah replied, laughing gaily. "But
thy fingers are very long - and long, indeed, thy nose!"

Papik flushed, for to him this was a tragedy.

"But with my fingers I speed the arrow with skill," he replied.

"True, but the fate of him who shoots with a skill such as thine is
unfortunate indeed; for soon the day will come when thou wilt not speed
the arrow, when thy hands will be robbed of their cunning. When
_ookiah_ (winter) comes with his lashes of frost he will smite thy
fingers - they will fall off. Then how wilt thou get food for thy wife?
_Ookiah_ will twist thy nose, and it will freeze. Poor Papik!"

Annadoah lay her hand gently on his arm, and a brief sorrow clouded her
smiles.

Papik bowed his head. He understood the blight nature had set upon him
and it made his heart cold. Truly his fingers were long and his nose
was long - and either was a misfortune to a tribesman. He knew, as all
the natives knew, that sooner or later during a long winter his fingers
would inevitably freeze, then he would lose his skill with weapons;
consequently he would not be able to provide for a wife. His nose,
too, in all probability would freeze; then he would be disfigured and
the trials of life would be more complicated.

From the inherited experience of ages the natives know that a hunter
with short hands and feet is most likely to live long; a man's length
of life can be pretty accurately gauged by the stubbiness of his nose.
The degree of radiation of the human body is such that it can prevent
freezing in this northern region only when the extremities are short;
thus a man with long feet is almost for a certainty doomed to lose his
toes, and the most fortunate is he whose feet and hands are short,
whose nose is stubby and whose ears are small. The exigencies of life
place an economic value on the structure of a hunter's body, and the
little Eskimo women - endowed with a crude social conscience which
demands that a father shall live and remain efficient so as to care for
his own children - are loath to marry one afflicted as was Papik.

"But I care for thee, Annadoah," Papik protested.

"And well do I know thou art a brave lad, but seek thou another maiden;
thou dost not touch my heart, Papik, and thy fingers are very, very
long."

With native spontaneity, Papik laughed and turned shoreward. As he
passed the assembled maidens he paused momentarily and greeted them.
He made a brief proposal of marriage to Ahningnetty, a fat maiden, and
was met with laughter.

"Go on, Long Fingers," one called. "How wilt thou strike the bear when
thy fingers are gone? How wilt thou seek the musk ox when _ookiah_
hath bitten off thy feet?"

The maiden who spoke was extremely thin.

"Ha, ha!" Papik returned. "How wilt thou warm thy husband when the
winter comes? How wilt thou warm the little baby when thou art like
the bear after a famished winter, thou maid of skin and bones!"

"Long-nose! Long-nose! may thy nose freeze!" she called.

The other maidens laughed and gibed at her. In anger she fled into her
_tupik_, or tent. Being very thin she, too, like Papik, suffered from
the bar sinister of nature. For, in selecting a wife, a native comes
down to the practical consideration of choosing a maid who will likely
grow fat, so that, during the long cold winters, her body will be a
sort of human radiator to keep the husband and children warm. So love,
you see, in this region, is largely influenced by an instinctive
knowledge of natural economies.

As he launched his kayak, Ootah turned toward Annadoah.

"Thou art the sun, Annadoah!" he called.

"And thou the moon, Ootah," she replied. "I shall await thee, Ootah!
Bring thou back fat and blubber, Ootah, to warm thy fires, Ootah." And
she laughed gaily. Then she turned her back to Ootah, bent her head
coyly and did not turn around again. To Ootah this was a good
augury - for when a maiden turns her back upon a suitor she thinks
favorably of him. This is the custom.

Ootah felt a new strength in his veins. He felt himself master of all
the prey in the sea.


At the entrance of the tent of Sipsu, the _angakoq_, or native
magician, stood Maisanguaq, one of the rivals for the hand of Annadoah.
His face twisted with jealous rage as he heard Annadoah calling to the
speeding Ootah. His narrow eyes glittered vindictively. Turning on
his heel he entered Sipsu's dwelling place.

Sipsu sat on the floor near his oil lamp. When Maisanguaq entered he
did not stir. He was as still, as grotesque, as evil-looking as the
tortured idols of the Chinese; like theirs his eyes were beadlike,
expressionless, dull; such are the eyes of dead seal. His face was
brown and cracked like old leather, and was covered with a crust of
dirt; his gray-streaked hair was matted and straggled over his face; it
teemed with lice. He held his knotty hands motionless over the flame
of his lamp. His nails were long and curled like sharp talons. As
Maisanguaq saw him he could not repress a shudder.

Sipsu was feared, and as correspondingly hated, by the tribe. They
brought to him, it is true, offerings of musk ox meat and walrus
blubber when members fell ill. But that was the urge of necessity. Of
late years Sipsu's conjurations for recovery had resulted in few cures;
his heart was not in them; but with greater vehemence did he enter upon
seances of malediction. With almost unerring exactness he prophesied
many deaths. For this the tribe did not love him. Nor did Sipsu love
the tribe; especially did he hate the youthful, and those who courted
and were newly wed. When Maisanguaq touched his shoulder, he turned
with a growl.

"Canst thou invoke the curse of death upon one who goes hunting upon
the seas?"

Through the rheum of years Sipsu's eyes gleamed.

The aged, gnarled thing found voice. It was hollow and thin.

"Ha, thou art Maisanguaq," his toothless jaws chattered. "Thou bearest
no one good will. Seldom dost thou smile. For this I like thee."

He laughed harshly. Maisanguaq impatiently repeated his question:

"Can Sipsu invoke the great curse? Ha, what dost thou mean? Art thou
a fool? Have not many died upon the word of Sipsu, Sipsu whose spirits
never desert him! Harken! Did not Sipsu go unto the mountains in his
youth? Did he not hear the hill spirits speaking? Did he not carry
food to them, and wood and arrow points for weapons? And in _ookiah_
(winter) did they not strike? Did they not kill one Otaq, who hated
Sipsu? Did Sipsu not go unto the lower land of the dead - did he not
speak to those who freeze in the dark? Yea, did Sipsu not learn how
the world is kept up, and the souls of nature are bound together? And
hath he not the power to separate them, yea, as a man from his shadow?"

"Thou evil-tongued wretch, well doth Maisanguaq believe thee! Here - I
promise thee meat. I follow Ootah upon the chase. There are walrus on
the sea. Invoke the curse of destruction upon Ootah - and I will give
thee meat for the long winter."

"Ootah - Ootah - yah - hah! Ootah!" Sipsu snapped the name viciously.
"With joy shall I bring the great evil unto Ootah. For hath he not
despised my art, hath he not scoffed at my spirits! But thou - what
reason hast thou to desire his death?"

"Ootah findeth favor with Annadoah," said Maisanguaq briefly. "I would
she never make his _kamiks_ (boots)."

"Yea, and she shall not. She shall not!" the old man shrieked in a
sudden access of rage. "So saith Sipsu, whose spirits never fail."

Lying on the floor Sipsu closed his eyes and, moving his head up and
down, called repeatedly:

"_Quilaka Nauk_! _Quilaka Nauk_! Where are my spirits? Where are my
spirits?"

Presently he rose, and swaying his body crooned:

"_Tassa quilivagit_! _Tassa quilivagit_! My spirits are here - they
are here! _Tassa quilivagit_!"

Grasping a drum made of animal tissue strung over a rib-bone he began
to dance. He beat a slow, uneasy measure on the drum. His face
grinned hideously. His voice at times rose to a harsh shriek, then
suddenly it trailed away until it seemed like the voice of one speaking
very far off. In a curious sort of intermittent crooning and shrieking
ventriloquism he called down curses upon Ootah. His dance increased;
he beat the drum frenziedly. His legs twisted under him, he described
short running circles and jumped up and down in accesses of hysteria.
His scraggy arms, with their tattered clothes, writhed in the air as he
beat the drum above him. His head began to nod from side to side; his
eyes glowed like coals; his tongue hung from his mouth; foam gathered
at his lips.

"Ootah! Ootah! May his _kaneg_ (head) swell with the great fire! May
he see horrors that do not exist - what the wicked dead dream in their
frigid hell! May the wrath of the spirits descend upon him! May the
wrath of the spirits descend upon him!"

Sipsu uttered short howls. Maisanguaq joined in the incantation, and
re-echoed the blighting curses.

"May he suffer from _kangerdlugpoq_ (terrible body pains). May they
end not! May he lie awake forever! May he never sleep! May his teeth
chatter during the great dark!"

Sipsu groaned. He worked himself into an ecstasy of torture. His form
became a black whirling figure in the dim tent.

"May Ootah's eyes close, may the lids swell; may they burn with fire."


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