The Christmas Reindeer  by Thornton W. Burgess

The Awakening of Tuktu

U NAFRAID, Tuktu rode in the midst of the great herd. How long it was before she had a chance to slip from Whitefoot's back, she had no idea. But presently from sundry sounds, dull but unmistakable, which reached her through the fog, she knew that the deer were bedding down. They were lying down to chew the cud, as you have so often seen cattle do. Whitefoot stopped. Tuktu slipped from his back. A moment later Whitefoot lay down. Tuktu snuggled up against his back. Despite the dampness of the fog, she was conscious of a pleasant warmth. In a few minutes she was asleep.

Tuktu was awakened by the sound of a bell. She knew it was a bell, because she had once heard a bell on a ship which had come in close to the shore when they were camped there. But this bell was sweeter far than had been that bell on the ship, though that had seemed the most wonderful sound that she and Aklak had ever heard. Slowly she opened her eyes. Abruptly she sat upright and rubbed both eyes with her knuckles. Her first thought was that she was still in the fog. But when she looked up, she saw there was neither fog nor cloud. It was only when she looked below that she saw a fog, and this fog was not like any fog she ever had known. It was a mist of many colors, that shimmered and blended and parted and flashed, as she had so often seen the northern lights, or Aurora, do in the winter. And somewhere, hidden by that wondrous colored mist, was that silver bell. Do you wonder that Tuktu rubbed her eyes?

She was on the slope of a great hill. All about her, contentedly chewing their cuds, were the deer people. As far as she could see in either direction, and across on the sides of the opposite hill, the deer lay. She knew that not only was Kutok's herd here, but also many other herds. Never had she seen such rich pasture. Never had she seen such flowers. And there were great masses of reindeer moss, lichens, showing the season's growth. No wonder the deer people sought the hillsides of this wondrous Valley. She caught her breath. It had come to her where she was! She knew that she was with the herd on one of the slopes of the Valley of the Good Spirit. It was just as she had heard it described around the winter firepots, only far more beautiful.

Tuktu rubbed her eyes and rubbed her eyes. Perhaps this was only a dream. She put out her hand. There was Whitefoot contentedly chewing his cud, and Whitefoot was no dream. He was real, for even as she touched him, he bent his head and gently scratched one of his antlers with the point of a hind hoof.

Again she heard the soft, clear, silvery notes of that hidden bell. Then clearly, though faintly, she heard many other sounds. There was the blowing of trumpets, the beating of drums, fairy music coming from the heart of that wonderful mist below her, and the mist itself—never had she seen anything so beautiful! All the colors of the rainbow, all the wondrous colors of the sunset, all the shooting, flashing fires of the Aurora, seemed mingled there.

Tuktu knew that she ought to be afraid. Had not her father said that only from a distance had any man looked into that wondrous valley? Had she not seen fear in his eyes at the mere mention of the Valley of the Good Spirit?—he, who was not afraid to meet Nanuk, the polar bear, single-handed. Had she not heard the herders speak in whispers when they told of the Valley of the Good Spirit? Of a certainty, she should be afraid. But somehow she wasn't. She knew she ought to be, for she knew that she was where not even the boldest man in all the great Northland would dare to put his foot. Yet she was not afraid.

"It must be that the Good Spirit means no harm to little children," thought Tuktu. "It must be that the Good Spirit who loves the deer folk loves also little children, or he would not have allowed Whitefoot to bring me here. I wonder what is going on below that wonderful mist. I wonder! Oh, how I wonder. But if it were meant that I should know, or that any one should know, that mist would not be there. I guess it is all right to wonder, but it would be all wrong to try to find out. The deer people are satisfied to stay on these hills, so I will be satisfied. But there must be something very wonderful and very beautiful down there. I wish Aklak were here. He will not believe me when I tell him that I have looked into the Valley of the Good Spirit. My father will not believe me. No one will believe me. Only the deer folk will know. I, Tuktu, am looking down in the Valley of the Good Spirit and no harm has come to me. I think it must be because the Spirit of Love is here. The deer are rising. I wonder what that means. I must hold fast to Whitefoot, for he must take me home."

Whitefoot already had scrambled to his feet. Once more Tuktu climbed on his back. Then Whitefoot began to move toward the upper end of the Valley and Tuktu saw that all the other deer on both sides were moving in the same direction.