The Christmas Reindeer  by Thornton W. Burgess

Lost in the Fog

I N from the distant sea rolled the Arctic fog. It was as if one of those great, white fleecy clouds you have seen sailing high in the sky had come to earth and was being pushed forward to bury everything in its fleecy depths. Tuktu urged Whitefoot forward in the swinging trot the reindeer know. Would he be able to get her to camp before that swiftly moving fogbank would cut off all sight in any direction? She knew all about the fogs of the Far Northland. Had she been at home, she would not have minded it. But to be caught far from the camp was another matter.

"But I can trust Whitefoot," thought Tuktu. "The deer folk can find their way even though they cannot see. So long as I am safe on the back of Whitefoot, I need not worry. Whitefoot is headed in the right direction and he will take me safely back."

The soft mist swirled about them and Tuktu could see nothing. She could see nothing and she could hear nothing but the clicking of Whitefoot's feet. There was no other sound. It was as if she and Whitefoot were alone in a white, wet world of silence. Click, click, click, click sounded Whitefoot's feet—a click with every step. It was comforting to hear that much, for each click meant a forward step, and each forward step meant so much nearer to the camp. At least, that is what Tuktu encouraged herself by thinking.

"I wonder where Father and Aklak are," she thought. "This fog must have caught them first, for they were hunting in the direction of the seacoast. They must have seen it coming and probably made camp. They will stay there until the fog lifts. If only I were back at the camp, I would not mind a bit. Trot, Whitefoot! Trot! Remember that Tuktu is on your back and she wants to get home."

Whitefoot did trot. He trotted steadily, despite the fact that he could see nothing. His head was carried forward and his nose out and his nostrils were extended. With every breath he was testing the damp air. By the motion, Tuktu could tell when he was going up a hill and when he started down again. She was enjoying the ride.

But there came a time when Tuktu began to wonder. "We should be there by this time," she thought. "Yes, indeed, we should be there by this time. Whitefoot has been traveling so fast that I am sure we should have been home long ago. If he did not trot along so steadily, I should think he were lost and wandering about. But he seems to know just where he is going. Oh dear, I wish I could see just a little way. Whitefoot, what is that?"

Whitefoot stopped abruptly. Through the mist at one side a dim form moved. Tuktu gave a little sigh of thankfulness and was about to drop to the ground, for she was sure that this was the other pack-deer that had been left grazing near the camp. But she didn't drop, for she became aware that another dim form was on the other side of her. And then she heard the muffled click, click, click of many feet—a sound that could be heard only where many deer were near. Too often had she listened to it not to know that she was now in the midst of a herd. She heard the click in front, behind, and on both sides, and as she strained her eyes could see dim shapes appear and disappear on all sides.

"Whitefoot!" she whispered, "Whitefoot, where have you taken me?"

She wondered if by chance some other herd of reindeer had moved in from the seacoast on its way to the Valley of the Good Spirit. She wondered if it might be that she was in the midst of a band of caribou. She decided that this must be it. Probably Whitefoot had smelled, or perchance heard them, so had joined them.

She was not afraid. Did she not know that the reindeer are the most gentle of animals? Had she not lived with them and loved them from babyhood? She would remain on Whitefoot's back and hope that the fog would lift soon. If it did not, she would stop Whitefoot and push the peg into the ground to fasten him. Then they would remain there together until such time as the fog should disappear. There was only one thing that worried Tuktu. If she had to remain there long, what should she eat? But even this did not greatly worry her, for she was sure that the fog would last but a little while and she knew they could not be far from camp.

Whitefoot no longer was trotting, nor were any of the other deer folk. All seemed to be grazing, moving along slowly as they grazed. Tuktu became drowsy. Once or twice she nodded and the wonder was that she didn't slip from Whitefoot's back. And all about her there was the gentle click, click, click, click of moving feet, and now and then the soft intake of breath and gentle sniff of grazing deer.