The Christmas Reindeer  by Thornton W. Burgess

The Great Temptation

T UKTU and Aklak loved the summer by the shore. Yet both were impatient for the coming of the time when the herds would move up to the Valley of the Good Spirit. The eight deer Aklak had so carefully trained had been grazing with the herd all summer. The two children had kept their secret well, but, oh, how eager they were to see if the Good Spirit would choose any of their deer!

At last the big herd moved and as before Kutok took the two children with him to watch that the deer should not leave the valley without knowledge of the herders. When they got there, they found grazing near the camp Speedfoot, the missing deer, which Tuktu had seen chosen in the Valley of the Good Spirit. Looking at the ears, they found Kutok's mark, but also a new mark, the mark of the Good Spirit, for it was unlike any other mark in all that region. This splendid deer and seven others were grazing near the hut, and Kutok and Aklak promptly fastened them, that they might not go back with the herd. For were not these the blessed deer?

But the herd moved on. Looking over toward the hills around the valley, the children could see the grazing deer in the distance, but they were too far away to tell one deer from another.

This year Aklak spent less time hunting than he had the previous year. He could think of nothing but those eight deer. "If the Good Spirit chooses all of them, how wonderful it would be! I do hope he will," said he.

Tuktu hoped so, too, but she didn't say so. She merely reminded Aklak that only one of his father's deer had been chosen the year before.

As the days slipped by, Aklak was less and less certain that his deer would be chosen. Finally, he confessed to Tuktu that if the Good Spirit would just take one, he would be satisfied.

"He will. I know he will," replied Tuktu.

One morning when their father was off hunting, Aklak proposed that they take the two pack-deer and go over to the edge of the Valley of the Good Spirit, where they could look down into it. Tuktu shook her head and there was a startled look in her big eyes. "Oh, no, Aklak," she cried, "we mustn't do that!"

"Why not?" demanded Aklak. "You went down into the valley last year. Why should you be afraid to do it again?"

"But I didn't go of my own will," cried Tuktu. "I was taken there without knowing I was going, and that is very different. I think the Good Spirit knew, and meant for me to come."

"Well, anyway," said Aklak, "let's go up on the hills where we can look down on the curtain of beautiful mist. That will do no harm. Besides, I want to see if those deer I trained are all right."

But Tuktu would not be moved. "Do you remember the story the white man told, and that I told you?" she demanded.

Aklak nodded. "What of it?" said he.

"Do you not remember that the children who peek, not only never see the good saint when he visits them at Christmas, but get no gifts?"

Aklak hung his head. "Yes," he admitted, "I remember. But this is different."

"No," said Tuktu, "it is not different. Have we not always been told that the deer people only may visit the Valley of the Good Spirit? If we should anger the Good Spirit, our deer would not be chosen."

"Perhaps they won't be anyway," declared Aklak.

"Perhaps they won't," agreed Tuktu, "but I know the Good Spirit will know that we trained them for him. And even if he does not choose them for his Christmas journey, I think he will be pleased. Aklak, we mustn't do anything so dreadful as even to seem to be spying on the Good Spirit. If he wants us to visit him, I am sure he will let us know in some way."

Aklak looked over toward the specks dotting the distant hillside, the deer feeding above Kringle Valley. He sighed. "Of course you are right, Tuktu," said he, "but, oh dear, I should so like to look down in that valley." His face brightened suddenly. "Perhaps we will have a fog," he exclaimed. "If we have a fog, we will just get on the two pack-deer and perhaps they'll take us in there. I'll ride Whitefoot, because he has been there before."

"We won't do anything of the kind," replied Tuktu decidedly. "That would be just as bad as going right up in there ourselves. Aklak, I feel it in my bones that the Good Spirit is going to choose some of our deer. So, let's forget all about wanting to see into that valley."