Lucy Fitch Perkins

The Feast

Part 1 of 2

I

[77]

T HE moment the sun had gone out of sight all the people in the village came pouring out of their tunnels on their way to the feast at Kesshoo's house.

Kesshoo's house was so small that it seemed as if all the people could not possibly get into it.

But the Eskimos are used to crowding into very small spaces, indeed. Sometimes a man and his wife and all his children will live in a space about the size of a big double bed.

First the Angakok came out of his igloo, looking fatter than ever. The Angakok always found plenty to eat somehow. Both his wives were thin. Their faces looked like baked apples all brown and wrinkled.


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[78] When they reached Kesshoo's house, the Angakok went into the tunnel first.

Now I can't tell you whether he had grown fatter during the five days, or whether the entrance had grown smaller, but this much I know: the Angakok got stuck! He couldn't get himself into the room no matter how much he tried! He squirmed and wriggled and twisted, until his face was very red and he looked as if he would burst, but there he stayed.

Other people had crawled into the tunnel after him. His two wives were just behind. Everybody got stuck, of course, because no one could move until the Angakok did. He was just like a cork in the neck of a bottle.

Kesshoo and Koolee and the twins and Nip and Tup were all in the igloo. When they saw the Angakok's face come through the hole they thought, of course, the rest of him would come too. But it didn't, and the Angakok was mad about it.

"Why don't they build igloos the way they used to?" he growled. "Every year [79] the tunnels get smaller and smaller! Am I to remain here forever?" he went on. "Why doesn't somebody help me?"

Kesshoo and Koolee seized him under his arms. They pulled and pulled. The two wives pushed him from behind.

"I-yi! I-yi!" screamed the Angakok. "You will scrape my skin off!"

He kicked out behind with his feet. His wives backed hastily, to get out of the way. That made them bump into Koko's mother who was just behind them. Her baby was in her hood, and when she backed, the baby's head was bumped on the roof of the tunnel.

The baby began to roar. In the tunnel it sounded like a clap of thunder. The wives of the Angakok and Koko's mother all began to talk at once, and with that and the baby's crying I suppose there never was a tunnel that held so much noise. It all came into the igloo, and it sounded quite frightful. The twins crept into the farthest corner of the sleeping bench and watched their father and mother and the [80] Angakok, with their eyes almost popping out of their heads.

Nip and Tup thought they would help a little, so they jumped off the bench; and barked at the Angakok. You see, they didn't know he was a great medicine man. They thought maybe he ought not to be there at all.


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Nip even snapped at the Angakok's ear!

That made the Angakok more angry than ever. He reached into the room, seized [81] Nip with one hand and flung him up on to the sleeping bench. Nip lit on top of Menie. Nip was very much surprised, and so was Menie.


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Now, whether the jerk he gave in throwing Nip did it or not, I cannot say, but at that instant Kesshoo and Koolee both gave a great pull in front. At the same moment the two wives gave a great push behind, and the next moment after that, there was the Angakok, still red, and still angry, sitting on the edge of the sleeping bench in the best place near the fire!

Then his two wives came crawling through. The Angakok looked at them as if he thought they had made him stick in the tunnel, and had done it on purpose, too. The wives scuttled up on to the sleeping bench, and got into the farthest corner of it as fast as they could.

The women and children always sat back on the bench at a feast.

When Koko's mother came in, the baby was still crying. She climbed up on to the bed with him, and Menie and Monnie showed [82] him the pups and that made the baby laugh again.

As fast as they came in, the women and children packed themselves away on the sleeping bench. The men sat along the edge of it with their feet on the floor.

II

The smell of food soon made everybody cheerful. When at last they were all crowded into the room, Koolee placed the [83] bear's head and other pans of meat on the floor.


[Illustration]

Then she crawled back on to the bench with the other women.

The Angakok was the first one to help himself. He reached down and took a large chunk of meat. He held it up to his mouth and took hold of the end with his teeth. Then he sawed off a huge mouthful with his knife.

It looked as if he would surely cut off the end of his nose too, but he didn't.

When the men had all helped themselves, pieces of meat were handed out to the women and children.

Soon they were all eating as if their lives depended on it. And now I think of it, their lives did depend on it, to be sure! I will not speak about their table manners. In fact, they hadn't any to speak of! They had nothing to eat with the meat—not even salt—but it was a great feast to them for all that, and they ate and ate until every scrap was gone.

The Angakok grew better-natured every [84] minute. By the time he had eaten all he could hold he was really quite happy and benevolent! He clasped his hands over his stomach and smiled on everybody.

The women chattered in their corner of the sleeping-bench, and Koolee showed Koko's mother the new fur suit trimmed with white rabbit's skin that she was making for Menie. And Koko's mother said she really must make one for Koko just like it.

The twins and Koko talked about a trap to catch hares which they meant to make as soon as the long days began again, and the baby went to sleep on a pile of furs in the corner. Menie fed the pups with some of his own meat, and gave them each a bone. Nip and Tup buried their bones under the baby and then went to sleep too.