I T was very lucky for the twins that their father was such a brave and skillful kyak man. You will see the reason why, when I tell you the story of the day Menie and Koko went hunting alone on the ice.
One April morning Kesshoo was working on his kyak to make sure that it was in perfect order for the spring walrus hunting. Koko and Menie watched him for a long time. Monnie was with Koolee in the hut.
By and by Koko said to Menie, "Let's go out on the ice and hunt for sealholes."
"All right," said Menie. "You take your bow and arrows and I'll take my spear. Maybe we shall see some little auks."
Koko had a little bow made of deer's horns, and some bone arrows, and Menie had a small spear which his father had made for him out of driftwood.
"I'll tell you!" said Menie. "Let's go hunting just the way father does! You do the shooting and I'll do the spearing! Won't everybody be surprised to see us bring home a great load of game? I shall give everything I get to my mother."
"I'm going to hunt birds and seal holes too," Koko answered.
Kesshoo was very busy fixing the fastening of his harpoon, and he did not hear what they said.
The two boys went to their homes for their weapons, and then ran out on the ice. Nobody knew where they were. Of course, Nip and Tup went along.
All the way over the ice they looked for seal holes. It takes sharp eyes to find them, for seal holes are very small.
You see, the mother seals try to find the safest place they can to hide their babies, and this is the way they do it:
As soon as the ice begins to freeze in the autumn, the seals gnaw holes in it to reach the air, and they keep these holes open all winter. It freezes so fast in that cold country that they have to be busy almost every minute all through the winter breaking away the ice there. They get their sleep in snatches of a minute or so at a time, and between their naps they clear the ice from their breathing holes.
There is usually a deep layer of snow over the ice. Each mother seal hollows out a little igloo under the snow, around her breathing hole, and leaves a tiny hole in the top of it, so her baby can have plenty of fresh air and be hidden from sight at the same time.
The mother seal leaves the baby in the snow house, and she herself dives through the hole and swims away. Every few minutes she comes back to breathe, and to see that her baby is safe.
It was the tiny hole in the top of the seal's snow house that Menie and Koko hoped to find.
The days had grown quite long by this time and there was fog in the air. Once in a while there would be a loud crackling noise.
"The ice is beginning to break," Koko said. "Don't you hear it pop? My father says he thinks the warm weather will begin early this year."
They had gone some distance out on the ice, when suddenly Menie said, "Look! Look there!" He pointed toward the north. There not far from shore was a flock of sea-birds, resting on the ice.
"Just let me get a shot at them!" cried Koko. "You stay here and hold on to the dogs! Nip and Tup haven't any sense at all about game! They'll only scare them."
Koko ran swiftly and quietly towards the birds. Menie sat on the ice and watched him and held Nip and Tup, one under each arm. When Koko got quite near the birds, he took careful aim and let fly an arrow at them.
It didn't hit any of the birds, but it frightened them. They flew up into the air and away to the north and alighted farther on. Koko followed them.
All at once Menie heard a queer little sound.
Menie knew what the queer noise meant, for his father had told him all about seal hunting. It meant that a seal hole was near, and that a seal had come up to breathe. It was the seal that made the "plopping" noise.
Menie tried to keep the dogs still, but they wouldn't be kept still. They ran round with their noses on the snow, giving little anxious whines, and short, sharp barks.
The "plop-plop" stopped. The seal had gone down under the ice, but Menie meant to find the hole. He went out quite near the open water in his search. At last, just beyond a hummock of ice, he saw it! He crept carefully up to it.
He lay down on his stomach and peeped into the hole to see what it was like. He could not see a thing!
Then he stuck his lance down. His lance touched something soft that wiggled! Menie stood up. He was so excited that he trembled. He knew he had found a seal hole with a live seal in the snow house!
With all his strength he struck his lance down through the snow. The snow house fell in and Menie fell with it, but he kept hold of his lance. The end of the lance was buried in the snow, but it was moving. Menie knew by this that he had stuck it into the seal!
He lay still and kept fast hold of his lance, and pressed down on it with all his might.
Nip and Tup were crazy with excitement. They jumped round and barked and tried to dig a hole in the snow with their forefeet.
At last the spear stopped wiggling. Then Menie carefully dug the snow away. There lay a little white seal! It was too young to swim away with its mother. That was why such a small boy as Menie had been able to kill it.
He dragged it out on the ice. He was so excited and so busy he did not notice how near he was to the open water.