The Christmas Packet—The Distribution of Gifts—A Visit by Dog Train, at Fifty-five Below Zero—Souwanas Tells How the Indians first Learned to Make Maple Sugar.
How great the excitement was which attended the arrival of the Christmas packet can hardly be realized by persons who have never been exposed to the privations of a land which the mail reaches every six months, and where they wait half a year for the daily paper. After this long waiting it is no wonder that a great shout was raised when far away in the distance the long-expected, heavily-loaded dog-trains were seen that for several hundred miles had carried the precious messages of love and the tokens of good will from dear ones far away.
This year an extra train well loaded with much-needed supplies for the mission was among the arrivals. Its coming was hailed with special delight by the children; for even in that Northland Santa Claus was not unexpected, and it was surmised by some of the wee ones that possibly some of his gifts would arrive about that time.
And they were not disappointed, for loved ones far away in more favored lands had remembered these little ones in their Northern home, where the Frost King reigns, and many and varied were the gifts which they now received.
“I am going to take Souwanas some of my candies,” said Sagastao.
“And I am going to give him a nice red silk handkerchief,” said Minnehaha.
The children had by this time pretty well learned his weakness for these things, and it was a pleasure now for them to think that they had it in their power to make him happy.
The next morning was, as usual, bright and cloudless, but it was bitterly cold. The mercury was frozen in one thermometer, and in the other one the spirit indicated fifty-five below zero. Yet so impatient were these spirited children to be off with their gifts to Souwanas, and with something also for each member of the family, that their pleadings prevailed. A cariole with plenty of fur robes was soon at the door, and with old Kennedy as their driver they were soon speeding away behind a train of dogs.
Indians are naturally alert and watchful, and so the merry jingle of the silvery bells was heard while the cariole was still at some distance on the trail. Cordially were they welcomed, and strong arms speedily carried them into the cosy wigwam where, in the center, burned a great fire of dry spruce and birch wood.
As the cold was so intense, and the children had permission to remain for two hours, it was decided that Kennedy should return home at once with the dogs, as it would have been cruel to have kept them out in the cold so long.
The heavy wraps were soon removed and the children were comfortably seated on the fur rugs provided for them. Then they very proudly opened their parcels and distributed the contents—their own gifts as well as those which had been sent to Souwanas and his family from the mission. Minnehaha reserved her special gift for the last. When all of her others had been bestowed she unfolded the beautiful red silk handkerchief and, going over to Souwanas, she did her best to tie it nicely around his neck.