Then he told Bob to remain by the dogs while he and Matuk looked for a sheltered camping place. In half an hour Matuk returned, his face wreathed in smiles, with the information,
Then he and Bob drove the dogs to the lee side of the island, where they found four large snow igloos and several men, women and children, standing outside waiting to see the white traveller.
The Eskimos received Bob kindly, and they asked him inside while some of the men helped Akonuk and Matuk erect an igloo and fix up their camp.
The several igloos were all connected by snow tunnels, which permitted of an easy passage from one to the other without the necessity of going out of doors. A piece of clear ice, like glass, was set into the roof of each to answer for a window. They were all filled with a stench so sickening that Bob soon made an excuse to go outside and lend a hand in unpacking and helping Akonuk and Matuk make their own snow house ready.
There were no boughs here for a bed, as the island sustained no growth whatever, and in place of the boughs the dog harness was spread about before the deerskins were put down. In a little while the place was made quite comfortable.
It was not until they sat down to supper that Bob realized fully the serious position they were in. Akonuk and Matuk, after much difficulty, for he could understand their Eskimo tongue so imperfectly, explained to him that there was no means of reaching the mainland as there were no boats on the island, and that after the food they had was eaten there would be no means of procuring more, as the island had no game upon it. They also told him that no one would be passing the island until summer and that there was therefore no hope of outside rescue.
But one chance of escape was possible. If the wind were to shift to the northward and hold there long enough it would probably drive the ice back into the bay and then it would quickly freeze and they could reach the mainland. This their only hope, at this season of the year, for March was nearly spent, was a scant one.
PRISONERS OF THE SEA
The party of Eskimos that Bob and his companions found encamped upon the island had come from the Kangeva mainland to spear seals through the animals’ breathing holes in the ice, which in this part of the bay were more numerous than on the mainland side. In the few days since they had established themselves here they had met with some success, and had accumulated a sufficient store of meat and blubber to keep them and their dogs for a month or so, but further seal hunting, or hunting of any kind, was now out of the question, as no animal life existed on the island itself, and without boats with which to go upon the water the people were quite helpless in this respect.