Into them went his spear, up came the poor fish, which was strung with some others on a string the boy carried. Lucy crept up as well as she could on the slippery ice, and the little Esquimaux stared at her with a kind of stupid surprise.
“Is that the way you get fish?” she asked.
“Yes, and seals; father gets them,” he said.
“Oh, what’s that swimming out there?”
“That’s a white bear,” he said coolly; “we had better get home.”
Lucy thought so indeed; only where was home?—that puzzled her. However, she trotted along by the side of her companion, and presently came to what might have been an enormous snow-ball, but there was a hole in it. Yes, it was hollow; and as her companion made for the opening, she saw more little stout figures rolled up in furs inside. Then she perceived that it was a house built up of blocks of snow, arranged so as to make the shape of a beehive, all frozen together, and with a window of ice. It made her shiver to think of going in, but she thought the white bear might come after her, and in she went. Even her little head had to bend under the low doorway, and behold, it was the very closest, stuffiest, if not the hottest place she had ever been in! There was a kind of lamp burning in the hut; that is, a wick was floating in some oil, but there was no glass, such as Lucy had been apt to think the chief part of a lamp, and all round it squatted upon skins these queer little stumpy figures dressed so much alike that there was no knowing the men from the women, except that the women had much bigger boots, and used them instead of pockets, and they had their babies in bags of skin upon their backs.
They seemed to be kind people, for they made room near their lamp for the little girl, and asked her where she had been wrecked. Then one of the women cut off a great lump of raw something—was it a walrus, with that round head and big tusks?—and held it up to her; and when Lucy shook her head and said, “No, thank you,” as civilly as she could, the woman tore it in two, and handed a lump over her shoulder to her baby, who began to gnaw it. Then her first friend, the little boy, hoping to please her better, offered her some drink. Ah! it was oil, just like the oil that was burning in the lamp!—horrid oil from the whales! She could not help shaking her head; and so much that she woke herself up!
“Suppose I could see where that dear little black chamois horn came from! But Mother Bunch can’t tell me about that I’m afraid, for she always went by sea, and here’s the Tyrol without one bit of sea near it. It’s just one of the strings to the great knot of mountains that tie Europe up in the middle. Oh! what is a mountain like?”
Then suddenly came on Lucy’s ears a loud blast like a trumpet; another answered it farther off, another fainter still, and as she started up she found she was standing on a little shelf of green grass with steep slopes of stones and rock above, below, and around her; and rising up all round were huge, tall hills, their smooth slopes green and grassy, but in the steep places all terrible cliff and precipice; and as they were seen further away they looked a beautiful purple, like a thunder-cloud.