The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories HTML version

The Esquimaux Maiden's Romance
'Yes, I will tell you anything about my life that you would like to know, Mr. Twain,' she
said, in her soft voice, and letting her honest eyes rest placidly upon my face, 'for it is
kind and good of you to like me and care to know about me.'
She had been absently scraping blubber-grease from her cheeks with a small bone-knife
and transferring it to her fur sleeve, while she watched the Aurora Borealis swing its
flaming streamers out of the sky and wash the lonely snow plain and the templed icebergs
with the rich hues of the prism, a spectacle of almost intolerable splendour and beauty;
but now she shook off her reverie and prepared to give me the humble little history I had
asked for. She settled herself comfortably on the block of ice which we were using as a
sofa, and I made ready to listen.
She was a beautiful creature. I speak from the Esquimaux point of view. Others would
have thought her a trifle over-plump. She was just twenty years old, and was held to be
by far the most bewitching girl in her tribe. Even now, in the open air, with her
cumbersome and shapeless fur coat and trousers and boots and vast hood, the beauty of
her face was at least apparent; but her figure had to be taken on trust. Among all the
guests who came and went, I had seen no girl at her father's hospitable trough who could
be called her equal. Yet she was not spoiled. She was sweet and natural and sincere, and
if she was aware that she was a belle, there was nothing about her ways to show that she
possessed that knowledge.
She had been my daily comrade for a week now, and the better I knew her the better I
liked her. She had been tenderly and carefully brought up, in an atmosphere of singularly
rare refinement for the polar regions, for her father was the most important man of his
tribe and ranked at the top of Esquimaux civilisation. I made long dog-sledge trips across
the mighty ice floes with Lasca--that was her name--and found her company always
pleasant and her conversation agreeable. I went fishing with her, but not in her perilous
boat: I merely followed along on the ice and watched her strike her game with her fatally
accurate spear. We went sealing together; several times I stood by while she and the
family dug blubber from a stranded whale, and once I went part of the way when she was
hunting a bear, but turned back before the finish, because at bottom I am afraid of bears.
However, she was ready to begin her story, now, and this is what she said:
'Our tribe had always been used to wander about from place to place over the frozen seas,
like the other tribes, but my father got tired of that, two years ago, and built this great
mansion of frozen snow-blocks--look at it; it is seven feet high and three or four times as
long as any of the others--and here we have stayed ever since. He was very proud of his
house, and that was reasonable, for if you have examined it with care you must have
noticed how much finer and completer it is than houses usually are. But if you have not,
you must, for you will find it has luxurious appointments that are quite beyond the
common. For instance, in that end of it which you have called the "parlour," the raised