Sacred-Texts Native American Inuit
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KASIAGSAK, who was living with a great many skilful seal-hunters, always returned in the evening without a catch of his own. When he was out, his wife, named Kitlagsuak, was always restless and fidgety, running out and in looking out for him, in the hope that he might be bringing home something; but he generally returned empty-handed. One day, being out in his p. 292 kayak, he observed a black spot on a piece of ice, and it soon turned to be a little seal. His first intention was to harpoon it, but he changed his mind, and broke out, saying, "Poor little thing! it is almost a pity. Perhaps it has already been wounded by somebody else; perhaps it will slide down in the water when I approach it, and then I need only take hold of it with my hands." So saying he gave a shout, at which the seal was not slow to get down. Presently it appeared close before the point of his kayak; but he called out still louder than before, and the seal went on diving up and down quite close to him. At length he made up his mind to chase and harpoon it; but somehow it always rose at a greater distance, and was soon entirely lost to him. Kasiagsak now put back, merely observing, "Ye silly thing! ye are not easy to get at; but just wait till next time."
Another day he went seaward in bright, fine weather. Looking towards land he got sight of the other kayakers, and observed that one of them had just harpooned a seal, and that the others were all hurrying on to his assistance. As to himself, he never stirred, but remained quite unconcerned in his former place. He also noticed that the one who had caught the seal tugged it to the shore, and made it fast to a rock on the beach, intending to return in pursuit of others. He instantly put further out to sea; but when he had got quite out of sight he returned to the beach by a roundabout way, and made straight for the other man's seal, and carried it off. The towing-line was all around ornamented with walrus-teeth, and he was greatly delighted at the prospect of getting home with this prize. Meanwhile his wife had been wandering about in expectation of him, and looking out for the returning kayakers. She at length cried out, "There is a kayak!"—at which more people came running out; and shading her eyes with her hand, she continued, "It looks like Kasiagsak, and p. 293 he moves his arms like one tugging something along with him. Well, I suppose it will now be my turn to give you a share, and ye shall all get a nice piece of blubber." As soon as he landed she hastened to ask him, "Where didst thou get that beautiful tugging-line?" He answered, "This morning at setting out I thought it might come in handy, as I was bent on having a catch, and so I brought it out with me; I have kept it in store this long time." "Hast thou, indeed?" she rejoined, and then began the flensing and carving business. She put the head, the back, and the skin aside; all the rest, as well as the blubber, she intended to make a grand feast upon. The other kayakers successively returned, and she took care to inform each of them separately that a seal was already brought home; and when some of the women came back from a ramble on the beach, she repeated the whole thing over to them. But while they were sitting down to supper in the evening, a boy entered, saying, "I have been sent to ask for the towing-line; as to the seal, that is no matter." Turning to Kasiagsak, his wife now put in, "Didst thou tell me an untruth?" He only answered, "To be sure I did;" whereto his wife remarked, "What a shame it is that Kasiagsak behaves thus!" but he only made a wry face, saying, "Bah!" which made her quite frightened; and when they lay down to rest he went on pinching her and whistling until they both fell asleep.
Another day, rowing about in his kayak, he happened to observe a black spot away on a flake of ice. On nearing it he made it out to be only a stone. He glanced round towards the other kayakers, and then suddenly feigned to be rowing hard up to a seal, at the same time lifting the harpoon ready to lance it; but presently went to hide himself behind a projecting point of the ice, from which he managed to climb it and roll the stone into the sea with a splash, making it all froth and foam. Meanwhile he got into his kayak again, p. 294 making a great roar in order to call the others to his assistance. When they came up to him they observed that he had no bladder, and he said, "A walrus has just gone down with my bladder; do help me to catch sight of him; meantime I will turn back and tell that I have lanced a walrus." He hurried landwards, and his wife, who happened to be on the look-out, again shouted, "A kayaker!" He called out that he had made a lucky hit. "I almost do believe it is Kasiagsak; do ye hear him in there?" Meantime he had approached the shore, and said, "'In chasing a walrus I lost my bladder; I only came home to tell you this." His wife now came running into the house, but being in such a hurry she broke the handle of her knife. However, she did not mind this, but merely said, "Now I can get a handle of walrus-tooth for my knife, and a new hook for my kettle." In the evening Kasiagsak had chosen a seat on the hindermost part of the ledge, so that only his heels were to be seen. The other kayakers stayed out rather long; but the last of them on entering brought a harpoon-line and a bladder along with him, and turning to Kasiagsak observed, "I think it is thine; it must have been tied round some stone and have slipped off; here it is." His wife exclaimed, "Hast thou been telling us new lies?" at which he only answered her, "Why, yes; I wanted to play you a trick, you see."
Another day, when he was kayaking along the coast, he remarked some loose pieces of ice away on a sandy beach at some distance; he rowed up to them and went ashore. Two women, gathering berries, watched his doings all along. They saw him fill his kayak with bits of broken ice; and this done, he waded down into the water till it reached his very neck, and then turned back and got upon the beach, where he set to hammering his kayak all over with stones; and having finally stuffed his coat with ice, he turned towards home. At some distance he commenced shrieking aloud and crying, p. 295 "Ah me! a big iceberg went calving (bursting and capsizing) right across my kayak, and came down on the top of me;" and his wife repeated his ejaculations, adding, "I must go and see about some dry clothes for him." At last they got him up on shore, and large bits of ice came tumbling out of his clothes, while he went on lamenting and groaning as if with pain, saying, "I had a very narrow escape." His wife repeated the tale of his misfortunes to every kayaker on his return home; but at last it so happened that the two women who had seen him likewise returned, and they at once exclaimed, "Is not that he whom we saw down below the sand-cliffs, stuffing his clothes with ice." On this, the wife cried out, "Dear me! has Kasiagsak again been lying to us?" Subsequently Kasiagsak went to pay a visit to his father-in-law. On entering the house he exclaimed, "Why, what's the matter with you that your lamps are not burning, and ye are boiling dog's flesh?" "Alas!" answered the master, pointing to his little son, "he was hungry, poor fellow! and having nothing else to eat we killed the dog." Kasiagsak boastingly answered him, "Yesterday we had a hard job at home. One of the women and I had our hands full with the great heaps of seals and walruses that have been caught. I have got both my storehouses choke-full with them; my arms are quite sore with the work." The father-in-law now rejoined, "Who would ever have thought that the poor little orphan boy Kasiagsak should turn out such a rich man!" and so saying, he began crying with emotion; and Kasiagsak feigned crying likewise. On parting from them the following day, he proposed that his little brother-in-law should accompany him in order to bring back some victuals, adding, "I will see thee home again;" and his father said, "Well, dostn't thou hear what thy brother-in-law is saying? thou hadst better go." On reaching home, Kasiagsak took hold of a string and brought it into the p. 296 house, where he busied himself in making a trap, and taking some scraps of frizzled blubber from his wife's lamp, he thrust them out as baits for the ravens. Suddenly be gave a pull at the string, crying out, "Two!—alas! one made its escape;" and then be ran out and brought back a raven, which his wife skinned and boiled. But his brother-in-law had to look to the other people for some food; and at his departure the next day, he likewise received all his presents from them, and not from Kasiagsak.
Another day be set off in his kayak to visit some people at a neighbouring station. Having entered one of the houses, be soon noticed that some of the inmates were mourning the loss of some one deceased. He questioned the others, and on hearing that they had lost a little daughter named Nepisanguak, he hastened in a loud voice to state, "We have just got a little daughter at home, whom we have called Nepisanguak;" on which the mourning parents and relations exclaimed, "Thanks be to thee that ye have called her by that name;" and then they wept, and Kasiagsak also made believe to be weeping; but he peeped through his fingers all the while. Later in the day they treated him richly with plenty of good things to eat. Kasiagsak went on saying, "Our little daughter cannot speak plainly as yet; she only cries 'apangaja!'" but the others said, "She surely means 'sapangaja'"(sapangat, beads); "we will give thee some for her;" and at his departure he was loaded with gifts—such as beads, a plate, and some seal-paws. Just as be was going to start, one of the men cried out to him, "I would fain buy a kayak, and I can pay it back with a good pot; make it known to the people in thy place." But Kasiagsak said, "Give it to me; I have got a new kayak, but it is a little too narrow for my size." At length be started along with his presents, and the pot stuck upon the front part of his kayak. At home be said, "Such a p. 297 dreadful accident! a boat must surely have been lost; all these things I bring you here, I have found tossed about on the ice;" and his wife hastened into the house to give her cracked old pot a smash, and threw away the shoulder-blades that till now had served her instead of plates, and ornamented her coat with beads, and proudly walked to and fro to make the pearls rattle. The next day a great many kayakers were announced. Kasiagsak instantly kept as far back on the ledge as possible. As soon as the kayakers put in to shore, they called out, "Tell Kasiagsak to come down and fetch off some victuals we have brought for their little daughter;" but all the reply was, "Why, they have got no daughter at all." Another of the men now put in, "Go and ask Kasiagsak for the new kayak I bought of him;" but the answer was, "He certainly has no new kayak." At this information they quickly got up to the house, which they entered, taking their several gifts back, and last of all cutting the flaps ornamented with beads away from the wife's jacket. When the strangers were gone she said as before, "Kasiagsak has indeed been telling a lie again." His last invention was this: he one day found a small bit of whale-skin floating on the top of the water, and bringing it home he said, "I have found the carcass of a whale; follow me and I will show you it:" and the boat was got out, and they started. After a good while they asked him, "Whereabout is it?" but he merely answered them, "Away yonder;" and then a little bit further, "we shall soon get at it." But when they had gone a long way from home without seeing anything like a floating whale, they got tired of Kasiagsak, and put a stop to all his fibs by killing him then and there.