The sky was lowering. The small storm-“igloo,” or round-topped snow house, was full of Eskimo dogs that had crowded in to shelter themselves from the bitter wind. This small igloo was built in front of the door of a bigger round igloo in which an Eskimo family lived. The dogs’ small igloo was built where it was, to keep the wind and the cold from coming in at the family’s igloo door.
Over the snowy ground a boy, clad in a reindeer coat, came running. His brown cheeks were flushed, and his black eyes were bright with excitement. His lips curved and parted over his white teeth as he chuckled happily to himself about something. He rushed to the very low door of his home, dropped down on his hands and knees, put some slender thing between his teeth, pulled the hood of the reindeer coat up over his head so as to keep the snow from slipping down the back of his neck, and then scrambled quickly through the low opening, pushing aside the dogs, till he reached the interior of the larger igloo. Then the boy jumped up and snatched the thing he had held in his mouth.
“Oh, see, see!” he cried, holding up his treasure. “See what the teacher gave me!”
What he held was the half of a lead pencil, a rarity to him, given to him now as a prize at school.
“And see!” cried the excited lad once more.
He pulled from his reindeer coat a piece of paper. The paper was part of his prize, too. He made some rude marks on the paper with his pencil, and held them where they were visible by the light of the small stone lamp, shaped like a huge clam shell, and burning with walrus oil. The lad’s face was illumined with enthusiasm. Never before had he owned such treasures. To think they were his own! He had earned them by good behavior, and diligent, though extremely slow, attempts at learning. A sarcastic laugh came from one side of the platform of snow, that was built around the whole circular interior of the igloo. On the platform lounged the lad’s brother, Tanana. “You went without your breakfast yesterday, and ran to school, and now you come back with those things!” laughed Tanana. “You are a dog of the teacher’s team, Anvik! He can drive you.”
Anvik’s black eyes snapped.
“He does not drive me!” cried the boy. “He teaches me to want to learn! I have gone to school many days. I want to learn, to learn! I can make A and B. See!”
He pushed his paper with its awkwardly formed letters farther into the lamp’s light. The edge of the precious paper took fire, and with a cry of alarm, Anvik smothered his paper in the snow.
His brother laughed again.
“To-morrow will be another day,” he said. “Why should anybody learn for to-morrow?”
But the mother of the two lads stretched out her hand, and took the paper, and looked at the straggling marks. The fat baby, that she carried in the hood of her reindeer suit, crowed over her shoulder at the piece of paper, and Anvik forgot to be angry. He put his pencil in his mother’s hand. She looked curiously at the strange new thing.
“You make A, too, mother,” urged the boy; and, putting his hand on his mother’s, he tried to show her how to make the strange marks.
His mother did little more than touch the paper with the pencil. She smiled at the tiny dark line she had made, and gave back the pencil and paper to the boy. She was proud of him, proud that the strange white man should have thought her boy good enough to give him such queer things. Anvik saw her pride, and felt comforted.
“To-morrow will be another day,” murmured Tanana from his lounging place. “The teacher is wrong. He makes that loud sound when school begins. The wise man says the teacher must not make that sound any more, for it will prevent our people from catching foxes and seals.”