Before they came to America to live, the English and Dutch people were great sailors and traders. If they heard of anything they wanted, in far-away lands, they sailed away in stout ships to get it. As soon as they had a few seaport towns in America, they built sailing vessels. They needed some things that they could not buy in England and Holland.

They needed oil for lamps. They had no gas. They had no electric lights that you turn on with little black buttons. They did not even have kerosene oil. They had only candles of tallow and wax, and not enough of those. In one place there was plenty of oil. Strong, brave men could go and get it without paying money. It was in the ocean. Would you ever think of looking for oil in the water?

The oil ships sailed north into cold, dark, stormy seas. Even in summer icebergs were all around them. The sun shone, day and night. It went 'round and 'round the sky in wide circles. Polar bears were on the ice. Swimming, yellow seal barked like dogs. Walrus showed their ivory tusks. Millions of eider ducks nested on the rocky shores. Whales spouted water when they came up to breathe. The oil ships had come for the whales. Under its rubbery skin the whale was wrapped in a thick blanket of fat. When it was melted this whale blubber made good oil for lamps.

The whaling ships had to hurry to get back home before winter. In the far north it was night all the time, in the winter. The sun did not shine at all. The ocean froze over. Sometimes the sailors staid too long and their ships froze fast, in the ice.

When this happened the sailors had to go on the land to live. The land was all ice and snow too, but there were people and warm houses. A village looked very queer. It was only a lot of dome-shaped mounds of snow. Rough dogs ran from low holes in the snow huts. They made such a noise that little furry heads popped out of the holes, too. If it had not been for their fat, human faces, the sailors might have thought these children were polar bear cubs. They were Es-qui-mos, a kind of small, brown Indians. They were good-natured and friendly. It was so cold that they had to wear the skins of animals. They had soft, warm stockings of eider duck skin, with the down inside. Their polar bear skin jumpers had hoods. Their high boots were of reindeer skin. Es-qui-mo children were as warm and brown and greasy as buttered toast.

The children showed the white visitors the way into the house. They stooped at the low hole and slid down a toboggan tunnel. They climbed into the middle of the house through a cellar door in the floor. This was a clever way to let people in and keep the wind out, wasn't it? The house was built in a pit, of drift wood. Wrecked ships and uprooted trees floated to them from far-away lands. The frame work was covered with sod and moss. Snow fell thick on the house and froze solid.

An Es-qui-mo house had no windows, not even a hole for the smoke to go out. A bench around the wall made a table, a bed, and seats for just as many men, women, babies and dogs as could crowd into the hut. They could hardly see each other for the smoke. The hut was warmed and lighted by earthen lamps that hung from the ceiling. These had moss wicks and burned walrus fat. Over the lamps meat was cooked in earthen pots.

Ice-bound sailors often had to live with the Es-qui-mos all winter. They went hunting with the men. The stout dogs pulled the hunters on sleds made of animal bones. They killed seal and walrus and bears, with long spears called harpoons. It was not as dark as you would think. The stars and moon shone on a white, frozen world. Sometimes there were lights brighter than our sunsets; more wonderful than Fourth of July fire-works. They played all around the midnight sky in colored flames. They formed columns and crowns, curtains and banners. Ask mama to turn back to Volume I, page 140, and read to you about the Aurora Borealis.

When the sun came back and the ice broke up, the whalers went home with a ship load of oil in barrels. Their friends thought they were lost in the icy seas. When, they were old men they sat in the bright light of whale-oil lamps and told stories of their adventures. The white children never grew tired of hearing about Agh-a-ni-to and Ny-ack, who lived in a snow house and dressed like polar bears. See Eskimo, page 626.