Read CHAPTER V of Little White Fox and his Arctic Friends , free online book, by Roy J. Snell, on ReadCentral.com.

LITTLE WHITE FOX MEETS BARRED SEAL

Little White Fox was running all over the ice that covered the ocean. It was spring, and the sun was shining its best all the time, but there was plenty of ice left. When there is two miles of ice out on the sand bar, and it is all six feet thick, you may easily guess it takes the sun a long time to loosen it up.

Well, Little White Fox was skipping about here and there to see what he could see, and was not paying much attention where he was going when, Ah-ne-ca! down he went! Down! Down! and splash! right into the icy water! My! he was frightened! How was he ever to get out of that place? Six feet of ice wall, straight as the sides of a house, was all about him. But what was this he saw on one side. It seemed to be a sort of little shelf. And, yes sir! as Little White Fox swam over to that side and began to climb up, his feet caught on a ledge, and before he knew it he was sitting in as neat a little room as you ever saw, and all made out of ice! walls, floor, and ceiling!

“Now I wonder who lives here,” said Little White Fox to himself. “Whoever it is, I suppose I shall have a great quarrel with him when he comes home.”

But no one came, and very soon his coat was quite dry and he found himself very comfortable in this strange little ice palace. But how was he ever to get out and go back to his mother and friends?

Just when he was thinking about that, he saw the water get black all at once, and in another moment he was looking right into the face of a stranger who had popped up out of the water, as if by magic.

“Who are you?” asked Little White Fox, shaking all over with fright.

“I have many names.” The stranger grinned so broadly Little White Fox quite lost his fear at once. “Some call me Barred Seal,” the stranger continued, “and some call me Ring Seal. Others call me Rainbow Seal, and still others call me Northern Lights. You may call me what you like. But say, there’s room for us both up there, isn’t there? I am tired!”

“But,” said Little White Fox, when they were both comfortably seated, “you look very much like Little Brown Seal.”

“Yes,” said the other, “he is my cousin, so is Spotted Seal and Oogrook, the big seal, and Little Light Brown Seal, and goodness knows how many more! We are a large family. I am told that we have cousins living down in the Aleutian Islands who are very aristocratic indeed. They go by the name of Hair Seal. Why, their coats, I am told, are so valuable that Omnok, the hunter, would risk his life to get one of them! For my part, I prefer this simple coat which no man would steal, unless he needed it to make a pair of boots. But you must be hungry, and so am I. Just wait a minute.”

Master Barred Seal disappeared in the water, reappearing from time to time with a fish in his mouth.

“Now,” he said, when he had finished fishing, “we will have dinner.” Before Little White Fox was spread the most tempting array of fish he had ever seen.

“This is the finest home in the world,” said Barred Seal proudly. “Your dinner comes right to your front door. Look!”

Little White Fox looked, and sure enough, there in the water were plenty more fish swimming round and round.

“But what if Omnok, the hunter, should find us here?” Little White Fox shivered suddenly.

“What if he should?” repeated the other. “There are four feet of solid ice between us and the top. He will not come down in the water to get us, so what could he do?”

“But very soon, Mother tells me,” said Little White Fox, “the ice will all melt, or the wind will blow it out to sea.”

“Oh, well, in that case,” replied Barred Seal, smiling, “there is still the wild, free ocean to live in as always.”

“Not for me!” said Little White Fox, turning white in the face and losing his appetite all at once. “How can I get out of here?”

“You don’t want to go so soon,” answered Barred Seal. “Stay with me awhile. I rather like you. And, as you see, we have plenty of good fish to eat.”

“I thank you,” said Little White Fox very politely, “but I’d very much rather go back home.” And at that moment he had a frightful vision of all that ice going out, out to sea.

“Very well,” said Barred Seal, “I’ll go in the water and stand on my tail; then you can climb out on my back. Only don’t dig in your toe nails.”

In another moment Little White Fox was out in the bright sunshine, and you may be very sure he was glad to be there. “I guess the world was made about right,” he said to himself. “And I am glad the hills, the tundra, and my own little home are just as they are, and I am glad I am Little White Fox.”