A MONSTER OF THE DEEP
The big bear occupied considerable attention for several days. He had to be carefully skinned and part of the meat dried for future use. Alaskans never use salt for preserving meat. Indeed they seem to dislike salt very much. It had taken Ted some time to learn to eat all his meat and fish quite fresh, without a taste of salt, but he had grown to like it. There is something in the sun and wind of Alaska which cures meat perfectly, and the bear’s meat was strung on sticks and dried in the sun so that they might enjoy it for a long time.
It seemed as if the adventure with Bruin was enough to last the boys for several days, for Ted’s hand still pained him from the porcupine’s quills, and he felt tired and lazy. He lay by the camp-fire one afternoon listening to Kalitan’s tales of his island home, when his father came in from a long tramp, and, looking at him a little anxiously, asked:
“What’s the matter, son?”
“Nothing, I’m only tired,” said Ted, but Kalitan said:
“Porcupine quills poison hand. Well in a few days.”
“So your live cactus is getting in his work, is he? I’m glad it wasn’t the bear you mistook for an Alaskan posy and tried to pick. I’m tired myself,” and Mr. Strong threw himself down to rest.
“Daddy, how did we come to have Alaska, anyway?”
“Well, that’s a long story,” said his father, “but an interesting one.”
“Do tell us about it,” urged Ted. “I know we bought it, but what did we pay the Indians for it? I shouldn’t have thought they’d have sold such a fine country.”
Kalitan looked up quickly, and there was a sudden gleam in his dark eyes that Ted had never seen before.
“Thlinkits never sell,” he said. “Russians steal.”
Mr. Strong put his hand kindly on the boy’s head.
“You’re right, Kalitan,” he said “The Russians never conquered the Thlinkits, the bravest tribe in all Alaska.
“You see, Teddy, it was this way. A great many years ago, about 1740, a Danish sailor named Bering, who was in the service of the Russians, sailed across the ocean and discovered the strait named for him, and a number of islands. Some of these were not inhabited; others had Indians or Esquimos on them, but, after the manner of the early discoverers, Bering took possession of them all in the name of the Emperor of Russia. It doesn’t seem right as we look at things now, but in those days ’might made right,’ and it was just the same way the English did when they came to America.