“Yes, sir.” Ted’s tone was dubious, but his face soon cleared up. “A month won’t be very long, father.”
“No, I’ll wager you’ll be sorry to leave when I come for you. Try and not make any trouble. Of course Indian ways are not ours, but you’ll get used to it all and enjoy it. It’s a chance most boys would be crazy over, and you’ll have tales to tell when you get home to make your playmates envy you. I’m glad I have a son I can trust to keep straight when he is out of my sight,” and he laid his hand affectionately on the boy’s shoulder. Ted looked his father squarely in the eye, but gave only a little nod in answer, then he laughed his clear, ringing laugh.
“Wouldn’t mother have spasms!” he exclaimed. Mr. Strong laughed too, but said:
“You’ll be just as well off tumbling around with Kalitan as falling off a glacier or two, as you would be certain to do if you were with me.”
Teddy felt a little blue when he said good-bye to his father, but Kalitan quickly dispelled his gloom by a great piece of news. “Great time on island,” he said, as the canoe glided toward the dim outline of land to which Ted’s thoughts had so often turned. “Tyee’s whale came ashore. We go to see him cut up.”
“Hurrah!” cried Ted, delighted. “To think I shall see all that! What else will we do, Kalitan?”
“Hunt, fish, hear old Kala-kash stories. See berry dance if you stay long enough, perhaps a potlatch; do many things,” said the Indian.
One of the Indian paddlers said something to Kalitan, and he laughed a little, and Ted asked, curiously: “What did he say?”
“Said Kalitan Tenas learned to talk as much as a Boston boy,” said Kalitan, laughing heartily, and Ted laughed, too.
The canoes were nearing the shore of a wooded island, and Ted saw a fringe of trees and some native houses clustered picturesquely against them at the crest of a small hill which sloped down to the water’s edge where stood a group of people awaiting the canoes.
“My home,” said Kalitan, pointing to the largest house, “my people.” There was a great deal of pride in his tone and look, and he received a warm welcome as the canoes touched land and their occupants sprang on shore. The boys crowded around the young Indian and chattered and gesticulated toward Ted, while a bright-looking little Malamute sprang upon Kalitan and nearly knocked him down, covering his face with eager puppy kisses.
The girls were less boisterous, and regarded Teddy with shy curiosity. Some of them were quite pretty, and the babies were as cunning as the puppies. They barked every time the dogs did, in a funny, hoarse little way, and, indeed, Alaskan babies learn to bark long before they learn to talk.
The Tyee’s wife received Teddy kindly, and he soon found himself quite at home among these hospitable people, who seemed always friendly and natural. Nearly all spoke some English, and he rapidly added to his store of Chinook, so that he had no trouble in making himself understood or in understanding. Of course he missed his father, but he had little time to be lonely. Life in the village was anything but uneventful.