At first there was the whale to be attended to, and all the village turned out for that. The huge creature had drifted ashore on the farther side of the island, and Ted was much interested in seeing him gradually disposed of. Great masses of blubber were stripped from the sides to be used later both for food and fuel, the whalebone was carefully secured to be sold to the traders, and it seemed to Ted that there was not one thing in that vast carcass for which the Indians did not have some use.
Ted soon tired of watching the many things done with the whale, but there was plenty to do and see in the village. The village houses were all alike. There was one large room in which the people cooked, ate, and slept. The girls had blankets strung across one corner, behind which were their beds. Teddy was given one also for his corner of the great room in the Tyee’s house.
He learned to eat the food and to like it very much. There was dried fish, herons’ eggs, berries, or those put up in seal oil, which is obtained by frying the fat out of the blubber of the seal. The Alaskans use this oil in nearly all their cooking, and are very fond of it. Ted ate also dried seaweed, chopped and boiled in seal oil, which tasted very much like boiled and salted leather, but he liked it very well. Indeed he grew so strong and well, out-of-doors all day in the clear air and bright sunshine of the Alaskan June, that he could eat anything and tramp all day without being too tired to sleep like a top all night, and wake ready for a new day with a zest he never felt at home.
Fresh fish were plentiful. The boys caught salmon, smelts, and whitefish, and many were dried for the coming winter, while clams, gum-boots, sea-cucumbers, and devil-fish, found on the rocks of the shore, were every-day diet.
Kalitan’s sister and Ted became great friends. She was older than Kalitan, and, though only fifteen, was soon to be married to Tah-ge-ah, a fine young Indian who was ready to pay high for her, which was not strange, for she was both pretty and sweet.
“At the next full moon,” said Kalitan, “there will be a potlatch, and Tanana will be sold to Tah-ge-ah. He says he will give four hundred blankets for her, and my uncle is well pleased. Many only pay ten blankets for a wife, but of course we would not sell my sister for that. She is of high caste, chief’s daughter, niece, and sister,” the boy spoke proudly, and Ted answered:
“She’s so pretty, too. She’s not like the Indian girls I saw at Wrangel and Juneau. Why, there the women sat around as dirty as dogs on the sidewalk, and didn’t seem to care how they looked. They had baskets to sell, and were too lazy to care whether any one bought them or not. They weren’t a bit like Tanana. She’s as pretty as a Japanese.”
Kalitan smiled, well pleased, and Ted added, “I guess the Thlinkits must be the best Indians in Alaska.”
Kalitan laughed outright at this.