“Dead,” said Kalitan, briefly.
“I’m sorry,” said Ted. He adored his own father, and felt it was hard on a boy not to have one.
“He was killed,” said Kalitan, “but we had blood-money from them,” he added, sternly.
“What’s that?” asked Ted, curiously.
“Long time ago, when one man kill another, his clan must pay with a life. One must be found from his tribe to cry? ‘O-o-o-o-o-a-ha-a-ich-klu-kuk-ich-klu-kuk’” (ready to die, ready to die). His voice wailed out the mournful chant, which was weird and solemn and almost made Ted shiver. “But now,” the boy went on? “Boston men” (Americans) “do not like the blood-tax, so the murderer pays money instead. We got many blankets and baskets and moneys for Kalitan Tyee. He great chief.”
“Do you live here?” asked Ted.
“No, live on island out there.” Kalitan waved his hand seaward. “Come to fish with my uncle, Klake Tyee. This good fishing-ground.”
“It’s a pretty fine country,” said Ted, glancing at the scene, which bore charm to other than boyish eyes. To the east were the mountains sheltering a valley through which the frozen river wound like a silver ribbon, widening toward the sea. A cold green glacier filled the valley between two mountains with its peaks of beauty. Toward the shore, which swept in toward the river’s mouth in a sheltered cove, were clumps of trees, giant fir, aspen, and hemlock, green and beautiful, while seaward swept the waves in white-capped loveliness.
Kalitan ushered them to the camp with great politeness and considerable pride.
“You’ve a good place to camp,” said Mr. Strong, “and we will gladly share your fire until we are warm enough to go on.”
Ted’s face fell. “Must we go right away?” he asked. “This is such a jolly place.”
“No go to-day,” said Kalitan, briefly, to Chetwoof. “Colesnass."
[Footnote 2: Snow.]
“Huh!” said Chetwoof. “Think some.”
“Here comes my uncle,” said Kalitan, and he ran eagerly to meet an old Indian who came toward the camp from the shore. He eagerly explained the situation to the Tyee, who welcomed the strangers with grave politeness. He was an old-man, with a seamed, scarred faces but kindly eyes. Chief of the Thlinkits, his tribe was scattered, his children dead, and Kalitan about all left to him of interest in life.
“There will be more snow,” he said to Mr. Strong. “You are welcome. Stay and share our fire and food.”
“Do let us stay, father,” cried Ted, and his father smiled indulgently, but Kalitan looked at him in astonishment. Alaskan boys are taught to hold their tongues and let their elders decide matters, and Kalitan would never have dreamed of teasing for anything.
But Mr. Strong did not wish to face another snow-storm in the sledge, and knew he could work but little till the storm was passed; so he readily consented to stay a few days and let Ted see some real Alaskan hunting and fishing.