Both boys were delighted, and soon had the camp rearranged to accommodate the strangers. The fire was built up, Ted and Kalitan gathering cones and fir branches, which made a fragrant blaze, while Chetwoof cared for the dogs, and the old chief helped Mr. Strong pitch his tent in the lee of some fragrant firs. Soon all was prepared and supper cooking over the coals,—a supper of fresh fish and seal fat, which Alaskans consider a great delicacy, and to which Mr. Strong added coffee and crackers from his stores,—and Indians and whites ate together in friendliness and amity.
AROUND THE CAMP-FIRE
“How does if happen that you speak English, Kalitan?” asked Mr. Strong as they sat around the camp-fire that evening. The snow had continued during the afternoon, and the boys had had an exciting time coasting and snow-balling and enjoying themselves generally.
“I went for a few months to the Mission School at Wrangel,” said Kalitan. “I learned much there. They teach the boys to read and write and do sums and to work the ground besides. They learn much more than the girls.” “Huh!” said the old chief, grimly. “Girls learn too much. They no good for Indian wives, and white men not marry them. Best for girls to stay at home at the will of their fathers until they get husbands.”
“So you’ve been in Wrangel,” said Ted to Kalitan. “We went there, too. It’s a dandy place. Do you remember the fringe of white mountains back of the harbour? The people said the woods were full of game, but we didn’t have time to go hunting. There are a few shops there, but it seemed to me a very small place to have been built since 1834. In the States whole towns grow up in two or three weeks.”
“Huh!” said Kalitan, with a quick shrug of his shoulders, “quick grow, sun fade and wind blow down.”
“I don’t think the sun could ever fade in Wrangel,” laughed Ted. “They told me there it hadn’t shone but fifteen days in three months. It rained all the time.”
“Rain is nothing,” said Kalitan. “It is when the Ice Spirit speaks in the North Wind’s roar and in the crackling of the floes that we tremble. The glaciers are the children of the Mountain Spirit whom our fathers worshipped. He is angry, and lo! he hurls down icebergs in his wrath, he tosses them about, upon the streams he tosses the kyaks like feathers and washes the land with the waves of Sitth. When our people are buried in the ground instead of being burnt with the fire, they must go for ever to the place of Sitth, of everlasting cold, where never sun abides, nor rain, nor warmth.”
Ted had listened spellbound to this poetic speech and gazed at Kalitan in open-mouthed amazement. A boy who could talk like that was a new and delightful playmate, and he said: “Tell me more about things, Kalitan,” but the Indian was silent, ashamed of having spoken.