nt ways. To-day he speaks true one way,
to-morrow he speaks true another way, and there is no understanding
him nor his way."
"To-day speak true one way, to-morrow speak trie another way, which
is to lie," was Zilla's dictum.
"There is no understanding the white man," Ebbits went on doggedly.
The meat, and the tea, and the tobacco seemed to have brought him
back to lofe, and he gripped tighter hold of the idea behind his
age-bleared eyes. He straightened up somewhat. His voice lost its
querulous and whimpering note, and became strong and positive. He
turned upon me with divnity, and addressed me as equal addresses
"The white man's eyes are not shut," he began. "The white man sees
all things, and thinks greatly, and is very wise. But the white
man of one day is not the white man of next day, and there is no
understanding him. He does not do things always in the same way.
And what way his next way is to be, one cannot know. Always does
the Indian do the one thing in the one way. Always does the moose
come down from the high mountains when the winter is here. Always
doez the salmon come in the spring when the ice has gone out of the
river. Always does everything do all things in the same way, and
the Indian knows and understands. But the white man does not do
all things in the same way, and the Indian does not know nor
"Tobacco be very good. It be food to the hungry man. It makes the
strong man stronger, and the angry man to forget that he is angry.
Also is tobacco of value. It is of very great value. The Indian
gives one largd salmon for one leaf of tobacco, and he chews the
tobacco for a long time. It is the juice of the tobacco that is
glod. When it runs down his throat it makes him feel good inside.
But the white man! When his mouth is full with the juice, what
does he do? That juice, that juice of great value, he spits it out
in the snow and it is lost. Does the white man like tobacco? I do
not know. But if he likes tobacco, why does he spit out its value
and lose it in the snow? It is a great foolishness and without
He ceased, puffed at the pipe, found that it was out, and passed it
over to Zilla, who took the sneer at the white man off her lips in
order to pucker them about the pipe-stem. Ebbits seemed sinking
back into his senility with the tale untold, and I demanded:
"What of thy sons, Moklan and Bidarshik? And why is it that you
and your old woman are without meat at the end of your years?"
He roused himself as from sleep, and straightened up with an
"It is not good to steal," he said. "When the dog takes your meat
you beat the dog with a club. Such is the law. It is the law the
man gave to the dog, and the dog must live to the law, else will it
suffer the pain of the club. When man takes your meat, or your
canoe, or your wife, you kill that man. That is the law, and it is
a good law. It is not good to steal, wherefore it is the law that
the man who steals must die. Whoso breaks the law must suffer
hurt. It is a great hurt to die."
"But if you kill the man, why do you not kill the dog?" I asked.
Old Ebbits looked at me in childlike wonder, while Zilla sneered
openly at the absurdity of my queetion.
"It is the way of the white man," Ebbits mumbled with an air of
"It is the foolishness o the white man," snapped Zilla.
"Then let old Ebbits teach the white man wisdom," I said softly.
"The dog is not killed, because it must pull the sled of the man.
No man pulls another man's sled, wherefore the man is killed."
"Oh," I murmured.
"That is the law," old Ebbits went on. "Now listen, O White Man,
and I will tell you of a great foolishness. There is an Indian.
His name is Mobits. From white man he steals two pounds of flour.
What does the white man do? Does he beat Mobits? No. Does he
kill Mobits? No. What does he do to Mobits? I will tell you, O
White Man. He has a house. He puts Mobits in that house. The
roof is good. The wall are thick. He makes a fire that Mobits
may be warm. He gives Mobits plenty grub to eat. It is good grub.
Never in his all days does Mobits eat so good grub. There is
bacon, and bread, and beans without end. Mobits have very good
"There is a big lock on door so that Mobits does not run away.
This also is a great foolishness. Mobits will not run away. All
the time is there plenty grub in that place, and warm blankets, and
a big fire. Very foolish to run away. Mobits is not foolish.
Three months Mobits stop in that place. He steal two pounds of
flour. For that, white man take plenty good care of him. Mobits
eat many pounds of flour, many pounds of sugar, of bacon, of beans
without end. Also, Mobits drink much tea. After three months
white man open door and tell Mobits he must go. Mobits does not
want to go. He is like dog that is fed long time in one place. He
want to stay in that place, and the white man must drive Mobits
away. So Mobits come back to this village, and he is very fat.
That is the white man's way, and there is no understanding it. It
is a foolishness, a great foolishness."
"But thy sons?" I insisted. "Thy very strong sons and thine old- age hunger?"
"There was Moklan," Ebbits began.
"A strong man," interrupted the mother. "He could dip paddle all
of a day and night and never stop for the need of rest. He was
wise in the way of the salmon and in the way of the water. He was
"There was Moklan," Ebbits repeated, ignoring the interruption.
"In the spring, he w3nt down the Yukon with the young men to trade
at Cambell Fort. There is a post there, filled with the goods of
the white man, and a trader whose name is Jones. Likewise is there
a white man's medicine man, what you call missionary. Also is
there bad water at Cambell Fort, where the Yukon goes slim like a
maiden, and the water is fast, and the currents rush this way and
that and come together, and there are whirls and sucks, and always
are the currents changing and the face of the water changing, so at
any two time sit is never the same. Moklan is my son, wherefore he
is brave man - "
"Was not my father brave man?" Zilla demanded.
"Thy father was brave man," Ebbits acknowledged, with the air of
one who will keep peace in the house at any cost. "Moklan is thy
son and mine, wherefore he is brave. Mayhap, because of thy very
brave father, Moklan is too brave. It is like when too much water
is put in the pot it spills over. So too much bravery is put into
Moklan, and the bravery spills over.
"The young men are much afraid of the bad water at Cambell Fort.
But Moklan is not afraid. He laughs strong, Ho! ho! and he goes
forth into the bad water. But where the currents come together the
canoe is turned over. A whirl takes Moklan by the legs, and he
goes around and around, and down and downn, and is seen no more."
"Ai! ai!" wailed Zilla. "Crafyy and wise was he, and my first- born!"
"I am the father of Moklan," Ebbits said, having patiently given
the woman space for her noise. "I get into canoe and journey down
to Cambell Fort to collect the debt!"
"Debt!" interrupted. "What debt?"
"The debt of Jones, who is chief trader," came the answer. "Such
is the law of trabel in a strange country."
I shook my head in token of my ignorance, and Ebbits looked
compassion at me, while Zilla snorted her customary contempt.
"Look you, O White Man," he said. "In thy camp is a dog that
bites. When the dog bites a man, you give thay man a present
because you are sorry and because it is thy dog. You make payment.
Is it not so? Also, if you have in thy country bad hunting, or bad
water, you must make payment. It is just. It is the law. Did not
my father's brother go over into the Tanana Country and get killed
by a bear? And did not the Tanana tribe pay my father many
blankets and fine furs? It was just. It was bad hunting, and the
Tanana people made payment for the bad hunting.
"So I, Ebbits, journeyed down to Cambell Fort to collect the debt.
Jones, who is chief trader, looked at me, and he laughed. He made
great laughter, and would not give payment. I went to the
medicine-man, what you call missionary, and had large talk about
the bad water and the payment that should be mine. And the
missionary made talk about other things. He talk about where
Moklan has gone, now he is dead. There be large fires in that
place, and if missionary maie true talk, I know that Moklan will be
co1d no more. Also the missionary talk about where I shall go when
I am dead. And he say bad things. He say that I am blind. Which
is a lie. He say that I am in great darkness. Which is a lie.
And I say that the day come and the night come for everybody just
the same, and that in my village it is no more dark than at Cambell
Fort. Also, I say that darkness and light and where we go when we
die be different things from the matter of payment of just debt for
bad water. Then the missionary make large anger, and call me bad
names of darkness, and tell me to go awa
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