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Saga of Kweetchel

Drawings by C. LEROY BALDridge

WEETCHEL was a young man when it happened, and that was before the days when the red coho and the Sitka spruce had brought numbers of white men to his part of the world. Kweetchel had seen few white men. He had never seen a compass until he took one from the body of a dead sailor that he found in a drifting boat.

He was out in the summer fog, fishing for halibut with bits of octopus arm for bait, and the boat came sliding sidewise out of the fog and rubbed gently against his dugout. Kweetchel looked into it and saw the dead sailor, bearded, and dressed in thick sea-clothes.

There was nothing in the sailor's pockets but a twist of tobacco and a compass. Kweetchel wondered what he should do next, and a sooty albatross veered out of the fog and screamed at him. Kweetchel's snam was an albatross; therefore he took this to mean that he 'd better have nothing more to do with the white man's boat or its contents. He sent the boat off with a push, and the fog closed round it again forever; but Kweetchel kept the compass. There seemed no harm in that.

Kweetchel went ashore. The compass was in a bright little brass case, and he intended to give it to the girl he liked best, either Kolite or Oala.

The trouble was that he could n't decide which he preferred. Oala's silver lip-stud was nearly twice the size of Kolite's, but Kolite's eyes were as soft and bright as deep river water, and looked kindly on Kweetchel.

He sat down to think this out, the compass in his hands, and his heart beat, Kolite? Oala? Kolite? Oala? Then Kweetchel saw that the needle of the compass was pointing straight at Kolite's house.

Kolite's house was north of Kweetchel as he sat on the beach among the carved dugouts, the barbed cods' heads, and the fighting dogs; but of course he did not know what this had to do with the question. It seemed like an answer to it. "My holy snam," said Kweetchel, or gutturals to that effect, "but there is a strong spirit in this little box." He decided then and there that he would keep the compass himself; but he went off immediately and made arrangements to marry Kolite.

So Kweetchel, guided by the spirit in the compass, took Kolite to wife, and very soon forgot about Oala. He was very happy. Kolite was an excellent housekeeper as far as oalachan-oil and dried seaweed goes. Kweetchel made a beautiful hutch for the compass to live in, wellgrained male-wood, greased black, incised with albatross-wings and inlaid

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