Puslapio vaizdai

with pearl studs. The days and the The days and the nights went over Kweetchel and Kolite, and it was a long while ago. The west winds, which had last touched the eyes of lovers in the peonygardens of Japan, now swept across the Pacific and touched as softly the eyes of Kweetchel and Kolite.

A sub-chief gave a great potlatch. Kweetchel was a dandy and he had himself tattooed for the occasion in a design of conventionalized compasses. But the wounds inflamed, and when the day of the feast came, Kweetchel was a sick man. He lay on his bed in a fever, talking wild ghost-words, and Kolite fanned him with a cedarbark fan.

other. He knew them at once for what they were, canoes under twinsails. He watched a moment longer, then, with a yell, he ran staggering to the potlatch-house. He flung himself at the swinging door between the monstrous faces on the butts of the totem-poles. As man of Kent or Essex might have flung himself into an English hall, crying, "The vikings! the vikings!" so Kweetchel, naked and shouting, burst upon the revelers in the smoky dark within, crying, "The Haida! the Haida!"

Wailing and shrieking, that crapulous rabble huddled to the defense. They tried to launch the long dugouts, in order that they might meet the sea-hawks on the sea. Only one got off, Kweetchel, for all his weakness, in her. Women and children fled to the fir-forest, but Kolite climbed to a high rock above the beach, wrapped her fine woven mantle about her, and sat as still as a stone, watching the hopeless fight on the sands below.

The second day of that feast Kweetchel's mind came back to him. He sat up in the dark house, and saw it empty but for Kolite. He heard outside the howls of the drinkers, the groans of the eaters, the wails of the neglected children, the worrying of the dogs. A sense of deep and immediate calamity laid hold on Kweet- The Haida war-canoes came down chel that was worse than the fever. under full sail, swift and beautiful He seemed to hear the warning screams among the beautiful boats that men of albatrosses everywhere. Trem- have made in the world. With drunkbling, he said to Kolite: en courage and a scattering fire of "Bring me the hutch, for I must old muskets, the canoe from shore talk with the thing inside."

Kolite brought the hutch, and covered her eyes with her mantle-fringe while Kweetchel looked at the compass, for it was holy. Kweetchel held the compass in his two hands. The needle, after shaking a little, hung true on the north.

Putting aside Kolite, Kweetchel crawled out of his house and stood up and gazed north. A great white fog-belt hung low across the sea. Kweetchel saw three black specks break from this fog, one after the

put out to intercept the leading one. The Haida swept on until scarcely twenty feet divided the two. Then her sails came down, and her great tall crew stood up, laughing. Bullets, spears, clubs, stone-headed axes rained on the other boat, from which rose a great cry of pain, fear, and death. The Haida's way swept her on. Her terrible sharp prow, with the painted eyes glaring on each side, ground into the side of her adversary, which heeled over. The Haida was sixty feet long. She passed on to the

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

shore and beached on the sand, leaving the living and dying struggling in the water. The second canoe picked up a few of the former for slaves. Then the massacre of men too sodden to stand, of men too gorged to run, began. The houses were fired. Kolite did not stir at all while the sound of it and the smell of burning went past her. Only she covered her face. Feet sounded on the high rock. A man stood by her, breathing hard. He said:

"Who are you?"
Kolite said:

"I was the wife of Kweetchel."

The man looked at her, at the fine weaving of her fringed mantle, on which black whales moved in a green sea, and at her long black hair. He tore the mantle from her face. Kolite bent her head to the ground. The man laughed. He picked her up and carried her down to the boats. He was gentle with her, for love for her had entered his heart when he saw her face.

Kolite looked to see if her husband was among the other prisoners, but he was not. Then she lay down, and it was as if her life went from her. Kweetchel was dead, and she was the slave of the Haida chief, AnnoishHaung.

But Kweetchel was not dead. He had been slightly wounded, and had fallen into the sea when his boat was run down. He swam under water like a seal while his breath held. When he came up, he was under the lee of a rock that hid him from sight. What with the fever and the wound, Kweetchel was in a bad way. He had no clear idea of what was happening.

Later, he recovered enough to swim to shore. This finished him.

He crawled above tide-mark and dropped, lying all night under the vast Pacific moon in the company of men stiller and colder than he.

When the sun rose, Kweetchel woke. He looked at the dead, at the charred houses, and at the marks of the Haida prows above the tide. He staggered up the beach, calling, "Kolite! Kolite!" but only the gulls screamed. He ran into the forest, calling, "Kolite!" but none answered. He searched to and fro in the hot ash of blackened wood. A great totem-pole, burned through at the base, crashed to the ground. That was the only answer to his cries. He went and sat in the ashes of his house, waiting to die.

He probably would have died there with savage ease, but his hands, moving as his sorrow hurt him, touched something cold and hard. It was the compass, dropped when he ran to give warning of the Haida, and overlooked in the looting. Kweetchel took it up and looked at it.

"Spirit of the bright box," he said, "where is Kolite?"

The needle shook, quivered, and hung true on the north. There was not the least doubt about it.

Kweetchel hung the compass round his neck on a string, found his own dugout unharmed, provisioned her with a cask of water, some nice fresh seaurchins, fish-lines, harpoons, and everything needful to a long journey that he could gather from the ruins, and went off after Kolite.

His account of what happened during the next month is confused. He seems to have traveled up the west coast of Vancouver Island, skulking in the fiords for fear of the Haida, but always following doggedly where

the needle pointed. He seems to have hung about Cape Scott, between Sea Otter Cove and Fisherman Bay, waiting for a favorable opportunity to cross to the Queen Charlottes, and reprovisioning his little canoe for that stormy passage where the full Pacific rolls into the sound. He made it at last, sustained by the moral support of the compass, which always pointed him the way he should go; and he landed at last under the mist-veiled mountains of the LakHaida, in a tiny bay notched into a bigger one, which was notched into a fiord, and at the foot of the mightiest cedar-forest of the world. Here, Here, on the edge of the forest, he hid himself and his canoe, and rested that day. He dared not light a fire. He did not know what to do next, or where to look for Kolite in this hostile and terrible island, where lived neither wolf nor deer, but only the tall Haida devils, the spirits of the storm. But the needle obstinately indicated a point on the opposite side of the bay where he was hidden, and Kweetchel lay and watched this point and prayed to his snam.

Just at nightfall a woman parted the dark, dripping cedar-branches here. She stood beside the still salt water, with her head bowed. She carried She carried a little torch in her hand, which she quenched in the sea. Kweetchel's heart hurt him, for it was Kolite.

A shadow in the shadows of the forest, she slipped out of the robes she wore. The torch had shown him that these were bright, the robes of a Haida chieftainess, red and blue. Bare and as softly dark as the young night sweet with cedar and with rain, she stepped into the water. Flames of the pale phosphorescence

traveled her body. She had a knife in her hand. Broad bands of hammered silver shone on her arms. She began to make prayer to the powers of the sea.

"O Scanawa, Un-Una," said Kolite in very good Haida, "I entreat you to punish the great men who killed my husband. I entreat you to rise, O Scanawa, Un-Una, Soul of Storms, and to upset their canoes and fill their nets with the dogfish and the mother of the dogfish, drive away the otter and bite holes in their baskets and spoil their copper shields and break their abalone shells. O Scanawa, Un-Una, I have nothing to give you. I am only the slavewife of Annoish-Haung, but I will give you all that I can. Only hear me, Scanawa, Un-Una, and make Kweetchel alive again, so that I need fear no more the hollow night and the arms of Annoish-Haung." And Kolite cut the long locks of black hair from her head, and they floated in the sea.

Kweetchel did not understand Haida, but he understood Kolite. He could keep still no longer. He leaped into the water and swam to her. Kolite saw him coming, and ran and crouched on the edge of the forest. And Kweetchel stood up out of the sea and said:

"I have come back, Kolite."

They had no words to fit what they felt, but they sat together and touched each other softly and smiled. Then Kweetchel said, "Come," and Kolite swam with him across the little bay, carrying her robes on her head, and they found his dugout. In the dim night, in the cedar-scented rain, they crept out to sea.

Kolite said:

"Let us go home." Kweetchel wanted to go home, but the compass pointed north. So north they went.

An old woman had followed Kolite from the Haida town, had heard her prayer to Un-Una, and seen Kweetchel return to her. This old woman went back and told everything to AnnoishHaung. And when in the dawn Kweetchel looked about the silver disk of sea, he saw four black specks between him and the cloudy summits of the Lak-Haida.

Kolite saw them, too. She stood up and screamed defiance at the canoes of Annoish-Haung. But Kweetchel grunted between his teeth. He had been paddling all night, and must paddle longer. The long silver swell lifted the little dugout; it climbed, sank, climbed. The four canoes pursuing it altered their course, converging like ducks upon a fish. Kweetchel's canoe had been seen.

"If we had a sail, it would help," he said stolidly.

Kolite stripped off her bright mantle and spread it upon spears. The wind filled it. She steadied it with her arms. The wet wind stung her, and she leaned back and smiled at Kweetchel, who loved her exceedingly in that moment.

The little canoe went fast, but faster were the four big canoes of Annoish-Haung. When Kweetchel looked back again, they were like eagles, and the foam about their beaked prows was like the white feathers of an eagle's neck.

"Shall we jump into the sea together?" asked Kolite, dark daughter of the sea. But Kweetchel said:

"I am a well-born man, and my ears are pierced. I would rather die fighting Annoish-Haung."

There were small islands to westward, and Kweetchel tried to edge toward them. Among their cloudy channels he might yet find shelter. But he lost way, and his paddle dragged. He glanced at the compass and then groaned, for the thing would have none of it. North he must go. The thing was actually pulling him north. He ceased fighting the current and resigned himself. North he went, and Annoish-Haung followed.

But now Kweetchel was spent. He looked despairingly at the mountains, at the canoes hunting him down. His chest heaved, water ran down his face. Kolite left the sail and knelt beside him and wiped his face with her hands. Then she wrenched the bracelets of hammered silver from her arms and threw them into the sea.

"O, Scanawa, Un-Una, hear us!" Scanawa, Un-Una, Soul of the Sea, heard. Suddenly down from the tall mountains of the Lak-Haida swept the squall. Between the small boat and the others it drove a sudden wedge of wind and hail. The waves lifted, the air and the sea mingled together. Un-Una reached up and shook the canoes of Annoish-Haung and the souls of the men in them. Kolite seized the paddle, and Kweetchel staggered forward and stayed the sail. He saw an albatross riding the gale like a ship above his head, and astern the Soul of the Sea fought for them.

The squall broke away south in a flying rainbow. The sea about them was driving green and blue, flashing with foam. Kweetchel looked back. So swiftly had the storm struck and departed that the big canoes had had no time to lower their sails. One

« AnkstesnisTęsti »