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The White Man’s Way
by [?]

“What if the young men do return with meat?” Zilla demanded harshly.

“They may return with much meat,” he quavered hopefully.

“Even so, with much meat,” she continued, more harshly than before. “But of what worth to you and me? A few bones to gnaw in our toothless old age. But the back-fat, the kidneys, and the tongues – these shall go into other mouths than thine and mine, old man.”

Ebbits nodded his head and wept silently.

“There be no one to hunt meat for us,” she cried, turning fiercely upon me.

There was accusation in her manner, and I shrugged my shoulders in token that I was not guilty of the unknown crime imputed to me.

“Know, O White Man, that it is because of thy kind, because of all white men, that my man and I have no meat in our old age and sit without tobacco in the cold.”

“Nay,” Ebbits said gravely, with a stricter sense of justice. “Wrong has been done us, it be true; but the white men did not mean the wrong.”

“Where be Moklan?” she demanded. “Where be thy strong son, Moklan, and the fish he was ever willing to bring that you might eat?”

The old man shook his head.

“And where be Bidarshik, thy strong son? Ever was he a mighty hunter, and ever did he bring thee the good back-fat and the sweet dried tongues of the moose and the caribou. I see no back-fat and no sweet dried tongues. Your stomach is full with emptiness through the days, and it is for a man of a very miserable and lying people to give you to eat.”

“Nay,” old Ebbits interposed in kindliness, “the white man’s is not a lying people. The white man speaks true. Always does the white man speak true.” He paused, casting about him for words wherewith to temper the severity of what he was about to say. “But the white man speaks true in different 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 true 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 life, 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 dignity, and addressed me as equal addresses equal.

“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 does 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 understand.

“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 large salmon for one leaf of tobacco, and he chews the tobacco for a long time. It is the juice of the tobacco that is good. 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 understanding.”