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The White Man’s Way
by [?]

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 effort.

“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 question.

“It is the way of the white man,” Ebbits mumbled with an air of resignation.

“It is the foolishness of 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 walls 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 time.

“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 very wise.”