Love of Life and Other Stories HTML version

The Sun-Dog Trail
SITKA CHARLEY smoked his pipe and gazed thoughtfully at the POLICE GAZETTE
illustration on the wall. For half an hour he had been steadily regarding it, and for half an
hour I had been slyly watching him. Something was going on in that mind of his, and,
whatever it was, I knew it was well worth knowing. He had lived life, and seen things,
and performed that prodigy of prodigies, namely, the turning of his back upon his own
people, and, in so far as it was possible for an Indian, becoming a white man even in his
mental processes. As he phrased it himself, he had come into the warm, sat among us, by
our fires, and become one of us. He had never learned to read nor write, but his
vocabulary was remarkable, and more remarkable still was the completeness with which
he had assumed the white man's point of view, the white man's attitude toward things.
We had struck this deserted cabin after a hard day on trail. The dogs had been fed, the
supper dishes washed, the beds made, and we were now enjoying that most delicious
hour that comes each day, and but once each day, on the Alaskan trail, the hour when
nothing intervenes between the tired body and bed save the smoking of the evening pipe.
Some former denizen of the cabin had decorated its walls with illustrations torn from
magazines and newspapers, and it was these illustrations that had held Sitka Charley's
attention from the moment of our arrival two hours before. He had studied them intently,
ranging from one to another and back again, and I could see that there was uncertainty in
his mind, and bepuzzlement.
"Well?" I finally broke the silence.
He took the pipe from his mouth and said simply, "I do not understand."
He smoked on again, and again removed the pipe, using it to point at the POLICE
GAZETTE illustration.
"That picture - what does it mean? I do not understand."
I looked at the picture. A man, with a preposterously wicked face, his right hand pressed
dramatically to his heart, was falling backward to the floor. Confronting him, with a face
that was a composite of destroying angel and Adonis, was a man holding a smoking
"One man is killing the other man," I said, aware of a distinct bepuzzlement of my own
and of failure to explain.
"Why?" asked Sitka Charley.
"I do not know," I confessed.
"That picture is all end," he said. "It has no beginning."