The God of His Fathers and Other Stories HTML version

The God Of His Fathers
On every hand stretched the forest primeval,--the home of noisy comedy and silent
tragedy. Here the struggle for survival continued to wage with all its ancient brutality.
Briton and Russian were still to overlap in the Land of the Rainbow's End-- and this was
the very heart of it--nor had Yankee gold yet purchased its vast domain. The wolf-pack
still clung to the flank of the cariboo-herd, singling out the weak and the big with calf,
and pulling them down as remorselessly as were it a thousand, thousand generations into
the past. The sparse aborigines still acknowledged the rule of their chiefs and medicine
men, drove out bad spirits, burned their witches, fought their neighbors, and ate their
enemies with a relish which spoke well of their bellies. But it was at the moment when
the stone age was drawing to a close. Already, over unknown trails and chartless
wildernesses, were the harbingers of the steel arriving,--fair-faced, blue-eyed,
indomitable men, incarnations of the unrest of their race. By accident or design, single-
handed and in twos and threes, they came from no one knew whither, and fought, or died,
or passed on, no one knew whence. The priests raged against them, the chiefs called forth
their fighting men, and stone clashed with steel; but to little purpose. Like water seeping
from some mighty reservoir, they trickled through the dark forests and mountain passes,
threading the highways in bark canoes, or with their moccasined feet breaking trail for
the wolf-dogs. They came of a great breed, and their mothers were many; but the fur-clad
denizens of the Northland had this yet to learn. So many an unsung wanderer fought his
last and died under the cold fire of the aurora, as did his brothers in burning sands and
reeking jungles, and as they shall continue to do till in the fulness of time the destiny of
their race be achieved.
It was near twelve. Along the northern horizon a rosy glow, fading to the west and
deepening to the east, marked the unseen dip of the midnight sun. The gloaming and the
dawn were so commingled that there was no night,--simply a wedding of day with day, a
scarcely perceptible blending of two circles of the sun. A kildee timidly chirped good-
night; the full, rich throat of a robin proclaimed good-morrow. From an island on the
breast of the Yukon a colony of wild fowl voiced its interminable wrongs, while a loon
laughed mockingly back across a still stretch of river.
In the foreground, against the bank of a lazy eddy, birch-bark canoes were lined two and
three deep. Ivory-bladed spears, bone- barbed arrows, buckskin-thonged bows, and
simple basket-woven traps bespoke the fact that in the muddy current of the river the
salmon-run was on. In the background, from the tangle of skin tents and drying frames,
rose the voices of the fisher folk. Bucks skylarked with bucks or flirted with the maidens,
while the older squaws, shut out from this by virtue of having fulfilled the end of their
existence in reproduction, gossiped as they braided rope from the green roots of trailing
vines. At their feet their naked progeny played and squabbled, or rolled in the muck with
the tawny wolf-dogs.
To one side of the encampment, and conspicuously apart from it, stood a second camp of
two tents. But it was a white man's camp. If nothing else, the choice of position at least