“When day came, there being nothing of the schooner, I turned my face to the land and journeyed into it that I might get food and look upon the faces of the people. And when I came to a house I was taken in and given to eat, for I had learned their speech, and the white men are ever kindly. And it was a house bigger than all the houses built by us and our fathers before us.”
“It was a mighty house,” Koogah said, masking his unbelief with wonder.
“And many trees went into the making of such a house,” Opee-Kwan added, taking the cue.
“That is nothing.” Nam-Bok shrugged his shoulders in belittling fashion. “As our houses are to that house, so that house was to the houses I was yet to see.”
“And they are not big men?”
“Nay; mere men like you and me,” Nam-Bok answered. “I had cut a stick that I might walk in comfort, and remembering that I was to bring report to you, my brothers, I cut a notch in the stick for each person who lived in that house. And I stayed there many days, and worked, for which they gave me _money_–a thing of which you know nothing, but which is very good.
“And one day I departed from that place to go farther into the land. And as I walked I met many people, and I cut smaller notches in the stick, that there might be room for all. Then I came upon a strange thing. On the ground before me was a bar of iron, as big in thickness as my arm, and a long step away was another bar of iron—-”
“Then wert thou a rich man,” Opee-Kwan asserted; “for iron be worth more than anything else in the world. It would have made many knives.”
“Nay, it was not mine.”
“It was a find, and a find be lawful.”
“Not so; the white men had placed it there. And further, these bars were so long that no man could carry them away–so long that as far as I could see there was no end to them.”
“Nam-Bok, that is very much iron,” Opee-Kwan cautioned.
“Ay, it was hard to believe with my own eyes upon it; but I could not gainsay my eyes. And as I looked I heard …” He turned abruptly upon the head man. “Opee-Kwan, thou hast heard the sea-lion bellow in his anger. Make it plain in thy mind of as many sea-lions as there be waves to the sea, and make it plain that all these sea-lions be made into one sea-lion, and as that one sea-lion would bellow so bellowed the thing I heard.”
The fisherfolk cried aloud in astonishment, and Opee-Kwan’s jaw lowered and remained lowered.
“And in the distance I saw a monster like unto a thousand whales. It was one-eyed, and vomited smoke, and it snorted with exceeding loudness. I was afraid and ran with shaking legs along the path between the bars. But it came with speed of the wind, this monster, and I leaped the iron bars with its breath hot on my face …”
Opee-Kwan gained control of his jaw again. “And–and then, O Nam-Bok?”
“Then it came by on the bars, and harmed me not; and when my legs could hold me up again it was gone from sight. And it is a very common thing in that country. Even the women and children are not afraid. Men make them to do work, these monsters.”
“As we make our dogs do work?” Koogah asked, with sceptic twinkle in his eye.
“Ay, as we make our dogs do work.”
“And how do they breed these–these things?” Opee-Kwan questioned.
“They breed not at all. Men fashion them cunningly of iron, and feed them with stone, and give them water to drink. The stone becomes fire, and the water becomes steam, and the steam of the water is the breath of their nostrils, and–”
“There, there, O Nam-Bok,” Opee-Kwan interrupted. “Tell us of other wonders. We grow tired of this which we may not understand.”
“You do not understand?” Nam-Bok asked despairingly.
“Nay, we do not understand,” the men and women wailed back. “We cannot understand.”
Nam-Bok thought of a combined harvester, and of the machines wherein visions of living men were to be seen, and of the machines from which came the voices of men, and he knew his people could never understand.
“Dare I say I rode this iron monster through the land?” he asked bitterly.
Opee-Kwan threw up his hands, palms outward, in open incredulity. “Say on; say anything. We listen.”
“Then did I ride the iron monster, for which I gave money–”
“Thou saidst it was fed with stone.”