“And likewise, thou fool, I said money was a thing of which you know nothing. As I say, I rode the monster through the land, and through many villages, until I came to a big village on a salt arm of the sea. And the houses shoved their roofs among the stars in the sky, and the clouds drifted by them, and everywhere was much smoke. And the roar of that village was like the roar of the sea in storm, and the people were so many that I flung away my stick and no longer remembered the notches upon it.”
“Hadst thou made small notches,” Koogah reproved, “thou mightst have brought report.”
Nam-Bok whirled upon him in anger. “Had I made small notches! Listen, Koogah, thou scratcher of bone! If I had made small notches neither the stick, nor twenty sticks, could have borne them–nay, not all the driftwood of all the beaches between this village and the next. And if all of you, the women and children as well, were twenty times as many, and if you had twenty hands each, and in each hand a stick and a knife, still the notches could not be cut for the people I saw, so many were they and so fast did they come and go.”
“There cannot be so many people in all the world,” Opee-Kwan objected, for he was stunned and his mind could not grasp such magnitude of numbers.
“What dost thou know of all the world and how large it is?” Nam-Bok demanded.
“But there cannot be so many people in one place.”
“Who art thou to say what can be and what cannot be?”
“It stands to reason there cannot be so many people in one place. Their canoes would clutter the sea till there was no room. And they could empty the sea each day of its fish, and they would not all be fed.”
“So it would seem,” Nam-Bok made final answer; “yet it was so. With my own eyes I saw, and flung my stick away.” He yawned heavily and rose to his feet. “I have paddled far. The day has been long, and I am tired. Now I will sleep, and to-morrow we will have further talk upon the things I have seen.”
Bask-Wah-Wan, hobbling fearfully in advance, proud indeed, yet awed by her wonderful son, led him to her _igloo_ and stowed him away among the greasy, ill-smelling furs. But the men lingered by the fire, and a council was held wherein was there much whispering and low-voiced discussion.
An hour passed, and a second, and Nam-Bok slept, and the talk went on. The evening sun dipped toward the northwest, and at eleven at night was nearly due north. Then it was that the head man and the bone-scratcher separated themselves from the council and aroused Nam-Bok. He blinked up into their faces and turned on his side to sleep again. Opee-Kwan gripped him by the arm and kindly but firmly shook his senses back into him.
“Come, Nam-Bok, arise!” he commanded. “It be time.”
“Another feast!” Nam-Bok cried. “Nay, I am not hungry. Go on with the eating and let me sleep.”
“Time to be gone!” Koogah thundered.
But Opee-Kwan spoke more softly. “Thou wast bidarka-mate with me when we were boys,” he said. “Together we first chased the seal and drew the salmon from the traps. And thou didst drag me back to life, Nam-Bok, when the sea closed over me and I was sucked down to the black rocks. Together we hungered and bore the chill of the frost, and together we crawled beneath the one fur and lay close to each other. And because of these things, and the kindness in which I stood to thee, it grieves me sore that thou shouldst return such a remarkable liar. We cannot understand, and our heads be dizzy with the things thou hast spoken. It is not good, and there has been much talk in the council. Wherefore we send thee away, that our heads may remain clear and strong and be not troubled by the unaccountable things.”