In the Time That Was –by: James Frederic Thorne
First Page:In The Time That Was
Dedicated to Ah Koo
Done into English by J. Frederic Thorne ( Kitchakahaech )
Illustrated by Judson T. Sergeant ( To u sucka )
Seattle, Washington, U. S. A.
BEING THE FIRST volume of a series of Legends of the tribe of Alaskan Indians known as the Chilkats of the Klingats As told by Zachook the "Bear" to Kitchakahaech the "Raven"
In the Time That Was
"And There Was Light."
Zachook of the Chilkats told me these tales of The Time That Was. But before the telling, he of the Northland and I of the Southland had travelled many a mile with dog team, snowshoes, and canoe.
If the stories suffer in the telling, as suffer they must afar from that wondrous Alaskan background of mountain and forest, glacier and river, wrenched from the setting of campfires and trail, and divorced from the soft gutturals and halting throat notes in which they have been handed down from generation to generation of Chilkat and Chilkoot, blame not Zachook, who told them to me, and forbear to blame me who tell them to you as best I may in this stiff English tongue. They were many months in the telling and many weary miles have I had to carry them in my memory pack.
I had lost count of the hours, lost count of the days that at best are marked by little change between darkness and dawn in the Northland winter, until I knew not how long I had lain there in my blanket of snow, waiting for the lingering feet of that dawdler, Death, to put an end to my sufferings.
Some hours, or days, or years before I had been pushing along the trail to the coast, thinking little where I placed my feet and much of the eating that lay at Dalton Post House; and of other things thousands of miles from this bleak waste, where men exist in the hope of ultimate living, with kaleidoscope death by their side; other things that had to do with women's faces, bills of fare from which bacon and beans were rigidly excluded, and comforts of the flesh that some day I again might enjoy.
Then, as if to mock me, teach me the folly of allowing even my thoughts to wander from her cold face, the Northland meted swift punishment. The packed snow of the trail beneath my feet gave way, there was a sharp click of steel meeting steel, and a shooting pain that ran from heel to head. For a moment I was sick and giddy from the shock and sudden pain, then, loosening the pack from my shoulders, fell to digging the snow with my mittened hands away from what, even before I uncovered it, I knew to be a bear trap that had bitten deep into my ankle and held it in vise clutch. Roundly I cursed at the worse than fool who had set bear trap in man trail, as I tore and tugged to free myself. As well might I have tried to wrench apart the jaws of its intended victim.
Weakened at last by my efforts and the excruciating pain I lay back upon the snow. A short rest, and again I pulled feebly at the steel teeth, until my hands were bleeding and my brain swirling.
How long I struggled blindly, viciously, like a trapped beaver, I do not know, though I have an indistinct memory of reaching for my knife to emulate his sometime method of escape. But with the first flakes of falling snow came a delicious, contentful langour, deadening the pain, soothing the weariness of my muscles, calming the tempest of my thoughts and fears, and lulling me gently to sleep to the music of an old song crooned by the breeze among the trees.
When I awoke it was with that queer feeling of foreign surroundings we sometimes experience, and the snow, the forest, the pain in my leg, my own being, were as strange as the crackling fire, the warm blanket that wrapped me, and the Indian who bent over me smiling into my half opened eyes.
So were our trails joined and made one; Zachook of the Northland, and I of the Southland, by him later called Kitchakahaech, because my tongue moved as moved our feet on the trail, unceasingly...