wolves circled the herd of caribou deer. Gray bellies close to the
ground, the wolves in the pack surrounded a pregnant deer. They pulled
her down and tore out her throat. The rest of the caribou herd raced off
in a hundred directions. The wolves began to feed.
Once again the Alaska territory was the scene of silent death. Here, in
its ancient forests, the strong had killed the weak for thousands and
thousands of years.
Small groups of Indians also lived in this land at the rainbow's end.
But their Stone Age life was ending. Strange men with blond hair and
blue eyes had discovered the lands of the North. The Indian chiefs
ordered their warriors to fight them. Stone arrow met steel bullet. The
Indians could not stop the strangers. The White men conquered the icy
rivers in light canoes. They broke through the dark forests and climbed
the rocky mountains.
One of these men sat in front of a tent, near a river. His name was Hay
Stockard. Over the smoke and flames of his fire, he watched an Indian
village not far from his own camp.
From inside his tent came the cry of a sick child, and the gentle
answering song of its mother. But the man was not concerned now with
them. He was thinking of Baptiste the Red, the chief of the Indian
village, who had just left him.
"We do not want you here," Baptiste had told him. "If we permit you to
sit by our fires, after you will come your church, your priests and your
God." Baptiste the Red hated the White man's God. His father had been an
Englishman; his mother, the daughter of an Indian chief. Baptiste had
been raised among White men.
When Baptiste was a young man he fell in love with a Frenchman's
daughter, but her father opposed the marriage. A Christian priest
refused to marry them. So Baptiste took the girl into the forests. They
went to live among his mother's people. A year later, the girl died
while giving birth to her first child.
Baptiste took the baby back to live among the White people. For many
years he lived in peace with them, as his daughter grew up -- tall and
beautiful. One night, while Baptiste was away, a White man broke into
their home and killed the girl. When Baptiste asked for justice, he was
told the White man's God forgives all sins. So Baptiste killed his
daughter's murderer with his own hands, and returned forever to his
"I have sworn to make any White man who comes to my village deny his God
if he wants to live," he told Hay Stockard. "But since you are the first,
I will not do this if you go and go quickly."
"And if I stay?" Hay Stockard had asked quietly as he filled his pipe. "Then
soon you will meet your God, your bad God, the God of the White man!"
The Indian chief rose to his feet and left Hay Stockard's camp to return
to his village.
The next morning Hay Stockard watched with angry eyes as three men in a
long canoe came to the river bank. Two of the men were Indian. The third,
a White man, wore a bright red cloth around his head. Hay Stockard
reached for his gun, and then changed his mind. As soon as the canoe
landed, the White man jumped out and ran up to Stockard.
"So we meet again, Hay Stockard! Peace be with you. I know you are a
sinner, but I, Sturges Owen, am God's own servant. I will bring you back
to our church.
"Listen to me," Stockard warned, "if you stay here you'll bring trouble
to yourself and your men. You'll all be killed and so will my wife, my
child, and myself!"
Owen looked up to the sky. "The man who carries God in his heart and the
Bible in his hand is protected."
Later that morning, the Indian chief Baptiste came back to Stockard's
camp. "Give me the priest," Baptiste demanded, "and I will let you go in
peace. If you do not, you die."
Sturges Owen grabbed his Bible. "I am not afraid," he said. "God will
protect me and hold me in his right hand. I am ready to go with Baptiste
to his village. I will save his soul for God."
Hay Stockard shook his head. "Listen to me, Baptiste. I did not bring
this priest here, but now that he is here, I can't let you kill him.
Many of your people will die if we fight each other."
Baptiste looked into Stockard's eyes. "But those who live," he said, "will
not have the words of a strange God in their ears."
After a moment of silence, Baptiste the Red turned and went back to his
own camp. Sturges Owen called his two men to him and the three of them
kneeled to pray. Stockard and his wife began to prepare the camp for
As they worked they heard the sound of war-drums in the village.
As Sturges Owen waited and prayed, he began to feel his religious fever
cooling. Fear replaced hope in his heart. The love of life took the
place of the love of God in his mind. The love of life! He could not
stop himself from feeling it. Owen knew that Stockard also loved his
life. But Stockard would choose death rather than shame.
The war-drums boomed loudly. Suddenly they stopped.
A flood of dark feet raced toward Stockard's camp. Arrows whistled
through the air. A spear went through the body of Stockard's wife.
Stockard's bullets answered back. Wave after wave of Indians warriors
broke over the barrier. Sturges Owen ran into his tent. His two men died
quickly. Hay Stockard alone remained on his feet, knocking the attacking
Stockard held an ax in one hand and his gun in the other. Behind him, a
hand grabbed Stockard's baby by its tiny leg and pulled it from under
his mother's body. The Indian whipped the child through the air,
smashing its head against a log. Stockard turned, and cut off the
Indian's head with his ax.
The circle of angry faces closed on Stockard. Two times they pushed up
to him, but each time he beat them back. They fell under his feet as the
ground became wet with blood. Finally, Baptiste called his men to him.
"Stockard," he shouted. "You are a brave man. Deny your God and I will
let you live!"
Two Indians dragged Sturges Owen out of the tent. He was not hurt, but
his eyes were wild with fear.
He felt anger at God for making him so weak. Why had God given him faith
Owen stood shaking before Baptiste the Red. "Where is your God now? "
demanded the Indian chief.
"I do not know," Owen whispered.
"Do you have a God?"
"Very good," Baptiste said. "See that this man goes free. Let nothing
happen to him. And send him back to his own people so he can tell his
priests about Baptiste the Red's land where there is no God."
Baptiste turned to Hay Stockard. "There is no God," Baptiste said.
Stockard laughed. One of the young Indian warriors lifted the war spear.
"Do you have a God?" Baptiste shouted.
Stockard took a deep breath. "Yes, he said, "the God of my fathers."
The spear flew through the air and went deep into Stockard's chest.
Sturges Owen saw Stockard fall slowly to the ground. Then the Indians
put Owen in a canoe. Sturges Owen went down the river to carry the
message of Baptiste the Red, in whose country there was no God.