And now from bed and house emerges Trolleman, struts Trolleman, all puffed out with his furs and feathers and his pride. "Well, well, well, well!" he cries. "What's this? What's this? --- See how I do it, Mr. Kent?"

"See how you do it?" I say, innocently enough, for the smallest child seems to have had more to do with it than his nibs.

"Why yes, Mr. Kent; my net, my whale."

"I see: your crew."

He stopped in his tracks, for he had all this time been strutting about with a superb air of command. "Crew!" he cried in excited astonishment. "There is no crew. I do it. I always do it. No, Mr. Kent, no crew. You see, Mr. Kent," he went on confidentially, "when you have a crew you divide with them. That doesn't do. No, no. I do the work myself. Oh, well" --- a little deprecatingly --- "I let them go and help. They like that. Oh, no, Mr. Kent, no, no, no, no; no crew."

Meanwhile the whale was being expertly dissected, the fat and meat being carried off and deposited in the owner's store shed, and the hide --- matak, as it is called --- being as rapidly devoured as half a hundred human jaws could do it. And although the scene was one of carnage in which everyone got thoroughly besmeared with blood, I must at once dispel the thought that white-whale hide, either raw or cooked, is anything less than one of the most palatable delicacies of the world. Yet how describe it as a thing to eat?

Tough? As rawhide it is used for whips and lines. Fresh, in the teeth, it has almost rawhide toughness and the resilience of rubber bands. Chew rubber bands to know how eating matak feels. Imagine rubber yielding, as you chew it, the flavor --- hardly that, the sweetness, the degree of sweetness --- of a watermelon. It isn't that, of course, but let that do: sweetish, with flavor undefined.

Cooked it's quite different. Cut into little dice, in soup, it is not unlike green turtle. Cut into strips of little-finger size and fried, it curls up prettily, comes to have the consistency of rather tough fried scallops and a flavor less like them but equally delicate. In rich brown gravy stews, plain boiled, or, better, boiled and served with rice and curry sauce, young matak is too tender for a knife and good enough to make a French chef's everlasting fame.

But eaten icy cold; gripped with the teeth and hand-sliced nosewards, bolted down: that is the best, they say who know. And until Trolleman put a stop to the feast by carrying away what slabs of hide remained, just that was going on magnificently.

When all that was of interest to man had been removed, the dog pack that at whip-lash radius had all the while been held at bay was let come in. There was a rush, a hundred-throated snarl. Two deep they seethed above the whale's remains. Dogs weltering in blood and guts: exit Beluga.

--- From Salamina
Rockwell Kent
©2003 Wesleyan University Press
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