"I send four men to watch," was the reply. "Good men? Men who will not sneak up to the dance?" "Good men," said Watusk calmly. Watusk presently gave a signal to the stick-kettle men, and they commenced to drum with their knuckles. The drums were wide wooden hoops with a skin drawn over one side.
These parties last all night or near it. It needs darkness to give the wild part-song its full effect, and to inspire the drummers to produce a voice of awe from the muttering tom-toms. They work up slowly. During a pause in the singing, while the drummer held his stick-kettle over the fire to contract the skin, some one asked Jeresis if he had seen Bela's white man.
The breeds fell asleep one by one; and for the first, the jabbering, the ki-yi-ing and the maddening stick-kettle were all stilled. The Loseis hovered over the lake with her gigantic wing spread, like some great bird of the night. The only evidences that she moved at all were the flecks of foam that drifted slowly astern under the counter.
The drummers had a lamp on the floor between them, and when the skin relaxed they dried it over the chimney. Like dances everywhere this one was slow to get under way. No one liked to be the first one to take the floor. Gradually the drummers warmed to their work. The stick-kettle had a voice of its own, a dull, throbbing complaint that caused even Ambrose's blood to stir vaguely.
Garth was more moved than he cared to show. "You're true blue, Charley," he said in a low tone. "You come along!" From sundown until daybreak, the ki-yi-ing and the beating of the stick-kettle on the shore desecrated the stillness of the night with scarcely any intermission. Shortly after daybreak, the wind having gone down, Hooliam sent word to Garth that he would like to start.
Making her fast, the breeds, with furtive stares at Garth, threw themselves on the ground like tired dogs. It was not long, however, before a "stick-kettle," the invariable tom-tom, was produced, the ear-splitting chant raised, and a game of met-o-wan, a sort of Cree equivalent for Billy-Billy-who's-got-the-button, started on the shore.
Bela, who had her own ideas about singing, despised the crude chanting of her relatives and the monotonous accompaniment of the "stick-kettle"; nevertheless, she decided to attend on this occasion. Waiting until the party was well under way, she joined it unostentatiously and sat down in the outer circle of women. None but those immediately around her saw her come.