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The Faith of Men and Other Stories

A Relic Of The Pliocene
I wash my hands of him at the start. I cannot father his tales, nor will I be responsible for
them. I make these preliminary reservations, observe, as a guard upon my own integrity. I
possess a certain definite position in a small way, also a wife; and for the good name of
the community that honours my existence with its approval, and for the sake of her
posterity and mine, I cannot take the chances I once did, nor foster probabilities with the
careless improvidence of youth. So, I repeat, I wash my hands of him, this Nimrod, this
mighty hunter, this homely, blue-eyed, freckle-faced Thomas Stevens.
Having been honest to myself, and to whatever prospective olive branches my wife may
be pleased to tender me, I can now afford to be generous. I shall not criticize the tales told
me by Thomas Stevens, and, further, I shall withhold my judgment. If it be asked why, I
can only add that judgment I have none. Long have I pondered, weighed, and balanced,
but never have my conclusions been twice the same--forsooth! because Thomas Stevens
is a greater man than I. If he have told truths, well and good; if untruths, still well and
good. For who can prove? or who disprove? I eliminate myself from the proposition,
while those of little faith may do as I have done--go find the same Thomas Stevens, and
discuss to his face the various matters which, if fortune serve, I shall relate. As to where
he may be found? The directions are simple: anywhere between 53 north latitude and the
Pole, on the one hand; and, on the other, the likeliest hunting grounds that lie between the
east coast of Siberia and farthermost Labrador. That he is there, somewhere, within that
clearly defined territory, I pledge the word of an honourable man whose expectations
entail straight speaking and right living.
Thomas Stevens may have toyed prodigiously with truth, but when we first met (it were
well to mark this point), he wandered into my camp when I thought myself a thousand
miles beyond the outermost post of civilization. At the sight of his human face, the first in
weary months, I could have sprung forward and folded him in my arms (and I am not by
any means a demonstrative man); but to him his visit seemed the most casual thing under
the sun. He just strolled into the light of my camp, passed the time of day after the custom
of men on beaten trails, threw my snowshoes the one way and a couple of dogs the other,
and so made room for himself by the fire. Said he'd just dropped in to borrow a pinch of
soda and to see if I had any decent tobacco. He plucked forth an ancient pipe, loaded it
with painstaking care, and, without as much as by your leave, whacked half the tobacco
of my pouch into his. Yes, the stuff was fairly good. He sighed with the contentment of
the just, and literally absorbed the smoke from the crisping yellow flakes, and it did my
smoker's heart good to behold him.
Hunter? Trapper? Prospector? He shrugged his shoulders No; just sort of knocking round
a bit. Had come up from the Great Slave some time since, and was thinking of trapsing
over into the Yukon country. The factor of Koshim had spoken about the discoveries on
the Klondike, and he was of a mind to run over for a peep. I noticed that he spoke of the
Klondike in the archaic vernacular, calling it the Reindeer River--a conceited custom that
 
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