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The Other Man's Wife
Thornton wasn't the sort of man in whom you'd expect to find the devil lurking. He was
big, blond, and broad-shouldered. When I first saw him I thought he was an Englishman.
That was at the post at Lac la Biche, six hundred miles north of civilization. Scotty and I
had been doing some exploration work for the government, and for more than six months
we hadn't seen a real white man who looked like home.
We came in late at night, and the factor gave us a room in his house. When we looked out
of our window in the morning, we saw a little shack about a hundred feet away, and in
front of that shack was Thornton, only half dressed, stretching himself in the sun, and
LAUGHING. There wasn't anything to laugh at, but we could see his teeth shining white,
and he grinned every minute while he went through a sort of setting-up exercise.
When you begin to analyze a man, there is always some one human trait that rises above
all others, and that laugh was Thornton's. Even the wolfish sledge-dogs at the post would
wag their tails when they heard it.
We soon established friendly relations, but I could not get very far beyond the laugh.
Indeed, Thornton was a mystery. DeBar, the factor, said that he had dropped into the post
six months before, with a pack on his back and a rifle over his shoulder. He had no
business, apparently. He was not a propectory and it was only now and then that he used
his rifle, and then only to shoot at marks.
One thing puzzled DeBar more than all else. Thornton worked like three men about the
post, cutting winter fire-wood, helping to catch and clean the tons of whitefish which
were stored away for the dogs in the company's ice-houses, and doing other things
without end. For this he refused all payment except his rations.
Scotty continued eastward to Churchill, and for seven weeks I bunked with Thornton in
the shack. At the end of those seven weeks I knew little more about Thornton than at the
beginning. I never had a closer or more congenial chum, and yet in his conversation he
never got beyond the big woods, the mountains, and the tangled swamps. He was
educated and a gentleman, and I knew that in spite of his brown face and arms, his hard
muscles and splendid health, he was three-quarters tenderfoot. But he loved the
"I never knew what life could hold for a man until I came up here," he said to me one
day, his gray eyes dancing in the light of a glorious sunset.
"I'm ten years younger than I was two years ago."
"You've been two years in the north?"
"A year and ten months," he replied.