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April 18 , 2009

A Mating in the Wilds


THE MAN FROM THE RIVER The man in the canoe was lean and hardy, and wielded the paddle against the slow-moving current of the wide river with a dexterity that proclaimed long practice. His bronzed face was that of a quite young man, but his brown hair was interspersed with grey; and his blue eyes had a gravity incompatible with youth, as if already he had experience of the seriousness of life, and had eaten of its bitter fruits. He was in a gala dress of tanned deerskin, fringed and worked by native hands, the which had quite probably cost him more than the most elegant suit by a Bond Street tailor, and the effect was as picturesque as the heart of a young male could desire. To be in keeping with such gay attire he should have worn a smiling face, and sung some joyous chanson of the old voyageurs, but he neither sang nor smiled; paddling steadily on towards his destination. This was a northern post of the Hudson Bay Company, built in the form of a hollow square with a wide frontage open to the river. The trading store, the warehouse, and the factor's residence with its trim garden, occupied the Other three sides of the square, and along the river front was a small floating wharf. A tall flag-pole rose above the buildings, and the flag itself fluttered gaily in the summer breeze, taking the eye at once with its brave colouring. The young man in the canoe noticed it whilst he was half a mile away, and for a moment, ceasing his paddling, he looked at it doubtfully, his brow puckering over his grave eyes. The canoe began to drift backward in the current, but he made no effort to check it, instead, he sat there staring at the distant flag, with a musing look upon his face, as if he were debating some question with himself. At last he spoke aloud, after the habit of men who dwell much alone. "The steamer can't have come yet. It probably means nothing except that the factor is expecting its arrival. Anyway I must have the grub, and I can get away in the morning
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