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.
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