I recently re-read the Smoke Bellew stories
, which I have not read since I was a teenager. I forgot how they end.
In the last story, the Wonder of Woman
, Smoke is kidnapped by an Indian tribe. Labiskwee, the chief's daughter, falls in love with him, and he realizes he loves her, while still loving Joy Gastell, the woman he met on his first day in Alaska, who was back in Dawson.
And Smoke learned about himself. He remembered back to all he knew of Joy Gastell, and he knew that he loved her. Yet he delighted in Labiskwee. And what was this feeling of delight but love? He could demean it by no less a name. Love it was. Love it must be. And he was shocked to the roots of his soul by the discovery of this polygamous strain in his nature. He had heard it argued, in the San Francisco studios, that it was possible for a man to love two women, or even three women, at a time. But he had not believed it. How could he believe it when he had not had the experience? Now it was different. He did truly love two women, and though most of the time he was quite convinced that he loved Joy Gastell more, there were other moments when he felt with equal certainty that he loved Labiskwee more.
Sounds like perfect poly setup, right? But the author would have none of it. Smoke and Labiskwee escape, and Labiskwee dies from starvation on the way.