Thomas Brash is trying to escape but knows he never will. Pursuing him is the memory of the family he lost to cholera. Perhaps he believes that traveling alone in a wild, dangerous land will end all his memories; there is no doubt he wishes to be alone. Whatever his intentions the appearance of Frank Clement and the circumstances of that meeting upset those plans.
Brash views Clement as an uneducated child who requires fatherly protection and guidance. Clement views Brash as a tenderfoot and can not understand how anyone who knows so little could live so long. These two loners are joined by others and they all become partners. Having achieved relative sanctuary and surrounded by civilization their wilderness past comes back to haunt them.