PIERRE AND HIS PEOPLE -
PIERRE AND HIS PEOPLE -
THE PATROL OF THE CYPRESS HILLS
A HAZARD OF THE NORTH
A PRAIRIE VAGABOND
SHE OF THE TRIPLE CHEVRON
SHON MCGANN'S TOBOGAN RIDE
THE SCARLET HUNTER
THE TALL MASTER
THE CRIMSON FLAG
IN PIPI VALLEY
ANTOINE AND ANGELIQUE
A TRAGEDY OF NOBODIES
A SANCTUARY OF THE PLAINS
With each volume of this subscription edition (1912) there is a special
introduction setting forth in so far as seemed possible the relation
of each work to myself to its companion works and to the scheme of my
literary life. Only one or two things therefore need be said here as I
wish God-speed to this edition which I trust may help to make old
friends warmer friends and new friends more understanding. Most of the
novels and most of the short stories were suggested by incidents or
characters which I had known had heard of intimately or as in the case
of the historical novels had discovered in the works of historians. In
no case are the main characters drawn absolutely from life; they are not
portraits; and the proof of that is that no one has ever been able to
identify absolutely any single character in these books. Indeed it
would be impossible for me to restrict myself to actual portraiture. It
is trite to say that photography is not art and photography has no charm
for the artist or the humanitarian indeed in the portrayal of life.
At its best it is only an exhibition of outer formal characteristics
idiosyncrasies and contours. Freedom is the first essential of the
artistic mind. As will be noticed in the introductions and original
notes to several of these volumes it is stated that they possess
anachronisms; that they are not portraits of people living or dead and
that they only assume to be in harmony with the spirit of men and times
and things. Perhaps in the first few pages of 'The Right of Way'
portraiture is more nearly reached than in any other of these books but
it was only the nucleus if I may say so of a larger development which
the original Charley Steele never attained. In the novel he grew to
represent infinitely more than the original ever represented in his short
That would not be strange when it is remembered that the germ of The
'Right of Way' was growing in my mind over a long period of years and
it must necessarily have developed into a larger conception than the
original character could have suggested. The same may be said of the
chief characters in 'The Weavers'. The story of the two brothers--David
Claridge and Lord Eglington--in that book was brewing in my mind for
quite fifteen years and the main incidents and characters of other
novels in this edition had the same slow growth. My forthcoming novel
called 'The Judgment House' had been in my mind for nearly twenty years
and only emerged when it was full grown as it were; when I was so
familiar with the characters that they seemed as real in all ways as
though they were absolute people and incidents of one's own experience.
Little more need be said. In outward form the publishers have made this
edition beautiful. I should be ill-content if there was not also an
element of beauty in the work of the author. To my mind truth alone
is not sufficient. Every work of art no matter how primitive in
conception how tragic or how painful or even how grotesque in design
--like the gargoyles on Notre Dame must have too the elements of
beauty--that which lures and holds the durable and delightful thing.
I have a hope that these books of mine as faithful to life as I could
make them have also been touched here and there by the staff of beauty.
Otherwise their day will be short indeed; and I should wish for them a
day a little longer at least than my day and span.
I launch the ship. May it visit many a port! May its freight never lie
neglected on the quays!
So far as my literary work is concerned 'Pierre and His People' may be
likened to a new city built upon the ashes of an old one. Let me
explain. While I was in Australia I began a series of short stories
and sketches of life in Canada which I called 'Pike Pole Sketches on the
Madawaska'. A very few of them were published in Australia and I
brought with me to England in 1889 about twenty of them to make into a
volume. I told Archibald Forbes the great war correspondent of my wish
for publication and asked him if he would mind reading the sketches and
stories before I approached a publisher. He immediately consented and
one day I brought him the little brown bag containing the tales.
A few days afterwards there came an invitation to lunch and I went to
Clarence Gate Regent's Park to learn what Archibald Forbes thought of
my tales. We were quite merry at luncheon and after luncheon which for
him was a glass of milk and a biscuit Forbes said to me "Those stories
Parker--you have the best collection of titles I have ever known." He
paused. I understood. To his mind the tales did not live up to their
titles. He hastily added "But I am going to give you a letter of
introduction to Macmillan. I may be wrong." My reply was: "You need not
give me a letter to Macmillan unless I write and ask you for it."
I took my little brown bag and went back to my comfortable rooms in an
old-fashioned square. I sat down before the fire on this bleak winter's
night with a couple of years' work on my knee. One by one I glanced
through the stories and in some cases read them carefully and one by one
I put them in the fire and watched them burn. I was heavy at heart but
I felt that Forbes was right and my own instinct told me that my ideas
were better than my performance--and Forbes was right. Nothing was left
of the tales; not a shred of paper not a scrap of writing. They had all
gone up the chimney in smoke. There was no self-pity. I had a grim kind
of feeling regarding the thing but I had no regrets and I have never
had any regrets since. I have forgotten most of the titles and indeed
all the stories except one. But Forbes and I were right; of that I am
The next day after the arson I walked for hours where London was busiest.
The shop windows fascinated me; they always did; but that day I seemed
subconsciously to be looking for something. At last I found it. It was
a second-hand shop in Covent Garden. In the window there was the uniform
of an officer of the time of Wellington and beside it--the leather coat
and fur cap of a trapper of the Hudson's Bay Company! At that window I
commenced to build again upon the ashes of last night's fire. Pretty
Pierre the French half-breed or rather the original of him as I knew
him when a child looked out of the window at me. So I went home and
sitting in front of the fire which had received my manuscript the night
before with a pad upon my knee I began to write 'The Patrol of the
Cypress Hills' which opens 'Pierre and His People'.
The next day was Sunday. I went to service at the Foundling Hospital in
Bloomsbury and while listening superficially to the sermon I was also
reading the psalms. I came upon these words "Free among the Dead like
unto them that are wounded and lie in the grave that are out of
remembrance" and this text which I used in the story 'The Patrol of the
Cypress Hills' became in a sense the text for all the stories which
came after. It seemed to suggest the lives and the end of the lives of
the workers of the pioneer world.
So it was that Pierre and His People chiefly concerned those who had been
wounded by Fate and had suffered the robberies of life and time while
they did their work in the wide places. It may be that my readers have
found what I tried instinctively to convey in the pioneer life I
portrayed--"The soul of goodness in things evil." Such on the whole
my observation had found in life and the original of Pierre with all
his mistakes misdemeanours and even crimes was such an one as I would
have gone to in trouble or in hour of need knowing that his face would
never be turned from me.
These stories made their place at once. The 'Patrol of the Cypress
Hills' was published first in 'The Independent' of New York and in
'Macmillan's Magazine' in England. Mr. Bliss Carman then editor of 'The
Independent' eagerly published several of them--'She of the Triple
Chevron' and others. Mr. Carman's sympathy and insight were a great help
to me in those early days. The then editor of 'Macmillan's Magazine'
Mr. Mowbray Morris was not I think quite so sure of the merits of the
Pierre stories. He published them but he was a little credulous
regarding them and he did not pat me on the back by any means. There
was one however who made the best that is in 'Pierre and His People'
possible; this was the unforgettable W. E. Henley editor of The
'National Observer'. One day at a sitting I wrote a short story called
'Antoine and Angelique' and sent it to him almost before the ink was
dry. The reply came by return of post: "It is almost or quite as good
as can be. Send me another." So forthwith I sent him 'God's Garrison'
and it was quickly followed by 'The Three Outlaws' 'The Tall Master'
'The Flood' 'The Cipher' 'A Prairie Vagabond' and several others. At
length came 'The Stone' which brought a telegram of congratulation and
finally 'The Crimson Flag'. The acknowledgment of that was a postcard
containing these all too-flattering words: "Bravo Balzac!" Henley would
print what no other editor would print; he gave a man his chance to do
the boldest thing that was in him and I can truthfully say that the
doors which he threw open gave freedom to an imagination and an
individuality of conception for which I can never be sufficiently
These stories and others which appeared in 'The National Observer' in
'Macmillan's' in 'The English Illustrated Magazine' and others made many
friends; so that when the book at length came out it was received with
generous praise though not without some criticism. It made its place
however at once and later appeared another series called 'An
Adventurer of the North' or as it is called in this edition 'A Romany
of the Snows'. Through all the twenty stories of this second volume the
character of Pierre moved; and by the time the last was written there was
scarcely an important magazine in the English-speaking world which had
not printed one or more of them. Whatever may be thought of the stories
themselves or of the manner in which the life of the Far North was
portrayed of one thing I am sure: Pierre was true to the life--to his
race to his environment to the conditions of pioneer life through which
he moved. When the book first came out there was some criticism from
Canada itself but that criticism has long since died away and it never
Plays have been founded on the 'Pierre' series and one in particular
'Pierre of the Plains' had a considerable success with Mr. Edgar
Selwyn the adapter in the main part. I do not know whether if I were
to begin again I should have written all the Pierre stories in quite the
same way. Perhaps it is just as well that I am not able to begin again.
The stories made their own place in their own way and that there is
still a steady demand for 'Pierre and His People' and 'A Romany of the
Snows' seems evidence that the editor of an important magazine in New
York who declined to recommend them for publication to his firm (and
later published several of the same series) was wrong when he said that
the tales "seemed not to be salient." Things that are not "salient" do
not endure. It is twenty years since 'Pierre and His People' was
produced--and it still endures. For this I cannot but be deeply
grateful. In any case what 'Pierre' did was to open up a field which
had not been opened before but which other authors have exploited since
with success and distinction. 'Pierre' was the pioneer of the Far North
in fiction; that much may be said; and for the rest Time is the test
and Time will have its way with me as with the rest.
It is possible that a Note on the country portrayed in these stories may
be in keeping. Until 1870 the Hudson's Bay Company--first granted its
charter by King Charles II--practically ruled that vast region stretching
from the fiftieth parallel of latitude to the Arctic Ocean--a handful of
adventurous men entrenched in forts and posts yet trading with and
mostly peacefully conquering many savage tribes. Once the sole master
of the North the H. B. C. (as it is familiarly called) is reverenced by
the Indians and half-breeds as much as if not more than the Government
established at Ottawa. It has had its forts within the Arctic Circle; it
has successfully exploited a country larger than the United States. The
Red River Valley the Saskatchewan Valley and British Columbia are now
belted by a great railway and given to the plough; but in the far north
life is much the same as it was a hundred years ago. There the trapper
clerk trader and factor are cast in the mould of another century
though possessing the acuter energies of this. The 'voyageur' and
'courier de bois' still exist though generally under less picturesque
The bare story of the hardy and wonderful career of the adventurers
trading in Hudson's Bay--of whom Prince Rupert was once chiefest--and
the life of the prairies may be found in histories and books of travel;
but their romances the near narratives of individual lives have waited
the telling. In this book I have tried to feel my way towards the heart
of that life--worthy of being loved by all British men for it has given
honest graves to gallant fellows of our breeding. Imperfectly of
course I have done it; but there is much more to be told.
When I started Pretty Pierre on his travels I did not know--nor did he
--how far or wide his adventurers and experiences would run. They have
however extended from Quebec in the east to British Columbia in the
west and from the Cypress Hills in the south to the Coppermine River
in the north. With a less adventurous man we had had fewer happenings.
His faults were not of his race that is French and Indian--nor were
his virtues; they belong to all peoples. But the expression of these
is affected by the country itself. Pierre passes through this series of
stories connecting them as he himself connects two races and here and
there links the past of the Hudson's Bay Company with more modern life
and Canadian energy pushing northward. Here is something of romance
"pure and simple" but also traditions and character which are the
single property of this austere but not cheerless heritage of our race.
All of the tales have appeared in magazines and journals--namely 'The
National Observer' 'Macmillan's' 'The National Review' and 'The
English Illustrated'; and 'The Independent of New York'. By the courtesy
of the proprietors of these I am permitted to republish.
THE PATROL OF THE CYPRESS HILLS
A HAZARD OF THE NORTH
THE PATROL OF THE CYPRESS HILLS
"He's too ha'sh" said old Alexander Windsor as he shut the creaking
door of the store after a vanishing figure and turned to the big iron
stove with outstretched hands; hands that were cold both summer and
winter. He was of lean and frigid make.
"Sergeant Fones is too ha'sh" he repeated as he pulled out the damper
and cleared away the ashes with the iron poker.
Pretty Pierre blew a quick straight column of cigarette smoke into the
air tilted his chair back and said: "I do not know what you mean by
'ha'sh' but he is the devil. Eh well there was more than one devil
made sometime in the North West." He laughed softly.
"That gives you a chance in history Pretty Pierre" said a voice from
behind a pile of woollen goods and buffalo skins in the centre of the
floor. The owner of the voice then walked to the window. He scratched
some frost from the pane and looked out to where the trooper in dog-skin
coat gauntlets and cap was mounting his broncho. The old man came and
stood near the young man--the owner of the voice--and said again: "He's
"Harsh you mean father" added the other.
"Yes harsh you mean Old Brown Windsor--quite harsh" said Pierre.
Alexander Windsor storekeeper and general dealer was sometimes called
"Old Brown Windsor" and sometimes "Old Aleck" to distinguish him from
his son who was known as "Young Aleck."
As the old man walked back again to the stove to warm his hands Young
Aleck continued: "He does his duty that's all. If he doesn't wear kid
gloves while at it it's his choice. He doesn't go beyond his duty.
You can bank on that. It would be hard to exceed that way out here."
"True Young Aleck so true; but then he wears gloves of iron of ice.
That is not good. Sometime the glove will be too hard and cold on a
man's shoulder and then!--Well I should like to be there" said Pierre
showing his white teeth.
Old Aleck shivered and held his fingers where the stove was red hot.
The young man did not hear this speech; from the window he was watching
Sergeant Fones as he rode towards the Big Divide. Presently he said:
"He's going towards Humphrey's place. I--" He stopped bent his brows
caught one corner of his slight moustache between his teeth and did not
stir a muscle until the Sergeant had passed over the Divide.
Old Aleck was meanwhile dilating upon his theme before a passive
listener. But Pierre was only passive outwardly. Besides hearkening to
the father's complaints he was closely watching the son. Pierre was
clever and a good actor. He had learned the power of reserve and
outward immobility. The Indian in him helped him there. He had heard
what Young Aleck had just muttered; but to the man of the cold fingers he
said: "You keep good whisky in spite of the law and the iron glove Old
Aleck." To the young man: "And you can drink it so free eh Young
The half-breed looked out of the corners of his eyes at the young man
but he did not raise the peak of his fur cap in doing so and his glances
askance were not seen.
Young Aleck had been writing something with his finger-nail on the frost
of the pane over and over again. When Pierre spoke to him thus he
scratched out the word he had written with what seemed unnecessary
force. But in one corner it remained:
Pierre added: "That is what they say at Humphrey's ranch."
"Who says that at Humphrey's?--Pierre you lie!" was the sharp and
threatening reply. The significance of this last statement had been
often attested on the prairies by the piercing emphasis of a six-
chambered revolver. It was evident that Young Aleck was in earnest.
Pierre's eyes glowed in the shadow but he idly replied:
"I do not remember quite who said it. Well 'mon ami' perhaps I lie;
perhaps. Sometimes we dream things and these dreams are true. You call
it a lie--'bien!' Sergeant Fones he dreams perhaps Old Aleck sells
whisky against the law to men you call whisky runners sometimes to
Indians and half-breeds--halfbreeds like Pretty Pierre. That was a dream
of Sergeant Fones; but you see he believes it true. It is good sport
eh? Will you not take--what is it?--a silent partner? Yes; a silent
partner Old Aleck. Pretty Pierre has spare time a little to make
money for his friends and for himself eh?"
When did not Pierre have time to spare? He was a gambler. Unlike the
majority of half-breeds he had a pronounced French manner nonchalant
The Indian in him gave him coolness and nerve. His cheeks had a tinge of
delicate red under their whiteness like those of a woman. That was why
he was called Pretty Pierre. The country had however felt a kind of
weird menace in the name. It was used to snakes whose rattle gave notice
of approach or signal of danger. But Pretty Pierre was like the death-
adder small and beautiful silent and deadly. At one time he had made
a secret of his trade or thought he was doing so. In those days he was
often to be seen at David Humphrey's home and often in talk with Mab
Humphrey; but it was there one night that the man who was ha'sh gave him
his true character with much candour and no comment.
Afterwards Pierre was not seen at Humphrey's ranch. Men prophesied that
he would have revenge some day on Sergeant Fones; but he did not show
anything on which this opinion could be based. He took no umbrage at
being called Pretty Pierre the gambler. But for all that he was
possessed of a devil.
Young Aleck had inherited some money through his dead mother from his
grandfather a Hudson's Bay factor. He had been in the East for some
years and when he came back he brought his "little pile" and an
impressionable heart with him. The former Pretty Pierre and his friends
set about to win; the latter Mab Humphrey won without the trying. Yet
Mab gave Young Aleck as much as he gave her. More. Because her love
sprang from a simple earnest and uncontaminated life. Her purity and
affection were being played against Pierre's designs and Young Aleck's
weakness. With Aleck cards and liquor went together. Pierre seldom
But what of Sergeant Fones? If the man that knew him best--the
Commandant--had been asked for his history the reply would have been:
"Five years in the Service rigid disciplinarian best non-commissioned
officer on the Patrol of the Cypress Hills." That was all the Commandant
A soldier-policeman's life on the frontier is rough solitary and
severe. Active duty and responsibility are all that make it endurable.
To few is it fascinating. A free and thoughtful nature would however
find much in it in spite of great hardships to give interest and even
pleasure. The sense of breadth and vastness and the inspiration of pure
air could be a very gospel of strength beauty and courage to such an
one--for a time. But was Sergeant Fones such an one? The Commandant's
scornful reply to a question of the kind would have been: "He is the best
soldier on the Patrol."