Pierre And His People by Gilbert Parker
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 names.
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.