Tuesday, 27 September 2016
This may be Lacey Amy’s (Luke Allan’s) first Western story and the real precursor to the popular series of books that made him famous, Blue Pete. This was a difficult and costly little story to acquire—it took about two months and over $50 Canadian dollars to get the Library of Congress to digitize a very poor microfilm copy (5 pages). Anyhow I am pleased since it predates the Blue Pete, short story by almost a year./drf
By W. Lacey Amy
From The Popular Magazine, 15 April 1910.
The turning point in the life of Blue Pete, a half-breed mounted police detective. He put his destiny in the hands of a judge; and the pity was that his Honor was too small a man to recognize greatness of his opportunity
WHEN it came to a matter of brands, Blue Pete, the half-breed mounted police detective was in a class by himself. He never told all he knew about them. Indeed, it was doubtful if he could have explained how he arrived at conclusions that were unerring. It was one of his stock exhibitions before cattlemen, to examine a brand and tell to within a few months when it had been made, the condition of the iron at the time, and the skill of the brander.
Blue Pete could have joined the outfit of any rancher in the Medicine Hat district, and drawn higher pay than the police gave him. He could have made his fortune in rustling, with his knowledge of brand manipulation. But he preferred casual employment with liberty to leave at a moment’s notice, and secret pay from the mounted police. Money was of very little use to him, but the excitement of man hunting and horse tracking came up to his idea of a perfect existence.
Although for more than a year he had been able to conceal his connection with the mounted police, the inquest into the death of two rustlers whom he had been forced to shoot, had made his position public. Thereafter the ranchers found little use for him, the inconvenience of performing the spring round-up and branding under the keen eyes of a police official, overbalancing his ability to assist in the work.
Their resentment and their fear of what Blue Pete might know were all the greater from the fact that for all these months they had been treating him as one of themselves.
Inspector Parker, therefore, sent word to the Lodge detachment, from which headquarters Blue Pete usually worked, to keep the half-breed engaged in regular rides around and into the Cypress Hills, a large tract of wildly wooded hills a hundred miles long and ten wide, whose devious paths and passages he knew as none other in the country. Several times the half-breed was shot at from ambush, but his recklessness seemed to save him, and when he had brought in two cowboys from across the border and had convicted them of attempted manslaughter, these attacks, ceased.
To tourists, his presence at the barracks in the city, was a source of entertainment. His revolver shooting was little short of marvelous.
His favorite amusement was a startlingly dangerous one. He would place the muzzle of his six-shooter in his mouth, his squint eyes wandering twinklingly over the visitors, and almost as fast as he could work the trigger, would revolve the cylinder as long as you wanted to look at him. A hair’s breadth farther and the cartridge would explode, but just at that point between the revolving of the cylinder and the explosion, his finger would stop.
When the weak-nerved spectators were closing their eyes in fear, the revolver would ring out, and the ensuing screams invariably brought a burst of laughter from the half-breed as the bullet whizzed harmlessly past his ear.
Blue Pete’s best friend—in fact, the only one he seemed really to care about,—was Corporal Mahon, a young Englishman, who had worked with him on many of his most difficult cases. The two men were the best of comrades, the young policeman reading his weekly letters from his mother in England to the half-breed, the latter listening reverently, and taking care that the son never neglected to send the weekly answer.
On their long rides, or when curled up behind a sagebush on the prairie. Mahon would read and reread the last letter, Blue Pete listening with an intensity of interest that would have surprised any one who knew the dusky-skinned half-breed only as a daring, illiterate cowboy detective.
On Friday of each week—the day when the little backboard drove up to the detachment door with the few letters, papers, and parcels for the half dozen policemen stationed there—Blue Pete usually contrived to do Mahon’s work as well as his own, in order to allow the young man to be on hand when his mother’s letter arrived. And then as soon as his duties were over the half-breed would seek him out, as if accidentally, and hear the latest tokens of a fond mother’s fears and forebodings, her love and hopes.
Once the half-breed begged for one of the old letters to carry. Mahon handed it to him wonderingly. Blue Pete felt an explanation necessary, and in a sheepish tone, he stammered: “Kind uh think I’d like t’ have a letter on me always. Ain’t never had no mother m’self.”
A few weeks later, he had returned the letter minus the heading. “My dear boy,” which the young policeman noticed without a word. All the home letters began with “my dear boy.” and the half-breed had taken to, calling him “Boy” when they were alone.
When work was not pressing, or when riding in the Hills, Blue Pete often took the corporal to a cave which he had fitted up with pine needles for beds, two stalls for the horses, a make-shift stove, and what was an apparently inexhaustible supply of canned goods. The police detective’s, work sometimes took him away for weeks, and only Mahon knew that he made this cave his headquarters.
One day in late summer a rancher reported to the police the loss of a roan mare. He had purchased it from a dealer out near Irvine and, missing it later, made inquiries. A cowboy said he had seen it in a bunch being driven south by a young cowboy working for the rancher who originally owned the mare.
The mounted police had long had their eyes on a rancher named Peterson, and seized this evidence gladly. Blue Pete received his instructions, and three weeks later rode into the barracks corral with a roan mare dragging behind, and a glum-looking cowboy riding in front. He had completed a bundle of evidence that meant sure incarceration for Peterson.
Unfortunately, however, the glowering individual, who snarled out a curse when ordered to dismount, had been brought over the border by the half-breed at the point of a revolver.
The police were willing to take chances on the horse forcibly taken, but the man was a different matter. He was reluctantly allowed to go, and it became evident that conviction must come from other quarters. The receiver of stolen horses would not appear willingly at the trial.
The evidence rounded up was sufficiently complete to convince any fair-minded judge. The young cowboy who had driven the bunch south was in the hands of the police, but he was only fourteen years old, and a good criminal lawyer like that employed by Peterson might angle him so that his evidence would he of little use.
But the principal difficulty lay in the fact that a new judge was to sit. Judge Ritchie had been lawyer and insurance and real-estate agent. He had qualified for his position by some political work that betrayed a conscience not over-sensitive. As a criminal lawyer before his elevation he had often run foul of the police and bore them no good will.
The cowboy who had seen the roan mare in the bunch gave his evidence, and the purchase of the mare was also sufficiently proven. Blue Pete was put on the stand to identify the stolen mark. It was purely a matter of brands, and there the half-breed was at home.
“Your name?” asked the clerk.
“But your whole name?”
The half-breed hesitated a moment. “Blue Pete,” he answered.
“Here now!” interrupted the judge with all the dignity of a new official. “We want your full name—your surname.”
Blue Pete looked helplessly around at Inspector Parker. “Pete Maverick,” he answered.
A titter ran through the courtroom, and Blue Pete’s face wrinkled.
“Order! Order!” shouted the sheriff. The lawyers—everybody but the self-important judge—had smiled.
The crown prosecutor immediately plunged Blue Pete into a maze of detail on brands and brand detection: The half-breed told of the colors of brands put on at different times, of the state of the scar and the skin, the length of hair over it, the way the skin would wrinkle, the various stamps of different branders and irons, and the varieties of brands made by irons at different heats.
The judge looked very learned, though he had no more knowledge of what was being explained than he had of Blue Pete’s surname.
The half-breed told when the original brand on the roan mare had been made, when the vent had been put on, and when the alteration was branded on to conceal the original brand. The police were delighted.
Then Paddy Nolan, the big criminal lawyer from Calgary, rose.
“How long have you been with the police?” he asked.
“ ‘Bout three years.”
“Where were you before that?”
The crown prosecutor objected, but the judge upheld Nolan.
“In th’ States,” came the answer.
“What were you doing there?”
Another objection refused consideration.
“Workin’ on ranches.”
“What was your work on the ranches?”
“Takin’ care uh cattle.” Another laugh in the courtroom.
“Now I want you to tell the court whether you were or were not rustling over there.”
Blue Pete hesitated. “I was.” he answered.
The criminal lawyer looked at the judge.
“How long were you rustling?”
Blue Pete sat down lazily on the edge of the witness box. “Ten years I rustled for th’ biggest rustlers in th’ Bad Lands.”
“Who were you with?”
“Clark Brothers—Sidney an’ Conn—Hughson—Nanton’s—Want t’ know any more?”
“No, that will do. So that explains how you profess to know so much about brands! I suppose you did lots of brand switching yourself?”
Blue-Pete grunted an affirmative.
“And I suppose you could change a horse by its brand and otherwise, so that its best friends could not know it. Tell us how you would do it apart from the brands.”
The half-breed entered willingly into the discussion. He told of the carbolic-acid marks, the effects of ordinary scars in changing color, and even shape, of marking a horse’s face, and changing the shape of its ears.
Then the judge stopped him.
“I do not think you need go farther,” he said. “Besides, it would be an unwise thing to permit such criminal knowledges you possess to be disseminated. This court cannot accept the evidence of a man who acknowledges that he has been a rustler for ten years. The police have no right to employ such a man. I cannot convict on such evidence.”
Blue Pete’s mouth opened in bewilderment for a moment. Then he stood straight up and looked at the judge. “Does yer honor mean I’m lyin’?”, he asked.
“That’ll do.” the judge answered. Turning to the lawyer, he asked: “Is there anything you want to ask of this man.?”
Blue Pete spoke, “jedge, f’r ten years I rustled with th’ biggest rustlers, not ‘cause I wanted t’ steal cattle, but ‘cause every one ‘round me rustled. Three years ago I came t’ Canady, an’ since then I’ve got hundreds uh horses an’ cattle back t’ their owners. I like th’ work, an’ there’s this about it, jedge—just as long as I’m with th’ police; I’m straight. Ain’t got no reason for lyin’ now. I guess mebbe I’m a little use t’ th’ country, but if yuh turn me down like that, jedge, I may’s well go back t’ rustlin’. Got to live ‘mong th’ cattle an’ horses. Or’nary cow-boyin’s too tame fer me. D’yuh want me t’ be a detective or a rustler? Yuh have it in yer hands, jedge."
“Next witness.” said Judge Ritchie briefly.
Blue Pete strode silently out of the courtroom. Corporal Mahon laid a detaining hand on his arm. “Don’t take it that way, Pete.” he said sympathetically. “We believe you, and we know Judge Ritchie.”
The half-breed walked on unheedingly, his lips working, and his hands clinched.
The next morning a boy brought into the barracks Pete’s horse and saddle, his Stetson hat, and his shoes—everything he possessed that had been supplied by the mounted police. The inspector read the message, and roundly cursed the judge. He gave orders to his men to send Blue Pete to him as soon as they could find him.
But it was months before they found him—and then they brought him in reverently.
The week after the trial, rancher after rancher began to come in with reports of lost animals. The police scoured the prairie, but the rustlers knew Blue Pete was no longer on their track, and for weeks, until winter set in, the police had hardest riding they had ever known. Then in the spring the inspector himself was forced to join the chase. It was evident that rustlers from across the line were laughing at the police and Canadian law. By tireless riding, several bunches of horses were captured and, stiff sentences meted out to a few of the rustlers who were captured.
But still there was rustling that baffled the police. A constant patrol south of the Hills led to no discoveries, and for a time the N. W. M. P. were at a loss to know how the horses were slipped out of the country.
One day a rancher who had taken a lease of land away north on the Red Deer, came to town, and in conversation with the police, spoke of a couple of bunches of horses he had seen going north. At first the police were inclined to disbelieve him, for the north trail led through two hundred miles of unknown prairie where no man lived. Then beyond it was the line of towns and farm lands along the Canadian. Northern.
One of the policemen suggested that the horses were driven north to go east or west by a roundabout way and then down into the States. The entire police force in the west was notified to be on the lookout, and the Medicine Hat patrol spread itself out to cover more territory. But nothing resulted.
Mahon, who was now a sergeant, reached one conclusion that later became a clue—instead of the horses disappearing in bunches, only the larger ones were selected. This seemed to be invariably the case, and the sergeant spent many days, as he wandered up and down the prairie, trying to make out what it meant.
Blue Pete had not been heard from since the day of the trial. The police had been constantly on the search for him, at first to assist them, and later it had been forced upon them that the half-breed had accepted the alternative which he put squarely up to the judge.
The inspector and Sergeant Mahon were reluctant to believe that Blue Pete had gone back to rustling. That he was in the district was attested by information collected from several cowboys who had seen him. Once or twice Mahon, had even suspected that the capture of bands on the way across the border had been rendered easier by some third party who had placed clues with what looked like studied carelessness.
A raw young recruit who was lost in the Cypress Hills had been piloted on his way by a half-breed, whom they readily recognized from the description as Blue Pete, and once Mahon, himself, after four days of almost ceaseless riding, had found three cans of meat and a loaf of rough bread beside him when he arose famished from his grass couch on the morning of the fifth day.
He had never visited the cave which he knew had been Blue Pete’s home in the Hills. Somehow he felt that he should not take advantage of the knowledge gained on those little trips of theirs. If any other member of the force discovered it, it would not be through any hint from him. If Blue Pete were rustling, he would have to be taken in the open, and in fair fight. Mahon would help in that, as was his duty. He knew, too, that Blue Pete would feel that the location of his cave would not be exposed by the man who had gained his knowledge through the kindness of the occupant.
Sergeant Mahon’s biggest surprise came when a dirty piece of paper was found under the detachment door with the word “Boy” scrawled on the outside, and inside a rough drawing of a cowboy with a pointed revolver. Underneath was the word “Billsy.” Mahon knew it was a warning from Blue Pete that “Billsy,” a notorious Bad Land’s rustler, would shoot him on sight. The sergeant had captured a bunch of cattle from Billsy only a short time before, and had almost taken the rustler with them. The surprise of the warning was that the half-breed was learning to write. The next month he received three notes from Blue Pete that showed advancement in his writing, and gave the police valuable clues on stolen animals.
Why the half-breed, who had scorned letters, was now passing through the intricacies of the alphabet and writing, Mahon could not guess. That it would not be so hard for the man who could read brands where other men could decipher nothing, he knew, but he also felt sure that the latest acquirement was for some definite purpose.
Another report of horses going north led to the dispatch of three mounted police away up to the Red Deer. As they worked north they came upon unmistakable signs that the reports were true. Old camp fires, trodden mud around drinking pools and fords, and here and there temporary corrals showed that the route was regularly organized. Any plainsman could tell without the corrals that the bunch were under direction.
Mahon, who was at the head of the expedition, had by this time learned many of the tricks of tracking. He was aware that the tracks were all too old to warrant following. But, being on the frequented track, he knew he had but to wait until another band would come. So he crossed the Red Deer, and camped beside a small stream, where the trees would hide him and his men from view.
For three days they waited. Then Mahon riding back over the trail found evidences that showed that a bunch had been driven north since they had pitched their camp. In chagrin he returned to his men after following for a short distance the trail which ran around them. Evidently the rustler was an old hand who had been aware of the police, and had simply ridden around. The sergeant was in doubt whether to follow the new trail to the end or trust to waiting. Then his course was decided for him.
A lone rider appeared on a rise far to the south east. He was sitting quietly in his saddle and appeared to be gazing at something. It was too distant to make out whether he was looking toward them or away from them. A horseman so far from civilization could mean only one thing.
The men quietly led their horses farther into the trees in the hope that they had not been seen, and in a few minutes were riding along the stream toward the Red Deer. As they topped a roll in the prairie the rider was more plainly visible, looking straight toward them. Not a move did he make. Even when they splashed through the river with the unknown less than half a mile away, he maintained his immobility. He was looking down on them almost absently.
With a pang of something like disappointment, Mahon recognized Blue Pete. At the same moment the horseman rose in his stirrups, and waved his hat in the air. Then whirling his horse around on its hind legs, he disappeared over the edge.
Mahon had long dreaded having to participate in the actual chase of his old friend, but when the time came, he determined to do his duty.
For an hour they rode hard without a glimpse of the half-breed. Then, as they mounted an elevation, they saw him sitting quietly on his horse nearly a mile to the southwest. The pursuit was renewed, only to find at the end of another hour that the half-breed was still keeping his distance. Mahon saw the uselessness of wildly pursuing a man who knew the country like Blue Pete. He spread his men out, and for rest of the day pursuer and pursued bore directly south. As it grew dusk the half-breed drew away, and when last seen was several miles to the south and riding hard.
Mahon drew his men in for the night, and setting the proper changes of guard, went to sleep. There were only about four hours of luminous darkness at this time of the year, so the guard was directed to take his stand on a ridge close at hand with a pair of night glasses. Not a sound disturbed the night.
In the morning, Mahon rose early. On his blanket was a square of paper, and on it the words, “ef i hed been Billsy.” Mahon looked at the note and then to where one of his companions lay a few feet distant and just waking up. Only fifty yards to the right the guard sat lazily stretching, and preparing to come down. Blue Pete was still protecting him—Blue Pete, the man his duty called him to follow to the death, the man for whose capture a good price would be paid as soon as he could return to headquarters and report what he now knew.
It seemed terrible to be forced to capture, dead or alive, a man who was systematically guarding his pursuer. For a moment it came into his head to call off the pursuit. After all, he had nothing definite about the half-breeds horse stealing, and certainly the police had been assisted in preventing rustling by Blue Pete’s scarcely legible notes. But he was morally certain, and the hot pursuit of yesterday verified his suspicions.
Breakfast was hurriedly eaten, and an early start made southward. Mahon knew Blue Pete would turn to the Cypress Hills as naturally as a gopher makes for its hole. There was no hurry, therefore, and the capture of a man so well acquainted with every hollow and hill in the country would be impossible with his present small force.
As they crossed the railway between Medicine Hat and Irvine, one of Mahon’s companions, glancing back over the trail, observed a rider galloping furiously toward them. He became visible as a fellow policeman, and in a few minutes had told his story. He had been sent out from the city to bring them back, and, meeting their trail, had turned and followed it, Mahon was to report with his men at the Lodge. A band of rustlers had driven off some cattle from the Reversed 3 Bar ranch, and had taken to the Hills pursued by four mounted police. Reinforcements had been rushed to there, but further help was needed to surround the hills as far as possible and make a desperate attempt to stop the rustling for good.
By nightfall, Mahon and his men had arrived at the Hills on fresh mounts and had spread out over a directed course. During the night, shots were heard to the south, showing that the rustlers knew their predicament and were making an effort to escape across the border.
In the morning, Mahon rode around and received the report that his men had been successful in driving the rustlers back into the Hills. Blood marks showed where one of them had been hit, but the danger of sharpshooting from the trees prevented following the trail immediately.
Mahon, as the policeman to whom the Hills were best known, determined to take one of his men, and to work his way in, and thus try to get the drop on the rustlers. It was a risky piece of work, but success from lying around the Hills seemed impossible with the small force at his command. They had kept the rustlers back one night, but the attempt would probably be renewed on the following evening at some unguarded spot. He selected a coulee some distance east of the blood trail, intending to work back to the trail when he got into the cover of the Hills.
Leaving two policemen near the edge of the Hills to rush to his assistance if shots were heard, and selecting the most experienced of his men, he followed the ravine into the silence of the great wildness, and carefully crawled back to the trail. Only his training under Blue Pete enabled him to discover the faint blood marks among the dead leaves and branches that covered the ground everywhere.
Giving his companion orders to confine his attention ahead and around, Mahon settled down to trailing the spots that here and there showed on the leaves. Deeper and deeper into the Hills they led, and down to the edge of a small lake. Here they vanished, and Mahon could find no traces that afforded him any clue.
Under the circumstances it might have been wiser to withdraw, for any tree might hide the enemy, and there would be no mercy for the police. Once or twice as he stopped suddenly to verify his course, Mahon imagined that he heard a slight rustle in the leaves to his right, but careful scrutiny had revealed nothing.
The position of the two men was an unenviable one. They could not free themselves of the feeling of a presence following, and they knew no rustler would spare them.
They sat down on opposite sides of a tree to decide upon a course, every nerve alert to detect an enemy. Mahon’s companion was a dare-devil young fellow equal to any risk and possessing implicit confidence in himself and his superior. Neither was for turning back. The lake lay in front of them, peaceful as any mountain lake. Not a sound was to be heard near at hand, and only an occasional call from an unknown bird from a great distance broke the dense silence. That silence increased the belief in the presence of men around them, and an overpowering feeling of helplessness impelled both men to action.
Mahon determined to take one direction, and Forbes the other, meeting at the opposite side of the lake. A shot from either would summon the other, and bring help from the two companions listening for that signal at the edge of the Hills.
Mahon crawled carefully through the brush at the edge of the lake, his eyes more to his right than in front. He could not shake off the feeling that there was something alive there within a few yards, something deliberately stalking him. But in spite of all his moves, his sudden stops, his intense listening, he could hear nothing. He thought of rushing toward the point, but his good sense showed him that the noise would expose him to every enemy within five hundred yards.
He had proceeded halfway around the end of the lake, when he heard a distinct hiss of warning coming from a clump of bushes where his sensitive nerves told him that the stalker was concealed. Instinctively he crouched low. Then surprise at his action, and at the noise, made him raise his head—to look in front of him straight into the barrel of a rifle, and a yellow hair above it. His heart beat fast as he recognized the anger-distorted visage of Billsy, his sworn enemy.
At the same instant a figure leaped into the open from the clump of bushes, and two rifles spoke almost as one. A cry of a man mortally wounded came from in front, and the one on his right fell slowly to his knees, then sank lower and lower, and rolled down the bank. With a gasp of surprise, Mahon recognized the dark face of Blue Pete. He knew it all now. The half-breed had jumped into the open to draw Billsy’s shot, and he had fired just as he was himself hit.
Mahon rushed to him. Billsy’s nearness did not trouble him; he knew Blue Pete’s shot had gone home. The half-breed was lying on his side, his eyes closed, and a stain growing larger on his breast. As Mahon bent down, the squint eyes opened, and a smile went over the dark face.
“Guess Billsy got me—that time,” he murmured, not a quiver showing any feeling.
“Pete, old boy, why did you do it?” Mahon asked, his voice quivering. He turned the half-breed over carefully, and commenced to unfasten his shirt.
“No use, Boy,” said Blue Pete, smiling up in the anxious sergeant’s face. “Know when I’m done fer. Better get out uh here. Billsy’s mates too many fer yah.”
Mahon interrupted, but Blue Pete went on. “Don’t stop me.” he said. “Can’t talk much. Seems t’ leak out here.” He held his hand over the wound. “Billsy’s bunch is under th’ big pine in Pine Coulee. Get ‘round them at night.” He stopped for a moment. “Rustlin’s over fer me, Boy. Hed yuh goin’ though—eh? Took ’em up north t’ Grand Trunk Pacific 'struction camps. Sold’em up thar.”
Another pause while Mahon raised himself to bring water from the lake. There was a noise at the top of the bank, and something hit him heavily on the head.
He fell like a log, but in a semi-conscious helplessness felt Blue Pete lean over him and feel his face and pulse. Then crashing in the bushes, and the half-breed disappeared.
Forbes, who had rushed around at the sound of the shots, found Mahon unconscious and bleeding from a head wound inflicted by a large stone that lay near. In a few minutes the two policemen who had been placed to listen for shots arrived, and between them they carried the wounded sergeant out, his senses coming gradually back to him under cold water and chafing. That night the big pine was the scene of an almost bloodless capture of four rustlers, the remainder of Billsy’s band.
As the police left the scene they were mystified by a rifle shot back in the Hills, but they dared not stop.
Mahon was placed under a doctor’s care at the Lodge, while policemen searched the Hills near the scene of the tragedy for Blue Pete’s body. On the second day they returned to report failure. Mahon, with the bandages around his head rose from the couch where he lay, saddled his horse, and with Forbes entered the Hills. Straight to Blue Pete’s cave he led the way. He pulled back the screen of leaves and Forbes entered.
On the pine bed was a stain and nothing more. Yes! Held down by the corner of a box was a sheet of paper, and in the daylight, with his eyes streaming until he could scarcely see, Mahon found stuck across the sheet the heading of his mother’s letter:
My Dear Boy.
The corner of it was stained with blood, roughly wiped off. Below it Blue Pete had scrawled, in a trembling, wandering hand:
i no youl find me. Ken trust you to tek care of blue Peets boddy. larned to rit for you Boy. gled i did now. you dout think i hit you with that stun do you. Bilsy got me whar it hurts en i kent last it out long kent breeth rit.
The writing scrawled off crookedly over the paper. Then down near the bottom it became more readable, as if the writer had become stronger:
i heer shots neer big pin. hop our oil rit. dont get shot Boy dont.
Then a firmer hand had written:
Tel your muther i sevd you agen, wish i could live now for a while and ill try for it. ef i scent good by Boy.
It ended there. Mahon leaned blindly against the big stone at the door of the cave. But where was the poor half-breed now? It scarcely seemed possible that any man could have lived till night with such a wound. Then the heedless devotion of Blue Pete gave him a clue. Together the two men rode rapidly down the coulee toward the big pine. Just a few yards from the cave they came upon it.
The half-breed, whom a simple mother’s letter turned into a hero, heedless of his own life, lay on his side, the last of his life’s blood congealed on his breast which he had bared in an effort to stop the flow. The old rifle with an empty cartridge was clasped in his hands, one finger on the trigger and bent so hard that the rifle could scarcely be removed. The face was fixed in a look of anxiety that went to Mahon’s heart. The day had been too much for the battered head, and the grief-stricken sergeant tumbled limply beside his protector.
It was simple story Mahon wrote that week to his mother, whose little notes to Blue Pete had always been faithfully delivered until he left the police. It was a story of devotion that comes to few men, of love that passes the love of man for women, of unselfishness that led to death, of misapplied justice that threw a man back to his instincts, of regret for the life that sacrificed itself so willingly.
Mahon read the agony and weakness that had stopped Blue Pete’s last note before the big-pine capture. He saw the waning life flicker up at the sound of the shooting—a flicker that strengthened his hand for the farewell to his mother and himself—the awful struggle as the torn and dying half-breed dragged himself out of the cave and toward the big pine, in a last vain effort to be on hand to protect the man he was dying for. And then the rush of blood, the ebb of life, and, the last shot as the ugly, cross-eyed half-breed sent his dying message of attempted succor to the mother’s boy.
In Windy Coulee, just where it enters the Hills, there is a handmade slab that only the police and a few cowboys, ever see. On it are the words “Greater Love” and nothing more. Mahon would have spent all his earnings on a stone, but he knew the rustler, detective, rustler again, always hero, would sleep better under the work of the hand of “My Dear Boy.”
Tuesday, 20 September 2016
By Audrey Fullerton
From the Canadian Magazine, December 1916
Even in those early days when people lived more simply than now, and knew nothing of booms or bargains, the well-being of society, in Canada as everywhere else, rested in some measure upon the gentle art of advertising. It is no new invention of these latter times that men should be told through the public prints that their various wants may be supplied, at place and price indicated; nor is it a new thing that men who are prepared to render services should seek to convince their neighbours that they need such services. All the psychology and utility of advertising, as known to us of the present day in a hundred and one complicated forms, existed in embryo a long time ago: in proof of which one may look at the ways of society and the wiles of merchantmen in the good old city of Halifax from, say, 1770 to 1814.
Eighteenth-century cities in Canada were not many or large, but after their kind they took colour, just as cities do to-day, from their business houses and their ways of buying and selling. Halifax had as picturesque a row of shops, and as notable a roll of shop-keepers, as ever a city had, and it is a pity that something of that old-time merchant flavour could not have been preserved to this more busy day. But the Halifax tradesmen of a hundred years ago announced their wares in The Halifax Royal Gazette, and otherwise, and their advertisements—more enduring literature than many of the modern bestsellers—still remain as reflections of the life and social order that gave them birth.
There was a certain barber in Halifax in 1789, George Clarke by name, who believed in letting his light shine! Hairdressing in those days of wigs and curls was a quite different matter from twentieth-century barbering and since there were no barbers’ unions to regulate the trade, the way was open both to cultivate a really professional pride in it and to make a strong bid for custom, brother friseurs notwithstanding. On the first day of December, perhaps in view of a general sprucing-up for Christmas among the dandies of the town, Barber Clarke advertised himself and his work thus adroitly:
“The subscriber, hair dresser to ladies and gentlemen, begs leave to acquaint his friends and the public, that he now lives at the north-west corner of the Grand Parade, and informs them that he follows his profession with punctuality (as usual), and flatters himself that notwithstanding he is a Nova Scotian, his performance will be at least equal that of many German, London, Dublin, or Cork Court friseurs! And altho’ he is possessed of the greatest share of customers, that his diligence and activity in business entitles him to more encouragement from the old standing inhabitants than he now receives. He begs leave to acquaint the public that it is not his intention to gain their custom and approbation otherwise than by his industry, although many have succeeded by flattery and misrepresentation.”
The nearest approach to modern department-store advertising was that of Anthony Henry, in 1782. Henry was King’s Printer as well as merchant, and for forty years the publisher of The Gazette; and it may be that his familiar knowledge of printer’s ink had something to do with his generous use of it in the interests of trade. His shop must have been a delightful place to visit, and a reasonably satisfying one; for its wares were very miscellaneous. One naturally pictures the good folk of Halifax flocking to it in response to the following announcement:
“Just imported from London, in the ship Adamant, Capt. Wyatt, master, and to be sold by Anthony Henry, a general assortment of the best stationery and books; Bohea, Souchong, Green, and Hyson tea; loaf sugar and molasses; wax and tallow candles; men’s best shoes and pumps; women’s everlasting and sarsenet shoes; an assortment of pickles, in cases; fiddle strings; printing types, for marking linen; an assortment of curious prints; magick lanthorns and slides; scented hair powder; Jarr raisons; Valentia almonds, shell’d and unshell’d; candied citron and orange; troffels; macaroni; morels; vermacella; pearl barley; almonds; comfits, earianther do., carraway, and other confectionary, sorted; cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and mace, &c., &c.
‘‘Parlour and Franklin’s open stoves; Irish Rose butter; French and Scotch barley; split peas; a variety of telescopes, opera and reading glasses; acorn microscopes; with a variety of other articles. All will be sold at the lowest rates for cash.”
Not so clever or encyclopedic an advertiser as either of these tradesmen was Robert Walker, who combined shoemaking, gardening, and philosophy. He was a flower-lover, and seems to have made some effort to encourage gardening throughout the town. This brief advertisement is on record:
‘‘A great variety of flower roots and seeds, warranted good, to be sold by Robert Walker, nearly opposite to Hestorman’s.”
But Walker, perhaps Canada’s first seedsman, was himself more interesting than his business. He was something of a cynicist, and delighted in his later years to pull down the pride of his fellow townsmen of the younger generation by telling them tales of how humbly their fathers had begun in life.
A mathematical school was advertised in 1795. It was a night-school, with hours from six to nine o’clock, and evidently was intended for the young men who were otherwise engaged through the day.
Old Halifax had a gay and varied social life, as befitted the capital and garrison city. Banquets, balls, and theatricals were frequent, and some very pretentious stage-play was put on the boards, under high patronage. The amusement bulletins had these, among other notices:
“Grand Theatre, Argyle Street, 26 Feb. (1789), ‘Merchant of Venice,’ and the farce of ‘The Citizen.’ The characters by gentlemen of the navy, army, and town. Tickets to be had of Mr. Howe, printer. Boxes, 5s.; Pit, (first), 3s.; second pit. 2s. The doors to be open at 6 o’clock, and the curtain drawn up precisely at 7.”
‘‘Tuesday, 10 March. New Grand Theatre. ‘Beaux Strategen’ and ‘The Deuce is in Him.’ It is particularly requested the ladies will dress their heads as low as possible, otherwise the persons sitting behind cannot have a view of the stage. The ladies and gentlemen are desired to give directions to their servants, when they come to take them from the theatre, to have their horses’ heads towards the parade.”
“Wednesday, 13 Jan’y., 1795. Halifax Theatre. By the desire of H.R.H. Prince Edward. ‘Love a la Mode’ and ‘The Agreeable Surprise’. No children in laps to be admitted.”
Fashionable conveyance to and from the playhouses and other social gathering-places was by sedan chairs and coaches. In 1793 and 1794 sedan chairs were advertised to stand for hire in Barrington Street, at charges of from one shilling to one and six-pence. “On Sunday, one-eighth of a dollar to church.” This mode of travel, however, gave way in a few years to hackney coaches, one operator of which advertised in January, 1811, as follows:
“Under the patronage of His Excellency Sir George Prevost, Lieut.-Governor and Commander-in-Chief:—W. Madden begs leave to acquaint the Ladies and Gentlemen of Halifax, that he has fitted up Three Carriages, which he will send to the Stand for their accommodation, on Monday next, 21st instant, on the following reasonable rates: To any part of the Town, for one person, 2s. 6d.—for two, 3s. 6d.—for four, 6s. 3d. . . . When kept in waiting longer than one-quarter of an hour, to pay at the rate of 5s. 6d. per hour. . : . All jobs about town after Dark to pay one-third more fare. . .”
But Halifax’s social life was not all pleasant and rose-tinted. This, on January 19, 1779, shows another and a sorrier phase of it:
“To be sold, an able negro wench, about 21 years of age, who is capable of performing both town and country house work. She is an exceeding good cook. For further particulars inquire of the printer.”
In the same year another citizen advertised a reward of twenty dollars for information of a negro man-servant who had run away from him.
If the commercial advertising of a hundred years ago was ordinarily heavier and duller than that of today, some of the Government notices at least were more lively than either departments of state or city councils now send out. Facetiously worded allurements were thus held out to young Haligonians in May, 1813, by the Navy Office:
“What Should Sailors do on Shore, while King, Country and Fortune point to the Ocean!—His Majesty’s Schooner PICTOU, of 12 guns, commanded by Lieut. Stephens, as fine a vessel of her size as ever floated on salt water, wants a few jolly, spirited fellows to complete her complement for a short cruise, who may all fairly expect to dash in Coaches on their return, as well as other folks. Apply on board, at the Navy Yard.”
Had there been even more advertising in pioneer Halifax, it would be possible, with some imagination, to reconstruct the general life of the old citadel town. Such announcements, however, as these, being fair and truthful samples, give hints of the close and interesting relation that existed between business and society then, as now. They bought and sold, made and asked special prices, invited custom and gave or withheld it, after the same very human way as do we to-day, but with the mellow colouring of a hundred years ago.
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.