Imágenes de páginas

Surely more individuality goes into the make-up of this force than into any other, it is a combination of all sorts of men drawn together by the winds of heaven. Five years ago the roll-call of one division disclosed an ex-midshipman; a son of the Governor of a British Colony; a medical student from Dublin; a grandson of a Captain of the line; a Cambridge B.A.; three ex-troopers of the Scots Greys; the brother of a Yorkshire Baronet, and a goodly sprinkling of the ubiquitous Scots. For years a son of Charles Dickens did valiant service with this force, and has left behind him a book (as yet unpublished), 'Seven Years Without Beer '!

When the force was founded, in addition to the soldiers of fortune from the Motherland there joined as volunteers many a squareshouldered Canadian lad who had never seen a neighbour till his father had hewed a way through the forest to a Government concession road, long before the coming of the railway. In the ranks are lumber-jacks, Eastern log-birler, Western cowboy, Cree-Scot, unaspirated Cockneys, and more than one man who at the bottom of his kit hides away a medal won in honourable service in South Africa, Egypt, or Afghanistan.

In Regina serves a Corporal who bears a name famous among the famous names of the old nobility of Denmark. When Lord Aberdeen was Governor-General of Canada he paid an official visit to the Prairie Provinces, making a temporary stay at Fort Macleod in Alberta. When His Excellency asked for his despatches and the accumulated mail, the trooper who rode up and handed them to him at the salute was his own nephew, a full private of the R.N.W.M.P. In this force it is service and not ancient lineage which counts, and many a constable if transferred to a State function in London would have to take precedence of every officer in the detachment.

Far back in the year 1670 another body of men dominated Canada, the staunch Scottish servants and officers of the Ancient and Honourable Hudson's Bay Company whose character-mark for loyalty and fair dealing remains indelible on the early pages of the history of this land. The charter which was granted to them in the reign of Charles II. had run for two hundred years and expired in 1870, leaving all Canada west of the Great Lakes in a condition of readjustment and unrest.

Illicit whisky-dealers, horse-thieves, and smugglers poured into Western Canada from the United States to the south over the invisible and unguarded parallel of 49°, and Canadian Indians and

Canadian interests needed protection. This condition of affairs was the immediate cause of the formation of the R.N.W.M.P. in the early 'seventies, the launching of the project and the forming of the force being the pet scheme of the then Premier, Sir John A. Macdonald.

The 300 charter-members of the Mounted Police had their work cut out for them in the early days on this far frontier where cupidity and lawlessness reigned and no law of God or man had previously been enforced north or south of this part of the international boundary line. The profit to the American' wolfers' had been great and was measured not in dollars but largely in buffalo-robes and sometimes in squaws. The traders from the United States brought bad whisky and worse ammunition and fire-arms to the Canadian Indians and for their own gain encouraged tribal wars and the stealing of horses.

In the spring of 1876 twenty thousand buffalo-robes were taken south from Calgary and Fort Macleod into the United States by one man alone, an old whisky-trader who announced with commercial and connubial pride that the Blackfoot bride he then had was his fifty-seventh squaw obtained in open barter. It was with men of this calibre that our stripling constables had to do in the early days while incidentally, by moral suasion, making lawabiding Britons out of fighting Sioux, Blood Indians, Assiniboines, Blackfeet, and Ojibwas.

In the forty years of its existence the R.N.W.M.P. has closely identified itself with the growing history of Western Canada, being the greatest moral ally to every creative factor of the country's growth. After ten years of clean work with the lawless element from the south, the mobile force was called upon to protect from violence the engineering gangs who were throwing across Canada from ocean to ocean the trans-continental spine of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Indians looked askance at the 5000 navvies who were invading their lands. Were the steel rails bad medicine to scare away the buffalo and call down the invisible spirits of the air? Would it not be wise to match charm with charm? The engineers found their work much hampered by mischievous Indians. To-day a tomahawk would be driven in between the ends of the rails, to-morrow a 'hanger' was within an ace of derailing an engine.

Chief Pi-a-pot precipitated matters. With malice aforethought he pitched his camp within half a mile of the advancing gang of

railway track-layers, and as construction reached him explicitly refused to budge. Complaint was made to the Lieutenant-Governor of the Territories, and headquarters of the R.N.W.M.P. at Regina sent a despatch to the Mounted Police Force at Maple Creek, 'Please settle trouble; move on Indians.'

Maple Creek sent out not two hundred police, but just two men, a Sergeant and a Constable, and then came the duel between RedCoat and Red-Skin. Pi-a-pot in his nomadic wanderings across the prairie had never yet personally run up against the Mounted Police; neither had his squaws, his camp-followers, nor his dusky olive branches. The two policemen, band-box neat from clinking spur to forage-cap balanced on its traditional three hairs, trotted across the mesa to Pi-a-pot's tepee and read aloud the orders from headquarters, 'You must forthwith break camp and take trail to the northward.'

Pi-a-pot jeered, his young braves mounted their bronchos and insolently jostled the statue-still policemen; children and campdogs yelled and the women smiled the supercilious smile which belongs alone to the Plains Indian. Sergeant Whatshisname drew out his watch and said, ' Pi-a-pot, I give you fifteen minutes.' At the end of the time the Sergeant dismounted, while the Constable kept his saddle. Striding deliberately to Pi-a-pot's private tepee the young officer calmly kicked the key-pole and the tent of painted buffalo-skin collapsed. The ceremony was repeated with delicious sang-froid all down the line till twenty tepees lay flat on the grass of the autumn prairie.

All this while the mounted constable had been looking square into the eyes of Pi-a-pot, for is not the one great duty of the boypoliceman to study men and faces? Pi-a-pot was no man's fool. The easiest thing in the world was to shoot down these two youthful riders in their red coats, but the story would not end there. Back of these two lads lay British law, the whole body of Canadian might and jurisprudence. It was a rare contest in the self-control which each had learned in his own stern school. Pi-a-pot gathered up his household goods and gods and trekked to the north, while no further word was spoken. The incident had its far-reaching effect. During this first year of C.P.R. construction no overt act, not one murder, was committed.

The Yukon gold-rush sent a splendid squad of the R.N.W.M.P. to this far edge of Empire to adjudicate between man and man and be the sane adjusters of things. Eastward to Hudson Bay, north

ward to where on distant Herschel Island the American whaler is frozen in for half the year, has the little line of red sent its outposts. In the peaceful invasion of the prairie by happy homesteaders, the Rider of the Plains has been a compelling factor making for law and decency. Into this great rectangle of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, a wheat-farm a thousand miles in length and of unknown depth, is making to-day the greatest economic trek' this world has ever known. In 1910 a third of a million souls made their way into Western Canada to take up homes amid the yellow wheat. In 1911 the flood of immigration will have passed the 400,000 mark. The Canadian Government gives in this fertile belt 160 acres of land absolutely free to every man who will till it, and it is largely due to the fine work of the R.N.W.M.P. that the homesteader when he comes finds law and order established before him.

It was in 1895 that Inspector Constantine took his small body of Mounted Police up into the Yukon to maintain order there amid the men of the gold-rush. Fortunes were being made every day, fabulous fortunes, and it is characteristic of the steadfastness of the force that although the pay was small and the work hard in the extreme, there were no desertions from the police ranks. Varied indeed was the day's work of the Constable on his icy outpost. He was Mining Recorder and Claim-Arbitrator; he was Customs Officer at the Pass; he acted as protector to every timid packer; he ran the dog-team mail into the interior camps, and was philosopher and friend to 'sourdough' and 'cheechako' alike.

Inspector Constantine says, 'When we got to Dawson the thermometer was 77° below, we had four hours' daylight, and candles were a dollar (four shillings) apiece. I was Commander-in-Chief, Chief Magistrate, and Home and Foreign Secretary. I arrived with twenty men at the end of July and in four months we had built nine houses, one of them 75 feet long. We cut and carried and squared all the timber ourselves. Yes, our shoulders were raw. I had three tables in my room, and a different kind of work on each. I walked from one table to the other to rest. While Major Constantine was making the name of British law respected in the Yukon, Mrs. Constantine had the fine faculty of keeping alive before many a ruddy English lad the standards and traditions of the Briton; or within her hospitable walls he found a corner which breathed of home. The guests of Mrs. Constantine had to respect two

restrictions they might repeat no unkind gossip or scandal, and they must dress for dinner!

The Mounted Police in Canada owes its prestige not to the severity of its punishment but to the sureness of its work, the inexorable unflinchingness with which it pursues the law-breaker. A man in the Yukon committed a ghastly murder, and fled south. Inspector Constantine and his men pursued that man all up and down the map of North America for over six months, overtaking him finally at Loredo in Mexico. The only piece of the British Empire available just at that time on the Gulf of Mexico was a British merchantman in the harbour, bound for Jamaica. Mounted policeman and the man he had captured boarded the vessel, sailed with her to the West Indies, and re-shipped there for Halifax. There at last the strong hand of Canadian law was laid upon the murderer and he had to face the consequences of his deeds done in the flesh.

In the far lonely places it is not infrequently the duty of the Mounted Policeman to convey lunatics hundreds of miles out of the wilderness to a kindly asylum. Three summers ago one met Sergeant Field at Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca. Chipewyan as a fur-trading post was established in 1788. It was doing business at the same old stand before Toronto was the capital of Upper Canada, while Ottawa was still unheard of, and when of Chicago not even the Fort Dearborn nucleus existed. Scraping the yellow lichens off the old sun-dial, we adjust our bearings. We are 111° West of Greenwich, and in latitude 58° 45′ North. Our parallel carried eastward would strike the Orkneys and pass through Stromness. Chipewyan is a little pearl of the periwigged days of the Georges. From its red sands, tamarack swamps, and mossy muskeg one almost expects to see arise the forms of the great of old who outfitted here for Arctic explorations: Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Sir George Simpson, and Sir John Franklin, Back and Richardson and Rae, and in later days that stripling curate who was afterwards to be known as Bishop Bompas, the Apostle of the North.' All these have written their story on the history-page of sub-Arctic Canada. The modern chapter which with all modesty Sergeant Field relates to us is no less worthy of arresting the attention of loyal Britons.

[ocr errors]

Four or five winters ago, Field, then a Corporal, was stationed at Chipewyan, and heard from the Dog-Rib Indians that a man had gone insane at the Hay River Mission at the western extremity

« AnteriorContinuar »