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This story3 is not a love story, anymore than "Robinson Crusoe"4 is; it is simply not that sort of story at all. It is concerned with the picturesque conditions of life in the Southwest5, just at the time that New Mexico6 was taken over from Old Mexico7, and with the experiences of two Catholic missionaries who were sent there to bring order out of the mixture of Indian and Spanish and Mexican superstitions. The real hero of the story is Father Latour (his real name was Lamy8) the young Frenchman who was made Bishop of New Mexico at the age of 37, a man of an old and noble family in Puy de Dom9, a man of wide culture, an idealist, and from his youth hungry for the world's frontiers. He was finally made an archbishop, and died in Santa Fe10 in 1886. In other words, he went there in the days of the buffalo and Indian massacres, and he lived to see the Santa Fe railroad cross New Mexico.
As I told you, I had the good fortune to come upon a great many letters11 written by the Bishop and his Vicar12 to their families in France13, so that I have not had to depend upon my own invention for the reactions of these two French priests to the conditions they met there. Many of the incidents are invention, some of them are used almost literally as they happened, such as the chapter called "The White Mules".
There will be five more chapters in Part I, - they are written but not typed. Part II will be much? shorter than Part I, but in a much deeper tone and with deeper, graver color.(signed) Willa Cather. ("Death Comes For the Archbishop')