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"From Kingdom to Colony." Mary Devereux. Published by
Little, Brown & Co., Boston.
While we are waiting for another imagination like Hawthorne's to touch our past, or like Kipling's to express our present, we are reading a good many interesting pages of history which our writers are putting into the form of story. One of these, Mary Devereux has repeated in "From Kingdom to Colony."
A gracefully spoken prologue opens the story, just as the noise of war comes murmuring down through the coast trees from distant Boston, to the sturdy little town of Marblehead, and especially to brave John Glover and his recruits.
Joseph Devereux is a native born; staunch now in the principles of his Colony. All tea is royal tea, and none may be brewed beneath his roof. The picture of the secret preparations for defence, of the British quartering in Marblehead, of the town meetings, of the night skirmishes, of the first meeting of Dorothy Devereux and the young British captain, of the stirrup marriage at the dwelling of the terrified Parson, of the meeting with Washington, all are pictures of impressive incidents, albeit disfigured by Mr. Sandham's feeble illustrations, well drawn by Miss Devereux in both dialogue and landscape.
It is not a new record, but an old one re-told sweetly, and with power of a pure, natural love that made a girl's heart a traitor, although she herself was loyal to her father's cause in those days when, I make no doubt, there was many a bye-war thus happily won by both sides.
THIRTY CENTS' WORTH OF MYSTERY.
It was the night of the twenty-fourth of December and Mr. Oliver Seddins, something of a pessimist, the least bit of a philosopher, and a good deal more of a selfish old bachelor than anything else, sat in an easy chair before his study fire, wrapped in deep meditation and a dressing-gown. For a bachelor of forty-five, Christmas is a trying time. To this particular bachelor of fortyfive, Christmas was a living torture; enlarged and magnified by his own self-consideration and sensibilities it came to mean to him only the day when presents—Ugh! such a word-presents must be given and smiles bestowed for gifts which he promptly sent to the Organized Charities Society, and thanked heaven they were so soon out of the way.
He hated the day; he hated the thought of it; he hated the men in the office for liking it and talking about it. Someone had persuaded him to send out for a bit of mistletoe and he hated himself for his weakness. Thank fortune, he had hurried away in time to miss having to bring it home and he chuckled drowsily to himself to think of it, lying deserted on his desk all during Christmas day. He had gone to sleep once or twice, when suddenly he roused up to see James, the office boy, step out on the moulding of the wall and begin to climb and slide down the side of the room, using the pattern of the paper for steps.
On most any other occasion Mr. Oliver Seddins would have remarked at this, but some way or other it didn't occur to him just then. He was so drowsy he felt that there must be something supremely natural about it, or it would not have happened.
The only unusual thing that caused Mr. Seddins to wonder was the fact that James appeared to be in a hurry. If any one thing was characteristic of James it was not to be in a hurry, and Mr. Seddins watched his office boy in absent speculation as he stepped from the wall paper to the floor and hastened toward him.
“Yer went off widout yer mystery, Mister Seddins,” said James breathlessly, handing out the mistletoe, “an' I taught I'd fetch it to yer. Deres de hull tirty cents wort'.”
Mr. Seddins rose up, his eyes blazing and his temper at white heat. "James," he began, "you infernal little fool—" then he stopped feeling that there was not profanity enough in the language to do justice to the occasion. He finally hissed, at the full summit of his wrath,
"Damn the mistletoe and Christmas and the whole wretched business. I wish, for once, I was somewhere where they didn't have Christmas and where—.” But he never finished what he intended to say for, his rage getting the better of him, he hurled the mistletoe into the fire.
Now to curse a thing that comes bringing happiness to most people is very bad policy, especially so if you try to distroy it at the same moment. But Mr. Seddins had never learned this. If he had he would, doubtless, have been more careful. The fire blazed brighter for one instant and the next someone had grabbed him by the shoulders and sat him down very hard.
The chair out of which Mr. Seddins had just risen was an extremely comfortable one, but the thing on which he now sat was cold and damp and covered with snow. He looked around for the familiar objects in his room, but he saw instead only a bleak, frosty landscape with muffled figures moving silently about, and shelter tents in every direction with pine boughs heaped around them.
Mr. Seddins gasped and started to get up.
"Set still, thar'," came a warning voice at his back. "Don't ye do no huntchin' around. Who be ye and what do ye want
around here in that git-out. 'Pears like ye ain't accustomed to the climate of the Forge."
“My dear man,” began Mr. Seddins. “Don't 'dear man' me,” interrupted the guardian. “Tell yer story, and tell it straight. If yer ain't a hired Hessian ye can call me an Injun. Yer somethin' er other 'tain't Christian. I kin tell that from the cut of them clus.”
“Well I am damned,” said Mr. Seddins to himself in amazement.
"What's that?” demanded his captor. "I say, I don't know where I am," began Mr. Seddins weakly.
“Yer in Valley Forge, ye durned fureigner. That's where ye be, and it's Christmas eve and there ye stood a heavin' mistletoe into the fire just to taunt a man that's been livin' on dried punkins fer two years an' hain't seen a Christmas dinner an' we don't expect to see one."
Mr. Seddins gasped again and pinched himself.
“I threw that mistletoe into the fire because I don't believe in Christmas,” he began.
"Course ye don't," broke in the man coming around in front of him: "I kin believe ye. Ye don't enjoy Christmas, cuz ye never wanted fer one, I'll bet.' If ye'd see some of the hungry cusses around here yu'd feel like celebratin' with everybody ye see.”
“I have a little money with me," reflected Mr. Seddins. "An' I'd take it away from ye if it wasn't Christmas eve. Ye kin git along because I don't think yer a spy.” The man's voice seemed to drift further and further away. “Take that feller over there aknockin' his feet agin a board. Take the first feller ye meet."
Mr. Seddins arose without noticing that the man who had addressed him was fading into the landscape. He started to find the man who was kicking his feet to keep them warm, but the knocking had ceased. He tried to see where he was going, but a mist blinded him. He was about to stumble ahead when someone, touching him on the arm, said:
"Mister Seddins !"
The dream vanished and he awoke with a start to find himself still sitting in his easy chair, but cold and shivering before a dead fire. Mr. James Mugson, his office boy, was standing with his hat in one hand and a spray of mistletoe in the other.
Mr. Seddins stared dazedly at him for a half minute, then grasped him by the hand and said:
“James, my boy, I'm glad to see you. Brought the mistletoe, didn't you? Yes; I know all about it. I'm glad to have one. of my boys so thoughtful."
There was a minute's silence and then as the office boy turned to go, he called out:
"Let me see James; yes, yes, of course, you're the first fellow I met. Ah—come and take dinner with me tomorrow—at three. All right, James. Good-bye."
R. B. M., '02.