Dear Old Fellow: Here I am in America—in Boston—and every day I spend here makes me more and more satisfied with my change of situation. The very air here is free and inspiring, full of new hope and life. The old world with all its restraints and bounds, its musty prejudices, its time-honored inconveniences and hindrances, is a thing gone by; it is blue in the dim distance, and I see before me a free, generous, noble country that offers everything equally to all. I like Massachusetts; I like Boston; and more and more I feel that I am a fortunate fellow to have been selected by my uncle for this lot.

He is all that is kind and generous and fatherly to me, and I should be an ungrateful cur if I did not give him the devotion of a son. He is so amiable and reasonable that this is not at all a hard task.

We are spending our Christmas holidays with his mother and sister; after that he will go to housekeeping in his own house. He wants me to get married with all convenient dispatch, but I am one that cannot enter into the holy state simply to furnish a housekeeper to my uncle or to place a well-dressed, well-mannered woman at the head of my own table.

You at home called me fastidious and romantic. Well, I am so to this degree, that I never shall marry unless I see the woman I cannot live without. The feast of matrimony may be well appointed, the oxen and fatlings be killed, and all things ready, but I never shall accept unless some divine power "compels" me to come in;—and up to this day I have felt no such call.

Mark me, I say, up to this day; for I am by no means certain I shall say as much a month hence. To be frank with you, there is spending the Christmas holidays under the same roof with me a very charming girl whom I am instructed by my Aunt Deborah to call "Cousin Dolly."

Now, in point of fact, this assumption of relationship is the most transparent moonshine. I am, I believe, second or third cousin to my "Uncle Israel," who is real uncle to this Miss Dolly. Of course my cousinship to her must be of a still more remote and impalpable nature; but if it is agreed that we call each other "cousin," certainly it is not I that am going to object to the position and its immunities—oh, no! A cousin stands on a vantage-ground; all sorts of delightful freedoms and privileges are permitted to him!

I "take the good the gods provide" me, and so Cousin Dolly and I have become the best of friends, and we have been busy making wreaths and crosses and Christmas decorations under the superintendence of Aunt Deborah, in the most edifying and amicable way. This Aunt Deborah is the conventional upright, downright, good, opinionated, honest, sincere old Englishwoman, of whom there are dozens at every turn in the old country, but who here in America have the interest that appertains to the relics of a past age. But she is vigorously determined that in her domains the old customs shall be in full force, and every rule of Christmas-keeping observed.

Of course I put up mistletoe in all the proper places, and I found my new cousin, having grown up as a New England Congregational minister's daughter, knew nothing of its peculiar privileges and peculiarities, so that when the kissing began I saw a bright flush of amazement and almost resentment pass over her face; though when it was explained to be an old Christmas custom she laughed and gave way with a good grace. But I observed my young lady warily inspecting the trimmings of the room, and quietly avoiding all the little green traps thereafter.

It is quite evident that, though she has all the gentleness of a dove, she has some of the wisdom of the serpent, and possesses very definite opinions as to what she likes and does not like. She impresses me as having, behind an air of softness and timidity, a very positive and decided character. There is a sort of reserved force in her; and one must study her to become fully acquainted with her. Thus far I hope I have not lost ground.

I find she is an enthusiast for her country, for her religion, for everything high and noble; and not one of the mere dolls that have no capability for anything but ribbons and laces. She has promised to show me the antiquities of Boston and put me in the way of knowing all that a good American ought to know; you see our time for the holidays is very agreeably planned out in advance.

And now, my dear old fellow, I see you shake your head and say, What is to come of all this?

Wait and see. If it should so happen that I should succeed in pleasing this little American princess—if, having gained her ear as Cousin, I should succeed in proving to her that I am no cousin at all, but want to be more than cousin or brother or the whole world together to her—if all this should come to pass, why—there have stranger things happened in this world of ours.

But I am running before my time. Miss Dolly is yet an unknown quantity and there may be a long algebraic problem to be done before I can know what may be; and so, good-night for the present.

Yours ever truly,

Alfred Dunbar.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook