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[Review of The House Behind the Cedars]



A good many of the admirers of Chas. W. Chestnutt have been looking for just such a book as the "House Behind the Cedars," that he has just published. Mr. Chestnutt, although perfectly white, has somewhere in his antecedents a negro ancestress and has been developed so that his sympathy with the colored race is that of one of them. His earlier books have shown a keen appreciation of their humors, their superstition and their tragedies. But he has not until now given a touch of bitterness to the tragedy. This is the story of the mulatto, who is so fair that not one trace of the negro heritage is discernible. There were two of them, a brother and sister. Their father had meant to will them his property, but kept putting it off. When he died, his children had to give up their luxuries, because their white father had not married their mother. The boy was altogether white, and could go off, leaving his mother, and among white men, make his way to the top. That was in South Carolina where the color of a man is not strained quite so fine as in North Carolina, where he was born. In the midst of his success, he brought his beautiful sister away from the North Carolina home. Although she became the belle and the toast of the South Carolina aristocracy and the betrothed of an aristocratic white man, she could not wean herself away from her inheritance. She was a woman with a tender heart and an active conscience. When her mother sickened, she went to her, and as fate had it her lover found her there. There could be no marriage; the tragedy falling on the girl and her lover alike. The incidents that led up to her death, just when her lover was bridging over the difference between her and her lover, are tragic enough. They may be strongly drawn in, but the sensuous negro and southern white man's pride of race are as sure as truth. "The House Behind the Cedars" is a powerful book, and concerns a theme that will last as long as the white and black races live side by side. The publishers are Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston.