THE COLONEL'S DREAM. By Charles W. Chesnutt. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co. Washington: Woodward & Lothrop.
In strong terms, justified by all that is known of the situation, Mr. Chesnutt condemns the peonage system in vogue in some of the southern states. He does more. He sets forth vividly some of the reasons why the south has not progressed more rapidly than it has along the path of industrial development. He shows a southern community owned, body and soul, by a blackguard, whose father was a slave dealer and hunter. This man, Fetters, is well named, perhaps consciously thus styled by the author. He has enslaved the community by means of mortgages and he bids fair to subject the entire state to a similar condition. Against him is pitted Colonel French, a southerner by birth, a veteran of the confederate army, who migrated northward after the war and succeeded richly in business. In middle age he sells out to a trust and travels south for his health, going by choice to his old home, where he finds much to arouse his pride and to awaken his business instincts. His efforts to establish a cotton mill, to break down the peonage system, to uproot the evil of convict labor and to checkmate the wicked Fetters all come to naught. The community is not ripe for such reforms, however they may promise advantages. Fetters wins his battle and Colonel French returns north discouraged, realizing that his dream is futile. In the telling of this tale Mr. Chesnutt employs the arts that make his "Conjure Woman" and "Marrow of Tradition" exceptional among novels of the south.