I left my residence at 102 Mount Vernon Street (Boston, MA) at a little past quarter to two in the afternoon. I was later than usual, for we had a small retirement tea that morning for Festus—a faithful negro butler who served our family for many years, since I was a boy in fact. He was off to Orlando, to the Negro Retirement Village at Fort Aire—a district quite segregated and rarely penetrated by the white man; we do seem to get everywhere else! After I waved Festus off on the electro-tram, I began my journey to the old Boston Public Library to peruse the latest world events on the luminer.
The town was all done up for 4th July, Governor’s Day, an event that I have never had much time for—although my daughter, for some strange fourteen-year-old reason, has become quite fascinated by the pageantry that surrounds the event. So this year she decided to have a fireworks party and, as a final act, inveighed Festus to construct a vast bonfire upon which the customary George Washington will burn in effigy.
Tiffy managed to construct a dummy that was quite hideous in proportions. “It’s more fit for the Salem witch trials than Governor’s Day,” I said to her. “Dear, you should be careful making things like that,” observed my wife, “you’ll frighten the negro maids. They’re terribly credulous and will think the mistress has learned black magic from your holiday to N’Orleans. They’ll think it’s a hex—pure voodoo, darling.” This had little effect, for when I next gazed upon the unfortunate visage of the notorious traitor, I found him even more hideous and zombie-like than ever. “I know he died of Yellow Fever in Venezuela, but really Tiffy the poor man looks like he died, was buried, and has been dug up again.” The last I saw of it, several girls had surrounded the dummy with a makeup bag and, indeed, the maids peeped round the corner to watch the witchy scene.
As I stepped off the electro-tram, I saw a large German airship, the latest model, glide over the low city rooftops. Boston is a small town and, as the Governor insists, we should probably open up again for new blood from Europe—the more whiggish legislators think we should include the Finns in this latest wave. I am not convinced, they are hard drinkers and, if Stoddard’s Race Almanac is to be believed, they are more Asiatic than European—they have a strange savage mien. No, I think in the year of our lord 2022 the British North American Dominion is adequately peopled at 100M souls. “An elegant sufficiency,” as nanny might have said.
I stepped under the banner at the entranceway that read GOD SAVE THE QUEEN in the most vulgar colours imaginable. My business at the library, apart from to catch up on world events, was to research the Battle of Bunker Hill. I am due to give a brief monograph about it this autumn at Harvard. However, before I began work on this project, I found myself distracted by a small booklet in most irregular type—self-published, no doubt—that described what the media calls a “parallel history”. The document, scarcely a book, was entitled A Handful of Tranquility by one P.P. de W. Berrell. An extraordinary work, it describes how the British were driven from the North American continent in 1810 by the descendants of the Sons of Liberty aided by Napoleon.
This would be amusing enough, but this “United States of America” then goes on to found itself on the principles of “the Rights of Man” and becomes a godless republic, mainly run by Freemasons and Jews—and devoted to the destruction of kings, aristocrats, and Christians. The whole project almost comes apart when, in 1872, our Virginians break away because the republic’s president, a strange fanatic called Samuel Clemens, wants to liberate all the negro slaves and let them vote.
“And I do in my heart truly believe there will be a negro president—and a little negro boy and a little white girl will hold hands, and the republic will be joined in perpetual union.” Well, that’s what this Mr. Berrell has Clemens say, anyway—it really is most extraordinary. It all comes unstuck in 1918, when the Kaiser falls out with the republic and there is the most horrific world war, complete with atom bombs. Oh, one more detail—within this novel there is another, a story-in-the-story called Bunker (Bunker Hill?) in which the Empire wins in 1810 and everything turns out just as it did in real life…or almost so, anyway.