Zelotes’s daughter elopes with an Italian opera singer, which in his small town Cape Cod eyes is just about the worst thing ever. There’s nothing he hates more than a Portygee (all foreigners are Portygee, and foreigner can mean anyone from outside the county). Daughter dies, and later, her husband dies as well. Their son, Alberto Speranza, becomes Zelotes’s ward. He can barely contain his outrage at the boy’s half-breed blood. Albert, as he’s now called, is an aspiring writer and poet, and Zelotes thinks that’s just the most idiotic nonsense. He’s not a fan of fiction on general principle. He makes the boy work as an assistant bookkeeper at his lumber yard and hopes to groom him into eventually inheriting the business.
It’s a culture shock leaving New York and coming to South Harniss, but Albert makes friends both among the locals and the summer residents. His best friend, Helen, is a local. He’s fallen in love with a summerer, Madeline. She loves his poems, some of which he’s gotten published. Her family is extremely wealthy and thoroughly disapprove. Madeline is whisked away. In despair, Albert enlists in the army to fight in the World War.
His military career is pretty short. In his first battle, they’re ambushed by Germans and his lieutenant is shot. He drags him to safety, then runs back into the fray to save his buddy and is caught in an explosion. It’s thought he died and he’s hailed as a hero at home and awarded a posthumous Croix de Guerre. Before he left, an anthology of his poems had just been published and now they’re a best seller. Zelotes gets the first $3,000 royalty check and, though he still doesn’t understand it, he has to admit he was wrong and apparently somebody buys these things.
Albert didn’t die, though. He was badly injured but still alive and was taken captive. He spent the war in a POW camp. He returns with a hero’s welcome, although in his own eyes, he’s no hero. He was captured in his very first battle — he’s a dismal failure. Madeline’s parents have completely reversed course and welcome Albert into the family, but he’s changed and he can’t see what he ever saw in Madeline to begin with. He returns to South Harniss and realizes it was Helen all along.
In the end, he’s got a contract to write a series of stories for $500 each and he’s elected to congress. Zelotes evolves as a character, starting as an unrepentant racist, then learning to hide his racist tendencies, and eventually he repents his racism. People can come from anywhere and that’s okay, so long as they speak English. One step at time.
Inscriptions: None, though there was a bookmark evidently torn from some other book. There isn’t much text on it: “fian! Not f/continent/eal to” on one side, “hey’ll not ge/fers met, w/eneral” on the other.