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   Chapter 11 REGAL PROJECTS.

A Jolly Fellowship By Frank R. Stockton Characters: 18627

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The next morning, we all went around to see the queen, and on the way we tried to arrange our affair. I was only sorry that my old school-fellows were not there, to go into the thing with us. There couldn't have been better fun for our boys, than to get up a revolution and set up a dethroned queen. But they were not there, and I determined to act as their representative as well as I could.

We three-Corny, Rectus and I-were agreed that the re-enthronement-we could think of no better word for the business-should be done as quietly and peacefully as possible. It was of no use, we thought, to make a great fuss about what we were going to do. We would see that this African ex-sovereigness was placed in a suitable regal station, and then we would call upon her countrymen to acknowledge her rank.

"It isn't really necessary for her to do any governing," said Rectus. "Queens do very little of that. Look at Queen Victoria! Her Prime Minister and Parliament run the country. If the African governor here is a good man, the queen can take him for a Prime Minister. Then he can just go along and do what he always did. If she is acknowledged to be the queen, that's all she need want."

"That's so," said Corny. "And, above all, there must be no blood shed."

"None of yours, any way," said I; and Rectus tapped his bean, significantly.

Rectus had been chosen captain of this revolutionary coalition, because Corny, who held the controlling vote, said that she was afraid I had not gone into the undertaking heart and soul, as Rectus had. Otherwise, she would have voted for me, as the oldest of the party. I did not make any objections, and was elected Treasurer. Corny said that the only office she had ever held was that of Librarian, in a girls' society, but as we did not expect to need a Librarian in this undertaking, we made her Secretary and Manager of Restoration, which, we thought, would give her all the work that she could stand under.

I suggested that there was one sub-officer, or employé, that we should be sure to need, and who should be appointed before we commenced operations. This was an emissary. Proper communications between ourselves and the populace would be difficult, unless we obtained the service of some intelligent and whole-souled darkey. My fellow-revolutionists agreed with me, and, after a moment of reflection, Corny shouted that she had thought of the very person.

"It's a girl!" she cried. "And it's Priscilla!"

We all knew Priscilla. It would have been impossible to be at the hotel for a week and not know her. After breakfast, and after dinner, there was always a regular market at the entrance of the hotel, under the great arched porch, where the boarders sat and made themselves comfortable after meals. The dealers were negroes of every age,-men, women, boys, and girls, and they brought everything they could scrape up, that they thought visitors might buy,-fruit, shells, sponges, flowers, straw hats, canes, and more traps than I can remember. Some of them had very nice things, and others would have closed out their stock for seven cents. The liveliest and brightest of all these was a tall, slim, black, elastic, smooth-tongued young girl, named Priscilla. She nearly always wore shoes, which distinguished her from her fellow-countrywomen. Her eyes sparkled like a fire-cracker of a dark night, and she had a mind as sharp as a fish-hook. The moment Corny mentioned her she was elected emissary.

We determined, however, to be very cautious in disclosing our plans to her. We would sound her, first, and make a regular engagement with her.

"It will be a first-rate thing for me," said Corny, "to have a girl to go about with me, for mother said, yesterday, that it wouldn't do for me to be so much with boys. It looked tomboyish, she said, though she thought you two were very good for boys."

"Are you going to tell your father and mother about this?" asked Rectus.

"I think I'll tell mother," said Corny, "because I ought to, and I don't believe she'll object, if I have a girl along with me. But I don't think I'll say anything to father just yet. I'm afraid he'd join."

Rectus and I agreed that it might be better to postpone saying anything to Mr. Chipperton.

It was very true that the queen did not live in a palace. Her house was nearly large enough to hold an old-fashioned four-posted bedstead, such as they have at my Aunt Sarah's. The little room that was cut off from the main apartment was really too small to count. The queen was hard at work, sitting on her door-stone by the side of her bits of sugar-cane and pepper-pods. There were no customers. She was a good-looking old body, about sixty, perhaps, but tall and straight enough for all queenly purposes.

She arose and shook hands with us, and then stepped into her door-way and courtesied. The effect was very fine.

"This is dreadful!" said Corny. "She ought to give up this pepper-pod business right away. If I could only talk to her, I'd make her understand. But I must go get somebody for an interpreter."

And she ran off to one of the neighboring huts.

"If this thing works," said Rectus, "we ought to hire a regular interpreter."

"It wont do to have too many paid officials," said I, "but we'll see about that."

Corny soon returned with a pleasant-faced woman, who undertook to superintend our conversation with the queen.

"What's her name-to begin with?" asked Corny, of the woman.

"Her African name is Poqua-dilla, but here they call her Jane Henderson, when they talk of her. She knows that name, too. We all has to have English names."

"Well, we don't want any Jane Henderson," said Corny. "Poqua-dilla! that's a good name for a queen. But what we first want is to have her stop selling things at the front door. We'll do better for her than that."

"Is you goin' to sen' her to the 'sylum?" asked the woman.

"The asylum!" exclaimed Corny. "No, indeed! You'll see. She's to live here, but she's not to sell pepper-pods, or anything else."

"Well, young missy," said the woman, "you better buy 'em of her. I reckon she'll sell out for 'bout fourpence."

This was a sensible proposition, and, as treasurer, I bought the stock, the queen having signified her willingness to the treaty by a dignified nod and a courtesy. She was very much given to style, which encouraged us a good deal.

"Now, then," said Rectus, who thought it was about time that the captain should have something to say, "you must tell her that she isn't to lay in any more stock. This is to be the end of her mercantile life."

I don't believe the woman translated all of this speech, but the queen gave another nod and courtesy, and I pocketed the peppers to keep as trophies. The other things we kept, to give to the children and make ourselves popular.

"How much do you think it would cost," asked Corny of me, "to make this place a little more like a palace?"

I made a rough sort of a calculation, and came to the conclusion that the room could be made a little more like a palace for about eight dollars.

"That's cheap enough," said Rectus to me. "You and I will each give four dollars."

"No, indeed!" said Corny. "I'm going to give some. How much is three into eight?"

"Two and two-thirds," said I, "or, in this case, two dollars, sixty-six cents and some sixes over."

"All right!" said Corny; "I'll ask father for three dollars. There ought to be something for extras. I'll tell mother what I want it for, and that will satisfy him. He can know afterward. I don't think he ought to worry his lung with anything like this."

"She wont want a throne," said Rectus, turning the conversation from Mr. Chipperton, "for she has a very good rocking-chair, which could be fixed up."

"Yes," said I, "it could be cushioned. She might do it herself."

At this, the colored woman made a remark to the queen, but what it was we did not know.

"Of course she could," said Corny. "Queens work. Queen Victoria etches on steel."

"I don't believe Porker-miller can do that," said Rectus, "but I guess she can pad her chair."

"Do thrones rock?" asked Corny.

"Some of 'em do," I said. "There was the throne of France, you know."

"Well, then, that will be all right," said Corny; "and how about a crown and sceptre?"

"Oh, we wont want a sceptre," I said; "that sort of thing's pretty old-fashioned. But we ought to have a crown, so as to make a difference between her and the other people."

"How much are crowns?" asked Corny, in a thoughtful tone.

"Various prices," I answered; "but I think we can make one, that will do very well, for about fifty cents. I'll undertake to make the brass part, if you'll cushion it."

"Brass!" exclaimed Corny, in astonishment.

"You don't suppose we can get gold, do you?" I asked, laughing.

"Well, no," she said, but not quite satisfied.

"And there must be a flag and a flag-pole," said Rectus. "But what sort of a flag are we going to have?"

"The African flag," said Corny, confidently.

None of us knew what the African flag was, although Corny suggested that it was probably black. But I told her that if we raised a black flag before the queen's palace, we should bring down the authorities on us, sure. They'd think we had started a retail pira

tical establishment.

We now took leave of the queen, and enjoined her neighbor to impress on her mind the necessity of not using her capital to lay in a new stock of goods. Leaving a quarter of a dollar with her, for contingent expenses during the day, we started for home.

"I'll tell you what it is," said I, "we must settle this matter of revenue pretty soon. If she don't sell peppers and sugar-cane, she'll have to be supported in some way, and I'm sure we can't do it."

"Her subjects ought to attend to that," said Rectus.

"But she hasn't got any yet," I answered.

"That's a fact," said Corny. "We must get her a few, to start with."

"Hire 'em, do you mean?" asked Rectus.

"No; call upon them in the name of their country and their queen," she replied.

"I think it would be better, at first," said I, "to call upon them in the name of about twopence a head. Then, when we get a nice little body of adherents to begin with, the other subjects will fall in, of their own accord, if we manage the thing right."

"There's where the emissary will come in," said Rectus. "She can collect adherents."

"We must engage her this very day," said Corny. "And now, what about the flag? We haven't settled that yet."

"I think," said I, "that we'd better invent a flag. When we get back to the hotel, we can each draw some designs, and the one we choose can easily be made up. We can buy the stuff anywhere."

"I'll sew it," said Corny.

"Do you think," said Rectus, who had been reflecting, "that the authorities of this place will object to our setting up a queen?"

"Can't tell," I said. "But I hardly think they will. They don't object to the black governor, and our queen wont interfere with them in any way that I can see. She will have nothing to do with anybody but those native Africans, who keep to themselves, anyway."

"If anybody should trouble us, who would it be? Soldiers or the policemen? How many soldiers have they here?" asked Corny.

"There's only one company now in the barracks," said Rectus. "I was down there. There are two men-of-war in the harbor, but one of them's a Spanish vessel, and I'm pretty sure she wouldn't bother us."

"Is that all?" said Corny, in a tone of relief.

I didn't want to dash her spirits, but I remarked that there were a good many policemen in the town.

"And they're all colored men," said Corny. "I'd hate to have any of them coming after us."

"The governor of the colony is at the head of the army, police and all, isn't he?" said Rectus.

"Yes," I answered.

"And I know where he lives," put in Corny. "Let's go and see him, sometime, and ask him about it."

This was thought to be a good idea, and we agreed to consider it at our next meeting.

"As to revenue," said Rectus, just before we reached the hotel, "I don't believe these people have much money to give for the support of a queen, and so I think they ought to bring in provisions. The whole thing might be portioned out. She ought to have so many conchs a week, so many sticks of sugar-cane, and so many yams and other stuff. This might be fixed so that it wouldn't come hard on anybody."

Corny said she guessed she'd have to get a little book to put these things down, so that we could consider them in order.

I could not help noticing that there was a good deal of difference between Corny and Rectus, although they were much alike, too. Corny had never learned much, but she had a good brain in her head, and she could reason out things pretty well, when she had anything in the way of a solid fact to start with. Rectus was better on things he'd heard reasoned out. He seemed to know a good thing when it came before him, and he remembered it, and often brought it in very well. But he hadn't had much experience in reasoning on his own account, although he was getting more in practice every day.

Corny was just as much in earnest as she was the first day we saw her, but she seemed to have grown more thoughtful. Perhaps this was on account of her having important business on hand. Her thoughtfulness, however, did not prevent her from saying some very funny things. She spoke first and did her thinking afterward. But she was a good girl, and I often wished my sister knew her. Helen was older, to be sure, but she could have learned a great deal from Corny.

That afternoon, we had a meeting up in the silk-cotton tree, and Priscilla, who had sold out her small stock of flowers in the hotel-door market, was requested to be present. A variety-show, consisting of about a dozen young darkeys with their baskets and strings of sponges, accompanied her up the steps; but she was ordered to rout them, and she did it in short order. When we were alone, Rectus, as captain, began to state to her what we desired of her; but he was soon interrupted by Corny, who could do a great deal more talking in a given time than he could, and who always felt that she ought to begin early, in order to get through in good season.

"Now, Priscilla," said Corny, "in the first place, you must promise never to tell what we are going to say to you."

Priscilla promised in a flash.

"We want you, then," continued Corny, "to act as our emissary, or general agent, or errand-girl, if you don't know what the other two things mean."

"I'll do dat, missy," said Priscilla. "Whar you want me to go?"

"Nowhere just now," said Corny. "We want to engage you by the day, to do whatever we tell you."

"Cahn't do dat, missy. Got to sell flowers and roses. Sell 'em for de fam'ly, missy."

"But in the afternoon you can come," said Corny. "There isn't any selling done then. We'll pay you."

"How much?" asked Priscilla.

This question was referred to me, and I offered sixpence a day.

The money in this place is English, of course, as it is an English colony; but there are so many visitors from the United States, that American currency is as much in use, for large sums, as the pounds-shillings-and-pence arrangement. But all sums under a quarter are reckoned in English money,-pennies, half-pennies, four, six and eight-pences, and that sort of thing. One of our quarters passes for a shilling, but a silver dime wont pass in the shops. The darkeys will take them-or almost anything else-as a gift. I didn't have to get our money changed into gold. I got a draft on a Nassau house, and generally drew greenbacks. But I saw, pretty plainly, that I couldn't draw very much for this new monarchical undertaking, and stay in Nassau as long as we had planned.

"A whole afternoon," exclaimed Priscilla, "for sixpence!"

"Why not?" I asked. "That's more than you generally make all day."

"Only sixpence!" said Priscilla, looking as if her tender spirit had been wounded. Corny glanced at me with an air that suggested that I ought to make a rise in the price, but I had dealt with these darkeys before.

"That's all," I said.

"All right, then, boss," said Priscilla. "I'll do it. What you want me to do?"

The colored people generally gave the name "boss" to all white men, and I was pleased to see that Priscilla said boss to me much more frequently than to Rectus.

We had a talk with her about her duties, and each of us had a good deal to say. We made her understand-at least we hoped so-that she was to be on hand, every afternoon, to go with Corny, if necessary, whenever we went out on our trips to the African settlement; and, after giving her an idea of what we intended doing with the queen,-which interested her very much indeed, and seemed to set her on pins and needles to see the glories of the new reign,-we commissioned her to bring together about twenty sensible and intelligent Africans, so that we could talk to them, and engage them as subjects for the re-enthroned queen.

"What's ole Goliah Brown goin' to say 'bout dat?" said Priscilla.

"Who's he?" we asked.

"He's de Afrikin gubner. He rule 'em all."

"Oh!" said Rectus, "he's all right. We're going to make him prime minister."

I was not at all sure that he was all right, and proposed that Rectus and I should go to his house in the evening, when he was at home, and talk to him about it.

"Yes, and we'll all go and see the head governor to-morrow morning," said Corny.

We had our hands completely full of diplomatic business.

The meeting of the adherents was appointed for the next afternoon. We decided to have it on the Queen's Stair-way, which is a long flight of steps, cut in the solid limestone, and leading up out of a deep and shadowy ravine, where the people of the town many years ago cut out the calcareous material for their houses. There has been no stone cut here for a long time, and the walls of the ravine, which stand up as straight as the wall of a house, are darkened by age and a good deal covered up by vines. At the bottom, on each side of the pathway which runs through the ravine to the town, bushes and plants of various semi-tropical kinds grow thick and close. At the top of the flight of stairs are open fields and an old fort. Altogether, this was considered a quiet and suitable place for a meeting of a band of revolutionists. We could not have met in the silk-cotton tree, for we should have attracted too much attention, and, besides, the hotel-clerk would have routed us out.

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