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   Chapter 12 RECTUS LOSES RANK.

A Jolly Fellowship By Frank R. Stockton Characters: 15331

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

After supper, Rectus and I went to see the African governor, Goliah Brown. He was a good-natured old colored man, who lived in a house a trifle better than most of those inhabited by his fellow-countrymen. The main room was of a fair size, and there was a centre-table, with some books on it.

When we saw this, we hesitated. Could we ask a man who owned books, and could probably read, to play second fiddle to a woman who could not speak the English language, and who for years, perhaps, had devoted the energies of her soul to the sale of pepper-pods?

However, the office of prime minister was no trifle, and many more distinguished and more learned men than Goliah Brown have been glad to get it. Besides this, we considered that blood is blood, and, in monarchical countries, a queen is a queen. This was a colony of a monarchy, and we would push forward the claims of Poqua-dilla the First. We called her "The First," because, although she may have had a good many ancestors of her name in Africa, she certainly started the line in the Bahamas.

Goliah proved himself a steady-going talker. He seemed pleased to have us call on him, and told us the whole story of the capture of himself and the rest of the Africans. We had heard pretty much all of it before, but, of course, we had to politely listen to it again.

When he finished, we asked a few questions about the queen, and finding that Goliah admitted her claims to royal blood, we told him what we proposed to do, and boldly asked him to take the position of prime minister in the African community.

At first, he did not understand, and we had to go over the thing two or three times before he saw into it. Then, it was evident that he could not see what business this was of ours, and we had to explain our motives, which was some trouble, because we had not quite straightened them out in our own minds.

Then he wanted to know which was the head person, a queen or a prime minister. We set forth the strict truth to him in this matter. We told him that although a queen in a well-regulated monarchy actually occupies the highest place, that the prime minister is the fellow who does the real governing. He thought this might all be so, but he did not like the idea of having any one, especially Jane Henderson, as he called her, in a position higher than his own. We did not say anything to him, then, about giving the queen her English name, because we supposed that he had been used to speak of her in that way, to white people, but we determined to refer to this when matters should be settled.

He was so set in his own opinion on this point of position, that we were afraid we should be obliged to give the thing up. He used very good arguments, too. He said that he had been elected to his present office by his fellow Africans; that he had held it a long time; that he didn't think the rest of his people wanted him to give it up, and he didn't think he wanted to give it up himself. A prime minister might be all very well, but he didn't know anything about it. He knew what it was to be governor, and was very well satisfied to leave things as they were.

This was dampening. Just as the old fellow thought he had settled the matter, a happy thought struck me: we might make the monarchy an independent arrangement. Perhaps Goliah would have no objection to that, provided we did not interfere with his governorship. If Poqua-dilla should be recognized as a queen, and crowned, and provided with an income sufficient to keep her out of any retail business, it was about all she could expect, at her time of life. She certainly would not care to do any governing. The few subjects that we should enlist would be more like courtiers than anything else.

I called Rectus to the door, and suggested this arrangement to him. He thought it would be better than nothing, and that it would be well to mention it.

We did this, and Goliah thought a while.

"Ef I lets her be call' queen," he said, "an' she jist stay at home an' min' her own business, an' don' run herse'f agin me, no way, how much you s'pose she able to gib fur dat?"


Rectus and I went again to the front door to consult, and when we came back, we said we thought she would be able to give a dollar.

"All right," said Goliah, with a smile. "She kin jist go ahead, and be queen. Only don' let her run herse'f ag'in me."

This suited us, and we paid the dollar, and came away.

"More cash!" said Rectus, as we walked home.

"Yes," said I, "but what troubles me is that queen's income. I don't see now where it's to come from, for old Goliah wont allow his people to be taxed for her, that's certain."

Rectus agreed that things looked a little bluish, but he thought we might pay the income ourselves, until after the coronation, and then we could see what else could be done. This wasn't much of a plan, but I couldn't think of anything better.

The next day, about noon, we all went to see the real governor of the colony. Rectus and I didn't care much about doing this, but Corny insisted on it. She was afraid of the police,-and probably of the army and navy, although she made light of them,-and so she thought it would be a good thing to see whether or not we should have to combat with all these forces, if we should carry out our plans. We took Priscilla along with us on Corny's account. It would look respectable for her to have an attendant. This being an extra job, Priscilla earned two sixpences that day.

The governor lived in a fine house, on the hill back of the town, and although we all knew where it was, Priscilla was of great use to us here, for she took us in at a side gate, where we could walk right up to the door of the governor's office, without going to the grand entrance, at the front of the house, where the English flag was flying. There was a red-coated soldier standing just in the door-way, and when we saw him, we put ourselves on our stiffest behavior. We told Priscilla to wait outside, in the path, and try and behave so that people would think there was a pretty high-toned party inside. We then went up to the red-coat, and asked to see the governor. The soldier looked at us a little queerly, and went back into the house.

He staid a good while, but when he came out he told us to follow him, and took us through a hall into a room where two gentlemen were sitting at desks. One of these jumped up and came to meet us.

"There is the secretary," said the soldier, in a low voice to me, and then he left us.

We now had to ask the secretary if we could see the governor. He inquired our business, but we didn't seem anxious to tell him.

"Anything private?" he said, with a smile.

"Well, sir," said I, "it's not exactly private, but it's not a very easy thing to put straight before anybody, and if it don't make any difference, we'd rather not have to tell it twice."

He hesitated for a minute, and then he said he'd see, and went into another room.

"Now, look here," I whispered to Rectus, "if you're captain, you've got to step up and do the talking. It isn't my place."

The secretary now returned, and said the governor could give us a few minutes. I think the probability was that he was curious to know what two boys and a girl could want with him.

The governor's office, into which we now were shown, was a large room, with plenty of book-cases and shelves against the walls, and in the middle of the floor a big table, which was covered with papers, packages of manuscript tied up with tape, and every kind of thing necessary to make matters look as if business was brisk

in these islands. The governor himself was a tall, handsome gentleman, not old a bit, as Corny put it afterward, and dressed all in white linen, which gave him an air of coolness and cleanness that was quite agreeable to us after our walk in the sun. He was sitting at one end of the long table, and he politely motioned us to seats at one side of him. I expect the secretary arranged the chairs before we came in. We made our manners and sat down.

"Well," said he, "what can I do for you?"

If Corny hadn't been along, I don't believe he would have seen us at all. There can be nothing attractive to a governor about two boys. But almost any one would take an interest in a girl like Corny. The secretary was very polite to her.

Rectus now gave his throat a little clearing, and pushed off.

"Our business with you, sir, is to see about doing something for a poor queen, a very good and honest woman--"

"A poor but honest queen!" interrupted the governor, with a smile.

"Oh, he don't mean a common queen," said Corny, quickly. "He means a black queen,-an African,-born royal, but taken prisoner when young, and brought here, and she lives over there in the African settlements, and sells peppers, but is just as much a queen as ever, you know, sir, for selling things on a door-step can't take the royal blood out of a person."

"Oh no, indeed!" said the governor, and he looked very much tickled.

"And this poor woman is old, now, and has no revenue, and has to get along as well as she can, which is pretty poorly, I know, and nobody ever treats her any better than if she had been born a common person, and we want to give her a chance of having as many of her rights as she can before she dies."

"At any rate," said Rectus, who had been waiting for a chance to make a fresh start, "if we can't give her all her royal rights, we want to let her know how it feels to be a queen, and to give her a little show among her people."

"You are talking of an old native African woman?" said the governor, looking at Corny. "I have heard of her. It seems to be generally agreed that she belonged to a royal family in one of the African tribes. And you want to restore her to her regal station?"

"We can't do that, of course," said Corny; "but we do think she's been shamefully used, and all we want to do is to have her acknowledged by her people. She needn't do any ruling. We'll fix her up so that she'll look enough like a queen for those dreadfully poor people."

"Yes," put in Rectus, who had been getting warm on the subject, "they are dreadfully poor, but she's the poorest of the lot, and it's a shame to see how she, a regular queen, has to live, while a governor, who wasn't anybody before he got his place, lives in the best house, with tables and books, and everything he wants, for all I know, and a big flag in front of his door, as if he was somebody great, and--"

"What?" said the governor, pretty quick and sharp, and turning around square on Rectus.

"Oh, he don't mean you!" said Corny. "He's talking about the black governor, Goliah Brown."

"Ah, indeed!" said he, turning away from Rectus as if he didn't like his looks. "And what does Brown think of all this?"

I thought I'd better say a word or two now, because I didn't know where Rectus would fetch us up next, if we should give him another chance, and so I said to the governor that I knew Goliah Brown would make no objections to the plan, because we had talked it over with him, and he had agreed to it.

"Well, then, what do you want that I should do for you?" said the governor to Corny.

"Oh, nothing sir," said she, "but just to make it all safe for us. We didn't know exactly what the rules were on this island, and so we thought we'd come and see you about it. We don't want the policemen, or the soldiers or sailors, or anybody, to get after us."

"There is no rule here against giving a queen her rights," said the governor, who seemed to be in a good humor as long as he talked to Corny, "and no one shall interfere with you, provided you do not commit any disorder, and I'm sure you will not do that."

"Oh, no!" said Corny; "we just intend to have a little coronation, and to ask the people to remember that she's a queen and not a pepper-pod woman; and if you could just give us a paper commission, and sign it, we should-at least I should-feel a good deal easier."

"You shall have it," said the governor, and he took some paper and a pen.

"It seems a little curious," said he to Corny, as he dipped his pen in the ink, "that I should serve a queen, and have a queen under me at the same time, doesn't it?"

"Kind o' sandwiched," remarked Rectus, who had a face like frozen brass.

The governor went on writing, and Corny and I looked at Rectus as if we would singe his hair.

"You are all from the States, I suppose," said the governor.

I said we were.

"What are your names?" he asked, looking at Corny first.

"Cornelia V. Chipperton," said Corny, and he wrote that down. Then he looked at me.

"William Taylor Gordon," said I. When the governor had put that on his paper, he just gave his head a little wag toward Rectus. He didn't look at him.

"My name is Samuel Colbert," said Rectus.

Corny turned short on him, with eyes wide open.

"Samuel!" she said, in a sort of theatre-whisper.

"Now, then," said the governor, "this paper will show that you have full permission to carry out your little plans, provided that you do nothing that may create any disorder. If the woman-your queen, I mean-has been in the habit of earning her own livelihood, don't make a pauper of her." And he gave us a general look as if the time had come to say good-bye. So we got up and thanked him, and he shook hands with us, Rectus and all, and we came away.

We found Priscilla sitting cross-legged on the grass outside, pitching pennies.

"That thar red-coat he want to sen' me off," said she, "but I tole him my missy and bosses was inside, and I boun' to wait fur 'em, or git turned off. So he le' me stay."

Corny, for a wonder, did not reprove Priscilla for giving the sentinel the idea that her employers hired penny-pitchers to follow them around, but she walked on in silence until we were out of the grounds. Then she turned to Rectus and said:

"I thought your name was Rectus!"

"It isn't," said he. "It's Samuel."

This was no sort of an answer to give Corny, and so I explained that Rectus was his school name; that he was younger than most of us, and that we used to call him Young Rectus; but that I had pretty much dropped the "young" since we had been travelling together. It didn't appear to be needed.

"But why did you call him Rectus, when his name's Samuel?" asked Corny.

"Well," said I, laughing, "it seemed to suit him."

This was all that was said about the matter, for Priscilla came up and said she must hurry home, and that she'd like to have her sixpence, and that changed the subject, for we were out of small money and could only make up eleven half-pence among us. But Priscilla agreed to trust us until evening for the other "hoppenny."

Corny didn't say much on the way home, and she looked as if she was doing some private thinking. I suppose, among other things, she thought that as I considered it all right to call Rectus Rectus, she might as well do it herself, for she said:

"Rectus, I don't think you're as good at talking as Will is. I move we have a new election for captain."

"All right," said Rectus; "I'm agreed."

You couldn't make that boy angry. We held a meeting just as we got to the hotel, and he and Corny both voted for me.

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