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A BEAUTIFUL GLITTERING LIE
By J. D. R. Hawkins
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Julia Dawn Ryan Hawkins
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Oh, look! Here he comes!" Jenny exclaimed.
The crowd exploded with cheers.
David looked over to where she was pointing, his hazel eyes squinting in the bright sunshine. An elegant black-lacquered carriage drawn by six white horses pulled up to the steps of the regal Greek revival-style state capitol building. Eight musicians burst into "Dixie's Land." A slender, stately, middle-aged gentleman stepped out of the carriage, and was escorted by military personnel to a waiting platform, where he took his seat.
"He looks a mite sickly to me," remarked David's father, Hiram.
Mr. Kimball concurred.
"Well, I'll be glad when this here circus act is over," grumbled Hiram's longtime friend, Bud Samuels.
He was an amusing man with a scraggly beard and a constant twinkle in his eye. David thought of him as an uncle. But the distressed tone in Bud's voice alarmed him, for it was unusually out of character.
"I thought you wanted to bear witness to this," Hiram fired back.
He looked at his son and winked. David saw a glimmer of devilishness in his father's blue eyes.
"I did, till I had that vision last night," Bud replied.
"Vision?" asked Mr. Kimball.
Bud frowned. "I'll tell y'all about it later."
A pastor stood, walked up onto the platform, and requested that the people bow their heads before he started a short prayer. The crowd chanted "Amen," in unison, and the middle-aged man who had arrived with his entourage approached the podium. Withdrawing his notes from his inner coat pocket, he began to speak.
"Gentlemen of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, friends, and fellow citizens. Called to the difficult and responsible station of chief executive of the provisional government which you have instituted, I approach the discharge of the duties assigned to me with a humble distrust of my abilities ..."
David glanced over at the spectators standing beside him, who were listening intently. He noticed several soldiers on horseback, patrolling the area. The stately man's voice brought him back, recapturing his attention.
"I enter upon the duties of the office to which I have been chosen with the hope that the beginnin' of our career as a confederacy may not be obstructed by hostile opposition to our enjoyment of the separate existence and independence which we have asserted, and, with the blessin' of Providence, intend to maintain."
Looking at his friend, David nudged him with his elbow. "Hey, Jake, what do you think of ole Jeff Davis?" he asked in a hushed voice.
"Ain't sure yet," came the reply. Jake grinned at him, his young face beaming, and a gleam in his brown eyes. "I jist hope he keeps it short."
"Our present political position, achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations," continued Jefferson Davis, "illustrates the American idea that governments rest upon the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish governments whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established ..."
David found himself swaying slightly, his feet growing tired from standing, since he had been in the same spot for over an hour, waiting for the president's arrival. His tall, lanky frame slumped as he shoved his cold hands deep into his coat pockets. Unintentionally, his mind drifted, and he began daydreaming out of boredom, thinking about the changes that had taken place. In his opinion, it had all started two years ago and had escalated from there. First was John Brown's raid, followed by his hanging. After that came Lincoln's election, and now, one by one, Southern states were seceding. His own beloved Alabama had been the fourth to leave the Union only a month ago. Since then, three more states had disaffiliated. The country was splitting in two. A slight breeze blew by, causing him to shiver from the cold February chill. He forced himself to listen once again.
"If we may not hope to avoid war," Jefferson Davis read, "we may at least expect that posterity will acquit us of havin' needlessly engaged in it. Doubly justified by the absence of wrong on our part, and by wanton aggression on the part of others, there can be no cause to doubt that the courage and patriotism of the people of the Confederate States will be found equal to any measures of defense which their honor and security may require ..."
"It's mighty cold out here," Jake complained. His vaporized breath floated away like a small, wispy cloud.
"Sure is," David responded with a sniffle.
"Will you two please hush up?" Jenny quietly growled, her dark brown pipe curls swirling out from under her amber bonnet, encircling her porcelain- like face.
"Sorry, sis," Jake said with a smile.
She rolled her brown eyes at him before looking back up at the platform.
"There can be but little rivalry between ours and any manufacturin' or navigatin' community, such as the Northeastern States of the American Union," said the president-elect. "It must follow, therefore, that mutual interest would invite goodwill and kind offices. If, however, passion or the lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those states, we must prepare to meet the emergency and maintain, by the final arbitrament of the sword, the position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth ..."
"Is he sayin' that we're fixin' to go to war?" Jake asked his father.
"Don't rightly know what it means," Mr. Kimball replied. He gave his son a sidelong glance before returning his gaze to the platform.
"I reckon he's referrin' to the fact that Northern tyranny has suppressed us here in the South," Jenny's husband, Nate, said softly, giving an affirmative nod. "And if the Yankees don't allow us to leave peaceably, we'll take up arms if need be."
A horse nickered from the street, distracting David. His gaze meandered over the crowd of a few hundred. Although it was a Monday, most were dressed in their Sunday finery, complete with hats, shawls, topcoats, and hooped skirts. Some had their children in tow. People, both black and white, stood in awe of the newly elected official, and David wondered if they had the same thing on their minds as he did. Where is this man leading us?
"There should be a well-instructed and disciplined army," Davis continued, "more numerous than would usually be required on a peace establishment ..."
Jake and David threw awestruck glances at each other from under their slouch hats.
"It's jist as I thought," Bud whispered ominously.
Hiram gave him a doubtful look.
"I also suggest that, for the protection of our harbors and commerce on the high seas, a navy adapted to those objects will be required," said Davis.
"Well, I'm jinin' the navy, then," Jake proclaimed.
"I'm fixin' to jine the army," added David.
They both snickered at each other and were unable to stop. Afraid that their laughter would spark an outrage, David covered his mouth with his hand, trying to suppress the urge.
"Shhh!" Jenny's stare bore into them, making their snickers cease.
Hiram leaned in close to his son. "You two young'uns need to keep it down," he growled.
Biting his lower lip to regain his composure, David glanced at him, noticing his father's lofty stature, and the concerned expression on his clean-shaven face as he listened to the president's words. Looking back at the dignitaries, he could pay attention only momentarily before his mind drifted again. Instead of the army, he envisioned himself enlisting as a Pony Express rider, even though he knew they only allowed orphans. For a few moments, he imagined riding through the wilderness, alone on horseback across the dusty desert, pursued by marauding Indians. It was a dangerous adventure, just like those in dime novels he had read, about his hero, Kit Carson. In order to do it, he would have to run away from home, and steal his father's horse as well. Even though he was only fifteen, enlisting in the army would probably be easier for his kinfolk to accept.
Jefferson Davis rambled on. "Should reason guide the action of the government from which we have separated, a policy so detrimental to the civilized world, the Northern states included, could not be dictated by even the strongest desire to inflict injury upon us; but otherwise a terrible responsibility will rest upon it, and the sufferin' of millions will bear testimony to the folly and wickedness of our aggressors. In the meantime there will remain to us, besides the ordinary means before suggested, the well-known resources for retaliation upon the commerce of an enemy ..."
"Those are fightin' words if I ever did hear them," remarked Mr. Kimball.
"It's jist as I feared," Bud muttered, dismally shaking his slouch hat-covered head. "It's the end of all things as we know them."
"Your generosity has bestowed upon me an undeserved distinction, one which I neither sought nor desired," said the president-elect. "Upon the continuance of that sentiment, and upon your wisdom and patriotism, I rely to direct and support me in the performance of the duties required at my hands."
"At least he's humble about it," observed Jake.
David glanced at his friend's sister, who scowled at him. He could feel himself recoil, for although he had known Jenny nearly all his life, he was still painfully shy, especially in front of girls. Even his own sisters made him self-conscious at times, but he reasoned it was because he was the only boy left in their family, and the oldest sibling at that. Deciding to keep quiet, he merely nodded in agreement.
"We have changed the constituent parts, but not the system of government," Jefferson Davis went on to say. "The Constitution formed by our fathers is that of these Confederate States ..."
Expelling a sigh, David felt his stomach rumble. The president's lengthy speech was becoming nothing more than a long-winded drone. Turning his gaze toward the soldiers, he wondered what it must be like to be one, and what adventures were in store for them. He couldn't imagine a war igniting, and yet, there was much talk of it. Noticing Bud, who was also staring at the military men, he inexplicably felt a twinge of apprehension. The soldiers stood clustered together, waiting for an uprising. He suddenly realized that it wouldn't take much provocation for them to dispense their ammunition into an unruly crowd.
"It is joyous, in the midst of perilous times, to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole; where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor and right and liberty and equality." The president's voice rang out like a church bell, his words becoming more fervent. "Obstacles may retard, but they cannot long prevent the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people. Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which, by his blessin', they were able to vindicate, establish, and transmit to their posterity, and with a continuance of His favor, ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to peace, and to prosperity."
With that, Jefferson Davis folded his speech and stuffed it into the breast pocket of his long coat. The crowd erupted with applause. Another man stood, joined Davis on the platform, withdrew a Bible as the audience grew silent, and requested that Davis place his right hand upon it. Everyone present stood in silent admiration while he took his oath of office. The president echoed the man's sporadic phrases, and ended by lifting his eyes and his hand toward the sky, saying, "So help me God!"
For a moment, all were stunned, stirred by the impressive scene, but then several started applauding enthusiastically, and the rest followed. The band broke into a jaunty rendition of the "Bonnie Blue Flag," and a few men tossed their hats into the air. Upon the completion of the ceremony, the president was quickly surrounded by swarming admirers and the media, while the militia stood by.
"Well, that monkey show's over," remarked Bud.
He followed David, Hiram, and Jake's family across the frosty lawn to their waiting carriage. Mr. Kimball, who limped along behind them, was the last to climb aboard.
While they rode back to Jenny and Nate's small two-story house, the conversation centered on the inauguration they had just witnessed.
"What did you think of his speech, Pa?" asked Jake.
Mr. Kimball smiled. "I reckon he'll make a fine president. Don't you, Hiram?"
Jake looked across at David's father, who was seated between his son and Nate. "Do tell, Mr. Summers."
Hiram nodded thoughtfully. "I'd have to agree with your pa," he said.
"What if everything he says is true?" asked David. "And he asks for volunteers to jine the army?"
His father shrugged. "We'll cross that bridge when we git to it."
"I don't reckon they'll take me, due to my bum leg," stated Mr. Kimball forlornly.
"You already paid your dues in Mexico," Bud remarked.
Jake and David glanced at each other from across the carriage.
"Can I enlist?" David asked meekly.
"Oh, here we go," Bud muttered under his breath.
Hiram chortled, causing his son to frown. He said, "Now, David, you're mighty young," but seeing his disappointment, he added, "We'll discuss it later with your ma."
David smirked. His mother would give in, he was certain. Removing his hat, he ran his long fingers through his thick shoulder-length hair, dark brown in color like that of a pecan shell.
Noticing, Jake followed suit, doing the same, although his hair wasn't nearly as long and was much darker. "If Zeke's jinin', then I should, too," he remarked, referring to his friend by using the nickname he had given him years ago.
"Jist as Mr. Summers said, we'll discuss it later." With that, Mr. Kimball put out the fire.
Changing the subject, Hiram said, "It was right kind of you, Nate, and you, Miss Jenny, to allow us to stay here in Montgomery with y'all. Reckon the hotels are all filled up for the inauguration."
"You're quite welcome, dear sir," replied Jenny with a sunny smile, accepting his graciousness.
David looked over at Jake again, who winked at him. Each knew what the other was thinking. If there was adventure afoot, they'd pursue it.
For the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, the family enjoyed each other's company. Mr. Kimball apologized that his wife couldn't be there, for she was required to stay home, due to a sprained ankle. His faithful slaves, Percy and Isabelle, were looking after her. They were newlyweds, and seemed happy to oblige. Therefore, Mr. Kimball brought his son down to see Jake's sister and her husband, who had moved to Montgomery two years ago. Jake insisted that his best friend come along, and when asked, David requested the presence of his own father, too. Hiram then invited Bud, knowing that if war broke out, he would want to be one of the first to know.
They enjoyed a delectable meal that Jenny had prepared and laid out on her banquet table, complete with fine china, crystal, and linens. She prided herself on her domestic abilities, and Nate raved about her cooking. Following an evening of quiet discussion in front of the quaint marble fireplace, they retired to their designated bedchambers upstairs: David with Hiram, Jake with his father, and Bud in his own small room. Early the following morning, they arose to enjoy breakfast with Nate and Jenny before catching the nine o'clock train. Their ride to Huntsville took most of the day. Once they arrived, they checked into a nearby hotel, sharing one room. After dining in the hotel, they returned upstairs and promptly fell asleep.
Loud voices outside awoke them in the morning. David and Jake immediately sprang to the window to find out what the commotion was, and saw groups of people rushing toward the train depot. Quickly dressing, the travelers went downstairs, where the hotel clerk informed them that President Davis had just arrived via the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, so they rushed out into the street, and hurried to the depot to investigate.
As they walked, Bud commented under his breath, "This is it, Hiram. This is how it all starts."
Overhearing the comment, David frowned. Bud wasn't acting like himself at all, which deeply concerned him. Remembering the vision Bud had mentioned before, he promised himself to riddle the man about it later.
Excerpted from A BEAUTIFUL GLITTERING LIE by J. D. R. Hawkins Copyright © 2012 by Julia Dawn Ryan Hawkins. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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