Senator's Privilege

Historical fiction on reconstruction of the American south

On the road over the third hill south of Providence, a white plow horse heaved against his collar harness to drag a buggy full of brightly dressed ladies to the capitol city.  A second wagon hitched behind, carried tents and picnic supplies for the day’s outing.  Some of the darkies had hopped up on the supply wagon to avoid the mud of the road, and the ladies charitably pretended not to notice.  They also pretended not to notice the shocking stench of the road, made muddy purely by horse urine and manure, accented by the sweating and grunting of the animal himself, whom they chided to hurry along with light slaps from the buggy whip. 

The ladies had come to witness the swearing in of their first negro state senator John Roy, and were positively bursting with pride.  They directed the servants in setting up the shade tent on the lawn, while discussing among themselves in lofty terms how progressive the state had become in such a short time after the war.  So busy were they that they failed to notice the Governor of the state approaching with the soon to be inaugurated senator.  The two men strolled the lawn greeting the gathered spectators. 

On approaching, the elderly Governor announced himself by way of commenting on the festive atmosphere and the fine weather, and then made an introduction of his walking companion, Mr. Roy.  Occupying a higher social standing among the group, Mrs. William Baye stepped forward to address the Governor, and made introductions of the other women, identifying each by their husband’s names, thereby neatly associating them with the men’s reputation and holdings.

Only after addressing the Governor did Mrs. Baye turn to acknowledge Mr. Roy standing beside him.  She flattered him on how nice he looked in a suit and tie, and wondered how it must feel to have come so far so fast.  John Roy responded at first only with a kind smile.  He glanced around at the women, making brief eye contact and nodding to each.  Following a slight pause, he commented that actually, the farm where he grew up as a slave was only a few short miles away.

Mrs. Baye felt somewhat uncomfortable suddenly, having the impression that she had paid him a compliment too esoteric for him to understand, so she tried again.  She noted that he would soon be a senator, and as chance would have it, their horse was named Senator; although he was white of course.  Again Mr. Roy produced only a kind smile, not the broad grin that Mrs. Baye had hoped for.  He turned to view the animal; pink faced, yellowing mane, with manure clod around it’s hooves, desperately in need of water.  Finally, John Roy turned back to the ladies and stated simply, that it would be his privilege to serve them.       

The End

0 comments about this story Feed