A Beautiful Glittering Lie by JDR Hawkins

Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2013


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.


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Genre – Historical Fiction

Rating – PG13

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Website http://jdrhawkins.com/


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