Quebec - Senator
( Originally Published 1907 )
SENATOR was a colored gentleman who gloried in his Southern ancestry and connexions. His profession was a varied one, that of porter, cook, waiter, and general advisor to Mr. President of the greatest R.R. on earth. He had grown old in the service and his importance was in proportion to his years. He was short and thick set with a face that was capable of expressing a variety of emotions. His mimicry was unrivalled and his vocabulary was rich, varied as it was a strange and weird profanity. If his authority was questioned he fell back upon Mr. President as his fountain of wisdom; but it was no part of wisdom to run counter to Senator. He was more than a match for all the officials on the road, not excepting Mr. President even.
It was once my good fortune to travel a week with Mr. President and Senator, but it is of the latter that my account has to do with. I arrived at Mr. President's car somewhat early and found Senator in possession and making ready for our departure. To my salutation he responded:
"I'se glad to welcum yo' Sar. Any frien' uv Mr President, Sar, is ma frien'. Senator, dats me, am a gentleman, Sar, an' knows anuder when he meets one. I'se tole Mr. President to be on han' early kase me an' him have sum important bizniss to transac' befo' we start. Yo' walk in Mr. Scribe an' jes make yo'self comforable. I'll construe' de offishuls, Sar, to have yo' bag-gage put aboard."
I fell at once under the spell of Senator's authority and did as I was bade and patiently awaited Mr. President's arrival.
He was not long in coming, but I heard Senator say:
"I'se done thought, Mr. President's yo neber a—goin to git yere on time."
"I hurried all I could, Senator, but some of the men detained me at the office, " replied Mr. President.
"I'll hab to guv sum of does fellers de berry debbil Mr. President if dey continues to constrain yo' in dat way. How dey expect' we a-goin to git to our biziness if dey keeps gabbin' roun dat way. Dere's Mr. Scribe been heah dis long time back an' he's clear los' pashunce," grumbled Senator.
"Oh! Scribe how-de-do! I've a few matters to settle with Senator and then I'll join you," said Mr. President.
Later in the evening when Mr. President and I had settled down for a quiet smoke and a chat, the door of the compartment opened and Senator, unannounced, entered. Seating himself on the arm of a lounge and resting his elbows on the table he addressed himself to Mr. President.
"Mr. President, wat am a zebra?"
"A zebra, Senator ! why you've seen a zebra in the zoo gardens in Philadelphia, a little striped horse"
"Hump ! dat's wat I supposed, Mr. President, dat's wat I supposed. Sum uv dem smart Alicks wats in yo' offus tink dey cyan fool Senator, but dey cyant. Yo' remember General Price wat made a trip wid us on dis yere cyar. Well one uv dose Alicks showed me a picture today uv General Price runnin' away from sum brack niggers ridin' on a camuel wid dere toothes a-gleamin' an' dere 'spears a-wavin' fur to run de general troo. De Alick tole me dat de general was a-runnin fur to git into a zebra. Now I like to know how he's agoin' to git into a zebra?"
"Oh! you mean a zerebra, that's what they call a fortified enclosure in Africa," replied Mr. President.
"Why didn't dat Alick say dat. I knowed General Price ain't a-going to git into no zebra. Does yo' tink, Mr. President, dose brack niggers air agoin to catch de General an' spear him dead out dere on de desert!"
"Hard to say Senator."
"Jewillikens, Senator don't want no fitin uv dat kin', no how."
But Senator's imagination being quite aroused now he pictured to us all the horrors of being speared and filled with bullet holes by a ferocious enemy and then left to die in the wastes of sand. As he proceeded to describe these horrors his eyes rolled, his body swayed, and his face became ashen. At the very climax of his harangue the car gave a lurch, a window shade went up with a sharp report and Senator, with a howl of terror, fell limp across the table.
Our shrieks of laughter brought him to himself, and with crushed dignity he retired mumbling into the culinary department, and we saw him no more that night.
I was awakened the following morning by strange sounds. Our car was stationary. About the region of Senator's stronghold there was a great splashing of water mixed with expostulation and profanity. Then a window went up with a jerk and I heard Senator shout out to some-one: "Yo' jumped up, white livered fly-blown maggoteatin' fool, wat fo' yo' put dat hose into de ventilator hole. Air yo' a-goin' to drown me in ma kitchen. Do yo' heah. Ugh, owh, I'll murder yo if I git outen yere. Don't yo' know a ventilator from a tank hole, yo' dashed ignorant greaser, yo' red moufed, flat faced dummy? I'll cut yo' in pieces."
Still the relentless swish of descending water.
"Oh! Jewillikens! how but dat water am con:"
I heard the door of the kitchen fly open, and the next moment I saw a terrified looking Irishman flying up the platform and Senator, drenched to the skin and dripping, in hot pursuit with a big carving knife in his hand. He returned shortly, and as there was no gore on the knife I concluded the Irishman had made good his escape. I dressed leisurely, and then proceeded to the front end of the car.
"Good morning, Senator. Was it you I heard talking a little while ago ?"
"It was jus' me, Mr. Scribe, and if I aint got no murder on ma conscience this mawnin' it aint ma fault. If this R. R. am a-goin to employ ignorant Irishmen to try to drown me I'm a-goin to quit rite now. I quess if yo' uns want any breakfas' dis mawnin yo' can git it at de hotel. Ma kitchin's flooded—It's a good thing I aint got no bishop travelin' wid me or I would have clean busted maself."
"How is that, Senator?"
"Well I aint got no time to tell yo' `bout dat dis mawnin,-yo' jes scurry 'roun' for somethin' to eat."
In the afternoon, while the president was busy with his secretary, I sauntered back to Senator's end of the car. He was smoking his pipe and reclining at ease, but graciously made a place for me.
"I trus', Mr. Scribe, yo' air enjoyin' the 'sperience of trablin' wid me and Mr. President ?"
"Very much indeed, Senator. Never had a pleasanter time in my life."
` Dats wat dey all says, Mr. Scribe. Wen de Lady Lany and the Marquis of Lany trabelled with me I jes' hustled roun' to entertain dem two and dey allow dat Jere was no one like Senator. I use to call her Ladyship, Mrs. Lany, and she'd jes' laff as nateral as yo' do, and say, 'dats rite, Senator, always call me Mrs. Lany. Wen dey was agoin to leav fur de ole kentry, I tuk dem to Quebec. De mawnin' after we arrived I was a fussen' about de cyar when I sees de Marquis ridin' up on his hoss. He jumps off when he gits to de cyar and hitchin' de hoss to the hanle of de step he comes in an' shouts, "Is Senator yere?' "Yere I am, Mr. Marquis," says I, 'but I'm all in ma' wukin' clothes."
"Never min' dat, Senator, I've cum to say good-by to yo' an' if yo've got any more of dat Scotch I'm a-goin to drink your health."
"Well, Mr. Scribe, I brot out de Scotch an' de Marquis he spent an hour wid me in de mos' familius way, an when he shook my han he sed :
"Senator, her Ladyship would lak to say good-by to yo' at the Cindual.
"Yo' see, Mr. Scribe, a reques' from a Lady am a command, so I puts on ma store clothes an I walks up to the Cindual an' de porter, bringin he's han' to his hat, says mos respecful—" "Where to Sar ?"
"To de Lady Lany" says I, "and I walks on."
At de door of the elevator another boy says, "Whereto?"
"De Lady Lany," says I.
"Den a big flunky in scarlet and gold, says: "where to?"
"De Lady Lany," says I.
"flab yo' a cyard ?" says he grinnin like a baboon.
"I haint no cyard, and wats mo' ma friend, I don't want one. Yo say to de Lady dat Senator is here by her command."
"Oh!" says he, "Mr. Senator jes' take a seat" and he hurries away. He comes back very soon mos, respecful, and says :
"Mr. Senator, her Ladyship will see yo' in the saloon."
"Dere was Mrs. Lany waitin' to receive me an she held out her han" and says, "Senator I'm glad you've come. I couldn't bear de thought of goin away widout tellin you dat me an' de Marquis will never forgit yo', and de entertainment yo've given us. Fare-yo'-well ma ole friend." Dere want a scrap of pride in dat Lady, she was jes' de same as common folks."
"Golly, it time I was wukin' on de dinner.—"
When Senator had served the coffee after dinner and had been duly complimented upon the excellence of the chicken a la Maryland, and the pudding, Mr. President said to him, giving me a slight wink, "Senator, what was the misunderstanding between you and Mr. Blank that the boys are talking about in the office ?"
"Dere want no mistanding," replied Senator. "Yo' see, Mr. Scribe, it were jes' dis way. Las' June Mr. President sed to me. "Senator, you'll have the cyar ready to-morrow to go West fur to brung back de Ambrassador,y and I'm a-goin to sen' out a gentleman wid you, young Mr. Blank from Bosting," says he.
"Mr. Scribe, yo've heard me say dat dis cyar done gone carry only de gentry, but dis time it carried de meanes' cuss in de Kentry, but I only foun' dis out later."
"When he arribe on de cyar in de evenin' he says to me : "Senator, I'm glad to know yo', I've often heard ma father speak uv yo'."
"Yo' pop Mr. Blank was ma friend," "jes' so Senator, jes'so. By the by, Senator, if yo' have any Scotch yo' might bring in a bottle an' a bottle of Appollonaris water, an' yo' leab it here," says he with a high and mighty air as he throws hisself down on a lounge."
"About 'leben o'clock I see him pass ma door pretty onsteady, an' when I went back to de room dere was only half dat Scotch lef' in de bottle. Lawdy, says I, if dats de way its a-goin to be, I'll hab to git in mo' Scotch for sartin."
"De nex mawnin' bout ten, he says to me, hawlin' a little book out his pocket, "Senator do yo own a bicycle?"
"No Sar" says I, "I don't."
"Jes so, jes so," says he, "I thought not, but I'm goin to sen' yo' one, Senator, de day I git bac' to Bosting." "An' Senator yo' might bring in that half bottle Scotch and some Appollonaris."
"Yes Sar," an' I'm mos' proud for to git a bicycle," says I, grinnin' lak a fool."
"In de ebenin' he calls me agin. " Senator, says he, hawlin' out de little book, "how shall I address dat bicycle, in whose care ?"
"Care of Mr. President," says I mos' perlite. "Bery good, bery good," says he, puttin' it down in de book, "an, I say Senator, ah, awh, if you've any mo' uv dat Scotch jes' bring it in, an' some Appollonaris."
"Yes Sar!" but I tinks to maself, yo' can drink mo' Scotch dan any man I eber trabiled wid befo', howsum-eber as I'm a-goin to git a bicycle I don't care."
The nex mawnin, he says to me, hawlin' out. de book agin, "Senator, wat color would yo' lak dat bicycle ?"
"Wall Sar, if yo' please I'd lak it crimson."
"Crimson, bery good Senator, crimson it shall be, an' ah, awh ! I say Senator, jes' bring me in Scotch will yo' an' a little Appollonaris."
"Dat ebenin' which was he's las' on de cyar, he says to me : "Senator, I've neber had so good a time. I'm so much pleased dat I a'm a-going to pay all de charges on dat bicycle.—Don't forgit dat Senator, an' ah, awh! jus' bring in a full bottle of dat Scotch an' after fillin' dat flask of mine,. yo' can leab de res' on de table," says he."
"De nex mawnin, Mr. Scribe, he lef dis cyar, an I aint neber see him agin, an' de bicycle neber cum. Dat's wat I call low down Yankee humbug. But. if dem fellers in de offus keep on a-askin' me ebery day if I receive dat bicycle, dere's a-goin to be trubble fur some of dem, shore. I guess I kin do widout a bicycle. Wat is it dat Shakepere says:"
"Suffering am de badge uv all our tribe."
"I say, Mr. President, cyan't yo' spit in dat spittoon, I've moved it three or four times, now, an' ebery time yo' spit ober it. How am I a-goin to keep dis cyar clean, kin you answer dat ?"
The afternoon we left Chicago there was violent altercation in Senator's end of the car, which was finally transferred to the platform. Looking out the window I could see a considerable crowd gathered in the aisle, which same crowd seemed to hugely enjoy the row, whatever it was about ; but as Mr. President appeared quite oblivious to the proceedings, I wisely refrained from any comment, and waited the course of events.
Just before dusk Senator came along to light the lamps, and when he had finished, he looked in the direction of the President, and remarked :
"Mr. President, did yo' heah any disputin' in the cyar a while back?"
"I heard a disgraceful row and some pretty tall swearing, if that is what you mean," answered Mr. President.
"Dat's jest it. Yo' see, Mr. Scribe, I'se trabbled so many years wid Mr. President dat I'se naterally cochted his ways an' I was a-giving a white nigger de benefit of dem dis afternoon."
This retort of Senator's quite restored Mr.. President to good humor, and Senator was told to go on with his story.
"De las' time I cum to Chicago I guv a plumber a contrac' to do some work in a house wat I own It was to cos' $ 50. an' I guv him $35. on de count and de balance I was to pay him when I cum again to Chicago."
"Well dis mawnin' de health authorities serves me wid a notus dat de hous was in an insanity condituan. Golly, I was mad clear throo, an, I hustled up to see dat plumber. Uv course be aint ter hum so I lef' a message wid he's wife dat Senator wanted partickler to see him at de cyar at a quarter to three, dat dere was a balance wat I owed him. I knowed dat would fetch him, shore. When he arribe he wanted ter be mos' soshable, but I jes' kep' him off an' I says to him:',
"You air, says I, a dirty lead eatin plumber. Yo' work am only a filthy, dirty sewer to lose good money in. Yo' soul is sodered wid sin an' yo've got mo' brass in yo' composition dan in all de wurk yo've ever did. Dere's mo' steal in yo' dan in a engine. De gas uv hell am yo' bref, but de fires of hell will melt yo' all down sum day, an' de debbil will make a pitchfork of yo', I'll employ dat $15 I owe yo' to print yo' obituary as a warnin' to folks to have no dealins wid plumbers. An' I calls after him from the platform, Call yo'self a plumber, why yo' aint fit to clean out a sewer ditch —Mr. President yo' ought to have seen dat plumber sneakin' throo dat crowd."
When I bade Senator good—bye, he grinned and said :
"Mr. Scribe I aint eber a—goin to forgit yo'. Yo' air a genleman Sar, an' Senator's mos' proud fer to know yo'. De fustest time I go to Quebec I'm a—going to make yo' a visit. Fare—yo'—well."