A NOVEL OF TRAVEL BACK IN TIME
I stated (better make that lied) that my family was originally from Alabama (which was a half-truth), and they had migrated to a small river port in southern Arkansas on the Ouachita River (pronounced WASH’ a tah) called Champagnolle (pronounced SHAMP’ an oo) in the 1820’s.
My father started a mercantile store there, and he also became an agent for the sale of any of the local wood, vegetables or cotton down river into “Loosiana.”
I saw Mrs. Newcomer grin at my pronunciation of Louisiana.
“I grew up working in my father’s store,” I continued, “and learned cyphering from my father at an early age. A friend in town had some books and taught me to read at night, and by age 12, I had learned to read pretty well.”
“By age 16, I had become very good at my father’s business, but longed to see some of the places mentioned in the books I had read. At 17, much to the chagrin of my father, I left Champagnolle and headed to Little Rock.”
“In 1856 the town was rowdy and full of unwholesome characters, as was true for most river towns. I approached some of the well-to-do families and proposed to teach their children reading, arithmetic, and penmanship.”
“About 10 of the families liked the idea of having a private school and decided to hire me to teach their children. One of the families even provided a building for the school. The teaching job allowed me to meet some of the prominent citizens of the Arkansas Legislature and government.”
“In 1860, I decided to go east and see a little more of the world. I made my way by railroad, stagecoach and riverboat to Baltimore, and again was able to procure a job as tutor to some of the children of Baltimore’s mercantile families.”
“I came west when the War broke out because I didn’t want to be under Yankee rule.”
I had been looking at Mrs. Newcomer during this whole time, and at the end of my little performance, gave a glance around the table.
Mr. Newcomer had ceased slurping his soup, and I could tell he had been weighing each of my words.
Captain Mosby gave me a nod and smile that conveyed his acceptance of a well-told story. I don’t know if he believed me, but I could tell he thought it was well presented.
The Newcomer brothers had finished their soup and looked bored.
Ahab had settled with his back against the buffet table. The expression on his face and the crossed arms across his chest gave the impression that he didn’t believe a word I had said.
Lastly, Miss Daphne Jane Newcomer had pursed her lips and gave her head a nod just before she hid behind her fan. I think she was giving her acceptance of my fable, but it was hard to tell, since she fixed her gaze on Mr. Newcomer.
At that moment, Mrs. Newcomer said, “Ahab, you and Bessie can serve the vegetables and beef and pour the wine.”
Everyone was suddenly released from the rapturous presentation of my fictitious yarn. All, except the Newcomer brothers; they were bored out of their minds and ready to pounce on any food put in front of them like ravenous wolves.