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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGideon's Band: A Tale Of The Mississippi - Chapter 42. Against Kin
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Gideon's Band: A Tale Of The Mississippi - Chapter 42. Against Kin Post by :64525 Category :Long Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :May 2012 Read :1792

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Gideon's Band: A Tale Of The Mississippi - Chapter 42. Against Kin

CHAPTER XLII. AGAINST KIN

"Ramsey," said the boy, his voice gone to a shred, "you're good--to come back in--in time. Ain't you going--to laugh? It'd be all right. Oh, sis'"--the sunken eyes lighted up--"it's come to me, sissy, it's come. I've got religion, Ramsey. I'm going straight to the arms of Jesus. Sissy dear, I wish"--he waited for strength--"I could see the--twins--just a minute or two----"

"Why, you shall, honey. I'll go bring 'em."

"Wish you would--and Hugh Courteney. It's the last----"

"Honey boy, th'ain't room for so many at once. And it ain't your last anything; you' going to get well."

His eyes closed, his brows knit. The tearful mother rose and looked at her. The glance was kind, yet remorse tore the girl's heart again. "Go," said her mother. "Joy, she'll go with you. Bring the three."

"My last"--the boy whispered on--"last chance--to do some'--something worthy of"--he faintly smiled to his mother--"of Gideon's Band."

The door opened and closed and the two were alone. At his sign she knelt, took his clammy hand, and bent close that he might flutter out his hurried words with least effort.

"She sang it finely!" he whispered. "She'd 'a' known we heard it if she'd 'a' thought. Wish you'd sing a verse of it. It's a hymn, you know--or was. The chorus is--yet. Anyhow, it's our song. Oh, I'd like to live on and be a real true Hayle--a Gideon! I hope--hope Hugh Courteney'll--live. Just think! he was on the _Quakeress when Uncle Dan--.... He's going to do big things some day. Mother--want to tell you something." She bent closer. He whispered on:

"I wish Hugh Courteney'd live and--marry sis'."

His eyes reclosed and the mother drew back, but he whispered on with lids unlifted: "Sing--a verse or two--or just the chorus, won't you?"

As softly as to an infant fallen asleep she sang, in her Creole accent, with eyes streaming:


"Do you billong to Gideon' ban'?
Yere's my 'eart an' yere's my 'an'."


Outside, meantime, before old Joy had quite left the closed door, another, the second aft of it, opened and the texas tender stepped out. A fellow servant within shut it, and he started for a near-by stair, but checked up, amazed, to let Ramsey hasten on for the same point.

But Ramsey halted. "How's the bishop?" she asked him.

"Good Lawd!" he gasped, and then tittered at himself. "I ax yo' pahdon, miss, I _neveh know de Hayles twins 'uz _double twins, male 'n' female. You ax me----?"

"The bishop; how is he now?"

"Well, Miss Hayles--you is Miss Hayles, ain't you? Yit, my Lawd! miss, ain't I dess now see you down in de cabin a-playin' in de play, an' a hund'ed people sayin': '_'tis her, 'cose it is'?"

"Humph! no, I left as the curtain rose. How's the----?"

"Bishop? Oh, de bishop, he, eh--'bout five-six minute' ago--aw it mowt be ten--whilse I 'uz down dah--de bishop--I'm bleeds to say--breave his las'."

"While I--!" She tossed both arms.

"Ummmm, hmmmm!" droned old Joy; "gone to glory!"

"Yass, de good bishop gone to his good bishop!"

"Oh, who was with him?" cried the girl.

"Why, eh"--the three moved on their way--"de doctoh, he 'uz dah, and de bofe sis' o' charity; yass'm."

"The commodore--wasn't?--Nor the senator--nor----?"

"Oh, yass'm, de commodo', he 'uz dah--faw a spell. He didn' stay till de--finish. He couldn'. He git slightly indispose', hisseff, an' have to go to his own room."

The nurse made a meek show of despair and Ramsey turned upon her. "Now, mammy, this is no time--_now--don't--cry_."

The old woman braced up superbly. "Yass'm," persisted the waiter, "he dah now, in bed; slightly indispose'."

A rumble close below broke in upon the rhythm of the boat. "What's that?" demanded Ramsey.

"Oh, dat's on'y de aujience a-stompin' de actohs."

The next moment, a step or two down the stair, with the skylight roof still in sight as much as hidden tears would let her see it, she stopped again, to stare anxiously at another trio, coming from the bell to the captain's room.

"Da'--dat's all right," the white-jacket reassured her. "Dat's dess de cap'm, wid Mr. Hugh an' a passengeh."

"Kentucky passenger?"

"Yass'm, 'zac'ly; f'om Ca'fawnia; dat's him."

She sprang back to the deck, and the servant went his way down the stair. Hugh had left his father to proceed on the arm of the Californian and was approaching. He murmured only a preoccupied greeting and would have taken the stair, but old Joy motioned eagerly to the girl. She spoke. He stopped. "Yes, Miss Ramsey?"

"Go on," she said, "we're going that way."

Down on the cabin guards the two paused at the bottom step, the old woman lingering at the top. "Mr. Hugh," said Ramsey, "mom-a's sending me for the twins." She drew a breath. "You know about the commodore?"

"Yes, Miss Ramsey."

"And the--the bishop?"

"I know, Miss Ramsey."

"Mr. Hugh, is your father--taken?"

"Yes, Miss Ramsey."

"Where are you going?"

"To bring the first clerk."

"The boat's command doesn't fall to him, does it?"

"It falls to the first mate."

"I don't see why. Who'll it fall to next? You?"

"No, the first clerk."

Double disappointment. "But you; you'll still look after us passengers and help him, too, won't you?"

"I may."

She knew it! Somehow he was to share with the mate and the clerk the command of the boat!

"Mr. Hugh"--they moved on, with Joy at a discreet distance--"you're in a hurry--so am I; but I ought to tell you, though of course it's just ridiculous for us--for me--to think I've ever helped you or can help you in any of these things or in anything--I--oh--I can't help you, or play help you, any more."

Cruel word in a cruel moment. She felt it so and expected him to show the same feeling. But instead he halted in the lamplight of a passageway to the cabin and confronted her with the widest, most formidable gaze, not her father's, she had ever met. He seemed absolutely majestic. It was very absurd for one so young and--stumpy--to seem majestic, yet there he stood, truly so. Partly for that reason she could not so much as smile; but partly, too, it was because she felt herself so guiltily frivolous, having anything to say to him, or even standing in his gaze, gazing into it, while his father, her brother, and the bishop lay as they were lying in their several rooms so close overhead.

"You _can help me," he said in his magisterial voice, so deep yet so soft. "You will. You must. I cannot spare you."

Did any one ever! She tossed a faint defiance: "I can't. No. I won't--can't--ever again, against my own kin."

"There are things stronger than kin."

"I'd like to know what!"

"Truth. Justice. Honor. Right. Public welfare."

She waved them all away as wholly immaterial. "Hoh!"

With a kindness far too much like magnanimity to suit her, Hugh, drawing backward, smiled, and replied, not as pressing the argument but as dropping it:

"One can be against one's kin, yet not against them. Basile knows that. He proved it to-day."

"Basile--oh, Mr. Hugh, Basile wants to see you. Mom-a's sent me as much for you as for the twins. Basile's asked for you. But of course if your father----"

"I'll come, the moment I can be spared. Is your brother really better?"

Ramsey flinched as from pain. She leaned on the shoulder of the nurse--who had come close--and sadly shook her head. But then she straightened smilingly and said: "If you're coming at all----"

She might have finished but for a faint sound that reached her from directly underfoot, a sound of sawing. She faced sharply about, passed into the cabin, and found the Gilmores and the amateurs in the midst of their play.

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