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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGideon's Band: A Tale Of The Mississippi - Chapter 45. Applause
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Gideon's Band: A Tale Of The Mississippi - Chapter 45. Applause Post by :64525 Category :Long Stories Author :George Washington Cable Date :May 2012 Read :3259

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Gideon's Band: A Tale Of The Mississippi - Chapter 45. Applause

CHAPTER XLV. APPLAUSE

Diffidence! Hugh had spoken of diffidence--in himself--in the twins. Could Julian really be hiding such a thing behind such a mask? Ramsey wondered.

Every eye was on him and again the floor thundered, shaming her, flattering him. As he came on, the exhorter began to put out an arm, to speak and to rise, but the cub pilot blandly intervened and Julian ignored him. For there both brothers came face to face with the first mate. He had entered where Gilmore went out, and now passed them with a stare like their own, fire for fire, and at close quarters began to accost the exhorter and his two adherents.

They rose, and with evident change of meaning thunder came again, though not for them. The departing twins and their triple escort; the exhorter and the four about him; Ramsey, Joy, and the returned Gilmore, who just then touched her shoulder and whispered something to which she replied with quick nods of consent--all these groups lifted their gaze, with the whole company's, to the curtained stage.

Diffidence! oh, where _was diffidence? Hugh had stepped in behind the footlights and was standing and looking out across them as foursquare and unsmiling as a gravestone.

Their light was on his brow, whose frown smote her with foreboding. Half folded he held a slip of paper as if about to give official notice of some grave matter, and his aggressive eyes, that seemed to her to look a greater distance away from a greater distance within than ever before, were fixed on one man. Absolute silence fell. And thereupon, to the open-mouthed amazement of the audience, with his stare yet on that one face, and in a voice that seemed octaves below hers, he began to sing straight at the exhorter:

"Do you belong to Gideon's ban'?"

A shout of laughter, a rain of clappings, a thunder of canes and feet. Sitters bumped up and down. They were safe home again in nonsense and were glad. Ramsey's laugh was like a dancer's bells though under cover of the dusk she let the tears roll down. Old Joy moaned and shook her head. John the Baptist had begun to retort but withered before a ferocious muffled threat from the mate while following him into the aisle. "Bucked and gagged," was the mate's odd phrase, at which a dozen or so nearest him laughed again, a bit nervously. They looked back to see if the twins had heard it, and were just in time to catch from Julian and the general a last glare of scorn as the group of five left the cabin. Then again came silence, except behind the footlights, where the sphinx-like singer bore straight on through the refrain and came to the new lines. Sing them out, sphinx; the more senseless the better.


"Nex' come de 'coon and de cockatroo,
Nex' come de 'coon and de cockatroo,
Nex' come de 'coon and de cockatroo,
De hawg and de whoopdedoodendoo.
Do you belong----?"


The inquiry was drowned in applause, which swelled as the mate and the exhorter went out with the latter's two backers--more eagle-eyed and stallion-eyed than ever--and with Watson's cub at the rear. A number stretched up for a glimpse of Ramsey but she too--and the actor--and Joy--were gone. There was another waiting hush, and the droll singer, so droll because so granite solemn, resumed:


"Den turkle-dove an' blue-bird blue,
Den turkle-dove an' blue-bird blue,
Den turkle-dove an' blue-bird blue,
De merry-go-roun' and de hullabaloo.
Do you belong----?"


Applause! Was that the end? Not if the applauders could help it! The day was coming when a boiler-deck and pilot-house tradition, heard by many with hearty enjoyment, by many with silent disdain, would be this: that aboard the old _Votaress on her first up trip--late spring of '52--cholera on every deck--mutiny hotly smouldering--the unreason of fear and of wrath were beaten in fair fight by the unreason of mirth, and men's, women's, children's lives--no telling how many--were saved, through the cleverness of some play-actors and first the youngest of all the Hayles and then the youngest of all the Courteneys singing a nonsense song! Sing it! sing on!

He sang on:


"Den de grizzly-b'ah and den de mole,
De grizzly-b'ah and den de mole,
De grizzly-b'ah and den de mole,
De terrapintime and de wrigglemarole.
Do you belong----?"


The plaudits were at their height and Hugh still on the interrogative line when there came from behind the curtain a voice skilfully thrown to reach only him:

"Give them one verse more and we'll be ready!"

He gave it:


"Las' de cattlemaran and de curlicue,
De cattlemaran and de curlicue,
De cattlemaran and de curlicue,
De daddy-long-legs and de buggaboo.
Do you belong----?"


He stepped quickly from the "stage." The curtains drew apart. The scene revealed was a drawing-room. In it stood alone, as if playfully listening for something, the housemaid; not "Harriet" but Ramsey. (Laughter and applause.)

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