“Kla’uns,” said Susy, relieving a momentary pause, in her highest voice, “knows how to speak. Speak, Kla’uns!”
It appearing from Clarence’s blushing explanation that this gift was not the ordinary faculty of speech, but a capacity to recite verse, he was politely pressed by the company for a performance.
“Speak ’em, Kla’uns, the boy what stood unto the burnin’ deck, and said, ‘The boy, oh, where was he?’” said Susy, comfortably lying down on Mrs. Peyton’s lap, and contemplating her bare knees in the air. “It’s ’bout a boy,” she added confidentially to Mrs. Peyton, “whose father wouldn’t never, never stay with him on a burnin’ ship, though he said, ’Stay, father, stay,’ ever so much.”
With this clear, lucid, and perfectly satisfactory explanation of Mrs. Hemans’s “Casabianca,” Clarence began. Unfortunately, his actual rendering of this popular school performance was more an effort of memory than anything else, and was illustrated by those wooden gestures which a Western schoolmaster had taught him. He described the flames that “roared around him,” by indicating with his hand a perfect circle, of which he was the axis; he adjured his father, the late Admiral Casabianca, by clasping his hands before his chin, as if wanting to be manacled in an attitude which he was miserably conscious was unlike anything he himself had ever felt or seen before; he described that father “faint in death below,” and “the flag on high,” with one single motion. Yet something that the verses had kindled in his active imagination, perhaps, rather than an illustration of the verses themselves, at times brightened his gray eyes, became tremulous in his youthful voice, and I fear occasionally incoherent on his lips. At times, when not conscious of his affected art, the plain and all upon it seemed to him to slip away into the night, the blazing camp fire at his feet to wrap him in a fateful glory, and a vague devotion to something—he knew not what—so possessed him that he communicated it, and probably some of his own youthful delight in extravagant voice, to his hearers, until, when he ceased with a glowing face, he was surprised to find that the card players had deserted their camp fires and gathered round the tent.
“You didn’t say ‘Stay, father, stay,’ enough, Kla’uns,” said Susy critically. Then suddenly starting upright in Mrs. Peyton’s lap, she continued rapidly, “I kin dance. And sing. I kin dance High Jambooree.”
“What’s High Jambooree, dear?” asked Mrs. Peyton.
“You’ll see. Lemme down.” And Susy slipped to the ground.
The dance of High Jambooree, evidently of remote mystical African origin, appeared to consist of three small skips to the right and then to the left, accompanied by the holding up of very short skirts, incessant “teetering” on the toes of small feet, the exhibition of much bare knee and stocking, and a gurgling accompaniment of childish laughter. Vehemently applauded, it left the little performer breathless, but invincible and ready for fresh conquest.