Uncle William looked interested. “She’s gettin’ under way, like enough.
“Sh-h!” The old gentleman held up a hand.
There were some long, flowing lines and a swirling sound that might have been water, and low growls in the bass, and a general rumbling and gritting and sliding and tumbling among the notes. The sounds stopped altogether. The youth sat staring before him. Applause broke from the audience. The youth got up and left the platform.
Uncle William stared after him with open mouth. “Has he got her done?” He turned to the man at his side.
“All done. How did you like it?”
“Well”—Uncle William squinted thoughtfully at his program—“I thought I was goin’ to like it fust-rate—if he’d got to it.”
“He didn’t get there, then?” The man laughed.
“Not to the iceberg.” Uncle William shook his head. A kindly look grew in his face. “I dunno’s he’s so much to blame, though. An iceberg must be kind o’ hard to do, I should think likely.”
“I should think it might be. Music isn’t cold enough.”
“’T ain’t the cold,” said Uncle William, hastily. “I run acrost an iceberg once. We was skirmishin’ round up North, in a kind o’ white fog, frosty-like, and cold—cold as blazes; and all of a sudden we was on her—close by her, somewheres, behind the frost. We wa’n’t cold any more. It was about the hottest time I ever knew,” he said thoughtfully.
Uncle William roused himself. “Well, after a spell we knew she wa’n’t there any more, and we cooled down some. But we wa’n’t real cold—not for much as a day or so.”
The youth had returned to the piano. The audience met him with wild applause, half-way, and he bowed solemnly from his hips. There was a weary look in his face.
Uncle William looked him over critically. “He don’t more’n half like it, does he?”
The other man coughed a little. Then he laughed out.
Uncle William smiled genially. “I’ve seen his kind—a good many times. Looks as if they was goin’ to cry when you was feedin’ ’em sugar. They gen’ally like it real well, too.” He consulted his program. “Goin’ to do a hammock, is he?”
The hammock began to sway, and Uncle William’s big head rocked softly in time to it. “Some like it,” he said when it was done; “not enough to make you sea-sick—jest easy swingin’.”
The youth had not left the piano. He played “The Bars at Sunset,” and “A Water Lily,” and “The Eagle,” and then the two sea pieces. Uncle William listened with mild attention.
When it was over and the audience had begun to disperse, Sergia came out. She approached Uncle William, scanning his face. “How did you like it?”
“They all done?” he demanded.
“Yes. Did you like the sea pieces?”
“I liked ’em. Yes—I liked ’em.” Uncle William’s tone was moderate.