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James Whitcomb Riley

(7 October 1849 - 22 July 1916 / Greenfield, Indiana)

The Pathos Of Applause


The greeting of the company throughout
Was like a jubilee,--the children's shout
And fusillading hand-claps, with great guns
And detonations of the older ones,
Raged to such tumult of tempestuous joy,
It even more alarmed than pleased the boy;
Till, with a sudden twitching lip, he slid
Down to the floor and dodged across and hid
His face against his mother as she raised
Him to the shelter of her heart, and praised
His story in low whisperings, and smoothed
The 'amber-colored hair,' and kissed, and soothed
And lulled him back to sweet tranquillity--
'And 'ats a sign 'at you're the Ma fer me!'
He lisped, with gurgling ecstasy, and drew
Her closer, with shut eyes; and feeling, too,
If he could only _purr_ now like a cat,
He would undoubtedly be doing that!

'And now'--the serious host said, lifting there
A hand entreating silence;--'now, aware
Of the good promise of our Traveler guest
To add some story with and for the rest,
I think I favor you, and him as well,
Asking a story I have heard him tell,
And know its truth,in each minute detail:'
Then leaning on his guest's chair, with a hale
Hand-pat by way of full indorsement, he
Said, 'Yes--the Free-Slave story--certainly.'

The old man, with his waddy notebook out,
And glittering spectacles, glanced round about
The expectant circle, and still firmer drew
His hat on, with a nervous cough or two:
And, save at times the big hard words, and tone
Of gathering passion--all the speaker's own,--
The tale that set each childish heart astir
Was thus told by 'The Noted Traveler.'

Submitted: Friday, April 09, 2010

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