Story for the Day: The Holiday in Habherleidh -- Part 2
One of the greatest antagonists of my life had always told me never to sing in his presence. I have a tolerable singing voice upon the whole, and I have sung at places like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Centre, but had I a voice like Rannig, I should sing everywhere, merely to torture the one who so maligned my efforts. Enjoy:
The crew of the Myrellenos watched from the main deck, remarking the tender scene with sobering aspects, each of them as willing to revere as to commend such veneration, for whatever their Gods or values, they lauded the fervour with which Frewyns greeted their holiday, and were, despite the frostand snow, earnestly wishing to join them, Rannig and Brogan the most eager of them to join in the chorus. Being the only two Frewyns on the ship, they had the best right to celebrate the holiday, but Brogan did not wait for his captain’s permission to go ashore to begin his Ailineighdaeth commemoration. He sang the benediction along with the village, his voice warbling in a foray of wayward notes, and Rannig, who reminded himself not to whistle or sing along, hummed the same tune with a subdued spirit.
“Come, do sing, if you will,” the captain encouraged him. “It is your holiday. You need not fear a faulty note here. Panza has played many of them, and you see we go not disparage him.”
The captain senses a flat look from the end of the row and spied Panza looking disenchanted, clutching his ocarina and murmuring to himself, “…It’s because you like things in G sharp minor.”
“Come, Panza, we only tease you,” said the captain, and then turning to Rannig, “There is no harm in a sour note, only in a shrill one, and your singing is never as violent as your whistling.”
“But, boss,” said Rannig, “if I sing too loud, Bartleby’ll throw one of his bricks at me.”
“And if he does, you should not feel it besides, but he never will, my dear giant. If he dares rais a pebble to you, all you need do is break out in a whistle. Ears will bleed, but no bricks shall be thrown. I only ask that if you do sing, Rannig, you sing loudly, and preferably somewhere much closer to Bartleby.”
Rannig joined Brogan in singing the benediction, keeping below Brogan’s pitch in case of accidental injury. The legend of his powerful whispers had spread aboard the ship, and after Moppet’s caique plummeted from the crow’s nest after one of Rannig’s more virulent sessions, he was bid never again to whistle while others were around. Eagles dropped from flight, small creatures withered in wretched agony, and grown men writhed and covered their ears, but Rannig’s singing had a less violent effect. It only caused a mild discomfort, but while most cringed and were willing to turn away, there was one amongst them who could never overlook Rannig’s singing in any capacity.
“NO! STOP THAT CONFOUNDED SINGING THIS MOMENT!” was the resounding cry from below deck. “Rannig! I have told you that you are not allowed to sing whilst any of us are still alive!”
“Sorry, Bartleby, but the boss said—“
“I’M SURE I DO NOT CARE WHAT THE CAPTAIN SAID!”
“No, no, my old friend,” said Danaco, speaking to the hatch under his foot. “You may shout all you like, but we cannot concede to hear you. We are too busy listening to farmers and fishermen cry out in tremulent glee. Brogan, I believe you are not singing loud enough.”
“Bhi mhi hein a gra, mho chillaidh!” Brogan shouted.
The captain clicked his tongue and seemed disappointed. “You are not trying very hard to deafen me, if I can still hear myself over you. Louder, man. I want the gnome to sprout from his alcove, else he should never enjoy such an exquisite scene as the one we are looking at.”
There was snarling sound from the hatch. The din of violent footfalls mounted a stair, and then, from beneath the captain’s feet, “I am not a gnome and I don’t want your scenes! I am perfectly well down here in the dark, with my books and tea and without your religious hobgobbery. Brogan, you mountainous primate, stop your drintling this moment! This is not a choir, where you are being asked to sing along with the glee. You do not sing at the orchestra—you listen—listen, you understand—to hear those who are trained in the art of musicality express their powers, not to profess your own scant abilities by drowning them out. You are to stop shouting your melodious verbigeration and you are not to sing any louder, do you hear me?”
“What’s that?” said Brogan, raising his voice, though no one else was trying to speak over him. “Sorry, ouljin, couldn’t hear ye. Captain’s orders, and such— TIR AN CURIADH, TIR AN AS FHIADE--”
“Louder, Brogan,” said Danaco, “I can still hear Bartleby trying to disclaim.”
“SEA MHO MHAILE MISE DEAS-E!”
“AND I’M SURE I DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR CAPTAIN’S ORDERS!” Bartleby rasped, trying in vain to be heard. He inhaled, as though to preparing to launch himself into one of his invectives, but the sound of concussive knocks only succeeded. A light from below diminished. Someone somewhere had missed a step and lost his candle, and when the scroop of gathered robes and the indiscriminate gnarling of an old man enemated from the hatch, the cry from below was, “THAT IS IT! THAT IS THE END, DO YOU HEAR ME? THE VERY END! Not only am I being forced to listen to this cacophony, but I have lost my candle. And possibly burned my hem. And where is my hat--? I AM BUILDING A FORT IN MY LIBRARY AND NOT COMING OUT UNTIL WE’VE LEFT THIS CONFOUNDED PLACE!”
The sound of a heavy tread was heard leading away from the hatch. A door slammed, someone muttered something about setting bricks and poxes on everybody, and Danaco was satisfied, pleased to have discomposed the old man at any rate. He turned back toward the village, watching the end of the benediction in a triumph of self-congratulation, and when the chorus was over, the ovation from the square broke from the square, rippling out in a concert of voices reaching as far as the ship.
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