Elsie at the World's Fair by Martha Finley
Monday morning found all on board the Dolphin feeling well, bright, and ready to enjoy a further examination of the wonders and beauties of the White City beside the lake. As usual the question which of them all should claim attention first, came up for discussion at the breakfast table.
"I for one would like extremely to pay a visit to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show," said Walter. "I think my little nephew and niece would enjoy it too, and possibly older folks might find some amusement there also."
"Oh, what is it, Uncle Walter?" asked Ned eagerly. "I'd like to see some buffaloes."
"Well, so you will if we go," replied Walter, "for there's a herd of them to be seen there. It is outside the Exposition grounds, but worth going to see, I should think. There are rifle experts, bucking ponies, dancing dervishes, athletes, female riders, besides American, German, French, English, Cossack, Mexican, and Arabian cavalry, to say nothing of cowboys, and other attractions too many to mention."
"Oh!" cried Ned, "I want to go. Can't I, papa?"
"All alone?" asked his father laughingly. "No, my son, I fear you are rather young for that."
"Oh, no, papa; I didn't mean all alone. But won't you take mamma and Elsie and all the rest, and me too?"
"Yes, if mamma and all the rest want to go."
"There are two hundred Indians there, Ned. Won't you be afraid of them?" asked Lucilla.
"No, Lu; not with our papa along to take care of us. If you're afraid, I s'pose you can stay on the Dolphin here till we come back."
"Thank you, Ned," she said laughing; "but I believe I feel quite as safe where papa is as you do. And I think I should like to see that show myself, though I'm neither a baby boy like you, nor a sixteen year old laddie like Walter."
"No, not a boy at all; only a girl. I'm glad I was made a boy so I can grow up into a man like papa."
"I'd rather be a woman like mamma and Grandma Elsie," said his little sister. "But I'd like to see the buffaloes and all the rest of it. Can't we go, papa?"
"I will go and take my little girl and boy," replied her father, "and will be glad of the company of anyone else who feels inclined to go with us."
No one seemed disinclined, and finally all decided to go.
They were well entertained, and, when the exhibition was over, passed out upon the elevated platform at the entrance.
The crowd moved slowly, and as they stood awaiting an opportunity to descend to the street below, there arose a sudden cry of "Fire!" and at the same instant they perceived a flame creeping up within the centre tower of the Cold Storage Building near at hand.
Scarcely was the cry raised before twenty-five brave and experienced firemen were on the scene, and ascending to the platform of observation that had been built near the summit. The tower was built of pine wood and plaster, which had been dried by the sun without and hot sheet-iron chimneys within, so that it burned fiercely. The firemen saw that it was a very dangerous place for anyone to venture into, therefore they hesitated and drew back; but their leader swore at them, calling them cowards, and at once they climbed to the perilous place; but scarcely had they reached it when there was an explosion of gases; the roof heaved and fell in, carrying with it sixteen men down into a pit of gaseous flame, and a shriek of horror went up from the fifty thousand people who stood looking on, unable to give the least assistance to the poor perishing men.
The party from the Dolphin saw it all and were sick with horror. Grace fainted, and but for the support of her father's arm, quickly thrown about her, would have fallen to the floor of the platform where they stood. He held her up, and with the help of Harold and Herbert, hastily pushed his way through the crowd.
"Lay her down as quickly as you can, captain!" exclaimed Harold; "it is important."
"Yes, I know," returned Captain Raymond, glancing down at the white, unconscious face of his precious burden.
But at that instant Grace's eyes opened, and looking up in a bewildered way into her father's eyes, "Papa, I'm too heavy for you to carry," she said faintly.
"No, my darling, not at all," he replied. "There, Uncle Harold has summoned a boat and we will take you back at once to our floating home."
"Am I sick? did I faint, papa?" she asked. "Oh,"--with a burst of tears and sobs--"I remember now! Oh, those poor, poor men! Papa, were they all killed?"
"Don't be so distressed, dear child," he said with emotion. "I think they must have been almost instantly suffocated by the gas, and did not feel anything that followed."
"Your father is right," said Harold, close at her side; "and though it was a very dreadful thing for them to be sacrificed in that way, and hurried into eternity without a moment's warning, they are not suffering pain of body now, and we can only hope that with their last breath they cried to the God of all grace for pardon and salvation." As he concluded his sentence the boat he had signalled was close at hands the rest of their party came up at that moment, all embarked, and they were soon on board the Dolphin, where they remained for the rest of that day, feeling too much shocked over the dreadful catastrophe at the Storage Building to care to go anywhere else.
Poor, feeble Grace was almost overwhelmed with pity and horror, weeping bitterly much of the time. The others, especially her father, did all in their power to comfort her with the hope that at least some of the killed were prepared for heaven, and with plans for giving aid and consolation to their bereaved wives, children, and other relatives who had been dependent upon their exertions for support.
The next day brought a very pleasant surprise in the arrival among them of their cousin, Dr. Conly, with his wife and her brother, Sandy McAlpin. The sight of her old physician, and Marian, of whom she was very fond, did much to restore Grace to her usual spirits, and all went together to view various interesting exhibits.
The first to which they gave their attention was that of the relics of the Cliff Dwellers. It was in the southeastern part of the grounds, and was a reproduction of Battle Rock Mountain, Colorado. As you neared it you seemed to see before you a cliff, for though built of timbers, iron, stone, staff, and boards, it wore the appearance of rock and earth. There was a cavernous opening which had the effect of a canyon, and in niches high up were the dwellings, in miniature, of the ancient people who once lived among the tablelands of our southwestern territories; but portions of the real houses were shown in order to give a perfectly truthful impression to visitors; also there were relics of the old cliff dwellers shown, such as weapons wrought from bones, stone, and wood; pottery, and cloths and mattings woven from blades of the alfalfa plant.
There were to be seen also ledges of fallen rock with houses crushed beneath and other houses built over them. Also winding paths led up the cliffs and through to the outer air, and up these our friends climbed to the summit, where they stood for a little enjoying the prospect now on this side, now on that.
"Papa," asked little Elsie, "how long ago did people live in those houses so high up among the rocks?"
"Nobody knows just how long ago, my child," he replied, "but probably hundreds of years before Columbus discovered America."
The rest of the day was spent in the Midway Plaisance, a street three hundred feet wide, beginning at the rear of the Woman's Building, extending about a mile in length, and so full of interesting sights that one might tarry there many hours, and go again day after day, without wearying of them, but always finding something by which to be greatly entertained.
"A good and most entertaining place for the study of mankind," as Mr. Dinsmore remarked.
As they entered it the sound of the sweetly piercing music of a bagpipe smote upon their ears. "Ah," exclaimed Mr. Lilburn, "that sound is sweetly homelike to my ear. Let us see, my friends, to what sight it summons us."
"The Beauty Show, sir," said Herbert. "Probably you have all heard of it--some thirty or forty belles collected from different parts of the world and dressed in their national costumes."
They went in, passing the handsome Highlander playing the bagpipes at the door. They found the women who were on exhibition ranged in pens around a large room.
"Beauties!" sniffed Rosie as she glanced about upon them, "there is scarcely one who I should have selected as such."
"Hush, hush, Rosie!" said her mother warningly; "we do not know but some of them may understand English, and surely you would be sorry to hurt their feelings."
"Yes, I should indeed, mamma," she returned in a regretful tone, and they passed out.
"That countryman of yours has much the handsomest face about that establishment. Cousin Ronald," remarked Lucilla, with a smile, as they proceeded on their way.
"I agree with you in that opinion, lassie," laughed the old gentleman, "and I have no doubt that he would also, had he heard you express it."
"How very much there is to see here!" remarked Dr. Conly--"men, women, and children from all parts of the world, clad in their own odd, native attire; Chinese, Japanese, Dahomeyans, Nubians, wild Arabs, Persians, Soudanese, Algerians, Javanese, and Cingalese."
"And some of the buildings are as singular in appearance as the people who occupy them," added his wife.
"Let us visit the village and castle of Blarney," said Rosie.
"You want to kiss the Blarney Stone, do you?" asked Herbert laughingly.
"No need of that," said Walter; "she can blarney fast enough if she wants to, and that without ever having seen the stone."
"What is blarney, papa?" asked little Elsie.
"Coaxing, wheedling, and flattering," he replied. "The village we are going to see is said to be a fair representation of one of that name in Ireland, about four miles from the city of Cork, in which there is a castle called Blarney Castle, which has stood there for more than four hundred years. The castle has a tower, as you will see, and on the top of it is a stone the kissing of which is said to confer the gift of ability to wheedle and flatter. But the true stone is said to be another in a wall where it can be kissed only by a person held over the parapet."
"Oh, I shouldn't like that at all, papa!" Elsie exclaimed. "I'd be afraid of falling, and I shouldn't like to kiss a dirty stone."
"Well, daughter, I shall never ask you to do so," he answered, with a kindly smile down into the bright, rosy little face.
They were entering the village as he spoke. Some little time was spent there very agreeably, after which they returned to the Dolphin for the night.