Chapter XIII.
 

"Let us go now to the Guatemala Building," said Harold as they left Cairo Street. "I should like you all to see the grotto with its specimens of the fauna of the country, among which is a remarkable bird called the gavila, which sings the half-hours with unvarying regularity, showing itself as correct as a sundial, and almost as useful as a government observatory."

"Is it sure to wake and sing every half-hour in the night, uncle?" asked little Elsie.

"Oh, no! It is only a day clock; stops attending to the business at sundown and begins again in the morning."

They were interested in the strange bird; the older people in a map also, showing the locations of the principal towns and railways, and in the exhibit, in an open court and about a fountain, of the flora of the country; also some pictures hung about the balcony, showing the principal places in the city of Guatemala and other large towns.

"I feel a particular interest in Korea just at present," remarked Grandma Elsie as they left the Guatemalan Building, "and if entirely agreeable to the rest of you, I should like, now, to look at their exhibit in the Manufacturers' Building."

"Yes, mother; it is in the southwestern part," returned Harold, leading the way. "The booth is small, but crowded with exhibits. The Korean Royal Commissioner--with the singular name of Jeung Kiung Wow--has charge of it.

"That is a funny name, uncle," laughed Ned.

"And yet our names may have just as funny a sound to him," Violet said, smiling down at her little son.

When they reached the Korean booth the first thing that attracted their attention was the flag hanging from it. The captain was able to explain its design, and did so, the others listening with interest.

"It represents the male and female elements of nature," he said. "You see it is blue and yellow: the blue represents the heavenly, or male element, the yellow the earthly, or female. You see the heavens across the eastern sea and they seem to lap over and embrace the earth, while the earth to landward rises in lofty mountains and folds the heavens in its embrace, so making a harmonious whole. The four characters around the central figure represent the four points of the compass."

They passed in and found a good many sights which interested them--banners and lanterns, and bronze table and dinner set for one person, a cupboard with dishes, a fire pot and tools, boots and shoes of leather, wood, and straw; a kite and reel, a board on which is played a game resembling chess, white and blue vases, and a very old brass cannon used in the American attack on Korean forts in the seventies. Also there were banners hanging on the walls of the booth, and here and there stood screens, one of which was hand-embroidered by the ladies of the palace.

On dummies in the centre of the room were shown ancient warriors' costumes, the court dress of both a military and a civil official, and a lady's dress for the dance. And in an upright glass case were shown an embroidered silk cushion, various dress fabrics, a lady's dress and a lady's court dress and various articles of footgear.

There was a map showing Korea and adjacent countries, and attached to it was a paper headed, "Questions Answered."

Mr. Dinsmore stood before it and read of them aloud:

"Korea and Corea are both correct, but the former is preferred.

"Korea is not a part of China, but is independent.

"The Koreans do not speak the Chinese language, and their language resembles neither the Chinese nor the Japanese.

"Korea made treaties in 1882.

"All the articles are owned by the government.

"Korea has electric lights, steamships, telegraph, but no railroads.

"Koreans live in comfortable houses, heated by flues under the floor.

"Korean civilization is ancient and high; area one hundred thousand square miles; population sixteen million; climate like that of Chicago, country mountainous, mineral wealth undeveloped, agricultural products chiefly rice, beans, wheat, and corn."

"I am glad we came," remarked Rosie as they passed out of the booth, "for I know a good deal more about Korea than I did before, and find it a far more interesting country than I had any idea that it was."

The next visit was to the rotunda of the Government Building, where they found many mural paintings of famous incidents in American history and scenes in our largest cities, so that it was a good representation of our whole country.

In the rotunda was a hollow section of one of the largest trees that grow in the Maraposa grove of red woods in California. The interior was brilliantly lighted by means of incandescent lights, and a platform at the top of the trunk was reached by an inside, winding stairway. The chamber walls were covered with photographs showing the grove from which the tree trunk was cut, and how it was conveyed to the Fair and set up.

There were besides eight alcoves in the rotunda, in which were many articles, Colonial relics--such as the pipe which Miles Standish smoked, the first Bible brought to this country, in 1620, the year of the landing of the Pilgrims--a piece of the torch Putnam used when he entered the wolf's cave, the fife of Benedict Arnold, and many another scarcely less interesting.

"I think my two elder daughters have borne well the exertions of the day," the captain remarked, with a smiling glance at them, as again they stood upon the deck of the Dolphin.

"Yes, father; thanks to your kind thoughtfulness in sending us so early to bed last night," returned Lucilla, with a grateful, loving look up into his face. "The longer I live the more thoroughly convinced I am that you always know what is best for me."

"That is just my experience, Lu," laughed Violet, standing near, "and I'll venture to assert that Grace can say the same."

"Indeed I can!" responded Grace heartily, "and it is a great satisfaction to have one so wise, kind, and good almost always at hand to decide doubtful questions for you."

"Tut! tut! I wonder if any other man was ever tried with so much gross flattery," exclaimed the captain in feigned displeasure.

But at that moment others stepped upon the deck and their presence put an end to the bit of familiar family chat, Violet and her husband hastening to welcome their guests; for among the arrivals were Annis and several others from Pleasant Plains, whom they had not seen for some days--it being an easy matter for friends to miss each other among the crowds and the various buildings at the Fair; also Chester and Frank Dinsmore and Mr. Hugh Milburn, who had not been seen there before.

"Why, how do you do, cousin? I did not know you had arrived in the city," said Violet, offering her hand.

"Very well, thank you. I arrived only last night," he said, "and was not able to hunt you up till now. Ah, father, Cousin Elsie, captain,"--shaking hands with each in turn--"it does one good to see all your kind, pleasant faces."

"And us to see yours," returned Violet. "But where are Ella and the boy?"

"At home," he answered; "at least that's where I left them."

"But why didn't you bring them along?" asked his father; "the bit laddie is not likely to have another chance to look at such sights as one may see here to-day."

"His mother thought him rather young for that, seeing he is not very far along in his second year," replied Hugh, "nor could she be persuaded to leave him behind. He is a person of consequence in his mother's eyes, is my little Ronald, if in no other."

"Ah, I can understand that," laughed Violet. "But now, Cousin Hugh, you must let me have the pleasure of introducing you to the cousins from Pleasant Plains."

It was quite a gathering of relatives and friends, all weary enough with the day's exertions in sight-seeing to enjoy resting in comfortable chairs on the vessel's deck, while comparing notes as to their experiences since coming to the Fair; what each had seen and heard, what they were planning yet to see, some caring more especially for one class of curiosities, some for another.

But hardly a half hour had passed when they were summoned to an excellent repast, after which they again repaired to the deck, where they gathered in groups and indulged in further chat.

Grace was a little apart from the others, reclining in a steamer chair.

"Are you very, very tired, Gracie?" asked Walter, coming to her side.

"Pretty tired," she answered, smiling up into his face. "Why? did you want me to do anything?"

"Oh, no! no, indeed! but I was just thinking that now that we have two ventriloquists here, we might have some fun--for so far as I know the folks from Pleasant Plains don't know anything about the extraordinary powers of Cousins Ronald and Hugh--and I hoped you weren't too tired to enjoy it."

"I don't believe I am," she laughed; "and I think I shall enjoy it if papa doesn't send me to bed too soon. It was very good in you to think of me, Walter."

"Was it, when you are the girl that always thinks of everybody else?"

"Not always, Walter. I am afraid I very often think of myself first."

"Do you? I never knew it before," he laughed; then hurrying to old Mr. Lilburn's side, whispered something in his ear.

The old gentleman smiled, and gave a nod of assent. "I like to please you, laddie," he said in an undertone. "So does Hugh, and mayhap atween us we can accomplish something worth while."

"Oh, thank you," returned Walter. "I do think, cousin, that a little fun would do us all good. We've been dining heartily--at least I have--and I think a good laugh assists digestion."

Hugh sat near, chatting with Captain Raymond. Walter now turned to him with a whispered request which he seemed to grant as readily as his father had the one made of him.

At that Rosie and Lucilla, who were watching Walter with apparent interest in his proceedings, exchanged a glance of mingled amusement and satisfaction, while Grace, whose eyes were following his movements, laughed softly to herself; for she was in the mood for a bit of fun, and saw in all this the promise of some.

"Dear me, what a lot o' folks! and all lookin' so comfortable-like. They've had a good dinner,--or supper, whichever they call it--you bet, Joe, while we're as hungry as bears," said a rough, masculine voice which seemed to come from a spot close in Captain Raymond's rear.

Before the sentence was half finished every other voice was hushed and all eyes were turned in the direction from which the sound seemed to come. Everyone was startled for an instant, but by the time the sentence was finished the captain looked perfectly calm and cool.

"Who are you? and how did you come aboard the vessel?" he asked.

"In the boat, sir; same as the rest o'e company," was the reply in the same voice.

"Without waiting for an invitation, eh?"

"Humph! might 'a' missed it if we'd waited. Say, capting, are you mean enough to let us fellows go hungry when you have a vessel full o' good things for eatin'? To say nothing of a pocket full o' tin?"

"If any would not work, neither should he eat," quoted the captain. "What work have you two been about to-day?"

"Same as yerself, sir; lookin' at the exhibits in this here big World's Fair."

"Very well; you may go and ask the steward for some supper."

A sound of retreating footsteps followed, and those of the guests who were not in the secret looked about here and there in blank astonishment.

"Well, really! am I going blind?" ejaculated young Percy Landreth, passing his hand over his eyes in a bewildered way. "I couldn't see those fellows at all."

"Oh, no!" said Lucilla, "one can sometimes hear what one cannot see."

But at that instant there was a "cluck, cluck," as of a hen which seemed to come from Annis' lap, and at which she sprang to her feet with a slight cry of astonishment and dismay, but seeing nothing, "Why, where is it?" she asked half breathlessly, and the "cluck, cluck," was repeated apparently from behind the chair of her next neighbor, and immediately followed by a loud barking as if a dog were in chase of the chicken.

"Oh!" exclaimed Annis, turning her eyes upon the elder Mr. Lilburn, "I think I know--I've heard----"

But a warning gesture from Violet, whose face was full of amusement, stopped her, and she dropped into her chair again with a slight, mirthful laugh and a look of relief and diversion.

Percy saw it and suddenly comprehended pretty accurately what was going on. Yet at the same moment he was startled and annoyed by a loud buzzing about his ears as though a bee were flying round and round his head. He put up his hand and tried to knock it away. Then it seemed to fly to Chester and though he was not wholly unacquainted with the powers of Cousin Ronald and Hugh, he too involuntarily made an effort to dodge and drive it away.

Then the squeak of a mouse came from a reticule on Lucilla's lap, and that so unexpectedly that she gave a little scream, at the same time springing to her feet, and throwing the reticule from her.

At that her father laughed, and she picked it up again and reseated herself with a slightly mortified air.

"Let me get that mouse out for you, Lu," said Herbert, holding out his hand for the reticule; but scarcely were the words out of his mouth when the meow of a kitten, coming from his coat pocket, caused him to suddenly and almost involuntarily clap his hand upon it.

"Yes, Uncle Herbert, take the mouse out and give it to the cat," returned Lulu quickly, handing the reticule to him as she spoke.

"Thank you," he returned laughingly, "but I really don't believe the creature is hungry."

"Oh, uncle, let me see that pussy!" cried Ned, running to him.

"Put your hand into my pocket and try if you can find it," was the good-humored reply, and Neddie at once availed himself of the permission.

"Why, it isn't there!" he exclaimed. "How do you s'pose it got out?"

"I'm inclined to think it never got in, Ned," said his uncle.

"Oh, it's in mine!" cried the little fellow excitedly, and clapping his hand upon his pocket, as a pitiful meow seemed to come from it. "Why, I can't feel it. Papa,"--running to him,--"please take it out, I can't."

The captain took hold of the pocket. "You made a mistake, son; it isn't there. I feel nothing but your handkerchief and a few other little soft articles."

"Why--why, how queer!" exclaimed the little fellow, "I was sure I heard it in there, papa. Oh, what is that?" as the squeal of a young pig seemed to come from his father's pocket; but at that instant the loud and furious bark of a big dog seemed to come from some place in his rear very near at hand, and with a little cry of affright he made haste to climb upon his father's knee for protection, putting his arms about his neck and clinging tightly to him.

But just then a loud cry came from below: "Help! help! these rascally fellows are stealing the silver! Captain Raymond, sir, help, or they'll throttle me!"

At that the captain sprang to his feet, set Ned in his mother's lap, and hurried below, while the young men rose hastily to go to his assistance, even those of them who were well acquainted with Cousin Ronald's powers, thinking for an instant that the alarm was real. But a laugh of amusement from him and his son let them into the secret that it was but a false alarm, the trick of a ventriloquist, and they resumed their seats as hastily as they had arisen from them.

"Oh, oh," cried Ned, "I'm so afraid my dear papa will get hurt! Uncle Harold and Uncle Herbert, won't you go and help papa fight those bad men? Please go quick! Oh, please do!"

"Oh, no, Neddie, papa is so big and strong that he doesn't need any help to make such fellows behave themselves," said Lucilla. "And here he comes all safe and sound," as the captain stepped upon the deck again.

"Well, captain," said Grandma Elsie, looking up smilingly into his face as he drew near, "did you catch the rogues?"

"No, mother, I could not find the least trace of them," he answered gravely. Then, turning to the elder Mr. Lilburn: "Cousin Ronald," he asked, "do you think you would know them if you were to see them?"

"I know them, cousin captain!" exclaimed the old gentleman in well-feigned astonishment. "Can it be possible you mean to insinuate that I am the associate of beggars and thieves?"

"I mean no offence, sir," returned the captain with a twinkle of fun in his eye, "but it sometimes happens that a very honest and honorable man may be well acquainted with the appearance of some dastardly villain."

"I'm no sich a character as that," snarled a rough voice that seemingly came from a part of the deck in Mr. Lilburn's rear, and sounded very much like the one which had demanded some supper a short time before, "an' I hope it isn't me you're ameanin', fer I'm as honest an' decent a man as any in this crowd, ef I do say it, that shouldn't."

"Who is that man? I couldn't see him the other time, and I can't see him now," exclaimed little Elsie, gazing round in wide-eyed wonder; for she had never quite understood Cousin Ronald's performances, and was much puzzled to comprehend all that was now being done and said.

"I say, capting," cried another strange voice, it also coming apparently from an invisible speaker, "why upon airth don't you put that impident critter off the boat? I'd do it in a jiffy if 'twas me."

"You have my permission to do so, sir," returned the captain, "but perhaps he will go presently of his own accord."

"Hollo!" shouted a strange voice that seemed to come from the water near at hand, and was followed immediately by the dip of an oar, "I say, what's the matter up there on that deck? If I was capting o' that yacht, there shouldn't be no such goings on aboard it."

"The impudence of the fellow!" exclaimed Lucilla, forgetting for the moment the presence of two ventriloquists, and, springing up, she was about to rush to the side of the vessel to get a sight of the boatman; but her father, turning toward her with a smile, laid a detaining hand on her arm, while at the same time he called out in good-humored tones:

"Suppose you board us then, sir, and show what you can do."

"Humph!" snarled the voice that seemed so near at hand, "you'd better try it, old feller, whomsoever you be, but I bet you'll find me an' Joe here more'n a match fer you."

"Oh, Bill, I say, let's git out o' this!" exclaimed a third voice, apparently close at hand; "we've had our fill o' grub and might as well make ourselves scarce now."

"All right, Joe," returned the voice of the first speaker; "we'll git inter that feller's boat, and no doubt he'll take us ashore to git rid of us."

A sound as of retreating footsteps followed, then all was quiet.

"Very well done, Cousin Ronald; one could almost see those fellows," laughed the captain.

"I couldn't see them, papa," said little Elsie. "I could only hear them. What was the reason?"

"Suppose you ask Cousin Ronald," was her father's reply.

"So you are a ventriloquist, sir?" remarked Percy Landreth, in a tone between assertion and enquiry, and giving the old gentleman a look of mingled curiosity and amusement.

"You think so, do you, sir? But why should I be suspected more than anyone else in this company of friends and relatives?" asked Cousin Ronald in a quiet tone.

"Well, sir, it seems to me evident from all I have seen and heard. All appear to look to you as one who is probably at the bottom of all these mysterious doings."

"No, not quite all, Percy," Violet said with a smile.

"So there are two, are there?" queried Percy. "Then the other, I presume, is Mr. Hugh Lilburn."

"O Percy!" cried Lucilla in half reproachful tones, "I wish you hadn't found out quite so soon; because it spoils the fun."

"Oh, no, not quite, I think," he returned, "for I noticed that even those who must have been in the secret were occasionally taken by surprise."

"Yes," she admitted with a laugh, "I did think for a moment that there was a man calling to us from a boat down there on the lake, and that there was a mouse in my reticule."