Elsie at the World's Fair by Martha Finley
The Dolphin lay at anchor in Mackinaw Bay only a day or two, in which time her passengers visited the fort, the village, and the cave of which Captain Raymond had spoken as the scene of that dreadful slaughter of the French by the Indians; then started on the return voyage to Chicago.
They were still favored with pleasant weather, and passed most of the time on deck. Mr. Lilburn seemed to appreciate the society of Miss Annis Keith, generally contriving to get a seat in her immediate vicinity, and to engage her in conversation; that did not strike anyone as strange, however, for Annis was a general favorite with both old and young, she showing a cousinly regard for all her relatives; especially for Mrs. Travilla; for the two had been almost lifelong friends. In these few days that they had been together they had had many private chats in which they recalled their early experiences at Pleasant Plains and the Oaks, and Elsie had urged Annis to return with her to Ion and spend the coming winter there.
This invitation Annis was considering, and the more she thought upon it the stronger grew her inclination to accept it. But she must go home first to make some arrangements and preparations, she said.
The two were conversing together thus, as they drew near the end of their little trip, not caring that their talk might be audible to those about them.
"Surely it is not necessary that you should take much time for preparation, Annis," remarked Mr. Dinsmore. "We of Ion and its vicinity have abundance of stores and dress-makers near at hand. And you would better see all that you can of the Fair now, for it will soon be a thing of the past."
"That is true, Cousin Annis," said the captain; "you would better stay with us and see as much as possible."
"You are all very kind, cousins," she answered. "But I fear I am crowding you."
"Not at all," he and Violet replied, speaking together; the latter adding, "We have all slept comfortably, and in the daytime there is certainly abundance of room."
"If you don't stay, Cousin Annis," Rosie said, with a merry look, "we will have to conclude that you have not had room enough to make you quite comfortable."
"Then I certainly must stay," returned Annis, with a smile, "if my going would give so entirely false an impression; since I have had abundance of room and a most delightful time."
"Then you will stay on?"
"Yes, for a while; but I must go home for a day or two at least before leaving for the South."
"We will let you know our plans in season for that," the captain promised, and the thing was considered settled.
When her passengers awoke the next morning the Dolphin was lying at her old anchorage near the beautiful Peristyle.
All had returned rested and refreshed, and were eager to go on shore in search of further entertainment and instruction.
The greater part of the day was spent in the Midway Plaisance. They visited the Lapland family of King Bull, the most prominent character in that village, and found them all seated beside their odd-looking hut, which, like the others in the village, was made of skin, tent-like in shape, and banked up with moss. The entrance was very small, the door made of a piece of wood. A fire was kept burning in the centre of the house, in the ground. There was no chimney; some of the smoke escaped through a little hole in the roof, if the wind was right. But if the wind comes from the wrong direction the smoke stays in the house, and the people enjoy it. It does not, however, improve their complexions, which are said to be, in their native state, not unlike the color of a well-cured ham.
King Bull they found had the largest house, and a very large family.
The Laplanders marry young, and it is not unusual for a grandfather to be under twenty-five years of age. King Bull was one hundred and twelve years old and had great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren, and every day he played for a little while with the youngest of those.
Our friends learned that he had with him a son, Bals Bull, ninety years old, that he had a son aged seventy-three, he had a daughter aged fifty-nine, she a son aged forty-one, who had a son aged twenty-nine, who had a daughter aged fourteen, and she a daughter two years old.
"Dear me!" exclaimed Rosie, on hearing this, "how old it makes a body feel! Why, just think! the mother of that two-year-old child is a year younger than you, Grace Raymond; and you don't consider yourself much more than a child yet, do you?"
"No, indeed! and don't want to be anything but my father's own little girl," returned Grace, giving him a loving look that said more than her words.
"Can you tell us if this looks like the real Lapland village, Harold!" asked Walter.
"I am told it does," replied his brother; "that it is as nearly as possible a reproduction of one, though of course it is not very large, there being but twenty-four Laplanders here."
"What do they eat, papa?" asked little Elsie.
"Fish and reindeer meat, and cheese made of the milk. The reindeer is their most valuable possession: its skin is used for clothing, the fur is woven into cloth, they drink the milk, and use the bones in the making of their sledges. They live entirely on such food during their winters, which are nine months long."
"And their summer only three months," said Evelyn, "I shouldn't like that."
"No, nor should I," said Herbert. "I think it must be by far the most enjoyable part of the year, for it is usually spent at the seashore."
"Are they heathen folks, papa?" asked Elsie.
"Most of them are Lutherans," he answered. "Now let us go to the reindeer park." They did so, found nine of the gentle creatures there, saw them get a bath of Lake Michigan water from a hose-pipe, which they were told was given them three times daily. Then they were harnessed to their sledges and driven around the park, just as they are driven in their own country. After that they ran races, then they were fed and milked.
The children had been deeply interested in the gentle reindeer and seemed almost loath to leave them when the performance was over. But those with which they were most delighted were three baby ones, two born on the way over to this country, and one shortly after they reached Chicago, and which was named Columbia.
"Now where shall we go next?" asked Rosie.
"Suppose we try the diving exhibit," said Walter. "It is something I should like to see." They found it on the south side of Midway Plaisance in a small building surrounding a huge tank of water. On the balcony of its second story stood a man turning a force-pump, which seemed to attract a good deal of attention from the passers-by.
Each visitor paid ten cents at the door, then passed up a rude stairway by which he reached the surface of the water. There a lecturer was seated, who explained how the air was made to enter the diver's armor, and how to leave it. Then people were invited to throw small coins into the water. Captain Raymond put a bright dime into the hand of each of his younger children and they gleefully tossed them in. The diver was in the bubbling water, they could not see him, but presently, through a telephone, he gave the dates on the coins. Then he came up to the surface of the water carrying a dummy that looked like a drowned man and let the visitors see him in his armor.
"He looks just like that picture of him that we saw outside," remarked little Elsie. "Ugh! I don't think I should ever be willing to wear such clothes."
"Armor!" corrected her mother in a mirthful tone. "No, dear, I should not want to see you dressed in that style, unless to save you from drowning."
But just then Mr. Dinsmore rose and led the way down another rough pine staircase, the others following.
Reaching the lower story they found a great many peep-holes through which they could look in upon the water of the tank. To each of these holes the diver came in turn, holding up a card on which was printed a farewell compliment. His hands looked shrivelled and soaked, and Grace and the other young girls afterward expressed sincere pity for him, saying they thought his life must be a hard one.
On leaving the diving exhibit they went to the Fisheries Building, which they found very beautiful. In its east pavilion was a double row of grottoed and illuminated aquaria containing the strangest inhabitants of the deep. Here they saw bluefish, sharks, catfish, bill-fish, goldfish, rays, trout, eels, sturgeon, anemones, the king-crab, burr-fish, flounders, toad-fish, and many other beautiful or remarkable inhabitants of the great deep; and the illuminated and decorated aquaria showed them to great advantage. It was said that nothing so beautiful had hitherto been seen west of London.
The surface of the water in the aquaria was many feet above the heads of even the gentlemen of the party, but there were nearly six hundred feet of glass front, so that everybody could have a good view of the strange and beautiful creatures within. They all watched them for some time with curiosity and interest, the little folks questioning their papa about one and another variety, new to them, but old acquaintances to one who had spent many years upon the sea.
"Papa," said Elsie, "there is one that looks a good deal like a flower. Is it a live thing? What is its name?"
"That is what is called the sea anemone," he replied. "It is not a flower though, but an animal. It is said to have been called by the name of that flower about a hundred years ago, by a celebrated investigator in the department of natural history, named Ellis. He thought it a suitable name because their tentacles are in regular circles and tinged with bright, lively colors, nearly representing some of our elegantly fringed flowers, such as the carnation, marigold, and anemone. And so they do while in the water, and undisturbed. But when a receding tide leaves them on the shore they contract into a jelly-like mass with a puckered hole in the top. There"--pointing it out--"is the most common of the British species of sea anemone. It attaches itself to rocks and stones from low-water almost to high-water mark. The tentacula--these feelers that look like the fringe of a flower--you see are nearly as long as the body is high, and nearly of the same color. See, there is an azure line around the base, and on the base are dark green lines converging toward the centre; and around the edge of the mouth is a circle of azure tubercles, like turquoise beads of the greatest beauty. I wish I could show them to you, but the mouth must be expanded in order to make them visible. Ah, that is just the thing!" as someone standing near threw in a bit of meat which had the desired effect, the mouth of the anemone opening wide to receive it.
"Oh, they are very beautiful!" exclaimed Rosie, watching the appearance of the beadlike tubercles of which the captain had just spoken.
"Don't they eat anything but meat, papa?" asked Neddie.
"Yes; crabs, sea-worms, and fish; the tentacula are furnished with minute spears with which they wound their prey and probably convey poison into the wounds."
"I suppose this is salt water they are all in?" Walter said enquiringly, and was told that he was correct in his conjecture.
On leaving the building they spent some time in examining its outside, finding its columns and arches wrought with calamus, fishes, frogs, serpents, and tortoises, making them very appropriate and beautiful.