Elsie at the World's Fair by Martha Finley
"On, we have a lovely view from here!" remarked Lulu as they reached the Dolphin's deck. "I'm not at all sleepy, papa; can't I sit here for a while?"
Grace was saying, "Good-night, papa."
He returned it with a fatherly caress, then answered Lulu's query.
"No, daughter; it is long past your usual hour for retiring, and as I want you to feel fresh and bright for to-morrow's pleasure, you, too, may bid me good-night and go at once to your berth."
"Oh, yes, sir, that will be the best, I know," she said, rising promptly from the seat she had taken, and with a loving look up into his face--for he was close at her side now. "What a happy thing it is for me that I have such a kind, wise father to take care of me!"
"A father whose strong desire it certainly is to make you and all his children as happy as possible," he said, laying a hand on her head and looking fondly down into her eyes. "Good-night, daughter, and don't hesitate to call me if anything should go wrong with you or Grace."
"Am I also under orders to retire, sir?" asked Violet with a mischievous smile up into his face, as Lulu bade good-night to the rest of the company and disappeared down the companion-way.
"Not from me," he said, pleasantly taking a seat at her side as he spoke. "Have I not told you many times that my wife does what she pleases? At least, if she fails to do so it is in consequence of no order from me."
"No; you have never given me one yet, and I believe I should like you to do so for once that I may see how it feels," she added with a low, musical laugh, slipping her hand confidingly into his.
"Perhaps you might not find it particularly agreeable," he returned, pressing the little hand tenderly in his. "But just to satisfy you I may try it one of these days. You are not disappointed in the Fair so far?"
"No, no, not in the least! Oh, how lovely it is! and what a beautiful view we have from here! How delighted our little Elsie and Ned will be with it all to-morrow. I hardly know how to wait for the time to come when I can see and share their pleasure."
But now the others were saying good-night and going down to their state-rooms, and the captain remarked laughingly that he thought the longed-for time would seem to come sooner if he and she should follow their good example.
"So it will," returned Violet, promptly rising and slipping her hand into his arm.
She went first to her mother's state-room, and the door being opened in answer to her gentle rap, "Are you quite comfortable, mamma, dear?" she asked. "Is there anything I can do or furnish to make you more so?"
"I am perfectly comfortable and I need nothing but a good night's rest, Vi, dear," was the smiling response. "Something which I want you to be taking as soon as possible. We find ourselves here surrounded by so much that is wondrously enticing to look at, that I fear we will be tempted to neglect needed rest, and so make ourselves ill."
"Ah, mamma, you and my husband are of one mind, as usual," laughed Violet, and then with a tenderly affectionate good-night they parted.
Both the captain and Lulu retained their old habit of early rising, and she joined him upon the deck the next morning just as the sun came peeping above the horizon.
"Good-morning, papa," she cried, running to him to put her arms about his neck and give and receive the usual morning caress. "Isn't this a lovely day? How we shall enjoy it at the Fair--that beautiful Court of Honor is just like the loveliest of fairylands."
"With which my eldest daughter is quite familiar, of course," he returned with amused look and tone, and smoothing her hair caressingly as he spoke.
"Well, I think I can begin to imagine now what fairyland may be like," was her smiling rejoinder. "Papa, mayn't I keep close at your side, going wherever you go?"
"That is exactly what I want you to do," he said. "I should be troubled indeed by losing sight of any one of my children, unless after putting him or her in the care of someone whom I could implicitly trust."
"I don't want to be in the care of anyone else, papa," she hastened to say.
"But it will be quite impossible to see everything here that is well worth looking at," he said, "and our tastes may differ greatly in regard to the things we care to examine."
"Still I care most of all to be with you, papa. I'm not afraid of getting lost, because I could easily find my way back to the Peristyle and wait and watch there for you and the rest, but I want to share in your enjoyment, and have you share in mine," laying her rosy cheek against his shoulder and lifting to his, eyes full of ardent affection.
"That is right," he said, smiling, and patting her cheek.
"Ah, here come your mamma, Gracie, and the little ones. You are early, my dear," to Violet as he handed her to a seat, took one at her side, drawing Grace to his knee for a moment's petting and fondling, then letting her give place to the younger two, both eagerly waiting for their turn.
"Yes," Violet replied, "we are all ready for an early start for the Fair."
"As I expected," he said pleasantly. "I have ordered breakfast to be on the table an hour earlier than usual, and if our guests appear in season we will have prayers before eating; so that we may be able to start soon after leaving the table."
"Judging by some slight sounds I have heard, I think they are all up and will join us presently," said Violet.
"Yes, mamma, I do believe we are all in a great hurry to get to the Fair," remarked her little Elsie. "Oh, papa, is that it over there where that arch is with all those pillars on each side of it?"
"And, oh, papa, what big ship is that?" cried Ned, catching sight of the Illinois. "I like ships, and I want to go there. Can't I?"
"I intend to take you there one of these days," his father answered.
Just then the rest of the party came trooping up from the cabin. Morning salutations were exchanged, family worship followed, and then breakfast, during which plans for the day were again discussed and further arrangements made.
They had scarcely left the table when Harold and Herbert appeared, bringing further plans and suggestions in regard to the sight-seeing, for they were anxious to help the newer arrivals--particularly their mother--to the greatest possible enjoyment of the day.
After a little discussion it was finally decided that they would go first to the Ferris Wheel, from which they would have a fine view of the whole extent of the White City. "Then to the Wooded Island, where we will probably find enough to keep us busy until dinner time," said Harold; "perhaps even longer."
"No matter if it should," said his grandfather; "since we are not hurried for time, we may as well let all get their fill of everything; and if some want to tarry longer than others we can break up into smaller parties."
"Yes, sir, I rather think we will find that the better plan, as our party is so uncommonly large."
It was large, but they were congenial and greatly enjoyed being together, sharing the same pleasures of sight and sound.
In another half hour they were all on shore enjoying a second view of the lovely Peristyle and Court of Honor, through which they passed on their way to the Ferris Wheel, the ride in which they found so delightful that at the earnest solicitation of little Ned they retained their seats during a second revolution. Then they left it and walked on to the Wooded Island.
"I want to take you to the Hunter's Cabin," said Harold. "See, yonder it is."
"What! that old log building?" exclaimed his sister Rose, catching sight of it among the trees. "Who cares to look at such a thing as that?"
"I do," he returned lightly, "since it is a museum and memorial of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett,--two historical characters who were very interesting to me in my youth,--and also gives one a very good idea of the manner of life of our Western pioneers forty or more years ago."
He led the way as he spoke, the others following. They found that the building consisted of one large room divided by a rope into two apartments, a public and a private one. There was a broad fireplace such as belonged to the dwellings of the pioneers of fifty or more years ago; there were beds and settees made of stretched skins, and skins of wild animals covered the floor; there were also tin dishes, candles, a stool made of a section of a log, and such cooking apparatus as was used in the kind of dwelling represented.
The cabin was occupied by a hunter who wore long hair and a wide-brimmed felt hat.
He was ready to answer questions, many of which were asked by the younger members of our party, who, as well as their elders, seemed much interested in this representation of pioneer life in the olden times.
"Where now?" asked Mr. Dinsmore as they left the Hunter's Cabin.
"I think Master Neddie here would enjoy a look at the ostriches," remarked Herbert, with a smiling glance at the rosy, happy face of his little nephew, who was trudging along with his hand in that of his father.
"Oh, yes!" cried the child in a tone of eager delight. "I should like to see them ever so much!"
"Then if no one objects, that is where we will go," said Harold, and as the only rejoinders from the other members of the party were those of assent, he led the way.
"Is it a very expensive entertainment?" asked Walter soberly.
"Costs all of ten cents apiece," replied Herbert. "An enormous sum, but one cannot expect to see Old Abe, General Grant, Jim Blaine, and Grover Cleveland for just nothing at all."
"Oh, uncle!" cried little Elsie, "are all those great men there? Oh, no, of course they can't be--'cause some of them are dead. I know it was dear, good Mr. Lincoln they called Old Abe, and that a wicked man shot him long, long ago; and that General Grant was sick and died."
"That is all true," returned her uncle, "but these fellows still wear their feathers, and are very much alive."
"Oh, I know now," laughed the little girl. "You mean the ostrich man has named some of his birds after those famous men." They were now on the northern side of Midway Plaisance, and presently reached the enclosure where the ostriches were. There were twenty-three, full-grown, all from California. The sight was an interesting one to both the grown people and the children, and all listened attentively to the remarks of the exhibitor, delivered in solemn tones, in regard to the habits of the birds. He spoke of the male bird as most kind and self-forgetful in his treatment of his mate, or mates, saying it was he who built the nest and obtained the food; also that he would sit on the eggs in the nest for sixteen hours at a stretch, while the mother did the same for only eight hours. He had other things also to tell of the domineering of the female over the male, which caused some merriment among the ladies and girls of our party; to the gentlemen also, though they pretended to highly disapprove. But all laughed together over the ridiculous movements of the flock in passing from one side of the grounds to another.
"What do they eat, papa?" asked Ned.
"Corn, grasses, seeds of various kinds," replied his father. "They swallow large stones too, as smaller birds swallow sand to help grind up the food in the gizzard, and, indeed, ostriches have been known to swallow bits of iron, shoes, copper coins, glass, bricks, and other things such as you would think no living creature would want to eat."
"They look very big and strong, papa," remarked the little boy, gazing at them with great interest.
"Yes; they are so strong that one can easily carry two men on his back."
"Is that what they are good for, papa?"
"That is one thing; and their feathers are very valuable. For that reason ostrich farms have been established for the raising of the birds, and have proved very profitable."
"Don't folks eat ostriches, papa?" asked Elsie.
"Sometimes a young one; and their eggs are eaten too. They are so large that each one is about equal to two dozen ordinary hen's eggs; to cook one they usually set it up on end over a fire, and having first broken a hole in the top, they stir it with a forked stick while it is cooking. The shells are very thick and strong and the Africans use them for water vessels."
"Do they have nests to lay their eggs in, like our chickens?" asked Ned.
"They do not take the pains in building a nest that most other birds do," replied his father, "but merely scoop a hole in the sand. One male usually appropriates to himself from two to seven females and each hen lays ten eggs--so it is supposed--all in the same nest, and each egg is stood up on end."
"It must take a big, big nest to hold them; such great big eggs as you say they are, papa!"
"Yes, and generally there are some to be found lying on the sand outside of the nest; perhaps laid there by hens who came to lay in it but found another in possession; one who had got there before them."
"I have often heard or read that the ostrich leaves her eggs lying in the sand to be hatched by the heat of the sun," remarked Evelyn.
"Perhaps she does in those very hot countries," said the exhibitor, "but not in California; though, as I've been telling you, she makes the male bird do the most of the setting."
"Maybe that's because the eggs are all his, but don't all belong to any of the females," laughed Walter.
"Perhaps that is it, sir," returned the man.
"Can they run very fast?" asked Neddie. "I should think they could with such great long legs."
"Yes," said his father, "the ostrich is supposed to be able to run at the rate of sixty miles an hour when it first sets out, but is not able to keep up that rate of speed very long. And it has a habit of running in a curve instead of a straight line. It is thus possible for men on horseback to meet it and get a shot at it."
"I think it's a great pity to shoot them when they are not even good to eat," remarked the little fellow in indignant tones. "Besides, they might save them to grow feathers."
"Yes," returned the exhibitor, "that's what we're raising them for in California."
"Papa, I'd like to have some," said Neddie as they walked away.
"Some what, son?"
"About how many?"
"Couldn't we have an ostrich farm?" asked the little fellow after a moment's consideration of the question.
"Well, not to-day, my son," returned his father with an amused look. "There will be plenty of time to talk it over before we are ready to go into the business."