Elsie at the World's Fair by Martha Finley
Everybody was ready for an early start the next morning and Harold and Herbert were waiting for them in the Peristyle. Some time was spent there and in the Court of Honor, then in the Midway Plaisance. Watching the crowds was very amusing--the wild people from Dahomey wearing American flags around their dusky thighs, the Turks, the Arabs, and men, women, and children of many other nations all in their peculiar costumes, so different from the dress of our own people.
Then the hundred thousand flags, very many of our own with their stripes and stars, and those of perhaps every other nation that has one to display--were flung to the breeze, while bands from Cincinnati and Iowa, from Vienna, Suabia, and Arabia had all got together and were playing Yankee Doodle.
There were besides many curious bands of Oriental musicians--some of them making great but futile efforts to play our national airs--producing sounds that were by no means delightsome to the American ear; not half so pleasing as the sight of the multi-colored flags decorating the huts and castles of foreign architecture.
It turned out to be a day of pleasant surprises. As they neared the end of the Plaisance they came suddenly and unexpectedly upon Chester and Frank Dinsmore and Will Croley, the old college mate of Harold and Herbert, whom none of them had seen since the summer spent together on the New England coast several years before.
All were delighted; cordial greetings on both sides were exchanged, and scarcely were these over when in a lady passing by Grandma Elsie recognized, with a little cry of joyous surprise, her old time friend and cousin, Annis Keith.
"Annis! oh, how glad I am to see you!" she exclaimed.
"Elsie! my dear, dearest cousin!" cried Annis in return, as they grasped each other's hands and looked with ardent affection each into the other's eyes. "Oh, how delightful to have come upon you so quickly! I was wondering if I could ever find you in all this crowd, and to have fairly stumbled upon you almost the first thing after leaving the cars is most fortunate."
"Yes; for us as well as you, Annis," Mr. Dinsmore said with a smile, offering his hand as he spoke. "Are you just from Pleasant Plains?"
"Yes, sir; we left there this morning, and but a moment since stepped off the train that brought us--nearly all the family of brothers and sisters with their children."
"Why, yes, to be sure, here are Mildred and the doctor and--well, really Charley,"--shaking hands with Mildred and her husband--"I will have to be introduced to all these younger folks."
There was quite a crowd of them--young, middle-aged, and elderly, for the families had been increasing in numbers, the younger ones growing in size, and all in years.
All wanted to be together for a time, the older ones to be able to talk freely of absent dear ones and other family matters, the younger to make acquaintance with each other.
"Suppose we take a car in the Ferris Wheel," suggested Harold Travilla; "we can then have a ride, a grand view of the Fair grounds, and a chat, all at one and the same time."
Everyone seemed to favor the proposition and without further discussion they all started in that direction.
Arriving at the place they climbed a broad stairway very much like the approach to an Elevated station.
"This way, ladies and gentleman," said a man in a blue coat, pointing to a doorway between two knotted beams, and they passed into a sunshiny room with two rows of chairs at each side. There were windows all about it barred with iron.
"This is one of the cars," remarked Captain Raymond, in answer to an enquiring look from Annis, and he and the other gentlemen of the party busied themselves in seeing the ladies comfortably seated, then took possession of chairs as near them as might be.
Other people were coming in, and in a very few moments the car was in motion, the click of a latch having told that they were locked in.
Some of our party who were trying the wheel for the first time looked a trifle pale and alarmed as the movement began, and one or two of the girls asked low and tremulously if it were certainly quite safe.
"Yes, I am entirely sure of that," replied Harold with his pleasant smile; "but don't look out of the windows just yet."
"You are not at all frightened, I see," said Chester Dinsmore in a low tone to Lulu, having contrived to secure a seat close at her side.
"Oh, no, indeed!" she returned. "This is my second trip and I hardly felt at all timid even the first time, because my father had assured us it was perfectly safe, and I have entire confidence in his opinion and his word."
"I don't know any man whose word or opinion I would be more ready to take," returned Chester, giving her a look that seemed to say he would be no less willing to take the captain's daughter, were the opportunity afforded him.
But Lucilla did not notice the look, for she was already gazing out of the window and thinking of nothing but the prospect from it.
"Oh, look, Chester!" she said eagerly, "This gives us such a grand view of the Plaisance. It is the second time our party have made this trip--no, not that--the second time we have been in these cars; we went round twice that day, and I hope will go at least as often to-day. Presently, when we get to the highest part the people down below will look like the merest black dots and the houses like toy ones."
"Yes," he returned, "it is a trip worth taking. I should not have liked to miss it."
"Nor should I," said Lucilla. "I think of asking papa to bring us here several times more."
"In that case I hope I may be permitted to be one of the party every time, for it is a fine sight indeed."
"Are you and Frank new arrivals?" she asked.
"Yes, we got into the city last evening. We would have hunted up your party at once, but did not know just where to look for you."
"We are making the yacht our home," she returned, "and it is anchored for the greater part of the time at no great distance from the Peristyle. We spend our nights on it, but so far our days have been passed in visiting different parts of the Fair."
"And you haven't seen everything in it yet?" he queried laughingly.
"No, indeed! I heard someone estimate the other day that it would take more than forty years to do that."
"And in a few months the vast majority of the sights will be withdrawn," he said with a half sigh; "so we will have to content ourselves with seeing a few of such things as interest us most. How long will you stay?"
"I don't know; that depends upon the decisions of the higher powers; in other words of the older people. How long do you?"
"Perhaps two or three weeks. It will depend probably upon how we enjoy ourselves."
"Then you will be likely to stay a good while, I think," she returned. "There! we are at the top of the wheel, and is not the view magnificent?"
They made the circuit a second time, then seeing that very many people were awaiting an opportunity to fill their places in the car, they vacated them and wandered elsewhere about the Fair grounds for a little.
Then Grandma Elsie expressed a desire to visit the building of her native State--Louisiana--and invited all in the party to go with her and dine there as her guests. All accepted the invitation with apparent pleasure and immediately turned their steps thitherward.
"Where is it?" someone asked, and Harold answered: "At the northern curve of the horseshoe formed by the State sites around the Fine Art Galleries and just west of the Missouri building. It is not a long walk."
"Ah," exclaimed Grandma Elsie when they caught sight of their destination, "see those trees in front laden with moss from our Southern bayous! The sight almost carries one back to the old days at Viamede."
"Yes; that and the foliage generally, which is of the tropical order," remarked her father in reply; "see, the cacti are conspicuous. And I like the simple style of the building with its galleries and verandas."
"And the site is a fine one," remarked the captain, "not far from the cable car entrance and fronting the Art Palace."
"Shall we dine first and then look at the exhibits?" asked Grandma Elsie. "I want to give you all a real Southern dinner, hoping it may prove agreeable to your palates."
"I presume we can stand it for once, mother dear," returned Herbert, and the rest of the party seemed equally willing.
They passed in and were presently regaling themselves with gumbo soup, opossum, and various other dishes peculiar to the part of the country represented by the building and its appurtenances, being served by cooks and waiters directly from the plantations of the river country.
Then, having satisfied their appetites, they spent some time in examining the relics on exhibit in the building.
One of these was a picture of the Madonna by Raphael. There was also an exhibition of carvings done by women, which excited both admiration and surprise, and in one of the rooms was some richly carved furniture from the State museum at Baton Rouge, which had once belonged to Governor Galvez.
They went next to the Florida building, which was a reproduction of old Fort Marion, whose foundations were laid in 1620, the year of the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts.
The captain mentioned that fact, then asked: "Do you know, Grace, how long that fort was in building?"
"No, papa," she replied, "can you tell us?"
"It took one hundred and fifty years of toil by exiles, convicts, and slaves to construct the heavy walls, curtains, bastions, and towers of defence. Its bloodiest days were more than a century before our Civil War, in which it did not take a very prominent part."
"Where are the curtains, papa?" asked little Elsie. "I don't see any."
"It is the name given to that part of the rampart which connects the flanks of two bastions," replied her father.
"And it was here that the Apaches were imprisoned," remarked Walter.
"Yes," returned his mother, "and a most gloomy prison it must have proved to them, used as they were to the free life of the mountains, prairies, and forests."
Some little time longer was spent in viewing the tropical plants and trees that adorned the exterior of the fort, then they passed inside and examined the many beautiful things to be seen there.
Their next visit was to the headquarters of the State of Washington, where they were much interested in the display of her native woods and the rockery built of native ores, showing pure streaks of gold and silver, so illustrating the mineral wealth of the State.
"Where next?" asked Mr. Dinsmore as they passed out.
"Papa, I'm so tired," little Elsie was saying at the same moment, in a low aside to her father.
"I, too," added Ned, overhearing her. "Please can't we take a ride now?"
"Surely," said Grandpa Dinsmore, overhearing the request. "I invite you all to try an electric boat on the lagoon."
No one seemed disposed to decline the invitation; some time was spent on the water, then on the Intramural Railway. After that the whole party, at the invitation of Violet and the captain, went aboard the yacht, still lying in the lake at no great distance from the Peristyle, and partook of a supper which was no unpleasant contrast to the enjoyable dinner with which Grandma Elsie had provided them.
The little folks were ready for bed, on leaving the table; the older ones rested for a time on the Dolphin's deck, chatting together while enjoying the sunset, then they returned to the Court of Honor, to revel in its beauties as seen by the witchery of the electric light.