Elsie at the World's Fair by Martha Finley
Morning found them all rested, refreshed, and eager to spend another day amid the beauties of the Fair. They started early, as on the previous day, found Harold and Herbert with the other young gentlemen friends waiting for them in the Peristyle, spent a little time enjoying its beauties and the never wearying view it afforded of the lake on the one side, and the Court of Honor on the other, then at the earnest solicitation of the little ones they again entered an electric launch and glided swiftly along the quiet waters of the lagoon.
"Let us go to the Transportation Building," proposed Rosie as they landed again. "I want to see that golden doorway, and have not the least objection to passing through it and examining things inside."
"As no one else has, I presume," said her grandfather. "No doubt we shall find a great deal there worthy of examination."
"Yes, sir; much more than we can attend to in one visit," replied Harold, leading the way, as everyone seemed well pleased to carry out Rosie's suggestion.
They had heard and read of the beautiful golden doorway and viewed it with interest and satisfaction.
"It is very, very beautiful," said Grandma Elsie, "a nest of arches covered with silver and gold."
"And that border is lovely, lovely!" exclaimed Rosie; "such delicate tracery!"
"Papa, is it solid gold?" asked little Elsie, who was clinging to her father's hand on one side, while Ned had fast hold of the other.
"No, daughter," the captain replied, "not solid, though there is a good deal of both gold and silver covering the other and cheaper materials." Then he called her attention to a relief on the left side of the arch, showing an ox-cart with its clumsy wheels dragging slowly along through heavy sand, the travellers in it looking most uncomfortable.
"That, children," he said, "is the way people used to travel years ago when I was a little fellow, such as you are now, Neddie boy; and this"--going to the other side of the arch and pointing to the contrasting relief--"shows how we travel now. See, it is a section of a palace-car; some of the people reading, others gazing from its plate-glass windows, and a porter serving them with luncheon."
"Yes, papa; that's the way we travel when we don't go in the Dolphin or in our carriage, and it's a great deal nicer than that ox-cart," said Elsie.
"Oh, papa, there are some words up there!" exclaimed Ned, pointing up to a higher part of the arch. "Please read them."
"I will, son," replied the captain, "though I think you are hardly old enough to fully understand them. This"--pointing it out--"was written by Macaulay, of whom you will learn more when you are older: 'Of all inventions, the alphabet and the printing-press alone excepted, those inventions which abridge distance have done the most for civilization.' This other is by Lord Bacon: 'There are three things which make a nation great and prosperous: a fertile soil, busy workshops, and easy conveyance for men and goods from place to place.' Those words are put upon this building because in it are shown the different modes of travel in different countries--on the sea also--at different times."
They stood for some little time longer examining into the details of that wondrously beautiful doorway, noticing the splendor of the arches and pylon, the stairway on each side, the roof of the pavilion and all the other beauties.
"It is very beautiful, and a great satisfaction to have seen it," remarked Mr. Dinsmore at length, "but perhaps it would be as well for us to go on into the inside of the building now, reserving further examination of this golden doorway for some future time."
With that he passed in, the others following.
Many of the exhibits there were more interesting to the older members of the party, especially the gentlemen, than to the ladies and younger people; locomotives and trains of cars such as were in use at different periods of time, showing the vast improvement in their construction since steam was first put to that use, models of vessels teaching the same lesson in regard to increased convenience and comfort of travel upon the water.
"Oh, there is the Victoria--that grandest of battleships, sunk only the other day in collision with her sister ship, the Camperdown!" exclaimed Herbert. "See what a crowd of men and women are gazing upon it!"
"Oh, yes," said Rosie, "I remember reading a description of it in the papers. One of England's finest battleships, was she not?"
"Yes," said Captain Raymond, drawing near and examining the model with interest; "she was a grand vessel, the pride of the British navy. I should like to have seen her and am glad to have the opportunity to examine even a model. Ah, what a sad accident it was! especially considering that it sent to the bottom of the sea her entire crew of nearly four hundred men and officers."
"Oh, it was dreadful, dreadful!" said Grace in tearful tones. "Especially because they had no time to think and prepare for death."
"Yes, that is the saddest part of all," sighed Grandma Elsie.
Our friends presently moved on, and all, from Grandpa Dinsmore down to little Ned, found many objects that interested them greatly. But the most attractive thing of all to the young folks--because of the story connected with it--was Grace Darling's boat. It was the captain who pointed it out to his children.
"Who was she, papa? and what did they put her boat here for?" asked little Elsie.
"She was the daughter of William Darling, the lighthouse keeper on Longstone, one of the Fame Islands."
"Where are they, papa?"
"In the North Sea, on the coast of Northumberland, the most northern county of England. They form, a group of seventeen islets and rocks, some of them so small and low-lying as to be covered with water and not visible except when the tide is low; and the passage between them is very dangerous in rough weather.
"Two of the islands have each a lighthouse, and it was in one of those that Grace Darling and her father lived.
"In 1838 a vessel called the Forfarshire was wrecked among those islands. William Darling, from his lighthouse, saw it lying broken on the rocks, and sixty-three persons on it in danger of drowning. His daughter Grace, a girl of twenty-two, begged him to go and try to rescue them. It was a very dangerous thing to attempt, but he did it, she going with him.
"Both father and daughter were very strong and skilful, and by exerting themselves to the utmost they succeeded in saving nine of the poor wrecked creatures who were crouching there on the rocks in momentary expectation of being washed off by the raging waves and drowned. They bore them safely to Longstone."
"And that made Grace Darling famous," remarked Lulu.
"Yes," said her father. "Many people, many of the great and wealthy, went to see the brave girl who had thus risked her own life to save others, and they heaped upon her money and valuable presents; so that she was no longer poor. But she did not live long to enjoy the good things bestowed upon her. She died of consumption about four years after her famous adventure."
"What a pity, papa! wasn't it?"
"For those who loved her, yes; but not for her, if she was ready for heaven. Do you think it was?"
"No, sir, 'cause it is the happy land where Jesus is, and nobody is ever sick or sorry or in pain. But I don't want to go there yet; I'd rather stay a good while longer here with you and mamma."
"I want you to, darling, if such be God's will," he returned low and tenderly, bending down to press a fatherly kiss on her round, rosy cheek. "Your father would hardly know how to do without his little Elsie."
She looked up into his face with shining eyes. "We love each other, don't we, papa?" she said with satisfaction. "Mamma too, and brothers and sisters, and grandma, and--oh, all the folks."
"Where now?" asked Grandma Elsie as they left the Transportation Building.
"I want to show you the German castle," answered Harold. "It is here on the Midway Plaisance, and is a reproduction of a castle of the middle centuries. It is viewed by most people who have read of moat-surrounded castles with great curiosity and interest."
"There is a German village connected with it, is there not?" she asked.
"There is, mamma, and I think you will all enjoy looking at both it and the castle."
"Oh, I am sure we shall if it is a faithful reproduction of the old castles of feudal times that we have read of!" exclaimed Rosie.
"It is said to be," returned Harold, "and is considered very curious and interesting."
"Is there a moat about it, Uncle Harold?" asked Grace.
"Yes; and a drawbridge and portcullis."
"Oh, what is that?" asked little Elsie.
"A framework of timbers crossing each other, pointed on the lower edge with iron and hung by chains in grooves in the chief gateway of the castle, so that on the sudden appearance of an enemy it could be let down to keep him out more quickly than the drawbridge could be raised to prevent his crossing the moat, or the gates shut."
"And what is a moat?"
"A ditch or canal. But you shall see one presently, and a portcullis also."
"Oh, I'm so glad we came here to the White City!" cried Elsie, skipping along by her father's side; "it's so lovely and there are so many curious things to see."
"Yes, it is a pleasant way of gaining knowledge; pleasanter than learning lessons and reciting them to papa; is it not, daughter?" asked the captain, smiling down into the bright little face.
"Yes, sir; but that's not a hard way, either, 'cause my papa is so kind, and loves me and makes the lessons easy."
They soon reached the castle, crossed the moat by the drawbridge, passed through the arched gateway, under the portcullis, the young folks, and indeed the older ones also, gazing at it with much curiosity, and entered a spacious hall, the walls of which were hung with bows and ancient weapons, and armor such as was worn by warriors of feudal times.
From the hall was an entrance to a museum, where were shown many articles interesting as having belonged to those old times when the homes of knights and barons were such castles as this.
When they had looked their fill at all these they left the castle for the village surrounding it, which consisted of reproductions of very old German houses with small porticos and sharp gables.
These covered three or four acres of ground and were built around a court, in the centre of which was a music stand where a band of twenty musicians, in white uniforms and military caps, were almost constantly playing upon their instruments, making such delightful music that crowds of people flocked to hear them.
Our friends enjoyed it greatly, and for a time did nothing but stay there and listen while watching the players and the crowd.
But the children began to show signs of weariness and the captain, Violet, Grandma Elsie, and several of the others rose and moved on with them into a cottage which stood in the back part of the grounds.
It was a picturesque-looking building and there were a number of Germans in and about it, many of them evidently sight-seers like our friends. It was furnished in truly German style, with quaint old-fashioned mantels, holding old pieces of bric-a-brac, and quaint dishes and cabinets hanging on the walls.
One room on the left as they entered seemed to be attracting particular attention, and they presently turned to it, paused an instant at the open door, then walked in, the captain and Violet with their two little ones leading the way.
The principal objects in the apartment were two wax figures, life size, representing a man and woman seated at a table apparently dining together.
Our party stood for a moment silently gazing, then Mr. Lilburn and Walter Travilla followed them into the room, though hardly seeming to belong to their party.
Catching sight of the figures at the table, Walter nudged the old gentleman, gave him a significant, laughing glance, then stepping forward addressed the waxen man in a serious tone as though he thought him a living person.
"Excuse me, sir, but I am a stranger here and would like to ask a little information in regard to what may be seen that is really worth looking at."
At that there was a general laugh among the other spectators, and an exchange of glances that seemed to say he must be either very blind or extremely simple.
Walter did not seem to notice, however, but went on: "Are the upper floors open to visitors, sir? and are there refreshments served there, or in any other part of the building?"
At that the laugh among the people in the room and about the doorway grew louder,--it seemed so good a joke that anyone should take those wax figures for living people--and a burly German, taking pity on Walter's stupidity, said; "Mine frient, dose vos vax beobles, ha, ha, ha! dey don't can't say nodings."
With that the laughter grew louder, and another German, evidently good-naturedly desirous to relieve Walter's embarrassment, spoke, turning as he did so to the first speaker:
"Dat vasn't no sign de young shentlemans vas dumb; he don't can't help it; he t'ot dey vas life beoples."
"Nefer you mine dose silly fellows, young shentleman, dey doan' know noddings."
The words seemed to come from the lips of the waxen man, and struck the crowd with astonishment. "I would tell you vat you vants to know," he added, "but I pees von stranger in dose barts mineself."
Then the woman seemed to speak: "Come to de dable, mine frient, and eat somedings mit us."
"Thank you, very much," returned Walter, "you are most kind and hospitable, but I cannot think of intruding upon your hospitality." And with a bow directed toward her and her spouse, he turned and left the room, the rest of his party following and leaving the little crowd of Germans gazing at each other and the waxen figures in wide-eyed, open-mouthed astonishment.
"Papa," complained little Ned as they left the German quarter, "I'm so tired and sleepy."
"Hungry, too, papa's boy, aren't you?" was the kindly enquiring rejoinder. "Well, papa will take you back to our floating home, and leave you there with your nurse to be fed and have a good, long nap. I think Elsie would like to go too. Wouldn't you, daughter?"
The little girl gave a glad assent, and arranging with his wife and older daughters where to meet them on his return, the captain set off with the two little ones for the Dolphin.