Elsie at the World's Fair by Martha Finley
Captain Raymond was not gone very long, and on his return found the others sitting quietly listening to the music of the German band. But they were ready to go at his invitation and test the excellence of the fare to be obtained at the Woman's Building.
"There are cafes at each end of the roof covered with Oriental awnings," he said, "and surely we may expect as good fare at a woman's establishment as anywhere else."
"I think we certainly should," said Rosie in a sprightly tone; "and there must be a lovely view or views from that roof and the loggias."
"Doubtless," returned the captain, "and though we visited all the lower apartments of the building the other day, we did not go up to the roof; so that a visit to it will have for us the charm of novelty."
"Yes," said Grandma Elsie; "let us go by boat up the lagoon. Gracie looks as if she needed a rest from walking, and I confess I should not object to it myself."
The words had scarcely left her lips before Harold had signalled a boat, and the whole party was presently seated in it.
A short but delightful row brought them to the landing in front of the Woman's Building, and climbing the stone stairway that led up to the terrace, they passed through the triple-arched colonnade that led into the interior of the building, nor paused till they had reached one of the cafes, where they might rest and also satisfy their appetites with the good things abundantly provided.
Those important matters duly attended to, some minutes were given to the enjoyment of the fine views to be obtained from the loggias, and looking at the statues of Miss Rideout, representing Sacrifice, Charity, Virtue, and Wisdom. They then spent a short time over the exhibit in the lower part of the building; and there Captain Raymond and Lucilla met with a pleasant surprise in coming suddenly and unexpectedly upon Mr. Austin and his son Albert, the English gentleman whose acquaintance they had made in their visit to Minersville some years before.
The pleasure was evidently mutual; very hearty greetings were exchanged, then Captain Raymond introduced his accompanying friends, and Mr. Austin a daughter who was with him.
A few moments were spent in conversation, in the course of which an invitation was extended to the Austins to take supper upon the yacht that evening, and they parted for a time; the Austins having an engagement to meet some friends in the meanwhile in another part of the Fair.
"Shall we go now to the Electrical Building?" asked Captain Raymond, addressing his party, and receiving a hearty assent from all, he led the way.
They found much in the building to greatly interest them; great electric lenses used in lighthouses, the Edison electric column--covered with five thousand electric globes--and many other wonderful things; a beautiful scene in the daytime, but far more gorgeous at night, as they readily perceived that it would be; so they decided to pay a second visit after the lighting up that evening. Still their present visit was so prolonged that on leaving they found it time to return to the yacht. They met the Austins again at the Peristyle, and took them on board in the first boat load.
The guests were numerous, including all the cousins from Pleasant Plains, and the three young gentlemen friends--Chester and Frank Dinsmore and Will Croly. The meal to which they presently sat down, though Captain Raymond had called it supper, was an excellent dinner of several courses, and enlivened by pleasant chat, proved most enjoyable to the entire company.
At its conclusion they adjourned to the deck. A pleasant air was stirring, the sun drawing near his setting, the western sky glowing with brilliant hues, while the sounds of life on water and land came softly to the ear.
The young people formed one group, the older ones another, conversing among themselves, mostly in rather subdued tones.
"You have hardly been in America ever since I saw you last?" Lucilla said enquiringly, addressing Albert Austin.
"Oh, no; we went home shortly upon bidding you good-by after our brief acquaintance in Minersville," he replied; adding, "And I presume you had very nearly forgotten us?"
"No," she said; "we have spoken of you occasionally,--papa, Max, and I,--and I recognized your father the moment I saw him to-day; you also, though I am not sure that I should have done so had you been alone; for of course you have changed much more than he has."
"Not more than you have, Miss Raymond," he returned with a look of undisguised admiration; "yet I knew you instantly, though I saw you before I perceived that the captain made one of the company you were in."
"Indeed!" she said with a merry little laugh. "I am afraid I hoped I had grown and improved more than that would seem to imply."
"But you are still as proud as ever of being an American, and as proud of your Stripes and Stars?" he remarked enquiringly and with an amused smile.
"Yes, most emphatically, yes," she replied, lifting her eyes to the flag floating overhead, "I still think it the most beautiful banner ever flung to the breeze."
"And I suppose--from its constant display here, there, and everywhere--that that must be the idea of Americans in general," remarked Miss Austin in a slightly sneering tone. "I must say I have--naturally, I suppose,--a far greater admiration for England's flag, yet I should not want to see it so ostentatiously displayed on all occasions as yours is."
Lucilla colored, but was silent, fearing she might speak too warmly in defence of her favorite banner should she attempt a reply; but Chester took it up.
"Miss Austin must remember," he said, speaking in calm, polite tones, "that ours is a very large country, to which immigrants from other lands are constantly flocking; and they, as well as the ignorant among ourselves, need to have constantly kept before them the fact that we, though spread over so many States, form but one nation; for otherwise our Union could not be maintained; we must continually impress upon all our people that this one glorious nation is never to be separated into parts; and the flag is the emblem of our Union; a symbol that is unmistakable; and so it is displayed as the chief glory of our nation; and therefore we love it and cannot see too much of it."
Even as he spoke the sun neared the horizon, all on the Dolphin's deck rose to their feet, and as he sank out of sight, the firing of a gun from the Illinois announcing the fact, saluted the flag as, at the same moment, it came fluttering down from its lofty perch.
"Thank you, for your explanation, Mr. Dinsmore," Miss Austin said pleasantly, as they resumed their seats; "it has given me an entirely new view of the matter, so that I now think you Americans are quite right in your devotion to your flag, and your constant display of it. And this Fair," she went on, "is wonderful--the White City a perfect fairyland; especially at night, with its blaze of electrical lights and its many colored electric fountains."
"So we all think," said Harold Travilla. "Have you been in the Electric Building yet?"
"Not yet," she replied, and her brother added: "But we intend going. The evening is the best time for a sight of its wonders, I presume?"
"Yes; we have planned to go to-night, and would be glad to have you accompany us."
The invitation, overheard by the older people and cordially endorsed by the captain, was promptly accepted by the three Austins, and as the shades of evening began to fall, all but the little ones, already in their nests, returned to the shore and were presently in the Electrical Building, enjoying to the full its magical splendor.
Croly was devoting himself to Rosie Travilla, Frank Dinsmore endeavoring to make himself useful and entertaining to Grace Raymond and Evelyn Leland, while his brother and Percy Landreth, Jr., vied with each other and Albert Austin in attentions to Lucilla, leaving Miss Austin to the charge of Harold and Herbert, who were careful to make sure that she should have no cause to feel herself neglected.
They spent some time in viewing the marvels of the Electric Building, finding the lights giving it a truly magical splendor not perceptible by day. It seemed full of enchantment, a veritable hall of marvels; they were delighted and fascinated with the glories of the displays, and lingered there longer than they had intended.
On passing out, the party broke up, the Austins bidding good-by and going in one direction, Croly carrying off Rosie in another, the Pleasant Plains people vanishing in still another.
"Will you take a boat ride with me, Lucilla?" asked Chester in a rather low aside.
"If the rest are going," she returned laughingly. "I'm such a baby that I cling to my father and don't want to go anywhere without him."
"You mean the captain does not allow it?" Chester said enquiringly, and with a look of slight vexation.
"Oh," she laughed, "I'm not apt to ask for what I don't want, and I never want to be without papa's companionship."
"Humph! I had really labored under the delusion that you were grown up."
"Does that mean, ready to dispense with my father's society? In that case I don't mean ever to be grown up," she returned with spirit.
"Well, really!" laughed Chester, "if I am not mistaken, my sisters considered themselves about grown up, and altogether their own mistresses when they were no older than you are now; though, to be sure, I don't profess to know your age exactly."
"You may look at the record in the family Bible the next time you visit Woodburn, if you care to," Lucilla said, with a careless little toss of her head. "Yon will find the date of my birth there in papa's handwriting, from which your knowledge of arithmetic will enable you to compute my present age."
"Thank you," he said, laughing, but with a look of slight embarrassment, "I am entirely satisfied with the amount of knowledge I already possess on that subject."
"Ah, what subject is that upon which you are so well informed, Chester?" queried Captain Raymond pleasantly, overhearing the last remark, and turning toward the young couple.
"Your daughter's age, sir. I invited her to take a ride with me upon the lagoon, in one of those electrical launches; but find she is but a young thing and cannot leave her father."
"Ah?" laughed the captain, "then suppose we all go together."
"Willingly, sir, if that will suit her better," answered Chester, turning enquiringly to Lucilla.
"I think nothing could be pleasanter," she said, and the others being of like opinion, they were presently gliding over the waters of the lagoon intensely enjoying the swift easy movement and the fairylike scenes through which they were passing.