Elsie at the World's Fair by Martha Finley
By the middle of the afternoon Grandma Elsie, Grace, and the little ones were all weary enough to be glad to return to the Dolphin for a rest.
After a refreshing nap Grace and the children gathered about Mrs. Travilla and begged for the fulfilment of her promise to tell the story of "Long Tom," and she kindly complied.
"The General Armstrong was a privateer, and the fight I am now going to tell about was one of the most famous of the war of 1812-14," she said. "The vessel was commanded by Captain Samuel C. Reid, a native of Connecticut. He went to sea when only eleven years old and was a midshipman with Commodore Truxton. He was still a young man--only thirty--when the event of which we are talking occurred. That was on the 26th of September, 1814, in the harbor of Fayal, one of the Azores islands belonging to Portugal.
"While lying there at anchor the Armstrong was attacked by a large British squadron. That was in flagrant violation of the laws of neutrality. Commodore Lloyd was the commander of the squadron. At eight o'clock in the evening he sent four large well-armed launches, each manned by about forty men, to attack the American vessel.
"The moon shone brightly, and Captain Reid, who had noticed the movements of the British and suspecting that their design was to attack him, was getting his vessel under the guns of the castle. Those guns and his own opened fire at almost the same instant and drove off the launches with heavy loss."
"That means a great many men killed, grandma?" queried little Elsie.
"Yes, dear, a great many of the British; on our side there was one man killed, and a lieutenant was wounded. But that was not the end of the affair. At midnight another attack was made with fourteen launches and about five hundred men.
"A terrible fight ensued, but at length the British were driven off with a hundred and twenty killed and one hundred and eighty wounded."
"That was a great many," commented the little girl. "Did they give it up then, grandma?"
"No; at daybreak one of the British vessels, the Carnation, made another attempt. She began with a heavy fire, but the gunners of the Armstrong fired shots at her so rapidly and so well directed that she was soon so badly cut up that she hastened to get out of their range.
"In all this fighting the British had lost over three hundred in killed and wounded, while only two Americans were killed and seven wounded. But the Armstrong was a good deal damaged and Captain Reid saw that he could not stand another fight such as she had just gone through, so he directed her to be scuttled to prevent her from falling into the hands of the enemy."
"Scuttled? What's that, grandma?" asked little Ned.
"Making holes in the bottom or sides of a vessel, so that the water can get in and sink her, is called scuttling. It was done to prevent the British from taking possession of her. After our men had left her, however, they boarded, and set her on fire."
"Grandma Elsie," said Grace, "I think I remember reading that that victory of Reid's--or perhaps I should say successful resistance--had much to do with the saving of New Orleans."
"Yes; that British squadron was on its way to Jamaica, where the British vessels were gathering for the expedition to move against and take New Orleans, and their object in attacking the Armstrong was to secure her for themselves and make her useful in that work. Had they succeeded in taking her they would have reached New Orleans while it was utterly defenceless, General Jackson having not yet arrived there. But Reid, in his splendid defence of his vessel, so crippled those of the enemy that they did not reach Jamaica until fully ten days later than the time when the expedition was expected to sail from there; Lloyd was waited for and the expedition thus delayed until Jackson had reached the city and was making haste with arrangements for its defence."
"Yes, grandma, I've heard the story about that," said little Elsie; "how the British tried to take that city and General Jackson and his soldiers killed so very many of them, and drove the rest away."
Neddie was looking very grave and thoughtful. "Isn't it wicked to kill folks, grandma?" he asked.
"Yes, dear, unless it is necessary to prevent them from killing or badly injuring us or someone else. The British were terribly abusing our poor sailors and it was right for our government to fight them, because they would not stop it until they were forced to do so."
"But you haven't told about 'Long Tom' yet, grandma," said Elsie; "that big gun, you know, that we saw to-day."
"Yes; it was one of those on the Armstrong with which Captain Reid defended his ship."
"Weren't the Americans glad when they heard about it, grandma? and didn't they praise Captain Reid?"
"Indeed they did! and also made him many handsome presents. The State of New York thanked him and gave him a sword."
"Hadn't he afterward something to do with a change in our flag, Grandma Elsie?" asked Grace.
"Yes; our flag at first bore thirteen stars and thirteen stripes, and as new States were admitted another star and stripe were added for each one. But it was soon found that that was making the flag very large unless the stripes became narrower and narrower, while there was nothing to show what had been the original number of States. Captain Reid suggested the plan of retaining the thirteen stripes to indicate that, and the adding of a new star every time a new State was admitted, and Congress adopted that plan. He was certainly a talented man. He invented and erected the signal telegraphs at the Battery and the Narrows."
"I'm proud of him, Grandma Elsie!" said Grace, her face lighting up with enthusiasm. "His defence at Fayal against such overwhelming numbers was wonderful. And so was Jackson's at New Orleans. England was a great and powerful nation while ours was but small and weak, but we were in the right--fighting against dreadful wrongs done to our sailors--and God helped us to drive away our haughty, powerful foe, and deliver our brave tars from her unendurable oppression."
"Yes, dear; and to Him let us ever give all the glory and the praise. Oh, may our nation always serve God and trust in him! then no foe shall ever prevail against her."
"I hope we do, grandma," said little Elsie, "for on a quarter papa gave me the other day, I saw the words, 'In God we trust.'"
"Oh!" cried Ned at that moment, "the folks are coming! I see them there on the Peristyle--papa and mamma, Grandpa and Grandma Dinsmore, Lu and the others."
"Yes, and the boat is waiting for them," added Elsie "and see, they are getting in."
"Oh, I am so glad," said Grace, "though they are earlier than usual."
"Yes," said Grandma Elsie, "I suppose because it is Saturday evening and we are all so tired with going and sight-seeing that we need to get early to bed and rest that we may not be too weary to enjoy the coming Sabbath day."
"I 'spect so," said Ned, and running forward as his father and the others stepped upon the deck, "Papa," he asked, "did you come home soon to get ready to keep Sunday?"
"Yes," was the reply; "we all need a good rest that we may be able to enjoy God's holy day and spend it in his service."
"Where have you been since we left you, Lu?" asked Grace, as her sister took a seat by her side.
"Papa took us to look at the Krupp gun," was the reply. "It is a wonderful one; weighs two hundred and forty-eight thousand pounds; just think! one hundred and twenty-four tons! It was certainly a great undertaking to bring it all the way from Essen, Germany, to Chicago. They told us that at Hamburg and at Baltimore great cranes were used, one of which could lift a sixty-five ton locomotive, to lift the gun to the trucks that were to carry it on the railroad; they had to put eight trucks under it, fastening two together, then the two pair together, and so on till they had the eight all well fastened to each other, when they laid the gun on them and started it off.
"And only think, Gracie, it takes half a ton of powder and costs one thousand two hundred and fifty dollars to fire that great gun once. We saw the steel plate, sixteen inches thick, through which a twelve-inch shot had been fired. It had cracked the plate and thrown the upper corner half a yard away. I forgot to say the projectile fired from that gun weighs a ton, and goes sixteen miles."
"Oh," cried Grace, "that's just dreadful! I hope there will never be a war where such terrible guns will be used--never any more at all; but that very soon, as the Bible says, the people 'shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.'"
"Yes," said Grandma Elsie, overhearing her, "that will be a blessed time."
"Yes, indeed!" said Lucilla.
"Where else did you go?" asked Grace.
"Oh, we have been promenading along the lake shore, sitting down now and then on the seats to watch the many boats of various sorts and sizes, our own among the rest; and now, here we are to stay for the night, I suppose. I must, at least, for papa has said so."
She looked smilingly up into his face as she spoke, for he was now standing by her side.
"I think that will be best for each of my children, and hope that my dear eldest daughter does not feel at all rebellious in regard to the matter," he said in his pleasant, fatherly way.
"No, indeed, papa!" she responded heartily, "though the beautiful Court of Honor is so fascinating--especially at night--that if you had given me permission to go back there after tea I should have been very glad to do so."
"And I should take pleasure in allowing you that gratification if I thought it best and right."
"I don't doubt that in the least, papa, and I am very glad to have you to decide all such questions for me," she replied.
"Will we go over there, to the Court of Honor, to-morrow, papa?" asked little Elsie.
"No, daughter, we must keep the Sabbath day holy, and if we go anywhere it will be to church."
"And if we don't, we'll have a meeting here on our own deck as we have on some other Sundays; won't we, papa?"
"Yes; and the Lord Jesus will be with us; for he has said, 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.'"
"Oh, papa, I shall like to think of that--that the dear Lord Jesus is here with us--but I do wish I could see him."
"I too," said little Ned. "Please, papa, sit down now and let your baby boy sit on your knee a little while. You have been gone so long away from me."
"So long, papa's dear boy!" the captain repeated with a smile of fatherly affection into the bright, coaxing little face, then seating himself, he took the little fellow in his arms, and petted and caressed him to his heart's content. "Papa missed his dear little boy," he said, "but hoped he was having a good time here with dear grandma."
"Yes, papa, so I was. Grandma's ever so nice, but I want my papa and mamma, too."
"That's right, darling! mamma and papa would never know how to do without their dear baby boy," Violet said, adding her caresses to those of his father, the captain having taken a seat close at her side.
"Nor me either, mamma?" asked Elsie, drawing near, putting one hand into that of her mother and laying the other on her father's knee, her look and tones a trifle wistful, as if she were half fearful that she was less highly appreciated than her brother.
"No, indeed, dear child!" they replied, speaking together, "we love you just the same."
"Gracie also," the captain added, turning toward her with a tenderly appreciative smile. "You were looking very weary, daughter, when you left us some hours ago. Are you feeling better now?
"Yes, thank you, papa," she replied with a sweet, glad smile. "How kindly careful of me you always are!"
"Yes," he returned, "one is apt to be careful of his choicest treasures."
"It is so delightful to be one of your treasures, you dear papa," she said, going to his side in response to an inviting gesture, as Neddie got down from his knee to run to the side of the vessel to look at a passing boat.
"And so delightful to have you for one," he said, drawing her to the seat Neddie had vacated. "Papa feels that he must be very careful to see that the strength and endurance of his feeble little girl are not overtaxed."
"Mamma too," said Violet. "Dear child, I hope the rest of to-night, to-morrow, and the following night may entirely relieve your fatigue."
"Thank you, mamma, I hope and believe that it will," responded Grace in cheerful tones. "We will go to church to-morrow, I suppose, papa?" turning enquiringly to him.
"Those of us who feel able and wish to," he replied. "I intend moving on up the lake to Chicago when you have all retired to your state-rooms, and to lie at anchor there until the Sabbath is past. We will have our Bible lesson as usual in the afternoon, and service on board in the evening."
"I am glad of that, papa," said Grace, "for I always greatly enjoy a Bible lesson with you for my teacher."