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Off On A Shoreless Sea







From: Doctor Jones' Picnic

About the middle of April appeared the following in one of the leading
papers:

"Last night our citizens, and a tremendous overflow of visitors were
treated to the most magnificent sight their eyes ever beheld. The great
aluminum globe, about which all the world has been agog for so long,
arose and stood for three hours above the city, some two hundred and
fifty feet. The whole mighty sphere was ablaze with myriads of electric
lights, from the ball of the tapering flagstaff to the beautiful cabin
below. As it hung suspended above the city, connected with the earth by
but a slender aluminum chain that looked like a thread of silver
piercing the skies, a great hush fell upon the hundreds of thousands of
gazers below. All Nature seemed auspicious to the occasion. Scarcely a
zephyr was stirring, and the stars shone brightly down upon the scene
from cloudless skies. One hundred people, consisting of the President
and cabinet, senators, congressmen, editors, scientific and literary men
and women, were the favored party who occupied the gigantic ship.

"Suddenly there fell upon the ears of the waiting multitude the glorious
soprano voice of Mrs. Jones. So far above, yet so thrillingly sweet and
distinct, one could scarcely refrain from imagining that the Pearly
Gates had opened, and we were listening to the voice of one of the
Redeemed. But that illusion was soon dispelled, and we recognized the
familiar strains of "Star Spangled Banner." And when the whole hundred
voices swelled the splendid chorus, a great shout arose from the
multitude like the sound of many waters, beginning directly beneath the
globe, and spreading away in every direction like billows from a great
rock, dropped into the center of a quiet lake.

"And so, under the direction of Professor Marsh, brother of the
architect of the globe, a beautiful and appropriate musical program was
rendered, lasting nearly an hour.

"We venture the assertion that no performance was ever rendered to so
great an audience, and certainly not to one more appreciative. And we
predict that there will be a great demand for liniments and plasters for
some weeks to come. For standing two hours or more with the back of
one's head resting upon the cervical portion of one's spinal column, and
screaming at the top of one's lungs a good portion of the time, with
eyes unblinkingly and unwinkingly set upon the inconceivably splendid
globe, all this we assert to be highly conducive to stiff neck and sore
throat. And it is a question whether many of that innumerable, entranced
audience will be able to keep their hearts and minds upon things
terrestrial for a considerable time to come. From the bottom of our
hearts, we commiserate every member of the race who missed the sights
and sounds of last evening.

"All arrangements are now completed, and day after to-morrow, weather
favorable, Dr. Jones and party expect to sail at the hour of noon, away
for the North Pole. Nothing has been omitted that could insure the
success of the expedition, and we feel confident of all that could be
hoped for, or desired by the enterprising Doctor and friends."

The hour set for sailing had arrived. The day was beautiful, and a
moderate breeze was blowing toward northwest. With proud, happy hearts
the party of navigators stood upon the balcony that ran about the four
sides of the cabin. This balcony was one of the chief embellishments and
conveniences of the cabin. It was five feet wide, and extended, as
before said, about the four sides of the cabin. A balustrade four feet
high was built along its outer edge. A more exhilarating promenade could
not be conceived, and right well did our friends enjoy it during the
notable voyage which we are about to record.

The party consisted of Professor J.Q. Gray, the scientific
representative of the Smithsonian Institute; Miss Mattie Bronson;
Professor Fred Marsh; our four friends with whom the reader is
acquainted; and last, but not least, so far as bodily comforts were
concerned, Ah Sing, the cook.

As the globe arose slowly to the length of its cable, five hundred feet,
it seemed to the little company upon the balcony as if the universe had
assembled to see them off. On the streets, public squares, housetops,
decks of all ships upon the river, were crowds on crowds of people;
people anywhere, everywhere; far as the eye could reach was one vast,
countless host. What wonder that the heart of the Doctor swelled and
quickened as he looked upon the ocean of upturned faces below, and
realized that from his fertile brain had sprung the mighty object of all
this attention. How it pulled and surged at its silver-like cable, as if
it were a thing of life, and desired to be away toward its destination,
the North Pole!

The hour of noon was announced by hundreds of bells and whistles. The
Doctor waved a flag over the balustrade, the anchor was cut loose from
its fastenings, and away bounded the colossal sphere toward the ethereal
blue. Upward and still up it arose to the height of three thousand feet,
trending slowly toward the northwest.

The voices of the multitude sounded like the roar of the sea, and as it
grew fainter and fainter, the stout-hearted little party realized that
they were effectually cut off from the world--off on a limitless sea,
alone with God.





Next: A Gunpowder Tea-party

Previous: The Government Joins The Picnickers



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