Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
Privacy
 
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories


Relating How The Beautiful Picnic Progressed







From: Doctor Jones' Picnic

Shortly before six o'clock all arose. The Doctor and his wife, at her
earnest solicitation, ascended to the observatory to witness the
sunrise. Mattie had manifested symptoms of vertigo that morning on first
looking out, and decided not to go up with them. The exertion of
climbing that long flight of stairs flushed the lovely face of Mrs.
Jones, and her cheeks were like twin roses when they reached the
observatory. Once there, she was glad to sit and rest. The Doctor opened
the windows and then sat beside her. Mrs. Jones sat quiet and dumb,
hands clasped, looking out upon the most glorious scene her eyes had
ever beheld. The sun was just peeping above the horizon. The painting of
the clouds; the variegated face of the earth; the pure, balmy
atmosphere; the great globe beneath their feet; the exquisitely graceful
shaft that pierced the vault nearly one hundred feet above their heads,
bearing our beautiful symbol of liberty; all these, combined with the
inspiration that always attends looking out upon the works of God from
great elevations, thrilled the souls of the two spectators as they had
never been before in their lives. Thus they sat in silence drinking in
the beauties of the morning for nearly a quarter of an hour. Approaching
steps upon the stairway broke the spell, and the Professor and Fred
stepped into the observatory. As they looked out upon the transcendent
loveliness of the scene, the Professor raised his hands above his head
and cried: "'What is man, that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of
man that Thou visitest him? Thou hast made him little lower than the
angels, and crowned him with glory and honor.' You told us yesterday
that you never felt so little as when you looked out from this
magnificent aerie; but I declare to you, Doctor, that I feel now that
God has made man a wonderful being. As we go thus sailing through these
roseate skies in this most splendid creation that ever came from the
hands of man, I feel like crying with old Elisha, 'My father! My father!
The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof.'"

They sat a few minutes and then descended to the cabin. Mattie, Will,
and Denison were upon the balcony, speculating as to what city they were
rapidly approaching. Dr. Jones looked at it through his glasses, and
said: "That is Columbus, the capital city of Ohio. Those great stone
buildings you see there, inclosed by high stone walls, constitute the
state prison. It contains at present, I believe, nearly three thousand
convicts."

"The poor things!" said Mattie. "Just think of the contrast between
sailing so smoothly and easily as we are doing, away above the world
with all its cares and sorrows, and being incarcerated within those
gloomy walls, many of them for life. I am sure that if they could become
'Children of the Skies,' they would all reform in a short time."

"No, no, Mattie," replied the Doctor, "God did infinitely more than that
for man. He placed him in the garden of Eden, and he transgressed the
only restrictive law laid upon him. And he became so vile that the Lord
was compelled to drown them like so many rats. Beautiful and inspiring
though our present circumstances and surroundings are, yet they could
never change the hearts of the majority of those miserable men."

Breakfast was now announced by Sing. The bracing atmosphere of this
upper region seemed to be very appetizing, for they all ate heartily.

The ship was acting splendidly, continuing at nearly the same level of
the day before, and but little fuel had been burned during the night.
The wind had shifted to the south, and they were sailing twenty miles an
hour, due north. The Doctor rubbed his hands gleefully. "We're getting
there now, ladies and gentlemen, we're getting there finely. Nothing
could be better."

The sweet, happy valleys of Ohio were so exceedingly beautiful; the
little towns appeared so pure and lovely to the voyagers; and the people
were out in such crowds, cheering them so lustily, that our friends
could do little else than sit through the day and watch them through
their glasses. And numerous were the dispatches they wrote and cast
from the balcony. They could see the people rushing eagerly for them, as
they reached the earth.

"I wish we had a morning paper," sighed Fred. "I do not doubt that we
receive some mention in it."

"That is about the only thing I have missed so far," said the Professor.
"But we can well afford to forego that luxury for what we are now
enjoying."

"And I really do wish we could attend church Sunday mornings," said
Mattie.

"Oh! we will have a church service," replied Denison. "I notice that the
Doctor has brought with him a book of sermons and a Bible. Then we have
an organ, and the best choir I ever heard. The Doctor or Professor can
act as parson; and, to make the thing realistic and homelike, I will
pass the contribution box."

"I will see that he uses a bell punch," cried Fred. This suggestion was
immediately rejected as unworthy of one of the Children of the Skies.

The Professor sat consulting a map. "We are heading straight for
Cleveland," he remarked.

"I am really glad of that," said Dr. Jones. "That is my old native town,
and I have not seen it for many years. The population has doubled
several times since I left it, immediately after the war."

An hour or so later, as he stood upon the balcony, the Doctor suddenly
shouted, "There's Cleveland! And that town this side of it is Berea, the
great stone quarry place. Do you see on the north side of the town those
brick and stone buildings in a campus? That is Baldwin University, where
I attended school several years. You didn't dream, dear old girl," said
he, tenderly and apostrophizingly to said institution of learning, "that
you would ever turn out such a sky traveler as I am, did you?"

All the glasses were turned upon the University. "We shall pass directly
over it," said Fred.

"They have sighted us!" cried the Doctor excitedly. "See the students
pouring out of the buildings! Let's give them some messages." This they
did in a liberal shower.

They had lowered to the five hundred foot level, so that a good view
might be taken of the beautiful metropolis of Ohio--Cleveland. They were
just about passing over it.

"What a splendid city it has grown to be," said Professor Gray.

"Yes, indeed," replied Dr. Jones. "That portion of the city," continued
he, pointing with his finger, "was formerly called Brooklyn Center. I
was born a mile or so from there. Yes!" he cried, looking earnestly
through his glass, "I am quite sure that I can see the old two-story
farmhouse where I was born. It is, sure as shooting! There is
grandfather's farm where the 'Gunpowder tea' party was held that I told
you of. And off here are the Heights, or South Cleveland. In 1862, when
I joined the army, that was Camp Cleveland. It was then covered with
rough wooden barracks, but now you see that it is densely built up with
houses. My regiment, the 124th O.V.I. was in camp there three months
before we went south."

"You must have been a very small soldier at that time," said Mattie.

"Yes," he replied, "I was but fifteen years old at that time. I didn't
do much good or harm, for I was but a snare drummer the first two years
of my soldiering, and the last year I was detailed as mounted orderly at
brigade headquarters. But just see the people! Give them some messages!
We shall be out of 'Yankee Doodle' land very soon."

So the half million (more or less) of Clevelanders were treated to a
shower of greetings.

"If I had thought sooner, I would have dropped anchor here and given my
old townies a handshake," said the Doctor.

"Too late now, Doctor. We have passed the principal portion of the city,
and will be above Lake Erie in two or three minutes."

"Yes, yes, I see," sighed the Doctor. "But we may see you again.
Good-bye, Cleveland."

The blue water of Lake Erie was now rolling beneath them. Steamers and
sail vessels thickly dotted the face of the beautiful lake; for the
traffic and travel upon these great inland seas are exceedingly large.
The Canadian shores were visible, and when Sing announced dinner, the
splendid domain of Her Majesty Victoria, Ontario, lay widespread before
them. It was hard to realize that they were not still in their own
land, so much like it did the peaceful towns, villages, and farms
appear.

After dinner, the five men, in the little smoking-room, lighted their
pipes and cigars, and entered into a general chat.

"If this wind holds, we shall be in the Arctics in two or three days,"
said Will.

"I suppose that we shall then be obliged to get out our furs," replied
Fred.

"No," returned the architect. "These walls are double as well as the
floor, with air chambers between, and I can turn hot air into them at
pleasure. The windows and doors are all double, also, and Jack Frost can
never penetrate this cabin."

"What a contrast between this luxurious sail through the sky, and the
buffetings upon sea and land, the hunger, cold, and oftentimes death,
suffered by former Arctic explorers," said the Professor. "And, Doctor,"
he continued, "if we make a successful trip, the matter of aerial
navigation will have been settled. What a power this ship would have
been in the late war of the Rebellion."

"The war would have been very quickly terminated if our globe had been
in existence at that time," returned Dr. Jones. "We could have sailed
above the reach of their best guns and dropped bombs upon them that
would have destroyed their forts, gunboats, and armies at will. But I am
glad things were as they were. We fought a fair fight to the finish, and
settled forever the question of human slavery in America. Had the first
few battles of the war been won by the North, the South might have laid
down their arms, and have been permitted to retain their institution of
slavery. When Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation, I remember
that even we soldiers in the field received the news with a sort of
shock, and thought our President over-bold. We had not thought of that
extreme measure as a result of the war. We were simply out to preserve
the Union."

"And right well you did it, Doctor," said Denison. "I have always
noticed in reading the history of that war, that in the latter part of
it you fought with much greater skill and judgment than you did in the
first year or two."

"That is quite true, and nothing more than what might have been
expected," replied Dr. Jones. "It is marvelous what we accomplished with
an absolutely empty treasury, no credit, no standing army to speak of,
and our little navy scattered to the four ends of the earth. The vast,
splendidly drilled armies which we brought into existence as if by
magic, were the wonder of the world. We had everything to learn, both
North and South, in the matter of logistics. Long lines of
communications had to be kept open, and such splendid raiders as John
Morgan, Forest, Mosby, etc., were not slow to break them frequently, so
that I remember going to bed supperless many times after a hard day's
march, because our rations had been captured and burned. Our wagon
trains were something immense, while the big Bell tents were in use; but
after what were called by the boys 'pup tents,' or 'dog tents,' were
introduced, the wagon trains were cut down at least three-fourths. For
the pup tents we carried upon our backs, and so dispensed with the great
Bell tents that were hauled in wagons. Our trains had been so large and
cumbersome that military movements were inconceivably slow, and the war
could never have been fought to a successful issue by the North on those
lines."

"I suppose, Doctor, that you were in some of the great battles?" asked
Fred.

"Yes, I was in the battles of Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, through the
Atlantic campaign; then under General Geo. H. Thomas we marched back
into Tennessee, fought a desperate battle at Franklin, and a few weeks
later annihilated the army at Nashville. While we were doing this,
Sherman was making his renowned march to the sea. But I'll spin you some
of my experiences before we get back home. Let's join the ladies."

"I should never tire hearing your war stories," said Fred.

"Yes; and you would be the first one to go to sleep if I should tell you
of the battle of Chickamauga or Missionary Ridge."

This Fred stoutly denied. "All right," said the Doctor. "I'll test you
one of these evenings."

"The sooner the better," replied Fred. "And now let's have some music."

They sang several anthems and choruses, and all retired at an early
hour, except Denison, who stood watch.





Next: In The Heart Of Labrador

Previous: A Gunpowder Tea-party



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 435