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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter I - THE ARRIVAL OF THE EUTERPE-THALIA
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The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter I - THE ARRIVAL OF THE EUTERPE-THALIA Post by :karims100 Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :2565

Click below to download : The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter I - THE ARRIVAL OF THE EUTERPE-THALIA (Format : PDF)

The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter I - THE ARRIVAL OF THE EUTERPE-THALIA

It was about noon of a day in early summer that a westward-bound
Atlantic liner was rapidly nearing the port of New York. Not long
before, the old light-house on Montauk Point had been sighted,
and the company on board the vessel were animated by the knowledge
that in a few hours they would be at the end of their voyage.

The vessel now speeding along the southern coast of Long Island
was the Euterpe-Thalia, from Southampton. On Wednesday morning
she had left her English port, and many of her passengers were
naturally anxious to be on shore in time to transact their business
on the last day of the week. There were even some who expected to
make their return voyage on the Melpomene-Thalia, which would
leave New York on the next Monday.

The Euterpe-Thalia was one of those combination ocean vessels
which had now been in use for nearly ten years, and although the
present voyage was not a particularly rapid one, it had been made
in a little less than three days.

As may be easily imagined, a vessel like this was a very
different craft from the old steamers which used to cross the
Atlantic--"ocean greyhounds" they were called--in the latter part
of the nineteenth century.

It would be out of place here to give a full description of the
vessels which at the period of our story, in 1947, crossed the
Atlantic at an average time of three days, but an idea of their
construction will suffice. Most of these vessels belonged to the
class of the Euterpe-Thalia, and were, in fact, compound marine
structures, the two portions being entirely distinct from each
other. The great hull of each of these vessels contained nothing
but its electric engines and its propelling machinery, with the
necessary fuel and adjuncts.

The upper portion of the compound vessel consisted of decks and
quarters for passengers and crew and holds for freight. These
were all comprised within a vast upper hull, which rested upon
the lower hull containing the motive power, the only point of
contact being an enormous ball-and-socket joint. Thus, no matter
how much the lower hull might roll and pitch and toss, the upper
hull remained level and comparatively undisturbed.

Not only were comfort to passengers and security to movable
freight gained by this arrangement of the compound vessel, but it
was now possible to build the lower hull of much less size than
had been the custom in the former days of steamships, when the
hull had to be large enough to contain everything. As the more
modern hull held nothing but the machinery, it was small in
comparison with the superincumbent upper hull, and thus the force
of the engine, once needed to propel a vast mass through the
resisting medium of the ocean, was now employed upon a
comparatively small hull, the great body of the vessel meeting
with no resistance except that of the air.

It was not necessary that the two parts of these compound vessels
should always be the same. The upper hulls belonging to one of
the transatlantic lines were generally so constructed that they
could be adjusted to any one of their lower or motive-power
hulls. Each hull had a name of its own, and so the combination
name of the entire vessel was frequently changed.

It was not three o'clock when the Euterpe-Thalia passed through
the Narrows and moved slowly towards her pier on the Long Island
side of the city. The quarantine officers, who had accompanied
the vessel on her voyage, had dropped their report in the
official tug which had met the vessel on her entrance into the
harbor, and as the old custom-house annoyances had long since
been abolished, most of the passengers were prepared for a speedy
landing.

One of these passengers--a man about thirty-five--stood looking
out over the stern of the vessel instead of gazing, as were most
of his companions, towards the city which they were approaching.
He looked out over the harbor, under the great bridge gently
spanning the distance between the western end of Long Island and
the New Jersey shore--its central pier resting where once lay the
old Battery--and so he gazed over the river, and over the houses
stretching far to the west, as if his eyes could catch some signs
of the country far beyond. This was Roland Clewe, the hero of
our story, who had been studying and experimenting for the past
year in the scientific schools and workshops of Germany. It was
towards his own laboratory and his own workshops, which lay out
in the country far beyond the wide line of buildings and
settlements which line the western bank of the Hudson, that his
heart went out and his eyes vainly strove to follow.

Skilfully steered, the Thalia moved slowly between high stone
piers of massive construction; but the Euterpe, or upper part of
the vessel, did not pass between the piers, but over them both,
and when the pier-heads projected beyond her stern the motion of
the lower vessel ceased; then the great piston, which supported
the socket in which the ball of the Euterpe moved, slowly began
to descend into the central portion of the Thalia, and as the
tide was low, it was not long before each side of the upper hull
rested firmly and securely upon the stone piers. Then the socket
on the lower vessel descended rapidly until it was entirely clear
of the ball, and the Thalia backed out from between the piers to
take its place in a dock where it would be fitted for the voyage
of the next day but one, when it would move under the Melpomene,
resting on its piers a short distance below, and, adjusting its
socket to her ball, would lift her free from the piers and carry
her across the ocean.

The pier of the Euterpe was not far from the great Long Island and
New Jersey Bridge, and Roland Clewe, when he reached the broad
sidewalk which ran along the river-front, walked rapidly towards
the bridge. When he came to it he stepped into one of the
elevators, which were placed at intervals along its sides from the
waterfront to the far-distant point where it touched the land, and
in company with a dozen other pedestrians speedily rose to the top
of the bridge, on which moved two great platforms or floors, one
always keeping on its way to the east, and the other to the west.
The floor of the elevator detached itself from the rest of the
structure and kept company with the movable platform until all of
its passengers had stepped on to the latter, when it returned with
such persons as wished to descend at that point.

As Clewe took his way along the platform, walking westward with
it, as if he would thus hasten his arrival at the other end of
the bridge, he noticed that great improvements had been made
during his year of absence. The structures on the platforms, to
which people might retire in bad weather or when they wished
refreshments, were more numerous and apparently better appointed
than when he had seen them last, and the long rows of benches on
which passengers might sit in the open air during their transit
had also increased in number. Many people walked across the
bridge, taking their exercise, while some who were out for the
air and the sake of the view walked in the direction opposite to
that in which the platform was moving, thus lengthening the
pleasant trip.

At the great elevator over the old Battery many passengers went
down and many came up, but the wide platforms still moved to the
east and moved to the west, never stopping or changing their rate
of speed.

Roland Clewe remained on the bridge until he had reached its
western end, far out on the old Jersey flats, and there he took a
car of the suspended electric line, which would carry him to his
home, some fifty miles in the interior. The rails of this line
ran along the top of parallel timbers, some twenty feet from the
ground, and below and between these rails the cars were
suspended, the wheels which rested on the rails being attached
near the top of the car. Thus it was impossible for the cars to
run off the track; and as their bottoms or floors were ten or
twelve feet from the ground, they could meet with no dangerous
obstacles. In consequence of the safety of this structure, the
trains were run at a very high speed.

Roland Clewe was a man who had given his life, even before he
ceased to be a boy, to the investigation of physical science and
its applications, and those who thought they knew him called him
a great inventor; but he, who knew himself better than any one
else could know him, was aware that, so far, he had not invented
anything worthy the power which he felt within himself.

After the tidal wave of improvements and discoveries which had
burst upon the world at the end of the nineteenth century there
had been a gradual subsidence of the waters of human progress,
and year by year they sank lower and lower, until, when the
twentieth century was yet young, it was a common thing to say
that the human race seemed to have gone backward fifty or even a
hundred years.

It had become fashionable to be unprogressive. Like old
furniture in the century which had gone out, old manners,
customs, and ideas had now become more attractive than those
which were modern and present. Philosophers said that society
was retrograding, that it was becoming satisfied with less than
was its due; but society answered that it was falling back upon
the things of its ancestors, which were sounder and firmer, more
simple and beautiful, more worthy of the true man and woman, than
all that mass of harassing improvement which had swept down upon
mankind in the troubled and nervous days at the end of the
nineteenth century.

On the great highways, smooth and beautiful, the stage-coach had
taken the place to a great degree of the railroad train; the
steamship, which moved most evenly and with less of the jarring
and shaking consequent upon high speed, was the favored vessel
with ocean travellers. It was not considered good form to read
the daily papers; and only those hurried to their business who
were obliged to do so in order that their employers might attend
to their affairs in the leisurely manner which was then the
custom of the business world.

Fast horses had become almost unknown, and with those who still
used these animals a steady walker was the favorite. Bicycles
had gone out as the new century came in, it being a matter of
course that they should be superseded by the new electric
vehicles of every sort and fashion, on which one could work the
pedals if he desired exercise, or sit quietly if his inclinations
were otherwise, and only the very young or the intemperate
allowed themselves rapid motion on their electric wheels. It
would have been considered as vulgar at that time to speed over a
smooth road as it would have been thought in the nineteenth
century to run along the city sidewalk.

People thought the world moved slower; at all events, they hoped
it would soon do so. Even the wiser revolutionists postponed
their outbreaks. Success, they believed, was fain to smile upon
effort which had been well postponed.

Men came to look upon a telegram as an insult; the telephone was
preferred, because it allowed one to speak slowly if he chose.
Snap-shot cameras were found only in the garrets. The fifteen
minutes' sittings now in vogue threw upon the plate the color of
the eyes, hair, and the flesh tones of the sitter. Ladies wore
hoop skirts.

But these days of passivism at last passed by; earnest thinkers
had not believed in them; they knew they were simply reactionary,
and could not last; and the century was not twenty years old when
the world found itself in a storm of active effort never known in
its history before. Religion, politics, literature, and art were
called upon to get up and shake themselves free of the drowsiness
of their years of inaction.

On that great and crowded stage where the thinkers of the world
were busy in creating new parts for themselves without much
reference to what other people were doing in their parts, Roland
Clewe was now ready to start again, with more earnestness and
enthusiasm than before, to essay a character which, if acted as
he wished to act it, would give him exceptional honor and fame,
and to the world, perhaps, exceptional advantage.

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