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Chapter 1 THE ARRIVAL OF THE EUTERPE-THALIA

  • IT was about noon of a day in early summer that a westward-bound Atlanti_iner was rapidly nearing the port of New York. Not long before, the ol_ight-house on Montauk Point had been sighted, and the company on board th_essel were animated by the knowledge that in a few hours they would be at th_nd of their voyage.
  • The vessel now speeding along the southern coast of Long Island was th_uterpe-Thalia, from Southampton. On Wednesday morning she had left he_nglish port, and many of her passengers were naturally anxious to be on shor_n time to transact their business on the last day of the week. There wer_ven 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 no_een in use for nearly ten years, and although the present voyage was not _articularly 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 fro_he old steamers which used to cross the Atlantic—"ocean greyhounds" they wer_alled—in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
  • It would be out of place here to give a full description of the vessels whic_t the period of our story, in 1947, crossed the Atlantic at an average tim_f three days, but an idea of their construction will suffice. Most of thes_essels belonged to the class of the Euterpe-Thalia, and were, in fact,
  • compound marine structures, the two portions being entirely distinct from eac_ther. The great hull of each of these vessels contained nothing but it_lectric engines and its propelling machinery, with the necessary fuel an_djuncts.
  • The upper portion of the compound vessel consisted of decks and quarters fo_assengers and crew and holds for freight. These were all comprised within _ast 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, n_atter how much the lower hull might roll and pitch and toss, the upper hul_emained level and comparatively undisturbed.
  • Not only were comfort to passengers and security to movable freight gained b_his arrangement of the compound vessel, but it was now possible to build th_ower hull of much less size than had been the custom in the former days o_teamships, when the hull had to be large enough to contain everything. As th_ore modern hull held nothing but the machinery, it was small in compariso_ith the superincumbent upper hull, and thus the force of the engine, onc_eeded to propel a vast mass through the resisting medium of the ocean, wa_ow employed upon a comparatively small hull, the great body of the vesse_eeting with no resistance except that of the air.
  • It was not necessary that the two parts of these compound vessels shoul_lways be the same. The upper hulls belonging to one of the transatlanti_ines were generally so constructed that they could be adjusted to any one o_heir lower or motive-power hulls. Each hull had a name of its own, and so th_ombination name of the entire vessel was frequently changed.
  • It was not three o'clock when the Euterpe-Thalia passed through the Narrow_nd moved slowly towards her pier on the Long Island side of the city. Th_uarantine officers, who had accompanied the vessel on her voyage, had droppe_heir report in the official tug which had met the vessel on her entrance int_he harbor, and as the old custom-house annoyances had long since bee_bolished, most of the passengers were prepared for a speedy landing.
  • One of these passengers—a man about thirty-five—stood looking out over th_tern of the vessel instead of gazing, as were most of his companions, toward_he city which they were approaching. He looked out over the harbor, under th_reat bridge gently spanning the distance between the western end of Lon_sland and the New Jersey shore—its central pier resting where once lay th_ld Battery—and so he gazed over the river, and over the houses stretching fa_o 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 an_xperimenting for the past year in the scientific schools and workshops o_ermany. It was towards his own laboratory and his own workshops, which la_ut in the country far beyond the wide line of buildings and settlements whic_ine the western bank of the Hudson, that his heart went out and his eye_ainly strove to follow.
  • Skilfully steered, the Thalia moved slowly between high stone piers of massiv_onstruction; but the Euterpe, or upper part of the vessel, did not pas_etween the piers, but over them both, and when the pier-heads projecte_eyond 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, slowl_egan to descend into the central portion of the Thalia, and as the tide wa_ow, it was not long before each side of the upper hull rested firmly an_ecurely upon the stone piers. Then the socket on the lower vessel descende_apidly until it was entirely clear of the ball, and the Thalia backed ou_rom between the piers to take its place in a dock where it would be fitte_or the voyage of the next day but one, when it would move under th_elpomene, resting on its piers a short distance below, and, adjusting it_ocket to her ball, would lift her free from the piers and carry her acros_he ocean.
  • The pier of the Euterpe was not far from the great Long Island and New Jerse_ridge, and Roland Clewe, when he reached the broad sidewalk which ran alon_he river-front, walked rapidly towards the bridge. When he came to it h_tepped into one of the elevators, which were placed at intervals along it_ides 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 th_ridge, on which moved two great platforms or floors, one always keeping o_ts way to the east, and the other to the west. The floor of the elevato_etached itself from the rest of the structure and kept company with th_ovable 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 h_ould thus hasten his arrival at the other end of the bridge, he noticed tha_reat improvements had been made during his year of absence. The structures o_he platforms, to which people might retire in bad weather or when they wishe_efreshments, were more numerous and apparently better appointed than when h_ad seen them last, and the long rows of benches on which passengers might si_n the open air during their transit had also increased in number. Many peopl_alked across the bridge, taking their exercise, while some who were out fo_he air and the sake of the view walked in the direction opposite to that i_hich the platform was moving, thus lengthening the pleasant trip.
  • At the great elevator over the old Battery many passengers went down and man_ame 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, fa_ut on the old Jersey flats, and there he took a car of the suspended electri_ine, which would carry him to his home, some fifty miles in the interior. Th_ails of this line ran along the top of parallel timbers, some twenty fee_rom 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 bottom_r floors were ten or twelve feet from the ground, they could meet with n_angerous obstacles. In consequence of the safety of this structure, th_rains were run at a very high speed.
  • Roland Clewe was a man who had given his life, even before he ceased to be _oy, to the investigation of physical science and its applications, and thos_ho thought they knew him called him a great inventor; but he, who kne_imself better than any one else could know him, was aware that, so far, h_ad not invented anything worthy the power which he felt within himself.
  • After the tidal wave of improvements and discoveries which had burst upon th_orld at the end of the nineteenth century there had been a gradual subsidenc_f 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 sa_hat the human race seemed to have gone backward fifty or even a hundre_ears.
  • It had become fashionable to be unprogressive. Like old furniture in th_entury which had gone out, old manners, customs, and ideas had now becom_ore attractive than those which were modern and present. Philosophers sai_hat society was retrograding, that it was becoming satisfied with less tha_as its due; but society answered that it was falling back upon the things o_ts ancestors, which were sounder and firmer, more simple and beautiful, mor_orthy of the true man and woman, than all that mass of harassing improvemen_hich had swept down upon mankind in the troubled and nervous days at the en_f the nineteenth century.
  • On the great highways, smooth and beautiful, the stage-coach had taken th_lace to a great degree of the railroad train; the steamship, which moved mos_venly and with less of the jarring and shaking consequent upon high speed,
  • was the favored vessel with ocean travellers. It was not considered good for_o read the daily papers; and only those hurried to their business who wer_bliged to do so in order that their employers might attend to their affair_n the leisurely manner which was then the custom of the business world.
  • Fast horses had become almost unknown, and with those who still used thes_nimals a steady walker was the favorite. Bicycles had gone out as the ne_entury came in, it being a matter of course that they should be superseded b_he new electric vehicles of every sort and fashion, on which one could wor_he pedals if he desired exercise, or sit quietly if his inclinations wer_therwise, and only the very young or the intemperate allowed themselves rapi_otion on their electric wheels. It would have been considered as vulgar a_hat time to speed over a smooth road as it would have been thought in th_ineteenth century to run along the city sidewalk.
  • People thought the world moved slower; at all events, they hoped it would soo_o so. Even the wiser revolutionists postponed their outbreaks. Success, the_elieved, 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 wer_ound only in the garrets. The fifteen minutes' sittings now in vogue thre_pon 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 no_elieved 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 _torm of active effort never known in its history before. Religion, politics,
  • literature, and art were called upon to get up and shake themselves free o_he drowsiness of their years of inaction.
  • On that great and crowded stage where the thinkers of the world were busy i_reating new parts for themselves without much reference to what other peopl_ere doing in their parts, Roland Clewe was now ready to start again, wit_ore earnestness and enthusiasm than before, to essay a character which, i_cted as he wished to act it, would give him exceptional honor and fame, an_o the world, perhaps, exceptional advantage.