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Young People at Chautauqua, A Boys Letter


Dear Tom,—I last saw you waving your cap as our train rolled out of the station. That night I slept on a shelf in the sleeping-car, and the next morning we got breakfast at Hornellsville; and it was a good one, I tell you. About noon we got off the cars at Jamestown, and after dinner rode over the hill in a stage, and came to what looked like a narrow river winding among the trees.

This they said was the outlet of Chautauqua Lake. You would suppose that the water runs into Lake Erie, which is only seven miles away from Lake Chautauqua. But instead it goes into the Ohio River, and then down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico.

We went on board a steamboat three stories high, with a big paddle-box fastened on the stern, and steamed up the outlet for about three miles through the wildest swamp I ever saw, until all at once the lake opened before us. I thought that we would be at Chautauqua in a few minutes, but the old stern-wheel kept pushing us on for a couple of hours. At last I began to catch glimpses of cottages among the trees. Then we drew up to a little wharf, and almost everybody went ashore. We followed the crowd through the gate, and so we found ourselves at Chautauqua.

The first thing that I saw was a park, with flowers and fountains and statues under the great trees. Then I came upon the model of a city, with all its houses and churches. This was Jerusalem. A man was explaining it to a crowd of people, and pointing out the places with a long pole. There is an Oriental house, and a park laid out to look like Palestine, with the top of Mount Hermon white-washed, and the Jordan with real water. A frog winked his eye at me, and then jumped into the Dead Sea. (That makes poetry, don't it?)

There are any number of streets laid out in the woods, and lined with all sorts of cottages. We all asked uncle to let us live in a tent, and you don't know how airy and pleasant it is. Cousin Jennie says she can't find any places to hang up "her things"; but I put mine on the floor, which is always handy.

I happened to be awake early the next morning after we came. Everything was quiet and still until the bell rang for six o'clock. Then there was a noise, as if all the boys in our school were hollering at once. I jumped up, wondering if the Fourth of July had come again. But pretty soon I found that it was only the newsboys (which means most of the boys here) selling the morning paper, The Assembly Herald. I went out and got a lot of papers, and made ten cents profit on them before breakfast.

There is a big bell on the upper part of the grounds. An old man rang it while I was standing by, and all at once I saw dozens and dozens of boys and girls running from all directions toward the corner where I stood. I asked one fellow what it all meant, and he said, "Why, don't you know?—it's the children's hour." So I just dropped into the stream, and went up the street to a large building with a dome and some wings. They call it "The Children's Temple." It was so full of young people that I had hard work to crowd myself into the corner of a seat. There was a platform in front, and a big black-board, and two gentlemen, both with foreheads that went clear over to the back of their heads. There was singing, and then one gentleman talked to us, and got us all to answer and repeat, and we never knew that he was teaching us a lesson until we had learned it. The other gentleman then came forward and drew a picture so fast that it seemed like magic, and so funny that we all laughed and laughed again. It's the jolliest "children's hour" I ever saw, and I'm going every day.

I can't begin to tell you of the good times here for boys. When you read in the papers about the big meetings and the long lectures, you might suppose that young people don't have much chance; but you'd be mistaken. We go boating on the lake, and fishing down at the Point, and bathing in a safe place along the shore. This afternoon all the boys and girls are going pilgriming through Palestine in a procession. Last evening I went out with little Susie for a walk. We came upon an immense telescope. The gentleman let me take a peek through it, and I saw the ring around the planet Saturn. Then he held little Susie up in his arms, and let her see it too.

There is a tent with a lot of microscopes, and two young ladies who show people how to use them. I looked at a drop of water through one, and saw in it an animal fierce enough and almost big enough to bite off your head.

And then there were the fire-works last night. I can't tell you how gorgeous they were: fountains lit up with bright colors; Roman candles flashing, and rockets soaring to the stars; the steamers all hung with Chinese lanterns, and sailing round and round upon the lake; the woods bright with the blazing electric lights overhead. Oh, it was grand!

I can't stop to write about the squirrels that run up and down the trees, nor the big tent where we get our dinners, nor the little tent where we sleep, nor the pictures at evening in the Amphitheatre (that's a great hall where they hold meetings), nor lots of other things. Next year I hope you'll come with us, and have a good time.

Your friend,

CHATAUQUA LAKE, NEW YORK.—From Sketches by Frank Beard.—[See Page 626.]



From Sketches by Frank Beard.