Gateway to the Classics: The Seasons: Autumn by Jane Marcet
The Seasons: Autumn by  Jane Marcet

The Steam-Boat

Part II

Willy amused himself very much, playing with the children, for about half an hour. Then, being quite out of breath, he came back to his Mamma, and sat down quietly beside her, watching the wheels as they went round; but he had no sooner got breath than his questions began again. "Papa says that those wheels make the steam-boat go on, but how can they go round by themselves? for they are not alive, and there are no horses to pull the steam-boat along as they do the carriage."

"The wheels do not move of themselves, they are moved round by the steam; and that is the reason that the vessel is called a steam-boat."

"What! is it like the steam that comes out at the top of the urn? That can never be strong enough to turn those large wheels."

"It is exactly the same sort of steam," said his Mother, "but there is much more of it."

Just then they heard a bell ring. It was a signal for the boat to stop to take in passengers. The steam was then let off by the steam-pipe, and Willy saw it rushing out with a whizzing noise from the top of the pipe. "Oh, look! look, Mamma!" cried he; "there is a great deal more steam comes out there than from the tea-urn. How fast it pushes out! and how strong it seems! There it goes, up, up, up, in the skies." Then, after a pause, he added,—"And it may stay there if it pleases, and make clouds; for you know, Mamma, clouds are made of water—little tiny drops of water just like steam."

"Excepting that they are not hot like steam," replied his Mother.

"Oh! it will be cool by the time it gets up to the clouds."

Mamma laughed heartily at Willy's clouds; but she said that it was very possible that some of the steam might get up to the clouds, and remain there.

"Look, Mamma!" said Willy, pointing to the shore, "the trees do not move now—I mean, they do not look as if they moved now."

His Mother asked him, what it was that made them seem to move?

Willy thought a little, and then said,—"Oh! it was the boat going on; so now the boat stands still, it cannot make them seem to move."

The new passengers being now all in the boat, it went on again. "Where is the steam gone to now?" asked Willy; "it does not come out there any more."

"We are going on again, my dear; so the steam must turn the wheels."

"Yes," said Willy, "if it went all away into the skies it could not turn the wheels."

"When we stopped to take in passengers," said his Mother, "the wheels stood still; the men would not let the steam get to them to turn them round; so they opened a little door inside this long narrow chimney, and then up went the steam out of the chimney, and left the wheels standing still. Then when they wanted the vessel to go on again, they shut this little door; so then the steam could not get out any more, and it staid below and made the wheels move."

"But the steam that went out did not come back again, did it?" said Willy, sadly afraid that it should have been stopped in its way to the clouds.

"Oh, no, my dear; but more steam is made to turn the wheels."

"What a great tea-kettle there must be boiling to make such a quantity of steam!" exclaimed Willy.

"Go to Papa, and ask him to show it you."

He ran to his Father, who could not understand what he meant by a tea-kettle.

"Well, perhaps it is a tea-urn," said Willy, "that makes all the steam; but I thought that tea-urns were only for drawing-rooms, for cook has a tea-kettle in the kitchen, and so has Ann in the nursery."

"Oh! I guess what you mean now," said his Father, smiling; and he took him down stairs, and showed him the large boiler full of hot water.

"What a great thing!" said Willy "why, it is not like a tea-kettle, nor a tea-urn, one bit!"

"Nor is this place like a drawing-room, or a kitchen, or a nursery, one bit, I think, Willy. As a great quantity of steam is wanted to move the wheels, there must be a very large boiler full of hot water to make steam."

"Yes, and a great big fire to make so much water boil; look how it blazes, Papa!" said Willy, pointing to the fire.

"And a great quantity of coals to make the fire burn," said his Father, pointing out the man who was putting coals on the fire.

Willy then asked what was that great long thing that went backwards and forwards—up at one end and down at the other. "It looks so big and strong," said he, "as if it would knock you down if you went near it."

"It is a beam," replied his Father; "this beam is pushed up and down by the steam, and the beam moving in this manner makes the wheels turn round."

"Look, Papa, how it moves up and down; it is just like the song in my story book," and he repeated—"Here we go up, up, up; and here we go down, down, downy; here we go backwards and forwards,"——"and there we go round, round, roundy," added his Father, pointing to the wheels.

"Oh, so they do!" said Willy, laughing; "well, does not it seem as if the song was made on purpose for the steam-boat, Papa? but it is not; for it is the song nurse sings to Sophy, when she is dancing her up and down; and then, at the end, she turns round with her, just like the wheel, and that makes Sophy laugh."

Papa laughed too at Willy's application of his nursery rhymes to the steam-engine.

"But, where is all the steam that makes the beam move up and down? I do not see any."

"It is shut up in that brass vessel," said his Father, showing him the cylinder; "if it could get out, it would fly away, as it did from the steam-pipe when we stopped; and then you know the beam stood still, and the wheels did not move."

"And how does the beam make the wheels turn round, Papa?"

"Oh, that is too difficult, Willy: you have now seen all you can understand, so let us go up on deck."

Willy was eagerly telling his Mamma all he had seen below, and how his Papa had explained it to him, when his former companions came to call him to play with them; he stayed with them some time, and when he returned to his Mother the wind had risen, and he observed the boughs of a great tree on the bank of the river blowing about. "Look Mamma!" said he, "that tree is really moving now.

"Its branches are," replied she, "but not of themselves; they are blown about by the wind."

"But there is no wind in the boat, Mamma."

"We do not feel it, my dear, because the wind and the boat are both going the same way, so it goes along with us, instead of blowing against us."

"Then, if the wind went the other way, it would blow against us, and we should feel it?"

"Oh yes," said his Mother, "going against the wind we should feel it more than if we stood still."

"When I run against the wind," said Willy, "I feel it a great deal; and when I run the same way as the wind, I hardly feel it at all."

"And when you stand still you feel the wind more than if you ran the same way as the wind, and less than if you ran against it. When the wind strikes against us, and we go against the wind, we hit each other a pretty hard blow. If you clap your two hands together, it hurts you more than if you held one hand still and slapped it with the other."

"Oh yes; now look, Mamma," said he, extending his arms,—"this hand shall be the wind, and this other hand shall be me going on in the steam-boat." He then struck his hands together as hard as he could. In his eagerness to show his Mamma what he meant, he gave himself a harder blow than he had intended; and he could not help squeezing his fingers together, and crying out in good earnest, "Oh, how it hurts!"

His Mamma began laughing, and said, "Pray do not make the wind blow so hard, Willy."

As soon as the pain was over, Willy said, "Well now, Mamma, I will make believe, with this hand, to be standing quite still on the ground; I mean the land out there by the river side. And the other hand shall be the wind again." He then held one hand still, and struck it with the other. "Oh no," continued he, "it does not hurt half so much, nor nearly."

"I do not think the wind blew so hard," said his Mother, laughing, "or else it would have hurt you just half as much as it did before."

"You mean the make-believe wind of my hand, Mamma, don't you?"

"Oh, to be sure," replied she.

Willy then saw several men hauling up a sail, and enquired what they were doing. His Mother told him, that as the wind now blew hard, and the same way as the boat was going, the sailors thought that if they stretched out a sail, they should make the vessel go faster.

Willy did not at all understand that; he saw them spreading out a large sheet—but a sheet was neither a horse to pull the boat on, nor wheels for the steam to push on. So he expressed his wonder to his Mother. "A sheet, Mamma! why that is only to lay on beds, it can never make us go on faster." However, when the sheet was spread out, Willy saw that the wind blew against it, and made it hollow on one side, and bulge out on the other. "The wind pushes the sail," said he.

"Yes," replied she; "but it is tied to the mast, so the wind cannot blow it away."

"No," replied Willy; "but the wind trying to blow it away pushes the steam-boat on."

It does so, and now that the steam pushes the wheels round, and the wind pushes the sail on, we shall go on faster than ever."

"Only see how fast we go!" exclaimed Willy. They went so fast that they soon came in sight of his Uncle's house. They saw him walking on the lawn before his house by the river side, watching the arrival of the steam-boat; and as soon as he perceived it, he stepped into a small boat and was rowed up to the steam-boat. "Oh, there he is! there is Uncle William!" cried Willy, and he jumped for joy. In a few minutes, the rowing boat reached the steam-boat, and Uncle William opened his arms to catch Willy as he leaped into his boat.

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