CHAPTER THREE. THE START
"IS THIS ROAD TO - "
The trip was not premeditated - it was not of malice aforethought; it was the outcome of an idle suggestion made one hot summer afternoon, and decided upon in the moment. Within the same half-hour a telegram was sent the Professor inviting him for a ride to Buffalo. Beyond that point there was no thought, - merely a nebulous notion that might take form if everything went well.
Hampered by no announcements, with no record to make or break, the trip was for pleasure, - a mid-summer jaunt. We did intend to make the run to Buffalo as fast as roads would permit, - but for exhilaration only, and not with any thought of making a record that would stand against record-making machines, driven by record-breaking men.
It is much better to start for nowhere and get there than to start for somewhere and fall by the wayside. Just keep going, and the machine will carry you beyond your expectations.
The Professor knew nothing about machinery and less about an automobile, but where ignorance is bliss it is double-distilled folly to know anything about the eccentricities of an automobile.
To enjoy automobiling, one must know either all or nothing about the machine, - a little knowledge is a dangerous thing; on the part of the guest it leads to all sorts of apprehensions, on the part of the chauffeur to all sorts of experiments. About five hundred miles is the limit of a man's ignorance; he then knows enough to make trouble; at the end of another five hundred he is of assistance, at the end of the third he will run the machine himself - your greatest pleasure is in the first five hundred. With some precocious individuals these figures may be reduced somewhat.
The Professor adjusted his spectacles and looked at the machine:
"A very wonderful contrivance, and one that requires some skill to operate. From lack of experience, I cannot hope to be of much practical assistance at first, but possibly a theoretical knowledge of the laws and principles governing things mechanical may be of service in an emergency. Since receiving your telegram, I have brushed up a little my knowledge of both kinematics and dynamics, though it is quite apparent that the operation of these machines, accompanied, as it is said, by many restraints and perturbations, falls under the latter branch. In view of the possibility - remote, I trust - of the machine refusing to go, I have devoted a little time to statics, and therefore feel that I shall be something more than a supercargo."
"Well, you are equipped, Professor; no doubt your knowledge will prove useful."
"Knowledge is always useful if people in this busy age would only pause to make use of it. Mechanics has been defined as the application of pure mathematics to produce or modify motion in inferior bodies; what could be more apt? Is it not our intention to produce or modify motion in this inferior body before us?"
Days after the Professor found the crank a more useful implement for the inducing of motion.
It was Thursday morning, August 1, at exactly seven o'clock, that we passed south on Michigan Avenue towards South Chicago and Hammond. A glorious morning, neither hot nor cold, but just deliciously cool, with some promise - afterwards more than fulfilled - of a warm day.
The hour was early, policemen few, streets clear, hence fast speed could be made.
As we passed Zion Temple, near Twelfth Street, the home of the Dowieites, the Professor said:
"A very remarkable man, that Dowie."
"A fraud and an impostor," I retorted, reflecting current opinion. "Possibly; but we all impose more or less upon one another; he has simply made a business of his imposition. Did you ever meet him?"
"No; it's hardly worth while."
"It is worth while to meet any man who influences or controls a considerable body of his fellow-men. The difference between Mohammed and Joseph Smith is of degree rather than kind. Dowie is down towards the small end of the scale, but he is none the less there, and differs in kind from your average citizen in his power to influence and control others. I crossed the lake with him one night and spent the evening in conversation."
"What are your impressions of the man?"
"A shrewd, hard-headed, dogmatic Scotchman, - who neither smokes nor drinks."
"Who calls himself Elijah come to earth again."
"I had the temerity to ask him concerning his pretensions in that direction, and he said, substantially, 'I make no claims or assertions, but the Bible says Elijah will return to earth; it does not say in what form or how he will manifest himself; he might choose your personality; he might choose mine; he has not chosen yours, there are some evidences that he has chosen mine."
"Proof most conclusive."
"It satisfies his followers. After all, perhaps it does not matter so much what we believe as how we believe."
A few moments later we were passing the new Christian Science Temple on Drexel Boulevard, - a building quite simple and delightful, barring some garish lamps in front.
"There is another latter-day sect," said the Professor; "one of the phenomena of the nineteenth century."
"You would not class them with the Dowieites?"
"By no means, but an interesting part of a large whole which embraces at one extreme the Dowieites. The connecting link is faith. But the very architecture of the temple we have just passed illustrates the vast interval that separates the two."
"Then you judge a sect by its buildings?"
"Every faith has its own architecture. The temple at Karnak and the tabernacle at Salt Lake City are petrifactions of faith. In time the places of worship are the only tangible remains - witness Stonehenge."