Gambling everything—including the family farm—Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the fair’s Machinery Hall makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.
The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?
Cullen whistled and whipped off his hat, swinging it in the air, just like acres and acres of like-minded citizens. A hundred thousand handkerchiefs appeared, fluttering in the breeze like a sudden fall of snowflakes. With an exaggerated flourish, Cleveland pushed down the golden telegraph key and set off a chain reaction. Old Glory, whose silken folds had been bound, whipped open to catch the razor-sharp breeze. A massive cheesecloth veil fell from a ninety-foot gilded figure of the Republic posing in the waters of the Basin. A halo of electric lamps illuminated her crown. Her uplifted arms held a staff of Liberty and an eagle with wings spreading over the court. . . . The crowd quieted, momentarily awed into stillness, before letting out a cheer that lasted minutes. Then, like a lightning bolt fracturing the sky, they broke apart and dashed in a thousand directions, hurrying to take in the wonders set before them. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition had officially begun.
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