Part 2 out of 7
The car, which was of a circular form and fifteen feet
in diameter, was made of wicker-work, strengthened with
a slight covering of iron, and protected below by a system
of elastic springs, to deaden the shock of collision. Its
weight, along with that of the network, did not exceed
two hundred and fifty pounds.
In addition to the above, the doctor caused to be constructed
two sheet-iron chests two lines in thickness. These were
connected by means of pipes furnished with stopcocks. He
joined to these a spiral, two inches in diameter, which
terminated in two branch pieces of unequal length, the
longer of which, however, was twenty-five feet in height
and the shorter only fifteen feet.
These sheet-iron chests were embedded in the car in
such a way as to take up the least possible amount of
space. The spiral, which was not to be adjusted until
some future moment, was packed up, separately, along
with a very strong Buntzen electric battery. This apparatus
had been so ingeniously combined that it did not
weigh more than seven hundred pounds, even including
twenty-five gallons of water in another receptacle.
The instruments provided for the journey consisted of
two barometers, two thermometers, two compasses, a sextant,
two chronometers, an artificial horizon, and an altazimuth,
to throw out the height of distant and inaccessible objects.
The Greenwich Observatory had placed itself at the
doctor's disposal. The latter, however, did not intend to
make experiments in physics; he merely wanted to be
able to know in what direction he was passing, and to
determine the position of the principal rivers, mountains,
He also provided himself with three thoroughly tested
iron anchors, and a light but strong silk ladder fifty feet
He at the same time carefully weighed his stores of
provision, which consisted of tea, coffee, biscuit, salted
meat, and pemmican, a preparation which comprises many
nutritive elements in a small space. Besides a sufficient
stock of pure brandy, he arranged two water-tanks, each
of which contained twenty-two gallons.
The consumption of these articles would necessarily,
little by little, diminish the weight to be sustained, for it
must be remembered that the equilibrium of a balloon
floating in the atmosphere is extremely sensitive. The
loss of an almost insignificant weight suffices to produce a
very noticeable displacement.
Nor did the doctor forget an awning to shelter the
car, nor the coverings and blankets that were to be the
bedding of the journey, nor some fowling pieces and rifles,
with their requisite supply of powder and ball.
Here is the summing up of his various items, and their
weight, as he computed it:
Ferguson........................... 135 pounds.
Kennedy............................ 153 "
Joe................................ 120 "
Weight of the outside balloon...... 650 "
Weight of the second balloon....... 510 "
Car and network.................... 280 "
Anchors, instruments, awnings,
and sundry utensils, guns,
coverings, etc................... 190 "
Meat, pemmican, biscuits, tea,
coffee, brandy................... 386 "
Water.............................. 400 "
Apparatus.......................... 700 "
Weight of the hydrogen............. 276 "
Ballast............................ 200 "
Such were the items of the four thousand pounds that Dr.
Ferguson proposed to carry up with him. He took only two
hundred pounds of ballast for "unforeseen emergencies,"
as he remarked, since otherwise he did not expect to use
any, thanks to the peculiarity of his apparatus.
Joe's Importance.--The Commander of the Resolute.--Kennedy's
Arsenal.--Mutual Amenities.--The Farewell Dinner.--Departure
on the 21st of February.--The Doctor's Scientific Sessions.--
Duveyrier.--Livingstone.--Details of the Aerial Voyage.--Kennedy
About the 10th of February, the preparations were
pretty well completed; and the balloons, firmly secured,
one within the other, were altogether finished. They had
been subjected to a powerful pneumatic pressure in all
parts, and the test gave excellent evidence of their solidity
and of the care applied in their construction.
Joe hardly knew what he was about, with delight. He
trotted incessantly to and fro between his home in Greek
Street, and the Mitchell establishment, always full of business,
but always in the highest spirits, giving details of the
affair to people who did not even ask him, so proud was
he, above all things, of being permitted to accompany his
master. I have even a shrewd suspicion that what with
showing the balloon, explaining the plans and views of the
doctor, giving folks a glimpse of the latter, through a
half-opened window, or pointing him out as he passed along
the streets, the clever scamp earned a few half-crowns, but
we must not find fault with him for that. He had as
much right as anybody else to speculate upon the admiration
and curiosity of his contemporaries.
On the 16th of February, the Resolute cast anchor near
Greenwich. She was a screw propeller of eight hundred
tons, a fast sailer, and the very vessel that had been sent
out to the polar regions, to revictual the last expedition
of Sir James Ross. Her commander, Captain Bennet, had
the name of being a very amiable person, and he took a
particular interest in the doctor's expedition, having been
one of that gentleman's admirers for a long time. Bennet
was rather a man of science than a man of war, which
did not, however, prevent his vessel from carrying four
carronades, that had never hurt any body, to be sure, but
had performed the most pacific duty in the world.
The hold of the Resolute was so arranged as to find a
stowing-place for the balloon. The latter was shipped
with the greatest precaution on the 18th of February, and
was then carefully deposited at the bottom of the vessel in
such a way as to prevent accident. The car and its accessories,
the anchors, the cords, the supplies, the water-tanks,
which were to be filled on arriving, all were embarked
and put away under Ferguson's own eyes.
Ten tons of sulphuric acid and ten tons of iron filings,
were put on board for the future production of the hydrogen
gas. The quantity was more than enough, but it was
well to be provided against accident. The apparatus to
be employed in manufacturing the gas, including some
thirty empty casks, was also stowed away in the hold.
These various preparations were terminated on the
18th of February, in the evening. Two state-rooms,
comfortably fitted up, were ready for the reception of Dr.
Ferguson and his friend Kennedy. The latter, all the
while swearing that he would not go, went on board with
a regular arsenal of hunting weapons, among which were
two double-barrelled breech-loading fowling-pieces, and a
rifle that had withstood every test, of the make of Purdey,
Moore & Dickson, at Edinburgh. With such a weapon a
marksman would find no difficulty in lodging a
bullet in the eye of a chamois at the distance of two
thousand paces. Along with these implements, he had two
of Colt's six-shooters, for unforeseen emergencies. His
powder-case, his cartridge-pouch, his lead, and his bullets,
did not exceed a certain weight prescribed by the doctor.
The three travellers got themselves to rights on board
during the working-hours of February 19th. They were
received with much distinction by the captain and his
officers, the doctor continuing as reserved as ever, and
thinking of nothing but his expedition. Dick seemed a
good deal moved, but was unwilling to betray it; while
Joe was fairly dancing and breaking out in laughable
remarks. The worthy fellow soon became the jester and
merry-andrew of the boatswain's mess, where a berth had
been kept for him.
On the 20th, a grand farewell dinner was given to Dr.
Ferguson and Kennedy by the Royal Geographical Society.
Commander Bennet and his officers were present
at the entertainment, which was signalized by copious
libations and numerous toasts. Healths were drunk, in
sufficient abundance to guarantee all the guests a lifetime
of centuries. Sir Francis M---- presided, with restrained
but dignified feeling.
To his own supreme confusion, Dick Kennedy came
in for a large share in the jovial felicitations of the night.
After having drunk to the "intrepid Ferguson, the glory
of England," they had to drink to "the no less courageous
Kennedy, his daring companion."
Dick blushed a good deal, and that passed for modesty;
whereupon the applause redoubled, and Dick blushed again.
A message from the Queen arrived while they were at
dessert. Her Majesty offered her compliments to the two
travellers, and expressed her wishes for their safe and
successful journey. This, of course, rendered imperative
fresh toasts to "Her most gracious Majesty."
At midnight, after touching farewells and warm shaking
of hands, the guests separated.
The boats of the Resolute were in waiting at the stairs
of Westminster Bridge. The captain leaped in, accompanied
by his officers and passengers, and the rapid current
of the Thames, aiding the strong arms of the rowers,
bore them swiftly to Greenwich. In an hour's time all
were asleep on board.
The next morning, February 21st, at three o'clock, the
furnaces began to roar; at five, the anchors were weighed,
and the Resolute, powerfully driven by her screw, began
to plough the water toward the mouth of the Thames.
It is needless to say that the topic of conversation with
every one on board was Dr. Ferguson's enterprise. Seeing
and hearing the doctor soon inspired everybody with
such confidence that, in a very short time, there was no
one, excepting the incredulous Scotchman, on the steamer
who had the least doubt of the perfect feasibility and
success of the expedition.
During the long, unoccupied hours of the voyage, the
doctor held regular sittings, with lectures on geographical
science, in the officers' mess-room. These young men felt
an intense interest in the discoveries made during the last
forty years in Africa; and the doctor related to them the
explorations of Barth, Burton, Speke, and Grant, and depicted
the wonders of this vast, mysterious country, now
thrown open on all sides to the investigations of science.
On the north, the young Duveyrier was exploring Sahara,
and bringing the chiefs of the Touaregs to Paris. Under
the inspiration of the French Government, two expeditions
were preparing, which, descending from the north, and
coming from the west, would cross each other at Timbuctoo.
In the south, the indefatigable Livingstone was
still advancing toward the equator; and, since March,
1862, he had, in company with Mackenzie, ascended the
river Rovoonia. The nineteenth century would, assuredly,
not pass, contended the doctor, without Africa having
been compelled to surrender the secrets she has kept
locked up in her bosom for six thousand years.
But the interest of Dr. Ferguson's hearers was excited
to the highest pitch when he made known to them, in
detail, the preparations for his own journey. They took
pleasure in verifying his calculations; they discussed
them; and the doctor frankly took part in the discussion.
As a general thing, they were surprised at the limited
quantity of provision that he took with him; and one day
one of the officers questioned him on that subject.
"That peculiar point astonishes you, does it?" said
"It does, indeed."
"But how long do you think my trip is going to last?
Whole months? If so, you are greatly mistaken. Were
it to be a long one, we should be lost; we should never
get back. But you must know that the distance from
Zanzibar to the coast of Senegal is only thirty-five
hundred--say four thousand miles. Well, at the rate of two
hundred and forty miles every twelve hours, which does
not come near the rapidity of our railroad trains, by
travelling day and night, it would take only seven days to
"But then you could see nothing, make no geographical
observations, or reconnoitre the face of the country."
"Ah!" replied the doctor, "if I am master of my
balloon--if I can ascend and descend at will, I shall stop
when I please, especially when too violent currents of air
threaten to carry me out of my way with them."
"And you will encounter such," said Captain Bennet.
"There are tornadoes that sweep at the rate of more than
two hundred and forty miles per hour."
"You see, then, that with such speed as that, we could
cross Africa in twelve hours. One would rise at Zanzibar,
and go to bed at St. Louis!"
"But," rejoined the officer, "could any balloon withstand
the wear and tear of such velocity?"
"It has happened before," replied Ferguson.
"And the balloon withstood it?"
"Perfectly well. It was at the time of the coronation
of Napoleon, in 1804. The aeronaut, Gernerin, sent up a
balloon at Paris, about eleven o'clock in the evening. It
bore the following inscription, in letters of gold: 'Paris,
25 Frimaire; year XIII; Coronation of the Emperor Napoleon
by his Holiness, Pius VII.' On the next morning,
the inhabitants of Rome saw the same balloon soaring
above the Vatican, whence it crossed the Campagna, and
finally fluttered down into the lake of Bracciano. So you
see, gentlemen, that a balloon can resist such velocities."
"A balloon--that might be; but a man?" insinuated Kennedy.
"Yes, a man, too!--for the balloon is always motionless
with reference to the air that surrounds it. What
moves is the mass of the atmosphere itself: for instance,
one may light a taper in the car, and the flame will not
even waver. An aeronaut in Garnerin's balloon would not
have suffered in the least from the speed. But then I
have no occasion to attempt such velocity; and if I can
anchor to some tree, or some favorable inequality of the
ground, at night, I shall not fail to do so. Besides, we
take provision for two months with us, after all; and there
is nothing to prevent our skilful huntsman here from furnishing
game in abundance when we come to alight."
"Ah! Mr. Kennedy," said a young midshipman, with
envious eyes, "what splendid shots you'll have!"
"Without counting," said another, "that you'll have
the glory as well as the sport!"
"Gentlemen," replied the hunter, stammering with
confusion, "I greatly--appreciate--your compliments--
but they--don't--belong to me."
"You!" exclaimed every body, "don't you intend to go?"
"I am not going!"
"You won't accompany Dr. Ferguson?"
"Not only shall I not accompany him, but I am here so as
to be present at the last moment to prevent his going."
Every eye was now turned to the doctor.
"Never mind him!" said the latter, calmly. "This is
a matter that we can't argue with him. At heart he knows
perfectly well that he IS going."
"By Saint Andrew!" said Kennedy, "I swear--"
"Swear to nothing, friend Dick; you have been ganged
and weighed--you and your powder, your guns, and your
bullets; so don't let us say anything more about it."
And, in fact, from that day until the arrival at Zanzibar,
Dick never opened his mouth. He talked neither about that
nor about anything else. He kept absolutely silent.
They double the Cape.--The Forecastle.--A Course of Cosmography
by Professor Joe.--Concerning the Method of guiding Balloons.--How
to seek out Atmospheric Currents.--Eureka.
The Resolute plunged along rapidly toward the Cape
of Good Hope, the weather continuing fine, although the
sea ran heavier.
On the 30th of March, twenty-seven days after the departure
from London, the Table Mountain loomed up on the horizon.
Cape City lying at the foot of an amphitheatre of hills,
could be distinguished through the ship's glasses, and soon
the Resolute cast anchor in the port. But the captain touched
there only to replenish his coal bunkers, and that was but a
day's job. On the morrow, he steered away to the south'ard,
so as to double the southernmost point of Africa, and enter
the Mozambique Channel.
This was not Joe's first sea-voyage, and so, for his
part, he soon found himself at home on board; every body
liked him for his frankness and good-humor. A considerable
share of his master's renown was reflected upon him.
He was listened to as an oracle, and he made no more
mistakes than the next one.
So, while the doctor was pursuing his descriptive course
of lecturing in the officers' mess, Joe reigned supreme
on the forecastle, holding forth in his own peculiar
manner, and making history to suit himself--a style of
procedure pursued, by the way, by the greatest historians
of all ages and nations.
The topic of discourse was, naturally, the aerial voyage.
Joe had experienced some trouble in getting the rebellious
spirits to believe in it; but, once accepted by them, nothing
connected with it was any longer an impossibility to the
imaginations of the seamen stimulated by Joe's harangues.
Our dazzling narrator persuaded his hearers that, after
this trip, many others still more wonderful would be undertaken.
In fact, it was to be but the first of a long series
of superhuman expeditions.
"You see, my friends, when a man has had a taste of that
kind of travelling, he can't get along afterward with any
other; so, on our next expedition, instead of going off to
one side, we'll go right ahead, going up, too, all the time."
"Humph! then you'll go to the moon!" said one of
the crowd, with a stare of amazement.
"To the moon!" exclaimed Joe, "To the moon! pooh!
that's too common. Every body might go to the moon,
that way. Besides, there's no water there, and you have
to carry such a lot of it along with you. Then you have
to take air along in bottles, so as to breathe."
"Ay! ay! that's all right! But can a man get a drop of
the real stuff there?" said a sailor who liked his toddy.
"Not a drop!" was Joe's answer. "No! old fellow,
not in the moon. But we're going to skip round among
those little twinklers up there--the stars--and the
splendid planets that my old man so often talks about. For
instance, we'll commence with Saturn--"
"That one with the ring?" asked the boatswain.
"Yes! the wedding-ring--only no one knows what's
become of his wife!"
"What? will you go so high up as that?" said one of
the ship-boys, gaping with wonder. "Why, your master
must be Old Nick himself."
"Oh! no, he's too good for that."
"But, after Saturn--what then?" was the next inquiry
of his impatient audience.
"After Saturn? Well, we'll visit Jupiter. A funny
place that is, too, where the days are only nine hours and
a half long--a good thing for the lazy fellows--and the
years, would you believe it--last twelve of ours, which is
fine for folks who have only six months to live. They get
off a little longer by that."
"Twelve years!" ejaculated the boy.
"Yes, my youngster; so that in that country you'd be
toddling after your mammy yet, and that old chap yonder,
who looks about fifty, would only be a little shaver of four
and a half."
"Blazes! that's a good 'un!" shouted the whole forecastle together.
"Solemn truth!" said Joe, stoutly.
"But what can you expect? When people will stay in
this world, they learn nothing and keep as ignorant as
bears. But just come along to Jupiter and you'll see.
But they have to look out up there, for he's got satellites
that are not just the easiest things to pass."
All the men laughed, but they more than half believed
him. Then he went on to talk about Neptune, where seafaring
men get a jovial reception, and Mars, where the
military get the best of the sidewalk to such an extent
that folks can hardly stand it. Finally, he drew them a
heavenly picture of the delights of Venus.
"And when we get back from that expedition," said the
indefatigable narrator, "they'll decorate us with the Southern
Cross that shines up there in the Creator's button-hole."
"Ay, and you'd have well earned it!" said the sailors.
Thus passed the long evenings on the forecastle in
merry chat, and during the same time the doctor went on
with his instructive discourses.
One day the conversation turned upon the means of
directing balloons, and the doctor was asked his opinion
"I don't think," said he, "that we shall succeed in finding
out a system of directing them. I am familiar with
all the plans attempted and proposed, and not one has
succeeded, not one is practicable. You may readily
understand that I have occupied my mind with this subject,
which was, necessarily, so interesting to me, but I have
not been able to solve the problem with the appliances
now known to mechanical science. We would have to
discover a motive power of extraordinary force, and
almost impossible lightness of machinery. And, even then,
we could not resist atmospheric currents of any considerable
strength. Until now, the effort has been rather to
direct the car than the balloon, and that has been one
"Still there are many points of resemblance between a
balloon and a ship which is directed at will."
"Not at all," retorted the doctor, "there is little or no
similarity between the two cases. Air is infinitely less
dense than water, in which the ship is only half submerged,
while the whole bulk of a balloon is plunged in the atmosphere,
and remains motionless with reference to the element
that surrounds it."
"You think, then, that aerostatic science has said its
"Not at all! not at all! But we must look for another
point in the case, and if we cannot manage to guide our
balloon, we must, at least, try to keep it in favorable aerial
currents. In proportion as we ascend, the latter become
much more uniform and flow more constantly in one direction.
They are no longer disturbed by the mountains and
valleys that traverse the surface of the globe, and these,
you know, are the chief cause of the variations of the wind
and the inequality of their force. Therefore, these zones
having been once determined, the balloon will merely have
to be placed in the currents best adapted to its destination."
"But then," continued Captain Bennet, "in order to reach them,
you must keep constantly ascending or descending. That is the
real difficulty, doctor."
"And why, my dear captain?"
"Let us understand one another. It would be a difficulty
and an obstacle only for long journeys, and not for
short aerial excursions."
"And why so, if you please?"
"Because you can ascend only by throwing out ballast;
you can descend only after letting off gas, and by these
processes your ballast and your gas are soon exhausted."
"My dear sir, that's the whole question. There is the
only difficulty that science need now seek to overcome.
The problem is not how to guide the balloon, but how to
take it up and down without expending the gas which is
its strength, its life-blood, its soul, if I may use the
"You are right, my dear doctor; but this problem is
not yet solved; this means has not yet been discovered."
"I beg your pardon, it HAS been discovered."
"You may readily believe that otherwise I should not
have risked this expedition across Africa in a balloon. In
twenty-four hours I should have been without gas!"
"But you said nothing about that in England?"
"No! I did not want to have myself overhauled in
public. I saw no use in that. I made my preparatory
experiments in secret and was satisfied. I have no occasion,
then, to learn any thing more from them."
"Well! doctor, would it be proper to ask what is
"Here it is, gentlemen--the simplest thing in the
The attention of his auditory was now directed to the
doctor in the utmost degree as he quietly proceeded with
Former Experiments.--The Doctor's Five Receptacles.--The Gas Cylinder.--
The Calorifere.--The System of Manoeuvring.--Success certain.
"The attempt has often been made, gentlemen," said
the doctor, "to rise and descend at will, without losing
ballast or gas from the balloon. A French aeronaut, M.
Meunier, tried to accomplish this by compressing air in an
inner receptacle. A Belgian, Dr. Van Hecke, by means
of wings and paddles, obtained a vertical power that would
have sufficed in most cases, but the practical results
secured from these experiments have been insignificant.
"I therefore resolved to go about the thing more directly;
so, at the start, I dispensed with ballast altogether,
excepting as a provision for cases of special emergency,
such as the breakage of my apparatus, or the necessity of
ascending very suddenly, so as to avoid unforeseen obstacles.
"My means of ascent and descent consist simply in dilating
or contracting the gas that is in the balloon by the
application of different temperatures, and here is the
method of obtaining that result.
"You saw me bring on board with the car several
cases or receptacles, the use of which you may not have
understood. They are five in number.
"The first contains about twenty-five gallons of water,
to which I add a few drops of sulphuric acid, so as to
augment its capacity as a conductor of electricity, and then I
decompose it by means of a powerful Buntzen battery.
Water, as you know, consists of two parts of hydrogen to
one of oxygen gas.
"The latter, through the action of the battery, passes
at its positive pole into the second receptacle. A third
receptacle, placed above the second one, and of double its
capacity, receives the hydrogen passing into it by the
"Stopcocks, of which one has an orifice twice the size
of the other, communicate between these receptacles and
a fourth one, which is called the mixture reservoir, since in
it the two gases obtained by the decomposition of the
water do really commingle. The capacity of this fourth
tank is about forty-one cubic feet.
"On the upper part of this tank is a platinum tube
provided with a stopcock.
"You will now readily understand, gentlemen, the apparatus
that I have described to you is really a gas cylinder
and blow-pipe for oxygen and hydrogen, the heat of
which exceeds that of a forge fire.
"This much established, I proceed to the second part
of my apparatus. From the lowest part of my balloon,
which is hermetically closed, issue two tubes a little
distance apart. The one starts among the upper layers of the
hydrogen gas, the other amid the lower layers.
"These two pipes are provided at intervals with strong
jointings of india-rubber, which enable them to move in
harmony with the oscillations of the balloon.
"Both of them run down as far as the car, and lose
themselves in an iron receptacle of cylindrical form,
which is called the heat-tank. The latter is closed at
its two ends by two strong plates of the same metal.
"The pipe running from the lower part of the balloon
runs into this cylindrical receptacle through the lower
plate; it penetrates the latter and then takes the form of
a helicoidal or screw-shaped spiral, the rings of which,
rising one over the other, occupy nearly the whole of the
height of the tank. Before again issuing from it, this
spiral runs into a small cone with a concave base, that is
turned downward in the shape of a spherical cap.
"It is from the top of this cone that the second pipe
issues, and it runs, as I have said, into the upper beds of
"The spherical cap of the small cone is of platinum, so
as not to melt by the action of the cylinder and blow-pipe,
for the latter are placed upon the bottom of the iron tank
in the midst of the helicoidal spiral, and the extremity of
their flame will slightly touch the cap in question.
"You all know, gentlemen, what a calorifere, to heat
apartments, is. You know how it acts. The air of the
apartments is forced to pass through its pipes, and is then
released with a heightened temperature. Well, what I
have just described to you is nothing more nor less than a
"In fact, what is it that takes place? The cylinder
once lighted, the hydrogen in the spiral and in the
concave cone becomes heated, and rapidly ascends through
the pipe that leads to the upper part of the balloon. A
vacuum is created below, and it attracts the gas in the
lower parts; this becomes heated in its turn, and is
continually replaced; thus, an extremely rapid current of gas
is established in the pipes and in the spiral, which issues
from the balloon and then returns to it, and is heated over
"Now, the cases increase 1/480 of their volume for each
degree of heat applied. If, then, I force the temperature
18 degrees, the hydrogen of the balloon will dilate 18/480 or
1614 cubic feet, and will, therefore, displace 1614 more
cubic feet of air, which will increase its ascensional power
by 160 pounds. This is equivalent to throwing out that
weight of ballast. If I augment the temperature by 180
degrees, the gas will dilate 180/480 and will displace 16,740
cubic feet more, and its ascensional force will be augmented
by 1,600 pounds.
"Thus, you see, gentlemen, that I can easily effect
very considerable changes of equilibrium. The volume of
the balloon has been calculated in such manner that, when
half inflated, it displaces a weight of air exactly equal to
that of the envelope containing the hydrogen gas, and of
the car occupied by the passengers, and all its apparatus
and accessories. At this point of inflation, it is in exact
equilibrium with the air, and neither mounts nor descends.
"In order, then, to effect an ascent, I give the gas a
temperature superior to the temperature of the surrounding
air by means of my cylinder. By this excess of heat
it obtains a larger distention, and inflates the balloon
more. The latter, then, ascends in proportion as I heat
"The descent, of course, is effected by lowering the
heat of the cylinder, and letting the temperature abate.
The ascent would be, usually, more rapid than the descent;
but that is a fortunate circumstance, since it is of no
importance to me to descend rapidly, while, on the other
hand, it is by a very rapid ascent that I avoid obstacles.
The real danger lurks below, and not above.
"Besides, as I have said, I have a certain quantity of
ballast, which will enable me to ascend more rapidly still,
when necessary. My valve, at the top of the balloon, is
nothing more nor less than a safety-valve. The balloon
always retains the same quantity of hydrogen, and the
variations of temperature that I produce in the midst of
this shut-up gas are, of themselves, sufficient to provide
for all these ascending and descending movements.
"Now, gentlemen, as a practical detail, let me add
"The combustion of the hydrogen and of the oxygen
at the point of the cylinder produces solely the vapor or
steam of water. I have, therefore, provided the lower
part of the cylindrical iron box with a scape-pipe, with a
valve operating by means of a pressure of two atmospheres;
consequently, so soon as this amount of pressure
is attained, the steam escapes of itself.
"Here are the exact figures: 25 gallons of water,
separated into its constituent elements, yield 200 pounds
of oxygen and 25 pounds of hydrogen. This represents,
at atmospheric tension, 1,800 cubic feet of the former and
3,780 cubic feet of the latter, or 5,670 cubic feet, in all, of
the mixture. Hence, the stopcock of my cylinder, when
fully open, expends 27 cubic feet per hour, with a flame at
least six times as strong as that of the large lamps used
for lighting streets. On an average, then, and in order to
keep myself at a very moderate elevation, I should not
burn more than nine cubic feet per hour, so that my
twenty-five gallons of water represent six hundred and
thirty-six hours of aerial navigation, or a little
more than twenty-six days.
"Well, as I can descend when I please, to replenish my
stock of water on the way, my trip might be indefinitely
"Such, gentlemen, is my secret. It is simple, and,
like most simple things, it cannot fail to succeed. The
dilation and contraction of the gas in the balloon is my
means of locomotion, which calls for neither cumbersome
wings, nor any other mechanical motor. A calorifere to
produce the changes of temperature, and a cylinder to
generate the heat, are neither inconvenient nor heavy. I
think, therefore, that I have combined all the elements of
Dr. Ferguson here terminated his discourse, and was
most heartily applauded. There was not an objection to
make to it; all had been foreseen and decided.
"However," said the captain, "the thing may prove
"What matters that," replied the doctor, "provided
that it be practicable?"
The Arrival at Zanzibar.--The English Consul.--Ill-will of the
Inhabitants.--The Island of Koumbeni.--The Rain-Makers.--Inflation
of the Balloon.--Departure on the 18th of April.--The last Good-by.
An invariably favorable wind had accelerated the
progress of the Resolute toward the place of her
destination. The navigation of the Mozambique Channel was
especially calm and pleasant. The agreeable character of
the trip by sea was regarded as a good omen of the probable
issue of the trip through the air. Every one looked
forward to the hour of arrival, and sought to give the last
touch to the doctor's preparations.
At length the vessel hove in sight of the town of Zanzibar,
upon the island of the same name, and, on the 15th of April,
at 11 o'clock in the morning, she anchored in the port.
The island of Zanzibar belongs to the Imaum of Muscat,
an ally of France and England, and is, undoubtedly,
his finest settlement. The port is frequented by a great
many vessels from the neighboring countries.
The island is separated from the African coast only by
a channel, the greatest width of which is but thirty miles.
It has a large trade in gums, ivory, and, above all, in
"ebony," for Zanzibar is the great slave-market. Thither
converges all the booty captured in the battles which the
chiefs of the interior are continually fighting. This traffic
extends along the whole eastern coast, and as far as the
Nile latitudes. Mr. G. Lejean even reports that he has
seen it carried on, openly, under the French flag.
Upon the arrival of the Resolute, the English consul at
Zanzibar came on board to offer his services to the doctor,
of whose projects the European newspapers had made him
aware for a month past. But, up to that moment, he had
remained with the numerous phalanx of the incredulous.
"I doubted," said he, holding out his hand to Dr. Ferguson,
"but now I doubt no longer."
He invited the doctor, Kennedy, and the faithful Joe,
of course, to his own dwelling. Through his courtesy,
the doctor was enabled to have knowledge of the various
letters that he had received from Captain Speke. The
captain and his companions had suffered dreadfully from
hunger and bad weather before reaching the Ugogo country.
They could advance only with extreme difficulty,
and did not expect to be able to communicate again for
a long time.
"Those are perils and privations which we shall manage
to avoid," said the doctor.
The baggage of the three travellers was conveyed to
the consul's residence. Arrangements were made for
disembarking the balloon upon the beach at Zanzibar. There
was a convenient spot, near the signal-mast, close by an
immense building, that would serve to shelter it from the
east winds. This huge tower, resembling a tun standing
on one end, beside which the famous Heidelberg tun
would have seemed but a very ordinary barrel, served as
a fortification, and on its platform were stationed
Belootchees, armed with lances. These Belootchees are a
kind of brawling, good-for-nothing Janizaries.
But, when about to land the balloon, the consul was
informed that the population of the island would oppose
their doing so by force. Nothing is so blind as fanatical
passion. The news of the arrival of a Christian, who was
to ascend into the air, was received with rage. The
negroes, more exasperated than the Arabs, saw in this
project an attack upon their religion. They took it into
their heads that some mischief was meant to the sun and
the moon. Now, these two luminaries are objects of
veneration to the African tribes, and they determined to
oppose so sacrilegious an enterprise.
The consul, informed of their intentions, conferred with
Dr. Ferguson and Captain Bennet on the subject. The
latter was unwilling to yield to threats, but his friend
dissuaded him from any idea of violent retaliation.
"We shall certainly come out winners," he said.
"Even the imaum's soldiers will lend us a hand, if we
need it. But, my dear captain, an accident may happen
in a moment, and it would require but one unlucky blow
to do the balloon an irreparable injury, so that the trip
would be totally defeated; therefore we must act with
the greatest caution."
"But what are we to do? If we land on the coast of
Africa, we shall encounter the same difficulties. What
are we to do?"
"Nothing is more simple," replied the consul. "You
observe those small islands outside of the port; land your
balloon on one of them; surround it with a guard of
sailors, and you will have no risk to run."
"Just the thing!" said the doctor, "and we shall be
entirely at our ease in completing our preparations."
The captain yielded to these suggestions, and the
Resolute was headed for the island of Koumbeni. During
the morning of the 16th April, the balloon was placed in
safety in the middle of a clearing in the great woods,
with which the soil is studded.
Two masts, eighty feet in height, were raised at the
same distance from each other. Blocks and tackle, placed
at their extremities, afforded the means of elevating the
balloon, by the aid of a transverse rope. It was then
entirely uninflated. The interior balloon was fastened to
the exterior one, in such manner as to be lifted up in the
same way. To the lower end of each balloon were fixed
the pipes that served to introduce the hydrogen gas.
The whole day, on the 17th, was spent in arranging
the apparatus destined to produce the gas; it consisted
of some thirty casks, in which the decomposition of water
was effected by means of iron-filings and sulphuric acid
placed together in a large quantity of the first-named
fluid. The hydrogen passed into a huge central cask,
after having been washed on the way, and thence into
each balloon by the conduit-pipes. In this manner each
of them received a certain accurately-ascertained quantity
of gas. For this purpose, there had to be employed
eighteen hundred and sixty-six pounds of sulphuric acid,
sixteen thousand and fifty pounds of iron, and nine thousand
one hundred and sixty-six gallons of water. This
operation commenced on the following night, about three
A.M., and lasted nearly eight hours. The next day, the
balloon, covered with its network, undulated gracefully
above its car, which was held to the ground by numerous
sacks of earth. The inflating apparatus was put together
with extreme care, and the pipes issuing from the balloon
were securely fitted to the cylindrical case.
The anchors, the cordage, the instruments, the travelling-wraps,
the awning, the provisions, and the arms, were
put in the place assigned to them in the car. The supply
of water was procured at Zanzibar. The two hundred
pounds of ballast were distributed in fifty bags placed at
the bottom of the car, but within arm's-reach.
These preparations were concluded about five o'clock in the
evening, while sentinels kept close watch around the island,
and the boats of the Resolute patrolled the channel.
The blacks continued to show their displeasure by
grimaces and contortions. Their obi-men, or wizards,
went up and down among the angry throngs, pouring
fuel on the flame of their fanaticism; and some of the
excited wretches, more furious and daring than the rest,
attempted to get to the island by swimming, but they
were easily driven off.
Thereupon the sorceries and incantations commenced;
the "rain-makers," who pretend to have control over the
clouds, invoked the storms and the "stone-showers," as
the blacks call hail, to their aid. To compel them to do
so, they plucked leaves of all the different trees that grow
in that country, and boiled them over a slow fire, while,
at the same time, a sheep was killed by thrusting a long
needle into its heart. But, in spite of all their ceremonies,
the sky remained clear and beautiful, and they profited
nothing by their slaughtered sheep and their ugly grimaces.
The blacks then abandoned themselves to the most
furious orgies, and got fearfully drunk on "tembo," a
kind of ardent spirits drawn from the cocoa-nut tree, and
an extremely heady sort of beer called "togwa." Their
chants, which were destitute of all melody, but were sung
in excellent time, continued until far into the night.
About six o'clock in the evening, the captain assembled
the travellers and the officers of the ship at a farewell
repast in his cabin. Kennedy, whom nobody ventured to
question now, sat with his eyes riveted on Dr. Ferguson,
murmuring indistinguishable words. In other respects,
the dinner was a gloomy one. The approach of the final
moment filled everybody with the most serious reflections.
What had fate in store for these daring adventurers?
Should they ever again find themselves in the midst of
their friends, or seated at the domestic hearth? Were
their travelling apparatus to fail, what would become of
them, among those ferocious savage tribes, in regions that
had never been explored, and in the midst of boundless
Such thoughts as these, which had been dim and vague
until then, or but slightly regarded when they came up,
returned upon their excited fancies with intense force at
this parting moment. Dr. Ferguson, still cold and impassible,
talked of this, that, and the other; but he strove in vain
to overcome this infectious gloominess. He utterly failed.
As some demonstration against the personal safety of
the doctor and his companions was feared, all three slept
that night on board the Resolute. At six o'clock in the
morning they left their cabin, and landed on the island of
The balloon was swaying gently to and fro in the
morning breeze; the sand-bags that had held it down
were now replaced by some twenty strong-armed sailors,
and Captain Bennet and his officers were present to
witness the solemn departure of their friends.
At this moment Kennedy went right up to the doctor,
grasped his hand, and said:
"Samuel, have you absolutely determined to go?"
"Solemnly determined, my dear Dick."
"I have done every thing that I could to prevent this
expedition, have I not?"
"Well, then, my conscience is clear on that score, and
I will go with you."
"I was sure you would!" said the doctor, betraying
in his features swift traces of emotion.
At last the moment of final leave-taking arrived. The
captain and his officers embraced their dauntless friends
with great feeling, not excepting even Joe, who, worthy
fellow, was as proud and happy as a prince. Every one
in the party insisted upon having a final shake of the
At nine o'clock the three travellers got into their car.
The doctor lit the combustible in his cylinder and turned
the flame so as to produce a rapid heat, and the balloon,
which had rested on the ground in perfect equipoise, began
to rise in a few minutes, so that the seamen had to slacken
the ropes they held it by. The car then rose about twenty
feet above their heads.
"My friends!" exclaimed the doctor, standing up between
his two companions, and taking off his hat, "let us
give our aerial ship a name that will bring her good luck!
let us christen her Victoria!"
This speech was answered with stentorian cheers of
"Huzza for the Queen! Huzza for Old England!"
At this moment the ascensional force of the balloon
increased prodigiously, and Ferguson, Kennedy, and Joe,
waved a last good-by to their friends.
"Let go all!" shouted the doctor, and at the word the
Victoria shot rapidly up into the sky, while the four
carronades on board the Resolute thundered forth a parting
salute in her honor.
Crossing the Strait.--The Mrima.--Dick's Remark and Joe's
Proposition.--A Recipe for Coffee-making.--The Uzaramo.--The
Unfortunate Maizan.--Mount Dathumi.--The Doctor's Cards.--Night
under a Nopal.
The air was pure, the wind moderate, and the balloon
ascended almost perpendicularly to a height of fifteen
hundred feet, as indicated by a depression of two inches
in the barometric column.
At this height a more decided current carried the
balloon toward the southwest. What a magnificent spectacle
was then outspread beneath the gaze of the travellers!
The island of Zanzibar could be seen in its entire extent,
marked out by its deeper color upon a vast planisphere;
the fields had the appearance of patterns of different
colors, and thick clumps of green indicated the groves and
The inhabitants of the island looked no larger than
insects. The huzzaing and shouting were little by little
lost in the distance, and only the discharge of the ship's
guns could be heard in the concavity beneath the balloon,
as the latter sped on its flight.
"How fine that is!" said Joe, breaking silence for the
He got no reply. The doctor was busy observing the
variations of the barometer and noting down the details
of his ascent.
Kennedy looked on, and had not eyes enough to take
in all that he saw.
The rays of the sun coming to the aid of the heating
cylinder, the tension of the gas increased, and the Victoria
attained the height of twenty-five hundred feet.
The Resolute looked like a mere cockle-shell, and the
African coast could be distinctly seen in the west marked
out by a fringe of foam.
"You don't talk?" said Joe, again.
"We are looking!" said the doctor, directing his spy-glass
toward the mainland.
"For my part, I must talk!"
"As much as you please, Joe; talk as much as you like!"
And Joe went on alone with a tremendous volley of
exclamations. The "ohs!" and the "ahs!" exploded one
after the other, incessantly, from his lips.
During his passage over the sea the doctor deemed it
best to keep at his present elevation. He could thus
reconnoitre a greater stretch of the coast. The thermometer
and the barometer, hanging up inside of the half-opened
awning, were always within sight, and a second barometer
suspended outside was to serve during the night watches.
At the end of about two hours the Victoria, driven
along at a speed of a little more than eight miles, very
visibly neared the coast of the mainland. The doctor,
thereupon, determined to descend a little nearer to the
ground. So he moderated the flame of his cylinder, and
the balloon, in a few moments, had descended to an altitude
only three hundred feet above the soil.
It was then found to be passing just over the Mrima
country, the name of this part of the eastern coast of
Africa. Dense borders of mango-trees protected its margin,
and the ebb-tide disclosed to view their thick roots,
chafed and gnawed by the teeth of the Indian Ocean. The
sands which, at an earlier period, formed the coast-line,
rounded away along the distant horizon, and Mount
Nguru reared aloft its sharp summit in the northwest.
The Victoria passed near to a village which the doctor
found marked upon his chart as Kaole. Its entire population
had assembled in crowds, and were yelling with anger
and fear, at the same time vainly directing their arrows
against this monster of the air that swept along so majestically
away above all their powerless fury.
The wind was setting to the southward, but the doctor
felt no concern on that score, since it enabled him the
better to follow the route traced by Captains Burton and
Kennedy had, at length, become as talkative as Joe,
and the two kept up a continual interchange of admiring
interjections and exclamations.
"Out upon stage-coaches!" said one.
"Steamers indeed!" said the other.
"Railroads! eh? rubbish!" put in Kennedy, "that
you travel on, without seeing the country!"
"Balloons! they're the sort for me!" Joe would add.
"Why, you don't feel yourself going, and Nature takes
the trouble to spread herself out before one's eyes!"
"What a splendid sight! What a spectacle! What
a delight! a dream in a hammock!"
"Suppose we take our breakfast?" was Joe's unpoetical
change of tune, at last, for the keen, open air had
mightily sharpened his appetite.
"Good idea, my boy!"
"Oh! it won't take us long to do the cooking--biscuit
and potted meat?"
"And as much coffee as you like," said the doctor. "I
give you leave to borrow a little heat from my cylinder.
There's enough and to spare, for that matter, and so we
shall avoid the risk of a conflagration."
"That would be a dreadful misfortune!" ejaculated
Kennedy. "It's the same as a powder-magazine suspended
over our heads."
"Not precisely," said Ferguson, "but still if the gas were
to take fire it would burn up gradually, and we should
settle down on the ground, which would be disagreeable;
but never fear--our balloon is hermetically sealed."
"Let us eat a bite, then," replied Kennedy.
"Now, gentlemen," put in Joe, "while doing the same
as you, I'm going to get you up a cup of coffee that I
think you'll have something to say about."
"The fact is," added the doctor, "that Joe, along with
a thousand other virtues, has a remarkable talent for the
preparation of that delicious beverage: he compounds it
of a mixture of various origin, but he never would reveal
to me the ingredients."
"Well, master, since we are so far above-ground, I can
tell you the secret. It is just to mix equal quantities of
Mocha, of Bourbon coffee, and of Rio Nunez."
A few moments later, three steaming cups of coffee
were served, and topped off a substantial breakfast, which
was additionally seasoned by the jokes and repartees of
the guests. Each one then resumed his post of observation.
The country over which they were passing was remarkable
for its fertility. Narrow, winding paths plunged
in beneath the overarching verdure. They swept along
above cultivated fields of tobacco, maize, and barley, at
full maturity, and here and there immense rice-fields,
full of straight stalks and purple blossoms. They could
distinguish sheep and goats too, confined in large
cages, set up on piles to keep them out of reach of the
leopards' fangs. Luxuriant vegetation spread in wild
profuseness over this prodigal soil.
Village after village rang with yells of terror and
astonishment at the sight of the Victoria, and Dr.
Ferguson prudently kept her above the reach of the barbarian
arrows. The savages below, thus baffled, ran together
from their huddle of huts and followed the travellers with
their vain imprecations while they remained in sight.
At noon, the doctor, upon consulting his map, calculated
that they were passing over the Uzaramo* country.
The soil was thickly studded with cocoa-nut, papaw, and
cotton-wood trees, above which the balloon seemed to disport
itself like a bird. Joe found this splendid vegetation
a matter of course, seeing that they were in Africa. Kennedy
descried some hares and quails that asked nothing
better than to get a good shot from his fowling-piece, but
it would have been powder wasted, since there was no
time to pick up the game.
* U and Ou signify country in the language of that region.
The aeronauts swept on with the speed of twelve miles
per hour, and soon were passing in thirty-eight degrees
twenty minutes east longitude, over the village of Tounda.
"It was there," said the doctor, "that Burton and
Speke were seized with violent fevers, and for a moment
thought their expedition ruined. And yet they were only
a short distance from the coast, but fatigue and privation
were beginning to tell upon them severely."
In fact, there is a perpetual malaria reigning throughout
the country in question. Even the doctor could hope
to escape its effects only by rising above the range of the
miasma that exhales from this damp region whence the
blazing rays of the sun pump up its poisonous vapors.
Once in a while they could descry a caravan resting in a
"kraal," awaiting the freshness and cool of the evening to
resume its route. These kraals are wide patches of cleared
land, surrounded by hedges and jungles, where traders
take shelter against not only the wild beasts, but also the
robber tribes of the country. They could see the natives
running and scattering in all directions at the sight of the
Victoria. Kennedy was keen to get a closer look at them,
but the doctor invariably held out against the idea.
"The chiefs are armed with muskets," he said, "and
our balloon would be too conspicuous a mark for their
"Would a bullet-hole bring us down?" asked Joe.
"Not immediately; but such a hole would soon become
a large torn orifice through which our gas would escape."
"Then, let us keep at a respectful distance from yon
miscreants. What must they think as they see us sailing
in the air? I'm sure they must feel like worshipping us!"
"Let them worship away, then," replied the doctor,
"but at a distance. There is no harm done in getting as far
away from them as possible. See! the country is already
changing its aspect: the villages are fewer and farther
between; the mango-trees have disappeared, for their growth
ceases at this latitude. The soil is becoming hilly and
portends mountains not far off."
"Yes," said Kennedy, "it seems to me that I can see
some high land on this side."
"In the west--those are the nearest ranges of the
Ourizara--Mount Duthumi, no doubt, behind which I hope
to find shelter for the night. I'll stir up the heat in the
cylinder a little, for we must keep at an elevation of five
or six hundred feet."
"That was a grant idea of yours, sir," said Joe. "It's
mighty easy to manage it; you turn a cock, and the thing's
"Ah! here we are more at our ease," said the sportsman,
as the balloon ascended; "the reflection of the sun
on those red sands was getting to be insupportable."
"What splendid trees!" cried Joe. "They're quite
natural, but they are very fine! Why a dozen of them
would make a forest!"
"Those are baobabs," replied Dr. Ferguson. "See, there's one
with a trunk fully one hundred feet in circumference. It was,
perhaps, at the foot of that very tree that Maizan, the French
traveller, expired in 1845, for we are over the village of
Deje-la-Mhora, to which he pushed on alone. He was seized by
the chief of this region, fastened to the foot of a baobab,
and the ferocious black then severed all his joints while
the war-song of his tribe was chanted; he then made a gash
in the prisoner's neck, stopped to sharpen his knife, and
fairly tore away the poor wretch's head before it had been
cut from the body. The unfortunate Frenchman was but
twenty-six years of age."
"And France has never avenged so hideous a crime?"
"France did demand satisfaction, and the Said of Zanzibar
did all in his power to capture the murderer, but in vain."
"I move that we don't stop here!" urged Joe; "let us
go up, master, let us go up higher by all means."
"All the more willingly, Joe, that there is Mount
Duthumi right ahead of us. If my calculations be right
we shall have passed it before seven o'clock in the evening."
"Shall we not travel at night?" asked the Scotchman.
"No, as little as possible. With care and vigilance
we might do so safely, but it is not enough to sweep across
Africa. We want to see it."
"Up to this time we have nothing to complain of,
master. The best cultivated and most fertile country in
the world instead of a desert! Believe the geographers
Let us wait, Joe! we shall see by-and-by."
About half-past six in the evening the Victoria was directly
opposite Mount Duthumi; in order to pass, it had to ascend
to a height of more than three thousand feet, and to accomplish
that the doctor had only to raise the temperature of his gas
eighteen degrees. It might have been correctly said that he
held his balloon in his hand. Kennedy had only to indicate
to him the obstacles to be surmounted, and the Victoria
sped through the air, skimming the summits of the range.
At eight o'clock it descended the farther slope, the
acclivity of which was much less abrupt. The anchors were
thrown out from the car and one of them, coming in contact
with the branches of an enormous nopal, caught on it
firmly. Joe at once let himself slide down the rope and
secured it. The silk ladder was then lowered to him
and he remounted to the car with agility. The balloon
now remained perfectly at rest sheltered from the
The evening meal was got ready, and the aeronauts,
excited by their day's journey, made a heavy onslaught
upon the provisions.
"What distance have we traversed to-day?" asked
Kennedy, disposing of some alarming mouthfuls.
The doctor took his bearings, by means of lunar observations,
and consulted the excellent map that he had with
him for his guidance. It belonged to the Atlas of "Der
Neuester Endeckungen in Afrika" ("The Latest Discoveries
in Africa"), published at Gotha by his learned friend
Dr. Petermann, and by that savant sent to him. This
Atlas was to serve the doctor on his whole journey; for it
contained the itinerary of Burton and Speke to the great
lakes; the Soudan, according to Dr. Barth; the Lower
Senegal, according to Guillaume Lejean; and the Delta of
the Niger, by Dr. Blaikie.
Ferguson had also provided himself with a work which
combined in one compilation all the notions already acquired
concerning the Nile. It was entitled "The Sources
of the Nile; being a General Survey of the Basin of that
River and of its Head-Stream, with the History of the
Nilotic Discovery, by Charles Beke, D.D."
He also had the excellent charts published in the
"Bulletins of the Geographical Society of London;" and
not a single point of the countries already discovered
could, therefore, escape his notice.
Upon tracing on his maps, he found that his latitudinal
route had been two degrees, or one hundred and
twenty miles, to the westward.
Kennedy remarked that the route tended toward the
south; but this direction was satisfactory to the doctor,
who desired to reconnoitre the tracks of his predecessors
as much as possible. It was agreed that the night should
be divided into three watches, so that each of the party
should take his turn in watching over the safety of the
rest. The doctor took the watch commencing at nine
o'clock; Kennedy, the one commencing at midnight; and
Joe, the three o'clock morning watch.
So Kennedy and Joe, well wrapped in their blankets,
stretched themselves at full length under the awning, and
slept quietly; while Dr. Ferguson kept on the lookout.
Change of Weather.--Kennedy has the Fever.--The Doctor's Medicine.
--Travels on Land.--The Basin of Imenge.--Mount Rubeho.--Six
Thousand Feet Elevation.--A Halt in the Daytime.
The night was calm. However, on Saturday morning,
Kennedy, as he awoke, complained of lassitude and feverish
chills. The weather was changing. The sky, covered
with clouds, seemed to be laying in supplies for a fresh
deluge. A gloomy region is that Zungomoro country,
where it rains continually, excepting, perhaps, for a couple
of weeks in the month of January.
A violent shower was not long in drenching our travellers.
Below them, the roads, intersected by "nullahs,"
a sort of instantaneous torrent, were soon rendered
impracticable, entangled as they were, besides, with thorny
thickets and gigantic lianas, or creeping vines. The
sulphuretted hydrogen emanations, which Captain Burton
mentions, could be distinctly smelt.
"According to his statement, and I think he's right,"
said the doctor, "one could readily believe that there is
a corpse hidden behind every thicket."
"An ugly country this!" sighed Joe; "and it seems
to me that Mr. Kennedy is none the better for having
passed the night in it."
"To tell the truth, I have quite a high fever," said the
"There's nothing remarkable about that, my dear Dick, for
we are in one of the most unhealthy regions in Africa; but
we shall not remain here long; so let's be off."
Thanks to a skilful manoeuvre achieved by Joe, the
anchor was disengaged, and Joe reascended to the car by
means of the ladder. The doctor vigorously dilated the
gas, and the Victoria resumed her flight, driven along by
a spanking breeze.
Only a few scattered huts could be seen through the
pestilential mists; but the appearance of the country soon
changed, for it often happens in Africa that some of the
unhealthiest districts lie close beside others that are
Kennedy was visibly suffering, and the fever was mastering
his vigorous constitution.
"It won't do to fall ill, though," he grumbled; and
so saying, he wrapped himself in a blanket, and lay down
under the awning.
"A little patience, Dick, and you'll soon get over
this," said the doctor.
"Get over it! Egad, Samuel, if you've any drug in
your travelling-chest that will set me on my feet again,
bring it without delay. I'll swallow it with my eyes
"Oh, I can do better than that, friend Dick; for I can
give you a febrifuge that won't cost any thing."
"And how will you do that?"
"Very easily. I am simply going to take you up
above these clouds that are now deluging us, and remove
you from this pestilential atmosphere. I ask for only ten
minutes, in order to dilate the hydrogen."
The ten minutes had scarcely elapsed ere the travellers
were beyond the rainy belt of country.
"Wait a little, now, Dick, and you'll begin to feel the
effect of pure air and sunshine."
"There's a cure for you!" said Joe; "why, it's wonderful!"
"No, it's merely natural."
"Oh! natural; yes, no doubt of that!"
"I bring Dick into good air, as the doctors do, every
day, in Europe, or, as I would send a patient at Martinique
to the Pitons, a lofty mountain on that island, to get clear
of the yellow fever."
"Ah! by Jove, this balloon is a paradise!" exclaimed
Kennedy, feeling much better already.
"It leads to it, anyhow!" replied Joe, quite gravely.
It was a curious spectacle--that mass of clouds piled
up, at the moment, away below them! The vapors rolled
over each other, and mingled together in confused masses
of superb brilliance, as they reflected the rays of the sun.
The Victoria had attained an altitude of four thousand
feet, and the thermometer indicated a certain diminution
of temperature. The land below could no longer be seen.
Fifty miles away to the westward, Mount Rubeho raised
its sparkling crest, marking the limit of the Ugogo country
in east longitude thirty-six degrees twenty minutes.
The wind was blowing at the rate of twenty miles an hour,
but the aeronauts felt nothing of this increased speed.
They observed no jar, and had scarcely any sense of motion
Three hours later, the doctor's prediction was fully
verified. Kennedy no longer felt a single shiver of the
fever, but partook of some breakfast with an excellent
That beats sulphate of quinine!" said the energetic
Scot, with hearty emphasis and much satisfaction.
"Positively," said Joe, "this is where I'll have to retire
to when I get old!"
About ten o'clock in the morning the atmosphere
cleared up, the clouds parted, and the country beneath
could again be seen, the Victoria meanwhile rapidly
descending. Dr. Ferguson was in search of a current that
would carry him more to the northeast, and he found it
about six hundred feet from the ground. The country
was becoming more broken, and even mountainous. The
Zungomoro district was fading out of sight in the east
with the last cocoa-nut-trees of that latitude.
Ere long, the crests of a mountain-range assumed a more
decided prominence. A few peaks rose here and there,
and it became necessary to keep a sharp lookout for the
pointed cones that seemed to spring up every moment.
"We're right among the breakers!" said Kennedy.
"Keep cool, Dick. We shan't touch them," was the
doctor's quiet answer.
"It's a jolly way to travel, anyhow!" said Joe, with
his usual flow of spirits.
In fact, the doctor managed his balloon with wondrous
"Now, if we had been compelled to go afoot over that
drenched soil," said he, "we should still be dragging along
in a pestilential mire. Since our departure from Zanzibar,
half our beasts of burden would have died with fatigue.
We should be looking like ghosts ourselves, and despair
would be seizing on our hearts. We should be in continual
squabbles with our guides and porters, and completely
exposed to their unbridled brutality. During the daytime,
a damp, penetrating, unendurable humidity! At
night, a cold frequently intolerable, and the stings of a
kind of fly whose bite pierces the thickest cloth, and drives
the victim crazy! All this, too, without saying any thing
about wild beasts and ferocious native tribes!"
"I move that we don't try it!" said Joe, in his droll way.
"I exaggerate nothing," continued Ferguson, "for,
upon reading the narratives of such travellers as have had
the hardihood to venture into these regions, your eyes
would fill with tears."
About eleven o'clock they were passing over the basin
of Imenge, and the tribes scattered over the adjacent hills
were impotently menacing the Victoria with their weapons.
Finally, she sped along as far as the last undulations
of the country which precede Rubeho. These form the
last and loftiest chain of the mountains of Usagara.
The aeronauts took careful and complete note of the
orographic conformation of the country. The three ramifications
mentioned, of which the Duthumi forms the first
link, are separated by immense longitudinal plains. These
elevated summits consist of rounded cones, between which
the soil is bestrewn with erratic blocks of stone and gravelly
bowlders. The most abrupt declivity of these mountains
confronts the Zanzibar coast, but the western slopes
are merely inclined planes. The depressions in the soil
are covered with a black, rich loam, on which there is a
vigorous vegetation. Various water-courses filter through,
toward the east, and work their way onward to flow into
the Kingani, in the midst of gigantic clumps of sycamore,
tamarind, calabash, and palmyra trees.
"Attention!" said Dr. Ferguson. "We are approaching Rubeho, the
name of which signifies, in the language of the country, the
'Passage of the Winds,' and we would do well to double its jagged
pinnacles at a certain height. If my chart be exact, we are going
to ascend to an elevation of five thousand feet."
"Shall we often have occasion to reach those far upper
belts of the atmosphere?"
"Very seldom: the height of the African mountains
appears to be quite moderate compared with that of the
European and Asiatic ranges; but, in any case, our good
Victoria will find no difficulty in passing over them."
In a very little while, the gas expanded under the
action of the heat, and the balloon took a very decided
ascensional movement. Besides, the dilation of the hydrogen
involved no danger, and only three-fourths of the vast
capacity of the balloon was filled when the barometer,
by a depression of eight inches, announced an elevation
of six thousand feet.
"Shall we go this high very long?" asked Joe.
"The atmosphere of the earth has a height of six thousand
fathoms," said the doctor; "and, with a very large
balloon, one might go far. That is what Messrs. Brioschi
and Gay-Lussac did; but then the blood burst from their
mouths and ears. Respirable air was wanting. Some
years ago, two fearless Frenchmen, Messrs. Barral and
Bixio, also ventured into the very lofty regions; but their
"And they fell?" asked Kennedy, abruptly.
"Certainly they did; but as learned men should always
fall--namely, without hurting themselves."
"Well, gentlemen," said Joe, "you may try their fall
over again, if you like; but, as for me, who am but a dolt,
I prefer keeping at the medium height--neither too far
up, nor too low down. It won't do to be too ambitious."
At the height of six thousand feet, the density of the
atmosphere has already greatly diminished; sound is conveyed
with difficulty, and the voice is not so easily heard.
The view of objects becomes confused; the gaze no longer
takes in any but large, quite ill-distinguishable masses;
men and animals on the surface become absolutely invisible;
the roads and rivers get to look like threads, and
the lakes dwindle to ponds.
The doctor and his friends felt themselves in a very
anomalous condition; an atmospheric current of extreme
velocity was bearing them away beyond arid mountains,
upon whose summits vast fields of snow surprised the
gaze; while their convulsed appearance told of Titanic
travail in the earliest epoch of the world's existence.
The sun shone at the zenith, and his rays fell perpendicularly
upon those lonely summits. The doctor took an accurate design
of these mountains, which form four distinct ridges almost in
a straight line, the northernmost being the longest.
The Victoria soon descended the slope opposite to the
Rubeho, skirting an acclivity covered with woods, and
dotted with trees of very deep-green foliage. Then came
crests and ravines, in a sort of desert which preceded the
Ugogo country; and lower down were yellow plains,
parched and fissured by the intense heat, and, here and
there, bestrewn with saline plants and brambly thickets.
Some underbrush, which, farther on, became forests,
embellished the horizon. The doctor went nearer to the
ground; the anchors were thrown out, and one of them
soon caught in the boughs of a huge sycamore.
Joe, slipping nimbly down the tree, carefully attached
the anchor, and the doctor left his cylinder at work to a
certain degree in order to retain sufficient ascensional
force in the balloon to keep it in the air. Meanwhile the
wind had suddenly died away.
"Now," said Ferguson, "take two guns, friend Dick--
one for yourself and one for Joe--and both of you try to
bring back some nice cuts of antelope-meat; they will
make us a good dinner."
"Off to the hunt!" exclaimed Kennedy, joyously.
He climbed briskly out of the car and descended. Joe had
swung himself down from branch to branch, and was waiting
for him below, stretching his limbs in the mean time.
"Don't fly away without us, doctor!" shouted Joe.
"Never fear, my boy!--I am securely lashed. I'll
spend the time getting my notes into shape. A good hunt
to you! but be careful. Besides, from my post here, I
can observe the face of the country, and, at the least
suspicious thing I notice, I'll fire a signal-shot, and
with that you must rally home."
"Agreed!" said Kennedy; and off they went.
The Forest of Gum-Trees.--The Blue Antelope.--The Rallying-Signal.
--An Unexpected Attack.--The Kanyeme.--A Night in the Open Air.--The
Mabunguru.--Jihoue-la-Mkoa.--A Supply of Water.--Arrival at Kazeh.
The country, dry and parched as it was, consisting of
a clayey soil that cracked open with the heat, seemed,
indeed, a desert: here and there were a few traces of
caravans; the bones of men and animals, that had been
half-gnawed away, mouldering together in the same dust.
After half an hour's walking, Dick and Joe plunged
into a forest of gum-trees, their eyes alert on all sides,
and their fingers on the trigger. There was no foreseeing
what they might encounter. Without being a rifleman, Joe
could handle fire-arms with no trifling dexterity.
"A walk does one good, Mr. Kennedy, but this isn't
the easiest ground in the world," he said, kicking aside
some fragments of quartz with which the soil was bestrewn.
Kennedy motioned to his companion to be silent and
to halt. The present case compelled them to dispense
with hunting-dogs, and, no matter what Joe's agility might
be, he could not be expected to have the scent of a setter
or a greyhound.
A herd of a dozen antelopes were quenching their
thirst in the bed of a torrent where some pools of water
had lodged. The graceful creatures, snuffing danger in
the breeze, seemed to be disturbed and uneasy. Their
beautiful heads could be seen between every draught,
raised in the air with quick and sudden motion as they
sniffed the wind in the direction of our two hunters, with
their flexible nostrils.
Kennedy stole around behind some clumps of shrubbery,
while Joe remained motionless where he was. The
former, at length, got within gunshot and fired.
The herd disappeared in the twinkling of an eye; one
male antelope only, that was hit just behind the
shoulder-joint, fell headlong to the ground, and
Kennedy leaped toward his booty.
It was a blauwbok, a superb animal of a pale-bluish
color shading upon the gray, but with the belly and the
inside of the legs as white as the driven snow.
"A splendid shot!" exclaimed the hunter. "It's a very
rare species of the antelope, and I hope to be able to
prepare his skin in such a way as to keep it."
"Indeed!" said Joe, "do you think of doing that, Mr. Kennedy?"
"Why, certainly I do! Just see what a fine hide it is!"
"But Dr. Ferguson will never allow us to take such an
"You're right, Joe. Still it is a pity to have to leave
such a noble animal."
"The whole of it? Oh, we won't do that, sir; we'll
take all the good eatable parts of it, and, if you'll let me,
I'll cut him up just as well as the chairman of the honorable
corporation of butchers of the city of London could do."
"As you please, my boy! But you know that in my hunter's way
I can just as easily skin and cut up a piece of game as kill it."
"I'm sure of that, Mr. Kennedy. Well, then, you can
build a fireplace with a few stones; there's plenty of dry
dead-wood, and I can make the hot coals tell in a few
"Oh! that won't take long," said Kennedy, going to
work on the fireplace, where he had a brisk flame crackling
and sparkling in a minute or two.
Joe had cut some of the nicest steaks and the best parts of
the tenderloin from the carcass of the antelope, and these
were quickly transformed to the most savory of broils.
"There, those will tickle the doctor!" said Kennedy.
"Do you know what I was thinking about?" said Joe.
"Why, about the steaks you're broiling, to be sure!"
"Not the least in the world. I was thinking what a
figure we'd cut if we couldn't find the balloon again."
"By George, what an idea! Why, do you think the
doctor would desert us?"
"No; but suppose his anchor were to slip!"
"Impossible! and, besides, the doctor would find no
difficulty in coming down again with his balloon; he
handles it at his ease."
"But suppose the wind were to sweep it off, so that he
couldn't come back toward us?"
"Come, come, Joe! a truce to your suppositions;
they're any thing but pleasant."
"Ah! sir, every thing that happens in this world is
natural, of course; but, then, any thing may happen, and
we ought to look out beforehand."
At this moment the report of a gun rang out upon the air.
"What's that?" exclaimed Joe.
"It's my rifle, I know the ring of her!" said Kennedy.
"Yes; danger for us!"
"For him, too, perhaps."
"Let's be off!"
And the hunters, having gathered up the product of
their expedition, rapidly made their way back along the
path that they had marked by breaking boughs and bushes
when they came. The density of the underbrush prevented
their seeing the balloon, although they could not
be far from it.
A second shot was heard.
"We must hurry!" said Joe.
"There! a third report!"
"Why, it sounds to me as if he was defending himself
"Let us make haste!"
They now began to run at the top of their speed.
When they reached the outskirts of the forest, they, at
first glance, saw the balloon in its place and the doctor in
"What's the matter?" shouted Kennedy.
"Good God!" suddenly exclaimed Joe.
"What do you see?"
"Down there! look! a crowd of blacks surrounding
And, in fact, there, two miles from where they were,
they saw some thirty wild natives close together, yelling,
gesticulating, and cutting all kinds of antics at the foot of
the sycamore. Some, climbing into the tree itself, were
making their way to the topmost branches. The danger
"My master is lost!" cried Joe.
"Come! a little more coolness, Joe, and let us see how
we stand. We hold the lives of four of those villains in
our hands. Forward, then!"
They had made a mile with headlong speed, when
another report was heard from the car. The shot had,
evidently, told upon a huge black demon, who had been
hoisting himself up by the anchor-rope. A lifeless body
fell from bough to bough, and hung about twenty feet
from the ground, its arms and legs swaying to and fro in
"Ha!" said Joe, halting, "what does that fellow hold by?"
"No matter what!" said Kennedy; "let us run! let
"Ah! Mr. Kennedy," said Joe, again, in a roar of
laughter, "by his tail! by his tail! it's an ape! They're
"Well, they're worse than men!" said Kennedy, as he
dashed into the midst of the howling crowd.
It was, indeed, a troop of very formidable baboons of
the dog-faced species. These creatures are brutal, ferocious,
and horrible to look upon, with their dog-like muzzles
and savage expression. However, a few shots scattered
them, and the chattering horde scampered off,
leaving several of their number on the ground.
In a moment Kennedy was on the ladder, and Joe,
clambering up the branches, detached the anchor; the car
then dipped to where he was, and he got into it without
difficulty. A few minutes later, the Victoria slowly
ascended and soared away to the eastward, wafted by a
"That was an attack for you!" said Joe.
"We thought you were surrounded by natives."
"Well, fortunately, they were only apes," said the doctor.
"At a distance there's no great difference," remarked Kennedy.
"Nor close at hand, either," added Joe.
"Well, however that may be," resumed Ferguson, "this
attack of apes might have had the most serious consequences.
Had the anchor yielded to their repeated efforts, who knows
whither the wind would have carried me?"
"What did I tell you, Mr. Kennedy?"
"You were right, Joe; but, even right as you may
have been, you were, at that moment, preparing some
antelope-steaks, the very sight of which gave me a
"I believe you!" said the doctor; "the flesh of the
antelope is exquisite."
"You may judge of that yourself, now, sir, for supper's ready."
"Upon my word as a sportsman, those venison-steaks
have a gamy flavor that's not to be sneezed at, I tell you."
"Good!" said Joe, with his mouth full, "I could live
on antelope all the days of my life; and all the better with
a glass of grog to wash it down."
So saying, the good fellow went to work to prepare a
jorum of that fragrant beverage, and all hands tasted it
"Every thing has gone well thus far," said he.
"Very well indeed!" assented Kennedy.
"Come, now, Mr. Kennedy, are you sorry that you
came with us?"
"I'd like to see anybody prevent my coming!"
It was now four o'clock in the afternoon. The Victoria
had struck a more rapid current. The face of the
country was gradually rising, and, ere long, the barometer
indicated a height of fifteen hundred feet above the level
of the sea. The doctor was, therefore, obliged to keep
his balloon up by a quite considerable dilation of gas, and
the cylinder was hard at work all the time.
Toward seven o'clock, the balloon was sailing over the
basin of Kanyeme. The doctor immediately recognized
that immense clearing, ten miles in extent, with its villages
buried in the midst of baobab and calabash trees.
It is the residence of one of the sultans of the Ugogo
country, where civilization is, perhaps, the least backward.
The natives there are less addicted to selling members of
their own families, but still, men and animals all live
together in round huts, without frames, that look like
Beyond Kanyeme the soil becomes arid and stony, but
in an hour's journey, in a fertile dip of the soil, vegetation
had resumed all its vigor at some distance from Mdaburu.
The wind fell with the close of the day, and the atmosphere
seemed to sleep. The doctor vainly sought for a
current of air at different heights, and, at last, seeing this
calm of all nature, he resolved to pass the night afloat, and,
for greater safety, rose to the height of one thousand feet,
where the balloon remained motionless. The night was
magnificent, the heavens glittering with stars, and profoundly
silent in the upper air.
Dick and Joe stretched themselves on their peaceful
couch, and were soon sound asleep, the doctor keeping the
first watch. At twelve o'clock the latter was relieved by