I intend not to be separated from the balloon until I reach the western coast of Africa. With it, every thing is possible; without it, I fall back into the dangers and difficulties as well as the natural obstacles that ordinarily attend such an expedition: with it, neither heat, nor torrents, nor tempests, nor the simoom, nor unhealthy climates, nor wild animals, nor savage men, are to be feared! If I feel too hot, I can ascend; if too cold, I can come down. Should there be a mountain, I can pass over it; a precipice, I can sweep across it; a river, I can sail beyond it; a storm, I can rise away above it; a torrent, I can skim it like a bird! I can advance without fatigue, I can halt without need of repose! I can soar above the nascent cities! I can speed onward with the rapidity of a tornado, sometimes at the loftiest heights, sometimes only a hundred feet above the soil, while the map of Africa unrolls itself beneath my gaze in the great atlas of the world."
Even the stubborn Kennedy began to feel moved, and yet the spectacle thus conjured up before him gave him the vertigo. He riveted his eyes upon the doctor with wonder and admiration, and yet with fear, for he already felt himself swinging aloft in space.
"Come, come," said he, at last. "Let us see, Samuel. Then you have discovered the means of guiding a balloon?"
"Not by any means. That is a Utopian idea."
"Then, you will go--"
"Whithersoever Providence wills; but, at all events, from east to west."
"Because I expect to avail myself of the trade-winds, the direction of which is always the same."
"Ah! yes, indeed!" said Kennedy, reflecting; "the trade-winds--yes--truly--one might--there's something in that!"
"Something in it--yes, my excellent friend--there's EVERY THING in it. The English Government has placed a transport at my disposal, and three or four vessels are to cruise off the western coast of Africa, about the presumed period of my arrival. In three months, at most, I shall be at Zanzibar, where I will inflate my balloon, and from that point we shall launch ourselves."
"We!" said Dick.
"Have you still a shadow of an objection to offer? Speak, friend Kennedy."
"An objection! I have a thousand; but among other things, tell me, if you expect to see the country. If you expect to mount and descend at pleasure, you cannot do so, without losing your gas. Up to this time no other means have been devised, and it is this that has always prevented long journeys in the air."
"My dear Dick, I have only one word to answer--I shall not lose one particle of gas."
"And yet you can descend when you please?"
"I shall descend when I please."
"And how will you do that?"
"Ah, ha! therein lies my secret, friend Dick. Have faith, and let my device be yours--'Excelsior!'"
"'Excelsior' be it then," said the sportsman, who did not understand a word of Latin.
But he made up his mind to oppose his friend's departure by all means in his power, and so pretended to give in, at the same time keeping on the watch. As for the doctor, he went on diligently with his preparations.
African Explorations.--Barth, Richardson, Overweg, Werne, Brun-Rollet, Penney, Andrea, Debono, Miani, Guillaume Lejean, Bruce, Krapf and Rebmann, Maizan, Roscher, Burton and Speke.
The aerial line which Dr. Ferguson counted upon following had not been chosen at random; his point of departure had been carefully studied, and it was not without good cause that he had resolved to ascend at the island of Zanzibar. This island, lying near to the eastern coast of Africa, is in the sixth degree of south latitude, that is to say, four hundred and thirty geographical miles below the equator.
From this island the latest expedition, sent by way of the great lakes to explore the sources of the Nile, had just set out.
But it would be well to indicate what explorations Dr. Ferguson hoped to link together. The two principal ones were those of Dr. Barth in 1849, and of Lieutenants Burton and Speke in 1858.