"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.