Five Weeks in a Balloon
The End of a much-applauded Speech.--The Presentation of Dr. Samuel
--Excelsior.--Full-length Portrait of the Doctor.--A Fatalist convinced.
--A Dinner at the Travellers' Club.--Several Toasts for the Occasion
The Article in the Daily Telegraph.--War between the Scientific Journals.--
Mr. Petermann backs his Friend Dr. Ferguson.--Reply of the Savant Koner.
--Bets made.--Sundry Propositions offered to the Doctor
The Doctor's Friend.--The Origin of their Friendship.--Dick Kennedy at London.
--An unexpected but not very consoling Proposal.--A Proverb by no
means cheering.--A few Names from the African Martyrology.--The Advantages
of a Balloon.--Dr. Ferguson's Secret
African Explorations.--Barth, Richardson, Overweg, Werne, Brun-Rollet, Penney,
Andrea, Debono, Miani, Guillaume Lejean, Brace, Krapf and Rebmann,
Maizan, Roscher, Burton and Speke
Kennedy's Dreams.--Articles and Pronouns in the Plural.--Dick's Insinuations.
--A Promenade over the Map of Africa.--What is contained between two
Points of the Compass.--Expeditions now on foot.--Speke and Grant.--Krapf,
De Decken, and De Heuglin
A Servant--match him!--He can see the Satellites of Jupiter.--Dick and Joe
hard at it.--Doubt and Faith.--The Weighing Ceremony.--Joe and Wellington.
--He gets a Half-crown
Geometrical Details.--Calculation of the Capacity of the Balloon.--The Double
Receptacle.--The Covering.--The Car.--The Mysterious Apparatus.--The
Provisions and Stores.--The Final Summing up
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 silenced
They double the Cape.--The Forecastle.--A Course of Cosmography by Professor
Joe.--Concerning the Method of guiding Balloons.--How to seek out
Former Experiments.--The Doctor's Five Receptacles.--The Gas Cylinder.--
The Calorifere.--The System of Manoeuvring.--Success certain
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.--The Victoria
Crossing the Strait.--The Mrima.--Dick's Remark and Joe's Proposition.--A
Recipe for Coffee-making.--The Uzaramo.--The Unfortunate Maizan.--
Mount Duthumi.--The Doctor's Cards.--Night under a Nopal
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 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
Kazeh.--The Noisy Market-place.--The Appearance of the Balloon.--The Wangaga.
--The Sons of the Moon.--The Doctor's Walk.--The Population of the
Place.--The Royal Tembe.--The Sultan's Wives.--A Royal Drunken-Bout.--
Joe an Object of Worship.--How they Dance in the Moon.--A Reaction.--
Two Moons in one Sky.--The Instability of Divine Honors
Symptoms of a Storm.--The Country of the Moon.--The Future of the African
Continent.--The Last Machine of all.--A View of the Country at Sunset.--
Flora and Fauna.--The Tempest.--The Zone of Fire.--The Starry Heavens.
The Mountains of the Moon.--An Ocean of Venture.--They cast Anchor.--The
Towing Elephant.--A Running Fire.--Death of the Monster.--The Field
Oven.--A Meal on the Grass.--A Night on the Ground
The Karagwah.--Lake Ukereoue.--A Night on an Island.--The Equator.
--Crossing the Lake.--The Cascades.--A View of the Country.--The Sources
of the Nile.--The Island of Benga.--The Signature of Andrea Debono.--The
Flag with the Arms of England
The Nile.--The Trembling Mountain.--A Remembrance of the Country.--The
Narratives of the Arabs.--The Nyam-Nyams.--Joe's Shrewd Cogitations.--
The Balloon runs the Gantlet.--Aerostatic Ascensions.--Madame Blanchard.
The Celestial Bottle.--The Fig-Palms.--The Mammoth Trees.--The Tree of War.
--The Winged Team.--Two Native Tribes in Battle.--A Massacre.--An
Intervention from above
Strange Sounds.--A Night Attack.--Kennedy and Joe in the Tree.--Two Shots.
--"Help! help!"--Reply in French.--The Morning.--The Missionary.--The
Plan of Rescue
The Jet of Light.--The Missionary.--The Rescue in a Ray of Electricity.--A
Lazarist Priest.--But little Hope.--The Doctor's Care.--A Life of Self-Denial.
--Passing a Volcano
Joe in a Fit of Rage.--The Death of a Good Man.--The Night of watching by the
Body.--Barrenness and Drought.--The Burial.--The Quartz Rocks.--Joe's
Hallucinations.--A Precious Ballast.--A Survey of the Gold-bearing Mountains.
--The Beginning of Joe's Despair
The Wind dies away.--The Vicinity of the Desert.--The Mistake in the
WaterSupply.--The Nights of the Equator.--Dr. Ferguson's Anxieties.
--The Situation flatly stated.--Energetic Replies of Kennedy and Joe.
--One Night more
A Little Philosophy.--A Cloud on the Horizon.--In the Midst of a Fog.--The
Strange Balloon.--An Exact View of the Victoria.--The Palm-Trees.--Traces
of a Caravan.--The Well in the Midst of the Desert
One Hundred and Thirteen Degrees.--The Doctor's Reflections.--A Desperate
Search.--The Cylinder goes out.--One Hundred and Twenty-two Degrees.--
Contemplation of the Desert.--A Night Walk.--Solitude.--Debility.--Joe's
Prospects.--He gives himself One Day more
Terrific Heat.--Hallucinations.--The Last Drops of Water.--Nights of Despair.
--An Attempt at Suicide.--The Simoom.--The Oasis.--The Lion and Lioness.
An Evening of Delight.--Joe's Culinary Performances.--A Dissertation on Raw
Meat.--The Narrative of James Bruce.--Camping out.--Joe's Dreams.--The
Barometer begins to fall.--The Barometer rises again.--Preparations for
Signs of Vegetation.--The Fantastic Notion of a French Author.--A Magnificent
Country.--The Kingdom of Adamova.--The Explorations of Speke and Burton
connected with those of Dr. Barth.--The Atlantika Mountains.--The
River Benoue.--The City of Yola.--The Bagele.--Mount Mendif
Mosfeia.--The Sheik.--Denham, Clapperton, and Oudney.--Vogel.--The Capital
of Loggoum.--Toole.--Becalmed above Kernak.--The Governor and his Court.
--The Attack.--The Incendiary Pigeons
Departure in the Night-time.--All Three.--Kennedy's Instincts.--Precautions.--
The Course of the Shari River.--Lake Tchad.--The Water of the Lake.--The
Hippopotamus.--One Bullet thrown away
The Capital of Bornou.--The Islands of the Biddiomahs.--The Condors.--The
Doctor's Anxieties.--His Precautions.--An Attack in Mid-air.--The Balloon
Covering torn.--The Fall.--Sublime Self-Sacrifice.--The Northern Coast of
Conjectures.--Reestablishment of the Victoria's Equilibrium.--Dr.
Ferguson's New Calculations.--Kennedy's Hunt.--A Complete Exploration
of Lake Tchad.--Tangalia.--The Return.--Lari
The Hurricane.--A Forced Departure.--Loss of an Anchor.--Melancholy
Reflections.--The Resolution adopted.--The Sand-Storm.--The Buried Caravan.--
A Contrary yet Favorable Wind.--The Return southward.--Kennedy at his Post
What happened to Joe.--The Island of the Biddiomahs.--The Adoration shown
him.--The Island that sank.--The Shores of the Lake.--The Tree of the
Serpents.--The Foot-Tramp.--Terrible Suffering.--Mosquitoes and Ants.--
Hunger.--The Victoria seen.--She disappears.--The Swamp.--One Last
A Throng of People on the Horizon.--A Troop of Arabs.--The Pursuit.--It is
He.--Fall from Horseback.--The Strangled Arab.--A Ball from Kennedy.--
Adroit Manoeuvres.--Caught up flying.--Joe saved at last
The Western Route.--Joe wakes up.--His Obstinacy.--End of Joe's Narrative.
--Tagelei.--Kennedy's Anxieties.--The Route to the North.--A Night near
A Rapid Passage.--Prudent Resolves.--Caravans in Sight.--Incessant Rains.--
Goa.--The Niger.--Golberry, Geoffroy, and Gray.--Mungo Park.--Laing.--
Rene Caillie.--Clapperton.--John and Richard Lander
The Country in the Elbow of the Niger.--A Fantastic View of the Hombori
Mountains.--Kabra.--Timbuctoo.--The Chart of Dr. Barth.--A Decaying City.--
Whither Heaven wills
Dr. Ferguson's Anxieties.--Persistent Movement southward.--A Cloud of
Grasshoppers.--A View of Jenne.--A View of Sego.--Change of the Wind.--
The Approaches to Senegal.--The Balloon sinks lower and lower.--They
keep throwing out, throwing out.--The Marabout Al-Hadji.--Messrs. Pascal,
Vincent, and Lambert.--A Rival of Mohammed.--The Difficult Mountains.
--Kennedy's Weapons.--One of Joe's Manoeuvres.--A Halt over a Forest
A Struggle of Generosity.--The Last Sacrifice.--The Dilating Apparatus.--Joe's
Adroitness.--Midnight.--The Doctor's Watch.--Kennedy's Watch.--The Latter
falls asleep at his Post.--The Fire.--The Howlings of the Natives.--Out
The Talabas.--The Pursuit.--A Devastated Country.--The Wind begins to
fall.--The Victoria sinks.--The last of the Provisions.--The Leaps of
the Balloon.--A Defence with Fire-arms.--The Wind freshens.--The Senegal
River.--The Cataracts of Gouina.--The Hot Air.--The Passage of the River
Conclusion.--The Certificate.--The French Settlements.--The Post of Medina.--
The Battle.--Saint Louis.--The English Frigate.--The Return to London.
FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON.
The End of a much-applauded Speech.--The Presentation of Dr. Samuel
Ferguson.--Excelsior.--Full-length Portrait of the Doctor.--A Fatalist
convinced.--A Dinner at the Travellers' Club.--Several Toasts for the
There was a large audience assembled on the 14th of
January, 1862, at the session of the Royal Geographical
Society, No. 3 Waterloo Place, London. The president,
Sir Francis M----, made an important communication to
his colleagues, in an address that was frequently
interrupted by applause.
This rare specimen of eloquence terminated with the
following sonorous phrases bubbling over with patriotism:
"England has always marched at the head of nations"
(for, the reader will observe, the nations always march
at the head of each other), "by the intrepidity of her
explorers in the line of geographical discovery." (General
assent). "Dr. Samuel Ferguson, one of her most glorious
sons, will not reflect discredit on his origin." ("No,
indeed!" from all parts of the hall.)
"This attempt, should it succeed" ("It will succeed!"),
"will complete and link together the notions, as yet
disjointed, which the world entertains of African cartology"
(vehement applause); "and, should it fail, it will,
at least, remain on record as one of the most daring
conceptions of human genius!" (Tremendous cheering.)
"Huzza! huzza!" shouted the immense audience,
completely electrified by these inspiring words.
"Huzza for the intrepid Ferguson!" cried one of the
most excitable of the enthusiastic crowd.
The wildest cheering resounded on all sides; the name
of Ferguson was in every mouth, and we may safely believe
that it lost nothing in passing through English
throats. Indeed, the hall fairly shook with it.
And there were present, also, those fearless travellers
and explorers whose energetic temperaments had borne
them through every quarter of the globe, many of them
grown old and worn out in the service of science. All
had, in some degree, physically or morally, undergone the
sorest trials. They had escaped shipwreck; conflagration;
Indian tomahawks and war-clubs; the fagot and the
stake; nay, even the cannibal maws of the South Sea
Islanders. But still their hearts beat high during Sir
Francis M----'s address, which certainly was the finest
oratorical success that the Royal Geographical Society of
London had yet achieved.
But, in England, enthusiasm does not stop short with
mere words. It strikes off money faster than the dies of
the Royal Mint itself. So a subscription to encourage Dr.
Ferguson was voted there and then, and it at once attained
the handsome amount of two thousand five hundred
pounds. The sum was made commensurate with the
importance of the enterprise.
A member of the Society then inquired of the president
whether Dr. Ferguson was not to be officially introduced.
"The doctor is at the disposition of the meeting,"
replied Sir Francis.
"Let him come in, then! Bring him in!" shouted the
audience. "We'd like to see a man of such extraordinary
daring, face to face!"
"Perhaps this incredible proposition of his is only
intended to mystify us," growled an apoplectic old
"Suppose that there should turn out to be no such
person as Dr. Ferguson?" exclaimed another voice, with
a malicious twang.
"Why, then, we'd have to invent one!" replied a
facetious member of this grave Society.
"Ask Dr. Ferguson to come in," was the quiet remark
of Sir Francis M----.
And come in the doctor did, and stood there, quite
unmoved by the thunders of applause that greeted his
He was a man of about forty years of age, of medium
height and physique. His sanguine temperament was
disclosed in the deep color of his cheeks. His countenance
was coldly expressive, with regular features, and a large
nose--one of those noses that resemble the prow of a ship,
and stamp the faces of men predestined to accomplish
great discoveries. His eyes, which were gentle and
intelligent, rather than bold, lent a peculiar charm to
his physiognomy. His arms were long, and his feet were
planted with that solidity which indicates a great pedestrian.
A calm gravity seemed to surround the doctor's entire
person, and no one would dream that he could become the
agent of any mystification, however harmless.
Hence, the applause that greeted him at the outset
continued until he, with a friendly gesture, claimed silence
on his own behalf. He stepped toward the seat that had
been prepared for him on his presentation, and then,
standing erect and motionless, he, with a determined
glance, pointed his right forefinger upward, and
pronounced aloud the single word--
Never had one of Bright's or Cobden's sudden onslaughts,
never had one of Palmerston's abrupt demands
for funds to plate the rocks of the English coast with iron,
made such a sensation. Sir Francis M----'s address was
completely overshadowed. The doctor had shown himself
moderate, sublime, and self-contained, in one; he had
uttered the word of the situation--
The gouty old admiral who had been finding fault, was
completely won over by the singular man before him, and
immediately moved the insertion of Dr. Ferguson's speech
in "The Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society
Who, then, was this person, and what was the enterprise
that he proposed?
Ferguson's father, a brave and worthy captain in the
English Navy, had associated his son with him, from the
young man's earliest years, in the perils and adventures of
his profession. The fine little fellow, who seemed to have
never known the meaning of fear, early revealed a keen
and active mind, an investigating intelligence, and a
remarkable turn for scientific study; moreover, he disclosed
uncommon address in extricating himself from difficulty;
he was never perplexed, not even in handling his fork for
the first time--an exercise in which children generally
have so little success.
His fancy kindled early at the recitals he read of daring
enterprise and maritime adventure, and he followed
with enthusiasm the discoveries that signalized the first part
of the nineteenth century. He mused over the glory of the
Mungo Parks, the Bruces, the Caillies, the Levaillants,
and to some extent, I verily believe, of Selkirk (Robinson
Crusoe), whom he considered in no wise inferior to the
rest. How many a well-employed hour he passed with
that hero on his isle of Juan Fernandez! Often he criticised
the ideas of the shipwrecked sailor, and sometimes
discussed his plans and projects. He would have done
differently, in such and such a case, or quite as well at
least--of that he felt assured. But of one thing he was
satisfied, that he never should have left that pleasant island,
where he was as happy as a king without subjects--
no, not if the inducement held out had been promotion to
the first lordship in the admiralty!
It may readily be conjectured whether these tendencies
were developed during a youth of adventure, spent in
every nook and corner of the Globe. Moreover, his father,
who was a man of thorough instruction, omitted no opportunity
to consolidate this keen intelligence by serious
studies in hydrography, physics, and mechanics, along
with a slight tincture of botany, medicine, and astronomy.
Upon the death of the estimable captain, Samuel Ferguson,
then twenty-two years of age, had already made
his voyage around the world. He had enlisted in the
Bengalese Corps of Engineers, and distinguished himself
in several affairs; but this soldier's life had not exactly
suited him; caring but little for command, he had not been
fond of obeying. He, therefore, sent in his resignation,
and half botanizing, half playing the hunter, he made his
way toward the north of the Indian Peninsula, and crossed
it from Calcutta to Surat--a mere amateur trip for him.
From Surat we see him going over to Australia, and
in 1845 participating in Captain Sturt's expedition, which
had been sent out to explore the new Caspian Sea, supposed
to exist in the centre of New Holland.
Samuel Ferguson returned to England about 1850,
and, more than ever possessed by the demon of discovery,
he spent the intervening time, until 1853, in accompanying
Captain McClure on the expedition that went around
the American Continent from Behring's Straits to Cape
Notwithstanding fatigues of every description, and in
all climates, Ferguson's constitution continued marvellously
sound. He felt at ease in the midst of the most complete
privations; in fine, he was the very type of the
thoroughly accomplished explorer whose stomach expands
or contracts at will; whose limbs grow longer or shorter
according to the resting-place that each stage of a journey
may bring; who can fall asleep at any hour of the day or
awake at any hour of the night.
Nothing, then, was less surprising, after that, than to
find our traveller, in the period from 1855 to 1857, visiting
the whole region west of the Thibet, in company with the
brothers Schlagintweit, and bringing back some curious
ethnographic observations from that expedition.
During these different journeys, Ferguson had been
the most active and interesting correspondent of the
Daily Telegraph, the penny newspaper whose circulation
amounts to 140,000 copies, and yet scarcely suffices for its
many legions of readers. Thus, the doctor had become
well known to the public, although he could not claim
membership in either of the Royal Geographical Societies
of London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, or St. Petersburg, or
yet with the Travellers' Club, or even the Royal Polytechnic
Institute, where his friend the statistician Cockburn
ruled in state.
The latter savant had, one day, gone so far as to propose
to him the following problem: Given the number of
miles travelled by the doctor in making the circuit of the
Globe, how many more had his head described than his
feet, by reason of the different lengths of the radii?--or,
the number of miles traversed by the doctor's head and
feet respectively being given, required the exact height
of that gentleman?
This was done with the idea of complimenting him,
but the doctor had held himself aloof from all the learned
bodies--belonging, as he did, to the church militant and
not to the church polemical. He found his time better
employed in seeking than in discussing, in discovering
rather than discoursing.
There is a story told of an Englishman who came one
day to Geneva, intending to visit the lake. He was placed
in one of those odd vehicles in which the passengers sit
side by side, as they do in an omnibus. Well, it so happened
that the Englishman got a seat that left him with
his back turned toward the lake. The vehicle completed
its circular trip without his thinking to turn around once,
and he went back to London delighted with the Lake of Geneva.
Doctor Ferguson, however, had turned around to look
about him on his journeyings, and turned to such good
purpose that he had seen a great deal. In doing so, he
had simply obeyed the laws of his nature, and we have
good reason to believe that he was, to some extent, a fatalist,
but of an orthodox school of fatalism withal, that led
him to rely upon himself and even upon Providence. He
claimed that he was impelled, rather than drawn by his
own volition, to journey as he did, and that he traversed
the world like the locomotive, which does not direct itself,
but is guided and directed by the track it runs on.
"I do not follow my route;" he often said, "it is my
route that follows me."
The reader will not be surprised, then, at the calmness
with which the doctor received the applause that welcomed
him in the Royal Society. He was above all such
trifles, having no pride, and less vanity. He looked upon
the proposition addressed to him by Sir Francis M---- as
the simplest thing in the world, and scarcely noticed the
immense effect that it produced.
When the session closed, the doctor was escorted to
the rooms of the Travellers' Club, in Pall Mall. A superb
entertainment had been prepared there in his honor. The
dimensions of the dishes served were made to correspond
with the importance of the personage entertained, and the
boiled sturgeon that figured at this magnificent repast was
not an inch shorter than Dr. Ferguson himself.
Numerous toasts were offered and quaffed, in the wines
of France, to the celebrated travellers who had made their
names illustrious by their explorations of African territory.
The guests drank to their health or to their memory,
in alphabetical order, a good old English way of doing the
thing. Among those remembered thus, were: Abbadie,
Adams, Adamson, Anderson, Arnaud, Baikie, Baldwin,
Barth, Batouda, Beke, Beltram, Du Berba, Bimbachi,
Bolognesi, Bolwik, Belzoni, Bonnemain, Brisson, Browne,
Bruce, Brun-Rollet, Burchell, Burckhardt, Burton, Cailland,
Caillie, Campbell, Chapman, Clapperton, Clot-Bey,
Colomieu, Courval, Cumming, Cuny, Debono, Decken,
Denham, Desavanchers, Dicksen, Dickson, Dochard, Du
Chaillu, Duncan, Durand, Duroule, Duveyrier, D'Escayrac,
De Lauture, Erhardt, Ferret, Fresnel, Galinier, Galton,
Geoffroy, Golberry, Hahn, Halm, Harnier, Hecquart,
Heuglin, Hornemann, Houghton, Imbert, Kauffmann,
Knoblecher, Krapf, Kummer, Lafargue, Laing, Lafaille,
Lambert, Lamiral, Lampriere, John Lander, Richard
Lander, Lefebvre, Lejean, Levaillant, Livingstone, MacCarthy,
Maggiar, Maizan, Malzac, Moffat, Mollien, Monteiro, Morrison,
Mungo Park, Neimans, Overweg, Panet, Partarrieau,
Pascal, Pearse, Peddie, Penney, Petherick, Poncet, Prax,
Raffenel, Rabh, Rebmann, Richardson, Riley, Ritchey,
Rochet d'Hericourt, Rongawi, Roscher, Ruppel, Saugnier,
Speke, Steidner, Thibaud, Thompson, Thornton, Toole,
Tousny, Trotter, Tuckey, Tyrwhitt, Vaudey, Veyssiere,
Vincent, Vinco, Vogel, Wahlberg, Warrington, Washington,
Werne, Wild, and last, but not least, Dr. Ferguson,
who, by his incredible attempt, was to link together the
achievements of all these explorers, and complete the series
of African discovery.
The Article in the Daily Telegraph.--War between the Scientific Journals.--
Mr. Petermann backs his Friend Dr. Ferguson.--Reply of the Savant Koner.
--Bets made.--Sundry Propositions offered to the Doctor.
On the next day, in its number of January 15th, the Daily
Telegraph published an article couched in the following terms:
"Africa is, at length, about to surrender the secret
of her vast solitudes; a modern OEdipus is to give us the
key to that enigma which the learned men of sixty centuries
have not been able to decipher. In other days, to seek the
sources of the Nile--fontes Nili quoerere--was regarded as
a mad endeavor, a chimera that could not be realized.
"Dr. Barth, in following out to Soudan the track traced
by Denham and Clapperton; Dr. Livingstone, in multiplying
his fearless explorations from the Cape of Good Hope
to the basin of the Zambesi; Captains Burton and Speke,
in the discovery of the great interior lakes, have opened
three highways to modern civilization. THEIR POINT OF
INTERSECTION, which no traveller has yet been able to
reach, is the very heart of Africa, and it is thither
that all efforts should now be directed.
"The labors of these hardy pioneers of science are now
about to be knit together by the daring project of Dr.
Samuel Ferguson, whose fine explorations our readers
have frequently had the opportunity of appreciating.
"This intrepid discoverer proposes to traverse all
Africa from east to west IN A BALLOON. If we are well
informed, the point of departure for this surprising journey
is to be the island of Zanzibar, upon the eastern coast.
As for the point of arrival, it is reserved for Providence
alone to designate.
"The proposal for this scientific undertaking was officially
made, yesterday, at the rooms of the Royal Geographical
Society, and the sum of twenty-five hundred pounds was
voted to defray the expenses of the enterprise.
"We shall keep our readers informed as to the progress
of this enterprise, which has no precedent in the annals
As may be supposed, the foregoing article had an
enormous echo among scientific people. At first, it stirred
up a storm of incredulity; Dr. Ferguson passed for a
purely chimerical personage of the Barnum stamp, who,
after having gone through the United States, proposed to
"do" the British Isles.
A humorous reply appeared in the February number
of the Bulletins de la Societe Geographique of Geneva,
which very wittily showed up the Royal Society of London
and their phenomenal sturgeon.
But Herr Petermann, in his Mittheilungen, published
at Gotha, reduced the Geneva journal to the most absolute
silence. Herr Petermann knew Dr. Ferguson personally,
and guaranteed the intrepidity of his dauntless friend.
Besides, all manner of doubt was quickly put out of
the question: preparations for the trip were set on foot at
London; the factories of Lyons received a heavy order for
the silk required for the body of the balloon; and, finally,
the British Government placed the transport-ship Resolute,
Captain Bennett, at the disposal of the expedition.
At once, upon word of all this, a thousand encouragements
were offered, and felicitations came pouring in from
all quarters. The details of the undertaking were published
in full in the bulletins of the Geographical Society
of Paris; a remarkable article appeared in the Nouvelles
Annales des Voyages, de la Geographie, de l'Histoire, et
de l'Archaeologie de M. V. A. Malte-Brun ("New Annals
of Travels, Geography, History, and Archaeology, by
M. V. A. Malte-Brun"); and a searching essay in the Zeitschrift
fur Allgemeine Erdkunde, by Dr. W. Koner, triumphantly
demonstrated the feasibility of the journey, its
chances of success, the nature of the obstacles existing,
the immense advantages of the aerial mode of locomotion,
and found fault with nothing but the selected point of
departure, which it contended should be Massowah, a small
port in Abyssinia, whence James Bruce, in 1768, started
upon his explorations in search of the sources of the Nile.
Apart from that, it mentioned, in terms of unreserved
admiration, the energetic character of Dr. Ferguson, and the
heart, thrice panoplied in bronze, that could conceive and
undertake such an enterprise.
The North American Review could not, without some
displeasure, contemplate so much glory monopolized by
England. It therefore rather ridiculed the doctor's scheme,
and urged him, by all means, to push his explorations as
far as America, while he was about it.
In a word, without going over all the journals in the
world, there was not a scientific publication, from the
Journal of Evangelical Missions to the Revue Algerienne
et Coloniale, from the Annales de la Propagation de la
Foi to the Church Missionary Intelligencer, that had not
something to say about the affair in all its phases.
Many large bets were made at London and throughout
England generally, first, as to the real or supposititious
existence of Dr. Ferguson; secondly, as to the trip itself,
which, some contended, would not be undertaken at all,
and which was really contemplated, according to others;
thirdly, upon the success or failure of the enterprise; and
fourthly, upon the probabilities of Dr. Ferguson's return.
The betting-books were covered with entries of immense
sums, as though the Epsom races were at stake.
Thus, believers and unbelievers, the learned and the
ignorant, alike had their eyes fixed on the doctor, and he
became the lion of the day, without knowing that he carried
such a mane. On his part, he willingly gave the
most accurate information touching his project. He was
very easily approached, being naturally the most affable
man in the world. More than one bold adventurer presented
himself, offering to share the dangers as well as the
glory of the undertaking; but he refused them all, without
giving his reasons for rejecting them.
Numerous inventors of mechanism applicable to the
guidance of balloons came to propose their systems, but
he would accept none; and, when he was asked whether
he had discovered something of his own for that purpose,
he constantly refused to give any explanation, and merely
busied himself more actively than ever with the preparations
for his journey.
The Doctor's Friend.--The Origin of their Friendship.--Dick Kennedy
at London.--An unexpected but not very consoling Proposal.--A Proverb
by no means cheering.--A few Names from the African Martyrology.--The
Advantages of a Balloon.--Dr. Ferguson's Secret.
Dr. Ferguson had a friend--not another self, indeed,
an alter ego, for friendship could not exist between two
beings exactly alike.
But, if they possessed different qualities, aptitudes, and
temperaments, Dick Kennedy and Samuel Ferguson lived
with one and the same heart, and that gave them no great
trouble. In fact, quite the reverse.
Dick Kennedy was a Scotchman, in the full acceptation
of the word--open, resolute, and headstrong. He lived
in the town of Leith, which is near Edinburgh, and, in
truth, is a mere suburb of Auld Reekie. Sometimes he
was a fisherman, but he was always and everywhere a
determined hunter, and that was nothing remarkable for a
son of Caledonia, who had known some little climbing
among the Highland mountains. He was cited as a wonderful
shot with the rifle, since not only could he split a
bullet on a knife-blade, but he could divide it into two
such equal parts that, upon weighing them, scarcely any
difference would be perceptible.
Kennedy's countenance strikingly recalled that of Herbert
Glendinning, as Sir Walter Scott has depicted it in
"The Monastery"; his stature was above six feet; full of
grace and easy movement, he yet seemed gifted with herculean
strength; a face embrowned by the sun; eyes keen
and black; a natural air of daring courage; in fine,
something sound, solid, and reliable in his entire person,
spoke, at first glance, in favor of the bonny Scot.
The acquaintanceship of these two friends had been
formed in India, when they belonged to the same regiment.
While Dick would be out in pursuit of the tiger
and the elephant, Samuel would be in search of plants and
insects. Each could call himself expert in his own province,
and more than one rare botanical specimen, that to
science was as great a victory won as the conquest of a
pair of ivory tusks, became the doctor's booty.
These two young men, moreover, never had occasion
to save each other's lives, or to render any reciprocal
service. Hence, an unalterable friendship. Destiny
sometimes bore them apart, but sympathy always united
Since their return to England they had been frequently
separated by the doctor's distant expeditions; but, on
his return, the latter never failed to go, not to ASK for
hospitality, but to bestow some weeks of his presence at
the home of his crony Dick.
The Scot talked of the past; the doctor busily prepared
for the future. The one looked back, the other forward.
Hence, a restless spirit personified in Ferguson; perfect
calmness typified in Kennedy--such was the contrast.
After his journey to the Thibet, the doctor had remained
nearly two years without hinting at new explorations; and
Dick, supposing that his friend's instinct for travel and
thirst for adventure had at length died out, was perfectly
enchanted. They would have ended badly, some day or other,
he thought to himself; no matter what experience one has
with men, one does not travel always with impunity among
cannibals and wild beasts. So, Kennedy besought the doctor
to tie up his bark for life, having done enough for science,
and too much for the gratitude of men.
The doctor contented himself with making no reply to
this. He remained absorbed in his own reflections, giving
himself up to secret calculations, passing his nights among
heaps of figures, and making experiments with the
strangest-looking machinery, inexplicable to everybody but
himself. It could readily be guessed, though, that some great
thought was fermenting in his brain.
"What can he have been planning?" wondered Kennedy, when, in
the month of January, his friend quitted him to return to London.
He found out one morning when he looked into the Daily Telegraph.
"Merciful Heaven!" he exclaimed, "the lunatic! the
madman! Cross Africa in a balloon! Nothing but that
was wanted to cap the climax! That's what he's been
bothering his wits about these two years past!"
Now, reader, substitute for all these exclamation points,
as many ringing thumps with a brawny fist upon the table,
and you have some idea of the manual exercise that Dick
went through while he thus spoke.
When his confidential maid-of-all-work, the aged Elspeth,
tried to insinuate that the whole thing might be a hoax--
"Not a bit of it!" said he. "Don't I know my man? Isn't it
just like him? Travel through the air! There, now, he's
jealous of the eagles, next! No! I warrant you, he'll not
do it! I'll find a way to stop him! He! why if they'd let
him alone, he'd start some day for the moon!"
On that very evening Kennedy, half alarmed, and half
exasperated, took the train for London, where he arrived
Three-quarters of an hour later a cab deposited him at
the door of the doctor's modest dwelling, in Soho Square,
Greek Street. Forthwith he bounded up the steps and
announced his arrival with five good, hearty, sounding
raps at the door.
Ferguson opened, in person.
"Dick! you here?" he exclaimed, but with no great
expression of surprise, after all.
"Dick himself!" was the response.
"What, my dear boy, you at London, and this the
mid-season of the winter shooting?"
"Yes! here I am, at London!"
"And what have you come to town for?"
"To prevent the greatest piece of folly that ever was
"Folly!" said the doctor.
"Is what this paper says, the truth?" rejoined Kennedy,
holding out the copy of the Daily Telegraph, mentioned above.
"Ah! that's what you mean, is it? These newspapers
are great tattlers! But, sit down, my dear Dick."
"No, I won't sit down!--Then, you really intend to
attempt this journey?"
"Most certainly! all my preparations are getting along
finely, and I--"
"Where are your traps? Let me have a chance at
them! I'll make them fly! I'll put your preparations in
fine order." And so saying, the gallant Scot gave way to
a genuine explosion of wrath.
"Come, be calm, my dear Dick!" resumed the doctor.
"You're angry at me because I did not acquaint you with
my new project."
"He calls this his new project!"
"I have been very busy," the doctor went on, without
heeding the interruption; "I have had so much to look
after! But rest assured that I should not have started
without writing to you."
"Oh, indeed! I'm highly honored."
"Because it is my intention to take you with me."
Upon this, the Scotchman gave a leap that a wild goat
would not have been ashamed of among his native crags.
"Ah! really, then, you want them to send us both to
"I have counted positively upon you, my dear Dick,
and I have picked you out from all the rest."
Kennedy stood speechless with amazement.
"After listening to me for ten minutes," said the doctor,
"you will thank me!"
"Are you speaking seriously?"
"And suppose that I refuse to go with you?"
"But you won't refuse."
"But, suppose that I were to refuse?"
"Well, I'd go alone."
"Let us sit down," said Kennedy, "and talk without
excitement. The moment you give up jesting about it,
we can discuss the thing."
"Let us discuss it, then, at breakfast, if you have no
objections, my dear Dick."
The two friends took their seats opposite to each other,
at a little table with a plate of toast and a huge tea-urn
"My dear Samuel," said the sportsman, "your project
is insane! it is impossible! it has no resemblance to
anything reasonable or practicable!"
"That's for us to find out when we shall have tried it!"
"But trying it is exactly what you ought not to attempt."
"Why so, if you please?"
"Well, the risks, the difficulty of the thing."
"As for difficulties," replied Ferguson, in a serious
tone, "they were made to be overcome; as for risks and
dangers, who can flatter himself that he is to escape them?
Every thing in life involves danger; it may even be
dangerous to sit down at one's own table, or to
put one's hat on one's own head. Moreover, we must
look upon what is to occur as having already occurred,
and see nothing but the present in the future, for the
future is but the present a little farther on."
"There it is!" exclaimed Kennedy, with a shrug.
"As great a fatalist as ever!"
"Yes! but in the good sense of the word. Let us not
trouble ourselves, then, about what fate has in store for us,
and let us not forget our good old English proverb: 'The
man who was born to be hung will never be drowned!'"
There was no reply to make, but that did not prevent
Kennedy from resuming a series of arguments which may
be readily conjectured, but which were too long for us to
"Well, then," he said, after an hour's discussion, "if
you are absolutely determined to make this trip across the
African continent--if it is necessary for your happiness,
why not pursue the ordinary routes?"
"Why?" ejaculated the doctor, growing animated.
"Because, all attempts to do so, up to this time, have
utterly failed. Because, from Mungo Park, assassinated
on the Niger, to Vogel, who disappeared in the Wadai
country; from Oudney, who died at Murmur, and Clapperton,
lost at Sackatou, to the Frenchman Maizan, who was cut to
pieces; from Major Laing, killed by the Touaregs, to Roscher,
from Hamburg, massacred in the beginning of 1860, the names
of victim after victim have been inscribed on the lists of
African martyrdom! Because, to contend successfully against
the elements; against hunger, and thirst, and fever; against
savage beasts, and still more savage men, is impossible!
Because, what cannot be done in one way, should be tried
in another. In fine, because what one cannot pass through
directly in the middle, must be passed by going to one side
"If passing over it were the only question!" interposed Kennedy;
"but passing high up in the air, doctor, there's the rub!"
"Come, then," said the doctor, "what have I to fear?
You will admit that I have taken my precautions in such
manner as to be certain that my balloon will not fall; but,
should it disappoint me, I should find myself on the ground
in the normal conditions imposed upon other explorers.
But, my balloon will not deceive me, and we need make
no such calculations."
"Yes, but you must take them into view."
"No, Dick. 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
"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
From this island the latest expedition, sent by way of
the great lakes to explore the sources of the Nile, had just
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.
Dr. Barth is a Hamburger, who obtained permission
for himself and for his countryman Overweg to join the
expedition of the Englishman Richardson. The latter was
charged with a mission in the Soudan.
This vast region is situated between the fifteenth and
tenth degrees of north latitude; that is to say, that, in
order to approach it, the explorer must penetrate fifteen
hundred miles into the interior of Africa.
Until then, the country in question had been known
only through the journeys of Denham, of Clapperton, and
of Oudney, made from 1822 to 1824. Richardson, Barth,
and Overweg, jealously anxious to push their investigations
farther, arrived at Tunis and Tripoli, like their predecessors,
and got as far as Mourzouk, the capital of Fezzan.
They then abandoned the perpendicular line, and made
a sharp turn westward toward Ghat, guided, with difficulty,
by the Touaregs. After a thousand scenes of pillage, of
vexation, and attacks by armed forces, their caravan
arrived, in October, at the vast oasis of Asben. Dr. Barth
separated from his companions, made an excursion to the
town of Aghades, and rejoined the expedition, which
resumed its march on the 12th of December. At length it
reached the province of Damerghou; there the three travellers
parted, and Barth took the road to Kano, where he
arrived by dint of perseverance, and after paying
In spite of an intense fever, he quitted that place on
the 7th of March, accompanied by a single servant. The
principal aim of his journey was to reconnoitre Lake Tchad,
from which he was still three hundred and fifty miles distant.
He therefore advanced toward the east, and reached
the town of Zouricolo, in the Bornou country, which is the
core of the great central empire of Africa. There he heard
of the death of Richardson, who had succumbed to fatigue
and privation. He next arrived at Kouka, the capital of
Bornou, on the borders of the lake. Finally, at the end
of three weeks, on the 14th of April, twelve months after
having quitted Tripoli, he reached the town of Ngornou.
We find him again setting forth on the 29th of March,
1851, with Overweg, to visit the kingdom of Adamaoua,
to the south of the lake, and from there he pushed on as
far as the town of Yola, a little below nine degrees north
latitude. This was the extreme southern limit reached by
that daring traveller.
He returned in the month of August to Kouka; from
there he successively traversed the Mandara, Barghimi,
and Klanem countries, and reached his extreme limit in
the east, the town of Masena, situated at seventeen
degrees twenty minutes west longitude.
On the 25th of November, 1852, after the death of
Overweg, his last companion, he plunged into the west,
visited Sockoto, crossed the Niger, and finally reached
Timbuctoo, where he had to languish, during eight long
months, under vexations inflicted upon him by the sheik,
and all kinds of ill-treatment and wretchedness. But the
presence of a Christian in the city could not long be
tolerated, and the Foullans threatened to besiege it. The
doctor, therefore, left it on the 17th of March, 1854, and
fled to the frontier, where he remained for thirty-three
days in the most abject destitution. He then managed to
get back to Kano in November, thence to Kouka, where
he resumed Denham's route after four months' delay. He
regained Tripoli toward the close of August, 1855, and
arrived in London on the 6th of September, the only
survivor of his party.
Such was the venturesome journey of Dr. Barth.
Dr. Ferguson carefully noted the fact, that he had
stopped at four degrees north latitude and seventeen
degrees west longitude.
Now let us see what Lieutenants Burton and Speke
accomplished in Eastern Africa.
The various expeditions that had ascended the Nile
could never manage to reach the mysterious source of that
river. According to the narrative of the German doctor,
Ferdinand Werne, the expedition attempted in 1840, under
the auspices of Mehemet Ali, stopped at Gondokoro,
between the fourth and fifth parallels of north latitude.
In 1855, Brun-Rollet, a native of Savoy, appointed
consul for Sardinia in Eastern Soudan, to take the place
of Vaudey, who had just died, set out from Karthoum,
and, under the name of Yacoub the merchant, trading in
gums and ivory, got as far as Belenia, beyond the fourth
degree, but had to return in ill-health to Karthoum, where
he died in 1857.
Neither Dr. Penney--the head of the Egyptian medical
service, who, in a small steamer, penetrated one degree
beyond Gondokoro, and then came back to die of exhaustion
at Karthoum--nor Miani, the Venetian, who, turning the
cataracts below Gondokoro, reached the second parallel--
nor the Maltese trader, Andrea Debono, who pushed his
journey up the Nile still farther--could work their way
beyond the apparently impassable limit.
In 1859, M. Guillaume Lejean, intrusted with a mission
by the French Government, reached Karthoum by
way of the Red Sea, and embarked upon the Nile with a
retinue of twenty-one hired men and twenty soldiers, but
he could not get past Gondokoro, and ran extreme risk of
his life among the negro tribes, who were in full revolt.
The expedition directed by M. d'Escayrac de Lauture
made an equally unsuccessful attempt to reach the famous
sources of the Nile.
This fatal limit invariably brought every traveller to a
halt. In ancient times, the ambassadors of Nero reached
the ninth degree of latitude, but in eighteen centuries only
from five to six degrees, or from three hundred to three
hundred and sixty geographical miles, were gained.
Many travellers endeavored to reach the sources of the
Nile by taking their point of departure on the eastern
coast of Africa.
Between 1768 and 1772 the Scotch traveller, Bruce,
set out from Massowah, a port of Abyssinia, traversed the
Tigre, visited the ruins of Axum, saw the sources of the
Nile where they did not exist, and obtained no serious result.
In 1844, Dr. Krapf, an Anglican missionary, founded
an establishment at Monbaz, on the coast of Zanguebar,
and, in company with the Rev. Dr. Rebmann, discovered
two mountain-ranges three hundred miles from the coast.
These were the mountains of Kilimandjaro and Kenia,
which Messrs. de Heuglin and Thornton have partly scaled
In 1845, Maizan, the French explorer, disembarked,
alone, at Bagamayo, directly opposite to Zanzibar, and
got as far as Deje-la-Mhora, where the chief caused him
to be put to death in the most cruel torment.
In 1859, in the month of August, the young traveller,
Roscher, from Hamburg, set out with a caravan of Arab
merchants, reached Lake Nyassa, and was there assassinated
while he slept.
Finally, in 1857, Lieutenants Burton and Speke, both
officers in the Bengal army, were sent by the London
Geographical Society to explore the great African lakes,
and on the 17th of June they quitted Zanzibar, and
plunged directly into the west.
After four months of incredible suffering, their baggage
having been pillaged, and their attendants beaten
and slain, they arrived at Kazeh, a sort of central
rendezvous for traders and caravans. They were in the
midst of the country of the Moon, and there they collected
some precious documents concerning the manners, government,
religion, fauna, and flora of the region. They next
made for the first of the great lakes, the one named
Tanganayika, situated between the third and eighth degrees
of south latitude. They reached it on the 14th of February,
1858, and visited the various tribes residing on its
banks, the most of whom are cannibals.
They departed again on the 26th of May, and reentered
Kazeh on the 20th of June. There Burton, who
was completely worn out, lay ill for several months,
during which time Speke made a push to the northward
of more than three hundred miles, going as far as Lake
Okeracua, which he came in sight of on the 3d of August;
but he could descry only the opening of it at latitude
two degrees thirty minutes.
He reached Kazeh, on his return, on the 25th of August,
and, in company with Burton, again took up the
route to Zanzibar, where they arrived in the month of
March in the following year. These two daring explorers
then reembarked for England; and the Geographical
Society of Paris decreed them its annual prize medal.
Dr. Ferguson carefully remarked that they had not
gone beyond the second degree of south latitude, nor the
twenty-ninth of east longitude.
The problem, therefore, was how to link the explorations
of Burton and Speke with those of Dr. Barth, since
to do so was to undertake to traverse an extent of more
than twelve degrees of territory.
Kennedy's Dreams.--Articles and Pronouns in the Plural.--Dick's Insinuations.
--A Promenade over the Map of Africa.--What is contained between two
Points of the Compass.--Expeditions now on foot.--Speke and Grant.--Krapf,
De Decken, and De Heuglin.
Dr. Ferguson energetically pushed the preparations
for his departure, and in person superintended the
construction of his balloon, with certain modifications; in
regard to which he observed the most absolute silence.
For a long time past he had been applying himself to the
study of the Arab language and the various Mandingoe
idioms, and, thanks to his talents as a polyglot, he had
made rapid progress.
In the mean while his friend, the sportsman, never let
him out of his sight--afraid, no doubt, that the doctor
might take his departure, without saying a word to anybody.
On this subject, he regaled him with the most
persuasive arguments, which, however, did NOT persuade
Samuel Ferguson, and wasted his breath in pathetic
entreaties, by which the latter seemed to be but slightly
moved. In fine, Dick felt that the doctor was slipping
through his fingers.
The poor Scot was really to be pitied. He could not look
upon the azure vault without a sombre terror: when asleep,
he felt oscillations that made his head reel; and every
night he had visions of being swung aloft at immeasurable heights.
We must add that, during these fearful nightmares,
he once or twice fell out of bed. His first care then was
to show Ferguson a severe contusion that he had received
on the cranium. "And yet," he would add, with
warmth, "that was at the height of only three feet--not
an inch more--and such a bump as this! Only think, then!"
This insinuation, full of sad meaning as it was, did not
seem to touch the doctor's heart.
"We'll not fall," was his invariable reply.
"But, still, suppose that we WERE to fall!"
"We will NOT fall!"
This was decisive, and Kennedy had nothing more to say.
What particularly exasperated Dick was, that the doctor
seemed completely to lose sight of his personality--
of his--Kennedy's--and to look upon him as irrevocably
destined to become his aerial companion. Not even the
shadow of a doubt was ever suggested; and Samuel made
an intolerable misuse of the first person plural:
"'We' are getting along; 'we' shall be ready on
the ----; 'we' shall start on the ----," etc., etc.
And then there was the singular possessive adjective:
"'Our' balloon; 'our' car; 'our' expedition."
And the same in the plural, too:
"'Our' preparations; 'our' discoveries; 'our' ascensions."
Dick shuddered at them, although he was determined
not to go; but he did not want to annoy his friend. Let
us also disclose the fact that, without knowing exactly
why himself, he had sent to Edinburgh for a certain
selection of heavy clothing, and his best hunting-gear and
One day, after having admitted that, with an overwhelming
run of good-luck, there MIGHT be one chance of
success in a thousand, he pretended to yield entirely to
the doctor's wishes; but, in order to still put off the
journey, he opened the most varied series of subterfuges. He
threw himself back upon questioning the utility of the
expedition--its opportuneness, etc. This discovery of the
sources of the Nile, was it likely to be of any use?--Would
one have really labored for the welfare of humanity?--
When, after all, the African tribes should have been civilized,
would they be any happier?--Were folks certain
that civilization had not its chosen abode there rather
than in Europe?--Perhaps!--And then, couldn't one wait
a little longer?--The trip across Africa would certainly
be accomplished some day, and in a less hazardous manner.--
In another month, or in six months before the year
was over, some explorer would undoubtedly come in--etc., etc.
These hints produced an effect exactly opposite to
what was desired or intended, and the doctor trembled
"Are you willing, then, wretched Dick--are you willing,
false friend--that this glory should belong to another?
Must I then be untrue to my past history; recoil before
obstacles that are not serious; requite with cowardly
hesitation what both the English Government and the
Royal Society of London have done for me?"
"But," resumed Kennedy, who made great use of that
"But," said the doctor, "are you not aware that my
journey is to compete with the success of the expeditions
now on foot? Don't you know that fresh explorers are
advancing toward the centre of Africa?"
"Listen to me, Dick," and cast your eyes over that map."
Dick glanced over it, with resignation.
"Now, ascend the course of the Nile."
"I have ascended it," replied the Scotchman, with
"Stop at Gondokoro."
"I am there."
And Kennedy thought to himself how easy such a trip
was--on the map!
"Now, take one of the points of these dividers and let it rest
upon that place beyond which the most daring explorers have
"I have done so."
"And now look along the coast for the island of Zanzibar,
in latitude six degrees south."
"I have it."
"Now, follow the same parallel and arrive at Kazeh."
"I have done so."
"Run up again along the thirty-third degree of longitude
to the opening of Lake Oukereoue, at the point where
Lieutenant Speke had to halt."
"I am there; a little more, and I should have tumbled
into the lake."
"Very good! Now, do you know what we have the
right to suppose, according to the information given by
the tribes that live along its shores?"
"I haven't the least idea."
"Why, that this lake, the lower extremity of which is
in two degrees and thirty minutes, must extend also two
degrees and a half above the equator."
"Well from this northern extremity there flows a
stream which must necessarily join the Nile, if it be not
the Nile itself."
"That is, indeed, curious."
"Then, let the other point of your dividers rest upon
that extremity of Lake Oukereoue."
"It is done, friend Ferguson."
"Now, how many degrees can you count between the
"And do you know what that means, Dick?"
"Not the least in the world."
"Why, that makes scarcely one hundred and twenty
miles--in other words, a nothing."
"Almost nothing, Samuel."
"Well, do you know what is taking place at this moment?"
"No, upon my honor, I do not."
"Very well, then, I'll tell you. The Geographical Society
regard as very important the exploration of this lake
of which Speke caught a glimpse. Under their auspices,
Lieutenant (now Captain) Speke has associated with him
Captain Grant, of the army in India; they have put themselves
at the head of a numerous and well-equipped expedition;
their mission is to ascend the lake and return to
Gondokoro; they have received a subsidy of more than
five thousand pounds, and the Governor of the Cape of
Good Hope has placed Hottentot soldiers at their disposal;
they set out from Zanzibar at the close of October, 1860.
In the mean while John Petherick, the English consul at
the city of Karthoum, has received about seven hundred
pounds from the foreign office; he is to equip a steamer at
Karthoum, stock it with sufficient provisions, and make his
way to Gondokoro; there, he will await Captain Speke's
caravan, and be able to replenish its supplies to some extent."
"Well planned," said Kennedy.
"You can easily see, then, that time presses if we are
to take part in these exploring labors. And that is not
all, since, while some are thus advancing with sure steps
to the discovery of the sources of the Nile, others are
penetrating to the very heart of Africa."
"On foot?" said Kennedy.
"Yes, on foot," rejoined the doctor, without noticing
the insinuation. "Doctor Krapf proposes to push forward,
in the west, by way of the Djob, a river lying under the
equator. Baron de Decken has already set out from
Monbaz, has reconnoitred the mountains of Kenaia and
Kilimandjaro, and is now plunging in toward the centre."
"But all this time on foot?"
"On foot or on mules."
"Exactly the same, so far as I am concerned," ejaculated Kennedy.
"Lastly," resumed the doctor, "M. de Heuglin, the
Austrian vice-consul at Karthoum, has just organized a
very important expedition, the first aim of which is to
search for the traveller Vogel, who, in 1853, was sent into
the Soudan to associate himself with the labors of Dr.
Barth. In 1856, he quitted Bornou, and determined to
explore the unknown country that lies between Lake Tchad
and Darfur. Nothing has been seen of him since that
time. Letters that were received in Alexandria, in 1860,
said that he was killed at the order of the King of Wadai;
but other letters, addressed by Dr. Hartmann to the traveller's
father, relate that, according to the recital of a felatah
of Bornou, Vogel was merely held as a prisoner at
Wara. All hope is not then lost. Hence, a committee
has been organized under the presidency of the Regent of
Saxe-Cogurg-Gotha; my friend Petermann is its secretary;
a national subscription has provided for the expense
of the expedition, whose strength has been increased
by the voluntary accession of several learned men, and
M. de Heuglin set out from Massowah, in the month of
June. While engaged in looking for Vogel, he is also to
explore all the country between the Nile and Lake Tchad,
that is to say, to knit together the operations of Captain
Speke and those of Dr. Barth, and then Africa will have
been traversed from east to west."*
* After the departure of Dr. Ferguson, it was ascertained that
M. de Heuglin, owing to some disagreement, took a route different
from the one assigned to his expedition, the command of the latter
having been transferred to Mr. Muntzinger.
"Well," said the canny Scot, "since every thing is
getting on so well, what's the use of our going down there?"
Dr. Ferguson made no reply, but contented himself
with a significant shrug of the shoulders.
A Servant--match him!--He can see the Satellites of Jupiter.--Dick
and Joe hard at it.--Doubt and Faith.--The Weighing Ceremony.--Joe
and Wellington.--He gets a Half-crown.
Dr. Ferguson had a servant who answered with alacrity to
the name of Joe. He was an excellent fellow, who testified
the most absolute confidence in his master, and the most
unlimited devotion to his interests, even anticipating
his wishes and orders, which were always intelligently
executed. In fine, he was a Caleb without the
growling, and a perfect pattern of constant good-humor.
Had he been made on purpose for the place, it could not
have been better done. Ferguson put himself entirely in
his hands, so far as the ordinary details of existence were
concerned, and he did well. Incomparable, whole-souled
Joe! a servant who orders your dinner; who likes what
you like; who packs your trunk, without forgetting your
socks or your linen; who has charge of your keys and your
secrets, and takes no advantage of all this!
But then, what a man the doctor was in the eyes of
this worthy Joe! With what respect and what confidence
the latter received all his decisions! When Ferguson had
spoken, he would be a fool who should attempt to question
the matter. Every thing he thought was exactly right;
every thing he said, the perfection of wisdom; every thing
he ordered to be done, quite feasible; all that he undertook,
practicable; all that he accomplished, admirable.
You might have cut Joe to pieces--not an agreeable
operation, to be sure--and yet he would not have altered
his opinion of his master.
So, when the doctor conceived the project of crossing
Africa through the air, for Joe the thing was already
done; obstacles no longer existed; from the moment when
the doctor had made up his mind to start, he had arrived
--along with his faithful attendant, too, for the noble
fellow knew, without a word uttered about it, that he would
be one of the party.
Moreover, he was just the man to render the greatest
service by his intelligence and his wonderful agility. Had
the occasion arisen to name a professor of gymnastics for
the monkeys in the Zoological Garden (who are smart
enough, by-the-way!), Joe would certainly have received
the appointment. Leaping, climbing, almost flying--
these were all sport to him.
If Ferguson was the head and Kennedy the arm, Joe
was to be the right hand of the expedition. He had,
already, accompanied his master on several journeys, and
had a smattering of science appropriate to his condition
and style of mind, but he was especially remarkable for a
sort of mild philosophy, a charming turn of optimism. In
his sight every thing was easy, logical, natural, and,
consequently, he could see no use in complaining or grumbling.
Among other gifts, he possessed a strength and range
of vision that were perfectly surprising. He enjoyed, in
common with Moestlin, Kepler's professor, the rare faculty
of distinguishing the satellites of Jupiter with the naked
eye, and of counting fourteen of the stars in the group of
Pleiades, the remotest of them being only of the ninth
magnitude. He presumed none the more for that; on the
contrary, he made his bow to you, at a distance, and when
occasion arose he bravely knew how to use his eyes.
With such profound faith as Joe felt in the doctor, it
is not to be wondered at that incessant discussions sprang
up between him and Kennedy, without any lack of respect
to the latter, however.
One doubted, the other believed; one had a prudent foresight,
the other blind confidence. The doctor, however, vibrated
between doubt and confidence; that is to say, he troubled
his head with neither one nor the other.
"Well, Mr. Kennedy," Joe would say.
"Well, my boy?"
"The moment's at hand. It seems that we are to sail
for the moon."
"You mean the Mountains of the Moon, which are not
quite so far off. But, never mind, one trip is just as
dangerous as the other!"
"Dangerous! What! with a man like Dr. Ferguson?"
"I don't want to spoil your illusions, my good Joe;
but this undertaking of his is nothing more nor less than
the act of a madman. He won't go, though!"
"He won't go, eh? Then you haven't seen his balloon
at Mitchell's factory in the Borough?"
"I'll take precious good care to keep away from it!"
"Well, you'll lose a fine sight, sir. What a splendid
thing it is! What a pretty shape! What a nice car!
How snug we'll feel in it!"
"Then you really think of going with your master?"
"I?" answered Joe, with an accent of profound conviction.
"Why, I'd go with him wherever he pleases!
Who ever heard of such a thing? Leave him to go off
alone, after we've been all over the world together! Who
would help him, when he was tired? Who would give
him a hand in climbing over the rocks? Who would
attend him when he was sick? No, Mr. Kennedy, Joe will
always stick to the doctor!"
"You're a fine fellow, Joe!"
"But, then, you're coming with us!"
"Oh! certainly," said Kennedy; "that is to say, I
will go with you up to the last moment, to prevent Samuel
even then from being guilty of such an act of folly! I
will follow him as far as Zanzibar, so as to stop him there,
"You'll stop nothing at all, Mr. Kennedy, with all respect
to you, sir. My master is no hare-brained person;
he takes a long time to think over what he means to do,
and then, when he once gets started, the Evil One himself
couldn't make him give it up."
"Well, we'll see about that."
"Don't flatter yourself, sir--but then, the main thing
is, to have you with us. For a hunter like you, sir,
Africa's a great country. So, either way, you won't be
sorry for the trip."
"No, that's a fact, I shan't be sorry for it, if I can get
this crazy man to give up his scheme."
"By-the-way," said Joe, "you know that the weighing
comes off to-day."
"The weighing--what weighing?"
"Why, my master, and you, and I, are all to be
"What! like horse-jockeys?"
"Yes, like jockeys. Only, never fear, you won't be
expected to make yourself lean, if you're found to be
heavy. You'll go as you are."
"Well, I can tell you, I am not going to let myself be
weighed," said Kennedy, firmly.
"But, sir, it seems that the doctor's machine requires it."
"Well, his machine will have to do without it."
"Humph! and suppose that it couldn't go up, then?"
"Egad! that's all I want!"
"Come! come, Mr. Kennedy! My master will be sending
for us directly."
"I shan't go."
"Oh! now, you won't vex the doctor in that way!"
"Aye! that I will."
"Well!" said Joe with a laugh, "you say that because
he's not here; but when he says to your face, 'Dick!'
(with all respect to you, sir,) 'Dick, I want to know
exactly how much you weigh,' you'll go, I warrant it."
"No, I will NOT go!"
At this moment the doctor entered his study, where
this discussion had been taking place; and, as he came
in, cast a glance at Kennedy, who did not feel altogether
at his ease.
"Dick," said the doctor, "come with Joe; I want to
know how much you both weigh."
"You may keep your hat on. Come!" And Kennedy went.
They repaired in company to the workshop of the
Messrs. Mitchell, where one of those so-called "Roman"
scales was in readiness. It was necessary, by the way,
for the doctor to know the weight of his companions, so
as to fix the equilibrium of his balloon; so he made Dick
get up on the platform of the scales. The latter, without
making any resistance, said, in an undertone:
"Oh! well, that doesn't bind me to any thing."
"One hundred and fifty-three pounds," said the doctor,
noting it down on his tablets.
"Am I too heavy?"
"Why, no, Mr. Kennedy!" said Joe; "and then, you
know, I am light to make up for it."
So saying, Joe, with enthusiasm, took his place on the
scales, and very nearly upset them in his ready haste.
He struck the attitude of Wellington where he is made to
ape Achilles, at Hyde-Park entrance, and was superb in
it, without the shield.
"One hundred and twenty pounds," wrote the doctor.
"Ah! ha!" said Joe, with a smile of satisfaction
And why did he smile? He never could tell himself.
"It's my turn now," said Ferguson--and he put down
one hundred and thirty-five pounds to his own account.
"All three of us," said he, "do not weigh much more
than four hundred pounds."
"But, sir," said Joe, "if it was necessary for your
expedition, I could make myself thinner by twenty pounds,
by not eating so much."
"Useless, my boy!" replied the doctor. "You may
eat as much as you like, and here's half-a-crown to buy
you the ballast."
Geometrical Details.--Calculation of the Capacity of the Balloon.--The
Double Receptacle.--The Covering.--The Car.--The Mysterious Apparatus.
--The Provisions and Stores.--The Final Summing up.
Dr. Ferguson had long been engaged upon the details
of his expedition. It is easy to comprehend that the balloon
--that marvellous vehicle which was to convey him
through the air--was the constant object of his solicitude.
At the outset, in order not to give the balloon too
ponderous dimensions, he had decided to fill it with
hydrogen gas, which is fourteen and a half times lighter
than common air. The production of this gas is easy,
and it has given the greatest satisfaction hitherto in
The doctor, according to very accurate calculations,
found that, including the articles indispensable to his
journey and his apparatus, he should have to carry a weight
of 4,000 pounds; therefore he had to find out what would
be the ascensional force of a balloon capable of raising such
a weight, and, consequently, what would be its capacity.
A weight of four thousand pounds is represented by
a displacement of the air amounting to forty-four thousand
eight hundred and forty-seven cubic feet; or, in other
words, forty-four thousand eight hundred and forty-seven
cubic feet of air weigh about four thousand pounds.
By giving the balloon these cubic dimensions, and filling
it with hydrogen gas, instead of common air--the former
being fourteen and a half times lighter and weighing
therefore only two hundred and seventy-six pounds--a
difference of three thousand seven hundred and twenty-four
pounds in equilibrium is produced; and it is this
difference between the weight of the gas contained in the
balloon and the weight of the surrounding atmosphere
that constitutes the ascensional force of the former.
However, were the forty-four thousand eight hundred
and forty-seven cubic feet of gas of which we speak, all
introduced into the balloon, it would be entirely filled;
but that would not do, because, as the balloon continued
to mount into the more rarefied layers of the atmosphere,
the gas within would dilate, and soon burst the cover
containing it. Balloons, then, are usually only two-thirds
But the doctor, in carrying out a project known only
to himself, resolved to fill his balloon only one-half; and,
since he had to carry forty-four thousand eight hundred
and forty-seven cubic feet of gas, to give his balloon
nearly double capacity he arranged it in that elongated,
oval shape which has come to be preferred. The horizontal
diameter was fifty feet, and the vertical diameter
seventy-five feet. He thus obtained a spheroid, the
capacity of which amounted, in round numbers, to ninety
thousand cubic feet.
Could Dr. Ferguson have used two balloons, his chances
of success would have been increased; for, should one
burst in the air, he could, by throwing out ballast, keep
himself up with the other. But the management of two
balloons would, necessarily, be very difficult, in view of
the problem how to keep them both at an equal ascensional force.
After having pondered the matter carefully, Dr. Ferguson,
by an ingenious arrangement, combined the advantages of
two balloons, without incurring their inconveniences. He
constructed two of different sizes, and inclosed the
smaller in the larger one. His external balloon, which
had the dimensions given above, contained a less one of
the same shape, which was only forty-five feet in
horizontal, and sixty-eight feet in vertical diameter. The
capacity of this interior balloon was only sixty-seven
thousand cubic feet: it was to float in the fluid surrounding
it. A valve opened from one balloon into the other,
and thus enabled the aeronaut to communicate with both.
This arrangement offered the advantage, that if gas
had to be let off, so as to descend, that which was in the
outer balloon would go first; and, were it completely
emptied, the smaller one would still remain intact. The
outer envelope might then be cast off as a useless encumbrance;
and the second balloon, left free to itself, would not offer
the same hold to the currents of air as a half-inflated one
must needs present.
Moreover, in case of an accident happening to the outside
balloon, such as getting torn, for instance, the other
would remain intact.
The balloons were made of a strong but light Lyons silk,
coated with gutta percha. This gummy, resinous substance
is absolutely water-proof, and also resists acids and gas
perfectly. The silk was doubled, at the upper extremity of
the oval, where most of the strain would come.
Such an envelope as this could retain the inflating
fluid for any length of time. It weighed half a pound per
nine square feet. Hence the surface of the outside balloon
being about eleven thousand six hundred square feet, its
envelope weighed six hundred and fifty pounds. The envelope
of the second or inner balloon, having nine thousand two
hundred square feet of surface, weighed only about five
hundred and ten pounds, or say eleven hundred and sixty
pounds for both.
The network that supported the car was made of very
strong hempen cord, and the two valves were the object
of the most minute and careful attention, as the rudder of
a ship would be.
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
"Should the slightest accident happen, waken me,"
said Ferguson, "and, above all things, don't lose sight of
the barometer. To us it is the compass!"
The night was cold. There were twenty-seven degrees
of difference between its temperature and that of the daytime.
With nightfall had begun the nocturnal concert
of animals driven from their hiding-places by hunger and
thirst. The frogs struck in their guttural soprano,
redoubled by the yelping of the jackals, while the imposing
bass of the African lion sustained the accords of this living
Upon resuming his post, in the morning, the doctor
consulted his compass, and found that the wind had
changed during the night. The balloon had been bearing
about thirty miles to the northwest during the last two
hours. It was then passing over Mabunguru, a stony
country, strewn with blocks of syenite of a fine polish, and
knobbed with huge bowlders and angular ridges of rock;
conic masses, like the rocks of Karnak, studded the soil
like so many Druidic dolmens; the bones of buffaloes and
elephants whitened it here and there; but few trees could
be seen, excepting in the east, where there were dense
woods, among which a few villages lay half concealed.
Toward seven o'clock they saw a huge round rock
nearly two miles in extent, like an immense tortoise.
"We are on the right track," said Dr. Ferguson.
"There's Jihoue-la-Mkoa, where we must halt for a few
minutes. I am going to renew the supply of water necessary
for my cylinder, and so let us try to anchor somewhere."
"There are very few trees," replied the hunger.
"Never mind, let us try. Joe, throw out the anchors!"
The balloon, gradually losing its ascensional force,
approached the ground; the anchors ran along until, at
last, one of them caught in the fissure of a rock, and the
balloon remained motionless.
It must not be supposed that the doctor could entirely
extinguish his cylinder, during these halts. The equilibrium
of the balloon had been calculated at the level of
the sea; and, as the country was continually ascending,
and had reached an elevation of from six to seven hundred
feet, the balloon would have had a tendency to go lower
than the surface of the soil itself. It was, therefore,
necessary to sustain it by a certain dilation of the gas. But,
in case the doctor, in the absence of all wind, had let the
car rest upon the ground, the balloon, thus relieved of a
considerable weight, would have kept up of itself, without
the aid of the cylinder.
The maps indicated extensive ponds on the western
slope of the Jihoue-la-Mkoa. Joe went thither alone
with a cask that would hold about ten gallons. He found
the place pointed out to him, without difficulty, near to a
deserted village; got his stock of water, and returned in
less than three-quarters of an hour. He had seen nothing
particular excepting some immense elephant-pits. In fact,
he came very near falling into one of them, at the bottom
of which lay a half-eaten carcass.
He brought back with him a sort of clover which the
apes eat with avidity. The doctor recognized the fruit
of the "mbenbu"-tree which grows in profusion, on the
western part of Jihoue-la-Mkoa. Ferguson waited for
Joe with a certain feeling of impatience, for even a short
halt in this inhospitable region always inspires a degree
The water was got aboard without trouble, as the car
was nearly resting on the ground. Joe then found it easy
to loosen the anchor and leaped lightly to his place beside
the doctor. The latter then replenished the flame in the
cylinder, and the balloon majestically soared into the air.
It was then about one hundred miles from Kazeh, an
important establishment in the interior of Africa, where,
thanks to a south-southeasterly current, the travellers
might hope to arrive on that same day. They were moving
at the rate of fourteen miles per hour, and the guidance
of the balloon was becoming difficult, as they dared
not rise very high without extreme dilation of the gas, the
country itself being at an average height of three thousand
feet. Hence, the doctor preferred not to force the
dilation, and so adroitly followed the sinuosities of a
pretty sharply-inclined plane, and swept very close to the
villages of Thembo and Tura-Wels. The latter forms
part of the Unyamwezy, a magnificent country, where the
trees attain enormous dimensions; among them the cactus,
which grows to gigantic size.
About two o'clock, in magnificent weather, but under a
fiery sun that devoured the least breath of air, the balloon
was floating over the town of Kazeh, situated about three
hundred and fifty miles from the coast.
"We left Zanzibar at nine o'clock in the morning,"
said the doctor, consulting his notes, "and, after two
days' passage, we have, including our deviations, travelled
nearly five hundred geographical miles. Captains
Burton and Speke took four months and a half to make
the same distance!"
Kazeh.--The Noisy Market-place.--The Appearance of the Balloon.--The
Wangaga.--The Sons of the Moon.--The Doctor's Walk.--The Population of the
Place.--The Royal Tembe.--The Sultan's Wives.--A Royal Drunken-Bout.--
Joe an Object of Worship.--How they Dance in the Moon.--A Reaction.--
Two Moons in one Sky.--The Instability of Divine Honors.
Kazeh, an important point in Central Africa, is not a
city; in truth, there are no cities in the interior. Kazeh
is but a collection of six extensive excavations. There
are enclosed a few houses and slave-huts, with little courtyards
and small gardens, carefully cultivated with onions,
potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and mushrooms, of perfect
flavor, growing most luxuriantly.
The Unyamwezy is the country of the Moon--above
all the rest, the fertile and magnificent garden-spot of
Africa. In its centre is the district of Unyanembe--a
delicious region, where some families of Omani, who are
of very pure Arabic origin, live in luxurious idleness.
They have, for a long period, held the commerce between
the interior of Africa and Arabia: they trade in
gums, ivory, fine muslin, and slaves. Their caravans
traverse these equatorial regions on all sides; and they
even make their way to the coast in search of those articles
of luxury and enjoyment which the wealthy merchants
covet; while the latter, surrounded by their wives
and their attendants, lead in this charming country the
least disturbed and most horizontal of lives--always
stretched at full length, laughing, smoking, or sleeping.
Around these excavations are numerous native dwellings;
wide, open spaces for the markets; fields of cannabis
and datura; superb trees and depths of freshest
shade--such is Kazeh!
There, too, is held the general rendezvous of the caravans
--those of the south, with their slaves and their freightage
of ivory; and those of the west, which export cotton,
glassware, and trinkets, to the tribes of the great lakes.
So in the market-place there reigns perpetual excitement,
a nameless hubbub, made up of the cries of mixed-breed
porters and carriers, the beating of drums, and the
twanging of horns, the neighing of mules, the braying of
donkeys, the singing of women, the squalling of children,
and the banging of the huge rattan, wielded by the jemadar
or leader of the caravans, who beats time to this pastoral
There, spread forth, without regard to order--indeed,
we may say, in charming disorder--are the showy stuffs,
the glass beads, the ivory tusks, the rhinoceros'-teeth, the
shark's-teeth, the honey, the tobacco, and the cotton of
these regions, to be purchased at the strangest of bargains
by customers in whose eyes each article has a price only
in proportion to the desire it excites to possess it.
All at once this agitation, movement and noise stopped
as though by magic. The balloon had just come in sight,
far aloft in the sky, where it hovered majestically for
a few moments, and then descended slowly, without
deviating from its perpendicular. Men, women, children,
merchants and slaves, Arabs and negroes, as suddenly
disappeared within the "tembes" and the huts.
"My dear doctor," said Kennedy, "if we continue to
produce such a sensation as this, we shall find some
difficulty in establishing commercial relations with
the people hereabouts."
"There's one kind of trade that we might carry on,
though, easily enough," said Joe; "and that would be to
go down there quietly, and walk off with the best of the
goods, without troubling our heads about the merchants;
we'd get rich that way!"
"Ah!" said the doctor, "these natives are a little
scared at first; but they won't be long in coming back,
either through suspicion or through curiosity."
"Do you really think so, doctor?"
"Well, we'll see pretty soon. But it wouldn't be prudent
to go too near to them, for the balloon is not iron-clad,
and is, therefore, not proof against either an arrow
or a bullet."
"Then you expect to hold a parley with these blacks?"
"If we can do so safely, why should we not? There
must be some Arab merchants here at Kazeh, who are better
informed than the rest, and not so barbarous. I remember
that Burton and Speke had nothing but praises
to utter concerning the hospitality of these people; so we
might, at least, make the venture."
The balloon having, meanwhile, gradually approached
the ground, one of the anchors lodged in the top of a tree
near the market-place.
By this time the whole population had emerged from
their hiding-places stealthily, thrusting their heads out
first. Several "waganga," recognizable by their badges
of conical shellwork, came boldly forward. They were
the sorcerers of the place. They bore in their girdles
small gourds, coated with tallow, and several other
articles of witchcraft, all of them, by-the-way, most
Little by little the crowd gathered beside them, the
women and children grouped around them, the drums
renewed their deafening uproar, hands were violently
clapped together, and then raised toward the sky.
"That's their style of praying," said the doctor; "and,
if I'm not mistaken, we're going to be called upon to play
a great part."
"Well, sir, play it!"
"You, too, my good Joe--perhaps you're to be a god!"
"Well, master, that won't trouble me much. I like a
At this moment, one of the sorcerers, a "myanga,"
made a sign, and all the clamor died away into the
profoundest silence. He then addressed a few words to the
strangers, but in an unknown tongue.
Dr. Ferguson, not having understood them, shouted
some sentences in Arabic, at a venture, and was
immediately answered in that language.
The speaker below then delivered himself of a very
copious harangue, which was also very flowery and very
gravely listened to by his audience. From it the doctor
was not slow in learning that the balloon was mistaken for
nothing less than the moon in person, and that the amiable
goddess in question had condescended to approach the town
with her three sons--an honor that would never be forgotten
in this land so greatly loved by the god of day.
The doctor responded, with much dignity, that the
moon made her provincial tour every thousand years,
feeling the necessity of showing herself nearer at hand
to her worshippers. He, therefore, begged them not to be
disturbed by her presence, but to take advantage of it to
make known all their wants and longings.
The sorcerer, in his turn, replied that the sultan, the
"mwani," who had been sick for many years, implored
the aid of heaven, and he invited the son of the moon to
The doctor acquainted his companions with the invitation.
"And you are going to call upon this negro king?"
"Undoubtedly so; these people appear well disposed;
the air is calm; there is not a breath of wind, and we have
nothing to fear for the balloon?"
"But, what will you do?"
"Be quiet on that score, my dear Dick. With a little
medicine, I shall work my way through the affair!"
Then, addressing the crowd, he said:
"The moon, taking compassion on the sovereign who
is so dear to the children of Unyamwezy, has charged us
to restore him to health. Let him prepare to receive us!"
The clamor, the songs and demonstrations of all kinds
increased twofold, and the whole immense ants' nest of
black heads was again in motion.
"Now, my friends," said Dr. Ferguson, "we must
look out for every thing beforehand; we may be forced to
leave this at any moment, unexpectedly, and be off with
extra speed. Dick had better remain, therefore, in the
car, and keep the cylinder warm so as to secure a sufficient
ascensional force for the balloon. The anchor is solidly
fastened, and there is nothing to fear in that respect. I
shall descend, and Joe will go with me, only that he must
remain at the foot of the ladder."
"What! are you going alone into that blackamoor's den?"
"How! doctor, am I not to go with you?"
"No! I shall go alone; these good folks imagine that
the goddess of the moon has come to see them, and their
superstition protects me; so have no fear, and each one
remain at the post that I have assigned to him."
"Well, since you wish it," sighed Kennedy.
"Look closely to the dilation of the gas."
By this time the shouts of the natives had swelled to
double volume as they vehemently implored the aid of the
"There, there," said Joe, "they're rather rough in
their orders to their good moon and her divine sons."
The doctor, equipped with his travelling medicine-chest,
descended to the ground, preceded by Joe, who kept
a straight countenance and looked as grave and knowing
as the circumstances of the case required. He then seated
himself at the foot of the ladder in the Arab fashion, with
his legs crossed under him, and a portion of the crowd
collected around him in a circle, at respectful distances.
In the meanwhile the doctor, escorted to the sound of
savage instruments, and with wild religious dances, slowly
proceeded toward the royal "tembe," situated a considerable
distance outside of the town. It was about three
o'clock, and the sun was shining brilliantly. In fact, what
less could it do upon so grand an occasion!
The doctor stepped along with great dignity, the waganga
surrounding him and keeping off the crowd. He was soon
joined by the natural son of the sultan, a handsomely-built
young fellow, who, according to the custom of the country,
was the sole heir of the paternal goods, to the exclusion
of the old man's legitimate children. He prostrated himself
before the son of the moon, but the latter graciously raised
him to his feet.
Three-quarters of an hour later, through shady paths,
surrounded by all the luxuriance of tropical vegetation,
this enthusiastic procession arrived at the sultan's palace,
a sort of square edifice called ititenya, and situated on the
slope of a hill.
A kind of veranda, formed by the thatched roof, adorned the
outside, supported upon wooden pillars, which had some
pretensions to being carved. Long lines of dark-red clay
decorated the walls in characters that strove to reproduce
the forms of men and serpents, the latter better
imitated, of course, than the former. The roofing of this
abode did not rest directly upon the walls, and the air
could, therefore, circulate freely, but windows there were
none, and the door hardly deserved the name.
Dr. Ferguson was received with all the honors by the
guards and favorites of the sultan; these were men of a
fine race, the Wanyamwezi so-called, a pure type of the
central African populations, strong, robust, well-made, and
in splendid condition. Their hair, divided into a great
number of small tresses, fell over their shoulders, and by
means of black-and-blue incisions they had tattooed their
cheeks from the temples to the mouth. Their ears, frightfully
distended, held dangling to them disks of wood and
plates of gum copal. They were clad in brilliantly-painted
cloths, and the soldiers were armed with the saw-toothed
war-club, the bow and arrows barbed and poisoned with
the juice of the euphorbium, the cutlass, the "sima," a long
sabre (also with saw-like teeth), and some small battle-axes.
The doctor advanced into the palace, and there, notwithstanding
the sultan's illness, the din, which was terrific before,
redoubled the instant that he arrived. He noticed, at the
lintels of the door, some rabbits' tails and zebras' manes,
suspended as talismans. He was received by the whole troop
of his majesty's wives, to the harmonious accords of the
"upatu," a sort of cymbal made of the bottom of a copper
kettle, and to the uproar of the "kilindo," a drum five feet
high, hollowed out from the trunk of a tree, and hammered by
the ponderous, horny fists of two jet-black virtuosi.
Most of the women were rather good-looking, and they laughed
and chattered merrily as they smoked their tobacco and "thang"
in huge black pipes. They seemed to be well made, too, under
the long robes that they wore gracefully flung about their
persons, and carried a sort of "kilt" woven from the fibres
of calabash fastened around their girdles.
Six of them were not the least merry of the party,
although put aside from the rest, and reserved for a cruel
fate. On the death of the sultan, they were to be buried
alive with him, so as to occupy and divert his mind during
the period of eternal solitude.
Dr. Ferguson, taking in the whole scene at a rapid
glance, approached the wooden couch on which the sultan
lay reclining. There he saw a man of about forty, completely
brutalized by orgies of every description, and in a
condition that left little or nothing to be done. The
sickness that had afflicted him for so many years was simply
perpetual drunkenness. The royal sot had nearly lost all
consciousness, and all the ammonia in the world would
not have set him on his feet again.
His favorites and the women kept on bended knees
during this solemn visit. By means of a few drops of
powerful cordial, the doctor for a moment reanimated the
imbruted carcass that lay before him. The sultan stirred,
and, for a dead body that had given no sign whatever of
life for several hours previously, this symptom was
received with a tremendous repetition of shouts and cries
in the doctor's honor.
The latter, who had seen enough of it by this time, by a
rapid motion put aside his too demonstrative admirers
and went out of the palace, directing his steps immediately
toward the balloon, for it was now six o'clock in the evening.
Joe, during his absence, had been quietly waiting at
the foot of the ladder, where the crowd paid him their
most humble respects. Like a genuine son of the moon,
he let them keep on. For a divinity, he had the air of a
very clever sort of fellow, by no means proud, nay, even
pleasingly familiar with the young negresses, who seemed
never to tire of looking at him. Besides, he went so far
as to chat agreeably with them.
"Worship me, ladies! worship me!" he said to them.
"I'm a clever sort of devil, if I am the son of a goddess."
They brought him propitiatory gifts, such as are usually
deposited in the fetich huts or mzimu. These gifts
consisted of stalks of barley and of "pombe." Joe considered
himself in duty bound to taste the latter species
of strong beer, but his palate, although accustomed to gin
and whiskey, could not withstand the strength of the new
beverage, and he had to make a horrible grimace, which
his dusky friends took to be a benevolent smile.
Thereupon, the young damsels, conjoining their voices
in a drawling chant, began to dance around him with the
"Ah! you're dancing, are you?" said he. "Well, I
won't be behind you in politeness, and so I'll give you one
of my country reels."
So at it he went, in one of the wildest jigs that ever
was seen, twisting, turning, and jerking himself in all
directions; dancing with his hands, dancing with his body,
dancing with his knees, dancing with his feet; describing
the most fearful contortions and extravagant evolutions;
throwing himself into incredible attitudes; grimacing beyond
all belief, and, in fine giving his savage admirers a
strange idea of the style of ballet adopted by the deities
in the moon.
Then, the whole collection of blacks, naturally as imitative
as monkeys, at once reproduced all his airs and
graces, his leaps and shakes and contortions; they did
not lose a single gesticulation; they did not forget an
attitude; and the result was, such a pandemonium of movement,
noise, and excitement, as it would be out of the
question even feebly to describe. But, in the very midst
of the fun, Joe saw the doctor approaching.
The latter was coming at full speed, surrounded by a
yelling and disorderly throng. The chiefs and sorcerers
seemed to be highly excited. They were close upon the
doctor's heels, crowding and threatening him.
Singular reaction! What had happened? Had the sultan
unluckily perished in the hands of his celestial physician?
Kennedy, from his post of observation, saw the danger
without knowing what had caused it, and the balloon,
powerfully urged by the dilation of the gas, strained and
tugged at the ropes that held it as though impatient to
The doctor had got as far as the foot of the ladder. A
superstitious fear still held the crowd aloof and hindered
them from committing any violence on his person. He
rapidly scaled the ladder, and Joe followed him with his
"Not a moment to lose!" said the doctor. "Don't
attempt to let go the anchor! We'll cut the cord!
"But what's the matter?" asked Joe, clambering into
"What's happened?" questioned Kennedy, rifle in hand.
"Look!" replied the doctor, pointing to the horizon.
"Well?" ejaculated the Scot.
"Well! the moon!"
And, in fact, there was the moon rising red and magnificent,
a globe of fire in a field of blue! It was she, indeed--she
and the balloon!--both in one sky!
Either there were two moons, then, or these strangers
were imposters, designing scamps, false deities!
Such were the very natural reflections of the crowd,
and hence the reaction in their feelings.
Joe could not, for the life of him, keep in a roar of
laughter; and the population of Kazeh, comprehending
that their prey was slipping through their clutches, set
up prolonged howlings, aiming, the while, their bows and
muskets at the balloon.
But one of the sorcerers made a sign, and all the
weapons were lowered. He then began to climb into the
tree, intending to seize the rope and bring the machine to
Joe leaned out with a hatchet ready. "Shall I cut
away?" said he.
"No; wait a moment," replied the doctor.
"But this black?"
"We may, perhaps, save our anchor--and I hold a
great deal by that. There'll always be time enough to
The sorcerer, having climbed to the right place, worked
so vigorously that he succeeded in detaching the anchor,
and the latter, violently jerked, at that moment, by the
start of the balloon, caught the rascal between the limbs,
and carried him off astride of it through the air.
The stupefaction of the crowd was indescribable as
they saw one of their waganga thus whirled away into
"Huzza!" roared Joe, as the balloon--thanks to its
ascensional force--shot up higher into the sky, with
"He holds on well," said Kennedy; "a little trip will
do him good."
"Shall we let this darky drop all at once?" inquired Joe.
"Oh no," replied the doctor, "we'll let him down
easily; and I warrant me that, after such an adventure,
the power of the wizard will be enormously enhanced in
the sight of his comrades."
"Why, I wouldn't put it past them to make a god of
him!" said Joe, with a laugh.
The Victoria, by this time, had risen to the height of
one thousand feet, and the black hung to the rope with
desperate energy. He had become completely silent, and
his eyes were fixed, for his terror was blended with
amazement. A light west wind was sweeping the balloon right
over the town, and far beyond it.
Half an hour later, the doctor, seeing the country deserted,
moderated the flame of his cylinder, and descended
toward the ground. At twenty feet above the turf, the
affrighted sorcerer made up his mind in a twinkling: he
let himself drop, fell on his feet, and scampered off at a
furious pace toward Kazeh; while the balloon, suddenly
relieved of his weight, again shot up on her course.
Symptoms of a Storm.--The Country of the Moon.--The Future of the African
Continent.--The Last Machine of all.--A View of the Country at Sunset.--
Flora and Fauna.--The Tempest.--The Zone of Fire.--The Starry Heavens.
"See," said Joe, "what comes of playing the sons of
the moon without her leave! She came near serving us
an ugly trick. But say, master, did you damage your
credit as a physician?"
"Yes, indeed," chimed in the sportsman. "What kind
of a dignitary was this Sultan of Kazeh?"
"An old half-dead sot," replied the doctor, "whose
loss will not be very severely felt. But the moral of all
this is that honors are fleeting, and we must not take too
great a fancy to them."
"So much the worse!" rejoined Joe. "I liked the
thing--to be worshipped!--Play the god as you like!
Why, what would any one ask more than that? By-the-way,
the moon did come up, too, and all red, as if she
was in a rage."
While the three friends went on chatting of this and
other things, and Joe examined the luminary of night
from an entirely novel point of view, the heavens became
covered with heavy clouds to the northward, and the lowering
masses assumed a most sinister and threatening look.
Quite a smart breeze, found about three hundred feet from
the earth, drove the balloon toward the north-northeast;
and above it the blue vault was clear; but the atmosphere
felt close and dull.
The aeronauts found themselves, at about eight in the
evening, in thirty-two degrees forty minutes east
longitude, and four degrees seventeen minutes latitude. The
atmospheric currents, under the influence of a tempest
not far off, were driving them at the rate of from thirty
to thirty-five miles an hour; the undulating and fertile
plains of Mfuto were passing swiftly beneath them. The
spectacle was one worthy of admiration--and admire it
"We are now right in the country of the Moon," said
Dr. Ferguson; "for it has retained the name that antiquity
gave it, undoubtedly, because the moon has been worshipped
there in all ages. It is, really, a superb country."
"It would be hard to find more splendid vegetation."
"If we found the like of it around London it would not be
natural, but it would be very pleasant," put in Joe. "Why
is it that such savage countries get all these fine things?"
"And who knows," said the doctor, "that this country
may not, one day, become the centre of civilization? The
races of the future may repair hither, when Europe shall
have become exhausted in the effort to feed her inhabitants."
"Do you think so, really?" asked Kennedy.
"Undoubtedly, my dear Dick. Just note the progress
of events: consider the migrations of races, and you
will arrive at the same conclusion assuredly. Asia was
the first nurse of the world, was she not? For about four
thousand years she travailed, she grew pregnant, she produced,
and then, when stones began to cover the soil
where the golden harvests sung by Homer had flourished,
her children abandoned her exhausted and barren bosom.
You next see them precipitating themselves upon young
and vigorous Europe, which has nourished them for the
last two thousand years. But already her fertility is beginning
to die out; her productive powers are diminishing
every day. Those new diseases that annually attack the
products of the soil, those defective crops, those insufficient
resources, are all signs of a vitality that is rapidly
wearing out and of an approaching exhaustion. Thus, we
already see the millions rushing to the luxuriant bosom of
America, as a source of help, not inexhaustible indeed, but
not yet exhausted. In its turn, that new continent will
grow old; its virgin forests will fall before the axe of
industry, and its soil will become weak through having too
fully produced what had been demanded of it. Where
two harvests bloomed every year, hardly one will be gathered
from a soil completely drained of its strength. Then,
Africa will be there to offer to new races the treasures
that for centuries have been accumulating in her breast.
Those climates now so fatal to strangers will be purified by
cultivation and by drainage of the soil, and those scattered
water supplies will be gathered into one common bed to
form an artery of navigation. Then this country over
which we are now passing, more fertile, richer, and fuller
of vitality than the rest, will become some grand realm
where more astonishing discoveries than steam and electricity
will be brought to light."
"Ah! sir," said Joe, "I'd like to see all that."
"You got up too early in the morning, my boy!"
"Besides," said Kennedy, "that may prove to be a
very dull period when industry will swallow up every
thing for its own profit. By dint of inventing machinery,
men will end in being eaten up by it! I have always
fancied that the end of the earth will be when some enormous
boiler, heated to three thousand millions of atmospheric
pressure, shall explode and blow up our Globe!"
"And I add that the Americans," said Joe, "will not
have been the last to work at the machine!"
"In fact," assented the doctor, "they are great boiler-makers!
But, without allowing ourselves to be carried away by such
speculations, let us rest content with enjoying the
beauties of this country of the Moon, since we have
been permitted to see it."
The sun, darting his last rays beneath the masses of
heaped-up cloud, adorned with a crest of gold the slightest
inequalities of the ground below; gigantic trees, arborescent
bushes, mosses on the even surface--all had their
share of this luminous effulgence. The soil, slightly undulating,
here and there rose into little conical hills; there
were no mountains visible on the horizon; immense brambly
palisades, impenetrable hedges of thorny jungle, separated
the clearings dotted with numerous villages, and
immense euphorbiae surrounded them with natural
fortifications, interlacing their trunks with the coral-shaped
branches of the shrubbery and undergrowth.
Ere long, the Malagazeri, the chief tributary of Lake
Tanganayika, was seen winding between heavy thickets
of verdure, offering an asylum to many water-courses that
spring from the torrents formed in the season of freshets,
or from ponds hollowed in the clayey soil. To observers
looking from a height, it was a chain of waterfalls thrown
across the whole western face of the country.
Animals with huge humps were feeding in the luxuriant
prairies, and were half hidden, sometimes, in the tall
grass; spreading forests in bloom redolent of spicy perfumes
presented themselves to the gaze like immense bouquets;
but, in these bouquets, lions, leopards, hyenas, and
tigers, were then crouching for shelter from the last hot
rays of the setting sun. From time to time, an elephant
made the tall tops of the undergrowth sway to and fro,
and you could hear the crackling of huge branches as his
ponderous ivory tusks broke them in his way.
"What a sporting country!" exclaimed Dick, unable
longer to restrain his enthusiasm; "why, a single ball fired
at random into those forests would bring down game
worthy of it. Suppose we try it once!"
"No, my dear Dick; the night is close at hand--a
threatening night with a tempest in the background--and
the storms are awful in this country, where the heated soil
is like one vast electric battery."
"You are right, sir," said Joe, "the heat has got to be
enough to choke one, and the breeze has died away. One
can feel that something's coming."
"The atmosphere is saturated with electricity," replied
the doctor; "every living creature is sensible that this
state of the air portends a struggle of the elements, and I
confess that I never before was so full of the fluid myself."
"Well, then," suggested Dick, "would it not be advisable
"On the contrary, Dick, I'd rather go up, only that I
am afraid of being carried out of my course by these
counter-currents contending in the atmosphere."
"Have you any idea, then, of abandoning the route
that we have followed since we left the coast?"
"If I can manage to do so," replied the doctor, "I will
turn more directly northward, by from seven to eight
degrees; I shall then endeavor to ascend toward the
presumed latitudes of the sources of the Nile; perhaps we
may discover some traces of Captain Speke's expedition
or of M. de Heuglin's caravan. Unless I am mistaken, we
are at thirty-two degrees forty minutes east longitude,
and I should like to ascend directly north of the equator."
"Look there!" exclaimed Kennedy, suddenly, "see
those hippopotami sliding out of the pools--those masses
of blood-colored flesh--and those crocodiles snuffing the
"They're choking!" ejaculated Joe. "Ah! what a fine
way to travel this is; and how one can snap his fingers at
all that vermin!--Doctor! Mr. Kennedy! see those packs
of wild animals hurrying along close together. There are
fully two hundred. Those are wolves."
"No! Joe, not wolves, but wild dogs; a famous breed
that does not hesitate to attack the lion himself. They
are the worst customers a traveller could meet, for they
would instantly tear him to pieces."
"Well, it isn't Joe that'll undertake to muzzle them!"
responded that amiable youth. "After all, though, if
that's the nature of the beast, we mustn't be too hard on
them for it!"
Silence gradually settled down under the influence of
the impending storm: the thickened air actually seemed
no longer adapted to the transmission of sound; the
atmosphere appeared MUFFLED, and, like a room hung with
tapestry, lost all its sonorous reverberation. The "rover
bird" so-called, the coroneted crane, the red and
blue jays, the mocking-bird, the flycatcher, disappeared
among the foliage of the immense trees, and all nature
revealed symptoms of some approaching catastrophe.
At nine o'clock the Victoria hung motionless over
Msene, an extensive group of villages scarcely distinguishable
in the gloom. Once in a while, the reflection of a
wandering ray of light in the dull water disclosed a
succession of ditches regularly arranged, and, by one last
gleam, the eye could make out the calm and sombre forms
of palm-trees, sycamores, and gigantic euphorbiae.
"I am stifling!" said the Scot, inhaling, with all the
power of his lungs, as much as possible of the rarefied air.
"We are not moving an inch! Let us descend!"
"But the tempest!" said the doctor, with much uneasiness.
"If you are afraid of being carried away by the wind,
it seems to me that there is no other course to pursue."
"Perhaps the storm won't burst to-night," said Joe;
"the clouds are very high."
"That is just the thing that makes me hesitate about
going beyond them; we should have to rise still higher,
lose sight of the earth, and not know all night whether
we were moving forward or not, or in what direction we
"Make up your mind, dear doctor, for time presses!"
"It's a pity that the wind has fallen," said Joe, again;
"it would have carried us clear of the storm."
"It is, indeed, a pity, my friends," rejoined the doctor.
"The clouds are dangerous for us; they contain opposing
currents which might catch us in their eddies, and lightnings
that might set on fire. Again, those perils avoided,
the force of the tempest might hurl us to the ground, were
we to cast our anchor in the tree-tops."
"Then what shall we do?"
"Well, we must try to get the balloon into a medium
zone of the atmosphere, and there keep her suspended
between the perils of the heavens and those of the earth.
We have enough water for the cylinder, and our two hundred
pounds of ballast are untouched. In case of emergency I
can use them."
"We will keep watch with you," said the hunter.
"No, my friends, put the provisions under shelter, and
lie down; I will rouse you, if it becomes necessary."
"But, master, wouldn't you do well to take some rest
yourself, as there's no danger close on us just now?"
insisted poor Joe.
"No, thank you, my good fellow, I prefer to keep
awake. We are not moving, and should circumstances
not change, we'll find ourselves to-morrow in exactly the
"Good-night, then, sir!"
"Good-night, if you can only find it so!"
Kennedy and Joe stretched themselves out under their
blankets, and the doctor remained alone in the immensity
However, the huge dome of clouds visibly descended,
and the darkness became profound. The black vault
closed in upon the earth as if to crush it in its embrace.
All at once a violent, rapid, incisive flash of lightning
pierced the gloom, and the rent it made had not closed
ere a frightful clap of thunder shook the celestial depths.
"Up! up! turn out!" shouted Ferguson.
The two sleepers, aroused by the terrible concussion,
were at the doctor's orders in a moment.
"Shall we descend?" said Kennedy.
"No! the balloon could not stand it. Let us go up
before those clouds dissolve in water, and the wind is let
loose!" and, so saying, the doctor actively stirred up the
flame of the cylinder, and turned it on the spirals of the
The tempests of the tropics develop with a rapidity
equalled only by their violence. A second flash of lightning
rent the darkness, and was followed by a score of
others in quick succession. The sky was crossed and dotted,
like the zebra's hide, with electric sparks, which danced
and flickered beneath the great drops of rain.
"We have delayed too long," exclaimed the doctor;
"we must now pass through a zone of fire, with our
balloon filled as it is with inflammable gas!"
"But let us descend, then! let us descend!" urged Kennedy.
"The risk of being struck would be just about even,
and we should soon be torn to pieces by the branches of
"We are going up, doctor!"
"Quicker, quicker still!"
In this part of Africa, during the equatorial storms, it
is not rare to count from thirty to thirty-five flashes of
lightning per minute. The sky is literally on fire, and the
crashes of thunder are continuous.
The wind burst forth with frightful violence in this
burning atmosphere; it twisted the blazing clouds; one
might have compared it to the breath of some gigantic
bellows, fanning all this conflagration.
Dr. Ferguson kept his cylinder at full heat, and the
balloon dilated and went up, while Kennedy, on his knees,
held together the curtains of the awning. The balloon
whirled round wildly enough to make their heads turn,
and the aeronauts got some very alarming jolts, indeed, as
their machine swung and swayed in all directions. Huge
cavities would form in the silk of the balloon as the wind
fiercely bent it in, and the stuff fairly cracked like a pistol
as it flew back from the pressure. A sort of hail, preceded
by a rumbling noise, hissed through the air and
rattled on the covering of the Victoria. The latter, however,
continued to ascend, while the lightning described
tangents to the convexity of her circumference; but she
bore on, right through the midst of the fire.
"God protect us!" said Dr. Ferguson, solemnly, "we
are in His hands; He alone can save us--but let us be
ready for every event, even for fire--our fall could not be
The doctor's voice could scarcely be heard by his companions;
but they could see his countenance calm as ever
even amid the flashing of the lightnings; he was watching
the phenomena of phosphorescence produced by the fires
of St. Elmo, that were now skipping to and fro along the
network of the balloon.
The latter whirled and swung, but steadily ascended,
and, ere the hour was over, it had passed the stormy belt.
The electric display was going on below it like a vast
crown of artificial fireworks suspended from the car.
Then they enjoyed one of the grandest spectacles that
Nature can offer to the gaze of man. Below them, the
tempest; above them, the starry firmament, tranquil,
mute, impassible, with the moon projecting her peaceful
rays over these angry clouds.
Dr. Ferguson consulted the barometer; it announced
twelve thousand feet of elevation. It was then eleven
o'clock at night.
"Thank Heaven, all danger is past; all we have to do
now, is, to keep ourselves at this height," said the doctor.
"It was frightful!" remarked Kennedy.
"Oh!" said Joe, "it gives a little variety to the trip,
and I'm not sorry to have seen a storm from a trifling
distance up in the air. It's a fine sight!"
The Mountains of the Moon.--An Ocean of Verdure.--They cast
Anchor.--The Towing Elephant.--A Running Fire.--Death of the
Monster.--The Field-Oven.--A Meal on the Grass.--A Night on the Ground.
About four in the morning, Monday, the sun reappeared
in the horizon; the clouds had dispersed, and a
cheery breeze refreshed the morning dawn.
The earth, all redolent with fragrant exhalations,
reappeared to the gaze of our travellers. The balloon,
whirled about by opposing currents, had hardly budged
from its place, and the doctor, letting the gas contract,
descended so as to get a more northerly direction. For
a long while his quest was fruitless; the wind carried him
toward the west until he came in sight of the famous
Mountains of the Moon, which grouped themselves in a
semicircle around the extremity of Lake Tanganayika; their
ridges, but slightly indented, stood out against the bluish
horizon, so that they might have been mistaken for a natural
fortification, not to be passed by the explorers of the
centre of Africa. Among them were a few isolated cones,
revealing the mark of the eternal snows.
"Here we are at last," said the doctor, "in an unexplored
country! Captain Burton pushed very far to the westward,
but he could not reach those celebrated mountains; he even
denied their existence, strongly as it was affirmed by
Speke, his companion. He pretended that they were born in
the latter's fancy; but for us, my friends, there is no
further doubt possible."
"Shall we cross them?" asked Kennedy.
"Not, if it please God. I am looking for a wind that
will take me back toward the equator. I will even wait
for one, if necessary, and will make the balloon like a ship
that casts anchor, until favorable breezes come up."
But the foresight of the doctor was not long in bringing
its reward; for, after having tried different heights,
the Victoria at length began to sail off to the northeastward
with medium speed.
"We are in the right track," said the doctor, consulting
his compass, "and scarcely two hundred feet from the
surface; lucky circumstances for us, enabling us, as they
do, to reconnoitre these new regions. When Captain
Speke set out to discover Lake Ukereoue, he ascended
more to the eastward in a straight line above Kazeh."
"Shall we keep on long in this way?" inquired the Scot.
"Perhaps. Our object is to push a point in the direction
of the sources of the Nile; and we have more than
six hundred miles to make before we get to the extreme
limit reached by the explorers who came from the north."
"And we shan't set foot on the solid ground?" murmured
Joe; "it's enough to cramp a fellow's legs!"
"Oh, yes, indeed, my good Joe," said the doctor, reassuring
him; "we have to economize our provisions, you know; and
on the way, Dick, you must get us some fresh meat."
"Whenever you like, doctor."
"We shall also have to replenish our stock of water.
Who knows but we may be carried to some of the dried-up
regions? So we cannot take too many precautions."
At noon the Victoria was at twenty-nine degrees fifteen
minutes east longitude, and three degrees fifteen minutes
south latitude. She passed the village of Uyofu, the last
northern limit of the Unyamwezi, opposite to the Lake
Ukereoue, which could still be seen.
The tribes living near to the equator seem to be a little
more civilized, and are governed by absolute monarchs, whose
control is an unlimited despotism. Their most compact union
of power constitutes the province of Karagwah.
It was decided by the aeronauts that they would
alight at the first favorable place. They found that they
should have to make a prolonged halt, and take a careful
inspection of the balloon: so the flame of the cylinder
was moderated, and the anchors, flung out from the car,
ere long began to sweep the grass of an immense prairie,
that, from a certain height, looked like a shaven lawn,
but the growth of which, in reality, was from seven to
eight feet in height.
The balloon skimmed this tall grass without bending
it, like a gigantic butterfly: not an obstacle was in sight;
it was an ocean of verdure without a single breaker.
"We might proceed a long time in this style," remarked
Kennedy; "I don't see one tree that we could
approach, and I'm afraid that our hunt's over."
"Wait, Dick; you could not hunt anyhow in this
grass, that grows higher than your head. We'll find a
favorable place presently."
In truth, it was a charming excursion that they were
making now--a veritable navigation on this green, almost
transparent sea, gently undulating in the breath of the
wind. The little car seemed to cleave the waves of verdure,
and, from time to time, coveys of birds of magnificent
plumage would rise fluttering from the tall herbage,
and speed away with joyous cries. The anchors plunged
into this lake of flowers, and traced a furrow that closed
behind them, like the wake of a ship.
All at once a sharp shock was felt--the anchor had caught
in the fissure of some rock hidden in the high grass.
"We are fast!" exclaimed Joe.
These words had scarcely been uttered when a shrill cry
rang through the air, and the following phrases, mingled
with exclamations, escaped from the lips of our travellers:
"A strange cry!"
"Look! Why, we're moving!"
"The anchor has slipped!"
"No; it holds, and holds fast too!" said Joe, who
was tugging at the rope.
"It's the rock, then, that's moving!"
An immense rustling was noticed in the grass, and soon
an elongated, winding shape was seen rising above it.
"A serpent!" shouted Joe.
"A serpent!" repeated Kennedy, handling his rifle.
"No," said the doctor, "it's an elephant's trunk!"
"An elephant, Samuel?"
And, as Kennedy said this, he drew his rifle to his shoulder.
"Wait, Dick; wait!"
"That's a fact! The animal's towing us!"
"And in the right direction, Joe--in the right direction."
The elephant was now making some headway, and soon reached
a clearing where his whole body could be seen. By his
gigantic size, the doctor recognized a male of a superb
species. He had two whitish tusks, beautifully curved, and
about eight feet in length; and in these the shanks of the
anchor had firmly caught. The animal was vainly trying with
his trunk to disengage himself from the rope that attached
him to the car.
"Get up--go ahead, old fellow!" shouted Joe, with
delight, doing his best to urge this rather novel team.
"Here is a new style of travelling!--no more horses for
me. An elephant, if you please!"
"But where is he taking us to?" said Kennedy, whose
rifle itched in his grasp.
"He's taking us exactly to where we want to go, my
dear Dick. A little patience!"
"'Wig-a-more! wig-a-more!' as the Scotch country folks say,"
shouted Joe, in high glee. "Gee-up! gee-up there!"
The huge animal now broke into a very rapid gallop.
He flung his trunk from side to side, and his monstrous
bounds gave the car several rather heavy thumps. Meanwhile
the doctor stood ready, hatchet in hand, to cut the
rope, should need arise.
"But," said he, "we shall not give up our anchor until
the last moment."
This drive, with an elephant for the team, lasted about
an hour and a half; yet the animal did not seem in the
least fatigued. These immense creatures can go over a
great deal of ground, and, from one day to another, are
found at enormous distances from there they were last
seen, like the whales, whose mass and speed they rival.
"In fact," said Joe, "it's a whale that we have harpooned;
and we're only doing just what whalemen do when out fishing."
But a change in the nature of the ground compelled
the doctor to vary his style of locomotion. A dense grove
of calmadores was descried on the horizon, about three
miles away, on the north of the prairie. So it became
necessary to detach the balloon from its draught-animal
Kennedy was intrusted with the job of bringing the
elephant to a halt. He drew his rifle to his shoulder, but
his position was not favorable to a successful shot; so
that the first ball fired flattened itself on the animal's
skull, as it would have done against an iron plate. The
creature did not seem in the least troubled by it; but, at
the sound of the discharge, he had increased his speed,
and now was going as fast as a horse at full gallop.
"The deuce!" ejaculated Kennedy.
"What a solid head!" commented Joe.
"We'll try some conical balls behind the shoulder-joint,"
said Kennedy, reloading his rifle with care. In
another moment he fired.
The animal gave a terrible cry, but went on faster
"Come!" said Joe, taking aim with another gun, "I
must help you, or we'll never end it." And now two balls
penetrated the creature's side.
The elephant halted, lifted his trunk, and resumed his
run toward the wood with all his speed; he shook his huge
head, and the blood began to gush from his wounds.
"Let us keep up our fire, Mr. Kennedy."
"And a continuous fire, too," urged the doctor, "for
we are close on the woods."
Ten shots more were discharged. The elephant made
a fearful bound; the car and balloon cracked as though
every thing were going to pieces, and the shock made the
doctor drop his hatchet on the ground.
The situation was thus rendered really very alarming;
the anchor-rope, which had securely caught, could not be
disengaged, nor could it yet be cut by the knives of our
aeronauts, and the balloon was rushing headlong toward
the wood, when the animal received a ball in the eye just
as he lifted his head. On this he halted, faltered, his knees
bent under him, and he uncovered his whole flank to the
assaults of his enemies in the balloon.
"A bullet in his heart!" said Kennedy, discharging
one last rifle-shot.
The elephant uttered a long bellow of terror and agony,
then raised himself up for a moment, twirling his trunk in
the air, and finally fell with all his weight upon one of his
tusks, which he broke off short. He was dead.
"His tusk's broken!" exclaimed Kennedy--"ivory too
that in England would bring thirty-five guineas per
"As much as that?" said Joe, scrambling down to the
ground by the anchor-rope.
"What's the use of sighing over it, Dick?" said the
doctor. "Are we ivory merchants? Did we come hither
to make money?"
Joe examined the anchor and found it solidly attached
to the unbroken tusk. The doctor and Dick leaped out on
the ground, while the balloon, now half emptied, hovered
over the body of the huge animal.
"What a splendid beast!" said Kennedy, "what a mass of
flesh! I never saw an elephant of that size in India!"
"There's nothing surprising about that, my dear Dick;
the elephants of Central Africa are the finest in the world.
The Andersons and the Cummings have hunted so incessantly
in the neighborhood of the Cape, that these animals
have migrated to the equator, where they are often met
with in large herds."
"In the mean while, I hope," added Joe, "that we'll
taste a morsel of this fellow. I'll undertake to get you a
good dinner at his expense. Mr. Kennedy will go off and
hunt for an hour or two; the doctor will make an inspection
of the balloon, and, while they're busy in that way,
I'll do the cooking."
"A good arrangement!" said the doctor; "so do as
you like, Joe."
"As for me," said the hunter, "I shall avail myself of the
two hours' recess that Joe has condescended to let me have."
"Go, my friend, but no imprudence! Don't wander
too far away."
"Never fear, doctor!" and, so saying, Dick, shouldering
his gun, plunged into the woods.
Forthwith Joe went to work at his vocation. At first
he made a hole in the ground two feet deep; this he filled
with the dry wood that was so abundantly scattered about,
where it had been strewn by the elephants, whose tracks
could be seen where they had made their way through the
forest. This hole filled, he heaped a pile of fagots on it
a foot in height, and set fire to it.
Then he went back to the carcass of the elephant,
which had fallen only about a hundred feet from the edge
of the forest; he next proceeded adroitly to cut off the
trunk, which might have been two feet in diameter at the
base; of this he selected the most delicate portion, and
then took with it one of the animal's spongy feet. In fact,
these are the finest morsels, like the hump of the bison, the
paws of the bear, and the head of the wild boar.
When the pile of fagots had been thoroughly consumed,
inside and outside, the hole, cleared of the cinders
and hot coals, retained a very high temperature. The
pieces of elephant-meat, surrounded with aromatic leaves,
were placed in this extempore oven and covered with hot
coals. Then Joe piled up a second heap of sticks over all,
and when it had burned out the meat was cooked to a turn.
Then Joe took the viands from the oven, spread the
savory mess upon green leaves, and arranged his dinner
upon a magnificent patch of greensward. He finally
brought out some biscuit, some coffee, and some cognac,
and got a can of pure, fresh water from a neighboring
The repast thus prepared was a pleasant sight to behold,
and Joe, without being too proud, thought that it
would also be pleasant to eat.
"A journey without danger or fatigue," he soliloquized;
"your meals when you please; a swinging hammock all
the time! What more could a man ask? And there was
Kennedy, who didn't want to come!"
On his part, Dr. Ferguson was engrossed in a serious
and thorough examination of the balloon. The latter did
not appear to have suffered from the storm; the silk and
the gutta percha had resisted wonderfully, and, upon estimating
the exact height of the ground and the ascensional
force of the balloon, our aeronaut saw, with satisfaction,
that the hydrogen was in exactly the same quantity as
before. The covering had remained completely waterproof.
It was now only five days since our travellers had
quitted Zanzibar; their pemmican had not yet been
touched; their stock of biscuit and potted meat was enough
for a long trip, and there was nothing to be replenished
but the water.
The pipes and spiral seemed to be in perfect condition,
since, thanks to their india-rubber jointings, they had
yielded to all the oscillations of the balloon. His examination
ended, the doctor betook himself to setting his
notes in order. He made a very accurate sketch of the
surrounding landscape, with its long prairie stretching
away out of sight, the forest of calmadores, and the balloon
resting motionless over the body of the dead elephant.
At the end of his two hours, Kennedy returned with a
string of fat partridges and the haunch of an oryx, a sort
of gemsbok belonging to the most agile species of antelopes.
Joe took upon himself to prepare this surplus stock
of provisions for a later repast.
"But, dinner's ready!" he shouted in his most musical voice.
And the three travellers had only to sit down on the
green turf. The trunk and feet of the elephant were declared
to be exquisite. Old England was toasted, as usual,
and delicious Havanas perfumed this charming country
for the first time.
Kennedy ate, drank, and chatted, like four; he was
perfectly delighted with his new life, and seriously
proposed to the doctor to settle in this forest, to construct a
cabin of boughs and foliage, and, there and then, to lay the
foundation of a Robinson Crusoe dynasty in Africa.
The proposition went no further, although Joe had, at
once, selected the part of Man Friday for himself.
The country seemed so quiet, so deserted, that the
doctor resolved to pass the night on the ground, and Joe
arranged a circle of watch-fires as an indispensable barrier
against wild animals, for the hyenas, cougars, and jackals,
attracted by the smell of the dead elephant, were prowling
about in the neighborhood. Kennedy had to fire his rifle
several times at these unceremonious visitors, but the
night passed without any untoward occurrence.
The Karagwah.--Lake Ukereoue.--A Night on an Island.--The Equator.--
Crossing the Lake.--The Cascades.--A View of the Country.--The Sources
of the Nile.--The Island of Benga.--The Signature of Andrea Debono.--The
Flag with the Arms of England.
At five o'clock in the morning, preparations for departure
commenced. Joe, with the hatchet which he had
fortunately recovered, broke the elephant's tusks. The
balloon, restored to liberty, sped away to the northwest
with our travellers, at the rate of eighteen miles per hour.
The doctor had carefully taken his position by the altitude
of the stars, during the preceding night. He knew
that he was in latitude two degrees forty minutes below
the equator, or at a distance of one hundred and sixty
geographical miles. He swept along over many villages
without heeding the cries that the appearance of the balloon
excited; he took note of the conformation of places
with quick sights; he passed the slopes of the Rubemhe,
which are nearly as abrupt as the summits of the Ousagara,
and, farther on, at Tenga, encountered the first projections
of the Karagwah chains, which, in his opinion,
are direct spurs of the Mountains of the Moon. So, the
ancient legend which made these mountains the cradle of
the Nile, came near to the truth, since they really border
upon Lake Ukereoue, the conjectured reservoir of the
waters of the great river.
From Kafuro, the main district of the merchants of that
country, he descried, at length, on the horizon, the lake
so much desired and so long sought for, of which Captain
Speke caught a glimpse on the 3d of August, 1858.
Samuel Ferguson felt real emotion: he was almost in
contact with one of the principal points of his expedition,
and, with his spy-glass constantly raised, he kept every
nook and corner of the mysterious region in sight. His
gaze wandered over details that might have been thus
"Beneath him extended a country generally destitute
of cultivation; only here and there some ravines seemed
under tillage; the surface, dotted with peaks of medium
height, grew flat as it approached the lake; barley-fields
took the place of rice-plantations, and there, too, could be
seen growing the species of plantain from which the wine
of the country is drawn, and mwani, the wild plant which
supplies a substitute for coffee. A collection of some fifty
or more circular huts, covered with a flowering thatch,
constituted the capital of the Karagwah country."
He could easily distinguish the astonished countenances
of a rather fine-looking race of natives of yellowish-brown
complexion. Women of incredible corpulence
were dawdling about through the cultivated grounds, and
the doctor greatly surprised his companions by informing
them that this rotundity, which is highly esteemed in that
region, was obtained by an obligatory diet of curdled milk.
At noon, the Victoria was in one degree forty-five
minutes south latitude, and at one o'clock the wind was
driving her directly toward the lake.
This sheet of water was christened Uyanza Victoria,
or Victoria Lake, by Captain Speke. At the place now
mentioned it might measure about ninety miles in breadth,
and at its southern extremity the captain found a group
of islets, which he named the Archipelago of Bengal. He
pushed his survey as far as Muanza, on the eastern coast,
where he was received by the sultan. He made a triangulation
of this part of the lake, but he could not procure a
boat, either to cross it or to visit the great island of
Ukereoue which is very populous, is governed by three
sultans, and appears to be only a promontory at low tide.
The balloon approached the lake more to the northward,
to the doctor's great regret, for it had been his wish
to determine its lower outlines. Its shores seemed to be
thickly set with brambles and thorny plants, growing together
in wild confusion, and were literally hidden, sometimes,
from the gaze, by myriads of mosquitoes of a light-brown
hue. The country was evidently habitable and inhabited.
Troops of hippopotami could be seen disporting
themselves in the forests of reeds, or plunging beneath the
whitish waters of the lake.
The latter, seen from above, presented, toward the
west, so broad an horizon that it might have been called a
sea; the distance between the two shores is so great that
communication cannot be established, and storms are frequent
and violent, for the winds sweep with fury over this
elevated and unsheltered basin.
The doctor experienced some difficulty in guiding his
course; he was afraid of being carried toward the east,
but, fortunately, a current bore him directly toward the
north, and at six o'clock in the evening the balloon
alighted on a small desert island in thirty minutes south
latitude, and thirty-two degrees fifty-two minutes east
longitude, about twenty miles from the shore.
The travellers succeeded in making fast to a tree, and,
the wind having fallen calm toward evening, they remained
quietly at anchor. They dared not dream of taking the
ground, since here, as on the shores of the Uyanza, legions
of mosquitoes covered the soil in dense clouds. Joe even
came back, from securing the anchor in the tree, speckled
with bites, but he kept his temper, because he found it
quite the natural thing for mosquitoes to treat him as they
Nevertheless, the doctor, who was less of an optimist,
let out as much rope as he could, so as to escape these
pitiless insects, that began to rise toward him with a
The doctor ascertained the height of the lake above
the level of the sea, as it had been determined by Captain
Speke, say three thousand seven hundred and fifty feet.
"Here we are, then, on an island!" said Joe, scratching
as though he'd tear his nails out.
"We could make the tour of it in a jiffy," added Kennedy,
"and, excepting these confounded mosquitoes, there's
not a living being to be seen on it."
"The islands with which the lake is dotted," replied
the doctor, "are nothing, after all, but the tops of submerged
hills; but we are lucky to have found a retreat
among them, for the shores of the lake are inhabited by
ferocious tribes. Take your sleep, then, since Providence
has granted us a tranquil night."
"Won't you do the same, doctor?"
"No, I could not close my eyes. My thoughts would
banish sleep. To-morrow, my friends, should the wind
prove favorable, we shall go due north, and we shall, perhaps,
discover the sources of the Nile, that grand secret
which has so long remained impenetrable. Near as we
are to the sources of the renowned river, I could not
Kennedy and Joe, whom scientific speculations failed
to disturb to that extent, were not long in falling into
sound slumber, while the doctor held his post.
On Wednesday, April 23d, the balloon started at four
o'clock in the morning, with a grayish sky overhead; night
was slow in quitting the surface of the lake, which was
enveloped in a dense fog, but presently a violent breeze
scattered all the mists, and, after the balloon had been
swung to and fro for a moment, in opposite directions, it
at length veered in a straight line toward the north.
Dr. Ferguson fairly clapped his hands for joy.
"We are on the right track!" he exclaimed. "To-day
or never we shall see the Nile! Look, my friends, we are
crossing the equator! We are entering our own hemisphere!"
"Ah!" said Joe, "do you think, doctor, that the equator
"Just here, my boy!"
"Well, then, with all respect to you, sir, it seems to
me that this is the very time to moisten it."
"Good!" said the doctor, laughing. "Let us have a glass
of punch. You have a way of comprehending cosmography
that is any thing but dull."
And thus was the passage of the Victoria over the
equator duly celebrated.
The balloon made rapid headway. In the west could
be seen a low and but slightly-diversified coast, and,
farther away in the background, the elevated plains of the
Uganda and the Usoga. At length, the rapidity of the
wind became excessive, approaching thirty miles per hour.
The waters of the Nyanza, violently agitated, were
foaming like the billows of a sea. By the appearance of
certain long swells that followed the sinking of the waves,
the doctor was enabled to conclude that the lake must
have great depth of water. Only one or two rude boats
were seen during this rapid passage.
"This lake is evidently, from its elevated position,
the natural reservoir of the rivers in the eastern part of
Africa, and the sky gives back to it in rain what it takes
in vapor from the streams that flow out of it. I am certain
that the Nile must here take its rise."
"Well, we shall see!" said Kennedy.
About nine o'clock they drew nearer to the western
coast. It seemed deserted, and covered with woods; the
wind freshened a little toward the east, and the other
shore of the lake could be seen. It bent around in such a
curve as to end in a wide angle toward two degrees forty
minutes north latitude. Lofty mountains uplifted their
arid peaks at this extremity of Nyanza; but, between
them, a deep and winding gorge gave exit to a turbulent
and foaming river.
While busy managing the balloon, Dr. Ferguson never
ceased reconnoitring the country with eager eyes.
"Look!" he exclaimed, "look, my friends! the statements
of the Arabs were correct! They spoke of a river
by which Lake Ukereoue discharged its waters toward
the north, and this river exists, and we are descending it,
and it flows with a speed analogous to our own! And this
drop of water now gliding away beneath our feet is, beyond
all question, rushing on, to mingle with the Mediterranean!
It is the Nile!"
"It is the Nile!" reeechoed Kennedy, carried away by
the enthusiasm of his friend.
"Hurrah for the Nile!" shouted Joe, glad, and always
ready to cheer for something.
Enormous rocks, here and there, embarrassed the
course of this mysterious river. The water foamed as it
fell in rapids and cataracts, which confirmed the doctor
in his preconceived ideas on the subject. From the environing
mountains numerous torrents came plunging and
seething down, and the eye could take them in by hundreds.
There could be seen, starting from the soil, delicate
jets of water scattering in all directions, crossing and
recrossing each other, mingling, contending in the swiftness
of their progress, and all rushing toward that nascent
stream which became a river after having drunk them in.
"Here is, indeed, the Nile!" reiterated the doctor, with
the tone of profound conviction. "The origin of its name,
like the origin of its waters, has fired the imagination of
the learned; they have sought to trace it from the
Greek, the Coptic, the Sanscrit; but all that matters little
now, since we have made it surrender the secret of its
"But," said the Scotchman, "how are you to make
sure of the identity of this river with the one recognized
by the travellers from the north?"
"We shall have certain, irrefutable, convincing, and
infallible proof," replied Ferguson, "should the wind hold
another hour in our favor!"
The mountains drew farther apart, revealing in their
place numerous villages, and fields of white Indian corn,
doura, and sugar-cane. The tribes inhabiting the region
seemed excited and hostile; they manifested more anger
than adoration, and evidently saw in the aeronauts only
obtrusive strangers, and not condescending deities. It
appeared as though, in approaching the sources of the
Nile, these men came to rob them of something, and so
the Victoria had to keep out of range of their muskets.
"To land here would be a ticklish matter!" said the Scot.
"Well!" said Joe, "so much the worse for these natives.
They'll have to do without the pleasure of our conversation."
"Nevertheless, descend I must," said the doctor,
"were it only for a quarter of an hour. Without doing
so I cannot verify the results of our expedition."
"It is indispensable, then, doctor?"
"Indispensable; and we will descend, even if we have
to do so with a volley of musketry."
"The thing suits me," said Kennedy, toying with his
"And I'm ready, master, whenever you say the word!"
added Joe, preparing for the fight.
"It would not be the first time," remarked the doctor,
"that science has been followed up, sword in hand. The
same thing happened to a French savant among the mountains
of Spain, when he was measuring the terrestrial meridian."
"Be easy on that score, doctor, and trust to your two
"Are we there, master?"
"Not yet. In fact, I shall go up a little, first, in order
to get an exact idea of the configuration of the country."
The hydrogen expanded, and in less than ten minutes the
balloon was soaring at a height of twenty-five hundred
feet above the ground.
From that elevation could be distinguished an inextricable
network of smaller streams which the river received into
its bosom; others came from the west, from between numerous
hills, in the midst of fertile plains.
"We are not ninety miles from Gondokoro," said the
doctor, measuring off the distance on his map, "and less
than five miles from the point reached by the explorers
from the north. Let us descend with great care."
And, upon this, the balloon was lowered about two
"Now, my friends, let us be ready, come what may."
"Ready it is!" said Dick and Joe, with one voice.
In a few moments the balloon was advancing along
the bed of the river, and scarcely one hundred feet above
the ground. The Nile measured but fifty fathoms in width
at this point, and the natives were in great excitement,
rushing to and fro, tumultuously, in the villages
that lined the banks of the stream. At the second degree
it forms a perpendicular cascade of ten feet in height, and
consequently impassable by boats.
"Here, then, is the cascade mentioned by Debono!"
exclaimed the doctor.
The basin of the river spread out, dotted with numerous
islands, which Dr. Ferguson devoured with his eyes.
He seemed to be seeking for a point of reference which he
had not yet found.
By this time, some blacks, having ventured in a boat
just under the balloon, Kennedy saluted them with a shot
from his rifle, that made them regain the bank at their
"A good journey to you," bawled Joe, "and if I were in
your place, I wouldn't try coming back again. I should
be mightily afraid of a monster that can hurl thunderbolts
when he pleases."
But, all at once, the doctor snatched up his spy-glass,
and directed it toward an island reposing in the middle
of the river.
"Four trees!" he exclaimed; "look, down there!" Sure
enough, there were four trees standing alone at one
end of it.
"It is Bengal Island! It is the very same," repeated
the doctor, exultingly.
"And what of that?" asked Dick.
"It is there that we shall alight, if God permits."
"But, it seems to be inhabited, doctor."
"Joe is right; and, unless I'm mistaken, there is a
group of about a score of natives on it now."
"We'll make them scatter; there'll be no great trouble
in that," responded Ferguson.
"So be it," chimed in the hunter.
The sun was at the zenith as the balloon approached
The blacks, who were members of the Makado tribe,
were howling lustily, and one of them waved his bark hat
in the air. Kennedy took aim at him, fired, and his hat
flew about him in pieces. Thereupon there was a general
scamper. The natives plunged headlong into the river,
and swam to the opposite bank. Immediately, there came
a shower of balls from both banks, along with a perfect
cloud of arrows, but without doing the balloon any damage,
where it rested with its anchor snugly secured in the
fissure of a rock. Joe lost no time in sliding to the ground.
"The ladder!" cried the doctor. "Follow me, Kennedy."
"What do you wish, sir?"
"Let us alight. I want a witness."
"Here I am!"
"Mind your post, Joe, and keep a good lookout."
"Never fear, doctor; I'll answer for all that."
"Come, Dick," said the doctor, as he touched the ground.
So saying, he drew his companion along toward a
group of rocks that rose upon one point of the island;
there, after searching for some time, he began to rummage
among the brambles, and, in so doing, scratched his hands
until they bled.
Suddenly he grasped Kennedy's arm, exclaiming:
Yes; there, indeed, could be descried, with perfect
precision of outline, some letters carved on the rock. It
was quite easy to make them out:
"A.D.!" repeated Dr. Ferguson. "Andrea Debono--
the very signature of the traveller who farthest ascended
the current of the Nile."
"No doubt of that, friend Samuel," assented Kennedy.
"Are you now convinced?"
"It is the Nile! We cannot entertain a doubt on that
score now," was the reply.
The doctor, for the last time, examined those precious
initials, the exact form and size of which he carefully noted.
"And now," said he--"now for the balloon!"
"Quickly, then, for I see some of the natives getting
ready to recross the river."
"That matters little to us now. Let the wind but
send us northward for a few hours, and we shall reach
Gondokoro, and press the hands of some of our countrymen."
Ten minutes more, and the balloon was majestically
ascending, while Dr. Ferguson, in token of success, waved
the English flag triumphantly from his car.
The Nile.--The Trembling Mountain.--A Remembrance of the Country.--The
Narratives of the Arabs.--The Nyam-Nyams.--Joe's Shrewd Cogitations.--The
Balloon runs the Gantlet.--Aerostatic Ascensions.--Madame Blanchard.
"Which way do we head?" asked Kennedy, as he
saw his friend consulting the compass.
"The deuce! but that's not the north?"
"No, Dick; and I'm afraid that we shall have some
trouble in getting to Gondokoro. I am sorry for it; but,
at last, we have succeeded in connecting the explorations
from the east with those from the north; and we must
The balloon was now receding gradually from the Nile.
"One last look," said the doctor, "at this impassable
latitude, beyond which the most intrepid travellers could
not make their way. There are those intractable tribes,
of whom Petherick, Arnaud, Miuni, and the young traveller
Lejean, to whom we are indebted for the best work
on the Upper Nile, have spoken."
"Thus, then," added Kennedy, inquiringly, "our discoveries
agree with the speculations of science."
"Absolutely so. The sources of the White Nile, of
the Bahr-el-Abiad, are immersed in a lake as large as a
sea; it is there that it takes its rise. Poesy, undoubtedly,
loses something thereby. People were fond of ascribing
a celestial origin to this king of rivers. The ancients gave
it the name of an ocean, and were not far from believing
that it flowed directly from the sun; but we must come
down from these flights from time to time, and accept
what science teaches us. There will not always be scientific
men, perhaps; but there always will be poets."
"We can still see cataracts," said Joe.
"Those are the cataracts of Makedo, in the third degree
of latitude. Nothing could be more accurate. Oh, if we could
only have followed the course of the Nile for a few hours!"
"And down yonder, below us, I see the top of a mountain,"
said the hunter.
"That is Mount Longwek, the Trembling Mountain of
the Arabs. This whole country was visited by Debono,
who went through it under the name of Latif-Effendi.
The tribes living near the Nile are hostile to each other,
and are continually waging a war of extermination. You
may form some idea, then, of the difficulties he had to
The wind was carrying the balloon toward the northwest,
and, in order to avoid Mount Longwek, it was necessary
to seek a more slanting current.
"My friends," said the doctor, "here is where OUR passage
of the African Continent really commences; up to this time
we have been following the traces of our predecessors.
Henceforth we are to launch ourselves upon the unknown.
We shall not lack the courage, shall we?"
"Never!" said Dick and Joe together, almost in a shout.
"Onward, then, and may we have the help of Heaven!"
At ten o'clock at night, after passing over ravines,
forests, and scattered villages, the aeronauts reached the
side of the Trembling Mountain, along whose gentle slopes
they went quietly gliding. In that memorable day, the 23d of
April, they had, in fifteen hours, impelled by a rapid
breeze, traversed a distance of more than three hundred and
But this latter part of the journey had left them in
dull spirits, and complete silence reigned in the car. Was
Dr. Ferguson absorbed in the thought of his discoveries?
Were his two companions thinking of their trip through
those unknown regions? There were, no doubt, mingled
with these reflections, the keenest reminiscences of home
and distant friends. Joe alone continued to manifest the
same careless philosophy, finding it QUITE NATURAL that
home should not be there, from the moment that he left
it; but he respected the silent mood of his friends, the
doctor and Kennedy.
About ten the balloon anchored on the side of the
Trembling Mountain, so called, because, in Arab tradition,
it is said to tremble the instant that a Mussulman sets
foot upon it. The travellers then partook of a substantial
meal, and all quietly passed the night as usual, keeping
the regular watches.
On awaking the next morning, they all had pleasanter
feelings. The weather was fine, and the wind was blowing
from the right quarter; so that a good breakfast,
seasoned with Joe's merry pranks, put them in high good-humor.
The region they were now crossing is very extensive.
It borders on the Mountains of the Moon on one side,
and those of Darfur on the other--a space about as
broad as Europe.
"We are, no doubt, crossing what is supposed to be
the kingdom of Usoga. Geographers have pretended that
there existed, in the centre of Africa, a vast depression,
an immense central lake. We shall see whether there is
any truth in that idea," said the doctor.
"But how did they come to think so?" asked Kennedy.
"From the recitals of the Arabs. Those fellows are
great narrators--too much so, probably. Some travellers,
who had got as far as Kazeh, or the great lakes, saw
slaves that had been brought from this region; interrogated
them concerning it, and, from their different narratives,
made up a jumble of notions, and deduced systems
from them. Down at the bottom of it all there is some
appearance of truth; and you see that they were right
about the sources of the Nile."
"Nothing could be more correct," said Kennedy. "It
was by the aid of these documents that some attempts at
maps were made, and so I am going to try to follow our
route by one of them, rectifying it when need be."
"Is all this region inhabited?" asked Joe.
"Undoubtedly; and disagreeably inhabited, too."
"I thought so."
"These scattered tribes come, one and all, under the
title of Nyam-Nyams, and this compound word is only a
sort of nickname. It imitates the sound of chewing."
"That's it! Excellent!" said Joe, champing his teeth
as though he were eating; "Nyam-Nyam."
"My good Joe, if you were the immediate object of
this chewing, you wouldn't find it so excellent."
"Why, what's the reason, sir?"
"These tribes are considered man-eaters."
"Is that really the case?"
"Not a doubt of it! It has also been asserted that
these natives had tails, like mere quadrupeds; but it was
soon discovered that these appendages belonged to the
skins of animals that they wore for clothing."
"More's the pity! a tail's a nice thing to chase away
"That may be, Joe; but we must consign the story to
the domain of fable, like the dogs' heads which the
traveller, Brun-Rollet, attributed to other tribes."
"Dogs' heads, eh? Quite convenient for barking, and
even for man-eating!"
"But one thing that has been, unfortunately, proven
true, is, the ferocity of these tribes, who are really very
fond of human flesh, and devour it with avidity."
"I only hope that they won't take such a particular
fancy to mine!" said Joe, with comic solemnity.
"See that!" said Kennedy.
"Yes, indeed, sir; if I have to be eaten, in a moment
of famine, I want it to be for your benefit and my master's;
but the idea of feeding those black fellows--gracious! I'd
die of shame!"
"Well, then, Joe," said Kennedy, "that's understood;
we count upon you in case of need!"
"At your service, gentlemen!"
"Joe talks in this way so as to make us take good care
of him, and fatten him up."
"Maybe so!" said Joe. "Every man for himself."
In the afternoon, the sky became covered with a warm
mist, that oozed from the soil; the brownish vapor scarcely
allowed the beholder to distinguish objects, and so, fearing
collision with some unexpected mountain-peak, the doctor,
about five o'clock, gave the signal to halt.
The night passed without accident, but in such profound
obscurity, that it was necessary to use redoubled vigilance.
The monsoon blew with extreme violence during all
the next morning. The wind buried itself in the lower
cavities of the balloon and shook the appendage by which
the dilating-pipes entered the main apparatus. They had,
at last, to be tied up with cords, Joe acquitting himself
very skilfully in performing that operation.
He had occasion to observe, at the same time, that the
orifice of the balloon still remained hermetically sealed.
"That is a matter of double importance for us," said
the doctor; "in the first place, we avoid the escape of
precious gas, and then, again, we do not leave behind us
an inflammable train, which we should at last inevitably
set fire to, and so be consumed."
"That would be a disagreeable travelling incident!"
"Should we be hurled to the ground?" asked Kennedy.
"Hurled! No, not quite that. The gas would burn
quietly, and we should descend little by little. A similar
accident happened to a French aeronaut, Madame Blanchard.
She ignited her balloon while sending off fireworks,
but she did not fall, and she would not have been killed,
probably, had not her car dashed against a chimney and
precipitated her to the ground."
"Let us hope that nothing of the kind may happen to
us," said the hunter. "Up to this time our trip has not
seemed to me very dangerous, and I can see nothing to
prevent us reaching our destination."
"Nor can I either, my dear Dick; accidents are generally
caused by the imprudence of the aeronauts, or the
defective construction of their apparatus. However, in
thousands of aerial ascensions, there have not been twenty
fatal accidents. Usually, the danger is in the moment of
leaving the ground, or of alighting, and therefore at those
junctures we should never omit the utmost precaution."
"It's breakfast-time," said Joe; "we'll have to put up
with preserved meat and coffee until Mr. Kennedy has had
another chance to get us a good slice of venison."
The Celestial Bottle.--The Fig-Palms.--The Mammoth Trees.--The Tree of
War.--The Winged Team.--Two Native Tribes in Battle.--A Massacre.--An
Intervention from above.
The wind had become violent and irregular; the balloon
was running the gantlet through the air. Tossed
at one moment toward the north, at another toward the
south, it could not find one steady current.
"We are moving very swiftly without advancing
much," said Kennedy, remarking the frequent oscillations
of the needle of the compass.
"The balloon is rushing at the rate of at least thirty
miles an hour. Lean over, and see how the country is
gliding away beneath us!" said the doctor.
"See! that forest looks as though it were precipitating
itself upon us!"
"The forest has become a clearing!" added the other.
"And the clearing a village!" continued Joe, a moment or two
later. "Look at the faces of those astonished darkys!"
"Oh! it's natural enough that they should be astonished,"
said the doctor. "The French peasants, when they
first saw a balloon, fired at it, thinking that it was an aerial
monster. A Soudan negro may be excused, then, for opening his
eyes VERY wide!"
"Faith!" said Joe, as the Victoria skimmed closely
along the ground, at scarcely the elevation of one hundred
feet, and immediately over a village, "I'll throw them
an empty bottle, with your leave, doctor, and if it reaches
them safe and sound, they'll worship it; if it breaks, they'll
make talismans of the pieces."
So saying, he flung out a bottle, which, of course, was
broken into a thousand fragments, while the negroes
scampered into their round huts, uttering shrill cries.
A little farther on, Kennedy called out: "Look at that
strange tree! The upper part is of one kind and the
lower part of another!"
"Well!" said Joe, "here's a country where the trees
grow on top of each other."
"It's simply the trunk of a fig-tree," replied the doctor,
"on which there is a little vegetating earth. Some fine
day, the wind left the seed of a palm on it, and the
seed has taken root and grown as though it were on the
"A fine new style of gardening," said Joe, "and I'll
import the idea to England. It would be just the thing
in the London parks; without counting that it would be
another way to increase the number of fruit-trees. We
could have gardens up in the air; and the small house-owners
would like that!"
At this moment, they had to raise the balloon so as to
pass over a forest of trees that were more than three
hundred feet in height--a kind of ancient banyan.
"What magnificent trees!" exclaimed Kennedy. "I
never saw any thing so fine as the appearance of these
venerable forests. Look, doctor!"
"The height of these banyans is really remarkable,
my dear Dick; and yet, they would be nothing astonishing
in the New World."
"Why, are there still loftier trees in existence?"
"Undoubtedly; among the 'mammoth trees' of California,
there is a cedar four hundred and eighty feet in
height. It would overtop the Houses of Parliament, and
even the Great Pyramid of Egypt. The trunk at the
surface of the ground was one hundred and twenty feet in
circumference, and the concentric layers of the wood
disclosed an age of more than four thousand years."
"But then, sir, there was nothing wonderful in it!
When one has lived four thousand years, one ought to be
pretty tall!" was Joe's remark.
Meanwhile, during the doctor's recital and Joe's response,
the forest had given place to a large collection of
huts surrounding an open space. In the middle of this
grew a solitary tree, and Joe exclaimed, as he caught
sight of it:
"Well! if that tree has produced such flowers as
those, for the last four thousand years, I have to offer
it my compliments, anyhow," and he pointed to a gigantic
sycamore, whose whole trunk was covered with human
bones. The flowers of which Joe spoke were heads freshly
severed from the bodies, and suspended by daggers thrust
into the bark of the tree.
"The war-tree of these cannibals!" said the doctor;
"the Indians merely carry off the scalp, but these negroes
take the whole head."
"A mere matter of fashion!" said Joe. But, already,
the village and the bleeding heads were disappearing on
the horizon. Another place offered a still more revolting
spectacle--half-devoured corpses; skeletons mouldering
to dust; human limbs scattered here and there, and left
to feed the jackals and hyenas.
"No doubt, these are the bodies of criminals; according
to the custom in Abyssinia, these people have left them a
prey to the wild beasts, who kill them with their terrible
teeth and claws, and then devour them at their leisure.
"Not a whit more cruel than hanging!" said the
Scot; "filthier, that's all!"
"In the southern regions of Africa, they content themselves,"
resumed the doctor, "with shutting up the criminal
in his own hut with his cattle, and sometimes with his
family. They then set fire to the hut, and the whole
party are burned together. I call that cruel; but, like
friend Kennedy, I think that the gallows is quite as cruel,
quite as barbarous."
Joe, by the aid of his keen sight, which he did not fail
to use continually, noticed some flocks of birds of prey
flitting about the horizon.
"They are eagles!" exclaimed Kennedy, after reconnoitring
them through the glass, "magnificent birds, whose flight
is as rapid as ours."
"Heaven preserve us from their attacks!" said the
doctor, "they are more to be feared by us than wild
beasts or savage tribes."
"Bah!" said the hunter, "we can drive them off with
a few rifle-shots."
"Nevertheless, I would prefer, dear Dick, not having
to rely upon your skill, this time, for the silk of our
balloon could not resist their sharp beaks; fortunately, the
huge birds will, I believe, be more frightened than attracted
by our machine."
"Yes! but a new idea, and I have dozens of them,"
said Joe; "if we could only manage to capture a team of
live eagles, we could hitch them to the balloon, and they'd
haul us through the air!"
"The thing has been seriously proposed," replied the
doctor, "but I think it hardly practicable with creatures
naturally so restive."
"Oh! we'd tame them," said Joe. "Instead of driving
them with bits, we'd do it with eye-blinkers that would
cover their eyes. Half blinded in that way, they'd go to
the right or to the left, as we desired; when blinded
completely, they would stop."
"Allow me, Joe, to prefer a favorable wind to your
team of eagles. It costs less for fodder, and is more
"Well, you may have your choice, master, but I stick
to my idea."
It now was noon. The Victoria had been going at
a more moderate speed for some time; the country merely
passed below it; it no longer flew.
Suddenly, shouts and whistlings were heard by our
aeronauts, and, leaning over the edge of the car, they saw
on the open plain below them an exciting spectacle.
Two hostile tribes were fighting furiously, and the air
was dotted with volleys of arrows. The combatants were
so intent upon their murderous work that they did not
notice the arrival of the balloon; there were about three
hundred mingled confusedly in the deadly struggle: most
of them, red with the blood of the wounded, in which they
fairly wallowed, were horrible to behold.
As they at last caught sight of the balloon, there was
a momentary pause; but their yells redoubled, and some
arrows were shot at the Victoria, one of them coming
close enough for Joe to catch it with his hand.
"Let us rise out of range," exclaimed the doctor; "there
must be no rashness! We are forbidden any risk."
Meanwhile, the massacre continued on both sides, with
battle-axes and war-clubs; as quickly as one of the combatants
fell, a hostile warrior ran up to cut off his head,
while the women, mingling in the fray, gathered up these
bloody trophies, and piled them together at either extremity
of the battle-field. Often, too, they even fought
for these hideous spoils.
"What a frightful scene!" said Kennedy, with profound disgust.
"They're ugly acquaintances!" added Joe; "but then,
if they had uniforms they'd be just like the fighters of all
the rest of the world!"
"I have a keen hankering to take a hand in at that
fight," said the hunter, brandishing his rifle.
"No! no!" objected the doctor, vehemently; "no,
let us not meddle with what don't concern us. Do you
know which is right or which is wrong, that you would
assume the part of the Almighty? Let us, rather, hurry
away from this revolting spectacle. Could the great
captains of the world float thus above the scenes of their
exploits, they would at last, perhaps, conceive a disgust
for blood and conquest."
The chieftain of one of the contending parties was
remarkable for his athletic proportions, his great height,
and herculean strength. With one hand he plunged his
spear into the compact ranks of his enemies, and with the
other mowed large spaces in them with his battle-axe.
Suddenly he flung away his war-club, red with blood,
rushed upon a wounded warrior, and, chopping off his arm
at a single stroke, carried the dissevered member to his
mouth, and bit it again and again.
"Ah!" ejaculated Kennedy, "the horrible brute! I
can hold back no longer," and, as he spoke, the huge
savage, struck full in the forehead with a rifle-ball, fell
headlong to the ground.
Upon this sudden mishap of their leader, his warriors
seemed struck dumb with amazement; his supernatural
death awed them, while it reanimated the courage and
ardor of their adversaries, and, in a twinkling, the field
was abandoned by half the combatants.
"Come, let us look higher up for a current to bear us
away. I am sick of this spectacle," said the doctor.
But they could not get away so rapidly as to avoid
the sight of the victorious tribe rushing upon the dead
and the wounded, scrambling and disputing for the still
warm and reeking flesh, and eagerly devouring it.
"Faugh!" uttered Joe, "it's sickening."
The balloon rose as it expanded; the howlings of the
brutal horde, in the delirium of their orgy, pursued them
for a few minutes; but, at length, borne away toward the
south, they were carried out of sight and hearing of this
horrible spectacle of cannibalism.
The surface of the country was now greatly varied,
with numerous streams of water, bearing toward the east.
The latter, undoubtedly, ran into those affluents of Lake
Nu, or of the River of the Gazelles, concerning which M.
Guillaume Lejean has given such curious details.
At nightfall, the balloon cast anchor in twenty-seven
degrees east longitude, and four degrees twenty minutes
north latitude, after a day's trip of one hundred and fifty
Strange Sounds.--A Night Attack.--Kennedy and Joe in the Tree.--Two
Shots.--"Help! help!"--Reply in French.--The Morning.--The Missionary.
--The Plan of Rescue.
The night came on very dark. The doctor had not
been able to reconnoitre the country. He had made fast
to a very tall tree, from which he could distinguish only a
confused mass through the gloom.
As usual, he took the nine-o'clock watch, and at midnight
Dick relieved him.
"Keep a sharp lookout, Dick!" was the doctor's good-night injunction.
"Is there any thing new on the carpet?"
"No; but I thought that I heard vague sounds below
us, and, as I don't exactly know where the wind has
carried us to, even an excess of caution would do no harm."
"You've probably heard the cries of wild beasts."
"No! the sounds seemed to me something altogether
different from that; at all events, on the least alarm
don't fail to waken us."
"I'll do so, doctor; rest easy."
After listening attentively for a moment or two longer,
the doctor, hearing nothing more, threw himself on his
blankets and went asleep.
The sky was covered with dense clouds, but not a
breath of air was stirring; and the balloon, kept in
its place by only a single anchor, experienced not
the slightest oscillation.
Kennedy, leaning his elbow on the edge of the car, so
as to keep an eye on the cylinder, which was actively at
work, gazed out upon the calm obscurity; he eagerly
scanned the horizon, and, as often happens to minds that
are uneasy or possessed with preconceived notions, he
fancied that he sometimes detected vague gleams of light
in the distance.
At one moment he even thought that he saw them only
two hundred paces away, quite distinctly, but it was a
mere flash that was gone as quickly as it came, and he
noticed nothing more. It was, no doubt, one of those
luminous illusions that sometimes impress the eye in the
midst of very profound darkness.
Kennedy was getting over his nervousness and falling
into his wandering meditations again, when a sharp whistle
pierced his ear.
Was that the cry of an animal or of a night-bird, or
did it come from human lips?
Kennedy, perfectly comprehending the gravity of the
situation, was on the point of waking his companions, but
he reflected that, in any case, men or animals, the creatures
that he had heard must be out of reach. So he merely
saw that his weapons were all right, and then, with his
night-glass, again plunged his gaze into space.
It was not long before he thought he could perceive
below him vague forms that seemed to be gliding toward
the tree, and then, by the aid of a ray of moonlight that
shot like an electric flash between two masses of cloud, he
distinctly made out a group of human figures moving in
The adventure with the dog-faced baboons returned
to his memory, and he placed his hand on the doctor's
The latter was awake in a moment.
"Silence!" said Dick. "Let us speak below our breath."
"Has any thing happened?"
"Yes, let us waken Joe."
The instant that Joe was aroused, Kennedy told him
what he had seen.
"Those confounded monkeys again!" said Joe.
"Possibly, but we must be on our guard."
"Joe and I," said Kennedy, "will climb down the tree
by the ladder."
"And, in the meanwhile," added the doctor, "I will
take my measures so that we can ascend rapidly at a
"Let us go down, then!" said Joe.
"Don't use your weapons, excepting at the last extremity!
It would be a useless risk to make the natives
aware of our presence in such a place as this."
Dick and Joe replied with signs of assent, and then
letting themselves slide noiselessly toward the tree, took
their position in a fork among the strong branches where
the anchor had caught.
For some moments they listened minutely and motionlessly
among the foliage, and ere long Joe seized Kenedy's hand
as he heard a sort of rubbing sound against the bark of
"Don't you hear that?" he whispered.
"Yes, and it's coming nearer."
"Suppose it should be a serpent? That hissing or
whistling that you heard before--"
"No! there was something human in it."
"I'd prefer the savages, for I have a horror of those
"The noise is increasing," said Kennedy, again, after
a lapse of a few moments.
"Yes! something's coming up toward us--climbing."
"Keep watch on this side, and I'll take care of the other."
There they were, isolated at the top of one of the
larger branches shooting out in the midst of one of
those miniature forests called baobab-trees. The darkness,
heightened by the density of the foliage, was profound;
however, Joe, leaning over to Kennedy's ear and pointing
down the tree, whispered:
"The blacks! They're climbing toward us."
The two friends could even catch the sound of a few
words uttered in the lowest possible tones.
Joe gently brought his rifle to his shoulder as he spoke.
"Wait!" said Kennedy.
Some of the natives had really climbed the baobab,
and now they were seen rising on all sides, winding along
the boughs like reptiles, and advancing slowly but surely,
all the time plainly enough discernible, not merely to the
eye but to the nostrils, by the horrible odors of the rancid
grease with which they bedaub their bodies.
Ere long, two heads appeared to the gaze of Kennedy
and Joe, on a level with the very branch to which they
"Attention!" said Kennedy. "Fire!"
The double concussion resounded like a thunderbolt
and died away into cries of rage and pain, and in a
moment the whole horde had disappeared.
But, in the midst of these yells and howls, a strange,
unexpected--nay what seemed an impossible--cry had
been heard! A human voice had, distinctly, called aloud
in the French language--
Kennedy and Joe, dumb with amazement, had regained
the car immediately.
"Did you hear that?" the doctor asked them.
"Undoubtedly, that supernatural cry, 'A moi! a moi!'
comes from a Frenchman in the hands of these barbarians!"
"A missionary, perhaps."
"Poor wretch!" said Kennedy, "they're assassinating
him--making a martyr of him!"
The doctor then spoke, and it was impossible for him
to conceal his emotions.
"There can be no doubt of it," he said; "some unfortunate
Frenchman has fallen into the hands of these
savages. We must not leave this place without doing all
in our power to save him. When he heard the sound of
our guns, he recognized an unhoped-for assistance, a
providential interposition. We shall not disappoint
his last hope. Are such your views?"
"They are, doctor, and we are ready to obey you."
"Let us, then, lay our heads together to devise some
plan, and in the morning we'll try to rescue him."
"But how shall we drive off those abominable blacks?"
"It's quite clear to me, from the way in which they
made off, that they are unacquainted with fire-arms. We
must, therefore, profit by their fears; but we shall await
daylight before acting, and then we can form our plans of
rescue according to circumstances."
"The poor captive cannot be far off," said Joe, "because--"
"Help! help!" repeated the voice, but much more
feebly this time.
"The savage wretches!" exclaimed Joe, trembling
with indignation. "Suppose they should kill him
"Do you hear, doctor," resumed Kennedy, seizing the
doctor's hand. "Suppose they should kill him to-night!"
"It is not at all likely, my friends. These savage
tribes kill their captives in broad daylight; they must
have the sunshine."
"Now, if I were to take advantage of the darkness to
slip down to the poor fellow?" said Kennedy.
"And I'll go with you," said Joe, warmly.
"Pause, my friends--pause! The suggestion does
honor to your hearts and to your courage; but you would
expose us all to great peril, and do still greater harm to
the unfortunate man whom you wish to aid."
"Why so?" asked Kennedy. "These savages are
frightened and dispersed: they will not return."
"Dick, I implore you, heed what I say. I am acting
for the common good; and if by any accident you should
be taken by surprise, all would be lost."
"But, think of that poor wretch, hoping for aid, waiting
there, praying, calling aloud. Is no one to go to his
assistance? He must think that his senses deceived him;
that he heard nothing!"
"We can reassure him, on that score," said Dr. Ferguson
--and, standing erect, making a speaking-trumpet
of his hands, he shouted at the top of his voice, in French:
"Whoever you are, be of good cheer! Three friends are
watching over you."
A terrific howl from the savages responded to these
words--no doubt drowning the prisoner's reply.
"They are murdering him! they are murdering him!"
exclaimed Kennedy. "Our interference will have served
no other purpose than to hasten the hour of his doom.
We must act!"
"But how, Dick? What do you expect to do in the
midst of this darkness?"
"Oh, if it was only daylight!" sighed Joe.
"Well, and suppose it were daylight?" said the doctor,
in a singular tone.
"Nothing more simple, doctor," said Kennedy. "I'd
go down and scatter all these savage villains with powder
"And you, Joe, what would you do?"
"I, master? why, I'd act more prudently, maybe, by
telling the prisoner to make his escape in a certain
direction that we'd agree upon."
"And how would you get him to know that?"
"By means of this arrow that I caught flying the other
day. I'd tie a note to it, or I'd just call out to him in a
loud voice what you want him to do, because these black
fellows don't understand the language that you'd speak
"Your plans are impracticable, my dear friends. The
greatest difficulty would be for this poor fellow to escape
at all--even admitting that he should manage to elude
the vigilance of his captors. As for you, my dear Dick,
with determined daring, and profiting by their alarm at
our fire-arms, your project might possibly succeed; but,
were it to fail, you would be lost, and we should have two
persons to save instead of one. No! we must put ALL the
chances on OUR side, and go to work differently."
"But let us act at once!" said the hunter.
"Perhaps we may," said the doctor, throwing considerable
stress upon the words.
"Why, doctor, can you light up such darkness as this?"
"Who knows, Joe?"
"Ah! if you can do that, you're the greatest learned
man in the world!"
The doctor kept silent for a few moments; he was
thinking. His two companions looked at him with much
emotion, for they were greatly excited by the strangeness
of the situation. Ferguson at last resumed:
"Here is my plan: We have two hundred pounds of
ballast left, since the bags we brought with us are still
untouched. I'll suppose that this prisoner, who is evidently
exhausted by suffering, weighs as much as one of
us; there will still remain sixty pounds of ballast to throw
out, in case we should want to ascend suddenly."
"How do you expect to manage the balloon?" asked Kennedy.
"This is the idea, Dick: you will admit that if I can
get to the prisoner, and throw out a quantity of ballast,
equal to his weight, I shall have in nowise altered the
equilibrium of the balloon. But, then, if I want to get a
rapid ascension, so as to escape these savages, I must
employ means more energetic than the cylinder. Well,
then, in throwing out this overplus of ballast at a given
moment, I am certain to rise with great rapidity."
"That's plain enough."
"Yes; but there is one drawback: it consists in the fact that,
in order to descend after that, I should have to part with a
quantity of gas proportionate to the surplus ballast that I
had thrown out. Now, the gas is precious; but we must not
haggle over it when the life of a fellow-creature is at stake."
"You are right, sir; we must do every thing in our
power to save him."
"Let us work, then, and get these bags all arranged on
the rim of the car, so that they may be thrown overboard
at one movement."
"But this darkness?"
"It hides our preparations, and will be dispersed only
when they are finished. Take care to have all our weapons
close at hand. Perhaps we may have to fire; so we
have one shot in the rifle; four for the two muskets;
twelve in the two revolvers; or seventeen in all, which
might be fired in a quarter of a minute. But perhaps we
shall not have to resort to all this noisy work. Are you
"We're ready," responded Joe.
The sacks were placed as requested, and the arms
were put in good order.
"Very good!" said the doctor. "Have an eye to
every thing. Joe will see to throwing out the ballast,
and Dick will carry off the prisoner; but let nothing be
done until I give the word. Joe will first detach the
anchor, and then quickly make his way back to the car."
Joe let himself slide down by the rope; and, in a few
moments, reappeared at his post; while the balloon, thus
liberated, hung almost motionless in the air.
In the mean time the doctor assured himself of the
presence of a sufficient quantity of gas in the mixing-tank
to feed the cylinder, if necessary, without there being any
need of resorting for some time to the Buntzen battery.
He then took out the two perfectly-isolated conducting-wires,
which served for the decomposition of the water, and,
searching in his travelling-sack, brought forth two pieces
of charcoal, cut down to a sharp point, and fixed one at
the end of each wire.
His two friends looked on, without knowing what he
was about, but they kept perfectly silent. When the doctor
had finished, he stood up erect in the car, and, taking
the two pieces of charcoal, one in each hand, drew their
points nearly together.
In a twinkling, an intense and dazzling light was
produced, with an insupportable glow between the two
pointed ends of charcoal, and a huge jet of electric
radiance literally broke the darkness of the night.
"Oh!" ejaculated the astonished friends.
"Not a word!" cautioned the doctor.
The Jet of Light.--The Missionary.--The Rescue in a Ray of Electricity.--A
Lazarist Priest.--But little Hope.--The Doctor's Care.--A Life of Self-Denial.
--Passing a Volcano.
Dr. Ferguson darted his powerful electric jet toward
various points of space, and caused it to rest on a spot
from which shouts of terror were heard. His companions
fixed their gaze eagerly on the place.
The baobab, over which the balloon was hanging almost
motionless, stood in the centre of a clearing, where,
between fields of Indian-corn and sugar-cane, were seen
some fifty low, conical huts, around which swarmed a
A hundred feet below the balloon stood a large post,
or stake, and at its foot lay a human being--a young man
of thirty years or more, with long black hair, half naked,
wasted and wan, bleeding, covered with wounds, his head
bowed over upon his breast, as Christ's was, when He
hung upon the cross.
The hair, cut shorter on the top of his skull, still
indicated the place of a half-effaced tonsure.
"A missionary! a priest!" exclaimed Joe.
"Poor, unfortunate man!" said Kennedy.
"We must save him, Dick!" responded the doctor;
"we must save him!"
The crowd of blacks, when they saw the balloon over
their heads, like a huge comet with a train of dazzling
light, were seized with a terror that may be readily imagined.
Upon hearing their cries, the prisoner raised his
head. His eyes gleamed with sudden hope, and, without
too thoroughly comprehending what was taking place, he
stretched out his hands to his unexpected deliverers.
"He is alive!" exclaimed Ferguson. "God be praised!
The savages have got a fine scare, and we shall save him!
Are you ready, friends?"
"Ready, doctor, at the word."
"Joe, shut off the cylinder!"
The doctor's order was executed. An almost imperceptible
breath of air impelled the balloon directly over
the prisoner, at the same time that it gently lowered with
the contraction of the gas. For about ten minutes it remained
floating in the midst of luminous waves, for Ferguson
continued to flash right down upon the throng his
glowing sheaf of rays, which, here and there, marked out
swift and vivid sheets of light. The tribe, under the
influence of an indescribable terror, disappeared little by
little in the huts, and there was complete solitude around
the stake. The doctor had, therefore, been right in counting
upon the fantastic appearance of the balloon throwing
out rays, as vivid as the sun's, through this intense gloom.
The car was approaching the ground; but a few of the
savages, more audacious than the rest, guessing that their
victim was about to escape from their clutches, came back
with loud yells, and Kennedy seized his rifle. The doctor,
however, besought him not to fire.
The priest, on his knees, for he had not the strength to
stand erect, was not even fastened to the stake, his weakness
rendering that precaution superfluous. At the instant
when the car was close to the ground, the brawny Scot,
laying aside his rifle, and seizing the priest around the
waist, lifted him into the car, while, at the same moment,
Joe tossed over the two hundred pounds of ballast.
The doctor had expected to ascend rapidly, but, contrary
to his calculations, the balloon, after going up some
three or four feet, remained there perfectly motionless.
"What holds us?" he asked, with an accent of terror.
Some of the savages were running toward them, uttering
"Ah, ha!" said Joe, "one of those cursed blacks is
hanging to the car!"
"Dick! Dick!" cried the doctor, "the water-tank!"
Kennedy caught his friend's idea on the instant, and,
snatching up with desperate strength one of the water-tanks
weighing about one hundred pounds, he tossed it
overboard. The balloon, thus suddenly lightened, made a
leap of three hundred feet into the air, amid the howlings
of the tribe whose prisoner thus escaped them in a blaze
of dazzling light.
"Hurrah!" shouted the doctor's comrades.
Suddenly, the balloon took a fresh leap, which carried
it up to an elevation of a thousand feet.
"What's that?" said Kennedy, who had nearly lost
"Oh! nothing; only that black villain leaving us!"
replied the doctor, tranquilly, and Joe, leaning over, saw
the savage that had clung to the car whirling over and
over, with his arms outstretched in the air, and presently
dashed to pieces on the ground. The doctor then separated
his electric wires, and every thing was again buried
in profound obscurity. It was now one o'clock in the
The Frenchman, who had swooned away, at length
opened his eyes.
"You are saved!" were the doctor's first words.
"Saved!" he with a sad smile replied in English,
"saved from a cruel death! My brethren, I thank you,
but my days are numbered, nay, even my hours, and I
have but little longer to live."
With this, the missionary, again yielding to exhaustion,
relapsed into his fainting-fit.
"He is dying!" said Kennedy.
"No," replied the doctor, bending over him, "but he
is very weak; so let us lay him under the awning."
And they did gently deposit on their blankets that
poor, wasted body, covered with scars and wounds, still
bleeding where fire and steel had, in twenty places, left
their agonizing marks. The doctor, taking an old handkerchief,
quickly prepared a little lint, which he spread
over the wounds, after having washed them. These rapid
attentions were bestowed with the celerity and skill of a
practised surgeon, and, when they were complete, the doctor,
taking a cordial from his medicine-chest, poured a few
drops upon his patient's lips.
The latter feebly pressed his kind hands, and scarcely
had the strength to say, "Thank you! thank you!"
The doctor comprehended that he must be left perfectly
quiet; so he closed the folds of the awning and resumed
the guidance of the balloon.
The latter, after taking into account the weight of the
new passenger, had been lightened of one hundred and
eighty pounds, and therefore kept aloft without the aid of
the cylinder. At the first dawn of day, a current drove it
gently toward the west-northwest. The doctor went in
under the awning for a moment or two, to look at his still
"May Heaven spare the life of our new companion!
Have you any hope?" said the Scot.
"Yes, Dick, with care, in this pure, fresh atmosphere."
"How that man has suffered!" said Joe, with feeling.
"He did bolder things than we've done, in venturing all
alone among those savage tribes!"
"That cannot be questioned," assented the hunter.
During the entire day the doctor would not allow the
sleep of his patient to be disturbed. It was really a long
stupor, broken only by an occasional murmur of pain that
continued to disquiet and agitate the doctor greatly.
Toward evening the balloon remained stationary in the
midst of the gloom, and during the night, while Kennedy
and Joe relieved each other in carefully tending the sick
man, Ferguson kept watch over the safety of all.
By the morning of the next day, the balloon had moved,
but very slightly, to the westward. The dawn came up
pure and magnificent. The sick man was able to call his
friends with a stronger voice. They raised the curtains
of the awning, and he inhaled with delight the keen
"How do you feel to-day?" asked the doctor.
"Better, perhaps," he replied. "But you, my friends,
I have not seen you yet, excepting in a dream! I can,
indeed, scarcely recall what has occurred. Who are you
--that your names may not be forgotten in my dying
"We are English travellers," replied Ferguson. "We
are trying to cross Africa in a balloon, and, on our way,
we have had the good fortune to rescue you."
"Science has its heroes," said the missionary.
"But religion its martyrs!" rejoined the Scot.
"Are you a missionary?" asked the doctor.
"I am a priest of the Lazarist mission. Heaven sent
you to me--Heaven be praised! The sacrifice of my life
had been accomplished! But you come from Europe;
tell me about Europe, about France! I have been without
news for the last five years!"
"Five years! alone! and among these savages!" exclaimed
Kennedy with amazement.
"They are souls to redeem! ignorant and barbarous
brethren, whom religion alone can instruct and civilize."
Dr. Ferguson, yielding to the priest's request, talked
to him long and fully about France. He listened eagerly,
and his eyes filled with tears. He seized Kennedy's and
Joe's hands by turns in his own, which were burning with
fever. The doctor prepared him some tea, and he drank
it with satisfaction. After that, he had strength enough
to raise himself up a little, and smiled with pleasure at
seeing himself borne along through so pure a sky.
"You are daring travellers!" he said, "and you will
succeed in your bold enterprise. You will again behold
your relatives, your friends, your country--you--"
At this moment, the weakness of the young missionary
became so extreme that they had to lay him again on the
bed, where a prostration, lasting for several hours, held
him like a dead man under the eye of Dr. Ferguson. The
latter could not suppress his emotion, for he felt that this
life now in his charge was ebbing away. Were they then
so soon to lose him whom they had snatched from an
agonizing death? The doctor again washed and dressed
the young martyr's frightful wounds, and had to sacrifice
nearly his whole stock of water to refresh his burning
limbs. He surrounded him with the tenderest and most
intelligent care, until, at length, the sick man revived,
little by little, in his arms, and recovered his consciousness
if not his strength.
The doctor was able to gather something of his history
from his broken murmurs.
"Speak in your native language," he said to the sufferer;
"I understand it, and it will fatigue you less."
The missionary was a poor young man from the village
of Aradon, in Brittany, in the Morbihan country. His
earliest instincts had drawn him toward an ecclesiastical
career, but to this life of self-sacrifice he was also desirous
of joining a life of danger, by entering the mission of the
order of priesthood of which St. Vincent de Paul was the
founder, and, at twenty, he quitted his country for the
inhospitable shores of Africa. From the sea-coast, overcoming
obstacles, little by little, braving all privations,
pushing onward, afoot, and praying, he had advanced to
the very centre of those tribes that dwell among the tributary
streams of the Upper Nile. For two years his faith
was spurned, his zeal denied recognition, his charities
taken in ill part, and he remained a prisoner to one of the
cruelest tribes of the Nyambarra, the object of every
species of maltreatment. But still he went on teaching,
instructing, and praying. The tribe having been dispersed
and he left for dead, in one of those combats which
are so frequent between the tribes, instead of retracing his
steps, he persisted in his evangelical mission. His most
tranquil time was when he was taken for a madman.
Meanwhile, he had made himself familiar with the idioms
of the country, and he catechised in them. At length,
during two more long years, he traversed these barbarous
regions, impelled by that superhuman energy that comes
from God. For a year past he had been residing with
that tribe of the Nyam-Nyams known as the Barafri,
one of the wildest and most ferocious of them all. The
chief having died a few days before our travellers appeared,
his sudden death was attributed to the missionary, and
the tribe resolved to immolate him. His sufferings had
already continued for the space of forty hours, and, as the
doctor had supposed, he was to have perished in the blaze
of the noonday sun. When he heard the sound of fire-arms,
nature got the best of him, and he had cried out, "Help!
help!" He then thought that he must have been dreaming,
when a voice, that seemed to come from the sky, had
uttered words of consolation.
"I have no regrets," he said, "for the life that is passing
away from me; my life belongs to God!"
"Hope still!" said the doctor; "we are near you, and
we will save you now, as we saved you from the tortures
of the stake."
"I do not ask so much of Heaven," said the priest,
with resignation. "Blessed be God for having vouchsafed
to me the joy before I die of having pressed your friendly
hands, and having heard, once more, the language of my
The missionary here grew weak again, and the whole
day went by between hope and fear, Kennedy deeply
moved, and Joe drawing his hand over his eyes more
than once when he thought that no one saw him.
The balloon made little progress, and the wind seemed
as though unwilling to jostle its precious burden.
Toward evening, Joe discovered a great light in the
west. Under more elevated latitudes, it might have been
mistaken for an immense aurora borealis, for the sky
appeared on fire. The doctor very attentively examined
"It is, perhaps, only a volcano in full activity," said he.
"But the wind is carrying us directly over it," replied
"Very well, we shall cross it then at a safe height!"
said the doctor.
Three hours later, the Victoria was right among the
mountains. Her exact position was twenty-four degrees
fifteen minutes east longitude, and four degrees forty-two
minutes north latitude, and four degrees forty-two
minutes north latitude. In front of her a volcanic crater
was pouring forth torrents of melted lava, and hurling
masses of rock to an enormous height. There were jets,
too, of liquid fire that fell back in dazzling cascades--a
superb but dangerous spectacle, for the wind with unswerving
certainty was carrying the balloon directly toward this
This obstacle, which could not be turned, had to be
crossed, so the cylinder was put to its utmost power, and
the balloon rose to the height of six thousand feet, leaving
between it and the volcano a space of more than three
From his bed of suffering, the dying missionary could
contemplate that fiery crater from which a thousand jets
of dazzling flame were that moment escaping.
"How grand it is!" said he, "and how infinite is the
power of God even in its most terrible manifestations!"
This overflow of blazing lava wrapped the sides of the
mountain with a veritable drapery of flame; the lower
half of the balloon glowed redly in the upper night; a
torrid heat ascended to the car, and Dr. Ferguson made
all possible haste to escape from this perilous situation.
By ten o'clock the volcano could be seen only as a red
point on the horizon, and the balloon tranquilly pursued
her course in a less elevated zone of the atmosphere.
Joe in a Fit of Rage.--The Death of a Good Man.--The Night of watching
by the Body.--Barrenness and Drought.--The Burial.--The Quartz Rocks.
--Joe's Hallucinations.--A Precious Ballast.--A Survey of the Gold-bearing
Mountains.--The Beginning of Joe's Despair.
A magnificent night overspread the earth, and the
missionary lay quietly asleep in utter exhaustion.
"He'll not get over it!" sighed Joe. "Poor young
fellow--scarcely thirty years of age!"
"He'll die in our arms. His breathing, which was so
feeble before, is growing weaker still, and I can do nothing
to save him," said the doctor, despairingly.
"The infamous scoundrels!" exclaimed Joe, grinding
his teeth, in one of those fits of rage that came over him
at long intervals; "and to think that, in spite of all, this
good man could find words only to pity them, to excuse,
to pardon them!"
"Heaven has given him a lovely night, Joe--his last
on earth, perhaps! He will suffer but little more after
this, and his dying will be only a peaceful falling asleep."
The dying man uttered some broken words, and the
doctor at once went to him. His breathing became difficult,
and he asked for air. The curtains were drawn
entirely back, and he inhaled with rapture the light
breezes of that clear, beautiful night. The stars sent
him their trembling rays, and the moon wrapped him in
the white winding-sheet of its effulgence.
"My friends," said he, in an enfeebled voice, "I am
going. May God requite you, and bring you to your safe
harbor! May he pay for me the debt of gratitude that I
owe to you!"
"You must still hope," replied Kennedy. "This is
but a passing fit of weakness. You will not die. How
could any one die on this beautiful summer night?"
"Death is at hand," replied the missionary, "I know
it! Let me look it in the face! Death, the commencement
of things eternal, is but the end of earthly cares.
Place me upon my knees, my brethren, I beseech you!"
Kennedy lifted him up, and it was distressing to see
his weakened limbs bend under him.
"My God! my God!" exclaimed the dying apostle,
"have pity on me!"
His countenance shone. Far above that earth on
which he had known no joys; in the midst of that night
which sent to him its softest radiance; on the way to
that heaven toward which he uplifted his spirit, as though
in a miraculous assumption, he seemed already to live and
breathe in the new existence.
His last gesture was a supreme blessing on his new
friends of only one day. Then he fell back into the arms
of Kennedy, whose countenance was bathed in hot tears.
"Dead!" said the doctor, bending over him, "dead!"
And with one common accord, the three friends knelt
together in silent prayer.
"To-morrow," resumed the doctor, "we shall bury him in the
African soil which he has besprinkled with his blood."
During the rest of the night the body was watched,
turn by turn, by the three travellers, and not a word
disturbed the solemn silence. Each of them was weeping.
The next day the wind came from the south, and the
balloon moved slowly over a vast plateau of mountains:
there, were extinct craters; here, barren ravines; not a
drop of water on those parched crests; piles of broken
rocks; huge stony masses scattered hither and thither,
and, interspersed with whitish marl, all indicated the most
Toward noon, the doctor, for the purpose of burying
the body, decided to descend into a ravine, in the midst
of some plutonic rocks of primitive formation. The surrounding
mountains would shelter him, and enable him to
bring his car to the ground, for there was no tree in sight
to which he could make it fast.
But, as he had explained to Kennedy, it was now impossible
for him to descend, except by releasing a quantity
of gas proportionate to his loss of ballast at the time when
he had rescued the missionary. He therefore opened the
valve of the outside balloon. The hydrogen escaped, and
the Victoria quietly descended into the ravine.
As soon as the car touched the ground, the doctor
shut the valve. Joe leaped out, holding on the while to
the rim of the car with one hand, and with the other
gathering up a quantity of stones equal to his own weight.
He could then use both hands, and had soon heaped into
the car more than five hundred pounds of stones, which
enabled both the doctor and Kennedy, in their turn, to
get out. Thus the Victoria found herself balanced, and
her ascensional force insufficient to raise her.
Moreover, it was not necessary to gather many of
these stones, for the blocks were extremely heavy, so much
so, indeed, that the doctor's attention was attracted by
the circumstance. The soil, in fact, was bestrewn with
quartz and porphyritic rocks.
"This is a singular discovery!" said the doctor, mentally.
In the mean while, Kennedy and Joe had strolled away
a few paces, looking up a proper spot for the grave. The
heat was extreme in this ravine, shut in as it was like a
sort of furnace. The noonday sun poured down its rays
perpendicularly into it.
The first thing to be done was to clear the surface of
the fragments of rock that encumbered it, and then a
quite deep grave had to be dug, so that the wild animals
should not be able to disinter the corpse.
The body of the martyred missionary was then
solemnly placed in it. The earth was thrown in over
his remains, and above it masses of rock were deposited,
in rude resemblance to a tomb.
The doctor, however, remained motionless, and lost in
his reflections. He did not even heed the call of his
companions, nor did he return with them to seek a shelter
from the heat of the day.
"What are you thinking about, doctor?" asked Kennedy.
"About a singular freak of Nature, a curious effect of
chance. Do you know, now, in what kind of soil that
man of self-denial, that poor one in spirit, has just been
"No! what do you mean, doctor?"
"That priest, who took the oath of perpetual poverty,
now reposes in a gold-mine!"
"A gold-mine!" exclaimed Kennedy and Joe in one breath.
"Yes, a gold-mine," said the doctor, quietly. "Those
blocks which you are trampling under foot, like worthless
stones, contain gold-ore of great purity."
"Impossible! impossible!" repeated Joe.
"You would not have to look long among those
fissures of slaty schist without finding peptites
of considerable value."
Joe at once rushed like a crazy man among the scattered
fragments, and Kennedy was not long in following
"Keep cool, Joe," said his master.
"Why, doctor, you speak of the thing quite at your ease."
"What! a philosopher of your mettle--"
"Ah, master, no philosophy holds good in this case!"
"Come! come! Let us reflect a little. What good
would all this wealth do you? We cannot carry any of
it away with us."
"We can't take any of it with us, indeed?"
"It's rather too heavy for our car! I even hesitated
to tell you any thing about it, for fear of exciting your
"What!" said Joe, again, "abandon these treasures
--a fortune for us!--really for us--our own--leave it
"Take care, my friend! Would you yield to the thirst
for gold? Has not this dead man whom you have just
helped to bury, taught you the vanity of human affairs?"
"All that is true," replied Joe, "but gold! Mr. Kennedy,
won't you help to gather up a trifle of all these
"What could we do with them, Joe?" said the hunter,
unable to repress a smile. "We did not come hither in
search of fortune, and we cannot take one home with us."
"The millions are rather heavy, you know," resumed
the doctor, "and cannot very easily be put into one's
"But, at least," said Joe, driven to his last defences,
"couldn't we take some of that ore for ballast, instead of
"Very good! I consent," said the doctor, "but you
must not make too many wry faces when we come to
throw some thousands of crowns' worth overboard."
"Thousands of crowns!" echoed Joe; "is it possible
that there is so much gold in them, and that all this is
"Yes, my friend, this is a reservoir in which Nature
has been heaping up her wealth for centuries! There is
enough here to enrich whole nations! An Australia and
a California both together in the midst of the wilderness!"
"And the whole of it is to remain useless!"
"Perhaps! but at all events, here's what I'll do to
"That would be rather difficult to do!" said Joe, with
a contrite air.
"Listen! I will take the exact bearings of this spot,
and give them to you, so that, upon your return to England,
you can tell our countrymen about it, and let them have a
share, if you think that so much gold would make them
"Ah! master, I give up; I see that you are right, and
that there is nothing else to be done. Let us fill our car
with the precious mineral, and what remains at the end of
the trip will be so much made."
And Joe went to work. He did so, too, with all his
might, and soon had collected more than a thousand pieces
of quartz, which contained gold enclosed as though in an
extremely hard crystal casket.
The doctor watched him with a smile; and, while Joe
went on, he took the bearings, and found that the missionary's
grave lay in twenty-two degrees twenty-three minutes east
longitude, and four degrees fifty-five minutes
Then, casting one glance at the swelling of the soil,
beneath which the body of the poor Frenchman reposed,
he went back to his car.
He would have erected a plain, rude cross over the
tomb, left solitary thus in the midst of the African deserts,
but not a tree was to be seen in the environs.
"God will recognize it!" said Kennedy.
An anxiety of another sort now began to steal over
the doctor's mind. He would have given much of the
gold before him for a little water--for he had to replace
what had been thrown overboard when the negro was
carried up into the air. But it was impossible to find it
in these arid regions; and this reflection gave him great
uneasiness. He had to feed his cylinder continually; and
he even began to find that he had not enough to quench
the thirst of his party. Therefore he determined to lose
no opportunity of replenishing his supply.
Upon getting back to the car, he found it burdened
with the quartz-blocks that Joe's greed had heaped in it.
He got in, however, without saying any thing. Kennedy
took his customary place, and Joe followed, but not without
casting a covetous glance at the treasures in the ravine.
The doctor rekindled the light in the cylinder; the
spiral became heated; the current of hydrogen came in a
few minutes, and the gas dilated; but the balloon did not
stir an inch.
Joe looked on uneasily, but kept silent.
"Joe!" said the doctor.
Joe made no reply.
"Joe! Don't you hear me?"
Joe made a sign that he heard; but he would not understand.
"Do me the kindness to throw out some of that quartz!"
"But, doctor, you gave me leave--"
"I gave you leave to replace the ballast; that was all!"
"Do you want to stay forever in this desert?"
Joe cast a despairing look at Kennedy; but the hunter
put on the air of a man who could do nothing in the
"Then your cylinder don't work," said the obstinate
"My cylinder? It is lit, as you perceive. But the
balloon will not rise until you have thrown off a little
Joe scratched his ear, picked up a piece of quartz, the
smallest in the lot, weighed and reweighed it, and tossed
it up and down in his hand. It was a fragment of about
three or four pounds. At last he threw it out.
But the balloon did not budge.
"Humph!" said he; "we're not going up yet."
"Not yet," said the doctor. "Keep on throwing."
Kennedy laughed. Joe now threw out some ten pounds,
but the balloon stood still.
Joe got very pale.
"Poor fellow!" said the doctor. "Mr. Kennedy, you
and I weigh, unless I am mistaken, about four hundred
pounds--so that you'll have to get rid of at least that
weight, since it was put in here to make up for us."
"Throw away four hundred pounds!" said Joe, piteously.
"And some more with it, or we can't rise. Come,
The brave fellow, heaving deep sighs, began at last to
lighten the balloon; but, from time to time, he would stop,
"Are you going up?"
"No, not yet," was the invariable response.
"It moves!" said he, at last.
"Keep on!" replied the doctor.
"It's going up; I'm sure."
"Keep on yet," said Kennedy.
And Joe, picking up one more block, desperately tossed it out
of the car. The balloon rose a hundred feet or so, and, aided
by the cylinder, soon passed above the surrounding summits.
"Now, Joe," resumed the doctor, "there still remains
a handsome fortune for you; and, if we can only keep the
rest of this with us until the end of our trip, there you
are--rich for the balance of your days!"
Joe made no answer, but stretched himself out luxuriously
on his heap of quartz.
"See, my dear Dick!" the doctor went on. "Just see
the power of this metal over the cleverest lad in the world!
What passions, what greed, what crimes, the knowledge
of such a mine as that would cause! It is sad to think
By evening the balloon had made ninety miles to the
westward, and was, in a direct line, fourteen hundred miles
The Wind dies away.--The Vicinity of the Desert.--The Mistake in the
Water-Supply.--The Nights of the Equator.--Dr. Ferguson's Anxieties.
--The Situation flatly stated.--Energetic Replies of Kennedy and Joe.
--One Night more.
The balloon, having been made fast to a solitary tree,
almost completely dried up by the aridity of the region
in which it stood, passed the night in perfect quietness;
and the travellers were enabled to enjoy a little of the
repose which they so greatly needed. The emotions of
the day had left sad impressions on their minds.
Toward morning, the sky had resumed its brilliant
purity and its heat. The balloon ascended, and, after
several ineffectual attempts, fell into a current that,
although not rapid, bore them toward the northwest.
"We are not making progress," said the doctor. "If
I am not mistaken, we have accomplished nearly half of
our journey in ten days; but, at the rate at which we are
going, it would take months to end it; and that is all the
more vexatious, that we are threatened with a lack of
"But we'll find some," said Joe. "It is not to be
thought of that we shouldn't discover some river, some
stream, or pond, in all this vast extent of country."
"I hope so."
"Now don't you think that it's Joe's cargo of stone
that is keeping us back?"
Kennedy asked this question only to tease Joe; and
he did so the more willingly because he had, for a moment,
shared the poor lad's hallucinations; but, not finding any
thing in them, he had fallen back into the attitude of a
strong-minded looker-on, and turned the affair off with a
Joe cast a mournful glance at him; but the doctor
made no reply. He was thinking, not without secret terror,
probably, of the vast solitudes of Sahara--for there
whole weeks sometimes pass without the caravans meeting
with a single spring of water. Occupied with these
thoughts, he scrutinized every depression of the soil with
the closest attention.
These anxieties, and the incidents recently occurring,
had not been without their effect upon the spirits of our
three travellers. They conversed less, and were more
wrapt in their own thoughts.
Joe, clever lad as he was, seemed no longer the same
person since his gaze had plunged into that ocean of gold.
He kept entirely silent, and gazed incessantly upon the
stony fragments heaped up in the car--worthless to-day,
but of inestimable value to-morrow.
The appearance of this part of Africa was, moreover,
quite calculated to inspire alarm: the desert was gradually
expanding around them; not another village was
to be seen--not even a collection of a few huts; and
vegetation also was disappearing. Barely a few dwarf
plants could now be noticed, like those on the wild heaths
of Scotland; then came the first tract of grayish sand and
flint, with here and there a lentisk tree and brambles.
In the midst of this sterility, the rudimental carcass of the
Globe appeared in ridges of sharply-jutting rock. These
symptoms of a totally dry and barren region greatly
disquieted Dr. Ferguson.
It seemed as though no caravan had ever braved this
desert expanse, or it would have left visible traces of its
encampments, or the whitened bones of men and animals.
But nothing of the kind was to be seen, and the aeronauts
felt that, ere long, an immensity of sand would cover the
whole of this desolate region.
However, there was no going back; they must go forward;
and, indeed, the doctor asked for nothing better;
he would even have welcomed a tempest to carry him beyond
this country. But, there was not a cloud in the sky.
At the close of the day, the balloon had not made thirty
If there had been no lack of water! But, there remained
only three gallons in all! The doctor put aside
one gallon, destined to quench the burning thirst that a
heat of ninety degrees rendered intolerable. Two gallons
only then remained to supply the cylinder. Hence, they
could produce no more than four hundred and eighty cubic
feet of gas; yet the cylinder consumed about nine cubic
feet per hour. Consequently, they could not keep on
longer than fifty-four hours--and all this was a
"Fifty-four hours!" said the doctor to his companions.
"Therefore, as I am determined not to travel by night, for
fear of passing some stream or pool, we have but three
days and a half of journeying during which we must find
water, at all hazards. I have thought it my duty to make
you aware of the real state of the case, as I have retained
only one gallon for drinking, and we shall have to put
ourselves on the shortest allowance."
"Put us on short allowance, then, doctor," responded
Kennedy, "but we must not despair. We have three days
left, you say?"
"Yes, my dear Dick!"
"Well, as grieving over the matter won't help us, in
three days there will be time enough to decide upon what
is to be done; in the meanwhile, let us redouble our
At their evening meal, the water was strictly measured
out, and the brandy was increased in quantity in the punch
they drank. But they had to be careful with the spirits,
the latter being more likely to produce than to quench
The car rested, during the night, upon an immense
plateau, in which there was a deep hollow; its height was
scarcely eight hundred feet above the level of the sea.
This circumstance gave the doctor some hope, since it recalled
to his mind the conjectures of geographers concerning
the existence of a vast stretch of water in the centre
of Africa. But, if such a lake really existed, the point was
to reach it, and not a sign of change was visible in the
To the tranquil night and its starry magnificence succeeded
the unchanging daylight and the blazing rays of
the sun; and, from the earliest dawn, the temperature became
scorching. At five o'clock in the morning, the doctor
gave the signal for departure, and, for a considerable
time, the balloon remained immovable in the leaden
The doctor might have escaped this intense heat by
rising into a higher range, but, in order to do so, he would
have had to consume a large quantity of water, a thing
that had now become impossible. He contented himself,
therefore, with keeping the balloon at one hundred feet
from the ground, and, at that elevation, a feeble current
drove it toward the western horizon.
The breakfast consisted of a little dried meat and pemmican.
By noon, the Victoria had advanced only a few miles.
"We cannot go any faster," said the doctor; "we no
longer command--we have to obey."
"Ah! doctor, here is one of those occasions when a
propeller would not be a thing to be despised."
"Undoubtedly so, Dick, provided it would not require
an expenditure of water to put it in motion, for, in that
case, the situation would be precisely the same; moreover,
up to this time, nothing practical of the sort has been
invented. Balloons are still at that point where ships were
before the invention of steam. It took six thousand years
to invent propellers and screws; so we have time enough yet."
"Confounded heat!" said Joe, wiping away the perspiration
that was streaming from his forehead.
"If we had water, this heat would be of service to us,
for it dilates the hydrogen in the balloon, and diminishes
the amount required in the spiral, although it is true that,
if we were not short of the useful liquid, we should not
have to economize it. Ah! that rascally savage who cost
us the tank!"*
* The water-tank had been thrown overboard when the native
clung to the car.
"You don't regret, though, what you did, doctor?"
"No, Dick, since it was in our power to save that unfortunate
missionary from a horrible death. But, the hundred pounds of
water that we threw overboard would be very useful to us now;
it would be thirteen or fourteen days more of progress secured,
or quite enough to carry us over this desert."
"We've made at least half the journey, haven't we?"
"In distance, yes; but in duration, no, should the wind
leave us; and it, even now, has a tendency to die away
"Come, sir," said Joe, again, "we must not complain;
we've got along pretty well, thus far, and whatever
happens to me, I can't get desperate. We'll find water;
mind, I tell you so."
The soil, however, ran lower from mile to mile; the
undulations of the gold-bearing mountains they had left
died away into the plain, like the last throes of exhausted
Nature. Scanty grass took the place of the fine trees of
the east; only a few belts of half-scorched herbage still
contended against the invasion of the sand, and the huge
rocks, that had rolled down from the distant summits,
crushed in their fall, had scattered in sharp-edged pebbles
which soon again became coarse sand, and finally impalpable dust.
"Here, at last, is Africa, such as you pictured it to
yourself, Joe! Was I not right in saying, 'Wait a
"Well, master, it's all natural, at least--heat and dust.
It would be foolish to look for any thing else in such a
country. Do you see," he added, laughing, "I had no
confidence, for my part, in your forests and your prairies;
they were out of reason. What was the use of coming
so far to find scenery just like England? Here's the first
time that I believe in Africa, and I'm not sorry to get a
taste of it."
Toward evening, the doctor calculated that the balloon
had not made twenty miles during that whole burning day,
and a heated gloom closed in upon it, as soon as the sun
had disappeared behind the horizon, which was traced
against the sky with all the precision of a straight line.
The next day was Thursday, the 1st of May, but the
days followed each other with desperate monotony. Each
morning was like the one that had preceded it; noon
poured down the same exhaustless rays, and night condensed
in its shadow the scattered heat which the ensuing
day would again bequeath to the succeeding night. The
wind, now scarcely observable, was rather a gasp than a
breath, and the morning could almost be foreseen when
even that gasp would cease.
The doctor reacted against the gloominess of the situation
and retained all the coolness and self-possession of a
disciplined heart. With his glass he scrutinized every
quarter of the horizon; he saw the last rising ground
gradually melting to the dead level, and the last vegetation
disappearing, while, before him, stretched the immensity
of the desert.
The responsibility resting upon him pressed sorely, but
he did not allow his disquiet to appear. Those two men,
Dick and Joe, friends of his, both of them, he had induced
to come with him almost by the force alone of friendship
and of duty. Had he done well in that? Was it not like
attempting to tread forbidden paths? Was he not, in
this trip, trying to pass the borders of the impossible?
Had not the Almighty reserved for later ages the knowledge
of this inhospitable continent?
All these thoughts, of the kind that arise in hours of
discouragement, succeeded each other and multiplied in
his mind, and, by an irresistible association of ideas, the
doctor allowed himself to be carried beyond the bounds
of logic and of reason. After having established in his
own mind what he should NOT have done, the next
question was, what he should do, then. Would it be impossible
to retrace his steps? Were there not currents higher up
that would waft him to less arid regions? Well informed
with regard to the countries over which he had passed, he
was utterly ignorant of those to come, and thus his conscience
speaking aloud to him, he resolved, in his turn, to
speak frankly to his two companions. He thereupon
laid the whole state of the case plainly before them; he
showed them what had been done, and what there was
yet to do; at the worst, they could return, or attempt it, at
least.--What did they think about it?
"I have no other opinion than that of my excellent
master," said Joe; "what he may have to suffer, I can
suffer, and that better than he can, perhaps. Where he
goes, there I'll go!"
"And you, Kennedy?"
"I, doctor, I'm not the man to despair; no one was
less ignorant than I of the perils of the enterprise, but I
did not want to see them, from the moment that you
determined to brave them. Under present circumstances,
my opinion is, that we should persevere--go clear to the
end. Besides, to return looks to me quite as perilous as
the other course. So onward, then! you may count upon us!"
"Thanks, my gallant friends!" replied the doctor,
with much real feeling, "I expected such devotion as this;
but I needed these encouraging words. Yet, once again,
thank you, from the bottom of my heart!"
And, with this, the three friends warmly grasped each
other by the hand.
"Now, hear me!" said the doctor. "According to
my solar observations, we are not more than three hundred
miles from the Gulf of Guinea; the desert, therefore,
cannot extend indefinitely, since the coast is inhabited, and
the country has been explored for some distance back into
the interior. If needs be, we can direct our course to that
quarter, and it seems out of the question that we should
not come across some oasis, or some well, where we could
replenish our stock of water. But, what we want now, is
the wind, for without it we are held here suspended in the
air at a dead calm.
"Let us wait with resignation," said the hunter.
But, each of the party, in his turn, vainly scanned the
space around him during that long wearisome day. Nothing
could be seen to form the basis of a hope. The very
last inequalities of the soil disappeared with the setting
sun, whose horizontal rays stretched in long lines of fire
over the flat immensity. It was the Desert!
Our aeronauts had scarcely gone a distance of fifteen
miles, having expended, as on the preceding day, one
hundred and thirty-five cubic feet of gas to feed the
cylinder, and two pints of water out of the remaining
eight had been sacrificed to the demands of intense thirst.
The night passed quietly--too quietly, indeed, but the
doctor did not sleep!
A Little Philosophy.--A Cloud on the Horizon.--In the Midst of a Fog.--The
Strange Balloon.--An Exact View of the Victoria.--The Palm-Trees.--Traces
of a Caravan.--The Well in the Midst of the Desert.
On the morrow, there was the same purity of sky, the
same stillness of the atmosphere. The balloon rose to an
elevation of five hundred feet, but it had scarcely changed
its position to the westward in any perceptible degree.
"We are right in the open desert," said the doctor.
"Look at that vast reach of sand! What a strange spectacle!
What a singular arrangement of nature! Why should there be,
in one place, such extreme luxuriance of vegetation yonder,
and here, this extreme aridity, and that in the same latitude,
and under the same rays of the sun?"
"The why concerns me but little," answered Kennedy,
"the reason interests me less than the fact. The thing is
so; that's the important part of it!"
"Oh, it is well to philosophize a little, Dick; it does
"Let us philosophize, then, if you will; we have time
enough before us; we are hardly moving; the wind is
afraid to blow; it sleeps."
"That will not last forever," put in Joe; "I think I
see some banks of clouds in the east."
"Joe's right!" said the doctor, after he had taken a look.
"Good!" said Kennedy; "now for our clouds, with a
fine rain, and a fresh wind to dash it into our faces!"
"Well, we'll see, Dick, we'll see!"
"But this is Friday, master, and I'm afraid of Fridays!"
"Well, I hope that this very day you'll get over those
"I hope so, master, too. Whew!" he added, mopping his
face, "heat's a good thing, especially in winter,
but in summer it don't do to take too much of it."
"Don't you fear the effect of the sun's heat on our
balloon?" asked Kennedy, addressing the doctor.
"No! the gutta-percha coating resists much higher
temperatures than even this. With my spiral I have
subjected it inside to as much as one hundred and
fifty-eight degrees sometimes, and the covering does
not appear to have suffered."
"A cloud! a real cloud!" shouted Joe at this moment,
for that piercing eyesight of his beat all the glasses.
And, in fact, a thick bank of vapor, now quite distinct,
could be seen slowly emerging above the horizon.
It appeared to be very deep, and, as it were, puffed out.
It was, in reality, a conglomeration of smaller clouds.
The latter invariably retained their original formation,
and from this circumstance the doctor concluded that
there was no current of air in their collected mass.
This compact body of vapor had appeared about eight
o'clock in the morning, and, by eleven, it had already
reached the height of the sun's disk. The latter then
disappeared entirely behind the murky veil, and the lower
belt of cloud, at the same moment, lifted above the line
of the horizon, which was again disclosed in a full blaze
"It's only an isolated cloud," remarked the doctor.
"It won't do to count much upon that."
"Look, Dick, its shape is just the same as when we
saw it this morning!"
"Then, doctor, there's to be neither rain nor wind, at
least for us!"
"I fear so; the cloud keeps at a great height."
"Well, doctor, suppose we were to go in pursuit of
this cloud, since it refuses to burst upon us?"
"I fancy that to do so wouldn't help us much; it
would be a consumption of gas, and, consequently, of
water, to little purpose; but, in our situation, we must
not leave anything untried; therefore, let us ascend!"
And with this, the doctor put on a full head of flame
from the cylinder, and the dilation of the hydrogen,
occasioned by such sudden and intense heat, sent the
balloon rapidly aloft.
About fifteen hundred feet from the ground, it encountered
an opaque mass of cloud, and entered a dense
fog, suspended at that elevation; but it did not meet with
the least breath of wind. This fog seemed even destitute
of humidity, and the articles brought in contact with it
were scarcely dampened in the slightest degree. The
balloon, completely enveloped in the vapor, gained a little
increase of speed, perhaps, and that was all.
The doctor gloomily recognized what trifling success
he had obtained from his manoeuvre, and was relapsing
into deep meditation, when he heard Joe exclaim, in tones
of most intense astonishment:
"Ah! by all that's beautiful!"
"What's the matter, Joe?"
"Doctor! Mr. Kennedy! Here's something curious!"
"What is it, then?"
"We are not alone, up here! There are rogues about!
They've stolen our invention!"
"Has he gone crazy?" asked Kennedy.
Joe stood there, perfectly motionless, the very picture
"Can the hot sun have really affected the poor fellow's
brain?" said the doctor, turning toward him.
"Will you tell me?--"
"Look!" said Joe, pointing to a certain quarter of
"By St. James!" exclaimed Kennedy, in turn, "why,
who would have believed it? Look, look! doctor!"
"I see it!" said the doctor, very quietly.
"Another balloon! and other passengers, like ourselves!"
And, sure enough, there was another balloon about
two hundred paces from them, floating in the air with its
car and its aeronauts. It was following exactly the same
route as the Victoria.
"Well," said the doctor, "nothing remains for us but
to make signals; take the flag, Kennedy, and show them
It seemed that the travellers by the other balloon
had just the same idea, at the same moment, for the same
kind of flag repeated precisely the same salute with a
hand that moved in just the same manner.
"What does that mean?" asked Kennedy.
"They are apes," said Joe, "imitating us."
"It means," said the doctor, laughing, "that it is you,
Dick, yourself, making that signal to yourself; or, in other
words, that we see ourselves in the second balloon, which
is no other than the Victoria."
"As to that, master, with all respect to you," said Joe,
"you'll never make me believe it."
"Climb up on the edge of the car, Joe; wave your
arms, and then you'll see."
Joe obeyed, and all his gestures were instantaneously
and exactly repeated.
"It is merely the effect of the MIRAGE," said the doctor,
"and nothing else--a simple optical phenomenon due to
the unequal refraction of light by different layers of the
atmosphere, and that is all.
"It's wonderful," said Joe, who could not make up
his mind to surrender, but went on repeating his
"What a curious sight! Do you know," said Kennedy,
"that it's a real pleasure to have a view of our
noble balloon in that style? She's a beauty, isn't she?--
and how stately her movements as she sweeps along!"
"You may explain the matter as you like," continued
Joe, "it's a strange thing, anyhow!"
But ere long this picture began to fade away; the
clouds rose higher, leaving the balloon, which made no
further attempt to follow them, and in about an hour
they disappeared in the open sky.
The wind, which had been scarcely perceptible, seemed
still to diminish, and the doctor in perfect desperation
descended toward the ground, and all three of the travellers,
whom the incident just recorded had, for a few moments,
diverted from their anxieties, relapsed into gloomy
meditation, sweltering the while beneath the scorching
About four o'clock, Joe descried some object standing
out against the vast background of sand, and soon was
able to declare positively that there were two palm-trees
at no great distance.
"Palm-trees!" exclaimed Ferguson; "why, then
there's a spring--a well!"
He took up his glass and satisfied himself that Joe's
eyes had not been mistaken.
"At length!" he said, over and over again, "water!
water! and we are saved; for if we do move slowly, still
we move, and we shall arrive at last!"
"Good, master! but suppose we were to drink a mouthful
in the mean time, for this air is stifling?"
"Let us drink then, my boy!"
No one waited to be coaxed. A whole pint was swallowed
then and there, reducing the total remaining supply
to three pints and a half.
"Ah! that does one good!" said Joe; "wasn't it
fine? Barclay and Perkins never turned out ale equal to
"See the advantage of being put on short allowance!"
moralized the doctor.
"It is not great, after all," retorted Kennedy; "and if
I were never again to have the pleasure of drinking water,
I should agree on condition that I should never be deprived
At six o'clock the balloon was floating over the palm-trees.
They were two shrivelled, stunted, dried-up specimens
of trees--two ghosts of palms--without foliage, and more
dead than alive. Ferguson examined them with terror.
At their feet could be seen the half-worn stones of a
spring, but these stones, pulverized by the baking heat
of the sun, seemed to be nothing now but impalpable dust.
There was not the slightest sign of moisture. The doctor's
heart shrank within him, and he was about to communicate
his thoughts to his companions, when their exclamations
attracted his attention. As far as the eye could
reach to the eastward, extended a long line of whitened
bones; pieces of skeletons surrounded the fountain; a caravan
had evidently made its way to that point, marking its
progress by its bleaching remains; the weaker had fallen
one by one upon the sand; the stronger, having at length
reached this spring for which they panted, had there found
a horrible death.
Our travellers looked at each other and turned pale.
"Let us not alight!" said Kennedy, "let us fly from
this hideous spectacle! There's not a drop of water
"No, Dick, as well pass the night here as elsewhere;
let us have a clear conscience in the matter. We'll dig
down to the very bottom of the well. There has been a
spring here, and perhaps there's something left in it!"
The Victoria touched the ground; Joe and Kennedy
put into the car a quantity of sand equal to their weight,
and leaped out. They then hastened to the well, and
penetrated to the interior by a flight of steps that was now
nothing but dust. The spring appeared to have been dry
for years. They dug down into a parched and powdery
sand--the very dryest of all sand, indeed--there was not
one trace of moisture!
The doctor saw them come up to the surface of the
desert, saturated with perspiration, worn out, covered with
fine dust, exhausted, discouraged and despairing.
He then comprehended that their search had been
fruitless. He had expected as much, and he kept silent,
for he felt that, from this moment forth, he must have
courage and energy enough for three.
Joe brought up with him some pieces of a leathern
bottle that had grown hard and horn-like with age, and
angrily flung them away among the bleaching bones of
At supper, not a word was spoken by our travellers,
and they even ate without appetite. Yet they had not,
up to this moment, endured the real agonies of thirst, and
were in no desponding mood, excepting for the future.
One Hundred and Thirteen Degrees.--The Doctor's Reflections.--A Desperate
Search.--The Cylinder goes out.--One Hundred and Twenty-two Degrees.--
Contemplation of the Desert.--A Night Walk.--Solitude.--Debility.--Joe's
Prospects.--He gives himself One Day more.
The distance made by the balloon during the preceding
day did not exceed ten miles, and, to keep it afloat,
one hundred and sixty-two cubic feet of gas had been
On Saturday morning the doctor again gave the signal
"The cylinder can work only six hours longer; and,
if in that time we shall not have found either a well or a
spring of water, God alone knows what will become of us!"
"Not much wind this morning, master," said Joe; "but
it will come up, perhaps," he added, suddenly remarking
the doctor's ill-concealed depression.
Vain hope! The atmosphere was in a dead calm--one
of those calms which hold vessels captive in tropical seas.
The heat had become intolerable; and the thermometer,
in the shade under the awning, indicated one hundred
and thirteen degrees.
Joe and Kennedy, reclining at full length near each
other, tried, if not in slumber, at least in torpor, to forget
their situation, for their forced inactivity gave them
periods of leisure far from pleasant. That man is to be
pitied the most who cannot wean himself from gloomy
reflections by actual work, or some practical pursuit. But
here there was nothing to look after, nothing to undertake,
and they had to submit to the situation, without
having it in their power to ameliorate it.
The pangs of thirst began to be severely felt; brandy,
far from appeasing this imperious necessity, augmented
it, and richly merited the name of "tiger's milk" applied
to it by the African natives. Scarcely two pints of water
remained, and that was heated. Each of the party devoured
the few precious drops with his gaze, yet neither
of them dared to moisten his lips with them. Two pints
of water in the midst of the desert!
Then it was that Dr. Ferguson, buried in meditation,
asked himself whether he had acted with prudence.
Would he not have done better to have kept the water
that he had decomposed in pure loss, in order to sustain
him in the air? He had gained a little distance, to be
sure; but was he any nearer to his journey's end? What
difference did sixty miles to the rear make in this region,
when there was no water to be had where they were?
The wind, should it rise, would blow there as it did here,
only less strongly at this point, if it came from the east.
But hope urged him onward. And yet those two gallons
of water, expended in vain, would have sufficed for nine
days' halt in the desert. And what changes might not
have occurred in nine days! Perhaps, too, while retaining
the water, he might have ascended by throwing out
ballast, at the cost merely of discharging some gas, when
he had again to descend. But the gas in his balloon was
his blood, his very life!
A thousand one such reflections whirled in succession
through his brain; and, resting his head between his
hands, he sat there for hours without raising it.
"We must make one final effort," he said, at last,
about ten o'clock in the morning. "We must endeavor,
just once more, to find an atmospheric current to bear us
away from here, and, to that end, must risk our last
Therefore, while his companions slept, the doctor raised
the hydrogen in the balloon to an elevated temperature,
and the huge globe, filling out by the dilation of the gas,
rose straight up in the perpendicular rays of the sun.
The doctor searched vainly for a breath of wind, from the
height of one hundred feet to that of five miles; his
starting-point remained fatally right below him, and absolute
calm seemed to reign, up to the extreme limits of the
At length the feeding-supply of water gave out; the
cylinder was extinguished for lack of gas; the Buntzen
battery ceased to work, and the balloon, shrinking together,
gently descended to the sand, in the very place
that the car had hollowed out there.
It was noon; and solar observations gave nineteen
degrees thirty-five minutes east longitude, and six degrees
fifty-one minutes north latitude, or nearly five hundred
miles from Lake Tchad, and more than four hundred miles
from the western coast of Africa.
On the balloon taking ground, Kennedy and Joe awoke
from their stupor.
"We have halted," said the Scot.
"We had to do so," replied the doctor, gravely.
His companions understood him. The level of the soil at
that point corresponded with the level of the sea, and,
consequently, the balloon remained in perfect equilibrium,
and absolutely motionless.
The weight of the three travellers was replaced with
an equivalent quantity of sand, and they got out of the
car. Each was absorbed in his own thoughts; and for
many hours neither of them spoke. Joe prepared their
evening meal, which consisted of biscuit and pemmican,
and was hardly tasted by either of the party. A mouthful
of scalding water from their little store completed this
During the night none of them kept awake; yet none
could be precisely said to have slept. On the morrow
there remained only half a pint of water, and this the
doctor put away, all three having resolved not to touch it
until the last extremity.
It was not long, however, before Joe exclaimed:
"I'm choking, and the heat is getting worse! I'm
not surprised at that, though," he added, consulting the
thermometer; "one hundred and forty degrees!"
"The sand scorches me," said the hunter, "as though
it had just come out of a furnace; and not a cloud in this
sky of fire. It's enough to drive one mad!"
"Let us not despair," responded the doctor. "In this
latitude these intense heats are invariably followed by
storms, and the latter come with the suddenness of lightning.
Notwithstanding this disheartening clearness of
the sky, great atmospheric changes may take place in less
than an hour."
"But," asked Kennedy, "is there any sign whatever
"Well," replied the doctor, "I think that there is
some slight symptom of a fall in the barometer."
"May Heaven hearken to you, Samuel! for here we are
pinned to the ground, like a bird with broken wings."
"With this difference, however, my dear Dick, that
our wings are unhurt, and I hope that we shall be able to
use them again."
"Ah! wind! wind!" exclaimed Joe; "enough to
carry us to a stream or a well, and we'll be all right.
We have provisions enough, and, with water, we could
wait a month without suffering; but thirst is a cruel
It was not thirst alone, but the unchanging sight of the
desert, that fatigued the mind. There was not a variation
in the surface of the soil, not a hillock of sand, not a
pebble, to relieve the gaze. This unbroken level discouraged
the beholder, and gave him that kind of malady
called the "desert-sickness." The impassible monotony
of the arid blue sky, and the vast yellow expanse of the
desert-sand, at length produced a sensation of terror. In
this inflamed atmosphere the heat appeared to vibrate
as it does above a blazing hearth, while the mind grew
desperate in contemplating the limitless calm, and could
see no reason why the thing should ever end, since immensity
is a species of eternity.
Thus, at last, our hapless travellers, deprived of water
in this torrid heat, began to feel symptoms of mental disorder.
Their eyes swelled in their sockets, and their gaze
When night came on, the doctor determined to combat
this alarming tendency by rapid walking. His idea
was to pace the sandy plain for a few hours, not in search
of any thing, but simply for exercise.
"Come along!" he said to his companions; "believe
me, it will do you good."
"Out of the question!" said Kennedy; "I could not
walk a step."
"And I," said Joe, "would rather sleep!"
"But sleep, or even rest, would be dangerous to you,
my friends; you must react against this tendency to
stupor. Come with me!"
But the doctor could do nothing with them, and, therefore,
set off alone, amid the starry clearness of the night.
The first few steps he took were painful, for they were
the steps of an enfeebled man quite out of practice in
walking. However, he quickly saw that the exercise
would be beneficial to him, and pushed on several miles
to the westward. Once in rapid motion, he felt his spirits
greatly cheered, when, suddenly, a vertigo came over him;
he seemed to be poised on the edge of an abyss; his knees
bent under him; the vast solitude struck terror to his
heart; he found himself the minute mathematical point,
the centre of an infinite circumference, that is to say--a
nothing! The balloon had disappeared entirely in the
deepening gloom. The doctor, cool, impassible, reckless
explorer that he was, felt himself at last seized with a
nameless dread. He strove to retrace his steps, but in
vain. He called aloud. Not even an echo replied, and
his voice died out in the empty vastness of surrounding
space, like a pebble cast into a bottomless gulf; then,
down he sank, fainting, on the sand, alone, amid the eternal
silence of the desert.
At midnight he came to, in the arms of his faithful
follower, Joe. The latter, uneasy at his master's prolonged
absence, had set out after him, easily tracing him
by the clear imprint of his feet in the sand, and had found
him lying in a swoon.
"What has been the matter, sir?" was the first inquiry.
"Nothing, Joe, nothing! Only a touch of weakness,
that's all. It's over now."
"Oh! it won't amount to any thing, sir, I'm sure of
that; but get up on your feet, if you can. There! lean
upon me, and let us get back to the balloon."
And the doctor, leaning on Joe's arm, returned along
the track by which he had come.
"You were too bold, sir; it won't do to run such
risks. You might have been robbed," he added, laughing.
"But, sir, come now, let us talk seriously."
"Speak! I am listening to you."
"We must positively make up our minds to do something.
Our present situation cannot last more than a few
days longer, and if we get no wind, we are lost."
The doctor made no reply.
"Well, then, one of us must sacrifice himself for the
good of all, and it is most natural that it should fall to me
to do so."
"What have you to propose? What is your plan?"
"A very simple one! It is to take provisions enough,
and to walk right on until I come to some place, as I must
do, sooner or later. In the mean time, if Heaven sends
you a good wind, you need not wait, but can start again.
For my part, if I come to a village, I'll work my way
through with a few Arabic words that you can write for
me on a slip of paper, and I'll bring you help or lose my
hide. What do you think of my plan?"
"It is absolute folly, Joe, but worthy of your noble
heart. The thing is impossible. You will not leave us."
"But, sir, we must do something, and this plan can't
do you any harm, for, I say again, you need not wait;
and then, after all, I may succeed."
"No, Joe, no! We will not separate. That would
only be adding sorrow to trouble. It was written that
matters should be as they are; and it is very probably
written that it shall be quite otherwise by-and-by. Let
us wait, then, with resignation."
"So be it, master; but take notice of one thing: I
give you a day longer, and I'll not wait after that. To-day
is Sunday; we might say Monday, as it is one o'clock
in the morning, and if we don't get off by Tuesday, I'll
run the risk. I've made up my mind to that!"
The doctor made no answer, and in a few minutes they
got back to the car, where he took his place beside Kennedy,
who lay there plunged in silence so complete that
it could not be considered sleep.
Terrific Heat.--Hallucinations.--The Last Drops of Water.--Nights
of Despair.--An Attempt at Suicide.--The Simoom.--The Oasis.--The
Lion and Lioness.
The doctor's first care, on the morrow, was to consult
the barometer. He found that the mercury had scarcely
undergone any perceptible depression.
"Nothing!" he murmured, "nothing!"
He got out of the car and scrutinized the weather;
there was only the same heat, the same cloudless sky, the
same merciless drought.
"Must we, then, give up to despair?" he exclaimed,
Joe did not open his lips. He was buried in his own
thoughts, and planning the expedition he had proposed.
Kennedy got up, feeling very ill, and a prey to nervous
agitation. He was suffering horribly with thirst, and his
swollen tongue and lips could hardly articulate a syllable.
There still remained a few drops of water. Each of
them knew this, and each was thinking of it, and felt
himself drawn toward them; but neither of the three dared
to take a step.
Those three men, friends and companions as they were,
fixed their haggard eyes upon each other with an instinct
of ferocious longing, which was most plainly revealed in
the hardy Scot, whose vigorous constitution yielded the
soonest to these unnatural privations.
Throughout the day he was delirious, pacing up and
down, uttering hoarse cries, gnawing his clinched fists,
and ready to open his veins and drink his own hot blood.
"Ah!" he cried, "land of thirst! Well might you be
called the land of despair!"
At length he sank down in utter prostration, and his
friends heard no other sound from him than the hissing of
his breath between his parched and swollen lips.
Toward evening, Joe had his turn of delirium. The
vast expanse of sand appeared to him an immense pond,
full of clear and limpid water; and, more than once, he
dashed himself upon the scorching waste to drink long
draughts, and rose again with his mouth clogged with hot
"Curses on it!" he yelled, in his madness, "it's nothing
but salt water!"
Then, while Ferguson and Kennedy lay there motionless,
the resistless longing came over him to drain the last
few drops of water that had been kept in reserve. The
natural instinct proved too strong. He dragged himself
toward the car, on his knees; he glared at the bottle
containing the precious fluid; he gave one wild, eager
glance, seized the treasured store, and bore it to his lips.
At that instant he heard a heart-rending cry close
beside him--"Water! water!"
It was Kennedy, who had crawled up close to him, and
was begging there, upon his knees, and weeping piteously.
Joe, himself in tears, gave the poor wretch the bottle,
and Kennedy drained the last drop with savage haste.
"Thanks!" he murmured hoarsely, but Joe did not
hear him, for both alike had dropped fainting on the sand.
What took place during that fearful night neither of
them knew, but, on Tuesday morning, under those showers
of heat which the sun poured down upon them, the
unfortunate men felt their limbs gradually drying up, and
when Joe attempted to rise he found it impossible.
He looked around him. In the car, the doctor, completely
overwhelmed, sat with his arms folded on his
breast, gazing with idiotic fixedness upon some imaginary
point in space. Kennedy was frightful to behold. He
was rolling his head from right to left like a wild beast in
All at once, his eyes rested on the butt of his rifle,
which jutted above the rim of the car.
"Ah!" he screamed, raising himself with a superhuman effort.
Desperate, mad, he snatched at the weapon, and turned
the barrel toward his mouth.
"Kennedy!" shouted Joe, throwing himself upon his friend.
"Let go! hands off!" moaned the Scot, in a hoarse,
grating voice--and then the two struggled desperately for
"Let go, or I'll kill you!" repeated Kennedy. But
Joe clung to him only the more fiercely, and they had
been contending thus without the doctor seeing them for
many seconds, when, suddenly the rifle went off. At the
sound of its discharge, the doctor rose up erect, like a
spectre, and glared around him.
But all at once his glance grew more animated; he extended
his hand toward the horizon, and in a voice no
longer human shrieked:
"There! there--off there!"
There was such fearful force in the cry that Kennedy
and Joe released each other, and both looked where the
The plain was agitated like the sea shaken by the fury
of a tempest; billows of sand went tossing over each other
amid blinding clouds of dust; an immense pillar was seen
whirling toward them through the air from the southeast,
with terrific velocity; the sun was disappearing behind an
opaque veil of cloud whose enormous barrier extended
clear to the horizon, while the grains of fine sand went
gliding together with all the supple ease of liquid particles,
and the rising dust-tide gained more and more with
Ferguson's eyes gleamed with a ray of energetic hope.
"The simoom!" he exclaimed.
"The simoom!" repeated Joe, without exactly knowing what it meant.
"So much the better!" said Kennedy, with the bitterness of
despair. "So much the better--we shall die!"
"So much the better!" echoed the doctor, "for we
shall live!" and, so saying, he began rapidly to throw out
the sand that encumbered the car.
At length his companions understood him, and took
their places at his side.
"And now, Joe," said the doctor, "throw out some
fifty pounds of your ore, there!"
Joe no longer hesitated, although he still felt a fleeting
pang of regret. The balloon at once began to ascend.
"It was high time!" said the doctor.
The simoom, in fact, came rushing on like a thunderbolt,
and a moment later the balloon would have been
crushed, torn to atoms, annihilated. The awful whirlwind
was almost upon it, and it was already pelted with showers
of sand driven like hail by the storm.
"Out with more ballast!" shouted the doctor.
"There!" responded Joe, tossing over a huge fragment
With this, the Victoria rose swiftly above the range
of the whirling column, but, caught in the vast displacement
of the atmosphere thereby occasioned, it was borne
along with incalculable rapidity away above this foaming
The three travellers did not speak. They gazed, and
hoped, and even felt refreshed by the breath of the tempest.
About three o'clock, the whirlwind ceased; the sand,
falling again upon the desert, formed numberless little
hillocks, and the sky resumed its former tranquillity.
The balloon, which had again lost its momentum, was
floating in sight of an oasis, a sort of islet studded with
green trees, thrown up upon the surface of this sandy
"Water! we'll find water there!" said the doctor.
And, instantly, opening the upper valve, he let some
hydrogen escape, and slowly descended, taking the ground
at about two hundred feet from the edge of the oasis.
In four hours the travellers had swept over a distance
of two hundred and forty miles!
The car was at once ballasted, and Kennedy, closely
followed by Joe, leaped out.
"Take your guns with you!" said the doctor; "take
your guns, and be careful!"
Dick grasped his rifle, and Joe took one of the fowling-pieces.
They then rapidly made for the trees, and disappeared under
the fresh verdure, which announced the presence of abundant
springs. As they hurried on, they had not taken notice of
certain large footprints and fresh tracks of some living
creature marked here and there in the damp soil.
Suddenly, a dull roar was heard not twenty paces from them.
"The roar of a lion!" said Joe.
"Good for that!" said the excited hunter; "we'll
fight him. A man feels strong when only a fight's in
"But be careful, Mr. Kennedy; be careful! The lives
of all depend upon the life of one."
But Kennedy no longer heard him; he was pushing
on, his eye blazing; his rifle cocked; fearful to behold in
his daring rashness. There, under a palm-tree, stood an
enormous black-maned lion, crouching for a spring on his
antagonist. Scarcely had he caught a glimpse of the
hunter, when he bounded through the air; but he had not
touched the ground ere a bullet pierced his heart, and he
fell to the earth dead.
"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted Joe, with wild exultation.
Kennedy rushed toward the well, slid down the dampened
steps, and flung himself at full length by the side of
a fresh spring, in which he plunged his parched lips. Joe
followed suit, and for some minutes nothing was heard but
the sound they made with their mouths, drinking more
like maddened beasts than men.
"Take care, Mr. Kennedy," said Joe at last; "let us
not overdo the thing!" and he panted for breath.
But Kennedy, without a word, drank on. He even
plunged his hands, and then his head, into the delicious
tide--he fairly revelled in its coolness.
"But the doctor?" said Joe; "our friend, Dr. Ferguson?"
That one word recalled Kennedy to himself, and, hastily
filling a flask that he had brought with him, he started on
a run up the steps of the well.
But what was his amazement when he saw an opaque
body of enormous dimensions blocking up the passage!
Joe, who was close upon Kennedy's heels, recoiled with
"We are blocked in--entrapped!"
"Impossible! What does that mean?--"
Dick had no time to finish; a terrific roar made him
only too quickly aware what foe confronted him.
"Another lion!" exclaimed Joe.
"A lioness, rather," said Kennedy. "Ah! ferocious
brute!" he added, "I'll settle you in a moment more!"
and swiftly reloaded his rifle.
In another instant he fired, but the animal had disappeared.
"Onward!" shouted Kennedy.
"No!" interposed the other, "that shot did not kill
her; her body would have rolled down the steps; she's
up there, ready to spring upon the first of us who appears,
and he would be a lost man!"
"But what are we to do? We must get out of this,
and the doctor is expecting us."
"Let us decoy the animal. Take my piece, and give
me your rifle."
"What is your plan?"
And Joe, taking off his linen jacket, hung it on the end
of the rifle, and thrust it above the top of the steps. The
lioness flung herself furiously upon it. Kennedy was on
the alert for her, and his bullet broke her shoulder. The
lioness, with a frightful howl of agony, rolled down the
steps, overturning Joe in her fall. The poor fellow imagined
that he could already feel the enormous paws of the
savage beast in his flesh, when a second detonation
resounded in the narrow passage, and Dr. Ferguson appeared
at the opening above with his gun in hand, and still smoking
from the discharge.
Joe leaped to his feet, clambered over the body of the
dead lioness, and handed up the flask full of sparkling
water to his master.
To carry it to his lips, and to half empty it at a draught,
was the work of an instant, and the three travellers offered
up thanks from the depths of their hearts to that Providence
who had so miraculously saved them.
An Evening of Delight.--Joe's Culinary Performance.--A Dissertation on Raw
Meat.--The Narrative of James Bruce.--Camping out.--Joe's Dreams.--The
Barometer begins to fall.--The Barometer rises again.--Preparations for
The evening was lovely, and our three friends enjoyed
it in the cool shade of the mimosas, after a substantial
repast, at which the tea and the punch were dealt out with
no niggardly hand.
Kennedy had traversed the little domain in all directions.
He had ransacked every thicket and satisfied himself
that the balloon party were the only living creatures
in this terrestrial paradise; so they stretched themselves
upon their blankets and passed a peaceful night that
brought them forgetfulness of their past sufferings.
On the morrow, May 7th, the sun shone with all his
splendor, but his rays could not penetrate the dense screen
of the palm-tree foliage, and as there was no lack of provisions,
the doctor resolved to remain where he was while
waiting for a favorable wind.
Joe had conveyed his portable kitchen to the oasis, and proceeded
to indulge in any number of culinary combinations, using water
all the time with the most profuse extravagance.
"What a strange succession of annoyances and enjoyments!"
moralized Kennedy. "Such abundance as this after such
privations; such luxury after such want! Ah! I nearly went mad!"
"My dear Dick," replied the doctor, "had it not been
for Joe, you would not be sitting here, to-day, discoursing
on the instability of human affairs."
"Whole-hearted friend!" said Kennedy, extending
his hand to Joe.
"There's no occasion for all that," responded the latter;
"but you can take your revenge some time, Mr. Kennedy,
always hoping though that you may never have occasion
to do the same for me!"
"It's a poor constitution this of ours to succumb to so
little," philosophized Dr. Ferguson.
"So little water, you mean, doctor," interposed Joe;
"that element must be very necessary to life."
"Undoubtedly, and persons deprived of food hold out
longer than those deprived of water."
"I believe it. Besides, when needs must, one can eat
any thing he comes across, even his fellow-creatures,
although that must be a kind of food that's pretty hard
"The savages don't boggle much about it!" said
"Yes; but then they are savages, and accustomed to
devouring raw meat; it's something that I'd find very
disgusting, for my part."
"It is disgusting enough," said the doctor, "that's a
fact; and so much so, indeed, that nobody believed the
narratives of the earliest travellers in Africa who brought
back word that many tribes on that continent subsisted
upon raw meat, and people generally refused to credit the
statement. It was under such circumstances that a very
singular adventure befell James Bruce."
"Tell it to us, doctor; we've time enough to hear it,"
said Joe, stretching himself voluptuously on the cool
"By all means.--James Bruce was a Scotchman, of
Stirlingshire, who, between 1768 and 1772, traversed all
Abyssinia, as far as Lake Tyana, in search of the sources
of the Nile. He afterward returned to England, but did
not publish an account of his journeys until 1790. His
statements were received with extreme incredulity, and
such may be the reception accorded to our own. The
manners and customs of the Abyssinians seemed so different
from those of the English, that no one would credit the
description of them. Among other details, Bruce had put
forward the assertion that the tribes of Eastern Africa fed
upon raw flesh, and this set everybody against him. He
might say so as much as he pleased; there was no one
likely to go and see! One day, in a parlor at Edinburgh,
a Scotch gentleman took up the subject in his presence, as
it had become the topic of daily pleasantry, and, in reference
to the eating of raw flesh, said that the thing was
neither possible nor true. Bruce made no reply, but went
out and returned a few minutes later with a raw steak,
seasoned with pepper and salt, in the African style.
"'Sir,' said he to the Scotchman, 'in doubting my
statements, you have grossly affronted me; in believing
the thing to be impossible, you have been egregiously
mistaken; and, in proof thereof, you will now eat this
beef-steak raw, or you will give me instant satisfaction!'
The Scotchman had a wholesome dread of the brawny
traveller, and DID eat the steak, although not without a
good many wry faces. Thereupon, with the utmost coolness,
James Bruce added: 'Even admitting, sir, that the
thing were untrue, you will, at least, no longer maintain
that it is impossible.'"
"Well put in!" said Joe, "and if the Scotchman
found it lie heavy on his stomach, he got no more than he
deserved. If, on our return to England, they dare to
doubt what we say about our travels--"
"Well, Joe, what would you do?"
"Why, I'll make the doubters swallow the pieces of
the balloon, without either salt or pepper!"
All burst out laughing at Joe's queer notions, and thus
the day slipped by in pleasant chat. With returning
strength, hope had revived, and with hope came the courage
to do and to dare. The past was obliterated in the
presence of the future with providential rapidity.
Joe would have been willing to remain forever in this
enchanting asylum; it was the realm he had pictured in
his dreams; he felt himself at home; his master had to
give him his exact location, and it was with the gravest
air imaginable that he wrote down on his tablets fifteen
degrees forty-three minutes east longitude, and eight degrees
thirty-two minutes north latitude.
Kennedy had but one regret, to wit, that he could not
hunt in that miniature forest, because, according to his
ideas, there was a slight deficiency of ferocious wild beasts
"But, my dear Dick," said the doctor, "haven't you
rather a short memory? How about the lion and the
"Oh, that!" he ejaculated with the contempt of a
thorough-bred sportsman for game already killed. "But
the fact is, that finding them here would lead one to
suppose that we can't be far from a more fertile country."
"It don't prove much, Dick, for those animals, when
goaded by hunger or thirst, will travel long distances, and
I think that, to-night, we had better keep a more vigilant
lookout, and light fires, besides."
"What, in such heat as this?" said Joe. "Well, if it's
necessary, we'll have to do it, but I do think it a real pity
to burn this pretty grove that has been such a comfort to us!"
"Oh! above all things, we must take the utmost care
not to set it on fire," replied the doctor, "so that others
in the same strait as ourselves may some day find shelter
here in the middle of the desert."
"I'll be very careful, indeed, doctor; but do you think
that this oasis is known?"
"Undoubtedly; it is a halting-place for the caravans
that frequent the centre of Africa, and a visit from one
of them might be any thing but pleasant to you, Joe."
"Why, are there any more of those rascally Nyam-Nyams
"Certainly; that is the general name of all the neighboring
tribes, and, under the same climates, the same
races are likely to have similar manners and customs."
"Pah!" said Joe, "but, after all, it's natural enough.
If savages had the ways of gentlemen, where would be the
difference? By George, these fine fellows wouldn't have
to be coaxed long to eat the Scotchman's raw steak, nor
the Scotchman either, into the bargain!"
With this very sensible observation, Joe began to get
ready his firewood for the night, making just as little of
it as possible. Fortunately, these precautions were superfluous;
and each of the party, in his turn, dropped off into
the soundest slumber.
On the next day the weather still showed no sign of
change, but kept provokingly and obstinately fair. The
balloon remained motionless, without any oscillation to
betray a breath of wind.
The doctor began to get uneasy again. If their stay in the
desert were to be prolonged like this, their provisions
would give out. After nearly perishing for want of
water, they would, at last, have to starve to death!
But he took fresh courage as he saw the mercury fall
considerably in the barometer, and noticed evident signs
of an early change in the atmosphere. He therefore resolved
to make all his preparations for a start, so as to
avail himself of the first opportunity. The feeding-tank
and the water-tank were both completely filled.
Then he had to reestablish the equilibrium of the balloon,
and Joe was obliged to part with another considerable
portion of his precious quartz. With restored health,
his ambitious notions had come back to him, and he made
more than one wry face before obeying his master; but
the latter convinced him that he could not carry so considerable
a weight with him through the air, and gave
him his choice between the water and the gold. Joe
hesitated no longer, but flung out the requisite quantity
of his much-prized ore upon the sand.
"The next people who come this way," he remarked,
"will be rather surprised to find a fortune in such a
"And suppose some learned traveller should come
across these specimens, eh?" suggested Kennedy.
"You may be certain, Dick, that they would take him
by surprise, and that he would publish his astonishment
in several folios; so that some day we shall hear of a
wonderful deposit of gold-bearing quartz in the midst of the
"And Joe there, will be the cause of it all!"
This idea of mystifying some learned sage tickled Joe
hugely, and made him laugh.
During the rest of the day the doctor vainly kept on
the watch for a change of weather. The temperature rose,
and, had it not been for the shade of the oasis, would have
been insupportable. The thermometer marked a hundred
and forty-nine degrees in the sun, and a veritable rain of
fire filled the air. This was the most intense heat that
they had yet noted.
Joe arranged their bivouac for that evening, as he had
done for the previous night; and during the watches kept
by the doctor and Kennedy there was no fresh incident.
But, toward three o'clock in the morning, while Joe
was on guard, the temperature suddenly fell; the sky
became overcast with clouds, and the darkness increased.
"Turn out!" cried Joe, arousing his companions.
"Turn out! Here's the wind!"
"At last!" exclaimed the doctor, eying the heavens.
"But it is a storm! The balloon! Let us hasten to the
It was high time for them to reach it. The Victoria
was bending to the force of the hurricane, and dragging
along the car, the latter grazing the sand. Had any portion
of the ballast been accidentally thrown out, the
balloon would have been swept away, and all hope of
recovering it have been forever lost.
But fleet-footed Joe put forth his utmost speed, and
checked the car, while the balloon beat upon the sand, at
the risk of being torn to pieces. The doctor, followed by
Kennedy, leaped in, and lit his cylinder, while his companions
threw out the superfluous ballast.
The travellers took one last look at the trees of the
oasis bowing to the force of the hurricane, and soon,
catching the wind at two hundred feet above the ground,
disappeared in the gloom.
Signs of Vegetation.--The Fantastic Notion of a French Author.--A
Magnificent Country.--The Kingdom of Adamova.--The Explorations of
Speke and Burton connected with those of Dr. Barth.--The Atlantika
Mountains.--The River Benoue.--The City of Yola.--The Bagele.--Mount
From the moment of their departure, the travellers
moved with great velocity. They longed to leave behind
them the desert, which had so nearly been fatal to them.
About a quarter-past nine in the morning, they caught
a glimpse of some signs of vegetation: herbage floating
on that sea of sand, and announcing, as the weeds upon
the ocean did to Christopher Columbus, the nearness of
the shore--green shoots peeping up timidly between pebbles
that were, in their turn, to be the rocks of that vast
Hills, but of trifling height, were seen in wavy lines
upon the horizon. Their profile, muffled by the heavy
mist, was defined but vaguely. The monotony, however,
was beginning to disappear.
The doctor hailed with joy the new country thus disclosed,
and, like a seaman on lookout at the mast-head, he
was ready to shout aloud:
"Land, ho! land!"
An hour later the continent spread broadly before their
gaze, still wild in aspect, but less flat, less denuded, and
with a few trees standing out against the gray sky.
"We are in a civilized country at last!" said the hunter.
"Civilized? Well, that's one way of speaking; but
there are no people to be seen yet."
"It will not be long before we see them," said Ferguson,
"at our present rate of travel."
"Are we still in the negro country, doctor?"
"Yes, and on our way to the country of the Arabs."
"What! real Arabs, sir, with their camels?"
"No, not many camels; they are scarce, if not altogether
unknown, in these regions. We must go a few degrees farther
north to see them."
"What a pity!"
"And why, Joe?"
"Because, if the wind fell contrary, they might be of
use to us."
"Well, sir, it's just a notion that's got into my head:
we might hitch them to the car, and make them tow us
along. What do you say to that, doctor?"
"Poor Joe! Another person had that idea in advance
of you. It was used by a very gifted French author--
M. Mery--in a romance, it is true. He has his travellers
drawn along in a balloon by a team of camels; then a lion
comes up, devours the camels, swallows the tow-rope, and
hauls the balloon in their stead; and so on through the
story. You see that the whole thing is the top-flower of
fancy, but has nothing in common with our style of locomotion."
Joe, a little cut down at learning that his idea had
been used already, cudgelled his wits to imagine what
animal could have devoured the lion; but he could not
guess it, and so quietly went on scanning the appearance
of the country.
A lake of medium extent stretched away before him,
surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills, which yet could
not be dignified with the name of mountains. There were
winding valleys, numerous and fertile, with their tangled
thickets of the most various trees. The African oil-tree
rose above the mass, with leaves fifteen feet in length upon
its stalk, the latter studded with sharp thorns; the bombax,
or silk-cotton-tree, filled the wind, as it swept by,
with the fine down of its seeds; the pungent odors of the
pendanus, the "kenda" of the Arabs, perfumed the air
up to the height where the Victoria was sailing; the
papaw-tree, with its palm-shaped leaves; the sterculier,
which produces the Soudan-nut; the baobab, and the
banana-tree, completed the luxuriant flora of these
"The country is superb!" said the doctor.
"Here are some animals," added Joe. "Men are not
"Oh, what magnificent elephants!" exclaimed Kennedy.
"Is there no way to get a little shooting?"
"How could we manage to halt in a current as strong
as this? No, Dick; you must taste a little of the torture
of Tantalus just now. You shall make up for it afterward."
And, in truth, there was enough to excite the fancy of
a sportsman. Dick's heart fairly leaped in his breast as
he grasped the butt of his Purdy.
The fauna of the region were as striking as its flora.
The wild-ox revelled in dense herbage that often concealed
his whole body; gray, black, and yellow elephants of the
most gigantic size burst headlong, like a living hurricane,
through the forests, breaking, rending, tearing down,
devastating every thing in their path; upon the woody
slopes of the hills trickled cascades and springs flowing
northward; there, too, the hippopotami bathed their huge
forms, splashing and snorting as they frolicked in the
water, and lamantines, twelve feet long, with bodies like
seals, stretched themselves along the banks, turning up
toward the sun their rounded teats swollen with milk.
It was a whole menagerie of rare and curious beasts in
a wondrous hot-house, where numberless birds with plumage
of a thousand hues gleamed and fluttered in the sunshine.
By this prodigality of Nature, the doctor recognized
the splendid kingdom of Adamova.
"We are now beginning to trench upon the realm of
modern discovery. I have taken up the lost scent of preceding
travellers. It is a happy chance, my friends, for
we shall be enabled to link the toils of Captains Burton and
Speke with the explorations of Dr. Barth. We have left
the Englishmen behind us, and now have caught up with
the Hamburger. It will not be long, either, before we
arrive at the extreme point attained by that daring explorer."
"It seems to me that there is a vast extent of country
between the two explored routes," remarked Kennedy;
"at least, if I am to judge by the distance that we have
"It is easy to determine: take the map and see what
is the longitude of the southern point of Lake Ukereoue,
reached by Speke."
"It is near the thirty-seventh degree."
"And the city of Yola, which we shall sight this evening,
and to which Barth penetrated, what is its position?"
"It is about in the twelfth degree of east longitude."
"Then there are twenty-five degrees, or, counting sixty
miles to each, about fifteen hundred miles in all."
"A nice little walk," said Joe, "for people who have
to go on foot."
"It will be accomplished, however. Livingstone and
Moffat are pushing on up this line toward the interior.
Nyassa, which they have discovered, is not far from Lake
Tanganayika, seen by Burton. Ere the close of the century
these regions will, undoubtedly, be explored. But," added
the doctor, consulting his compass, "I regret that the
wind is carrying us so far to the westward. I wanted to
get to the north."
After twelve hours of progress, the Victoria found herself
on the confines of Nigritia. The first inhabitants of
this region, the Chouas Arabs, were feeding their wandering
flocks. The immense summits of the Atlantika Mountains
seen above the horizon--mountains that no European
foot had yet scaled, and whose height is computed to be
ten thousand feet! Their western slope determines the
flow of all the waters in this region of Africa toward the
ocean. They are the Mountains of the Moon to this part
of the continent.
At length a real river greeted the gaze of our travellers,
and, by the enormous ant-hills seen in its vicinity, the
doctor recognized the Benoue, one of the great tributaries
of the Niger, the one which the natives have called "The
Fountain of the Waters."
"This river," said the doctor to his companions, "will,
one day, be the natural channel of communication with
the interior of Nigritia. Under the command of one of
our brave captains, the steamer Pleiad has already ascended
as far as the town of Yola. You see that we are
not in an unknown country."
Numerous slaves were engaged in the labors of the
field, cultivating sorgho, a kind of millet which forms the
chief basis of their diet; and the most stupid expressions
of astonishment ensued as the Victoria sped past like a
meteor. That evening the balloon halted about forty miles
from Yola, and ahead of it, but in the distance, rose the
two sharp cones of Mount Mendif.
The doctor threw out his anchors and made fast to the
top of a high tree; but a very violent wind beat upon the
balloon with such force as to throw it over on its side, thus
rendering the position of the car sometimes extremely
dangerous. Ferguson did not close his all night, and
he was repeatedly on the point of cutting the anchor-rope
and scudding away before the gale. At length, however,
the storm abated, and the oscillations of the balloon ceased
to be alarming.
On the morrow the wind was more moderate, but it
carried our travellers away from the city of Yola, which
recently rebuilt by the Fouillans, excited Ferguson's curiosity.
However, he had to make up his mind to being borne farther
to the northward and even a little to the east.
Kennedy proposed to halt in this fine hunting-country,
and Joe declared that the need of fresh meat was beginning
to be felt; but the savage customs of the country,
the attitude of the population, and some shots fired at the
Victoria, admonished the doctor to continue his journey.
They were then crossing a region that was the scene of
massacres and burnings, and where warlike conflicts between
the barbarian sultans, contending for their power
amid the most atrocious carnage, never cease.
Numerous and populous villages of long low huts
stretched away between broad pasture-fields whose dense
herbage was besprinkled with violet-colored blossoms.
The huts, looking like huge beehives, were sheltered behind
bristling palisades. The wild hill-sides and hollows
frequently reminded the beholder of the glens in the Highlands
of Scotland, as Kennedy more than once remarked.
In spite of all he could do, the doctor bore directly to
the northeast, toward Mount Mendif, which was lost in
the midst of environing clouds. The lofty summits of
these mountains separate the valley of the Niger from the
basin of Lake Tchad.
Soon afterward was seen the Bagele, with its eighteen
villages clinging to its flanks like a whole brood of children
to their mother's bosom--a magnificent spectacle for
the beholder whose gaze commanded and took in the entire
picture at one view. Even the ravines were seen to
be covered with fields of rice and of arachides.
By three o'clock the Victoria was directly in front of
Mount Mendif. It had been impossible to avoid it; the
only thing to be done was to cross it. The doctor, by
means of a temperature increased to one hundred and
eighty degrees, gave the balloon a fresh ascensional force
of nearly sixteen hundred pounds, and it went up to an
elevation of more than eight thousand feet, the greatest
height attained during the journey. The temperature of
the atmosphere was so much cooler at that point that the
aeronauts had to resort to their blankets and thick coverings.
Ferguson was in haste to descend; the covering of the
balloon gave indications of bursting, but in the meanwhile
he had time to satisfy himself of the volcanic origin of the
mountain, whose extinct craters are now but deep abysses.
Immense accumulations of bird-guano gave the sides of
Mount Mendif the appearance of calcareous rocks, and there
was enough of the deposit there to manure all the lands in
the United Kingdom.
At five o'clock the Victoria, sheltered from the south
winds, went gently gliding along the slopes of the mountain,
and stopped in a wide clearing remote from any habitation.
The instant it touched the soil, all needful precautions
were taken to hold it there firmly; and Kennedy,
fowling-piece in hand, sallied out upon the sloping plain.
Ere long, he returned with half a dozen wild ducks and a
kind of snipe, which Joe served up in his best style. The
meal was heartily relished, and the night was passed in
undisturbed and refreshing slumber.
Mosfeia.--The Sheik.--Denham, Clapperton, and Oudney.--Vogel.--The Capital
of Loggoum.--Toole.--Becalmed above Kernak.--The Governor and his Court.
--The Attack.--The Incendiary Pigeons.
On the next day, May 11th, the Victoria resumed her
adventurous journey. Her passengers had the same confidence
in her that a good seaman has in his ship.
In terrific hurricanes, in tropical heats, when making
dangerous departures, and descents still more dangerous,
it had, at all times and in all places, come out safely. It
might almost have been said that Ferguson managed it
with a wave of the hand; and hence, without knowing in
advance, where the point of arrival would be, the doctor
had no fears concerning the successful issue of his journey.
However, in this country of barbarians and fanatics, prudence
obliged him to take the strictest precautions. He
therefore counselled his companions to have their eyes
wide open for every thing and at all hours.
The wind drifted a little more to the northward, and,
toward nine o'clock, they sighted the larger city of Mosfeia,
built upon an eminence which was itself enclosed between
two lofty mountains. Its position was impregnable,
a narrow road running between a marsh and a thick wood
being the only channel of approach to it.
At the moment of which we write, a sheik, accompanied
by a mounted escort, and clad in a garb of brilliant
colors, preceded by couriers and trumpeters, who put aside
the boughs of the trees as he rode up, was making his
grand entry into the place.
The doctor lowered the balloon in order to get a better
look at this cavalcade of natives; but, as the balloon
grew larger to their eyes, they began to show symptoms
of intense affright, and at length made off in different
directions as fast as their legs and those of their horses
could carry them.
The sheik alone did not budge an inch. He merely
grasped his long musket, cocked it, and proudly waited in
silence. The doctor came on to within a hundred and
fifty feet of him, and then, with his roundest and fullest
voice, saluted him courteously in the Arabic tongue.
But, upon hearing these words falling, as it seemed,
from the sky, the sheik dismounted and prostrated himself
in the dust of the highway, where the doctor had to
leave him, finding it impossible to divert him from his
"Unquestionably," Ferguson remarked, "those people
take us for supernatural beings. When Europeans came
among them for the first time, they were mistaken for
creatures of a higher race. When this sheik comes to
speak of to-day's meeting, he will not fail to embellish the
circumstance with all the resources of an Arab imagination.
You may, therefore, judge what an account their
legends will give of us some day."
"Not such a desirable thing, after all," said the Scot,
"in the point of view that affects civilization; it would be
better to pass for mere men. That would give these negro
races a superior idea of European power."
"Very good, my dear Dick; but what can we do about
it? You might sit all day explaining the mechanism of
a balloon to the savants of this country, and yet they would
not comprehend you, but would persist in ascribing it to
"Doctor, you spoke of the first time Europeans visited
these regions. Who were the visitors?" inquired Joe.
"My dear fellow, we are now upon the very track of
Major Denham. It was at this very city of Mosfeia that
he was received by the Sultan of Mandara; he had quitted
the Bornou country; he accompanied the sheik in an expedition
against the Fellatahs; he assisted in the attack
on the city, which, with its arrows alone, bravely resisted
the bullets of the Arabs, and put the sheik's troops to
flight. All this was but a pretext for murders, raids, and
pillage. The major was completely plundered and stripped,
and had it not been for his horse, under whose stomach he
clung with the skill of an Indian rider, and was borne with
a headlong gallop from his barbarous pursuers, he never
could have made his way back to Kouka, the capital of
"Who was this Major Denham?"
"A fearless Englishman, who, between 1822 and 1824,
commanded an expedition into the Bornou country, in
company with Captain Clapperton and Dr. Oudney. They
set out from Tripoli in the month of March, reached Mourzouk,
the capital of Fez, and, following the route which at
a later period Dr. Barth was to pursue on his way back to
Europe, they arrived, on the 16th of February, 1823, at
Kouka, near Lake Tchad. Denham made several explorations
in Bornou, in Mandara, and to the eastern shores of
the lake. In the mean time, on the 15th of December,
1823, Captain Clapperton and Dr. Oudney had pushed
their way through the Soudan country as far as Sackatoo,
and Oudney died of fatigue and exhaustion in the town
"This part of Africa has, therefore, paid a heavy tribute
of victims to the cause of science," said Kennedy.
"Yes, this country is fatal to travellers. We are moving
directly toward the kingdom of Baghirmi, which Vogel
traversed in 1856, so as to reach the Wadai country, where
he disappeared. This young man, at the age of twenty-three,
had been sent to cooperate with Dr. Barth. They
met on the 1st of December, 1854, and thereupon commenced
his explorations of the country. Toward 1856, he
announced, in the last letters received from him, his
intention to reconnoitre the kingdom of Wadai, which no
European had yet penetrated. It appears that he got as
far as Wara, the capital, where, according to some accounts,
he was made prisoner, and, according to others,
was put to death for having attempted to ascend a sacred
mountain in the environs. But, we must not too lightly
admit the death of travellers, since that does away with
the necessity of going in search of them. For instance,
how often was the death of Dr. Barth reported, to his
own great annoyance! It is, therefore, very possible that
Vogel may still be held as a prisoner by the Sultan of
Wadai, in the hope of obtaining a good ransom for him.
"Baron de Neimans was about starting for the Wadai
country when he died at Cairo, in 1855; and we now know
that De Heuglin has set out on Vogel's track with the
expedition sent from Leipsic, so that we shall soon be
accurately informed as to the fate of that young and
* Since the doctor's departure, letters written from El'Obeid
by Mr. Muntzinger, the newly-appointed head of the expedition,
unfortunately place the death of Vogel beyond a doubt.
Mosfeia had disappeared from the horizon long ere this,
and the Mandara country was developing to the gaze of
our aeronauts its astonishing fertility, with its forests of
acacias, its locust-trees covered with red flowers, and the
herbaceous plants of its fields of cotton and indigo trees.
The river Shari, which eighty miles farther on rolled its
impetuous waters into Lake Tchad, was quite distinctly
The doctor got his companions to trace its course upon
the maps drawn by Dr. Barth.
"You perceive," said he, "that the labors of this savant
have been conducted with great precision; we are moving
directly toward the Loggoum region, and perhaps toward
Kernak, its capital. It was there that poor Toole died, at
the age of scarcely twenty-two. He was a young Englishman,
an ensign in the 80th regiment, who, a few weeks
before, had joined Major Denham in Africa, and it was
not long ere he there met his death. Ah! this vast
country might well be called the graveyard of European
Some boats, fifty feet long, were descending the current
of the Shari. The Victoria, then one thousand feet
above the soil, hardly attracted the attention of the
natives; but the wind, which until then had been blowing
with a certain degree of strength, was falling off.
"Is it possible that we are to be caught in another dead
calm?" sighed the doctor.
"Well, we've no lack of water, nor the desert to fear,
anyhow, master," said Joe.
"No; but there are races here still more to be dreaded."
"Why!" said Joe, again, "there's something like a town."
"That is Kernak. The last puffs of the breeze are
wafting us to it, and, if we choose, we can take an exact
plan of the place."
"Shall we not go nearer to it?" asked Kennedy.
"Nothing easier, Dick! We are right over it. Allow
me to turn the stopcock of the cylinder, and we'll not be
long in descending."
Half an hour later the balloon hung motionless about
two hundred feet from the ground.
"Here we are!" said the doctor, "nearer to Kernak
than a man would be to London, if he were perched in the
cupola of St. Paul's. So we can take a survey at our
"What is that tick-tacking sound that we hear on all sides?"
Joe looked attentively, and at length discovered that
the noise they heard was produced by a number of weavers
beating cloth stretched in the open air, on large trunks of
The capital of Loggoum could then be seen in its entire
extent, like an unrolled chart. It is really a city with
straight rows of houses and quite wide streets. In the
midst of a large open space there was a slave-market,
attended by a great crowd of customers, for the Mandara
women, who have extremely small hands and feet, are in
excellent request, and can be sold at lucrative rates.
At the sight of the Victoria, the scene so often produced
occurred again. At first there were outcries, and
then followed general stupefaction; business was abandoned;
work was flung aside, and all noise ceased. The
aeronauts remained as they were, completely motionless,
and lost not a detail of the populous city. They even
went down to within sixty feet of the ground.
Hereupon the Governor of Loggoum came out from his residence,
displaying his green standard, and accompanied by his
musicians, who blew on hoarse buffalo-horns, as though
they would split their cheeks or any thing else,
excepting their own lungs. The crowd at once gathered
around him. In the mean while Dr. Ferguson tried to
make himself heard, but in vain.
This population looked like proud and intelligent people,
with their high foreheads, their almost aquiline noses,
and their curling hair; but the presence of the Victoria
troubled them greatly. Horsemen could be seen galloping
in all directions, and it soon became evident that the
governor's troops were assembling to oppose so extraordinary
a foe. Joe wore himself out waving handkerchiefs
of every color and shape to them; but his exertions were
all to no purpose.
However, the sheik, surrounded by his court, proclaimed
silence, and pronounced a discourse, of which the
doctor could not understand a word. It was Arabic, mixed
with Baghirmi. He could make out enough, however, by
the universal language of gestures, to be aware that he
was receiving a very polite invitation to depart. Indeed,
he would have asked for nothing better, but for lack of
wind, the thing had become impossible. His noncompliance,
therefore, exasperated the governor, whose courtiers
and attendants set up a furious howl to enforce immediate
obedience on the part of the aerial monster.
They were odd-looking fellows those courtiers, with
their five or six shirts swathed around their bodies! They
had enormous stomachs, some of which actually seemed
to be artificial. The doctor surprised his companions by
informing them that this was the way to pay court to the
sultan. The rotundity of the stomach indicated the ambition
of its possessor. These corpulent gentry gesticulated
and bawled at the top of their voices--one of them
particularly distinguishing himself above the rest--to
such an extent, indeed, that he must have been a prime
minister--at least, if the disturbance he made was any
criterion of his rank. The common rabble of dusky denizens
united their howlings with the uproar of the court,
repeating their gesticulations like so many monkeys, and
thereby producing a single and instantaneous movement
of ten thousand arms at one time.
To these means of intimidation, which were presently
deemed insufficient, were added others still more formidable.
Soldiers, armed with bows and arrows, were drawn
up in line of battle; but by this time the balloon was
expanding, and rising quietly beyond their reach. Upon
this the governor seized a musket and aimed it at the
balloon; but, Kennedy, who was watching him, shattered
the uplifted weapon in the sheik's grasp.
At this unexpected blow there was a general rout.
Every mother's son of them scampered for his dwelling
with the utmost celerity, and stayed there, so that the
streets of the town were absolutely deserted for the remainder
of that day.
Night came, and not a breath of wind was stirring.
The aeronauts had to make up their minds to remain
motionless at the distance of but three hundred feet
above the ground. Not a fire or light shone in the deep
gloom, and around reigned the silence of death; but the
doctor only redoubled his vigilance, as this apparent quiet
might conceal some snare.
And he had reason to be watchful. About midnight,
the whole city seemed to be in a blaze. Hundreds of
streaks of flame crossed each other, and shot to and fro
in the air like rockets, forming a regular network of fire.
"That's really curious!" said the doctor, somewhat
puzzled to make out what it meant.
"By all that's glorious!" shouted Kennedy, "it looks
as if the fire were ascending and coming up toward us!"
And, sure enough, with an accompaniment of musket-shots,
yelling, and din of every description, the mass of
fire was, indeed, mounting toward the Victoria. Joe got
ready to throw out ballast, and Ferguson was not long at
guessing the truth. Thousands of pigeons, their tails garnished
with combustibles, had been set loose and driven
toward the Victoria; and now, in their terror, they were
flying high up, zigzagging the atmosphere with lines of
fire. Kennedy was preparing to discharge all his batteries
into the middle of the ascending multitude, but what
could he have done against such a numberless army?
The pigeons were already whisking around the car; they
were even surrounding the balloon, the sides of which,
reflecting their illumination, looked as though enveloped
with a network of fire.
The doctor dared hesitate no longer; and, throwing
out a fragment of quartz, he kept himself beyond the
reach of these dangerous assailants; and, for two hours
afterward, he could see them wandering hither and thither
through the darkness of the night, until, little by little,
their light diminished, and they, one by one, died out.
"Now we may sleep in quiet," said the doctor.
"Not badly got up for barbarians," mused friend Joe,
speaking his thoughts aloud.
"Oh, they employ these pigeons frequently, to set fire
to the thatch of hostile villages; but this time the village
mounted higher than they could go."
"Why, positively, a balloon need fear no enemies!"
"Yes, indeed, it may!" objected Ferguson.
"What are they, then, doctor?"
"They are the careless people in the car! So, my friends,
let us have vigilance in all places and at all times."
Departure in the Night-time.--All Three.--Kennedy's Instincts.--Precautions.--
The Course of the Shari River.--Lake Tchad.--The Water of the Lake.--The
Hippopotamus.--One Bullet thrown away.
About three o'clock in the morning, Joe, who was then
on watch, at length saw the city move away from beneath
his feet. The Victoria was once again in motion, and
both the doctor and Kennedy awoke.
The former consulted his compass, and saw, with satisfaction,
that the wind was carrying them toward the north-northeast.
"We are in luck!" said he; "every thing works in
our favor: we shall discover Lake Tchad this very day."
"Is it a broad sheet of water?" asked Kennedy.
"Somewhat, Dick. At its greatest length and breadth,
it measures about one hundred and twenty miles."
"It will spice our trip with a little variety to sail
over a spacious sheet of water."
"After all, though, I don't see that we have much to
complain of on that score. Our trip has been very much
varied, indeed; and, moreover, we are getting on under
the best possible conditions."
"Unquestionably so; excepting those privations on
the desert, we have encountered no serious danger."
"It is not to be denied that our noble balloon has
behaved wonderfully well. To-day is May 12th, and we
started on the 18th of April. That makes twenty-five
days of journeying. In ten days more we shall have
reached our destination."
"Where is that?"
"I do not know. But what does that signify?"
"You are right again, Samuel! Let us intrust to Providence
the care of guiding us and of keeping us in good
health as we are now. We don't look much as though
we had been crossing the most pestilential country in the
"We had an opportunity of getting up in life, and that's
what we have done!"
"Hurrah for trips in the air!" cried Joe. "Here we
are at the end of twenty-five days in good condition, well
fed, and well rested. We've had too much rest in fact,
for my legs begin to feel rusty, and I wouldn't be vexed
a bit to stretch them with a run of thirty miles or so!"
"You can do that, Joe, in the streets of London, but
in fine we set out three together, like Denham, Clapperton,
and Overweg; like Barth, Richardson, and Vogel, and,
more fortunate than our predecessors here, we are three
in number still. But it is most important for us not to
separate. If, while one of us was on the ground, the
Victoria should have to ascend in order to escape some
sudden danger, who knows whether we should ever see
each other again? Therefore it is that I say again to
Kennedy frankly that I do not like his going off alone to
"But still, Samuel, you will permit me to indulge that
fancy a little. There is no harm in renewing our stock of
provisions. Besides, before our departure, you held out
to me the prospect of some superb hunting, and thus far I
have done but little in the line of the Andersons and Cummings."
"But, my dear Dick, your memory fails you, or your
modesty makes you forget your own exploits. It really
seems to me that, without mentioning small game, you
have already an antelope, an elephant, and two lions on
"But what's all that to an African sportsman who sees
all the animals in creation strutting along under the
muzzle of his rifle? There! there! look at that troop of
"Those giraffes," roared Joe; "why, they're not as big
as my fist."
"Because we are a thousand feet above them; but close
to them you would discover that they are three times as
tall as you are!"
"And what do you say to yon herd of gazelles, and
those ostriches, that run with the speed of the wind?"
"Those ostriches?" remonstrated Joe, again; "those
are chickens, and the greatest kind of chickens!"
"Come, doctor, can't we get down nearer to them?"
"We can get closer to them, Dick, but we must not
land. And what good will it do you to strike down those
poor animals when they can be of no use to you? Now,
if the question were to destroy a lion, a tiger, a cat, a
hyena, I could understand it; but to deprive an antelope
or a gazelle of life, to no other purpose than the gratification
of your instincts as a sportsman, seems hardly worth
the trouble. But, after all, my friend, we are going to
keep at about one hundred feet only from the soil, and,
should you see any ferocious wild beast, oblige us by sending
a ball through its heart!"
The Victoria descended gradually, but still keeping at a safe
height, for, in a barbarous, yet very populous country, it was
necessary to keep on the watch for unexpected perils.
The travellers were then directly following the course
of the Shari. The charming banks of this river were
hidden beneath the foliage of trees of various dyes; lianas
and climbing plants wound in and out on all sides and
formed the most curious combinations of color. Crocodiles
were seen basking in the broad blaze of the sun or plunging
beneath the waters with the agility of lizards, and in
their gambols they sported about among the many green
islands that intercept the current of the stream.
It was thus, in the midst of rich and verdant landscapes
that our travellers passed over the district of Maffatay,
and about nine o'clock in the morning reached the
southern shore of Lake Tchad.
There it was at last, outstretched before them, that
Caspian Sea of Africa, the existence of which was so long
consigned to the realms of fable--that interior expanse of
water to which only Denham's and Barth's expeditions
had been able to force their way.
The doctor strove in vain to fix its precise configuration
upon paper. It had already changed greatly since
1847. In fact, the chart of Lake Tchad is very difficult to
trace with exactitude, for it is surrounded by muddy and
almost impassable morasses, in which Barth thought that
he was doomed to perish. From year to year these
marshes, covered with reeds and papyrus fifteen feet high,
become the lake itself. Frequently, too, the villages on
its shores are half submerged, as was the case with Ngornou
in 1856, and now the hippopotamus and the alligator
frisk and dive where the dwellings of Bornou once stood.
The sun shot his dazzling rays over this placid sheet
of water, and toward the north the two elements merged
into one and the same horizon.
The doctor was desirous of determining the character
of the water, which was long believed to be salt. There
was no danger in descending close to the lake, and the car
was soon skimming its surface like a bird at the distance
of only five feet.
Joe plunged a bottle into the lake and drew it up half
filled. The water was then tasted and found to be but
little fit for drinking, with a certain carbonate-of-soda
While the doctor was jotting down the result of this
experiment, the loud report of a gun was heard close beside
him. Kennedy had not been able to resist the temptation
of firing at a huge hippopotamus. The latter, who
had been basking quietly, disappeared at the sound of the
explosion, but did not seem to be otherwise incommoded
by Kennedy's conical bullet.
"You'd have done better if you had harpooned him,"
"With one of our anchors. It would have been a hook
just big enough for such a rousing beast as that!"
"Humph!" ejaculated Kennedy, "Joe really has an
idea this time--"
"Which I beg of you not to put into execution," interposed
the doctor. "The animal would very quickly have
dragged us where we could not have done much to help
ourselves, and where we have no business to be."
"Especially now since we've settled the question as to
what kind of water there is in Lake Tchad. Is that sort
of fish good to eat, Dr. Ferguson?"
"That fish, as you call it, Joe, is really a mammiferous
animal of the pachydermal species. Its flesh is said to be
excellent and is an article of important trade between the
tribes living along the borders of the lake."
"Then I'm sorry that Mr. Kennedy's shot didn't do
"The animal is vulnerable only in the stomach and between
the thighs. Dick's ball hasn't even marked him;
but should the ground strike me as favorable, we shall halt
at the northern end of the lake, where Kennedy will find
himself in the midst of a whole menagerie, and can make
up for lost time."
"Well," said Joe, "I hope then that Mr. Kennedy
will hunt the hippopotamus a little; I'd like to taste the
meat of that queer-looking beast. It doesn't look exactly
natural to get away into the centre of Africa, to feed on
snipe and partridge, just as if we were in England."
The Capital of Bornou.--The Islands of the Biddiomahs.--The Condors.--The
Doctor's Anxieties.--His Precautions.--An Attack in Mid-air.--The Balloon
Covering torn.--The Fall.--Sublime Self-Sacrifice.--The Northern Coast of
Since its arrival at Lake Tchad, the balloon had struck
a current that edged it farther to the westward. A few
clouds tempered the heat of the day, and, besides, a little
air could be felt over this vast expanse of water; but about
one o'clock, the Victoria, having slanted across this part
of the lake, again advanced over the land for a space of
seven or eight miles.
The doctor, who was somewhat vexed at first at this
turn of his course, no longer thought of complaining when
he caught sight of the city of Kouka, the capital of Bornou.
He saw it for a moment, encircled by its walls of
white clay, and a few rudely-constructed mosques rising
clumsily above that conglomeration of houses that look
like playing-dice, which form most Arab towns. In the
court-yards of the private dwellings, and on the public
squares, grew palms and caoutchouc-trees topped with a
dome of foliage more than one hundred feet in breadth.
Joe called attention to the fact that these immense parasols
were in proper accordance with the intense heat of
the sun, and made thereon some pious reflections which it
were needless to repeat.
Kouka really consists of two distinct towns, separated
by the "Dendal," a large boulevard three hundred
yards wide, at that hour crowded with horsemen and foot
passengers. On one side, the rich quarter stands squarely
with its airy and lofty houses, laid out in regular order;
on the other, is huddled together the poor quarter, a miserable
collection of low hovels of a conical shape, in which
a poverty-stricken multitude vegetate rather than live,
since Kouka is neither a trading nor a commercial city.
Kennedy thought it looked something like Edinburgh,
were that city extended on a plain, with its two distinct
But our travellers had scarcely the time to catch even
this glimpse of it, for, with the fickleness that characterizes
the air-currents of this region, a contrary wind suddenly
swept them some forty miles over the surface of Lake Tchad.
Then then were regaled with a new spectacle. They
could count the numerous islets of the lake, inhabited by
the Biddiomahs, a race of bloodthirsty and formidable
pirates, who are as greatly feared when neighbors as are
the Touaregs of Sahara.
These estimable people were in readiness to receive the
Victoria bravely with stones and arrows, but the balloon
quickly passed their islands, fluttering over them, from one
to the other with butterfly motion, like a gigantic beetle.
At this moment, Joe, who was scanning the horizon,
said to Kennedy:
"There, sir, as you are always thinking of good sport,
yonder is just the thing for you!"
"What is it, Joe?"
"This time, the doctor will not disapprove of your shooting."
"But what is it?"
"Don't you see that flock of big birds making for us?"
"Birds?" exclaimed the doctor, snatching his spyglass.
"I see them," replied Kennedy; "there are at least a
dozen of them."
"Fourteen, exactly!" said Joe.
"Heaven grant that they may be of a kind sufficiently
noxious for the doctor to let me peg away at them!"
"I should not object, but I would much rather see
those birds at a distance from us!"
"Why, are you afraid of those fowls?"
"They are condors, and of the largest size. Should
they attack us--"
"Well, if they do, we'll defend ourselves. We have a
whole arsenal at our disposal. I don't think those birds
are so very formidable."
"Who can tell?" was the doctor's only remark.
Ten minutes later, the flock had come within gunshot,
and were making the air ring with their hoarse cries. They
came right toward the Victoria, more irritated than frightened
by her presence.
"How they scream! What a noise!" said Joe.
"Perhaps they don't like to see anybody poaching in their
country up in the air, or daring to fly like themselves!"
"Well, now, to tell the truth, when I take a good look
at them, they are an ugly, ferocious set, and I should think
them dangerous enough if they were armed with Purdy-Moore
rifles," admitted Kennedy.
"They have no need of such weapons," said Ferguson,
looking very grave.
The condors flew around them in wide circles, their
flight growing gradually closer and closer to the balloon.
They swept through the air in rapid, fantastic curves,
occasionally precipitating themselves headlong with the
speed of a bullet, and then breaking their line of projection
by an abrupt and daring angle.
The doctor, much disquieted, resolved to ascend so as
to escape this dangerous proximity. He therefore dilated
the hydrogen in his balloon, and it rapidly rose.
But the condors mounted with him, apparently determined
not to part company.
"They seem to mean mischief!" said the hunter, cocking
And, in fact, they were swooping nearer, and more than
one came within fifty feet of them, as if defying the fire-arms.
"By George, I'm itching to let them have it!" exclaimed
"No, Dick; not now! Don't exasperate them needlessly.
That would only be exciting them to attack us!"
"But I could soon settle those fellows!"
"You may think so, Dick. But you are wrong!"
"Why, we have a bullet for each of them!"
"And suppose that they were to attack the upper part
of the balloon, what would you do? How would you get
at them? Just imagine yourself in the presence of a troop
of lions on the plain, or a school of sharks in the open
ocean! For travellers in the air, this situation is just as
"Are you speaking seriously, doctor?"
"Very seriously, Dick."
"Let us wait, then!"
"Wait! Hold yourself in readiness in case of an attack,
but do not fire without my orders."
The birds then collected at a short distance, yet to
near that their naked necks, entirely bare of feathers, could
be plainly seen, as they stretched them out with the effort
of their cries, while their gristly crests, garnished with a
comb and gills of deep violet, stood erect with rage. They
were of the very largest size, their bodies being more than
three feet in length, and the lower surface of their white
wings glittering in the sunlight. They might well have
been considered winged sharks, so striking was their resemblance
to those ferocious rangers of the deep.
"They are following us!" said the doctor, as he saw
them ascending with him, "and, mount as we may, they
can fly still higher!"
"Well, what are we to do?" asked Kennedy.
The doctor made no answer.
"Listen, Samuel!" said the sportsman. "There are
fourteen of those birds; we have seventeen shots at our
disposal if we discharge all our weapons. Have we not
the means, then, to destroy them or disperse them? I
will give a good account of some of them!"
"I have no doubt of your skill, Dick; I look upon all
as dead that may come within range of your rifle, but I
repeat that, if they attack the upper part of the balloon,
you could not get a sight at them. They would tear the
silk covering that sustains us, and we are three thousand
feet up in the air!"
At this moment, one of the ferocious birds darted right
at the balloon, with outstretched beak and claws, ready to
rend it with either or both.
"Fire! fire at once!" cried the doctor.
He had scarcely ceased, ere the huge creature, stricken
dead, dropped headlong, turning over and over in space as
Kennedy had already grasped one of the two-barrelled
fowling-pieces and Joe was taking aim with another.
Frightened by the report, the condors drew back for a
moment, but they almost instantly returned to the charge
with extreme fury. Kennedy severed the head of one
from its body with his first shot, and Joe broke the wing
"Only eleven left," said he.
Thereupon the birds changed their tactics, and by common
consent soared above the balloon. Kennedy glanced at
Ferguson. The latter, in spite of his imperturbability,
grew pale. Then ensued a moment of terrifying silence.
In the next they heard a harsh tearing noise, as of
something rending the silk, and the car seemed to sink
from beneath the feet of our three aeronauts.
"We are lost!" exclaimed Ferguson, glancing at the
barometer, which was now swiftly rising.
"Over with the ballast!" he shouted, "over with it!"
And in a few seconds the last lumps of quartz had disappeared.
"We are still falling! Empty the water-tanks! Do
you hear me, Joe? We are pitching into the lake!"
Joe obeyed. The doctor leaned over and looked out.
The lake seemed to come up toward him like a rising tide.
Every object around grew rapidly in size while they were
looking at it. The car was not two hundred feet from the
surface of Lake Tchad.
"The provisions! the provisions!" cried the doctor.
And the box containing them was launched into space.
Their descent became less rapid, but the luckless
aeronauts were still falling, and into the lake.
"Throw out something--something more!" cried the doctor.
"There is nothing more to throw!" was Kennedy's
"Yes, there is!" called Joe, and with a wave of the hand
he disappeared like a flash, over the edge of the car.
"Joe! Joe!" exclaimed the doctor, horror-stricken.
The Victoria thus relieved resumed her ascending motion,
mounted a thousand feet into the air, and the wind,
burying itself in the disinflated covering, bore them away
toward the northern part of the lake.
"Lost!" exclaimed the sportsman, with a gesture of despair.
"Lost to save us!" responded Ferguson.
And these men, intrepid as they were, felt the large
tears streaming down their cheeks. They leaned over
with the vain hope of seeing some trace of their heroic
companion, but they were already far away from him.
"What course shall we pursue?" asked Kennedy.
"Alight as soon as possible, Dick, and then wait."
After a sweep of some sixty miles the Victoria halted
on a desert shore, on the north of the lake. The anchors
caught in a low tree and the sportsman fastened it securely.
Night came, but neither Ferguson nor Kennedy could
find one moment's sleep.
Conjectures.--Reestablishment of the Victoria's Equilibrium.--Dr.
Ferguson's New Calculations.--Kennedy's Hunt.--A Complete Exploration
of Lake Tchad.--Tangalia.--The Return.--Lari.
On the morrow, the 13th of May, our travellers, for
the first time, reconnoitred the part of the coast on which
they had landed. It was a sort of island of solid ground
in the midst of an immense marsh. Around this fragment
of terra firma grew reeds as lofty as trees are in Europe,
and stretching away out of sight.
These impenetrable swamps gave security to the position
of the balloon. It was necessary to watch only the
borders of the lake. The vast stretch of water broadened
away from the spot, especially toward the east, and nothing
could be seen on the horizon, neither mainland nor islands.
The two friends had not yet ventured to speak of their
recent companion. Kennedy first imparted his conjectures
to the doctor.
"Perhaps Joe is not lost after all," he said. "He was
a skilful lad, and had few equals as a swimmer. He would
find no difficulty in swimming across the Firth of Forth at
Edinburgh. We shall see him again--but how and where
I know not. Let us omit nothing on our part to give him
the chance of rejoining us."
"May God grant it as you say, Dick!" replied the
doctor, with much emotion. "We shall do everything in
the world to find our lost friend again. Let us, in the first
place, see where we are. But, above all things, let us rid
the Victoria of this outside covering, which is of no further
use. That will relieve us of six hundred and fifty pounds,
a weight not to be despised--and the end is worth the
The doctor and Kennedy went to work at once, but
they encountered great difficulty. They had to tear the
strong silk away piece by piece, and then cut it in narrow
strips so as to extricate it from the meshes of the network.
The tear made by the beaks of the condors was found to
be several feet in length.
This operation took at least four hours, but at length
the inner balloon once completely extricated did not appear
to have suffered in the least degree. The Victoria was
thus diminished in size by one fifth, and this difference
was sufficiently noticeable to excite Kennedy's surprise.
"Will it be large enough?" he asked.
"Have no fears on that score, I will reestablish the
equilibrium, and should our poor Joe return we shall find
a way to start off with him again on our old route."
"At the moment of our fall, unless I am mistaken, we
were not far from an island."
"Yes, I recollect it," said the doctor, "but that island,
like all the islands on Lake Tchad, is, no doubt, inhabited
by a gang of pirates and murderers. They certainly witnessed
our misfortune, and should Joe fall into their hands, what
will become of him unless protected by their superstitions?"
"Oh, he's just the lad to get safely out of the scrape, I repeat.
I have great confidence in his shrewdness and skill."
"I hope so. Now, Dick, you may go and hunt in the
neighborhood, but don't get far away whatever you do.
It has become a pressing necessity for us to renew our
stock of provisions, since we had to sacrifice nearly all the
"Very good, doctor, I shall not be long absent."
Hereupon, Kennedy took a double-barrelled fowling-piece,
and strode through the long grass toward a thicket
not far off, where the frequent sound of shooting soon let
the doctor know that the sportsman was making a good
use of his time.
Meanwhile Ferguson was engaged in calculating the
relative weight of the articles still left in the car, and in
establishing the equipoise of the second balloon. He found
that there were still left some thirty pounds of pemmican,
a supply of tea and coffee, about a gallon and a half of
brandy, and one empty water-tank. All the dried meat
The doctor was aware that, by the loss of the hydrogen
in the first balloon, the ascensional force at his disposal
was now reduced to about nine hundred pounds. He
therefore had to count upon this difference in order to
rearrange his equilibrium. The new balloon measured sixty-seven
thousand cubic feet, and contained thirty-three
thousand four hundred and eighty feet of gas. The dilating
apparatus appeared to be in good condition, and neither
the battery nor the spiral had been injured.
The ascensional force of the new balloon was then
about three thousand pounds, and, in adding together the
weight of the apparatus, of the passengers, of the stock of
water, of the car and its accessories, and putting aboard
fifty gallons of water, and one hundred pounds of fresh
meat, the doctor got a total weight of twenty-eight hundred
and thirty pounds. He could then take with him one
hundred and seventy pounds of ballast, for unforeseen
emergencies, and the balloon would be in exact balance
with the surrounding atmosphere.
His arrangements were completed accordingly, and he
made up for Joe's weight with a surplus of ballast. He
spent the whole day in these preparations, and the latter
were finished when Kennedy returned. The hunter had
been successful, and brought back a regular cargo of geese,
wild-duck, snipe, teal, and plover. He went to work at
once to draw and smoke the game. Each piece, suspended
on a small, thin skewer, was hung over a fire of green
wood. When they seemed in good order, Kennedy, who
was perfectly at home in the business, packed them away
in the car.
On the morrow, the hunter was to complete his supplies.
Evening surprised our travellers in the midst of this
work. Their supper consisted of pemmican, biscuit, and
tea; and fatigue, after having given them appetite, brought
them sleep. Each of them strained eyes and ears into the
gloom during his watch, sometimes fancying that they
heard the voice of poor Joe; but, alas! the voice that
they so longed to hear, was far away.
"At the first streak of day, the doctor aroused Kennedy.
"I have been long and carefully considering what
should be done," said he, "to find our companion."
"Whatever your plan may be, doctor, it will suit me. Speak!"
"Above all things, it is important that Joe should hear
from us in some way."
"Undoubtedly. Suppose the brave fellow should take
it into his head that we have abandoned him?"
"He! He knows us too well for that. Such a thought
would never come into his mind. But he must be informed
as to where we are."
"How can that be managed?"
"We shall get into our car and be off again through
"But, should the wind bear us away?"
"Happily, it will not. See, Dick! it is carrying us
back to the lake; and this circumstance, which would
have been vexatious yesterday, is fortunate now. Our
efforts, then, will be limited to keeping ourselves above
that vast sheet of water throughout the day. Joe cannot
fail to see us, and his eyes will be constantly on the
lookout in that direction. Perhaps he will even manage to
let us know the place of his retreat."
"If he be alone and at liberty, he certainly will."
"And if a prisoner," resumed the doctor, "it not being
the practice of the natives to confine their captives, he will
see us, and comprehend the object of our researches."
"But, at last," put in Kennedy--"for we must anticipate
every thing--should we find no trace--if he should
have left no mark to follow him by, what are we to do?"
"We shall endeavor to regain the northern part of
the lake, keeping ourselves as much in sight as possible.
There we'll wait; we'll explore the banks; we'll search
the water's edge, for Joe will assuredly try to reach the
shore; and we will not leave the country without having
done every thing to find him."
"Let us set out, then!" said the hunter.
The doctor hereupon took the exact bearings of the
patch of solid land they were about to leave, and arrived
at the conclusion that it lay on the north shore of Lake
Tchad, between the village of Lari and the village of
Ingemini, both visited by Major Denham. During this
time Kennedy was completing his stock of fresh meat.
Although the neighboring marshes showed traces of the
rhinoceros, the lamantine (or manatee), and the hippopotamus,
he had no opportunity to see a single specimen of
At seven in the morning, but not without great difficulty
--which to Joe would have been nothing--the balloon's
anchor was detached from its hold, the gas dilated,
and the new Victoria rose two hundred feet into the air.
It seemed to hesitate at first, and went spinning around,
like a top; but at last a brisk current caught it, and it
advanced over the lake, and was soon borne away at a
speed of twenty miles per hour.
The doctor continued to keep at a height of from two
hundred to five hundred feet. Kennedy frequently discharged
his rifle; and, when passing over islands, the
aeronauts approached them even imprudently, scrutinizing
the thickets, the bushes, the underbrush--in fine, every spot
where a mass of shade or jutting rock could have afforded
a retreat to their companion. They swooped down close
to the long pirogues that navigated the lake; and the
wild fishermen, terrified at the sight of the balloon, would
plunge into the water and regain their islands with every
symptom of undisguised affright.
"We can see nothing," said Kennedy, after two hours
"Let us wait a little longer, Dick, and not lose heart.
We cannot be far away from the scene of our accident."
By eleven o'clock the balloon had gone ninety miles.
It then fell in with a new current, which, blowing almost
at right angles to the other, drove them eastward about
sixty miles. It next floated over a very large and populous
island, which the doctor took to be Farram, on which
the capital of the Biddiomahs is situated. Ferguson expected
at every moment to see Joe spring up out of some
thicket, flying for his life, and calling for help. Were he
free, they could pick him up without trouble; were he a
prisoner, they could rescue him by repeating the manoeuvre
they had practised to save the missionary, and he would
soon be with his friends again; but nothing was seen, not
a sound was heard. The case seemed desperate.
About half-past two o'clock, the Victoria hove in sight
of Tangalia, a village situated on the eastern shore of
Lake Tchad, where it marks the extreme point attained
by Denham at the period of his exploration.
The doctor became uneasy at this persistent setting
of the wind in that direction, for he felt that he was being
thrown back to the eastward, toward the centre of Africa,
and the interminable deserts of that region.
"We must absolutely come to a halt," said he, "and
even alight. For Joe's sake, particularly, we ought to
go back to the lake; but, to begin with, let us endeavor
to find an opposite current."
During more than an hour he searched at different
altitudes: the balloon always came back toward the mainland.
But at length, at the height of a thousand feet, a
very violent breeze swept to the northwestward.
It was out of the question that Joe should have been
detained on one of the islands of the lake; for, in such case
he would certainly have found means to make his presence
there known. Perhaps he had been dragged to the mainland.
The doctor was reasoning thus to himself, when he
again came in sight of the northern shore of Lake Tchad.
As for supposing that Joe had been drowned, that was
not to be believed for a moment. One horrible thought
glanced across the minds of both Kennedy and the doctor:
caymans swarm in these waters! But neither one
nor the other had the courage to distinctly communicate
this impression. However, it came up to them so forcibly
at last that the doctor said, without further preface:
"Crocodiles are found only on the shores of the islands
or of the lake, and Joe will have skill enough to avoid
them. Besides, they are not very dangerous; and the
Africans bathe with impunity, and quite fearless of their
Kennedy made no reply. He preferred keeping quiet
to discussing this terrible possibility.
The doctor made out the town of Lari about five
o'clock in the evening. The inhabitants were at work
gathering in their cotton-crop in front of their huts,
constructed of woven reeds, and standing in the midst of clean
and neatly-kept enclosures. This collection of about fifty
habitations occupied a slight depression of the soil, in a
valley extending between two low mountains. The force
of the wind carried the doctor farther onward than he
wanted to go; but it changed a second time, and bore
him back exactly to his starting-point, on the sort of
enclosed island where he had passed the preceding night.
The anchor, instead of catching the branches of the tree,
took hold in the masses of reeds mixed with the thick mud
of the marshes, which offered considerable resistance.
The doctor had much difficulty in restraining the balloon;
but at length the wind died away with the setting
in of nightfall; and the two friends kept watch together
in an almost desperate state of mind.
The Hurricane.--A Forced Departure.--Loss of an Anchor.--Melancholy
Reflections.--The Resolution adopted.--The Sand-Storm.--The Buried
Caravan.--A Contrary yet Favorable Wind.--The Return southward.--Kennedy
at his Post.
At three o'clock in the morning the wind was raging.
It beat down with such violence that the Victoria could
not stay near the ground without danger. It was thrown
almost flat over upon its side, and the reeds chafed the
silk so roughly that it seemed as though they would tear it.
"We must be off, Dick," said the doctor; "we cannot
remain in this situation."
"But, doctor, what of Joe?"
"I am not likely to abandon him. No, indeed! and
should the hurricane carry me a thousand miles to the
northward, I will return! But here we are endangering
the safety of all."
"Must we go without him?" asked the Scot, with an
accent of profound grief.
"And do you think, then," rejoined Ferguson, "that
my heart does not bleed like your own? Am I not merely
obeying an imperious necessity?"
"I am entirely at your orders," replied the hunter;
"let us start!"
But their departure was surrounded with unusual difficulty.
The anchor, which had caught very deeply, resisted all
their efforts to disengage it; while the balloon,
drawing in the opposite direction, increased its tension.
Kennedy could not get it free. Besides, in his present
position, the manoeuvre had become a very perilous one,
for the Victoria threatened to break away before he should
be able to get into the car again.
The doctor, unwilling to run such a risk, made his
friend get into his place, and resigned himself to the
alternative of cutting the anchor-rope. The Victoria made
one bound of three hundred feet into the air, and took her
route directly northward.
Ferguson had no other choice than to scud before the
storm. He folded his arms, and soon became absorbed in
his own melancholy reflections.
After a few moments of profound silence, he turned to
Kennedy, who sat there no less taciturn.
"We have, perhaps, been tempting Providence," said
he; "it does not belong to man to undertake such a journey!"
--and a sigh of grief escaped him as he spoke.
"It is but a few days," replied the sportsman, "since
we were congratulating ourselves upon having escaped so
many dangers! All three of us were shaking hands!"
"Poor Joe! kindly and excellent disposition! brave
and candid heart! Dazzled for a moment by his sudden
discovery of wealth, he willingly sacrificed his treasures!
And now, he is far from us; and the wind is carrying us
still farther away with resistless speed!"
"Come, doctor, admitting that he may have found
refuge among the lake tribes, can he not do as the travellers
who visited them before us, did;--like Denham, like
Barth? Both of those men got back to their own country."
"Ah! my dear Dick! Joe doesn't know one word of
the language; he is alone, and without resources. The
travellers of whom you speak did not attempt to go forward
without sending many presents in advance of them
to the chiefs, and surrounded by an escort armed and
trained for these expeditions. Yet, they could not avoid
sufferings of the worst description! What, then, can you
expect the fate of our companion to be? It is horrible to
think of, and this is one of the worst calamities that it has
ever been my lot to endure!"
"But, we'll come back again, doctor!"
"Come back, Dick? Yes, if we have to abandon the
balloon! if we should be forced to return to Lake Tchad
on foot, and put ourselves in communication with the
Sultan of Bornou! The Arabs cannot have retained a disagreeable
remembrance of the first Europeans."
"I will follow you, doctor," replied the hunter, with
emphasis. "You may count upon me! We would rather
give up the idea of prosecuting this journey than not
return. Joe forgot himself for our sake; we will sacrifice
ourselves for his!"
This resolve revived some hope in the hearts of these
two men; they felt strong in the same inspiration. Ferguson
forthwith set every thing at work to get into a contrary
current, that might bring him back again to Lake
Tchad; but this was impracticable at that moment, and
even to alight was out of the question on ground completely
bare of trees, and with such a hurricane blowing.
The Victoria thus passed over the country of the Tibbous,
crossed the Belad el Djerid, a desert of briers that
forms the border of the Soudan, and advanced into the
desert of sand streaked with the long tracks of the many
caravans that pass and repass there. The last line of vegetation
was speedily lost in the dim southern horizon, not far
from the principal oasis in this part of Africa, whose fifty
wells are shaded by magnificent trees; but it was impossible
to stop. An Arab encampment, tents of striped
stuff, some camels, stretching out their viper-like heads
and necks along the sand, gave life to this solitude, but
the Victoria sped by like a shooting-star, and in this way
traversed a distance of sixty miles in three hours, without
Ferguson being able to check or guide her course.
"We cannot halt, we cannot alight!" said the doctor;
"not a tree, not an inequality of the ground! Are
we then to be driven clear across Sahara? Surely, Heaven
is indeed against us!"
He was uttering these words with a sort of despairing
rage, when suddenly he saw the desert sands rising aloft
in the midst of a dense cloud of dust, and go whirling
through the air, impelled by opposing currents.
Amid this tornado, an entire caravan, disorganized,
broken, and overthrown, was disappearing beneath an
avalanche of sand. The camels, flung pell-mell together,
were uttering dull and pitiful groans; cries and howls of
despair were heard issuing from that dusty and stifling
cloud, and, from time to time, a parti-colored garment cut
the chaos of the scene with its vivid hues, and the moaning
and shrieking sounded over all, a terrible accompaniment
to this spectacle of destruction.
Ere long the sand had accumulated in compact masses;
and there, where so recently stretched a level plain as far
as the eye could see, rose now a ridgy line of hillocks,
still moving from beneath--the vast tomb of an entire
The doctor and Kennedy, pallid with emotion, sat
transfixed by this fearful spectacle. They could no longer
manage their balloon, which went whirling round and
round in contending currents, and refused to obey the
different dilations of the gas. Caught in these eddies of
the atmosphere, it spun about with a rapidity that made
their heads reel, while the car oscillated and swung to and
fro violently at the same time. The instruments suspended
under the awning clattered together as though they would
be dashed to pieces; the pipes of the spiral bent to and fro,
threatening to break at every instant; and the water-tanks
jostled and jarred with tremendous din. Although but
two feet apart, our aeronauts could not hear each other
speak, but with firmly-clinched hands they clung convulsively
to the cordage, and endeavored to steady themselves
against the fury of the tempest.
Kennedy, with his hair blown wildly about his face,
looked on without speaking; but the doctor had regained
all his daring in the midst of this deadly peril, and not a
sign of his emotion was betrayed in his countenance, even
when, after a last violent twirl, the Victoria stopped suddenly
in the midst of a most unlooked-for calm; the north
wind had abruptly got the upper hand, and now drove her
back with equal rapidity over the route she had traversed
in the morning.
"Whither are we going now?" cried Kennedy.
"Let us leave that to Providence, my dear Dick; I
was wrong in doubting it. It knows better than we, and
here we are, returning to places that we had expected
never to see again!"
The surface of the country, which had looked so flat
and level when they were coming, now seemed tossed and
uneven, like the ocean-billows after a storm; a long succession
of hillocks, that had scarcely settled to their places
yet, indented the desert; the wind blew furiously, and the
balloon fairly flew through the atmosphere.
The direction taken by our aeronauts differed somewhat
from that of the morning, and thus about nine o'clock,
instead of finding themselves again near the borders of
Lake Tchad, they saw the desert still stretching away
Kennedy remarked the circumstance.
"It matters little," replied the doctor, "the important
point is to return southward; we shall come across the
towns of Bornou, Wouddie, or Kouka, and I should not
hesitate to halt there."
"If you are satisfied, I am content," replied the Scot,
"but Heaven grant that we may not be reduced to cross
the desert, as those unfortunate Arabs had to do! What
we saw was frightful!"
"It often happens, Dick; these trips across the desert
are far more perilous than those across the ocean. The
desert has all the dangers of the sea, including the risk of
being swallowed up, and added thereto are unendurable
fatigues and privations."
"I think the wind shows some symptoms of moderating;
the sand-dust is less dense; the undulations of the
surface are diminishing, and the sky is growing clearer."
"So much the better! We must now reconnoitre attentively
with our glasses, and take care not to omit a
"I will look out for that, doctor, and not a tree shall
be seen without my informing you of it."
And, suiting the action to the word, Kennedy took his
station, spy-glass in hand, at the forward part of the car.
What happened to Joe.--The Island of the Biddiomahs.--The Adoration
shown him.--The Island that sank.--The Shores of the Lake.--The Tree
of the Serpents.--The Foot-Tramp.--Terrible Suffering.--Mosquitoes
and Ants.--Hunger.--The Victoria seen.--She disappears.--The Swamp.
--One Last Despairing Cry.
What had become of Joe, while his master was thus
vainly seeking for him?
When he had dashed headlong into the lake, his first
movement on coming to the surface was to raise his eyes
and look upward. He saw the Victoria already risen far
above the water, still rapidly ascending and growing
smaller and smaller. It was soon caught in a rapid current
and disappeared to the northward. His master--both
his friends were saved!
"How lucky it was," thought he, "that I had that
idea to throw myself out into the lake! Mr. Kennedy
would soon have jumped at it, and he would not have
hesitated to do as I did, for nothing's more natural than
for one man to give himself up to save two others. That's
Satisfied on this point, Joe began to think of himself.
He was in the middle of a vast lake, surrounded by tribes
unknown to him, and probably ferocious. All the greater
reason why he should get out of the scrape by depending
only on himself. And so he gave himself no farther concern
Before the attack by the birds of prey, which, according
to him, had behaved like real condors, he had noticed
an island on the horizon, and determining to reach it, if
possible, he put forth all his knowledge and skill in the art
of swimming, after having relieved himself of the most
troublesome part of his clothing. The idea of a stretch
of five or six miles by no means disconcerted him; and
therefore, so long as he was in the open lake, he thought
only of striking out straight ahead and manfully.
In about an hour and a half the distance between him
and the island had greatly diminished.
But as he approached the land, a thought, at first fleeting
and then tenacious, arose in his mind. He knew that
the shores of the lake were frequented by huge alligators,
and was well aware of the voracity of those monsters.
Now, no matter how much he was inclined to find
every thing in this world quite natural, the worthy fellow
was no little disturbed by this reflection. He feared greatly
lest white flesh like his might be particularly acceptable
to the dreaded brutes, and advanced only with extreme
precaution, his eyes on the alert on both sides and all
around him. At length, he was not more than one hundred
yards from a bank, covered with green trees, when
a puff of air strongly impregnated with a musky odor
"There!" said he to himself, "just what I expected.
The crocodile isn't far off!"
With this he dived swiftly, but not sufficiently so to
avoid coming into contact with an enormous body, the
scaly surface of which scratched him as he passed. He
thought himself lost and swam with desperate energy.
Then he rose again to the top of the water, took breath
and dived once more. Thus passed a few minutes of unspeakable
anguish, which all his philosophy could not overcome,
for he thought, all the while, that he heard behind
him the sound of those huge jaws ready to snap him up
forever. In this state of mind he was striking out under
the water as noiselessly as possible when he felt himself
seized by the arm and then by the waist.
Poor Joe! he gave one last thought to his master; and
began to struggle with all the energy of despair, feeling
himself the while drawn along, but not toward the bottom
of the lake, as is the habit of the crocodile when about to
devour its prey, but toward the surface.
So soon as he could get breath and look around him,
he saw that he was between two natives as black as ebony,
who held him, with a firm gripe, and uttered strange cries.
"Ha!" said Joe, "blacks instead of crocodiles! Well,
I prefer it as it is; but how in the mischief dare these
fellows go in bathing in such places?"
Joe was not aware that the inhabitants of the islands
of Lake Tchad, like many other negro tribes, plunge with
impunity into sheets of water infested with crocodiles and
caymans, and without troubling their heads about them.
The amphibious denizens of this lake enjoy the well-deserved
reputation of being quite inoffensive.
But had not Joe escaped one peril only to fall into
another? That was a question which he left events to
decide; and, since he could not do otherwise, he allowed
himself to be conducted to the shore without manifesting
"Evidently," thought he, "these chaps saw the Victoria
skimming the waters of the lake, like a monster of the
air. They were the distant witnesses of my tumble, and
they can't fail to have some respect for a man that fell
from the sky! Let them have their own way, then."
Joe was at this stage of his meditations, when he was
landed amid a yelling crowd of both sexes, and all ages
and sizes, but not of all colors. In fine, he was surrounded
by a tribe of Biddiomahs as black as jet. Nor had he to
blush for the scantiness of his costume, for he saw that he
was in "undress" in the highest style of that country.
But before he had time to form an exact idea of the
situation, there was no mistaking the agitation of which
he instantly became the object, and this soon enabled him
to pluck up courage, although the adventure of Kazah did
come back rather vividly to his memory.
"I foresee that they are going to make a god of me
again," thought he, "some son of the moon most likely.
Well, one trade's as good as another when a man has no
choice. The main thing is to gain time. Should the
Victoria pass this way again, I'll take advantage of my
new position to treat my worshippers here to a miracle
when I go sailing up into the sky!"
While Joe's thoughts were running thus, the throng
pressed around him. They prostrated themselves before
him; they howled; they felt him; they became even annoyingly
familiar; but at the same time they had the consideration
to offer him a superb banquet consisting of sour
milk and rice pounded in honey. The worthy fellow,
making the best of every thing, took one of the heartiest
luncheons he ever ate in his life, and gave his new adorers
an exalted idea of how the gods tuck away their food upon
When evening came, the sorcerers of the island took
him respectfully by the hand, and conducted him to a sort
of house surrounded with talismans; but, as he was entering
it, Joe cast an uneasy look at the heaps of human
bones that lay scattered around this sanctuary. But he
had still more time to think about them when he found
himself at last shut up in the cabin.
During the evening and through a part of the night,
he heard festive chantings, the reverberations of a kind
of drum, and a clatter of old iron, which were very sweet,
no doubt, to African ears. Then there were howling
choruses, accompanied by endless dances by gangs of
natives who circled round and round the sacred hut with
contortions and grimaces.
Joe could catch the sound of this deafening orchestra,
through the mud and reeds of which his cabin was built;
and perhaps under other circumstances he might have been
amused by these strange ceremonies; but his mind was
soon disturbed by quite different and less agreeable reflections.
Even looking at the bright side of things, he found
it both stupid and sad to be left alone in the midst of this
savage country and among these wild tribes. Few travellers
who had penetrated to these regions had ever again
seen their native land. Moreover, could he trust to the
worship of which he saw himself the object? He had
good reason to believe in the vanity of human greatness;
and he asked himself whether, in this country, adoration
did not sometimes go to the length of eating the object
But, notwithstanding this rather perplexing prospect,
after some hours of meditation, fatigue got the better of
his gloomy thoughts, and Joe fell into a profound slumber,
which would have lasted no doubt until sunrise, had
not a very unexpected sensation of dampness awakened
the sleeper. Ere long this dampness became water, and
that water gained so rapidly that it had soon mounted
to Joe's waist.
"What can this be?" said he; "a flood! a water-spout!
or a new torture invented by these blacks? Faith, though,
I'm not going to wait here till it's up to my neck!"
And, so saying, he burst through the frail wall with
a jog of his powerful shoulder, and found himself--where?
--in the open lake! Island there was none. It had sunk
during the night. In its place, the watery immensity of
"A poor country for the land-owners!" said Joe, once more
vigorously resorting to his skill in the art of natation.
One of those phenomena, which are by no means unusual
on Lake Tchad, had liberated our brave Joe. More than
one island, that previously seemed to have the solidity
of rock, has been submerged in this way; and the people
living along the shores of the mainland have had to
pick up the unfortunate survivors of these terrible catastrophes.
Joe knew nothing about this peculiarity of the region,
but he was none the less ready to profit by it. He caught
sight of a boat drifting about, without occupants, and was
soon aboard of it. He found it to be but the trunk of a
tree rudely hollowed out; but there were a couple of
paddles in it, and Joe, availing himself of a rapid current,
allowed his craft to float along.
"But let us see where we are," he said. "The polar-star
there, that does its work honorably in pointing out
the direction due north to everybody else, will, most likely,
do me that service."
He discovered, with satisfaction, that the current was
taking him toward the northern shore of the lake, and he
allowed himself to glide with it. About two o'clock in the
morning he disembarked upon a promontory covered with
prickly reeds, that proved very provoking and inconvenient
even to a philosopher like him; but a tree grew
there expressly to offer him a bed among its branches,
and Joe climbed up into it for greater security, and there,
without sleeping much, however, awaited the dawn of day.
When morning had come with that suddenness which
is peculiar to the equatorial regions, Joe cast a glance at
the tree which had sheltered him during the last few
hours, and beheld a sight that chilled the marrow in his
bones. The branches of the tree were literally covered
with snakes and chameleons! The foliage actually was
hidden beneath their coils, so that the beholder might
have fancied that he saw before him a new kind of tree
that bore reptiles for its leaves and fruit. And all this
horrible living mass writhed and twisted in the first rays
of the morning sun! Joe experienced a keen sensation
or terror mingled with disgust, as he looked at it, and he
leaped precipitately from the tree amid the hissings of
these new and unwelcome bedfellows.
"Now, there's something that I would never have believed!"
He was not aware that Dr. Vogel's last letters had
made known this singular feature of the shores of Lake
Tchad, where reptiles are more numerous than in any
other part of the world. But after what he had just seen,
Joe determined to be more circumspect for the future;
and, taking his bearings by the sun, he set off afoot toward
the northeast, avoiding with the utmost care cabins, huts,
hovels, and dens of every description, that might serve
in any manner as a shelter for human beings.
How often his gaze was turned upward to the sky!
He hoped to catch a glimpse, each time, of the Victoria;
and, although he looked vainly during all that long,
fatiguing day of sore foot-travel, his confident reliance on
his master remained undiminished. Great energy of character
was needed to enable him thus to sustain the situation
with philosophy. Hunger conspired with fatigue to
crush him, for a man's system is not greatly restored and
fortified by a diet of roots, the pith of plants, such as the
Mele, or the fruit of the doum palm-tree; and yet, according
to his own calculations, Joe was enabled to push on
about twenty miles to the westward.
His body bore in scores of places the marks of the
thorns with which the lake-reeds, the acacias, the mimosas,
and other wild shrubbery through which he had to force
his way, are thickly studded; and his torn and bleeding
feet rendered walking both painful and difficult. But at
length he managed to react against all these sufferings;
and when evening came again, he resolved to pass the
night on the shores of Lake Tchad.
There he had to endure the bites of myriads of insects
--gnats, mosquitoes, ants half an inch long, literally
covered the ground; and, in less than two hours, Joe had
not a rag remaining of the garments that had covered him,
the insects having devoured them! It was a terrible night,
that did not yield our exhausted traveller an hour of sleep.
During all this time the wild-boars and native buffaloes,
reenforced by the ajoub--a very dangerous species of lamantine
--carried on their ferocious revels in the bushes
and under the waters of the lake, filling the night with a
hideous concert. Joe dared scarcely breathe. Even his
courage and coolness had hard work to bear up against so
terrible a situation.
At length, day came again, and Joe sprang to his feet
precipitately; but judge of the loathing he felt when he
saw what species of creature had shared his couch--a
toad!--but a toad five inches in length, a monstrous,
repulsive specimen of vermin that sat there staring at him
with huge round eyes. Joe felt his stomach revolt at the
sight, and, regaining a little strength from the intensity
of his repugnance, he rushed at the top of his speed and
plunged into the lake. This sudden bath somewhat allayed
the pangs of the itching that tortured his whole body;
and, chewing a few leaves, he set forth resolutely, again
feeling an obstinate resolution in the act, for which he
could hardly account even to his own mind. He no longer
seemed to have entire control of his own acts, and, nevertheless,
he felt within him a strength superior to despair.
However, he began now to suffer terribly from hunger.
His stomach, less resigned than he was, rebelled, and he was
obliged to fasten a tendril of wild-vine tightly about his
waist. Fortunately, he could quench his thirst at any
moment, and, in recalling the sufferings he had undergone
in the desert, he experienced comparative relief in his exemption
from that other distressing want.
"What can have become of the Victoria?" he wondered.
"The wind blows from the north, and she should be
carried back by it toward the lake. No doubt the doctor
has gone to work to right her balance, but yesterday
would have given him time enough for that, so that may
be to-day--but I must act just as if I was never to see
him again. After all, if I only get to one of the large
towns on the lake, I'll find myself no worse off than the
travellers my master used to talk about. Why shouldn't
I work my way out of the scrape as well as they did?
Some of them got back home again. Come, then! the
deuce! Cheer up, my boy!"
Thus talking to himself and walking on rapidly, Joe
came right upon a horde of natives in the very depths of
the forest, but he halted in time and was not seen by them.
The negroes were busy poisoning arrows with the juice of
the euphorbium--a piece of work deemed a great affair
among these savage tribes, and carried on with a sort of
Joe, entirely motionless and even holding his breath,
was keeping himself concealed in a thicket, when, happening
to raise his eyes, he saw through an opening in the
foliage the welcome apparition of the balloon--the Victoria
herself--moving toward the lake, at a height of only
about one hundred feet above him. But he could not
make himself heard; he dared not, could not make his
friends even see him!
Tears came to his eyes, not of grief but of thankfulness;
his master was then seeking him; his master had
not left him to perish! He would have to wait for the
departure of the blacks; then he could quit his hiding-place
and run toward the borders of Lake Tchad!
But by this time the Victoria was disappearing in the
distant sky. Joe still determined to wait for her; she
would come back again, undoubtedly. She did, indeed,
return, but farther to the eastward. Joe ran, gesticulated,
shouted--but all in vain! A strong breeze was sweeping
the balloon away with a speed that deprived him of all
For the first time, energy and confidence abandoned
the heart of the unfortunate man. He saw that he was
lost. He thought his master gone beyond all prospect of
return. He dared no longer think; he would no longer
Like a crazy man, his feet bleeding, his body cut and
torn, he walked on during all that day and a part of the
next night. He even dragged himself along, sometimes
on his knees, sometimes with his hands. He saw the moment
nigh when all his strength would fail, and nothing would
be left to him but to sink upon the ground and die.
Thus working his way along, he at length found himself
close to a marsh, or what he knew would soon become
a marsh, for night had set in some hours before, and he fell
by a sudden misstep into a thick, clinging mire. In spite
of all his efforts, in spite of his desperate struggles, he felt
himself sinking gradually in the swampy ooze, and in a
few minutes he was buried to his waist.
"Here, then, at last, is death!" he thought, in agony,
"and what a death!"
He now began to struggle again, like a madman; but
his efforts only served to bury him deeper in the tomb
that the poor doomed lad was hollowing for himself; not
a log of wood or a branch to buoy him up; not a reed to
which he might cling! He felt that all was over! His
eyes convulsively closed!
"Master! master!--Help!" were his last words; but
his voice, despairing, unaided, half stifled already by the
rising mire, died away feebly on the night.
A Throng of People on the Horizon.--A Troop of Arabs.--The Pursuit.
--It is He.--Fall from Horseback.--The Strangled Arab.--A Ball from
Kennedy.--Adroit Manoeuvres.--Caught up flying.--Joe saved at last.
From the moment when Kennedy resumed his post of
observation in the front of the car, he had not ceased to
watch the horizon with his utmost attention.
After the lapse of some time he turned toward the
doctor and said:
"If I am not greatly mistaken I can see, off yonder in
the distance, a throng of men or animals moving. It is impossible
to make them out yet, but I observe that they are in violent
motion, for they are raising a great cloud of dust."
"May it not be another contrary breeze?" said the
doctor, "another whirlwind coming to drive us back northward
again?" and while speaking he stood up to examine
"I think not, Samuel; it is a troop of gazelles or of
"Perhaps so, Dick; but yon throng is some nine or
ten miles from us at least, and on my part, even with the
glass, I can make nothing of it!"
"At all events I shall not lose sight of it. There is
something remarkable about it that excites my curiosity.
Sometimes it looks like a body of cavalry manoeuvring.
Ah! I was not mistaken. It is, indeed, a squadron of
horsemen. Look--look there!"
The doctor eyed the group with great attention, and,
after a moment's pause, remarked:
"I believe that you are right. It is a detachment of
Arabs or Tibbous, and they are galloping in the same
direction with us, as though in flight, but we are going
faster than they, and we are rapidly gaining on them. In
half an hour we shall be near enough to see them and know
what they are."
Kennedy had again lifted his glass and was attentively
scrutinizing them. Meanwhile the crowd of horsemen was
becoming more distinctly visible, and a few were seen to
detach themselves from the main body.
"It is some hunting manoeuvre, evidently," said Kennedy.
"Those fellows seem to be in pursuit of something.
I would like to know what they are about."
"Patience, Dick! In a little while we shall overtake
them, if they continue on the same route. We are going
at the rate of twenty miles per hour, and no horse can
keep up with that."
Kennedy again raised his glass, and a few minutes
later he exclaimed:
"They are Arabs, galloping at the top of their speed;
I can make them out distinctly. They are about fifty in
number. I can see their bournouses puffed out by the wind.
It is some cavalry exercise that they are going through.
Their chief is a hundred paces ahead of them and they
are rushing after him at headlong speed."
"Whoever they may be, Dick, they are not to be
feared, and then, if necessary, we can go higher."
"Wait, doctor--wait a little!"
"It's curious," said Kennedy again, after a brief pause,
"but there's something going on that I can't exactly explain.
By the efforts they make, and the irregularity of
their line, I should fancy that those Arabs are pursuing
some one, instead of following."
"Are you certain of that, Dick?"
"Oh! yes, it's clear enough now. I am right! It is a
pursuit--a hunt--but a man-hunt! That is not their chief
riding ahead of them, but a fugitive."
"A fugitive!" exclaimed the doctor, growing more
and more interested.
"Don't lose sight of him, and let us wait!"
Three or four miles more were quickly gained upon
these horsemen, who nevertheless were dashing onward
with incredible speed.
"Doctor! doctor!" shouted Kennedy in an agitated
"What is the matter, Dick?"
"Is it an illusion? Can it be possible?"
"What do you mean?"
"Wait!" and so saying, the Scot wiped the sights of
his spy-glass carefully, and looked through it again intently.
"Well?" questioned the doctor.
"It is he, doctor!"
"He!" exclaimed Ferguson with emotion.
"It is he! no other!" and it was needless to pronounce
"Yes! it is he! on horseback, and only a hundred
paces in advance of his enemies! He is pursued!"
"It is Joe--Joe himself!" cried the doctor, turning pale.
"He cannot see us in his flight!"
"He will see us, though!" said the doctor, lowering
the flame of his blow-pipe.
"In five minutes we shall be within fifty feet of the
ground, and in fifteen we shall be right over him!"
"We must let him know it by firing a gun!"
"No! he can't turn back to come this way. He's
"What shall we do, then?"
"We must wait."
"Wait?--and these Arabs!"
"We shall overtake them. We'll pass them. We are
not more than two miles from them, and provided that
Joe's horse holds out!"
"Great God!" exclaimed Kennedy, suddenly.
"What is the matter?"
Kennedy had uttered a cry of despair as he saw Joe
fling himself to the ground. His horse, evidently
exhausted, had just fallen headlong.
"He sees us!" cried the doctor, "and he motions to
us, as he gets upon his feet!"
"But the Arabs will overtake him! What is he
waiting for? Ah! the brave lad! Huzza!" shouted the
sportsman, who could no longer restrain his feelings.
Joe, who had immediately sprung up after his fall, just
as one of the swiftest horsemen rushed upon him, bounded
like a panther, avoided his assailant by leaping to one
side, jumped up behind him on the crupper, seized the
Arab by the throat, and, strangling him with his sinewy
hands and fingers of steel, flung him on the sand, and
continued his headlong flight.
A tremendous howl was heard from the Arabs, but,
completely engrossed by the pursuit, they had not taken
notice of the balloon, which was now but five hundred
paces behind them, and only about thirty feet from the
ground. On their part, they were not twenty lengths of
their horses from the fugitive.
One of them was very perceptibly gaining on Joe, and
was about to pierce him with his lance, when Kennedy,
with fixed eye and steady hand, stopped him short with a
ball, that hurled him to the earth.
Joe did not even turn his head at the report. Some
of the horsemen reined in their barbs, and fell on their
faces in the dust as they caught sight of the Victoria;
the rest continued their pursuit.
"But what is Joe about?" said Kennedy; "he don't stop!"
"He's doing better than that, Dick! I understand him!
He's keeping on in the same direction as the balloon. He
relies upon our intelligence. Ah! the noble fellow! We'll
carry him off in the very teeth of those Arab rascals! We
are not more than two hundred paces from him!"
"What are we to do?" asked Kennedy.
"Lay aside your rifle,Dick."
And the Scot obeyed the request at once.
"Do you think that you can hold one hundred and fifty
pounds of ballast in your arms?"
"Ay, more than that!"
"No! That will be enough!"
And the doctor proceeded to pile up bags of sand in
"Hold yourself in readiness in the back part of the car,
and be prepared to throw out that ballast at a single effort.
But, for your life, don't do so until I give the word!"
"Be easy on that point."
"Otherwise, we should miss Joe, and he would be lost."
"Count upon me!"
The Victoria at that moment almost commanded the
troop of horsemen who were still desperately urging their
steeds at Joe's heels. The doctor, standing in the front
of the car, held the ladder clear, ready to throw it at any
moment. Meanwhile, Joe had still maintained the distance
between himself and his pursuers--say about fifty feet.
The Victoria was now ahead of the party.
"Attention!" exclaimed the doctor to Kennedy.
"Joe, look out for yourself!" shouted the doctor in his
sonorous, ringing voice, as he flung out the ladder, the
lowest ratlines of which tossed up the dust of the road.
As the doctor shouted, Joe had turned his head, but
without checking his horse. The ladder dropped close to
him, and at the instant he grasped it the doctor again
shouted to Kennedy:
And the Victoria, lightened by a weight greater than
Joe's, shot up one hundred and fifty feet into the air.
Joe clung with all his strength to the ladder during
the wide oscillations that it had to describe, and then
making an indescribable gesture to the Arabs, and climbing
with the agility of a monkey, he sprang up to his companions,
who received him with open arms.
The Arabs uttered a scream of astonishment and rage.
The fugitive had been snatched from them on the wing,
and the Victoria was rapidly speeding far beyond
"Master! Kennedy!" ejaculated Joe, and overwhelmed,
at last, with fatigue and emotion, the poor fellow
fainted away, while Kennedy, almost beside himself,
"Saved indeed!" murmured the doctor, who had recovered
all his phlegmatic coolness.
Joe was almost naked. His bleeding arms, his body
covered with cuts and bruises, told what his sufferings had
been. The doctor quietly dressed his wounds, and laid
him comfortably under the awning.
Joe soon returned to consciousness, and asked for a
glass of brandy, which the doctor did not see fit to refuse,
as the faithful fellow had to be indulged.
After he had swallowed the stimulant, Joe grasped the
hands of his two friends and announced that he was ready
to relate what had happened to him.
But they would not allow him to talk at that time, and
he sank back into a profound sleep, of which he seemed to
have the greatest possible need.
The Victoria was then taking an oblique line to the
westward. Driven by a tempestuous wind, it again approached
the borders of the thorny desert, which the travellers
descried over the tops of palm-trees, bent and broken
by the storm; and, after having made a run of two hundred
miles since rescuing Joe, it passed the tenth degree
of east longitude about nightfall.
The Western Route.--Joe wakes up.--His Obstinacy.--End of Joe's
Narrative.--Tagelei.--Kennedy's Anxieties.--The Route to the
North.--A Night near Aghades.
During the night the wind lulled as though reposing
after the boisterousness of the day, and the Victoria remained
quietly at the top of the tall sycamore. The doctor
and Kennedy kept watch by turns, and Joe availed himself
of the chance to sleep most sturdily for twenty-four
hours at a stretch.
"That's the remedy he needs," said Dr. Ferguson.
"Nature will take charge of his care."
With the dawn the wind sprang up again in quite
strong, and moreover capricious gusts. It shifted abruptly
from south to north, but finally the Victoria was carried
away by it toward the west.
The doctor, map in hand, recognized the kingdom of
Damerghou, an undulating region of great fertility, in
which the huts that compose the villages are constructed
of long reeds interwoven with branches of the asclepia.
The grain-mills were seen raised in the cultivated fields,
upon small scaffoldings or platforms, to keep them out of
the reach of the mice and the huge ants of that country.
They soon passed the town of Zinder, recognized by
its spacious place of execution, in the centre of which
stands the "tree of death." At its foot the executioner
stands waiting, and whoever passes beneath its shadow is
Upon consulting his compass, Kennedy could not refrain
"Look! we are again moving northward."
"No matter; if it only takes us to Timbuctoo, we shall
not complain. Never was a finer voyage accomplished
under better circumstances!"
"Nor in better health," said Joe, at that instant thrusting
his jolly countenance from between the curtains of the
"There he is! there's our gallant friend--our preserver!"
exclaimed Kennedy, cordially.--"How goes it, Joe?"
"Oh! why, naturally enough, Mr. Kennedy, very naturally!
I never felt better in my life! Nothing sets a
man up like a little pleasure-trip with a bath in Lake
Tchad to start on--eh, doctor?"
"Brave fellow!" said Ferguson, pressing Joe's hand,
"what terrible anxiety you caused us!"
"Humph! and you, sir? Do you think that I felt
easy in my mind about you, gentlemen? You gave me
a fine fright, let me tell you!"
"We shall never agree in the world, Joe, if you take
things in that style."
"I see that his tumble hasn't changed him a bit,"
"Your devotion and self-forgetfulness were sublime,
my brave lad, and they saved us, for the Victoria was falling
into the lake, and, once there, nobody could have extricated her."
"But, if my devotion, as you are pleased to call my
summerset, saved you, did it not save me too, for here we
are, all three of us, in first-rate health? Consequently we
have nothing to squabble about in the whole affair."
"Oh! we can never come to a settlement with that
youth," said the sportsman.
"The best way to settle it," replied Joe, "is to say
nothing more about the matter. What's done is done.
Good or bad, we can't take it back."
"You obstinate fellow!" said the doctor, laughing;
"you can't refuse, though, to tell us your adventures, at
"Not if you think it worth while. But, in the first
place, I'm going to cook this fat goose to a turn, for I see
that Mr. Kennedy has not wasted his time."
"All right, Joe!"
"Well, let us see then how this African game will sit
on a European stomach!"
The goose was soon roasted by the flame of the blow-pipe,
and not long afterward was comfortably stowed
away. Joe took his own good share, like a man who had
eaten nothing for several days. After the tea and the
punch, he acquainted his friends with his recent adventures.
He spoke with some emotion, even while looking
at things with his usual philosophy. The doctor could not
refrain from frequently pressing his hand when he saw his
worthy servant more considerate of his master's safety
than of his own, and, in relation to the sinking of the island
of the Biddiomahs, he explained to him the frequency of
this phenomenon upon Lake Tchad.
At length Joe, continuing his recital, arrived at the
point where, sinking in the swamp, he had uttered a last
cry of despair.
"I thought I was gone," said he, "and as you came
right into my mind, I made a hard fight for it. How, I
couldn't tell you--but I'd made up my mind that I wouldn't
go under without knowing why. Just then, I saw--two or
three feet from me--what do you think? the end of a rope
that had been fresh cut; so I took leave to make another
jerk, and, by hook or by crook, I got to the rope. When
I pulled, it didn't give; so I pulled again and hauled away
and there I was on dry ground! At the end of the rope,
I found an anchor! Ah, master, I've a right to call that
the anchor of safety, anyhow, if you have no objection. I
knew it again! It was the anchor of the Victoria! You
had grounded there! So I followed the direction of the
rope and that gave me your direction, and, after trying
hard a few times more, I got out of the swamp. I had
got my strength back with my spunk, and I walked on
part of the night away from the lake, until I got to the
edge of a very big wood. There I saw a fenced-in place,
where some horses were grazing, without thinking of any
harm. Now, there are times when everybody knows how
to ride a horse, are there not, doctor? So I didn't spend
much time thinking about it, but jumped right on the back
of one of those innocent animals and away we went galloping
north as fast as our legs could carry us. I needn't
tell you about the towns that I didn't see nor the villages
that I took good care to go around. No! I crossed the
ploughed fields; I leaped the hedges; I scrambled over
the fences; I dug my heels into my nag; I thrashed him;
I fairly lifted the poor fellow off his feet! At last I got to
the end of the tilled land. Good! There was the desert.
'That suits me!' said I, 'for I can see better ahead of me
and farther too.' I was hoping all the time to see the balloon
tacking about and waiting for me. But not a bit of
it; and so, in about three hours, I go plump, like a fool,
into a camp of Arabs! Whew! what a hunt that was!
You see, Mr. Kennedy, a hunter don't know what a real
hunt is until he's been hunted himself! Still I advise him
not to try it if he can keep out of it! My horse was so
tired, he was ready to drop off his legs; they were close
on me; I threw myself to the ground; then I jumped up
again behind an Arab! I didn't mean the fellow any harm,
and I hope he has no grudge against me for choking him,
but I saw you--and you know the rest. The Victoria
came on at my heels, and you caught me up flying, as a
circus-rider does a ring. Wasn't I right in counting on
you? Now, doctor, you see how simple all that was!
Nothing more natural in the world! I'm ready to begin
over again, if it would be of any service to you. And
besides, master, as I said a while ago, it's not worth
"My noble, gallant Joe!" said the doctor, with great
feeling. "Heart of gold! we were not astray in trusting
to your intelligence and skill."
"Poh! doctor, one has only just to follow things along
as they happen, and he can always work his way out of
a scrape! The safest plan, you see, is to take matters as
While Joe was telling his experience, the balloon had
rapidly passed over a long reach of country, and Kennedy
soon pointed out on the horizon a collection of structures
that looked like a town. The doctor glanced at his map
and recognized the place as the large village of Tagelei,
in the Damerghou country.
"Here," said he, "we come upon Dr. Barth's route.
It was at this place that he parted from his companions,
Richardson and Overweg; the first was to follow the Zinder
route, and the second that of Maradi; and you may
remember that, of these three travellers, Barth was the
only one who ever returned to Europe."
"Then," said Kennedy, following out on the map the
direction of the Victoria, "we are going due north."
"Due north, Dick."
"And don't that give you a little uneasiness?"
"Why should it?"
"Because that line leads to Tripoli, and over the Great
"Oh, we shall not go so far as that, my friend--at
least, I hope not."
"But where do you expect to halt?"
"Come, Dick, don't you feel some curiosity to see
"Certainly," said Joe; "nobody nowadays can think
of making the trip to Africa without going to see
"You will be only the fifth or sixth European who has
ever set eyes on that mysterious city."
"Ho, then, for Timbuctoo!"
"Well, then, let us try to get as far as between the
seventeenth and eighteenth degrees of north latitude, and
there we will seek a favorable wind to carry us westward."
"Good!" said the hunter. "But have we still far to
go to the northward?"
"One hundred and fifty miles at least."
"In that case," said Kennedy, "I'll turn in and sleep
"Sleep, sir; sleep!" urged Joe. "And you, doctor, do
the same yourself: you must have need of rest, for I made
you keep watch a little out of time."
The sportsman stretched himself under the awning;
but Ferguson, who was not easily conquered by fatigue,
remained at his post.
In about three hours the Victoria was crossing with
extreme rapidity an expanse of stony country, with ranges
of lofty, naked mountains of granitic formation at the
base. A few isolated peaks attained the height of even
four thousand feet. Giraffes, antelopes, and ostriches were
seen running and bounding with marvellous agility in the
midst of forests of acacias, mimosas, souahs, and date-trees.
After the barrenness of the desert, vegetation was
now resuming its empire. This was the country of the
Kailouas, who veil their faces with a bandage of cotton,
like their dangerous neighbors, the Touaregs.
At ten o'clock in the evening, after a splendid trip of
two hundred and fifty miles, the Victoria halted over an
important town. The moonlight revealed glimpses of one
district half in ruins; and some pinnacles of mosques and
minarets shot up here and there, glistening in the silvery
rays. The doctor took a stellar observation, and discovered
that he was in the latitude of Aghades.
This city, once the seat of an immense trade, was already
falling into ruin when Dr. Barth visited it.
The Victoria, not being seen in the obscurity of night,
descended about two miles above Aghades, in a field of
millet. The night was calm, and began to break into
dawn about three o'clock A.M.; while a light wind coaxed
the balloon westward, and even a little toward the south.
Dr. Ferguson hastened to avail himself of such good
fortune, and rapidly ascending resumed his aerial journey
amid a long wake of golden morning sunshine.
A Rapid Passage.--Prudent Resolves.--Caravans in Sight.--Incessant Rains.--
Goa.--The Niger.--Golberry, Geoffroy, and Gray.--Mungo Park.--Laing.--
Rene Caillie.--Clapperton.--John and Richard Lander.
The 17th of May passed tranquilly, without any remarkable
incident; the desert gained upon them once more; a moderate
wind bore the Victoria toward the southwest, and she never
swerved to the right or to the left, but her shadow traced
a perfectly straight line on the sand.
Before starting, the doctor had prudently renewed his
stock of water, having feared that he should not be able to
touch ground in these regions, infested as they are by the
Aouelim-Minian Touaregs. The plateau, at an elevation
of eighteen hundred feet above the level of the sea, sloped
down toward the south. Our travellers, having crossed
the Aghades route at Murzouk--a route often pressed by
the feet of camels--arrived that evening, in the sixteenth
degree of north latitude, and four degrees fifty-five minutes
east longitude, after having passed over one hundred
and eighty miles of a long and monotonous day's journey.
During the day Joe dressed the last pieces of game,
which had been only hastily prepared, and he served up
for supper a mess of snipe, that were greatly relished.
The wind continuing good, the doctor resolved to keep on
during the night, the moon, still nearly at the full,
illumining it with her radiance. The Victoria ascended to a
height of five hundred feet, and, during her nocturnal trip
of about sixty miles, the gentle slumbers of an infant
would not have been disturbed by her motion.
On Sunday morning, the direction of the wind again
changed, and it bore to the northwestward. A few crows
were seen sweeping through the air, and, off on the
horizon, a flock of vultures which, fortunately,
however, kept at a distance.
The sight of these birds led Joe to compliment his
master on the idea of having two balloons.
"Where would we be," said he, "with only one balloon?
The second balloon is like the life-boat to a ship;
in case of wreck we could always take to it and escape."
"You are right, friend Joe," said the doctor, "only
that my life-boat gives me some uneasiness. It is not so
good as the main craft."
"What do you mean by that, doctor?" asked Kennedy.
"I mean to say that the new Victoria is not so good as
the old one. Whether it be that the stuff it is made of is
too much worn, or that the heat of the spiral has melted
the gutta-percha, I can observe a certain loss of gas. It
don't amount to much thus far, but still it is noticeable.
We have a tendency to sink, and, in order to keep our
elevation, I am compelled to give greater dilation to the
"The deuce!" exclaimed Kennedy with concern; "I
see no remedy for that."
"There is none, Dick, and that is why we must hasten
our progress, and even avoid night halts."
"Are we still far from the coast?" asked Joe.
"Which coast, my boy? How are we to know whither chance
will carry us? All that I can say is, that Timbuctoo is
still about four hundred miles to the westward.
"And how long will it take us to get there?"
"Should the wind not carry us too far out of the way,
I hope to reach that city by Tuesday evening."
"Then," remarked Joe, pointing to a long file of animals
and men winding across the open desert, "we shall
arrive there sooner than that caravan."
Ferguson and Kennedy leaned over and saw an immense
cavalcade. There were at least one hundred and
fifty camels of the kind that, for twelve mutkals of gold,
or about twenty-five dollars, go from Timbuctoo to Tafilet
with a load of five hundred pounds upon their backs. Each
animal had dangling to its tail a bag to receive its excrement,
the only fuel on which the caravans can depend when
crossing the desert.
These Touareg camels are of the very best race. They
can go from three to seven days without drinking, and for
two without eating. Their speed surpasses that of the
horse, and they obey with intelligence the voice of the
khabir, or guide of the caravan. They are known in the
country under the name of mehari.
Such were the details given by the doctor while his
companions continued to gaze upon that multitude of men,
women, and children, advancing on foot and with difficulty
over a waste of sand half in motion, and scarcely kept in
its place by scanty nettles, withered grass, and stunted
bushes that grew upon it. The wind obliterated the marks
of their feet almost instantly.
Joe inquired how the Arabs managed to guide themselves
across the desert, and come to the few wells scattered
far between throughout this vast solitude.
"The Arabs," replied Dr. Ferguson, "are endowed
by nature with a wonderful instinct in finding their way.
Where a European would be at a loss, they never hesitate
for a moment. An insignificant fragment of rock, a pebble,
a tuft of grass, a different shade of color in the sand,
suffice to guide them with accuracy. During the night
they go by the polar star. They never travel more than
two miles per hour, and always rest during the noonday
heat. You may judge from that how long it takes them
to cross Sahara, a desert more than nine hundred miles in
But the Victoria had already disappeared from the
astonished gaze of the Arabs, who must have envied her
rapidity. That evening she passed two degrees twenty
minutes east longitude, and during the night left another
degree behind her.
On Monday the weather changed completely. Rain
began to fall with extreme violence, and not only had the
balloon to resist the power of this deluge, but also the
increase of weight which it caused by wetting the whole
machine, car and all. This continuous shower accounted
for the swamps and marshes that formed the sole surface
of the country. Vegetation reappeared, however, along
with the mimosas, the baobabs, and the tamarind-trees.
Such was the Sonray country, with its villages topped
with roofs turned over like Armenian caps. There were
few mountains, and only such hills as were enough to form
the ravines and pools where the pintadoes and snipes went
sailing and diving through. Here and there, an impetuous
torrent cut the roads, and had to be crossed by the
natives on long vines stretched from tree to tree. The
forests gave place to jungles, which alligators, hippopotami,
and the rhinoceros, made their haunts.
"It will not be long before we see the Niger," said the
doctor. "The face of the country always changes in the
vicinity of large rivers. These moving highways, as they
are sometimes correctly called, have first brought vegetation
with them, as they will at last bring civilization.
Thus, in its course of twenty-five hundred miles, the Niger
has scattered along its banks the most important cities of
"By-the-way," put in Joe, "that reminds me of what
was said by an admirer of the goodness of Providence, who
praised the foresight with which it had generally caused
rivers to flow close to large cities!"
At noon the Victoria was passing over a petty town,
a mere assemblage of miserable huts, which once was Goa,
a great capital.
"It was there," said the doctor, "that Barth crossed
the Niger, on his return from Timbuctoo. This is the
river so famous in antiquity, the rival of the Nile, to which
pagan superstition ascribed a celestial origin. Like the
Nile, it has engaged the attention of geographers in all
ages; and like it, also, its exploration has cost the lives
of many victims; yes, even more of them than perished
on account of the other."
The Niger flowed broadly between its banks, and its
waters rolled southward with some violence of current;
but our travellers, borne swiftly by as they were, could
scarcely catch a glimpse of its curious outline.
"I wanted to talk to you about this river," said Dr.
Ferguson, "and it is already far from us. Under the
names of Dhiouleba, Mayo, Egghirreou, Quorra, and other
titles besides, it traverses an immense extent of country,
and almost competes in length with the Nile. These
appellations signify simply 'the River,' according to the
dialects of the countries through which it passes."
"Did Dr. Barth follow this route?" asked Kennedy.
"No, Dick: in quitting Lake Tchad, he passed through
the different towns of Bornou, and intersected the Niger
at Say, four degrees below Goa; then he penetrated to the
bosom of those unexplored countries which the Niger
embraces in its elbow; and, after eight months of fresh
fatigues, he arrived at Timbuctoo; all of which we may
do in about three days with as swift a wind as this."
"Have the sources of the Niger been discovered?"
"Long since," replied the doctor. "The exploration
of the Niger and its tributaries was the object of several
expeditions, the principal of which I shall mention: Between
1749 and 1758, Adamson made a reconnoissance of
the river, and visited Gorea; from 1785 to 1788, Golberry
and Geoffroy travelled across the deserts of Senegambia,
and ascended as far as the country of the Moors, who
assassinated Saugnier, Brisson, Adam, Riley, Cochelet,
and so many other unfortunate men. Then came the illustrious
Mungo Park, the friend of Sir Walter Scott, and,
like him, a Scotchman by birth. Sent out in 1795 by the
African Society of London, he got as far as Bambarra,
saw the Niger, travelled five hundred miles with a slave-merchant,
reconnoitred the Gambia River, and returned
to England in 1797. He again set out, on the 30th of
January, 1805, with his brother-in-law Anderson, Scott,
the designer, and a gang of workmen; he reached Gorea,
there added a detachment of thirty-five soldiers to his
party, and saw the Niger again on the 19th of August.
But, by that time, in consequence of fatigue, privations,
ill-usage, the inclemencies of the weather, and the
unhealthiness of the country, only eleven persons remained
alive of the forty Europeans in the party. On the 16th
of November, the last letters from Mungo Park reached
his wife; and, a year later a trader from that country
gave information that, having got as far as Boussa, on the
Niger, on the 23d of December, the unfortunate traveller's
boat was upset by the cataracts in that part of the river,
and he was murdered by the natives."
"And his dreadful fate did not check the efforts of
others to explore that river?"
"On the contrary, Dick. Since then, there were two
objects in view: namely, to recover the lost man's papers,
as well as to pursue the exploration. In 1816, an expedition
was organized, in which Major Grey took part. It arrived
in Senegal, penetrated to the Fonta-Jallon, visited
the Foullah and Mandingo populations, and returned to
England without further results. In 1822, Major Laing
explored all the western part of Africa near to the British
possessions; and he it was who got so far as the sources
of the Niger; and, according to his documents, the spring
in which that immense river takes its rise is not two feet
"Easy to jump over," said Joe.
"How's that? Easy you think, eh?" retorted the doctor.
"If we are to believe tradition, whoever attempts
to pass that spring, by leaping over it, is immediately
swallowed up; and whoever tries to draw water from it,
feels himself repulsed by an invisible hand."
"I suppose a man has a right not to believe a word
of that!" persisted Joe.
"Oh, by all means!--Five years later, it was Major
Laing's destiny to force his way across the desert of
Sahara, penetrate to Timbuctoo, and perish a few miles
above it, by strangling, at the hands of the Ouelad-shiman,
who wanted to compel him to turn Mussulman."
"Still another victim!" said the sportsman.
"It was then that a brave young man, with his own
feeble resources, undertook and accomplished the most
astonishing of modern journeys--I mean the Frenchman
Rene Caillie, who, after sundry attempts in 1819 and 1824,
set out again on the 19th of April, 1827, from Rio Nunez.
On the 3d of August he arrived at Time, so thoroughly
exhausted and ill that he could not resume his journey
until six months later, in January, 1828. He then joined
a caravan, and, protected by his Oriental dress, reached
the Niger on the 10th of March, penetrated to the city
of Jenne, embarked on the river, and descended it, as far
as Timbuctoo, where he arrived on the 30th of April. In
1760, another Frenchman, Imbert by name, and, in 1810, an
Englishman, Robert Adams, had seen this curious place;
but Rene Caillie was to be the first European who could
bring back any authentic data concerning it. On the 4th
of May he quitted this 'Queen of the desert;' on the 9th,
he surveyed the very spot where Major Laing had been
murdered; on the 19th, he arrived at El-Arouan, and left
that commercial town to brave a thousand dangers in
crossing the vast solitudes comprised between the Soudan
and the northern regions of Africa. At length he entered
Tangiers, and on the 28th of September sailed for Toulon.
In nineteen months, notwithstanding one hundred and
eighty days' sickness, he had traversed Africa from west
to north. Ah! had Callie been born in England, he
would have been honored as the most intrepid traveller
of modern times, as was the case with Mungo Park. But
in France he was not appreciated according to his worth."
"He was a sturdy fellow!" said Kennedy, "but what
became of him?"
"He died at the age of thirty-nine, from the consequences
of his long fatigues. They thought they had done enough
in decreeing him the prize of the Geographical Society
in 1828; the highest honors would have been paid to him
"While he was accomplishing this remarkable journey,
an Englishman had conceived a similar enterprise and
was trying to push it through with equal courage, if not
with equal good fortune. This was Captain Clapperton,
the companion of Denham. In 1829 he reentered Africa
by the western coast of the Gulf of Benin; he then followed
in the track of Mungo Park and of Laing, recovered
at Boussa the documents relative to the death of the former,
and arrived on the 20th of August at Sackatoo, where
he was seized and held as a prisoner, until he expired in the
arms of his faithful attendant Richard Lander."
"And what became of this Lander?" asked Joe, deeply interested.
"He succeeded in regaining the coast and returned to
London, bringing with him the captain's papers, and an
exact narrative of his own journey. He then offered his
services to the government to complete the reconnoissance
of the Niger. He took with him his brother John, the
second child of a poor couple in Cornwall, and, together,
these men, between 1829 and 1831, redescended the river
from Boussa to its mouth, describing it village by village,
mile by mile."
"So both the brothers escaped the common fate?"
"Yes, on this expedition, at least; but in 1833 Richard
undertook a third trip to the Niger, and perished by a
bullet, near the mouth of the river. You see, then, my
friends, that the country over which we are now passing
has witnessed some noble instances of self-sacrifice which,
unfortunately, have only too often had death for their reward."
The Country in the Elbow of the Niger.--A Fantastic View of the
Hombori Mountains.--Kabra.--Timbuctoo.--The Chart of Dr. Barth.
--A Decaying City.--Whither Heaven wills.
During this dull Monday, Dr. Ferguson diverted his
thoughts by giving his companions a thousand details
concerning the country they were crossing. The surface,
which was quite flat, offered no impediment to their progress.
The doctor's sole anxiety arose from the obstinate
northeast wind which continued to blow furiously, and bore
them away from the latitude of Timbuctoo.
The Niger, after running northward as far as that city,
sweeps around, like an immense water-jet from some fountain,
and falls into the Atlantic in a broad sheaf. In the
elbow thus formed the country is of varied character,
sometimes luxuriantly fertile, and sometimes extremely
bare; fields of maize succeeded by wide spaces covered
with broom-corn and uncultivated plains. All kinds of
aquatic birds--pelicans, wild-duck, kingfishers, and the
rest--were seen in numerous flocks hovering about the
borders of the pools and torrents.
From time to time there appeared an encampment of
Touaregs, the men sheltered under their leather tents,
while their women were busied with the domestic toil
outside, milking their camels and smoking their
By eight o'clock in the evening the Victoria had advanced
more than two hundred miles to the westward,
and our aeronauts became the spectators of a magnificent
A mass of moonbeams forcing their way through an
opening in the clouds, and gliding between the long lines
of falling rain, descended in a golden shower on the ridges
of the Hombori Mountains. Nothing could be more
weird than the appearance of these seemingly basaltic
summits; they stood out in fantastic profile against the
sombre sky, and the beholder might have fancied them to
be the legendary ruins of some vast city of the middle
ages, such as the icebergs of the polar seas sometimes
mimic them in nights of gloom.
"An admirable landscape for the 'Mysteries of Udolpho'!"
exclaimed the doctor. "Ann Radcliffe could not
have depicted yon mountains in a more appalling aspect."
"Faith!" said Joe, "I wouldn't like to be strolling
alone in the evening through this country of ghosts. Do
you see now, master, if it wasn't so heavy, I'd like to carry
that whole landscape home to Scotland! It would do for
the borders of Loch Lomond, and tourists would rush there
"Our balloon is hardly large enough to admit of that
little experiment--but I think our direction is changing.
Bravo!--the elves and fairies of the place are quite obliging.
See, they've sent us a nice little southeast breeze,
that will put us on the right track again."
In fact, the Victoria was resuming a more northerly
route, and on the morning of the 20th she was passing
over an inextricable network of channels, torrents, and
streams, in fine, the whole complicated tangle of the Niger's
tributaries. Many of these channels, covered with a thick
growth of herbage, resembled luxuriant meadow-lands.
There the doctor recognized the route followed by the
explorer Barth when he launched upon the river to descend
to Timbuctoo. Eight hundred fathoms broad at this point,
the Niger flowed between banks richly grown with cruciferous
plants and tamarind-trees. Herds of agile gazelles were seen
skipping about, their curling horns mingling with the tall
herbage, within which the alligator, half concealed, lay
silently in wait for them with watchful eyes.
Long files of camels and asses laden with merchandise
from Jenne were winding in under the noble trees. Ere
long, an amphitheatre of low-built houses was discovered
at a turn of the river, their roofs and terraces heaped up
with hay and straw gathered from the neighboring districts.
"There's Kabra!" exclaimed the doctor, joyously;
"there is the harbor of Timbuctoo, and the city is not
five miles from here!"
"Then, sir, you are satisfied?" half queried Joe.
"Delighted, my boy!"
"Very good; then every thing's for the best!"
In fact, about two o'clock, the Queen of the Desert,
mysterious Timbuctoo, which once, like Athens and Rome,
had her schools of learned men, and her professorships
of philosophy, stretched away before the gaze of our
Ferguson followed the most minute details upon the
chart traced by Barth himself, and was enabled to
recognize its perfect accuracy.
The city forms an immense triangle marked out upon
a vast plain of white sand, its acute angle directed toward
the north and piercing a corner of the desert. In the environs
there was almost nothing, hardly even a few grasses,
with some dwarf mimosas and stunted bushes.
As for the appearance of Timbuctoo, the reader has but
to imagine a collection of billiard-balls and thimbles--such
is the bird's-eye view! The streets, which are quite narrow,
are lined with houses only one story in height, built
of bricks dried in the sun, and huts of straw and reeds, the
former square, the latter conical. Upon the terraces were
seen some of the male inhabitants, carelessly lounging at
full length in flowing apparel of bright colors, and lance
or musket in hand; but no women were visible at that
hour of the day.
"Yet they are said to be handsome," remarked the
doctor. "You see the three towers of the three mosques
that are the only ones left standing of a great number--
the city has indeed fallen from its ancient splendor! At
the top of the triangle rises the Mosque of Sankore, with its
ranges of galleries resting on arcades of sufficiently pure
design. Farther on, and near to the Sane-Gungu quarter,
is the Mosque of Sidi-Yahia and some two-story houses.
But do not look for either palaces or monuments: the
sheik is a mere son of traffic, and his royal palace is a
"It seems to me that I can see half-ruined ramparts,"
"They were destroyed by the Fouillanes in 1826; the
city was one-third larger then, for Timbuctoo, an object
generally coveted by all the tribes, since the eleventh
century, has belonged in succession to the Touaregs, the
Sonrayans, the Morocco men, and the Fouillanes; and this
great centre of civilization, where a sage like Ahmed-Baba
owned, in the sixteenth century, a library of sixteen hundred
manuscripts, is now nothing but a mere half-way house for
the trade of Central Africa."
The city, indeed, seemed abandoned to supreme neglect;
it betrayed that indifference which seems epidemic
to cities that are passing away. Huge heaps of rubbish
encumbered the suburbs, and, with the hill on which the
market-place stood, formed the only inequalities of the
When the Victoria passed, there was some slight show
of movement; drums were beaten; but the last learned
man still lingering in the place had hardly time to notice
the new phenomenon, for our travellers, driven onward
by the wind of the desert, resumed the winding course of
the river, and, ere long, Timbuctoo was nothing more than
one of the fleeting reminiscences of their journey.
"And now," said the doctor, "Heaven may waft us
whither it pleases!"
"Provided only that we go westward," added Kennedy.
"Bah!" said Joe; "I wouldn't be afraid if it was to
go back to Zanzibar by the same road, or to cross the
ocean to America."
"We would first have to be able to do that, Joe!"
"And what's wanting, doctor?"
"Gas, my boy; the ascending force of the balloon is
evidently growing weaker, and we shall need all our
management to make it carry us to the sea-coast. I shall
even have to throw over some ballast. We are too heavy."
"That's what comes of doing nothing, doctor; when a
man lies stretched out all day long in his hammock, he
gets fat and heavy. It's a lazybones trip, this of ours,
master, and when we get back every body will find us big
"Just like Joe," said Kennedy; "just the ideas for
him: but wait a bit! Can you tell what we may have to
go through yet? We are still far from the end of our trip.
Where do you expect to strike the African coast, doctor?"
"I should find it hard to answer you, Kennedy. We
are at the mercy of very variable winds; but I should
think myself fortunate were we to strike it between Sierra
Leone and Portendick. There is a stretch of country in
that quarter where we should meet with friends."
"And it would be a pleasure to press their hands; but,
are we going in the desirable direction?"
"Not any too well, Dick; not any too well! Look at
the needle of the compass; we are bearing southward, and
ascending the Niger toward its sources."
"A fine chance to discover them," said Joe, "if they
were not known already. Now, couldn't we just find
others for it, on a pinch?"
"Not exactly, Joe; but don't be alarmed: I hardly
expect to go so far as that."
At nightfall the doctor threw out the last bags of sand.
The Victoria rose higher, and the blow-pipe, although working
at full blast, could scarcely keep her up. At that time
she was sixty miles to the southward of Timbuctoo, and in
the morning the aeronauts awoke over the banks of the
Niger, not far from Lake Debo.
Dr. Ferguson's Anxieties.--Persistent Movement southward.--A Cloud of
Grasshoppers.--A View of Jenne.--A View of Sego.--Change of the
The flow of the river was, at that point, divided by
large islands into narrow branches, with a very rapid current.
Upon one among them stood some shepherds' huts,
but it had become impossible to take an exact observation
of them, because the speed of the balloon was constantly
increasing. Unfortunately, it turned still more toward
the south, and in a few moments crossed Lake Debo.
Dr. Ferguson, forcing the dilation of his aerial craft
to the utmost, sought for other currents of air at different
heights, but in vain; and he soon gave up the attempt,
which was only augmenting the waste of gas by pressing
it against the well-worn tissue of the balloon.
He made no remark, but he began to feel very anxious.
This persistence of the wind to head him off toward the
southern part of Africa was defeating his calculations, and
he no longer knew upon whom or upon what to depend.
Should he not reach the English or French territories,
what was to become of him in the midst of the barbarous
tribes that infest the coasts of Guinea? How should he
there get to a ship to take him back to England? And
the actual direction of the wind was driving him along to
the kingdom of Dahomey, among the most savage races,
and into the power of a ruler who was in the habit of
sacrificing thousands of human victims at his public orgies.
There he would be lost!
On the other hand, the balloon was visibly wearing out,
and the doctor felt it failing him. However, as the weather
was clearing up a little, he hoped that the cessation of the
rain would bring about a change in the atmospheric currents.
It was therefore a disagreeable reminder of the actual
situation when Joe said aloud:
"There! the rain's going to pour down harder than ever;
and this time it will be the deluge itself, if we're to
judge by yon cloud that's coming up!"
"What! another cloud?" asked Ferguson.
"Yes, and a famous one," replied Kennedy.
"I never saw the like of it," added Joe.
"I breathe freely again!" said the doctor, laying down
his spy-glass. "That's not a cloud!"
"Not a cloud?" queried Joe, with surprise.
"No; it is a swarm."
"A swarm of grasshoppers!"
"Myriads of grasshoppers, that are going to sweep over
this country like a water-spout; and woe to it! for, should
these insects alight, it will be laid waste."
"That would be a sight worth beholding!"
"Wait a little, Joe. In ten minutes that cloud will
have arrived where we are, and you can then judge by the
aid of your own eyes."
The doctor was right. The cloud, thick, opaque, and
several miles in extent, came on with a deafening noise,
casting its immense shadow over the fields. It was composed
of numberless legions of that species of grasshopper
called crickets. About a hundred paces from the
balloon, they settled down upon a tract full of foliage and
verdure. Fifteen minutes later, the mass resumed its
flight, and our travellers could, even at a distance, see the
trees and the bushes entirely stripped, and the fields as
bare as though they had been swept with the scythe.
One would have thought that a sudden winter had just
descended upon the earth and struck the region with the
most complete sterility.
"Well, Joe, what do you think of that?"
"Well, doctor, it's very curious, but quite natural.
What one grasshopper does on a small scale, thousands
do on a grand scale."
"It's a terrible shower," said the hunter; "more so
than hail itself in the devastation it causes."
"It is impossible to prevent it," replied Ferguson.
"Sometimes the inhabitants have had the idea to burn
the forests, and even the standing crops, in order to arrest
the progress of these insects; but the first ranks plunging
into the flames would extinguish them beneath their mass,
and the rest of the swarm would then pass irresistibly
onward. Fortunately, in these regions, there is some sort
of compensation for their ravages, since the natives gather
these insects in great numbers and greedily eat them."
"They are the prawns of the air," said Joe, who added
that he was sorry that he had never had the chance to
taste them--just for information's sake!
The country became more marshy toward evening;
the forests dwindled to isolated clumps of trees; and on
the borders of the river could be seen plantations of
tobacco, and swampy meadow-lands fat with forage. At
last the city of Jenne, on a large island, came in sight,
with the two towers of its clay-built mosque, and the
putrid odor of the millions of swallows' nests accumulated
in its walls. The tops of some baobabs, mimosas, and
date-trees peeped up between the houses; and, even at
night, the activity of the place seemed very great. Jenne
is, in fact, quite a commercial city: it supplies all the
wants of Timbuctoo. Its boats on the river, and its caravans
along the shaded roads, bear thither the various
products of its industry.
"Were it not that to do so would prolong our journey,"
said the doctor, "I should like to alight at this place.
There must be more than one Arab there who has travelled
in England and France, and to whom our style of locomotion
is not altogether new. But it would not be prudent."
"Let us put off the visit until our next trip," said Joe,
"Besides, my friends, unless I am mistaken, the wind
has a slight tendency to veer a little more to the eastward,
and we must not lose such an opportunity."
The doctor threw overboard some articles that were
no longer of use--some empty bottles, and a case that had
contained preserved-meat--and thereby managed to keep
the balloon in a belt of the atmosphere more favorable to
his plans. At four o'clock in the morning the first rays
of the sun lighted up Sego, the capital of Bambarra, which
could be recognized at once by the four towns that compose
it, by its Saracenic mosques, and by the incessant
going and coming of the flat-bottomed boats that convey
its inhabitants from one quarter to the other. But
the travellers were not more seen than they saw. They
sped rapidly and directly to the northwest, and the doctor's
anxiety gradually subsided.
"Two more days in this direction, and at this rate of
speed, and we'll reach the Senegal River."
"And we'll be in a friendly country?" asked the hunter.
"Not altogether; but, if the worst came to the worst,
and the balloon were to fail us, we might make our way
to the French settlements. But, let it hold out only for a
few hundred miles, and we shall arrive without fatigue,
alarm, or danger, at the western coast."
"And the thing will be over!" added Joe. "Heigh-ho!
so much the worse. If it wasn't for the pleasure of telling
about it, I would never want to set foot on the ground
again! Do you think anybody will believe our story, doctor?"
"Who can tell, Joe? One thing, however, will be
undeniable: a thousand witnesses saw us start on one
side of the African Continent, and a thousand more will
see us arrive on the other."
"And, in that case, it seems to me that it would be
hard to say that we had not crossed it," added Kennedy.
"Ah, doctor!" said Joe again, with a deep sigh, "I'll
think more than once of my lumps of solid gold-ore!
There was something that would have given WEIGHT to our
narrative! At a grain of gold per head, I could have got
together a nice crowd to listen to me, and even to admire me!"
The Approaches to Senegal.--The Balloon sinks lower and lower.--They
keep throwing out, throwing out.--The Marabout Al-Hadji.--Messrs.
Pascal, Vincent, and Lambert.--A Rival of Mohammed.--The Difficult
Mountains.--Kennedy's Weapons.--One of Joe's Manoeuvres.--A Halt
over a Forest.
On the 27th of May, at nine o'clock in the morning,
the country presented an entirely different aspect. The
slopes, extending far away, changed to hills that gave
evidence of mountains soon to follow. They would have to
cross the chain which separates the basin of the Niger
from the basin of the Senegal, and determines the course
of the water-shed, whether to the Gulf of Guinea on the
one hand, or to the bay of Cape Verde on the other.
As far as Senegal, this part of Africa is marked down
as dangerous. Dr. Ferguson knew it through the recitals
of his predecessors. They had suffered a thousand privations
and been exposed to a thousand dangers in the midst
of these barbarous negro tribes. It was this fatal climate
that had devoured most of the companions of Mungo Park.
Ferguson, therefore, was more than ever decided not to
set foot in this inhospitable region.
But he had not enjoyed one moment of repose. The
Victoria was descending very perceptibly, so much so
that he had to throw overboard a number more of useless
articles, especially when there was a mountain-top to pass.
Things went on thus for more than one hundred and
twenty miles; they were worn out with ascending and
falling again; the balloon, like another rock of Sisyphus,
kept continually sinking back toward the ground. The
rotundity of the covering, which was now but little inflated,
was collapsing already. It assumed an elongated shape,
and the wind hollowed large cavities in the silken surface.
Kennedy could not help observing this.
"Is there a crack or a tear in the balloon?" he asked.
"No, but the gutta percha has evidently softened or
melted in the heat, and the hydrogen is escaping through
"How can we prevent that?"
"It is impossible. Let us lighten her. That is the
only help. So let us throw out every thing we can spare."
"But what shall it be?" said the hunter, looking at
the car, which was already quite bare.
"Well, let us get rid of the awning, for its weight is
Joe, who was interested in this order, climbed up on
the circle which kept together the cordage of the network,
and from that place easily managed to detach the heavy
curtains of the awning and throw them overboard.
"There's something that will gladden the hearts of a
whole tribe of blacks," said he; "there's enough to dress
a thousand of them, for they're not very extravagant with
The balloon had risen a little, but it soon became evident
that it was again approaching the ground.
"Let us alight," suggested Kennedy, "and see what
can be done with the covering of the balloon."
"I tell you, again, Dick, that we have no means of repairing it."
"Then what shall we do?"
"We'll have to sacrifice every thing not absolutely indispensable;
I am anxious, at all hazards, to avoid a detention in these
regions. The forests over the tops of which we are skimming are
any thing but safe."
"What! are there lions in them, or hyenas?" asked
Joe, with an expression of sovereign contempt.
"Worse than that, my boy! There are men, and some
of the most cruel, too, in all Africa."
"How is that known?"
"By the statements of travellers who have been here
before us. Then the French settlers, who occupy the
colony of Senegal, necessarily have relations with the
surrounding tribes. Under the administration of Colonel
Faidherbe, reconnoissances have been pushed far up into
the country. Officers such as Messrs. Pascal, Vincent, and
Lambert, have brought back precious documents from their
expeditions. They have explored these countries formed by
the elbow of the Senegal in places where war and pillage
have left nothing but ruins."
"What, then, took place?"
"I will tell you. In 1854 a Marabout of the Senegalese
Fouta, Al-Hadji by name, declaring himself to be inspired
like Mohammed, stirred up all the tribes to war
against the infidels--that is to say, against the
Europeans. He carried destruction and desolation over the
regions between the Senegal River and its tributary,
the Fateme. Three hordes of fanatics led on by him
scoured the country, sparing neither a village nor a hut
in their pillaging, massacring career. He advanced in
person on the town of Sego, which was a long time
threatened. In 1857 he worked up farther to the northward,
and invested the fortification of Medina, built by the
French on the bank of the river. This stronghold was
defended by Paul Holl, who, for several months, without
provisions or ammunition, held out until Colonel Faidherbe
came to his relief. Al-Hadji and his bands then
repassed the Senegal, and reappeared in the Kaarta,
continuing their rapine and murder.--Well, here below us
is the very country in which he has found refuge with his
hordes of banditti; and I assure you that it would not be
a good thing to fall into his hands."
"We shall not," said Joe, "even if we have to throw
overboard our clothes to save the Victoria."
"We are not far from the river," said the doctor, "but
I foresee that our balloon will not be able to carry
us beyond it."
"Let us reach its banks, at all events," said the Scot,
"and that will be so much gained."
"That is what we are trying to do," rejoined Ferguson,
"only that one thing makes me feel anxious."
"What is that?"
"We shall have mountains to pass, and that will be
difficult to do, since I cannot augment the ascensional force
of the balloon, even with the greatest possible heat that I
"Well, wait a bit," said Kennedy, "and we shall see!"
"The poor Victoria!" sighed Joe; "I had got fond
of her as the sailor does of his ship, and I'll not give her
up so easily. She may not be what she was at the start--
granted; but we shouldn't say a word against her. She
has done us good service, and it would break my heart to
"Be at your ease, Joe; if we leave her, it will be in
spite of ourselves. She'll serve us until she's completely
worn out, and I ask of her only twenty-four hours more!"
"Ah, she's getting used up! She grows thinner and
thinner," said Joe, dolefully, while he eyed her. "Poor
"Unless I am deceived," said Kennedy, "there on the
horizon are the mountains of which you were speaking,
"Yes, there they are, indeed!" exclaimed the doctor,
after having examined them through his spy-glass, "and
they look very high. We shall have some trouble in
"Can we not avoid them?"
"I am afraid not, Dick. See what an immense space
they occupy--nearly one-half of the horizon!"
"They even seem to shut us in," added Joe. "They
are gaining on both our right and our left."
"We must then pass over them."
These obstacles, which threatened such imminent peril,
seemed to approach with extreme rapidity, or, to speak
more accurately, the wind, which was very fresh, was
hurrying the balloon toward the sharp peaks. So rise it
must, or be dashed to pieces.
"Let us empty our tank of water," said the doctor,
"and keep only enough for one day."
"There it goes," shouted Joe.
"Does the balloon rise at all?" asked Kennedy.
"A little--some fifty feet," replied the doctor, who
kept his eyes fixed on the barometer. "But that is not
In truth the lofty peaks were starting up so swiftly before
the travellers that they seemed to be rushing down upon them.
The balloon was far from rising above them. She lacked an
elevation of more than five hundred feet more.
The stock of water for the cylinder was also thrown
overboard and only a few pints were retained, but still all
this was not enough.
"We must pass them though!" urged the doctor.
"Let us throw out the tanks--we have emptied them."
"Over with them!"
"There they go!" panted Joe. "But it's hard to see
ourselves dropping off this way by piecemeal."
"Now, for your part, Joe, make no attempt to sacrifice
yourself as you did the other day! Whatever happens,
swear to me that you will not leave us!"
"Have no fears, my master, we shall not be separated."
The Victoria had ascended some hundred and twenty
feet, but the crest of the mountain still towered above it.
It was an almost perpendicular ridge that ended in a regular
wall rising abruptly in a straight line. It still rose
more than two hundred feet over the aeronauts.
"In ten minutes," said the doctor to himself, "our car
will be dashed against those rocks unless we succeed in
"Well, doctor?" queried Joe.
"Keep nothing but our pemmican, and throw out all
the heavy meat."
Thereupon the balloon was again lightened by some
fifty pounds, and it rose very perceptibly, but that was of
little consequence, unless it got above the line of the
mountain-tops. The situation was terrifying. The Victoria
was rushing on with great rapidity. They could
feel that she would be dashed to pieces--that the shock
would be fearful.
The doctor glanced around him in the car. It was
"If needs be, Dick, hold yourself in readiness to throw
over your fire-arms!"
"Sacrifice my fire-arms?" repeated the sportsman,
with intense feeling.
"My friend, I ask it; it will be absolutely necessary!"
"Your guns, and your stock of powder and ball might
cost us our lives."
"We are close to it!" cried Joe.
Sixty feet! The mountain still overtopped the balloon
by sixty feet.
Joe took the blankets and other coverings and tossed
them out; then, without a word to Kennedy, he threw
over several bags of bullets and lead.
The balloon went up still higher; it surmounted the
dangerous ridge, and the rays of the sun shone upon its
uppermost extremity; but the car was still below the level
of certain broken masses of rock, against which it would
inevitably be dashed.
"Kennedy! Kennedy! throw out your fire-arms, or
we are lost!" shouted the doctor.
"Wait, sir; wait one moment!" they heard Joe exclaim,
and, looking around, they saw Joe disappear over
the edge of the balloon.
"Joe! Joe!" cried Kennedy.
"Wretched man!" was the doctor's agonized expression.
The flat top of the mountain may have had about
twenty feet in breadth at this point, and, on the other
side, the slope presented a less declivity. The car just
touched the level of this plane, which happened to be quite
even, and it glided over a soil composed of sharp pebbles
that grated as it passed.
"We're over it! we're over it! we're clear!" cried out
an exulting voice that made Ferguson's heart leap to his
The daring fellow was there, grasping the lower rim of
the car, and running afoot over the top of the mountain,
thus lightening the balloon of his whole weight. He had
to hold on with all his strength, too, for it was likely to
escape his grasp at any moment.
When he had reached the opposite declivity, and the
abyss was before him, Joe, by a vigorous effort, hoisted
himself from the ground, and, clambering up by the cordage,
rejoined his friends.
"That was all!" he coolly ejaculated.
"My brave Joe! my friend!" said the doctor, with
"Oh! what I did," laughed the other, "was not for
you; it was to save Mr. Kennedy's rifle. I owed him
that good turn for the affair with the Arab! I like to
pay my debts, and now we are even," added he, handing
to the sportsman his favorite weapon. "I'd feel very
badly to see you deprived of it."
Kennedy heartily shook the brave fellow's hand, without
being able to utter a word.
The Victoria had nothing to do now but to descend.
That was easy enough, so that she was soon at a height
of only two hundred feet from the ground, and was then
in equilibrium. The surface seemed very much broken
as though by a convulsion of nature. It presented numerous
inequalities, which would have been very difficult to
avoid during the night with a balloon that could no longer
be controlled. Evening was coming on rapidly, and,
notwithstanding his repugnance, the doctor had to make
up his mind to halt until morning.
"We'll now look for a favorable stopping-place," said he.
"Ah!" replied Kennedy, "you have made up your
mind, then, at last?"
"Yes, I have for a long time been thinking over a plan
which we'll try to put into execution; it is only six o'clock
in the evening, and we shall have time enough. Throw
out your anchors, Joe!"
Joe immediately obeyed, and the two anchors dangled
below the balloon.
"I see large forests ahead of us," said the doctor; "we
are going to sweep along their tops, and we shall grapple
to some tree, for nothing would make me think of passing
the night below, on the ground."
"But can we not descend?" asked Kennedy.
"To what purpose? I repeat that it would be dangerous
for us to separate, and, besides, I claim your help
for a difficult piece of work."
The Victoria, which was skimming along the tops of
immense forests, soon came to a sharp halt. Her anchors
had caught, and, the wind falling as dusk came on, she
remained motionlessly suspended above a vast field of
verdure, formed by the tops of a forest of sycamores.
A Struggle of Generosity.--The Last Sacrifice.--The Dilating Apparatus.
--Joe's Adroitness.--Midnight.--The Doctor's Watch.--Kennedy's Watch.
--The Latter falls asleep at his Post.--The Fire.--The Howlings of the
Natives.--Out of Range.
Doctor Ferguson's first care was to take his bearings
by stellar observation, and he discovered that he was
scarcely twenty-five miles from Senegal.
"All that we can manage to do, my friends," said he,
after having pointed his map, "is to cross the river; but,
as there is neither bridge nor boat, we must, at all hazards,
cross it with the balloon, and, in order to do that, we must
still lighten up."
"But I don't exactly see how we can do that?" replied
Kennedy, anxious about his fire-arms, "unless one of us
makes up his mind to sacrifice himself for the rest,--that
is, to stay behind, and, in my turn, I claim that honor."
"You, indeed!" remonstrated Joe; "ain't I used to--"
"The question now is, not to throw ourselves out of
the car, but simply to reach the coast of Africa on foot. I
am a first-rate walker, a good sportsman, and--"
"I'll never consent to it!" insisted Joe.
"Your generous rivalry is useless, my brave friends,"
said Ferguson; "I trust that we shall not come to any
such extremity: besides, if we did, instead of separating,
we should keep together, so as to make our way across the
country in company."
"That's the talk," said Joe; "a little tramp won't do
us any harm."
"But before we try that," resumed the doctor, "we
must employ a last means of lightening the balloon."
"What will that be? I should like to see it," said
"We must get rid of the cylinder-chests, the spiral,
and the Buntzen battery. Nine hundred pounds make a
rather heavy load to carry through the air."
"But then, Samuel, how will you dilate your gas?"
"I shall not do so at all. We'll have to get along
"Listen, my friends: I have calculated very exactly
the amount of ascensional force left to us, and it is
sufficient to carry us every one with the few objects that
remain. We shall make in all a weight of hardly five
hundred pounds, including the two anchors which I desire
"Dear doctor, you know more about the matter than
we do; you are the sole judge of the situation. Tell us
what we ought to do, and we will do it."
"I am at your orders, master," added Joe.
"I repeat, my friends, that however serious the decision
may appear, we must sacrifice our apparatus."
"Let it go, then!" said Kennedy, promptly.
"To work!" said Joe.
It was no easy job. The apparatus had to be taken
down piece by piece. First, they took out the mixing
reservoir, then the one belonging to the cylinder, and
lastly the tank in which the decomposition of the water
was effected. The united strength of all three travellers
was required to detach these reservoirs from the bottom
of the car in which they had been so firmly secured; but
Kennedy was so strong, Joe so adroit, and the doctor so
ingenious, that they finally succeeded. The different
pieces were thrown out, one after the other, and they
disappeared below, making huge gaps in the foliage of
"The black fellows will be mightily astonished," said
Joe, "at finding things like those in the woods; they'll
make idols of them!"
The next thing to be looked after was the displacement
of the pipes that were fastened in the balloon and
connected with the spiral. Joe succeeded in cutting the
caoutchouc jointings above the car, but when he came to
the pipes he found it more difficult to disengage them,
because they were held by their upper extremity and fastened
by wires to the very circlet of the valve.
Then it was that Joe showed wonderful adroitness.
In his naked feet, so as not to scratch the covering, he
succeeded by the aid of the network, and in spite of the
oscillations of the balloon, in climbing to the upper
extremity, and after a thousand difficulties, in holding on
with one hand to that slippery surface, while he detached
the outside screws that secured the pipes in their place.
These were then easily taken out, and drawn away by the
lower end, which was hermetically sealed by means of a
The Victoria, relieved of this considerable weight, rose
upright in the air and tugged strongly at the anchor-rope.
About midnight this work ended without accident, but
at the cost of most severe exertion, and the trio partook
of a luncheon of pemmican and cold punch, as the doctor
had no more fire to place at Joe's disposal.
Besides, the latter and Kennedy were dropping off
their feet with fatigue.
"Lie down, my friends, and get some rest," said the
doctor. "I'll take the first watch; at two o'clock I'll
waken Kennedy; at four, Kennedy will waken Joe, and
at six we'll start; and may Heaven have us in its keeping
for this last day of the trip!"
Without waiting to be coaxed, the doctor's two companions
stretched themselves at the bottom of the car and
dropped into profound slumber on the instant.
The night was calm. A few clouds broke against the
last quarter of the moon, whose uncertain rays scarcely
pierced the darkness. Ferguson, resting his elbows on the
rim of the car, gazed attentively around him. He watched
with close attention the dark screen of foliage that spread
beneath him, hiding the ground from his view. The least
noise aroused his suspicions, and he questioned even the
slightest rustling of the leaves.
He was in that mood which solitude makes more keenly
felt, and during which vague terrors mount to the brain.
At the close of such a journey, after having surmounted
so many obstacles, and at the moment of touching the
goal, one's fears are more vivid, one's emotions keener.
The point of arrival seems to fly farther from our gaze.
Moreover, the present situation had nothing very consolatory
about it. They were in the midst of a barbarous
country, and dependent upon a vehicle that might fail
them at any moment. The doctor no longer counted implicitly
on his balloon; the time had gone by when he
manoevred it boldly because he felt sure of it.
Under the influence of these impressions, the doctor,
from time to time, thought that he heard vague sounds in
the vast forests around him; he even fancied that he saw
a swift gleam of fire shining between the trees. He looked
sharply and turned his night-glass toward the spot; but
there was nothing to be seen, and the profoundest silence
appeared to return.
He had, no doubt, been under the dominion of a mere
hallucination. He continued to listen, but without hearing
the slightest noise. When his watch had expired, he
woke Kennedy, and, enjoining upon him to observe the
extremest vigilance, took his place beside Joe, and fell
Kennedy, while still rubbing his eyes, which he could
scarcely keep open, calmly lit his pipe. He then ensconced
himself in a corner, and began to smoke vigorously by way
of keeping awake.
The most absolute silence reigned around him; a light
wind shook the tree-tops and gently rocked the car, inviting
the hunter to taste the sleep that stole over him in
spite of himself. He strove hard to resist it, and repeatedly
opened his eyes to plunge into the outer darkness one
of those looks that see nothing; but at last, yielding to
fatigue, he sank back and slumbered.
How long he had been buried in this stupor he knew
not, but he was suddenly aroused from it by a strange,
unexpected crackling sound.
He rubbed his eyes and sprang to his feet. An intense
glare half-blinded him and heated his cheek--the forest
was in flames!
"Fire! fire!" he shouted, scarcely comprehending
what had happened.
His two companions started up in alarm.
"What's the matter?" was the doctor's immediate
"Fire!" said Joe. "But who could--"
At this moment loud yells were heard under the foliage,
which was now illuminated as brightly as the day.
"Ah! the savages!" cried Joe again; "they have set
fire to the forest so as to be the more certain of burning
"The Talabas! Al-Hadji's marabouts, no doubt," said
A circle of fire hemmed the Victoria in; the crackling
of the dry wood mingled with the hissing and sputtering
of the green branches; the clambering vines, the foliage,
all the living part of this vegetation, writhed in the
destructive element. The eye took in nothing but one vast
ocean of flame; the large trees stood forth in black relief
in this huge furnace, their branches covered with glowing
coals, while the whole blazing mass, the entire conflagration,
was reflected on the clouds, and the travellers could
fancy themselves enveloped in a hollow globe of fire.
"Let us escape to the ground!" shouted Kennedy,
"it is our only chance of safety!"
But Ferguson checked him with a firm grasp, and,
dashing at the anchor-rope, severed it with one well-directed
blow of his hatchet. Meanwhile, the flames, leaping up at
the balloon, already quivered on its illuminated sides; but
the Victoria, released from her fastenings, spun
upward a thousand feet into the air.
Frightful yells resounded through the forest, along
with the report of fire-arms, while the balloon, caught in a
current of air that rose with the dawn of day, was borne to
It was now four o'clock in the morning.
The Talabas.--The Pursuit.--A Devastated Country.--The Wind begins to
fall.--The Victoria sinks.--The last of the Provisions.--The Leaps of
the Balloon.--A Defence with Fire-arms.--The Wind freshens.--The Senegal
River.--The Cataracts of Gouina.--The Hot Air.--The Passage of the River.
"Had we not taken the precaution to lighten the balloon
yesterday evening, we should have been lost beyond
redemption," said the doctor, after a long silence.
"See what's gained by doing things at the right
time!" replied Joe. "One gets out of scrapes then, and
nothing is more natural."
"We are not out of danger yet," said the doctor.
"What do you still apprehend?" queried Kennedy.
"The balloon can't descend without your permission, and
even were it to do so--"
"Were it to do so, Dick? Look!"
They had just passed the borders of the forest, and
the three friends could see some thirty mounted men clad
in broad pantaloons and the floating bournouses. They were
armed, some with lances, and others with long muskets,
and they were following, on their quick, fiery little steeds,
the direction of the balloon, which was moving at only
When they caught sight of the aeronauts, they uttered
savage cries, and brandished their weapons. Anger and
menace could be read upon their swarthy faces, made
more ferocious by thin but bristling beards. Meanwhile
they galloped along without difficulty over the low levels
and gentle declivities that lead down to the Senegal.
"It is, indeed, they!" said the doctor; "the cruel
Talabas! the ferocious marabouts of Al-Hadji! I would
rather find myself in the middle of the forest encircled by
wild beasts than fall into the hands of these banditti."
"They haven't a very obliging look!" assented Kennedy;
"and they are rough, stalwart fellows."
"Happily those brutes can't fly," remarked Joe; "and
"See," said Ferguson, "those villages in ruins, those
huts burned down--that is their work! Where vast
stretches of cultivated land were once seen, they have
brought barrenness and devastation."
"At all events, however," interposed Kennedy, "they
can't overtake us; and, if we succeed in putting the river
between us and them, we are safe."
"Perfectly, Dick," replied Ferguson; "but we must
not fall to the ground!" and, as he said this, he glanced
at the barometer.
"In any case, Joe," added Kennedy, "it would do us
no harm to look to our fire-arms."
"No harm in the world, Mr. Dick! We are lucky
that we didn't scatter them along the road."
"My rifle!" said the sportsman. "I hope that I shall
never be separated from it!"
And so saying, Kennedy loaded the pet piece with the
greatest care, for he had plenty of powder and ball remaining.
"At what height are we?" he asked the doctor.
"About seven hundred and fifty feet; but we no longer
have the power of seeking favorable currents, either going
up or coming down. We are at the mercy of the balloon!"
"That is vexatious!" rejoined Kennedy. "The wind
is poor; but if we had come across a hurricane like some
of those we met before, these vile brigands would have
been out of sight long ago."
"The rascals follow us at their leisure," said Joe.
"They're only at a short gallop. Quite a nice little
"If we were within range," sighed the sportsman, "I
should amuse myself with dismounting a few of them."
"Exactly," said the doctor; "but then they would
have you within range also, and our balloon would offer
only too plain a target to the bullets from their long guns;
and, if they were to make a hole in it, I leave you to judge
what our situation would be!"
The pursuit of the Talabas continued all morning;
and by eleven o'clock the aeronauts had made scarcely
fifteen miles to the westward.
The doctor was anxiously watching for the least cloud
on the horizon. He feared, above all things, a change in
the atmosphere. Should he be thrown back toward the
Niger, what would become of him? Besides, he remarked
that the balloon tended to fall considerably. Since the
start, he had already lost more than three hundred feet,
and the Senegal must be about a dozen miles distant.
At his present rate of speed, he could count upon
travelling only three hours longer.
At this moment his attention was attracted by fresh
cries. The Talabas appeared to be much excited, and
were spurring their horses.
The doctor consulted his barometer, and at once discovered
the cause of these symptoms.
"Are we descending?" asked Kennedy.
"Yes!" replied the doctor.
"The mischief!" thought Joe
In the lapse of fifteen minutes the Victoria was only
one hundred and fifty feet above the ground; but the
wind was much stronger than before.
The Talabas checked their horses, and soon a volley
of musketry pealed out on the air.
"Too far, you fools!" bawled Joe. "I think it would
be well to keep those scamps at a distance."
And, as he spoke, he aimed at one of the horsemen
who was farthest to the front, and fired. The Talaba fell
headlong, and, his companions halting for a moment, the
balloon gained upon them.
"They are prudent!" said Kennedy.
"Because they think that they are certain to take us,"
replied the doctor; "and, they will succeed if we descend
much farther. We must, absolutely, get higher into the air."
"What can we throw out?" asked Joe.
"All that remains of our stock of pemmican; that will
be thirty pounds less weight to carry."
"Out it goes, sir!" said Joe, obeying orders.
The car, which was now almost touching the ground,
rose again, amid the cries of the Talabas; but, half an
hour later, the balloon was again falling rapidly, because
the gas was escaping through the pores of the covering.
Ere long the car was once more grazing the soil, and
Al-Hadji's black riders rushed toward it; but, as frequently
happens in like cases, the balloon had scarcely
touched the surface ere it rebounded, and only came down
again a mile away.
"So we shall not escape!" said Kennedy, between his teeth.
"Throw out our reserved store of brandy, Joe," cried
the doctor; "our instruments, and every thing that has
any weight, even to our last anchor, because go they must!"
Joe flung out the barometers and thermometers, but
all that amounted to little; and the balloon, which had
risen for an instant, fell again toward the ground.
The Talabas flew toward it, and at length were not
more than two hundred paces away.
"Throw out the two fowling-pieces!" shouted Ferguson.
"Not without discharging them, at least," responded
the sportsman; and four shots in quick succession struck
the thick of the advancing group of horsemen. Four
Talabas fell, amid the frantic howls and imprecations of
The Victoria ascended once more, and made some
enormous leaps, like a huge gum-elastic ball, bounding
and rebounding through the air. A strange sight it was
to see these unfortunate men endeavoring to escape by
those huge aerial strides, and seeming, like the giant
Antaeus, to receive fresh strength every time they touched
the earth. But this situation had to terminate. It was
now nearly noon; the Victoria was getting empty and
exhausted, and assuming a more and more elongated form
every instant. Its outer covering was becoming flaccid,
and floated loosely in the air, and the folds of the silk
rustled and grated on each other.
"Heaven abandons us!" said Kennedy; "we have to fall!"
Joe made no answer. He kept looking intently at his master.
"No!" said the latter; "we have more than one hundred
and fifty pounds yet to throw out."
"What can it be, then?" said Kennedy, thinking that
the doctor must be going mad.
"The car!" was his reply; "we can cling to the
network. There we can hang on in the meshes until we
reach the river. Quick! quick!"
And these daring men did not hesitate a moment to
avail themselves of this last desperate means of escape.
They clutched the network, as the doctor directed, and
Joe, holding on by one hand, with the other cut the cords
that suspended the car; and the latter dropped to the
ground just as the balloon was sinking for the last time.
"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted the brave fellow exultingly,
as the Victoria, once more relieved, shot up again to a
height of three hundred feet.
The Talabas spurred their horses, which now came
tearing on at a furious gallop; but the balloon, falling in
with a much more favorable wind, shot ahead of them,
and was rapidly carried toward a hill that stretched across
the horizon to the westward. This was a circumstance
favorable to the aeronauts, because they could rise over
the hill, while Al-Hadji's horde had to diverge to the
northward in order to pass this obstacle.
The three friends still clung to the network. They
had been able to fasten it under their feet, where it had
formed a sort of swinging pocket.
Suddenly, after they had crossed the hill, the doctor
exclaimed: "The river! the river! the Senegal, my friends!"
And about two miles ahead of them, there was indeed
the river rolling along its broad mass of water, while the
farther bank, which was low and fertile, offered a sure
refuge, and a place favorable for a descent.
"Another quarter of an hour," said Ferguson, "and
we are saved!"
But it was not to happen thus; the empty balloon descended
slowly upon a tract almost entirely bare of vegetation. It
was made up of long slopes and stony plains, a
few bushes and some coarse grass, scorched by the sun.
The Victoria touched the ground several times, and
rose again, but her rebound was diminishing in height and
length. At the last one, it caught by the upper part of
the network in the lofty branches of a baobab, the only
tree that stood there, solitary and alone, in the midst of
"It's all over," said Kennedy.
"And at a hundred paces only from the river!"
The three hapless aeronauts descended to the ground,
and the doctor drew his companions toward the Senegal.
At this point the river sent forth a prolonged roaring;
and when Ferguson reached its bank, he recognized the
falls of Gouina. But not a boat, not a living creature was
to be seen. With a breadth of two thousand feet, the
Senegal precipitates itself for a height of one hundred and
fifty, with a thundering reverberation. It ran, where they
saw it, from east to west, and the line of rocks that barred
its course extended from north to south. In the midst of
the falls, rocks of strange forms started up like huge
ante-diluvian animals, petrified there amid the waters.
The impossibility of crossing this gulf was self-evident,
and Kennedy could not restrain a gesture of despair.
But Dr. Ferguson, with an energetic accent of undaunted
"All is not over!"
"I knew it," said Joe, with that confidence in his master
which nothing could ever shake.
The sight of the dried-up grass had inspired the doctor
with a bold idea. It was the last chance of escape. He
led his friends quickly back to where they had left the
covering of the balloon.
"We have at least an hour's start of those banditti,"
said he; "let us lose no time, my friends; gather a quantity
of this dried grass; I want a hundred pounds of it, at least."
"For what purpose?" asked Kennedy, surprised.
"I have no more gas; well, I'll cross the river with hot air!"
"Ah, doctor," exclaimed Kennedy, "you are, indeed,
a great man!"
Joe and Kennedy at once went to work, and soon had
an immense pile of dried grass heaped up near the baobab.
In the mean time, the doctor had enlarged the orifice
of the balloon by cutting it open at the lower end. He
then was very careful to expel the last remnant of hydrogen
through the valve, after which he heaped up a quantity of
grass under the balloon, and set fire to it.
It takes but a little while to inflate a balloon with hot
air. A head of one hundred and eighty degrees is sufficient
to diminish the weight of the air it contains to the
extent of one-half, by rarefying it. Thus, the Victoria
quickly began to assume a more rounded form. There
was no lack of grass; the fire was kept in full blast by the
doctor's assiduous efforts, and the balloon grew fuller every
It was then a quarter to four o'clock.
At this moment the band of Talabas reappeared about
two miles to the northward, and the three friends could
hear their cries, and the clatter of their horses galloping
at full speed.
"In twenty minutes they will be here!" said Kennedy.
"More grass! more grass, Joe! In ten minutes we
shall have her full of hot air."
"Here it is, doctor!"
The Victoria was now two-thirds inflated.
"Come, my friends, let us take hold of the network, as
we did before."
"All right!" they answered together.
In about ten minutes a few jerking motions by the balloon
indicated that it was disposed to start again. The
Talabas were approaching. They were hardly five hundred
"Hold on fast!" cried Ferguson.
"Have no fear, master--have no fear!"
And the doctor, with his foot pushed another heap of
grass upon the fire.
With this the balloon, now completely inflated by the
increased temperature, moved away, sweeping the branches
of the baobab in her flight.
"We're off!" shouted Joe.
A volley of musketry responded to his exclamation. A
bullet even ploughed his shoulder; but Kennedy, leaning
over, and discharging his rifle with one hand, brought
another of the enemy to the ground.
Cries of fury exceeding all description hailed the departure
of the balloon, which had at once ascended nearly
eight hundred feet. A swift current caught and swept it
along with the most alarming oscillations, while the
intrepid doctor and his friends saw the gulf of the
cataracts yawning below them.
Ten minutes later, and without having exchanged a
word, they descended gradually toward the other bank of
There, astonished, speechless, terrified, stood a group
of men clad in the French uniform. Judge of their amazement
when they saw the balloon rise from the right bank
of the river. They had well-nigh taken it for some celestial
phenomenon, but their officers, a lieutenant of marines
and a naval ensign, having seen mention made of Dr. Ferguson's
daring expedition, in the European papers, quickly
explained the real state of the case.
The balloon, losing its inflation little by little, settled
with the daring travellers still clinging to its network;
but it was doubtful whether it would reach the land. At
once some of the brave Frenchmen rushed into the water
and caught the three aeronauts in their arms just as the
Victoria fell at the distance of a few fathoms from the left
bank of the Senegal.
"Dr. Ferguson!" exclaimed the lieutenant.
"The same, sir," replied the doctor, quietly, "and his
The Frenchmen escorted our travellers from the river,
while the balloon, half-empty, and borne away by a swift
current, sped on, to plunge, like a huge bubble, headlong
with the waters of the Senegal, into the cataracts of Gouina.
"The poor Victoria!" was Joe's farewell remark.
The doctor could not restrain a tear, and extending his
hands his two friends wrung them silently with that deep
emotion which requires no spoken words.
Conclusion.--The Certificate.--The French Settlements.--The Post
of Medina.--The Basilic.--Saint Louis.--The English Frigate.--The
Return to London.
The expedition upon the bank of the river had been
sent by the governor of Senegal. It consisted of two officers,
Messrs. Dufraisse, lieutenant of marines, and Rodamel,
naval ensign, and with these were a sergeant and
seven soldiers. For two days they had been engaged in
reconnoitring the most favorable situation for a post at
Gouina, when they became witnesses of Dr. Ferguson's
The warm greetings and felicitations of which our travellers
were the recipients may be imagined. The Frenchmen, and
they alone, having had ocular proof of the accomplishment
of the daring project, naturally became Dr. Ferguson's
witnesses. Hence the doctor at once asked them to give
their official testimony of his arrival at the cataracts of Gouina.
"You would have no objection to signing a certificate
of the fact, would you?" he inquired of Lieutenant Dufraisse.
"At your orders!" the latter instantly replied.
The Englishmen were escorted to a provisional post
established on the bank of the river, where they found the
most assiduous attention, and every thing to supply their
wants. And there the following certificate was drawn up
in the terms in which it appears to-day, in the archives of
the Royal Geographical Society of London:
"We, the undersigned, do hereby declare that, on the
day herein mentioned, we witnessed the arrival of Dr.
Ferguson and his two companions, Richard Kennedy and
Joseph Wilson, clinging to the cordage and network of a
balloon, and that the said balloon fell at a distance of a few
paces from us into the river, and being swept away by the
current was lost in the cataracts of Gouina. In testimony
whereof, we have hereunto set our hands and seals beside
those of the persons hereinabove named, for the information
of all whom it may concern.
"Done at the Cataracts of Gouina, on the 24th of May,
"(Signed), "SAMUEL FERGUSON
"DUFRAISSE, Lieutenant of Marines,
"RODAMEL, Naval Ensign,
"FLIPPEAU, MAYOR, }
"PELISSIER, LOROIS, } Privates."
RASCAGNET, GUIL- }
LON, LEBEL, }
Here ended the astonishing journey of Dr. Ferguson
and his brave companions, as vouched for by undeniable
testimony; and they found themselves among friends in
the midst of most hospitable tribes, whose relations with
the French settlements are frequent and amicable.
They had arrived at Senegal on Saturday, the 24th of
May, and on the 27th of the same month they reached the
post of Medina, situated a little farther to the north, but
on the river.
There the French officers received them with open
arms, and lavished upon them all the resources of their
hospitality. Thus aided, the doctor and his friends were
enabled to embark almost immediately on the small steamer
called the Basilic, which ran down to the mouth of the
Two weeks later, on the 10th of June, they arrived at
Saint Louis, where the governor gave them a magnificent
reception, and they recovered completely from their
excitement and fatigue.
Besides, Joe said to every one who chose to listen:
That was a stupid trip of ours, after all, and I
wouldn't advise any body who is greedy for excitement to
undertake it. It gets very tiresome at the last, and if it
hadn't been for the adventures on Lake Tchad and at the
Senegal River, I do believe that we'd have died of yawning."
An English frigate was just about to sail, and the three
travellers procured passage on board of her. On the 25th
of June they arrived at Portsmouth, and on the next day
We will not describe the reception they got from the
Royal Geographical Society, nor the intense curiosity and
consideration of which they became the objects. Kennedy
set off, at once, for Edinburgh, with his famous rifle,
for he was in haste to relieve the anxiety of his faithful
The doctor and his devoted Joe remained the same
men that we have known them, excepting that one change
took place at their own suggestion.
They ceased to be master and servant, in order to
become bosom friends.
The journals of all Europe were untiring in their
praises of the bold explorers, and the Daily Telegraph
struck off an edition of three hundred and seventy-seven
thousand copies on the day when it published a sketch of
Doctor Ferguson, at a public meeting of the Royal
Geographical Society, gave a recital of his journey through
the air, and obtained for himself and his companions the
golden medal set apart to reward the most remarkable
exploring expedition of the year 1862.
The first result of Dr. Ferguson's expedition was to
establish, in the most precise manner, the facts and
geographical surveys reported by Messrs. Barth, Burton,
Speke, and others. Thanks to the still more recent expeditions
of Messrs. Speke and Grant, De Heuglin and Muntzinger,
who have been ascending to the sources of the
Nile, and penetrating to the centre of Africa, we shall be
enabled ere long to verify, in turn, the discoveries of Dr.
Ferguson in that vast region comprised between the fourteenth
and thirty-third degrees of east longitude.