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Chapter Thirteenth.

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
perfectly salubrious.
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
at all.
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
balloon burst--"
"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.