by Frank H.
"Bal-loon! balloon! Oh, Charley! where are you, Charley? There's a
Charley's big brother Harry came running excitedly down the road, and
vaulted the farm-yard fence in a state of great excitement. "Oh,
Charley, come out quick and see the balloon."
Charley was nowhere to be found. He had wandered off hours before to his
favorite rock by the brook to have a "good cry." And this was the reason
of it: One day, a short time before, he had been into the town of
Wayneburg, not many miles distant, with Harry. Charley didn't often have
a chance to go to town, and you may be sure he made the best use of his
eyes. The one thing which he remembered above everything else was the
big poster-board near the market, covered over every inch of it with
bright-colored pictures of leaping horses, trick mules, flying riders
jumping through hoops, comical clowns, and, above all, a big balloon
just rising out of the crowd, everybody swinging their hats.
For two weeks Charley had talked of nothing, thought of nothing, dreamed
of nothing but the coming show, and so, when his mother promised to take
him to see it all, he was the happiest little boy in the county. But,
alas! Charley's mother was taken sick just before the circus came, and
there was no one else to go with him. Harry was too young and wild to be
trusted, she said, and so poor Charley staid at home, and, sitting upon
the big gate-post, watched the wagon-loads of people rattling merrily
into town, bound for a day's fun. With swelling heart he wished he was a
full-grown man. Then he strayed down by the creek, as I have said, to
tell his grief to the fishes.
Harry, who had felt almost as badly as Charley, though he scorned to cry
about it, kept on shouting until Charley peeped above the orchard wall
to see what was wanted. Then he too spied the balloon. It didn't look
bigger than his top, away up among the fleecy clouds, but it rapidly
grew to the size of a pippin, and then over the hill came two or three
galloping horsemen, swinging their hats, and shouting as they rode.
Now the balloon began to descend, and shortly disappeared behind the
woods back of the house. Charley didn't know whether to run or stand
still, and while he was doubting, the great yellow dome arose into sight
again, and this time Charley could see the men in the basket. They were
looking down, and calling to the men in the road to take hold of the
long drag-rope, and pull them down.
This was not hard to do, as a balloon is so prettily balanced when in
the air that in a light wind a little boy like Charley could pull it to
the earth. It is not so easy when the balloon is going rapidly. I once
saw a plucky dog catch hold of the rope with his teeth, and it jerked
him along over fences and through a stubble field on his back, and I
guess when he let go he had but very little hair left. Well, they pulled
the balloon down, and before the men got out several large stones were
put into the basket to hold it down, and the rope was tied to a strong
post. One of the men was tall and stoop-shouldered, with a long sandy
beard; they called him "Professor" (a queer title for a balloon man, is
it not?). The second man was tall and good-looking; he belonged to the
circus company. And the third was the artist, whose sketches you see in
After a little, Charley's mother came to the door, and invited the three
strangers into the house, but they preferred to sit on the step; and the
Professor took Charley upon his knee, and asked him how he would like to
travel in the way they did. How odd! Why, that was the very thing he was
wishing for at the moment. He had often watched the birds, and longed
for their wings for a little while. The Professor said, "I'll tell you
what we'll do, Charley; you and I will get into the basket, and tell
them to let us up to the end of the rope." Charley's mother was afraid
to allow him to go; but the tall man told her the Professor often took
children up that way, where he came down when voyaging. Sometimes he had
seen a dozen in the basket at once; so she consented, and shortly they
were seated with plenty of stout hands hold of the rope, "paying out,"
as the sailors say. Above the barn they rose, then higher than the big
elm. Up, up, until the folks below looked very short and funny, with all
their faces turned up to the sky. Charley's mother didn't look larger
than a doll.
I wish I could tell you all that Charley and the Professor saw as they
sat there so high and secure. Away over the hill was the town, and,
beyond, a winding river and another village that he had never seen
before; indeed, there were several towns in sight. He was sure they must
be Boston, New York, and Chicago. He thought he could see the ocean and
the Rocky Mountains; but the one was only distant plains, and the other
the Catskills, about fifty miles away.
The Professor told Charley a great many things about his voyages. Once
he was blown out to sea, and when he had almost given up hope, the rope
was overtaken by a sail-boat in pursuit, and he was towed ashore; again,
he had floated over burning forests, and once came to the earth from the
weight of snow on the balloon; and once, too, his balloon was torn in
the top of a high tree.
Suddenly a great shout was heard from below, and the Professor looked
down. He quickly said to Charley: "Now, my boy, don't be frightened.
They have made a mistake down there, and let loose the rope. We are
going up into the clouds, but I will bring you down all right."
Charley was a brave little fellow, and besides this, he had confidence
in the Professor, who seemed to manage his "air-ship," as it is often
called, so skillfully. What a great thing it is to have confidence in a
The shouting below was very faint and distant now. They were among the
clouds, and in a moment were enveloped in one of them. It was just like
a fog. The soft white masses rolled and whirled close beside the basket;
it was very cool and damp.
In a minute the Professor exclaimed, "Look, Charley! we are above the
"What a funny smell the clouds have!" said Charley; upon which the
Professor laughed heartily, and showed him that the neck of the balloon
was open, and some of the gas was flowing out. He explained that the gas
took up more room as they arose, until it finally escaped in this way.
Then he pulled on a small rope which was fastened to the top of the
balloon, and a rushing sound was heard. This was caused by the escaping
gas going through the valve. This interested Charley, who wanted to know
the "why" of everything.
When he looked about again, they had once more passed through the
clouds, and far below were square light and dark spots, which he knew
were woods and fields. These kept growing in size, and finally right
below appeared a mill where he had often gone with Harry for grist. What
a commotion there was among the cattle and pigs and chickens! The miller
and his men ran out and caught hold of the rope as it rattled noisily
over the roof, pulling them down in the adjoining field. They were
greatly astonished to find such a little fellow in the basket. As it was
only five miles from where they had started, some of the horsemen who
had been there were speedily at the mill. The Professor proposed that
they should take the balloon back along the road to the town, which
could easily be done. So the drag rope was tied to the axle of a heavy
wagon with a number of men riding on it, and the balloon was allowed to
float about a hundred feet from the ground. Charley still rode with the
Professor in his basket, and so they reached his home. He was the hero
of the day, and, to crown all, the town newspaper printed Charley's
story of his trip, just as he told it to them, with his name in capitals
at the top of the page.
I would like to be there, behind the door, when Charley gets this paper
and sees the pictures. I advise him to cut them out and put them in a
frame, and when he looks at them to resolve that he will always be as
brave and manly as upon the day of his balloon trip.