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      <p>“There is no conquest to which the entire human race aspires more ardently than the Empire of the Air.”</p>
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    <h1>A Balloon Ascension at Midnight</h1>
    <p>We had agreed, my companion and I, that I should call for him at his house, after dinner, not later than eleven o’clock.</p>

  <p>This athletic young Frenchman belongs to a small set of Parisian sportsmen, who have taken up “ballooning” as a pastime.</p>

<p>After having exhausted all the sensations that are to be found in ordinary sports, even those of “automobiling” at a breakneck speed, the members of the “Aéro Club” now seek in the air, where they indulge in all kinds of daring feats, the nerve-racking excitement that they have ceased to find on earth.</p>

<p>I might add that these facts were but vaguely known to me before I had been introduced, by a mutual friend, to this nouveau siècle young sportsman, and had accepted his invitation to accompany him in his next aerial voyage.</p>

<p>When we reached the vacant lot at the huge gas works of St. Denis, where our balloon was being inflated, I could not help feeling a bit alarmed at the sight of that little bubble—only a few hundred cubic metres—and the very small basket which were soon to take us up in the air.</p>

<p>All the éclat, the ceremonial, and the emotional “good-bys” that usually accompany the “let her go!” of a balloon, were totally lacking when the “Rolla” left the earth. The start was effected in a quiet and business like manner, and the act seemed so natural to the people who were helping us off, that their demeanor on this occasion had a beneficial and soothing effect on my excited nerves.</p>

<p>A few minutes after midnight, when the last little sacks of sand ballast had been hung out over the edge of our wicker-basket, when a final glance had been given to the ropes, the net, the valve, etc.,—with a careless au revoir from the foreman of the gas-works, and a parting joke from the cocher who had driven us there,—the dark forms, whose hands were holding us down, silently stepped back, and with a gentle and graceful swing the “Rolla” started off on its sixth ascension.</p>
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