Part 1: Dropped from the Clouds

Chapter 1

“Arewerisingagain?” “No.Onthecontrary.” “Arewedescending?” “Worsethanthat,captain!wearefalling!” “ForHeaven’ssakeheaveouttheballast!” “There!thelastsackisempty!” “Doestheballoonrise?” “No!” “Ihearanoiselikethedashingofwaves. Theseaisbelowthecar! Itcannotbemorethan500feetfromus!” “Overboardwitheveryweight!...everything!” 

Suchweretheloudandstartlingwordswhichresoundedthroughtheair,abovethevastwaterydesertofthePacific, aboutfouro’clockintheeveningofthe23rdofMarch,1865. 

Fewcanpossiblyhaveforgottentheterriblestormfromthenortheast,inthemiddleoftheequinoxofthatyear. Thetempestragedwithoutintermissionfromthe18thtothe26thofMarch. ItsravageswereterribleinAmerica,Europe,andAsia,coveringadistanceofeighteenhundredmiles, andextendingobliquelytotheequatorfromthethirty-fifthnorthparalleltothefortiethsouthparallel. Townswereoverthrown,forestsuprooted,coastsdevastatedbythemountainsofwater whichwereprecipitatedonthem,vesselscastontheshore,whichthepublishedaccountsnumberedbyhundreds, wholedistrictsleveledbywaterspoutswhichdestroyedeverythingtheypassedover, severalthousandpeoplecrushedonlandordrownedatsea; suchwerethetracesofitsfury,leftbythisdevastatingtempest. ItsurpassedindisastersthosewhichsofrightfullyravagedHavanaandGuadalupe,oneonthe25thofOctober,1810,theotheronthe26thofJuly,1825. 

Butwhilesomanycatastrophesweretakingplaceonlandandatsea, adramanotlessexcitingwasbeingenactedintheagitatedair. 

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