“If you wouldn’t mind accepting it,” said Josiah, pulling out his fine old turnip-shaped time-piece, “as a memento of our friendship—which, though brief, has I trust been sincere—it would give me great pleasure.”
“Certainly,” said the captain, weighing it in his hand critically, and thinking to himself that it might serve as ballast in a last emergency. “I’ll hang it over my bed, and will think of you whenever it ticks. Nothing more to say?”
“No,” said Josiah; “only, please to drop me feet first.”
The captain took him in his arms as if he were a child, held him for a moment over the side of the car, and with a cheery farewell dropped him.
Josiah felt his hat go, and could see the balloon shoot up with tremendous rapidity, though, as he reckoned, the rate of velocity would need to be divided by about half, as he was simultaneously descending rapidly. He felt the rush of air, and shrank from the moment, coming nearer and nearer, when he should strike the earth. He seemed an unconscionably long time falling. Still, through the clouds he went, and, it seemed to him at the end of five minutes, began to get glimpses of the earth. Down he went like a shot. The rushing noise in his ears grew more intolerable. There was a swift upgrowth of the hedgerows, a sudden vision of cows and horses, and of people running across fields. Then a heavy bump, and Josiah, opening his eyes, found himself lying on the floor in the room in King Street.
On the table were an empty claret bottle and two tumblers. The room was full of the smoke, now growing stale, of cigars. Josiah was shivering with cold, and the room was dark save from what light flickered in from the lamp down the street. He struck a light, and there in its accustomed place on the mantelpiece was his watch, the hands pointing to three o’clock. Dazed and shivering he crept into bed, where he thought the matter over, and amid much that was bewildering groped his way to the conclusion that Captain Mulberry really had come into his room, had spent an hour with him, smoked cigars, drunk claret, and then gone off. He remembered standing at the head of the stairs shaking hands with him, and promising to dine with him at his club one day in the following week. Then he had gone back and lain on the couch, where, overcome with the unaccustomed tumbler of claret and dazed with the tobacco smoke, he had fallen asleep, dreamed, and rolled off on to the floor.
HENRY W. LUCY.