Page:Melbourne and Mars.djvu/49

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47
MY USE OF THE FREEDOM.

of six hundred feet, and again at three hundred feet, until the most skilful sailor is discovered.

I take my share in these air sports and have proved myself competent, thanks to father, who, for months, patiently instructed me and superintended my practice. I took great interest in air sailing, for did I not owe my life to father's skill in this very art?

A balloon hunt is another feature of our air sports. A small balloon is inflated and allowed to ascend for about a mile in vertical height, during which time it may have drifted a good distance. When it is supposed to be high enough and far enough away to endure a good chase a number of competitors start in pursuit. It is understood that when the racers see that one of their number is in reach that they cease flying, lest the boats collide. This rule is usually obeyed; indeed, we have no wilful lawbreakers anywhere.

On the occasion of my last balloon hunt, however, I had succeeded in reaching the prize a little in advance of my friends, and had just seized the cord to open the valve, which would have emptied the balloon in two minutes, when crash goes the left wing of my boat, and over it tilts, pitching me from my seat. Fortunately my first instinct led me to clutch the little ring of cords attached to the mouth of my prize, and so when my disabled boat sank from under me I was hanging by my hands to the balloon. This was not large enough, to sustain my weight, and so I began to follow my boat. The man who had drifted against me and caused my accident kept close, so that he could aid me at any moment. We got to the ground in safety, I alighting no more heavily than if I had jumped from a height of six feet. Several of my friends followed my boat, and staying the rapidity of its descent got it to the ground without further damage. Such presence of mind is very common. It is largely used in averting accidents on sea, on land, and in the air.

Although we are not great travellers by water, and in spite of rivers and seas being scarce, those of us who have the opportunity make the most of aquatic sports. We all learn to swim, and sailing and rowing are very common accomplishments. We dive at great depths also, and we keep our seas clear of the enemies of the edible fish. We do not care, to have sea monsters robbing us of an important article of food, and also making bathing and swimming into dangerous pastimes. We do a deal of fishing both in fresh and salt water. Our sea water is very cold, and so dense with salt and dissolved mineral matters that we can scarcely sink in it.

We have no hunting of wild beasts; they have all been exterminated long ago. This extermination has extended to vermin and insect plagues, and even to some kinds of animalculae. There is nothing that can bite, sting, or injure us in any way.