Page:Wonderful Balloon Ascents, 1870.djvu/174
WONDERFUL BALLOON ASCENTS.
showing themselves far down on the earth beneath us, that we could form a guess of the countries we traversed, or of the towns and villages which appeared before us every moment. The whole surface of the earth for many leagues round showed nothing but scattered lights, and the face of the earth seemed to rival the vault of heaven with starry fires. Every moment in the earlier part of the night before men had betaken themselves to repose, clusters of lights appeared indicating large centres of population. Those on the horizon gave us the notion of a distant conflagration. In proportion as we approached them, these masses of lights appeared to increase, and to cover a greater space, until, when right over them, they seemed to divide themselves into different parts, to stretch out in long streets, and to shine in starry quadrangles round the squares, so that we could see the exact plan of each city, given as on a small map. It would be difficult to give an idea of what sort of effect such a scene in such circumstances produces. To find oneself transported in the darkness of night, in the midst of vast solitudes of air, unknown, unperceived, in secret and in silence, exploring territories, traversing kingdoms, watching towns which come into view, and pass out of it before one can examine them in detail—these circumstances are enough in themselves to render sublime a science which, independent of these adjuncts, would be so interesting. If you add to this the uncertainty which, increasing as we went on into the night, began to assail us respecting our voyage, our ignorance of where we were, and what were the objects we were attempting to discover, you may form some idea of our singular position."
About midnight, the travellers found themselves above