by A Cassandra.
a steam balloon trip?
A semi-autobiographical novel.
If you are a racy tail like that of my infamous ancestor, you will be disappointed.
I have described this piece as semi-autobiographical to allow for, the conflation of events, for narrative effect. And for the shortcomings of my literary skills.
I will start my tale with a description of Godfrey, my assistant and travelling companion. Godfrey Smith, is, or more accurately, was the blacksmith at Darrington. To describe him as a bear of a man goes without saying. A life time of swinging a big hammer had seen to his physique. But he was much more than some big dumb brute, he could fix things. Any broken thing you put in front of him, would be fixed. He is dexterous of hand and mind. Despite having no real education, save a little Sunday school, he was able to build Lord Darlington a steam carriage, just from listening to Lord Darlington describe it.
I suppose the real place to start this tail is on the afternoon of St Winifred's day, last. I was up on Shepherds Knob, inspecting my holdings, when I was struck by a curious idea. I was looking down at the towns below and watching a thunder shower roll down the valley, when it occurred to me that water is quite heavy, but clouds float in the air. I remembered earring something about a French man who filled a balloon with smoke, because smoke rises. Well I resolved to do it with a cloud, and Godfrey was the fellow to make it happen.
With kind thanks to Bertie Lord Darlington and the letter of introduction he gave me, I was able to re-enter the royal institution. The fellows there were most helpful. First they told me the French man had got it wrong, something an English man always delights to ear, that it was not the smoke which made their balloon but the heat from the fire. Second, they confirmed that water is heavy. One cubic yard of water weighs the better part of a ton. That hot air at one hundred degrees centigrade weighs just 0.0591 lbf/ft3. But that a cubic foot of steam weighs only 0.0369 lb. Which is five eighths the weight. There were a few jokes about me still being under a cloud, but mostly they wished me well and said they hoped to hear of my success.
I tasked Godfrey with the job of making a boiler, which would boil a huge amount of water, quickly. I also gave his wife the task of making the balloon its self, out of oiled linen cloth.
The day of the first launch did not go exactly to plan, the boiler its self was like nothing you have seen before, except, maybe a very big organ pipe. It had a wide section three quarters of the way up its length, this held the fire grate. The pipe continued as a chimney. Water was sprayed into the top of the chimney and instantly turned to steam. I had heard tales from some of my tenant farmers about Godfrey's noisy fogger, but to see, hear and feel it in action was truly impressive. It blew huge amounts of fog into the balloon envelope, which quickly inflated, but remained stubbornly on its side on the ground. I had just about worked out what the problem was, I had told Godfrey to boil a huge amount of water. But a small amount of water turns into a huge amount of steam. Just at that moment the balloon righted itself, a torrent of hot water rushed down, knocking me out of the basket and putting out the fire. Having lost all of this excess weight, the balloon shot into the air and was away.
The envelope was recovered from fifty miles away, but the boiler and basket were smashed beyond use. Godfrey had learned his lesson, so with the redesigned boiler and basket, we were ready for our African adventure.