Title: Chatterbox 1905
In the chimney corner of a cottage in Avignon, a man sat one day watching the smoke as it rose in changing clouds from the smouldering embers to the sooty cavern above, and if those who did not know him had supposed from his attitude that he was a most idle person, they would have been very far from the truth.
It was in the days when the combined fleets of Europe were thundering with cannon on the rocky walls of Gibraltar, in the hope of driving the English out, and, the long effort having proved in vain, Joseph Montgolfier, of whom we have spoken, fell to wondering, as he sat by the fire, how the great task could be accomplished.
‘If the soldiers and sailors could only fly,’ he thought, ‘there would be no difficulty.’ He looked at a picture of the Rock lying on the table beside him, and saw many places on its summit very suitable for such flying foes to settle on. ‘But, ah! who could give them wings?’ He turned to the fireplace, and his eyes fell once more on the column of smoke, silently, silently rising; and yet not so silently as the world might think, for though he had not yet quite understood its meaning, Joseph Montgolfier had been striving for some time past to learn the lesson which he felt sure it was to teach him at last. And to-day the secret came out. Thoughts so active as his did not take long to get from Gibraltar back to the smoke, and they had not been there many minutes when Montgolfier jumped from his seat, and, throwing open the door of the room, called to his landlady. A great idea had occurred to him, and, to carry it out, he required some light, silky material, called taffeta. This the good landlady quickly supplied, and when she entered the room some time later, she found her lodger holding the taffeta, which he had formed into a bag, over the fire. As the smoke filled it, it certainly showed an inclination to rise, but once out of reach of the warmest glow it toppled over and collapsed on the floor.