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SOME ACCOUNT OF THE LAST PARACHUTE.
BY HENRY BROWNRIGG, ESQ. CONSIDERABLE excitement was on the —th ult, manifested throughout the populous district of Walworth. It had been industriously, though confidentially, whispered, that Mr. Minnow, a fishmonger and vestryman, distinguished no less for his public spirit than his private virtues, was about to share in the perilous ascent of Mrs. Graham. A new parachute, invented by Mr. Minnow, whose scientific attainments had long been the theme of admiration among a select circle of friends, was to be tried on the occasion. And, with that liberality which had ever characterized the conduct of the above-named gentleman, a bushel of live oysters, supplied from his own warehouse, was to accompany the ærial voyagers at least five miles above the earth, and then to descend in a parachute, in order that the timid and sceptical might be assured and convinced of the perfect safety of the conveyance. In his zeal for science, Mr. Minnow had resolved that his own infant—the youngest of an interesting family of ten-should be the favoured tenant of the parachute, but, as it had been only three days short-coated, Mrs. Minnow, in her natural anxiety for the health of her offspring, suggested that the dear baby might possibly take cold; and when it was considered that oysters would do quite as well, the maternal hesitation on the part of Mrs. Minnow must find some allowance in the bosoms of the most curious and the most scientific.
We should waste time, ink, and paper, were we to attempt to demonstrate the vast utility of the parachute. Its extraordinary influence on the comforts of society is, happily, not now to be disputed. To be able to shoot from a balloon to the earth, when the balloon itself would afford that transit, is to enjoy the most gratifying sense of independence. Who would descend the stairs of a house, when a safe and rapid flight into the street might be taken from the garret-window? However, to the eventful proceedings of the day.
At an early hour the ground was thronged. The balloon was inflated, and, by its tugging motion, seemed, like a young eagle, to desire to wing its proud and lofty way into that bright and circumambient air, wherein it was soon to soar in gentle grace and glittering beauty. At three o'clock, Mrs. Graham appeared upon the ground, and was received with marked enthusiasm. She looked at the balloon, bowed, and smiled confidently. She was dressed in a brown gown, white straw bonnet, and blue ribands. We had almost forgotten to state that she also wore a chinchilly tippet. By those who stood near her, she was understood to inquire for her fellow-passenger, Mr. Minnow ?
At this moment, as we are credibly informed by an ear-witness of unimpeachable character, Mr. Minnow came upon the ground. He was at first received with silence, but, on several persons exclaiming “ That's he, that's Minnow!” an indescribable shout seemed to rend apart the very heavens. Mr. Minnow put his hand upon his heart, and bowed. He was a remarkably respectable-looking man, having on a handsome blue coat with bright buttons, drab breeches and gaiters, a white hat turned up with green, a gold watch (he took it out to inquire the hour) and large appendages. He carried in his hand what—and
we think, too, we state the general impression-we took to be a gig umbrella : reader, it was the NEW PARACHUTE!
Who that looked upon the machine could have suspected it? Who, when the mystery was unfolded, can describe the delight of the intoxicated multitude! At length, all was prepared, and
Ănd, here, readers and fellow-countrymen, we are compelled to pause to call upon you to applaud the vigilant benevolence of the district magistracy, who had caused Inspector Lynx of the “I” division to prohibit the ascent of the oysters-we are bound to say, there was a full bushel-unless it could be satisfactorily proved to him, upon scientific principles, that no accident could accrue to them from the experiment.
We were delighted at this interference, for two reasons. The first is, it proved the humanity and activity of the magistrates ; and the second afforded us the pleasure of hearing Mr. Minnow shortly, but lucidly, lecture on the principles of his new parachute, and convince Inspector Lynx that it was impossible the descent from any height could be so violent as to break in pieces both shells of the oyster ; that if the bottom shell were broken, the top would be uninjured, and vice versa. On this, in the most handsome manner, Inspector Lynx suffered the bushel of adventurous æronauts to be placed in the parachute, and we deal in no hyperbolical figure, when we state that expectation was upon tiptoe!
Mr. Minnow handed Mrs. Graham into the basket-car, and, with no visible emotion, followed. A third passenger, a studious-looking man, as it was whispered, the editor of a journal of considerable weight, took his seat upon
“ the cross-bench.' The word was given—the ropes were cut--but the balloon rose very, very slowly. Mrs. Graham Alung out several bags of sand, and Mr. Minnow lightened his pockets of several packs of cards, eagerly sought for by the crowd as mementos of the soul-stirring occurrence. We were happy in securing one of these precious tokens, the subjoined fac-simile of which we are proud to lay before our readers :
NEW CUT, LAMBETH:
THE ONLY WAREHOUSE FOR THE REAL
Parachute Oysters !
N.B, Periwinkles in every variety.
Although many bags of sand, and several packs of the above cards, were flung from the car, the balloon rose lazily, and some of the lower order of spectators had their mouths ready formed to hiss, when Mrs. Graham darted a glance of suspicion at the editor. With some confusion in his manner, he put his hand to his coat-pocket, and hurriedly flung an unsuspected copy of his own journal from him; and extraordinary as it may appear, the balloon, with the parachute attached to it, shot like a rocket into the air, Minnow just before exclaiming to his wife—“Mind, Betsy, the left Box !"
The crowd huzzaed-Mrs. Graham, Minnow, and the second gentleman, each waving a flag of a different hue.
We are happy to say that here our task concludes; for we have now to report the words of that daring æronaut, Peter Minnow himself !
“ We rose with a gentle and steady breeze. For at least five minutes - so clearly could we discern objects, I could distinguish the moustache of Potlid, the master tinman of Lambeth Marsh; nor was it until two minutes more had elapsed, that we had wholly lost sight of his tip.
“ We crossed the Thames, between Waterloo and Blackfriars. By the reflection of the sun upon a black cloud, and by the aid of an excellent glass, we plainly discerned the copper edge of a bad sixpence, presented to and taken by the unsuspecting tollman.
“ The coal barges looked no larger than old shoes, and the fan-tail hats of the coal-heavers like patches on the cheeks of a lady. The pearl buttons on the velveteen jacket of a ticket-porter, as Mrs. Grahanı assured me, presented quite an era in the history of ærostation.
“ We looked from time to time with intense interest on the passengers in the parachute, all of whom appeared perfectly tranquil." We felt assured, from their unaltered demeanour, that no timidity on their part would prevent a fair trial of the powers of the new machine.
“ The weather was beautiful. As we steered eastward, St. Paul's became a conspicuous and animating object. We hovered above it, like an eagle flapping his fan-like wings in the molten sun * Here we descended so low, and there was about us such a death-like calm, that we heard, or thought we heard, the halfpence chink at the door of the cathedral. Mrs. Graham playfully remarked to me, that the statue of Queen Anne, observed from our point of view, Jooked very like a Bavarian broom-girl.
“ As we were wafted gently onwards, Bow Church arosc in all its simple dignity. By a strange coincidence, Bow-bells were ringing. We were borne tranquilly onwards until we found ourselves above the Stock Exchange. Here, many persons looked very small indeed; and here, we experienced a dead calm. In order that we might rise into another current, we cast more sand out, and fear, from the confusion we saw below, that we had unconsciously flung a great deal of dust into the eyes of several contractors.
“ We rose, and found another current; and, to our inexpressible satisfaction, were carried due west. Even at such an altitude, we were able to make out objects. I saw what, I am sure, was the line of stables belonging to the Golden Cross; but Mrs. Graham insisted that it was the National Gallery.
“I observed to the gentleman who accompanied us that the rarefied air produced in me symptoms of sudden hunger. At this he significantly asked, if it were necessary that the whole bushel of oysters should descend unopened? To this, I replied with firmness, that I could not break faith with the public—the parachute must go the whole bushel.
* We trust we do no wrong to Mr. Minnow; but we shrewdly suspect that bis companion, the editor, bas helped him to a figure or two.
“ We were now driven on with great speed; and were about the desired five miles above the surface of the globe, when Mrs. Graham remarked that we had sailed a great distance, and that, consequently, we should have an equal distance to return.
“ I had promised the spirited proprietor of the Victoria Theatre, to present myself upon his stage at half-past eleven at night.--(I may be here permitted to express my regret that, as an old neighbour of that gentleman, I was compelled to refuse the terms of the proprietor of the Surrey Theatre. I could not, with justice to my family, take two pounds, and include the bushel of oysters. My tub is still at his service for the dress-boxes.)-Half-past eleven at the latest; the hour was stated in the bills, and I expected a great crowd in my rooms when the play was over. On this, I preferred to let the parachute descend.
It was an anxious moment. I cut the cord, the æronauts—the whole bushel-shot quicker than lightning down the blue abyss; we rose, but, owing to the skilful direction of Mrs. Graham, suffered no inconvenience. The balloon was almost immediately at our command; and we prepared to descend, that we might join, as soon as possible, our brother æronauts.
“ We alighted in a paddock—the property of Mr. Fuss, late of Hourdsditch-at the picturesque village of Pinner. To himself, his amiable lady, their lovely family, and various domestics, we owe the greatest thanks for assistance in our descent.
“ Mr. Cuts, schoolmaster of Pinner, in the most handsome way, dispatched his fifty boys in various directions in search of the parachute, liberally offering sixpence from his own pocket to the fortunate finder.
“ We were then ushered by Mr. and Mrs. Fuss into their front parlour, where we partook of a cold collation, shoulder of mutton, pickled walnuts, ale, &c.
“We made a hearty meal, but were naturally anxious for the fate of the parachute. At length our fears were dissipated by the appearance of a male and female gipsy, followed by some of the boys of Mr. Cuts, who brought to us the uninjured parachute and all the-shells!
“ The gipsies were rigidly cross-examined, but were firm in their statement that the oysters came to the earth ready opened. When the peculiar lawlessness of this caste of people is taken into consideration, their statement will weigh nothing with the scientific. For it is plain that the same force that opened an oyster, must have had some effect upon the frail fabric of the parachute, which will, for the next six weeks, be exhibited in my rooms for the satisfaction of the curious, whether they take their oysters raw or scolloped.
“ He indeed must be the most sceptical, or the most envious of men -or both--who can ever venture to question the safety and utility of my parachute.
“ After enjoying the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Fuss, the balloon and parachute were packed up, and we arrived at the stage-door of the Victoria Theatre at five-and-twenty minutes past eleven, where we were cordially welcomed by the Lessee.”
Thus far goes the simple statement of Mr. Minnow. It is now our duty to declare that his arrival was no sooner made known, than a loud shout was set up for him, when he instantly appeared upon the stage, led on by the manager. A supernumerary in the background carried the parachute.
Mrs. Graham was next called for, when that lady appeared, and curtsied an acknowledgment of the honour.
A vehement cry was next raised for the proprietor. He came on, after some hesitation, and was welcomed with a loud burst of applause. He was so affected by the novelty of his situation, that he was led off, leaning on the arm of his friend the stage-manager.
Mrs. Minnow, and numerous family, were next recognised in the lefthand stage-box. They were loudly applauded, and severally returned their mute yet eloquent thanks.
The friends of science will, we feel assured, be delighted to learn that it is next season the intention of Mr. Minnow to ascend every evening with his parachute-beginning on Easter Monday—until further notice.
THE STRANGER I MET AT MY CLUB,
A TALE OF THE ISLE OF WIGHT.
At the club of which I am a member, “ The Whitechapel Athenæum,” we are allowed to bring strangers with us to dinner—a very great convenience, every one must allow, to our friends. I live in that neighbourhood ; I am not ashamed to confess it. In fact, I have been so long in business, and have seen such a variety of things in my life, that I am too old to be ashamed of anything. At any rate, I am above the paltry affectation of many of my neighbours, who consider it something mighty ungenteel to remain in town at this season of the year, and give out to all their friends that they are gone to Margate or Gravesend, when I know for a certainty that they have never budged from their own homes. One of them—I don't choose to mention names—a drysalter by trade, a leading member of our club—in fact, the only one who endeavoured to exclude me when I was a candidate for admission -put a ticket in his window with “Gone to Brighton for the season written on it; when, I declare, I have seen him almost every day slinking through by-lanes and alleys into his back shop. All this, Í say, I am above. I stay in town the whole year round, and dine at my club every day. The club, however, it must be confessed, has a very desolate appearance all August and September; piles of uncut newspapers blocking up every table, windows badly cleaned, floors scarcely sanded above once a week, and if by any chance a member does come in, he looks for all the world as if he were detected in a forgery. The steward of the club has gone on leave of absence; the butler is never to be found ; dear me! the very waiters seem asleep; and you have to wait at least half an hour for your pint of wine. However, in spite of all these inconveniences, it is better to dine there than at a chop-house ; and, accordingly, every day, summer and winter, punctually at five o'clock, I take my seat at the little square table, up at the middle window looking directly opposite into the London Hospital.