The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 1

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 42

to the number of passengers on my part altogether unexpected; but I was
pleased at the occurrence. It would afford me a chance of bringing to a
kind of test the truth of a surmise, which, more than anything else,
had influenced me in attempting this ascension. I had imagined that the
habitual endurance of the atmospheric pressure at the surface of
the earth was the cause, or nearly so, of the pain attending animal
existence at a distance above the surface. Should the kittens be found
to suffer uneasiness in an equal degree with their mother, I must
consider my theory in fault, but a failure to do so I should look upon
as a strong confirmation of my idea.

"By eight o'clock I had actually attained an elevation of seventeen
miles above the surface of the earth. Thus it seemed to me evident that
my rate of ascent was not only on the increase, but that the progression
would have been apparent in a slight degree even had I not discharged
the ballast which I did. The pains in my head and ears returned, at
intervals, with violence, and I still continued to bleed occasionally at
the nose; but, upon the whole, I suffered much less than might have
been expected. I breathed, however, at every moment, with more and
more difficulty, and each inhalation was attended with a troublesome
spasmodic action of the chest. I now unpacked the condensing apparatus,
and got it ready for immediate use.

"The view of the earth, at this period of my ascension, was beautiful
indeed. To the westward, the northward, and the southward, as far as I
could see, lay a boundless sheet of apparently unruffled ocean, which
every moment gained a deeper and a deeper tint of blue and began already
to assume a slight appearance of convexity. At a vast distance to the
eastward, although perfectly discernible, extended the islands of Great
Britain, the entire Atlantic coasts of France and Spain, with a small
portion of the northern part of the continent of Africa. Of individual
edifices not a trace could be discovered, and the proudest cities of
mankind had utterly faded away from the face of the earth. From the rock
of Gibraltar, now dwindled into a dim speck, the dark Mediterranean sea,
dotted with shining islands as the heaven is dotted with stars, spread
itself out to the eastward as far as my vision extended, until its
entire mass of waters seemed at length to tumble headlong over the abyss
of the horizon, and I found myself listening on tiptoe for the

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