Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2010 OWOH Giveaway ~ A HAB Story ~ Part II


The Hot Air Balloon I created for my short story, "Susan's Flight" was made based on several drawings of the first flight in 1783. I wanted it to be similar in design and color to stay as close as possible to the original.

The balloon was made using paper pulp, paper mache, paper clay, mulberry paper, cardboard, acrylic paints, vintage tassels, sealing wax and gel medium. It hangs from a heavy duty clear line and measures about 10" tall and 8" wide.

Next week I will post Chapter III of the short story along with more information and pictures of the paper figure I had commissioned just for this story.

Here is Chapter II of "Susan's Flight"

The pre-celebration ball was full of beautiful gowns, delicious foods and punch. Everyone from several towns over came early to celebrate the Montgolfier’s unveiling of the Aerostat Reveillon the next day. After all, this was the most important invention of the century! Dignitaries, lords and noblemen had come to witness history in the making. Susan was proud to be on the guest list through the affiliation with her father but she had to occasionally remind herself to stay humble; as only a proper lady should. She was just thinking of such when she noticed a man grinning and staring at her from across the room. How daring! And now the bold creature was making his way toward her! She gasped at the thought of his approach and turned away to escape to the boudoir. As it was so crowded in the dancing hall she didn’t get far before she felt a touch to her arm.

Flinching, she turned around to see the bold man smiling the same grin. Up close she could see that he was pleasantly handsome and fairly young; perhaps in his middle twenties.

“Good evening, my lady”, the bold man said as he bowed and took her hand.
“My name is Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier. I believe you are the daughter of the American investor, Mr. Dyer?”

“Miss Susan Dyer…I am pleased to meet you” said Susan shyly while curtsying. Susan suddenly remembered a conversation she overheard father having with the Montgolfier brothers about the man, de Rozier. She remembered most of the conversation because the men seemed so proud to admit their acquaintance with such a fellow.

Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier was born in Metz, an important town on the border of France. His interests in the chemistry of drugs had been awakened in the military hospital of Metz. He made his way to Paris at the age of 18, then taught physics and chemistry at the Academy in Reims, which brought him to the attention of Monsieur, the comte d’Artois, brother of King Louis XVI. De Rozier returned to Paris, where he was put in charge of Monsieur’s cabinet of natural history and made a valet de chambre to Monsieur’s wife, Madame, which brought him his ennobled name, Pilâtre de Rozier. He opened his own museum in the Marais quarter of Paris on 11 December 1781, where he undertook experiments in physics, and provided demonstrations to nobles. He researched the new field of gases and invented a respirator.

Coming back quickly from her recollections, Susan returned to her conversation with de Rozier. “Yes”, my father was holding the Montgolfier balloon until it was transported to the storage houses at the royal palace here in Versailles.”

“Indeed, and incidently, I believe you almost got to see the balloon last night in your father’s barn…?”

Susan gasped and turned bright red from blushing. So it wasn’t the horse that startled her! It was this man who must have been spying on her just as she was spying on the secret balloon.

“Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me,” De Rozier said and he eased her nerves with a wink and a smile. Changing the subject, De Rozier proceeded to explain his involvement with the balloon and what he knew about tomorrow’s flight.

It so happens that De Rozier was present at the first public demonstration of a balloon by the Montgolfier brothers at Annonay and he was now assisting the brothers in the Versailles flight. The king was concerned about the effects of flight into the upper atmosphere on living creatures. It was De Rozier who suggested that the first living beings be a sheep, a duck and a rooster. The sheep was believed to have a reasonable approximation of human physiology. The duck was expected to be unharmed by being lifted aloft. It was included as a control for effects created by the aircraft rather than altitude. The rooster was included as a further control as it was a bird that did not fly at high altitudes.

Susan became comfortable listening to De Rozier as he continued to explain the scientific factors in creating such a balloon. His voice was calming and he reminded her of her father.

Remembering her curiosity concerning the makeup of the balloon, Susan asked De Rozier what the balloon looked like and what it was made of.

“The balloon is constructed of taffeta coated with a varnish of alum (which has fireproofing properties). It is sky blue and has golden flourishes and other decorations.
It is designed in collaboration with the wallpaper manufacturer, Reveillon. It measures 37,500 cubic feet. It’s actually quite taller than this building we’re standing in.”

“Oh I can’t wait to see it! It sounds absolutely stunning!”, cried Susan.

“Yes, indeed it is, but not as stunning as you, my lady”, said De Rozier. Susan blushed for the second time that evening.

Susan and De Rozier enjoyed the rest of the night in each other’s company. Susan learned about his family, his childhood and his dreams of becoming successful in his field. Susan told De Rozier about her own life and about growing up in the Americas before she came to France. They got to know eachother very well and Susan already began to miss him as the night came to an end. They talked, laughed and danced until it was time to go home. They bid each other goodnight and promised to meet by the large fountain at tomorrows unveiling.

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