A Desperate Adventure
Wanted, four persons who are bent upon commtting suicide, to engage in a hazardous adventure. Apply, etc., to Captain Cowgill, No., Blank Street, after nine oclock in the morning.
Captain Cowgill inserted the above advertisement in three of the morning papers, with only a faint expectation that it would be responded to. But the result was that between nine oclock and noon five men and two women called at his office to inquire respecting the nature of the proposed adventure, and to offer their services in the event that it should involve nothing of a criminal character. Of these seven, Captain Cowgill selected four, three men and one young woman; and when he had dismissed the others, he shut the door and said to the four applicants:
What I wanted you for was this: I have made up my mind that the North Pole can never be reached by an exploring party travelling upon ships and sledges. The only route that is possibly practicable is through the air, and the only available vehicle, of course, is a balloon. But an attempt to reach the Pole in a balloon must expose the explorers to desperate risks, and it occurred to me that those risks had better be taken by persons who do not value their lives, than by persons who do. It has always seemed to me that a part of the sin of suicide lies in the fact that the life wantonly sacrificed might have been expended in a cause which would have conferred benefits, directly or indirectly, upon the human race. I have a large and superbly equipped balloon, which will be thoroughly stocked for a voyage to the Arctic regions, and, among other things, it will contain apparatus for making fresh supplies of hydrogen gas. Are you four persons willing to make the required attempt in this balloon?
All four of the visitors answered, Yes.
Were you going to sacrifice your lives, at any rate?
An affirmative answer was given by the four.
Permit me to take your names, said Captain Cowgill, and he wrote them down as follows:
William P. Crutter,
Dr. Henry Ohagan,
Mr. Crutter was a man apparently of about sixty years, handsomely dressed, manifestly a gentleman, but with a flushed face which indicated that he had perhaps indulged to some extent in dissipation.
Dr. OHagan was thin, pallid, and careworn. He looked as if he were ill, and as if all joy were dead in his heart.
Mr. Jarnville appeared to be a working-man, but his countenance, sad as it was, was full of intelligence, and his manner was that of a man who had occupied a social position much above the lowest.
Miss Dermott sat, with an air of dejection, her hands in her lap, a thin and faded shawl pinned about her, and with her pale cheeks suggestive of hunger and mental suffering.
My hope, said Captain Cowgill, is that you will safely reach your destination, and safely return. But you fully understand that the chances are against you. For my own protection I will ask you to certify in writing that you go with full knowledge of the risks. I will inflate the balloon to-morrow. Day after to- morrow come to this office at nine oclock, and you shall then make the ascent at once.
On the appointed day the four volunteers appeared and Captain Cowgill drove with them, in a carriage, to a yard in the outskirts of the city, where the balloon, inflated and swaying to and fro in the wind, was
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