“Hurry, Roger, hurry!” Quentin ran around the basket, tightening this rope, checking that one, while Roger struggled to arrange the massive yellow canvas bag on the still-wet grass. “The sun is almost up!”
Quentin barely heard his assistant murmur something about going as fast as he could. For years he had dreamed of this moment; he had scraped his money together slowly, finding odd bits of this and that, bargaining with the clockmaker for some parts, going as far as Douglas Bridge to barter with the oddity Sadah for basket weavings of monstrous size. Now, Quentin watched with increasing awe: his balloon was ready to fly.
Whoosh! the flame ignited, ropes were pulled, backs and arms strained: the canvas balloon rose and filled. With a crow of delight, Quentin hopped into the basket. “It’s happening, Roger!” he cried. It did not occur to him that Roger might have liked to have joined him on the first voyage, but someone had to man the anchor ropes. Even Quentin did not wish his first flight to end in disaster. He wanted to be remembered as a visionary, as the young inventor who helped put Halfpenny Gate back on the map. So what if Douglas Bridge had its fairgrounds! Halfpenny Gate had a flying machine!
Quentin felt as if he would soar up out of his balloon as it rose from the ground like a small yellow sun. He could see that a small crowd had gathered to watch his flight, a mix of skeptics and hopefuls. Birds flew past him, as if he were their equal; he could see the real sun rising on his left just past the Grove. He could even see the giant ferris wheel of Douglas Bridge, lit up like a miniature piece displayed on a collector’s table. The main road ran in front of him, and the river ran south of that, tiny threads of grey and silver, separating his town and Maydown as if they were squares on an old quilt.
For years Quentin had dreamed of this moment, prepared for it, bargained for it, argued for it, lost sleep and food for it. In all those years, he could never have prepared for the sense of awe that overpowered him, nor for the accompanying sense, not of grandeur nor of greatness, but of his own incredible, immeasurable, smallness.
Tales of Enndover #5
For past Tales of Enndover, click on the category of that name.