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Boucle, Blanche, and Rouge.

The twins Maurice and Marie lived in the country of France more than two hundred years ago.

"The Montgolfier brothers are sending a big balloon up into the air above the earth," Father excitedly told Maurice, Marie, and their mother.

"How will they get it into the air?" Maurice asked.

"The way I heard it," Father told them, "the brothers were holding a paper bag over a fire, and it got away from them because the hot air got into the bag. The brothers thought and thought about that. They experimented with the idea, and now they have a huge bag made of linen to fill with hot air."

"From where do they want this balloon to leave the earth?" Mother asked.

"From our farm!" Father said excitedly. "Five days from now."

"We can watch the big balloon!" Marie clapped her hands.

"Will the brothers be in the big balloon?" Maurice asked.

"No! That is the big news!" Father declared.

"What?" they all asked, leaning forward in their chairs beside the fireplace.

"The brothers want animals from our farm to put in the balloon's basket."

"Basket?" Mother questioned.

"Yes, the basket hangs from the bottom of the big balloon," Father explained.

"Will they fall out into the air?" Marie worried.

"What if they try to get out?" Maurice wondered.

"What if they crash to the earth?" Mother cried.

"The basket is so big, they say, that the animals will be safe. The balloon will return them to the earth as the hot air leaves the balloon," Father assured them. "Now, to which animals will we give this honor?"

There was a big silence.

Marie looked at Maurice.

Maurice looked at Made.

"I have Rouge," Maurice said, his voice reduced to a whisper from just the thought of such a flight above the earth for his red pet rooster.

"I have Blanche," whispered Marie, with pictures in her mind of her beloved, white pet duck far, far above the earth.

"Hmmm." Father said. "Both of you offered your pets. I will offer my Boucle!" Father swallowed hard as he thought of his prize-winning curly sheep in the basket of the balloon above the earth.

Soon the day dawned for the balloon flight. The farm pasture was filled with more people than Maurice and Marie had ever seen at the market fairs in the village.

The fabric balloon was made ready for the large basket. The Montgolfier brothers and their helpers started to fill the balloon with the hot air so that it would fly above the earth.

"Our first balloon was thirty feet in diameter and weighed three hundred pounds, just like this one," one of the Montgolfier brothers told the people.

"Ready!" said all the men, giving the signal for the animals.

Father led his curly sheep, Boucle, through the crowd of people.

Marie followed, holding her white duck, Blanche, close to her heart.

Maurice said words to quiet his red rooster, Rouge, who became excited when people reached out to touch the animals going into the balloon.

Everyone watched as the basket swayed under the rising balloon filled with hot air.

Up and up they went as the breeze became stronger.

Baa-baa. The crowd could hear Boucle in the air above the earth. Quack-quack. The crowd heard Blanche in the air above the earth. Cock-a-doodle-doo. The crowd heard Rouge in the air above the earth.

"What will happen to my prize sheep, Boucle?" Father wondered.

"I won't see Blanche anymore," sobbed Marie.

"Poor Rouge," Maurice lamented, and he set his jaw and bit his lip.

"Let's follow it!" someone shouted from the crowd.

Some people went on horses. Some went in carts. Some ran, and some walked.

"Oh, look!" a woman yelled. She pointed her finger at the balloon.

"It's falling!" the people shouted.

Mother, Marie, and Maurice held on to the sides of the cart as Father drove over the clods of earth to cross the fields.

When they reached the fallen balloon, they found it spread out like a carpet on the earth. The big basket was turned on its side.

"Come here, Rouge!" Maurice called, chasing his red rooster who was running in circles on the linen cloth.

"Oh, Blanche!" Marie exclaimed, crawling into a corner of the basket after her white duck.

Quack-quack! Blanche managed to say in a feeble voice as Marie held her close.

Baa-baa! Boucle announced, standing on legs too stiff to walk. Father carded her from the side of the balloon basket.

Everyone congratulated the Montgolfier brothers. The big balloon they had sent up into the air had made a flight and returned to earth.

The Montgolfier brothers thanked Father, Maurice, and Marie for the pets they had put into the balloon basket.

"Someday people will ride far above the earth because your pets came back alive and safe," they said.

"I want Blanche to stay in my room tonight," Marie said when the supper chores were done.

"Well," Mother considered, "she is famous. But just this one night."

"Rouge too?" Maurice begged.

"Oh, yes." Mother laughed.

Father looked at Mother.

"Boucle! Just inside the doorway this one night," he suggested, and Mother nodded.

Marie held Blanche close as the two of them entered her room.

Maurice let Rouge find his own perch atop the window ledge.

Father put Boucle down to bed on a blanket near the doorway. All of them slept soundly on that night long ago in the country of France.

Editor's note: Jacques and Joseph Montgolfier were among the first to experiment with hot-air balloons. Five months after the Montgolfiers successfully launched the balloon carrying the animals, Pilatre de Rozier became the first man to fly. He went up about 80 feet in another balloon made by the brothers. Today, hot-air ballooning is a popular sport. There are more than 2,000 sport balloonists in the United States, and world championships are held in various countries.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Fiction
Author:Lloyd, Laura Louise
Publication:Children's Digest
Article Type:Fictional Work
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Words:989
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Next Article:BODIES IN MOTION: SNOW SKIING.
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