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by Nikolai Nosov
Translated by Margaret Wettlin
Illustrated by Boris Kalaushin
At last the balloon was filled to bursting with hot air. Doono had the boiler taken away and he himself tied the end of the balloon with a strong cord so that the hot air could not escape. Then he ordered his friends to get into the basket. The first to climb in was Swifty, and the next was Roly-Poly, who almost fell down on the heads of the others. Besides being very fat, he had stuffed his pockets with sugar and biscuits and all sorts of things. And then he had put on galoshes and was carrying an umbrella in case of rain. If his friends had not helped him, he would never have got into the basket. When Roly-Poly was safely in, the other Mites scrambled up the ladder. Treacly-Sweeter kept bustling about, seeing that everything went smoothly.
"Get in, get in," he kept saying. "Make yourselves comfortable. There's room for everybody in our balloon."
"You get in too," they said to him.
"Plenty of time," he replied. "First I must see that all of you are settled."
He held their hands as they climbed up the ladder and gave them a little push from behind.
At last everyone but Treacly-Sweeter was in. "Why don't you get in?" his friends asked him.
"Perhaps I had better not," he said. "I'm very fat. It's crowded enough in there without me. I'm afraid the basket will be too heavy."
"There's no danger of that," they said.
"No, you had better go without me. I'll wait for you here. I don't want anyone to be uncomfortable on my account."
"But nobody will be," said Doono. "Get in. Once we decided to go together, together we go."
Treacly-Sweeter climbed in very reluctantly, and then an unexpected thing happened: the basket and the balloon settled to the ground.
"So that's how they fly!" laughed Midge from where he was sitting on the fence.
"What are you laughing at?" said Sinker roughly. "It's not polite to laugh at accidents."
"This is no accident," said Glass-Eye. "It's just that the balloon was made to lift fifteen people and it cannot lift sixteen."
"In other words, it won't rise into the air?" said Sinker.
"They'll have to put somebody out first," said Glass-Eye."They'll probably put out Dunno," said Tinkle.
Treacly-Sweeter was very glad this had happened, because he was secretly afraid to go up in the balloon.
"I told you it would be too heavy!" he said. "Here, I'll get out."
He already had one leg over the side when Doono threw one of the sacks of sand overboard. The balloon instantly began to rise. In this way everybody discovered why Doono had put the sacks of sand in the basket.
There was a burst of applause, but Doono silenced it by raising his hand. Then he made a speech.
"Good-bye, friends!" he said. "We are going on a long journey. We'll be back in a week. Good-bye until we meet again!"
"Good-bye! Good-bye! Happy journey!" cried the townsfolk, waving their hands and their caps.
Doono took a penknife out of his pocket and cut the rope that held the balloon to the hazel bush. Slowly the balloon began to rise. For a second it was held by a branch of the bush, but presently it broke loose and gained speed as it rose into the air.
"Hurrah!" cried the onlookers. "Hurrah for Doono and his friends! Hurrah!"
People clapped and threw their caps into the air. The girl-Mites hugged each other in their excitement. Pee-Wee and Tinkle even kissed each other, and Margy wept.
Meanwhile the balloon rose higher and higher and the wind carried it away. Soon it became nothing but a little speck that could hardly be seen against the background of the blue sky.
Glass-Eye climbed up on to a roof and trained his telescope on it.
Posey, the poet, stood next to him on the very edge of the roof. He seemed to be deep in thought as he stood there with his arms folded, gazing at the excited crowd. Suddenly he threw out his arms and cried in a loud voice:
"A poem! Listen to my poem!"
Instantly there was silence. All heads were turned to Posey.
"A poem!" whispered the Mites to each other. "We're going to hear a poem."
Posey waited until the last whisper had died down, then he held out one arm in the direction of the vanishing balloon, cleared his throat, and said once more:
After a little pause he began to recite the lines he had just made up:
Our brother-Mites have sailed away
What a lot of shouting and hand-clapping there was! The boy-Mites pulled Posey down off the roof and carried him home on their shoulders, and the girl-Mites pulled petals off flowers and strewed the way with them. They made as much of Posey as if it was he who had made the balloon and sailed away in it. The Mites learned his poem by heart and sang it in the streets.
Wherever you went that evening you could hear people singing:
Our brother-Mites have sailed away
Author: Nosov N.; illustrated by Kalaushin B.
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