Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/169

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The Centaurians

was about to reply wittily when several hurrying forms loomed up through the mist. We were conducted to the lower deck and into a gorgeous dining-room where refreshments of fruit, heavy little cakes and mild wine was served, including the information that Centur would be reached one hour after noon. We were shown every courtesy and greatly entertained by the brilliant wit of these men—but we learned nothing. It is wonderful how much can be said with so little imparted, but Saunders finally losing patience, testily inquired why we traveled so high in the clouds, and expressed a wish to view the earth we sailed over. At once orders were given for the lowering of the ship and amid bellowed commands and uneasy sounds of tightening, straining cables, and whirring, fluttering sails, the ship suddenly slanted sickeningly, waveringly floated, then gradually resumed the former swift, even travel, and we were invited on deck.

A gale was blowing, whistling, shrieking icily through the riggings. We sailed over a vast ocean of mountainous waves whose spray dashed high, forming a wall of vapor reaching the clouds. The sensation was terrifying, elevated in this dense moisture. The roaring ocean beneath and oppressive, leaden clouds above—a terrifying insecurity impressive of our insignificance. What are we after all? Mere species of atom forming this turbulent system of entirety.

My friends, unusually silent, thoughtful, and shivering with nervousness, gloomily listened to the affably confident Centaurians.