Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/25

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The Centaurians

case of mistaken identity. I was glad we met, however, for he made an otherwise dull voyage extremely interesting.

It was a cold, misty morning when the pompous custom-house officials boarded the steamer. The fussy health officers were working themselves into a fret because some one in the steerage had a cold, and the decks were crowded with passengers, eager, expectant, prepared for departure. Unconcernedly I scanned the dim outlines of the great city I called home, and experienced not the slightest tremolo of excitement, though I had been absent twelve years. What welcome had I to expect? Who cared when I came or went? Affection was not for me, and I grew heavy with longing, when, for the first time, I realized how much alone I was in this world. I would never be conscious of anything above the familiar, calculating coldness, sordid cordiality that was continually shown to me and, reflecting bitterly, I knew precisely what awaited me when the steamer docked. Albert would be there with the carriage and his perpetual grin. My wealth prevented me even enjoying the little annoyances fortunate others were subjected to. They could appreciate comfort. I was uncomfortable always. At my residence there would be no excitement, all in readiness as though I had never been absent. Later, if not fatigued I would saunter to the club, there to meet men who, like myself, had no place else to go. They would all hasten to reach my hand and give it the hearty shake men always give to each other whether