Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/26

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The Centaurians

they like you or not, and all would simultaneously exclaim: "Glad to see you back, old man! Remain long? What'll you have?"

I almost yelled with repugnance. Though usually I permitted gloom to entirely envelop me, there was an undercurrent of consolation that few, very few experience—I was able to gratify all whims and execute all resolves, and generally when I reached this conclusion obnoxious meditations evaporated.

I strolled among the chattering, enthused passengers, trying to absorb some of their excitement; finding this difficult, I turned my full attention upon a small, black object in the waters that absentmindedly I had been watching some time. It was headed straight for the steamer and the pert, little craft, battling in the choppy sea, amused me. As it got nearer I discovered three men on the deck intently gazing at the steamer and then—yes—no—Middleton's launch—and the three of them! Middleton, Burke, and Rollins! I yelled to them—by George! the firm had come to welcome me home! I was not forgotten. They spied me, then all yelled, wild with excitement. They extended their hands, so did I, as though it was possible to shake at that distance. The launch finally ran alongside the steamer, and three eager gentlemen boarded her. The bones in my hands were nearly crushed, yet hardly were the greetings over when my former gloomy thoughts rushed flood-like upon me. In vain I tried to drown the painful doubts—pon my soul! I swear these gentlemen had no motive but