Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/294

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The Centaurians

hop-scotch, played upon a board similar to the chart of the heavens. The splintery chips were twirled in the air and fell upon the chart in squares, triangles, circles. Where the tricks, points, came in I have still to discover. The gentlemen invited me to take a "flip" in the game, but I hastily retreated, amid shouts of derision.

We were warned from the deck as the ship suddenly lowered and zigzagged at terrific speed. The great wings fluttered heavily, and frequently the ship crested the turbulent waves like a monster seagull.

We had reached the danger zone. Safety lay in hugging the water to avoid the fierce wind currents crashing above, but we soon out-distanced danger and gradually floated upward high and higher; by noon we coursed in our accustomed sphere, but speeded on with a hurricane following swiftly. From the little signal house Alpha and I watched the storm gathering and strengthening.

"We speed ahead," she murmured; "but if caught—devotions to Sol, all is over."

I pressed her close to me; at that moment death with her seemed rapture, then she was mine forever. But I shall never forget that frightful night. The din, uproar of thunderous cannonading as great black, red, lightning-pierced clouds met the ocean was terrifying; the ship creaked and groaned threateningly in her wild flight before the hurricane.

With ill-concealed alarm I sat up all night, but the others retired as usual. The Centaurian equipoise will remain forever an enigma.