Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/65

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The Centaurians

putting the Propellier together. Captain Norris had little faith in the Propellier, he asserted positively the machine would take us beyond human aid then "bust up." He informed us of his intention to tarry in this vicinity several weeks; in case things went wrong with us he could hurry to the relief and gladly take us back to civilization.

"It's on my conscience," he told us, "you cannot succeed; but men with a fair amount of intelligence to risk their lives in a perilous attempt to reach the Pole deserve to die. The world is overflowing with asses, but those who commit such rash deeds are evil asses. Gentlemen, pardon me, but encouragement is criminal. Why are you going?" he asked us sternly, "For the benefit of science? Fudge! Professor Saunders, in search of a star! Bah! the sky is overcrowded with stars. Prove they are inhabited and you will benefit science. Professor Sheldon expects to discover a huge body of fresh water resting placidly in hollow ice mountains upon the frozen surface of the Polar Sea. And Saxlehner, with his remarkable invention, intends to return with the Pole under his arm! Oh, gentlemen, gentlemen! And you," he continued, addressing me, "you with your millions, why in God's earth are you going?"

He argued some time, telling me I was the lover of Dame Fortune, and gold the magnet of the universe. No one disputed with him and the poor old fellow's voice finally quivered and broke, he turned away.

We felt as sorry for Norris as he felt for us.