Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/70

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The Centaurians

phere will be so compressed as to cause either an explosion of the fluid in the tanks, or gradual evaporation. For either calamity I am altogether unprepared, and consequently figure on the homeward journey to be one of acute hardship, and consuming an indefinite period. But shadows exist only where there's brightness. At any rate we have provisions for seven years, and, Captain Norris, I'll guarantee that in less time we'll reach the Pole, and return to our homes, each busily engaged upon a book of 'How I Discovered the North Pole.'"

Norris smiled, but avoided remarks, and shook hands all around; then I took him aside and intrusted him with a letter for old Middleton. I advised Middleton, though arrangements were waterproof, to personally attend to it that ships sailed north every year to meet us. (I knew he would, and spare no expense), and most humbly I begged pardon for breaking my word to him. I could give no excuse except the unknown polar regions fascinated me, and, against reason, at the last moment I joined the expedition. Years later I learned that Middleton, when he received the letter, was thrown into such a state of alarm and anxiety, that he collapsed and took to his bed with a serious illness from which he recovered with great difficulty. I am satisfied Middleton's affection for me was disinterested.

Captain Norris, also his men, were superstitious, and declared they would not invite ill-luck by seeing us off; but the Esquimaux clamored about us, loading us with gifts. One gave Saxe. a keg of oil,