Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/80

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The Centaurians

this horrible death-land. The fear that tugged at my heart shamed me to silence. I glanced furtively at my three companions, who were unusually still, and whose faces blanched beneath my scrutiny. Then Saxe. suddenly halted the Propellier, and addressed us.

"Boys," he said, "we have stood by one another, we are not cowards, but life is life, and the Pole be damned! We have penetrated farther north than man ever dared, we do not fear, but—others felt the same way in much lower altitudes and stampeded to civilization with tales of blizzards, blockades, and the impossibility of life beyond a certain degree. There are unknown dangers ahead, and death sometimes is very slow, and to struggle and dare and have it all end in oblivion, I think senseless. The earth's summit is at 100 degrees. We have entered the mystic circle—just a league to discovery—the Propellier at full speed could dash through in a few minutes. We will suffer—an awful experience—a terrible risk; and, as I said before, boys, life is life. I call the expedition off; we will return."

He glanced wistfully at me, but I avoided his eyes. The passion for the myth had for the time evaporated. After all, life is worth the living, the world is full of beauty and harmony if we choose to see it. I fully realized the hazardous undertaking I had ventured upon, and—God in heaven!—I may never return.

Saxe. was turning back through anxiety for his friends; were he alone he would crush the dread he