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The Most Sentimental Man   By: (1927-2000)

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Johnson knew he was annoying the younger man, who so obviously lived by the regulations in the Colonial Officer's Manual and lacked the imagination to understand why he was doing this.... Evelyn E. Smith is famous for her bitter sweet stories of the worlds of Tomorrow.

the most sentimental man


Once these irritating farewells were over with, he could begin to live as he wished and as he'd dreamed.

Johnson went to see the others off at Idlewild. He knew they'd expect him to and, since it would be the last conventional gesture he'd have to make, he might as well conform to their notions of what was right and proper.

For the past few centuries the climate had been getting hotter; now, even though it was not yet June, the day was uncomfortably warm. The sun's rays glinting off the bright metal flanks of the ship dazzled his eyes, and perspiration made his shirt stick to his shoulder blades beneath the jacket that the formality of the occasion had required. He wished Clifford would hurry up and get the leave taking over with.

But, even though Clifford was undoubtedly even more anxious than he to finish with all this ceremony and take off, he wasn't the kind of man to let inclination influence his actions. "Sure you won't change your mind and come with us?"

Johnson shook his head.

The young man looked at him hatred for the older man's complication of what should have been a simple departure showing through the pellicule of politeness. He was young for, since this trip had only slight historical importance and none of any other kind, the authorities had felt a junior officer entirely sufficient. It was clear, however, that Clifford attributed his commandership to his merits, and he was very conscious of his great responsibility.

"We have plenty of room on the ship," he persisted. "There weren't many left to go. We could take you easily enough, you know."

Johnson made a negative sign again. The rays of the sun beating full upon his head made apparent the grey that usually blended into the still thick blond hair. Yet, though past youth, he was far from being an old man. "I've made my decision," he said, remembering that anger now was pointless.

"If it's if you're just too proud to change your mind," the young commander said, less certainly, "I'm sure everyone will understand if ... if ..."

Johnson smiled. "No, it's just that I want to stay that's all."

But the commander's clear blue eyes were still baffled, uneasy, as though he felt he had not done the utmost that duty not duty to the service but to humanity required. That was the trouble with people, Johnson thought: when they were most well meaning they became most troublesome.

Clifford lowered his voice to an appropriately funeral hush, as a fresh thought obviously struck him. "I know, of course, that your loved ones are buried here and perhaps you feel it's your duty to stay with them...?"

At this Johnson almost forgot that anger no longer had any validity. By "loved ones" Clifford undoubtedly had meant Elinor and Paul. It was true that Johnson had had a certain affection for his wife and son when they were alive; now that they were dead they represented an episode in his life that had not, perhaps, been unpleasant, but was certainly over and done with now.

Did Clifford think that was his reason for remaining? Why, he must believe Johnson to be the most sentimental man on Earth. "And, come to think of it," Johnson said to himself, amused, "I am or soon will be just that."

The commander was still unconsciously pursuing the same train of thought. "It does seem incredible," he said in a burst of boyish candor that did not become him, for he was not that young, "that you'd want to stay alone on a whole planet. I mean to say entirely alone.... There'll never be another ship, you know at least not in your lifetime."

Johnson knew what the other man was thinking. If there'd been a woman with Johnson now, Clifford might have been able to understand a little better how the other could stick by his decision... Continue reading book >>

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