Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/156

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The Centaurians

quired years to season the system. I drank sparingly, indulging in luscious fruit, yet did I become light-headed and lost prudence. I was the gayest of the swift band and boisterously outsang them all. How they did laugh! And their jokes! Ouch! leveled at me! Each ardently drank to the beauties of Centauri, then all declared some angel waited my return to the other side. Their mirth grew wild, noisy, as my face flushed, the blood rushed to my brain, wine roused desire. I sprang up, overturning the chair in my eagerness and twirling my goblet high, shouted: "I drink to the glorious eyes of my inamorata, Alpha Centauri!"

The effect was startling and enough to sober any man. A pall of silence fell upon the guests deeper than the polar stillness and in profound respect all rose stiff, erect as soldiers, murmuring in hushed, reverential tones the name: "Alpha Centauri."

I was astonished, yet positive of some mistake. These men could not possibly know of the myth that had lured me to this land, gallantly complimenting their fair country, I, at the same time had been chivalrous to the hidden passion. There was some mistake, and I laughed at their solemnity, again raising my goblet: "To the beauty of my enchantress, Alpha Centauri!" I sang out, but in lower, gentler tones.

What ailed them? All bowed respectfully, but not one touched his glass. Then the Governor, who was at the far end of the table, raised his glass level with his eyes and slowly turned it in a circle. "Gentlemen," he spoke in tones almost de-