Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/210

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The Centaurians

which form the foundation of this building. Throughout the gardens are many stairways leading to the vaults; ventilation is perfect. Would you care to visit the underground?"

I replied hastily in the negative.

He told me the building had been erected 5,000 years and was still incomplete. It comprised twenty-five floors, with the plans opened to add twenty-five more. But he was positive the additional twenty-five floors would never be built, basing his conviction upon the "supreme law of degeneration, extinction."

He declared the building would never be completed; that it would take thousands of years, and the "inevitable is never idle."

"Has it always been cremation? Was there never a time of burials?" I asked.

"Burials!" he cried: "you mean the body in the natural state, planted in the ground?"

I nodded.

"Preposterous!" he gasped; "is there such a custom? Not even the savages commit such sacrilege. Cremation," he continued, "is a form of our religion, though for a century burials were resorted to. Eight hundred years ago a noted herbalist of that period extracted from minerals an acid which, when applied to the lifeless body, produced instant petrification, but unfortunately the demise of this wise man closed forever the petrified age. We returned to cremation."

He drew from their cells exquisite, odd-shaped urns. Some were of bronze, many of iron, a few