Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/256

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The Centaurians

"She is beautiful, but does not inspire," he told me. "I fail when I attempt to portray Abella. Life, animation, is her beauty; repose, the death mask. Landscape is beautiful on canvas, but never reaches the beauty of reality. Those women up there that I know you do not admire have made me famous."

He referred to the gaunt, dark-visaged ideal.

"All Centauri recognizes them as the type of a perverted age," he continued, "showing this race has lived through and conquered degeneration. Those faces are arch, subtle, perfectly beautiful; to study them is fascinating. The scowling brows arch, the eyes take deeper tinges, and the lips—ah!"

I turned away smiling, muttering in jest.

He advised me when I returned to Centur to visit the Salon, there I would find a portrait of Abella, "which impressed, but gave dissatisfaction, lacking that which made Abella a beautiful woman."

He opened an exquisitely carved cabinet and taking out an oblong leather case, remarked: "that this was some of his first work." Then, without warning, he thrust before me a portrait of Alpha Centauri. I gasped. Skill! Powers above! Alpha Centauri stood before me, marvelously beautiful, enveloped in a broad stream of golden light, devout, with eyes and arms raised heavenward, in the Temple of the Sun. I'm not certain how I acted; men in love are usually maudlin. I had been away a long time—must return—must see, speak with her at once! I implored, begged for the portrait.

The man stared at me in amazement, then quietly