Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/257

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The Centaurians

closed the case and pressed my hand upon it—the picture was mine.

He pitied, yet could not understand. As we parted, he murmured: "Very unfortunate, great passion wasted. The women of the Great Family are sacred; the men only mate."

He invited me to call again, hoping that I would find leisure from my many engagements to promise him at least one visit before returning to my own country. His seeming sincerity was very complimentary. Flattery is a strong point with the Centaurians.

I found Abella waiting for me in the vestibule, seated in a wide, deep-silled window overlooking the bay.

Beautiful Abella—she had ceased to interest me.

"You have been long," she murmured; "but the work is wonderful."

"Your husband is a master," I replied.

She looked happy, gratified, and asked me to be seated, pointing to the place beside her. I declined, then with the brutality of indifference told her I was going, would return to Centur that evening.

"So soon!" she gasped, a startled expression coming to the sweet eyes, then she turned aside and in cold tones told me she regretted my departure. It was enough. I should have gone, but the situation tantalized gallantry. No man could have left her like that.

I drew the girl to me and slowly raised her arms till they rested around my neck. "Abella," I whis-