Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/328

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The Centaurians

when it was too late. She had made a very good wife for the wrong man, and had been in her grave these twenty years. And with a deep sigh poor old Sheldon handed me an old-fashioned locket, and I gazed upon a girl with a round, fresh face, saucer eyes and ringlets. He loved as I, not the woman but the ideal, and had been true because he never possessed. He would mourn forever for this moon-faced chit, who if she were to confront the matured Sheldon of to-day would not rouse even interest.

We tramped the live-long night, returning to the palace when the sky flushed red with the rising sun.

Hilarity had deserted the palace, the stillness of wan fatigue reigned, and surrounding all was that stale, dissipated atmosphere, the aftermath of an orgie. The lights were still burning in the spacious salon, and the crystal floor was strewn with wilted flowers smothering and dying in their own sickening-sweet, poisonous odor.

The banquet tables flickered in gorgeous disarray, their rich scarfs stained with the wine that had flowed freely, the pungent odor mingled with that of stale fruit and dying flowers. I turned from it all with loathing, and Sheldon hurried me up to our apartments.

Saxe. and Saunders groaned with indigestion in their deep sleep of wine; our entrance did not disturb them. As though I were a child Sheldon prepared me for rest, then hovered at my side and talked, talked, and talked. My limbs stiff-