played with her, which is the same thing. Be firm, make it the last meeting."
"Saxe., you don't understand," I explained; "when I joined the expedition, it was to seek a madly-adored ideal—I found a woman and still seek. The ideal has no rival; I am true, faithful to my creation. Alpha Centauri never was divine. Her beauty pales before the gorgeousness of my ideal. The love-lorn Virgillius is dead. It is the same old Salucci itching for a new sensation."
I followed Mike. He regarded me curiously. "Alpha Centauri is grieved at your delay," he remarked.
I shrugged my shoulders, astonished at my indifference, but sighed deeply as I saluted the exquisite creature reclining upon a skin-covered couch with a background of huge white blossoms whose heavy fragrance consumed the air. She arose, watching me doubtfully, hesitatingly. I hurried to her and caught her hands tightly; the witchery of her eyes was upon me.
"Alpha," I murmured.
"Yes," she replied. "I know, I know. Ah, if it had only been, Virgillius!"
I dropped her hands.
"Do not reproach me," she pleaded. "I love as you have taught me. I've learned the lesson well. The Image claims me in the form of the Vespa Prince. Benlial! ah, Benlial! brings immortality; I am for eternity the Alpha who united the white races. In less than a century the Vespa race is