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Title: The Master Mind of Mars
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950)
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Language:   English
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Title: The Master Mind of Mars
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950)

*

Being a Tale of Weird and Wonderful Happenings on the Red Planet

*

CONTENTS


A LETTER
THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD
PREFERMENT
VALLA DIA
THE COMPACT
DANGER
SUSPICIONS
ESCAPE
HANDS UP!
THE PALACE OF MU TEL
PHUNDAHL
XAXA
THE GREAT TUR
BACK TO THAVAS
JOHN CARTER





A LETTER



HELIUM, June 8th, 1925

MY DEAR MR. BURROUGHS:

It was in the Fall of nineteen seventeen at an officers' training camp
that I first became acquainted with John Carter, War Lord of Barsoom,
through the pages of your novel "A Princess of Mars." The story made a
profound impression upon me and while my better judgment assured me
that it was but a highly imaginative piece of fiction, a suggestion of
the verity of it pervaded my inner consciousness to such an extent that
I found myself dreaming of Mars and John Carter, of Dejah Thoris, of
Tars Tarkas and of Woola as if they had been entities of my own
experience rather than the figments of your imagination.

It is true that in those days of strenuous preparation there was little
time for dreaming, yet there were brief moments before sleep claimed me
at night and these were my dreams. Such dreams! Always of Mars, and
during my waking hours at night my eyes always sought out the Red
Planet when he was above the horizon and clung there seeking a solution
of the seemingly unfathomable riddle he has presented to the Earthman
for ages.

Perhaps the thing became an obsession. I know it clung to me all during
my training camp days, and at night, on the deck of the transport, I
would lie on my back gazing up into the red eye of the god of battle--
my god--and wishing that, like John Carter, I might be drawn across
the great void to the haven of my desire.

And then came the hideous days and nights in the trenches--the rats,
the vermin, the mud--with an occasional glorious break in the monotony
when we were ordered over the top. I loved it then and I loved the
bursting shells, the mad, wild chaos of the thundering guns, but the
rats and the vermin and the mud--God! how I hated them. It sounds like
boasting, I know, and I am sorry; but I wanted to write you just the
truth about myself. I think you will understand.

And it may account for much that happened afterwards.

There came at last to me what had come to so many others upon those
bloody fields. It came within the week that I had received my first
promotion and my captaincy, of which I was greatly proud, though humbly
so; realizing as I did my youth, the great responsibility that it
placed upon me as well as the opportunities it offered, not only in
service to my country but, in a personal way, to the men of my command.
We had advanced a matter of two kilometers and with a small detachment
I was holding a very advanced position when I received orders to fall
back to the new line. That is the last that I remember until I regained
consciousness after dark. A shell must have burst among us. What became
of my men I never knew. It was cold and very dark when I awoke and at
first, for an instant, I was quite comfortable--before I was fully
conscious, I imagine--and then I commenced to feel pain. It grew until
it seemed unbearable. It was in my legs. I reached down to feel them,
but my hand recoiled from what it found, and when I tried to move my
legs I discovered that I was dead from the waist down. Then the moon
came out from behind a cloud and I saw that I lay within a shell hole
and that I was not alone--the dead were all about me.

It was a long time before I found the moral courage and the physical
strength to draw myself up upon one elbow that I might view the havoc
that had been done me.

One look was enough, I sank back in an agony of mental and physical
anguish--my legs had been blown away from midway between the hips and
knees. For some reason I was not bleeding excessively, yet I know that
I had lost a great deal of blood and that I was gradually losing enough
to put me out of my misery in a short time if I were not soon found;
and as I lay there on my back, tortured with pain, I prayed that they
would not come in time, for I shrank more from the thought of going
maimed through life than I shrank from the thought of death.

Then my eyes suddenly focussed upon the bright red eye of Mars and
there surged through me a sudden wave of hope. I stretched out my arms
towards Mars, I did not seem to question or to doubt for an instant as
I prayed to the god of my vocation to reach forth and succour me. I
knew that he would do it, my faith was complete, and yet so great was
the mental effort that I made to throw off the hideous bonds of my
mutilated flesh that I felt a momentary qualm of nausea and then a
sharp click as of the snapping of a steel wire, and suddenly I stood
naked upon two good legs looking down upon the bloody, distorted thing
that had been I. Just for an instant did I stand thus before I turned
my eyes aloft again to my star of destiny and with outstretched arms
stand there in the cold of that French night--waiting.

Suddenly I felt myself drawn with the speed of thought through the
trackless wastes of interplanetary space. There was an instant of
extreme cold and utter darkness, then--But the rest is in the
manuscript that, with the aid of one greater than either of us, I have
found the means to transmit to you with this letter. You and a few
others of the chosen will believe in it--for the rest it matters not
as yet.

The time will come--but why tell you what you already know?

My salutations and my congratulations--the latter on your good fortune
in having been chosen as the medium through which Earthmen shall become
better acquainted with the manners and customs of Barsoom, against the
time that they shall pass through space as easily as John Carter, and
visit the scenes that he has described to them through you, as have I.

Your sincere friend, ULYSSES PAXTON, Late Captain,---th Inf., U.S. Army.




THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD



I must have closed my eyes involuntarily during the transition for when
I opened them I was lying flat on my back gazing up into a brilliant,
sun-lit sky, while standing a few feet from me and looking down upon me
with the most mystified expression was as strange a looking individual
as my eyes ever had rested upon.

He appeared to be quite an old man, for he was wrinkled and withered
beyond description. His limbs were emaciated; his ribs showed
distinctly beneath his shrunken hide; his cranium was large and well
developed, which, in conjunction with his wasted limbs and torso, lent
him the appearance of top heaviness, as though he had a head beyond all
proportion to his body, which was, I am sure, really not the case.

As he stared down upon me through enormous, many-lensed spectacles I
found the opportunity to examine him as minutely in return. He was,
perhaps, five feet five in height, though doubtless he had been taller
in youth, since he was somewhat bent; he was naked except for some
rather plain and well-worn leather harness which supported his weapons
and pocket pouches, and one great ornament a collar, jewel studded,
that he wore around his scraggy neck--such a collar as a dowager
empress of pork or real estate might barter her soul for, if she had
one. His skin was red, his scant locks grey. As he looked at me his
puzzled expression increased in intensity, he grasped his chin between
the thumb and fingers of his left hand and slowly raising his right
hand he scratched his head most deliberately. Then he spoke to me, but
in a language I did not understand.

At his first words I sat up and shook my head. Then I looked about me.
I was seated upon a crimson sward within a high-walled enclosure, at
least two, and possibly three, sides of which were formed by the outer
walls of a structure that in some respects resembled more closely a
feudal castle of Europe than any familiar form of architecture that
comes to my mind. The facade presented to my view was ornately carved
and of most irregular design, the roof line being so broken as to
almost suggest a ruin, and yet the whole seemed harmonious and not
without beauty. Within the enclosure grew a number of trees and shrubs,
all weirdly strange and all, or almost all, profusely flowering. About
them wound walks of coloured pebbles among which scintillated what
appeared to be rare and beautiful gems, so lovely were the strange,
unearthly rays that leaped and played in the sunshine.

The old man spoke again, peremptorily this time, as though repeating a
command that had been ignored, but again I shook my head. Then he laid
a hand upon one of his two swords, but as he drew the weapon I leaped
to my feet, with such remarkable results that I cannot even now say
which of us was the more surprised. I must have sailed ten feet into
the air and back about twenty feet from where I had been sitting; then
I was sure that I was upon Mars (not that I had for one instant doubted
it), for the effects of the lesser gravity, the colour of the sward and
the skin-hue of the red Martians I had seen described in the
manuscripts of John Carter, those marvellous and as yet unappreciated
contributions to the scientific literature of a world. There could be
no doubt of it, I stood upon the soil of the Red Planet, I had come to
the world of my dreams--to Barsoom.

So startled was the old man by my agility that he jumped a bit himself,
though doubtless involuntarily, but, however, with certain results. His
spectacles tumbled from his nose to the sward, and then it was that I
discovered that the pitiful old wretch was practically blind when
deprived of these artificial aids to vision, for he got to his knees
and commenced to grope frantically for the lost glasses, as though his
very life depended upon finding them in the instant.

Possibly he thought that I might take advantage of his helplessness and
slay him. Though the spectacles were enormous and lay within a couple
of feet of him he could not find them, his hands, seemingly afflicted
by that strange perversity that sometimes confounds our simplest acts,
passing all about the lost object of their search, yet never once
coming in contact with it.

As I stood watching his futile efforts and considering the advisability
of restoring to him the means that would enable him more readily to
find my heart with his sword point, I became aware that another had
entered the enclosure.

Looking towards the building I saw a large red-man running rapidly
towards the little old man of the spectacles. The newcomer was quite
naked, he carried a club in one hand, and there was upon his face such
an expression as unquestionably boded ill for the helpless husk of
humanity grovelling, mole-like, for its lost spectacles.

My first impulse was to remain neutral in an affair that it seemed
could not possibly concern me and of which I had no slightest knowledge
upon which to base a predilection towards either of the parties
involved; but a second glance at the face of the club-bearer aroused a
question as to whether it might not concern me after all.

There was that in the expression upon the man's face that betokened
either an inherent savageness of disposition or a maniacal cast of mind
which might turn his evidently murderous attentions upon me after he
had dispatched his elderly victim, while, in outward appearance at
least, the latter was a sane and relatively harmless individual. It is
true that his move to draw his sword against me was not indicative of a
friendly disposition towards me, but at least, if there were any
choice, he seemed the lesser of two evils.

He was still groping for his spectacles and the naked man was almost
upon him as I reached the decision to cast my lot upon the side of the
old man. I was twenty feet away, naked and unarmed, but to cover the
distance with my Earthly muscles required but an instant, and a naked
sword lay by the old man's side where he had discarded it the better to
search for his spectacles. So it was that I faced the attacker at the
instant that he came within striking distance of his victim, and the
blow which had been intended for another was aimed at me. I
side-stepped it and then I learned that the greater agility of my
Earthly muscles had its disadvantages as well as its advantages, for,
indeed, I had to learn to walk at the very instant that I had to learn
to fight with a new weapon against a maniac armed with a bludgeon, or
at least, so I assumed him to be and I think that it is not strange
that I should have done so, what with his frightful show of rage and
the terrible expression upon his face.

As I stumbled about endeavouring to accustom myself to the new
conditions, I found that instead of offering any serious opposition to
my antagonist I was hard put to it to escape death at his hands, so
often did I stumble and fall sprawling upon the scarlet sward; so that
the duel from its inception became but a series of efforts, upon his
part to reach and crush me with his great club, and upon mine to dodge
and elude him. It was mortifying but it is the truth.

However, this did not last indefinitely, for soon I learned, and
quickly too under the exigencies of the situation, to command my
muscles, and then I stood my ground and when he aimed a blow at me, and
I had dodged it, I touched him with my point and brought blood along
with a savage roar of pain. He went more cautiously then, and taking
advantage of the change I pressed him so that he fell back. The effect
upon me was magical, giving me new confidence, so that I set upon him
in good earnest, thrusting and cutting until I had him bleeding in a
half-dozen places, yet taking good care to avoid his mighty swings, any
one of which would have felled an ox.

In my attempts to elude him in the beginning of the duel we had crossed
the enclosure and were now fighting at a considerable distance from the
point of our first meeting. It now happened that I stood facing towards
that point at the moment that the old man regained his spectacles,
which he quickly adjusted to his eyes. Immediately he looked about
until he discovered us, whereupon he commenced to yell excitedly at us
at the same time running in our direction and drawing his short-sword
as he ran. The red-man was pressing me hard, but I had gained almost
complete control of myself, and fearing that I was soon to have two
antagonists instead of one I set upon him with redoubled intensity. He
missed me by the fraction of an inch, the wind in the wake of his
bludgeon fanning my scalp, but he left an opening into which I stepped,
running my sword fairly through his heart. At least I thought that I had
pierced his heart but I had forgotten what I had once read in one of
John Carter's manuscripts to the effect that all the Martian internal
organs are not disposed identically with those of Earthmen. However,
the immediate results were quite as satisfactory as though I had found
his heart for the wound was sufficiently grievous to place him hors de
combat, and at that instant the old gentleman arrived. He found me
ready, but I had mistaken his intentions. He made no unfriendly
gestures with his weapon, but seemed to be trying to convince me that
he had no intention of harming me. He was very excited and apparently
tremendously annoyed that I could not understand him, and perplexed,
too. He hopped about screaming strange sentences at me that bore the
tones of peremptory commands, rabid invective and impotent rage. But
the fact that he had returned his sword to its scabbard had greater
significance than all his jabbering, and when he ceased to yell at me
and commenced to talk in a sort of pantomime I realized that he was
making overtures of peace if not of friendship, so I lowered my point
and bowed. It was all that I could think of to assure him that I had no
immediate intention of spitting him.

He seemed satisfied and at once turned his attention to the fallen man.
He examined his pulse and listened to his heart, then, nodding his
head, he arose and taking a whistle from one of his pocket pouches
sounded a single loud blast.

There emerged immediately from one of the surrounding buildings a score
of naked red-men who came running towards us. None was armed. To these
he issued a few curt orders, whereupon they gathered the fallen one in
their arms and bore him off. Then the old man started towards the
building, motioning me to accompany him. There seemed nothing else for
me to do but obey. Wherever I might be upon Mars, the chances were a
million to one that I would be among enemies; and so I was as well off
here as elsewhere and must depend upon my own resourcefulness, skill
and agility to make my way upon the Red Planet.

The old man led me into a small chamber from which opened numerous
doors, through one of which they were just bearing my late antagonist.
We followed into a large, brilliantly lighted chamber wherein there
burst upon my astounded vision the most gruesome scene that I ever had
beheld. Rows upon rows of tables arranged in parallel lines filled the
room and with few exceptions each table bore a similar grisly burden, a
partially dismembered or otherwise mutilated human corpse. Above each
table was a shelf bearing containers of various sizes and shapes, while
from the bottom of the shelf depended numerous surgical instruments,
suggesting that my entrance upon Barsoom was to be through a gigantic
medical college.

At a word from the old man, those who bore the Barsoomian I had wounded
laid him upon an empty table and left the apartment. Whereupon my host
if so I may call him, for certainly he was not as yet my captor,
motioned me forward. While he conversed in ordinary tones, he made two
incisions in the body of my late antagonist; one, I imagine, in a large
vein and one in an artery, to which he deftly attached the ends of two
tubes, one of which was connected with an empty glass receptacle and
the other with a similar receptacle filled with a colourless,
transparent liquid resembling clear water. The connections made, the
old gentleman pressed a button controlling a small motor, whereupon the
victim's blood was pumped into the empty jar while the contents of the
other was forced into the emptying veins and arteries.

The tones and gestures of the old man as he addressed me during this
operation convinced me that he was explaining in detail the method and
purpose of what was transpiring, but as I understood no word of all he
said I was as much in the dark when he had completed his discourse as I
was before he started it, though what I had seen made it appear
reasonable to believe that I was witnessing an ordinary Barsoomian
embalming. Having removed the tubes the old man closed the openings he
had made by covering them with bits of what appeared to be heavy
adhesive tape and then motioned me to follow him. We went from room to
room, in each of which were the same gruesome exhibits. At many of the
bodies the old man paused to make a brief examination or to refer to
what appeared to be a record of the case, that hung upon a hook at the
head of each of the tables.

From the last of the chambers we visited upon the first floor my host
led me up an inclined runway to the second floor where there were rooms
similar to those below, but here the tables bore whole rather than
mutilated bodies, all of which were patched in various places with
adhesive tape. As we were passing among the bodies in one of these
rooms a Barsoomian girl, whom I took to be a servant or slave, entered
and addressed the old man, whereupon he signed me to follow him and
together we descended another runway to the first floor of another
building.

Here, in a large, gorgeously decorated and sumptuously furnished
apartment an elderly red-woman awaited us. She appeared to be quite old
and her face was terribly disfigured as by some injury. Her trappings
were magnificent and she was attended by a score of women and armed
warriors, suggesting that she was a person of some consequence, but the
little old man treated her quite brusquely, as I could see, quite to
the horror of her attendants.

Their conversation was lengthy and at the conclusion of it, at the
direction of the woman, one of her male escort advanced and opening a
pocket pouch at his side withdrew a handful of what appeared to me to
be Martian coins. A quantity of these he counted out and handed to the
little old man, who then beckoned the woman to follow him, a gesture
which included me. Several of her women and guard started to accompany
us, but these the old man waved back peremptorily; whereupon there
ensued a heated discussion between the woman and one of her warriors on
one side and the old man on the other, which terminated in his
proffering the return of the woman's money with a disgusted air. This
seemed to settle the argument, for she refused the coins, spoke briefly
to her people and accompanied the old man and myself alone.

He led the way to the second floor and to a chamber which I had not
previously visited. It closely resembled the others except that all the
bodies therein were of young women, many of them of great beauty.
Following closely at the heels of the old man the woman inspected the
gruesome exhibit with painstaking care.

Thrice she passed slowly among the tables examining their ghastly
burdens. Each time she paused longest before a certain one which bore
the figure of the most beautiful creature I had ever looked upon; then
she returned the fourth time to it and stood looking long and earnestly
into the dead face. For awhile she stood there talking with the old
man, apparently asking innumerable questions, to which he returned
quick, brusque replies, then she indicated the body with a gesture and
nodded assent to the withered keeper of this ghastly exhibit.

Immediately the old fellow sounded a blast upon his whistle, summoning
a number of servants to whom he issued brief instructions, after which
he led us to another chamber, a smaller one in which were several empty
tables similar to those upon which the corpses lay in adjoining rooms.
Two female slaves or attendants were in this room and at a word from
their master they removed the trappings from the old woman, unloosed
her hair and helped her to one of the tables. Here she was thoroughly
sprayed with what I presume was an antiseptic solution of some nature,
carefully dried and removed to another table, at a distance of about
twenty inches from which stood a second parallel table.

Now the door of the chamber swung open and two attendants appeared
bearing the body of the beautiful girl we had seen in the adjoining
room. This they deposited upon the table the old woman had just quitted
and as she had been sprayed so was the corpse, after which it was
transferred to the table beside that on which she lay. The little old
man now made two incisions in the body of the old woman, just as he had
in the body of the red-man who had fallen to my sword; her blood was
drawn from her veins and the clear liquid pumped into them, life left
her and she lay upon the polished ersite slab that formed the table
top, as much a corpse as the poor, beautiful, dead creature at her side.

The little old man, who had removed the harness down to his waist and
been thoroughly sprayed, now selected a sharp knife from among the
instruments above the table and removed the old woman's scalp,
following the hair line entirely around her head. In a similar manner
he then removed the scalp from the corpse of the young woman, after
which, by means of a tiny circular saw attached to the end of a
flexible, revolving shaft he sawed through the skull of each, following
the line exposed by the removal of the scalps. This and the balance of
the marvellous operation was so skilfully performed as to baffle
description.

Suffice it to say that at the end of four hours he had transferred the
brain of each woman to the brain pan of the other, deftly connected the
severed nerves and ganglia, replaced the skulls and scalps and bound
both heads securely with his peculiar adhesive tape, which was not only
antiseptic and healing but anaesthetic, locally, as well.

He now reheated the blood that he had withdrawn from the body of the
old woman, adding a few drops of some clear chemical solution, withdrew
the liquid from the veins of the beautiful corpse, replacing it with
the blood of the old woman and simultaneously administering a
hypodermic injection.

During the entire operation he had not spoken a word. Now he issued a
few instructions in his curt manner to his assistants, motioned me to
follow him, and left the room. He led me to a distant part of the
building or series of buildings that composed the whole, ushered me
into a luxurious apartment, opened the door to a Barsoomian bath and
left me in the hands of trained servants.

Refreshed and rested I left the bath after an hour of relaxation to
find harness and trappings awaiting me in the adjoining chamber. Though
plain, they were of good material, but there were no weapons with them.

Naturally I had been thinking much upon the strange things I had
witnessed since my advent upon Mars, but what puzzled me most lay in
the seemingly inexplicable act of the old woman in paying my host what
was evidently a considerable sum to murder her and transfer to the
inside of her skull the brain of a corpse. Was it the outcome of some
horrible religious fanaticism, or was there an explanation that my
Earthly mind could not grasp?

I had reached no decision in the matter when I was summoned to follow a
slave to another and near-by apartment where I found my host awaiting
me before a table loaded with delicious foods, to which, it is needless
to say, I did ample justice after my long fast and longer weeks of
rough army fare.

During the meal my host attempted to converse with me, but, naturally,
the effort was fruitless of results. He waxed quite excited at times
and upon three distinct occasions laid his hand upon one of his swords
when I failed to comprehend what he was saying to me, an action which
resulted in a growing conviction upon my part that he was partially
demented; but he evinced sufficient self-control in each instance to
avert a catastrophe for one of us.

The meal over he sat for a long time in deep meditation, then a sudden
resolution seemed to possess him. He turned suddenly upon me with a
faint suggestion of a smile and dove headlong into what was to prove an
intensive course of instruction in the Barsoomian language. It was long
after dark before he permitted me to retire for the night, conducting
me himself to a large apartment, the same in which I had found my new
harness, where he pointed out a pile of rich sleeping silks and furs,
bid me a Barsoomian good night and left me, locking the door after him
upon the outside, and leaving me to guess whether I were more guest or
prisoner.




PREFERMENT



Three weeks passed rapidly. I had mastered enough of the Barsoomian
tongue to enable me to converse with my host in a reasonably
satisfactory manner, and I was also progressing slowly in the mastery
of the written language of his nation, which is different, of course,
from the written language of all other Barsoomian nations, though the
spoken language of all is identical. In these three weeks I had learned
much of the strange place in which I was half guest and half prisoner
and of my remarkable host-jailer, Ras Thavas, the old surgeon of
Toonol, whom I had accompanied almost constantly day after day until
gradually there had unfolded before my astounded faculties an
understanding of the purposes of the institution over which he ruled
and in which he laboured practically alone; for the slaves and
attendants that served him were but hewers of wood and carriers of
water. It was his brain alone and his skill that directed the sometimes
beneficent, the sometimes malevolent, but always marvellous activities
of his life's work.

Ras Thavas himself was as remarkable as the things he accomplished. He
was never intentionally cruel; he was not, I am sure, intentionally
wicked. He was guilty of the most diabolical cruelties and the basest
of crimes; yet in the next moment he might perform a deed that if
duplicated upon Earth would have raised him to the highest pinnacle of
man's esteem. Though I know that I am safe in saying that he was never
prompted to a cruel or criminal act by base motives, neither was he
ever urged to a humanitarian one by high motives. He had a purely
scientific mind entirely devoid of the cloying influences of sentiment,
of which he possessed none. His was a practical mind, as evidenced by
the enormous fees he demanded for his professional services; yet I know
that he would not operate for money alone and I have seen him devote
days to the study of a scientific problem the solution of which could
add nothing to his wealth, while the quarters that he furnished his
waiting clients were overflowing with wealthy patrons waiting to pour
money into his coffers.

His treatment of me was based entirely upon scientific requirements. I
offered a problem. I was either, quite evidently, not a Barsoomian at
all, or I was of a species of which he had no knowledge. It therefore
best suited the purposes of science that I be preserved and studied. I
knew much about my own planet. It pleased Ras Thavas' scientific mind
to milk me of all I knew in the hope that he might derive some
suggestion that would solve one of the Barsoomian scientific riddles
that still baffle their savants; but he was compelled to admit that in
this respect I was a total loss, not alone because I was densely
ignorant upon practically all scientific subjects, but because the
learned sciences on Earth have not advanced even to the
swaddling-clothes stage as compared with the remarkable progress of
corresponding activities on Mars. Yet he kept me by him, training me in
many of the minor duties of his vast laboratory. I was entrusted with
the formula of the "embalming fluid" and taught how to withdraw a
subject's blood and replace it with this marvellous preservative that
arrests decay without altering in the minutest detail the nerve or
tissue structure of the body. I learned also the secret of the few
drops of solution which, added to the rewarmed blood before it is
returned to the veins of the subject revitalizes the latter and
restores to normal and healthy activity each and every organ of the body.

He told me once why he had permitted me to learn these things that he
had kept a secret from all others, and why he kept me with him at all
times in preference to any of the numerous individuals of his own race
that served him and me in lesser capacities both day and night.

"Vad Varo," he said, using the Barsoomian name that he had given me
because he insisted that my own name was meaningless and impractical,
"for many years I have needed an assistant, but heretofore I have never
felt that I had discovered one who might work here for me
wholeheartedly and disinterestedly without ever having reason to go
elsewhere or to divulge my secrets to others. You, in all Barsoom, are
unique--you have no other friend or acquaintance than myself. Were you
to leave we you would find yourself in a world of enemies, for all are
suspicious of a stranger. You would not survive a dozen dawns and you
would be cold and hungry and miserable--a wretched outcast in a
hostile world. Here you have every luxury that the mind of man can
devise or the hand of man produce, and you are occupied with work of
such engrossing interest that your every hour must be fruitful of
unparalleled satisfaction. There is no selfish reason, therefore, why
you should leave me and there is every reason why you should remain. I
expect no loyalty other than that which may be prompted by egoism. You
make an ideal assistant, not only for the reasons I have just given
you, but because you are intelligent and quick-witted, and now I have
decided, after observing you carefully for a sufficient time, that you
can serve me in yet another capacity--that of personal bodyguard.

"You may have noticed that I alone of all those connected with my
laboratory am armed. This is unusual upon Barsoom, where people of all
classes, and all ages and both sexes habitually go armed. But many of
these people I could not trust armed as they would slay me; and were I
to give arms to those whom I might trust, who knows but that the others
would obtain possession of them and slay me, or even those whom I had
trusted turn against me, for there is not one who might not wish to go
forth from this place back among his own people--only you, Vad Varo,
for there is no other place for you to go. So I have decided to give
you weapons.

"You saved my life once. A similar opportunity might again present
itself. I know that being a reasoning and reasonable creature, you will
not slay me, for you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by my
death, which would leave you friendless and unprotected in a world of
strangers where assassination is the order of society and natural death
one of the rarest of phenomena. Here are your arms." He stepped to a
cabinet which he unlocked, displaying an assortment of weapons, and
selected for me a long-sword, a short-sword, a pistol and a dagger.

"You seem sure of my loyalty, Ras Thavas," I said.

He shrugged his shoulders. "I am only sure that I know perfectly where
your interests lie--sentimentalists have words: love, loyalty,
friendship, enmity, jealousy, hate, a thousand others; a waste of words
--one word defines them all: self-interest. All men of intelligence
realize this. They analyse an individual and by his predilections and
his needs they classify him as friend or foe, leaving to the
weak-minded idiots who like to be deceived the drooling drivel of
sentiment."

I smiled as I buckled my weapons to my harness, but I held my peace.
Nothing could be gained by arguing with the man and, too, I felt quite
sure that in any purely academic controversy I should get the worst of
it; but many of the matters of which he had spoken had aroused my
curiosity and one had reawakened in my mind a matter to which I had
given considerable thought. While partially explained by some of his
remarks I still wondered why the red-man from whom I had rescued him
had seemed so venomously bent upon slaying him the day of my advent
upon Barsoom, and so, as we sat chatting after our evening meal, I
asked him.

"A sentimentalist," he said. "A sentimentalist of the most pronounced
type. Why that fellow hated me with a venom absolutely unbelievable by
any of the reactions of a trained, analytical mind such as mine; but
having witnessed his reactions I become cognizant of a state of mind
that I cannot of myself even imagine. Consider the facts. He was the
victim of assassination--a young warrior in the prime of life,
possessing a handsome face and a splendid physique. One of my agents
paid his relatives a satisfactory sum for the corpse and brought it to
me. It is thus that I obtain practically all of my material. I treated
it in the manner with which you are familiar. For a year the body lay
in the laboratory, there being no occasion during that time that I had
use for it; but eventually a rich client came, a not overly
prepossessing man of considerable years. He had fallen desperately in
love with a young woman who was attended by many handsome suitors. My
client had more money than any of them, more brains, more experience,
but he lacked the one thing that each of the others had that always
weighs heavily with the undeveloped, unreasoning, sentiment-ridden
minds of young females--good looks."

"Now 378-J-493811-P had what my client lacked and could afford to
purchase. Quickly we reached an agreement as to price and I transferred the brain
of my rich client to the head of 378-J-493811-P and my client went away
and for all I know won the hand of the beautiful moron; and
378-J-493811-P might have rested on indefinitely upon his ersite slab
until I needed him or a part of him in my work, had I not, merely by
chance, selected him for resurgence because of an existing need for
another male slave.

"Mind you now, the man had been murdered. He was dead. I bought and
paid for the corpse and all there was in it. He might have lain dead
forever upon one of my ersite slabs had I not breathed new life into
his dead veins. Did he have the brains to view the transaction in a
wise and dispassionate manner? He did not.

"His sentimental reactions caused him to reproach me because I had given
him another body, though it seemed to me that, looking at the matter
from a standpoint of sentiment, if one must, he should have considered
me as a benefactor for having given him life again in a perfectly
healthy, if somewhat used, body.

"He had spoken to me upon the subject several times, begging me to
restore his body to him, a thing of which, of course, as I explained to
him, was utterly out of the question unless chance happened to bring to
my laboratory the corpse of the client who had purchased his carcass--
a contingency quite beyond the pale of possibility for one as wealthy
as my client. The fellow even suggested that I permit him to go forth
and assassinate my client bringing the body back that I might reverse
the operation and restore his body to his brain. When I refused to
divulge the name of the present possessor of his body he grew sulky,
but until the very hour of your arrival, when he attacked me, I did not
suspect the depth of his hate complex.

"Sentiment is indeed a bar to all progress. We of Toonol are probably
less subject to its vagaries than most other nations upon Barsoom, but
yet most of my fellow countrymen are victims of it in varying degrees.
It has its rewards and compensations, however. Without it we could
preserve no stable form of government and the Phundahlians, or some
other people, would overrun and conquer us; but enough of our lower
classes have sentiment to a sufficient degree to give them loyalty to
the Jeddak of Toonol and the upper classes are brainy enough to know
that it is to their own best interests to keep him upon his throne.

"The Phundahlians, upon the other hand, are egregious sentimentalists,
filled with crass stupidities and superstitions, slaves to every
variety of brain-withering conceit. Why the very fact that they keep
the old termagant, Xaxa, on the throne brands them with their stupid
idiocy. She is an ignorant, arrogant, selfish, stupid, cruel virago,
yet the Phundahlians would fight and die for her because her father was
Jeddak of Phundahl. She taxes them until they can scarce stagger
beneath their burden, she misrules them, exploits them, betrays them,
and they fall down and worship at her feet. Why? Because her father was
Jeddak of Phundahl and his father before him and so on back into
antiquity; because they are ruled by sentiment rather than reason;
because their wicked rulers play upon this sentiment.

"She had nothing to recommend her to a sane person--not even beauty.
You know, you saw her."

"I saw her?" I demanded.

"You assisted me the day that we gave her old brain a new casket--the
day you arrived from what you call your Earth."

"She! That old woman was Jeddara of Phundahl?"

"That was Xaxa," he assured me.

"Why, you did not accord her the treatment that one of the Earth would
suppose would be accorded a ruler, and so I had no idea that she was
more than a rich old woman."

"I am Ras Thavas," said the old man. "Why should I incline the head to
any other? In my world nothing counts but brain and in that respect and
without egotism, I may say that I acknowledge no superior."

"Then you are not without sentiment," I said, smiling. "You acknowledge
pride in your intellect!" 

"It is not pride," he said, patiently, for him, "it is merely a fact that I state. A fact that I should have no difficulty in proving. In all probability I have the most highly
developed and perfectly functioning mind among all the learned men of
my acquaintance, and reason indicates that this fact also suggests that
I possess the most highly developed and perfectly functioning mind upon
Barsoom. From what I know of Earth and from what I have seen of you, I
am convinced that there is no mind upon your planet that may even
faintly approximate in power that which I have developed during a
thousand years of active study and research. Rasoom (Mercury) or Cosoom
(Venus) may possibly support intelligences equal to or even greater
than mine. While we have made some study of their thought waves, our
instruments are not yet sufficiently developed to more than suggest
that they are of extreme refinement, power and flexibility."

"And what of the girl whose body you gave to the Jeddara?" I asked,
irrelevantly, for my mind could not efface the memory of that sweet
body that must, indeed, have possessed an equally sweet and fine brain.

"Merely a subject! Merely a subject!" he replied with a wave of his hand.

"What will become of her?" I insisted.

"What difference does it make?" he demanded. "I bought her with a batch
of prisoners of war. I do not even recall from what country my agent
obtained them, or from whence they originated. Such matters are of no
import."

"She was alive when you bought her?" I demanded.

"Yes. Why?"

"You-er-ah-killed her, then?"

"Killed her! No; I preserved her. That was some ten years ago. Why
should I permit her to grow old and wrinkled? She would no longer have
the same value then, would she? No, I preserved her. When Xaxa bought
her she was just as fresh and young as the day she arrived. I kept her
a long time. Many women looked at her and wanted her face and figure,
but it took a Jeddara to afford her. She brought the highest price that
I have ever been paid.

"Yes, I kept her a long time, but I knew that some day she would bring
my price."

"She was indeed beautiful and so sentiment has its uses--were it not
for sentiment there would be no fools to support this work that I am
doing, thus permitting me to carry on investigations of far greater
merit. You would be surprised, I know, were I to tell you that I feel
that I am almost upon the point of being able to produce rational human
beings through the action upon certain chemical combinations of a group
of rays probably entirely undiscovered by your scientists, if I am to
judge by the paucity of your knowledge concerning such things."

"I would not be surprised," I assured him. "I would not be surprised by
anything that you might accomplish."




VALLA DIA



I lay awake a long time that night thinking of 4296-E-2631-H, the
beautiful girl whose perfect body had been stolen to furnish a gorgeous
setting for the cruel brain of a tyrant. It seemed such a horrid crime
that I could not rid my mind of it and I think that contemplation of it
sowed the first seed of my hatred and loathing for Ras Thavas. I could
not conjure a creature so utterly devoid of bowels of compassion as to
even consider for a moment the frightful ravishing of that sweet and
lovely body for even the holiest of purposes, much less one that could
have been induced to do so for filthy pelf.

So much did I think upon the girl that night that her image was the
first to impinge upon my returning consciousness at dawn, and after I
had eaten, Ras Thavas not having appeared, I went directly to the
storage room where the poor thing was. Here she lay, identified only by
a small panel, bearing a number: 4296-E-2631-H. The body of an old
woman with a disfigured face lay before me in the rigid immobility of
death; yet that was not the figure that I saw, but instead, a vision of
radiant loveliness whose imprisoned soul lay dormant beneath those
greying locks.

The creature here with the face and form of Xaxa was not Xaxa at all,
for all that made the other what she was had been transferred to this
cold corpse. How frightful would be the awakening, should awakening
ever come! I shuddered to think of the horror that must overwhelm the
girl when first she realized the horrid crime that had been perpetrated
upon her. Who was she? What story lay locked in that dead and silent
brain? What loves must have been hers whose beauty was so great and
upon whose fair face had lain the indelible imprint of graciousness!
Would Ras Thavas ever arouse her from this happy semblance of death?
--far happier than any quickening ever could be for her. I shrank from
the thought of her awakening and yet I longed to hear her speak, to
know that that brain lived again, to learn her name, to listen to the
story of this gentle life that had been so rudely snatched from its
proper environment and so cruelly handled by the hand of Fate. And
suppose she were awakened! Suppose she were awakened and that I--A hand
was laid upon my shoulder and I turned to look into the face of Ras
Thavas.

You seem interested in this subject," he said.

"I was wondering," I replied, "what the reaction of this girl's brain
would be were she to awaken to the discovery that she had become an
old, disfigured woman."

He stroked his chin and eyed me narrowly. "An interesting experiment,"
he mused.

"I am gratified to discover that you are taking a scientific interest
in the labours that I am carrying on. The psychological phases of my
work I have, I must confess, rather neglected during the past hundred
years or so, though I formerly gave them a great deal of attention. It
would be interesting to observe and study several of these cases. This
one, especially, might prove of value to you as an initial study, it
being simple and regular. Later we will let you examine into a case
where a man's brain has been transferred to a woman's skull, and a
woman's brain to a man's. There are also the interesting cases where a
portion of diseased or injured brain has been replaced by a portion of
the brain from another subject, and, for experimental purposes alone,
those human brains that have been transplanted to the craniums of
beasts, and vice versa, offer tremendous opportunities for observation.
I have in mind one case in which I transferred half the brain of an ape
to the skull of a man, after having removed half of his brain, which I
grafted upon the remaining part of the brain in the ape's skull. That
was a matter of several years ago and I have often thought that I
should like to recall these two subjects and note the results. I shall
have to have a look at them--as I recall it they are in vault L-42-X,
beneath building 4-J-21. We shall have to have a look at them someday
soon--it has been years since I have been below. There must be some
very interesting specimens there that have escaped my mind. But come!
let us recall 4296-E-2631-H.

"No!" I exclaimed, laying a hand upon his arm. "It would be horrible."

He turned a surprised look upon me and then a nasty, sneering smile
curled his lips. "Maudlin, sentimental fool!" he cried. "Who dare say
no to me?"

I laid a hand upon the hilt of my long-sword and looked him steadily in
the eye.

"Ras Thavas," I said, "you are master in your own house; but while I am
your guest treat me with courtesy."

He returned my look for a moment but his eyes wavered. "I was hasty,"
he said.

"Let it pass." That, I let answer for an apology--really it was more
than I had expected--but the event was not unfortunate. I think he
treated me with far greater respect thereafter; but now he turned
immediately to the slab bearing the mortal remains of 4296-E-2631-H.

"Prepare the subject for revivification," he said, "and make what study
you can of all its reactions." With that he left the room.

I was now fairly adept at this work which I set about with some
misgivings but with the assurance that I was doing right in obeying Ras
Thavas while I remained a member of his entourage. The blood that had
once flowed through the veins of the beautiful body that Ras Thavas had
sold to Xaxa reposed in an hermetically sealed vessel upon the shelf
above the corpse. As I had before done in other cases beneath the
watchful eyes of the old surgeon I now did for the first time alone.
The blood heated, the incisions made, the tubes attached and the few
drops of life-giving solution added to the blood, I was now ready to
restore life to that delicate brain that had lain dead for ten years.
As my finger rested upon the little button that actuated the motor that
was to send the revivifying liquid into those dormant veins, I
experienced such a sensation as I imagined no mortal man has ever felt.

I had become master of life and death, and yet at this moment that I
stood there upon the point of resurrecting the dead I felt more like a
murderer than a saviour. I tried to view the procedure dispassionately
through the cold eye of science, but I failed miserably. I could only
see a stricken girl grieving for her lost beauties. With a muffled oath
I turned away. I could not do it! And then, as though an outside force
had seized upon me, my finger moved unerringly to the button and
pressed it. I cannot explain it, unless upon the theory of dual
mentality, which may explain many things. Perhaps my subjective mind
directed the act. I do not know. Only I know that I did it, the motor
started, the level of the blood in the container commenced gradually to
lower.

Spell-bound, I stood watching. Presently the vessel was empty. I shut
off the motor, removed the tubes, sealed the openings with tape. The
red glow of life tinged the body, replacing the sallow, purplish hue of
death. The breasts rose and fell regularly, the head turned slightly
and the eyelids moved. A faint sigh issued from between the parting
lips. For a long time there was no other sign of life, then, suddenly,
the eyes opened. They were dull at first, but presently they commenced
to fill with questioning wonderment. They rested on me and then passed
on about that portion of the room that was visible from the position of
the body. Then they came back to me and remained steadily fixed upon my
countenance after having once surveyed me up and down. There was still
the questioning in them, but there was no fear.

"Where am I?" she asked. The voice was that of an old woman--high and
harsh. A startled expression filled her eyes. "What is the matter with
me? What is wrong with my voice? What has happened?"

I laid a hand upon her forehead. "Don't bother about it now," I said,
soothingly. "Wait until sometime when you are stronger. Then I will
tell you."

She sat up. "I am strong," she said, and then her eyes swept her lower
body and limbs and a look of utter horror crossed her face. "What has
happened to me? In the name of my first ancestor, what has happened to
me?"

The shrill, harsh voice grated upon me. It was the voice of Xaxa and
Xaxa now must possess the sweet musical tones that alone would have
harmonized with the beautiful face she had stolen. I tried to forget
those strident notes and think only of the pulchritude of the envelope
that had once graced the soul within this old and withered carcass.

She extended a hand and laid it gently upon mine. The act was
beautiful, the movements graceful. The brain of the girl directed the
muscles, but the old, rough vocal cords of Xaxa could give forth no
sweeter notes. "Tell me, please!" she begged. There were tears in the
old eyes, I'll venture for the first time in many years. "Tell me! You
do not seem unkind."

And so I told her. She listened intently and when I was through she
sighed.

"After all," she said, "it is not so dreadful, now that I really know.
It is better than being dead." That made me glad that I had pressed the
button. She was glad to be alive, even draped in the hideous carcass of
Xaxa. I told her as much.

"You were so beautiful," I told her.

"And now I am so ugly?" I made no answer.

"After all, what difference does it make?" she inquired presently.
"This old body cannot change me, or make me different from what I have
always been. The good in me remains and whatever of sweetness and
kindness, and I can be happy to be alive and perhaps to do some good. I
was terrified at first, because I did not know what had happened to me.
I thought that maybe I had contracted some terrible disease that had so
altered me--that horrified me; but now that I know--pouf! what of
it?"

"You are wonderful," I said. "Most women would have gone mad with the
horror and grief of it--to lose such wondrous beauty as was yours--
and you do not care."

"Oh, yes, I care, my friend," she corrected me, "but I do not care
enough to ruin my life in all other respects because of it, or to cast
a shadow upon the lives of those around me. I have had my beauty and
enjoyed it. It is not an unalloyed happiness I can assure you. Men
killed one another because of it; two great nations went to war because
of it; and perhaps my father lost his throne or his life--I do not
know, for I was captured by the enemy while the war still raged. It may
be raging yet and men dying because I was too beautiful. No one will
fight for me now, though," she added, with a rueful smile.

"Do you know how long you have been here?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied. "It was the day before yesterday that they brought
me hither."

"It was ten years ago," I told her.

"Ten years! Impossible."

I pointed to the corpses around us. "You have lain like this for ten
years," I explained. "There are subjects here who have lain thus for
fifty, Ras Thavas tells me."

"Ten years! Ten years! What may not have happened in ten years! It is
better thus. I should fear to go back now. I should not want to know
that my father, my mother too, perhaps, were gone. It is better thus.
Perhaps you will let me sleep again? May I not?"

"That remains with Ras Thavas," I replied; "but for a while I am to
observe you."

"Observe me?"

"Study you--your reactions."

"Ah! and what good will that do?"

"It may do some good in the world."

"It may give this horrid Ras Thavas some new ideas for his torture
chamber--some new scheme for coining money from the suffering of his
victims," she said, her harsh voice saddened.

"Some of his works are good," I told her. "The money he makes permits
him to maintain this wonderful establishment where he constantly
carries on countless experiments. Many of his operations are
beneficent. Yesterday a warrior was brought in whose arm was crushed
beyond repair. Ras Thavas gave him a new arm. A demented child was
brought. Ras Thavas gave her a new brain. The arm and the brain were
taken from two who had met violent deaths. Through Ras Thavas they were
permitted, after death, to give life and happiness to others."

She thought for a moment. "I am content," she said. "I only hope that
you will always be the observer."

Presently Ras Thavas came and examined her. "A good subject," he said.
He looked at the chart where I had made a very brief record following
the other entries relative to the history of Case No. 4296-E-2631-H. Of
course this is, naturally, a rather free translation of this particular
identification number. The Barsoomians have no alphabet such as ours
and their numbering system is quite different. The thirteen characters
above were represented by four Toonolian characters, yet the meaning
was quite the same--they represented, in contracted form, the case
number, the room, the table and the building.

"The subject will be quartered near you where you may regularly observe
it," continued Ras Thavas. "There is a chamber adjoining yours. I will
see that it is unlocked. Take the subject there. When not under your
observation, lock it in."

It was only another case to him.

I took the girl, if I may so call her, to her quarters. On the way I
asked her her name, for it seemed to me an unnecessary discourtesy
always to address her and refer to her as 4296-E-2631-H, and this I
explained to her.

"It is considerate of you to think of that," she said, "but really that
is all that I am here--just another subject for vivisection."

"You are more than that to me," I told her. "You are friendless and
helpless. I want to be of service to you--to make your lot easier if I
can."

"Thank you again," she said. "My name is Valla Dia, and yours?"

"Ras Thavas calls me Vad Varo," I told her.

But that is not your name?"

"My name is Ulysses Paxton."

"It is a strange name, unlike any that I have ever heard, but you are
unlike any man I have ever seen--you do not seem Barsoomian. Your
colour is unlike that of any race."

"I am not of Barsoom, but from Earth, the planet you sometimes call
Jasoom. That is why I differ in appearance from any you have known
before."

"Jasoom! There is another Jasoomian here whose fame has reached to the
remotest corners of Barsoom, but I never have seen him."

"John Carter?" I asked.

"Yes, The War Lord. He was of Helium and my people were not friendly
with those of Helium. I never could understand how he came here. And
now there is another from Jasoom--how can it be? How did you cross the
great void?"

I shook my head. "I cannot even guess," I told her.

"Jasoom must be peopled with wonderful men," she said. It was a pretty
compliment.

"As Barsoom is with beautiful women," I replied.

She glanced down ruefully at her old and wrinkled body.

"I have seen the real you," I said gently.

"I hate to think of my face," she said. "I know it is a frightful
thing."

"It is not you, remember that when you see it and do not feel too
bad."

"Is it as bad as that?" she asked.

I did not reply. 

"Never mind," she said presently. "If I had not beauty
of the soul, I was not beautiful, no matter how perfect my features may
have been; but if I possessed beauty of soul then I have it now. So I
can think beautiful thoughts and perform beautiful deeds and that, I
think, is the real test of beauty, after all."

"And there is hope," I added, almost in a whisper.

"Hope? No, there is no hope, if what you mean to suggest is that I may
some time regain my lost self. You have told me enough to convince me
that that can never be."

"We will not speak of it," I said, "but we may think of it and
sometimes thinking a great deal of a thing helps us to find a way to
get it, if we want it badly enough."

"I do not want to hope," she said, "for it will but mean disappointment
for me. I shall be happy as I am. Hoping, I should always be unhappy."

I had ordered food for her and after it was brought Ras Thavas sent for
me and I left her, locking the door of her chamber as the old surgeon
had instructed. I found Ras Thavas in his office, a small room which
adjoined a very large one in which were a score of clerks arranging and
classifying reports from various departments of the great laboratory.
He arose as I entered.

"Come with me, Vad Varo," he directed. "We will have a look at the two
cases in L-42-X, the two of which I spoke."

"The man with half a simian brain and the ape with a half human brain?"
I asked.

He nodded and preceded me towards the runway that led to the vaults
beneath the building. As we descended, the corridors and passageways
indicated long disuse.

The floors were covered with an impalpable dust, long undisturbed; the
tiny radium bulbs that faintly illuminated the sub-Barsoomian depths
were likewise coated. As we proceeded, we passed many doorways on
either side, each marked with its descriptive hieroglyphic. Several of
the openings had been tightly sealed with masonry. What gruesome
secrets were hid within? At last we came to L-42-X. Here the bodies
were arranged on shelves, several rows of which almost completely
filled the room from floor to ceiling, except for a rectangular space
in the centre of the chamber, which accommodated an ersite-topped
operating table with its array of surgical instruments, its motor and
other laboratory equipment.

Ras Thavas searched out the subjects of his strange experiment and
together we carried the human body to the table. While Ras Thavas
attached the tubes I returned for the vessel of blood which reposed
upon the same shelf with the corpse. The now familiar method of
revivification was soon accomplished and presently we were watching the
return of consciousness to the subject.

The man sat up and looked at us, then he cast a quick glance about the
chamber; there was a savage light in his eyes as they returned to us.
Slowly he backed from the table to the floor, keeping the former
between us.

"We will not harm you," said Ras Thavas.

The man attempted to reply, but his words were unintelligible
gibberish, then he shook his head and growled. Ras Thavas took a step
towards him and the man dropped to all fours, his knuckles resting on
the floor, and backed away, growling.

"Come!" cried Ras Thavas. "We will not harm you." Again he attempted to
approach the subject, but the man only backed quickly away, growling
more fiercely; and then suddenly he wheeled and climbed quickly to the
top of the highest shelf, where he squatted upon a corpse and gibbered
at us.

"We shall have to have help," said Ras Thavas and, going to the
doorway, he blew a signal upon his whistle.

"What are you blowing that for?" demanded the man suddenly. "Who are
you? What am I doing here? What has happened to me?"

"Come down," said Ras Thavas. "We are friends."

Slowly the man descended to the floor and came towards us, but he still
moved with his knuckles to the pavement He looked about at the corpses
and a new light entered his eyes.

"I am hungry!" he cried. "I will eat!" and with that he seized the
nearest corpse and dragged it to the floor.

"Stop! Stop!" cried Ras Thavas, leaping forward. "You will ruin the
subject," but the man only backed away, dragging the corpse along the
floor after him. It was then that the attendants came and with their
help we subdued and bound the poor creature. Then Ras Thavas had the
attendants bring the body of the ape and he told them to remain, as we
might need them.

The subject was a large specimen of the Barsoomian white ape, one of
the most savage and fearsome denizens of the Red Planet, and because of
the creature's great strength and ferocity Ras Thavas took the
precaution to see that it was securely bound before resurgence.

It was a colossal creature about ten or fifteen feet tall, standing
erect, and had an intermediary set of arms or legs midway between its
upper and lower limbs. The eyes were close together and nonprotruding;
the ears were high set, while its snout and teeth were strikingly like
those of our African gorilla.

With returning consciousness the creature eyed us questioningly.
Several times it seemed to essay to speak but only inarticulate sounds
issued from its throat.

Then it lay still for a period.

Ras Thavas spoke to it. "If you understand my words, nod your head."
The creature nodded.

"Would you like to be freed of your bonds?" asked the surgeon.

Again the creature nodded an affirmative.

"I fear that you will attempt to injure us, or escape," said Ras
Thavas.

The ape was apparently trying very hard to articulate and at last there
issued from its lips a sound that could not be misunderstood. It was
the single word no.

"You will not harm us or try to escape?" Ras Thavas repeated his
question.

"No," said the ape, and this time the word was clearly enunciated.

"We shall see," said Ras Thavas. "But remember that with our weapons we
may dispatch you quickly if you attack us."

The ape nodded, and then, very laboriously: "I will not harm you."

At a sign from Ras Thavas the attendants removed the bonds and the
creature sat up. It stretched its limbs and slid easily to the floor,
where it stood erect upon two feet, which was not surprising, since the
white ape goes more often upon two feet than six; a fact of which I was
not cognizant at the time, but which Ras Thavas explained to we later
in commenting upon the fact that the human subject had gone upon all
fours, which, to Ras Thavas, indicated a reversion to type in the
fractional ape-brain transplanted to the human skull.

Ras Thavas examined the subject at considerable length and then resumed
his examination of the human subject which continued to evince more
simian characteristics than human, though it spoke more easily than the
ape, because, undoubtedly, of its more perfect vocal organs. It was
only by exerting the closest attention that the diction of the ape
became understandable at all.

"There is nothing remarkable about these subjects," said Ras Thavas,
after devoting half a day to them. "They bear out what I had already
determined years ago in the transplanting of entire brains; that the
act of transplanting stimulates growth and activity of brain cells. You
will note that in each subject the transplanted portions of the brains
are more active--they, in a considerable measure, control. That is why
we have the human subject displaying distinctly simian characteristics,
while the ape behaves in a more human manner; though if longer and
closer observation were desirable you would doubtless find that each
reverted at times to his own nature--that is the ape would be more
wholly an ape and the human more manlike--but it is not worth the
time, of which I have already given too much to a rather unprofitable
forenoon. I shall leave you now to restore the subjects to anaesthesia
while I return to the laboratories above. The attendants will remain
here to assist you, if required."

The ape, who had been an interested listener, now stepped forward. "Oh,
please, I pray you," it mumbled, "do not again condemn me to these
horrid shelves. I recall the day that I was brought here securely
bound, and though I have no recollection of what has transpired since I
can but guess from the appearance of my own skin and that of these
dusty corpses that I have lain here long. I beg that you will permit me
to live and either restore me to my fellows or allow me to serve in
some capacity in this establishment, of which I saw something between
the time of my capture and the day that I was carried into this
laboratory, bound and helpless, to one of your cold, ersite slabs."

Ras Thavas made a gesture of impatience. "Nonsense!" he cried. "You are
better off here, where you can be preserved in the interests of
science."

"Accede to his request," I begged, "and I will myself take over all
responsibility for him while I profit by the study that he will afford
me."

"Do as you are directed," snapped Ras Thavas as he quit the room.

I shrugged my shoulders. "There is nothing for it, then," I said.

"I might dispatch you all and escape," mused the ape, aloud, "but you
would have helped me. I could not kill one who would have befriended me
--yet I shrink from the thought of another death. How long have I lain
here?"

I referred to the history of his case that had been brought and
suspended at the head of the table. "Twelve years," I told him.

"And yet, why not?" he demanded of himself. "This man would slay me--
why should I not slay him first."

"It would do you no good," I assured him, "for you could never escape.
Instead you would be really killed, dying a death from which Ras Thavas
would probably think it not worth while ever to recall you, while I,
who might find the opportunity at some later date and who have the
inclination, would be dead at your hands and thus incapable of saving
you."

I had been speaking in a low voice, close to his ear, that the
attendants might not overhear me. The ape listened intently.

"You will do as you suggest?" he asked.

"At the first opportunity that presents itself," I assured him.

"Very well," he said, "I will submit, trusting to you."

A half hour later both subjects had been returned to their shelves.




THE COMPACT



Days ran into weeks, weeks into months, as day by day I labored at the
side of Ras Thavas, and more and more the old surgeon took me into his
confidence, more and more he imparted to me the secrets of his skill
and his profession.

Gradually he permitted me to perform more and more important functions
in the actual practice of his vast laboratory. I started transferring
limbs from one subject to another, then internal organs of the
digestive tract. Then he entrusted to me a complete operation upon a
paying client. I removed the kidneys from a rich old man, replacing them
with healthy ones from a young subject. The following day I gave a
stunted child new thyroid glands. A week later I transferred two hearts
and then, at last, came the great day for me--unassisted, with Ras
Thavas standing silently beside me, I took the brain of an old man and
transplanted it within the cranium of a youth.

When I had done Ras Thavas laid a hand upon my shoulder. "I could not
have done better myself," he said. He seemed much elated and I could
not but wonder at this unusual demonstration of emotion upon his part,
he who so prided himself upon his lack of emotionalism. I had often
pondered the purpose which influenced Ras Thavas to devote so much time
to my training, but never had I hit upon any more satisfactory
explanation than that he had need of assistance in his growing
practice. Yet when I consulted the records, that were now open to me, I
discovered that his practice was no greater than it had been for many
years; and even had it been there was really no reason why he should
have trained me in preference to one of his red-Martian assistants, his
belief in my loyalty not being sufficient warrant, in my mind, for this
preferment when he could, as well as not have kept me for a bodyguard
and trained one of his own kind to aid him in his surgical work.

But I was presently to learn that he had an excellent reason for what
he was doing--Ras Thavas always had an excellent reason for whatever
he did. One night after we had finished our evening meal he sat looking
at me intently as he so often did, as though he would read my mind,
which, by the way, he was totally unable to do, much to his surprise
and chagrin; for unless a Martian is constantly upon the alert any
other Martian can read clearly his every thought; but Ras Thavas was
unable to read mine. He said that it was due to the fact that I was not
a Barsoomian. Yet I could often read the minds of his assistants, when
they were off their guard, though never had I read aught of Ras Thavas'
thoughts, nor, I am sure, had any other read them. He kept his brain
sealed like one of his own blood jars, nor was he ever for a moment
found with his barriers down.

He sat looking at me this evening for a long time, nor did it in the
least embarrass me, so accustomed was I to his peculiarities.
"Perhaps," he said presently, "one of the reasons that I trust you is
due to the fact that I cannot ever, at any time, fathom your mind; so,
if you harbor traitorous thoughts concerning me I do not know it, while
the others, every one of them, reveal their inmost souls to my
searching mind and in each one there is envy, jealousy or hatred of me.
Them, I know, I cannot trust. Therefore I must accept the risk and
place all my dependence upon you, and my reason tells me that my choice
is a wise one--I have told you upon what grounds it based my selection
of you as my bodyguard. The same holds true in my selection of you for
the thing I have in mind. You cannot harm me without harming yourself
and no man will intentionally do that; nor is there any reason why you
should feel any deep antagonism towards me.

"You are, of course, a sentimentalist and doubtless you look with
horror upon many of the acts of a sane, rational, scientific mind; but
you are also highly intelligent and can, therefore, appreciate better
than another, even though you may not approve them, the motives that
prompt me to do many of those things of which your sentimentality
disapproves. I may have offended you, but I have never wronged you, nor
have I wronged any creature for which you might have felt some of your
so-called friendship or love. Are my premises incorrect, or my
reasoning faulty?"

I assured him to the contrary.

"Very well! Now let me explain why I have gone to such pains to train
you as no other human being, aside from myself, has ever been trained.
I am not ready to use you yet, or rather you are not ready; but if you
know my purpose you will realize the necessity for bending your energy
to the consummation of my purpose, and to that end you will strive even
more diligently than you have to perfect yourself in the high,
scientific art I am imparting to you.

"I am a very old man," he continued after a brief pause, "even as age
goes upon Barsoom. I have lived more than a thousand years. I have
passed the allotted natural span of life, but I am not through with my
life's work--I have but barely started it. I must not die. Barsoom
must not be robbed of this wondrous brain and skill of mine. I have
long had in mind a plan to thwart death, but it required another with
skill equal to mine--two such might live for ever. I have selected you
to be that other, for reasons that I already have explained--they are
undefiled by sentimentalism. I did not choose you because I love you,
or because I feel friendship for you, or because I think that you love
me, or feel friendship towards me. I chose you because I knew that of
all the inhabitants of a world you were the one least likely to fail
me. For a time you will have my life in your hands. You will understand
now why I have not been able to choose carelessly.

"This plan that I have chosen is simplicity itself provided that I can
count upon just two essential factors--skill and self-interested
loyalty in an assistant. My body is about worn out. I must have a new
one. My laboratory is filled with wonderful bodies, young and complete
with potential strength and health. I have but to select one of these
and have my skilled assistant transfer my brain from this old carcass
to the new one." He paused.

"I understand now, why you have trained me," I said. "It has puzzled me
greatly."

"Thus and thus only may I continue my labors," he went on, "and thus
may Barsoom be assured a continuance practically indefinitely, of the
benefits that my brain may bestow upon her children. I may live for
ever, provided I always have a skilled assistant, and I may assure
myself of such by seeing to it that he never dies; when he wears out
one organ, or his whole body, I can replace either from my great
storehouse of perfect parts, and for me he can perform the same
service. Thus may we continue to live indefinitely; for the brain, I
believe, is almost deathless, unless injured or attacked by disease.

"You are not ready as yet to be entrusted with this important task. You
must transfer many more brains and meet with and overcome the various
irregularities and idiosyncrasies that constitute the never failing
differences that render no two operations identical. When you gain
sufficient proficiency I shall be the first to know it and then we
shall lose no time in making Barsoom safe for posterity."

The old man was far from achieving hatred of himself. However, his plan
was an excellent one, both for himself and for me. It assured us
immortality--we might live for ever and always with strong, healthy,
young bodies. The outlook was alluring--and what a wonderful position
it placed me in. If the old man could be assured of my loyalty because
of self-interest, similarly might I depend upon his loyalty; for he
could not afford to antagonize the one creature in the world who could
assure him immortality, or withhold it from him. For the first time
since I had entered his establishment I felt safe.

As soon as I had left him I went directly to Valla Dia's apartment, for
I wanted to tell her his wonderful news. In the weeks that had passed
since her resurrection I had seen much of her and in our daily
intercourse there had been revealed to me little by little the wondrous
beauties of her soul, until at last I no longer saw the hideous,
disfigured face of Xaxa when I looked upon her, but the eyes of my
heart penetrated deeper to the loveliness that lay within that sweet
mind. She had become my confidante, as I was hers, and this association
constituted the one great pleasure of my existence upon Barsoom.

Her congratulations, when I told her of what had come to me, were very
sincere and lovely. She said that she hoped I would use this great
power of mine to do good in the world. I assured her that I would and
that among the first things that I should demand of Ras Thavas was that
he should give Valla Dia a beautiful body; but she shook her head.

"No, my friend," she said, "if I may not have my own body this old one
of Xaxa's is quite as good for me as another. Without my own body I
should not care to return to my native country; while were Ras Thavas
to give me the beautiful body of another, I should always be in danger
of the covetousness of his clients, any one of whom might see and
desire to purchase it, leaving to me her old husk, conceivably one
quite terribly diseased or maimed. No, my friend, I am satisfied with
the body of Xaxa, unless I may again possess my own, for Xaxa at least
bequeathed me a tough and healthy envelope, however ugly it may be; and
for what do looks count here? You, alone, are my friend--that I have
your friendship is enough. You admire me for what I am, not for what I
look like, so let us leave well enough alone."

"If you could regain your own body and return to your native country,
you would like that?" I demanded.

"Oh, do not say it!" she cried. "The simple thought of it drives me mad
with longing. I must not harbour so hopeless a dream that at best may
only tantalize me into greater abhorrence of my lot."

"Do not say that it is hopeless," I urged. "Death, only, renders hope
futile."

"You mean to be kind," she said, "but you are only hurting me. There
can be no hope."

"May I hope for you, then?" I asked. "For I surely see a way; however
slight a possibility for success it may have, still, it is a way."

She shook her head. "There is no way," she said, with finality. "No
more will Duhor know me."

"Duhor?" I repeated. "Your--someone you care for very much?"

"I care for Duhor very much," she answered with a smile, "but Duhor is
not someone--Duhor is my home, the country of my ancestors."

"How came you to leave Duhor?" I asked. "You have never told me, Valla
Dia."

"It was because of the ruthlessness of Jal Had, Prince of Amhor," she
replied.

"Hereditary enemies were Duhor and Amhor; but Jal Had came disguised
into the city of Duhor, having heard, they say, of the great beauty
attributed to the only daughter of Kor San, Jeddak of Duhor, and when
he had seen her he determined to possess her. Returning to Amhor he
sent ambassadors to the court of Kor San to sue for the hand of the
Princess of Duhor; but Kor San, who had no son, had determined to wed
his daughter to one of his own Jeds, that the son of this union, with
the blood of Kor San in his veins, might rule over the people of Duhor;
and so the offer of Jal Had was declined.

"This so incensed the Amhorian that he equipped a great fleet and set
forth to conquer Duhor and take by force that which he could not win by
honorable methods. Duhor was, at that time, at war with Helium and all
her forces were far afield in the south, with the exception of a small
army that had been left behind to guard the city. Jal Had, therefore,
could not have selected a more propitious time for an attack. Duhor
fell, and while his troops were looting the fair city Jal Had, with a
picked force, sacked the palace of the Jeddak and searched for the
princess; but the princess had no mind to go back with him as Princess
of Amhor. From the moment that the vanguard of the Amhorian fleet was
seen in the sky she had known, with the others of the city, the purpose
for which they came, and so she used her head to defeat that purpose.

"There was in her retinue a cosmetologist whose duty it was to preserve
the lustrous beauty of the princess' hair and skin and prepare her for
public audiences, for fetes and for the daily intercourse of the court.
He was a master of his art; he could render the ugly pleasant to look
upon, he could make the plain lovely, and he could make the lovely
radiant. She called him quickly to her and commanded him to make the
radiant ugly, and when he had done with her none might guess that she
was the Princess of Duhor, so deftly had he wrought with his pigments
and his tiny brushes.

"When Jal Had could not find the princess within the palace, and no
amount of threat or torture could force a statement of her whereabouts
from the loyal lips of her people, the Amhorian ordered that every
woman within the palace be seized and taken to Amhor; there to be held
as hostages until the Princess of Duhor should be delivered to him in
marriage. We were, therefore, all seized and placed upon an Amhorian
war ship which was sent back to Amhor ahead of the balance of the
fleet, which remained to complete the sacking of Duhor.

"When the ship, with its small convoy, had covered some four thousand
of the five thousand haads that separate Duhor from Amhor, it was
sighted by a fleet from Phundahl which immediately attacked. The
convoying ships were destroyed or driven off and that which carried us
was captured. We were taken to Phundahl where we were put upon the
auction block and I fell to the bid of one of Ras Thavas' agents. The
rest you know."

"And what became of the princess?" I asked.

"Perhaps she died--her party was separated in Phundahl--but death
could not more definitely prevent her return to Duhor. The Princess of
Duhor will never again see her native country."

"But you may!" I cried, for I had suddenly hit upon a plan. "Where is
Duhor?"

"You are going there?" she asked, laughingly.

"Yes!" 

"You are mad, my friend," she said. "Duhor lies a full seven
thousand, eight hundred haads from Toonol, upon the opposite side of
the snow-clad Artolian Hills. You, a stranger and alone, could never
reach it; for between lie the Toonolian Marshes, wild hordes, savage
beasts and warlike cities. You would but die uselessly within the first
dozen haads, even could you escape from the island upon which stands
the laboratory of Ras Thavas; and what motive is there to prompt you to
such a useless sacrifice?"

I could not tell her. I could not look upon that withered figure and
into that hideous and disfigured face and say: "It is because I love
you, Valla Dia." But that, alas, was my only reason. Gradually, as I
had come to know her through the slow revealment of the wondrous beauty
of her mind and soul, there had crept into my heart a knowledge of my
love; and yet, explain it I cannot, I could not speak the words to that
frightful old hag. I had seen the gorgeous mundane tabernacle that had
housed the equally gorgeous spirit of the real Valla Dia--that I could
love; her heart and soul and mind I could love; but I could not love
the body of Xaxa. I was torn, too, by other emotions, induced by a
great doubt--could Valla Dia return my love. Habilitated in the corpse
of Xaxa, with no other suitor, nay, with no other friend she might, out
of gratitude or through sheer loneliness, be attracted to me; but once
again were she Valla Dia the beautiful and returned to the palace of
her king, surrounded by the great nobles of Duhor, would she have
either eyes or heart for a lone and friendless exile from another
world? I doubted it--and yet that doubt did not deter me from my
determination to carry out, as far as Fate would permit, the mad scheme
that was revolving in my brain.

"You have not answered my question, Vad Varo," she interrupted my
surging thoughts. "Why would you do this thing?"

"To right the wrong that has been done you, Valla Dia," I said.

She sighed. "Do not attempt it, please," she begged. "You would but rob
me of my one friend, whose association is the only source of happiness
remaining to me. I appreciate your generosity and your loyalty, even
though I may not understand them; your unselfish desire to serve me at
such suicidal risk touches me more deeply than I can reveal, adding
still further to the debt I owe you; but you must not attempt it--you
must not."

"If it troubles you, Valla Dia," I replied, "we will not speak of it
again; but know always that it is never from my thoughts. Some day I
shall find a way, even though the plan I now have fails me."

The days moved on and on, the gorgeous Martian nights, filled with her
hurtling moons, followed one upon another. Ras Thavas spent more and
more time in directing my work of brain transference. I had long since
become an adept; and I realized that the time was rapidly approaching
when Ras Thavas would feel that he could safely entrust to my hands and
skill his life and future. He would be wholly within my power and he
knew that I knew it. I could slay him; I could permit him to remain for
ever in the preserving grip of his own anaesthetic; or I could play any
trick upon him that I chose, even to giving him the body of a calot or
a part of the brain of an ape; but he must take the chance and that I
knew, for he was failing rapidly. Already almost stone blind, it was
only the wonderful spectacles that he had himself invented that
permitted him to see at all; long deaf, he used artificial means for
hearing; and now his heart was showing symptoms of fatigue that he
could not longer ignore.

One morning I was summoned to his sleeping apartment by a slave. I
found the old surgeon lying, a shrunken, pitiful heap of withered skin
and bones.

"We must hasten, Vad Varo," he said in a weak whisper. "My heart was
like to have stopped a few tals ago. It was then that I sent for you."
He pointed to a door leading from his chamber. "There," he said, "you
will find the body I have chosen. There, in the private laboratory I
long ago built for this very purpose, you will perform the greatest
surgical operation that the universe has ever known, transferring its
most perfect brain to the most beautiful and perfect body that ever has
passed beneath these ancient eyes. You will find the head already
prepared to receive my brain; the brain of the subject having been
removed and destroyed--totally destroyed by fire. I could not possibly
chance the existence of a brain desiring and scheming to regain its
wondrous body. No, I destroyed it. Call slaves and have them bear my
body to the ersite slab."

"That will not be necessary," I told him; and lifting his shrunken form
in my arms as he had been an Earthly babe, I carried him into the
adjoining room where I found a perfectly lighted and appointed
laboratory containing two operating tables, one of which was occupied
by the body of a red-man. Upon the surface of the other, which was
vacant, I laid Ras Thavas, then I turned to look at the new envelope he
had chosen. Never, I believe, had I beheld so perfect a form, so
handsome a face--Ras Thavas had indeed chosen well for himself. Then I
turned back to the old surgeon. Deftly, as he had taught me, I made the
two incisions and attached the tubes. My finger rested upon the button
that would start the motor pumping his blood from his veins and his
marvellous preservative-anaesthetic into them. Then I spoke.

"Ras Thavas," I said, "you have long been training me to this end. I
have labored assiduously to prepare myself that there might be no
slightest cause for apprehension as to the outcome. You have,
coincidentally, taught me that one's every act should be prompted by
self-interest only. You are satisfied, therefore, that I am not doing
this for you because I love you, or because I feel any friendship for
you; but you think that you have offered me enough in placing before me
a similar opportunity for immortality.

"Regardless of your teaching I am afraid that I am still somewhat of a
sentimentalist I crave the redressing of wrongs. I crave friendship and
love. The price you offer is not enough. Are you willing to pay more that
this operation may be successfully concluded?"

He looked at me steadily for a long minute. "What do you want?" he
asked. I could see that he was trembling with anger, but he did not
raise his voice.

"Do you recall 4296-E-2631-H?" I inquired.

"The subject with the body of Xaxa? Yes, I recall the case. What of
it?"

"I wish her body returned to her. That is the price you must pay for
this operation."

He glared at me. "It is impossible. Xaxa has the body. Even if I cared
to do so, I could never recover it. Proceed with the operation!" 

"When you have promised me," I insisted.

"I cannot promise the impossible--I cannot obtain Xaxa. Ask me
something else. I am not unwilling to grant any reasonable request."

"That is all I wish--just that; but I do not insist that you obtain
the body. If I bring Xaxa here will you make the transfer?"

"It would mean war between Toonol and Phundahl," he fumed.

"That does not interest me," I said. "Quick! Reach a decision. In five
tals I shall press this button. If you promise what I ask, you shall be
restored with a new and beautiful body; if you refuse you shall lie
here in the semblance of death for ever."

"I promise," he said slowly, "that when you bring the body of Xaxa to
me I will transfer to that body any brain that you select from among my
subjects."

"Good!" I exclaimed, and pressed the button.




DANGER



Ras Thavas awakened from the anaesthetic a new and gorgeous creature--
a youth of such wondrous beauty that he seemed of heavenly rather than
worldly origin; but in that beautiful head was the hard, cold,
thousand-year-old brain of the master surgeon. As he opened his eyes he
looked upon me coldly.

"You have done well," he said.

"What I have done, I have done for friendship--perhaps for love," I
said, "so you can thank the sentimentalism you decry for the success of
the transfer."

He made no reply.

"And now," I continued, "I shall look to you for the fulfilment of the
promise you have made me."

"When you bring Xaxa's body I shall transfer to it the brain of any of
my subjects you may select," he said, "but were I you, I would not risk
my life in such an impossible venture--you cannot succeed. Select
another body--there are many beautiful ones--and I will give it the
brain of 4296-E-2631-H.

"None other than the body now owned by the Jeddara Xaxa will fulfill
your promise to me," I said.

He shrugged and there was a cold smile upon his handsome lips. "Very
well," he said, "fetch Xaxa. When do you start?"

"I am not yet ready. I will let you know when I am."

"Good and now begone--but wait! First go to the office and see what
cases await us and if there be any that do not require my personal
attention, and they fall within your skill and knowledge, attend to
them yourself."

As I left him I noticed a crafty smile of satisfaction upon his lips.
What had aroused that? I did not like it and as I walked away I tried
to conjure what could possibly have passed through that wondrous brain
to call forth at that particular instant so unpleasant a smile. As I
passed through the doorway and into the corridor beyond I heard him
summon his personal slave and body servant, Yamdor, a huge fellow whose
loyalty he kept through the bestowal of lavish gifts and countless
favors. So great was the fellow's power that all feared him, as a word
to the master from the lips of Yamdor might easily send any of the
numerous slaves or attendants to an ersite slab for eternity. It was
rumored that he was the result of an unnatural experiment which had
combined the brain of a woman with the body of a man, and there was
much in his actions and mannerisms to justify this general belief. His
touch, when he worked about his master, was soft and light, his
movements graceful, his ways gentle, but his mind was jealous,
vindictive and unforgiving.

I believe that he did not like me, through jealousy of the authority I
had attained in the establishment of Ras Thavas; for there was no
questioning the fact that I was a lieutenant, while he was but a slave;
yet he always accorded me the utmost respect. He was, however, merely a
minor cog in the machinery of the great institution presided over by
the sovereign mind of Ras Thavas, and as such I had given him little
consideration; nor did I now as I bent my steps towards the office.

I had gone but a short distance when I recalled a matter of importance
upon which it was necessary for me to obtain instructions from Ras
Thavas immediately; and so I wheeled about and retraced my way towards
his apartments, through the open doorway of which, as I approached, I
heard the new voice of the master surgeon. Ras Thavas had always spoken
in rather loud tones, whether as a vocal reflection of his naturally
domineering and authoritative character, or because of his deafness, I
do not know; and now, with the fresh young vocal cords of his new body,
his words rang out clearly and distinctly in the corridor leading to
his room.

"You will, therefore, Yamdor," he was saying, "go at once and,
selecting two slaves in whose silence and discretion you may trust,
take the subject from the apartments of Vad Varo and destroy it--let
no vestige of body or brain remain. Immediately after, you will bring the
two slaves to the laboratory F-30-L, permitting them to speak to no one,
and I will consign them to silence and forgetfulness for eternity.
Vad Varo will discover the absence of the subject and report the
matter to me."

"During my investigation you will confess that you aided 4296-E-2631-H
to escape, but that you have no idea where it intended going. I will
sentence you to death as punishment, but at last explaining how
urgently I need your services and upon your solemn promise never to
transgress again, I will defer punishment for the term of your
continued good behaviour. Do you thoroughly understand the entire
plan?"

"Yes, master," replied Yamdor.

"Then depart at once and select the slaves who are to assist you."

Quickly and silently I sped along the corridor until the first
intersection permitted me to place myself out of sight of anyone coming
from Ras Thavas' apartment; then I went directly to the chamber
occupied by Valla Dia. Unlocking the door I threw it open and beckoned
her to come out. "Quick! Valla Dia!" I cried. "No time is to be lost.
In attempting to save you I have but brought destruction upon you.
First we must find a hiding place for you, and that at once--
afterwards we can plan for the future."

The place that first occurred to me as affording adequate concealment
was the half forgotten vaults in the pits beneath the laboratories, and
towards these I hastened Valla Dia. As we proceeded I narrated all that
had transpired, nor did she once reproach me; but, instead, expressed
naught but gratitude for what she was pleased to designate as my
unselfish friendship. That it had miscarried, she assured me, was no
reflection upon me and she insisted that she would rather die in the
knowledge that she possessed one such friend than to live on
indefinitely, friendless.

We came at last to the chamber I sought--vault L-42-X, in building
4-J-21, where reposed the bodies of the ape and the man, each of which
possessed half the brain of the other. Here I was forced to leave Valla
Dia for the time, that I might hasten to the office and perform the
duties imposed upon me by Ras Thavas, lest his suspicions be aroused
when Yamdor reported that he had found her apartment vacant.

I reached the office without it being discovered by anyone who might
report the fact to Ras Thavas that I had been a long time coming from
his apartment. To my relief, I found there were no cases. Without
appearing in any undue haste, I nevertheless soon found an excuse to
depart and at once made my way towards my own quarters, moving in a
leisurely and unconcerned manner and humming, as was my wont (a habit
which greatly irritated Ras Thavas), snatches from some song that had
been popular at the time that I quit Earth. In this instance it was
"Oh, Frenchy."

I was thus engaged when I met Yamdor moving hurriedly along the
corridor leading from my apartment, in company with two male slaves. I
greeted him pleasantly, as was my custom, and he returned my greeting;
but there was an expression of fear and suspicion in his eyes. I went
at once to my quarters, opened the door leading to the chamber formerly
occupied by Valla Dia and then hastened immediately to the apartment of
Ras Thavas, where I found him conversing with Yamdor. I rushed in
apparently breathless and simulating great excitement.

"Ras Thavas," I demanded, "what have you done with 4296-E-2631-H? She
has disappeared; her apartment is empty; and as I was approaching it I
met Yamdor and two other slaves coming from that direction." I turned
then upon Yamdor and pointed an accusing finger at him. "Yamdor!" I
cried. "What have you done with this woman?"

Both Ras Thavas and Yamdor seemed genuinely puzzled and I congratulated
myself that I had thus readily thrown them off the track. The master
surgeon declared that he would make an immediate investigation; and he
at once ordered a thorough search of the ground and of the island
outside the enclosure. Yamdor denied any knowledge of the woman and I,
at least, was aware of the sincerity of his protestations, but not so
Ras Thavas. I could see a hint of suspicion in his eyes as he
questioned his body servant; but evidently he could conjure no motive
for any such treasonable action on the part of Yamdor as would have
been represented by the abduction of the woman and the consequent gross
disobedience of orders.

Ras Thavas' investigation revealed nothing. I think as it progressed
that he became gradually more and more imbued with a growing suspicion
that I might know more about the disappearance of Valla Dia than my
attitude indicated, for I presently became aware of a delicately
concealed espionage. Up to this time I had been able to smuggle food to
Valla Dia every night, after Ras Thavas had retired to his quarters.
Then, on one occasion, I suddenly became subconsciously aware that I
was being followed, and instead of going to the vaults I went to the
office, where I added some observations to my report upon a case I had
handled that day. Returning to my room I hummed a few bars from "Over
There," that the suggestion of my unconcern might be accentuated. From
the moment that I quit my quarters until I returned to them I was sure
that eyes had been watching my every move. What was I to do? Valla Dia
must have food, without it she would die; and were I to be followed to
her hiding place while taking it to her, she would die; Ras Thavas
would see to that.

Half the night I lay awake, racking my brains for some solution to the
problem.

There seemed only one way--I must elude the spies. If I could do this
but one single time I could carry out the balance of a plan that had
occurred to me, and which was, I thought, the only one feasible that
might eventually lead to the resurrection of Valla Dia in her own body.
The way was long, the risks great; but I was young, in love and utterly
reckless of consequences in so far as they concerned me; it was Valla
Dia's happiness alone that I could not risk too greatly, other than
under dire stress. Well, the stress existed and I must risk that even
as I risked my life.

My plan was formulated and I lay awake upon my sleeping silks and furs
in the darkness of my room, awaiting the time when I might put it into
execution. My window, which was upon the third floor, overlooked the
walled enclosure, upon the scarlet sward of which I had made my first
bow to Barsoom. Across the open casement I had watched Cluros, the
farther moon, take his slow deliberate way.

He had already set. Behind him, Thuria, his elusive mistress, fled
through the heavens. In five xats (about 15 minutes) she would set; and
then for about three and three quarters Earth hours the heavens would
be dark, except for the stars.

In the corridor, perhaps, lurked those watchful eyes. I prayed God that
they might not be elsewhere as Thuria sank at last beneath the horizon
and I swung to my window ledge, in my hand a long rope fabricated from
braided strips torn from my sleeping silks while I had awaited the
setting of the moons. One end I had fastened to a heavy sorapus bench
which I had drawn close to the window. I dropped the free end of the
rope and started my descent. My Earthly muscles, untried in such
endeavours, I had not trusted to the task of carrying me to my window
ledge in a single leap, when I should be returning. I felt that they
would, but I did not know; and too much depended upon the success of my
venture to risk any unnecessary chance of failure. And so I had
prepared the rope.

Whether I was being observed I did not know. I must go on as though
none were spying upon me. In less then four hours Thuria would return
(just before the sudden Barsoomian dawn) and in the interval I must
reach Valla Dia, persuade her of the necessity of my plan and carry out
its details, returning to my chamber before Thuria could disclose me to
any accidental observer. I carried my weapons with me and in my heart
was unbending determination to slay whoever might cross my path and
recognize me during the course of my errand, however innocent of evil
intent against me he might be.

The night was quiet except for the usual distant sounds that I had
heard ever since I had been here--sounds that I had interpreted as the
cries of savage beasts. Once I had asked Ras Thavas about them, but he
had been in ill humor and had ignored my question. I reached the ground
quickly and without hesitation moved directly to the nearest entrance
of the building, having previously searched out and determined upon the
route I would follow to the vault. No one was visible and I was
confident, when at last I reached the doorway, that I had come through
undetected. Valla Dia was so happy to see me again that it almost
brought the tears to my eyes.

"I thought that something had happened to you," she cried, "for I knew
that you would not remain away so long of your own volition."

I told her of my conviction that I was being watched and that it would
not be possible for me longer to bring food to her without incurring
almost certain detection, which would spell immediate death for her.

"There is a single alternative," I said, "and that I dread even to
suggest and would not were there any other way. You must be securely
hidden for a long time, until Ras Thavas' suspicions have been allayed;
for as long as he has me watched I cannot possibly carry out the plans
I have formulated for your eventual release, the restoration of your
own body and your return to Duhor."

"Your will shall be my law, Vad Varo."

I shook my head. "It will be harder for you than you imagine."

"What is the way?" she asked.

I pointed, to the ersite-topped table. "You must pass again though that
ordeal that I may hide you away in this vault until the time is ripe
for the carrying out of my plans. Can you endure it?"

She smiled. "Why not?" she asked. "It is only sleep--if it lasts for
ever I shall be no wiser."

I was surprised that she did not shrink from the idea, but I was very
glad since I knew that it was the only way that we had a chance for
success. Without my help she disposed herself upon the ersite slab.

"I am ready, Vad Varo," she said, bravely; "but first promise me that
you will take no risks in this mad venture. You cannot succeed. When I
close my eyes I know that it will be for the last time if my
resurrection depends upon the successful outcome of the maddest venture
that ever man conceived; yet I am happy, because I know that it is
inspired by the greatest friendship with which any mortal woman has
ever been blessed."

As she talked I had been adjusting the tubes and now I stood beside her
with my finger upon the starting button of the motor.

"Good-bye, Vad Varo," she whispered.

"Not good-bye, Valla Dia, but only a sweet sleep for what to you will
be the briefest instant. You will seem but to close your eyes and open
them again. As you see me now, I shall be standing here beside you as
though I never had departed from you. As I am the last that you look
upon to-night before you close your eyes, so shall I be the first that
you shall look upon as you open them on that new and beautiful morning;
but you shall not again look forth through the eyes of Xaxa, but from
the limpid depths of your own beautiful orbs."

She smiled and shook her head. Two tears formed beneath her lids. I
pressed her hand in mine and touched the button.




SUSPICIONS



In so far as I could know I reached my apartment without detection.
Hiding my rope where I was sure it would not be discovered, I sought my
sleeping silks and furs and was soon asleep.

The following morning as I emerged from my quarters I caught a fleeting
glimpse of a figure in a nearby corridor and from then on for a long
time I had further evidence that Ras Thavas suspicioned me. I went at
once to his quarters, as had been my habit. He seemed restless, but he
gave me no hint that he held any assurance that I had been responsible
for the disappearance of Valla Dia, and I think that he was far from
positive of it. It was simply that his judgment pointed to the fact
that I was the only person who might have any reason for interfering in
any way with this particular subject, and he was having me watched to
either prove or disprove the truth of his reasonable suspicions. His
restlessness he explained to me himself.

"I have often studied the reaction of others who have undergone brain
transference," he said, "and so I am not wholly surprised at my own.
Not only has my brain energy been stimulated, resulting in an increased
production of nervous energy, but I also feel the effects of the young
tissue and youthful blood of my new body. They are affecting my
consciousness in a way that my experiment had vaguely indicated, but
which I now see must be actually experienced to be fully understood. My
thoughts, my inclinations, even my ambitions have been changed, or at
least coloured, by the transfer. It will take some time for me to find
myself."

Though uninterested, I listened politely until he was through and then
I changed the subject "Have you located the missing woman?" I asked.

He shook his head, negatively.

"You must appreciate, Ras Thavas," I said, "that I fully realize that
you must have known that the removal or destruction of that woman would
entirely frustrate my entire plan. You are master here. Nothing that
passes is without your knowledge."

"You mean that I am responsible for the disappearance of the woman?" he
demanded.

"Certainly. It is obvious. I demand that she be restored."

He lost his temper. "Who are you to demand?" he shouted. "You are
naught but a slave. Cease your impudence or I shall erase you--erase
you. It will be as though you never had existed."

I laughed in his face. "Anger is the most futile attribute of the
sentimentalist," I reminded him. "You will not erase me, for I alone
stand between you and mortality."

"I can train another," he parried.

"But you could not trust him," I pointed out.

"But you bargained with me for my life when you had me in your power,"
he cried.

"For nothing that it would have harmed you to have granted willingly. I
did not ask anything for myself. Be that as it may, you will trust me
again. You will trust, for no other reason than that you will be forced
to trust me. So why not win my gratitude and my loyalty by returning
the woman to me and carrying out in spirit as well as in fact the terms
of our agreement?"

He turned and looked steadily at me. "Vad Varo," he said, "I give you
the word of honor of a Barsoomian noble that I know absolutely nothing
concerning the whereabouts of 4296-E-2631-H."

"Perhaps Yamdor does," I persisted.

"Nor Yamdor. Of my knowledge no person in any way connected with me
knows what became of it. I have spoken the truth."

Well, the conversation was not as profitless as it might appear, for I
was sure that it had almost convinced Ras Thavas that I was equally as
ignorant of the fate of Valla Dia as was he. That it had not wholly
convinced him was evidenced by the fact that the espionage continued
for a long time, a fact which determined me to use Ras Thavas' own
methods in my own defence. I had had allotted to me a number of slaves,
and these I had won over by kindness and understanding until I knew
that I had the full measure of their loyalty. They had no reason to
love Ras Thavas and every reason to hate him; on the other hand they
had no reason to hate me, and I saw to it that they had every reason to
love me.

The result was that I had no difficulty in enlisting the services of a
couple of them to spy upon Ras Thavas' spies, with the result that I
was soon apprised that my suspicions were well founded--I was being
constantly watched every minute that I was out of my apartments, but
the spying did not come beyond my outer chamber walls. That was why I
had been successful in reaching the vault in the manner that I had, the
spies having assumed that I would leave my chamber only by its natural
exit, had been content to guard that and permit my windows to go
unwatched.

I think it was about two of our months that the spying continued and
then my men reported that it seemed to have ceased entirely. All that
time I was fretting at the delay, for I wanted to be about my plans
which would have been absolutely impossible for me to carry out if I
were being watched. I had spent the interval in studying the geography
of the north-eastern Barsoomian hemisphere where my activities were to
be carried on, and also in scanning a great number of case histories
and inspecting the subjects to which they referred; but at last, with
the removal of the spies, it began to look as though I might soon
commence to put my plans in active operation.

Ras Thavas had for some time permitted me considerable freedom in
independent investigation and experiment, and this I determined to take
advantage of in every possible way that might forward my plans for the
resurrection of Valla Dia. My study of the histories of many of the
cases had been with the possibility in mind of discovering subjects
that might be of assistance to me in my venture. Among those that had
occupied my careful attention were, quite naturally, the cases with
which I had been most familiar, namely: 378-J-493811-P, the red-man
from whose vicious attack I had saved Ras Thavas upon the day of my
advent upon Mars; and he whose brain had been divided with an ape.

The former, 378-J-493811-P, had been a native of Phundahl--a young
warrior attached to the court of Xaxa, Jeddara of Phundahl--and a
victim of assassination. His body had been purchased by a Phundahlian
noble for the purpose, as Ras Thavas had narrated, of winning the favor
of a young beauty. I felt that I might possibly enlist his services,
but that would depend upon the extent of his loyalty towards Xaxa,
which I could only determine by reviving and questioning him.

He whose brain had been divided with an ape had originated in Ptarth,
which lay at a considerable distance to the west of Phundahl and a
little south and about an equal distance from Duhor, which lay north
and a little west of it. An inhabitant of Ptarth, I reasoned, would
know much of the entire country included in the triangle formed by
Phundahl, Ptarth and Duhor; the strength and ferocity of the great ape
would prove of value in crossing beast-infested wastes; and I felt that
I could hold forth sufficient promise to the human half of the great
beast's brain, which really now dominated the creature, to win its
support and loyalty. The third subject that I had tentatively selected
had been a notorious Toonolian assassin, whose audacity, fearlessness
and swordsmanship had won for him a reputation that had spread far
beyond the boundaries of his country.

Ras Thavas, himself a Toonolian, had given me something of the history
of this man whose grim calling is not without honor upon Barsoom, and
which Gor Hajus had raised still higher in the esteem of his countrymen
through the fact that he never struck down a woman or a good man and
that he never struck from behind.

His killings were always the results of fair fights in which the victim
had every opportunity to defend himself and slay his attacker; and he
was famous for his loyalty to his friends. In fact this very loyalty
had been a contributing factor in his downfall which had brought him to
one of Ras Thavas' ersite slabs some years since, for he had earned the
enmity of Vobis Kan, Jeddak of Toonol, through his refusal to
assassinate a man who once had befriended Gor Hajus in some slight
degree; following which Vobis Kan conceived the suspicion that Gor
Hajus had him marked for slaying. The result was inevitable: Gor Hajus
was arrested and condemned to death; immediately following the
execution of the sentence, an agent of Ras Thavas had purchased the
body.

These three, then, I had chosen to be my partners in my great
adventure. It is true that I had not discussed the matter with any one
of them, but my judgment assured me that I would have no difficulty in
enlisting their services and loyalty in return for their total
resurrection.

My first task lay in renewing the organs of 378-J-493811-P and of Gor
Hajus, which had been injured by the wounds that had laid them low; the
former requiring a new lung and the latter a new heart, his executioner
having run him through with a short-sword. I hesitated to ask Ras
Thavas' permission to experiment on these subjects for fear of the
possibility of arousing his suspicions, in which event he would
probably have them destroyed, and so I was forced to accomplish my
designs by subterfuge and stealth. To this end I made it a practice for
weeks to carry my regular laboratory work far into the night, often
requiring the services of various assistants that all might become
accustomed to the sight of me at work at unusual hours. In my selection
of these assistants I made it a point to choose two of the very spies
that Ras Thavas had set to watching me. While it was true that they
were no longer employed in this particular service, I had hopes that
they would carry word of my activities to their master; and I was
careful to see that they received from me the proper suggestions that
would mould their report in language far from harmful to me. By the
merest suggestion I carried to them the idea that I worked thus late
purely for the love of the work itself and the tremendous interest in
it that Ras Thavas had awakened within my mind. Some nights I worked
with assistants and as often I did not, but always I was careful to
assure myself that the following morning those in the office were made
aware that I had labored far into the preceding night.

This groundwork carefully prepared, I had comparatively little fear of
the results of actual discovery when I set to work upon the warrior of
Phundahl and the assassin of Toonol. I chose the former first. His lung
was badly injured where my blade had passed through it, but from the
laboratory where were kept fractional bodies I brought a perfect lung,
with which I replaced the one that I had ruined. The work occupied but
half the night. So anxious was I to complete my task that I immediately
opened up the breast of Gor Hajus, for whom I had selected an unusually
strong and powerful heart and by working rapidly I succeeded in
completing the transference before dawn. Having known the nature of the
wounds that had dispatched these two men, I had spent weeks in
performing similar operations that I might perfect myself especially in
this work; and having encountered no unusual pathological conditions in
either subject, the work had progressed smoothly and with great
rapidity. I had completed what I had feared would be the most difficult
part of my task and now, having removed as far as possible all signs of
the operation except the therapeutic tape which closed the incisions, I
returned to my quarters for a few minutes of much-needed rest, praying
that Ras Thavas would not by any chance examine either of the subjects
upon which I had been working, although I had fortified myself against
such a contingency by entering full details of the operation upon the
history card of each subject that, in the event of discovery, any
suspicion of ulterior motives upon my part might be allayed by my play
of open frankness.

I arose at the usual time and went at once to Ras Thavas' apartment,
where I was met with a bombshell that nearly wrecked my composure. He
eyed me closely for a long minute before he spoke.

"You worked late last night, Vad Varo," he said.

"I often do," I replied, lightly; but my heart was heavy as a stone.

"And what might it have been that so occupied your interest?" he
inquired.

I felt as a mouse with which the cat is playing. "I have been doing
quite a little lung and heart transference of late," I replied, "and I
became so engrossed with my work that I did not note the passage of
time."

"I have known that you worked late at night. Do you think it wise?"

At that moment I felt that it had been very unwise, yet I assured him
to the contrary.

"I was restless," he said. "I could not sleep and so I went to your
quarters after midnight, but you were not there. I wanted someone with
whom to talk, but your slaves knew only that you were not there--where
you were they did not know--so I set out to search for you." My heart
went into my sandals. "I guessed that you were in one of the
laboratories, but though I visited several I did not find you." My
heart arose with the lightness of a feather. "Since my own transference
I have been cursed with restlessness and sleeplessness, so that I could
almost wish for the return of my old corpse--the youth of my body
harmonizes not with the antiquity of my brain. It is filled with latent
urges and desires that comport illy with the serious subject matter of
my mind."

"What your body needs," I said, "is exercise. It is young, strong,
virile. Work it hard and it will let your brain rest at night."

"I know that you are right," he replied. "I have reached that same
conclusion myself. In fact, not finding you, I walked in the gardens
for an hour or more before returning to my quarters, and then I slept
soundly. I shall walk every night when I cannot sleep, or I shall go
into the laboratories and work as do you."

This news was most disquieting. Now I could never be sure but that Ras
Thavas was wandering about at night and I had one more very important
night's work to do, perhaps two. The only way that I could be sure of
him was to be with him.

"Send for me when you are restless," I said, "and I will walk and work
with you. You should not go about thus at night alone."

"Very well," he said, "I may do that occasionally."

I hoped that he would do it always, for then I would know that when he
failed to send for me he was safe in his own quarters. Yet I saw that I
must henceforth face the menace of detection; and knowing this I
determined to hasten the completion of my plans and to risk everything
on a single bold stroke.

That night I had no opportunity to put it into action as Ras Thavas
sent for me early and informed me that we would walk in the gardens
until he was tired. Now, as I needed a full night for what I had in
mind and as Ras Thavas walked until midnight, I was compelled to forego
everything for that evening, but the following morning I persuaded him
to walk early on the pretext that I should like to go beyond the
enclosure and see something of Barsoom besides the inside of his
laboratories and his gardens. I had little confidence that he would
grant my request, yet he did so. I am sure he never would have done it
had he possessed his old body; but thus greatly had young blood changed
Ras Thavas.

I had never been beyond the buildings, nor had I seen beyond, since
there were no windows in the outside walls of any of the structures and
upon the garden side the trees had grown to such a height that they
obstructed all view beyond them. For a time we walked in another garden
just inside the outer wall, and then I asked Ras Thavas if I might go
even beyond this.

"No," he said. "It would not be safe."

"And why not?" I asked.

"I will show you and at the same time give you a much broader view of
the outside world than you could obtain by merely passing through the
gate. Come, follow me!" He led me immediately to a lofty tower that
rose at the corner of the largest building of the group that comprised
his vast establishment. Within was a circular runway which led not only
upward, but down as well. This we ascended, passing openings at each
floor, until we came at last out upon its lofty summit.

About me spread the first Barsoomian landscape of any extent upon which
my eyes had yet rested during the long months that I had spent upon the
Red Planet. For almost an Earthly year I had been immured within the
grim walls of Ras Thavas' bloody laboratory, until, such creatures of
habit are we, the weird life there had grown to seem quite natural and
ordinary; but with this first glimpse of open country there surged up
within me an urge for freedom, for space, for room to move about, such
as I knew would not be long denied.

Directly beneath lay an irregular patch of rocky land elevated perhaps
a dozen feet or more above the general level of the immediately
surrounding country. Its extent was, at a rough guess, a hundred acres.
Upon this stood the buildings and grounds, which were enclosed in a
high wall. The tower upon which we stood was situated at about the
centre of the total area enclosed. Beyond the outer wall was a strip of
rocky ground on which grew a sparse forest of fair sized trees
interspersed with patches of a jungle growth, and beyond all, what
appeared to be an oozy marsh through which were narrow water courses
connecting occasional open water--little lakes, the largest of which
could have comprised scarce two acres. This landscape extended as far
as the eye could reach, broken by occasional islands similar to that
upon which we were and at a short distance by the skyline of a large
city, whose towers and domes and minarets glistened and sparkled in the
sun as though plated with shining metals and picked out with precious
gems.

This, I knew, must be Toonol and all about us the Great Toonolian
Marshes which extend nearly eighteen hundred Earth miles east and west
and in some places have a width of three hundred miles. Little is known
about them in other portions of Barsoom as they are frequented by
fierce beasts, afford no landing places for fliers and are commanded by
Phundahl at their western end and Toonol at the east, inhospitable
kingdoms that invite no intercourse with the outside world and maintain
their independence alone by their inaccessibility and savage aloofness.

As my eyes returned to the island at our feet I saw a huge form emerge
from one of the nearby patches of jungle a short distance beyond the
outer wall. It was followed by a second and a third. Ras Thavas saw
that the creatures had attracted my notice.

"There," he said, pointing to them, "are three of a number of similar
reasons why it would not have been safe for us to venture outside the
enclosure."

They were great white apes of Barsoom, creatures so savage that even
that fierce Barsoomian lion, the banth, hesitates to cross their path.

"They serve two purposes," explained Ras Thavas. "They discourage those
who might otherwise creep upon me by night from the city of Toonol,
where I am not without many good enemies, and they prevent desertion
upon the part of my slaves and assistants."

"But how do your clients reach you?" I asked. "How are your supplies
brought in?"

He tuned and pointed down toward the highest portion of the irregular
roof of the building below us. Built upon it was a large, shed-like
structure. "There," he said, "I keep three small ships. One of them
goes every day to Toonol."

I was overcome with eagerness to know more about these ships, in which
I thought I saw a much needed means of escape from the island; but I
dared not question him for fear of arousing his suspicions.

As we turned to descend the tower runway I expressed interest in the
structure which gave evidence of being far older than any of the
surrounding buildings.

"This tower," said Ras Thavas, "was built some twenty-three thousand
years ago by an ancestor of mine who was driven from Toonol by the
reigning Jeddak of the time. Here, and upon other islands, he gathered
a considerable following, dominated the surrounding marshes and
defended himself successfully for hundreds of years. While my family
has been permitted to return to Toonol since, this has been their home;
to which, one by one, have been added the various buildings which you
see about the tower, each floor of which connects with the adjacent
building from the roof to the lowest pits beneath the ground."

This information also interested me greatly since I thought that I saw
where it too might have considerable bearing upon my plan of escape,
and so, as we descended the runway, I encouraged Ras Thavas to
discourse upon the construction of the tower, its relation to the other
buildings and especially its accessibility from the pits. We walked
again in the outer garden and by the time we returned to Ras Thavas'
quarters it was almost dark and the master surgeon was considerably
fatigued.

"I feel that I shall sleep well to-night," he said as I left him.

"I hope so, Ras Thavas," I replied.




ESCAPE



It was usually about three hours after the evening meal, which was
served immediately after dark, that the establishment quieted down
definitely for the night. While I should have preferred waiting longer
before undertaking that which I had in mind, I could not safely do so,
since there was much to be accomplished before dawn. So it was that
with the first indications that the occupants of the building in which
my work was to be performed had retired for the night, I left my
quarters and went directly to the laboratory, where, fortunately for my
plans, the bodies of Gor Hajus, the assassin of Toonol, and
378-J-493811-P both reposed. It was the work of a few minutes to carry
them to adjoining tables, where I quickly strapped them securely
against the possibility that one or both of them might not be willing
to agree to the proposition I was about to make them, and thus force me
to anaesthetize them again. At last the incisions were made, the tubes
attached and the motors started. 378-J-493811-P, whom I shall hereafter
call by his own name, Dar Tarus, was the first to open his eyes; but he
had not regained full consciousness when Gor Hajus showed signs of
life.

I waited until both appeared quite restored. Dar Tarus was eyeing me
with growing recognition that brought a most venomous expression of
hatred to his countenance. Gor Hajus was frankly puzzled. The last he
remembered was the scene in the death chamber at the instant that his
executioner had run a sword through his heart. It was I who broke the
silence.

"In the first place" I said, "let me tell you where you are, if you do
not already know."

"I know well enough where I am," growled Dar Tarus.

"Ah!" exclaimed Gor Hajus, whose eyes had been roaming about the
chamber. "I can guess where I am. What Toonolian has not heard of Ras
Thavas? So they sold my corpse to the old butcher did they? And what
now? Did I just arrive?"

"You have been here six years," I told him, "and you may stay here for
ever unless we three can reach an agreement within the next few
minutes, and that goes for you too, Dar Tarus."

"Six years!" mused Gor Hajus. "Well, out with it, man. What do you
want? If it is to slay Ras Thavas, no! He has saved me from utter
destruction; but name me some other, preferably Vobis Kan, Jeddak of
Toonol. Find me a blade and I will slay a hundred to regain life."

"I seek the life of none unless he stands in the way of the fulfilment
of my desire in this matter that I have in hand. Listen! Ras Thavas had
here a beautiful Duhorian girl. He sold her body to Xaxa, Jeddara of
Phundahl, transplanting the girl's brain to the wrinkled and hideous
body of the Jeddara. It is my intention to regain the body, restore it to
its own brain and return the girl to Duhor."

Gor Hajus grinned. "You have a large contract on your hands," he said,
"but I can see that you are a man after my own heart and I am with you.
It will give freedom and fighting, and all that I ask is a chance for
one thrust at Vobis Kan."

"I promise you life," I replied; "but with the understanding that you
serve me faithfully and none other, undertaking no business of your
own, until mine has been carried to a successful conclusion."

"That means that I shall have to serve you for life," he replied, "for
the thing you have undertaken you can never accomplish; but that is
better than lying here on a cold ersite slab waiting for old Ras Thavas
to come along and carve out my gizzard. I am yours! Let me up, that I
may feel a good pair of legs under me again."

"And you?" I asked, turning to Dar Tarus as I released the bonds that
held Gor Hajus. For the first time I now noticed that the ugly
expression that I had first noted upon the face of Dar Tarus had given
place to one of eagerness.

"Strike off my bonds!" he cried. "I will follow you to the ends of
Barsoom and the way leads thus far to the fulfilment of your design;
but it will not. It will lead to Phundahl and to the chamber of the
wicked Xaxa, where, by the generosity of my ancestors, I may be given
the opportunity to avenge the hideous wrong the creature did me. You
could not have chosen one better fitted for your mission than Dar
Tarus, one time soldier of the Jeddara's Guard, whom she had slain that
in my former body one of her rotten nobles might woo the girl I loved."

A moment later the two men stood at my side, and without more delay I
led them towards the runway that descended to the path beneath the
building. As we went, I described to them the creature I had chosen to
be the fourth member of our strange party. Gor Hajus questioned the
wisdom of my choice, saying that the ape would attract too much
attention to us. Dar Tarus, however, believed that it might be helpful
in many respects, since it was possible that we might be compelled to
spend some time among the islands of the marshes which were often
infested with these creatures; while, once in Phundahl, the ape might
readily be used in the furtherance of our plans and would cause no
considerable comment in a city where many of these beasts are held in
captivity and often are seen performing for the edification of street
crowds.

We went at once to the vault where the ape lay and where I had
concealed the anaesthetized body of Valla Dia. Here I revived the great
anthropoid and to my great relief found that the human half of its
brain still was dominant. Briefly I explained my plan as I had to the
other two and won the hearty promise of his support upon my engaging to
restore his brain to its rightful place upon the completion of our
venture.

First we must get off the island, and I outlined two plans I had in
mind. One was to steal one of Ras Thavas' three fliers and set out
directly for Phundahl, and the other, in the event that the first did
not seem feasible, was to secrete ourselves aboard one of them on the
chance that we might either overpower the crew and take over the ship
after we had left the island, or escape undetected upon its arrival in
Toonol. Dar Tarus liked the first plan; the ape, whom we now called by
the name belonging to the human half of his brain, Hovan Du, preferred
the first alternative of the second plan; and Gor Hajus the second
alternative.

Dar Tarus explained that as our principal objective was Phundahl, the
quicker we got there the better. Hovan Du argued that by seizing the
ship after it had left the island we would have longer time in which to
make our escape before the ship was missed and pursuit instituted, than
by seizing it now in the full knowledge that its absence would be
discovered within a few hours. Gor Hajus thought that it would be
better if we could come into Toonol secretly and there, through one of
his friends, secure arms and a flier of our own. It would never do, he
insisted, to attempt to go far without arms for himself and Dar Tarus,
nor could we hope to reach Phundahl without being overhauled by
pursuers; for we must plan on the hypothesis that Ras Thavas would
immediately discover my absence; that he would at once investigate;
that he would find Dar Tarus and Gor Hajus missing and thereupon lose
no time in advising Vobis Kan, Jeddak of Toonol, that Gor Hajus the
assassin was at large, whereupon the Jeddak's best ships would be sent
in pursuit.

Gor Hajus' reasoning was sound and coupled with my recollection that
Ras Thavas had told me that his three ships were slow, I could readily
foresee that our liberty would be of short duration were we to steal
one of the old surgeon's fliers.

As we discussed the matter we had made our way through the pits and I
had found the exit to the tower. Silently we passed upward along the
runway and out upon the roof. Both moons were winging low through the
heavens and the scene was almost as light as day. If anyone was about,
discovery was certain. We hastened towards the hangar and were soon
within it where, for a moment at least, I breathed far more easily than
I had beneath those two brilliant moons upon the exposed roof.

The fliers were peculiar-looking contrivances, low, squat, with rounded
bows and stems and covered decks, their every line proclaiming them as
cargo carriers built for anything but speed. One was much smaller than
the other two and a second was evidently undergoing repairs. The third
I entered and examined carefully. Gor Hajus was with me and pointed out
several places where we might hide with little likelihood of discovery
unless it were suspected that we might be aboard, and that of course
constituted a very real danger; so much so that I had about decided to
risk all aboard the small flier, which Gor Hajus assured me would be
the fastest of the three, when Dar Tarus stuck his head into the ship
and motioned me to come quickly.

"There is someone about," he said when I reached his side.

"Where?" I demanded.

"Come," he said, and led me to the rear of the hangar, which was flush
with the wall of the building upon which it stood, and pointed through
one of the windows into the inner garden where, to my consternation, I
saw Ras Thavas walking slowly to and fro. For an instant I was sick
with despair, for I knew that no ship could leave that roof unseen
while anyone was abroad in the garden beneath, and Ras Thavas least of
all people in the world; but suddenly a great light dawned upon me. I
called the three close to me and explained my plan.

Instantly they grasped the possibilities in it and a moment later we
had run the small flier out upon the roof and turned her nose toward
the east, away from Toonol. Then Gor Hajus entered her, set the various
controls as we had decided, opened the throttle, slipped back to the
roof. The four of us hastened into the hangar and ran to the rear
window where we saw the ship moving slowly and gracefully out over the
garden and the head of Ras Thavas, whose ears must instantly have
caught the faint purring of the motor, for he was looking up by the
time we reached the window.

Instantly he hailed the ship and stepping back from the window that he
might not see me I answered: "Good-bye, Ras Thavas! It is I, Vad Varo,
going out into a strange world to see what it is like. I shall return.
The spirits of your ancestors be with you until then."

That was a phrase I had picked up from reading in Ras Thavas' library
and I was quite proud of it.

"Come back at once," he shouted up in reply, "or you will be with the
spirits of your own ancestors before another day is done."

I made no reply. The ship was now at such a distance that I feared my
voice might no longer seem to come from it and that we should be
discovered. Without more delay we concealed ourselves aboard one of the
remaining fliers, that upon which no work was being done, and there
commenced as long and tiresome a period of waiting as I can recall ever
having passed through.

I had at last given up any hope of the ship's being flown that day when
I heard voices in the hangar, and presently the sound of footsteps
aboard the flier. A moment later a few commands were given and almost
immediately the ship moved slowly out into the open.

The four of us were crowded into a small compartment built into a tiny
space between the forward and aft starboard buoyancy tanks. It was very
dark and poorly ventilated, having evidently been designed as a storage
closet to utilize otherwise waste space. We dared not converse for fear
of attracting attention to our presence, and for the same reason we
moved about as little as possible, since we had no means of knowing but
that some member of the crew might be just beyond the thin door that
separated us from the main cabin of the ship.

Altogether we were most uncomfortable; but the distance to Toonol is
not so great but that we might hope that our situation would soon be
changed--at least if Toonol was to be the destination of the ship. Of
this we soon had cheering hope. We had been out but a short time when,
faintly, we heard a hail and then the motors were immediately shut down
and the ship stopped.

"What ship?" we heard a voice demand, and from aboard our own came the
reply: "The Vosar, Tower of Thavas for Toonol." We heard a scraping as
the other ship touched ours.

"We are coming aboard to search you in the name of Vobis Kan, Jeddak of
Toonol. Make way!" shouted one from the other ship. Our cheer had been of
short duration. We heard the shuffling of many feet and Gor Hajus
whispered in my ear.

"What shall we do?" he asked.

I slipped my short-sword into his hand. "Fight!" I replied.

"Good, Vad Varo," he replied, and then I handed him my pistol and told
him to pass it on to Dar Tarus. We heard the voices again, but nearer
now.

"What ho!" cried one. "It is Bal Zak himself, my old friend Bal Zak!"
"None other," replied a deep voice. "And whom did you expect to find in
command of the Vosar other than Bal Zak?"

"Who could know but that it might have been this Vad Varo himself, or
even Gor Hajus," said the other, "and our orders are to search all
ships."

"I would that they were here," replied Bal Zak, "for the reward is
high. But how could they, when Ras Thavas himself with his own eyes saw
them fly off in the Pinsar before dawn this day and disappear in the
east?"

"Right you are, Bal Zak," agreed the other, "and it were a waste of
time to search your ship. Come men! to our own!" I could feel the
muscles about my heart relax with the receding footfalls of Vobis Kan's
warriors as they quitted the deck of the Vosar for their own ship, and
my spirits rose with the renewed purring of our own motor as Ras
Thavas' flier again got under way. Gor Hajus bent his lips close to my
ear.

"The spirits of our ancestors smile upon us," he whispered. "It is
night and the darkness will aid in covering our escape from the ship
and the landing stage."

"What makes you think it is night?" I asked.

"Vobis Kan's ship was close by when it hailed and asked our name. By
daylight it could have seen what ship we were."

He was right. We had been locked in that stuffy hole since before dawn,
and while I had thought that it had been for a considerable time, I
also had realized that the darkness and the inaction and the nervous
strain would tend to make it seem much longer than it really had been;
so that I would not have been greatly surprised had we made Toonol by
daylight.

The distance from the Tower of Thavas to Toonol is inconsiderable, so
that shortly after Vobis Kan's ship had spoken to us we came to rest
upon the landing stage at our destination. For a long time we waited,
listening to the sounds of movement aboard the ship and wondering, upon
my part at least, as to what the intentions of the captain might be. It
was quite possible that Bal Zak might return to Thavas this same night,
especially if he had come to Toonol to fetch a rich or powerful patient
to the laboratories; but if he had come only for supplies he might well
lie here until the morrow. This much I had learned from Gor Hajus, my
own knowledge of the movements of the fliers of Ras Thavas being
considerably less than nothing; for, though I had been months a
lieutenant of the master surgeon, I had learned only the day before of
the existence of his small fleet, it being according to the policy of
Ras Thavas to tell me nothing unless the telling of it coincided with
and furthered his own plans.

Questions which I asked he always answered, if he reasoned that the
effects would not be harmful to his own interests, but he volunteered
nothing that he did not particularly wish me to know; and the fact that
there were no windows in the outside walls of the building facing
towards Toonol, that I had never before the previous day been upon the
roof and that I never had seen a ship sail over the inner court towards
the east all tended to explain my ignorance of the fleet and its
customary operations.

We waited quietly until silence fell upon the ship, betokening either
that the crew had retired for the night or that they had gone down into
the city. Then, after a whispered consultation with Gor Hajus, we
decided to make an attempt to leave the flier. It was our purpose to
seek a hiding place within the tower of the landing stage from which we
might investigate possible avenues of escape into the city, either at
once or upon the morrow when we might more easily mix with the crowd
that Gor Hajus said would certainly be in evidence from a few hours
after sunrise.

Cautiously I opened the door of our closet and looked into the main
cabin beyond. It lay in darkness. Silently we filed out. The silence of
the tomb lay upon the flier, but from far below arose the subdued
noises of the city. So far, so good! Then, without sound, without
warning, a burst of brilliant fight illuminated the interior of the
cabin. I felt my fingers tighten upon my sword-hilt as I glanced
quickly about.

Directly opposite us, in the narrow doorway of a small cabin, stood a
tall man whose handsome harness betokened the fact that he was no
common warrior. In either hand he held a heavy Barsoomian pistol, into
the muzzles of which we found ourselves staring.




HANDS UP!



In quiet tones he spoke the words of the Barsoomian equivalent of our
Earthly hands up! The shadow of a grim smile touched his lips, and as
he saw us hesitate to obey his commands he spoke again.

"Do as I tell you and you will be well off. Keep perfect silence. A
raised voice may spell your doom; a pistol shot most assuredly."

Gor Hajus raised his hands above his head and we others followed his
example.

"I am Bal Zak," announced the stranger. My heart slumped.

"Then you had better commence firing," said Gor Hajus, "for you will
not take us alive and we are four to one."

"Not so fast, Gor Hajus," admonished the captain of the Vosar, until
you learn what is in my mind."

"That, we already know for we heard you speak of the large reward that
awaited the captor of Vad Varo and Gor Hajus," snapped the assassin of
Toonol.

"Had I craved that reward so much I could have turned you over to the
dwar of Vobis Kan's ship when he boarded us," said Bal Zak.

"You did not know we were aboard the Vosar," I reminded him.

"Ah, but I did."

Gor Hajus snorted his disbelief.

"How then," Bal Zak reminded us, "was I able to be ready upon this very
spot when you emerged from your hiding place? Yes, I knew that you were
aboard."

"But how?" demanded Dar Tarus.

"It is immaterial," replied Bal Zak, "but to satisfy your natural
curiosity I will tell you that I have quarters in a small room in the
Tower of Thavas, my windows overlook the roof and the hangar. My long
life spent aboard fliers has made me very sensitive to every sound of a
ship-motors changing their speed will awaken me in the dead of night,
as quickly as will their starting or their stopping. I was awakened by
the starting of the motors of the Pinsar; I saw three of you upon the
roof and the fourth drop from the deck of the flier as she started and
my judgment told me that the ship was being sent out unmanned for some
reason of which I had no knowledge. It was too late for me to prevent
the act and so I waited in silence to learn what would follow. I saw
you hasten into the hangar and I heard Ras Thavas' hail and your reply,
and then I saw you board the Vosar. Immediately I descended to the roof
and ran noiselessly to the hangar, apprehending that you intended
making away with this ship; but there was no one about the controls;
and from a tiny port in the control room, through which one has a view
of the main cabin, I saw you enter the closet. I was at once convinced
that your only purpose was to stow away for Toonol and consequently,
aside from keeping an eye upon your hiding place, I went about my
business as usual."

"And you did not advise Ras Thavas?" I asked.

"I advised no one," he replied. "Years ago I learned to mind my own
business, to see all, to hear all and to tell nothing unless it
profited me to do so."

"But you said that the reward is high for our apprehension," Gor Hajus
reminded him. "Would it not be profitable to collect it?"

"There are in the breasts of honourable men," replied Bal Zak, "forces
that rise superior to the lust for gold, and while Toonolians are
supposedly a people free from the withering influences of sentiment yet
I for one am not totally unconscious of the demand of gratitude. Six
years ago, Gor Hajus, you refused to assassinate my father, holding
that he was a good man, worthy to live and one that had once befriended
you slightly. To-day, through his son, you reap your reward and in some
measure are repaid for the punishment that was meted out to you by
Vobis Kan because of your refusal to slay the sire of Bal Zak. I have
sent my crew away that none aboard the Vosar but myself might have
knowledge of your presence. Tell me your plans and command me in what
way I may be of further service to you."

"We wish to reach the streets, unobserved," replied Gor Hajus. "Can you
but help us in that we shall not put upon your shoulders further
responsibility for our escape. You have our gratitude and in Toonol, I
need not remind you, the gratitude of Gor Hajus is a possession that
even the Jeddak has craved."

"Your problem is complicated," said Bal Zak, after a moment of thought,
"by the personnel of your party. The ape would immediately attract
attention and arouse suspicion. Knowing much of Ras Thavas' experiments
I realized at once this morning, after watching him with you, that he
had the brain of a man; but this very fact would attract to him and to
you the closer attention of the masses."

"I do not need acquaint them with the fact," growled Hovan Du. "To them
I need be but a captive ape. Are such unknown in Toonol?"

"Not entirely, though they are rare," replied Bal Zak. "But there is
also the white skin of Vad Varo! Ras Thavas appears to have known
nothing of the presence of the ape with you; but he full well knew of
Vad Varo, and your description has been spread by every means at his
command. You would be recognized immediately by the first Toonolian
that lays eyes upon you, and then there is Gor Hajus. He has been as
dead for six years, yet I venture there is scarce a Toonolian that
broke the shell prior to ten years ago who does not know the face of
Gor Hajus as well as he knows that of his own mother. The Jeddak
himself was not better known to the people of Toonol than Gor Hajus.
That leaves but one who might possibly escape suspicion and detection
in the streets of Toonol."

"If we could but obtain weapons for these others," I suggested, "we
might even yet reach the house of Gor Hajus' friend."

"Fight your way through the city of Toonol?" demanded Bal Zak.

"If there is no other way we should have to," I replied.

"I admire the will," commented the commander of the Vosar, "but fear
that the flesh is without sufficient strength. Wait! there is a way--
perhaps. On the stage just below this there is a public depot where
equilibrimotors are kept and rented. Could we find the means to obtain
four of these there would be a chance, at least, for you to elude the
air patrols and reach the house of Gor Hajus' friend; and I think I see
a way to the accomplishment of that. The landing tower is closed for
the night but there are several watchmen distributed through it at
different levels. There is one at the equilibrimotor depot and, as I
happen to know, he is a devotee of jetan. He would rather play jetan
than attend to his duties as watchman. I often remain aboard the Vosar
at night and occasionally he and I indulge in a game. I will ask him up
to-night and while he is thus engaged you may go to the depot, help
yourselves to equilibrimotors and pray to your ancestors that no air
patrol suspects you as you cross the city towards your destination.
What think you of this plan, Gor Hajus?"

"It is splendid," replied the assassin. "And you, Vad Varo?"

"If I knew what an equilibrimotor is I might be in a better position to
judge the merits of the plan," I replied. "However, I am satisfied to
abide by the judgment of Gor Hajus. I can assure you, Bal Zak, of our
great appreciation, and as Gor Hajus has put the stamp of his approval
upon your plan I can only urge you to arrange that we may put it into
effect with as little delay as possible."

"Good!" exclaimed Bal Zak. "Come with me and I will conceal you until I
have lured the watchman to the jetan game within my cabin. After that
your fate will be in your own hands."

We followed him from the ship on to the deck of the landing stage and
close under the side of the Vosar opposite that from which the watchman
must approach the ship and enter it. Then, bidding us good luck, Bal
Zak departed.

From the summit of the landing tower I had my first view of a Martian
city.

Several hundred feet below me lay spread the broad, well-lighted
avenues of Toonol, many of which were crowded with people. Here and
there, in this central district, a building was raised high upon its
supporting, cylindrical metal shaft; while further out, where the
residences predominated, the city took on the appearance of a colossal
and grotesque forest. Among the larger palaces only an occasional suite
of rooms was thus raised high above the level of the others, these
being the sleeping apartments of the owners, their servants or their
guests; but the smaller homes were raised in their entirety, a
precaution necessitated by the constant activities of the followers of
Gor Hajus' ancient profession that permitted no man to be free from the
constant menace of assassination. Throughout the central district the
sky was pierced by the lofty towers of several other landing stages;
but, as I was later to learn, these were comparatively few in number.
Toonol is in no sense a flying nation, supporting no such enormous
fleets of merchant ships and vessels of war as, for example, the twin
cities of Helium or the great capital of Ptarth.

A peculiar feature of the street lighting of Toonol, and in fact the
same condition applies to the lighting of other Barsoomian cities I
have visited, I noted for the first time that night as I waited upon
the landing stage for the return of Bal Zak with the watchman. The
luminosity below me seemed confined directly to the area to be lighted;
there was no diffusion of light upward or beyond the limits the lamps
were designed to light This was effected, I was told, by lamps designed
upon principles resulting from ages of investigation of the properties
of light waves and the laws governing them which permit Barsoomian
scientists to confine and control light as we confine and control
matter. The light waves leave the lamp, pass along a prescribed circuit
and return to the lamp. There is no waste nor, strange this seemed to
me, are there any dense shadows when lights are properly installed and
adjusted, for the waves in passing around objects to return to the
lamp, illuminate all sides of them.

The effect of this lighting from the great height of the tower was
rather remarkable. The night was dark, there being no moons at that
hour upon this night, and the effect was that obtained when sitting in
a darkened auditorium and looking upon a brilliantly lighted stage. I
was still intent upon watching the life and colour beneath when we
heard Bal Zak returning. That he had been successful in his mission was
apparent from the fact that he was conversing with another.

Five minutes later we crept quietly from our hiding place and descended
to the stage below where lay the equilibrimotor depot. As theft is
practically unknown upon Barsoom, except for purposes entirely
disassociated from a desire to obtain pecuniary profit through the
thing stolen, no precautions are taken against theft. We therefore found
the doors of the depot open and Gor Hajus and Dar Tarus quickly selected
four equilibrimotors and adjusted them upon us. They consist of a broad
belt, not unlike the life belt used aboard trans-oceanic liners upon
Earth; these belts are filled with the eighth Barsoomian ray, or ray of
propulsion, to a sufficient degree to just about equalize the pull of
gravity and thus to maintain a person in equilibrium between that force
and the opposite force exerted by the eighth ray. Permanently attached to
the back of the belt is a small radium motor, the controls for which are
upon the front of the belt.

Rigidly attached to and projecting from each side of the upper rim of
the belt is a strong, light wing with small hand levers for quickly
altering its position.

Gor Hajus quickly explained the method of control, but I could
apprehend that there might be embarrassment and trouble awaiting me
before I mastered the art of flying in an equilibrimotor. He showed me
how to tilt the wings downward in walking so that I would not leave the
ground at every step, and thus he led me to the edge of the landing
stage.

"We will rise here," he said, "and keeping in the darkness of the upper
levels seek to reach the house of my friend without being detected. If
we are pursued by air patrols we must separate; and later those who
escape may gather just west of the city wall where you will find a
small lake with a deserted tower upon its northern rim--this tower
will be our rendezvous in event of trouble. Follow me!" He started his
motor and rose gracefully into the air.

Hovan Du followed him and then it was my turn. I rose beautifully for
about twenty feet, floating out over the city which lay hundreds of
feet below, and then, quite suddenly, I turned upside down. I had done
something wrong--I was quite positive of it. It was a most startling
sensation, I can assure you, floating there with my head down, quite
helpless; while below me lay the streets of a great city and no softer,
I was sure, than the streets of Los Angeles or Paris. My motor was
still going, and as I manipulated the controls which operated the wings
I commenced to describe all sorts of strange loops and spirals and
spins; and then Dar Tarus came to my rescue. First he told me to lie
quietly and then directed the manipulation of each wing until I had
gained an upright position. After that I did fairly well and was soon
rising in the wake of Gor Hajus and Hovan Du.

I need not describe in detail the hour of flying, or rather floating,
that ensued. Gor Hajus led us to a considerable altitude and there,
through the darkness above the city, our slow motors drove us towards a
district of magnificent homes surrounded by spacious grounds; and here,
as we hovered over a large palace, we were suddenly startled by a sharp
challenge coming from directly above us.

"Who flies by night?" a voice demanded.

"Friends of Mu Tel, Prince of the House of Kan," replied Gor Hajus:
quickly.

"Let me see your night flying permit and your flier's licence," ordered
the one above us, at the same time swooping suddenly to our level and
giving me my first sight of a Martian policeman. He was equipped with a
much swifter and handier equilibrimotor than ours. I think that was the
first fact to impress us deeply, and it demonstrated the futility of
flight; for he could have given us ten minutesí start and overhauled
each of us within another ten minutes, even though we had elected to
fly in different directions. The fellow was a warrior rather than a
policeman, though detailed to duty such as our Earthly police officers
perform; the city being patrolled both day and night by the warriors of
Vobis Kan's army.

He dropped now close to the assassin of Toonol, again demanding permit
and licence and at the same time flashing a light in the face of my
comrade.

"By the sword of the Jeddak!" he cried. "Fortune heaps her favors upon
me. Who would have thought an hour since that it would be I who would
collect the reward for the capture of Gor Hajus?"

"Any other fool might have thought it," returned Gor Hajus, "but he
would have been as wrong as you," and as he spoke he struck with the
short-sword I had loaned him.

The blow was broken by the wing of the warrior's equilibrimotor, which
it demolished, yet it inflicted a severe wound in the fellow's
shoulder. He tried to back off, but the damaged wing caused him only to
wheel around erratically; and then he seized upon his whistle and
attempted to blow a mighty blast that was cut short by another blow
from Gor Hajus' sword that split the man's head open to the bridge of
his nose.

"Quick!" cried the assassin. "We must drop into the gardens of Mu Tel,
for that signal will bring a swarm of air patrols about our heads."

The others I saw falling rapidly towards the ground, but again I had
trouble.

Depress my wings as I would I moved only slightly downward and upon a
path that, if continued, would have landed me at a considerable
distance from the gardens of Mu Tel. I was approaching one of the
elevated portions of the palace, what appeared to be a small suite that
was raised upon its shining metal shaft far above the ground. From all
directions I could hear the screaming whistles of the air patrols
answering the last call of their comrade whose corpse floated just
above me, a guide even in death to point the way for his fellows to
search us out. They were sure to discover him and then I would be in
plain view, of them and my fate sealed.

Perhaps I could find ingress to the apartment looming darkly near!
There I might hide until the danger had passed, provided I could enter,
undetected. I directed my course towards the structure; an open window
took form through the darkness and then I collided with a fine wire
netting--I had run into a protecting curtain that fends off assassins
of the air from these high-flung sleeping apartments. I felt that I was
lost. If I could but reach the ground I might find concealment among
the trees and shrubbery that I had seen vaguely outlined beneath me in
the gardens of this Barsoomian prince; but I could not drop at a
sufficient angle to bring me to ground within the garden, and when I
tried to spiral down I turned over and started up again. I thought of
ripping open my belt and letting the eighth ray escape; but in my
unfamiliarity with this strange force I feared that such an act might
precipitate me to the ground with too great violence, though I was
determined to have recourse to it as a last alternative if nothing less
drastic presented itself.

In my last attempt to spiral downward I rose rapidly feet foremost to a
sudden and surprising collision with some object above me. As I
frantically righted myself, fully expecting to be immediately seized by
a member of the air patrol, I found myself face to face with the corpse
of the warrior Gor Hajus had slain.

The whistling of the air patrols sounded ever nearer--it could be only
a question of seconds now before I was discovered--and with the stern
necessity that confronted me, with death looking me in the face, there
burst upon me a possible avenue of escape from my dilemma.

Seizing tightly with my left hand the harness of the dead Toonolian, I
whipped out my dagger and slashed his buoyancy belt a dozen times.
Instantly, as the rays escaped, his body started to drag me downward,
Our descent was rapid, but not precipitate, and it was but a matter of
seconds before we landed gently upon the scarlet sward of the gardens
of Mu Tel, Prince of the House of Kan, close beside a clump of heavy
shrubbery. Above me sounded the whistles of the circling patrols as I
dragged the corpse of the warrior into the concealing depth of the
foliage. Nor was I an instant too soon for safety, as almost
immediately the brilliant rays of a searchlight shot downward from the
deck of a small patrol ship, illuminating the open spaces of the garden
all about me. A hurried glance through the branches and the leaves of
my sanctuary revealed nothing of my companions and I breathed a sigh of
relief in the thought that they, too, had found concealment.

The light played for a short time about the gardens and then passed on,
as did the sound of the patrol's whistles, as the search proceeded
elsewhere; thus giving me the assurance that no suspicion was directed
upon our hiding place.

Left in darkness I appropriated such of the weapons of the dead warrior
as I coveted, after having removed my equilibrimotor, which I was first
minded to destroy, but which I finally decided to moor to one of the
larger shrubs against the possibility that I might again have need for
it; and now, secure in the conviction that the danger of discovery by
the air patrol had passed, I left my concealment and started in search
of my companions.

Keeping well in the shadows of the trees and shrubs I moved in the
direction of the main building, which loomed darkly near at hand; for
in this direction I believed Gor Hajus would lead the others as I knew
that the palace of Mu Tel was to have been our destination. As I crept
along, moving with utmost stealth, Thuria, the nearer moon, shot
suddenly above the horizon, illuminating the night with her brilliant
rays. I was close to the building's ornately carved wall at the moment;
beside me was a narrow niche, its interior cast in deepest shadow by
Thuria's brilliant rays; to my left was an open bit of lawn upon which,
revealed in every detail of its terrifying presence, stood as fearsome
a creature as my Earthly eyes ever had rested upon. It was a beast
about the size of a Shetland pony, with ten short legs and a terrifying
head that bore some slight resemblance to that of a frog, except that
the jaws were equipped with three rows of long, sharp tusks.

The thing had its nose in the air and was sniffing about, while its
great pop eyes moved swiftly here and there, assuring me, beyond the
shadow of a doubt, that it was searching for someone. I am not inclined
to be egotistical, yet I could not avoid the conviction that it was
searching for me. It was my first experience of a Martian watch dog;
and as I sought concealment within the dark shadows of the niche behind
me, at the very instant that the creature's eyes alighted upon me, and
heard his growl and saw him charge straight towards me, I had a
premonition that it might prove my last experience with one.

I drew my long-sword as I backed into the niche, but with a sense of
the utter inadequacy of the unaccustomed weapon in the face of this
three or four hundred pounds of ferocity incarnate. Slowly I backed
away into the shadows as the creature bore down upon me and then, as it
entered the niche, my back collided with a solid obstacle that put an
end to further retreat.




THE PALACE OF MU TEL



As the calot entered the niche I experienced, I believe, all of the
reactions of the cornered rat, and I certainly know that I set myself
to fight in that proverbial manner. The beast was almost upon me and I
was metaphorically kicking myself for not having remained in the open
where there were many tall trees when the support at my back suddenly
gave way, a hand reached out of the darkness behind me and seized my
harness and I was drawn swiftly into inky blackness. A door slammed and
the silhouette of the calot against the moonlit entrance to the niche
was blotted out.

A gruff voice spoke in my ear. "Come with me!" it said. A hand found
mine and thus I was led along through the darkness of what I soon
discovered was a narrow corridor from the constantly recurring
collisions I had first with one side of it and then with the other.

Ascending gradually, the corridor turned abruptly at right angles and I
saw beyond my guide a dim luminosity that gradually increased until
another turn brought us to the threshold of a brilliantly lighted
chamber--a magnificent apartment, the gorgeous furnishings and
decorations of which beggar the meagre descriptive powers of my native
tongue. Gold, ivory, precious stones, marvelous woods, resplendent
fabrics, gorgeous furs and startling architecture combined to impress
upon my earthly vision such a picture as I had never even dreamed of
dreaming; and in the center of this room, surrounded by a little group
of Martians, were my three companions.

My guide conducted me towards the party, the members of which had
turned towards us as we entered the chamber, and stopped before a tall
Barsoomian, resplendent in jewel-encrusted harness.

"Prince," he said, "I was scarce a tal too soon. In fact, as I opened
the door to step out into the garden in search of him, as you directed,
there he was upon the opposite side with one of the calots of the
garden almost upon him."

"Good!" exclaimed he who had been addressed as prince, and then he
turned to Gor Hajus. "This is he, my friend, of whom you told me?"

"This is Vad Varo, who claims to be from the planet Jasoom," replied
Gor Hajus; "and this, Vad Varo, is Mu Tel, Prince of the House of Kan."

I bowed and the prince advanced and placed his right hand upon my left
shoulder in true Barsoomian acknowledgment of an introduction; when I
had done similarly, the ceremony was over. There was no silly
pleased-to-meet-you, how-do-you-do? or it's-a-pleasure-I-assure-you.

At Mu Tel's request I narrated briefly what had befallen me between the
time I had become separated from my companions and the moment that one
of his officers had snatched me from impending disaster. Mu Tel gave
instructions that all traces of the dead patrol be removed before dawn
lest their discovery bring upon him the further suspicion of his uncle,
Vobis Kan, Jeddak of Toonol, who it seemed had long been jealous of
his nephew's growing popularity and fearful that he harbored
aspirations for the throne.

It was later in the evening, during one of those elaborate meals for
which the princes of Barsoom are justly famous, when mellowed slightly
by the rare vintages with which he delighted his guests, that Mu Tel
discoursed with less restraint upon his imperial uncle.

"The nobles have long been tired of Vobis Kan," he said, "and the
people are tiring of him--he is a conscienceless tyrant--but he is
our hereditary ruler, and so they hesitate to change. We are a
practical people, little influenced by sentiment; yet there is enough
to keep the masses loyal to their Jeddak even after he has ceased to
deserve their loyalty, while the fear of the wrath of the masses keeps
the nobles loyal. There is also the natural suspicion that I, the next
in line for succession, would make them no less tyrannical a Jeddak
than has Vobis Kan, while, having youth, I might be much more active in
cruel and nefarious practices.

"For myself, I would not hesitate to destroy my uncle and seize his
throne were I sure of the support of the army, for with the warriors of
Vobis Kan at my back I might defy the balance of Toonol. It is because
of this that I long since offered my friendship to Gor Hajus; not that
he might slay my uncle, but that when I had slain him in fair fight Gor
Hajus might win to me the loyalty of the Jeddak's warriors, for great
is the popularity of Gor Hajus among the soldiers, who ever look up to
such a great fighter with reverence and devotion. I have offered Gor
Hajus a high place in the affairs of Toonol should he cast his lot with
me; but he tells me that he has first to fulfil his obligations to you,
Vad Varo, and for the furtherance of your adventure he has asked me to
give you what assistance I may. This I offer gladly, from purely
practical motives, since your early success will hasten mine. Therefore
I propose to place at your disposal a staunch flier that will carry you
and your companions to Phundahl."

This offer I naturally accepted, after which we fell to discussing
plans for our departure which we finally decided to attempt early the
following night, at a time when neither of the moons would be in the
heavens. After a brief discussion of equipment we were, at my request,
permitted to retire since I had not slept for more than thirty-six
hours and my companions for twenty-four.

Slaves conducted us to our sleeping apartments, which were luxuriously
furnished, and arranged magnificent sleeping silks and furs for our
comfort.

After they had left us Gor Hajus touched a button and the room rose
swiftly upon its metal shaft to a height of forty or fifty feet; the
wire netting automatically dropped about us, and we were safe for the
night.

The following morning, after our apartment had been lowered to its
daylight level and before I was permitted to leave it, a slave was sent
to me by Mu Tel with instructions to stain my entire body the beautiful
copper-red of my Barsoomian friends; furnishing me with a disguise
which I well knew to be highly essential to the success of my venture,
since my white skin would have drawn unpleasant notice upon me in any
city of Barsoom. Another slave brought harness and weapons for Gor
Hajus, Dar Tarus and myself, and a collar and chain for Hovan Du, the
ape-man. Our harness, while of heavy material, and splendid
workmanship, was quite plain, being free of all insignia either of rank
or service--such harness as is customarily worn by the Barsoomian
panthan, or soldier of fortune, at such times as he is not definitely
in the service of any nation or individual. These panthans are
virtually men without a country, being roving mercenaries ready to sell
their swords to the highest bidder. Although they have no organization
they are ruled by a severe code of ethics and while in the employ of a
master are, almost without exception, loyal to him. They are generally
supposed to be men who have flown from the wrath of their own Jeddaks
or the justice of their own courts, but there is among them a
sprinkling of adventurous souls who have adopted their calling because
of the thrills and excitement it offers. While they are well paid, they
are also great gamblers and notorious spenders, with the result that
they are almost always without funds and often reduced to strange
expedients for the gaining of their livelihood between engagements; a
fact which gave great plausibility to our possession of a trained ape,
which upon Mars would appear no more remarkable than would to us the
possession of a monkey or parrot by an old salt just returned, from a
long cruise, to one of our Earthly ports.

This day that I stayed in the palace of Mu Tel, I spent much in the
company of the prince, who found pleasure in questioning me concerning
the customs, the politics, the civilization and the geography of Earth,
with much of which, I was surprised to note, he seemed quite familiar;
a fact which he explained was due to the marvelous development of
Barsoomian astronomical instruments, wireless photography and wireless
telephony; the last of which has been brought to such a state of
perfection that many Barsoomian savants have succeeded in learning
several Earthly languages, notably Urdu, English and Russian, and, a
few, Chinese also. These have doubtless been the first languages to
attract their attention because of the fact that they are spoken by
great numbers of people over large areas of the world.

Mu Tel took me to a small auditorium in his palace that reminded me
somewhat of private projection rooms on Earth. It had, I should say, a
capacity of some two hundred persons and was built like a large camera
obscura; the audience sitting within the instrument, their backs
towards the lens and in front of them, filling one entire end of the
room, a large ground glass upon which is thrown the image to be
observed.

Mu Tel seated himself at a table upon which was a chart of the heavens.
Just above the chart was a movable arm carrying a pointer. This pointer
Mu Tel moved until it rested upon the planet Earth, then he switched
off the light in the room and immediately there appeared upon the
ground glass plate a view such as one might obtain from an airplane
riding at an elevation of a thousand feet.

There was something strangely familiar about the scene before me. It
was of a desolate, wasted country. I saw shattered stumps whose orderly
arrangement proclaimed that here once an orchard had blossomed and
borne fruit. There were great, unsightly holes in the earth and over
and across all a tangle of barbed wire. I asked Mu Tel how we might
change the picture to another locality. He lighted a small radio bulb
between us and I saw a globe there, a globe of Earth, and a small
pointer fixed over it.

"The side of this globe now presented to you represents the face of the
Earth turned towards us," explained Mu Tel. "You will note that the
globe is slowly revolving. Place this pointer where you will upon the
globe and that portion of Jasoom will be revealed for you."

I moved the pointer very slowly and the picture changed. A ruined
village came into view. I saw some people moving among its ruins. They
were not soldiers. A little further on I came upon trenches and
dug-outs--there were no soldiers here, either. I moved the pointer
rapidly north and south along a vast line of trenches. Here and there
in villages there were soldiers, but they were all French soldiers and
never were they in the trenches. There were no German soldiers and no
fighting. The war was over, then! I moved the pointer to the Rhine and
across. There were soldiers in Germany--French soldiers, English
soldiers, American soldiers. We had won the war! I was glad, but it
seemed very far away and quite unreal--as though no such world existed
and no such peoples had ever fought--it was as though I were recalling
through its illustrations a novel that I had read a long time since.

"You seem much interested in that war torn country," remarked Mu Tel.

"Yes," I explained, "I fought in that war. Perhaps I was killed. I do
not know."

"And you won?" he asked.

"Yes, my people won," I replied. "We fought for a great principle and
for the peace and happiness of a world. I hope that we did not fight in
vain."

"If you mean that you hope that your principle will triumph because you
fought and won, or that peace will come, your hopes are futile. War
never brought peace--it but brings more and greater wars. War is
Nature's natural state--it is folly to combat it. Peace should be
considered only as a time for preparation for the principal business of
man's existence. Were it not for constant warring of one form of life
upon another, and even upon itself, the planets would be so overrun
with life that it would smother itself out. We found upon Barsoom that
long periods of peace brought plagues and terrible diseases that killed
more than the wars killed and in a much more hideous and painful way.
There is neither pleasure nor thrill nor reward of any sort to be
gained by dying in bed of a loathsome disease. We must all die--let us
therefore go out and die in a great and exciting game, and make room
for the millions who are to follow us. We have tried it out upon
Barsoom and we would not be without war."

Mu Tel told me much that day about the peculiar philosophy of
Toonolians. They believe that no good deed was ever performed except
for a selfish motive; they have no god and no religion; they believe,
as do all educated Barsoomians, that man came originally from the Tree
of Life, but unlike most of their fellows they do not believe that an
omnipotent being created the Tree of Life. They hold that the only sin
is failure--success, however achieved, is meritorious; and yet,
paradoxical as it may seem, they never break their given word. Mu Tel
explained that they overcame the baneful results of this degrading
weakness--this sentimental bosh--by seldom, if ever, binding
themselves to loyalty to another, and then only for a definitely
prescribed period.

As I came to know them better, and especially Gor Hajus, I began to
realize that much of their flaunted contempt of the finer sensibilities
was specious. It is true that generations of inhibition had to some
extent atrophied those characteristics of heart and soul which the
noblest among us so highly esteem; that friendships ties were lax and
that blood kinship awakened no high sense of responsibility or love
even between parents and children; yet Gor Hajus was essentially a man
of sentiment, though he would doubtless have run through the heart any
who had dared accuse him of it, thus perfectly proving the truth of the
other's accusation. His pride in his reputation for integrity and
loyalty proved him a man of heart as truly as did his jealousy of his
reputation for heartlessness prove him a man of sentiment; and in all
this he was but typical of the people of Toonol. They denied deity, and
in the same breath worshipped the fetish of science that they had
permitted to obsess them quite as harmfully as do religious fanatics
accept the unreasoning rule of their imaginary gods; and so, with all
their vaunted knowledge, they were unintelligent because unbalanced.

As the day drew to a close I became the more anxious to be away. Far to
the west across desolate leagues of marsh lay Phundahl, and in Phundahl
the beauteous body of the girl I loved and that I was sworn to restore
to its rightful owner.

The evening meal was over and Mu Tel himself had conducted us to a
secret hangar in one of the towers of his palace. Here artisans had
prepared a flier for us, having removed during the day all signs of its
real ownership, even to slightly altering its lines; so that in the
event of capture Mu Tel's name might in no way be connected with the
expedition. Provisions were stored, including plenty of raw meat for
Hovan Du, and, as the farther moon sank below the horizon and darkness
fell, a panel of the tower wall, directly in front of the flier's nose,
slid aside. Mu Tel wished us luck and the ship slipped silently out
into the night. The flier, like many of her type, was without cockpit
or cabin; a low, metal hand-rail surmounted her gunwale; heavy rings
were set substantially in her deck and to these her crew was supposed
to cling or attach themselves by means of their harness hooks provided
for this and similar purposes; a low wind shield, with a rakish slant
afforded some protection from the wind; the motor and controls were all
exposed, as all the space below decks was taken up by the buoyancy
tanks. In this type everything is sacrificed to speed; there is no
comfort aboard. When moving at high speed each member of the crew lies
extended at full length upon the deck, each in his allotted place to
give the necessary trim, and hangs on for dear life. These Toonolian
crafts, however, are not overly fast, so I was told, being far
outstripped in speed by the fliers of such nations as Helium and Ptarth
who have for ages devoted themselves to the perfection of their navies;
but this one was quite fast enough for our purposes, to the
consummation of which it would be pitted against fliers of no higher
rating, and it was certainly fast enough for me. In comparison with the
slow-moving Vosar, it seemed to shoot through the air like an arrow.

We wasted no time in strategy or stealth, but opened her wide as soon
as we were in the clear, and directed her straight towards the west and
Phundahl. Scarcely had we passed over the gardens of Mu Tel when we met
with our first adventure.

We shot by a solitary figure floating in the air and almost
simultaneously there shrilled forth the warning whistle of an air
patrol. A shot whistled above us harmlessly and we were gone; but
within a few seconds I saw the rays of a searchlight shining down from
above and moving searchingly to and fro through the air.

"A patrol boat!" shouted Gor Hajus in my ear. Hovan Du growled savagely
and shook the chain upon his collar. We raced on, trusting to the big
gods and the little gods and all our ancestors that the relentless eye
of light would not find us out; but it did. Within a few seconds it
fell full upon our deck from above and in front of us and there it
clung as the patrol boat dropped rapidly towards us while it maintained
a high rate of speed upon a course otherwise identical with ours. Then,
to our consternation, the ship opened fire on us with explosive
bullets. These projectiles contain a high explosive that is detonated
by light rays when the opaque covering of the projectile is broken by
impact with the target. It is therefore not at all necessary to make a
direct hit for a shot to be effective. If the projectile strikes the
ground or the deck of a vessel or any solid substance near its target,
it does considerably more damage when fired at a group of men than if
it strikes but one of them, since it will then explode if its outer
shell is broken and kill or wound several; while if it enters the body
of an individual the light rays cannot reach it and it accomplishes no
more than a non-explosive bullet. Moonlight is not powerful enough to
detonate this explosive and so projectiles fired at night, unless
touched by the powerful rays of searchlights, detonate at sunrise the
following morning, making a battlefield a most unsafe place at that
time even though the contending forces are no longer there. Similarly
they make the removal of the unexploded projectiles from the bodies of
the wounded a most ticklish operation which may well result in the
instant death of both the patient and the surgeon.

Dar Tarus, at the controls, turned the nose of our flier upward
directly towards the patrol boat and at the same time shouted to us to
concentrate our fire upon her propellers. For myself, I could see
little but the blinding eye of the searchlight, and at that I fired
with the strange weapon to which I had received my first introduction
but a few hours since when it was presented to me by Mu Tel. To me that
all searching eye represented the greatest menace that confronted us,
and could we blind it the patrol boat would have no great advantage
over us. So I kept my rifle straight upon it my finger on the button
that controlled the fire, and prayed for a hit.

Gor Hajus knelt at my side, his weapon spitting bullets at the patrol
boat. Dar Tarus' hands were busy with the controls and Hovan Du
squatted in the bow and growled.

Suddenly Dar Tarus voiced an exclamation of alarm. "The controls are
hit!" he shouted. "We can't alter our course--the ship is useless."
Almost the same instant the searchlight was extinguished--one of my
bullets evidently having found it. We were quite close to the enemy now
and heard their shout of anger.

Our own craft, out of control, was running swiftly towards the other.
It seemed that if there was not a collision we would pass directly
beneath the keel of the air patrol. I asked Dar Tarus if our ship was
beyond repair.

"We could repair it if we had time," he replied, "but it would take
hours and while we were thus delayed the whole air patrol force of
Toonol would be upon us."

"Then we must have another ship," I said. Dar Tarus laughed. "You are
right, Vad Varo," he replied, "but where shall we find it?"

I pointed to the patrol boat. "We shall not have to look far."

Dar Tarus shrugged his shoulders. "Why not!" he exclaimed. "It would be
a glorious fight and a worthy death."

Gor Hajus slapped me on the shoulder. "To the death, my captain!" he
cried.

Hovan Du shook his chain and roared.

The two ships were rapidly approaching one another. We had stopped
firing now for fear that we might disable the craft we hoped to use for
our escape; and for some reason the crew of the patrol ship had ceased
firing at us--I never learned why. We were moving in a line that would
bring us directly beneath the other ship. I determined to board her at
all costs. I could see her keel boarding tackle slung beneath her,
ready to be lowered to the deck of a quarry when once her grappling
hooks had seized the prey. Doubtless they were already manning the
latter, and as soon as we were beneath her the steel tentacles would
reach down and seize us as her crew swarmed down the board tackle to
our deck.

I called Hovan Du and he crept back to my side where I whispered my
instructions in his ear. When I was done he nodded his head with a low
growl. I cast off the harness hook that held me to the deck, and the
ape and I moved to our bow after I had issued brief, whispered
instructions to Gor Hajus and Dar Tarus. We were now almost directly
beneath the enemy craft; I could see the grappling hooks being prepared
for lowering. Our bow ran beneath the stern of the other ship and the
moment was at hand for which I had been waiting. Now those upon the
deck of the patrol boat could not see Hovan Du or me. The boarding
tackle of the other ship swung fifteen feet above our heads; I
whispered a word of command to the ape and simultaneously we crouched
and sprang for the tackle. It may sound like a mad chance--failure
meant almost certain death--but I felt that if two of us could reach
the deck of the patrol boat while her crew was busy with the grappling
gear it would be well worth the risk.

Gor Hajus had assured me that there would not be more than six men
aboard the patrol ship; that one would be at the controls and the
others manning the grappling hooks. It would be a most propitious time
to gain a footing on the enemy's deck.

Hovan Du and I made our leaps and Fortune smiled upon us, though the
huge ape but barely reached the tackle with one outstretched hand,
while my Earthly muscles carried me easily to my goal. Together we made
our way rapidly towards the bow of the patrol craft and without
hesitation, and as previously arranged, he clambered quickly up the
starboard side and I the port. If I were the more agile jumper Hovan Du
far outclassed me in climbing, with the result that he reached the rail
and was clambering over while my eyes were still below the level of the
deck, which was, perhaps, a fortunate thing for me since, by chance, I
had elected to gain the deck directly at a point where, unknown to me,
one of the crew of the ship was engaged with the grappling hooks. Had
his eyes not been attracted elsewhere by the shout of one of his
fellows who was first to see Hovan Du's savage face rise above the
gunwale, he could have dispatched me with a single blow before ever I
could have set foot upon the deck The ape had also come up directly in
front of a Toonolian warrior and this fellow had let out a yell of
surprise and sought to draw his sword, but the ape, for all his great
bulk, was too quick for him; and as my eyes topped the rail I saw the
mighty anthropoid seize the unfortunate man by the harness, drag him to
the side and hurl him to destruction far below. Instantly we were both
over the rail and squarely on deck while the remaining members of the
craft's crew, abandoning their stations, ran forward to overpower us. I
think that the sight of the great, savage beast must have had a
demoralizing effect upon them, for they hesitated, each seeming to be
willing to accord his fellow the honour of first engaging us; but they
did come on, though slowly. This hesitation I was delighted to see, for
it accorded perfectly with the plan that I had worked out, which
depended largely upon the success which might attend the efforts of Gor
Hajus and Dar Tarus to reach the deck of the patrol when our craft had
risen sufficiently close beneath the other to permit them to reach the
boarding tackle, which we were utilizing with reverse English, as one
might say.

Gor Hajus had cautioned me to dispatch the man at the controls as
quickly as possible, since his very first act would be to injure them
the instant that there appeared any possibility that we might be
successful in our attempt to take his ship, and so I ran quickly
towards him and before he could draw I cut him down. There were now
four against us and we waited for them to advance that we might gain
time for our fellows to reach the deck.

The four moved slowly forward and were almost within striking distance
when I saw Gor Hajus' head appear above the stern rail, quickly
followed by that of Dar Tarus.

"Look!" I cried to the enemy, "and surrender," and I pointed astern.

One of them turned to look and what he saw brought an exclamation of
surprise to his lips. "It is Gor Hajus," he cried, and then, to me:
"What is your purpose with us if we surrender?"

"We have no quarrel with you," I replied. "We but wish to leave Toonol
and go our way in peace--we shall not harm you."

He turned to his fellows while, at a sign from me, my three companions
stopped their advance and waited. For a few minutes the four warriors
conversed in low tones, then he who had first spoken addressed me.

"There are few Toonolians," he said, "who would not be glad to serve
Gor Hajus, whom we had thought long dead, but to surrender our ship to
you would mean certain death for us when we reported our defeat at our
headquarters. On the other hand were we to continue our defence most of
us here upon the deck of this flier would be killed. If you can assure
us that your plans are not aimed at the safety of Toonol, I can make a
suggestion that will afford an avenue of escape and safety for us all."

"We only wish to leave Toonol," I replied. "No harm can come to Toonol
because of what I seek to accomplish."

"Good! and where do you wish to go?"

"That I may not tell you."

"You may trust us, if you accept my proposal," he assured me, "which is
that we convey you to your destination, after which we can return to
Toonol and report that we engaged you and that after a long running
fight, in which two of our number were killed, you eluded us in the
darkness and escaped."

"Can we trust these men?" I asked, addressing Gor Hajus, who assured me
that we could, and thus the compact was entered into which saw us
speeding rapidly towards Phundahl aboard one of Vobis Kan's own fliers.




PHUNDAHL



The following night the Toonolian crew set us down just inside the wall
of the city of Phundahl, following the directions of Dar Tarus who was
a native of the city, had been a warrior of the Jeddara's Guard and,
prior to that seen service in Phundahl's tiny navy. That he was
familiar with every detail of Phundahl's defences and her systems of
patrols was evidenced by the fact that we landed without detection and
that the Toonolian ship rose and departed apparently unnoticed.

Our landing place had been the roof of a low building built within and
against the city wall. From this roof Dar Tarus led us down an inclined
runway to the street, which, at this point, was quite deserted. The
street was narrow and dark, being flanked upon one side by the low
buildings built against the city wall and upon the other by higher
buildings, some of which were windowless and none showing any light.
Dar Tarus explained that he had chosen this point for our entrance
because it was a district of storage houses, and while a hive of
industry during the day, was always deserted at night, not even a
watchman being required owing to the almost total absence of thievery
upon Barsoom.

By devious and roundabout ways he led us finally to a section of
second-rate shops, eating places and hotels such as are frequented by
the common soldiers, artisans and slaves, where the only attention we
attracted was due to the curiosity aroused by Hovan Du. As we had not
eaten since leaving Mu Tel's palace, our first consideration was food.
Mu Tel had furnished Gor Hajus with money, so that we had the means to
gratify our wants. Our first stop was at a small shop where Gor Hajus
purchased four or five pounds of thoat steak for Hovan Du, and then we
repaired to an eating place of which Dar Tarus knew. At first the
proprietor would not let us bring Hovan Du inside, but finally, after
much argument, he permitted us to lock the great ape in an inner room
where Hovan Du was forced to remain with his thoat meat while we sat at
a table in the outer room.

I will say for Hovan Du that he played his role well, nor was there
once when the proprietor of the place, or any of his patrons, or the
considerable crowd that gathered to listen to the altercation, could
have guessed that the body of the great savage beast was animated by a
human brain. It was really only when feeding or fighting that the
simian half of Hovan Du's brain appeared to exercise any considerable
influence upon him; yet there seemed little doubt that it always
coloured all his thoughts and actions to some extent, accounting for
his habitual taciturnity and the quickness with which he was aroused to
anger, as well as to the fact that he never smiled, nor appeared to
appreciate in any degree the humor of a situation. He assured me,
however, that the human half of his brain not only appreciated but
greatly enjoyed the lighter episodes and occurrences of our adventure
and the witty stories and anecdotes related by Gor Hajus, the Assassin,
but that his simian anatomy had developed no muscles wherewith to
evidence physical expression of his mental reactions.

We dined heartily, though upon rough and simple fare, but were glad to
escape the prying curiosity of the garrulous and gossipy proprietor,
who plied us with so many questions as to our past performances and
future plans that Dar Tarus, who was our spokesman here, was hard put
to it to quickly fabricate replies that would be always consistent.
However, escape we did at last, and once again in the street, Dar Tarus
set out to lead us to a public lodging house of which he knew. As we
went we approached a great building of wondrous beauty in and out of
which constant streams of people were pouring, and when we were before
it Dar Tarus asked us to wait without as he must enter. When I asked
him why, he told me that this was a temple of Tur, the god worshipped
by the people of Phundahl.

"I have been away for a long time," he said, "and have had no
opportunity to do honor to my god. I shall not keep you waiting long.
Gor Hajus, will you loan me a few pieces of gold?"

In silence the Toonolian took a few pieces of money from one of his
pocket pouches and handed them to Dar Tarus, but I could see that it
was only with difficulty that he hid an expression of contempt, since
the Toonolians are atheists.

I asked Dar Tarus if I might accompany him into the temple, which
seemed to please him very much; and so we fell in with the stream
approaching the broad entrance. Dar Tarus gave me two of the gold
pieces that he had borrowed from Gor Hajus and told me to follow
directly behind him and do whatever I saw him doing.

Directly inside the main entrance, and spread entirely across it at
intervals that permitted space for the worshippers to pass between
them, was a line of priests, their entire bodies, including their heads
and faces, covered by a mantle of white cloth. In front of each was a
substantial stand upon which rested a cash drawer. As we approached one
of these we handed him a piece of gold which he immediately changed
into many pieces of lesser value, one of which we dropped into a box at
his side; whereupon he made several passes with his hands above our
heads, dipped one of his fingers into a bowl of dirty water which he
rubbed upon the ends of our noses, mumbled a few words which I could
not understand and turned to the next in line as we passed on into the
interior of the great temple. Never have I seen such a gorgeous display
of wealth and lavish ornamentation as confronted my eyes in this, the
first of the temples of Tur that it was my fortune to behold.

The enormous floor was unbroken by a single pillar and arranged upon it
at regular intervals were carven images resting upon gorgeous
pedestals. Some of these images were of men and some of women and many
of them were beautiful; and there were others of beasts and of strange,
grotesque creatures and many of these were hideous indeed. The first we
approached was that of a beautiful female figure; and about the
pedestal of this lay a number of men and women prone upon the floor
against which they bumped their heads seven times and then arose and
dropped a piece of money into a receptacle provided for that purpose,
moving on then to another figure. The next that Dar Tarus and I visited
was that of a man with a body of a silian, about the pedestal of which
was arranged a series of horizontal wooden bars in concentric circles.
The bars were about five feet from the floor and hanging from them by
their knees were a number of men and women, repeating monotonously,
over and over again, something that sounded to me like,
bibble-babble-blup.

Dar Tarus and I swung to the bars like the others and mumbled the
meaningless phrase for a minute or two, then we swung down, dropped a
coin into the box, and moved on. I asked Dar Tarus what the words were
that we had repeated and what they meant, but he said he did not know.
I asked him if anyone knew, but he appeared shocked and said that such
a question was sacrilegious and revealed a marked lack of faith. At the
next figure we visited the people were all upon their hands and knees
crawling madly in a circle about the pedestal. Seven times around they
crawled and then they arose and put some money in a dish and went their
ways. At another the people rolled about, saying, "Tur is Tur; Tur is
Tur; Tur is Tur," and dropping money in a golden bowl when they were done.

"What god was that?" I whispered to Dar Tarus when we had quit this
last figure, which had no head, but eyes, nose and mouth in the center
of its belly.

"There is but one god," replied Dar Tarus solemnly, "and he is Tur!"

"Was that Tur?" I inquired.

"Silence, man," whispered Dar Tarus. "They would tear you to pieces
were they to hear such heresy."

"Oh, I beg your pardon," I exclaimed. "I did not mean to offend. I see
now that that is merely one of your idols."

Dar Tarus clapped a hand over my mouth. "S-s-s-t!" he cautioned to
silence. "We do not worship idols--there is but one god and he is
Tur!" 

"Well, what are these?" I insisted, with a sweep of a hand that
embraced the several score images about which were gathered the
thousands of worshippers.

"We must not ask," he assured me. "It is enough that we have faith that
all the works of Tur are just and righteous. Come! I shall soon be
through and we may join our companions."

He led me next to the figure of a monstrosity with a mouth that ran
entirely around its head. It had a long tail and the breasts of a
woman. About this image were a great many people, each standing upon
his head. They also were repeating, over and over, "Tur is Tur; Tur is
Tur; Tur is Tur." When we had done this for a minute or two, during
which I had a devil of a time maintaining my equilibrium, we arose,
dropped a coin into the box by the pedestal and moved on.

"We may go now," said Dar Tarus. "I have done well in the sight of Tur."

"I notice," I remarked, "that the people repeated the same phrase
before this figure that they did at the last--Tur is Tur."

"Oh, no," exclaimed Dar Tarus. "On the contrary they said just exactly
the opposite from what they said at the other. At that they said, Tur
is Tur; while at this they absolutely reversed it and said, Tur is Tur.
Do you not see? They turned it right around backwards, which makes a
very great difference."

"It sounded the same to me," I insisted.

"That is because you lack faith," he said sadly, and we passed out of
the temple, after depositing the rest of our money in a huge chest, of
which there were many standing about almost filled with coins.

We found Gor Hajus and Hovan Du awaiting us impatiently, the center of
a large and curious throng among which were many warriors in the metal
of Xaxa, the Jeddara of Phundahl. They wanted to see Hovan Du perform,
but Dar Tarus told them that he was tired and in an ugly mood.

"To-morrow," he said, "when he is rested I shall bring him out upon the
avenues to amuse you."

With difficulty we extricated ourselves, and passing into a quieter
avenue, took a round-about way to the lodging place, where Hovan Du was
confined in a small chamber while Gor Hajus, Dar Tarus and I were
conducted by slaves to a large sleeping apartment where sleeping silks
and furs were arranged for us upon a low platform that encircled the
room and was broken only at the single entrance to the chamber. Here
were already sleeping a considerable number of men, while two armed
slaves patrolled the aisle to guard the guests from assassins.

It was still early and some of the other lodgers were conversing in low
whispers so I sought to engage Dar Tarus in conversation relative to
his religion, about which I was curious.

"The mysteries of religions always fascinate me, Dar Tarus," I told him.

"Ah, but that is the beauty of the religion of Tur," he exclaimed, "it
has no mysteries. It is simple, natural, scientific and every word and
work of it is susceptible of proof through the pages of Turgan, the
great book written by Tur himself.

"Tur's home is upon the sun. There, one hundred thousand years ago, he
made Barsoom and tossed it out into space. Then he amused himself by
creating man in various forms and two sexes; and later he fashioned
animals to be food for man and each other, and caused vegetation and
water to appear that man and the animals might live. Do you not see how
simple and scientific it all is?"

But it was Gor Hajus who told me most about the religion of Tur one day
when Dar Tarus was not about. He said that the Phundahlians maintained
that Tur still created every living thing with his own hands. They
denied vigorously that man possessed the power to reproduce his kind
and taught their young that all such belief was vile; and always they
hid every evidence of natural procreation, insisting to the death that
even those things which they witnessed with their own eyes and
experienced with their own bodies in the bringing forth of their young
never transpired.

Turgan taught them that Barsoom is flat and they shut their minds to
every proof to the contrary. They would not leave Phundahl far for fear
of falling off the edge of the world; they would not permit the
development of aeronautics because should one of their ships
circumnavigate Barsoom it would be a wicked sacrilege in the eyes of
Tur, who made Barsoom flat.

They would not permit the use of telescopes, for Tur taught them that
there was no other world than Barsoom and to look at another would be
heresy; nor would they permit the teaching in their schools of any
history of Barsoom that antedated the creation of Barsoom by Tur,
though Barsoom has a well authenticated written history that reaches
back more than one hundred thousand years; nor would they permit any
geography of Barsoom except that which appears in Turgan, nor any
scientific researches along biological lines. Turgan is their only text
book--if it is not in Turgan it is a wicked lie.

Much of all this and a great deal more I gathered from one source or
another during my brief stay in Phundahl, whose people are, I believe,
the least advanced in civilization of any of the red nations upon
Barsoom. Giving, as they do, all their best thought to religious
matters, they have become ignorant, bigoted and narrow, going as far to
one extreme as the Toonolians do to the other.

However, I had not come to Phundahl to investigate her culture but to
steal her queen, and that thought was uppermost in my mind when I awoke
to a new day--my first in Phundahl. Following the morning meal we set
out in the direction of the palace to reconnoitre, Dar Tarus leading us
to a point from which he might easily direct us the balance of the way,
as he did not dare accompany us to the immediate vicinity of the royal
grounds for fear of recognition, the body he now possessed having
formerly belonged to a well-known noble.

It was arranged that Gor Hajus should act as spokesman and I as keeper
of the ape. This arranged, we bade farewell to Dar Tarus and set forth,
the three of us, along a broad and beautiful avenue that led directly
to the palace gates. We had been planning and rehearsing the parts that
we were to play and which we hoped would prove so successful that they
would open the gates to us and win us to the presence of the Jeddara.

As we strolled with seeming unconcern along the avenue, I had ample
opportunity to enjoy the novel and beautiful sights of this rich
boulevard of palaces. The sun shone down upon vivid scarlet lawns,
gorgeous flowered pimalia and a score of other rarely beautiful
Barsoomian shrubs and trees, while the avenue itself was shaded by
almost perfect specimens of the magnificent sorapus. The sleeping
apartments of the buildings had all been lowered to their daytime
level, and from a hundred balconies gorgeous silks and furs were airing
in the sun. Slaves were briskly engaged with their duties about the
grounds, while upon many a balcony women and children sat at their
morning meal. Among the children we aroused considerable enthusiasm, or
at least Hovan Du did, nor was he without interest to the adults. Some
of them would have detained us for an exhibition, but we moved steadily
on towards the palace, for nowhere else had we business or concern
within the walls of Phundahl.

Around the palace gates was the usual crowd of loitering curiosity
seekers; for after all human nature is much the same everywhere,
whether skins be black or white, red or yellow or brown, upon Earth or
upon Mars. The crowd before Xaxa's gates were largely made up of
visitors from the islands of that part of the Great Toonolian Marshes
which owes allegiance to Phundahl's queen, and like all provincials
eager for a glimpse of royalty; though none the less to be interested
by the antics of a simian, wherefore we had a ready made audience
awaiting our arrival. Their natural fear of the great brute caused them
to fall back a little at our approach so that we had a clear avenue to
the very gates themselves, and there we halted while the crowds closed
in behind, forming a half circle about us. Gor Hajus addressed them in
a loud tone of voice that might be overheard by the warriors and their
officers beyond the gates, for it was really them we had come to
entertain, not the crowds in which we had not the slightest interest.

"Men and women of Phundahl," cried Gor Hajus, "behold two poor
panthans, who, risking their lives, have captured and trained one of
the most savage and ferocious and at the same time most intelligent
specimens of the great white ape of Barsoom ever before seen in
captivity and at great expense have brought it to Phundahl for your
entertainment and edification. My friends, this wonderful ape is
endowed with human intelligence; he understands every word that is
spoken to him. With your kind attention, my friends, I will endeavor to
demonstrate the remarkable intelligence of this ferocious, man-eating
beast--an intelligence that has entertained the crowned heads of
Barsoom and mystified the minds of her most learned savants."

I thought Gor Hajus did pretty well as a bally-hoo artist. I had to
smile as I listened, here upon Mars, to the familiar lines that I had
taught him out of my Earthly experience of county fairs and amusement
parks, so highly ludicrous they sounded falling from the lips of the
Assassin of Toonol; but they evidently interested his auditors and
impressed them, too, for they craned their necks and stood in earnest
eyed silence awaiting the performance of Hovan Du. Even better, several
members of the Jeddara's Guard pricked up their ears and sauntered
towards the gates; and among them was an officer.

Gor Hajus caused Hovan Du to lie down at word of command, to get up, to
stand upon one foot, and to indicate the number of fingers that Gor
Hajus held up by growling once for each finger, thus satisfying the
audience that he could count; but these simple things were only by way
of leading up to the more remarkable achievements which we hoped would
win an audience before the Jeddara. Gor Hajus borrowed a set of harness
and weapons from a man in the crowd and had Hovan Du don it and fence
with him, and then indeed did we hear exclamations of amazement.

The warriors and the officer of Xaxa had drawn near the gates and were
interested spectators, which was precisely what we wished, and now Gor
Hajus was ready for the final, astounding revelation of Hovan Du's
intelligence.

"These things that you have witnessed are as nothing," he cried. "Why
this wonderful beast can even read and write. He was captured in a
deserted city near Ptarth and can read and write the language of that
country. Is there among you one who, by chance, comes from that distant
country?"

A slave spoke up. "I am from Ptarth."

"Good!" said Gor Hajus. "Write some simple instructions and hand them
to the ape. I will turn my back that you may know that I cannot assist
him in any way."

The slave drew forth a tablet from a pocket pouch and wrote briefly.
What he wrote he handed to Hovan Du. The ape read the message and
without hesitation moved quickly to the gate and handed it to the
officer standing upon the other side, the gate being constructed of
wrought metal in fanciful designs that offered no obstruction to the
view or to the passage of small articles. The officer took the message
and examined it.

"What does it say?" he demanded of the slave that had penned it.

"It says," replied the latter: "Take this message to the officer who
stands just within the gates."

There were exclamations of surprise from all parts of the crowd and
Hovan Du was compelled to repeat his performance several times with
different messages which directed him to do various things, the officer
always taking a great interest in the proceedings.

"It is marvellous," said he at last "The Jeddara would be amused by the
performance of this beast. Wait here, therefore, until I have sent word
to her that she may, if she so desires, command your presence."

Nothing could have better suited us and so we waited with what patience
we might for the messenger to return; and while we waited Hovan Du
continued to mystify his audience with new proofs of his great
intelligence.




XAXA



The officer returned, the gates swung out and we were commanded to
enter the courtyard of the palace of Xaxa, Jeddara of Phundahl. After
that events transpired with great rapidity--surprising and totally
unexpected events. We were led through an intricate maze of corridors
and chambers until I became suspicious that we were purposely being
confused, and convinced that whether such was the intention or not the
fact remained that I could no more have retraced my steps to the outer
courtyard than I could have flown without wings.

We had planned that, in the event of gaining admission to the palace,
we would carefully note whatever might be essential to a speedy escape;
but when, in a whisper, I asked Gor Hajus if he could find his way out
again he assured me that he was as confused as I.

The palace was in no sense remarkable nor particularly interesting, the
work of the Phundahlian artists being heavy and oppressing and without
indication of high imaginative genius. The scenes depicted were mostly
of a religious nature illustrating passages from Turgan, the
Phundahlian bible, and, for the most part, were a series of monotonous
repetitions. There was one, which appeared again and again, depicting
Turgan creating a round, flat Mars and hurling it into Space, that
always reminded me of a culinary artist turning a flap jack in a
child's window.

There were also numerous paintings of what appeared to be court scenes
delineating members of the Phundahlian royal line in various
activities; it was noticeable that the more recent ones in which Xaxa
appeared had had the principal figure repainted so that there
confronted me from time to time portraits, none too well done, of the
beautiful face and figure of Valla Dia in the royal trappings of a
Jeddara. The effect of these upon me is not easy of description. They
brought home to me the fact that I was approaching, and should
presently be face to face with, the person of the woman to whom I had
consecrated my love and my life, and yet in that same person I should
be confronting one whom I loathed and would destroy.

We were halted at last before a great door and from the number of
warriors and nobles congregated before it I was confident that we were
soon to be ushered into the presence of the Jeddara. As we waited those
assembled about us eyed us with, it seemed to me, more of hostility
than curiosity and when the door swung open they accompanied us, with
the exception of a few warriors, into the chamber beyond. The room was
of medium size and at the farther side, behind a massive table, sat
Xaxa. About her were grouped a number of heavily armed nobles. As I
looked them over I wondered if among them was he for whom the body of
Dar Tarus had been filched; for we had promised him that if conditions
were favorable we would attempt to recover it.

Xaxa eyed us coldly as we were halted before her. "Let us see the beast
perform," she commanded, and then suddenly: "What mean you by
permitting strangers to enter my presence bearing arms?" she cried.
"Sag Or, see that their weapons are removed!" and she turned to a
handsome young warrior standing near her.

Sag Or! That was the name. Before me stood the noble for whom Dar Tarus
had suffered the loss of his liberty, his body and his love. Gor Hajus
had also recognized the name and Hovan Du, too; I could tell by the way
they eyed the man as he advanced. Curtly he instructed us to hand our
weapons to two warriors who advanced to receive them. Gor Hajus
hesitated. I admit that I did not know what course to pursue.

Everyone seemed hostile and yet that might be, and doubtless was, but a
reflection of their attitude towards all strangers. If we refused to
disarm we were but three against a roomful, if they chose to resort
to force; or if they turned us out of the palace because of it we would
be robbed of this seemingly god given opportunity to win to the very
heart of Xaxa's palace and to her very presence, where we must
eventually win before we could strike. Would such an opportunity ever
be freely offered us again? I doubted it and felt that we had better
assume a vague risk now than, by refusing their demand, definitely arm
their suspicions. So I quietly removed my weapons and handed them to
the warrior waiting to receive them; and following my example, Gor
Hajus did likewise, though I can imagine with what poor grace.

Once again Xaxa signified that she would see Hovan Du perform. As Gor
Hajus put him through his antics she watched listlessly; nor did
anything that the ape did arouse the slightest flicker of interest
among the entire group assembled about the Jeddara. As the thing
dragged on I became obsessed with apprehensions that all was not right.
It seemed to me that an effort was being made to detain us for some
purpose--to gain time. I could not understand, for instance, why Xaxa
required that we repeat several times the least interesting of the
ape's performances. And all the time Xaxa sat playing with a long, slim
dagger, and I saw that she watched me quite as much as she watched
Hovan Du, while I found it difficult to keep my eyes averted from that
perfect face, even though I knew that it was but a stolen mask behind
which lurked the cruel mind of a tyrant and a murderess.

At last came an interruption to the performance. The door opened and a
noble entered, who went directly to the Jeddara whom he addressed
briefly and in a low tone. I saw that she asked him several questions
and that she seemed vexed by his replies. Then she dismissed him with a
curt gesture and turned towards us.

"Enough of this!" she cried. Her eyes rested upon mine and she pointed
her slim dagger at me. "Where is the other?" she demanded.

"What other?" I inquired.

"There were three of you, besides the ape. I know nothing about the
ape, nor where, nor how you acquired it; but I do know all about you,
Vad Varo, and Gor Hajus, the Assassin of Toonol, and Dar Tarus. Where
is Dar Tarus?" her voice was low and musical and entirely beautiful--
the voice of Valla Dia--but behind it I knew was the terrible
personality of Xaxa, and I knew too that it would be hard to deceive
her, for she must have received what information she had directly from
Ras Thavas. It had been stupid of me not to foresee that Ras Thavas
would immediately guess the purpose of my mission and warn Xaxa. I
perceived instantly that it would be worse than useless to deny our
identity, rather I must explain our presence--if I could.

"Where is Dar Tarus?" she repeated.

"How should I know?" I countered. "Dar Tarus has reasons to believe
that he would not be safe in Phundahl and I imagine that he is not
anxious that anyone should know his whereabouts--myself included. He
helped me to escape from the Island of Thavas, for which his liberty
was to be his reward. He has not chosen to accompany me further upon my
adventures."

Xaxa seemed momentarily disarmed that I did not deny my identity--
evidently she had supposed that I would do so.

"You admit then," she said, "that you are Vad Varo, the assistant of
Ras Thavas?"

"Have I ever sought to deny it?"

"You have disguised yourself as a red-man of Barsoom."

"How could I travel in Barsoom otherwise, where every man's hand is
against a stranger?"

"And why would you travel in Barsoom?" Her eyes narrowed as she waited
for my reply.

"As Ras Thavas has doubtless sent you word, I am from another world and
I would see more of this one," I told her. "Is that strange?"

"And you come to Phundahl and seek to gain entrance to my presence and
bring with you the notorious Assassin of Toonol that you may see more
of Barsoom?"

"Gor Hajus may not return to Toonol," I explained, "and so he must seek
service for his sword at some other court than that of Vobis Kan--in
Phundahl perhaps, or if not here he must move on. I hope that he will
decide to accompany me as I am a stranger in Barsoom, unaccustomed to
the manners and ways of her people. I would fare ill without a guide
and mentor."

"You shall fare ill," she cried. "You have seen all of Barsoom that you
are destined to see--you have reached the end of your adventure. You
think to deceive me, eh? You do not know, perhaps, that I have heard of
your infatuation for Valla Dia or that I am fully conversant with the
purpose of your visit to Phundahl." Her eyes left me and swept her
nobles and her warriors. "To the pits with them!" she cried. "Later we
shall choose the manner of their passing."

Instantly we were surrounded by a score of naked blades. There was no
escape for Gor Hajus or me, but I thought that I saw an opportunity for
Hovan Du to get away. I had had the possibility of such a contingency
in mind from the first and always I had been on the look-out for an
avenue of escape for one of us, and so the open windows at the right of
the Jeddara had not gone unnoticed, nor the great trees growing in the
courtyard beneath. Hovan Du was close beside me as Xaxa spoke.

"Go!" I whispered. "The windows are open. Go, and tell Dar Tarus what
has happened to us," and then I fell back away from him and dragged Gor
Hajus with me as though we would attempt to resist arrest; and while I
thus distracted their attention from him Hovan Du turned towards an
open window. He had taken but a few steps when a warrior attempted to
halt him; with that the ferocious brain of the anthropoid seemed to
seize dominion over the great creature. With a hideous growl he leaped
with the agility of a cat upon the unfortunate Phundahlian, swung him
high in giant hands and using his body as a flail tumbled his fellows
to right and left as he cut a swath towards the open window nearest
him.

Instantly pandemonium reigned in the apartment. The attention of all
seemed centered upon the great ape and even those who had been
confronting us turned to attack Hovan Du. And in the midst of the
confusion I saw Xaxa step to some heavy hangings directly behind her
desk, part them and disappear.

"Come!" I whispered to Gor Hajus. Apparently intent only upon watching
the conflict between the ape and the warriors I moved forward with the
fighters but always to the left towards the desk that Xaxa had just
quitted. Hovan Du was giving a good account of himself. He had
discarded his first victim and one by one had seized others as they
came within range of his long arms and powerful hands, sometimes four
at a time as he stood well braced upon two of his hand-like feet and
fought with the other four. His shock of bristling hair stood erect
upon his skull and his fierce eyes blazed with rage as, towering high
above his antagonists, he fought for his life--the most feared of all
the savage creatures of Barsoom. Perhaps his greatest advantage lay in
the inherent fear of him that was a part of every man in that room who
faced him, and it forwarded my quickly conceived plan, too, for it kept
every eye turned upon Hovan Du, so that Gor Hajus and I were able to
work our way to the rear of the desk. I think Hovan Du must have sensed
my intention then, for he did the one thing best suited to attract
every eye from us to him and, too, he gave me notice that the human
half of his brain was still alert and watchful of our welfare.

Heretofore the Phundahlians must have looked upon him as a remarkable
specimen of great ape, marvelously trained, but now, of a sudden, he
paralyzed them with awe, for his roars and growls took the form of
words and he spoke with the tongue of a human. He was near the window
now. Several of the nobles were pushing bravely forward. Among them was
Sag Or. Hovan Du reached forth and seized him, wrenching his weapons
from him. "I go," he cried, "but let harm befall my friends and I shall
return and tear the heart from Xaxa. Tell her that, from the Great Ape
of Ptarth."

For an instant the, warriors and the nobles stood transfixed with awe.
Every eye was upon Hovan Du as he stood there with the struggling
figure of Sag Or in his mighty grasp. Gor Hajus and I were forgotten.
And then Hovan Du turned and leaped to the sill of the window and from
there lightly to the branches of the nearest tree; and with him went
Sag Or, the favorite of Xaxa, the Jeddara. At the same instant I drew
Gor Hajus with me between the hangings in the rear of Xaxa's desk, and
as they fell behind us we found ourselves in the narrow mouth of a dark
corridor.

Without knowledge of where the passage led we could only follow it
blindly, urged on by the necessity for discovering a hiding place or an
avenue of escape from the palace before the pursuit which we knew would
be immediately instituted, overtook us. As our eyes became accustomed
to the gloom, which was partially dispelled by a faint luminosity, we
moved more rapidly and presently came to a narrow spiral runway which
descended into a dark hole below the level of the corridor and also
arose into equal darkness above.

"Which way?" I asked Gor Hajus.

"They will expect us to descend," he replied, "for in that direction
lies the nearest avenue of escape."

"Then we will go up."

"Good!" he exclaimed. "All we seek now is a place to hide until night
has fallen, for we may not escape by day."

We had scarcely started to ascend before we heard the first sound of
pursuit--the clank of accoutrements in the corridor beneath. Yet, even
with this urge from behind, we were forced to move with great caution,
for we knew not what lay before. At the next level there was a doorway,
the door closed and locked, but there was no corridor, nor anywhere to
hide, and so we continued on upward. The second level was identical
with that just beneath, but at the third a single corridor ran straight
off into darkness and at our right was a door, ajar. The sounds of
pursuit were appreciably nearer now and the necessity for concealment
seemed increasing as the square of their growing proportions until
every other consideration was overwhelmed by it. Nor is this so strange
when the purpose of my adventure is considered and that discovery now
must assuredly spell defeat and blast for ever the slender ray of hope
that remained for the resurrection of Valla Dia in her own flesh.

There was scarce a moment for consideration. The corridor before us was
shrouded in darkness--it might be naught but a blind alley. The door
was close and ajar.

I pushed it gently inward. An odor of heavy incense greeted our
nostrils and through the small aperture we saw a portion of a large
chamber garishly decorated. Directly before us, and almost wholly
obstructing our view of the entire chamber, stood a colossal statue of
a squatting man-like figure. Behind us we heard voices--our pursuers
already were ascending the spiral--they would be upon us in a few
seconds. I examined the door and discovered that it fastened with a
spring lock. I looked again into the chamber and saw no one within the
range of our vision, and then I motioned Gor Hajus to follow me and
stepping into the room closed the door behind us. We had burned our
bridges. As the door closed the lock engaged with a sharp, metallic
click.

"What was that?" demanded a voice, originating, seemingly, at the far
end of the chamber.

Gor Hajus looked at me and shrugged his shoulders in resignation (he
must have been thinking what I was thinking--that with two avenues we
had chosen the wrong one) but he smiled and there was no reproach in
his eyes.

"It sounded from the direction of the Great Tur," replied a second
voice.

"Perhaps someone is at the door," suggested the first speaker.

Gor Hajus and I were flattened against the back of the statue that we
might postpone as long as possible our inevitable discovery should the
speakers decide to investigate the origin of the noise that had
attracted their suspicions. I was facing against the polished stone of
the figure's back, my hands outspread upon it. Beneath my fingers were
the carven bits of its ornamental harness--jutting protuberances that
were costly gems set in these trappings of stone, and there were
gorgeous inlays of gold filagree; but these things I had no eyes for
now. We could hear the two conversing as they came nearer. Perhaps I
was nervous, I do not know. I am sure I never shrank from an encounter
when either duty or expediency called; but in this instance both
demanded that we avoid conflict and remain undiscovered. However that
may be, my fingers must have been moving nervously over the jeweled
harness of the figure when I became vaguely, perhaps subconsciously,
aware that one of the gems was loose in its setting. I do not recall
that this made any impression upon my conscious mind, but I do know
that it seemed to catch the attention of my wandering fingers and they
must have paused to play with the loosened stone.

The voices seemed quite close now--it could be but a matter of seconds
before we should be confronted by their owners. My muscles seemed to
tense for the anticipated encounter and unconsciously I pressed heavily
upon the loosened setting--whereat a portion of the figure's back gave
noiselessly inward revealing to us the dimly lighted interior of the
statue. We needed no further invitation; simultaneously we stepped
across the threshold and in almost the same movement I turned and
closed the panel gently behind us. I think that there was absolutely no
sound connected with the entire transaction; and following it we
remained in utter silence, motionless--scarce breathing. Our eyes
became quickly accustomed to the dim interior which we discovered was
lighted through numerous small orifices in the shell of the statue,
which was entirely hollow, and through these same orifices every
outside sound came clearly to our ears.

We had scarcely closed the opening when we heard the voices directly
outside it and simultaneously there came a hammering on the door by
which we had entered the apartment from the corridor. "Who seeks
entrance to Xaxa's Temple?" demanded one of the voices within the room.

"'Tis I, dwar of the Jeddara's Guard," boomed a voice from without. "We
are seeking two who came to assassinate Xaxa."

"Came they this way?"

"Think you, priest, that I should be seeking them here had they not?"

"How long since?"

"Scarce twenty tals since," replied the dwar.

"Then they are not here," the priest assured him, "for we have been
here for a full zode* and no other has entered the temple during that
time. Look quickly to Xaxa's apartments above and to the roof and the
hangars, for if you followed them up the spiral there is no other where
they might flee."

*A tal is about one second, and a zode approximately two and one-half
hours, Earth time.

"Watch then the temple carefully until I return," shouted the warrior
and we heard him and his men moving on up the spiral.

Now we heard the priests conversing as they moved slowly past the
statue.

"What could have caused the noise that first attracted our attention?"
asked one.

"Perhaps the fugitives tried the door," suggested the other.

"It must have been that, but they did not enter or we should have seen
them when they emerged from behind the Great Tur, for we were facing
him at the time, nor have once turned our eyes from this end of the
temple."

"Then at least they are not within the temple."

"And where else they may be is no concern of ours."

"No, nor if they reached Xaxa's apartment, if they did not pass through
the temple."

"Perhaps they did reach it."

"And they were assassins!" 

"Worse things might befall Phundahl."

"Hush! the gods have ears."

"Of stone."

"But the ears of Xaxa are not of stone and they hear many things that
are not intended for them."

"The old she-banth!" "She is Jeddara and High Priestess."

"Yes, but--" the voices passed beyond the range of our ears at the far
end of the temple, yet they had told me much--that Xaxa was feared and
hated by the priesthood and that the priests themselves had none too
much reverence for their deity as evidenced by the remark of one that
the gods have ears of stone. And they had told us other things,
important things, when they conversed with the dwar of the Jeddara's
Guard.

Gor Hajus and I now felt that we had fallen by chance upon a most ideal
place of concealment, for the very guardians of the temple would swear
that we were not, could not be, where we were. Already had they thrown
the pursuers off our track.

Now, for the first time, we had an opportunity to examine our hiding
place. The interior of the statue was hollow and far above us, perhaps
forty feet, we could see the outside light shining through the mouth,
ears and nostrils, just below which a circular platform could be
discerned running around the inside of the neck. A ladder with flat
rungs led upward from the base to the platform. Thick dust covered the
floor on which we stood, and the extremity of our position suggested a
careful examination of this dust, with the result that I was at once
impressed by the evidence that it revealed; which indicated that we
were the first to enter the statue for a long time, possibly for years,
as the fine coating of almost impalpable dust that covered the floor
was undisturbed. As I searched for this evidence my eyes fell upon
something lying huddled close to the base of the ladder and approaching
nearer I saw that it was a human skeleton, while a closer examination
revealed that the skull was crushed and one arm and several ribs
broken. About it lay, dust covered, the most gorgeous trappings I had
ever seen. Its position at the foot of the ladder, as well as the
crushed skull and broken bones, appeared quite conclusive evidence of
the manner in which death had come--the man had fallen head foremost
from the circular platform forty feet above, carrying with him to
eternity, doubtless, the secret of the entrance to the interior of the
Great Tur.

I suggested this to Gor Hajus who was examining the dead man's
trappings and he agreed with me that such must have been the manner of
his death.

"He was a high priest of Tur," whispered Gor Hajus, "and probably a
member of the royal house--possibly a Jeddak. He has been dead a long
time."

"I am going up above," I said. "I will test the ladder. If it is safe,
follow me up. I think we shall be able to see the interior of the
temple through the mouth of Tur."

"Go carefully," Gor Hajus admonished. "The ladder is very old."

I went carefully, testing each rung before I trusted my weight to it,
but I found the old sorapus wood of which it was constructed sound and
as staunch as steel. How the high priest came to his death must always
remain a mystery, for the ladder or the circular platform would have
carried the weight of a hundred red-men.

From the platform I could see through the mouth of Tur. Below me was a
large chamber along the sides of which were ranged other, though
lesser, idols. They were even more grotesque than those I had seen in
the temple in the city and their trappings were rich beyond the
conception of man--Earthman--for the gems of Barsoom scintillate with
rays unknown to us and of such gorgeous and blinding beauty as to
transcend description. Directly in front of the Great Tur was an altar
of palthon, a rare and beautiful stone, blood red, in which are traced
in purest white Nature's most fanciful designs; the whole vastly
enhanced by the wondrous polish which the stone takes beneath the hand
of the craftsman.

Gor Hajus joined me and together we examined the interior of the
temple. Tall windows lined two sides, letting in a flood of light. At
the far end, opposite the Great Tur, were two enormous doors, closing
the main entrance to the chamber, and here stood the two priests whom
we had heard conversing. Otherwise the temple was deserted. Incense
burned upon tiny altars before each of the minor idols, but whether any
burned before the Great Tur we could not see.

Having satisfied our curiosity relative to the temple, we returned our
attention to a further examination of the interior of Tur's huge head
and were rewarded by the discovery of another ladder leading upward
against the rear wall to a higher and smaller platform that evidently
led to the eyes. It did not take me long to investigate and here I
found a most comfortable chair set before a control that operated the
eyes, so that they could be made to turn from side to side, or up or
down, according to the whim of the operator; and here too was a
speaking-tube leading to the mouth. This again I must needs investigate
and so I returned to the lower platform and there I discovered a device
beneath the tongue of the idol, and this device, which was in the
nature of an amplifier, was connected with the speaking-tube from
above. I could not repress a smile as I considered these silent
witnesses to the perfidy of man and thought of the broken thing lying
at the foot of the ladder. Tur, I could have sworn, had been silent for
many years.

Together Gor Hajus and I returned to the higher platform and again I
made a discovery--the eyes of Tur were veritable periscopes. By
turning them we could see any portion of the temple and what we saw
through the eyes was magnified.

Nothing could escape the eyes of Tur and presently, when the priests
began to talk again, we discovered that nothing could escape Tur's
ears, for every slightest sound in the temple came clearly to us. What
a valuable adjunct to high priesthood this Great Tur must have been in
the days when that broken skeleton lying below us was a thing of blood
and life!




THE GREAT TUR



The day dragged wearily for Gor Hajus and me. We watched the various
priests who came in pairs at intervals to relieve those who had
preceded them, and we listened to their prattle, mostly idle gossip of
court scandals. At times they spoke of us and we learned that Hovan Du
had escaped with Sag Or, nor had they been located as yet, nor had Dar
Tarus. The whole court was mystified by our seemingly miraculous
disappearance. Three thousand people, the inmates and attaches of the
palace, were constantly upon the look-out for us. Every part of the
palace and the palace grounds had been searched and searched again. The
pits had been explored more thoroughly than they had been explored
within the memory of the oldest retainer, and it seemed that queer
things had been unearthed there--things of which not even Xaxa
dreamed, and the priests whispered that at least one great and powerful
house would fall because of what a dwar of the Jeddak's Guard had
discovered in a remote precinct of the pits.

As the sun dropped below the horizon and darkness came, the interior of
the temple was illuminated by a soft white light, brilliantly but
without the glare of Earthly artificial illumination. More priests came
and many young girls, priestesses. They performed before the idols,
chanting meaningless gibberish.

Gradually the chamber filled with worshippers, nobles of the Jeddara's
court with their women and their retainers, forming in two lines along
either side of the temple before the lesser idols, leaving a wide aisle
from the great entrance to the foot of the Great Tur and towards this
aisle they all faced, waiting. For what were they waiting? Their eyes
were turned expectantly towards the closed doors of the great entrance
and Gor Hajus and I felt our eyes held there too, fascinated by the
suggestion that they were about to open and reveal some stupendous
spectacle.

And presently the doors did swing slowly open and all we saw was what
appeared to be a great roll of carpet lying upon its side across the
opening. Twenty slaves, naked but for their scant leather harness,
stood behind the huge roll; and as the doors swung fully open they
rolled the carpet inward to the very feet of the altar before the Great
Tur, covering the wide aisle from the entranceway almost to the idol
with a thick, soft rug of gold and white and blue. It was the most
beautiful thing in the temple where all else was blatant, loud and
garish or hideous, or grotesque. And then the doors closed and again we
waited; but not for long. Bugles sounded from without, the sound
increasing as they neared the entrance. Once more the doors swung in.
Across the entrance stood a double rank of gorgeously trapped nobles.
Slowly they entered the temple and behind them came a splendid chariot
drawn by two banths, the fierce Barsoomian lion, held in leash by
slaves on either side. Upon the chariot was a litter and in the litter,
reclining at ease, lay Xaxa. As she entered the temple the people
commenced to chant her praises in a monotonous sing-song. Chained to
the chariot and following on foot was a red warrior and behind him a
procession composed of fifty young men and an equal number of young
girls.

Gor Hajus touched my arm. "The prisoner," he whispered, "do you
recognize him?"

"Dar Tarus!" I exclaimed.

It was Dar Tarus--they had discovered his hiding place and arrested
him, but what of Hovan Du? Had they taken him, also? If they had it
must have been only after slaying him, for they never would have sought
to capture the fierce beast, nor would he have brooked capture. I
looked for Sag Or, but he was nowhere to be seen within the temple and
this fact gave me hope that Hovan Du might be still at liberty.

The chariot was halted before the altar and Xaxa alighted; the lock
that held Dar Tarus' chain to the vehicle was opened and the banths
were led away by their attendants to one side of the temple behind the
lesser idols. Then Dar Tarus was dragged roughly to the altar and
thrown upon it and Xaxa, mounting the steps at its base, came close to
his side and with hands outstretched above him looked up at the Great
Tur towering above her. How beautiful she was! How richly trapped! Ah,
Valla Dia! that your sweet form should be debased to the cruel purposes
of the wicked mind that now animates you!

Xaxa's eyes now rested upon the face of the Great Tur. "O, Tur, Father
of Barsoom," she cried, "behold the offering we place before you,
All-seeing, All-knowing, All-powerful One, and frown no more upon us in
silence. For a hundred years you have not deigned to speak aloud to
your faithful slaves; never since Hora San, the high priest, was taken
away by you on that long-gone night of mystery have you unsealed your
lips to your people. Speak, Great Tur! Give us some sign, ere we plunge
this dagger into the heart of our offering, that our works are pleasing
in thine eyes. Tell us whither went the two who came here to-day to
assassinate your high priestess; reveal to us the fate of Sag Or.
Speak Great Tur, ere I strike," and she raised her slim blade above the
heart of Dar Tarus and looked straight upward into the eyes of Tur.

And then, as a bolt from the blue, I was struck by the great
inspiration. My hand sought the lever controlling the eyes of Tur and I
turned them until they completed a full circuit of the room and rested
again upon Xaxa. The effect was magical. Never before had I seen a
whole roomful of people so absolutely stunned and awestruck as were
these. As the eyes returned to Xaxa she seemed turned to stone and her
copper skin to have taken on an ashen purple hue. Her dagger remained
stiffly poised above the heart of Dar Tarus. Not for a hundred years
had they seen the eyes of the Great Tur move. Then I placed the
speaking-tube to my lips and the voice of Tur rumbled through the
chamber. As from one great throat a gasp arose from the crowded temple
floor and the people fell upon their knees and buried their faces in
their hands.

"Judgment is mine!" I cried. "Strike not lest ye be struck! To Tur is
the sacrifice!" I was silent then, attempting to plan how best to
utilize the advantage I had gained. Fearfully, one by one, the bowed
heads were raised and frightened eyes sought the face of Tur. I gave
them another thrill by letting the god's eyes wander slowly over the
upturned faces, and while I was doing this I had another inspiration,
which I imparted to Gor Hajus in a low whisper. I could hear him
chuckle as he started down the ladder to carry my new plan into effect.
Again I had recourse to the speaking-tube.

"The sacrifice is Tur's," I rumbled. "Tur will strike with his own
hand. Extinguish the lights and let no one move under pain of instant
death until Tur gives the word. Prostrate yourselves and bury your eyes in
your palms, for whosoever sees shall be blinded when the spirit of Tur
walks among his people."

Down they went again and one of the priests hurriedly extinguished the
lights, leaving the temple in total darkness; and while Gor Hajus was
engaged with his part of the performance I tried to cover any
accidental noise he might make by keeping up a running fire of
celestial revelation.

"Xaxa, the high priestess, asks what has become of the two whom she
believed came to assassinate her. I, Tur took them to myself. Vengeance
is Tur's! And Sag Or I took, also. In the guise of a great ape I came
and took Sag Or and none knew me; though even a fool might have
guessed, for who is there ever heard a great ape speak with tongue of
man unless he was animated by the spirit of Tur?"

I guess that convinced them, it being just the sort of logic suited to
their religion, or it would have convinced them if they had not already
been convinced. I wondered what might be passing in the mind of the
doubting priest who had remarked that the gods had ears of stone.

Presently I heard a noise upon the ladder beneath me and a moment later
someone climbed upon the circular landing.

"All's well," whispered the voice of Gor Hajus. "Dar Tarus is with me."

"Light the temple!" I commanded through the speaking-tube. "Rise and
look upon your altar."

The lights flashed on and the people rose, trembling, to their feet.
Every eye was bent upon the altar and what they saw there seemed to
crush them with terror. Some of the women screamed and fainted. It all
impressed me with the belief that none of them had taken this god of
theirs with any great amount of seriousness, and now when they were
confronted with absolute proof of his miraculous powers they were swept
completely off their feet. Where, a few moments before, they had seen a
live sacrifice awaiting the knife of the high priestess they saw now
only a dust-covered human skull. I grant you that without an
explanation it might have seemed a miracle to almost anyone so quickly
had Gor Hajus run from the base of the idol with the skull of the dead
high priest and returned again leading Dar Tarus with him. I had been a
bit concerned as to what the attitude of Dar Tarus might be, who was no
more conversant with the hoax than were the Phundahlians, but Gor Hajus
had whispered "For Valla Dia" in his ear and he had understood and come
quickly.

"The Great Tur," I now announced, "is angry with his people. For a long
time they had denied him in their hearts even while they made open
worship of him. The Great Tur is angry with Xaxa. Only through Xaxa may
the people of Phundahl be saved from destruction, for the Great Tur is
angry. Go then from the temple and the palace leaving no human being here
other than Xaxa, the high priestess of Tur. Leave her here in solitude
beside the altar. Tur would speak with her alone."

I could see Xaxa fairly shrivel in fright.

"Is the Jeddara Xaxa, High Priestess of the Great God Tur, afraid to
meet her master?" I demanded. The woman's jaw trembled so that she
could not reply.

"Obey! or Xaxa and all her people shall be struck dead!" I fairly
screamed at them.

Like cattle they turned and fled towards the entrance and Xaxa, her
knees shaking so that she could scarce stand erect, staggered after
them. A noble saw her and pushed her roughly back, but she shrieked and
ran after him when he had left her. Then others dragged her to the foot
of the altar and threw her roughly down and one menaced her with his
sword, but at that I called aloud that no harm must befall the Jeddara
if they did not wish the wrath of Tur to fall upon them all. They left
her lying there and so weak from fright was she that she could not
rise, and a moment later the temple was empty, but not until I had
shouted after them to clear the whole palace within a quarter zode, for
my plan required a free and unobstructed as well as unobserved field of
action.

The last of them was scarce out of sight ere we three descended from
the head of Tur and stepped out upon the temple floor behind the idol.
Quickly I ran towards the altar, upon the other side of which Xaxa had
dropped to the floor in a swoon. She still lay there and I gathered her
into my arms and ran quickly back to the door in the wall behind the
idol--the doorway through which Gor Hajus and I had entered the temple
earlier in the day.

Preceded by Gor Hajus and followed by Dar Tarus, I ascended the runway
towards the roof where the conversation of the priests had informed us
were located the royal hangars. Had Hovan Du and Sag Or been with us my
cup of happiness would have been full, for within half a day, what had
seemed utter failure and defeat had been turned almost to assured
success. At the landing where lay Xaxa's apartments we halted and
looked within, for the long night voyage I contemplated would be cold
and the body of Valla Dia must be kept warm with suitable robes even
though it was inhabited by the spirit of Xaxa. Seeing no one we entered
and soon found what we required. As I was adjusting a heavy robe of
orluk about the Jeddara she regained consciousness. Instantly she
recognized me and then Gor Hajus and finally Dar Tarus. Mechanically
she felt for her dagger, but it was not there and when she saw my smile
she paled with anger. At first she must have jumped to the conclusion
that she had been the victim of a hoax, but presently a doubt seemed to
enter her mind--she must have been recalling some of the things that
had transpired within the temple of the Great Tur, and these, neither
she nor any other mortal might explain.

"Who are you?" she demanded.

"I am Tur," I replied, brazenly.

"What is your purpose with me?"

"I am going to take you away from Phundahl," I replied.

"But I do not wish to go. You are not Tur. You are Vad Varo. I shall
call for help and my guards will come and slay you."

"There is no one in the palace," I reminded her. "Did I, Tur, not send
them away?' "I shall not go with you," she announced firmly. "Rather
would I die."

"You shall go with me, Xaxa," I replied, and though she fought and
struggled we carried her from her apartment and up the spiral runway to
the roof where, I prayed, I should find the hangars and the royal
fliers; and as we stepped out into the fresh night air of Mars we did
see the hangars before us, but we saw something else--a group of
Phundahlian warriors of the Jeddara's Guard whom they had evidently
failed to notify of the commands of Tur. At sight of them Xaxa cried
aloud in relief.

"To me! To the Jeddara!" she cried. "Strike down these assassins and
save me!" There were three of them and there were three of us, but they
were armed and between us we had but Xaxa's slender dagger. Gor Hajus
carried that. Victory seemed turned to defeat as they rushed towards
us; but it was Gor Hajus who gave them pause. He seized Xaxa and raised
the blade, its point above her heart.

"Halt!" he cried, "or I strike."

The warriors hesitated; Xaxa was silent, stricken with fear. Thus we
stood in stalemate when, just beyond the three Phundahlian warriors, I
saw a movement at the roof's edge. What was it? In the dim light I saw
something that seemed a human head, and yet unhuman, rise slowly above
the edge of the roof, and then, silently, a great form followed, and
then I recognized it--Hovan Du, the great white ape.

"Tell them," I cried to Xaxa in a loud voice that Hovan Du might hear,
"that I am Tur, for see, I come again in the semblance of a white ape!"
and I pointed to Hovan Du. "I would not destroy these poor warriors.
Let them lay down their weapons and go in peace."

The men turned, and seeing the great ape standing there behind them,
materialized, it might have been, out of thin air, were shaken.

"Who is he, Jeddara?" demanded one of the men.

"It is Tur," replied Xaxa in a weak voice; "but save me from him! Save
me from him!" 

"Throw down your weapons and your harness and fly!" I
commanded, "or Tur will strike you dead. Heard you not the people
rushing from the palace at Tur's command? How think you we brought Xaxa
hither with a lesser power than Tur's when all her palace was filled
with her fighting men? Go, while yet you may in safety."

One of them unbuckled his harness and threw it with his weapons upon
the roof, and as he started at a run for the spiral his companions
followed his example.

Then Hovan Du approached us.

"Well done, Vad Varo," he growled, "though I know not what it is all
about."

"That you shall know later," I told him, "but now we must find a swift
flier and be upon our way. Where is Sag Or? Does he still live?"

"I have him securely bound and safely hidden in one of the high towers
of the palace," replied the ape. "It will be easy to get him when we
have launched a flier."

Xaxa was eyeing us ragefully. "You are not Tur!" she cried. "The ape
has exposed you."

"But too late to profit you in any way, Jeddara," I assured her. "Nor
could you convince one of your people who stood in the temple this
night that I am not Tur. Nor do you, yourself, know that I am not. The
ways of Tur, the all-powerful, all-knowing, are beyond the conception
of mortal man. To you then, Jeddara, I am Tur, and you will find me
all-powerful enough for my purposes."

I think she was still perplexed as we found and dragged forth a flier,
aboard which we placed her, and turned the craft's nose towards a lofty
tower where Hovan Du told us lay Sag Or.

"I shall be glad to see myself again," said Dar Tarus, with a laugh.

"And you shall be yourself again, Dar Tarus," I told him, "as soon as
ever we can come again to the pits of Ras Thavas."

"Would that I might be reunited with my sweet Kara Vasa," he sighed.
"Then, Vad Varo, the last full measure of my gratitude would be yours."

"Where may we find her?"

"Alas, I do not know. It was while I was searching for her that I was
apprehended by the agents of Xaxa. I had been to her father's palace
only to learn that he had been assassinated and his property
confiscated. The whereabouts of Kara Vasa they either did not know or
would not divulge; but they held me there upon one pretext or another
until a detachment of the Jeddara's Guard could come and arrest me."

"We shall have to make inquiries of Sag Or," I said.

We were now coming to a stop alongside a window of the tower Hovan Du
had indicated, and he and Dar Tarus leaped to the sill and disappeared
within. We were all armed now, having taken the weapons discarded by
the three warriors at the hangars, and with a good flier beneath our
feet and all our little company reunited, with Xaxa and Sag Or, whom
they were now conducting aboard, we were indeed in high spirits.

As we got under way again, setting our nose towards the east, I asked
Sag Or if he knew what had become of Kara Vasa, but he assured me, in
surly tones, that he did not.

"Think again, Sag Or," I admonished him, "and think hard, for perhaps
upon your answer your life depends."

"What chance have I for life?" he sneered, casting an ugly look towards
Dar Tarus.

"You have every chance," I replied. "Your life lies in the hollow of my
hand; and you serve me well it shall be yours, though in your own body
and not in that belonging to Dar Tarus."

"You do not intend destroying me?"

"Neither you nor Xaxa," I answered. "Xaxa shall live on in her own body
and you in yours."

"I do not wish to live in my own body," snapped the Jeddara.

Dar Tarus stood looking at Sag Or--looking at his own body like some
disembodied soul--as weird a situation as I have ever encountered.

"Tell me, Sag Or," he said, "what has become of Kara Vasa. When my body
has been restored to me and yours to you I shall hold no enmity against
you if you have not harmed Kara Vasa and will tell me where she be."

"I cannot tell you, for I do not know. She was not harmed, but the day
after you were assassinated she disappeared from Phundahl. We were
positive that she was spirited away by her father, but from him we
could learn nothing. Then he was assassinated," the man glanced at
Xaxa, "and since, we have learned nothing. A slave told us that Kara
Vasa, with some of her father's warriors, had embarked upon a flier and
set out for Helium, where she purposed placing herself under the
protection of the great War Lord of Barsoom; but of the truth of that
we know nothing. This is the truth. I, Sag Or, have spoken!" It was
futile then to search Phundahl for Kara Vasa and so we held our course
towards the east and the Tower of Thavas.




BACK TO THAVAS



All that night we sped beneath the hurtling moons of Mars, as strange a
company as was ever foregathered upon any planet, I will swear. Two
men, each possessing the body of the other, an old and wicked empress
whose fair body belonged to a youthful damsel beloved by another of
this company, a great white ape dominated by half the brain of a human
being, and I, a creature of a distant planet, with Gor Hajus, the
Assassin of Toonol, completed the mad roster.

I could scarce keep my eyes from the fair form and face of Xaxa, and it
is well that I was thus fascinated for I caught her in the act of
attempting to hurl herself overboard, so repugnant to her was the
prospect of living again in her own old and hideous corpse. After that
I kept her securely bound and fastened to the deck though it hurt me to
see the bonds upon those fair limbs.

Dar Tarus was almost equally fascinated by the contemplation of his own
body, which he had not seen for many years.

"By my first ancestor," he ejaculated. "It must be that I was the least
vain of fellows, for I give you my word I had no idea that I was so
fair to look upon. I can say this now without seeming egotism, since I
am speaking of Sag Or," and he laughed aloud at his little joke.

But the fact remained that the body and face of Dar Tarus were
beautiful indeed, though there was a hint of steel in the eyes and the
set of the jaw that betokened fighting blood. Little wonder, then, that
his own, which Dar Tarus now possessed, was marked by dissipation and
age; nor that Dar Tarus yearned to come again into his own.

Just before dawn we dropped to one of the numerous small islands that
dot the Great Toonolian Marshes and nosing the ship between the boles
of great trees we came to rest upon the surface of the ground, half
buried in the lush and gorgeous jungle grasses, well hidden from the
sight of possible pursuers. Here Hovan Du found fruits and nuts for us
which the simian section of his brain pronounced safe for human
consumption, and instinct led him to a nearby spring from which there
bubbled delicious water. We four were half famished and much fatigued,
so that the food and water were most welcome to us; nor did Xaxa and
Sag Or refuse them. Having eaten, three of us lay down upon the ship's
deck to sleep, after securely chaining our prisoners, while the fourth
stood watch. In this way, taking turns, we slept away most of the day
and when night fell, rested and refreshed, we were ready to resume our
flight.

Making a wide detour to the south we avoided Toonol and about two hours
before dawn we sighted the high Tower of Thavas. I think we were all
keyed up to the highest pitch of excitement, for there was not one
aboard that flier but whose whole life would be seriously affected by
the success or failure of our venture.

As a first precaution we secured the hands of Xaxa and Sag Or behind
their backs and placed gags in their mouths, lest they succeed in
giving warning of our approach.

Cluros had long since set and Thuria was streaming towards the horizon
as we stopped our motor and drifted without lights a mile or two south
of the tower while we waited impatiently for Thuria to leave the
heavens to darkness and the world to us. To the northwest the lights of
Toonol shone plainly against the dark background of the windows of the
great laboratory of Ras Thavas, but the tower itself was dark from
plinth to pinnacle.

And now the nearer moon dropped plummetlike beneath the horizon and
left the scene to darkness and to us. Dar Tarus started the motor, the
wonderful, silent motor of Barsoom, and we moved slowly, close to the
ground, towards Ras Thavas' island, with no sound other than the gentle
whirring of our propeller; nor could that have been heard scarce a
hundred feet so slowly was it turning. Close off the island we came to
a stop behind a cluster of giant trees and Hovan Du, going into the
bow, uttered a few low growls. Then we stood waiting in silence,
listening. There was a rustling in the dense undergrowth upon the
shore. Again Hovan Du voiced his low, grim call and this time there
came an answer from the black shadows. Hovan Du spoke in the language
of the great apes and the invisible creature replied.

For five minutes, during which time we were aware from the different
voices that others had joined in the conversation from the shore, the
apes conversed, and then Hovan Du turned to me.

"It is arranged," he said. "They will permit us to hide our ship
beneath these trees and they will permit us to pass out again when we
are ready and board her, nor will they harm us in any way. All they ask
is that when we are through we shall leave the gate open that leads to
the inner court."

"Do they understand that while an ape goes in with us none will return
with us?"

I asked.

"Yes; but they will not harm us."

"Why do they wish the gate left open?" 

"Do not inquire too closely, Vad
Varo," replied Hovan Du. "It should be enough that the great apes make
it possible for you to restore Valla Dia's body to her brain and escape
with her from this terrible place."

"It is enough," I replied. "When may we land?"

"At once. They will help us drag the ship beneath the trees and make
her fast."

"But first we must top the wall to the inner court," I reminded him.

"Yes, true--I had forgotten that we cannot open the gate from this
side."

He spoke again, then, to the apes, whom we had not yet seen; and then
he told us that all was arranged and that he and Dar Tarus would return
with the ship after landing us inside the wall.

Again we got under way and rising slowly above the outer wall dropped
silently to the courtyard beyond. The night was unusually dark, clouds
having followed Thuria and blotted out the stars after the moon had
set. No one could have seen the ship at a distance of fifty feet, and
we moved almost without noise. Quietly we lowered our prisoners over
the side and Gor Hajus and I remained with them while Dar Tarus and
Hovan Du rose again and piloted the ship back to its hiding place.

I moved at once to the gate and, unlatching it, waited. I heard
nothing. Never, I think, have I endured such utter silence. There came
no sound from the great pile rising behind me, nor any from the dark
jungle beyond the wall. Dimly I could see the huddled forms of Gor
Hajus, Xaxa and Sag Or beside me--otherwise I might have been alone in
the darkness and immensity of space.

It seemed an eternity that I waited there before I heard a soft
scratching on the panels of the heavy gate. I pushed it open and Dar
Tarus and Hovan Du stepped silently within as I closed and relatched
it. No one spoke. All had been carefully planned so that there was no
need of speech. Dar Tarus and I led the way, Gor Hajus and Hovan Du
brought up the rear with the prisoners. We moved directly to the
entrance to the tower, found the runway and descended to the pits.
Every fortune seemed with us. We met no one, we had no difficulty in
finding the vault we sought, and once within we secured the door so
that we had no fear of interruption--that was our first concern--and
then I hastened to the spot where I had hidden Valla Dia behind the
body of a large warrior, tucked far back against the wall in a dark
corner. My heart stood still as I dragged aside the body of the warrior,
for always had I feared that Ras Thavas, knowing my interest in her and
guessing the purpose of my venture, would cause every chamber and pit
to be searched and every body to be examined until he found her for
whom he sought; but my fears had been baseless, for there lay the body
of Xaxa, the old and wrinkled casket of the lovely brain of my beloved,
where I had hidden it against this very night. Gently I lifted it out
and bore it to one of the two ersite-topped tables. Xaxa, standing
there bound and gagged, looked on with eyes that shot hate and loathing
at me and at that hideous body to which her brain was so soon to be
restored.

As I lifted her to the adjoining slab she tried to wriggle from my
grasp and hurl herself to the floor, but I held her and soon had
strapped her securely in place. A moment later she was unconscious and
the re-transference was well under way. Gor Hajus, Sag Or and Hovan Du
were interested spectators, but to Dar Tarus, who stood ready to assist
me, it was an old story, for he had worked in the laboratory and seen
more than enough of similar operations. I will not bore you with a
description of it--it was but a repetition of what I had done many
times in preparation for this very event.

At last it was completed and my heart fairly stood still as I replaced
the embalming fluid with Valla Dia's own life blood and saw the color
mount to her cheeks and her rounded bosom rise and fall to her gentle
breathing. Then she opened her eyes and looked up into mine.

"What has happened, Vad Varo?" she asked. "Has something gone amiss
that you have recalled me so soon, or did I not respond to the fluid?"

Her eyes wandered past me to the faces of the others standing about.
"What does it mean?" she asked. "Who are these?"

I raised her gently in my arms and pointed at the body of Xaxa lying
deathlike on the ersite slab beside her. Valla Dia's eyes went wide.
"It is done?" she cried, and clapped her hands to her face and felt of
all her features and of the soft, delicate contours of her smooth neck;
and yet she could scarce believe it and asked for a glass and I took
one from Xaxa's pocket pouch and handed it to her. She looked long into
it and the tears commenced to roll down her cheeks, and then she looked
up at me through the mist of them and put her dear arms about my neck
and drew my face down to hers. "My chieftain," she whispered--that was
all. But it was enough. For those two words I had risked my life and
faced unknown dangers, and gladly would I risk my life again for that
same reward and always, for ever.

Another night had fallen before I had completed the restoration of Dar
Tarus and Hovan Du. Xaxa, and Sag Or and the great ape I left sleeping
the death-like sleep of Ras Thavas' marvelous anaesthetic. The great
ape I had no intention of restoring, but the others I felt bound to
return to Phundahl, though Dar Tarus, now resplendent in his own flesh
and the gorgeous trappings of Sag Or, urged me not to inflict them
again upon the long-suffering Phundahlians.

"But I have given my word," I told him.

"Then they must be returned," he said.

"Though what I may do afterward is another matter," I added, for there
had suddenly occurred to me a bold scheme.

I did not tell Dar Tarus what it was nor would I have had time, for at
the very instant we heard someone without trying the door and then we
heard voices and presently the door was tried again, this time with
force. We made no noise, but just waited. I hoped that whoever it was
would go away. The door was very strong and when they tried to force it
they must soon have realized the futility of it because they quickly
desisted and we heard their voices for only a short time thereafter and
then they seemed to have gone away.

"We must leave," I said, "before they return."

Strapping the hands of Xaxa and Sag Or behind them and placing gags in
their mouths I quickly restored them to life, nor ever did I see two
less grateful.

The looks they cast upon me might well have killed could looks do that,
and with what disgust they viewed one another was writ plain in their
eyes.

Cautiously unbolting the door I opened it very quietly, a naked sword
in my right hand and Dar Tarus, Gor Hajus and Hovan Du ready with
theirs at my shoulder, and as it swung back it revealed two standing in
the corridor watching--two of Ras Thavas' slaves; and one of them was
Yamdor, his body servant. At sight of us the fellow gave a loud cry of
recognition and before I could leap through the doorway and prevent
them, they had both turned and were flying up the corridor as fast as
their feet would carry them.

Now there was no time to be lost--everything must be sacrificed to
speed.

Without thought of caution or silence we hastened through the pits
towards the runway in the tower; and when we stepped into the inner
court it was night again, but the farther moon was in the heavens and
there were no clouds. The result was that we were instantly discovered
by a sentry, who gave the alarm as he ran forward to intercept us.

What was a sentry doing in the courtyard of Ras Thavas? I could not
understand.

And what were these? A dozen armed warriors were hurrying across the
court on the heels of the sentry.

"Toonolians!" shouted Gor Hajus. "The warriors of Vobis Kan, Jeddak of
Toonol!" Breathlessly we raced for the gate. If we could but reach it
first! But we were handicapped by our prisoners, who held back the
moment they discovered how they might embarrass us, and so it was that
we all met in front of the gate. Dar Tarus and Gor Hajus and Hovan Du
and I put Valla Dia and our prisoners behind us and fought the twenty
warriors of Toonol with the odds five to one against us; but we had
more heart in the fight than they and perhaps that gave us an
advantage, though I am sure that Gor Hajus was as ten men himself so
terrible was the effect of his name alone upon the men of Toonol.

"Gor Hajus!" cried one, the first to recognize him.

"Yes, it is Gor Hajus," replied the assassin. "Prepare to meet your
ancestors!" and he drove into them like a racing propeller, and I was
upon his right and Hovan Du and Dar Tarus upon his left.

It was a pretty fight, but it must eventually have gone against us, so
greatly were we outnumbered, had I not thought of the apes and the gate
beside us.

Working my way to it I threw it open and there upon the outside,
attracted by the noise of the conflict, stood a full dozen of the great
beasts. I called to Gor Hajus and the others to fall back beside the
gate, and as the apes rushed in I pointed to the Toonolian warriors.

I think the apes were at a loss to know which were friends and which
were foes, but the Toonolians apprised them by attacking them, while we
stood aside with our points upon the ground. Just a moment we stood
thus waiting. Then as the apes rushed among the Toonolian warriors, we
slipped into the darkness of the jungle beyond the outer wall and
sought our flier. Behind us we could hear the growls and the roars of
the beasts mingled with the shouts and the curses of the men; and the
sound still rose from the courtyard as we clambered aboard the flier
and pushed off into the night.

As soon as we felt that we were safely escaped from the Island of
Thavas I removed the gags from the mouths of Xaxa and Sag Or and I can
tell you that I immediately regretted it, for never in my life had I
been subjected to such horrid abuse as poured from the wrinkled old
lips of the Jeddara; and it was only when I started to gag her again
that she promised to desist.

My plans were now well laid and they included a return to Phundahl
since I could not start for Duhor with Valla Dia without provisions and
fuel; nor could I obtain these elsewhere than in Phundahl, since I felt
that I held the key that would unlock the resources of that city to me;
whereas all Toonol was in arms against us owing to Vobis Kan's fear of
Gor Hajus.

So we retraced our way towards Phundahl as secretly as we had come, for
I had no mind to be apprehended before we had gained entrance to the
palace of Xaxa.

Again we rested over daylight upon the same island that had given us
sanctuary two days before, and at dark we set out upon the last leg of
our journey to Phundahl. If there had been pursuit we had seen naught
of it, and that might easily be explained by the great extent of the
uninhabited marshes across which we flew and the far southerly course
that we followed close above the ground.

As we neared Phundahl I caused Xaxa and Sag Or to be again gagged, and
further, I had their heads bandaged so that none might recognize them;
and then we sailed straight over the city towards the palace, hoping
that we would not be discovered and yet ready in the event that we
should be.

But we came to the hangars on the roof apparently unseen and constantly
I coached each upon the part he was to play. As we were settling slowly
to the roof Dar Tarus, Hovan Du and Valla Dia quickly bound Gor Hajus
and me and wrapped our heads in bandages, for we had seen below the
figures of the hangar guard. Had we found the roof unguarded the
binding of Gor Hajus and me had been unnecessary.

As we dropped nearer one of the guard hailed us. "What ship?' he cried.

"The royal flier of the Jeddara of Phundahl," replied Dar Tarus,
"returning with Xaxa and Sag Or."

The warriors whispered among themselves as we dropped nearer and I must
confess that I felt a bit nervous as to the outcome of our ruse; but
they permitted us to land without a word and when they saw Valla Dia
they saluted her after the manner of Barsoom, as, with the regal
carriage of an empress, she descended from the deck of the flier.

"Carry the prisoners to my apartments!" she commanded, addressing the
guard, and with the help of Hovan Du and Dar Tarus the four bound and
muffled figures were carried from the flier down the spiral runway to
the apartments of Xaxa, Jeddara of Phundahl. Here excited slaves
hastened to do the bidding of the Jeddara. Word must have flown through
the palace with the speed of light that Xaxa had returned, for almost
immediately court functionaries began to arrive and be announced, but
Valla Dia sent word that she would see no one for a while.

Then she dismissed her slaves, and at my suggestion Dar Tarus
investigated the apartments with a view to finding a safe hiding place
for Gor Hajus, me, and the prisoners. This he soon found in a small
antechamber directly off the main apartment of the royal suite; the
bonds were removed from the assassin and myself and together we carried
Xaxa and Sag Or into the room.

The entrance here was furnished with a heavy door over which there were
hangings that completely hid it. I bade Hovan Du, who, like the rest of
us, wore Phundahlian harness, stand guard before the hangings and let
no one enter but members of our own party. Gor Hajus and I took up our
positions just within the hangings through which we cut small holes
that permitted us to see all that went on within the main chamber, for
I was greatly concerned for Valla Dia's safety while she posed as Xaxa,
whom I knew to be both feared and hated by her people and therefore
always liable to assassination.

Valla Dia summoned the slaves and bade them admit the officials of the
court, and as the doors opened fully a score of nobles entered. They
appeared ill at ease and I could guess that they were recalling the
episode in the temple when they had deserted their Jeddara and even
hurled her roughly at the feet of the Great Tur, but Valla Dia soon put
them at their ease.

"I have summoned you," she said, "to hear the word of Tur. Tur would
speak again to his people. Three days and three nights have I spent
with Tur. His anger against Phundahl is great. He bids me summon all
the higher nobles to the temple after the evening meal to-night, and
all the priests, and the commanders and dwars of the Guard, and as many
of the lesser nobles as be in the palace; and then shall the people of
Phundahl hear the word and the law of Tur and all those who shall obey
shall live and all those who shall not obey shall die; and woe be to
him who, having been summoned, shall not be in the temple this night.
I, Xaxa, Jeddara of Phundahl, have spoken! Go!" They went and they
seemed glad to go. Then Valla Dia summoned the odwar of the Guard, who
would be in our world a general, and she told him to clear the palace
of every living being from the temple level to the roof an hour before
the evening meal, nor to permit any one to enter the temple or the
levels above it until the hour appointed for the assembling in the
temple to hear the word of Tur, excepting however those who might be in
her own apartments, which were not to be entered upon pain of death.
She made it all very clear and plain and the odwar understood and I
think he trembled a trifle, for all were in great fear of the Jeddara
Xaxa; and then he went away and the slaves were dismissed and we were
alone.




JOHN CARTER



Half an hour before the evening meal we carried Xaxa and Sag Or down
the spiral runway and placed them in the base of the Great Tur and Gor
Hajus and I took our places on the upper platform behind the eyes and
voice of the idol. Valla Dia, Dar Tarus and Hovan Du remained in the
royal apartments. Our plans were well formulated. There was no one
between the door at the rear of the Great Tur and the flier that lay
ready on the roof in the event that we were forced to flee through any
miscarriage of our mad scheme.

The minutes dragged slowly by and darkness fell. The time was
approaching. We heard the doors of the temple open and beyond we saw
the great corridor brilliantly lighted. It was empty except for two
priests who stood hesitating nervously in the doorway. Finally one of
them mustered up sufficient courage to enter and switch on the lights.
More bravely now they advanced and prostrated themselves before the
altar of the Great Tur. When they arose and looked up into the face of
the idol I could not resist the temptation to turn those huge eyes
until they had rolled completely about the interior of the chamber and
rested again upon the priests; but I did not speak and I think the
effect of the awful silence in the presence of the living god was more
impressive than would words have been. The two priests simply
collapsed. They slid to the floor and lay there trembling, moaning and
supplicating Tur to have mercy on them, nor did they rise before the
first of the worshippers arrived.

Thereafter the temple filled rapidly and I could see the word of Tur
had been well and thoroughly disseminated. They came as they had
before; but there were more this time, and they ranged upon either side
of the central aisle and there they waited, their eyes divided between
the doorway and the god. About the time that I thought the next scene
was about to be enacted I let Tur's eyes travel over the assemblage
that they might be keyed to the proper pitch for what was to follow.
They reacted precisely as had the priests, falling upon the floor and
moaning and supplicating; and there they remained until the sounds of
bugles announced the coming of the Jeddara. Then they rose unsteadily
to their feet.

The great doors swung open and there was the carpet and the slaves
behind it. As they rolled it down towards the altar the bugles sounded
louder and the head of the royal procession came into view. I had
ordered it thus to permit of greater pageantry than was possible when
the doors opened immediately upon the head of the procession. My plan
permitted the audience to see the royal retinue advancing down the long
corridor and the effect was splendid. First came the double rank of
nobles and behind these the chariot drawn by the two banths, bearing
the litter upon which reclined Valla Dia. Behind her walked Dar Tarus,
but all within that room thought they were looking upon the Jeddara
Xaxa and her favorite, Sag Or. Hovan Du walked behind Sag Or and
following came the fifty young men and the fifty maidens.

The chariot halted before the altar and Valla Dia descended and knelt
and the voices that had been chanting the praises of Xaxa were stilled
as the beautiful creature extended her hands towards the Great Tur and
looked up into his face.

"We are ready, Master!" she cried. "Speak! We await the word of Tur!" A
gasp arose from the kneeling assemblage, a gasp that ended in a sob. I
felt that they were pretty well worked up and that everything ought to
go off without a hitch. I placed the speaking-tube to my lips.

"I am Tur!" I thundered and the people trembled. "I come to pass
judgment on the men of Phundahl. As you receive my word so shall you
prosper or so shall you perish. The sins of the people may be atoned by
two who have sinned most in my sight." I let the eyes of Tur rove about
over the audience and then brought them to rest upon Valla Dia. "Xaxa,
are you ready to atone for your sins and for the sins of your people?"

Valla Dia bowed her beautiful head. "Thy will is law, Master!" she
replied.

"And Sag Or," I continued, "you have sinned. Are you prepared to pay?"

"As Tur shall require," said Dar Tarus.

"Then it is my will," I boomed, "that Xaxa and Sag Or shall give back to
those from whom they stole them, the beautiful bodies they now wear;
that he from whom Sag Or took this body shall become Jeddak of Phundahl
and High Priest of Tur; and that she from whom Xaxa stole her body
shall be returned in pomp to her native country. I have spoken. Let any
who would revolt against my word speak now or for ever hold his peace."

There was no objection voiced. I had felt pretty certain that there
would not be. I doubt if any god ever looked down upon a more subdued
and chastened flock.

As I had talked, Gor Hajus had descended to the base of the idol and
removed the bonds from the feet and legs of Xaxa and Sag Or.

"Extinguish the lights!" I commanded. A trembling priest did my
bidding.

Valla Dia and Dar Tarus were standing side by side before the altar
when the lights went out. In the next minute they and Gor Hajus must
have worked fast, for when I heard a low whistle from the interior of
the idol's base, the prearranged signal that Gor Hajus had finished his
work, and ordered the lights on again, there stood Xaxa and Sag Or
where Valla Dia and Dar Tarus had been, and the latter were nowhere in
sight. I think the dramatic effect of that transformation upon the
people there was the most stupendous thing I have ever seen. There was
no cord or gag upon either Xaxa or Sag Or, nothing to indicate that
they had been brought hither by force--no one about who might have so
brought them. The illusion was perfect--it was a gesture of
omnipotence that simply staggered the intellect. But I wasn't through.

"You have heard Xaxa renounce her throne," I said, "and Sag Or submit
to the judgment of Tur."

"I have not renounced my throne!" cried Xaxa. "It is all a---"Silence!"
I thundered. "Prepare to greet the new Jeddak, Dar Tarus of Phundahl!"
I turned my eyes towards the great doors and the eyes of the assemblage
followed mine. They swung open and there stood Dar Tarus, resplendent
in the trappings of Hora San, the long dead Jeddak and high priest,
whose bones we had robbed in the base of the idol an hour earlier. How
Dar Tarus had managed to make the change so quickly is beyond me, but
he had done it and the effect was colossal. He looked every inch a
Jeddak as he moved with slow dignity up the wide aisle along the blue
and gold and white carpet. Xaxa turned purple with rage. "Impostor!"
she shrieked. "Seize him! Kill him!" and she ran forward to meet him as
though she would slay him with her bare hands.

"Take her away," said Dar Tarus in a quiet voice, and at that Xaxa fell
foaming to the floor. She shrieked and gasped and then lay still--a
wicked old woman dead of apoplexy. And when Sag Or saw her lying there
he must have been the first to realize that she was dead and that there
was now no one to protect him from the hatreds that are leveled always
at the person of a ruler's favorite. He looked wildly about for an
instant and then threw himself at the feet of Dar Tarus.

"You promised to protect me!" he cried.

"None shall harm you," replied Dar Tarus. "Go your way and live in
peace." Then he turned his eyes upward towards the face of the Great
Tur. "What is thy will, Master?" he cried. "Dar Tarus, thy servant,
awaits thy commands!" I permitted an impressive silence before I
replied.

"Let the priests of Tur, the lesser nobles and a certain number of the
Jeddara's Guard go forth into the city and spread the word of Tur among
the people that they may know that Tur smiles again upon Phundahl and
that they have a new Jeddak who stands high in the favor of Tur. Let
the higher nobles attend presently in the chambers that were Xaxa's and
do honor to Valla Dia in whose perfect body their Jeddara once ruled
them, and effect the necessary arrangements for her proper return to
Duhor, her native city. There also will they find two who have served
Tur well and these shall be accorded the hospitality and friendship of
every Phundahlian--Gor Hajus of Toonol and Vad Varo of Jasoom. Go! and
when the last has gone let the temple be darkened. I, Tur, have
spoken!" Valla Dia had gone directly to the apartments of the former
Jeddara and the moment that the lights were extinguished Gor Hajus and
I joined her. She could not wait to hear the outcome of our ruse, and
when I assured her that there had been no hitch the tears came to her
eyes for very joy.

"You have accomplished the impossible, my chieftain," she murmured,
"and already can I see the hills of Duhor and the towers of my native
city. Ah, Vad Varo, I had not dreamed that life might again hold for me
such happy prospects. I owe you life and more than life."

We were interrupted by the coming of Dar Tarus, and with him were Hovan
Du and a number of the higher nobles. The latter received us
pleasantly, though I think they were mystified as to just how we were
linked with the service of their god, nor, I am sure, did one of them
ever learn. They were frankly delighted to be rid of Xaxa; and while
they could not understand Tur's purpose in elevating a former warrior
of the Guard to the throne, yet they were content if it served to
relieve them from the wrath of their god, now a very real and terrible
god, since the miracles that had been performed in the temple. That Dar
Tarus had been of a noble family relieved them of embarrassment, and I
noted that they treated him with great respect. I was positive that
they would continue to treat him so, for he was also high priest and
for the first time in a hundred years he would bring to the Great Tur
in the royal temple the voice of god, for Hovan Du had agreed to take
service with Dar Tarus, and Gor Hajus as well, so that there would
never be lacking a tongue wherewith Tur might speak. I foresaw great
possibilities for the reign of Dar Tarus, Jeddak of Phundahl.

At the meeting held in the apartments of Xaxa it was decided that Valla
Dia should rest two days in Phundahl while a small fleet was preparing
to transport her to Duhor. Dar Tarus assigned Xaxa's apartments for her
use and gave her slaves from different cities to attend upon her, all
of whom were to be freed and returned with Valla Dia to her native
land.

It was almost dawn before we sought our sleeping silks and furs and the
sun was high before we awoke. Gor Hajus and I breakfasted with Valla
Dia, outside whose door we had spread our beds that we might not leave
her unprotected for a moment that it was not necessary. We had scarce
finished our meal when a messenger came from Dar Tarus summoning us to
the audience chamber, where we found some of the higher officers of the
court gathered about the throne upon which Dar Tarus sat, looking every
inch an emperor. He greeted us kindly, rising and descending from his
dais to receive Valla Dia and escort her to one of the benches be had
placed beside the throne for her and for me.

"There is one," he said to me, "who has come to Phundahl over night and
now begs audience of the Jeddak--one whom I thought you might like to
meet again," and he signed to one of his attendants to admit the
petitioner; and when the doors at the opposite end of the room opened I
saw Ras Thavas standing there. He did not recognize me or Valla Dia or
Gor Hajus until he was almost at the foot of the throne, and when he
did he looked puzzled and glanced again quickly at Dar Tarus.

"Ras Thavas of the Tower of Thavas, Toonol," announced an officer.

"What would Ras Thavas of the Jeddak of Phundahl?" asked Dar Tarus.

"I came seeking audience of Xaxa," replied Ras Thavas, "not knowing of
her death or your accession until this very morning; but I see Sag Or
upon Xaxa's throne and beside him one whom I thought was Xaxa, though
they tell me Xaxa is dead, and another who was my assistant at Thavas
and one who is the Assassin of Toonol, and I am confused, Jeddak, and
do not know whether I be among friends or foes."

"Speak as though Xaxa still sat upon the throne of Phundahl," Dar Tarus
told him, "for though I am Dar Tarus, whom you wronged, and not Sag Or,
yet need you have no fear in the court of Phundahl."

"Then let me tell you that Vobis Kan, Jeddak of Toonol, learning that
Gor Hajus had escaped me, swore that I had set him free to assassinate
him, and he sent warriors who took my island and would have imprisoned
me had I not been warned in time to escape; and I came hither to Xaxa
to beg her to send warriors to drive the men of Toonol from my island
and restore it to me that I may carry on my scientific labors."

Dar Tarus turned to me. "Vad Varo, of all others you are most familiar
with the work of Ras Thavas. Would you see him again restored to his
island and his laboratory?"

"Only on condition that he devote his great skill to the amelioration
of human suffering," I replied, "and no longer prostitute it to the
foul purposes of greed and sin." This led to a discussion which lasted
for hours, the results of which were of far-reaching significance. Ras
Thavas agreed to all that I required and Dar Tarus commissioned Gor
Hajus to head an army against Toonol.

But these matters, while of vast interest to those most directly
concerned, have no direct bearing upon the story of my adventures upon
Barsoom, as I had no part in them, since upon the second day I boarded
a flier with Valla Dia and, escorted by a Phundahlian fleet, set out
towards Duhor. Dar Tarus accompanied us for a short distance. When the
fleet was stopped at the shore of the great marsh he bade us farewell,
and was about to step to the deck of his own ship and return to
Phundahl when a shout arose from the deck of one of the other ships and
word was soon passed that a lookout had sighted what appeared to be a
great fleet far to the south-west. Nor was it long before it became
plainly visible to us all and equally plain that it was headed for
Phundahl.

Dar Tarus told me then that as much as he regretted it, there seemed
nothing to do but return at once to his capital with the entire fleet,
since he could not spare a single ship or man if this proved an enemy
fleet, nor could Valla Dia or I interpose any objection; and so we
turned about and sped as rapidly as the slow ships of Phundahl
permitted back towards the city.

The stranger fleet had sighted us at about the same time that we had
sighted it, and we saw it change its course and bear down upon us; and
as it came nearer it fell into single file and prepared to encircle us.
I was standing at Dar Tarus' side when the colors of the approaching
fleet became distinguishable and we first learned that it was from
Helium.

"Signal and ask if they come in peace," directed Dar Tarus.

"We seek word with Xaxa, Jeddara of Phundahl." came the reply. "The
question of peace or war will be hers to decide."

"Tell them that Xaxa is dead and that I, Dar Tarus, Jeddak of Phundahl,
will receive the commander of Helium's fleet in peace upon the deck of
this ship, or that I will receive him in war with all my guns. I, Dar
Tarus, have spoken!" From the bow of a great ship of Helium there broke
the flag of truce and when Dar Tarus' ship answered it in kind the
other drew near and presently we could see the men of Helium upon her
decks. Slowly the great flier came alongside our smaller ship and when
the two had been made fast a party of officers boarded us.

They were fine-looking men, and at their head was one whom I recognized
immediately though I never before had laid eyes upon him. I think he
was the most impressive figure I have ever seen as he advanced slowly
across the deck towards us--John Carter, Prince of Helium, Warlord of
Barsoom.

"Dar Tarus," he said, "John Carter greets you and in peace, though it
had been different, I think, had Xaxa still reigned."

"You came to war upon Xaxa?" asked Dar Tarus.

"We came to right a wrong," replied the Warlord. "But from what we know
of Xaxa that could have been done only by force."

"What wrong has Phundahl done Helium?" demanded Dar Tarus.

"The wrong was against one of your own people--even against you in
person."

"I do not understand," said Dar Tarus.

"There is one aboard my ship who may be able to explain to you, Dar
Tarus," replied John Carter, with a smile. He turned and spoke to one
of his aides in a whisper, and the man saluted and returned to the deck
of his own ship. "You shall see with your own eyes, Dar Tarus."
Suddenly his eyes narrowed. "This is indeed Dar Tarus who was a warrior
of the Jeddara's Guard and supposedly assassinated by her command?"

"It is," replied Dar Tarus.

"I must be certain," said the Warlord.

"There is no question about it, John Carter," I spoke up in English.

His eyes went wide, and when they fell upon me and he noted my lighter
skin, from which the dye was wearing away, he stepped forward and held
out his hand.

"A countryman?" he asked.

"Yes, an American," I replied.

"I was almost surprised," he said. "Yet why should I be? I have crossed
--there is no reason why others should not. And you have accomplished
it! You must come to Helium with me and tell me all about it."

Further conversation was interrupted by the return of the aide, who
brought a young woman with him. At sight of her Dar Tarus uttered a cry
of joy and sprang forward, and I did not need to be told that this was
Kara Vasa.

There is little more to tell that might not bore you in the telling--
of how John Carter himself took Valla Dia and me to Duhor after
attending the nuptials of Dar Tarus and Kara Vasa; and of the great
surprise that awaited me in Duhor, where I learned for the first time
that Kor San, Jeddak of Duhor, was the father of Valla Dia; and of the
honors and the great riches that he heaped upon me when Valla Dia and I
were wed.

John Carter was present at the wedding and we initiated upon Barsoom a
good old American custom, for the Warlord acted as best man; and then
he insisted that we follow that up with a honeymoon and bore us off to
Helium, where I am writing this.

Even now it seems like a dream that I can look out of my window and see
the scarlet and the yellow towers of the twin cities of Helium; that I
have met, and see daily, Carthoris, Thuvia of Ptarth, Tara of Helium,
Gahan of Gathol and that peerless creature, Dejah Thoris, Princess of
Mars. Though to me, beautiful as she is, there is another even more
beautiful--Valla Dia, Princess of Duhor--Mrs. Ulysses Paxton.



THE END




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