Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership





Title:      The Moon Maid
Author:     Edgar Rice Burroughs
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0601501.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          June 2006
Date most recently updated: June 2006

This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott and Colin Choat

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

The Moon Maid
Edgar Rice Burroughs



CONTENTS

PROLOGUE
Chapter I. AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE
Chapter II. THE SECRET OF THE MOON
Chapter III. ANIMALS OR MEN?
Chapter IV. CAPTURED
Chapter V. OUT OF THE STORM
Chapter VI. THE MOON MAID
Chapter VII. A FIGHT AND A CHANCE
Chapter VIII. A FIGHT WITH A TORCH
Chapter IX. AN ATTACK BY KALKARS
Chapter X. THE CITY OF KALKARS
Chapter XI. A MEETING WITH KO-TAH
Chapter XII. GROWING DANGER
Chapter XIII. DEATH WITHIN AND WITHOUT!
Chapter XIV. THE BARSOOM!



PROLOGUE

I MET HIM in the Blue Room of the Transoceanic Liner Harding the night
of Mars Day-June 10, 1967. I had been wandering about the city for
several hours prior to the sailing of the flier watching the
celebration, dropping in at various places that I might see as much as
possible of scenes that doubtless will never again be paralleled--a
world gone mad with joy. There was only one vacant chair in the Blue
Room and that at a small table at which he was already seated alone. I
asked his permission and he graciously invited me to join him, rising as
he did so, his face lighting with a smile that compelled my liking from
the first.

I had thought that Victory Day, which we had celebrated two months
before, could never be eclipsed in point of mad national enthusiasm, but
the announcement that had been made this day appeared to have had even a
greater effect upon the minds and imaginations of the people.

The more than half-century of war that had continued almost
uninterruptedly since 1914 had at last terminated in the absolute
domination of the Anglo-Saxon race over all the other races of the
World, and practically for the first time since the activities of the
human race were preserved for posterity in any enduring form no
civilized, or even semi-civilized, nation maintained a battle line upon
any portion of the globe. War was at an end-definitely and forever. Arms
and ammunition were being dumped into the five oceans; the vast armadas
of the air were being scrapped or converted into carriers for purposes
of peace and commerce.

The peoples of all nations had celebrated--victors and vanquished
alike--for they were tired of war. At least they thought that they were
tired of war; but were they, What else did they know? Only the oldest of
men could recall even a semblance of world peace, the others knew
nothing but war. Men had been born and lived their lives and died with
their grandchildren clustered about them--all with the alarms of war
ringing constantly in their ears. Perchance the little area of their
activities was never actually encroached upon by the iron-shod hoof of
battle; but always somewhere war endured, now receding like the salt
tide only to return again; until there arose that great tidal wave of
human emotion in 1959 that swept the entire world for eight bloody
years, and receding, left peace upon a spent and devastated world.

Two months had passed--two months during which the world appeared to
stand still, to mark time, to hold its breath. What now? We have peace,
but what shall we do with it? The leaders of thought and of action are
trained for but one condition--war. The reaction brought
despondency--our nerves, accustomed to the constant stimulus of
excitement, cried out against the monotony of peace, and yet no one
wanted war again. We did not know what we wanted.

And then came the announcement that I think saved a world from madness,
for it directed our minds along a new line to the contemplation of a
fact far more engrossing than prosaic wars and equally as stimulating to
the imagination and the nerves--intelligible communication had at last
been established with Mars!

Generations of wars had done their part to stimulate scientific research
to the end that we might kill one another more expeditiously, that we
might transport our youth more quickly to their shallow graves in alien
soil, that we might transmit more secretly and with greater celerity our
orders to slay our fellow men. And always, generation after generation,
there had been those few who could detach their minds from the
contemplation of massacre and looking forward to a happier era
concentrate their talents and their energies upon the utilization of
scientific achievement for the betterment of mankind and the rebuilding
of civilization.

Among these was that much ridiculed but devoted coterie who had clung
tenaciously to the idea that communication could be established with
Mars. The hope that had been growing for a hundred years had never been
permitted to die, but had been transmitted from teacher to pupil with
ever-growing enthusiasm, while the people scoffed as, a hundred years
before, we are told, they scoffed at the experimenters with flying
machines, as they chose to call them.

About 1940 had come the first reward of long years of toil and hope,
following the perfection of an instrument which accurately indicated the
direction and distance of the focus of any radio-activity with which it
might be attuned. For several years prior to this all the more highly
sensitive receiving instruments had recorded a series of three dots and
three dashes which began at precise intervals of twenty-four hours and
thirty-seven minutes and continued for approximately fifteen minutes.
The new instrument indicated conclusively that these signals, if they
were signals, originated always at the same distance from the Earth and
in the same direction as the point in the universe occupied by the
planet Mars.

It was five years later before a sending apparatus was evolved that bade
fair to transmit its waves from Earth to Mars. At first their own
message was repeated--three dots and three dashes. Although the usual
interval of time had not elapsed since we had received their daily
signal, ours was immediately answered. Then we sent a message consisting
of five dots and two dashes, alternating. Immediately they replied with
five dots and two dashes and we knew beyond peradventure of a doubt that
we were in communication with the Red Planet, but it required twenty-two
years of unremitting effort, with the most brilliant intellects of two
worlds concentrated upon it, to evolve and perfect an intelligent system
of inter-communication between the two planets.

Today, this tenth of June, 1967, there was published broadcast to the
world the first message from Mars. It was dated Helium, Barsoom, and
merely extended greetings to a sister world and wished us well. But it
was the beginning.

The Blue Room of The Harding was, I presume, but typical of every other
gathering place in the civilized world. Men and women were eating,
drinking, laughing, singing and talking. The flier was racing through
the air at an altitude of little over a thousand feet. Its engines,
motivated wirelessly from power plants thousands of miles distant, drove
it noiselessly and swiftly along its overnight pathway between Chicago
and Paris.

I had of course crossed many times, but this instance was unique because
of the epoch-making occasion which the passengers were celebrating, and
so I sat at the table longer than usual, watching my fellow diners,
with, I imagine, a slightly indulgent smile upon my lips since--I
mention it in no spirit of egotism--it had been my high privilege to
assist in the consummation of a hundred years of effort that had borne
fruit that day. I looked around at my fellow diners and then back to my
table companion.

He was a fine looking chap, lean and bronzed--one need not have noted
the Air Corps overseas service uniform, the Admiral's stars and anchors
or the wound stripes to have guessed that he was a fighting man; he
looked it, every inch of him, and there were a full seventy-two inches.

We talked a little--about the great victory and the message from Mars,
of course, and though he often smiled I noticed an occasional shadow of
sadness in his eyes and once, after a particularly mad outburst of
pandemonium on the part of the celebrators, he shook his head,
remarking: "Poor devils!" and then: 'It is just as well--let them enjoy
life while they may. I envy them their ignorance."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

He flushed a little and then smiled. "Was I speaking aloud?" he asked.

I repeated what he had said and he looked steadily at me for a long
minute before he spoke again. "Oh, what's the use!" he exclaimed, almost
petulantly; "you wouldn't understand and of course you wouldn't believe.
I do not understand it myself; but I have to believe because I know--I
know from personal observation. God! if you could have seen what I have
seen."

"Tell me," I begged; but he shook his head dubiously.

"Do you realize that there is no such thing as Time?" he asked
suddenly--"That man has invented Time to suit the limitations of his
finite mind, just as he has named another thing, that he can neither
explain nor understand, Space?"

"I have heard of such a theory," I replied; "but I neither believe nor
disbelieve--I simply do not know."

I thought I had him started and so I waited as I have read in fiction
stories is the proper way to entice a strange narrative from its
possessor. He was looking beyond me and I imagined that the expression
of his eyes denoted that he was witnessing again the thrilling scenes of
the past. I must have been wrong, though--in fact I was quite sure of it
when he next spoke.

"If that girl isn't careful," he said, "the thing will upset and give
her a nasty fall--she is much too near the edge."

I turned to see a richly dressed and much disheveled young lady busily
dancing on a table-top while her friends and the surrounding diners
cheered her lustily.

My companion arose. "I have enjoyed your company immensely," he said,
"and I hope to meet you again. I am going to look for a place to sleep
now--they could not give me a stateroom-I don't seem to be able to get
enough sleep since they sent me back." He smiled.

"Miss the gas shells and radio bombs, I suppose/ I remarked.

"Yes," he replied, "just as a convalescent misses smallpox."

"I have a room with two beds," I said. "At the last minute my secretary
was taken ill. I'll be glad to have you share the room with me."

He thanked me and accepted my hospitality for the night--the following
morning we would be in Paris.

As we wound our way among the tables filled with laughing, joyous
diners, my companion paused beside that at which sat the young woman who
had previously attracted his attention. Their eyes met and into hers
came a look of puzzlement and half-recognition. He smiled frankly in her
face, nodded and passed on. "You know her, then?" I asked.

"I shall--in two hundred years," was his enigmatical reply.

We found my room, and there we had a bottle of wine and some little
cakes and a quiet smoke and became much better acquainted.

It was he who first reverted to the subject of our conversation in the
Blue Room.

"I am going to tell you," he said, "what I have never told another; but
on the condition that if you retell it you are not to use my name. I
have several years of this Life ahead of me and I do not care to be
pointed out as a lunatic. First let me say that I do not try to explain
anything,' except that I do not believe prevision to be a proper
explanation. I have actually lived the experiences I shall tell you of,
and that girl we saw dancing on the table tonight lived them with me;
but she does not know it. If you care to, you can keep in mind the
theory that there is no such thing as Time--just keep it in mind--you
cannot understand it, or at least I cannot. Here goes."



CHAPTER I. AN ADVENTURE IN SPACE

"I had intended telling you my story of the days of the twenty-second
century, but it seems best, if you are to understand it, to tell first
the story of my great-great-grandfather who was born in the year 2000.

"I must have looked up at him quizzically, for he smiled and shook his
head as one who is puzzled to find an explanation suited to the mental
capacity of his auditor.

"My great-great-grandfather was, in reality, the great-great-grandson of
my previous incarnation which commenced in 1896. I married in 1916, at
the age of twenty. My son Julian was born in 1917. I never saw him. I
was killed in France in 1918--on Armistice Day.

"I was again reincarnated in my son's son in 1937. I am thirty years of
age. My son was born in 1970--that is the son of my 1937
incarnation--and his son, Julian 5th, in whom I again returned to Earth,
in the year 2000. I see you are confused, but please remember my
injunction that you are to try to keep in mind the theory that there is
no such thing as Time. It is now the year 1967 yet I recall distinctly
every event of my life that occurred in four incarnations--the last that
I recall being that which had its origin in the year 2100. Whether I
actually skipped three generations that time or through some caprice of
Fate I am merely unable to visualize an intervening incarnation, I do
not know.

"My theory of the matter is that I differ only from my fellows in that I
can recall the events of many incarnations, while they can recall none
of theirs other than a few important episodes of that particular one
they are experiencing; but perhaps I am wrong. It is of no importance. I
will tell you the story of Julian 5th who was born in the year 2000, and
then, if we have time and you yet are interested, I will tell you of the
torments during the harrowing days of the twenty-second century,
following the birth of Julian 9th in 2100."

I will try to tell the story in his own words in so far as I can recall
them, but for various reasons, not the least of which is that I am lazy,
I shall omit superfluous quotation marks--that is, with your permission,
of course.

My name is Julian. I am called Julian 5th. I come of an illustrious
family--my great-great-grandfather, Julian 1st, a major at twenty-two,
was killed in France early in The Great War. My great-grandfather,
Julian 2nd, was killed in battle in Turkey in 1938. My grandfather,
Julian 3rd, fought continuously from his sixteenth year until peace was
declared in his thirtieth year. He died in 1992 and during the last
twenty-five years of his life was an Admiral of the Air, being
transferred at the close of the war to command of the International
Peace Fleet, which patrolled and policed the world. He also was killed
in line of duty, as was my father who succeeded him in the service.

At sixteen I graduated from the Air School and was detailed to the
International Peace Fleet, being the fifth generation of my line to wear
the uniform of my country. That was in 2016, and I recall that it was a
matter of pride to me that it rounded out the full century since Julian
1st graduated from West Point, and that during that one hundred years no
adult male of my line had ever owned or worn civilian clothes.

Of course there were no more wars, but there still was fighting. We had
the pirates of the air to contend with and occasionally some of the
uncivilized tribes of Russia, Africa and central Asia required the
attention of a punitive expedition. However, life seemed tame and
monotonous to us when we read of the heroic deeds of our ancestors from
1914 to 1967, yet none of us wanted war. It had been too well schooled
into us that we must not think of war, and the International Peace Fleet
so effectively prevented all preparation for war that we all knew there
could never be another. There wasn't a firearm in the world other than
those with which we were armed, and a few of ancient design that were
kept as heirlooms, or in museums, or that were owned by savage tribes
who could procure no ammunition for them, since we permitted none to be
manufactured. There was not a gas shell nor a radio bomb, nor any engine
to discharge or project one; and there wasn't a big gun of any calibre
in the world. I veritably believed that a thousand men equipped with the
various engines of destruction that had reached their highest efficiency
at the close of the war in 1967 could have conquered the world; but
there were not a thousand men so armed--there never could be a thousand
men so equipped anywhere upon the face of the Earth. The International
Peace Fleet was equipped and manned to prevent just such a calamity.

But it seems that Providence never intended that the world should be
without calamities. If man prevented those of possible internal origin
there still remained undreamed of external sources over which he had no
control. It was one of these which was to prove our undoing. Its seed
was sown thirty-three years before I was born, upon that historic day,
June 10th, 1967, that Earth received her first message from Mars, since
which the two planets have remained in constant friendly communication,
carrying on a commerce of reciprocal enlightenment. In some branches of
the arts and sciences the Martians, or Barsoomians, as they call
themselves, were far in advance of us, while in others we had progressed
more rapidly than they. Knowledge was thus freely exchanged to the
advantage of both worlds. We learned of their history and customs and
they or ours, though they had for ages already known much more of us
than we of them. Martian news held always a prominent place in our daily
papers from the first.

They helped us most, perhaps, in the fields of medicine and aeronautics,
giving us in one, the marvelous healing locations of Barsoom and in the
other, knowledge of the Eighth Bay, which is more generally known on
Earth as the Barsoomian Ray, which is now stored in the buoyancy tanks
of every air craft and has made obsolete those ancient types of plane
that depended upon momentum to keep them afloat.

That we ever were able to communicate intelligibly with them is due to
the presence upon Mars of that deathless Virginian, John Carter, whose
miraculous transportation to Mars occurred March 4th, 1866, as every
school child of the twenty-first century knows. Had not the little band
of Martian scientists, who sought so long to communicate with Earth,
mistakenly formed themselves into a secret organization for political
purposes, messages might have been exchanged between the two planets
nearly half a century before they were, and it was not until they
finally called upon John Carter that the present inter-planetary code
was evolved.

Almost from the first the subject which engrossed us all the most was
the possibility of an actual exchange of visits between Earth Men and
Barsoomians. Each planet hoped to be the first to achieve this, yet
neither withheld any information that would aid the other in the
consummation of the great fact. It was a generous and friendly rivalry
which about the time of my graduation from the Air School seemed, in
theory at least, to be almost ripe for successful consummation by one or
the other. We had the Eighth Ray, the motors, the oxygenating devices,
the insulating processes--everything to insure the safe and certain
transit of a specially designed air craft to Mars, were Mars the only
other inhabitant of space. But it was not and it was the other planets
and the Sun that we feared.

In 2015 Mars had dispatched a ship for Earth with a crew of five men
provisioned for ten years. It was hoped that with good luck the trip
might be made in something less than five years, as the craft had
developed an actual trial speed of one thousand miles per hour. At the
time of my graduation the ship was already off its course almost a
million miles and generally conceded to be hopelessly lost. Its crew,
maintaining constant radio communication with both Earth and Mars, still
hoped for success, but the best informed upon both worlds had given them
up.

We had had a ship about ready at the time of the sailing of the
Martians, but the government at Washington had forbidden the venture
when it became apparent that the Barsoomian ship was doomed--a wise
decision, since our vessel was no better equipped than theirs. Nearly
ten years elapsed before anything further was accomplished in the
direction of assuring any greater hope of success for another
interplanetary venture into space, and this was directly due to the
discovery made by a former classmate of mine, Lieutenant Commander
Orthis, one of the most brilliant men I have ever known, and at the same
time one of the most unscrupulous, and, to me at least, the most
obnoxious.

We had entered the Air School together--he from New York and I from
Illinois--and almost from the first day we had seemed to discover a
mutual antagonism that, upon his part at least, must have been
considerably strengthened by numerous unfortunate occurrences during our
four years beneath the same roof. In the first place he was not popular
with either the cadets, the instructors, or the officers of the school,
while I was most fortunate in this respect. In those various fields of
athletics in which he considered himself particularly expert, it was
always I, unfortunately, who excelled him and kept him from major
honors. In the class room he outshone us all--even the instructors were
amazed at the brilliancy of his intellect--and yet as we passed from
grade to grade I often topped him in the final examinations. I ranked
him always as a cadet officer, and upon graduation I took a higher grade
among the new ensigns than he--a rank that had many years before been
discontinued, but which had recently been revived.

From then on I saw little of him, his services confining him principally
to land service, while mine kept me almost constantly on the air in all
parts of the world. Occasionally I heard of him--usually something
unsavory; he had married a nice girl and abandoned her--there had been
talk of an investigation of his accounts--and the last that there was a
rumor that he was affiliated with a secret order that sought to
overthrow the government. Some things I might believe of Orthis, but not
this.

And during these nine years since graduation, as we had drifted apart in
interests, so had the breach between us been widened by constantly
increasing difference in rank. He was a Lieutenant Commander and I a
Captain, when in 2024 he announced the discovery and isolation of the
Eighth Solar Ray, and within two months those of the Moon, Mercury,
Venus and Jupiter. The Eighth Barsoomian and the Eighth Earthly Rays had
already been isolated, and upon Earth the latter erroneously called by
the name of the former.

Orthis' discoveries were hailed upon two planets as the key to actual
travel between the Earth and Barsoom, since by means of these several
rays the attraction of the Sun and the planets, with the exception of
Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, could be definitely overcome and a ship
steer a direct and unimpeded course through space to Mars. The effect of
the pull of the three farther planets was considered negligible, owing
to their great distance from both Mars and Earth.

Orthis wanted to equip a ship and start at once, but again government
intervened and forbade what it considered an unnecessary risk. Instead
Orthis was ordered to design a small radio operated flier, which would
carry no one aboard, and which it was believed could be automatically
operated for at least half the distance between the two planets. After
his designs were completed, you may imagine his chagrin, and mine as
well, when I was detailed to supervise construction, yet I will say that
Orthis hid his natural emotions well and gave me perfect cooperation in
the work we were compelled to undertake together, and which was as
distasteful to me as to him. On my part I made it as easy for him as I
could, working with him rather than over him.

It required but a short time to complete the experimental ship and
during this time I had an opportunity to get a still better insight into
the marvelous, intellectual ability of Orthis, though I never saw into
his mind or heart.

It was late in 2024 that the ship was launched upon its strange voyage,
and almost immediately, upon my recommendation, work was started upon
the perfection of the larger ship that had been in course of
construction in 2015 at the time that the loss of the Martian ship had
discouraged our government in making any further attempt until the then
seemingly insurmountable obstacles should have been overcome. Orthis was
again my assistant, and with the means at our disposal it was a matter
of less than eight months before The Barsoom, as she was christened, was
completely overhauled and thoroughly equipped for the interplanetary
voyage. The various eighth rays that would assist us in overcoming the
pull of the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter were stored in
carefully constructed and well protected tanks within the hull, and
there was a smaller tank at the bow containing the Eighth Lunar Ray,
which would permit us to pass safely within the zone of the moon's
influence without danger of being attracted to her barren surface.

Messages from the original Martian ship had been received from time to
time and with diminishing strength for nearly five years after it had
left Mars. Its commander in his heroic fight against the pull of the sun
had managed to fall within the grip of Jupiter and was, when last heard
from far out in the great void between that planet and Mars. During the
past four years the fate of the ship could be naught but conjecture--all
that we could be certain of was that its unfortunate crew would never
again return to Barsoom.

Our own experimental ship had been speeding upon its lonely way now for
eight months, and so accurate had Orthis' scientific deductions proven
that the most delicate instrument could detect no slightest deviation
from its prescribed course. It was then that Orthis began to importune
the government to permit him to set out with the new craft that was now
completed. The authorities held out, however, until the latter part of
2025 when, the experimental ship having been out a year and still
showing no deviation from its course, they felt reasonably assured that
the success of the venture was certain and that no useless risk of human
life would be involved.

The Barsoom required five men properly to handle it, and as had been the
custom through many centuries when an undertaking of more than usual
risk was to be attempted, volunteers were called for, with the result
that fully half the personnel of the International Peace Fleet begged to
be permitted to form the crew of five. The government finally selected
their men from the great number of volunteers, with the result that once
more was the innocent cause of disappointment and chagrin to Orthis, as
I was placed in command, with Orthis, two lieutenants and an ensign
completing the roster.

The Barsoom was larger than the craft dispatched by the Martians, with
the result that we were able to carry supplies for fifteen years. We
were equipped with more powerful motors which would permit us to
maintain an average speed of over twelve hundred miles an hour, carrying
in addition an engine recently developed by Orthis which generated
sufficient power from light to propel the craft at half-speed in the
event that our other engine should break down. None of us was married.
Orthis' abandoned wife having recently died. Our estates were taken
under trusteeship by the government. Our farewells were made at an
elaborate ball at the White House on December 24, 2025, and on Christmas
day we rose from the landing stage at which The Barsoom had been moored,
and amid the blare of bands and the shouting of thousands of our fellow
countrymen we arose majestically into the blue.

I shall not bore you with dry, technical descriptions of our motors and
equipment. Suffice it to say that the former were of three types--those
which propelled the ship through the air and those which propelled it
through ether, the latter of course represented our most important
equipment, and consisted of powerful multiple-exhaust separators which
isolated the true Barsoomian Eighth Ray in great quantities, and, by
exhausting it rapidly earthward, propelled the vessel toward Mars. These
separators were so designed that, with equal facility, they could
isolate the Earthly Eighth Ray which would be necessary for our return
voyage. The auxiliary engine, which I mentioned previously and which was
Orthis' latest invention, could be easily adjusted to isolate the eighth
ray of any planet or satellite or of the sun itself, thus insuring us
motive power in any part of the universe by the simple expedient of
generating and exhausting the eighth ray of the nearest heavenly body. A
fourth type of generator drew oxygen from the ether, while another
emanated insulating rays which insured us a uniform temperature and
external pressure at all times, their action being analogous to that, of
the atmosphere surrounding the earth. Science had, therefore, permitted
us to construct a little world, which moved at will through space--a
little world inhabited by five soul.

Had it not been for Orthis' presence I could have looked forward to a
reasonably pleasurable voyage, for West and Jay were extremely likeable
fellows and sufficiently mature to be companionable, while young Norton,
the ensign, though but seventeen years of age, endeared himself to all
of us from the very start of the voyage by his pleasant manners, his
consideration and his willingness in the performance of his duties.
There were three staterooms aboard The Barsoom, one of which I occupied
alone, while West and Orthis had the second and Jay and Norton the
third. West and Jay were lieutenants and had been classmates at the air
school. They would .of course have preferred to room together, but could
not unless I commanded it or Orthis requested it. Not wishing to give
Orthis any grounds for offense I hesitated to make the change, while
Orthis, never having thought a considerate thought or done a considerate
deed in his life, could not, of course, have been expected to suggest
it. We all messed together, West, Jay and Norton taking turns at
preparing the meals. Only in the actual operation of the ship were the
lines of rank drawn strictly. Otherwise we associated as equals, nor
would any other arrangement have been endurable upon such an
undertaking, which required that we five be practically imprisoned
together upon a small ship for a period of not less than five years. We
had books and writing materials and games, and we were, of course, in
constant radio communication with both Earth and Mars, receiving
continuously the latest news from both planets. We listened to opera and
oratory and heard the music of two worlds, so that we were not lacking
for entertainment. There was always a certain constraint in Orthis'
manner toward me, yet I must give him credit for behaving outwardly
admirably. Unlike the others we never exchanged pleasantries with one
another, nor could I, knowing as I did that Orthis hated me, and feeling
for him personally the contempt that I felt because of his .character.
Intellectually he commanded my highest admiration, and upon intellectual
grounds we met without constraint or reserve, and many were the
profitable discussions we had during the first days of what was to prove
a very brief voyage.

It was about the second day that I noticed with some surprise that
Orthis was exhibiting a friendly interest in Norton. It had never been
Orthis' way to make friends, but I saw that he and Norton were much
together and that each seemed to derive a great deal of pleasure from
the society of the other. Orthis was a good talker. He knew his
profession thoroughly, and was an inventor and scientist of high
distinction. Norton, though but a boy, was himself the possessor of a
fine mind. He had been honor-man in his graduating class, heading the
list of ensigns for that year, and I could not help but notice that he
was drinking in every word along scientific lines that Orthis
vouchsafed.

We had been out about six days when Orthis came to me and suggested,
that inasmuch as West and Jay had been classmates and chums that they be
permitted to room together and that he had spoken to Norton who had said
that he would be agreeable to the change and would occupy West's bunk in
Orthis' stateroom. I was very glad of this for it now meant that my
subordinates would be paired off in the most agreeable manner, and as
long as they were contented, I knew that the voyage from that standpoint
at least would be more successful. I was, of course, a trifle sorry to
see a fine boy like Norton brought under the influence of Orthis, yet I
felt that what little danger might result would be offset by the
influence of West and Jay and myself or counterbalanced by the liberal
education which five years' constant companionship with Orthis would be
to any man with whom Orthis would discuss freely the subjects of which
he was master.

We were beginning to feel the influence of the Moon rather strongly. At
the rate we were traveling we would pass closest to it upon the twelfth
day, or about the 6th of January, 2026.

Our course would bring us within about twenty thousand miles of the
Moon, and as we neared it I believe that the sight of it was the most
impressive thing that human eye had ever gazed upon before. To the naked
eye if loomed large and magnificent in the heavens, appearing over ten
times the size that it does to terrestrial observers, while our powerful
glasses brought its weird surface to such startling proximity that one
felt that he might reach out and touch the torn rocks of its tortured
mountains.

This nearer view enabled us to discover the truth or falsity of the
theory that has been long held by some scientists that there is a form
of vegetation upon the surface of the Moon. Our eyes were first
attracted by what appeared to be movement upon the surface of some of
the valleys and in the deeper ravines of the mountains. Norton exclaimed
that there were creatures there, moving about, but closer observation
revealed the fact of the existence of a weird fungus-like vegetation
which grew so rapidly that we could clearly discern the phenomena. From
the several days' observation which we had at close range we came to the
conclusion that the entire life span of this vegetation is encompassed
in a single sidereal month. From the spore it developed in the short
period of a trifle over twenty-seven days into a mighty plant that! is
sometimes hundreds of feet in height. The branches I are angular and
grotesque, the leaves broad and thick, and in the plants which we
discerned the seven primary colors were distinctly represented. As each
portion of the Moon passed slowly into shadow the vegetation first
drooped, then wilted, then crumbled to the ground, apparently
disintegrating almost immediately into a fine, dust-like powder-at least
in so far as our glasses revealed, it quite disappeared entirely. The
movement which we discerned was purely that of rapid growth, as there is
no wind upon the surface of the Moon. Both Jay and Orthis were positive
that they discerned some form of animal life, either insect or
reptilian. These I did not myself see, though I did perceive many of the
broad, flat leaves which seemed to have been partially eaten, which
certainly strengthened the theory that there is other than vegetable
life upon our satellite.

I presume that one of the greatest thrills that we experienced in this
adventure, that was to prove a veritable Pandora's box of thrills, was
when we commenced to creep past the edge of the Moon and our eyes beheld
for the first time that which no other human eyes had ever rested
upon--portions of that two-fifths of the Moon's surface which is
invisible from the Earth.

We had looked with awe upon Mare Crisium and Lacus Somniorum, Sinius
Roris, Oceanus Procellarum and the four great mountain ranges. We had
viewed at close range the volcanoes of Opollonius, Secchi, Borda, Tycho
and their mates, but all these paled into insignificance as there
unrolled before us the panorama of the unknown.

I cannot say that it differed materially from that portion of the Moon
that is visible to us--it was merely the glamour of mystery which had
surrounded it since the beginning of time that lent to it its thrill for
us, Here we observed other great mountain ranges and wide undulating
plains, towering volcanoes and mighty craters and the same vegetation
with which we were now become familiar.

We were two days past the Moon when our first trouble developed. Among
our stores were one hundred and twenty quarts of spirits per man, enough
to allow us each a liberal two ounces per day for a period of five
years. Each night, before dinner, we had drunk to the President in a
cocktail which contained a single ounce of spirits, the idea being to
conserve our supply in the event of our journey being unduly protracted
as well as to have enough in the event that it became desirable
fittingly to celebrate any particular occasion.

Toward the third meal hour of the thirteenth day of the voyage Orthis
entered the messroom noticeably under the influence of liquor.

History narrates that under the regime of prohibition drunkenness was
common and that it grew to such proportions as to become a national
menace, but with the repeal of the Prohibition Act, nearly a hundred
years ago, the habit of drinking to excess abated, so that it became a
matter of disgrace for any man to show his liquor, and in the service it
was considered as reprehensible as cowardice in action. There was
therefore but one thing for me to do. I ordered Orthis to his quarters.
He was drunker than I had thought him, and he turned upon me like a
tiger.

"You damned cur," he cried. "All my life you have stolen everything from
me; the fruits of all my efforts you have garnered by chicanery and
trickery, and even now, were we to reach Mars, it is you who would be
lauded as the hero--not I whose labor and intellect have made possible
this achievement. But by God we will not reach Mars. Not again shall you
profit by my efforts. You have gone too far this time, and now you dare
to order me about like a dog and an inferior--I, whose brains have made
you what you are."

I held my temper, for I saw that the man was unaccountable for his
words. "Go to your quarters, Orthis," I repeated my command. "I will
talk with you again in the morning."

West and Jay and Norton were present. They seemed momentarily paralyzed
by the man's condition and gross insubordination. Norton, however, was
the first to recover. Jumping quickly to Orthis' side he laid his hand
upon his arm. "Come, sir," he said, and to my surprise Orthis
accompanied him quietly to their stateroom.

During the voyage we had continued the fallacy of night and day, gauging
them merely by our chronometers, since we moved always through utter
darkness, surrounded only by a tiny nebula of light, produced by the
sun's rays impinging upon the radiation from our insulating generator.
Before breakfast, therefore, on the following morning I sent for Orthis
to come to my stateroom. He entered with a truculent swagger, and his
first Words indicated that if he had not continued drinking, he had at
least been moved to no regrets for his unwarranted attack of the
previous evening.

"Well," he said, "what in hell are you going to do about it?"

"I cannot understand your attitude, Orthis," I told him. "I have never
intentionally injured you. When orders from government threw us together
I was as much chagrined as you. Association with you is as distasteful
to me as it is to you. I merely did as you did--obeyed orders. I have no
desire to rob you of anything, but that is not the question now. You
have been guilty of gross insubordination and of drunkenness. I can
prevent a repetition of the latter by confiscating your liquor and
keeping it from you during the balance of the voyage, and an apology
from you will atone for the former. I shall give you twenty-four hours
to reach a decision. If you do not see fit to avail--yourself of my
clemency, Orthis, you will travel to Mars and back again in irons. Your
decision now and your behavior during the balance of the voyage will
decide your fate upon our return to Earth. And I tell you, Orthis, that
if I possibly can do so I shall use the authority which is mine upon
this expedition and expunge from the log the record of your
transgressions last night and this morning. Now go to your quarters;
your meals will be served there for twenty-four hours and at the end of
that time I shall receive your decision. Meanwhile your liquor will be
taken from you."

He gave me an ugly look, turned upon his heel and left
my stateroom.

Norton was on watch that night. We were two days past the Moon. West,
Jay and I were asleep in our staterooms, when suddenly Norton entered
mine and shook me violently by the shoulder.

"My God, Captain," he cried, "come quick. Commander Orthis is destroying
the engines."

I leaped to my feet and followed Norton amidships to the engine-room,
calling to West and Jay as I passed their stateroom. Through the
bull's-eye in the engine-room door, which he had locked, we could see
Orthis working over the auxiliary generator which was to have proven our
salvation in an emergency, since by means of it we could overcome the
pull of any planet into the sphere of whose influence we might be
carried. I breathed a sigh of relief as my eyes noted that the main
battery of engines was functioning properly, since, as a matter of fact,
we had not expected to have to rely at all upon the auxiliary generator,
having stored sufficient quantities of the Eighth Ray of the various
heavenly bodies by which we might be influenced, to carry us safely
throughout the entire extent of the long voyage. West and Jay had joined
us by this time, and I now called to Orthis, commanding him to open the
door. He did something more to the generator and then arose, crossed the
engine-room directly to the door, unbolted it and threw the door open.
His hair was disheveled, his face drawn, his eyes shining with a
peculiar light, but withal his expression denoted a drunken elation that
I did not at the moment understand.

"What have you been doing here, Orthis?" I demanded. "You are under
arrest, and supposed to be in your quarters."

"You'll see what I've been doing," he replied truculently, "and it's
done-it's done--it can't ever be undone--I've seen to that."

I grabbed him roughly by the shoulder. "What do you mean? Tell me what
you have done, or by God I will kill you with my own hands," for I knew,
not only from his words but from his expressions, that he had
accomplished something which he considered very terrible.

The man was a coward and he quailed under my grasp. "You wouldn't dare
to kill me," he cried, and it don't make any difference, for we'll all
be dead in a few hours. Go and look at your damned compass.



CHAPTER II. THE SECRET OF THE MOON

NORTON, WHOSE watch it was, had already hurried toward the pilot room
where were located the controls and the various instruments. This room,
which was just forward of the engine-room, was in effect a circular
conning-tower which projected about twelve inches above the upper hull.
The entire circumference of this twelve inch superstructure was set with
small ports of thick crystal glass.

As I turned to follow Norton I spoke to West. "Mr. West," I said, "you
and Mr. Jay will place Lieutenant Commander Orthis in irons immediately.
If he resists, kill him."

As I hurried after Norton I heard a volley of oaths from Orthis and a
burst of almost maniacal laughter. When I reached the pilot house I
found Norton working very quietly with the controls. There was nothing
hysterical in his movements, but his face was absolutely ashen.

"What is wrong, Mr. Norton?" I asked. But as I looked at the compass
simultaneously I read my answer there before he spoke. We were moving at
right angles to our proper course.

"We are falling toward the Moon, sir," he said, "and she does not
respond to her control."

"Shut down the engines," I ordered, "they are only accelerating our
fall." "Aye, aye, sir," he replied.

"The Lunar Eighth Ray tank is of sufficient capacity to keep us off the
Moon," I said. "If it has not been tampered with, we should be in no
danger of falling to the Moon's surface."

"If it has not been tampered with, sir; yes, sir, that is what I have
been thinking."

"But the gauge here shows it full to capacity," I reminded him.

"I know, sir," he replied, "but if it were full to capacity, we should
not be falling so rapidly."

Immediately I fell to examining the gauge, almost at once discovering
that it had been tampered with and the needle set permanently to
indicate a maximum supply. I turned to my companion.

"Mr. Norton," I said, "please go forward and investigate the Lunar
Eighth Ray tank, and report back to me immediately."

The young man saluted and departed. As he approached the tank it was
necessary for him to crawl through a very restricted place beneath the
deck.

In about five minutes Norton returned. He was not so pale as he had
been, but he looked very haggard. "Well?" I inquired as he halted before
me. "The exterior intake value has been opened, sir," he said, "the rays
were escaping into space. I have closed it, sir."

The valve to which he referred was used only when the ship was in dry
dock, for the purpose of refilling the buoyancy tank, and, because it
was so seldom used and a further precaution against accident, the valve
was placed in an inaccessible part of the hull where there was
absolutely no likelihood of its being accidentally opened.

Norton glanced at the instrument. "We are not falling quite so rapidly
now," he said.

"Yes," I replied, "I had noted that, and I have also been able to adjust
the Lunar Eighth Ray gauge-it shows that we have about half the original
pressure."

"Not enough to keep us from going aground," he commented.

"No, not here, where there is no atmosphere. If the Moon had an
atmosphere we could at least keep off the surface if we wished to. As it
is, however, I imagine that we will be able to make a safe landing,
though, of course that will do us little good. You understand, I
suppose, Mr. Norton, that this is practically the end."

He nodded. "It will be a sad blow to the inhabitants of two worlds," he
remarked, his entire forgetfulness of self indicating the true nobility
of his character.

"It is a sad report to broadcast," I remarked, "but it must be done, and
at once. You will, please, send the following message to the Secretary
of Peace:

"U.S.S. The Barsoom, January 6, 2026, about twenty thousand miles off
the Moon. Lieutenant Commander Orthis, while under the influence of
liquor, has destroyed auxiliary engine and opened exterior intake valve
Lunar Eighth Ray buoyancy tank. Ship sinking rapidly. Will keep you--"

Norton who had seated himself at the radio desk leaped suddenly to his
feet and turned toward me. "My God, sir," he cried, "he has destroyed
the radio outfit also. We can neither send nor receive."

A careful examination revealed the fact that Orthis had so cleverly and
completely destroyed the instruments that there was no hope of repairing
them. I turned to Norton.

"We are not only dead, Norton, but we are buried as well."

I smiled as I spoke and he answered me with a smile that betokened his
utter fearlessness of death.

"I have but one regret, sir," he said, "and that is that the world will
never know that our failure was not due to any weakness of our
machinery, ship or equipment."

I called to West and Jay who by this time had placed Orthis in irons and
confined him to his stateroom. When they came I told them what had
happened, and they took it as coolly as did Norton. Nor was I surprised,
for these were fine types selected from the best of that splendid
organization which officered the International Peace Fleet.

Together we immediately made a careful inspection of the ship, which
revealed no further damage than that which we had already discovered,
but which was sufficient as we well knew, to preclude any possibility of
our escaping from the pull of the Moon.

"You gentlemen realize our position as well as I," I told them. "Could
we repair the auxiliary generator we might isolate the Lunar Eighth Ray,
refill our tank, and resume our voyage. But the diabolical cleverness
with which Lieutenant Commander Orthis has wrecked the machine renders
this impossible. We might fight away from the surface of the Moon for a
considerable period, but in the end it would avail us nothing. It is my
plan, therefore, to make a landing. In so far as the actual lunar
conditions are concerned, we are confronted only by a mass of theories,
many of which are conflicting. It will, therefore, be at least a matter
of consuming interest to us to make a landing upon this dead world where
we may observe it closely, but there is also the possibility, remote I
grant you, that we may discover conditions here which may in some manner
alleviate our position. At least we can be no worse off. To live for
fifteen years cooped in the hull of this dead ship is unthinkable. I may
speak only for myself, but to me it would be highly preferable to die
immediately than to live on thus, knowing that there was no hope of
rescue. Had Orthis not destroyed the radio outfit we could have
communicated with Earth and another ship been outfitted and sent to our
rescue inside a year. But now we cannot tell them, and they will never
know our fate. The emergency that has arisen has, however, so altered
conditions that I do not feel warranted in taking this step without
consulting you gentlemen. It is a matter now largely of the duration of
our lives. I--cannot proceed upon the mission upon which I have been
dispatched, nor can I return to Earth. I wish, therefore, that you would
express yourselves freely concerning the plan which I have outlined."

West, who was the senior among them, was naturally the one to reply
first. He told me that he was content to go wherever I led, and Jay and
Norton in turn signified a similar willingness to abide by whatever
decision I might reach. They also assured me that they were as keen to
explore the surface of the Moon at close range as I, and that they could
think of no better way of spending the remainder of their lives than in
the acquisition of new experiences and .the observation of new scenes.

"Very well, Mr. Norton," I said, "you will set your course directly
toward the Moon."

Aided by lunar gravity our descent was rapid. As we plunged through
space at a terrific speed, the satellite seemed to be leaping madly
toward us, and at the end of fifteen hours I gave orders to slack off
and brought the ship almost to a stop about nine thousand feet above the
summit of the higher lunar peaks. Never before had I gazed upon a more
awe-inspiring scene than that presented by those terrific peaks towering
five miles above the broad valleys at their feet. Sheer cliffs of three
and four thousand feet were nothing uncommon, and all was rendered
weirdly beautiful by the variegated colors of the rocks and the strange
prismatic hues of the rapidly-growing vegetation upon the valley floors.
From our lofty elevation above the peaks we could see many craters of
various dimensions, some of which were huge chasms, three and four miles
in diameter. As we descended slowly we drifted directly over one of
these abysses, into the impenetrable depths of which we sought to strain
our eyesight. Some of us believed that we detected a faint luminosity
far below, but of that we could not be certain. Jay thought it might be
the reflected light from the molten interior. I was confident that had
this been the case there would have been a considerable rise of
temperature as we passed low across the mouth of the crater.

At this altitude we made an interesting discovery. There is an
atmosphere surrounding the Moon. It is extremely tenuous, but yet it was
recorded by our barometer at an altitude of about fifteen hundred feet
above the highest peak we crossed. Doubtless in the valleys and deep
ravines, where the vegetation thrived, it is denser, but that I do not
know, since we never landed upon the surface of the Moon. As the ship
drifted we presently noted that it was taking a circular course
paralleling the rim of the huge volcanic crater above which we were
descending. I immediately gave orders to alter our course since, as we
were descending constantly, we should presently be below the rim of the
crater and, being unable to rise, be hopelessly lost in its huge maw. It
was my plan to drift slowly over one of the larger valleys as we
descended, and make a landing amidst the vegetation which we perceived
growing in riotous profusion and movement beneath us. But when West,
whose watch it now was, attempted to alter the course of the ship, he
found that it did not respond. Instead it continued to move slowly in a
great circle around the inside of the crater. At the moment of this
discovery we were not much more than five hundred feet above the summit
of the volcano, and we were constantly, though slowly, dropping. West
looked up at us, smiled, and shook his head.

"It is no use, sir," he said, addressing me. "It is about all over, sir,
and there won't even be any shouting. We seem to be caught in what one
might call a lunar whirlpool, for you will have noticed, sir, that our
circles are constantly growing smaller."

"Our speed does not seem to be increasing," I remarked, "as would follow
were we approaching the vortex of a true whirlpool."

"I think I can explain it, sir," said Norton. "It is merely due to the
action of the Lunar Eighth Ray which still remains in the forward
buoyancy tank. Its natural tendency is to push itself away from the
Moon, which, as far as we are concerned, is represented by the rim of
this enormous crater. As each portion of the surface repels us in its
turn we are pushed gently along in a lessening circle, because, as we
drop nearer the summit of the peak the greater the reaction of the
Eighth Lunar Ray. If I am not mistaken in my theory our circle will
cease to narrow after we have dropped beneath the rim of the crater."

"I guess you are right, Norton," I said. "At least it is a far more
tenable theory than that we are being sucked into the vortex of an
enormous whirlpool. There is scarcely enough atmosphere for that, it
seems to me."

As we dropped slowly below the run of the crater the tenability of
Norton's theory became more and more apparent, for presently, though our
speed increased slightly, the diameter of our circular course remained
constant, and, at a little greater depth, our speed as well.

We were descending now at the rate of a little over miles an hour, the
barometer recording a constantly creasing atmospheric pressure, though
nothing approximating that necessary to the support of Me upon The
temperature rose slightly, but not alarmingly, at a range of twenty-five
or thirty below zero, immediately after we had entered the shadow of the
crater's interior it rose gradually to zero at a point some one hundred
and twenty-five miles below the summit of the giant extinct volcano that
had engulfed us.

During the next ten miles our speed diminished ran idly, until we
suddenly realized that we were no longer falling, but that our motion
had been reversed and we were rising. Up we went for approximately eight
miles when suddenly we began to fall again. Again we fell, but this time
for only six miles, when our motion was reversed and we rose again a
distance of about four miles. This see-sawing was continued until we
finally came to rest at about what we estimated was a distance of some
one hundred and thirty miles below the summit of the crater. It was
quite dark, and we had only our instruments to tell us of what was
happening to the ship, the interior of which was, of course, brilliantly
illuminated and comfortably warm.

Now below us, and now above us, for the ship had rolled completely over
each time we had passed the point at which we came finally to rest, we
had noted the luminosity that Norton had first observed from above the
mouth of the crater. Each of us had been doing considerable thinking,
and at last young Norton could contain himself no longer.

"I beg your pardon, sir," he said deferentially, "but won't you tell us
what you think of it; what your theory is as to where we are and why we
hang here in mid-air, and why the ship rolled over every time we passed
this point?"

"I can only account for it," I replied, "upon a single, rather
preposterous hypothesis, which is that the Union is a hollow sphere,
with a solid crust some two hundred and fifty miles in thickness.
Gravity is preventing us from rising above the point where we now are,
while centrifugal force keeps us from falling."

The others nodded. They too had been forced to accept the same
apparently ridiculous theory, since there was none other that could
explain our predicament. Norton had walked across the room to read the
barometer which he had rather neglected while the ship had been
performing her eccentric antics far below the surface of the Moon. I saw
his brows knit as he glanced at it, and then I saw him studying it
carefully, as though to assure himself that he had made no mistake in
the reading. Then he turned toward us.

"There must be something wrong with this instrument, sir," he said. "It
is registering pressure equivalent to that at the Earth's surface."

I walked over and looked at the instrument. It certainly was registering
the pressure that Norton had read, nor did there seem to be anything
wrong with the instrument.

"There is a way to find out," I said. "We can shut down the insulating
generator and open an air-cock momentarily. It won't take five seconds
to determine whether the barometer is correct or not." It was, of
course, in some respects a risky proceeding, but with West at the
generator, Jay at the air cock and Norton at the pump I knew that we
would be reasonably safe, even if there proved to be no atmosphere
without. The only danger lay in the chance that we were hanging in a
poisonous gas of the same density as the earthly atmosphere, but as
there was no particular incentive to live in the situation in which we
were, we each felt that no matter what chance we might take it would
make little difference in the eventual outcome of our expedition.

I tell you that it was a very tense moment as the three men took their
posts to await my word of command. If we had indeed discovered a true
atmosphere beneath the surface of the Moon, what more might we not
discover? If it were an atmosphere, we could propel the ship in it, and
we could, if nothing more, go out on deck to breathe fresh air. It was
arranged that at my word of command West was to shut off the generator,
Jay to open the air cock, and Norton to start the pump. If fresh air
failed to enter through the tube Jay was to give the signal whereupon
Norton would reverse the pump, West start the generator, and immediately
Jay would close the air cock again.

As Jay was the only man who was to take a greater chance than the
others, I walked over and stood beside him, placing my nostrils as close
to the air cock as his. Then I gave the word of command. Everything
worked perfectly and an instant later a rush of fresh, cold air was
pouring into the hull of The Barsoom, West and Norton had been watching
the effects upon our faces closely, so that they knew almost as soon as
we did that the result of our test had been satisfactory. We were all
smiles, though just why we were so happy I am sure none of us could have
told. Possibly it was just because we had found a condition that was
identical with an earthly condition, and though we might never see our
world again we could at least breathe air similar to hers.

I had them start the motors again then, and presently we were moving in
a great spiral upward toward the interior of the Moon. Our progress was
very slow, but as we rose the temperature rose slowly, too, while the
barometer showed a very-slightly-decreasing atmospheric pressure. The
luminosity, now above us, increased as we ascended, until finally the
sides of the great well through which we were passing became slightly
illuminated.

All this time Orthis had remained in irons in his state-room. I had
given instructions that he was to be furnished food and water, but no
one was to speak to him, I had taken Norton into my stateroom with me.
Knowing Orthis to be a drunkard, a traitor and a potential murderer I
had no sympathy whatsoever for him. I had determined to court-martial
him and did not intend to spend the few remaining hours or years of my
life cooped up in a small ship with him, and I knew that the verdict of
any court, whether composed of the remaining crew of The Barsoom, or
appointed by the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, could result in but
one thing, and that was death for Orthis. I had left the matter,
however, until we were not pressed with other matters of greater
importance, and so he still lived, though he shared neither in our
fears, our hopes, nor our joys.

About twenty-six hours after we entered the mouth of the crater at the
surface of the Moon we suddenly emerged from its opposite end to look
upon a scene that was as marvelous and weird, by comparison with the
landscape upon the surface of the Moon, as the latter was in comparison
with that of our own Earth. A soft, diffused light revealed to us in
turn mountains, valleys and sea, the details of which were more slowly
encompassed by our minds. The mountains were as rugged as those upon the
surface of the satellite, and appeared equally as lofty. They were,
however, clothed with verdure almost to their summits, at least a few
that were within our range of vision. And there were forests,
too--strange forests, of strange trees, so unearthly in appearance as to
suggest the weird phantasmagoria of a dream.

We did not rise much above five hundred feet from the opening of the
well through which we had come from outer space when I descried an
excellent landing place and determined to descend. This was readily
accomplished, and we made a safe landing close to a large forest and
near the bank of a small stream. Then we opened the forward hatch and
stepped out upon the deck of The Barsoom, the first Earth Men to breathe
the air of Luna. It was, according to Earth time, eleven a.m., January
8, 2026.

I think that the first thing which engaged our interest and attention
was the strange, and then, to us, unaccountable luminosity which
pervaded the interior of the Moon. Above us were banks of fleecy clouds,
the under-surfaces of which appeared to be lighted from beneath, while,
through breaks in the cloud banks we could discern a luminous firmament
beyond, though nowhere was there any suggestion of a central
incandescent orb radiating light and heat as does our sun. The clouds
them-' selves cast no shadows upon the ground, nor, in fact, were there
any well-defined shadows even directly beneath the hull of the ship or
surrounding the forest trees which grew close at hand. The shadows were
vague and nebulous, blending off into nothingnesses at their edges. We
ourselves cast no more shadows upon the deck of The Barsoom than would
have been true upon a cloudy day on Earth. Yet the general illumination
surrounding us approximated that of a very slightly hazy Earth day. This
peculiar lunar light interested us profoundly, but it was some time
before we discovered the true explanation of its origin. It was of two
kinds, emanating from widely different sources, the chief of which was
due to the considerable radium content of the internal lunar soil, and
principally of the rock forming the loftier mountain ranges, the radium
being so combined as to diffuse a gentle perpetual light which pervaded
the entire interior of the Moon. The secondary source was sunlight,
which penetrated to the interior of the Moon through hundreds of
thousands of huge craters penetrating the lunar crust. It was this
sunlight which carried heat to the inner world, maintaining a constant
temperature of about eighty degrees Fahrenheit.

Centrifugal force, in combination with the gravity of the Moon's crust,
confined the internal lunar atmosphere to a blanket which we estimated
at about fifty miles in thickness over the inner surface of this buried
world. This atmosphere rarefies rapidly as one ascends the higher peaks,
with the result that these are constantly covered with perpetual snow
and ice, sending great glaciers down mighty gorges toward the central
seas. It is this condition which has probably prevented the atmosphere,
confined as it is within an almost solid sphere, from becoming
superheated, through the unthinkable ages that this condition must have
existed. The Earth seasons are reflected but slightly in the Moon, there
being but a few degrees difference between summer and winter. There are,
however, periodic wind-storms, which recur with greater or less
regularity once each sidereal month, due, I imagine, to the unequal
distribution of crater openings through the crust of the Moon, a fact
which must produce an unequal absorption of heat at various times and in
certain localities. The natural circulation of the lunar atmosphere,
affected as it is by the constantly-changing volume and direction of the
sun's rays, as well as the great range of temperature between the
valleys and the ice-clad mountain peaks, produces frequent storms of
greater or less violence. High winds are accompanied by violent rains
upon the lower levels and blinding snowstorms among the barren heights
above the vegetation line. Rains which fall from low-hanging clouds are
warm and pleasant; those which come from high clouds are cold and
disagreeable, yet however violent or protracted the storm, the
illumination remains practically constant--there are never any dark,
lowering days within the Moon, nor is there any night.



CHAPTER III. ANIMALS OR MEN?

Of course we did not reach all these conclusions in few moments, but I
have given them here merely as the outcome of our deductions following a
considerable experience within the Moon. Several miles from the shin
rose foothills which climbed picturesquely toward the cloudy heights of
the loftier mountains behind them and as we looked in the direction of
these latter, and then out across the forest, there was appreciable to
us a strangeness that at first we could not explain, but which we later
discovered was due to the fact that there was no horizon, the distance
that one could see being dependent solely upon one's power of vision.
The general effect was of being in the bottom of a tremendous bowl, with
sides so high that one might not see the top.

The ground about us was covered with rank vegetation of pale
hues--lavenders, violets, pinks and yellows predominating. Pink grasses
which became distinctly flesh-color at maturity grew in abundance, and
the stalks of most of the flowering plants were of this same peculiar
hue. The flowers themselves were often of highly complex form, of pale
and delicate shades, of great size and rare beauty. There were low
shrubs that bore a berry-like fruit, and many of the trees of the forest
carried fruit of considerable size and of a variety of forms and colors.
Norton and Jay were debating the possible edibility of some of these,
but I gave orders that no one was to taste them until we had had an
opportunity to learn by analysis or otherwise those varieties that were
non-poisonous.

There was aboard The Barsoom a small laboratory equipped especially for
the purpose of analyzing the vegetable and mineral products of Mars
according to earthly standards, as well as other means of conducting
research work upon our sister planet. As we had sufficient food aboard
for a period of fifteen years, there was no immediate necessity for
eating any of the lunar fruit, but I was anxious to ascertain the
chemical properties of the water since the manufacture of this necessity
was slow, laborious and expensive. I therefore instructed West to take a
sample from the stream and subject it to laboratory tests, and the
others I ordered below for sleep.

They were rather more keen to set out upon a tour of exploration, nor
could I blame them, but as none of us had slept for rather better than
forty-eight hours I considered it of importance that we recuperate our
vital forces against whatever contingency might confront us in this
unknown world. Here were air, water and vegetation--the three prime
requisites for the support of animal life--and so I judged it only
reasonable to assume that animal life existed within the Moon. If it did
exist, it might be in some highly predatory form, against which it would
tax our resources to the utmost to defend ourselves. I insisted,
therefore, upon each of us obtaining his full quota of sleep before
venturing from the safety of The Barsoom.

We already had seen evidences of life of a low order, both reptile and
insect, or perhaps it would be better to describe the latter as flying
reptiles, as they later proved to be--toad-like creatures with the wings
of bats, that flitted among the fleshy boughs of the forest, emitting
plaintive cries. Upon the ground near the ship we had seen but a single
creature, though the moving grasses had assured us that there were
others there aplenty. The thing that we had seen had been plainly
visible to us all and may be best described as a five-foot snake with
tour frog-like legs, and a flat head with a single eye in the center of
the forehead. Its legs were very short, and as it moved along the ground
it both wriggled like a true snake and scrambled with its four short
legs. We watched it to the edge of the river and saw it dive in and
disappear beneath the surface.

"Silly looking beggar," remarked Jay, "and devilish unearthly."

"I don't know about that," I returned. "He possessed nothing visible to
us that we are not familiar with on Earth. Possibly he was assembled
after a slightly different plan from any Earth creature; but aside from
that he is familiar to us, even to his amphibious habits. And these
flying toads, too; what of them? I see nothing particularly remarkable
about them. We have just as strange forms on Earth, though nothing
precisely like these. Mars, too, has forms of animal and vegetable life
peculiar to herself, yet nothing the existence of which would be
impossible upon Earth, and she has, as well, human forms almost
identical with our own. You see what I am trying to suggest?"

"Yes, sir," replied Jay; "that there may be human life similar to our
own within the Moon."

"I see no reason to be surprised should we discover human beings here,"
I said; "nor would I be surprised to find a reasoning creature of some
widely divergent form. I would be surprised, however, were we to find no
form analogous to the human race of Earth."

"That is, a dominant race with well developed reasoning faculties?"
asked Norton.

"Yes, and it is because of this possibility that we must have sleep and
keep ourselves fit, since we may not know the disposition of these
creatures, provided they exist, nor the reception that they will accord
us. And so, Mr. Norton, if you will get a receptacle and fetch some
water from the stream we will leave Mr. West on watch to make his
analysis and the rest of us will turn in."

Norton went below and returned with a glass jar in which to carry the
water and the balance of us lined the rail with our service revolvers
ready in the event of an emergency as he went over the side. None of us
had walked more than a few steps since coming on deck after our landing.
I had noticed a slightly peculiar sensation of buoyancy, but in view of
the numerous other distractions had given it no consideration. As Norton
reached the bottom of the ladder and set foot on lunar soil I called to
him to make haste. Just in front of him was a low bush and beyond it lay
the river, about thirty feet distant. In response to my command he gave
a slight leap to clear the bush and, to our amazement as well as to his
own consternation, rose fully eighteen feet into the air, cleared a
space of fully thirty-five feet and lit in the river.

"Come!" I said to the others, wishing them to follow me to Norton's aid,
and sprang for the rail; but I was too impetuous. I never touched the
rail, but cleared it by many feet, sailed over the intervening strip of
land, and disappeared beneath the icy waters of the lunar river. How
deep it was I do not know; but at least it was over my head. I found
myself in a sluggish, yet powerful current, the water seeming to move
much as a heavy oil moves to the gravity of Earth. As I came to the
surface I saw Norton swimming strongly for the bank and a second later
Jay emerged not far from me. I glanced quickly around for West, whom I
immediately perceived was still on the deck of The Barsoom, where, of
course, it was his duty to remain, since it was his watch.

The moment that I realized that my companions were all safe I could not
repress a smile, and then Norton and Jay commenced to laugh, and we were
still laughing when we pulled ourselves from the stream a short distance
below the ship.

"Get your sample, Norton?" I asked.

"I still have the container, sir," he replied, and indeed he had clung
to it throughout his surprising adventure, as Jay and I, fortunately,
had clung to our revolvers. Norton removed the cap from the bottle and
dipped the latter into the stream. Then he looked up at me and smiled.

"I think we have beaten Mr. West to it, sir," he said. "It seems like
very good water, sir, and when I struck it I was so surprised that I
must have swallowed at least a quart."

"I tested a bit of it myself," I replied. "As far as we three are
concerned, Mr. West's analysis will not interest us if he discovers that
lunar water contains poisonous matter, but for his own protection we
will let him proceed with his investigation."

"It is strange, sir," remarked Jay, "that none of us thought of the
natural effects of the lesser gravity of the Moon. We have discussed the
matter upon many occasions, as you will recall, yet when we faced the
actual condition we gave it no consideration whatsoever."

"I am glad," remarked Norton, "that I did not attempt to jump the
river--I should have been going yet. Probably landed on the top of some
mountain."

As we approached the ship I saw West awaiting us with a most serious and
dignified mien; but when he saw that we were all laughing he joined us,
telling us after we reached the deck, that he had never witnessed a more
surprising or ludicrous sight in his life.

We went below then and after closing and securing the batch, three of us
repaired to our bunks, while West with the sample of lunar water went to
the laboratory. I was very tired and slept soundly for some ten hours,
for it was the middle of Norton's watch before I awoke.

The only important entry upon the log since I had turned in was West's
report of the results of his analysis of the water, which showed that it
was not only perfectly safe for drinking purposes but usually pure, with
an extremely low saline content.

I had been up about a half an hour when West came to me, saying that
Orthis requested permission to speak to me. Twenty-four hours before, I
had been fairly well determined to bring Orthis to trial and execute him
immediately, but that had been when I had felt that we were all
hopelessly doomed to death on his account. Now, however, with a
habitable world beneath our feet, surrounded by conditions almost
identical with, those which existed upon Earth, our future looked less
dark, and because of this I found myself in a quandry as to what course
of action to pursue in the matter of Orthis' punishment. That he
deserved death there was no question, but when men have faced death so
closely and escaped, temporarily at least, I believe that they must look
upon life as a most sacred thing and be less inclined to deny life to
others. Be that as it may, the fact remains that having sent for Orthis
in compliance with his request I received him in a mood of less stern
and uncompromising justice than would have been the case twenty-four
hours previous. When he had been brought to my stateroom and stood
before me, I asked him what he wished to say to me. He was entirely
sober now and bore himself with a certain dignity that was not untinged
with humility.

"I do not know what has occurred since I was put in irons, as you have
instructed the others not to speak to me or answer my questions. I know,
of course, however, that the ship is at rest and that pure air is
circulating through it, and I have heard the hatch raised and footsteps
upon the upper deck. From the time that has elapsed since I was placed
under arrest I know that the only planet upon which we have had time to
make a landing is the Moon, and so I may guess that we are upon the
surface of the Moon. I have had ample time to reflect upon my actions.
That I was intoxicated is, of course, no valid excuse, and yet it is the
only excuse that I have to offer. I beg, sir, that you will accept the
assurance of my sincere regret of the unforgivable things that I have
done, and that you will permit me to live and atone for my wrongdoings,
for if we are indeed upon the surface of the Moon it may be that we can
ill spare a single member of our small party. I throw myself, sir,
entirely upon your mercy, but beg that you will give me another chance."

Realizing my natural antipathy for the man and wishing most sincerely
not to be influenced against him because of it, I let his plea influence
me against my better judgment with the result that I promised him that I
would give the matter careful consideration, discuss it with the others,
and be influenced largely by their decision. I had him returned to his
stateroom then and sent for the other members of the party. With what
fidelity my memory permitted I repeated to them in Orthis' own words his
request for mercy.

"And now, gentlemen," I said, "I would like to have your opinions in the
matter. It is of as much moment to you as to me, and under the peculiar
circumstances in which we are placed, I prefer in so far as possible to
defer wherever I can to the judgment of the majority. Whatever my final
action, the responsibility will be mine. I do not seek to divide that,
and it may be that I shall act contrary to the wishes of the majority in
some matters, but in this one I really wish to abide by your desires
because of the personal antagonism that has existed between Lieutenant
Commander Orthis and myself since boyhood."

I knew that none of these men liked Orthis, yet I knew, too, that they
would approach the matter in a spirit of justice tempered by mercy, and
so I was not at all surprised when one after another they assured me
that they would be glad if I would give the man another opportunity.

Again I sent for Orthis, and after explaining to him that inasmuch as he
had given me his word to commit no disloyal act in the future I should
place him on parole, his eventual fate depending entirely upon his own
conduct; then had his irons removed and told him that he was to return
to duty. He seemed most grateful and assured us that we would never have
cause to regret our decision. Would to God that instead of freeing him I
had drawn my revolver and shot him through the heart!

We were all pretty well rested up by this time, and I undertook to do a
little exploring in the vicinity of the ship, going out for a few hours
each day with a single companion, leaving the other three upon the ship.
I never went far afield at first, confining myself to an area some five
miles in diameter between the crater and the river. Upon both sides of
the latter, below where the ship had landed, was a considerable extent
of forest. I ventured into this upon several occasions and once, just
about time for us to return to the ship, I came upon a well marked trail
in the dust of which were the imprints of three-toed feet Each day I set
the extreme limit of time that I would absent myself from the ship with
instructions that two of those remaining aboard should set out in search
of me and my companion, should we be absent over the specified number of
hours. Therefore, I was unable to follow the trail the day upon which I
discovered it, since we had scarcely more than enough time to make a
brief examination of the tracks if we were to reach the ship within the
limit I had allowed.

It chanced that Norton was with me that day and in his quiet way was
much excited by our discovery. We were both positive that the tracks had
been made by a four-footed animal, something that weighed between two
hundred and fifty and three hundred pounds. How recently it had been
used we could scarcely estimate, but the trail itself gave every
indication of being a very old one. I was sorry that we had no time to
pursue the animal which had made the tracks but determined that upon the
following day I should do so. We reached the ship and told the others
what we had discovered. They were much interested and many and varied
were the conjectures as to the nature of the animals whose tracks we had
seen.

After Orthis had been released from arrest Norton had asked permission
to return to the former's stateroom. I had granted his request and the
two had been very much together ever since. I could not understand
Norton's apparent friendship for this man, and it almost made me doubt
the young ensign. One day I was to learn the secret of this intimacy,
but at the time I must confess that it puzzled me considerably and
bothered me not a little, for I had taken a great liking to Norton and
disliked to see him so much in the company of a man of Orthis'
character.

Each of the men had now accompanied me on my short excursions of
exploration with the exception of Orthis. Inasmuch as his parole had
fully reinstated him among us in theory at least, I could not very well
discriminate against him and leave him alone of all the others aboard
ship as I pursued my investigations of the surrounding country.

The day following our discovery of the trail, I accordingly invited him
to accompany me, and we set out early, each armed with a revolver and a
rifle. I advised West, who automatically took command of the ship during
my absence, that we might be gone considerably longer than usual and
that he was to feel no apprehension and send out no relief party unless
we should be gone a full twenty-four hours, as I wished to follow up the
spoor we had discovered, learn where the trail led and have a look at
the animal that had made it.

I led the way directly to the spot at which we had found the trail,
about four miles down river from the ship and apparently in the heart of
dense forest.

The flying-toads darted from tree to tree about us, uttering their weird
and plaintive cries, while upon several occasions, as in the past, we
saw four-legged snakes such as we had seen upon the day of our landing.
Neither the toads nor the snakes bothered us, seeming only to wish to
avoid us.

Just before we came upon the trail, both Orthis and I thought we heard
the sound of footsteps ahead of us--something similar to that made by a
galloping animal--and when we came upon the trail a moment later it was
apparent to both of us that dust was hanging in the air and slowly
settling on the-Vegetation nearby. Something, therefore, had passed over
the trail but a minute or two before we arrived. A brief examination of
the spoor revealed the fact that it had been made by a three-toed animal
whose direction of travel was to our right and toward the river, at this
point some half mile from us.

I could not help but feel considerable inward excitement, and I was
sorry that one of the others had not been with me, for I never felt
perfectly at ease with Orthis. I had done considerable hunting in
various parts of the world where wild game still exists but I had never
experienced such a thrill as I did at the moment that I undertook to
stalk this unknown beast upon an unknown trail in an unknown world.
Where the trail would lead me, what I should find upon it, I never knew
from one step to another, and the lure of it because of that was
tremendous. The fact that there were almost nine million square miles of
this world for me to explore, and that no Earth Man had ever before set
foot upon an inch of it, helped a great deal to compensate for the fact
that I knew I could never return to my own Earth again.

The trail led to the edge of the river which at this point was very wide
and shallow. Upon the opposite shore, I could see the trail again
directly opposite and I knew therefore that this was a ford. Without
hesitating, I stepped into the river, and as I did so I glanced to my
left to see stretching before me as far as my eye could reach a vast
expanse of water. Here then I had stumbled upon the mouth of the river
and, beyond, a lunar sea.

The land upon the opposite side of the river was tolling and
grass-covered, but in so far as I could see, almost treeless. As I
turned my eyes from the sea back toward the opposite shore, I saw that
which caused me to halt in my tracks, cock my rifle and issue a cautious
warning to Orthis for silence, for there before us upon a knoll stood a
small horselike animal.

It would have been a long shot, possibly five hundred yards, and I
should have preferred to have come closer but there was no chance to do
that now, for we were in the middle of the river in plain view of the
animal which stood there watching us intently. I had scarcely raised my
rifle, however, ere it wheeled and disappeared over the edge of the
knoll upon which it had been standing.

"What did it look like to you, Orthis?" I asked my companion.

"It was a good ways off," he replied, "and I only just got my binoculars
on it as it disappeared, but I could have sworn that it wore a harness
of some sort. It was about the size of a small pony, I should say, but
it didn't have a pony's head."

"It appeared tailless to me," I remarked.

"I saw no tail," said Orthis, "nor any ears or horns. It was a devilish
funny looking thing. I don't understand it. There was something about
it--" he paused. "My God, sir, there was something about it that looked
human."

"It gave me that same impression, too, Orthis, and I doubt if I should
have fired had I been able to cover it, for just at the instant that I
threw my rifle to my shoulder I felt that same strange impression that
you mention. There was something human about the thing."

As we talked, we had been moving on across the ford which we found an
excellent one, the water at no time coming to our waists while the
current was scarcely appreciable. Finally, we stepped out on the
opposite shore a moment later, far to the left, we caught another
glimpse of the creature that we had previously seen. It stood upon a
distant knoll, evidently watching us.

Orthis and I raised our binoculars to our eyes almost simultaneously and
for a full minute we examined the thing as it stood there, neither of us
speaking, and then we dropped our glasses and looked at each other.

"What do you make of it, sir?" he asked.

I shook my head. "I don't know what to make of it, Orthis," I replied;
"but I should swear that I was looking straight into a human face, and
yet the body was that of a quadruped."

"There can be no doubt of it, sir," he replied, "and this time one could
see the harness and the clothing quite plainly. It appears to have some
sort of a weapon hanging at its left side. Did you notice it, sir?"

"Yes, I noticed it, but I don't understand it."

A moment longer we stood watching the creature until it turned and
galloped off, disappearing behind the knoll on which it had stood. We
decided to follow the trail which led in a southerly direction, feeling
reasonably assured that we were more likely to come in contact with the
creature or others similar to it upon the trail than off it. We had gone
but a short distance when the trail approached the river again, which
puzzled me at the time somewhat, as we had gone apparently directly away
from the river since we had left the ford, but after we had gone some
mile and a half, we found the explanation, since we came again to
another ford while on beyond we saw the river emptying into the sea and
realized that we had crossed an island lying in the mouth of the river.

I was hesitating as to whether to make the crossing and continue along
the trail or to go back and search the island for the strange creature
we had discovered. I rather hoped to capture it, but since I had finally
descried its human face, I had given up all intention of shooting it
unless I found that it would be necessary to do so in self defense. As I
stood there, rather undecided, our attention was attracted back to the
island by a slight noise, and as we looked in the direction of the
disturbance, we saw five of the creatures eyeing us from high land a
quarter of a mile away. When they saw they were discovered they galloped
boldly toward us. They had come a short distance only, when they stopped
again upon a high knoll, and then one of them raised his face 'toward
the sky and emitted a series of piercing howls. They then came on again
toward us nor did they pause until they were within fifty feet of us,
when they came to a sudden halt.



CHAPTER IV. CAPTURED

OUR FIRST VIEW of the creatures proved beyond a question of a doubt that
they were in effect human quadrupeds. The faces were very broad, much
broader than any human faces that I have ever seen, but their profiles
were singularly like those of the ancient North American-Indians. Their
bodies were covered with a garment with short legs that ended above the
knees, and which was ornamented about the collar and also about the
bottom of each leg with a rather fanciful geometric design. About the
barrel of each was a surcingle and connected with it by a backstrap was
something analogous to a breeching in Earth horse harness. Where the
breeching straps crossed on either side, was a small circular ornament,
and there was a strap resembling a trace leading from this forward to
the collar, passing beneath a quite large, circular ornament, which
appeared to be supported by the surcingle. Smaller straps, running from
these two ornaments upon the left side, supported a sheath in which was
carried what appeared to be a knife of some description. And upon the
right side a short spear was carried in a boot, similarly suspended from
the two ornaments, much as the carbine of our ancient Earth cavalry was
carried. The spear, which was about six feet long, was of peculiar
design, having a slender, well-shaped head, from the base of which a
crescent-shaped arm curved backward from one side, while upon the side
opposite the crescent was a short, sharp point at right angles to the
median line of the weapon.

For a moment we stood there eyeing each other, and from their appearance
I judged that they were as much interested in us as we were in them. I
noticed that they kept looking beyond us, across the river toward the
mainland. Presently, I turned for a glance in same direction, and far
away beyond a thin forest I saw a cloud of dust which seemed to be
moving rapidly toward us. I called Orthis' attention to it.

"Reinforcements," I said. "That is what that fellow was calling for when
he screamed. I think we had better try conclusions with the five before
any more arrive. We will try to make friends first, but if we are
unsuccessful we must fight our way back toward the ship at once."

Accordingly, I stepped forward toward the five with a smile upon my lips
and my hand outstretched. I knew of no other way in which to carry to
them an assurance of our friendliness. At the same time, I spoke a few
words in English in a pleasant and conciliatory tone. Although I knew
that my words would be meaningless to them, I hoped that they would
catch their intent from my inflection.

Immediately upon my advance, one of the creatures turned and spoke to
another, indicating to us for the first time that they possessed a
spoken language. Then he turned, and addressed me in a tongue that was,
of course, utterly meaningless to me; but if he had misinterpreted my
action, I could not misunderstand that which accompanied his words, for
he reared up on his hind feet and simultaneously drew his spear and a
wicked-looking, short-bladed sword or dagger, his companions at the same
time following his example, until I found myself confronted by an array
of weapons backed by scowling, malignant faces. Their leader uttered a
single word which I interpreted as meaning halt, and so I halted.

I pointed to Orthis and to myself, and then to the trail along which we
had come, and then back in the direction of the ship. I was attempting
to tell them that we wished to go back whence we had come. Then I turned
to Orthis. "Draw your revolver," I said, "and follow me. If they
interfere we shall have to shoot them. We must get out of this before
the others arrive."

As we turned to retrace our steps along the trail, the five dropped upon
all fours, still holding their weapons in their fore-paws, and galloped
quickly to a position blocking our way.

"Stand aside," I yelled, and fired my pistol above their hands. From
their actions, I judged that they had never before heard the report of a
firearm, for they stood an instant in evident surprise, and then wheeled
and galloped off for about a hundred yards, where they turned and halted
again, facing us. They were still directly across our trail, and Orthis
and I moved forward determinedly toward them. They were talking among
themselves, and at the same time watching us closely.

When we had arrived at a few yards from them, I again threatened them
with my pistol, but they stood their ground, evidently reassured by the
fact that the thing that I held in my hand, though it made a loud noise,
inflicted no injury. I did not want to shoot one of them if I could
possibly avoid it, so I kept on toward them, hoping that they would make
way for us; but instead they reared again upon their hind feet and
threatened us with their weapons.

Just bow formidable their weapons were, I could not, of course,
determine; but I conjectured that if they were at all adept in its use,
their spear might be a very formidable thing indeed. I was within a few
feet of them now, and their attitude was more war-like than ever,
convincing me that they had no intention of permitting us to pass
peacefully.

Their features, which I could now see distinctly, were hard, fierce, and
cruel in the extreme. Their leader seemed to be addressing me, but, of
course, I could not understand him; but when, at last, standing there
upon his hind feet, with evidently as much ease as I stood upon my two
legs, he carried his spear back in a particularly menacing movement, I
realized that I must act and act quickly.

I think the fellow was just on the point of launching his spear at me,
when I fired. The bullet struck him square between the eyes, and he
dropped like a log, without a sound. Instantly, the others wheeled again
and galloped away, this time evincing speed that was almost appalling,
clearing spaces of a hundred feet in a single bound, even though
handicapped, as they must have been, by the weapons which they clutched
in their fore-paws.

A glance behind me showed the dust-cloud rapidly approaching the river,
upon the mainland, and calling to Orthis to follow me, I ran rapidly
along the trail which led back in the direction of the ship.

The four Moon creatures retreated for about half a mile, and then halted
and faced us. They were still directly in our line of retreat, and there
they stood for a moment, evidently discussing their plans. We were
nearing them rapidly, for we had discovered that we, too, could show
remarkable speed, when retarded by gravity only one-sixth of that of
Earth. To clear forty feet at a jump was nothing, our greatest
difficulty lying in a tendency to leap to too great heights, which
naturally resulted in cutting down our horizontal distance. As we neared
the four, who had taken their stand upon the summit of a knoll, I heard
a great splashing in the river behind us, and turning, saw that their
reinforcements were crossing the ford, and would soon be upon us. There
appeared to be fully a hundred of them, and our case looked hopeless
indeed, unless we could manage to pass the four ahead of us, and reach
the comparative safety of the forest beyond the first ford.

"Commence firing, Orthis," I said. "Shoot to kill. Take the two at the
left as your targets, and I'll fire at the two at the right. We had
better halt and take careful aim, as we can't afford to waste
ammunition."

We came to a stop about twenty-five yards from the foremost creature,
which is a long pistol shot; but they were standing still upon the crest
of a knoll, distinctly outlined against the sky, and were such a size as
to present a most excellent target. Our shots rang our simultaneously.
The creature at the left, at which Orthis had aimed, leaped high into
the air, and fell to the ground, where it lay kicking convulsively. The
one at the right uttered a piercing shriek, clutched at its breast, and
dropped dead. Then Orthis and I charged the remaining two, while behind
us we heard loud weird cries and the pounding of galloping feet. The two
before us did not retreat this time, but came to meet us, and again we
halted and fired. This time they were so close that we could not miss
them, and the last of our original lunar foemen lay dead before us.

We ran then, ran as neither of us had imagined human beings ever could
run. I know that I covered over fifty feet in many a leap, but by
comparison with the speed of the things behind us, we might have been
standing still. They fairly flew over the lavender sward, indicating
that those, which we had first seen, had at no time extended themselves
in an effort to escape us. I venture to say that some of them leaped
fully three hundred feet at a time, and now, at every bound, they
emitted fierce and terrible yells, which I assumed to be their war cry,
intended to intimidate us.

"It's no use, Orthis," I said to my companion. "We might as well make
our stand here and fight it out. We cannot reach the ford. They are too
fast for us."

We stopped then, and faced them, and when they saw we were going to make
a stand, they circled and halted about a hundred yards distant, entirely
surrounding us. We had killed five of their fellows, and I knew we could
hope for no quarter. We were evidently confronted by a race of fierce
and warlike creatures, the appearance of which, at least, gave no
indication of the finer characteristics that are so much revered among
humankind upon Earth. After a good look at one of them, I could not
imagine the creature harboring even the slightest conception of the word
mercy, and I knew that if we ever escaped that fierce cordon, it would
be by fighting our way through it.

"Come," I said to Orthis, "straight through for the ford," and turning
again in that direction, I started blazing away with my pistol as I
walked slowly along the trail. Orthis was at my side, and he, too, fired
as rapidly as I. Each time our weapons spoke, a Moon Man fell. And now,
they commenced to circle us at a run, much as the savage Indians of the
western plains circled the parked wagon trains of our long-gone
ancestors in North America. They hurled spears at us, but I think the
sound of our revolvers and the effect of the shots had to some measure
unnerved them, for their aim was poor and we were not, at any time,
seriously menaced.

As we advanced slowly, firing, we made many hits, but I was horrified to
see that every time one of the creatures fell, the nearest of his
companions leaped upon him and cut his throat from ear to ear. Some of
them had only to fall to be dispatched by his fellows. A bullet from
Orthis' weapon shattered the hind leg of one of them, bringing him to
the ground. It was, of course, not a fatal wound, but the creature had
scarcely gone down, when the nearest to him sprang forward, and finished
him. And thus we walked slowly toward the ford, and I commenced to have
hope that we might reach it and make our escape. If our antagonists had
been less fearless, I should have been certain of it, but they seemed
almost indifferent to their danger, evidently counting upon their speed
to give them immunity from our bullets. I can assure you that they
presented most difficult targets, moving as they did in great leaps and
bounds. It was probably more their number than our accuracy that
permitted us the hits we made.

We were almost at the ford when the circle suddenly broke, and then
formed a straight line parallel to us, the leader swinging his spear
about his head, grasping, the handle at its extreme end. The weapon
moved at great speed, in an almost horizontal plane. I was wondering at
the purpose of his action, when I saw that three or four of those
directly in the rear of him had commenced to swing their spears in a
similar manner. There was something strangely menacing about it that
filled me with alarm. I fired at the leader and missed, and at the
report of my pistol, a half dozen of them let go of their swift whirling
spears, and an instant later, I realized the purpose of their strange
maneuver; for the heavy weapons shot toward us, butts first, with the
speed of lightning, the crescent-like hooks catching us around a leg, an
arm and the neck, hurling us backward to the ground, and each time we
essayed to rise, we were struck again, until we finally lay there,
bruised and half shinned, and wholly at the mercy of our antagonists,
who galloped forward quickly, stripping our weapons from us. Those who
had hurled their spears at us recovered them, and then they all gathered
about, examining us, and jabbering among themselves.

Presently, the leader spoke to me, prodding me with the sharp point of
his spear. I took it that he wanted me to arise, and I tried to do so,
but I was pretty much all in and fell back each time I essayed to obey.
Then he spoke to two of his followers, who lifted me and laid me across
the back of a third. There I was fastened in a most uncomfortable
position by means of leather straps which were taken from various parts
of the harnesses of several of the creatures. Orthis was similarly
lashed to another of them, whereupon they moved slowly back in the
direction from which they had come, stopping, as they went, to collect
the bodies of their dead, which were strapped to the backs of others of
their companions. The fellow upon whom I rode had several well-defined
gaits, one of which, a square trot, was the acme of torture for me,
since I was bruised and hurt and had been placed across him face down,
upon my belly; but inasmuch as this gait must have been hard, too, upon
him, while thus saddled with a burden, he used it but little, for which
I was tremendously thankful. When he changed to a singlefoot, which,
fortunately for me, he often did, I was much less uncomfortable.

As we crossed the ford toward the mainland, it was with difficulty that
I kept from being drowned, since my head dragged in the water for a
considerable distance and I was mighty glad when we came out again on
shore. The thing that bore me was consistently inconsiderate of me,
bumping me against others, and against the bodies of their slain that
were strapped to the backs of his fellows. He was apparently quite
tireless, as were the others, and we often moved for what seemed many
miles at a fast run. Of course, my lunar weight was equivalent to only
about thirty pounds on Earth while our captors seemed fully as
well-muscled as a small earthly horse, and as we later learned, were
capable of carrying heavy burdens.

How long we were on the march, I do not know, for where it is always
daylight and there is no sun nor other means of measuring time, one may
only guess at its duration, the result being influenced considerably by
one's mental and physical sensations during the period. Judged by these
considerations, then, we might have been on the trail for many hours,
for I was not only most uncomfortable in body, but in mind as well.
However that may be, I know only that it was a terrible journey; that we
crossed rivers twice after reaching the mainland, and came at last to
our destination, amid low hills, where there was a level, park-like
space, dotted with weird trees. Here the straps were loosened, and we
were dumped upon the ground, more dead than alive, and immediately
surrounded by great numbers of creatures who were identical with those
who had captured us.

When I was finally able to sit up and look about, I saw that we were at
the threshold of a camp or village, consisting of a number of
rectangular huts, with high-peaked roofs, thatched or rather shingled,
with the broad, round leaves of the trees that grew about.

We saw now for the first time the females and the young. The former were
similar to the males, except that they were of lighter build, and they
were far more numerous. They had udders, with from four to six teats,
and many of them were followed by numerous progeny, several that I saw
having as high as six young in a litter. The young were naked, but the
females wore a garment similar to that worn by the males, except that it
was less ornate, as was their harness and other trappings. From the way
the women and children rushed upon us as we were unloaded in camp, I
felt that they were going to tear us to pieces, and I really believe
they would have had not our captors prevented. Evidently the word was
passed that we were not to be injured, for after the first rush they
contented themselves with examining us, and sometimes feeling of us or
our clothing, the while they discussed us, but with the bodies of those
who were slain, it was different, for when they discovered these where
they had been unloaded upon the ground, they fell upon them and
commenced to devour them, the warriors joining them in the gruesome and
terrible feast. Orthis and I understood now that they had cut the
throats of their felllows to let the blood, in anticipation of the
repast to come.

As we came to understand them and the conditions under which they lived,
many things concerning them were explained. For example, at least
two-thirds of the young that are born males, and yet there are only
about one-sixth as many adult males, as there are females. They are
naturally carnivorous, but with the exception of one other creature upon
which they prey, there is no animal in that part of the interior lunar
world with which I am familiar, that they may eat with safety. The
flying-toad and the walking snake and the other rep-tilia are poisonous,
and they dare not eat them. The time had been, I later learned,
possibly, however, ages before, when many other animals roamed the
surface of the inner Moon, but all had become extinct except our captors
and another creature, of which we, at the time of our capture, knew
nothing, and these two preyed upon one another, while the species which
was represented by those into whose hands we had fallen, raided the
tribes and villages of their own kind for food, and ate their own dead,
as we had already seen. As it was the females to whom they must look for
the production of animal food, they did not kill these of their own
species and never ate the body of one. Enemy women of their own kind,
whom they captured, they brought to their villages, each warrior adding
to his herd the individuals that he captured. As only the males are
warriors, and as no one will eat the flesh of a female, the mortality
among the males is, accordingly, extremely high, accounting for the
vastly greater number of adult females. The latter are very well
treated, as the position of a male in a community is dependent largely
upon the size of his herd.

The principal mortality among the females results from three
causes--raids by the other flesh-eating species which inhabit the inner
lunar world, quarrels arising from jealousy among themselves, and death
while bringing forth their young, especially during lean seasons when
their warriors have been defeated in battle and have been unable to
furnish them with flesh.

These creatures eat fruit and herbs and nuts as well as meat, but they
do not thrive well upon these things exclusively. Their existence,
therefore, is dependent upon the valor and ferocity of their males whose
lives are spent in making raids and forays against neighboring tribes
and in defending their own villages against invaders.

As Orthis and I sat watching the disgusting orgy of cannibalism about
us, the leader of the party that had captured us came toward us from the
center of the village, and speaking a single word, which I later learned
meant come, he prodded us with his spear point until finally we
staggered to our feet. Repeating the word, then, he started back into
the village.

"I guess he wants us to follow him, Orthis," I said. And so we fell in
behind the creature, which was evidently what he desired, for he nodded
his head, and stepped on in the direction that he had taken, which led
toward a very large hut--by far the largest in the village.

In the side of the hut presented to us there seemed to be but a single
opening, a large door covered by heavy hangings, which our conductor
thrust aside as we entered the interior with him. We found ourselves in
a large room was a large male whose skin was of so much deeper doorway
through which we had entered, and over which the hanging had again been
drawn, yet the interior was quite light, though not so much so as
outside, but there were no means for artificial lighting apparent. The
walls were covered with weapons and with the skulls and other bones of
creatures similar to our captors, though Orthis and I both noticed a few
skulls much narrower than the others and which, from their appearance,
might have been the human skulls of Earth Men, though in discussing it
later, we came to the conclusion that they were the skulls of the
females and the young of the species, whose faces are not so wide as the
adult male.

Lying upon a bed of grasses at the opposite side of the room was a large
male whose skin was of a much greater lavender hue than the others that
we had seen, as to almost suggest a purple. The face, though badly
disfigured by scars, and grim and ferocious in the extreme, was an
intelligent one, and the instant that I looked into those eyes, I knew
that we were in the presence of a leader. Nor was I wrong, for this was
the chief or king of the tribe into whose clutches Fate had thrown us.

A few words passed between the two, and then the chief arose and came
toward us. He examined us very critically, our clothing seeming to
interest him tremendously. He tried to talk with us, evidently asking us
questions, and seemed very much disgusted when it became apparent to him
that we could not understand him, nor he us, for Orthis and I spoke to
one another several tunes, and once or twice addressed him. He gave some
instructions to the fellow who had brought us, and we were taken out
again, and to another hut, to which there was presently brought a
portion of the carcass of one of the creatures we had killed before we
were captured. I could not eat any of it, however, and neither could
Or-this; and after a while, by signs and gestures, we made them
understand that we wished some other kind of food, with the result that
a little later, they brought us fruit and vegetables, which were more
palatable and, as we were to discover later, sufficiently nutritious to
carry us along and maintain our strength. I had become thirsty, and by
simulating drinking, I finally succeeded in making plain to them my
desire in that direction, with the result that they led us out to a
little stream which ran through the village, and there we quenched our
thirst.

We were still very weak and sore from the manhandling we had received,
but we were both delighted to discover that we were not seriously
injured, nor were any of our bones broken.



CHAPTER V. OUT OF THE STORM

SHORTLY AFTER WE arrived at the village, they took away our watches, our
pocket-knives, and everything that we possessed of a similar nature, and
which they considered as curiosities. The chief wore Orthis' wristwatch
above one fore-paw and mine above the other, but as he did not know how
to wind them, nor the purpose for which they were intended, they did him
or us no good. The result was, however, that it was now entirely
impossible for us to measure time in any way, and I do not know, even to
this day, how long we were in this strange village. We ate when we were
hungry, and slept when we were tired. It was always daylight; and it
seemed that there were always raiding parties going out or returning, so
that flesh was plentiful, and we became rather reconciled to our fate,
in so far as the immediate danger of being eaten was concerned, but why
they kept us alive, as we had slain so many of their fellows, I could
not understand.

It must have been immediately after we arrived that they made an attempt
to teach us their language. Two females were detailed for this duty. We
were given unlimited freedom within certain bounds, which were well
indicated by the several sentries which constantly watched from the
summit of hills surrounding the village. Past these we could not go, nor
do I know that we had any particular desire to do so, since we realized
only too well that there would be little chance of our regaining the
ship should we escape the village, inasmuch as we had not the remotest
idea in what direction it lay.

Our one hope lay in learning their language, and then utilizing our
knowledge in acquiring some definite information as to the surrounding
country and the location of The Barsoom.

It did not seem to take us very long to learn their tongue, though, of
course, I realize that it may really have been months. Almost before we
knew it, we were conversing freely with our captors. When I say freely,
it is possible that I exaggerate a trifle, for though we could
understand them fairly well, it was with difficulty that we made
ourselves understood, yet we managed it some way, handicapped as we were
by the peculiarities of the most remarkable language of which I have any
knowledge.

It is a very difficult language to speak, and as a written language,
would be practically impossible. For example, there is their word
gu-e-ho, for which Orthis and I discovered twenty-seven separate and
distinct meanings, and that there are others I have little or no doubt.
Their speech is more aptly described as song, the meaning of each
syllable being governed by the note in which it is sung. They speak in
five notes, which we may describe as a, b, c, and e. Gu sung in a means
something radically different from gu sung in e, and again if gu is sung
in A, followed by e in g, it means something other than if gu had been
sung in d followed by e in A.

Fortunately for us, there are no words of over three syllables, and most
of them consist of only one or two, or we should have been entirely
lost. The resulting speech, however, is extremely beautiful, and Orthis
used to say that if he closed his eyes, he could imagine himself living
constantly in grand opera.

The chief's name, as we learned, was Ga-va-go; the name of the tribe or
village was No-vans, while the race to which they belonged was known as
Va-gas.

When I felt that I had mastered the language sufficiently well to make
myself at least partially understood, I asked to speak to Ga-va-go, and
shortly thereafter, I was taken to him.

"You have learned our speech?" he asked.

I nodded in the affirmative. "I have," I said, "and I have come to ask
why we are held captives and what you intend to do with us. We did not
come to seek a quarrel with you. We wish only to be friends, and to be
allowed to go our way in peace."

"What manner of creature are you," he asked, "and where do you come
from?"

I asked him if he had ever heard of the Sun or the stars or the other
planets or any worlds outside his own, and he replied that he had not,
and that there were no such things.

"But there are, Ga-va-go," I said, "and I and my companion are from
another world, far, far outside your own. An accident brought us here.
Give us back our weapons, and let us go."

He shook his head negatively. "Where you come from, do you eat one
another?" he asked.

"No," I replied, "we do not."

"Why?" he asked, and I saw his eyes narrow as he awaited my reply.

Was it mental telepathy or just luck that put the right answer in my
mouth, for somehow, intuitively, I seemed to grasp what was in the
creature's mind.

"Our flesh is poison," I said, "those who eat it die." He looked at me
then for a long time, with an expression upon his face which I could not
interpret. It may have been that he doubted my word, or again, it may
have been that my reply confirmed his suspicion, I do not know; but
presently he asked me another question.

"Are there many like you in the land where you live?"

"Millions upon millions," I replied.

"And what do they eat?"

"They eat fruits and vegetables and the flesh of animals," I answered.

"What animals?" he asked.

"I have seen no animals here like them," I replied, "but there are many
kinds unlike us, so that we do not have to eat flesh of our own race."

"Then you have all the flesh that you want?"

"All that we can eat," I replied. "We raise these animals for their
flesh."

"Where is your country?" he demanded. "Take me to it."

I smiled. "I cannot take you to it," I said. "It is upon another world."

It was quite evident that he did not believe me, for he scowled at me
ferociously.

"Do you wish to die?" he demanded.

I told him that I had no such longing.

"Then you will lead me to your country," he said, "where there is plenty
of flesh for everyone. You may think about it until I send for you
again. Go!" And thus he dismissed me. Then he sent for Orthis, but what
Or-this told him, I never knew exactly, for he would not tell me, and as
our relations, even in our captivity, were far from friendly, I did not
urge him to any confidences. I had occasion to notice, however, that
from that time Ga-va-go indicated a marked preference for Orthis, and
the latter was often called to his hut.

I was momentarily expecting to be summoned in to Ga-va-go's presence,
and learn my fate, when he discovered that I could not lead him to my
country, where flesh was so plentiful. But at about this time we broke
camp, and in the press of other matters, he evidently neglected to take
any further immediate action in my case, or at least, so I thought,
until I later had reason to suspect that he felt that he need no longer
depend upon me to lead him to this land of milk and honey.

The Va-gas are a nomadic race, moving hither and thither, either as they
are pressed by some foes, or till their victories have frightened away
the other tribes from their vicinity, in either of which events, they
march in search of fresh territory. The move that we made now was
necessitated by the fact that all the other tribes nearby had fled
before the ferocity of the No-vans, whose repeated and successful raids
had depleted the villages of their neighbors and filled them with
terror.

The breaking of camp was a wonderfully simple operation. All their few
belongings, consisting of extra clothing, trappings, weapons, and their
treasured skulls and bones of victims, were strapped to the backs of the
women. Orthis and I each bestrode a warrior detailed by Ga-va-go for the
purpose of transporting us, and we filed out of the village, leaving the
huts behind.

Ga-va-go, with a half-dozen warriors, galloped far ahead. Then came a
strong detachment of warriors, with the women folks behind them, another
detachment of warriors following in the rear of the women and children,
while others rode upon either flank. A mile or so in the rear, came
three warriors, and there were two or three scattered far out on either
flank. Thus we moved, thoroughly protected against surprise, regulating
our speed by that of the point with which Ga-va-go traveled.

Because of the women and the children, we moved more slowly than
warriors do when on the march alone, when they seldom, if ever, travel
slower than a trot, and more generally, at a fast gallop. We moved along
a well-worn trail, passing several deserted villages, from which the
prey of the No-vans had fled. We crossed many rivers, for the lunar
world is well watered. We skirted several lakes, and at one point of
high ground, I saw, far at our left, the waters of what appeared to be a
great ocean. There was never a time when Orthis and I were not
plentifully supplied with food, for there is an abundance of it growing
throughout all the territory we crossed, but the No-vans had been
without flesh for several days and were, in consequence, mad with
hunger, as the fruits and vegetables which they ate seemed not to
satisfy them at all.

We were moving along at a brisk trot when, without warning, we were
struck by a sudden gust of wind that swept, cold and refreshing, down
from some icy mountain fastness. The effect upon the No-vans was
electrical. I would not have had to understand their language to realize
that they were terrified. They looked apprehensively about and increased
their speed as though endeavoring to overtake Ga-va-go, who was now far
ahead with the point. A moment later a dash of rain struck us, and then
it was every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, as they
broke into a wild stampede to place themselves close to their chief.
Their hysterical flight was like the terrorized rush of wild cattle.
They jostled and tripped one another, and stumbled and fell and were
trampled upon, in their haste to escape.

Old Ga-va-go had stopped with his point, and was waiting for us. Those
who accompanied him seemed equally terrified with the rest, but
evidently they did not dare run until Ga-va-go gave the word. I think,
however, that they all felt safer when they were close to him, for they
had a great deal of confidence in him, yet they were still pretty badly
frightened, and it would not have taken much to have set them off again
into another rout. Ga-va-go waited until the last of the rearguard
straggled in, and then he set off directly toward the mountains, the
entire tribe moving in a compact mass, though they might have fallen
easy prey to an ambush or any sudden attack. They knew, however, what I
half guessed, that knowing that their enemies were as terrified of the
storm as they, there was little danger of their being attacked--none
whatever, in fact.

We came at last to a hillside covered with great trees which offered
some protection from both the wind and the rain, which had now arisen to
the proportion of a hurricane.

As we came to a halt, I slipped from the back of the warrior who had
been carrying me, and found myself beside one of the women who had
taught Orthis and me the language of the Va-gas.

"Why is everyone so terrified?" I asked her.

"It is Zo-al," she whispered, fearfully. "He is angry."

"Who is Zo-al?" I asked.

She looked at me in wide-eyed astonishment. "Who is Zo-al!" she
repeated. "They told me that you said that you came from another world,
and I can well believe it, when you ask, who is Zo-al?"

"Well, who is he?" I insisted.

"He is a great beast," she whispered. "He is everywhere. He lives in all
the great holes in the ground, and when he is angry, he comes forth and
makes the water fall and the air run away. We know that there is no
water up there," and she pointed toward the sky. "But when Zo-al is
angry, he makes water fall from where there is no water, so mighty is
Zo-al, and he makes the air to run away so that the trees fall before it
as it rushes past, and huts are knocked flat or carried high above the
ground. And then, O terror of terrors, he makes a great noise, before
which mighty warriors fall upon the ground and cover up their ears. We
have angered Zo-al, and he is punishing us, and I do not dare to ask him
not to send the big noise."

It was at that instant that there broke upon my ears the most terrific
detonation that I have ever heard. So terrific was it that I thought my
ear drums had burst, and simultaneously, a great ball of fire seemed to
come rolling down from the mountain heights above us.

The woman, covering her ears, shuddered, and when she saw the ball of
fire, she voiced a piercing shriek.

"The light that devours!" she cried. "When that comes too, it is the
end, for then is Zo-al mad with rage."

The ground shook to the terrifying noise, and though the ball of fire
did not pass close to us, still could I feel the heat of it even as it
went by at a distance, leaving a trail of blackened and smoking
vegetation in its rear. What flames there were, the torrential rain
extinguished almost immediately. It must have traveled about ten miles,
down toward the sea, across rolling hills and level valleys, when
suddenly it burst, the explosion being followed by a report infinitely
louder than that which I had first heard. An earthquake could scarce
have agitated the ground more terrifyingly than did this peal of lunar
thunder.

I had witnessed my first lunar electrical storm, and I did not wonder
that the inhabitants of this strange world were terrified by it. They
attribute these storms, as they do all their troubles, to Zo-al, a great
beast, which is supposed to dwell in the depth of the lunar craters, the
lower ends of which open into the interior lunar world. As we cowered
there among the trees, I wondered if they were not afraid that the wind
would blow the forest down and crush them, and I asked the woman-who
stood beside me.

"Yes," she said, "that often happens, but more often does it happen that
if one is caught in a clearing, the air that runs away picks him up and
carries him along to drop him from a great height upon the hard ground.
The trees bend before they break, and those who watch are warned, and
they escape destruction if they are quick. When the wind that runs
seizes one, there is no escape."

"It seems to me," I said, "that it would have been safer if Ga-va-go had
led us into one of those sheltered ravines," and I indicated a gorge in
the hillside at our right, "No," she said, "Ga-va-go is wise. He led us
to the safest spot. We are sheltered from the air that runs away, and
perhaps a little from the light that devours, nor can the waters that
drown, reach us here, for presently they will fill that ravine full."

Nor was she wrong. Rushing down from the hillside, the water poured in
torrents into the ravine, and presently, though it must have been twenty
or thirty feet deep, it was filled almost to overflowing. Whoever had
sought refuge there, would have been drowned and washed away to the big
ocean far below. It was evident that Ga-va-go had not been actuated
solely by blind terror, though I came to know that he must have felt
terror, for these terrible electrical storms alone can engender it hi
the breasts of these fearless and ferocious! people.

The storm must have lasted for a considerable time; how long, of course,
I do not know, but some idea of its duration may be gained by the fact
that I became hungry and ate of the fruit of the trees, which sheltered
us, at least six times, and slept twice. We were soaked to the skin and
very cold, for the rain evidently came from a great altitude. During the
entire storm, the No-vans scarcely moved from their positions beneath
the trees, with their backs toward the storm, where they stood with
lowered heads like cattle. We experienced twelve detonations of the
ground-shaking thunder, and witnessed six manifestations of the light
that devours. Trees had fallen all about us, and as far as we could see,
the grasses lay flat and matted upon the ground. They told me that
storms of the severity of this were infrequent, though rain and wind,
accompanied by electrical manifestations, might be expected at any
season of the year--I use that expression from habit, for one can
scarcely say that there are any well-marked seasonal changes within the
Moon that could indicate corresponding divisions of time as upon the
Earth. From what I was able to gather from observation and from
questioning the Va-gas, lunar vegetation reproduces itself entirely
independent of any seasonal restrictions, the frequency and temperature
of the rains having, seemingly, the greatest influence in the matter. A
period of drought and cold rains retards growth and germination, while
frequent warm rains have an opposite effect, the result being that you
find vegetation of the same variety in all stages of development,
growing side by side--blossoms upon one tree, fruit upon another, and
the dry seed-pods upon a third. Not even, therefore, by the growth of
plant life, might one measure time within the Moon, and the period of
gestation among the Va-gas is similarly irregular, being affected by the
physical condition of the female as well as by climatic conditions, I
imagine. When the tribe is well-fed, and the weather warm, the warriors
victorious, and the minds of the women at peace, they bring forth their
young in an incredibly short period. On the other hand, a period of
cold, or of hunger, and of long marches, following defeat, induces an
opposite result. It seems to me that the females nurse their young for a
very short period of time, for they grow rapidly, and as soon as their
molars are through, and they can commence eating meat, they are weaned.
They are devilish little rascals, their youthful exuberance finding its
outlet in acts of fiendish cruelty. As they are not strong enough to
inflict their tortures on adults they perpetrate them upon one another,
with the result that the weaker are often killed, after they are weaned
and have left the protection of their savage mothers. Of course, they
tried to play some of their fiendish tricks on Orthis and myself, but
after we had knocked a few of them down, they left us severely alone.
During the storm, they huddled, shivering and cold, against the adults.
Possibly I should be ashamed to say it, but I felt no pity for them, and
rather prayed that they would all be chilled to death, so hateful and
wantonly cruel were they. As they become adults, they are less wanton in
their atrocities, though no less cruel, their energies, however, being
intelligently directed upon the two vital interests of their
lives--procuring flesh and women.

Shortly after the rain ceased, the wind began to abate, and as I was
cold, cramped and uncomfortable, I walked out into the open, in search
of exercise that would stimulate my circulation and warm me again. As I
walked briskly to and fro, looking here and there at the evidences of
the recent storm, my glance chanced to rise toward the sky, and there I
saw what appeared at first to be a huge bird, a few hundred feet above
the forest in which we had sought shelter. It was flapping its great
wings weakly and seemed to be almost upon the verge of exhaustion, and
though I could see that it was attempting to fly back in the direction
of the mountains, the force of the wind was steadily carrying it in the
direction of the lowlands and the sea. Presently it would be directly
above me, and as it drew nearer, I knit my brows in puzzlement, for
except for its wings, and what appeared to be a large hump upon its
back, its form bore a striking resemblance to that of a human being.

Some of the No-vans evidently saw me looking upwards thus interestedly,
and prompted by curiosity, joined me. When they saw the creature flying
weakly overhead, they set up a great noise, until presently all the
tribe had run into the open and were looking up at the thing above us.

The wind was lessening rapidly, but it still was strong enough to carry
the creature gently toward us, and at the same time I perceived that
whatever it was, it was falling slowly to the ground, or more correctly,
sinking-slowly.

"What is it?" I asked of the warrior standing beside me.

"It is a U-ga," he replied. "Now shall we eat."

I had seen no birds in the lunar world, and as I knew they would not eat
the flying reptiles, I guessed that this must be some species of bird
life, but as it dropped closer, I became more and more convinced that it
was a winged human being, or at least a winged creature with human form.

As it fluttered toward the ground, the No-vans ran along to meet it,
waiting for it to fall within reach. As they did so, Ga-va-go called to
them to bring the creature to him alive and unharmed.

I was about a hundred yards from the spot, when the poor thing finally
fell into their clutches. They dragged it to the ground roughly, and a
moment later I was horrified to see them tear its wings from it and the
hump from its back. There was a great deal of grumbling at Ga-va-go's
order, as following the storm and their long fast, the tribe was
ravenously hungry.

"Flesh, flesh!" they growled. "We are hungry. Give us flesh!" But
Ga-va-go paid no attention to them, standing to one side beneath a tree,
awaiting the prisoner that they were bringing toward him.



CHAPTER VI. THE MOON MAID

ORTHIS, WHO WAS becoming the almost constant companion of the chief, was
standing beside the latter, while I was twenty-five or thirty yards
away, and directly between Ga-va-go and the warriors who were
approaching with the prisoner, who would of necessity have to pass close
beside me. I remained where I was, therefore, in order to get a better
look at it, which was rather difficult because it was almost entirely
surrounded by No-vans.

However as they came opposite me, there was a little break momentarily
in the ranks, and I had my first opportunity, though brief, for a closer
observation of the captive; and my comprehension was almost staggered by
what my eyes revealed to me, for there before me, was as perfectly
formed a human female as I had ever seen. By earthly standards, she
appeared a girl of about eighteen, with hair of glossy blackness, that
suggested more the raven's wing than aught else and a skin of almost
marble whiteness, slightly tinged with a creamy shade. Only in the color
of her skin, did she differ from earthly women in appearance, except
that she seemed far more beautiful than they. Such perfection of
features seemed almost unbelievable. Had I seen her first posed
motionless, I could have sworn that she was chiseled from marble, yet
there was nothing cold about her appearance. She fairly radiated life
and feeling. If my first impression had been startling, it was nothing
to the effect that was produced when she turned her eyes full upon me.
Her black brows were two thin, penciled arches, beneath which were dark
wells of light, vying in blackness with her raven hair. On either cheek
was just the faintest suggestion of a deeper cream, and to think that
these hideous creatures saw in that form divine only flesh to eat!

I shuddered at the thought and then my eyes met hers and I saw an
expression of incredulity and surprise registered in those liquid orbs.
She half-turned her head as she was dragged past, that she might have a
further look at me, for doubtless she was as surprised to see a creature
like me as I was to see her.

Involuntarily I started forward. Whether there was an appeal for succor
in those eyes I do not know, but at least they aroused within me
instantly, that natural instinct of a human male to protect the weak.
And so it was that I was a little behind her and to her right, when she
was halted before Ga-va-go.

The savage Va-gas' chieftain eyed her coldly, while from all sides there
arose cries of "Give us flesh! Give us flesh! We are hungry!" to which
Ga-va-go paid not the slightest attention.

"From whence come you, U-ga?" he demanded.

Her head was high, and she eyed him with cold dignity as she replied,
"From Laythe."

The No-van raised his brows. "Ah," he breathed, "from Laythe. The flesh
of the women from Laythe is good," and he licked his thin lips.

The girl narrowed her eyes, and tilted her chin a bit higher. "Rympth!"
she ejaculated, disgustedly.

As rympth is the name of the four-legged snake of Va-nah, the inner
lunar world, and considered the lowest and most disgusting of created
things, she could not well have applied a more opprobrious epithet to
the No-van chieftain, but if it had been her intent to affront him, his
expression gave no indication that she had succeeded.

"Your name?" he asked.

"Nah-ee-lah," she replied.

"Nah-ee-lah," he repeated, "Ah, you are the daughter of Sagroth, Jemadar
of Laythe."

She nodded in indifferent affirmation, as though aught he might say was
a matter of perfect indifference to her.

"What do you expect us to do with you?" asked Ga-va-go, a question which
suggested a cat playing with a mouse before destroying it.

"What can I expect of the Va-gas, other than that they will kill me and
eat me?" she replied.

A roar of savage assent arose from the creatures surrounding her.
Ga-va-go flashed a quick look of anger and displeasure at his people.

"Do not be too sure of that," he snapped. "This be little more than a
meal for Ga-va-go alone. It would but whet the appetite of the tribe."

"There are two more," suggested a bold warrior, close beside me,
pointing at me and at Orthis.

"Silence!" roared Ga-va-go. "Since when did you become chief of the
No-vans?"

"We can starve without a chief," muttered the warrior who had spoken,
and from two or three about him arose grumblings of assent.

Swift, at that, Ga-va-go reared upon his hind feet, and in the same
motion, drew and hurled his spear, the sharp point penetrating the
breast of the malcontent, piercing his heart. As the creature fell, the
warrior closest to him slit his throat, while another withdrew
Ga-va-go's spear from the corpse, and returned it to the chief.

"Divide the carcass among you," commanded the chief, "and whosoever
thinks that there is not enough, let him speak as that one spoke, and
there shall be more flesh to eat."

Thus did Ga-va-go, chief of the No-vans, hold the obedience of his
savage tribesmen. There was no more muttering then, but I saw several
cast hungry eyes at me--hungry, angry eyes that boded me no good.

In what seemed an incredibly short space of time, the carcass of the
slain warrior had been divided and devoured, and once again we set out
upon the march, in search of new fields to conquer, and fresh flesh to
eat.

Now Ga-va-go sent scouts far in advance of the point, for we were
entering territory which he had not invaded for a long time, a truth
which was evidenced by the fact that there were only about twenty
warriors in the tribe, besides Ga-va-go, who were at all familiar with
the territory. Naturally quarrelsome and disagreeable, the No-vans were
far from pleasant companions upon that memorable march, since they had
not recovered from the fright and discomforts of the storm and, in
addition, were ravenously hungry. I imagine that none, other than
Ga-va-go, could have held them. What his purpose was in preserving the
three prisoners, that would have made such excellent food for the tribe,
I did not know. However, we were not slain, though I judged the fellow
who carried me, would much sooner have eaten me, and to vent his spite
upon me he trotted as much as he could, and I can assure you that he had
the most devilishly execrable trot I ever sat. I felt that he was rather
running the thing into the ground, for he had an easy rack, which would
have made it much more comfortable for both of us, and inasmuch as I
knew that I was safe as long as I was under Ga-va-go's protection, I
made up my mind to teach the fellow a lesson, which I finally did,
although almost as much to my discomfort as his, by making no effort to
ease myself upon his back so that at every step I rose high and came
down hard upon him, sitting as far back as possible so as to pound his
kidneys painfully. It made him very angry and he threatened me with all
kinds of things if I didn't desist, but I only answered by suggesting
that he take an easier gait, which at last he was forced to do.

Orthis was riding ahead with Ga-va-go, who as usual led the point, while
the new prisoner astride a No-van warrior was with the main body, as was
I.

Once the warriors that we bestrode paced side by side, and I saw the
girl eyeing me questioningly. She seemed much interested in the remnants
of my uniform, which must have differed greatly from any clothing she
had seen in her own world. It seemed that she spoke and understood the
same language that Ga-va-go used, and so at last I made bold to address
her.

"It is unfortunate," I said, "that you have fallen into the hands of
these creatures. I wish that I might be of service to you, but I also am
a prisoner."

She acknowledged my speech with a slight inclination of her head, and at
first I thought that she was not going to reply, but finally looking me
full in the face she asked, "What are you?"

"I am one of the inhabitants of the planet Earth."

"Where is that, and what is planet?" she asked, for I had had to use the
Earth word, since there is no word of similar meaning in the language of
the Va-gas.

"You know, of course," I said, "that space outside of Va-nah is filled
with other worlds. The closest to Va-nah is Earth, which is many, many
times larger than your world. It is from Earth that I come."

She shook her head. "I do not understand," she said. She closed her
eyes, and waved her hands with a gesture that might have included the
universe. "All, all is rock," she said, "except here in the center of
everything, in this space we call Va-nah. All else is rock."

I suppressed a smile at the vast egotism of Va-nah, but yet how little
different is it from many worldlings, who conceive that the entire
cosmos exists solely for the inhabitants of Earth. I even know men in
our own enlightened twenty-first century, who insist that Mars is not
inhabited and that the messages that are purported to come from our
sister planet, are either the evidences of a great world hoax, or the
voice of the devil luring people from belief in the true God.

"Did you ever see my like in Va-nah?" I asked her.

"No," she replied, "I never did, but I have not been to every part of
Va-nah. Va-nah is a very great world, and there are many corners of it
of which I know nothing."

"I am not of Va-nah," I told her again, "I am from another world far,
far away;" and then I tried to explain something of the universe to
her--of the sun and the planets and their satellites, but I saw that it
was as far beyond her as are the conceptions of eternity and space
beyond the finite mind of Earth Men. She simply couldn't get it, that
was all. To her, everything was solid rock that we know as space. She
thought for a long time, though, and then she said, "Ah perhaps after
all there may be other worlds than Va-nah. The great Hoos, those vast
holes that lead into the eternal rock, may open into other worlds like
Va-nah. I have heard that theory discussed, but no one in Va-nah
believes it. It is true, then!" she exclaimed brightly, "and you come
from another world like Va-nah. You came through one of the Hoos, did
you not?"

"Yes, I came through one of the Hoos," I replied--the word means hole in
the Va-gas tongue--"but I did not come from a world like Va-nah. Here
you live upon the inside of a hollow sphere. We Earth Men live upon the
outside of a similar though much larger sphere."

"But what holds it up?" she cried, laughing. It was the first time that
she had laughed, and it was a very contagious laugh, and altogether
delightful. Although I knew that it would probably be useless, I tried
to explain the whole thing to her, commencing with the nebular
hypothesis, and winding up with the relations that exist between the
Moon and the Earth. If I didn't accomplish anything else, I at least
gave her something to distract her mind from her grave predicament, and
to amuse her temporarily, for she laughed often at some of my
statements. I had never seen so gay and vivacious a creature, nor one so
entirely beautiful as she. The single, sleeveless, tunic-like garment
that she wore, fell scarcely to her knees and as she bestrode the No-van
warrior, it often flew back until her thighs, even were exposed. Her
figure was divinely perfect, its graceful contours being rather
accentuated than hidden by the diaphanous material of her dainty
covering; but when she laughed, she exposed two rows of even white teeth
that would be the envy of the most beautiful of Earth Maids.

"Suppose," she said, "that I should take a handful of gravel and throw
it up in the air. According to your theory the smaller would all
commence to revolve about the larger and they would go flying thus
wildly around in the air forever, but that is not what would happen. If
I threw a handful of gravel into the air it would fall immediately to
the ground again, and if the worlds you tell me of were cast thus into
the air, they too would fall, just as the gravel falls."

It was useless, but I had known that from the beginning. What would be
more interesting would be to question her, and that I had wished to do
for some time, but she always put me off with a pretty gesture and a
shake of her head, insisting that I answer some of her questions
instead, but this time I insisted.

"Tell me, please," I asked, "how you came to the spot where you were
captured, how you flew, and what became of your wings, and why, when
they tore them from you, it did not injure you?"

She laughed at that quite merrily. "The wings do not grow upon us," she
explained, "we make them and fasten them upon our arms."

"Then you can .support yourself in the air with wings fastened to your
arms?" I demanded, incredulously.

"Oh, no," she said, "the wings we use simply for propelling ourselves
through the air. In a bag, upon our backs, we carry a gas that is
lighter than air. It is this gas which supports us, and we carry it in
such quantities as to maintain a perfect equilibrium, so that we may
float at any altitude, or with our wings rise or fall gently; but as I
hovered over Laythe, came the air that runs, and seizing me with its
strong arms bore me off across the surface of Va-nah. Futilely I fought
against it until I was spent and weak, and then it dropped me into the
clutches of the Va-gas, for the gas in my bag had become depleted. It
was not intended to carry me aloft for any great length of time."

She had used a word which, when I questioned her, she explained so that
I understood that it meant time, and I asked her what she meant by it
and how she could measure it, since I had seen no indication of the
Va-gas, having any conception of a measurable aspect of duration.

Nah-ee-lah explained to me that the Va-gas, who were a lower order, had
no means of measuring time, but that the U-ga, the race to which she
belonged, had always been able to compute time through their observation
of the fact that during certain periods the bottoms of the hoos, or
craters, were illuminated, and for another period they were dark, and so
they took as a unit of measure the total period from the beginning of
this light in a certain crater to its beginning again, and this they
called a ula, which corresponds with a sidereal month. By mechanical
means they divide this into a hundred parts, called ola, the duration of
each of which is about six hours and thirty-two minutes earth time. Ten
ulas make a keld, which one might call the lunar year of about two
hundred and seventy-two days earth time.

I asked her many questions and took great pleasure in her answers, for
she was a bright, intelligent girl, and although I saw many evidences of
regal dignity about her, yet her manner toward me was most natural and
unaffected, and I could not help but feel that she occupied a position
of importance among her own people.

Our conversation was suddenly interrupted, however, by a messenger from
the point, who came racing back at tremendous speed, carrying word from
Ga-va-go that the scouts were signaling that they had discovered a large
village, and that the warriors were to prepare to fight.

Immediately we moved up rapidly to Ga-va-go, and then we all advanced
toward the scout who could be seen upon a knoll far ahead. We were
cautioned to silence, and as we moved at a brisk canter over the soft,
pale lavender vegetation of the inner Moon, the feet of the Va-gas
giving forth no sound, the picture presented to my earthly eyes was
weird and mysterious in the extreme.

When we reached the scout, we learned that the village was situated just
beyond a low ridge not far distant, so Ga-va-go gave orders that the
women, the children, and the three prisoners should remain under a small
guard where we were until they had topped the ridge, when we were to
advance to a position where we might overlook the village, and if the
battle was against the No-vans we could retreat to a point which he
indicated to the warriors left to guard us. This was to be the
rendezvous, for following defeat the Va-gas warriors scatter in all
directions, thus preventing any considerable body of them being attacked
and destroyed by a larger body of the pursuing enemy.

As we stood there upon the knoll, watching Ga-va-go and his savage
warriors galloping swiftly toward the distant ridge, I could not but
wonder that the inhabitants of the village which they were about to
attack had not placed sentinels along the ridge to prevent just such a
surprise as this, but when I questioned one of the warriors who had been
left to guard us, he said that not all the Va-gas tribes were accustomed
to posting sentinels when they felt themselves reasonably safe from
attack. It had always been Ga-va-go's custom, however, and to it they
attributed his supremacy among the other Va-gas tribes over a large
territory.

"After a tribe has made a few successful raids and returned victorious,
they are filled with pride," the warrior explained to me, "and presently
they begin to think that no one dares to attack them and then they grow
careless, and little by little the .custom of posting sentinels drops
into disuse. The very fact that they have no sentinels indicates that
they are a large, powerful and successful tribe. We shall feed well for
a long time."

The very idea of the thought that was passing through his mind, was
repellent in the extreme, and I fairly shuddered when I contemplated the
callousness with which this creature spoke of the coming orgy, in which
he hoped to devour flesh of his own kind.

Presently we saw our force disappear beyond the ridge, and then we too,
advanced, and as we moved forward there came suddenly to us, from the
distance the fierce and savage war cry of the No-vans and a moment later
it was answered by another no less terrible, rising from the village
beyond the ridge. Our guards hastened us then, to greater speed, until,
at a full run, we mounted the steep slope of the ridge and halted upon
its crest.

Below us lay a broad valley, and in the center a long, beautiful lake,
the opposite shore of which was clothed in forest while that nearest us
was open and park-like, dotted here and there with beautiful trees, and
in this open space we descried a large village.

The ferocity of the scene below us was almost indescribable. The No-vans
warriors were circling the village at a rapid run, attempting to keep
the enemy in a compact mass within, where it would present a better
target for their spears. Already the ground was dotted with corpses.
There were no wounded, for whenever one fell the nearest to him whether
friend or foe cut his throat, since the victors would devour them all
without partiality. The females and the young had taken refuge in the
huts, from the doorways of which they watched the progress of the
battle. The defenders attempted repeatedly to break through the circling
No-vans. The warrior with whom I had been talking told me that if they
were successful the females and the young would follow them through the
break scattering in all directions, while their warriors attempted to
encircle the No-vans. It was almost immediately evident that the
advantage lay with the force that succeeded in placing this swift-moving
circle about its enemy, and keeping the enemy within it until they had
been dispatched, for those in the racing circle presented a poor target,
while the compact mass of warriors milling in the center could scarce be
missed.

Following several unsuccessful attempts to break through the ring of
savage foemen the defenders suddenly formed another smaller ring within,
and moving in the opposite direction to the No-vans, raced in a rapid
circle. No longer did they cast spears at the enemy, but contented
themselves with leaping and bounding at a rapid gait. At first it seemed
to me that they had lost their heads with terror, but at last I realized
that they were executing a strategic maneuver which demonstrated both
cunning and high discipline. In the earlier stages of the battle each
side had depended for its weapons upon those hurled by the opposing
force, but now the defenders hurled no weapons, and it became apparent
that the No-vans would soon no longer have spears to cast at them. .The
defenders were also lessening their casualties by moving in a rapid
circle in a direction opposite to that taken by the attackers, but it
must have required high courage and considerable discipline to achieve
this result since it is difficult in the extreme to compel men to
present themselves continuously as living targets for a foe while they
themselves are permitted to inflict no injury upon the enemy.

Ga-va-go apparently was familiar with the ruse, for suddenly he gave a
loud cry which was evidently a command. Instantaneously, his entire
force wheeled in their tracks and raced in the opposite direction
paralleling the defenders of the village, and immediately thereafter
cast their remaining spears at comparatively easy targets.

The defenders, who were of the tribe called Lu-thans, wheeled instantly
to reverse the direction of their flight Those wounded in the sudden
onslaught stumbled and fell, tripping and impeding the others, with the
result that for an instant they were a tangled mass, without order or
formation. Then it was that Ga-va-go and his No-vans leaped in upon them
with their short, wicked sword-daggers. At once the battle resolved
itself into a ferocious and bloody hand-to-hand conflict, in which
daggers and teeth and three-toed paws each did their share to inflict
injury upon an antagonist. In their efforts to escape a blow, or to
place themselves in an advantageous position, many of the combatants
leaped high into the air, sometimes between thirty and forty feet. Their
shrieks and howls were continuous and piercing. Corpses lay piled so
thick as to impede the movements of the warriors, and the ground was
slippery with blood, yet on and on they fought, until it seemed that not
a single one would be left alive.

"It is almost over," remarked the warrior at my side. "See, there are
two or three No-vans now attacking each Lu-than."

It was true, and I saw that the battle could last but a short time. As a
matter of fact it ended almost immediately, the remaining Lu-thans
suddenly attempting to break away and scatter in different directions.
Some of them succeeded in escaping, possibly twenty but I am sure that
there were not more than that, and the rest fell.

Ga-va-go and his warriors did not pursue the few who had escaped,
evidently considering that it was not worth the effort, since there were
not enough of them to menace the village, and there was already plenty
of meat lying fresh and warm upon the ground.

We were summoned now, and as we filed down into the village, great was
the rejoicing of our females and young.

Guards were placed over the women and children of the defeated Lu-thans,
and then at a signal from Ga-va-go, the No-vans fell upon the spoils of
war. It was a revolting spectacle, as mothers devoured their sons, and
wives, their husbands. I do not care to dwell upon it.

When the victors had eaten their fill, the prisoners were brought forth
under heavy guard, and divided by the Va-gas between the surviving
No-vans warriors. There was no favoritism shown in the distribution of
the prisoners, except that Ga-va-go was given first choice, and received
also those that remained after as nearly equal a distribution as
possible had been made. I had expected that the male children would be
killed, but they were not, being inducted into the tribe upon an equal
footing with those that had been born into it.

Being capable of no sentiments of either affection or loyalty, it is
immaterial to these creatures to what tribe they belong, but once
inducted into a tribe, the instinct I of self-preservation holds them to
it, since they would he immediately slain by the members of any other
tribe.

I learned shortly after this engagement that Ga-va-go had lost fully
half his warriors, and that this was one of the most important battles
that the tribe had ever fought. The spoils, however, had been rich, for
they had taken over ten thousand women and fully fifty thousand young,
and great quantities of weapons, harness, and apparel.

The flesh that they could not eat was wrapped up and buried, and I was
told that it would remain in excellent condition almost indefinitely.



CHAPTER VII. A FIGHT AND A CHANCE

AFTER occupying the new village, Orthis and I were separated, he being
assigned a hut close to Ga-va-go, while I was placed in another section
of the village. If I could have been said to have been on good terms
with any of the terrible creatures of the tribe, it was with the woman
who had taught me the language of the Va-gas, and it was from her that I
learned why Orthis was treated with such marked distinction by Ga-va-go,
whom, it seemed, he had promised to lead to the land of our origin,
where, he had assured the savage chieftain, he would find flesh in
abundance.

Nah-ee-lah was confined in still another part of the village, and I only
saw her occasionally, for it was evident that Ga-va-go wished to keep
the prisoners separated. Upon one occasion when I met her at the shore
of the lake I asked her why it was that they had not slain and eaten
her, and she told me that when Ga-va-go had discovered her identity, and
that her father was a Jemadar, a ruler of a great city, he had sent
messengers with an offer to return Nah-ee-lah for a ransom of one
hundred young women of the city of Laythe.

"Do you think your father will send the ransom?" I asked.

"I do not know," she replied. "I do not see how they are going to get a
message to him, for ordinarily, my race kills the Va-gas on sight. They
may succeed, however, but even so, it is possible that my father will
not send the ransom. I would not wish him to. The daughters of my
father's people are as dear to them, as am I to him. It would be wrong
to give a hundred of the daughters of Laythe in return for one, even
though she be the daughter of the Jemadar."

We had drunk, and were returning toward our huts when, wishing to
prolong our conversation and to be with this pleasant companion while I
might, I suggested that we walk farther into the woods and gather fruit.
Nah-ee-lah signified her willingness, and together we strolled out of
the village into the denser woods at its rear, where we found a
particularly delicious fruit growing in abundance. I gathered some and
offered it to her, but she refused, thanking me, saying that she had but
just eaten.

"Do they bring the fruit to you," I asked, "or do you have to come and
gather it yourself?"

"What fruit I get I gather," she replied, "but they bring me flesh. It
is of that which I have just eaten, and so I do not care for fruit now."

"Flesh!" I exclaimed. "What kind of flesh?"

"The flesh of the Va-gas, of course," she replied. "What other flesh
might a U-ga eat?"

I fear that I ill-concealed my surprise and disgust at the thought that
the beautiful Nah-ee-lah ate of the flesh of the Va-gas.

"You, too, eat of the flesh of these creatures?" I demanded.

"Why not?" she asked. "You eat flesh, do you not, in your own country.
You have told me that you raise beasts solely for their flesh."

"Yes," I replied, "that is true, but we eat only the flesh of lower
orders; we do not eat the flesh of humans."

"You mean that you do not eat the flesh of your own species," she said.

"Yes," I replied, "that is what I mean."

"Neither do I," she said. "The Va-gas are not of the same species as the
U-ga. They are a lower order, just as are the creatures whose flesh you
eat in your own country. You have told me of beef, and of mutton, and of
pork, which you have described as creatures that run about on four legs,
like the Va-gas. What is the difference, then, between the eating of the
flesh of pork and beef or mutton, and the eating of Va-gas, who are low
creatures also?"

"But they have human faces!" I cried, "and a spoken language."

"You had better learn to eat them," she said, "otherwise you will eat no
flesh in Va-nah."

The more I thought about it the more reason I saw in her point of view.
She was right. She was no more transgressing any natural law in eating
the flesh of the Va-gas than do we, eating the flesh of cattle. To her
the Va-gas were less than cattle. They were dangerous and hated enemies.
The more I analyzed the thing, the more it seemed to me that we humans
of the earth were more surely transgressing a natural law by devouring
our domestic animals, many of which we learned to love, than were the
U-ga of Va-nah in devouring the flesh of their four-footed foes, the
Va-gas. Upon our earthly farms we raise calves and sheep and little
pigs, and oftentimes we become greatly attached to individuals and they
to us. We gain their confidence, and they have implicit trust in us, and
yet, when they are of the right age, we slay and devour them. Presently
it did not seem either wrong or unnatural that Nah-ee-lah should eat the
flesh of the Va-gas, but as for myself, I could never do it, nor ever
did.

We had left the forest, and were returning to the village to our huts
when, near the large hut occupied by Ga-va-go, we came suddenly upon
Orthis. At the sight of us together he scowled.

"If I were you," he said to me, "I would not associate with her too
much. It may arouse the displeasure of Ga-va-go."

It was the first time that Orthis had spoken to me since we had occupied
this village. I did not like his tone or his manner.

"You will please to mind your own business, Orthis," I said to him, and
continued on with Nah-ee-lah. I saw the man's eyes narrow malignantly,
and then he turned, and entered the hut of Ga-va-go, the chief of the
No-vans.

Every time I went to the river, I had to pass in the vicinity of
Nah-ee-lah's hut. It was a little out of my way, but I always made the
slight detour in the hope of meeting her, though I had never entered her
hut nor called for her, since she had never invited me and realizing her
position, I did not wish to intrude I was of course ignorant of the
social customs of her people, and feared of fending her accidentally.

It chanced that the next time that I walked down to the lake shore,
following our stroll in the woods, I made my usual detour that I might
pass by the hut of Nah-ee-lah. As I came near I heard voices, one of
which I recognized as that of Nah-ee-lah, and the other, a man's voice.
The girl's tones were angry and imperious.

"Leave my presence, creature!" were the first words that I could
distinguish, and then the man's voice.

"Come," he said, ingratiatingly. "Let us be friends. Come to my hut, and
you will be safe, for Ga-va-go is my friend." The voice was the voice of
Orthis.

"Go!" she ordered him again. "I would as soon lie with Ga-va-go as with
you."

"Know then," cried Orthis, angrily, "that you will go, whether you wish
it or not, for Ga-va-go has given you to me. Come!" and then he must
have seized her, for I heard her cry out, "How dare you lay hands upon
me, Nah-ee-lah, princess of Laythe!"

I was close beside the entrance to the hut now, and I did not wait to
hear any more, but thrusting the hanging aside entered. There they were,
in the center of the single room, Orthis struggling to drag the girl
toward the opening while she resisted and struck at him. Orthis' back
was toward me and he did not know that there was another in the hut
until I had stepped up behind him and grasping him roughly by the
shoulder, had jerked him from the girl and swung him about facing me.

"You cad," I said, "get out of here before I kick you out, and don't
ever let me hear of you molesting this girl again."

His eyes narrowed, and he looked at me with an ugly light in them.
"Since boyhood, you have cheated me out of all that I wished. You ruined
my life on Earth, but now, conditions are reversed. The tables are
turned. Believe me, then, when I tell you that if you interfere with me
you sign your own death warrant. It is only by my favor that you live at
all. If I gave the word Ga-va-go would destroy you at once. Go then to
your hut and stop your meddling in the affairs of others--a habit that
you developed in a most flagrant degree on Earth, but which will avail
you nothing here within the Moon. The woman is mine. Ga-va-go has given
her to me. Even if her father should fail to send the ransom her life
shall be spared as long as I desire her. Your interference then can only
result in your death, and do her no good, for provided you are
successful in keeping me from her, you would be but condemning her to
death in the event that her father does not send the ransom, and
Ga-va-go has told me that there is little likelihood of that, since it
is scarcely possible that his messengers will be able to deliver
Ga-va-go's demands to Sagroth."

"You have heard him," I said, turning to the girl. "What are your wishes
in the matter? Perhaps he speaks the truth."

"I have no doubt but that he speaks the truth," she replied, "but know,
strangers, that the honor of a princess of Laythe is dearer than her
life,"

"Very well, Orthis," I said to the man. "You have heard her. Now get
out."

He was almost white with anger, and for a moment I thought that he was
going to attack me, but he was ever a coward, and contenting himself
with giving me a venomous look, he walked from the hut without another
word.

I turned to Nah-ee-lah, after the hanging had dropped behind Orthis. "It
is too bad," I said, "that with all your suffering at the hands of the
Va-gas, you should also be annoyed by one who is practically of your own
species."

"Your kindness more than compensates," she replied graciously. "You are
a brave man, and I am afraid that you are going to suffer for your
protection of me. This man is powerful. He has made wonderful promises
to Ga-va-go. He is going to teach him how to use the strange weapons
that you brought from your own world. The woman who brings me my meat
told me of all this, and that the tribe is much excited by the promises
that your friend has made to Ga-va-go. He will teach them to make the
weapons, such as you slew their warriors with, so that they will be
invincible, and may go abroad in Va-nah slaying all who oppose them and
even raiding the cities of the U-ga. He has told them that he will lead
them to the strange thing which brought you from your world to Va-nah,
and that there they will find other weapons, like those that you
carried, and having the noise which they make, and the things with which
they kill. All these he says they may have, and that later he will build
other things, such as brought you from your world to Va-nah, and he will
take Ga-va-go and all the No-vans to what you call Earth.

"If there is any man in the universe who might do it, it is he," I
replied, "but there is little likelihood that he can do it. He is merely
deceiving Ga-va-go in the hope of prolonging his own life, against the
possibility that an opportunity to escape will develop, in which event
he will return to our ship and our friends. He is a bad man though,
Nah-ee-lah, and you must be careful of him. There is a vacant hut near
yours, and I will come and live in it. There is no use in asking
Ga-va-go, for if he is friendly with Orthis, he will not permit me to
make the change. If you ever need me, call 'Julian' as loud as you can,
and I will come."

"You are very good," she said. "You are like the better men of Laythe,
the high nobles of the court of the Jemadar, Sagroth, my father. They
too are honorable men, to whom a woman may look for protection, but
there are no others in all Va-nah since the Kalkars arose thousands of
kelds ago, and destroyed the power of the nobles and the Jemadars, and
all the civilization that was Va-nah's. Only in Laythe, have we
preserved a semblance of the old order. I wish I might take you to
Laythe, for there you would be safe and happy. You are a brave man. It
is strange that you are not married."

I was upon the point of making some reply, when the hangings at the
doorway parted, and a No-van warrior entered. Behind him were three
others. They were walking erect, with drawn spears.

"Here he is," said the leader, and then, addressing me, "Come!"

"Why?" I asked. "What do you want of me?"

"Is it for you to question," he demanded, "when Ga-va-go commands?"

"He has sent for me?" I asked.

"Come!" repeated the leader, and an instant later they had hooked their
spears about my arms and neck and none too gently they dragged me from
the hut. I had something of a presentiment that this was to be the end.
At the doorway I half turned to glance back at the girl. She was
standing wide-eyed and tense, watching them drag me away.

"Good-bye--Julian," she said. "We shall never meet again for there is
none to carry our souls to a new incarnation."

"We are not dead yet," I called back, "and remember if you need me call
me," and then the hanging dropped behind us, and she was shut off from
my vision.

They did not take me to my own hut, but to another, not far distant from
Nah-ee-lah's, and there they bound my hands and feet with strips of
leather and threw me upon the ground. Afterwards they left me, dropping
the hanging before the entrance. I did not think that they would eat me,
for Orthis had joined with me in explaining to Ga-va-go and the others
that our flesh was poisonous, and though they may have questioned the
veracity of our statements, nevertheless I was quite sure that they
would not risk the chance of our having told the truth.

The Va-gas obtain their leather by curing the hides of their dead. The
better portions they use for their trappings and harness. The other
portions they cut into thin strips, which they use in lieu of rope. Most
of this is very strong, but some of it is not, especially that which is
improperly cured.

The warriors who had been sent to seize me had scarcely left the hut
before I commenced working with my bonds in an attempt to loosen or
break them. I exerted all my strength in the effort, until I became sure
that those which held my hands were stretching. The effort, however, was
very tiring, and I had to stop often and rest. I do not know how long I
worked at them, but it must have been a very long time before I became
convinced that however much they gave they were not going to break. Just
what I intended to do with my freedom I do not know, since there was
little or no chance that I might escape from the village. Perpetual
daylight has its disadvantages, and this was one of them, that there was
no concealing nocturnal darkness during which I might sneak away from
the village unseen.

As I lay resting after my exertions, I suddenly became aware of a
strange, moaning sound from without, and then the hut shook, and I
realized that another storm had come. Soon after I heard the beat of
rain drops on the roof, and then a staggering, deafening peal of lunar
thunder. As the storm waxed in violence, I could imagine the terror of
the No-vans, nor even in my plight could I resist the desire to smile at
their discomfiture. I knew that that they must all be hiding in their
huts, and again I renewed my efforts to break the bonds at my wrists,
but all to no avail; and then suddenly, above the moaning of the wind
and the beating of the rain, there came distinctly to my ears in a
clear, full voice, a single word: "Julian!"

"Nah-ee-lah," I thought. "She needs me. What are they doing to her?"
There flashed quickly before my mental vision a dozen scenes, in each of
which I saw the divine figure of the Moon Maid, the victim of some
fiendish brutality. Now she was being devoured by Ga-va-go; now some of
the females were tearing her to pieces, and again the warriors were
piercing that beautiful skin with their cruel spears; or it was Orthis,
come to claim Ga-va-go's gift. It was this last thought, I think, which
turned me almost mad, giving to my muscles the strength of a dozen men.
I have always been accounted a powerful man, but in the instant that
that sweet voice calling across the storm--to find me, and my
imagination pictured her in the clutches of Orthis, something within
moved me to Herculean efforts far transcending aught that I had
previously achieved. As though they had been cotton twine now, the
leather bonds at my wrists snapped asunder, and an instant later those
at my ankles were torn away, and I was upon my feet. I sprang to the
door and into the open, where I found myself in a maelstrom of wind and
rain. In two bounds I had cleared the space between the hut in which I
had been confined and that occupied by Nah-ee-lah, had torn the hanging
aside, and had sprung into the interior; and there I beheld the
materialization of my last vision--there was Orthis, one arm about the
slender body of the girl pinning her arms close to her side, while his
other hand was at her throat, choking her and pressing her slowly
backward across his knees toward the ground.

He was facing the door this time, and saw me enter, and as he realized
who it was, he hurled the girl roughly from him and rose to meet me. For
once in his life he seemed to know no fear, and I think that what with
his passion for the girl, and the hatred he felt for me, and the rage
that my interference must have engendered, he was momentarily insane,
for he suddenly leaped upon me like a madman, and for an instant I came
near going down beneath his blows--but only for an instant, and then I
caught him heavily upon the chin with my left fist, and again, full in
the face with my right, and though he was a splendid boxer, he was
helpless in my hands. Neither of us had a weapon, or one of us certainly
would have been killed in short order. As it was I tried to kill him
with my bare fists, and at last, when he had fallen for the dozenth
time, and I had picked him up and held him upon his feet and struck him
repeatedly again and again, he no longer moved I was sure that he was
dead, and it was with a feeling of relief and of satisfaction in a duty
well performed that I looked down upon his lifeless body. Then turned to
Nah-ee-lah.

"Come," I said, "there has been given to us this chance for escape.
Never again may such a fortuitous combination of circumstances arise.
The Va-gas will be hiding in their huts, crouching in terror of the
storm. I do not know whither we may fly, but wherever it be, we can be
in no greater danger than we are here."

She shuddered a little at the thought of going out into the terrors of
the storm. Though not so fearful of it as the ignorant Va-gas, she still
feared the wrath of the elements, as do all the inhabitants of Va-nah,
but she did not hesitate, and as I stretched out a hand, she placed one
of hers within it, and together we stepped out into the swirling rain
and wind.



CHAPTER VIII. A FIGHT WITH A TORCH

NAH-EE-LAH and I passed through the village of the No-vans undetected,
since the people of Ga-va-go were cowering in their huts,
terror-stricken by the storm. The girl led me immediately to high ground
and upward along a barren ridge toward the high mountains in the
distance. I could see that she was afraid though she tried to hide it
from me, putting on a brave front that I was sure she was far from
feeling. My respect for her increased, as I have always respected
courage, and I believe that it requires the highest courage to do that
which fills one with fear. The man who performs heroic acts without fear
is less brave than he who overcomes his cowardice.

Realizing her fear I retained her hand in mine, that the contact might
impart to her a little of the confidence that I felt, now that I was
temporarily at least out of the clutches of the Va-gas.

We had reached the ridge above the village when the thought that we were
weaponless and without means of protection overwhelmed me. I had been in
so much of a hurry to escape the village that I had overlooked this very
vital consideration. I spoke to Nah-ee-lah about it, telling her that I
had best return to the village and make an effort to regain possession
of my own weapons and ammunition. She tried to dissuade me, telling me
that such an attempt was foredoomed to failure and prophesying that I
would be recaptured.

"But we cannot cross this savage world of yours, Nah-ee-lah, without
means of protection," I urged. "We do not know at what minute some
fierce creature may confront us--think how helpless we shall be without
weapons with which to defend ourselves."

"There are only the Va-gas," she said, "to fear in this part of Va-nah.
We know no other dangerous beast, except the tor-ho. They are seldom
seen. Against the Va-gas your weapons would be useless, as you already
have discovered. The risk of meeting a tor-ho is infinitely less than
that which you will incur if you attempt to enter Ga-va-go's hut to
secure your weapons. You simply could not do it and escape, for
doubtless the dwelling of the Chief is crowded with warriors."

I was compelled, finally, to admit the wisdom of her reasoning and to
forego an attempt to secure my rifle and pistol, though I ran assure you
that I felt lost without them, especially when thus venturing forth into
a new world so strange to me as Va-nah, and so savage. As a matter of
fact, from what I gleaned from Nah-ee-lah, there was but a single spot
upon the entire inner lunar world where she and I could hope to be even
reasonably free from danger, and that was her native city of Laythe.
Even there I should have enemies, she told me, for her race is ever
suspicious of strangers; but the friendship of the princess would be my
protection, she assured me with a friendly pressure of the hand.

The rain and wind must have persisted for a considerable time, for when
it was finally over and we looked back through a clear atmosphere we
found that a low range of mountains lay between us and the distant sea.
We had crossed these and were upon a plateau at the foot of the higher
peaks. The sea looked very far away indeed, and we could not even guess
at the location of the No-vans village from which we had escaped.

"Do you think they will pursue us?" I asked her.

"Yes," she said; "they will try to find us, but it will be like looking
for a raindrop in the ocean. They are creatures of the low-lands--I am
of the mountains. Down here," and she pointed into the valley, "they
might find me easily, but in my own mountains--no."

"We are near Laythe?" I asked.

"I do not know. Laythe is hard to find--it is well hidden. It is for
this reason that it exists at all. Its founders were pursued by the
Kalkars, and had they not found an almost inaccessible spot they would
have been discovered and slain long before they could have constructed
an impregnable city."

She led me then straight into the mighty mountains of the Moon, past the
mouths of huge craters that reached through the lunar crust to the
surface of the satellite, along the edges of yawning chasms that dropped
three, four, yes, sometimes five miles, sheer into frightful gorges, and
then out upon vast plateaus, but ever upward toward the higher peaks
that seemed to topple above us in the distance. The craters, as a rule,
lay in the deep gorges, but some we found upon the plateaus, and even a
few opened into the summits of mountain peaks as do those upon the outer
surface of planets. Those in the low places were, I believe, the
openings through which the original molten lunar core was vomitted forth
by the surface volcanoes upon the outer crust.

Nah-ee-lah told me that the secret entrance to Laythe lay just below the
lip of one of these craters, and it was this she sought. To me the quest
seemed hopeless, for as far as the eye could reach lay naught but an
indescribable jumble of jagged peaks, terrific gorges and bottomless
craters. Yet always the girl seemed to find a way among or about
them--instinctively, apparently, she found trails and footholds where
there were no trails and where a chamois might have been hard put to it
to find secure footing.

In these higher altitudes we found a vegetation that differed materially
from that which grew in the lowlands. Edible fruits and berries were,
however, still sufficiently plentiful to keep us reasonably well
supplied with food. When we were tired we usually managed to find a cave
in which we could rest in comparative security, and when it was possible
to do so Nah-ee-lah always insisted upon barricading the entrance with
rocks, since there was always the danger, she told me, of our being
attacked by tor-hos. These blood-thirsty creatures while rare, were
nevertheless very much to be feared, since not only were they voracious
meat eaters and of such a savage disposition that they attacked nearly
everything they saw in wanton ferocity, but even a minor wound inflicted
by their fangs or talons often proved fatal, because of the fact that
their principal diet was the poisonous flesh of the rympth and the
flying toad. I tried to get Nah-ee-lah to described the creature to me,
but inasmuch as there was no creature with which we were both familiar
that she might compare it with, I learned little more from her than that
it stood between eighteen inches and two feet in height, had long, sharp
fangs, four legs and was hairless.

As an aid to climbing, as well as to give me some means of protection, I
broke a stout and rather heavy branch from one of the mountain trees,
the wood of whirli was harder than any that I had seen growing in the
lowlands. To roam a strange and savage world armed only with a wooden
stick seemed to me the height of rashness, but there was no alternative
until the time arrived when I might find the materials with which to
fashion more formidable weapons. I had in mind a bow and arrows and was
constantly on the lookout for wood which I considered adapted to the
former, and I also determined to forego my cane for a spear whenever the
material for the making of one came to hand. I had little time, however,
for such things, as it seemed that when we were not sleeping we were
constantly upon the move, Nah-ee-lah becoming more and more impatient to
find her native city as the chances for so doing lessened--and it seemed
to me that they were constantly lessening. While I was quite sure that
she had no more idea where Laythe lay than I, yet we stumbled on and on
and on, through the most stupendous mountain ranges that the mind of man
can conceive, nor ever, apparently, did Nah-ee-lah discover a single
familiar landmark upon which to hang a shred of hope that eventually we
might come upon Laythe.

I never saw such a sanguine and hopeful person as Nah-ee-lah. It was her
constant belief that Laythe lay just beyond the next mountain, in spite
of the fact that she was invariably mistaken--which seemed never to
lessen the exuberance of her enthusiasm for the next guess--which I knew
beforehand was going to be a wrong guess.

Once just after we had rounded the shoulder of a mountain we came upon a
little strip of level land clinging to the clung precariously to the
side of a perpendicular cliff. And so I stood there waiting, my feeble
stick grasped in both hands. Just what I expected to do with it I
scarcely knew until the side of a mighty peak. I was in the lead--a
position which I tried always to take when it was not absolutely
necessary for Nah-ee-lah to go ahead in order to find a trail. As I came
around the shoulder of the mountain, and in full sight of the little
level area, I was positive that I saw a slight movement among some
bushes at my right about halfway along one side of the little plain.

As we came abreast of the spot, upon which I kept my eye, there broke
upon our ears the most hideous scream that I have ever heard, and
simultaneously there leaped from the concealment of the bushes a
creature about the size of a North American mountain lion, though quite
evidently a reptile and probably a tor-ho, as such it proved to be.
There was something about the head and face which suggested the cat
family to me, yet there was really no resemblance between it and any of
the earthly felines. It came at me with those terrible curved fangs
bared and bristling and as it came it emitted the most terrifying
sounds--I have called them screams, because that word more nearly
describes them than any other, and yet they were a combination of
shrieks and moans--the most blood-curdling that I have ever heard.

Nah-ee-lah grasped my arm. "Run!" she cried, "run." But I shook her
loose and stood my ground. I wanted to run, that I will admit, but where
to? The creature was covering the ground at tremendous speed and our
only avenue of escape was the narrow trail over which we had just come,
which tor-ho was upon me. Then I swung for its head as a batter swings
for a pitched ball. I struck it square upon the nose--a terrific blow
that not only stopped it, but felled it. I could hear the bones crushing
beneath the impact of my crude weapon and I thought that I had done for
the thing with that single blow, but I did not know the tremendous
vitality of the creature. Almost instantly it was up and at me again,
and again I struck it, this time upon the side of the head-, and again I
heard bones crush and again it fell heavily to the ground.

What had appeared to be cold blood was oozing slowly from its wounded
face as it came at me for the third time, its eyes glaring hideously,
its broken jaws agape to seize me, while its shrieks and moans rose to a
perfect frenzy of rage and pain. It reared up and struck at me with its
talons now, but I met it again with my bludgeon and this time I broke a
fore leg.

How long I fought that awful thing I cannot even guess. Time and time
again it charged me furiously and each time, though often by but a
miracle of fortune, I managed to keep it from closing, and each blow
that I delivered crushed and maimed it a little more, until at last it
was nothing but a bleeding wreck of pulp, still trying to crawl toward
me upon its broken legs and seize me and drag me down with its broken,
toothless jaws. Even then it was with the greatest difficulty that I
killed it, that I might put it out of its misery.

Rather exhausted, I turned to look for Nah-ee-lah, and much to my
surprise, I found her standing directly behind me.

"I thought you had run away," I said.

"No," she said, "you did not run and so I did not, but I never thought
that you would be able to kill it."

"You thought that it would kill me, then?" I asked.

"Certainly," she replied. "Even now I cannot understand how you were
able to overcome a tor-ho with that pitiful little stick of wood."

"But if you thought I was going to be killed," I insisted, "why was it
that you did not seek safety in flight?"

"If you had been killed I should not have cared to live," she said
simply.

I did not exactly understand her attitude and scarcely knew what reply
to make.

"It was very foolish of you," I said at last, rather blunderingly, "and
if we are attacked again you must run and save yourself."

She looked at me for a moment with a peculiar expression upon her face
which I could not interpret and then turned and resumed her way in the
direction in which we had been traveling when our journey had been
interrupted by the tor-ho. She did not say anything, but I felt that I
had offended her and I was sorry. I did not want her falling in love
with me, though, and according to earthly standards, her statement that
she would rather die than live without me might naturally have been
interpreted as a confession of love. The more I thought of it, however,
as we moved along in silence, the more possible it seemed to me that her
standards might differ widely from mine and that I was only proving
myself to be an egotistical ass in assuming that Nah-ee-lah loved me. I
wished that I might explain matters to her, but it is one of those
things that is rather difficult to explain, and I realized that it might
be made much worse if I attempted to do so.

We had been such good friends and our fellowship had been so perfect
that the apparently strained silence which existed between us was most
depressing. Nah-ee-lah had always been a talkative little person and
always gay and cheerful, even under the most trying conditions.

I was rather tired out after my encounter with the tor-ho and should
have liked to stop for a rest, but I did not suggest it, neither did
Nah-ee-lah, and so we continued on our seemingly interminable way,
though, almost exhausted as I was, I dropped some little distance behind
my beautiful guide.

She was quite out of sight ahead of me upon the winding trail when
suddenly I heard her calling my name aloud. I answered her as,
simultaneously, I broke into a run, for I did not know but what she
might be in danger, though her voice did not sound at all like it. She
was only a short distance ahead and when I came in sight of her I saw
her standing at the edge of a mighty crater. She was facing me and she
was smiling.

"Oh, Julian," she cried, "I have found it. I am home and we are safe at
last."

"I am glad, Nah-ee-lah," I said. "I have been much worried on account of
the dangers to which you have been constantly subjected, as well as
because of a growing fear that you would never be able to find Laythe."

"Oh, my!" she exclaimed, "I knew that I would find it. If I had to hunt
through every mountain range in Va-nah I would have found it."

"You are quite sure that this is the crater where lies the entrance to
Laythe?" I asked her.

"There is no doubt of it, Julian," she replied, and she pointed downward
over the lip of the crater toward a narrow ledge which lay some twenty
feet below and upon which I saw what appeared to be the mouth of a cave
opening into the crater.

"But, how are we going to reach it?" I asked.

"It may be difficult," she replied, "but we will find a way."

"I hope so, Nah-ee-lah," I said, "but without a rope or wings I do not
see how we are going to accomplish it."

"In the mouth of the tunnel," explained Nah-ee-lah, "there are long
poles, each of which has a hook at one end. Ages ago there were no other
means of ingress or egress to the city and those who came out to hunt or
for any other purpose came through this long tunnel from the city, and
from the ledge below they raised their poles and placed the hooked ends
over the rim of the crater, after which it was a simple matter to
clamber up or down the poles as they wished; but it has been long since
these tunnels were used by the people of Va-nah, who had no further need
of them after the perfection of the flying wings which you saw me using
when I was captured by the Va-gas."

"If they used poles, so may we," I said, "since there are plenty of
young trees growing close to the rim of the crater. The only difficulty
will be in felling one of them."

"We can do that," said Nah-ee-lah, "if we can find some sharp fragments
of stone. It will be slow work, but it can be done," and she started
immediately to hunt for a fragment with a cutting edge. I joined her in
the search and it was not long before we had discovered several pieces
of obsidian with rather sharp edges. We then started to work upon a
young tree about four inches in diameter that grew almost straight for a
height of some thirty feet.

Cutting the tree down with our bits of lava glass was tedious work, but
finally it was accomplished, and we were both much elated when the tree
toppled and fell to the ground. Cutting away the branches occupied
almost as long a time, but that, too, was finally accomplished. The next
problem which confronted us was that of making the top of the pole
secure enough to hold while we descended to the ledge before the mouth
of the tunnel. We had no rope and nothing with which to fashion one,
other than my garments, which I was loth to destroy, inasmuch as in
these higher altitudes it was often cold. Presently, however, I bit upon
a plan which, if Nah-ee-lah's muscles and my nerves withstood the strain
it put upon them, bade fair to assure the success of our undertaking. I
lowered the larger end of the pole over the side of the crater until the
butt rested upon the ledge before the mouth of the tunnel. Then I turned
to Nah-ee-lah.

"Lie down flat at full length, Nah-ee-lah," I directed her, "and hold
this pole securely with both hands. You will only have to keep it from
toppling to the sides or outward, and to that, I think, your strength is
equal. While you hold it, I will descend to the mouth of the tunnel and
raise one of the regular hooked poles which you say should be deposited
there. If they are not, I believe that I can hold our own pole securely
from below while you descend." She looked over into the vast abyss below
and shuddered. "I can hold it at the top," she said, "if the bottom does
not slip from the ledge."

"That is a chance that I shall have to take," I replied, "but I will
descend very carefully and I think there will be little danger upon that
score."

I could see, upon a more careful examination of the ledge below, that
there was some danger of an accident such as she suggested.

Nah-ee-lah took her position as I had directed and lay grasping the pole
securely in both hands at the rim of the crater, which was absolutely
perpendicular at this point, and I prepared to make the perilous
descent.

I can assure you that my sensations were far from pleasurable as I
looked over into that awful abyss. The crater itself was some four or
five miles in diameter, and as I had every reason to suspect, extended
fully two hundred and fifty miles through the lunar crust to the surface
of the Moon. It was one of the most impressive moments of my life as I
clung balancing upon the edge of that huge orifice, gazing into the
silent, mysterious depths below. And then I seized the pole very gently
and lowered myself over the edge.

"Courage, Julian!" whispered Nah-ee-lah; "I shall hold very tight."

"I shall be quite safe, Nah-ee-lah," I assured her. "I must be safe, for
if I am not, how are you to reach the ledge and Laythe?"

As I descended very slowly I tried not to think at all, but to exclude
from my mind every consideration of the appalling depths beneath me. I
could not have been more than two feet from the ledge when the very
thing that we both tried so hard to guard against transpired--a
splintered fragment of the pole's butt crumpled beneath my weight and
that slight jar was just sufficient to start the base of my precarious
ladder sliding toward the edge of the narrow projection upon which I had
rested it, and beyond which lay eternity. Above me I heard a slight
scream and then the pole slipped from the ledge and I felt myself
falling.

It was over in an instant. My feet struck the ledge and I threw myself
within the mouth of the tunnel. And then, above me, I heard Nah-ee-lah's
voice crying in agonized tones:

"Julian! Julian! I am falling!"

Instantly I sprang to my feet and peered upward from the mouth of the
tunnel upon a sight that froze my blood, so horrifying did it seem, for
there above me, still clinging to the pole, hung Nah-ee-lah, her body,
with the exception of her legs, completely over the edge of the crater.
Just as I looked up she dropped the pole and although I made a grab for
it I missed it and it fell past me into the maw of the crater.

"Julian! Julian! You are safe!" she cried; "I am glad of that. It
terrified me so when I thought you were falling and I tried my best to
hold the pole, but your weight dragged me over the edge of the crater.
Good-bye, Julian, I cannot hold on much longer."

"You must, Nah-ee-lah!" I cried; "do not forget the hooked poles that
you told me of. I will find one and have you down in no time." And even
as I spoke I turned and dove into the tunnel; but my heart stood still
at the thought that the poles might not be there. My first glance
revealed only the bare rock of walls and floor and ceiling and no hooked
poles in sight. I sprang quickly farther into the tunnel which turned
abruptly a few yards ahead of me and just around the bend my eyes were
gladdened by the sight of a dozen or more of the poles which Nah-ee-lah
had described. Seizing one of them, I ran quickly back to the entrance.
I was almost afraid to look up, but as I did so I was rewarded by the
sight of Nah-ee-lah's face smiling down at me--she could smile even in
the face of death, could Nah-ee-lah.

"Just a moment more, Nah-ee-lah!" I cried to her, as I raised the pole
and caught the hook upon the crater's rim. There were small
protuberances on either side of the pole for its entire length, which
made climbing it comparatively simple.

"Make haste, Julian!" she cried, "I am slipping."

It wasn't necessary for her to tell me to make haste. I think that I
never did anything more quickly in my I We than I climbed that pole, but
I reached her not an instant too soon, for even as my arm slipped about
her, her hold upon the ledge above gave way, and she came down head
foremost upon me. I had no difficult in catching her and supporting her
weight. My only fear was that the hook above might not sustain the added
weight under the strain of her falling body. But it held, and I blessed
the artisan who had made it thus strong.

A moment later I had descended to the mouth of the tunnel and drawn
Nah-ee-lah into the safety of its interior. My arm was still around her
and hers about me as she stood there sobbing upon my breast. She was
utterly relaxed and her supple body felt so helpless against me that
there was suddenly aroused within me a feeling such as I had never
experienced before--a rather indescribable feeling, yet one which
induced, seemingly, an irresistible and ridiculous desire to go forth
and slay whole armies of men in protection of this little Moon Maid. It
must have been a sudden mental reversion to some ancient type of
crusading ancestor of the Middle Ages-some knight in armor from whose
loins I had sprung, transmitting to me his own flamboyant, yet none the
less admirable, chivalry. The feeling rather surprised me, for I have
always considered myself more or less practical and hard-headed. But
more sober thought finally convinced me that it was but a nervous
reaction from the thrilling moments through which we had both just
passed, coupled with her entire helplessness and dependence upon me. Be
that as it may, I disengaged her arms from about my neck as gently and
as quickly as I could and lowered her carefully to the floor of the
tunnel, so that she sat with her back leaning against one of the walls.

"You are very brave, Julian," she said, "and very strong."

"I am afraid I am not very brave," I told her. "I am almost weak from
fright even now--I was so afraid that I would not reach you in time,
Nah-ee-lah."

"It is the brave man who is afraid after the danger is past," she said.
"He has no time to think of fear until after the happening is all over.
You may have been afraid for me, Julian, but you could not have been
afraid for yourself, or otherwise you would not have taken the risk of
catching me as I fell. Even now I cannot understand how you were able to
hold me."

"Perhaps," I reminded her, "I am stronger than the men of Va-nah, for my
earthly muscles are accustomed to overcoming a gravity six times as
great as that upon your world. Had this same accident happened upon
Earth I might not have been able to hold you when you fell."



CHAPTER IX. AN ATTACK BY KALKARS

THE TUNNEL in which I found myself and along which Nah-ee-lah led me
toward the city of Laythe was remarkable in several particulars. It was
largely of natural origin, seemingly consisting of a series of caves
which may have been formed by bubbles in the cooling lava of the
original molten flow and which had later been connected by man to form a
continuous subterranean corridor. The caves themselves were usually more
or less spherical in shape and the debris from the connecting
passageways had been utilized to fill the bottoms of them to the level
of the main floor of the passageway. The general trend of the tunnel was
upward from the point at which we had entered it, and there was a
constant draught of air rushing along it in the same direction in which
we were moving, assuring me that it was undoubtedly well ventilated for
its full length. The walls and ceiling were coated with a substance of
which radium was evidently one of the ingredients, since even after we
had lost sight of the entrance the passageway was well illuminated. We
had been moving along in silence for quite a little distance when I
finally addressed Nah-ee-lah.

"It must seem good," I said, "to travel again this familiar tunnel of
your native city. I know how happy I should be were I thus approaching
my own birthplace."

"I am glad to be returning to Laythe," she said, "for I many reasons,
but for one I am sorry, and as for this passageway it is scarcely more
familiar to me than to you, since I have traversed it but once before in
my life and that when I was a little girl and came here with my father
and his court upon the occasion of his periodical inspection of the
passageway, which is now practically never used."

"If you are not familiar with the tunnel," I asked, "are you sure that
there is no danger of our going astray at some fork or branch?"

"There is but the one passageway," she replied, "which leads from the
crater to Laythe."

"And how long is the tunnel?" I asked. "Will we soon enter the city?'.

"No," she replied, "it is a great distance from the crater to Laythe."

We had covered some little distance at this time, possibly five or six
miles, and she had scarcely ceased speaking when a turn in the
passageway led us into a cave of larger proportions than any through
which we had previously passed and from the opposite side of which two
passageways diverged.

"I thought there were no branches," I remarked.

"I do not understand it," she said. "There is no branch from the tunnel
of Laythe."

"Could it be possible that we are in the-wrong tunnel?" I asked, "and
that this does not lead to Laythe?"

"A moment before I should have been sure that we were in the right
tunnel," she replied, "but now, Julian, I do not know, for never had I
heard of any branch of our own tunnel."

We had crossed the cave and were standing between the openings of the
two divergent passageways.

"Which one shall we take?" I asked, but again she shook her head.

"I do not know," she replied.

"Listen!" I cautioned her. "What was that?" For I was sure that I had
heard a sound issuing from one of the tunnels.

We stood peering into an aperture which revealed about a hundred yards
of the passageway before an abrupt turn hid the continuation of it from
our view. We could hear what now resolved itself into the faint sound of
voices approaching us along the corridor, and then quite suddenly the
figure of a man appeared around the corner of the turn. Nah-ee-lah
leaped to one side out of sight, drawing me with her.

"A Kalkar!" she whispered. "Oh, Julian, if they find us we are lost."

"If there is only one of them I can take care of him," I said.

"There will be more than one," she replied; "there will be many."

"Then, let us return the way we came and make our way to the top of the
crater's rim before they discover us. We can throw their hooked poles
into the crater, including the one which we use to ascend from the mouth
of the tunnel, thus effectually preventing any pursuit."

"We cannot cross this room again to the tunnel upon the opposite side
without being apprehended," she replied. "Our only hope is in hiding in
this other tunnel until they have passed and trusting to chance that we
meet no one within it."

"Come, then," I said. "I dislike the idea of flying like a scared
rabbit, but neither would there be any great wisdom in facing armed men
without a single weapon of defense."

Even as we had whispered thus briefly together, we found the voices from
the other tunnel had increased and I thought that I noted a tone of
excitement in them, though the speakers were still too far away for us
to understand their words. We moved swiftly up the branch tunnel,
Nah-ee-lah in the lead, and after passing the first turn we both felt
comparatively safe, for Nah-ee-lah was sure that the men who had
interrupted our journey were a party of hunters on their way to the
outer world by means of the crater through which we had entered the
tunnel and that they would not come up the branch in which we were
hiding. Thus believing, we halted after we were safely out of sight and
hearing of the large cave we had just left.

"That man was a Kalkar," said Nah-ee-lah, "which means that we are in
the wrong tunnel and that we must retrace our steps and continue our
search for Laythe upon the surface of the ground." Her voice sounded
tired and listless, as though hope had suddenly deserted her brave
heart. We were standing shoulder to shoulder in the narrow corridor and
I could not resist the impulse to place an arm about her and comfort
her.

"Do not despair, Nah-ee-lah," I begged her; "we are no worse off than we
have been and much better off than before we escaped the Va-gas of
Ga-va-go. Then do you not recall that you mentioned one drawback to your
return to Laythe--that you might be as well of here as there? What was
the reason, Nah-ee-lah?"

"Ko-tah wants me in marriage," she replied. "Ko-tah is very powerful, He
expects one day to be Jemadar of Laythe. This he cannot be while I live
unless he marries me."

"Do you wish to marry him?" I asked.

"No," she said; "not now. Before--" she hesitated--"before I left Laythe
I did not care so very much; but now I know that I cannot wed with
Ko-tah."

"And your father," I continued, "what of him--will he insist that you
marry Ko-tah?"

"He cannot do otherwise," replied Nah-ee-lah, "for Ko-tah is very
powerful. If my father refuses to permit me to marry him Ko-tah may
overthrow him, and when my father is dead, should I still refuse to
marry Ko-tah he may slay me, also, and then become Jemadar easily, for
the blood of Jemadars flows in his veins."

'It appears to me, Nah-ee-lah, that you will be about as badly off at
home as anywhere else in Va-nah. It is too bad that I cannot take you to
my own Earth, where you would be quite safe, and I am sure, happy."

"I wish that you might, Julian," she replied simply.

I was about to reply when she placed slim fingers upon my lips. "Hush,
Julian!" she whispered, "they are following us up this corridor. Come
quickly, we must escape before they overtake us," and so saying, she
turned and ran quickly along the corridor which led neither of us knew
whither.

But we were soon to find out, for we had gone but a short distance when
we came to the tunnels's end in a large circular chamber, at one end of
which was a rostrum upon which were a massive, elaborately carved desk
and a chair of similar design. Below the rostrum were arranged other
chairs in rows, with a broad aisle down the center. The furniture,
though of peculiar design and elaborately carved with strange figures of
unearthly beasts and reptiles, was not, for all of that, markedly
dissimilar to articles of the same purpose fabricated upon Earth. The
chairs had four legs, high backs and broad arms, seeming to have been
designed equally for durability, service, and comfort.

I glanced quickly around the apartment, as we first entered, only taking
in the details later, but I saw that there was no other opening than the
one through which we had entered.

"We will have to wait here, Nah-ee-lah," I said. "Perhaps, though, all
will be well--the Kalkars may prove friendly."

She shook her head negatively. "No," she said, "they will not be
friendly."

"What will they do to us?" I asked.

"They will make slaves of us," she replied, "and we shall spend the
balance of our lives working almost continuously until we drop with
fatigue under the cruelest of taskmakers, for the Kalkars hate us of
Laythe and will hesitate at nothing that will humiliate or injure us."

She had scarcely ceased speaking when there appeared in the entrance of
the cave the figure of a man about my own height dressed in a tunic
similar to Nah-ee-lah's but evidently made of leather. He carried a
knife slung in a scabbard depending from a shoulder belt, and in his
right hand he grasped a slender lance. His eyes were close set upon
either side of a prominent, hooked nose. They were watery, fishy, blue
eyes, and the hair growing profusely above his low forehead was flaxen
in color. His physique was admirable, except for a noticeable stoop. His
feet were very large and his gait awkward when he moved. Behind him I
could see the heads and shoulders of others. They stood there grinning
at us for a moment, most malevolently, it seemed to me, and then they
entered the cave--a full dozen of them. There were pi several types,
with eyes and hair of different colors, the former ranging from blue to
brown, the latter from light blonde to almost black.

As they emerged from the mouth of the tunnel they spread out and
advanced slowly toward us. We were cornered like rats in a trap. How I
longed for the feel of my automatic at my hip! I envied them their
slender spears and their daggers. If I could have but these I might have
a chance at least to take Nah-ee-lah out of their clutches and save her
from the hideous fate of slavery among the Kalkars, for I had guessed
what such slavery would mean to her from the little that she had told
me, and I had guessed, too, that she would rather die than submit to it.
For my own part, Me held little for me; I had long since definitely
given up any hope of ever returning to my own world, or of finding the
ship and being re-united with West and Jay and Norton. There came upon
me at that moment, however, a sense of appreciation of the fact that
since we had left the village of the No-vans I had been far from
unhappy, nor could I attribute this to aught else than the companionship
of Nah-ee-lah--a realization that convinced me that I should be utterly
miserable were she to be taken from me now. Was I to submit supinely
then, to capture and slavery for myself and worse than death for
Nah-ee-lah, with the assurance of consequent separation from her? No. I
held up my hand as a signal for the advancing Kalkars to halt.

"Stop!" I commanded. "Before you advance farther I wish to know your
intentions toward us. We entered this tunnel, mistaking it for that
which led to the city of my companion. Permit us to depart in peace and
all will be well."

"All will be well, anyway," replied the leader of the Kalkars. "You are
a strange creature, such as I have never before seen in Va-nah. Of you
we know nothing except that you are not of the Kalkars, and therefore an
enemy of the Kalkars, but this other is from Lay the."

"You will not permit us to go in peace, then?" I demanded.

He laughed sneeringly. "Nor in any other way," he said.

I had been standing in the aisle, with my hand upon one of the chairs
near the rostrum and now I turned to Nah-ee-lah who was standing close
beside me.

"Come," I said to her, "follow me; stay close behind me."

Several of the Kalkars were coming down the main aisle toward us, and as
I turned toward them from speaking to Nah-ee-lah, I raised the chair
which my hand had been resting upon, and swinging it quickly around my
head hurled it full in the face of the leader. As he went down
Nah-ee-lah and I ran forward, gaining a little toward the opening of the
tunnel, and then without pausing I hurled another chair and a third and
a fourth, in rapid succession. The Kalkars tried to bring us down with
their lances, but they were so busy dodging chairs that they could not
cast their weapons accurately, and even those few which might otherwise
have struck us were warded off by my rather remarkable engines of
defense.

There had been four Kalkars advancing toward us down the center aisle.
The balance of the party had divided, half of it circling the cave to
the left and the other half to the right, with the evident intention of
coming up the center aisle from behind us. This maneuver had started
just before I commenced hurling chairs at the four directly in front of
us, and now when those who had intended to take us from the rear
discovered that we were likely to make our way through to the tunnel's
entrance, some of them sprang toward us along the passageways between
the chairs, which necessitated my turning and devoting a moment's
attention to them. One huge fellow was in the lead, coming across the
backs of the chairs leaping from seat to seat; and being the closet to
me, he was naturally my first target. The chairs were rather heavy and
the one that I let drive at him caught him full in the chest with an
impact that brought a howl from him and toppled him over across the
backs of the chairs behind him, where he hung limp and motionless. Then
I turned my attention again to those before us, all of whom had fallen
before my massive ammunition. Three of them lay still, but one of them
had scrambled to his feet and was in the very act of casting his lance
as I looked. I stopped the weapon with a chair and as the fellow went
down I caught a glimpse of Nah-ee-lah from the corners of my eyes as she
snatched the lance from the first Kalkar who had fallen and hurled it at
someone behind me. I heard a scream of rage and pain and then I turned
in time to see another of the Kalkars fall almost at my feet, the lance
imbedded in his heart.

The way before us was temporarily open, while the Kalkars behind us had
paused, momentarily, at least, in evident consternation at the havoc I
wrought with these unseemly weapons against which they had no defense.

"Get two knives and two lances from those who have fallen," I cried to
Nah-ee-lah, "while I hold these others back."

She did as I bade, and slowly we backed toward the mouth of the tunnel.
My chairs had accounted for half our enemies when at last we stood in
the opening, each armed with a lance and a knife.

"Now run, Nah-ee-lah, as you never ran before," I whispered to my
companion. "I can hold them off until you have reached the mouth of the
tunnel and clambered to the rim of the crater. If I am lucky, I will
follow you."

"I will not leave you, Julian," she replied, "we will go together or not
at all."

"But you must, Nah-ee-lah," I insisted, "it is for you that I have been
fighting them. What difference can it make in my fate where I am when in
Va-nah--all here are my enemies."

She kid her hand gently upon my arm. "I will not leave you, Julian," she
repeated, "and that is final."

The Kalkars within the room were now advancing toward us menacingly!

"Halt!" I cried to them, "you see what fate your companions have met,
because you would not let us go in peace. That is all we ask. I am armed
now and it will be death to any who follow us."

They paused and I saw them whispering together as Nah-ee-lah and I
backed along the corridor, a turn in which soon shut them from our view.
Then we wheeled and ran like deer along the winding passageway. I did
not feel very safe from capture at any time, but at least I breathed a
sigh of relief after we had passed the chamber from which the Kalkars
had run us into the cul-de-sac, and we had seen no sign of any other of
their kind. We heard no sound of pursuit, but that in itself meant
nothing, since the Kalkars are shod with soft leather sandals, the
material for which, like all their other leather trappings, is made of
the skins of Va-gas and of the prisoners from Laythe.

As we came to the pile of hooked poles which marked the last turn before
the entrance of the tunnel I breathed an inward sigh of relief.
Stooping, I gathered them all in my arms, and then we ran on to the
opening into the crater, where I cast all but one of the poles into the
abyss. That which I retained I hooked over the lip of the crater and
then, turning to Nah-ee-lah, I bade her ascend.

"You should have saved two of the poles," she said, "and then we could
have ascended together; but I will make haste and you can follow me
immediately, for we do not know but that they are pursuing us. I cannot
imagine that they will let us escape thus easily."

Even as she spoke I heard the soft patter of sandal shod feet up the
corridor.

"Make haste, Nah-ee-lah," I cried; "they come!"

Climbing a pole is slow work at best, but when one is suspended over the
brink of a bottomless chasm and is none too sure of the security of the
hook that is holding the pole above, one must needs move cautiously.
Yet, even so, Nah-ee-lah scrambled upward so rapidly as to fill me with
apprehension for her safety. Nor were my fears entirely groundless, for
standing in the mouth of the tunnel, where I could keep one eye upon
Nah-ee-lah and the other toward the turn around which my pursuers would
presently come in view, I saw the girl's hands grasp the rim of the
crater at the very instant that the hook came loose and the pole dropped
past me into the abyss. I might have caught it as it fell, but my whole
mind was fixed upon Nah-ee-lah and her grave danger. Would she be able
to draw herself upward, or would she fall? I saw her straining
frantically to raise her body above the edge of the volcano, and then
from up the corridor behind me came an exultant cry and I turned to face
a brawny Kalkar who was racing toward me.



CHAPTER X. THE CITY OF KALKARS

NOW, INDEED, did I have reason to curse the stupidity that had permitted
me to cast into the abyss all of the hooked poles save one, since even
this one was now lost to me and I was utterly without means of escape
from the tunnel.

As the fellow approached me at a rapid run I hurled my lance, but being
unaccustomed to the weapon, I missed, and then he was upon me, dropping
his own lance as he leaped for me, for it was evidently his desire to
take me alive and unharmed. I thought that I was going to have him now,
for I believed that I was more than a match for him, but there are
tricks in every method of attack and this lunar warrior was evidently
well schooled in his own methods of offense. He scarcely seemed to touch
me, and yet he managed to trip me and push me simultaneously so that I
fell heavily backward to the ground and turning a little sideways as I
fell, I must have struck my head against the side of the tunnel, for
that is the last that I remember until I regained consciousness in the
very cave that Nah-ee-lah and I had reached when we saw the first of the
Kalkars. I was surrounded by a party of eight of the Kalkars, two of
whom were half carrying, half dragging me. I learned later that in the
fight before the rostrum I had killed four of their number.

The fellow who had captured me was in very good humor, doubtless because
of his success, and when he discovered that I had regained consciousness
he started to converse with me.

"You thought that you could escape from Gapth, did you?" he cried, "but
never; you might escape from the others, but not from me--no, not from
Gapth."

"I did the principal thing that I desired to do," I replied, wishing to
learn if Nah-ee-lah had escaped.

"What is that?" demanded Gapth.

"I succeeded in accomplishing the escape of my companion," I replied.

He made a wry face at that. "If Gapth had been there a moment earlier
she would not have escaped, either," he said, and by that I knew that
she had escaped, unless she had fallen back into the crater; and I was
amply repaid for my own capture if it had won freedom for Nah-ee-lah.

"Although I did not escape this time," I said, "I shall next time."

He laughed a nasty laugh. "There will be no next time," he said, "for we
are taking you to the city, and once there, there is no escape, for this
is the only avenue by which you can reach the outer world and once
within the city you never can retrace your steps to the mouth of the
tunnel."

I was not so sure of that, myself, for my sense of direction and that of
location are very well developed within me. The degree of perfection
attained in orientation by many officers of the International Peace
Fleet has been described as almost miraculous, and even among such as
these my ability in this line was a matter of comment. I was glad,
therefore, that the fellow had warned me, since now I should be
particularly upon the watch for each slightest scrap of information that
would fix in my memory whatever route I might be led over. From the cave
in which I regained consciousness there was but a single route to the
mouth of the tunnel, but from here on into the city I must watch every
turn and fork and crossing and draw upon the tablets of my memory an
accurate and detailed map of the entire route.

"We do not even have to confine our prisoners," continued Gapth, "after
we have so marked them that their ownership may always be determined."
"How do you mark them?" I asked. "With heated irons we make the mark of
the owner here," and he touched my forehead just above my eyes.
"Pleasant," I thought to myself, and then aloud: "Shall I belong to
you?"

"I do not know," he replied, "but you will belong to whomever The
Twenty-four allot you."

We moved on after we left the cave for a considerable period of time in
silence. I was busy making mental notes of every salient feature that
might be useful to me in retracing my steps, but I found nothing other
than a winding and gently ascending corridor, without crossings or
branches, until we reached the foot of a long flight of stone steps at
the summit of which we emerged into a large chamber in the walls of
which there must have been at least a dozen doorways, where, to my great
disappointment, I was immediately blindfolded. They whirled me around
then, but evidently it was done perfunctorily, since it was exactly one
full turn and I was halted in my tracks facing precisely in the same
direction that I had been before. This I was positive of, for our powers
of orientation are often tested in this way in the air service. Then
they marched me straight forward across the room through a doorway
directly opposite that at which I had entered the chamber. I could tell
when we left the larger chamber and entered the corridor from the
different sound which our footsteps made. We advanced along this
corridor ninety-seven paces, when we turned abruptly to the right and at
the end of thirty-three paces emerged into another chamber, as I could
easily tell again from the sound of our footsteps the instant we crossed
the threshold. They led me about this chamber a couple of times with the
evident intention of bewildering me, but in this they did not succeed,
for when they turned again into a corridor I knew that it was the same
corridor from which I had just emerged and that I was retracing my
steps. This time they took me back thirty-three paces and then turned
abruptly to the right. I could not but smile to myself when I realized
that we were now continuing directly along the same corridor as that
which we had entered immediately after they had first blindfolded me,
their little excursion through the short corridor into the second
chamber having been but a ruse to bewilder me. A moment later, at the
foot of a flight of steps they removed the blind, evidently satisfied
that there was now no chance of my being able to retrace my steps and
find the main tunnel leading to the crater, while, as a matter of fact,
I could easily have retraced every foot of it blindfolded.

From here on we climbed interminable stairways passed through numerous
corridors and chambers, all of which were illuminated by the
radium-bearing substance which coated their walls and ceilings, and then
we emerged suddenly upon a terrace into the open air, and I obtained my
first view of a lunar city. It was built around a crater, and the
buildings were terraced back from the rim, the terraces being generally
devoted to the raising of garden truck and the principal fruit-bearing
trees and shrubs. The city extended upward several hundred feet, the
houses, as I learned later, being built one upon another, the great
majority of them, therefore, being without windows looking upon the
outer world.

I was led along the terrace for a short distance, and during this brief
opportunity for observation I deduced that the cultivated terraces lay
upon the roofs of the tier of buildings next below. To my right I could
see the terraced steps extending downward to the rim of the crater.
Nearly all the terraces were covered with vegetation, and in numerous
places I saw what appeared to be Va-gas feeding upon the plants, and
this I later learned was the fact, and that the Kalkars, when they are
able to capture members of the race of Va-gas, keep them in captivity
and breed them as we breed cattle, for their flesh. It is necessary, to
some extent, to change the diet of the Va-gas almost exclusively to
vegetation, though this diet is supplemented by the flesh of the
Kalkars, and their Laythean slaves who die, the Va-gas thus being
compelled to serve the double purpose of producing flesh for the Kalkars
and acting as their scavengers as well.

Upon my left were the faces of buildings, uniformly two stories in
height, with an occasional slender tower rising fifteen, twenty or
sometimes as high as thirty feet from the terraced roofs above. It was
into one of these buildings that my captors led me after we had
proceeded a short distance along the terrace, and I found myself in a
large apartment in which were a number of male Kalkars, and at a desk
facing the entrance a large, entirely bald man who appeared to be of
considerable age. To this person I was led by Gapth, who narrated my
capture and the escape of Nah-ee-lah.

The fellow before whom I had been brought questioned me briefly. He made
no comment when I told him that I was from another world, but he
examined my garments rather carefully and then after a moment turned to
Gapth.

"We will hold him for questioning by The Twenty-four," he said. "If he
is not of Va-nah he is neither Kalkar nor Laythean, and consequently, he
must be flesh of a lower order and therefore may be eaten." He paused a
moment and fell to examining a large book which seemed to be filled with
plans upon which strange hieroglyphics appeared. He turned over several
leaves, and finally coming evidently to the page he sought, he ran a
forefinger slowly over it until it came to rest near the center of the
plat. "You may confine him here," he said to Gapth, "in chamber eight of
the twenty-fourth section, at the seventh elevation and you will produce
him upon orders from The Twenty-four when next they meet," and then to
me: "It is impossible for you to escape from the city, but if you
attempt it, it may be difficult for us to find you again immediately and
when we do you will be tortured to death as an example to other slaves.
Go!" I went; following Gapth and the others who had conducted me to the
presence of this creature. They led me back into the very corridor from
which we had emerged upon the terrace and then straight into the heart
of that amazing pile for fully half a mile, where they shoved me roughly
into an apartment at the right of the corridor with the admonition that
I stay there until I was wanted. I found myself in a dimly lighted,
rectangular room, the air of which was very poor, and at the first
glance I discovered that I was not alone, for upon a bench against the
opposite wall sat a man. He looked up as I entered and I saw that his
features were very fine and that he had black hair like Nah-ee-lah. He
looked at me for a moment with a puzzled expression in his eyes and then
he addressed me.

"You, too, are a slave?" he asked.

"I am not a slave," I replied, "I am a prisoner."

"It is all the same," he said; "but from whence come you? I have never
seen your like before in Va-nah."

"I do not come from Va-nah," I replied, and then I briefly explained my
origin and how I came to be in his world. He did not understand me, I am
sure, for although he seemed to be, and really was, highly intelligent,
he could not conceive of any condition concerning which he had had no
experience and in this way he did not differ materially from intelligent
and highly educated Earth Men.

"And you," I asked, at length--"you are not a Kalkar? From whence come
you?"

"I am from Laythe," he replied. "I fell outside the city and was
captured by one of their hunting parties."

"Why all this enmity," I asked, "between the men of Laythe and the
Kalkars--who are the Kalkars, anyway?"

"You are not of Va-nah," he said, "that I can see, or you would not ask
these questions. The Kalkars derive their name from a corruption of a
word meaning The Thinkers. Ages ago we were one race, a prosperous
people living at peace with all the world of Va-nah. The Va-gas we bred
for flesh, as we do today within our own city of Laythe and as the
Kalkars do within their city. Our cities, towns and villages covered the
slopes of the mountains and stretched downward to the sea. No corner of
the three oceans but knew our ships, and our cities were joined together
by a network of routes along which passed electrically driven
trains"--he did not use the word trains, but an expression which might
be liberally translated as ships of the land--"while other great
carriers flew through the air. Our means of communication between
distant points were simplified by science through the use of electrical
energy, with the result that those who lived in one part of Va-nah could
talk with those who lived in any other part of Va-nah, though it were to
the remotest ends of the world. There were ten great divisions, each
ruled by its Jemadar, and each division vied with all the others in the
service which it rendered to its people. There were those who held high
positions and those who held low; there were those who were rich and
those who were poor, but the favors of the state were distributed
equally among them, and the children of the poor had the same
opportunities for education as the children of the rich, and there it
was that our troubles first started. There is a saying among us that 'no
learning is better than a little,' and I can well believe this true when
I consider the history of my world, where, as the masses became a little
educated, there developed among them a small coterie that commenced to
find fault with everyone who had achieved greater learning or greater
power than they. Finally, they organized themselves into a secret
society called The Thinkers, but known more accurately to the rest of
Va-nah as those who thought that they thought. It is a long story, for
it covers a great period of time, but the result was that, slowly at
first, and later rapidly, The Thinkers, who did more talking than
thinking, filled the people with dissatisfaction, until at last they
arose and took over the government and commerce of the entire world. The
Jemadars were overthrown and the ruling class driven from power, the
majority of them being murdered, though some managed to escape, and it
was these, my ancestors, who founded the city of Laythe. It is believed
that there are other similar cities in remote parts of Va-nah inhabited
by the descendants of the Jemadar and noble classes, but Laythe is the
only one of which we have knowledge. The Thinkers would not work, and
the result was that both government and commerce fell into rapid decay.
They not only had neither the training nor the intelligence to develop
new things, but they could not carry out the old that had been developed
for them. The arts and sciences languished and died with commerce and
government, and Va-nah fell back into barbarism. The Va-gas saw their
chance and threw off the yoke that had held them through countless ages.
As the Kalkars had driven the noble class into the lofty mountains, so
the Va-gas drove the Kalkars. Practically every vestige of the ancient
culture and commercial advancement of Va-nah has been wiped from the
face of the world. The Laytheans have held their own for many centuries,
but their numbers have not increased.

"Many generations elapsed before the Laytheans found sanctuary in the
city of Laythe, and during that period they, too, lost all touch with
the science and advancement and the culture of the past. Nor was there
any way in which to rebuild what the Kalkars had torn down, since they
had destroyed every written record and every book in every library in
Va-nah. And so occupied .are both races in eking out a precarious
existence that there is little likelihood that there will ever again be
any advancement made along these lines--it is beyond the intellectual
powers of the Kalkars, and the Laytheans are too weak numerically to
accomplish aught."

"It does look hopeless," I said, "almost as hopeless as our situation.
There is no escape, I imagine, from this Kalkar city, is there?"

"No," he said, "none whatever. There is only one avenue and we are so
confused when we are brought into the city that it would be impossible
for us to find our way out again through this labyrinth of corridors and
chambers."

"And if we did win our way to the outer world we would be as bad off, I
presume, for we could never find Laythe, and sooner or later would be
recaptured by the Kalkars or taken by the Va-gas. Am I not right?"

"No," he said, "you are not right. If I could reach the rim of the
crater beyond this city I could find my way to Laythe. I know the way
well, for I am one of Ko-tah's hunters and am thoroughly familiar with
the country for great distances in all directions from Laythe."

So this was one of Ko-tah's men. I was glad, indeed, that I had not
mentioned Nah-ee-lah or told him of her possible escape, or of my
acquaintance with her.

"And who is Ko-tah?" I asked, feigning ignorance.

"Ko-tah is the most powerful noble of Laythe," he replied, "some day he
will be Jemadar, for now that Nah-ee-lah, the Princess, is dead, and
Sagroth, the Jemadar, grows old, it will not be long before there is a
change."

"And if the .Princess should return to Laythe," I asked, "would Ko-tah
still become Jemadar then, upon the death of Sagroth?"

"He would become Jemadar in any event," replied my companion, "for had
the Princess not been carried off by the air that runs away, Ko-tah
would have married her, unless she refused, in which event she might
have died--people do die, you know."

"You feel no loyalty, then," I asked, "for your old Jemadar, Sagroth, or
for his daughter, the Princess?"

"On the contrary, I feel every loyalty toward them, but like many
others, I am afraid of Ko-tah, for he is very powerful and we know that
sooner or later he will become ruler of Laythe. That is why so many of
the high nobles have attached themselves to him--it is not through love
of Ko-tah, but through fear that he recruits his ranks."

"But the Princess!" I exclaimed, "would the nobles not rally to her
defense?"

"What would be the use?" he asked. "We of Laythe do but exist in the
narrow confines of our prison city. There is no great future to which we
may look forward in this life, but future incarnations may hold for us a
brighter prospect. It is no cruelty, then, to kill those who exist now
under the chaotic reign of anarchy which has reduced Va-nah to a
wilderness."

I partially caught his rather hopeless point of view and realized that
the fellow was not bad or disloyal at heart, but like all his race,
reduced to a state of hopelessness that was the result of ages of
retrogression to which they could see no end.

"I can find the way to the mouth of the tunnel where it opens into the
crater," I told him. "But how can we reach it unarmed through a city
populated with our enemies who would slay us on sight?"

"There are never very many people in the chambers or corridors far
removed from the outer terraces, and if we were branded upon the
forehead, as accepted slaves are, and your apparel was not so
noticeable, we might possibly reach the tunnel without weapons."

"Yes," I said, "my clothes are a handicap. They would immediately call
attention to us; yet, it is worth risking, for I know that I can find my
way back to the crater and I should rather die than remain a slave of
the Kalkars."

The truth of the matter was that I was not prompted so much by
abhorrence of the fate that seemed in store for me, as by a desire to
learn if Nah-ee-lah had escaped. I was constantly haunted by the horrid
fear that her hold upon the rim of the crater had given and that she had
fallen into the abyss below. Gapth had thought that she had escaped, but
I knew that she might have fallen without either of us having seen her,
since the pole up which she had clambered had been fastened a little
beyond the opening of the tunnel, so that, had her hold become loosened,
she would not have fallen directly past the aperture. The more I thought
of it, the more anxious I became to reach Laythe and institute a search
for her.

While we were still discussing our chances of escape, two slaves brought
us food in the shape of raw vegetables and fruit. I scanned them
carefully for weapons, but they had none, a circumstance to which they
may owe their lives. I could have used their garments, had they been
other than slaves, but I had hit upon a bolder plan than this and must
wait patiently for a favorable opportunity to put it into practice.

After eating I became sleepy and was about to stretch out upon the floor
of our prison when my companion, whose name was Moh-goh, told me that
there was a sleeping apartment adjoining the room in which we were, that
had been set apart for us.

The doorway leading to the sleeping chamber was covered by heavy
hangings, and as I parted them and stepped into the adjoining chamber, I
found myself in almost total darkness, the walls and ceiling of this
room not having been treated with the illuminating coating used in the
corridors and apartments which they wished to maintain in a lighted
condition. I later learned that all their sleeping apartments were thus
naturally dark. In one corner of the room was a pile of dried vegetation
which I discovered must answer the purpose of mattress and covering,
should I require any. However, I was not so particular, as I had been
accustomed to only the roughest of fare since I had left my luxurious
stateroom aboard The Barsoom. How long I slept I do not know, but I was
awakened by Moh-goh calling me. He was leaning over me, shaking me by
the shoulder.

"You are wanted," he whispered. "They have come to take us before The
Twenty-four."

"Tell them to go to the devil," I said, for I was very sleepy and only
half awake. Of course, he did not know what devil meant, but evidently
he judged from my tone that my reply was disrespectful to the Kalkars.

"Do not anger them," he said, "it will only make your fate the harder.
When the Twenty-four command, all must obey."

"Who are The Twenty-four?" I demanded.

"They compose the committee that rules this Kalkar city."

I was thoroughly awakened now and rose to my feet, following him into
the adjoining chamber, where I saw two Kalkar warriors standing
impatiently awaiting us. As I saw them a phrase leaped to my brain and
kept repeating itself: "There are but two, there are but two."

They were across the room from us, standing by the entrance, and Moh-goh
was close to me.

"There are but two," I whispered to him in a low voice, "you take one
and I will take the other. Do you dare?"

"I will take the one at the right," he replied, and together we advanced
across the room slowly toward the unsuspecting warriors. The moment that
we were in reach of them we leaped for them simultaneously. I did not
see how Moh-goh attacked his man, for I was busy with my own, though it
took me but an instant to settle him, for I struck him a single terrific
blow upon the chin and as he fell I leaped upon him, wresting his dagger
from its scabbard and plunging it into his heart before he could regain
his senses from the stunning impact of my fist. Then I turned to assist
Moh-goh, only to discover that he needed no assistance, but was already
arising from the body of his antagonist, whose throat was cut from ear
to ear with his own weapon.

"Quick!" I cried to Moh-goh, "drag them into the sleeping apartment
before we are discovered; and a moment later we had deposited the two
corpses in the dimly lighted apartment adjoining.

"We will leave the city as Kalkar warriors," I said, commencing to strip
the accoutrements and garments from the man I had slain.

Moh-goh grinned. "Not a bad idea," he said. "H you can find the route to
the crater it is possible that we may yet escape."

It took us but a few moments to effect the change, and after we had
hidden the bodies beneath the vegetation that had served us as a bed and
stepped out into the other chamber, where we could have a good look at
one another, we realized that if we were not too closely scrutinized we
might pass safely through the corridors beneath the Kalkar city, for the
Kalkars are a mongrel breed, comprising many divergent types. My
complexion, which differed outrageously from that of either the Kalkars
or the Laytheans, constituted our greatest danger, but we must take the
chance, and at least we were armed. "Lead the way," said Moh-goh, "and
if you can find the crater I can assure you that I can find Laythe."

"Very good," I said, "come," and stepping into the corridor I moved off
confidently in the direction that I knew I should find the passageways
and stairs along which I had been conducted from the crater tunnel. I
was as confident of success as though I were traversing the most
familiar precinct of my native city.

We traveled a considerable distance without meeting anyone, and at last
reached the chamber in which I had been blindfolded. As we entered it I
saw fully a score of Kalkars lolling upon benches or lying upon
vegetation that was piled upon the floor. They looked up as we entered,
and at the same time Moh-goh stepped in front of me.

"Who are you and where are you going?" demanded one of the Kalkars.

"By order of The Twenty-four," said Moh-goh, and stepped into the room.
Instantly I realized that he did not know in which direction to go, and
that by his hesitancy all might be lost.

"Straight ahead, straight across the room," I whispered to, him, and he
stepped out briskly in the direction of the entrance to the tunnel.
Fortunately for us, the chamber was not brilliantly lighted, and the
Kalkars were at the far end of it; otherwise they must certainly have
discovered my deception, at least, since any sort of close inspection
would have revealed the fact that I was not of Va-nah. However, they did
not halt us, though I was sure that I saw one of them eyeing me
suspiciously, and I venture to say that I took the last twenty steps
without drawing a breath.

It was quickly over, however, and we had entered the tunnel which now
led without further confusing ramifications directly to the crater.

"We were fortunate," I said to Moh-goh.

"That we were," he replied.

In silence, then, that we might listen for pursuit, or for the sound of
Kalkars ahead of us, we hastened rapidly along the descending passageway
toward the mouth of the tunnel where it opened into the crater; and at
last, as we rounded the last turn and I saw the light of day ahead of
me, I breathed a deep sigh of relief, though almost simultaneously my
happiness turned to despair at the sudden recollection that there were
no hooked poles here to assist us to the summit of the crater wall. What
were we to do?

"Moh-goh," I said, turning to my companion as we halted at the end of
the tunnel, "there are no poles with which to ascend. I had forgotten
it, but in order to prevent the Kalkars from ascending after me, I threw
all but one into the abyss, and that one slipped from the rim and was
lost also, just as my pursuers were about to seize me."

I had not told Moh-goh that I had had a companion, since it would be
difficult to answer any questions he might propound on the subject
without revealing the identity of Nah-ee-lah.

"Oh, we can overcome that," replied my companion. "We have these two
spears, which are extremely stout, and inasmuch as we shall have plenty
of time, we can easily arrange them in some way that will permit us to
ascend to the summit of the crater. It is very fortunate that we were
not pursued."

The Kalkar's spears had a miniature crescent-shaped hook at the base of
their point similar to the larger ones effected by the Va-gas. Moh-goh
thought that we could fasten the two spears securely together and then
catch the small hook of the upper one upon the rim of the crater,
testing its hold thoroughly before either of us attempted to ascend.
Beneath his tunic he wore a rope coiled around his waist which he
explained to me was a customary part of the equipment of all Laytheans.
It was his idea to tie one end of this around the waist of whichever of
us ascended first, the other going as far back into the tunnel as
possible and bracing himself, so that in the event that the climber
fell, he would be saved from death, though I figured that he would get a
rather nasty shaking up and some bad bruises, under the best of
circumstances.

I volunteered to go first and began fastening one end of the rope
securely about my waist while Moh-goh made the two spears fast together
with a short length that he had cut from the other end. He worked
rapidly, with deft, nimble fingers, and seemed to know pretty well what
he was doing. In the event that I reached the summit in safety, I was to
pull up the spears and then haul Moh-goh up by the rope.

Having fastened the rope to my satisfaction, I stood as far out upon the
ledge before the entrance to the tunnel as I safely could, and with my
back toward the crater looked up at the rim twenty feet above me, in a
vain attempt to select from below, if possible, a reasonably secure
point upon which to hook the spear. As I stood thus upon the edge of
eternity, steadying myself with one hand against the tunnel wall, there
came down to me from out of the tunnel a noise which I could not
mistake. Moh-goh heard it, too, and looked at me, with a rueful shake of
his head and a shrug of his shoulders.

"Everything is against us, Earth Man," he said, for this was the name he
had given me when I told him what my world was called.



CHAPTER XI. A MEETING WITH KO-TAH

THE PURSUERS were not yet in sight, but I knew from the nearness of the
sound of approaching footsteps that it would be impossible to complete
the splicing of the spears, to find a secure place for the hook above,
and for me to scramble upward to the rim of the crater and haul Moh-goh
after me before they should be upon us. Our position looked almost
hopeless. I could think of no avenue of escape, and yet I tried, and as
I stood there with bent head, my eyes cast upon the floor of the tunnel,
they fell upon the neatly coiled rope lying at my feet, one end of which
was fastened securely about my waist. Instantly there flashed into my
mind a mad inspiration. I glanced up at the overhanging rim above me.
Could I do it? There was a chance--the lesser gravity of the Moon placed
the thing within the realm of possibility, and yet by all earthly
standards it was impossible. I did not wait, I could not wait, for had I
given the matter any thought I doubt that I would have had the nerve to
attempt it. Behind me lay a cavern opening into the depths of space,
into which I should be dashed if my mad plan failed; but, what of it?
Better death than slavery. I stooped low, then, and concentrating every
faculty upon absolute coordination of mind and muscles, I leaped
straight upward with all the strength of my legs.

And in that instant during which my life hung in the balance, of what
did I think? Of home, of Earth, of the friends of my childhood? No--of a
pale and lovely face, with great, dark eyes and a perfect forehead,
surmounted by a wealth of raven hair. It was the image of Nah-ee-lah,
the Moon Maid, that I would have carried with me into eternity, had I
died that instant.

But, I did not die. My leap carried me above the rim of the crater,
where I hinged forward and fell sprawling, my arms and upper body upon
the surface of the ground. Instantly I turned about and lying upon my
belly, seized the rope in both hands.

"Quick, Moh-goh!" I cried to my companion below; "make the rope fast
about you, keep hold of the spears and I will drag you up!"

"Pull away," he answered me instantly, "I have no time to make the rope
fast about me. They are almost upon me, pull away and be quick about
it."

I did as he bade, and a moment later his hands grasped the rim of the
crater and with my assistance he gained the top, dragging the spears
after him. For a moment he stood there in silence looking at me with a
most peculiar expression upon his face; then he shook his head.

"I do not understand, yet," he said, "how you did it, but it was very
wonderful."

"I scarcely expected to accomplish it in safety, myself," I replied,
"but anything is better than slavery."

From below us came the voices of the Kalkars in angry altercation.
Moh-goh picked up a fragment of rock, and leaning over the edge of the
crater, threw it down among them. "I got one," he said, turning to me
with a laugh, "he tumbled off into nothing; they hate that. They believe
that there is no reincarnation for those who fall into a crater."

"Do you think that they will try to follow us?" I asked.

"No," he said, "they will be afraid to use their hooked poles here for a
long time, lest we should be in the neighborhood and shove them off into
the crater. I will drop another rock down if any of them are in sight
and then we will go upon our way. I do not fear them here in the hills,
anyway. There is always plenty of broken stone upon the level places,
and we of Laythe are trained to use it most effectively--almost as far
as I can throw, I can score a hit."

The Kalkars had withdrawn into the tunnel, so Moh-goh lost his
opportunity to dispatch another, and presently turned away from the
crater and set out into the mountains, I following close behind.

I can assure you that I felt much better, now that I was armed with a
spear and a knife, and as we walked I practiced casting stones, at
Moh-goh's suggestion and under his instruction, until I became rather
proficient in the art.

I shall not weary you with a narration of our journey to Laythe. How
long it took, I do not know. It may have consumed a day, a week, a
month, for time seemed quite a meaningless term in Va-nah, but at length
after clambering laboriously from the bottom of a deep gorge, we stood
upon the edge of a rolling plateau, and at some little distance beheld
what at first appeared to be a cone-shaped mountain, rising fully a mile
into the air above the surface of the plateau.

"There," cried Moh-goh, "is Laythe! The crater where lies the entrance
to the tunnel leading to the city is beyond it."

As we approached the city, the base of which we must skirt in order to
reach the crater beyond, I was able to obtain a better idea of the
dimensions and methods of construction of this great interior lunar
city, the base of which was roughly circular and about six miles in
diameter, ranging from a few hundred to a thousand feet above the level
of the plateau. The base of the city appeared to be the outer wall of an
ancient extinct volcano, the entire summit of which had been blown off
during some terrific eruption of a bygone age. Upon this base the
ancient Laytheans had commenced the construction of their city, the
houses of which rose one upon another as did those of the Kalkar city
from which we had just escaped. The great age of Laythe was attested by
the tremendous height to which these superimposed buildings had arisen,
the loftiest wall of Laythe now rising fully a mile above the floor of
the plateau. Narrow terraces encircled the periphery of the towering
city, and as we approached more closely I saw doors and windows opening
upon the terraces and figures moving to and fro, the whole resembling
closely an enormous hive of bees. When we had reached a point near the
base of the city, I saw that we had been discovered, for directly above
us there were people at various points who were unquestionably looking
down at us and commenting upon us.

"They have seen us from above," I said to Moh-goh, "why don't you hail
them?"

"They take us for Kalkars," he replied. "It is easier for us to enter
the city by way of the tunnel, where I shall have no difficulty in
establishing my identity."

"If they think we are Kalkars," I said, "will they not attack us?"

"No," he replied, "Kalkars often pass Laythe. If they do not try to
enter the city, we do not molest them." "Your people fear them, then?" I
asked. "It practically amounts to that," he replied. "They greatly
outnumber us, perhaps a thousand to one, and as they are without
justice, mercy or honor we try not to antagonize them unnecessarily."

We came at length to the mouth of the crater, and here Moh-goh looped
his rope about the base of a small tree growing close to the rim and
slipped down to the opening of the tunnel directly beneath. I followed
his example, and when I was beside him Moh-goh pulled the rope in,
coiled it about his waist, and we set off along the passageway leading
toward Laythe.

After my long series of adventures with unfriendly people in Va-nah, I
had somewhat the sensation of one returning home after a long absence,
for Moh-goh had assured me that the people of Laythe would receive me
well and that I should be treated as a friend. He even assured me that
he would procure for me a good berth in the service of Ko-tah. My
greatest regret now was for Nah-ee-lah, and that she was not my
companion, instead of Moh-goh. I was quite sure that she was lost, for
had she escaped, falling back into the crater outside the Kalkar city, I
doubted that she could successfully have found her way to Laythe. My
heart had been heavy since we had been separated, and I had come to
realize that the friendship of this little Moon Maid had meant a great
deal more to me than I had thought. I could scarcely think of her now
without a lump coming into my throat, for it seemed cruel, indeed, that
one so young and lovely should have met so untimely an end.

The distance between the crater and the city of Laythe is not great, and
presently we came directly out upon the lower terrace within the city.
This terrace is at the very rim of the crater around which Laythe is
built. And here we ran directly into the arms of a force of about fifty
warriors.

Moh-goh emerged from the tunnel with his spear grasped in both hands
high above his head, the point toward the rear, and I likewise, since he
had cautioned me to do so. So surprised were the warriors to see any
creatures emerge from this tunnel, which had been so long disused, that
we were likely to have been slain before they realized that we had come
before them with the signal of peace.

The guard that is maintained at the inner opening of the tunnel is
considered by the Laytheans as more or less of an honorary assignment,
the duties of which are performed perfunctorily.

"What do you here, Kalkars?" exclaimed the commander of the guard.

"We are not Kalkars," replied my companion. "I am Moh-goh the Paladar,
and this be my friend. Can it be that you, Ko-vo the Kamadar, do not
know me?"

"Ah!" cried the commander of the guard, "it is, indeed, Moh-goh the
Paladar. You have been given up as lost."

"I was lost, indeed, had it not been for this, my friend," replied
Moh-goh, nodding his head in my direction. "I was captured by the
Kalkars and incarcerated in City No. 337."

"You escaped from a Kalkar city?" exclaimed Ko-vo, in evident
incredulity. "That is impossible. It never has been accomplished."

"But we did accomplish it," replied Moh-goh, "thanks to my friend here,"
and then he narrated briefly to Ko-vo the details of our escape.

"It scarce seems possible," commented the Laythean, when Moh-goh had
completed his narrative, "and what may be the name of your friend,
Moh-goh, and from what country did you say he came?"

"He calls himself Ju-lan-fit," replied Moh-goh, for that was as near as
he could come to the pronunciation of my name. And so it was that as
Ju-lan-fit I was known to the Laytheans as long as I remained among
them. They thought that fifth, which they pronounced "fit," was a title
similar to one of those which always followed the name of its possessor
in Laythe, as Sagroth the Jemadar, or Emperor; Ko-vo the Kamadar, a
title which corresponds closely to that of the English Duke; and Moh-goh
the Paladar, or Count. And so, to humor them, I told them that it meant
the same as their Javadar, or Prince. I was thereafter called sometimes
Ju-lan-fit, and sometimes Ju-lan Javadar, as the spirit moved him who
addressed me.

At Moh-goh's suggestion, Ko-vo the Kamadar detailed a number of his men
to accompany us to Moh-goh's dwelling, lest we have difficulty in
passing through the city in our Kalkar garb.

As we had stood talking with Ko-vo, my eyes had been taking in the
interior sights of this lunar city. The crater about which Laythe is
built appeared to be between three and four miles in width,' the
buildings facing it and rising terrace upon terrace to a height of a
mile at least, were much more elaborate of architecture and far richer
in carving than those of the Kalkar City No. 337. The terraces were
broad and well cultivated, and as we ascended toward Moh-goh's dwelling
I saw that much pains had been taken to elaborately landscape many of
them, there being pools and rivulets and waterfalls in numerous places.
As in the Kalkar city, there were Va-gas fattening for food in little
groups upon various terraces. They were sleek and fat and appeared
contented, and I learned later that they were perfectly satisfied with
their lot, having no more conception of the purpose for which they were
bred or the fate that awaited them than have the beef cattle of Earth.

The U-gas of Laythe have induced this mental state in the Va-gas herds
by a process of careful selection covering a period of ages, possibly,
during which time they have conscientiously selected for breeding
purposes the most stupid and unimaginative members of their herds.

At Moh-goh's dwelling we were warmly greeted by the members of his
family--his father, mother and two sisters--all of whom, like the other
Laytheans I had seen, were of striking appearance. The men were straight
and handsome, the women physically perfect and of great beauty.

I could see in the affectionate greetings which they exchanged an
indication of a family life and ties similar to those which are most
common upon Earth, while their gracious and hospitable reception of me
marked them as people of highly refined sensibilities. First of all they
must hear Moh-goh's story, and then, after having congratulated us and
praised us, they set about preparing baths and fresh apparel for us, in
which they were assisted by a corps of servants, descendants, I was
told, of the faithful servitors who had remained loyal to the noble
classes and accompanied them in their exile.

We rested for a short time after our baths, and then Moh-goh announced
that he must go before Ko-tah, to whom it was necessary that he report,
and that he would take me with him. I was appareled now in raiment
befitting my supposed rank and carried the weapons of a Laythean
gentleman--a short lance, or javelin, a dagger and a sword, but with my
relatively darker skin and my blond hair, I could never hope to be aught
than an object of remark in any Laythean company. Owing to the color of
my hair, some of them thought that I was a Kalkar, but upon this score
my complexion set them right.

Ko-tah's dwelling was, indeed, princely, stretching along a broad
terrace for fully a quarter of a mile, with its two stories and its
numerous towers and minarets. The entire face of the building was
elaborately and beautifully carved, the decorations in their entirety
recording pictographically the salient features of the lives of Ko-tah's
ancestors.

Armed nobles stood on either side of the massive entrance way, and long
before we reached this lunar prince I realized that possibly he was more
difficult to approach than one of earthly origin, but at last we were
ushered into his presence, and Moh-goh, with the utmost deference,
presented me to Ko-tah the Javadar. Having assumed a princely title and
princely raiment, I chose to assume princely prerogatives as well,
believing that my position among the Laytheans would be better assured
and all my interests furthered if they thought me of royal blood, and so
I acknowledged my introduction to Ko-tah as though we were equals and
that he was being presented to me upon the same footing that I was being
presented to him.

I found him, like all his fellows, a handsome man, but with a slightly
sinister expression which I did not like. Possibly I was prejudiced
against him from what Nah-ee-lah had told me, but be that as it may, I
conceived a dislike and distrust for him the moment that I laid eyes
upon him, and I think, too, that he must have sensed my attitude, for,
though he was outwardly gracious and courteous, I believe that Ko-tah
the Javadar never liked me.

It is true that he insisted upon allotting me quarters within his palace
and that he gave me service high among his followers, but I was at that
time a novelty among them, and Ko-tah was not alone among the royalty
who would have been glad to have entertained me and showered favors upon
me, precisely as do Earth Men when a titled stranger, or famous man from
another land, comes to their country.

Although I did not care for him, I was not loath to accept his
hospitality, since I felt that because of my friend ship for Nah-ee-lah
I owed all my loyalty to Sagroth the Jemadar, and if by placing myself
in the camp of the enemy I might serve the father of Nah-ee-lah, I was
justified in so doing.

I found myself in a rather peculiar position in the palace of Ko-tah,
since I was supposed to know little or nothing of internal conditions in
Laythe, and yet had learned from both Nah-ee-lah and Moh-goh a great
deal concerning the intrigues and politics of this lunar city. For
example, I was not supposed to know of the existence of Nah-ee-lah. Not
even did Moh-goh know that I had heard of her; and so until her name was
mentioned, I could ask no questions concerning her, though I was anxious
indeed, to discover if by any miracle of chance, she had returned in
safety to Laythe, or if aught had been learned concerning her fate.

Ko-tah held me in conversation for a considerable period of time, asking
many questions concerning Earth and my voyage from that planet to the
Moon. I knew that he was skeptical, and yet he was a man of such
intelligence as to realize that there must be something in the Universe
beyond his understanding or his knowledge. His eyes told him that I was
not a native of Va-nah, and his ears must have corroborated the
testimony of his eyes, for try as I would, I never was able to master
the Va-nahan language so that I could pass for a native.

At the close of our interview Ko-tah announced that Moh-goh would also
remain in quarters in the palace, suggesting that if it was agreeable to
me, my companion should share my apartments with me.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure, Ko-tah the Javadar," I said,
"than to have my good friend, Moh-goh the Paladar, always with me."

"Excellent!" exclaimed Ko-tah. "You must both be fatigued. Go,
therefore, to your apartments and rest. Presently I will repair to the
palace of the Jemadar with my court, and you will be notified in
sufficient time to prepare yourselves to accompany me."

The audience was at an end, and we were led by nobles of Ko-tah's palace
to our apartments, which lay upon the second floor in pleasant rooms
overlooking the terraces down to the brink of the great, yawning crater
below.

Until I threw myself upon the soft mattress that served t as a bed for
me, I had not realized how physically exhausted I had been. Scarcely had
I permitted myself to relax in the luxurious ease which precedes sleep
ere I was plunged into profound slumber, which must have endured for a
considerable time, since when I awoke I was completely refreshed.
Moh-goh was already up and in the bath, a marble affair fed by a
continuous supply of icy water which originated among the ice-clad peaks
of the higher mountains behind Laythe. The bather had no soap, but used
rough fibre gloves with which he rubbed the surface of his skin until it
glowed. These baths rather took one's breath away, but amply repaid for
the shock by the sensation of exhilaration and well being which resulted
from them.

In addition to private baths in each dwelling, each terrace supported a
public bath, in which men, women and children disported themselves,
recalling to my mind the ancient Roman baths which earthly history
records.

The baths of the Jemadar which I was later to see in the palace of
Sagroth were marvels of beauty and luxury. Here, when the Emperor
entertains, his guests amuse themselves by swimming and diving, which,
from what I have been able to judge, are the national sports of the
Laytheans. The Kalkars care less for the water, while the Va-gas only
enter it through necessity.

I followed Moh-goh in the bath, in which my first sensation was that I
was freezing to death. While we were dressing a messenger from Ko-tah
summoned us to his presence, with instructions that we were to be
prepared to accompany him to the palace of Sagroth the Jemadar.



CHAPTER XII. GROWING DANGER

THE PALACE of the Emperor stands, a magnificent pile, upon the loftiest
terrace of Laythe, extending completely around the enormous crater.
There are but three avenues leading to it from the terraces below--three
magnificent stairways, each of which may be closed by enormous gates of
stone, apparently wrought from huge slabs and intricately chiselled into
marvelous designs, so that at a distance they present the appearance of
magnificent lacework. Each gate is guarded by a company of fifty
warriors, their tunics bearing the imperial design in a large circle
over the left breast.

The ceremony of our entrance to the imperial terrace was most gorgeous
and impressive. Huge drums and trumpets blared forth a challenge as we
reached the foot of the stairway which we were to ascend to the palace.
High dignitaries in gorgeous trappings came down the steps to meet us,
as if to formally examine the credentials of Ko-tah and give official
sanction to his entrance. We were then conducted through the gateway
across a broad terrace beautifully landscaped and ornamented by statuary
that was most evidently the work of finished artists. These works of art
comprised both life size and heroic figures of individuals and groups,
and represented for the most part historic or legendary figures and
events of the remote past, though there were also likenesses of all the
rulers of Laythe, up to and including Sagroth the present Jemadar.

Upon entering the palace we were led to a banquet hall, where we were
served with food, evidently purely in accordance with ancient court
ceremonial, since there was little to eat and the guests barely tasted
of that which was presented to them. This ceremony consumed but a few
minutes of Earth time, following which we were conducted through
spacious hallways to the throne room of the Jemadar, an apartment of
great beauty and considerable size. Its decorations and lines were
simple, almost to severity, yet suggesting regal dignity and
magnificence. Upon a dais at the far end of the room were three thrones,
that in the center being occupied by a man whom I knew at once to be
Sagroth, while upon either side sat a woman.

Ko-tah advanced and made his obeisance before his ruler, and after the
exchange of a few words between them Ko-tah returned and conducted me to
the foot of Sagroth's throne.

I had been instructed that it was in accordance with court etiquette
that I keep my eyes upon the ground until I had been presented and
Sagroth had spoken to me, and that then I should be introduced to the
Jemadav, or Empress, when I might raise my eyes to her, also, and
afterward to the occupant of the third throne when I should be formally
presented to her.

Sagroth spoke most graciously to me, and as I raised my eyes I saw
before me a man of great size and evident strength of character. He was
by far the most regal appearing individual my eyes had ever rested upon,
while his low, well modulated, yet powerful voice accentuated the
majesty of his mien. It was he who presented me to his Jemadav, whom I
discovered to be a creature fully as regal in appearance as her imperial
mate, and although doubtless well past middle age, still possessing
remarkable beauty, in which was to be plainly noted Nah-ee-lah's
resemblance to her mother.

Again I lowered my eyes as Sagroth presented me to the occupant of the
third throne.

"Ju-lan the Javadar," he repeated the formal words of the presentation,
"raise your eyes to the daughter of Laythe, Nah-ee-lah the Nonovar."

As my eyes, filled doubtless with surprise and incredulity, shot to the
face of Nah-ee-lah, I was almost upon the verge of an exclamation of the
joy and happiness which I felt in seeing her again and in knowing that
she was safely returned to her parents and her city once more. But as my
eves met hers the exuberance of my spirit was as effectually and quickly
checked by her cold glance and haughty mien as if I had received a blow
in the face.

There was no hint of recognition in Nah-ee-lah's expression. She nodded
coldly in acknowledgment of the presentation and then let her eyes pass
above my head toward the opposite end of the throne room. My pride was
hurt, and I was angry, but I would not let her see how badly I was hurt.
I have always prided myself upon my control, and so I know that then I
had my emotion and turned once more to Sagroth, as though I had received
from his daughter the Nonovar precisely the favor that I had a right to
expect. If the Jemadar had noticed aught peculiar in either Nah-ee-Iah's
manner or mine, he gave no hint of it. He spoke again graciously to me
and then dismissed me, with the remark that we should meet again later.

Having withdrawn from the throne room, Ko-tah informed me that following
the audience I should have an opportunity to meet Sagroth less formally,
since he had commanded that I remain in the palace as his guest during
the meal which followed.

"It is a mark of distinction," said Ko-tah, "but remember, Ju-lan the
Javadar, that you have accepted the friendship of Ko-tah and are his
ally."

"Do not embroil me in the political intrigues of Laythe," I replied. "I
am a stranger, with no interest in the internal affairs of your country,
for the reason that I have no knowledge of them."

"One is either a friend or an enemy," replied Ko-tah.

"I am not sufficiently well acquainted to be accounted either," I told
him; "nor shall I choose my friends in Laythe until I am better
acquainted, nor shall another choose them for me."

"You are a stranger here," said Ko-tah. "I speak in your best interests,
only. If you would succeed here; aye, if you would live, even, you must
choose quickly and you must choose correctly. I, Ko-tah the Javadar,
have spoken."

"I choose my own friends," I replied, "according to the dictates of my
honor and my heart. I, Ju-lan the Javadar, have spoken."

He bowed low in acquiescence, and when he again raised his eyes to mine
I was almost positive from the expression in them that his consideration
of me was marked more by respect than resentment.

"We shall see," was all that he said, and withdrew, leaving me to the
kindly attention of some of the gentlemen of Sagroth's court who had
been standing at a respectful distance out of earshot of Ko-tah and
myself. These men chatted pleasantly with me for some time until I was
bidden to join Sagroth in another part of the palace.

I found myself now with a man who had evidently thrown off the restraint
of a formal audience, though without in the slightest degree
relinquishing either his dignity or his majesty. He spoke more freely
and his manner was more democratic. He asked me to be seated, nor would
he himself sit until I had, a point of Laythean court etiquette which
made a vast impression on me, since it indicated that the first
gentleman of the city must also be the first in courtesy. He put
question after question to me concerning my own world and the means by
which I had been transported to Va-nah.

"There are fragmentary, extremely fragmentary, legends handed down from
extreme antiquity which suggest that our remote ancestors had some
knowledge concerning the other worlds of which you speak," he said, "but
these have been considered always the veriest of myths. Can it be
possible that, after all, they are based upon truth?"

"The remarkable part of them," I suggested, "is that they exist at all,
since it is difficult to understand how any knowledge of the outer
Universe could ever reach to the buried depths of Va-nah."

"No, not by any means," he said, "if what you tell me is the truth, for
our legends bear out the theory that Va-nah is located in the center of
an enormous globe and that our earliest progenitors lived upon the outer
surface of this globe, being forced at last by some condition which the
legends do not even suggest, to find their way into this inner world."

I shook my head. It did not seem possible.

"And, yet," he said, noting the doubt that my expression evidently
betrayed, "you yourself claim to have reached Va-nah from a great world
far removed from our globe which you call the Moon. If you reached us
from another world, is it then so difficult to believe that those who
preceded us reached Va-nah from the outer crust of this Moon? It is
almost an historic certainty," he continued, "that our ancestors
possessed great ships which navigated the air. As you entered Va-nah by
means of a similar conveyance may not they have done likewise?"

I had to admit that it was within the range of possibilities, and in so
doing, to avow that the Moon Men of antiquity had been millions of years
in advance of their brethren of the Earth.

But, after all, was it such a difficult conclusion to reach when one
considers the fact that the Moon being smaller, must have copied more
rapidly than Earth, and therefore, provided that it had an atmosphere,
have been habitable to man ages before man could have lived upon our own
planet?

We talked pleasantly upon many subjects for some time, and then, at
last, Sagroth arose.

"We will join the others at the tables now," he said, and as he led the
way from the apartment in which we had been conversing alone, stone
doors opened before us as by magic, indicating that the Jemadar of
Laythe was not only well served, but well protected, or possibly well
spied upon.

After we emerged from the private audience, guards accompanied us, some
preceding the Jemadar and some following, and thus we moved in
semi-state through several corridors and apartments until we came out
upon a balcony upon the second floor of the palace overlooking the
terraces and the crater.

Here, along the rail of the balcony, were numerous small tables, each
seating two, all but two of the tables being occupied by royal and noble
retainers and their women. As the Jemadar entered, these all arose,
facing him respectfully, and simultaneously through another entrance,
came the Jemadav and Nah-ee-lah.

They stood just within the room, waiting until Sagroth and I crossed to
them. While we were doing so, Sagroth very courteously explained the
procedure I was to follow.

"You will place yourself upon the Nonovar's left," he concluded, "and
conduct her to her table precisely as I conduct the Jemadav."

Nah-ee-lah's head was high as I approached her and she vouchsafed me
only the merest inclination of it in response to my respectful
salutation. In silence we followed Sagroth and his Empress to the tables
reserved for us. The balance of the company remained standing until, at
a signal from Sagroth, we all took our seats. It was necessary for me to
watch the others closely, as I knew nothing concerning the social
customs of Laythe, but when I saw that conversation had become general I
glanced at Nah-ee-lah.

"The Princess of Laythe so soon forgets her friends?" I asked.

"The Princess of Laythe never forgets her friends," she replied.

"I know nothing of your customs here," I said, "but in my world even
royalty may greet their friends with cordiality and seeming pleasure."

"And here, too," she retorted.

I saw that something was amiss, that she seemed to be angry with me, but
the cause I could not imagine. Perhaps she thought I had deserted her at
the entrance to the tunnel leading to the Kalkar city. But no, she must
have guessed the truth. What then, could be the cause of her cold
aloofness, who, the last that I had seen of her, had been warm with
friendship?

"I wonder," I said, trying a new tack, "if you were as surprised to see
me alive as I you. I had given you up for lost, Nah-ee-lah, and I had
grieved more than I can tell you. When I saw you in the audience chamber
I could scarce repress myself, but when I saw that you did not wish to
recognize me, I could only respect your desires."

She made no reply, but turned and looked out the window across the
terraces and the crater to the opposite side of Laythe. She was ice, who
had been almost fire. No longer was she little Nah-ee-lah, the companion
of my hardships and dangers. No longer was she friend and confidante,
but a cold and haughty Princess, who evidently looked upon me with
disfavor. Her attitude outraged all the sacred tenets of friendships,
and I was angered.

"Princess," I said, "if it is customary for Laytheans thus to cast aside
the sacred bonds of friendship, I should do as well to be among the
Va-gas or the Kalkars."

"The way to either is open," she replied haughtily. "You are not a
prisoner in Laythe."

Thereafter conversation languished and expired, as far at least, as
Nah-ee-lah and I were concerned, and I was more than relieved when the
unpleasant function was concluded.

Two young nobles took me in charge, following the meal; as it seemed
that I was to remain as a guest in the palace for awhile, and as I
expressed a desire to see as much of the imperial residence as I might
be permitted to, they graciously conducted me upon a tour of inspection.
We went out upon the outer terraces which overlooked the valleys and the
mountains, and never in my life have I looked upon a landscape more
majestic or inspiring. The crater of Laythe, situated upon a broad
plateau entirely surrounded by lofty mountains, titanic peaks that would
dwarf our Alps into insignificance and reduce the Himalayas to
foothills, lowered far into the distance upon the upper side, the
ice-clad summits of those more distant seemed to veritably topple above
us, while a thousand feet below us the pinks and lavenders of the weird
lunar vegetation lay like a soft carpet upon the gently undulating
surface of the plateau.

But my guides seemed less interested in the scenery than in me. They
plied me with questions continually, until I was more anxious to be rid
of them than aught else that I could think of. They asked me a little
concerning my own world and what I thought of Laythe, and if I found the
Princess Nah-ee-lah charming, and my opinion of the Emperor Sagroth. My
answers must have been satisfactory, for presently they came very close
to me and one of them whispered:

"You need not fear to speak in our presence. We, too, are friends and
followers of Ko-tah."

"The Devil!" I thought. "They are bound to embroil me in their petty
intrigues. What do I care for Sagroth or Ko-tah or"--and then my
thoughts reverted to Nah-ee-lah. She had treated me cruelly. Her cold
aloofness and her almost studied contempt had wounded me, yet I could
not say to myself that Nah-ee-lah was nothing to me. She had been my
friend and I had been hers, and I should remain her friend to my dying
day. Perhaps, then, if these people were bound to draw me into their
political disputes, I might turn their confidences into profit for
Nah-ee-lah. I had never told them that I was a creature of Ko-tah's, for
I was not, nor had I ever told Ko-tah that I was an enemy to Sagroth; in
fact, I had led him to believe the very opposite. And so I gave these
two an evasive answer which might have meant anything, and they chose to
interpret it as meaning that I was one of them. Well, what could I do?
It was not my fault if they insisted upon deceiving themselves, and
Nah-ee-lah might yet need the friendship that she had scorned.

"Has Sagroth no loyal followers, then," I asked, "that you are all so
sure of the success of the coup d'etat that Ko-tah plans?"

"Ah, you know about it then!" cried one of them. "You are in the
confidence of the Javadar."

I let them think that I was. It could do no harm, at least.

"Did he tell you when it was to happen?" asked the other.

"Perhaps, already I have said too much," I replied. "The confidences of
Ko-tah are not to be lightly spread about."

"You are right," said the last speaker. "It is well to be discreet, but
let us assure you, Ju-lan the Javadar, that we are equally in the
confidence and favor of Ko-tah with any of those who serve him;
otherwise, he would not have entrusted us with a portion of the work
which must be done within the very palace of the Jemadar."

"Have you many accomplices here?" I asked.

"Many," he replied, "outside of the Jemadar's guards. They remain loyal
to Sagroth. It is one of the traditions of the organization, and they
will die for him, to a man and," he added with a shrug, "they shall die,
never fear. When the time arrives and the signal is given, each member
of the guard will be set upon by two of Ko-tah's faithful followers."

I do not know how long I remained in the City of Laythe. Time passed
rapidly, and I was very happy after I returned to the dwelling of
Moh-goh. I swam and dived with them and their friends in the baths upon
our terrace, and also in those of Ko-tah. I learned to use the flying
wings that I had first seen upon Nah-ee-lah the day that she fell
exhausted into the clutches of the Va-gas, and many were the lofty and
delightful excursions we took into the higher mountains of the Moon,
when Moh-goh or his friends organized pleasure parties for the purpose.
Constantly surrounded by people of culture and refinement, by brave men
and beautiful women, my time was so filled with pleasurable activities
that I made no effort to gauge it. I felt that I was to spend the
balance of my life here, and I might as well get from it all the
pleasure that Laythe could afford.

I did not see Nah-ee-lah during all this time, and though I still heard
a great deal concerning the conspiracy against Sagroth, I presently came
to attach but little importance to what I did hear, after I learned that
the conspiracy had been on foot for over thirteen kelds, or
approximately about ten earthly years, and seemed, according to my
informers, no nearer consummation than it ever had been in the past.

Time does not trouble these people much, and I was told that it might be
twenty kelds before Ko-tah took action, though on the other hand, he
might strike within the next ola.

There was an occurrence during this period which aroused my curiosity,
but concerning which Moh-goh was extremely reticent. Upon one of the
occasions that I was a visitor in Ko-tah's palace, I was passing through
a little used corridor in going from one chamber to another, when just
ahead of me a door opened and a man stepped out in front of me. When he
heard my footsteps behind him he turned and looked at me, and then
stepped quickly back into the apartment he had just left and closed the
door hurriedly behind him. There would have been nothing particularly
remarkable in that, had it not been for the fact that the man was not a
Laythean, but unquestionably a Kalkar,

Believing that I had discovered an enemy in the very heart of Laythe, I
leaped forward, and throwing open the door, followed into the apartment
into which the man had disappeared. To my astonishment, I found myself
confronted by six men, three of whom were Kalkars, while the other three
were Laytheans, and among the latter I instantly recognized Ko-tah,
himself. He flushed angrily as he saw me, but before he could speak I
bowed and explained my action.

"I crave your pardon, Javadar," I said. "I thought that I saw an enemy
of Laythe in the heart of your palace, and that by apprehending him I
should serve you best; and I started to withdraw from the chamber.

"Wait," he said. "You did right, but lest you misunderstand their
presence here, I may tell you that these three are prisoners."

"I realized that at once when I saw you, Javadar," I replied, though I
knew perfectly that he had lied to me; and then I backed from the room,
closing the door after me.

I spoke to Moh-goh about it the next time that I saw him.

"You saw nothing, my friend," he said. "Remember that--you saw nothing."

"If you mean that it is none of my business, Moh-goh," I replied, "I
perfectly agree with you, and you may rest assured that I shall not
meddle in affairs that do not concern me."

However, I did considerable thinking upon the matter, and possibly I
went out of my way a little more than one should who is attending
strictly to his own business, that I might keep a little in touch with
the course of the conspiracy, for no matter what I had said to Moh-goh,
no matter how I attempted to convince myself that it did not interest
me, the truth remained that anything that affected in any way the fate
of Nah-ee-lah transcended in interest any event which might transpire
within Va-nah, in so far as I was concerned.

The unobtrusive espionage which I practiced bore fruit, to the extent
that it permitted me to know that on at least three other occasions
delegations of Kalkars visited Ko-tah.

The fact that this ancient palace of the Prince of Laythe was a
never-ending source of interest to me aided me in my self-imposed task
of spying upon the conspirators, for the retainers of Ko-tah were quite
accustomed to see me in out-of-the-way corridors and passages,
oftentimes far from the inhabited portions of the building.

Upon the occasion of one of these tours I had descended to a lower
terrace, along an ancient stone stairway which would spirally downward
and had discovered a dimly lighted room in which were stored a number of
ancient works of art. I was quietly examining these, when I heard voices
in an adjoining chamber.

"Upon no other conditions will he assist you, Javadar," said the
speaker, whose voice I first heard.

"His demands are outrageous," replied a second speaker. "I refuse to
consider them. Laythe is impregnable. He can never take it." The voice
was that of Ko-tah.

"You do not know him, Laythean," replied the other. "He has given us
engines of destruction with which we can destroy any city in Va-nah. He
will give you Laythe. Is that not enough?"

"But he will be Jemadar of Jemadars and rule us all!" exclaimed Ko-tah.
"The Jemadar of Laythe can be subservient to none."

"If you do not accede he will take Laythe in spite of you and reduce you
to the status of a slave."

"Enough, Kalkar!" cried Ko-tah, his voice trembling with rage. "Be gone!
Tell your master that Ko-tah refuses his base demands."

"You will regret it, Laythean," replied the Kalkar, "for you do not know
what this creature has brought from another world in knowledge of war
and the science of destruction of human life."

"I do not fear him," snapped Ko-tah, "my swords are many, my spearmen
are well trained. Be gone, and do not return until your master is ready
to sue with Ko-tah for an alliance."

I heard receding footsteps then, and following that, a silence which I
thought indicated that all had left the chamber, but presently I heard
Ko-tah's voice again.

"What think you of it?" he asked. And then I heard the voice of a third
man, evidently a Laythean, replying:

"I think that if there is any truth in the fellow's assertions, we may
not too quickly bring about the fall of Sagroth and place you upon the
throne of Laythe, for only thus may we stand united against a common
outside enemy."

"You are right," replied the Javadar. "Gather our forces. We shall
strike within the ola."

I wanted to hear more, but they passed out of the chamber then, and
their voices became only a subdued murmur which quickly trailed off into
silence. What should I do? Within six hours Ko-tah would strike at the
power of Sagroth, and I well knew what that would mean to Nah-ee-lah;
either marriage with the new Jemadar, or death, and I guessed that the
proud Princess would choose the latter in preference to Ko-tah.



CHAPTER XIII. DEATH WITHIN AND WITHOUT!

AS RAPIDLY as I could I made my way from the palace of Ko-tah, and
upward, terrace by terrace, toward the palace of the Jemadar. I had
never presented myself at Sagroth's palace since Nah-ee-lah had so
grievously offended me. I did not even know the customary procedure to
follow to gain an audience with the Emperor, but nevertheless I came
boldly to the carven gates and demanded to speak with the officer in
command of the guards. When he came I told him that I desired to speak
either with Sagroth or the Princess Nah-ee-lah at once, upon a matter of
the most urgent importance.

"Wait," he said, "and I will take your message to the Jemadar."

He was gone for what seemed to me a very long time, but at last he
returned, saying that Sagroth would see me at once, and I was conducted
through the gates and into the palace toward the small audience chamber
in which Sagroth had once received me so graciously. As I was ushered
into the room I found myself facing both Sagroth and Nah-ee-lah. The
attitude of the Jemadar seemed apparently judicial, but that of the
Princess was openly hostile.

"What are you doing here, traitor?" she demanded, without waiting for
Sagroth to speak, and at the same instant a door upon the opposite side
of the room burst open and three warriors leaped into the apartment with
bared swords. They wore the livery of Ko-tah, and I knew instantly the
purpose for which they had come. Drawing my own sword, I leaped
forward.

"I have come to defend the life of the Jemadar and his Princess," I
cried, as I sprang between them and the advancing three.

"What means this?" demanded Sagroth. "How dare you enter the presence of
your Jemadar with drawn sword?"

"They are the assassins of Ko-tah come to slay you!" I cried. "Defend
yourself, Sagroth of Laythe!" And with that, I tried to engage the three
until help arrived.

I am no novice with the sword. The art of fencing has been one of my
chief diversions since my cadet days in the Air School, and I did not
fear the Laytheans, though I knew that, even were they but mediocre
swordsmen, I could not for long withstand the assaults of three at once.
But upon this point I need not have concerned myself, for no sooner had
I spoken than Sagroth's sword leaped from its scabbard, and placing
himself at my side, he fought nobly and well in defense of his life and
his honor.

One of our antagonists merely tried to engage me while the other two
assassinated the Jemadar. And so, seeing that he was playing me, and
that I could do with him about as I pleased if I did not push him too
hard, I drove him back a few steps until I was close at the side of one
of those who engaged Sagroth. Then before any could know my intention, I
wheeled and lunged my sword through the heart of one of those who
opposed the father of Nah-ee-lah. So quickly had I disengaged my former
antagonist, so swift my lunge, that I had recovered and was ready to
meet the renewed assaults of the first who had engaged me almost before
he realized what had happened.

It was man against man, now, and the odds were even. I had no
opportunity to watch Sagroth, but from the ring of steel on steel, I
knew that the two were bitterly engaged. My own man kept me well
occupied. He was a magnificent swordsman, but he was only fighting for
his life; I was fighting for more--for my life and for my honor, too,
since after the word "traitor" that Nah-ee-lah had hurled at me, I had
felt that I must redeem myself in her eyes. I did not give any thought
at all to the question as to just why I should care what Nah-ee-lah the
Moon Maid thought of me, but something within me reacted mightily to the
contempt that she had put into that single word.

I could catch an occasional glimpse of her standing there behind the
massive desk at which her father had sat upon the first occasion of my
coming to this chamber. She stood there very tense, her wide eyes fixed
upon me in evident incredulity.

I had almost worn my man down and we were fighting now so that I was
facing Nah-ee-lah, with my back toward the doorway through which the
three assassins had entered. Sagroth must have been more than holding
his own, too, for I could see his opponent slowly falling back before
the older man's assaults. And then there broke above the clang of steel
a girl's voice--Nah-ee-lah's--raised in accents of fear.

"Julian, beware! Behind you! Behind you!" At the instant of her warning
the eyes of my antagonist left mine, which, for his own good, they never
should have done, and passed in a quick glance over my shoulder at
something or someone behind me. His lack of concentration cost him his
life. I saw my opening the instant that it was made, and with a quick
lunge I passed my blade through his heart. Whipping it out again, I
wheeled to face a dozen men springing into the chamber. They paid no
attention to me, but leaped toward Sagroth, and before I could prevent
he went down with half a dozen blades through his body.

Upon the opposite side of the desk from us was another door-way directly
behind Nah-ee-lah, and in the instant that she saw Sagroth fall, she
called to me in a low voice: "Come, Julian, quick! Or we, too, are
lost."

Realizing that the Jemadar was dead and that it would be folly to remain
and attempt to fight this whole roomful of warriors, I leaped the desk
and followed Nah-ee-lah through the doorway beyond. There was a cry,
then, from someone within the room, to stop us, but Nah-ee-lah wheeled
and slammed the door in their faces as they rushed forward, fastened it
upon our side and then turned to me.

"Julian," she said, "how can you ever forgive me? You who have risked
your life for the Jemadar, my father, in spite of the contemptible
treatment that in my ignorance I have accorded you?"

"I could have explained," I said, "but you would not let me.
Appearances-were against me, and so I cannot blame you for thinking as
you did."

"It was wicked of me not to listen to you, Julian, but I thought that
Ko-tah had won you over, as he has won over even some of the staunchest
friends of Sagroth."

"You might have known, Nah-ee-lah, that, even could I have been disloyal
to your father, I never could have been disloyal to his daughter."

"I did not know," she said. "How could I?"

There-suddenly came over me a great desire to take her in my arms and
cover those lovely lips with kisses. I could not tell why this
ridiculous obsession had seized upon me, nor why, of a sudden, I became
afraid of little Nah-ee-lah, the Moon Maid. I must have looked very
foolish indeed, standing there looking at her, and suddenly I realized
how fatuous I must appear, and so I shook myself and laughed.

"Come, Nah-ee-lah," I said, "we must not remain here. Where can I take
you, that you will be safe?"

"Upon the outer terrace there may be some of the loyal guards," she
replied, "but if Ko-tah has already taken the palace, flight will be
useless."

"From what I know of the conspiracy, it will be useless," I replied,
"for the service of Sagroth and his palace is rotten with the spies and
retainers of the Javadar."

"I feared as much," she said. "The very men who came to assassinate
Sagroth wore the imperial livery less than an ola since."

"Are there none, then, loyal to you?" I asked her.

"The Jemadar's guard is always loyal," she said, "but they number scarce
a thousand men."

"How may we summon them?" I asked.

"Let us go to the outer terraces and if there are any of them there we
can congregate the balance, or as many of them as Ko-tah has left
alive."

"Come, then," I said, "let us hasten;" and together, hand in hand, we
ran along the corridors of the Jemadar's palace to the outer terraces of
the highest tier of Laythe. There we found a hundred men, and when we
had told them of what had happened within the palace they drew their
swords and, surrounding Nah-ee-lah, they shouted:

"To the death for Nah-ee-lah, Jemadar of Laythe!"

They wanted to remain there and protect her, but I told them that there
would be nothing gained by that, that sooner or later they would be
overwhelmed by far greater numbers, and the cause of Nah-ee-lah lost.

"Send a dozen men," I said to their commander, "to rally all of the
loyal guards that remain alive. Tell them to come to the throne room,
ready to lay down their lives for the new Jemadav. and then let the
dozen continue on out into the city, rallying the people to the
protection of Nah-ee-lah. As for us, we will accompany her immediately
to the throne room, and there, place her upon the throne and proclaim
her ruler of Laythe. A hundred men may hold the throne room for a long
time, if we reach it before Ko-tah reaches it with his forces."

The officer looked at Nah-ee-lah questioningly.

"Your command. Jemadav?" he inquired.

"We will follow the plan of Ju-lan the Javadar," she replied.

Immediately a dozen warriors were dispatched to rally the Imperial Guard
and arouse the loyal citizens of the city to the protection of their new
Jemadav, while the balance of us conducted Nah-ee-lah by a short course
toward the throne room.

As we entered the great chamber at one end, Ko-tah and a handful of
warriors came in at the other, but we had the advantage, in that we
entered through a doorway directly behind the throne and upon the dais.

"Throw your men upon the main entrance," I called to the officer of the
guard, "and hold it until reinforcements come;" and then, as the hundred
raced the length of the throne room toward the surprised and enraged
Ko-tah, I--led Nah-ee-lah to the central throne and seated her upon it.
Then stepping forward, I raised my hand for silence.

"The Jemadar Sagroth is dead!" I cried. "Behold Nah-ee-lah, the Jemadav
of Laythe!"

"Stop!" cried Ko-tah, "she may share the throne with me, but she may not
possess it alone."

"Take that traitor!" I called to the loyal guard, and they rushed
forward, evidently glad to do my bidding. But Ko-tah did not wait to be
taken. He was accompanied by only a handful of men, and when he saw that
the guard really intended to seize him and realized that he would be
given short shift at the hands of Nah-ee-lah and myself, he turned and
fled. But I knew he would come back, and come back he did, though not
until after the majority of the Jemadav's guard had gathered within the
throne room.

He came with a great concourse of warriors, and the fighting was
furious, but he might have brought a million men against our thousand
and not immediately have overcome us, since only a limited number could
fight at one time in the entrance way to the throne room. Already the
corpses lay stacked as high as a man's head, yet no single member of
Ko-tah's forces had crossed the threshold.

How long the fight was waged I do not know, but it must have been for a
considerable time, since I know that our men fought in relays and rested
many times, and that food was brought from other parts of the palace to
the doorway behind the throne, and there were times when Ko-tah's forces
withdrew and rested and recuperated, but always they came back in
greater number, and eventually I realized we must be worn down by the
persistence of their repeated attacks.

And then there arose slowly a deep-toned sound, at first we could not
interpret. It rose and fell in increasing volume, until finally we knew
that it was the sound of human voices, the voices of a great mob--of a
mighty concourse of people and that it was sweeping toward us slowly and
resistlessly.

Closer and closer it approached the palace as it rose, terrace upon
terrace, toward the lofty pinnacle of Laythe. The fighting at the
entrance to the throne room had almost ceased. Both sides were worn down
almost to utter exhaustion, and now we but stood upon our arms upon
either side of the wall of corpses that lay between us, our attention
centered upon the sound of the growling multitude that was sweeping
slowly upward toward us.

"They come," cried one of Nah-ee-lah's nobles, "to acclaim the new
Jemadav and to tear the minions of Ko-tah the traitor to pieces!"

He spoke in a loud voice that was easily audible to Ko-tah and his
retainers in the corridor without.

"They come to drag the spawn of Sagroth from the throne!" cried one of
Ko-tah's followers. And then from the throne came the sweet, clear voice
of Nah-ee-lah:

"Let the people's will be done," she said, and thus we stood, awaiting
the verdict of the populace. Nor had we long to wait, for presently we
realized that they had reached the palace terrace and entered the
building itself. We could hear the shouting horde moving through the
corridors and chambers, and finally the muffled bellowing resolved
itself into articulate words:

"Sagroth is no more! Rule, Ko-tah, Jemadar of Laythe!"

I turned in consternation toward Nah-ee-lah. "What does it mean?" I
cried. "Have the people turned against you?"

"Ko-tah's minions have done their work well during these many Icelds."
said the commander of the Jemadav's guard, who stood upon the upper
steps of the dais, just below the throne. "They have spread lies and
sedition among the people which not even Sagroth's just and kindly reign
could overcome."

"Let the will of the people be done," repeated Nah-ee-lah.

"It is the will of fools betrayed by a scoundrel," cried the commander
of the guard. "While there beats a single heart beneath the tunic of a
guardsman of the Jemadav, we shall fight for Nah-ee-lah, Empress of
Laythe."

Ko-tah's forces, now augmented by the rabble, were pushing their way
over the corpses and into the throne room, so that we were forced to
join the defenders, that we might hold them off while life remained to
any of us. When the commander of the guard saw me fighting at his side
he asked me to return to Nah-ee-lah.

"We must not leave the Jemadav alone," he said. "Return and remain at
her side, Ju-lan the Javadar, and when the last of us has fallen, drive
your dagger into her heart."

I shuddered and turned back toward Nah-ee-lah. The very thought of
plunging my dagger into that tender bosom fairly nauseated me. There
must be some other way, and yet, what other means of escape could there
be for Nah-ee-lah, who preferred death to the dishonor of surrender to
Ko-tah, the murderer of her father? As I reached Nah-ee-lah's side, and
turned again to face the entrance to the throne room, I saw that the
warriors of Ko-tah were being pushed into the chamber by the mob behind
them and that our defenders were being overwhelmed by the great number
of their antagonists. Ko-tah, with a half dozen warriors, had been
carried forward, practically without volition, by the press of numbers
in their rear, and even now, with none to intercept him, was running
rapidly up the broad center aisle toward the throne. Some of those in
the entrance way saw him, and as he reached the foot of the steps
leading to the dais, a snarling cry arose: "Ko-tah the Jemadar!"

With bared sword, the fellow leaped toward me where I stood alone
between Nah-ee-lah and her enemies.

"Surrender, Julian!" she cried. "It is futile to oppose them. You are
not of Laythe. Neither duty nor honor impose upon you the necessity of
offering your life for one of us. Spare him, Ko-tah!" she cried to the
advancing Javadar, "and I will bow to the will of the people and
relinquish the throne to you."

"Ko-tah the traitor shall never sit upon the throne of Nah-ee-lah!" I
exclaimed, and leaping forward, I engaged the Prince of Laythe.

His warriors were close behind him, and it behooved me to work fast, and
so I fought as I had never guessed that it lay within me to fight, and
at the instant that the rabble broke through the remaining defenders and
poured into the throne room of the Jemadars of Laythe, I slipped my
point into the heart of Ko-tah. With a single piercing shriek, he threw
his hands above his head and toppled backward down the steps to lie dead
at the foot of the throne he had betrayed.

For an instant the silence of death reigned in the great chamber. Friend
and foe stood alike in the momentary paralysis of shocked surprise.

That tense, breathless silence had endured for but a moment, when it was
shattered by a terrific detonation. We felt the palace tremble and rock.
The assembled mob looked wildly about, their eyes filled with fear and
questioning. But before they could voice a question, another thunderous
report burst upon our startled ears, and then from the city below the
palace there arose the shrieks and screams of terrified people. Again
the palace trembled, and a great crack opened in one of the walls of the
throne room. The people saw it, and in an instant their anger against
the dynasty of Sagroth was swallowed in the mortal terror which they
felt for their own safety. With shrieks and screams they turned and
bolted for the doorway. The weaker were knocked down and trampled upon.
They fought with fists and swords and daggers, in their mad efforts to
escape the crumbling building. They tore the clothing from one another,
as each sought to drag back his fellow, that he might gain further in
the race for the outer world.

As the rabble fought, Nah-ee-lah and I stood before the throne of
Laythe, watching them, while below us the few remaining members of the
Jemadar's guard stood viewing in silent contempt the terror of the
people.

Explosion after explosion followed one another in rapid succession. The
people had fled. The palace was empty, except for that handful of us
faithful ones who remained within the throne room.

"Let us go," I said to Nah-ee-lah, "and discover the origin of these
sounds, and the extent of the damage that is being done."

"Come," she said, "here is a short corridor to the inner terrace, where
we may look down upon the entire city of Laythe." And then, turning to
the commander of the guard she said: "Proceed, please, to the palace
gates, and secure them against the return of our enemies, if they have
by this time all fled from the palace grounds."

The officer bowed, and followed by the few heroic survivors of the
Jemadar's guard, he left by another corridor for the palace gates, while
I followed Nah-ee-lah up a stairway that led to the roof of the palace.

Coming out upon the upper terrace, we made our way quickly to the edge
overlooking the city and the crater. Below us a shrieking multitude ran
hither and thither from terrace to terrace, while, now here and now
there, terrific explosions occurred that shattered age-old structures
and carried debris high into the air. Many terraces showed great gaps
and tumbled ruins where other explosions had occurred and smoke and
flames were rising from a dozen portions of the city.

But an instant it took me to realize that the explosions were caused by
something that was being dropped into the city from above, and as I
looked up I saw a missile describing an arc above the palace, past which
it hurtled to a terrace far below, and at once I realized that the
missile had originated outside the city. Turning quickly, I ran across
the terrace to the outer side which overlooked the plateau upon which
the city stood. I could not repress an exclamation of astonishment at
the sight that greeted my eyes, for the surface of the plateau was alive
with warriors. Nah-ee-lah had followed me and was standing at my elbow.
"The Kalkars," she said. "They have come again to reduce Laythe. It has
been long since they attempted it, many generations ago, but what is it,
Julian, that causes the great noise and the destruction and the fires
within Laythe?"

"It is this which fills me with surprise," I said, "and not the presence
of the Kalkar warriors. Look! Nah-ee-lah," and I pointed to a knoll
lying at the verge of the plateau, where, unless my eyes deceived me
badly, there was mounted a mortar which was hurling shells into the city
of Laythe. "And there, and there," I continued, pointing to other
similar engines of destruction mounted at intervals. "The city is
surrounded with them, Nah-ee-lah. Have your people any knowledge of such
engines of warfare or of high explosives?" I demanded.

"Only in our legends are such things mentioned," she replied. "It has
been ages since the inhabitants of Va-nah lost the art of manufacturing
such things."

As we stood there talking, one of the Jemadar's guards emerged from the
palace and approached us.

"Nah-ee-lah, Jemadav," he cried, "there is one here who craves audience
with you and who says that if you listen to him you may save your city
from destruction."

"Fetch him," replied Nah-ee-lah. "We will receive him here."

We had but a moment to wait when the guardsman returned with one of
Ko-tah's captains.

"Nah-ee-lah, Jemadav," he cried, when she had given him permission to
speak, "I come to you with a message from one who is Jemadar of
Jemadars, ruler of all Va-nah. If you would save your city and your
people, listen well."

The girl's eyes narrowed. "You are speaking to your Jemadav, fellow,"
she said. "Be careful, not only of your words, but of your tone."

"I come but to save you," replied the man sullenly. "The Kalkars have
discovered a great leader, and they have joined together from many
cities to overthrow Laythe. My master does not wish to destroy this
ancient city, and there is but one simple condition upon which he will
spare it."

"Name your condition," said Nah-ee-lah.

"If you will wed him, he will make Laythe the capital of Va-nah, and you
shall rule with him as Jemadav of Jemadavs."

Nah-ee-lah's lips curled in scorn. "And who is the presumptuous Kalkar
that dares aspire to the hand of Nah-ee-lah?" she demanded.

"He is no Kalkar, Jemadav," replied the messenger. "He is one from
another world, who says that he knows you well and that he has loved you
long."

"His name," snapped Nah-ee-lah impatiently.

"He is called Or-tis, Jemadar of Jemadars."

Nah-ee-lah turned toward me with elevated brows and a smile of
comprehension upon her face.

"Or-tis," she repeated.

"Now, I understand, my Jemadav," I said, "and I am commencing to have
some slight conception of the time that must have elapsed since I first
landed within Va-nah, for even since our escape from the Va-gas, Orthis
has had time to discover the Kalkars and ingratiate himself among them,
to conspire with them for the overthrow of Laythe, and to manufacture
explosives and shells and the guns which are reducing Laythe this
moment. Even had I not heard the name, I might have guessed that it was
Orthis, for it is all so like him--ingrate traitor, cur."

"Go back to your master," she said to the messenger, "and tell him that
Nah-ee-lah, Jemadav of Laythe, would as leave mate with Ga-va-go the
Va-ga as with him, and that Laythe will be happier destroyed and her
people wiped from the face of Va-nah then ruled by such a beast. I have
spoken. Go."

The fellow turned and left us, being accompanied from Nah-ee-lah's
presence by the guardsman who had fetched him, and whom Nah-ee-lah
commanded to return as soon as he had conducted the other outside the
palace gates. Then the 'girl turned to me:

"O, Julian, what shall I do? How may I combat those terrible forces that
you have brought to Va-nah from another world?"

I shook my head. "We, too, could manufacture both guns and ammunition to
combat him, but now we have not the time, since Laythe will be reduced
to a mass of ruins before we could even make a start. There is but one
way, Nah-ee-lah, and that is to send your people--every fighting man
that you can gather, and the women, too, if they can bear arms, out upon
the plateau in an effort to overwhelm the Kalkars and destroy the
guns.".

She stood and thought for a long time, and presently the officer of the
guard returned and halted before her, awaiting her commands. Slowly she
raised her head and looked at him.

"Go into the city," she said, "and gather every Laythean who can carry a
sword, a dagger, or a lance. Tell them to assemble on the inner terraces
below the castle, and that I, Nah-ee-lah their Jemadav, will address
them. The fate of Laythe rests with you. Go."



CHAPTER XIV. THE BARSOOM!

THE CITY was already in flames in many places, and though the people
fought valiantly to extinguish them, it seemed to me that they but
spread the more rapidly with each succeeding minute. And then, as
suddenly as it had commenced, the bombardment ceased. Nah-ee-lah and I
crossed over to the outer edge of the terrace to see if we could note
any new movement by the enemy, nor did we have long to wait. We saw a
hundred ladders raised as if by magic toward the lowest terrace, which
rose but a bare two hundred feet above the base of the city. The men who
carried the ladders were not visible to us when they came close to the
base of the wall, but I guessed from the distant glimpses that I caught
of the ladders as they were rushed forward by running men that here,
again, Orthis' earthly knowledge and experience had come to the
assistance of the Kalkars, for I was sure that only some form of
extension ladder could be successfully used to reach even the lowest
terrace.

When I saw their intention I ran quickly down into the palace and out
upon the terrace before the gates, where the remainder of the guard were
stationed, and there I told them what was happening and urged them to
hasten the people to the lowest terrace to repulse the enemy before they
had secured a foothold, upon the city. Then I returned to Nah-ee-lah,
and together we watched the outcome of the struggle, but almost from the
first I realized that Laythe was doomed, for before any of her defenders
could reach the spot, fully a thousand Kalkars had clambered to the
terrace, and there they held their own while other thousands ascended in
safety to the city. We saw the defenders rush forth to attack them, and
for a moment, so impetuous was their charge, I thought that I had been
wrong and that the Kalkars might yet be driven from Laythe. Fighting
upon the lower outer terrace far beneath us was a surging mass of
shouting warriors. The Kalkars were falling back before the impetuous
onslaught of the Laytheans.

"They have not the blood in their veins," whispered Nah-ee-lah, clinging
tightly to my arm. "One noble is worth ten of them. Watch them. Already
are they fleeing."

And so it seemed, and the route of the Kalkars appeared almost assured,
as score upon score of them were hurled over the edge of the terrace, to
fall mangled and bleeding upon the ground hundreds of feet below.

But suddenly a new force seemed to be injected into the strife. I saw a
stream of Kalkars emerging above the edge of the lower terrace--new men
clambering up the ladders from the plateau below, and as they came they
shouted something which I could not understand, but the other Kalkars
seemed to take heart and made once more the semblance of a stand against
the noble Laytheans, and I saw one, the leader of the newcomers, force
his way into the battling throng. And then I saw him raise his hand
above his head and hurl something into the midst of the compact ranks of
the Laytheans.

Instantly there was a terrific explosion and a great, bloody gap lay
upon the terrace where an instant before a hundred of the flower of the
fighting men of Laythe had been so gloriously defending their city and
their honor.

"Grenades," I exclaimed. "Hand grenades!"

"What is it, Julian? What is it that they are doing down there?" cried
Nah-ee-lah. "They are murdering my people."

"Yes, Nah-ee-lah, they are murdering your people, and well may Va-nah
curse the day that Earth Men set foot upon your world."

"I do not understand, Julian," she said.

"This is the work of Orthis," I said, "who has brought from Earth the
knowledge of diabolical engines of destruction. He first shelled the
city with what must have been nothing more than crude mortars, for it is
impossible that he has had the time to construct the machinery to build
any but the simplest of guns. Now his troops are hurling hand grenades
among your men. There is no chance, Nah-ee-lah, for the Laytheans to
successfully pit their primitive weapons against the modern agents of
destruction which Orthis has brought to bear against them. Laythe must
surrender or be destroyed."

Nah-ee-lah laid her head upon my shoulder and wept softly. "Julian," she
said at last, "this is the end, then. Take me to the Jemadav, my mother,
please, and then you must go and make your peace with your fellow Earth
Man. It is not right that you, a stranger, who have done so much for me,
should fall with me and Laythe."

"The only peace I can make with Orthis, Nah-ee-lah," I replied, "is the
peace of death. Orthis and I may not live together again in the same
world."

She was crying very softly, sobbing upon my shoulder, and I put my arm
about her in an effort to quiet her.

"I have brought you only suffering and danger, and now death, Julian,"
she said, "when you deserve naught but happiness and peace."

I suddenly felt very strange and my heart behaved wretchedly, so that
when I attempted to speak it pounded so that I could say nothing and my
knees shook beneath me. What had come over me? Could it be possible that
already Orthis had loosed his poison gas? Then, at last, I managed to
gather myself together.

"Nah-ee-lah," I said, "I do not fear death if you must die, and I do not
seek happiness except with you."

She looked up suddenly, her great, tear-dimmed eyes wide and gazing deep
into mine.

"You mean--Julian? You mean--?"

"I mean, Nah-ee-lah, that I love you," I-replied, though I must have
stumbled through the words in a most ridiculous manner, so frightened
was I.

"Ah, Julian," she sighed, and put her arms about my neck.

"And you, Nah-ee-lah!" I exclaimed incredulously, as I crushed her to
me, "can it be that you return my love?"

"I have loved you always," she replied. "From the very first,
almost--way back when we were prisoners together in the No-vans village.
You Earth Men must be very blind, my Julian. A Laythean would have known
it at once, for it seemed to me that upon a dozen occasions I almost
avowed my love openly to you."

"Alas, Nah-ee-lah! I must have been very blind, for I had not guessed
until this minute that you loved me."

"Now," she said, "I do not care what happens. We have one another, and
if we die together, doubtless we shall live together in a new
incarnation."

"I hope so," I said, "but I should much rather be sure of it and live
together in this."

"And I, too, Julian, but that is impossible."

We were walking now through the corridors of the palace toward the
chamber occupied by her mother, but we did not find her there and
Nah-ee-lah became apprehensive as to her safety. Hurriedly we searched
through other chambers of the palace, until at last we came to the
little audience chamber in which Sagroth had been slain, and as we threw
open the door I saw a sight that I tried to hide from Nah-ee-lah's eyes
as I drew her around in an effort to force her back into the corridor.
Possibly she guessed what impelled my action, for she shook her head and
murmured: "No, Julian; whatever it is I must see it." And then she
pushed her way gently past me, and we stood together upon the threshold,
looking at the harrowing sight which the interior of the room displayed.

There were the bodies of the assassins Sagroth and I had slain, and the
dead Jemadar, too, precisely as he had fallen, while across his breast
lay the body of Nah-ee-lah's mother, a dagger self-thrust through her
heart. For just a moment Nah-ee-lah stood there looking at them in
silence, as though in prayer, and then she turned wearily away and left
the chamber, closing the door behind her. We walked on in silence for
some time, ascending the stairway back to the upper terrace. Upon the
inner side, the flames were spreading throughout the city, roaring like
a mighty furnace and vomiting up great clouds of smoke, for though the
Laythean terraces are supported by tremendous arches of masonry, yet
there is much wood used in the interior construction of the buildings,
while the hangings and the furniture are all inflammable.

"We had no chance to save the city," said Nah-ee-lah, with a sigh. "Our
people, called from their normal duties by the false Ko-tah, were
leaderless. The fire fighters, instead of being at their posts, were
seeking the Me of their Jemadar. Unhappy day! Unhappy day!"

"You think they could have stopped the fire?" I asked.

"The little ponds, the rivulets, the waterfalls, the great public baths
and the tiny lakes that you see upon every terrace were all built with
fire protection in mind. It is easy to divert their waters and flood,
any tier of buildings. Had my people been at their posts, this, at
least, could not have happened!"

As we stood watching the flames we suddenly saw people emerging in great
numbers upon several of the lower; terraces. They were evidently in
terrified flight, and then others appeared upon terraces above
them--Kalkars who hurled hand grenades amongst the Laytheans beneath
them. Men, women, and children ran hither, and thither, shrieking and
crying and seeking for shelter, but from the buildings behind them,
rushing them outward upon the terraces, came other Kalkars with hand
grenades. The fires hemmed the people of Laythe upon either side and the
Kalkars attacked them from the rear and from above. The weaker fell and
were trodden to death, and I saw scores fall upon their own lances or
drive; daggers into the hearts of their loved ones.

The massacre spread rapidly around the circumference of the city and the
Kalkars drove the people from the upper terraces downward between the
raging fires which were increasing until the mouth of the great crater
was filled with roaring flames and smoke. In the occasional gaps we
could catch glimpses of the holocaust beneath us.

A sudden current of air rising from the crater lifted the smoke pall
high for a moment, revealing the entire circumference of the crater, the
edge of which was crowded with Laytheans. And then I saw a warrior from
the opposite side leap upon the surrounding wall that bordered the lower
terrace at the edge of the yawning crater. He turned and called aloud
some message to his fellows, and then wheeling, threw his arms above his
head and leaped outward into the yawning, bottomless abyss. Instantly
the others seemed to be inoculated with the infection of his mad act. A
dozen men leaped to the wall and dove head foremost into the crater. The
thing spread slowly at first, and then with the rapidity of a prairie
fire, it ran around the entire circle of the city. Women hurled their
children in and then leaped after them. The multitude fought one with
another for a place upon the wall from which they might cast themselves
to death. It was a terrible--an awe-inspiring sight.

Nah-ee-lah covered her eyes with her hands. "My poor people!" she cried.
"My poor people!" And far below her, by the thousands now, they were
hurling themselves into eternity, while above them the screaming Kalkars
hurled hand grenades among them and drove the remaining inhabitants of
Laythe, terrace by terrace, down toward the crater's rim.

Nah-ee-lah turned away. "Come, Julian," she said, "I cannot look, I
cannot look." And together we walked across the terrace to the outer
side of the city.

Almost directly beneath us upon the next terrace was a palace gate and
as we reached a point where we could see it, I was horrified to see that
the Kalkars hail made their way up the outer terraces to the very palace
walls. The Jemadar's guard was standing there ready to defend the palace
against the invaders. The great stone gates would have held indefinitely
against spears and swords, but even the guardsmen must have guessed that
their doom was already sealed and that these gates, that had stood for
ages, an ample protection to the Jemadars of Laythe, were about to fall,
as the Kalkars halted fifty yards away, and from their ranks a single
individual stepped forth a few paces.

As my eyes alighted upon him I seized Nah-ee-lah's arm. "Orthis!" I
cried. "It is Orthis." At the same instant the man's eyes rose above the
gates and fell upon us. A nasty leer curled his lips as he recognized
us.

"I come to claim my bride," he cried, in a voice that reached us easily,
"and to balance my account with you, at last," and he pointed a finger
at me.

In his right hand he held a large, cylindrical object, and as he ceased
speaking he hurled it at the gates precisely as a baseball pitcher
pitches a swift ball!

The missile struck squarely at the bottom of the gates. There was a
terrific explosion, and the great stone portals crumbled, shattered into
a thousand fragments. The last defense of the Empress of Laythe had
fallen, and with it there went down in bloody death at least half the
remaining members of her loyal guard.

Instantly the Kalkars rushed forward, hurling hand grenades among the
survivors of the guard.

Nah-ee-lah turned toward me and put her arms about my neck.

"Kiss me once more, Julian," she said, "and then the dagger."

"Never, never, Nah-ee-lah!" I cried. "I cannot do it."

"But I can!" she exclaimed, and drew her own from its sheath at her hip.

I seized her wrist. "Not that, Nah-ee-lah!" I cried. "There must be some
other way." And then there came to me a mad inspiration. "The wings!" I
cried. "Where are they kept? The last of your people have been
destroyed. Duty no longer holds you here. Let us escape, even if it is
only to frustrate Orthis' plans and deny him the satisfaction of
witnessing our death."

"But, where can we go?" she asked.

"We may at least choose our own manner of death," I replied, "far from
Laythe and far from the eyes of an enemy who would gloat over our
undoing."

"You are right, Julian. We still have a little time, for I doubt if
Orthis or his Kalkars can quickly find the stairway leading to this
terrace." And then she led me quickly to one of the many towers that
rise above the palace. Entering it, we ascended a spiral staircase to a
large chamber at the summit of the tower. Here were kept the imperial
wings. I fastened Nah-ee-lah's to her and she helped me with mine, and
then from the pinnacle of the tower we arose above the burning city of
Laythe and flew rapidly toward the distant lowlands and the sea. It was
in my mind to search out, if possible, the location of The Barsoom, for
I still entertained the mad hope that my companions yet lived--if I did,
why not they?

The heat above the city was almost unendurable and the smoke
suffocating, yet we passed through it, so that almost immediately we
were hidden from the view of that portion of the palace from which we
had arisen, with the result that when Orthis and his Kalkars finally
found their way to the upper terrace, as I have no doubt they did, we
had disappeared--whither they could not know.

We flew and drifted with the wind across the mountainous country toward
the plains and the sea, it being my intention upon reaching the latter
to follow the coast line until I came to a river marked by an island at
its mouth. From the point I knew that I could reach the spot where The
Barsoom had landed.

Our long flight must have covered a considerable period of time, since
it was necessary for us to alight and rest many times and to search for
food. We met, fortunately, with no mishaps, and upon the several
occasions when we were discovered by roving bands of Va-gas we were able
to soar far aloft and escape them easily. We came at length, however, to
the sea, the coast of which I followed to the left, but though we passed
the mouths of many rivers, I discovered none that precisely answered the
description of that which I sought.

It was borne in upon me at last that our quest was futile, but where we
were to find a haven of safety neither of us could guess. The gas in our
bags was losing its buoyancy and we had no means wherewith to replenish
it. It would still maintain us for a short time, but how long neither of
us knew, other than that it had not nearly the buoyancy that it
originally possessed.

Off the coast we had seen islands almost continuously and I suggested to
Nah-ee-lah that we try to discover one upon which grew the fruits and
nuts and vegetables necessary for our subsistence, and where we might
also have a constant supply of fresh water.

I discovered that Nah-ee-lah knew little about these islands,
practically nothing in fact, not even as to whether they were inhabited;
but we determined to explore one, and to this end we selected an island
of considerable extent that lay about ten miles off shore. We reached it
without difficulty and circled slowly above it, scrutinizing its entire
area carefully. About half of it was quite hilly, but the balance was
rolling and comparatively level. We discovered three streams and two
small lakes upon it, and an almost riotous profusion of vegetable
growth, but nowhere did we discern the slightest indication that it was
inhabited. And so at last, feeling secure, we made our landing upon the
plain, close to the beach.

It was a beautiful spot, a veritable Garden of Eden, where we two might
have passed the remainder of our lives in peace and security, for though
we later explored it carefully, we found not the slightest evidence that
it had ever known the foot of man.

Together we built a snug shelter against the storms. Together we hunted
for food, and during our long periods of idleness we lay upon the soft
sward beside the beach, and to pass the time away, I taught Nah-ee-lah
my own language.

It was a lazy, indolent, happy life that we spent upon this enchanted
isle, and yet, though we were happy in our love, each of us felt the
futility of our existence, where our lives must be spent in useless
idleness.

We had, however, given up definitely hope for any other form of
existence. And thus we were lying one time, as was our wont after
eating, stretched in luxurious ease upon our backs on the soft lunar
grasses, I with my eyes closed, when Nah-ee-lah suddenly grasped me by
the arm.

"Julian," she cried, "what is it? Look!"

I opened my eyes, to find her sitting up and gazing into the sky toward
the mainland, a slim forefinger indicating the direction of the object
that had attracted her attention and aroused her surprised interest.

As my eyes rested upon the thing her pointing finger indicated, I leaped
to my feet with an exclamation of incredulity, for there, sailing
parallel with the coast at an altitude of not more than a thousand feet,
was a ship, lines of which I knew as I had known my mother's face. It
was The Barsoom.

Grasping Nah-ee-lah by the arm, I dragged her to her feet. "Come, quick,
Nah-ee-lah!" I cried, and urged her rapidly toward our hut, where we had
stored the wings and the gas bags which we had never thought to use
again, yet protected carefully, though why we knew not.

There was still gas in the bags--enough to support us the air, with the
assistance of our wings, but to fly thus for long distances would have
been most fatiguing, and there was even a question as to whether we
could cross the ten miles of sea that lay between us and the mainland;
yet I was determined to attempt it. Hastily we donned the wings and
bags, and rising together, flapped slowly in the direction of the
mainland.

The Barsoom was cruising slowly along a line that would cross ours
before we could reach the shore, but I hoped that they would sight us
and investigate.

We flew as rapidly as I dared, for I could take no chances upon
exhausting Nah-ee-lah, knowing that it would be absolutely impossible
for me to support her weight and my own, with our depleted gas bags.
There was no way in which I could signal to The Barsoom. We must simply
fly toward her. That was the best that we could do, and finally, try
though we would, I realized we should be too late to intercept her and
that unless they saw us and changed their course, we should not come
close enough to hail them. To see my. friends passing so near, and yet
to be unable to apprise them of my presence filled me with melancholy.
Not one of the many vicissitudes and dangers through which I had passed
since I left Earth depressed me more than the light of The Barsoom
forging slowly past us without speaking. I saw her change her course
then and move inland still further from us, and I could not but dwell
upon our unhappy condition, since now we might never again be able to
reach the safety of our island, there being even a question as to
whether the gas bags would support us to the mainland.

They did, however, and there we alighted and rested, while The Barsoom
sailed out of sight toward the mountains.

"I shall not give it up, Nah-ee-lah," I cried. "I am going to follow The
Barsoom until we find it, or until we die in the attempt. I doubt if we
ever can reach the island again, but we can make short flights here on
land, and by so doing, we may overtake my ship and my companions."

After resting for a short time, we arose again, and when we were above
the trees I saw The Barsoom far in the distance, and again it was
circling, this time toward the left, so we altered our course and flew
after it. But presently we realized that it was making a great circle
and hope renewed within our breasts, giving us the strength to fly on
and on, though we were forced to come down often for brief rests. As we
neared the ship we saw that the circles were growing smaller, but it was
not until we were within about three miles of her that I realized that
she was circling the mouth of a great crater, the walls of which rose
several hundred feet above the surrounding country. We had been forced
to land again to rest, when there flashed upon my mind a sudden
realization of the purpose of the maneuvers of The Barsoom--she was
investigating the crater, preparatory to an attempt to pass through it
into outer space and seek to return to Earth again.

As this thought impinged upon my brain, a wave of almost hopeless horror
overwhelmed me as I thought of being definitely left forever by my
companions and that by but a few brief minutes Nah-ee-lah was to be
robbed of life and happiness and peace, for at that instant the hull of
The Barsoom dropped beneath the rim of the crater and disappeared from
our view.

Rising quickly with Nah-ee-lah, I flew as rapidly as my tired muscles
and exhausted gas bag would permit toward the rim of the crater. In my
heart of hearts I knew that I should be too late, for once they had
decided to make the attempt, the ship would drop like a plummet into the
depths, and by the time I reached the mouth of the abyss it would be
lost to my view forever.

And yet I struggled on, my lungs almost bursting from the exertion of my
mad efforts toward speed. Nah-ee-lah trailed far behind, for if either
of us could reach The Barsoom in time we should both be saved, and I
could fly faster than Nah-ee-lah; otherwise, I should never have
separated myself from her by so much as a hundred yards.

Though my lungs were pumping like bellows, I venture to say that my
heart stood still for several seconds before I topped the grater's rim.

At the same instant that I expected the last vestige of my hopes to be
lashed to pieces irrevocably and forever, I crossed the rim and beheld
The Barsoom not twenty feet below me, just over the edge of the abyss,
and upon her deck stood West and Jay and Norton.

As I came into view directly above them, West whipped out his revolver
and leveled it at me, but the instant that his finder pressed the
trigger Norton sprang forward and struck his hand aside.

"My God, sir!" I heard the boy cry, "it is the Captain." And then they
all recognized me, and an instant later I almost collapsed as I fell to
the deck of my beloved ship.

My first thought was of Nah-ee-lah, and at my direction The Barsoom rose
swiftly and moved to meet her.

"Great Scott!" cried my guest, leaping to his feet and looking out of
the stateroom window, "I had no idea that I had kept you up all night.
Here we are in Paris already."

"But the rest of your story," I cried. "You have not finished it, I
know. Last night, as you were watching them celebrating in the Blue
Room, you made a remark which led me to believe that some terrible
calamity threatened the world."

"It does," he said, "and that was what I meant to tell you about, but
this story of the third incarnation of which I am conscious was
necessary to an understanding of how the great catastrophe overwhelmed
the people of the earth."

"But, did you reach Earth again?" I demanded.

"Yes," he said, "in the year 2036. I had been ten years within Va-nah,
but did not know whether it was ten months or a century until we landed
upon Earth."

He smiled then. "You notice that I still say I. It is sometimes
difficult for me to recall which incarnation I am in. Perhaps it will be
clearer to you if I say Julian 5th returned to Earth in 2036, and in the
same year his son, Julian 6th, was born to his wife, Nah-ee-lah the Moon
Maid."

"But how could he return to Earth in the disabled Barsoom?"

"Ah," he said, "that raises a point that was of great interest to Julian
5th. After he regained The Barsoom, naturally one of the first questions
he asked was as to the condition of the ship and their intentions, and
when he learned that they had, in reality, been intending to pass
through the crater toward the Earth he questioned them further and
discovered that it was the young ensign, Norton, who had repaired the
engine, having been able to do it by information that he had gleaned
from Orthis, after winning the latter's friendship. Thus was explained
the intimacy between the two, which Julian 5th had so deplored, but
which he now saw that young Norton had encouraged for a patriotic
purpose."

"We are docked now and I must be going. Thank you for your hospitality
and for your generous interest," and he held out his hand toward me.

"But the story of Julian 9th," I insisted, "am I never to hear that?"

"If we meet again, yes," he promised, with a smile.

"I shall hold you to it," I told him.

"If we meet again," he repeated, and departed, closing the stateroom
door after him.

THE END






This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia