A Princess of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 152

speed
bespoke the unusual.

Flashing the signals which proclaimed it a dispatch bearer for the
jeddak, it circled impatiently awaiting the tardy patrol boat which
must convoy it to the palace docks.

Ten minutes after it touched at the palace a message called me to the
council chamber, which I found filling with the members of that body.

On the raised platform of the throne was Tardos Mors, pacing back and
forth with tense-drawn face. When all were in their seats he turned
toward us.

"This morning," he said, "word reached the several governments of
Barsoom that the keeper of the atmosphere plant had made no wireless
report for two days, nor had almost ceaseless calls upon him from a
score of capitals elicited a sign of response.

"The ambassadors of the other nations asked us to take the matter in
hand and hasten the assistant keeper to the plant. All day a thousand
cruisers have been searching for him until just now one of them returns
bearing his dead body, which was found in the pits beneath his house
horribly mutilated by some assassin.

"I do not need to tell you what this means to Barsoom. It would take
months to penetrate those mighty walls, in fact the work has already
commenced, and there would be little to fear were the engine of the
pumping plant to run as it should and as they all have for hundreds of
years; but the worst, we fear, has happened. The instruments show
a rapidly decreasing air pressure on all parts of Barsoom--the engine
has stopped."

"My gentlemen," he concluded, "we have at best three days to live."

There was absolute silence for several minutes, and then a young noble
arose, and with his drawn sword held high above his head addressed
Tardos Mors.

"The men of Helium have prided themselves that they have ever shown
Barsoom how a nation of red men should live, now is our opportunity to
show them how they should die. Let us go about our duties as though a
thousand useful years still lay before us."

The chamber rang with applause and as there was nothing better to do
than to allay the fears of the people by our example we went our ways
with smiles upon our faces and sorrow gnawing at our hearts.

When I returned to my palace I found that the rumor already had reached
Dejah Thoris, so I told her all that I had heard.

"We have been very happy, John Carter," she said, "and I thank whatever
fate overtakes us that it permits us to

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