By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 127

we halted, and, placing our artillery upon a slight
eminence at either flank, we commenced to drop solid shot among them.
Ja, who was chief artillery officer, was in command of this branch of
the service, and he did some excellent work, for his Mezop gunners had
become rather proficient by this time. The Sagoths couldn't stand much
of this sort of warfare, so they charged us, yelling like fiends. We
let them come quite close, and then the musketeers who formed the first
line opened up on them.

The slaughter was something frightful, but still the remnants of them
kept on coming until it was a matter of hand-to-hand fighting. Here
our spearmen were of value, as were also the crude iron swords with
which most of the imperial warriors were armed.

We lost heavily in the encounter after the Sagoths reached us; but they
were absolutely exterminated--not one remained even as a prisoner. The
Mahars, seeing how the battle was going, had hastened to the safety of
their buried city. When we had overcome their gorilla-men we followed
after them.

But here we were doomed to defeat, at least temporarily; for no sooner
had the first of our troops descended into the subterranean avenues
than many of them came stumbling and fighting their way back to the
surface, half-choked by the fumes of some deadly gas that the reptiles
had liberated upon them. We lost a number of men here. Then I sent
for Perry, who had remained discreetly in the rear, and had him
construct a little affair that I had had in my mind against the
possibility of our meeting with a check at the entrances to the
underground city.

Under my direction he stuffed one of his cannon full of powder, small
bullets, and pieces of stone, almost to the muzzle. Then he plugged
the muzzle tight with a cone-shaped block of wood, hammered and jammed
in as tight as it could be. Next he inserted a long fuse. A dozen men
rolled the cannon to the top of the stairs leading down into the city,
first removing it from its carriage. One of them then lit the fuse and
the whole thing was given a shove down the stairway, while the
detachment turned and scampered to a safe distance.

For what seemed a very long time nothing happened. We had commenced to
think that the fuse had been put out while the piece was rolling down
the stairway, or that the Mahars had guessed its purpose and
extinguished it

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