The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 105

of moments. Rising at last
he flung the lifeless thing from him with a shudder of disgust.

Now he turned his attention to a hurried inventory of the new
conditions which surrounded him since the moment of his incarceration.
He realized vaguely what had happened. He had been anaesthetized and
stripped of his weapons, and as he rose to his feet he saw that one
ankle was fettered to a chain in the wall. He looked about the room.
All the doors swung wide open! His captors would render his
imprisonment the more cruel by leaving ever before him tempting
glimpses of open aisles to the freedom he could not attain. Upon the
end of the table and within easy reach was food and drink. This at
least was attainable and at sight of it his starved stomach seemed
almost to cry aloud for sustenance. It was with difficulty that he ate
and drank in moderation.

As he devoured the food his eyes wandered about the confines of his
prison until suddenly they seized upon a thing that lay on the table at
the end farthest from him. It was a key. He raised his fettered ankle
and examined the lock. There could be no doubt of it! The key that lay
there on the table before him was the key to that very lock. A careless
warrior had laid it there and departed, forgetting.

Hope surged high in the breast of Gahan of Gathol, of Turan the
panthan. Furtively his eyes sought the open doorways. There was no one
in sight. Ah, if he could but gain his freedom! He would find some way
from this odious city back to her side and never again would he leave
her until he had won safety for her or death for himself.

He rose and moved cautiously toward the opposite end of the table where
lay the coveted key. The fettered ankle halted his first step, but he
stretched at full length along the table, extending eager fingers
toward the prize. They almost laid hold upon it--a little more and they
would touch it. He strained and stretched, but still the thing lay just
beyond his reach. He hurled himself forward until the iron fetter bit
deep into his flesh, but all futilely. He sat back upon the bench then
and glared at the open doors and the key, realizing now that they were
part of a well-laid scheme of refined torture, none the less
demoralizing because it inflicted no physical suffering.

For just a moment the man gave way to useless regret and foreboding,
then he

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