The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 174

good or for evil other than the effect that their
example while living might have had upon following generations; he did
not believe therefore in the materialization of dead spirits. If there
was a life hereafter he knew nothing of it, for he knew that science
had demonstrated the existence of some material cause for every
seemingly supernatural phenomenon of ancient religions and
superstitions. Yet he was at a loss to know what power might have
removed Tara so suddenly and mysteriously from his side in a chamber
that had not known the presence of man for five thousand years.

In the darkness he could not see whether there were the imprints of
other sandals than Tara's--only that the dust was disturbed--and when
it led him into gloomy corridors he lost the trail altogether. A
perfect labyrinth of passages and apartments were now revealed to him
as he hurried on through the deserted quarters of O-Mai. Here was an
ancient bath--doubtless that of the jeddak himself, and again he passed
through a room in which a meal had been laid upon a table five thousand
years before--the untasted breakfast of O-Mai, perhaps. There passed
before his eyes in the brief moments that he traversed the chambers, a
wealth of ornaments and jewels and precious metals that surprised even
the Jed of Gathol whose harness was of diamonds and platinum and whose
riches were the envy of a world. But at last his search of O-Mai's
chambers ended in a small closet in the floor of which was the opening
to a spiral runway leading straight down into Stygian darkness. The
dust at the entrance of the closet had been freshly disturbed, and as
this was the only possible indication that Gahan had of the direction
taken by the abductor of Tara it seemed as well to follow on as to
search elsewhere. So, without hesitation, he descended into the utter
darkness below. Feeling with a foot before taking a forward step his
descent was necessarily slow, but Gahan was a Barsoomian and so knew
the pitfalls that might await the unwary in such dark, forbidden
portions of a jeddak's palace.

He had descended for what he judged might be three full levels and was
pausing, as he occasionally did, to listen, when he distinctly heard a
peculiar shuffling, scraping sound approaching him from below. Whatever
the thing was it was ascending the runway at a steady pace and would
soon be near him. Gahan laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword and
drew it slowly from its scabbard that he might make no noise

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