The Chessmen of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 59

until all were
worn to exhaustion. There was a brief lull in the storm during which
one of the crew attempted to reach his quarters, after releasing the
lashings which had held him to the precarious safety of the deck. The
act in itself was a direct violation of orders and, in the eyes of the
other members of the crew, the effect, which came with startling
suddenness, took the form of a swift and terrible retribution. Scarce
had the man released the safety snaps ere a swift arm of the
storm-monster encircled the ship, rolling it over and over, with the
result that the foolhardy warrior went overboard at the first turn.

Unloosed from their lashing by the constant turning and twisting of the
ship and the force of the wind, the boarding and landing tackle had
been trailing beneath the keel, a tangled mass of cordage and leather.
Upon the occasions that the Vanator rolled completely over, these
things would be wrapped around her until another revolution in the
opposite direction, or the wind itself, carried them once again clear
of the deck to trail, whipping in the storm, beneath the hurtling ship.

Into this fell the body of the warrior, and as a drowning man clutches
at a straw so the fellow clutched at the tangled cordage that caught
him and arrested his fall. With the strength of desperation he clung to
the cordage, seeking frantically to entangle his legs and body in it.
With each jerk of the ship his hand holds were all but torn loose, and
though he knew that eventually they would be and that he must be dashed
to the ground beneath, yet he fought with the madness that is born of
hopelessness for the pitiful second which but prolonged his agony.

It was upon this sight then that Gahan of Gathol looked, over the edge
of the careening deck of the Vanator, as he sought to learn the fate of
his warrior. Lashed to the gunwale close at hand a single landing
leather that had not fouled the tangled mass beneath whipped free from
the ship's side, the hook snapping at its outer end. The Jed of Gathol
grasped the situation in a single glance. Below him one of his people
looked into the eyes of Death. To the jed's hand lay the means for
succor.

There was no instant's hesitation. Casting off his deck lashings, he
seized the landing leather and slipped over the ship's side. Swinging
like a bob upon a mad pendulum he swung far out and back again, turning
and twisting three thousand

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