The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 156

the corridor with me, they turned toward a
secret panel in the wall which led to the passage that terminated in
the pits beneath the palace. That any knew of this panel outside my
own household, I was doubtful. Yet the leader of the band did not
hesitate a moment. He stepped directly to the panel, touched the
concealed button, and as the door swung open he stood aside while his
companions entered with me. Then he closed the panel behind him and
followed us.

Down through the passageways to the pits we went. The leader rapped
upon it with the hilt of his sword--three quick, sharp blows, a pause,
then three more, another pause, and then two. A second later the wall
swung in, and I was pushed within a brilliantly lighted chamber in
which sat three richly trapped men.

One of them turned toward me with a sardonic smile upon his thin, cruel
lips--it was Zat Arrras.




CHAPTER XIX

BLACK DESPAIR


"Ah," said Zat Arrras, "to what kindly circumstance am I indebted for
the pleasure of this unexpected visit from the Prince of Helium?"

While he was speaking, one of my guards had removed the gag from my
mouth, but I made no reply to Zat Arrras: simply standing there in
silence with level gaze fixed upon the Jed of Zodanga. And I doubt not
that my expression was coloured by the contempt I felt for the man.

The eyes of those within the chamber were fixed first upon me and then
upon Zat Arrras, until finally a flush of anger crept slowly over his
face.

"You may go," he said to those who had brought me, and when only his
two companions and ourselves were left in the chamber, he spoke to me
again in a voice of ice--very slowly and deliberately, with many
pauses, as though he would choose his words cautiously.

"John Carter," he said, "by the edict of custom, by the law of our
religion, and by the verdict of an impartial court, you are condemned
to die. The people cannot save you--I alone may accomplish that. You
are absolutely in my power to do with as I wish--I may kill you, or I
may free you, and should I elect to kill you, none would be the wiser.

"Should you go free in Helium for a year, in accordance with the
conditions of your reprieve, there is little fear that the people would
ever insist upon the execution of the sentence imposed upon you.

"You may go free within two minutes, upon

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(See THE GODS OF MARS.