The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 158

a radium hand-light to illumine the way, escorted
me through seemingly interminable tunnels, down, ever down beneath the
city of Helium.

At length they halted within a fair-sized chamber. There were rings
set in the rocky walls. To them chains were fastened, and at the ends
of many of the chains were human skeletons. One of these they kicked
aside, and, unlocking the huge padlock that had held a chain about what
had once been a human ankle, they snapped the iron band about my own
leg. Then they left me, taking the light with them.

Utter darkness prevailed. For a few minutes I could hear the clanking
of accoutrements, but even this grew fainter and fainter, until at last
the silence was as complete as the darkness. I was alone with my
gruesome companions--with the bones of dead men whose fate was likely
but the index of my own.

How long I stood listening in the darkness I do not know, but the
silence was unbroken, and at last I sunk to the hard floor of my
prison, where, leaning my head against the stony wall, I slept.

It must have been several hours later that I awakened to find a young
man standing before me. In one hand he bore a light, in the other a
receptacle containing a gruel-like mixture--the common prison fare of
Barsoom.

"Zat Arrras sends you greetings," said the young man, "and commands me
to inform you that though he is fully advised of the plot to make you
Jeddak of Helium, he is, however, not inclined to withdraw the offer
which he has made you. To gain your freedom you have but to request me
to advise Zat Arrras that you accept the terms of his proposition."

I but shook my head. The youth said no more, and, after placing the
food upon the floor at my side, returned up the corridor, taking the
light with him.

Twice a day for many days this youth came to my cell with food, and
ever the same greetings from Zat Arrras. For a long time I tried to
engage him in conversation upon other matters, but he would not talk,
and so, at length, I desisted.

For months I sought to devise methods to inform Carthoris of my
whereabouts. For months I scraped and scraped upon a single link of
the massive chain which held me, hoping eventually to wear it through,
that I might follow the youth back through the winding tunnels to a
point where I could make a

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