The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 162

It was unthinkable. Such a
horrid fact could not be; and yet my reason told me that within thirty
days my incomparable Princess would be fought over in the arena of the
First Born by those very wild beasts; that her bleeding corpse would be
dragged through the dirt and the dust, until at last a part of it would
be rescued to be served as food upon the tables of the black nobles.

I think that I should have gone crazy but for the sound of my
approaching jailer. It distracted my attention from the terrible
thoughts that had been occupying my entire mind. Now a new and grim
determination came to me. I would make one super-human effort to
escape. Kill my jailer by a ruse, and trust to fate to lead me to the
outer world in safety.

With the thought came instant action. I threw myself upon the floor of
my cell close by the wall, in a strained and distorted posture, as
though I were dead after a struggle or convulsions. When he should
stoop over me I had but to grasp his throat with one hand and strike
him a terrific blow with the slack of my chain, which I gripped firmly
in my right hand for the purpose.

Nearer and nearer came the doomed man. Now I heard him halt before me.
There was a muttered exclamation, and then a step as he came to my
side. I felt him kneel beside me. My grip tightened upon the chain.
He leaned close to me. I must open my eyes to find his throat, grasp
it, and strike one mighty final blow all at the same instant.

The thing worked just as I had planned. So brief was the interval
between the opening of my eyes and the fall of the chain that I could
not check it, though in that minute interval I recognized the face so
close to mine as that of my son, Carthoris.

God! What cruel and malign fate had worked to such a frightful end!
What devious chain of circumstances had led my boy to my side at this
one particular minute of our lives when I could strike him down and
kill him, in ignorance of his identity! A benign though tardy
Providence blurred my vision and my mind as I sank into unconsciousness
across the lifeless body of my only son.

When I regained consciousness it was to feel a cool, firm hand pressed
upon my

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