The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 181

their men away from some grave danger.
At last the report came back to us. "They have fired the pits ahead."
"We are hemmed in by flames in front and flood behind." "Help, John
Carter; we are suffocating," and then there swept back upon us at the
rear a wave of dense smoke that sent us, stumbling and blinded, into a
choking retreat.

There was naught to do other than seek a new avenue of escape. The
fire and smoke were to be feared a thousand times over the water, and
so I seized upon the first gallery which led out of and up from the
suffocating smoke that was engulfing us.

Again I stood to one side while the soldiers hastened through on the
new way. Some two thousand must have passed at a rapid run, when the
stream ceased, but I was not sure that all had been rescued who had not
passed the point of origin of the flames, and so to assure myself that
no poor devil was left behind to die a horrible death, unsuccoured, I
ran quickly up the gallery in the direction of the flames which I could
now see burning with a dull glow far ahead.

It was hot and stifling work, but at last I reached a point where the
fire lit up the corridor sufficiently for me to see that no soldier of
Helium lay between me and the conflagration--what was in it or upon the
far side I could not know, nor could any man have passed through that
seething hell of chemicals and lived to learn.

Having satisfied my sense of duty, I turned and ran rapidly back to the
corridor through which my men had passed. To my horror, however, I
found that my retreat in this direction had been blocked--across the
mouth of the corridor stood a massive steel grating that had evidently
been lowered from its resting-place above for the purpose of
effectually cutting off my escape.

That our principal movements were known to the First Born I could not
have doubted, in view of the attack of the fleet upon us the day
before, nor could the stopping of the pumps of Omean at the
psychological moment have been due to chance, nor the starting of a
chemical combustion within the one corridor through which we were
advancing upon the Temple of Issus been due to aught than
well-calculated design.

And now the dropping of the steel gate to pen me effectually between
fire and flood seemed to indicate that invisible eyes were upon us at
every

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