The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 182

moment. What chance had I, then, to rescue Dejah Thoris were I
to be compelled to fight foes who never showed themselves. A thousand
times I berated myself for being drawn into such a trap as I might have
known these pits easily could be. Now I saw that it would have been
much better to have kept our force intact and made a concerted attack
upon the temple from the valley side, trusting to chance and our great
fighting ability to have overwhelmed the First Born and compelled the
safe delivery of Dejah Thoris to me.

The smoke from the fire was forcing me further and further back down
the corridor toward the waters which I could hear surging through the
darkness. With my men had gone the last torch, nor was this corridor
lighted by the radiance of phosphorescent rock as were those of the
lower levels. It was this fact that assured me that I was not far from
the upper pits which lie directly beneath the temple.

Finally I felt the lapping waters about my feet. The smoke was thick
behind me. My suffering was intense. There seemed but one thing to
do, and that to choose the easier death which confronted me, and so I
moved on down the corridor until the cold waters of Omean closed about
me, and I swam on through utter blackness toward--what?

The instinct of self-preservation is strong even when one, unafraid and
in the possession of his highest reasoning faculties, knows that
death--positive and unalterable--lies just ahead. And so I swam slowly
on, waiting for my head to touch the top of the corridor, which would
mean that I had reached the limit of my flight and the point where I
must sink for ever to an unmarked grave.

But to my surprise I ran against a blank wall before I reached a point
where the waters came to the roof of the corridor. Could I be
mistaken? I felt around. No, I had come to the main corridor, and
still there was a breathing space between the surface of the water and
the rocky ceiling above. And then I turned up the main corridor in the
direction that Carthoris and the head of the column had passed a
half-hour before. On and on I swam, my heart growing lighter at every
stroke, for I knew that I was approaching closer and closer to the
point where there would be no chance that the waters ahead could be

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