The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 183

than they were about me. I was positive that I must soon feel
the solid floor beneath my feet again and that once more my chance
would come to reach the Temple of Issus and the side of the fair
prisoner who languished there.

But even as hope was at its highest I felt the sudden shock of contact
as my head struck the rocks above. The worst, then, had come to me. I
had reached one of those rare places where a Martian tunnel dips
suddenly to a lower level. Somewhere beyond I knew that it rose again,
but of what value was that to me, since I did not know how great the
distance that it maintained a level entirely beneath the surface of the
water!

There was but a single forlorn hope, and I took it. Filling my lungs
with air, I dived beneath the surface and swam through the inky, icy
blackness on and on along the submerged gallery. Time and time again I
rose with upstretched hand, only to feel the disappointing rocks close
above me.

Not for much longer would my lungs withstand the strain upon them. I
felt that I must soon succumb, nor was there any retreating now that I
had gone this far. I knew positively that I could never endure to
retrace my path now to the point from which I had felt the waters close
above my head. Death stared me in the face, nor ever can I recall a
time that I so distinctly felt the icy breath from his dead lips upon
my brow.

One more frantic effort I made with my fast ebbing strength. Weakly I
rose for the last time--my tortured lungs gasped for the breath that
would fill them with a strange and numbing element, but instead I felt
the revivifying breath of life-giving air surge through my starving
nostrils into my dying lungs. I was saved.

A few more strokes brought me to a point where my feet touched the
floor, and soon thereafter I was above the water level entirely, and
racing like mad along the corridor searching for the first doorway that
would lead me to Issus. If I could not have Dejah Thoris again I was
at least determined to avenge her death, nor would any life satisfy me
other than that of the fiend incarnate who was the cause of such
immeasurable suffering upon Barsoom.

Sooner than I had expected I came to what appeared to me to be a sudden
exit into

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