The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 22

like a partition than a sudden ending of the cave, for
it was constructed not of the material of the cliff, but of something
which felt like very hard wood.

Silently I groped over its surface with my hands, and presently was
rewarded by the feel of the button which as commonly denotes a door on
Mars as does a door knob on Earth.

Gently pressing it, I had the satisfaction of feeling the door slowly
give before me, and in another instant we were looking into a dimly
lighted apartment, which, so far as we could see, was unoccupied.

Without more ado I swung the door wide open and, followed by the huge
Thark, stepped into the chamber. As we stood for a moment in silence
gazing about the room a slight noise behind caused me to turn quickly,
when, to my astonishment, I saw the door close with a sharp click as
though by an unseen hand.

Instantly I sprang toward it to wrench it open again, for something in
the uncanny movement of the thing and the tense and almost palpable
silence of the chamber seemed to portend a lurking evil lying hidden in
this rock-bound chamber within the bowels of the Golden Cliffs.

My fingers clawed futilely at the unyielding portal, while my eyes
sought in vain for a duplicate of the button which had given us ingress.

And then, from unseen lips, a cruel and mocking peal of laughter rang
through the desolate place.




CHAPTER III

THE CHAMBER OF MYSTERY


For moments after that awful laugh had ceased reverberating through the
rocky room, Tars Tarkas and I stood in tense and expectant silence.
But no further sound broke the stillness, nor within the range of our
vision did aught move.

At length Tars Tarkas laughed softly, after the manner of his strange
kind when in the presence of the horrible or terrifying. It is not an
hysterical laugh, but rather the genuine expression of the pleasure
they derive from the things that move Earth men to loathing or to tears.

Often and again have I seen them roll upon the ground in mad fits of
uncontrollable mirth when witnessing the death agonies of women and
little children beneath the torture of that hellish green Martian
fete--the Great Games.

I looked up at the Thark, a smile upon my own lips, for here in truth
was greater need for a smiling face than a trembling chin.

"What do you make of it all?" I asked. "Where in the deuce are we?"

He looked at me in surprise.

"Where are we?" he repeated.

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