The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 108

sleep of Mars.

Our guard entered to inspect us for the last time before the new day
broke upon the world above. His duty was soon performed and the heavy
door of our prison closed behind him--we were alone for the night.

I gave him time to return to his quarters, as Xodar said he probably
would do, then I sprang to the grated window and surveyed the nearby
waters. At a little distance from the island, a quarter of a mile
perhaps, lay a monster battleship, while between her and the shore were
a number of smaller cruisers and one-man scouts. Upon the battleship
alone was there a watch. I could see him plainly in the upper works of
the ship, and as I watched I saw him spread his sleeping silks upon the
tiny platform in which he was stationed. Soon he threw himself at full
length upon his couch. The discipline on Omean was lax indeed. But it
is not to be wondered at since no enemy guessed the existence upon
Barsoom of such a fleet, or even of the First Born, or the Sea of
Omean. Why indeed should they maintain a watch?

Presently I dropped to the floor again and talked with Xodar,
describing the various craft I had seen.

"There is one there," he said, "my personal property, built to carry
five men, that is the swiftest of the swift. If we can board her we
can at least make a memorable run for liberty," and then he went on to
describe to me the equipment of the boat; her engines, and all that
went to make her the flier that she was.

In his explanation I recognized a trick of gearing that Kantos Kan had
taught me that time we sailed under false names in the navy of Zodanga
beneath Sab Than, the Prince. And I knew then that the First Born had
stolen it from the ships of Helium, for only they are thus geared. And
I knew too that Xodar spoke the truth when he lauded the speed of his
little craft, for nothing that cleaves the thin air of Mars can
approximate the speed of the ships of Helium.

We decided to wait for an hour at least until all the stragglers had
sought their silks. In the meantime I was to fetch the red youth to
our cell so that we would be in readiness to make our rash break for
freedom together.

I sprang to the top of our partition

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'I may never see you again, for I doubt that I can ever bring myself to leave my wife and boy while they live, and the span of life upon Barsoom is often more than a thousand years.
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With arms outstretched toward the red eye of the great star I stood praying for a return of that strange power which twice had drawn me through the immensity of space, praying as I had prayed on a thousand nights before during the long ten years that I had waited and hoped.
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As I was about to spring into the conflict with my sharp long-sword I felt a gentle hand upon my shoulder and turning found, to my surprise, that the young woman had followed me into the chamber.
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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.
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pits, and go.
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" After he had left I stood and talked with Dejah Thoris, and she stretched her dear hand through those cruel bars that I might hold it until the last moment.