The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 21

the branch we found that our combined weight so
depressed the limb that the cave's mouth was now too far above us to be
reached.

We finally agreed that Tars Tarkas should return along the branch,
leaving his longest leather harness strap with me, and that when the
limb had risen to a height that would permit me to enter the cave I was
to do so, and on Tars Tarkas' return I could then lower the strap and
haul him up to the safety of the ledge.

This we did without mishap and soon found ourselves together upon the
verge of a dizzy little balcony, with a magnificent view of the valley
spreading out below us.

As far as the eye could reach gorgeous forest and crimson sward skirted
a silent sea, and about all towered the brilliant monster guardian
cliffs. Once we thought we discerned a gilded minaret gleaming in the
sun amidst the waving tops of far-distant trees, but we soon abandoned
the idea in the belief that it was but an hallucination born of our
great desire to discover the haunts of civilized men in this beautiful,
yet forbidding, spot.

Below us upon the river's bank the great white apes were devouring the
last remnants of Tars Tarkas' former companions, while great herds of
plant men grazed in ever-widening circles about the sward which they
kept as close clipped as the smoothest of lawns.

Knowing that attack from the tree was now improbable, we determined to
explore the cave, which we had every reason to believe was but a
continuation of the path we had already traversed, leading the gods
alone knew where, but quite evidently away from this valley of grim
ferocity.

As we advanced we found a well-proportioned tunnel cut from the solid
cliff. Its walls rose some twenty feet above the floor, which was
about five feet in width. The roof was arched. We had no means of
making a light, and so groped our way slowly into the ever-increasing
darkness, Tars Tarkas keeping in touch with one wall while I felt along
the other, while, to prevent our wandering into diverging branches and
becoming separated or lost in some intricate and labyrinthine maze, we
clasped hands.

How far we traversed the tunnel in this manner I do not know, but
presently we came to an obstruction which blocked our further progress.
It seemed more 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

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