The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 24

but temporarily returned to your own
planet, I at last gave way to my great yearning and a month since I
started upon the journey, the end of which you have this day witnessed.
Do you understand now where you be, John Carter?"

"And that was the River Iss, emptying into the Lost Sea of Korus in the
Valley Dor?" I asked.

"This is the valley of love and peace and rest to which every
Barsoomian since time immemorial has longed to pilgrimage at the end of
a life of hate and strife and bloodshed," he replied. "This, John
Carter, is Heaven."

His tone was cold and ironical; its bitterness but reflecting the
terrible disappointment he had suffered. Such a fearful
disillusionment, such a blasting of life-long hopes and aspirations,
such an uprooting of age-old tradition might have excused a vastly
greater demonstration on the part of the Thark.

I laid my hand upon his shoulder.

"I am sorry," I said, nor did there seem aught else to say.

"Think, John Carter, of the countless billions of Barsoomians who have
taken the voluntary pilgrimage down this cruel river since the
beginning of time, only to fall into the ferocious clutches of the
terrible creatures that to-day assailed us.

"There is an ancient legend that once a red man returned from the banks
of the Lost Sea of Korus, returned from the Valley Dor, back through
the mysterious River Iss, and the legend has it that he narrated a
fearful blasphemy of horrid brutes that inhabited a valley of wondrous
loveliness, brutes that pounced upon each Barsoomian as he terminated
his pilgrimage and devoured him upon the banks of the Lost Sea where he
had looked to find love and peace and happiness; but the ancients
killed the blasphemer, as tradition has ordained that any shall be
killed who return from the bosom of the River of Mystery.

"But now we know that it was no blasphemy, that the legend is a true
one, and that the man told only of what he saw; but what does it profit
us, John Carter, since even should we escape, we also would be treated
as blasphemers? We are between the wild thoat of certainty and the mad
zitidar of fact--we can escape neither."

"As Earth men say, we are between the devil and the deep sea, Tars
Tarkas," I replied, nor could I help but smile at our dilemma.

"There is naught that we can do but take things as they come, and at
least have the satisfaction of knowing that whoever slays us eventually
will have far greater

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