were Lakor and his companion of the guardroom.
They walked very softly, and in the right hand of each gleamed a
keen long-sword. They halted quite close to the entrance of our
retreat, whispering to each other.
"Can it be that we have distanced them already?" said Lakor.
"Either that or the beast has led the man upon a wrong trail,"
replied the other, "for the way which we took is by far the shorter
to this point--for him who knows it. John Carter would have found
it a short road to death had he taken it as you suggested to him."
"Yes," said Lakor, "no amount of fighting ability would have saved
him from the pivoted flagstone. He surely would have stepped upon
it, and by now, if the pit beneath it has a bottom, which Thurid
denies, he should have been rapidly approaching it. Curses on that
calot of his that warned him toward the safer avenue!"
"There be other dangers ahead of him, though," spoke Lakor's fellow,
"which he may not so easily escape--should he succeed in escaping
our two good swords. Consider, for example, what chance he will
have, coming unexpectedly into the chamber of--"
I would have given much to have heard the balance of that conversation
that I might have been warned of the perils that lay ahead, but
fate intervened, and just at the very instant of all other instants
that I would not have elected to do it, I sneezed.
THE TEMPLE OF THE SUN
There was nothing for it now other than to fight; nor did I have
any advantage as I sprang, sword in hand, into the corridor before
the two therns, for my untimely sneeze had warned them of my presence
and they were ready for me.
There were no words, for they would have been a waste of breath.
The very presence of the two proclaimed their treachery. That
they were following to fall upon me unawares was all too plain,
and they, of course, must have known that I understood their plan.
In an instant I was engaged with both, and though I loathe the very
name of thern, I must in all fairness admit that they are mighty
swordsmen; and these two were no exception, unless it were that
they were even more skilled and fearless than the average among
While it lasted it was indeed as joyous a conflict as I ever had
experienced. Twice at least I saved my breast from the mortal
thrust of piercing steel only by the wondrous agility with
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