Warlord of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 24

units for fifty tals"--ah,
there was the first line of characters upon the torch's metal
case--3--50 T; "and for one xat let it shine with the intensity
of one radium unit"--there was the second line; "and then for
twenty-five tals with nine units."

The formula was complete; but--what did it mean?

I thought I knew, and, seizing a powerful magnifying glass from the
litter of my pocket-pouch, I applied myself to a careful examination
of the marble immediately about the pinhole in the door. I could
have cried aloud in exultation when my scrutiny disclosed the almost
invisible incrustation of particles of carbonized electrons which
are thrown off by these Martian torches.

It was evident that for countless ages radium torches had been
applied to this pinhole, and for what purpose there could be but
a single answer--the mechanism of the lock was actuated by light
rays; and I, John Carter, Prince of Helium, held the combination
in my hand--scratched by the hand of my enemy upon his own torch
case.

In a cylindrical bracelet of gold about my wrist was my Barsoomian
chronometer--a delicate instrument that records the tals and xats
and zodes of Martian time, presenting them to view beneath a strong
crystal much after the manner of an earthly odometer.

Timing my operations carefully, I held the torch to the small aperture
in the door, regulating the intensity of the light by means of the
thumb-lever upon the side of the case.

For fifty tals I let three units of light shine full in the pinhole,
then one unit for one xat, and for twenty-five tals nine units.
Those last twenty-five tals were the longest twenty-five seconds
of my life. Would the lock click at the end of those seemingly
interminable intervals of time?

Twenty-three! Twenty-four! Twenty-five!

I shut off the light with a snap. For seven tals I waited--there
had been no appreciable effect upon the lock's mechanism. Could
it be that my theory was entirely wrong?

Hold! Had the nervous strain resulted in a hallucination, or did
the door really move? Slowly the solid stone sank noiselessly back
into the wall--there was no hallucination here.

Back and back it slid for ten feet until it had disclosed at its
right a narrow doorway leading into a dark and narrow corridor that
paralleled the outer wall. Scarcely was the entrance uncovered
than Woola and I had leaped through--then the door slipped quietly
back into place.

Down the corridor at some distance I saw the faint reflection of
a light, and toward this we made our way. At the point

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