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From Joy To Death







From: A Princess Of Mars

For ten days the hordes of Thark and their wild allies were feasted and
entertained, and, then, loaded with costly presents and escorted by ten
thousand soldiers of Helium commanded by Mors Kajak, they started on
the return journey to their own lands. The jed of lesser Helium with a
small party of nobles accompanied them all the way to Thark to cement
more closely the new bonds of peace and friendship.

Sola also accompanied Tars Tarkas, her father, who before all his
chieftains had acknowledged her as his daughter.

Three weeks later, Mors Kajak and his officers, accompanied by Tars
Tarkas and Sola, returned upon a battleship that had been dispatched to
Thark to fetch them in time for the ceremony which made Dejah Thoris
and John Carter one.

For nine years I served in the councils and fought in the armies of
Helium as a prince of the house of Tardos Mors. The people seemed
never to tire of heaping honors upon me, and no day passed that did not
bring some new proof of their love for my princess, the incomparable
Dejah Thoris.

In a golden incubator upon the roof of our palace lay a snow-white egg.
For nearly five years ten soldiers of the jeddak's Guard had constantly
stood over it, and not a day passed when I was in the city that Dejah
Thoris and I did not stand hand in hand before our little shrine
planning for the future, when the delicate shell should break.

Vivid in my memory is the picture of the last night as we sat there
talking in low tones of the strange romance which had woven our lives
together and of this wonder which was coming to augment our happiness
and fulfill our hopes.

In the distance we saw the bright-white light of an approaching
airship, but we attached no special significance to so common a sight.
Like a bolt of lightning it raced toward Helium until its very speed
bespoke the unusual.

Flashing the signals which proclaimed it a dispatch bearer for the
jeddak, it circled impatiently awaiting the tardy patrol boat which
must convoy it to the palace docks.

Ten minutes after it touched at the palace a message called me to the
council chamber, which I found filling with the members of that body.

On the raised platform of the throne was Tardos Mors, pacing back and
forth with tense-drawn face. When all were in their seats he turned
toward us.

"This morning," he said, "word reached the several governments of
Barsoom that the keeper of the atmosphere plant had made no wireless
report for two days, nor had almost ceaseless calls upon him from a
score of capitals elicited a sign of response.

"The ambassadors of the other nations asked us to take the matter in
hand and hasten the assistant keeper to the plant. All day a thousand
cruisers have been searching for him until just now one of them returns
bearing his dead body, which was found in the pits beneath his house
horribly mutilated by some assassin.

"I do not need to tell you what this means to Barsoom. It would take
months to penetrate those mighty walls, in fact the work has already
commenced, and there would be little to fear were the engine of the
pumping plant to run as it should and as they all have for hundreds of
years now; but the worst, we fear, has happened. The instruments show
a rapidly decreasing air pressure on all parts of Barsoom--the engine
has stopped."

"My gentlemen," he concluded, "we have at best three days to live."

There was absolute silence for several minutes, and then a young noble
arose, and with his drawn sword held high above his head addressed
Tardos Mors.

"The men of Helium have prided themselves that they have ever shown
Barsoom how a nation of red men should live, now is our opportunity to
show them how they should die. Let us go about our duties as though a
thousand useful years still lay before us."

The chamber rang with applause and as there was nothing better to do
than to allay the fears of the people by our example we went our ways
with smiles upon our faces and sorrow gnawing at our hearts.

When I returned to my palace I found that the rumor already had reached
Dejah Thoris, so I told her all that I had heard.

"We have been very happy, John Carter," she said, "and I thank whatever
fate overtakes us that it permits us to die together."

The next two days brought no noticeable change in the supply of air,
but on the morning of the third day breathing became difficult at the
higher altitudes of the rooftops. The avenues and plazas of Helium
were filled with people. All business had ceased. For the most part
the people looked bravely into the face of their unalterable doom.
Here and there, however, men and women gave way to quiet grief.

Toward the middle of the day many of the weaker commenced to succumb
and within an hour the people of Barsoom were sinking by thousands into
the unconsciousness which precedes death by asphyxiation.

Dejah Thoris and I with the other members of the royal family had
collected in a sunken garden within an inner courtyard of the palace.
We conversed in low tones, when we conversed at all, as the awe of the
grim shadow of death crept over us. Even Woola seemed to feel the
weight of the impending calamity, for he pressed close to Dejah Thoris
and to me, whining pitifully.

The little incubator had been brought from the roof of our palace at
request of Dejah Thoris and now she sat gazing longingly upon the
unknown little life that now she would never know.

As it was becoming perceptibly difficult to breathe Tardos Mors arose,
saying,

"Let us bid each other farewell. The days of the greatness of Barsoom
are over. Tomorrow's sun will look down upon a dead world which
through all eternity must go swinging through the heavens peopled not
even by memories. It is the end."

He stooped and kissed the women of his family, and laid his strong hand
upon the shoulders of the men.

As I turned sadly from him my eyes fell upon Dejah Thoris. Her head
was drooping upon her breast, to all appearances she was lifeless.
With a cry I sprang to her and raised her in my arms.

Her eyes opened and looked into mine.

"Kiss me, John Carter," she murmured. "I love you! I love you! It is
cruel that we must be torn apart who were just starting upon a life of
love and happiness."

As I pressed her dear lips to mine the old feeling of unconquerable
power and authority rose in me. The fighting blood of Virginia sprang
to life in my veins.

"It shall not be, my princess," I cried. "There is, there must be some
way, and John Carter, who has fought his way through a strange world
for love of you, will find it."

And with my words there crept above the threshold of my conscious mind
a series of nine long forgotten sounds. Like a flash of lightning in
the darkness their full purport dawned upon me--the key to the three
great doors of the atmosphere plant!

Turning suddenly toward Tardos Mors as I still clasped my dying love to
my breast I cried.

"A flier, Jeddak! Quick! Order your swiftest flier to the palace top.
I can save Barsoom yet."

He did not wait to question, but in an instant a guard was racing to
the nearest dock and though the air was thin and almost gone at the
rooftop they managed to launch the fastest one-man, air-scout machine
that the skill of Barsoom had ever produced.

Kissing Dejah Thoris a dozen times and commanding Woola, who would have
followed me, to remain and guard her, I bounded with my old agility and
strength to the high ramparts of the palace, and in another moment I
was headed toward the goal of the hopes of all Barsoom.

I had to fly low to get sufficient air to breathe, but I took a
straight course across an old sea bottom and so had to rise only a few
feet above the ground.

I traveled with awful velocity for my errand was a race against time
with death. The face of Dejah Thoris hung always before me. As I
turned for a last look as I left the palace garden I had seen her
stagger and sink upon the ground beside the little incubator. That she
had dropped into the last coma which would end in death, if the air
supply remained unreplenished, I well knew, and so, throwing caution to
the winds, I flung overboard everything but the engine and compass,
even to my ornaments, and lying on my belly along the deck with one
hand on the steering wheel and the other pushing the speed lever to its
last notch I split the thin air of dying Mars with the speed of a
meteor.

An hour before dark the great walls of the atmosphere plant loomed
suddenly before me, and with a sickening thud I plunged to the ground
before the small door which was withholding the spark of life from the
inhabitants of an entire planet.

Beside the door a great crew of men had been laboring to pierce the
wall, but they had scarcely scratched the flint-like surface, and now
most of them lay in the last sleep from which not even air would awaken
them.

Conditions seemed much worse here than at Helium, and it was with
difficulty that I breathed at all. There were a few men still
conscious, and to one of these I spoke.

"If I can open these doors is there a man who can start the engines?" I
asked.

"I can," he replied, "if you open quickly. I can last but a few
moments more. But it is useless, they are both dead and no one else
upon Barsoom knew the secret of these awful locks. For three days men
crazed with fear have surged about this portal in vain attempts to
solve its mystery."

I had no time to talk, I was becoming very weak and it was with
difficulty that I controlled my mind at all.

But, with a final effort, as I sank weakly to my knees I hurled the
nine thought waves at that awful thing before me. The Martian had
crawled to my side and with staring eyes fixed on the single panel
before us we waited in the silence of death.

Slowly the mighty door receded before us. I attempted to rise and
follow it but I was too weak.

"After it," I cried to my companion, "and if you reach the pump room
turn loose all the pumps. It is the only chance Barsoom has to exist
tomorrow!"

From where I lay I opened the second door, and then the third, and as I
saw the hope of Barsoom crawling weakly on hands and knees through the
last doorway I sank unconscious upon the ground.





Next: At The Arizona Cave

Previous: Through Carnage To Joy



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