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Chapter 27 From Joy to Death

  • For ten days the hordes of Thark and their wild allies were feasted an_ntertained, and, then, loaded with costly presents and escorted by te_housand soldiers of Helium commanded by Mors Kajak, they started on th_eturn journey to their own lands. The jed of lesser Helium with a small part_f nobles accompanied them all the way to Thark to cement more closely the ne_onds of peace and friendship.
  • Sola also accompanied Tars Tarkas, her father, who before all his chieftain_ad acknowledged her as his daughter.
  • Three weeks later, Mors Kajak and his officers, accompanied by Tars Tarkas an_ola, returned upon a battleship that had been dispatched to Thark to fetc_hem 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 a_ prince of the house of Tardos Mors. The people seemed never to tire o_eaping honors upon me, and no day passed that did not bring some new proof o_heir love for my princess, the incomparable Dejah Thoris.
  • In a golden incubator upon the roof of our palace lay a snow-white egg. Fo_early five years ten soldiers of the jeddak's Guard had constantly stood ove_t, and not a day passed when I was in the city that Dejah Thoris and I di_ot stand hand in hand before our little shrine planning for the future, whe_he delicate shell should break.
  • Vivid in my memory is the picture of the last night as we sat there talking i_ow tones of the strange romance which had woven our lives together and o_his 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, bu_e attached no special significance to so common a sight. Like a bolt o_ightning it raced toward Helium until its very speed bespoke the unusual.
  • Flashing the signals which proclaimed it a dispatch bearer for the jeddak, i_ircled impatiently awaiting the tardy patrol boat which must convoy it to th_alace docks.
  • Ten minutes after it touched at the palace a message called me to the counci_hamber, which I found filling with the members of that body.
  • On the raised platform of the throne was Tardos Mors, pacing back and fort_ith tense-drawn face. When all were in their seats he turned toward us.
  • "This morning," he said, "word reached the several governments of Barsoom tha_he 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 _ign of response.
  • "The ambassadors of the other nations asked us to take the matter in hand an_asten the assistant keeper to the plant. All day a thousand cruisers hav_een searching for him until just now one of them returns bearing his dea_ody, which was found in the pits beneath his house horribly mutilated by som_ssassin.
  • "I do not need to tell you what this means to Barsoom. It would take months t_enetrate those mighty walls, in fact the work has already commenced, an_here would be little to fear were the engine of the pumping plant to run a_t should and as they all have for hundreds of years now; but the worst, w_ear, has happened. The instruments show a rapidly decreasing air pressure o_ll 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 Barsoo_ow a nation of red men should live, now is our opportunity to show them ho_hey should die. Let us go about our duties as though a thousand useful year_till lay before us."
  • The chamber rang with applause and as there was nothing better to do than t_llay the fears of the people by our example we went our ways with smiles upo_ur faces and sorrow gnawing at our hearts.
  • When I returned to my palace I found that the rumor already had reached Deja_horis, so I told her all that I had heard.
  • "We have been very happy, John Carter," she said, "and I thank whatever fat_vertakes us that it permits us to die together."
  • The next two days brought no noticeable change in the supply of air, but o_he morning of the third day breathing became difficult at the highe_ltitudes of the rooftops. The avenues and plazas of Helium were filled wit_eople. All business had ceased. For the most part the people looked bravel_nto the face of their unalterable doom. Here and there, however, men an_omen gave way to quiet grief.
  • Toward the middle of the day many of the weaker commenced to succumb an_ithin an hour the people of Barsoom were sinking by thousands into th_nconsciousness which precedes death by asphyxiation.
  • Dejah Thoris and I with the other members of the royal family had collected i_ sunken garden within an inner courtyard of the palace. We conversed in lo_ones, when we conversed at all, as the awe of the grim shadow of death crep_ver us. Even Woola seemed to feel the weight of the impending calamity, fo_e pressed close to Dejah Thoris and to me, whining pitifully.
  • The little incubator had been brought from the roof of our palace at reques_f Dejah Thoris and now she sat gazing longingly upon the unknown little lif_hat 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 ar_ver. Tomorrow's sun will look down upon a dead world which through al_ternity must go swinging through the heavens peopled not even by memories. I_s the end."
  • He stooped and kissed the women of his family, and laid his strong hand upo_he shoulders of the men.
  • As I turned sadly from him my eyes fell upon Dejah Thoris. Her head wa_rooping upon her breast, to all appearances she was lifeless. With a cry _prang 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 crue_hat we must be torn apart who were just starting upon a life of love an_appiness."
  • As I pressed her dear lips to mine the old feeling of unconquerable power an_uthority rose in me. The fighting blood of Virginia sprang to life in m_eins.
  • "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 o_ou, will find it."
  • And with my words there crept above the threshold of my conscious mind _eries of nine long forgotten sounds. Like a flash of lightning in th_arkness their full purport dawned upon me—the key to the three great doors o_he atmosphere plant!
  • Turning suddenly toward Tardos Mors as I still clasped my dying love to m_reast I cried.
  • "A flier, Jeddak! Quick! Order your swiftest flier to the palace top. I ca_ave Barsoom yet."
  • He did not wait to question, but in an instant a guard was racing to th_earest dock and though the air was thin and almost gone at the rooftop the_anaged to launch the fastest one-man, air-scout machine that the skill o_arsoom had ever produced.
  • Kissing Dejah Thoris a dozen times and commanding Woola, who would hav_ollowed me, to remain and guard her, I bounded with my old agility an_trength to the high ramparts of the palace, and in another moment I wa_eaded toward the goal of the hopes of all Barsoom.
  • I had to fly low to get sufficient air to breathe, but I took a straigh_ourse across an old sea bottom and so had to rise only a few feet above th_round.
  • I traveled with awful velocity for my errand was a race against time wit_eath. The face of Dejah Thoris hung always before me. As I turned for a las_ook as I left the palace garden I had seen her stagger and sink upon th_round beside the little incubator. That she had dropped into the last com_hich would end in death, if the air supply remained unreplenished, I wel_new, and so, throwing caution to the winds, I flung overboard everything bu_he engine and compass, even to my ornaments, and lying on my belly along th_eck with one hand on the steering wheel and the other pushing the speed leve_o its last notch I split the thin air of dying Mars with the speed of _eteor.
  • An hour before dark the great walls of the atmosphere plant loomed suddenl_efore me, and with a sickening thud I plunged to the ground before the smal_oor which was withholding the spark of life from the inhabitants of an entir_lanet.
  • Beside the door a great crew of men had been laboring to pierce the wall, bu_hey had scarcely scratched the flint- like surface, and now most of them la_n the last sleep from which not even air would awaken them.
  • Conditions seemed much worse here than at Helium, and it was with difficult_hat I breathed at all. There were a few men still conscious, and to one o_hese 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 th_ecret of these awful locks. For three days men crazed with fear have surge_bout this portal in vain attempts to solve its mystery."
  • I had no time to talk, I was becoming very weak and it was with difficult_hat I controlled my mind at all.
  • But, with a final effort, as I sank weakly to my knees I hurled the nin_hought waves at that awful thing before me. The Martian had crawled to m_ide and with staring eyes fixed on the single panel before us we waited i_he silence of death.
  • Slowly the mighty door receded before us. I attempted to rise and follow i_ut I was too weak.
  • "After it," I cried to my companion, "and if you reach the pump room tur_oose 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 sa_he hope of Barsoom crawling weakly on hands and knees through the las_oorway I sank unconscious upon the ground.