Pirates of Venus
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Off For Mars
Rushing Toward Venus
To The House Of The King
The Girl In The Garden
By Kamlot's Grave
On Board The Sofal
Soldiers Of Liberty
IF A female figure in a white shroud enters your bedchamber at
midnight on the thirteenth day of this month, answer this letter
otherwise, do not."
Having read this far in the letter, I was about to consign it
to the wastebasket, where all my crank letters go; but for some
reason I read on, "If she speaks to you, please remember her
words and repeat them to me when you write." I might have
read on to the end; but at this juncture the telephone bell rang,
and I dropped the letter into one of the baskets on my desk. It
chanced to be the "out" basket; and had events followed
their ordinary course, this would have been the last of the
letter and the incident in so far as I was concerned, for from
the "out" basket the letter went to the files.
It was Jason Gridley on the telephone. He seemed excited and
asked me to come to his laboratory at once. As Jason is seldom
excited about anything, I hastened to accede to his request and
satisfy my curiosity. Jumping into my roadster, I soon covered
the few blocks that separate us, to learn that Jason had good
grounds for excitement He had just received a radio message from
the inner world, from Pellucidar.
On the eve of the departure of the great dirigible, O-220,
from the earth's core, following the successful termination of
that historic expedition, Jason had determined to remain and
search for von Horst, the only missing member of the party; but
Tarzan, David Innes, and Captain Zuppner had persuaded him of the
folly of such an undertaking, inasmuch as David had promised to
dispatch an expedition of his own native Pellucidarian warriors
to locate the young German lieutenant if he still lived and it
were possible to discover any clue to his whereabouts.
Notwithstanding this, and though he had returned to the outer
world with the ship, Jason had always been harassed by a sense of
responsibility for the fate of von Horst, a young man who had
been most popular with all the members of the expedition; and had
insisted time and time again that he regretted having left
Pellucidar until he had exhausted every means within his power of
rescuing von Horst or learned definitely that he was dead.
Jason waved me to a chair and offered me a cigarette.
"I've just had a message from Abner Perry," he
announced, "the first for months."
"It must have been interesting," I commented,
"to excite you."
"It was," he admitted. "A rumor has reached
Sari that von Horst has been found."
Now as this pertains to a subject entirely foreign to the
present volume, I might mention that I have alluded to it only
for the purpose of explaining two facts which, while not vital,
have some slight bearing on the remarkable sequence of events
which followed. First, it caused me to forget the letter I just
mentioned, and, second, it fixed the date in my mind--the tenth.
My principal reason for mentioning the first fact is to stress
the thought that the matter of the letter, so quickly and
absolutely forgotten, had no opportunity to impress itself upon
my mind and therefore could not, at least objectively, influence
my consideration of ensuing events. The letter was gone from my
mind within five minutes of its reading as completely as though
it had never been received.
The next three days were exceedingly busy ones for me, and
when I retired on the night of the thirteenth my mind was so
filled with the annoying details of a real estate transaction
that was going wrong, that it was some time before I could sleep.
I can truthfully affirm that my last thoughts were of trust
deeds, receivers in equity, and deficiency judgments.
What awoke me, I do not know. I sat up with a start just in
time to see a female figure, swathed in what appeared to be a
white winding sheet, enter my room through the door. You will
note that I say door rather than doorway, for such was the fact;
the door was closed. It was a clear, moonlit night; the various
homely objects in my room were plainly discernible, especially
the ghostly figure now hovering near the foot of my bed.
I am not subject to hallucinations, I had never seen a ghost,
I had never wished to, and I was totally ignorant of the ethics
governing such a situation. Even had the lady not been so
obviously supernatural, I should yet have been at a loss as to
how to receive her at this hour in the intimacy of my bedchamber,
for no strange lady had ever before invaded its privacy, and I am
of Puritan stock.
"It is midnight of the thirteenth," she said, in a
low, musical voice.
"So it is," I agreed, and then I recalled the letter
that I had received on the tenth.
"He left Guadalupe today," she continued; "he
will wait in Guaymas for your letter."
That was all. She crossed the room and passed out of it, not
through the window which was quite convenient, but through the
solid wall. I sat there for a full minute, staring at the spot
where I had last seen her and endeavoring to convince myself that
I was dreaming, but I was not dreaming; I was wide awake. In fact
I was so wide awake that it was fully an hour before I had
successfully wooed Morpheus, as the Victorian writers so neatly
expressed it, ignoring the fact that his sex must have made it
rather embarrassing for gentlemen writers.
I reached my office a little earlier than usual the following
morning, and it is needless to say that the first thing that I
did was to search for that letter which I had received on the
tenth. I could recall neither the name of the writer nor the
point of origin of the letter, but my secretary recalled the
latter, the letter having been sufficiently out of the ordinary
to attract his attention.
"It was from somewhere in Mexico," he said, and as
letters of this nature are filed by states and countries, there
was now no difficulty in locating it.
You may rest assured that this time I read the letter
carefully. It was dated the third and post marked Guaymas.
Guaymas is a seaport in Sonora, on the Gulf of California.
Here is the letter:
My dear Sir:
Being engaged in a venture of great scientific importance,
I find it necessary to solicit the assistance (not financial)
of some one psychologically harmonious, who is at the same
time of sufficient intelligence and culture to appreciate the
vast possibilities of my project.
Why I have addressed you I shall be glad to explain in the
happy event that a personal interview seems desirable. This
can only be ascertained by a test which I shall now explain.
If a female figure in a white shroud enters your
bedchamber at midnight on the thirteenth day of this month,
answer this letter; otherwise, do not. If she speaks to you,
please remember her words and repeat them to me when you
Assuring you of my appreciation of your earnest
consideration of this letter, which I realize is rather
unusual, and begging that you hold its contents in strictest
confidence until future events shall have warranted its
publication, I am, Sir,
Very respectfully yours,
"It looks to me like another nut," commented
"So it did to me on the tenth," I agreed; "but
today is the fourteenth, and now it looks like another
"What has the fourteenth got to do with it?" he
"Yesterday was the thirteenth," I reminded him.
"You don't mean to tell me--" he started,
"That is just what I do mean to tell you," I
interrupted. "The lady came, I saw, she conquered."
Ralph looked worried. "Don't forget what your nurse told
you after your last operation," he reminded me.
"Which nurse? I had nine, and no two of them told me the
"Jerry. She said that narcotics often affected a
patient's mind for months afterward." His tone was
"Well, at least Jerry admitted that I had a mind, which
some of the others didn't. Anyway, it didn't affect my eyesight;
I saw what I saw. Please take a letter to Mr. Napier." A few
days later I received a telegram from Napier dated Guaymas.
"LETTER RECEIVED STOP THANKS STOP SHALL CALL ON YOU
TOMORROW," it read.
"He must be flying," I commented.
"Or coming in a white shroud," suggested Ralph.
"I think I'll phone Captain Hodson to send a squad car
around here; sometimes these nuts are dangerous." He was
I must admit that we both awaited the arrival of Carson Napier
with equal interest. I think Ralph expected to see a wild-eyed
maniac. I could not visualize the man at all.
About eleven o'clock the following morning Ralph came into my
study. "Mr. Napier is here," he said.
"Does his hair grow straight out from his scalp, and do
the whites of his eyes show all around the irises?" I
"No," replied Ralph, returning the smile; "he
is a very fine looking man, but," he added, "I still
think he's a nut."
"Ask him to come in," and a moment later Ralph
ushered in an exceptionally handsome man whom I judged to be
somewhere between twenty-five and thirty years old, though he
might have been even younger.
He came forward with extended hand as I rose to greet him, a
smile lighting his face; and after the usual exchange of
banalities he came directly to the point of his visit.
"To get the whole picture clearly before you," We
commenced, "I shall have to tell you something about myself.
My father was a British army officer, my mother an American girl
from Virginia. I was born in India while my father was stationed
there, and brought up under the tutorage of an old Hindu who was
much attached to my father and mother. This Chand Kabi was
something of a mystic, and he taught me many things that are not
in the curriculums of schools for boys under ten. Among them was
telepathy, which he had cultivated to such a degree that he could
converse with one in psychological harmony with himself quite as
easily at great distances as when face to face. Not only that,
but he could project mental images to great distances, so that
the recipient of his thought waves could see what Chand Kabi was
seeing, or whatever else Chand Kabi wished him to see. These
things he taught me."
"And it was thus you caused me to see my midnight visitor
on the thirteenth ?" I inquired.
He nodded. "That test was necessary in order to ascertain
if we were in psychological harmony. Your letter, quoting the
exact words that I had caused the apparition to appear to speak,
convinced me that I had at last found the person for whom I have
been searching for some time.
"But to get on with my story. I hope I am not boring you,
but I feel that it is absolutely necessary that you should have
full knowledge of my antecedents and background in order that you
may decide.whether I am worthy of your confidence and assistance
or not." I assured him that I was far from being bored, and
"I was not quite eleven when my father died and my mother
brought me to America. We went to Virginia first and lived there
for three years with my mother's grandfather, Judge John Carson,
with whose name and reputation you are doubtless familiar, as who
"After the grand old man died, mother and I came to
California, where I attended public schools and later entered a
small college at Claremont, which is noted for its high
scholastic standing and the superior personnel of both its
faculty and student body.
"Shortly after my graduation the third and greatest
tragedy of my life occurred--my mother died. I was absolutely
stunned by this blow. Life seemed to hold no further interest for
me. I did not care to live, yet I would not take my own life. As
an alternative I embarked upon a life of recklessness. With a
certain goal in mind, I learned to fly. I changed my name and
became a stunt man in pictures.
"I did not have to work. Through my mother I had
inherited a considerable fortune from my great-grandfather, John
Carson; so great a fortune that only a spendthrift could squander
the income. I mention this only because the venture I am
undertaking requires considerable capital, and I wish you to know
that I am amply able to finance it without help.
"Not only did life in Hollywood bore me, but here in
Southern California were too many reminders of the loved one I
had lost. I determined to travel, and I did. I flew all over the
world. In Germany I became interested in rocket cars and financed
several. Here my idea was born. There was nothing original about
it except that I intended to carry it to a definite conclusion. I
would travel by rocket to another planet.
"My studies had convinced me that of all the planets Mars
alone offered presumptive evidence of habitability for creatures
similar to ourselves. I was at the same time convinced that if I
succeeded in reaching Mars the probability of my being able to
return to earth was remote. Feeling that I must have some reason
for embarking upon such a venture, other than selfishness, I
determined to seek out some one with whom I could communicate in
the event that I succeeded. Subsequently it occurred to me that
this might also afford the means for launching a second
expedition, equipped to make the return journey, for I had no
doubt but that there would be many adventurous spirits ready to
undertake such an excursion once I had proved it feasible.
"For over a year I have been engaged in the construction
of a gigantic rocket on Guadalupe Island, off the west coast of
Lower California. The Mexican government has given me every
assistance, and today everything is complete to the last detail.
I am ready to start at any moment."
As he ceased speaking, he suddenly faded from view. The chair
in which he had been sitting was empty. There was no one in the
room but myself. I was stunned, almost terrified. I recalled what
Rothmund had said about the effect of the narcotics upon my
mentality. I also recalled that insane people seldom realize that
they are insane. Was I insane? Cold sweat broke out upon
my forehead and the backs of my hands. I reached toward the
buzzer to summon Ralph. There is no question but that Ralph is
sane. If he had seen Carson Napier and shown him into my
study--what a relief that would be!
But before my finger touched the button Ralph entered the
room. There was a puzzled expression on his face. "Mr.
Napier is back again," he said, and then he added, "I
didn't know he had left. I just heard him talking to you."
I breathed a sigh of relief as I wiped the perspiration from
my face and hands; if I was crazy, so was Ralph. "Bring him
in," I said, "and this time you stay here."
When Napier entered there was a questioning look in his eyes.
"Do you fully grasp the situation as far as I have explained
it?" he asked, as though he had not been out of the room at
"Yes, but--" I started.
"Wait, please," he requested. "I know what you
are going to say, but let me apologize first and explain. I have
not been here before. That was my final test. If you are
confident that you saw me and talked to me and can recall what I
said to you as I sat outside in my car, then you and I can
communicate just as freely and easily when I am on Mars."
"But," interjected Rothmund, "you were
here. Didn't I shake hands with you when you came in, and talk to
"You thought you did," replied Napier.
"Who's loony now?" I inquired inelegantly, but to
this day Rothmund insists that we played a trick on him.
"How do you know he's here now, then?" he asked.
"I don't," I admitted.
"I am, this time," laughed Napier. "Let's see;
how far had I gotten?"
"You were saying that you were all ready to start, had
your rocket set up on Gaudalupe Island," I reminded him.
"Right! I see you got it all. Now, as briefly as
possible, I'll outline what I hope you will find it possible to
do for me. I have come to you for several reasons, the more
important of which are your interest in Mars, your profession
(the results of my experiment must be recorded by an experienced
writer), and your reputation for integrity--I have taken the
liberty of investigating you most thoroughly. I wish you to
record and publish the messages you receive from me and to
administer my estate during my absence."
"I shall be glad to do the former, but I hesitate to
accept the responsibility of the latter assignment," I
"I have already arranged a trust that will give you ample
protection," he replied in a manner that precluded further
argument. I saw that he was a young man who brooked no obstacles;
in fact I think he never admitted the existence of an obstacle.
"As for your remuneration," he continued, "you may
name your own figure."
I waved a deprecatory hand. "It will be a pleasure,"
I assured him.
"It may take a great deal of your time," interjected
Ralph, "and your time is valuable."
"Precisely," agreed Napier. "Mr. Rothmund and I
will, with your permission, arrange the financial details
"That suits me perfectly," I said, for I detest
business and everything connected with it.
"Now, to get back to the more important and far more
interesting phases of our discussion; what is your reaction to
the plan as a whole?"
"Mars is a long way from earth," I suggested;
"Venus is nine or ten million miles closer, and a million
miles are a million miles."
"Yes, and I would prefer going to Venus," he
replied. "Enveloped in clouds, its surface forever invisible
to man, it presents a mystery that intrigues the imagination; but
recent astronomical research suggests conditions there inimical
to the support of any such life as we know on earth. It has been
thought by some that, held in the grip of the Sun since the era
of her pristine fluidity, she always presents the same face to
him, as does the Moon to earth. If such is the case, the extreme
heat of one hemisphere and the extreme cold of the other would
"Even if the suggestion of Sir James Jeans is borne out
by fact, each of her days and nights is several times as long as
ours on earth, these long nights having a temperature of thirteen
degrees below zero, Fahrenheit, and the long days a
correspondingly high temperature."
"Yet even so, life might have adapted itself to such
conditions," I contended; "man exists in equatorial
heat and arctic cold."
"But not without oxygen," said Napier. "St.
John has estimated that the amount of oxygen above the cloud
envelope that surrounds Venus is less than one tenth of one per
cent of the terrestrial amount. After all, we have to bow to the
superior judgment of such men as Sir James Jeans, who says, 'The
evidence, for what it is worth, goes to suggest that Venus, the
only planet in the solar system outside Mars and the earth on
which life could possibly exist, possesses no vegetation and no
oxygen for higher forms of life to breathe,' which definitely
limits my planetary exploration to Mars."
We discussed his plans during the remainder of the day and
well into the night, and early the following morning he left for
Guadalupe Island in his Sikorsky amphibian. I have not seen him
since, at least in person, yet, through the marvellous medium of
telepathy, I have communicated with him continually and seen him
amid strange, unearthly surroundings that have been graphically
photographed upon the retina of my mind's eye. Thus I am the
medium through which the remarkable adventures of Carson Napier
are being recorded on earth; but I am only that, like a
typewriter or a dictaphone--the story that follows is his.
AS I set my ship down in the sheltered cove along the shore of
desolate Gaudalupe a trifle over four hours after I left Tarzana,
the little Mexican steamer I had chartered to transport my men,
materials, and supplies from the mainland rode peacefully at
anchor in the tiny harbor, while on the shore, waiting to welcome
me, were grouped the laborers, mechanics, and assistants who had
worked with such whole-hearted loyalty for long months in
preparation for this day. Towering head and shoulders above the
others loomed Jimmy Welsh, the only American among them.
I taxied in close to shore and moored the ship to a buoy,
while the men launched a dory and rowed out to get me. I had been
absent less than a week, most of which had been spent in Guaymas
awaiting the expected letter from Tarzana, but so exuberantly did
they greet me, one might have thought me a long-lost brother
returned from the dead, so dreary and desolate and isolated is
Guadalupe to those who must remain upon her lonely shores for
even a brief interval between contacts with the mainland.
Perhaps the warmth of their greeting may have been enhanced by
a desire to conceal their true feelings. We had been together
constantly for months, warm friendships had sprung up between us,
and tonight we were to separate with little likelihood that they
and I should ever meet again. This was to be my last day on
earth; after today I should be as dead to them as though three
feet of earth covered my inanimate corpse.
It is possible that my own sentiments colored my
interpretation of theirs, for I am frank to confess that I had
been apprehending this last moment as the most difficult of the
whole adventure. I have come in contact with the peoples of many
countries, but I recall none with more lovable qualities than
Mexicans who have not been contaminated by too close contact with
the intolerance and commercialism of Americans. And then there
was Jimmy Welsh. It was going to be like parting with a brother
when I said good-bye to him. For months he had been begging to go
with me; and I knew that he would continue to beg up to the last
minute, but I could not risk a single life unnecessarily.
We all piled into the trucks that we had used to transport
supplies and materials from the shore to the camp, which lay
inland a few miles, and bumped over our makeshift road to the
little table-land where the giant torpedo lay upon its mile long
"Everything is ready," said Jimmy. "We polished
off the last details this morning. Every roller on the track has
been inspected by at least a dozen men, we towed the old crate
back and forth over the full length of the track three times with
the truck, and then repacked all the rollers with grease. Three
of us have checked over every item of equipment and supplies
individually; we've done about everything but fire the rockets;
and now we're ready to go--you are going to take me
along, aren't you, Car?"
I shook my head. "Please don't, Jimmy," I begged;
"I have a perfect right to gamble with my own life, but not
with yours; so forget it. But I am going to do something for
you," I added, "just as a token of my appreciation of
the help you've given me and all that sort of rot. I'm going to
give you my ship to remember me by."
He was grateful, of course, but still he could not hide his
disappointment in not being allowed to accompany me, which was
evidenced by an invidious comparison he drew between the ceiling
of the Sikorsky and that of the old crate, as he had
affectionately dubbed the great torpedolike rocket that was to
bear me out into space in a few hours.
"A thirty-five million mile ceiling," he mourned
dolefully; "think of it! Mars for a ceiling!"
"And may I hit the ceiling!" I exclaimed, fervently.
The laying of the track upon which the torpedo was to take off
had been the subject of a year of calculation and consultation.
The day of departure had been planned far ahead and the exact
point at which Mars would rise above the eastern horizon on that
night calculated, as well as the time; then it was necessary to
make allowances for the rotation of the earth and the attraction
of the nearer heavenly bodies. The track was then laid in
accordance with these calculations. It was constructed with a
very slight drop in the first three quarters of a mile and then
rose gradually at an angle of two and one half degrees from
A speed of four and one half miles per second at the take-off
would be sufficient to neutralize gravity; to overcome it, I must
attain a speed of 6.93 miles per second. To allow a sufficient
factor of safety I had powered the torpedo to attain a speed of
seven miles per second at the end of the runway, which I purposed
stepping up to ten miles per second while passing through the
earth's atmosphere. What my speed would be through space was
problematical, but I based all my calculations on the theory that
it would not deviate much from the speed at which I left the
earth's atmosphere, until I came within the influence of the
gravitational pull of Mars.
The exact instant at which to make the start had also caused
me considerable anxiety. I had calculated it again and again, but
there were so many factors to be taken into consideration that I
had found it expedient to have my figures checked and rechecked
by a well-known physicist and an equally prominent astronomer.
Their deductions tallied perfectly with mine-- the torpedo must
start upon its journey toward Mars some time before the red
planet rose above the eastern horizon. The trajectory would be
along a constantly flattening arc, influenced considerably at
first by the earth's gravitational pull, which would decrease
inversely as the square of the distance attained. As the torpedo
left the earth's surface on a curved tangent, its departure must
be so nicely timed that when it eventually escaped the pull of
the earth its nose would be directed toward Mars.
On paper, these figures appeared most convincing; but, as the
moment approached for my departure, I must confess to a sudden
realization that they were based wholly upon theory, and I was
struck with the utter folly of my mad venture.
For a moment I was aghast. The enormous torpedo, with its
sixty tons, Iying there at the end of its mile long track, loomed
above me, the semblance of a gargantuan coffin--my coffin, in
which I was presently to be dashed to earth, or to the bottom of
the Pacific, or cast out into space to wander there to the end of
time. I was afraid. I admit it, but it was not so much the fear
of death as the effect of the sudden realization of the
stupendousness of the cosmic forces against which I had pitted my
puny powers that temporarily unnerved me.
Then Jimmy spoke to me. "Let's have a last look at things
inside the old crate before you shove off," he suggested,
and my nervousness and my apprehensions vanished beneath the
spell of his quiet tones and his matter-of-fact manner. I was
Together we inspected the cabin, where are located the
controls, a wide and comfortable berth, a table, a chair, writing
materials, and a well-stocked bookshelf. Behind the cabin is a
small galley and just behind the galley a storeroom containing
canned and dehydrated foods sufficient to last me a year. Back of
this is a small battery room containing storage batteries for
lighting, heating, and cooking, a dynamo, and a gas engine. The
extreme stern compartment is filled with rockets and the
intricate mechanical device by which they are fed to the firing
chambers by means of the controls in the cabin. Forward of the
main cabin is a large compartment in which are located the water
and oxygen tanks, as well as a quantity of odds and ends
necessary either to my safety or comfort.
Everything, it is needless to say, is fastened securely
against the sudden and terrific stress that must accompany the
take-off. Once out in space, I anticipate no sense of motion, but
the start is going to be rather jarring. To absorb, as much as
possible, the shock of the take-off, the rocket consists of two
torpedoes, a smaller torpedo within a larger one, the former
considerably shorter than the latter and consisting of several
sections, each one comprising one of the compartments I have
described. Between the inner and outer shells and between each
two compartments is installed a system of ingenious hydraulic
shock absorbers designed to more or less gradually overcome the
inertia of the inner torpedo during the take-off. I trust that it
In addition to these precautions against disaster at the
start, the chair in which I shall sit before the controls is not
only heavily overstuffed but is secured to a track or framework
that is equipped with shock absorbers. Furthermore, there are
means whereby I may strap myself securely into the chair before
I have neglected nothing essential to my safety, upon which
depends the success of my project.
Following our final inspection of the interior, Jimmy and I
clambered to the top of the torpedo for a last inspection of the
parachutes, which I hope will sufficiently retard the speed of
the rocket after it enters the atmosphere of Mars to permit me to
bail out with my own parachute in time to make a safe landing.
The main parachutes are in a series of compartments running the
full length of the top of the torpedo. To explain them more
clearly, I may say that they are a continuous series of batteries
of parachutes, each battery consisting of a number of parachutes
of increasing diameter from the uppermost, which is the smallest.
Each battery is in an individual compartment, and each
compartment is covered by a separate hatch that can be opened at
the will of the operator by controls in the cabin. Each parachute
is anchored to the torpedo by a separate cable. I expect about
one half of them to be torn loose while checking the speed of the
torpedo sufficiently to permit the others to hold and further
retard it to a point where I may safely open the doors and jump
with my own parachute and oxygen tank.
The moment for departure was approaching. Jimmy and I had
descended to the ground and the most difficult ordeal now faced
me--that of saying good-bye to these loyal friends and
co-workers. We did not say much, we were too filled with emotion,
and there was not a dry eye among us. Without exception none of
the Mexican laborers could understand why the nose of the torpedo
was not pointed straight up in the air if my intended destination
were Marte. Nothing could convince them that I would not
shoot out a short distance and make a graceful nose dive into the
Pacific--that is, if I started at all, which many of them
There was a handclasp all around, and then I mounted the
ladder leaning against the side of the torpedo and entered it. As
I closed the door of the outer shell, I saw my friends piling
into the trucks and pulling away, for I had given orders that no
one should be within a mile of the rocket when I took off,
fearing, as I did, the effect upon them of the terrific explosion
that must accompany the take-off. Securing the outer door with
its great vaultlike bolts, I closed the inner door and fastened
it; then I took my seat before the controls and buckled the
straps that held me to the chair.
I glanced at my watch. It lacked nine minutes of the zero
hour. In nine minutes I should be on my way out into the great
void, or in nine minutes I should be dead. If all did not go
well, the disaster would follow within a fraction of a split
second after I touched the first firing control.
Seven minutes! My throat felt dry and parched; I wanted a
drink of water, but there was no time.
Four minutes! Thirty-five million miles are a lot of miles,
yet I planned on spanning them in between forty and forty-five
Two minutes! I inspected the oxygen gauge and opened the valve
a trifle wider.
One minute! I thought of my mother and wondered if she were
way out there somewhere waiting for me.
Thirty seconds! My hand was on the control. Fifteen secondsl
Ten, five, four, three, two-- one!
I turned the pointer! There was a muffled roar. The torpedo
leaped forward. I was off!
I knew that the take-off was a success. I glanced through the
port at my side at the instant that the torpedo started, but so
terrific was its initial speed that I saw only a confused blur as
the landscape rushed past. I was thrilled and delighted by the
ease and perfection with which the take-off had been
accomplished, and I must admit that I was not a little surprised
by the almost negligible effects that were noticeable in the
cabin. I had had the sensation as of a giant hand pressing me
suddenly back against the upholstery of my chair but that had
passed almost at once, and now there was no sensation different
from that which one might experience sitting in an easy chair in
a comfortable drawing-room on terra firma.
There was no sensation of motion after the first few seconds
that were required to pass through the earth's atmosphere, and
now that I had done all that lay within my power to do. I could
only leave the rest to momentum, gravitation, and fate. Releasing
the straps that held me to the chair, I moved about the cabin to
look through the various ports, of which there were several in
the sides, keel, and top of the torpedo Space was a black void
dotted with countless points of light. The earth I could not see,
for it lay directly astern; far ahead was Mars. All seemed well.
I switched on the electric lights, and seating myself at the
table, made the first entries in the log; then I checked over
various computations of time and distances.
My calculations suggested that in about three hours from the
take-off the torpedo would be moving almost directly toward Mars;
and from time to time I took observations through the wide-angle
telescopic periscope that is mounted flush with the upper surface
of the torpedo's shell, but the results were not entirely
reassuring. In two hours Mars was dead ahead--the arc of the
trajectory was not flattening as it should. I became
apprehensive. What was wrong? Where had our careful computations
I left the periscope and gazed down through the main keel
port. Below and ahead was the Moon, a gorgeous spectacle as
viewed through the clear void of space from a distance some
seventy-two thousand miles less than I had ever seen it before
and with no earthly atmosphere to reduce visibility. Tycho,
Plato, and Copernicus stood out in bold relief upon the brazen
disc of the great satellite, deepening by contrast the shadows of
Mare Serenitatis and Mare Tranquilitatis. The rugged peaks of the
Apennine and the Altai lay revealed as distinctly as I had ever
seen them through the largest telescope. I was thrilled, but I
was distinctly worried, too.
Three hours later I was less than fifty-nine thousand miles
from the Moon; where its aspect had been gorgeous before, it now
beggared description, but my apprehension had cause to increase
in proportion; I might say, as the square of its increasing
gorgeousness. Through the periscope I had watched the arc of my
trajectory pass through the plane of Mars and drop below it. I
knew quite definitely then that I could never reach my goal. I
tried not to think of the fate that lay ahead of me; but,
instead, sought to discover the error that had wrought this
For an hour I checked over various calculations, but could
discover nothing that might shed light on the cause of my
predicament; then I switched off the lights and looked down
through the keel port to have a closer view of the Moon. It was
not there! Stepping to the port side of the cabin, I looked
through one of the heavy circular glasses out into the void of
space. For an instant I was horror stricken; apparently just off
the port bow loomed an enormous world. It was the Moon, less than
twenty-three thousand miles away, and I was hurtling toward it at
the rate of thirty-six thousand miles an hourl
I leaped to the periscope, and in the next few seconds I
accomplished some lightning mental calculating that must
constitute an all-time record. I watched the deflection of our
course in the direction of the Moon, following it across the lens
of the periscope, I computed the distance to the Moon and the
speed of the torpedo, and I came to the conclusion that I had
better than a fighting chance of missing the great orb. I had
little fear of anything but a direct hit, since our speed was so
great that the attraction of the Moon could not hold us if we
missed her even by a matter of feet; but it was quite evident
that it had affected our flight, and with this realization came
the answer to the question that had been puzzling me.
To my mind flashed the printer's story of the first perfect
book. It had been said that no book had ever before been
published containing not a single error. A great publishing house
undertook to publish such a book. The galley proofs were read and
reread by a dozen different experts, the page proofs received the
same careful scrutiny. At last the masterpiece was ready for the
press--errorlessl It was printed and bound and sent out to the
public, and then it was discovered that the title had been
misspelled on the title page. With all our careful calculation,
with all our checking and rechecking, we had overlooked the
obvious; we had not taken the Moon into consideration at all.
Explain it if you can; I cannot. It was just one of those
things, as people say when a good team loses to a poor one; it
was a break, and a bad one. How bad it was I did not
even try to conjecture at the time; I just sat at the periscope
watching the Moon racing toward us. As we neared it, it presented
the most gorgeous spectacle that I have ever witnessed. Each
mountain peak and crater stood out in vivid detail. Even the
great height of summits over twenty-five thousand feet appeared
distinguishable to me, though imagination must have played a
major part in the illusion, since I was looking down upon them
Suddenly I realized that the great sphere was passing rapidly
from the field of the periscope, and I breathed a sigh of
relief--we were not going to score a clean hit, we were going to
I returned then to the porthole. The Moon lay just ahead and a
little to the left. It was no longer a great sphere; it was a
world that filled my whole range of vision. Against its black
horizon I saw titanic peaks; below me huge craters yawned. I
stood with God on high and looked down upon a dead world.
Our transit of the Moon required a little less than four
minutes; I timed it carefully that I might check our speed. How
close we came I may only guess; perhaps five thousand feet above
the tallest peaks, but it was close enough. The pull of the
Moon's gravitation had definitely altered our course, but owing
to our speed we had eluded her clutches. Now we were racing away
from her, but to what?
The nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is twenty-five and a half
million million miles from earth. Write that on your
typewriter--25,500,000,000,000 miles. But why trifle with short
distances like this? There was little likelihood that I should
visit Alpha Centauri with all the wide range of space at my
command and many more interesting places to go. I knew that I had
ample room in which to wander, since science has calculated the
diameter of space to be eighty-four thousand million light years,
which, when one reflects that light travels at the rate of one
hundred eighty-six thousand miles a second, should satisfy the
wanderlust of the most inveterate roamer.
However, l was not greatly concerned with any of these
distances, as I had food and water for only a year, during which
time the torpedo might travel slightly more than three hundred
fifteen million miles. Even if it reached our near neighbor,
Alpha Centauri, I should not then be greatly interested in the
event, as I should have been dead for over eighty thousand years.
Such is the immensity of the universel
During the next twenty-four hours the course of the torpedo
nearly paralleled the Moon's orbit around the earth. Not only had
the pull of the Moon deflected its course, but now it seemed
evident that the earth had seized us and that we were doomed to
race through eternity around her, a tiny, second satellite. But I
did not wish to be a moon, certainly not an insignificant moon
that in all probability might not be picked up by even the
The next month was the most trying of my life. It seems the
height of egotism even to mention my life in the face of the
stupendous cosmic forces that engulfed it; but it was the only
life I had and I was fond of it, and the more imminent seemed the
moment when it should be snuffed out, the better I liked it.
At the end of the second day it was quite apparent that we had
eluded the grip of the earth. I cannot say that I was elated at
the discovery. My plan to visit Mars was ruined. I should have
been glad to return to earth. If I could have landed safely on
Mars, I certainly could have landed safely on earth. But there
was another reason why I should have been glad to have returned
to earth, a reason that loomed, large and terrible, ahead--the
Sun. We were heading straight for the Sun now. Once in the grip
of that mighty power, nothing could affect our destiny; we were
doomed. For three months I must await the inevitable end, before
plunging into that fiery furnace. Furnace is an inadequate word
by which to suggest the Sun's heat, which is reputedly from
thirty to sixty million degrees at the center, a fact which
should not have concerned me greatly, since I did not anticipate
reaching the center.
The days dragged on, or, I should say, the long night--there
were no days, other than the record that I kept of the passing
hours. I read a great deal. I made no entries in the log. Why
write something that was presently to be plunged into the Sun and
consumed? I experimented in the galley, attempting fancy cooking.
I ate a great deal; it helped to pass the time away, and I
enjoyed my meals.
On the thirtieth day I was scanning space ahead when I saw a
gorgeous, shimmering crescent far to the right of our course; but
I must confess that I was not greatly interested in sights of any
sort. In sixty days I should be in the Sun. Long before that,
however, the increasing heat would have destroyed me. The end was
Chapter 3 - Rushing Toward Venus
THE psychological effects of an experience such as that
through which I had been passing must be considerable, and even
though they could be neither weighed nor measured, I was yet
conscious of changes that had taken place in me because of them.
For thirty days I had been racing alone through space toward
absolute annihilation, toward an end that would probably not
leave a single nucleus of the atoms that compose me an electron
to carry on with, I had experienced the ultimate in solitude, and
the result had been to deaden my sensibilities; doubtless a wise
provision of nature.
Even the realization that the splendid crescent, looming
enormously off the starboard bow of the torpedo, was Venus failed
to excite me greatly. What if I were to approach Venus more
closely than any other human being of all time! It meant nothing.
Were I to see God, himself, even that would mean nothing. It
became apparent that the value of what we see is measurable only
by the size of our prospective audience. Whatever I saw, who
might never have an audience, was without value.
Nevertheless, more to pass away the time than because I was
particularly interested in the subject, I began to make some
rough calculations. These indicated that I was about eight
hundred sixty-five thousand miles from the orbit of Venus and
that I should cross it in about twenty-four hours. I could not,
however, compute my present distance from the planet accurately.
I only knew that it appeared very close. When I say close, I mean
relatively. The earth was some twenty-five million miles away,
the Sun about sixty-eight million, so that an object as large as
Venus, at a distance of one or two million miles, appeared close.
As Venus travels in her orbit at the rate of nearly twenty-two
miles per second, or over one million six hundred thousand miles
in a terrestrial day, it appeared evident to me that she would
cross my path some time within the next twenty-four hours.
It occurred to me that, passing closely, as was unavoidable,
she might deflect the course of the torpedo and save me from the
Sun; but I knew this to be a vain hope. Undoubtedly, the path of
the torpedo would be bent, but the Sun would not relinquish his
prey. With these thoughts, my apathy returned, and I lost
interest in Venus.
Selecting a book, I lay down on my bed to read. The interior
of the cabin was brightly illuminated. I am extravagant with
electricity. I have the means of generating it for eleven more
months; but I shall not need it after a few weeks, so why should
I be parsimonious?
I read for a few hours, but as reading in bed always makes me
sleepy, I eventually succumbed. When I awoke, I lay for a few
minutes in luxurious ease. I might be racing toward extinction at
the rate of thirty-six thousand miles an hour, but I, myself, was
unhurried. I recalled the beautiful spectacle that Venus had
presented when I had last observed her and decided to have
another look at her. Stretching languorously, I arose and stepped
to one of the starboard portholes.
The picture framed by the casing of that circular opening was
gorgeous beyond description. Apparently less than half as far
away as before, and twice as large, loomed the mass of Venus
outlined by an aureole of light where the Sun, behind her,
illuminated her cloudy envelope and lighted to burning brilliance
a thin crescent along the edge nearest me.
I looked at my watch. Twelve hours had passed since I first
discovered the planet, and now, at last, I became excited. Venus
was apparently half as far away as it had been twelve hours ago,
and I knew that the torpedo had covered half the distance that
had separated us from her orbit at that time. A collision was
possible, it even seemed within the range of probability that I
should be dashed to the surface of this inhospitable, lifeless
Well, what of it? Am I not already doomed? What difference can
it make to me if the end comes a few weeks sooner than I had
anticipated? Yet I was excited. I cannot say that I felt fear. I
have no fear of death--that left me when my mother died; but now
that the great adventure loomed so close I was overwhelmed by
contemplation of it and the great wonder that it induced. What
The long hours dragged on. It seemed incredible to me,
accustomed though I am to thinking in units of terrific speed,
that the torpedo and Venus were racing toward the same point in
her orbit at such inconceivable velocities, the one at the rate
of thirty-six thousand miles per hour, the other at over
It was now becoming difficult to view the planet through the
side port, as she moved steadily closer and closer to our path. I
went to the periscope--she was gliding majestically within its
range. I knew that at that moment the torpedo was less than
thirty-six thousand miles, less than an hour, from the path of
the planet's orbit, and there could be no doubt now but that she
had already seized us in her grasp. We were destined to make a
deaf hit. Even under the circumstances I could not restrain a
smile at the thought of the marksmanship that this fact revealed.
I had aimed at Mars and was about to hit Venus; unquestionably
the all-time cosmic record for poor shots.
Even though I did not shrink from death, even though the
world's best astronomers have assured us that Venus must be
unfitted to support human life, that where her surface is not
unutterably hot it is unutterably cold, even though she be
oxygenless, as they aver, yet the urge to live that is born with
each of us compelled me to make the same preparations to land
that I should have had I successfully reached my original goal,
Slipping into a fleece-lined suit of coveralls, I donned
goggles and a fleece-lined helmet; then I adjusted the oxygen
tank that was designed to hang in front of me, lest it foul the
parachute, and which can be automatically jettisoned in the event
that I reach an atmosphere that will support life, for it would
be an awkward and dangerous appendage to be cumbered with while
landing. Finally, I adjusted my chute.
I glanced at my watch. If my calculations have been correct,
we should strike in about fifteen minutes. Once more I returned
to the periscope.
The sight that met my eyes was awe inspiring. We were plunging
toward a billowing mass of black clouds. It was like chaos on the
dawn of creation. The gravitation of the planet had seized us.
The floor of the cabin was no longer beneath me--I was standing
on the forward bulkhead now; but this condition I had anticipated
when I designed the torpedo. We were diving nose on toward the
planet. In space there had been neither up nor down, but now
there was a very definite down.
From where I stood I could reach the controls, and beside me
was the door in the side of the torpedo. I released three
batteries of parachutes and opened the door in the wall of the
inner torpedo. There was a noticeable jar, as though the
parachutes had opened and temporarily checked the speed of the
torpedo. This must mean that I had entered an atmosphere of some
description and that there was not a second to waste.
With a single movement of a lever I loosed the remaining
parachutes; then I turned to the outer door. Its bolts were
controlled by a large wheel set in the center of the door and
were geared to open quickly and with ease. I adjusted the
mouthpiece of the oxygen line across my lips and quickly spun the
Simultaneously the door flew open and the air pressure within
the torpedo shot me out into space. My right hand grasped the rip
cord of my chute; but I waited. I looked about for the torpedo.
It was racing almost parallel with me, all its parachutes
distended above it. Just an instant's glimpse I had of it, and
then it dove into the cloud mass and was lost to view; but what a
weirdly magnificent spectacle it had presented in that brief
Safe now from any danger of fouling with the torpedo, I jerked
the rip cord of my parachute just as the clouds swallowed me.
Through my fleece-lined suit I felt the bitter cold; like a dash
of ice water the cold clouds slapped me in the face; then, to my
relief, the chute opened, and I fell more slowly.
Down, down, down I dropped. I could not even guess the
duration, nor the distance. It was very dark and very wet, like
sinking into the depths of the ocean without feeling the pressure
of the water. My thoughts during those long moments were such as
to baffle description. Perhaps the oxygen made me a little drunk;
I do not know. I felt exhilarated and intensely eager to solve
the great mystery beneath me. The thought that I was about to die
did not concern me so much as what I might see before I died. I
was about to land on Venus--the first human being in all the
world to see the face of the veiled planet.
Suddenly I emerged into a cloudless space; but far below me
were what appeared in the darkness to be more clouds, recalling
to my mind the often advanced theory of the two cloud envelopes
of Venus. As I descended, the temperature rose gradually, but it
was still cold.
As I entered the second cloud bank, there was a very
noticeable rise in temperature the farther I fell. I shut off the
oxygen supply and tried breathing through my nose. By inhaling
deeply I discovered that I could take in sufficient oxygen to
support life, and an astronomical theory was shattered. Hope
flared within me like a beacon on a fog-hid landing field.
As I floated gently downward, I presently became aware of a
faint luminosity far below. What could it be? There were many
obvious reasons why it could not be sunlight; sunlight would not
come from below, and, furthermore, it was night on this
hemisphere of the planet. Naturally many weird conjectures raced
through my mind. I wondered if this could be the light from an
incandescent world, but immediately discarded that explanation as
erroneous, knowing that the heat from an incandescent world would
long since have consumed me. Then it occurred to me that it might
be refracted light from that portion of the cloud envelope
illuminated by the Sun, yet if such were the case, it seemed
obvious that the clouds about me should be luminous, which they
There seemed only one practical solution. It was the solution
that an earth man would naturally arrive at. Being what I am, a
highly civilized creature from a world already far advanced by
science and invention, I attributed the source of this light to
these twin forces of superior intelligence. I could only account
for that faint glow by attributing it to the reflection upon the
under side of the cloud mass of artificial light produced by
intelligent creatures upon the surface of this world toward which
I was slowly settling.
I wondered what these beings would be like, and if my
excitement grew as I anticipated the wonders that were soon to be
revealed to my eyes, I believe that it was a pardonable
excitement, under the circumstances. Upon the threshold of such
an adventure who would not have been moved to excitement by
contemplation of the experiences awaiting him?
Now I removed the mouthpiece of the oxygen tube entirely and
found that I could breathe easily. The light beneath me was
increasing gradually. About me I thought I saw vague, dark shapes
among the cloud masses. Shadows, perhaps, but of what? I detached
the oxygen tank and let it fall. I distinctly heard it strike
something an instant after I had released it. Then a shadow
loomed darkly beneath me, and an instant later my feet struck
something that gave beneath them.
I dropped into a mass of foliage and grasped wildly for
support. A moment later I began to fall more rapidly and guessed
what had happened; the parachute had been uptilted by contact
with the foliage. I clutched at leaves and branches, fruitlessly,
and then I was brought to a sudden stop; evidently the chute had
fouled something. I hoped that it would hold until I found a
secure resting place.
As I groped about in the dark, my hand finally located a
sturdy branch, and a moment later I was astride it, my back to
the bole of a large tree--another theory gone the ignoble path of
countless predecessors; it was evident that there was vegetation
on Venus. At least there was one tree; I could vouch for that, as
I was sitting in it, and doubtless the black shadows I had passed
were other, taller trees.
Having found secure lodgment, I divested myself of my
parachute after salvaging some of its ropes and the straps from
the harness, which I thought I might find helpful in descending
the tree. Starting at the top of a tree, in darkness and among
clouds, one may not be positive what the tree is like nearer the
ground. I also removed my goggles. Then I commenced to descend.
The girth of the tree was enormous, but the branches grew
sufficiently close together to permit me to find safe footing.
I did not know how far I had fallen through the second cloud
stratum before I lodged in the tree nor how far I had descended
the tree, but all together it must have been close to two
thousand feet; yet I was still in the clouds. Could the entire
atmosphere of Venus be forever fog laden? I hoped not, for it was
a dreary prospect.
The light from below had increased a little as I descended,
but not much; it was still dark about me. I continued to descend.
It was tiresome work and not without danger, this climbing down
an unfamiliar tree in a fog, at night, toward an unknown world.
But I could not remain where I was, and there was nothing above
to entice me upward; so I continued to descend.
What a strange trick fate had played me. ] had wanted to visit
Venus, but had discarded the idea when assured by my astronomer
friends that the planet could not support either animal or
vegetable life. I had started for Mars, and now, fully ten days
before I had hoped to reach the red planet, I was on Venus,
breathing perfectly good air among the branches of a tree that
evidently dwarfed the giant Sequoias.
The illumination was increasing rapidly now the clouds were
thinning; through breaks I caught glimpses far below, glimpses of
what appeared to be an endless vista of foliage, softly
moonlit--but Venus had no moon. In that, insofar as the seeming
moonlight was concerned, I could fully concur with the
astronomers. This illumination came from no moon, unless Venus's
satellite lay beneath her inner envelope of clouds, which was
A moment later I emerged entirely from the cloud bank, but
though I searched in all directions, I saw nothing but foliage,
above, around, below me, yet I could see far down into that abyss
of leaves. In the soft light I could not determine the color of
the foliage, but I was sure that it was not green; it was some
light, delicate shade of another color.
I had descended another thousand feet since I had emerged from
the clouds, and I was pretty well exhausted (the month of
inactivity and overeating had softened me), when I saw just below
me what appeared to be a causeway leading from the tree I was
descending to another adjacent. I also discovered that from just
below where I clung the limbs had been cut away from the tree to
a point below the causeway. Here were two startling and
unequivocal evidences of the presence of intelligent beings.
Venus was inhabited! But by what? What strange, arboreal
creatures built causeways high among these giant trees? Were they
a species of monkey-man? Were they of a high or low order of
intelligence? How would they receive me?
At this juncture in my vain speculations I was startled by a
noise above me. Something was moving in the branches overhead.
The sound was coming nearer, and it seemed to me that it was
being made by something of considerable size and weight, but
perhaps, I realized, that conjecture was the child of my
imagination. However, I felt most uncomfortable. I was unarmed. I
have never carried weapons. My friends had urged a perfect
arsenal upon me before I embarked upon my adventure, but I had
argued that if I arrived on Mars unarmed it would be prima
facie evidence of my friendly intentions, and even if my
reception were warlike, I should be no worse off, since I could
not hope, single-handed, to conquer a world, no matter how well
armed I were.
Suddenly, above me, to the crashing of some heavy body through
the foliage were added hideous screams and snarls; and in the
terrifying dissonance I recognized the presence of more than a
single creature. Was I being pursued by all the fearsome denizens
of this Venusan forest!
Perhaps my nerves were slightly unstrung and who may blame
them if they were, after what I had passed through so recently
and during the long, preceding months They were not entirely
shattered, however, and I could still appreciate the fact that
night noises often multiply themselves in a most disconcerting
way. I have heard coyotes yapping and screaming around my camp on
Arizona nights when, but for the actual knowledge that there were
but one or two of them, I could have sworn that there were a
hundred, had I trusted only to my sense of hearing.
But in this instance I was quite positive that the voices of
more than a single beast were mingling to produce the horrid din
that, together with the sound of their passage, was definitely
and unquestionably drawing rapidly nearer me. Of course I did not
know that the owners of those awesome voices were pursuing me,
though a still, small voice within seemed to be assuring me that
such was the fact.
I wished that I might reach the causeway below me (I should
feel better standing squarely on two feet), but it was too far to
drop and there were no more friendly branches to give me support;
then I thought of the ropes I had salvaged from the abandoned
parachute. Quickly uncoiling them from about my waist, I looped
one of them over the branch upon which I sat, grasped both
strands firmly in my hands, and prepared to swing from my porch.
Suddenly the screams and snarling growls ceased; and then, close
above me now, I heard the noise of something descending toward me
and saw the branches shaking to its weight.
Lowering my body from the branch, I swung downward and slid
the fifteen or more feet to the causeway, and as I alighted the
silence of the great forest was again shattered by a hideous
scream just above my head. Looking up quickly, I saw a creature
launching itself toward me and just beyond it a snarling face of
utter hideousness. I caught but the briefest glimpse of it--just
enough to see that it was a face, with eyes and a mouth--then it
was withdrawn amidst the foliage.
Perhaps I only sensed that hideous vision subconsciously at
the time, for the whole scene was but a flash upon the retina of
my eye, and the other beast was in mid-air above me at the
instant; but it remained indelibly impressed upon my memory, and
I was to recall it upon a later day under circumstances so
harrowing that the mind of mortal earth man may scarce conceive
As I leaped back to avoid the creature springing upon me, I
still clung to one strand of the rope down which I had lowered
myself to the causeway. My grasp upon the rope was unconscious
and purely mechanical; it was in my hand, and my fist was
clenched; and as I leaped away, I dragged the rope with me. A
fortuitous circumstance, no doubt, but a most fortunate one.
The creature missed me, alighting on all fours a few feet from
me, and there it crouched, apparently slightly bewildered, and,
fortunately for me, it did not immediately charge, giving me the
opportunity to collect my wits and back slowly away, at the same
time mechanically coiling the rope in my right hand. The little,
simple things one does in moments of stress or excitement often
seem entirely beyond reason and incapable of explanation; but I
have thought that they may be dictated by a subconscious mind
reacting to the urge of selfpreservation. Possibly they are not
always well directed and may as often fail to be of service as
not, but then it may be possible that subconscious minds are no
less fallible than the objective mind, which is wrong far more
often than it is right. I cannot but seek for some explanation of
the urge that caused me to retain that rope, since, all unknown
to me, it was to be the slender thread upon which my life was to
Silence had again descended upon the weird scene. Since the
final scream of the hideous creature that had retreated into the
foliage after this thing had leaped for me, there had been no
sound. The creature that crouched facing me seemed slightly
bewildered. I am positive now that it had not been pursuing me,
but that it itself had been the object of pursuit by the other
beast that had retreated.
In the dim half-light of the Venusan night I saw confronting
me a creature that might be conjured only in the half-delirium of
some horrid nightmare. It was about as large as a fullgrown puma,
and stood upon four handlike feet that suggested that it might be
almost wholly arboreal. The front legs were much longer than the
hind, suggesting, in this respect, the hyena; but here the
similarity ceased, for the creature's furry pelt was striped
longitudinally with alternate bands of red and yellow, and its
hideous head bore no resemblance to any earthly animal. No
external ears were visible, and in the low forehead was a single
large, round eye at the end of a thick antenna about four inches
long. The jaws were powerful and armed with long, sharp fangs,
while from either side of the neck projected a powerful chela.
Never have I seen a creature so fearsomely armed for offense as
was this nameless beast of another world. With those powerful
crablike pincers it could easily have held an opponent far
stronger than a man and dragged it to those terrible jaws.
For a time it eyed me with that single, terrifying eye that
moved to and fro at the end of its antenna, and all the time its
chelae were waving slowly, opening and closing. In that brief
moment of delay I looked about me, and the first thing that I
discovered was that I stood directly in front of an opening cut
in the bole of the tree; an opening about three feet wide and
over six feet high. But the most remarkable thing about it was
that it was closed by a door; not a solid door, but one
suggesting a massive wooden grill.
As I stood contemplating it and wondering what to do, I
thought that I saw something moving behind it. Then a voice spoke
to me out of the darkness beyond the door. It sounded like a
human voice, though it spoke in a language that I could not
understand. The tones were peremptory. I could almost imagine
that it said, "Who are you, and what do you want here in the
middle of the night?"
"I am a stranger," I said. "I come in peace and
Of course I knew that whatever it was behind that door, it
could not understand me; but I hoped that my tone would assure it
of my peaceful designs. There was a moment's silence and then I
heard other voices. Evidently the situation was being discussed;
then I saw that the creature facing me upon the causeway was
creeping toward me, and I turned my attention from the doorway to
I had no weapons, nothing but a length of futile rope; but I
knew that I must do something. I could not stand there supinely
and let the creature seize and devour me without striking a blow
in my own defense. I uncoiled a portion of the rope and, more in
despair than with any hope that I could accomplish anything of a
defensive nature, flicked the end of it in the face of the
advancing beast. You have seen a boy snap a wet towel at a
companion; perhaps you have been flicked in that way, and if you
have, you know that it hurts.
Of course I did not expect to overcome my adversary by any
such means as this; to be truthful, I did not know what I did
expect to accomplish Perhaps I just felt that I must do
something, and this was the only thing that occurred to me. The
result merely demonstrated the efficiency of that single eye and
the quickness of the chelae. I snapped that rope as a ringmaster
snaps a whip; but though the rope end travelled with great speed
and the act must have been unexpected, the creature caught the
rope in one of its chelae before it reached its face. Then it
hung on and sought to drag me toward those frightful jaws.
I learned many a trick of roping from a cowboy friend of my
motion picture days, and one of these I now put into use in an
endeavor to entangle the crablike chelae Suddenly giving the rope
sufficient slack, I threw a half hitch around the chela that
gripped it, immediately following it with a second, whereupon the
creature commenced to pull desperately away. I think it was
motivated solely by an instinctive urge to pull toward its jaws
anything that was held in its chelae; but for how long it would
continue to pull away before it decided to change its tactics and
charge me, I could not even guess; and so I acted upon a sudden
inspiration and hurriedly made fast the end of the rope that I
held to one of the stout posts that supported the handrail of the
causeway; then, of a sudden, the thing charged me, roaring
I turned and ran, hoping that I could get out of the reach of
those terrible chelae before the creature was stopped by the
rope; and this I but barely managed to do. I breathed a sigh of
relief as I saw the great body flipped completely over on its
back as the rope tautened, but the hideous scream of rage that
followed left me cold. Nor was my relief of any great duration,
for as soon as the creature had scrambled to its feet, it seized
the rope in its other chela and severed it as neatly as one might
with a pair of monstrous tinner's snips; and then it was after me
again, but this time it did not creep.
It seemed evident that my stay upon Venus was to be brief,
when suddenly the door in the tree swung open and three men
leaped to the causeway just behind the charging terror that was
swiftly driving down upon me. The leading man hurled a short,
heavy spear that sank deep into the back of my infuriated
pursuer. Instantly the creature stopped in its tracks and wheeled
about to face these new and more dangerous tormentors; and as he
did so two more spears, hurled by the companions of the first
man, drove into his chest, and with a last frightful scream, the
thing dropped in its tracks, dead.
Then the leading man came toward me. In the subdued light of
the forest he appeared no different from an earth man. He held
the point of a straight, sharp sword pointed at my vitals. Close
behind him were the other two men, each with a drawn sword.
The first man spoke to me in a stern, commanding voice, but I
shook my head to indicate that I could not understand; then he
pressed the point of his weapon against my coveralls opposite the
pit of my stomach, and jabbed. I backed away. He advanced and
jabbed at me again, and again I backed along the causeway. Now
the other two men advanced and the three of them fell to
examining me, meanwhile talking among themselves.
I could see them better now. They were about my own height and
in every detail of their visible anatomy they appeared identical
with terrestrial human beings, nor was a great deal left to my
imagination--the men were almost naked. They wore loincloths and
little else other than the belts that supported the scabbards of
their swords. Their skins appeared to be much darker than mine,
but not so dark as a negro's, and their faces were smooth and
Several times one or another of them addressed me and I always
replied, but neither understood what the other said. Finally,
after a lengthy discussion, one of them reentered the opening in
the tree and a moment later I saw the interior of a chamber, just
within the doorway, illuminated; then one of the two remaining
men motioned me forward and pointed toward the doorway.
Understanding that he wished me to enter, I stepped forward,
and, as I passed them, they kept their sword points against my
body-- they were taking no chances with me. The other man awaited
me in the center of a large room hewn from the interior of the
great tree. Beyond him were other doorways leading from this
room, doubtless into other apartments. There were chairs and a
table in the room; the walls were carved and painted; there was a
large rug upon the floor; from a small vessel depending from the
center of the ceiling a soft light illuminated the interior as
brightly as might sunlight flooding through an open window, but
there was no glare.
The other men had entered and closed the door, which they
fastened by a device that was not apparent to me at the time;
then one of them pointed to a chair and motioned me to be seated.
Under the bright light they examined me intently, and I them. My
clothing appeared to puzzle them most; they examined and
discussed its material, texture, and weave, if I could judge
correctly by their gestures and inflections.
Finding the heat unendurable in my fleecelined coveralls, I
removed them and my leather coat and polo shirt. Each newly
revealed article aroused their curiosity and comment. My light
skin and blond hair also received their speculative attention.
Presently one of them left the chamber, and while he was
absent another removed the various articles that had lain upon
the table. These consisted of what I took to be books bound in
wooden and in leather covers, several ornaments, and a dagger in
a beautifully wrought sheath.
When the man who had left the room returned, he brought food
and drink which he placed upon the table; and by signs the three
indicated that I might eat. There were fruits and nuts in highly
polished, carved wooden bowls; there was something I took to be
bread, on a golden platter; and there was honey in a silver jug.
A tall, slender goblet contained a whitish liquid that resembled
milk. This last receptacle was a delicate, translucent ceramic of
an exquisite blue shade. These things and the appointments of the
room bespoke culture, refinement, and good taste, making the
savage apparel of their owners appear incongruous.
The fruits and nuts were unlike any with which I was familiar,
both in appearance and flavor; the bread was coarse but
delicious; and the honey, if such it were, suggested candied
violets to the taste. The milk (I can find no other earthly word
to describe it) was strong and almost pungent, yet far from
unpleasant. I imagined at the time that one might grow to be
quite fond of it.
The table utensils were similar to those with which we are
familiar in civilized portions of the earth; there were hollowed
instruments with which to dip or scoop, sharp ones with which to
cut, and others with tines with which to impale. There was also a
handled pusher, which I recommend to earthly hostesses. All these
were of metal.
While I ate, the three men conversed earnestly, one or another
of them occasionally offering me more food. They seemed
hospitable and courteous, and I felt that if they were typical of
the inhabitants of Venus I should find my life here a pleasant
one. That it would not be a bed of roses, however, was attested
by the weapons that the men constantly wore; one does not carry a
sword and a dagger about with him unless he expects to have
occasion to use them, except on dress parade.
When I had finished my meal, two of the men escorted me from
the room by a rear doorway, up a flight of circular stairs, and
ushered me into a small chamber. The stairway and corridor were
illuminated by a small lamp similar to that which hung in the
room where I had eaten, and light from this lamp shone through
the heavy wooden grating of the door, into the room where I was
now locked and where my captors left me to my own devices.
Upon the floor was a soft mattress over which were spread
coverings of a silky texture. It being very warm, I removed all
of my clothing except my undershorts and lay down to sleep. I was
tired after my arduous descent of the giant tree and dozed almost
immediately. I should have been asleep at once had I not been
suddenly startled to wakefulness by a repetition of that hideous
scream with which the beast that had pursued me through the tree
had announced its rage and chagrin when I had eluded it.
However, it was not long before I fell asleep, my dozing mind
filled with a chaos of fragmentary recollections of my stupendous
Chapter 4 - To The House Of The King
WHEN I awoke, it was quite light in the room, and through a
window I saw the foliage of trees, lavender and heliotrope and
violet in the light of a new day. I arose and went to the window.
I saw no sign of sunlight, yet a brightness equivalent to
sunlight pervaded everything. The air was warm and sultry. Below
me I could see sections of various causeways extending from tree
to tree. On some of these I caught glimpses of people. All the
men were naked, except for loincloths, nor did I wonder at their
scant apparel, in the light of my experience of the temperatures
on Venus. There were both men and women; and all the men were
armed with swords and daggers, while the women carried daggers
only. All those whom I saw seemed to be of the same age; there
were neither children nor old people among them. All appeared
From my barred window I sought a glimpse of the ground, but as
far down as I could see there was only the amazing foliage of the
trees, lavender, heliotrope, and violet. And what trees! From my
window I could see several enormous boles fully two hundred feet
in diameter. I had thought the tree I descended a giant, but
compared with these, it was only a sapling.
As I stood contemplating the scene before me, there was a
noise at the door behind me. Turning, I saw one of my captors
entering the room. He greeted me with a few words, which I could
not understand, and a pleasant smile, that I could. I returned
his smile and said, "Good morning!"
He beckoned to me to follow him from the room, but I made
signs indicating that I wished to don my clothes first. I knew I
should be hot and uncomfortable in them; I was aware that no one
I had seen here wore any clothing, yet so powerful are the
inhibitions of custom and habit that I shrank from doing the
sensible thing and wearing only my undershorts.
At first, when he realized what I wished to do, he motioned me
to leave my clothes where they were and come with him as I was;
but eventually he gave in with another of his pleasant smiles. He
was a man of fine physique, a little shorter than I; by daylight,
I could see that his skin was about that shade of brown that a
heavy sun tan imparts to people of my own race; his eyes were
dark brown, his hair black. His appearance formed a marked
contrast to my light skin, blue eyes, and blond hair.
When I had dressed, I followed him downstairs to a room
adjoining the one I had first entered the previous night. Here
the man's two companions and two women were seated at a table on
which were a number of vessels containing food. As I entered the
room the women's eyes were turned upon me curiously; the men
smiled and greeted me as had their fellow, and one of them
motioned me to a chair. The women appraised me frankly but
without boldness, and it was evident that they were discussing me
freely between themselves and with the men. They were both
uncommonly goodlooking, their skins being a shade lighter than
those of the men, while their eyes and hair were of about the
same color as those of their male companions. Each wore a single
garment of a silken material similar to that of which my bed
cover had been made and in the form of a long sash, which was
wrapped tightly around the body below the armpits, confining the
breasts. From this point it was carried half way around the body
downward to the waist, where it circled the body again, the loose
end then passing between the legs from behind and up through the
sash in front, after the manner of a G string, the remainder
falling in front to the knees.
In addition to these garments, which were beautifully
embroidered in colors, the women wore girdles from which depended
pocket pouches and sheathed daggers, and both were plentifully
adorned with ornaments such as rings, bracelets, and hair
ornaments. I could recognize gold and silver among the various
materials of which these things were fabricated, and there were
others that might have been ivory and coral; but what impressed
me most was the exquisite workmanship they displayed, and I
imagined that they were valued more for this than for the
intrinsic worth of the materials that composed them. That this
conjecture might be in accordance with fact was borne out by the
presence among their ornaments of several of the finest
workmanship, obviously carved from ordinary bone.
On the table was bread different from that which I had had the
night before, a dish that I thought might be eggs and meat baked
together, several which I could not recognize either by
appearance or taste, and the familiar milk and honey that I had
encountered before. The foods varied widely in range of flavor,
so that it would have been a difficult palate indeed that would
not have found something to its liking.
During the meal they engaged in serious discussion, and I was
certain from their glances and gestures that I was the subject of
their debate. The two girls enlivened the meal by attempting to
carry on a conversation with me, which appeared to afford them a
great deal of merriment, nor could I help joining in their
laughter, so infectious was it. Finally one of them hit upon the
happy idea of teaching me their language. She pointed to herself
and said, "Zuro," and to the other girl and said,
"Alzo"; then the men became interested, and I soon
learned that the name of him who seemed to be the head of the
house, the man who had first challenged me the preceding night,
was Duran, the other two Olthar and Kamlot.
But before I had mastered more than these few words and the
names of some of the foods on the table, breakfast was over and
the three men had conducted me from the house. As we proceeded
along the causeway that passed in front of the house of Duran,
the interest and curiosity of those we passed were instantly
challenged as their eyes fell upon me; and it was at once evident
to me that I was a type either entirely unknown on Venus or at
least rare, for my blue eyes and blond hair caused quite as much
comment as my clothing, as I could tell by their gestures and the
direction of their gaze.
We were often stopped by curious friends of my captors, or
hosts (I was not sure yet in which category they fell); but none
offered me either harm or insult, and if I were the object of
their curious scrutiny, so were they of mine. While no two of
them were identical in appearance, they were all handsome and all
apparently of about the same age. I saw no old people and no
Presently we approached a tree of such enormous diameter that
I could scarcely believe the testimony of my eyes when I saw it.
It was fully five hundred feet in diameter. Stripped of branches
for a hundred feet above and below the causeway, its surface was
dotted with windows and doors and encircled by wide balconies or
verandas. Before a large and elaborately carved doorway was a
group of armed men before whom we halted while Duran addressed
one of their number.
I thought at the time that he called this man Tofar, and such
I learned later was his name. He wore a necklace from which
depended a metal disc bearing a hieroglyphic in relief; otherwise
he was not accoutered differently from his companions. As he and
Duran conversed, he appraised me carefully from head to feet.
Presently he and Duran passed through the doorway into the
interior of the tree, while the others continued to examine me
and question Kamlot and Olthar.
While I waited there, I embraced the opportunity to study the
elaborate carvings that surrounded the portal, forming a frame
fully five feet wide. The motif appeared historical, and
I could easily imagine that the various scenes depicted important
events in the life of a dynasty or a nation. The workmanship was
exquisite, and it required no stretch of the imagination to
believe that each delicately carved face was the portrait of some
dead or living celebrity. There was nothing grotesque in the
delineation of the various figures, as is so often the case in
work of a similar character on earth, and only the borders that
framed the whole and separated contiguous plaques were
I was still engrossed by these beautiful examples of the wood
carver's art when Duran and Tofar returned and motioned Olthar
and Kamlot and me to follow them into the interior of the great
tree. We passed through several large chambers and along wide
corridors, all carved from the wood of the living tree, to the
head of a splendid stairway, which we descended to another level.
The chambers near the periphery of the tree received their light
through windows, while the interior chambers and corridors were
illuminated by lamps similar to those I had already seen in the
house of Duran.
Near the foot of the stairway we had descended we entered a
spacious chamber, before the doorway to which stood two men armed
with spears and swords, and before us, across the chamber, we saw
a man seated at a table near a large window. Just inside the
doorway we halted, my companions standing in respectful silence
until the man at the table looked up and spoke to them; then they
crossed the room, taking me with them, and halted before the
table, upon the opposite side of which the man sat facing us.
He spoke pleasantly to my companions, calling each by name,
and when they replied they addressed him as Jong. He was a
fine-looking man with a strong face and a commanding presence.
His attire was similar to that worn by all the other male
Venusans I had seen, differing only in that he wore about his
head a fillet that supported a circular metal disc in the center
of his forehead. He appeared much interested in me and watched me
intently while listening to Duran, who, I had no doubt, was
narrating the story of my strange and sudden appearance the night
When Duran had concluded, the man called Jong addressed me.
His manner was serious, his tones kindly. Out of courtesy, I
replied, though I knew that he could understand me no better than
I had understood him. He smiled and shook his head; then he fell
into a discussion with the others. Finally he struck a metal gong
that stood near him on the table; then he arose and came around
the table to where I stood. He examined my clothing carefully,
feeling its texture and apparently discussing the materials and
the weave with the others. Then he examined the skin of my hands
and face, felt of my hair, and made me open my mouth that he
might examine my teeth. I was reminded of the horse market and
the slave block. "Perhaps," I thought, "the latter
is more apropos."
A man entered now whom I took to be a servant and, receiving
instructions from the man called Jong, departed again, while I
continued to be the object of minute investigation. My beard,
which was now some twenty-four hours old, elicited considerable
comment. It is not a beautiful beard at any age, being sparse and
reddish, for which reason I am careful to shave daily when I have
the necessary utensils.
I cannot say that I enjoyed this intimate appraisal, but the
manner in which it was conducted was so entirely free from any
suggestion of intentional rudeness or discourtesy, and my
position here was so delicate that my better judgment prevented
me from openly resenting the familiarities of the man called
Jong. It is well that I did not.
Presently a man entered through a doorway at my right. I
assumed that he had been summoned by the servant recently
dispatched. As he came forward, I saw that he was much like the
others; a handsome man of about thirty. There are those who
declaim against monotony; but for me there can never be any
monotony of beauty, not even if the beautiful things were all
identical, which the Venusans I had so far seen were not. All
were beautiful, but each in his own way.
The man called Jong spoke to the newcomer rapidly for about
five minutes, evidently narrating all that they knew about me and
giving instructions. When he had finished, the other motioned me
to follow him; and a few moments later I found myself in another
room on the same level. It had three large windows and was
furnished with several desks, tables, and chairs. Most of the
available wall space was taken up by shelves on which reposed
what I could only assume to be books--thousands of them.
The ensuing three weeks were as delightful and interesting as
any that I have ever experienced. During this time, Danus, in
whose charge I had been placed, taught me the Venusan language
and told me much concerning the planet, the people among whom I
had fallen, and their history. I found the language easy to
master, but I shall not at this time attempt to describe it
fully. The alphabet consists of twenty-four characters, five of
which represent vowel sounds, and these are the only vowel sounds
that the Venusan vocal chords seem able to articulate. The
characters of the alphabet all have the same value, there being
no capital letters. Their system of punctuation differs from ours
and is more practical; for example, before you start to read a
sentence you know whether it is exclamatory, interrogative, a
reply to an interrogation, or a simple statement. Characters
having values similar to the comma and semicolon are used much as
we use these two; they have no colon; their character that
functions as does our period follows each sentence, their
question mark and exclamation point preceding the sentences the
nature of which they determine.
A peculiarity of their language that renders it easy to master
is the absence of irregular verbs; the verb root is never altered
for voice, mode, tense, number, or person, distinctions that are
achieved by the use of several simple, auxiliary words.
While I was learning to speak the language of my hosts, I also
learned to read and write it, and I spent many enjoyable hours
delving into the large library of which Danus is the curator
while my tutor was absent attending to his other duties, which
are numerous. He is chief physician and surgeon of his country,
physician and surgeon to the king, and head of a college of
medicine and surgery.
One of the first questions that Danus had asked me when I had
acquired a working knowledge of his language was where I came
from, but when I told him I had come from another world more than
twenty-six million miles from his familiar Amtor, which is the
name by which the Venusans know their world, he shook his head
"There is no life beyond Amtor," he said. "How
can there be life where all is fire?"
"What is your theory of the--" I started, but I had
to stop. There is no Amtorian word for universe, neither is there
any for sun, moon, star, or planet. The gorgeous heavens that we
see are never seen by the inhabitants of Venus, obscured as they
perpetually are by the two great cloud envelopes that surround
the planet. I started over again. "What do you believe
surrounds Amtor?" I asked.
He stepped to a shelf and returned with a large volume, which
he opened at a beautifully executed map of Amtor. It showed three
concentric circles. Between the two inner circles lay a circular
belt designated as Trabol, which means warm country. Here the
boundaries of seas, continents, and islands were traced to the
edges of the two circles that bounded it, in some places crossing
these boundaries as though marking the spots at which venturesome
explorers had dared the perils of an unknown and inhospitable
"This is Trabol," explained Danus, placing a finger
upon that portion of the map I have briefly described. "It
entirely surrounds Strabol which lies in the center of Amtor.
Strabol is extremely hot, its land is covered with enormous
forests and dense undergrowth, and is peopled by huge land
animals, reptiles, and birds, its warm seas swarm with monsters
of the deep. No man has ventured far into Strabol and lived to
"Beyond Trabol," he continued, placing his finger on
the outer band designated as Karbol (Cold Country), "lies
Karbol. Here it is as cold as Strabol is hot. There are strange
animals there too, and adventurers have returned with tales of
fierce human beings clothed in fur. But it is an inhospitable
land into which there is no occasion to venture and which few
dare penetrate far for fear of being precipitated over the rim
into the molten sea."
"Over what rim?" I asked.
He looked at me in astonishment. "I can well believe that
you come from another world when you ask me such questions as you
do," he remarked. "Do you mean to tell me that you know
nothing of the physical structure of Arntor?"
"I know nothing of your theory concerning it," I
"It is not a theory; it is a fact," he corrected me
gently. "In no other way may the various phenomena of nature
be explained. Amtor is a huge disc with an upturned rim, like a
great saucer; it floats upon a sea of molten metal and rock, a
fact that is incontrovertably proved by the gushing forth of this
liquid mass occasionally from the summits of mountains, when a
hole has been burned in the bottom of Amtor. Karbol, the cold
country, is a wise provision of nature that tempers the terrific
heat that must constantly surge about the outer rim of Amtor.
"Above Amtor, and entirely surrounding her above the
molten sea, is a chaos of fire and flame. From this our clouds
protect us. Occasionally there have occurred rifts in the clouds,
and at such times the heat from the fires above, when the rifts
occurred in the daytime, has been so intense as to wither
vegetation and destroy life, while the light that shone through
was of blinding intensity. When these rifts occurred at night
there was no heat, but we saw the sparks from the fire shining
I tried to explain the spherical shape of the planets and that
Karbol was only the colder country surrounding one of Amtor's
poles, while Strabol, the hot country, lay in the equatorial
region; that Trabol was merely one of two temperate zones, the
other one being beyond the equatorial region, which was a band
around the middle of a globe and not, as he supposed, a circular
area in the center of a disc. He listened to me politely, but
only smiled and shook his head when I had finished.
At first I could not comprehend that a man of such evident
intelligence, education, and culture should cling to such a
belief as his, but when I stopped to consider the fact that
neither he nor any of his progenitors had ever seen the heavens,
I began to realize that there could not be much foundation for
any other theory, and even theories must have foundations. I also
realized, even more than I had before, something of what
astronomy has meant to the human race of earth in the advancement
of science and civilization. Could there have been such
advancement had the heavens been perpetually hidden from our
view? I wonder.
But I did not give up. I drew his attention to the fact that
if his theory were correct, the boundary between Trabol and
Strabol (the temperate and the equatorial zones) should be much
shorter than that separating Trabol from Karbol, the polar
region, as was shown on the map, but could not have been proved
by actual survey; while my theory would require that the exact
opposite be true, which was easily demonstrable and must have
been demonstrated if surveys had ever been made, which I judged
from the markings on the map to be the case.
He admitted that surveys had been made and that they had shown
the apparent discrepancy that I had pointed out, but he explained
this ingeniously by a purely Amtorian theory of the relativity of
distance, which he proceeded to elucidate.
"A degree is one thousandth part of the circumference of
a circle," he commenced. (This is the Amtorian degree, her
savants not having had the advantage of a visible sun to suggest
another division of the circumference of a circle as did the
Babylonians, who hit upon three hundred sixty as being close
enough.) "And no matter what the length of the
circumference, it measures just one thousand degrees. The circle
which separates Strabol from Trabol is necessarily one thousand
degrees in length. You will admit that?"
"Certainly," I replied.
"Very goodl Then, will you admit that the circle which
separates Trabol from Karbol measures exactly one thousand
I nodded my assent.
"Things which equal the same thing equal each other, do
they not? Therefore, the inner and outer boundaries of Trabol are
of equal length, and this is true because of the truth of the
theory of relativity of distance. The degree is our unit of
linear measure. It would be ridiculous to say that the farther
one was removed from the center of Amtor the longer the unit of
distance became; it only appears to become longer; in relation to
the circumference of the circle and in relation to the distance
from the center of Amtor it is precisely the same.
"I know," he admitted, "that on the map it does
not appear to be the same, nor do actual surveys indicate that it
is the same; but it must be the same, for if it were not, it is
obvious that Amtor would be larger around the closer one
approached the center and smallest of all at the perimeter, which
is so obviously ridiculous as to require no refutation.
"This seeming discrepancy caused the ancients
considerable perturbation until about three thousand years ago,
when Klufar, the great scientist, expounded the theory of
relativity of distance and demonstrated that the real and
apparent measurements of distance could be reconciled by
multiplying each by the square root of minus one."
I saw that argument was useless and said no more; there is no
use arguing with a man who can multiply anything by the square
root of minus one.
Chapter 5 - The Girl In The Garden
FOR some time I had been aware that I was in the house of
Mintep, the king, and that the country was called Vepaja. Jong,
which I had originally thought to be his name, was his title; it
is Amtorian for king. I learned that Duran was of the house of
Zar and that Olthar and Kamlot were his sons; Zuro, one of the
women I had met there, was attached to Duran; the other, Alzo,
was attached to Olthar; Kamlot had no woman. I use the word
attached partially because it is a reasonably close translation
of the Amtorian word for the connection and partially because no
other word seems exactly to explain the relationship between
these men and women.
They were not married, because the institution of marriage is
unknown here. One could not say that they belonged to the men,
because they were in no sense slaves or servants, nor had they
been acquired by purchase or feat of arms. They had come
willingly, following a courtship, and they were free to depart
whenever they chose, just as the men were free to depart and seek
other connections; but, as I was to learn later, these
connections are seldom broken, while infidelity is as rare here
as it is prevalent on earth.
Each day I took exercise on the broad veranda that encircled
the tree at the level upon which my apartment was located; at
least, I assumed that it encircled the tree, but I did not know,
as that portion assigned to me was but a hundred feet long, a
fifteenth part of the circumference of the great tree. At each
end of my little segment was a fence. The section adjoining mine
on the right appeared to be a garden, as it was a mass of flowers
and shrubbery growing in soil that must have been brought up from
that distant surface of the planet that I had as yet neither set
foot upon nor seen. The section on my left extended in front of
the quarters of several young officers attached to the household
of the king. I call them young because Danus told me they were
young, but they appear to be about the same age as all the other
Amtorians I have seen. They were pleasant fellows, and after I
learned to speak their language we occasionally had friendly
But in the section at my right I had never seen a human being;
and then one day, when Danus was absent and I was walking alone,
I saw a girl among the flowers there. She did not see me; and I
only caught the briefest glimpse of her, but there was something
about her that made me want to see her again, and thereafter I
rather neglected the young officers on my left.
Though I haunted the end of my veranda next to the garden for
several days, I did not again see the girl during all that time.
The place seemed utterly deserted until one day I saw the figure
of a man among the shrubbery. He was moving with great caution,
creeping stealthily; and presently, behind him, I saw another and
another, until I had counted five of them all together.
They were similar to the Vepajans, yet there was a difference.
They appeared coarser, more brutal, than any of the men I had as
yet seen; and in other ways they were dissimilar to Danus, Duran,
Kamlot, and my other Venusan acquaintances. There was something
menacing and sinister, too, in their silent, stealthy movements.
I wondered what they were doing there; and then I thought of
the girl, and for some reason the conclusion was forced upon me
that the presence of these men here had something to do with her,
and that it boded her harm. Just in what way I could not even
surmise, knowing so little of the people among whom fate had
thrown me; but the impression was quite definite, and it excited
me. Perhaps it rather overcame my better judgment, too, if my
next act is any index to the matter.
Without thought of the consequences and in total ignorance of
the identity of the men or the purpose for which they were in the
garden, I vaulted the low fence and followed them. I made no
noise. They had not seen me originally because I had been hidden
from their view by a larger shrub that grew close to the fence
that separated the garden from my veranda. It was through the
foliage of this shrub that I had observed them, myself
Moving cautiously but swiftly, I soon overtook the hindmost
man and saw that the five were moving toward an open doorway
beyond which, in a richly furnished apartment, I saw the girl who
had aroused my curiosity and whose beautiful face had led me into
this mad adventure. Almost simultaneously, the girl glanced up
and saw the leading man at the doorway. She screamed, and then I
knew that I had not come in vain.
Instantly I leaped upon the man in front of me, and as I did
so I gave a great shout, hoping by that means to distract the
attention of the other four from the girl to me, and in that I
was wholly successful. The other four turned instantly. I had
taken my man so completely by surprise that I was able to snatch
his sword from its scabbard before he could recover his wits; and
as he drew his dagger and struck at me, I ran his own blade
through his heart; then the others were upon me.
Their faces were contorted by rage, and I could see that they
would give me no quarter.
The narrow spaces between the shrubbery reduced the advantage
which four men would ordinarily have had over a single
antagonist, for they could attack me only singly; but I knew what
the outcome must eventually be if help did not reach me, and as
my only goal was to keep the men from the girl, I backed slowly
toward the fence and my own veranda as I saw that all four of the
men were following me.
My shout and the girl's scream had attracted attention; and
presently I heard men running in the apartment in which I had
seen the girl, and her voice directing them toward the garden. I
hoped they would come before the fellows had backed me against
the wall, where I was confident that I must go down in defeat
beneath four swords wielded by men more accustomed to them than
I. I thanked the good fortune, however, that had led me to take
up fencing seriously in Germany, for it was helping me now,
though I could not long hold out against these men with the
Venusan sword which was a new weapon to me.
I had reached the fence at last and was fighting with my back
toward it. The fellow facing me was cutting viciously at me. I
could hear the men coming from the apartment. Could I hold out?
Then my opponent swung a terrific cut at my head, and, instead of
parrying it, I leaped to one side and simultaneously stepped in
and cut at him. His own swing had carried him off balance, and,
of course, his guard was down. My blade cut deep into his neck,
severing his jugular. From behind him another man was rushing
Relief was coming. The girl was safe. I could accomplish no
more by remaining there and being cut to pieces, a fate I had
only narrowly averted in the past few seconds. I hurled my sword,
point first, at the oncoming Venusan; and as it tore into his
breast I turned and vaulted the fence into my own veranda.
Then, as I looked back, I saw a dozen Vepajan warriors
overwhelm the two remaining intruders, butchering them like
cattle. There was no shouting and no sound other than the brief
clash of swords as the two sought desperately but futilely to
defend themselves. The Vepajans spoke no word. They seemed
shocked and terrified, though their terror had most certainly not
been the result of any fear of their late antagonists. There was
something else which I did not understand, something mysterious
in their manner, their silence, and their actions immediately
following the encounter.
Quickly they seized the bodies of the five strange warriors
that had been killed and, carrying them to the outer garden wall,
hurled them over into that bottomless abyss of the forest the
terrific depths of which my eyes had never been able to plumb.
Then, in equal silence, they departed from the garden by the same
path by which they had entered it.
I realized that they had not seen me, and I knew that the girl
had not. I wondered a little how they accounted for the deaths of
the three men I had disposed of, but I never learned. The whole
affair was a mystery to me and was only explained long after in
the light of ensuing events.
I thought that Danus might mention it and thus give me an
opportunity to question him; but he never did, and something kept
me from broaching the subject to him, modesty perhaps. In other
respects, however, my curiosity concerning these people was
insatiable; and I fear that I bored Danus to the verge of
distraction with my incessant questioning, but I excused myself
on the plea that I could only learn the language by speaking it
and hearing it spoken; and Danus, that most delightful of men,
insisted that it was not only a pleasure to inform me but his
duty as well, the jong having requested him to inform me fully
concerning the life, customs, and history of the Vepajans.
One of the many things that puzzled me was why such an
intelligent and cultured people should be living in trees,
apparently without servants or slaves and with no intercourse, as
far as I had been able to discover, with other peoples; so one
evening I asked him.
"It is a long story," replied Danus; "much of
it you will find in the histories here upon my shelves, but I can
give you a brief outline that will at least answer your question.
"Hundreds of years ago the kings of Vepaja ruled a great
country. It was not this forest island where you now find us, but
a broad empire that embraced a thousand islands and extended from
Strabol to Karbol; it included broad land masses and great
oceans; it was graced by mighty cities and boasted a wealth and
commerce unsurpassed through all the centuries before or since.
"The people of Vepaja in those days were numbered in the
millions; there were millions of merchants and millions of wage
earners and millions of slaves, and there was a smaller class of
brain workers. This class included the learned professions of
science, medicine, and law, of letters and the creative arts. The
military leaders were selected from all classes. Over all was the
"The lines between the classes were neither definitely
nor strictly drawn; a slave might become a free man, a free man
might become anything he chose within the limits of his ability,
short of jong. In social intercourse the four principal classes
did not intermingle with each other, due to the fact that members
of one class had little in common with members of the other
classes and not through any feeling of superiority or
inferiority. When a member of a lower class had won by virtue of
culture, learning, or genius to a position in a higher class, he
was received upon an equal footing, and no thought was given to
"Vepaja was prosperous and happy, yet there were
malcontents. These were the lazy and incompetent. Many of them
were of the criminal class. They were envious of those who had
won to positions which they were not mentally equipped to attain.
Over a long period of time they were responsible for minor
discord and dissension, but the people either paid no attention
to them or laughed them down. Then they found a leader. He was a
laborer named Thor, a man with a criminal record.
"This man founded a secret order known as Thorists and
preached a gospel of class hatred called Thorism. By means of
Iying propaganda he gained a large following, and as all his
energies were directed against a single class, he had all the
vast millions of the other three classes to draw from, though
naturally he found few converts among the merchants and employers
which also included the agrarian class.
"The sole end of the Thorist leaders was personal power
and aggrandizement; their aims were wholly selfish, yet, because
they worked solely among the ignorant masses, they had little
difficulty in deceiving their dupes, who finally rose under their
false leaders in a bloody revolution that sounded the doom of the
civilization and advancement of a world.
"Their purpose was the absolute destruction of the
cultured class. Those of the other classes who opposed them were
to be subjugated or destroyed; the jong and his family were to be
killed. These things accomplished, the people would enjoy
absolute freedom; there would be no masters, no taxes, no laws.
They succeeded in killing most of us and a large proportion of
the merchant class; then the people discovered what the agitators
already knew, that some one must rule, and the leaders of Thorism
were ready to take over the reins of government. The people had
exchanged the beneficent rule of an experienced and cultured
class for that of greedy incompetents and theorists.
Now they are all reduced to virtual slavery. An army of spies
watches over them, and an army of warriors keeps them from
turning against their masters; they are miserable, helpless, and
Those of us who escaped with our jong sought out this distant,
uninhabited island. Here we constructed tree cities, such as
this, far above the ground, from which they cannot be seen. We
brought our culture with us and little else; but our wants are
few, and we are happy. We would not return to the old system if
we might. We have learned our lesson, that a people divided
amongst themselves cannot be happy. Where there are even slight
class distinctions there are envy and jealousy. Here there are
none; we are all of the same class.
We have no servants; whatever there is to do we do better than
servants ever did it. Even those who serve the jong are not
servants in the sense that they are menials, for their positions
are considered posts of honor, and the greatest among us take
turns in filling them."
"But I still do not understand why you choose to live in
trees, far above the ground," I said.
"For years the Thorists hunted us down to kill us,"
he explained, "and we were forced to live in hidden,
inaccessible places; this type of city was the solution of our
problem. The Thorists still hunt us; and there are still
occasional raids, but now they are for a very different purpose.
Instead of wishing to kill us, they now wish to capture as many
of us as they can.
"Having killed or driven away the brains of the nation,
their civilization has deteriorated, disease is making frightful
inroads upon them which they are unable to check, old age has
reappeared and is taking its toll; so they seek to capture the
brains and the skill and the knowledge which they have been
unable to produce and which we alone possess."
"Old age is reappearingl What do you mean?" I asked.
"Have you not noticed that there are no signs of old age
among us?" he inquired.
"Yes, of course," I replied, "nor any children.
I have often meant to ask you for an explanation."
"These are not natural phenomena," he assured me;
"they are the crowning achievements of medical science. A
thousand years ago the serum of longevity was perfected. It is
injected every two years and not only provides immunity from all
diseases but insures the complete restoration of all wasted
"But even in good there is evil. As none grew old and
none died, except those who met with violent deaths, we were
faced with the grave dangers of overpopulation. To combat this,
birth control became obligatory. Children are permitted now only
in sufficient numbers to replace actual losses in population. If
a member of a house is killed, a woman of that house is permitted
to bear a child, if she can; but after generations of
childlessness there is a constantly decreasing number of women
who are capable of bearing children. This situation we have met
by anticipating it.
"Statistics compiled over a period of a thousand years
indicate the average death rate expectancy per thousand people;
they have also demonstrated that only fifty per cent of our women
are capable of bearing children; therefore, fifty per cent of the
required children are permitted yearly to those who wish them, in
the order in which their applications are filed."
"I have not seen a child since I arrived in Amtor,"
I told him.
"There are children here," he replied, "but, of
course, not many."
"And no old people," I mused. "Could you
administer that serum to me, Danus?"
He smiled. "With Mintep's permission, which I imagine
will not be difficult to obtain. Come," he added, "I'll
take some blood tests now to determine the type and attenuation
of serum best adapted to your requirements." He motioned me
into his laboratory.
When he had completed the tests, which he accomplished with
ease and rapidity, he was shocked by the variety and nature of
malignant bacteria they revealed.
"You are a menace to the continued existence of human
life on Amtor," he exclaimed with a laugh.
"I am considered a very healthy man in my own
world," I assured him.
"How old are you?" he asked.
"You would not be so healthy two hundred years from now
if all those bacteria were permitted to have their way with
"How old might I live to be if they were
eradicated?" I asked.
He shrugged. "We do not know. The serum was perfected a
thousand years ago. There are people among us today who were of
the first to receive injections. I am over five hundred years
old; Mintep is seven hundred. We believe that, barring accidents,
we shall live forever; but, of course, we do not know.
Theoretically, we should."
He was called away at this juncture; and I went out on the
veranda to take my exercise, of which I have found that I require
a great deal, having always been athletically inclined. Swimming,
boxing, and wrestling had strengthened and developed my muscles
since I had returned to America with my mother when I was eleven,
and I became interested in fencing while I was travelling in
Europe after she died. During my college days I was amateur
middle-weight boxer of California, and I captured several medals
for distance swimming; so the inforced inactivity of the past two
months had galled me considerably. Toward the end of my college
days I had grown into the heavy-weight class, but that had been
due to an increase of healthy bone and sinew; now I was at least
twenty pounds heavier and that twenty pounds was all fat.
On my one hundred feet of veranda I did the best I could to
reduce. I ran miles, I shadow boxed, I skipped rope, and I spent
hours with the old seventeen setting-up exercises of drill
regulations. Today I was shadow boxing near the right end of my
veranda when I suddenly discovered the girl in the garden
observing me. As our eyes met I halted in my tracks and smiled at
her. A frightened look came into her eyes, and she turned and
fled. I wondered why.
Puzzled, I walked slowly back toward my apartment, my
exercises forgotten. This time I had seen the girl's full face,
looked her squarely in the eyes, and I had been absolutely
dumfounded by her beauty. Every man and woman I had seen since I
had come to Venus had been beautiful; I had come to expect that.
But I had not expected to see in this or any other world such
indescribable perfection of coloring and features, combined with
character and intelligence, as that which I had just seen in the
garden beyond my little fence. But why had she run away when I
Possibly she had run away merely because she had been
discovered watching me for, after all, human nature is about the
same everywhere. Even twenty-six million miles from earth there
are human beings like ourselves and a girl, with quite human
curiosity, who runs away when she is discovered. I wondered if
she resembled earthly girls in other respects, but she seemed too
beautiful to be just like anything on earth or in heaven. Was she
young or old? Suppose she were seven hundred years oldl
I went to my apartment and prepared to bathe and change my
loincloth; I had long since adopted the apparel of Amtor. As I
glanced in a mirror that hangs in my bathroom I suddenly
understood why the girl may have looked frightened and run
away--my beard! It was nearly a month old now and might easily
have frightened anyone who had never before seen a beard.
When Danus returned I asked him what I could do about it. He
stepped into another room and returned with a bottle of salve.
"Rub this into the roots of the hair on your face,"
he directed, "but be careful not to get it on your eyebrows,
lashes, or the hair on your head. Leave it there a minute and
then wash your face."
I stepped into my bathroom and opened the jar; its contents
looked like vaseline and smelled like the devil, but I rubbed it
into the roots of my beard as Danus had directed. When I washed
my face a moment later my beard came off, leaving my face smooth
and hairless. I hurried back to the room where I had left Danus.
"You are quite handsome after all," he remarked.
"Do all the people of this fabulous world of which you have
told me have hair growing on their faces?"
"Nearly all," I replied, "but in my country the
majority of men keep it shaved off."
"I should think the women would be the ones to
shave," he commented. "A woman with hair on her face
would be quite repulsive to an Amtorian."
"But our women do not have hair on their faces," I
"And the men do! A fabulous world indeed."
"But if Amtorians do not grow beards, what was the need
of this salve that you gave me?" I asked.
"It was perfected as an aid to surgery," he
explained. "In treating scalp wounds and in craniectomies it
is necessary to remove the hair from about the wound. This
unguent serves the purpose better than shaving and also retards
the growth of new hair for a longer time."
"But the hair will grow out again?" I asked.
"Yes, if you do not apply the unguent too
frequently," he replied.
"How frequently?" I demanded.
"Use it every day for six days and the hair will never
again grow on your face. We used to use it on the heads of
confirmed criminals. Whenever one saw a bald-headed man or a man
wearing a wig he watched his valuables."
"In my country when one sees a bald-headed man," I
said, "he watches his girls. And that reminds me; I have
seen a beautiful girl in a garden just to the right of us here.
Who is she?"
"She is one whom you are not supposed to see," he
replied. "Were I you, I should not again mention the fact
that you have seen her. Did she see you?"
"She saw me," I replied.
"What did she do?" His tone was serious.
"She appeared frightened and ran."
"Perhaps you had best keep away from that end of the
veranda," he suggested.
There was that in his manner which precluded questions, and I
did not pursue the subject further. Here was a mystery, the first
suggestion of mystery that I had encountered in the life of
Vepaja, and naturally it piqued my curiosity. Why should I not
look at the girl? I had looked at other women without incurring
displeasure. Was it only this particular girl upon whom I must
not look, or were there other girls equally sacrosanct? It
occurred to me that she might be a priestess of some holy order,
but I was forced to discard that theory because of my belief that
these people had no religion, at least none that I could discover
in my talks with Danus. I had attempted to describe some of our
earthly religious beliefs to him, but he simply could not
perceive either their purpose or meaning any more than he could
visualize the solar system of the universe.
Having once seen the girl, I was anxious to see her again; and
now that the thing was proscribed, I was infinitely more desirous
than ever to look upon her divine loveliness and to speak with
her. I had not promised Danus that I would heed his suggestions,
for I was determined to ignore them should the opportunity arise,
I was commencing to tire of the virtual imprisonment that had
been my lot ever since my advent upon Amtor, for even a kindly
jailer and a benign prison regime are not satisfactory
substitutes for freedom. I had asked Danus what my status was and
what they planned for me in the future, but he had evaded a more
direct answer by saying that I was the guest of Mintep, the jong,
and that my future would be a matter of discussion when Mintep
granted me an audience.
Suddenly now I felt more than before the restrictions of my
situation, and they galled me. I had committed no crime. I was a
peaceful visitor to Vepaja. I had neither the desire nor the
power to harm anyone. These considerations decided me. I
determined to force the issue.
A few minutes ago I had been contented with my lot, willing to
wait the pleasure of my hosts; now I was discontented. What had
induced this sudden change? Could it be the mysterious alchemy of
personality that had transmuted the lead of lethargy to the gold
of ambitious desire? Had the aura of a vision of feminine
loveliness thus instantly reversed my outlook upon life?
I turned toward Danus. "You have been very kind to
me," I said, "and my days here have been happy, but I
am of a race of people who desire freedom above all things. As I
have explained to you, I am here through no intentional fault of
my own; but I am here, and being here I expect the same treatment
that would be accorded you were you to visit my country under
"And what treatment would that be?" he asked.
"The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness--freedom," I explained. I did not think it
necessary to mention chambers of commerce dinners, Rotary and
Kiwanis luncheons, triumphal parades and ticker tape, keys to
cities, press representatives and photographers, nor news reel
cameramen, the price that he would undoubtedly have had to pay
for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
"But, my dear friend, one would think from your words
that you are a prisoner here!" he exclaimed.
"I am, Danus," I replied, "and none knows it
better than you."
He shrugged. "I am sorry that you feel that way about it,
"How much longer is it going to last?" I demanded.
"The jong is the jong," he replied. "He will
send for you in his own time; until then, let us continue the
friendly relations that have marked our association up to
"I hope they will never be changed, Danus," I told
him, "but you may tell Mintep, if you will, that I cannot
accept his hospitality much longer; if he does not send for me
soon, I shall leave on my own accord."
"Do not attempt that, my friend," he warned me.
"And why not?"
"You would not live to take a dozen steps from the
apartments that have been assigned you," he assured me
"Who would stop me?"
"There are warriors posted in the corridors," he
explained; "they have their orders from the jong."
"And yet I am not a prisoner!" I exclaimed with a
"I am sorry that you raised the question," he said,
"as otherwise you might never have known."
Here indeed was the iron hand in the velvet glove I hoped it
was not wielded by a wolf in sheep's clothing. My position was
not an enviable one. Even had I the means to escape, there was no
place that I could go. But I did not want to leave Vepaja--I had
seen the girl in the garden.
A WEEK passed, a week during which I permanently discarded my
reddish whiskers and received an injection of the longevity
serum. The latter event suggested that possibly Mintep would
eventually liberate me, for why bestow immortality upon a
potential enemy who is one's prisoner; but then I knew that the
serum did not confer absolute immortality--Mintep could have me
destroyed if he wished, by which thought was suggested the
possibility that the serum had been administered for the purpose
of lulling me into a sense of security which I did not, in
reality, enjoy. I was becoming suspicious.
While Danus was injecting the serum, I asked him if there were
many doctors in Vepaja.
"Not so many in proportion to the population as there
were a thousand years ago," he replied.
"All the people are now trained in the care of their
bodies and taught the essentials of health and longevity. Even
without the serums we use to maintain resistance to disease
constantly in the human body, our people would live to great
ages. Sanitation, diet, and exercise can accomplish wonders by
"But we must have some doctors. Their numbers are limited
now to about one to each five thousand citizens, and in addition
to administering the serum, the doctors attend those who are
injured by the accidents of daily life, in the hunt, and in duels
"Formerly there were many more doctors than could eke out
an honest living, but now there are various agencies that
restrict their numbers. Not only is there a law restricting
these, but the ten years of study required, the long
apprenticeship thereafter, and the difficult examinations that
must be passed have all tended to reduce the numbers who seek to
follow this profession; but another factor probably achieved more
than all else to rapidly reduce the great number of doctors that
threatened the continuance of human life on Amtor in the past.
"This was a regulation that compelled every physician and
surgeon to file a complete history of each of his cases with the
chief medical officer of his district. From diagnosis to complete
recovery or death, each detail of the handling of each case had
to be recorded and placed on record for the public to consult.
When a citizen requires the services of a physician or surgeon
now, he may easily determine those who have been successful and
those who have not. Fortunately, today there are few of the
latter. The law has proved a good one."
This was interesting, for I had had experience with physicians
and surgeons on earth. "How many doctors survived the
operation of this new law?" I asked.
"About two per cent," he replied.
"There must have been a larger proportion of good doctors
on Amtor than on earth," I commented.
Time hung heavily upon my hands. I read a great deal, but an
active young man cannot satisfy all his varied life interests
with books alone. And then there was the garden at my right. I
had been advised to avoid that end of my veranda, but I did not,
at least not when Danus was absent. When he was away I haunted
that end of the veranda, but it seemed deserted. And then one day
I caught a glimpse of her; she was watching me from behind a
I was close to the fence that separated my runway from her
garden; it was not a high fence, perhaps slightly under five
feet. She did not run this time, but stood looking straight at
me, possibly thinking that I could not see her because of the
intervening foliage. I could not see her plainly enough, that is
true; and, God, how I wanted to see her!
What is that inexplicable, subtle attraction that some woman
holds for every man? For some men there is only one woman in the
world who exercises this influence upon him, or perhaps if there
are more, the others do not cross his path; for other men there
are several; for some none. For me there was this girl of an
alien race, upon an alien planet. Perhaps there were others, but
if there were, I had never met them. In all my life before I had
never been moved by such an irresistible urge. What I did, I did
upon the strength of an impulse as uncontrollable as a law of
nature; perhaps it was a law of nature that motivated me. I
vaulted the fence.
Before the girl could escape me, I stood before her. There
were consternation and horror in her eyes. I thought that she was
afraid of me.
"Do not be afraid," I said; "I have not come to
harm you, only to speak to you."
She drew herself up proudly. "I am not afraid of
you," she said; "I--," she hesitated and then
started over. "If you are seen here you will be destroyed.
Go back to your quarters at once and never dare such a rash act
I thrilled to the thought that the fear that I had seen so
clearly reflected in her eyes was for my safety. "How may I
see you?" I asked.
"You may never see me," she replied.
"But I have seen you, and I intend seeing you again. I am
going to see a lot of you, or die in the attempt."
"Either you do not know what you are doing or you are
mad," she said and turned her back on me as she started to
I seized her arm. "Wait," I begged.
She wheeled on me like a tigress and slapped my face, and then
she whipped the dagger from the scabbard at her girdle. "How
dare you," she cried, "lay a hand upon me! I should
"Why don't you?" I asked.
"I loathe you," she said, and it sounded as though
she meant it.
"I love you," I replied, and I knew that I spoke the
At that declaration her eyes did indeed reflect horror. She
wheeled then so quickly that I could not stop her and was gone. I
stood for a moment, debating whether I should follow her or not,
and then a modicum of reason intervened to save me from such an
assininity. An instant later I had vaulted the fence again. I did
not know whether anyone had seen me or not, and I did not care.
When Danus returned a short time later, he told me that Mintep
had sent him for me. I wondered if the summons was in any way
related to my adventure in the garden at the right, but I did not
inquire. If it were, I should know in due time. The attitude of
Danus was unchanged, but that no longer reassured me. I was
beginning to suspect that the Amtorians were masters of
Two young officers from the quarters adjoining mine
accompanied us to the chamber where the jong was to question me.
Whether or not they were acting as an escort to prevent my escape
I could not tell. They chatted pleasantly with me during the
short walk along the corridor and up the staircase to the level
above; but then the guards usually chat pleasantly with the
condemned man, if he feels like chatting. They accompanied me
into the room where the jong sat. This time he was not alone;
there were a number of men gathered about him, and among these I
recognized Duran, Olthar, and Kamlot. For some reason the
assemblage reminded me of a grand jury, and I could not help but
wonder if they were going to return a true bill.
I bowed to the jong, who greeted me quite pleasantly enough,
and smiled and nodded to the three men in whose home I had spent
my first night on Venus. Mintep looked me over in silence for a
moment or two; when he had seen me before I had been dressed in
my earthly clothes, now I was garbed (or ungarbed) like a
"Your skin is not as light in color as I thought
it," he commented.
"Exposure to light on the veranda has darkened it,"
I replied. I could not say sunlight, because they have no word
for sun, of the existence of which they do not dream. However,
such was the case, the ultra violet rays of sunlight having
penetrated the cloud envelopes surrounding the planet and tanned
my body quite as effectively as would exposure to the direct rays
of the sun have done.
"You have been quite happy here, I trust," he said.
"I have been treated with kindness and
consideration," I replied, "and have been quite as
happy as any prisoner could reasonably be expected to be."
The shadow of a smile touched his lips. "You are
candid," he commented.
"Candor is a characteristic of the country from which I
come," I replied.
"However, I do not like the word prisoner," he said.
"Neither do I, jong, but I like the truth. I have been a
prisoner, and I have been awaiting this opportunity to ask you
why I am a prisioner and to demand my freedom."
He raised his eyebrows; then he smiled quite openly. "I
think that I am going to like you," he said; "you are
honest and you are courageous, or I am no judge of men."
I inclined my head in acknowledgment of the compliment. I had
not expected that he would receive my blunt demand in a spirit of
such generous understanding; but I was not entirely relieved, for
experience had taught me that these people could be very suave
while being most uncompromising.
"There are some things that I wish to tell you and some
questions that I wish to ask you," he continued. "We
are still beset by our enemies, who yet send occasional raiding
parties against us, who upon numerous occasions have sought to
introduce their spies among us. We have three things that they
require if they are not to suffer extinction: scientific
knowledge, and the brains and experience to apply it Therefore
they go to any lengths to abduct our men, whom they purpose
holding in slavery and forcing to apply the knowledge that they
themselves do not have. They also abduct our women in the hope of
breeding children of greater mentality than those which are now
born to them.
"The story that you told of crossing millions of miles of
space from another world is, of course, preposterous and
naturally aroused our suspicions. We saw in you another Thorist
spy, cleverly disguised. For this reason you have been under the
careful and intelligent observation of Danus for many days. He
reports that there is no doubt but that you were totally ignorant
of the Amtorian language when you came among us, and as this is
the only language spoken by any of the known races of the world,
we have come to the conclusion that your story may be, in part,
true. The fact that your skin, hair, and eyes differ in color
from those of any known race is further substantiation of this
conclusion. Therefore, we are willing to admit that you are not a
Thorist, but the questions remain: who are you, and from whence
"I have told only the truth," I replied; "I
have nothing to add other than to suggest that you carefully
consider the fact that the cloud masses surrounding Amtor
completely obscure your view and therefore your knowledge of what
He shook his head. "Let us not discuss it; it is useless
to attempt to overthrow the accumulated scientific research and
knowledge of thousands of years. We are willing to accept you as
of another race, perhaps, as was suggested by the clothing you
wore upon your arrival, from cold and dreary Karbol. You are free
to come and go as you please. If you remain, you must abide by
the laws and customs of Vepaja, and you must become
self-supporting. What can you do?"
"I doubt that I can compete with Vepajans at their own
trades or professions," I admitted, "but I can learn
something if I am given time."
"Perhaps we can find some one who will undertake your
training," said the jong, "and in the meantime you may
remain in my house, assisting Danus."
"We will take him into our house and train him,"
spoke up Duran, "if he cares to help us collect tarel and
Tarel is the strong, silky fiber from which their cloth and
cordage are made. I imagined that collecting it would be tame and
monotonous work, but the idea of hunting appealed to me. In no
event, however, could I ignore Duran's well-meant invitation, as
I did not wish to offend him, and, furthermore, anything would be
acceptable that would provide the means whereby I might become
self-supporting. I therefore accepted his offer, and, the
audience being concluded, I bid good-bye to Danus, who invited me
to visit him often, and withdrew with Duran, Olthar, and Kamlot.
As no mention had been made of the subject, I concluded that
no one had witnessed my encounter with the girl in the garden,
who was still uppermost in my thoughts and the principal cause of
my regret that I was to leave the house of the jong.
Once more I was established in the house of Duran, but this
time in a larger and more comfortable room. Kamlot took charge of
me. He was the younger of the brothers, a quiet, reserved man
with the muscular development of a trained athlete. After he had
shown me my room, he took me to another apartment, a miniature
armory, in which were many spears, swords, daggers, bows,
shields, and almost countless arrows. Before a window was a long
bench with racks in which were tools of various descriptions;
above the bench were shelves upon which were stacked the raw
materials for the manufacture of bows, arrows, and spear shafts.
Near the bench were a forge and anvil, and there were sheets and
rods and ingots of metal stored near by.
"Have you ever used a sword?" he asked as he
selected one for me.
"Yes, but for exercise only," I replied; "in my
country we have perfected weapons that render a sword useless in
He asked me about these weapons and was much interested in my
description of earthly firearms. "We have a similar weapon
on Amtor," he said. "We of Vepaja do not possess them,
because the sole supply of the material with which they are
charged lies in the heart of the Thorist country. When the
weapons are made they are charged with an element that emits a
ray of extremely short wave length that is destructive of animal
tissue, but the element only emits these rays when exposed to the
radiation of another rare element. There are several metals that
are impervious to these rays. Those shields that you see hanging
on the walls, the ones that are metal covered, are ample
protection from them. A small shutter of similar metal is used in
the weapon to separate the two elements; when this shutter is
raised and one element is exposed to the emanations of the other,
the destructive R-ray is released and passes along the bore of
the weapon toward the target at which the latter has been aimed.
"My people invented and perfected this weapon," he
added ruefully, "and now it has been turned against us; but
we get along very well with what we have, as long as we remain in
"In addition to a sword and dagger, you will need a bow,
arrows, and a spear," and as he enumerated them he selected
the various articles for me, the last of which was really a short
heavy javelin. A swivelled ring was attached to the end of the
shaft of this weapon, and attached to the ring was a long,
slender cord with a hand loop at its extremity. This cord, which
was no heavier than ordinary wrapping twine, Kamlot coiled in a
peculiar way and tucked into a small opening in the side of the
"What is the purpose of that cord?" I asked,
examining the weapon.
"We hunt high in the trees," he replied, "and
if it were not for the cord we should lose many spears."
"But that cord is not heavy enough for that, is it?"
"It is of tarel," he replied, "and could
support the weight of ten men. You will learn much of the
properties and value of tarel before you have been with us long.
Tomorrow we shall go out together and gather some. It has been
rather scarce of late."
At the evening meal that day I met Zuro and Alzo again, and
they were most gracious to me. In the evening they all joined in
teaching me the favorite Vepajan game, tork, which is played with
pieces that are much like those used in mah jong and bears a
startling resemblance to poker.
I slept well that night in my new quarters and when daylight
broke I arose, for Kamlot had warned me that we should start
early upon our expedition. I cannot say that I looked forward
with any considerable degree of enthusiasm to spending the day
gathering tarel. The climate of Vepaja is warm and sultry, and I
pictured the adventure as being about as monotonous and
disagreeable as picking cotton in Imperial Valley.
After a light breakfast, which I helped Kamlot prepare, he
told me to get my weapons. "You should always wear your
sword and dagger," he added.
"Even in the house?" I asked.
"Always, wherever you are," he replied. "It is
not only a custom, but it is the law. We never know when we may
be called upon to defend ourselves, our houses, or our
"Those are all that I need bring, I suppose," I
remarked as I was leaving the room.
"Bring your spear, of course; we are going to gather
tarel," he replied.
Why I should need a spear to gather tarel I could not imagine;
but I brought all the weapons that he had mentioned, and when I
returned he handed me a bag with a strap that went around my neck
to support it at my back.
"Is this for the tarel?" I asked.
He replied that it was.
"You do not expect to gather much," I rest marked.
"We may not get any," he replied. "If we get a
bagful between us we may do some tall boasting when we
I said no more, thinking it best to learn by experience rather
than to be continually revealing my lamentable ignorance. If
tarel were as scarce as his statement suggested, I should not
have much picking to do, and that suited me perfectly. I am not
lazy, but I like work that keeps my mind on the alert.
When we were both ready, Kamlot led the way upstairs, a
procedure which mystified me, it did not tempt me into asking any
more questions. We passed the two upper levels of the house and
entered a dark, spiral staircase that led still farther upward
into the tree. We ascended this for about fifteen feet, when
Kamlot halted and I heard him fumbling with something above me.
Presently the shaft was bathed with light, which I saw came
through a small circular opening that had been closed with a
stout door. Through this opening Kamlot crawled, and I followed
him, to find myself on a limb of the tree. My companion closed
and locked the door, using a small key. I now saw that the door
was covered on the outside with bark, so that when it was closed
it would have been difficult for anyone to have detected it.
With almost monkeylike agility, Kamlot ascended, while I,
resembling anything but a monkey in this respect, followed,
thankful for the lesser gravitational pull of Venus, however
little less than that of earth it might be, for I am not
After ascending about a hundred feet, Kamlot crossed to an
adjacent tree, the branches of which interlocked with those of
the one we had been ascending, and again the upward climb
commenced. Occasionally the Vepajan stopped to listen as we
passed from tree to tree or clambered to higher levels. After we
had travelled for an hour or more, he stopped again and waited
until I had overtaken him. A finger on his lips enjoined me to
"Tarel," he whispered, pointing through the foliage
in the direction of an adjacent tree.
I wondered why he had to whisper it, as my eyes followed the
direction of his index finger. Twenty feet away I saw what
appeared to be a huge spider web, partially concealed by the
"Be ready with your spear," whispered Kamlot.
"Put your hand through the loop. Follow me, but not too
closely; you may need room to cast your spear. Do you see
"No," I admitted. I saw nothing but the suggestion
of a spider web; what else I was supposed to see I did not know.
"Neither do I, but he may be hiding. Look up occasionally
so that he can't take you by surprise from above."
This was more exciting than picking cotton in Imperial Valley,
though as yet I did not know just what there was to be excited
about. Kamlot did not appear excited; he was very cool, but he
was cautious. Slowly he crept toward the great web, his javelin
ready in his hand; and I followed. When we were in full sight of
it we saw that it was empty. Kamlot drew his dagger.
"Start cutting it away," he said. "Cut close to
the branches and follow the web around; I will cut in the other
direction until we meet. Be careful that you do not get enmeshed
in it, especially if he happens to return."
"Can't we go around it?" I asked.
Kamlot looked puzzled. "Why should we go around it?"
he demanded, a little shortly I thought.
"To get the tarel" I replied.
"What do you suppose this is?" he demanded.
"A spider's web."
"It is tarel."
I subsided. I had thought that the tarel he pointed at was
beyond the web, although I had seen nothing; but then of course I
had not known what tarel was or what it looked like. We had been
cutting away for a few minutes when I heard a noise in a tree
near us. Kamlot heard it at the same time.
"He is coming," he said. "Be ready!" He
slipped his dagger into its sheath and grasped his spear. I
followed his example.
The sound stopped, but I could see nothing through the
foliage. Presently there was a rustling among the foliage, and a
face appeared some fifteen yards from us. It was a hideous
face--the face of a spider tremendously enlarged. When the thing
saw that we had discovered it, it emitted the most frightful
scream I had ever heard save once before. Then I recognized
them--the voice and the face. It had been a creature such as this
that had pursued my pursuer the night that I had dropped to the
causeway in front of the house of Duran.
"Be ready," cautioned Kamlot; "he will
The words had scarcely crossed the lips of the Vepajan when
the hideous creature rushed toward us. Its body and legs were
covered with long, black hair, and there was a yellow spot the
size of a saucer above each eye. It screamed horribly as it came,
as though to paralyze us with terror.
Kamlot's spear hand flew back and forward, and the heavy
javelin, rushing to meet the maddened creature, buried itself
deeply in the repulsive carcass; but it did not stop the charge.
The creature was making straight for Kamlot as I hurled my
javelin, which struck it in the side; but even this did not stop
it, and to my horror I saw it seize my companion as he fell back
upon the great limb upon which he had stood, with the spider on
top of him.
The footing was secure enough for Kamlol and the spider, for
they were both accustomed to it, but to me it seemed very
precarious. Of course the tree limbs were enormous and often the
branches were laced together, yet I felt anything but secure.
However, I had no time to think of that now. If not already dead,
Kamlot was being killed. Drawing my sword, I leaped to the side
of the huge arachnid and struck viciously at its head, whereupon
it abandoned Kamlot and turned upon me; but it was badly wounded
now and moved with difficulty.
As I struck at that hideous face, I was horrified to see that
Kamlot lay as though dead. He did not move. But I had only time
for that single brief glance. If I were not careful I, too,
should soon be dead. The thing confronting me seemed endowed with
unsapable vitality. It was oozing sticky blood from several
wounds, at least two of which I thought should have been almost
instantly lethal; yet still it struggled to reach me with the
powerful claws that terminated its forelegs, that it might draw
me to those hideous jaws.
The Vepajan blade is a keen, two-edged affair, a little wider
and thicker near the point than at the haft, and, while not well
balanced to my way of thinking, is a deadly cutting weapon. I
found it so in this my first experience with it, for as a great
claw reached out to seize me I severed it with a single blow. At
this the creature screamed more horribly than ever, and with its
last remaining vitality sprang upon me as you have seen spiders
spring upon their prey. I cut at it again as I stepped back; and
then thrust my point directly into that hideous visage, as the
weight of the creature overbore me and I went down beneath it.
As it crashed upon me, my body toppled from the great branch
upon which I had been standing, and I felt myself falling.
Fortunately, the interlacing, smaller branches gave me some
support; I caught at them and checked my fall, bringing up upon a
broad, flat limb ten or fifteen feet below. I had clung to my
sword, and being unhurt, clambered back as quickly as I could to
save Kamlot from further attack, but he needed no protection--the
great targo, as the creature is called, was dead.
Dead also was Kamlot; I could find no pulse nor detect any
beating of the heart. My own sank within my breast. I had lost a
friend, I who had so few here, and I was as utterly lost as one
may be. I knew that I could not retrace our steps to the Vepajan
city even though my life depended upon my ability to do so, as it
doubtless did. I could descend, but whether I was still over the
city or not I did not know; I doubted it.
So this was gathering tarel; this was the occupation that I
had feared would bore me with its monotony!
Chapter 7 - By Kamlot's Grave
HAVING set out to gather tarel I finished the work that Kamlot
and I had nearly completed when the targo attacked us; if I
succeeded in finding the city, I should at least bring something
to show for our efforts. But what about Kamlot? The idea of
leaving the body here was repugnant to me. Even in the brief
association I had had with the man I had come to like him and to
look upon him as my friend. His people had befriended me; the
least that I could do would be to take his body back to them. I
realized, of course, that that was going to be something of a
job, but it must be done. Fortunately, I am extraordinarily
muscular, and then, too, the gravitational pull of Venus favored
me more than would that of earth, giving me an advantage of over
twenty pounds in the dead weight I should have to carry and even
a little better than that in the amount of my own live weight,
for I am heavier than Kamlot.
With less difficulty than I had anticipated I succeeded in
getting Kamlot's body onto my back and trussed there with the
cord attached to his javelin. I had previously strapped his
weapons to him with strands of the tare that half filled my bag,
for, being unfamiliar with all the customs of the country, I did
not know precisely what would be expected of me in an emergency
of this nature, and preferred to be on the safe side.
The experiences of the next ten or twelve hours are a
nightmare that I should like to forget. Contact with the dead and
naked body of my companion was sufficiently gruesome, but the
sense of utter bewilderment and futility in this strange world
was even more depressing. As the hours passed, during which I
constantly descended, except for brief rests, the weight of the
corpse seemed to increase. In life Kamlot would have weighed
about one hundred eighty pounds on earth, nearly one hundred
sixty on Venus, but by the time darkness enveloped the gloomy
forest I could have sworn that he weighed a ton.
So fatigued was I that I had to move very slowly, testing each
new hand- and foothold before trusting my tired muscles to
support the burden they were carrying, for a weak hold or a
misstep would have plunged me into eternity. Death was ever at my
It seemed to me that I descended thousands of feet and yet I
had seen no sign of the city. Several times I heard creatures
moving through the trees at a distance, and twice I heard the
hideous scream of a targo. Should one of these monstrous spiders
attack me--well, I tried not to think about that. Instead I tried
to occupy my mind with recollections of my earthly friends; I
visualized my childhood days in India as I studied under old
Chand Kabi, I thought of dear old Jimmy Welsh, and I recalled a
bevy of girls I had liked and with some of whom I had almost been
serious. These recalled the gorgeous girl in the garden of the
jong, and the visions of the others faded into oblivion. Who was
she? What strange interdiction had forbidden her to see or to
speak with me? She had said that she loathed me, but she had
heard me tell her that I loved her. That sounded rather silly now
that I gave it thought. How could I love a girl the first instant
that I laid eyes upon her, a girl concerning whom I knew
absolutely nothing, neither her age nor her name? It was
preposterous, yet I knew that it was true. I loved the nameless
beauty of the little garden.
Perhaps my preoccupation with these thoughts made me careless;
I do not know, but my mind was filled with them when my foot
slipped a little after night had fallen. I grasped for support,
but the combined weights of myself and the corpse tore my hands
loose, and with my dead companion I plunged downward into the
darkness. I felt Death's cold breath upon my cheek.
We did not fall far, being brought up suddenly by something
soft that gave to our combined weights, then bounced up again,
vibrating like a safety net such as we have all seen used by
aerial performers. In the faint but all pervading light of the
Amtorian night I could see what I had already guessed--I had
fallen into the web of one of Amtor's ferocious spidersl
I tried to crawl to an edge where I might seize hold of a
branch and drag myself free, but each move but entangled me the
more. The situation was horrible enough, but a moment later it
became infinitely worse, as, glancing about me, I saw at the far
edge of the web the huge, repulsive body of a targo.
I drew my sword and hacked at the entangling meshes of the web
as the fierce arachnid crept slowly toward me. I recall wondering
if a fly entangled in a spider's web suffered the hopelessness
and the mental anguish that seized me as I realized the futility
of my puny efforts to escape this lethal trap and the ferocious
monster advancing to devour me. But at least I had some
advantages that no fly enjoys. I had my sword and a reasoning
brain; I was not so entirely helpless as the poor fly.
The targo crept closer and closer. It uttered no sound. I
presume that it was satisfied that I could not escape and saw no
reason why it should seek to paralyze me with fright. From a
distance of about ten feet it charged, moving with incredible
swiftness upon its eight hairy legs. I met it with the point of
There was no skill in my thrust; it was just pure luck that my
point penetrated the creature's tiny brain. When it collapsed
lifeless beside me, I could scarcely believe the testimony of my
eyes. I was saved!
Instantly I fell to work severing the strands of tarel that
enmeshed me, and in four or five minutes I was free and had
lowered myself to a branch below. My heart was still pounding
rapidly and I was weak from exhaustion. For a quarter of an hour
I remained resting; then I continued the seemingly endless
descent out of this hideous forest.
What other dangers confronted me I could not guess. I knew
that there were other creatures in this gigantic wood; those
powerful webs, capable of sustaining the weight of an ox, had not
been built for man alone. During the preceding day I had caught
occasional glimpses of huge birds, which might themselves, if
carnivorous, prove as deadly menaces as the targo; but it was not
them that I feared now, but the nocturnal prowlers that haunt
every forest by night.
Down and down I descended, feeling that each next moment must
witness the final collapse of my endurance. The encounter with
the targo had taken terrific toll of my great strength, already
sapped by the arduous experiences of the day, yet I could not
stop, I dared not. Yet how much longer could I drive exhausted
nature on toward the brink of utter collapse?
I had about reached the end of my endurance when my feet
struck solid ground. At first I could not believe the truth, but
glancing down and about me I saw that I had indeed reached the
floor of the forest; after a month on Venus I had at last placed
foot upon her surface. I could see little or nothing--just the
enormous boles of great trees in whatever direction I looked.
Beneath my feet lay a thick matting of fallen leaves, turned
white in death.
I cut the cords that bound the corpse of Kamlot to my back and
lowered my poor comrade to the ground; then I threw myself down
beside him and was asleep almost immediately.
When I awoke, it was daylight again. I looked about me, but
could see nothing but the counterpane of whitened leaves spread
between the boles of trees of such gargantuan girth that I almost
hesitate to suggest the size of some of them, lest I discredit
the veracity of this entire story of my experiences on Venus. But
indeed they must need to be huge to support their extraordinary
height, for many of them towered over six thousand feet above the
surface of the ground, their lofty pinnacles enshrouded forever
in the eternal fog of the inner cloud envelope.
To suggest an idea of the size of some of these monsters of
the forest, I may say that I walked around the bole of one,
counting over a thousand paces in the circuit, which gives,
roughly, a diameter of a thousand feet, and there were many such.
A tree ten feet in diameter appeared a frail and slender
sapling--and there can be no vegetation upon Venusl
What little knowledge of physics I had and a very slight
acquaintance with botany argued that trees of such height could
not exist, but there must be some special, adaptive forces
operating on Venus that permit the seemingly impossible. I have
attempted to figure it out in terms of earthly conditions, and I
have arrived at some conclusions that suggest possible
explanations for the phenomenon. If vertical osmosis is affected
by gravity, then the lesser gravity of Venus would favor the
growth of taller trees, and the fact that their tops are forever
in the clouds would permit them to build up an ample supply of
carbohydrates from the abundant water vapor, provided there was
the requisite amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Venus
to promote this photosynthetic process.
I must admit, however, that at the time I was not greatly
interested in these intriguing speculations; I had to think about
myself and poor Kamlot. What was I to do with the corpse of my
friend? I had done my best to return him to his people, and
failed. I doubted now that I could ever find his people. There
remained but a single alternative; I must bury him.
This decided, I started to scrape away the leaves beside him,
that I might reach the ground beneath and dig a grave. There were
about a foot of leaves and leaf mold and below that a soft, rich
soil which I loosened easily with the point of my spear and
scooped out with my hands. It did not take me long to excavate a
nice grave; it was six feet long, two feet wide, and three feet
deep. I gathered some freshly fallen leaves and carpeted its
bottom with them, and then I gathered some more to place around
and over Kamlot after I had lowered him to his final resting
While I worked I tried to recall the service for the dead; I
wanted Kamlot to have as decent and orderly a burial as I could
contrive. I wondered what God would think about it, but I had no
doubt but that he would receive this first Amtorian soul to be
launched into the unknown with a Christian burial and welcome him
with open arms.
As I stooped and put my arms about the corpse to lower it into
the grave, I was astounded to discover that it was quite warm.
This put an entirely new aspect on the matter. A man dead for
eighteen hours should be cold. Could it be that Kamlot was not
dead? I pressed an ear to his chest; faintly I heard the beating
of his heart. Never before had I experienced such an access of
relief and joy. I felt as one reborn to new youth, to new hopes,
to new aspirations. I had not realized until that instant the
depth of my loneliness.
But why was Kamlot not dead? and how was I to resuscitate him?
I felt that I should understand the former before I attempted the
latter. I examined the wound again. There were two deep gashes on
his chest just below the presternum. They had bled but little,
and they were discolored, as I now noticed, by a greenish tint.
It was this, meaningless though it may be, that suggested an
explanation of Kamlot's condition. Something about that greenish
tint suggested poison to my mind, and at once I recalled that
there were varieties of spiders that paralyzed their victims by
injecting a poison into them that preserved them in a state of
suspended animation until they were ready to devour them. The
targo had paralyzed Kamlotl
My first thought was to stimulate circulation and respiration,
and to this end I alternately massaged his body and applied the
first aid measures adapted to the resuscitation of the drowned.
Which of these accomplished the result I do not know (perhaps
each helped a little), but at any rate I was rewarded after a
long period of effort with evidences of returning animation.
Kamlot sighed and his eyelids fluttered. After another
considerable period, during which I nearly exhausted myself, he
opened his eyes and looked at me.
At first his gaze was expressionless and I thought that
perhaps his mind had been affected by the poison; then a puzzled,
questioning look entered his eyes and eventually recognition. I
was witnessing a resurrection.
"What happened ?" he asked in a whisper, and then,
"Oh, yes, I recall; the targo got me." He sat up, with
my assistance, and looked around. "Where are we?" he
"On the ground," I replied, "but where on the
ground I do not know."
"You saved me from the targo," he said. "Did
you kill it? But you must have, or you never could have gotten me
away from it. Tell me about it."
Briefly, I told him. "I tried to get you back to the
city, but I became lost and missed it. I have no idea where it
"What is this?" he asked, glancing at the excavation
"Your grave," I replied. "I thought that you
"And you carried a corpse half a day and half a nightl
"I do not know all the customs of your people," I
replied; "but your family has been kind to me, and the least
that I could do was to bring your body back to them, nor could I
leave a friend up there to be devoured by birds and beasts."
"I shall not forget," he said quietly. He tried to
rise then, but I had to assist him. "I shall be all right
presently," he assured me, "after I have exercised a
little. The effects of the targo's poison wear off in about
twenty-four hours even without treatment. What you have done for
me has helped to dissipate them sooner, and a little exercise
will quickly eradicate the tart vestiges of them." He stood
looking about as though in an effort to orient himself, and as he
did so his eyes fell upon his weapons, which I had intended
burying with him and which lay on the ground beside the grave.
"You even brought these!" he exclaimed. "You are a
jong among friends!"
After he had buckled his sword belt about his hips, he picked
up his spear, and together we walked through the forest,
searching for some sign that would indicate that we had reached a
point beneath the city, Kamlot having explained that trees along
the important trails leading to the location of the city were
marked in an inconspicuous and secret manner, as were certain
trees leading upward to the hanging city.
"We come to the surface of Amtor but seldom," he
said, "though occasionally trading parties descend and go to
the coast to meet vessels from the few nations with which we
carry on a surreptitious commerce. The curse of Thorism has
spread far, however, and there are few nations of which we have
knowledge that are not subject to its cruel and selfish
domination. Once in a while we descend to hunt the basto for its
hide and flesh."
"What is a basto?" I inquired.
"It is a large, omnivorous animal with powerful jaws
armed with four great fangs in addition to its other teeth. On
its head grow two heavy horns. At the shoulder it is as tall as a
tall man. I have killed them that weighed thirty-six hundred
A tob is the Amtorian unit of weight, and is the equivalent of
one third of an English pound; all weights are computed in tobs
or decimals thereof, as they use the decimal system exclusively
in their tables of weights and measures. It seems to me much more
practical than the confusing earthly collection of grains, grams,
ounces, pounds, tons, and the other designations in common use
among the various nations of our planet.
From Kamlot's description I visualized the basto as an
enormous boar with horns, or a buffalo with the jaws and teeth of
a carnivore, and judged that its twelve hundred pounds of weight
would render it a most formidable beast. I asked him with what
weapons they hunted the animal.
"Some prefer arrows, others spears," he explained,
"and it is always handy to have a low branched tree near
by," he added with a grin.
"They are bellicose?" I asked.
"Very. When a basto appears upon the scene, man is as
often the hunted as the hunter, but we are not hunting bastos
now. What I should most like to find is a sign that would tell me
where we are."
We moved on through the forest, searching for the tiny road
signs of the Vepajans, which Kamlot had described to me as well
as explaining the location in which they are always placed. The
sign consists of a long, sharp nail with a flat head bearing a
number in relief. These nails are driven into trees at a uniform
height from the ground. They are difficult to find, but it is
necessary to have them so, lest the enemies of the Vepajans find
and remove them, or utilize them in their search for the cities
of the latter.
The method of the application of these signs to the
requirements of the Vepajans is clever. They would really be of
little value to any but a Vepajan as guide posts, yet each nail
tells a remarkable story to the initiated; briefly it tells him
precisely where he is on the island that comprises the kingdom of
Mintep, the jong. Each nail is placed in position by a surveying
party and its exact location is indicated on a map of the island,
together with the number on the head of the nail. Before a
Vepajan is permitted to descend to the ground alone, or to lead
others there, he must memorize the location of every sign nail in
Vepaja. Kamlot had done so. He told me that if we could find but
a single nail he would immediately know the direction of and
distance to those on either side of it, our exact position upon
the island, and the location of the city; but he admitted that we
might wander a long time before we discovered a single nail.
The forest was monotonously changeless. There were trees of
several species, some with branches that trailed the ground,
others bare of branches for hundreds of feet from their bases.
There were boles as smooth as glass and as straight as a ship's
mast, without a single branch as far up as the eye could see.
Kamlot told me that the foliage of these grew in a single enormous
tuft far up among the clouds.
I asked him if he had ever been up there, and he said he had
climbed, he believed, to the top of the tallest tree, but that he
had nearly frozen to death in the attempt. "We get our water
supply from these trees," he remarked. "They drink in
the water vapor among the clouds and carry it down to their
roots. They are unlike any other tree. A central, porous core
carries the water from the clouds to the roots, from whence it
rises again in the form of sap that carries the tree's food
upward from the ground. By tapping one of these trees anywhere
you may obtain a copious supply of clear, cool water-- a
fortunate provision of "
"Something is coming, Kamlot," I interrupted.
"Do you hear it?"
He listened intently for a moment. "Yes," he
replied. "We had better take to a tree, at least until we
see what it is."
As he climbed into the branches of a near-by tree, I followed
him, and there we waited. Distinctly I could hear something
moving through the forest as it approached us. The soft carpet of
leaves beneath its feet gave forth but little sound--just a
rustling of the dry leaves. Nearer and nearer it came, apparently
moving leisurely; then, suddenly, its great head came into view
from behind the bole of a tree a short distance from us.
"A basto," whispered Kamlot, but from his previous
description of the beast I had already guessed its identity.
It looked like a basto, only more so. From the eyes up its
head resembled that of an American bison, with the same short,
powerful horns. Its poll and forehead were covered with thick,
curly hair, its eyes were small and red-rimmed. Its hide was blue
and of about the same texture as that of an elephant, with
sparsely growing hairs except upon the head and at the tip of the
tail. It stood highest at the shoulders and sloped rapidly to its
rump. Its front legs were short and stocky and ended in broad,
three-toed feet; its hind legs were longer and the hind feet
smaller, a difference necessitated by the fact that the forelegs
and feet carried fully three quarters of the beast's weight. Its
muzzle was similar to that of a boar, except that it was broader,
and carried heavy, curved tusks.
"Here comes our next meal," remarked Kamlot in an
ordinary tone of voice. The basto stopped and looked about as he
heard my companion's voice. "They are mighty good
eating," added Kamlot, "and we have not eaten for a
long while. There is nothing like a basto steak grilled over a
My mouth commenced to water. "Come on," I said, and
started to climb down from the tree, my spear ready in my hand.
"Come back!" called Kamlot. "You don't know
what you are doing."
The basto had located us and was advancing, uttering a sound
that would have put to shame the best efforts of a full-grown
lion. I do not know whether to describe it as a bellow or a roar.
It started with a series of grunts and then rose in volume until
it shook the ground.
"He seems to be angry," I remarked; "but if we
are going to eat him we must kill him first, and how are we to
kill him if we remain in the tree?"
"I am not going to remain in the tree," replied
Kamlot, "but you are. You know nothing about hunting these
beasts, and you would probably not only get yourself killed but
me into the bargain. You stay where you are. I will attend to the
This plan did not suit me at all, but I was forced to admit
Kamlot's superior knowledge of things Amtorian and his greater
experience and defer to his wishes, but nevertheless I held
myself ready to go to his assistance should occasion require.
To my surprise, he dropped his spear to the ground and carried
in its stead a slender leafy branch which he cut from the tree
before descending to engage the bellowing basto. He did not come
down to the floor of the forest directly in front of the beast,
but made his way part way around the tree before descending,
after asking me to keep the basto's attention diverted, which I
did by shouting and shaking a branch of the tree
Presently, to my horror, I saw Kamlot out in the open a dozen
paces in rear of the animal, armed only with his sword and the
leafy branch which he carried in his left hand. His spear lay on
the ground not far from the enraged beast and his position
appeared utterly hopeless should the basto discover him before he
could reach the safety of another tree. Realizing this, I
redoubled my efforts to engage the creature's attention until
Kamlot shouted to me to desist.
I thought that he must have gone crazy and should not have
heeded him had not his voice attracted the attention of the basto
and frustrated any attempt that I might have made to keep the
beast's eyes upon me. The instant that Kamlot called to me the
great head turned ponderously in his direction and the savage
eyes discovered him. The creature wheeled and stood for a moment
eyeing the rash but puny man-thing; then it trotted toward him.
I waited no longer but dropped to the ground with the
intention of attacking the thing from the rear. What happened
thereafter happened so quickly that it was over almost in the
time it takes to tell it. As I started in pursuit, I saw the
mighty basto lower its head and charge straight for my companion,
who stood there motionless with his puny sword and the leafy
branch grasped one in either hand. Suddenly, at the very instant
that I thought the creature was about to impale him on those
mighty horns, he waved the leaf covered branch in its face and
leaped lightly to one side, simultaneously driving the keen point
of his blade downward from a point in front of the left shoulder
until the steel was buried to the hilt in the great carcass
The basto stopped, its four legs spread wide for an instant it
swayed, and then it crashed to the ground at the feet of Kamlot.
A shout of admiration was on my lips when I chanced to glance
upward. What attracted my attention I do not know, perhaps the
warning of that inaudible voice which we sometimes call a sixth
sense. What I saw drove the basto and the feat of Kamlot from my
"My God!" I cried in English, and then in Amtorian,
"Look, Kamlotl What are those?"
Chapter 8 - On Board The Sofal
HOVERING just above us, I saw what at first appeared to be
five enormous birds; but which I soon recognized, despite my
incredulity, as winged men. They were armed with swords and
daggers, and each carried a long rope at the end of which dangled
a wire noose.
"Voo klangan!" shouted Kamlot. (The birdmen!)
Even as he spoke a couple of wire nooses settled around each
of us. We struggled to free ourselves, striking at the snares
with our swords, but our blades made no impression upon the
wires, and the ropes to which they were attached were beyond our
reach. As we battled futilely to disengage ourselves, the klangan
settled to the ground, each pair upon opposite sides of the
victim they had snared. Thus they held us so, that we were
helpless, as two cowboys hold a roped steer, while the fifth
angan approached us with drawn sword and disarmed us. (Perhaps I
should explain that angan is singular, klangan plural, plurals of
Amtorian words being formed by prefixing kloo to words commencing
with a consonant and kl to those commencing with a vowel.)
Our capture had been accomplished so quickly and so deftly
that it was over, with little or no effort on the part of the
birdmen, before I had had time to recover from the astonishment
that their weird appearance induced. I now recalled having heard
Danus speak of voo klangan upon one or two occasions,
but I had thought that he referred to poultry breeders or
something of that sort. How little could I have dreamed of the
"I guess we are in for it," remarked Kamlot
"What will they do with us?" I inquired. "Ask
them," he replied.
"Who are you?" demanded one of our captors.
For some reason I was astonished to hear him speak, although I
do not know why anything should have astonished me now. "I
am a stranger from another world," I told him. "My
friend and I have no quarrel with you. Let us go."
"You are wasting your breath," Kamlot advised me.
"Yes, he is wasting his breath," agreed the angan.
"You are Vepajans, and we have orders to bring Vepajans to
the ship. You do not look like a Vepajan," he added,
surveying me from head to feet, "but the other does."
"Anyway, you are not a Thorist, and therefore you must be
an enemy," interjected another.
They removed the nooses from about us and tied ropes around
our necks and other ropes about our bodies beneath our arms; then
two klangan seized the ropes attached to Kamlot and two more
those attached to me, and, spreading their wings, rose into the
air, carrying us with them. Our weight was supported by the ropes
beneath our arms, but the other ropes were a constant suggestion
to us of what might happen if we did not behave ourselves.
As they flew, winding their way among the trees, our bodies
were suspended but a few feet above the ground, for the forest
lanes were often low ceiled by overhanging branches. The klangan
talked a great deal among themselves, shouting to one another and
laughing and singing, seemingly well satisfied with themselves
and their exploit. Their voices were soft and mellow, and their
songs were vaguely reminiscent of Negro spirituals, a similarity
which may have been enhanced by the color of their skins, which
were very dark.
As Kamlot was carried in front of me, I had an opportunity to
observe the physical characteristics of these strange creatures
into whose hands we had fallen. They had low, receding foreheads,
huge, beaklike noses, and undershot jaws; their eyes were small
and close set, their ears flat and slightly pointed. Their chests
were large and shaped like those of birds, and their arms were
very long, ending in long-fingered, heavy-nailed hands. The lower
part of the torso was small, the hips narrow, the legs very short
and stocky, ending in three-toed feet equipped with long, curved
talons. Feathers grew upon their heads instead of hair. When they
were excited, as when they attacked us, these feathers stand
erect, but ordinarily they lie flat. They are all alike;
commencing near the root they are marked with a band of white,
next comes a band of black, then another of white, and the tip is
red. Similar feathers also grow at the lower extremity of the
torso in front, and there is another, quite large bunch just
above the buttocks--a gorgeous tail which they open into a huge
pompon when they wish to show off.
Their wings, which consist of a very thin membrane supported
on a light framework, are similar in shape to those of a bat and
do not appear adequate to the support of the apparent weight of
the creatures' bodies, but I was to learn later that this
apparent weight is deceptive, since their bones, like the bones
of true birds, are hollow.
The creatures carried us a considerable distance, though how
far I do not know. We were in the air fully eight hours; and,
where the forest permitted, they flew quite rapidly. They seemed
utterly tireless, though Kamlot and I were all but exhausted long
before they reached their destination. The ropes beneath our arms
cut into our flesh, and this contributed to our exhaustion as did
our efforts to relieve the agony by seizing the ropes above us
and supporting the weight of our bodies with our hands.
But, as all things must, this hideous journey ended at last.
Suddenly we broke from the forest and winged out across a
magnificent land-locked harbor, and for the first time I looked
upon the waters of a Venusan sea. Between two points that formed
the harbor's entrance I could see it stretching away as far as
the eye could reach--mysterious, intriguing, provocative. What
strange lands and stranger people lay off there beyond the
beyond? Would I ever know?
Suddenly now my attention and my thoughts were attracted to
something in the left foreground that I had not before noticed; a
ship lay at anchor on the quiet waters of the harbor and just
beyond it a second ship. Toward one of them our captors were
winging. As we approached the nearer and smaller, I saw a craft
that differed but little in the lines of its hull from earthly
ships. It had a very high bow, its prow was sharp and sloped
forward in a scimitarlike curve; the ship was long and narrow of
beam. It looked as though it might have been built for speed. But
what was its motive power? It had no masts, sails, stacks, nor
funnels. Aft were two oval houses--a smaller one resting upon the
top of a larger; on top of the upper house was an oval tower
surmounted by a small crow's nest. There were doors and windows
in the two houses and the tower. As we came closer, I could see a
number of open hatches in the deck and people standing on the
walkways that surrounded the tower and the upper house and also
upon the main deck. They were watching our approach.
As our captors deposited us upon the deck, we were immediately
surrounded by a horde of jabbering men. A man whom I took to be
an officer ordered the ropes removed from us, and while this was
being done he questioned the klangan who had brought us.
All the men that I saw were similar in color and physique to
the Vepajans, but their countenances were heavy and
unintelligent; very few of them were good-looking, and only one
or two might have been called handsome. I saw evidences of age
among them and of disease--the first I had seen on Amtor.
After the ropes had been removed, the officer ordered us to
follow him, after detailing four villainous-looking fellows to
guard us, and conducted us aft and up to the tower that
surmounted the smaller house. Here he left us outside the tower,
which he entered.
The four men guarding us eyed us with surly disfavor.
"Vepajans, eh!" sneered one. "Think you're better
than ordinary men, don't you? But you'll find out you ain't, not
in The Free Land of Thora; there everybody's equal. I don't see
no good in bringing your kind into the country anyway. If I had
my way you'd get a dose of this," and he tapped a weapon
that hung in a holster at his belt.
The weapon, or the grip of it, suggested a pistol of some
kind, and I supposed that it was one of those curious firearms
discharging deadly rays, that Kamlot had described to me. I was
about to ask the fellow to let me see it when the officer emerged
from the tower and ordered the guard to bring us in.
We were escorted into a room in which sat a scowling man with
a most unprepossessing countenance. There was a sneer on his face
as he appraised us, the sneer of the inferior man for his
superior, that tries to hide but only reveals the inferiority
complex that prompts it. I knew that I was not going to like him.
"Two more klooganfal!" he exclaimed. (A ganfal is a
criminal.) "Two more of the beasts that tried to grind down
the workers; but you didn't succeed, did you? Now we are the
masters. You'll find that out even before we reach Thora. Is
either of you a doctor?"
Kamlot shook his head. "Not I," he said.
The fellow, whom I took to be the captain of the ship, eyed me
closely. "You are no Vepajan," he said. "What are
you, anyway? No one ever saw a man with yellow hair and blue eyes
"As far as you are concerned," I replied, "I am
a Vepajan. I have never been in any other country in Amtor."
"What do you mean by saying as far as I am
concerned?" he demanded.
"Because it doesn't make any difference what you think
about it," I snapped. I did not like the fellow, and when I
do not like people I have difficulty in hiding the fact. In this
case I did not try to hide it.
He flushed and half rose from his chair. "It doesn't,
eh?" he cried.
"Sit down," I advised him. "You're here under
orders to bring back Vepajans Nobody cares what you think about
them, but you'll get into trouble if you don't bring them
Diplomacy would have curbed my tongue, but I am not
particularly diplomatic, especially when I am angry, and now I
was both angry and disgusted, for there had been something in the
attitude of all these people toward us that bespoke ignorant
prejudice and bitterness. Furthermore, I surmised from scraps of
information I had picked up from Danus, as well as from the
remarks of the sailor who had announced that he would like to
kill us, that I was not far wrong in my assumption that the
officer I had thus addressed would be exceeding his authority if
he harmed us. However, I realized that I was taking chances, and
awaited with interest the effect of my words.
The fellow took them like a whipped cur and subsided after a
single weakly blustering, "We'll see about that." He
turned to a book that lay open before him. "What is your
name?" he asked, nodding in Kamlot's direction. Even his nod
"Kamlot of Zar," replied my companion.
"What is your profession?"
"Hunter and wood carver."
"You are a Vepajan?"
"From what city of Vepaja?"
"From Kooaad," replied Kamlot. "And you?"
demanded the officer, addressing me.
"I am Carson of Napier," I replied, using the
Amtorian form; "I am a Vepajan from Kooaad."
"What is your profession?" "I am an aviator,"
I replied, using the English word and English pronunciation.
"A what?" he demanded. "I never heard of such a
thing." He tried to write the word in his book and then he
tried to pronounce it, but he could do neither, as the Amtorians
have no equivalents for many of our vowel sounds and seem unable
even to pronounce them. Had I written the word for him in
Amtorian he would have pronounced it ah-vy-ah-tore, as they
cannot form the long a and short o sounds, and
their i is always long.
Finally, to cover his ignorance, he wrote some thing in his
book, but what it was I did not know; then he looked up at me
again. "Are you a doctor?"
"Yes," I replied, and as the officer made the
notation in his book, I glanced at Kamlot out of the corner of an
eye and winked.
"Take them away," the man now directed, "and be
careful of this one," he added, indicating me; "he is a
We were taken to the main deck and led forward to the
accompaniment of jeers and jibes from the sailors congregated on
the deck. I saw the klangan strutting around, their tail feathers
erect. When they saw us, they pointed at Kamlot, and I heard them
telling some of the sailors that he was the one who had slain the
basto with a single sword thrust, a feat which appeared to force
their admiration, as well it might have.
We were escorted to an open hatch and ordered below into a
dark, poorly ventilated hole, where we found several other
prisoners. Some of them were Thorans undergoing punishment for
infractions of discipline; others were Vepajan captives like
ourselves, and among the latter was one who recognized Kamlot and
hailed him as we descended into their midst.
"Jodades, Kamlotl" he cried, voicing the Amtorian
"Ra jodades," replied Kamlot; "what ill fortune
brings Honan here?"
"'Ill fortune' does not describe it," replied Honan;
"catastrophe would be a better word. The klangan were
seeking women as well as men; they saw Duare" (pronounced
Doo-ah'- ree) "and pursued her; as I sought to protect her
they captured me."
"Your sacrifice was not in vain," said Kamlot;
"had you died in the performance of such a duty it would not
have been in vain."
"But it was in vain; that is the catastrophe."
"What do you mean?" demanded Kamlot.
"I mean that they got her," replied Honan
"They captured Duare!" exclaimed Kamlot in tones of
horror. "By the life of the jong, it cannot be."
"I wish it were not," said Honan.
"Where is she? on this ship?" demanded Kamlot.
"No; they took her to the other, the larger one."
Kamlot appeared crushed, and I could only attribute his
dejection to the hopelessness of a lover who has irretrievably
lost his beloved. Our association had not been either
sufficiently close nor long to promote confidences, and so I was
not surprised that I had never heard him mention the girl, Duare,
and, naturally, under the circumstances, I could not question him
concerning her. I therefore respected his grief and his silence,
and left him to his own sad thoughts.
Shortly after dawn the following morning the ship got under
way. I wished that I might have been on deck to view the
fascinating sights of this strange world, and my precarious
situation as a prisoner of the hated Thorists engendered less
regret than the fact that I, the first earth man to sail the seas
of Venus, was doomed to be cooped up in a stuffy hole below deck
where I could see nothing. But if I had feared being kept below
for the duration of the voyage, I was soon disillusioned, for
shortly after the ship got under way we were all ordered on deck
and set to scrubbing and polishing.
As we came up from below, the ship was just passing between
the two headlands that formed the entrance to the harbor, in the
wake of the larger vessel; and I obtained an excellent view of
the adjacent land, the shore that we were leaving, and the wide
expanse of ocean stretching away to the horizon.
The headlands were rocky promontories clothed with verdure of
delicate hues and supporting comparatively few trees, which were
of a smaller variety than the giants upon the mainland. These
latter presented a truly awe inspiring spectacle from the open
sea to the eyes of an earth man, their mighty boles rearing their
weirdly colored foliage straight up for five thousand feet, where
they were lost to view among the clouds. But I was not permitted
to gaze for long upon the wonders of the scene. I had not been
ordered above for the purpose of satisfying the esthetic longings
of my soul.
Kamlot and I were set to cleaning and polishing guns. There
were a number of these on either side of the deck, one at the
stern, and two on the tower deck. I was surprised when I saw
them, for there had been no sign of armament when I came on board
the preceding day; but I was not long in discovering the
explanation--the guns were mounted on disappearing carriages, and
when lowered, a sliding hatch, flush with the deck, concealed
The barrels of these pieces were about eight inches in
diameter, while the bore was scarcely larger than my little
finger; the sights were ingenious and complicated, but there was
no breech block in evidence nor any opening into a breech, unless
there was one hidden beneath a hoop that encircled the breech, to
which it was heavily bolted. The only thing that I could discover
that might have been a firing device projected from the rear of
the breech and resembled the rotating crank that is used to
revolve the breech block in some types of earthly guns.
The barrels of the guns were about fifteen feet long and of
the same diameter from breech to muzzle. When in action they can
be extended beyond the rail of the ship about two thirds of their
length, thus affording a wider horizontal range and more deck
room, which would be of value on a ship such as that on which I
was a captive, which was of narrow beam.
"What do these guns fire?" I asked Kamlot, who was
working at my side.
"T-rays," he replied.
"Do those differ materially from the R-rays you described
when you were telling me about the small arms used by the
"The R-ray destroys only animal tissue," he replied,
"while there is nothing that the T-ray may not dissipate. It
is a most dangerous ray to work with because even the material of
the gun barrel itself is not wholly impervious to it, and the
only reason that it can be used at all is that its greatest force
is expended along the line of least resistance, which in this
case naturally is the bore of the gun. But eventually it destroys
the gun itself."
"How is it fired?" I asked.
He touched the crank at the end of the breech. "By
turning this, a shutter is raised that permits radiations from
element 93 to impinge on the charge, which consists of element 97,
thus releasing the deadly T-ray."
"Why couldn't we turn this gun about and rake the ship
above deck," I suggested, "thus wiping out the Thorans
and giving us our freedom?"
He pointed to a small, irregular hole in the end of the crank
shaft. "Because we haven't the key that fits this," he
"Who has the key?"
"The officers have keys to the guns they command,"
he replied. "In the captain's cabin are keys to all the
guns, and he carries a master key that will unlock any of them.
At least that was the system in the ancient Vepajan navy, and it
is doubtless the same today in the Thoran navy."
"I wish we could get hold of the master key," I
"So do I," he agreed, "but that is
"Nothing is impossible," I retorted.
He made no answer, and I did not pursue the subject, but I
certainly gave it a lot of thought.
As I worked, I noted the easy, noiseless propulsion of the
ship and asked Kamlot what drove it. His explanation was long and
rather technical; suffice it to say that the very useful element
93 (vik-ro) is here again employed upon a substance called lor,
which contains a considerable proportion of the element yor-san
(105). The action of vik-ro upon yor-san results in absolute
annihilation of the lor, releasing all its energy. When you
consider that there is eighteen thousand million times as much
energy liberated by the annihilation of a ton of coal than by its
combustion you will appreciate the inherent possibilities of this
marvellous Venusan scientific discovery. Fuel for the life of the
ship could be carried in a pint jar.
I noticed as the day progressed that we cruised parallel to a
coast line, after crossing one stretch of ocean where no land was
in sight, and thereafter for several days I noted the same
fact--land was almost always in sight. This suggested that the
land area of Venus might be much greater in proportion to its
seas; but I had no opportunity to satisfy my curiosity on that
point, and of course I took no stock in the maps that Danus had
shown me, since the Amtorians' conception of the shape of their
world precluded the existence of any dependable maps.
Kamlot and I had been separated, he having been detailed to
duty in the ship's galley, which was located in the forward part
of the main deck house aft. I struck up a friendship with Honan;
but we did not work together, and at night we were usually so
tired that we conversed but little before falling asleep on the
hard floor of our prison. One night, however, the sorrow of
Kamlot having been brought to my mind by my own regretful
recollections of the nameless girl of the garden, I asked Honan
who Duare was.
"She is the hope of Vepaja," he replied,
"perhaps the hope of a world."
Chapter 9 - Soldiers Of Liberty
CONSTANT association breeds a certain camaraderie
even between enemies. As the days passed, the hatred and contempt
which the common sailors appeared to have harbored for us when we
first came aboard the ship were replaced by an almost friendly
familiarity, as though they had discovered that we were not half
bad fellows after all; and, for my part, I found much to like in
these simple though ignorant men. That they were the dupes of
unscrupulous leaders is about the worst that may be said of them.
Most of them were kindly and generous; but their ignorance made
them gullible, and their emotions were easily aroused by specious
arguments that would have made no impression upon intelligent
Naturally, I became better acquainted with my fellow prisoners
than with my guards, and our relations were soon established upon
a friendly basis. They were greatly impressed by my blond hair
and blue eyes which elicited inquiries as to my genesis. As I
answered their questions truthfully, they became deeply
interested in my story, and every evening after the day's work
was completed I was besieged for tales of the mysterious, far
distant world from which I came. Unlike the highly intelligent
Vepajans, they believed all that I told them, with the result
that I was soon a hero in their eyes; I should have been a god
had they had any conception of deities of any description.
In turn, I questioned them; and discovered, with no surprise,
that they were not at all contented with their lots. The former
free men among them had long since come to the realization that
they had exchanged this freedom, and their status of wage
earners, for slavery to the state, that could no longer be hidden
by a nominal equality.
Among the prisoners were three to whom I was particularly
attracted by certain individual characteristics in each. There
was Gamfor, for instance, a huge, hulking fellow who had been a
farmer in the old days under the jongs. He was unusually
intelligent, and although he had taken part in the revolution, he
was now bitter in his denunciation of the Thorists, though this
he was careful to whisper to me in secrecy.
Another was Kiron, the soldier, a clean-limbed, handsome,
athletic fellow who had served in the army of the jong, but
mutinied with the others at the time of the revolution. He was
being disciplined now for insubordination to an officer who had
been a petty government clerk before his promotion.
The third had been a slave. His name was Zog. What he lacked
in intelligence he made up in strength and good nature. He had
killed an officer who had struck him and was being t ken back to
Thora for trial and execution. Zog was proud of the fact that he
was a free man, though he admitted that the edge was taken off
his enthusiasm by the fact that every one else was free and the
realization that he had enjoyed more freedom as a slave than he
did now as a freeman.
"Then," he explained, "I had one master; now I
have as many masters as there are government officials, spies,
and soldiers, none of whom cares anything about me, while my old
master was kind to me and looked after my welfare."
"Would you like to be really free?" I asked him, for
a plan had been slowly forming in my mind.
But to my surprise he said, "No, I should rather be a
"But you'd like to choose your own master, wouldn't
you?" I demanded.
"Certainly," he replied, "if I could find some
one who would be kind to me and protect me from the
"And if you could escape from them now, you would like to
"Of course! But what do you mean? I cannot escape from
"Not without help," I agreed, "but if others
would join you, would you make the attempt?"
"Why not? They are taking me back to Thora to kill me. I
could be no worse off, no matter what I did. But why do you ask
all these questions?"
"If we could get enough to join us, there is no reason
why we should not be free," I told him. "When you are
free, you may remain free or choose a master to your
liking." I watched closely for his reaction.
"You mean another revolution?" he asked. "It
would fail. Others have tried, but they have always failed."
"Not a revolution," I assured him, "just a
break for liberty."
"But how could we do it?"
"It would not be difficult for a few men to take this
ship," I suggested. "The discipline is poor, the night
watches consist of too few men; they are so sure of themselves
that they would be taken completely by surprise."
Zog's eyes lighted. "If we were successful, many of the
crew would join us," he said. "Few of them are happy;
nearly all of them hate their officers. I think the prisoners
would join us almost to a man, but you must be careful of
spies--they are everywhere. That is the greatest danger you would
have to face. There can be no doubt but there is at least one spy
among us prisoners."
"How about Gamfor," I asked; "is he all
"You can depend upon Gamfor," Zog assured me.
"He does not say much, but in his eyes I can read his hatred
"Just the man!" exclaimed Zog. "He despises
them, and he does not care who knows it; that is the reason he is
a prisoner. This is not his first offense, and it is rumored that
he will be executed for high treason."
"But I thought that he only talked back to an officer and
refused to obey him," I said.
"That is high treason--if they wish to get rid of a
man," explained Zog. "You can depend on Kiron. Do you
wish me to speak to him about the matter?"
"No," I told him. "I will speak to him and to
Gamfor; then if anything goes wrong before we are ready to
strike, if a spy gets wind of our plot, you will not be
"I do not care about that," he exclaimed. "They
can kill me for but one thing, and it makes no difference which
thing it is they kill me for."
"Nevertheless, I shall speak to them, and if they will
join us, we can then decide together how to approach
Zog and I had been working together scrub bing the deck at the
time, and it was not until night that I had an opportunity to
speak with Gamfor and Kiron. Both were enthusiastic about the
plan, but neither thought that there was much likelihood that it
would succeed. However, each assured me of his support; and then
we found Zog, and the four of us discussed details throughout
half the night. We had withdrawn to a far corner of the room in
which we were confined and spoke in low whispers with our heads
The next few days were spent in approaching recruits--a very
ticklish business, since they all assured me that it was almost a
foregone conclusion that there was a spy among us. Each man had
to be sounded out by devious means, and it had been decided that
this work should be left to Gamfor and Kiron. I was eliminated
because of my lack of knowledge concerning the hopes, ambitions,
and the grievances of these people, or their psychology; Zog was
eliminated because the work required a much higher standard of
intelligence than he possessed.
Gamfor warned Kiron not to divulge our plan to any prisoner
who too openly avowed his hatred of the Thorists. "This is a
time-worn trick that all spies adopt to lull the suspicions of
those they suspect of harboring treasonable thoughts, and to
tempt them into avowing their apostasy. Select men whom you know
to have a real grievance, and who are moody and silent," he
I was a little concerned about our ability to navigate the
ship in the event that we succeeded in capturing her, and I
discussed this matter with both Gamfor and Kiron. What I learned
from them was illuminating, if not particularly helpful.
The Amtorians have developed a compass similar to ours.
According to Kiron, it points always toward the center of
Amtor--that is, toward the center of the mythical circular area
called Strabol, or Hot Country. This statement assured me that I
was in the southern hemisphere of the planet, the needle of the
compass, of course, pointing north toward the north magnetic
pole. Having no sun, moon, nor stars, their navigation is all
done by dead reckoning; but they have developed instruments of
extreme delicacy that locate land at great distances, accurately
indicating this distance and the direction; others that determine
speed, mileage, and drift, as well as a depth gauge wherewith
they may record soundings anywhere within a radius of a mile from
All of their instruments for measuring dislances utilize the
radio-activity of the nuclei of various elements to accomplish
their ends. The gamma ray, for which they have, of course,
another name, being uninfluenced by the most powerful magnetic
forces, is naturally the ideal medium for their purposes. It
moves in a straight line and at uniform speed until it meets an
obstruction, where, even though it may not be deflected, it is
retarded, the instrument recording such retardation and the
distance at which it occurs. The sounding device utilizes the
same principle. The instrument records the distance from the ship
at which the ray encounters the resistance of the ocean's bottom;
by contructing a right triangle with this distance representing
the hypotenuse it is simple to compute both the depth of the
ocean and the distance from the ship at which bottom was found,
for they have a triangle of which one side and all three angles
Owing to their extremely faulty maps, however, the value of
these instruments has been greatly reduced, for no matter what
course they lay, other than due north, if they move in a straight
line they are always approaching the antarctic regions. They may
know that land is ahead and its distance, but they are never sure
what land it is, except where the journey is a short and familiar
one. For this reason they cruise within sight of land wherever
that is practical, with the result that journeys that might
otherwise be short are greatly protracted. Another result is that
the radius of Amtorian maritime exploration has been greatly
circumscribed; so much so that I believe there are enormous areas
in the south temperate zone that have never been discovered by
the Vepajans or the Thorists, while the very existence of the
northern hemisphere is even unguessed by them. On the maps that
Danus showed me considerable areas contained nothing but the
single word joram, ocean.
However, notwithstanding all this (and possibly because of
it), I was confident that we could manage to navigate the ship
quite as satisfactorily as her present officers, and in this
"At least we know the general direction of Thora,"
he argued; "so all we have to do is sail in the other
As our plans matured, the feasibility of the undertaking
appeared more and more certain. We had recruited twenty
prisoners, five of whom were Vepajans, and this little band we
organized into a secret order with passwords, which were changed
daily, signs, and a grip, the last reminiscent of my fraternity
days in college. We also adopted a name. We called ourselves
Soldiers of Liberty. I was chosen vookor, or captain. Gamfor,
Kiron, Zog, and Honan were my principal lieutenants, though I
told them that Kamlot would be second in command if we were
successful in taking the ship.
Our plan of action was worked out in detail; each man knew
exactly what was expected of him. Certain men were to overpower
the watch, others were to go to the officers' quarters and secure
their weapons and keys; then we would confront the crew and offer
those who chose an opportunity to join us. The others--well,
there I was confronted with a problem. Almost to a man the
Soldiers of Liberty wanted to destroy all those who would not
join us, and really there seemed no alternative; but I still
hoped that I could work out a more humane disposition of them.
There was one man among the prisoners of whom we were all
suspicious. He had an evil face, but that was not his sole claim
upon our suspicions--he was too loud in his denunciation of
Thorism. We watched him carefully, avoiding him whenever we
could, and each member of the band was warned to be careful when
talking to him. It was evident to Gamfor first that this fellow,
whose name was Anoos, was suspicious. He persisted in seeking out
various members of our group and engaging them in conversation
which he always led around to the subject of Thorism and his
hatred of it, and he constantly questioned each of us about the
others, always insinuating that he feared certain ones were
spies. But of course we had expected something of this sort, and
we felt that we had guarded against it. The fellow might be as
suspicious of us as he wished; so long as he had no evidence
against us I did not see how he could harm us.
One day Kiron came to me evidently laboring under suppressed
excitement. It was at the end of the day, and our food had just
been issued to us for the evening meal--dried fish and a hard,
dark-colored bread made of coarse meal.
"I have news, Carson," he whispered.
"Let us go off in a corner and eat," I suggested,
and we strolled away together, laughing and talking of the day's
events in our normal voices. As we seated ourselves upon the
floor to eat our poor food, Zog joined us.
"Sit close to us, Zog," directed Kiron; "I have
something to say that no one but a Soldier of Liberty may
He did not say Soldier of Liberty, but "kung, kung,
kung," which are the Amtorian initials of the order's title.
Kung is the name of the Amtorian character that represents the k
sound in our language, and when I first translated the initials I
was compelled to smile at the similarity they bore to those of a
well-known secret order in the United States of America.
"While I am talking," Kiron admonished us, "you
must laugh often, as though I were telling a humorous tale; then,
perhaps, no one will suspect that I am not.
"Today I was working in the ship's armory, cleaning
pistols," he commenced. "The soldier who guarded me is
an old friend of mine; we served together in the army of the
jong. He is as a brother to me. For either the other would die.
We talked of old times under the banners of the jong and compared
those days with these, especially we compared the officers of the
old regime with those of the present. Like me and like every old
soldier, he hates his officers; so we had a pleasant time
"Finally he said to me, quite suddenly, 'What is this I
hear of a conspiracy among the prisoners?'
"That almost took me off my feet; but I showed no
emotion, for there are times when one must not trust even a
brother. 'What have you heard?' I asked.
"'I overheard one of the officers speaking to another,'
he told me. 'He said that a man named Anoos had reported the
matter to the captain, and that the captain had told Anoos to get
the names of all the prisoners whom he knew to be involved in the
conspiracy and to learn their plans if he possibly could.'
"'And what did Anoos say?' I asked my friend.
"'He said that if the captain would give him a bottle of
wine he believed that he could get one of the conspirators drunk
and worm the story from him. So the captain gave him a bottle of
wine. That was today.'
"My friend looked at me very closely, and then he said,
'Kiron, we are more than brothers. If I can help you, you have
but to ask.'
"I knew this, and knowing how close to discovery we
already were, I decided to confide in him and enlist his aid; so
I told him. I hope you do not feel that I did wrong,
"By no means," I assured him. "We have been
forced to tell others of our plans whom we knew and trusted less
well than you know and trust your friend. What did he say when
you had told him?"
"He said that he would help us, and that when we struck
he would join us. He promised, too, that many others of the
soldiers would do likewise; but the most important thing he did
was to give me a key to the armory."
"Good!" I exclaimed. "There is no reason now
why we should not strike at once."
"Tonight?" asked Zog eagerly.
"Tonight!" I replied. "Pass the word to Gamfor
and Honan, and you four to the other Soldiers of Liberty."
We all laughed heartily, as though some one had told a most
amusing story, and then Kiron and Zog left me, to acquaint Gamfor
and Honan with our plan.
But upon Venus as upon earth, the best laid plans of mice and
men "gang aft a-gley," which is slang for haywire.
Every night since we had sailed from the harbor of Vepaja the
hatch had been left off our ill-smelling prison to afford us
ventilation, a single member of the watch patrolling near to see
that none of us came out; but tonight the hatch was closed.
"This," growled Kiron, "is the result of
"We shall have to strike by daylight," I whispered,
"but we cannot pass the word tonight. It is so dark down
here that we should certainly be overheard by some one outside
our own number if we attempted it."
"Tomorrow then," said Kiron.
I was a long time getting to sleep that night, for my mind was
troubled by fears for our entire plan. It was obvious now that
the captain was suspicious, and that while he might not know
anything of the details of what we purposed, he did know that
something was in the air, and he was taking no chances.
During the night, as I lay awake trying to plan for the
morrow, I heard some one prowling around the room, and now and
again a whisper. I could only wonder who it was and try to guess
what he was about. I recalled the bottle of wine that Anoos was
supposed to have, and it occurred to me that he might be giving a
party, but the voices were too subdued to bear out that theory.
Finally I heard a muffled cry, a noise that sounded like a brief
scuffle, and then silence again fell upon the chamber.
"Some one had a bad dream," I thought and fell
Morning came at last, and the hatch was removed, letting a
little light in to dissipate the gloom of our prison. A sailor
lowered a basket containing the food for our meager breakfast. We
gathered about it and each took his share, and moved away to eat
it, when suddenly there was a cry from the far side of the room.
"Look what's here!" the man shouted. "Anoos has
YES, Anoos had been murdered, and there was a great hue and
cry, much more of a hue and cry, it seemed to me, than the death
of an ordinary prisoner should have aroused. Officers and
soldiers swarmed in our quarters. They found Anoos stretched out
on his back, a bottle of wine at his side. His throat was
discolored where powerful fingers had crushed it. Anoos had been
choked to death.
Soon they herded us on deck, where we were searched for
weapons following an order from the captain of the ship, who had
come forward to conduct an investigation. He was angry and
excited and, I believe, somewhat frightened. One by one, he
questioned us. When it was my turn to be questioned, I did not
tell him what I had heard during the night; I told him that I had
slept all night on the far side of the room from where Anoos's
body was discovered.
"Were you acquainted with the dead man?" he asked.
"No more so than with any of the other prisoners," I
"But you are very well acquainted with some of
them," he said rather pointedly, I thought. "Have you
ever spoken with the man?"
"Yes, he has talked to me on several occasions."
"About what?" demanded the captain.
"Principally about his grievances against the
"But he was a Thorist," exclaimed the captain.
I knew that he was trying to pump me to discover if I harbored
any suspicions concerning the actual status of Anoos, but he was
not clever enough to succeed. "I certainly would never had
suspected it from his conversation," I replied. "If he
were a Thorist, he must have been a traitor to his country, for
he continually sought to enlist my interest in a plan to seize
the ship and murder all her officers. I think he approached
others, also." I spoke in a tone loud enough to be heard by
all, for I wanted the Soldiers of Liberty to take the cue from
me. If enough of us told the same story it might convince the
officers that Anoos's tale of a conspiracy was hatched in his own
brain and worked up by his own efforts in an attempt to reap
commendation and reward from his superiors, a trick by no means
foreign to the ethics of spies.
"Did he succeed in persuading any of the prisoners to
join him?" asked the captain.
"I think not; they all laughed at him."
"Have you any idea who murdered him?"
"Probably some patriot who resented his treason," I
As he questioned the other men along similar lines, I was
pleased to discover that nearly every one of the Soldiers of
Liberty had been approached by the perfidious Anoos, whose
traitorous overtures they had virtuously repulsed. Zog said that
he had never talked with the man, which, to the best of my
knowledge, was the truth.
When the captain finished his investigation, he was farther
from the truth than when he commenced it, for I am certain that
he went aft convinced that there had been no truth in the tales
that Anoos had carried to him.
I had been considerably worried at the time we were being
searched, for fear that the key to the armory would be discovered
on Kiron, but it had not been, and later he told me that he had
hidden it in his hair the night before as a precaution against
just such an eventuality as had occurred.
The Amtorian day consists of 26 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds
of earth time, which the Amtorians divide into twenty equal
periods called te, which, for clarity, I shall translate into its
nearest earthly equivalent, hour, although it contains 80.895
earth minutes. On shipboard, the hours are sounded by a
trumpeter, there being a distinguishing bar of music for each
hour of the day. The first hour, or one o'clock, corresponds to
mean sunrise. It is then that the prisoners are awakened and
given food; forty minutes later they start work, which continues
until the tenth hour, with a short recess for food in the middle
of the day. Occasionally we were allowed to quit work at the
ninth and even the eighth hour, according to the caprices of our
On this day the Soldiers of Liberty congregated during the
midday rest period, and, my mind being definitely determined on
immediate action, I passed the word around that we would strike
during the afternoon at the moment the trumpeter sounded the
seventh hour. As many of us as were working aft near the armory
were to make a dash for it with Kiron, who would unlock it in the
event that it were locked. The remainder were to attack the
soldiers nearest them with anything that they could use as
weapons, or with their bare hands if they had no weapons, and
take the soldiers' pistols and swords from them. Five of us were
to account for the officers. Half of our number was to constantly
shout our battle cry, "For libertyi" The other half was
instructed to urge the remaining prisoners and the soldiers to
It was a mad scheme and one in which only desperate men could
have found hope.
The seventh hour was chosen because at that time the officers
were nearly all congregated in the wardroom, where a light meal
and wine were served them daily. We should have preferred
launching our plan at night, but we feared a continuation of the
practice of locking us below deck would prevent, and our
experience with Anoos had taught us that we might expect the
whole conspiracy to be divulged by another spy at any time;
therefore we dared not wait.
I must confess to a feeling of increasing excitement as the
hour approached. As, from time to time, I glanced at the other
members of our little band, I thought that I could note signs of
nervousness in some of them, while others worked on as placidly
as though nothing unusual was about to occur. Zog was one of
these. He was working near me. He never glanced toward the tower
deck from which the trumpeter would presently sound the fateful
notes, though it was with difficulty that I kept my eyes from it
at all. No one would have thought that Zog was planning to attack
the soldier lolling near him, nor have imagined that the night
before he had murdered a man. He was humming a tune, as he
polished the barrel of the big gun on which he was working.
Gamfor and, fortunately, Kiron were working aft, scrubbing the
deck, and I saw that Kiron kept scrubbing closer and closer to
the door of the armory. How I wished for Kamlot as the crucial
moment approached! He could have done so much to insure the
success of our coup, and yet he did not even know that
such a stroke was contemplated, much less that it was so soon to
As I glanced about, I met Zog's gaze. Very solemnly he closed
his left eye. At last he had given a sign that he was alert and
ready. It was a little thing, but it put new heart into me. For
some reason, during the past half hour I had felt very much
The time was approaching the zero hour. I moved closer to my
guard, so that I stood directly in front of him with my back
toward him. I knew precisely what I was going to do, and I knew
that it would be successful. Little did the man behind me dream
that in a minute, or perhaps a few seconds, he would be Iying
senseless on the deck, or that the man he guarded would be
carrying his sword, his dagger, and his pistol as the last notes
of the seventh hour floated sweetly out across the calm waters of
this Amtorian sea.
My back was now toward the deck houses. I could not see the
trumpeter when he emerged from the tower to sound the hour, but I
knew that it could not be long now before he stepped out onto the
tower deck. Yet when the first note sounded I was as startled as
though I had expected it never to sound. I presume it was the
reaction after the long period of nervous tension.
My nervousness, however, was all mental; it did not affect my
physical reactions to the needs of the moment. As the first note
came softly down to my awaiting ears, I pivoted on a heel and
swung my right for the chin of my unsuspecting guard. It was one
of those blows that is often described as a haymaker, and it made
hay. The fellow dropped in his tracks. As I stooped to recover
his arms, pandemonium broke loose upon the deck. There were
shrieks and groans and curses, and above all rose the war cry of
the Soldiers of Liberty--my band had struck, and it had struck
For the first time now, I heard the weird staccato hiss of
Amtorian firearms. You have heard an X-ray machine in operation?
It was like that, but louder and more sinister. I had wrenched
the sword and pistol from the scabbard and holster of my fallen
guard, not taking the time to remove his belt. Now I faced the
scene for which I had so long waited. I saw the powerful Zog
wrest the weapons from a soldier, and then lift the man's body
above his head and cast it overboard. Evidently Zog had no time
At the door to the armory a battle was being waged; men were
trying to enter, and soldiers were shooting them down. I ran in
that direction. A soldier leaped in front of me, and I heard the
hiss of the death rays that must have passed close to my body, as
he tried to stop me. He must have been either nervous or a very
poor shot, for he missed me. I turned my own weapon upon him and
pressed the lever. The man slumped to the deck with a hole in his
chest, and I ran on.
The fight at the door of the armory was hand to hand with
swords, daggers, and fists, for by now the members of the two
factions were so intermingled that none dared use a firearm for
fear of injuring a comrade. Into this melee I leaped. Tucking the
pistol into the band of my G string, I ran my sword through a
great brute who was about to knife Honan; then I grabbed another
by the hair and dragged him from the door, shouting to Honan to
finish him--it took too long to run a sword into a man and then
pull it out again. What I wanted was to get into the armory to
Kiron's side and help him.
All the time I could hear my men shouting, "For
liberty!" or urging the soldiers to join us --as far as I
had been able to judge, all the prisoners had already done so.
Now another soldier barred my way. His back was toward me, and I
was about to seize him and hurl him back to Honan and the others
who were fighting at his side, when I saw him slip his dagger
into the heart of a soldier in front of him and, as he did so,
cry, "For liberty!" Here was one convert at least. I
did not know it then, but at that time there were already many
When I finally got into the armory, I found Kiron issuing arms
as fast as he could pass them out. Many of the mutineers were
crawling through the windows of the room to get weapons, and to
each of these Kiron passed several swords and pistols, directing
the men to distribute them on deck.
Seeing that all was right here, I gathered a handful of men
and started up the companionway to the upper decks, from which
the officers were firing down upon the mutineers and, I may say,
upon their own men as well. In fact, it was this heartless and
stupid procedure that swung many of the soldiers to our side.
Almost the first man I saw as I leaped to the level of the second
deck was Kamlot. He had a sword in one hand and a pistol in the
other, and he was firing rapidly at a group of officers who were
evidently attempting to reach the main deck to take command of
the loyal soldiers there.
You may be assured that it did my heart good to see my friend
again, and as I ran to his side and opened fire on the officers,
he flashed me a quick smile of recognition.
Three of the five officers opposing us had fallen, and now the
remaining two turned and fled up the companionway to the top
deck. Behind us were twenty or more mutineers eager to reach the
highest deck, where all the surviving officers had now taken
refuge, and I could see more mutineers crowding up the
companionway from the main deck to join their fellows. Kamlot and
I led the way to the next deck, but at the head of the
companionway the surging mob of howling, cursing mutineers
brushed past us to hurl themselves upon the officers.
The men were absolutely out of control, and as there were but
few of my original little band of Soldiers of Liberty among them,
the majority of them knew no leader, with the result that it was
every man for himself. I wished to protect the officers, and it
had been my intention to do so; but I was helpless to avert the
bloody orgy that ensued with a resulting loss of life entirely
disproportionate to the needs of the occasion.
The officers, fighting for their lives with their backs
against a wall, took heavy toll of the mutineers, but they were
eventually overwhelmed by superior numbers. Each of the common
soldiers and sailors appeared to have a special grudge to settle
either with some individual officer or with them all as a class
and for the time all were transformed into maniacal furies, as
time and again they charged the last fortress of authority, the
oval tower on the upper deck.
Each officer that fell, either killed or wounded, was hurled
over the rail to the deck below, where willing hands cast the
body to the main deck from which, in turn, it was thrown into the
sea. And then, at last, the mutineers gained access to the tower,
from which they dragged the remaining officers, butchering them
on the upper deck or hurling them to their shrieking fellows
The captain was the last to be dragged out. They had found him
hiding in a cupboard in his cabin. At sight of him arose such a
scream of hate and rage as I hope never to hear again. Kamlot and
I were standing at one side, helpless witnesses of this holocaust
of hate. We saw them literally tear the captain to pieces and
cast him into the sea.
With the death of the captain the battle was over, the ship
was ours. My plan had succeeded, but the thought suddenly
assailed me that I had created a terrible power that it might be
beyond me to control. I touched Kamlot on the arm. "Follow
me," I directed and started for the main deck.
"Who is at the bottom of this?" asked Kamlot as we
forced our way among the excited mutineers.
"The mutiny was my plan, but not the massacre," I
replied. "Now we must attempt to restore order out of
"If we can," he remarked dubiously.
As I made my way toward the main deck, I collected as many of
the original band of Soldiers of Liberty as we passed, and when I
finally reached my destination, I gathered most of them about me.
Among the mutineers I had discovered the trumpeter who had
unknowingly sounded the signal for the outbreak, and him I caused
to sound the call that should assemble all hands on the main
deck. Whether or not the notes of the trumpet would be obeyed, I
did not know, but so strong is the habit of discipline among
trained men that immediately the call sounded the men began to
pour onto the deck from all parts of the vessel.
I mounted the breech of one of the guns, and, surrounded by my
faithful band, I announced that the Soldiers of Liberty had taken
over the ship, that those who wished to accompany us must obey
the vookor of the band; the others would be put ashore.
"Who is vookor?" demanded a soldier whom I
recognized as one of those who had been most violent in the
attack upon the officers.
"I am," I replied.
"The vookor should be one of us," he growled.
"Carson planned the mutiny and carried it to
success," shouted Kiron. "Carson is vookor."
From the throats of all my original band and from a hundred
new recruits rose a cheer of approval, but there were many who
remained silent or spoke in grumbling undertones to those nearest
them. Among these was Kodj, the soldier who had objected to my
leadership, and I saw that already a faction was gathering about
"It is necessary," I said, "that all men return
at once to their duties, for the ship must be handled, no matter
who commands. If there is any question about leadership, that can
be settled later. In the meantime, I am in command; Kamlot,
Gamfor, Kiron, Zog, and Honan are my lieutenants; with me, they
will officer the ship. All weapons must be turned over
immediately to Kiron at the armory, except those carried by men
regularly detailed by him for guard duty."
"No one is going to disarm me," blustered Kodj.
"I have as much right to carry weapons as anyone. We are all
free men now. I take orders from no one."
Zog, who had edged closer to him as he spoke, seized him by
the throat with one of his huge hands and with the other tore the
belt from about his hips. "You take orders from the new
vookor or you go overboard," he growled, as he released the
man and handed his weapons to Kiron.
For a moment there was silence, and there was a tenseness in
the situation that boded ill; then some one laughed and cried,
"No one is going to disarm me," mimicking Kodj. That
brought a general laugh, and I knew that for the time being the
danger was over. Kiron, sensing that the moment was ripe, ordered
the men to come to the armory and turn in their weapons, and the
remainder of the original band herded them aft in his wake.
It was an hour before even a semblance of order or routine had
been reestablished. Kamlot, Gamfor, and I were gathered in the
chart room in the tower. Our consort was hull down below the
horizon, and we were discussing the means that should be adopted
to capture her without bloodshed and rescue Duare and the other
Vepajan prisoners aboard her. The idea had been in my mind from
the very inception of the plan to seize our own ship, and it had
been the first subject that Kamlot had broached after we had
succeeded in quieting the men and restoring order; but Gamfor was
frankly dubious concerning the feasibility of the project.
"The men are not interested in the welfare of
Vepajans," he reminded us, "and they may resent the
idea of endangering their lives and risking their new-found
liberty in a venture that means nothing whatever to them."
"How do you feel about it, personally?" I asked him.
"I am under your orders," he replied; "I will
do anything that you command, but I am only one--you have two
hundred whose wishes you must consult."
"I shall consult only my officers," I replied;
"to the others, I shall issue orders."
"That is the only way," said Kamlot in a tone of
"Inform the other officers that we shall attack the Sovong
at daybreak," I instructed them.
"But we dare not fire on her," protested Kamlot,
"lest we endanger the life of Duare."
"I intend boarding her," I replied. "There will
be no one but the watch on deck at that hour. On two other
occasions the ships have been brought close together on a calm
sea; so our approach will arouse no suspicion. The boarding party
will consist of a hundred men who will remain concealed until the
command to board is given when the ships are alongside one
another. At that hour in the morning the sea is usually calm; if
it is not calm tomorrow morning we shall have to postpone the
attack until another morning.
"Issue strict orders that there is to be no slaughter; no
one is to be killed who does not resist. We shall remove all of
the Sovong's small arms and the bulk of her provisions,
as well as the Vepajan prisoners, to the Sofal."
"And then what do you propose doing?" asked Gamfor.
"I am coming to that," I replied, "but first I
wish to ascertain the temper of the men aboard the Sofal.
You and Kamlot will inform the other officers of my plans insofar
as I have explained them; then assemble the original members of
the Soldiers of Liberty and explain my intentions to them. When
this has been done, instruct them to disseminate the information
among the remainder of the ship's company, reporting to you the
names of all those who do not receive the plan with favor. These
we shall leave aboard the Sovong with any others who may
elect to transfer to her. At the eleventh hour muster the men on
the main deck. At that time I will explain my plans in
After Kamlot and Gamfor had departed to carry out my orders, I
returned to the chart room. The Sofal, moving ahead at
increased speed, was slowly overhauling the Sovong,
though not at a rate that might suggest pursuit. I was certain
that the Sovong knew nothing of what had transpired upon
her sister ship, for the Amtorians are unacquainted with wireless
communication, and there had been no time for the officers of the
Sofal to signal their fellows aboard the Sovong,
so suddenly had the mutiny broken and so quickly had it been
carried to a conclusion.
As the eleventh hour approached, I noticed little groups of
men congregated in different parts of the ship, evidently
discussing the information that the Soldiers of Liberty had
spread among them. One group, larger than the others, was being
violently harangued by a loud-mouthed orator whom I recognized as
Kodj. It had been apparent from the first that the fellow was a
trouble maker. Just how much influence he had, I did not know;
but I felt that whatever it was, it would be used against me. I
hoped to be rid of him after we had taken the Sovong.
The men congregated rapidly as the trumpeter sounded the hour,
and I came down the companionway to address them. I stood just
above them, on one of the lower steps, where I could overlook
them and be seen by all. Most of them were quiet and appeared
attentive. There was one small group muttering and whispering--
Kodj was its center.
"At daybreak we shall board and take the Sovong,"
I commenced. "You will receive your orders from your
immediate officers, but I wish to emphasize one in
particular--there is to be no unnecessary killing. After we have
taken the ship we shall transfer to the Sofal such
provisions, weapons, and prisoners as we wish to take with us. At
this time, also, we shall transfer from the Sofal to the
Sovong all of you who do not wish to remain on this ship
under my command, as well as those whom I do not care to take
with me," and as I said this, I looked straight at Kodj and
the malcontents surrounding him.
"I shall explain what I have in mind for the future, so
that each of you may be able to determine between now and
daybreak whether he cares to become a member of my company. Those
who do will be required to obey orders but they will share in the
profits of the cruise, if there are profits. The purposes of the
expedition are twofold: To prey on Thorist shipping and to
explore the unknown portions of Amtor after we have returned the
Vepajan prisoners to their own country.
"There will be excitement and adventure; there will be
danger, too; and I want no cowards along, nor any trouble makers.
There should be profits, for I am assured that richly laden
Thorist ships constantly ply the known seas of Amtor; and I am
informed that we can always find a ready market for such spoils
of war as fall into our hands--and war it shall be, with the
Soldiers of Liberty fighting the oppression and tyranny of
"Return to your quarters now, and be prepared to give a
good account of yourselves at daybreak."
I GOT little sleep that night. My officers were constantly
coming to me with reports. From these I learned, what was of the
greatest importance to me, the temper of the crew. None was
averse to taking the Sovong, but there was a divergence
of opinion as to what we should do thereafter. A few wanted to be
landed on Thoran soil, so that they could make their way back to
their homes; the majority was enthusiastic about plundering
merchant ships; the idea of exploring the unknown waters of
Arntor filled most of them with fear; some were averse to
restoring the Vepajan prisoners to their own country; and there
was an active and extremely vocal minority that insisted that the
command of the vessel should be placed in the hands of Thorans.
In this I could see the hand of Kodj even before they told me
that the suggestion had come from the coterie that formed his
"But there are fully a hundred," said Gamfor,
"upon whose loyalty you may depend. These have accepted you
as their leader, and they will follow you and obey your
"Arm these," I directed, "and place all others
below deck until after we have taken the Sovong. How
about the klangan? They took no part in the mutiny. Are they for
us or against us?"
Kiron laughed. "They received no orders one way or the
other," he explained. "They have no initiative. Unless
they are motivated by such primitive instincts as hunger, love,
or hate, they do nothing without orders from a superior."
"And they don't care who their master is,"
interjected Zog. "They serve loyally enough until their
master dies, or sells them, or gives them away, or is overthrown;
then they transfer the same loyalty to a new master."
"They have been told that you are their new master,"
said Kamlot, "and they will obey you."
As there were only five of the birdmen aboard the Sofal,
I had not been greatly exercised about their stand; but I was
glad to learn that they would not be antagonistic.
At the twentieth hour I ordered the hundred upon whom we could
depend assembled and held in the lower deck house, the others
having all been confined below earlier in the night, in the
accomplishment of which a second mutiny was averted only by the
fact that all the men had been previously disarmed except the
loyal Soldiers of Liberty.
All during the night we had been gradually gaining upon the
unsuspecting Sovong until now we were scarcely a hundred
yards astern of her, slightly aport. Across our starbord bow I
could see her looming darkly in the mysterious nocturnal glow of
the moonless Amtorian night, her lanterns white and colored
points of light, her watch dimly visible upon her decks.
Closer and closer the Sofal crept toward her prey. A
Soldier of Liberty, who had once been an officer in the Thoran
navy, was at the wheel; no one was on deck but the members of the
watch; in the lower deck house a hundred men were huddled waiting
for the command to board; I stood beside Honan in the chart room
(he was to command the Sofal while I led the boarding
party), my eyes upon the strange Amtorian chronometer. I spoke a
word to him and he moved a lever. The Sofal crept a
little closer to the Sovong. Then Honan whispered an
order to the helmsman and we closed in upon our prey.
I hastened down the companionway to the main deck and gave the
signal to Kamlot standing in the doorway of the deck house. The
two ships were close now and almost abreast. The sea was calm;
only a gentle swell raised and lowered the softly gliding ships.
Now we were so close that a man could step across the intervening
space from the deck of one ship to that of the other.
The officer of the watch aboard the Sovong hailed us.
"What are you about?" he demanded. "Sheer off,
For answer I ran across the deck of the Sofal and
leaped aboard the other ship, a hundred silent men following in
my wake. There was no shouting and little noise--only the
shuffling of sandalled feet and the subdued clank of arms.
Behind us the grappling hooks were thrown over the rail of the
Sovong. Every man had been instructed as to the part he
was to play. Leaving Kamlot in command on the main deck, I ran to
the tower deck with a dozen men, while Kiron led a score of
fighting men to the second deck where most of the officers were
Before the officer of the watch could gather his scattered
wits, I had him covered with a pistol. "Keep quiet," I
whispered, "and you will not be harmed." My plan was to
take as many of them as possible before a general alarm could be
sounded and thus minimize the necessity for bloodshed; therefore,
the need for silence. I turned him over to one of my men after
disarming him; and then I sought the captain, while two of my
detachment attended to the helmsman.
I found the officer for whom I sought reaching for his
weapons. He had been awakened by the unavoidable noise of the
boarding party, and, suspecting that something was amiss, had
seized his weapons as he arose and uncovered the lights in his
I was upon him as he raised his pistol, and struck it from his
hand before he could fire; but he stepped back with his sword on
guard, and thus we stood facing one another for a moment.
"Surrender," I told him, "and you will not be
"Who are you?" he demanded, "and where did you
"I was a prisoner on board the Sofal," I
replied, "but now I command her. If you wish to avoid
bloodshed, come out on deck with me and give the command to
"And then what?" he demanded. "Why have you
boarded us if not to kill?"
"To take off provisions, weapons, and the Vepajan
prisoners," I explained.
Suddenly the hissing staccato of pistol fire came up to us
from the deck below.
"I thought there was to be no killing!" he snapped.
"If you want to stop it, get out there and give the
command to surrender," I replied.
"I don't believe you," he cried. "It's a
trick," and he came at me with his sword.
I did not wish to shoot him down in cold blood, and so I met
his attack with my own blade. The advantage was on his side in
the matter of skill, for I had not yet fully accustomed myself to
the use of the Amtorian sword; but I had an advantage in strength
and reach and in some tricks of German swordplay that I had
learned while I was in Germany. The Amtorian sword is primarily a
cutting weapon, its weight near the tip making it particularly
effective for this method of attack, though it lessens its
effectiveness in parrying thrusts, rendering it a rather sluggish
defensive weapon. I therefore found myself facing a savage
cutting attack against which I had difficulty in defending
myself. The officer was an active man and skillful with the
sword. Being experienced, it did not take him long to discover
that I was a novice, with the result that he pressed his
advantage viciously, so that I soon regretted my magnanimity in
not resorting to my pistol before the encounter began; but it was
too late now--the fellow kept me so busy that I had no
opportunity to draw the weapon.
He forced me back and around the room until he stood between
me and the doorway, and then, having me where no chance for
escape remained he set to work to finish me with dispatch. The
duel, as far as I was concerned, was fought wholly on the
defensive. So swift and persistent was his attack that I could
only defend myself, and not once in the first two minutes of the
encounter did I aim a single blow at him.
I wondered what had become of the men who had accompanied me;
but pride would not permit me to call upon them for help, nor did
I learn until later that it would have availed me nothing, since
they were having all that they could attend to in repelling the
attack of several officers who had run up from below immediately
The teeth of my antagonist were bared in a grim and ferocious
smile, as he battered relentlessly at my guard, as though he
already sensed victory and was gloating in anticipation. The
clanging of steel on steel now drowned all sounds from beyond the
four walls of the cabin where we fought; I could not tell if
fighting were continuing in other parts of the ship, nor, if it
were, whether it were going in our favor or against us. I
realized that I must know these things, that I was
responsible for whatever took place aboard the Sovong,
and that I must get out of that cabin and lead my men either in
victory or defeat.
Such thoughts made my position even more impossible than as
though only my life were at stake and drove me to attempt heroic
measures for releasing myself from my predicament and my peril. I
must destroy my adversary, and I must do so at once!
He had me now with my back almost against the wall. Already
his point had touched me upon the cheek once and twice upon the
body, and though the wounds were but scratches, I was covered
with blood. Now he leaped upon me in a frenzy of determination to
have done with me instantly, but this time I did not fall back. I
parried his cut, so that his sword passed to the right of my body
which was now close to his; and then I drew back my point, and,
before he could recover himself, drove it through his heart.
As he sagged to the floor, I jerked my sword from his body and
ran from his cabin. The entire episode had required but a few
minutes, though it had seemed much longer to me, yet in that
brief time much had occurred on the decks and in the cabins of
the Sovong. The upper decks were cleared of living
enemies; one of my own men was at the wheel, another at the
controls; there was still fighting on the main deck where some of
the Sovong's officers were making a desperate last stand
with a handful of their men. But by the time I reached the scene
of the battle, it was over; the officers, assured by Kamlot that
their lives would be spared, had surrendered--the Sovong
was ours. The Sofal had taken her first prize!
As I sprang into the midst of the excited warriors on the main
deck, I must have presented a sorry spectacle, bleeding, as I
was, from my three wounds; but my men greeted me with loud
cheers. I learned later that my absence from the fighting on the
main deck had been noticed and had made a poor impression on my
men, but when they saw me return bearing the scars of combat, my
place in their esteem was secured. Those three little scratches
proved of great value to me, but they were as nothing in
comparison with the psychological effect produced by the wholly
disproportionate amount of blood they had spilled upon my naked
We now quickly rounded up our prisoners and disarmed them.
Kamlot took a detachment of men and released the Vepajan captives
whom he transferred at once to the Sofal. They were
nearly all women, but I did not see them as they were taken from
the ship, being engaged with other matters. I could imagine,
though, the joy in the hearts of Kamlot and Duare at this
reunion, which the latter at least had probably never even dared
to hope for.
Rapidly we transferred all of the small arms of the Sovong
to the Sofal, leaving only sufficient to equip the
officers of the ill-starred vessel. This work was intrusted to
Kiron and was carried out by our own men, while Gamfor, with a
contingent of our new-made prisoners, carried all of the Sovong's
surplus provisions aboard our own ship. This done, I ordered all
the Sovong's guns thrown overboard--by that much at
least I would cripple the power of Thora. The last act in this
drama of the sea was to march our one hundred imprisoned
malcontents from the Sofal to the Sovong and
present them to the latter's new commander with my compliments.
He did not seem greatly pleased, however, nor could I blame him.
Neither were the prisoners pleased. Many of them begged me to
take them back aboard the Sofal; but I already had more
men than I felt were needed to navigate and defend the ship; and
each of the prisoners had been reported as having expressed
disapproval of some part or all of our plan; so that I, who must
have absolute loyalty and cooperation, considered them valueless
Kodj, strange to say, was the most persistent. He almost went
on his knees as he pleaded with me to permit him to remain with
the Sofal, and he promised me such loyalty as man had
never known before; but I had had enough of Kodj and told him so.
Then, when he found that I could not be moved, he turned upon me,
swearing by all his ancestors that he would get even with me yet,
even though it took a thousand years.
Returning to the deck of the Sofal, I ordered the
grappling hooks cast off, and presently the two ships were under
way again, the Sovong proceeding toward the Thoran port
that was her destination, the Sofal back toward Vepaja.
Now, for the first time, I had opportunity to inquire into our
losses and found that we had suffered four killed and twenty-one
wounded, the casualties among the crew of the Sovong
having been much higher.
For the greater part of the remainder of the day I was busy
with my officers organizing the personnel of the Sofal
and systematizing the activities of this new and unfamiliar
venture, in which work Kiron and Gamfor were of inestimable
value; and it was not until late in the afternoon that I had an
opportunity to inquire into the welfare of the rescued Vepajan
captives. When I asked Kamlot about them, he said that they were
none the worse for their captivity aboard the Sovong.
"You see, these raiding parties have orders to bring the
women to Thora unharmed and in good condition," he
explained. "They are destined for more important persons
than ships' officers, and that is their safeguard.
"However, Duare said that notwithstanding this, the
captain made advances to her. I wish I might have known it while
I was still aboard the Sovong, that I might have killed
him for his presumption." Kamlot's tone was bitter and he
showed signs of unusual excitement.
"Let your mind rest at ease," I begged him;
"Duare has been avenged."
"What do you mean?"
"I killed the captain myself," I explained.
He clapped a hand upon my shoulder, his eyes alight with
pleasure. "Again you have won the undying gratitude of
Vepaja," he cried. "I wish that it might have been my
good fortune to have killed the beast and thus wiped out the
insult upon Vepaja, but if I could not be the one, then I am glad
that it was you, Carson, rather than another."
I thought that he took the matter rather seriously and was
placing too much importance upon the action of the Sovong's
captain, since it had resulted in no harm to the girl; but then,
of course, I realized that love plays strange tricks upon a man's
mental processes, so that an affront to a mistress might be
magnified to the proportions of a national calamity.
"Well, it is all over now," I said, "and your
sweetheart has been returned to you safe and sound."
At that he looked horrified. "My sweetheart!" he
exclaimed. "In the name of the ancestors of all the jongs!
Do you mean to tell me that you do not know who Duare is?"
"I thought of course that she was the girl you
loved," I confessed. "Who is she?"
"Of course I love her," he explained; "all
Vepaja loves her--she is the virgin daughter of a Vepajan
Had he been announcing the presence of a goddess on shipboard,
his tone could have been no more reverential and awed. I
endeavored to appear more impressed than I was, lest I offend
"Had she been the woman of your choice," I said,
"I should have been even more pleased to have had a part in
her rescue than had she been the daughter of a dozen jongs."
"That is nice of you," he replied, "but do not
let other Vepajans hear you say such things. You have told me of
the divinities of that strange world from which you come; the
persons of the jong and his children are similarly sacred to
"Then, of course, they shall be sacred to me," I
"By the way, I have word for you that should please
you--a Vepajan would consider it a high honor. Duare desires to
see you, that she may thank you personally. It is irregular, of
course; but then circumstances have rendered strict adherence to
the etiquette and customs of our country impracticable, if not
impossible. Several hundred men already have looked upon her,
many have spoken to her, and nearly all of them were enemies; so
it can do no harm if she sees and speaks with her defenders and
I did not understand what he was driving at, but I assented to
what he had said and told him that I would pay my respects to the
princess before the day was over.
I was very busy; and, if the truth must be told, I was not
particularly excited about visiting the princess. In fact, I
rather dreaded it, for I am not particularly keen about fawning
and kotowing to royalty or anything else; but I decided that out
of respect for Kamlot's feelings I must get the thing over as
soon as possible, and after he had left to attend to some duty, I
made my way to the quarters allotted to Duare on the second deck.
The Amtorians do not knock on a door-- they whistle. It is
rather an improvement, I think, upon our custom. One has one's
own distinctive whistle. Some of them are quite elaborate airs.
One soons learns to recognize the signals of one's friends. A
knock merely informs you that some one wishes to enter; a whistle
tells you the same thing and also reveals the identity of your
My signal, which is very simple, consists of two short low
notes followed by a higher longer note; and as I stood before the
door of Duare and sounded this, my mind was not upon the princess
within but upon another girl far away in the tree city of Kooaad,
in Vepaja. She was often in my mind--the girl whom I had glimpsed
but twice, to whom I had spoken but once and that time to avow a
love that had enveloped me as completely, spontaneously, and
irrevocably as would death upon some future day.
In response to my signal a soft, feminine voice bade me enter.
I stepped into the room and faced Duare. At sight of me her eyes
went wide and a quick flush mounted her cheeks. "You!"
I was equally dumfounded--she was the girl from the garden of
WHAT a strange contretemps! Its suddenness left me
temporarily speechless; the embarrassment of Duare was only too
obvious. Yet it was that unusual paradox, a happy contretemps--for
me at least.
I advanced toward her, and there must have been a great deal
more in my eyes than I realized, for she shrank back, flushing
even more deeply than before.
"Don't touch me!" she whispered. "Don't dare!"
"Have I ever harmed you?" I asked.
That question seemed to bring her confidence. She shook her
head. "No," she admitted, "you never
have--physically. I sent for you to thank you for the service you
have already rendered me; but I did not know it was you.
I did not know that the Carson they spoke of was the man
who--" She stopped there and looked at me appealingly.
"The man who told you in the garden of the jong that he
loved you," I prompted her.
"Don't!" she cried. "Can it be that you do not
realize the offensiveness, the criminality of such a
"Is it a crime to love you?" I asked.
"It is a crime to tell me so," she replied with
something of haughtiness.
"Then I am a confirmed criminal," I replied,
"for I cannot help telling you that I love you, whenever I
"If that is the case, you must not see me again, for you
must never again speak those words to me," she said
decisively. "Because of the service you have rendered me, I
forgive you your past offenses; but do not repeat them."
"What if I can't help it?" I inquired.
"You must help it," she stated seriously; "it
is a matter of life and death to you."
Her words puzzled me. "I do not understand what you
mean," I admitted.
"Kamlot, Honan, any of the Vepajans aboard this ship
would kill you if they knew," she replied. "The jong,
my father, would have you destroyed upon our return to Vepaja--it
would all depend upon whom I told first."
I came a little closer to her and looked straight into her
eyes. "You would never tell," I whispered.
"Why not? What makes you think that?" she demanded,
but her voice quavered a little.
"Because you want me to love you," I challenged her.
She stamped her foot angrily. "You are beyond reason or
forbearance or decency!" she exclaimed. "Leave my cabin
at once; I do not wish ever to see you again."
Her bosom was heaving, her beautiful eyes were flashing, she
was very close to me, and an impulse seized me to take her in my
arms. I wanted to crush her body to mine, I wanted to cover her
lips with kisses; but more than all else I wanted her love, and
so I restrained myself, for fear that I might go too far and lose
the chance to win the love that I felt was hovering just below
the threshold of her consciousness. I do not know why I was so
sure of that, but I was. I could not have brought myself to force
my attentions upon a woman to whom they were repugnant, but from
the first moment that I had seen this girl watching me from the
garden in Vepaja, I had been impressed by an inner consciousness
of her interest in me, her more than simple interest. It was just
one of those things that are the children of old Chand Kabi's
training, a training that has made me infinitely more intuitive
than a woman. "I am sorry that you are sending me away into
virtual exile," I said. "I do not feel that I deserve
that, but of course the standards of your world are not the
standards of mine. There, a woman is not dishonored by the love
of a man, or by its avowal, unless she is already married to
another," and then of a sudden a thought occurred to me that
should have occurred before. "Do you already belong to some
man?" I demanded, chilled by the thought. "Of course
not!" she snapped. "I am not yet nineteen." I
wondered that it had never before occurred to me that the girl in
the garden of the jong might be already married.
I did not know what that had to do with it, but I was glad to
learn that she was not seven hundred years old. I had often
wondered about her age, though after all it could have made no
difference, since on Venus, if anywhere in the universe, people
are really no older than they look--I mean, as far as their
attractiveness is concerned.
"Are you going?" she demanded, "or shall I have
to call one of the Vepajans and tell them that you have affronted
"And have me killed?" I asked. "No, you cannot
make me believe that you would ever do that."
"Then I shall leave," she stated, "and
remember that you are never to see me or speak to me again."
With that parting and far from cheering ultimatum she quit the
room, going into another of her suite. That appeared to end the
interview; I could not very well follow her, and so I turned and
made my way disconsolately to the captain's cabin in the tower.
As I thought the matter over, it became obvious to me that I
not only had not made much progress in my suit, but that there
was little likelihood that I ever should. There seemed to be some
insuperable barrier between us, though what it was I could not
imagine. I could not believe that she was entirely indifferent to
me; but perhaps that was just a reflection of my egotism, for I
had to admit that she had certainly made it plain enough both by
words and acts that she wished to have nothing to do with me. I
was unquestionably persona non grata.
Notwithstanding all this, or maybe because of it, I realized
that this second and longer interview had but served to raise my
passion to still greater heat, leaving me in a fine state of
despair. Her near presence on board the Sofal was
constantly provocative, while her interdiction of any relations
between us only tended to make me more anxious to be with her. I
was most unhappy, and the monotony of the now uneventful voyage
back toward Vepaja offered no means of distraction. I wished that
we might sight another vessel, for any ship that we sighted would
be an enemy ship. We were outlaws, we of the Sofal--pirates,
buccaneers, privateers. I rather leaned toward the last and most
polite definition of our status. Of course we had not as yet been
commissioned by Mintep to raid shipping for Vepaja, but we were
striking at Vepaja's enemies, and so I felt that we had some
claim upon the dubious respectability of privateerism. However,
either of the other two titles would not have greatly depressed
me. Buccaneer has a devil-may-care ring to it that appeals to my
fancy; it has a trifle more haut ton than pirate.
There is much in a name. I had liked the name of the Sofal
from the first. Perhaps it was the psychology of that name that
suggested the career upon which I was now launched. It means
killer. The verb meaning kill is fal. The prefix so
has the same value as the suffix er in English; so sofal
means killer. Vong is the Amtorian word for defend;
therefore, Sovong, the name of our first prize, means
defender; but the Sovong had not lived up to her name.
I was still meditating on names in an effort to forget Duare,
when Kamlot joined me, and I decided to take the opportunity to
ask him some questions concerning certain Amtorian customs that
regulated the social intercourse between men and maids. He opened
a way to the subject by asking me if I had seen Duare since she
sent for me.
"I saw her," I replied, "but I do not
understand her attitude, which suggested that it was almost a
crime for me to look at her."
"It would be under ordinary circumstances," he told
me, "but of course, as I explained to you before, what she
and we have passed through has temporarily at least minimized the
importance of certain time-honored Vepajan laws and customs.
"Vepajan girls attain their majority at the age of
twenty; prior to that they may not form a union with a man. The
custom, which has almost the force of a law, places even greater
restrictions upon the daughters of a jong. They may not even see
or speak to any man other than their blood relatives and a few
well-chosen retainers until after they have reached their
twentieth birthday. Should they transgress, it would mean
disgrace for them and death for the man."
"What a fool law!" I ejacuated, but I realized at
last how heinous my transgression must have appeared in the eyes
Kamlot shrugged. "It may be a fool law," he said,
"but it is still the law; and in the case of Duare its
enforcement means much to Vepaja, for she is the hope of
I had heard that title conferred upon her before, but it was
meaningless to me. "Just what do you mean by saying that she
is the hope of Vepaja?" I asked.
"She is Mintep's only child. He has never had a son,
though a hundred women have sought to bear him one. The life of
the dynasty ends if Duare bears no son; and if she is to bear a
son, then it is essential that the father of that son be one
fitted to be the father of a jong."
"Have they selected the father of her children yet?"
"Of course not," replied Kamlot. "The matter
will not even be broached until after Duare has passed her
"And she is not even nineteen yet," I remarked with
"No," agreed Kamlot, eyeing me closely, "but
you act as though that fact were of importance to you."
"It is," I admitted.
"What do you mean?" he demanded.
"I intend to marry Duare!"
Kamlot leaped to his feet and whipped our his sword. It was
the first time that I had ever seen him show marked excitement. I
thought he was going to kill me on the spot.
"Defend yourself!" he cried. "I cannot kill you
until you draw."
"Just why do you wish to kill me at all?" I
demanded. "Have you gone crazy?"
The point of Kamlot's sword dropped slowly toward the floor.
"I do not wish to kill you," he said rather sadly, all
the nervous excitement gone from his manner. "You are my
friend, you have saved my life--no, I would rather die myself
than kill you, but the thing you have just said demands it."
I shrugged my shoulders; the thing was inexplicable to me.
"What did I say that demands death?" I demanded.
"That you intend to marry Duare."
"In my world," I told him, "men are killed for
saying that they do not intend marrying some girl."
I had been sitting at the desk in my cabin at the time that
Kamlot had threatened me, and I had not arisen; now I stood up
and faced him. "You had better kill me, Kamlot," I
said, "for I spoke the truth."
He hesitated for a moment, standing there looking at me; then
he returned his sword to its scabbard. "I cannot," he
said huskily. "May my ancestors forgive me! I cannot kill my
"Perhaps," he added, seeking some extenuating
circumstance, "you should not be held accountable to customs
of which you had no knowledge. I often forget that you are of
another world than ours. But tell me, now that I have made myself
a party to your crime by excusing it, what leads you to believe
that you will marry Duare? I can incriminate myself no more by
listening to you further."
"I intend to marry her, because I know that I love her
and believe that she already half loves me."
At this Kamlot appeared shocked and horrified again.
"That is impossible," he cried. "She never saw you
before; she cannot dream what is in your heart or your mad
"On the contrary, she has seen me before; and she knows
quite well what is in my 'mad brain,'" I assured him.
"I told her in Kooaad; I told her again today."
"And she listened?"
"She was shocked," I admitted, "but she
listened; then she upbraided me and ordered me from her
Kamlot breathed a sigh of relief. "At least she
has not gone mad. I cannot understand on what you base your
belief that she may return your love."
"Her eyes betrayed her; and, what may be more convincing,
she did not expose my perfidy and thus send me to my death."
He pondered that and shook his head. "It is all
madness," he said; "I can make nothing of it. You say
that you talked with her in Kooaad, but that would have been
impossible. But if you had ever even seen her before, why did you
show so little interest in her fate when you knew that she was a
prisoner aboard the Sovong? Why did you say that you
thought that she was my sweetheart?"
"I did not know until a few minutes ago," I
explained, "that the girl I saw and talked with in the
garden at Kooaad was Duare, the daughter of the jong."
A few days later I was again talking with Kamlot in my cabin
when we were interrupted by a whistle at the door; and when I had
bade him do so, one of the Vepajan prisoners that we had rescued
from the Sovong entered. He was not from Kooaad but from
another city of Vepaja, and therefore none of the other Vepajans
aboard knew anything concerning him. His name was Vilor, and he
appeared to be a decent sort of fellow, though rather inclined to
taciturnity. He had manifested considerable interest in the
klangans and was with them often, but had explained this
idiosyncrasy on the grounds that he was a scholar and wished to
study the birdmen, specimens of which he had never before seen.
"I have come," he explained in response to my
inquiry, "to ask you to appoint me an officer. I should like
to join your company and share in the work and responsibilities
of the expedition."
"We are well officered now," I explained, "and
have all the men we need. Furthermore," I added frankly,
"I do not know you well enough to be sure of your
qualifications. By the time we reach Vejapa, we shall be better
acquainted; and if I need you then, I will tell you."
"Well, I should like to do something," he insisted.
"May I guard the janjong until we reach Vepaja?"
He referred to Duare, whose title, compounded of the two words
daughter and king, is synonymous to princess. I thought that I
noticed just a trace of excitement in his voice as he made the
"She is well guarded now," I explained.
"But I should like to do it," he insisted. "It
would be a service of love and loyalty for my jong. I could stand
the night guard; no one likes that detail ordinarily."
"It will not be necessary," I said shortly;
"the guard is already sufficient."
"She is in the after cabins of the second deck house, is
she not?" he asked.
I told him that she was.
"And she has a special guard?"
"A man is always before her door at night," I
"Only one?" he demanded, as though he thought the
"In addition to the regular watch, we consider one man
enough; she has no enemies aboard the Sofal." These
people were certainly solicitous of the welfare and safety of
their royalty, I thought; and, it seemed to me, unnecessarily so.
But finally Vilor gave up and departed, after begging me to give
his request further thought.
"He seems even more concerned about the welfare of Duare
than you," I remarked to Ramlot after Vilor had gone.
"Yes, I noticed that," replied my lieutenant.
"There is no one more concerned about her than I," I
said, "but I cannot see that any further precautions are
"Nor I," agreed Kamlot; "she is quite well
We had dropped Vilor from our minds and were discussing other
matters, when we heard the voice of the lookout in the crow's
nest shouting, "Voo notar!" ("A ship!")
Running to the tower deck, we got the bearings of the stranger as
the lookout announced them the second time, and, sure enough,
almost directly abeam on the starboard side we discerned the
superstructure of a ship on the horizon.
For some reason which I do not clearly understand, the
visibility on Venus is usually exceptionally good. Low fogs and
haze are rare, notwithstanding the humidity of the atmosphere.
This condition may be due to the mysterious radiation from that
strange element in the planet's structure which illuminates her
moonless nights; I do not know.
At any rate, we could see a ship, and almost immediately all
was excitement aboard the Sofal. Here was another prize,
and the men were eager to be at her. As we changed our course and
headed for our victim, a cheer rose from the men on deck. Weapons
were issued, the bow gun and the two tower guns were elevated to
firing positions. The Sofal forged ahead at full speed.
As we approached our quarry, we saw that it was a ship of
about the same size as the Sofal and bearing the
insignia of Thora. Closer inspection revealed it to be an armed
I now ordered all but the gunners into the lower deck house,
as I planned on boarding this vessel as I had the Sovong
and did not wish her to see our deck filled with armed men before
we came alongside. As before, explicit orders were issued; every
man knew what was expected of him; all were cautioned against
needless killing. If I were to be a pirate, I was going to be as
humane a pirate as possible. I would not spill blood needlessly.
I had questioned Kiron, Gamfor, and many another Thoran in my
company relative to the customs and practices of Thoran ships of
war until I felt reasonably familiar with them. I knew for
instance that a warship might search a merchantman. It was upon
this that I based my hope of getting our grappling hooks over the
side of our victim before he could suspect our true design.
When we were within hailing distance of the ship, I directed
Kiron to order her to shut down her engines, as we wished to
board and search her; and right then we ran into our first
obstacle. It came in the form of a pennant suddenly hoisted at
the bow of our intended victim. It meant nothing to me, but it
did to Kiron and the other Thorans aboard the Sofal.
"We'll not board her so easily after all," said
Kiron. "She has an ongyan on board, and that exempts her
from search. It probably also indicates that she carries a larger
complement of soldiers than a merchantman ordinarily does."
"Whose friend?" I asked, "Yours?" for
ongyan means great friend, in the sense of eminent or exalted.
Kiron smiled. "It is a title. There are a hundred
klongyan in the oligarchy; one of them is aboard that ship. They
are great friends unquestionably, great friends of themselves,
they rule Thora more tyranically than any jong and for themselves
"How will the men feel about attacking a ship bearing so
exalted a personages" I in- quired.
"They will fight among themselves to be the first aboard
and to run a sword through him."
"They must not kill him," I replied. "I have a
They will be hard to control once they are in the thick of a
fight," Kiron assured me; "I have yet to see the
officer who can do it. In the old days, in the days of the jongs,
there were order and discipline; but not now."
"There will be aboard the Sofal," I
averred. "Come with me; I am going to speak to the
Together we entered the lower deck house where the majority of
the ship's company was massed, waiting for the command to attack.
There were nearly a hundred rough and burly fighting men, nearly
all of whom were ignorant and brutal. We had been together as
commander and crew for too short a time for me to gauge their
sentiments toward me; but I realized that there must be no
question in any mind as to who was captain of the ship, no matter
what they thought of me.
Kiron had called them to attention as we entered, and now
every eye was on me as I started to speak. "We are about to
take another ship," I began, "on board which is one
whom Kiron tells me you will want to kill. He is an ongyan. I
have come here to tell you that he must not be killed."
Growls of disapproval greeted this statement, but, ignoring them,
I continued, "I have come here to tell you something else,
because I have been informed that no officer can control you
after you enter battle. There are reasons why it will be better
for us to hold this man prisoner than to kill him, but these have
nothing to do with the question; what you must understand is that
my orders and the orders of your other officers must be obeyed.
"We are embarked upon an enterprise that can succeed only
if discipline be enforced. I expect the enterprise to succeed. I
will enforce discipline. Insubordination or disobedience will be
punishable by death. That is all."
As I left the room, I left behind me nearly a hundred silent
men. There was nothing to indicate what their reaction had been.
Purposely, I took Kiron out with me; I wanted the men to have an
opportunity to discuss the matter among themselves without
interference by an officer. I knew that I had no real authority
over them, and that eventually they must decide for themselves
whether they would obey me; the sooner that decision was reached
the better for all of us.
Amtorian ships employ only the most primitive means of
intercommunication. There is a crude and cumbersome hand
signalling system in which flags are employed; then there is a
standardized system of trumpet calls which covers a fairly wide
range of conventional messages, but the most satisfactory medium
and the the most used is the human voice.
Since our quarry had displayed the pennant of the ongyan, we
had held a course parallel to hers and a little distance astern.
On her main deck a company of armed men was congregated She
mounted four guns, which had been elevated into firing position.
She was ready, but I think that as yet she suspected nothing
wrong in our intentions.
Now I gave orders that caused the Sofal to close in
upon the other ship, and as the distance between them lessened I
saw indications of increasing excitement on the decks of our
"What are you about?" shouted an officer from her
tower deck. "Stand off there! There is an ongyan aboard
As no reply was made to him, and as the Sofal
continued to draw nearer, his excitement waxed. He gesticulated
rapidly as he conversed with a fat man standing at his side; then
he screamed, "Stand off! or some one will suffer for
this"; but the Sofal only moved steadily closer.
"Stand off, or I'll fire!" shouted the captain.
For answer I caused all our starboard guns to be elevated into
firing position. I knew he would not dare fire now, for a single
broadside from the Sofal would have sunk him in less
than a minute, a contingency which I wished to avoid as much as
"What do you want of us?" he demanded.
"We want to board you," I replied, "without
bloodshed if possible."
"This is revolution! This is treason!" shouted the
fat man at the captain's side. "I order you to stand off and
leave us alone. I am the ongyan, Moosko," and then to the
soldiers on the main deck he screamed, "Repel them! Kill any
man who sets foot upon that deck!"
AT THE same moment that the ongyan, Moosko, ordered his
soldiers to repel any attempt to board his ship, her captain
ordered full speed ahead and threw her helm to starboard. She
veered away from us and leaped ahead in an effort to escape. Of
course I could have sunk her, but her loot would have been of no
value to me at the bottom of the sea; instead I directed the
trumpeter at my side to sound full speed ahead to the officer in
the tower, and the chase was on.
The Yan, whose name was now discernible across her
stern, was much faster than Kiron had led me to believe; but the Sofal
was exceptionally speedy, and it soon became obvious to all that
the other ship could not escape her. Slowly we regained the
distance that we had lost in the first, unexpected spurt of the Yan;
slowly but surely we were closing up on her. Then the captain of
the Yan did just what I should have done had I been in
his place; he kept the Sofal always directly astern of
him and opened fire on us with his after tower gun and with a gun
similarly placed in the stern on the lower deck. The maneuver was
tactically faultless, since it greatly reduced the number of guns
that we could bring into play without changing our course, and
was the only one that might offer him any hope of escape.
There was something eery in the sound of that first heavy
Amtorian gun that I had heard. I saw nothing, neither smoke nor
flame; there was only a loud staccato roar more reminiscent of
machine gun fire than of any other sound. At first there was no
other effect; then I saw a piece of our starboard rail go and two
of my men fall to the deck.
By this time our bow gun was in action. We were in the swell
of the Yan's wake, which made accurate firing difficult.
The two ships were racing ahead at full speed; the prow of the Sofal
was throwing white water and spume far to either side; the sea in
the wake of the Yan was boiling, and a heavy swell that
we were quartering kept the ships rolling. The thrill of the
chase and of battle was in our blood, and above all was the
venomous rattle of the big guns.
I ran to the bow to direct the fire of the gun there, and a
moment later we had the satisfaction of seeing the crew of one of
the Yan's guns crumple to the deck man by man, as our
gunner got his sights on them and mowed them down.
The Sofal was gaining rapidly upon the Yan,
and our guns were concentrating on the tower gun and the tower of
the enemy. The ongyan had long since disappeared from the upper
deck, having doubtlessly sought safety in a less exposed part of
the ship, and in fact there were only two men left alive upon the
tower deck where he had stood beside the captain; these were two
of the crew of the gun that was giving us most trouble.
I did not understand at the time why the guns of neither ship
were more effective. I knew that the T-ray was supposedly highly
destructive, and so I could not understand why neither ship had
been demolished or sunk; but that was because I had not yet
learned that all the vital parts of the ships were protected by a
thin armor of the same metal of which the large guns were
composed, the only substance at all impervious to the T-ray. Had
this not been true, our fire would have long since put the Yan
out of commission, as our T-rays, directed upon her after tower
gun, would have passed on through the tower, killing the men at
the controls and destroying the controls themselves. Eventually
this would have happened, but it would have been necessary first
to have destroyed the protective armor of the tower.
At last we succeeded in silencing the remaining gun, but if we
were to draw up alongside the Yan we must expose
ourselves to the fire of other guns located on her main deck and
the forward end of the tower. We had already suffered some
losses, and I knew that we must certainly expect a great many
more if we put ourselves in range of those other guns; but there
seemed no other alternative than to abandon the chase entirely,
and that I had no mind to do.
Giving orders to draw up along her port side, I directed the
fire of the bow gun along her rail where it would rake her port
guns one by one as we moved up on her, and gave orders that each
of our starboard guns in succession should open fire similarly as
they came within range of the Yan's guns. Thus we kept a
steady and continuous fire streaming upon the unhappy craft as we
drew alongside her and closed up the distance between us.
We had suffered a number of casualties, but our losses were
nothing compared to those of the Yan, whose decks were
now strewn with dead and dying men. Her plight was hopeless, and
her commander must at last have realized it, for now he gave the
signal of surrender and stopped his engines. A few minutes later
we were alongside and our boarding party had clambered over her
As Kamlot and I stood watching these men who were being led by
Kiron to take possession of the prize and bring certain prisoners
aboard the Sofal, I could not but speculate upon what
their answer was to be to my challenge for leadership. I knew
that their freedom from the constant menace of their tyrannical
masters was so new to them that they might well be expected to
commit excesses, and I dreaded the result for I had determined to
make an example of any men who disobeyed me, though I fell in the
attempt. I saw the majority of them spread over the deck under
the command of the great Zog, while Kiron led a smaller
detachment to the upper decks in search of the captain and the
Fully five minutes must have elapsed before I saw my
lieutenant emerge from the tower of the Yan with his two
prisoners. He conducted them down the companionway and across the
main deck toward the Sofal, while a hundred members of
my pirate band watched them in silence. Not a hand was raised
against them as they passed.
Kamlot breathed a sigh of relief as the two men clambered over
the rail of the Sofal and approached us. "I think
that our lives hung in the balance then, quite as much as
theirs," he said, and I agreed with him, for if my men had
started killing aboard the Yan in defiance of my orders,
they would have had to kill me and those loyal to me to protect
their own lives.
The ongyan was still blustering when they were halted in front
of me, but the captain was awed. There was something about the
whole incident that mystified him, and when he got close enough
to me to see the color of my hair and eyes, I could see that he
"This is an outrage," shouted Moosko, the ongyan.
"I will see that every last man of you is destroyed for
this." He was trembling, and purple with rage.
"See that he does not speak again unless he is spoken
to," I instructed Kiron, and then I turned to the captain.
"As soon as we have taken what we wish from your ship,"
I told him, "you will be free to continue your voyage. I am
sorry that you did not see fit to obey me when I ordered you to
stop for boarding; it would have saved many lives. The next time
you are ordered to lay to by the Sofal, do so; and when
you return to your own country, advise other shipmasters that the
Sofal is abroad and that she is to be obeyed."
"Do you mind telling me," he asked, "who you
are and under what flag you sail?"
"For the moment I am a Vepajan," I replied,
"but we sail under our own flag. No country is responsible
for what we do, nor are we responsible to any country."
Pressing the crew of the Yan into service, Kamlot,
Kiron, Gamfor, and Zog had all her weapons, such of her
provisions as we wished, and the most valuable and least bulky
portion of her cargo transferred to the Sofal before
dark. We then threw her guns overboard and let her proceed upon
Moosko I retained as a hostage in the event that we should
ever need one; he was being held under guard on the main deck
until I could determine just what to do with him. The Vepajan
women captives we had rescued from the Sovong, together
with our own officers who were also quartered on the second deck,
left me no vacant cabin in which to put Moosko, and I did not
wish to confine him below deck in the hole reserved for common
I chanced to mention the matter to Kamlot in the presence of
Vilor, when the latter immediately suggested that he would share
his own small cabin with Moosko and be responsible for him. As
this seemed an easy solution of the problem, I ordered Moosko
turned over to Vilor, who took him at once to his cabin.
The pursuit of the Yan had taken us off our course,
and now, as we headed once more toward Vepaja, a dark land mass
was dimly visible to starboard. I could not but wonder what
mysteries lay beyond that shadowy coast line, what strange beasts
and men inhabited that terra incognita that stretched
away into Strabol and the unexplored equatorial regions of Venus.
To partially satisfy my curiosity, I went to the chart room, and
after determining our position as accurately as I could by dead
reckoning, I discovered that we were off the shore of Noobol. I
remembered having heard Danus mention this country, but I could
not recall what he had told me about it.
Lured by imaginings, I went out onto the tower deck and stood
alone, looking out across the faintly illuminated nocturnal
waters of Amtor toward mysterious Noobol. The wind had risen to
almost the proportions of a gale, the first that I had
encountered since my coming to the Shepherd's Star; heavy seas
were commencing to run, but I had every confidence in the ship
and in the ability of my officers to navigate her under any
circumstances; so I was not perturbed by the increasing violence
of the storm. It occurred to me though that the women aboard
might be frightened, and my thoughts, which were seldom absent
from her for long, returned to Duare. Perhaps she was frightened!
Even no excuse is a good excuse to the man who wishes to see
the object of his infatuation; but now I prided myself that I had
a real reason for seeing her and one that she herself must
appreciate, since it was prompted by solicitude for her welfare.
And so I went down the companionway to the second deck with the
intention of whistling before the door of Duare; but as I had to
pass directly by Vilor's cabin, I thought that I would take the
opportunity to look in on my prisoner.
There was a moment's silence following my signal, and then
Vilor bade me enter. As I stepped into the cabin, I was surprised
to see an angan sitting there with Moosko and Vilor. Vilor's
embarrassment was obvious; Moosko appeared ill at ease and the
birdman frightened. That they were disconcerted did not surprise
me, for it is not customary for members of the superior race to
fraternize with klangan socially. But if they were embarrassed, I
was not. I was more inclined to be angry. The position of the
Vepajans aboard the Sofal was a delicate one. We were
few in numbers, and our ascendency depended wholly upon the
respect we engendered and maintained in the minds of the Thorans,
who constituted the majority of our company, and who looked up to
the Vepajans as their superiors despite the efforts of their
leaders to convince them of the equality of all men.
"Your quarters are forward," I said to the angan;
"you do not belong here."
"It is not his fault," said Vilor, as the birdman
rose to leave the cabin. "Moosko, strange as it may seem,
had never seen an angan; and I fetched this fellow here merely to
satisfy his curiosity. I am sorry if I did wrong."
"Of course," I said, "that puts a slightly
different aspect on the matter, but I think it will be better if
the prisoner inspects the klangan on deck where they belong. He
has my permission to do so tomorrow."
The angan departed, I exchanged a few more words with Vilor,
and then I left him with his prisoner and turned toward the after
cabin where Duare was quartered, the episode that had just
occurred fading from my mind almost immediately, to be replaced
by far more pleasant thoughts.
There was a light in Duare's cabin as I whistled before her
door, wondering if she would invite me in or ignore my presence.
For a time there was no response to my signal, and I had about
determined that she would not see me, when I heard her soft, low
voice inviting me to enter.
"You are persistent," she said, but there was less
anger in her voice than when last she had spoken to me.
"I came to ask if the storm has frightened you and to
assure you that there is no danger."
"I am not afraid," she replied. "Was that all
that you wished to say?"
It sounded very much like a dismissal. "No," I
assured her, "nor did I come solely for the purpose of
She raised her eyebrows. "What else could you have to say
to me--that you have not already said?"
"Perhaps I wished to repeat," I suggested.
"You must not!" she cried.
I came closer to her. "Look at me, Duare; look me in the
eyes and tell me that you do not like to hear me tell you that I
Her eyes fell. "I must not listen!" she whispered
and rose as though to leave the room.
I was mad with love for her; her near presence sent the hot
blood boiling through my veins; I seized her in my arms and drew
her to me; before she could prevent it, I covered her lips with
mine. Then she partially tore away from me, and I saw a dagger
gleaming in her hand.
"You are right," I said. "Strike! I have done
an unforgivable thing. My only excuse is my great love for you;
it swept away reason and honor."
Her dagger hand dropped to her side. "I cannot," she
sobbed, and, turning, fled from the room.
I went back to my own cabin, cursing myself for a beast and a
cad. I could not understand how it had been possible for me to
have committed such an unpardonable act. I reviled myself, and at
the same time the memory of that soft body crushed against mine
and those perfect lips against my lips suffused me with a warm
glow of contentment that seemed far removed from repentance.
I lay awake for a long time after I went to bed, thinking of
Duare, recalling all that had ever passed between us. I found a
hidden meaning in her cry, "I must not listen!" I
rejoiced in the facts that once she had refused to consign me to
death at the hands of others and that again she had refused to
kill me herself. Her "I cannot" rang in my ears almost
like an avowal of love. My better judgment told that I was quite
mad, but I found joy in hugging my madness to me.
The storm increased to such terrific fury during the night
that the screeching of the wind and the wild plunging of the Sofal
awakened me just before dawn. Arising immediately, I went on
deck, where the wind almost carried me away. Great waves lifted
the Sofal on high, only to plunge her the next moment
into watery abysses. The ship was pitching violently;
occasionally a huge wave broke across her bow and flooded the
main deck; across her starboard quarter loomed a great land mass
that seemed perilously close. The situation appeared fraught with
I entered the control room and found both Honan and Gamfor
with the helmsman. They were worried because of our proximity to
land. Should either the engines or the steering device fail, we
must inevitably be driven ashore. I told them to remain where
they were, and then I went down to the second deck house to
arouse Kiron, Kamlot, and Zog.
As I turned aft from the foot of the companionway on the
second deck, I noticed that the door of Vilor's cabin was
swinging open and closing again with each roll of the vessel; but
I gave the matter no particular thought at the time and passed on
to awaken my other lieutenants. Having done so, I kept on to
Duare's cabin, fearing that, if awake, she might be frightened by
the rolling of the ship and the shrieking of the wind. To my
surprise, I found her door swinging on its hinges.
Something, I do not know what, aroused my suspicion that all
was not right far more definitely than the rather unimportant
fact that the door to her outer cabin was unlatched. Stepping
quickly inside, I uncovered the light and glanced quickly about
the room. There was nothing amiss except, perhaps, the fact that
the door to the inner cabin where she slept was also open and
swinging on its hinges. I was sure that no one could be sleeping
in there while both those doors were swinging and banging. It was
possible, of course, that Duare was too frightened to get up and
I stepped to the inner doorway and called her name aloud.
There was no reply. I called again, louder; again, silence was my
only answer. Now I was definitely perturbed. Stepping into the
room, I uncovered the light and looked at the bed. It was
empty--Duare was not there! But in the far corner of the cabin
lay the body of the man who had stood guard outside her door.
Throwing conventions overboard, I hastened to each of the
adjoining cabins where the rest of the Vepajan women were
quartered. All were there except Duare. They had not seen her;
they did not know where she was. Frantic from apprehension, I ran
back to Kamlot's cabin and acquainted him with my tragic
discovery. He was stunned.
"She must be on board," he cried. "Where else
can she be?"
"I know she must be," I replied, "but
something tells me she is not. We must search the ship at
once--from stem to stern."
Zog and Kiron were emerging from their cabins as I came from
Kamlot's. I told them of my discovery and ordered the search
commenced; then I hailed a member of the watch and sent him to
the crow's nest to question the lookout. I wanted to know whether
he had seen anything unusual transpiring on the ship during his
watch, for from his lofty perch he could overlook the entire
"Muster every man," I told Kamlot; "account for
every human being on board; search every inch of the ship."
As the men left to obey my instructions, I recalled the
coincidence of the two cabin doors swinging wide--Duare's and
Vilor's. I could not imagine what relation either fact had to the
other, but I was investigating everything, whether it was of a
suspicious nature or not; so I ran quickly to Vilor's cabin, and
the moment that I uncovered the light I saw that both Vilor and
Moosko were missing. But where were they? No man could have left
the Sofal in that storm and lived, even could he have
launched a boat, which would have been impossible of
accomplishment, even in fair weather, without detection.
Coming from Vilor's cabin, I summoned a sailor and dispatched
him to inform Kamlot that Vilor and Moosko were missing from
their cabin and direct him to send them to me as soon as he
located them; then I returned to the quarters of the Vepajan
women for the purpose of questioning them more carefully.
I was puzzled by the disappearance of Moosko and Vilor, which,
taken in conjunction with the absence of Duare from her cabin,
constituted a mystery of major proportions; and I was trying to
discover some link of circumstance that might point a connection
between the two occurrences, when I suddenly recalled Vilor's
insistence that he be permitted to guard Duare. Here was the
first, faint suggestion of a connecting link. However, it seemed
to lead nowhere. These three people had disappeared from their
cabins, yet reason assured me that they would be found in a short
time, since it was impossible for them to leave the ship,
It was that little word "unless" that terrified me
most of all. Since I had discovered that Duare was not in her
cabin, a numbing fear had assailed me that, considering herself
dishonored by my avowal of love, she had hurled herself
overboard. Of what value now the fact that I constantly upbraided
myself for my lack of consideration and control? Of what weight
my vain regrets?
Yet now I saw a tiny ray of hope. If the absence of Vilor and
Moosko from their cabin and Duare from hers were more than a
coincidence, then it were safe to assume that they were together
and ridiculous to believe that all three had leaped overboard.
With these conflicting fears and hopes whirling through my
brain, I came to the quarters of the Vepajan women, which I was
about to enter when the sailor I had sent to question the lookout
in the crow's nest came running toward me in a state of evident
"Well," I demanded, as, breathless, he halted before
me, "what did the lookout have to say?"
"Nothing, my captain," replied the man, his speech
retarded by excitement and exertion.
"Nothing! and why not?" I snapped.
"The lookout is dead, my captain," gasped the
"How?" I asked.
"A sword had been run through his body--from behind, I
think. He lay upon his face."
"Go at once and inform Kamlot; tell him to replace the
lookout and investigate his death, then to report to me."
Shaken by this ominous news, I entered the quarters of the
women. They were huddled together in one cabin, pale and
frightened, but outwardly calm.
"Have you found Duare?" one of them asked
"No," I replied, "but I have discovered another
mystery--the ongyan, Moosko, is missing and with him the Vepajan,
"Vepajan!" exclaimed Byea, the woman who had
questioned me concerning Duare. "Vilor is no Vepajan."
"What do you mean?" I demanded. "If he is not a
Vepajan, what is he?"
"He is a Thoran spy," she replied. "He was sent
to Vepaja long ago to steal the secret of the longevity serum,
and when we were captured the klangan took him, also, by mistake.
We learned this, little by little, aboard the Sovong."
"But why was I not informed when he was brought
aboard?" I demanded.
"We supposed that everyone knew it," explained Byea,
"and thought that Vilor was transferred to the Sofal
as a prisoner."
Another link in the chain of accumulating evidence! Yet I was
as far as ever from knowing where either end of the chain lay.
AFTER questioning the women, I went to the main deck, too
impatient to await the reports of my lieutenants in the tower
where I belonged. I found that they had searched the ship and
were just coming to me with their report. None of those
previously discovered missing had been found, but the search had
revealed another astounding fact--the five klangan also were
Searching certain portions of the ship had been rather
dangerous work, as she was rolling heavily, and the deck was
still occasionally swept by the larger seas; but it had been
accomplished without mishap, and the men were now congregated in
a large room in the main deck house. Kamlot, Gamfor, Kiron, Zog,
and I had also entered this same room, where we were discussing
the whole mysterious affair. Honan was in the control room of the
I told them that I had just discovered that Vilor was not
Vepajan but a Thoran spy, and had reminded Kamlot of the man's
request that he be allowed to guard the janjong. "I learned
something else from Byea while I was questioning the women,"
I added. "During their captivity aboard the Sovong,
Vilor persisted in annoying Duare with his attentions; he was infatuated
"l think that gives us the last bit of evidence we need
to enable us to reconstruct the hitherto seemingly inexplicable
happenings of the past night," said Gamfor. "Vilor
wished to possess Duare; Moosko wished to escape from captivity.
The former had fraternized with the klangan and made friends of
them; that was known to everyone aboard the Sofal.
Moosko was an ongyan; during all their lives, doubtless, the
klangan have looked upon the klongyan as the fountain heads of
supreme authority. They would believe his promises, and they
would obey his commands.
"Doubtless Vilor and Moosko worked out the details of the
plot together. They dispatched an angan to kill the lookout, lest
their movements arouse suspicion and be reported before they
could carry their plan to a successful conclusion. The lookout
disposed of, the other klangan congregated in Vilor's cabin; then
Vilor, probably accompanied by Moosko, went to the cabin of
Duare, where they killed the guard and seized her in her sleep,
silenced her with a gag, and carried her to the gangway outside,
where the klangan were waiting.
"A gale was blowing, it is true, but it was blowing
toward land which lay but a short distance to starboard; and the
klangan are powerful fliers.
"There you have what I believe to be a true picture of
what happened aboard the Sofal while we slept."
"And you believe that the klangan carried these three
people to the shores of Noobol?" I asked.
"I think there can be no question but that such is the
fact," replied Gamfor.
"I quite agree with him," interjected Kamlot.
"Then there is but one thing to do," I announced.
"We must turn back and land a searching party on
"No boat could live in this sea," objected Kiron.
"The storm will not last forever," I reminded him.
"We shall lie off the shore until it abates. I am going up
to the tower; I wish you men would remain here and question the
crew; it is possible that there may be some one among them who
has overheard something that will cast new light on the subject.
The klangan are great talkers, and they may have dropped some
remark that will suggest the ultimate destination Vilor and
Moosko had in mind."
As I stepped out onto the main deck, the Sofal rose
upon the crest of a great wave and then plunged nose downward
into the watery abyss beyond, tilting the deck forward at an
angle of almost forty-five degrees. The wet and slippery boards
beneath my feet gave them no hold, and I slid helplessly forward
almost fifty feet before I could check my descent. Then the ship
buried her nose in a mountainous wave and a great wall of water
swept the deck from stem to stern, picking me up and whirling me
helplessly upon its crest.
For a moment I was submerged, and then a vagary of the Titan
that had seized me brought my head above the water, and I saw the
Sofal rolling and pitching fifty feet away.
Even in the immensity of interstellar space I had never felt
more helpless nor more hopeless than I did at that moment on the
storm-lashed sea of an unknown world, surrounded by darkness and
chaos and what terrible creatures of this mysterious deep I could
not even guess. I was lost! Even if my comrades knew of the
disaster that had overwhelmed me, they were helpless to give me
aid. No boat could live in that sea, as Kiron had truly reminded
us, and no swimmer could breast the terrific onslaught of those
racing, wind-driven mountains of water that might no longer be
described by so puny a word as wave.
Hopeless! I should not have said that; I am never without
hope. If I could not swim against the sea, perhaps I might swim
with it; and at no great distance lay land. I am an experienced
distance swimmer and a powerful man. If any man could survive in
such a sea, I knew that I could; but if I could not, I was
determined that I should at least have the satisfaction of dying
I was hampered by no clothes, as one could scarcely dignify
the Amtorian loincloth with the name of clothing; my only
impediment was my weapons; and these I hesitated to discard,
knowing that my chances for survival on that unfriendly shore
would be slight were I unarmed. Neither the belt, nor the pistol,
nor the dagger inconvenienced me, and their weight was
negligible; but the sword was a different matter. If you have
never tried swimming with a sword dangling from your middle, do
not attempt it in a heavy sea. You might think that it would hang
straight down and not get in the way, but mine did not. The great
waves hurled me about mercilessly, twisting and turning me; and
now my sword was buffeting me in some tender spot, and now it was
getting between my legs, and once, when a wave turned me
completely over, it came down on top of me and struck me on the
head; yet I would not discard it.
After the first few minutes of battling with the sea, I
concluded that I was in no immediate danger of being drowned. I
could keep my head above the waves often enough and long enough
to insure sufficient air for my lungs; and, the water being warm,
I was in no danger of being chilled to exhaustion, as so often
occurs when men are thrown into cold seas. Therefore, as closely
as I could anticipate any contingency in this unfamiliar world,
there remained but two major and immediate threats against my
life. The first lay in the possibility of attack by some
ferocious monster of the Amtorian deeps; the second, and by far
the more serious, the storm-lashed shore upon which I must
presently attempt to make a safe landing.
This in itself should have been sufficient to dishearten me,
for I had seen seas breaking upon too many shores to lightly
ignore the menace of those incalculable tons of hurtling waters
pounding, crashing, crushing, tearing their way even into the
rocky heart of the eternal hills.
I swam slowly in the direction of the shore, which,
fortunately for me, was in the direction that the storm was
carrying me. I had no mind to sap my strength by unnecessarily
overexerting myself; and so, as I took it easily, content to keep
afloat as I moved slowly shoreward, daylight came; and as each
succeeding wave lifted me to its summit, I saw the shore with
increasing clearness. It lay about a mile from me, and its aspect
was most forbidding. Huge combers were breaking upon a rocky
coast line, throwing boiling fountains of white spume high in
air; above the howling of the tempest, the thunder of the surf
rolled menacingly across that mile of angry sea to warn me that
death lay waiting to embrace me at the threshold of safety.
I was in a quandary. Death lay all about me; it remained but
for me to choose the place and manner of the assignation; I could
drown where I was, or I could permit myself to be dashed to
pieces on the rocks. Neither eventuality aroused any considerable
enthusiasm in my breast. As a mistress, death seemed sadly
lacking in many essentials. Therefore, I decided not to die.
Thoughts may be, as has been said, things; but they are not
everything. No matter how favorably I thought of living, I knew
that I must also do something about it. My present situation
offered me no chance of salvation; the shore alone could give me
life; so I struck out for the shore. As I drew nearer it, many
things, some of them quite irrelevant, passed through my mind;
but some were relevant, among them the Burial Service. It was not
a nice time to think of this, but then we cannot always control
our thoughts; however, "In the midst of life we are in
death" seemed wholly appropriate to my situation. By
twisting it a bit, I achieved something that contained the germ
of hope--in the midst of death there is life. Perhaps--
The tall waves, lifting me high, afforded me for brief
instants vantage points from which I could view the death ahead
in the midst of which I sought for life. The shore line was
becoming, at closer range, something more than an unbroken line
of jagged rocks and white water; but details were yet lacking,
for each time I was allowed but a brief glimpse before being
dropped once more to the bottom of a watery chasm.
My own efforts, coupled with the fury of the gale driving me
shoreward, brought me rapidly to the point where I should
presently be seized by the infuriated seas and hurled upon the
bombarded rocks that reared their jagged heads bleakly above the
swirling waters of each receding comber.
A great wave lifted me upon its crest and carried me
forward--the end had come! With the speed of a race horse it
swept me toward my doom; a welter of spume engulfed my head; I
was twisted and turned as a cork in a whirlpool; yet I struggled
to lift my mouth above the surface for an occasional gasp of air;
I fought to live for a brief moment longer, that I might not be
dead when I was dashed by the merciless sea against the merciless
rocks--thus dominating is the urge to live.
I was carried on; moments seemed an eternity! Where were the
rocks? I almost yearned for them now to end the bitterness of my
futile struggle. I thought of my mother and of Duare. I even
contemplated, with something akin to philosophic calm, the
strangeness of my end. In that other world that I had left
forever no creature would ever have knowledge of my fate. Thus
spoke the eternal egotism of man, who, even in death, desires an
Now I caught a brief glimpse of rocks. They were upon my left!
when they should have been in front of me. It was
incomprehensible. The wave tore on, carrying me with it; and
still I lived, and there was only water against my naked flesh.
Now the fury of the sea abated. I rose to the crest of a
diminishing comber to look with astonishment upon the
comparatively still waters of an inlet. I had been carried
through the rocky gateway of a landlocked cove, and before me I
saw a sandy crescent beach. I had escaped the black fingers of
death; I had been the beneficiary of a miracle!
The sea gave me a final filip that rolled me high upon the
sands to mingle with the wrack and flotsam she had discarded. I
stood up and looked about me. A more devout man would have given
thanks, but I felt that as yet I had little for which to give
thanks. My life had been spared temporarily, but Duare was still
The cove into which I had been swept was formed by the mouth
of a canyon that ran inland between low hills, the sides and
summits of which were dotted with small trees. Nowhere did I see
any such giants as grow in Vepaja; but perhaps, I mused, what I
see here are not trees on Venus but only underbrush. However, I
shall call them trees, since many of them were from fifty to
eighty feet in height.
A little river tumbled down the canyon's bottom to empty into
the cove; pale violet grass, starred with blue and purple
flowers, bordered it and clothed the hills. There were trees with
red boles, smooth and glossy as lacquer. There were trees with
azure boles. Whipping in the gale was the same weird foliage of
heliotrope and lavender and violet that had rendered the forests
of Vepaja so unearthly to my eyes. But beautiful and unusual as
was the scene, it could not claim my undivided attention. A
strange freak of fate had thrown me upon this shore to which, I
had reason to believe, Duare must undoubtedly have been carried;
and now my only thought was to take advantage of this fortunate
circumstance and attempt to find and succor her.
I could only assume that in the event her abductors had
brought her to this shore their landing must have been made
farther along the coast to my right, which was the direction from
which the Sofal had been moving. With only this slight
and unsatisfactory clue, I started immediately to scale the side
of the canyon and commence my search.
At the summit I paused a moment to survey the surrounding
country and get my bearings. Before me stretched a rolling
table-land, tree-dotted and lush with grass, and beyond that,
inland, rose a range of mountains, vague and mysterious along the
distant horizon. My course lay to the east, along the coast (I
shall use the earthly references to points of compass); the
mountains were northward, toward the equator. I am assuming of
course that I am in the southern hemisphere of the planet. The
sea was south of me. I glanced in that direction, looking for the
Sofal; there she was, far out and moving toward the
east. Evidently my orders were being carried out, and the Sofal
was lying off shore waiting for calm weather that would permit a
Now I turned my steps toward the east. At each elevation I
stopped and scanned the tableland in all directions, searching
for some sign of those I sought. I saw signs of life, but not of
human life. Herbivorous animals grazed in large numbers upon the
flower-starred violet plain. Many that were close enough to be
seen plainly appeared similar in form to earthly animals, but
there was none exactly like anything I had ever seen on earth.
Their extreme wariness and the suggestion of speed and agility in
their conformations suggested that they had enemies; the
wariness, that among these enemies was man; the speed and
agility, that swift and ferocious carnivores preyed upon them.
These observations served to warn me that I must be constantly
on the alert for similar dangers that might threaten me, and I
was glad that the table-land was well supplied with trees growing
at convenient intervals. I had not forgotten the ferocious basto
that Kamlot and I had encountered in Vepaja, and, though I had
seen nothing quite so formidable as yet among the nearer beasts,
there were some creatures grazing at a considerable distance from
me whose lines suggested a too great similarity to those
bisonlike omnivores to insure ease of mind.
I moved rather rapidly, as I was beset by fears for Duare's
safety and felt that if I did not come upon some clue this first
day my search might prove fruitless. The klangan, I believed,
must have alighted near the coast, where they would have remained
at least until daylight, and my hope was that they might have
tarried longer. If they had winged away immediately, my chances
of locating them were slight; and now my only hope lay in the
slender possibility that I might come across them before they
took up their flight for the day.
The table-land was cut by gullies and ravines running down to
the sea. Nearly all of these carried streams varying in size from
tiny rivulets to those which might be dignified by the
appellation of river, but none that I encountered offered any
serious obstacle to my advance, though upon one or two occasions
I was forced to swim the deeper channels. If these rivers were
inhabited by dangerous reptiles, I saw nothing of them, though I
admit that they were constantly on my mind as I made my way from
bank to bank.
Once, upon the table-land, I saw a large, catlike creature at
a distance, apparently stalking a herd of what appeared to be a
species of antelope; but either it did not see me or was more
interested in its natural prey, for although I was in plain
sight, it paid no attention to me
Shortly thereafter I dropped into a small gully, and when I
had regained the higher ground upon the opposite side the beast
was no longer in sight; but even had it been, it would have been
driven from my thoughts by faint sounds that came to me out of
the distance far ahead. There were what sounded like the shouts
of men and the unmistakable hum of Amtorian pistol fire.
Though I searched diligently with my eyes to the far horizon,
I could see no sign of the authors of these noises; but it was
enough for me to know that there were human beings ahead and that
there was fighting there. Being only human, I naturally pictured
the woman I loved in the center of overwhelming dangers, even
though my better judgment told me that the encounter
reverberating in the distance might have no connection with her
or her abductors.
Reason aside, however, I broke into a run; and as I advanced
the sounds waxed louder. They led me finally to the rim of a
considerable canyon, the bottom of which formed a level valley of
entrancing loveliness, through which wound a river far larger
than any I had yet encountered.
But neither the beauty of the valley nor the magnitude of the
river held my attention for but an instant. Down there upon the
floor of that nameless canyon was a scene that gripped my
undivided interest and left me cold with apprehension. Partially
protected by an outcropping of rock at the river's edge, six
figures crouched or lay. Five of them were klangan, the sixth a
woman. It was Duare!
Facing them, hiding behind trees and rocks, were a dozen
hairy, manlike creatures hurling rocks from slings at the
beleaguered six or loosing crude arrows from still cruder bows.
The savages and the klangan were hurling taunts and insults at
one another, as well as missiles; it was these sounds that I had
heard from a distance blending with the staccato hum of the
Three of the klangan lay motionless upon the turf behind their
barrier, apparently dead. The remaining klangan and Duare
crouched with pistols in their hands, defending their position
and their lives. The savages cast their stone missiles directly
at the three whenever one of them showed any part of his body
above the rocky breastwork, but the arrows they discharged into
the air so that they fell behind the barrier.
Scattered about among the trees and behind rocks were the
bodies of fully a dozen hairy savages who had fallen before the
fire of the klangan, but, while Duare's defenders had taken heavy
toll of the enemy, the outcome of the unequal battle could have
been only the total destruction of the klangan and Duare had it
lasted much longer.
The details which have taken long in the telling I took in at
a single glance, nor did I waste precious time in pondering the
best course of action. At any moment one of those crude arrows
might pierce the girl I loved; and so my first thought was to
divert the attention of the savages, and perhaps their fire, from
their intended victims to me.
I was slightly behind their position, which gave me an
advantage, as also did the fact that I was above them. Yelling
like a Comanche, I leaped down the steep side of the canyon,
firing my pistol as I charged. Instantly the scene below me
changed. The savages, taken partially from the rear and
unexpectedly menaced by a new enemy, leaped to their feet in
momentary bewilderment; and simultaneously the two remaining
klangan, recognizing me and realizing that succor was at hand,
sprang from the shelter of their barrier and ran forward to
complete the demoralization of the savages.
Together we shot down six of the enemy before the rest finally
turned and fled, but they were not routed before one of the
klangan was struck full between the eyes by a jagged bit of rock.
I saw him fall, and when we were no longer menaced by a foe I
went to him, thinking that he was only stunned; but at that time
I had no conception of the force with which these primitive,
apelike men cast the missiles from their slings. The fellow's
skull was crushed, and a portion of the missile had punctured his
brain. He was quite dead when I reached him.
Then I hastened to Duare. She was standing with a pistol in
her hand, tired and dishevelled, but otherwise apparently little
worse for the harrowing experiences through which she had passed.
I think that she was glad to see me, for she certainly must have
preferred me to the hairy apemen from which I had been
instrumental in rescuing her; yet a trace of fear was reflected
in her eyes, as though she were not quite sure of the nature of
the treatment she might expect from me. To my shame, her fears
were justified by my past behavior; but I was determined that she
should never again have cause to complain of me. I would win her
confidence and trust, hoping that love might follow in their
There was no light of welcome in her eyes as I approached her,
and that hurt me more than I can express. Her countenance
rejected more a pathetic resignation to whatever new trials my
presence might portend.
"You have not been harmed?" I asked. "You are
"Quite," she replied. Her eyes passed beyond me,
searching the summit of the canyon wall down which I had charged
upon the savages. "Where are the others?" she asked in
puzzled and slightly troubled tones.
"What others?" I inquired.
"Those who came with you from the Sofal to
search for me."
"There were no others; I am quite alone."
Her countenance assumed an even deeper gloom at this
announcement. "Why did you come alone?" she asked
"To be honest with you, it was through no fault of my own
that I came at all at this time," I explained. "After
we missed you from the Sofal, I gave orders to stand by
off the coast until the storm abated and we could land a
searching party. Immediately thereafter I was swept overboard, a
most fortunate circumstance as it turned out; and naturally when
I found myself safely ashore my first thought was of you. I was
searching for you when I heard the shouts of the savages and the
sound of pistol fire."
"You came in time to save me from them," she said,
"but for what? What are you going to do with me now?"
"I am going to take you to the coast as quickly as
possible," I replied, "and there we will signal the Sofal.
She will send a boat to take us off."
Duare appeared slightly relieved at this recital of my plans.
"You will win the undying gratitude of the jong, my father,
if you return ne to Vepaja unharmed," she said. "To
have served his daughter shall be reward enough for me," I
replied, "even though I succeed in winning not even her
"That you already have for what you have just done at the
risk of your life," she assured me, and there was more
graciousness in her voice than before.
"What became of Vilor and Moosko?" I asked.
Her lip curled in scorn. "When the kloonobargan attacked
us, they fled."
"Where did they go?" I asked.
"They swam the river and ran away in that
direction." She pointed toward the east.
"Why did the klangan not desert you also?"
"They were told to protect me. They know little else than
to obey their superiors, and, too, they like to fight. Having
little intelligence and no imagination, they are splendid
"I cannot understand why they did not fly away from
danger and take you with them when they saw that defeat was
certain. That would have insured the safety of all."
"By the time they were assured of that, it was too
late," she explained. "They could not have risen from
behind our protection without being destroyed by the missiles of
This word, by way of parenthesis, is an interesting example of
the derivation of an Amtorian substantive. Broadly, it means
savages; literally, it means hairy men. In the singular, it is
nobargan. Gan is man; bar is hair. No
is a contraction of not (with), and is used as a prefix
with the same value that the suffix y has in English;
therefore nobar means hairy, nobargan, hairy
man. The prefix kloo forms the plural, and we have kloonobargan
(hairy men), savages.
After determining that the four klangan were dead, Duare, the
remaining angan, and I started down the river toward the ocean.
On the way Duare told me what had occurred on board the Sofal
the preceding night, and I discovered that it had been almost
precisely as Gamfor had pictured it.
"What was their object in taking you with them?" I
"Vilor wanted me," she replied.
"And Moosko merely wished to escape?"
"Yes. He thought that he would be killed when the ship
"How did they expect to survive in a wild country like
this?" I asked. "Did they know where they were?"
"They said that they thought that the country was
Noobol," she replied, "but they were not positive. The
Thorans have agents in Noobol who are fomenting discord in an
attempt to overthrow the government. There are several of these
in a city on the coast, and it was Moosko's intention to search
for this city, where he was certain that he would find friends
who would be able to arrange transportation for himself, Vilor,
and me to Thora."
We walked on in silence for some time. I was just ahead of
Duare, and the angan brought up the rear. He was crestfallen and
dejected. His head and tail feathers drooped. The klangan are
ordinarily so vociferous that this preternatural silence
attracted my attention, and, thinking that he might have been
injured in the fight, I questioned him. "I was not wounded,
my captain," he replied.
"Then what is the matter with you? Are you sad because of
the deaths of your comrades?"
"It is not that," he replied; "there are plenty
more where they came from. It is because of my own death that I
"But you are not dead!"
"I shall be soon," he averred.
"What makes you think so?" I demanded.
"When I return to the ship, they will kill me for what I
did last night. If I do not return, I shall be killed here. No
one could live alone for long in such a country as this."
"If you serve me well and obey me, you will not be killed
if we succeed in reaching the Sofal again," I
At that he brightened perceptibly. "I shall serve you
well and obey you, my captain," he promised, and presently
he was smiling and singing again as though he had not a single
care in the world and there was no such thing as death.
On several occasions, when I had glanced back at my
companions, I had discovered Duare's eyes upon me, and in each
instance she had turned them away quickly, as though I had
surprised and embarrassed her in some questionable act. I had
spoken to her only when necessary, for I had determined to atone
for my previous conduct by maintaining a purely official attitude
toward her that would reassure her and give her no cause for
apprehension as to my intentions.
This was a difficult role for me ta play while I yearned to
take her into my arms and tell her again of the great love that
was consuming me; but I had succeeded so far in controlling
myself and saw no reason to believe that I should not be able to
continue to do so, at least as long as Duare continued to give me
no encouragement. The very idea that she might give me
encouragement caused me to smile in spite of myself.
Presently, much to my surprise, she said, "You are very
quiet. What is the matter?"
It was the first time that Duare had ever opened a
conversation with me or given me any reason to believe that I
existed for her as a personality; I might have been a clod of
earth or a piece of furniture, for all the interest she had
seemed to take in me since those two occasions upon which I had
surprised her as she watched me from the concealing foliage of
"There is nothing the matter with me," I assured
her. "I am only concerned with your welfare and the
necessity for getting you back to the Sofal as quickly
"You do not talk any more," she complained.
"Formerly, when I saw you, you used to talk a great
"Probably altogether too much," I admitted,
"but you see, now I am trying not to annoy you."
Her eyes fell to the ground. "It would not annoy
me," she said almost inaudibly, but now that I was invited
to do the very thing that I had been longing to do, I became
dumb; I could think of nothing to say. "You see," she
continued in her normal voice, "conditions are very
different now from any that I have ever before encountered. The
rules and restrictions under which I have lived among my own
people cannot, I now realize, be expected to apply to situations
so unusual or to people and places so foreign to those whose
lives they were intended to govern.
"I have been thinking a great deal about many things--and
you. I commenced to think these strange thoughts after I saw you
the first time in the garden at Kooaad. I have thought that
perhaps it might be nice to talk to other men than those I am
permitted to see in the house of my father, the jong. I became
tired of talking to these same men and to my women, but custom
had made a slave and a coward of me. I did not dare do the things
I most wished to do. I always wanted to talk to you, and now for
the brief time before we shall be again aboard the Sofal,
where I must again be governed by the laws of Vepaja, I am going
to be free; I am going to do what I wish; I am going to talk to
This naive declaration revealed a new Duare, one in the
presence of whom it was going to be most difficult to maintain an
austere Platonicism; yet I continued to steel myself to the
carrying out of my resolve.
"Why do you not talk to me?" she demanded when I
made no immediate comment on her confession.
"I do not know what to talk about," I admitted,
"unless I talk about the one thing that is uppermost in my
She was silent for a moment, her brows knit in thought, and
then she asked with seeming innocence, "What is that7"
"Love," I said, looking into her eyes.
Her lids dropped and her lips trembled. "No!" she
exclaimed. "We must not talk of that; it is wrong; it is
"Is love wicked on Amtor?" I asked.
"No, no; I do not mean that," she hastened to deny;
"but it is wrong to speak to me of love until after I am
"May I then, Duare?" I asked.
She shook her head, a little sadly I thought. "No, not
even then," she answered. "You may never speak to me of
love, without sinning, nor may I listen without sinning, for I am
the daughter of a jong."
"Perhaps it would be safer were we not to talk at
all," I said glumly.
"Oh, yes, let us talk," she begged. "Tell me
about the strange world you are supposed to come from."
To amuse her, I did as she requested; and walking beside her I
devoured her with my eyes until at last we came to the ocean. Far
out I saw the Sofal, and now came the necessity for
devising a scheme by which we might signal her.
On either side of the canyon, through which the river emptied
into the ocean, were lofty cliffs. That on the west side, and
nearer us, was the higher, and to this I made my way, accompanied
by Duare and the angan. The ascent was steep, and most of the way
I found it, or made it, necessary to assist Duare, so that often
I had my arm about her as I half carried her upward.
At first I feared that she might object to this close contact;
but she did not, and in some places where it was quite level and
she needed no help, though I still kept my arm about her, she did
not draw away nor seem to resent the familiarity. At the summit
of the cliff I hastily gathered dead wood and leaves with the
assistance of the angan, and presently we had a signal fire
sending a smoke column into the air. The wind had abated, and the
smoke rose far above the cliff before it was dissipated. I was
positive that it would be seen aboard the Sofal, but
whether it would be correctly interpreted, I could not know.
A high sea was still running that would have precluded the
landing of a small boat, but we had the angan, and if the Sofal
were to draw in more closely to shore, he could easily transport
us to her deck one at a time. However, I hesitated to risk Duare
in the attempt while the ship was at its present considerable
distance from shore, as what wind there was would have been
directly in the face of the angan.
From the summit of this cliff we could overlook the cliff on
the east side of the canyon, and presently the angan called my
attention to something in that direction. "Men are
coming," he said.
I saw them immediately, but they were still too far away for
me to be able to identify them, though even at a distance I was
sure that they were not of the same race as the savages which had
attacked Duare and the klangan.
Now indeed it became imperative that we attract the attention
of the Sofal immediately, and to that end I built two
more fires at intervals from the first, so that it might be
obvious to anyone aboard the ship that this was in fact a signal
rather than an accidental fire or a camp fire.
Whether or not the Sofal had seen our signal, it was
evident that the party of men approaching must have; and I could
not but believe that, attracted by it, they were coming to
investigate. Constantly they were drawing nearer, and as the
minutes passed we saw that they were armed men of the same race
as the Vepajans.
They were still some distance away when we saw the Sofal
change her course and point her bow toward shore. Our signal had
been seen, and our comrades were coming to investigate; but would
they be in time? For us it was a thrilling race The wind had
sprung up again and the sea was rising once more. I asked the
angan if he could breast the gale, for I had determined to send
Duare off at once if I received a favorable reply.
"I could alone," he said, "but I doubt that I
could if I were carrying another."
We watched the Sofal plunging and wallow ing in the
rising sea as it forged steadily closer, and we watched the men
drawing near with equal certainty. There was no doubt in my mind
as to which would reach us first; my only hope now was that the Sofal
could lessen the distance in the meantime sufficiently so that it
would be safe for the angan to attempt to carry Duare to her.
Now the men had reached the summit of the cliff on the
opposite side of the canyon, and here they halted and observed us
while carrying on a discussion of some nature.
"Vilor is with them!" exclaimed Duare suddenly.
"And Moosko," I added. "I see them both
"What shall we do?" cried Duare. "Oh, they must
not get me again!''
"They shall not," I promised her.
Down the canyon side they came now. We watched them swim the
river and cross to the foot of the cliff where we were standing.
We watched the Sofal creeping slowly shoreward. I went
to the edge of the cliff and looked down upon the ascending men.
They were half way up now. Then I returned to Duare and the
"We can wait no longer," I said, and then to the
angan, "Take the janjong and fly to the ship. She is closer
now; you can make it; you must make it!"
He started to obey, but Duare drew away from him. "I will
not go," she said quietly. "I will not leave you here
For those words I would gladly have laid down my life. Here
again was still another Duare. I had expected nothing like this,
for I did not feel that she owed me any such loyalty. It was not
as though she had loved me; one might expect such self-sacrifice
on the part of a woman for the man she loves. I was swept
completely from my feet, but only for an instant. The enemy, if
such it were, must by now be almost to the summit of the cliff,
in a moment they would be upon us, and even as the thought
touched my mind, I saw the first of them running toward us.
"Take her!" I cried to the angan. "There is no
time to waste now."
He reached for her, but she attempted to elude him; and then I
caught her, and as I touched her, all my good resolutions were
swept away, as I felt her in my arms. I pressed her to me for an
instant; I kissed her, and then I gave her over to the birdman.
"Hurry!" I cried. "They come!"
Spreading his powerful wings, he rose from the ground, while
Duare stretched her hands toward me. "Do not send me away
from you, Carson! Do not send me away! I love you!"
But it was too late; I would not have called her back could I
have done so, for the armed men were upon me.
Thus I went into captivity in the land of Noobol an adventure
that is no part of this story; but I went with the knowledge that
the woman I loved, loved me, and I was happy.