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Volume 1324
James Killian Spratt's Graphic Interpretation of 
Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars 

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Page 207

The third huge door smoothly opened, 
leading us into a large chamber 
containing a table filled with food. 

The voice directed us to eat, while my 
invisible host gave me 
an intense cross-examination.

"You are not of Barsoom!" he stated.

"Your organs are oddly located and 
I cannot read your thoughts. 
Most remarkable! --

What manner of creature are you?!"

I told him my tale truthfully.

Page 208

Then a door slid aside and 
a dried-up little mummy of a man 
entered the room. 

He wore nothing but a golden collar
from which depended a diamond-studded ornament 
as big as a dinner-plate, 
from the center stone of which 
radiated nine beautiful rays of light. 

He sat and we talked for hours. 
The ninth ray, unknown to the earthly prism, 
was so gorgeous as to defy description.

I noticed that I could read his every thought, 
but he could not read mine unless I spoke. 

I saw no need to mention this 
as he explained that this 
building contained the machinery 
to make the artificial atmosphere
which supports all life on Mars. 

He and one assistant alternated solitary shifts 
of half a Martian year
tending the twenty massive pumps.

Page 209

The old man led me to an inner chamber 
where I beheld a battery of twenty radium pumps,
any one of which was equal to 
furnishing all of Mars with atmosphere. 

He had run them for eight hundred years; 
he was a man of no nation, 
protected wherever he went upon Barsoom 
by his medallion,
though he avoided green men.

The great tanks contained 
enough of the refined ninth ray,
distilled from sunlight and electro-charged, 
to maintain the atmosphere 
for a thousand years.

However, the pumps
had to be kept running at all times, 
lest all life on the planet 
suffocate and die.


Page 210

So important is this plant's function 
that the red men built it as a huge fortification. 
Its walls are one hundred and fifty feet thick,
the greatest fear being 
attack by the wild green men, 
or some demented red man. 
Only the two caretakers know 
the combination to the doors,
which, curiously, 
are operated telepathically.

Casually I asked my new acquintance 
how he managed to open such heavy doors. 

Instantly nine Martian sounds
leapt into his mind, 
which he immediately suppressed, 
stating that this was a secret 
that he dare not divulge.

Suddenly regarding me with fear and suspicion, 
he tried to appear outwardly still friendly; 
he promised me a letter
to a nearby agricultural officer 
which would help me in Zodanga,
the nearest city.

Page 211

He warned me that 
Helium and Zodanga were enemies,
then offered me a bed for the night,
which I gratefully accepted.

But as I said goodnight 
I saw in his mind an alarming scene.

Out of his fear that he had let slip
the secret entry to the plant, 
a sacred trust 
which he was duty-bound to protect,
he felt that he had to kill me, 
for the good of Barsoom.

I lay down, wondering whether to kill him, 
but what then of 
the atmosphere plant and Barsoom?

And above all, Dejah Thoris? 

Then it came to me to try 
the combination to the doors myself, 
so I summoned Woola and 
slipped into the corridor.

Page 212

Creeping stealthily through the corridors, 
I was about to step into the hall 
where I had broken my long fast 
when a noise behind me
warned me back into a 
shadowed recess where, 
dragging Woola within,
I crouched low in the darkness. 

The old man passed close by me,

--a long, thin dagger. 

I saw in his mind his plan 
to inspect the radium pumps 
-- a thirty-minute chore -- 
then to return to my bed-chamber 
to finish me, 
and watched in breathless silence until 
he disappeared down the runway 
to the pump-room.


Page 213

Woola and I 
slipped into the entrance hall 
and I faced the inner portal 
to try my wild scheme. 

I focused my mind and 
hurled the nine thought waves at it, 
and slowly, one after another, 
the great doors slid aside.

Within a minute Woola and I 
stepped free into the darkness, 
little the better 
but for full stomachs, 
and hastened away 
from the massive pile. 

We struck out 
for the nearest crossroads, 
intending to strike the central turnpike 
as soon as possible.


Page 214

We found the great road around sunrise, 
and I looked for signs of habitation. 

There were low, rambling outbuildings 
with heavy, impassable doors, 
but no one was about
in the quiet hours of early morning.

No amount of hammering and hallooing 
brought any response, so,
weary and exhausted 
I threw myself down 
while Woola stood guard. 

Some time later
I was awakened 
by his frightful growling, 
and opened my eyes 
to see three red Martian men, 
covering us with rifles.


Page 215

I hastened to explain, 
"I am unarmed and no enemy. 
I have been a prisoner of the green men 
and am on my way to Zodanga. 
All I ask is food and rest 
for myself and my calot 
and proper directions to my destination."

At this the three lowered their rifles 
and advanced pleasantly, to greet me 
with the customary Martian salute. 
Their curiosity aroused, they began 
asking me many questions about myself 
and my wanderings.


Page 216

They then took me 
to the home of one of them, 
just a short ride away. 
The buildings I had been hammering at 
contained only stock and farm produce, 
the houses proper being situated 
some distance away 
among a grove of enormous trees.

The three were brothers named Ptor, 
and were government officers 
who lived with their wives and children 
on this farm and 
oversaw the convict laborers.


Page 217

The families' homes 
were similar in design 
and not far apart. 

At night, 
instead of bothering with bolts and bars
for their dwellings, 
the red Martians simply run them up 
forty or fifty feet from the ground 
on a long metal shaft sunk into the ground. 

The elevator was operated by 
a tiny radium engine in the entrance hall, 
or remotely if they wished to go away 
and leave them.

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