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A Princess of Mars

At The Arizona Cave
It was dark when I opened my eyes again. Strange, stiff garments were upon my body;
garments that cracked and powdered away from me as I rose to a sitting posture.
I felt myself over from head to foot and from head to foot I was clothed, though when I
fell unconscious at the little doorway I had been naked. Before me was a small patch of
moonlit sky which showed through a ragged aperture.
As my hands passed over my body they came in contact with pockets and in one of these
a small parcel of matches wrapped in oiled paper. One of these matches I struck, and its
dim flame lighted up what appeared to be a huge cave, toward the back of which I
discovered a strange, still figure huddled over a tiny bench. As I approached it I saw that
it was the dead and mummified remains of a little old woman with long black hair, and
the thing it leaned over was a small charcoal burner upon which rested a round copper
vessel containing a small quantity of greenish powder.
Behind her, depending from the roof upon rawhide thongs, and stretching entirely across
the cave, was a row of human skeletons. From the thong which held them stretched
another to the dead hand of the little old woman; as I touched the cord the skeletons
swung to the motion with a noise as of the rustling of dry leaves.
It was a most grotesque and horrid tableau and I hastened out into the fresh air; glad to
escape from so gruesome a place.
The sight that met my eyes as I stepped out upon a small ledge which ran before the
entrance of the cave filled me with consternation.
A new heaven and a new landscape met my gaze. The silvered mountains in the distance,
the almost stationary moon hanging in the sky, the cacti-studded valley below me were
not of Mars. I could scarcely believe my eyes, but the truth slowly forced itself upon me--
I was looking upon Arizona from the same ledge from which ten years before I had gazed
with longing upon Mars.
Burying my head in my arms I turned, broken, and sorrowful, down the trail from the
cave.
Above me shone the red eye of Mars holding her awful secret, forty-eight million miles
away.
Did the Martian reach the pump room? Did the vitalizing air reach the people of that
distant planet in time to save them? Was my Dejah Thoris alive, or did her beautiful body
lie cold in death beside the tiny golden incubator in the sunken garden of the inner
courtyard of the palace of Tardos Mors, the jeddak of Helium?
 
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