Authors: Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tags: #Classic, #Science Fiction, #Fantasy, #Adventure
Twelve years had passed since I had laid the body of my great-uncle,
Captain John Carter, of Virginia, away from the sight of men in that
strange mausoleum in the old cemetery at Richmond.
Often had I pondered on the odd instructions he had left me governing
the construction of his mighty tomb, and especially those parts which
directed that he be laid in an
casket and that the ponderous
mechanism which controlled the bolts of the vault’s huge door be
only from the inside
Twelve years had passed since I had read the remarkable manuscript of
this remarkable man; this man who remembered no childhood and who could
not even offer a vague guess as to his age; who was always young and
yet who had dandled my grandfather’s great-grandfather upon his knee;
this man who had spent ten years upon the planet Mars; who had fought
for the green men of Barsoom and fought against them; who had fought
for and against the red men and who had won the ever beautiful Dejah
Thoris, Princess of Helium, for his wife, and for nearly ten years had
been a prince of the house of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium.
Twelve years had passed since his body had been found upon the bluff
before his cottage overlooking the Hudson, and oft-times during these
long years I had wondered if John Carter were really dead, or if he
again roamed the dead sea bottoms of that dying planet; if he had
returned to Barsoom to find that he had opened the frowning portals of
the mighty atmosphere plant in time to save the countless millions who
were dying of asphyxiation on that far-gone day that had seen him
hurtled ruthlessly through forty-eight million miles of space back to
Earth once more. I had wondered if he had found his black-haired
Princess and the slender son he had dreamed was with her in the royal
gardens of Tardos Mors, awaiting his return.
Or, had he found that he had been too late, and thus gone back to a
living death upon a dead world? Or was he really dead after all, never
to return either to his mother Earth or his beloved Mars?
Thus was I lost in useless speculation one sultry August evening when
old Ben, my body servant, handed me a telegram. Tearing it open I read:
‘Meet me to-morrow hotel Raleigh Richmond.
Early the next morning I took the first train for Richmond and within
two hours was being ushered into the room occupied by John Carter.
As I entered he rose to greet me, his old-time cordial smile of welcome
lighting his handsome face. Apparently he had not aged a minute, but
was still the straight, clean-limbed fighting-man of thirty. His keen
grey eyes were undimmed, and the only lines upon his face were the
lines of iron character and determination that always had been there
since first I remembered him, nearly thirty-five years before.
‘Well, nephew,’ he greeted me, ‘do you feel as though you were seeing a
ghost, or suffering from the effects of too many of Uncle Ben’s juleps?’
‘Juleps, I reckon,’ I replied, ‘for I certainly feel mighty good; but
maybe it’s just the sight of you again that affects me. You have been
back to Mars? Tell me. And Dejah Thoris? You found her well and
‘Yes, I have been to Barsoom again, and—but it’s a long story, too
long to tell in the limited time I have before I must return. I have
learned the secret, nephew, and I may traverse the trackless void at my
will, coming and going between the countless planets as I list; but my
heart is always in Barsoom, and while it is there in the keeping of my
Martian Princess, I doubt that I shall ever again leave the dying world
that is my life.
‘I have come now because my affection for you prompted me to see you
once more before you pass over for ever into that other life that I
shall never know, and which though I have died thrice and shall die
again to-night, as you know death, I am as unable to fathom as are you.
‘Even the wise and mysterious therns of Barsoom, that ancient cult
which for countless ages has been credited with holding the secret of
life and death in their impregnable fastnesses upon the hither slopes
of the Mountains of Otz, are as ignorant as we. I have proved it,
though I near lost my life in the doing of it; but you shall read it
all in the notes I have been making during the last three months that I
have been back upon Earth.’
He patted a swelling portfolio that lay on the table at his elbow.
‘I know that you are interested and that you believe, and I know that
the world, too, is interested, though they will not believe for many
years; yes, for many ages, since they cannot understand. Earth men
have not yet progressed to a point where they can comprehend the things
that I have written in those notes.
‘Give them what you wish of it, what you think will not harm them, but
do not feel aggrieved if they laugh at you.’
That night I walked down to the cemetery with him. At the door of his
vault he turned and pressed my hand.
‘Good-bye, nephew,’ he said. ‘I may never see you again, for I doubt
that I can ever bring myself to leave my wife and boy while they live,
and the span of life upon Barsoom is often more than a thousand years.’
He entered the vault. The great door swung slowly to. The ponderous
bolts grated into place. The lock clicked. I have never seen Captain
John Carter, of Virginia, since.
But here is the story of his return to Mars on that other occasion, as
I have gleaned it from the great mass of notes which he left for me
upon the table of his room in the hotel at Richmond.
There is much which I have left out; much which I have not dared to
tell; but you will find the story of his second search for Dejah
Thoris, Princess of Helium, even more remarkable than was his first
manuscript which I gave to an unbelieving world a short time since and
through which we followed the fighting Virginian across dead sea
bottoms under the moons of Mars.
E. R. B.
As I stood upon the bluff before my cottage on that clear cold night in
the early part of March, 1886, the noble Hudson flowing like the grey
and silent spectre of a dead river below me, I felt again the strange,
compelling influence of the mighty god of war, my beloved Mars, which
for ten long and lonesome years I had implored with outstretched arms
to carry me back to my lost love.
Not since that other March night in 1866, when I had stood without that
Arizona cave in which my still and lifeless body lay wrapped in the
similitude of earthly death had I felt the irresistible attraction of
the god of my profession.
With arms outstretched toward the red eye of the great star I stood
praying for a return of that strange power which twice had drawn me
through the immensity of space, praying as I had prayed on a thousand
nights before during the long ten years that I had waited and hoped.
Suddenly a qualm of nausea swept over me, my senses swam, my knees gave
beneath me and I pitched headlong to the ground upon the very verge of
the dizzy bluff.
Instantly my brain cleared and there swept back across the threshold of
my memory the vivid picture of the horrors of that ghostly Arizona
cave; again, as on that far-gone night, my muscles refused to respond
to my will and again, as though even here upon the banks of the placid
Hudson, I could hear the awful moans and rustling of the fearsome thing
which had lurked and threatened me from the dark recesses of the cave,
I made the same mighty and superhuman effort to break the bonds of the
strange anaesthesia which held me, and again came the sharp click as of
the sudden parting of a taut wire, and I stood naked and free beside
the staring, lifeless thing that had so recently pulsed with the warm,
red life-blood of John Carter.
With scarcely a parting glance I turned my eyes again toward Mars,
lifted my hands toward his lurid rays, and waited.
Nor did I have long to wait; for scarce had I turned ere I shot with
the rapidity of thought into the awful void before me. There was the
same instant of unthinkable cold and utter darkness that I had
experienced twenty years before, and then I opened my eyes in another
world, beneath the burning rays of a hot sun, which beat through a tiny
opening in the dome of the mighty forest in which I lay.
The scene that met my eyes was so un-Martian that my heart sprang to my
throat as the sudden fear swept through me that I had been aimlessly
tossed upon some strange planet by a cruel fate.
Why not? What guide had I through the trackless waste of
interplanetary space? What assurance that I might not as well be
hurtled to some far-distant star of another solar system, as to Mars?
I lay upon a close-cropped sward of red grasslike vegetation, and about
me stretched a grove of strange and beautiful trees, covered with huge
and gorgeous blossoms and filled with brilliant, voiceless birds. I
call them birds since they were winged, but mortal eye ne’er rested on
such odd, unearthly shapes.
The vegetation was similar to that which covers the lawns of the red
Martians of the great waterways, but the trees and birds were unlike
anything that I had ever seen upon Mars, and then through the further
trees I could see that most un-Martian of all sights—an open sea, its
blue waters shimmering beneath the brazen sun.
As I rose to investigate further I experienced the same ridiculous
catastrophe that had met my first attempt to walk under Martian
conditions. The lesser attraction of this smaller planet and the
reduced air pressure of its greatly rarefied atmosphere, afforded so
little resistance to my earthly muscles that the ordinary exertion of
the mere act of rising sent me several feet into the air and
precipitated me upon my face in the soft and brilliant grass of this
This experience, however, gave me some slightly increased assurance
that, after all, I might indeed be in some, to me, unknown corner of
Mars, and this was very possible since during my ten years’ residence
upon the planet I had explored but a comparatively tiny area of its