And, while I was thus sunk in the depths of despair, a hand was placed on mine.
A soft hand; and a voice said, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You didn’t give me a chance,” I said; “you just ran out on me without giving me a chance to explain.”
“I am sorry,” said the voice, “and I am sorry for the harm I have done Llana of Gathol; and now I have condemned you to death.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Ptantus has commanded Motus to fight you and kill you.”
I threw my arms around Rojas and kissed her. I couldn’t help it, I was so happy.
“Good!” I exclaimed. “Though neither of us realized it at the time, you have done me a great favor.”
“What do you mean?” she demanded.
“You have given me the chance to meet Motus in a fair fight; and now I know that Llana of Gathol will be safe—as far as Motus is concerned.”
“Motus will kill you,” insisted Rojas.
“Will you be there to see the duel?” I asked.
“I do not wish to see you killed,” she said, and clung to me tightly.
“You haven’t a thing to worry about, I shall not be killed; and Motus will never have Llana of Gathol or any other woman.”
“You can tell his friends to start digging his grave immediately,” said Ptor Fak.
“You are that sure?” said Rojas.
“We have the princess,” said Ptor Fak, which is the same as saying in America “It is in the bag.” The expression derives from the Barsoomian chess game, jetan, in which the taking of a princess decides the winner and ends the game.
“I hope you are right,” said Rojas. “At least you have encouraged me to believe, and it is not so difficult to believe anything of Dotar Sojat.”
“Do you know when I am to fight Motus?” I asked.
“This evening,” replied Rojas, “before the whole Court in the throne room of the palace.”
“And after I have killed him?” I asked.
“That is to be feared, too,” said Rojas, “for Ptantus will be furious. He will not only have lost a fighting man but all the money he has wagered on the duel.”
“But it will soon be time,” she added, “and I must go now.” I saw her open my pocket pouch and drop something into it, and then she was gone.
I knew from the surreptitious manner in which she had done it that she did not wish anyone to know what she had put in my pocket pouch, or in fact that she had put anything into it; and so I did not investigate immediately, fearing that someone may have been watching and had their suspicions aroused. The constant strain of feeling that unseen eyes may be upon you, and that unseen ears may be listening to your every word was commencing to tell upon me; and I was becoming as nervous as a cat with seven kittens.
After a long silence Ptor Fak said, “What are you going to do with her?”
I knew what he meant; because the same question had been worrying me. “If we succeed in getting out of this,” I said, “I am going to take her back to Helium with me and let Dejah Thoris convince her that there are a great many more charming men that I there.” I had had other women fall in love with me and this would not be the first time that Dejah Thoris had unscrambled things for me. For she knew that no matter how many women loved me, she was the only woman whom I loved.
“You are a brave man,” said Ptor Fak.
“You say that because you do not know Dejah Thoris,” I replied; “it is not that I am a brave man, it is that she is a wise woman.”
That started me off again thinking about her, although I must confess that she is seldom absent from my thoughts. I could picture her now in our marble palace in Helium, surrounded by the brilliant men and women who crowd her salons. I could feel her hand in mine as we trod the stately Barsoomian dances she loves so well. I could see her as though she were standing before me this minute, and I could see Thuvia of Ptarth, and Carthoris, and Tara of Helium, and Gahan of Gathol. That magnificent coterie of handsome men and beautiful women bound together by ties of love and marriage. What memories they evoked!
A soft hand caressed my cheek and a voice, tense with nervousness said, “Live! Live for me! I shall return at midnight and you must be here;” then she was gone.
For some reason or other which I cannot explain, her words quieted my nerves.
They gave me confidence that at midnight I should be free. Her presence reminded me that she had dropped something into my pocket pouch and I opened it casually and put my hand into it. My fingers came in contact with a number of spheres, about the size of marbles, and I knew that the secret of invisibility was mine.
I moved close to Ptor Fak; and once again with the remaining bit of wire I picked the lock of his shackle, and then I handed him one of the spheres that Rojas had given me.
I leaned very close to his ear. “Take this,” I whispered; “in an hour you will be invisible. Go to the far end of the courtyard and wait. When I return I too shall be invisible and when I whistle thus, answer me.” I whistled a few of the opening notes of the national anthem of Helium, a signal that Dejah Thoris and I had often used.
“I understand,” said Ptor Fak.
“What do you understand?” demanded a voice.
Doggonit! there was that invisibility nemesis again and now all our plans might be knocked into a cocked hat. How much had the fellow heard? What had he seen? I trembled inwardly, fearing the answer. Then I felt hands at my ankle and saw my shackle fall open.
“Well,” repeated the voice peremptorially, “what was it that you understood?”
“I was just telling Ptor Fak,” I said, “how I was going to kill Motus, and he said he understood perfectly.”
“So you think you are going to kill Motus, do you?” demanded the voice. “Well, you are going to be very much surprised for a few minutes, and after that you will be dead. Come along with me; the duel is about to take place.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. The fellow had evidently seen or heard nothing of any importance.
“I’ll see you later, Ptor Fak,” I said.
“Good-by and good luck,” he replied. And then, accompanied by the warrior, I entered a city street on my way to the throne room of Ptantus, jeddak of Invak.