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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
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
'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
'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 awaiting you?'
'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.'
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