At my feet lay the slip of paper which bore the instructions for Reon. Many times during the long hours of deep thought, had my eyes rested upon it, only to seek a new object as a new problem confronted me. Suddenly, starting to my feet and snatching the paper from the ground, I uttered an exclamation of astonishment. For the first time, I noticed the hour at which Reon was to carry out his instructions—it was three hours before the time for my departure!
Almos had, then, deliberately planned to take my place on Earth, and in return to give me his on Mars. How I had been kept in ignorance of these plans, I knew not, but, as I stood staring at the paper in my hand, my mind gradually comprehended all that Almos had, until now, so successfully hidden from me.
Impelled by these strange revelations, I hastened to the sleeping chamber, and glanced eagerly around in search of some message that would explain more fully the reason for Almos’ departure to Earth. Nor was I disappointed, for upon the couch lay a letter addressed to “Harold Lonsdale.” Almos had naturally supposed that I would retire soon after making the discovery that he had gone to Earth, and that I would then find the letter which, in this chamber, was safe from Reon’s observation.
As I read the contents my eyes filled with tears of overwhelming gratitude, and my heart went out in sincere affection to him who, in this brief message, which was the sacrifice of a strong and noble character, offered me his life on Mars with the love that he had known was mine, but which otherwise I could never possess.
Pacing the room under the influence of strong emotions, I laid the letter down, only to pick it up again and reread its contents carefully. No other man, living on Earth or Mars, could have done as much for me as had Almos this night. He had not only saved my life, but had given to me the thing that was far dearer. It was a princely gift, and my mind, trained as it had been to the cramped confines of a sordid existence in a mercenary world, was slow to comprehend the limitless wealth of happiness and love which it bestowed upon me. Sleep was impossible, and I longed for the morning, that I might hasten to my beloved, and tell her of the happiness that was ours.
The warning of danger——the race with death.
Slowly crept the long tedious hours of darkness. The heavy cloud of despair that had so long hung over me, now being dispelled as if by magic, I was all impatience. My heart yearned for the moment when, gazing into the depths of Zarlah’s wondrous eyes, I should see there—not the appealing timid look, full of the dread of hopeless separation from her lover, that had so wrung my heart at our last parting—but the radiant happiness of perfect contentment and fulfilled desire. I had thrown myself on the couch, and, as a miser jealously counts over his gold, fondling each precious bit with eager fingers, so I pondered on the happy hours spent with Zarlah, carefully reviewing each golden moment with its precious burden of Love’s confessions.