Suddenly I sprang to my feet—a piercing, despairing cry of “Harold, my love, save me! save me!” was ringing in my ears.
It was Zarlah’s voice, and some terrible danger confronted her.
Rushing into the adjoining room, I glanced anxiously about—all was still. The numerous books and instruments lay just as I had left them, and I gradually realized that, tired with the experiences I had lately undergone, I had unconsciously fallen asleep, and Zarlah’s cry for help was only a dream.
Although greatly relieved by this discovery, my mind remained in a state of unrest. I was oppressed with a sense of danger which, in spite of my endeavor to overcome by occupying my mind with the volumes of Martian astronomical discoveries, I found to be impossible. Laying aside the book I had endeavored to read, I started to my feet and paced restlessly to and fro, but each footfall, echoing in the profound stillness, seemed to be an appealing cry for help. A premonition that a terrible danger hung over Zarlah came upon me, and, maddened by the thought that I remained inactive, whilst yet I might save her, I rushed out upon the balcony.
The sun was just rising, but in place of the gray light of dawn on Earth with its beautifully colored eastern sky, there appeared sharp contrasts of the blackest darkness and the most brilliant light, in the long shadows that were cast across the landscape. Without the diffusion of light which the denser atmosphere of Earth causes, night seemed to linger on the very footsteps of day. Though the remarkable effect of this Martian sunrise would have been pleasing under other circumstances, it now served only to increase my apprehension, warning me that I was in a strange world, and that I must be prepared to meet extraordinary emergencies.
I had but one thought, that of reaching Zarlah as speedily as possible and saving her from the awful fate which menaced her. What this fate was, I knew not, but I could feel its presence like the hot breath of some ferocious beast, as it stands over its prostrate victim. Greatly did I now deplore the loss of Zarlah’s valuable instrument.
With eager hands I prepared the high-speed aerenoid for the journey, feeling that I must trust to Almos’ knowledge of its operation to carry me through safely. Though I realized that the danger was increased a thousand times in an aerenoid capable of such terrific speed, the fear that even now I might be too late compelled me to make use of it.
Taking my place in the forward part of the car, I was greatly relieved to find that my hand instinctively sought the levers, and operated them with a judicious care that could result only from long experience.
Rising high enough to avoid small aerenoids, I proceeded at a considerable speed and soon came within sight of Zarlah’s dwelling. The serene and peaceful appearance of this beautiful white marble villa, as the morning sun glorified it, quickly dispelled the fears that had brought me hither at such an early hour, and I gladly attributed them to overwrought nerves and the loss of a night’s sleep.