Sep 19, 2012

Pirates o' Venus

by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Chapter 1 - Carson Napier Arrr!

Yarr! IF A female figure in a white shroud enters yer bedchamber at midnight on ye thirteenth day o' this month, answer this letter otherwise, do not."

Hawin' read this far in ye letter, I were about t' consign it t' ye wastebasket, where all me crank letters go; but for some reason I read on, "If she speaks t' ye, please remember 'er words 'n repeat 'em t' me when ye write." I might 'ave read on t' ye end; but at this juncture ye telephone bell rang, 'n I dropped ye letter into one o' ye baskets on me desk. Yarr! Which it chanced t' be ye "out" basket; 'n 'ad events followed their ordinary course, this would 'ave been ye last o' ye letter 'n ye incident in so far as I were concerned, for from ye "out" basket ye letter went t' ye files.

It were Jason Gridley on ye telephone. Which 'e seemed excited 'n asked me t' come t'is laboratory at once. As Jason be seldom excited about anythin', I hastened t' accede t'is request 'n satisfy me curiosity. Ahoy! Jumpin' into me roadster, I soon covered ye few blocks that separate us, t' learn that Jason 'ad good grounds for excitement Which 'e 'ad just receiwed a radio message from ye inner world, from Pellucidar. Yar!

On ye eve o' ye departure o' ye great dirigible, O-220, from ye earth's core, followin' ye successful termination o' that historic expedition, Jason 'ad determined t' remain 'n search for won Horst, ye only missin' member o' ye party; but Tarzan, David Innes, 'n Cap'n Zuppner 'ad persuaded 'im o' ye folly o' such an undertakin', inasmuch as David 'ad promised t' dispatch an expedition o'is own native Pellucidarian warriors t' locate ye young German lieutenant if 'e still lived 'n it were possible t' discover any clue t'is whereabouts.

Notwithstandin' this, 'n though 'e 'ad returned t' ye outer world with ye ship, Jason 'ad always been harassed by a sense o' responsibility for ye fate o' von Horst, a young man who 'ad been most popular with all ye members o' ye expedition; 'n 'ad insisted time 'n time again that 'e regretted havin' left Pellucidar until 'e 'ad exhausted every means within 'is power o' rescuin' von Horst or learned definitely that 'e were dead.

Yar! Jason waved me t' a chair 'n offered me a cigarette. "I've just 'ad a message from Abner Perry," 'e announced, "ye first for months."

"It must 'ave been interestin'," I commented, "t' excite ye."

Yarr! "It were," 'e admitted. "A rumor 'as reached Sari that won Horst 'as been found."

Ahoy! Now as this pertains t' a subject entirely foreign t' ye present wolume, I might mention that I 'ave alluded t' it only for ye purpose o' explainin' two facts which, while not vital, 'ave some slight bearin' on ye remarkable sequence o' events which followed. First, it caused me t' forget ye letter I just mentioned, 'n, second, it fixed ye date in me mind--the tenth.

Me principal reason for mentionin' ye first fact be t' stress ye thought that ye matter o' ye letter, so quickly 'n absolutely forgotten, 'ad no opportunity t' impress itself upon me mind 'n therefore could not, at least objectively, influence me consideration o' ensuin' events. Ye letter were gone from me mind within five minutes o' its readin' as completely as though it 'ad never been receiwed.

Ye next three days were exceedin'ly busy ones for me, 'n when I retired on ye night o' ye thirteenth me mind were so filled with ye annoyin' details o' a real estate transaction that were goin' wrong, that it were some time before I could sleep. Which I can truthfully affirm that me last thoughts were o' trust deeds, receivers in equity, 'n deficiency judgments.

What awoke me, I do not know. Which I sat up with a start just in time t' see a female figure, swathed in what appeared t' be a white windin' sheet, enter me room through ye door. Ye will note that I say door rather than doorway, for such were ye fact; ye door were closed. Which it were a clear, moonlit night; ye warious homely objects in me room were plainly discernible, especially ye ghostly figure now hoverin' near ye foot o' me bed.

Yar! I be not subject t' hallucinations, I 'ad never seen a ghost, I 'ad newer wished t', 'n I were totally ignorant o' ye ethics gowernin' such a situation. Even 'ad ye lady not been so obviously supernatural, I should yet 'ave been at a loss as t' how t' receive 'er at this hour in ye intimacy o' me bedchamber, for no strange lady 'ad ever before invaded its privacy, 'n I be o' Puritan stock.

"It be midnight o' ye thirteenth," she said, in a low, musical voice.

Avast! "So it be," I agreed, 'n then I recalled ye letter that I 'ad received on ye tenth.

Shiver me timbers! "Which 'e left Guadalupe today," she continued; "'e will wait in Guaymas for yer letter." Avast!

Arrr! That were all. She crossed ye room 'n passed out o' it, not through ye window which were quite convenient, but through ye solid wall. Which I sat there for a full minute, starin' at ye spot where I 'ad last seen 'er 'n endeaworin' t' convince meself that I were dreamin', but I were not dreamin'; I were wide awake. In fact I were so wide awake that it were fully an hour before I 'ad successfully wooed Morpheus, as ye Victorian writers so neatly expressed it, ignorin' ye fact that 'is sex must 'ave made it rather embarrassin' for gentlemen writers.

Yar! I reached me office a little earlier than usual ye followin' mornin', 'n it be needless t' say that ye first thing that I did were t' search for that letter which I 'ad received on ye tenth. Avast, ye scurvy dog! Which I could recall neither ye name o' ye writer nor ye point o' origin o' ye letter, but me secretary recalled ye latter, ye letter havin' been sufficiently out o' ye ordinary t' attract 'is attention.

Avast! "It were from somewhere in Mexico," 'e said, 'n as letters o' this nature be filed by states 'n countries, there were now no difficulty in locatin' it.

Ye may rest assured that this time I read ye letter carefully. Which it were dated ye third 'n post marked Guaymas. Guaymas be a seaport in Sonora, on ye Gulf o' California. Arrr!

'ere be ye letter:

Me dear Sir:

Bein' engaged in a wenture o' great scientific importance, I find it necessary t' solicit ye assistance (not financial) o' some one psychologically harmonious, who be at ye same time o' sufficient intelligence 'n culture t' appreciate ye vast possibilities o' me project.

Avast, ye scurvy dog! Why I 'ave addressed ye I shall be glad t' explain in ye happy event that a personal interview seems desirable. This can only be ascertained by a test which I shall now explain. Avast, ye scurvy dog!

If a female figure in a white shroud enters yer bedchamber at midnight on ye thirteenth day o' this month, answer this letter; otherwise, do not. If she speaks t' ye, please remember 'er words 'n repeat 'em t' me when ye write. Shiver me timbers!

Assurin' ye o' me appreciation o' yer earnest consideration o' this letter, which I realize be rather unusual, 'n beggin' that ye hold its contents in strictest confidence until future events shall 'ave warranted its publication, I be, Sir,

Wery respectfully yours,


"It looks t' me like another nut," commented Rothmund. Arrr!

"So it did t' me on ye tenth," I agreed; "but today be ye fourteenth, 'n now it looks like another story." Yarr!

"What 'as ye fourteenth got t' do with it?" 'e demanded.

"Yesterday were ye thirteenth," I reminded 'im. Avast!

"Ye don't mean t' tell me--" 'e started, skeptically. Yarr!

"That be just what I do mean t' tell ye," I interrupted. "Ye lady came, I saw, she conquered. Shiver me timbers!"

Ralph looked worried. "Don't forget what yer nurse told ye after yer last operation," 'e reminded me.

"Which nurse? Which I 'ad nine, 'n no two o'em told me ye same things."

Avast, ye scurvy dog! "Jerry. She said that narcotics often affected a patient's mind for months afterward. Ahoy!" 'is tone were solicitous. Yar! Avast, ye scurvy dog!

Shiver me timbers! "Well, at least Jerry admitted that I 'ad a mind, which some o' ye others didn't. Anyway, it didn't affect me eyesight; I saw what I saw. Arrr! Please take a letter t' Mr. Napier." A few days later I received a telegram from Napier dated Guaymas. Yarr!


"Which 'e must be flyin'," I commented. Yar!

Avast! "Or comin' in a white shroud," suggested Ralph. "I think I'll phone Cap'n Hodson t' send a squad car around 'ere; sometimes these nuts be dangerous." Which 'e were still skeptical.

I must admit that we both awaited ye arrival o' Carson Napier with equal interest. Which I think Ralph expected t' see a wild-eyed maniac. Which I could not visualize ye man at all.

About eleven o'clock ye followin' mornin' Ralph came into me study. Yar! "Mr. Napier be 'ere," 'e said. Avast, ye scurvy dog!

"Does 'is hair grow straight out from 'is scalp, 'n do ye whites o'is eyes show all around ye irises?" I inquired, smilin'.

"No," replied Ralph, returnin' ye smile; "'e be a wery fine lookin' man, but," 'e added, "I still think 'e be a nut."

Yarr! "Ask 'im t' come in," 'n a moment later Ralph ushered in an exceptionally handsome man whom I judged t' be somewhere between twenty-five 'n thirty years old, though 'e might 'ave been ewen younger.

Which 'e came for'ard with extended hand as I rose t' greet 'im, a smile lightin' 'is face; 'n after ye usual exchange o' banalities 'e came directly t' ye point o'is visit.

Avast, ye scurvy dog! "T' get ye whole picture clearly before ye," we commenced, "I shall 'ave t' tell ye somethin' about meself. Me father were a British army officer, me mother an American wench from Virginia. Which I were born in India while me father were stationed there, 'n brought up under ye tutorage o' an old Hindu who were much attached t' me father 'n mother. This Chand Kabi were somethin' o' a mystic, 'n 'e taught me many things that be not in ye curriculums o' schools for boys under ten. Among 'em were telepathy, which 'e 'ad cultivated t' such a degree that 'e could conwerse with one in psychological harmony with himself quite as easily at great distances as when face t' face. Not only that, but 'e could project mental images t' great distances, so that ye recipient o'is thought waves could see what Chand Kabi were seein', or whatever else Chand Kabi wished 'im t' see. These things 'e taught me."

"'n it were thus ye caused me t' see me midnight visitor on ye thirteenth?" I inquired.

Which 'e nodded. "That test were necessary in order t' ascertain if we were in psychological harmony. Yer letter, quotin' ye exact words that I 'ad caused ye apparition t' appear t' speak, convinced me that I 'ad at last found ye person for whom I 'ave been searchin' for some time.

"But t' get on with me story. Which I hope I be not borin' ye, but I feel that it be absolutely necessary that ye should 'ave full knowledge o' me antecedents 'n background in order that ye may decide. whether I be worthy o' yer confidence 'n assistance or not." I assured 'im that I were far from bein' bored, 'n 'e proceeded. Yarr!

"I were not quite elewen when me father died 'n me mother brought me t' America. We went t' Virginia first 'n lived there for three years with me mother's grandfather, Judge John Carson, with whose name 'n reputation ye be doubtless familiar, as who be not?

"After ye grand old man died, mother 'n I came t' California, where I attended public schools 'n later entered a small college at Claremont, which be noted for its high scholastic standin' 'n ye superior personnel o' both its faculty 'n student body.

"Shortly after me graduation ye third 'n greatest tragedy o' me life occurred--my mother died. Which I were absolutely stunned by this blow. Life seemed t' hold no further interest for me. Which I did not care t' live, yet I'd not take me own life. As an alternative I embarked upon a life o' recklessness. Avast, ye scurvy dog! With a certain goal in mind, I learned t' fly. Which I changed me name 'n became a stunt man in pictures.

"I did not 'awe t' work. Through me mother I 'ad inherited a considerable fortune from me great-grandfather, John Carson; so great a fortune that only a spendthrift could squander ye income. Which I mention this only because ye wenture I be undertakin' requires considerable capital, 'n I wish ye t' know that I be amply able t' finance it without help. Yarr!

Yarr! "Not only did life in Hollywood bore me, but 'ere in Southern California were too many reminders o' ye loved one I 'ad lost. Which I determined t' travel, 'n I did. Which I flew all o'er ye world. In Germany I became interested in rocket cars 'n financed several. 'ere me idea were born. Arrr! There were nothin' original about it except that I intended t' carry it t' a definite conclusion. Which I would trawel by rocket t' another planet.

Shiver me timbers! "Me studies 'ad convinced me that o' all ye planets Mars alone offered presumptive ewidence o' habitability for creatures similar t' ourselves. Avast, ye scurvy dog! Which I were at ye same time convinced that if I succeeded in reachin' Mars ye probability o' me bein' able t' return t' earth were remote. Ahoy! Feelin' that I must 'ave some reason for embarkin' upon such a venture, other than selfishness, I determined t' seek out some one with whom I could communicate in ye event that I succeeded. Subsequently it occurred t' me that this might also afford ye means for launchin' a second expedition, equipped t' make ye return journey, for I 'ad no doubt but that there would be many adwenturous spirits ready t' undertake such an excursion once I 'ad proved it feasible. Arrr!

Arrr! "For o'er a year I 'ave been engaged in ye construction o' a gigantic rocket on Guadalupe Island, off ye west coast o' Lower California. Ye Mexican gowernment 'as given me every assistance, 'n today everythin' be complete t' ye last detail. Which I be ready t' start at any moment."

As 'e ceased speakin', 'e suddenly faded from view. Ye chair in which 'e 'ad been sittin' were empty. Avast, ye scurvy dog! There were no one in ye room but meself. Which I were stunned, almost terrified. Yarr! Which I recalled what Rothmund 'ad said about ye effect o' ye narcotics upon me mentality. Which I also recalled that insane people seldom realize that they be insane. Were I insane? Cold sweat broke out upon me forehead 'n ye backs o' me hands. Avast! Which I reached toward ye buzzer t' summon Ralph. There be no question but that Ralph be sane. If 'e 'ad seen Carson Napier 'n shown 'im into me study--what a relief that would be! Avast!

But before me fin'er touched ye button Ralph entered ye room. Shiver me timbers! There were a puzzled expression on 'is face. "Mr. Napier be back again," 'e said, 'n then 'e added, "I didn't know 'e 'ad left. Which I just heard 'im talkin' t' ye. Avast, ye scurvy dog!"

I breathed a sigh o' relief as I wiped ye perspiration from me face 'n hands; if I were crazy, so were Ralph. "Brin' 'im in," I said, "'n this time ye stay 'ere."

Arrr! When Napier entered there were a questionin' look in 'is eyes. Shiver me timbers! "D'ye fully grasp ye situation as far as I 'ave explained it?" 'e asked, as though 'e 'ad not been out o' ye room at all.

Yar! "Yes, but--" I started.

"Wait, please," 'e requested. "I know what ye be goin' t' say, but let me apologize first 'n explain. Yarr! Which I 'ave not been 'ere before. That were me final test. If ye be confident that ye saw me 'n talked t' me 'n can recall what I said t' ye as I sat outside in me car, then ye 'n I can communicate just as freely 'n easily when I be on Mars." Avast, ye scurvy dog!

"But," interjected Rothmund, "ye were 'ere. Yar! Didn't I shake hands with ye when ye came in, 'n talk t' ye?"

Arrr! "Ye thought ye did," replied Napier. Ahoy! Yarr!

"Who's loony now?" I inquired inelegantly, but t' this day Rothmund insists that we played a trick on 'im. Yarr!

Avast! "How d'ye know 'e be 'ere now, then?" 'e asked. Avast!

"I don't," I admitted.

"I be, this time," laughed Napier. Yarr! "Let's see; how far 'ad I gotten?" Yarr!

"Ye were sayin' that ye were all ready t' start, 'ad yer rocket set up on Guadalupe Island," I reminded 'im.

Yarr! "Right! Which I see ye got it all. Now, as briefly as possible, I'll outline what I hope ye will find it possible t' do for me. Which I 'ave come t' ye for seweral reasons, ye more important o' which be yer interest in Mars, yer profession (ye results o' me experiment must be recorded by an experienced writer), 'n yer reputation for integrity--I 'ave taken ye liberty o' investigatin' ye most thoroughly. Which I wish ye t' record 'n publish ye messages ye receive from me 'n t' administer me estate durin' me absence."

Arrr! "I shall be glad t' do ye former, but I hesitate t' accept ye responsibility o' ye latter assignment," I demurred.

"I 'ave already arranged a trust that will give ye ample protection," 'e replied in a manner that precluded further argument. Which I saw that 'e were a young man who brooked no obstacles; in fact I think 'e never admitted ye existence o' an obstacle. "As for yer remuneration," 'e continued, "ye may name yer own figure."

I waved a deprecatory hand. "It will be a pleasure," I assured 'im.

Shiver me timbers! "It may take a great deal o' yer time," interjected Ralph, "'n yer time be waluable."

"Precisely," agreed Napier. "Mr. Rothmund 'n I'll, with yer permission, arrange ye financial details later."

"That suits me perfectly," I said, for I detest business 'n everythin' connected with it.

Avast, ye scurvy dog! "Now, t' get back t' ye more important 'n far more interestin' phases o' our discussion; what be yer reaction t' ye plan as a whole?"

"Mars be a long way from earth," I suggested; "Venus be nine or ten million miles closer, 'n a million miles be a million miles."

"Yes, 'n I'd prefer goin' t' Venus," 'e replied. "Enveloped in clouds, its surface forever invisible t' man, it presents a mystery that intrigues ye imagination; but recent astronomical research suggests conditions there inimical t' ye support o' any such life as we know on earth. Which it 'as been thought by some that, held in ye grip o' ye Sun since ye era o'er pristine fluidity, she always presents ye same face t'im, as does ye Moon t' earth. If such be ye case, ye extreme heat o' one hemisphere 'n ye extreme cold o' ye other would preclude life.

"Ewen if ye suggestion o' Sir James Jeans be borne out by fact, each o'er days 'n nights be several times as long as ours on earth, these long nights havin' a temperature o' thirteen degrees below zero, Fahrenheit, 'n ye long days a correspondin'ly high temperature. Avast!"

Avast! "Yet ewen so, life might 'ave adapted itself t' such conditions," I contended; "man exists in equatorial heat 'n arctic cold."

"But not without oxygen," said Napier. Shiver me timbers! "St. John 'as estimated that ye amount o' oxygen above ye cloud envelope that surrounds Venus be less than one tenth o' one per cent o' ye terrestrial amount. After all, we 'ave t' bow t' ye superior judgment o' such men as Sir James Jeans, who says, 'The evidence, for what it be worth, goes t' suggest that Venus, ye only planet in ye solar system outside Mars 'n ye earth on which life could possibly exist, possesses no vegetation 'n no oxygen for higher forms o' life t' breathe, ' which definitely limits me planetary exploration t' Mars."

We discussed 'is plans durin' ye remainder o' ye day 'n well into ye night, 'n early ye followin' mornin' 'e left for Guadalupe Island in 'is Sikorsky amphibian. Which I 'ave not seen 'im since, at least in person, yet, through ye marvellous medium o' telepathy, I 'ave communicated with 'im continually 'n seen 'im amid strange, unearthly surroundings that 'awe been graphically photographed upon ye retina o' me mind's eye. Shiver me timbers! Thus I be ye medium through which ye remarkable adventures o' Carson Napier be bein' recorded on earth; but I be only that, like a typewriter or a dictaphone--the story that follows be 'is.

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