Beyond the Farthest Star


Edgar Rice Burroughs

I WENT to bed immediately after reaching my apartment. Lotar Canl had asked for the entire night off; so when I was awakened shortly after mid-night by a summons at my door, I had to answer it myself. As I opened it, two greenclad Zabo troopers stepped in with drawn pistols.

“Dress and come with us,” said one of them.

“There must be some mistake,” I said; “I am Korvan Don, you can’t want me.”

“Shut up and get dressed,” said the one who had first spoken, “or we’ll take you along in your night-clothes.”

While I was dressing, I racked my brains trying to think what I had done to deserve arrest. Of course I knew it would be useless to ask these men. Even if they knew, which they probably did not, they wouldn’t tell me. Naturally I thought of Grunge, because of what Morgan Sagra had told me, but the man could not possibly have had anything to report against me; although, of course, he could have fabricated some story.

I was taken directly to Gurrul’s office; and although it was well after mid-night, he was still there. He gave me one of his most terrible looks and then screamed at me, “So you slipped at last, you filthy spy. I have always suspected you, and I am always right.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” I said. “You can have absolutely no charge against me; because I have spoken no treasonable words since I came to Kapara. I defy anyone to prove that I am not as good a Kapar as you.”

“Oh,” he barked, “so you haven’t said anything treasonable? Well, you idiot, you have written it;” and he took a small red book from a drawer in his desk and held it up in front of me and shook it in my face. “Your diary, you fool.” He turned the leaves and scanned the pages for a moment and then he read, “ ‘Gurrul is a fat idiot’; so I am a fat idiot, am I?” He turned a few more pages, and read again. “’The Zabo is made up of moronic murderers; and when our revolution succeeds, I shall have them all beheaded. I shall behead Gurrul myself.’ What do you say to that?”

He turned over some more pages and read again, “’The Pom Da is an egotistical maniac and will be one of the first to be destroyed when J and I rule Kapara.’ Who is J?” he bellowed at me.

“I haven’t the slightest idea,” I told him.

“Well, there are ways of making you find out,” he said, and getting up and coming around the end of his desk, he knocked me down before I had the slightest idea what his intentions were.

I leaped to my feet with the intention of handing him what he had handed me, but several troopers seized me. “Secure his hands,” ordered Gurrul, and they put them behind my back and snapped hand-cuffs about my wrists.

“You’d better tell me who J is,” said Gurrul, “or you’ll get a great deal worse than what I just gave you. Who is this accomplice of yours? It will go easier with you if you tell me.”

“I do not know who J is,” I said.

“Take him into the question box,” ordered Gurrul, and they took me into an adjoining room which I instantly saw was fitted up as a torture chamber. They let me look around the room for a moment at the various instruments of torture, and then Gurrul started demanding again that I tell him who J was. He kept striking me repeatedly, and when I fell he kicked me.

When I still insisted that I didn’t know, one of them burned me with a hot iron.

“Your right eye goes next,” said Gurrul; “who is J?”

They worked on me for about an hour, and I was pretty nearly dead when they finally gave up.

“Well,” said Gurrul, “I can’t spend all the rest of the night with this stubborn fool; take him downstairs and behead him—unless in the meantime he tells you who J is.”

Well, this was the end of my mission. I had learned absolutely nothing, and now I was to be beheaded. As a spy I was evidently a total failure. A couple of them jerked me roughly to my feet; for I could not rise by myself, and just then the door opened and Lotar Canl entered the room. When I saw him, my suspicions were confirmed, as I had always thought that he was probably a Zabo agent; and now I thought that it was probably he who had turned this forged diary over to them, probably in the hope of winning preferment by discovering this plot against the nation.

He took in the scene in a quick glance and then he turned to Gurrul. “Why is this man here?”

“He is a traitor who was conspiring against Kapara,” replied Gurrul. “We found the evidence of his guilt in this diary in his desk.”

“I thought as much,” said Lotar Canl, “when I came home earlier than I expected tonight and found that the book had been removed from his desk.”

“You knew about this book,” demanded Gurrul.

“Of course,” replied Lotar Canl. “I saw it planted there. Korvan Don knew nothing about it. I have watched this man most carefully since he has been here. He is as good a Kapar as any of us.”

Gurrul looked a little sheepish, that is if a wolf can look sheepish. “Who put the book in his desk?” he asked.

“The man who actually placed it there was an innocent tool,” replied Lotar Canl. “I have him under arrest. He is in the next room under guard. I wish that you would question him yourself.”

The man was brought in and Gurrul showed him the diary and asked him if he had placed it in my desk.

The poor fellow was trembling so that he could scarcely speak, but finally he managed to say, “Yes, Most High.”

“Why did you do it?” demanded Gurrul.

“The night before last, a man came into my room shortly after midnight. He flashed a tiny light on a Zabo badge he wore, but he was careful not to shine it on his face. He told me that I had been selected to place this book in Korvan Don’s desk. He said that it was a command from you, Most High.”

Gurrul called Lotal Canl to the far end of the room, and they whispered together for several minutes; then Gurrul came back. “You may go,” he said to the man, “but understand that nobody ever came to your room in the middle of the night and asked you to put anything in anybody’s desk; you were not brought here tonight; you did not see me nor anyone else who is in this room. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Most High,” replied the man.

“Take him away and see that he is returned to his home,” Gurrul directed the two agents who had brought the fellow in; then he turned again to me. “Mistakes are bound to occur occasionally,” he said. “It is regrettable, but it is so. Have you any idea who might have had that book placed in your desk?”

I thought that it was Grunge, but I said, “I haven’t any idea; as far as I know I haven’t an enemy in Kapara. There is no reason why anyone should wish to get me into trouble.” I suspected that Grunge was a Zabo agent, and I knew that if he were I would probably get myself into trouble by accusing him. Gurrul turned to one of his officers. “Have this man taken to a hospital,” he said, “and see that he receives the best of treatment;” and then he turned to me. “You are never to mention this unfortunate occurrence to anyone. While returning home, you were knocked down and run over. Do you understand?”

I told him that I did; and then they sent for a stretcher, and I was carried out and taken to a hospital.

The next day, Sagra came to see me. She said that she had found a note under her door telling her that I had been in an accident and what hospital I was in.

“Yes,” I said, “I was hit by an automobile.”

She looked frightened. “Do you think that you will be hit again?” she asked.

“I hope not by the same automobile,” I said.

“I am terribly frightened,” she said; “I am afraid that it will be my turn next.”

“Keep out of the way of automobiles,” I advised her.

“Gimmel Gora won’t speak to me any more, and Grunge won’t leave me alone. He told me not to be afraid, as he is a Zabo agent.”

“Just as I thought,” I said, “and a hit and run driver too.”

“I wish I were back in Orvis,” she said.

“Be careful what you say, Sagra,” I advised.

She looked at me with wide, frightened eyes. “You, too?” she asked.

“No, not I,” I assured her; “but the walls may have ears.”

“I wish you could tell me what happened,” she said.

I shook my head. “I have told you—I was hit by an automobile and run over.”

“I suppose you are right,” she said; “and I also suppose that I have talked altogether too much; but I am nearly crazy, and if I didn’t have someone to tell my fears to, I think I should go crazy.”

Treason is a terrible thing, and its punishment must be terrible.

Beyond the Farthest Star - Contents    |     Eight

Back    |    Words Home    |    Edgar Rice Burroughs Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback