Part 2 - A Princess of Mars Audiobook by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Chs 11-18)


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Transcript:
-CHAPTER XI WITH DEJAH THORIS
As we reached the open the two female guards who had been detailed to watch over
Dejah Thoris hurried up and made as though to assume custody of her once more.
The poor child shrank against me and I felt her two little hands fold tightly over my
arm.
Waving the women away, I informed them that Sola would attend the captive hereafter,
and I further warned Sarkoja that any more of her cruel attentions bestowed upon Dejah
Thoris would result in Sarkoja's sudden and painful demise.
My threat was unfortunate and resulted in more harm than good to Dejah Thoris, for,
as I learned later, men do not kill women upon Mars, nor women, men.
So Sarkoja merely gave us an ugly look and departed to hatch up deviltries against us.
I soon found Sola and explained to her that I wished her to guard Dejah Thoris as she
had guarded me; that I wished her to find other quarters where they would not be
molested by Sarkoja, and I finally informed
her that I myself would take up my quarters among the men.
Sola glanced at the accouterments which were carried in my hand and slung across my
shoulder.
"You are a great chieftain now, John Carter," she said, "and I must do your
bidding, though indeed I am glad to do it under any circumstances.
The man whose metal you carry was young, but he was a great warrior, and had by his
promotions and kills won his way close to the rank of Tars Tarkas, who, as you know,
is second to Lorquas Ptomel only.
You are eleventh, there are but ten chieftains in this community who rank you
in prowess." "And if I should kill Lorquas Ptomel?"
I asked.
"You would be first, John Carter; but you may only win that honor by the will of the
entire council that Lorquas Ptomel meet you in combat, or should he attack you, you may
kill him in self-defense, and thus win first place."
I laughed, and changed the subject.
I had no particular desire to kill Lorquas Ptomel, and less to be a jed among the
Tharks.
I accompanied Sola and Dejah Thoris in a search for new quarters, which we found in
a building nearer the audience chamber and of far more pretentious architecture than
our former habitation.
We also found in this building real sleeping apartments with ancient beds of
highly wrought metal swinging from enormous gold chains depending from the marble
ceilings.
The decoration of the walls was most elaborate, and, unlike the frescoes in the
other buildings I had examined, portrayed many human figures in the compositions.
These were of people like myself, and of a much lighter color than Dejah Thoris.
They were clad in graceful, flowing robes, highly ornamented with metal and jewels,
and their luxuriant hair was of a beautiful golden and reddish bronze.
The men were beardless and only a few wore arms.
The scenes depicted for the most part, a fair-skinned, fair-haired people at play.
Dejah Thoris clasped her hands with an exclamation of rapture as she gazed upon
these magnificent works of art, wrought by a people long extinct; while Sola, on the
other hand, apparently did not see them.
We decided to use this room, on the second floor and overlooking the plaza, for Dejah
Thoris and Sola, and another room adjoining and in the rear for the cooking and
supplies.
I then dispatched Sola to bring the bedding and such food and utensils as she might
need, telling her that I would guard Dejah Thoris until her return.
As Sola departed Dejah Thoris turned to me with a faint smile.
"And whereto, then, would your prisoner escape should you leave her, unless it was
to follow you and crave your protection, and ask your pardon for the cruel thoughts
she has harbored against you these past few days?"
"You are right," I answered, "there is no escape for either of us unless we go
together."
"I heard your challenge to the creature you call Tars Tarkas, and I think I understand
your position among these people, but what I cannot fathom is your statement that you
are not of Barsoom."
"In the name of my first ancestor, then," she continued, "where may you be from?
You are like unto my people, and yet so unlike.
You speak my language, and yet I heard you tell Tars Tarkas that you had but learned
it recently.
All Barsoomians speak the same tongue from the ice-clad south to the ice-clad north,
though their written languages differ.
Only in the valley Dor, where the river Iss empties into the lost sea of Korus, is
there supposed to be a different language spoken, and, except in the legends of our
ancestors, there is no record of a
Barsoomian returning up the river Iss, from the shores of Korus in the valley of Dor.
Do not tell me that you have thus returned!
They would kill you horribly anywhere upon the surface of Barsoom if that were true;
tell me it is not!"
Her eyes were filled with a strange, weird light; her voice was pleading, and her
little hands, reached up upon my breast, were pressed against me as though to wring
a denial from my very heart.
"I do not know your customs, Dejah Thoris, but in my own Virginia a gentleman does not
lie to save himself; I am not of Dor; I have never seen the mysterious Iss; the
lost sea of Korus is still lost, so far as I am concerned.
Do you believe me?" And then it struck me suddenly that I was
very anxious that she should believe me.
It was not that I feared the results which would follow a general belief that I had
returned from the Barsoomian heaven or hell, or whatever it was.
Why was it, then!
Why should I care what she thought? I looked down at her; her beautiful face
upturned, and her wonderful eyes opening up the very depth of her soul; and as my eyes
met hers I knew why, and--I shuddered.
A similar wave of feeling seemed to stir her; she drew away from me with a sigh, and
with her earnest, beautiful face turned up to mine, she whispered: "I believe you,
John Carter; I do not know what a
'gentleman' is, nor have I ever heard before of Virginia; but on Barsoom no man
lies; if he does not wish to speak the truth he is silent.
Where is this Virginia, your country, John Carter?" she asked, and it seemed that this
fair name of my fair land had never sounded more beautiful than as it fell from those
perfect lips on that far-gone day.
"I am of another world," I answered, "the great planet Earth, which revolves about
our common sun and next within the orbit of your Barsoom, which we know as Mars.
How I came here I cannot tell you, for I do not know; but here I am, and since my
presence has permitted me to serve Dejah Thoris I am glad that I am here."
She gazed at me with troubled eyes, long and questioningly.
That it was difficult to believe my statement I well knew, nor could I hope
that she would do so however much I craved her confidence and respect.
I would much rather not have told her anything of my antecedents, but no man
could look into the depth of those eyes and refuse her slightest behest.
Finally she smiled, and, rising, said: "I shall have to believe even though I cannot
understand.
I can readily perceive that you are not of the Barsoom of today; you are like us, yet
different--but why should I trouble my poor head with such a problem, when my heart
tells me that I believe because I wish to believe!"
It was good logic, good, earthly, feminine logic, and if it satisfied her I certainly
could pick no flaws in it.
As a matter of fact it was about the only kind of logic that could be brought to bear
upon my problem.
We fell into a general conversation then, asking and answering many questions on each
side.
She was curious to learn of the customs of my people and displayed a remarkable
knowledge of events on Earth.
When I questioned her closely on this seeming familiarity with earthly things she
laughed, and cried out:
"Why, every school boy on Barsoom knows the geography, and much concerning the fauna
and flora, as well as the history of your planet fully as well as of his own.
Can we not see everything which takes place upon Earth, as you call it; is it not
hanging there in the heavens in plain sight?"
This baffled me, I must confess, fully as much as my statements had confounded her;
and I told her so.
She then explained in general the instruments her people had used and been
perfecting for ages, which permit them to throw upon a screen a perfect image of what
is transpiring upon any planet and upon many of the stars.
These pictures are so perfect in detail that, when photographed and enlarged,
objects no greater than a blade of grass may be distinctly recognized.
I afterward, in Helium, saw many of these pictures, as well as the instruments which
produced them.
"If, then, you are so familiar with earthly things," I asked, "why is it that you do
not recognize me as identical with the inhabitants of that planet?"
She smiled again as one might in bored indulgence of a questioning child.
"Because, John Carter," she replied, "nearly every planet and star having
atmospheric conditions at all approaching those of Barsoom, shows forms of animal
life almost identical with you and me; and,
further, Earth men, almost without exception, cover their bodies with strange,
unsightly pieces of cloth, and their heads with hideous contraptions the purpose of
which we have been unable to conceive;
while you, when found by the Tharkian warriors, were entirely undisfigured and
unadorned.
"The fact that you wore no ornaments is a strong proof of your un-Barsoomian origin,
while the absence of grotesque coverings might cause a doubt as to your
earthliness."
I then narrated the details of my departure from the Earth, explaining that my body
there lay fully clothed in all the, to her, strange garments of mundane dwellers.
At this point Sola returned with our meager belongings and her young Martian protege,
who, of course, would have to share the quarters with them.
Sola asked us if we had had a visitor during her absence, and seemed much
surprised when we answered in the negative.
It seemed that as she had mounted the approach to the upper floors where our
quarters were located, she had met Sarkoja descending.
We decided that she must have been eavesdropping, but as we could recall
nothing of importance that had passed between us we dismissed the matter as of
little consequence, merely promising
ourselves to be warned to the utmost caution in the future.
Dejah Thoris and I then fell to examining the architecture and decorations of the
beautiful chambers of the building we were occupying.
She told me that these people had presumably flourished over a hundred
thousand years before.
They were the early progenitors of her race, but had mixed with the other great
race of early Martians, who were very dark, almost black, and also with the reddish
yellow race which had flourished at the same time.
These three great divisions of the higher Martians had been forced into a mighty
alliance as the drying up of the Martian seas had compelled them to seek the
comparatively few and always diminishing
fertile areas, and to defend themselves, under new conditions of life, against the
wild hordes of green men.
Ages of close relationship and intermarrying had resulted in the race of
red men, of which Dejah Thoris was a fair and beautiful daughter.
During the ages of hardships and incessant warring between their own various races, as
well as with the green men, and before they had fitted themselves to the changed
conditions, much of the high civilization
and many of the arts of the fair-haired Martians had become lost; but the red race
of today has reached a point where it feels that it has made up in new discoveries and
in a more practical civilization for all
that lies irretrievably buried with the ancient Barsoomians, beneath the countless
intervening ages.
These ancient Martians had been a highly cultivated and literary race, but during
the vicissitudes of those trying centuries of readjustment to new conditions, not only
did their advancement and production cease
entirely, but practically all their archives, records, and literature were
lost.
Dejah Thoris related many interesting facts and legends concerning this lost race of
noble and kindly people.
She said that the city in which we were camping was supposed to have been a center
of commerce and culture known as Korad. It had been built upon a beautiful, natural
harbor, landlocked by magnificent hills.
The little valley on the west front of the city, she explained, was all that remained
of the harbor, while the pass through the hills to the old sea bottom had been the
channel through which the shipping passed up to the city's gates.
The shores of the ancient seas were dotted with just such cities, and lesser ones, in
diminishing numbers, were to be found converging toward the center of the oceans,
as the people had found it necessary to
follow the receding waters until necessity had forced upon them their ultimate
salvation, the so-called Martian canals.
We had been so engrossed in exploration of the building and in our conversation that
it was late in the afternoon before we realized it.
We were brought back to a realization of our present conditions by a messenger
bearing a summons from Lorquas Ptomel directing me to appear before him
forthwith.
Bidding Dejah Thoris and Sola farewell, and commanding Woola to remain on guard, I
hastened to the audience chamber, where I found Lorquas Ptomel and Tars Tarkas seated
upon the rostrum.
CHAPTER XII A PRISONER WITH POWER
As I entered and saluted, Lorquas Ptomel signaled me to advance, and, fixing his
great, hideous eyes upon me, addressed me thus:
"You have been with us a few days, yet during that time you have by your prowess
won a high position among us. Be that as it may, you are not one of us;
you owe us no allegiance.
"Your position is a peculiar one," he continued; "you are a prisoner and yet you
give commands which must be obeyed; you are an alien and yet you are a Tharkian
chieftain; you are a midget and yet you can
kill a mighty warrior with one blow of your fist.
And now you are reported to have been plotting to escape with another prisoner of
another race; a prisoner who, from her own admission, half believes you are returned
from the valley of Dor.
Either one of these accusations, if proved, would be sufficient grounds for your
execution, but we are a just people and you shall have a trial on our return to Thark,
if Tal Hajus so commands.
"But," he continued, in his fierce guttural tones, "if you run off with the red girl it
is I who shall have to account to Tal Hajus; it is I who shall have to face Tars
Tarkas, and either demonstrate my right to
command, or the metal from my dead carcass will go to a better man, for such is the
custom of the Tharks.
"I have no quarrel with Tars Tarkas; together we rule supreme the greatest of
the lesser communities among the green men; we do not wish to fight between ourselves;
and so if you were dead, John Carter, I should be glad.
Under two conditions only, however, may you be killed by us without orders from Tal
Hajus; in personal combat in self-defense, should you attack one of us, or were you
apprehended in an attempt to escape.
"As a matter of justice I must warn you that we only await one of these two excuses
for ridding ourselves of so great a responsibility.
The safe delivery of the red girl to Tal Hajus is of the greatest importance.
Not in a thousand years have the Tharks made such a capture; she is the
granddaughter of the greatest of the red jeddaks, who is also our bitterest enemy.
I have spoken.
The red girl told us that we were without the softer sentiments of humanity, but we
are a just and truthful race. You may go."
Turning, I left the audience chamber.
So this was the beginning of Sarkoja's persecution!
I knew that none other could be responsible for this report which had reached the ears
of Lorquas Ptomel so quickly, and now I recalled those portions of our conversation
which had touched upon escape and upon my origin.
Sarkoja was at this time Tars Tarkas' oldest and most trusted female.
As such she was a mighty power behind the throne, for no warrior had the confidence
of Lorquas Ptomel to such an extent as did his ablest lieutenant, Tars Tarkas.
However, instead of putting thoughts of possible escape from my mind, my audience
with Lorquas Ptomel only served to center my every faculty on this subject.
Now, more than before, the absolute necessity for escape, in so far as Dejah
Thoris was concerned, was impressed upon me, for I was convinced that some horrible
fate awaited her at the headquarters of Tal Hajus.
As described by Sola, this monster was the exaggerated personification of all the ages
of cruelty, ferocity, and brutality from which he had descended.
Cold, cunning, calculating; he was, also, in marked contrast to most of his fellows,
a slave to that brute passion which the waning demands for procreation upon their
dying planet has almost stilled in the Martian breast.
The thought that the divine Dejah Thoris might fall into the clutches of such an
abysmal atavism started the cold sweat upon me.
Far better that we save friendly bullets for ourselves at the last moment, as did
those brave frontier women of my lost land, who took their own lives rather than fall
into the hands of the Indian braves.
As I wandered about the plaza lost in my gloomy forebodings Tars Tarkas approached
me on his way from the audience chamber.
His demeanor toward me was unchanged, and he greeted me as though we had not just
parted a few moments before. "Where are your quarters, John Carter?" he
asked.
"I have selected none," I replied. "It seemed best that I quartered either by
myself or among the other warriors, and I was awaiting an opportunity to ask your
advice.
As you know," and I smiled, "I am not yet familiar with all the customs of the
Tharks."
"Come with me," he directed, and together we moved off across the plaza to a building
which I was glad to see adjoined that occupied by Sola and her charges.
"My quarters are on the first floor of this building," he said, "and the second floor
also is fully occupied by warriors, but the third floor and the floors above are
vacant; you may take your choice of these.
"I understand," he continued, "that you have given up your woman to the red
prisoner.
Well, as you have said, your ways are not our ways, but you can fight well enough to
do about as you please, and so, if you wish to give your woman to a captive, it is your
own affair; but as a chieftain you should
have those to serve you, and in accordance with our customs you may select any or all
the females from the retinues of the chieftains whose metal you now wear."
I thanked him, but assured him that I could get along very nicely without assistance
except in the matter of preparing food, and so he promised to send women to me for this
purpose and also for the care of my arms
and the manufacture of my ammunition, which he said would be necessary.
I suggested that they might also bring some of the sleeping silks and furs which
belonged to me as spoils of combat, for the nights were cold and I had none of my own.
He promised to do so, and departed.
Left alone, I ascended the winding corridor to the upper floors in search of suitable
quarters.
The beauties of the other buildings were repeated in this, and, as usual, I was soon
lost in a tour of investigation and discovery.
I finally chose a front room on the third floor, because this brought me nearer to
Dejah Thoris, whose apartment was on the second floor of the adjoining building, and
it flashed upon me that I could rig up some
means of communication whereby she might signal me in case she needed either my
services or my protection.
Adjoining my sleeping apartment were baths, dressing rooms, and other sleeping and
living apartments, in all some ten rooms on this floor.
The windows of the back rooms overlooked an enormous court, which formed the center of
the square made by the buildings which faced the four contiguous streets, and
which was now given over to the quartering
of the various animals belonging to the warriors occupying the adjoining buildings.
While the court was entirely overgrown with the yellow, moss-like vegetation which
blankets practically the entire surface of Mars, yet numerous fountains, statuary,
benches, and pergola-like contraptions bore
witness to the beauty which the court must have presented in bygone times, when graced
by the fair-haired, laughing people whom stern and unalterable cosmic laws had
driven not only from their homes, but from
all except the vague legends of their descendants.
One could easily picture the gorgeous foliage of the luxuriant Martian vegetation
which once filled this scene with life and color; the graceful figures of the
beautiful women, the straight and handsome
men; the happy frolicking children--all sunlight, happiness and peace.
It was difficult to realize that they had gone; down through ages of darkness,
cruelty, and ignorance, until their hereditary instincts of culture and
humanitarianism had risen ascendant once
more in the final composite race which now is dominant upon Mars.
My thoughts were cut short by the advent of several young females bearing loads of
weapons, silks, furs, jewels, cooking utensils, and casks of food and drink,
including considerable loot from the air craft.
All this, it seemed, had been the property of the two chieftains I had slain, and now,
by the customs of the Tharks, it had become mine.
At my direction they placed the stuff in one of the back rooms, and then departed,
only to return with a second load, which they advised me constituted the balance of
my goods.
On the second trip they were accompanied by ten or fifteen other women and youths, who,
it seemed, formed the retinues of the two chieftains.
They were not their families, nor their wives, nor their servants; the relationship
was peculiar, and so unlike anything known to us that it is most difficult to
describe.
All property among the green Martians is owned in common by the community, except
the personal weapons, ornaments and sleeping silks and furs of the individuals.
These alone can one claim undisputed right to, nor may he accumulate more of these
than are required for his actual needs.
The surplus he holds merely as custodian, and it is passed on to the younger members
of the community as necessity demands.
The women and children of a man's retinue may be likened to a military unit for which
he is responsible in various ways, as in matters of instruction, discipline,
sustenance, and the exigencies of their
continual roamings and their unending strife with other communities and with the
red Martians. His women are in no sense wives.
The green Martians use no word corresponding in meaning with this earthly
word.
Their mating is a matter of community interest solely, and is directed without
reference to natural selection.
The council of chieftains of each community control the matter as surely as the owner
of a Kentucky racing stud directs the scientific breeding of his stock for the
improvement of the whole.
In theory it may sound well, as is often the case with theories, but the results of
ages of this unnatural practice, coupled with the community interest in the
offspring being held paramount to that of
the mother, is shown in the cold, cruel creatures, and their gloomy, loveless,
mirthless existence.
It is true that the green Martians are absolutely virtuous, both men and women,
with the exception of such degenerates as Tal Hajus; but better far a finer balance
of human characteristics even at the
expense of a slight and occasional loss of chastity.
Finding that I must assume responsibility for these creatures, whether I would or
not, I made the best of it and directed them to find quarters on the upper floors,
leaving the third floor to me.
One of the girls I charged with the duties of my simple cuisine, and directed the
others to take up the various activities which had formerly constituted their
vocations.
Thereafter I saw little of them, nor did I care to.
>
-CHAPTER XIII LOVE-MAKING ON MARS
Following the battle with the air ships, the community remained within the city for
several days, abandoning the homeward march until they could feel reasonably assured
that the ships would not return; for to be
caught on the open plains with a cavalcade of chariots and children was far from the
desire of even so warlike a people as the green Martians.
During our period of inactivity, Tars Tarkas had instructed me in many of the
customs and arts of war familiar to the Tharks, including lessons in riding and
guiding the great beasts which bore the warriors.
These creatures, which are known as thoats, are as dangerous and vicious as their
masters, but when once subdued are sufficiently tractable for the purposes of
the green Martians.
Two of these animals had fallen to me from the warriors whose metal I wore, and in a
short time I could handle them quite as well as the native warriors.
The method was not at all complicated.
If the thoats did not respond with sufficient celerity to the telepathic
instructions of their riders they were dealt a terrific blow between the ears with
the butt of a pistol, and if they showed
fight this treatment was continued until the brutes either were subdued, or had
unseated their riders.
In the latter case it became a life and death struggle between the man and the
beast.
If the former were quick enough with his pistol he might live to ride again, though
upon some other beast; if not, his torn and mangled body was gathered up by his women
and burned in accordance with Tharkian custom.
My experience with Woola determined me to attempt the experiment of kindness in my
treatment of my thoats.
First I taught them that they could not unseat me, and even rapped them sharply
between the ears to impress upon them my authority and mastery.
Then, by degrees, I won their confidence in much the same manner as I had adopted
countless times with my many mundane mounts.
I was ever a good hand with animals, and by inclination, as well as because it brought
more lasting and satisfactory results, I was always kind and humane in my dealings
with the lower orders.
I could take a human life, if necessary, with far less compunction than that of a
poor, unreasoning, irresponsible brute. In the course of a few days my thoats were
the wonder of the entire community.
They would follow me like dogs, rubbing their great snouts against my body in
awkward evidence of affection, and respond to my every command with an alacrity and
docility which caused the Martian warriors
to ascribe to me the possession of some earthly power unknown on Mars.
"How have you bewitched them?" asked Tars Tarkas one afternoon, when he had seen me
run my arm far between the great jaws of one of my thoats which had wedged a piece
of stone between two of his teeth while
feeding upon the moss-like vegetation within our court yard.
"By kindness," I replied.
"You see, Tars Tarkas, the softer sentiments have their value, even to a
warrior.
In the height of battle as well as upon the march I know that my thoats will obey my
every command, and therefore my fighting efficiency is enhanced, and I am a better
warrior for the reason that I am a kind master.
Your other warriors would find it to the advantage of themselves as well as of the
community to adopt my methods in this respect.
Only a few days since you, yourself, told me that these great brutes, by the
uncertainty of their tempers, often were the means of turning victory into defeat,
since, at a crucial moment, they might elect to unseat and rend their riders."
"Show me how you accomplish these results," was Tars Tarkas' only rejoinder.
And so I explained as carefully as I could the entire method of training I had adopted
with my beasts, and later he had me repeat it before Lorquas Ptomel and the assembled
warriors.
That moment marked the beginning of a new existence for the poor thoats, and before I
left the community of Lorquas Ptomel I had the satisfaction of observing a regiment of
as tractable and docile mounts as one might care to see.
The effect on the precision and celerity of the military movements was so remarkable
that Lorquas Ptomel presented me with a massive anklet of gold from his own leg, as
a sign of his appreciation of my service to the horde.
On the seventh day following the battle with the air craft we again took up the
march toward Thark, all probability of another attack being deemed remote by
Lorquas Ptomel.
During the days just preceding our departure I had seen but little of Dejah
Thoris, as I had been kept very busy by Tars Tarkas with my lessons in the art of
Martian warfare, as well as in the training of my thoats.
The few times I had visited her quarters she had been absent, walking upon the
streets with Sola, or investigating the buildings in the near vicinity of the
plaza.
I had warned them against venturing far from the plaza for fear of the great white
apes, whose ferocity I was only too well acquainted with.
However, since Woola accompanied them on all their excursions, and as Sola was well
armed, there was comparatively little cause for fear.
On the evening before our departure I saw them approaching along one of the great
avenues which lead into the plaza from the east.
I advanced to meet them, and telling Sola that I would take the responsibility for
Dejah Thoris' safekeeping, I directed her to return to her quarters on some trivial
errand.
I liked and trusted Sola, but for some reason I desired to be alone with Dejah
Thoris, who represented to me all that I had left behind upon Earth in agreeable and
congenial companionship.
There seemed bonds of mutual interest between us as powerful as though we had
been born under the same roof rather than upon different planets, hurtling through
space some forty-eight million miles apart.
That she shared my sentiments in this respect I was positive, for on my approach
the look of pitiful hopelessness left her sweet countenance to be replaced by a smile
of joyful welcome, as she placed her little
right hand upon my left shoulder in true red Martian salute.
"Sarkoja told Sola that you had become a true Thark," she said, "and that I would
now see no more of you than of any of the other warriors."
"Sarkoja is a liar of the first magnitude," I replied, "notwithstanding the proud claim
of the Tharks to absolute verity." Dejah Thoris laughed.
"I knew that even though you became a member of the community you would not cease
to be my friend; 'A warrior may change his metal, but not his heart,' as the saying is
upon Barsoom."
"I think they have been trying to keep us apart," she continued, "for whenever you
have been off duty one of the older women of Tars Tarkas' retinue has always arranged
to trump up some excuse to get Sola and me out of sight.
They have had me down in the pits below the buildings helping them mix their awful
radium powder, and make their terrible projectiles.
You know that these have to be manufactured by artificial light, as exposure to
sunlight always results in an explosion. You have noticed that their bullets explode
when they strike an object?
Well, the opaque, outer coating is broken by the impact, exposing a glass cylinder,
almost solid, in the forward end of which is a minute particle of radium powder.
The moment the sunlight, even though diffused, strikes this powder it explodes
with a violence which nothing can withstand.
If you ever witness a night battle you will note the absence of these explosions, while
the morning following the battle will be filled at sunrise with the sharp
detonations of exploding missiles fired the preceding night.
As a rule, however, non-exploding projectiles are used at night."
[I have used the word radium in describing this powder because in the light of recent
discoveries on Earth I believe it to be a mixture of which radium is the base.
In Captain Carter's manuscript it is mentioned always by the name used in the
written language of Helium and is spelled in hieroglyphics which it would be
difficult and useless to reproduce.]
While I was much interested in Dejah Thoris' explanation of this wonderful
adjunct to Martian warfare, I was more concerned by the immediate problem of their
treatment of her.
That they were keeping her away from me was not a matter for surprise, but that they
should subject her to dangerous and arduous labor filled me with rage.
"Have they ever subjected you to cruelty and ignominy, Dejah Thoris?"
I asked, feeling the hot blood of my fighting ancestors leap in my veins as I
awaited her reply.
"Only in little ways, John Carter," she answered.
"Nothing that can harm me outside my pride.
They know that I am the daughter of ten thousand jeddaks, that I trace my ancestry
straight back without a break to the builder of the first great waterway, and
they, who do not even know their own mothers, are jealous of me.
At heart they hate their horrid fates, and so wreak their poor spite on me who stand
for everything they have not, and for all they most crave and never can attain.
Let us pity them, my chieftain, for even though we die at their hands we can afford
them pity, since we are greater than they and they know it."
Had I known the significance of those words "my chieftain," as applied by a red Martian
woman to a man, I should have had the surprise of my life, but I did not know at
that time, nor for many months thereafter.
Yes, I still had much to learn upon Barsoom.
"I presume it is the better part of wisdom that we bow to our fate with as good grace
as possible, Dejah Thoris; but I hope, nevertheless, that I may be present the
next time that any Martian, green, red,
pink, or violet, has the temerity to even so much as frown on you, my princess."
Dejah Thoris caught her breath at my last words, and gazed upon me with dilated eyes
and quickening breath, and then, with an odd little laugh, which brought roguish
dimples to the corners of her mouth, she shook her head and cried:
"What a child! A great warrior and yet a stumbling little
child."
"What have I done now?" I asked, in sore perplexity.
"Some day you shall know, John Carter, if we live; but I may not tell you.
And I, the daughter of Mors Kajak, son of Tardos Mors, have listened without anger,"
she soliloquized in conclusion.
Then she broke out again into one of her gay, happy, laughing moods; joking with me
on my prowess as a Thark warrior as contrasted with my soft heart and natural
kindliness.
"I presume that should you accidentally wound an enemy you would take him home and
nurse him back to health," she laughed. "That is precisely what we do on Earth," I
answered.
"At least among civilized men." This made her laugh again.
She could not understand it, for, with all her tenderness and womanly sweetness, she
was still a Martian, and to a Martian the only good enemy is a dead enemy; for every
dead foeman means so much more to divide between those who live.
I was very curious to know what I had said or done to cause her so much perturbation a
moment before and so I continued to importune her to enlighten me.
"No," she exclaimed, "it is enough that you have said it and that I have listened.
And when you learn, John Carter, and if I be dead, as likely I shall be ere the
further moon has circled Barsoom another twelve times, remember that I listened and
that I--smiled."
It was all Greek to me, but the more I begged her to explain the more positive
became her denials of my request, and, so, in very hopelessness, I desisted.
Day had now given away to night and as we wandered along the great avenue lighted by
the two moons of Barsoom, and with Earth looking down upon us out of her luminous
green eye, it seemed that we were alone in
the universe, and I, at least, was content that it should be so.
The chill of the Martian night was upon us, and removing my silks I threw them across
the shoulders of Dejah Thoris.
As my arm rested for an instant upon her I felt a thrill pass through every fiber of
my being such as contact with no other mortal had even produced; and it seemed to
me that she had leaned slightly toward me, but of that I was not sure.
Only I knew that as my arm rested there across her shoulders longer than the act of
adjusting the silk required she did not draw away, nor did she speak.
And so, in silence, we walked the surface of a dying world, but in the breast of one
of us at least had been born that which is ever oldest, yet ever new.
I loved Dejah Thoris.
The touch of my arm upon her naked shoulder had spoken to me in words I would not
mistake, and I knew that I had loved her since the first moment that my eyes had met
hers that first time in the plaza of the dead city of Korad.
CHAPTER XIV A DUEL TO THE DEATH
My first impulse was to tell her of my love, and then I thought of the
helplessness of her position wherein I alone could lighten the burdens of her
captivity, and protect her in my poor way
against the thousands of hereditary enemies she must face upon our arrival at Thark.
I could not chance causing her additional pain or sorrow by declaring a love which,
in all probability she did not return.
Should I be so indiscreet, her position would be even more unbearable than now, and
the thought that she might feel that I was taking advantage of her helplessness, to
influence her decision was the final argument which sealed my lips.
"Why are you so quiet, Dejah Thoris?" I asked.
"Possibly you would rather return to Sola and your quarters."
"No," she murmured, "I am happy here.
I do not know why it is that I should always be happy and contented when you,
John Carter, a stranger, are with me; yet at such times it seems that I am safe and
that, with you, I shall soon return to my
father's court and feel his strong arms about me and my mother's tears and kisses
on my cheek." "Do people kiss, then, upon Barsoom?"
I asked, when she had explained the word she used, in answer to my inquiry as to its
meaning.
"Parents, brothers, and sisters, yes; and," she added in a low, thoughtful tone,
"lovers." "And you, Dejah Thoris, have parents and
brothers and sisters?"
"Yes." "And a--lover?"
She was silent, nor could I venture to repeat the question.
"The man of Barsoom," she finally ventured, "does not ask personal questions of women,
except his mother, and the woman he has fought for and won."
"But I have fought--" I started, and then I wished my tongue had been cut from my
mouth; for she turned even as I caught myself and ceased, and drawing my silks
from her shoulder she held them out to me,
and without a word, and with head held high, she moved with the carriage of the
queen she was toward the plaza and the doorway of her quarters.
I did not attempt to follow her, other than to see that she reached the building in
safety, but, directing Woola to accompany her, I turned disconsolately and entered my
own house.
I sat for hours cross-legged, and cross- tempered, upon my silks meditating upon the
queer freaks chance plays upon us poor devils of mortals.
So this was love!
I had escaped it for all the years I had roamed the five continents and their
encircling seas; in spite of beautiful women and urging opportunity; in spite of a
half-desire for love and a constant search
for my ideal, it had remained for me to fall furiously and hopelessly in love with
a creature from another world, of a species similar possibly, yet not identical with
mine.
A woman who was hatched from an egg, and whose span of life might cover a thousand
years; whose people had strange customs and ideas; a woman whose hopes, whose
pleasures, whose standards of virtue and of
right and wrong might vary as greatly from mine as did those of the green Martians.
Yes, I was a fool, but I was in love, and though I was suffering the greatest misery
I had ever known I would not have had it otherwise for all the riches of Barsoom.
Such is love, and such are lovers wherever love is known.
To me, Dejah Thoris was all that was perfect; all that was virtuous and
beautiful and noble and good.
I believed that from the bottom of my heart, from the depth of my soul on that
night in Korad as I sat cross-legged upon my silks while the nearer moon of Barsoom
raced through the western sky toward the
horizon, and lighted up the gold and marble, and jeweled mosaics of my world-old
chamber, and I believe it today as I sit at my desk in the little study overlooking the
Hudson.
Twenty years have intervened; for ten of them I lived and fought for Dejah Thoris
and her people, and for ten I have lived upon her memory.
The morning of our departure for Thark dawned clear and hot, as do all Martian
mornings except for the six weeks when the snow melts at the poles.
I sought out Dejah Thoris in the throng of departing chariots, but she turned her
shoulder to me, and I could see the red blood mount to her cheek.
With the foolish inconsistency of love I held my peace when I might have plead
ignorance of the nature of my offense, or at least the gravity of it, and so have
effected, at worst, a half conciliation.
[Illustration: I sought out Dejah Thoris in the throng of departing chariots.]
My duty dictated that I must see that she was comfortable, and so I glanced into her
chariot and rearranged her silks and furs.
In doing so I noted with horror that she was heavily chained by one ankle to the
side of the vehicle. "What does this mean?"
I cried, turning to Sola.
"Sarkoja thought it best," she answered, her face betokening her disapproval of the
procedure. Examining the manacles I saw that they
fastened with a massive spring lock.
"Where is the key, Sola? Let me have it."
"Sarkoja wears it, John Carter," she answered.
I turned without further word and sought out Tars Tarkas, to whom I vehemently
objected to the unnecessary humiliations and cruelties, as they seemed to my lover's
eyes, that were being heaped upon Dejah Thoris.
"John Carter," he answered, "if ever you and Dejah Thoris escape the Tharks it will
be upon this journey.
We know that you will not go without her. You have shown yourself a mighty fighter,
and we do not wish to manacle you, so we hold you both in the easiest way that will
yet ensure security.
I have spoken."
I saw the strength of his reasoning at a flash, and knew that it were futile to
appeal from his decision, but I asked that the key be taken from Sarkoja and that she
be directed to leave the prisoner alone in future.
"This much, Tars Tarkas, you may do for me in return for the friendship that, I must
confess, I feel for you."
"Friendship?" he replied. "There is no such thing, John Carter; but
have your will.
I shall direct that Sarkoja cease to annoy the girl, and I myself will take the
custody of the key." "Unless you wish me to assume the
responsibility," I said, smiling.
He looked at me long and earnestly before he spoke.
"Were you to give me your word that neither you nor Dejah Thoris would attempt to
escape until after we have safely reached the court of Tal Hajus you might have the
key and throw the chains into the river Iss."
"It were better that you held the key, Tars Tarkas," I replied
He smiled, and said no more, but that night as we were making camp I saw him unfasten
Dejah Thoris' fetters himself.
With all his cruel ferocity and coldness there was an undercurrent of something in
Tars Tarkas which he seemed ever battling to subdue.
Could it be a vestige of some human instinct come back from an ancient forbear
to haunt him with the horror of his people's ways!
As I was approaching Dejah Thoris' chariot I passed Sarkoja, and the black, venomous
look she accorded me was the sweetest balm I had felt for many hours.
Lord, how she hated me!
It bristled from her so palpably that one might almost have cut it with a sword.
A few moments later I saw her deep in conversation with a warrior named Zad; a
big, hulking, powerful brute, but one who had never made a kill among his own
chieftains, and a second name only with the metal of some chieftain.
It was this custom which entitled me to the names of either of the chieftains I had
killed; in fact, some of the warriors addressed me as Dotar Sojat, a combination
of the surnames of the two warrior
chieftains whose metal I had taken, or, in other words, whom I had slain in fair
fight.
As Sarkoja talked with Zad he cast occasional glances in my direction, while
she seemed to be urging him very strongly to some action.
I paid little attention to it at the time, but the next day I had good reason to
recall the circumstances, and at the same time gain a slight insight into the depths
of Sarkoja's hatred and the lengths to
which she was capable of going to wreak her horrid vengeance on me.
Dejah Thoris would have none of me again on this evening, and though I spoke her name
she neither replied, nor conceded by so much as the flutter of an eyelid that she
realized my existence.
In my extremity I did what most other lovers would have done; I sought word from
her through an intimate. In this instance it was Sola whom I
intercepted in another part of camp.
"What is the matter with Dejah Thoris?" I blurted out at her.
"Why will she not speak to me?"
Sola seemed puzzled herself, as though such strange actions on the part of two humans
were quite beyond her, as indeed they were, poor child.
"She says you have angered her, and that is all she will say, except that she is the
daughter of a jed and the granddaughter of a jeddak and she has been humiliated by a
creature who could not polish the teeth of her grandmother's sorak."
I pondered over this report for some time, finally asking, "What might a sorak be,
Sola?"
"A little animal about as big as my hand, which the red Martian women keep to play
with," explained Sola. Not fit to polish the teeth of her
grandmother's cat!
I must rank pretty low in the consideration of Dejah Thoris, I thought; but I could not
help laughing at the strange figure of speech, so homely and in this respect so
earthly.
It made me homesick, for it sounded very much like "not fit to polish her shoes."
And then commenced a train of thought quite new to me.
I began to wonder what my people at home were doing.
I had not seen them for years.
There was a family of Carters in Virginia who claimed close relationship with me; I
was supposed to be a great uncle, or something of the kind equally foolish.
I could pass anywhere for twenty-five to thirty years of age, and to be a great
uncle always seemed the height of incongruity, for my thoughts and feelings
were those of a boy.
There was two little kiddies in the Carter family whom I had loved and who had thought
there was no one on Earth like Uncle Jack; I could see them just as plainly, as I
stood there under the moonlit skies of
Barsoom, and I longed for them as I had never longed for any mortals before.
By nature a wanderer, I had never known the true meaning of the word home, but the
great hall of the Carters had always stood for all that the word did mean to me, and
now my heart turned toward it from the cold
and unfriendly peoples I had been thrown amongst.
For did not even Dejah Thoris despise me!
I was a low creature, so low in fact that I was not even fit to polish the teeth of her
grandmother's cat; and then my saving sense of humor came to my rescue, and laughing I
turned into my silks and furs and slept
upon the moon-haunted ground the sleep of a tired and healthy fighting man.
We broke camp the next day at an early hour and marched with only a single halt until
just before dark.
Two incidents broke the tediousness of the march.
About noon we espied far to our right what was evidently an incubator, and Lorquas
Ptomel directed Tars Tarkas to investigate it.
The latter took a dozen warriors, including myself, and we raced across the velvety
carpeting of moss to the little enclosure.
It was indeed an incubator, but the eggs were very small in comparison with those I
had seen hatching in ours at the time of my arrival on Mars.
Tars Tarkas dismounted and examined the enclosure minutely, finally announcing that
it belonged to the green men of Warhoon and that the cement was scarcely dry where it
had been walled up.
"They cannot be a day's march ahead of us," he exclaimed, the light of battle leaping
to his fierce face. The work at the incubator was short indeed.
The warriors tore open the entrance and a couple of them, crawling in, soon
demolished all the eggs with their short- swords.
Then remounting we dashed back to join the cavalcade.
During the ride I took occasion to ask Tars Tarkas if these Warhoons whose eggs we had
destroyed were a smaller people than his Tharks.
"I noticed that their eggs were so much smaller than those I saw hatching in your
incubator," I added.
He explained that the eggs had just been placed there; but, like all green Martian
eggs, they would grow during the five-year period of incubation until they obtained
the size of those I had seen hatching on the day of my arrival on Barsoom.
This was indeed an interesting piece of information, for it had always seemed
remarkable to me that the green Martian women, large as they were, could bring
forth such enormous eggs as I had seen the four-foot infants emerging from.
As a matter of fact, the new-laid egg is but little larger than an ordinary goose
egg, and as it does not commence to grow until subjected to the light of the sun the
chieftains have little difficulty in
transporting several hundreds of them at one time from the storage vaults to the
incubators.
Shortly after the incident of the Warhoon eggs we halted to rest the animals, and it
was during this halt that the second of the day's interesting episodes occurred.
I was engaged in changing my riding cloths from one of my thoats to the other, for I
divided the day's work between them, when Zad approached me, and without a word
struck my animal a terrific blow with his long-sword.
I did not need a manual of green Martian etiquette to know what reply to make, for,
in fact, I was so wild with anger that I could scarcely refrain from drawing my
pistol and shooting him down for the brute
he was; but he stood waiting with drawn long-sword, and my only choice was to draw
my own and meet him in fair fight with his choice of weapons or a lesser one.
This latter alternative is always permissible, therefore I could have used my
short-sword, my dagger, my hatchet, or my fists had I wished, and been entirely
within my rights, but I could not use
firearms or a spear while he held only his long-sword.
I chose the same weapon he had drawn because I knew he prided himself upon his
ability with it, and I wished, if I worsted him at all, to do it with his own weapon.
The fight that followed was a long one and delayed the resumption of the march for an
hour.
The entire community surrounded us, leaving a clear space about one hundred feet in
diameter for our battle.
Zad first attempted to rush me down as a bull might a wolf, but I was much too quick
for him, and each time I side-stepped his rushes he would go lunging past me, only to
receive a nick from my sword upon his arm or back.
He was soon streaming blood from a half dozen minor wounds, but I could not obtain
an opening to deliver an effective thrust.
Then he changed his tactics, and fighting warily and with extreme dexterity, he tried
to do by science what he was unable to do by brute strength.
I must admit that he was a magnificent swordsman, and had it not been for my
greater endurance and the remarkable agility the lesser gravitation of Mars lent
me I might not have been able to put up the creditable fight I did against him.
We circled for some time without doing much damage on either side; the long, straight,
needle-like swords flashing in the sunlight, and ringing out upon the
stillness as they crashed together with each effective parry.
Finally Zad, realizing that he was tiring more than I, evidently decided to close in
and end the battle in a final blaze of glory for himself; just as he rushed me a
blinding flash of light struck full in my
eyes, so that I could not see his approach and could only leap blindly to one side in
an effort to escape the mighty blade that it seemed I could already feel in my
vitals.
I was only partially successful, as a sharp pain in my left shoulder attested, but in
the sweep of my glance as I sought to again locate my adversary, a sight met my
astonished gaze which paid me well for the
wound the temporary blindness had caused me.
There, upon Dejah Thoris' chariot stood three figures, for the purpose evidently of
witnessing the encounter above the heads of the intervening Tharks.
There were Dejah Thoris, Sola, and Sarkoja, and as my fleeting glance swept over them a
little tableau was presented which will stand graven in my memory to the day of my
death.
As I looked, Dejah Thoris turned upon Sarkoja with the fury of a young tigress
and struck something from her upraised hand; something which flashed in the
sunlight as it spun to the ground.
Then I knew what had blinded me at that crucial moment of the fight, and how
Sarkoja had found a way to kill me without herself delivering the final thrust.
Another thing I saw, too, which almost lost my life for me then and there, for it took
my mind for the fraction of an instant entirely from my antagonist; for, as Dejah
Thoris struck the tiny mirror from her
hand, Sarkoja, her face livid with hatred and baffled rage, whipped out her dagger
and aimed a terrific blow at Dejah Thoris; and then Sola, our dear and faithful Sola,
sprang between them; the last I saw was the
great knife descending upon her shielding breast.
My enemy had recovered from his thrust and was making it extremely interesting for me,
so I reluctantly gave my attention to the work in hand, but my mind was not upon the
battle.
We rushed each other furiously time after time, 'til suddenly, feeling the sharp
point of his sword at my breast in a thrust I could neither parry nor escape, I threw
myself upon him with outstretched sword and
with all the weight of my body, determined that I would not die alone if I could
prevent it.
I felt the steel tear into my chest, all went black before me, my head whirled in
dizziness, and I felt my knees giving beneath me.
>
-CHAPTER XV SOLA TELLS ME HER STORY
When consciousness returned, and, as I soon learned, I was down but a moment, I sprang
quickly to my feet searching for my sword, and there I found it, buried to the hilt in
the green breast of Zad, who lay stone dead
upon the ochre moss of the ancient sea bottom.
As I regained my full senses I found his weapon piercing my left breast, but only
through the flesh and muscles which cover my ribs, entering near the center of my
chest and coming out below the shoulder.
As I had lunged I had turned so that his sword merely passed beneath the muscles,
inflicting a painful but not dangerous wound.
Removing the blade from my body I also regained my own, and turning my back upon
his ugly carcass, I moved, sick, sore, and disgusted, toward the chariots which bore
my retinue and my belongings.
A murmur of Martian applause greeted me, but I cared not for it.
Bleeding and weak I reached my women, who, accustomed to such happenings, dressed my
wounds, applying the wonderful healing and remedial agents which make only the most
instantaneous of death blows fatal.
Give a Martian woman a chance and death must take a back seat.
They soon had me patched up so that, except for weakness from loss of blood and a
little soreness around the wound, I suffered no great distress from this thrust
which, under earthly treatment, undoubtedly would have put me flat on my back for days.
As soon as they were through with me I hastened to the chariot of Dejah Thoris,
where I found my poor Sola with her chest swathed in bandages, but apparently little
the worse for her encounter with Sarkoja,
whose dagger it seemed had struck the edge of one of Sola's metal breast ornaments
and, thus deflected, had inflicted but a slight flesh wound.
As I approached I found Dejah Thoris lying prone upon her silks and furs, her lithe
form wracked with sobs.
She did not notice my presence, nor did she hear me speaking with Sola, who was
standing a short distance from the vehicle. "Is she injured?"
I asked of Sola, indicating Dejah Thoris by an inclination of my head.
"No," she answered, "she thinks that you are dead."
"And that her grandmother's cat may now have no one to polish its teeth?"
I queried, smiling. "I think you wrong her, John Carter," said
Sola.
"I do not understand either her ways or yours, but I am sure the granddaughter of
ten thousand jeddaks would never grieve like this over any who held but the highest
claim upon her affections.
They are a proud race, but they are just, as are all Barsoomians, and you must have
hurt or wronged her grievously that she will not admit your existence living,
though she mourns you dead.
"Tears are a strange sight upon Barsoom," she continued, "and so it is difficult for
me to interpret them.
I have seen but two people weep in all my life, other than Dejah Thoris; one wept
from sorrow, the other from baffled rage.
The first was my mother, years ago before they killed her; the other was Sarkoja,
when they dragged her from me today." "Your mother!"
I exclaimed, "but, Sola, you could not have known your mother, child."
"But I did. And my father also," she added.
"If you would like to hear the strange and un-Barsoomian story come to the chariot
tonight, John Carter, and I will tell you that of which I have never spoken in all my
life before.
And now the signal has been given to resume the march, you must go."
"I will come tonight, Sola," I promised. "Be sure to tell Dejah Thoris I am alive
and well.
I shall not force myself upon her, and be sure that you do not let her know I saw her
tears. If she would speak with me I but await her
command."
Sola mounted the chariot, which was swinging into its place in line, and I
hastened to my waiting thoat and galloped to my station beside Tars Tarkas at the
rear of the column.
We made a most imposing and awe-inspiring spectacle as we strung out across the
yellow landscape; the two hundred and fifty ornate and brightly colored chariots,
preceded by an advance guard of some two
hundred mounted warriors and chieftains riding five abreast and one hundred yards
apart, and followed by a like number in the same formation, with a score or more of
flankers on either side; the fifty extra
mastodons, or heavy draught animals, known as zitidars, and the five or six hundred
extra thoats of the warriors running loose within the hollow square formed by the
surrounding warriors.
The gleaming metal and jewels of the gorgeous ornaments of the men and women,
duplicated in the trappings of the zitidars and thoats, and interspersed with the
flashing colors of magnificent silks and
furs and feathers, lent a barbaric splendor to the caravan which would have turned an
East Indian potentate green with envy.
The enormous broad tires of the chariots and the padded feet of the animals brought
forth no sound from the moss-covered sea bottom; and so we moved in utter silence,
like some huge phantasmagoria, except when
the stillness was broken by the guttural growling of a goaded zitidar, or the
squealing of fighting thoats.
The green Martians converse but little, and then usually in monosyllables, low and like
the faint rumbling of distant thunder.
We traversed a trackless waste of moss which, bending to the pressure of broad
tire or padded foot, rose up again behind us, leaving no sign that we had passed.
We might indeed have been the wraiths of the departed dead upon the dead sea of that
dying planet for all the sound or sign we made in passing.
It was the first march of a large body of men and animals I had ever witnessed which
raised no dust and left no spoor; for there is no dust upon Mars except in the
cultivated districts during the winter
months, and even then the absence of high winds renders it almost unnoticeable.
We camped that night at the foot of the hills we had been approaching for two days
and which marked the southern boundary of this particular sea.
Our animals had been two days without drink, nor had they had water for nearly
two months, not since shortly after leaving Thark; but, as Tars Tarkas explained to me,
they require but little and can live almost
indefinitely upon the moss which covers Barsoom, and which, he told me, holds in
its tiny stems sufficient moisture to meet the limited demands of the animals.
After partaking of my evening meal of cheese-like food and vegetable milk I
sought out Sola, whom I found working by the light of a torch upon some of Tars
Tarkas' trappings.
She looked up at my approach, her face lighting with pleasure and with welcome.
"I am glad you came," she said; "Dejah Thoris sleeps and I am lonely.
Mine own people do not care for me, John Carter; I am too unlike them.
It is a sad fate, since I must live my life amongst them, and I often wish that I were
a true green Martian woman, without love and without hope; but I have known love and
so I am lost.
"I promised to tell you my story, or rather the story of my parents.
From what I have learned of you and the ways of your people I am sure that the tale
will not seem strange to you, but among green Martians it has no parallel within
the memory of the oldest living Thark, nor do our legends hold many similar tales.
"My mother was rather small, in fact too small to be allowed the responsibilities of
maternity, as our chieftains breed principally for size.
She was also less cold and cruel than most green Martian women, and caring little for
their society, she often roamed the deserted avenues of Thark alone, or went
and sat among the wild flowers that deck
the nearby hills, thinking thoughts and wishing wishes which I believe I alone
among Tharkian women today may understand, for am I not the child of my mother?
"And there among the hills she met a young warrior, whose duty it was to guard the
feeding zitidars and thoats and see that they roamed not beyond the hills.
They spoke at first only of such things as interest a community of Tharks, but
gradually, as they came to meet more often, and, as was now quite evident to both, no
longer by chance, they talked about
themselves, their likes, their ambitions and their hopes.
She trusted him and told him of the awful repugnance she felt for the cruelties of
their kind, for the hideous, loveless lives they must ever lead, and then she waited
for the storm of denunciation to break from
his cold, hard lips; but instead he took her in his arms and kissed her.
"They kept their love a secret for six long years.
She, my mother, was of the retinue of the great Tal Hajus, while her lover was a
simple warrior, wearing only his own metal.
Had their defection from the traditions of the Tharks been discovered both would have
paid the penalty in the great arena before Tal Hajus and the assembled hordes.
"The egg from which I came was hidden beneath a great glass vessel upon the
highest and most inaccessible of the partially ruined towers of ancient Thark.
Once each year my mother visited it for the five long years it lay there in the process
of incubation.
She dared not come oftener, for in the mighty guilt of her conscience she feared
that her every move was watched.
During this period my father gained great distinction as a warrior and had taken the
metal from several chieftains.
His love for my mother had never diminished, and his own ambition in life
was to reach a point where he might wrest the metal from Tal Hajus himself, and thus,
as ruler of the Tharks, be free to claim
her as his own, as well as, by the might of his power, protect the child which
otherwise would be quickly dispatched should the truth become known.
"It was a wild dream, that of wresting the metal from Tal Hajus in five short years,
but his advance was rapid, and he soon stood high in the councils of Thark.
But one day the chance was lost forever, in so far as it could come in time to save his
loved ones, for he was ordered away upon a long expedition to the ice-clad south, to
make war upon the natives there and despoil
them of their furs, for such is the manner of the green Barsoomian; he does not labor
for what he can wrest in battle from others.
"He was gone for four years, and when he returned all had been over for three; for
about a year after his departure, and shortly before the time for the return of
an expedition which had gone forth to fetch
the fruits of a community incubator, the egg had hatched.
Thereafter my mother continued to keep me in the old tower, visiting me nightly and
lavishing upon me the love the community life would have robbed us both of.
She hoped, upon the return of the expedition from the incubator, to mix me
with the other young assigned to the quarters of Tal Hajus, and thus escape the
fate which would surely follow discovery of
her sin against the ancient traditions of the green men.
"She taught me rapidly the language and customs of my kind, and one night she told
me the story I have told to you up to this point, impressing upon me the necessity for
absolute secrecy and the great caution I
must exercise after she had placed me with the other young Tharks to permit no one to
guess that I was further advanced in education than they, nor by any sign to
divulge in the presence of others my
affection for her, or my knowledge of my parentage; and then drawing me close to her
she whispered in my ear the name of my father.
"And then a light flashed out upon the darkness of the tower chamber, and there
stood Sarkoja, her gleaming, baleful eyes fixed in a frenzy of loathing and contempt
upon my mother.
The torrent of hatred and abuse she poured out upon her turned my young heart cold in
terror.
That she had heard the entire story was apparent, and that she had suspected
something wrong from my mother's long nightly absences from her quarters
accounted for her presence there on that fateful night.
"One thing she had not heard, nor did she know, the whispered name of my father.
This was apparent from her repeated demands upon my mother to disclose the name of her
partner in sin, but no amount of abuse or threats could wring this from her, and to
save me from needless torture she lied, for
she told Sarkoja that she alone knew nor would she even tell her child.
"With final imprecations, Sarkoja hastened away to Tal Hajus to report her discovery,
and while she was gone my mother, wrapping me in the silks and furs of her night
coverings, so that I was scarcely
noticeable, descended to the streets and ran wildly away toward the outskirts of the
city, in the direction which led to the far south, out toward the man whose protection
she might not claim, but on whose face she wished to look once more before she died.
"As we neared the city's southern extremity a sound came to us from across the mossy
flat, from the direction of the only pass through the hills which led to the gates,
the pass by which caravans from either
north or south or east or west would enter the city.
The sounds we heard were the squealing of thoats and the grumbling of zitidars, with
the occasional clank of arms which announced the approach of a body of
warriors.
The thought uppermost in her mind was that it was my father returned from his
expedition, but the cunning of the Thark held her from headlong and precipitate
flight to greet him.
"Retreating into the shadows of a doorway she awaited the coming of the cavalcade
which shortly entered the avenue, breaking its formation and thronging the
thoroughfare from wall to wall.
As the head of the procession passed us the lesser moon swung clear of the overhanging
roofs and lit up the scene with all the brilliancy of her wondrous light.
My mother shrank further back into the friendly shadows, and from her hiding place
saw that the expedition was not that of my father, but the returning caravan bearing
the young Tharks.
Instantly her plan was formed, and as a great chariot swung close to our hiding
place she slipped stealthily in upon the trailing tailboard, crouching low in the
shadow of the high side, straining me to her bosom in a frenzy of love.
"She knew, what I did not, that never again after that night would she hold me to her
breast, nor was it likely we would ever look upon each other's face again.
In the confusion of the plaza she mixed me with the other children, whose guardians
during the journey were now free to relinquish their responsibility.
We were herded together into a great room, fed by women who had not accompanied the
expedition, and the next day we were parceled out among the retinues of the
chieftains.
"I never saw my mother after that night.
She was imprisoned by Tal Hajus, and every effort, including the most horrible and
shameful torture, was brought to bear upon her to wring from her lips the name of my
father; but she remained steadfast and
loyal, dying at last amidst the laughter of Tal Hajus and his chieftains during some
awful torture she was undergoing.
"I learned afterwards that she told them that she had killed me to save me from a
like fate at their hands, and that she had thrown my body to the white apes.
Sarkoja alone disbelieved her, and I feel to this day that she suspects my true
origin, but does not dare expose me, at the present, at all events, because she also
guesses, I am sure, the identity of my father.
"When he returned from his expedition and learned the story of my mother's fate I was
present as Tal Hajus told him; but never by the quiver of a muscle did he betray the
slightest emotion; only he did not laugh as
Tal Hajus gleefully described her death struggles.
From that moment on he was the cruelest of the cruel, and I am awaiting the day when
he shall win the goal of his ambition, and feel the carcass of Tal Hajus beneath his
foot, for I am as sure that he but waits
the opportunity to wreak a terrible vengeance, and that his great love is as
strong in his breast as when it first transfigured him nearly forty years ago, as
I am that we sit here upon the edge of a
world-old ocean while sensible people sleep, John Carter."
"And your father, Sola, is he with us now?" I asked.
"Yes," she replied, "but he does not know me for what I am, nor does he know who
betrayed my mother to Tal Hajus.
I alone know my father's name, and only I and Tal Hajus and Sarkoja know that it was
she who carried the tale that brought death and torture upon her he loved."
We sat silent for a few moments, she wrapped in the gloomy thoughts of her
terrible past, and I in pity for the poor creatures whom the heartless, senseless
customs of their race had doomed to loveless lives of cruelty and of hate.
Presently she spoke. "John Carter, if ever a real man walked the
cold, dead bosom of Barsoom you are one.
I know that I can trust you, and because the knowledge may someday help you or him
or Dejah Thoris or myself, I am going to tell you the name of my father, nor place
any restrictions or conditions upon your tongue.
When the time comes, speak the truth if it seems best to you.
I trust you because I know that you are not cursed with the terrible trait of absolute
and unswerving truthfulness, that you could lie like one of your own Virginia gentlemen
if a lie would save others from sorrow or suffering.
My father's name is Tars Tarkas."
CHAPTER XVI WE PLAN ESCAPE
The remainder of our journey to Thark was uneventful.
We were twenty days upon the road, crossing two sea bottoms and passing through or
around a number of ruined cities, mostly smaller than Korad.
Twice we crossed the famous Martian waterways, or canals, so-called by our
earthly astronomers.
When we approached these points a warrior would be sent far ahead with a powerful
field glass, and if no great body of red Martian troops was in sight we would
advance as close as possible without chance
of being seen and then camp until dark, when we would slowly approach the
cultivated tract, and, locating one of the numerous, broad highways which cross these
areas at regular intervals, creep silently
and stealthily across to the arid lands upon the other side.
It required five hours to make one of these crossings without a single halt, and the
other consumed the entire night, so that we were just leaving the confines of the high-
walled fields when the sun broke out upon us.
Crossing in the darkness, as we did, I was unable to see but little, except as the
nearer moon, in her wild and ceaseless hurtling through the Barsoomian heavens,
lit up little patches of the landscape from
time to time, disclosing walled fields and low, rambling buildings, presenting much
the appearance of earthly farms.
There were many trees, methodically arranged, and some of them were of enormous
height; there were animals in some of the enclosures, and they announced their
presence by terrified squealings and
snortings as they scented our queer, wild beasts and wilder human beings.
Only once did I perceive a human being, and that was at the intersection of our
crossroad with the wide, white turnpike which cuts each cultivated district
longitudinally at its exact center.
The fellow must have been sleeping beside the road, for, as I came abreast of him, he
raised upon one elbow and after a single glance at the approaching caravan leaped
shrieking to his feet and fled madly down
the road, scaling a nearby wall with the agility of a scared cat.
The Tharks paid him not the slightest attention; they were not out upon the
warpath, and the only sign that I had that they had seen him was a quickening of the
pace of the caravan as we hastened toward
the bordering desert which marked our entrance into the realm of Tal Hajus.
Not once did I have speech with Dejah Thoris, as she sent no word to me that I
would be welcome at her chariot, and my foolish pride kept me from making any
advances.
I verily believe that a man's way with women is in inverse ratio to his prowess
among men.
The weakling and the saphead have often great ability to charm the fair sex, while
the fighting man who can face a thousand real dangers unafraid, sits hiding in the
shadows like some frightened child.
Just thirty days after my advent upon Barsoom we entered the ancient city of
Thark, from whose long-forgotten people this horde of green men have stolen even
their name.
The hordes of Thark number some thirty thousand souls, and are divided into
twenty-five communities.
Each community has its own jed and lesser chieftains, but all are under the rule of
Tal Hajus, Jeddak of Thark.
Five communities make their headquarters at the city of Thark, and the balance are
scattered among other deserted cities of ancient Mars throughout the district
claimed by Tal Hajus.
We made our entry into the great central plaza early in the afternoon.
There were no enthusiastic friendly greetings for the returned expedition.
Those who chanced to be in sight spoke the names of warriors or women with whom they
came in direct contact, in the formal greeting of their kind, but when it was
discovered that they brought two captives a
greater interest was aroused, and Dejah Thoris and I were the centers of inquiring
groups.
We were soon assigned to new quarters, and the balance of the day was devoted to
settling ourselves to the changed conditions.
My home now was upon an avenue leading into the plaza from the south, the main artery
down which we had marched from the gates of the city.
I was at the far end of the square and had an entire building to myself.
The same grandeur of architecture which was so noticeable a characteristic of Korad was
in evidence here, only, if that were possible, on a larger and richer scale.
My quarters would have been suitable for housing the greatest of earthly emperors,
but to these queer creatures nothing about a building appealed to them but its size
and the enormity of its chambers; the
larger the building, the more desirable; and so Tal Hajus occupied what must have
been an enormous public building, the largest in the city, but entirely unfitted
for residence purposes; the next largest
was reserved for Lorquas Ptomel, the next for the jed of a lesser rank, and so on to
the bottom of the list of five jeds.
The warriors occupied the buildings with the chieftains to whose retinues they
belonged; or, if they preferred, sought shelter among any of the thousands of
untenanted buildings in their own quarter
of town; each community being assigned a certain section of the city.
The selection of building had to be made in accordance with these divisions, except in
so far as the jeds were concerned, they all occupying edifices which fronted upon the
plaza.
When I had finally put my house in order, or rather seen that it had been done, it
was nearing sunset, and I hastened out with the intention of locating Sola and her
charges, as I had determined upon having
speech with Dejah Thoris and trying to impress on her the necessity of our at
least patching up a truce until I could find some way of aiding her to escape.
I searched in vain until the upper rim of the great red sun was just disappearing
behind the horizon and then I spied the ugly head of Woola peering from a second-
story window on the opposite side of the
very street where I was quartered, but nearer the plaza.
Without waiting for a further invitation I bolted up the winding runway which led to
the second floor, and entering a great chamber at the front of the building was
greeted by the frenzied Woola, who threw
his great carcass upon me, nearly hurling me to the floor; the poor old fellow was so
glad to see me that I thought he would devour me, his head split from ear to ear,
showing his three rows of tusks in his hobgoblin smile.
Quieting him with a word of command and a caress, I looked hurriedly through the
approaching gloom for a sign of Dejah Thoris, and then, not seeing her, I called
her name.
There was an answering murmur from the far corner of the apartment, and with a couple
of quick strides I was standing beside her where she crouched among the furs and silks
upon an ancient carved wooden seat.
As I waited she rose to her full height and looking me straight in the eye said:
"What would Dotar Sojat, Thark, of Dejah Thoris his captive?"
"Dejah Thoris, I do not know how I have angered you.
It was furtherest from my desire to hurt or offend you, whom I had hoped to protect and
comfort.
Have none of me if it is your will, but that you must aid me in effecting your
escape, if such a thing be possible, is not my request, but my command.
When you are safe once more at your father's court you may do with me as you
please, but from now on until that day I am your master, and you must obey and aid me."
She looked at me long and earnestly and I thought that she was softening toward me.
"I understand your words, Dotar Sojat," she replied, "but you I do not understand.
You are a queer mixture of child and man, of brute and noble.
I only wish that I might read your heart."
"Look down at your feet, Dejah Thoris; it lies there now where it has lain since that
other night at Korad, and where it will ever lie beating alone for you until death
stills it forever."
She took a little step toward me, her beautiful hands outstretched in a strange,
groping gesture. "What do you mean, John Carter?" she
whispered.
"What are you saying to me?"
"I am saying what I had promised myself that I would not say to you, at least until
you were no longer a captive among the green men; what from your attitude toward
me for the past twenty days I had thought
never to say to you; I am saying, Dejah Thoris, that I am yours, body and soul, to
serve you, to fight for you, and to die for you.
Only one thing I ask of you in return, and that is that you make no sign, either of
condemnation or of approbation of my words until you are safe among your own people,
and that whatever sentiments you harbor
toward me they be not influenced or colored by gratitude; whatever I may do to serve
you will be prompted solely from selfish motives, since it gives me more pleasure to
serve you than not."
"I will respect your wishes, John Carter, because I understand the motives which
prompt them, and I accept your service no more willingly than I bow to your
authority; your word shall be my law.
I have twice wronged you in my thoughts and again I ask your forgiveness."
Further conversation of a personal nature was prevented by the entrance of Sola, who
was much agitated and wholly unlike her usual calm and possessed self.
"That horrible Sarkoja has been before Tal Hajus," she cried, "and from what I heard
upon the plaza there is little hope for either of you."
"What do they say?" inquired Dejah Thoris.
"That you will be thrown to the wild calots [dogs] in the great arena as soon as the
hordes have assembled for the yearly games."
"Sola," I said, "you are a Thark, but you hate and loathe the customs of your people
as much as we do. Will you not accompany us in one supreme
effort to escape?
I am sure that Dejah Thoris can offer you a home and protection among her people, and
your fate can be no worse among them than it must ever be here."
"Yes," cried Dejah Thoris, "come with us, Sola, you will be better off among the red
men of Helium than you are here, and I can promise you not only a home with us, but
the love and affection your nature craves
and which must always be denied you by the customs of your own race.
Come with us, Sola; we might go without you, but your fate would be terrible if
they thought you had connived to aid us.
I know that even that fear would not tempt you to interfere in our escape, but we want
you with us, we want you to come to a land of sunshine and happiness, amongst a people
who know the meaning of love, of sympathy, and of gratitude.
Say that you will, Sola; tell me that you will."
"The great waterway which leads to Helium is but fifty miles to the south," murmured
Sola, half to herself; "a swift thoat might make it in three hours; and then to Helium
it is five hundred miles, most of the way through thinly settled districts.
They would know and they would follow us.
We might hide among the great trees for a time, but the chances are small indeed for
escape.
They would follow us to the very gates of Helium, and they would take toll of life at
every step; you do not know them." "Is there no other way we might reach
Helium?"
I asked. "Can you not draw me a rough map of the
country we must traverse, Dejah Thoris?"
"Yes," she replied, and taking a great diamond from her hair she drew upon the
marble floor the first map of Barsoomian territory I had ever seen.
It was crisscrossed in every direction with long straight lines, sometimes running
parallel and sometimes converging toward some great circle.
The lines, she said, were waterways; the circles, cities; and one far to the
northwest of us she pointed out as Helium.
There were other cities closer, but she said she feared to enter many of them, as
they were not all friendly toward Helium.
[Illustration: She drew upon the marble floor the first map of the Barsoomian
territory I had ever seen.]
Finally, after studying the map carefully in the moonlight which now flooded the
room, I pointed out a waterway far to the north of us which also seemed to lead to
Helium.
"Does not this pierce your grandfather's territory?"
I asked.
"Yes," she answered, "but it is two hundred miles north of us; it is one of the
waterways we crossed on the trip to Thark."
"They would never suspect that we would try for that distant waterway," I answered,
"and that is why I think that it is the best route for our escape."
Sola agreed with me, and it was decided that we should leave Thark this same night;
just as quickly, in fact, as I could find and saddle my thoats.
Sola was to ride one and Dejah Thoris and I the other; each of us carrying sufficient
food and drink to last us for two days, since the animals could not be urged too
rapidly for so long a distance.
I directed Sola to proceed with Dejah Thoris along one of the less frequented
avenues to the southern boundary of the city, where I would overtake them with the
thoats as quickly as possible; then,
leaving them to gather what food, silks, and furs we were to need, I slipped quietly
to the rear of the first floor, and entered the courtyard, where our animals were
moving restlessly about, as was their habit, before settling down for the night.
In the shadows of the buildings and out beneath the radiance of the Martian moons
moved the great herd of thoats and zitidars, the latter grunting their low
gutturals and the former occasionally
emitting the sharp squeal which denotes the almost habitual state of rage in which
these creatures passed their existence.
They were quieter now, owing to the absence of man, but as they scented me they became
more restless and their hideous noise increased.
It was risky business, this entering a paddock of thoats alone and at night;
first, because their increasing noisiness might warn the nearby warriors that
something was amiss, and also because for
the slightest cause, or for no cause at all some great bull thoat might take it upon
himself to lead a charge upon me.
Having no desire to awaken their nasty tempers upon such a night as this, where so
much depended upon secrecy and dispatch, I hugged the shadows of the buildings, ready
at an instant's warning to leap into the safety of a nearby door or window.
Thus I moved silently to the great gates which opened upon the street at the back of
the court, and as I neared the exit I called softly to my two animals.
How I thanked the kind providence which had given me the foresight to win the love and
confidence of these wild dumb brutes, for presently from the far side of the court I
saw two huge bulks forcing their way toward me through the surging mountains of flesh.
They came quite close to me, rubbing their muzzles against my body and nosing for the
bits of food it was always my practice to reward them with.
Opening the gates I ordered the two great beasts to pass out, and then slipping
quietly after them I closed the portals behind me.
I did not saddle or mount the animals there, but instead walked quietly in the
shadows of the buildings toward an unfrequented avenue which led toward the
point I had arranged to meet Dejah Thoris and Sola.
With the noiselessness of disembodied spirits we moved stealthily along the
deserted streets, but not until we were within sight of the plain beyond the city
did I commence to breathe freely.
I was sure that Sola and Dejah Thoris would find no difficulty in reaching our
rendezvous undetected, but with my great thoats I was not so sure for myself, as it
was quite unusual for warriors to leave the
city after dark; in fact there was no place for them to go within any but a long ride.
I reached the appointed meeting place safely, but as Dejah Thoris and Sola were
not there I led my animals into the entrance hall of one of the large
buildings.
Presuming that one of the other women of the same household may have come in to
speak to Sola, and so delayed their departure, I did not feel any undue
apprehension until nearly an hour had
passed without a sign of them, and by the time another half hour had crawled away I
was becoming filled with grave anxiety.
Then there broke upon the stillness of the night the sound of an approaching party,
which, from the noise, I knew could be no fugitives creeping stealthily toward
liberty.
Soon the party was near me, and from the black shadows of my entranceway I perceived
a score of mounted warriors, who, in passing, dropped a dozen words that fetched
my heart clean into the top of my head.
"He would likely have arranged to meet them just without the city, and so--" I heard
no more, they had passed on; but it was enough.
Our plan had been discovered, and the chances for escape from now on to the
fearful end would be small indeed.
My one hope now was to return undetected to the quarters of Dejah Thoris and learn what
fate had overtaken her, but how to do it with these great monstrous thoats upon my
hands, now that the city probably was
aroused by the knowledge of my escape was a problem of no mean proportions.
Suddenly an idea occurred to me, and acting on my knowledge of the construction of the
buildings of these ancient Martian cities with a hollow court within the center of
each square, I groped my way blindly
through the dark chambers, calling the great thoats after me.
They had difficulty in negotiating some of the doorways, but as the buildings fronting
the city's principal exposures were all designed upon a magnificent scale, they
were able to wriggle through without
sticking fast; and thus we finally made the inner court where I found, as I had
expected, the usual carpet of moss-like vegetation which would prove their food and
drink until I could return them to their own enclosure.
That they would be as quiet and contented here as elsewhere I was confident, nor was
there but the remotest possibility that they would be discovered, as the green men
had no great desire to enter these outlying
buildings, which were frequented by the only thing, I believe, which caused them
the sensation of fear--the great white apes of Barsoom.
Removing the saddle trappings, I hid them just within the rear doorway of the
building through which we had entered the court, and, turning the beasts loose,
quickly made my way across the court to the
rear of the buildings upon the further side, and thence to the avenue beyond.
Waiting in the doorway of the building until I was assured that no one was
approaching, I hurried across to the opposite side and through the first doorway
to the court beyond; thus, crossing through
court after court with only the slight chance of detection which the necessary
crossing of the avenues entailed, I made my way in safety to the courtyard in the rear
of Dejah Thoris' quarters.
Here, of course, I found the beasts of the warriors who quartered in the adjacent
buildings, and the warriors themselves I might expect to meet within if I entered;
but, fortunately for me, I had another and
safer method of reaching the upper story where Dejah Thoris should be found, and,
after first determining as nearly as possible which of the buildings she
occupied, for I had never observed them
before from the court side, I took advantage of my relatively great strength
and agility and sprang upward until I grasped the sill of a second-story window
which I thought to be in the rear of her apartment.
Drawing myself inside the room I moved stealthily toward the front of the
building, and not until I had quite reached the doorway of her room was I made aware by
voices that it was occupied.
I did not rush headlong in, but listened without to assure myself that it was Dejah
Thoris and that it was safe to venture within.
It was well indeed that I took this precaution, for the conversation I heard
was in the low gutturals of men, and the words which finally came to me proved a
most timely warning.
The speaker was a chieftain and he was giving orders to four of his warriors.
"And when he returns to this chamber," he was saying, "as he surely will when he
finds she does not meet him at the city's edge, you four are to spring upon him and
disarm him.
It will require the combined strength of all of you to do it if the reports they
bring back from Korad are correct.
When you have him fast bound bear him to the vaults beneath the jeddak's quarters
and chain him securely where he may be found when Tal Hajus wishes him.
Allow him to speak with none, nor permit any other to enter this apartment before he
comes.
There will be no danger of the girl returning, for by this time she is safe in
the arms of Tal Hajus, and may all her ancestors have pity upon her, for Tal Hajus
will have none; the great Sarkoja has done a noble night's work.
I go, and if you fail to capture him when he comes, I commend your carcasses to the
cold bosom of Iss."
>
-CHAPTER XVII A COSTLY RECAPTURE
As the speaker ceased he turned to leave the apartment by the door where I was
standing, but I needed to wait no longer; I had heard enough to fill my soul with
dread, and stealing quietly away I returned to the courtyard by the way I had come.
My plan of action was formed upon the instant, and crossing the square and the
bordering avenue upon the opposite side I soon stood within the courtyard of Tal
Hajus.
The brilliantly lighted apartments of the first floor told me where first to seek,
and advancing to the windows I peered within.
I soon discovered that my approach was not to be the easy thing I had hoped, for the
rear rooms bordering the court were filled with warriors and women.
I then glanced up at the stories above, discovering that the third was apparently
unlighted, and so decided to make my entrance to the building from that point.
It was the work of but a moment for me to reach the windows above, and soon I had
drawn myself within the sheltering shadows of the unlighted third floor.
Fortunately the room I had selected was untenanted, and creeping noiselessly to the
corridor beyond I discovered a light in the apartments ahead of me.
Reaching what appeared to be a doorway I discovered that it was but an opening upon
an immense inner chamber which towered from the first floor, two stories below me, to
the dome-like roof of the building, high above my head.
The floor of this great circular hall was thronged with chieftains, warriors and
women, and at one end was a great raised platform upon which squatted the most
hideous beast I had ever put my eyes upon.
He had all the cold, hard, cruel, terrible features of the green warriors, but
accentuated and debased by the animal passions to which he had given himself over
for many years.
There was not a mark of dignity or pride upon his bestial countenance, while his
enormous bulk spread itself out upon the platform where he squatted like some huge
devil fish, his six limbs accentuating the
similarity in a horrible and startling manner.
But the sight that froze me with apprehension was that of Dejah Thoris and
Sola standing there before him, and the fiendish leer of him as he let his great
protruding eyes gloat upon the lines of her beautiful figure.
She was speaking, but I could not hear what she said, nor could I make out the low
grumbling of his reply.
She stood there erect before him, her head high held, and even at the distance I was
from them I could read the scorn and disgust upon her face as she let her
haughty glance rest without sign of fear upon him.
She was indeed the proud daughter of a thousand jeddaks, every inch of her dear,
precious little body; so small, so frail beside the towering warriors around her,
but in her majesty dwarfing them into
insignificance; she was the mightiest figure among them and I verily believe that
they felt it.
Presently Tal Hajus made a sign that the chamber be cleared, and that the prisoners
be left alone before him.
Slowly the chieftains, the warriors and the women melted away into the shadows of the
surrounding chambers, and Dejah Thoris and Sola stood alone before the jeddak of the
Tharks.
One chieftain alone had hesitated before departing; I saw him standing in the
shadows of a mighty column, his fingers nervously toying with the hilt of his
great-sword and his cruel eyes bent in implacable hatred upon Tal Hajus.
It was Tars Tarkas, and I could read his thoughts as they were an open book for the
undisguised loathing upon his face.
He was thinking of that other woman who, forty years ago, had stood before this
beast, and could I have spoken a word into his ear at that moment the reign of Tal
Hajus would have been over; but finally he
also strode from the room, not knowing that he left his own daughter at the mercy of
the creature he most loathed.
Tal Hajus arose, and I, half fearing, half anticipating his intentions, hurried to the
winding runway which led to the floors below.
No one was near to intercept me, and I reached the main floor of the chamber
unobserved, taking my station in the shadow of the same column that Tars Tarkas had but
just deserted.
As I reached the floor Tal Hajus was speaking.
"Princess of Helium, I might wring a mighty ransom from your people would I but return
you to them unharmed, but a thousand times rather would I watch that beautiful face
writhe in the agony of torture; it shall be
long drawn out, that I promise you; ten days of pleasure were all too short to show
the love I harbor for your race.
The terrors of your death shall haunt the slumbers of the red men through all the
ages to come; they will shudder in the shadows of the night as their fathers tell
them of the awful vengeance of the green
men; of the power and might and hate and cruelty of Tal Hajus.
But before the torture you shall be mine for one short hour, and word of that too
shall go forth to Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium, your grandfather, that he may
grovel upon the ground in the agony of his sorrow.
Tomorrow the torture will commence; tonight thou art Tal Hajus'; come!"
He sprang down from the platform and grasped her roughly by the arm, but
scarcely had he touched her than I leaped between them.
My short-sword, sharp and gleaming was in my right hand; I could have plunged it into
his putrid heart before he realized that I was upon him; but as I raised my arm to
strike I thought of Tars Tarkas, and, with
all my rage, with all my hatred, I could not rob him of that sweet moment for which
he had lived and hoped all these long, weary years, and so, instead, I swung my
good right fist full upon the point of his jaw.
Without a sound he slipped to the floor as one dead.
In the same deathly silence I grasped Dejah Thoris by the hand, and motioning Sola to
follow we sped noiselessly from the chamber and to the floor above.
Unseen we reached a rear window and with the straps and leather of my trappings I
lowered, first Sola and then Dejah Thoris to the ground below.
Dropping lightly after them I drew them rapidly around the court in the shadows of
the buildings, and thus we returned over the same course I had so recently followed
from the distant boundary of the city.
We finally came upon my thoats in the courtyard where I had left them, and
placing the trappings upon them we hastened through the building to the avenue beyond.
Mounting, Sola upon one beast, and Dejah Thoris behind me upon the other, we rode
from the city of Thark through the hills to the south.
Instead of circling back around the city to the northwest and toward the nearest
waterway which lay so short a distance from us, we turned to the northeast and struck
out upon the mossy waste across which, for
two hundred dangerous and weary miles, lay another main artery leading to Helium.
No word was spoken until we had left the city far behind, but I could hear the quiet
sobbing of Dejah Thoris as she clung to me with her dear head resting against my
shoulder.
"If we make it, my chieftain, the debt of Helium will be a mighty one; greater than
she can ever pay you; and should we not make it," she continued, "the debt is no
less, though Helium will never know, for
you have saved the last of our line from worse than death."
I did not answer, but instead reached to my side and pressed the little fingers of her
I loved where they clung to me for support, and then, in unbroken silence, we sped over
the yellow, moonlit moss; each of us occupied with his own thoughts.
For my part I could not be other than joyful had I tried, with Dejah Thoris' warm
body pressed close to mine, and with all our unpassed danger my heart was singing as
gaily as though we were already entering the gates of Helium.
Our earlier plans had been so sadly upset that we now found ourselves without food or
drink, and I alone was armed.
We therefore urged our beasts to a speed that must tell on them sorely before we
could hope to sight the ending of the first stage of our journey.
We rode all night and all the following day with only a few short rests.
On the second night both we and our animals were completely fagged, and so we lay down
upon the moss and slept for some five or six hours, taking up the journey once more
before daylight.
All the following day we rode, and when, late in the afternoon we had sighted no
distant trees, the mark of the great waterways throughout all Barsoom, the
terrible truth flashed upon us--we were lost.
Evidently we had circled, but which way it was difficult to say, nor did it seem
possible with the sun to guide us by day and the moons and stars by night.
At any rate no waterway was in sight, and the entire party was almost ready to drop
from hunger, thirst and fatigue.
Far ahead of us and a trifle to the right we could distinguish the outlines of low
mountains.
These we decided to attempt to reach in the hope that from some ridge we might discern
the missing waterway.
Night fell upon us before we reached our goal, and, almost fainting from weariness
and weakness, we lay down and slept.
I was awakened early in the morning by some huge body pressing close to mine, and
opening my eyes with a start I beheld my blessed old Woola snuggling close to me;
the faithful brute had followed us across
that trackless waste to share our fate, whatever it might be.
Putting my arms about his neck I pressed my cheek close to his, nor am I ashamed that I
did it, nor of the tears that came to my eyes as I thought of his love for me.
Shortly after this Dejah Thoris and Sola awakened, and it was decided that we push
on at once in an effort to gain the hills.
We had gone scarcely a mile when I noticed that my thoat was commencing to stumble and
stagger in a most pitiful manner, although we had not attempted to force them out of a
walk since about noon of the preceding day.
Suddenly he lurched wildly to one side and pitched violently to the ground.
Dejah Thoris and I were thrown clear of him and fell upon the soft moss with scarcely a
jar; but the poor beast was in a pitiable condition, not even being able to rise,
although relieved of our weight.
Sola told me that the coolness of the night, when it fell, together with the rest
would doubtless revive him, and so I decided not to kill him, as was my first
intention, as I had thought it cruel to
leave him alone there to die of hunger and thirst.
Relieving him of his trappings, which I flung down beside him, we left the poor
fellow to his fate, and pushed on with the one thoat as best we could.
Sola and I walked, making Dejah Thoris ride, much against her will.
In this way we had progressed to within about a mile of the hills we were
endeavoring to reach when Dejah Thoris, from her point of vantage upon the thoat,
cried out that she saw a great party of
mounted men filing down from a pass in the hills several miles away.
Sola and I both looked in the direction she indicated, and there, plainly discernible,
were several hundred mounted warriors.
They seemed to be headed in a southwesterly direction, which would take them away from
us.
They doubtless were Thark warriors who had been sent out to capture us, and we
breathed a great sigh of relief that they were traveling in the opposite direction.
Quickly lifting Dejah Thoris from the thoat, I commanded the animal to lie down
and we three did the same, presenting as small an object as possible for fear of
attracting the attention of the warriors toward us.
We could see them as they filed out of the pass, just for an instant, before they were
lost to view behind a friendly ridge; to us a most providential ridge; since, had they
been in view for any great length of time,
they scarcely could have failed to discover us.
As what proved to be the last warrior came into view from the pass, he halted and, to
our consternation, threw his small but powerful fieldglass to his eye and scanned
the sea bottom in all directions.
Evidently he was a chieftain, for in certain marching formations among the green
men a chieftain brings up the extreme rear of the column.
As his glass swung toward us our hearts stopped in our breasts, and I could feel
the cold sweat start from every pore in my body.
Presently it swung full upon us and-- stopped.
The tension on our nerves was near the breaking point, and I doubt if any of us
breathed for the few moments he held us covered by his glass; and then he lowered
it and we could see him shout a command to
the warriors who had passed from our sight behind the ridge.
He did not wait for them to join him, however, instead he wheeled his thoat and
came tearing madly in our direction.
There was but one slight chance and that we must take quickly.
Raising my strange Martian rifle to my shoulder I sighted and touched the button
which controlled the trigger; there was a sharp explosion as the missile reached its
goal, and the charging chieftain pitched backward from his flying mount.
Springing to my feet I urged the thoat to rise, and directed Sola to take Dejah
Thoris with her upon him and make a mighty effort to reach the hills before the green
warriors were upon us.
I knew that in the ravines and gullies they might find a temporary hiding place, and
even though they died there of hunger and thirst it would be better so than that they
fell into the hands of the Tharks.
Forcing my two revolvers upon them as a slight means of protection, and, as a last
resort, as an escape for themselves from the horrid death which recapture would
surely mean, I lifted Dejah Thoris in my
arms and placed her upon the thoat behind Sola, who had already mounted at my
command. "Good-bye, my princess," I whispered, "we
may meet in Helium yet.
I have escaped from worse plights than this," and I tried to smile as I lied.
"What," she cried, "are you not coming with us?"
"How may I, Dejah Thoris?
Someone must hold these fellows off for a while, and I can better escape them alone
than could the three of us together."
She sprang quickly from the thoat and, throwing her dear arms about my neck,
turned to Sola, saying with quiet dignity: "Fly, Sola!
Dejah Thoris remains to die with the man she loves."
Those words are engraved upon my heart.
Ah, gladly would I give up my life a thousand times could I only hear them once
again; but I could not then give even a second to the rapture of her sweet embrace,
and pressing my lips to hers for the first
time, I picked her up bodily and tossed her to her seat behind Sola again, commanding
the latter in peremptory tones to hold her there by force, and then, slapping the
thoat upon the flank, I saw them borne
away; Dejah Thoris struggling to the last to free herself from Sola's grasp.
Turning, I beheld the green warriors mounting the ridge and looking for their
chieftain.
In a moment they saw him, and then me; but scarcely had they discovered me than I
commenced firing, lying flat upon my belly in the moss.
I had an even hundred rounds in the magazine of my rifle, and another hundred
in the belt at my back, and I kept up a continuous stream of fire until I saw all
of the warriors who had been first to
return from behind the ridge either dead or scurrying to cover.
My respite was short-lived however, for soon the entire party, numbering some
thousand men, came charging into view, racing madly toward me.
I fired until my rifle was empty and they were almost upon me, and then a glance
showing me that Dejah Thoris and Sola had disappeared among the hills, I sprang up,
throwing down my useless gun, and started
away in the direction opposite to that taken by Sola and her charge.
If ever Martians had an exhibition of jumping, it was granted those astonished
warriors on that day long years ago, but while it led them away from Dejah Thoris it
did not distract their attention from endeavoring to capture me.
They raced wildly after me until, finally, my foot struck a projecting piece of
quartz, and down I went sprawling upon the moss.
As I looked up they were upon me, and although I drew my long-sword in an attempt
to sell my life as dearly as possible, it was soon over.
I reeled beneath their blows which fell upon me in perfect torrents; my head swam;
all was black, and I went down beneath them to oblivion.
CHAPTER XVIII CHAINED IN WARHOON
It must have been several hours before I regained consciousness and I well remember
the feeling of surprise which swept over me as I realized that I was not dead.
I was lying among a pile of sleeping silks and furs in the corner of a small room in
which were several green warriors, and bending over me was an ancient and ugly
female.
As I opened my eyes she turned to one of the warriors, saying,
"He will live, O Jed."
"'Tis well," replied the one so addressed, rising and approaching my couch, "he should
render rare sport for the great games."
And now as my eyes fell upon him, I saw that he was no Thark, for his ornaments and
metal were not of that horde.
He was a huge fellow, terribly scarred about the face and chest, and with one
broken tusk and a missing ear.
Strapped on either breast were human skulls and depending from these a number of dried
human hands.
His reference to the great games of which I had heard so much while among the Tharks
convinced me that I had but jumped from purgatory into gehenna.
After a few more words with the female, during which she assured him that I was now
fully fit to travel, the jed ordered that we mount and ride after the main column.
I was strapped securely to as wild and unmanageable a thoat as I had ever seen,
and, with a mounted warrior on either side to prevent the beast from bolting, we rode
forth at a furious pace in pursuit of the column.
My wounds gave me but little pain, so wonderfully and rapidly had the
applications and injections of the female exercised their therapeutic powers, and so
deftly had she bound and plastered the injuries.
Just before dark we reached the main body of troops shortly after they had made camp
for the night.
I was immediately taken before the leader, who proved to be the jeddak of the hordes
of Warhoon.
Like the jed who had brought me, he was frightfully scarred, and also decorated
with the breastplate of human skulls and dried dead hands which seemed to mark all
the greater warriors among the Warhoons, as
well as to indicate their awful ferocity, which greatly transcends even that of the
Tharks.
The jeddak, Bar Comas, who was comparatively young, was the object of the
fierce and jealous hatred of his old lieutenant, Dak Kova, the jed who had
captured me, and I could not but note the
almost studied efforts which the latter made to affront his superior.
He entirely omitted the usual formal salutation as we entered the presence of
the jeddak, and as he pushed me roughly before the ruler he exclaimed in a loud and
menacing voice.
"I have brought a strange creature wearing the metal of a Thark whom it is my pleasure
to have battle with a wild thoat at the great games."
"He will die as Bar Comas, your jeddak, sees fit, if at all," replied the young
ruler, with emphasis and dignity. "If at all?" roared Dak Kova.
"By the dead hands at my throat but he shall die, Bar Comas.
No maudlin weakness on your part shall save him.
O, would that Warhoon were ruled by a real jeddak rather than by a water-hearted
weakling from whom even old Dak Kova could tear the metal with his bare hands!"
Bar Comas eyed the defiant and insubordinate chieftain for an instant, his
expression one of haughty, fearless contempt and hate, and then without drawing
a weapon and without uttering a word he
hurled himself at the throat of his defamer.
I never before had seen two green Martian warriors battle with nature's weapons and
the exhibition of animal ferocity which ensued was as fearful a thing as the most
disordered imagination could picture.
They tore at each others' eyes and ears with their hands and with their gleaming
tusks repeatedly slashed and gored until both were cut fairly to ribbons from head
to foot.
Bar Comas had much the better of the battle as he was stronger, quicker and more
intelligent.
It soon seemed that the encounter was done saving only the final death thrust when Bar
Comas slipped in breaking away from a clinch.
It was the one little opening that Dak Kova needed, and hurling himself at the body of
his adversary he buried his single mighty tusk in Bar Comas' groin and with a last
powerful effort ripped the young jeddak
wide open the full length of his body, the great tusk finally wedging in the bones of
Bar Comas' jaw.
Victor and vanquished rolled limp and lifeless upon the moss, a huge mass of torn
and bloody flesh.
Bar Comas was stone dead, and only the most herculean efforts on the part of Dak Kova's
females saved him from the fate he deserved.
Three days later he walked without assistance to the body of Bar Comas which,
by custom, had not been moved from where it fell, and placing his foot upon the neck of
his erstwhile ruler he assumed the title of Jeddak of Warhoon.
The dead jeddak's hands and head were removed to be added to the ornaments of his
conqueror, and then his women cremated what remained, amid wild and terrible laughter.
The injuries to Dak Kova had delayed the march so greatly that it was decided to
give up the expedition, which was a raid upon a small Thark community in retaliation
for the destruction of the incubator, until
after the great games, and the entire body of warriors, ten thousand in number, turned
back toward Warhoon.
My introduction to these cruel and bloodthirsty people was but an index to the
scenes I witnessed almost daily while with them.
They are a smaller horde than the Tharks but much more ferocious.
Not a day passed but that some members of the various Warhoon communities met in
deadly combat.
I have seen as high as eight mortal duels within a single day.
We reached the city of Warhoon after some three days march and I was immediately cast
into a dungeon and heavily chained to the floor and walls.
Food was brought me at intervals but owing to the utter darkness of the place I do not
know whether I lay there days, or weeks, or months.
It was the most horrible experience of all my life and that my mind did not give way
to the terrors of that inky blackness has been a wonder to me ever since.
The place was filled with creeping, crawling things; cold, sinuous bodies
passed over me when I lay down, and in the darkness I occasionally caught glimpses of
gleaming, fiery eyes, fixed in horrible intentness upon me.
No sound reached me from the world above and no word would my jailer vouchsafe when
my food was brought to me, although I at first bombarded him with questions.
Finally all the hatred and maniacal loathing for these awful creatures who had
placed me in this horrible place was centered by my tottering reason upon this
single emissary who represented to me the entire horde of Warhoons.
I had noticed that he always advanced with his dim torch to where he could place the
food within my reach and as he stooped to place it upon the floor his head was about
on a level with my breast.
So, with the cunning of a madman, I backed into the far corner of my cell when next I
heard him approaching and gathering a little slack of the great chain which held
me in my hand I waited his coming, crouching like some beast of prey.
As he stooped to place my food upon the ground I swung the chain above my head and
crashed the links with all my strength upon his skull.
Without a sound he slipped to the floor, stone dead.
Laughing and chattering like the idiot I was fast becoming I fell upon his prostrate
form my fingers feeling for his dead throat.
Presently they came in contact with a small chain at the end of which dangled a number
of keys.
The touch of my fingers on these keys brought back my reason with the suddenness
of thought.
No longer was I a jibbering idiot, but a sane, reasoning man with the means of
escape within my very hands.
As I was groping to remove the chain from about my victim's neck I glanced up into
the darkness to see six pairs of gleaming eyes fixed, unwinking, upon me.
Slowly they approached and slowly I shrank back from the awful horror of them.
Back into my corner I crouched holding my hands palms out, before me, and stealthily
on came the awful eyes until they reached the dead body at my feet.
Then slowly they retreated but this time with a strange grating sound and finally
they disappeared in some black and distant recess of my dungeon.
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