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chieftains whose metal you now wear?"

"I presume that that one whom I had failed to kill, would have killed
me," I answered, smiling.

"No, you are wrong. Only in the last extremity of self-defense would a
Martian warrior kill a prisoner; we like to save them for other
purposes," and his face bespoke possibilities that were not pleasant to
dwell upon.

"But one thing can save you now," he continued. "Should you, in
recognition of your remarkable valor, ferocity, and prowess, be
considered by Tal Hajus as worthy of his service you may be taken into
the community and become a full-fledged Tharkian. Until we reach the
headquarters of Tal Hajus it is the will of Lorquas Ptomel that you be
accorded the respect your acts have earned you. You will be treated by
us as a Tharkian chieftain, but you must not forget that every chief
who ranks you is responsible for your safe delivery to our mighty and
most ferocious ruler. I am done."

"I hear you, Tars Tarkas," I answered. "As you know I am not of
Barsoom; your ways are not my ways, and I can only act in the future as
I have in the past, in accordance with the dictates of my conscience
and guided by the standards of mine own people. If you will leave me
alone I will go in peace, but if not, let the individual Barsoomians
with whom I must deal either respect my rights as a stranger among you,
or take whatever consequences may befall. Of one thing let us be sure,
whatever may be your ultimate intentions toward this unfortunate young
woman, whoever would offer her injury or insult in the future must
figure on making a full accounting to me. I understand that you
belittle all sentiments of generosity and kindliness, but I do not, and
I can convince your most doughty warrior that these characteristics are
not incompatible with an ability to fight."

Ordinarily I am not given to long speeches, nor ever before had I
descended to bombast, but I had guessed at the keynote which would
strike an answering chord in the breasts of the green Martians, nor was
I wrong, for my harangue evidently deeply impressed them, and their
attitude toward me thereafter was still further respectful.

Tars Tarkas himself seemed pleased with my reply, but his only comment
was more or less enigmatical - "And I think I know Tal Hajus, Jeddak of

I now turned my attention to Dejah Thoris, and assisting her to her
feet I turned with her toward the exit, ignoring her hovering guardian
harpies as well as the inquiring glances of the chieftains. Was I not
now a chieftain also! Well, then, I would assume the responsibilities
of one. They did not molest us, and so Dejah Thoris, Princess of
Helium, and John Carter, gentleman of Virginia, followed by the
faithful Woola, passed through utter silence from the audience chamber
of Lorquas Ptomel, Jed among the Tharks of Barsoom.



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

"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

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

"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

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



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

"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

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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsA Princess of Mars → online text (page 6 of 16)