A Princess of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Part 2 out of 4
on the instant. I had feared to question Sola relative to the
beautiful captive, as I could not but recall the strange expression
I had noted upon her face after my first encounter with the
prisoner. That it denoted jealousy I could not say, and yet,
judging all things by mundane standards as I still did, I felt it
safer to affect indifference in the matter until I learned more
surely Sola's attitude toward the object of my solicitude.
Sarkoja, one of the older women who shared our domicile, had been
present at the audience as one of the captive's guards, and it
was toward her the question turned.
"When," asked one of the women, "will we enjoy the death throes of
the red one? or does Lorquas Ptomel, Jed, intend holding her for
"They have decided to carry her with us back to Thark, and exhibit
her last agonies at the great games before Tal Hajus," replied
"What will be the manner of her going out?" inquired Sola. "She
is very small and very beautiful; I had hoped that they would hold
her for ransom."
Sarkoja and the other women grunted angrily at this evidence of
weakness on the part of Sola.
"It is sad, Sola, that you were not born a million years ago,"
snapped Sarkoja, "when all the hollows of the land were filled with
water, and the peoples were as soft as the stuff they sailed upon.
In our day we have progressed to a point where such sentiments mark
weakness and atavism. It will not be well for you to permit Tars
Tarkas to learn that you hold such degenerate sentiments, as I
doubt that he would care to entrust such as you with the grave
responsibilities of maternity."
"I see nothing wrong with my expression of interest in this red
woman," retorted Sola. "She has never harmed us, nor would she
should we have fallen into her hands. It is only the men of her
kind who war upon us, and I have ever thought that their attitude
toward us is but the reflection of ours toward them. They live at
peace with all their fellows, except when duty calls upon them to
make war, while we are at peace with none; forever warring among
our own kind as well as upon the red men, and even in our own
communities the individuals fight amongst themselves. Oh, it is
one continual, awful period of bloodshed from the time we break the
shell until we gladly embrace the bosom of the river of mystery,
the dark and ancient Iss which carries us to an unknown, but at
least no more frightful and terrible existence! Fortunate indeed is
he who meets his end in an early death. Say what you please to Tars
Tarkas, he can mete out no worse fate to me than a continuation of
the horrible existence we are forced to lead in this life."
This wild outbreak on the part of Sola so greatly surprised and
shocked the other women, that, after a few words of general
reprimand, they all lapsed into silence and were soon asleep. One
thing the episode had accomplished was to assure me of Sola's
friendliness toward the poor girl, and also to convince me that I
had been extremely fortunate in falling into her hands rather than
those of some of the other females. I knew that she was fond of me,
and now that I had discovered that she hated cruelty and barbarity
I was confident that I could depend upon her to aid me and the girl
captive to escape, provided of course that such a thing was within
the range of possibilities.
I did not even know that there were any better conditions to escape
to, but I was more than willing to take my chances among people
fashioned after my own mold rather than to remain longer among the
hideous and bloodthirsty green men of Mars. But where to go, and
how, was as much of a puzzle to me as the age-old search for the
spring of eternal life has been to earthly men since the beginning
I decided that at the first opportunity I would take Sola into my
confidence and openly ask her to aid me, and with this resolution
strong upon me I turned among my silks and furs and slept the
dreamless and refreshing sleep of Mars.
CHAMPION AND CHIEF
Early the next morning I was astir. Considerable freedom was
allowed me, as Sola had informed me that so long as I did not
attempt to leave the city I was free to go and come as I pleased.
She had warned me, however, against venturing forth unarmed, as
this city, like all other deserted metropolises of an ancient
Martian civilization, was peopled by the great white apes of my
second day's adventure.
In advising me that I must not leave the boundaries of the city Sola
had explained that Woola would prevent this anyway should I attempt
it, and she warned me most urgently not to arouse his fierce nature
by ignoring his warnings should I venture too close to the forbidden
territory. His nature was such, she said, that he would bring me
back into the city dead or alive should I persist in opposing him;
"preferably dead," she added.
On this morning I had chosen a new street to explore when suddenly
I found myself at the limits of the city. Before me were low hills
pierced by narrow and inviting ravines. I longed to explore the
country before me, and, like the pioneer stock from which I sprang,
to view what the landscape beyond the encircling hills might
disclose from the summits which shut out my view.
It also occurred to me that this would prove an excellent
opportunity to test the qualities of Woola. I was convinced that
the brute loved me; I had seen more evidences of affection in him
than in any other Martian animal, man or beast, and I was sure that
gratitude for the acts that had twice saved his life would more
than outweigh his loyalty to the duty imposed upon him by cruel
and loveless masters.
As I approached the boundary line Woola ran anxiously before me, and
thrust his body against my legs. His expression was pleading rather
than ferocious, nor did he bare his great tusks or utter his fearful
guttural warnings. Denied the friendship and companionship of my
kind, I had developed considerable affection for Woola and Sola,
for the normal earthly man must have some outlet for his natural
affections, and so I decided upon an appeal to a like instinct in
this great brute, sure that I would not be disappointed.
I had never petted nor fondled him, but now I sat upon the ground
and putting my arms around his heavy neck I stroked and coaxed him,
talking in my newly acquired Martian tongue as I would have to my
hound at home, as I would have talked to any other friend among the
lower animals. His response to my manifestation of affection was
remarkable to a degree; he stretched his great mouth to its full
width, baring the entire expanse of his upper rows of tusks and
wrinkling his snout until his great eyes were almost hidden by the
folds of flesh. If you have ever seen a collie smile you may have
some idea of Woola's facial distortion.
He threw himself upon his back and fairly wallowed at my feet;
jumped up and sprang upon me, rolling me upon the ground by his
great weight; then wriggling and squirming around me like a playful
puppy presenting its back for the petting it craves. I could not
resist the ludicrousness of the spectacle, and holding my sides I
rocked back and forth in the first laughter which had passed my lips
in many days; the first, in fact, since the morning Powell had left
camp when his horse, long unused, had precipitately and unexpectedly
bucked him off headforemost into a pot of frijoles.
My laughter frightened Woola, his antics ceased and he crawled
pitifully toward me, poking his ugly head far into my lap; and then
I remembered what laughter signified on Mars--torture, suffering,
death. Quieting myself, I rubbed the poor old fellow's head and
back, talked to him for a few minutes, and then in an authoritative
tone commanded him to follow me, and arising started for the hills.
There was no further question of authority between us; Woola was my
devoted slave from that moment hence, and I his only and undisputed
master. My walk to the hills occupied but a few minutes, and I
found nothing of particular interest to reward me. Numerous
brilliantly colored and strangely formed wild flowers dotted the
ravines and from the summit of the first hill I saw still other
hills stretching off toward the north, and rising, one range above
another, until lost in mountains of quite respectable dimensions;
though I afterward found that only a few peaks on all Mars exceed
four thousand feet in height; the suggestion of magnitude was merely
My morning's walk had been large with importance to me for it had
resulted in a perfect understanding with Woola, upon whom Tars
Tarkas relied for my safe keeping. I now knew that while
theoretically a prisoner I was virtually free, and I hastened to
regain the city limits before the defection of Woola could be
discovered by his erstwhile masters. The adventure decided me never
again to leave the limits of my prescribed stamping grounds until I
was ready to venture forth for good and all, as it would certainly
result in a curtailment of my liberties, as well as the probable
death of Woola, were we to be discovered.
On regaining the plaza I had my third glimpse of the captive girl.
She was standing with her guards before the entrance to the audience
chamber, and as I approached she gave me one haughty glance and
turned her back full upon me. The act was so womanly, so earthly
womanly, that though it stung my pride it also warmed my heart with
a feeling of companionship; it was good to know that someone else on
Mars beside myself had human instincts of a civilized order, even
though the manifestation of them was so painful and mortifying.
Had a green Martian woman desired to show dislike or contempt she
would, in all likelihood, have done it with a sword thrust or a
movement of her trigger finger; but as their sentiments are mostly
atrophied it would have required a serious injury to have aroused
such passions in them. Sola, let me add, was an exception; I never
saw her perform a cruel or uncouth act, or fail in uniform
kindliness and good nature. She was indeed, as her fellow Martian
had said of her, an atavism; a dear and precious reversion to a
former type of loved and loving ancestor.
Seeing that the prisoner seemed the center of attraction I halted to
view the proceedings. I had not long to wait for presently Lorquas
Ptomel and his retinue of chieftains approached the building and,
signing the guards to follow with the prisoner entered the audience
chamber. Realizing that I was a somewhat favored character, and
also convinced that the warriors did not know of my proficiency in
their language, as I had pleaded with Sola to keep this a secret on
the grounds that I did not wish to be forced to talk with the men
until I had perfectly mastered the Martian tongue, I chanced an
attempt to enter the audience chamber and listen to the proceedings.
The council squatted upon the steps of the rostrum, while below them
stood the prisoner and her two guards. I saw that one of the women
was Sarkoja, and thus understood how she had been present at the
hearing of the preceding day, the results of which she had reported
to the occupants of our dormitory last night. Her attitude toward
the captive was most harsh and brutal. When she held her, she sunk
her rudimentary nails into the poor girl's flesh, or twisted her
arm in a most painful manner. When it was necessary to move from
one spot to another she either jerked her roughly, or pushed her
headlong before her. She seemed to be venting upon this poor
defenseless creature all the hatred, cruelty, ferocity, and spite
of her nine hundred years, backed by unguessable ages of fierce
and brutal ancestors.
The other woman was less cruel because she was entirely indifferent;
if the prisoner had been left to her alone, and fortunately she was
at night, she would have received no harsh treatment, nor, by the
same token would she have received any attention at all.
As Lorquas Ptomel raised his eyes to address the prisoner they fell
on me and he turned to Tars Tarkas with a word, and gesture of
impatience. Tars Tarkas made some reply which I could not catch,
but which caused Lorquas Ptomel to smile; after which they paid no
further attention to me.
"What is your name?" asked Lorquas Ptomel, addressing the prisoner.
"Dejah Thoris, daughter of Mors Kajak of Helium."
"And the nature of your expedition?" he continued.
"It was a purely scientific research party sent out by my father's
father, the Jeddak of Helium, to rechart the air currents, and to
take atmospheric density tests," replied the fair prisoner, in a
low, well-modulated voice.
"We were unprepared for battle," she continued, "as we were on a
peaceful mission, as our banners and the colors of our craft
denoted. The work we were doing was as much in your interests as
in ours, for you know full well that were it not for our labors and
the fruits of our scientific operations there would not be enough
air or water on Mars to support a single human life. For ages we
have maintained the air and water supply at practically the same
point without an appreciable loss, and we have done this in the
face of the brutal and ignorant interference of your green men.
"Why, oh, why will you not learn to live in amity with your fellows,
must you ever go on down the ages to your final extinction but
little above the plane of the dumb brutes that serve you! A people
without written language, without art, without homes, without love;
the victim of eons of the horrible community idea. Owning
everything in common, even to your women and children, has resulted
in your owning nothing in common. You hate each other as you hate
all else except yourselves. Come back to the ways of our common
ancestors, come back to the light of kindliness and fellowship. The
way is open to you, you will find the hands of the red men stretched
out to aid you. Together we may do still more to regenerate our
dying planet. The granddaughter of the greatest and mightiest of
the red jeddaks has asked you. Will you come?"
Lorquas Ptomel and the warriors sat looking silently and intently at
the young woman for several moments after she had ceased speaking.
What was passing in their minds no man may know, but that they were
moved I truly believe, and if one man high among them had been
strong enough to rise above custom, that moment would have marked
a new and mighty era for Mars.
I saw Tars Tarkas rise to speak, and on his face was such an
expression as I had never seen upon the countenance of a green
Martian warrior. It bespoke an inward and mighty battle with self,
with heredity, with age-old custom, and as he opened his mouth to
speak, a look almost of benignity, of kindliness, momentarily
lighted up his fierce and terrible countenance.
What words of moment were to have fallen from his lips were never
spoken, as just then a young warrior, evidently sensing the trend
of thought among the older men, leaped down from the steps of the
rostrum, and striking the frail captive a powerful blow across
the face, which felled her to the floor, placed his foot upon her
prostrate form and turning toward the assembled council broke into
peals of horrid, mirthless laughter.
For an instant I thought Tars Tarkas would strike him dead, nor did
the aspect of Lorquas Ptomel augur any too favorably for the brute,
but the mood passed, their old selves reasserted their ascendency,
and they smiled. It was portentous however that they did not laugh
aloud, for the brute's act constituted a side-splitting witticism
according to the ethics which rule green Martian humor.
That I have taken moments to write down a part of what occurred as
that blow fell does not signify that I remained inactive for any
such length of time. I think I must have sensed something of what
was coming, for I realize now that I was crouched as for a spring as
I saw the blow aimed at her beautiful, upturned, pleading face, and
ere the hand descended I was halfway across the hall.
Scarcely had his hideous laugh rang out but once, when I was upon
him. The brute was twelve feet in height and armed to the teeth,
but I believe that I could have accounted for the whole roomful in
the terrific intensity of my rage. Springing upward, I struck him
full in the face as he turned at my warning cry and then as he drew
his short-sword I drew mine and sprang up again upon his breast,
hooking one leg over the butt of his pistol and grasping one of his
huge tusks with my left hand while I delivered blow after blow upon
his enormous chest.
He could not use his short-sword to advantage because I was too
close to him, nor could he draw his pistol, which he attempted to do
in direct opposition to Martian custom which says that you may not
fight a fellow warrior in private combat with any other than the
weapon with which you are attacked. In fact he could do nothing but
make a wild and futile attempt to dislodge me. With all his immense
bulk he was little if any stronger than I, and it was but the matter
of a moment or two before he sank, bleeding and lifeless, to the
Dejah Thoris had raised herself upon one elbow and was watching the
battle with wide, staring eyes. When I had regained my feet I
raised her in my arms and bore her to one of the benches at the side
of the room.
Again no Martian interfered with me, and tearing a piece of silk
from my cape I endeavored to staunch the flow of blood from her
nostrils. I was soon successful as her injuries amounted to little
more than an ordinary nosebleed, and when she could speak she placed
her hand upon my arm and looking up into my eyes, said:
"Why did you do it? You who refused me even friendly recognition in
the first hour of my peril! And now you risk your life and kill one
of your companions for my sake. I cannot understand. What strange
manner of man are you, that you consort with the green men, though
your form is that of my race, while your color is little darker than
that of the white ape? Tell me, are you human, or are you more than
"It is a strange tale," I replied, "too long to attempt to tell you
now, and one which I so much doubt the credibility of myself that
I fear to hope that others will believe it. Suffice it, for the
present, that I am your friend, and, so far as our captors will
permit, your protector and your servant."
"Then you too are a prisoner? But why, then, those arms and the
regalia of a Tharkian chieftain? What is your name? Where your
"Yes, Dejah Thoris, I too am a prisoner; my name is John Carter,
and I claim Virginia, one of the United States of America, Earth,
as my home; but why I am permitted to wear arms I do not know,
nor was I aware that my regalia was that of a chieftain."
We were interrupted at this juncture by the approach of one of the
warriors, bearing arms, accouterments and ornaments, and in a flash
one of her questions was answered and a puzzle cleared up for me.
I saw that the body of my dead antagonist had been stripped, and I
read in the menacing yet respectful attitude of the warrior who had
brought me these trophies of the kill the same demeanor as that
evinced by the other who had brought me my original equipment, and
now for the first time I realized that my blow, on the occasion of
my first battle in the audience chamber had resulted in the death
of my adversary.
The reason for the whole attitude displayed toward me was now
apparent; I had won my spurs, so to speak, and in the crude justice,
which always marks Martian dealings, and which, among other things,
has caused me to call her the planet of paradoxes, I was accorded
the honors due a conqueror; the trappings and the position of the
man I killed. In truth, I was a Martian chieftain, and this I
learned later was the cause of my great freedom and my toleration
in the audience chamber.
As I had turned to receive the dead warrior's chattels I had
noticed that Tars Tarkas and several others had pushed forward
toward us, and the eyes of the former rested upon me in a most
quizzical manner. Finally he addressed me:
"You speak the tongue of Barsoom quite readily for one who was deaf
and dumb to us a few short days ago. Where did you learn it, John
"You, yourself, are responsible, Tars Tarkas," I replied, "in that
you furnished me with an instructress of remarkable ability; I have
to thank Sola for my learning."
"She has done well," he answered, "but your education in other
respects needs considerable polish. Do you know what your
unprecedented temerity would have cost you had you failed to
kill either of the two 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 Thark."
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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'
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
"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
"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
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.
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
"Do people kiss, then, upon Barsoom?" I asked, when she had
explained the word she used, in answer to my inquiry as to its
"Parents, brothers, and sisters, yes; and," she added in a low,
thoughtful tone, "lovers."
"And you, Dejah Thoris, have parents and brothers and sisters?"
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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."
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
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."
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