With my back against a golden throne, I fought once again for Dejah Thoris.
A PRINCESS OF MARS
Edgar Rice Burroughs
To My Son Jack
To the Reader of this Work:
In submitting Captain Carter's strange manuscript to you in book form,
I believe that a few words relative to this remarkable personality will
be of interest.
My first recollection of Captain Carter is of the few months he spent
at my father's home in Virginia, just prior to the opening of the civil
war. I was then a child of but five years, yet I well remember the
tall, dark, smooth-faced, athletic man whom I called Uncle Jack.
He seemed always to be laughing; and he entered into the sports of the
children with the same hearty good fellowship he displayed toward those
pastimes in which the men and women of his own age indulged; or he
would sit for an hour at a time entertaining my old grandmother with
stories of his strange, wild life in all parts of the world. We all
loved him, and our slaves fairly worshipped the ground he trod.
He was a splendid specimen of manhood, standing a good two inches over
six feet, broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, with the carriage of the
trained fighting man. His features were regular and clear cut, his
hair black and closely cropped, while his eyes were of a steel gray,
reflecting a strong and loyal character, filled with fire and
initiative. His manners were perfect, and his courtliness was that of
a typical southern gentleman of the highest type.
His horsemanship, especially after hounds, was a marvel and delight
even in that country of magnificent horsemen. I have often heard my
father caution him against his wild recklessness, but he would only
laugh, and say that the tumble that killed him would be from the back
of a horse yet unfoaled.
When the war broke out he left us, nor did I see him again for some
fifteen or sixteen years. When he returned it was without warning, and
I was much surprised to note that he had not aged apparently a moment,
nor had he changed in any other outward way. He was, when others were
with him, the same genial, happy fellow we had known of old, but when
he thought himself alone I have seen him sit for hours gazing off into
space, his face set in a look of wistful longing and hopeless misery;
and at night he would sit thus looking up into the heavens, at what I
did not know until I read his manuscript years afterward.
He told us that he had been prospecting and mining in Arizona part of
the time since the war; and that he had been very successful was
evidenced by the unlimited amount of money with which he was supplied.
As to the details of his life during these years he was very reticent,
in fact he would not talk of them at all.
He remained with us for about a year and then went to New York, where
he purchased a little place on the Hudson, where I visited him once a
year on the occasions of my trips to the New York market—my father and
I owning and operating a string of general stores throughout Virginia
at that time. Captain Carter had a small but beautiful cottage,
situated on a bluff overlooking the river, and during one of my last
visits, in the winter of 1885, I observed he was much occupied in
writing, I presume now, upon this manuscript.
He told me at this time that if anything should happen to him he wished
me to take charge of his estate, and he gave me a key to a compartment
in the safe which stood in his study, telling me I would find his will
there and some personal instructions which he had me pledge myself to
carry out with absolute fidelity.
After I had retired for the night I have seen him from my window
standing in the moonlight on the brink of the bluff overlooking the
Hudson with his arms stretched out to the heavens as though in appeal.
I thought at the time that he was praying, although I never understood
that he was in the strict sense of the term a religious man.
Several months after I had returned home from my last visit, the first
of March, 1886, I think, I received a telegram from him asking me to
come to him at once. I had always been his favorite among the younger
generation of Carters and so I hastened to comply with his demand.
I arrived at the little station, about a mile from his grounds, on the
morning of March 4, 1886, and when I asked the livery man to drive me
out to Captain Carter's he replied that if I was a friend of the
Captain's he had some very bad news for me; the Captain had been found
dead shortly after daylight that very morning by the watchman attached
to an adjoining property.
For some reason this news did not surprise me, but I hurried out to his
place as quickly as possible, so that I could take charge of the body
and of his affairs.
I found the watchman who had discovered him, together with the local
police chief and several townspeople, assembled in his little study.
The watchman related the few details connected with the finding of the
body, which he said had been still warm when he came upon it. It lay,
he said, stretched full length in the snow with the arms outstretched
above the head toward the edge of the bluff, and when he showed me the
spot it flashed upon me that it was the identical one where I had seen
him on those other nights, with his arms raised in supplication to the
There were no marks of violence on the body, and with the aid of a
local physician the coroner's jury quickly reached a decision of death
from heart failure. Left alone in the study, I opened the safe and
withdrew the contents of the drawer in which he had told me I would
find my instructions. They were in part peculiar indeed, but I have
followed them to each last detail as faithfully as I was able.
He directed that I remove his body to Virginia without embalming, and
that he be laid in an open coffin within a tomb which he previously had
had constructed and which, as I later learned, was well ventilated.
The instructions impressed upon me that I must personally see that this
was carried out just as he directed, even in secrecy if necessary.
His property was left in such a way that I was to receive the entire
income for twenty-five years, when the principal was to become mine.
His further instructions related to this manuscript which I was to
retain sealed and unread, just as I found it, for eleven years; nor was
I to divulge its contents until twenty-one years after his death.
A strange feature about the tomb, where his body still lies, is that
the massive door is equipped with a single, huge gold-plated spring
lock which can be opened only from the inside.
Yours very sincerely,
Edgar Rice Burroughs.
On the Arizona Hills
The Escape of the Dead
My Advent on Mars
I Elude My Watch Dog
A Fight That Won Friends
Child-Raising on Mars
A Fair Captive from the Sky
I Learn the Language
Champion and Chief
With Dejah Thoris
A Prisoner with Power
Love-Making on Mars
A Duel to the Death
Sola Tells Me Her Story
We Plan Escape
A Costly Recapture
Chained in Warhoon
Battling in the Arena
In the Atmosphere Factory
An Air Scout for Zodanga
I Find Dejah
Lost in the Sky
Tars Tarkas Finds a Friend
The Looting of Zodanga
Through Carnage to Joy
From Joy to Death
At the Arizona Cave
ON THE ARIZONA HILLS
I am a very old man; how old I do not know. Possibly I am a hundred,
possibly more; but I cannot tell because I have never aged as other
men, nor do I remember any childhood. So far as I can recollect I have
always been a man, a man of about thirty. I appear today as I did
forty years and more ago, and yet I feel that I cannot go on living
forever; that some day I shall die the real death from which there is
no resurrection. I do not know why I should fear death, I who have
died twice and am still alive; but yet I have the same horror of it as
you who have never died, and it is because of this terror of death, I
believe, that I am so convinced of my mortality.
And because of this conviction I have determined to write down the
story of the interesting periods of my life and of my death. I cannot
explain the phenomena; I can only set down here in the words of an
ordinary soldier of fortune a chronicle of the strange events that
befell me during the ten years that my dead body lay undiscovered in an
I have never told this story, nor shall mortal man see this manuscript
until after I have passed over for eternity. I know that the average
human mind will not believe what it cannot grasp, and so I do not
purpose being pilloried by the public, the pulpit, and the press, and
held up as a colossal liar when I am but telling the simple truths
which some day science will substantiate. Possibly the suggestions
which I gained upon Mars, and the knowledge which I can set down in
this chronicle, will aid in an earlier understanding of the mysteries
of our sister planet; mysteries to you, but no longer mysteries to me.
My name is John Carter; I am better known as Captain Jack Carter of
Virginia. At the close of the Civil War I found myself possessed of
several hundred thousand dollars (Confederate) and a captain's
commission in the cavalry arm of an army which no longer existed; the
servant of a state which had vanished with the hopes of the South.
Masterless, penniless, and with my only means of livelihood, fighting,
gone, I determined to work my way to the southwest and attempt to
retrieve my fallen fortunes in a search for gold.
I spent nearly a year prospecting in company with another Confederate
officer, Captain James K. Powell of Richmond. We were extremely
fortunate, for late in the winter of 1865, after many hardships and
privations, we located the most remarkable gold-bearing quartz vein
that our wildest dreams had ever pictured. Powell, who was a mining
engineer by education, stated that we had uncovered over a million
dollars worth of ore in a trifle over three months.
As our equipment was crude in the extreme we decided that one of us
must return to civilization, purchase the necessary machinery and
return with a sufficient force of men properly to work the mine.
As Powell was familiar with the country, as well as with the mechanical
requirements of mining we determined that it would be best for him to
make the trip. It was agreed that I was to hold down our claim against
the remote possibility of its being jumped by some wandering prospector.
On March 3, 1866, Powell and I packed his provisions on two of our
burros, and bidding me good-bye he mounted his horse, and started down
the mountainside toward the valley, across which led the first stage of
The morning of Powell's departure was, like nearly all Arizona
mornings, clear and beautiful; I could see him and his little pack
animals picking their way down the mountainside toward the valley, and
all during the morning I would catch occasional glimpses of them as
they topped a hog back or came out upon a level plateau. My last sight
of Powell was about three in the afternoon as he entered the shadows of
the range on the opposite side of the valley.
Some half hour later I happened to glance casually across the valley
and was much surprised to note three little dots in about the same
place I had last seen my friend and his two pack animals. I am not
given to needless worrying, but the more I tried to convince myself
that all was well with Powell, and that the dots I had seen on his
trail were antelope or wild horses, the less I was able to assure
Since we had entered the territory we had not seen a hostile Indian,
and we had, therefore, become careless in the extreme, and were wont to
ridicule the stories we had heard of the great numbers of these vicious
marauders that were supposed to haunt the trails, taking their toll in
lives and torture of every white party which fell into their merciless
Powell, I knew, was well armed and, further, an experienced Indian
fighter; but I too had lived and fought for years among the Sioux in
the North, and I knew that his chances were small against a party of
cunning trailing Apaches. Finally I could endure the suspense no
longer, and, arming myself with my two Colt revolvers and a carbine, I
strapped two belts of cartridges about me and catching my saddle horse,
started down the trail taken by Powell in the morning.
As soon as I reached comparatively level ground I urged my mount into a
canter and continued this, where the going permitted, until, close upon
dusk, I discovered the point where other tracks joined those of Powell.
They were the tracks of unshod ponies, three of them, and the ponies
had been galloping.
I followed rapidly until, darkness shutting down, I was forced to await
the rising of the moon, and given an opportunity to speculate on the
question of the wisdom of my chase. Possibly I had conjured up
impossible dangers, like some nervous old housewife, and when I should
catch up with Powell would get a good laugh for my pains. However, I
am not prone to sensitiveness, and the following of a sense of duty,
wherever it may lead, has always been a kind of fetich with me
throughout my life; which may account for the honors bestowed upon me
by three republics and the decorations and friendships of an old and
powerful emperor and several lesser kings, in whose service my sword
has been red many a time.
About nine o'clock the moon was sufficiently bright for me to proceed
on my way and I had no difficulty in following the trail at a fast
walk, and in some places at a brisk trot until, about midnight, I
reached the water hole where Powell had expected to camp. I came upon
the spot unexpectedly, finding it entirely deserted, with no signs of
having been recently occupied as a camp.
I was interested to note that the tracks of the pursuing horsemen, for
such I was now convinced they must be, continued after Powell with only
a brief stop at the hole for water; and always at the same rate of
speed as his.
I was positive now that the trailers were Apaches and that they wished
to capture Powell alive for the fiendish pleasure of the torture, so I
urged my horse onward at a most dangerous pace, hoping against hope
that I would catch up with the red rascals before they attacked him.
Further speculation was suddenly cut short by the faint report of two
shots far ahead of me. I knew that Powell would need me now if ever,
and I instantly urged my horse to his topmost speed up the narrow and
difficult mountain trail.
I had forged ahead for perhaps a mile or more without hearing further
sounds, when the trail suddenly debouched onto a small, open plateau
near the summit of the pass. I had passed through a narrow,
overhanging gorge just before entering suddenly upon this table land,
and the sight which met my eyes filled me with consternation and dismay.
The little stretch of level land was white with Indian tepees, and
there were probably half a thousand red warriors clustered around some
object near the center of the camp. Their attention was so wholly
riveted to this point of interest that they did not notice me, and I
easily could have turned back into the dark recesses of the gorge and
made my escape with perfect safety. The fact, however, that this
thought did not occur to me until the following day removes any
possible right to a claim to heroism to which the narration of this
episode might possibly otherwise entitle me.
I do not believe that I am made of the stuff which constitutes heroes,
because, in all of the hundreds of instances that my voluntary acts
have placed me face to face with death, I cannot recall a single one
where any alternative step to that I took occurred to me until many
hours later. My mind is evidently so constituted that I am
subconsciously forced into the path of duty without recourse to
tiresome mental processes. However that may be, I have never regretted
that cowardice is not optional with me.
In this instance I was, of course, positive that Powell was the center
of attraction, but whether I thought or acted first I do not know, but
within an instant from the moment the scene broke upon my view I had
whipped out my revolvers and was charging down upon the entire army of
warriors, shooting rapidly, and whooping at the top of my lungs.
Singlehanded, I could not have pursued better tactics, for the red men,
convinced by sudden surprise that not less than a regiment of regulars
was upon them, turned and fled in every direction for their bows,
arrows, and rifles.
The view which their hurried routing disclosed filled me with
apprehension and with rage. Under the clear rays of the Arizona moon
lay Powell, his body fairly bristling with the hostile arrows of the
braves. That he was already dead I could not but be convinced, and yet
I would have saved his body from mutilation at the hands of the Apaches
as quickly as I would have saved the man himself from death.
Riding close to him I reached down from the saddle, and grasping his
cartridge belt drew him up across the withers of my mount. A backward
glance convinced me that to return by the way I had come would be more
hazardous than to continue across the plateau, so, putting spurs to my
poor beast, I made a dash for the opening to the pass which I could
distinguish on the far side of the table land.
The Indians had by this time discovered that I was alone and I was
pursued with imprecations, arrows, and rifle balls. The fact that it
is difficult to aim anything but imprecations accurately by moonlight,
that they were upset by the sudden and unexpected manner of my advent,
and that I was a rather rapidly moving target saved me from the various
deadly projectiles of the enemy and permitted me to reach the shadows
of the surrounding peaks before an orderly pursuit could be organized.
My horse was traveling practically unguided as I knew that I had
probably less knowledge of the exact location of the trail to the pass
than he, and thus it happened that he entered a defile which led to the
summit of the range and not to the pass which I had hoped would carry
me to the valley and to safety. It is probable, however, that to this
fact I owe my life and the remarkable experiences and adventures which
befell me during the following ten years.
My first knowledge that I was on the wrong trail came when I heard the
yells of the pursuing savages suddenly grow fainter and fainter far off
to my left.
I knew then that they had passed to the left of the jagged rock
formation at the edge of the plateau, to the right of which my horse
had borne me and the body of Powell.
I drew rein on a little level promontory overlooking the trail below
and to my left, and saw the party of pursuing savages disappearing
around the point of a neighboring peak.
I knew the Indians would soon discover that they were on the wrong
trail and that the search for me would be renewed in the right
direction as soon as they located my tracks.
I had gone but a short distance further when what seemed to be an
excellent trail opened up around the face of a high cliff. The trail
was level and quite broad and led upward and in the general direction I
wished to go. The cliff arose for several hundred feet on my right,
and on my left was an equal and nearly perpendicular drop to the bottom
of a rocky ravine.
I had followed this trail for perhaps a hundred yards when a sharp turn
to the right brought me to the mouth of a large cave. The opening was
about four feet in height and three to four feet wide, and at this
opening the trail ended.
It was now morning, and, with the customary lack of dawn which is a
startling characteristic of Arizona, it had become daylight almost
Dismounting, I laid Powell upon the ground, but the most painstaking
examination failed to reveal the faintest spark of life. I forced
water from my canteen between his dead lips, bathed his face and rubbed
his hands, working over him continuously for the better part of an hour
in the face of the fact that I knew him to be dead.
I was very fond of Powell; he was thoroughly a man in every respect; a
polished southern gentleman; a staunch and true friend; and it was with
a feeling of the deepest grief that I finally gave up my crude
endeavors at resuscitation.
Leaving Powell's body where it lay on the ledge I crept into the cave
to reconnoiter. I found a large chamber, possibly a hundred feet in
diameter and thirty or forty feet in height; a smooth and well-worn
floor, and many other evidences that the cave had, at some remote
period, been inhabited. The back of the cave was so lost in dense
shadow that I could not distinguish whether there were openings into
other apartments or not.
As I was continuing my examination I commenced to feel a pleasant
drowsiness creeping over me which I attributed to the fatigue of my
long and strenuous ride, and the reaction from the excitement of the
fight and the pursuit. I felt comparatively safe in my present
location as I knew that one man could defend the trail to the cave
against an army.
I soon became so drowsy that I could scarcely resist the strong desire
to throw myself on the floor of the cave for a few moments' rest, but I
knew that this would never do, as it would mean certain death at the
hands of my red friends, who might be upon me at any moment. With an
effort I started toward the opening of the cave only to reel drunkenly
against a side wall, and from there slip prone upon the floor.
THE ESCAPE OF THE DEAD
A sense of delicious dreaminess overcame me, my muscles relaxed, and I
was on the point of giving way to my desire to sleep when the sound of
approaching horses reached my ears. I attempted to spring to my feet
but was horrified to discover that my muscles refused to respond to my
will. I was now thoroughly awake, but as unable to move a muscle as
though turned to stone. It was then, for the first time, that I
noticed a slight vapor filling the cave. It was extremely tenuous and
only noticeable against the opening which led to daylight. There also
came to my nostrils a faintly pungent odor, and I could only assume
that I had been overcome by some poisonous gas, but why I should retain
my mental faculties and yet be unable to move I could not fathom.
I lay facing the opening of the cave and where I could see the short
stretch of trail which lay between the cave and the turn of the cliff
around which the trail led. The noise of the approaching horses had
ceased, and I judged the Indians were creeping stealthily upon me along
the little ledge which led to my living tomb. I remember that I hoped
they would make short work of me as I did not particularly relish the
thought of the innumerable things they might do to me if the spirit
I had not long to wait before a stealthy sound apprised me of their
nearness, and then a war-bonneted, paint-streaked face was thrust
cautiously around the shoulder of the cliff, and savage eyes looked
into mine. That he could see me in the dim light of the cave I was
sure for the early morning sun was falling full upon me through the
The fellow, instead of approaching, merely stood and stared; his eyes
bulging and his jaw dropped. And then another savage face appeared,
and a third and fourth and fifth, craning their necks over the
shoulders of their fellows whom they could not pass upon the narrow
ledge. Each face was the picture of awe and fear, but for what reason
I did not know, nor did I learn until ten years later. That there were
still other braves behind those who regarded me was apparent from the
fact that the leaders passed back whispered word to those behind them.
Suddenly a low but distinct moaning sound issued from the recesses of
the cave behind me, and, as it reached the ears of the Indians, they
turned and fled in terror, panic-stricken. So frantic were their
efforts to escape from the unseen thing behind me that one of the
braves was hurled headlong from the cliff to the rocks below. Their
wild cries echoed in the canyon for a short time, and then all was
still once more.
The sound which had frightened them was not repeated, but it had been
sufficient as it was to start me speculating on the possible horror
which lurked in the shadows at my back. Fear is a relative term and so
I can only measure my feelings at that time by what I had experienced
in previous positions of danger and by those that I have passed through
since; but I can say without shame that if the sensations I endured
during the next few minutes were fear, then may God help the coward,
for cowardice is of a surety its own punishment.
To be held paralyzed, with one's back toward some horrible and unknown
danger from the very sound of which the ferocious Apache warriors turn
in wild stampede, as a flock of sheep would madly flee from a pack of
wolves, seems to me the last word in fearsome predicaments for a man
who had ever been used to fighting for his life with all the energy of
a powerful physique.
Several times I thought I heard faint sounds behind me as of somebody
moving cautiously, but eventually even these ceased, and I was left to
the contemplation of my position without interruption. I could but
vaguely conjecture the cause of my paralysis, and my only hope lay in
that it might pass off as suddenly as it had fallen upon me.
Late in the afternoon my horse, which had been standing with dragging
rein before the cave, started slowly down the trail, evidently in
search of food and water, and I was left alone with my mysterious
unknown companion and the dead body of my friend, which lay just within
my range of vision upon the ledge where I had placed it in the early
From then until possibly midnight all was silence, the silence of the
dead; then, suddenly, the awful moan of the morning broke upon my
startled ears, and there came again from the black shadows the sound of
a moving thing, and a faint rustling as of dead leaves. The shock to
my already overstrained nervous system was terrible in the extreme, and
with a superhuman effort I strove to break my awful bonds. It was an
effort of the mind, of the will, of the nerves; not muscular, for I
could not move even so much as my little finger, but none the less
mighty for all that. And then something gave, there was a momentary
feeling of nausea, a sharp click as of the snapping of a steel wire,
and I stood with my back against the wall of the cave facing my unknown
And then the moonlight flooded the cave, and there before me lay my own
body as it had been lying all these hours, with the eyes staring toward
the open ledge and the hands resting limply upon the ground. I looked
first at my lifeless clay there upon the floor of the cave and then
down at myself in utter bewilderment; for there I lay clothed, and yet
here I stood but naked as at the minute of my birth.
The transition had been so sudden and so unexpected that it left me for
a moment forgetful of aught else than my strange metamorphosis. My
first thought was, is this then death! Have I indeed passed over
forever into that other life! But I could not well believe this, as I
could feel my heart pounding against my ribs from the exertion of my
efforts to release myself from the anaesthesis which had held me. My
breath was coming in quick, short gasps, cold sweat stood out from
every pore of my body, and the ancient experiment of pinching revealed
the fact that I was anything other than a wraith.
Again was I suddenly recalled to my immediate surroundings by a
repetition of the weird moan from the depths of the cave. Naked and
unarmed as I was, I had no desire to face the unseen thing which
My revolvers were strapped to my lifeless body which, for some
unfathomable reason, I could not bring myself to touch. My carbine was
in its boot, strapped to my saddle, and as my horse had wandered off I
was left without means of defense. My only alternative seemed to lie
in flight and my decision was crystallized by a recurrence of the
rustling sound from the thing which now seemed, in the darkness of the
cave and to my distorted imagination, to be creeping stealthily upon me.
Unable longer to resist the temptation to escape this horrible place I
leaped quickly through the opening into the starlight of a clear
Arizona night. The crisp, fresh mountain air outside the cave acted as
an immediate tonic and I felt new life and new courage coursing through
me. Pausing upon the brink of the ledge I upbraided myself for what
now seemed to me wholly unwarranted apprehension. I reasoned with
myself that I had lain helpless for many hours within the cave, yet
nothing had molested me, and my better judgment, when permitted the
direction of clear and logical reasoning, convinced me that the noises
I had heard must have resulted from purely natural and harmless causes;
probably the conformation of the cave was such that a slight breeze had
caused the sounds I heard.
I decided to investigate, but first I lifted my head to fill my lungs
with the pure, invigorating night air of the mountains. As I did so I
saw stretching far below me the beautiful vista of rocky gorge, and
level, cacti-studded flat, wrought by the moonlight into a miracle of
soft splendor and wondrous enchantment.
Few western wonders are more inspiring than the beauties of an Arizona
moonlit landscape; the silvered mountains in the distance, the strange
lights and shadows upon hog back and arroyo, and the grotesque details
of the stiff, yet beautiful cacti form a picture at once enchanting and
inspiring; as though one were catching for the first time a glimpse of
some dead and forgotten world, so different is it from the aspect of
any other spot upon our earth.
As I stood thus meditating, I turned my gaze from the landscape to the
heavens where the myriad stars formed a gorgeous and fitting canopy for
the wonders of the earthly scene. My attention was quickly riveted by
a large red star close to the distant horizon. As I gazed upon it I
felt a spell of overpowering fascination—it was Mars, the god of war,
and for me, the fighting man, it had always held the power of
irresistible enchantment. As I gazed at it on that far-gone night it
seemed to call across the unthinkable void, to lure me to it, to draw
me as the lodestone attracts a particle of iron.
My longing was beyond the power of opposition; I closed my eyes,
stretched out my arms toward the god of my vocation and felt myself
drawn with the suddenness of thought through the trackless immensity of
space. There was an instant of extreme cold and utter darkness.
MY ADVENT ON MARS
I opened my eyes upon a strange and weird landscape. I knew that I was
on Mars; not once did I question either my sanity or my wakefulness. I
was not asleep, no need for pinching here; my inner consciousness told
me as plainly that I was upon Mars as your conscious mind tells you
that you are upon Earth. You do not question the fact; neither did I.
I found myself lying prone upon a bed of yellowish, mosslike vegetation
which stretched around me in all directions for interminable miles. I
seemed to be lying in a deep, circular basin, along the outer verge of
which I could distinguish the irregularities of low hills.
It was midday, the sun was shining full upon me and the heat of it was
rather intense upon my naked body, yet no greater than would have been
true under similar conditions on an Arizona desert. Here and there
were slight outcroppings of quartz-bearing rock which glistened in the
sunlight; and a little to my left, perhaps a hundred yards, appeared a
low, walled enclosure about four feet in height. No water, and no
other vegetation than the moss was in evidence, and as I was somewhat
thirsty I determined to do a little exploring.
Springing to my feet I received my first Martian surprise, for the
effort, which on Earth would have brought me standing upright, carried
me into the Martian air to the height of about three yards. I alighted
softly upon the ground, however, without appreciable shock or jar. Now
commenced a series of evolutions which even then seemed ludicrous in
the extreme. I found that I must learn to walk all over again, as the
muscular exertion which carried me easily and safely upon Earth played
strange antics with me upon Mars.
Instead of progressing in a sane and dignified manner, my attempts to
walk resulted in a variety of hops which took me clear of the ground a
couple of feet at each step and landed me sprawling upon my face or
back at the end of each second or third hop. My muscles, perfectly
attuned and accustomed to the force of gravity on Earth, played the
mischief with me in attempting for the first time to cope with the
lesser gravitation and lower air pressure on Mars.
I was determined, however, to explore the low structure which was the
only evidence of habitation in sight, and so I hit upon the unique plan
of reverting to first principles in locomotion, creeping. I did fairly
well at this and in a few moments had reached the low, encircling wall
of the enclosure.
There appeared to be no doors or windows upon the side nearest me, but
as the wall was but about four feet high I cautiously gained my feet
and peered over the top upon the strangest sight it had ever been given
me to see.
The roof of the enclosure was of solid glass about four or five inches
in thickness, and beneath this were several hundred large eggs,
perfectly round and snowy white. The eggs were nearly uniform in size
being about two and one-half feet in diameter.
Five or six had already hatched and the grotesque caricatures which sat
blinking in the sunlight were enough to cause me to doubt my sanity.
They seemed mostly head, with little scrawny bodies, long necks and six
legs, or, as I afterward learned, two legs and two arms, with an
intermediary pair of limbs which could be used at will either as arms
or legs. Their eyes were set at the extreme sides of their heads a
trifle above the center and protruded in such a manner that they could
be directed either forward or back and also independently of each
other, thus permitting this queer animal to look in any direction, or
in two directions at once, without the necessity of turning the head.
The ears, which were slightly above the eyes and closer together, were
small, cup-shaped antennae, protruding not more than an inch on these
young specimens. Their noses were but longitudinal slits in the center
of their faces, midway between their mouths and ears.
There was no hair on their bodies, which were of a very light
yellowish-green color. In the adults, as I was to learn quite soon,
this color deepens to an olive green and is darker in the male than in
the female. Further, the heads of the adults are not so out of
proportion to their bodies as in the case of the young.
The iris of the eyes is blood red, as in Albinos, while the pupil is
dark. The eyeball itself is very white, as are the teeth. These
latter add a most ferocious appearance to an otherwise fearsome and
terrible countenance, as the lower tusks curve upward to sharp points
which end about where the eyes of earthly human beings are located.
The whiteness of the teeth is not that of ivory, but of the snowiest
and most gleaming of china. Against the dark background of their olive
skins their tusks stand out in a most striking manner, making these
weapons present a singularly formidable appearance.
Most of these details I noted later, for I was given but little time to
speculate on the wonders of my new discovery. I had seen that the eggs
were in the process of hatching, and as I stood watching the hideous
little monsters break from their shells I failed to note the approach
of a score of full-grown Martians from behind me.
Coming, as they did, over the soft and soundless moss, which covers
practically the entire surface of Mars with the exception of the frozen
areas at the poles and the scattered cultivated districts, they might
have captured me easily, but their intentions were far more sinister.
It was the rattling of the accouterments of the foremost warrior which
On such a little thing my life hung that I often marvel that I escaped
so easily. Had not the rifle of the leader of the party swung from its
fastenings beside his saddle in such a way as to strike against the
butt of his great metal-shod spear I should have snuffed out without
ever knowing that death was near me. But the little sound caused me to
turn, and there upon me, not ten feet from my breast, was the point of
that huge spear, a spear forty feet long, tipped with gleaming metal,
and held low at the side of a mounted replica of the little devils I
had been watching.
But how puny and harmless they now looked beside this huge and terrific
incarnation of hate, of vengeance and of death. The man himself, for
such I may call him, was fully fifteen feet in height and, on Earth,
would have weighed some four hundred pounds. He sat his mount as we
sit a horse, grasping the animal's barrel with his lower limbs, while
the hands of his two right arms held his immense spear low at the side
of his mount; his two left arms were outstretched laterally to help
preserve his balance, the thing he rode having neither bridle or reins
of any description for guidance.
And his mount! How can earthly words describe it! It towered ten feet
at the shoulder; had four legs on either side; a broad flat tail,
larger at the tip than at the root, and which it held straight out
behind while running; a gaping mouth which split its head from its
snout to its long, massive neck.
Like its master, it was entirely devoid of hair, but was of a dark
slate color and exceeding smooth and glossy. Its belly was white, and
its legs shaded from the slate of its shoulders and hips to a vivid
yellow at the feet. The feet themselves were heavily padded and
nailless, which fact had also contributed to the noiselessness of their
approach, and, in common with a multiplicity of legs, is a
characteristic feature of the fauna of Mars. The highest type of man
and one other animal, the only mammal existing on Mars, alone have
well-formed nails, and there are absolutely no hoofed animals in
Behind this first charging demon trailed nineteen others, similar in
all respects, but, as I learned later, bearing individual
characteristics peculiar to themselves; precisely as no two of us are
identical although we are all cast in a similar mold. This picture, or
rather materialized nightmare, which I have described at length, made
but one terrible and swift impression on me as I turned to meet it.
Unarmed and naked as I was, the first law of nature manifested itself
in the only possible solution of my immediate problem, and that was to
get out of the vicinity of the point of the charging spear.
Consequently I gave a very earthly and at the same time superhuman leap
to reach the top of the Martian incubator, for such I had determined it
My effort was crowned with a success which appalled me no less than it
seemed to surprise the Martian warriors, for it carried me fully thirty
feet into the air and landed me a hundred feet from my pursuers and on
the opposite side of the enclosure.
I alighted upon the soft moss easily and without mishap, and turning
saw my enemies lined up along the further wall. Some were surveying me
with expressions which I afterward discovered marked extreme
astonishment, and the others were evidently satisfying themselves that
I had not molested their young.
They were conversing together in low tones, and gesticulating and
pointing toward me. Their discovery that I had not harmed the little
Martians, and that I was unarmed, must have caused them to look upon me
with less ferocity; but, as I was to learn later, the thing which
weighed most in my favor was my exhibition of hurdling.
While the Martians are immense, their bones are very large and they are
muscled only in proportion to the gravitation which they must overcome.
The result is that they are infinitely less agile and less powerful, in
proportion to their weight, than an Earth man, and I doubt that were
one of them suddenly to be transported to Earth he could lift his own
weight from the ground; in fact, I am convinced that he could not do so.
My feat then was as marvelous upon Mars as it would have been upon
Earth, and from desiring to annihilate me they suddenly looked upon me
as a wonderful discovery to be captured and exhibited among their
The respite my unexpected agility had given me permitted me to
formulate plans for the immediate future and to note more closely the
appearance of the warriors, for I could not disassociate these people
in my mind from those other warriors who, only the day before, had been
I noted that each was armed with several other weapons in addition to
the huge spear which I have described. The weapon which caused me to
decide against an attempt at escape by flight was what was evidently a
rifle of some description, and which I felt, for some reason, they were
peculiarly efficient in handling.
These rifles were of a white metal stocked with wood, which I learned
later was a very light and intensely hard growth much prized on Mars,
and entirely unknown to us denizens of Earth. The metal of the barrel
is an alloy composed principally of aluminum and steel which they have
learned to temper to a hardness far exceeding that of the steel with
which we are familiar. The weight of these rifles is comparatively
little, and with the small caliber, explosive, radium projectiles which
they use, and the great length of the barrel, they are deadly in the
extreme and at ranges which would be unthinkable on Earth. The
theoretic effective radius of this rifle is three hundred miles, but
the best they can do in actual service when equipped with their
wireless finders and sighters is but a trifle over two hundred miles.
This is quite far enough to imbue me with great respect for the Martian
firearm, and some telepathic force must have warned me against an
attempt to escape in broad daylight from under the muzzles of twenty of
these death-dealing machines.
The Martians, after conversing for a short time, turned and rode away
in the direction from which they had come, leaving one of their number
alone by the enclosure. When they had covered perhaps two hundred
yards they halted, and turning their mounts toward us sat watching the
warrior by the enclosure.
He was the one whose spear had so nearly transfixed me, and was
evidently the leader of the band, as I had noted that they seemed to
have moved to their present position at his direction. When his force
had come to a halt he dismounted, threw down his spear and small arms,
and came around the end of the incubator toward me, entirely unarmed
and as naked as I, except for the ornaments strapped upon his head,
limbs, and breast.
When he was within about fifty feet of me he unclasped an enormous
metal armlet, and holding it toward me in the open palm of his hand,
addressed me in a clear, resonant voice, but in a language, it is
needless to say, I could not understand. He then stopped as though
waiting for my reply, pricking up his antennae-like ears and cocking
his strange-looking eyes still further toward me.
As the silence became painful I concluded to hazard a little
conversation on my own part, as I had guessed that he was making
overtures of peace. The throwing down of his weapons and the
withdrawing of his troop before his advance toward me would have
signified a peaceful mission anywhere on Earth, so why not, then, on
Placing my hand over my heart I bowed low to the Martian and explained
to him that while I did not understand his language, his actions spoke
for the peace and friendship that at the present moment were most dear
to my heart. Of course I might have been a babbling brook for all the
intelligence my speech carried to him, but he understood the action
with which I immediately followed my words.
Stretching my hand toward him, I advanced and took the armlet from his
open palm, clasping it about my arm above the elbow; smiled at him and
stood waiting. His wide mouth spread into an answering smile, and
locking one of his intermediary arms in mine we turned and walked back
toward his mount. At the same time he motioned his followers to
advance. They started toward us on a wild run, but were checked by a
signal from him. Evidently he feared that were I to be really
frightened again I might jump entirely out of the landscape.
He exchanged a few words with his men, motioned to me that I would ride
behind one of them, and then mounted his own animal. The fellow
designated reached down two or three hands and lifted me up behind him
on the glossy back of his mount, where I hung on as best I could by the
belts and straps which held the Martian's weapons and ornaments.
The entire cavalcade then turned and galloped away toward the range of
hills in the distance.
We had gone perhaps ten miles when the ground began to rise very
rapidly. We were, as I was later to learn, nearing the edge of one of
Mars' long-dead seas, in the bottom of which my encounter with the
Martians had taken place.
In a short time we gained the foot of the mountains, and after
traversing a narrow gorge came to an open valley, at the far extremity
of which was a low table land upon which I beheld an enormous city.
Toward this we galloped, entering it by what appeared to be a ruined
roadway leading out from the city, but only to the edge of the table
land, where it ended abruptly in a flight of broad steps.
Upon closer observation I saw as we passed them that the buildings were
deserted, and while not greatly decayed had the appearance of not
having been tenanted for years, possibly for ages. Toward the center
of the city was a large plaza, and upon this and in the buildings
immediately surrounding it were camped some nine or ten hundred
creatures of the same breed as my captors, for such I now considered
them despite the suave manner in which I had been trapped.
With the exception of their ornaments all were naked. The women varied
in appearance but little from the men, except that their tusks were
much larger in proportion to their height, in some instances curving
nearly to their high-set ears. Their bodies were smaller and lighter
in color, and their fingers and toes bore the rudiments of nails, which
were entirely lacking among the males. The adult females ranged in
height from ten to twelve feet.
The children were light in color, even lighter than the women, and all
looked precisely alike to me, except that some were taller than others;
older, I presumed.
I saw no signs of extreme age among them, nor is there any appreciable
difference in their appearance from the age of maturity, about forty,
until, at about the age of one thousand years, they go voluntarily upon
their last strange pilgrimage down the river Iss, which leads no living
Martian knows whither and from whose bosom no Martian has ever
returned, or would be allowed to live did he return after once
embarking upon its cold, dark waters.
Only about one Martian in a thousand dies of sickness or disease, and
possibly about twenty take the voluntary pilgrimage. The other nine
hundred and seventy-nine die violent deaths in duels, in hunting, in
aviation and in war; but perhaps by far the greatest death loss comes
during the age of childhood, when vast numbers of the little Martians
fall victims to the great white apes of Mars.
The average life expectancy of a Martian after the age of maturity is
about three hundred years, but would be nearer the one-thousand mark
were it not for the various means leading to violent death. Owing to
the waning resources of the planet it evidently became necessary to
counteract the increasing longevity which their remarkable skill in
therapeutics and surgery produced, and so human life has come to be
considered but lightly on Mars, as is evidenced by their dangerous
sports and the almost continual warfare between the various communities.
There are other and natural causes tending toward a diminution of
population, but nothing contributes so greatly to this end as the fact
that no male or female Martian is ever voluntarily without a weapon of
As we neared the plaza and my presence was discovered we were
immediately surrounded by hundreds of the creatures who seemed anxious
to pluck me from my seat behind my guard. A word from the leader of
the party stilled their clamor, and we proceeded at a trot across the
plaza to the entrance of as magnificent an edifice as mortal eye has
The building was low, but covered an enormous area. It was constructed
of gleaming white marble inlaid with gold and brilliant stones which
sparkled and scintillated in the sunlight. The main entrance was some
hundred feet in width and projected from the building proper to form a
huge canopy above the entrance hall. There was no stairway, but a
gentle incline to the first floor of the building opened into an
enormous chamber encircled by galleries.
On the floor of this chamber, which was dotted with highly carved
wooden desks and chairs, were assembled about forty or fifty male
Martians around the steps of a rostrum. On the platform proper
squatted an enormous warrior heavily loaded with metal ornaments,
gay-colored feathers and beautifully wrought leather trappings
ingeniously set with precious stones. From his shoulders depended a
short cape of white fur lined with brilliant scarlet silk.
What struck me as most remarkable about this assemblage and the hall in
which they were congregated was the fact that the creatures were
entirely out of proportion to the desks, chairs, and other furnishings;
these being of a size adapted to human beings such as I, whereas the
great bulks of the Martians could scarcely have squeezed into the
chairs, nor was there room beneath the desks for their long legs.
Evidently, then, there were other denizens on Mars than the wild and
grotesque creatures into whose hands I had fallen, but the evidences of
extreme antiquity which showed all around me indicated that these
buildings might have belonged to some long-extinct and forgotten race
in the dim antiquity of Mars.
Our party had halted at the entrance to the building, and at a sign
from the leader I had been lowered to the ground. Again locking his
arm in mine, we had proceeded into the audience chamber. There were
few formalities observed in approaching the Martian chieftain. My
captor merely strode up to the rostrum, the others making way for him
as he advanced. The chieftain rose to his feet and uttered the name of
my escort who, in turn, halted and repeated the name of the ruler
followed by his title.
At the time, this ceremony and the words they uttered meant nothing to
me, but later I came to know that this was the customary greeting
between green Martians. Had the men been strangers, and therefore
unable to exchange names, they would have silently exchanged ornaments,
had their missions been peaceful—otherwise they would have exchanged
shots, or have fought out their introduction with some other of their
My captor, whose name was Tars Tarkas, was virtually the vice-chieftain
of the community, and a man of great ability as a statesman and
warrior. He evidently explained briefly the incidents connected with
his expedition, including my capture, and when he had concluded the
chieftain addressed me at some length.
I replied in our good old English tongue merely to convince him that
neither of us could understand the other; but I noticed that when I
smiled slightly on concluding, he did likewise. This fact, and the
similar occurrence during my first talk with Tars Tarkas, convinced me
that we had at least something in common; the ability to smile,
therefore to laugh; denoting a sense of humor. But I was to learn that
the Martian smile is merely perfunctory, and that the Martian laugh is
a thing to cause strong men to blanch in horror.
The ideas of humor among the green men of Mars are widely at variance
with our conceptions of incitants to merriment. The death agonies of a
fellow being are, to these strange creatures, provocative of the wildest
hilarity, while their chief form of commonest amusement is to inflict
death on their prisoners of war in various ingenious and horrible ways.
The assembled warriors and chieftains examined me closely, feeling my
muscles and the texture of my skin. The principal chieftain then
evidently signified a desire to see me perform, and, motioning me to
follow, he started with Tars Tarkas for the open plaza.
Now, I had made no attempt to walk, since my first signal failure,
except while tightly grasping Tars Tarkas' arm, and so now I went
skipping and flitting about among the desks and chairs like some
monstrous grasshopper. After bruising myself severely, much to the
amusement of the Martians, I again had recourse to creeping, but this
did not suit them and I was roughly jerked to my feet by a towering
fellow who had laughed most heartily at my misfortunes.
As he banged me down upon my feet his face was bent close to mine and I
did the only thing a gentleman might do under the circumstances of
brutality, boorishness, and lack of consideration for a stranger's
rights; I swung my fist squarely to his jaw and he went down like a
felled ox. As he sunk to the floor I wheeled around with my back
toward the nearest desk, expecting to be overwhelmed by the vengeance
of his fellows, but determined to give them as good a battle as the
unequal odds would permit before I gave up my life.
My fears were groundless, however, as the other Martians, at first
struck dumb with wonderment, finally broke into wild peals of laughter
and applause. I did not recognize the applause as such, but later,
when I had become acquainted with their customs, I learned that I had
won what they seldom accord, a manifestation of approbation.
The fellow whom I had struck lay where he had fallen, nor did any of
his mates approach him. Tars Tarkas advanced toward me, holding out
one of his arms, and we thus proceeded to the plaza without further
mishap. I did not, of course, know the reason for which we had come to
the open, but I was not long in being enlightened. They first repeated
the word "sak" a number of times, and then Tars Tarkas made several
jumps, repeating the same word before each leap; then, turning to me,
he said, "sak!" I saw what they were after, and gathering myself
together I "sakked" with such marvelous success that I cleared a good
hundred and fifty feet; nor did I, this time, lose my equilibrium, but
landed squarely upon my feet without falling. I then returned by easy
jumps of twenty-five or thirty feet to the little group of warriors.
My exhibition had been witnessed by several hundred lesser Martians,
and they immediately broke into demands for a repetition, which the
chieftain then ordered me to make; but I was both hungry and thirsty,
and determined on the spot that my only method of salvation was to
demand the consideration from these creatures which they evidently
would not voluntarily accord. I therefore ignored the repeated
commands to "sak," and each time they were made I motioned to my mouth
and rubbed my stomach.
Tars Tarkas and the chief exchanged a few words, and the former,
calling to a young female among the throng, gave her some instructions
and motioned me to accompany her. I grasped her proffered arm and
together we crossed the plaza toward a large building on the far side.
My fair companion was about eight feet tall, having just arrived at
maturity, but not yet to her full height. She was of a light
olive-green color, with a smooth, glossy hide. Her name, as I
afterward learned, was Sola, and she belonged to the retinue of Tars
Tarkas. She conducted me to a spacious chamber in one of the buildings
fronting on the plaza, and which, from the litter of silks and furs
upon the floor, I took to be the sleeping quarters of several of the
The room was well lighted by a number of large windows and was
beautifully decorated with mural paintings and mosaics, but upon all
there seemed to rest that indefinable touch of the finger of antiquity
which convinced me that the architects and builders of these wondrous
creations had nothing in common with the crude half-brutes which now
Sola motioned me to be seated upon a pile of silks near the center of
the room, and, turning, made a peculiar hissing sound, as though
signaling to someone in an adjoining room. In response to her call I
obtained my first sight of a new Martian wonder. It waddled in on its
ten short legs, and squatted down before the girl like an obedient
puppy. The thing was about the size of a Shetland pony, but its head
bore a slight resemblance to that of a frog, except that the jaws were
equipped with three rows of long, sharp tusks.
I ELUDE MY WATCH DOG
Sola stared into the brute's wicked-looking eyes, muttered a word or
two of command, pointed to me, and left the chamber. I could not but
wonder what this ferocious-looking monstrosity might do when left alone
in such close proximity to such a relatively tender morsel of meat; but
my fears were groundless, as the beast, after surveying me intently for
a moment, crossed the room to the only exit which led to the street,
and lay down full length across the threshold.
This was my first experience with a Martian watch dog, but it was
destined not to be my last, for this fellow guarded me carefully during
the time I remained a captive among these green men; twice saving my
life, and never voluntarily being away from me a moment.
While Sola was away I took occasion to examine more minutely the room
in which I found myself captive. The mural painting depicted scenes of
rare and wonderful beauty; mountains, rivers, lake, ocean, meadow,
trees and flowers, winding roadways, sun-kissed gardens—scenes which
might have portrayed earthly views but for the different colorings of
the vegetation. The work had evidently been wrought by a master hand,
so subtle the atmosphere, so perfect the technique; yet nowhere was
there a representation of a living animal, either human or brute, by
which I could guess at the likeness of these other and perhaps extinct
denizens of Mars.
While I was allowing my fancy to run riot in wild conjecture on the
possible explanation of the strange anomalies which I had so far met
with on Mars, Sola returned bearing both food and drink. These she
placed on the floor beside me, and seating herself a short ways off
regarded me intently. The food consisted of about a pound of some
solid substance of the consistency of cheese and almost tasteless,
while the liquid was apparently milk from some animal. It was not
unpleasant to the taste, though slightly acid, and I learned in a short
time to prize it very highly. It came, as I later discovered, not from
an animal, as there is only one mammal on Mars and that one very rare
indeed, but from a large plant which grows practically without water,
but seems to distill its plentiful supply of milk from the products of
the soil, the moisture of the air, and the rays of the sun. A single
plant of this species will give eight or ten quarts of milk per day.
After I had eaten I was greatly invigorated, but feeling the need of
rest I stretched out upon the silks and was soon asleep. I must have
slept several hours, as it was dark when I awoke, and I was very cold.
I noticed that someone had thrown a fur over me, but it had become
partially dislodged and in the darkness I could not see to replace it.
Suddenly a hand reached out and pulled the fur over me, shortly
afterwards adding another to my covering.
I presumed that my watchful guardian was Sola, nor was I wrong. This
girl alone, among all the green Martians with whom I came in contact,
disclosed characteristics of sympathy, kindliness, and affection; her
ministrations to my bodily wants were unfailing, and her solicitous
care saved me from much suffering and many hardships.
As I was to learn, the Martian nights are extremely cold, and as there
is practically no twilight or dawn, the changes in temperature are
sudden and most uncomfortable, as are the transitions from brilliant
daylight to darkness. The nights are either brilliantly illumined or
very dark, for if neither of the two moons of Mars happen to be in the
sky almost total darkness results, since the lack of atmosphere, or,
rather, the very thin atmosphere, fails to diffuse the starlight to any
great extent; on the other hand, if both of the moons are in the
heavens at night the surface of the ground is brightly illuminated.
Both of Mars' moons are vastly nearer her than is our moon to Earth;
the nearer moon being but about five thousand miles distant, while the
further is but little more than fourteen thousand miles away, against
the nearly one-quarter million miles which separate us from our moon.
The nearer moon of Mars makes a complete revolution around the planet
in a little over seven and one-half hours, so that she may be seen
hurtling through the sky like some huge meteor two or three times each
night, revealing all her phases during each transit of the heavens.
The further moon revolves about Mars in something over thirty and
one-quarter hours, and with her sister satellite makes a nocturnal
Martian scene one of splendid and weird grandeur. And it is well that
nature has so graciously and abundantly lighted the Martian night, for
the green men of Mars, being a nomadic race without high intellectual
development, have but crude means for artificial lighting; depending
principally upon torches, a kind of candle, and a peculiar oil lamp
which generates a gas and burns without a wick.
This last device produces an intensely brilliant far-reaching white
light, but as the natural oil which it requires can only be obtained by
mining in one of several widely separated and remote localities it is
seldom used by these creatures whose only thought is for today, and
whose hatred for manual labor has kept them in a semi-barbaric state
for countless ages.
After Sola had replenished my coverings I again slept, nor did I awaken
until daylight. The other occupants of the room, five in number, were
all females, and they were still sleeping, piled high with a motley
array of silks and furs. Across the threshold lay stretched the
sleepless guardian brute, just as I had last seen him on the preceding
day; apparently he had not moved a muscle; his eyes were fairly glued
upon me, and I fell to wondering just what might befall me should I
endeavor to escape.
I have ever been prone to seek adventure and to investigate and
experiment where wiser men would have left well enough alone. It
therefore now occurred to me that the surest way of learning the exact
attitude of this beast toward me would be to attempt to leave the room.
I felt fairly secure in my belief that I could escape him should he
pursue me once I was outside the building, for I had begun to take
great pride in my ability as a jumper. Furthermore, I could see from
the shortness of his legs that the brute himself was no jumper and
probably no runner.
Slowly and carefully, therefore, I gained my feet, only to see that my
watcher did the same; cautiously I advanced toward him, finding that by
moving with a shuffling gait I could retain my balance as well as make
reasonably rapid progress. As I neared the brute he backed cautiously
away from me, and when I had reached the open he moved to one side to
let me pass. He then fell in behind me and followed about ten paces in
my rear as I made my way along the deserted street.
Evidently his mission was to protect me only, I thought, but when we
reached the edge of the city he suddenly sprang before me, uttering
strange sounds and baring his ugly and ferocious tusks. Thinking to
have some amusement at his expense, I rushed toward him, and when
almost upon him sprang into the air, alighting far beyond him and away
from the city. He wheeled instantly and charged me with the most
appalling speed I had ever beheld. I had thought his short legs a bar
to swiftness, but had he been coursing with greyhounds the latter would
have appeared as though asleep on a door mat. As I was to learn, this
is the fleetest animal on Mars, and owing to its intelligence, loyalty,
and ferocity is used in hunting, in war, and as the protector of the
I quickly saw that I would have difficulty in escaping the fangs of the
beast on a straightaway course, and so I met his charge by doubling in
my tracks and leaping over him as he was almost upon me. This maneuver
gave me a considerable advantage, and I was able to reach the city
quite a bit ahead of him, and as he came tearing after me I jumped for
a window about thirty feet from the ground in the face of one of the
buildings overlooking the valley.
Grasping the sill I pulled myself up to a sitting posture without
looking into the building, and gazed down at the baffled animal beneath
me. My exultation was short-lived, however, for scarcely had I gained
a secure seat upon the sill than a huge hand grasped me by the neck
from behind and dragged me violently into the room. Here I was thrown
upon my back, and beheld standing over me a colossal ape-like creature,
white and hairless except for an enormous shock of bristly hair upon
A FIGHT THAT WON FRIENDS
The thing, which more nearly resembled our earthly men than it did the
Martians I had seen, held me pinioned to the ground with one huge foot,
while it jabbered and gesticulated at some answering creature behind
me. This other, which was evidently its mate, soon came toward us,
bearing a mighty stone cudgel with which it evidently intended to brain
The creatures were about ten or fifteen feet tall, standing erect, and
had, like the green Martians, an intermediary set of arms or legs,
midway between their upper and lower limbs. Their eyes were close
together and non-protruding; their ears were high set, but more
laterally located than those of the Martians, while their snouts and
teeth were strikingly like those of our African gorilla. Altogether
they were not unlovely when viewed in comparison with the green
The cudgel was swinging in the arc which ended upon my upturned face
when a bolt of myriad-legged horror hurled itself through the doorway
full upon the breast of my executioner. With a shriek of fear the ape
which held me leaped through the open window, but its mate closed in a
terrific death struggle with my preserver, which was nothing less than
my faithful watch-thing; I cannot bring myself to call so hideous a
creature a dog.
As quickly as possible I gained my feet and backing against the wall I
witnessed such a battle as it is vouchsafed few beings to see. The
strength, agility, and blind ferocity of these two creatures is
approached by nothing known to earthly man. My beast had an advantage
in his first hold, having sunk his mighty fangs far into the breast of
his adversary; but the great arms and paws of the ape, backed by
muscles far transcending those of the Martian men I had seen, had
locked the throat of my guardian and slowly were choking out his life,
and bending back his head and neck upon his body, where I momentarily
expected the former to fall limp at the end of a broken neck.
In accomplishing this the ape was tearing away the entire front of its
breast, which was held in the vise-like grip of the powerful jaws.
Back and forth upon the floor they rolled, neither one emitting a sound
of fear or pain. Presently I saw the great eyes of my beast bulging
completely from their sockets and blood flowing from its nostrils.
That he was weakening perceptibly was evident, but so also was the ape,
whose struggles were growing momentarily less.
Suddenly I came to myself and, with that strange instinct which seems
ever to prompt me to my duty, I seized the cudgel, which had fallen to
the floor at the commencement of the battle, and swinging it with all
the power of my earthly arms I crashed it full upon the head of the
ape, crushing his skull as though it had been an eggshell.
Scarcely had the blow descended when I was confronted with a new
danger. The ape's mate, recovered from its first shock of terror, had
returned to the scene of the encounter by way of the interior of the
building. I glimpsed him just before he reached the doorway and the
sight of him, now roaring as he perceived his lifeless fellow stretched
upon the floor, and frothing at the mouth, in the extremity of his
rage, filled me, I must confess, with dire forebodings.
I am ever willing to stand and fight when the odds are not too
overwhelmingly against me, but in this instance I perceived neither
glory nor profit in pitting my relatively puny strength against the
iron muscles and brutal ferocity of this enraged denizen of an unknown
world; in fact, the only outcome of such an encounter, so far as I
might be concerned, seemed sudden death.
I was standing near the window and I knew that once in the street I
might gain the plaza and safety before the creature could overtake me;
at least there was a chance for safety in flight, against almost
certain death should I remain and fight however desperately.
It is true I held the cudgel, but what could I do with it against his
four great arms? Even should I break one of them with my first blow,
for I figured that he would attempt to ward off the cudgel, he could
reach out and annihilate me with the others before I could recover for
a second attack.
In the instant that these thoughts passed through my mind I had turned
to make for the window, but my eyes alighting on the form of my
erstwhile guardian threw all thoughts of flight to the four winds. He
lay gasping upon the floor of the chamber, his great eyes fastened upon
me in what seemed a pitiful appeal for protection. I could not
withstand that look, nor could I, on second thought, have deserted my
rescuer without giving as good an account of myself in his behalf as he
had in mine.
Without more ado, therefore, I turned to meet the charge of the
infuriated bull ape. He was now too close upon me for the cudgel to
prove of any effective assistance, so I merely threw it as heavily as I
could at his advancing bulk. It struck him just below the knees,
eliciting a howl of pain and rage, and so throwing him off his balance
that he lunged full upon me with arms wide stretched to ease his fall.
Again, as on the preceding day, I had recourse to earthly tactics, and
swinging my right fist full upon the point of his chin I followed it
with a smashing left to the pit of his stomach. The effect was
marvelous, for, as I lightly sidestepped, after delivering the second
blow, he reeled and fell upon the floor doubled up with pain and
gasping for wind. Leaping over his prostrate body, I seized the cudgel
and finished the monster before he could regain his feet.
As I delivered the blow a low laugh rang out behind me, and, turning, I
beheld Tars Tarkas, Sola, and three or four warriors standing in the
doorway of the chamber. As my eyes met theirs I was, for the second
time, the recipient of their zealously guarded applause.
My absence had been noted by Sola on her awakening, and she had quickly
informed Tars Tarkas, who had set out immediately with a handful of
warriors to search for me. As they had approached the limits of the
city they had witnessed the actions of the bull ape as he bolted into
the building, frothing with rage.
They had followed immediately behind him, thinking it barely possible
that his actions might prove a clew to my whereabouts and had witnessed
my short but decisive battle with him. This encounter, together with
my set-to with the Martian warrior on the previous day and my feats of
jumping placed me upon a high pinnacle in their regard. Evidently
devoid of all the finer sentiments of friendship, love, or affection,
these people fairly worship physical prowess and bravery, and nothing
is too good for the object of their adoration as long as he maintains
his position by repeated examples of his skill, strength, and courage.
Sola, who had accompanied the searching party of her own volition, was
the only one of the Martians whose face had not been twisted in
laughter as I battled for my life. She, on the contrary, was sober
with apparent solicitude and, as soon as I had finished the monster,
rushed to me and carefully examined my body for possible wounds or
injuries. Satisfying herself that I had come off unscathed she smiled
quietly, and, taking my hand, started toward the door of the chamber.
Tars Tarkas and the other warriors had entered and were standing over
the now rapidly reviving brute which had saved my life, and whose life
I, in turn, had rescued. They seemed to be deep in argument, and
finally one of them addressed me, but remembering my ignorance of his
language turned back to Tars Tarkas, who, with a word and gesture, gave
some command to the fellow and turned to follow us from the room.
There seemed something menacing in their attitude toward my beast, and
I hesitated to leave until I had learned the outcome. It was well I
did so, for the warrior drew an evil looking pistol from its holster
and was on the point of putting an end to the creature when I sprang
forward and struck up his arm. The bullet striking the wooden casing
of the window exploded, blowing a hole completely through the wood and
I then knelt down beside the fearsome-looking thing, and raising it to
its feet motioned for it to follow me. The looks of surprise which my
actions elicited from the Martians were ludicrous; they could not
understand, except in a feeble and childish way, such attributes as
gratitude and compassion. The warrior whose gun I had struck up looked
enquiringly at Tars Tarkas, but the latter signed that I be left to my
own devices, and so we returned to the plaza with my great beast
following close at heel, and Sola grasping me tightly by the arm.
I had at least two friends on Mars; a young woman who watched over me
with motherly solicitude, and a dumb brute which, as I later came to
know, held in its poor ugly carcass more love, more loyalty, more
gratitude than could have been found in the entire five million green
Martians who rove the deserted cities and dead sea bottoms of Mars.
CHILD-RAISING ON MARS
After a breakfast, which was an exact replica of the meal of the
preceding day and an index of practically every meal which followed
while I was with the green men of Mars, Sola escorted me to the plaza,
where I found the entire community engaged in watching or helping at
the harnessing of huge mastodonian animals to great three-wheeled
chariots. There were about two hundred and fifty of these vehicles,
each drawn by a single animal, any one of which, from their appearance,
might easily have drawn the entire wagon train when fully loaded.
The chariots themselves were large, commodious, and gorgeously
decorated. In each was seated a female Martian loaded with ornaments
of metal, with jewels and silks and furs, and upon the back of each of
the beasts which drew the chariots was perched a young Martian driver.
Like the animals upon which the warriors were mounted, the heavier
draft animals wore neither bit nor bridle, but were guided entirely by
This power is wonderfully developed in all Martians, and accounts
largely for the simplicity of their language and the relatively few
spoken words exchanged even in long conversations. It is the universal
language of Mars, through the medium of which the higher and lower
animals of this world of paradoxes are able to communicate to a greater
or less extent, depending upon the intellectual sphere of the species
and the development of the individual.
As the cavalcade took up the line of march in single file, Sola dragged
me into an empty chariot and we proceeded with the procession toward
the point by which I had entered the city the day before. At the head
of the caravan rode some two hundred warriors, five abreast, and a like
number brought up the rear, while twenty-five or thirty outriders
flanked us on either side.
Every one but myself—men, women, and children—were heavily armed, and
at the tail of each chariot trotted a Martian hound, my own beast
following closely behind ours; in fact, the faithful creature never
left me voluntarily during the entire ten years I spent on Mars. Our
way led out across the little valley before the city, through the
hills, and down into the dead sea bottom which I had traversed on my
journey from the incubator to the plaza. The incubator, as it proved,
was the terminal point of our journey this day, and, as the entire
cavalcade broke into a mad gallop as soon as we reached the level
expanse of sea bottom, we were soon within sight of our goal.
On reaching it the chariots were parked with military precision on the
four sides of the enclosure, and half a score of warriors, headed by
the enormous chieftain, and including Tars Tarkas and several other
lesser chiefs, dismounted and advanced toward it. I could see Tars
Tarkas explaining something to the principal chieftain, whose name, by
the way, was, as nearly as I can translate it into English, Lorquas
Ptomel, Jed; jed being his title.
I was soon appraised of the subject of their conversation, as, calling
to Sola, Tars Tarkas signed for her to send me to him. I had by this
time mastered the intricacies of walking under Martian conditions, and
quickly responding to his command I advanced to the side of the
incubator where the warriors stood.
As I reached their side a glance showed me that all but a very few eggs
had hatched, the incubator being fairly alive with the hideous little
devils. They ranged in height from three to four feet, and were moving
restlessly about the enclosure as though searching for food.
As I came to a halt before him, Tars Tarkas pointed over the incubator
and said, "Sak." I saw that he wanted me to repeat my performance of
yesterday for the edification of Lorquas Ptomel, and, as I must confess
that my prowess gave me no little satisfaction, I responded quickly,
leaping entirely over the parked chariots on the far side of the
incubator. As I returned, Lorquas Ptomel grunted something at me, and
turning to his warriors gave a few words of command relative to the
incubator. They paid no further attention to me and I was thus
permitted to remain close and watch their operations, which consisted
in breaking an opening in the wall of the incubator large enough to
permit of the exit of the young Martians.
On either side of this opening the women and the younger Martians, both
male and female, formed two solid walls leading out through the
chariots and quite away into the plain beyond. Between these walls the
little Martians scampered, wild as deer; being permitted to run the
full length of the aisle, where they were captured one at a time by the
women and older children; the last in the line capturing the first
little one to reach the end of the gauntlet, her opposite in the line
capturing the second, and so on until all the little fellows had left
the enclosure and been appropriated by some youth or female. As the
women caught the young they fell out of line and returned to their
respective chariots, while those who fell into the hands of the young
men were later turned over to some of the women.
I saw that the ceremony, if it could be dignified by such a name, was
over, and seeking out Sola I found her in our chariot with a hideous
little creature held tightly in her arms.
The work of rearing young, green Martians consists solely in teaching
them to talk, and to use the weapons of warfare with which they are
loaded down from the very first year of their lives. Coming from eggs
in which they have lain for five years, the period of incubation, they
step forth into the world perfectly developed except in size. Entirely
unknown to their mothers, who, in turn, would have difficulty in
pointing out the fathers with any degree of accuracy, they are the
common children of the community, and their education devolves upon the
females who chance to capture them as they leave the incubator.
Their foster mothers may not even have had an egg in the incubator, as
was the case with Sola, who had not commenced to lay, until less than a
year before she became the mother of another woman's offspring. But
this counts for little among the green Martians, as parental and filial
love is as unknown to them as it is common among us. I believe this
horrible system which has been carried on for ages is the direct cause
of the loss of all the finer feelings and higher humanitarian instincts
among these poor creatures. From birth they know no father or mother
love, they know not the meaning of the word home; they are taught that
they are only suffered to live until they can demonstrate by their
physique and ferocity that they are fit to live. Should they prove
deformed or defective in any way they are promptly shot; nor do they
see a tear shed for a single one of the many cruel hardships they pass
through from earliest infancy.
I do not mean that the adult Martians are unnecessarily or
intentionally cruel to the young, but theirs is a hard and pitiless
struggle for existence upon a dying planet, the natural resources of
which have dwindled to a point where the support of each additional
life means an added tax upon the community into which it is thrown.
By careful selection they rear only the hardiest specimens of each
species, and with almost supernatural foresight they regulate the birth
rate to merely offset the loss by death.
Each adult Martian female brings forth about thirteen eggs each year,
and those which meet the size, weight, and specific gravity tests are
hidden in the recesses of some subterranean vault where the temperature
is too low for incubation. Every year these eggs are carefully
examined by a council of twenty chieftains, and all but about one
hundred of the most perfect are destroyed out of each yearly supply.
At the end of five years about five hundred almost perfect eggs have
been chosen from the thousands brought forth. These are then placed in
the almost air-tight incubators to be hatched by the sun's rays after a
period of another five years. The hatching which we had witnessed
today was a fairly representative event of its kind, all but about one
per cent of the eggs hatching in two days. If the remaining eggs ever
hatched we knew nothing of the fate of the little Martians. They were
not wanted, as their offspring might inherit and transmit the tendency
to prolonged incubation, and thus upset the system which has maintained
for ages and which permits the adult Martians to figure the proper time
for return to the incubators, almost to an hour.
The incubators are built in remote fastnesses, where there is little or
no likelihood of their being discovered by other tribes. The result of
such a catastrophe would mean no children in the community for another
five years. I was later to witness the results of the discovery of an
The community of which the green Martians with whom my lot was cast
formed a part was composed of some thirty thousand souls. They roamed
an enormous tract of arid and semi-arid land between forty and eighty
degrees south latitude, and bounded on the east and west by two large
fertile tracts. Their headquarters lay in the southwest corner of this
district, near the crossing of two of the so-called Martian canals.
As the incubator had been placed far north of their own territory in a
supposedly uninhabited and unfrequented area, we had before us a
tremendous journey, concerning which I, of course, knew nothing.
After our return to the dead city I passed several days in comparative
idleness. On the day following our return all the warriors had ridden
forth early in the morning and had not returned until just before
darkness fell. As I later learned, they had been to the subterranean
vaults in which the eggs were kept and had transported them to the
incubator, which they had then walled up for another five years, and
which, in all probability, would not be visited again during that
The vaults which hid the eggs until they were ready for the incubator
were located many miles south of the incubator, and would be visited
yearly by the council of twenty chieftains. Why they did not arrange
to build their vaults and incubators nearer home has always been a
mystery to me, and, like many other Martian mysteries, unsolved and
unsolvable by earthly reasoning and customs.
Sola's duties were now doubled, as she was compelled to care for the
young Martian as well as for me, but neither one of us required much
attention, and as we were both about equally advanced in Martian
education, Sola took it upon herself to train us together.
Her prize consisted in a male about four feet tall, very strong and
physically perfect; also, he learned quickly, and we had considerable
amusement, at least I did, over the keen rivalry we displayed. The
Martian language, as I have said, is extremely simple, and in a week I
could make all my wants known and understand nearly everything that was
said to me. Likewise, under Sola's tutelage, I developed my telepathic
powers so that I shortly could sense practically everything that went
on around me.
What surprised Sola most in me was that while I could catch telepathic
messages easily from others, and often when they were not intended for
me, no one could read a jot from my mind under any circumstances. At
first this vexed me, but later I was very glad of it, as it gave me an
undoubted advantage over the Martians.
A FAIR CAPTIVE FROM THE SKY
The third day after the incubator ceremony we set forth toward home,
but scarcely had the head of the procession debouched into the open
ground before the city than orders were given for an immediate and
hasty return. As though trained for years in this particular
evolution, the green Martians melted like mist into the spacious
doorways of the nearby buildings, until, in less than three minutes,
the entire cavalcade of chariots, mastodons and mounted warriors was
nowhere to be seen.
Sola and I had entered a building upon the front of the city, in fact,
the same one in which I had had my encounter with the apes, and,
wishing to see what had caused the sudden retreat, I mounted to an
upper floor and peered from the window out over the valley and the
hills beyond; and there I saw the cause of their sudden scurrying to
cover. A huge craft, long, low, and gray-painted, swung slowly over
the crest of the nearest hill. Following it came another, and another,
and another, until twenty of them, swinging low above the ground,
sailed slowly and majestically toward us.
Each carried a strange banner swung from stem to stern above the upper
works, and upon the prow of each was painted some odd device that
gleamed in the sunlight and showed plainly even at the distance at
which we were from the vessels. I could see figures crowding the
forward decks and upper works of the air craft. Whether they had
discovered us or simply were looking at the deserted city I could not
say, but in any event they received a rude reception, for suddenly and
without warning the green Martian warriors fired a terrific volley from
the windows of the buildings facing the little valley across which the
great ships were so peacefully advancing.
Instantly the scene changed as by magic; the foremost vessel swung
broadside toward us, and bringing her guns into play returned our fire,
at the same time moving parallel to our front for a short distance and
then turning back with the evident intention of completing a great
circle which would bring her up to position once more opposite our
firing line; the other vessels followed in her wake, each one opening
upon us as she swung into position. Our own fire never diminished, and
I doubt if twenty-five per cent of our shots went wild. It had never
been given me to see such deadly accuracy of aim, and it seemed as
though a little figure on one of the craft dropped at the explosion of
each bullet, while the banners and upper works dissolved in spurts of
flame as the irresistible projectiles of our warriors mowed through
The fire from the vessels was most ineffectual, owing, as I afterward
learned, to the unexpected suddenness of the first volley, which caught
the ship's crews entirely unprepared and the sighting apparatus of the
guns unprotected from the deadly aim of our warriors.
It seems that each green warrior has certain objective points for his
fire under relatively identical circumstances of warfare. For example,
a proportion of them, always the best marksmen, direct their fire
entirely upon the wireless finding and sighting apparatus of the big
guns of an attacking naval force; another detail attends to the smaller
guns in the same way; others pick off the gunners; still others the
officers; while certain other quotas concentrate their attention upon
the other members of the crew, upon the upper works, and upon the
steering gear and propellers.
Twenty minutes after the first volley the great fleet swung trailing
off in the direction from which it had first appeared. Several of the
craft were limping perceptibly, and seemed but barely under the control
of their depleted crews. Their fire had ceased entirely and all their
energies seemed focused upon escape. Our warriors then rushed up to
the roofs of the buildings which we occupied and followed the
retreating armada with a continuous fusillade of deadly fire.
One by one, however, the ships managed to dip below the crests of the
outlying hills until only one barely moving craft was in sight. This
had received the brunt of our fire and seemed to be entirely unmanned,
as not a moving figure was visible upon her decks. Slowly she swung
from her course, circling back toward us in an erratic and pitiful
manner. Instantly the warriors ceased firing, for it was quite
apparent that the vessel was entirely helpless, and, far from being in
a position to inflict harm upon us, she could not even control herself
sufficiently to escape.
As she neared the city the warriors rushed out upon the plain to meet
her, but it was evident that she still was too high for them to hope to
reach her decks. From my vantage point in the window I could see the
bodies of her crew strewn about, although I could not make out what
manner of creatures they might be. Not a sign of life was manifest
upon her as she drifted slowly with the light breeze in a southeasterly
She was drifting some fifty feet above the ground, followed by all but
some hundred of the warriors who had been ordered back to the roofs to
cover the possibility of a return of the fleet, or of reinforcements.
It soon became evident that she would strike the face of the buildings
about a mile south of our position, and as I watched the progress of
the chase I saw a number of warriors gallop ahead, dismount and enter
the building she seemed destined to touch.
As the craft neared the building, and just before she struck, the
Martian warriors swarmed upon her from the windows, and with their
great spears eased the shock of the collision, and in a few moments
they had thrown out grappling hooks and the big boat was being hauled
to ground by their fellows below.
After making her fast, they swarmed the sides and searched the vessel
from stem to stern. I could see them examining the dead sailors,
evidently for signs of life, and presently a party of them appeared
from below dragging a little figure among them. The creature was
considerably less than half as tall as the green Martian warriors, and
from my balcony I could see that it walked erect upon two legs and
surmised that it was some new and strange Martian monstrosity with
which I had not as yet become acquainted.
They removed their prisoner to the ground and then commenced a
systematic rifling of the vessel. This operation required several
hours, during which time a number of the chariots were requisitioned to
transport the loot, which consisted in arms, ammunition, silks, furs,
jewels, strangely carved stone vessels, and a quantity of solid foods
and liquids, including many casks of water, the first I had seen since
my advent upon Mars.
After the last load had been removed the warriors made lines fast to
the craft and towed her far out into the valley in a southwesterly
direction. A few of them then boarded her and were busily engaged in
what appeared, from my distant position, as the emptying of the
contents of various carboys upon the dead bodies of the sailors and
over the decks and works of the vessel.
This operation concluded, they hastily clambered over her sides,
sliding down the guy ropes to the ground. The last warrior to leave
the deck turned and threw something back upon the vessel, waiting an
instant to note the outcome of his act. As a faint spurt of flame rose
from the point where the missile struck he swung over the side and was
quickly upon the ground. Scarcely had he alighted than the guy ropes
were simultaneously released, and the great warship, lightened by the
removal of the loot, soared majestically into the air, her decks and
upper works a mass of roaring flames.
Slowly she drifted to the southeast, rising higher and higher as the
flames ate away her wooden parts and diminished the weight upon her.
Ascending to the roof of the building I watched her for hours, until
finally she was lost in the dim vistas of the distance. The sight was
awe-inspiring in the extreme as one contemplated this mighty floating
funeral pyre, drifting unguided and unmanned through the lonely wastes
of the Martian heavens; a derelict of death and destruction, typifying
the life story of these strange and ferocious creatures into whose
unfriendly hands fate had carried it.
Much depressed, and, to me, unaccountably so, I slowly descended to the
street. The scene I had witnessed seemed to mark the defeat and
annihilation of the forces of a kindred people, rather than the routing
by our green warriors of a horde of similar, though unfriendly,
creatures. I could not fathom the seeming hallucination, nor could I
free myself from it; but somewhere in the innermost recesses of my soul
I felt a strange yearning toward these unknown foemen, and a mighty
hope surged through me that the fleet would return and demand a
reckoning from the green warriors who had so ruthlessly and wantonly
Close at my heel, in his now accustomed place, followed Woola, the
hound, and as I emerged upon the street Sola rushed up to me as though
I had been the object of some search on her part. The cavalcade was
returning to the plaza, the homeward march having been given up for
that day; nor, in fact, was it recommenced for more than a week, owing
to the fear of a return attack by the air craft.
Lorquas Ptomel was too astute an old warrior to be caught upon the open
plains with a caravan of chariots and children, and so we remained at
the deserted city until the danger seemed passed.
As Sola and I entered the plaza a sight met my eyes which filled my
whole being with a great surge of mingled hope, fear, exultation, and
depression, and yet most dominant was a subtle sense of relief and
happiness; for just as we neared the throng of Martians I caught a
glimpse of the prisoner from the battle craft who was being roughly
dragged into a nearby building by a couple of green Martian females.
And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure,
similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life. She did
not see me at first, but just as she was disappearing through the
portal of the building which was to be her prison she turned, and her
eyes met mine. Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her
every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and
lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair,
caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a
light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her
cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a
strangely enhancing effect.
She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied
her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely
naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect
and symmetrical figure.
As her gaze rested on me her eyes opened wide in astonishment, and she
made a little sign with her free hand; a sign which I did not, of
course, understand. Just a moment we gazed upon each other, and then
the look of hope and renewed courage which had glorified her face as
she discovered me, faded into one of utter dejection, mingled with
loathing and contempt. I realized I had not answered her signal, and
ignorant as I was of Martian customs, I intuitively felt that she had
made an appeal for succor and protection which my unfortunate ignorance
had prevented me from answering. And then she was dragged out of my
sight into the depths of the deserted edifice.
I LEARN THE LANGUAGE
As I came back to myself I glanced at Sola, who had witnessed this
encounter and I was surprised to note a strange expression upon her
usually expressionless countenance. What her thoughts were I did not
know, for as yet I had learned but little of the Martian tongue; enough
only to suffice for my daily needs.
As I reached the doorway of our building a strange surprise awaited me.
A warrior approached bearing the arms, ornaments, and full
accouterments of his kind. These he presented to me with a few
unintelligible words, and a bearing at once respectful and menacing.
Later, Sola, with the aid of several of the other women, remodeled the
trappings to fit my lesser proportions, and after they completed the
work I went about garbed in all the panoply of war.
From then on Sola instructed me in the mysteries of the various
weapons, and with the Martian young I spent several hours each day
practicing upon the plaza. I was not yet proficient with all the
weapons, but my great familiarity with similar earthly weapons made me
an unusually apt pupil, and I progressed in a very satisfactory manner.
The training of myself and the young Martians was conducted solely by
the women, who not only attend to the education of the young in the
arts of individual defense and offense, but are also the artisans who
produce every manufactured article wrought by the green Martians. They
make the powder, the cartridges, the firearms; in fact everything of
value is produced by the females. In time of actual warfare they form
a part of the reserves, and when the necessity arises fight with even
greater intelligence and ferocity than the men.
The men are trained in the higher branches of the art of war; in
strategy and the maneuvering of large bodies of troops. They make the
laws as they are needed; a new law for each emergency. They are
unfettered by precedent in the administration of justice. Customs have
been handed down by ages of repetition, but the punishment for ignoring
a custom is a matter for individual treatment by a jury of the
culprit's peers, and I may say that justice seldom misses fire, but
seems rather to rule in inverse ratio to the ascendency of law. In one
respect at least the Martians are a happy people; they have no lawyers.
I did not see the prisoner again for several days subsequent to our
first encounter, and then only to catch a fleeting glimpse of her as
she was being conducted to the great audience chamber where I had had
my first meeting with Lorquas Ptomel. I could not but note the
unnecessary harshness and brutality with which her guards treated her;
so different from the almost maternal kindliness which Sola manifested
toward me, and the respectful attitude of the few green Martians who
took the trouble to notice me at all.
I had observed on the two occasions when I had seen her that the
prisoner exchanged words with her guards, and this convinced me that
they spoke, or at least could make themselves understood by a common
language. With this added incentive I nearly drove Sola distracted by
my importunities to hasten on my education and within a few more days I
had mastered the Martian tongue sufficiently well to enable me to carry
on a passable conversation and to fully understand practically all that
At this time our sleeping quarters were occupied by three or four
females and a couple of the recently hatched young, beside Sola and her
youthful ward, myself, and Woola the hound. After they had retired for
the night it was customary for the adults to carry on a desultory
conversation for a short time before lapsing into sleep, and now that I
could understand their language I was always a keen listener, although
I never proffered any remarks myself.
On the night following the prisoner's visit to the audience chamber the
conversation finally fell upon this subject, and I was all ears 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 ransom?"
"They have decided to carry her with us back to Thark, and exhibit her
last agonies at the great games before Tal Hajus," replied Sarkoja.
"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
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
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 of time.
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
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 relative.
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
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
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 plead 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
"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,
"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 you 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 victims
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
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
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,
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
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 floor.
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
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 human?"
"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, accoutrements 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 Carter?"
"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
"But one thing can save you now," he continued. "Should you, in
recognition of your remarkable valor, ferocity, and prowess, be
considered by Tal Hajus as worthy of his service you may be taken into
the community and become a full-fledged Tharkian. Until we reach the
headquarters of Tal Hajus it is the will of Lorquas Ptomel that you be
accorded the respect your acts have earned you. You will be treated by
us as a Tharkian chieftain, but you must not forget that every chief
who ranks you is responsible for your safe delivery to our mighty and
most ferocious ruler. I am done."
"I hear you, Tars Tarkas," I answered. "As you know I am not of
Barsoom; your ways are not my ways, and I can only act in the future as
I have in the past, in accordance with the dictates of my conscience
and guided by the standards of mine own people. If you will leave me
alone I will go in peace, but if not, let the individual Barsoomians
with whom I must deal either respect my rights as a stranger among you,
or take whatever consequences may befall. Of one thing let us be sure,
whatever may be your ultimate intentions toward this unfortunate young
woman, whoever would offer her injury or insult in the future must
figure on making a full accounting to me. I understand that you
belittle all sentiments of generosity and kindliness, but I do not, and
I can convince your most doughty warrior that these characteristics are
not incompatible with an ability to fight."
Ordinarily I am not given to long speeches, nor ever before had I
descended to bombast, but I had guessed at the keynote which would
strike an answering chord in the breasts of the green Martians, nor was
I wrong, for my harangue evidently deeply impressed them, and their
attitude toward me thereafter was still further respectful.
Tars Tarkas himself seemed pleased with my reply, but his only comment
was more or less enigmatical—"And I think I know Tal Hajus, Jeddak of
I now turned my attention to Dejah Thoris, and assisting her to her
feet I turned with her toward the exit, ignoring her hovering guardian
harpies as well as the inquiring glances of the chieftains. Was I not
now a chieftain also! Well, then, I would assume the responsibilities
of one. They did not molest us, and so Dejah Thoris, Princess of
Helium, and John Carter, gentleman of Virginia, followed by the
faithful Woola, passed through utter silence from the audience chamber
of Lorquas Ptomel, Jed among the Tharks of Barsoom.
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
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
"You are right," I answered, "there is no escape for either of us
unless we go together."
"I heard your challenge to the creature you call Tars Tarkas, and I
think I understand your position among these people, but what I cannot
fathom is your statement that you are not of Barsoom."
"In the name of my first ancestor, then," she continued, "where may you
be from? You are like unto my people, and yet so unlike. You speak my
language, and yet I heard you tell Tars Tarkas that you had but learned
it recently. All Barsoomians speak the same tongue from the ice-clad
south to the ice-clad north, though their written languages differ.
Only in the valley Dor, where the river Iss empties into the lost sea
of Korus, is there supposed to be a different language spoken, and,
except in the legends of our ancestors, there is no record of a
Barsoomian returning up the river Iss, from the shores of Korus in the
valley of Dor. Do not tell me that you have thus returned! They would
kill you horribly anywhere upon the surface of Barsoom if that were
true; tell me it is not!"
Her eyes were filled with a strange, weird light; her voice was
pleading, and her little hands, reached up upon my breast, were pressed
against me as though to wring a denial from my very heart.
"I do not know your customs, Dejah Thoris, but in my own Virginia a
gentleman does not lie to save himself; I am not of Dor; I have never
seen the mysterious Iss; the lost sea of Korus is still lost, so far as
I am concerned. Do you believe me?"
And then it struck me suddenly that I was very anxious that she should
believe me. It was not that I feared the results which would follow a
general belief that I had returned from the Barsoomian heaven or hell,
or whatever it was. Why was it, then! Why should I care what she
thought? I looked down at her; her beautiful face upturned, and her
wonderful eyes opening up the very depth of her soul; and as my eyes
met hers I knew why, and—I shuddered.
A similar wave of feeling seemed to stir her; she drew away from me
with a sigh, and with her earnest, beautiful face turned up to mine,
she whispered: "I believe you, John Carter; I do not know what a
'gentleman' is, nor have I ever heard before of Virginia; but on
Barsoom no man lies; if he does not wish to speak the truth he is
silent. Where is this Virginia, your country, John Carter?" she asked,
and it seemed that this fair name of my fair land had never sounded
more beautiful than as it fell from those perfect lips on that far-gone
"I am of another world," I answered, "the great planet Earth, which
revolves about our common sun and next within the orbit of your
Barsoom, which we know as Mars. How I came here I cannot tell you, for
I do not know; but here I am, and since my presence has permitted me to
serve Dejah Thoris I am glad that I am here."
She gazed at me with troubled eyes, long and questioningly. That it
was difficult to believe my statement I well knew, nor could I hope
that she would do so however much I craved her confidence and respect.
I would much rather not have told her anything of my antecedents, but
no man could look into the depth of those eyes and refuse her slightest
Finally she smiled, and, rising, said: "I shall have to believe even
though I cannot understand. I can readily perceive that you are not of
the Barsoom of today; you are like us, yet different—but why should I
trouble my poor head with such a problem, when my heart tells me that I
believe because I wish to believe!"
It was good logic, good, earthly, feminine logic, and if it satisfied
her I certainly could pick no flaws in it. As a matter of fact it was
about the only kind of logic that could be brought to bear upon my
problem. We fell into a general conversation then, asking and
answering many questions on each side. She was curious to learn of the
customs of my people and displayed a remarkable knowledge of events on
Earth. When I questioned her closely on this seeming familiarity with
earthly things she laughed, and cried out:
"Why, every school boy on Barsoom knows the geography, and much
concerning the fauna and flora, as well as the history of your planet
fully as well as of his own. Can we not see everything which takes
place upon Earth, as you call it; is it not hanging there in the
heavens in plain sight?"
This baffled me, I must confess, fully as much as my statements had
confounded her; and I told her so. She then explained in general the
instruments her people had used and been perfecting for ages, which
permit them to throw upon a screen a perfect image of what is
transpiring upon any planet and upon many of the stars. These pictures
are so perfect in detail that, when photographed and enlarged, objects
no greater than a blade of grass may be distinctly recognized. I
afterward, in Helium, saw many of these pictures, as well as the
instruments which produced them.
"If, then, you are so familiar with earthly things," I asked, "why is
it that you do not recognize me as identical with the inhabitants of
She smiled again as one might in bored indulgence of a questioning
"Because, John Carter," she replied, "nearly every planet and star
having atmospheric conditions at all approaching those of Barsoom,
shows forms of animal life almost identical with you and me; and,
further, Earth men, almost without exception, cover their bodies with
strange, unsightly pieces of cloth, and their heads with hideous
contraptions the purpose of which we have been unable to conceive;
while you, when found by the Tharkian warriors, were entirely
undisfigured and unadorned.
"The fact that you wore no ornaments is a strong proof of your
un-Barsoomian origin, while the absence of grotesque coverings might
cause a doubt as to your earthliness."
I then narrated the details of my departure from the Earth, explaining
that my body there lay fully clothed in all the, to her, strange
garments of mundane dwellers. At this point Sola returned with our
meager belongings and her young Martian protege, who, of course, would
have to share the quarters with them.
Sola asked us if we had had a visitor during her absence, and seemed
much surprised when we answered in the negative. It seemed that as she
had mounted the approach to the upper floors where our quarters were
located, she had met Sarkoja descending. We decided that she must have
been eavesdropping, but as we could recall nothing of importance that
had passed between us we dismissed the matter as of little consequence,
merely promising ourselves to be warned to the utmost caution in the
Dejah Thoris and I then fell to examining the architecture and
decorations of the beautiful chambers of the building we were
occupying. She told me that these people had presumably flourished
over a hundred thousand years before. They were the early progenitors
of her race, but had mixed with the other great race of early Martians,
who were very dark, almost black, and also with the reddish yellow race
which had flourished at the same time.
These three great divisions of the higher Martians had been forced into
a mighty alliance as the drying up of the Martian seas had compelled
them to seek the comparatively few and always diminishing fertile
areas, and to defend themselves, under new conditions of life, against
the wild hordes of green men.
Ages of close relationship and intermarrying had resulted in the race
of red men, of which Dejah Thoris was a fair and beautiful daughter.
During the ages of hardships and incessant warring between their own
various races, as well as with the green men, and before they had
fitted themselves to the changed conditions, much of the high
civilization and many of the arts of the fair-haired Martians had
become lost; but the red race of today has reached a point where it
feels that it has made up in new discoveries and in a more practical
civilization for all that lies irretrievably buried with the ancient
Barsoomians, beneath the countless intervening ages.
These ancient Martians had been a highly cultivated and literary race,
but during the vicissitudes of those trying centuries of readjustment
to new conditions, not only did their advancement and production cease
entirely, but practically all their archives, records, and literature
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
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
"But," he continued, in his fierce guttural tones, "if you run off with
the red girl it is I who shall have to account to Tal Hajus; it is I
who shall have to face Tars Tarkas, and either demonstrate my right to
command, or the metal from my dead carcass will go to a better man, for
such is the custom of the Tharks.
"I have no quarrel with Tars Tarkas; together we rule supreme the
greatest of the lesser communities among the green men; we do not wish
to fight between ourselves; and so if you were dead, John Carter, I
should be glad. Under two conditions only, however, may you be killed
by us without orders from Tal Hajus; in personal combat in
self-defense, should you attack one of us, or were you apprehended in
an attempt to escape.
"As a matter of justice I must warn you that we only await one of these
two excuses for ridding ourselves of so great a responsibility. The
safe delivery of the red girl to Tal Hajus is of the greatest
importance. Not in a thousand years have the Tharks made such a
capture; she is the granddaughter of the greatest of the red jeddaks,
who is also our bitterest enemy. I have spoken. The red girl told us
that we were without the softer sentiments of humanity, but we are a
just and truthful race. You may go."
Turning, I left the audience chamber. So this was the beginning of
Sarkoja's persecution! I knew that none other could be responsible for
this report which had reached the ears of Lorquas Ptomel so quickly,
and now I recalled those portions of our conversation which had touched
upon escape and upon my origin.
Sarkoja was at this time Tars Tarkas' oldest and most trusted female.
As such she was a mighty power behind the throne, for no warrior had
the confidence of Lorquas Ptomel to such an extent as did his ablest
lieutenant, Tars Tarkas.
However, instead of putting thoughts of possible escape from my mind,
my audience with Lorquas Ptomel only served to center my every faculty
on this subject. Now, more than before, the absolute necessity for
escape, in so far as Dejah Thoris was concerned, was impressed upon me,
for I was convinced that some horrible fate awaited her at the
headquarters of Tal Hajus.
As described by Sola, this monster was the exaggerated personification
of all the ages of cruelty, ferocity, and brutality from which he had
descended. Cold, cunning, calculating; he was, also, in marked
contrast to most of his fellows, a slave to that brute passion which
the waning demands for procreation upon their dying planet has almost
stilled in the Martian breast.
The thought that the divine Dejah Thoris might fall into the clutches
of such an abysmal atavism started the cold sweat upon me. Far better
that we save friendly bullets for ourselves at the last moment, as did
those brave frontier women of my lost land, who took their own lives
rather than fall into the hands of the Indian braves.
As I wandered about the plaza lost in my gloomy forebodings Tars Tarkas
approached me on his way from the audience chamber. His demeanor
toward me was unchanged, and he greeted me as though we had not just
parted a few moments before.
"Where are your quarters, John Carter?" he asked.
"I have selected none," I replied. "It seemed best that I quartered
either by myself or among the other warriors, and I was awaiting an
opportunity to ask your advice. As you know," and I smiled, "I am not
yet familiar with all the customs of the Tharks."
"Come with me," he directed, and together we moved off across the plaza
to a building which I was glad to see adjoined that occupied by Sola
and her charges.
"My quarters are on the first floor of this building," he said, "and
the second floor also is fully occupied by warriors, but the third
floor and the floors above are vacant; you may take your choice of
"I understand," he continued, "that you have given up your woman to the
red prisoner. Well, as you have said, your ways are not our ways, but
you can fight well enough to do about as you please, and so, if you
wish to give your woman to a captive, it is your own affair; but as a
chieftain you should have those to serve you, and in accordance with
our customs you may select any or all the females from the retinues of
the chieftains whose metal you now wear."
I thanked him, but assured him that I could get along very nicely
without assistance except in the matter of preparing food, and so he
promised to send women to me for this purpose and also for the care of
my arms and the manufacture of my ammunition, which he said would be
necessary. I suggested that they might also bring some of the sleeping
silks and furs which belonged to me as spoils of combat, for the nights
were cold and I had none of my own.
He promised to do so, and departed. Left alone, I ascended the winding
corridor to the upper floors in search of suitable quarters. The
beauties of the other buildings were repeated in this, and, as usual, I
was soon lost in a tour of investigation and discovery.
I finally chose a front room on the third floor, because this brought
me nearer to Dejah Thoris, whose apartment was on the second floor of
the adjoining building, and it flashed upon me that I could rig up some
means of communication whereby she might signal me in case she needed
either my services or my protection.
Adjoining my sleeping apartment were baths, dressing rooms, and other
sleeping and living apartments, in all some ten rooms on this floor.
The windows of the back rooms overlooked an enormous court, which
formed the center of the square made by the buildings which faced the
four contiguous streets, and which was now given over to the quartering
of the various animals belonging to the warriors occupying the
While the court was entirely overgrown with the yellow, moss-like
vegetation which blankets practically the entire surface of Mars, yet
numerous fountains, statuary, benches, and pergola-like contraptions
bore witness to the beauty which the court must have presented in
bygone times, when graced by the fair-haired, laughing people whom
stern and unalterable cosmic laws had driven not only from their homes,
but from all except the vague legends of their descendants.
One could easily picture the gorgeous foliage of the luxuriant Martian
vegetation which once filled this scene with life and color; the
graceful figures of the beautiful women, the straight and handsome men;
the happy frolicking children—all sunlight, happiness and peace. It
was difficult to realize that they had gone; down through ages of
darkness, cruelty, and ignorance, until their hereditary instincts of
culture and humanitarianism had risen ascendant once more in the final
composite race which now is dominant upon Mars.
My thoughts were cut short by the advent of several young females
bearing loads of weapons, silks, furs, jewels, cooking utensils, and
casks of food and drink, including considerable loot from the air
craft. All this, it seemed, had been the property of the two
chieftains I had slain, and now, by the customs of the Tharks, it had
become mine. At my direction they placed the stuff in one of the back
rooms, and then departed, only to return with a second load, which they
advised me constituted the balance of my goods. On the second trip
they were accompanied by ten or fifteen other women and youths, who, it
seemed, formed the retinues of the two chieftains.
They were not their families, nor their wives, nor their servants; the
relationship was peculiar, and so unlike anything known to us that it
is most difficult to describe. All property among the green Martians
is owned in common by the community, except the personal weapons,
ornaments and sleeping silks and furs of the individuals. These alone
can one claim undisputed right to, nor may he accumulate more of these
than are required for his actual needs. The surplus he holds merely as
custodian, and it is passed on to the younger members of the community
as necessity demands.
The women and children of a man's retinue may be likened to a military
unit for which he is responsible in various ways, as in matters of
instruction, discipline, sustenance, and the exigencies of their
continual roamings and their unending strife with other communities and
with the red Martians. His women are in no sense wives. The green
Martians use no word corresponding in meaning with this earthly word.
Their mating is a matter of community interest solely, and is directed
without reference to natural selection. The council of chieftains of
each community control the matter as surely as the owner of a Kentucky
racing stud directs the scientific breeding of his stock for the
improvement of the whole.
In theory it may sound well, as is often the case with theories, but
the results of ages of this unnatural practice, coupled with the
community interest in the offspring being held paramount to that of the
mother, is shown in the cold, cruel creatures, and their gloomy,
loveless, mirthless existence.
It is true that the green Martians are absolutely virtuous, both men
and women, with the exception of such degenerates as Tal Hajus; but
better far a finer balance of human characteristics even at the expense
of a slight and occasional loss of chastity.
Finding that I must assume responsibility for these creatures, whether
I would or not, I made the best of it and directed them to find
quarters on the upper floors, leaving the third floor to me. One of
the girls I charged with the duties of my simple cuisine, and directed
the others to take up the various activities which had formerly
constituted their vocations. Thereafter I saw little of them, nor did
I care to.
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
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
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
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
"How have you bewitched them?" asked Tars Tarkas one afternoon, when he
had seen me run my arm far between the great jaws of one of my thoats
which had wedged a piece of stone between two of his teeth while
feeding upon the moss-like vegetation within our court yard.
"By kindness," I replied. "You see, Tars Tarkas, the softer sentiments
have their value, even to a warrior. In the height of battle as well
as upon the march I know that my thoats will obey my every command, and
therefore my fighting efficiency is enhanced, and I am a better warrior
for the reason that I am a kind master. Your other warriors would find
it to the advantage of themselves as well as of the community to adopt
my methods in this respect. Only a few days since you, yourself, told
me that these great brutes, by the uncertainty of their tempers, often
were the means of turning victory into defeat, since, at a crucial
moment, they might elect to unseat and rend their riders."
"Show me how you accomplish these results," was Tars Tarkas' only
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
On the seventh day following the battle with the air craft we again
took up the march toward Thark, all probability of another attack being
deemed remote by Lorquas Ptomel.
During the days just preceding our departure I had seen but little of
Dejah Thoris, as I had been kept very busy by Tars Tarkas with my
lessons in the art of Martian warfare, as well as in the training of my
thoats. The few times I had visited her quarters she had been absent,
walking upon the streets with Sola, or investigating the buildings in
the near vicinity of the plaza. I had warned them against venturing
far from the plaza for fear of the great white apes, whose ferocity I
was only too well acquainted with. However, since Woola accompanied
them on all their excursions, and as Sola was well armed, there was
comparatively little cause for fear.
On the evening before our departure I saw them approaching along one of
the great avenues which lead into the plaza from the east. I advanced
to meet them, and telling Sola that I would take the responsibility for
Dejah Thoris' safekeeping, I directed her to return to her quarters on
some trivial errand. I liked and trusted Sola, but for some reason I
desired to be alone with Dejah Thoris, who represented to me all that I
had left behind upon Earth in agreeable and congenial companionship.
There seemed bonds of mutual interest between us as powerful as though
we had been born under the same roof rather than upon different
planets, hurtling through space some forty-eight million miles apart.
That she shared my sentiments in this respect I was positive, for on my
approach the look of pitiful hopelessness left her sweet countenance to
be replaced by a smile of joyful welcome, as she placed her little
right hand upon my left shoulder in true red Martian salute.
"Sarkoja told Sola that you had become a true Thark," she said, "and
that I would now see no more of you than of any of the other warriors."
"Sarkoja is a liar of the first magnitude," I replied, "notwithstanding
the proud claim of the Tharks to absolute verity."
Dejah Thoris laughed.
"I knew that even though you became a member of the community you would
not cease to be my friend; 'A warrior may change his metal, but not his
heart,' as the saying is upon Barsoom."
"I think they have been trying to keep us apart," she continued, "for
whenever you have been off duty one of the older women of Tars Tarkas'
retinue has always arranged to trump up some excuse to get Sola and me
out of sight. They have had me down in the pits below the buildings
helping them mix their awful radium powder, and make their terrible
projectiles. You know that these have to be manufactured by artificial
light, as exposure to sunlight always results in an explosion. You
have noticed that their bullets explode when they strike an object?
Well, the opaque, outer coating is broken by the impact, exposing a
glass cylinder, almost solid, in the forward end of which is a minute
particle of radium powder. The moment the sunlight, even though
diffused, strikes this powder it explodes with a violence which nothing
can withstand. If you ever witness a night battle you will note the
absence of these explosions, while the morning following the battle
will be filled at sunrise with the sharp detonations of exploding
missiles fired the preceding night. As a rule, however, non-exploding
projectiles are used at night." [I have used the word radium in
describing this powder because in the light of recent discoveries on
Earth I believe it to be a mixture of which radium is the base. In
Captain Carter's manuscript it is mentioned always by the name used in
the written language of Helium and is spelled in hieroglyphics which it
would be difficult and useless to reproduce.]
While I was much interested in Dejah Thoris' explanation of this
wonderful adjunct to Martian warfare, I was more concerned by the
immediate problem of their treatment of her. That they were keeping
her away from me was not a matter for surprise, but that they should
subject her to dangerous and arduous labor filled me with rage.
"Have they ever subjected you to cruelty and ignominy, Dejah Thoris?" I
asked, feeling the hot blood of my fighting ancestors leap in my veins
as I awaited her reply.
"Only in little ways, John Carter," she answered. "Nothing that can
harm me outside my pride. They know that I am the daughter of ten
thousand jeddaks, that I trace my ancestry straight back without a
break to the builder of the first great waterway, and they, who do not
even know their own mothers, are jealous of me. At heart they hate
their horrid fates, and so wreak their poor spite on me who stand for
everything they have not, and for all they most crave and never can
attain. Let us pity them, my chieftain, for even though we die at
their hands we can afford them pity, since we are greater than they and
they know it."
Had I known the significance of those words "my chieftain," as applied
by a red Martian woman to a man, I should have had the surprise of my
life, but I did not know at that time, nor for many months thereafter.
Yes, I still had much to learn upon Barsoom.
"I presume it is the better part of wisdom that we bow to our fate with
as good grace as possible, Dejah Thoris; but I hope, nevertheless, that
I may be present the next time that any Martian, green, red, pink, or
violet, has the temerity to even so much as frown on you, my princess."
Dejah Thoris caught her breath at my last words, and gazed upon me with
dilated eyes and quickening breath, and then, with an odd little laugh,
which brought roguish dimples to the corners of her mouth, she shook
her head and cried:
"What a child! A great warrior and yet a stumbling little child."
"What have I done now?" I asked, in sore perplexity.
"Some day you shall know, John Carter, if we live; but I may not tell
you. And I, the daughter of Mors Kajak, son of Tardos Mors, have
listened without anger," she soliloquized in conclusion.
Then she broke out again into one of her gay, happy, laughing moods;
joking with me on my prowess as a Thark warrior as contrasted with my
soft heart and natural kindliness.
"I presume that should you accidentally wound an enemy you would take
him home and nurse him back to health," she laughed.
"That is precisely what we do on Earth," I answered. "At least among
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
"No," she exclaimed, "it is enough that you have said it and that I
have listened. And when you learn, John Carter, and if I be dead, as
likely I shall be ere the further moon has circled Barsoom another
twelve times, remember that I listened and that I—smiled."
It was all Greek to me, but the more I begged her to explain the more
positive became her denials of my request, and, so, in very
hopelessness, I desisted.
Day had now given away to night and as we wandered along the great
avenue lighted by the two moons of Barsoom, and with Earth looking down
upon us out of her luminous green eye, it seemed that we were alone in
the universe, and I, at least, was content that it should be so.
The chill of the Martian night was upon us, and removing my silks I
threw them across the shoulders of Dejah Thoris. As my arm rested for
an instant upon her I felt a thrill pass through every fiber of my
being such as contact with no other mortal had even produced; and it
seemed to me that she had leaned slightly toward me, but of that I was
not sure. Only I knew that as my arm rested there across her shoulders
longer than the act of adjusting the silk required she did not draw
away, nor did she speak. And so, in silence, we walked the surface of
a dying world, but in the breast of one of us at least had been born
that which is ever oldest, yet ever new.
I loved Dejah Thoris. The touch of my arm upon her naked shoulder had
spoken to me in words I would not mistake, and I knew that I had loved
her since the first moment that my eyes had met hers that first time in
the plaza of the dead city of Korad.
A DUEL TO THE DEATH
My first impulse was to tell her of my love, and then I thought of the
helplessness of her position wherein I alone could lighten the burdens
of her captivity, and protect her in my poor way against the thousands
of hereditary enemies she must face upon our arrival at Thark. I could
not chance causing her additional pain or sorrow by declaring a love
which, in all probability she did not return. Should I be so
indiscreet, her position would be even more unbearable than now, and
the thought that she might feel that I was taking advantage of her
helplessness, to influence her decision was the final argument which
sealed my lips.
"Why are you so quiet, Dejah Thoris?" I asked. "Possibly you would
rather return to Sola and your quarters."
"No," she murmured, "I am happy here. I do not know why it is that I
should always be happy and contented when you, John Carter, a stranger,
are with me; yet at such times it seems that I am safe and that, with
you, I shall soon return to my father's court and feel his strong arms
about me and my mother's tears and kisses on my cheek."
"Do people kiss, then, upon Barsoom?" I asked, when she had explained
the word she used, in answer to my inquiry as to its meaning.
"Parents, brothers, and sisters, yes; and," she added in a low,
thoughtful tone, "lovers."
"And you, Dejah Thoris, have parents and brothers and sisters?"
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
"But I have fought—" I started, and then I wished my tongue had been
cut from my mouth; for she turned even as I caught myself and ceased,
and drawing my silks from her shoulder she held them out to me, and
without a word, and with head held high, she moved with the carriage of
the queen she was toward the plaza and the doorway of her quarters.
I did not attempt to follow her, other than to see that she reached the
building in safety, but, directing Woola to accompany her, I turned
disconsolately and entered my own house. I sat for hours cross-legged,
and cross-tempered, upon my silks meditating upon the queer freaks
chance plays upon us poor devils of mortals.
So this was love! I had escaped it for all the years I had roamed the
five continents and their encircling seas; in spite of beautiful women
and urging opportunity; in spite of a half-desire for love and a
constant search for my ideal, it had remained for me to fall furiously
and hopelessly in love with a creature from another world, of a species
similar possibly, yet not identical with mine. A woman who was hatched
from an egg, and whose span of life might cover a thousand years; whose
people had strange customs and ideas; a woman whose hopes, whose
pleasures, whose standards of virtue and of right and wrong might vary
as greatly from mine as did those of the green Martians.
Yes, I was a fool, but I was in love, and though I was suffering the
greatest misery I had ever known I would not have had it otherwise for
all the riches of Barsoom. Such is love, and such are lovers wherever
love is known.
To me, Dejah Thoris was all that was perfect; all that was virtuous and
beautiful and noble and good. I believed that from the bottom of my
heart, from the depth of my soul on that night in Korad as I sat
cross-legged upon my silks while the nearer moon of Barsoom raced
through the western sky toward the horizon, and lighted up the gold and
marble, and jeweled mosaics of my world-old chamber, and I believe it
today as I sit at my desk in the little study overlooking the Hudson.
Twenty years have intervened; for ten of them I lived and fought for
Dejah Thoris and her people, and for ten I have lived upon her memory.
The morning of our departure for Thark dawned clear and hot, as do all
Martian mornings except for the six weeks when the snow melts at the
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 pled ignorance of the nature of my offense, or at least the
gravity of it, and so have effected, at worst, a half conciliation.
I sought out Dejah Thoris in the throng of departing chariots.
My duty dictated that I must see that she was comfortable, and so I
glanced into her chariot and rearranged her silks and furs. In doing
so I noted with horror that she was heavily chained by one ankle to the
side of the vehicle.
"What does this mean?" I cried, turning to Sola.
"Sarkoja thought it best," she answered, her face betokening her
disapproval of the procedure.
Examining the manacles I saw that they fastened with a massive spring
"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 was
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
"This much, Tars Tarkas, you may do for me in return for the friendship
that, I must confess, I feel for you."
"Friendship?" he replied. "There is no such thing, John Carter; but
have your will. I shall direct that Sarkoja cease to annoy the girl,
and I myself will take the custody of the key."
"Unless you wish me to assume the responsibility," I said, smiling.
He looked at me long and earnestly before he spoke.
"Were you to give me your word that neither you nor Dejah Thoris would
attempt to escape until after we have safely reached the court of Tal
Hajus you might have the key and throw the chains into the river Iss."
"It were better that you held the key, Tars Tarkas," I replied
He smiled, and said no more, but that night as we were making camp I
saw him unfasten Dejah Thoris' fetters himself.
With all his cruel ferocity and coldness there was an undercurrent of
something in Tars Tarkas which he seemed ever battling to subdue.
Could it be a vestige of some human instinct come back from an ancient
forbear to haunt him with the horror of his people's ways!
As I was approaching Dejah Thoris' chariot I passed Sarkoja, and the
black, venomous look she accorded me was the sweetest balm I had felt
for many hours. Lord, how she hated me! It bristled from her so
palpably that one might almost have cut it with a sword.
A few moments later I saw her deep in conversation with a warrior named
Zad; a big, hulking, powerful brute, but one who had never made a kill
among his own chieftains, and so was still an o mad, or man with
one name; he could win a second name only with the metal of some
chieftain. It was this custom which entitled me to the names of either
of the chieftains I had killed; in fact, some of the warriors addressed
me as Dotar Sojat, a combination of the surnames of the two warrior
chieftains whose metal I had taken, or, in other words, whom I had
slain in fair fight.
As Sarkoja talked with Zad he cast occasional glances in my direction,
while she seemed to be urging him very strongly to some action. I paid
little attention to it at the time, but the next day I had good reason
to recall the circumstances, and at the same time gain a slight insight
into the depths of Sarkoja's hatred and the lengths to which she was
capable of going to wreak her horrid vengeance on me.
Dejah Thoris would have none of me again on this evening, and though I
spoke her name she neither replied, nor conceded by so much as the
flutter of an eyelid that she realized my existence. In my extremity I
did what most other lovers would have done; I sought word from her
through an intimate. In this instance it was Sola whom I intercepted
in another part of camp.
"What is the matter with Dejah Thoris?" I blurted out at her. "Why
will she not speak to me?"
Sola seemed puzzled herself, as though such strange actions on the part
of two humans were quite beyond her, as indeed they were, poor child.
"She says you have angered her, and that is all she will say, except
that she is the daughter of a jed and the granddaughter of a jeddak and
she has been humiliated by a creature who could not polish the teeth of
her grandmother's sorak."
I pondered over this report for some time, finally asking, "What might
a sorak be, Sola?"
"A little animal about as big as my hand, which the red Martian women
keep to play with," explained Sola.
Not fit to polish the teeth of her grandmother's cat! I must rank
pretty low in the consideration of Dejah Thoris, I thought; but I could
not help laughing at the strange figure of speech, so homely and in
this respect so earthly. It made me homesick, for it sounded very much
like "not fit to polish her shoes." And then commenced a train of
thought quite new to me. I began to wonder what my people at home were
doing. I had not seen them for years. There was a family of Carters
in Virginia who claimed close relationship with me; I was supposed to
be a great uncle, or something of the kind equally foolish. I could
pass anywhere for twenty-five to thirty years of age, and to be a great
uncle always seemed the height of incongruity, for my thoughts and
feelings were those of a boy. There were 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
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
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
"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
Shortly after the incident of the Warhoon eggs we halted to rest the
animals, and it was during this halt that the second of the day's
interesting episodes occurred. I was engaged in changing my riding
cloths from one of my thoats to the other, for I divided the day's work
between them, when Zad approached me, and without a word struck my
animal a terrific blow with his long-sword.
I did not need a manual of green Martian etiquette to know what reply
to make, for, in fact, I was so wild with anger that I could scarcely
refrain from drawing my pistol and shooting him down for the brute he
was; but he stood waiting with drawn long-sword, and my only choice was
to draw my own and meet him in fair fight with his choice of weapons or
a lesser one.
This latter alternative is always permissible, therefore I could have
used my short-sword, my dagger, my hatchet, or my fists had I wished,
and been entirely within my rights, but I could not use firearms or a
spear while he held only his long-sword.
I chose the same weapon he had drawn because I knew he prided himself
upon his ability with it, and I wished, if I worsted him at all, to do
it with his own weapon. The fight that followed was a long one and
delayed the resumption of the march for an hour. The entire community
surrounded us, leaving a clear space about one hundred feet in diameter
for our battle.
Zad first attempted to rush me down as a bull might a wolf, but I was
much too quick for him, and each time I side-stepped his rushes he
would go lunging past me, only to receive a nick from my sword upon his
arm or back. He was soon streaming blood from a half dozen minor
wounds, but I could not obtain an opening to deliver an effective
thrust. Then he changed his tactics, and fighting warily and with
extreme dexterity, he tried to do by science what he was unable to do
by brute strength. I must admit that he was a magnificent swordsman,
and had it not been for my greater endurance and the remarkable agility
the lesser gravitation of Mars lent me I might not have been able to
put up the creditable fight I did against him.
We circled for some time without doing much damage on either side; the
long, straight, needle-like swords flashing in the sunlight, and
ringing out upon the stillness as they crashed together with each
effective parry. Finally Zad, realizing that he was tiring more than
I, evidently decided to close in and end the battle in a final blaze of
glory for himself; just as he rushed me a blinding flash of light
struck full in my eyes, so that I could not see his approach and could
only leap blindly to one side in an effort to escape the mighty blade
that it seemed I could already feel in my vitals. I was only partially
successful, as a sharp pain in my left shoulder attested, but in the
sweep of my glance as I sought to again locate my adversary, a sight
met my astonished gaze which paid me well for the wound the temporary
blindness had caused me. There, upon Dejah Thoris' chariot stood three
figures, for the purpose evidently of witnessing the encounter above
the heads of the intervening Tharks. There were Dejah Thoris, Sola,
and Sarkoja, and as my fleeting glance swept over them a little tableau
was presented which will stand graven in my memory to the day of my
As I looked, Dejah Thoris turned upon Sarkoja with the fury of a young
tigress and struck something from her upraised hand; something which
flashed in the sunlight as it spun to the ground. Then I knew what had
blinded me at that crucial moment of the fight, and how Sarkoja had
found a way to kill me without herself delivering the final thrust.
Another thing I saw, too, which almost lost my life for me then and
there, for it took my mind for the fraction of an instant entirely from
my antagonist; for, as Dejah Thoris struck the tiny mirror from her
hand, Sarkoja, her face livid with hatred and baffled rage, whipped out
her dagger and aimed a terrific blow at Dejah Thoris; and then Sola,
our dear and faithful Sola, sprang between them; the last I saw was the
great knife descending upon her shielding breast.
My enemy had recovered from his thrust and was making it extremely
interesting for me, so I reluctantly gave my attention to the work in
hand, but my mind was not upon the battle.
We rushed each other furiously time after time, 'til suddenly, feeling
the sharp point of his sword at my breast in a thrust I could neither
parry nor escape, I threw myself upon him with outstretched sword and
with all the weight of my body, determined that I would not die alone
if I could prevent it. I felt the steel tear into my chest, all went
black before me, my head whirled in dizziness, and I felt my knees
giving beneath me.
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
"But I did. And my father also," she added. "If you would like to
hear the strange and un-Barsoomian story come to the chariot tonight,
John Carter, and I will tell you that of which I have never spoken in
all my life before. And now the signal has been given to resume the
march, you must go."
"I will come tonight, Sola," I promised. "Be sure to tell Dejah Thoris
I am alive and well. I shall not force myself upon her, and be sure
that you do not let her know I saw her tears. If she would speak with
me I but await her command."
Sola mounted the chariot, which was swinging into its place in line,
and I hastened to my waiting thoat and galloped to my station beside
Tars Tarkas at the rear of the column.
We made a most imposing and awe-inspiring spectacle as we strung out
across the yellow landscape; the two hundred and fifty ornate and
brightly colored chariots, preceded by an advance guard of some two
hundred mounted warriors and chieftains riding five abreast and one
hundred yards apart, and followed by a like number in the same
formation, with a score or more of flankers on either side; the fifty
extra mastodons, or heavy draught animals, known as zitidars, and the
five or six hundred extra thoats of the warriors running loose within
the hollow square formed by the surrounding warriors. The gleaming
metal and jewels of the gorgeous ornaments of the men and women,
duplicated in the trappings of the zitidars and thoats, and
interspersed with the flashing colors of magnificent silks and furs and
feathers, lent a barbaric splendor to the caravan which would have
turned an East Indian potentate green with envy.
The enormous broad tires of the chariots and the padded feet of the
animals brought forth no sound from the moss-covered sea bottom; and so
we moved in utter silence, like some huge phantasmagoria, except when
the stillness was broken by the guttural growling of a goaded zitidar,
or the squealing of fighting thoats. The green Martians converse but
little, and then usually in monosyllables, low and like the faint
rumbling of distant thunder.
We traversed a trackless waste of moss which, bending to the pressure
of broad tire or padded foot, rose up again behind us, leaving no sign
that we had passed. We might indeed have been the wraiths of the
departed dead upon the dead sea of that dying planet for all the sound
or sign we made in passing. It was the first march of a large body of
men and animals I had ever witnessed which raised no dust and left no
spoor; for there is no dust upon Mars except in the cultivated
districts during the winter months, and even then the absence of high
winds renders it almost unnoticeable.
We camped that night at the foot of the hills we had been approaching
for two days and which marked the southern boundary of this particular
sea. Our animals had been two days without drink, nor had they had
water for nearly two months, not since shortly after leaving Thark;
but, as Tars Tarkas explained to me, they require but little and can
live almost indefinitely upon the moss which covers Barsoom, and which,
he told me, holds in its tiny stems sufficient moisture to meet the
limited demands of the animals.
After partaking of my evening meal of cheese-like food and vegetable
milk I sought out Sola, whom I found working by the light of a torch
upon some of Tars Tarkas' trappings. She looked up at my approach, her
face lighting with pleasure and with welcome.
"I am glad you came," she said; "Dejah Thoris sleeps and I am lonely.
Mine own people do not care for me, John Carter; I am too unlike them.
It is a sad fate, since I must live my life amongst them, and I often
wish that I were a true green Martian woman, without love and without
hope; but I have known love and so I am lost.
"I promised to tell you my story, or rather the story of my parents.
From what I have learned of you and the ways of your people I am sure
that the tale will not seem strange to you, but among green Martians it
has no parallel within the memory of the oldest living Thark, nor do
our legends hold many similar tales.
"My mother was rather small, in fact too small to be allowed the
responsibilities of maternity, as our chieftains breed principally for
size. She was also less cold and cruel than most green Martian women,
and caring little for their society, she often roamed the deserted
avenues of Thark alone, or went and sat among the wild flowers that
deck the nearby hills, thinking thoughts and wishing wishes which I
believe I alone among Tharkian women today may understand, for am I not
the child of my mother?
"And there among the hills she met a young warrior, whose duty it was
to guard the feeding zitidars and thoats and see that they roamed not
beyond the hills. They spoke at first only of such things as interest
a community of Tharks, but gradually, as they came to meet more often,
and, as was now quite evident to both, no longer by chance, they talked
about themselves, their likes, their ambitions and their hopes. She
trusted him and told him of the awful repugnance she felt for the
cruelties of their kind, for the hideous, loveless lives they must ever
lead, and then she waited for the storm of denunciation to break from
his cold, hard lips; but instead he took her in his arms and kissed her.
"They kept their love a secret for six long years. She, my mother, was
of the retinue of the great Tal Hajus, while her lover was a simple
warrior, wearing only his own metal. Had their defection from the
traditions of the Tharks been discovered both would have paid the
penalty in the great arena before Tal Hajus and the assembled hordes.
"The egg from which I came was hidden beneath a great glass vessel upon
the highest and most inaccessible of the partially ruined towers of
ancient Thark. Once each year my mother visited it for the five long
years it lay there in the process of incubation. She dared not come
oftener, for in the mighty guilt of her conscience she feared that her
every move was watched. During this period my father gained great
distinction as a warrior and had taken the metal from several
chieftains. His love for my mother had never diminished, and his own
ambition in life was to reach a point where he might wrest the metal
from Tal Hajus himself, and thus, as ruler of the Tharks, be free to
claim her as his own, as well as, by the might of his power, protect
the child which otherwise would be quickly dispatched should the truth
"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
"He was gone for four years, and when he returned all had been over for
three; for about a year after his departure, and shortly before the
time for the return of an expedition which had gone forth to fetch the
fruits of a community incubator, the egg had hatched. Thereafter my
mother continued to keep me in the old tower, visiting me nightly and
lavishing upon me the love the community life would have robbed us both
of. She hoped, upon the return of the expedition from the incubator,
to mix me with the other young assigned to the quarters of Tal Hajus,
and thus escape the fate which would surely follow discovery of her sin
against the ancient traditions of the green men.
"She taught me rapidly the language and customs of my kind, and one
night she told me the story I have told to you up to this point,
impressing upon me the necessity for absolute secrecy and the great
caution I must exercise after she had placed me with the other young
Tharks to permit no one to guess that I was further advanced in
education than they, nor by any sign to divulge in the presence of
others my affection for her, or my knowledge of my parentage; and then
drawing me close to her she whispered in my ear the name of my father.
"And then a light flashed out upon the darkness of the tower chamber,
and there stood Sarkoja, her gleaming, baleful eyes fixed in a frenzy
of loathing and contempt upon my mother. The torrent of hatred and
abuse she poured out upon her turned my young heart cold in terror.
That she had heard the entire story was apparent, and that she had
suspected something wrong from my mother's long nightly absences from
her quarters accounted for her presence there on that fateful night.
"One thing she had not heard, nor did she know, the whispered name of
my father. This was apparent from her repeated demands upon my mother
to disclose the name of her partner in sin, but no amount of abuse or
threats could wring this from her, and to save me from needless torture
she lied, for she told Sarkoja that she alone knew nor would she ever
tell her child.
"With final imprecations, Sarkoja hastened away to Tal Hajus to report
her discovery, and while she was gone my mother, wrapping me in the
silks and furs of her night coverings, so that I was scarcely
noticeable, descended to the streets and ran wildly away toward the
outskirts of the city, in the direction which led to the far south, out
toward the man whose protection she might not claim, but on whose face
she wished to look once more before she died.
"As we neared the city's southern extremity a sound came to us from
across the mossy flat, from the direction of the only pass through the
hills which led to the gates, the pass by which caravans from either
north or south or east or west would enter the city. The sounds we
heard were the squealing of thoats and the grumbling of zitidars, with
the occasional clank of arms which announced the approach of a body of
warriors. The thought uppermost in her mind was that it was my father
returned from his expedition, but the cunning of the Thark held her
from headlong and precipitate flight to greet him.
"Retreating into the shadows of a doorway she awaited the coming of the
cavalcade which shortly entered the avenue, breaking its formation and
thronging the thoroughfare from wall to wall. As the head of the
procession passed us the lesser moon swung clear of the overhanging
roofs and lit up the scene with all the brilliancy of her wondrous
light. My mother shrank further back into the friendly shadows, and
from her hiding place saw that the expedition was not that of my
father, but the returning caravan bearing the young Tharks. Instantly
her plan was formed, and as a great chariot swung close to our hiding
place she slipped stealthily in upon the trailing tailboard, crouching
low in the shadow of the high side, straining me to her bosom in a
frenzy of love.
"She knew, what I did not, that never again after that night would she
hold me to her breast, nor was it likely we would ever look upon each
other's face again. In the confusion of the plaza she mixed me with
the other children, whose guardians during the journey were now free to
relinquish their responsibility. We were herded together into a great
room, fed by women who had not accompanied the expedition, and the next
day we were parceled out among the retinues of the chieftains.
"I never saw my mother after that night. She was imprisoned by Tal
Hajus, and every effort, including the most horrible and shameful
torture, was brought to bear upon her to wring from her lips the name
of my father; but she remained steadfast and loyal, dying at last
amidst the laughter of Tal Hajus and his chieftains during some awful
torture she was undergoing.
"I learned afterwards that she told them that she had killed me to save
me from a like fate at their hands, and that she had thrown my body to
the white apes. Sarkoja alone disbelieved her, and I feel to this day
that she suspects my true origin, but does not dare expose me, at the
present, at all events, because she also guesses, I am sure, the
identity of my father.
"When he returned from his expedition and learned the story of my
mother's fate I was present as Tal Hajus told him; but never by the
quiver of a muscle did he betray the slightest emotion; only he did not
laugh as Tal Hajus gleefully described her death struggles. From that
moment on he was the cruelest of the cruel, and I am awaiting the day
when he shall win the goal of his ambition, and feel the carcass of Tal
Hajus beneath his foot, for I am as sure that he but waits the
opportunity to wreak a terrible vengeance, and that his great love is
as strong in his breast as when it first transfigured him nearly forty
years ago, as I am that we sit here upon the edge of a world-old ocean
while sensible people sleep, John Carter."
"And your father, Sola, is he with us now?" I asked.
"Yes," she replied, "but he does not know me for what I am, nor does he
know who betrayed my mother to Tal Hajus. I alone know my father's
name, and only I and Tal Hajus and Sarkoja know that it was she who
carried the tale that brought death and torture upon her he loved."
We sat silent for a few moments, she wrapped in the gloomy thoughts of
her terrible past, and I in pity for the poor creatures whom the
heartless, senseless customs of their race had doomed to loveless lives
of cruelty and of hate. Presently she spoke.
"John Carter, if ever a real man walked the cold, dead bosom of Barsoom
you are one. I know that I can trust you, and because the knowledge
may someday help you or him or Dejah Thoris or myself, I am going to
tell you the name of my father, nor place any restrictions or
conditions upon your tongue. When the time comes, speak the truth if
it seems best to you. I trust you because I know that you are not
cursed with the terrible trait of absolute and unswerving truthfulness,
that you could lie like one of your own Virginia gentlemen if a lie
would save others from sorrow or suffering. My father's name is Tars
WE PLAN ESCAPE
The remainder of our journey to Thark was uneventful. We were twenty
days upon the road, crossing two sea bottoms and passing through or
around a number of ruined cities, mostly smaller than Korad. Twice we
crossed the famous Martian waterways, or canals, so-called by our
earthly astronomers. When we approached these points a warrior would
be sent far ahead with a powerful field glass, and if no great body of
red Martian troops was in sight we would advance as close as possible
without chance of being seen and then camp until dark, when we would
slowly approach the cultivated tract, and, locating one of the
numerous, broad highways which cross these areas at regular intervals,
creep silently and stealthily across to the arid lands upon the other
side. It required five hours to make one of these crossings without a
single halt, and the other consumed the entire night, so that we were
just leaving the confines of the high-walled fields when the sun broke
out upon us.
Crossing in the darkness, as we did, I was unable to see but little,
except as the nearer moon, in her wild and ceaseless hurtling through
the Barsoomian heavens, lit up little patches of the landscape from
time to time, disclosing walled fields and low, rambling buildings,
presenting much the appearance of earthly farms. There were many
trees, methodically arranged, and some of them were of enormous height;
there were animals in some of the enclosures, and they announced their
presence by terrified squealings and snortings as they scented our
queer, wild beasts and wilder human beings.
Only once did I perceive a human being, and that was at the
intersection of our crossroad with the wide, white turnpike which cuts
each cultivated district longitudinally at its exact center. The
fellow must have been sleeping beside the road, for, as I came abreast
of him, he raised upon one elbow and after a single glance at the
approaching caravan leaped shrieking to his feet and fled madly down
the road, scaling a nearby wall with the agility of a scared cat. The
Tharks paid him not the slightest attention; they were not out upon the
warpath, and the only sign that I had that they had seen him was a
quickening of the pace of the caravan as we hastened toward the
bordering desert which marked our entrance into the realm of Tal Hajus.
Not once did I have speech with Dejah Thoris, as she sent no word to me
that I would be welcome at her chariot, and my foolish pride kept me
from making any advances. I verily believe that a man's way with women
is in inverse ratio to his prowess among men. The weakling and the
saphead have often great ability to charm the fair sex, while the
fighting man who can face a thousand real dangers unafraid, sits hiding
in the shadows like some frightened child.
Just thirty days after my advent upon Barsoom we entered the ancient
city of Thark, from whose long-forgotten people this horde of green men
have stolen even their name. The hordes of Thark number some thirty
thousand souls, and are divided into twenty-five communities. Each
community has its own jed and lesser chieftains, but all are under the
rule of Tal Hajus, Jeddak of Thark. Five communities make their
headquarters at the city of Thark, and the balance are scattered among
other deserted cities of ancient Mars throughout the district claimed
by Tal Hajus.
We made our entry into the great central plaza early in the afternoon.
There were no enthusiastic friendly greetings for the returned
expedition. Those who chanced to be in sight spoke the names of
warriors or women with whom they came in direct contact, in the formal
greeting of their kind, but when it was discovered that they brought
two captives a greater interest was aroused, and Dejah Thoris and I
were the centers of inquiring groups.
We were soon assigned to new quarters, and the balance of the day was
devoted to settling ourselves to the changed conditions. My home now
was upon an avenue leading into the plaza from the south, the main
artery down which we had marched from the gates of the city. I was at
the far end of the square and had an entire building to myself. The
same grandeur of architecture which was so noticeable a characteristic
of Korad was in evidence here, only, if that were possible, on a larger
and richer scale. My quarters would have been suitable for housing the
greatest of earthly emperors, but to these queer creatures nothing
about a building appealed to them but its size and the enormity of its
chambers; the larger the building, the more desirable; and so Tal Hajus
occupied what must have been an enormous public building, the largest
in the city, but entirely unfitted for residence purposes; the next
largest was reserved for Lorquas Ptomel, the next for the jed of a
lesser rank, and so on to the bottom of the list of five jeds. The
warriors occupied the buildings with the chieftains to whose retinues
they belonged; or, if they preferred, sought shelter among any of the
thousands of untenanted buildings in their own quarter of town; each
community being assigned a certain section of the city. The selection
of building had to be made in accordance with these divisions, except
in so far as the jeds were concerned, they all occupying edifices which
fronted upon the plaza.
When I had finally put my house in order, or rather seen that it had
been done, it was nearing sunset, and I hastened out with the intention
of locating Sola and her charges, as I had determined upon having
speech with Dejah Thoris and trying to impress on her the necessity of
our at least patching up a truce until I could find some way of aiding
her to escape. I searched in vain until the upper rim of the great red
sun was just disappearing behind the horizon and then I spied the ugly
head of Woola peering from a second-story window on the opposite side
of the very street where I was quartered, but nearer the plaza.
Without waiting for a further invitation I bolted up the winding runway
which led to the second floor, and entering a great chamber at the
front of the building was greeted by the frenzied Woola, who threw his
great carcass upon me, nearly hurling me to the floor; the poor old
fellow was so glad to see me that I thought he would devour me, his
head split from ear to ear, showing his three rows of tusks in his
Quieting him with a word of command and a caress, I looked hurriedly
through the approaching gloom for a sign of Dejah Thoris, and then, not
seeing her, I called her name. There was an answering murmur from the
far corner of the apartment, and with a couple of quick strides I was
standing beside her where she crouched among the furs and silks upon an
ancient carved wooden seat. As I waited she rose to her full height
and looking me straight in the eye said:
"What would Dotar Sojat, Thark, of Dejah Thoris his captive?"
"Dejah Thoris, I do not know how I have angered you. It was furtherest
from my desire to hurt or offend you, whom I had hoped to protect and
comfort. Have none of me if it is your will, but that you must aid me
in effecting your escape, if such a thing be possible, is not my
request, but my command. When you are safe once more at your father's
court you may do with me as you please, but from now on until that day
I am your master, and you must obey and aid me."
She looked at me long and earnestly and I thought that she was
softening toward me.
"I understand your words, Dotar Sojat," she replied, "but you I do not
understand. You are a queer mixture of child and man, of brute and
noble. I only wish that I might read your heart."
"Look down at your feet, Dejah Thoris; it lies there now where it has
lain since that other night at Korad, and where it will ever lie
beating alone for you until death stills it forever."
She took a little step toward me, her beautiful hands outstretched in a
strange, groping gesture.
"What do you mean, John Carter?" she whispered. "What are you saying
"I am saying what I had promised myself that I would not say to you, at
least until you were no longer a captive among the green men; what from
your attitude toward me for the past twenty days I had thought never to
say to you; I am saying, Dejah Thoris, that I am yours, body and soul,
to serve you, to fight for you, and to die for you. Only one thing I
ask of you in return, and that is that you make no sign, either of
condemnation or of approbation of my words until you are safe among
your own people, and that whatever sentiments you harbor toward me they
be not influenced or colored by gratitude; whatever I may do to serve
you will be prompted solely from selfish motives, since it gives me
more pleasure to serve you than not."
"I will respect your wishes, John Carter, because I understand the
motives which prompt them, and I accept your service no more willingly
than I bow to your authority; your word shall be my law. I have twice
wronged you in my thoughts and again I ask your forgiveness."
Further conversation of a personal nature was prevented by the entrance
of Sola, who was much agitated and wholly unlike her usual calm and
"That horrible Sarkoja has been before Tal Hajus," she cried, "and from
what I heard upon the plaza there is little hope for either of you."
"What do they say?" inquired Dejah Thoris.
"That you will be thrown to the wild calots [dogs] in the great arena
as soon as the hordes have assembled for the yearly games."
"Sola," I said, "you are a Thark, but you hate and loathe the customs
of your people as much as we do. Will you not accompany us in one
supreme effort to escape? I am sure that Dejah Thoris can offer you a
home and protection among her people, and your fate can be no worse
among them than it must ever be here."
"Yes," cried Dejah Thoris, "come with us, Sola, you will be better off
among the red men of Helium than you are here, and I can promise you
not only a home with us, but the love and affection your nature craves
and which must always be denied you by the customs of your own race.
Come with us, Sola; we might go without you, but your fate would be
terrible if they thought you had connived to aid us. I know that even
that fear would not tempt you to interfere in our escape, but we want
you with us, we want you to come to a land of sunshine and happiness,
amongst a people who know the meaning of love, of sympathy, and of
gratitude. Say that you will, Sola; tell me that you will."
"The great waterway which leads to Helium is but fifty miles to the
south," murmured Sola, half to herself; "a swift thoat might make it in
three hours; and then to Helium it is five hundred miles, most of the
way through thinly settled districts. They would know and they would
follow us. We might hide among the great trees for a time, but the
chances are small indeed for escape. They would follow us to the very
gates of Helium, and they would take toll of life at every step; you do
not know them."
"Is there no other way we might reach Helium?" I asked. "Can you not
draw me a rough map of the country we must traverse, Dejah Thoris?"
"Yes," she replied, and taking a great diamond from her hair she drew
upon the marble floor the first map of Barsoomian territory I had ever
seen. It was crisscrossed in every direction with long straight lines,
sometimes running parallel and sometimes converging toward some great
circle. The lines, she said, were waterways; the circles, cities; and
one far to the northwest of us she pointed out as Helium. There were
other cities closer, but she said she feared to enter many of them, as
they were not all friendly toward Helium.
She drew upon the marble floor the first map
of Barsoomian territory I had ever seen.
Finally, after studying the map carefully in the moonlight which now
flooded the room, I pointed out a waterway far to the north of us which
also seemed to lead to Helium.
"Does not this pierce your grandfather's territory?" I asked.
"Yes," she answered, "but it is two hundred miles north of us; it is
one of the waterways we crossed on the trip to Thark."
"They would never suspect that we would try for that distant waterway,"
I answered, "and that is why I think that it is the best route for our
Sola agreed with me, and it was decided that we should leave Thark this
same night; just as quickly, in fact, as I could find and saddle my
thoats. Sola was to ride one and Dejah Thoris and I the other; each of
us carrying sufficient food and drink to last us for two days, since
the animals could not be urged too rapidly for so long a distance.
I directed Sola to proceed with Dejah Thoris along one of the less
frequented avenues to the southern boundary of the city, where I would
overtake them with the thoats as quickly as possible; then, leaving
them to gather what food, silks, and furs we were to need, I slipped
quietly to the rear of the first floor, and entered the courtyard,
where our animals were moving restlessly about, as was their habit,
before settling down for the night.
In the shadows of the buildings and out beneath the radiance of the
Martian moons moved the great herd of thoats and zitidars, the latter
grunting their low gutturals and the former occasionally emitting the
sharp squeal which denotes the almost habitual state of rage in which
these creatures passed their existence. They were quieter now, owing
to the absence of man, but as they scented me they became more restless
and their hideous noise increased. It was risky business, this
entering a paddock of thoats alone and at night; first, because their
increasing noisiness might warn the nearby warriors that something was
amiss, and also because for the slightest cause, or for no cause at all
some great bull thoat might take it upon himself to lead a charge upon
Having no desire to awaken their nasty tempers upon such a night as
this, where so much depended upon secrecy and dispatch, I hugged the
shadows of the buildings, ready at an instant's warning to leap into
the safety of a nearby door or window. Thus I moved silently to the
great gates which opened upon the street at the back of the court, and
as I neared the exit I called softly to my two animals. How I thanked
the kind providence which had given me the foresight to win the love
and confidence of these wild dumb brutes, for presently from the far
side of the court I saw two huge bulks forcing their way toward me
through the surging mountains of flesh.
They came quite close to me, rubbing their muzzles against my body and
nosing for the bits of food it was always my practice to reward them
with. Opening the gates I ordered the two great beasts to pass out,
and then slipping quietly after them I closed the portals behind me.
I did not saddle or mount the animals there, but instead walked quietly
in the shadows of the buildings toward an unfrequented avenue which led
toward the point I had arranged to meet Dejah Thoris and Sola. With
the noiselessness of disembodied spirits we moved stealthily along the
deserted streets, but not until we were within sight of the plain
beyond the city did I commence to breathe freely. I was sure that Sola
and Dejah Thoris would find no difficulty in reaching our rendezvous
undetected, but with my great thoats I was not so sure for myself, as
it was quite unusual for warriors to leave the city after dark; in fact
there was no place for them to go within any but a long ride.
I reached the appointed meeting place safely, but as Dejah Thoris and
Sola were not there I led my animals into the entrance hall of one of
the large buildings. Presuming that one of the other women of the same
household may have come in to speak to Sola, and so delayed their
departure, I did not feel any undue apprehension until nearly an hour
had passed without a sign of them, and by the time another half hour
had crawled away I was becoming filled with grave anxiety. Then there
broke upon the stillness of the night the sound of an approaching
party, which, from the noise, I knew could be no fugitives creeping
stealthily toward liberty. Soon the party was near me, and from the
black shadows of my entranceway I perceived a score of mounted
warriors, who, in passing, dropped a dozen words that fetched my heart
clean into the top of my head.
"He would likely have arranged to meet them just without the city, and
so—" I heard no more, they had passed on; but it was enough. Our
plan had been discovered, and the chances for escape from now on to the
fearful end would be small indeed. My one hope now was to return
undetected to the quarters of Dejah Thoris and learn what fate had
overtaken her, but how to do it with these great monstrous thoats upon
my hands, now that the city probably was aroused by the knowledge of my
escape was a problem of no mean proportions.
Suddenly an idea occurred to me, and acting on my knowledge of the
construction of the buildings of these ancient Martian cities with a
hollow court within the center of each square, I groped my way blindly
through the dark chambers, calling the great thoats after me. They had
difficulty in negotiating some of the doorways, but as the buildings
fronting the city's principal exposures were all designed upon a
magnificent scale, they were able to wriggle through without sticking
fast; and thus we finally made the inner court where I found, as I had
expected, the usual carpet of moss-like vegetation which would prove
their food and drink until I could return them to their own enclosure.
That they would be as quiet and contented here as elsewhere I was
confident, nor was there but the remotest possibility that they would
be discovered, as the green men had no great desire to enter these
outlying buildings, which were frequented by the only thing, I believe,
which caused them the sensation of fear—the great white apes of
Removing the saddle trappings, I hid them just within the rear doorway
of the building through which we had entered the court, and, turning
the beasts loose, quickly made my way across the court to the rear of
the buildings upon the further side, and thence to the avenue beyond.
Waiting in the doorway of the building until I was assured that no one
was approaching, I hurried across to the opposite side and through the
first doorway to the court beyond; thus, crossing through court after
court with only the slight chance of detection which the necessary
crossing of the avenues entailed, I made my way in safety to the
courtyard in the rear of Dejah Thoris' quarters.
Here, of course, I found the beasts of the warriors who quartered in
the adjacent buildings, and the warriors themselves I might expect to
meet within if I entered; but, fortunately for me, I had another and
safer method of reaching the upper story where Dejah Thoris should be
found, and, after first determining as nearly as possible which of the
buildings she occupied, for I had never observed them before from the
court side, I took advantage of my relatively great strength and
agility and sprang upward until I grasped the sill of a second-story
window which I thought to be in the rear of her apartment. Drawing
myself inside the room I moved stealthily toward the front of the
building, and not until I had quite reached the doorway of her room was
I made aware by voices that it was occupied.
I did not rush headlong in, but listened without to assure myself that
it was Dejah Thoris and that it was safe to venture within. It was
well indeed that I took this precaution, for the conversation I heard
was in the low gutturals of men, and the words which finally came to me
proved a most timely warning. The speaker was a chieftain and he was
giving orders to four of his warriors.
"And when he returns to this chamber," he was saying, "as he surely
will when he finds she does not meet him at the city's edge, you four
are to spring upon him and disarm him. It will require the combined
strength of all of you to do it if the reports they bring back from
Korad are correct. When you have him fast bound bear him to the vaults
beneath the jeddak's quarters and chain him securely where he may be
found when Tal Hajus wishes him. Allow him to speak with none, nor
permit any other to enter this apartment before he comes. There will
be no danger of the girl returning, for by this time she is safe in the
arms of Tal Hajus, and may all her ancestors have pity upon her, for
Tal Hajus will have none; the great Sarkoja has done a noble night's
work. I go, and if you fail to capture him when he comes, I commend
your carcasses to the cold bosom of Iss."
A COSTLY RECAPTURE
As the speaker ceased he turned to leave the apartment by the door
where I was standing, but I needed to wait no longer; I had heard
enough to fill my soul with dread, and stealing quietly away I returned
to the courtyard by the way I had come. My plan of action was formed
upon the instant, and crossing the square and the bordering avenue upon
the opposite side I soon stood within the courtyard of Tal Hajus.
The brilliantly lighted apartments of the first floor told me where
first to seek, and advancing to the windows I peered within. I soon
discovered that my approach was not to be the easy thing I had hoped,
for the rear rooms bordering the court were filled with warriors and
women. I then glanced up at the stories above, discovering that the
third was apparently unlighted, and so decided to make my entrance to
the building from that point. It was the work of but a moment for me
to reach the windows above, and soon I had drawn myself within the
sheltering shadows of the unlighted third floor.
Fortunately the room I had selected was untenanted, and creeping
noiselessly to the corridor beyond I discovered a light in the
apartments ahead of me. Reaching what appeared to be a doorway I
discovered that it was but an opening upon an immense inner chamber
which towered from the first floor, two stories below me, to the
dome-like roof of the building, high above my head. The floor of this
great circular hall was thronged with chieftains, warriors and women,
and at one end was a great raised platform upon which squatted the most
hideous beast I had ever put my eyes upon. He had all the cold, hard,
cruel, terrible features of the green warriors, but accentuated and
debased by the animal passions to which he had given himself over for
many years. There was not a mark of dignity or pride upon his bestial
countenance, while his enormous bulk spread itself out upon the
platform where he squatted like some huge devil fish, his six limbs
accentuating the similarity in a horrible and startling manner.
But the sight that froze me with apprehension was that of Dejah Thoris
and Sola standing there before him, and the fiendish leer of him as he
let his great protruding eyes gloat upon the lines of her beautiful
figure. She was speaking, but I could not hear what she said, nor
could I make out the low grumbling of his reply. She stood there erect
before him, her head high held, and even at the distance I was from
them I could read the scorn and disgust upon her face as she let her
haughty glance rest without sign of fear upon him. She was indeed the
proud daughter of a thousand jeddaks, every inch of her dear, precious
little body; so small, so frail beside the towering warriors around
her, but in her majesty dwarfing them into insignificance; she was the
mightiest figure among them and I verily believe that they felt it.
Presently Tal Hajus made a sign that the chamber be cleared, and that
the prisoners be left alone before him. Slowly the chieftains, the
warriors and the women melted away into the shadows of the surrounding
chambers, and Dejah Thoris and Sola stood alone before the jeddak of
One chieftain alone had hesitated before departing; I saw him standing
in the shadows of a mighty column, his fingers nervously toying with
the hilt of his great-sword and his cruel eyes bent in implacable
hatred upon Tal Hajus. It was Tars Tarkas, and I could read his
thoughts as they were an open book for the undisguised loathing upon
his face. He was thinking of that other woman who, forty years ago,
had stood before this beast, and could I have spoken a word into his
ear at that moment the reign of Tal Hajus would have been over; but
finally he also strode from the room, not knowing that he left his own
daughter at the mercy of the creature he most loathed.
Tal Hajus arose, and I, half fearing, half anticipating his intentions,
hurried to the winding runway which led to the floors below. No one
was near to intercept me, and I reached the main floor of the chamber
unobserved, taking my station in the shadow of the same column that
Tars Tarkas had but just deserted. As I reached the floor Tal Hajus
"Princess of Helium, I might wring a mighty ransom from your people
would I but return you to them unharmed, but a thousand times rather
would I watch that beautiful face writhe in the agony of torture; it
shall be long drawn out, that I promise you; ten days of pleasure were
all too short to show the love I harbor for your race. The terrors of
your death shall haunt the slumbers of the red men through all the ages
to come; they will shudder in the shadows of the night as their fathers
tell them of the awful vengeance of the green men; of the power and
might and hate and cruelty of Tal Hajus. But before the torture you
shall be mine for one short hour, and word of that too shall go forth
to Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium, your grandfather, that he may grovel
upon the ground in the agony of his sorrow. Tomorrow the torture will
commence; tonight thou art Tal Hajus'; come!"
He sprang down from the platform and grasped her roughly by the arm,
but scarcely had he touched her than I leaped between them. My
short-sword, sharp and gleaming was in my right hand; I could have
plunged it into his putrid heart before he realized that I was upon
him; but as I raised my arm to strike I thought of Tars Tarkas, and,
with all my rage, with all my hatred, I could not rob him of that sweet
moment for which he had lived and hoped all these long, weary years,
and so, instead, I swung my good right fist full upon the point of his
jaw. Without a sound he slipped to the floor as one dead.
In the same deathly silence I grasped Dejah Thoris by the hand, and
motioning Sola to follow we sped noiselessly from the chamber and to
the floor above. Unseen we reached a rear window and with the straps
and leather of my trappings I lowered, first Sola and then Dejah Thoris
to the ground below. Dropping lightly after them I drew them rapidly
around the court in the shadows of the buildings, and thus we returned
over the same course I had so recently followed from the distant
boundary of the city.
We finally came upon my thoats in the courtyard where I had left them,
and placing the trappings upon them we hastened through the building to
the avenue beyond. Mounting, Sola upon one beast, and Dejah Thoris
behind me upon the other, we rode from the city of Thark through the
hills to the south.
Instead of circling back around the city to the northwest and toward
the nearest waterway which lay so short a distance from us, we turned
to the northeast and struck out upon the mossy waste across which, for
two hundred dangerous and weary miles, lay another main artery leading
No word was spoken until we had left the city far behind, but I could
hear the quiet sobbing of Dejah Thoris as she clung to me with her dear
head resting against my shoulder.
"If we make it, my chieftain, the debt of Helium will be a mighty one;
greater than she can ever pay you; and should we not make it," she
continued, "the debt is no less, though Helium will never know, for you
have saved the last of our line from worse than death."
I did not answer, but instead reached to my side and pressed the little
fingers of her I loved where they clung to me for support, and then, in
unbroken silence, we sped over the yellow, moonlit moss; each of us
occupied with his own thoughts. For my part I could not be other than
joyful had I tried, with Dejah Thoris' warm body pressed close to mine,
and with all our unpassed danger my heart was singing as gaily as
though we were already entering the gates of Helium.
Our earlier plans had been so sadly upset that we now found ourselves
without food or drink, and I alone was armed. We therefore urged our
beasts to a speed that must tell on them sorely before we could hope to
sight the ending of the first stage of our journey.
We rode all night and all the following day with only a few short
rests. On the second night both we and our animals were completely
fagged, and so we lay down upon the moss and slept for some five or six
hours, taking up the journey once more before daylight. All the
following day we rode, and when, late in the afternoon we had sighted
no distant trees, the mark of the great waterways throughout all
Barsoom, the terrible truth flashed upon us—we were lost.
Evidently we had circled, but which way it was difficult to say, nor
did it seem possible with the sun to guide us by day and the moons and
stars by night. At any rate no waterway was in sight, and the entire
party was almost ready to drop from hunger, thirst and fatigue. Far
ahead of us and a trifle to the right we could distinguish the outlines
of low mountains. These we decided to attempt to reach in the hope
that from some ridge we might discern the missing waterway. Night fell
upon us before we reached our goal, and, almost fainting from weariness
and weakness, we lay down and slept.
I was awakened early in the morning by some huge body pressing close to
mine, and opening my eyes with a start I beheld my blessed old Woola
snuggling close to me; the faithful brute had followed us across that
trackless waste to share our fate, whatever it might be. Putting my
arms about his neck I pressed my cheek close to his, nor am I ashamed
that I did it, nor of the tears that came to my eyes as I thought of
his love for me. Shortly after this Dejah Thoris and Sola awakened,
and it was decided that we push on at once in an effort to gain the
We had gone scarcely a mile when I noticed that my thoat was commencing
to stumble and stagger in a most pitiful manner, although we had not
attempted to force them out of a walk since about noon of the preceding
day. Suddenly he lurched wildly to one side and pitched violently to
the ground. Dejah Thoris and I were thrown clear of him and fell upon
the soft moss with scarcely a jar; but the poor beast was in a pitiable
condition, not even being able to rise, although relieved of our
weight. Sola told me that the coolness of the night, when it fell,
together with the rest would doubtless revive him, and so I decided not
to kill him, as was my first intention, as I had thought it cruel to
leave him alone there to die of hunger and thirst. Relieving him of
his trappings, which I flung down beside him, we left the poor fellow
to his fate, and pushed on with the one thoat as best we could. Sola
and I walked, making Dejah Thoris ride, much against her will. In this
way we had progressed to within about a mile of the hills we were
endeavoring to reach when Dejah Thoris, from her point of vantage upon
the thoat, cried out that she saw a great party of mounted men filing
down from a pass in the hills several miles away. Sola and I both
looked in the direction she indicated, and there, plainly discernible,
were several hundred mounted warriors. They seemed to be headed in a
southwesterly direction, which would take them away from us.
They doubtless were Thark warriors who had been sent out to capture us,
and we breathed a great sigh of relief that they were traveling in the
opposite direction. Quickly lifting Dejah Thoris from the thoat, I
commanded the animal to lie down and we three did the same, presenting
as small an object as possible for fear of attracting the attention of
the warriors toward us.
We could see them as they filed out of the pass, just for an instant,
before they were lost to view behind a friendly ridge; to us a most
providential ridge; since, had they been in view for any great length
of time, they scarcely could have failed to discover us. As what
proved to be the last warrior came into view from the pass, he halted
and, to our consternation, threw his small but powerful fieldglass to
his eye and scanned the sea bottom in all directions. Evidently he was
a chieftain, for in certain marching formations among the green men a
chieftain brings up the extreme rear of the column. As his glass swung
toward us our hearts stopped in our breasts, and I could feel the cold
sweat start from every pore in my body.
Presently it swung full upon us and—stopped. The tension on our
nerves was near the breaking point, and I doubt if any of us breathed
for the few moments he held us covered by his glass; and then he
lowered it and we could see him shout a command to the warriors who had
passed from our sight behind the ridge. He did not wait for them to
join him, however, instead he wheeled his thoat and came tearing madly
in our direction.
There was but one slight chance and that we must take quickly. Raising
my strange Martian rifle to my shoulder I sighted and touched the
button which controlled the trigger; there was a sharp explosion as the
missile reached its goal, and the charging chieftain pitched backward
from his flying mount.
Springing to my feet I urged the thoat to rise, and directed Sola to
take Dejah Thoris with her upon him and make a mighty effort to reach
the hills before the green warriors were upon us. I knew that in the
ravines and gullies they might find a temporary hiding place, and even
though they died there of hunger and thirst it would be better so than
that they fell into the hands of the Tharks. Forcing my two revolvers
upon them as a slight means of protection, and, as a last resort, as an
escape for themselves from the horrid death which recapture would
surely mean, I lifted Dejah Thoris in my arms and placed her upon the
thoat behind Sola, who had already mounted at my command.
"Good-bye, my princess," I whispered, "we may meet in Helium yet. I
have escaped from worse plights than this," and I tried to smile as I
"What," she cried, "are you not coming with us?"
"How may I, Dejah Thoris? Someone must hold these fellows off for a
while, and I can better escape them alone than could the three of us
She sprang quickly from the thoat and, throwing her dear arms about my
neck, turned to Sola, saying with quiet dignity: "Fly, Sola! Dejah
Thoris remains to die with the man she loves."
Those words are engraved upon my heart. Ah, gladly would I give up my
life a thousand times could I only hear them once again; but I could
not then give even a second to the rapture of her sweet embrace, and
pressing my lips to hers for the first time, I picked her up bodily and
tossed her to her seat behind Sola again, commanding the latter in
peremptory tones to hold her there by force, and then, slapping the
thoat upon the flank, I saw them borne away; Dejah Thoris struggling to
the last to free herself from Sola's grasp.
Turning, I beheld the green warriors mounting the ridge and looking for
their chieftain. In a moment they saw him, and then me; but scarcely
had they discovered me than I commenced firing, lying flat upon my
belly in the moss. I had an even hundred rounds in the magazine of my
rifle, and another hundred in the belt at my back, and I kept up a
continuous stream of fire until I saw all of the warriors who had been
first to return from behind the ridge either dead or scurrying to cover.
My respite was short-lived however, for soon the entire party,
numbering some thousand men, came charging into view, racing madly
toward me. I fired until my rifle was empty and they were almost upon
me, and then a glance showing me that Dejah Thoris and Sola had
disappeared among the hills, I sprang up, throwing down my useless gun,
and started away in the direction opposite to that taken by Sola and
If ever Martians had an exhibition of jumping, it was granted those
astonished warriors on that day long years ago, but while it led them
away from Dejah Thoris it did not distract their attention from
endeavoring to capture me.
They raced wildly after me until, finally, my foot struck a projecting
piece of quartz, and down I went sprawling upon the moss. As I looked
up they were upon me, and although I drew my long-sword in an attempt
to sell my life as dearly as possible, it was soon over. I reeled
beneath their blows which fell upon me in perfect torrents; my head
swam; all was black, and I went down beneath them to oblivion.
CHAINED IN WARHOON
It must have been several hours before I regained consciousness and I
well remember the feeling of surprise which swept over me as I realized
that I was not dead.
I was lying among a pile of sleeping silks and furs in the corner of a
small room in which were several green warriors, and bending over me
was an ancient and ugly female.
As I opened my eyes she turned to one of the warriors, saying,
"He will live, O Jed."
"'Tis well," replied the one so addressed, rising and approaching my
couch, "he should render rare sport for the great games."
And now as my eyes fell upon him, I saw that he was no Thark, for his
ornaments and metal were not of that horde. He was a huge fellow,
terribly scarred about the face and chest, and with one broken tusk and
a missing ear. Strapped on either breast were human skulls and
depending from these a number of dried human hands.
His reference to the great games of which I had heard so much while
among the Tharks convinced me that I had but jumped from purgatory into
After a few more words with the female, during which she assured him
that I was now fully fit to travel, the jed ordered that we mount and
ride after the main column.
I was strapped securely to as wild and unmanageable a thoat as I had
ever seen, and, with a mounted warrior on either side to prevent the
beast from bolting, we rode forth at a furious pace in pursuit of the
column. My wounds gave me but little pain, so wonderfully and rapidly
had the applications and injections of the female exercised their
therapeutic powers, and so deftly had she bound and plastered the
Just before dark we reached the main body of troops shortly after they
had made camp for the night. I was immediately taken before the
leader, who proved to be the jeddak of the hordes of Warhoon.
Like the jed who had brought me, he was frightfully scarred, and also
decorated with the breastplate of human skulls and dried dead hands
which seemed to mark all the greater warriors among the Warhoons, as
well as to indicate their awful ferocity, which greatly transcends even
that of the Tharks.
The jeddak, Bar Comas, who was comparatively young, was the object of
the fierce and jealous hatred of his old lieutenant, Dak Kova, the jed
who had captured me, and I could not but note the almost studied
efforts which the latter made to affront his superior.
He entirely omitted the usual formal salutation as we entered the
presence of the jeddak, and as he pushed me roughly before the ruler he
exclaimed in a loud and menacing voice.
"I have brought a strange creature wearing the metal of a Thark whom it
is my pleasure to have battle with a wild thoat at the great games."
"He will die as Bar Comas, your jeddak, sees fit, if at all," replied
the young ruler, with emphasis and dignity.
"If at all?" roared Dak Kova. "By the dead hands at my throat but he
shall die, Bar Comas. No maudlin weakness on your part shall save him.
O, would that Warhoon were ruled by a real jeddak rather than by a
water-hearted weakling from whom even old Dak Kova could tear the metal
with his bare hands!"
Bar Comas eyed the defiant and insubordinate chieftain for an instant,
his expression one of haughty, fearless contempt and hate, and then
without drawing a weapon and without uttering a word he hurled himself
at the throat of his defamer.
I never before had seen two green Martian warriors battle with nature's
weapons and the exhibition of animal ferocity which ensued was as
fearful a thing as the most disordered imagination could picture. They
tore at each others' eyes and ears with their hands and with their
gleaming tusks repeatedly slashed and gored until both were cut fairly
to ribbons from head to foot.
Bar Comas had much the better of the battle as he was stronger, quicker
and more intelligent. It soon seemed that the encounter was done
saving only the final death thrust when Bar Comas slipped in breaking
away from a clinch. It was the one little opening that Dak Kova
needed, and hurling himself at the body of his adversary he buried his
single mighty tusk in Bar Comas' groin and with a last powerful effort
ripped the young jeddak wide open the full length of his body, the
great tusk finally wedging in the bones of Bar Comas' jaw. Victor and
vanquished rolled limp and lifeless upon the moss, a huge mass of torn
and bloody flesh.
Bar Comas was stone dead, and only the most herculean efforts on the
part of Dak Kova's females saved him from the fate he deserved. Three
days later he walked without assistance to the body of Bar Comas which,
by custom, had not been moved from where it fell, and placing his foot
upon the neck of his erstwhile ruler he assumed the title of Jeddak of
The dead jeddak's hands and head were removed to be added to the
ornaments of his conqueror, and then his women cremated what remained,
amid wild and terrible laughter.
The injuries to Dak Kova had delayed the march so greatly that it was
decided to give up the expedition, which was a raid upon a small Thark
community in retaliation for the destruction of the incubator, until
after the great games, and the entire body of warriors, ten thousand in
number, turned back toward Warhoon.
My introduction to these cruel and bloodthirsty people was but an index
to the scenes I witnessed almost daily while with them. They are a
smaller horde than the Tharks but much more ferocious. Not a day
passed but that some members of the various Warhoon communities met in
deadly combat. I have seen as high as eight mortal duels within a
We reached the city of Warhoon after some three days march and I was
immediately cast into a dungeon and heavily chained to the floor and
walls. Food was brought me at intervals but owing to the utter
darkness of the place I do not know whether I lay there days, or weeks,
or months. It was the most horrible experience of all my life and that
my mind did not give way to the terrors of that inky blackness has been
a wonder to me ever since. The place was filled with creeping,
crawling things; cold, sinuous bodies passed over me when I lay down,
and in the darkness I occasionally caught glimpses of gleaming, fiery
eyes, fixed in horrible intentness upon me. No sound reached me from
the world above and no word would my jailer vouchsafe when my food was
brought to me, although I at first bombarded him with questions.
Finally all the hatred and maniacal loathing for these awful creatures
who had placed me in this horrible place was centered by my tottering
reason upon this single emissary who represented to me the entire horde
I had noticed that he always advanced with his dim torch to where he
could place the food within my reach and as he stooped to place it upon
the floor his head was about on a level with my breast. So, with the
cunning of a madman, I backed into the far corner of my cell when next
I heard him approaching and gathering a little slack of the great chain
which held me in my hand I waited his coming, crouching like some beast
of prey. As he stooped to place my food upon the ground I swung the
chain above my head and crashed the links with all my strength upon his
skull. Without a sound he slipped to the floor, stone dead.
Laughing and chattering like the idiot I was fast becoming I fell upon
his prostrate form my fingers feeling for his dead throat. Presently
they came in contact with a small chain at the end of which dangled a
number of keys. The touch of my fingers on these keys brought back my
reason with the suddenness of thought. No longer was I a jibbering
idiot, but a sane, reasoning man with the means of escape within my
As I was groping to remove the chain from about my victim's neck I
glanced up into the darkness to see six pairs of gleaming eyes fixed,
unwinking, upon me. Slowly they approached and slowly I shrank back
from the awful horror of them. Back into my corner I crouched holding
my hands palms out, before me, and stealthily on came the awful eyes
until they reached the dead body at my feet. Then slowly they
retreated but this time with a strange grating sound and finally they
disappeared in some black and distant recess of my dungeon.
BATTLING IN THE ARENA
Slowly I regained my composure and finally essayed again to attempt to
remove the keys from the dead body of my former jailer. But as I
reached out into the darkness to locate it I found to my horror that it
was gone. Then the truth flashed on me; the owners of those gleaming
eyes had dragged my prize away from me to be devoured in their
neighboring lair; as they had been waiting for days, for weeks, for
months, through all this awful eternity of my imprisonment to drag my
dead carcass to their feast.
For two days no food was brought me, but then a new messenger appeared
and my incarceration went on as before, but not again did I allow my
reason to be submerged by the horror of my position.
Shortly after this episode another prisoner was brought in and chained
near me. By the dim torch light I saw that he was a red Martian and I
could scarcely await the departure of his guards to address him. As
their retreating footsteps died away in the distance, I called out
softly the Martian word of greeting, kaor.
"Who are you who speaks out of the darkness?" he answered
"John Carter, a friend of the red men of Helium."
"I am of Helium," he said, "but I do not recall your name."
And then I told him my story as I have written it here, omitting only
any reference to my love for Dejah Thoris. He was much excited by the
news of Helium's princess and seemed quite positive that she and Sola
could easily have reached a point of safety from where they left me.
He said that he knew the place well because the defile through which
the Warhoon warriors had passed when they discovered us was the only
one ever used by them when marching to the south.
"Dejah Thoris and Sola entered the hills not five miles from a great
waterway and are now probably quite safe," he assured me.
My fellow prisoner was Kantos Kan, a padwar (lieutenant) in the navy of
Helium. He had been a member of the ill-fated expedition which had
fallen into the hands of the Tharks at the time of Dejah Thoris'
capture, and he briefly related the events which followed the defeat of
Badly injured and only partially manned they had limped slowly toward
Helium, but while passing near the city of Zodanga, the capital of
Helium's hereditary enemies among the red men of Barsoom, they had been
attacked by a great body of war vessels and all but the craft to which
Kantos Kan belonged were either destroyed or captured. His vessel was
chased for days by three of the Zodangan war ships but finally escaped
during the darkness of a moonless night.
Thirty days after the capture of Dejah Thoris, or about the time of our
coming to Thark, his vessel had reached Helium with about ten survivors
of the original crew of seven hundred officers and men. Immediately
seven great fleets, each of one hundred mighty war ships, had been
dispatched to search for Dejah Thoris, and from these vessels two
thousand smaller craft had been kept out continuously in futile search
for the missing princess.
Two green Martian communities had been wiped off the face of Barsoom by
the avenging fleets, but no trace of Dejah Thoris had been found. They
had been searching among the northern hordes, and only within the past
few days had they extended their quest to the south.
Kantos Kan had been detailed to one of the small one-man fliers and had
had the misfortune to be discovered by the Warhoons while exploring
their city. The bravery and daring of the man won my greatest respect
and admiration. Alone he had landed at the city's boundary and on foot
had penetrated to the buildings surrounding the plaza. For two days
and nights he had explored their quarters and their dungeons in search
of his beloved princess only to fall into the hands of a party of
Warhoons as he was about to leave, after assuring himself that Dejah
Thoris was not a captive there.
During the period of our incarceration Kantos Kan and I became well
acquainted, and formed a warm personal friendship. A few days only
elapsed, however, before we were dragged forth from our dungeon for the
great games. We were conducted early one morning to an enormous
amphitheater, which instead of having been built upon the surface of
the ground was excavated below the surface. It had partially filled
with debris so that how large it had originally been was difficult to
say. In its present condition it held the entire twenty thousand
Warhoons of the assembled hordes.
The arena was immense but extremely uneven and unkempt. Around it the
Warhoons had piled building stone from some of the ruined edifices of
the ancient city to prevent the animals and the captives from escaping
into the audience, and at each end had been constructed cages to hold
them until their turns came to meet some horrible death upon the arena.
Kantos Kan and I were confined together in one of the cages. In the
others were wild calots, thoats, mad zitidars, green warriors, and
women of other hordes, and many strange and ferocious wild beasts of
Barsoom which I had never before seen. The din of their roaring,
growling and squealing was deafening and the formidable appearance of
any one of them was enough to make the stoutest heart feel grave
Kantos Kan explained to me that at the end of the day one of these
prisoners would gain freedom and the others would lie dead about the
arena. The winners in the various contests of the day would be pitted
against each other until only two remained alive; the victor in the
last encounter being set free, whether animal or man. The following
morning the cages would be filled with a new consignment of victims,
and so on throughout the ten days of the games.
Shortly after we had been caged the amphitheater began to fill and
within an hour every available part of the seating space was occupied.
Dak Kova, with his jeds and chieftains, sat at the center of one side
of the arena upon a large raised platform.
At a signal from Dak Kova the doors of two cages were thrown open and a
dozen green Martian females were driven to the center of the arena.
Each was given a dagger and then, at the far end, a pack of twelve
calots, or wild dogs were loosed upon them.
As the brutes, growling and foaming, rushed upon the almost defenseless
women I turned my head that I might not see the horrid sight. The
yells and laughter of the green horde bore witness to the excellent
quality of the sport and when I turned back to the arena, as Kantos Kan
told me it was over, I saw three victorious calots, snarling and
growling over the bodies of their prey. The women had given a good
account of themselves.
Next a mad zitidar was loosed among the remaining dogs, and so it went
throughout the long, hot, horrible day.
During the day I was pitted against first men and then beasts, but as I
was armed with a long-sword and always outclassed my adversary in
agility and generally in strength as well, it proved but child's play
to me. Time and time again I won the applause of the bloodthirsty
multitude, and toward the end there were cries that I be taken from the
arena and be made a member of the hordes of Warhoon.
Finally there were but three of us left, a great green warrior of some
far northern horde, Kantos Kan, and myself.
The other two were to battle and then I to fight the conqueror for the
liberty which was accorded the final winner.
Kantos Kan had fought several times during the day and like myself had
always proven victorious, but occasionally by the smallest of margins,
especially when pitted against the green warriors. I had little hope
that he could best his giant adversary who had mowed down all before
him during the day. The fellow towered nearly sixteen feet in height,
while Kantos Kan was some inches under six feet. As they advanced to
meet one another I saw for the first time a trick of Martian
swordsmanship which centered Kantos Kan's every hope of victory and
life on one cast of the dice, for, as he came to within about twenty
feet of the huge fellow he threw his sword arm far behind him over his
shoulder and with a mighty sweep hurled his weapon point foremost at
the green warrior. It flew true as an arrow and piercing the poor
devil's heart laid him dead upon the arena.
Kantos Kan and I were now pitted against each other but as we
approached to the encounter I whispered to him to prolong the battle
until nearly dark in the hope that we might find some means of escape.
The horde evidently guessed that we had no hearts to fight each other
and so they howled in rage as neither of us placed a fatal thrust.
Just as I saw the sudden coming of dark I whispered to Kantos Kan to
thrust his sword between my left arm and my body. As he did so I
staggered back clasping the sword tightly with my arm and thus fell to
the ground with his weapon apparently protruding from my chest. Kantos
Kan perceived my coup and stepping quickly to my side he placed his
foot upon my neck and withdrawing his sword from my body gave me the
final death blow through the neck which is supposed to sever the
jugular vein, but in this instance the cold blade slipped harmlessly
into the sand of the arena. In the darkness which had now fallen none
could tell but that he had really finished me. I whispered to him to
go and claim his freedom and then look for me in the hills east of the
city, and so he left me.
When the amphitheater had cleared I crept stealthily to the top and as
the great excavation lay far from the plaza and in an untenanted
portion of the great dead city I had little trouble in reaching the
IN THE ATMOSPHERE FACTORY
For two days I waited there for Kantos Kan, but as he did not come I
started off on foot in a northwesterly direction toward a point where
he had told me lay the nearest waterway. My only food consisted of
vegetable milk from the plants which gave so bounteously of this
Through two long weeks I wandered, stumbling through the nights guided
only by the stars and hiding during the days behind some protruding
rock or among the occasional hills I traversed. Several times I was
attacked by wild beasts; strange, uncouth monstrosities that leaped
upon me in the dark, so that I had ever to grasp my long-sword in my
hand that I might be ready for them. Usually my strange, newly
acquired telepathic power warned me in ample time, but once I was down
with vicious fangs at my jugular and a hairy face pressed close to mine
before I knew that I was even threatened.
What manner of thing was upon me I did not know, but that it was large
and heavy and many-legged I could feel. My hands were at its throat
before the fangs had a chance to bury themselves in my neck, and slowly
I forced the hairy face from me and closed my fingers, vise-like, upon
Without sound we lay there, the beast exerting every effort to reach me
with those awful fangs, and I straining to maintain my grip and choke
the life from it as I kept it from my throat. Slowly my arms gave to
the unequal struggle, and inch by inch the burning eyes and gleaming
tusks of my antagonist crept toward me, until, as the hairy face
touched mine again, I realized that all was over. And then a living
mass of destruction sprang from the surrounding darkness full upon the
creature that held me pinioned to the ground. The two rolled growling
upon the moss, tearing and rending one another in a frightful manner,
but it was soon over and my preserver stood with lowered head above the
throat of the dead thing which would have killed me.
The nearer moon, hurtling suddenly above the horizon and lighting up
the Barsoomian scene, showed me that my preserver was Woola, but from
whence he had come, or how found me, I was at a loss to know. That I
was glad of his companionship it is needless to say, but my pleasure at
seeing him was tempered by anxiety as to the reason of his leaving
Dejah Thoris. Only her death I felt sure, could account for his
absence from her, so faithful I knew him to be to my commands.
By the light of the now brilliant moons I saw that he was but a shadow
of his former self, and as he turned from my caress and commenced
greedily to devour the dead carcass at my feet I realized that the poor
fellow was more than half starved. I, myself, was in but little better
plight but I could not bring myself to eat the uncooked flesh and I had
no means of making a fire. When Woola had finished his meal I again
took up my weary and seemingly endless wandering in quest of the
At daybreak of the fifteenth day of my search I was overjoyed to see
the high trees that denoted the object of my search. About noon I
dragged myself wearily to the portals of a huge building which covered
perhaps four square miles and towered two hundred feet in the air. It
showed no aperture in the mighty walls other than the tiny door at
which I sank exhausted, nor was there any sign of life about it.
I could find no bell or other method of making my presence known to the
inmates of the place, unless a small round hole in the wall near the
door was for that purpose. It was of about the bigness of a lead
pencil and thinking that it might be in the nature of a speaking tube I
put my mouth to it and was about to call into it when a voice issued
from it asking me whom I might be, where from, and the nature of my
I explained that I had escaped from the Warhoons and was dying of
starvation and exhaustion.
"You wear the metal of a green warrior and are followed by a calot, yet
you are of the figure of a red man. In color you are neither green nor
red. In the name of the ninth ray, what manner of creature are you?"
"I am a friend of the red men of Barsoom and I am starving. In the
name of humanity open to us," I replied.
Presently the door commenced to recede before me until it had sunk into
the wall fifty feet, then it stopped and slid easily to the left,
exposing a short, narrow corridor of concrete, at the further end of
which was another door, similar in every respect to the one I had just
passed. No one was in sight, yet immediately we passed the first door
it slid gently into place behind us and receded rapidly to its original
position in the front wall of the building. As the door had slipped
aside I had noted its great thickness, fully twenty feet, and as it
reached its place once more after closing behind us, great cylinders of
steel had dropped from the ceiling behind it and fitted their lower
ends into apertures countersunk in the floor.
A second and third door receded before me and slipped to one side as
the first, before I reached a large inner chamber where I found food
and drink set out upon a great stone table. A voice directed me to
satisfy my hunger and to feed my calot, and while I was thus engaged my
invisible host put me through a severe and searching cross-examination.
"Your statements are most remarkable," said the voice, on concluding
its questioning, "but you are evidently speaking the truth, and it is
equally evident that you are not of Barsoom. I can tell that by the
conformation of your brain and the strange location of your internal
organs and the shape and size of your heart."
"Can you see through me?" I exclaimed.
"Yes, I can see all but your thoughts, and were you a Barsoomian I
could read those."
Then a door opened at the far side of the chamber and a strange, dried
up, little mummy of a man came toward me. He wore but a single article
of clothing or adornment, a small collar of gold from which depended
upon his chest a great ornament as large as a dinner plate set solid
with huge diamonds, except for the exact center which was occupied by a
strange stone, an inch in diameter, that scintillated nine different
and distinct rays; the seven colors of our earthly prism and two
beautiful rays which, to me, were new and nameless. I cannot describe
them any more than you could describe red to a blind man. I only know
that they were beautiful in the extreme.
The old man sat and talked with me for hours, and the strangest part of
our intercourse was that I could read his every thought while he could
not fathom an iota from my mind unless I spoke.
The old man sat and talked with me for hours.
I did not apprise him of my ability to sense his mental operations, and
thus I learned a great deal which proved of immense value to me later
and which I would never have known had he suspected my strange power,
for the Martians have such perfect control of their mental machinery
that they are able to direct their thoughts with absolute precision.
The building in which I found myself contained the machinery which
produces that artificial atmosphere which sustains life on Mars. The
secret of the entire process hinges on the use of the ninth ray, one of
the beautiful scintillations which I had noted emanating from the great
stone in my host's diadem.
This ray is separated from the other rays of the sun by means of finely
adjusted instruments placed upon the roof of the huge building,
three-quarters of which is used for reservoirs in which the ninth ray
is stored. This product is then treated electrically, or rather
certain proportions of refined electric vibrations are incorporated
with it, and the result is then pumped to the five principal air
centers of the planet where, as it is released, contact with the ether
of space transforms it into atmosphere.
There is always sufficient reserve of the ninth ray stored in the great
building to maintain the present Martian atmosphere for a thousand
years, and the only fear, as my new friend told me, was that some
accident might befall the pumping apparatus.
He led me to an inner chamber where I beheld a battery of twenty radium
pumps any one of which was equal to the task of furnishing all Mars
with the atmosphere compound. For eight hundred years, he told me, he
had watched these pumps which are used alternately a day each at a
stretch, or a little over twenty-four and one-half Earth hours. He has
one assistant who divides the watch with him. Half a Martian year,
about three hundred and forty-four of our days, each of these men spend
alone in this huge, isolated plant.
Every red Martian is taught during earliest childhood the principles of
the manufacture of atmosphere, but only two at one time ever hold the
secret of ingress to the great building, which, built as it is with
walls a hundred and fifty feet thick, is absolutely unassailable, even
the roof being guarded from assault by air craft by a glass covering
five feet thick.
The only fear they entertain of attack is from the green Martians or
some demented red man, as all Barsoomians realize that the very
existence of every form of life of Mars is dependent upon the
uninterrupted working of this plant.
One curious fact I discovered as I watched his thoughts was that the
outer doors are manipulated by telepathic means. The locks are so
finely adjusted that the doors are released by the action of a certain
combination of thought waves. To experiment with my new-found toy I
thought to surprise him into revealing this combination and so I asked
him in a casual manner how he had managed to unlock the massive doors
for me from the inner chambers of the building. As quick as a flash
there leaped to his mind nine Martian sounds, but as quickly faded as
he answered that this was a secret he must not divulge.
From then on his manner toward me changed as though he feared that he
had been surprised into divulging his great secret, and I read
suspicion and fear in his looks and thoughts, though his words were
Before I retired for the night he promised to give me a letter to a
nearby agricultural officer who would help me on my way to Zodanga,
which he said, was the nearest Martian city.
"But be sure that you do not let them know you are bound for Helium as
they are at war with that country. My assistant and I are of no
country, we belong to all Barsoom and this talisman which we wear
protects us in all lands, even among the green men—though we do not
trust ourselves to their hands if we can avoid it," he added.
"And so good-night, my friend," he continued, "may you have a long and
restful sleep—yes, a long sleep."
And though he smiled pleasantly I saw in his thoughts the wish that he
had never admitted me, and then a picture of him standing over me in
the night, and the swift thrust of a long dagger and the half formed
words, "I am sorry, but it is for the best good of Barsoom."
As he closed the door of my chamber behind him his thoughts were cut
off from me as was the sight of him, which seemed strange to me in my
little knowledge of thought transference.
What was I to do? How could I escape through these mighty walls?
Easily could I kill him now that I was warned, but once he was dead I
could no more escape, and with the stopping of the machinery of the
great plant I should die with all the other inhabitants of the
planet—all, even Dejah Thoris were she not already dead. For the
others I did not give the snap of my finger, but the thought of Dejah
Thoris drove from my mind all desire to kill my mistaken host.
Cautiously I opened the door of my apartment and, followed by Woola,
sought the inner of the great doors. A wild scheme had come to me; I
would attempt to force the great locks by the nine thought waves I had
read in my host's mind.
Creeping stealthily through corridor after corridor and down winding
runways which turned hither and thither I finally reached the great
hall in which I had broken my long fast that morning. Nowhere had I
seen my host, nor did I know where he kept himself by night.
I was on the point of stepping boldly out into the room when a slight
noise behind me warned me back into the shadows of a recess in the
corridor. Dragging Woola after me I crouched low in the darkness.
Presently the old man passed close by me, and as he entered the dimly
lighted chamber which I had been about to pass through I saw that he
held a long thin dagger in his hand and that he was sharpening it upon
a stone. In his mind was the decision to inspect the radium pumps,
which would take about thirty minutes, and then return to my bed
chamber and finish me.
As he passed through the great hall and disappeared down the runway
which led to the pump-room, I stole stealthily from my hiding place and
crossed to the great door, the inner of the three which stood between
me and liberty.
Concentrating my mind upon the massive lock I hurled the nine thought
waves against it. In breathless expectancy I waited, when finally the
great door moved softly toward me and slid quietly to one side. One
after the other the remaining mighty portals opened at my command and
Woola and I stepped forth into the darkness, free, but little better
off than we had been before, other than that we had full stomachs.
Hastening away from the shadows of the formidable pile I made for the
first crossroad, intending to strike the central turnpike as quickly as
possible. This I reached about morning and entering the first
enclosure I came to I searched for some evidences of a habitation.
There were low rambling buildings of concrete barred with heavy
impassable doors, and no amount of hammering and hallooing brought any
response. Weary and exhausted from sleeplessness I threw myself upon
the ground commanding Woola to stand guard.
Some time later I was awakened by his frightful growlings and opened my
eyes to see three red Martians standing a short distance from us and
covering me with their rifles.
"I am unarmed and no enemy," I hastened to explain. "I have been a
prisoner among the green men and am on my way to Zodanga. All I ask is
food and rest for myself and my calot and the proper directions for
reaching my destination."
They lowered their rifles and advanced pleasantly toward me placing
their right hands upon my left shoulder, after the manner of their
custom of salute, and asking me many questions about myself and my
wanderings. They then took me to the house of one of them which was
only a short distance away.
The buildings I had been hammering at in the early morning were
occupied only by stock and farm produce, the house proper standing
among a grove of enormous trees, and, like all red-Martian homes, had
been raised at night some forty or fifty feet from the ground on a
large round metal shaft which slid up or down within a sleeve sunk in
the ground, and was operated by a tiny radium engine in the entrance
hall of the building. Instead of bothering with bolts and bars for
their dwellings, the red Martians simply run them up out of harm's way
during the night. They also have private means for lowering or raising
them from the ground without if they wish to go away and leave them.
These brothers, with their wives and children, occupied three similar
houses on this farm. They did no work themselves, being government
officers in charge. The labor was performed by convicts, prisoners of
war, delinquent debtors and confirmed bachelors who were too poor to
pay the high celibate tax which all red-Martian governments impose.
They were the personification of cordiality and hospitality and I spent
several days with them, resting and recuperating from my long and
When they had heard my story—I omitted all reference to Dejah Thoris
and the old man of the atmosphere plant—they advised me to color my
body to more nearly resemble their own race and then attempt to find
employment in Zodanga, either in the army or the navy.
"The chances are small that your tale will be believed until after you
have proven your trustworthiness and won friends among the higher
nobles of the court. This you can most easily do through military
service, as we are a warlike people on Barsoom," explained one of them,
"and save our richest favors for the fighting man."
When I was ready to depart they furnished me with a small domestic bull
thoat, such as is used for saddle purposes by all red Martians. The
animal is about the size of a horse and quite gentle, but in color and
shape an exact replica of his huge and fierce cousin of the wilds.
The brothers had supplied me with a reddish oil with which I anointed
my entire body and one of them cut my hair, which had grown quite long,
in the prevailing fashion of the time, square at the back and banged in
front, so that I could have passed anywhere upon Barsoom as a
full-fledged red Martian. My metal and ornaments were also renewed in
the style of a Zodangan gentleman, attached to the house of Ptor, which
was the family name of my benefactors.
They filled a little sack at my side with Zodangan money. The medium
of exchange upon Mars is not dissimilar from our own except that the
coins are oval. Paper money is issued by individuals as they require
it and redeemed twice yearly. If a man issues more than he can redeem,
the government pays his creditors in full and the debtor works out the
amount upon the farms or in mines, which are all owned by the
government. This suits everybody except the debtor as it has been a
difficult thing to obtain sufficient voluntary labor to work the great
isolated farm lands of Mars, stretching as they do like narrow ribbons
from pole to pole, through wild stretches peopled by wild animals and
When I mentioned my inability to repay them for their kindness to me
they assured me that I would have ample opportunity if I lived long
upon Barsoom, and bidding me farewell they watched me until I was out
of sight upon the broad white turnpike.
AN AIR SCOUT FOR ZODANGA
As I proceeded on my journey toward Zodanga many strange and
interesting sights arrested my attention, and at the several farm
houses where I stopped I learned a number of new and instructive things
concerning the methods and manners of Barsoom.
The water which supplies the farms of Mars is collected in immense
underground reservoirs at either pole from the melting ice caps, and
pumped through long conduits to the various populated centers. Along
either side of these conduits, and extending their entire length, lie
the cultivated districts. These are divided into tracts of about the
same size, each tract being under the supervision of one or more
Instead of flooding the surface of the fields, and thus wasting immense
quantities of water by evaporation, the precious liquid is carried
underground through a vast network of small pipes directly to the roots
of the vegetation. The crops upon Mars are always uniform, for there
are no droughts, no rains, no high winds, and no insects, or destroying
On this trip I tasted the first meat I had eaten since leaving
Earth—large, juicy steaks and chops from the well-fed domestic animals
of the farms. Also I enjoyed luscious fruits and vegetables, but not a
single article of food which was exactly similar to anything on Earth.
Every plant and flower and vegetable and animal has been so refined by
ages of careful, scientific cultivation and breeding that the like of
them on Earth dwindled into pale, gray, characterless nothingness by
At a second stop I met some highly cultivated people of the noble class
and while in conversation we chanced to speak of Helium. One of the
older men had been there on a diplomatic mission several years before
and spoke with regret of the conditions which seemed destined ever to
keep these two countries at war.
"Helium," he said, "rightly boasts the most beautiful women of Barsoom,
and of all her treasures the wondrous daughter of Mors Kajak, Dejah
Thoris, is the most exquisite flower.
"Why," he added, "the people really worship the ground she walks upon
and since her loss on that ill-starred expedition all Helium has been
draped in mourning.
"That our ruler should have attacked the disabled fleet as it was
returning to Helium was but another of his awful blunders which I fear
will sooner or later compel Zodanga to elevate a wiser man to his
"Even now, though our victorious armies are surrounding Helium, the
people of Zodanga are voicing their displeasure, for the war is not a
popular one, since it is not based on right or justice. Our forces
took advantage of the absence of the principal fleet of Helium on their
search for the princess, and so we have been able easily to reduce the
city to a sorry plight. It is said she will fall within the next few
passages of the further moon."
"And what, think you, may have been the fate of the princess, Dejah
Thoris?" I asked as casually as possible.
"She is dead," he answered. "This much was learned from a green
warrior recently captured by our forces in the south. She escaped from
the hordes of Thark with a strange creature of another world, only to
fall into the hands of the Warhoons. Their thoats were found wandering
upon the sea bottom and evidences of a bloody conflict were discovered
While this information was in no way reassuring, neither was it at all
conclusive proof of the death of Dejah Thoris, and so I determined to
make every effort possible to reach Helium as quickly as I could and
carry to Tardos Mors such news of his granddaughter's possible
whereabouts as lay in my power.
Ten days after leaving the three Ptor brothers I arrived at Zodanga.
From the moment that I had come in contact with the red inhabitants of
Mars I had noticed that Woola drew a great amount of unwelcome
attention to me, since the huge brute belonged to a species which is
never domesticated by the red men. Were one to stroll down Broadway
with a Numidian lion at his heels the effect would be somewhat similar
to that which I should have produced had I entered Zodanga with Woola.
The very thought of parting with the faithful fellow caused me so great
regret and genuine sorrow that I put it off until just before we
arrived at the city's gates; but then, finally, it became imperative
that we separate. Had nothing further than my own safety or pleasure
been at stake no argument could have prevailed upon me to turn away the
one creature upon Barsoom that had never failed in a demonstration of
affection and loyalty; but as I would willingly have offered my life in
the service of her in search of whom I was about to challenge the
unknown dangers of this, to me, mysterious city, I could not permit
even Woola's life to threaten the success of my venture, much less his
momentary happiness, for I doubted not he soon would forget me. And so
I bade the poor beast an affectionate farewell, promising him, however,
that if I came through my adventure in safety that in some way I should
find the means to search him out.
He seemed to understand me fully, and when I pointed back in the
direction of Thark he turned sorrowfully away, nor could I bear to
watch him go; but resolutely set my face toward Zodanga and with a
touch of heartsickness approached her frowning walls.
The letter I bore from them gained me immediate entrance to the vast,
walled city. It was still very early in the morning and the streets
were practically deserted. The residences, raised high upon their
metal columns, resembled huge rookeries, while the uprights themselves
presented the appearance of steel tree trunks. The shops as a rule
were not raised from the ground nor were their doors bolted or barred,
since thievery is practically unknown upon Barsoom. Assassination is
the ever-present fear of all Barsoomians, and for this reason alone
their homes are raised high above the ground at night, or in times of
The Ptor brothers had given me explicit directions for reaching the
point of the city where I could find living accommodations and be near
the offices of the government agents to whom they had given me letters.
My way led to the central square or plaza, which is a characteristic of
all Martian cities.
The plaza of Zodanga covers a square mile and is bounded by the palaces
of the jeddak, the jeds, and other members of the royalty and nobility
of Zodanga, as well as by the principal public buildings, cafes, and
As I was crossing the great square lost in wonder and admiration of the
magnificent architecture and the gorgeous scarlet vegetation which
carpeted the broad lawns I discovered a red Martian walking briskly
toward me from one of the avenues. He paid not the slightest attention
to me, but as he came abreast I recognized him, and turning I placed my
hand upon his shoulder, calling out:
"Kaor, Kantos Kan!"
Like lightning he wheeled and before I could so much as lower my hand
the point of his long-sword was at my breast.
"Who are you?" he growled, and then as a backward leap carried me fifty
feet from his sword he dropped the point to the ground and exclaimed,
"I do not need a better reply, there is but one man upon all Barsoom
who can bounce about like a rubber ball. By the mother of the further
moon, John Carter, how came you here, and have you become a Darseen
that you can change your color at will?"
"You gave me a bad half minute my friend," he continued, after I had
briefly outlined my adventures since parting with him in the arena at
Warhoon. "Were my name and city known to the Zodangans I would shortly
be sitting on the banks of the lost sea of Korus with my revered and
departed ancestors. I am here in the interest of Tardos Mors, Jeddak
of Helium, to discover the whereabouts of Dejah Thoris, our princess.
Sab Than, prince of Zodanga, has her hidden in the city and has fallen
madly in love with her. His father, Than Kosis, Jeddak of Zodanga, has
made her voluntary marriage to his son the price of peace between our
countries, but Tardos Mors will not accede to the demands and has sent
word that he and his people would rather look upon the dead face of
their princess than see her wed to any than her own choice, and that
personally he would prefer being engulfed in the ashes of a lost and
burning Helium to joining the metal of his house with that of Than
Kosis. His reply was the deadliest affront he could have put upon Than
Kosis and the Zodangans, but his people love him the more for it and
his strength in Helium is greater today than ever.
"I have been here three days," continued Kantos Kan, "but I have not
yet found where Dejah Thoris is imprisoned. Today I join the Zodangan
navy as an air scout and I hope in this way to win the confidence of
Sab Than, the prince, who is commander of this division of the navy,
and thus learn the whereabouts of Dejah Thoris. I am glad that you are
here, John Carter, for I know your loyalty to my princess and two of us
working together should be able to accomplish much."
The plaza was now commencing to fill with people going and coming upon
the daily activities of their duties. The shops were opening and the
cafes filling with early morning patrons. Kantos Kan led me to one of
these gorgeous eating places where we were served entirely by
mechanical apparatus. No hand touched the food from the time it
entered the building in its raw state until it emerged hot and
delicious upon the tables before the guests, in response to the
touching of tiny buttons to indicate their desires.
After our meal, Kantos Kan took me with him to the headquarters of the
air-scout squadron and introducing me to his superior asked that I be
enrolled as a member of the corps. In accordance with custom an
examination was necessary, but Kantos Kan had told me to have no fear
on this score as he would attend to that part of the matter. He
accomplished this by taking my order for examination to the examining
officer and representing himself as John Carter.
"This ruse will be discovered later," he cheerfully explained, "when
they check up my weights, measurements, and other personal
identification data, but it will be several months before this is done
and our mission should be accomplished or have failed long before that
The next few days were spent by Kantos Kan in teaching me the
intricacies of flying and of repairing the dainty little contrivances
which the Martians use for this purpose. The body of the one-man air
craft is about sixteen feet long, two feet wide and three inches thick,
tapering to a point at each end. The driver sits on top of this plane
upon a seat constructed over the small, noiseless radium engine which
propels it. The medium of buoyancy is contained within the thin metal
walls of the body and consists of the eighth Barsoomian ray, or ray of
propulsion, as it may be termed in view of its properties.
This ray, like the ninth ray, is unknown on Earth, but the Martians
have discovered that it is an inherent property of all light no matter
from what source it emanates. They have learned that it is the solar
eighth ray which propels the light of the sun to the various planets,
and that it is the individual eighth ray of each planet which
"reflects," or propels the light thus obtained out into space once
more. The solar eighth ray would be absorbed by the surface of
Barsoom, but the Barsoomian eighth ray, which tends to propel light
from Mars into space, is constantly streaming out from the planet
constituting a force of repulsion of gravity which when confined is
able to lift enormous weights from the surface of the ground.
It is this ray which has enabled them to so perfect aviation that
battle ships far outweighing anything known upon Earth sail as
gracefully and lightly through the thin air of Barsoom as a toy balloon
in the heavy atmosphere of Earth.
During the early years of the discovery of this ray many strange
accidents occurred before the Martians learned to measure and control
the wonderful power they had found. In one instance, some nine hundred
years before, the first great battle ship to be built with eighth ray
reservoirs was stored with too great a quantity of the rays and she had
sailed up from Helium with five hundred officers and men, never to
Her power of repulsion for the planet was so great that it had carried
her far into space, where she can be seen today, by the aid of powerful
telescopes, hurtling through the heavens ten thousand miles from Mars;
a tiny satellite that will thus encircle Barsoom to the end of time.
The fourth day after my arrival at Zodanga I made my first flight, and
as a result of it I won a promotion which included quarters in the
palace of Than Kosis.
As I rose above the city I circled several times, as I had seen Kantos
Kan do, and then throwing my engine into top speed I raced at terrific
velocity toward the south, following one of the great waterways which
enter Zodanga from that direction.
I had traversed perhaps two hundred miles in a little less than an hour
when I descried far below me a party of three green warriors racing
madly toward a small figure on foot which seemed to be trying to reach
the confines of one of the walled fields.
Dropping my machine rapidly toward them, and circling to the rear of
the warriors, I soon saw that the object of their pursuit was a red
Martian wearing the metal of the scout squadron to which I was
attached. A short distance away lay his tiny flier, surrounded by the
tools with which he had evidently been occupied in repairing some
damage when surprised by the green warriors.
They were now almost upon him; their flying mounts charging down on the
relatively puny figure at terrific speed, while the warriors leaned low
to the right, with their great metal-shod spears. Each seemed striving
to be the first to impale the poor Zodangan and in another moment his
fate would have been sealed had it not been for my timely arrival.
Driving my fleet air craft at high speed directly behind the warriors I
soon overtook them and without diminishing my speed I rammed the prow
of my little flier between the shoulders of the nearest. The impact
sufficient to have torn through inches of solid steel, hurled the
fellow's headless body into the air over the head of his thoat, where
it fell sprawling upon the moss. The mounts of the other two warriors
turned squealing in terror, and bolted in opposite directions.
Reducing my speed I circled and came to the ground at the feet of the
astonished Zodangan. He was warm in his thanks for my timely aid and
promised that my day's work would bring the reward it merited, for it
was none other than a cousin of the jeddak of Zodanga whose life I had
We wasted no time in talk as we knew that the warriors would surely
return as soon as they had gained control of their mounts. Hastening
to his damaged machine we were bending every effort to finish the
needed repairs and had almost completed them when we saw the two green
monsters returning at top speed from opposite sides of us. When they
had approached within a hundred yards their thoats again became
unmanageable and absolutely refused to advance further toward the air
craft which had frightened them.
The warriors finally dismounted and hobbling their animals advanced
toward us on foot with drawn long-swords.
I advanced to meet the larger, telling the Zodangan to do the best he
could with the other. Finishing my man with almost no effort, as had
now from much practice become habitual with me, I hastened to return to
my new acquaintance whom I found indeed in desperate straits.
He was wounded and down with the huge foot of his antagonist upon his
throat and the great long-sword raised to deal the final thrust. With
a bound I cleared the fifty feet intervening between us, and with
outstretched point drove my sword completely through the body of the
green warrior. His sword fell, harmless, to the ground and he sank
limply upon the prostrate form of the Zodangan.
A cursory examination of the latter revealed no mortal injuries and
after a brief rest he asserted that he felt fit to attempt the return
voyage. He would have to pilot his own craft, however, as these frail
vessels are not intended to convey but a single person.
Quickly completing the repairs we rose together into the still,
cloudless Martian sky, and at great speed and without further mishap
returned to Zodanga.
As we neared the city we discovered a mighty concourse of civilians and
troops assembled upon the plain before the city. The sky was black
with naval vessels and private and public pleasure craft, flying long
streamers of gay-colored silks, and banners and flags of odd and
My companion signaled that I slow down, and running his machine close
beside mine suggested that we approach and watch the ceremony, which,
he said, was for the purpose of conferring honors on individual
officers and men for bravery and other distinguished service. He then
unfurled a little ensign which denoted that his craft bore a member of
the royal family of Zodanga, and together we made our way through the
maze of low-lying air vessels until we hung directly over the jeddak of
Zodanga and his staff. All were mounted upon the small domestic bull
thoats of the red Martians, and their trappings and ornamentation bore
such a quantity of gorgeously colored feathers that I could not but be
struck with the startling resemblance the concourse bore to a band of
the red Indians of my own Earth.
One of the staff called the attention of Than Kosis to the presence of
my companion above them and the ruler motioned for him to descend. As
they waited for the troops to move into position facing the jeddak the
two talked earnestly together, the jeddak and his staff occasionally
glancing up at me. I could not hear their conversation and presently
it ceased and all dismounted, as the last body of troops had wheeled
into position before their emperor. A member of the staff advanced
toward the troops, and calling the name of a soldier commanded him to
advance. The officer then recited the nature of the heroic act which
had won the approval of the jeddak, and the latter advanced and placed
a metal ornament upon the left arm of the lucky man.
Ten men had been so decorated when the aide called out,
"John Carter, air scout!"
Never in my life had I been so surprised, but the habit of military
discipline is strong within me, and I dropped my little machine lightly
to the ground and advanced on foot as I had seen the others do. As I
halted before the officer, he addressed me in a voice audible to the
entire assemblage of troops and spectators.
"In recognition, John Carter," he said, "of your remarkable courage and
skill in defending the person of the cousin of the jeddak Than Kosis
and, singlehanded, vanquishing three green warriors, it is the pleasure
of our jeddak to confer on you the mark of his esteem."
Than Kosis then advanced toward me and placing an ornament upon me,
"My cousin has narrated the details of your wonderful achievement,
which seems little short of miraculous, and if you can so well defend a
cousin of the jeddak how much better could you defend the person of the
jeddak himself. You are therefore appointed a padwar of The Guards and
will be quartered in my palace hereafter."
I thanked him, and at his direction joined the members of his staff.
After the ceremony I returned my machine to its quarters on the roof of
the barracks of the air-scout squadron, and with an orderly from the
palace to guide me I reported to the officer in charge of the palace.
I FIND DEJAH
The major-domo to whom I reported had been given instructions to
station me near the person of the jeddak, who, in time of war, is
always in great danger of assassination, as the rule that all is fair
in war seems to constitute the entire ethics of Martian conflict.
He therefore escorted me immediately to the apartment in which Than
Kosis then was. The ruler was engaged in conversation with his son,
Sab Than, and several courtiers of his household, and did not perceive
The walls of the apartment were completely hung with splendid
tapestries which hid any windows or doors which may have pierced them.
The room was lighted by imprisoned rays of sunshine held between the
ceiling proper and what appeared to be a ground-glass false ceiling a
few inches below.
My guide drew aside one of the tapestries, disclosing a passage which
encircled the room, between the hangings and the walls of the chamber.
Within this passage I was to remain, he said, so long as Than Kosis was
in the apartment. When he left I was to follow. My only duty was to
guard the ruler and keep out of sight as much as possible. I would be
relieved after a period of four hours. The major-domo then left me.
The tapestries were of a strange weaving which gave the appearance of
heavy solidity from one side, but from my hiding place I could perceive
all that took place within the room as readily as though there had been
no curtain intervening.
Scarcely had I gained my post than the tapestry at the opposite end of
the chamber separated and four soldiers of The Guard entered,
surrounding a female figure. As they approached Than Kosis the
soldiers fell to either side and there standing before the jeddak and
not ten feet from me, her beautiful face radiant with smiles, was Dejah
Sab Than, Prince of Zodanga, advanced to meet her, and hand in hand
they approached close to the jeddak. Than Kosis looked up in surprise,
and, rising, saluted her.
"To what strange freak do I owe this visit from the Princess of Helium,
who, two days ago, with rare consideration for my pride, assured me
that she would prefer Tal Hajus, the green Thark, to my son?"
Dejah Thoris only smiled the more and with the roguish dimples playing
at the corners of her mouth she made answer:
"From the beginning of time upon Barsoom it has been the prerogative of
woman to change her mind as she listed and to dissemble in matters
concerning her heart. That you will forgive, Than Kosis, as has your
son. Two days ago I was not sure of his love for me, but now I am, and
I have come to beg of you to forget my rash words and to accept the
assurance of the Princess of Helium that when the time comes she will
wed Sab Than, Prince of Zodanga."
"I am glad that you have so decided," replied Than Kosis. "It is far
from my desire to push war further against the people of Helium, and,
your promise shall be recorded and a proclamation to my people issued
"It were better, Than Kosis," interrupted Dejah Thoris, "that the
proclamation wait the ending of this war. It would look strange indeed
to my people and to yours were the Princess of Helium to give herself
to her country's enemy in the midst of hostilities."
"Cannot the war be ended at once?" spoke Sab Than. "It requires but
the word of Than Kosis to bring peace. Say it, my father, say the word
that will hasten my happiness, and end this unpopular strife."
"We shall see," replied Than Kosis, "how the people of Helium take to
peace. I shall at least offer it to them."
Dejah Thoris, after a few words, turned and left the apartment, still
followed by her guards.
Thus was the edifice of my brief dream of happiness dashed, broken, to
the ground of reality. The woman for whom I had offered my life, and
from whose lips I had so recently heard a declaration of love for me,
had lightly forgotten my very existence and smilingly given herself to
the son of her people's most hated enemy.
Although I had heard it with my own ears I could not believe it. I
must search out her apartments and force her to repeat the cruel truth
to me alone before I would be convinced, and so I deserted my post and
hastened through the passage behind the tapestries toward the door by
which she had left the chamber. Slipping quietly through this opening
I discovered a maze of winding corridors, branching and turning in
Running rapidly down first one and then another of them I soon became
hopelessly lost and was standing panting against a side wall when I
heard voices near me. Apparently they were coming from the opposite
side of the partition against which I leaned and presently I made out
the tones of Dejah Thoris. I could not hear the words but I knew that
I could not possibly be mistaken in the voice.
Moving on a few steps I discovered another passageway at the end of
which lay a door. Walking boldly forward I pushed into the room only
to find myself in a small antechamber in which were the four guards who
had accompanied her. One of them instantly arose and accosted me,
asking the nature of my business.
"I am from Than Kosis," I replied, "and wish to speak privately with
Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium."
"And your order?" asked the fellow.
I did not know what he meant, but replied that I was a member of The
Guard, and without waiting for a reply from him I strode toward the
opposite door of the antechamber, behind which I could hear Dejah
But my entrance was not to be so easily accomplished. The guardsman
stepped before me, saying,
"No one comes from Than Kosis without carrying an order or the
password. You must give me one or the other before you may pass."
"The only order I require, my friend, to enter where I will, hangs at
my side," I answered, tapping my long-sword; "will you let me pass in
peace or no?"
For reply he whipped out his own sword, calling to the others to join
him, and thus the four stood, with drawn weapons, barring my further
"You are not here by the order of Than Kosis," cried the one who had
first addressed me, "and not only shall you not enter the apartments of
the Princess of Helium but you shall go back to Than Kosis under guard
to explain this unwarranted temerity. Throw down your sword; you
cannot hope to overcome four of us," he added with a grim smile.
My reply was a quick thrust which left me but three antagonists and I
can assure you that they were worthy of my metal. They had me backed
against the wall in no time, fighting for my life. Slowly I worked my
way to a corner of the room where I could force them to come at me only
one at a time, and thus we fought upward of twenty minutes; the
clanging of steel on steel producing a veritable bedlam in the little
The noise had brought Dejah Thoris to the door of her apartment, and
there she stood throughout the conflict with Sola at her back peering
over her shoulder. Her face was set and emotionless and I knew that
she did not recognize me, nor did Sola.
Finally a lucky cut brought down a second guardsman and then, with only
two opposing me, I changed my tactics and rushed them down after the
fashion of my fighting that had won me many a victory. The third fell
within ten seconds after the second, and the last lay dead upon the
bloody floor a few moments later. They were brave men and noble
fighters, and it grieved me that I had been forced to kill them, but I
would have willingly depopulated all Barsoom could I have reached the
side of my Dejah Thoris in no other way.
Sheathing my bloody blade I advanced toward my Martian Princess, who
still stood mutely gazing at me without sign of recognition.
"Who are you, Zodangan?" she whispered. "Another enemy to harass me in
"I am a friend," I answered, "a once cherished friend."
"No friend of Helium's princess wears that metal," she replied, "and
yet the voice! I have heard it before; it is not—it cannot be—no,
for he is dead."
"It is, though, my Princess, none other than John Carter," I said. "Do
you not recognize, even through paint and strange metal, the heart of
As I came close to her she swayed toward me with outstretched hands,
but as I reached to take her in my arms she drew back with a shudder
and a little moan of misery.
"Too late, too late," she grieved. "O my chieftain that was, and whom
I thought dead, had you but returned one little hour before—but now it
is too late, too late."
"What do you mean, Dejah Thoris?" I cried. "That you would not have
promised yourself to the Zodangan prince had you known that I lived?"
"Think you, John Carter, that I would give my heart to you yesterday
and today to another? I thought that it lay buried with your ashes in
the pits of Warhoon, and so today I have promised my body to another to
save my people from the curse of a victorious Zodangan army."
"But I am not dead, my princess. I have come to claim you, and all
Zodanga cannot prevent it."
"It is too late, John Carter, my promise is given, and on Barsoom that
is final. The ceremonies which follow later are but meaningless
formalities. They make the fact of marriage no more certain than does
the funeral cortege of a jeddak again place the seal of death upon him.
I am as good as married, John Carter. No longer may you call me your
princess. No longer are you my chieftain."
"I know but little of your customs here upon Barsoom, Dejah Thoris, but
I do know that I love you, and if you meant the last words you spoke to
me that day as the hordes of Warhoon were charging down upon us, no
other man shall ever claim you as his bride. You meant them then, my
princess, and you mean them still! Say that it is true."
"I meant them, John Carter," she whispered. "I cannot repeat them now
for I have given myself to another. Ah, if you had only known our
ways, my friend," she continued, half to herself, "the promise would
have been yours long months ago, and you could have claimed me before
all others. It might have meant the fall of Helium, but I would have
given my empire for my Tharkian chief."
Then aloud she said: "Do you remember the night when you offended me?
You called me your princess without having asked my hand of me, and
then you boasted that you had fought for me. You did not know, and I
should not have been offended; I see that now. But there was no one to
tell you what I could not, that upon Barsoom there are two kinds of
women in the cities of the red men. The one they fight for that they
may ask them in marriage; the other kind they fight for also, but never
ask their hands. When a man has won a woman he may address her as his
princess, or in any of the several terms which signify possession. You
had fought for me, but had never asked me in marriage, and so when you
called me your princess, you see," she faltered, "I was hurt, but even
then, John Carter, I did not repulse you, as I should have done, until
you made it doubly worse by taunting me with having won me through
"I do not need ask your forgiveness now, Dejah Thoris," I cried. "You
must know that my fault was of ignorance of your Barsoomian customs.
What I failed to do, through implicit belief that my petition would be
presumptuous and unwelcome, I do now, Dejah Thoris; I ask you to be my
wife, and by all the Virginian fighting blood that flows in my veins
you shall be."
"No, John Carter, it is useless," she cried, hopelessly, "I may never
be yours while Sab Than lives."
"You have sealed his death warrant, my princess—Sab Than dies."
"Nor that either," she hastened to explain. "I may not wed the man who
slays my husband, even in self-defense. It is custom. We are ruled by
custom upon Barsoom. It is useless, my friend. You must bear the
sorrow with me. That at least we may share in common. That, and the
memory of the brief days among the Tharks. You must go now, nor ever
see me again. Good-bye, my chieftain that was."
Disheartened and dejected, I withdrew from the room, but I was not
entirely discouraged, nor would I admit that Dejah Thoris was lost to
me until the ceremony had actually been performed.
As I wandered along the corridors, I was as absolutely lost in the
mazes of winding passageways as I had been before I discovered Dejah
I knew that my only hope lay in escape from the city of Zodanga, for
the matter of the four dead guardsmen would have to be explained, and
as I could never reach my original post without a guide, suspicion
would surely rest on me so soon as I was discovered wandering aimlessly
through the palace.
Presently I came upon a spiral runway leading to a lower floor, and
this I followed downward for several stories until I reached the
doorway of a large apartment in which were a number of guardsmen. The
walls of this room were hung with transparent tapestries behind which I
secreted myself without being apprehended.
The conversation of the guardsmen was general, and awakened no interest
in me until an officer entered the room and ordered four of the men to
relieve the detail who were guarding the Princess of Helium. Now, I
knew, my troubles would commence in earnest and indeed they were upon
me all too soon, for it seemed that the squad had scarcely left the
guardroom before one of their number burst in again breathlessly,
crying that they had found their four comrades butchered in the
In a moment the entire palace was alive with people. Guardsmen,
officers, courtiers, servants, and slaves ran helter-skelter through
the corridors and apartments carrying messages and orders, and
searching for signs of the assassin.
This was my opportunity and slim as it appeared I grasped it, for as a
number of soldiers came hurrying past my hiding place I fell in behind
them and followed through the mazes of the palace until, in passing
through a great hall, I saw the blessed light of day coming in through
a series of larger windows.
Here I left my guides, and, slipping to the nearest window, sought for
an avenue of escape. The windows opened upon a great balcony which
overlooked one of the broad avenues of Zodanga. The ground was about
thirty feet below, and at a like distance from the building was a wall
fully twenty feet high, constructed of polished glass about a foot in
thickness. To a red Martian escape by this path would have appeared
impossible, but to me, with my earthly strength and agility, it seemed
already accomplished. My only fear was in being detected before
darkness fell, for I could not make the leap in broad daylight while
the court below and the avenue beyond were crowded with Zodangans.
Accordingly I searched for a hiding place and finally found one by
accident, inside a huge hanging ornament which swung from the ceiling
of the hall, and about ten feet from the floor. Into the capacious
bowl-like vase I sprang with ease, and scarcely had I settled down
within it than I heard a number of people enter the apartment. The
group stopped beneath my hiding place and I could plainly overhear
their every word.
"It is the work of Heliumites," said one of the men.
"Yes, O Jeddak, but how had they access to the palace? I could believe
that even with the diligent care of your guardsmen a single enemy might
reach the inner chambers, but how a force of six or eight fighting men
could have done so unobserved is beyond me. We shall soon know,
however, for here comes the royal psychologist."
Another man now joined the group, and, after making his formal
greetings to his ruler, said:
"O mighty Jeddak, it is a strange tale I read in the dead minds of your
faithful guardsmen. They were felled not by a number of fighting men,
but by a single opponent."
He paused to let the full weight of this announcement impress his
hearers, and that his statement was scarcely credited was evidenced by
the impatient exclamation of incredulity which escaped the lips of Than
"What manner of weird tale are you bringing me, Notan?" he cried.
"It is the truth, my Jeddak," replied the psychologist. "In fact the
impressions were strongly marked on the brain of each of the four
guardsmen. Their antagonist was a very tall man, wearing the metal of
one of your own guardsmen, and his fighting ability was little short of
marvelous for he fought fair against the entire four and vanquished
them by his surpassing skill and superhuman strength and endurance.
Though he wore the metal of Zodanga, my Jeddak, such a man was never
seen before in this or any other country upon Barsoom.
"The mind of the Princess of Helium whom I have examined and questioned
was a blank to me, she has perfect control, and I could not read one
iota of it. She said that she witnessed a portion of the encounter,
and that when she looked there was but one man engaged with the
guardsmen; a man whom she did not recognize as ever having seen."
"Where is my erstwhile savior?" spoke another of the party, and I
recognized the voice of the cousin of Than Kosis, whom I had rescued
from the green warriors. "By the metal of my first ancestor," he went
on, "but the description fits him to perfection, especially as to his
"Where is this man?" cried Than Kosis. "Have him brought to me at
once. What know you of him, cousin? It seemed strange to me now that
I think upon it that there should have been such a fighting man in
Zodanga, of whose name, even, we were ignorant before today. And his
name too, John Carter, who ever heard of such a name upon Barsoom!"
Word was soon brought that I was nowhere to be found, either in the
palace or at my former quarters in the barracks of the air-scout
squadron. Kantos Kan, they had found and questioned, but he knew
nothing of my whereabouts, and as to my past, he had told them he knew
as little, since he had but recently met me during our captivity among
"Keep your eyes on this other one," commanded Than Kosis. "He also is
a stranger and likely as not they both hail from Helium, and where one
is we shall sooner or later find the other. Quadruple the air patrol,
and let every man who leaves the city by air or ground be subjected to
the closest scrutiny."
Another messenger now entered with word that I was still within the
"The likeness of every person who has entered or left the palace
grounds today has been carefully examined," concluded the fellow, "and
not one approaches the likeness of this new padwar of the guards, other
than that which was recorded of him at the time he entered."
"Then we will have him shortly," commented Than Kosis contentedly, "and
in the meanwhile we will repair to the apartments of the Princess of
Helium and question her in regard to the affair. She may know more
than she cared to divulge to you, Notan. Come."
They left the hall, and, as darkness had fallen without, I slipped
lightly from my hiding place and hastened to the balcony. Few were in
sight, and choosing a moment when none seemed near I sprang quickly to
the top of the glass wall and from there to the avenue beyond the
LOST IN THE SKY
Without effort at concealment I hastened to the vicinity of our
quarters, where I felt sure I should find Kantos Kan. As I neared the
building I became more careful, as I judged, and rightly, that the
place would be guarded. Several men in civilian metal loitered near
the front entrance and in the rear were others. My only means of
reaching, unseen, the upper story where our apartments were situated
was through an adjoining building, and after considerable maneuvering I
managed to attain the roof of a shop several doors away.
Leaping from roof to roof, I soon reached an open window in the
building where I hoped to find the Heliumite, and in another moment I
stood in the room before him. He was alone and showed no surprise at
my coming, saying he had expected me much earlier, as my tour of duty
must have ended some time since.
I saw that he knew nothing of the events of the day at the palace, and
when I had enlightened him he was all excitement. The news that Dejah
Thoris had promised her hand to Sab Than filled him with dismay.
"It cannot be," he exclaimed. "It is impossible! Why no man in all
Helium but would prefer death to the selling of our loved princess to
the ruling house of Zodanga. She must have lost her mind to have
assented to such an atrocious bargain. You, who do not know how we of
Helium love the members of our ruling house, cannot appreciate the
horror with which I contemplate such an unholy alliance."
"What can be done, John Carter?" he continued. "You are a resourceful
man. Can you not think of some way to save Helium from this disgrace?"
"If I can come within sword's reach of Sab Than," I answered, "I can
solve the difficulty in so far as Helium is concerned, but for personal
reasons I would prefer that another struck the blow that frees Dejah
Kantos Kan eyed me narrowly before he spoke.
"You love her!" he said. "Does she know it?"
"She knows it, Kantos Kan, and repulses me only because she is promised
to Sab Than."
The splendid fellow sprang to his feet, and grasping me by the shoulder
raised his sword on high, exclaiming:
"And had the choice been left to me I could not have chosen a more
fitting mate for the first princess of Barsoom. Here is my hand upon
your shoulder, John Carter, and my word that Sab Than shall go out at
the point of my sword for the sake of my love for Helium, for Dejah
Thoris, and for you. This very night I shall try to reach his quarters
in the palace."
"How?" I asked. "You are strongly guarded and a quadruple force
patrols the sky."
He bent his head in thought a moment, then raised it with an air of
"I only need to pass these guards and I can do it," he said at last.
"I know a secret entrance to the palace through the pinnacle of the
highest tower. I fell upon it by chance one day as I was passing above
the palace on patrol duty. In this work it is required that we
investigate any unusual occurrence we may witness, and a face peering
from the pinnacle of the high tower of the palace was, to me, most
unusual. I therefore drew near and discovered that the possessor of
the peering face was none other than Sab Than. He was slightly put out
at being detected and commanded me to keep the matter to myself,
explaining that the passage from the tower led directly to his
apartments, and was known only to him. If I can reach the roof of the
barracks and get my machine I can be in Sab Than's quarters in five
minutes; but how am I to escape from this building, guarded as you say
"How well are the machine sheds at the barracks guarded?" I asked.
"There is usually but one man on duty there at night upon the roof."
"Go to the roof of this building, Kantos Kan, and wait me there."
Without stopping to explain my plans I retraced my way to the street
and hastened to the barracks. I did not dare to enter the building,
filled as it was with members of the air-scout squadron, who, in common
with all Zodanga, were on the lookout for me.
The building was an enormous one, rearing its lofty head fully a
thousand feet into the air. But few buildings in Zodanga were higher
than these barracks, though several topped it by a few hundred feet;
the docks of the great battleships of the line standing some fifteen
hundred feet from the ground, while the freight and passenger stations
of the merchant squadrons rose nearly as high.
It was a long climb up the face of the building, and one fraught with
much danger, but there was no other way, and so I essayed the task.
The fact that Barsoomian architecture is extremely ornate made the feat
much simpler than I had anticipated, since I found ornamental ledges
and projections which fairly formed a perfect ladder for me all the way
to the eaves of the building. Here I met my first real obstacle. The
eaves projected nearly twenty feet from the wall to which I clung, and
though I encircled the great building I could find no opening through
The top floor was alight, and filled with soldiers engaged in the
pastimes of their kind; I could not, therefore, reach the roof through
There was one slight, desperate chance, and that I decided I must
take—it was for Dejah Thoris, and no man has lived who would not risk
a thousand deaths for such as she.
Clinging to the wall with my feet and one hand, I unloosened one of the
long leather straps of my trappings at the end of which dangled a great
hook by which air sailors are hung to the sides and bottoms of their
craft for various purposes of repair, and by means of which landing
parties are lowered to the ground from the battleships.
I swung this hook cautiously to the roof several times before it
finally found lodgment; gently I pulled on it to strengthen its hold,
but whether it would bear the weight of my body I did not know. It
might be barely caught upon the very outer verge of the roof, so that
as my body swung out at the end of the strap it would slip off and
launch me to the pavement a thousand feet below.
An instant I hesitated, and then, releasing my grasp upon the
supporting ornament, I swung out into space at the end of the strap.
Far below me lay the brilliantly lighted streets, the hard pavements,
and death. There was a little jerk at the top of the supporting eaves,
and a nasty slipping, grating sound which turned me cold with
apprehension; then the hook caught and I was safe.
Clambering quickly aloft I grasped the edge of the eaves and drew
myself to the surface of the roof above. As I gained my feet I was
confronted by the sentry on duty, into the muzzle of whose revolver I
found myself looking.
"Who are you and whence came you?" he cried.
"I am an air scout, friend, and very near a dead one, for just by the
merest chance I escaped falling to the avenue below," I replied.
"But how came you upon the roof, man? No one has landed or come up
from the building for the past hour. Quick, explain yourself, or I
call the guard."
"Look you here, sentry, and you shall see how I came and how close a
shave I had to not coming at all," I answered, turning toward the edge
of the roof, where, twenty feet below, at the end of my strap, hung all
The fellow, acting on impulse of curiosity, stepped to my side and to
his undoing, for as he leaned to peer over the eaves I grasped him by
his throat and his pistol arm and threw him heavily to the roof. The
weapon dropped from his grasp, and my fingers choked off his attempted
cry for assistance. I gagged and bound him and then hung him over the
edge of the roof as I myself had hung a few moments before. I knew it
would be morning before he would be discovered, and I needed all the
time that I could gain.
Donning my trappings and weapons I hastened to the sheds, and soon had
out both my machine and Kantos Kan's. Making his fast behind mine I
started my engine, and skimming over the edge of the roof I dove down
into the streets of the city far below the plane usually occupied by
the air patrol. In less than a minute I was settling safely upon the
roof of our apartment beside the astonished Kantos Kan.
I lost no time in explanation, but plunged immediately into a
discussion of our plans for the immediate future. It was decided that
I was to try to make Helium while Kantos Kan was to enter the palace
and dispatch Sab Than. If successful he was then to follow me. He set
my compass for me, a clever little device which will remain steadfastly
fixed upon any given point on the surface of Barsoom, and bidding each
other farewell we rose together and sped in the direction of the palace
which lay in the route which I must take to reach Helium.
As we neared the high tower a patrol shot down from above, throwing its
piercing searchlight full upon my craft, and a voice roared out a
command to halt, following with a shot as I paid no attention to his
hail. Kantos Kan dropped quickly into the darkness, while I rose
steadily and at terrific speed raced through the Martian sky followed
by a dozen of the air-scout craft which had joined the pursuit, and
later by a swift cruiser carrying a hundred men and a battery of
rapid-fire guns. By twisting and turning my little machine, now rising
and now falling, I managed to elude their search-lights most of the
time, but I was also losing ground by these tactics, and so I decided
to hazard everything on a straight-away course and leave the result to
fate and the speed of my machine.
Kantos Kan had shown me a trick of gearing, which is known only to the
navy of Helium, that greatly increased the speed of our machines, so
that I felt sure I could distance my pursuers if I could dodge their
projectiles for a few moments.
As I sped through the air the screeching of the bullets around me
convinced me that only by a miracle could I escape, but the die was
cast, and throwing on full speed I raced a straight course toward
Helium. Gradually I left my pursuers further and further behind, and I
was just congratulating myself on my lucky escape, when a well-directed
shot from the cruiser exploded at the prow of my little craft. The
concussion nearly capsized her, and with a sickening plunge she hurtled
downward through the dark night.
How far I fell before I regained control of the plane I do not know,
but I must have been very close to the ground when I started to rise
again, as I plainly heard the squealing of animals below me. Rising
again I scanned the heavens for my pursuers, and finally making out
their lights far behind me, saw that they were landing, evidently in
search of me.
Not until their lights were no longer discernible did I venture to
flash my little lamp upon my compass, and then I found to my
consternation that a fragment of the projectile had utterly destroyed
my only guide, as well as my speedometer. It was true I could follow
the stars in the general direction of Helium, but without knowing the
exact location of the city or the speed at which I was traveling my
chances for finding it were slim.
Helium lies a thousand miles southwest of Zodanga, and with my compass
intact I should have made the trip, barring accidents, in between four
and five hours. As it turned out, however, morning found me speeding
over a vast expanse of dead sea bottom after nearly six hours of
continuous flight at high speed. Presently a great city showed below
me, but it was not Helium, as that alone of all Barsoomian metropolises
consists in two immense circular walled cities about seventy-five miles
apart and would have been easily distinguishable from the altitude at
which I was flying.
Believing that I had come too far to the north and west, I turned back
in a southeasterly direction, passing during the forenoon several other
large cities, but none resembling the description which Kantos Kan had
given me of Helium. In addition to the twin-city formation of Helium,
another distinguishing feature is the two immense towers, one of vivid
scarlet rising nearly a mile into the air from the center of one of the
cities, while the other, of bright yellow and of the same height, marks
TARS TARKAS FINDS A FRIEND
About noon I passed low over a great dead city of ancient Mars, and as
I skimmed out across the plain beyond I came full upon several thousand
green warriors engaged in a terrific battle. Scarcely had I seen them
than a volley of shots was directed at me, and with the almost
unfailing accuracy of their aim my little craft was instantly a ruined
wreck, sinking erratically to the ground.
I fell almost directly in the center of the fierce combat, among
warriors who had not seen my approach so busily were they engaged in
life and death struggles. The men were fighting on foot with
long-swords, while an occasional shot from a sharpshooter on the
outskirts of the conflict would bring down a warrior who might for an
instant separate himself from the entangled mass.
As my machine sank among them I realized that it was fight or die, with
good chances of dying in any event, and so I struck the ground with
drawn long-sword ready to defend myself as I could.
I fell beside a huge monster who was engaged with three antagonists,
and as I glanced at his fierce face, filled with the light of battle, I
recognized Tars Tarkas the Thark. He did not see me, as I was a trifle
behind him, and just then the three warriors opposing him, and whom I
recognized as Warhoons, charged simultaneously. The mighty fellow made
quick work of one of them, but in stepping back for another thrust he
fell over a dead body behind him and was down and at the mercy of his
foes in an instant. Quick as lightning they were upon him, and Tars
Tarkas would have been gathered to his fathers in short order had I not
sprung before his prostrate form and engaged his adversaries. I had
accounted for one of them when the mighty Thark regained his feet and
quickly settled the other.
He gave me one look, and a slight smile touched his grim lip as,
touching my shoulder, he said,
"I would scarcely recognize you, John Carter, but there is no other
mortal upon Barsoom who would have done what you have for me. I think
I have learned that there is such a thing as friendship, my friend."
He said no more, nor was there opportunity, for the Warhoons were
closing in about us, and together we fought, shoulder to shoulder,
during all that long, hot afternoon, until the tide of battle turned
and the remnant of the fierce Warhoon horde fell back upon their
thoats, and fled into the gathering darkness.
Ten thousand men had been engaged in that titanic struggle, and upon
the field of battle lay three thousand dead. Neither side asked or
gave quarter, nor did they attempt to take prisoners.
On our return to the city after the battle we had gone directly to Tars
Tarkas' quarters, where I was left alone while the chieftain attended
the customary council which immediately follows an engagement.
As I sat awaiting the return of the green warrior I heard something
move in an adjoining apartment, and as I glanced up there rushed
suddenly upon me a huge and hideous creature which bore me backward
upon the pile of silks and furs upon which I had been reclining. It
was Woola—faithful, loving Woola. He had found his way back to Thark
and, as Tars Tarkas later told me, had gone immediately to my former
quarters where he had taken up his pathetic and seemingly hopeless
watch for my return.
"Tal Hajus knows that you are here, John Carter," said Tars Tarkas, on
his return from the jeddak's quarters; "Sarkoja saw and recognized you
as we were returning. Tal Hajus has ordered me to bring you before him
tonight. I have ten thoats, John Carter; you may take your choice from
among them, and I will accompany you to the nearest waterway that leads
to Helium. Tars Tarkas may be a cruel green warrior, but he can be a
friend as well. Come, we must start."
"And when you return, Tars Tarkas?" I asked.
"The wild calots, possibly, or worse," he replied. "Unless I should
chance to have the opportunity I have so long waited of battling with
"We will stay, Tars Tarkas, and see Tal Hajus tonight. You shall not
sacrifice yourself, and it may be that tonight you can have the chance
He objected strenuously, saying that Tal Hajus often flew into wild
fits of passion at the mere thought of the blow I had dealt him, and
that if ever he laid his hands upon me I would be subjected to the most
While we were eating I repeated to Tars Tarkas the story which Sola had
told me that night upon the sea bottom during the march to Thark.
He said but little, but the great muscles of his face worked in passion
and in agony at recollection of the horrors which had been heaped upon
the only thing he had ever loved in all his cold, cruel, terrible
He no longer demurred when I suggested that we go before Tal Hajus,
only saying that he would like to speak to Sarkoja first. At his
request I accompanied him to her quarters, and the look of venomous
hatred she cast upon me was almost adequate recompense for any future
misfortunes this accidental return to Thark might bring me.
"Sarkoja," said Tars Tarkas, "forty years ago you were instrumental in
bringing about the torture and death of a woman named Gozava. I have
just discovered that the warrior who loved that woman has learned of
your part in the transaction. He may not kill you, Sarkoja, it is not
our custom, but there is nothing to prevent him tying one end of a
strap about your neck and the other end to a wild thoat, merely to test
your fitness to survive and help perpetuate our race. Having heard
that he would do this on the morrow, I thought it only right to warn
you, for I am a just man. The river Iss is but a short pilgrimage,
Sarkoja. Come, John Carter."
The next morning Sarkoja was gone, nor was she ever seen after.
In silence we hastened to the jeddak's palace, where we were
immediately admitted to his presence; in fact, he could scarcely wait
to see me and was standing erect upon his platform glowering at the
entrance as I came in.
"Strap him to that pillar," he shrieked. "We shall see who it is dares
strike the mighty Tal Hajus. Heat the irons; with my own hands I shall
burn the eyes from his head that he may not pollute my person with his
"Chieftains of Thark," I cried, turning to the assembled council and
ignoring Tal Hajus, "I have been a chief among you, and today I have
fought for Thark shoulder to shoulder with her greatest warrior. You
owe me, at least, a hearing. I have won that much today. You claim to
be a just people—"
"Silence," roared Tal Hajus. "Gag the creature and bind him as I
"Justice, Tal Hajus," exclaimed Lorquas Ptomel. "Who are you to set
aside the customs of ages among the Tharks."
"Yes, justice!" echoed a dozen voices, and so, while Tal Hajus fumed
and frothed, I continued.
"You are a brave people and you love bravery, but where was your mighty
jeddak during the fighting today? I did not see him in the thick of
battle; he was not there. He rends defenseless women and little
children in his lair, but how recently has one of you seen him fight
with men? Why, even I, a midget beside him, felled him with a single
blow of my fist. Is it of such that the Tharks fashion their jeddaks?
There stands beside me now a great Thark, a mighty warrior and a noble
man. Chieftains, how sounds, Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark?"
A roar of deep-toned applause greeted this suggestion.
"It but remains for this council to command, and Tal Hajus must prove
his fitness to rule. Were he a brave man he would invite Tars Tarkas
to combat, for he does not love him, but Tal Hajus is afraid; Tal
Hajus, your jeddak, is a coward. With my bare hands I could kill him,
and he knows it."
After I ceased there was tense silence, as all eyes were riveted upon
Tal Hajus. He did not speak or move, but the blotchy green of his
countenance turned livid, and the froth froze upon his lips.
"Tal Hajus," said Lorquas Ptomel in a cold, hard voice, "never in my
long life have I seen a jeddak of the Tharks so humiliated. There
could be but one answer to this arraignment. We wait it." And still
Tal Hajus stood as though petrified.
"Chieftains," continued Lorquas Ptomel, "shall the jeddak, Tal Hajus,
prove his fitness to rule over Tars Tarkas?"
There were twenty chieftains about the rostrum, and twenty swords
flashed high in assent.
There was no alternative. That decree was final, and so Tal Hajus drew
his long-sword and advanced to meet Tars Tarkas.
The combat was soon over, and, with his foot upon the neck of the dead
monster, Tars Tarkas became jeddak among the Tharks.
His first act was to make me a full-fledged chieftain with the rank I
had won by my combats the first few weeks of my captivity among them.
Seeing the favorable disposition of the warriors toward Tars Tarkas, as
well as toward me, I grasped the opportunity to enlist them in my cause
against Zodanga. I told Tars Tarkas the story of my adventures, and in
a few words had explained to him the thought I had in mind.
"John Carter has made a proposal," he said, addressing the council,
"which meets with my sanction. I shall put it to you briefly. Dejah
Thoris, the Princess of Helium, who was our prisoner, is now held by
the jeddak of Zodanga, whose son she must wed to save her country from
devastation at the hands of the Zodangan forces.
"John Carter suggests that we rescue her and return her to Helium. The
loot of Zodanga would be magnificent, and I have often thought that had
we an alliance with the people of Helium we could obtain sufficient
assurance of sustenance to permit us to increase the size and frequency
of our hatchings, and thus become unquestionably supreme among the
green men of all Barsoom. What say you?"
It was a chance to fight, an opportunity to loot, and they rose to the
bait as a speckled trout to a fly.
For Tharks they were wildly enthusiastic, and before another half hour
had passed twenty mounted messengers were speeding across dead sea
bottoms to call the hordes together for the expedition.
In three days we were on the march toward Zodanga, one hundred thousand
strong, as Tars Tarkas had been able to enlist the services of three
smaller hordes on the promise of the great loot of Zodanga.
At the head of the column I rode beside the great Thark while at the
heels of my mount trotted my beloved Woola.
We traveled entirely by night, timing our marches so that we camped
during the day at deserted cities where, even to the beasts, we were
all kept indoors during the daylight hours. On the march Tars Tarkas,
through his remarkable ability and statesmanship, enlisted fifty
thousand more warriors from various hordes, so that, ten days after we
set out we halted at midnight outside the great walled city of Zodanga,
one hundred and fifty thousand strong.
The fighting strength and efficiency of this horde of ferocious green
monsters was equivalent to ten times their number of red men. Never in
the history of Barsoom, Tars Tarkas told me, had such a force of green
warriors marched to battle together. It was a monstrous task to keep
even a semblance of harmony among them, and it was a marvel to me that
he got them to the city without a mighty battle among themselves.
But as we neared Zodanga their personal quarrels were submerged by
their greater hatred for the red men, and especially for the Zodangans,
who had for years waged a ruthless campaign of extermination against
the green men, directing special attention toward despoiling their
Now that we were before Zodanga the task of obtaining entry to the city
devolved upon me, and directing Tars Tarkas to hold his forces in two
divisions out of earshot of the city, with each division opposite a
large gateway, I took twenty dismounted warriors and approached one of
the small gates that pierced the walls at short intervals. These gates
have no regular guard, but are covered by sentries, who patrol the
avenue that encircles the city just within the walls as our
metropolitan police patrol their beats.
The walls of Zodanga are seventy-five feet in height and fifty feet
thick. They are built of enormous blocks of carborundum, and the task
of entering the city seemed, to my escort of green warriors, an
impossibility. The fellows who had been detailed to accompany me were
of one of the smaller hordes, and therefore did not know me.
Placing three of them with their faces to the wall and arms locked, I
commanded two more to mount to their shoulders, and a sixth I ordered
to climb upon the shoulders of the upper two. The head of the topmost
warrior towered over forty feet from the ground.
In this way, with ten warriors, I built a series of three steps from
the ground to the shoulders of the topmost man. Then starting from a
short distance behind them I ran swiftly up from one tier to the next,
and with a final bound from the broad shoulders of the highest I
clutched the top of the great wall and quietly drew myself to its broad
expanse. After me I dragged six lengths of leather from an equal
number of my warriors. These lengths we had previously fastened
together, and passing one end to the topmost warrior I lowered the
other end cautiously over the opposite side of the wall toward the
avenue below. No one was in sight, so, lowering myself to the end of
my leather strap, I dropped the remaining thirty feet to the pavement
I had learned from Kantos Kan the secret of opening these gates, and in
another moment my twenty great fighting men stood within the doomed
city of Zodanga.
I found to my delight that I had entered at the lower boundary of the
enormous palace grounds. The building itself showed in the distance a
blaze of glorious light, and on the instant I determined to lead a
detachment of warriors directly within the palace itself, while the
balance of the great horde was attacking the barracks of the soldiery.
Dispatching one of my men to Tars Tarkas for a detail of fifty Tharks,
with word of my intentions, I ordered ten warriors to capture and open
one of the great gates while with the nine remaining I took the other.
We were to do our work quietly, no shots were to be fired and no
general advance made until I had reached the palace with my fifty
Tharks. Our plans worked to perfection. The two sentries we met were
dispatched to their fathers upon the banks of the lost sea of Korus,
and the guards at both gates followed them in silence.
THE LOOTING OF ZODANGA
As the great gate where I stood swung open my fifty Tharks, headed by
Tars Tarkas himself, rode in upon their mighty thoats. I led them to
the palace walls, which I negotiated easily without assistance. Once
inside, however, the gate gave me considerable trouble, but I finally
was rewarded by seeing it swing upon its huge hinges, and soon my
fierce escort was riding across the gardens of the jeddak of Zodanga.
As we approached the palace I could see through the great windows of
the first floor into the brilliantly illuminated audience chamber of
Than Kosis. The immense hall was crowded with nobles and their women,
as though some important function was in progress. There was not a
guard in sight without the palace, due, I presume, to the fact that the
city and palace walls were considered impregnable, and so I came close
and peered within.
At one end of the chamber, upon massive golden thrones encrusted with
diamonds, sat Than Kosis and his consort, surrounded by officers and
dignitaries of state. Before them stretched a broad aisle lined on
either side with soldiery, and as I looked there entered this aisle at
the far end of the hall, the head of a procession which advanced to the
foot of the throne.
First there marched four officers of the jeddak's Guard bearing a huge
salver on which reposed, upon a cushion of scarlet silk, a great golden
chain with a collar and padlock at each end. Directly behind these
officers came four others carrying a similar salver which supported the
magnificent ornaments of a prince and princess of the reigning house of
At the foot of the throne these two parties separated and halted,
facing each other at opposite sides of the aisle. Then came more
dignitaries, and the officers of the palace and of the army, and
finally two figures entirely muffled in scarlet silk, so that not a
feature of either was discernible. These two stopped at the foot of
the throne, facing Than Kosis. When the balance of the procession had
entered and assumed their stations Than Kosis addressed the couple
standing before him. I could not hear his words, but presently two
officers advanced and removed the scarlet robe from one of the figures,
and I saw that Kantos Kan had failed in his mission, for it was Sab
Than, Prince of Zodanga, who stood revealed before me.
Than Kosis now took a set of the ornaments from one of the salvers and
placed one of the collars of gold about his son's neck, springing the
padlock fast. After a few more words addressed to Sab Than he turned
to the other figure, from which the officers now removed the
enshrouding silks, disclosing to my now comprehending view Dejah
Thoris, Princess of Helium.
The object of the ceremony was clear to me; in another moment Dejah
Thoris would be joined forever to the Prince of Zodanga. It was an
impressive and beautiful ceremony, I presume, but to me it seemed the
most fiendish sight I had ever witnessed, and as the ornaments were
adjusted upon her beautiful figure and her collar of gold swung open in
the hands of Than Kosis I raised my long-sword above my head, and, with
the heavy hilt, I shattered the glass of the great window and sprang
into the midst of the astonished assemblage. With a bound I was on the
steps of the platform beside Than Kosis, and as he stood riveted with
surprise I brought my long-sword down upon the golden chain that would
have bound Dejah Thoris to another.
In an instant all was confusion; a thousand drawn swords menaced me
from every quarter, and Sab Than sprang upon me with a jeweled dagger
he had drawn from his nuptial ornaments. I could have killed him as
easily as I might a fly, but the age-old custom of Barsoom stayed my
hand, and grasping his wrist as the dagger flew toward my heart I held
him as though in a vise and with my long-sword pointed to the far end
of the hall.
"Zodanga has fallen," I cried. "Look!"
All eyes turned in the direction I had indicated, and there, forging
through the portals of the entranceway rode Tars Tarkas and his fifty
warriors on their great thoats.
A cry of alarm and amazement broke from the assemblage, but no word of
fear, and in a moment the soldiers and nobles of Zodanga were hurling
themselves upon the advancing Tharks.
Thrusting Sab Than headlong from the platform, I drew Dejah Thoris to
my side. Behind the throne was a narrow doorway and in this Than Kosis
now stood facing me, with drawn long-sword. In an instant we were
engaged, and I found no mean antagonist.
As we circled upon the broad platform I saw Sab Than rushing up the
steps to aid his father, but, as he raised his hand to strike, Dejah
Thoris sprang before him and then my sword found the spot that made Sab
Than jeddak of Zodanga. As his father rolled dead upon the floor the
new jeddak tore himself free from Dejah Thoris' grasp, and again we
faced each other. He was soon joined by a quartet of officers, and,
with my back against a golden throne, I fought once again for Dejah
Thoris. I was hard pressed to defend myself and yet not strike down
Sab Than and, with him, my last chance to win the woman I loved. My
blade was swinging with the rapidity of lightning as I sought to parry
the thrusts and cuts of my opponents. Two I had disarmed, and one was
down, when several more rushed to the aid of their new ruler, and to
avenge the death of the old.
As they advanced there were cries of "The woman! The woman! Strike
her down; it is her plot. Kill her! Kill her!"
Calling to Dejah Thoris to get behind me I worked my way toward the
little doorway back of the throne, but the officers realized my
intentions, and three of them sprang in behind me and blocked my
chances for gaining a position where I could have defended Dejah Thoris
against an army of swordsmen.
The Tharks were having their hands full in the center of the room, and
I began to realize that nothing short of a miracle could save Dejah
Thoris and myself, when I saw Tars Tarkas surging through the crowd of
pygmies that swarmed about him. With one swing of his mighty longsword
he laid a dozen corpses at his feet, and so he hewed a pathway before
him until in another moment he stood upon the platform beside me,
dealing death and destruction right and left.
The bravery of the Zodangans was awe-inspiring, not one attempted to
escape, and when the fighting ceased it was because only Tharks
remained alive in the great hall, other than Dejah Thoris and myself.
Sab Than lay dead beside his father, and the corpses of the flower of
Zodangan nobility and chivalry covered the floor of the bloody shambles.
My first thought when the battle was over was for Kantos Kan, and
leaving Dejah Thoris in charge of Tars Tarkas I took a dozen warriors
and hastened to the dungeons beneath the palace. The jailers had all
left to join the fighters in the throne room, so we searched the
labyrinthine prison without opposition.
I called Kantos Kan's name aloud in each new corridor and compartment,
and finally I was rewarded by hearing a faint response. Guided by the
sound, we soon found him helpless in a dark recess.
He was overjoyed at seeing me, and to know the meaning of the fight,
faint echoes of which had reached his prison cell. He told me that the
air patrol had captured him before he reached the high tower of the
palace, so that he had not even seen Sab Than.
We discovered that it would be futile to attempt to cut away the bars
and chains which held him prisoner, so, at his suggestion I returned to
search the bodies on the floor above for keys to open the padlocks of
his cell and of his chains.
Fortunately among the first I examined I found his jailer, and soon we
had Kantos Kan with us in the throne room.
The sounds of heavy firing, mingled with shouts and cries, came to us
from the city's streets, and Tars Tarkas hastened away to direct the
fighting without. Kantos Kan accompanied him to act as guide, the
green warriors commencing a thorough search of the palace for other
Zodangans and for loot, and Dejah Thoris and I were left alone.
She had sunk into one of the golden thrones, and as I turned to her she
greeted me with a wan smile.
"Was there ever such a man!" she exclaimed. "I know that Barsoom has
never before seen your like. Can it be that all Earth men are as you?
Alone, a stranger, hunted, threatened, persecuted, you have done in a
few short months what in all the past ages of Barsoom no man has ever
done: joined together the wild hordes of the sea bottoms and brought
them to fight as allies of a red Martian people."
"The answer is easy, Dejah Thoris," I replied smiling. "It was not I
who did it, it was love, love for Dejah Thoris, a power that would work
greater miracles than this you have seen."
A pretty flush overspread her face and she answered,
"You may say that now, John Carter, and I may listen, for I am free."
"And more still I have to say, ere it is again too late," I returned.
"I have done many strange things in my life, many things that wiser men
would not have dared, but never in my wildest fancies have I dreamed of
winning a Dejah Thoris for myself—for never had I dreamed that in all
the universe dwelt such a woman as the Princess of Helium. That you
are a princess does not abash me, but that you are you is enough to
make me doubt my sanity as I ask you, my princess, to be mine."
"He does not need to be abashed who so well knew the answer to his plea
before the plea were made," she replied, rising and placing her dear
hands upon my shoulders, and so I took her in my arms and kissed her.
And thus in the midst of a city of wild conflict, filled with the
alarms of war; with death and destruction reaping their terrible
harvest around her, did Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, true daughter
of Mars, the God of War, promise herself in marriage to John Carter,
Gentleman of Virginia.
THROUGH CARNAGE TO JOY
Sometime later Tars Tarkas and Kantos Kan returned to report that
Zodanga had been completely reduced. Her forces were entirely
destroyed or captured, and no further resistance was to be expected
from within. Several battleships had escaped, but there were thousands
of war and merchant vessels under guard of Thark warriors.
The lesser hordes had commenced looting and quarreling among
themselves, so it was decided that we collect what warriors we could,
man as many vessels as possible with Zodangan prisoners and make for
Helium without further loss of time.
Five hours later we sailed from the roofs of the dock buildings with a
fleet of two hundred and fifty battleships, carrying nearly one hundred
thousand green warriors, followed by a fleet of transports with our
Behind us we left the stricken city in the fierce and brutal clutches
of some forty thousand green warriors of the lesser hordes. They were
looting, murdering, and fighting amongst themselves. In a hundred
places they had applied the torch, and columns of dense smoke were
rising above the city as though to blot out from the eye of heaven the
horrid sights beneath.
In the middle of the afternoon we sighted the scarlet and yellow towers
of Helium, and a short time later a great fleet of Zodangan battleships
rose from the camps of the besiegers without the city, and advanced to
The banners of Helium had been strung from stem to stern of each of our
mighty craft, but the Zodangans did not need this sign to realize that
we were enemies, for our green Martian warriors had opened fire upon
them almost as they left the ground. With their uncanny marksmanship
they raked the on-coming fleet with volley after volley.
The twin cities of Helium, perceiving that we were friends, sent out
hundreds of vessels to aid us, and then began the first real air battle
I had ever witnessed.
The vessels carrying our green warriors were kept circling above the
contending fleets of Helium and Zodanga, since their batteries were
useless in the hands of the Tharks who, having no navy, have no skill
in naval gunnery. Their small-arm fire, however, was most effective,
and the final outcome of the engagement was strongly influenced, if not
wholly determined, by their presence.
At first the two forces circled at the same altitude, pouring broadside
after broadside into each other. Presently a great hole was torn in
the hull of one of the immense battle craft from the Zodangan camp;
with a lurch she turned completely over, the little figures of her crew
plunging, turning and twisting toward the ground a thousand feet below;
then with sickening velocity she tore after them, almost completely
burying herself in the soft loam of the ancient sea bottom.
A wild cry of exultation arose from the Heliumite squadron, and with
redoubled ferocity they fell upon the Zodangan fleet. By a pretty
maneuver two of the vessels of Helium gained a position above their
adversaries, from which they poured upon them from their keel bomb
batteries a perfect torrent of exploding bombs.
Then, one by one, the battleships of Helium succeeded in rising above
the Zodangans, and in a short time a number of the beleaguering
battleships were drifting hopeless wrecks toward the high scarlet tower
of greater Helium. Several others attempted to escape, but they were
soon surrounded by thousands of tiny individual fliers, and above each
hung a monster battleship of Helium ready to drop boarding parties upon
Within but little more than an hour from the moment the victorious
Zodangan squadron had risen to meet us from the camp of the besiegers
the battle was over, and the remaining vessels of the conquered
Zodangans were headed toward the cities of Helium under prize crews.
There was an extremely pathetic side to the surrender of these mighty
fliers, the result of an age-old custom which demanded that surrender
should be signalized by the voluntary plunging to earth of the
commander of the vanquished vessel. One after another the brave
fellows, holding their colors high above their heads, leaped from the
towering bows of their mighty craft to an awful death.
Not until the commander of the entire fleet took the fearful plunge,
thus indicating the surrender of the remaining vessels, did the
fighting cease, and the useless sacrifice of brave men come to an end.
We now signaled the flagship of Helium's navy to approach, and when she
was within hailing distance I called out that we had the Princess Dejah
Thoris on board, and that we wished to transfer her to the flagship
that she might be taken immediately to the city.
As the full import of my announcement bore in upon them a great cry
arose from the decks of the flagship, and a moment later the colors of
the Princess of Helium broke from a hundred points upon her upper
works. When the other vessels of the squadron caught the meaning of
the signals flashed them they took up the wild acclaim and unfurled her
colors in the gleaming sunlight.
The flagship bore down upon us, and as she swung gracefully to and
touched our side a dozen officers sprang upon our decks. As their
astonished gaze fell upon the hundreds of green warriors, who now came
forth from the fighting shelters, they stopped aghast, but at sight of
Kantos Kan, who advanced to meet them, they came forward, crowding
Dejah Thoris and I then advanced, and they had no eyes for other than
her. She received them gracefully, calling each by name, for they were
men high in the esteem and service of her grandfather, and she knew
"Lay your hands upon the shoulder of John Carter," she said to them,
turning toward me, "the man to whom Helium owes her princess as well as
her victory today."
They were very courteous to me and said many kind and complimentary
things, but what seemed to impress them most was that I had won the aid
of the fierce Tharks in my campaign for the liberation of Dejah Thoris,
and the relief of Helium.
"You owe your thanks more to another man than to me," I said, "and here
he is; meet one of Barsoom's greatest soldiers and statesmen, Tars
Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark."
With the same polished courtesy that had marked their manner toward me
they extended their greetings to the great Thark, nor, to my surprise,
was he much behind them in ease of bearing or in courtly speech.
Though not a garrulous race, the Tharks are extremely formal, and their
ways lend themselves amazingly to dignified and courtly manners.
Dejah Thoris went aboard the flagship, and was much put out that I
would not follow, but, as I explained to her, the battle was but partly
won; we still had the land forces of the besieging Zodangans to account
for, and I would not leave Tars Tarkas until that had been accomplished.
The commander of the naval forces of Helium promised to arrange to have
the armies of Helium attack from the city in conjunction with our land
attack, and so the vessels separated and Dejah Thoris was borne in
triumph back to the court of her grandfather, Tardos Mors, Jeddak of
In the distance lay our fleet of transports, with the thoats of the
green warriors, where they had remained during the battle. Without
landing stages it was to be a difficult matter to unload these beasts
upon the open plain, but there was nothing else for it, and so we put
out for a point about ten miles from the city and began the task.
It was necessary to lower the animals to the ground in slings and this
work occupied the remainder of the day and half the night. Twice we
were attacked by parties of Zodangan cavalry, but with little loss,
however, and after darkness shut down they withdrew.
As soon as the last thoat was unloaded Tars Tarkas gave the command to
advance, and in three parties we crept upon the Zodangan camp from the
north, the south and the east.
About a mile from the main camp we encountered their outposts and, as
had been prearranged, accepted this as the signal to charge. With
wild, ferocious cries and amidst the nasty squealing of battle-enraged
thoats we bore down upon the Zodangans.
We did not catch them napping, but found a well-entrenched battle line
confronting us. Time after time we were repulsed until, toward noon, I
began to fear for the result of the battle.
The Zodangans numbered nearly a million fighting men, gathered from
pole to pole, wherever stretched their ribbon-like waterways, while
pitted against them were less than a hundred thousand green warriors.
The forces from Helium had not arrived, nor could we receive any word
Just at noon we heard heavy firing all along the line between the
Zodangans and the cities, and we knew then that our much-needed
reinforcements had come.
Again Tars Tarkas ordered the charge, and once more the mighty thoats
bore their terrible riders against the ramparts of the enemy. At the
same moment the battle line of Helium surged over the opposite
breastworks of the Zodangans and in another moment they were being
crushed as between two millstones. Nobly they fought, but in vain.
The plain before the city became a veritable shambles ere the last
Zodangan surrendered, but finally the carnage ceased, the prisoners
were marched back to Helium, and we entered the greater city's gates, a
huge triumphal procession of conquering heroes.
The broad avenues were lined with women and children, among which were
the few men whose duties necessitated that they remain within the city
during the battle. We were greeted with an endless round of applause
and showered with ornaments of gold, platinum, silver, and precious
jewels. The city had gone mad with joy.
My fierce Tharks caused the wildest excitement and enthusiasm. Never
before had an armed body of green warriors entered the gates of Helium,
and that they came now as friends and allies filled the red men with
That my poor services to Dejah Thoris had become known to the
Heliumites was evidenced by the loud crying of my name, and by the
loads of ornaments that were fastened upon me and my huge thoat as we
passed up the avenues to the palace, for even in the face of the
ferocious appearance of Woola the populace pressed close about me.
As we approached this magnificent pile we were met by a party of
officers who greeted us warmly and requested that Tars Tarkas and his
jeds with the jeddaks and jeds of his wild allies, together with
myself, dismount and accompany them to receive from Tardos Mors an
expression of his gratitude for our services.
At the top of the great steps leading up to the main portals of the
palace stood the royal party, and as we reached the lower steps one of
their number descended to meet us.
He was an almost perfect specimen of manhood; tall, straight as an
arrow, superbly muscled and with the carriage and bearing of a ruler of
men. I did not need to be told that he was Tardos Mors, Jeddak of
The first member of our party he met was Tars Tarkas and his first
words sealed forever the new friendship between the races.
"That Tardos Mors," he said, earnestly, "may meet the greatest living
warrior of Barsoom is a priceless honor, but that he may lay his hand
on the shoulder of a friend and ally is a far greater boon."
"Jeddak of Helium," returned Tars Tarkas, "it has remained for a man of
another world to teach the green warriors of Barsoom the meaning of
friendship; to him we owe the fact that the hordes of Thark can
understand you; that they can appreciate and reciprocate the sentiments
so graciously expressed."
Tardos Mors then greeted each of the green jeddaks and jeds, and to
each spoke words of friendship and appreciation.
As he approached me he laid both hands upon my shoulders.
"Welcome, my son," he said; "that you are granted, gladly, and without
one word of opposition, the most precious jewel in all Helium, yes, on
all Barsoom, is sufficient earnest of my esteem."
We were then presented to Mors Kajak, Jed of lesser Helium, and father
of Dejah Thoris. He had followed close behind Tardos Mors and seemed
even more affected by the meeting than had his father.
He tried a dozen times to express his gratitude to me, but his voice
choked with emotion and he could not speak, and yet he had, as I was to
later learn, a reputation for ferocity and fearlessness as a fighter
that was remarkable even upon warlike Barsoom. In common with all
Helium he worshiped his daughter, nor could he think of what she had
escaped without deep emotion.
FROM JOY TO DEATH
For ten days the hordes of Thark and their wild allies were feasted and
entertained, and, then, loaded with costly presents and escorted by ten
thousand soldiers of Helium commanded by Mors Kajak, they started on
the return journey to their own lands. The jed of lesser Helium with a
small party of nobles accompanied them all the way to Thark to cement
more closely the new bonds of peace and friendship.
Sola also accompanied Tars Tarkas, her father, who before all his
chieftains had acknowledged her as his daughter.
Three weeks later, Mors Kajak and his officers, accompanied by Tars
Tarkas and Sola, returned upon a battleship that had been dispatched to
Thark to fetch them in time for the ceremony which made Dejah Thoris
and John Carter one.
For nine years I served in the councils and fought in the armies of
Helium as a prince of the house of Tardos Mors. The people seemed
never to tire of heaping honors upon me, and no day passed that did not
bring some new proof of their love for my princess, the incomparable
In a golden incubator upon the roof of our palace lay a snow-white egg.
For nearly five years ten soldiers of the jeddak's Guard had constantly
stood over it, and not a day passed when I was in the city that Dejah
Thoris and I did not stand hand in hand before our little shrine
planning for the future, when the delicate shell should break.
Vivid in my memory is the picture of the last night as we sat there
talking in low tones of the strange romance which had woven our lives
together and of this wonder which was coming to augment our happiness
and fulfill our hopes.
In the distance we saw the bright-white light of an approaching
airship, but we attached no special significance to so common a sight.
Like a bolt of lightning it raced toward Helium until its very speed
bespoke the unusual.
Flashing the signals which proclaimed it a dispatch bearer for the
jeddak, it circled impatiently awaiting the tardy patrol boat which
must convoy it to the palace docks.
Ten minutes after it touched at the palace a message called me to the
council chamber, which I found filling with the members of that body.
On the raised platform of the throne was Tardos Mors, pacing back and
forth with tense-drawn face. When all were in their seats he turned
"This morning," he said, "word reached the several governments of
Barsoom that the keeper of the atmosphere plant had made no wireless
report for two days, nor had almost ceaseless calls upon him from a
score of capitals elicited a sign of response.
"The ambassadors of the other nations asked us to take the matter in
hand and hasten the assistant keeper to the plant. All day a thousand
cruisers have been searching for him until just now one of them returns
bearing his dead body, which was found in the pits beneath his house
horribly mutilated by some assassin.
"I do not need to tell you what this means to Barsoom. It would take
months to penetrate those mighty walls, in fact the work has already
commenced, and there would be little to fear were the engine of the
pumping plant to run as it should and as they all have for hundreds of
years; but the worst, we fear, has happened. The instruments show
a rapidly decreasing air pressure on all parts of Barsoom—the engine
"My gentlemen," he concluded, "we have at best three days to live."
There was absolute silence for several minutes, and then a young noble
arose, and with his drawn sword held high above his head addressed
"The men of Helium have prided themselves that they have ever shown
Barsoom how a nation of red men should live, now is our opportunity to
show them how they should die. Let us go about our duties as though a
thousand useful years still lay before us."
The chamber rang with applause and as there was nothing better to do
than to allay the fears of the people by our example we went our ways
with smiles upon our faces and sorrow gnawing at our hearts.
When I returned to my palace I found that the rumor already had reached
Dejah Thoris, so I told her all that I had heard.
"We have been very happy, John Carter," she said, "and I thank whatever
fate overtakes us that it permits us to die together."
The next two days brought no noticeable change in the supply of air,
but on the morning of the third day breathing became difficult at the
higher altitudes of the rooftops. The avenues and plazas of Helium
were filled with people. All business had ceased. For the most part
the people looked bravely into the face of their unalterable doom.
Here and there, however, men and women gave way to quiet grief.
Toward the middle of the day many of the weaker commenced to succumb
and within an hour the people of Barsoom were sinking by thousands into
the unconsciousness which precedes death by asphyxiation.
Dejah Thoris and I with the other members of the royal family had
collected in a sunken garden within an inner courtyard of the palace.
We conversed in low tones, when we conversed at all, as the awe of the
grim shadow of death crept over us. Even Woola seemed to feel the
weight of the impending calamity, for he pressed close to Dejah Thoris
and to me, whining pitifully.
The little incubator had been brought from the roof of our palace at
request of Dejah Thoris and she sat gazing longingly upon the
unknown little life that now she would never know.
As it was becoming perceptibly difficult to breathe Tardos Mors arose,
"Let us bid each other farewell. The days of the greatness of Barsoom
are over. Tomorrow's sun will look down upon a dead world which
through all eternity must go swinging through the heavens peopled not
even by memories. It is the end."
He stooped and kissed the women of his family, and laid his strong hand
upon the shoulders of the men.
As I turned sadly from him my eyes fell upon Dejah Thoris. Her head
was drooping upon her breast, to all appearances she was lifeless.
With a cry I sprang to her and raised her in my arms.
Her eyes opened and looked into mine.
"Kiss me, John Carter," she murmured. "I love you! I love you! It is
cruel that we must be torn apart who were just starting upon a life of
love and happiness."
As I pressed her dear lips to mine the old feeling of unconquerable
power and authority rose in me. The fighting blood of Virginia sprang
to life in my veins.
"It shall not be, my princess," I cried. "There is, there must be some
way, and John Carter, who has fought his way through a strange world
for love of you, will find it."
And with my words there crept above the threshold of my conscious mind
a series of nine long forgotten sounds. Like a flash of lightning in
the darkness their full purport dawned upon me—the key to the three
great doors of the atmosphere plant!
Turning suddenly toward Tardos Mors as I still clasped my dying love to
my breast I cried.
"A flier, Jeddak! Quick! Order your swiftest flier to the palace top.
I can save Barsoom yet."
He did not wait to question, but in an instant a guard was racing to
the nearest dock and though the air was thin and almost gone at the
rooftop they managed to launch the fastest one-man, air-scout machine
that the skill of Barsoom had ever produced.
Kissing Dejah Thoris a dozen times and commanding Woola, who would have
followed me, to remain and guard her, I bounded with my old agility and
strength to the high ramparts of the palace, and in another moment I
was headed toward the goal of the hopes of all Barsoom.
I had to fly low to get sufficient air to breathe, but I took a
straight course across an old sea bottom and so had to rise only a few
feet above the ground.
I traveled with awful velocity for my errand was a race against time
with death. The face of Dejah Thoris hung always before me. As I
turned for a last look as I left the palace garden I had seen her
stagger and sink upon the ground beside the little incubator. That she
had dropped into the last coma which would end in death, if the air
supply remained unreplenished, I well knew, and so, throwing caution to
the winds, I flung overboard everything but the engine and compass,
even to my ornaments, and lying on my belly along the deck with one
hand on the steering wheel and the other pushing the speed lever to its
last notch I split the thin air of dying Mars with the speed of a
An hour before dark the great walls of the atmosphere plant loomed
suddenly before me, and with a sickening thud I plunged to the ground
before the small door which was withholding the spark of life from the
inhabitants of an entire planet.
Beside the door a great crew of men had been laboring to pierce the
wall, but they had scarcely scratched the flint-like surface, and now
most of them lay in the last sleep from which not even air would awaken
Conditions seemed much worse here than at Helium, and it was with
difficulty that I breathed at all. There were a few men still
conscious, and to one of these I spoke.
"If I can open these doors is there a man who can start the engines?" I
"I can," he replied, "if you open quickly. I can last but a few
moments more. But it is useless, they are both dead and no one else
upon Barsoom knew the secret of these awful locks. For three days men
crazed with fear have surged about this portal in vain attempts to
solve its mystery."
I had no time to talk, I was becoming very weak and it was with
difficulty that I controlled my mind at all.
But, with a final effort, as I sank weakly to my knees I hurled the
nine thought waves at that awful thing before me. The Martian had
crawled to my side and with staring eyes fixed on the single panel
before us we waited in the silence of death.
Slowly the mighty door receded before us. I attempted to rise and
follow it but I was too weak.
"After it," I cried to my companion, "and if you reach the pump room
turn loose all the pumps. It is the only chance Barsoom has to exist
From where I lay I opened the second door, and then the third, and as I
saw the hope of Barsoom crawling weakly on hands and knees through the
last doorway I sank unconscious upon the ground.
AT THE ARIZONA CAVE
It was dark when I opened my eyes again. Strange, stiff garments were
upon my body; garments that cracked and powdered away from me as I rose
to a sitting posture.
I felt myself over from head to foot and from head to foot I was
clothed, though when I fell unconscious at the little doorway I had
been naked. Before me was a small patch of moonlit sky which showed
through a ragged aperture.
As my hands passed over my body they came in contact with pockets and
in one of these a small parcel of matches wrapped in oiled paper. One
of these matches I struck, and its dim flame lighted up what appeared
to be a huge cave, toward the back of which I discovered a strange,
still figure huddled over a tiny bench. As I approached it I saw that
it was the dead and mummified remains of a little old woman with long
black hair, and the thing it leaned over was a small charcoal burner
upon which rested a round copper vessel containing a small quantity of
Behind her, depending from the roof upon rawhide thongs, and stretching
entirely across the cave, was a row of human skeletons. From the thong
which held them stretched another to the dead hand of the little old
woman; as I touched the cord the skeletons swung to the motion with a
noise as of the rustling of dry leaves.
It was a most grotesque and horrid tableau and I hastened out into the
fresh air; glad to escape from so gruesome a place.
The sight that met my eyes as I stepped out upon a small ledge which
ran before the entrance of the cave filled me with consternation.
A new heaven and a new landscape met my gaze. The silvered mountains
in the distance, the almost stationary moon hanging in the sky, the
cacti-studded valley below me were not of Mars. I could scarce
believe my eyes, but the truth slowly forced itself upon me—I was
looking upon Arizona from the same ledge from which ten years before I
had gazed with longing upon Mars.
Burying my head in my arms I turned, broken, and sorrowful, down the
trail from the cave.
Above me shone the red eye of Mars holding her awful secret,
forty-eight million miles away.
Did the Martian reach the pump room? Did the vitalizing air reach the
people of that distant planet in time to save them? Was my Dejah
Thoris alive, or did her beautiful body lie cold in death beside the
tiny golden incubator in the sunken garden of the inner courtyard of
the palace of Tardos Mors, the jeddak of Helium?
For ten years I have waited and prayed for an answer to my questions.
For ten years I have waited and prayed to be taken back to the world of
my lost love. I would rather lie dead beside her there than live on
Earth all those millions of terrible miles from her.
The old mine, which I found untouched, has made me fabulously wealthy;
but what care I for wealth!
As I sit here tonight in my little study overlooking the Hudson, just
twenty years have elapsed since I first opened my eyes upon Mars.
I can see her shining in the sky through the little window by my desk,
and tonight she seems calling to me again as she has not called before
since that long dead night, and I think I can see, across that awful
abyss of space, a beautiful black-haired woman standing in the garden
of a palace, and at her side is a little boy who puts his arm around
her as she points into the sky toward the planet Earth, while at their
feet is a huge and hideous creature with a heart of gold.
I believe that they are waiting there for me, and something tells me
that I shall soon know.