A Princess of Mars
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 destruction.
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 rested upon.
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.