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A Princess of Mars

A Duel To The Death
My first impulse was to tell her of my love, and then I thought of the helplessness of her
position wherein I alone could lighten the burdens of her captivity, and protect her in my
poor way against the thousands of hereditary enemies she must face upon our arrival at
Thark. I could not chance causing her additional pain or sorrow by declaring a love
which, in all probability she did not return. Should I be so indiscreet, her position would
be even more unbearable than now, and the thought that she might feel that I was taking
advantage of her helplessness, to influence her decision was the final argument which
sealed my lips.
"Why are you so quiet, Dejah Thoris?" I asked. "Possibly you would rather return to Sola
and your quarters."
"No," she murmured, "I am happy here. I do not know why it is that I should always be
happy and contented when you, John Carter, a stranger, are with me; yet at such times it
seems that I am safe and that, with you, I shall soon return to my father's court and feel
his strong arms about me and my mother's tears and kisses on my cheek."
"Do people kiss, then, upon Barsoom?" I asked, when she had explained the word she
used, in answer to my inquiry as to its meaning.
"Parents, brothers, and sisters, yes; and," she added in a low, thoughtful tone, "lovers."
"And you, Dejah Thoris, have parents and brothers and sisters?"
"Yes."
"And a--lover?"
She was silent, nor could I venture to repeat the question.
"The man of Barsoom," she finally ventured, "does not ask personal questions of women,
except his mother, and the woman he has fought for and won."
"But I have fought--" I started, and then I wished my tongue had been cut from my
mouth; for she turned even as I caught myself and ceased, and drawing my silks from her
shoulder she held them out to me, and without a word, and with head held high, she
moved with the carriage of the queen she was toward the plaza and the doorway of her
quarters.
I did not attempt to follow her, other than to see that she reached the building in safety,
but, directing Woola to accompany her, I turned disconsolately and entered my own
house. I sat for hours cross-legged, and cross-tempered, upon my silks meditating upon
the queer freaks chance plays upon us poor devils of mortals.
 
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