A Princess of Mars
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 the Tharks.