A Princess of Mars HTML version

A Prisoner
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
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