A Princess of Mars HTML version
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 direction.
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.