As we reached the open the two female guards who had been detailed to watc_ver Dejah Thoris hurried up and made as though to assume custody of her onc_ore. The poor child shrank against me and I felt her two little hands fol_ightly over my arm. Waving the women away, I informed them that Sola woul_ttend the captive hereafter, and I further warned Sarkoja that any more o_er cruel attentions bestowed upon Dejah Thoris would result in Sarkoja'_udden and painful demise.
My threat was unfortunate and resulted in more harm than good to Dejah Thoris,
for, as I learned later, men do not kill women upon Mars, nor women, men. S_arkoja merely gave us an ugly look and departed to hatch up deviltrie_gainst us.
I soon found Sola and explained to her that I wished her to guard Dejah Thori_s she had guarded me; that I wished her to find other quarters where the_ould not be molested by Sarkoja, and I finally informed her that I mysel_ould take up my quarters among the men.
Sola glanced at the accouterments which were carried in my hand and slun_cross my shoulder.
"You are a great chieftain now, John Carter," she said, "and I must do you_idding, though indeed I am glad to do it under any circumstances. The ma_hose metal you carry was young, but he was a great warrior, and had by hi_romotions and kills won his way close to the rank of Tars Tarkas, who, as yo_now, is second to Lorquas Ptomel only. You are eleventh, there are but te_hieftains in this community who rank you in prowess."
"And if I should kill Lorquas Ptomel?" I asked.
"You would be first, John Carter; but you may only win that honor by the wil_f the entire council that Lorquas Ptomel meet you in combat, or should h_ttack you, you may kill him in self-defense, and thus win first place."
I laughed, and changed the subject. I had no particular desire to kill Lorqua_tomel, and less to be a jed among the Tharks.
I accompanied Sola and Dejah Thoris in a search for new quarters, which w_ound in a building nearer the audience chamber and of far more pretentiou_rchitecture than our former habitation. We also found in this building rea_leeping apartments with ancient beds of highly wrought metal swinging fro_normous gold chains depending from the marble ceilings. The decoration of th_alls was most elaborate, and, unlike the frescoes in the other buildings _ad examined, portrayed many human figures in the compositions. These were o_eople like myself, and of a much lighter color than Dejah Thoris. They wer_lad in graceful, flowing robes, highly ornamented with metal and jewels, an_heir luxuriant hair was of a beautiful golden and reddish bronze. The me_ere beardless and only a few wore arms. The scenes depicted for the mos_art, a fair-skinned, fair-haired people at play.
Dejah Thoris clasped her hands with an exclamation of rapture as she gaze_pon these magnificent works of art, wrought by a people long extinct; whil_ola, on the other hand, apparently did not see them.
We decided to use this room, on the second floor and overlooking the plaza,
for Dejah Thoris and Sola, and another room adjoining and in the rear for th_ooking and supplies. I then dispatched Sola to bring the bedding and suc_ood and utensils as she might need, telling her that I would guard Deja_horis until her return.
As Sola departed Dejah Thoris turned to me with a faint smile.
"And whereto, then, would your prisoner escape should you leave her, unless i_as to follow you and crave your protection, and ask your pardon for the crue_houghts she has harbored against you these past few days?"
"You are right," I answered, "there is no escape for either of us unless we g_ogether."
"I heard your challenge to the creature you call Tars Tarkas, and I think _nderstand your position among these people, but what I cannot fathom is you_tatement that you are not of Barsoom."
"In the name of my first ancestor, then," she continued, "where may you b_rom? You are like unto my people, and yet so unlike. You speak my language,
and yet I heard you tell Tars Tarkas that you had but learned it recently. Al_arsoomians speak the same tongue from the ice-clad south to the ice-cla_orth, though their written languages differ. Only in the valley Dor, wher_he river Iss empties into the lost sea of Korus, is there supposed to be _ifferent language spoken, and, except in the legends of our ancestors, ther_s no record of a Barsoomian returning up the river Iss, from the shores o_orus in the valley of Dor. Do not tell me that you have thus returned! The_ould kill you horribly anywhere upon the surface of Barsoom if that wer_rue; tell me it is not!"
Her eyes were filled with a strange, weird light; her voice was pleading, an_er little hands, reached up upon my breast, were pressed against me as thoug_o wring a denial from my very heart.
"I do not know your customs, Dejah Thoris, but in my own Virginia a gentlema_oes not lie to save himself; I am not of Dor; I have never seen th_ysterious Iss; the lost sea of Korus is still lost, so far as I am concerned.
Do you believe me?"
And then it struck me suddenly that I was very anxious that she should believ_e. It was not that I feared the results which would follow a general belie_hat I had returned from the Barsoomian heaven or hell, or whatever it was.
Why was it, then! Why should I care what she thought? I looked down at her;
her beautiful face upturned, and her wonderful eyes opening up the very dept_f her soul; and as my eyes met hers I knew why, and—I shuddered.
A similar wave of feeling seemed to stir her; she drew away from me with _igh, and with her earnest, beautiful face turned up to mine, she whispered:
"I believe you, John Carter; I do not know what a 'gentleman' is, nor have _ver heard before of Virginia; but on Barsoom no man lies; if he does not wis_o speak the truth he is silent. Where is this Virginia, your country, Joh_arter?" she asked, and it seemed that this fair name of my fair land ha_ever sounded more beautiful than as it fell from those perfect lips on tha_ar-gone day.
"I am of another world," I answered, "the great planet Earth, which revolve_bout our common sun and next within the orbit of your Barsoom, which we kno_s Mars. How I came here I cannot tell you, for I do not know; but here I am,
and since my presence has permitted me to serve Dejah Thoris I am glad that _m here."
She gazed at me with troubled eyes, long and questioningly. That it wa_ifficult to believe my statement I well knew, nor could I hope that she woul_o so however much I craved her confidence and respect. I would much rathe_ot have told her anything of my antecedents, but no man could look into th_epth of those eyes and refuse her slightest behest.
Finally she smiled, and, rising, said: "I shall have to believe even though _annot understand. I can readily perceive that you are not of the Barsoom o_oday; you are like us, yet different—but why should I trouble my poor hea_ith such a problem, when my heart tells me that I believe because I wish t_elieve!"
It was good logic, good, earthly, feminine logic, and if it satisfied her _ertainly could pick no flaws in it. As a matter of fact it was about the onl_ind of logic that could be brought to bear upon my problem. We fell into _eneral conversation then, asking and answering many questions on each side.
She was curious to learn of the customs of my people and displayed _emarkable knowledge of events on Earth. When I questioned her closely on thi_eeming familiarity with earthly things she laughed, and cried out:
"Why, every school boy on Barsoom knows the geography, and much concerning th_auna and flora, as well as the history of your planet fully as well as of hi_wn. Can we not see everything which takes place upon Earth, as you call it;
is it not hanging there in the heavens in plain sight?"
This baffled me, I must confess, fully as much as my statements had confounde_er; and I told her so. She then explained in general the instruments he_eople had used and been perfecting for ages, which permit them to throw upo_ screen a perfect image of what is transpiring upon any planet and upon man_f the stars. These pictures are so perfect in detail that, when photographe_nd enlarged, objects no greater than a blade of grass may be distinctl_ecognized. I afterward, in Helium, saw many of these pictures, as well as th_nstruments which produced them.
"If, then, you are so familiar with earthly things," I asked, "why is it tha_ou do not recognize me as identical with the inhabitants of that planet?"
She smiled again as one might in bored indulgence of a questioning child.
"Because, John Carter," she replied, "nearly every planet and star havin_tmospheric conditions at all approaching those of Barsoom, shows forms o_nimal life almost identical with you and me; and, further, Earth men, almos_ithout exception, cover their bodies with strange, unsightly pieces of cloth,
and their heads with hideous contraptions the purpose of which we have bee_nable to conceive; while you, when found by the Tharkian warriors, wer_ntirely undisfigured and unadorned.
"The fact that you wore no ornaments is a strong proof of your un-Barsoomia_rigin, while the absence of grotesque coverings might cause a doubt as t_our earthliness."
I then narrated the details of my departure from the Earth, explaining that m_ody there lay fully clothed in all the, to her, strange garments of mundan_wellers. At this point Sola returned with our meager belongings and her youn_artian protege, who, of course, would have to share the quarters with them.
Sola asked us if we had had a visitor during her absence, and seemed muc_urprised when we answered in the negative. It seemed that as she had mounte_he approach to the upper floors where our quarters were located, she had me_arkoja descending. We decided that she must have been eavesdropping, but a_e could recall nothing of importance that had passed between us we dismisse_he matter as of little consequence, merely promising ourselves to be warne_o the utmost caution in the future.
Dejah Thoris and I then fell to examining the architecture and decorations o_he beautiful chambers of the building we were occupying. She told me tha_hese people had presumably flourished over a hundred thousand years before.
They were the early progenitors of her race, but had mixed with the othe_reat race of early Martians, who were very dark, almost black, and also wit_he reddish yellow race which had flourished at the same time.
These three great divisions of the higher Martians had been forced into _ighty alliance as the drying up of the Martian seas had compelled them t_eek the comparatively few and always diminishing fertile areas, and to defen_hemselves, under new conditions of life, against the wild hordes of gree_en.
Ages of close relationship and intermarrying had resulted in the race of re_en, of which Dejah Thoris was a fair and beautiful daughter. During the age_f hardships and incessant warring between their own various races, as well a_ith the green men, and before they had fitted themselves to the change_onditions, much of the high civilization and many of the arts of the fair-
haired Martians had become lost; but the red race of today has reached a poin_here it feels that it has made up in new discoveries and in a more practica_ivilization for all that lies irretrievably buried with the ancien_arsoomians, beneath the countless intervening ages.
These ancient Martians had been a highly cultivated and literary race, bu_uring the vicissitudes of those trying centuries of readjustment to ne_onditions, not only did their advancement and production cease entirely, bu_ractically all their archives, records, and literature were lost.
Dejah Thoris related many interesting facts and legends concerning this los_ace of noble and kindly people. She said that the city in which we wer_amping was supposed to have been a center of commerce and culture known a_orad. It had been built upon a beautiful, natural harbor, landlocked b_agnificent hills. The little valley on the west front of the city, sh_xplained, was all that remained of the harbor, while the pass through th_ills to the old sea bottom had been the channel through which the shippin_assed up to the city's gates.
The shores of the ancient seas were dotted with just such cities, and lesse_nes, in diminishing numbers, were to be found converging toward the center o_he oceans, as the people had found it necessary to follow the receding water_ntil necessity had forced upon them their ultimate salvation, the so-calle_artian canals.
We had been so engrossed in exploration of the building and in ou_onversation that it was late in the afternoon before we realized it. We wer_rought back to a realization of our present conditions by a messenger bearin_ summons from Lorquas Ptomel directing me to appear before him forthwith.
Bidding Dejah Thoris and Sola farewell, and commanding Woola to remain o_uard, I hastened to the audience chamber, where I found Lorquas Ptomel an_ars Tarkas seated upon the rostrum.