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Chapter 1 The Plant Men

  • As I stood upon the bluff before my cottage on that clear cold night in th_arly part of March, 1886, the noble Hudson flowing like the grey and silen_pectre of a dead river below me, I felt again the strange, compellin_nfluence of the mighty god of war, my beloved Mars, which for ten long an_onesome years I had implored with outstretched arms to carry me back to m_ost love.
  • Not since that other March night in 1866, when I had stood without tha_rizona cave in which my still and lifeless body lay wrapped in the similitud_f earthly death had I felt the irresistible attraction of the god of m_rofession.
  • With arms outstretched toward the red eye of the great star I stood prayin_or a return of that strange power which twice had drawn me through th_mmensity of space, praying as I had prayed on a thousand nights before durin_he long ten years that I had waited and hoped.
  • Suddenly a qualm of nausea swept over me, my senses swam, my knees gav_eneath me and I pitched headlong to the ground upon the very verge of th_izzy bluff.
  • Instantly my brain cleared and there swept back across the threshold of m_emory the vivid picture of the horrors of that ghostly Arizona cave; again, as on that far-gone night, my muscles refused to respond to my will and again, as though even here upon the banks of the placid Hudson, I could hear th_wful moans and rustling of the fearsome thing which had lurked and threatene_e from the dark recesses of the cave, I made the same mighty and superhuma_ffort to break the bonds of the strange anaesthesia which held me, and agai_ame the sharp click as of the sudden parting of a taut wire, and I stoo_aked and free beside the staring, lifeless thing that had so recently pulse_ith the warm, red life-blood of John Carter.
  • With scarcely a parting glance I turned my eyes again toward Mars, lifted m_ands toward his lurid rays, and waited.
  • Nor did I have long to wait; for scarce had I turned ere I shot with th_apidity of thought into the awful void before me. There was the same instan_f unthinkable cold and utter darkness that I had experienced twenty year_efore, and then I opened my eyes in another world, beneath the burning ray_f a hot sun, which beat through a tiny opening in the dome of the might_orest in which I lay.
  • The scene that met my eyes was so un-Martian that my heart sprang to my throa_s the sudden fear swept through me that I had been aimlessly tossed upon som_trange planet by a cruel fate.
  • Why not? What guide had I through the trackless waste of interplanetary space?
  • What assurance that I might not as well be hurtled to some far-distant star o_nother solar system, as to Mars?
  • I lay upon a close-cropped sward of red grasslike vegetation, and about m_tretched a grove of strange and beautiful trees, covered with huge an_orgeous blossoms and filled with brilliant, voiceless birds. I call the_irds since they were winged, but mortal eye ne'er rested on such odd, unearthly shapes.
  • The vegetation was similar to that which covers the lawns of the red Martian_f the great waterways, but the trees and birds were unlike anything that _ad ever seen upon Mars, and then through the further trees I could see tha_ost un-Martian of all sights—an open sea, its blue waters shimmering beneat_he brazen sun.
  • As I rose to investigate further I experienced the same ridiculous catastroph_hat had met my first attempt to walk under Martian conditions. The lesse_ttraction of this smaller planet and the reduced air pressure of its greatl_arefied atmosphere, afforded so little resistance to my earthly muscles tha_he ordinary exertion of the mere act of rising sent me several feet into th_ir and precipitated me upon my face in the soft and brilliant grass of thi_trange world.
  • This experience, however, gave me some slightly increased assurance that, after all, I might indeed be in some, to me, unknown corner of Mars, and thi_as very possible since during my ten years' residence upon the planet I ha_xplored but a comparatively tiny area of its vast expanse.
  • I arose again, laughing at my forgetfulness, and soon had mastered once mor_he art of attuning my earthly sinews to these changed conditions.
  • As I walked slowly down the imperceptible slope toward the sea I could no_elp but note the park-like appearance of the sward and trees. The grass wa_s close-cropped and carpet-like as some old English lawn and the tree_hemselves showed evidence of careful pruning to a uniform height of abou_ifteen feet from the ground, so that as one turned his glance in an_irection the forest had the appearance at a little distance of a vast, high- ceiled chamber.
  • All these evidences of careful and systematic cultivation convinced me that _ad been fortunate enough to make my entry into Mars on this second occasio_hrough the domain of a civilized people and that when I should find them _ould be accorded the courtesy and protection that my rank as a Prince of th_ouse of Tardos Mors entitled me to.
  • The trees of the forest attracted my deep admiration as I proceeded toward th_ea. Their great stems, some of them fully a hundred feet in diameter, attested their prodigious height, which I could only guess at, since at n_oint could I penetrate their dense foliage above me to more than sixty o_ighty feet.
  • As far aloft as I could see the stems and branches and twigs were as smoot_nd as highly polished as the newest of American-made pianos. The wood of som_f the trees was as black as ebony, while their nearest neighbours migh_erhaps gleam in the subdued light of the forest as clear and white as th_inest china, or, again, they were azure, scarlet, yellow, or deepest purple.
  • And in the same way was the foliage as gay and variegated as the stems, whil_he blooms that clustered thick upon them may not be described in any earthl_ongue, and indeed might challenge the language of the gods.
  • As I neared the confines of the forest I beheld before me and between th_rove and the open sea, a broad expanse of meadow land, and as I was about t_merge from the shadows of the trees a sight met my eyes that banished al_omantic and poetic reflection upon the beauties of the strange landscape.
  • To my left the sea extended as far as the eye could reach, before me only _ague, dim line indicated its further shore, while at my right a mighty river, broad, placid, and majestic, flowed between scarlet banks to empty into th_uiet sea before me.
  • At a little distance up the river rose mighty perpendicular bluffs, from th_ery base of which the great river seemed to rise.
  • But it was not these inspiring and magnificent evidences of Nature's grandeu_hat took my immediate attention from the beauties of the forest. It was th_ight of a score of figures moving slowly about the meadow near the bank o_he mighty river.
  • Odd, grotesque shapes they were; unlike anything that I had ever seen upo_ars, and yet, at a distance, most manlike in appearance. The larger specimen_ppeared to be about ten or twelve feet in height when they stood erect, an_o be proportioned as to torso and lower extremities precisely as is earthl_an.
  • Their arms, however, were very short, and from where I stood seemed as thoug_ashioned much after the manner of an elephant's trunk, in that they moved i_inuous and snakelike undulations, as though entirely without bony structure, or if there were bones it seemed that they must be vertebral in nature.
  • As I watched them from behind the stem of a huge tree, one of the creature_oved slowly in my direction, engaged in the occupation that seemed to be th_rincipal business of each of them, and which consisted in running their oddl_haped hands over the surface of the sward, for what purpose I could no_etermine.
  • As he approached quite close to me I obtained an excellent view of him, an_hough I was later to become better acquainted with his kind, I may say tha_hat single cursory examination of this awful travesty on Nature would hav_roved quite sufficient to my desires had I been a free agent. The fastes_lier of the Heliumetic Navy could not quickly enough have carried me far fro_his hideous creature.
  • Its hairless body was a strange and ghoulish blue, except for a broad band o_hite which encircled its protruding, single eye: an eye that was all dea_hite—pupil, iris, and ball.
  • Its nose was a ragged, inflamed, circular hole in the centre of its blan_ace; a hole that resembled more closely nothing that I could think of othe_han a fresh bullet wound which has not yet commenced to bleed.
  • Below this repulsive orifice the face was quite blank to the chin, for th_hing had no mouth that I could discover.
  • The head, with the exception of the face, was covered by a tangled mass o_et-black hair some eight or ten inches in length. Each hair was about th_igness of a large angleworm, and as the thing moved the muscles of its scal_his awful head-covering seemed to writhe and wriggle and crawl about th_earsome face as though indeed each separate hair was endowed with independen_ife.
  • The body and the legs were as symmetrically human as Nature could hav_ashioned them, and the feet, too, were human in shape, but of monstrou_roportions. From heel to toe they were fully three feet long, and very fla_nd very broad.
  • As it came quite close to me I discovered that its strange movements, runnin_ts odd hands over the surface of the turf, were the result of its peculia_ethod of feeding, which consists in cropping off the tender vegetation wit_ts razorlike talons and sucking it up from its two mouths, which lie one i_he palm of each hand, through its arm-like throats.
  • In addition to the features which I have already described, the beast wa_quipped with a massive tail about six feet in length, quite round where i_oined the body, but tapering to a flat, thin blade toward the end, whic_railed at right angles to the ground.
  • By far the most remarkable feature of this most remarkable creature, however, were the two tiny replicas of it, each about six inches in length, whic_angled, one on either side, from its armpits. They were suspended by a smal_tem which seemed to grow from the exact tops of their heads to where i_onnected them with the body of the adult.
  • Whether they were the young, or merely portions of a composite creature, I di_ot know.
  • As I had been scrutinizing this weird monstrosity the balance of the herd ha_ed quite close to me and I now saw that while many had the smaller specimen_angling from them, not all were thus equipped, and I further noted that th_ittle ones varied in size from what appeared to be but tiny unopened buds a_nch in diameter through various stages of development to the full-fledged an_erfectly formed creature of ten to twelve inches in length.
  • Feeding with the herd were many of the little fellows not much larger tha_hose which remained attached to their parents, and from the young of tha_ize the herd graded up to the immense adults.
  • Fearsome-looking as they were, I did not know whether to fear them or not, fo_hey did not seem to be particularly well equipped for fighting, and I was o_he point of stepping from my hiding-place and revealing myself to them t_ote the effect upon them of the sight of a man when my rash resolve was, fortunately for me, nipped in the bud by a strange shrieking wail, whic_eemed to come from the direction of the bluffs at my right.
  • Naked and unarmed, as I was, my end would have been both speedy and horribl_t the hands of these cruel creatures had I had time to put my resolve int_xecution, but at the moment of the shriek each member of the herd turned i_he direction from which the sound seemed to come, and at the same instan_very particular snake-like hair upon their heads rose stiffly perpendicula_s if each had been a sentient organism looking or listening for the source o_eaning of the wail. And indeed the latter proved to be the truth, for thi_trange growth upon the craniums of the plant men of Barsoom represents th_housand ears of these hideous creatures, the last remnant of the strange rac_hich sprang from the original Tree of Life.
  • Instantly every eye turned toward one member of the herd, a large fellow wh_vidently was the leader. A strange purring sound issued from the mouth in th_alm of one of his hands, and at the same time he started rapidly toward th_luff, followed by the entire herd.
  • Their speed and method of locomotion were both remarkable, springing as the_id in great leaps of twenty or thirty feet, much after the manner of _angaroo.
  • They were rapidly disappearing when it occurred to me to follow them, and so, hurling caution to the winds, I sprang across the meadow in their wake wit_eaps and bounds even more prodigious than their own, for the muscles of a_thletic Earth man produce remarkable results when pitted against the lesse_ravity and air pressure of Mars.
  • Their way led directly towards the apparent source of the river at the base o_he cliffs, and as I neared this point I found the meadow dotted with hug_oulders that the ravages of time had evidently dislodged from the towerin_rags above.
  • For this reason I came quite close to the cause of the disturbance before th_cene broke upon my horrified gaze. As I topped a great boulder I saw the her_f plant men surrounding a little group of perhaps five or six green men an_omen of Barsoom.
  • That I was indeed upon Mars I now had no doubt, for here were members of th_ild hordes that people the dead sea bottoms and deserted cities of that dyin_lanet.
  • Here were the great males towering in all the majesty of their imposin_eight; here were the gleaming white tusks protruding from their massive lowe_aws to a point near the centre of their foreheads, the laterally placed, protruding eyes with which they could look forward or backward, or to eithe_ide without turning their heads, here the strange antennae-like ears risin_rom the tops of their foreheads; and the additional pair of arms extendin_rom midway between the shoulders and the hips.
  • Even without the glossy green hide and the metal ornaments which denoted th_ribes to which they belonged, I would have known them on the instant for wha_hey were, for where else in all the universe is their like duplicated?
  • There were two men and four females in the party and their ornaments denote_hem as members of different hordes, a fact which tended to puzzle m_nfinitely, since the various hordes of green men of Barsoom are eternally a_eadly war with one another, and never, except on that single histori_nstance when the great Tars Tarkas of Thark gathered a hundred and fift_housand green warriors from several hordes to march upon the doomed city o_odanga to rescue Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, from the clutches of Tha_osis, had I seen green Martians of different hordes associated in other tha_ortal combat.
  • But now they stood back to back, facing, in wide-eyed amazement, the ver_vidently hostile demonstrations of a common enemy.
  • Both men and women were armed with long-swords and daggers, but no firearm_ere in evidence, else it had been short shrift for the gruesome plant men o_arsoom.
  • Presently the leader of the plant men charged the little party, and his metho_f attack was as remarkable as it was effective, and by its very strangenes_as the more potent, since in the science of the green warriors there was n_efence for this singular manner of attack, the like of which it soon wa_vident to me they were as unfamiliar with as they were with the monstrositie_hich confronted them.
  • The plant man charged to within a dozen feet of the party and then, with _ound, rose as though to pass directly above their heads. His powerful tai_as raised high to one side, and as he passed close above them he brought i_own in one terrific sweep that crushed a green warrior's skull as though i_ad been an eggshell.
  • The balance of the frightful herd was now circling rapidly and wit_ewildering speed about the little knot of victims. Their prodigious bound_nd the shrill, screeching purr of their uncanny mouths were well calculate_o confuse and terrorize their prey, so that as two of them leape_imultaneously from either side, the mighty sweep of those awful tails me_ith no resistance and two more green Martians went down to an ignoble death.
  • There were now but one warrior and two females left, and it seemed that i_ould be but a matter of seconds ere these, also, lay dead upon the scarle_ward.
  • But as two more of the plant men charged, the warrior, who was now prepared b_he experiences of the past few minutes, swung his mighty long-sword aloft an_et the hurtling bulk with a clean cut that clove one of the plant men fro_hin to groin.
  • The other, however, dealt a single blow with his cruel tail that laid both o_he females crushed corpses upon the ground.
  • As the green warrior saw the last of his companions go down and at the sam_ime perceived that the entire herd was charging him in a body, he rushe_oldly to meet them, swinging his long-sword in the terrific manner that I ha_o often seen the men of his kind wield it in their ferocious and almos_ontinual warfare among their own race.
  • Cutting and hewing to right and left, he laid an open path straight throug_he advancing plant men, and then commenced a mad race for the forest, in th_helter of which he evidently hoped that he might find a haven of refuge.
  • He had turned for that portion of the forest which abutted on the cliffs, an_hus the mad race was taking the entire party farther and farther from th_oulder where I lay concealed.
  • As I had watched the noble fight which the great warrior had put up agains_uch enormous odds my heart had swelled in admiration for him, and acting as _m wont to do, more upon impulse than after mature deliberation, I instantl_prang from my sheltering rock and bounded quickly toward the bodies of th_ead green Martians, a well-defined plan of action already formed.
  • Half a dozen great leaps brought me to the spot, and another instant saw m_gain in my stride in quick pursuit of the hideous monsters that were rapidl_aining on the fleeing warrior, but this time I grasped a mighty long-sword i_y hand and in my heart was the old blood lust of the fighting man, and a re_ist swam before my eyes and I felt my lips respond to my heart in the ol_mile that has ever marked me in the midst of the joy of battle.
  • Swift as I was I was none too soon, for the green warrior had been overtake_re he had made half the distance to the forest, and now he stood with hi_ack to a boulder, while the herd, temporarily balked, hissed and screeche_bout him.
  • With their single eyes in the centre of their heads and every eye turned upo_heir prey, they did not note my soundless approach, so that I was upon the_ith my great long-sword and four of them lay dead ere they knew that I wa_mong them.
  • For an instant they recoiled before my terrific onslaught, and in that instan_he green warrior rose to the occasion and, springing to my side, laid to th_ight and left of him as I had never seen but one other warrior do, with grea_ircling strokes that formed a figure eight about him and that never stoppe_ntil none stood living to oppose him, his keen blade passing through fles_nd bone and metal as though each had been alike thin air.
  • As we bent to the slaughter, far above us rose that shrill, weird cry which _ad heard once before, and which had called the herd to the attack upon thei_ictims. Again and again it rose, but we were too much engaged with the fierc_nd powerful creatures about us to attempt to search out even with our eye_he author of the horrid notes.
  • Great tails lashed in frenzied anger about us, razor-like talons cut our limb_nd bodies, and a green and sticky syrup, such as oozes from a crushe_aterpillar, smeared us from head to foot, for every cut and thrust of ou_ongswords brought spurts of this stuff upon us from the severed arteries o_he plant men, through which it courses in its sluggish viscidity in lieu o_lood.
  • Once I felt the great weight of one of the monsters upon my back and as kee_alons sank into my flesh I experienced the frightful sensation of moist lip_ucking the lifeblood from the wounds to which the claws still clung.
  • I was very much engaged with a ferocious fellow who was endeavouring to reac_y throat from in front, while two more, one on either side, were lashin_iciously at me with their tails.
  • The green warrior was much put to it to hold his own, and I felt that th_nequal struggle could last but a moment longer when the huge fello_iscovered my plight, and tearing himself from those that surrounded him, h_aked the assailant from my back with a single sweep of his blade, and thu_elieved I had little difficulty with the others.
  • Once together, we stood almost back to back against the great boulder, an_hus the creatures were prevented from soaring above us to deliver thei_eadly blows, and as we were easily their match while they remained upon th_round, we were making great headway in dispatching what remained of them whe_ur attention was again attracted by the shrill wail of the caller above ou_eads.
  • This time I glanced up, and far above us upon a little natural balcony on th_ace of the cliff stood a strange figure of a man shrieking out his shril_ignal, the while he waved one hand in the direction of the river's mouth a_hough beckoning to some one there, and with the other pointed an_esticulated toward us.
  • A glance in the direction toward which he was looking was sufficient t_pprise me of his aims and at the same time to fill me with the dread of dir_pprehension, for, streaming in from all directions across the meadow, fro_ut of the forest, and from the far distance of the flat land across th_iver, I could see converging upon us a hundred different lines of wildl_eaping creatures such as we were now engaged with, and with them some strang_ew monsters which ran with great swiftness, now erect and now upon all fours.
  • "It will be a great death," I said to my companion. "Look!"
  • As he shot a quick glance in the direction I indicated he smiled.
  • "We may at least die fighting and as great warriors should, John Carter," h_eplied.
  • We had just finished the last of our immediate antagonists as he spoke, and _urned in surprised wonderment at the sound of my name.
  • And there before my astonished eyes I beheld the greatest of the green men o_arsoom; their shrewdest statesman, their mightiest general, my great and goo_riend, Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark.