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Chapter 16 Under Arrest

  • As Carthoris, Xodar, Tars Tarkas, and I stood gazing at the magnificent vesse_hich meant so much to all of us, we saw a second and then a third top th_ummit of the hills and glide gracefully after their sister.
  • Now a score of one-man air scouts were launching from the upper decks of th_earer vessel, and in a moment more were speeding in long, swift dives to th_round about us.
  • In another instant we were surrounded by armed sailors, and an officer ha_tepped forward to address us, when his eyes fell upon Carthoris. With a_xclamation of surprised pleasure he sprang forward, and, placing his hand_pon the boy's shoulder, called him by name.
  • "Carthoris, my Prince," he cried, "Kaor! Kaor! Hor Vastus greets the son o_ejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and of her husband, John Carter. Where hav_ou been, O my Prince? All Helium has been plunged in sorrow. Terrible hav_een the calamities that have befallen your great-grandsire's mighty natio_ince the fatal day that saw you leave our midst."
  • "Grieve not, my good Hor Vastus," cried Carthoris, "since I bring not bac_yself alone to cheer my mother's heart and the hearts of my beloved people, but also one whom all Barsoom loved best—her greatest warrior and he_aviour—John Carter, Prince of Helium!"
  • Hor Vastus turned in the direction indicated by Carthoris, and as his eye_ell upon me he was like to have collapsed from sheer surprise.
  • "John Carter!" he exclaimed, and then a sudden troubled look came into hi_yes. "My Prince," he started, "where hast thou—" and then he stopped, but _new the question that his lips dared not frame. The loyal fellow would not b_he one to force from mine a confession of the terrible truth that I ha_eturned from the bosom of the Iss, the River of Mystery, back from the shor_f the Lost Sea of Korus, and the Valley Dor.
  • "Ah, my Prince," he continued, as though no thought had interrupted hi_reeting, "that you are back is sufficient, and let Hor Vastus' sword have th_igh honour of being first at thy feet." With these words the noble fello_nbuckled his scabbard and flung his sword upon the ground before me.
  • Could you know the customs and the character of red Martians you woul_ppreciate the depth of meaning that that simple act conveyed to me and to al_bout us who witnessed it. The thing was equivalent to saying, "My sword, m_ody, my life, my soul are yours to do with as you wish. Until death and afte_eath I look to you alone for authority for my every act. Be you right o_rong, your word shall be my only truth. Whoso raises his hand against yo_ust answer to my sword."
  • It is the oath of fealty that men occasionally pay to a Jeddak whose hig_haracter and chivalrous acts have inspired the enthusiastic love of hi_ollowers. Never had I known this high tribute paid to a lesser mortal. Ther_as but one response possible. I stooped and lifted the sword from the ground, raised the hilt to my lips, and then, stepping to Hor Vastus, I buckled th_eapon upon him with my own hands.
  • "Hor Vastus," I said, placing my hand upon his shoulder, "you know best th_romptings of your own heart. That I shall need your sword I have littl_oubt, but accept from John Carter upon his sacred honour the assurance tha_e will never call upon you to draw this sword other than in the cause o_ruth, justice, and righteousness."
  • "That I knew, my Prince," he replied, "ere ever I threw my beloved blade a_hy feet."
  • As we spoke other fliers came and went between the ground and the battleship, and presently a larger boat was launched from above, one capable of carrying _ozen persons, perhaps, and dropped lightly near us. As she touched, a_fficer sprang from her deck to the ground, and, advancing to Hor Vastus, saluted.
  • "Kantos Kan desires that this party whom we have rescued be brough_mmediately to the deck of the Xavarian," he said.
  • As we approached the little craft I looked about for the members of my part_nd for the first time noticed that Thuvia was not among them. Questionin_licited the fact that none had seen her since Carthoris had sent her thoa_alloping madly toward the hills, in the hope of carrying her out of harm'_ay.
  • Immediately Hor Vastus dispatched a dozen air scouts in as many directions t_earch for her. It could not be possible that she had gone far since we ha_ast seen her. We others stepped to the deck of the craft that had been sen_o fetch us, and a moment later were upon the Xavarian.
  • The first man to greet me was Kantos Kan himself. My old friend had won to th_ighest place in the navy of Helium, but he was still to me the same brav_omrade who had shared with me the privations of a Warhoon dungeon, th_errible atrocities of the Great Games, and later the dangers of our searc_or Dejah Thoris within the hostile city of Zodanga.
  • Then I had been an unknown wanderer upon a strange planet, and he a simpl_adwar in the navy of Helium. To-day he commanded all Helium's great terror_f the skies, and I was a Prince of the House of Tardos Mors, Jeddak o_elium.
  • He did not ask me where I had been. Like Hor Vastus, he too dreaded the trut_nd would not be the one to wrest a statement from me. That it must come som_ime he well knew, but until it came he seemed satisfied to but know that _as with him once more. He greeted Carthoris and Tars Tarkas with the keenes_elight, but he asked neither where he had been. He could scarcely keep hi_ands off the boy.
  • "You do not know, John Carter," he said to me, "how we of Helium love this so_f yours. It is as though all the great love we bore his noble father and hi_oor mother had been centred in him. When it became known that he was lost, ten million people wept."
  • "What mean you, Kantos Kan," I whispered, "by 'his poor mother'?" for th_ords had seemed to carry a sinister meaning which I could not fathom.
  • He drew me to one side.
  • "For a year," he said, "Ever since Carthoris disappeared, Dejah Thoris ha_rieved and mourned for her lost boy. The blow of years ago, when you did no_eturn from the atmosphere plant, was lessened to some extent by the duties o_otherhood, for your son broke his white shell that very night."
  • "That she suffered terribly then, all Helium knew, for did not all Heliu_uffer with her the loss of her lord! But with the boy gone there was nothin_eft, and after expedition upon expedition returned with the same hopeles_ale of no clue as to his whereabouts, our beloved Princess drooped lower an_ower, until all who saw her felt that it could be but a matter of days er_he went to join her loved ones within the precincts of the Valley Dor.
  • "As a last resort, Mors Kajak, her father, and Tardos Mors, her grandfather, took command of two mighty expeditions, and a month ago sailed away to explor_very inch of ground in the northern hemisphere of Barsoom. For two weeks n_ord has come back from them, but rumours were rife that they had met with _errible disaster and that all were dead.
  • "About this time Zat Arras renewed his importunities for her hand in marriage.
  • He has been for ever after her since you disappeared. She hated him and feare_im, but with both her father and grandfather gone, Zat Arras was ver_owerful, for he is still Jed of Zodanga, to which position, you wil_emember, Tardos Mors appointed him after you had refused the honour.
  • "He had a secret audience with her six days ago. What took place none knows, but the next day Dejah Thoris had disappeared, and with her had gone a doze_f her household guard and body servants, including Sola the green woman—Tar_arkas' daughter, you recall. No word left they of their intentions, but it i_lways thus with those who go upon the voluntary pilgrimage from which non_eturns. We cannot think aught than that Dejah Thoris has sought the icy boso_f Iss, and that her devoted servants have chosen to accompany her.
  • "Zat Arras was at Helium when she disappeared. He commands this fleet whic_as been searching for her since. No trace of her have we found, and I fea_hat it be a futile quest."
  • While we talked, Hor Vastus' fliers were returning to the Xavarian. Not one, however, had discovered a trace of Thuvia. I was much depressed over the new_f Dejah Thoris' disappearance, and now there was added the further burden o_pprehension concerning the fate of this girl whom I believed to be th_aughter of some proud Barsoomian house, and it had been my intention to mak_very effort to return her to her people.
  • I was about to ask Kantos Kan to prosecute a further search for her when _lier from the flagship of the fleet arrived at the Xavarian with an office_earing a message to Kantos Kan from Arras.
  • My friend read the dispatch and then turned to me.
  • "Zat Arras commands me to bring our 'prisoners' before him. There is naugh_lse to do. He is supreme in Helium, yet it would be far more in keeping wit_hivalry and good taste were he to come hither and greet the saviour o_arsoom with the honours that are his due."
  • "You know full well, my friend," I said, smiling, "that Zat Arras has goo_ause to hate me. Nothing would please him better than to humiliate me an_hen to kill me. Now that he has so excellent an excuse, let us go and see i_e has the courage to take advantage of it."
  • Summoning Carthoris, Tars Tarkas, and Xodar, we entered the small flier wit_antos Kan and Zat Arras' officer, and in a moment were stepping to the dec_f Zat Arras' flagship.
  • As we approached the Jed of Zodanga no sign of greeting or recognition crosse_is face; not even to Carthoris did he vouchsafe a friendly word. His attitud_as cold, haughty, and uncompromising.
  • "Kaor, Zat Arras," I said in greeting, but he did not respond.
  • "Why were these prisoners not disarmed?" he asked to Kantos Kan.
  • "They are not prisoners, Zat Arras," replied the officer.
  • "Two of them are of Helium's noblest family. Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, i_ardos Mors' best beloved ally. The other is a friend and companion of th_rince of Helium—that is enough for me to know."
  • "It is not enough for me, however," retorted Zat Arras. "More must I hear fro_hose who have taken the pilgrimage than their names. Where have you been, John Carter?"
  • "I have just come from the Valley Dor and the Land of the First Born, Za_rras," I replied.
  • "Ah!" he exclaimed in evident pleasure, "you do not deny it, then? You hav_eturned from the bosom of Iss?"
  • "I have come back from a land of false hope, from a valley of torture an_eath; with my companions I have escaped from the hideous clutches of lyin_iends. I have come back to the Barsoom that I saved from a painless death t_gain save her, but this time from death in its most frightful form."
  • "Cease, blasphemer!" cried Zat Arras. "Hope not to save thy cowardly carcas_y inventing horrid lies to—" But he got no further. One does not call Joh_arter "coward" and "liar" thus lightly, and Zat Arras should have known it.
  • Before a hand could be raised to stop me, I was at his side and one han_rasped his throat.
  • "Come I from heaven or hell, Zat Arras, you will find me still the same Joh_arter that I have always been; nor did ever man call me such names an_ive—without apologizing." And with that I commenced to bend him back acros_y knee and tighten my grip upon his throat.
  • "Seize him!" cried Zat Arras, and a dozen officers sprang forward to assis_im.
  • Kantos Kan came close and whispered to me.
  • "Desist, I beg of you. It will but involve us all, for I cannot see these me_ay hands upon you without aiding you. My officers and men will join me and w_hall have a mutiny then that may lead to the revolution. For the sake o_ardos Mors and Helium, desist."
  • At his words I released Zat Arras and, turning my back upon him, walked towar_he ship's rail.
  • "Come, Kantos Kan," I said, "the Prince of Helium would return to th_avarian."
  • None interfered. Zat Arras stood white and trembling amidst his officers. Som_here were who looked upon him with scorn and drew toward me, while one, a ma_ong in the service and confidence of Tardos Mors, spoke to me in a low ton_s I passed him.
  • "You may count my metal among your fighting-men, John Carter," he said.
  • I thanked him and passed on. In silence we embarked, and shortly after steppe_nce more upon the deck of the Xavarian. Fifteen minutes later we receive_rders from the flagship to proceed toward Helium.
  • Our journey thither was uneventful. Carthoris and I were wrapped in th_loomiest of thoughts. Kantos Kan was sombre in contemplation of the furthe_alamity that might fall upon Helium should Zat Arras attempt to follow th_ge-old precedent that allotted a terrible death to fugitives from the Valle_or. Tars Tarkas grieved for the loss of his daughter. Xodar alone was care- free—a fugitive and outlaw, he could be no worse off in Helium than elsewhere.
  • "Let us hope that we may at least go out with good red blood upon our blades,"
  • he said. It was a simple wish and one most likely to be gratified.
  • Among the officers of the Xavarian I thought I could discern division int_actions ere we had reached Helium. There were those who gathered abou_arthoris and myself whenever the opportunity presented, while about an equa_umber held aloof from us. They offered us only the most courteous treatment, but were evidently bound by their superstitious belief in the doctrine of Do_nd Iss and Korus. I could not blame them, for I knew how strong a hold _reed, however ridiculous it may be, may gain upon an otherwise intelligen_eople.
  • By returning from Dor we had committed a sacrilege; by recounting ou_dventures there, and stating the facts as they existed we had outraged th_eligion of their fathers. We were blasphemers—lying heretics. Even those wh_till clung to us from personal love and loyalty I think did so in the face o_he fact that at heart they questioned our veracity—it is very hard to accep_ new religion for an old, no matter how alluring the promises of the new ma_e; but to reject the old as a tissue of falsehoods without being offere_nything in its stead is indeed a most difficult thing to ask of any people.
  • Kantos Kan would not talk of our experiences among the therns and the Firs_orn.
  • "It is enough," he said, "that I jeopardize my life here and hereafter b_ountenancing you at all—do not ask me to add still further to my sins b_istening to what I have always been taught was the rankest heresy."
  • I knew that sooner or later the time must come when our friends and enemie_ould be forced to declare themselves openly. When we reached Helium ther_ust be an accounting, and if Tardos Mors had not returned I feared that th_nmity of Zat Arras might weigh heavily against us, for he represented th_overnment of Helium. To take sides against him were equivalent to treason.
  • The majority of the troops would doubtless follow the lead of their officers, and I knew that many of the highest and most powerful men of both land and ai_orces would cleave to John Carter in the face of god, man, or devil.
  • On the other hand, the majority of the populace unquestionably would deman_hat we pay the penalty of our sacrilege. The outlook seemed dark fro_hatever angle I viewed it, but my mind was so torn with anguish at th_hought of Dejah Thoris that I realize now that I gave the terrible questio_f Helium's plight but scant attention at that time.
  • There was always before me, day and night, a horrible nightmare of th_rightful scenes through which I knew my Princess might even then b_assing—the horrid plant men—the ferocious white apes. At times I would cove_y face with my hands in a vain effort to shut out the fearful thing from m_ind.
  • It was in the forenoon that we arrived above the mile-high scarlet tower whic_arks greater Helium from her twin city. As we descended in great circle_oward the navy docks a mighty multitude could be seen surging in the street_eneath. Helium had been notified by radio-aerogram of our approach.
  • From the deck of the Xavarian we four, Carthoris, Tars Tarkas, Xodar, and I, were transferred to a lesser flier to be transported to quarters within th_emple of Reward. It is here that Martian justice is meted to benefactor an_alefactor. Here the hero is decorated. Here the felon is condemned. We wer_aken into the temple from the landing stage upon the roof, so that we did no_ass among the people at all, as is customary. Always before I had see_risoners of note, or returned wanderers of eminence, paraded from the Gate o_eddaks to the Temple of Reward up the broad Avenue of Ancestors through dens_rowds of jeering or cheering citizens.
  • I knew that Zat Arras dared not trust the people near to us, for he feare_hat their love for Carthoris and myself might break into a demonstratio_hich would wipe out their superstitious horror of the crime we were to b_harged with. What his plans were I could only guess, but that they wer_inister was evidenced by the fact that only his most trusted servitor_ccompanied us upon the flier to the Temple of Reward.
  • We were lodged in a room upon the south side of the temple, overlooking th_venue of Ancestors down which we could see the full length to the Gate o_eddaks, five miles away. The people in the temple plaza and in the street_or a distance of a full mile were standing as close packed as it was possibl_or them to get. They were very orderly—there were neither scoffs no_laudits, and when they saw us at the window above them there were many wh_uried their faces in their arms and wept.
  • Late in the afternoon a messenger arrived from Zat Arras to inform us that w_ould be tried by an impartial body of nobles in the great hall of the templ_t the 1st zode[[1]](footnotes.xml#footnote_1) on the following day, or abou_:40 A.M. Earth time.