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Carthoris And Thuvia







From: Thuvia, Maid Of Mars

Upon a massive bench of polished ersite beneath the gorgeous blooms
of a giant pimalia a woman sat. Her shapely, sandalled foot tapped
impatiently upon the jewel-strewn walk that wound beneath the
stately sorapus trees across the scarlet sward of the royal gardens
of Thuvan Dihn, Jeddak of Ptarth, as a dark-haired, red-skinned
warrior bent low toward her, whispering heated words close to her
ear.

"Ah, Thuvia of Ptarth," he cried, "you are cold even before the
fiery blasts of my consuming love! No harder than your heart, nor
colder is the hard, cold ersite of this thrice happy bench which
supports your divine and fadeless form! Tell me, O Thuvia of
Ptarth, that I may still hope--that though you do not love me now,
yet some day, some day, my princess, I--"

The girl sprang to her feet with an exclamation of surprise and
displeasure. Her queenly head was poised haughtily upon her smooth
red shoulders. Her dark eyes looked angrily into those of the man.

"You forget yourself, and the customs of Barsoom, Astok," she said.
"I have given you no right thus to address the daughter of Thuvan
Dihn, nor have you won such a right."

The man reached suddenly forth and grasped her by the arm.

"You shall be my princess!" he cried. "By the breast of Issus, thou
shalt, nor shall any other come between Astok, Prince of Dusar,
and his heart's desire. Tell me that there is another, and I shall
cut out his foul heart and fling it to the wild calots of the dead
sea-bottoms!"

At touch of the man's hand upon her flesh the girl went pallid
beneath her coppery skin, for the persons of the royal women of
the courts of Mars are held but little less than sacred. The act
of Astok, Prince of Dusar, was profanation. There was no terror
in the eyes of Thuvia of Ptarth--only horror for the thing the man
had done and for its possible consequences.

"Release me." Her voice was level--frigid.

The man muttered incoherently and drew her roughly toward him.

"Release me!" she repeated sharply, "or I call the guard, and the
Prince of Dusar knows what that will mean."

Quickly he threw his right arm about her shoulders and strove to
draw her face to his lips. With a little cry she struck him full
in the mouth with the massive bracelets that circled her free arm.

"Calot!" she exclaimed, and then: "The guard! The guard! Hasten
in protection of the Princess of Ptarth!"

In answer to her call a dozen guardsmen came racing across the
scarlet sward, their gleaming long-swords naked in the sun, the
metal of their accoutrements clanking against that of their leathern
harness, and in their throats hoarse shouts of rage at the sight
which met their eyes.

But before they had passed half across the royal garden to where
Astok of Dusar still held the struggling girl in his grasp, another
figure sprang from a cluster of dense foliage that half hid a golden
fountain close at hand. A tall, straight youth he was, with black
hair and keen grey eyes; broad of shoulder and narrow of hip; a
clean-limbed fighting man. His skin was but faintly tinged with
the copper colour that marks the red men of Mars from the other
races of the dying planet--he was like them, and yet there was a
subtle difference greater even than that which lay in his lighter
skin and his grey eyes.

There was a difference, too, in his movements. He came on in great
leaps that carried him so swiftly over the ground that the speed
of the guardsmen was as nothing by comparison.

Astok still clutched Thuvia's wrist as the young warrior confronted
him. The new-comer wasted no time and he spoke but a single word.

"Calot!" he snapped, and then his clenched fist landed beneath the
other's chin, lifting him high into the air and depositing him in
a crumpled heap within the centre of the pimalia bush beside the
ersite bench.

Her champion turned toward the girl. "Kaor, Thuvia of Ptarth!" he
cried. "It seems that fate timed my visit well."

"Kaor, Carthoris of Helium!" the princess returned the young man's
greeting, "and what less could one expect of the son of such a
sire?"

He bowed his acknowledgment of the compliment to his father, John
Carter, Warlord of Mars. And then the guardsmen, panting from
their charge, came up just as the Prince of Dusar, bleeding at the
mouth, and with drawn sword, crawled from the entanglement of the
pimalia.

Astok would have leaped to mortal combat with the son of Dejah
Thoris, but the guardsmen pressed about him, preventing, though it
was clearly evident that naught would have better pleased Carthoris
of Helium.

"But say the word, Thuvia of Ptarth," he begged, "and naught will
give me greater pleasure than meting to this fellow the punishment
he has earned."

"It cannot be, Carthoris," she replied. "Even though he has forfeited
all claim upon my consideration, yet is he the guest of the jeddak,
my father, and to him alone may he account for the unpardonable
act he has committed."

"As you say, Thuvia," replied the Heliumite. "But afterward he
shall account to Carthoris, Prince of Helium, for this affront to
the daughter of my father's friend." As he spoke, though, there
burned in his eyes a fire that proclaimed a nearer, dearer cause
for his championship of this glorious daughter of Barsoom.

The maid's cheek darkened beneath the satin of her transparent skin,
and the eyes of Astok, Prince of Dusar, darkened, too, as he read
that which passed unspoken between the two in the royal gardens of
the jeddak.

"And thou to me," he snapped at Carthoris, answering the young
man's challenge.

The guard still surrounded Astok. It was a difficult position for
the young officer who commanded it. His prisoner was the son of a
mighty jeddak; he was the guest of Thuvan Dihn--until but now an
honoured guest upon whom every royal dignity had been showered.
To arrest him forcibly could mean naught else than war, and yet he
had done that which in the eyes of the Ptarth warrior merited death.

The young man hesitated. He looked toward his princess. She, too,
guessed all that hung upon the action of the coming moment. For
many years Dusar and Ptarth had been at peace with each other.
Their great merchant ships plied back and forth between the larger
cities of the two nations. Even now, far above the gold-shot
scarlet dome of the jeddak's palace, she could see the huge bulk
of a giant freighter taking its majestic way through the thin
Barsoomian air toward the west and Dusar.

By a word she might plunge these two mighty nations into a bloody
conflict that would drain them of their bravest blood and their
incalculable riches, leaving them all helpless against the inroads
of their envious and less powerful neighbors, and at last a prey
to the savage green hordes of the dead sea-bottoms.

No sense of fear influenced her decision, for fear is seldom known
to the children of Mars. It was rather a sense of the responsibility
that she, the daughter of their jeddak, felt for the welfare of
her father's people.

"I called you, Padwar," she said to the lieutenant of the guard,
"to protect the person of your princess, and to keep the peace
that must not be violated within the royal gardens of the jeddak.
That is all. You will escort me to the palace, and the Prince of
Helium will accompany me."

Without another glance in the direction of Astok she turned, and
taking Carthoris' proffered hand, moved slowly toward the massive
marble pile that housed the ruler of Ptarth and his glittering
court. On either side marched a file of guardsmen. Thus Thuvia
of Ptarth found a way out of a dilemma, escaping the necessity
of placing her father's royal guest under forcible restraint, and
at the same time separating the two princes, who otherwise would
have been at each other's throat the moment she and the guard had
departed.

Beside the pimalia stood Astok, his dark eyes narrowed to mere slits
of hate beneath his lowering brows as he watched the retreating
forms of the woman who had aroused the fiercest passions of his
nature and the man whom he now believed to be the one who stood
between his love and its consummation.

As they disappeared within the structure Astok shrugged his shoulders,
and with a murmured oath crossed the gardens toward another wing
of the building where he and his retinue were housed.

That night he took formal leave of Thuvan Dihn, and though no
mention was made of the happening within the garden, it was plain
to see through the cold mask of the jeddak's courtesy that only
the customs of royal hospitality restrained him from voicing the
contempt he felt for the Prince of Dusar.

Carthoris was not present at the leave-taking, nor was Thuvia. The
ceremony was as stiff and formal as court etiquette could make it,
and when the last of the Dusarians clambered over the rail of the
battleship that had brought them upon this fateful visit to the
court of Ptarth, and the mighty engine of destruction had risen
slowly from the ways of the landing-stage, a note of relief was
apparent in the voice of Thuvan Dihn as he turned to one of his
officers with a word of comment upon a subject foreign to that
which had been uppermost in the minds of all for hours.

But, after all, was it so foreign?

"Inform Prince Sovan," he directed, "that it is our wish that the
fleet which departed for Kaol this morning be recalled to cruise
to the west of Ptarth."

As the warship, bearing Astok back to the court of his father,
turned toward the west, Thuvia of Ptarth, sitting upon the same
bench where the Prince of Dusar had affronted her, watched the
twinkling lights of the craft growing smaller in the distance.
Beside her, in the brilliant light of the nearer moon, sat Carthoris.
His eyes were not upon the dim bulk of the battleship, but on the
profile of the girl's upturned face.

"Thuvia," he whispered.

The girl turned her eyes toward his. His hand stole out to find
hers, but she drew her own gently away.

"Thuvia of Ptarth, I love you!" cried the young warrior. "Tell me
that it does not offend."

She shook her head sadly. "The love of Carthoris of Helium," she
said simply, "could be naught but an honour to any woman; but you
must not speak, my friend, of bestowing upon me that which I may
not reciprocate."

The young man got slowly to his feet. His eyes were wide in
astonishment. It never had occurred to the Prince of Helium that
Thuvia of Ptarth might love another.

"But at Kadabra!" he exclaimed. "And later here at your father's
court, what did you do, Thuvia of Ptarth, that might have warned
me that you could not return my love?"

"And what did I do, Carthoris of Helium," she returned, "that might
lead you to believe that I DID return it?"

He paused in thought, and then shook his head. "Nothing, Thuvia,
that is true; yet I could have sworn you loved me. Indeed, you
well knew how near to worship has been my love for you."

"And how might I know it, Carthoris?" she asked innocently. "Did
you ever tell me as much? Ever before have words of love for me
fallen from your lips?"

"But you MUST have known it!" he exclaimed. "I am like my
father--witless in matters of the heart, and of a poor way with
women; yet the jewels that strew these royal garden paths--the
trees, the flowers, the sward--all must have read the love that has
filled my heart since first my eyes were made new by imaging your
perfect face and form; so how could you alone have been blind to
it?"

"Do the maids of Helium pay court to their men?" asked Thuvia.

"You are playing with me!" exclaimed Carthoris. "Say that you are
but playing, and that after all you love me, Thuvia!"

"I cannot tell you that, Carthoris, for I am promised to another."

Her tone was level, but was there not within it the hint of an
infinite depth of sadness? Who may say?

"Promised to another?" Carthoris scarcely breathed the words. His
face went almost white, and then his head came up as befitted him
in whose veins flowed the blood of the overlord of a world.

"Carthoris of Helium wishes you every happiness with the man of
your choice," he said. "With--" and then he hesitated, waiting
for her to fill in the name.

"Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol," she replied. "My father's friend
and Ptarth's most puissant ally."

The young man looked at her intently for a moment before he spoke
again.

"You love him, Thuvia of Ptarth?" he asked.

"I am promised to him," she replied simply.

He did not press her. "He is of Barsoom's noblest blood and mightiest
fighters," mused Carthoris. "My father's friend and mine--would
that it might have been another!" he muttered almost savagely. What
the girl thought was hidden by the mask of her expression, which
was tinged only by a little shadow of sadness that might have been
for Carthoris, herself, or for them both.

Carthoris of Helium did not ask, though he noted it, for his
loyalty to Kulan Tith was the loyalty of the blood of John Carter
of Virginia for a friend, greater than which could be no loyalty.

He raised a jewel-encrusted bit of the girl's magnificent trappings
to his lips.

"To the honour and happiness of Kulan Tith and the priceless jewel
that has been bestowed upon him," he said, and though his voice
was husky there was the true ring of sincerity in it. "I told you
that I loved you, Thuvia, before I knew that you were promised to
another. I may not tell you it again, but I am glad that you know
it, for there is no dishonour in it either to you or to Kulan Tith
or to myself. My love is such that it may embrace as well Kulan
Tith--if you love him." There was almost a question in the statement.

"I am promised to him," she replied.

Carthoris backed slowly away. He laid one hand upon his heart,
the other upon the pommel of his long-sword.

"These are yours--always," he said. A moment later he had entered
the palace, and was gone from the girl's sight.

Had he returned at once he would have found her prone upon the
ersite bench, her face buried in her arms. Was she weeping? There
was none to see.


Carthoris of Helium had come all unannounced to the court of his
father's friend that day. He had come alone in a small flier, sure
of the same welcome that always awaited him at Ptarth. As there
had been no formality in his coming there was no need of formality
in his going.

To Thuvan Dihn he explained that he had been but testing an invention
of his own with which his flier was equipped--a clever improvement
of the ordinary Martian air compass, which, when set for a certain
destination, will remain constantly fixed thereon, making it only
necessary to keep a vessel's prow always in the direction of the
compass needle to reach any given point upon Barsoom by the shortest
route.

Carthoris' improvement upon this consisted of an auxiliary device
which steered the craft mechanically in the direction of the
compass, and upon arrival directly over the point for which the
compass was set, brought the craft to a standstill and lowered it,
also automatically, to the ground.

"You readily discern the advantages of this invention," he was saying
to Thuvan Dihn, who had accompanied him to the landing-stage upon
the palace roof to inspect the compass and bid his young friend
farewell.

A dozen officers of the court with several body servants were
grouped behind the jeddak and his guest, eager listeners to the
conversation--so eager on the part of one of the servants that he
was twice rebuked by a noble for his forwardness in pushing himself
ahead of his betters to view the intricate mechanism of the wonderful
"controlling destination compass," as the thing was called.

"For example," continued Carthoris, "I have an all-night trip before
me, as to-night. I set the pointer here upon the right-hand dial
which represents the eastern hemisphere of Barsoom, so that the
point rests upon the exact latitude and longitude of Helium. Then
I start the engine, roll up in my sleeping silks and furs, and with
lights burning, race through the air toward Helium, confident that
at the appointed hour I shall drop gently toward the landing-stage
upon my own palace, whether I am still asleep or no."

"Provided," suggested Thuvan Dihn, "you do not chance to collide
with some other night wanderer in the meanwhile."

Carthoris smiled. "No danger of that," he replied. "See here,"
and he indicated a device at the right of the destination compass.
"This is my 'obstruction evader,' as I call it. This visible device
is the switch which throws the mechanism on or off. The instrument
itself is below deck, geared both to the steering apparatus and
the control levers.

"It is quite simple, being nothing more than a radium generator
diffusing radio-activity in all directions to a distance of a
hundred yards or so from the flier. Should this enveloping force
be interrupted in any direction a delicate instrument immediately
apprehends the irregularity, at the same time imparting an impulse
to a magnetic device which in turn actuates the steering mechanism,
diverting the bow of the flier away from the obstacle until the craft's
radio-activity sphere is no longer in contact with the obstruction,
then she falls once more into her normal course. Should the
disturbance approach from the rear, as in case of a faster-moving
craft overhauling me, the mechanism actuates the speed control as
well as the steering gear, and the flier shoots ahead and either
up or down, as the oncoming vessel is upon a lower or higher plane
than herself.

"In aggravated cases, that is when the obstructions are many, or
of such a nature as to deflect the bow more than forty-five degrees
in any direction, or when the craft has reached its destination
and dropped to within a hundred yards of the ground, the mechanism
brings her to a full stop, at the same time sounding a loud alarm
which will instantly awaken the pilot. You see I have anticipated
almost every contingency."

Thuvan Dihn smiled his appreciation of the marvellous device. The
forward servant pushed almost to the flier's side. His eyes were
narrowed to slits.

"All but one," he said.

The nobles looked at him in astonishment, and one of them grasped
the fellow none too gently by the shoulder to push him back to his
proper place. Carthoris raised his hand.

"Wait," he urged. "Let us hear what the man has to say--no creation
of mortal mind is perfect. Perchance he has detected a weakness
that it will be well to know at once. Come, my good fellow, and
what may be the one contingency I have overlooked?"

As he spoke Carthoris observed the servant closely for the first
time. He saw a man of giant stature and handsome, as are all those
of the race of Martian red men; but the fellow's lips were thin
and cruel, and across one cheek was the faint, white line of a
sword-cut from the right temple to the corner of the mouth.

"Come," urged the Prince of Helium. "Speak!"

The man hesitated. It was evident that he regretted the temerity
that had made him the centre of interested observation. But at
last, seeing no alternative, he spoke.

"It might be tampered with," he said, "by an enemy."

Carthoris drew a small key from his leathern pocket-pouch.

"Look at this," he said, handing it to the man. "If you know aught
of locks, you will know that the mechanism which this unlooses is
beyond the cunning of a picker of locks. It guards the vitals of
the instrument from crafty tampering. Without it an enemy must
half wreck the device to reach its heart, leaving his handiwork
apparent to the most casual observer."

The servant took the key, glanced at it shrewdly, and then as he
made to return it to Carthoris dropped it upon the marble flagging.
Turning to look for it he planted the sole of his sandal full upon
the glittering object. For an instant he bore all his weight upon
the foot that covered the key, then he stepped back and with an
exclamation as of pleasure that he had found it, stooped, recovered
it, and returned it to the Heliumite. Then he dropped back to his
station behind the nobles and was forgotten.

A moment later Carthoris had made his adieux to Thuvan Dihn and
his nobles, and with lights twinkling had risen into the star-shot
void of the Martian night.





Next: Slavery

Previous: At The Arizona Cave



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