VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of Informational Site Network Informational
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

In Durance

From: Warlord Of Mars

The public houses of Barsoom, I have found, vary but little. There
is no privacy for other than married couples.

Men without their wives are escorted to a large chamber, the floor
of which is usually of white marble or heavy glass, kept scrupulously
clean. Here are many small, raised platforms for the guest's sleeping
silks and furs, and if he have none of his own clean, fresh ones
are furnished at a nominal charge.

Once a man's belongings have been deposited upon one of these
platforms he is a guest of the house, and that platform his own
until he leaves. No one will disturb or molest his belongings, as
there are no thieves upon Mars.

As assassination is the one thing to be feared, the proprietors
of the hostelries furnish armed guards, who pace back and forth
through the sleeping-rooms day and night. The number of guards and
gorgeousness of their trappings quite usually denote the status of
the hotel.

No meals are served in these houses, but generally a public eating
place adjoins them. Baths are connected with the sleeping chambers,
and each guest is required to bathe daily or depart from the hotel.

Usually on a second or third floor there is a large sleeping-room
for single women guests, but its appointments do not vary materially
from the chamber occupied by men. The guards who watch the women
remain in the corridor outside the sleeping chamber, while female
slaves pace back and forth among the sleepers within, ready to
notify the warriors should their presence be required.

I was surprised to note that all the guards with the hotel at which
we stopped were red men, and on inquiring of one of them I learned
that they were slaves purchased by the proprietors of the hotels from
the government. The man whose post was past my sleeping platform
had been commander of the navy of a great Martian nation; but fate
had carried his flagship across the ice-barrier within the radius
of power of the magnetic shaft, and now for many tedious years he
had been a slave of the yellow men.

He told me that princes, jeds, and even jeddaks of the outer
world, were among the menials who served the yellow race; but when
I asked him if he had heard of the fate of Mors Kajak or Tardos Mors
he shook his head, saying that he never had heard of their being
prisoners here, though he was very familiar with the reputations
and fame they bore in the outer world.

Neither had he heard any rumor of the coming of the Father of Therns
and the black dator of the First Born, but he hastened to explain
that he knew little of what took place within the palace. I could
see that he wondered not a little that a yellow man should be so
inquisitive about certain red prisoners from beyond the ice-barrier,
and that I should be so ignorant of customs and conditions among
my own race.

In fact, I had forgotten my disguise upon discovering a red man
pacing before my sleeping platform; but his growing expression of
surprise warned me in time, for I had no mind to reveal my identity
to any unless some good could come of it, and I did not see how
this poor fellow could serve me yet, though I had it in my mind
that later I might be the means of serving him and all the other
thousands of prisoners who do the bidding of their stern masters
in Kadabra.

Thuvan Dihn and I discussed our plans as we sat together among our
sleeping silks and furs that night in the midst of the hundreds
of yellow men who occupied the apartment with us. We spoke in low
whispers, but, as that is only what courtesy demands in a public
sleeping place, we roused no suspicion.

At last, determining that all must be but idle speculation until
after we had had a chance to explore the city and attempt to put
into execution the plan Talu had suggested, we bade each other good
night and turned to sleep.

After breakfasting the following morning we set out to see Kadabra,
and as, through the generosity of the prince of Marentina, we were
well supplied with the funds current in Okar we purchased a handsome
ground flier. Having learned to drive them while in Marentina, we
spent a delightful and profitable day exploring the city, and late
in the afternoon at the hour Talu told us we would find government
officials in their offices, we stopped before a magnificent building
on the plaza opposite the royal grounds and the palace.

Here we walked boldly in past the armed guard at the door, to be
met by a red slave within who asked our wishes.

"Tell Sorav, your master, that two warriors from Illall wish to
take service in the palace guard," I said.

Sorav, Talu had told us, was the commander of the forces of the
palace, and as men from the further cities of Okar--and especially
Illall--were less likely to be tainted with the germ of intrigue
which had for years infected the household of Salensus Oll, he was
sure that we would be welcomed and few questions asked us.

He had primed us with such general information as he thought would
be necessary for us to pass muster before Sorav, after which we would
have to undergo a further examination before Salensus Oll that he
might determine our physical fitness and our ability as warriors.

The little experience we had had with the strange hooked sword of
the yellow man and his cuplike shield made it seem rather unlikely
that either of us could pass this final test, but there was the
chance that we might be quartered in the palace of Salensus Oll
for several days after being accepted by Sorav before the Jeddak
of Jeddaks would find time to put us to the final test.

After a wait of several minutes in an ante-chamber we were summoned
into the private office of Sorav, where we were courteously greeted
by this ferocious-appearing, black-bearded officer. He asked us
our names and stations in our own city, and having received replies
that were evidently satisfactory to him, he put certain questions
to us that Talu had foreseen and prepared us for.

The interview could not have lasted over ten minutes when Sorav
summoned an aid whom he instructed to record us properly, and then
escort us to the quarters in the palace which are set aside for
aspirants to membership in the palace guard.

The aid took us to his own office first, where he measured and
weighed and photographed us simultaneously with a machine ingeniously
devised for that purpose, five copies being instantly reproduced in
five different offices of the government, two of which are located
in other cities miles distant. Then he led us through the palace
grounds to the main guardroom of the palace, there turning us over
to the officer in charge.

This individual again questioned us briefly, and finally despatched
a soldier to guide us to our quarters. These we found located upon
the second floor of the palace in a semi-detached tower at the rear
of the edifice.

When we asked our guide why we were quartered so far from the
guardroom he replied that the custom of the older members of the
guard of picking quarrels with aspirants to try their metal had
resulted in so many deaths that it was found difficult to maintain
the guard at its full strength while this custom prevailed. Salensus
Oll had, therefore, set apart these quarters for aspirants, and here
they were securely locked against the danger of attack by members
of the guard.

This unwelcome information put a sudden check to all our well-laid
plans, for it meant that we should virtually be prisoners in the
palace of Salensus Oll until the time that he should see fit to
give us the final examination for efficiency.

As it was this interval upon which we had banked to accomplish
so much in our search for Dejah Thoris and Thuvia of Ptarth, our
chagrin was unbounded when we heard the great lock click behind our
guide as he had quitted us after ushering us into the chambers we
were to occupy.

With a wry face I turned to Thuvan Dihn. My companion but shook
his head disconsolately and walked to one of the windows upon the
far side of the apartment.

Scarcely had he gazed beyond them than he called to me in a tone
of suppressed excitement and surprise. In an instant I was by his

"Look!" said Thuvan Dihn, pointing toward the courtyard below.

As my eyes followed the direction indicated I saw two women pacing
back and forth in an enclosed garden.

At the same moment I recognized them--they were Dejah Thoris and
Thuvia of Ptarth!

There were they whom I had trailed from one pole to another, the
length of a world. Only ten feet of space and a few metal bars
separated me from them.

With a cry I attracted their attention, and as Dejah Thoris looked
up full into my eyes I made the sign of love that the men of Barsoom
make to their women.

To my astonishment and horror her head went high, and as a look
of utter contempt touched her finely chiseled features she turned
her back full upon me. My body is covered with the scars of a
thousand conflicts, but never in all my long life have I suffered
such anguish from a wound, for this time the steel of a woman's
look had entered my heart.

With a groan I turned away and buried my face in my arms. I
heard Thuvan Dihn call aloud to Thuvia, but an instant later his
exclamation of surprise betokened that he, too, had been repulsed
by his own daughter.

"They will not even listen," he cried to me. "They have put their
hands over their ears and walked to the farther end of the garden.
Ever heard you of such mad work, John Carter? The two must be

Presently I mustered the courage to return to the window, for
even though she spurned me I loved her, and could not keep my eyes
from feasting upon her divine face and figure, but when she saw me
looking she again turned away.

I was at my wit's end to account for her strange actions, and that
Thuvia, too, had turned against her father seemed incredible. Could
it be that my incomparable princess still clung to the hideous faith
from which I had rescued her world? Could it be that she looked
upon me with loathing and contempt because I had returned from the
Valley Dor, or because I had desecrated the temples and persons of
the Holy Therns?

To naught else could I ascribe her strange deportment, yet it seemed
far from possible that such could be the case, for the love of
Dejah Thoris for John Carter had been a great and wondrous love--far
above racial distinctions, creed, or religion.

As I gazed ruefully at the back of her haughty, royal head a gate
at the opposite end of the garden opened and a man entered. As he
did so he turned and slipped something into the hand of the yellow
guardsman beyond the gate, nor was the distance too great that I
might not see that money had passed between them.

Instantly I knew that this newcomer had bribed his way within the
garden. Then he turned in the direction of the two women, and
I saw that he was none other than Thurid, the black dator of the
First Born.

He approached quite close to them before he spoke, and as they turned
at the sound of his voice I saw Dejah Thoris shrink from him.

There was a nasty leer upon his face as he stepped close to her
and spoke again. I could not hear his words, but her answer came

"The granddaughter of Tardos Mors can always die," she said, "but
she could never live at the price you name."

Then I saw the black scoundrel go upon his knees beside her, fairly
groveling in the dirt, pleading with her. Only part of what he said
came to me, for though he was evidently laboring under the stress
of passion and excitement, it was equally apparent that he did not
dare raise his voice for fear of detection.

"I would save you from Matai Shang," I heard him say. "You know
the fate that awaits you at his hands. Would you not choose me
rather than the other?"

"I would choose neither," replied Dejah Thoris, "even were I free
to choose, as you know well I am not."

"You ARE free!" he cried. "John Carter, Prince of Helium, is dead."

"I know better than that; but even were he dead, and I must needs
choose another mate, it should be a plant man or a great white
ape in preference to either Matai Shang or you, black calot," she
answered with a sneer of contempt.

Of a sudden the vicious beast lost all control of himself, as with
a vile oath he leaped at the slender woman, gripping her tender
throat in his brute clutch. Thuvia screamed and sprang to aid her
fellow-prisoner, and at the same instant I, too, went mad, and
tearing at the bars that spanned my window I ripped them from their
sockets as they had been but copper wire.

Hurling myself through the aperture I reached the garden, but a
hundred feet from where the black was choking the life from my Dejah
Thoris, and with a single great bound I was upon him. I spoke no
word as I tore his defiling fingers from that beautiful throat,
nor did I utter a sound as I hurled him twenty feet from me.

Foaming with rage, Thurid regained his feet and charged me like a
mad bull.

"Yellow man," he shrieked, "you knew not upon whom you had laid
your vile hands, but ere I am done with you, you will know well
what it means to offend the person of a First Born."

Then he was upon me, reaching for my throat, and precisely as I had
done that day in the courtyard of the Temple of Issus I did here
in the garden of the palace of Salensus Oll. I ducked beneath his
outstretched arms, and as he lunged past me I planted a terrific
right upon the side of his jaw.

Just as he had done upon that other occasion he did now. Like a
top he spun round, his knees gave beneath him, and he crumpled to
the ground at my feet. Then I heard a voice behind me.

It was the deep voice of authority that marks the ruler of men,
and when I turned to face the resplendent figure of a giant yellow
man I did not need to ask to know that it was Salensus Oll. At
his right stood Matai Shang, and behind them a score of guardsmen.

"Who are you," he cried, "and what means this intrusion within the
precincts of the women's garden? I do not recall your face. How
came you here?"

But for his last words I should have forgotten my disguise entirely
and told him outright that I was John Carter, Prince of Helium;
but his question recalled me to myself. I pointed to the dislodged
bars of the window above.

"I am an aspirant to membership in the palace guard," I said, "and
from yonder window in the tower where I was confined awaiting the
final test for fitness I saw this brute attack the--this woman. I
could not stand idly by, O Jeddak, and see this thing done within
the very palace grounds, and yet feel that I was fit to serve and
guard your royal person."

I had evidently made an impression upon the ruler of Okar by my
fair words, and when he had turned to Dejah Thoris and Thuvia of
Ptarth, and both had corroborated my statements it began to look
pretty dark for Thurid.

I saw the ugly gleam in Matai Shang's evil eyes as Dejah Thoris
narrated all that had passed between Thurid and herself, and when
she came to that part which dealt with my interference with the
dator of the First Born her gratitude was quite apparent, though
I could see by her eyes that something puzzled her strangely.

I did not wonder at her attitude toward me while others were present;
but that she should have denied me while she and Thuvia were the
only occupants of the garden still cut me sorely.

As the examination proceeded I cast a glance at Thurid and startled
him looking wide-eyed and wonderingly at me, and then of a sudden
he laughed full in my face.

A moment later Salensus Oll turned toward the black.

"What have you to say in explanation of these charges?" he asked
in a deep and terrible voice. "Dare you aspire to one whom the
Father of Therns has chosen--one who might even be a fit mate for
the Jeddak of Jeddaks himself?"

And then the black-bearded tyrant turned and cast a sudden greedy
look upon Dejah Thoris, as though with the words a new thought and
a new desire had sprung up within his mind and breast.

Thurid had been about to reply and, with a malicious grin upon his
face, was pointing an accusing finger at me, when Salensus Oll's
words and the expression of his face cut him short.

A cunning look crept into his eyes, and I knew from the expression
of his face that his next words were not the ones he had intended
to speak.

"O Mightiest of Jeddaks," he said, "the man and the women do not
speak the truth. The fellow had come into the garden to assist
them to escape. I was beyond and overheard their conversation,
and when I entered, the woman screamed and the man sprang upon me
and would have killed me.

"What know you of this man? He is a stranger to you, and I dare
say that you will find him an enemy and a spy. Let him be put on
trial, Salensus Oll, rather than your friend and guest, Thurid,
Dator of the First Born."

Salensus Oll looked puzzled. He turned again and looked upon Dejah
Thoris, and then Thurid stepped quite close to him and whispered
something in his ear--what, I know not.

Presently the yellow ruler turned to one of his officers.

"See that this man be securely confined until we have time to go
deeper into this affair," he commanded, "and as bars alone seem
inadequate to restrain him, let chains be added."

Then he turned and left the garden, taking Dejah Thoris with him--his
hand upon her shoulder. Thurid and Matai Shang went also, and as
they reached the gateway the black turned and laughed again aloud
in my face.

What could be the meaning of his sudden change toward me? Could
he suspect my true identity? It must be that, and the thing that
had betrayed me was the trick and blow that had laid him low for
the second time.

As the guards dragged me away my heart was very sad and bitter
indeed, for now to the two relentless enemies that had hounded her
for so long another and a more powerful one had been added, for
I would have been but a fool had I not recognized the sudden love
for Dejah Thoris that had just been born in the terrible breast of
Salensus Oll, Jeddak of Jeddaks, ruler of Okar.

Next: The Pit Of Plenty

Previous: With The Yellow Men

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 267