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Tara In A Tantrum

From: The Chessmen Of Mars

Tara of Helium rose from the pile of silks and soft furs upon
which she had been reclining, stretched her lithe body languidly,
and crossed toward the center of the room, where, above a large
table, a bronze disc depended from the low ceiling. Her carriage
was that of health and physical perfection--the effortless
harmony of faultless coordination. A scarf of silken gossamer
crossing over one shoulder was wrapped about her body; her black
hair was piled high upon her head. With a wooden stick she tapped
upon the bronze disc, lightly, and presently the summons was
answered by a slave girl, who entered, smiling, to be greeted
similarly by her mistress.

"Are my father's guests arriving?" asked the princess.

"Yes, Tara of Helium, they come," replied the slave. "I have seen
Kantos Kan, Overlord of the Navy, and Prince Soran of Ptarth, and
Djor Kantos, son of Kantos Kan," she shot a roguish glance at her
mistress as she mentioned Djor Kantos' name, "and--oh, there were
others, many have come."

"The bath, then, Uthia," said her mistress. "And why, Uthia," she
added, "do you look thus and smile when you mention the name of
Djor Kantos?"

The slave girl laughed gaily. "It is so plain to all that he
worships you," she replied.

"It is not plain to me," said Tara of Helium. "He is the friend
of my brother, Carthoris, and so he is here much; but not to see
me. It is his friendship for Carthoris that brings him thus often
to the palace of my father."

"But Carthoris is hunting in the north with Talu, Jeddak of
Okar," Uthia reminded her.

"My bath, Uthia!" cried Tara of Helium. "That tongue of yours
will bring you to some misadventure yet."

"The bath is ready, Tara of Helium," the girl responded, her eyes
still twinkling with merriment, for she well knew that in the
heart of her mistress was no anger that could displace the love
of the princess for her slave. Preceding the daughter of The
Warlord she opened the door of an adjoining room where lay the
bath--a gleaming pool of scented water in a marble basin. Golden
stanchions supported a chain of gold encircling it and leading
down into the water on either side of marble steps. A glass dome
let in the sun-light, which flooded the interior, glancing from
the polished white of the marble walls and the procession of
bathers and fishes, which, in conventional design, were inlaid
with gold in a broad band that circled the room.

Tara of Helium removed the scarf from about her and handed it to
the slave. Slowly she descended the steps to the water, the
temperature of which she tested with a symmetrical foot,
undeformed by tight shoes and high heels--a lovely foot, as God
intended that feet should be and seldom are. Finding the water to
her liking, the girl swam leisurely to and fro about the pool.
With the silken ease of the seal she swam, now at the surface,
now below, her smooth muscles rolling softly beneath her clear
skin--a wordless song of health and happiness and grace.
Presently she emerged and gave herself into the hands of the
slave girl, who rubbed the body of her mistress with a sweet
smelling semi-liquid substance contained in a golden urn, until
the glowing skin was covered with a foamy lather, then a quick
plunge into the pool, a drying with soft towels, and the bath was
over. Typical of the life of the princess was the simple elegance
of her bath--no retinue of useless slaves, no pomp, no idle waste
of precious moments. In another half hour her hair was dried and
built into the strange, but becoming, coiffure of her station;
her leathern trappings, encrusted with gold and jewels, had been
adjusted to her figure and she was ready to mingle with the
guests that had been bidden to the midday function at the palace
of The Warlord.

As she left her apartments to make her way to the gardens where
the guests were congregating, two warriors, the insignia of the
House of the Prince of Helium upon their harness, followed a few
paces behind her, grim reminders that the assassin's blade may
never be ignored upon Barsoom, where, in a measure, it
counterbalances the great natural span of human life, which is
estimated at not less than a thousand years.

As they neared the entrance to the garden another woman,
similarly guarded, approached them from another quarter of the
great palace. As she neared them Tara of Helium turned toward her
with a smile and a happy greeting, while her guards knelt with
bowed heads in willing and voluntary adoration of the beloved of
Helium. Thus always, solely at the command of their own hearts,
did the warriors of Helium greet Dejah Thoris, whose deathless
beauty had more than once brought them to bloody warfare with
other nations of Barsoom. So great was the love of the people of
Helium for the mate of John Carter it amounted practically to
worship, as though she were indeed the goddess that she looked.

The mother and daughter exchanged the gentle, Barsoomian, "kaor"
of greeting and kissed. Then together they entered the gardens
where the guests were. A huge warrior drew his short-sword and
struck his metal shield with the flat of it, the brazen sound
ringing out above the laughter and the speech.

"The Princess comes!" he cried. "Dejah Thoris! The Princess
comes! Tara of Helium!" Thus always is royalty announced. The
guests arose; the two women inclined their heads; the guards fell
back upon either side of the entrance-way; a number of nobles
advanced to pay their respects; the laughing and the talking were
resumed and Dejah Thoris and her daughter moved simply and
naturally among their guests, no suggestion of differing rank
apparent in the bearing of any who were there, though there was
more than a single Jeddak and many common warriors whose only
title lay in brave deeds, or noble patriotism. Thus it is upon
Mars where men are judged upon their own merits rather than upon
those of their grandsires, even though pride of lineage be great.

Tara of Helium let her slow gaze wander among the throng of
guests until presently it halted upon one she sought. Was the
faint shadow of a frown that crossed her brow an indication of
displeasure at the sight that met her eyes, or did the brilliant
rays of the noonday sun distress her? Who may say! She had been
reared to believe that one day she should wed Djor Kantos, son of
her father's best friend. It had been the dearest wish of Kantos
Kan and The Warlord that this should be, and Tara of Helium had
accepted it as a matter of all but accomplished fact. Djor Kantos
had seemed to accept the matter in the same way. They had spoken
of it casually as something that would, as a matter of course,
take place in the indefinite future, as, for instance, his
promotion in the navy, in which he was now a padwar; or the set
functions of the court of her grandfather, Tardos Mors, Jeddak of
Helium; or Death. They had never spoken of love and that had
puzzled Tara of Helium upon the rare occasions she gave it
thought, for she knew that people who were to wed were usually
much occupied with the matter of love and she had all of a
woman's curiosity--she wondered what love was like. She was very
fond of Djor Kantos and she knew that he was very fond of her.
They liked to be together, for they liked the same things and the
same people and the same books and their dancing was a joy, not
only to themselves but to those who watched them. She could not
imagine wanting to marry anyone other than Djor Kantos.

So perhaps it was only the sun that made her brows contract just
the tiniest bit at the same instant that she discovered Djor
Kantos sitting in earnest conversation with Olvia Marthis,
daughter of the Jed of Hastor. It was Djor Kantos' duty
immediately to pay his respects to Dejah Thoris and Tara of
Helium; but he did not do so and presently the daughter of The
Warlord frowned indeed. She looked long at Olvia Marthis, and
though she had seen her many times before and knew her well, she
looked at her today through new eyes that saw, apparently for the
first time, that the girl from Hastor was noticeably beautiful
even among those other beautiful women of Helium. Tara of Helium
was disturbed. She attempted to analyze her emotions; but found
it difficult. Olvia Marthis was her friend--she was very fond of
her and she felt no anger toward her. Was she angry with Djor
Kantos? No, she finally decided that she was not. It was merely
surprise, then, that she felt--surprise that Djor Kantos could be
more interested in another than in herself. She was about to
cross the garden and join them when she heard her father's voice
directly behind her.

"Tara of Helium!" he called, and she turned to see him
approaching with a strange warrior whose harness and metal bore
devices with which she was unfamiliar. Even among the gorgeous
trappings of the men of Helium and the visitors from distant
empires those of the stranger were remarkable for their barbaric
splendor. The leather of his harness was completely hidden
beneath ornaments of platinum thickly set with brilliant
diamonds, as were the scabbards of his swords and the ornate
holster that held his long, Martian pistol. Moving through the
sunlit garden at the side of the great Warlord, the scintillant
rays of his countless gems enveloping him as in an aureole of
light imparted to his noble figure a suggestion of godliness.

"Tara of Helium, I bring you Gahan, Jed of Gathol," said John
Carter, after the simple Barsoomian custom of presentation.

"Kaor! Gahan, Jed of Gathol," returned Tara of Helium.

"My sword is at your feet, Tara of Helium," said the young

The Warlord left them and the two seated themselves upon an
ersite bench beneath a spreading sorapus tree.

"Far Gathol," mused the girl. "Ever in my mind has it been
connected with mystery and romance and the half-forgotten lore of
the ancients. I cannot think of Gathol as existing today,
possibly because I have never before seen a Gatholian."

"And perhaps too because of the great distance that separates
Helium and Gathol, as well as the comparative insignificance of
my little free city, which might easily be lost in one corner of
mighty Helium," added Gahan. "But what we lack in power we make
up in pride," he continued, laughing. "We believe ours the oldest
inhabited city upon Barsoom. It is one of the few that has
retained its freedom, and this despite the fact that its ancient
diamond mines are the richest known and, unlike practically all
the other fields, are today apparently as inexhaustible as ever."

"Tell me of Gathol," urged the girl. "The very thought fills me
with interest," nor was it likely that the handsome face of the
young jed detracted anything from the glamour of far Gathol.

Nor did Gahan seem displeased with the excuse for further
monopolizing the society of his fair companion. His eyes seemed
chained to her exquisite features, from which they moved no
further than to a rounded breast, part hid beneath its jeweled
covering, a naked shoulder or the symmetry of a perfect arm,
resplendent in bracelets of barbaric magnificence.

"Your ancient history has doubtless told you that Gathol was
built upon an island in Throxeus, mightiest of the five oceans of
old Barsoom. As the ocean receded Gathol crept down the sides of
the mountain, the summit of which was the island upon which she
had been built, until today she covers the slopes from summit to
base, while the bowels of the great hill are honeycombed with the
galleries of her mines. Entirely surrounding us is a great salt
marsh, which protects us from invasion by land, while the rugged
and ofttimes vertical topography of our mountain renders the
landing of hostile airships a precarious undertaking."

"That, and your brave warriors?" suggested the girl.

Gahan smiled. "We do not speak of that except to enemies," he
said, "and then with tongues of steel rather than of flesh."

"But what practice in the art of war has a people which nature
has thus protected from attack?" asked Tara of Helium, who had
liked the young jed's answer to her previous question, but yet in
whose mind persisted a vague conviction of the possible
effeminacy of her companion, induced, doubtless, by the
magnificence of his trappings and weapons which carried a
suggestion of splendid show rather than grim utility.

"Our natural barriers, while they have doubtless saved us from
defeat on countless occasions, have not by any means rendered us
immune from attack," he explained, "for so great is the wealth of
Gathol's diamond treasury that there yet may be found those who
will risk almost certain defeat in an effort to loot our
unconquered city; so thus we find occasional practice in the
exercise of arms; but there is more to Gathol than the mountain
city. My country extends from Polodona (Equator) north ten karads
and from the tenth karad west of Horz to the twentieth west,
including thus a million square haads, the greater proportion of
which is fine grazing land where run our great herds of thoats
and zitidars.

"Surrounded as we are by predatory enemies our herdsmen must
indeed be warriors or we should have no herds, and you may be
assured they get plenty of fighting. Then there is our constant
need of workers in the mines. The Gatholians consider themselves
a race of warriors and as such prefer not to labor in the mines.
The law is, however, that each male Gatholian shall give an hour
a day in labor to the government. That is practically the only
tax that is levied upon them. They prefer however, to furnish a
substitute to perform this labor, and as our own people will not
hire out for labor in the mines it has been necessary to obtain
slaves, and I do not need to tell you that slaves are not won
without fighting. We sell these slaves in the public market, the
proceeds going, half and half, to the government and the warriors
who bring them in. The purchasers are credited with the amount of
labor performed by their particular slaves. At the end of a year
a good slave will have performed the labor tax of his master for
six years, and if slaves are plentiful he is freed and permitted
to return to his own people."

"You fight in platinum and diamonds?" asked Tara, indicating his
gorgeous trappings with a quizzical smile.

Gahan laughed. "We are a vain people," he admitted,
good-naturedly, "and it is possible that we place too much value
on personal appearances. We vie with one another in the splendor
of our accoutrements when trapped for the observance of the
lighter duties of life, though when we take the field our leather
is the plainest I ever have seen worn by fighting men of Barsoom.
We pride ourselves, too, upon our physical beauty, and especially
upon the beauty of our women. May I dare to say, Tara of Helium,
that I am hoping for the day when you will visit Gathol that my
people may see one who is really beautiful?"

"The women of Helium are taught to frown with displeasure upon
the tongue of the flatterer," rejoined the girl, but Gahan, Jed
of Gathol, observed that she smiled as she said it.

A bugle sounded, clear and sweet, above the laughter and the
talk. "The Dance of Barsoom!" exclaimed the young warrior. "I
claim you for it, Tara of Helium."

The girl glanced in the direction of the bench where she had last
seen Djor Kantos. He was not in sight. She inclined her head in
assent to the claim of the Gatholian. Slaves were passing among
the guests, distributing small musical instruments of a single
string. Upon each instrument were characters which indicated the
pitch and length of its tone. The instruments were of skeel, the
string of gut, and were shaped to fit the left forearm of the
dancer, to which it was strapped. There was also a ring wound
with gut which was worn between the first and second joints of
the index finger of the right hand and which, when passed over
the string of the instrument, elicited the single note required
of the dancer.

The guests had risen and were slowly making their way toward the
expanse of scarlet sward at the south end of the gardens where
the dance was to be held, when Djor Kantos came hurriedly toward
Tara of Helium. "I claim--" he exclaimed as he neared her; but
she interrupted him with a gesture.

"You are too late, Djor Kantos," she cried in mock anger. "No
laggard may claim Tara of Helium; but haste now lest thou lose
also Olvia Marthis, whom I have never seen wait long to be
claimed for this or any other dance."

"I have already lost her," admitted Djor Kantos ruefully.

"And you mean to say that you came for Tara of Helium only after
having lost Olvia Marthis?" demanded the girl, still simulating

"Oh, Tara of Helium, you know better than that," insisted the
young man. "Was it not natural that I should assume that you
would expect me, who alone has claimed you for the Dance of
Barsoom for at least twelve times past?"

"And sit and play with my thumbs until you saw fit to come for
me?" she questioned. "Ah, no, Djor Kantos; Tara of Helium is for
no laggard," and she threw him a sweet smile and passed on toward
the assembling dancers with Gahan, Jed of far Gathol.

The Dance of Barsoom bears a relation similar to the more formal
dancing functions of Mars that The Grand March does to ours,
though it is infinitely more intricate and more beautiful. Before
a Martian youth of either sex may attend an important social
function where there is dancing, he must have become proficient
in at least three dances--The Dance of Barsoom, his national
dance, and the dance of his city. In these three dances the
dancers furnish their own music, which never varies; nor do the
steps or figures vary, having been handed down from time
immemorial. All Barsoomian dances are stately and beautiful, but
The Dance of Barsoom is a wondrous epic of motion and
harmony--there is no grotesque posturing, no vulgar or suggestive
movements. It has been described as the interpretation of the
highest ideals of a world that aspired to grace and beauty and
chastity in woman, and strength and dignity and loyalty in man.

Today, John Carter, Warlord of Mars, with Dejah Thoris, his mate,
led in the dancing, and if there was another couple that vied
with them in possession of the silent admiration of the guests it
was the resplendent Jed of Gathol and his beautiful partner. In
the ever-changing figures of the dance the man found himself now
with the girl's hand in his and again with an arm about the lithe
body that the jeweled harness but inadequately covered, and the
girl, though she had danced a thousand dances in the past,
realized for the first time the personal contact of a man's arm
against her naked flesh. It troubled her that she should notice
it, and she looked up questioningly and almost with displeasure
at the man as though it was his fault. Their eyes met and she saw
in his that which she had never seen in the eyes of Djor Kantos.
It was at the very end of the dance and they both stopped
suddenly with the music and stood there looking straight into
each other's eyes. It was Gahan of Gathol who spoke first.

"Tara of Helium, I love you!" he said.

The girl drew herself to her full height. "The Jed of Gathol
forgets himself," she exclaimed haughtily.

"The Jed of Gathol would forget everything but you, Tara of
Helium," he replied. Fiercely he pressed the soft hand that he
still retained from the last position of the dance. "I love you,
Tara of Helium," he repeated. "Why should your ears refuse to
hear what your eyes but just now did not refuse to see--and

"What meanest thou?" she cried. "Are the men of Gathol such
boors, then?"

"They are neither boors nor fools," he replied, quietly. "They
know when they love a woman--and when she loves them."

Tara of Helium stamped her little foot in anger. "Go!" she said,
"before it is necessary to acquaint my father with the dishonor
of his guest."

She turned and walked away. "Wait!" cried the man. "Just another

"Of apology?" she asked.

"Of prophecy," he said.

"I do not care to hear it," replied Tara of Helium, and left
him standing there. She was strangely unstrung and shortly
thereafter returned to her own quarter of the palace, where she
stood for a long time by a window looking out beyond the scarlet
tower of Greater Helium toward the northwest.

Presently she turned angrily away. "I hate him!" she exclaimed

"Whom?" inquired the privileged Uthia.

Tara of Helium stamped her foot. "That ill-mannered boor, the Jed
of Gathol," she replied.

Uthia raised her slim brows.

At the stamping of the little foot, a great beast rose from the
corner of the room and crossed to Tara of Helium where it stood
looking up into her face. She placed her hand upon the ugly head.
"Dear old Woola," she said; "no love could be deeper than yours,
yet it never offends. Would that men might pattern themselves
after you!"

Next: At The Gale's Mercy

Previous: Prelude John Carter Comes To Earth

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