A Princess of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 121

to attempt the return
voyage. He would have to pilot his own craft, however, as these frail
vessels are not intended to convey but a single person.

Quickly completing the repairs we rose together into the still,
cloudless Martian sky, and at great speed and without further mishap
returned to Zodanga.

As we neared the city we discovered a mighty concourse of civilians and
troops assembled upon the plain before the city. The sky was black
with naval vessels and private and public pleasure craft, flying long
streamers of gay-colored silks, and banners and flags of odd and
picturesque design.

My companion signaled that I slow down, and running his machine close
beside mine suggested that we approach and watch the ceremony, which,
he said, was for the purpose of conferring honors on individual
officers and men for bravery and other distinguished service. He then
unfurled a little ensign which denoted that his craft bore a member of
the royal family of Zodanga, and together we made our way through the
maze of low-lying air vessels until we hung directly over the jeddak of
Zodanga and his staff. All were mounted upon the small domestic bull
thoats of the red Martians, and their trappings and ornamentation bore
such a quantity of gorgeously colored feathers that I could not but be
struck with the startling resemblance the concourse bore to a band of
the red Indians of my own Earth.

One of the staff called the attention of Than Kosis to the presence of
my companion above them and the ruler motioned for him to descend. As
they waited for the troops to move into position facing the jeddak the
two talked earnestly together, the jeddak and his staff occasionally
glancing up at me. I could not hear their conversation and presently
it ceased and all dismounted, as the last body of troops had wheeled
into position before their emperor. A member of the staff advanced
toward the troops, and calling the name of a soldier commanded him to
advance. The officer then recited the nature of the heroic act which
had won the approval of the jeddak, and the latter advanced and placed
a metal ornament upon the left arm of the lucky man.

Ten men had been so decorated when the aide called out,

"John Carter, air scout!"

Never in my life had I been so surprised, but the habit of military
discipline is strong within me, and I dropped my little machine lightly
to the ground and advanced on foot as I had seen the others do.

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